Reykjavik, Iceland!

After June’s 100th birthday party, we realized that ragweed allergies were just going to get worse (hot weather and lots of rain just kept the plant flowering and pollinating).  Monday afternoon, i booked flights for Dallas and me to leave Tuesday afternoon for Iceland.  We had actually wanted to visit Greenland, but it was too late in the season, snow and ice already moving in and tourist boats being pulled out of the water, so we spent 2 weeks in Iceland instead.

Iceland population:  339,661  Reykjavik population:  120,000 (200,000 in the Capital region) Iceland has a surface area of 39,770 square miles and it is the 108th largest in this respect. However, that harsh geographical landscape is one of the reasons why its population remains so low. Iceland has the lowest population density of all European countries at just 8 people per square mile.

We flew United Airlines, and as usual had stellar service.  They have implemented a new strategy wherein they can know if passengers are arriving late for a connection and hold the next flight if it is reasonable to do so.  We sat on the plane in Newark nearly an hour waiting for 15 passengers who would have missed the flight to Reykjavik since their flight was delayed by thunderstorms out of Houston.  So, while the record for on time departure may look wonky, the record for getting passengers where they need to be will soar!

The first week was spent entirely in the capital city, Reykjavik.  I was concerned that we’d be twiddling our thumbs for want of activities, but i was unduly so.  To our surprise, there are oodles of things to do and see at a leisurely rate – even without booking day tours (which are numerous!) outside the city.

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Next morning after arrival was a trip to the pharmacy for cold meds.  (our first ‘souvenirs’)  Armed with drugs, we were ready to hit the streets within a few hours.  Hooray!

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Lutheran mass services start at 10:30a on Sunday mornings and are in Icelandic.
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Organ in the Lutheran Cathedral, Hallgrimskirkja 
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Listening to the warm up for this evening’s season opener in the magnificent Harpa. https://en.sinfonia.is/concerts-tickets/ravel-and-sibelius
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Dallas in line for a world famous hotdog from street vendor downtown Reykjavik.
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Grocery stores, conveniently located around the city are the way to go to save considerable money on food.  Eating out is REALLY expensive.  This is a produce display at SUPER1, (Hallveigarstígur 1, 101 Reykjavík S. 419-7600) just 5 minute walk from our Centric Guesthouse.
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So, our grocery bill was a bit higher than necessary!  But gotta have my Mars bars when in European countries.  Why are they  not sold in the US?!
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The National Museum of Iceland
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Allow at least two hours to explore this treasure trove of Icelandic culture and history. Highly recommend.  National Museum of Iceland
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Went for a short walk to the National Museum (in the 47 F with random wind gusts and downpours) to discover it would close in only 1 1/2 hours so we’ll go in the morning. However, our return yielded a beautiful full double rainbow-too wide to fit in my camera. Arching over Reykjavik with ducks, geese, and swans splashing about on Tjörnin, the pond.  (What’s the national bird of Iceland?  why ‘crane’ of course!  HA< HA>HA)

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“Domkirkjan is Reykjavik’s Lutheran Cathedral, or the Reykjavik Dome and the bishop’s place in Iceland. It is located downtown in the capital right next to the Alþingi, house of parliament and together they form a unity of law and order in the country. The altarpiece and artwork inside the church are definitely worth the visit!”

We were walking around town and saw the announcement of a performance offered free of charge at this lovely cathedral.  Of course, we made special effort to attend.  Just lovely.

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Excellent meal at Icelandic Fish and Chips in the capital city.  This one attached to The Volcano House  museum about the island and its not-always-tame explosive geography.

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Random sculpture on streets of Reykjavik
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Iceland is an island of fire and ice.  Geothermal vents spew heat and steam all over.  Just gotta build the infrastructure to capture and transport it.

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Dallas always has a different perspective and interest, so enjoy his photos of Reykjavik.

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Fall Calving?

Heather Smith Thomas has written an interesting article for Progressive Cattle magazine entitled, “Fall Calving – Worth the Off-Season Plunge?“.  It’s worth a read for consideration, however, in my opinion, the answer is given in the question.  Seldom, if ever, doing anything off -season is smart or profitable.

The advantages listed in the article are straw man arguments, however, so if you are considering changes to your heard, be certain to talk to producers who can show you the real costs.

