Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The future - My wonderful brother!

Daniel with his first heifer "Miss Diamond" when he was four.

When I was ten years old my little brother, Daniel was born. Life changed that day, I remember it being a very exciting time and in no time I was feeding, changing diapers and rocking my baby brother to sleep! He taught me a lot, mainly a whole lot of patience but I cannot imagine my life without him and he is a large part of Lilybrook Herefords and probably the future of this place.

It became quite apparent from a very early age that the world of agriculture is in Daniel's blood. He was chasing cows almost before he could walk. Daniel would cover the living room floor with pens made of blocks and the cows he put in these pens were anywhere from a real toy cow to marbles, even to old tags that he spent hours washing. And if one of my family members even dared to knock over a cow or a block we were in trouble! I am told that my dad did the same thing back in Switzerland when he was a boy, setting up his farm and getting mad if people wrecked it.
Daniel and Miss Ribstone

So, over the past few years Daniel has become a big part in the operation, always eager to work with cattle. Not to mention he is very good at it, he stole my spot as the "gate man" probably when he was about six or seven, I remember being a little bit mad but I've gotten used to it and he does just as good if not better than I ever did. Daniel is a fabulous cattleman and may someday be better than my dad, when we're not sorting, Daniel can usually be found behind running the animals into the alleyway of the chute. It is wonderful to watch him work the cows, and sometimes even a bit scary but it gets better, the cows have learned to respect the young man!

We didn't hesitate to get Daniel started early, so he entered the show ring and had his first heifer when he was four, now he is almost ten and had five calves this calving season. So, he's being showing since he was four and now he is nine in his first year of 4-H.

I asked Daniel what his favorite thing to do and on the ranch is and he simply said, "sorting cows." His favorite time of the year for working with cows is the time that we preg test (check if the cows are pregnant) all our cows.

In Daniel's words, "washing my steer for the first time by myself."
Daniel is the most amazing little brother anyone could ask for and he has a passion for agriculture that hopefully will continue to grow over the years as he becomes more involved in the industry and continues through the 4-H program, he is part of the future! 
Having a little rest

Chinook Junior Stock Show 2011

Monday, 30 May 2011

Invention Monday - Cattle Handling System

I am going to try starting a new feature on Monday's, my dad and my mom's cousin who works here part time each have a very creative mind and over the years have come up with many inventions to make the ranch life run a little smoother. My dad figured I should do a blog on our cattle handling system that they invented and built so I thought about it and decided that I would bring you one of our inventions weekly until I run out of them.

The cattle handling system we built we use quite regularly in processing cattle such as during preg testing, tattooing, ultra-sounding, weaning, etc.
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Our cattle go up into the chute extremely well, they cannot see the end of the system so they therefore keep moving forward. It doesn't take much to get the cows into the alley, it makes it easier for the cows, as they just flow forward and the person that is running the cows in don't have to make their voice hoarse getting them in!

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Adjustable wall
A very useful feature that they added to the system, is the ability to adjust the width of the alleyway. We can make it smaller for the calves to go in and not be able to turn around up to making it wide enough for the cows. If a cow or calf goes down in the alleyway and gets stuck we can easily unlatch the back and move it fully out of the way so that the cow can be freed and able to get back up.

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Cows in the crowding top and alleyway

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Calves in the alleyway made smaller

It is a wonderful system that has made our ranch life easier since we built it along with making it easier on the cattle, I uploaded a video of the handling system being used, it is hard to explain all the details of it but hopefully the video will make it easier to understand just how simple it is.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Glorious Sun!

My spirits definitely  brightened this morning when I woke up this morning to the wonderful sun finally coming out!! After about five days of dreary dark days, it's wonderful to see that glorious sun!

Wonderful Sun
Now as long as it stays around for a while, enough so that fields will dry up so the farmers can get the rest of their seed in. It is quite critical that we get the seed in the ground sooner rather than later, Southern Alberta's growing season is already short enough.

The cows and calves I'm sure are also a lot happier with the sun shining on their back keeping them dry, as they graze in the green pasture.

Happy Cows

The cattle however were not the only one's enjoying the weather, with a gorgeous afternoon I took the liberty of going outside and throwing the football around with my little brother.

Daniel throwing the football
Hopefully the sun will stick around for a bit although they are calling for more rain next week, keeping fingers crossed that there wrong.... or at least until seed is all in the ground for sure! And it's Southern Alberta, weather changes practically by the minute so we just learn to take it as it comes.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Breeding Season!

 Well, it's official the last 23 cows of our 234 AI (artificial insemination) cows went out to the bull yesterday! After we AI our cows we wait three weeks before sending them out to the bull so that way when they calf next year we know if the calf is sired by the AI bull or the natural bull! Now the 2011 breeding season is in full swing with 409 purebred cows with 11 Hereford bulls. Along with about 165 heifers with 4 bulls.

A cow cannot just go with any bull so it is a process to decide who goes with who. So, my dad will sit down and look at the cows mother and father to make sure she doesn't go with a bull that is related to her, we will also look at the calves the cow has had in the past, usually not putting her with the bull that produced the poorest calf, but if she had one exceptionally good calf then she will go to the same bull.The bulls are now out with anywhere from 25 females to 50 females.

This is 40W a two year old bull who is the future and that may very well be the best bull that has ever walked our soil. We have used him very heavy, last year as a yearling we AI'd a bunch to him and put him with about 40 cows, this year we AI'd 60 to him and right now he has 50 females. His first calf crop is looking absolutely amazing and I look forward to his future calf crops along with what his sons and daughters will do for us in the near future.


One other bull that also has 50 cows this year is 268P. He is seven years old and has produced countless sons and daughters. Every year he seems to be the bull that leaves the fewest open, he does the job and very well!


One of our Heifer Bulls. The bulls that we put on heifers are ones that have light birth weights, for calving ease. Heifers are smaller than a full grown cow and they can have difficulties calving out a heavy calf so light birth weight bulls are used to keep the birth weight down, and this bull 39T keeps the birth weights extremely light, some of them are almost to light. But we rarely help one calf because of size. 
The other 12 of our prestigious sires:


These bulls will be out with the cows until the beginning of July, throughout the summer they will keep us busy by having to regularly move them to a new pasture as needed when they run out of grass, along with being constantly checked, to make sure nothing is wrong with any of the cattle.

If you have any questions on our breeding program or these sires please feel free to ask. If you want more information on the selective breeding of these bulls you can check out my sisters blog post on selective breeding http://justatypicalfarmgirl.blogspot.com/2011/05/selective-breeding.html.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Registration after Registration!

RIt was a little bit of a rainy day so I spent the majority of the afternoon completing the registration of our calves. Being part of the purebred Hereford industry, every year we register our purebred calves. The registration is done on the computer through an online system, thank goodness, I could not imagine doing 458 calves by hand like my grandpa used to do back in the day when Internet didn't exist, however he wasn't registering quite as many.

This is a completed page with the necessary information of the calf. In this case the sire is
a Ribstone so the calf will become LBH 40W RIBSTONE 49Y. If it was a female then
"MISS" would be inserted in front of RIBSTONE.

It is a simple process, the dam is already on record so all we do is enter her calf. By entering the sire of the calf, and then through the sire the calf also gets a name, it's birth date and birth weight. The calve will then get a registration number and will end up with a pedigree that shows the animals name along with there parents, birth date and ownership!
The pedigrees can then be viewed online through the Canadian Hereford Website. Here is a link to one online with all the information of the calf, http://abri.une.edu.au/online/cgi-bin/i4.dll?1=2021292A&2=2420&3=56&5=2B3C2B3C3A&6=5958595B5A24252F23&9=525C595E
This is the official pedigree that we receive from the Hereford Office for our records.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A perfect Sunday afternoon

We spent the afternoon tying up the bulls that we have entered for Bonanza and Summer Synergy shows this summer. The shows are still quite along way away but it was a test to make sure that we would be able to handle him as we expected that he would have a little bit of a temper!
When we tie up our animals for the first few times we use these metal ring halters! It is just a simple metal ring with a chain that goes around the ears. We find that the rings work really well, when they pull the ring digs into their skin and it hurts so as a result it does not take them very long before they stop pulling. Whereas we find with the rope halters they pull for a lot longer, a whole afternoon at least compared to the hour or so with the metal halter.

