Planting Season and Food Thoughts

Hello friends. I’m still here, but it was a long, cold winter — we had snow just last week on May 8th! I’m so thankful for my two growing boys but between kids, farm, office, home and tiny dashes of socialization & exercise we are wiped out. Our baby has been sick a lot too, but I keep remembering to cherish the days he loves to be held. They won’t last long. Our crops are all planted as of Friday, and I’m breathing a big sigh of relief. I know it’s wet and cold around the country with some farms barely started planting.

I shared the following thoughts on social media yesterday, and I think they might resonate here as well. I’d love to answer questions or have a respectful discussion if you have comments. Thanks for stopping by!

With planting season upon us, I’m feeling inspired to share a few food truths — as a #mom, a #farmer and an eater. 🧀🥗 How often have you heard a well-meaning expert or friend tell you to eat food that doesn’t contain chemicals? Or to only buy #organic food because it’s raised without pesticide or fertilizer? I’ve heard this a lot, and each time it drives me a little more crazy. 🤪 Why, you ask? Because these statements are misleading and cause unnecessary worry.

Chemicals are part of everything in the world around us. Chemicals are not inherently good or bad, they just are. One of my favorite chemical compounds is the one most essential for life, 2 hydrogens and 1 oxygen. H20 = water! 💦 We all want safe and healthy food; if you want to dive deeper into the chemical question start with a fun video called “This is Not Natural.”

Organic has increasingly become a more popular food choice, but many people don’t really know what it means. “Pesticide” and “fertilizer” sound scary, but most organic and traditional foods are grown with one or both. Yup! A pesticide is simply something that helps control pests (think bugs or weeds). And fertilizer helps improve soil health and gives nutrients to growing crops (think manure). Most organic farmers want to enrich their soil and keep bugs and weeds from destroying their plants, so they need to find solutions just like traditional farmers. The USDA (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) has rules governing organic farms like which pesticides and fertilizers are approved. All farmers need to follow labels and guidelines for whatever products they use. 🌱

Both types of farms can be large or small and have varying sustainability and environmental practices. They can also both deliver a healthy food product. 🍎🥛

What to remember? Don’t let yourself be guilted or scared about your food choices by confusing buzz words. In general we are lucky to have a very safe, well-regulated, and abundant food supply. Many good food choices are out there! And a regular glass of milk is still healthier than that bag of organic gummy bears. 😊

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I Had a Baby!

Yes, I had a baby! Back on January 15th our son Nolan came into the world at 6 lbs, 15 oz and 20 inches long. He was tall and long; crying and pink. It felt just as amazing as I expected when they put him on my chest and his beautiful newborn cry filled the room.

It was equally amazing when big brother Griffin came to see us the next day, and I got to hold both of my boys. It felt vaguely like I’d been away from Griffin on another planet, and I missed him intensely. I worried about what he would think of this wrinkly little baby, but he was sweet and curious and energetic. Everything I needed him to be. He was nearly his normal self.

In the midst of a hospital room, a new baby, and several overnights away from mom and dad he was handling the situation with more grace than I knew a 2-year-old could. I was so proud, and I felt grateful relief.

I also felt weak and exhausted. I was stuck full of IVs, barely standing on my own two feet, and wondering why I had the same crazy high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia as last time. My pregnancy had again been smooth, but something about being in labor sends my body into chaos. JR claims in a matter-of-fact way that I’m allergic to it.

I was pumped full of magnesium again, but this time my body quit absorbing it and I went “toxic.” Nolan was born at 10:06 in the morning, and by the afternoon I lamented to my doctor that my limbs were throbbing more painfully all the time and my arms were so heavy I could barely hold on to my baby. She did blood work and immediately put me on a calcium IV to correct the problem. Then I was back on a lower dose of magnesium with frequent blood draws to monitor. Being woken up every two hours that night with a needle was not pleasant. I will always remember the care and compassion of the woman who patiently searched for my vein and stuck it on the first try each time during that long night.

Over these past 6 weeks I kept expecting to find a magical block of time to write about Nolan’s birth and share a detailed story. I have crafted several paragraphs in my mind only to fall asleep or get distracted before I typed any words.

Early this morning I started fresh and decided I could manage to write and publish something even if it isn’t exactly the well-crafted story I envisioned.

The past six weeks have been filled with record-breaking cold (33 below zero with 60 below windchill will do that), lots of snow, and a challenging balance of farm work, year-end office work, and baby care. I am blessed that Nolan is a sweet, patient, and snuggly baby. I wish I could spend all my time just being with him and put aside the other things for awhile. Unfortunately the farm never stops, and now we’re short several employees as we deal with this especially brutal winter.

So we carry on. I spend as much free time as possible enjoying little Nolan, and I’m grateful to both sets of grandparents and our siblings and friends who help with baby care when I’ve got to work outside.

I took this last picture today as I prepared both kids for daycare. BOTH! I’m not ready to send Nolan, but I’m beyond thankful for our loving daycare provider. She is only a few miles away, and I know the boys are in a great environment.

And the realities of work loom large. The farm, office, and cow work I’ve been only half doing really need me to start playing catch up. We are still a little short-staffed in the barn as it is, and the endless February snow moving hasn’t helped anything.

Think of me today, and send a little love to all the mamas you know when they send their new baby to daycare and return to work. In my case I’ve never really left work, but it’s still the same feelings. You can tell I’m behind on my to-do’s when I’m writing about my baby’s birth and in the same breath sharing his first day of daycare. I’m glad I took most of the extra time I could find lately to hold him instead of tap on a keyboard though!

I hope winter is kinder to all of us as we approach March. Thanks for sharing in my joy as I share my two greatest joys with you.

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Being a Mom, Family Fun, This and That | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fall Thoughts and Announcements

Mid-November is by definition fall, but the weather a few weeks ago looked exactly like winter. We had our first measurable snows of the season, and Speedy was delighted by the white-coated roofs and stomping around in boots and snow pants.

Forty degrees has returned a few times since, so winter is not here to stay just yet.

Since I last wrote we survived through a busy stretch of corn silage harvest and fall field work, we moved the last of the cattle off pasture, and our family got two new nephews. Speedy ran his first race at the Twin Cities Marathon Toddler Trot (and Mom met professional runner Gabriele Grunewald!), and we took in the wonders of small town trick or treating.

We also celebrated Thanksgiving twice, and I heard many gleeful “gobble, gobble!” noises from my 2-year-old whenever I even suggested he tell me what a turkey says.

I can not believe the Christmas and New Year holidays are now so close. The year felt long at points, but of course I’m not ready to see the calendar turn to the final month already.

I deeply love the holiday season, but I also feel exhausted, behind, disheveled, and unsure of how to make it memorable and happy the way it deserves to be. The farm work and office work never ends, and I often don’t know where to find the hours for the extra preparations. I keep attempting to guard and carve out the personal and family time I feel I need, and lately I’m coming up short. Sleep and exercise are the first things to give right now, and for December I pray for the peace to be okay with that.

January will bring a much anticipated and much loved new baby to our family!! I acknowledge that may be a logical reason for my exhaustion and generally frazzled feelings — in spite of how happy it makes me. I’m gratefully looking forward to meeting this baby, bringing it into our family, and watching Speedy as a big brother. He happily announces he’s getting a baby, and I hope he stays just as excited once it’s here.

August, 16 weeks

November, 31 weeks

Speedy has grown up so much since the summer, and my heart melts when he sweetly talks about playing with and helping with “his baby.” When I find myself strategizing over how all the necessary work will still get done, there he is thinking of the most important things. Clearly he provides just the perspective I need as we get closer to being parents of two.

Posted in Baby Calf Care, Being a Mom, Family Fun, This and That | 1 Comment

Saying Goodbye To His First Home 

We sold our house this summer, and it almost killed us. 

I’m half kidding but only half. 

I think I’ve mentioned before we moved into the house on the dairy farm over the winter. We never had a big, official move, but we slowly hauled over boxes and bags packed with varying levels of care until we made a dent.

Spring got closer, and we focused on cleaning stuff out of our previous home and trying to attractively arrange the remaining furniture.

 

He said goodbye to his old room many times before it was official.

 
This turned into some new lighting, painting the walls that still had paneling, and installing new kitchen flooring. 

Before I really knew what hit me we were knee deep in a bathroom remodel, picking out carpet, and making multiple trips to the home improvement store every week. 

And, you know, by this time it was also May spilling into June. Somehow we made it through spring field work, our first cutting of alfalfa hay, and all the day-to-day animal care and farm management while working through the rapidly growing house project. We tackled bathroom drywall and trim (mostly ourselves), painted nearly the whole interior of the house (which we thankfully hired out a good chunk of) and lots of weeding, mulching, mowing, and general outside upkeep. 

Final supplies looking messy in the basement

By the time we listed our home for sale I think we’d done everything we thought about but never got around to when we bought it six years ago. Even small but time consuming details like new doorknobs and outlet covers throughout the house were finished. 

Many times I felt the late nights or super early mornings of painting or cleaning were not worth it, especially when I found myself working alone in an empty house. Truthfully JR put in more hours than I did, and I know it was long for both us. Often it would be just one of us at the house while we traded off child watching and work at our “real” job on the farm.

Speedy did make trips to the house with us when needed, and I was pleased we only had one incident of sticking little hands in wet paint.

When the time finally came to list our house we were thankfully rewarded with plenty of views and some good offers. July 13th marked our closing date and the end of our house saga.

 

Waving goodbye on one of the last days. Gosh — I will miss these flowers.

 
 Somehow it’s now September 1st, and I still find myself unpacking random boxes and unable to park in the garage. Where does all this stuff come from?? 

We are both burned out on moving things and house projects, so our current home will wait a while longer before we attack it with the same vigor. 😊 We are comfortable and can find (most of) our stuff (usually), so I’m going to be rational and have patience with myself. 

Aside from the work of fixing up and selling a house it’s been a challenging year to be a dairy farmer. I won’t go into lots of dreary details, but milk prices are quite low and got worse with the tariffs and instability in our international trade negotiations. I think of myself as a realistic optimist, and as I follow these issues I hold onto hope at least some positive economic changes may be coming for agriculture. 

If you’re curious about the current dynamics of Minnesota’s dairy economy this is a good read: http://m.startribune.com/milking-cows-on-an-industrial-scale-arrives-in-western-minnesota-and-some-farmers-shudder/490589351/

We haven’t done a lot of extras this summer, but thankfully I keep carving out a little time to run. Speedy is a great sleeper, and many days I can set off in my running shoes and be back before anyone else is awake. The dogs always hear me, but I just pacify them by feeding them early. 🙂 

Our busiest season of corn silage is just a few days away, and that will put most other parts of life into survival mode. The weather has given us abundant corn, so I pray for a safe and smooth harvest. 

What’s on your mind as summer winds down? 

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Families, Kids, and Immigration

I shared this on Instagram yesterday, and I thought it fit nicely here, too. 

  
As I’ve picked up and held this handsome babe over the last week my heart has been so heavy with the knowledge that hopeful immigrants at our American borders are having their babes taken away. I don’t care about the whys, the arguments, or what “side” you’re on ;
that is heartbreaking.

I called all my national elected officials today, and it still left me feeling hollow and sick. This afternoon, I heard with relief the news of the new executive order which should stop most family separation. I don’t think this fixes broader problems with immigration. I also wonder what happens to the thousands of children who have already been taken away. I pray for their safety and comfort and hope reunification is made a high priority soon. 
I’ll keep wanting a solution that addresses the entire process. I hope someday we can align American immigration policy with our values of inclusiveness and equality and our rich history of being a melting pot. 
Still, at least tonight I have renewed energy to keep being hopeful and being an advocate. Many things in life aren’t easy. Being a dairy farmer among them. But I know my hardest days don’t compare to the monumental decision people must make when leaving their whole world behind to seek a chance. Just a chance for freedom from poverty, violence, famine, and worse. Let’s not make it even harder for them. If you worry they are breaking the law, I ask you two questions. 1) Is it illegal to seek asylum? 2) Isn’t it time we reform immigration laws to give people a chance? 

I don’t need your answers to these, and I don’t want to argue the merits. Just think about them in your own heart as you hopefully hold your loved ones close. Reach out to your own elected officials on these moral issues as you are so moved. 

Posted in Being a Mom, Christian Reflections, This and That | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment