This time of the year

The week between Christmas and New Year is always a different kind of busy on a farm. Of course, we are usually working through some winter storms…and this year appears to be no different. Also, there’s year-end planning.  

Farming is a passion, farming is a way of life.  Yet, farming is also a business.  And businesses have to do a lot of year-end planning. 

The tax year runs January 1 – December 31.  All of your income and expenses come together to determine what kind of financial year the farm had.  If it was a good year, it is usually wise to pre-pay some expenses like seed or fuel. Pre-pay means to pay in advance of using it. So, you might pay now for seed you won’t get to plant until April. 

 Joe offered to take two kids with to do some of our end-of-year business transactions.  Liv and Ava got out the door in a hurry.  Vince stayed back.  It is like the world has turned upside-down!   Vince nearly always goes with Joe.  At least Violet is still with me or I would really be lost!

Vince’s favorite meal lately is Ham and Potato Soup.  I had ham in the fridge, and I obviously always have cheese, so I decided it would be good for Vince to receive a lesson in the kitchen this morning.  He made it all by himself except for the onion dicing.  He can’t stand that, he claims. 

It is probably against every blogging rule ever to take a picture of the recipe and post it, but Joe just texted me that they are on their way home.  The photo is a lot quicker!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  We celebrated with my siblings and parents yesterday. 


A 10-year mom

I have held lots of different titles in my life, but there isn’t one I answer to with greater pride than that of “Mom”.  When my son, Vince, was born 10 years ago, well-wishers told me time and again — “They grow up fast.  Hold on to them while you can.”   And while I have learned that lots of parenting advice is bogus, the “blink of an eye” warning is certainly true.   

Here’s what I’ve learned in 10 years. 

1.  You can’t begin to say you have PATIENCE until you’ve been a parent.  I honestly used to think I was patient, but I’ve come to realize that my patience was simply never tested.   Huge difference. 

2.  “Long days” also takes on a new meaning.  The summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, I had an internship with Minnesota Holstein Association….which is a group of people who own cows that have papers verifying their heritage. Anyhow, I used to milk my family’s 120 cows, drive 45 minutes to my internship, put in 8 hours of office work, drive 45 minutes home, and then milk those 120 cows again.  I thought those were long days. They had nothing on parenting.

 The endless silly cup refills. 

Snotty nose wipings. 


The explosion of papers at the end of the school week. 

In 10 years, I have come to this conclusion:

If you drop into bed at night, completely exhausted…asking God to just get you through this week, that next week certainly won’t contain such long days…then you are doing nothing wrong; you are probably doing everything right. 

Also, isn’t it strange that the number of kids you have doesn’t really affect this?  As a parent, you are always maxed out.  

Vince showing his 4-H friends the ingredients for feeding our cows. Just the idea of me being a 4-H mom makes me feel old.

3.  Parades, caroling, Christmas lights, Sunday School programs and opening snail-mail cards….when I see my children’s reactions to these wonderful things this time of year, it makes my heart swell with pride.  It’s the simple traditions!  

Having my firstborn enter the world so close to Christmas was just humbling.  I totally understood the concept of Christ being born as a helpless baby, yet still a King. 

Enjoy the season with those you love dearly. 

Italian Soup

Who doesn’t love a little soup in the cold of winter?  One of my secret missions as a mom is to help my kids to enjoy a hearty helping of soup.  Simple nutrition with lots of veggies!  As the recipes for the soups we make are quite flexible and forgiving, it is definitely a meal they can “help” me make.


Italian Soup, just waiting in the crockpot


Another thought on soup — have you considered it for brunch?  The MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group that I help lead recently had it’s annual Christmas brunch and soup was served.  It was a hit!  It immediately made the morning unique as we jumped outside of the realm of egg-bakes.


You MUST garnish with fresh Parmesan cheese!

Now…as a dairy farmer, it would be just plain weird for me not to have a dairy product in a recipe I publish!  This recipe doesn’t necessarily call for cheese, but you would certainly be remiss to leave it out.  This Italian Soup absolutely must be garnished with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  It takes it from ordinary to extraordinary, for sure.


Italian Soup

1 pound ground beef

1 onion

4 carrots

4 stalks celery

4 cloves garlic

2 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes

1 15 oz. can kidney beans (with liquid)

1 15 oz. can Great Northern Beans (with liquid)

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

2 6 oz. cans V8

1 T. vinegar

1 t. dried oregano

1 t. pepper

1/2 t. thyme

8 oz. pasta (any small shape you like)

Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Brown hamburger with diced onion, carrot, celery and minced garlic.  While you wait, combine remaining ingredients in crock pot.  Then, add hamburger mixture (onions and celery should be transparent).  Keep on low at least until warmed thoroughly, about 2 hours.  10 minutes before serving, cook pasta in boiling water until just tender.  Drain.  Add to soup and heat for an additional few minutes.

Is it possible to name something Italian Soup, and then not have pasta in it?   I find the pasta to be completely optional in this soup.

Enjoy!!  Make your kids eat at least a bowl full if they want a milkshake for dessert!


Grandpa and Grandpa Vander Kooi with most of the cousins before the Fulda Light Parade.


One of the joys of Minnesota winters is a cute hat!


Need more inspiration? Check out some of these below! They are sure to lead you to a DairyChristmas!