Super Salesman

When Brett from our local John Deere Dealership calls, it doesn’t show up on Caller ID with his name. It reads Super Salesman. My husband coined that term.

How did Brett earn this distinction? He NEVER gives up. Each new month or whatever promotion they are running, he is always trying to drop off something that we need, but just don’t realize it yet.

Last July, he dropped off a new skid loader, pictured above. I thought it was identical to our current one (I took this photo to prove it to Joe), maybe was a bit cleaner. There were some differences that Joe pointed out to me, I guess. The back-up camera was pretty nice.

Well, bottom line is that Super Salesman won and we had the new skid loader delivered last week. When I was 16, I don’t remember learning this in Driver’s Training, but in bus training I learned to NEVER back up unless you absolutely must. With operating a skid loader, it is tough to avoid backing up, so the back-up camera is a very welcome safety addition.

So, that Super Salesman is just a persuasive, persistent guy. He even persuaded his boss to buy Vince’s purple ribbon from his goat project at the fair. Generosity to helping youth goes a long way.

Now is the time to start editing a phone contact of yours to read “Super Salesman”. It makes me smile every time.

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A wedding and some Amish farming

We traveled to the east coast this weekend for a wedding. 23 of us from Worthington, Minnesota!

Joe’s grandma, age 93, endured the weekend with relative ease! So many cousins!

We were very thrilled to be invited and the ceremony was truly a blessing to attend. It was so refreshing to hear again the importance of marriage.

Of course, we managed to fit in a farming adventure earlier in the day on Saturday. After a short stint on the beach at Chesapeake Bay, we headed north toward Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I tried to google a driving tour of covered bridges but threw that idea out the window when I saw this.

GOATS, CHICKENS AND COWS??!?

And it looks Amish?

“Turn here, Joe! I mean it!”

We pulled up and, since it was a Saturday, there were kids running all over the place. The dad and the uncle were trying to fix on a steel-wheeled “corn binder”.

We asked if we could get out and they said “sure”. They had great English and not-so-great teeth. Very nice and interested in our way of life. Joe visited with the men, and a bunch of kids took me on a tour of their farm. They had 6 huge horses for working the ground, 45 milk cows, 5 dogs, and of course chickens and goats.

This is a picture looking from their farm up to their schoolhouse (on the right). One room for 30 kids, with a teacher and helper. Kids come from up to 2 miles away. On the left, it is the grandparent’s home.

It is so hard to imagine that they live just 2 hours from New York City, 90 minutes from D.C., an hour from the beach — and they’ve never seen any of it! They looked at us like we were crazy to be looking for covered bridges when they had never even seen the one 2 miles from their home.

They don’t like photos of themselves so I didn’t get one. However, they proudly grabbed a photo book from the house to show us a deer fawn they brought into their house once upon a time, as well as landscape photos on their farm.

They grew 11 acres of tobacco as a cash crop. Seeded and harvested it all by hand and each plant split on the stalk and hanging upside-down in a shed.

I didn’t get a photo of their tobacco but we saw lots of other Amish farms as we tried to make our way back to the hotel and wedding.

Every Amish farm had their laundry hanging on a line that stretched on a pulley from their porch up to a very high point of their barn. And they each had at least one shed for drying tobacco. Much not be a very mechanized crop to grow, so fitting for Amish farmers.

I snapped a photo of their mailbox and took a screen-shot of our location. I hope to mail them some photos from our farm when we get home!

Violet has been bringing dozens (at least!) of travelers smiles with her airport antics, rolling a bag twice as big as her. She is sunshine! We are excited to get home. It is raining there, so harvest will be delayed for a few days. So I have a good excuse to do laundry without hanging it on a line. And send our new Amish friends some mail.

A useful U-gate and Carlson cow update

Some people never part ways with “stuff”, but usually on our farm –if it isn’t used — it doesn’t stay. If you start to keep everything you just might use, maybe someday, you’ll soon have so much stuff on the farm that you’ll never find what you are searching for. It is a rule my husband has learned from his father.

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However, we just broke the rule. Do you know what a U-gate is? It is when an employee (because, you know, we never make mistakes, ahem) is backing up a skid loader and forgets that they are nearing the end of a pen and whammo…the skid loader meets the gate. The gate is no longer a straight line and usually so much shorter that it isn’t useful.

We used a u-gate today. (It had been somehow saved.) To do something we have never done before — load cattle on to a double-decker style trailer. Why?

