A Day to Count Blessings

Carolyn's Baby Photo
My baby photo. Liked the spiked hair then, too!

I love birthdays. As a kid, birthdays meant cake, presents, and being made to feel special for a whole day. As a grown up, birthdays are still fun, but I like to take time to count my blessings as well.

A year ago, Jonathan and I were taking foster parent classes. It was a 12 week commitment, right in the middle of harvest. We made it work, and we became certified in March. At the beginning of October, we received our first long term placement. This little guy has turned our lives upside down, but I feel grateful for the opportunity to love and nurture him until he is able to go back home, or until he is adopted. Days may get stressful, and I may feel like I am failing at parenting, but I know God has a bigger plan at work here.

Jonathan and I were able to do a lot of traveling this year, and I am thankful for all of the people we were able to hang out with. We had an awesome time in San Antonio, TX at the American Farm Bureau Annual meeting, where I was able to meet some of my online friends in person for the first time. We are so happy that we took the opportunity to get to know some of our Minnesota Young Farmer and Rancher contestants better while hanging out and discussing golf one evening. These awesome farmers and farm professionals are why I have faith that agriculture in Minnesota will be in good hands for years to come.

Following our stop in San Antonio, we went a bit further south to visit our migrant workers and their families. We have two families that come up and work for us every year. One family has worked for close to 10 summers for us. They have become more than just employees. They are also our friends. We loved visiting them and seeing where they come from. I think we could all use a little of their attitudes toward hospitality. We were so warmly welcomed!

In August, I attended the AgChat Foundation’s Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin, TX. You can read about my 10 Takeaways by clicking on the link. I was pretty much starstruck the entire time. So many people I wanted to meet in real life…and so many people I hadn’t met online yet…the conference was filled with awesome people! I have been so blessed by the friendships I have made with agvocates all over the world (I now have some Aussie friends! Lol) I still think about the keynote addresses, the breakout sessions, the networking…let’s just say, I can’t wait to go again!

Probably the biggest blessing this year was an addition to our family…in the form of my son-in-law, Doug. I have been praying for him since Anna was little, and God totally delivered. I could not ask for a more compassionate, Godly man for Anna. Their wedding day was perfect, and their ceremony was filled with so much love. Most of all, I am happy to see Anna so happy.

Yes, this year has been filled with lots of good things. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but the blessings smoothed out those bumps. 🙂

Here’s looking to year number 4(cough)!

The “new” Olson family. We welcomed Doug into the family in June


Love Is….

I had the awesome opportunity to attend the AgChat Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin, Texas this week. However, that meant for the first time in 26 years, Jonathan and I would not be spending our wedding anniversary together. I was so worried about my flying by myself for the first time ever, that I forgot to even pick up an anniversary card. It is something that has really bothered me this week.

When the conference concluded on Friday, I headed up to my hotel room, and met one of the desk clerks who said she just put something in my room. I opened the door, and there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Jonathan! Missing him even more, I burst into happy tears. I’m sappy that way, I know.  I called him, and started crying on the phone right away, to which he replied, “oh, you must have gotten the flowers!” Yep, he knows me!

The flower arrangement is beautiful! It is a mix of flowers that, individually, are pretty. Together, they are gorgeous. It’s sort of like our marriage…and the quote below. Jonathan and I are individuals, but together, we are stronger.

I love you, Jonathan!

CarolynCares Love Is

Wordless Wednesday – 26 Years!

Happy Anniversary

You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love; the running across fields into your lover’s arms can only come later when you’re sure they won’t laugh if you trip. ~Jonathan Carroll, “Outside the Dog Museum”

Thanks for not laughing at me every time I trip!     Happy Anniversary, Jonathan! I love you!

Wordless Wednesday – What a Weekend!

CarolynCares Wedding Ceremony

Pretty proud momma…and yes, I took this with my cell phone during the exchange of vows, and sent it out for our family members overseas. I guess I’m that mom. 🙂  So happy for Anna and Doug! Love them to pieces!

Happy Birthday, Jonathan!

CarolynCares Happy Birthday Jonathan

Happy Birthday, Jonathan! I love you more today than yesterday. Thank you for being my love, my calming force, my protector, my partner in pranks, my encourager, my friend, my favorite boss….I could go on all day. I am so thankful that I am your wife!

Love, Carolyn

Where Has the Time Gone?

CarolynCares Christina Graduates

This little cutie has grown up into a beautiful woman. Today, she graduates from college! It seems like yesterday when we were looking forward to summer break after her year of kindergarten. We’re proud of you, sweetheart, and wish you many blessings as you pursue your passions.

Congratulations, Christina! We love you very much!

Loving the Good – A Challenge

CarolynCares Love One Another

Our scripture texts for this week’s mid-week Lenten service have been on my mind all day. The first reading was from Micah 6, with verse 8 really standing out. “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” That sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

The second reading was from Romans 12:9-13. The photo above contains the portion of the text that has stayed with me today. Again, the words sound so simple. “Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them.” Another version says, “Let your love be genuine.”

When was the last time you showed real love for others? Too often we say one thing, but are thinking another. We say things to please or appease our audience, thinking they will like us if we say what we think they want to hear. Is popularity the driving force behind posts, or is it an outpouring of what is truly in your heart?

Everyone sees things thorough their own filter. My reality is different than your reality. In my opinion, that is the way it should be. I think where things go wrong, is when we feel our way is the only way. When we insist that we are the only “right” ones, we are not really loving others. We cannot honor each other if we are too busy judging them based on our own set of rules as to what is right.

My mind tends to connect scripture lessons and snippets of Pastor’s sermons to things happening in agriculture.  Lately, I haven’t been feeling much love on social media when it comes to agriculture. So many articles, memes, blog posts, tweets, statuses, whatever, have been divisive. If you don’t agree with this person, you are a shill. If you don’t agree with that person, you are anti-science. If you choose to eat this food, you are an elitist. If you choose to eat that food you are poisoning your family. Read my 10 truths about this farming system that I have no experience in, but am writing about anyway. Sometimes I just want to bang my head on the wall! One thought from Pastor’s sermon seemed to fit into these feelings. We want a set of rules to follow, yet we don’t all agree on the rules. The rules were made to make order out of chaos, yet now we have chaos because we don’t like the rules. It helps to explain church denominations…yet the same can be said for agriculture. There is no one hard and fast rule about how to grow things…or even what things to grow. Yet, we want to separate people into categories, and we judge them based on which category we put them into. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

This is the part where I’m really thankful for grace and forgiveness. As much as I try to live like these scripture passages say, I know that I will fail. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to give up on trying! Some days, being kind is awfully difficult. That is when I need to hate the wrong…the wrong being my attitude. Some people like to make loving them more of a challenge, but when you are loving the good, you can usually find something to love. 🙂

My challenge to you, is to work on really loving others, and focus on the positives when you write. Think about how your post might be perceived by those who do not live in your box. Was the post written with good intentions, or was it written because others have posted on this topic and received a good response?

The power to change the attitude of the multitude begins with one…you. Love the good!


Wordless Wednesday – Flowers of Spring

I love when Jonathan surprises me with flowers. I love it more when he brings home flowers during the dark days of winter, when I am longing for signs of spring. The flowers in this bouquet have been making me happy for two weeks now. Not bad for a $5 mix from the grocery store!

CarolynCares Flowers of Spring

Top 10 Things I Love About Farm Life

Top 10 lists are fun write out. I thought it would be fun to put photos with my top 10 list of things I love about farm life.

10. Fresh pork. We are pig farmers, so we always have a freezer full of fresh pork. Bacon and pork chops have to be the favorites. Grilled pork chops and Marshall Salad pair very well together. Follow the link for the salad recipe, shown here with Beef Strip Steaks to show a little love to our beef friends.

Pork Chops and Marshall Salad
Marshall Salad

9. Spring. After long winters of snow, ice, and wind, it is so good to be able to work outside in just a long sleeved shirt. The smell of freshly turned soil is so awesome. After the crops are planted, waiting for the first shoots to push through the ground seems to take forever. Suddenly, there is a green haze over the fields. We wait eagerly for the first signs that you can “row” a crop.

Young Corn Plants in Rows
Young Corn Plants in Rows

8. Watching crops grow. Growing our crops is our business, but that doesn’t mean we’re on autopilot like some robotic device. I worry. A lot. I worry about getting enough rain, too much rain, hail storms, wind storms. In the fall, I worry about early snow storms. There are things we can do to give our crops the best chance at reaching their full potential: testing the soil and the manure to make sure we are applying the correct amount of manure in the fall, using cover crops to hold top soil in place over the winter, waiting to plant until the soil temperatures are ideal in the spring, and timing our weed control methods to have the least impact on the plants (check out this flame weeding video for one of our methods). The rest I shouldn’t worry about, but I’ll admit, I have troubles giving all of that to God.

The corn is starting to tassel, right before pollination
The corn is starting to tassel, right before pollination

7. Meeting cool people. Jonathan and I have had the privilege of meeting some pretty cool people because we sell some of our corn to a place that makes vodka. Dean Phillips, of Phillips Distilling has visited our farm, and learned about the combine, and what it takes to grow the corn they use. Joe and Connie from Chatham Imports have also visited our farm, learning about us and what it is we do. You can read about that in this series -The Power of Bundt Cake Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. There have also been a few advertising agencies that we have met. Jonathan was even interviewed for the Prairie Vodka website. That was a pretty cool experience.

Representatives from United States Distilled Products, and Chatham Imports
Representatives from United States Distilled Products, and Chatham Imports

6. Work hard, play hard. We love getting together with family. If it is at a lake, all the better. I like to relax a bit and fish, but Jonathan loves to play on the jet skis. We look forward to the few days in the summer where we are free to leave the farm and relax.

Jonathan's motto: work hard, play hard
Jonathan’s motto: work hard, play hard

5. Wildlife. Who doesn’t like to watch wild animals in their habitat? This year, I have watched a fox and her two kits near our grove of trees, a doe and her fawn grazing in our yard, and a coyote who casually walked away while I was working in a field near it’s home. I have watched a dozen hawks circle in the sky while preparing soil for planting, I watched a cicada drying its wings after its metamorphosis,  and have seen butterflies softly flitting around in the yard. Watching the wildlife makes me appreciate the beauty all around us.

Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly
Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly

4. Sunsets. Living on the prairie has its advantages. The skies are endless, and most nights we are treated to wonderful sunsets. In the summer, the sunsets seem to go on forever. To see some gorgeous North Dakota sunsets, visit my friend, Katie Pinke’s blog. She has a blog post about 14 Late Summer North Dakota Sunrises and Sunsets. One thing I love about working outside in the evening, is the way the skies can change so quickly. From a flaming red and orange, to a soft pastel pink, to a mix of purple and deep pinks all a matter of minutes.

Sunset through the tall corn
Sunset in a Cloudless Sky

3. Driving large pieces of machinery. I was not meant to drive a little car like a Toyota or a Honda. I like to drive tractors and combines. You can see more when you are sitting up high. Maybe that’s why I like driving pickups more than cars. I do love my minivan, but I get a little embarrassed when we bring it in for an oil change and there are corn stalks stuck on the bottom from driving out to the combine. I was pretty nervous to learn how to drive the combine, but now I love it! We had our combine all set up for our Century Farm Celebration and our county’s I Met a Farmer Tour. It’s a fun way to introduce people to farming, and they think it’s cool that I get to drive it.

John Deere 9650 Combine
John Deere 9650 Combine

2. Harvest! I love harvest. This is the time of year when we see the results of all the labor that was put into the crop throughout the growing season. When we plant the seeds in the spring, we are hopeful that we will have favorable weather, few bad storms, and be able to harvest enough so we will be able to farm again next year. We are thankful for every bushel of grain that goes into the bin. Yes, the hours are long, the pace is frantic at times, and there is always the worry of an early snowstorm, but those are the things that keep it from being boring. This is one of my favorite harvest photos, paired with a harvest prayer. It was also shared as a Wordless Wednesday photo a few weeks ago.

CarolynCares Lord of Harvest

So, what is the number 1 thing I love about farm life?

1. Working every day with my best friend, Jonathan. Yeah, yeah. It’s sappy, I know. But I wouldn’t trade this life with anyone. Jonathan and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary in August. We were married during a drought year, so we came home from our honeymoon a day early to help with corn harvest. This city girl learned quickly how to move wagons, and unload the corn into the bins. Jonathan and his dad are very patient teachers, which made the transition so much better. I later graduated to running the stalk chopper, then the chisel plow, the field cultivator, and finally the combine. With every new skill, Jonathan has been able to calm my nerves, and give me confidence to tackle the next big thing. I have grown from a shy 20 year old newlywed into a mouthy 40 (something) gray haired lady. I don’t think he regrets that. I don’t care what you want to do in life, a supportive family makes it much easier. To Jonathan, thank you for being a great man of God, husband, teacher, jokester, and friend. I love you!

Carolyn and Jonathan
Carolyn and Jonathan