Continued Care

Continued Care

I’ve been asked many times, “How long will you have these Carlson cows?”.   Here’s the answer: we don’t really know.  

We have done enough construction here on our farm to be quite aware that any guesses as to a timeline for fixing a building is kinda a lie.

We will just keep caring for them as long as needed!  I had a 3-day stint as a full-time cow secretary as many of us were trying to get things under control from a record-keeping side of things.  It was fun to be in the mix of things, but I was pretty happy to transition back into my mom role by the end of last week.  

As a mom, it has been super busy.  My oldest two, Vince and Liv are at a 4-H camp.  I really miss them for their company, as well as the work they do here for us.   Here’s a pic of those two after Liv took a tumble in the heifer pasture last Sunday!

My heart is breaking here, though, because I dropped those two off to get on the camp bus and came home to find one very ill mama goat.  Tess, Vince’s champion goat from the fair last year, came down with some sort of weird neurological illness that caused her to have labored breathing and weak legs.   I immediately called a veterinarian and we treated her, but she didn’t come around.   When we started this 4-H project, I wanted the kids to learn about the circle of life.  This is going to be a tough story to tell them, though.  

National June Dairy Month continues and I gave a tour this morning to 20 incoming high school freshman of our local high school.  Our very own Ocheda Dairy started as my father-in-law’s FFA project, so I hope they were inspired today.  I tried to take a selfie:

Ava update:   We are still doctoring with Cincinnati Children’s following Ava’s nerve transfers in her arm nearly two years ago.  Our next appointment is on Tuesday.  We will take the time to go out there as a family, and leave the cows in the care of Dave, Bryan, Corey and a lot of other great employees.   It is crazy to try to get things ready to go away, but I think we need to do it anyway.  


Paying it back 

We are currently providing emergency housing for 310 milking cows that had their barn severely damaged by a windstorm/possible tornado near Pennock, Minnesota, two days ago.  Caring for these Carlson Dairy cows is an honor for our family. 

Preparing for the arrival of these cows on Sunday was true teamwork here at Ocheda Dairy. For everybody else that helped, from our long-time faithful employees to my pregnant sister-in-law who showed up donning work gloves, they did the work necessary simply because it was the right thing to do.  For me, however, in my heart, it was so much about “paying it back”.  After experiencing the overwhelming outpouring of support following Ava’s accident two years ago, I wanted the Carlson family and all those involved within their farm to be surrounded with that same love and care.  To be able to help out a family in need is a huge sign of God’s perfect timing and presence. 

Here’s some photos from the afternoon and evening. 

My son, Vince, and father-in-law, Dave, scrubbing out water troughs because we knew the cows would be thirsty for a clean drink of water upon arrival.

My husband taught our long-term employee all about fencing cows and welding gating this past winter, so Ever was called to come and help.

As part of the construction project from the past year, we have a portable welder on a pallet and, without knowing that these new cows would be as calm as they have been, we wanted to be sure our milking parlor return alleys were secure. So, here, Joe is prepping to go weld in a bit more fencing.

If you know Ocheda Dairy, you know Bryan, who knows the ins and outs of cow care (as well as employee care), better than anyone.

Joe, with our brother-in-law, who is a vet (super-handy to have one of those in the family that lives just a mile away!)

After the 11th, and final, truck of the evening was unloaded, our mechanic and feed center manager, Corey, signs some papers. He had been working with each trucker as they arrived to get trailers backed up to the chute correctly.

My mother-in-law was caring for these 5 cousins and there was never a moment dull enough to merit changing out of church clothes!

The teamwork that was displayed on our farm is just a drop in the bucket when one considers the enormous amount of volunteers that stepped forward to help at Carlson Dairy. To hear reports of hundreds of working hands, donated casseroles, and faithful prayers lifted, well –that is what makes farming in Minnesota the treasure that it is.   I spent a lot of time in contact with members and closest friends of the Carlson family yesterday as we sorted out the details on how to best care for these cows.  They have been articulate, compassionate and grateful, and I am certain that one day, if given the opportunity, they would certainly step forward to “pay it back”, too. 

 Thanks again for all your support, now and in the past.  

Safety-first Slip-N-Slide

Joe told me it wasn’t going to work.  He said that this new-style plastic that we use to cover our cow feed was not slippery enough.  

I thought we ought to try it as a huge Slip-N-Slide anyhow.  So, I called our 21-year-old employee that takes care of all the cow and heifer feeding (well, actually, since he is 21, I texted him).  10 days later he pulls on to our yard with a monstrous piece of plastic.  

So, we drug it out of his truck and up a hill we had built as part of our heifer yard.  Joe had wanted to be able to blow heifer bedding into their pen without driving into it, so maybe 5 years ago we moved dirt until it looked like this:

Well, as it turns out, Joe was right.  This new plastic we’ve been using for a few years now does not work for summertime fun, just for preserving corn silage and haylage.  It has this basketweave pattern in it that causes too much friction to slide.  We ended up having to run down the hill pulling each other on sleds.  Vince suggested lots of dish soap to make things more slippery but I nixed that idea.  

Here’s a few more photos from recent days on the farm. 

First cutting hay is done! We had gotten a new chopper (huge machine to harvest hay and corn) and it worked well.

Isn’t this calf pretty? Kids can be so convincing!

Worthington, MN water tower in the background of this pic of Joe checking on a field of barley and peas. We will harvest it soon and then plant a variety of soybeans that matures more quickly than most — double-cropping!

Summer is here!   Happy June Dairy Month to you. 

Goats Goats Goats

Eeeek!!!  We have 2 new baby goats, called kids.  They were born yesterday afternoon while I was fieldtripping with Liv in Sioux City. 

Joe had picked up our other 3 kids (like people kids) and came home at 5:00 to find wet , just-born goats.   Mostly a lot of noise and legs, he thought!

When Liv and I got back from the field trip, I was running to the house to change clothes into something fancier for a fundraiser in town. Ava and Vince came out to tell me about a surprise!  So, I had to go sneak a peak.  The kids were up and sprinting around the pen. We gave them some extra straw and I congratulated our mama goat. 

They made it through the night just fine.  Vince and I just came in from trying to milk the doe, named Tess.  She didn’t have much colostrum but we will check her again tonight to make sure the kids are milking her out evenly and she is comfortable. 

Usually when Vince or I go to do goat chores, we call “Goats, goats, goats.”   I think that is what everyone goat farmer does, but I’m not sure.  We may have to say it five times fast now.  There may be snow flurries in our 3-day forecast, but I am convinced spring is here now!

Time flies when you are having fun

Today marks 2 years since Ava’s accident when she lost use of her right arm.  It has been AWESOME (just had a discussion with some ladies about when really is it appropriate to use that word…I think it is called for here) to see her regain her strength.   Here’s a more detailed update and, if you know me, a prayer request of course. 

Photos today courtesy of Great-aunt Sue, who provides wonderful care of Ava so I can catch some breaks.

When Ava had her nerve transfers done at Cincinnati Children’s 20 months ago, she had no function at all in her right arm.  The main goals of surgery were to give her shoulder stabilization (so it wasn’t dropping and pulling out of place), sensation, and the ability to feed herself with that side in case something might ever happen to her other arm.  Any sort of hand function was to be considered icing on the cake for a girls of Ava’s age. 

This is what we’ve got. 

1.  Shoulder stabilized.  Success!

2.  Ability to bend at elbow 90 degrees.  Think of it as half of a bicep curl.  Although, she can’t go any higher than that, it is incredibly strong in that she can put a pail with items in it on her forearm and carry it that way. 

3.   To get her hand up to her mouth, after her half bicep curl, she then needs to rotate her arm at the shoulder.  She can just barely get it there, but we count it!

4.  Huge increase in balance.  Ava doesn’t trip nearly as often when we are walking along a sidewalk or just jogging across our farm.  We’ve only made one trip to the ER in the past 12 months (she was trying out a fire pole at a playground) which is a much lighter schedule than we experienced the first 12 months post-accident.  I think the ability to engage her arm helps tremendously for shifting her weight to avoid those falls.

5.  Sensation all the way to the tips of her fingers.  Much safer!

6.  She can exert enough downward pressure to hold a piece of paper on the table with her right arm while she writes with her left hand. Very useful for a kindergartener!  She also can hold items between her arm and tummy, a function she uses all the time now. 

Her fingers are always curled in.

She has the ability to flex at her wrist just a bit. Her fingers no longer hang limply, they are always in a fist (it is actually an extrinsic hand function — one that is supplied by an area between the elbow and hand).  These gains are really not functional however, unless she gains the ability to open her hand — finger extension.  If she could gain a few more things like separating her fingers that would be even handier.  

The clock is ticking.   We know that the nerve growth has reached her wrist.   Just a few more inches to grow!  Please join me in praying that she receives some intrinsic hand function.  We are really hoping she can open her hand in the next few months.  Please pray with me. 

We travel to Cincinnati again in June. 

Makin’ Bacon

I prepared 7 pounds of bacon yesterday.  To feed 8 people!  Okay, in all honesty I shared some bacon-wrapped pork loin with our neighbor too. 

Last night, our school (Worthington Christian School) had our annual Hostess Supper.  Every mom invites guests, does a table setting and then either brings the foods or assigns certain menu items to guests. 

I borrowed the pig head from a friend.

I figured as long as we have to do it, I may as well make it fun.  It all began with a bacon shirt.

Just let me know if you want to borrow this shirt!

And then just bacon in every entree. 

We had smoked, bacon-wrapped pork loin, twice-baked potatoes (love the pioneer woman for recipes like that), bacon-wrapped asparagus spears, bacon-cheddar rolls (forced me into bread-baking this year!), spinach salad with lots of toppings.  I served an appetizer called bacon crack that was just a crescent roll base with brown sugar, maple syrup and partially cooked bacon put in the oven for 20 minutes.  For dessert, I made creme brûlée (thankful for autocorrect) with a piece of bacon stuck in it. 

One of the tricks is to keep food warm. The asparagus came out of the oven and into the crockpot.

Most of the entrees turned out great!  And we didn’t set off the smoke alarm that was only 5 feet away when we carmelized the sugar for the dessert. 

I hope you are inspired to make something fun  and different for your family.  It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut!

If you need a link for a recipe, just let me know. 

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!



What could possibly be the best thing to appear in this picture?


….Dad coming to pick up his girls for a date selling cows in Sheldon, Iowa.


Don’t forget the snacks!


5.  In my old age, I have the wisdom to understand that it isn’t as important as I once thought it was, but yep, he is still handsome.  He has a few scars from a farm accident 5 years ago, but they simply remind me to treasure our good health and ability to work.


So, there’s the list.  I hope it wasn’t too mushy for you!  In just 10 years, it is amazing to look back and see how we’ve changed.

We aren’t headed to Hawaii…maybe we’ll do that on our 25th.  Instead, maybe I’ll force him into a game of Scrabble.  Maybe he’ll force me into a game of Monopoly.  Maybe he’ll come home before 5:00.  Well, maybe that is just too many maybes, and I need to start planning for a real date!