Well today, after exactly 3 months of housing Carlson Dairy cows following that terrible storm near Pennock, Minnesota, we sent some of them back home! I hope they are enjoying their newly renovated barn!

Carlson’s poured the final needed piece of concrete on Labor Day, let the cement cure for a week, lined up some semis yesterday, and welcomed 90 cows back to their farm today.

As I have a very flexible schedule with my main objectives being more to care for my family, I was able to help out. Our herdsman, Bryan, is fantastic at this type of thing so we worked together. At this point, we think we may do this same thing the next 2 Mondays, because it is convenient for the trucking company.

I hope you will not be troubled next time you try to de-clutter your home or farm. Most of the time things like U-gates aren’t useful. There are just exceptions to every rule.

2 years post-surgery and 1 week pre-corn silage

Today marks two years since Ava's nerve transfers in Cincinnati following our farm accident. She is currently sleeping on our couch, flat out from what we have termed PFS (Post Fair Syndrome). All kinds of kids picked up a stomach bug that incubated for a long time and then hit hard.
Initially, we were told that Ava would continue to see improvement for two years as her nerves slowly grew. So that would mean today is the last day for gains. However, a few months ago at a visit, they said that they still think Ava may gain some hand function yet. We are still hopeful but working in our hearts and minds to make peace with the situation if she never is able to have a helper hand.
When she went in for surgery, I honestly thought that today, her arm eventually would look and function a lot more like a normal one than it does. However, I have learned that a little is a lot. The things she has gained are
1. Shoulder stabilization.
2. Ability to use forearm to hold paper in place.
3. Ability to carry something between bicep and ribs.
4. Ability to bicep curl half-way to hold something up while she manipulates it with her other hand. (Like husking corn video I had shared)
Many more gains are possible if she had the ability to open and close her hand!!! She sometimes has motion in her fingers if she is activating other muscles, but not voluntarily.
Please pray for this!!!!

On the farm, we are anxiously awaiting making 4th cutting hay but have received 6 inches of rain in the last week. Joe is just finishing up a building project in the holding area, where our cows wait for their turn to be milked 3 times a day. We recently had some major landscaping done with some bulldozers and other construction equipment. As soon as we can dry out and get haylage up, it is a mad dash for the crew to switch the chopper from it's hay head to the corn head and take off for South Dakota. We picked up another farm out near Canistota last year that we make corn silage for their cows. Then, lots of other dairies including ours. Joe loves the challenge!
Our son, Vince, is in denial that school starts soon. I may be, too. Ava hopes to get healthy soon so she can enjoy these last few weeks of summer break.

Best birthday present

I am not the only farm wife in the world that wishes she simply had more time to spend with her husband. I get it, though — I know that when your passion is your job, there are never enough hours in the day.
But not today. Joe came to a work-out with me!

Joe joined me for a class offered by our local YMCA that combines yoga and weights. It's pretty sweaty.
We LOVE our local Y…Joe is on the board of directors. They offer free child-care so parents can work-out! And the pool is both indoor and outdoors, which is as good as it gets in the summer time with 4 children of all ages and stages. I am not the type of person that MUST work-out to feel normal, but I love to! Also, the programs offered to the kids are great so my car can pretty much auto-pilot there.
Right now, Violet is napping. Liv and Ava are outside painting their nails. Vince and Joe are recycling some old light fixtures and doing some office work. I am about to try to weed that jungle that is my garden.
Life is good. 37 years young and hopefully many more years as a farmer's wife!

Camp Elk Run 2017

A Bible, a jackknife, and work gloves. These were on the list of required things for Vince to pack yesterday. 

We are short a farmer around here…Vince left this morning for a WEEK-LONG camp.  And it looks to be a bit of an unusual experience. 

More than 1000 boys and counselors are attending.  It is in the Black Hills, in an area owned by South Dakota Game Fish and Park.  Basically, it is in the middle of nowhere 30 miles northwest of Custer, South Dakota.  

Vince got on a bus at 10:00 this morning with 2 of his close friends.  

Vince, with his good friends from our church group for boys.

When they arrive, each group will receive 12 foot poles, a 30×40 piece of plastic (like what we farmers use to cover silage piles), plastic and twine.   They will use these things to build a tent. All meals are cooked themselves at their campsites (most years over a campfire but they may be bringing in grills due to the drought).  There is no electric access for the boys and all water is brought in.  

They will experience archery, marksmanship, geocaching, hiking Harney Peak, visiting Mount Rushmore and doing a service project.  A live praise and worship band will be a part of each of their evenings.   Not all boys attending are members of the Christian Reformed Church like we are, but the boys program in our church is called Cadets, and if you wanted to attend this Internationak Camporee, you had to do the necessary Cadet work to qualify. 

It seems to be that some of the objectives of camps like this is to break kids down physically and emotionally so that they will be raw spiritually and ready to hear God speak to them. I never thought I would say this, but Vince has been less of the easy-going, hard-working, fun-loving boy that he was.  The past year, he has been so much more emotional and influenced by his friends opinions on things like what is and isn’t cool.  It really breaks my heart, and is certainly a rough part of parenting for me.  I keep telling myself it will get better as he ages through this part of his childhood. 

Can you imagine how icky the laundry will be after a week?  Vince packed deodorant but your guess is as good as mine as to whether he will use it.   Part of me thinks a professional dental cleaning will be in order when he comes home. 

In any case, I am so thankful for all the volunteers to make this happen!  I pray that he is safe and doesn’t need his knife to fend off coyotes at night or whatever.  I hope his new work gloves come back worn after a tough service project.  But more than anything, I want him to read his Bible and feel that closeness to God.   That is what this Mom really wants!

Ava’s arm update: ┬áno more tan lines

Yesterday, we met with the brachial plexus team at Cincinnati for a check-up of Ava’s arm.  If you are new to my blog, 2 years ago Ava became unbuckled from our side-by-side and suffered complete paralysis of her right arm.  She received nerve transfers in August of 2015, and we were told that we would then wait for 2 years to allow the nerves to grow so we could see what she gained, and then discuss more surgeries. 

So, we walked in ready to talk about some surgeries.  After showing them what Ava can do and can’t do, we were shocked to hear them say “keep waiting”.   They had initially said nerves grow a millimeter a day, an inch a month….but Dr. Schwentger said that is just something they say and it doesn’t apply to the fine and tiny stuff near the end. Even though the “inches rule” signifies we are done, the expert says we are not. 

I think that is really good news!  More potential. They want to see her in another 12 months but we are to call and chat and maybe meet up if something tightens or she is losing something she has gained. 

You can see her tan line! And some electrodes that I use to do her E-stim treatments at night.


I am so excited to share that very few people will immediately recognize Ava as different anymore, because we can ditch the pink or beige splints she has worn for the past 2 years!!! If I had a dollar for every nice person in the grocery store that has noticed and kindly commented on Ava’s condition, my food bill would be zero. 

The change of thought:

1.  The likelihood of a broken bone in her arm is less than it was.  Even though her balance is still not perfect, it is much improved.  Her arm bones are smaller and less strong than an average child, but they aren’t overly worried.  

2.  Her hand won’t become overstretched like they had originally been concerned about because…. Her pronaters never kicked in.  Her supination did.  So, she always holds her forearm upside-down, in a supinated position.  Thus, her wrist is never dangling and never tightens in a weird way. 

3.  Let her just be normal.  What kid would want that label and that attention?

They also left me with a lot to think about regarding Ava’s therapy schedule.  Ava currently goes to to each of these once a week:  physical, occupational, speech. They told me that I know my stuff; these therapy sessions are impeding regular life.  Let her be a kid, activities like swimming and track are just as useful.  I should just continue do my nightly routine with her.  When I looked at the main surgeon to double-check within her eyes if she was being honest, she looked at our other 3 children and said, “You certainly must have other things going on as well.”    That was of course hard to hear as I try to balance my time in being fair to my whole family.  So lots to think about there. 

In another year or two, Ava will undergo a surgery that they swear is “no big deal” to flip her forearm so it isn’t always upside down. It’s called an osteotomy.   Cut the bone and realign it.  We live in a palm-down society where most of the things we do (ride bike, drive cars, use a computer mouse) require that position.  There are very few cases like Ava’s but they have recently figured out that it isn’t so successful to cut both of the bones that operate in your forearm or the muscles will simply pull things back to the way they were.  I guess now they are just cutting one bone and aligning that way.  While it seems like the wrong thing to do, they are getting better results. 

Lastly, we signed a contract that places Ava in a study so that all her information can be shared, analyzed and used to improve the outcome in kids that will suffer brachial plexus injuries in the future. 

I apologize if this was strange writing but wow, my brain doesn’t function as well when we aren’t in our own home, eating normal foods and in our normal routines.  I think I am worse than a kid for adjusting to travel!