Picking Rock

Like many farm girls, I ‘earned my keep’ by picking rocks in the spring.  Here in southwestern Minnesota, there are rocks but the rocks are nothing compared to back home.  In central Minnesota, where I grew up, you could literally walk across a field and never step on soil.  A few times, on particularly rocky acres, we wouldn’t plant them and then the rock-picking could continue all summer.

Somehow or another, I have pretty fond memories of picking rock.  My brother, Aaron, would always drink gallons of water (there is nothing so quenching as a long drink of cold water during a hot and dusty day in the field) and that is how I nicknamed him ‘Camel’.  Every now and then, I will now call my 7-year-old son a camel as he reminds me a lot of my brother.  Another fond memory is the family picnics my mom would prepare for us to eat in a grassy area near the creek.  The woodticks probably enjoyed the noon picnics as much as my brothers and sisters and I did.

These memories came to me when reading an article in the Minnesota Farm Guide recently.  It was titled, “Rocks in producer fields may be from out of this world”.  Meteorites!  A Kansas farmer found one in his field when he got out of his tractor to do a little fixing.  It was worth thousands of dollars.  Better yet, a Missouri farmer found one valued at $850,000.

I get it…my dad was giving me the opportunity to find treasure.  It wasn’t actually to remove the rocks so they wouldn’t damage equipment.  Maybe.

Think you could spot one?  I read they have dimples like golf balls and will be heavier than expected.  Most are small:  fist-size to basketball-size.  They are black, and have a charcoaled or burned appearance.  Usually they are magnetic.


Do you think there might be some rocks of value resurfaced by the road grader?


I realize there is danger in letting a young kid operate machinery, but I would argue it is even more dangerous to let a kid spend their days watching television.

I plan for my kids to spend some time picking rock.  It is certainly a job that you can look back, see your progress, and the impact your effort has made.  If I asked my son, he would assume the best way for him to do it was with the mini-ex.  He would probably be disappointed to hear that all he would need was a pair of gloves, farm boots, and a jug of cold drinking water.  A good attitude wouldn’t hurt, either.  Regardless of meteorites or not, there is definitely great treasure to be gained by spending day after dusty day in the field, picking rock.


My girl’s 5th birthday!

It seems like when I was a kid, I was fortunate if mom made me a cake.  Now, kids get  more than an entire day for their birthday, they get a birthday week!  I think it is great fun and am certainly not complaining!  She was The Leader (if my daughter understood emphasis…she would definitely feel that phrase needed some capitalization!) at her preschool in the morning.  After lunch, she had a quick photo shoot outside.  Lots of snow for the middle of April!


Picked up some friends for parfaits and coloring at McDonalds.


Did a little yoga and dancing at the new Studios on 5th in downtown Worthington.  Fantastic!


Opened some presents.  I asked the moms to have their girls pick a gift from their own stash.  We all have too many toys, right?


Each birthday, we go out as a  family to the Ground Round.  My kids believe that the waiters and waitresses are fantastic singers.  The free dessert is nice, too.


The next morning, we set about making our cake.  My husband’s family was planning to come over after church on Sunday to celebrate.  She had chosen a clown-shaped pan at the library.  If you haven’t ever checked it out, our local library has a fantastic assortment of cake pans.  I really have no idea why this particular one appealed to her.


My other daughter was not to be found in the kitchen.  She was screaming and pounding on the window, begging for a chance to take part in ‘nutrient redistribution’ — that’s the snazzy term for manure hauling.


My husband couldn’t resist.  She got the ride.


For the party, I served chicken parmesan, rice, french bread, roasted broccoli, lettuce salad with homemade poppy seed dressing, watermelon and grapes.  My sister-in-law took the next couple of photos.  I laughed so hard when I saw this.  After closely analyzing this photo, I decided that the gesture wasn’t what I originally thought it was.  Those two do get along just fine.


Here’s a close-up of the finished cake.  I didn’t have any red frosting, so we used a sucker as the red nose.  The kids thought that was fantastic and it just snowballed from there.  Candy bracelets, fruit snacks, Smarties…..it definitely wasn’t a cake for adults.  IMG_4594

9 cousins and a 10th one on way!  So blessed to have family so close.


One last shot of our birthday girl!