Advantages listed for fall calving:

  1. states that better prices for calves sold in the spring – this is true, but has nothing to do with fall calving.
  2. states that cows are on a better nutritional plane – not necessarily true since it depends on what they have been eating and the weather.  Missouri grasses and weather can have mighty thin cows by early fall.  Heat and humidity and toxic fescue play havoc with a body.  Inventory your location and resources before adapting.
  3. Row croppers are busy in spring (yes, they are) and so don’t have time to check cows.  This has nothing to do with fall calving.  Cows calve on their own.
  4. i think the issue on this is cold, muddy, health conditions.  This is largely, though not entirely, a producer making poor management decisions and can be issue no matter what season you have your cows calving in.
  5. Vaccinating/processing calves – there is no difference.
  6. Weaning calves in October when weather starts turning cold – why are you weaning just before winter?  Winter the calves with their mums.

Disadvantages listed for fall calving:

  1. more feed due to higher nutrient demands – yes, this is true, increased cost for feed and labor.
  2. lighter calves may be weaned in the spring – yes, this is true, and usually bring more dollars than heavy calves.

Wildlife have been working out the time for having babies for millennia, so mimicking their patterns is definitely worth a look since it is likely they go for the time of the year with the greatest survivability by now.  In the case of cattle, the closest animal type would be bison or buffalo in the Midwest, USA.  Most of the calves are born between the middle of April and end of May.  For this reason, I have chosen that same time frame for calving out my cows, and it works very nicely.  I seldom see a calf born and i haven’t assisted a cow in years.  That doesn’t mean every cow has no trouble or never gives birth to a dead calf, but even those times are extremely rare.  So, in my case, labor and labor costs are a nil.  Grass is coming on nicely, so the cows are in good condition and can feed themselves. (no labor)

So, while it’s a good article – you must do your own research.  As you see, i easily refute all the ‘advantages’ listed in the article of fall calving in my own operation and resource base.  I like to be profitable and fall calving simply doesn’t fill the bill.  (Disclaimer – my husband has a spring and fall calving herd and he likes it that way)

Another thing to remember when reading articles is that many producers call spring calving Dec through Feb/Mar.  That is the dead of winter!  Spring starts March 20.  Fall calving would mean starting September 20.  Make sure you clarify what people actually mean when these terms are bandied about.

Fall-calving cows

There are advantages and disadvantages to every calving season; producers need to figure out what works best for their own climate and management system.

Dr. George Barrington, Washington State University, says the advantages and disadvantages to fall calving are partly geographic, with regional and management differences. “Some producers in the Intermountain West have successful fall-calving programs, even though it might work best in a milder climate,” he says.

Advantages

The benefits of fall calving include a chance for better prices when fall-born calves are sold the next spring or summer. More people are spring-calving, with a larger supply of calves in the fall at weaning time, so the market generally drops. There is more demand for calves marketed in the spring.

Dr. Shelie Laflin has a mobile veterinary practice and helps run the family ranch and registered Angus herd near Olsburg, Kansas. Her family has both a spring- and fall-calving herd, and she prefers fall calving. “Several studies have shown that fall calving generally gives a better return for your investment. Cows tend to breed back sooner because they’ve been on a better nutritional plane through summer rather than having just come through winter before calving, and also tend to have less dystocia when they calve,” says Laflin.

Cows that come through cold during pregnancy tend to have heavier birthweight calves. “Cows that are pregnant in warm weather tend to have slightly smaller calves at birth – on average – and fewer dystocia cases compared to calves with the same genetics and management born in the spring,” says Laflin. “This means less labor needed, less stress on calves, healthier calves, with less scours and pneumonia, and fewer cases of mastitis in the cows.”

However, if cows are calving on mature grass pasture in the fall, calves sometimes get umbilical infections from grass awns getting up into the umbilical cord stump. “In the spring, umbilical infections are usually due to mud and dirty conditions,” she says.

There is no perfect situation. “From a management standpoint, however, from calving up until calves are about 2 months old, fall is hands down better than spring, especially in terms of illness.” By the time those calves are 2 months old, they are less vulnerable to some of the common diseases and can also withstand cold weather.

“Fall calving might mean from early or mid-September until late November,” says Barrington. “If producers are doing any farming, spring is usually a very busy time, and fall tends to have fewer demands on time and labor. Some producers in eastern Washington prefer fall calving because they also grow wheat. They are so busy in the spring that they can’t devote time to calving,” he says.

“We spend a lot of time treating calves for diarrhea in the spring – in wet, muddy confined areas. If weather does not allow producers to put the cows in larger, clean areas to calve, they are usually calving on the winter feeding area in contaminated conditions,” says Barrington. There are often better options in the fall for where the cows can calve.

