Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sweet Sunday: James 1:17

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights."
-James 1:17

So, we've all heard the Christmas story. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, Mary had Jesus in a stable. Shepherds came, then three wise men followed a star to find the King.

This morning I heard the wise men story in a different light and it really spoke to me. You see, the wise men were....exactly that: wise men. They weren't every day common people, they were intelligent and educated. They saw a star in the sky and followed it, knowing there must be a new King. 

Now, imagine for a moment what the wise men had to have been thinking. A king! Dressed in glamour, shining, ready to rule the land. They brought gold, incense and myrrh!

Yet, when they arrived they found something much different: a baby. In a stable with donkeys and cows. What did they do? They hit their knees and bowed at an infants feet without question.

What kind of confidence and conviction must that take? To know with absolute certainty that this baby is the King of all Kings. I think that is the kind of life God calls us to live. One where we can stand up and believe in what He calls is to do at all and believing in Him.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feed the World?

Well, now that family Christmas' have come and gone, I'll share an interesting new idea I picked up at my family Christmas.

You see folks, by the year 2050, the world population will double. And farmers and ranchers will have that much more pressure to produce enough food to feed the world!

Not to worry, one of my aunts has a grand suggestion: insects. 

Okay....well.....maybe not!

Don't worry folks, thanks to farmers and ranchers constantly improving genetics, nutrition and technology used in modern day farming techniques, you can rest assured. I have complete faith in the American farmer to produce the food needed to fill our tummies now and in the future. 

Thank a farmer folks :)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas is for Saving Lives

If you have ever watched the TV show Grey's Anatomy, you know every show begins with Dr. Derek Shepherd's quote: "It's a beautiful day to save lives". 

On Christmas, very few American's are having to report to work (which - by the way I commend; I don't believe stores should be open on Christmas). But, there are some folks who are on duty, or on at least 'on call'. Including doctors, firemen, police officers, and especially our military men and women who are either based at home or over seas fighting for our freedom. To those: I say thank you.

Now, when most people think of "saving lives", the doctor, the paramedic, the fireman may come to mind. But alas - there remains one more. The American farmer. 

You see folks, as I eluded to in previous blog posts, farming never ends. Yes, even on Christmas there are babies being born, cows needing fed, and lives that sometimes need saving. This Christmas morning was no exception. After our family opened presents from Santa (never stop believing folks) my Dad headed out on this beautiful 60 degree Texas day to check cows. 

His report was quite shocking: EIGHT babies born. Which actually became nine before the day was up. Now, on our farm, we have three separate pens: dairy cows, dry cows, and first-calf heifers. I'll explain this in more detail in a later blog, but for right now, the moral of the story is: calves are born in pastures. Then, after a few hours, our family will go out, and walk the momma and baby up to the milk barn where we can give the momma and baby special shots to make sure neither of them get sick. Just like a human baby would get shots after they are born!

So, after lunch, my Dad and I headed out to round up all 18 head (mommas and babies both) and walk them up to the barn. Don't get us wrong - we were very glad to do it! If babies are born on a warm day - we're rejoicing, even if it is Christmas.

Here is where our day began. This momma didn't have twins, she was just guarding over both the babies. The other momma is just outside of the picture.
Bare with me folks - I'm trying to snap pictures and navigate a gator at the same time. This is of my Dad (who has been dairying since 1984) starting to walk everyone to the barn.

The milk barn is about half a mile from the pasture. It's not a long walk, but when you're only 12 hours old, hey, a ride is helpful! Most of the babies ended up in my lap for the walk to the barn.

Here is my Dad unloading a heifer (female) calf at the barn.

This little guy said "Oh no - I'm too tired to do anything" this was #9, so he was born about 2 hours prior to this picture. He still gets to stay with his momma, we just transported them to a barn where they could be in a pen by themselves.

So, you may ask: "why would you ever want to do this?" I'll agree, there are times when I too would love to stay at home, eat chocolate, and watch the John Wayne Christmas special on TV. But then, I remember I wouldn't get to see sights like these: I wouldn't get to be a part of these nine lives today, moving them from pasture to barn, and giving them vaccinations that will saves their precious lives.

This little girl was quite the snuggler! She laid her head on my lap during the short drive and was very sweet.

