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Wordless Wednesday – Without Coffee…

coffee

Have a cup of coffee, and enjoy your Wednesday, everyone!

An Anniversary, Vacation, and Bristol

Bristol Motor Speedway

What does an anniversary, vacation, and Bristol have in common? They were all part of our adventure this past weekend.

Jonathan and I enjoy traveling to different NASCAR tracks to watch the car races. If possible, we like to see both the “B Squad” Xfinity race, and the “A Squad” Sprint Cup race. Knowing that is one of our hobbies, Jonathan’s sisters gave us tickets to Bristol Motor Speedway for his birthday this year. The tickets were purchased, hotel arrangements were made, and we were starting to anticipate the weekend way back in June!

The Night Races at Bristol also just happened to be on our anniversary weekend. Friday night’s race was awesome, with one of our favorite Xfinity drivers finishing second after being on the verge of going two laps down. On Saturday, we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary at the track. We had a great day, even though the race was delayed 5 hours before they rescheduled it for Sunday afternoon. We left the track around 1:30am, and arrived at our hotel close to 3:00am. After just a few hours of sleep, we were off to the races again. Pun intended!

Now, most people, when they plan a vacation, also plan a little down time to relax and recharge. Somehow, Jonathan and I keep forgetting to schedule that part in. The only real downtime we had was in the Durango, and at Anna and Doug’s place. Even then, we weren’t really sitting and relaxing. We did get some great visiting time in, and had fun seeing Anna’s very pregnant belly. We are really looking forward to the arrival of our first grandbaby!

The time passed quickly, however, and we were on a deadline. I needed to be at a meeting 30 minutes from home on Tuesday evening. It takes about 16 1/2 hours to drive home, and with the race taking place on Sunday, that didn’t leave us much time to visit. We had a late night and early morning, but we made it home in time for me to change clothes and head off to my meeting.

In six days we traveled close to 2800 miles, drove through 8 states, saw 2 NASCAR races, and met great people all over. We are exhausted, but very happy to have celebrated our anniversary with a vacation trip to Bristol.

Celebrating a Birthday and Life

Carolyn Cares Birthday Ride

June 23rd is Jonathan’s birthday. We like to celebrate big here, but this year, Jonathan’s gifts were larger than normal.

Eight years ago today, Jonathan was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. When we went for a walk around the farm yard, and he was telling me what led him to see the doctor, it was heartbreaking. Our oldest daughter had been diagnosed with MS four years before.

One thing I distinctly remember, is how we talked about how we don’t know what the future will bring as far as disease progression goes, and that was a scary thing. I made one request of Jonathan that day. To not give up on life, and to live his life to the fullest.

That request led to a purchase of used jet skis, and a new found hobby that he loves. Those jet skis have had many hours on the water, and many good memories were made. It was time, however, to upgrade. So, for a combination of Father’s Day and his birthday, Jonathan received a pair of Sea Doo Sparks this week. While I am more than content to keep my feet on land and take photos, it makes me so happy to see him have fun. The troubles that often accompany farming are forgotten while he’s on the water. It’s so fun to watch the joy on Jonathan’s and Laura’s faces as they race across the water.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan, and thank you for not giving up on living your life.

 

30 Things I Love: My Daughters

Daughters

I love my daughters! Each one has their own personality, their own quirks, and their own style. I love how they love each other, and the joy they bring to our family.

Every year, we would take back to school photos on the first day of school. The photo above is from Anna’s senior year in high school. It is so fun to look back and see how the girls have changed! The things that haven’t changed are their love and support for each other. I am so thankful for that! Every now and then, I get messages from one that says, “my sisters and I have been discussing…”

Anna graduated from college a year ago. She married Doug in June, and they live in Kentucky where he is attending medical school. Anna is giving music lessons at a local music store, is the lesson coordinator for the store, and sells Mary-Kay. They have been busy making friends with other students and their significant others, as well as navigating all that you need to when moving to a completely different area. They have found a church where they feel welcomed, which is awesome. I miss Anna and Doug, but I’m thankful they are just a phone call or text or email or Skype or Facetime away. Anna also blogs at Anna E. Meyer where she shares about her faith, her writing, and life with Multiple Sclerosis. She has a pretty good attitude about life, which is one of the things most people love about her.

