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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Iowa Roadway Identification - Corn and Soybeans


Summer is that time of year where we find ourselves in the car a lot.  And if you are traveling down a black top road or the Interstate highway in Iowa, there is a good chance you are going to see a lot of two things - corn and soybeans.  So what are corn and soybeans besides Iowa's two main field crops?

Corn - August 2012
A field corn cob near harvest in August
Corn is a tall, stalky, annual field crop.  What you are primarily seeing along Iowa's roadways is Field Corn.  Field Corn makes up 98% of the corn grown in the United States.  This variety of corn is primarily used for livestock feed and ethanol fuel.  On our farm we personally sell our corn to both local cooperatives, who grind the corn for livestock feed, and to ethanol plants, who extract both fuel for our vehicles and dried distiller's grains (DDGs) to feed to livestock, from the corn kernels.  Field corn is also used to make cereal products (corn flour, corn meal, tortillas, etc.), corn starch, corn oil, corn syrup, and even beer and whiskey.

Emerging Corn, May 2015
Here is a picture of some corn starting to emerge last week
Corn planting has almost reached 100% completion in Iowa and there is a lot that has started to emerge.  From your car window right now, corn probably looks like perfect rows of grass.  Over the summer, it will grow a strong stalk with long, green leaves and one ear of corn.  A typical ear of corn has around 800 kernels on it.  By the end of the summer, field corn in Iowa usually is 8 feet tall or higher.  (Check out our past family photos on the 4th of July to get an idea of how tall it grows by the half-way point of the growing season - 2014, 2013, 2012)

Soybean - August 2012
A soybean pod near maturity
Soybeans are a bushy, annual field crop.  Soybeans are processed into two products - soybean meal and soybean oil.  We sell our soybeans to local cooperatives and directly to soybean processors (in fact, we are hauling soybeans today to Cargill).  When soybeans are brought into a processing facility the first thing extracted is the soybean oil.  Soybean oil is a common vegetable oil and it is made into products like margarine and salad dressings.  The oil can also go through at refining process and turned into biodiesel fuel.  After the oil has been taken out of the seed, soybean meal is left.  Soybean meal is used for livestock feed, primarily for poultry, pigs and a growing aquaculture (fish) market too.  Soy is a great and high protein source!  In fact, soy is a complete protein; it has eight essential amino acids in it needed for dietary needs of humans and animals.

Newly emerged soybeans - May 2015
Some newly emerged soybeans from today
Soybean planting isn't as far along in Iowa, compared to corn, but should be close to finished by the beginning of June this year, if I had to guess.  We hope to finish this weekend!  Earlier planted soybeans are just now starting to emerge.  If you look out your car window and can tell a tractor has been in a field because you see dirt worked up, but don't see anything emerged yet - there's a good chance there are soybeans in it getting ready to pop up out of the ground.  Over the summer, the plant will grow many stems that will have green leaflets on them with pods of soybeans.  The number of pods on a plant varies from variety to variety and growing season to growing season.  In Iowa there are anywhere from 30 to 40 pods on each plant typically.  Each pod has an average of three beans.

Combining soybeans in September
Combining soybeans in September
In the fall both corn and soybeans dry up, and that is when you'll start seeing combines out in the field harvesting the crop.  We then sell and deliver our crop to our coops and ethanol plants throughout the year.

So the next time you're taking a road-trip through Iowa, or just a Sunday stroll, I hope you now know a little bit more about what's growing in the fields along the road.  I hope you can identify corn and soybeans, and that you might know some fun facts to impress the others in the car!  What questions do you have about the corn and soybean growing cycles in Iowa?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles

* This post has been compensated through the AE Dairy Blog Ambassador program.  All views and opinions shared are my own. *

A few days ago I had my first taco salad of the year.  For me - that means summer is here.  I asked my Facebook fans afterwards what foods scream summer to them.  I couldn't agree more with their favorites of BLT sandwiches, sweet corn, watermelon and pasta salads.  I would also add popsicles to the list!  Maybe it is because I have kids at home, but nothing says summer like having your first popsicle of the year.  With less than two weeks til Memorial Day weekend, I couldn't wait to get out my popsicle maker so I could make a batch of Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles!

What I love most about this recipe is that it is simple and only includes two ingredients!  This is also a fun treat to make with your kids.  The only downfall is that you have to wait for them to freeze before you can enjoy them!  But if your popsicle molds are like ours, you'll have some leftovers that you can have as a smoothie while you wait!