I'm 99.8% certain that calves are born with unique personalities. It's so funny to watch them when they are first born. This bull calf was just discovering his legs - he was attempting to buck and kick around in the sunshine.

And then my favorite sight of the day - the sun setting behind the barn and a newborn baby. God just loves to make days perfect. Merry Christmas to us!

Yes, folks, we had a wonderful Christmas day in Texas. We opened Christmas presents, played with baby calves, and enjoyed a great meal as family.

But, there's one more thing. You see, it wasn't just us that saved little newborn lives today. Two thousand years ago, a Savior was sent to saves lives too. But, it was a whole lot more than just pastures, barns, and milk. Out of a barn, out of a manger came the One sent to save the world from sin.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
-Ephesians 2:8-10

Two thousand years ago God blessed us with the greatest Christmas gift ever, his son Jesus Christ. He was a baby sent to save lives, and for that, we celebrate on this beautiful Christmas day.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sweet Sunday: Isaiah 26:9

"Throughout the night, my heart searches for you, because your decisions show everyone on this Earth how to live right."
                   -Isaiah 26:9

Well we are just two and a half days away from Christmas! 60 hours....not that anyone is counting or anything. 

So, I found this sweet poem the other day and thought that it needed to be shared on my blog, especially since so many out there are being asked "Is Santa real?" I just love it!!

"No, Santa is not real. 
Santa does not come and fill your stocking, or eat the cookies on the plate. 
Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the Christmas spirit alive.
Santa lives in our hearts, not at the North Pole.
Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others.
What he does is teach children is believe in something they can't see or touch.
Throughout your life you can use this belief to believe in yourself and your family - but mainly the Holy Spirit."

Even though Santa is not real, I still think we can find a way to immolate the act of giving that Santa portrays. 

Just like we can't see Santa, or the Holy Spirit, we can still believe in our hearts they're real (they both are right?) and spend the Christmas season with bountiful, giving, loving hearts.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Beginning: PETA Corrections

Well, it's time for me to begin my series on setting the record straight. Mainly, I'm here to tell agriculture's side of the story. There are plenty - and I mean plenty - of anti-meat activists groups that make me madder than a hornet. People that misinform American's, but mainly people that bash on the agriculture industry, deserve to be set straight. Now, being the southern, Texas woman I am, I will try to refrain myself from "bashing" on anti-meat activist groups, unlike their views - which let loose like a wrecking ball, misperceiving, and fabricating agriculture's story.

So, I'm about to share my story, and how this all got started. For all you agriculturalists out there, I highly encourage you to "friend" PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) on Facebook, if not solely to keep up with their shenanigans, it really shows their true colors.

You see folks, despite their mischievous and misperceiving titles - PETA and HSUS do NOT help animals. An expense report to the state of Virginia in 2010 showed that of PETAs $88 million budget, only 1% was spent on animal shelters, the rest was spent on advertising, fundraising and events. (I can send you the link if you'd like, I'm posting this blog on the road and don't currently have it with me. You can visit "Humane Watch" on Facebook for the link). As far as HSUS, there IS A DIFFERENCE in HSUS and your local Humane Shelter. Most local Humane Shelters are in no way associated with HSUS and function on a care/love for animals. HSUS, however, is the dirtiest, slimiest snake you'll ever find. Their purpose is to shut down agriculture and end production of all meat animals. Check out "Humane Watch" on Facebook to keep up with all the dirty tricks HSUS is pulling.

I guess if you're calling a spade a spade, I am a person that stands for the ethical treatment of animals. I am a person who wishes humane treatment on animals. But, I am a person that does not associate with organizations that publicize false and misleading statements.

So, on to my main point. I mentioned following PETA on Facebook, and in all reality, that is the reason my blog got started, with this Facebook post:

Fact: the wool industry causes no harm nor death to animals. How then can PETA criticize it? It's PETA. In this post, PETA mentioned horrible things, which I am not going to repeat (why spread that again?), as to how sheep were shorn for their wool. 

In which, my response was this:  

I was rather irate at this point. I got approximately 60 people that responded solely to my post. Some were good (if you notice, I have 40 likes on my comment! Go farmers!), but most were people cursing and saying awful things to me! I even got my own hash tag: #emilylies. The hash tag was working about a week after this happened, now, if you google it, it doesn't work anymore! 

But, no worries, I screen shot some of my favorite responses. Now, most of them I had to edit out for graphic content, these were appropriate. 

Pat, yes, I do work on a farm. And yes, I do love it. But, contrary to what PETA explains, I do not torture my animals. In fact, they get more love and attention than I do most of the time!

This is our mini pig, Tilly, getting some Christmas loving! She's spoiled rotten.....!

For the next comment:

Here is where my hash tag began. Now, I am not going to speculate as to if Heather grew up on a farm or not. But, here's what I know: 

Fact: I grew up on a farm.
Fact: sheep are shorn of their wool. It grows back. It is shorn again.
Fact: sheep survive the experience year after year. 

I'll post pictures some time next week of a real sheep-shearing experience.

Ok, whew, if you've made it to this point, you really like reading! Thanks for tagging along for my info session. 

And look forward to more blog posts like this one in the future! I promise to blog more frequently than I have in the past week - I know I've been awful about it.

Have a wonderful Christmas weekend friends! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

I like beef. And I like people that don't like beef.

So, if you're keeping up with the blog, you noticed that yesterday I decided to start my own series called "Meat FULL Mondays", an effort against "Meatless Mondays". But, I want to clarify things here. My effort is against the idea of taking meat out of the daily diet, not against the people who have chosen that lifestyle already.

Now, as an avid agriculturalist, and someone who has an extreme passion for livestock and beef, I guess this isn't the norm, but, I don't dislike vegetarians. (A double negative - GASP! Please bare with me here.)

But, it's true. I hold nothing against a person who makes the life decision to become a vegetarian. IF it is for the right reasons. If a person simply doesn't like the taste of meat, that is their personal opinion, and I will by all means respect it. If a person chooses not to eat meat because they feel their lives are healthier without meat, well, I don't agree completely, but I can still swallow that logic. What I can't handle is people that choose to become vegetarians because they think animals have been abused/harmed in their lifetime, or that eating meat hurts animals.

Folks, it's time for a little lesson. And it is called passion.

I'm going to go ahead and break the news to you, in case you haven't heard: farmers are NOT millionaires. There are so many anti-meat activist groups out there that try to push the "farmers are money-hungry, greedy people" agenda. Well, with a changing market that sometimes means corn prices are at an all-time high, and cattle prices are at an all-time low, there are times where ends don't meet. Yes, there are times when we make a profit, and that is good. But profit is never outrageous, and money is not the reason we raise cattle.

Let me share a story.

This is a picture that my mom sent me last night around 10:30 pm, when most of us were cuddled in bed, in heated homes, watching the evening news. My parents, however, were at home, instead watching the temperature drop and drop and having their worry climb and climb.

You see, at our dairy, we have calves born year-round. And, we also have beef cows that sometimes calve a little early for the spring, or a little late for the fall. This picture is of a momma cow and her brand new baby bull calf. He was born yesterday afternoon, when it was a brisk 41 degrees outside! Welcome to the world junior, it's a grand ole' place. But, when the sun went down last night, and the temperature dropped into the teens, my parents knew action must be taken.

You see, a few days ago, when the snow and ice storm hit, we had FOUR baby calves born that day. If you can imagine, making a transition from a nice, insulated warm mommy to a freezing, icy, Texas environment, well, you too would be less than excited. Despite my family bundling up and fearing the worst weather possible to gather up the babies and their mommas, bring them inside the barn, complete with straw, blankets, and heat lamps, all FOUR babies died. Talk about a heart-breaker. My mom had called me that evening and her first words were: "I've got a prayer request." THIS is the kind of things that farmers and ranchers pray about. We pray that mommas hold their babies inside for just a few more days. We pray that the babies that are born are found as quickly as possible. We pray for the sun to shine. We pray for the ice to melt. We pray for brand new baby calves to have a strong will to want to live. Basically, we pray for things that we cannot control.

But, back to the picture. So, last night, after realizing that the temperature was going to be too cold for Harley's baby bull calf. Yes - we name our cows. My parents went out, picked up the 85 pound calf and carried him, with his mother following, into the barn. Then, they put out a couple bales of straw so that the pair could cuddle up against the cold weather.

Did my parents have to go out in the cold, in the dark, to rescue this baby? No.
Did my parents want to be out in the cold wind? Probably not.
Did they want to save his life because they love cows? You bet.

