Living the Country Life

Betsy's Backyard Blog

Betsy Freese is an Executive Editor for Meredith Agrimedia, including Living the Country Life and Successful Farming. She grew up on a fruit farm in Maryland (see and has an agricultural journalism degree from Iowa State University. She and her husband, Bob, a veterinarian, live on a farm in Iowa where they raise sheep, hay, corn, and soybeans.


Twitter: betsyfreese

April 6, 2016

It's hard to wait

April has been cold and wet so far. Bob took this photo of a neighbor who was too eager to work the fields for planting. 

Meanwhile, a few miles away, I took this photo of a combine harvesting corn in April. Better late then never.

This dead patch in the pasture was choked with thistles last year until Bob sprayed it. He hand-seeded before a rain this week.

I'm just throwing this in here for a laugh. I wore these to church and didn't notice the mismatch until I was pumping gas later that day. You know you have too many cowboy boots when this happens.

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March 29, 2016

Shearing Sheep

We sheared the sheep last week and I captured live video for Living the Country Life on Facebook. Check it out below.

The video has more than 23,000 views and hundreds of comments. A few people thought the sheep were being harmed, but most had positive comments about the skill of the shearer, who is a former world champion.

The ewes are due to lamb soon, and were glad to be rid of their winter coat.

Stay tuned for live video of our new lambs in April!

Warm temps, sunshine, and shorn fleece make happy sheep.

Three bags full of wool. The price we receive covers the cost of shearing.

March 23, 2016

Spring Break!

I took Caroline to New York City for spring break. It's her senior year of college, so a trip to the center of the art world was in order.

Caroline's favorite portrait, Madame X, by John Singer Sargent, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The National September 11 Memorial is a must-see. The museum, inside one of the former towers demolished by terrorists, is one of the most astounding experiences you will ever have. Every American should visit.

This huge new dinosaur skeleton was added to the American Museum of Natural History in January. The Titanosaur is 122 feet long and weighed about 70 tons. This is the closest I could get to it because the exhibit was closed to set up for a private function. (That stinks.)

This is the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District with New Jersey in the distance.

Inside the Whitney.

Our final night was at the Metropolitan Opera to see Madama Butterfly.

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March 11, 2016

Women in Ag

Successful Farming and Living the Country Life hosted a Women in Ag focus group at our office this week, and the discussion was lively and helpful. Many of the women write blogs about farm life, and know the challenges of communicating about agriculture. As Iowa farmer Alicia Schmitt put it, "Transparency in agriculture is not working as we hoped it would." People often misunderstand what happens on the farm. Why is the farmer pulling that calf with a chain? Why are you burning the horns off that goat? Why are you spraying those chemicals? Let's face it, there is no pretty way to handle downer cows.

Melissa O'Rourke, Iowa State University, told the group to put out positive images of agriculture and if people want to pick a fight, "There is nothing to be gained by engaging with them. Expend your positive energy on other people." See more advice at Ag Decision Maker.

Keep up with our Women in Ag bloggers:

Heather Barnes

Alicia Schmitt

Heather's little darling, Ben, enjoyed the meeting. They live on a farm in North Carolina.

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March 3, 2016

E Street Entertainment

Everyone needs a pick-me-up in these gloomy winter days, so I grabbed Caroline and drove to St. Paul, MN, to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. We stood in line with 1,200 others to try to get in the "pit," the enclosed area in front of the stage. There is a lottery to get in, and we made it! The show was sold out (arena holds 19,000), so it was a loud night. Bruce and the E Street Band played for more than 3 hours. There is no sitting in the pit, so your legs are rubber by the time you leave at close to midnight. It is so worth it.

Before the show started.

Bruce body-surfing the pit.

At 11:15 p.m., more than three hours after he started, Bruce was still going.

On a totally different topic, kudos to Sheep Industry News for my favorite headline. This was in the March 2016 issue.

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February 24, 2016

Remodeling is Fun. Right?

Bob and his business partner, Brian, have been expanding and remodeling the vet clinic for almost a year. Have you ever remodeled your house? It's that much fun. The work should be done in another month and the end result will be awesome. We may forget some of the pain.

Charlie, the clinic cat, oversees the movement of cat housing by Bob, right, and Brian.

This wash tub weighs a million pounds and needs to fit through the door.

The new kennels are wonderful. Lisa likes to help clients feel comfortable in their temporary homes.

We've all been there, right?

Nowlan and Daniella visit Bob at the new reception desk.

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February 16, 2016

Ride it Out

It was -7 F as we loaded the remaining 15 lambs from last year's crop. The sheep didn't mind the cold. It's that time of year when you just ride out winter until it gives up.

While at the livestock auction, we warmed up with a homemade bun.

The lambs averaged 160 pounds (that's too heavy for the top price) and brought $1.25 a pound.

We start lambing in April and I vow to sell everything before winter this year!


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February 11, 2016

Think Spring

February is the longest month. It's 8 degrees this morning and heading to -7 overnight. I've decided to cheer myself up by looking at photos from my yard last year. Try it! Spring is just around the corner...


February 1, 2016

Enjoying Winter!

The key to surviving until spring is to enjoy winter! We've had lots of traffic to our pond for ice fishing lately. Check out the big bass below, and some pretty winter scenes.

Rick Nelson caught this big bass on our pond.

The pond earlier this winter as the ice was starting to form.

Our red barn looks perfect on a snowy day.

Mom took this photo from her front porch in Maryland after Blizzard Jonas rolled through and dropped 2 feet of snow.

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January 26, 2016

Tool Time

Bob and I spent last week in Maryland celebrating birthdays and enjoying time with family and friends (the day after we left, the Jonas blizzard dumped 2 feet of snow on the farm). Dad's winter project is organizing and displaying his collection of antique tools. He turned an old shed into a mini museum.

Dad can tell visitors specifics on each tool and how it was used.

I took this photo of Dad with his favorite calendar on his 78th birthday. 

Dad found this book at an auction. I like the quote: "For successful farming, three conditions are necessary -- knowledge, capital and fondness for the pursuit." (Credit is given to Columella, a farmer and writer during the Roman empire.)

Mom was hard at work on Sunday directing the Moore's Chapel choir (I took this photo during rehearsal in the church basement). She's been the choir director for 50 years!