Christina graduated from college in May with a degree in theater, and an emphasis on costume design. She moved out to Custer, SD right after graduation to work summer stock theater at the Black Hills Playhouse. After the summer run ended, she was at home for about a month before moving to New York City. She lives with the other three theater graduates from Augustana College, which makes her move a little easier for me to handle. She can now say she has designed a show in New York City after being the costume designer for a community theater production! So far, she is loving life in NYC, and is making new friends in the theater world…some who have ties back to Augustana College. Christina is learning how to get around in New York, and I’m hoping that we’ll get the chance to visit her out there before too long. It would be fun to see what she sees every day, and to learn a little more about the city she now calls home.

Laura is living in Sioux Falls where she shares a house with some of her friends from the University of Sioux Falls. We asked her to take the fall semester off to help us with harvest, and she did. Jonathan had her driving semis, tractors, climbing grain bins…she did pretty much everything except for run the combine. She was also a huge help when it came to adjusting to our new foster son. He came the day we were planning to start harvest, and I was a little overwhelmed. Laura was great at stepping in to the jobs I normally do to help set up augers and get things ready to go, as well as entertaining the boy so I could go to the bathroom! I am so thankful that she was willing to come home to work this fall! Laura is also my favorite shopping partner (she shares my love of shoes), and I love hanging out with her when I can. I am so thankful that she is only a couple hours’ drive away instead of a plane ride away. It makes my mommy heart hurt to have my girls spread so far away!

When the girls were born, we had all kinds of dreams about who they would be, and what they would be like when they were grown. We’ve had many ups and downs, like a lot of other families, and I am thankful that we are close. My daughters truly are day brighteners and heart warmers!

Day 1: Pizza

Day 2: Shoes

Day 3: Shout Stain Remover

Day 4: The Ability to Vote

Day 5: My Heritage

Day 6: NASCAR

Day 7: Black Velvet for Photography

Day 8: Strong Coffee and Strong Hairspray

Day 9: Peacefulness

Day 10: Winter’s First Snow

Day 11: Freedom

Day 12: Dairy

Day 13: Jonathan

Day 14: Coffee

Day 15: Seasons

Day 16: Scones

Day 17: #AgNerds

Day 18: Playing in the Dirt

Day 19: Friends

Day 20: My Church Choir Family

Day 21: OxyClean

Day 22: Small Town Celebrations

Day 23: Clouds

Day 24: Thanksgiving

Day 25: Sisters

Day 26: My Minivan

Day 27: My Daughters

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

 

 

10 Takaways from AgChat’s Cultivate and Connect

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Austin, Texas for AgChat’s Cultivate and Connect conference. This was a gathering of over 140 people from all over the United States, Canada, and Australia. It was a wonderful mix of accents and agricultural backgrounds. I loved meeting so many awesome people in person that I have talked farming with over social media for a long time. For some, it was as if we’ve been neighbors for years.

The whole conference was centered around helping us to tell our agriculture story more effectively. We had great keynote speakers: Thom Singer opened the conference, and really fired us up. Katie Uhlaender, an Olympic skeleton athlete and rancher from Kansas gave us some things to think about while she was telling her story. Montana Logger Bruce Vincent closed the conference, telling us how important it is to get our stories out there, and lead from the front. I also attended four breakout sessions, and had the opportunity to tour North America’s largest Whole Foods, which was founded in Austin.

I like making lists to help me process my thoughts after attending inspiring conferences like this one. I thought I would share 10 takeaways with you, to help you see the conference from my perspective.

10. Agvocates are Awesome! Every single person I met was exactly how I thought they would be. We all have a passion for telling our stories, so there was never a lull in the conversations. I just wish I was able to spend more time with more people. Two days just wasn’t enough to see everyone I wanted to see!

9. Every Agvocate should attend at least 1 AgChat event. Where else can you go, see someone in person for the first time, and immediately go up to them and give them a huge hug? I swear, some of them could be my long lost relatives. This feeling of “you look so familiar” was common, even with people I wasn’t following on social media. If meeting your fellow #AgNerds isn’t enough, the training available, and the expertise amongst the AgChat Foundation board members and fellow attendees makes the whole stress of traveling worth it. I’m not a good flyer…and this was my first time booking a ticket and flying by myself. The experience was totally worth the stress!

8. The City of Austin is cool…and a lot like agriculture. This was my first time staying in Austin, and only the 2nd time I had been there at all. Austin is one of those cities that amazes me. The first night we went to an upscale foodie type restaurant, and the last night it was a taco bar. We ate at a food truck for one of our conference meals, and at our banquet we had a delicious taste of Austin. There were so many great choices, that it was hard to decide which establishment I wanted to try when given the chance. The whole area was a mix of culture, taste, music, and attitude which gave the whole city a vibe that made it one of those experiences I won’t soon forget. If you were to remove one of those elements, the city wouldn’t be as exciting. That’s where it is a lot like agriculture. We have a mix of culture, taste, attitude, and styles that gives ag a great vibe. It is necessary to have a wide range of choices for our consumers, so they can choose what part they want to experience at any given time.