It was a lovely afternoon to tie up bulls and it went very well with the one bull entered and the spare that we may have to sub in for the high tempered one, only time will tell if he will be good enough to go, although after this afternoon it doesn't look very promising!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Full of Life!

Calving season is one of my favorite times of the year, it is so full of life and it's the time I really wish I didn't have school so I could be more involved. I'm going to run through a typical day during calving season and how we run things.

Calving Stalls
We have a field that we call the "calving field," it directly connects to the barn and calving pens, the cows are out in the pasture for the day and at night we run them all in and lock them up so we can check them easily throughout the night. We have sixteen calving stalls down close to the calving pasture and then another six stalls up in the barn where we bring cows if they need help and where they stay when we need to graft calves onto other cows! When a cow is calving we bring her into one of the stalls away from the rest of the cows for her to finish calving. Pretty much once the calve has had there first drink we kick them out to a bigger kick out pen, when you get an average of 15-20 calves a day they are moved and stalls cleaned ready for the next one.

When a calve is born we write it in a calving book like this one.

From the left we have
  • The first number is the calves number, we increase in a numerical order as they are born.
  • Next is the day they were born.
  • The dam (mother of the calve)
  • The sire (father of the calve)
  • Sex (M-male, F-female)
  • Birth weight of the calve
  • This is if the cow was AI'ed of we saw her get breed it shows how many days she is over or under! For example +1 means she is one days overdue, -2 means she is two days early, and then ND stands for no date, showing we don't know when she got bred for sure.
  • And on the far right, there is a variety of different letters and numbers.
    • CBH stands for calved by herself, EP stands for easy pull and then usually the reason why they needed help, like being BKW (backwards), one leg down, breach or stretched out.
    • On the males most of them have RT which stands for red testicle, on the females they have a number such as 4 or 5, some 6 which is the number of tits that they have.
    • The RN on some of the calves is short for red neck.
    • And finally the numbers like 95/90, E(short for 100)/50, GE/GE etc. is the pigment that the calves have around their eyes. Pigment is basically red around there eyes. So a 95/90 means one eye is 95% pigmented around and the other 90%. The E/50 is a 100% and 50%. And then when GE/GE at all shows up that means that they have a goggle eye which is like a whole patch of red. For example the calve in the middle of the two cows in this picture has goggle eyes, large ones. the cow to his left has one goggle eye and the other can't really tell how much pigment she has from a distance.
Some buyers want red necks, and most want red testicles, and pigment so with this information recorded it is easy to look up if someone would like to know which calves have what before they see them.

When the babies are born we weigh them with a calve scale like this one shown above.

The calves will all get a tag so we can identify them and because we have horned Hereford's, all the heifer calves get de-horned along with all the bull calves that are over 109 pounds because anything over is just to heavy of a birth weight so they will end up as steers in the end.
We engrave the numbers into the tag, the bottom number is the calves number (276Y), the middle number is the calves mom's number (30W) and the top number along with on the back of the tag is the dad (39T)! This is the tag they will always wear, they are never changed.

And that is a typical calving day through the months of February 1st to the end of April. Three months filled with life and with out a doubt the most amazing time of the year!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A lesson learned!

It seems that we are constantly learning lessons and sometimes we even learn them the hard way, a couple days ago I was helping my dad fill the freezer with beef and as I was doing that I thought about what happened for the meat to end up in the freezer, I'm going to share the lesson that we learned with you.

Trimming Table

The animal that ended up in the freezer was a two year old herd bull, 243W that we used on cows last year and were going to this year but that didn't turn out as planned. His feet were getting a bit long so we were going to trim them on our table. When 243W stepped out of the chute to enter the trimming table, he dropped down and died!

Scissor type head gate.

 Now we were puzzled on what could have happened, we have a scissor head gate and it is possible for an animal to go down in the head gate and then they pinch their necks, the jugular vein and then they can die, we have never had that happen before, if they do go down we release them immediately, so it didn't seem right for that being the cause of his death because it hasn't happened before and he was just standing there normal, no strain or anything!

So, we still needed an explanation for this unfortunate event. Now the trimming table is run on hydraulics and it was running, and it turns out there was a shortage in the cord somewhere and when that bull stepped out of the chute into the trimming table he was electrocuted! The interesting thing is that my dad stuck his hand a foot into the dirt and didn't feel a thing, which goes to show the senses of cattle and how the difference in weight makes such a big difference.

This was one of those incidents that you don't really hear of ever happening and if they do it's not very often, it was one of those very unfortunate events that you don't want to happen, but you learn that sometimes bad stuff happens and there's not much you can do about it!

We were able to get the bull packaged for meat and he filled a whole freezer. It was one of those sad situations that came about and needless to say we learned from it and now cords will be checked and hopefully it will never happen again!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Off they go!

It was an earlier morning then usual as a liner came to load thirty cow/calf pairs and one bull to be exported down into Colorado! It is wonderful that we are able to send cattle down across the border, but the preparation to get them ready and the paperwork is quite extensive.

The vet had to come out a couple of times, they needed to be TB tested, which stands for tuberculosis. It's just tested by giving them a shot of  tuberculin under the tail head and then a couple days later the check for bumps where they injected, if there are bumps they test positive for TB and have tuberculosis.
The vet also had to brand the bull, cows and calves on the right hip with a CV(upside down)N brand!

We made a smaller sized brand (half the size) for the calves, for the reason that on a three week old calf the 2-1/4inch by 9-inch brand is not going to be a hip brand anymore once those calves grow up. So we had to get written permission to use the brand. We also had to tattoo the calves with the C upside down N brand because the smaller brand wasn't allowed to get into Colorado. The tattoo goes in the ear.

They were then ready to go across the border after the paperwork was filled out. The numbers, birth dates of calves and sex had to be included along with all animals RFID tag (radio frequency IDentification). The bull also needed a statement of virginity.

It is a lot of work to export cattle but it is worth it, during BSE no animal crossed the border and it hurt the industry and the producers! After BSE was over it was slow moving them across and now it is much better. It's picking up, prizes for animals are better and the industry is looking up, I believe the future is bright!

It took some organization and work but those 30 pairs and 1 bull are on their way to Colorado where I think their hair coat will be an added bonus for the weather!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Please don't Steal my Boot!

Here in Southern Alberta with our very sandy soil we don't usually complain about moisture, it usually can be used, but sometimes it can cause problems and a little extra work. This year it left us with a fast majority of mud in the corals, making it difficult to walk and sort cows without losing your boot! The calves also struggled a bit, as they are up to their bellies in mud, we even lost a calve that got stuck in the mud and wasn't found fast enough!

We had to pile up the mud in most all of the pens because there was to much of it for the cattle to move around in and needless to say you had to be careful when walking to not get stuck or step into a place that was pretty much bottomless! It made sorting cows for AI'ing and various things more difficult, who new walking in mud could be so tiring but we managed to get it done and not lose our boots!

These are a couple of the piles that were made in the corals

One spot by the water trough that you don't dare walk in as cows sink to there belly which is why we let them go a different place for water.... they didn't like it here much!
But there always is a bright side to things and in this case, there is a lot of manure to spread on the fields for fertilizer and the last couple weeks with the beautiful sun is drying the corals up nicely and before long it will all be dust! There is never a dull moment out here, and those days of boot stealing defiantly kept you awake and on your toes! :)

Friday, 13 May 2011

Embryo Transfer

Not only can we artificially inseminate female cattle with semen from bulls, we can transplant embryos from donor cows into recipient cows. There are exceptional bulls in the industry that have had semen drawn and sold all over the world, but only have of a calves genes come from the sire. There are also some amazing cows around! One cow only produces one offspring a year but through embryo transfer they can produce more than one just like bulls!

Embryo transplant is a similar process to artificial insemination only the opposite and slightly more complicated. Embryos are flushed from a donor cow, fertilized and then either inserted directly into the recipient cow or frozen and transferred later when the recipient cows are in heat.

Here is a video I found with a little bit more information on Embryo Transfer and the process

Transplant is a process that ranchers will use with some of there best cows and embryos can also be sold to other countries. We transplanted about twenty today, hopefully we will get a few good calves from exceptional cows for the 2012 World Hereford Conference!

I also found this article that goes through the process of embryo transfer in more detail with all the steps from selection of the donor cow to transfer of the embryos.  http://www.brangusworld.com/documents/Estrus%20Sinchonization.pdf. It may be of interest to some of you that want more information otherwise you can always comment with questions or email me at ruthschuepbach@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Rocks and more Rocks!

In agriculture there is a variety of different jobs that need to be done, and while most of them are fairly pleasant to do, there are two jobs that I wish I didn't have to do!

One of these tasks that I did today is rock picking! It is important to pick up the rocks in fields or our lawn because when machinery goes in there to seed or mow the lawn, the rocks could wreck the machine by breaking blades or throwing up rocks that break windows. Then you have to fix the machinery, which costs money and takes time, so it is just easier to pick them up before any of those things happen!

Today I was picking rocks up in our backyard, because last year we brought in some manure to act as fertilizer for a section of our lawn that wasn't growing very well, and when they did they brought in a pile of rocks! But now the rocks are all picked and the grass is coming up wonderfully (amazing what a little manure will do) and now the lawn mower won't break or any windows for that matter!

So, even though I didn't really enjoy picking rocks, it is important and somebody has to do it! You just have to look at on the bright side, picking those rocks, probably saved time and money in the future, so it was worth it! As for the second job I don't really enjoy, I wasn't able to get a start on it, but I will very soon, so stay tuned to see what it's going to be!

Feel free to comment with stories or any suggestions you may have!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Semen Testing!

Today the vet came out to our place to semen test the rest of our two year old bulls that still need to be sold. Semen testing is the process of taking a sample of the bulls semen and analyzing it's motility, density and percent alive. It is very important for bulls to be fertile with viable sperm in all areas. To take bulls to bull sales such as Calgary and Medicine Hat they need to be semen tested and they need to pass!

The process of semen testing involves inserting the probe of a electroejaculator into the rectum. The bull is stimulated through mild electric stimulation that stimulates sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves to cause ejaculation. The semen is collected and put under the microscope immediatly to see if the swimmers are good. The vet will also measure the testicles to make sure they are large enough and both the same size along with no swelling or hardness. They will finish analyzing the semen at the clinic and then make an evaluation report.

This is the electoejaculator system, the probe which is inserted into the rectum
This is an example of the evaulation report the vet prepares.
Semen testing very important for selling bulls and must be done to make sure that bulls will be able to breed cows and that they have no problems so they can go out into the industry and produce progeny! Through semen testing we make sure they will do the job before they go out to the cows so that we know they won't end up leaving all the cows open.

If you have any questions about the process or the evaulation sheet please let me know, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

We do it nearly everyday!

This morning I had a little flashback to my 4-H years at District Judging days only this time I was on the other side; listening to reason's rather then giving them! Judging is one of those many things I learned through the 4-H program and something that I never really enjoyed, but have found that it is a big part of the agriculture industry and everyday life!

Everytime we go to the store, we judge the products we buy, the shiny red apples get taken over the bruised dull ones! Or the banana's that the kid's judged today, the ripe nice looking banana was placed at the top whereas the mushy, brown banana was at the bottom, even though it will make delicious banana bread, for eating it's not so appetizing.

Just like picking an apple or a banana, being able to judge in the ag industry is very important. You can't keep every animal in your herd. So as farmers and ranchers we need to be able to go and pick the best animals that are going to bring you the most profit, have traits that you are looking for in your cow herd and animals that will produce the best offspring in the future! We go through the process of judging our cattle on a regular basis, chosing ones we want to keep, sell, show and poor one's that go to the auction market.

Judging can be done on so many different things and in so many different ways, and from simply picking an apple to selecting herd bulls, people judge on a regular basis!

Friday, 6 May 2011

It's AI'ing Time!

It has been a very busy last few days at our place! We have been AI'ing (Artificial insemination) for the last week, however the last couple days have been the busiest. Yesterday we AI'd 65 and today we have done 36 so far with another 13 for sure to go! I thought I would share the process that we have gone through the last couple of days as I prepare the semen and my dad inseminates.

The first step and a step that can be difficult at times is to artificially inseminate the cow at the right time. When a cow comes into heat she will stand and let other cows mount her, this is seen by regurly checking them. Every cow varies, they can be in standing heat for a couple hours or many hours. On average it's about 12 hours after she's in standing heat. So, a good rule of thumb is if she's in heat in the morning, AI her that night, and if she's in heat in the evening, she's ready the next morning.

The semen that is used to inseminate the cows is stored in a tank filled with liquid nitrogen. To prepare the semen for insertion into the cow, the semen straw is removed from the tank and placed into warm water at a temperature of about 35 degrees celcius or 95 degrees farenheit, for about 30-45 seconds. The straw of semen must then be dried off as water is toxic to the sperm cells. Next the tip of the strand is cut with a cutter or scissors. Followed by the semen strand being snapped into a plastic tube and then put into the gun. Semen does not fair well to tempeature change, so the gun needs to be kept warm up until it's ready for insertion. This can be done by placing it under your arm or in my case sticking it into my jacket!

This is our semen tank where the semen is stored

Automatic water bath semen unthawing unit in which the semen straw is placed for 30 seconds.

The straw of semen is on the left with the name of the bull, registration number, the day the semen was collected and frozen, and the stud code.
On the right is a picture of the cutter we use, the straw of semen is insterted from the bottom up to the top stop point and then it is cut.
The bottom is the plastic tube of which the semen straw is snapped into the blue tip at the left.
The top of the picture is the gun which the plunger is drawn back first a couple inches and then the plastic tube is twisted on to the gun, ready for insertion.
 The next and final step is inserting the semen into the cow, which is a process that does require training and practice! First is to make sure that the cow is cleaned well, with paper towel. The structure called the cervix is found and the semen is slowly injected over the tip of the cervix!

The insemination process is a little hard to explain so here is a video on how it's done

And there it is, the AI'ing process, and if all is successful about nine months from now a new baby will be born! And needless to say if all 100 we AI'ed in the last two days catch it will be a busy few days next year here at Lilybrook!

Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments!!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

How it all began!

It all began many years ago half way across the world in the little country of Switzerland where my grandparents were born! My grandpa (Han's Ulrich) first came to Canada in the 50's where he worked at a lumber factory in British Columbia. He then returned to Switzerland where he got an offer from a Dr.Amman to become a manager on the ranch that Dr.Amman owned in Canada. Grandpa then managed and ran Dr.Amman's Hereford Ranch for ten years. In 1968 he rented the ranch until he was able to purchase it in 1994. It was then known a Ulrich Hereford Ranch. During this time period he went back to Switzerland one more time to find his future wife Annette. They began a family on Ulrich Hereford Ranch east of Claresholm!

My dad was also born in Switzerland and he did his apprenticeship at two farms in Switzerland. The one man he did his apprenticeship for was my grandma Annette's brother. Her brother refered my dad to Grandpa and my dad then came to Canada to work for my Grandpa. This is where he met my mom and when they got married my dad became an integral part of the operation. I came along in 1991, followed by my sister (Michelle) two years later and my little brother Daniel in 2001.

In 2002 Ulrich Hereford Ranch was split into two operations, with my mom's brother contining to run Ulrich Hereford Ranch and we became Lilybrook Herefords. We now run and calve out about 500 hereford cows from the beginning of  February to the end of April. About 100 of the calving cows are commercial with the rest being purebred! When cattle aren't keeping us busy for the majority of the year we silage and hay during the summer.

A sky view of my grandparents house where it all started!

A few of our cows headed out to pasture last summer.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Getting Started

Well, this was the first day of my summer break as I just finished my last exam of my second year university and what a beautiful day it was! It is also the first day that of my blog and it's a new thing to me and I am still figuring things out. I hope you enjoy reading as I bring day to day events that are happening at Lilybrook along with showing my passion for cattle and the agriculture industry.
 With that being said the first day of my break was spent sorting cows for the breeding season. Over the next few days we will be putting the bulls out with the cows along with breeding many of them through artificial insemination (AI). I will talk more about that as we do more of it. For now I hope you enjoy reading and bare with me as I figure things out!