Springtime thoughts

April 13, 2015 by

As spring comes to the farm, we are rejoicing in the fact that our nine month old granddaughter is living here at the farm.  She loves the things her mom and dad love: dogs, cows, horses, chickens, cats, dirt.  Just as Scott loved growing up here, he is nurturing a love of God’s green earth in his daughter.  Beth, his wife, is no longer a new bride; and the realities of farming are present in their daily life.  One reality is that Scott must work a full-time job off the farm, and helps us on weekends or evenings as his family time allows him to, in the fields and in the shop.  Beth is a full-time mom and growing a photography business.  Her photos are beautiful testimonies of rural American lifestyles.

This farm only supports a single family financially, and Roger is just 55.  That means ten years to go before he can think about “retiring” and passing ownership and daily management of the farm on to one of our kids.  A land contract will legally pass the farm to the next generation. In reality, I think real retirement, when he stops farming, is probably decades in the future.

We watch Margie grow, too.  Next month is her golden birthday: she will be 25 on May 25th.  She lives with us and helps manage the dairy herd.  We are building a new milkhaus this year,  an investment in the future of our farm.  The dairy cows are what earn us an income that makes perpetuating the farm and raising a family possible for Roger and I. Margie knows cows; she too could be a successful farmer. margie hooftrimming

Even with kids this passionate about farming, even if we do everything right, we still know that farming has challenges.  What is the weather going to be like this year?  How does global agricultural production affect our commodity prices?  How will we make loan payments, pay the monthly livestock bills?  Health insurance and farm insurance?  Our own grocery bills? Taxes?

I used to think someday it would get easier.  I no longer have that optimistic view.  Roger works the land because it is what he has done his whole life.  He will do it until he retires, dies, or goes bankrupt.  We are good at farming, there are skills needed, and he and I both possess them in sufficient quantity to have lasted this long.

Prayerfully, with God’s blessing upon us, we will continue to do so, so that a sixth and seventh generation of Weisses can farm this land.  We do rejoice, because we know that we are working for a long-term purpose!  Welcome Springtime, and welcome Lilly!

Daddy's new farm vehicle carries the most precious harvest: our granddaughter, Lilly!

  Daddy’s new farm vehicle carries the most precious harvest: our granddaughter, Lilly!

Scott and Beth, Lilly

Scott and Beth, Lilly

 

 

Advertisements

MCFA Annual Picnic in Lakeview, MI

July 16, 2013 by

MCFA Annual Picnic in Lakeview, MI

Our farm is honored to be chosen Michigan’s 2013 Centennial Farm of the Year. Roger and I shared stories about Johann LELY, our Frankenmuth Corn Maze, and the future of our farm (our children). Our farm has actually been in our family for 160 years as of August 1, 2013.

2013 New Beginnings

June 28, 2013 by

2013 New Beginnings

Our family is growing! Roger and Joanmarie Weiss, Lydia (19), Margie (23), Scott (21) and his fiancee Bethany (22)
In September, just before the corn maze officially opens, we will welcome Bethany to our farm family.  

Harvest of Gold

October 2, 2012 by

     (The title credit goes to Scott: he tagged his Facebook photo album from the past week using the phrase.)

     This year there is more truth to the title than ever before.  Because of prolonged drought conditions around the USA, corn prices have reached record highs.  Currently, corn is selling for around $8 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade.  And, here at Weiss Centennial Farm, we are buying corn in our dairy feeds valued at $10 a bushel.  We are more than a little thankful that we decided to put some of last year’s corn in the corn bank at the feed mill instead of selling it at $5 a bushel in the spring (which was a great price then!).

     So, since September 10 we have been harvesting corn in two ways for our cows.  First, and this is really a sign of how weird the growing year has been, we took off high moisture shelled corn with our combine.  We shell corn at 30 percent moisture, then roller mill it and store it in Agbags.  We can store cracked corn for up to three years in the bags.  Our strategy is always to have more than one year’s worth of feed in the bags, so we are covered in drought years.  This is the third year in twenty-five we will not be able to do that because of drought.  But, we can use some of last year’s extra to get us through to next year. 

     On September 22 we started to chop our corn silage.  Usually corn silage is made at the end of August or early September, always before shelled corn.  This is a year of firsts, though…. The silage corn took a long time to mature this fall.  We are fortunate, too, that the tiling Roger was doing in May kept us from planting corn before May 22.  Why?  Well, that delay meant our corn plants did not tassel and pollinate until late July, early August when mid-Michigan finally received much-needed rain.  So, our silage corn grew to its full potential of nine feet and the ears are filled out nicely.  My sister, Angela, lives in Hudson, Mi.  A dairy farm near their home chopped silage in August in a 100 acre field that only measured 13 bushel of corn to the acre!  I think the pilgrims did better than that in 1620!  So, we are grateful God made the tile machine break down, which seemed like a horrible delay at the time, but now is a blessing.  Waiting on God is preached all the time, now we have a first hand story why one should be patient…

    We are also in the midst of a new Frankenmuth Corn Maze season now.  September gave us an opportunity to make sure everything was set up and we were easing our way into the long, fun weekends.  Last weekend we partnered with Zehnder’s Splash Village and hosted many of their guests at the maze and also with a tour of our dairy farm and robotic milking system.  Now, it is October and we are eager to share an a-maze-ing experience with all our guests.  This weekend the color of the nearby woods is going to be absolutely gorgeous!  Here’s hoping we have beautiful sunshine as the trees arraign themselves in gold and crimson and orange foliage.

    I am sorry I have not written a blog entry for so long.  A combination of many things has kept me from sitting down and recording what is going on: first off, our life is changing dramatically with Lydia home briefly then off to culinary school, Scott is back in school full-time this fall, he and Margie are also farming with Roger and there is much to figure out in terms of family and farm communications and decision-making processes.  Also, Roger’s sister, Lori, lives with us currently, so there are many adults in the house who all want to be chiefs…no more Indians who just follow along quietly!  I know we will be solving some of these issues sooner than others, in the meanwhile there are days my heart and mind are painfully bruised with miscommunications and then there are just as many when I am filled with joy for the family love and adult relationships we are forging as Roger and I celebrate our 25th year as a married couple. 

    Please pray for us, and we also pray for everyone, too.  Families are precious gifts from God, they are forged by many shared experiences and much love.  Yet, every family needs to include God as the head of the household, I believe, to fully ensure contentment and blessings.

    I cannot figure out how to put photos into the blog post today, apparently some new method is used since I last wrote in August.  When I figure it out, I will be sure to put some in this post.  Meanwhile, you can see lots of photos of our farm this year by going to Weiss Centennial Farm on Facebook.

Third Cutting Hay is affected by drought and I am 50!

August 2, 2012 by

Today we finished cutting our third alfalfa harvest of the year.  We are quite concerned about having enough feed for our dairy cows, if this drought continues.  Fortunately, in the past week we have received much needed rain for the corn crop and for alfalfa.  If it continues to rain now, about once a week or so, we should still have a decent harvest as long as crops have until mid-September to mature.  If it dries up again, we are strategizing how to afford the corn and hay we will need to buy for our cows.

Onto better things!  I celebrated my 50th birthday last Sunday with family and friends.  We BBQd at Memorial Park in Fmuth and then listened to a concert in the park that featured a woman performer named Shania Twin.  She did an awesome job!  We had a great time.

Two gifts were planned for me by my family.  First, as you see above, a bell.  Actually, this bell has been at Weiss Farm since 1886!  It was always out by the smoke house.  Early this spring I went to ring it to call everyone into supper and it just fell over!  It had rotted off below the ground.  So, Roger procured this treated telephone post and he and the kids polished and painted the bell and mounted it.  I decided to move it to a location closer to the house… We hit a solid foundation buried four feet under the lawn, apparently from the house that stook here before ours.  So, we cut off seven feet from the post to shorten it up and put it in the ground.  This week everyone rings the bell!!!

Red Currant Wine from Bavarian Inn is a true treat!

Red current wine is my favorite social drink, as everyone who knows me can tell you!   The card my family got me said “Like a great wine, we get better as we get older! …Or is it, as we get older, we feel better with lots of great wine?”

It was signed “From the six cases of stress in your life, Margie, Lydia Joy, Scott, Bethany, Lori, Roger”  First off, Lori is not stress-inducing!  She has been a godsend to us as we venture into agri-tourism.  She can run a corn maze single-handed and has been great at coming up with ways to teach and entertain kids on tours.  So, her bottle will be used for toasts!

The kids told me I should uncork each one and take a drink from the appropriately labeled bottle each time I have stress.  I told them that might lead to alcoholism and at any rate, the wine would be gone too soon!!  So, instead how about I toast a particularly special event or comment each makes from the right bottle?  We all laughed.  It’s really enough wine to get me through a year, I think!!

So, the drought is outside and it’s very real.  But, inside…well, I’ve got enough liquid refreshments to last quite a long time, at least until my 51st birthday. …

The bottles were labeled on back with each “stress” in my life.

 

Progressive Dairyman article Small Farm, Big Changes

July 23, 2012 by

Progressive Dairyman article Small Farm, Big Changes

http://www.progressivedairy.com/~prodairy/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9100:herd-management-small-farm-big-changes&catid=49:management&Itemid=75

A few months ago Progressive Dairyman asked me to write an article about how technology has affected our farm.  I think Emily, the PD editor I worked with, read about our experiences with Johann LELY here at the farm in this blog and at Proudtodairy.com.  As a sidetracked historian, I am always pleased to share our family farm’s history with another audience.

Today, Sara, who I gather is Emily’s boss, sent the above link to me and asked me to share it with those who read this blog.  So….you can click on it and read to your heart’s content.  Emily gave me a few lead sentences and a 1000 word limit.  I guess she must have checked the word count on some of these blog entries.

This spring Margie and I put together a visual timeline of the five Weiss generations using old photos and a few precious artifacts.  Now, when visitors come to the farm I am able to weave our family’s story into the larger stories of Frankenmuth, Michigan,and US history.  My favorite class in graduate school was History of the Family, I wonder if Professor Miller has read any of my web writings?!  It is far more interesting to write about than airline stewardesses of the 1930’s, which were the subjects of my master’s thesis! 

 

Lydia is home!

July 17, 2012 by

 

 

 

 

Of course, the farming continues in midst of all the personal family celebrations.  Sunday it rained on Lydia’s party – to EVERYONE’S great joy!  A whole 1.4 of an inch which brings our total to about 3/4 inch in the last two months.  We need rain, we pray for rain, we search the skies, we read it into every natural phenomenon: dust tornadoes, sundogs, biting flies, etc as well as obvious darkened skies…

Tonight the rumble of thunder is all around.  We had enough rain to get the sidewalk wet so far.  As I go to bed now at 10:18pm I can only say we all hope we wake up to a wet, wet world… One that is a bit more joyfu as we celebrate Lydia’s return and the joy of our family all together again. 

 

“Farming and I grow it” shares farm family values

June 29, 2012 by

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48H7zOQrX3U

The Petersen brothers succinctly voice the passion of every farmer I know!  Check out their youtube video.  You’ll be impressed by their joy in working on a family farm and their entertaining style.  Farm boys they may be, but I think they’d be welcome in any home in America.  My favorite line?  Well, there’s plenty to be chosen from, but I think they really tap into a teen thing with this one:  “I work out – side.”  As any girl will tell you after watching them sing, the workout is working for these guys!  Wink, wink!

Lyrics:
When I’m up at seven, the sunrise gives me a glimpse of heaven

I get right to work, a farmer’s life can be a little berserk yeah

This is how I roll, I feed the cattle till their stomachs are full

Treat em right, that’s my belief, What’s for dinner? I say beef!
Gotta feed Everybody Gotta Feed Everybody Gotta Feed Everybody (Uh-Huh) I work out (side!)
When I step to the bunk (yeah) This is what I see (Uh-huh)

All the hungry cattle are staring at me
I got passion for my plants and I ain’t afraid to show it show it show it show it

I’m farming and I grow it
When I’m in my tractor, I got more power than an arc reactor

And when I’m in the field, I try to raise crops to maximum yield

This is how I roll, without me the world would be outta control

The hours I work, there is no equal

Gotta feed the mouths of hungry people

Gotta Feed Everybody Gotta Feed Everybody Gotta Feed Everybody (Uh-Huh)

I work out (side!)
When I step to the bunk (yeah) This is what I see (Uh-huh)

All the hungry cattle are staring at me
I got passion for my plants and I ain’t afraid to show it show it show it show it
I’m farming and I grow it
Water, water, water, water, water Water.

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v41sEavtJ3E

A couple teens in Canada did a dairy tune to the same music awhile back.  Their song is funny, as they share about dairy cows, dairy farming, and life in Sussex beyond the farm gate.