Hopefully, Liv is of the age where she will be able to recall bits and piece of her party.  It is really an age of realizing how the world works and knowing that people took a lot of time to make her day special.  She is easy to love!

The Assumer Consumer

Today, I urge you not to be an assumer consumer.  It is a phrase that I thought of last night and I would define as “one who buys without prior research”.  Let me paint the picture as it relates to grocery shopping.

You are at Hy-Vee picking up supplies for your daughter’s birthday party.  You tell her she can pick whatever type of juice box she wants to share with her friends.  She decides, and as you pull the 10-pack of fruit punch off the shelf, you see a label.  It says “made with no high fructose corn syrup”.  You shrug and throw it in the cart.  That’s fine.  The real kicker is your decision the next time you buy juice boxes.  Did you take a few minutes on the internet to find out if research shows high fructose corn syrup is really bad for you (read more here) …..or did you just assume, and now you feel as though you ought to buy the alternative.

The same holds true for the label on milk that reads something like “Our farmers pledge:  No rBGH”.  First, it is a pledge because there is no way they can actually test the milk, as all milk contains growth hormone (whether from a human, cow, goat, etc).  A glass of milk is a glass of milk.  Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, American Medical Associaiton, American Diabetic Association, and the National Institute of Health all have independently stated that it is safe to drink milk regardless of the label?  A glass of milk is a glass of milk.  Please do your research and make an informed decision.

Now, on to the organic market.  I need to pull myself in and not write 10,000 words and forget to make supper.  I’ll sum it up with this:  We don’t buy organic.  I urge you to discover for yourself the equivalent nutritional value of conventional vs. organic.  I urge you to learn what the USDA allows and disallows under the label “organic”.

Have you ever thought of it from the conventional farmer’s perspective?  We’re trying to feed a growing world here.  Organic farming is far less efficient, and every acre that is taken out of conventional production to provide food for the rich, is certainly not helping us to solve world hunger problems.

Lastly, no matter your decision to buy organic or not,  I can personally assure you that all farmers care about their land.   Seeing to the proper care of our land is vital to our livelihood.  We plan to someday pass these acres to our children, and dream that our grandchildren will also have the opportunity we have had.  We love it out here!

So, folks, add it to your to-do list:  “Research what I am confused about concerning food”.  Google!  A great way, especially if you live in a rural community, is to ask a farmer about what they do on their farm.  Also, check to see if your county is one of the many that celebrates a “Breakfast on the Farm”  in the next few months.  Move from being an ‘assuming consumer’ to an informed one.  Thanks for reading!

P.S.  This is easily my most controversial blog material yet.  Please feel free to comment.

Let the clean up begin

This tree was the focal point of our yard.  Bloomed a glorious pink color each spring.


This is what was left of it, after we trimmed the branches we had to.


Our thermostat and radiator weren’t communicating overnight, and Liv thought 77 degrees was a good reason to wear her new swimsuit while we reorganized kitchen cabinets this morning.  Yes, she is cleaning with a paintbrush that she found.  Creative, I know.


Safety first!  I was walking by the kitchen window after reading to the girls before naptime.  Branch was just falling as I snapped the photo.  Joe was not falling so that was nice.


We got power back tonight!  We had gone 3.5 days without.

Ice, Ice Baby

I have a bit more respect for Phil Vassar (see previous post Lots of Learning )  than I do for Vanilla Ice, but the hit song “Ice, ice baby” is certainly what came to my mind with the storms we have had.  Millions of dollars of damage to our area and the clean-up is just beginning.

It all started on Tuesday morning.  When the girls and I were leaving our Early Childhood class at 10:30, it was raining ice with a sizable coat on our vehicle.  The word at dance class was that area school north of us were closing.  At about 4:00, Joe let me know that a nearby power pole was leaning and to be ready for power outages.  Supper was eaten by candlelight while the pole was being fixed, but electricity came on soon after.  Then, at 9:00, power went out and, 1.5 days later, still is.  With lines out for miles around us, it could easily be another 5 days without power.  Eight-tenths of an inch of freezing rain followed by 8 inches of snow will do that!


To the left of me, power lines fell into Smith lake. On my right, out grove stands at about half of normal height.


In town, power went out overnight on Tuesday. They rolled blackouts all day Wednesday, and now some have constant power and some don’t.


Major damage to our grove. We have always left it grow ‘wild’, thinking it was nice for the wildlife. I think there is now enough firewood in there to heat a few homes for a few winters.


At our place, we have 200 pregnant heifers. A bovine that isn’t lactating (that is, producing milk) drinks 7-10% of her body weight in water a day. Anybody want to carry 20,000 pounds of water to my heifers today? I wouldn’t even make my son do that! So, we have the shop truck parked down by our well-house, generating electricity that way.

Our main dairy has a snazzy generator that automatically kicks in when power goes out.  We milk cows 3 times a day, and each shift takes 7 hours.  Clean-up takes nearly an hour following each milking, so if you are a mathematician, that figures to 24 hours a day.  It is just a plain necessity to have power.  It is hard to imagine a hot summer day right now, but the power company kicks us off the grid when it gets super-steamy and we make our own electricity so there is enough for others.


This is what we are using for our house. My father-in-law bought it from some traveling salesman, and it is a blessing to us now. We have lights, heat, and my fridge and freezer are working! My computer crashes fairly often, though, and I can’t use my clothes dryer. Right now, clothes are air-drying EVERYWHERE in my house. With the downed power lines, I am assuming that nobody will just drop by and see the socks and dishtowels hanging from our fireplace hooks.


School was cancelled yesterday and today. My son’s alarm clock wasn’t working (generator can’t last all night without being refueled), so 4:00 seemed like a great time for him to wake his sister up to check out the snow. At 7:00, some of the neat factor had worn off and they took a nap, albeit brief.


Our generator doesn’t support our stove either.  We brushed the snow (9 inches?) off, and had hot dogs and asparagus for lunch.  Gourmet.  Slow cooker chicken tonight.


So what is my husband doing?  Well, his morning was spent refueling our generators and then moving snow with the skidloader and the telehandler.  My 7-year-old son might have enthusiastically helped him.  Joe then did a bit of research to figure out how to get feed from the dairy to our place.  Looks like the normal 4 mile trip will be closer to 8 miles today.  This afternoon, he is doing his normal Thursday work, which involves sorting cows to the proper pens at the dairy.  No trip to Sheldon and the sales barn for my girls today (see photo on this post)!  When he finishes, we are hopeful that it is no longer misting and snowing, and he will use this tractor and hay-buster to make our heifers as comfortable as possible with clean and dry bedding.


I am so thankful for linemen.  For those who work at nursing homes and hospitals and brave the elements to show up on time for their jobs.  Snow plow crews.  The NAPA employee willing to get up at 5:00 so my father-in-law could get a new fuel filter for the dairy’s generator.  Radio station employees providing updates on cancellations and closures.  Countless others.  IMG_4347

I hope you are all hanging in okay and would love to hear from you.

In just 10 years

Tomorrow, my husband, Joe, and I will celebrate 10 years of wedded bliss.  Well, obviously not every single day is bliss, but for 10 years, we have held to to our commitment of standing beside each other to the end.  The roughest times for me have been my miscarriages.  I think a man just feels stuff differently.  The roughest times for Joe…well, perhaps he knows better than to let me know what those have been.  Our good times FAR OUTWEIGH the bad times, and we both often agree…we’d get married all over again.  Here’s a list of the top 5 things I love about being married to him.  (boys, start taking notes and do the same things for your gal).


Starting our married life together. April 5, 2003

1.  We agree on the big things.  We are God-fearing Christians.  We like kids. We vote. 

2.  He is a hard worker.  There is never a doubt in my mind that, through God, he will provide for our family.  If we needed it, my husband would deliver pizzas at night to get by.  A Saturday is typically just another day to farm.  He always does his best, whether someone is watching or not.  Read the caption on the photo….it is a perfect description.


Joe putting in drainage tile to improve our land. Although it is buried underground and unseen, I guarantee you it is nearly perfect. Anyone who has worked with Joe would vouch for that.

3.  He respects the work that I do.  He doesn’t fold laundry and I don’t fix a broken water line.  He assures me that the work I do is important.


Coming home from the hospital with my first-born, and with it, a new job title: Mom.

4.  He is fun.  My kids know that!

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