Dust In My Coffee

Loving my life as a woman in agriculture one sip at a time

The month of March brings a variety of changes to Nebraska.  We are privileged to live on a migration route for millions of geese, cranes and other birds as they head north signaling the start of spring.  March can be frustrating to birds and people when we are teased with sunny, springtime weather one day and a blustery snowstorm the next.


We’ve had geese spend some time with us each spring.  They will swim on this small fish pond and then fly to the east side of our feedlot and swim on our holding pond.  Last year we watched one pair hatch and raise their ducklings on our holding pond.


No matter what Mother Nature decides to give us it is important to be prepared for the best and worst of weather conditions.  Here are some of the steps we take to be prepared for winter storms in March or any other month:

  1. Make sure the pantry is full.  For our feedlot it means making sure we have plenty of ingredients like corn, Synergy (a corn by-product made by ADM), supplement and ground hay.  Our pantry includes bins, open front buildings with bays for different feed ingredients and home grown feed kept under a large plastic tarp held down with a large number of tires.
  2. Make sure there is plenty of fuel in the barrels.  We store diesel and gas on the farm to use in our tractors.  Winter storms can delay delivery of fuel and more fuel will be used to take care of the cattle during and after the storm.
  3. Make sure the generator is ready to go.  Losing power can happen during any severe weather.  A tractor is used to run the generator. The generator is plugged into a power source providing electricity to keep wells running for water and many other electrical needs the farm has.
  4. Make sure snow removal equipment is ready to go.  We have a bunk blower to remove snow from the feedbunks saving our backs from scooping.  We also have a tractor mounted snow blower to move larger quantities of snow.  There are several other implements we used to move snow including a front mounted blade, a rear-end bucket and a box scraper.

bunk blower

The goal during any storm is to make sure the cattle are fed as close to the normal time as possible and then get them comfortable places to lay down.  Our feedlot is designed to give protection from high winds with trees and metal windbreaks to help cattle handle Nebraska blizzards.


We have cement pads running along the feedbunk on the inside of the pen.  Those pads allow us to utilize cornstalk bedding for the cattle to lay on.  If we did not have the cement then the bedding would go on wet ground and not last as long as it does on the cement.   Here are some of the actions we take during and following a winter storm to care for our cattle:

  1. Clean the roads around the feedlot to allow the feedtruck to get to feed to the cattle. Sometimes this requires a very early wake up call to get a good start before step 2.
  2. Clean the bunks of snow before the cattle get fed.  If the snow is too wet or too deep we have to help with scoop shovels.
  3. Feed the cattle as close to the normal time as possible.
  4. Clean the cement pads in the cattle pens.
  5. Use the bale processor to put bedding in pens.
  6. Take the box scraper or bucket into pens to pile snow if needed.
  7. Haul piled snow out of pens to keep pens as dry as possible.

Steve is using the box scraper to move snow.  The box scraper is used year-round on our feedlot for a variety of purposes including keeping the cattle pens in good condition.

Farmers and ranchers know Mother Nature is a force to work with.  During the month of March she sends us the spring wake up call of geese honking as they fly overhead.  She also sends the Robins and Cardinals into the trees as they take cover for a March blizzard.  Having a plan and being prepared is what enables us to take better care of our cattle no matter what March, April, May and every other month of the year brings us for weather.

tulips in snow

“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.”  –  Geoffrey B. Charlesworth

For nearly two weeks the world looked to South Korea with anticipation as athletes competed for a gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.  Did you watch any of the events?  I was able to watch a few events including figure skating, snowboarding and curling.  The athletes make their moves look so simple and yet we all know countless hours of training brought them to Pyeongchang.

It is fun to celebrate with the gold medal winners like the United States Women’s Hockey Team and the United States Men’s Curling Team. What about the athletes who gave it their all and came home with no medal at all?

Steve and I watched the Snowboarding Women’s Halfpipe.  This was the first year I have ever watched the event.  One of the competitors, Maddie Mastro from the U.S., pushed herself on every run coming up short at the end of each run with a fall.   Maddie had so many impressive moves and after her three runs was not able to stay upright on the final spin.  Maddie went for the gold on every run.  She had so much determination and perseverance to get the entire run perfect and in the end she went home without a medal.

Many of us strive to excel in our jobs, education and other activities.  In addition to  character traits like determination I believe there are three elements we can all use to help us reach for the gold.  We need a trainable attitude, quality resources to give us the skills we need and a fan club to cheer us on. kim bowling

Our daughter, Kim, pictured in the front left, was part of a gold medal winning team in bowling in high school.  Thanks to the training from the coaches, the willingness to improve their skills and the support of many family and friends at the tournament the team was able to work through their nerves and bring home the gold!

I have witnessed the value of having those three elements present in one of my volunteer roles.  When I was first appointed to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board I did not know a lot about what the board did.  I had a willingness to learn, great mentors to learn from and friends who cheered me on.  That combination is the reason I am chairman of the board today.anne donuts


Meet my friend, Anne Anderson.  Anne mentored me and encouraged to become an officer for the Cattlemen’s Beef Board.  We both loved this donut display, not a gold medal but a reward in other ways!

In what way can you utilize the three elements in your life?  Is there an area you would like to excel in?  How is your attitude?  Do you have the resources you need for the desired skills?  Who is cheering you on?

Olympic athletes have a way of capturing our admiration because of their dedication to excellence.  We can follow their example by encouraging one another, teaching one another and moving forward from our past mistakes.

Thank you to the athletes and the everyday heroes who seek to excel,  mentor others and share their passion by encouraging others.  Here is a slideshow of photos from the 2018 Olympic Winter Games showing many of those elements in action.




Let’s talk about hormones.  A few years ago I put together a little demonstration for moms.  I used M & M’s for the purpose of discussing the added use of hormones in cattle.  The image (below) shows the comparison in the levels of the hormone estrogen found in different foods we eat.  Many light bulbs went on and I overheard things like:

  • “Who put the hormones in my cabbage?”
  • “I thought for sure the full jar was going to be one with the beef label!”
  • “Oh yeah, I remember learning about hormones in biology class. How do they work again?”

This important shift in the conversation from one of doubt and fear to trust and transparency is the reason I am involved in sharing the story of what Steve and I do on our farms.  Concerns about how food is grown and the increased use of food labels “free of this” or “no added that” make grocery trips more stressful than they should be.   The label “hormone free” has created unnecessary fear and a lot of misunderstanding.

Fortunately, the past thirty-six years of living as a cattle and row crop farmer, have given me the opportunity to learn the terminology,  utilize the science-based research and understand the newer technologies farmers use such as added hormones in beef cattle.  In this blog post I will share what I have learned about how hormones work and why farmers like Steve and I use added hormones in our cattle.


This little demo has sparked hundreds of conversations as farmers and ranchers seek to help consumers understand the science behind using added hormones.  The foundation of the conversation is based on science but our engagement is based on shared values farmers and consumers share like honesty and transparency.

Hormones naturally occur in all living things.  Why?  Dr. Terry Etherton, distinguished professor from Penn State, writes in his blog Hormones, Hormones, Hormones:

“A hormone is a substance that sets in motion a set of metabolic events  that would otherwise lie dormant.  All of the hormones together form a communication network in the body that is called the endocrine system.  Another way of viewing the endocrine system is to imagine at any given moment the circulatory system (the blood) of animals and humans is literally packed with thousands of these chemical messengers moving about the body sort of like an urban freeway on a late Friday afternoon.”   

Dr. Etherton continues to write, “Hormones act as ‘messengers,’ and are carried by the bloodstream to different cells in the body, which interpret these messages and act on them.  Without hormones and the endocrine system, humans and animals would not survive.”  We need hormones to live!

Hormones are not limited to humans and animals.  Plants have an estrogen-like compound called phytoestrogens.  As explained in an article from Tulane University, “In general, phytoestrogens are weaker than the natural estrogen hormones (such as estradiol) found in humans and animals or the very potent synthetic estrogens used in birth control pills and other drugs.”  Plants have additional hormones that are responsible for all sorts of functions like helping the plants sense light, forming lateral roots, and triggering flower development and germination, just to name a few.  


Healthy soil makes healthy plants makes healthy animals and healthy humans.  Farmers like Steve and I understand the importance of making decisions for the good of the entire cycle of life

Plants, animals and humans need hormones to exist.  Hormones naturally exist.  They have an important purpose.  Understanding the role hormones play in our human development and the foods we eat can help us understand why farmers like Steve and I would use an added hormone for beef production.  We use an added hormone on the steers in our feedlot because it:

A) Helps the animal convert feed to protein more efficiently.

B) Is safe for the animal and human consumption.

C) Is safe for the environment.

You can learn more about all growth promotants used in cattle and the impact those promotants have on safety and sustainability here.

without growth promotants

The safety of consuming beef with added hormones has to remain front and center of our discussion.  Dr. Jude Capper explains in her blog post about hormones:

“Yes, an 8-oz steak from a steer given a hormone implant contains more estrogen than a  steak from a non-implanted animal. 42% more estrogen in fact. That’s undeniable. Yet the amount of estrogen in the steak from the implanted animal is minuscule: 5.1 nanograms. One nanogram (one-billionth of a gram or one-25-billionth of an ounce) is roughly equivalent to one blade of grass on a football field. 

By contrast, one birth-control pill, taken daily by over 100 million women worldwide, contains 35,000 nanograms of estrogen. That’s equivalent of eating 3,431 lbs of beef from a hormone-implanted animal, every single day. To put it another way, it’s the annual beef consumption of 59 adults. Doesn’t that put it into perspective?”


This chart is an example of what farmers and ranchers like myself use to kick start a conversation about hormones in our food.

Are there hormones in your cabbage? Yes, and there are hormones in every living thing we eat.  Our ability to help cattle convert grass and grain to protein using less resources while producing a wholesome, tasty food for people to enjoy is dependent on science-based research.  Beef producers like Steve and I count on quality research to help us continually seek ways to improve our impact on the environment while maintaining the highest levels of care for our animals and the safety of the beef we produce.

cattle bedding

During the coldest days of winter, cattle can thrive with a nutritionally balanced diet, bedding to rest on and the thick winter coat Mother Nature gives them to live comfortably outside.  Farmers like Steve and I cannot control the weather so we do our best to manage the conditions the weather can bring with cattle comfort our main objective.


Hormones are truly a gift from God in helping plants, animals and people thrive.  Understanding how hormones work has helped farmers partner with nature to produce a healthy, sustainable food for people to enjoy.  When you serve beef to your family you can be confident they are receiving ten essential nutrients to help them thrive.  Beef does give you ZIP!

ruskamp family supper

Eating together is nourishing to the body and the spirit! This picture was take a few years ago and includes our five children, our first son-in-law and our first grandchild.  Beef is the center of the plate for most of our meals.  Our children currently live across the country and in one foreign country.  From California to Peru our children choose to include beef for dinner whenever they can.  You can find beef recipes to fit your life style and family needs here.






We are at the beginning of a brand new year and I want to extend my sincere wishes to you and your family for a very blessed, joy-filled and peaceful year ahead.  Turning over the calendar to a new year is a traditional time to reflect on the past with new hopes and dreams for the year ahead.  What are you bringing into the new year?  For some of us we are bringing aches from losing a loved one.   Reflecting on my experience of losing my dad has given me renewed hope for 2018 as I seek to grow in faith, hope and charity.

In February of 2017 my family went through the experience of losing a close family member.  My dad had been living with Alzheimer’s making a sudden turn for the worse requiring a move to intensive care and then hospice.  Even though doctors gave my dad hours to live, he chose to give us days.  In a period of time where people choose to end suffering, my dad blessed our family with his.


When we moved Dad to skilled care we tried to visit as often as we could never knowing when he would stop remembering who we were.  On my last visit to see dad he was not eating very well and looking downward most of the time.  I got down on my knees and looked up at him with a smile and he gave me the biggest smile back with a little chuckle.  It is a treasured memory.

I won’t minimize the pain watching someone live with Alzheimer’s or any other disease involving suffering.  It’s hard to accept the prognosis.  It’s not easy to watch someone die. Why, then, am I telling you my family was blessed through my dad’s suffering?  He gave us the opportunity to grow in virtue while we reflected on his.  As we prayed together, sang songs to dad, shared familiar stories and learned new ones, we grew as a family in faith, hope and charity.

I was reaffirmed of the power of those virtues when attending a recent funeral for a woman I admired and loved for many years.  The family members shared family experiences and final experiences they had with their mom.  Even though Alzheimer’s had taken her memories, the disease had not take her virtues of faith, hope and charity.  What a powerful witness, again, of how these three virtues can shine like gold even as we die.

Would you like to join me in growing in faith, hope and charity?  What is faith, hope charity?  I would like to share with you some teaching from Fr. Jacques Philippe.  In his book “Interior Freedom” he teaches us:

“Faith is the root of our cure and our liberation, the start of a life-giving process that heals the death engendered by sin.”

“Hope is a choice that often demands an effort. It is easier to worry, get discouraged, be afraid. Hoping means trusting. When we hope we are not passive: we are acting.”

“There can be no charity without hope. Love needs space to grow and flourish; it is a marvelous thing, but in a sense, fragile. The special “environment” it needs is made up of hope. If love does not grow or turns cold, very often that’s because it is stifled by cares, fears, worries, or discouragements.”

“Love is also a decision. Sometimes it comes spontaneously, but very often loving people will mean choosing to love them. Otherwise love would be no more than emotion, even selfishness, and not something that engages our freedom.”

And from his book, “Charitable Life”,  Fr. Jacques Philippe writes “The greatest act of charity one can do for others is to encourage them to live in faith and hope. To praise God is a veritable food for the soul.”

As I seek to grow in the three-legged stool of the virtues faith, hope and charity I believe I will begin with praising God more often.  I will praise Him in the morning for a new day, I will praise Him in the noontime for the food, farm and family I have and I will praise Him in the evening for the gift of life, love and laughter and I will praise Him as I sleep for the wise men and women have taught me the value of faith, hope and charity.

wise men card

Many thanks to my Aunt Juanita and Uncle Paul for this beautiful Christmas card.

If you would like to follow me on my journey you can sign-up to receive email notifications when I write a new post.  I seeking to write at least bi-weekly and if possible weekly.  Your comments are greatly appreciated!


We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Yes, just as the song goes says I would like to extend my warmest thoughts and prayers to you and your family this Christmas and throughout the new year.


If your house is anything like mine then I bet you still have a few presents to wrap,  goodies to bake and some last minute shopping to finish. I can’t help you with those tasks but I can help if you are still working on any of your holiday dinner menus.  Beef is a great choice for any meal and this recipe for prime rib will make you look like a top chef!  This recipe comes to you from my husband, Steve, and has been tried by many of our friends with a five star rating!  Here it is:

steve slicing prime rib

Best Prime Rib Ever


Beef Rib Roast– 12 lbs. serves 15 people or so
*Mike’s Seasoning (sold at Graybeal’s Grocery store in West Point, NE 402-372-2333)
Olive Oil
Garlic Salt
Meat Thermometer (the best ones have a digital readout that sits outside of the oven)
Rack in pan to bake on
Au jus


  1. Take meat out of bag and wash off with cold water.
  2. Rub olive oil all over the roast.  Season the meat by sprinkling Mike’s, garlic salt and accent generously all over the meat and rub it in using your hands.
  3. Place meat on a rack with drip pan underneath.
  4. Place uncovered in 450 degree pre-heated oven for 30 minutes (puts a nice crust on the meat).
  5. Put meat thermometer in center of roast.  Turn oven down to 200 degrees and cook until meat thermometer reads 140 degrees (takes 3-4 hours).
  6. Remove from oven and slice.  If you need to wait for other dinner items you can cover the meat with foil if it is sitting out.
  7. Make au jus according to package instructions and serve with sliced prime rib.

Tips: Make sure roast has 3-4 weeks of age in a vacuum sealed bag. The key to having good prime rib is to cook it slow and don’t overcook it.

*If you don’t have Mike’s seasoning then add salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder to seasonings



sliced prime rib

Some of our favorite sides to serve with Prime Rib include Hashbrown Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Broccoli Salad and Cream Cheese Corn.    The better part of any meal is the people you get to share it with.   My hope is you will find yourself surrounded by people you love, food you enjoy and and enough Christmas goodies to remind you how very blessed you are!  Merry Christmas!

nativity wise men

“So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David’s town called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line,  in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space.

In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night.  An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:  Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favours.

Now it happened that when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.’

So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him,  and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds said to them.

As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.”   Luke 2:4-20