HUGE Week for MN Dairy

HUGE Week for MN Dairy

World Dairy Expo was held last week in Madison, Wisconsin.  It means different things to different people — it’s a trade show, it’s THE cow show of the year, and it’s a time for dairy producers from all over the world to connect or catch up. 

Right now, Minnesotans can’t wipe the smiles from their faces.

Our 4-H Dairy Judging team won top honors. 

photo credit to Hoard’s Dairyman

Our University of Minnesota Dairy Judging team won.  I couldn’t steal that photo. 


A cow from Minnnesota won the Holstein show.  It’s a really big deal.  Only the best of the best come to this show and they come from all over. And a MN cow named Thomas (of all things) won. 

Photo by the Bullvine.

Here’s what makes it so neat. This cow was raised and cared for by a super nice, well-respected family from Rochester, Minnesota.  Their last name is the Sheehan’s, and they operate Sheeknoll Farms. Four generations going strong, and a day they will cherish forever. 

I don’t have to check the records to be sure:  first time Minnesota has swept all three.

My family attended the show on Thurdrsday and made some memories.

As companies pack up their booths from the trade show, and farmers hang up their show halters for the year…it is time to embrace fall. And keep cheering for Minnesota dairy. 

24-hour silage, endless dishes and 2 candles

Tonight is a new first for Ocheda Dairy — planning to make corn silage around the clock.    Usually, the crew works (only) 17 hours a day but we have a few more people willing to work this year and need to keep going because of the rain delays we’ve had.  I should have been suspicious when Joe decided to buy some portable light tower things last winter.

What is silage?  It is the main ingredient that we feed to cows year around in our “cow cassserole”.  It is made with the huge machine seen below.  Nearly the entire corn plant and the cob are chopped into small pieces, blown into a semi trailer, unloaded on a concrete pad, pushed onto a pile in thin layers, packed by 3 tractors, covered with a huge piece of plastic and then allowed to ferment. (Dairy farmers were the cool kids fermenting stuff before all the foodies caught onto it and starting making their own sauerkraut and pickles!)

Joe doing some fixing quickly during lunch. He always pulls up his hood and wears a dust mask for a job like this so he can breathe easier at night. Violet thought he was pretending to be a monster.

It usually takes 10 people (1 chopper, 6 semis, 3 tractors).  However, we need a lot more people than that because there is other stuff to do like fix, pick up bales, seed cover crop — not to mention milking and caring for the cows.

And that’s where the endless dishes come in…I help out by making meals.  I love to cook and serve others!  I would take a picture of my kitchen right now but I don’t want to make you cry.  Instead, here’s a picture of us enjoying lunch where we made silage last week.

Lastly, two candles.   Our precious little Violet celebrated her second birthday today.  God knew I was going to need her, as she brings me more joy and laughter than one can imagine.  I am so thankful to be her mom.

We love this time of year.  School has started out really well for the kids and Ava seems to be figuring out a kindergarten routine.  Violet is really loving the time with just me.  We miss Joe a bunch but the work has to be done and he is always ready for a challenge.

I hope these days are bringing you lots of enjoyable work, memorable evenings, and not too many dishes!

Week of his life

Week of his life

When you think of the best possible 6 days ever possible for a 10-year old farm boy, you just need two words — corn silage!!

Due to school starting 2 weeks later than in the past, as well as finding a dairy needing help out in Canistota, South Dakota, Vince logged in a solid week (with just a one day break to hang out with cousins) of harvesting corn silage.  He loves hanging out in the tractor that shapes and packs the pile.  From there, he watches the trucks bring load after load, and listens to the usually joking conversation on the walkie-talkie type radios everybody uses.  (If it is not joking and friendly, it is usually my husband giving firm directions from the forage harvester — “Move in” or “Slide forward” or “Use the north driveway”.)

Vince started school today, and his disappointment at summer ending and school starting was dulled a bit by the rain delay we are experiencing right now.  Semis loaded with corn silage get stuck so easily, so we will have to wait a few days until rolling again.


Liv, 3rd grade.  We bought her outfit on our date!  Beautiful inside and out. 

Vince is in 5th grade at Worthington Christian School, and Liv is in 3rd.  I recently enjoyed a HUGE first with Liv — a date to buy school clothes with just her!  We spent 8 hours together and loved every minute.  She never stopped talking the whole time.  Joe and I feel like she is sometimes our “lost-in-the-shuffle” girl and so it was especially fun to pour into just her.