“We calve fairly late in the fall,” says Laflin. “We are busy with haying until early September. There might be some producers harvesting crops in the fall – putting up the last of the hay and ready to start cutting corn or other crops. There might be overlap with harvesting and calving, but fieldwork overlap can also be a problem if a producer is calving in April/May,” she says.

“For us, the labor becomes a big factor. We are a family operation, and our kids play a big role in what we do. The labor involved in spring calving is just more intensive, trying to manage baby calves in cold weather. We feed the cows a lot through cold weather, and they tend to produce bigger calves and also make more milk than young calves can consume – which can lead to scours, mastitis, etc.”

Regarding vaccination, fall- and spring-calving herds are managed the same, but since there is less risk for scours in fall-calving cows, they may not need pre-calving vaccinations for scours. With fall calvers, this would be one less time those cows have to go down the chute. Those are late-gestation vaccinations, and most people would rather not stress their cows at that time if they don’t have to.

“From a bull management standpoint, there isn’t much difference, but the nice thing if you run two herds, is the opportunity to spread out your bull power and decrease your cost per calf,” says Laflin. Fewer bulls are needed because they can manage both breeding seasons with a period of rest in between.

Disadvantages

“Some of the disadvantages of fall calving in certain climates is that grass is maturing and going dormant,” says Barrington. “In the Southeast, however, there may be new growth of grass, and fall-calving cows have good nutrition.” At higher elevations and northern regions, fall rains might bring a brief flush of green grass, but dropping temperatures soon end the growing season. Cows generally must be fed through winter, and lactating cows have higher nutrient demands.

“We sometimes have lighter weaning weights with fall-born calves,” says Laflin. “Those calves are born at a time when we soon have to supplement the cows. Many fall-calving herds in our area start in September and are done by Thanksgiving, and by then, our native grasses are dry and dormant, and we need to supplement. There is an increased cost in feed, but several studies show that even with the increased cost, over the years, you will fare better with the fall calving compared with spring calving,” says Laflin.

“All of this must be penciled out, looking at the amount and quality of feed that will be needed,” says Barrington. “You lose all the advantages of fall calving if the cows aren’t producing milk or if it costs too much to feed them. Fall calves may also be a little lighter at weaning than spring-born calves because they went into winter soon after birth and require more feed for maintenance and body heat. Small calves are not yet ruminants, so they are not producing body heat from fermentation in the rumen.”  end mark

Heather Thomas is a freelance writer based in Idaho.

Determining which season to use

There is no perfect calving season. “Ranches with both a spring- and fall-calving herd have the best chance to weigh benefits and disadvantages for their own environment, management, labor availability and feed,” says Dr. George Barrington. They can compare, within their split herd, to see which season pencils out best when figuring feed costs, etc.

  • Weather is a big factor and it can be variable from year to year. “If someone wants to try fall calving, they should not base a decision on just one year’s experience. The more data you can get, the better decisions you can make,” says Barrington. The year you try fall calving might be really good or really bad – for weather, or calf prices, etc., but that year might not be typical.
  • Feed inputs are something to think about. “If you are buying most of your feed, it will cost more, especially if you need to push first-calf heifers nutritionally to get them to cycle back again,” says Dr. Shelie Laflin. “You’ll have to put some feed into them because your native grass is gone, dormant or snowed under, whereas in the spring, the grass is coming on lush, and this will flush the cows for cycling.”Cows grazing new green growth breed better, and a person might not have to buy as much feed. However, you are also feeding calves through winter until weaning in April. In a spring-calving herd, you are only feeding cows through winter, rather than pairs.
  • Health: On the other hand, wintering calves with their mothers has some advantages. They tend to stay healthier through winter than calves weaned in late fall just before going into winter.  We run fall and spring calves – about half and half – and our fall calves have fewer problems. There is less labor involved, and the calves wean off better. We don’t have to deal with disease at weaning time; they’ve already come through winter.” By contrast, the spring-born calves are weaned in October, and it’s starting to get cold, and weather can be bad.

100 Years

On September 6, 2019, my husband’s Aunt June turned 100 years old.  She has outlived all her siblings now, yet she is not alone.  We live very close by, though she is in a nursing home, and we pick her up for church, then she comes to our house afterwards for lunch with Allen’s 93 year old dad and we have a great time visiting and catching up with the news events of the community and family.

