Have a cup of coffee, and enjoy your Wednesday, everyone!
Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!
We have so many things to be thankful for this year. I am thankful for each new day, for the comfort of home, for my health, for my family, and for my friends.
Sometimes it may be difficult to see the good in a day, or to see the blessings in your life. We get so focused on the things we long for, that we can’t see what it is we have.
We have been given a new day. How can I do my best with it?
We have a place to call home. What can I do to make it warm and welcoming?
We have food on the table. Who can I break bread with?
We have friends and family who love us. How do I treat those around me?
My wish for you is that you will always find the blessing in each day.
I have many things to be grateful for…
This past September didn’t go exactly how any of us predicted it would. We were sure that I would be spending about two weeks in Kentucky after Lydia was born, but there were also many unknowns. I had a bit of time to contemplate the month as I drove home from Pikeville on the 27th and 28th – about 2 days worth of time – and I kept coming up with the same theme. I have so many things to be grateful for.
Anna, Doug, and Lydia
If it weren’t for Lydia’s arrival on September 1st, I wouldn’t have gone to Kentucky in the first place. I was so excited when they asked me early on in the pregnancy to spend some time with them after their bundle arrived. I am grateful that they didn’t kick me out after spending 24 days with them. A new baby is stressful enough when you are first time parents, but Anna and Doug also have her multiple sclerosis and his medical school schedule to deal with. We were a bit concerned when Anna had to be hospitalized for a few days due to an infection, but at the same time, I was thankful that they put Anna on the labor and delivery floor so Doug could bring Lydia to spend the days as a family of three. Anna’s infection triggered a MS relapse, so I was asked to stay a little longer to help care for Anna while Doug’s mom was there to take care of Lydia. Two moms in the house for a week, and we all survived! It was good for Karen and I to get to know each other better, and I liked that it helped me to understand Doug a little better as well. It wasn’t always easy being patient with each other, but looking back on our time together, I am grateful that I was able to stay and help as long as I did.
I know it’s pretty sappy, but I have to say, I am so grateful for Jonathan. He was so understanding and encouraging when I was homesick. I left home on September 1st, and arrived back home on September 28th. That is the longest we have been apart from each other in the 28 years we have been married. Jonathan and Laura did come to spend a couple of days in Pikeville during my time there, but most of that time was spent oohing and ahhing over our granddaughter.
After I arrived home, Jonathan has been kind enough to let me ease back in to “real life”. There are many things I need to catch up on before harvest gets super busy, and I am thankful that he has been so patient with me.
I am grateful to be part of an organization that understands the importance of family. While I was in Kentucky, I missed a few county annual meetings, a state board meeting, and an event with the American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. I felt bad about missing the meetings and event, but I was assured that family is first. There are many organizations that are not as forgiving when it comes to family events. That is another reason why I am thankful to be a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
Family and Friends
I have a pretty awesome family, and an amazing group of friends. I am so grateful for the prayers offered when we asked for them…and for those offered when we didn’t ask. I also received texts, notes, and messages that seemed to come at just the right time. Thank you to the family and friends who lift my spirits constantly.
Living in a different region
This is a view off of the front deck at Doug and Anna’s house during a rain storm. They live in a hollow (pronounced “holler”) in the hills. You can see the road winding up the road. They basically live on the side of an Appalachian mountain. I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, and I’ve lived on the prairie of Southwestern Minnesota for 28 years. After awhile, the mountains seemed to close in on me…but at the same time, the views were breathtaking. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in a different region of the country for a month. I fell in love with the Food City grocery store in Pikeville, and even brought home some southern versions of foods we like. I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t bringing home some boxes of Anna’s, I would have tried to bring home many more groceries from Food City! Anna and Doug have some pretty awesome friends as well. I had the privilege of meeting some of their medical school friends this trip, and am thankful they let this “granny” hang out with them. (Yes, I was totally called granny at one of Lydia’s pediatric appointments…I don’t have a bun like granny in Beverly Hillbillies, or the granny in the Tweety cartoons…yet.)
My trip to Kentucky contained a roller coaster of emotions…heck, I cried all the way through it on my way home after leaving sweet Lydia…but the overwhelming emotion is one of gratitude. Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and friendship. It’s good to be home.
On September 1st, I became a Grandma! Lydia Ruth was born to our daughter and son-in-law in Kentucky.
