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!

Thankful Thursdays – A New Series of Gratitude

CarolynCares Thankful Thursday Lessons in Gratitude

I’ve always felt a little funny about the phrase, “Thank a Farmer”.  I guess I just have a difficult time asking people to thank me for a job that I love doing. I mean, why would I ask people to thank me, when my parts guy isn’t asking me to thank him for keeping the equipment running? Recently, Jenny, from Prairie Californian tweeted about thanking the people that make our lives easier. That conversation got me to thinking about starting a new Thankful Thursday series, where I can highlight some of the people that I come into contact with on a regular basis, and thank them for their work.

I’ve been working on gratitude and thankfulness in my own life lately. I’m a words of affirmation girl, and I understand how a kind word can make your whole day better. I also understand how an unkind word or unsavory expression can ruin what was a good day. I would love to see the world become a more positive place, where people are kind to one another, and where Please and Thank You are not just words to a Barney song.

My hope is that this journey will help us to have more of an attitude of gratitude when we are at the grocery store, the local coffee shop, the gas station, the parts store…wherever there are people helping us out. It is so easy to get crabby with the waitress when she’s a little slow, or get mad at the parts guys for not having the correct hydraulic tips. It would be cool if instead of getting upset, we could be thankful that these people are here to help us, and are willing to work at that establishment.

If you would like to join me in my Thankful Thursday series, put a link to your blog in the comments. I’ll add your link at the end of my posts.

You cannot be grateful and bitter.
You cannot be grateful and unhappy.
You cannot be grateful and without hope.
You cannot be grateful and unloving.
So just be grateful.

Author Unknown


Happy Ag Day 2014!

National Ag Day looks different to all of us. Some are celebrating the birth of Norman Borlaug with ceremonies in Washington, DC and Iowa, some are celebrating by volunteering at various agriculture events, while others are celebrating as they work on their farms and ranches. I want to take this opportunity to say “Thank You!” to all the farmers and ranchers for the hard work they put in so we are able to eat whatever we want, whenever we want.  I also want to give a shout out to all of those whose jobs in agriculture are forgotten about – seed salesmen and seed warehouse workers, plant breeders, agronomists, soil scientists, animal nutritionists…the list could go on for a while!  Thank you for your important role in farming & ranching!

Happy Ag Day, everyone!

CarolynCares Farmer

2013 – A Photo Journey

I love looking back on our year and reflecting the good, the bad, and the excellent. This year, I thought a photo journey of highlights from our year might help you to see what happens on our farm and in our family over a years time.

January started out with a pretty good cold snap. When Laura was home on break, we tested out the “throwing water into the air” theory to see what would happen. We were pretty excited that it worked! And yes, it was really cold, and she was out in a t-shirt. She takes after her mom in that regard!

CarolynCares January
Laura tossing water into the air

February was still pretty cold. Last winter, we had snow 8 months in a row. It gets to the point where you just want to curl up with a hot cup of Russian Tea and a good book…and stay there until spring!

Russian Tea mix
Russian Tea mix

March brought Anna’s senior recital at Augustana College in Sioux Falls. She is a percussionist, so her recital covered many different percussion instruments, including clay pots. Many friends and relatives came to support her, and to share in the day.

Anna playing the toms
Anna playing the toms

April brought a bit of warmer weather, and some thawing. We started to plan our field work schedule and get equipment ready for spring planting.

Spring thaw
Spring thaw

By mid-May, we were finally able to see the growth of the barley. It is always exciting to see the plants emerge, and the landscape turn from brown to a gentle green.

Rows of barley
Rows of barley

We had a very eventful June. We hosted the final stop of our county Farm Bureau’s I Met a Farmer tour. The tour participants traveled to a dairy farm, pig farm, beef farm, and then to our crop farm. They had supper in our newly built shop (finished that day!), and then were brought back to the starting point. Most of the participants have no agriculture experience, or are at least 15 years removed from the farm. They are business people and leaders in their communities across our county. This is an excellent way to teach them about agriculture in their area, and it puts a face on farming. I’m looking forward to our 3rd Tour in 2014!

Jonathan explaining our farm to tour participants
Jonathan explaining our farm to tour participants

The other major event in June was our Century Farm Appreciation Party. Click on the link to read more about the day. It was so nice to be able to celebrate this milestone with those who have helped to make our farm what it is today – family, friends, neighbors, grain buyers, seed dealers, co-op employees, elevator employees…the list could go on, but so must this post!

CarolynCares June Celebration
The invitation

In July, I took a leap of faith, and signed up as a vendor at the brand new Cottonwood Central Park Market farmers market. I started CO Baked Goods, bringing homemade baked goods like scones, caramel and cinnamon rolls, and pound cakes to the Market. It was a fun adventure, and I hope to continue this year with an expanded selection of baking.

Maple Bacon Scones
Maple Bacon Scones

I love attending the Minnesota State Fair. This year, we had the opportunity to work at the Farm Bureau building for a few hours one morning. We brought Flat Ryan along for some fun. He met many of our Farm Bureau friends, including Eric Kuehl from St Cloud. After our shift ended, we explored the fair grounds and found friends to visit, foods to try, and animals to admire.

Eric and Flat Ryan
Eric and Flat Ryan

Our crops were growing well, we had cover crops planted on the harvested small grain fields, and were anticipating the dry down of the soybeans when a major storm blew through on September 19th. The sunrise was beautiful that day, but soon, it was as black as midnight. We had rain, hail, and wind gusts in excess of 60 miles per hour. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach the whole time. It was a farmer’s nightmare. After the storm passed, it was time to assess the damage. Most of our corn had been affected, as was our neighbors. It wasn’t laying flat, like that of friends a couple miles away, but it was messy. We could only hope that the stalks were simply leaning, and not broken. This would allow the corn to continue to mature without heavy yield losses.

Black skies at 8:17 am Sept 19
Black skies at 8:17 am Sept 19

October means harvest in our part of the world. Despite the storm in September, our yields were good. Harvest was going well, with only a few bumps along the way. We ended up combining our corn mostly one direction due to the winds, so it took us a little longer than normal. We were thankful for no injuries or illness while putting long hours in. We also remembered to take the time to enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. Our office during harvest has great views of beautiful sunsets and full moons.

Full Moon Rising
Full Moon Rising

November is a time to give thanks for the blessings, the trials, and those things that make you who you are. We were fortunate to be able to host Thanksgiving this year. We had 17 people around the dining room table, and I am thankful for each and every one of them. We missed those who couldn’t be there, but they are loved just as much. It has been a few years since my family and Jonathan’s family have been together for a holiday. We thought it would be fun to introduce Anna’s boyfriend to as many family members as possible while he was here. The entire family welcomed him, and we all hope he stays around for awhile!

Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Dinner

That brings us to December. What a busy time of the year! It is easy to get yourself stressed out, and to try to keep up with all the cool pins on Pinterest. This year, my decorating was minimal, as was my baking. I know that next year may be different, but for this year, simple was better. My family was okay with the simple approach this year. They realize that Christmas is more about the family time and the miracle of Jesus’ birth than the decorations or the cookies. I am blessed!

Happy New Year from our family to yours!
Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Here’s looking forward to 2014, and another great year of farming, faith building, family, friends, food, and fun!

Happy New Year!









30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 13: Baking

CarolynCares Baking

I love baking, and I’m so thankful for that talent! I used to save the heavy baking for the holidays, but this year, I tried something new. Starting at the beginning of July, I was a vendor at the brand new Central Park Market in our town. It is a farmer’s market with the usual produce stands, along with baked goods, jams & jellies, home decor, a meal served by a non-profit group, and live music. All baked goods sold at the farmers market need to be made from scratch. I loved the challenge of baking four dozen caramel rolls at a time, and trying different scone and pound cake recipes. Baking became my therapy. If my day started out rough, or I woke up feeling grumpy, I would just start baking. By the time I was done, my mood would be considerably better. There were times when I was running behind (I really think that is a gene I inherited from my Grandma – she was late to pretty much everything), and stressed myself out with how long packaging was taking, but by the end of the night, all that was forgotten. It’s pretty impossible to stay grumpy or frazzled when you are in the midst of a festive atmosphere!

The Market ended in early October, and to be honest, I haven’t done much baking beside the caramel rolls that go to Jonathan’s Sunday School class every week. That may have more to do with harvest happening than with being tired of baking. I have been planning out what types of cookies I want to make for Christmas, and contemplating what goodies I should make for Thanksgiving weekend. Our oldest daughter is bringing home a boy to meet the family over Thanksgiving. We will also be celebrating her birthday, which falls on Thanksgiving day this year. When that happens, we sometimes replace the traditional pies with birthday cake, or a dessert of her choice. Just thinking about the dessert possibilities is making me happy!

During the Advent season this year, I plan on baking treats to give to some of the older members of our congregation. Good things do come to those who bake, but better things come to those who share!

Want to read more 30 Day Challenge blogs? Head over to Holly Spangler’s blog, and check out her list of current blog challenge participants.

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 11: Veterans

Every day I am thankful for my freedoms, and thankful for those who have fought to keep us free.

Jonathan and I have had the privilege of visiting monuments dedicated to our military in Washington DC, and in Hawaii. Visiting those sites always leaves me in tears. I have taken photos, or pencil rubs of my uncle, Johnny Ulfers’ name on the Vietnam wall with every visit, starting in high school. The USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor is very moving. When we were there in 2012, two survivors were signing books and telling their stories to visitors.

My youngest brother is currently serving in the Army. We pray for his safety, and for his family, as they deal with the stresses of military life. My sister-in-law is retired from the Army, but is still very involved by participating in spouse support groups, and encouraging my brother. I love them all so much, and appreciate their willingness to serve.

CarolynCares Pearl Harbor

CarolynCares POW flag

CarolynCares Thank You

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 9: Winter

CarolynCares Winter

Call me crazy, but I love winter. The first snowfall has always been met with excitement. Most years, I bake (and we eat) the first batch of Christmas cookies on that day. When Jonathan and I were first married, our house was pretty tiny. In order to delay turning on the fuel oil furnace, I would bake. The heat of the oven was enough to warm up the house.

There are so many things to like about winter. Sweaters, curling up with a good Cookbook, Russian Tea, puzzles, and snow. I love to take my camera out the morning after a blizzard, and see what patterns the wind made in the snow. The photo above was taken after a December blizzard last year. The skies were a brilliant blue, and the contrast between the sky and the snow was stunning. There is no way I can totally capture that, but the photos I take bring me back to the feeling of the cold, crisp air, the birds singing, and the awesome colors.

I’ll admit, taking care of the animals is a bit more challenging in the winter, especially during a blizzard, but we know they are safe and warm in the barns. Other farm work is a bit more relaxed. Jonathan will crunch numbers, make decisions on what varieties of seed he wants to plant, and we’ll attend farming conferences. I love attending the conferences and seeing friends that we only see in person a couple times a year. We also sit in on sessions where we can learn about what’s happening with the Farm Bill, what we can do to help foster communication between farmers and consumers, and what the latest agriculture research says that will help make our farm better.

Mostly, I am thankful for winter, which is not only beautiful, but it gives us a chance to recharge our batteries for the next growing season.

Want to read more 30 Day Challenge blogs? Click here to go to Holly Spangler’s blog where there is an updated list of fellow bloggers.

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 8: Photography

CarolynCares Photography

I fell in love with taking photos when I purchased my very first digital camera. Before that, I would take the typical family snapshot at birthdays and on holidays, but wouldn’t really bother with photos of nature. Now, I keep looking for things to photograph.

The draw of photography for me, is trying to capture what I am seeing, to be able to share it with others. It is a very personal thing, really. I love putting on my winter gear to head outside and walk around the yard with my camera the morning after a blizzard. The patterns the wind and snow make are incredible. Trying to capture that beauty is a challenge. This fall, as I was getting out of the combine on night, I looked up and saw the Milky Way. That.Was.Awesome! Capturing the Milky Way with a camera is not easy. I have learned quite a few new things about night photography, but I still haven’t captured “the” photo yet. You’ll probably see it on my blog if I ever do!

There are times when I go through a dry spell, where my camera just sits in it’s bag. I find that I look at the world a little differently during those dry spells. I’m not noticing the little things. When I pick up the camera once again, I start thinking in terms of camera frames. I notice little details, and all sorts of patterns in nature. It fills me with awe when I look at tiny little flowers, or insects, or blades of grass. God made so many things uniquely beautiful. How can I say that He didn’t make me uniquely beautiful as well? I am so thankful for the gift of photography, and how it makes me look at the world, and at myself, with appreciation for the little things.

Want to follow along with other 30 Day Challenge bloggers? Head over to Holly Spangler’s blog for a current list of participating blogs.

