Category Archives: Field Trip
Living and working on this ranch give me the opportunity to share this lifestyle with others. Sometimes that is as simple as inviting friends to come over for a hike, but sometimes it involves giving my friends animal body parts. My friend amazing Alyssa asked me for some body parts for her kids, now I know this might sound weird or strange at first, but stay with us here. When I figured what she was planning to do, I squealed with delight because this is something I’ve heard a lot about but never seen done. Know what? I’m going to let her tell you what she did….
A Piggy Tale
by Alyssa Manes
When I was young, I loved to read. I picked books based on author (I read all the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley), based on cover (King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry), and based on title (The Secret Garden by F. H. Burnett). There were books I didn’t read for the same reason, and Little House on the Prairie series was one of them. One cover had a girl holding a doll, and that definitely wasn’t a book for me. I’m so glad that having children has given me a chance for a second childhood! We borrowed Little House books on audio CD from our local library to listen to, because our homeschool co-op group was doing a unit on the Little House time period.
Now one of the many advantages of home school is the ability to do some really neat hands-on projects with your kids that might be impractical in a larger group. So when we listened to Little House in the Big Woods, and heard the mention of playing with a pig bladder like a ball….well…..why not try it out? All we needed was a pig bladder and a bit of willingness to try something new.
My friend Megan has a ranch and has started breeding heritage pigs, and was very gracious about hooking us up with several fresh bladders. So here’s how it went down:
I have three children – my son, the oldest, is cautious (which is great because he’ll be driving first), the second has special needs (I think she was napping during our bladder experiment) and the youngest girl is full of joy and mischief. My plan was for my oldest and youngest to follow instructions and blow up the bladders while I took pictures and helped. No go. The youngest was excited to help, but at the age of two, she was a little limited in her ability. She did hold the pig bladder and watched me closely. The oldest became the photographer and watched me blow them up. Now I supposed I could have blown directly into the bladder….after all it didn’t really smell or look all that awful. But I took the easy route and used a drinking straw. It actually fit perfectly in the urethra (I’m pinching that part in picture below). I had a really hard time finding the “tube” that carried urine to the bladder. I’m not sure if it was a smaller part attached to the urethra or if it was either so small or had some valve to keep the air from flowing out that we never had a leaky bladder once we blew one up.
Considering the bladder started about the size of my hand, it actually expanded quite a bit (see below). When the bladder was full of air, I pinched the urethra as I pulled out the straw, and had my son help me tie a piece of thread around it. I tried once or twice to use the urethra to tie it off like a balloon, but things were too slippery and/or the tube was just too short.
So there you have it!
Once the bladders dried, I suppose you could have played with them. They have a bit of a crinkly sound now, but they have lasted a year and a half looking like this:
The fat on them is a little greasy, but the main bladder part is translucent and oddly beautiful.
If I had to rate this “activity” as a family experience, here is what I would say:
- not very stinky/smelly (although my dog thinks differently and is hoping that a dried bladder will come within her reach)
- fascinating to see the bladder inflate and to think of its usefulness in historical terms as a child’s “toy”
- didn’t take very long
- medium gross-factor
- tying the string while holding the bladder was a little challenging, since my oldest didn’t want to get too close to the bladder
wrangling a toddler with gross hands (but this part is still totally worth it in my book….as long as she doesn’t try touching my face…)
Overall, a really cool and memorable experience. Thanks, Megan, for the opportunity to do something so unique!
Thanks for sharing this project with us Alyssa! As an avid reader of the Little House books myself, this was so fun to read about!
Don’t worry, I’ll be posting the whole story here in a while.
Oh, yes, friends. It is that time of the year again! Time for a list of stuff I love, aka The Aghag’s gift guide for The Holiday’s. Now I have this set up where all you have to do is click on the link (the underlined words) and it should take you to the corresponding shop. These are all products I use and love and I am not being paid to say that.
- Everyone in my life is getting the 2018 FarmHer Calendar because I am in it. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Aunts, Uncles…..all of them. Silly pig and I are December. But honestly, a good old fashioned calendar is a functional gift everyone can use.
2. My Mom started using these twists and told me for the longest time how awesome they are. She finally bought me a pack of them, and I started using them too. Now I am a raving fan. These would be a great stocking stuffer!
3. From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty. I read her first book and it made 2015’s list. This book is as interesting, if not more. I finished it in about two days and now I tell everyone to read it. I now want to start a funeral pyre business out on one of our ranches.
4. When I went to Europe I experienced bidet use for the first time. I now understand why they think we are dirty Americans. Once you go bidet you can’t go back. It attaches right onto your toilet and is amazing. I installed it myself in about 10 minutes and never looked back. This product makes my list every year because it is life changing. Wiping your own butt is so 2015.
5. I stumbled on this wonderful etsy store because she is local to the valley where I live in the summer. Meagan’s jewelry is custom, unique and totally fits in with Western styles. And it’s handmade! Need a gift for that person that has everything? They don’t have Renegades Bead Work, yet.
6. I am a foodie. I take my food very, very, seriously. I am always learning and expanding my food knowledge. This year I got a sous vide and my steak making abilities rival the best steak house in town. I am not even joking. I can now enjoy steak house style steaks at home, in my undies. This is a game changer. Buy this for the foodie in your life and enjoy the amazing food that will come your way! Here is a link to get a free smart cooker if you live in California. But if you don’t live in California take 20% off on Nomiku.com using the code “NOFOMO.
7. Alamendra wine. This is a local winery, I’ve known the owners since I was a child. They started this winery and distillery in the little town of Durham and I feel like it breathed some life back into the community. I’ve been to several events there and always enjoyed myself and the booze! When the fire happened my Friend gifted me a bottle of the Luna (because Luna saved her pigs, get it?!)
8. I love it when women in agriculture do cool things. My friend Jennifer Campbell over at Farm Wife Feeds did just that! She wrote a book, Meet Pete! This book is a favorite of mine to give out at baby showers and kid’s birthdays. I quest to corrupt children and bring them into the dark side, you know, agriculture!
9. As you may or may not know, the ranch burned up. It was traumatic to say the least. I told myself that if I was strong and did not completely fall a part I could buy myself something shiny. I follow and lurk a lot of stores that sell shiny things but only trust a few. I almost don’t want to share this with you because I still plan on buying myself a squash blossom from them at some point and I don’t want the competition. So just know, if you buy my squash blossom out from under me, I’m gonna be super mad (kidding, kinda). The shiny thing I bought myself was delivered super fast and in perfect condition. I love it. Like I said, I plan to spend a lot more money at Turquoise Creek Jewelry. A side note if you feel like getting me a gift, anything from here would be super!
I attended Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s town hall meeting in Oroville, California on April 17, 2017. I have a long history with Mr. LaMalfa. I can’t quite remember the when it started, but I have been actively engaging with him via social media for years. However, ever since the local news station came out and interviewed me about that, his engagement with me has dwindled to nothing.
I also attended a rally held at Mr. LaMalfa’s office in Oroville on February 27th. The Congressman knew it was planned, instead of meeting with us, his office was locked, empty and dark. Mr. LaMalfa is not only my congressmen, he is my neighbor and fellow farmer (he farms rice). His slogan for his past campaign has been that he is “one of us”. All of these factors adds to my frustration of not having an audience with him.
I finally took matters into my own hands a year ago and named a boar after the congressman. The boar was a great listener. We solved many local issues together, and it was a great catharsis to be able to give him a belly rub after our discussions. Unfortunately, the boar lived up to his namesake and was unable to perform his job in a satisfactory manner. In the agriculture world, if you don’t do your job, you get culled, so Doug LaMalfa was made into sausage and replaced with a better model.
Mr. LaMalfa has been one of those congressmen that haven’t seemed to be eager to hold town halls in his more liberal urban areas. When this one was announced I was excited, finally my voice will be heard! Or so I thought.
The meeting started on a sour note, the emcee started by telling us, in a not pleasant tone “to quiet down”. That did not go over well. Mr. LaMalfa then tried to make a powerpoint presentation. I noticed he did the same thing when hosting a call in town hall meeting a few weeks back. He wasted a lot of our time re-hashing issues his constituents are well aware of and living everyday.
The crowd was not having it. People wanted to have their concerns and comments heard. It was pretty much downhill from there. Mr. LaMalfa took the stage and was openly condescending, mocking and dismissive. Sweet little old ladies started to lose their stuffing and yell at him. At one point he walked off the stage and lectured us about our behavior in church, as if having an audience with him was the same thing as a religious experience.
