Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday's agriculture website - American Sheep Industry Association

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Today's agriculture website of interest is for the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI). ASI is the national organization representing the interests of more than 82,000 sheep producers located throughout the United States. ASI is a federation of 45 state sheep associations as well as individual members. All ASI officers, board of director members and council and committee members serve as volunteers. The origin of the association dates back to 1865.

From the domestic and international promotion of wool and pelts to its work on legislative, science and technology, animal health and resource management issues, ASI is a producer-powered federation of state organizations dedicated to the common goal of promoting the profitability and well-being of the U.S. sheep industry. The goals of the organization include developing an industry vision, advocating public policy to protect, promote and support the economical viability of the sheep industry, creating strong national and international markets for wool, advancing and coordinating the science and technology of sheep production, and promoting communication and cooperation between all segments of the industry, related business and government agencies.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday's art article - common metals used in jewelry

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When it comes to buying jewelry made of metal, there are lots of options (and terms!) to know. I'm going to break them down for you and what they actually mean:

Sterling silver: Contains 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper. The copper hardens the overall piece making it 'dent' and mark resistant, but the copper in the metal will react with the oxygen in the air. This results in the dreaded tarnish that eventually forms. (There are ways to avoid tarnish on silver jewelry.) This jewelry is stamped as 'sterling' or .925

Fine silver: This is 100 percent pure silver. This isn't used much in jewelry that is cast (like the cow jewelry charms), but I have used this when making granulation jewelry. Fine silver is softer than sterling silver. This silver may also be stamped as 'fine silver' or .999

Argentium silver: This contains the 92.5 percent silver, but some of the copper has been replaced with germanium. This silver is more resistant to tarnish than sterling silver, but is also more expensive. Currently, argentium silver doesn't have its own 'stamp', so pieces made with this type of metal will be called sterling silver.

24 karat yellow gold: Pure gold. Very soft and not typically used by itself as jewelry. Also referred to as fine gold. Will be stamped as 'fine gold' or .999

10 karat, 14 karat, 18 karat, and 22 karat gold: Refer to how many parts of the 24 karats that contain gold. The higher the karat number, the more parts of gold in the resulting piece of jewelry. The other metals included in this jewelry are typically silver, copper, nickel and/or palladium. When pricing these items, the price generally fluctuates with the amount of gold in the piece (i.e. 18 karat gold jewelry costs more than 14 karat gold jewelry). The higher amount of gold, the more of a yellow appearance to the piece, but the piece will be softer and less 'dent' resistant. This jewelry is stamped as the appropriate number and K. (e.g. 14K)

White gold: This is yellow gold that is combined with either nickel or palladium to give it a white appearance.

Rose gold: This is yellow gold that has a higher percentage of copper to give it a 'blush' appearance.

Green gold: Yellow gold that is alloyed with silver only. The final gold has a yellow-green appearance.

Blue/purple gold: Gold that has been alloyed with iron or aluminum. Very difficult to work with after creation and rarely used.

Plated jewelry: This jewelry is made with a more inexpensive metal, usually silver or bronze, then coated with a more expensive metal. The metal is plated by using chemical or electrochemical means.

Gold filled jewelry: This is a process where a solid layer of gold is bonded to a base metal (usually brass) using heat and pressure. The layer of gold is thousands of times thicker than the layer of gold in gold plated jewelry and much more resistant to wear. This process has recently become available for sterling silver as well.

So how do you know what you have?

Look for a stamp in the back or inside of the piece.

What if there is no stamp? How do I know?

The rules requiring jewelers to place stamps on their products are a bit unclear. We don't have to put on the stamps, especially if we are small production companies (like myself). I choose not to stamp the charms because on many of them, I can't stamp them without detracting from the piece. My advice: if you ever have any questions, ask the person you're buying your jewelry from. If that person isn't available (you're rummaging through an estate sale or got something as a gift) some jewelry repair shops also have commercial kits (using chemicals) that can tell you what your piece of jewelry is made from.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cow Art and More Oct e-news

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Looking for advice on how to pick the right glass for a picture frame? Need a link to print your own Halloween candy bar wrappers? Missed the news about the two new artists we added to our gallery? Check out the October edition of the Cow Art and More e-news. (And by the way, it's free!)

Monday, October 24, 2011

What is #FoodDay to you?

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If you're active on twitter, you might have seen the #FoodDay hashtag floating around in tweets today. The idea behind Food Day is to bring people together to talk food, 'Real food' specifically (according to

I want to hear what you have to say about your food! Leave a comment below in the comment box or link to a blog or facebook post you might want to share. Let me hear about what food and/or real food means to you.

(By the way, I wrote about this topic last week about a veterinarian's role in food production.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two new painters join Cow Art and More

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I am excited to introduce two new painters to the Cow Art and More portfolio of artists:

Laura Carey has lived in Canada all her life. She new painting would be an important part of her life, but had no idea that dairy farming would be as important as well. The dairy cattle on the farm she operates with her husband serve as the inspiration for her paintings.

Narrie Toole hails from New Mexico. While she no longer has cattle of her own, she managed her own herd of beef cattle for many years and exhibited the cattle nationally. Narrie's loose impressionistic style of oil painting captures the attention of collectors worldwide.

You can find the complete collection of both artists work in the painting category along with the new products section through the end of the month.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday's agriculture website - Rural Women Rock

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What happens when you throw a bunch of women that are every bit 'country' in some way or another? You get the Rural Women Rock! blog. The blog was started by rural Oklahoma flower shop owner Kasse Duffy as a place for rural women across American to share and connect. To take Kasse's words directly from the blog:

"My vision is to be the platform and voice, to share the stories and lifestyles of rural women around the world. If you are a rural woman and you rock, or if your a city gal who loves your rural sisters, join us in this journey. I have a feeling its not going to be a smooth ride all the way, back roads can get messy. Lets roll down our windows, let our hair down, turn the music up, and let it all hang out. I have a feeling its going to be life changing, and so much fun for us to all be in it together."

Whether you are a 'rural' woman or not, readers are encouraged to share and support each other. The community members take turn writing the blog posts and enjoy the friendship of rural life. The journey is just getting started.....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Veterinarians and food safety #BAD11 #FoodDay

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While I normally blog about art and agriculture, I wanted to take the opportunity to join the worldwide blog conversation today about food. It's a great topic for all of us since we all eat, regardless of where it may have come from. In my role as a large animal veterinarian, food safety is a part of my focus in working with farms.

How is a veterinarian involved with the safety of the food you eat?

Here's a little of what I do in my day that helps keep the beef and dairy products you buy safe:

1. Whenever I prescribe ANY medication for use in a food producing animal, I have to include the time that meat or milk products from this animal cannot be used for human consumption. This includes antibiotics, hormones, and other supportive products. (And by the way, those times aren't my best guess. They have been established by the Food and Drug Administration.)

2. I work with my farms on developing plans to control disease and sickness on farms without needing to use antibiotics. This includes using effective vaccine strategies (using the best vaccines at the best times) and the latest in technology to diagnose diseases. This allows me to confirm disease diagnoses quicker and institute strategies to prevent the disease in the first place.

3. I show people where and how to give the medications as to reduce the risk that not only will the medication cause damage to that future piece of steak, but will also stay in the system longer to cause a medication residue.

4. While every antibiotic used in a food producing animal must have a withdrawal time listed, that is simply not enough to be sure everything is 100 percent safe. I have worked with my farm clients to show them how to use on-farm testing methods to make sure animals returning into production are free of antibiotics and can have their products consumed safely.

5. It's important that if I diagnose a disease on a farm that has a human food safety danger (like Salmonella or E. coli), everyone needs to know all precautions that need to be taken to not only stop the spread, but prevent the sickness of people both working on the farm and product consumers.

6. When it comes to looking at a herd of animals, I also find it a part of my job that I identify risks to operations and how to prevent them from causing a food borne illness. For example, as much as wild birds are great to look at, they can be the source of Salmonella outbreaks. We take precautions to keep these animals from mingling in key areas of farm animals.

7. I'm also involved in helping to control diseases of risk to human health that can be passed through the food through government surveillance programs. This includes testing and vaccinating against Brucellosis and testing for Tuberculosis, both of which can be contracted by people who eat infected products from an animal carrying these diseases.

These are just a few of my duties. Some other responsibilities of veterinarians and food safety include:

1. Veterinarians serving as meat inspectors in federally inspected meat processing plants to make sure only healthy animals enter the food supply.
2. Veterinarians in the armed forces inspecting food to make sure it is safe for troops to eat.
3. Veterinarians serving in positions involved with human and public health to investigate food borne illnesses and disease outbreaks potentially coming from an animal source.

I'm proud to be a (small) part of keeping the food on your plate safe and healthy.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday's art website - Art Therapy

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Friday's website of interest to art enthusiasts is the American Art Therapy Association. My career in veterinary medicine does not allow for much creativity, so I love that I can express my artistic side by making jewelry. It's good for the brain! I chose to feature this website today because this group focuses on helping people heal mentally by learning and making art.

The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is an organization of professionals dedicated to the belief that the creative process involved in art making is healing and life enhancing. Its mission is to serve its members and the general public by providing standards of professional competence, and developing and promoting knowledge in, and of, the field of art therapy. The AATA represents approximately 5,000 members and 36 AATA State and Regional Chapters that conduct meetings and activities to promote art therapy on the local level.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Zero to chaos in three minutes or less

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Sometimes my kids are with me in my Cow Art and More office. I do my best to keep them occupied with something productive while also keeping an eagle eye on them. If you're a parent, you know how quickly things can go from perfect to pandemonium in a wee couple of minutes.

In my life, it happens when I'm on the phone.

Meet my youngest child.

A serious flirt.

And mischief maker.

And he eats....A LOT. In fact, if you ask him, he will tell you his name is Chunky Monkey.

His father and I are completely prepared to get the phone call from school one day that he has run his underwear up a flagpole.

(And is using his charm and good looks to get out of having to scrub the entire cafeteria floor as his punishment.)

Why am I worried about such things at such a young and sweet and tender age? Because of what he can do with a couple of markers in just three minutes.

Who knew that in the time it takes to take a phone order from a customer that you can paint your hands with a marker.

And if that wasn't enough, he wanted to show me he artistic talent and could use the complimentary color orange on his arms to set off the color purple on his hands. (If you're trying to calculate a score for this masterpiece, using two colors in under three minutes does increase the difficulty factor by 0.3).

So if you ever call to ask a question, place an order, or just otherwise chit-chat, remind me to check on Chunky Monkey and make sure I have all marking elements (including my collection of 64 different colors of Sharpies) in my possession.

(By the way, I can't wait to get a note from school today asking me to keep my child home until his fungus has resolved.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday's agriculture website - Pumpkin Patches

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At least for me, Fall brings thoughts of leaves falling from trees, cooler weather, and Halloween. Of course what's Halloween without a carved pumpkin? Looking for a fun way to find a pumpkin patch and make it a family activity? Check out the Pumpkin Patches and More website for a state by state listing of pumpkin patches, Halloween events, and hayrides. There is even a link for Halloween crafts and recipes. The website also includes articles on what to expect when visiting a pumpkin patch or corn maze.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lost Wax Jewelry Casting Process - How silver jewelry is made

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As many of you know, in making silver cow jewelry, I send it out to a small company in Maine to get the original model reproduced. I don't make the multiples myself because it's a labor intensive process and requires a lot of equipment. I've been on the search for a good video that explains the lost wax casting procedures and found this one is a good fit. It is from another jeweler showing how he reproduced a couple of wedding rings, but the process is still the same. It does lack, however, in some captions that I think would be helpful to explaining how it's done, so I will sum it up in a nutshell here:

  1. You start with an original model (either out of wax or a metal model).
  2. Make a mold of that model.
  3. Inject that mold with hot wax to make replicas of the model.
  4. Put all the models onto a 'tree'. The base of the tree is on raised circle called a button.
  5. Surround the tree with a can and investment (plaster).
  6. Heat the can and investment so the wax evaporates. Then you are left with a negative space.
  7. Heat the appropriate amount of metal and fill the negatives space in the tree.
  8. Dissolve the plaster in water and cut the metal pieces off the tree.
  9. Finish and polish.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New LOWER silver cow jewelry prices

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What goes up, must come down....eventually. Precious metals prices are finally showing signs of a continuing downward price. As I have promised to customers in the past, when metal prices come down, so will jewelry prices. Woo hoo! Enjoy lower prices on all the sterling silver cow jewelry charms, charm bracelets, and snake chain necklaces effective immediately! (And as always, excellent customer service is at no additional charge.) I can't guarantee how long this will last and suggest buying now for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And the cow art gift certificate winner is....

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Congratulations to Colleen Newvine (@NewvineGrowing) for being the lucky winner of the drawing for the $50 gift certificate for participating in our customer satisfaction survey. She can spend it any way she likes, which we hope will come in handy with the holidays on the way.

In case you're curious as to how her name was picked (and want to see the video debut of the official studio cat), you're invited to watch the selection video:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Am I superwoman? Hardly.

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I get the comment from amazed and bewildered people from time to time regarding my many hats (veterinarian, jewelry artist, art gallery owner, mom, agnerd, volunteer -- and not necessarily in that order depending on the day).

"How do you get it all done?"

I don't know that I do anything much different from anyone else, but here's my take on how I get things done (outside of my magic wand):

  1. I don't sleep much. Caffeine and I are close friends, and I don't spend much time with my head on a pillow. While this let's me get a lot done, I am working hard on trying to change this. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's affecting my health in not a good way, so this one has got to get remedied sooner rather than later.
  2. I don't do anymore housework than absolutely necessary. Not kidding. I do my best to make sure my kids go to school in clean clothes and don't get sick from a food borne illness, but the rest gets done......whenever. My little peeps (or Hurricane three boys as I affectionately refer to them sometimes) can destroy a house in minutes. Seriously. So why spend hours (yes, hours) cleaning up only to have chaos again in a matter of minutes? I have just learned to live with the chaos and not have people over to visit without 3 weeks notice and a cleaning crew scheduled.
  3. This next one is a biggie. I didn't even realize my advantage here until a couple of years ago. My husband works at the grocery store. I send a list with him every day or two and I almost never have to go. I figure this one saves me three to five hours a week, easy.
  4. I don't watch much TV. Okay, I do like watching a few shows, but when I do, it's on the DVR or online. Zip through the commercials and that 1 hour show is now down to forty-two minutes (and I'm usually making jewelry while I'm watching).
  5. I have a great babysitter. She is fantastic at helping to keep my kids in line and fed...and my kids LOVE her. (More than me sometimes as they have been so kind to share as I'm taking away their favorite monster trucks for beating the crap out of each other.)
  6. I spend every possible moment doing something. This probably isn't quite the best as my brain probably does need some down time, but if I've got a minute, I'm busy. The ten or fifteen minutes I might have waiting on a client or getting to my next destination early is perfect for catching up on blog reading, sending out emails, or returning a few phone calls. And since I also spend a lot of time in a vet truck, I subscribe to some killer business podcasts and listen while driving.
  7. I have the best, most supportive spouse in the world. Parenting is something we both do. He knows when I'm in my office working that he's in charge. I can't also thank him enough for the help he gives me in the business.
I am anything but superwoman. I just play her on my blog.

Let me hear from you. What do you do to get through your day?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday's agriculture website - Feedyard Foodie

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What happens when South Florida athlete meets country boy and moves to Nebraska? You get the blending of city and country and the resulting blog: Feedyard Foodie. Anne Burkholder writes about her family's feedlot operation and what it's like taking care of the beef animals on her farm. She also delves into the tough topics that consumers have questions on: hormone use, confinement, and animal welfare. You can also view a slideshow of the many pictures she has of her cattle and ranch.
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