Here’s the Ava update:  She turned 5 in March, but I hesitated at the thought of sending her to school.  She is small for her age and has so many necessary therapies.  So, we found a “compromise” of sorts by sending her, not to our beloved Christian school, but to the public school for kindergarten.  I’ve spend a HUGE amount of time in prayer about this, am hopeful it is the right decision, and am working to be at peace with this.  She will be able to receive lots of one-on-one time working on school-specific goals, but also have the opportunity to make many new friends and work on doing things for herself.


Ava wanted her picture taken, too, so here she is on her way to therapy.

We are going to try to get our physical therapy and occupational therapies done at 8:00 in the morning twice per week, and I will bring her to school late but hopefully she will only miss breakfast.  The schedule should work out nicely and was another point in favor of sending her to the public school for this year.


Our FIRST find of eggs!  They are so tiny.

It leaves me with Violet at home!  I have done a pre-school drop off for 7 years straight and am looking forward to the break.  She will love helping me cook lots of food for the silage crew, right?

Who wants to eat? This sure helps to slow down traffic on our road!

One-year post-surgery

One-year post-surgery

It has been 365 days since Ava’s nerve transfers and grafts in Cincinnati. Here’s what she has gained:

1.  Shoulder stability. Less of a gap to her shoulder socket.  We work every day at lifting her arm up as well as out, but she cannot do it much yet on her own.  Gravity is a strong force.  

2.  Elbow bend.   She can lift it as much as perpendicular to her body quite easily (see photo below).  Any further, like up to her mouth to eat, is still a work in progress. 

3.  (Insert drum roll….) Finger Flexion!!

She can squeeze her hand shut!  She doesn’t have any sensation past the middle of her forearm, as her nerves haven’t grown all the way down.  However, finger flexion is an extrinsic hand function meaning the movement starts outside of the hand. If you make a tight fist yourself, you will feel the muscle that she is using. It isn’t much — but she can carry this ball with some assistance to get it placed.  Here she is working in Occupational Therapy. 

Initially, we were told to hope for some shoulder function at 6 months, bicep/elbow bend at 9 months and hand perhaps by 2 years. She has always been a bit ahead of those guidelines and we give God all the glory. 

We remain hopeful that if her nerves grow all the way to her fingers, it will be natural for her to use her right arm in everyday situations.   Right now, she will only use her arm if told to do so, so that is why we need to work hard and yet be patient. 

To my prayer warriors:

This is quite heavy on my heart the last few weeks. Ava has innervation to the muscles that work to supinate her arm, but not any to pronate as we had hoped would come. So, what this all means, is that her arm is always palm up, and super tight to turn it back to a normal resting and functional hand position (think of how your hands would be if you were sitting at a desk or trying to pull a glove on.) 

Palm up. We’ve just started using some kinesiotape to help pull it back to palm down.

I stretch her arm at least 6 times a day and ask you to join me in prayer for this issue. We are also getting some special straps for her daytime and nighttime braces.  If all these things don’t result in change, she will have a surgery (a super-invasive one) in a little over a year. 

When I think back to what Surgery Day was like a year ago, with it taking much longer than expected, with trying to nurse and care for baby Violet, with trying to update people on the progress so they could pray in specific ways — well, I am exhausted just thinking about it. HOW FAR WE’VE COME!!  Things get better all the time. Ava is here, she’s our girl, and we are doing everything we can for her and trusting that whatever function she gains will be enough for her to serve God day by day. 

Here’s a small farm update:

Joe harvested some corn silage for some people who were preparing to build a wind turbine and the corn was much drier than one might expect. (69% moisture). Crazy busy time  may be here sooner than expected. 

My garden is extremely productive.  Even the weeds are flourishing!

The building crew is finally setting posts for what was supposed to be a ‘summer’ building project but was delayed over and over due to rain. 

Kids are excited and not excited about school.  They love the social aspect but also enjoy summer days. Vince will be in 5th grade, Liv 3rd and Ava will be a kindergartner.  They grow up so quickly. 

Thanks again for all the support. You make my load lighter. 

So strong!!

Look what this girl can do.  She almost always likes to show off so if you see her, feel free to ask her how strong she has become. 

Working that bicep! She can hold it for 10 seconds no problem!

i would have never dreamed a year ago that she would have enough balance and strength to be trusted with her own calf.

So much love.

Vince showed a calf and a yearling. He is looking so grown-up!

Liv and I with her calf.

Violet had a good balance of fair time and play time, thanks to her great-aunt Sue.

Inside the head of a 4-H Mom

These days.  These are the days why we brave the Minnesota winters.  Let’s not even talk about school being 4 weeks away. 

It’s fair week. I know the county fair means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but to me, it is a celebration of rural living. 

Sometimes, I forget to celebrate because I am reminding my child for the third time this week that if the heifer halter isn’t where he expects it to be, that he will need to look until he finds it. Sometimes, I forget to celebrate because the 4-H office just sent their 18th email of the month and I can’t bear to read another one. 

Vince brought this same heifer to the fair last year…she is a bit bigger this time around.

Let me tell you why a 4-H parent keeps marching on…4-H affords us the opportunity to be the kind of parent we want to be.  

A hands-on parent. 

Trust me, I promote “free play” as much as the next mom and I agree with all the research that says how important it is to a child’s development.  I also appreciate organized activities like sports or music lessons. HOWEVER, I love the ways in which 4-H brings me really close and working right beside my kids.

We’ve now got 60 days in feeding calves milk and they are ready to be weaned.

There’s so much to preparing animals for the fair that a parent must do when your oldest is just 10.  However, it is done more easily with a child’s help. 

 Vince has never given a chicken a bath before or clipped toenails, so we needed to work together.  It was quite the sight, by the way.  Put “give a chicken a bath” on your bucket list.  It requires 3 buckets and some gentle dunking. 
Over the course of the summer, my children have progressed so much in the amount of care they can give to the animals with needing less help from me day by day.  They still need my help some, but we are working side by side.  That’s what I love about 4-H.  

In 5 or 6 years, Vince will lead the way.  I will be cheering from the background as he teaches Violet how to rinse out a calf bottle and Liv how to clip her heifer.  He and Ava will be building an enclosure that can contain our goats.  That’s 4-H.  

So, these days — they are the best days.  This is what I had hoped parenting would be like. Bring on the county fair. 

4 Things in Common

Our family just had the most wonderful experience of meeting another family who has a boy named Preston with 4 things in common with Ava:

1.  Lives in Minneosta

2.  5-years-old

3.  Goats!

4.  Brachial plexus injury with avulsions C6-T1. 

Preston with his mom, Ava with me, photo bomb by Violet

Carly reached out to me as she knew someone in New Prague who knew someone who knew me, or at least followed this blog.  Anyway, small world. 

We met Monday night at our home, and the kids had so much fun playing.  Ava’s initial reaction was that Preston’s nerve damage was not similar to hers because he does not have to wear a brace.  I explained to her that, because his injury was during the birthing process 5 years ago, he didn’t need to wear a brace any more like she will for a few more years.  (It protects her wrist from breaking as that area doesn’t have nearly as much support and protection as a functioning one, also it keeps her hand from developing an inward curl).  

In any case, the kids played!   They rode bike, jumped on hay bales, dug in the sand, and just had a wonderful summer night.  Tuesday morning, we had YMCA swimming lessons and they enjoyed the hotel pool. 

My mother-in-law has a kid’s clothing store, Main Street Kids, so we popped in there for a bit and then drove out to the dairy for lunch. 

Do snowpants for sale mean that summer can’t last forever?

We walked around the farm but Preston’s two-year-old sister was pretty scared of all the sounds and most of the sights (it was nap time) so we cut it short.  

Prestons’s older brother is into metal forging so the boys hunted through an old scrap iron pile to find something heavy that would fit in their van.  

At this point, Carly (Preston’s mom) and I had a nice long talk.  It was very therapeutic for me to visit with someone who can tell me she has had the exact same feelings.  A lot of our sentiments ended with, “I’m sure you know what I mean”  or a similar phrase. For me, it was much more emotional to think back to 1 year ago than for her to go back 5 years.  Preston has endured 3 major surgeries so Carly was able to speak with a lot of “been there, done that” attitude.  Our conversations keep running through my mind this morning. 

Ava received an Ulu, which is a knife from Alaska that is very handy to use to cut your food with just one hand. To get it out of the packaging, well it was quite a sight. They both immediately sat on the floor so they could hold it in place with their feet while pulling with their left hands. Ava was just enamored with it at supper last night.

We plan to meet up again soon.  They live just 200 miles north of here.  Also, we talked about attending a camp next year for families that live with brachial plexus injuries. 

For me, I sincerely hope that this visit will be a turning point in my health.  I have had a sick summer with lots of light-headedness, nausea, and some sort of whooshing through my head. It has left me unable to care for my kids some days but a doctor’s visit and lots of blood work revealed nothing.  I am on my seventh day of feeling well!  Record for the summer, I think.  

Perhaps it was some sort of virus, maybe just stress.  I just switched most of Ava’s therapists and it was worse (much much worse) than switching hair stylists.  When people have helped you through so much, it is tough to move on but I just want what it best for Ava.  Kindergarten also looms in the future and it weighs heavy on my heart. 

In any case, I now have a new resource and, more importantly, a new friend in Carly.  Hopefully, Preston and Ava will somehow find peace and hope in knowing each other. God works in mysterious ways.