March is Women's History Month and today is Women's Day so it's fitting to take time to introduce you to some of the amazing women in our farm's history - #DairymanDan's grandmothers.
Six months after marriage, Dan's dad's mother, Mavis, became an army wife first in Kansas & then far from home in Seattle, WA. There they welcomed Dan's Aunt Diane into the world. She had Spina Bifida which meant of course additional trips to doctors & helping her more during her 15 precious years of life. But truly, Mavis embraced it as part of life & didn't let it stop her from doing so much else!
After returning to Iowa she jumped into life on the farm - adding three more children. She milked cows, chased pigs, had a big garden, and didn't appreciate when a church lady would call to ask if she could this or that since "she didn't work"!
When her husband, Neil, became postmaster & Dan's dad, Dave, decided to keep the cows & milk them himself at 13, Mavis became his right hand mama - helping to get the milk delivered to the coop everyday & helping to get the chores done.
She kept helping with those cows most everyday for almost the next 10 years until Dave returned from college to take over the farm full-time. Without Mavis (and his little sister Barb who helped a lot too!) the farm would likely not be here for us to be able to carry on.
We lost Mavis this past year but will always cherish the legacy that she leaves and the lessons that she taught us!
Dan's mom's mom, Mary, another amazing woman. She grew up only a few miles south of where we live now & she still lives in that (updated!) home today!
Dan's Grandpa Pete captured her heart close to her graduating from high school at 16 & they married after Pete returned from Korea, just months after she turned 18.
After a variety of rented homes & farms they eventually bought the farm that Mary had driven by almost daily growing up and always said, "No matter what I won't live there in that dump." But in the end it was all they could afford. So they moved in and started cleaning because without indoor plumbing the bachelors living there before had decided to "conveniently" use the windows.
She transformed that home & the farmstead into a place that all were welcome & still are as Dan's aunt & uncle live there now. One year as a standard audit on the farm was being done the auditor said he couldn't accept food before the audit since it could be a bribe but by the time he was done (and had found Mary's well kept books all in line), he said he'd stay for lunch as he could tell everyone else working on the farm was too.
Taking care of people comes naturally to Mary - from her 3 kids to those working on the farm to those beyond in her community. Way back in 1977 she was recognized for that being named one of five "Iowa Master Homemakers". And she did much more than just make her home a welcoming place she also helped on the farm in whatever way she could.
I love hearing stories from those that have come before - it gives us so much perspective! We're thankful we live so close to Grandma Mary (& Papa Pete) and our kids get to grow up knowing them!
Who are the women you cherish? What are their stories? Let's celebrate them together!
The following was written by one of our interns or apprentice who spent a week with us this summer on the farm. With 4 out of 5 Americans living in the city or suburbia a chance to experience farm life is rewarding! When the Bed & Breakfast opens this summer, you too can stay with the cows, although we won't make you work as much, unless you want to try out the Be A Dairy Farmer Challenge!
Thanks for visiting, living, and working with us Lewis. And thanks for sharing your experience with the world.
What do you want to call it? Duty? Responsibility? Fun? Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference. My experience at New Day Dairy might’ve been a mix of all three, and I can’t tell you how I felt about the work I did. I honestly don’t know… But I can tell you that it’ll keep you very occupied, grateful, and surprisingly happy.
I’ll start from the beginning. I’m a city kid from Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve never lived anywhere else, unless you count vacations. I don’t know farm life. My one experience came with my great uncle on his ranch, where I rode a horse and almost got kicked by a couple. That’s it. So when my dad, after reading Ben Sasse’s The Vanishing American Adult, concluded that I needed to work on a farm before high school. When I heard the plan, I thought: DARN.
Mr. Sasse is a cool guy. I read a lot about him, and I’ve met him person several times through the homeschool community. And all of a sudden, it seemed to me that he’d wrecked my life. Finding out I’d have to wake up early and work all day sounded dumb. I’d expected and dreaded for months the 5:00 mornings and cow manure I wasn’t too excited. Then the day came.
Sure, there was cow manure. And yes, I had to wake up early to do things that didn’t seem half as good as sleeping for a couple more hours. But it wasn’t torture. It was learning, working, and responsibility I’d never known before.