She also has nieces and nephews who adore her and stay as active as they can from a long distance.  For her open house type birthday party we held for her, they came from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and far eastern Missouri.  Over 80 people came to visit and she was animated and the life of the party.  June thrives amongst people and activity and she was still talking about it when Allen arrived back to the nursing home with her about 10pm.  Not surprisingly, she was so exhausted, that the next morning, she couldn’t be roused for church.  What a wonderful and exciting day for her.

I decorated her home (where we held the party) with treasures she had from her past.  Daughter, Jessica, before she left for teaching in Hanoi, Vietnam helped me with the travel display (June and her late husband, Bill, escorted tour groups all over the world from the late 70s through to early 90s (he passed away in fall of 1991), then she continued until she was 85!) and also found this lovely quilt pictured below.  We were so excited!  So i figured a way to display it for the party.

The quilt, as the sign says, was completed in 1946 and given to her and Bill as a wedding gift.  It features all of the extension clubs in the county as of that time along with all the members’ signatures embroidered.  What a thoughtful and clever gift.  Only one person of those listed on the quilt is still alive – Martha Murrell – who now lives in the same nursing home as June and just across the hall from one another.

June Lamme has been so important in our lives and our children’s lives, we are thankful for the opportunity to support her now.

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Alaska, USA!

To begin our escape from annual ragweed allergies, Dallas and I headed to Alaska on 20 August 2019, the day after i mustered in my bulls and hauled them away from the cows.  All according to plan.  We got away just in time, however, this was a short trip because we needed to be back in time to celebrate Allen’s Aunt June’s 100th birthday party on the 7th of September.  Monday, we had appointments to adjust our backs, hips, heads, shoulders, ribs, etc and since allergies were extremely bad with no trend down, we came home from our afternoon appointments and i started booking Iceland.  We left for Iceland on the 10th.  Another blog entry for that later.

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We flew Alaska Airlines from Kansas City to Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska.  It’s a long way from our house.  Since we attended a wedding near Hamilton the afternoon before, we took separate vehicles with Allen returning home whilst Dallas and I drove on to Kansas City.  We stayed at a hotel that allowed us to park there for the duration of our holiday.   After 15 hours of flights and connections from Kansas City to Barrow, Dallas stood beneath the iconic baleen whale rib bones on the beach of the Arctic Ocean in the most northern city of the United States.
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Arctic Ocean, Barrow, Alaska
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Bowhead Whale Skull – these buggers are huge and are still hunted in traditional wooden boats with harpoons during the spring by local  Iñupiat,

In an October 2016 referendum, city voters narrowly approved to change its name from Barrow to its traditional Iñupiaq name, Utqiaġvik. The governor had 45 days to rule on the name change and it was officially adopted on December 1, 2016.

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Yup, proof – we was there!
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Main airport terminal at Utqiaqvik (formerly known as Barrow), Alaska.  Name of the airport is the Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport.
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All the dumpsters were decorated as part of a town beautification project.
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This is the old Top of the World hotel which burnt August 31, 2013.  We stayed at the new one located on the north beach.  Highly recommend.

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Since there are no roads and rails from Barrow to Fairbanks, we flew, then hailed a cab for a trip to our hotel.  Our hotel did provide a free shuttle, but i had no phone service in Alaska!!  One of the spots that Chariton Valley Wireless doesn’t quite reach i guess.  The iconic Moose Antler Arch – Gateway to Fairbanks.  Antler Arch web cam
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The horizontal support is topped with a Teflon type product which allows the pipeline to slide back and forth as needed to accommodate the 39,000 earthquakes (about every 15 minutes) Alaska experiences each year.
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Sure you can rent a car out of Fairbanks and drive to Denali, but the train provides a different view and experience.  We chose the dome top full service guided car.  Well, we did have to pay for our meal.
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Beaver dam on the Horseshoe Lake Trail.  There are a multitude of easy and moderate trails in the park.

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Not just big ole mushrooms are grown in Alaska.  Despite the short growing season in days, the length of daylight each day compensates and record breaking produce is grown and exhibited at the state fairs.  The 2019 pumpkin weighed 2051 lbs!
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There’s the engine pulling our McKinley Explorer dome topped car – Alaska Train Denali to Anchorage
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Gray silt-filled glacial melt water just outside Anchorage.
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Not as much to do as i expected there would be in Anchorage, but a highlight is this well maintained Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  We didn’t walk the whole thing (11 miles one way), but we enjoyed part of it.  There are no grocery stores in the touristy areas.  Historical and cultural museums are great as well as the city tour on the Anchorage Trolley.

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