Thursday, August 2, 2012

The BIG 3-0!!

When I turned 30 I was either going to stay at home and cry, or have a big party. We opted for the party, and I'm glad we did. 30 was a big year. It's a big transition, even though you don't actually feel different... lots of things change. The biggest being, you're not "twenty something" anymore.

Isn't that SAD?

Derek was on the road to taking 30 pretty hard too. (not really, but it was a good excuse to party & not cry) So, we loaded up and went exploring Ames, IA. It was a fun day, and maybe next year we can get to the things we missed this trip.

Enjoy the pictures!!

First stop - Birthday Lunch at Hickory Park Restaurant, boasts of best BBQ, and an entire menu of Blue Bunny Ice Cream deserts.

We strolled downtown & shopped at some awesome upscale consignment shops, then went to the Reiman Gardens located on ISU's campus. This was a lot of fun. They had an indoor tropical butterfly paradise! They had some of the biggest butterflies I have ever seen!! L loved this part!

Using her binoculars to find the butterflies.

They also had LEGO sculptures throughout the grounds. They were quite remarkable. Here are a few.

Derek was a bit grumpy in this photo, and I can't remember why...
 but this is what he gets for being grumpy on his birthday.

After this, we went to Blue Moon Winery to catch some live music. And ended the night at Wal-mart, because that's what Americans do... go to Walmart to get the things you need before you go home.

Fun day, for sure!

Lucky for Derek, his birthday actually fell on a Monday. I couldn't let the actual day go unnoticed even though we celebrated on Sunday. SO, I made his favorite foods as per his request: Stuffed Bell Peppers, Guacamole, & homemade Apple Pie.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

National Balloon Classic

Last night we went out for some family fun. We traveled up the highway, a few towns over, and spent the evening outside in some beautiful 80 degree weather. I have made a new personal goal of getting back into running, and working towards 5K runs throughout the year. My first was a "community run" on 4th of July, that I enjoyed running with my sister-n-law. My goal then was to just see where I was, since I hadn't actually run that distance since before Lainey was born. I was proud to finish without passing out somewhere on the run... and that was considered a big accomplishment.

 This run, all I wanted to do was "better." Not putting any real pressure to beat my time, but instead to just feel better about it. Feel better while I'm running, and feel better after the run. I am proud to say that this felt better... and I happened to beat my first time by a minute and a half. Yea!! Next run is in October. This is my friend Leah, who started running again last summer after having her 4th child. She is now training for a half marathon!! I'm so proud of her!!

After the race we went to the balloon launch site. It was late and we unfortunately missed the launch. We did get to enjoy the night glow & that was good enough for us. L was beside herself, getting to see balloons that were SO BIG!! Here's a few pictures:

Last year when we went, you weren't allowed to walk around where the balloons were launching. I think, because they weren't actually launching, they let people walk around the launch site. Derek & L really got to see the upclose works of hot air balloons.

Here are a few pictures of what we got to see last year:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Scooter Tooter

K is a scooter. She's a tummy sleeper. From day one we couldn't get her to sleep for long periods of time on her back. She hated to be swaddled, and didn't really sleep well the first two weeks of life because we were forcing her to sleep on her back. Once we figured out she was a tummy sleeper, we all slept better.

Here (in the picture) is what she does. Note where the blanket is, and where she is now. Sometimes she'll even scoot her way around the corner and back to the opposite side of the crib. You never really know where she'll be in the morning.

I'm imagining what our girls slumber parties will be like when Daddy is out of town and the girls get to sleep with me. : )

We also fix things...

When Scastas get together something is going to get fixed. Need a pole barn built? Invite your sons. Need to build a cooker? Go visit your dad. Need to drop an engine? Call your brother.

It's just how it goes. I don't know why. It just is.

Here we have a picture of the boys replacing my break pads, and the girls... well, fixing something.

Because that's what we do.


Is there a better way to cool off from the summer heat than to jump in the pool? I think NOT.  L loves the water this year, and is not one to play on the steps of the pool any more. YEA! Here are a few pics of us enjoying the water spots around the state....