Introduction to the 30 Day Challenge


30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 4: Bacon

CarolynCares Bacon

I love bacon! It is so versatile. It enhances many foods, and is good all by itself. I am very thankful to whomever invented this delicious cure for pork.

There’s things like

  • Bacon and Eggs
  • Cheddar Bacon Corn Chowder
  • Bacon Quiche
  • Bacon Cheeseburgers
  • Filet Mignon
  • Bacon wrapped Shrimp
  • Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches
  • Marshall Salad with Bacon
  • Broccoli Salad with Bacon
  • Pancakes and Bacon
  • Maple Bacon Scones
  • Candied Bacon
  • Chocolate Covered Bacon
  • Bacon wrapped Dates
  • Bacon Slaw
  • Bacon Pizza
  • Bacon Brittle
  • Bacon wrapped Asparagus
  • Bacon Mac and Cheese
  • Bacon Potato Salad
  • Potato Soup with Bacon
  • Maple Ice Cream with Candied Bacon
  • Egg Bake with Bacon
  • Bacon Mashed Potatoes
  • Split Pea and Bacon Soup
  • Bacon, Chive, and Cheddar Biscuits
  • Tomato Bacon Pasta
  • Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
  • Bacon wrapped Trout
  • Bacon wrapped Chicken
  • Spinach and Bacon Frittata
  • Green Beans and Bacon

I could go on, but my mouth is watering uncontrollably right now! Many of the items listed have recipes on the internet that you can easily find. Not sure what kind of bacon to buy, or how to prepare it without a mess? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!

When you have a recipe that calls for bacon, you can buy your favorite kind unless the type is specified (Canadian Bacon or Pancetta, for example). Our favorite is a thick cut bacon that we get from our butcher. We raise pigs, and take pigs from our barn to butcher, so we are able to dictate how we would like ours cut. Some people like a medium cut bacon (the most common type found in a grocery store), or thin cut when making recipes that call for wrapping with bacon. The thick cut may be difficult to wrap around a date or asparagus spear. Sweeter dishes pair well with maple flavored bacon.

The easiest way to prepare bacon is in your oven. There is no mess on your stove top, and if you have a large jellyroll pan (half sheet size), you can fit an entire package on the one pan.

Line your pan with foil, making sure the foil is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pan. If you have to splice it, make sure you fold the seam together to eliminate grease from seeping through. It makes for easier clean up. Separate the bacon and lay it in a single layer on the foil.

Bacon on Foil Lined Pan
Bacon on Foil Lined Pan

I put the pan in a cold oven, and heat it to 425 degrees. I use my convection setting for this. After the oven has reached full temperature, I check the bacon after 10 minutes. The closer it gets to your preferred doneness, the more frequent you will need to check it. For some recipes, I cook the bacon to the “floppy” stage, meaning there is still flexibility in the meat. For others, I cook it until it is a bit darker, and crumbles easily after it has cooled.

Mmmm Bacon
Mmmm Bacon

Remove the bacon from the pan, and let it drain on a paper towel lined plate. When the pan and foil have cooled, carefully roll the foil into a ball to contain the grease, and toss. If you like to save your bacon grease, you can easily make a funnel type lip with the foil to help pour it into your grease container.

I think I am going to make Bacon Mac and Cheese with the extra bacon I cooked up for the bacon cheeseburgers I grilled for our Sunday dinner…or maybe I should make the Cheddar Bacon Corn Chowder…I wonder how many times I can say bacon in one sentence…bacon.

To follow other 30 Day Challenge Bloggers, head on over to Holly Spangler’s blog to find links to the current participants.

Introduction to the 30 Day Challenge

Day 1: Family

Day 2: Harvest

Day 3: Music

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 2: Harvest

CarolynCares Harvest Home

We are very thankful that we wrapped up harvest for 2013 on November 1st. This year was a tough corn harvest for us. We had a wind storm in September that blew down quite a bit of corn. We were more fortunate than some of our neighbors, and less fortunate than others. By the final day, we were down to a few acres of corn that just didn’t want to go through the combine. In spite of the annoyances that corn harvest brought, we are so thankful that the harvest was brought safely home.

Be sure to follow Holly Spangler, and the rest of the 30 Day Bloggers by clicking here.

Introduction to 30 Day Challenge

Day 1: Family