Farmers and ranchers have a 24 hour, 365 day job. Farmers and ranchers do not get a vacation, and certainly not a 'paid vacation'. Cows eat every day, just like we do - yes, all 1,100 of them.Cows have babies every single day of the year. The weather is always changing. Cows need farmers. And here's the other thing: farmers need cows. Why? Because they have a passion and a genuine love for cows.

Check out this video: our family was honored as one of the top 7 dairies in the country in 2013, and we operate solely on a passion and love for cows. This was our video biography played at the National Dairy Farmers of America Convention this spring.

Moral of the story: farmers love cows. If you choose not to eat meat, that is your own personal decision, and I will respect it. My only hope is that those who make the 'vegetarian' decision will equally respect my decision to raise and love cows. The end.

Meat FULL Mondays: Stuffed Bell Peppers

So, I don't know about anyone else, but while interning in Washington D.C. this summer, I saw one too many "Meatless Monday" advertisements! They even have Meatless Mondays in the Capitol Hill cafeteria. Which - may or may not have infuriated me. So, I will go ahead and start my own trend: Meat FULL Mondays, because well, everyone needs  a little more beef in their life.
Disclaimer: I promise not to exclude chicken and pork too. They deserve attention. I love lamb and turkey, but I'll go ahead and admit cooking them is not my forte.

So, to kick off my recipe series, I'll introduce Stuffed Bell Peppers. This recipe is grand for two reasons: 1) you probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry and 2) it's delicious.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion
1 lb ground beef
2 cups water
2 cups white rice
4 green bell peppers (or red/yellow, whatever you prefer)
4 slices cheddar cheese
Worcestershire sauce

Alright, here we go.

First, I suggest you go ahead and purchase a large Diet Vanilla Dr. Pepper from Sonic. Yep, ours come complete with a Double T....only validating it is the best drink EVER.

Now that you're ready to cook, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, put your olive oil in a pan on the stove, and light it up. (Not literally, but, you know.) Chop up your onion and throw it in the pan. Then add your ground beef too.

In case anyone noticed the nifty meat stirrer/chopper thing I am using, it's only the best piece of kitchen equipment a girl can own. You can check it out and order one at  Pampered Chef, I would suggest the investment.

Then, while your meat is browning, put 2 cups of water on, and bring to a boil.

Then, add 2 cups of rice to the boiling water, remove from heat, and cover with a lid.

Meanwhile, back at the meat pan, add a dash of oregano.

Add a little dash of salt.

And also a dash of pepper, or a couple dashes if you love pepper.

Then, add the rice to the meat mixture, and also a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Next, add a can of Rotel. I noticed as I was adding my can, that it read "HOT"...oops....I meant to grab "MILD". I would really suggest adding a can of mild. Our finished product was a wee bit on the spicy side.

Then, take your bell peppers, wash them, and cut the tops off.

Stuff the beef/rice mixture into the bell peppers.

Does it look tastey? It should.

Go ahead and pop those babies in the oven for 40 minutes. I only made 3 bell peppers, yet, mine were over-stuffed, and I had quite a bit of rice/beef left in the pan. Which, the boy took advantage of.

I checked on them half-way through. Funny how the oven light looks like a beacon from the Heaven's above, because that's what they smelled like.

After the timer has gone off, add a slice of cheese to the top of each bell pepper, and cook for about 5 more minutes.

And, wahhhlahhh! The finished, delicious stuffed bell pepper. Simple to make, and as far as I know, it's fairly healthy! Yum!

Enjoy! Have a marvelous Monday, and be sure to get your daily serving of beef today!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sweet Sunday: Matthew 5:14-16

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven."
-Matthew 5:14-16

Somewhere between Christmas lights, year-end parties, warm clothes, finals, shopping for presents, wrapping paper, and a spruce tree covered in glass balls, I feel like we can all lose sight of the reason for the merry season.

This Christmas season, let's not forget that now is the time to take advantage of being the "light of the world." This morning at church, I was reminded just how many opportunities there really are to share God's word. Whether it is serving meals to the homeless, donating warm clothing, or sending school supplies to missions in Haiti, there are hundreds of ways to share God's everlasting love and compassion this Christmas season.

