Happy Thanksgiving!

imagesLet us count our blessings, every one,
and give thanks for our abundance.


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Thought of the Week

A guy doesn’t need a radio in his truck.
But really, he does.

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Our Nation’s Meat is Already Antibiotic-Free

There has been a furor lately about antibiotics in meat, largely tipped off by Subway’s recent announcement that they would no longer be serving meat containing antibiotics.  This is solely a marketing ploy to make their company look better to consumers, and it is a grave insult to America’s hardworking meat producers.  Why?  Because none, yes, NONE, of the meat in our food system, beef, chicken or pork, has antibiotics in it!

A tasty pile of antibiotic-free beef. Photo source

A tasty pile of antibiotic-free beef. Photo source

When a rancher sits down to a meal, frequently it’s one of his favorites – pot roast.  There is nothing better than a slow-cooked, properly season piece of beef and the accompanying vegetables and potatoes.  The best part?  That rancher can be certain that the beef he produces is absolutely safe to eat and is free of antibiotics.

How can he be sure of this?  Because he raised the beef himself.  He has followed all of the protocols and precautions to make sure it was free of antibiotics residue.

How can you know if the meat you buy at your local meat counter is the same?

The U.S.D.A. regulates antibiotic residue.  Even so, each day, we are all bombarded by the media with skewed information about antibiotic-resistant bugs, and we all worry about our family’s health.  Some of the stories we hear are frightening, and we are right to ask questions and seek assurances.  Whether it says “antibiotic free” or not, the meat in your grocer’s case is completely free of antibiotic residue.

and all of it is already antibiotic-free! Photo source

and all of it is already antibiotic-free! Photo source

In the same way with humans, antibiotics are critical for farmers and ranchers.  As caretakers of animals, having effective antibiotics available for their animals is of utmost importance.  When a rancher uses an antibiotic, that animal is taken out of the food-stream for a very specific time period, until the medicine is completely out of the animal’s system.  They rely on their veterinarian to provide recommendations for using the right medicine in the correct doses and the right time.  Ranchers work closely with their veterinarian – the proof is that their vet’s phone number is on speed dial – but assuredly, their doctor’s is not.

This cow has an infected eye. Of course the farmer will use antibiotics if necessary! Photo courtesy of Crystal Cattle, who wrote a blog post on the topic.

This cow has an infected eye. Of course the farmer will use antibiotics if necessary! Photo courtesy of Crystal Cattle, who wrote a blog post on the topic.

Overuse of an antibiotic may promote resistance, which is why ranchers use them only when needed – when an animal gets sick.  Ranchers are cognizant of the value of antibiotics and the dangers of their overuse.  They are attentive to resistant bacteria in their livestock.  This is why they are diligent in their use of antibiotics and follow label directions and withdrawal dates.

It is because they are as concerned about the safety of their own family’s health as they are of your health.  They are parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts – the safety of their’s and everyone’s family is paramount to the ranchers who raise our meat.  As farmers and ranchers, they are proud to raise the safe meat that you put on your plate. The meat on our tables is safe and healthy, and will stay that way because of concerned, committed farmers and ranchers.

Interested in learning more about labeling? Click HERE to be taken to the USDA’s approved labels and their definitions.

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100 Years at the Dinner Table

Do you ever wonder what people were eating 100 years ago? This great little video by mode.com takes us on a visual food tour of trendy dinners over a 100-year timespan, from 1915 to today. What’s your favorite thing to have for dinner?

Click HERE to go to mode.com to see the video since it can’t be embedded here.


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Thought of the Week

 Despite all our accomplishments, we owe our existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.


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Beekeeping May Not Be My Thing…

Backyard beekeeping is all the rage nowadays. I have been wanting to try out beekeeping for quite some time, and finally decided to give it a go this spring. Our local farm supply store, D&B Supply, offers a free beekeeping basics class, and there is an active group of beekeepers in the Treasure Valley. I took the class in February, ordered my bees, and waited and waited for them to arrive.

The bees were scheduled to arrive in early April, after the almond fertilization season in California was over. Bees are raised by big commercial beekeepers, who take their bees around the region where they follow the pollination needs of farmers. These bee companies have hundreds or thousands of hives, and since a hive will keep growing and growing, they are able to create new hives for sale by taking bees from a strong, overflowing hive and putting them into their own hive, either with a new queen, or with a queen cell for the bees to hatch into their new queen.

A honeybee hard at work in an almond tree. Photo source

A honeybee hard at work in an almond tree. Photo source

Anyway, all the bees were in California, where they were busy pollinating almonds. On the way up to Idaho, they ran into bad weather, which delayed them by quite a bit. Apparently bees do not like to travel in inclement weather. So I waited, and waited and waited for my bees to arrive.

They finally came in early May. I had ordered a nuc  hive, which means that they came in their own little cardboard hive with some frames which they had already started filling with honey. These bees were already working together and were used to their queen. The other option was to buy a box of 10,000 bees and dump, yes dump, as in turn it over and shake it, them into your own hive. No thank you. A nuc is easy peasy – you open your box, take out the frames, and put them into your own hive box. Boom, done.

So, the bees came, and I drove them home with them in the back of my Subaru. The bees stayed mostly in their box. Mostly…A few got out and were exploring the car and enjoying the view. That evening, after the bees had gone to bed, I installed them into their new home – a hive box in our backyard garden. The next morning, I looked out and there they were, already flying around the neighborhood! Bees are pretty adaptable, and if you make changes like moving their hive, at night, then they wake up and get to work without any confusion.