My first discovery didn’t have anything to do with cows. MR. BOLIN’S CATS WEREN’T FAT, LAZY, OR CRANKY. THEY ACTUALLY DID STUFF. City cats are spoiled with serious attitudes. I’ve never liked cats. I still don’t. But I did enjoy those cats. They abide by a mostly milk diet and do productive things like killing birds, chipmunks, and squirrels, as well as being very entertaining with their cow interactions.
Second, I found out that life on a farm had ups as well as downs. My nose couldn’t stand up to the smell in some places. I was sore from hard work. I didn’t shut feed windows correctly, resulting in three young calves escaping. All three were eventually rounded up, but I was still disappointed that I hadn’t done it right. If you think those are bad, wait until you hear about the downs! TOTALLY KIDDING. The ups were great. I got to hack through foliage with a machete. WIN. I got to herd stubborn cows that wouldn’t milk. FUN. I got to witness a dramatic storm and clean the resulting mess. STILL FUN.
With the surprising dutiful fun, I was able to take on responsibilities that I don’t take in mind to often. Going to bed at a reasonable time, for instance. And I fell asleep in five minutes. At home, it can take me hours. I got to man loose calves when a fence gave way and Mr. Bolin was away breeding maturing cows. I got to step over electric fences. All of these things gave me a sense of responsibility that was part fun, part labor, and part necessity.
Bulls and calves were born. Augers were run. Tractors were driven. Each night, The Bolin family was mindful that I was not a seemingly never-tiring workhorse like Mr. Bolin. I was able to experience the farm without misery.
If you want to be an apprentice at New Day Dairy, let them know. All you’ll need is a pair of boots and a willing attitude. They’ll handle the rest. And they’ll do a good job.
Zucchini... all of a sudden there's so much of it!
Adding cheese and baking it is one of the easiest and yummiest ways to enjoy this summer favorite!
I originally got this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen and have been enjoying it with my own kitchen tweaks for weeks now!
Here's what you'll need:
Here's what to do:
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Spray an 9" x 13" baking dish with olive oil or non-stick spray (but if you forget it'll be ok - guess how I know!). Wash the squash and cut in quarter-moon slices.
Combine the sliced squash, basil, green onions/chieves, dried thyme, garlic powder, and both kinds of cheese and stir together until the veggies are coated with cheese and the herbs are well-distributed. I do this right in the 9x13 pan, which means less dishes! Season with salt and ground black pepper. Bake uncovered for about 25-30 minutes.
When the zucchini is almost cooked, take it out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese on top. Put the dish back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and nicely browned. Zucchini should be fully cooked. Serve hot.
Keeps well in the fridge & heats up in the microwave the next day!
One of my kids will eat this and the other is not a fan but #DairymanDan & I both love it! And I love that I don't have to shred my zucchini for this recipe!
What's your go to zucchini recipe? Especially ones that don't need shredding!
"Buy Local." "Buy direct from the farmer." "Whatever you do, don't buy from Walmart."
This is what we've been hearing on the street, social media, and more as Walmart's vertical integration of milk has made ripples & waves among dairy farmers and consumers.
That means we get the question - "Where can I buy your milk?" But the real question that's being asked is "How can I support farmers, especially family farms?"
For the few farms that both milk the cows & bottle the milk right there on their farm, you can buy milk at their farm stand and sometimes in the local grocery story. And if that works for you, it's great for you & for that local farmer.
But honestly that might not be the way a lot of us shop. I understand, I'm a busy mom and can't stop at every little farm stand. I've got a schedule and it's full - I just need to pick up all of our food for the week during my once a week grocery shopping trip.
So where then can you buy the milk that our cows make so you can support our family's farm?
Well, since we don't bottle our own milk or have the expertise to turn it into cheese or ice cream or cream cheese, we've joined with other family farmers and together have hired folks who are experts in those areas to take the milk from our cows and get it to your local grocery store shelf (or restaurant or school as lots of food ends up there too!).
We're part of Prairie Farms as members owners. After #DairymanDan feeds & cares for our cows & Rita the robot milks them, Luke, our milk truck driver comes & picks up the milk and usually brings it (along with milk from other neighboring farms) to a cheese plant in Luana to be made into Swiss Cheese & Cream Cheese.
But I'm grabbing a gallon of milk, not Swiss cheese...