But, let's not forget the most impactful thing you can do for an individual/group - pray. Prayer is a powerful thing, as I've tried to elude to in my prior blogs. Our pastor this morning encouraged us to pray for school teachers and students of all ages. We all know that seniors in college, high schoolers, and 5th graders alike are all ready to finish up with studying and trade in for some free time at home. So, let's all take a moment to pray for everyone who has finals coming up within the next two weeks, that comfort and patience can wrap around them all!

This Christmas season, let's celebrate God's holy son, the Light to the World more than ever before!

Monday, December 2, 2013

USDA Inspected?

Well folks, two back-to-back blogs! I know, I promised I would have my life back after judging ended. So, now it is time to begin my "Farm Girl's Fight" for agriculture, and what a better topic to begin with than my very favorite - beef!

It all started last night when I stopped by McDonald's to grab a bite to eat. Our freezer was empty after returning from Thanksgiving break, I don't try to eat out often, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, and McDonald's fries are my weakness (I confess!). I almost didn't catch this little quirk - but then I did, and I knew it was destiny.

On the corner of my McDonald's bag, this gem was printed. Now, I applaud McDonald's for sharing beef's story with the public. Yet, the truth is: all beef is USDA inspected. Whether you're grabbing a late-night snack from McDonald's, or Wendy's, or Applebee's, or are slapping some Wal-Mart purchased T-Bone steaks on the grill, it's all USDA inspected beef. Check out the awesome USDA informational sheet if you have any further questions.

But, in case clicking on the link is a little much, I'll summarize for you! Here's a few great facts about beef:

Fact #1: "Beef" is the term given to cattle that are two years of age or older. One live steer will produce about 450 pounds of edible meat. Not to mention, the by-products of hide, fat, and organs, which will eventually be used for everyday products like footballs (leather products), insulin (for diabetics, from the pancreas), and crayons, waxes, and candles (made from fats and fatty acids).

These guys are all considered "beef" and will soon provide American's with a safe, wholesome, nutritious food product.

Fact #2: Beef provides many of your daily nutrients. For instance, a three-ounce serving of lean beef provides most people with half their daily recommended protein. Beef is a good source of iron, in fact, it is the food supply's most readily available and easily absorbed source of iron. It is a great source of zinc and B-vitamins, which help build the immune system and fight infections.

Alongside being a great source of vitamins and minerals, steak is pretty tastey in my opinion!

Fact #3: Inspection of beef carcasses is mandatory. Inspection of carcasses promises wholesomeness and safety. It may or may not include grading, which is determining the amount marbling - or white flecks of fat inside the meat. If graded, it will include one of the following stamps: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial or Utility. The majority, 94.5%, of beef grades Prime, Choice or Select.

If a carcass is graded, it will include one of these stamps signifying the amount of marbling inside the meat.
Every sold beef carcass will include this stamp, ensuring that it is safe and inspected by a United States Department of Agriculture beef inspection agent.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this time, discussing the safety of beef. Don't forget - America has the safest, most abundant, and most affordable food supply in the world.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sweet Sunday: Colossians 4:2

"Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it an attitude of thankfulness."
-Colossians 4:2

Well, it is the weekend after Thanksgiving, and boy, do I have a lot to be thankful for! All it takes is a weekend of family, friends, faith, and food to be absolutely overwhelmed by the Lord's goodness!

Yep, we had a whole crew at our house for Thanksgiving! Some of my college friends came home with me since they lived too far to drive home for the short break. (L to R) Good ole Pops, Garrett (the boyfriend, from Arizona), myself, Connor (the baby brother), Taylor (past Butler teammate, Colorado), Nick (TTU teammate, Indiana), and Bailey (my sweet roommate, from California). My mother missed out on the picture op since she was behind the camera! It's safe to say we probably had the most states represented at our dinner table!

This Sunday, as we all travel back to school, or resume "normal" life, and prepare for finals/year end, let's not forget to continuously keep God the center of our lives. It is oh-so-easy to get caught up in studying, missing family, and thinking about what is next, that we end the week of giving thanks, proceeding onward without thought of all the Lord has blessed us with. [P.S. Don't get me wrong...this is partially a lecture to myself!]

We got the pleasure of celebrating Bailey's birthday over the break!

This week may your days be blessed, your finals everything you studied for (a girl can hope right?), and your road trips safe safe safe!