50 Shades of Gray?

50 Shades of Gray

 

I’m not sure what all the fuss is about 50 shades of gray. I see plenty of gray in my hair every day! Oh, wait…not those 50 shades of gray?

Just needed to poke a little fun at myself. Have a great weekend!

Wordless Wednesday: Vietri Sul Mare Italy

Vietri Sul Mare Italy

Vietri Sul Mare, Italy is known for their ceramics. We spent a day shopping in town, then collecting sea glass on the beach. The town is exactly how you would picture an old Italian town – narrow streets, friendly people, and beauty everywhere.

Semi-Wordless Wednesday: Facing My Fears

On the Concorde Facing My Fears

On a cold, wet day in Germany, I went with Ulrich, Jonathan, and Doug to a museum. This is where I would face almost all of my greatest fears in one shot.

I am very afraid of heights, don’t like enclosed spaces, and am not fond of walking around on rooftops. At the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, Germany, they have an Air France Concorde, and a Russian Tupolev (their version of the Concorde) mounted on the roof of the museum. You have to walk on the roof, and up a circular staircase in order to go inside the planes. Once inside, you can walk all the way up to the cockpit. It is really deceiving…you think you should be walking level, but it is an uphill hike. The planes sway just a bit when there are people walking around, which didn’t help my nerves much. But, I DID IT! I faced my fears, and I am so glad I did!

 

Wordless Wednesday: Flavian Amphitheater

Flavian Amphitheater Pozzuoli Italy

Pozzuoli, Italy has many great sites to explore. The Flavian Amphitheater was thought to have been built by the same architects who constructed the Roman Colosseum. This amphitheater was the third largest Roman Colosseum built.

I Have Stamps in my Passport! Holidays in Europe

Holidays in Europe

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone! I have stamps in my passport! This past holiday season was spent traveling in Europe to spend the holidays with family and friends.  We were so excited to spend Christmas day with my brother and his family in Italy, and New Years Eve and New Years Day with Viktoria and her family in Germany. Viktoria was our exchange daughter in 2010-2011. We met her parents, and now the rest of her family (we’re missing one sister and boyfriend in the photo, but we did get to spend time with all of them).

I have so many things I want to share with you about our trip, but first, I need to calm down the jet lag, and start thinking clearly again! Until then, let me just wish you and yours a very Happy New Year!

Why You Need to Get Involved

Getting Involved Ag Menu

How many times have you heard someone say they just don’t want to get involved, or that they belong to a farm organization so “they” will speak up for them? Maybe they feel like it’s no use…they are just one person, and their vote or opinion won’t count anyway, so they give up. Frustrating, isn’t it?

This past week, I attended the first ever Governor’s Pheasant Summit. Our area in Minnesota is pretty popular for pheasant hunting, so they met at the college that is a few miles from my place. Even though I live close to the venue, I hadn’t heard about the Summit until our Farm Bureau Director of Public Policy mentioned that he would be there. I was starting to feel as if I was being prepped for the menu.

I went online to check out the Summit details, and to go through the background information. It was clearly spelled out that this was supposed to be a discussion between hunters, farmers, policy makers, conservationists, DNR, and other stakeholders and government officials. What I saw when I walked in the door was very different. There were many state agency people – DNR, SWCD, MN DOT, BWSR, NRCS – but very few farmers. Besides the few farmers that I saw, there was a small group of cattlemen, a small group of bee keepers. With the format of the event, it was evident that the small number of farmers, ranchers, and bee keepers wouldn’t have a lot of clout…even though we represented the largest private landowners, and would be the most affected by whatever decisions came out of the Summit.

There are some lessons here.

1. We need to show up. When there is an open call for stakeholders, we need to respond. We cannot wait for “them” to represent us. “They” may represent you, but when it comes to events like the Summit, I have the same amount of votes as everyone else in the room. Every voice counts. Let me repeat that…Every voice counts.

2. We need to engage. Don’t like how things are going? We cannot afford to just walk away and hope someone else speaks up for us. In any of the areas mentioned in the graphic above, there are or have been opportunities to engage. Not sure how? Join a farm organization. It could be Farm Bureau, State Cattlemen, Farm Bureau, Corn Growers, Farm Bureau, Soybean Growers, Farm Bureau, Pork Producers, Farm Bureau, Bee Keepers, Farm Bureau…  Jonathan and I are members of more than one group, giving us opportunities to engage through those different groups.  Many of these groups also arrange group trips to the State Capitol and Washington DC giving you the ability to engage with your elected officials, while helping you to speak effectively to them.

