How do family farmers prepare for winter storms?

A Kentucky beef cattle farmer shares how her family farm prepares for a snow or ice storm. This afternoon, Lorelei and I are headed to the grocery store.

We’ll pick up enough milk and eggs to make it through the weekend and fill the car up with gas just in case the ice/snow that’s predicted really hits us.

We’ll put a spare coat and a few heavy blankets in the trunk of the car, just in case we get stuck somewhere.

That’s it. A shopping trip and a few little errands and we’re ready for winter weather.

For farm families, however, there is so much more that goes into preparing for winter storms.

Every farm family is different, but this is how my family prepares for winter storms on our beef cattle farm.

When the temperature drops below freezing (even if there’s no snow on the ground) our first priority is making sure that our cattle have water.

This photo is a few years old but this is still one of my little brother Daniel's jobs, filling up the water trough.

This photo is a few years old but this is still one of my little brother Daniel’s jobs, filling up the water trough.

On our farm, we use a portable watering system so that the water trough can move from pasture to pasture with the cattle. Unfortunately, the trough and above ground pipes that run to it can freeze easily so when the temperature is below freezing we have to go out and water the cattle by hand.

At least twice a day, we run a hose from a frost-free hydrant and fill up the trough with it, just like you fill up a backyard swimming pool. We make sure that all the cattle come up to drink, which gives us a great opportunity to make sure they aren’t showing any signs of illness.

Many cattle farms in Kentucky have frost-free waterers for their cattle. These are permanent troughs that keep the water warm enough so that it won’t freeze. Even though the trough does most of the work, the farmers still go out and check every waterer daily to make sure that they are functioning properly.

Over the weekend, my dad, sister and brother hauled a load of hay to our farm.

My brother, Bud, and my dad stacking a load of hay in the back of the truck. Photo courtesy of Renee Laurent.

My brother, Bud, and my dad stacking a load of hay in the back of the truck. Photo courtesy of Renee Laurent.

We don’t feed hay regularly during the winter because we have enough have enough grass on our farm for our cattle to graze year round.

Sometimes, there is too much snow for the cattle to graze through so we keep enough hay on hand to make sure that they won’t go hungry.

When this happens, we go out and feed them square hay bales twice a day.

On foot, through the snow, we’ll carry bales to their feed troughs and spread them out for the cattle to eat. Its physical, hard work in the freezing cold that often leaves us sweating and freezing at the same time. (Can you tell this was not my favorite job on the farm?)

Throughout the winter, we also feed our cattle a grain feed that has vitamins and minerals mixed in to make sure they stay on a healthy, balanced diet.

When the weather gets bad, we have to make sure that we keep a close eye out for any signs of illness in our calves.

Cattle are very well suited for winter weather but sometimes they come down with a cold or respiratory ailment just like you or I would.

Before a storm hits, my dad will make sure that he has some basic medications on hand just in case one of the calves gets sick.

We treat any sick calves as soon as possible so that they can start to get better. The last thing we want is for the added stress of a winter storm to add to their sickness!

If a calf is sick, they often won't eat so we watch the whole herd eat and make sure they all have a healthy appetite.

If a calf is getting sick, they usually don’t want to eat. We watch the whole herd eat and make sure they all have a healthy appetite.

During a winter storm, our cattle are our top priority.

Even though I’m not a part of the day to day work on our farm anymore, I still immediately think of our farm whenever the weatherman predicts a winter storm.

As I pick up my groceries today, I’ll be thankful for the many farm families across the country who are preparing to care for their animals through the storm.

I hope you will too.

Help ranchers devastated by Winter Storm Atlas – Tyson to donate $10 per tweet to #RancherRelief

Two weeks ago, South Dakota’s farm and ranch families were devastated when Winter Storm Atlas brought several feet of snow and 70 mile per hour wind gusts upon them with little or no notice.agchat_tweetcast

Thousands of cattle, sheep and horses were buried alive beneath snow drifts or died of exhaustion and exposure while trying to escape the storm’s wrath.

In the days that followed, ranchers trudged through the snow desperately searching for any animals that had managed to survive so that they could give them the food, water and medical attention they desperately needed.

If this is the first you’re hearing about this disaster, please take a few moments to read a blog post by a ranch wife whose family is right in the middle of it all, Jodene Shaw.

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This farm mom says Chipotle’s Scarecrow video attacks family farmers

Over the past year or two, I’ve had many people ask me why I haven’t done a post about Chipotle and their misleading marketing and lies about family farmers.chipotle screenshot

I’ve given each of those people the same response – a family friend once told me that you should never send an email when you’re mad.

You can write the email, but then you should sleep on it, let someone else read it, think about it, etc… but never send it while you’re mad.

