Love this Crazy Life

Time flies when you are having fun, right? I can’t believe how fast the last month has gone!

Jonathan and Laura returned from Tanzania full of stories, videos, and photos.  I’ll let Jonathan tell you about his experiences in another blog.

After the travelers returned home, we jumped right into a full schedule. Laura wanted to head back to college right away to try and catch up on more assignments, so I took her back to USF just a day after they returned home. A day later, Jonathan and I had an organic farming seminar to attend a few hours from home, so he basically hit the ground running as well.

The following week was Thanksgiving. We were hosting this year, so I was able to plan the event how I wanted it. My rule this year – nobody brings anything, and everyone stays out of the kitchen until time for dishes. The exceptions were Christina, who made the dinner rolls, and Laura, who was my sous chef.  The day was awesome. It was the most stress-free Thanksgiving I have ever hosted!

Our menu was partly traditional, and partly not. As in, we didn’t have any cranberry anything, and no marshmallows made an appearance on sweet potatoes.

We started the meal with a Squash Soup appetizer. While our guests were eating their soup, Laura and I set the rest of the meal on the table.


The rest of our menu looked like this:

Apple Cider Brined Turkey

Mashed potatoes

A Simple Gravy made with chicken stock (no drippings)

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Green Bean Casserole

Dinner Rolls (recipe follows)


For dessert, I made a pecan pie, double layer pumpkin pie, and chocoflan


After our meal, everyone pitched in on dishes, and then we relaxed. We took our Olson family photo (minus one nephew who is currently studying in India) so Grandpa could send out his Christmas letter.  It was nice to celebrate with Anita and Charles, who will be heading back to Canada in a couple of days to celebrate Christmas with Charles’ family. They will be heading back to the mission field after the New Year.

I am so thankful for my family, my in-laws, the outlaws, my friends. The list could go on forever. I have been so blessed this past year! Thank you, my dear readers, for being a part of my life for the last two years. I look forward to sharing more stories about my family, my farm, and successful ventures in the kitchen.

Fly Off the Plate Dinner Rolls

1 egg

1 1/2 cups warm water

4 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons instant dry milk

3 Tablespoons oil

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

Mix egg with fork. Add ingredients in order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer. Put pan in bread machine. Select dough cycle, push start. After about 10 minutes, push finger into dough. If it is sticky, add more flour. When bread machine is done, shape into buns. Allow to rise about 20 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake 10-15 minutes


It’s Quiet…Kind Of

Tuesday morning I drove Jonathan, Laura, and cousin Denise to the airport for their missions trip to Tanzania, Africa. There are 18 people on this trip, mostly from two churches in Southwest Minnesota. They have been planning this trip for almost a year (or so it seems), and were really looking forward to finally seeing what they had been talking about for so long. Laura informed her college professors on the first day of classes about her trip, and had been trying to get a lot of work done ahead of time. They were definitely ready to go when it came time to load up the van.

While Laura was writing her 4 papers and giving a presentation, Jonathan was writing notes and making phone calls. We counted the other night, and I believe he has 20 people (including me) lined up for things. It is amazing how many people he has contact with in any given week. He wrote out instructions for the guy hauling the seed soybeans, the guy doing our pig chores, and for me. He sent emails to a few more people, trying to keep them in the loop.  Right before we arrived at the airport, he handed me his cell phone. Gulp.

Here is what I am responsible for keeping up with:

My house is empty right now, so it should be quiet, right? It is for the most part. I have already needed to check the cheat sheets a few times to go over instructions or changes of plans with a few people. The recurring thought I have is, “I should have asked more questions!”  I am pretty worried that I am going to screw up the paperwork that has to accompany every truck load of seed, and that I will miss the barn alarm’s phone call.

I am so thankful that Jonathan and Laura have the opportunity to do some short term missions work. I am also thankful that Jonathan has enough faith in me and my ability to run things here that he didn’t hesitate to say yes, I will go.

Truthfully, I am thankful that it isn’t so quiet around here…but I will be so happy when Jonathan and Laura come home!

Jonathan & Laura, shortly after arriving in Tanzania…after over 20 some hours of travel.