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles - Only 2 ingredient recipe! Simple and fun to make with your kids

Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles

16 oz package frozen, sliced strawberries
2 1/2 cups AE Lemonade

MP enjoying one of our
Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Popsicles
we made together
Puree strawberries in a blender until smooth, adding up to 1/2 cup of lemonade to blend.  Stir rest of lemonade into strawberry puree.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Don't have a popsicle mold?  Then pour the mixture into paper cups.  Or spruce up you lemonade this summer by freezing the mixture into ice cube trays and serving them with it.

What foods do you think of when you think summer?  What is on your menu for Memorial Day weekend?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 Family Summer Bucket List

Each Summer one of my favorite things to do with and for my family is create a Summer Bucket List.  We have had a lot of fun the last couple of years (2014, 2013) making memories (some of which have even become traditions) crossing items off our Summer Bucket Lists.  I'm sure this year will be no different!  Something a little different for this year's list, it is all centered on things to do where we live in North Iowa.  It is always fun discovering your backyard!

North Iowa Family Summer Bucket List
  1. Have a family date night by going mini golfing, golfing, swimming or roller skating.  Instead of just going out to eat, we're vowing to doing a little entertainment too.  We have enjoyed going mini-golfing at North Iowa Golf in Mason City; it is a fun course and an easy activity to do with all ages.  We also are planning on golfing more this summer at our local Latimer Golf Course; this is a nice 9-hole golf course and the kids always like getting cheese balls and a juice box from the Bunker (aka the club house) while we golf.  We also want to go swimming as a family some evening at the Hampton Aquatic Center, which has fun water slides for all ages and has a zero entry side of the pool which is great for little ones.  Lastly, we're looking forward to improving our roller skating skills at Roller City in Mason City sometime this summer.  We went once this winter and I was pleasantly surprised how, dare I say easy, my roller skating feet came back to me after probably a 15 year hiatus.  Plus there are always veteran skaters there willing to help young (and old) get going on their skates.  Ron, who is 75, most likely will be there.  He is a great helper and is fun to watch skate himself!
  2. Have you ever wanted to go on a treasure hunt?  Well, you should try Letterboxing.  Letterboxing is similar to geocaching, except you follow directions or clues to find a Letterbox (usually a small waterproof container) that has a rubber stamp, and sometimes more clues, in it.  We heard about this family fun activity last month and found our first letterbox yesterday.  The kids had a lot of fun!  To get started, check out the AtlasQuest or Letterboxing North America websites to see if there are any hidden letterboxes in your area.  We're looking forward to finding letterboxes all summer long around North Iowa and starting a letterbox journal, so we can document all of our finds.
  3. Summer wouldn't be complete without going on a picnic.  One of our favorite Picnic spots in North Iowa is City Beach in Clear Lake.  We usually bring something from home or pick up some sandwiches from Starboard Market, and pick out a picnic table right next to the shoreline.  We then love cooling off at the Splash Pad at City Beach, and if you stay long enough, the ice cream truck will come by and you can get dessert!
  4. Our family loves being outside, so we look forward to going on nature walks this summer.  Central Gardens in Clear Lake or Beeds Lake in Hampton are great spots to take some photos, make some rubbings or play "I spy" with your family.
  5. My Farmer and I use to go camping a lot, but I have to admit, since we've had kids we haven't went camping beyond in a tent in our backyard.  But this summer we are planning on going camping at Beeds Lake or Clear Lake!  It should be a lot of fun!
  6. I love to cook for my family and I love to use seasonal produce.  (Right now we've been eating a lot of asparagus and I'm working on getting some morel mushrooms...)  Anyways, I love supporting my local community and we're planning on checking out our area Farmer's Markets.  North Iowa is home to several including Franklin County, Clear Lake and North Iowa in Mason City.
  7. Last year LP participated in Rock 'n' Tots at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and this year we're planning on going again and having MP join in on the fun!  Rock 'n' Tots is a fun musical program where kids ages 5 and under dance, play instruments and make instruments.  It is every Monday at 9:30 a.m. from June 8 to July 20.  You can come for just a class or two, or you can come for the whole session.
  8. We are looking forward to celebrating June Dairy Month again this summer by continuing our Iowa Ice Cream Trip.  One stop has to be at a North Iowa ice cream place!  Last year we went to Birdsall in Mason City.  This year we're thinking Stan's Drive-In in Osage or the Viking Drive-In in Ventura, or maybe we should go on a Drive-In tour and include going to the Barrel Drive-In in Clear Lake...  
  9. There are a lot of great festivals and events all summer long in North Iowa.  This year we are planning on going to Cannonball Day on June 27 in Mason City.  We have never been to this family fun event that is centered on the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad steam locomotive #457 in East Park.  Both LP and MP love trains, so this is the perfect summer celebration to check out!
  10. Last on our North Iowa Summer Bucket List is attending the Franklin County Fair, July 15-19.  Yes, this is our home county fair, but it really is the best in the area.  There is free parking and admission, plus a lot of fun and free games, activities and shows.  And each evening there is great grandstand entertainment.  This year's lineup includes Hairball, Montgomery Gentry, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, PRCA rodeo and Cruiser Car/Go Cart/4 Wheeler Races.  Plus, you have to end your day with some homemade ice cream from Pleasant Hill.
What is on your Summer Bucket List?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Comments for a Cause - North Iowa Hospice

