All of Us!

All of Us!
Finally! All together with enough time to spare (??) to capture a picture of all six of us in the same spot, same time. Now this is a precious photo! I tried to get one last year for our Christmas card and didn't succeed. So when I had the chance I threw out the lasso and rounded everyone up (at my niece's graduation party) to grab a couple snapshots. My oldest son, Casey, and his girlfriend Nika are on the left; and my youngest son, Brady, and his girlfriend Jenne on the right; that leaves Bob and I in the center. (Bob is the one who doesn't look very happy about having his picture taken!!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cleaning Up The Economy, Cleaning Out the Fridge -- All A Little Catty

I’m catching it from a little bit here and a little bit there about not posting to my blog lately. I have now identified my cousin, Jo, as my enforcer to keep me on task. I have started a few to post, but never finished them.

So now here I sit festering about something else and am starting a new one and not getting to the old. I guess the old will sit and ripen a little more while I try to finish this one.

I’ve read a couple articles the last few days that have me feeling a little unstable about our economy and 2011. I was hoping that 2011 would come in as a good year and finish out the same way. Too many deaths in the family in 2010 made me anxious for a new start, a new year.

But, as I have seen gas prices start to increase, I’m less optimistic on the economic horizon for the new year. I’m hoping personally things run more smoothly. As I have seen in these recent articles it appears everyone seems to know that 2011 will be a challenging year for dairymen. A quote from a recent article in Dairy Herd Network, stated, “It's real simple,” . . . “For dairymen in 2011, it's going to be survival of the fittest.” Now, of course, since we are dairy farmers, that is not what personally what I want to hear.

Due to a growing global economy, unpredictable water supply and rising feed costs, dairy farmers in California are bracing themselves for another uncertain year in 2011. If that is just the case in California, then it bodes well for us farmers in Wisconsin. But with the price of corn steadily increasing in recent years due to the growth in biofuels, farmers who traditionally grew corn as feed for dairy cows are now getting a better price selling that crop as ethanol. With less overall supply on the market, farmers who do supply feed for dairies can bump up their prices. Dairy and corn prices have traditionally mirrored each other, but the use of corn for ethanol has changed all that. We, unfortunately, buy all our feed, so we will see the impact directly.

Even though the dairy industry as a whole can be viewed as a minefield, farmers can remain optimistic and even look overseas for potential revenue. Certain dairy products, such as cheese and ice cream, are highly sought after overseas, so dairy producers can hope that exports can pick up in 2011. Logistically speaking, it's nearly impossible to ship fluid milk overseas, but items such as dehydrated milk powders and other manufactured dairy products can make up most of the exports, so hopefully the trend will continue to grow. We are always told that because the market is flooded in this country, export, export, export.

So what does that mean for the cost of dairy and agricultural products in the United States? One article I recently read was from the National Inflation Association. At number eight in their top 10 economic predictions for 2011 is food inflation and it is predicting that food inflation will become America’s top crisis. This how they explained it, “Starting a few decades ago, and accelerating in recent years, America has seen a boom in non-productive service jobs, mainly in the financial sector. Most of these jobs were made possible by inflation. Without inflation, which steals from the purchasing power of the incomes and savings of goods-producing workers, the majority of the jobs on Wall Street would not exist today and our country would be in much better financial shape because of it.

With most Americans in recent decades seeking non-productive jobs in the financial services sector, because that is where they could access the Fed's cheap and easy money, very few Americans sought jobs in the farming and agriculture sector. In the 1930s, approximately 28 percent of the population was employed in the agriculture sector, but today this number is less than 2 percent. Agriculture currently makes up only 1.2 percent of U.S. GDP, compared to the services sector, which makes up 76.9 percent of U.S. GDP.

There is currently a major shortage of farmers in the U.S., and a lot of land that was previously used for farming has now been developed with real estate. To make matters worse, agricultural products now trade on the international market, and Americans must now compete against citizens of emerging nations like China and India for the purchasing of food.

Prices of goods and services do not rise equally when governments create monetary inflation. Inflation gravitates most towards the items that Americans need the most, and there is nothing that Americans need more to survive than food and agriculture. As the U.S. government prints money, the first thing Americans will spend it on is food. Americans can cut back on energy use by moving into a smaller home and car pooling to work. They can cut back on entertainment, travel, and other discretionary spending. However, Americans can never stop spending money on food.

The days of cheap food in America are coming to an end. The recent unprecedented rise that we have seen in agricultural commodity prices is showing no signs of letting up. Recently sugar futures reached a new 30-year high, coffee futures reached a new 13-year high, orange juice futures reached a new 3-year high, corn futures reached a new 29-month high, soybean futures reached a new 27-month high, and palm oil futures reached a new 33-month high.”

I’m not sure about you, but I am less concerned about the price of palm oil, but I am concerned about the price of my coffee, orange juice, sugar, etc. This brought me to the initial concerns I had about food in my own house. I’ve noticed a lot of waste. Yes, waste in my house and I am totally ashamed of it. I know, I know . . . there are starving kids in Africa, etc., etc. That is why I mentally slapped myself. No one else needs to beat up on me over this, as I do it every time I clean out the refrigerator, which I will remind myself and anyone else – it is one of my less favorite household tasks. I think maybe because of two elements: (1) the fear I am going to find something green and slimy that was never green and slimy in the first place and/or was never, ever, meant to be green and slimy, and (2) the amount of waste that I am throwing out. Now I suppose I could reward myself a little and say it isn’t truthfully going to waste because our cats will devour it as soon as I set it out there for them. They have even been known to eat leftover jell-O. What cat in their right mind would eat something squiggly like that once it has reached its prime? But they do. There are non-discriminating when it comes to eating.

But back to my problems with throwing food out. I think this is actually where it is deep rooted. I cannot throw food out. Not from the very beginning when they are prepared and it is even harder at the very end when they cremated themselves into something unrecognizable. I grew up in a household of seven kids, from a farming family with a big garden, so we always had plenty of home-grown food. A lot of food was served up at each meal and what wasn’t eaten was put away in the refrigerator. My dad never liked to see food wasted and he was a good one to eat leftovers. I am the same way, as long as the food is still in its prime, mind you. I can make a meal on the weekend and take that same meal to work four days in a row. It doesn’t bother me. My husband on the other hand always claims he will eat the leftovers and, to a certain extent, he does. But he will not eat the same thing two days in a row. He always also claims that he forgot about a certain leftover being in the refrigerator. That’s okay, I guess, because he certainly isn’t going hungry at this point. Again, some of the problem probably rests with my upbringing because I still cook like I am feeding nine people instead of the number we are down to now – two.

So, last night, I kicked myself when I opened the frig and realized I had a feast sitting there waiting for . . . the cats. (Sometimes I think I put the blinders on when I look in there!) I thought back to the recent articles about food prices and inflation hitting an all time high this year and I’m thinking I have to either cut back on my portion sizes when I am cooking, relieving Bob of electively picking out what will be today’s meal when I am gone, or . . . getting more cats.

We are actually in need of more cats (female that is as we are over run by males and the females are all gone), so maybe until I properly train myself in cutting my favorite recipes down to portions of two, I can fatten up those cats a little bit more.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why the taste of mice have started to slip off their menu choices. Finicky felines. . .