When your best friends are your competitors

Joe is talking to some LED light salesman.  Just around the corner, my brother’s co-worker is trying to make the next construction sale.  Neighbors are comparing the latest cow brushes.   This can only mean one thing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota — it’s the Central Plains Dairy Expo. 

It is really strange within the business of taking care of cows, that your best friends are your competitors. Everybody is in the business of producing milk; everybody is trying to be better than the next guy.  We all can glean information not only from salespeople, but more importantly from a fellow farmer.   There is nothing more convincing for a farmer than having a fellow farmer endorse a product.  It’s just an interesting dynamic.

And the event is BIG!

If I had been working this booth, I would have been wearing sunglasses.

 
It always starts on a Tuesday night with a country concert.  This year it featured Craig Morgan.  Free food and a free concert = people show up.

 

I’m not sure why my phone camera thought this should be red.

  

We may have pretended we were 22 and left our seats to get a bit closer.

 
 

All these dairy farmers get together– someone is going to try to get their boot signed.

 
Then, early the next morning we began with a Prayer Breakfast.  It is certainly a feature of the show.  The music was by House of Aaron out of Mountain Lake, MN.  Wow!!  They were inspiring to say the very least.  The keynote speaker of the event related his work within the poultry side of things and using his business to do mission work in Africa.  

The trade show went on all day with various break-out sessions.  Most people went out to eat last night in groups hosted by various companies and enjoyed some time to visit. Most of us laughed way too late into the night. Joe and I remembered this morning that we definitely aren’t 22 any more. 

Nearly every year, we have brought our kids.  This year, Joe’s Aunt Sue was coming to town anyway, and we decided to take in the event today without them.  Joe was back home most of the day yesterday and took Violet farming in the morning so I could attend the Prayer Breakfast.   Lots of coordinating but totally worth it. Today, visiting with all the vendors is more important than usual as we have a big building project this summer and need to make some decisions regarding all the different parts. 

 

Lots of machines and equipment here. This is a machine that some dairies are starting to use to suck up manure instead of pushing it out with a skidloader.

 
 

Tons of robotics…this one milks cows! On the very bottom left , you can see one that pushes feed up to the cows.

 

 

Of course, free milk! We picked up a few selfie sticks too — what every farmer needs.


 

Joe talking with construction manager from Hoksbergen Construction.

 

Photo prop fun with the free selfie stick. Joe must really love me that he allowed me to do this to him. #cpde2016

 
We had a blast and learned so much that our heads are spinning. Dairy farmers are such a passionate group of people and LOVE to connect with others about what is going on in their barns and their homes. I was often in tears as so many people asked me how Ava’s arm is doing.  Here’s the scoop:

She’s making progress!  Her only movements so far are really just shoulder things.  She can HUG WITH BOTH ARMS in a way if she is willing to show off.  That is a joy to see!!  We are 8 months post-surgery and the hope was for some elbow function to occur around 9 months.  So please pray for that.  An inch a month with nerve growth can seem so very slow but we just take things a day at a time.  I am really realizing now that I need to do an entire post on just what her therapy is like so that will be coming soon.   

Hope you enjoyed the photos!

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When your best friends are your competitors

Joe is talking to some LED light salesman.  Just around the corner, my brother’s co-worker is trying to make the next construction sale.  Neighbors are comparing the latest cow brushes.   This can only mean one thing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota — it’s the Central Plains Dairy Expo. 

It is really strange within the business of taking care of cows, that your best friends are your competitors. Everybody is in the business of producing milk; everybody is trying to be better than the next guy.  We all can glean information not only from salespeople, but more importantly from a fellow farmer.   There is nothing more convincing for a farmer than having a fellow farmer endorse a product.  It’s just an interesting dynamic.

And the event is BIG!

If I had been working this booth, I would have been wearing sunglasses.

 
It always starts on a Tuesday night with a country concert.  This year it featured Craig Morgan.  Free food and a free concert = people show up.

 

I’m not sure why my phone camera thought this should be red.

  

We may have pretended we were 22 and left our seats to get a bit closer.

 
 

All these dairy farmers get together– someone is going to try to get their boot signed.

 
Then, early the next morning we began with a Prayer Breakfast.  It is certainly a feature of the show.  The music was by House of Aaron out of Mountain Lake, MN.  Wow!!  They were inspiring to say the very least.  The keynote speaker of the event related his work within the poultry side of things and using his business to do mission work in Africa.  

The trade show went on all day with various break-out sessions.  Most people went out to eat last night in groups hosted by various companies and enjoyed some time to visit. Most of us laughed way too late into the night. Joe and I remembered this morning that we definitely aren’t 22 any more. 

