Raising a Farmer

Alot of work but always room for laughter

Minnesota Lt. Governor Inauguration Speech is more than just words

On Monday January 7, 2019 I stood in my kitchen. Everett was home from school because the roads were too icy for the buses. He and Vivian played in the living room as I made lunch. My morning was spent milking cows with my husband, on a farm he grew up on. A farm that has been in his family for over 125 years. Our children are the 6th generation to play in the same back yard just as so many before have. I look out my kitchen window and see hopes and dreams for my children and myself.

As I made lunch for my family, I knew the day was a special day because it was inauguration day for the State of Minnesota. I had the inauguration on in the background of the house as I went about my kitchen. As the new Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan began to share her story, her hopes for Minnesota and her dreams for her daughter her words stopped me. I listened to every word she said. I listened knowing her words were real.

“Their support created pathways.”

“Farm kids struggling to figure out if they are able to stay on the land that they love.”

“My job is to show young people like her(LT. Gov.’s Daughter), what is possible.”

“Young people in rural communities who feel forgotten.”

Her words stopped me because I have a young son. A son who wants to one day be a farmer. He wants to be a farmer where his great-great-great grandparents farmed. He wants to continue a legacy built on faith, love and family. I have a daughter who is vibrant and full of life. Lt. Flanagan words stopped me because I have two small children thriving in rural Minnesota. I also whole heartedly agree with Lt. Flanagan it is my job to teach and show my children their voice matters. It is my job to make sure they know each of their voice’s are strong and valuable to their community. Her words stopped me because I live in rural Minnesota. I live where I see and hear many youth feel unimportant or say, “What can I do?”

I am part of an industry where many feel forgotten, used or thrown aside. I am in an industry where many say to their children, “Don’t come back to the farm.” “Go and do something else.” I hear rural life is dead. I hear. I listen. I myself have cried those words out loud, “Why would I wish this onto my children? Why would I wish heartache onto my children?” I myself have felt like a number at times. But then I reset and push on.

Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan’s inauguration speech was more than just words, they were reality. I am hopeful for Minnesota coming together as one. I am hopeful for rural communities. img_0992[1]

 

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Sledding on the Farm

Yes, Nate may or may not have wipped me out.
You’ll have to watch and find out.
Everett got jealous when I told him when I was in school we could take sleds to school and go sledding at recess. Get out and play in the snow!

 

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Sibling Love

💕 them. They drive me crazy sometimes. I ask, “what the?” “Why are you fighting over a chair?”

I once was told by a seasoned mom she wished she would have encouraged a sibling relationship more. She wished for them to do things just them.

I’m not sure how but Everett always wants to help and encourage Vivian. At dance last night, he stood beside and did the dinosaur dance with her. She was more confident he was with her.

But I saw my 9yr old boy in a sea of little tiny girls. Not embarrassed one bit when his little sister asked him to dance with her.

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Time does heal a heart

This column was originally published in Agweek August 18, 2018

As my head lay on my pillow the night of Aug. 1, 2018, I began to think of how different it was the same night 14 years ago. Fourteen years ago sleep evaded me. With each time I would wake up, I would say to myself, “Is this really happening?”

In my childhood home, I tried to sleep on one end of the couch and Nathan, my fiancé at the time slept on the other end. In the early morning, my dad had passed away from a massive heart attack. He was 55. My world was numb.

Questions of, “Is this really happening? Is this really happening just three years after we had to say goodbye to our mom? Why? Why? Why?” I constantly asked myself, each time I opened my eyes that night in 2004. Fourteen years ago, my dad’s goddaughter stood watch throughout the night as I tried to find sleep. It brought comfort with the sounds and smells coming from the kitchen, just as if my dad was really there. It brought comfort when sleep evaded me and came in small spurts. Feelings of being protected, a feeling I knew I was no longer going to receive from my dad. My heart being broken and sad was how my body felt when I tried to fall asleep that night.

Exactly 14 years later, I began to fall asleep and my heart was full and happy. My husband slept next to me. Our home was filled with all of my parents’ grandchildren sleeping in the living room. The day was filled with laughter and joy. The morning brought me smiles as my daughter and nieces came running into the barn excited to start their day. The afternoon was filled with catching Everett and his cousin playing in the backyard and looking for monarch caterpillars. Evening brought each of my nieces and Vivian taking turns walking Vivian’s calf around the yard.

While 14 years ago was a day filled with devastating news, my present day ended with my nieces sitting at the counter as I made homemade pizzas telling me about their favorite pizza. They filled the air with their stories, laughter and smiles. As we cooked we needed to sample the toppings. When my niece ate one of my freshly canned pickles (telling me how mine are the best in the whole world), I smiled to myself. A couple of weeks ago when I crumbled and asked myself, “Why am I staying up till 1 a.m. to can pickles?” my niece gave me my answer. As the pizzas baked, Everett and his cousin turned the living room into their own world — hunting pterodactyls. I could hear them make a plan and hide behind the couch as they carried out their imaginary world.

So much has happened since Aug. 1, 2004. So much life has happened. Sadness and joy has happened. Disappointments and triumphs have happened. Healing and peace have been found.

Fourteen years ago I thought my world was shattered and thrown about. Today, I look at my parents’ five grandchildren. Children who have never met two of their grandparents. But a little bit of them shines through in their individual personalities, mannerisms and faces. Sleep this year on Aug. 1 came with a full, content heart.

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Canning pickles at 1 a.m. when there aren’t enough hours in the day

This column was originally published in Agweek on July 20, 2018

When Nathan and I purchased the farm from his parents in 2011, I worked off the farm full-time. Our goal was always for me to be on the farm full-time, and in 2014, we were able to do that.

 

When I worked off the farm, I felt frazzled all the time. Everett went to daycare. Nate was working at home, and I was working in town. Chores before and after I went to my job had me pushing my patience and time. Rushing to get anywhere, well that hasn’t changed. Many nights, I would find myself at 1 a.m. doing something where the day wouldn’t give me enough hours. I thought when I would be home working on the farm full-time, it would give me more time, to do things like can pickles during the day, like a normal person. Or so I thought. One season, I was canning at 1 a.m., and my jars didn’t seal. I said to myself “This is dumb! Why am I doing this to myself? I am tired and for what? A jar of pickles?”

 

This past weekend I found myself in my kitchen at 1 a.m., again. When I looked at the time, I said out loud to no one in particular, “I told myself — never ever again!”

During the day Everett was working on his 4-H project, canning his own pickles. He needed to be done because he was leaving the next day for a week-long camp. Everett needed his own space in the kitchen. To add to my chaos there is a shortage of fresh dill in our area. Seriously? A fresh dill shortage? I stopped at our local grocery store and was told I was the third person looking for fresh dill and he had none. I did eventually find some, grown in Peru. I quickly thought to myself about food and food grown around the world, how if I was in a different time I wouldn’t be able to purchase dill from Peru.

I had about 14 jars needing a hot water bath before evening milking. I went out to the barn. The conversation during evening milking was filled with pickle talk. How many are done? How many are almost done? Do we have enough dill? Why doesn’t anyone have any fresh dill? It’s the great dill drought of 2018.

After milking and chores, filling jars and making a brine, I found myself staring at my canner waiting for the water to boil and looking at the clock to see it was pushing 1 a.m. and grumbling to myself, “I told myself, never ever again and here I am!”

I know in two weeks I will be smiling to myself thinking how delicious these pickles are and how much they remind me of home, how my childhood neighbor kids would eat a jar at a time of my mom’s pickles, how Everett asked if we had any “secret family recipes” he could use for a project, and how many times my husband has been patient and helping me stuff jars way after dark.

When I break the seal on the pickle jar, I will forget how frustrated I was and how I told myself, “Never, ever again.” I know for a fact I will again be pushing 1 a.m. trying to finish something up because whether I am working full-time off the farm or full-time dairy farming, the day never gives me enough hours.

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Show whites represent dedication to dairy farming

This Column was originally Published in Agweek July 6, 2018

This past winter, our hearts were broken when Everett’s beloved cow 304 passed away. It was difficult to say goodbye to her. Everett was only 3 years old when he walked 304 as a winter calf into the ring for the very first time. 304 taught Everett more than I could have ever imagined.

 

304 was not a show cow for show-ring standards, but it was outside the ring where she taught Everett about dedication and trust. Everett was dedicated to her, and she trusted Everett. One year when Nate’s and my pride got in the way trying to talk Everett out of taking her to the county fair, Everett simply replied, “I won’t go then. If she doesn’t go I don’t go.” No whining, no crying — just firmly stating he will stand by his cow no matter what.

 

Everett age 3, with his father, Nate, and 304 at the Morrison County Fair in 2012.

Everett and Nathan with 304 at the Morrison County Fair 2012

This is the heart of every dairy farmer, the dedication to their farms and families. So when we had to say our goodbyes to 304, it was heartbreaking for our entire family.

Everett’s heart began to become whole again this past week. Everett walked into the ring with 304’s daughter, Lady Wilt, at the Dairy Days Dairy Show in Brainerd, Minn. A new chapter had begun for our young son. He proudly walked into the ring with Lady Wilt wearing 304’s show halter. Many years ago we had 304 and Everett’s names stamped into the leather.

As I watched him, I noticed his show whites. In dairy shows the handlers wear all white. Every summer the questions comes up “Why do they wear white? As soon as they put them on they get so dirty!”

This time as Everett walked slowly into the ring, I saw each smudge on his pants and shirt differently. I saw how many times his big heart has been hurt. I saw the four times Everett grew with excitement waiting patiently each time 304 had a calf. I saw how many times his heart grew with more joy when 304 finally had a heifer calf and it was red! I saw how many times his patience was tried in the yard working with his animals. I didn’t see or think “How am I going to get that out?”

I saw how many times he fell asleep beside me with the rumble of the tractor during planting and harvest. How he was so tiny in the barn during milking time and now he rode his bike down the aisle telling me a new story or plan. I began to think of how dairy farmers are struggling no matter how hard they work.

Show whites get dirty and smudged. They are worn proudly representing all the hard work, love and dedication that goes into dairy farming. Each smudge represents something much bigger than just dirt. Show whites represent how much work it takes to get ready for an animal to walk into the ring. They represent how much trust it takes to be a dairy farmer — the faith it takes to believe it will get better.

Everett and Lady Wilt at Brainerd Dairy Day Show 2018

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There are no tears in showing cows

This column was originally published in Agweek on August 3, 2018

Everett has been busy working on his non-livestock and livestock projects for the county fair next week. Added to the mix this year is a pig. Taking animals to the fair is a lot of hard physical work and a lot of going back and forth. Doing chores at home and chores at the fair. Late nights and way too early mornings.

 

When animals have a halter on for the very first time, they are really not sure what is going on. We, as handlers, need to keep our patience and our emotions in check. When the kids start working with their animals for the first time, I let them lose the animal and run around by themselves chasing them. My theory is, they will hold on a little tighter or longer or dig their heels in a little deeper next time because it is frustrating to try catch a calf or heifer who does not want to be caught.

 

The first time Vivian lost Caramel while practicing in the yard, the tears came. It broke my heart to have to tell my daughter, “There is no crying in showing cows. It is hard work. We can get frustrated, but we have to keep our emotions in check. Wipe your tears and go catch Caramel. If you want to do this, there are no tears.”

Vivian nodded her head, wiped her tears and went after Caramel. “There are no tears” is a hard line to navigate. As a mom I always tell my children, “You can be mad. You can be upset. Tell me how you feel. It is OK to cry. It is OK to be disappointed.” I want my children to know their feelings are validated.

To say there is no crying in showing seems harsh. Through the years, Everett understands and has been taught why there is no crying in showing — we are working with animals. Animals need a handler who they can trust. When animals are in the ring, it is all new to them.

If the animal begins to panic, the handler needs to keep it in check so the animal trusts the handler. They are animals, and they go off instinct. The animal can, at any moment, decide to do something different. We need to keep our emotions in check so we can read our animals as best we can.

Even at the fair, when I see kids about to have a meltdown, I tell them it is OK to take a break. Go get a drink of water, walk around the barn, then come back and get your work done. There are lots of disappointments when it comes to showing and taking projects to the fair. It breaks my heart to see kids who work so hard with a smile, then are disappointed with the results.

There are tears in showing, and there are tears in farming. I can’t count how many times I have cried in our own barn during chores out of fear, sadness and just plain disappointment. I have also cried in happiness. I hope I can be the mom my kids can come to with their disappointments, because sometimes tears are a good thing and they are needed. Through tears we are giving encouragement — we did really well at this, but need to work on this. So in the end, sometimes there are tears in showing.

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Christmas Clusters or something like that

During the Christmas Season I think I bake about every other day. I have a mental list of  cookies to make. I enjoy baking. I enjoy the mess cut out cookies bring. It took a few times to master not having headless Santas and reindeer with no legs. When the kids and I made cut outs this year and Vivian yelled, “Oh his leg fell off!” I smiled to myself because I have had many reindeer with no legs.

My ultimate favorite Christmas treat is plops of chocolate, peanuts and marshmallows. They have to be a cluster, not put in a pan and cut.

They are so easy.

First melt 1 bag of choclate  chips, 1 bag of butterscotch chips and about 3/4 cup of peanut butter. IMG_2149[1]

When just melted add 1 bag of miniature marshmallow and one bag of peanuts. IMG_2153[1]

Stir together.

Dollop on wax paper. Let sit till set. I made some last night, about 24 hours later there are about 4 left. I should call “See them now, now you don’t” treats.

 

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Bean Soup with a Ham Bone

My go to for the kid’s birthday parties is a double smoke ham from our local meat locker. The best part is the ham bone to make bean soup. I did have a question about what the difference is between navy beans and great northern beans. I think they taste the same and one is just bigger than the other. What beans do you use for bean soup?

Raising a Farmer Bean Soup

In the kettle add

1 diced onion

about 2 cups chopped carrots

about 1 cup chopped celery (with the leaves the inside is the best for soup)

we had bacon for breakfast so I added the bacon grease to the pot

4 Bay leaves

1 teaspoon Salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon corriander

1 teaspoon garlic

med heat until onions are sweated outIMG_1846[1]

32 oz Chicken broth

about 5 cups of water

add Ham bone

Simmer about 1 hour

Take out Ham bone and 4 bay leaves, remove meat from bone, put ham back into kettle

add

2 cans of Navy beans

1 can of Great Northern Beans

make a roux to thicken soup

dumplings can also be addedIMG_1854[1]

Enjoy!

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Fear can be a good thing

Yesterday throughout the day my thoughts were centered on 4 years ago.

December 4th 2014.

I remember the day as if it was yesterday. From the funny video I had watched in the morning from Everett’s school. I remember the red shirt I had on with a black cardigan. I wore it because I was going to keep it on when I went to volunteer at Christmas at the Mansions later in the day. I remember waiting in the waiting room ready for my name to be called. I ran the to do list for the day in my head. The endless to do list that needed to be completed before Christmas. The cookies I had narrowed down and needed to be baked. The things I wanted to do one last time with just Everett before the baby came. I had a plan of not doing any baby nesting until after Christmas. As I waited in the waiting room, I was looking forward to spending my afternoon volunteering at Christmas at the Mansions.

My doctor appointment on December 4, 2014 was supposed to be a routine visit. A visit to the perinatologist to get a plan together for delivery in January. I have chronic high blood pressure even when I am not pregnant. I had gestational diabetes with both of my children. Having a high risk pregnancy made for 2-3 appointments a week. With Everett I was able to control my gestation diabetes with diet. This baby I was insulin dependent.  I was used to the drill. What my numbers should look like. Where I should be at. Constantly checking my blood pressure at home. Constantly paying attention to what I was eating. I knew if anything didn’t look good I would be on bed rest. I was trying my hardest to not have that happen.

From the day I found out I was pregnant, I was in fear and worry. I had two miscarriages between Everett and Vivian. After the second miscarriage I had said, “No more. I am done trying. We have a healthy beautiful boy. I do not want this heartache and pain to consume my life and take away from Everett. I am happy and content with just the three of us.” God had other plans for us. This baby was a surprise. I was almost 5 months along before we announced we were expecting. I was afraid I would lose this one too.

On December 4th at my appointment my blood pressure was high. From the ultra sound the baby looked perfect. Weighing in at about 5lbs. I joked with the nurse I would have a normal size baby this time. Everett was a tiny 6.9lb when he was born. They monitored me for a couple hours. I thought they would send me home and have me come back the next day. I kept asking the nurse how long it was going to be because I needed to get to Little Falls.

I remember the look on the doctors face the last time she came in the room to check on me and blurted out, “We are taking the baby.” My heart dropped. Worries of lists and where I needed to be instantly faded. I held my tears back and asked, “What? What does that mean? It is to early? Why? When?” The doctor explained my blood pressure wasn’t dropping and it was actually rising to much throughout the morning. NICU would be on stand by. I would be induced. The baby looked good and we wouldn’t know for sure until I delivered. The doctor left the room when all my questions were answered, I called Nate and burst into tears.

On December 4th 2014 I began the day with expectations. I have always been able to adjust to life. On that Thursday my focus instantly changed with five words. In the morning I was consumed with lists and what needed to be done. My world changed with five words. I changed my focus on staying calm. I focused on what is next. What is next this minute.

We had no names picked out. One of the student nurses tried to distract me by writing baby names on the white board we had liked. Vivian was the only name we wrote down on the white board. We still didn’t know what we were having until she cried for the very first time. Vivian was born at 12:48am December 5th 2014.

Vivian continues to take my world by storm. She continues to show me no matter how many lists or expectations I have, none of them matter. She taught me fear can be a good thing. My first emotion with her from the very beginning has been fear. Vivian has been a good thing.

Vivian and I December 4th 2018

 

 

 

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