Our local pool. You can figure out which one is D, because he's the WHITE boy waving. You might need your sunglasses. : )

K, sunning her buns.

The pool in the town just north of us is so great. We love to go there. It's the same price as our local pool, but there's tons of shade & seating, a BIG OLE SLIDE, zero entry shallow end, mushroom waterfall, and a sprinkler area. We didn't think L would really like the slide, but after she watched some kids do it - she wanted to too. As soon as we got to the steps with her, she'd say "Let's do it again." We had to distract her, to move on to something else. This is also a great place to take K, because of the beach like shallow end, and all the umbrella shading.

Finally, there is a cool little splash pad in the city that we've visited a few times. In the same park is a refurbished carousel that only costs $.50 a ride, and a few different playground areas scattered amongst the picnic tables. It's a great place to enjoy a morning or afternoon with little kids.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summers Up North

I have been a horrible blogger this summer. I have done two posts, but neither were about our summer in Iowa. At this point we are about to go home.. so I better do a little catching up.

We left around May 23rd to get here. It was, surprisingly an easy drive with kids in tow. We made a 6.5 hr drive into an 8 hr drive. We stopped 3 times in the first hour for L, but after that we were able to cover some ground. Our summer apartment is small & cozy. Derek calls it our summer cottage, because I think he thinks it makes us feel we live in a "more fortunate" social class, than the less fortunate. I guess it's all relative, right? For those of you who wonder how we do it.. we only pack what will fit in our two cars. That consists of beds, a card table, a minimal set of dishes & cookware, small box of toys, a small TV (we can only watch movies), a dog kennel and clothes/towels/sheets. That's it. We are blessed with a sweet group of friends who have let us borrow every thing else we need - mainly furniture. We do without a lot, but we never miss it. We're usually too busy spending time outside, & doing things that we don't normally get to do/see. We've seen L go a week at a time without picking up any of her toys. It's amazing how little you really need to get by.

This year we have been blessed with visiting family. It's been awesome to have them come up and see us. For one, it makes you feel NOT so far away, and two it makes the summer go by fast. Derek's parents came up for a weekend in early June. His brother & his family came up at the end of June for a week. The same day that they left, Derek's sister and her family came up for the week.

Some of our activities while we had visitors included: exploring the city, swimming at the pool & at the nearby State Park, going to see movies - Madagascar 3 & Brave, 4th of July parade & cook out, Amish shopping, and lots and lots of good ole visiting & playing. Our visitors also did some of their own sight seeing while they were here. Unfortunately they were all here during the peak of the heat.

I don't want to forget to mention that while Derek's brother was here, he bought a used truck.

Yeah. I know.

SO, we also got to see him & Courtney's brother Brandon when they came back to pick up the truck. As they left, we talked to Uncle Mike & found out he'd be passing through that evening. We had the pleasure of having him over for dinner that night & getting in a good visit with him.

Derek's sister & family.

 Derek's brother & family. These cows are at the visitor's center... and the other picture is of the girls leaving the movie theater. And of course, a handsome Uncle Mark taking care of Baby K.

We spent a morning with an organic farmer who has/runs a CSA. Bibi and Papa wanted to learn all they could from Farmer Sherman, as they venture into their own operation. Bibi also spent an evening doing a "photo shoot" with the girls... and Bear.


Monday, June 18, 2012

****I've asked Derek to post a little something about his parents' new farm. It's a life long dream that they've recently has the pleasure to jump head first into. This might be more of a Small Cattle Operation 101 post, but I hope you will enjoy learning about the cattle side of their endeavor. Maybe I'll post more about the gardening side in the futre....

In May we made a trip to Texas to my parents new home.  They recently purchased a small farm, complete with the original farm house.  My parents are striving to make their farm a diversified, sustainable farm that provides some income and the country lifestyle.  They have a lot of enterprises but I am only going to discuss a few here.  If you want to see more about their farm you can check out their blog at

They have decided to add a beef enterprise to the farm and by design it has a lot of flexibility built into it.  Due to the historic drought of 2011, the reduced cow herd in Texas, and increasing consumer demand and prices for beef they decided to focus on heifers.  They purchased three heifers from the neighbor at weaning time in May.  This happened to coincide with our trip home. 

The strategy of purchasing them from the neighbor (versus from a sale barn or other source) allowed them some advantages: 1) the calves had not been commingled with other cattle reducing possible sickness/health issues, 2) the calves did not have to be shipped which reduces possible respiratory issues, 3) the calves could be fence-lined weaned which reduces stress and enhances early performance as they transition to an all grass diet (no more milk), 4) they maximized the knowledge about the animals in a way they would be unable to if they purchased them from somewhere else (they know what the sire and dams look like, they know when they were born, they know if they are adapted to the area, they know what they have had (or not had) in terms of health and management, and they had a chance to observe their disposition) and lastly, if the calves got out they would not go very far.  Disposition turned out to be important as there was a fourth heifer that proved herself to be a jumper and so they avoided purchasing her at a place with really good pens, taking her home, dumping her out and never seeing her again. 

Heifers are a challenge for producers to acquire in terms of financial costs and time required for development.  If you retain them, you have to allow for additional grazing and you are 2 years away from any profit versus if you purchase them as replacements often times they are expensive (especially if bred).  This challenge creates opportunities for people who want to specialize in raising replacements.  First, weaned calves typically result in steers going for more than heifers (due to future performance) so the inital purchase can be a bit cheaper than say stocker steers.  The flexibility comes into the heifer operation because you can liquidate the heifers at various stages along the way with the likelihood of recooping your investment: 1) you could graze them like a stocker calf on summer grass and sell as a heavy feeder, 2) you could carry them a bit longer and sell them as yearling replacements ready to be bred, 3) you could breed them at 12 to 14 months and sell them as breds, 4) you could breed them, calve them out and sell them as pairs or 5) you could breed them, calve them out and decide to keep them yourself as cows. 

When we loaded the heifers up, we "processed" them before putting them in a weaning pen close to the house for 2 weeks.  First, we gave them a visual ear tag.  Second, we administered injections that protect them from a variety of problems, including:  1) Clostridial diseases like Blackleg which cause death in calves, 2) Leptospirosis which is an abortive disease and 3) IBR BVD PI3 which protects primarily agains respiratory and diarrheal problems like Red Nose (IBR) which is often associated with shipping fever but can cause reproduvtive problems in females and BVD or Bovine Viral Diarrhea.  We did this in the trailer by snubbing them to the side.  This is the poor boys way of working calves but Dad doesn't have pens and a chute all put together yet but that is in the works.  Proper working facilities are pretty critical to any beef operation, don't have to be fancy just functional to protect both cattle and handlers.  One other vaccination that is often recommended but not required is for Brucellosis but ultimately it has been eradicated and is not a major issue.  It might be an advantage when selling replacements, especially if one thinks they will market them to a really wide region (out of state, out of country, etc).  A booster shot is recommended down the road on the shots we gave.

The calves were put in the weaning pen for 2 weeks where they could still see, hear and smell their mothers.  There was certainly some noise for several days but they settled down pretty quick.  The other component to the beef operation was the purchase of a bull calf from the same neighbors.  He received the same processing as the heifers but he also was castrated.  He will be grazed until he reaches an ideal harvest weight and then used for beef. 

Dad crossfenced the place and has two pastures.  The front pasture is more of a hay meadow with a mix of bermudagrass and some cool season grasses and clovers.  The back pastures is more of a range/prairie type of pasture with more warm season native grass and forbs.  It has more mesquite back there.  The primary grass on the back pastures is meadow dropseed which is fair for grazing and is common on high clay content soils.  There are lots of interesting native forbs back there like indian blanket and upright prairie coneflower.  Other cool plants found include the native grass vine mesquite and Texas bluebonnets.
My parents are also planting a large gardent with vegetables, berries and fruits.  They are planning on having laying hens and the chicken house is almost done.  They have tons of other plans and are having a blast.  I am so proud for them right now and enjoyed being at home in May to help a little bit.  The other thing we did for "fun", was to put the metal roof on the tractor shed.  Scasta men think "fun" is spelled W O R K.