A frame of bees from the first hive

A frame of bees from the first hive

Since it was still fairly early in the spring, flowers weren’t in full bloom yet. That meant that the bees still needed to be fed. They eat sugar water – 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water. And they eat quite a bit – almost 8 cups of this concoction every week and a half to two weeks.  Beekeepers can also supplement their bees with pollen patties, which aren’t really pollen, but a mixture of sugar, water, protein supplements, and other stuff that’s good for bees. Bees are normally fed starting in the fall through early spring.

The bees looked great – the hive was strong, the queen bee was laying eggs, and honey was being stored up. They continued doing well for about two months, when something, I have no idea what, happened to the queen. A hive cannot survive without their queen. A queen is what keeps her hive together – she lays the eggs which continuously create new bees, and her pheromones are what lead the bees back to their hive.  Without a strong queen, a hive will decline. This is what happened to my hive. When a queen is lost, the bees can sometimes re-queen themselves, by feeding a larvae special food called royal jelly, which will transform her into a new queen. My bees tried to re-queen themselves, but were unsuccessful. And since it was later in the beekeeping season and so very hot at the end of July, I was unable to find another queen to purchase. And so my poor beehive died out. So sad! :(

Some uncapped honey cells

Some uncapped honey cells

But as I mentioned before, there is a good group of beekeepers in the Treasure Valley. One of them just happened to post that he had split one of his hives and had a hive for sale! I brought these bees home and introduced them to their new hive. They of course immediately adapted and went to work harvesting pollen from all the flowers in our neighborhood.

About a week after the bees got comfy in their new home the hive was raided by two different wasp colonies and perhaps another bee hive. In the fall, both bee and wasps double their efforts to store up food for the winter. A beehive, like mine, is a target for other bee and wasp colonies, since it’s a quick and easy way to get food, instead of flying around foraging from flowers. Since my hive was small, they were unable to fend off the invaders. Not even a robbing guard, a wire box that you attach to the front of the hive to confuse robbing wasps and bees, was able to stop the attacks. My bees were wiped out, since they are no match for the stronger wasps.

The robber guard on the hive

The robber guard on the hive

So there went hive #2. BUMMER! I’ve cleaned out and put away my hive boxes for the winter, and will give it another try in the spring. While my bees were doing well, it was a lot of fun to go sit by the hive and watch all the activity.  Worker bees zooming around bringing in pollen and nectar, guard bees hanging around the hive to chase away anything that got too close, bees doing their dances to tell other bees where the good gardens were. The WeeLaddie really enjoyed watching the bees as well, and would go sit out in the garden by himself and watch the action.

I learned quite a bit from the two failed hives, and will be better prepared for next year. I’ll write again next summer to let you know how round #2 of beekeeping goes!

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Cowboy Logic Video

Here’s a new video from Ryan Taylor, Cowboy Logic.

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These Country Songs REALLY Tick Me Off

“What Was I Thinking” – Dierks Bentley

The line that kills me: “Shut off the lights and tore through the corn field. What was I thinkin’?”

Yeah, what the heck were you thinking, Dierks? Thinking that driving through a corn field and destroying a farmer’s field is cool and fun? I’m thinkin’ you’re not too smart.

“I Drive Your Truck” – Lee Brice

The line that kills me: “I find a field, I tear it up Till all the pain’s a cloud of dust”

I'm sad, so I'm going to destroy your field! Yay! Photo source

I’m sad, so I’m going to destroy your field! Yay!
Photo source

OMG. I’m sorry your brother was killed while serving in the Army. Still doesn’t make it ok to destroy a farmer’s livelihood. Now it’s ok to destroy a farmer’s field because you’re sad. Thanks for that, Lee…

“Somethin’ About a Truck” – Kip Moore

The line that kills me: “Somethin bout a truck in a farmers field. A no trespass sign, and time to kill. Nobody’s gonna get hurt, so what’s the big deal?”

But no one got hurt, so it's ok.... Photo source

But no one got hurt, so it’s ok….
Photo source

OMFG. No one get’s hurt? How about the farmer and his family, who’s livelihood you so blithely destroyed. Losing thousands of dollars in inputs like seeds and fertilizer as well as lost revenues probably hurts pretty bad.

Also, not only does the farmer take a loss for idiots driving through his fields, here’s a nice list of criminal and civil charges that one could face for doing so:

Felony malicious destruction of property
Reckless driving (misdemeanor)
Reckless endangerment (if you have a passenger)
Trespassing (misdemeanor)
Passengers can get charged as accessories to these crimes!

And then on the civil side, where the farmer could sue for damages:
Civil Trespass
Intentional destruction of property
*the jury can award the farmer upwards of $50,000 dollars in punitive damages!

SO, these songs are totally lame and encourage listeners to commit felonies. Way to go, guys! Why don’t you write a song now about how awesome farmers and ranchers are and how you should never, ever drive in their fields?

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Smart Fresh Local

Farmer Mary Hillebrecht’s (whom we profiled in December, 2013) sister, Laura, participated in making this nice little video about their farm and about eating fresh, local food. They grow sweet corn for local farmstands.



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Thought of the Week

Someone’s got to feed you people!

Idaho Ag In The Classroom

photo 3

Farmer Selfie

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