3. We need to be persistent. After the Pheasant Summit concluded, I approached the Commissioner of the DNR to ask if a farmer would be a member of the group that hammers out the action plan that came out of the Summit. In our private conversation, he agreed that we need to be at the table, and we need to be able to work together. The 5 areas outlined are too broad to let the government agencies decide on the action plan without agriculture at the table. We need to be persistent and willing to be the squeaky wheel every once in a while to ensure that agriculture has a voice. We can’t take one private conversation and be satisfied that we will be heard.

4. We need to work together. There are times when every farmer and rancher needs to work together, regardless of size, methods, or farm type. A good example is the issue with the Environmental Protection Agency and their Waters of the United States rule that would essentially give them jurisdiction over all the water in the United States. Through an organized effort, and the participation of farmers and ranchers all over the United States, we are getting the attention of our elected officials, and they are responding. The Pheasant Summit is a state wide issue that affects every farmer and rancher, regardless of size or method. We need to be willing to set aside our differences for the good of the whole, there is strength in numbers.

Where do we go from here?

Get involved. It’s okay to start small. Join your county Farm Bureau. You don’t have to sit on the county board to take advantage of the opportunities for members.  If you are not comfortable in front of people, at least respond to the Action Alerts when they are sent out. Participate in your Day on the Hill. Your county Farm Bureau and commodity organizations make it very easy to show up, and be effective. Head to Washington DC with Farm Bureau. You will learn a ton about Farm Bureau, the legislative process, and you will be making a difference by your very presence. Attend events like the Pheasant Summit. We need the agriculture voices to show up and help shape the recommendations that will affect us. You don’t have to stand up and address the crowds, or give a speech, or be on TV to make a difference. Just get involved at the level you are comfortable with. Help agriculture be at the table, and not on the menu.

WW – Let Us Get Back Our Childlike Faith

Childlike Faith

30 Things I Love: Christmas Music

Christmas Music

I love Christmas music! Every year, I cannot wait until the local radio stations, and Sirius Satellite radio start playing Christmas selections.

The music in the photo is just a tiny representation of my collection. I love listening to winter songs, Christmas songs, and carols performed by many different groups and in different styles. Maybe it’s the lyrics that are always positive…no one is dying, except when Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, relationships are flourishing or being mended, and how can you not be inspired by a capella renditions Silent Night or O Holy Night?

When I am stressed, I listen to music which helps to calm me. Before my first experience flying on an airplane without Jonathan, I needed to redo my playlist on my iPod so I would have relaxing music during my flight. Looking at what music was available, I decided to put Christmas music on there. In August. The jazz of Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack for “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is so soothingly familiar, and brings happy memories of watching the Charlie Brown specials on TV when I was little. The sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra go from a mellow synthesized orchestral sound to rock. Mannheim Steamrollers sound is also good for calming me. Who knows…when I need to fly in 2015, I may still have Christmas music on my headphones!

I also love singing Christmas choral arrangements with the church choir. The older madrigal style pieces really challenge us, but they are some of my favorite songs because of the harmonies. I always look forward to the candlelight Christmas Eve service, and singing Silent Night in harmony. Most years I have goosebumps, and some years, there are tears. It is such an emotional time. I love when we end that service with the singing of Joy to the World. It sets the tone for the rest of our Christmas celebrations. I love how Christmas music makes me feel!

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs or albums?

We made it to the last day of the 30 Things I Love! Thank you for coming on this little journey with me!

The complete list of the 30 Things is listed here:

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage

Day 6: NASCAR

Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

Day 28: Viktoria

Day 29: Agriculture Organizations

Day 30: Christmas Music

30 Things I Love: Agriculture Organizations

Agriculture organizations

I love all the opportunities we have to become involved with various agriculture organizations. We are currently members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Corn Growers, Minnesota Soybean Growers, and the Minnesota Pork Producers. All of these organizations have a direct connection to what we raise on our farm.

You may wonder what the point is in being a member of an ag organization. After all, you’re just an average farmer with the nose to the grindstone, and no time to be on a board. That’s the beauty of these organizations. You can be as active as you like. If you don’t have time to sit on a board, you don’t have to. Your membership is still important.