It is a new month, which means it is time to introduce a new cause!  Before I talk about May's cause, let's talk April numbers.  Last month I had 54 comments, creating a donation of $27 to the Caring Pregnancy Center of Mason City's Community Baby Shower.  A reminder to everyone if you are in North Iowa, the Community Baby Shower will be taking place tomorrow, Saturday, May 2nd from 9-11am at the Willow Brook Mall in Mason City.  You can drop of your baby shower gifts or monetary donations at the event.

In the month of May I'm happy to be supporting an organization that a couple of my readers recommended, and an organization who I have seen be there for friends within the last month.  In May I will be donating $0.50 for every comment on my blog during the month to North Iowa Hospice.

Hospice has been on my mind lately with the recent passing of my friend Jen, and knowing that my Grandpa is currently going through the early referral program.  Being told the words, "contact Hospice," can be scary and sad.  But as Katy from Learning As I Go told me "Hospice of North Iowa is a team of caring professionals who aim to make your loved ones last days comfortable."   She adds, "the program has so many great features from the volunteers who will sit with family members, to the social workers and nurses who work closely with the family to make sure all wishes are met."  They want to serve and support the entire family before, during and after.

North Iowa Hospice cards
Photo courtesy of Beth Ann Chiles
My friend Beth Ann from It's Just Life actually volunteers for North Iowa Hospice by making homemade cards for them.  After a death Hospice use to just send a form letter.  But for the last 997 letters sent, they've been on handmade cards by her that the team that cared for their loved one signs and have a chance to share their thoughts.  What a beautiful thing?  Beth Ann actually had a serendipitous experience earlier this year when she met a family who had received one of her cards.  I encourage you to read this heart-warming and beautiful story.

Be sure to comment all month long to help this invaluable program.  Do you have any testimonials you'd like to share about Hospice?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Country Fair Blog Party: Celebrations

May Day Egg Carton Flowers
The kids' egg carton flowers they painted and made for May Day
Happy May Day!  May seems to be the month of Celebrations & why not start with May Day festivities.  The kids and I are going to celebrate by delivering some May Day flowers to our neighbors.  Before I get into May celebrations, let's talk about last month's Think Spring Country Fair Blog Party.

Country Fair Blog Party - Grow a Salsa Garden
Last month I loved looking at everyone's garden posts.  My favorite garden post was Grow a Good Life's Salsa Garden.  I personally plant a salsa garden and Rachel's post made me wish I had already planted my onions and garlic so they could actually get "full size"...  Maybe next year I'll be better prepared then!  Another great thing about this post is that she shares a salsa recipe I can't wait to try after I harvest this year's garden.

Country Fair Blog Party: Small Bathroom Remodel
Another favorite blog post was Messy Kennedy's Small Bathroom Remodel with Big Character.  Spring is a great time to not only do spring cleaning, but a great excuse to do some remodeling or at least trying a new arrangement or style to a room.  I love how she reused an old dresser as a vanity in her bathroom.  And I love the sliding barn door as well.  This make me inspired to actually work on a small room in our home, our front porch.  I have so many ideas, I just haven't found the time.  This summer I vow to find the time so we can enjoy our porch all year long!

