Friday, March 30, 2012

Rain is a Good Thing Bulletin Board

Two weeks ago I had to cancel our first ever Farm Day because of the rain.  It poured on and off all day.  We had rainy day recess the entire week (not Monday but pretty much the entire week).  Luckily, I was able to reschedule and it will happen (weather permitting) in a few weeks.  But, I was upset and my kids were disappointed, so instead of cursing the rain I decided to have my students brainstorm reasons rain is good.  It has been a dry winter and we need the rain but after a week of being cooped up inside were all tired of it.  This activity was fun and put us all in a better mood! 

First, we wrote a list of reasons rain is good.  
I wrote exactly what they said and didn't prompt them very much.  One of my students said it can fill lakes and I asked what else it can fill, but that was all the prompting I did.  With that being said, we have talked about this before - when we have to have inside PE or when they get tired of inside recess. 
How cute is the last good thing?  

 Then, we took our list and each chose one to put on a rain drop in our window.  I wrote the title on a cloud and all the rain drops came out of the cloud. 


"The strawberry needs water to grow big and huge.  We eat them."

Why do you think rain is a good thing?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Farm Tours in Modesto

 This weekend I attended the Young Farmers and Ranchers
Leadership Conference in Modesto.  On Friday we got the chance to take a few tours.  

Our first stop was Foster Farms - we got to tour the processing facility.  I was pretty nervous to see how the chickens get killed and processed.  I was not able to take pictures since there were no cameras or cell phones allowed in the building.  I was impressed with how clean everything was and how calm the chickens were before they were processed. 

Our second stop was AV Thomas Produce were they grow and ship sweet potatoes and yams. 

 Crates of yams in cold storage.  They are kept here for up to a year. 

 They grow and process both organic and conventional. 

 The plants get a head start.  Once they get big enough they will be transplanted by workers into the field. 

 Our third stop was Associated Feeds Grain Mill.  

 Some huge grain silos

 Soybean meal being unloaded from the train cars. 

 Freshly rolled corn. 

Our final stop was a wine tasting but I didn't take any pictures.  I am not a big wine drinkers - I am not really a wine drinker at all.

Overall it was a very tiring day.  But, I learned so much about our amazing ag industry and am very glad that I went!

What kind of farm, ranch, or processing facility would you like to tour? 

Monday, March 19, 2012

10 Ideas for Ag Day

I know ag day has come and gone.  I had every intention to post this before the big day, but as you can see that didn't happen.  There are many country ag days here in sunny rainy California so I thought I would share it anyway.  Plus, any day can be ag day! Or you could use some of these idea to wrap up an ag unit. 
1. Ag Bingo
 I made blank BINGO cards and let my students fill them out with the words from our alphabet chart (below).  I called the words and put them up on the board.  This is a simple game that students really enjoy playing.  To make it more of a challenge you could give clues to the word but not actually say it (like saying "steak comes from this animal" instead of saying "beef cattle").

2. Concentration
 Pick some important agriculture words and play concentration with them.  My kids love to play concentration and do it every week with the sight words. 

If you have older kids you could have them match the word the description. 

3.  Read Ag Books
 Pretty self explanatory, there are plenty of books about agriculture.  I wrote about a few good ag books here.  I just got this book and the sequel and they are my new favorite books.  I told my students that they should expect for me to read them 10 times a day and they better not get tired of them!  I am really picky about books and I am in love with the Every Cowgirl Needs set! 

4.  Write a letter to a farmer
 We did this in groups since my kids are still learning how to write letters on their own.  I had them write to beef rancher instead of a name so I could send them to any beef rancher I could find (my sister was the lucky beef rancher).

5.  Write an acrostic poem
Acrostic poems are fun, we wrote them in a small group and this was my favorite:

 M is for money.  I asked him what he meant by money and he told me that the farmer sells their rice and gets money.

 Here is a close-up of the farmer (in the hat) selling his rice (the yellow blob) for money.  

6. Write about agriculture
 Have them write what they know about agriculture.  This would be a great assessment to see what you need to teach (I need to teach my kids that beef rancher don't have roast chicken to give to them)You could start with a sentence starter like 'Agriculture is important because ______.'

7. Ask a farmer (or other ag professional) to visit
Find a local farmer and ask him or her to come to your class.  My kids are still talking about the rice farmers who visited, the forestry educator who came, and the turkeys that they got to see.   those are lasting connection that they will hold on to.  Call you local Farm Bureau or try Local Harvest

8. Agriculture Alphabet

 We started with a blank chart at the beginning of the day.  We wrote 5 words at a time in between doing other lessons and activities.  We did not do the letters in order - I just asked them to give me a really awesome ag word and tell me where it went.

   This is what we had at the end of the day.  Pretty impressive for first graders!  They came up with almost all of them by themselves.  I had to help with U, Q, and X.  We cheated a little with x but since x doesn't make the same sound when it is at the front of the word then I think it works!
I made them explain how each word was related to agriculture which was pretty impressive. 
You can also make this into a book for your classroom library.  That is my next step.  

A little hilarious side note here - my kids told me that I have udders.  
Yes, that is right they compared me once again to a cow. 