Now What?

The 2012 harvest season has ended for us. The guys are wrapping up the tillage, and should be done some time this afternoon. Many of our friends and family ask us, “Now what?” Some may assume that we kick back and take it easy until spring work starts again. While the most physical part of the work is finished for this crop year, we are not done with our work.

Jonathan and our youngest daughter, Laura, will be headed for a 16 day missions trip to Tanzania next week. They will be working at the Kikatiti school – a place that our church has sponsored for many years. They will be bringing many used eyeglasses with them, and some of the team will be matching vision needs with the glasses we bring. Others on the team will be doing some maintenance work. Laura and a few other women will be teaching girls how to use the sewing machine the was purchased for the school. They will work on the basics of sewing, with the hopes of teaching them how to make things to sell. After they finish their work at the school, they will be going on a safari. How cool! I am very excited for them, yet a tad nervous about keeping things going here by myself.

In the winter, we still have pig chores to attend to, and a lot of paperwork. It is also the time of year when we take a serious look at what varieties of seeds we want to grow next year. We have a yield monitor in the combine, and we’ll print out the yield maps to see what varieties we want to plant again and what varieties we will drop.  We store all of our crops in grain bins, and will be selling throughout the fall and into next year. We work with our buyers to arrange hauling dates that work well with both of our schedules – although sometimes it would be nice if the weather would cooperate on the cold winter days!

Both Jonathan and I will be attending meetings this winter. They are sort of like our continuing education classes. So far, we have the Minnesota Farm Bureau Annual meeting, and three organic conferences on the schedule. I will also have a few meetings for various other committees I am on. I love winter meetings, and networking with other farmers. The education components can really help set the tone for the coming crop season as well. It doesn’t matter what kind of farming you do, it is always helpful to see what is the latest and greatest thing.

Winter is also when I get to have fun in the kitchen. I have been collecting recipes from blogs over the past year, and am excited to have the time to try ones I haven’t gotten to yet.  When the kids all went to college, I warned Jonathan that I may be trying out all kinds of new recipes. He is pretty game to try what I come up with, fortunately!

One of the first recipes sent to me by my good friend is one I have posted above my stove. I see it every day, and have been patiently waiting until I have the time to whip up a batch. This is one that will require an event to bring them to, otherwise I will want to eat them all!

This blog is written in a combination of Swedish and English. The writers culinary passions are rivaled by her photography. This blog is a treat for both the eyes and the taste buds! The first recipe I want to try is her Perfect Expresso Chocolate Cupcakes.  Call Me Cupcake

Another blog that I thought was fun, and had a yummy looking recipe for Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting, is the Brown Eyed Baker. (Notice a theme here?) Her blogging style is one I enjoy reading.  Brown Eyed Baker

On the savory side of things, since we cannot live on cupcakes alone, is a Gratin recipe from Dairy Carrie. This is another blog that has a writing style that I really like, along with some great recipes and awesome information about her dairy farm.

I love, love, love reading cookbooks. I read them like some people read novels. I picked this one up on a shopping trip with my girls, and can’t wait to try out many yummy looking recipes.  This should keep me busy for the winter!

Okay, I’ve given you three blogs and one book to find. I would love to hear about your favorite blogs and cookbooks!

Be Careful When You Tease the Dog…

This last week has been interesting, to say the least. Some good, some not so much…

We finished harvesting our crops exactly one week ago. It was an overcast, windy day like today. I was anticipating the finish, and getting back to a more normal schedule. I received a phone call with just a few hundred yards to the end. I mentioned in that call that I was watching three raccoons running in and out of the rows, going slower than I wanted to make sure they wouldn’t get run over.  Cue the foreshadowing music…  Apparently my combine is not only good for rock picking, but it is also handy for coon hunting. I’ll leave the details for those who want to hear the story in person. Let me just say… “Ewww.”

My huge rock I picked up on the bean head…it was so dusty I couldn’t see it until I picked it up. The biggest one I’ve picked up so far!


Now that harvest is done, we are hitting the tillage pretty hard. We have had so many offers from friends to help, which is such a blessing. Jonathan has taught my niece, Katie, how to drive tractors and use air tools. She has been loving the lifestyle so far.

