Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lessons learned from the meat science lab

Isn't it funny how memories of your childhood never leave you?  Between me and my brother, Jeff, we just don't forget things that happened many years ago. In fact, my parents are amazed at some of the things we bring up when we are able to get together. My short term memory is not like it used to be (I blame information overload and social media on that one), but my long term memory is...well...incredible!

Those farm kid memories have often come in handy when I address others on how things have changed in the agriculture industry. I reminisce a lot about my responsibilities on the farm as a young person, and I have some pretty good tales about my days in the College of Agriculture at Ohio State, too. Like the time we toured a meat processing facility in Columbus as part of my 500-level meat cutting class. What do I remember most from that tour? I remember how skilled the workers were at cutting meat and how they processed every part of an animal to benefit us. It was amazing!

The Little Food Science Guy
Animal Science Building, The Ohio State University.
I also remember the little guy who was majoring in Food Science that had a hard time getting over the sound of bones cracking when we would be working on carcasses. He was just a little fellow and he always stood in the back of the class when a demonstration was taking place. As the class would start watching the instructor demonstrate how to cut a particular section of carcass (beef, in most cases), it wasn't too uncommon to hear a "bang" and then a "boom!" This usually meant we lost the little food science guy.

Like clock work, the little food science guy would be out cold on the floor with his knives strewn close by him. At first we were shocked and feared for his safety because we thought he had a medical condition. But as time went on, we soon realized what was up. He was just weak-kneed over certain sounds. We actually started taking verbal bets as to how long it would take for him to pass out in the next class. Poor little fellow.  We all thought he'd never be able to pass the class, which to my understanding was required for his major.  But our great meat instructor had a tactful plan to fix that habit!

Processing Demo Day
There is no other way to get really great training than doing something hands on.  And when it came time to learn every aspect of properly preparing an animal for processing, processing demo day was it. And like most of my fellow classmates, it also meant you didn't know what to expect. You had to react quickly. You see, our instructor didn't preselect who would be doing the different roles on processing demo day. He'd just point and say, "Do it now!"

It was nerve racking, to say the least. But honestly, looking back it was the best way to learn. It was also on processing demo day that we feared for the little food science guy. Nothing would be worse than to see him pass out in the processing area.   

The Test of Endurance
It was 5:30 a.m. in the morning when all the students gathered in the meat lab to prepare for processing demo day. The instructor told us we would be putting down an older heifer and went over each procedure we would experience that morning. While we were excited to learn the processes, we also feared where he'd place us for our specific job. Nobody wanted the sticking job. Period. Mostly because we didn't want to screw up. But who we really feared for was the little food science guy.

As the processing started, the instructor went around the room pointing one by one to individuals to start doing certain procedures. Then, he turned to the little food science guy and said, " are doing the sticking...step right here and hurry....NOW!"

We all stood in silence as we watched, waiting in fear that this was it -- that the little food science guy was done for sure.

Behold how wrong we were! After quickly taking the sticking tool from the instructor, he did a picture-perfect procedure that would make any butcher proud. We all breathed a sigh of relief. But the most exciting part was that on this day he broke his fainting habit for good. (Well, at least in the meat lab!)  And I am happy to say, he passed the class with success.

This class was one of the hardest but most rewarding classes I ever took at Ohio State. It taught me a great appreciation for food animals and what they provide for us. We not only learned how to process animals the way they should be processed, but we also learned a lesson in facing the fear of the unknown. The little food science guy sure did! It was a class I'll never forget.   

Monday, February 20, 2012

In search of the ultimate mattress

I had every intention of being a regular contributor to my blog. I even told a friend I had hoped to write something as least three to five times a week.  Good one, eh?

Maybe it is the life of a writer -- always writing for others but never has time to share her own thoughts. Maybe it is my busy life in general as a wife, mom, farmer and employee of a corporation. I also am a migraine sufferer. I believe all the above play some part in my slackness.

But today I am in the mood to write. I have had a brain fog in recently weeks, and for some reason, today it was "slightly" lifted. You see, I often lack a good night's sleep, and I definitely keep too much stress in my life.  But help is on the way -- or at least I hope so! My husband and I just made a purchase....a new Sleep Number Bed!

The i8 Sleep Number can't arrive soon enough!
I got the call last night that our new bed will be delivered in a few days and I can't wait.  The bed price was more than what I wanted to pay, but my hope is that it will be the last one we ever have to purchase. What makes me so excited over the thing is that it is adjustable!

Age and Sleep Habits
Funny how you age, isn't it? Things just change, and for me, sleep is one of them. I haven't slept through the night in months. I had been shopping for a new mattress for a couple of weeks, and my husband told me I should check out a Sleep Number Bed to see if I like it. He had received good reviews on it from friends and neighbors, so I decided to go see what was so special about them.

Finding "My Number"
Last week over my lunch break I went to a Sleep Number Bed store. I sat on the first bed that wasn't being tried out by other curious mattress buyers. My initial impression: "What is so great about this thing? It is just a bed, and it cost a lot!" When the sales clerk came over, she said, "Ma'am, you have to try this [bed] out the right way."

The right way? As I pondered over what she said, she had me to stand up.

She proceeded to put the bed on the firmest setting (100) and had me lay on it. "I want you to find your sleep number," she said. Taking the wireless bed remote in hand, I started lowering my number in hopes I would get that "squishy plushy" number I had always dreamed about, but had yet to find.

And then it happened. I got to "45." All of the sudden, this tranquil feeling came over me. Was I in Heaven on earth?

Then, to make things even better, the clerk gave me the adjustable base remote. First she showed me how to lift my legs and then my head -- and then she turned on the massaging feature. I was sold! In fact, I literally couldn't move because I was so comfortable. I wanted to fall asleep for the first time in days -- and in a store, no less! I didn't care who watched. All that mattered was that I was comfortable.

Now, my intent of this blog entry is to not sell you a Sleep Number Bed. But I will, however, tell you how important a good night sleep is, especially when you get older. I wouldn't call myself "old" by any means, but my body is definitely changing. Nothing is worse than waking up like a zombie.  I wake up with headaches all the time, and I can't breath because my nose gets stuffy at is just no fun at all!  I've been to the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor and even had one of those sleep apnea test. Everything came back okay - no nasal issues and no sleep apnea.  So what is my problem? 

As my last resort, the only thing I can attribute to my poor sleeping habits is a lack of a good mattress (and our dogs that like to get us up at 4 a.m.).  I am crossing my fingers that Mr. Sleep Number Bed will do the trick. It can't arrive soon enough! 

As I left the store after making the bed purchase, the sales clerk said, "The only thing you'll have a problem with is getting out of the bed in the morning."

I surely hope so....I surely hope so.