It was clear that Mr. LaMalfa was not there to listen. When he was called out on that fact, he blamed the crowd for not being nice. None of his behavior surprised me, his online persona is equally as unpleasant if his ego is not being stroked. The crowd felt the same way. There were many comments out of turn, very loud booing and general chaos. But here is the thing, crowds don’t act like that if the leadership is strong, kind and competent.
Social media and even the real media are now focusing on the behavior of the crowd at this town hall. That is a byproduct of not being listened to. People have been reaching out to Doug for YEARS only to be ignored. As Doug found out last night, it’s frustrating when your concerns are not listened to. Yelling and screaming does not diminish what a crap job Doug has done.
Protestors are not trying to gain your support by following the rules. They are trying to give you a window into feeling their experience. Their helplessness. Their fury. Remember that before you admonish them. Be thankful for the transparency. Remember your privilege. Remember how lucky you are compared to some. Think deeply about that. Then use your power for good, not judgement.
Manners do matter. But so does doing your job. If I don’t feed my hogs they get mighty pissed off at me. Rightfully so. I’m not doing my job. Apparently constituencies feel the same way.
Mr. LaMalfa has been in office since 2010. This is more than enough time to make a significant improvement in his district. He simply has not done that. He does not listen to his constituency. He does not engage well. He is not “one of us”. Simply put, it is time for him to return to his farm to think about how he can improve.
Remember last year when I went to the South a whole bunch? And discovered how amazing it is down there? One of the many, many things I loved about The South was the food. I mean, it changed my life (cough, cough Traeger makes an amazing smoker). One thing I’d never had, but heard about, was Alabama White Sauce. My first experience with it was at Saw’s (GO THERE).
After my initial mouth joy, I kinda got pissed that I went this far in life without it. It’s just not a thing in California. Before I came home, I made sure to try it as many times as I could. I bought it by the bottle and brought it home too! I also asked for recipes. I got many. I know the purist claim real white sauce is only salt, pepper, mayo and vinegar. But while I was down there I found that everyone had their own variation. I tweaked it and kinda came up with a California version, I love this sauce and make it all the time.
Alabama White BBQ Sauce:
2 cups mayonnaise (I think Duke’s is the best)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon (at least, I use more) freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Put everything in a mason jar and shake to mix. I like to give it at least 12 hours in the fridge to “meld” before serving.
Learning how to smoke has been one of my favorite things from this year. I’ve made everything from smoked potato salad to bacon candy in my smoker. It adds a whole new flavor and texture to meat and vegetables. And again, I get kinda pissed I’ve lived this long without having a smoker in my life. Don’t make the same mistake I did friends. Go get yourself a smoker, and make some white sauce. You’re welcome.
Recently, our local blueberry farm opened their gates to the U-pick crowd. Well, being the foodie I am, I had to go. My friend and I loaded up and spent a scant hour picking a bucket of blueberries. I was then faced with the daunting task of making several pounds of blueberries into stuff before they went bad. I succeeded. I ate a whole bunch, then I pickled a whole bunch, then I made this wonderful jam, and the rest I froze for pancakes.
I think this is now my third favorite jam I make. Which is really saying something since I think I make close to 30 different kinds (
I don’t have a problem). I used Meyer Lemons because we have several trees here on the ranch, so they are free in addition to being delicious.
Blueberry Meyer Lemon Jam*
- 3 cups blueberries, mashed to make about 2 1/2 cups
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
- 1.5 tsps. Meyer Lemon zest, grated
- 1 Tbsp. Meyer Lemon juice
- A whisper of butter (to prevent foaming)
- 1 package (3 oz) liquid pectin
Add blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, butter and juice in a jam pot. Bring to a roiling boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Add pectin and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat. Add to sterilized jars and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
This jam would be breathtaking on a scone, cheesecake or even on toast. It’s light, crisp with a hint of tart. It’s lovely and I ended up making two batches because it’s going to make great gifts.
*based on Southern Living’s recipe
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It was then time. Time to see Captain Lovell, Mr. Naam and THE Woz. Interesting side note, earlier in the week I was on the same elevator as Steve Wozniak. He was super nice and I couldn’t make words come out of my mouth in an order that made sense. I’m sure I scared him a whisper. I did almost the same thing with Ramez Naam when I met him. He asked my name and instead of saying it, I told him I was a blogger. This is why you can’t take me anywhere.
