Go to college in SEATTLE!

So for some reason, while I was sweeping the sawdust-bedding mess in my basement, left behind by my adorable little chickens, when I started to think about high school.

I thought, “High school is just so ridiculous. They should allow kids to just skip over that entire time of their lives.”

Very few high school students have the guts or self-esteem to be themselves.

Have you looked at an image of a high school girls’ sporting team lately?

Every single one of them will look the same – long-straight and colored hair; dark, black eyes and they will all be wearing the same clothes.

OK. I know it’s a uniform. But if they were wearing everyday clothing, they would all look the same – skinny jeans, etc. (I am not that up on teenage girl fashion. I only have boys, but more on that later.)

Which brings me to another thought.

Years ago, when I was on the school board for our parochial school, I floated the thought to several parents regarding uniforms.

Not one mother was in favor of that option.

The most heard reason was, “They can’t express their personalities with their clothing then.”

What?

It’s not like they are doing that now!

Yes, there are a few girls that have been brought up to believe in themselves and know that they don’t have to “fit in” and that they don’t need to have a boyfriend to make them part of the “in crowd.”

I wish I would have been one of them when I was in high school.

I wouldn’t have permed my stick-straight hair.

I would have continued to wear my favorite outfits even if the boys still called me a lesbian. (FYI, I am not, but apparently there is some sort of fashion code for lesbianism.)

Just think, instead of spending all my money on the latest Nikes, hair perm or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, I could have saved my money and attended University of Washington, Seattle.

I didn’t know what I wanted to go to school for, but I really wanted to go to Seattle. Maybe I could have gotten in on the big technology boom and been a tech millionaire.

But alas, I didn’t think I could go away and pay for college.

I never pursued that dream.

Instead, I attended technical college right after high school and studied in a program that any Jane Doe from the street could do. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that job and someday I may return to it, but now my priorities are elsewhere.

I wish I would’ve had someone holding my hand and telling me to “Go for it! You can do anything you want! You are great! College will be so much better than high school.”

I am no longer saddened by what could have been.

I have a wonderful family. My husband has to be one of the kindest men I have ever met. My two sons are so amazing; never giving me any trouble throughout their high school careers. (We haven’t made it through college yet. So trouble could be coming.)

I try to share my feelings with as many young girls as I know…especially my nieces.

I have been there, done that. I wanted to be with the “in-crowd.” I desperately wanted a boyfriend – my whole existence revolved around that insecure idea.

I want my wonderful nieces to feel confident, beautiful and fulfilled – without having to have your hair like everyone else’s and wearing the same yoga pants that all of your friends wear.

And any boyfriend – even if he treats you like dirt.

Yes, I tell them that. I think one of my nieces understood when I said, “High school sucks. College, my dear, will be so much more fun. You will meet kids like you. You will share the same interests and it will be COOL!”

At the time, when I told her that, she just nodded her head. I was sure she was just placating me and my ranting.

My wisdom must have sunk into her thoughts somewhere.

She’s at college now and from the looks of it, she’s having the time of her life!

I hope my nieces that are still in high school understand that what I am telling them is true.

High school sucks. You still have to be kind to everyone – except for the snobs and bullies, those people you can ignore. They will find college to be a trying place because they won’t be the “in group” anymore.

I just want them to follow their dreams – go to college in Seattle.

Secrets of a mad scientist

I started doing experiments here on the farm.

It doesn’t involve leaving a pile of dishes on the counter to see how long it takes for someone to assist the person who put the goods on the table.

And it doesn’t involve leaving a stack of laundry in the laundry room waiting for someone to take up the initiative to actually throw a load into the washing machine. Sometimes I think my co-habitants believe the laundry will actually do itself.

I’ve tried those and the experiments always fail.

It never fails that I get frustrated with the mess long before the idea of helping ever crosses anyone’s mind.

My newest experiments have more of an impact on our farm than any dirty-dishes or soiled-laundry experiment ever will.

I have previously explained how cows get mastitis – an infection in the udder.

There are a gabillion reasons for a cow to develop mastitis. Pathogens that cause swelling and inflammation in an udder can be found in the environment, on dirty milking equipment and faulty equipment.

In fact, dirty laundry can cause mastitis in cows. Because we use microfiber towels to clean the cows’ udders during milking prep, the towels have to be washed after every milking. If the towels are not properly washed, it’s possible for germs to quickly spread to other cows. We use one towel per cow, so every day, 230 individual towels need to be put in the washer and dryer.

And we have to use super-hot water and high heat when we dry towels.

Our compost barn is the perfect environment for pathogens to thrive. Instead of having dust mites in their bedding, the cows have ugly little pathogens like staph aureus, bacillus, and yes, the nastiest of them all klebsiella and e-coli.