9. Draw the seasons on a farm
 Individually or as a class poster.
10. Make a list of unexpected Ag products
 There are many products that are agriculture by products or products that are not automatically considered as ag products (I would argue that almost everything can be traced back to ag). 
The list can focus on one product (wool or soybeans for example) or be a random list.  This would best be done at the end of a larger ag unit since it requires background knowledge that many students don't have.  Or it could be an ongoing list that you add to when the class discovers an unexpected product.   

What would you add to this list?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Weekend Wedding in Oregon

 As soon as we got home from New Orleans, we headed up to Oregon for a friend's wedding.  The wedding was on Saturday but it was at noon so we had to stay both Friday and Saturday nights.  We spent the whole day driving and got to our lodge late Friday night.  It was raining.  We went to bed exhausted from the drive and all of the travel that week.   
 We woke up to this. 

 And this.  I love the way snow looks on trees - it is just so beautiful!

 The truck.

We asked the people at the front desk how long it takes to get to the ski resort (where the wedding was taking place) and they said normally half an hour but if they were us they would leave now for a wedding that starts at noon (that was at 9).  So, we got dressed and hit the road again. 

 The road.  So beautiful!

 So Beautiful!

 And this is how most of our drive went.  See the sign covered in snow?  We had never been there before and it was fun trying to figure out where we were.  Luckily, the ski area had an enormous sign (that was not covered in snow).    

I didn't take any pictures at the wedding.  I didn't even take my camera to the wedding - it was snowing and super windy and the wedding was going to be outside and I had no idea what to expect ... I didn't want to ruin my camera.  Sorry, you will just have to imagine it! 

This was our drive home on Sunday morning.  Still just as beautiful! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


 This weekend we brought home our first set of pigs!

 All four of them together. 

 Chance enjoyed watching them

while they rooted around in the grass.  He was a little afraid of them but really interested.  He laid down in the grass and the pigs came running over to smell him - it was so cute.  When, I ran over to get the camera he got up and came with me. 
 That handsome man of mine with one of the piglets. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

So you want to buy a half a cow…

Many people are getting more interested in purchasing their meat in bulk and often from local sources. If you are interested in purchasing your meat direct from the farmer, are interested in natural or organic meats, and wanting a to find a better value that purchasing at the farmer’s market, purchasing a half or quarter could be just the solution for you.

There are a few things to keep in mind when considering the purchase of a half or quarter beef.
  • Freezer space – when purchasing a half or quarter cow direct from the farmer you will need to be able to store all of it. The farmer will not store the meat for you. That means you need a freezer. A quarter of beef needs about 4-5 cubic feet of freezer space. A half or side of beef will need 8 – 10 cubic feet. You can often find a freezer big enough for a quarter of beef at a home improvement store for about $200 or find a used one for about $100 on craigslist.
  • Payment – Buying your beef in bulk can be a great deal but you will need to pay for it in full at delivery. Most farmers will require a deposit when you order your beef. Be ready to send in a deposit for up to half the price of the beef when you make your order.
  • Waiting time – Beef animals are 16-20 months old when they are harvested/butchered. So a farmer has to be planning way ahead of time when they are finishing them for direct marketing. This means you will need to order your beef in advance, usually several months in advance. Grass finished beef is only available seasonally – usually in the summer and thus will typically have the longest wait time. Grain finished beef can be raised year round and will have a shorter wait time.
  • Local – Local is a relative term. Depending on the type of beef (natural or organic, Angus or heritage) you are looking for, the nearest producer who is direct marketing their beef in this way may be a few miles – or few hours – down the road. You may need to make a road trip to pick up your beef.
  • Diversity of cuts – When purchasing beef by the half or quarter you will probably be receiving some cuts that you have never seen before. You will quickly learn that a side of beef only has one skirt and one flank steak for example. Use this as an opportunity to try all of these delicious cuts and you will enjoy the surprising diversity of cuts.
  • Beef Cuts
How much beef will you get?
This will depend on the breed of animal you purchase and the way that you choose to have it cut and wrapped. If you choose to have more roasts and steaks be kept with the bone, you will have more weight (and volume/space) of meat to put in your freezer.
Our beef halves usually deliver about 170-200 lbs of meat into the freezer. A quarter of beef will deliver 85 to 100 lbs of meat to your freezer.

So how much does a half cow (side of beef) cost?
That will depend on where you live and the type of beef you are looking for.
We sell Black Angus beef and we raise it “naturally” which means we do not use any additional hormones and do not treat our calves with antibiotics. Our cattle are pasture raised and grain finished. We sell a quarter of beef for $600 and a half of beef for $1150. That includes the processing and harvest fees (getting the beef butchered and meat cut and wrapped) at a USDA inspected facility and local delivery.  More details can be found on our website at
But you may not live near us. Some places the beef will be a bit more, or less expensive. Grass fed beef is more expensive and organic beef will also be more expensive. Some farmers sell their beef based on a hanging weight (which is the weight of the carcass with bone and trim and weights much more than what you will get in your freezer) and some charge the processing fee separately or in addition to the cost of the beef animal. But in general, a half a beef will probably cost between $1150 and $1300.
There is a great website to help you find producers in your area – You can search by product and zip code to find just what you are looking for. Good luck shopping! You may find just the combination of production practices, price and location that you are looking for!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why I am Ag Proud

I've written and re-written this post for the past week.  I never quite know what to say and I feel that there are going to be so many great articles and posts today, but I will throw one more out there ...