The way I see it, writing a blog post when you’re mad is even worse than writing an email. I started writing a Chipotle post several times but each draft was filled with anger and frustration so I decided to to wait until I wasn’t mad anymore.

Today, I decided to stop waiting.

I’m still mad.

No, mad doesn’t really describe it.

I’m hurt.

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Cookies and Milk with the Commissioner of Ag

Last week, Lorelei and I went to “Cookies and Milk with the Commissioner of Agriculture” at LeCows Dairy in Paducah.

LeCows Dairy's Lesa Clark welcomed everyone to their "Cookies and Milk with the Commissioner" event.

LeCows Dairy’s Lesa Clark welcomed everyone to their “Cookies and Milk with the Commissioner” event.

The folks at LeCows Dairy have been giving farm tours for years and love sharing their farm story via their website and facebook, twitter and instagram pages.

When they found out that Commissioner Comer would be stopping by, they invited the whole community to visit their farm, enjoy some cookies and milk and give him a west Kentucky welcome.

Since I’m not from Paducah, I really don’t know any of the other farm families in the county.

When I heard about the event, and that LeCows Dairy’s Lesa Clark and Ellie Waggoner were fellow Commonground volunteers, I jumped at the chance to go experience their farm and meet them.

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This mom NEVER pays full price for meat (and she’s sharing her secrets!)

My husband, Aaron, and I are the typical young family.

I overhauled my grocery shopping strategy and now I NEVER pay full price for meat.

I overhauled my grocery shopping strategy and now I NEVER pay full price for meat.

We got married right out of college, both started chasing our dream jobs from the bottom (I established Celeste Communications and he went back to the family restaurant), had a baby and live in a little rental house.

We’re working hard and saving as much as we can to buy a house/farm, upgrade from the vehicles that got us through college and someday put another kid through diapers (not anytime soon though!)

When I was pregnant with Lorelei, I was completely terrified of all the added expenses of a baby. While covering two different events for two different clients, I found myself sitting in on sessions about couponing.

One of those was given by a farm wife much like me. Couponing was not a necessity for her family, however, the more she could save the more they could put towards their future goals.

When she mentioned that her sister-in-law never paid for baby wipes I was sold.

The next weekend, Aaron and I started implementing a drastic overhaul of our grocery shopping strategy.

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Celeste Comm is now on Etsy!

Things are as crazy as ever in the Harned house.

Lorelei is walking and climbing and nothing in our house is safe anymore.

Aaron is staying busy at Harned’s Drive-In and we’re both ready for a break when the restaurant closes to clean in a few weeks.

Our three adorable nieces spent the three weeks here bouncing between their grandparents, great-grandmother and our house. (Which Lorelei absolutely loved!)

On top of it all, Celeste Communications launched the Etsy shop!

etsy opening cover photo 2

I started kicking around the idea of adding an online store to Celeste Comm in December when after Christmas, friends kept mentioning that they didn’t realize they could have had me design gifts for them.

After a few months of research, I floated the idea by Aaron. As my trusty “CFO,” he did even more research and soon jumped on board.

We decided Etsy was the right fit for Celeste Comm and then began researching all the in’s and out’s and rules of owning an Etsy shop.first etsy order for blog

All the while I was designing. Wedding invitations, metal signs, greeting cards, birthday party invitations, save-the-dates. You name it!

The Celeste Comm shop opened on June 25 and two days later, with no promotion on Facebook or Pinterest or anything like that, I made my first sale.

To say we were excited would be the understatement of the year!

I kicked off the grand opening on my Facebook page on July 10 and was completely overwhelmed by the support from my Facebook fans and twitter and instagram followers.

Thank you all for your kind words, retweets, shares and pins. You’re the best!

The shop is off to a busy start and I’m loving every minute of it.

If you’d like to browse my shop, please visit:

How you can help the farm families affected by the Oklahoma tornadoes

Like many of you, my thoughts and prayers have been with the families whose lives were literally uprooted by the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma on Monday.

I can not imagine what it must be like to lose your home, neighborhood and loved ones all in a matter of minutes.

One group of tornado victims lost their livelihood as well: the many family farmers and ranchers in the storm’s path.

"Rescue workers recover a horse from a destroyed barn." Photo and caption from the Associated Press

“Rescue workers recover a horse from a destroyed barn.” Photo and caption from the Associated Press

Farmers and ranchers lost barns, storage sheds and shops that housed millions of dollars of livestock or equipment.

Their crop fields were ravaged and their pasture fences destroyed.

When many of their neighbors return to work in their offices, these farmers will still be cleaning up debris.

When their friends are once again bringing home a paycheck, these farmers will still be a long way from being ready to raise animals or crops again.

My heart goes out to these hard working families because I know they have a long road ahead of them.

My friend Holly Carroll, a former Kentucky FFA state officer and agriculture educator, now works for Oklahoma Farm Bureau.

Yesterday, she shared with me one way that we can help the Oklahoma farm families affected by the tornadoes by donating to the Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation.

In a facebook message she said,

“At this point we look at it like a marathon, not a sprint. We are trying to think long term for clean up on the farms.”

Holly said they plan to use donations to purchase the basics for rebuilding and cleaning up farms, such as gloves, shovels, rakes, etc…

If you’d like to donate, mail a check to:

Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation
Attn: Monica Wilke
2501 N Stiles
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Please make checks out to Oklahoma Farming and Ranching Foundation and write “tornado relief” on the memo line or an enclosed note.

If you’d like more information or have questions, you can contact Holly Carroll directly by phone at 405-301-6610 or email at

Most of all, keep these farming and ranching families in your thoughts and prayers. They have a long, hard road ahead of them but if they’re anything like the farm families I know (and I have a feeling they are) they won’t stop working until their farms are in even better shape than before.

Oklahoma FFA Chapter hosts livestock show for special needs students

Through my work with the Kentucky FFA Association, I have the privilege of working some truly amazing agriculture teachers.SOULS

I get to photograph and video teachers who are changing their students lives every day, both in the classroom and in their FFA activities.

It doesn’t get much better than that!

The biggest FFA event of the year is the Kentucky FFA Convention in June.  As I write this post, that’s a mere 33 days away. (Not that anyone is counting!)

As I’m sure you can imagine, things are starting to get stressful.

On Tuesday morning, I was stressed out about trying to get a big FFA project finished as well as keeping up with my other clients and somehow finding time to write a blog post, all while taking care of a teething Lorelei.

When Aaron called to check in on things before the restaurant opened, I spent the entire conversation complaining about all the things I needed to do and how I had reached the point of being so stressed out that I just wanted to run away.

Instead of joining in on the pity party like I wanted him to, Aaron insisted that I watch a YouTube video come across earlier that morning. He promised it would make me feel better and remind me what really matters.

5 minutes later, my entire outlook on life had changed.

You absolutely MUST watch this video, but to sum it up, the FFA chapter at Noble High School in Oklahoma hosts a livestock show each year for special needs students.

The FFA members pair up with the show participants to teach them how to care for their animals, fit/prepare them for a show and then help them exhibit the animals in a show.

This video touched every sentimental bone in my body.

In 2006, my sister Anna made the Ky State Fair Sale of Champions. Even though she was 11 years old, the banner was almost as long as her.

In 2006, my sister Anna made the Ky State Fair Sale of Champions. Even though she was 11 years old, the banner was almost as long as her.

Having a sister with physical special needs, I’ve seen first hand how livestock shows can be a level playing field for children who often can’t compete in the same way as their peers in sports or other extracurricular activities.

Showing livestock is the only thing that all 5 of the Laurent kids could do together. I can’t even put into words how special that is for our family.

I want to congratulate these amazing agriculture educators and FFA members for making this program a reality for a very deserving group of students.

Words can’t describe the impact you are making on those students and their families.

If you ever need a judge, just let me know. I can’t imagine a higher honor.

Note: I realize that this video is a few years old, but with only 350 views I thought it was a story that hadn’t been shared nearly enough. If anyone knows of any more up to date information about this program, please share it in the comments.

Baby Harned isn’t a baby anymore…

My what a year it has been.

Our first family photo.

Our first family photo.

One year ago I became a Mommy.

Aaron handed me the most beautiful, fat, pink bundle of blankets I’d ever seen and I fell more in love with the both of them than I ever thought possible.

Its been a long year but at the same time it has flown by. Its been a stressful one. A rewarding one.

A year full of love and laughter, late nights and early mornings.

I’ve watched Lorelei become a little person full of energy, personality and stubbornness (who knows where she got that from?)

Lorelei has been the number one reason why this blog has been neglected this year.

I constantly told myself that many of my readers were parents and they would understand. I guess if you’re reading this then that’s probably true.

I’ve thought a lot about how to document the past year on my blog. Instead of trying to capture it in words, I’ve decided to let my photographs narrate the story.

Besides, it’s a lot cuter that way!

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HSUS sponsors an episode of Curious George

Since my daughter Lorelei is only 10 months old, she doesn’t watch much television.

georgeWhen she’s teething and fussy or isn’t feeling good, though, we often cuddle up together in a recliner and watch cartoons.

I always put on PBS Kids.

(With the exception of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, we’ve been known to do the hot dog dance around here a time or two!)

The shows are educational, there’s no commercials and usually the shows are based on books, which I love!

Curious George is one of my favorites.

That little monkey is always learning important lessons that many small children can learn from.

On February 4th, there will be a new episode of Curious George focusing on animal shelters and sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Anyone else see the irony there? Continue reading