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Monday, January 31, 2011

How to write an #agblog - agriculture blog Part 2

Telling our story

In the past 60 days numerous other agriculture blogs have popped up, which is great for two reasons. 1. Farmers and rancher are becoming better advocates, and I think are realizing that it is important to tell our agriculture story. 2. For consumers you are going to get a better look at where you food comes from, and the people raising it without even leaving your kitchen table.

Last time I had a few tips on starting an #agblog (really these tips can be applied to any blog) and now I am excited about another resource you can use to help you get that blog off the ground. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Young Producer Council (YPC) have put together a series of social media guide including a "How to Guide for Beef Bloggers." I was fortuante enough to be able to work on this project lead by Cari Rinicker, with contributions also made by Chelsea Good, Sharon Briener and Erica Beck.

A subject that I touched on is a questions I get quite often - are people really reading my blog? There are a couple things to remember.

1. First off I think it is best when you are blogging for yourself. You will get much enjoyment out of your blog if you aren't writing for the comments.

2. However, it is nice to get a little encouragement once in awhile. Be sure to add Google Analytics to your blog. Only about one percent of blogger comment. Adding Google Analytics will allow you to know how many people are reading your blog and where the are finding (from link on your facebook page, twitter, a chat board etc.)

3. Make it easy to comment. About six months ago I allowed anonymous comments to be posted to my blog. Some people are going to want to interact with you, but not create an account to comment. Ninety percent of my anonymous commenters have left their name anyways. Also, I have removed the security word that you have to type in after leaving a comment. The security word is to protect against spam, however I have only had one spam comment and I was able to delete it easily. You want your readers to be able to comment as quickly and easily as possible.

4. Interact with your readers. Make sure you respond to their comments and say thank-you. Blogging is about a community, interacting and networking with others.

These are just a couple tips. I you have other tips or questions I would love to hear them! And for more advice visit the How to Blog Tab at the top of my Blog.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Remembering those goals

#3in30

Remember at the beginning of the month when I said I was going to participate in #3in30, well the month is over. Here's the report... not so good.

I only finished 1 of my 3 goals. I started the read USA Today for 10 days straight a couple of time, but that didn't happen. And my secret personal goal of not eating at fast food places didn't let me pay it forward.

So the "goal" in February is to do a lot better. I'll let you know soon what those goals are, and I would encourage you to participate in the #3in30 challenge too. Read about 3 in 30, and let me know if you participate.

Now in other goals, like the ones on my 101 in 1001 list. I have a few updates. Remember how I was going to change a couple goals because they didn't apply. Well here are the new ones.

#5. Visit Dana (can't be meeting her in Kansas, Iowa or at a cattle show)

#62. Meet three of my new Twitter friends in person - already met one in Denver just by chance

#68. Clean my car twice. Like really good clean, looking brand new kind of clean.

And one more update! I have officially sent out enough thank-you cards to scratch #22. off my list. Doesn't mean I won't stop writing those cards though.

p.s. I know I was bad and didn't get my Turquoise Thursday wrote. I did buy these very cute turquoise thank-you cards though. Thank-you Walmart. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Losing part of the family

Have to say good-bye

Yesterday, my sister sent me message saying that tomorrow was going to be a sad day - Ruffles was going to have to go down the road. See Ruffles is my sister absolutely favorite cow, her best friend. Even though my dad and I have cursed her many times for running through gates, blocking the alley, really just being a spoiled pain, we love her.

However, as much as agriculture is my family's passion, it is also a business. Ruffles has been open (not in calf) for two years in a row now, and feeding open cows doesn't pay the bills so Stacy decided to send her to market.

My mom wrote a really good post about Ruffles and what she has meant to our farm and Stacy. Yeah, I cried when I read it.


Two summers ago I snapped this picture of Stacy and Ruffles. It is one of my favorites. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Name them all Angus

From down under

Here is a little humor for you from my friends in Australia. It is true that I think a lot of people really have no idea what Angus even is, they just associate the term with quality.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dateless and calving cows

That's a farm girl's life.

This weekend I got to head back to Manhattan, Kansas, for two college friends' wedding. It was an awesome time, good friends, beautiful bride and lots of fun. Of course the Boy was invited to be my date, but as I headed to Manhattan, he stayed in Iowa.

You see during this time of year a lot of newborn calves are born, and you may or may not have noticed it is pretty darn COLD out right now! On a farm that means a lot of extra work. Cattle are eating more and going through their feed faster, bedding (typically straw) needs to put down for the cattle to lay in, water sources tend to freeze and sometimes cows need help in delivering their babies. All of these things kept the Boy on the farm, while I was putting on my heels and new dress.

When you grow up on a farm you realize that sacrifices have to be made. Livestock come first. They are relying on us for care and comfort, and farmers and ranchers are more than willing to provide it. Yes, it was great to be with my friends, but when I found out that the Boy's cow had her baby heifer calf and everything went fine that was just as good of a feeling.

As you are headed to your warm or cozy office today or making weekend plans be sure to think of the farmers that are providing food for our tables.


The newest addition to the Boy's Hereford herd. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Three types of people

Moving towards my goals

Last week in church my pastor had an amazing sermon, and it got me thinking where do I want to be. There are things I want to achieve in my personal life, create stronger relationships, get through those hurdles in the workplace, and achieve my dreams. However, I have to admit I am like the 95% of people who have never wrote down their lifetime goals, but that is about to change.

There are three types of people - Row Boat People, Sailboat People and Steamboat People.

Row Boat people need a push. Sailboat people only move when the the winds are favorable, but the winds take them wherever they want. And then there are Steamboat people. Their engines are constantly moving and they are control in where they want to go.

I want to be the Steamboat person. I want to be constantly moving, but more importantly in control of where I am headed.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The business end of agriculture

It's all rather confusing

Do cattlemen realize how confusing a cattle show may seem to anyone that walks up to a showring or the stall? I am sure some of my readers have been quite confused by a number of videos and photos I have posted. If anything I hope you can sense from the videos how exciting it is to be out there in the showring and be selected as winner of the whole show (Grand Champion). I posted a little bit about why we show cattle here.

During the National Western Stock Show the Boy's cousin came down the day of the Bull show to watch his family show. Now he has been to a cattle show before, and for a "city" kid knows quite a bit, but his comments during the show still cracked me up.


aka - Why are they taking pictures of the their butts and not their heads?

The butt or hip as a cattlemen might refer to it by is the business end. The end that makes the cattlemen money. In the hip we find the most valuable cuts of mean - like the loin, roasts, t-bones and ribeye. The front of the animal contains a lot more bone and less valuable meat, that is usually ground up in hamburger. 

Clik on this cutting cuts of beef chat to enlarge. Thanks to Loney Lane Farms for an image. 

You can get these cutting card from the American Angus Association

Have you been been to cattle a cattle show, and do you have questions? Let me know! 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Turquoise Thursday Mittens

Keeping you warm

This week we are going to be a little more practical because I think everyone except for the Wife of a Dairyman are freezing! She has been bragging about it on Twitter.

So begin with the Mitten Ice Scraper

I first saw one of these at the Boy's house in Iowa, and today one of my coworkers pulled one out - it was a cute paisley pattern. I think this is a pretty genius idea. No more cold hands!

Or maybe you need a big turquoise cowl scarf to keep you warm?

I am addicted to winter jackets. When you grew up in Canada people saw you jacket way more than what was underneath. I was able to resist buying a new one this year, but definitely getting a new one next year.

And I have to show you these. One of my favorite Christmas presents this year! They definitely kept me toasty walking around the National Western Stock Show.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It better be cool - Marketing 101

Make me stop and take a look. 

It really seems as though everyone has stepped up their game, and that's a good thing. There have been numerous pieces this week that have caught my eye - I'll be sharing some more with you soon, but right now it is time to pass the praise.

First off. LD Photography. 

I stumbled upon the Lauren Denver blog this week, and I am really glad that I did. I think she is is an extremely talented, young photographer. I don't know her personally, but when people have talent like this they deserve to be recognized.

I would really like this photo to be hanging in my house. On canvas. 

I love this, and now I can't wait for it to snow again.

Secondly. Farmsigns.com.

I have already talked about Farmsigns.com once in my Marketing 101 posts. Now, they have done it again. 

Farmsigns.com does amazing farm and business signs. I love the modern twist on this piece. I think farms and ranches could use a little bit more of creative twist sometimes. 

Visit the farmsigns.com facebook page for more photos of this sign. 

And to end it, Bella Spur Innovative Marketing

I have always looked up to Laura Bodell and Jamie-Rae Pittman. First in the showring, second because they are creative geniuses and third well they always had awesome hair and style - it's true. The girls have recently launched their facebook page and it's definitely worth checking out. My favorites so far. 

I love this logo. Maybe it's due to my love of red cows?

This ad is awesome. There is so much going on, and it speaks to so many things, yet it's simple. Something that doesn't always happen in advertising. 

So what do these three advertising pieces have in common? They all stopped and made me look, not because they were using the splashiest colors, or a shocking photo, or ridiculous statement to sell something. It is because this is quality work, that has an artistic approach. Good job folks, keep up the great work. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Zucchini Fries - Healthy Living

Yum.

I was really excited last night when I came across this Zucchini Fries recipe on KraftRecipes.com. I am a big fan of Kraft's recipe website, I am already a big fan of their healthy living spinach artichoke dip.

Fried Parmesan Zucchini sticks have been a favorite of mine for a long time, however what made me excited about this recipe is that they are baked - ie. healthier for you! They were the perfect pairing for my pork loin.

Ingredients
3 zucchini (1 lb.)
1/4 cup  KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 pkt. SHAKE 'N BAKE Chicken Coating Mix (I used 1.5 cups of Italian Bread Crumbs)
1   egg
Additionally I like to add Jim Baldridge Secret Seasoning - in typical Crystal cooking style add enough until it looks right.
Cook it
Heat Oven to 350 degrees
Cut zucchini cross-wise in half and then into quarters like fries. Add cheese and seasoning to shaker bag, or if you are using the bread crumbs make your own shaker bag. Whisk egg in medium bowl. Add zucchini; toss to coat. Use tongs to place 1/4 of the zucchini in shaker bag; close bag and shake to evenly coat. Spread onto baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

Bake
12 to 13 min. or until golden brown, turning after 7 min.

They also suggest a Lemon Ailoi as a dip, which I honestly thought won't be very good, but it was awesome.

1/2 cup KRAFT Mayo with Olive Oil Reduced Fat Mayonnaise (their olive oil mayo is one of my favorites!)
1/2 tsp.  lemon zest - I used lemon juice instead
1 small garlic clove, minced (about 1/2 tsp.)
Mix ingredients together and let the dipping begin!
Photo courtesy of Kraftrecipes.com - I may like photography, but I'll leave Pioneer Woman to taking food photos!

p.s. Baldridge Seasoning is some of my favorite seasoning, created by so Angus friends of mine. I love to use it during grilling! Definitely worth checking out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Agriculture and the Cab Driver

Please take me to the Stock Show grounds

During the National Western Stock Show, at least twice a day, I was in a cab. And every time my driver asked me where I was going - at least half of the time it was to the Stock Show grounds for the show, and the other half of the time I am pretty sure they could tell where I had been because of the way I smelled.

Pretty quick a conversation started, where I was from, did I live on a farm, what do I do? Each time I was in that cab I was given an opportunity to tell my story. We talked about beef, what cuts to buy, different breeds of cattle, and how much they enjoy a steak.

A couple times they wanted to know if we were going to eat the ones in those barns, which gave me the opportunity to explain the difference between commercial cattle and seedstock or purebred cattle. I used this opportunity to let them know that we were trying to breed cattle with the very best genetics so that they would have a better eating experience.

They wanted to know how the cattle were treated, and were fascinated by the time we spent feeding washing, and "doing their hair."

One time I got in the cab, with my long black wool coat, hair done up, and Blackberry in hand. This driver was surprised to hear that I was a farmer, and thought it was cool that I had a Blackberry. I told him that farmers and ranchers use all kinds of technology.

Over and over again I was making a positive impression on these people, and allowing them to get to know a farmer. The part that made me a little sad was how many of them said that their uncle, grandparents or even a couple of them had farm animals around at one point, but they had all sold them and the farm. Times were just too hard.

I know the agriculture community will spend a lot of time traveling to shows, conventions and sales in the next couple of month. Do you have your story ready to tell?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

NWSS - Out in the Yards

Sunshine and Hereford cattle

Well the Denver Stock Show is all over for me, but that doesn't mean the events have ended. Simmentals, Maines, Shorthorns, Charolais (all breeds of cattle) and the Junior Market animals are yet to show.

My week ended with a bang as the Boy's family couldn't of had a better NWSS. Grand Champion Polled Hereford Bull, Grand Champion Polled Hereford Female, Grand Champion Carload for the 12th year in a row, and Supreme Champion for the second year in a row, as well as numerous division winners.

All this made me think of two things. 1. These are good cattle. It wasn't by accident that these banners were won. Farms and ranches that are successful spend years building a program, selecting the right genetics, and finding out what management styles work best for them. 2. This also doesn't happen without amazing people. From the guy who makes breeding decisions, the person who feeds the animals everyday, the lady that keeps the records, and the crew that takes care and present these animals at the show - it takes all of them to create a champion.

You can read more about Star Lake Cattle Ranch's success on their NWSS Blog.


This is one of my favorite pictures from the whole show. It reminds me of my favorite photos from last year. 

The money making end. 

Grand Champion Carload NWSS 

Riding for the Brand. 

I'll get some more of favorites posted later in the week. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

NWSS Junior Heifer Show

And the champions are chosen.

Yesterday, was the Junior Angus Show at the National Junior Angus Show. It was again the girls walking away with the Champion banner. It was an especially exciting day for Lindsey. Although, her and her sister are no strangers to the showring, this was the first major Junior Show that Lindsey has won. It was even that much more meaningful as she is approaching the end of her junior show career. I hope you enjoy the video.



And thank-you to all the people that have been joining me on my blog. I know that a lot of you are new visitors to Crystal Cattle and I appreciate you stopping by!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

NWSS Angus Bull Show video

The cameras are rolling.

Yesterday was the Angus Bull Show at the National Western Stock Show. One thought did cross my mind when these two bulls were selected. I thought it was pretty neat to see two junior members winning Champion and Reserve. Both Katy Satree and Britney Creamer have sold part of their bulls to other breeders, but I think it speaks a lot for youth cattle programs to see them competing successfully with the big guns.


Turquoise in the Kitchen

Time to cook up a storm.

Now I'll admit that I don't own an apron this frilly, mine is bright red with I love Alberta Beef across the front. However, it would be fun to have one of these.

I love the little details on this apron, and it is from one of my favorite stores Anthropologie



And who wouldn't want one of these! One day I'll have one of these on my kitchen counter and it'll be turquoise. 

And finally check out the Three Kids and Pigs Blog for an awesome cheese and sausage dip. I can't wait to try it out for myself. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keeping you posted from National Western Stock Show

Everyone's blogging

Today is the beginning of the Angus shows so that means things are kicked up a notch. I am again going to be posting videos of the champion drives so stay tuned. In the meantime check our Star Lake Cattle Ranch's blog.

Not only is Randy doing an awesome job of keeping everyone updated on what is going on in Yards and up on the Hill, but you can't miss this opportunity to see the mustache that Randy used to have. All of their blog posts are listed under their News and Information section.

I hope you are having a great week, and staying warm. Any plans for you or your family?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Walt Browarny - legendary cattle photographer

My front foot forward. 

My sister and I grew up attending cattle show with my parents. Showing livestock is amazing way to learn responsibility, caring for others, all the things that come with winning and losing and how to make life long friendships.

At each show after I was done in the showring I would we would head to the photo backdrop to have our photo captured, and for probably 80% of the photos that were taken of me were taken by Walt Browarny, or the amazing team of photographers he has lined up. Today, the Browarny name is also known under the Show Champions brand, and they'll be in Denver all week snapping photos.

I remember one of my proudest moments at the show photo backdrop is when I walked my heifer in and Walt said stop right they, don't move a foot. Walt never said don't move a foot. He always had a foot to move an inch here or there. I was grateful to work for Browarny's during college. Again many lessons were learned.

I think you'll enjoy this I am Angus video that was put together on Walt Browarny.

Monday, January 10, 2011

National Western Stock Show photographs

Almost like Christmas.

If you show cattle than the National Western Stock Show is probably all you have been talking about for the last two weeks. People are excited and I can't wait to get there. For those of you who aren't familiar with showing cattle or wonder why we do it, it is a great way to display and market our livestock.

The cattle that will be in Denver are mostly purebred cattle or also know as seedstock. These are the cattle with superior genetics. They might grow faster, be more efficient or have superior marbling and tenderness genetics, which will ultimately lead to a better eating experience for you. The beef we eat mostly comes from commercial cattle (cattle of mixed breeds). It is these purebred bulls being bred to commercial cattle that is increasing the quality of product. Clear as mud. If you have questions don't be afraid to ask.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos that I have taken at Denver.







Be sure to visit the Crystal Cattle facebook page to see all my favorite National Western Stock Show photos. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

An update on the goals

One down.

Hello folks. It is time to give you an update. Instead of creating a New Year's resolution this year I am participating in the #3in30 challenge and hope to do this each month. The idea is that you complete 3 goals in 30 days. Each week I'll give you an update on my progress, and there is good news!

I have successful started goal number 42. on my 101 goals in 1001 days list. Now lets see if I can get that one scratched off by the end of the year.

You can read about my other two #3in30 goals, and I invite you to join along and let me know how you are doing.

Now as for an update on the 101 in 1001 list. Well I put one more handwritten thank-you card in the mail. Just one more to go. And I finally put $5 away for each of my goals completed. 36 goals have been scratched off my list only 65 to go. Ugh. I'll get there.


I leave you with this photo I took last year at Lewis Farms, in Alberta, Canada. Just remember spring isn't too far around the corner. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Farm Sign - Marketing 101

Who are you?

Today I would like to share a pet peeve of mine with you. I spend a lot of time on the road. Interstates, freeways, highways, county roads, roads that don't show up on my Garmin. And because of that I see a lot of farmland, crops and cows.

Do you know how many times I have driven past a beautiful set of black cows (they are the ones that seem to catch my eye the most, but any color or breed will work) and I say to myself, "Hmm that are pretty good set of cattle, I wonder who owns them," because Farmer Joe or Ranch Bob hasn't got a farm sign up. I mean business in town don't not put up signs because they want you to guess who they are and what they sell. Lost opportunities can mean lost dollars.

My friends Catherine and Luke have a beautiful farm sign for their Brahman and Shorthorn ranch - V8 Ranch.


This is the smaller farm sign they have closer to their house, and there is a larger one by the road that points them in the right direction to their ranch. 


I think this maybe one of the most beautiful ranch signs I have ever seen. Check out the creator's facebook page farmsigns.com. I can't wait to post more of their stuff on my blog. 

And you can be sure one day when I am on my own farm I'll have a big sign! 

p.s Thanks to Luke for sending me these photos. Luke and Catherine have a growing photography business, Our Little Ranch Photography, and take some amazing photos! 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Turquoise Thursday the Best of 2010

Still my favorite

My readers and I both agreed that this Turquoise chair was one of our favorite Turquoise Thursday pieces of 2010. I still don't own it so feel free to send donations to Crystal Cattle ;)


Click here to see my other two favorite Turquoise furniture pieces from www.shoprawhide.com 

And, while you are there you might also want to check out their amazing selection of boots.


Aren't these turquoise Old Gringos great! 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Red Cows and Hoarfrost

It's Wintertime on the Farm 

Remembered when I promised that I would share with you a few more photos from my family's farm back in Alberta. As promised....

 I love hoarfrost, but it usually means two things 1. It's really cold out and 2. You were up early to see it before the wind knocks it all off. 

My family raises Simmental cattle. We have both red (brown) and black ones, and and lots of snow. 

Our cows are pretty big and round right now because it is calving time for my family's farm. You can read about our first baby calf born on my sister's blog. This momma is due in February. 

Whoever thought a cow's behind side could be so interesting. I guess you can take the farm girl out of me.

Such a pretty morning. 

To see more pictures from my family's farm visit my facebook page Crystal Cattle.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch - I am Angus

Telling her story.

Before Christmas I traveled out to the Flint Hills of Kansas to spend a day videoing and interviewing Debbie Lyons Blythe. Debbie is a pretty cool gal. She is the man power behind her family's ranch, and has five kids and a great husband to support to her. She's involved in her community, knows the importance of attending industry agriculture meetings and has wrote a cook book so consumers who are buying boxed beef from her have a better understanding of how to utilize the whole carcass.

I got to the Ranch just a little before lunch and Debbie was starting to make a huge pot of chili. I knew it would be good because I am a huge fan of Debbie's Beef Enchilada Soup recipe. Looking at that pot I thought wow she'll have left overs for days. However, when her kids (four in high school, and one a in college) rolled in for lunch it was evident that there wasn't going to be much left over. These kids were filling up on beef, and it would fuel them for rest of the day.

Debbie was the subject of my I am Angus segment because of her commitment to telling agriculture's story to the consumer. She wants consumers to know where their food comes from, and she wants farmers and ranchers to be accessible to answer questions. Things I want too.



Be sure to check out Debbie on Twitter @DebbieLB, her facebook page Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch or Debbie's ranch blog.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The adventures of JJB and CY

Happy New Year

This past weekend the Boy and I got to take his Christmas present trip to see the Chicago Bulls, and it was an awesome way to ring in the New Year.

Our road trip adventure let us through the heavy fog Eastern Iowa and through Illinois, into the Getto of Chicago (the vehicle we were driving had a in dash GPS which seemed to prefer unusual routes rather than the freeways) and to the United Center well before the game started so the Boy would have a chance to check everything out.

The Boy and me before the game started.

This Bull balloon flew around the arena by remote control. The entertainment in addition to the game was great. 

And of course I had to snap a picture of the hockey legends.

A win for the bulls. It was awesome to watch Derrick Rose play. He is an amazing athlete. 

Our night ended with supper at Sullivan's Steakhouse, one of my favorite places to eat. If you want one of the best steaks you'll ever eat, this is the place to be. You don't want to miss out on their creamed spinach or drink menu either. Hopefully, I'll get to squeeze another trip in there during the National Western Stock Show. 

I hope you had an awesome New Year's Eve and are starting off you week right! 

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