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Keeping good food, or any food at all, on the table during calving season takes a certain level of creativity. It was with that creativity in mind that I declared National Cheese Whiz Week, to coincide each spring with the busiest week of calving.
    I explained my concept to Chris and the boys. “We’ll start on Monday with Cheese Whiz on celery. By Wednesday we’ll be eating Cheese Whiz on bread and an occasional cracker. Let’s face it, by Friday we know we’ll all be eating Cheeze Whiz on Cheese Whiz, on a spoon and straight out of the jar, especially if it’s a super hectic week.”
    The boys were okay with this new idea, a week of Cheese Whiz cuisine. Chris was skeptical, instantly suggesting alternatives. While we typically steer clear of the frozen food section at the grocery store, he said it might be a good idea to make an exception, at least for a while each spring. “How about some of that lasagna you can buy already made and frozen?” he inquired. I thought he might come around to my way of thinking, but it’s this conversation that leaves me wondering if he was somehow behind the next turn of events.
    It’d been quite some time since we’ve ordered anything substantial from the Schwann’s man, but up the driveway he came, his boss along for the ride and a Schwann’s man review. Hearing a knock on the door, I answered. He pulled out his handheld computer, ready to take my order, but looking past him I couldn’t help but ask, “Your truck stuck?”
    “Yep,” he replied. “Second time today.”
    “Think we should deal with that before I order ice cream?” I asked.
    I was secretly hopeful this giant refrigerated device might stay on through calving, providing a different frozen cuisine each evening. Take-out is in short supply in Osage, and Pizza Hut says “no way” regarding deliveries to our neighborhood. I started calculating the distance from the nearest outlet to the truck, and wondering whether or not I could keep this thing froze up into April.
    This Schwann truck’s presence at our house through the spring seemed all the more likely as we assessed the situation. With the back tires halfway covered in mud, there wasn’t much I could offer to help these fellows get back on the road.
    They milled around while we gathered heifers for the evening. Joshua told them a story or two… or three… and introduced them to the dogs. Over the course of the ensuing hours, the boys had plenty of time to inquire about Schwann’s numerous offerings. There was no getting by with a bucket of ice cream as thanks for stopping by today!
    Five hours later a tow truck from Gillette extracted the Schwann’s truck from our yard. My plans for a giant frozen food section in my yard vanished over the hill, but we got our fair share before they left.
    “See you next month!” said the Schwann’s man before departing.
    “Seriously?” I asked. “I kind of figured we’d eaten our last tub of Schwann’s ice cream.”
    “Oh no, we’ll be back. Wasn’t your fault.”
    “Okay, but please call ahead. Maybe I’ll meet you at the county road,” I suggested.
    National Cheese Whiz Week has been temporarily delayed, but not forgotten.
    Jennifer Vineyard Wo-mack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.
I recently made my first middle-of-the-night trek to the barn to check the heifers. Given the blizzard and the fact that it’s early in the season, I bundled up. Carhartts, a hat, gloves and my muck boots. I even took the time to grab my scarf. My winter attire is still fairly clean and I don’t yet look like we’re calving.
    Our brand new spotlight, which doubles as a rechargeable flashlight, was on the dryer so I opened the packaging and glanced at the directions. “Do not use indoors.” I couldn’t help but wonder about the story behind these words of wisdom. I made my rounds, didn’t find anything too terribly exciting and was back in the house in short order. Despite my early-in-the-season energy, I resisted the urge to use the spotlight indoors.
    Two weeks from now I’ll be up at 2 a.m., groggy and repeating the routine. I’ll forgo half of my winter clothes and grab Chris’s coat and boots, since they’re a little handier. Stumbling around, I’ll probably engage the trigger on the spotlight, violating the “don’t use indoors” rule before heading to the barn.
    By mid-March I’ll just make the trek in my robe or whatever happens to be by the back door. Give it a month and I’ll just throw Chris an elbow and tell him it’s his turn. He’ll be so groggy he won’t remember who did the last check and whose turn it is now.
