Sunday, April 17, 2011

Focus on Fido: My trip to the Posh Pet Store

Last weekend while visiting friends in Maryland, Laura and I made a stop at Bark!, which I would describe as the most posh pet store I have ever been in. Now, Laura claims she doesn’t frequent this store, but she needed a new I.D. tag with her new phone number on it for her canine companion Parker, so we stopped by after our first stop at Starbucks. Since PetSmart is about the nicest pet store I’ve been to in the Midwest, I was somewhat shocked as we made our way around the perimeter of the store to find the frozen section. That’s right—the FROZEN section of this organic pet store, that makes the following claim on its website: “Partnering with you, your pet, and the planet to enrich the human and animal bond by providing products that are healthy, ecologically sustainable, and socially responsible.”

Already, I had a blog post in mind. If people that belong to groups like PETA and HSUS think animals kept as pets are treated with cruelty and deprived, they are so WRONG! Yes, there are bad people in every group of society, but the pets I know personally--Sammie, Rocket, Parker, Buddy, Mollee and Angus—see most even have human names—are treated like members of the family! And, if anyone shops in the frozen section of Bark!, well, they probably pay more their pet food than for the food they put on their own dinner table!

Here are just a few examples of what your dog or cat friends could choose from in the frozen section:

Frozen Yogurt treats—Peanut Butter/Banana Flavor and at a low, low price of $6.99 for this teeny tiny box.

Beef & Lamb—The farm girl in me was glad to see that they had the Super Beef Dinner and the Dandy Lamb Dinner. I’m kicking myself for cutting the prices out of the pictures, but I believe the 6 lb. bags ran somewhere between $29.99 and $34.99, and as you can see they come in large patties.

Sea & Air—For the seafood loving dog or one who prefers foul, those options existed too! Here, you can see the Surf & Turf dinner. Seriously! I rarely have that at a restaurant! And next to it is the Duck, Duck Goose Dinner and Chicken Dinner. It runs a similar price point as the above.

Watch out Easter Bunny—No wonder the rabbits go crazy my parents’ house when the dog ventures off the deck. Yes, there was even the “raw frozen rabbit dinner.” It sells for $33.49, or $5.58 per pound!

I couldn’t take much more of this store without laughing out loud. I did make a purchase, though. They had some really cute cards with photographs on them of different animals and very appropriate sayings. As we were walking out, something else caught my eye and triggered my fancy—Yappy Hour at the park! Laura explained it was a BYOB social where dogs could “have a play date” and their owners could socialize. Now, that sounded kind of fun, but I doubt if any of the farm dogs I’ve ever owned would “play well with others”.

So, animal activists. I just want you to know, whether you spend nearly $6 a pound on frozen rabbit or $3 a pound on dry dog food, pet lovers DO love their pets. They are our family. They are the kids we’ve never had; the little brothers that replace the “empty nest” when the kids fly the coop, and the companion we need to ride in the truck with us to the farm. They are family! And we don’t have to buy special yogurt to show them that. Just an extra game of ball or a scratch behind the ear is all they really need. You can’t put a price tag on that kind of love.

Friday, April 15, 2011

64 Years of Loyalty

“For better or for worse. For richer or poorer; in sickness and in health.”

Webster defines “commitment”, well, I don’t like Webster’s definition, but when I saw the synonyms, I saw “faithfulness” and here is what Webster says there: full of FAITH or steadfast in affection or allegiance : LOYAL. And these words describe two of my favorite people, who today, April 15, are celebrating their 64th wedding anniversary.

Obviously I wasn’t there in 1947 when Martin and Margaret said their wedding vows in a humble ceremony. But one thing is definite—they are the epitome of faithfulness as they have been there for one another through sickness and health; for better and for worse, and today, April 15 they are still there for each other as they celebrate their wedding anniversary.

I love to hear my grandparents, Martin and Margaret Raymer talk about their courtship and the early days of their relationship. When they could go to “the show” for a nickel or a dime and when they would go to dances on Saturday nights. Grandpa worked for area farmers, and he worked hard until he could make it on his own. And when he and Grandma were first married they took a road trip to the West Coast in his Studebaker, which was one of the first of its kind in the county. Grandma, being the record keeper in the family, kept track of their expenses in a notebook, just like she keeps track of family Rummy scores today.

I can just envision these two love birds driving from the Nebraska Panhandle to the Washington Coast, holding hands , sharing a soda and telling stories. See, when I visit then about twice a year, they still occasionally squeeze each other’s hands and they still like to tell stories. “Remember when….” And another tale of days gone by begins.

But their journey hasn’t always been filled with joy and laughter…it has had its share of hardships that has made them stronger, and I’m sure there are some I will never know about. But sickness, that is one I do know about, because as a very early grade schooler, I remember going to Denver, when Grandma was in the hospital with a brain tumor, and cancer wasn’t very well understood back in the early 80s. But, Grandma, she’s a strong one, and she survived! And she survived multiple tumors and multiple surgeries with Grandpa and the rest of her family by her side. And she hasn’t slowed down since. She’s got a better social life than I ever will, and has always given back to her community, whether it’s serving lunches for funerals or organizing and managing the month long Church rummage sale. And later, that nasty cancer got to Grandpa – I guess years of farming and sun exposure got the better of him. And now, Grandma is right by his side, taking care of him.

And they worked together. As a child I loved going to my grandparents in the summer. Some of my favorite meals were served on the tailgate of a pickup when we would take dinner or supper to the guys in the field—and Grandma didn’t just through together a sandwich every time. Often, we would have fried chicken and lots of it! Portion control is not in Grandma’s vocabulary! And at calving time, if there was a cow that wouldn’t take her calf, Grandma would take care of the bottle calf or calves.

But now they are older, and they don’t “go” like they used to. But they still have each other, and they still are a shining example for their family. A few years ago, Grandpa jokingly said, “I was thinking about leaving, but there isn’t anyone in the neighborhood that cooks as good as Grandma.” And you know what, he’s right! And there’s no one in the neighborhood that can set an example of what true love is like the two of them!

Tonight, I called them to wish them a happy anniversary. Grandma said they “were celebrating.” They were going to have leftover meatloaf and my aunt and uncle were coming down to look at some old slides…a walk down memory lane. And Grandma had bought some cream puffs for desert. I assured her I had the same cream puffs in my freezer (because they are soooo good and NOT fat free!) and I would have some tonight too!

So, here’s to true love, commitment that lasts a lifetime, and to better and worse and sickness and health! Here’s to my Grandpa & Grandma! Thank you for showing your kids, 6 grandkids and even the next generation what true love really is. Thanks for being great farmers and cooks and family. And thanks for showing us what love really is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Perspectives: Agriculture from another Viewpoint

This past weekend I took some time to visit friends in Maryland. It seemed so refreshing to get away from the busy-ness of life—planning multiple events, spring cleaning the house, and out to the serene countryside onto my friends’ farm in Montgomery County, Maryland. It seemed serene as I passed lush green pastures, wooden fences, horse farms, fields, and turned down the lane where Angus heifers stood grazing. Everything about my weekend destination seemed so peaceful, but in reality, I was just 22 miles from our Nation’s Capital and in a county that has a population of 1 million people. That’s right—1 million people take up residence in Montgomery County. I had to have Mr. Bob repeat this statistic on Sunday morning as we were visiting about farming, and how he was a third-generation farmer. In my native state of Nebraska, we don’t even have 2 million people in the entire state, and they cram 1 million folks in a COUNTY and still have a place to graze cattle and farm the land.

As you can tell, this population statistic really impressed me, and as I spent the afternoon exploring the farm some more, I realized that although ALL farmers and ranchers face so many challenges—the environment, activists, the markets, just to name a few—the reality of urban sprawl really slapped me in the face. I mean, tasks that my family takes for granted like moving a piece of machinery becomes a major headache on these highly traveled highways or narrow, windy roads in the East. And, land value is such that many landowners are selling land that has been farmed for years for development, leaving farmers without ground to work.

Now even though the friends I spent the weekend with have more neighbors than the entire state of South Dakota, they are still raising food for the folks that live in their county and elsewhere in a safe manner that is good for the environment. They are stewards of the land, and would never do anything to harm the land, because it really is our most precious commodity. They make sure the pastures are not overstocked and overgrazed, and yet the cattle have ample forage and water. They are concerned about predators, especially at calving time, and work to keep their cattle safe. They know if they take care of the land and livestock, they will take care of them.

I was impressed with their spirit; their roots run deep. Take Mr. Pete, a 94-year-old man who had worked on numerous farms in the area since his teen-age years. We visited with him while he recollected the farms he had worked on with pride. He displayed a wall of ribbons he had won showing Percheron horses. Later, we rode through pastures of baby calves to see the results of mating decisions and hear about the next crop of embryo calves as we read the recips’ tags with the matings she was carrying inside her. We went to the antique tractor and steam engine show, where we saw some really neat old tractors, and little tiny engines that were powerful enough to churn ice cream.

It was like a time warp—a little of the old tied in with a little of the new—steam engines and embryo matings from a national champion female. I experienced all of this less than 30 miles from where lawmakers are trying to regulate every move farmers and ranchers make. It all seemed so serene, and yet so much hustle and bustle takes place just down the road. Maybe just one day, those senators and congressmen will take the opportunity to share in this experience—to realize that there are multi-generation farmers and ranchers in Maryland and Nebraska and across the United States that are out there producing food and fiber for their family and yours. . .sometimes it just takes a different perspective. Sometimes you just have to be one in a million to appreciate it.