It is amazing to live in a country, in a society where we have a choice when it comes to food.  We can choose conventional.  We can choose organic.  We can choose to buy local.  We can choose to buy imported.  We all have views on what is right and wrong; what is good and bad but the beauty is we get to choose and it is awesome!

I have always been fascinated with the ag industry.  I think it is an amazing industry that makes such huge strides.  The ag industry is incredibly diverse yet there is one common goal - getting products to the consumers.  Oddly enough, I never considered a career in agriculture because I have known since I was 5 that I wanted to be a teacher.  Sometimes I considered getting my ag credential so I can teach High School Agriculture, but for now I will teach agriculture to my 1st graders.  I am proud of my students for being able to say the word agriculture correctly.  I am proud that my students know more about agriculture than many adults.  I am proud that they can connect almost anything to the ag industry.  I am proud that they were so excited to celebrate National Agriculture Day today!  But, mostly I am proud that my students will (hopefully) carry the connection they have with agriculture with them for the rest of their lives.   

Farmers and ranchers work very hard to provide us a safe supply of food, textiles, and many other products.  I saw this pin on pinterest and thought I would share:

Happy National Agriculture Day!
Don't forget to thank and farm or a rancher today!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hunk of Meat Monday - clod tender roast

 I love an easy meal and for this meal you only need a few things.  Baby carrots, 2 packets of onion soup mix, 1 cup of water, and one roast (this is a Douglass Ranch clod tender roast that is about 2.5 pounds).

Fill the bottom of the crock pot with carrots 
(you can use potatoes too but I have tons of carrots so I wanted to sue them up)
Put the hunk of meat on top (this is a 2.5 pound roast)
Add 2 packets of onion soup mix and 1 cup water.
Set on low for 6 hours. 

 Your house will smell amazing, take the roast out and cut it. 

 Dinner - a salad, clod tender roast, and roast carrots. 

It was delicious!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Packing for a Trip

 When it comes to packing, I am no pro.  I don't travel very often and when I do pack it is usually for an over night stay.  So, when we were preparing for our trip to New Orleans, I was pretty happy with the way I packed.  It was 3 night, 4 day trip but I had to be prepared for a thunderstorm (which is what the weather was predicted to be) or a beautiful day.  So, this how I packed:

 I put all of my outfits out on the bed.  I know - this could easily be for a 10 day trip but I had no idea what to expect weather wise.  Packing like this saved me a lot of time and it eliminated me adding items to the top of my suitcase "just in case."  I feel like I packed less and used more of what I brought. 
This was a vacation so all the clothing was casual.  I stuck with colors that went well together (jeans are the neutral).  If I were packing for a business trip (ha - would that be teaching out of state?) then I would have chosen a neutral and based by outfits off of that. 

I put the dresses with what I planned on wearing them with; the coral dress with a jean jacket, a necklace, a strapless bra and boyshorts, and the jean dress with a belt, cardigan, boyshorts and a scarf.  You can also see my capri and striped shirt outfit.  I also brought leggings, 7 pairs of socks, a few undershirts, and at least 6 pairs of underwear. 

 I packed one pair of jeans (and wore one of the plane) and packed 4 shirts to pair with the jeans or my capris.

 I also brought two sweaters (on zip-up and one pull over), a black cardigan, a scarf, and workout clothes.

 I packed all of my jewelry in a bag so it would stay in one piece and not become a tangled mess.

 I put each necklace in a snack sized ziplock bag. 

 And it all fit perfectly in the adorable make-up bag I bought at the Gap Outlet for like a dollar the other day. 

 I brought a variety of shoes - boots, flip flops, flats, and sneakers (with my workout clothes).  I didn't know what the weather was going to be like so I was prepared.  I wore the sneakers on the plane since they are the bulkiest of the shoes I brought. 

 Everything fit perfectly in my bag. 

What I packed:
- jeans
- jean capris
- 2 dresses
- jean jacket
- 2 cardigans
- 4 shirts
- sweater
- 7 pairs of socks
- 8 pairs of underwear (2 boyshorts for the dresses)
- strapless bra
- regular bra
- 3 pairs of shoes (boots, flip-flops, and flats)
- belt
- workout clothes 
- PJs (not pictured above)
- jewelry (which I didn't wear)
- leggings
- makeup and showering stuff

What I wore on the plane:
- jeans
- undies, a bra, socks and an undershirt (like I needed to write that)
- purple shirt
- sneakers
- sweater

Leaving the other half for snacks Michael's clothes.  If I was traveling alone (and owned a carry on bag) then this would have easily fit in a carry on. 

I put my showering supplies and makeup on top. And, I had plenty of room for my snacks in the pocket on the outside of this bag.

What are your packing tips?