    Late in calving season 2011, Chris and I woke up one morning in a panic that we’d missed the middle of the night check. We stood in the barn a little puzzled, finding that someone had moved a calf and relocated a heifer. “Must have been the UPS man,” I laughed. Pointing to the size 10.5 boot prints across the yard, it was surely Chris, but then again…
    We all joke about calving season, but it’s a very rewarding time of year around here. We welcome the new additions to the herd, anticipate the year ahead and enjoy the opportunity to work together as a family. We’re excited when the first calf of the year arrives, and we’re equally excited when the last calf of the year arrives.
    Bryce and Joshua rushed out to see this year’s first calf. “It’s the cutest calf I’ve ever seen,” exclaimed Joshua. When calf two arrived, he repeated, “It’s the cutest calf I’ve ever seen!” At this rate they’ll be pretty darn good-looking by the time we wrap this project up.
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.
I’m putting pencil to paper, making plans to have a better me by this time next year. While Main Street America is slimming down and heading to the gym (at least they were two weeks ago) to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions, my thoughts are elsewhere. With calving just around the corner, our annual diet of “too busy to eat and too tired to care” will soon arrive. Plus, long handles and coveralls are in style in northeast Wyoming this time of year so we have until May to address that weight loss item on our “to do” list.
    As for my 2012 goals, now that it’s Jan. 19, 2012…..
    1. Stop procrastinating.
    2. Do things on time.
    3. Editor’s Note from Christy: Submit your column on time (Editors, they think they can change everything, even your New Year’s Resolutions!)
    4. Cow records, cow records! This step will first require that I work through my negative feelings about spreadsheets.
    5. Spend more quality time with Chris and the kids, experiencing the kind of family bonding one can only enjoy while cleaning the barn, plowing snow and working cows.
    6. Let the kids drive more, transitioning the conversation from, “Chris, I’m stuck again,” to “Dad, I got the pickup stuck.” Around here this winter, at least so far, you’d have to get pretty creative to get anything stuck.
    7. Organize the shop. This is Chris’ favorite item and he loves it when I join him in the shop and point out, “We need to clean this place up. Wait here while I go get my label maker.” His next move is always toward really busy or really hard to find.
    8. Ride my horse more and the office chair less!
    9. Get our kids more involved in 4-H and the many opportunities it provides young people. Joshua is still a year away from becoming a full-fledged 4-H member, but the older kids in their club decided he needed an office anyway. As chairman of the calling committee it’s his job to call the members and remind them about upcoming meetings. Chris and I will be adding minutes to our phone plan in preparation for the week our little talker will now be spending on the phone each month.
    January is the perfect month to review your goals, both personal and ranch-related. Without a clear map of where we’d like to be both personally and business wise, it’s hard to chart the steps that will take us there. As earlier sunsets and colder weather force us to spend a little more time indoors, it’s the perfect time to give some thought to where you’re heading, where your ranch is going and the goals you have in mind for your family in the year ahead.
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.

In the coming week, FFA chapters across Wyoming will celebrate National FFA Week with a unified national theme of “I Believe.” It’s a fitting choice plucked directly from the National FFA Creed that begins with the words, “I believe in the future of agriculture with a faith born not of words but of deeds, achievements won by present and past generations of agriculturalists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggle of former years.”
    The National FFA Board of Directors designated National FFA Week in 1947. The week always runs Saturday through Saturday, encompassing Feb. 22, George Washington’s birthday. FFA chapters across the nation are encouraged to celebrate the week by educating the public about agriculture, hosting teacher appreciation breakfasts, holding events like “ag Olympics” and volunteering for community service projects in their area. Plans for celebrating the week are as numerous as the FFA chapters that carry them out.
    As I think about FFA Week 2012 from a Wyoming FFA Foundation standpoint, we, too, have much reason to celebrate. FFA’s presence in Wyoming is growing. In my mind, that equates to a growing ability to positively influence young leaders and encourage them to reach new heights. Casper recently added CY FFA, the state’s newest chapter. We’re proud to see other relatively recent additions in Evanston and Upton and an additional chapter, bringing the total to three, in Cheyenne. I recently had the chance to see the Upton FFA Chapter in action and was quite impressed with these young people and their advisor, Mr. Shane Bucholz.