Country Fair Blog Party: When You Give A Boy A CalfLastly, I loved Of Kids and Cows's When You Give a Boy a Calf.  Spring is the time of new life and for Jodi's son, lots of new memories.  She shared why I love raising our kids on the farm.  Farm kids are taught responsibility, work ethic, discipline, compassion, joy, and skills for the future.  I can't wait till my kids are old enough to get involved with programs like Clover Kids and Bottle Lambs.  This post simply made me smile!  Who can't when you see his smile, right?  Love the PJs!

I can't wait to see what great posts get linked up this month as we Celebrate!  Throughout the month of May we are looking for your posts that have anything to do with this month's celebrations - May Day, Mother's Day, Graduation, Memorial Day, End of School, etc.  Man there is a lot to celebrate in May!  I can't wait to see your recipes, crafts, memories, gift ideas, etc. that associate with any celebration during the month.


This blog hop is a great opportunity to check out new blogs, and if you blog yourself, have your posts reach a new audience.  Bloggers, feel free to link up to 3 posts this month and be sure to visit some other party goers and let them know you are stopping by through the Country Fair Blog Party.


Also, be sure to visit my fellow co-hosts:
Country LINKed
Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom
This Uncharted Rhoade
Tip Garden

We're excited to see everything you share this month!  What new blog did you discover through this month's Country Fair Blog Party?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Celebrate Your Heritage and Mom with Kringla

* This post has been compensated through the AE Dairy Blog Ambassador program.  All views and opinions shared are my own. *

Mother's Day always makes me think of back home.  I loved growing up on a corn, soybean, pig and sheep farm in Central Iowa.  I lived on the county line, which caused a slight identity crisis growing up, but one great thing about growing up in the middle of literally the entire state, I was close to several cultures and was able to experience Iowa's heritages.  I am proud to have a large German ancestry, but I have to admit, I loved living close to a large Norwegian and Scandinavian area.  Man do the Norsemen know how to bake!  I grew up wanting to have a Norwegian wedding cake on my special day, and I knew which Mom out of my classmates made the best Kringla.

I got to thinking about Kringla this week as I was craving a sweet, yet light, breakfast pastry.  Kringla are a great coffee cookie, or for the non coffee drinkers out there like myself, I love mine with a cup of hot tea or simply a glass of chocolate milk.  And, they aren't just for breakfast.  They're a great cookie for anytime during the day.  I think what makes Kringla rich, yet soft, is the buttermilk.  You can't go wrong with buttermilk!  I love using AE Dairy Buttermilk in chocolate cake, pancakes, and even my onion ring batter.

Iowa Kringla recipe

Iowa Kringla

2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups AE Buttermilk
7 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda (dissolve in buttermilk)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

Cream together sugar and butter; mix in eggs.  Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk.  Chill dough (the longer the better - I would suggest overnight if possible, otherwise at least a couple of hours).  Roll small pieces into a pencil shape and then form into a figure 8.  Bake at 450F until light brown (about 5 minutes).

* I also recommend putting your dough back into the refrigerator between batches to keep it chilled.

So, celebrate Iowa's Scandinavian heritage and have some Kringla with your Mom this Mother's Day.  What ethnic foods do you love?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Everything Will Be Okay


Okay, so today won't be exactly wordless but I'll keep it short and sweet:

On Monday, My Farmer and I, along with an estimated 1200 people over the course of the visitation and funeral, laid one of our friends, Jen, to rest.  Jen was battling cancer for the 5th time over the last six and a half years and became the ultimate survivor thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ a week ago.  Going to any funeral is hard, but saying goodbye or even see you later to a friend who had so much drive and compassion is really hard.  Driving home from the funeral it sank in a little more to me that Jen wasn't going to be here on Earth anymore.  I wouldn't be getting text messages from her, or wouldn't be sitting next to her at meetings, or going to one of her parties.  I thought about how beautiful the weather was and how it was days like today that Jen would want to get home as soon as her kids got home from school, sit on her patio with her husband and enjoy life.

Then we got home and the first thing I noticed - my first tulips of the year had bloomed.  Right then I knew it was Jen telling me that she was okay and that everything will be okay.  Over the last couple of days I've turned to a saying that I have turned to a lot when things in life aren't going to way you wish, that I'd like to share with you:

"Everything will be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, it's not the end." 
- John Lennon

What quotes or bible verses do you turn to when life isn't going as planned or imagined.  Remember to Comment for a Cause!