Yes, that's right but if you're picking up a gallon of Prairie Farms milk it means it's made from milk that comes from our friend Jason's cows, for example. He lives nearer the plant that bottles Prairie Farms milk in Dubuque so his milk truck driver usually takes his milk to that plant. Since we work together you're helping us both (along with all the other family farms that are part of Prairie Farms). It doesn't matter if you buy a gallon of Prairie Farms milk (or their many other products) or a block of Swiss Valley Cheese (which isn't Prairie Farms branded but is made by Prairie Farms).
Throughout the United States there are many dairy farmer owned cooperatives that sell products in your local grocery store, sometimes branded the same as their cooperative name sometimes branded differently. Do you know other dairy cooperatives in other areas of the country? What brand should you look for in the store near you to help those dairy farmers?
Some other brands, like A&E or Blue Bunny (and even Great Value Walmart milk) here in Iowa, are milk processors that buy milk from individual dairy farmers and although they have contracts, unfortunately if A&E or Blue Bunny decides they don't need the milk that a farmer produces they can not renew the contract & stop buying that farmers' milk. When dairy farmers own the cooperative, that can't happen because the dairy farmers & the board they elect are in control.
Is there anything else I can do?
The most important thing is to eat dairy foods! In reality 97% of dairy farms are family owned & ultimately even that Great Value Walmart milk likely comes from a family dairy farm. To support our family specifically, buy Prairie Farms products whenever you can!
If you just want to make sure that you're buying local milk and milk products you can check the number on the package and if it starts with a "19" it means it was packaged & made into cheese or butter or some other dairy product at a plant in Iowa! At "Where is my milk from?" you can even enter that plant number & find out specifically where it was packaged!
One more way to help is to donate to the Great American Milk Drive who donates milk to your local food pantry. If you shop at Hy-Vee in the Midwest just tell the cashier to add an extra gallon to your bill when you check out!
Thanks for caring about family farms & making choices with your wallet. It's easy to pick up the loss leader $1.48 gallon of milk (I know because I'm so tempted too!) & if buying that means your family can enjoy more dairy products than go ahead & grab it. But we, as Prairie Farms farmers owners, would love for you to enjoy Prairie Farms products & support us in the process! Thank you!
P.S. If you want to know more about how we're part of a dairy cooperative check out this post!
If you live pretty much anywhere in the US, I'm sure you're aware that it's cold. Not just cold, it's REALLY cold! Like -17 degrees cold overnight here in Iowa!
My mom called the other night and you know who she was concerned about? Our baby calves. I think she knew we were probably fine & keeping warm but didn't know how we were keeping the calves warm. And you might be wondering the same thing - how do we keep our calves warm in this weather?
Era had a baby calf late last Saturday night and we aptly named her Extreme because of the extreme cold! Since our cows calve in the maternity area in the barn year around (warmer in winter & cooler in summer!) she was born into temps in the mid-30's which cows don't mind at all. Era licked her off as soon as she was born & then #DairymanDan made sure to dry her off even more with a towel.
Extreme then got to stay in the barn for a bit more than 24 hours to ensure she was completely dry before heading out to the cold. When #DairymanDan brought her out he made sure she was nestled down & cozy in her cornstalk bales.
I wanted a cute picture of a calf snuggled down in her stalks here but #DairymanDan said they also keep warm by moving & every time he'd try to sneak up & take a picture they'd jump up. Oh, well - you'll just have to imagine it!
It turns out calves are born with something called "brown fat" which helps keep calves warm too. We strategically place our huts facing south so that calves are protected from the north wind. Although Pam always keeps a close eye on each of our calves, in cold weather she pays even closer attention, as a skipped meal or any sign of illness can quickly become fatal. Obviously the calves' water freezes each day so we also make sure that they get a bucket of warm water in the middle of the day.
You might wonder why we don't bring them all inside, which I know I wondered at first. Bringing them inside, especially if it's not VERY well ventilated, can cause higher incidences of pneumonia & other sicknesses because they're sharing stale air with each other. Over the years Dan & his parents have learned that even in extreme cold we can take better care of our calves by caring well for them outside, even if it means we have to work out in the bitter cold!
We're doing our best to keep our calves warm but we are looking forward to this cold snap breaking as it does take more work to get machinery running, care for our animals, & stay warm ourselves!
How are you staying warm?
Growing up a city-girl, after marrying my dairy farmer husband and spending a few years abroad, we came home to expand the family dairy farm and want to share our journey & farm life with you!