How to Remember Loved Ones

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I’ve been asked a few times lately for ideas about how to remember someone who died too young?  How do we pass on their legacy, their personality, their character, to children who are too young to remember them?

I appreciate friends who got a nice journal and asked people to write down stories for my Little Farmer.  He was only four months old when his biological dad died.  I appreciate the family and friends that wrote a story about Mark, a way that he interacted with them, a special memory, something that Henry can learn from, and see in himself when he is older.  Pictures, memories and special belongings are the only things that we can give.

I know that it was difficult for most people to participate, but I’m truly grateful for those who did.

I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to marry Joe.  He comes from a large, loving family.  Right around a year ago he lost his young, healthy, cousin to amniotic fluid embolism during the birth of her first child.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her very well, but she made a positive impression on me and I want to share that story with her son.

Here is a story that I will write in a journal and give to her family this holiday season.  I’ve been praying for them, but I also want them to have a tangible reminder that she is not forgotten.

how to remember loved ones

Dear William,

I am so grateful that that I had the opportunity to meet your mom.  Even though I didn’t know her well, she made a positive impression on me.

I come from a small family, so going with Joe to large family gatherings was a bit overwhelming at first.  Your mom was one of the people that would always go out of her way and make a point to say “hi” to me.  She always welcomed me with a warm, friendly smile.

The example and effort that she put into being warm and welcoming to strangers is what Jesus calls us to do.  That’s how He asks us and shows us how to treat people.  I’m so grateful you have a Christian foundation to build your life upon.

I understand that life isn’t fair and often doesn’t go as we expect that it should.  I know that it will hurt to learn what you’ve lost, but my prayer for you is that you will focus on all that you have.  You have a biological mother that really wanted you and loves you dearly.  You have a family here on earth that loves you deeply.  And most importantly you have a Father in heaven who loves you more than words can express.  Put your faith in God and He will guide and help you as He has Henry and me.

Love,

Jennifer

How to Make Toy Round Bales of Hay

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Our Little Farmer loves to carpet farm.  He loves activities and making his own supplies for the farm.  So, when we visited an older friend who has a farming set-up that little boys dream of in his basement we knew we needed some homemade round bales of our own.

how to make toy bales of hay

Our friend gave instructions to buy a wooden dowel rod.  We purchased a 3/4″ dowel rod and another one that was 11/16″ or 5/8″.  My recommendation is to take a plastic bale that is the desired size with you to the store and match it up to the dowel rod of your choice.

We cut those dowel rods to the desired length.  We made sure they fit inside the small round baler before cutting the entire rod.  Then the Little Farmer and his dad sanded the corners of each bale.

The most difficult step was finding the Krylon “Make it Stone” paint.  Our friend had found some at a local Ace Hardware.  We learned that even if the product isn’t on the shelf, some stores can order it for you.  We also learned there are at least a few shades of green in this special paint.  This paint really gives the bales a more realistic texture.  Even little farmers know real bales of hay aren’t smooth.

Krylon make it stone spray paint

Krylon make it stone spray paint. We found ours at Ace Hardware.

making toy bales

We talked about how to spray paint and I gave a demonstration before the Little Farmer took over.

spray painting hay bales

He might have missed a few spots, but I believe that you learn by doing!

Henry had fun painting the bales on his own.  He missed a few spots, but he got more practice painting and he enjoyed “making hay.”

Gender Reveal Party – Tractors or Tutus?

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I’ve been a bit quiet on social media and my blog over the past few months because all of my energy has been focused on getting the basics done.  One of the new basics has been growing a baby!  We are all very excited by the anticipated addition!  When the Little Farmer found out that he’s going to be a big brother he immediately responded, “I’ve always wanted somebody to play with!”

My energy has returned, and I’m excited to share pictures from our gender reveal party.  We are so grateful to my mom and sister-in-law who threw us a most excellent party!

balloons on streamers

Balloons on streamers made cute decorations and fun games for the kids during the party!

We preferred the idea of a gender reveal party over a shower because it was easier to convince men they should come.  We enjoyed the all inclusive party!

Gender reveal with balloons

We used these balloons for decorations and let go of the color that we wouldn’t need during the gender reveal.

My sister-in-law made some cute, yet simple activities for the guests to enjoy before the big announcement.

tractors or tutus

Stock photos printed and attached to clothes pins served as an easy way for guests to vote boy or girl

The decorations were cute and functional!

large diaper cake

Gender neutral baby shower diaper cake.

diaper bouquet

diaper bouquet

Pieces and parts to a diaper bouquet. These are super cute centerpieces for a gender reveal part or a baby shower.

small diaper bouquet

Seven size 2 diapers were rolled individually and a wide ribbon was tied around the outside. The paper flower was stuck in the top.

When my mom is involved there is always food…lots of good food!  We got BBQ pork from GFS and cooked it in a roasting pan as well as heated up pre-sliced ham for sandwiches in a slow cooker.

Here is the table on which she spent the most time – the dessert table!

pink and blue cakes

How about these amazing cakes?

baby shower dessert table

My mom made an amazing display of desserts for the crowd to enjoy!

Guests brought a package of diapers or wipes.  Some people count their wealth in cash, but we’re at a point in life where we count our wealth in diapers.  We feel really rich after this party🙂

man with burp cloth

One of the turkey farmer’s good friends got him this burp cloth. The friend said what several thought – he didn’t know if he would ever see Joe like this🙂

Here’s a pic of the drink table.  Everything was so cute!

drink table

Blue Hawaiian punch and pink Countrytime lemonade made cute drinks to go with the pink and blue gender reveal theme

one year old playing with ice

I’m one and I can do what I want!

Even some of the guests were cute.

The big party revealed that we’re expecting a girl!  We’re grateful to all who came and celebrated.  We have so much to be grateful for!

Why Do Politics Matter?

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Most of us have been frustrated by politics, especially this election season.  Regardless of how irritated we may be, a recent trip to Washington D.C. with a group of Young Ag Professionals, reminded me how important it is to be involved in the political process.

US Capitol Building

Ohio Farm Bureau group of Young Ag Professionals and AgriPower participants by the United States Capitol Building

Since we need money to live, we all have a job, or receive some other sort of assistance.  Either way, our income and lifestyle can directly be tied back to decisions made in our nation’s capital.  As a part of Ohio agriculture, I can directly see how the Farm Bill and regulations affect our family’s business and income.  The Farm Bill is written, debated, re-written and passed on Capitol Hill.  One of my favorite sessions on this trip was hearing from staffers on the Senate Ag Committee share how they are involved in creating the Farm Bill.

Senate Ag Committee

Senate Agriculture Committee staffers explaining the Farm Bill process to our group.

We had multiple speakers to discuss how trade deals are written, negotiated, and passed.  Trade is a critical issue to agriculture and to my family’s small farm.  We visited the French Embassy to learn about trade agreements with the US from their perspective.  Since we are least cost producers, free trade benefits domestic agriculture.  There are far more mouths outside of the United States than inside of our borders.  So, as we look at opportunities to grow markets for agricultural products, increasing exports (via trade agreements) is a huge component.

Our group spent time at the American Farm Bureau office to learn how to have a successful meeting with our Congressperson.  We were given an overview of hot agricultural topics, and we planned who in each group would discuss each of these issues with our elected officials.

The following day we took a tour of the United States Capitol Building, and then we met with our elected officials or their staff.

On our final day we visited the United States Department of Agriculture to learn about young farmer programs and discuss trade agreement implementation.

OFBF Group by USDA

Ohio Farm Bureau group in front of the US Department of Agriculture

A resounding message that I heard from many of our speakers is how much they want to hear from us.  Our elected officials, their staff and agency employees actually want to hear from us, the people that their decisions and policies affect.  We need to stay abreast of the issues that affect us and communicate with our elected leaders.  A personal letter, e-mail, or phone call about an issue that is affecting us can make a difference.  Each vote can make a difference.  I was reminded that each voice matters!

Why Should I Go To Church?

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I’ve been offended going to church with my husband.  He’s been offended at the church I used to go to.  We’re not often offended by the messages, it’s typically the people. They say and do some of the darnedest things to unintentionally turn us away.  We could list the wrongs and find people to rally around the cause, but we think the time and energy is better spent sharing the good.

We understand that we’re all human which means Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  We understand that we are some of those imperfect humans with flaws, so we try to extend grace to those people that may rub us the wrong way and keep going.  We also understand that we would miss out on so much, and so many people would miss us if we didn’t go to church.

Here’s a couple reasons to overcome some of those frustrations and go back to church:

1 – We do fun stuff at church.  This summer my Little Farmer went to Vacation Bible School in the evenings and the theme was about climbing Mount Everest.  So he and some friends dressed up like mountain climbers one evening.

why should i go to church

You can see by the bibs he’s wearing that whatever the task at hand he still thinks about farming.  They had a lot of fun pretending, learning and playing.  And VBS was free!

church is fun

Church is fun!

2 – My biggest challenges in life are not the actual tasks that I’m assigned to do, rather understanding how to work and communicate with people to effectively get them done.  My Little Farmer is learning some of these skills at church.  Even though he reads scripture at church that we’ve already read at home, there is value in group study.  I recall lessons from other people (not my parents or family) that really stuck with me throughout life.  The more positive people, positive exposure and positive connections that my Little Farmer can have the better!

3 – My biggest challenges in life are not the actual tasks that I’m assigned to do, rather understanding how to work and communicate with people to effectively get them done.  I learn how to do better in these situations when I really open up my heart and mind and apply what I learn at church.  Sure I want my kid to learn and do better, but I can’t minimize the tremendous personal growth that I’ve had gathering with others either!

4 – God created a tremendous support system.  When you attend church regularly, interact with the same group of people, and build relationships over time, they’ll start to notice if you’re missing church.  And they may check up on you.  They may ask about your struggles and be a friend.  They may be able to offer help.  As you grow and are strengthened, you can return the same favor to other people.  Church is a great place to foster the chain of love.  I’ve personally experienced great help and love from the support system at church!

5 – Last, but certainly not least, is the eternal perspective.  Attending church helps me keep my life in perspective.  Worship helps me remember what a small part of a big plan that I am.  I learn how big our God really is.  I learn about eternity.

Our Family’s Connection to the Underground Railroad

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The Little Farmer has been learning about Underground Railroad at school this month.  Wouldn’t you know as we planned a visit to the Turkey Farmer’s grandma he shared that she lives in a house that was part of the Underground Railroad.

underground RR house

This house was a stop on the underground railroad

Great Grandma Osterholt was proud to share the history.  She shared that the current kitchen and garage were later additions to the house.  So the first part of our tour was this cupboard in the hallway behind the current kitchen.

kitchen shelves - underground railroad

Kitchen shelves – used to keep up normal appearances.

Nice set of shelves right?  What woman wouldn’t enjoy some extra storage, regardless of her era in history?

Then she shows us the hallway.  The pictures make this fact difficult to observe, but these shelves were only half the depth of the hallway.

secret room clue

Pay attention to find clues of secret rooms

Next she shared some more nice shelves in her bedroom.  I’ve been in several older farm houses, so I know that having this much storage and built in shelving is unusual.  The top couple shelves are actually removable.  In the corner was a small chain on a dumbwaiter type tool that was used to move people from the ground floor to the attic.  The attic was windowless and had a short ceiling, so you wouldn’t suspect this house to have two usable floors.

secret passage in underground railroad

The shelves in the background are removable and they were used to help move slaves to freedom.

Grandma O said there was a ledge around the upstairs where the slaves would sit and wait.  She shared that the house didn’t have stairs until her family added them in order to access the additional space a bit easier.

She also showed on the other side of the bedroom, opposite the “shelving” a black cap that appeared to be to a cistern type unit right outside the window.  The cover actually led to an underground tunnel out to the adjacent field.

underground railroad tunnel cover

The black cover appear to lead to a cistern, but actually lead to an underground tunnel that was part of the underground railroad

Great Grandma Osterholt shared that the Hawkins family owned this farm and operated the Underground Railroad.  The farm’s address is Portland, Indiana.  She also noted that one of Indiana’s first senators had the last name Hawkins and a Portland address, so there might be a connection?

I can’t even imagine the hardships slaves faced.  I also can’t imagine the nerves of steel that would have been required to cover up helping and hiding slaves in their trek to freedom.  I’m grateful to have learned about this small piece of history.  I’m grateful that Great Grandma O shared a piece of history with our family and gave us permission to share the stories and pictures here.

Large Farm and Small Farm Comparison – Making Animal Feed

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I’m often asked questions about farm size.  People want to know are large farms or small farms better?

We have a second grader in the house.  While I certainly understand that some education standards require comparing and contrasting to learn to recognize differences, comparisons also make me uncomfortable.  So, we’ve had many discussions in our house that bigger, newer and shinier isn’t necessarily better.  In my job I want to have the same conversations and share that bigger, new, shinier isn’t necessarily worse.

Large & Small Farm Comp

There are pros and cons to every size and type of farm.  I’m blessed to live near my parent’s farm.  They have about 20 mother pigs (sows) in a birth to market (farrow-to-finish) pig farm.  I’m also very blessed to be married to the Turkey Farmer who also grew up raising pigs, 3,000 at a time.  While we were dating he also worked in the purchasing department and tested ingredients at the feed mill that made food for his family’s turkeys and pigs.

I’ll begin by sharing how my family makes feed for our pigs.  My husband helps my parents now, so he is pictured here with the feed mill.  I went to the local feed mill and picked up bags of supplement. The Little Farmer and I helped untie the bags and move them to the back of the truck.

opening bags of soybean meal

Opening bags of soybean meal or supplement

The Turkey Farmer and a helper dumped the supplement (primarily soybean meal with two paper bags of vitamins and minerals) into the feed grinder.

dumping soybean meal into grinder

Dumping bags of soybean meal into the grinder

Next the tall, blonde and handsome man backed up to the grain bin (filled with corn grown in the surrounding field) and filled the grinder with corn.

filling grinder with corn

A batch of feed is two tons.  The hammer mill in the grinder worked hard to crush and grind the corn while the mixer stirred the corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals together for 15 to 20 minutes as the corn trickled in.  Including the trip to pick up the ingredients it took about an hour to make this batch of feed for nursery pigs (age four weeks to 50 pounds).

unloading feed from feed grinder

They are unloading the batch of feed into the bin on the nursery barn.

This is the feed mill where the Turkey Farmer worked in Fort Recovery.  The large silver bin stores the corn.  There are other silos, bins and containers to hold bulk versions of the soybean meal, vitamins, minerals and other ingredients at this mill.

Cooper Farms Feedmill FR

Cooper Farms Feed Mill in Fort Recovery

Here is a picture inside his office where (he had Margarita Mondays) or tested batches of feed to be sure that they had the protein, fat, fiber, and moisture levels that the nutritionists expected each batch to have.

blenders in feedmill office

He used the blenders to grind up the feed into even smaller particles.

NIR testing machine

This is a fancy feed testing machine that is very precise. Only high volume facilities could afford a device like this

Here, feed is made in 6 ton batches.  The mixer was loaded in a few minutes and there was a 6 minute mix time (1 minute per ton).  The capacity of this facility is several thousand tons of feed per day.  There are many more recipes that change frequently as animal size and nutritional needs change.

large feed mixer

Large feed mixer

There are several employees at this location including feed truck drivers, maintenance people, administrative roles, technology support, clerical jobs and general labor needs.  This farm doesn’t grow any of its own feedstuffs; they purchase all of their inputs from local farmers and companies when possible.

on top of the feed mill

He got special permission from his boss to take me up on top of the feed mill.  I have no need to go up there again, so we captured the moment with a selfie!

The bulkiest input is corn which is grown by local farmers in these fields surrounding the mill and beyond.  Several of these farmers are contract growers (like my in-laws) with hogs, turkeys or egg laying chickens for Cooper Farms.

panoramic view of farmland

The view was beautiful atop the feed mill.

aerial view of farm land

Making pig food on different scales is like shopping for our own food at a warehouse store versus a smaller grocery store.  When you buy in bulk you typically save money.

