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!

Cherish Your Friends and 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.

30 Things I Love: Playing in the Dirt

Playing in the Dirt

When I say I love playing in the dirt, that can mean a couple of things…running around barefoot outside, or running the field cultivator in the spring, or various other pieces of equipment throughout the growing season. Occasionally, running the field cultivator in the spring and running around barefoot outside can happen at the same time.

Every spring, I get so tempted to whip off the shoes and socks and run around barefoot in the middle of a field. This spring, it appeared that there was an issue with one of the tires on the field cultivator, so I stopped the tractor and went to check it out. The soil was so soft that it filled my shoes as my foot sank in. I removed my shoes to empty them, and left them off for awhile. The next time I needed to stop, I went barefoot. It was heavenly! I may or may not have taken way longer to check the equipment that time than was necessary. After a few rounds, I stopped again, inhaling the smell of the freshly turned earth as I sunk my toes into the topsoil. I felt like a kid again.

The field I was in is bordered by two well traveled county roads. Each time I went out barefoot, I was hoping the traffic going by wouldn’t notice. That would be a little hard to explain in church on Sunday…I was just out playing in the dirt. Thinking back on it, though, I wonder why we need to feel embarrassed when we are enjoying life by running barefoot in a field, or spending an afternoon with our families, or sitting on the front porch in the evening. If we just slog through life without taking the time to smell the roses every now and then, we miss out on so much. I don’t want my biggest regrets in life to be that I never took the time to enjoy my surroundings, or that I was too serious to play a little.

Next spring, you may find me playing in the dirt again…instead of shaking your head like I’m crazy, come join me!

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage


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

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

30 Things I Love: Peacefulness


Today’s post will be short on words…on purpose.

I love the peacefulness that follows a chaotic harvest. I love harvest time, but that first day when the corn dryers are shut off, the machinery is in the shed, and there is no need to rush is so peaceful.

During the rush of harvest, or of spring work, I often think back to some of our vacations. My favorite spots have a common theme…water. Whether it is the lake home we rent for family gatherings, or this scene in Oregon, there is something so calming about the sound of water lapping a shoreline, or moving over rocks. Thinking of those times brings memories of peace, contentedness, and joy even during those crazy days.

Where are your favorite peaceful experiences? Do you go on vacations to relax, or are you more of the work hard, play hard type?


Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage


Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

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

Don’t Be a Pringle – The Importance of Individuality in American Agriculture

We all read comments about how farming should be as it was in “grandpa’s” day. We need to look a certain way, or raise a variety of animals in order to be a “real family farm”.  They want us all to look the same…like Pringles.

CarolynCares Pringle

I don’t know about you, but I think that is boring! I also think it is rather foolish to insist that all farms look the same, and grow or raise the same things. My farm in Minnesota is not able to grow oranges or grapefruit. Nor are we able to raise onions or cabbage in January. On the other hand, farms in southern Texas are not able to grow field corn like we can. Climate, soil types, and rainfall are all things that affect how well certain plants are able to grow in an area.

I like to think that American agriculture is a lot like a bag of potato chips…

CarolynCares OriginalChips

When you open a bag of potato chips, there are all different sizes and shapes. The same holds true for American farms and ranches. If you look closely at the bowl of chips, you will see some that are large, some small, and some that are unique. Even though they are very different, they all taste the same. They are, after all, basically the same thing. Original flavor potato chips.

If you look at these chips as farms, there are all different sizes and shapes of farms. Some are large, some are small, and some are unique. If you put all these farmers in a room (bowl) together, you have a bunch of farmers who are farming for basically the same reasons – they love the land, they love their animals, and they want to take care of both so that they are able to pass their farm or ranch on to the next generation.

When you cruise down the snack aisle of the grocery store, there are a lot of choices between flavors, cooking method, potato type, and brand. We can look at those as being different types of farms. There are dairy farms, vegetable farms, livestock farms, crop farms…you get the idea.

I asked each member of my family what their favorite flavor of potato chip was, and they were all different. I’m pretty sure that differences in opinion within a family on how to do things on a farm or ranch is not that uncommon, either.

CarolynCares Different Flavors

This may seem overly simplistic to some, but I hope you get the idea. We need the diversity in agriculture in order for us to have the opportunity to eat a well balanced diet. A well balanced diet meaning a variety of foods eaten in moderation, not meaning a potato chip in each hand. 🙂 We need the diversity in size, in management style, in location, and we need both vegetation (crops), and animals to make our food system work as a whole. There is no one right way to farm or ranch. That should be an individual decision made by the farmers and ranchers who are on their land and tending to their animals every day.

Suddenly, I’m hungry. I think I’ll go eat a Pringle. I just won’t be one!

Why Perfection is Overrated

Have you ever uttered the phrase, “I’ll be happy when…”? Have you felt discouraged when looking at all of the cute home decorating pins on Pinterest, while you struggle to just keep your house dusted and your floors clean?

We live in society that is so judgmental. You need to look like this to be pretty. You need to wear that to be popular. You have to decorate your house this way to impress your guests. I am 40 (something), yet I still feel like I am in high school. I will never be an “it” girl, and quite frankly, I am thankful. I have spent enough years trying to be something I’m not, in an attempt to be accepted by people who will never give me the time of day. Even articles about how to be this or that in 10 easy steps make many women feel inadequate. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Who cares if you don’t have time to fully decorate your house for every holiday? Celebrate the holiday how YOU want to celebrate it, not how some magazine says you should. There is no way that I would ever think of making turkeys out of cupcakes, cookies, and candies. It’s not my style, and would only stress me out. I’d rather focus on the meal, and the guests at the table. Last Christmas, I didn’t get around to putting any ornaments on our tree. If it wasn’t a prelit tree, it probably wouldn’t have gotten any lights, either.

Who cares if every meal is not presented a la Martha Stewart? When my kids were young, we just tried to get a hot meal into them without tears, spilled milk, or something breaking. Feed your kids a variety of foods, and they’ll be happy. It doesn’t matter what brands you use, or where you shop. The important thing is sitting down together as much as possible to eat as a family. The conversations around the table are so much better when we are not stressed out about everything being perfect. It is totally acceptable to use paper towels as napkins at our house!

Who cares if you do not look like a supermodel? I have spent many years hating my body. Has that made me look any better? Nope. My self image issues have been noted by my daughters. It makes me sad that they have some of the same insecurities that I have, because that is what was modeled to them as they were growing up. Am I happier when I’m thinner? Yes and no. Being thin didn’t make me happy because I was thin. I was happy because certain body parts didn’t hurt as much, and I was able to do things that I couldn’t while heavy. After a couple of knee and foot injuries, I am no longer thin…but I’m not beating myself up over it anymore. I am working to reduce my weight, but not because I think that is the key to happiness. I know I need to do it for my long term health. Being healthy is important. Being skinny is not.

Who cares if you are a stay at home mom, or have a job outside the home? Every person’s career choice is based on their personal situation. Yes, there are times we are forced to make a decision based on factors outside our control, but it is still based on your situation.  The whys of your choices should not matter to anyone else. Our value isn’t determined by how much money we make a month. What should be valued is making a difference in the lives of other people. If that means staying home, great. If that means working outside the home, great. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you “should” be doing…unless it’s your boss.

Who cares if you are married, or if you have children? Having a child is not the end all be all of life. There are plenty of couples out there who are unable to have children, as well as those who choose not to have children. There are a thousand reasons why that may be, and to be frank, it’s none of our business. Same goes with those who are single. It really isn’t our business as to why someone is single. Some like it that way. Others would like a relationship, but haven’t found the right one yet. That doesn’t mean we should treat them any differently than anyone else.

Who cares if you don’t meet societies standards of the perfect farm wife or farmer. I may do many things on our farm, but I draw the line at things I consider yucky. I get reallly squeamish when it comes to spiders, mice, and snakes. If I see any rodents, I am outta there faster than you can say, “but they are more scared of you than you are of them.” Not possible! I admire women who drive grain trucks, who can back a trailer straight, and are not afraid to jump in a grain cart and just go. Admiring them for their abilities does not mean I think less of myself. I know my limitations, and I know what makes for a good working relationship with my husband. The role I have on our farm is one that Jonathan and I have worked out between the two of us. I don’t make perfect field meals, I don’t plan ahead enough to make freezer meals, and sometimes we’re lucky if we eat supper by 10:00 pm. You don’t have to be a man to be a farmer! The number of female farmers is increasing every year. If farming is what you want to do, do it!

Perfection is so overrated. We spend so much time chasing it that we forget to be happy with who we are, where we are right now. We are humans – crazy, flawed humans. We will never fit into the airbrushed molds of perfection. Love yourself, love your neighbor, love your crazy flawed life. Then, you will be happy.


Agriculture is Not One Size Fits All

We all like things neat and tidy. We want everything to fit into the box we see as ideal. Our perceptions as to what is right, true, and good are shaped by our experiences and the people around us. Funny thing is, even those who have grown up in the same family have very different opinions on how they do things.

There are 5 kids in my family. Three of us have three children. Even though we were raised the same way in the same house, we parent very differently.   We all remember family things differently. What sticks out in my sister’s mind as a significant event, I may have totally forgotten about. We each see the same things in a different manner.

When Jonathan and I went on our first date, I can remember what I wore, but I can never remember where we went to eat. Jonathan has a great memory for the details & places of significance in our relationship, but I tend to remember the emotions. It’s part of what makes us work together well. We can help to fill in each other’s gaps.

What does this have to do with agriculture? Everything. We each bring our unique perspectives to our farms and ranches. We have certain ways we like to do things, for reasons we probably cannot explain. Does that make me wrong if I do something a different way than you do? Absolutely not. The diversity in agriculture helps to fill in the gaps. We can’t all grow cotton or rice or soybeans or tomatoes. Consumers are asking for choices, and we have the ability to provide that.

We farm our crops organically. We like the process. The management, the record keeping, the constant assessments in the field, the soil management, the relationships with our buyers – we like it all. It suits our land, and it suits our personalities.  Neither one of us thinks that everyone would be good at organic farming. We’re okay with that. We just want the opportunity to be the best organic farmers we can be. If your passion is raising cow/calf pairs in South Dakota, that’s awesome. Be the best rancher you can be. If your passion is raising vegetables and running a CSA, more power to you. It’s not where my passion lies, but I’m glad it’s yours – especially when I want a BLT.

The point is, agriculture is not a one size fits all you have to do it this way everything is black and white industry. Find your passion, and run with it. Just remember, my passion is going to be different from yours, and that’s okay. Just concentrate on being the best you can be in whatever you choose to do. Everyone should be given that opportunity.

Related posts:

Who Am I To Judge – For Farmers and Consumers

What Does it Mean to Love Our Neighbor?


Listen to this while you read…

Farmers are in a boxing match right now. It’s becoming more of an us vs them atmosphere all the time.

In one corner, you have an organic farmer. In the other corner, you have a conventional farmer.

They meet in the middle, the ref gives the usual preliminary instructions, then the bell sounds.

Uppercut: Monsanto is evil

Left hook: Organic foods are no better than conventional. You don’t know the science.

The fight goes on until someone ends up on the canvas.  Half of the crowd goes home elated that “they” won. The other half goes home feeling dejected.

So, who exactly is in this audience? Farmers, consumers, HSUS, PeTA, Sierra Club? Who is on the floor betting against this fight? Who is the bookie? The Environmental Working Group?

At the end of the day, who really won the match of farmer vs farmer?  While one farmer may have ended up on the canvas, did the other one really go home unscathed? I don’t think so. The real winner in the fight is the anti-agriculture groups who are raking in big bucks, and profiting from our unwillingness to join the same team.

We have been so busy lately fighting one another that we haven’t noticed the anti’s quietly taking bets on who is going to survive.  We really need to be on the same team here. Farmer vs Anti Ag should be the fight we are training for.

We all bring different things to the team. When you are training for a competition, you need cross training to enable your body to function at a higher level. When you are sparring to prepare for a bout, you need different sparring partners who throw different combinations of punches to keep you from getting too comfortable in your ways. In agriculture, the cross training is attending sessions about the newest research that will help you manage your farm to its highest potential. The sparring partners are the conversations we have with each other, and with those who use different methods. These interactions help to keep us on our toes, while at the same time hone our skills so we can be in the best shape possible. We can, and should, learn from each other.

At the end of the match, all farmers want agriculture to be the one standing with its arm raised in victory.