Nearly every year, we have brought our kids.  This year, Joe’s Aunt Sue was coming to town anyway, and we decided to take in the event today without them.  Joe was back home most of the day yesterday and took Violet farming in the morning so I could attend the Prayer Breakfast.   Lots of coordinating but totally worth it. Today, visiting with all the vendors is more important than usual as we have a big building project this summer and need to make some decisions regarding all the different parts. 

 

Lots of machines and equipment here. This is a machine that some dairies are starting to use to suck up manure instead of pushing it out with a skidloader.

 
 

Tons of robotics…this one milks cows! On the very bottom left , you can see one that pushes feed up to the cows.

 

 

Of course, free milk! We picked up a few selfie sticks too — what every farmer needs.


 

Joe talking with construction manager from Hoksbergen Construction.

 

Photo prop fun with the free selfie stick. Joe must really love me that he allowed me to do this to him. #cpde2016

 
We had a blast and learned so much that our heads are spinning. Dairy farmers are such a passionate group of people and LOVE to connect with others about what is going on in their barns and their homes. I was often in tears as so many people asked me how Ava’s arm is doing.  Here’s the scoop:

She’s making progress!  Her only movements so far are really just shoulder things.  She can HUG WITH BOTH ARMS in a way if she is willing to show off.  That is a joy to see!!  We are 8 months post-surgery and the hope was for some elbow function to occur around 9 months.  So please pray for that.  An inch a month with nerve growth can seem so very slow but we just take things a day at a time.  I am really realizing now that I need to do an entire post on just what her therapy is like so that will be coming soon.   

Hope you enjoyed the photos!

Ava’s 5th birthday

Way back when I started blogging, my second child, Liv, turned 5 and I blogged about her birthday party.  I will never know why, but for a long time if you googled “girl’s 5th birthday”, that post came up.  So, often people would come to my page through that search, and I really did want to do something neat for Ava’s birthday, too.  It is just such a fun age to celebrate!

Yet, I didn’t think Ava would want to be in an unfamiliar location and with too many friends.  So, we kinda broke things up throughout the day. 

  
She started with Itty Bitty Sports and Swim at the YMCA.   She has done this program quite a bit this year and certainly looks forward to Saturday mornings.

Then, we picked up a couple friends and some Happy Meals!   The girls all received the same toy (whew!), as well as chocolate milk and a tube of yogurt.  Two-thirds of their 3 servings of dairy a day in one sitting!

 

Happy Meals!

 
 

Making crowns!

 
Then, Ava and Liv did some sewing with their great-aunt while I went home to do some laundry (never-ending, right?).  We are so fortunate to have 10 cousins living very close to us so we invited them over for some games!

 

Clean-your-side game! We made 30 paper balls and split into 2 teams. The goal is to have less paper balls on your side when the time is up. Hard to snap a good picture!

  
   
 

Pin the tail on the cow!


 

Nothing really Pinterest worthy, just hanging out.

 We finished the night off by going out to eat at the Ground Round.   Ava was probably the 5th person to receive the special dessert and birthday song, so their was quite a bit of anticipation building for her.

Now, she is happily sleeping.  We had a great day.  Kindergarten round-ups are in full swing and oh, I just dread the decision on sending her on to all-day every-day school.  The plan is to simply take things one day at a time for now. 

Brookings and a Baby

At 7:00 this morning, Joe was headed to what I thought was a meeting in Brookings, South Dakota, when he suggested maybe the girls and I ought to go with.  Turns out he wasn’t going to a meeting like I had envisioned, but rather was meeting our dairy cow nutritionist at a farm. 

(Did you know that cows eat a very specific mix of feed that is all balanced for their protein, energy, fiber, etc needs?  They do, and it’s a pretty cool science.)

Joe had wanted to visit this farm to see how they had recently remodeled their entrance to the milking parlor.  The area where cows wait for their turn to be milked (the holding area) is something Joe wants to change at our place. We are adding on to our dairy this summer, and this holding area is a piece of it. 

Joe had been considering traveling today with Corey, our main mechanic/fix-it guy.  When that didn’t pan out, and Joe realized Ava didn’t have preschool or therapy today, plans changed.

We had a great day!!  The farmer we met was less fluent in English than Dutch, so there was a bit of a language barrier…but we saw what we wanted to and enjoyed visiting with him. So much is learned talking to other dairy farmers. 

Violet fell asleep a 89 minutes into a 90 minute drive so she isn’t in these photos!

  

 

Ava loves the baby calves! So much sunshine today.

 

I had never been to the South Dakota State University in Brookings before so we thought we should check it out with being so close.  I bleed maroon and gold for my MN Gophers but I will admit it was pretty nice. 

Then, we were so close to a Children’s Museum, so even though we were dressed more for a farm visit, we thought we should go.  It was engaging. 

  

Ava worked every muscle she had to climb up this thing. 

  

  

As we were finishing up our playtime, I ordered a Dominoe’s pizza with their Parmesan bites.  We have lots of fast food in Worthington, but not Dominoe’s and they sure know how to make a good pizza.  We ate it on a picnic table and the weather could not have been more wonderful. 

Farmers put in some long hours most days, and there are seasons the kids and I only see Joe in passing.  A day spent with him like today makes it all balance out. 

We grabbed some ice cream that is made right on campus because it seemed like the thing to do. We then drove half way home, and stopped to see this new way of building a dairy barn wall that replaces curtains.  

  

We thought it seemed like a great concept.  It is always better to see things in person.  

The only bad part of the day …. All this fun prevented me from seeing my brand new niece at the hospital today.  It is on the top of my list as soon as we get home!  Nothing nothing nothing beats holding a precious miracle for the first time. 

Just Once in a Lifetime

Joe and I just spent 8 days together on a trip to Germany.  It truly and honestly was a trip that will happen just once in a lifetime.  We took a time-out from the hustle of having 4 young kids and simply reconnected.  Real conversations.  Uncontrollable laughter.  When we had dinner, we actually took the time to chew our food.

We missed our kids like crazy though.  I worked very consciously to not be sad and downhearted about being away from them, and yet I kept having thoughts about what Vince would think of a certain way a machine is set up, or how Liv might appreciate some pretty pattern on a napkin.

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So, what did the days look like?

Who:  30 farmers, 3 Claas company reps.  It was the most eclectic group of people anyone could have ever dreamed up.  Some walked a very straight line, some made me blush in regular conversation.  Nobody else had little ones at home.  Some were younger and hadn’t entered this stage of life, but most were about 20 years older than us.  When we sat down to a meal, you couldn’t even come close to predicting how the stories might go.

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Pretty cool bus.  The driver’s name was Wolf and he wasn’t afraid to give his opinion on anything.

What:  It was about half Claas (an agricultural machine company) stuff and half tourism. We first visited a distribution site in Hamm, where we learned how they organize millions of parts so they can ship all over the world as quickly as possible.  One part of it was robotic and that was really neat to watch.  (Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed on any of the tours.)  At other sites, we watched everything starting from the foundry where steel was made extremely hot and then poured into molds to form the basic parts — all the way to the final assembly lines.  Joe was absolutely in his element, and for me, it was actually not as boring as I thought it might be.

 

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Where:  Flew into Dusseldorf.  Then, Hamm (parts distribution), Paderborn (pre-assembly), Harsewinkel (Claas Jaguar assembly), Rothenburg ob der Tauber (touring the step-back-in-time walled city, Bad Saulgau (foundry and things like metal bending, also a dairy farm tour), Fussen (tour Neuschwanstein castle), Munich (tour of city, Hofbrauhaus, BMW headquarters, free time).  Flew out of Munich to Atlanta to Minneapolis with 14 hours in flight.

When:  We didn’t have much of a concept of time because we just got on and off the bus as told!  It was pretty relaxing.  The time change was 7 hours ahead.  Almost all the meals were planned and ready when we showed up.  We really rarely watched a clock.  However, as we were closing in on the 8th and final day, most people were really ready to go home.

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German dairy farmer.  We ate lunch on the farm and then toured his barn.  His cows were milked by robots and also fed by a robot.  He had small cabins for tourists to vacation on the farm, as well as a set-up to gather energy from cow’s manure and convert it to electricity.  Very diverse!

 

How:  The trip was given to us.  Well, Joe kinda twisted some arms saying that it was maybe our turn to go.  Each year, a group from the Midwest is gathered.  The dealership (store) pays for about half of it, so they make the call.  We were the only couple from Minnesota, so it seemed like our dealership from here wasn’t as likely to send people as, for instance, the dealership just north of Green Bay, Wisconsin that sent about 7 couples.

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It had snowed a few inches and the sun was gloriously bright — a perfect day to visit the castle.

I am such a people person that my absolute favorite part of the trip was finding out what made each person tick.  People open up to you way faster and in a larger sense when you aren’t local.  Often, in answering people’s questions about my kids, the story of Ava’s farm accident that left her without use of her right arm would come up.  Let’s just say she has expanded her circle of prayer warriors.  People are kind and caring wherever we go.

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What was the reaction of the kids when we came home???  They were already sleeping so we waited until the morning.  Vince gave me the first real hug I have had from him in years and years.  Liv held on for a very long time.  Ava started running around, spinning and giggling.  Violet put her arms our for me and then snuggled right in.  It was unforgettable.

We are working back into every day life here, mostly trying to adjust to the time change and not fall asleep during supper.  We are anticipating warmer weather this weekend and it truly feels like spring is just around the corner.