It’s imperative that we maintain excellent prep procedures to keep the cases of mastitis in our herd to a minimum. Mastitis costs us money due to lower production and administering medication to the affected animal.

A while back, when a new case of mastitis showed up, we would take a sample of milk and run it into the vets’ office. After several days, we would have test results that would tell us what medication to treat the cow with. If we were lucky, we were using the correct type of medication. If not, we started all over with a different treatment.

Different types of mastitis get treated with different types of medication.

In an effort to increase efficiency here on the farm, I finally got the go ahead from the head honcho to purchase an incubator to use for identifying causes of mastitis.

Now, and I hate to admit it, I kind of get excited to find a new case of mastitis. That means I will be able to retrieve a sample and incubate it for 18 hours and identify the culprit germ. Sometimes I have to wait 24 hours.

As an instant gratification kind of gal, it kills me to have to wait that long.

It’s really too bad that the 18-hour time limit happens at approximately midnight! I will not get out of bed to look at germs.

I have been running tests for approximately two weeks.

My first test was stellar. I was able to identify the cause as a strep species. It was a beautiful plate. Little dots of ickies showed up where they were supposed to.

The next couple tests haven’t gone all that great.

There were two tests that were contaminated from something I did that I cannot identify.

I have been working with our vet’s office to identify what’s going on with my samples.

I guess I am a dirty sampler!  (That sounds awful.)

Thursday morning, because my husband was snoring to beat the band, I was up at 3:30. I typed this column, and then chose to go look at a sample I was “cooking’ in the incubator.

Turns out we were treating the cow with the incorrect medication.

As soon as I get to be great at growing these little germs, we should start to save a bit of money.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net. You can also visit my blog at www.gettingkerrydaway.wordpress.com.

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Teeny weeny signs of spring

Looking out my kitchen window, I would never guess that the vernal equinox
is just a few weeks away.
This year March 20th marks the very first day of spring; although I have
my doubts that it is going to feel much like spring.
But upon further observation a person can observe signs of spring.
There is this bunch of squirrels living right outside my large kitchen
windows. In total, at one time, I have counted five of the buggers feeding
on the corn under the corn burner. From what I see, it seems as if all but
one of the squirrels is a female.
There is only one fur ball that seems to get chased around by the others.
And I swear they send each other signals using their tails. She sends some
sort of squirrely tease to each and every one of those male grey
squirrels, and then runs away.
You go squirrel!
I hear a sign of spring most mornings now. A Sputzey, or common sparrow,
has been singing its happy song in the holding area of the milking barn.
It’s funny how I never noticed the absence of bird sounds during this long
blasted winter. It’s also funny how the most unexciting bird song can
sound great to a winter hater’s ears.
I cannot wait for the barn swallows to return. I thought of them earlier
this week, and then realized it was going to be a long time until I see
the first one of the season. This year I am guessing they will return
somewhere around the Fourth of July, instead of the end of April.
I know, I know. The groundhog, on February 2, 2014, said we will have six
more weeks of winter.
Has anyone seen the little rodent since then?
He was correct in his prediction, now he’s afraid to come out of his hole.
In much the same way I want to slap the heads off of snowmen, I would like
to slap the head off that groundhog. (Breathe Kerry, breathe.)
Another sign of spring are the awesome puddles on Broadway! I don’t know
if it’s proper to hit every single puddle to spray the water everywhere,
but sometimes having fun doesn’t involve proper.
I miss walking through mud puddles. I know, every other year I complain
about the wealth of mud and muck on the farm, but this year I am not going
to let one word of weather disdain leave my mouth. I gave that up for
Lent.
I’m ready to get out and work in my yard and garden. I have trees that I
need to trim. Of course, this could be done during the winter, but it just
so happens that the trees I want to trim are buried in a 27-foot snow
drift.
I feel bad for my trees. The weight of the snow, when it does finally
melt, is going to pull a lot of the branches right off the tree.
Bring on the tree Band-Aids.
Somewhere in my yard, there is an old wagon I use for decoration, I think
I left it by the lilac bushes.
I can’t tell.
Come to think of it, I can no longer see the monstrous boulder by my
flagpole.
It’s a wonder I haven’t lost our little Rat Terriers in the mounds of snow.
The last time the winter was this pathetic, Russell was about one-year
old. I remember sledding right in our very own back yard. The snow drifts
were so high we could have walked right into the second story of the barn,
but alas, there wasn’t a door there. Russell was such a pudgy baby he
didn’t yet know how to walk. I had to carry him up and down the snow pile.
I have a picture from that day, and Russell looks miserably cold. Joey is
not in the image at all, I would imagine he was on the other side of the
drift.
Spring has to come sooner or later, right?
Until then, I think I am going to continue looking for little signs of
spring.
Maybe then, before I know it, it will be here. Probably right after the
swallows arrive.
For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net.
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