The plan was for me to head from Minnesota to Kentucky when Anna was in labor, so I could arrive right before she would be discharged from the hospital. With Anna’s Multiple Sclerosis being rather aggressive, there was worry she might have a relapse soon after she delivered. I was happy to be asked to help out, and drove to Kentucky when we were sure Anna was in labor. I was pretty excited to see the little bundle that made me a grandma which made the drive seem a lot longer than it actually is!
The first week home with a new baby is always a little stressful, especially for new parents. I am so proud of Doug and Anna, and how they have supported each other through that transition. Anna was readmitted to the hospital to be treated for an infection and possible MS relapse after being home for 10 days. Doug and Lydia spent as much time with Anna as they could for the 2 1/2 days that she was there being treated for her infection. That time spent together just focusing on each other was so beneficial…even if the situation wasn’t what they wanted.
When Anna returned home from the hospital, Lydia’s other grandma was here. The plan was for me to return home when Doug’s mom arrived, but because Anna is still weak I’m staying a few days longer so I can be mom more than grandma. I’m so thankful that I can be here to help the kids out!
There’s something pretty cool about watching your kids go from infancy to toddler stage…kindergarten to graduation…college to jobs…and now on to parenthood. Watching how nervous both Doug and Anna were when holding Lydia shortly after delivery to seeing how comfortable they are holding, changing, feeding, and recognizing her needs based on grunts and cries has been so awesome to witness.
And this whole grandma thing? I’m loving it so far!
What does an anniversary, vacation, and Bristol have in common? They were all part of our adventure this past weekend.
Jonathan and I enjoy traveling to different NASCAR tracks to watch the car races. If possible, we like to see both the “B Squad” Xfinity race, and the “A Squad” Sprint Cup race. Knowing that is one of our hobbies, Jonathan’s sisters gave us tickets to Bristol Motor Speedway for his birthday this year. The tickets were purchased, hotel arrangements were made, and we were starting to anticipate the weekend way back in June!
The Night Races at Bristol also just happened to be on our anniversary weekend. Friday night’s race was awesome, with one of our favorite Xfinity drivers finishing second after being on the verge of going two laps down. On Saturday, we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary at the track. We had a great day, even though the race was delayed 5 hours before they rescheduled it for Sunday afternoon. We left the track around 1:30am, and arrived at our hotel close to 3:00am. After just a few hours of sleep, we were off to the races again. Pun intended!
Now, most people, when they plan a vacation, also plan a little down time to relax and recharge. Somehow, Jonathan and I keep forgetting to schedule that part in. The only real downtime we had was in the Durango, and at Anna and Doug’s place. Even then, we weren’t really sitting and relaxing. We did get some great visiting time in, and had fun seeing Anna’s very pregnant belly. We are really looking forward to the arrival of our first grandbaby!
The time passed quickly, however, and we were on a deadline. I needed to be at a meeting 30 minutes from home on Tuesday evening. It takes about 16 1/2 hours to drive home, and with the race taking place on Sunday, that didn’t leave us much time to visit. We had a late night and early morning, but we made it home in time for me to change clothes and head off to my meeting.
In six days we traveled close to 2800 miles, drove through 8 states, saw 2 NASCAR races, and met great people all over. We are exhausted, but very happy to have celebrated our anniversary with a vacation trip to Bristol.
One of the questions I get asked most when telling my farm story is “Where does your corn go?” Our corn is certified organic, so it doesn’t go to the local elevator where our neighbors deliver theirs. We have a few options, and work with buyers to find the right price and right market for our crop.
One possible use for our corn is animal feed. Organically raised animals that eat ground corn must eat certified organic corn. We have shipped our corn on rail cars to California, New York, and places in between. Living in the Southwest Minnesota, we have the soils and proper weather conditions for raising pretty good corn. The animal feed market is influenced not only by livestock farmers in our area, but all over the United States.
This market may not be my mom’s favorite, but it has been a good one. Last year we sold our corn to an ethanol plant that makes consumable alcohols as a division of their business. They make regular vodka out of conventional corn, and a few times a year clean the plant and make organic alcohols with organic corn. They make vodka for a couple companies, as well as the alcohol that goes in organic vanilla extract, alcohol based cleaning supplies, and pharmaceuticals.
Typically we think of sweet corn as being the type of corn used for humans. However, there are many products on store shelves made from field corn. Corn chips, tortilla chips, corn flour, starch, and corn meal are a few examples. We have sold corn to cereal companies in the past as well. There are also many non-edible items made from corn and corn oils, but those typically are not organic products, so they wouldn’t use our crop.
We’re not that different, really
When you look at where our corn goes, it sounds pretty similar to where conventionally raised corn goes. One of the reasons so many farmers raise corn is the fact that it has many uses! I think that’s pretty cool.
This week, Jonathan and I had a little time to take a road trip through the Dakotas. Our daughter, Christina, is working at the Black Hills Playhouse again this summer, which is the main reason we took our mini vacation out that way.
Jonathan attended his uncle’s retirement farm auction on Tuesday morning while I finished washing clothes and packing. We left that evening, making a stop in Sioux Falls to see our daughter, Laura, and her boyfriend, Blake. Our goal was Wall, South Dakota, and we arrived there just before the office closed at 11 pm. Safe to say, we were the last ones to check in that night.
Custer State Park
Wednesday, we left early enough to make it to Custer, South Dakota before noon. Jonathan was selling some farm equipment on an online auction site, and he was fielding calls about the items throughout the morning, so he we elected to skip the Badlands Loop this time. We have been on the Loop two other times, and highly recommend it. By the time we arrived in Custer, all of his items had sold, so we stopped for lunch at Pizza Works (excellent pizza crust!), then went on the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. We saw a small herd of bison in the distance, as well as a few Pronghorns here and there.
That evening, we were able to take Christina out for supper before we took in the musical “Pageant” at the Black Hills Playhouse. It was an awesome production! I laughed so hard that it hurt. If you are looking for something fun to do in the Black Hills, I highly recommend checking out the schedule of the Black Hills Playhouse.
Thursday morning I had a video conference call (loved that the Holiday Inn Express in Custer had awesome wifi), so we didn’t get going on sight seeing until almost noon. Since this was our third Black Hills mini vacation, we wanted to do something different. We took a day road trip to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, which is an easy drive from Custer. Neither Jonathan nor I had been there before, and we were both amazed at the beauty of a huge rock…which is really something coming from farmers who pick rocks every year.
Jonathan and I walked the 1.3 mile paved trail that takes you all the way around the tower. We spotted some mountain climbers who were working their way to the top. They looked like tiny specks on the side of the tower. Jonathan was inspired to try a little climbing as well…
…but decided this was high enough. Ha!
The day was perfect for a walk, and the trail was fairly easy, with just a few climbs that made us breath harder (remember, we are flatlanders from the prairies of Minnesota…what we think of as steep parts of the trail would be nothing to those who live in other parts of the US). Every angle of Devil’s Tower is a little different, making the hike around the whole thing totally worth it.
We made it back to Rapid City in time to grab a bite to eat for supper, then we went to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony. Both Jonathan and I highly recommend it. Your parking pass is good until the end of the year, so you can visit the monument more than once on your trip. We have visited during the day the last two times we were out there, so this year, we only went for the evening.
We arrived a little over an hour before the ceremony began since the seats have been known to fill up. As we waited, I took a few photos of the faces as the sun was setting. It always amazes me how you see different details on the faces at different times of the day. I’m not sure if Gutzon Borglum was brilliant, or lucky on that part.
As the ceremony begins, a Park Ranger comes on stage and tells the story of how they became passionate about the National Parks. They usually give a little background of the monument before starting a film that talks about the carving of the faces, and what each President represents. They do a decent job of talking about the hard issues of how Native Americans have been treated, and how Thomas Jefferson’s dream was that one day every person in America would be equal. It was a fitting message for today as well.
At the closing of the film, America the Beautiful is sung, and the monument is lit. It is very moving. Then, the audience is asked to stand, and we all recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Once again, I had troubles with that part, due to the emotions and tears that usually come listening to the crowd singing and reciting the Pledge as one. Following the Pledge, all active and retired service men and women are invited on stage for the Flag Ceremony. This year, there were around 70 individuals who went forward, including two elementary aged kids whose father is currently in Afghanistan. The crowd gave those kids a standing ovation. More tears. It is pretty cool how they give everyone the time to introduce themselves by name, rank, and branch of service.
As soon as the ceremony was finished, we went back to Custer and spent a few hours hanging out with Christina and her friend. It was a long day, but a great day!
Friday morning we left Custer, and headed north. I was a bit surprised by how much the landscape changed from the moment we left the Black Hills National Forest, and again once we left Belle Fourche.
Theodore Roosevelt State Park
Thanks to some long road construction delays, it took a little longer to get to Medora, North Dakota than we anticipated, so we didn’t get to see any of the museums that had been recommended by friends. We stopped at the Painted Canyon overlook and rest stop to take some photos, which was the first taste of the Badlands of North Dakota.
We were excited to see how the Badlands of North Dakota compared to the Badlands of South Dakota. There are some similarities, yet they are very different.
The Badlands of South Dakota feels a little more rugged, and lives up the the lore of outlaws hiding in the craggy rock. The Badlands of North Dakota has a more gentle feel while still being impressive. I can totally see why Teddy Roosevelt settled in this area for awhile!
We were a little disappointed that we really didn’t see many bison in Custer State Park, so we were pretty excited when we rounded a corner and there was a nice sized herd of bison grazing in the sage on the side of the road. We looked at that herd for awhile, and took a few photos from the safety of the Durango, then wound our way through the animals to continue on our way. We rounded a corner, and there was another herd grazing along the road. We gently lowered our windows, took a few photos while breathing in the scent of sage, then worked our way back out of the park.
We stayed in Bismarck, North Dakota that night, and on Saturday, we were back in the farming frame of mind. We ended up stopping at three different John Deere dealerships looking at different tractors. We are pushing our current planting tractor to the max of its hydraulic pump with all of the Precision Plant equipment, so we are just looking at options, and hoping for the right tractor at the right time for the right price. Both Jonathan and I enjoy discussing agriculture topics when we travel, from equipment, to crops seen, to plans for the future. A road trip through the Dakotas and into Wyoming gave us a lot to talk about!
After traveling 1777 miles in just over 4 days, we are happy to be home! It was a pretty intense road trip, and we are thankful for good weather, friendly people, and safety on the road.
If you would like to check out other highlights from our trip, head on over to the Carolyn Cares Blog Facebook page where you can see some of the Instagram photos we shared.
June 23rd is Jonathan’s birthday. We like to celebrate big here, but this year, Jonathan’s gifts were larger than normal.
Eight years ago today, Jonathan was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. When we went for a walk around the farm yard, and he was telling me what led him to see the doctor, it was heartbreaking. Our oldest daughter had been diagnosed with MS four years before.
One thing I distinctly remember, is how we talked about how we don’t know what the future will bring as far as disease progression goes, and that was a scary thing. I made one request of Jonathan that day. To not give up on life, and to live his life to the fullest.
That request led to a purchase of used jet skis, and a new found hobby that he loves. Those jet skis have had many hours on the water, and many good memories were made. It was time, however, to upgrade. So, for a combination of Father’s Day and his birthday, Jonathan received a pair of Sea Doo Sparks this week. While I am more than content to keep my feet on land and take photos, it makes me so happy to see him have fun. The troubles that often accompany farming are forgotten while he’s on the water. It’s so fun to watch the joy on Jonathan’s and Laura’s faces as they race across the water.
Happy Birthday, Jonathan, and thank you for not giving up on living your life.
Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Some will visit cemeteries to visit loved ones, and some will attend Memorial Day services or ceremonies. Hopefully all will pause to give thanks for those who fought for our freedom but didn’t make it back home.
When I was growing up, my siblings and I would go spend time with our grandpa and step-grandma on their farm. Grandma had the upstairs bedrooms named: Anita’s room, the west room, and Johnny’s room. I remember being afraid to touch any of Johnny’s things, because they were so special to grandma. There was a model car on one dresser that I remember thinking was so cool, which made me think that Johnny himself must have been cool.
On the main level of the house, grandma had a sun room of sorts. It had a seating area, steps that led out to the sidewalk in front of the house, and a built in display area in a corner near the steps. That display area was very special to grandma.
Johnny entered the military in June, 1967, just a few months before I was born. He was killed in action in Vietnam in November, 1968.
In grandma’s display area, she had his purple heart, his medals, a few photos, and the flag that draped his coffin. Every so often, she would talk about Johnny, and show us on the map where he was killed. His death impacted her deeply, but I was too young to realize how deeply until recently.
John was not the first of grandma’s family to be killed in action. Her only brother was killed in WW II in France. The military honors at John’s committal service were performed by the Bertus Jurgens Post Number 283, which was named after John’s uncle, grandma’s brother. Grandma went through the heartache of losing two very special men during war time. She also experienced the loss of her mother, and her first husband. Those losses help to explain why grandma seemed so deeply affected by Johnny’s death. She also understood the need for talking about family members who passed on before us, and the importance of introducing us to the family members we never had the chance to know. I am thankful that she shared her stories, and that we felt like we knew our step-uncle a little.
On this Memorial Day, I hope that you will take the time to share memories of your loved ones, pray for those who have lost family members who were fighting for our freedom, and give thanks that we live in the Land of the Free because of the Brave.