Raising a Farmer

Alot of work but always room for laughter

Bowlus Fun Day

Bowlus Fun Day is a one day event happening always the first Sunday in July. The tiny rural town of 300 grows into the thousands for one day.

In 2019 I documented the process of making a tiny festival with a big impact. Bowlus Fun Day is felt by the community and individuals. One of the reasons for the success of the event is all the businesses in town close to show their support for the event. Jordie’s Trail Side Cafe is across the street from the park, you won’t find Jordie in her cafe but in the Bingo Stand volunteering calling numbers.

I hope you enjoy, Bowlus Fun Day.

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The story of Hans

If you are new to Raising a Farmer you may have noticed some pictures of a large pig roaming around our farm. His name is Hans and he is living his best life.  

Hans is a fixture of our farm. He roams where he likes and when he was younger and a lot smaller he would walk Everett to the school bus, he just getting lazy now and only walks them on the first day of school.  

January 2019
Hans wishing the kids a good day on the first day of school September 2020

The story of Hans. Hans started as a 4H Swine Market Project for Everett in 2018. For many years Everett had shown dairy animals at the Morrison County Fair. Some of these animals he would take year after year. Market animals are different. For market animals, every year you take a new animal because their purpose is for market (to eat). Everett was on the fence for a couple years about showing market animals. Everett bonds with his animals and showing market animals is different. I told him when he was ready we would get him a pig. 

The spring of 2018 Everett was ready to show pigs. We had decided we would start with one and see how it goes. Everett and Vivian had decided to name him Hans, “Hans” because he is the bad guy from Frozen and we have since been reminded several times the bad guy from Die Hard. They had decided on a bad guy name thinking it would be ok in the end when the new market arrival would be in my freezer. When we picked up Hans the kids were reminded he was going to be in our freezer come fall. All summer the kids were reminded that Hans was going to be in our freezer. We had reminder conversations all summer Hans is a market animal, he is going to be in our freezer. I think you get the point: Hans was supposed to be in our freezer. 

Hans Summer of 2018

Hans taught Everett a lot about showing pigs, feeding pigs and patience that is needed with pigs. Every animal is completely different. 

Everett and Hans 2018 at the Morrison County Fair

Fall came and we had some feed we wanted to get rid of that wasn’t good enough for our cows so we feed it to the pig. Hans got to stick around a little longer than intended. Winter came and I became really busy with my Morrison County Milk Project

The kids and I were on our way out the door to deliver milk to one of the local schools when we saw that Hans was out of his pen. That winter we had so much snow and it was so so so cold. I knew he would stay close to the barn and nestle in the straw. I am not sure how or why we never put Hans back in his pen. He is now a permanent fixture of our farm.    

Morrison County Fair 2019 we took him to the fair for a meet and greet in the Ag Learning Center. At that time he weighed 678 pounds. We weren’t 100% sure what he all eats. He will eat grass, hay, old silage what ever he can find around the yard. When we went to the fair I thought for sure 150 pounds of feed would be plenty for Everett’s two pigs he was showing and Hans. By the second day Everett came to me saying we were out of feed. 

We had shirts made saying “I Love Hans” for at the 2019 Morrison County Fair. We gave them away as a prize for the Raising a Farmer Scavenger hunt and they were gone in about 6 hours!! Everyone loves Hans!

Hans has about doubled in size since then. 

He loves the sun. He loves the snow. He likes long naps. Apples are his favorite. Gatorade and Pepsi are his drink of choice. 

And we LOVE Hans!! 

Vivian was not happy with Hans when he broke her Picnic table.

Here are some videos of Hans

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One birthday present can change everything

This last year many steps have led me to the point of where I am now. I was lost last fall after selling our dairy cows. Not knowing what I should do or even who I was. My birthday is the end of August. My birthday has always been filled with dread and joy at the same time. Joy because it was my birthday and dread because it marked the end of summer. End of warm days with school around the corner usually in a few short days. 

 For my birthday in 2019 I received a gift in the mail weeks before my birthday. The thick envelope arrived in the mail. Nathan handed me the envelope with the kids siting in the back seat of the van. Nathan knew what was inside. We sat in the driveway as I opened the envelope. A birthday package from my dear friend Amanda who lives in Connecticut. Big crocodile tears rolled down my face as I read the card and I asked Nate if this was for real. Amanda had gifted me a plane ticket to visit her for three days the end of October.

Amanda and I in Woodstock, VT 2019

Amanda and Nathan orchestrated my time away from my family without me knowing. Opening the present could not have come at a better time. It was the week of our Morrison County Fair. Tension and stress were high in our house. We were nervous about going into the fair of 2019, Everett was not going to be showing dairy and we weren’t sure how us as a family would feal about it. At the same time we were excited and nervous about our new role in the Morrison County Ag Learning Center.

October 2019 came, and I was beginning to count down the days I would see my dear friend Amanda. I had longed to see New England. Many times I would joke with Amanda how she must drink tea with her pearls in the morning sunlight. I might have watched one too many Hallmark movies to create what I think New England is supposed to be like. At the same time I was nervous because what if I had created this unachievable image. For me this was a new adventure because it was the first time in a long time I was traveling without a purpose little did I know what this trip would mean to me and the purpose it was going to give me. 

Woodstock INN 2019

New England is everything I had imagined and more. I felt like I did in fact step out on to a Hallmark movie. This gift from my friend gave me an opportunity to just be. I had a lot of time to self-reflect. When I graduated high school in 1999 I had attended St. Cloud State University. Life happened and I never finished. It had been something that had always bothered me. While I was in Vermont I did a lot of thinking about maybe now was the “right” time to finish. Vivian would be starting kindergarten in a year. Nathan and I had decided I would continue to stay home with Vivian until she started kindergarten. As I thought about this I thought “Than what?” Little did I know what 2020 would bring.  

 I met with an advisor after Thanksgiving 2019 to see even if it was possible for me to go back. I had no idea how many credits I had or what I should even do with the credits I did have. I was advised with my hodge podge of credits to pursue a Bachelor of Elective Studies. The beginning of January 2020 I purchased books with my kids in tow as a St. Cloud State University student. The night before my classes started I was in tears. I was nervous, I was upset with myself for not finishing 18 years ago-everything came out in tears as I crawled into bed. I hear many times people saying how they went back to school for their kids. I didn’t. I went back for myself. 

I took a mixture of online and in person classes. My husband & kids supported me every step. Friends and family supported me and helped watch Vivian this past winter. I have amazing professors who when I needed to, allowed me to bring the kids to class with me. Geography Prof. Wall helped me secure prior learning credits with projects and outreach I have done surrounding rural communities. I took 18 credits this spring making the Dean’s list. This is the first time I ever made this list, ever. I proudly have the certificate on the refrigerator. With all the summer cancelations of activities we normally would be busy with I decided to take 16 credits this summer. This fall I have taken 18 credits.  

The middle of December 2020 I will be graduating from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Elective Studies and a Minor in Geography.   

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Vivian’s Meatloaf

For about a week Vivian was asking for meatloaf. It turned out to be seriously the best meatloaf that has ever come out of my oven. She is now in charge of making meatloaf. She has made better meatloaf than me!

This was taken in June. I was sunburnt. Everett said after watching this, “Mom look how burnt you were!” Yes I was burnt.

We have summer hair, summer skin, late suppers.

Everett and Nate make a couple cameos. Everett at the end is famished and exhausted from a long summer day.

Do you like meatloaf? What are your secret ingredients?

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I am not a Mixologist

I tried.

Try new things!

This has been the going motto lately. I have done no “new things” in social distancing. None. So when I saw this recipe I thought I can do that. (Yes, I gave myself false hope)

I had many, many complications as I tried to navigate my way through this recipe.  (as usual)

Sam Heughan Outlander star shared on his Instagram @samheughan the Isolation Sour, for every tag he would be donating PPE supplies to Scotland. If you are looking for a new drink or maybe try to be fancy and for a good cause, Head on over to Sam’s Instagram.

How many glugs is too much?

Any “tips” is greatly appreciated!

Brenda

 

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Dear Distant Leaning 1st Day

Dear Distant Learning 1st Day,

We failed you. We tried really hard. We could blame it on the sun. The fresh mud puddles. The pigeons that needed to be hunted with a BB gun. We could blame it on the trees that needed to be climbed. The chickens that needed to be looked at. The raft that needed to be built and rebuilt and repaired and again tried to float in the child made pond. We could blame it on the birds that were singing calling to come outside. We tried sitting outside to accomplish math.

We tried sitting at the kitchen counter. We tried and we failed. It wasn’t because of lack of internet. It wasn’t because of lack of work to accomplish or to much work to make it overwhelming. It maybe was the small panic I felt when I realized that I can not do 5th grade math and my only response to my child was “Do your best.”

No, it was because we were home. The undercurrent of missing a teacher, a classroom and classmates have been building for weeks now. It was because this is different. A different change that we are not sure how to navigate or how to structure our day because there are still windows calling to come outside and explore. I know my personality and I know my child’s. This is gonna be rough but we are going to try again today.

Sincerely,
An unstructured mom forced to be structured

 

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Makeup tutorial with Vivian

Vivian did my makeup.

The things this little lady says to me, one thing is for sure is I like laughing with her.

What kind of makeup should she do for Part 2 and Part 3?

 

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There are chickens in my dining room

This Column was originally published in Agweek on February  22 , 2020

Summer fair season is a long way away. It is hard for us to think of county fairs in Minnesota when there is still snow on the ground and temperatures are still below zero some days. But the weather outside isn’t stopping Minnesota fair kids for making plans for this summer.

At kitchen tables and in barns across Minnesota, kids are making plans for their own county fairs to begin this summer. Fair kids are beginning to think of projects they will be working on. They are celebrating the birth of their fair animals. They are navigating disappointing emotions when their plans for their animals don’t work out this winter. Everett began making plans last fall to hatch his own baby chicks for the fair this year.

Last spring, Everett purchased his first baby chicks from a local hatchery. The winter before, he was making plans for what kind of breeds of chickens he would like to raise. He was saving and looking forward to raising chickens. In the end, he decided on a variety of chicken breeds.

As his baby chicks grew, we all fell in love with his cochins. Cochins have a lot of feathers. They have feathers all the way down their legs and feet. They are a pile of soft fluffy feathers. I even started making earrings out of their soft feathers.

Cochins come in a variety of different colors. Everett’s favorite are blue cochins. At our county fair last summer, Everett showed a breeding pen of cochins, one rooster and two hens. After the county fair, Everett had begun to make plans for this year. He had decided he was going to hatch his own chicks from his breeding pen. For Christmas, there was an incubator waiting for Everett under the tree.

We were patiently waiting for his cochins to start laying eggs. Cochins take a much longer time to mature than other breeds. This is because of all their feathers they have to grow. It is definitely worth the wait. When Everett found their first egg it was a happy day.

All of Everett’s plans have currently made our dining room into his own little personal hatchery. There are eggs waiting to be placed in the incubator. There are eggs in the incubator. There are baby chicks in boxes on the floor.

Everett is in heaven. Every morning before he goes to school, he checks on his incubator if there is any sign of chicks making their way out of their shell. When he comes home from school, he checks again. Before he goes to bed he checks.

When we see a chick making its way out of its shell, we all gather around the incubator to watch. It is amazing. Sometimes we don’t even see them hatch and they are out of their shell part of life before we even know it.

For me, watching Everett make plans and take pride in his process of learning and growing with chickens is worth the chirping throughout the house.

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More Minnesota dairy farms fall to the ‘axe’

This Column was originally published in Agweek on January 25 , 2020

I came across a west Asian fable on social media the other day, “The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the axe. For the axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his handle was wood he was one of them.”

The number of dairy farms exiting the industry is heartbreaking. Many of these farm families are not exiting the industry by their own choosing but by an axe. Many of them are feeling like they are being pushed out.

The feelings of being pushed out not by one but by a number of reasons. According to Minnesota Department of Agriculture, in January 2018 there were 3,076 dairy farms in Minnesota. In January 2020, there are 2,601. There were 475 dairy farms that sold their milk cows, their livelihood, their lifestyle, their everything in a two-year period. Their hard work, their hopes, their faith, the many tears all for nothing: gone.

To break these numbers down, the state of Minnesota has lost an average of 20 dairy farms a month in the last two years. Twenty dairy farms a month left the industry. Twenty families every month made difficult decisions in silence across rural Minnesota. Twenty families a month had to figure out, what now? Twenty farms a month have left in silence, fading into the background. Some of those families needed to move away from the life they were building. Many of them had to walk away with nothing left but guilt, shame and the feelings of letting generations before them down. Many of these families are going over and over in their head, what could they have done differently? Where did they go wrong?

There is nothing they could have done differently. When pay price is $13, $14, $15 per hundredweight and cost of production is $17, $18, $19 per hundredweight, no matter how you do the math, you are always short, no matter what. Within my own home of Morrison County, we had 219 dairy farms only two short years ago. Today there are 177 dairy farms in Morrison County. Almost two farms a month left the dairy industry in Morrison County. Our family farm was one of them for the month of September.

How is the landscape of rural Minnesota going to look in the very near future?

We talk about how we want our rural communities to thrive. I ask, are we doing anything to change it? We talk about mental health and what we need to do once we reach a breaking point, but we don’t talk about what is causing it: The financial burden dairy farms have been in the last five years. We don’t want to talk about where we really are because it is so “Debbie Downer.”

I don’t see the dairy industry “bouncing back.” I see a way of life dying. I see rural communities hurting. I see lost looks on farmers not knowing who they are anymore. I see farmers once proud of the hard work they did and that was enough. Now I see broken and defeated faces.

I wonder what rural Minnesota will look like in the next two years.

Rudolph Dairy 0035

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Quick and Easy Egg Bake

I love breakfast foods.

Anything you would eat for breakfast.

Cold cereal is at the top of my list of breakfast favorites. I’ll even mix cereals in my bowl. Some Cheerios, with a dash of Fruity Pebbles with some wholesome corn flakes. Yum! And of course milk.

One day Everett requested Egg Bake. I didn’t have any milk in the house so I couldn’t make my traditional egg bake with a creamy cheese sauce and it also calls for to set over night.

I looked in the fridge.

Took out some mushrooms, chopped them up. Sauté

Add about a cup of chopped spinach. Sauté with mushrooms. Remove from heat

Whisk about 10 eggs together in a separate bowl.

Add about a cup of shredded cheese

Some Parmesan cheese about 1/4 cup

Add mushroom and spinach mixture

(I would have added onions but sometimes the kids are on the fence lately about onions)

Mixed it all together

Put it in a 11×7 pan or any cake pan about that size. If you use 9×13 your egg bake will be a little more flat. 05FD94A9-C7D4-486C-B884-739A9E35AC48

Sprinkle the top with Croutons (I didn’t have enough to cover the entire dish so just a few worked)

Place in oven at 350° F for about half hour to 45 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

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