Living the Country Life

Betsy's Backyard Blog

Betsy Freese is the editor-in-chief of Living the Country Life and executive editor of Successful Farming. She grew up on a fruit farm in Maryland (see and moved to the Midwest to get an agricultural journalism degree from Iowa State University. She and her husband, Bob, a veterinarian, have three children and own a farm where they raise sheep, hay, corn, and soybeans. 

December 13, 2012

Farmer nightmares

Do you have a recurring dream? Growing up I had one that barrels were rolling down the ramp from our barn and I was stuck in the mud and was crushed.

My husband, a veterinarian, still dreams he is in parasitology class and not prepared for the final exam. I have to remind him he graduated 25 years ago.

The other day, Bob was working cattle and he and the farmer started sharing dreams. The farmer said he has the same nightmare every fall: He's driving the combine into the shed after harvest and he doesn't turn the machine off -- it just keeps going through the back of the shed.

What's your dream?

Mike McGinnis, the markets editor for Successful Farming, probably has new nightmares after yesterday. Watch what happens 28 seconds into this video: Poor guy, but that's what he gets for doing the markets report in the hallway. (He is such a pro, he never flinches, just keeps going.)


  • Tags:
December 11, 2012

Peanut brittle

If you don't mind standing over a boiling caudron, stirring thick, sticky candy for hours, here's a delicious project. Peanut brittle takes time and effort, so it is not for the weak. Bob makes it every year, and says it takes him 12 months to get up the energy to make it again. This was the result on Sunday night. Yummy. It is tricky to get it to the right temperature and then to spread it out on heated pans. A copy of Bob's recipe is below. If you look at his numbers on the left of the ingredients, that is the batch size he makes (6 pounds of peanuts).


December 10, 2012

Leg of lamb for Christmas

We sorted another 24 lambs for the sale barn on Saturday, this group averaging 132 pounds. This is our third trailerload this fall going to Colfax Livestock Sales. The market price has improved each trip -- this time reaching $.99 a pound, the top price at the auction. That beats the $.80 we got earlier in the fall, but is far less than the $1.65 received last winter.

Our lambs are perfectly uniform, after 25 years of a closed herd on the ewe side, and extremely healthy. We don't even hear a random cough. Bob says their perfect health is because it was so dry this year and the hay was top quality.

We also took four lambs to the local locker. Bob picked up the meat today and shipped some on dry ice to my parents in Maryland. Roast lamb of lamb for Christmas!


December 6, 2012

Shop work

Bob's latest project is converting old cattle feed bunks into fenceline feeders for the sheep. These feeders allow us to give hay and corn to the ewes and rams without getting in the pen. This is a big deal to me. When Bob travels and I have to do the feeding, I do not like getting in the lot with our two rams. Never trust a male animal. Bob used to scoff at me until a ram knocked him down last year. He was checking a sick ewe and BAM. It was about that time he started working on these feeders.

December 5, 2012

Springsteen and Me

A new film is being made -- by fans -- about Bruce Springsteen, called Springsteen and I. The film producer is Ridley Scott and the director is Baillie Walsh. Fans all over the world can submit a video clip. The result will be a music documentary released in cinemas across the world in 2013.

I had to participate, of course, so this morning as soon as the sun came over the horizon I walked to the barn and shot 5 minutes of video with my Flip. The sheep stood silently in front of me as I told the story of kissing Bruce onstage in 1992. I set the Flip on a fence post and jumped around like I was in the pit at a concert.

It will be a miracle if any of the footage makes it in the film, but I gave it a shot.

Speaking of the pit, I was there last month when Springsteen played in Omaha, NE. Bob's sister Mary went along on my crazy adventure and shot this photo. When Bruce circled around to the back of the stage I slapped his sweaty hands and grabbed his leg. Whew. I could go on, but I will stop there.

  • Tags:
December 3, 2012

Hypoglycemic puppy

Last night Bob brought a little friend home from the vet clinic. Lucy was listless and nearly in a coma from acute hypoglycemia, a severe drop in blood sugar often seen in toy breed puppies. Lucy was an early Christmas present to an eight-year-old child.

With frequent feedings and a few other treatments all night, Bob was able to save Lucy. Here she is in our kitchen at 6 a.m., much more alert. In fact, she started barking at 4 a.m., so we knew she was probably going to be okay. She also peed on my bedroom rug, but I forgive her.

Bob is working cattle all day, so he will be ready to put his feet up and sleep through Monday Night Football.

November 30, 2012

Ram on the lam

A ram escaped from a home in Des Moines today (yes, that owner has been fined) and ran though downtown streets. You can watch the ram on the lam here. Pretty hilarious.

Several people asked me if it was one of our rams. Not unless they know how to commute 20 miles. Besides, our two rams have plenty to keep them busy with 40 ewes in the back pasture, if you know what I mean. Why would they leave heaven?

This is a photo of one of our rams last year. He could take down that Des Moines ram in two shakes of a lamb's tail.


November 28, 2012

Mom's fruitcake

A box arrived from Maryland yesterday with two of Mom's moist and delicious fruitcakes -- one for me and one for Grandpa Freese. The holiday season is officially here. A piece of fruitcake with a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese and hot tea is the perfect way to end a long, cold day.

You either love it or hate it. Tell me what you think:

My sister took this photo in Mom's kitchen on baking day.

November 26, 2012

Fall calf sales

Fall is prime time for calf sales. Bob and I went to Bosch Farms Limousin sale on Saturday. Owner Bob Bosch, Indianola, Iowa, does a great job of penning the animals in like groups and providing detailed information on the yearling bulls, hiefers, and steers so the 4-Hers and other buyers can quickly evaluate.

The sale is set up as a silent auction -- or private treaty sale. A base price is listed for each animal. If you want to place a bid, you let a family member know. Your bid is posted and may be increased by any bidder in $50 increments until the end of the sale that day. At that time, Bob opens the bidding, beginning with the calf with the highest bid. Bidding is limited to previous bidders and is in $50 increments. The calf is sold to the highest bidder. Any runner-up bidder is eligible to bid on another calf in the sale. Payment is expected before the animal leaves the farm.

Below is an example of the yearling bulls. RMKR Zion Nationals was born March 21, 2012 out of Mr Tom and Miss Shimmer. Bosch Farms says, "Zion is a very complete bull that combines thickness, depth of body, and structural correctness - all in one package." Starting price is $3,500.

Bob Bosch, left, with Bob Freese