Having seen the movie Apollo 13, I knew who Captain Jim Lovell was and was very much looking forward to hearing him speak. It was almost a surreal experience to have him tell you his story. “Always expect the unexpected” is a mantra I use here on the ranch and hearing him say that live gave me chills. Captain Lovell received a standing ovation after giving a charming, inspiring and funny speech ended with ‘we are all astronauts. We’re all flying through space with limited resources”.
“Ideas never get chipped, or dented, or worn down, or broken. Ideas only accelerate.” Ramez Naam was our next speaker. He is somewhat of a renaissance man, his ideas and points of view have intrigued me for sometime and it was a stunning opportunity to see speak. His talk started out serious, scary at times, “March 2016 was the warmest month on earth ever”. But contained so much information, given in such a hopeful and positive manner, my expectancy for our future skyrocketed. “You can innovate your way out of a problem” and “learn to learn” were quotes that stayed with me. Look him up if you get the chance, read his book, follow him on twitter.
To someone in my generation, who uses Apple products almost constantly, Steve Wozniak is a myth, a legend, an enigma. He helped change how I live my life or as my Dad says “put that phone down!”. He was honored with the Alltech Humanitarian Award because he is so much more than the ‘guy that started Apple’. He was a teacher, a student, Rocky Raccoon, a scientist, a dancer, well the list goes on. Listening to him and Dr. Lyons banter on stage was a highlight of my trip. Learning about all the different endeavors he has had his hands in was fascinating. The Woz knew his audience well threw out such gems as “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad”. Mr. Wozniak is a great speaker and tied this convention all together for me.
The final speaker was Prof Damien McLoughlin, again someone that was new to me. He spoke about a book called Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant. Professor McLoughlin asked the question, “do you dare to be different?” which is music to someone like me ear’s. He again reminded me Mary Shelman’s points, where the successful brands are the ones that break free of “rules”.
Dr. Aoife Lyons then brought out and presented awards to Alltech’s Young Scientist Finalists. The undergraduate winner is offered a fully funded PhD at an University of their choice and the graduate winner will be offered a two year fully funded post doctoral at Alltech in US or Ireland. Alonna Wright was the undergrad winner and Richard Lally was the graduate student winner. What better way for Alltech to show their support in the future of agriculture than give a gift like this?
Finally to cap it all off Padraic Moyles the Associate Director of Riverdance took the stage. He spoke about the history behind Riverdance and told us, we do the same thing every night in order to do better, none of us have perfected what we do. Which after you’ve seen it, I find hard to believe, they are breathtaking. He also said that after 5,500 performances they still treat everyone like opening night. Then they put on an epic show that made me cry a little. I know I must have had a really let’s say,
jaw on the floor interesting, look on my face because at one point he looked down at me and laughed. But this show was an awe-inspiring show.
Usually after three days of conference, you hit your conference wall, and you want to go home, you’ve had enough. Not with Alltech. I was ready to go three more days. This is by far the most inspiring, engaging and positive conferences I’ve ever attended. I loved that Alltech exposed agriculturalists to ideas, experiences and cultures, outside our normal comfort zones. That is something I am critical of agriculture over, we tend to stay in our same molds. Dr. Pearse Lyons was a stellar master of ceremonies, he kept things entertaining while imparting wisdom.
I appreciated how Alltech went out of their way to include social media creators. They provided a stipend for me to attend. By giving me the opportunity to attend, I was able to share this new information with thousands of people that normally would never have access to it; they learned with me, they shared my excitement and passion in real time. It helps producers like myself reach “beyond the industry choir” as we say.
To sum up my ONE experience agriculture needs to start pushing the envelope and searching for ways to innovate and change our industry. This is something we should be placing more emphasis on. Alltech is doing a great job of being a leader in that aspect. The other key issue I took away is we need to be ONE. If we want our future to be bright there needs to be an ONE degree of separation between us all. We need to work hard together for the greater good like Mr. Mulally and Coach Cal and Mr. Moyles advised, we need to plan for the unexpected innovatively, and differently, like Mr. Naam, The Woz and Prof. McLoughlin told us. Simply put, because we are ONE. One people, and one planet and we need to realize and remember that.