In his previous job my husband focused on details.  He repeated and perfected a handful of tasks.  In his current role his schedule is far more varied and he has to know a lot more about a lot more stuff.  He’s really smart, so he’s good at whatever he does (as are most farmers I know).

I’ve shared the highlights of making nutritious feed for pigs on a small farm and large farm.  Both farms focus on feeding a quality feed product to their pigs so that they can make a quality food product, pork, for you!

How To Help a Friend or Family Member Who is Grieving

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A tragic loss is difficult in many different ways for many different people.  Of course the loss is most difficult for the people closest to the deceased person.

Here are three key ways that you help a grieving person:

Prayer – As someone who has suffered loss and experienced God’s healing, I’m confident that prayer is the most life-changing gift that you can offer.

Finances – If the family has immediate needs like food, mortgage, childcare, diapers, etc. and you are able to help with that please do so.

Time – Time is also a treasured gift that can help ease the pain.  How can you give of your time to help your friend or family member?

Here are some specific personal examples:

I have been blessed to have the love, help and support of many people.  I often see in mind’s eye the faces of those who gave and invested so much in helping me heal.  I’d like to share some of the stories in hopes that you pick up an idea on how to help others.

A handful of people showed up to my house the morning right after the accident.  I’m confident it was very difficult for them to come, but they did.  They insisted on being there and helping.  Some friends cleaned the hard water stains out of my shower.  Later they sorted through pictures to display during the calling hours and went shopping to find clothes that would fit me for the calling hours and funeral.  There were several phone calls and decisions that having trustworthy friends right there to help take care of for me was a huge help.

Think about what you can do to make that person’s life a little easier.  People dropped off paper plates, cups, disposable silverware, diapers, formula, really good chocolate and some high quality food.  It was helpful to have immediate needs met.  These are some of the items that made life a little easier.

Wise people simply asked what I needed.  There were many times right away after our unexpected loss where I just didn’t know.  When people asked me a couple different times I knew they were serious and that I could call on them later as I figured out what I needed.

When my grandmother passed away a family friend sent a card full of stamps to use on thank you notes in lieu of flowers.  I thought that was very kind.  I’ve also appreciated people that have sent stones with a nice saying, or some sort of treasured keepsake as opposed to flowers.

The biggest immediate need was for prayer.  I know that people prayed for us:

-To have the strength that we needed to get through each day

-To feel God’s love

-To keep faith

-To be able to make wise decisions as needed

-To be able to take care of baby Henry

-To have hope and know that we have a future

-For God to put a hedge of protection around our lives

-For critical relationships that change with the loss of a life

-For financial needs to be met

-For us not to feel alone and much, much more

What do I say to a grieving person?  “I’m sorry for your loss and I’m praying for you.”

Please don’t avoid facing the grieving family because you don’t know what to say.  Presence is powerful, you don’t have to give a speech.  Think of something short and sweet ahead of time to say that you care.  Scripture never fails.  These are one example of why it’s important to know and memorize scripture.  There are times when there are no human words and scripture is so comforting.

A dear friend shared that my goal was to be “healthy and whole” again.  She came to my house, brought salads from Wendy’s, helped me clean, she prayed fervently with and for me.  She encouraged me to call with any questions and I did.

Life goes on and so can your encouragement.  Your life may return to normal quickly, but the grieving people’s live have been forever changed.  Think about ways that you can help show love, through a written note, a meal, a small gift, a surprise visit.  Make a note on your calendar 3 months and 13 months out to remind you to show that you care.

a healing family

A dear friend babysat Henry some while I transitioned back to work. She took and shared this pic one day when I picked him up. I’m glad I have a nice picture of us together at this stage.

This Thanksgiving week I’m so thankful for all of those people that have invested in me and helped be become healthy and whole.  Without love, prayer, help and healing I wouldn’t be able to experience the fullness and joy of life on earth that I am now.