Be Forewarned:  there is a debate about their song and dairy cows (which could be enlightening to both pro and anti-forces, except that the language both side uses digresses into absolute filth, which produces nothing except more of the same).  So, if you watch their video, be aware that the comments that follow are truly not polite.

I have had a few discussions lately with Neighbor who keeps putting our farm on a pedestal of sorts, because we are a “small family farm.”  Then, I am lectured about the horrible factory farms, the corporate farms, the uncaring farm managers at “those places.”   Both Neighbor and I have passionate beliefs.  However, I finally shared that I wasn’t comfortable with the rose-tinted glasses worn when Neighbor looks at my farm.  I am a modern farmer, and embrace technology and science and so I have the ability to make a profit and I can raise my family here.  The farm Neighbor “sees” here is in my mind (in accordance with all the accolades showered upon me), Amish!  So, for both of us it’s a matter of personal perspective,  values, and investment of time and energy and love.  Neighbor sees me as pristine, I see Amish as pristine, who do they admire, I wonder???

Roger and the kids used to make up lots of farm lyrics to popular country songs while milking in the old stanchion barn.  I wonder if we should get some of them out on Youtube!!!?

 

Udder-ly AMAZEing fun at Bavarian Parade

June 10, 2012 by

This week our 2012 corn maze banners arrived, just in time to put them up on our viewing wagon at the Bavarian Festival Parade today.  The parade is 50 years old this year, and Roger and I have attended half of them: the last twenty-five (since we started dating).  Over the years, our preparations have become quite elaborate.  When we were dating we crashed other peoples’ parties and had lots of fun partying with them.

Then, when our own children were growing up, we started taking a hay wagon to town.  We invite family and friends to come to a BBQ (thanks to Dean Haubenstricker family for bringing their grill to the party!) and watch the parade in man-made shade.  On parade days like today, when the temp is above 90 degrees, it is wonderful to find shade under the blue canvases!

We put picnic tables on the hay wagon, too.  Now, here it is: 25 years and counting.  Today Margie and Scott (and Scott’s girlfriend, Bethany) got the wagon ready at home, took it to town, and set the whole thing up.  So, perhaps we have passed the tradition onto the next generation… I asked for pics from kids with cell phones, turns out no one thought to take a picture, we were having so much fun!  Well, maybe you can join us next year, second Sunday in June!

Anyway, having such a visible viewing stands means we should use space wisely, right?  So, I always add June is Dairy Month banners to the wagon.  We also take lots of delicious cheese to share with everyone.  We tried chocolate milk one year, but it is challenging to keep it iced down.  So, we keep that as a treat for when we return home and have to put everything away for next year.  After all, chocolate milk is the ultimate exercise recovery drink….and setting up and taking down does give us a joyful, service-oriented workout each and every one of the twenty-five Bavarian Parade Sundays.

So, now you know how we spent our day.  You can spend your evening working on finding a path through our 2012 corn maze.  With two bridges, it quadruples the challenge!

June is MY “Dairy” Favorite Month

June 5, 2012 by

       Tomorrow, June 6, we are joining in the fun of Frankenmuth Locals Day here at Weiss Farm.  We host tours every Saturday at 10 a.m. this summer, too.  Tomorrow, in addition to the dairy tour, visitors can build their own ice cream sundae.

We also have nutritional information for people to pick up and read.  Think Your Drink is a popular lesson plan I use in classrooms and with school children who visit our farm.  It compares chocolate milk to several other kid friendly beverages like orange juice and water, also not so kid-friendly beverages like soda pop, sports drinks, and flavored juices.  Some kids (and their parents) are amazed to learn that chocolate milk is more than just a delicious glass of chocolate calories: it has calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals bodies need to stay healthy.

I’ve also been working on the finishing touches for our Weiss Farm History display in the Visitor Center.  The first three generations are done, I am working on Elmer and Roger’s history windows now.  There are many more photographs to sort through to tell the story of our farm in the period 1960-2012 then there was for the period from 1853 to that point!  I hope you will stop in and see us too if you have time this summer or fall.

You can learn more about our farm tours and other visitor activities at www.weisscentennialfarm.com  I know you see that heading at the top of this page, too, but we switched the URL to www.frankenmuthfarm.com earlier this year so we could use our farm name on our business site.  Oh, the things I am learning about using the internet effectively…!!!

Have a dairy good week and enjoy a glass of cold chocolate milk with your meal today!


%d bloggers like this: