Quarantine from a toddler’s view

I used to be a car seat kid. Committee meetings, sporting events, shopping, piano lessons — I did it all. My mom would get my siblings on the bus, clean the kitchen, get us ready and then we would go to town.

One day, about two months ago, the bus quit coming and my siblings stayed home! Covid-19. When my dad would ask my mom over lunch, “What activities are there tonight?”, they would both laugh and laugh.

This quarantine life — I always have people to play with. We eat all of our meals together at the table. I can nap as long as I want. My siblings sit at the table lots of morning looking at books and iPads and shuffling papers — it is the new school. We do house projects, endless cooking, and dust off old toys and board games.

The weather has turned nice. My mom bought me outside shoes and I’ve never looked back. Turns out…I’m not meant to be a car seat kid — I’m an outside kid!! Exploring is the best. I hope my mom throws that diaper bag out.

This past week, Mom and Dad have been talking after lunch again — planning what activities to attend and so it seems like there is stuff going on again. I LOVED this quarantine life and I hope my parents think carefully about what to add back in.

I was never designed to be a car seat kid.

5 years since Ava’s accident

5 years ago today, it was a beautiful, sunshine-filled Sunday — much like it was today in southwest Minnesota. On that day, Ava became unbuckled from our John Deere gator, fell out, and received a brachial plexus injury.

Our lives changed forever that day. Our daughter who already had special needs entered into an even tougher chapter of her life. Joe and I grieved with sadness for the loss of simplicity for her and the rest of our family.

We have now entered a part of Ava’s recovery where we have to choose the next step. For this, we received an opinion last summer in Cincinnati, and another one at Mayo in February. Time is not quite as crucial as it was with the first surgery but I would like to just make a decision and move forward.

Ava is 9 years old now. Her right forearm is greatly supinated, which is a common issue after brachial plexus surgery. It is very obvious in the photo of her biking.

Both teams of specialists say that any teenager would beg for the surgery they recommend next — an osteotomy. It is cutting the bones in the forearm and fusing them into a position that not only looks more natural but also could be more functional.

Speaking of function, Ava never gained back as much of it as we had hoped. She has minimal finger flexion (closing) and no extension (opening). No triceps, but decent biceps and external rotation. Pretty much every kid in Cincinnati has more function than she has — which is hard to see at the “family day” mixers in Cincinnati. Being 4 years old is a LOT different than a newborn baby when it comes to receiving a brachial plexus injury. .

We have to choose and schedule something, but Ava is completely opposed to another surgery and big scar. It is a lot for her to comprehend. We are unsure of which option is best because, of course, the two opinions we received have minor differences in the details.

We want to say “THANK YOU” for your support of Ava over the years through this blog. We ask for continued prayers for Ava. We also ask for prayers for our farm, and all farmers, because of the uncertainty of the quarantine and Covid-19.

Coronavirus — Ocheda Dairy continues

I want you to know that farming is continuing as usual at Ocheda Dairy.  Normal for us, is, of course, always changing and adapting because that is what we have to do as farmers.  Today is our first day sending our baby calves to a farm in Kansas that specializes in raising them.  It isn’t easy to take this step, and I’ll be honest, it has me feeling a bit uneasy.  Yet, it is a decision we have thought and thought and thought about, and we must move forward.

Otherwise, we just keep on.  Milking. Feeding. Cleaning.  All these things just continue to need to be done so we just keep doing them.  So yes, we continue to care for our cows as we did before COVID-19.  Fun fact:  Did you know that as dairy farmers we are always vaccinating against coronavirus?  So while we laughed a few weeks ago that we surely were safe, we know that it is “species-specific” and aren’t marking ourselves as safe.

Another fun fact that my friends all laugh at me for, is that farmers always watch the weather forecast.  We simply refer to it as the “10-day”.  If you are thinking that being quarantined to your home means lots of great time in the outdoors and that lots of fresh air is going to keep you from becoming sick, DON’T look at your weather app.  Just don’t do it.

Sunshine cures so many things and I wish we had the 10-day forecast that Wuhan had a week ago (you bet I checked then) or that Italy has now.  Our kids are in school today for the last day for at least 12 days.  After today, we go into social distancing.  I hope we aren’t too late to the quarantine game, and the forecast makes me concerned.

There is a ton of concern in our minds about needing our cheese plant to remain open.  Milk is very perishable and so we have very little storage — not even enough for an entire day. We also still need feed, medicine, fuel, and a whole lot of other things.  We have no history book to open, so we are just hopeful for the best.

I have a sister who is a family doc in Staples.  She has autoimmune issues and I fear a heavy load for her.  My mom had a heart attack 5 years ago and has less than perfect lungs.  I guess if she gets it her chance of survival is 34%.  I can’t even fathom this.

These are all the thoughts whirling in my mind.  I am trying to find the positive and focus on those things.  I will do a Facebook Live highlighting those soon.  In the meantime, I am very thankful that I know my Savior lives and cares for me.  I am leaning on my faith more than ever.  When things get tough, that is what Christians do.  So, really, we continue to milk cows and we continue to trust God.


Ring in the new year with some cheese

Got New Year’s Eve plans? Maybe you have a huge gathering planned or maybe just a quiet night in, but either way…it calls for a cheese tray!

Cheese trays beg to be gathered around and enjoyed. I am not a professional by any means, but I have really enjoyed making them the last few weeks. I’ll be honest though…if you want the fanciest tray with artisan cheese made right on the farm, go visit my friends at Redhead Creamery.

However, if you want to throw together a tray on your own for New Year’s Eve, follow along.

Grab a cutting board or two. The one on the left is an old wedding gift, and the one of the right is one I was given as a gift for giving a farm tour. Place a bowl or two on it, and then start with the cheese. Arrange it nicely and then add some crackers here and there. Meats (I think the fancy term is charcuterie) are a nice addition too. Add something fresh like fruit or nuts in small groups to fill in spaces. Just have fun!

I hope you have a fantastic New Year’s Eve. My most memorable one ever was 2000 — I hung out with a good college friend in her hometown of Lake Henry, Minnesota. We spent the evening partying with dairy farmers and everybody stayed up until it was time to milk cows at 4:30 a.m. That was crazy. I wouldn’t recommend doing that and can’t say that I plan to stay up that long partying ever again. If I did, I would definitely forget to bring my cheese tray home with me.

How To Know When It Is Cold

In our family, on our farm, there is a very clear way to know when Joe decides it is finally cold. He gets out his black coveralls! That day has now happened for this year — on Monday.

He has been tiling fields, which he refers to as “ditch digging”. It’s a process that involves a big tractor, a mini excavator and a side-by-side pulling a tile stringer, and of course, GPS. He is installing lots and lots of perforated plastic pipe underground so that excess moisture can seep into it, run downhill, and into a ditch or lake. It’s a ton of hard physical work but it’s the right thing to do for the land/environment and a fast return on your money as far as farming investments go.

So, on Monday, when school was two hours late due to poor weather conditions, guess who was the crazy man out tiling in his field? Yep, Joe. But don’t worry, he was wearing his black coveralls.

Black coveralls. I believe they are called Arctic Chill by Carhartt.

I don’t even like cold weather. My joke was always that I had a pair of coveralls already worn out by the time Joe started wearing his black ones. Now in this season of my life, with a baby and 4 other children, I don’t wear my coveralls every day from September to May anymore. They aren’t needed for chauffeuring kids and working on committees.

If you are looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for that farmer on your list, warm weather gear is always a good choice. Santa never disappoints by giving a pair of insulated work gloves. Well, unless you are like Joe, and choose to be tougher than the weather.

P.S. The tile plow’s last day is today. The ground is too frozen. Hooray! Let it be Christmas.

What could possibly go wrong

I grew up in central Minnesota, so when we visit my family it always involves some travel from our southwestern corner of the state. Yesterday, my siblings (minus one) and their families gathered in Staples, Minnesota to celebrate another year, albeit challenging from a farming perspective.

Today we are driving home. This is where the story gets interesting. Halfway home, we decided to make a 2 mile detour to show the kids the brick house where I lived when I was a baby. We had just passed the turn so we had to make a u-turn that added a couple of extra minutes to our drive. Good thing, though, because one mile later we spotted my Uncle Chuck walking across his yard.

At this point, you feel almost obligated to pull in and say hi. So we did. We made some small talk about our Thanksgiving and I mentioned we were going to have lunch in a few minutes in New Ulm and then search out a Christmas tree farm 15 miles away.

My Uncle Chuck had a way better idea. He was planning to have all the kids home tomorrow and then cut down 6 evergreen trees that are in the way when he drives around his grain bin to unload wagons. Lucky for us, he only has 3 kids. Obviously, a tree to spare for us!

Somehow the tag was never taken off, so we know it is a Colorado Spruce. Nice coincidence, because my Uncle Chuck planted this tree when it was 5-ft tall 5 years ago, right before we all gathered in Colorado for our extended family vacation together.

Before Joe could say this was too ridiculous to happen, my Uncle Chuck and my cousin Jake had a chain saw and a rope and we were driving our car down to their grain bins.

Cousin Jake cut down the closest tree and we trimmed the bottom few feet off so that it maybe will fit in our living room with 8 foot ceilings. Joe, not a former Cub Scout, wrapped it up with a rope. Of course, I carry a utility knife in the driver’s side door of my car. One just never knows when it may be come in handy to cut a rope to strap a tree to the top of your family car.

We are about an hour from home and the tree is still holding holding fast. I have been calling Joe “Clark” and he googled the wife’s name from the National Lampoon’s Family Vacation so he can call me “Ellen” for a few days. We will make sure to shake the squirrel out before we bring it into our home.

We decided before we departed that the Christmas Tree Farm is responsible for any accidents such as a poorly fastened evergreen tree blowing across traffic on 4-lane Highway 60. Really, what could possibly go wrong?

All hands on deck

2019 corn silage (I guess people are now calling it cow chow) is finished for Ocheda Dairy. Here’s the numbers.

9 days of harvesting

((Edited: Joe read this post and reminded me it was only 7 days for our dairy. We were harvesting for other farms before that.))

24 hours a day

30,000 ton

Look who is waving!

The semi looks so small next to the pile!

It takes quite a few people to get all those hours worked:

2 main chopper drivers (my husband tries to open the fields during the daylight hours and Corey handles the exhausting evenings)

20 truckers (some work 13 hour days and sometimes somebody will just pop in for a couple hours)

6 packers (drive tractors with blades to shape pile and pack out the air…my favorite packer is my son, Vince.)

We have some people take vacation from their regular jobs, some people are retired, some people moonlight, and absolutely every last regular employee from the dairy works extra hours to get it done. It’s all hands on deck.

The world does not need people like me operating large equipment. I specialize in Employee Retainment and Morale Boosting. Sounds fancy but it looks like preparing and delivering home-cooked meals twice a day.

One of my favorite numbers is that it takes 2.5 minutes to fill a truck.

Our pile this year is the biggest ever by far. It looks intimidating!! Last night, 50 people worked for 5 hours to put a tarp on it and hold that down with recycled tires. We love joking with our cow chef (full-time employee who gets recipes from our nutritionist that he mixes up every day) that the pile is now going to be fed by him, one bucket at a time. Guess that is good job security.

Harvest is far from over though. Our main pile may be done, but we will chop corn silage for a few other farmers and then also need to make heifer feed. And I guess we shouldn’t forget all the “fields of opportunity” (Joe’s term) — the fields that other area farmers chose to prevent plant and we seeded to sorghum. Combining beans and some corn will get done sometime in there too.

We want to express a huge “THANK YOU” to all the workers who worked safely and quickly to bring in the harvest, to the spouses that allowed them to be gone, and certainly to the Lord for the opportunity to farm!

Sell seed, truck silage, catch a quick rainbow photo….the guy responsible for this photo can

do it all!