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90 Days 9 Lessons

It was 90 days ago that my doctor showed me the results of my blood panel taken at my yearly physical, and strongly suggested I take action. His advice was to spend more time on myself, exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, and lose weight. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past 90 days:

1. The older I get, the harder it is to lose weight.

This is the third time in my adult life that I have gone on a weight loss journey. This is also the hardest I’ve had to work to lose weight. It used to take me about 10 minutes to feel all warmed up to the point where things that were tight felt loose enough to run. Now, it takes about 30 minutes before I feel like things are running smooth.

2. Whatever gadget keeps you motivated is worth it

I love electronic gadgets, and even though I am horrible at math, I love seeing the data after a workout. I currently wear a FitBit Charge, and when I’m working out, I wear a heart rate monitor. They both keep me accountable, but in different ways. The FitBit gives me a snapshot of how active or inactive my day is, and gives me a goal to shoot for. It also feeds my competitive side when I’m competing with friends to see who walks the most in a week. The heart rate monitor makes sure I am not being lazy about my workouts. There is a huge difference in how you attain your 10,000 steps in a day. Strolling around the mall at a leisurely pace won’t help you lose weight as quickly as walking briskly outside will.

3. Numbers can be good…and bad

The number on the scale gives part of the story on your health. For too many years, I let the number dictate my self worth. That is when the numbers are bad. However, when you are trying to avoid a health issue, like diabetes, that can be influenced by the number on the scale, keeping track is good. It is more of a love/hate relationship at times, but I have come to appreciate a deeper meaning of what those numbers symbolize.

4. Diet doesn’t mean deprivation

Watching the total number of calories I take in isn’t always the easiest thing, especially when attending receptions and celebrations. I will occasionally have a cupcake or a small amount of a dessert when at an event, and I enjoy it. If I were to skip it, I know I would obsess over it, which would lead to over indulgence. It’s a system that works for me.

5. Tracking calories is critical

If I were to get injured again, I know I could still lose weight just by watching my portions. How many calories you take in a day versus how many you burn is a good number to know. I use My Fitness Pal to track my food intake, and a food scale (when I’m at home) to accurately measure the food. For me, tracking my calorie and nutrient intake is one of the major keys to my success. I’m pretty thankful that I can now take photos of UPC symbols on food packages and the accurate data for that food comes up…and that MFP does all the number crunching for me. When I first went through a weight loss program in the mid-90’s, I had to figure all of that out by hand. Did I mention how much I love gadgets?

6. Find a support system

If you need to make a lifestyle change like mine, please find family, friends, or a personal trainer who will be there to encourage you when you feel like quitting. There have been days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel…call it good…fall off the wagon…never step foot on a treadmill again. My family has been my encouragement. They celebrate with me for every pound lost, every milestone reached, and every triumph over the “I can’t” mind game. Without their support, I don’t think I’d be doing as well as I am.

7. Motivation can come from anywhere

I mentioned above that my FitBit feeds my competitive side. That’s probably why I feel motivated by friends who compete in races. There are farmers and ranchers running for Team Beef that prove to me that there are other people with agriculture jobs like mine who find the time to train for races. Most of them have no idea how much hope they give me that one day I’ll be back to running again.

8. Farmers and ranchers need to pay attention to their health

Farmers and ranchers have physically demanding jobs, yet many of us have health issues related to our weight. While we may have bursts of intense activity, we tend to overcompensate when we eat…especially when we’re eating on the go in the tractor or combine. We eat to stay awake, we eat because we’re bored, we eat because the clock says it’s time to eat. Taking time to find 30 minutes of meaningful activity (my doctor’s words), and taking a little “me” time isn’t being selfish. It means you may have a lot more time on this earth to spend with your family.

9. Small steps are better than no steps

My goal is to get back to running, and to lose a lot more weight. Neither of those goals are going to happen overnight, so I can’t beat myself up about the fact that I am still walking for fitness, and I am a third of the way to my weight loss goal. I have found that rejoicing in the increased fitness, and for every weigh-in where I lost at least a few tenths of a pound has made this journey a lot easier to handle. I think my family appreciates the more positive attitude as well.

 

There you have it. Nine things I’ve learned from the first 90 days of my road to wellness. I hope you may find a few helpful nuggets in there!

The first 90 Days

 

 

Escape to Northern Minnesota

Jonathan and I found time to escape from the farm for 2 1/2 days this summer. This was the first summer vacation without any of our kids along, so it was pretty spontaneous. It had been awhile since we visited the North Shore and Duluth, Minnesota, so we decided that would be our destination.

Since the timing of our trip was totally weather dependent, we didn’t have advanced reservations anywhere, and ended up choosing a hotel in Two Harbors. We had been through this town on another trip up the North Shore, but hadn’t stayed there. We really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of Two Harbors instead of the frenetic pace of the Duluth Harbor area.

We left home after 6:00 pm on Wednesday evening, and arrived at our hotel right around midnight. This is what happens when you need to complete a few things on the farm before you can head out the door. Thursday we went to my niece’s house in Duluth and took her out for lunch. She recommended the Duluth Grill so we tried it out. We weren’t disappointed…but if you go, go hungry!

After walking around the Leif Erickson rose garden, and wading in Lake Superior, we took Jenni back to her place so she could make it to work in time. Jonathan and I went back up to Two Harbors, and planned our next adventure. We decided on Gooseberry State Park. The parking and falls area was free…bonus! We walked first to the middle and lower falls, then headed up to the upper falls. We went in the evening, so the light was beautiful, and it wasn’t really crowded.

Upper Falls Gooseberry State Park

On our way back to the hotel that night, we decided to go down to the harbor in Two Harbors and see what was there. We noticed people walking down the break wall, so Jonathan encouraged me to do the same. The water was so calm and the temperatures were perfect. There were seagulls swimming near the break wall, even though people were walking close by. After taking this photo, we watched a ship depart Two Harbors, which was pretty cool.

Seagull in Lake Superior, Two Harbors

On Friday, we decided to do our sight-seeing in the morning before heading down to Duluth to see my sister and brother-in-law who had come to help my niece with a house project. We headed up the shore towards Split Rock Lighthouse. It had rained the during the night, and fog was rolling in off Lake Superior in places which made the views really cool. We pulled over to walk up a look-out along a trail, and marveled that this was just as much a part of the Minnesota landscape as the prairies are that we call home.

Looking North along Lake Superior

When we arrived at Split Rock, we paid the admittance fee, and decided to follow the guided tour before heading out on the self guided portion. We learned a lot of the background history, which helped the self guided portion make sense. This is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the United States, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to take a few. Just to warn you…there are 171 steps down to the lake, which means you need to walk 171 steps back up again. It really wasn’t that bad, especially when there were places along the way where you could pause and take more photos.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Even though this was a mini-vacation, and we packed a lot of sight seeing into it, we came home feeling refreshed. It’s worth taking a couple of days to escape the crazy pace of farming to take a breather!

Wordless Wednesday – A Trip to the Zoo

Jelly Fish Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

On Monday, Jonathan and I presented at a conference in Omaha. What is the one recommendation from most people on what to do with our fun day? Head to the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. We weren’t disappointed! This is just one of the 359 photos I took at the zoo yesterday.

Cherish Your Friends and Family

family

Things have been quiet on the blog lately. We have been enjoying time with family in addition to farm work and meetings.

On June 27th, we attended the wedding of our niece and new nephew-in-law. Laura rode with us, and we met Anna and Doug at our hotel. Jonathan hadn’t seen Anna or Doug since we parted ways in Stuttgart, Germany in January, so he was anxious to see them. Christina and I were able to visit them on our way back from New York in May, but it was still so good to get hugs from them again. It was so nice to be able to spend time playing games, visiting, and laughing together.

It’s funny, as much as I cherish my friends – whether they are In Real Life friends or Social Media friends – and my family, I seem to have troubles nurturing those relationships. Maybe it’s because of my fear of being a bother, or not wanting to look foolish, I’m not sure. I think we all have those insecurities, and put up walls from time to time to protect our hearts. The thing is, when those walls go up, we miss out on the human relationships that we crave.

I think Anna and Doug’s visit, and the impromptu gatherings with family and friends surrounding their visit here have made me realize how much I need to nurture my human connections, and how, in the grand scheme of things, those relationships are the important things in life. The point isn’t to just comment on things I disagree with or where I see an educational opportunity. The point is to build the relationships so that when a disagreement happens, it doesn’t ruin that relationship. In many conferences and workshops we hear about how to advocate for agriculture by building relationships with our consumers, but I think we also need to build relationships with other advocates.

Thanks, Anna and Doug, for the visit, and for making me see the importance of nurturing my relationships!

A Bend in the Road

Bend in the Road

Sometimes, the road of life isn’t as straight and even as you’d like it to be. My road has a bend in it that I have been ignoring for a little while. It is time to make the turn, for my health’s sake.

When I was expecting daughters two and three, I had gestational diabetes. Both times it went away as soon as the girls were delivered. Since then, my doctors have gently reminded me that if I don’t take care of myself, the diabetes could return. Here it is, 23 years later, and the warning is a little more urgent.

I try to get in for my yearly physicals in the fall, after harvest is complete. This past fall, we were fostering a little guy, which meant I put off going in. That may have turned out to be a blessing. A few weeks before my appointment, I was noticing some things were different, and not in a good way. Turns out, I have two out of three issues that accompany metabolic syndrome. Combine that with the history of gestational diabetes, and I am considered pre-diabetic. It is time to admit that I am not invincible –  as painful as that may be to my ego.

The treatment for this little bend in my road is easy and difficult at the same time. My prescription is to move myself up on my priority list, and exercise a minimum of 30 minutes every day. I now watch my food portions as well, and have cut certain extras out of my diet for the most part. The goal is to lose weight through portion control and exercise, and drop my glucose and triglyceride numbers back down to where they should be. Sounds easy enough, but the week I was diagnosed, we had 8 graduation receptions to attend. Nothing like having your resolve tested right away!

I have been on this journey for just over a month now, and I feel great. I am getting to where fitting in exercise has become a priority over watching TV or catching up on social media, and I’m not constantly worried about what I can and cannot eat when I go out to a restaurant. I’ve lost some weight, and am confident I will hit the goals I can control by my 3 month checkup. The only unknown is how my blood test will be.

So, you may see more postings about exercise, eating frustrations (looking at all the fried foods out there that are calorie bombs, but oh, so tasty!), and other things I encounter on this little bend in my road. And, hopefully, you will be seeing a smaller, healthier version of me this fall.

The Impact of a Unified Voice

Speaking with a Unified Voice - Farmers to Washington

 

Agriculture is under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency, individual states, and federal judges. It is time to get involved, and make your voice heard. What is the most effective way to get your message across? By joining a farm organization.

This past March, I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC with the Minnesota Farm Bureau. This was my 4th trip to DC with Farm Bureau, but my first trip as a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Board of Directors. I came away with three things I think everyone involved in agriculture should know.

Every farmer should belong to a farm organization

I know, I know. We’re all really busy, and it’s tough to take on one more thing. But what if that one more thing makes your job easier in the long run? For example, fourteen Minnesota Farm Bureau members traveled to Washington DC together in March. That is a small fraction of our membership. We were speaking on behalf of all Minnesota Farm Bureau members that week. When we met with our Congressmen and Senators, they knew we are speaking with a unified voice for all of our members.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to the Minnesota State Capitol for our Day on the Hill visits. It’s another trip that I love, and it’s an easy one day event for us. The messages we bring to our elected officials, whether state or national, are those that came from our members in the policy development and voting delegate sessions that happen every year. Your voice in your county matters.

Politics may not be your thing, but it affects everything

When I first got involved in Farm Bureau, politics weren’t my thing. I had kids to worry about, I was taking on a few more farm responsibilities, and just didn’t think my opinions mattered anyway. The more I got involved with Farm Bureau, the more I realized how much of our livelihood depended on our elected officials. I started paying attention, embraced the opportunities to attend legislative 101 type sessions at our Leadership Conferences, and learned how the political process works. Then, Jonathan and I won a trip to Washington DC with the Young Farmers & Ranchers group, where we learned how powerful the Farm Bureau voice can be. I went in to that trip pretty wide-eyed, and came home fired up…in a good way. I gained a new respect for those who work hard at getting our message in front of the House and Senate every day. I know I couldn’t do it!

Every farmer should go to Washington DC at least twice

Why go twice? Isn’t once enough…a been there done that kind of thing? As I mentioned above, my first trip to Washington DC was pretty much a wide eyed experience where I was taking in so much information, and seeing for the first time how politics affects agriculture at the national level, that I really didn’t feel like I made much of an impact. When we went on our second trip, I was much more comfortable about speaking up in our meetings, and felt that I was making a difference. In March, one of our Congressmen expressed how he appreciated how Farm Bureau speaks with a unified voice, since they represent all sectors of agriculture. He mentioned how we are a lot like Congress in that we have to learn how to take all of the different voices and come together in agreement on our policies. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. The group on this spring’s trip was very diverse, which really brought home our Congressman’s point. We had beef, dairy, pig, conventional, and organic farmers in our group speaking as one.

Whether it is the American Farm Bureau addressing the issues surrounding the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, or the Minnesota Farm Bureau addressing Governor Dayton’s buffer strip campaign, our elected officials take note of our message, whether or not they vote the way we would like, at least they know exactly where we stand. That is the impact of a unified voice.

Wordless Wednesday – Lilies

Lilies of the Field

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Matthew, 6:28-29

 

The Importance of Site Specific Buffer Strips

Jonathan and I were attending graduation open houses on a rainy day this weekend, and noticed how the water was standing in fields near drainage ditches following a pretty intense downpour. There was one field in particular, where the buffer strip is about 5 feet wide at its peak. This narrow buffer is good to prevent accidental applications of fertilizers or pesticides onto the banks of the drainage ditch, but it would never be crucial in filtering surface drainage. Why? The land runs up hill to the ditch bank. The standing water shows where the low spots are.

Narrow buffers are appropriate in some locations

This photo was taken along the county road, so the ditch in the foreground is road ditch. When you follow the curve of the crops, you will see on the left hand side the strip of grass. That is the edge of the narrow buffer. Look how far back the water is standing.

Here is another view of the same ditch, and the same field, taken from a little farther down the road.

Effective buffers are site specific

The ditch bank is fully intact, and doesn’t have water flowing from the field over the crown and into the ditch. This is a good example of how site specific buffer strips make sense. I would have to agree, too, with the NRCS buffer strip study that stressed the importance of site specific buffer strips, and not having that be the stand alone way to achieve the water quality results we are looking for. As more farmers are going back to no-till or minimum till methods, implementing cover crops, and using variable rate technology, our water quality will continue to improve.

Farmers are not opposed to installing buffer strips. Farmers are not opposed to clean water. Farmers are opposed to a one-size-fits-all-one-method-will-fix-all way of thinking. We cannot forget the importance of site specific buffer strips, nor the importance of a little common sense.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Love Your Brothers and Sisters

Love Your Brothers and Sisters

I come from a pretty close family, and love hanging out with my brothers and sisters. Even though they make me mad at times, I still love them.

When we read 1 John 4: 20-21, I’m not sure that the meaning is just our immediate siblings, but brothers and sisters in Christ. This verse challenges me when I feel hurt by another Christian…it makes me not want to love them. But I must. I am challenged to love those who are not fellow believers as well…because some day they may become a brother or sister in Christ. This is one area I’m working on with my real life relationships as well as my online relationships.

 

Is Water Quality a Red Herring in the Quest for Land Control?

Water Quality. We hear the term in the news, in press conferences, and in editorials surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s proposals to regulate land use primarily in agricultural areas. What is water quality, and what does it have to do with land control?

 
The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Rule, which would redefine what the term “waters of the U.S.” means, has a host of issues. However, the way they are selling their proposed change is in the name of water quality. Thing is, their rule change has nothing to do with water quality, since all the waters in question are already covered by the Clean Water Act. What it does talk about at length, is jurisdiction. The EPA thinks it can do a better job at implementing the provisions of the Clean Water Act than the states can. I don’t know about your state, but Minnesota is doing a great job at identifying impaired waters, establishing a game plan, and achieving it. Personally, I think states, who involve people who live and work in the watershed, are much more effective at protecting water quality than Washington bureaucrats who have probably never set foot in the watershed they are trying to regulate.

 
So, what is the point of redefining what constitutes a water of the United States if it isn’t going to change the national water quality standards outlined in the Clean Water Act? Could it be power? Control over agricultural lands? The Rule would broaden the scope of the EPA, and basically puts them in the business of regulating a farmer’s activities, which is not what Congress intended. If your land happens to be within the boundaries of the newly defined significant nexus, you may need a permit from the EPA to do ordinary farming practices. Farmers are already working towards the water quality goals of the watersheds their land is in. On our farm, we have taken advantage of voluntary programs, and federal farm programs that encourage soil and water conservation. We have planted marginal lands into Conservation Reserve Program grasslands, planted living snow fences, and use cover crops. Soil samples, plant tissue samples, and manure samples are tested to determine the correct rate of manure application each fall. We are doing what we can to meet or exceed the standards set for the watershed our land is in.

 
Redefining the Waters of the United States in the name of water quality is deceiving…a red herring. The EPA is simply looking for more ways to control what happens on the land. Land owned by farmers and landowners who are already complying with CWA standards.

farmers care about soil, water, and wildlife

Water quality has also been a hot topic on the state level in a few states lately. In Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton has asked for a 50 foot riparian buffer strip along all rivers, streams, and ditch banks and everywhere water flows “most of the time”. Sounds good on the surface, but like the EPA’s WOTUS rule, the Governor’s plan has some major flaws.

 
Farmers are not opposed to buffers. In the right locations, at the appropriate width designed for that particular location, they can be very effective. One-size-fits-all makes no sense if the goal is improving water quality. However, the news media has been blasting agriculture for not doing their part to improve water quality, and is telling the public that we need these buffer strips to achieve water quality. When I read the proposed Senate and House bills, I was puzzled. What exactly is this water quality they are talking about? Under the Purpose of the bill, it lists “protecting water from runoff and erosion; stabilizing soils, shores, and banks; and provide aquatic and wildlife habitat.” (HF1534, MN House of Representatives) Is that what water quality is? If that is the state’s definition of water quality, we can achieve that in without a mandatory, one-size-fits-all 50 foot buffer strip.

 

 

One of the Governor’s reasons for the need for the 50 foot buffer strip is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s latest report on the Missouri River Basin in Southwest Minnesota. As I was reading the full report, a few things stood out. Governor Dayton kept referring to how bad the water quality is, but the same report that had the media blasting agriculture for all the water woes also contained some positive news. Two of the major watersheds had improved water quality over the past 10 years. Pipestone Creek and the Rock River both showed decreases in Total Suspended Solids and Total Phosphorus, two areas of assessment that is mentioned many times in the MPCA’s report.

pipestone creek water quality improvement

rock river water quality improvement

The other thing that I noticed is that there is no water quality standard for Total Phosphorus in streams, and there are no Nitrite/Nitrate standards in streams or lakes. When reading the chemistry results from the tested waters – where there were water chemistry reports – there were numbers present, but no parameters for TP or Nitrite/Nitrogen. If there are no water quality standards, or water quality goals, how can we know if we have achieved the desired result?

 
The idea of no water quality standard or goal in the proposed bill was brought up at the Governor’s Buffer Strip Session in Worthington, Minnesota. I was happy the gentleman asked the question, since I had noticed the lack of goals in the bill, but just thought I was missing a point. That question raises another one. If there are no Total Phosphorus standards for streams, how are we to know when we have reached an achievable goal? Is it the historic levels dating back before the European settlements? What if those numbers were historically high, even before the prairies were turned in to farmland? Are we just going to be chasing an unachievable number?

 
Spring Lake, near Prior Lake recently made a request to the EPA to change the standard for Total Phosphorus from 40 ppb to 60 ppb after a lake sediment core was studied, and it found that Spring Lake historically was high in Total Phosphorus. So, if TP was high before the land surrounding Spring Lake was turned into farmland, is it agriculture solely to blame? I don’t think so.

 
It remains that there are no true water quality standards set out in Governor Dayton’s Buffer Strip bill. Even when farmers are accused of not doing their part to improve water quality, the MPCA’s own documents show otherwise. So, if there is no true water quality standard in the bill, using water quality as the selling point is deceiving…a red herring. What is it that the Governor truly wants? More land.

 
In December, the Governor held a Pheasant Summit to address the decline in the pheasant population in Minnesota. It was there that the first mentions of a 50 foot buffer strip plan were heard. When the Governor announced his plan a few weeks later, it was not met with much enthusiasm. In January, the buffer strip idea was introduced as a way to increase water quality. Water quality is an emotional subject, and has been used as a rallying cry for the Governor’s plan to put the Department of Natural Resources in charge of those 50 foot buffers on privately owned land. In the name of water quality, farmers have been raked through the mud and have been characterized as being uncaring polluters. As mentioned above, we do many things to improve water and soil conservation on our farm. We care about water quality just as much as our friends in town do. We drink the water from our wells, we bathe in it, we use the water for recreation, and we depend on the rain for our crops. Jonathan and I are not unique in that aspect.

 
If the EPA or the Governor were truly more interested in water quality than control of property rights, they would support incentives for farmers, businesses and non-farmer land owners that allow for an individualized approach that takes into account the unique features of that property. Both entities need to quit deceiving the public, and call their proposals what they really are: A quest for the control of the landowner’s private property.

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