The North Woods

Minnesota is many things. Prairie. Lakes. Cities — think Minneapolis/St. Paul. Small towns — think Lake Wobegon. Rivers — the Mississippi begins here after all.

Minnesota is also forest, and trees cover a huge chunk of the northern part of the state. I live in a middle ground of sorts that’s not exactly prairie but not forest either.  We have trees, but they are nothing like the towering old growth forests of the north. I have a new appreciation for this after our getaway last week.

From Tuesday to Thursday we left the farm for a near exact 48 hours. We loaded the Subaru with coolers of food and bags packed with sunscreen, clothes, swim wear, and bug spray. Lots of bug spray. Plus running shoes for me. Before I even started loading JR had enough fishing gear to fill the whole car. We did squeeze everything in, and then we drove north to meet our friends who graciously invited us to their cabin. We hadn’t talked through a lot of details, so I didn’t know if this was a resort, lake home or what. As we followed the directions it became clear this was off the beaten path. Eventually the two lane blacktop became winding dirt roads, and we were in the middle of the Chippewa National Forest.

  
A stunning lake and towering trees greeted us when we finally pulled up to their family cabin. Built in the 1920’s, this beautiful spot looked rustic but was comfortable and charming. 

   
 The cabin was full of lots of useful supplies, and there were even four bikes in the shed. We spent several hours touring around the forest trails and never saw another soul.

  
In the national forest the roads were dirt and the bike trail was paved. Really. 

 

The beach below the cabin was amazingly sandy and beautiful. The waves and wind were crazy intense on Wednesday, but that didn’t stop the boys from fishing and even tipping over their canoe. Luckily they were still in a nice and shallow part! 

   
 

Yes, it really was cool enough for long sleeves. I also went for a solo run in the morning, and feeling the forest so close on all sides was unlike anywhere I’ve ever run. I never considered putting an earbud in because I was so content to listen to the rustle and sway of thousands of trees. This part of trail was actually the road. For cars.

  

I did scare up a large deer toward the end of my run, and I thought that would probably be the most exciting wildlife of the trip. Of course I was wrong.

On our way home we were driving south and talking about the fish market we would stop at about halfway. I was at the wheel and taking sips of coffee here and there. It was heavily wooded to our left, and suddenly I realized an animal was in the middle of the road. As I slowed down I was trying to figure out what it was. A long black shape on all fours, it didn’t look like any dog I’d ever seen. I was trying to decide if there was such a thing as a huge black bobcat when suddenly I knew. I think JR and I both shouted out at the same time, “It’s a bear!” 

JR tried to get a photo, but the bear casually lumbered off the other side of the road before that could happen. It wasn’t a full grown bear but probably the equivalent of a teenager. At least it was big enough that I wasn’t expecting to see mama bear following behind. I know Minnesota has plenty of black bears, but not in our area. I’ve never seen one in the wild before. I do know I’m glad I was in the car instead of on foot in my running shoes. And I’m also very glad this stately bear avoided being road kill. 

Now we’ve had our quintessential trip up north for the summer, and I already can’t wait to go back sometime. The forest has a way of calling. 

What is your favorite summer vacation?

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The Milk Comment

“Lisa, thanks to your teachings, I no longer feel guilty about passing up the $6.99/gal organic milk for conventional.”

Well, wow. Honestly. This comment was written to me in passing on social media last week, and it made me stop and take notice. It was from a friend I made through our mutual interests in running and health and fitness. She is urban, and I’m rural. She’s a working mom, and I’m a farmer. But we both run marathons and care about the foods we eat.

Now please don’t get mad at me if you prefer organic milk. If you want to buy organic, that’s cool. If you don’t buy organic, that is also 100% fine. No need to feel guilty about saving those dollars. If you don’t drink a lot of milk maybe cheese or yogurt is more your style? Even if you don’t eat dairy, I can still be your friend.

The thing that made me excited about this comment is my friend has less worry in her food choices. Over time our exchange of info means she has a glimpse into my farm, and she has a little more insight into the milk in the dairy case. That’s amazing to me.

Our information sharing goes both ways because she is a much more accomplished runner than I am!

On my blog my goal isn’t to tell you what to eat or make you more confused about food choices and labels. I just want to be a resource. I hope you can all get adequate protein and calcium in your diet. Your muscles and bones need it. I hope you can eat foods that you feel good about to fuel yourself and stay healthy. I also hope you can enjoy the taste, texture, and variety of many foods because food is delicious. That’s what I want for you. I don’t want a twisted undercover video or an activist with an agenda to make you question everything you know about food.

   

 

Sure, farming and food processing aren’t always glamorous. There is a lot of labor involved, and we grow a lot of food in the dirt after all! I just want you to feel empowered to shop without fear.

 I hate that so many of my friends now agonize over organic, non-GMO, and free range labels. It doesn’t have to be that way. Choose it or not, but don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or less worthy because of a LABEL. We have a very safe and very highly regulated food supply. Choose on nutrition, variety, budget, etc and remember that organic does not necessarily mean healthier. I do think the regular veggies I grow and the dairy and meat I eat are a better choice than an organic bag of crisps or chips.

We all want to make a difference, and as a young woman on a farm I feel compelled to spend some of my free time sharing what I do. 

As a woman it’s easy to feel bombarded by the media, to feel judged for our body, our clothes, and yes, even our food choices. I get that. I’m not a dietician or a doctor, so I can only talk about what I know. 

Here’s what I know about the milk we produce. We take care of our cows, we enjoy them, and we believe in good feed, housing, and medical care. This translates into nutritious milk and dairy foods. Just like (or maybe exactly!) the ones in a refrigerator near you.

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Birthday Kuchen

My husband has quite a bit of German heritage in him. He studied German in high school, and he has visited the country on several occasions. Rarely he will refer to me as fräulein. (Which technically isn’t correct because I should be Frau, and the internet tells me fräulein is outdated anyway.) Oh well.

JR had his birthday this week, and he doesn’t have near the sweet tooth I do. He will occasionally eat the cookies and muffins I bake, but he prefers protein to carbs. We had some long days baling hay surrounding his birthday, so now three days later we finally had cake. When your husband is German and he prefers coffee over cake you get creative. Actually, he told me a few months ago I should make real Black Forest Cake sometime, and his birthday seemed like a good time to oblige. 

Enter Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen or Black Forest Cherry Cake.

I searched the internet for recipe ideas, and I finally settled on this one. The author says this. “As a German woman it breaks my heart to see all these ‘Black Forest Cakes’ in North America made with sickeningly sweet icing and gross cherry pie filling. This cake isn’t meant to be very sweet but rather a dessert for adults with deep rich flavors and enough alcohol to make your head spin!”

I knew this was the cake as long as I could find the correct Kirschwasser or ‘cherry water’ the recipe called for. After visiting several stores and having the clerks shake their head at me, I finally procured a 750 mL bottle. For the record, I only used about the half the alcohol the cake called for, and it was plenty potent!

With ingredients like tart cherries, espresso, dark chocolate shavings and barely sweet cream JR thought it was a the best birthday cake I’ve ever made him. I often just purchase ice cream cake, so there’s not actually much to compare it to.

The cake also sat in the refrigerator for the flavors to blend longer than I planned — 3 days. So goes farm life. I waited on making the cream frosting until serving, and it worked out fine and delicious. 

   
   

Happy Birthday to my sweet husband, and many more! 

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Another Summer Day

I couldn’t think of a thing to title tonight’s post, so this will have to do!

It was a gorgeous Minnesota day, and I’m really grateful the hot, hot, hot weather from last week is over. I suppose all of you who live further south are rolling your eyes at my definition of “hot,” and you might be justified. I don’t think I could survive in the heat and humidity of the Deep South. Anyway, we had dew points in the 70’s and temperatures around 90. Every other day it seemed like we would get rain, and then it would be right back to as humid, hot, and sticky as before. For this northern girl that’s hot, hot, hot!

Sometimes weather pushes overdue projects to the forefront, and in the heat last week we finished hanging another batch of fans in the barn. We also installed a whole new wall of fans for our holding pen, which is the area behind the milking parlor where each group of cows waits before being milked.

     

  

I know I’m grubby here, but I was still happy! 

This week we have been busy in the hay fields, and we finished all the chopping tonight. It also happens to be JR’s birthday, but I don’t think he minded working. I suspect having nice weather to make hay is as good a way to celebrate as any. I’m trying to make the perfect German Black Forest Cake for his birthday, and the result is likely to be my next blog post. 

 

My garden update is also encouraging. The peppers are coming in full force in spite of the deer who keep eating their leaves. We’ve had a few ambitious tomatoes, and the radishes and kohlrabi are already done for the year. I’m also glad I remembered to plant cilantro. Fresh diced peppers, tomato, onion, and cilantro are so easy and so delicious.  

  

I don’t know why summer moves at breakneck speed, but here we are already approaching August. I’m still especially thankful for this summer because I feel I’ve learned and reflected more than normal. Aside from the farm I’ve had a lot going on in my family life. I’ll be honest and say some of it is very hard. I wish I could fix everyone’s hurts, struggles, and illnesses, but of course I can’t. I can listen and provide support and hope, and I’m back at peace that it will be enough. God will help me, and His love is enough for all of us. If you pray I ask that you’ll pray for myself and my family to know and believe that.

As always, thanks for reading. I wish you a wonderful summer evening, and so do these little ladies. 

  

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Thankful for Thirty

I’ll get right to the point. Today I turn thirty. No longer can I classify myself as a twenty- something. I’m ok with entering a new decade, but thirty sounds more grown-up than I feel. Thirty sounds serious, and I don’t intend to let myself get too serious! Then I think of the seventy and eighty-somethings I know who are still young at heart, and I know I shouldn’t worry about a simple number. Nothing magically changes today, and I don’t expect to see grey hairs overnight. 😉

More than anything I know I can be thankful for each passing day, year, and decade. I can find joy every day if I choose. With that, I’m going to share thirty things I’m thankful for. Only a few relate to being thirty, but they are all part of who I am.

1) Family. These are in no particular order, but family still has to top the list. Everyone from my husband, sisters, and parents to extended family and in-laws on all sides.

2) Friends. Whether you are related or not, I am so grateful for all the people I count as friends.

3) Food. I love that we were created to eat and enjoy such a variety of foods. I also love getting together for meals and conversation.

4) Words. I like to read, write, and talk, and words let me do that. I also think other languages are beautiful, and I keep working on my Spanish.

5) Minnesota. I am a lifelong Minnesotan, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon!

6) Calvin and Boo. Our dogs always make me smile, even when they’re getting in trouble.

7) The Church and my church. I’m grateful for the larger Church of believers across the world as well as my own local church.

8) My husband. I suppose JR should get his very own reason!  

9) Running. I really do love tying on my running shoes and just getting out there. I even enjoy watching track and running events.

10) Chocolate milk. It’s delicious and goes hand in hand with number 9!

11) Coffee. And tea and all the other warm beverages I like. I especially don’t think I could get through winter without a steaming mug of coffee each morning.

12) Cows. They are friendly and curious, and they are our livelihood.


13) Our garden. I love the fresh vegetables and the progress we make working together.

14) Travel. Visiting someplace new or returning to a favorite spot are both things I am always grateful for.

15) Pictures. I enjoy capturing memories on camera, and I’m starting to get better at taking nice ones.

16) Baking. Sometimes you just need fresh pastry, muffins, or chocolate chip cookies. At least I do!

17) University of Minnesota. I am a golden gopher always, and I have happy memories of college days whenever I step on campus.

18) Our military men and women. I am so thankful for each person who serves. Words aren’t really adequate to say thank you.

19) Music. I love so many different styles and songs. It can keep me company while driving, working, or on the run. I also like creating music when I sit down at the piano.

20) Shoes. This might seem ridiculous, but it’s true! Boots make farm work and winter better, and the right running shoes are key. I also appreciate fabulous heels.

21) Books. I have been a book lover as long as I can remember. Even if it’s been awhile since I’ve read something the pages wait for me.

22) Movies. JR is a big fan of movie night, and I like the buttered popcorn and candy. (I like the show too!)

23) Minnesota Twins. They are my hometown team, and no matter what their record is I will stay loyal.  

24) Sun, moon, and stars. Who doesn’t love a sunrise or the beauty of a glittering night sky?

25) Cheese. I could eat cheese and crackers all day, and I use it in so many delicious foods. Also, one word. Pizza.

26) Lakes. I know the ocean is bigger, but when you’re from Minnesota you’ve got to appreciate the lake. It gives you fishing, swimming, relaxing, and a fabulous view.

27) Yoga. Even though I’m still a beginner I really enjoy the mental and physical benefits.

28) Seasons. I like the changing temperatures, leaves, and landscapes of four distinct seasons.

29) Pepé the cow. I was asking JR for ideas, and he said I must be thankful for her. Even though I already mentioned cows, I’ll give her a special spot. 

30) A new age group. I’ve now entered the 30-39 division for races, and theoretically that gives me a better chance for awards. A lot of 30-something women are actually faster and more competitive than the younger groups, so we’ll see how this works out! I’m actually running a local 4-mile this very morning.

Thirty things and now that I’m warmed up I realize I could easily add more. I’m always amazed by how much good is out there when I take the time to recognize it. Here’s to thirty. I know it can be the start of a year with even more things to be thankful for.

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