Katie and her tractor


With so many people helping, I was able to concentrate on getting our guestroom ready for Jonathan’s sister, Anita and her husband, Charles. They will be staying with us for a couple of months while they visit churches in the United States that sponsor their mission work. They are splitting their home assignment time between Charles’ family in Canada, and Anita’s family here.  Anita and Charles arrived last Thursday evening, which gave me Wednesday and Thursday morning to have their rooms ready.

Thursday morning arrived, and I had just a few things left to do in the basement. I played with the dog every now and then when he was inside, occasionally teasing him by hiding his favorite toy in my pocket, and squeezing it to make it squeak every now and then. It drives him crazy when he can’t find it, which we find really funny. Cue the foreshadowing music…

Thursday afternoon was so beautiful, and I hadn’t had a chance to run in so long. I thought a quick sprint to the mailbox and back would be just what I needed to keep the cleaning motivation going.  The dog was out in the yard with Jonathan, who was working on the plow before heading back out to the field. I hopped down the two steps outside the door, and accelerated as I started to round the corner of the house. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the dog in a dead run towards me. He usually runs beside me when I am walking/running laps around the yard, but this time he went right in between my legs. Not good.

Do you remember when you were little, and when you fell while playing, it sometimes seemed like it was in slow motion? That was me. I remember thinking, as I see the gravel driveway rising up to smack me, “this is going to hurt!”  It did.  I rolled onto my back on the driveway, sobbing and bleeding. Limbs were in the air…kinda like a dead bug. Jonathan came over, assessed the situation, and offered a hand to help me up. I hobbled into the house, still crying, and started to clean the gravel out of my hands, right knee, and right elbow. This is the same knee that I bruised super bad 17 months ago. I was determined not to be on crutches again, so I haven’t gone in to the dr. Sorry mom.
I have spent the last few days feeling super lazy as I elevate and ice.  Things are not so swollen today, but the colors are very pretty. I always did like purple.

So, the moral of my story…I am very thankful for the people who have asked to come and help out by driving a tractor for a few hours, and I am thankful that Anita loves to do dishes. Oh, and don’t tease the dog.

15 pounds of energy and destruction…but yet so cute

Farm Safety – Your Life Depends On It


Many parts of the midwest are in Red Flag warnings this week. Field and combine fires are becoming more frequent. Please use caution when out in dry grass or in tractors We have a fire extinguisher inside the cab of the combine “just in case”. This tip became a little more relevant this week, after learning of an aunt’s relative who sustained burns over 17% of his body in a combine fire. Be careful out there…your family needs you!

Nutrition – Only a Part of the Whole Picture

While I no longer have kids in high school, the school lunch issue has my attention. I can’t help but think that the new directives that have come down from the USDA is missing the mark.

We all need to pay attention to the calories we take in on any given day. The quality of those calories must also be taken into account. If I were to eat a 500 calorie meal of Twinkies and soda, I don’t think I would feel as good as if I ate a 500 calorie meal of meat, potatoes, vegetables, and milk.  Our bodies were designed to require nutrients found in the foods we eat. Our bodies were also designed to move.

I have been wearing an electronic pedometer for the past few weeks. I thought that I was being fairly active, but I have had many days where I cannot seem to reach the 10,000 step goal for the day. I don’t work in an office where I have to walk from a parking lot, into the building, and up a couple flights of stairs to my desk.  My computer is 14 steps from my bed, three steps from the kitchen table, and five steps to the meal prep area. Not a lot of calorie burning going on in my mornings. I have to be very deliberate to get exercise in, or I will gain weight.

So, what about just controlling the amount of calories in? I tried that. I was thinner, but I wasn’t healthier. My triglyceride levels were still higher than my doctor wanted them, and I was borderline anemic. I was also a wimp. I couldn’t run as much as I wanted to because I didn’t have the stamina or muscle tone to endure a good workout. When I started exercising with the calorie control, I felt so much better.

