City girl to farm wife

I went from a city girl to a farm wife the day I said ‘I do’ to my husband 12 years ago.  Boy I sure didn’t know what I was getting into, but I didn’t care.  I just knew that when Terry asked me to marry him I wanted to be the best farm wife I could be!  Having grown up in town I had no knowledge of anything, what so ever!  Well except a riding lawn mower, but that doesn’t count.  So this was a whole new life for me!

Where to stand when trying to get a cow to go a certain way, makes all the difference in the world!  When moving cows from one pasture to another, you need to count them in case they didn’t all come.  You will need to go find the renegade cows and calves and drive them towards the pasture they are being moved too.  And with LOTS of prayers, a little luck, and 2 canine companions that will cooperate, cows will move in the right direction.

With irrigating early in the morning and late into the evening, supper will be late.  And unless the Schwan’s truck stops by with quick microwavable food, supper might be really late!  There are times I would love to have some sort of fast food drive thru or even have pizza delivery!   In town if something was forgotten it was always easy to have someone go to the store and pick up the missing item needed to complete the meal.  I learned after a couple of round trips to the grocery store, 15 miles away, that a list was a must!  I learned to plan out my meals and make a list of what groceries I need for the week, because a 30 minute round trip to town for one missing item makes for an expensive meal!

I had little experience from college on driving a tractor so Terry taught me how to drive the tractor, sometimes with the grain cart on it.  I learned to unload a cart full of grain on a truck.  With the truck  drivers help, I don’t dump it over the side!

Being a city girl it didn’t ever take me very long to get to where I was going, because everything was close.  Out here it took a while to remember we might have quite a drive to get some place.  Sometime after we were married I learned to ask, ‘what time do we need to leave here by so I am ready to go?’   Being ready to go on time makes for a difference of a ‘Sunday Drive’ to our destination or  the ‘Indy 500’!

Maybe all neighbors are the same, maybe not.  I just know that in my neighborhood, when you stop by a neighbor’s house they greet you with a smile, invite you in for a cool drink and commence to visit for a while.  And I may only be there to pick up a part, tell them they have cows out, or dropping cookies off for the holiday season.  They will come to your rescue when the battery on your vehicle won’t start and even offer you there vehicle just to help you get to your destination.   They will share their over abundance of produce from their garden with you and offer you something for sharing yours.

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Putting up corn

One of our family traditions every summer is to “put up corn.”  If you have never heard of this before (just like me not so long ago), this is the process of cooking and freezing sweet corn for the year.  It is a long and tedious task, so to make it worth while, you have to do a lot of it.  We ended up filling 75 quart bags, or about 19 gallons, with sweet corn, but it took us most of the day to get the job done.  We did stop for lunch to have burgers and sweet corn, of course.

It is a family effort in that everyone has a job.  My motto is, “no worky, no corny.”  The jobs range from picking the corn in the field, husking it, washing it, boiling it, cooling it, cutting it, making the brine (the sweet and salty liquid you mix in) and finally bagging it.  This year we had 13 people and three generations of Hengelfelt’s putting up corn!

This is the second year we have hosted it at our house.  The husband’s grandparents used to do it every year, but as they have gotten older, we offered to do it at our place instead.  The sweet corn is on our property, so that makes it convenient.

At the end of the day, we split up the bounty and everyone goes home to crash.  Now we can look forward to the winter months with meals that include our tasty corn!

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County fair time in Polk County

Here are some pictures of the kids at the Polk County Fair with their ribbons from the cow milking contest.  Every kid gets a ribbon, but the fastest kids get special prizes.  There are several events in the Junior Rodeo, including cow milking, goat tail tying and mutton busting.  They use a wooden cow for the milking, but a real goat and real sheep are used for the other two events.


The boy loves getting “cowboyed up” for the fair and has ridden sheep for two years.  This year, the nerves got the best of him.  The girl rode for the first time this year and didn’t even flinch.  She is fearless and will be the cause of many future gray hairs.

Most of the county fairs are over for the year, but the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island begins August 26th.  This will be the second year for the fair in GI.  If you haven’t been to the fair since it moved or if you have never been to the fair in your life, you should really check it out.  Gate admission is inexpensive and there is so much to do and EAT!!!

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Homemade Ice Cream

It’s calorie packed and ends up being twice as expensive than if we bought it at the store but we love our homemade ice cream. We have a tried and true recipe that I am unable to share with you here (okay, there’s brown sugar involved) that we make in a six quart electric freezer.

I do the beating the eggs thing and my husband, Tom, does the ice and rock salt mixture task and we end up with some pretty fantastic tasting ice cream.

It occurred to me as I was putting my six eggs in the mixer last night that I should be really cooking the eggs. We never have even though we’re supposed to in order to get rid of the bacteria that might be on the shells. This didn’t occur to me when I use store bought eggs because I know the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict guidelines on making sure the eggs are clean but these eggs were from the neighbor down the road.

I love her to pieces but no one cleans eggs like a large egg producer does with FDA inspectors around. In the whole organic food movement, people do need to realize that “organic” means we have a few more “organic” molecules on the lettuce and carrots we buy, too! I’ll keep getting eggs from my neighbor- I love brown eggs- but just like the brown doesn’t make them any healthier, neither does the fact that they are grown organically.

All the yolks are the same. As for my homemade ice cream- it is a work of art.

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What’s Your Passion? Get Involved!

This week, I got to spend 3 days – yep, count ‘em up, 3 days (including travel time) in beautiful Orlando, Florida.  Yes – most folks would spend at least three days there PLUS travel time, but not this busy gal.  I was there for the Cattle Industry Summer Conference as a member of the Nebraska Beef Council.  Beef is my passion…it’s what my family raises, it’s what we love to eat, and I want to be part of assuring a strong future for beef.

At this conferernce people from all segments of the beef world and all corners of our great country come together to discuss current issues, work on programs and initiatives, and all in all, try to set the course for various projects to the overall betterment of the entire beef industry.

Oh yes, I can hear the wonderment and curiosity rolling around in your head right now….how can all different types of people from different backgrounds and different segments of the business agree on the said course for overall betterment?  Well, let me tell you – as many different cowboys, cattlemen, nutritionists, scientists, and enonomists as you can cram in a room – there will DEFINITELY be that many different ideas on how something should be done.  However, EVERYONE has one goal in mind and that is to help more people be able to enjoy more beef as part of a healthy diet more often.  With alot of determination, some prayer, some give & take, and a whole lot of heart, progress is made!

Everyone has a passion for something.  Maybe it’s youth education or gardening or hospital care or travel or little league baseball or Boy or Girl Scouts…this list is endless, so I’m going to quit there.  The point is, whatever it is you care alot about, you should get involved so you can help assure it’s future.  You get to meet some great new people and talk about what you love – not a bad way to spend some time!

At our conference, we got to hear from Presidential Candidate, Harold Cain.  WOW!!!!!!  I have never met a presidential candidate who cared so deeply about making sure every American is assured the right to the pursuit of happiness (actually, before Tuesday, I had never met a presidential candidate at all – Haha!)…and he does point out the key word “pursuit” in that statement.  I loved his enthusiasm and demonstration of work ethic!

So, just in case he makes it onto the ballot, and even more importantly, if he becomes President of the United States, I have this photo to prove that I actually did meet him… exciting for me!!!!!  If you have a moment, I encourage you to check out his website & do a bit of reading about him -he has quite a story to tell and some bold ideas for our country.  Even if you don’t agree with everything he suggests, it is definitely worth your time.

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This is how we do it | Cattle Processing

As a feedlot owner, we do all we can to keep cattle healthy.

One way we do that is by processing cattle.  Cattle processing is one area where everyone gets involved.  The term processing refers to giving cattle needed vaccinations, identification, de-worming, etc…  It is not doctoring as that term refers to getting a sick animal from the pen and bringing it in to get antibiotics so that the animal will heal.  Processing is often done when cattle first arrive at the feedlot and then later for revaccinating or implanting.

When we process cattle, I run the chute.  The chute is similar to a cage with moving sides, a back gate that shuts and a front gate that the head goes through.  We give all our shots when the animal is standing in the chute to protect the animal and the people involved.  We will use the term steer (neutered male beef animal) as I further explain what I do.

When the steer walks into the chute I will use the squeeze which is like someone giving you a squeeze around your midsection.  The squeeze keeps the steer from going too quickly into the head gate.  As the steer pokes his head through the front or the head gate, I close the head gate.  The head gate is similar to having someone place their hands firmly at your neck holding your head from rolling around.  There is no choking, just a nice firm grip similar to what a C-collar does when you get into a car accident.

So the animal gets what could be called a hug and a kiss hold to keep him from jumping around!

Next, I reach through the side and give the animal his vaccinations.  My husband works at the front of the animal to give the animal a tag with a number in his ear.  We also give our cattle products that control lice and internal parasites.  When we are done, I open the front and out the steer walks back to his pen. This is how we do cattle processing on our family feedlot.

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Joan Ruskamp Podcast from Nebraska Food System Round-Table (8.3.11)

JoanRuskamp Food Systems Roundtable Podcast

Click here to Listen to Joan on KTIC Radio with Chad Moyer talking about the CommonGround initiative and the Nebraska Food Systems Round-Table.


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There’s Nothing Like Nebraska Sweet Corn

There’s nothing like Nebraska sweet corn. We bought an old four row planter just for planting our favorite summer delicacy. In February we special order from a company in Illinois extra sweet corn with names like “Sugar and Gold” and “Dynamite Duo” because we like the kind with both white and yellow kernels.

The sweet corn patch is situated along the quarter mile long lane from the road to our house so it’s handy to pick a dozen ears for dinner. We don’t just plant four rows of corn but eight rows with half that will be ripe about the end of July and the other half that will be ready mid-August so that we can eat fresh sweet corn for thirty days straight.

What do we do all this sweet corn? Some of it the raccoons get. Some of the corn we’ll freeze. The kids help pick about 200 ears which we’ll clean out in the machine shed to keep some of the mess out of the house. It’s then cut off the ears, cooked on top of the stove and frozen. The rest we give away-enough so that a few other families can fill their freezers with corn, too.

Gotta love corn season. Golden nougats and white pearls gleaming with melted butter. With a grilled rib eye steak, it’s the perfect summer feast.

My family picking sweet corn at our farm near Madison, Neb.

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GM and wildlife can coexist

The first time I heard a negative comment about genetically modified (GM) seed I was in another country. The comment was made that the GM seed brought into their country had caused the bee population to decrease. There was no other explanation as that was the only apparent cause since GM seed was new to the region.

We have been planting GM corn and soybean seed for the past few years. This is what I am noticing around our farm. Besides having better yields with less pesticide and herbicide usage we are seeing a proliferation of wildlife.

I recently took pictures of a bird and her eggs in a tree near our house because it was our daughter, Emily, who planted the tree when she was 14 and Emily is in Peru serving as a missionary right now.

This is only one of countless bird nests I have seen when I walk our dog. This spring and summer I have noticed not only more birds but more butterflies, bees, frogs, rabbits, etc… What should I attribute this to? Could it be that the GM seed has caused a proliferation of wildlife?

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Coming together on a CommonGround

Last week, CommonGround Nebraska volunteers, Diane Becker, Joan Ruskamp, Linda Schwarz, and myself attended the CommonGround Shared Voices Conference in St. Louis, MO along with volunteers from 10 other states!

The focus of the conference was about creating conversations about farming and food. The first day was all about sharing our own farm & food story and gaining insight from other volunteers about how they share with others. One by one, each woman told their story – with tears and laughter – how life has brought them through agriculture and why they feel it’s important to grow safe, nutritious and wholesome food that they feed to their family and mine.

We also heard from a representative from the U.S. Farmers and Rancher Alliance – an alliance that has brought agriculture together to all share the positive story of agriculture. They shared some important information on the right way to talk to and reach consumers and the positive messages that resonate with them.

The second day continued in our conversation about farming and food – but we were lucky enough to hear from Kevin Murphy of Food Chain Communications and his discussion on the Food Morality Movement concerning religion, ethics and morality when it comes to animal agriculture. His encouragement was really that, “food is bigger than just food; it’s a social issue, a political platform and an academic forum”.

This conference was a great way to get the CommonGround volunteers from all of the states excited about speaking up for agriculture and sharing what is passionate to them – food and farming!

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