Life on a Turkey Farm

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The highlight of my year has been marrying Joe, aka the turkey farmer.

wedding pictures on the farm

Those are turkey finishing barns in the background

He grew up in western Ohio where he often helped his mom in their turkey starter house.  His dad worked off the farm until Joe was about 14.  Part of his dad transitioning to full-time farming was taking care of turkeys in a couple finishing barns.  Even though I’ve grown up on a farm I’ve never been around turkeys, so I have embraced the opportunity to learn.

wedding pic outside turkey barn

We tried to get a fun twirl going and missed the look I was going for, but that’s the turkey starter house in the background.

My first visit into this barn was in November of 2013.  I remember walking in through a utility room that has a large sink, water heater, paperwork and storage for supplies.  Then a door was slid open to the large area where the turkeys live.

Poults arrive in the starter house when they are one day old.  The barn is kept a toasty 80 degrees for these young birds.  The barn holds a group of 6,000 turkeys that are all the same age.

When the poults arrive there are ten cardboard rings dividing the barn into smaller sections.  The rings keep the birds closer to feed, water and heaters.  As the birds grow they need more space and the cardboard rings are removed.

baby turkey barn

This is the first time the Little Farmer and I were inside a turkey barn. The turkey farmer held a poult for Henry to pet. Check out the cardboard ring in between the guys.

For the first week the waters are cleaned every morning, and the turkeys are fed by hand twice a day.

taking care of turkeys on Christmas

This picture was taken as we did evening chores on Christmas day in 2015.

There are 40 bell waterers that hang in the barn for the duration of the turkey’s stay and an additional 40 fresh-flow waters that are used in the cardboard rings to help the turkeys get acclimated to drinking water.  Initially 6,000 turkeys have access to 80 waterers that are cleaned out daily.  That’s 75 birds per drinking fountain.  There are about 320 students in my son’s school and they all share 3 drinking fountains.

Once the cardboard rings are removed the waterers are still cleaned every day, and the automatic feeding system is monitored and maintained as needed.

The turkey food is made of corn, soybeans, vitamins and minerals.  Turkey feed is very nutrient dense which helps them grow quickly, efficiently and naturally.  No hormones are fed or administered to growing turkeys.

Another chore is tilling the coop.  The birds live on a layer of clean, fresh wooden shavings or sawdust.  The farmer works to ensure that the sawdust stays as dry and clean as possible so that the turkeys can maintain healthy feet.  The coop is tilled or turned up to help keep the litter (or bedding) dry on an as needed basis.

At five weeks old the turkeys leave the starter house and move to a finishing barn.  The finishing barns are much bigger because the turkeys need more room to grow.  These barns also have curtains to allow for more airflow because an older, heartier bird can handle slightly cooler temperatures.

Animal care is similar across all species.  The farmer must spend time each day making sure that animals have clean fresh feed and water and a dry place to rest.

The feeding system is automated in the finishing barn, so daily checks and regular maintenance ensures that turkeys always have access to feed.  The waters are cleaned every day and moved between a series of hooks to help keep the litter as dry as possible.  The coop is tilled as needed, about weekly.

tilling the coop

Tilling the coop

Joe’s family only raises male turkeys which are called toms.  The toms are full grown and ready to be harvested at twenty weeks old and 45 – 47 pounds.  So these turkeys are raised for deli meat because a forty pound bird wouldn’t fit in very many ovens.

I enjoy the enthusiasm and care that my turkey farming in-laws put into growing our turkey.  They are a big family and welcome all hands to help.  My little farmer and I were quickly recruited to help clean waters and feed baby birds.  We worked our way up to helping till the coop and even clean out barns.  We have enjoyed learning more about turkeys and the people that raise them!

Thank You for the Manure

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Dear mother-in-law and father-in-law,

Thank you for the poop.  I understand that your hog manure made our corn yield far better than it could’ve been without the crap.

thank you for the manure

Thank you for the manure and accepting my sarcasm. You guys are great!

You have a wealth of valuable organic nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potash that you shared to make our crops and income better.  The corn needed nutrients to grow and your hog poop provided like commercial fertilizer can’t.

That’s really special how you applied the manure to the field and made sure to mix it in the soil right away.  We respect that you work to manage these nutrients responsibly and spread them out over different farms from year to year.

I read about people on the internet that call manure waste, but thanks for being responsible and sharing your wealth to benefit us.

Yours truly,

Jennifer