This is where I feel the nutrition guidelines are missing the mark. We need to encourage healthy eating, but we also need to be encouraging physical movement.  There is a great program, called Fuel Up to Play 60, which is sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the NFL.  Click here to see what they are about. This program encourages healthy eating, and 60 minutes of exercise a day.  They teach nutrition – the why of eating healthy – and make exercise fun. To see what makes them different, click here.  This is a program model that I think would be a better way to address the childhood obesity issue than the nutrition standards that the schools are dealing with now.

There is one more area where I think we should focus on. Our school district has 175 student contact days.  That leaves 190 days when the students are at home. For the students that eat both breakfast and lunch at school, they will eat 350 meals with calorie restrictions. Those same students will be eating 745 meals outside of school. We are sorely mistaken if we think that calorie restrictions at school are going to solve the obesity issue.

I loved running around my neighborhood when I was a kid. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis in the ’70’s and ’80’s. We played outside all summer, riding our banana seat bikes, playing H-O-R-S-E, and playing various forms of tag….along with tormenting the siblings then running like crazy to escape the wrath.  We didn’t have home video games then. Is it any wonder that obesity rates have increased after the home video games and computers became household objects? We need to move. We need to make exercise a lifelong habit, starting at a young age…and as parents, we need to be setting a good example.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite workout songs on my iPod….

Are We Becoming High Maintenance? Thoughts While Making Supper…

I love the movie, “When Harry Met Sally”.  In it, there is a scene where Harry is describing low maintenance and high maintenance women..

Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.

Sally Albright: Which one am I?

Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.

Sally Albright: I don’t see that.

Harry Burns: You don’t see that? Waiter, I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. “On the side” is a very big thing for you.

Sally Albright: Well, I just want it the way I want it.

Harry Burns: I know; high maintenance.
I was catching up on a few blogs while making supper tonight, and they really made me think. One was talking about really listening to those who are asking questions. If we do not listen to what it is they are asking, have we already created a wall that will prevent effective communication?  Is the consumer the Sally Albright in this situation? They just want it the way they want it?  Or are we? I just want to farm it the way I want to farm it.  

When we are the worst kind of listener – high maintenance, but think we’re low maintenance – do people stop trying to participate in conversations with us? Is that when we lose the consumer’s interest, like Sally does to the waiter when ordering a sandwich?  How do we ensure that we are low maintenance, like the cool character Ingrid Bergman played?

As I paused to assemble the ingredients for supper, another thought hit me…

Supper tonight was semi-homemade pizza. The crust was a frozen ready to bake crust from Schwan’s. The tomato sauce was made with fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market in our hometown and from my uncle’s garden. Since the sauce was a bit watery, even while reducing it on the stove, I added a can of organic tomato paste from my pantry. When the sauce was cooking, I diced some of our thick cut bacon that was left over from our dinner of BLT’s. I then sliced up some fresh mozzarella that was on sale at the grocery store. I’m not sure if that was the one I got free, or if it is the one that is still in the fridge. Anyway, it was a good deal on a food I don’t normally cook with. To top off the pizza, I picked a few basil leaves off of the herb planter just outside my back door, diced them up, and sprinkled them over the top.  The pizza was now ready to go in the oven.

Just by looking at it, it looks like a gourmet pizza…sort of.  If you look at the ingredient list, there is an interesting mix. Store bought (or delivered by the Schwan’s man in this case), organic, farmer’s market, garden fresh from a relative, one item I only bought because it was on sale, and something I grew myself.  When I added the heat, all those varied ingredients became one delicious pizza.

This pizza is kinda how I hope all farmers and agriculture professionals can be. We may be representing all types, but when we add heat (like participating in social media discussions), we can become one awesome pizza.  We need to be careful not to burn one part, or the whole pie will be ruined.

Fun Food Friday

I was craving some ice cream today, but ice cream doesn’t really like me. I figured out I was lactose intolerant while eating ice cream at my niece’s graduation reception. Not a fun day. I have tried taking Lactaid with the ice cream, but it still doesn’t like me. So, when a craving hits, I like to see what kind of substitutes I can find.

A few posts back, I shared a photo of my new favorite State Fair treat – a frozen banana on a stick, covered in chocolate and rolled in peanuts. It made a good ice cream substitute at the fair, so why not make them at home?

I started by cutting up a couple of bananas into more manageable sizes than the one offered at the fair. This way, if I only wanted half a banana, I wouldn’t have to try cutting it in two after it was on the stick.

We had some some bamboo skewers left over from Laura’s graduation reception, so I used those as my stick. You could probably get by just fine with bigger round toothpicks, depending on the size of banana slices.

I dipped the cut banana pieces in a bath of water and FruitFresh. You could also use lemon or lime juice in water. I dabbed them dry with a paper towel, and placed them back on the plate. I covered the plate with plastic wrap, and placed it in the freezer.

When the bananas were frozen, I assembled the rest of the ingredients.

I coarsely chopped some salted peanuts in my food processor, and put them in a shallow bowl. I had some Magic Shell ice cream topping in the pantry, so I used that for the hardening chocolate. I have a narrow measuring cup that holds about 1/2 cup of liquid. You could use a small juice glass as well.

I poured a little bit of the Magic Shell into the bottom of the measuring glass, since I was planning on having three chunks of banana. Once it is poured into the glass, you cannot put it back into the bottle.

Tipping the glass slightly, I rolled the banana in the chocolate, making sure it was coated well.

I held it above the glass until the chocolate began to harden.  Then, I rolled the banana in the coarsely chopped peanuts.

I repeat the process for the other banana pieces that I wanted to prepare. Then placed the rest of the bananas back into the freezer for the next time I had an ice cream craving.

The bananas satisfied the craving. They tasted just like a banana split…okay, almost like a banana split!

My next challenge is to try different combinations – splitting the bananas down the center, and spreading creamy peanut butter on one half making a pb banana sandwich to freeze. After they are frozen, dipping them in a homemade chocolate shell mixture, and letting them freeze again.  Mmmm. I think I need to go buy more bananas!

Have fun with your food today!

Continuing The Tradition

Next summer we will be celebrating our farm’s centennial. In 1913, Daniel Olson moved his wife and four children from Monona County, Iowa to Lyon County, Minnesota. I cannot imagine packing up everything in a wagon and venturing 230 miles from everything you’ve known. If I were to drive it today, it would be about a 4 1/2 hour drive. The dreams of making a better life for your family are powerful. It is what drove men and women from one coast to the other then, as it does now.

The oldest of the four children, Nuel, eventually took over the farm from his father. Nuel also had dreams of making a better life for his family. He jumped at the opportunity to start raising certified seed for the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association in the 1940’s, when his two boys were young.

Left to right: Nuel, Robert, and Kenny (my father in law). This photo appeared in a magazine at some point in time.

My father in law, Kenny, did not attend high school in our town. He attended “Aggie School” at what is now the University of Minnesota, Morris. When his brother was fighting in the Korean Conflict, Kenny took a year off from school to help his dad on the farm.  The purpose of “Aggie School” was to teach the boys the newer farming methods. It was like a boarding school for boys who wanted to farm.

When Kenny took over the farm after his brother passed away, he continued to raise certified seed for MCIA. He was very good at raising seed, and was a well respected business man. He was also known for his integrity. He built the farm, little by little, to make a better life for his family.

Jonathan enjoyed working with pigs when he was in high school, and dreamed of building a pig barn after he was out of college. He graduated from college in 1988, and we married later that summer.  A little over a year after we were married, he remodeled a shed on our little farm, and was able to start raising pigs. He went on to build a few more barns that were better for the animals, and would allow him to fully capture the manure.

When first approached with the idea to raise crops organically, Jonathan was a little hesitant. He researched the requirements, and decided to give it a try.  He knew we needed to do something a little different to keep the farm successful, and this seemed like a good opportunity. Round Up Ready soybeans were becoming the hot ticket, which meant there was less demand for the public seed we were raising.  Raising our crops organically turned out to be a good fit for us.  We know it isn’t for everyone, and that is okay. Everyone has their own dream, their own thing that they do well.  This is ours.

When I look back at the history of our farm, I see that we are just continuing the tradition of our forefathers to grasp onto opportunities. To reach for our dreams, and to make a better life for our family.

Our farm around the early to mid 1940’s

Our farm today:

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!