Heading to the Minnesota State Fair?

This last week has been incredibly warm and humid, so you may have put off plans to head the the Great Minnesota Get Together. This weekend – the final weekend of the fair – is supposed to be beautiful! It would be a great time to check out all the awesome agriculture exhibits at the Minnesota State Fair!

Our family has been attending the fair for quite a few years. We started volunteering in the Oink Booth when we were members of our county pork producers association. We had so much fun handing out pig ears and answering questions about our farm, and about raising pigs in Minnesota. After our daughters became members of 4-H, we started volunteering at the Farm Bureau barn for the days they would be competing at the state fair. This is the first year that our daughters are out of 4-H, but that doesn’t mean our state fair days are over!

On Sunday, September 1, Jonathan and I will be volunteering in the Farm Bureau Building from 1-5 pm. We are excited to be working with Bryan and Marytina Lawrence from Princeton. (To learn more about the Lawrence’s farm, click here.)    We’ve known Bryan and Marytina since we first became involved with the Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers program. Marytina now works with the Speak for Yourself program, which is one of the things I’m involved in.

The Speak for Yourself program does a great job of helping farmers feel comfortable telling their story in front of others. Throughout the fair, there have been several SFY participants who have volunteered to work in the Farm Bureau Building. I hope you will come out on Sunday to ask us questions, or check out the building on Monday when Wanda Patsche will be working. Be sure to also read her blog entry about the state fair before you go!

One of the reasons why I love volunteering at the Farm Bureau Building is meeting people from all over the world. Last year, there was a family from Europe who stopped by to check out how we farm compared to how they farm. When you walk into the building, you will be greeted by one of the volunteers, and asked if you would like to answer a few questions in order to win a prize. The search for the answers will take you around the displays in the building, helping you to learn more about agriculture in Minnesota. After you answer all the questions, you will receive an insulated lunch bag. There is also a recipe booklet available for those who like to cook. There are drawings for children’s books, including “Little House on the Prairie”, so make sure to sign up for your kids!

Dennis Sabel & Katie Winslow handing out insulated lunch bags
Dennis Sabel & Katie Winslow handing out insulated lunch bags

The Ag Cab Lab-Combine is also in the Farm Bureau Building. This activity is great for kids of all ages. Sit inside the cab and see what it is like to combine different crops. If you would like to see what a farmer does while driving a tractor, head on over to the CHS Miracle of Birth Center where the Ag Cab Lab-Tractor is located. While there, check out the new livestock babies that have been born during the fair. The Miracle of Birth Center is another great place to learn about agriculture in Minnesota. The veterinarians, staff, and student volunteers have been working really hard this week to make sure the animals are well cared for in the heat. Ask the FFA students about the animals they are with. They would love to answer your questions!

Besides the Oink Booth that is found in the pig barn, check out the Moo Booth, and the Baa Booth. The Moo Booth has activities going on throughout the day on Sunday, including milking demonstrations. The Baa Booth is located in the sheep barn, and has some fun facts about raising sheep. All three of these booths have farmer volunteers working in them, and they, too, would love to answer your questions.

Another great area to learn about agriculture is the Dairy Building. Not only will you be able to see Princess Kay of the Milky Way’s Butterhead, but you may even get to see Princess Kay herself! The ice cream that you can buy in the Dairy Building is awesome. You can walk around inside the building and pick up recipes from other livestock organizations. Make sure you talk to the people handing out the recipe cards. They all are passionate about what they do!

Pretty much every year, we also take a walk through the Agriculture Horticulture Building to find the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association booth. Jonathan has won many ribbons on seeds that have been submitted. There is a display there about what the seeds from different plants look like. Do you know the difference between grass seed and flax seed? This is the building that houses the contests for Christmas trees, Bees & Honey, Farm Crops, Flower Show, Fruit & Wine, and Vegetables & Potatoes. It is fun to walk through and see the entries, especially the giant vegetables!

There are so many great agriculture stories at the Minnesota State Fair. I would love to hear what you learned when you checked out all the fun displays and the barns – add it to the comments below.

See you at the Fair!


Another Fun Filled Summer in Photos

The house is pretty quiet this week. The laundry piles are smaller, and the milk lasts a little longer. It is official. Jonathan and I are empty nesters!

This summer was pretty busy, which is how we prefer our summers to be. I’d like to share some of the fun with you in the photos below.

Most of the family was able to surprise my brother and his family at a Twins game in the beginning of July. Bruce had the honor of raising the Twins Territory flag. It was pretty cool.

The family – 14 out of a possible 19 made it!

The game: Twins won, with the help of a couple home runs at the hands of Trevor Plouffe.

A week later, Christina left for a five week stay in Costa Rica as a part of her Spanish studies. She missed out on our intense 48 hours of fun at Lake Ethel.

Jonathan likes to work hard, and play hard.

After we returned from the lake, Jonathan and Laura attended a national youth gathering for a week. They had a great trip, but were very happy to be back home again. Pretty much as soon as they returned, it was time to harvest wheat.

I took my turn in the combine for a little while.

Jonathan harvested most of the wheat, while I helped Laura get her projects ready for the county fair. Laura did the work, but I was her adviser.

The vanity Laura refinished, which is now displayed in my entry.

Laura competed in her final horse show at this years fair. She enjoys participating in the trail class the most. I think she’s pretty good at it.

Laura also brought three Boer goats to the county fair. This year’s fair was filled with a little drama. During the goat show, a severe thunderstorm rolled through and we all needed to take shelter. A few days later, another storm rolled through and we were once again waiting it out in the horse barn. 

Laura in the show ring.

For the first time in my life, I was in the ring during the State Fair line up. Can you spot my shoes?  I won’t quit my day job…

In between the county fair and the state fair, I worked at Farm Fest. Farm Fest is a three day agricultural event where vendors bring their equipment, software, expertise, or whatever they have that serves the agriculture community to southwest Minnesota. I help to sell pork chops on a stick in the Farm Bureau tent. I totally forgot to take photos this year, so you’ll have to close your eyes and imagine a delicious pork chop being handed to you by a local FFA member or Farm Bureau volunteer.  After a good day of recovery, I always look forward to the next year!

During the county fair and Farm Fest weeks, we had a visitor! Our former exchange student, who we now refer to as our German daughter, spent two weeks with us. It was great to catch up in person!

Viktoria at Alexander Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls. A beautiful park that we went to a few times while she stayed with us for a year.

While I was running around like a crazy woman, Jonathan was home being a great husband and dad. When he gets hungry for cookies, he just whips up a batch. They typically don’t last very long.

This brings us to the Minnesota State Fair. I love the fair! Laura went up with other 4-H members from our county for the 4 days of the Livestock encampment. Christina and I went up to watch the goat show, and then we walked around a tiny bit. We saved most of our fun for when we planned to go back the following week. 
Laura earned a purple ribbon in showmanship! She was pretty amazed, since this goat had been super jumpy at our county fair. He calmed down quite a bit once he entered the show ring.

We always check out the Agriculture/Horticulture building to see if Jonathan won any ribbons for his seed samples. He did! This year he received blue ribbons on both of his wheat varieties that were submitted.

Before we left, Christina and I had to find my new favorite treat. I am lactose intolerant, and ice cream really affects me, even when taking Lactaid. It was super hot, so this frozen banana on a stick was just the thing.

After our second visit to the fair, it was time to finish packing. All three girls moved to college last weekend.

Part of what we moved. I am so blessed that all three girls are in the same town. Two at one college, the youngest four blocks away at another.

We are now in the patiently waiting for soybean and corn harvest mode. There is still plenty that needs to get done before we are ready. Jonathan is loading up wheat that was sold, and will be sweeping out the grain bins when they are empty.  He will be making sure that the combine and trucks are clean so we do not have any wheat in our soybeans. I will be working on getting our house ready for family to stay. Once the soybeans are ready, I’ll be running the combine while Jonathan hauls the loads in the semi.  We plan on fitting in a few dates here and there as well.  So far this empty nest thing is looking pretty good!

Will I ever catch up?

This summer was a busy one, as usual.

Anna spent her summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a summer project with Campus Crusade. The first time that all three girls were not together for the summer.  While it seemed as if Anna was just away at college at times, there was something definitely different.  Did I just feel another gray hair pop? I definitely feel older at times…

Christina and Laura wanted to learn to sew for 4-H, so we sent them to Grandma Bredlow’s for “sewing camp”. Laura loves upcycling clothes, and found a couple of skirts at Goodwill to alter. She shortened the skirts, and took in the waist to fit her. They turned out really cute. She brought one of them to the county fair, and did very well.

Christina took on the challenge of designing her dress, and figuring out how to put multiple patterns together to get the end product. She envisioned a one shoulder dress of black satin, with an animal print waist band. Then, she wanted to make an over-skirt of the animal print that would attach to the dress with hooks. That way, she could have a formal dress with just a little animal print accent for more formal occasions, or she could attach the animal print skirt for a fun look.  She won a trip to the State Fair in Fashion Revue.

Both of the girls showed four goats in four categories at our county fair. Laura won a trip to the State Fair with one of her goats. That meant she went to school for two days, then spent the rest of her week up in St. Paul. Her goat show was on August 26th, which just so happened to be my sister’s birthday. Jonathan, Christina, and I stayed at Pam’s house on Thursday night, then we brought Pam with us to the fair on Friday.  We hung out in the judging arena until Laura was finished. She received a blue ribbon in showmanship, and a blue ribbon on her goat. She was happy with that!

After the judging finished, we took Pam around the fair to find birthday cake on a stick…or something like that. We wandered around the barns, and talked to friends from all over the state. Of course, when introducing Pam, I had to tell them that it was her birthday! We eventually found a place to sit along a curb to watch the parade, keeping an eye out for the St. Anthony Park Community Band. Brother-in-law Paul Hanson was the lone trombone on that float! We met up with him eventually, and did a little catching up.

When Pam was in high school, she didn’t want a birthday cake made of …cake. She asked for a candy bar “cake”. Mom bought a variety of candy bars, and arranged them on a plate like a layer cake. She even put candles on the top layer. So, we found the deep fried candy bar place, and Pam had the modern version of her candy bar cake! Our day was complete!  In all, we spent roughly 12 hours at the fair that day.

Fast forward to Thursday, September 1st. Jonathan was busy working on the farm, so I was the lucky one who helped Anna and Christina move back to college.  They live in the same building, same floor, just around the corner from each other. A parent’s dream! We made room for a dolly to help move Anna’s refrigerator and keyboard, and to help reduce the number of trips needed to carry tubs in. I was the only mom helping kids move that day, and the only one who brought a dolly. I looked pretty smart. 🙂

Christina came home again on Saturday, and we went back up to the Cities for round 2 at the State Fair. Fashion Revue judging was Sunday morning. Laura and I worked in the Farm Bureau building for a few hours, then we walked around until Grandma and cousin Jenni came. We showed them Jonathan’s champion open class wheat exhibit, and the other seed samples that he won ribbons for. We made it up to the 4-H building in plenty of time to watch Christina model her dress in the fashion show. Even though she did not win a spot in the Court of Honor, she was complemented by the show’s director, and by one of her judges who liked that she thought outside the box.

So, all the kids are back in school. I look around my house at everything in disarray from the comings and goings. And I wonder. Will I ever catch up?  Some day…