7. Listening to our consumers may get uncomfortable. What does it mean to you when you hear the phrase, “We need to listen to our consumers”? We had a blogger, a journalist, and a chef who really have little to no connection to agriculture speak. The blogger was in a breakout session that I did not attend, but she has been good about participating in more Q&A online following the conference. The other two were part of a panel, along with a registered dietician who does have a connection to agriculture. The conversation got uncomfortable at times, as we heard things being said about agriculture that are completely different than what we see, and it was hard to not get really upset. We really needed to go into the situation with an open mind in order to better understand where those consumers were coming from. We aren’t really listening to our consumers if we’re busy forming rebuttals to what they say while they are speaking.

6. Our consumers are smart – they don’t need educating.  How many times have you heard…or uttered the phrase…they just need to be educated, then they’ll accept my type of farming? Many of the consumers that “need educating” are college graduates. I don’t have a college degree, so how can I imply that I am smarter than they are? That’s kind of presumptuous, isn’t it? Taking an air of superiority isn’t going to foster a relationship built on trust. As we heard from one speaker, we need to engage, not educate.

5. For every negative story, we need 6 positive stories to break even. It’s easy to see how many people are so depressed when you listen to the news. Every story is so negative. It gets to the point where you never want to watch the news again. Negativity sells. This is why it is so important to get positive agriculture stories out there. We may not see an increase in corn prices because we blogged about the new calves that were born last night, or about how a combine works, but is that the only reason to blog? We need to get so many good stories about agriculture out there that we are the first choice on search engines when someone is asking why a goat eats cans.

4. We have awesome stories. I loved a point that Bruce Vincent made. He talked about how we are not perfect, but we have great stories to tell. He also stated that, “Rural cultures need a trusted ‘human face’ to share our story…that story is yours.” How much more convincing do we need? I would love it if more farmers were tweeting or sending Facebook updates from their fields, barns, and pastures. I want to hear the stories as much as anyone. When our consumers are ready to hear, give them something to read!

3. You’ll never know when you’ll need someone in your network. This was a major point made by Thom Singer. We never know when we meet someone how they will impact our lives. I know that the people I hung out with before and after the conference have made a huge impact on me already. They are my mentors and my peers. It is important to keep up those relationships, because you never know when you might need them.

2. We cannot attack others in agriculture because they don’t do it our way. Nothing makes me upset more than agvocates putting down other agvocates because they do things differently. Why perpetuate the negative stories or assumptions when you have such an awesome positive story to tell? When agvocates let their differences take over, they lose out on relationships with some pretty darn good people.

1. Building relationships takes time and work, but it is worth it! I joined Twitter 2 years ago so I could participate in AgChat on Tuesday nights. I met some pretty fun people because of those chats, and gained a lot of new social media friends. That led to my very first AgChat conference, and regional event held in Minnesota…which ultimately led to attending the Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin. It was easy to work on those relationships, as I would encounter them regularly during chats or when posting about my farm. We were challenged by Thom Singer to work on our relationships, and be the one to reach out and say ‘hello’. Be prepared, my friends. I’m looking forward to more conversations, and building more relationships with both #AgNerds and consumers.

I’d like to thank the AgChat Foundation board for working so hard at making this conference a positive experience!

The "Bat Bridge" in Austin, Texas. 1.5 million Mexican Tailless Bats live there!

The “Bat Bridge” in Austin, Texas. 1.5 million Mexican Tailless Bats live there!

 

Throwback Thursday – County Fair Days

This is the second year that we have not had a daughter in 4-H. It still seems weird not being at the county fairgrounds every day, all day, while taking care of their goats and horses. Parts of me is thankful we don’t have the stress of show day, but part of me misses it as well. Showing animals at the county fair teaches kids so many things about life…and about agvocating.

Here is a photo from one of the last years that all three girls showed goats.

Anna, Laura, and Christina following the goat show , 2009

Anna, Laura, and Christina following the goat show , 2009

 

Wordless Wednesday – Thankful for my Minivan!

CarolynCares Cars

Fun Fact Friday – Organic Farming is Not Like Grandpa’s Farming

CarolynCares Organic Farming

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!

Throwback Thursday – Ahhh, Summer

This is from a couple of summers ago…it’s nice to think warm, happy thoughts on a day when we have yet another Winter Weather Advisory!

CarolynCares AhhhSummer

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