    Growth in FFA expands the number of Wyoming students positioned to gain a better understanding of agriculture, consider career goals before heading off to college and develop skills that will prove beneficial lifelong. Among FFA’s numerous strong points is the ability to mold the program to an individual student and his or her goals. FFA members have access to countless opportunities and numerous resources to help them reach them get where they want to go.
    Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet several individuals who’ve benefitted from Wyoming FFA’s offerings. Among them are mechanics, welders, bankers, businesspeople, attorneys, college educators, ranchers, medical doctors, teachers, writers and more. Without exception, those with whom I’ve visited have been thankful for the experiences gained through FFA. Whether it was participating in the Agricultural Mechanics competition or researching ag-related topics for Extemporaneous Public Speaking, the skills they developed proved beneficial lifelong.
    If you have the opportunity to attend an FFA event in your community in the coming week, I encourage you to take a minute to visit with the agricultural educator in your community. Beyond challenging our students in the classroom, these dedicated professionals encourage our young people toward self-improvement. The FFA advisors I know have a special ability when it comes to seeing a student’s potential and presenting beneficial opportunities.
    Also, don’t miss a chance to visit with Wyoming’s FFA members. Whether you hear about their projects, the upcoming Wyoming FFA Convention or their chapter’s latest community service project, they have some really great stories to share. In just the past year I’ve seen Wyoming FFA members launch businesses, master career skills, grow gardens to help with the school lunch program, build memorial playgrounds, add learning opportunities to their agricultural education classrooms, help community members in need and so much more. They’re some of the most driven people I know!
    Jennifer Vineyard Wo-mack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.
Nashvillians, my word for people who live and work in Nashville, have spent quite a little time this past year singing about the whimsical side of country roads. Their tunes include talk of traveling with the windows rolled down, singing your favorite country song and yackety, yack, yack, yack….
    Don’t get me wrong, I like the wide expanse between our home and nearest chunk of asphalt, but let’s be realistic. I think it’s high time some of us who live along dirt and gravel roads suggest some true-to-life lyrical content for a “Dirt Road Anthem.” If I were to write a song about country roads, here’s what I’d highlight…
1. If a car is perched atop a hill, the driver is just looking for a cell phone tower. If they’re in a draw bottom, they’re probably broke down and in need of help.
2. Traveling with your windows rolled down only works about one month out of each year. The rest of the time it’s either super cold or pretty dusty.
3. Watch the flow of the neighborhood cows. When traveling in the dark it’s nice to have a clue where the cows are and where they aren’t.
4. For our dogs’ sakes, limit the amount of stuff you send us via FedEx and UPS. It’ll cut down on traffic, plus they feed our dogs every time they pull in the yard. Given the recent arrival of a new and larger kennel (might not have needed these if the delivery visits and treats hadn’t been so frequent as of late) and heated dog beds, we’re a little suspicious that our dogs have joined the online shopping craze.
5. When the county puts down those car counter strips, do us all a favor and every time you cross them stop, back up and drive over them at least one more time. We’re convinced numbers matter and around here we call it our “get gravel” plan.
6. Allow extra time when traveling in a storm and on the opening day of antelope season.
7. Biggest vehicle gets the right-of-way.
8. If you’re coming to see us in the springtime, arrive early and leave late. Ice is your friend.
9. Watch out for the Schwan’s man. He’s out there, and no matter how good we are at resisting ice cream at the local grocery store, we can’t resist the guy in the big refrigerated truck who is willing to conquer our road in all kinds of weather. There’s no limit to where these guys will venture to hock a tub of ice cream!
10. At the end of Wyoming’s many of dirt roads, you’ll find some hardworking folks who truly appreciate life in America and its numerous freedoms. They might even invite you in for a cup of coffee and a tub of Schwan’s finest!
    Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2012! May Wyoming’s dirt roads connect your farm or ranch to strong markets, a growing understanding about agriculture and our way of life, and a growing interest among young people to preserve our customs and traditions. See you on the county road!
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.