The Minnesota Farm Bureau President, Kevin Paap, often says, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Being a member of an agriculture organization helps to keep us at the table, and not on it. Your membership dollars are used to help us know how and what to say to our legislators when we visit them at the State Capitol, or in Washington DC. We are strong when we speak with a unified voice! Those that wish to become more vocal have opportunities to learn communication and leadership skills by attending various events. You don’t have to be a board member to participate in those opportunities. That said, if you choose to become a board member of any county or regional agriculture organization, you will be welcomed!

I am amazed at how much my leadership and speaking skills have developed over the last 14 years. Jonathan and I joined Farm Bureau in July 2000. We were encouraged to compete in the Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award contest, which we did. The third time was the charm, when Jonathan won in 2004. The American Farm Bureau Annual Convention was in Hawaii that year, so I had to get on my very first airplane when Jonathan went to compete nationally. We didn’t make it into the top 10, but I remember thinking about how cool the convention was, and that I wanted to go to another one. I joined the county Farm Bureau board around that time, and for the past 6 years, I served as President. In that time, I had other opportunities to serve on state committees, and I became a member of the Speak for Yourself program, where we were taught how to tell our farming story to the general public and continue to learn how to engage the non-farm consumers. I was also encouraged to apply for the position of representing a general farm organization on the Organic Advisory Task Force, which has lead to being appointed chair this term.  Last winter, I felt the nudge to run for our district’s seat on the MN Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and was elected at our November annual meeting. 26 years ago, when I first moved to the farm from my home in the Twin Cities, I never dreamed I would have the passion for agriculture that I do…or that I would have the voice that I do. I am so thankful that I swallowed the nervousness and went to my first county board meeting.

If you are on the fence, I encourage you to join a county organization. The grassroots nature of many of these organizations really does give the power to the farmer, and gives you a voice even when you cannot physically be at your state capitol or in Washington DC.  That is why I love agriculture organizations!

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage

Day 6: NASCAR

Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

Day 28: Viktoria

Day 29: Agriculture Organizations

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers

30 Things I Love: Viktoria

Viktoria

Viktoria & Kevin in the Pyrenees and Viktoria at the Rhine River. The signs on the wall are flood markings

I love my German daughter, Viktoria! She lived with us during the 2010-2011 school year as a participant in International Experience, an exchange student program.

Jonathan and I had wanted to host a foreign exchange student, but also wanted to wait until the girls were older. When it was time, we filled out an application, and after we were accepted, we needed to go through profiles and choose our top 3. Both Jonathan and I kept looking at Viktoria’s profile, and put her on our list. Little did we know how good of a choice that would be!

When you host an exchange student, there are certain hoops you must jump through. Home inspection, back ground checks…many of the same types of things we have gone through to become foster parents. As a mom, it is comforting to know that the families have been checked out to make sure the students are in a safe environment. We sent photos to Viktoria and her family of our house, her room, and us…hoping that she would be okay living on the farm.

Finally, the day of her arrival came. We went to the airport to meet her flight, nervously waiting. Would she like us? Would we get along well? We had heard plenty of horror stories, and were a bit worried about how this year would go. When Viktoria got to baggage claim, we were so happy to finally meet her. We got the awkward greetings out of the way, and started heading for the van. Getting to know Viktoria was easy. Her English was perfect! I was so afraid that we wouldn’t be able to understand each other. It turns out that our Minnesotan confused her more at first than her accent confused us. Apparently, the term “hot dish” doesn’t translate well.

I love Viktoria’s compassion for others, her gift of song, and her positive personality. She loves to tease just as much as the rest of us, yet she also knows when to be a friend who just listens. She touched many lives while she was living with us, from fellow students to members of our church. She has a beautiful singing voice, and was able to be the soloist for Anna’s wedding this summer. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be here in person, but thanks to technology, she was still able to sing for Anna and Doug.

Viktoria has come back to see us once after her exchange experience ended. Now it is our turn to go see her! We’re pretty excited to be able to visit her and her family soon! After hosting her parents for just over a week at the end of her stay with us, I am really looking forward to seeing them as well! I am so thankful that Jonathan and I decided to host an exchange student, and because of that, we have a daughter in Germany.

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage

Day 6: NASCAR

Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

Day 28: Viktoria

Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog, and see the link for other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers