Drought wanes on. Water remains challenging. Fire danger continues to grow. Yet, we look forward, and the world moves on. However you celebrate Independence Day, please celebrate safely, and remember it’s all a choice–happiness, empathy, respect, gratitude. Choose wisely!💞#WeAreRanchers #4thofJuly

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“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.” ~Benjamin Franklin 🌧

Our well isn’t dry, but the rural water system we rely on to fill our pasture tanks and homes is offline. Rains have stayed away, so our dams are suffering. We are operating in crisis mode, and we are not alone. Water is out over a frightening large portion ranch country. 🌧 We know the value of water. It is our lifeblood.

If the water system stays off for two weeks like possible … If the rains continue to stay away … If crews can’t find a speedy, efficient fix, our life changes dramatically and quickly. 🙇 Our county also has a burn ban. This Independence Day season, we pray people follow it strictly. When there is no water, there is no way to fight fire. PLEASE pray for common sense. Pray for rain. Pray for perseverance. Pray for safety. Thank you!💞#WeAreRanchers#drought

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Cracked and chipped

Like the wedding vase I found the other day, The Rancher and I have been through some stuff in our 16 years of marriage. We’re a little cracked, even a bit chipped, but dang it, we’re still trying to hold it all together😊

Our 16th anniversary is playing out like many other milestones in this season of our life … No get-aways, no commemorative gifts, no special plans; hell, there have even been a couple disagreements. And guess what? That’s ok! Not everything has to be “Facebook” perfect.

Ranching, self-employment, marriage, kids–it’s all hard, imperfect stuff. There is truth in finding what you seek though, and if you don’t look for something good and worthy every day, all you’ll see is yuck. I think that’s really important to remember. Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is to look for the good, but the reward is always worth the effort.

Keep looking for the good, folks! It’s out there, even if you’re the one who has to put it there. #WeAreRanchers

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Find Your Focus

The word focus swirled in my head throughout 2020. It was both a cuss word driving me to action and a plea begging me to reconnect with activities that fulfill me. Quite honestly, I was going too many directions most of last year to let the word do anything but swirl.

While lacking focus isn’t ideal, 2020 was a season for which I won’t beat myself up. It’s also a season I’m trying to prevent from playing on repeat!

I love ranching. So much of what we do brings me peace and purpose. For example, in addition to all the office work, kid trailing, and writing, you will generally find me driving truck in silage season, running the combine for corn harvest, and handling the feed wagon from November through May.

That wasn’t the case in 2020 for lots of reasons. I didn’t drive truck at all this silage season. And, though I worked hard to harvest 2019 corn well into 2020, I only ran the combine for two days come fall. Christmas Day was even the first time I fed cattle.

I also love storytelling. It’s what lights my fire and inspires my heart. I’ve even gone so far as to create a business model, develop a website, and dabble in more formal storytelling.

Yet, rather than focus where my heart screams joy—a mix of ranching and storytelling—I found myself scrambling, searching, and adding while clinging to what’s old and familiar. It all ended up being uncomfortable and unproductively stressful.

An acquaintance once shared her philosophy of taking on projects. If her immediate, gut response isn’t an enthusiastic, “hell, yes”; then, it is an immediate, “hell, no”.

I don’t employ her practice well, but I do love it! Saying yes when I really meant no left me disconnected and unfocused. I spent a lot of time doing a lot of things when I could have spent less time while accomplishing far more.

Which brings me right square to a new year.

What is focus, and why does it matter?

The good ole dictionary defines focus as “the center of interest or activity. The state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition.”

Without focus, life and work become a blur, especially when personal and professional lives intertwine like they often do in farming and ranching. Focus brings clarity, and with clarity comes purpose. Focus doesn’t prevent failure. Instead, focus helps give failure purpose.

Makes sense, right? So, am I the only one who finds it more than a little difficult to do?

I could be, but I don’t think so.

As 2021 roars in, I won’t be so bold as to suggest restructuring your entire business model, but I also won’t be so naïve as to think some of us wouldn’t benefit from doing so.

I think more of our businesses—our farms and ranches—could use a healthy dose of focus. I know ours can, and I think it’s rarely too late to give it all a try.

Focus isn’t all or nothing. It isn’t constant. Think of photography.

Sometimes, the best picture for a situation is the one focused on a singular subject closest to the lens. Background and peripheral objects become blurred. Other times, the best pictures focus on the distance, blurring what’s most immediate while bringing clarity to what lies beyond.

The greatest trick lies in recognizing when to focus close and when to look afar.

Bringing focus to our businesses won’t be painless. Focus often requires change, which is scary. Because our brains are wired to protect us from scary situations, even good ones, charging ahead into the change requires courage.

After the year we’ve left, I won’t dare to predict the year we’re entering. Far too much lies outside our control. Maybe that’s all the more reason for 2021 to be the year of focus. Focus on passion, on purpose, on profitability.

I don’t know what that means for you and your business. Quite frankly, my own pastures need too much tending to worry about yours. Maybe that’s another key for all of us. To find our focus from within before looking outside for answers. What ends up working here will likely make you shake your head, and the same can be said in reverse. Remember, that’s okay!

Though I’ve offered far more questions than answers, I hope this finds you entering 2021 with a deep, cleansing breath. The kind that fills your soul and releases the junk many of us store up so well. Although you’re the only one who can determine where you focus, you don’t have to endure the process alone.

I say it frequently, and a new year seems fitting to say it again: Find your people and love them well. The people around you directly determine your ability to focus and succeed.

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Advent Inspiration

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”

Phyllis Theroux

As the COVID-19 pandemic wanes on and our country’s divisiveness grows, I find myself struggling to maintain a grace-filled, joyful heart. Social media once gave me a feeling of connectedness to those friends and family members living afar. Now, I often find it a combative space of isolation and wasteful comparison.

Fortunately, wide open spaces spanning river breaks and prairie hills offer me ample opportunity for clarity and conversation with God. I’m also quite fortunate for opportunities to see and hear a small circle of uplifting friends.

As someone who fights hard–yet still fails–to keep debilitating, often-unfounded fears at bay, the combination of those life-giving opportunities is priceless.

So today, as I felt the heaviness creeping back into my chest, I called a friend. Then, I stood outside, faced the sun, opened my arms to heaven, and breathed in all the life a crisp South Dakota fall air has to offer. When I finally exhaled, I realized something my hippy heart has always known: Heaviness creeps in and holds me down when I’m not being authentic.

Yes–I’m a rancher. I love the land, the cattle, and all the ideals and traditions wrapped up in a lifestyle running generations deep in my blood.

However, I’m also a writer, an observer. An artist with words as my paint and a keyboard as my brush.

When I let the busy and mundane parts of life outweigh the parts that fill my soul, I get stuck and crabby and uninspired to see or be the good.

All this is a long way around to say, I’ve been a bear for the past three weeks, and today, I’m going to change it!

On Halloween, my sweet friend Delila told me about a card project she and her three kids did one year. Instead of a traditional Advent calendar, they spent the Advent season writing to people in their community who were special or lonesome or in need. Tough, stoic Delila even got choked up recalling all the hugs and return correspondence her family received. She concluded by telling me, “It’s something you should write about.”

So, Delila, here it is!

In this time of divided, unsettling heaviness, consider moving your heart by merely moving your pen.

I’m committed to being online less and in life more. For me, that includes writing. If you would like to join the movement, here’s an Advent Writing Calendar to give you prompts and ideas throughout the Christmas season.

An Advent Writing Calendar from The Writing Rancher.
Letter ideas for the Christmas season. Remember–it’s not about being fancy or acknowledged; it’s about being authentic and connecting with people in a time when doing so is extra challenging!
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Dear Beef Eater

Dear Beef Eater,

In case you’re doubting it, the beef you buy in the grocery store or at the restaurant is safe, nutritious, and worth your investment! Also, while there is no shortage of healthy animals ready to enter the supply chain, the inability of packing plants to run at full capacity might make it appear there’s a shortage in your preferred shopping center. Don’t worry; we’re all working on it.

We U.S. cow/calf ranchers, cattle backgrounders, and feedyard operators need U.S.-based packing plants in order for the majority of our animals to reach you, the mass consumer. We also need affordable, safe lean trimmings in order to provide you the low-priced, versatile, nutritious hamburger you’ve grown to love.

For those of you looking for other options, many of us ranchers specifically raise beef animals to be sold in bulk to you. This niche requires more investment from you up front (i.e. freezer space, bulk payment, etc), but we know you’ll enjoy and find value in this option. Like other big purchases, please make sure you’re dealing with a reputable feeder and asking questions. This method isn’t the most convenient the first time around, but once you’ve done it, planned for it, and developed a relationship with your feeder and butcher, you will likely prefer this option for as long as it exists.

So dear beef eater, please continue to have faith in the beef industry. From the hard-working men and women on the packing plant floor to the hard-working men and women in Midwest pastures, we are committed to providing you a safe, delicious, nutritious, and affordable protein source. And, we are all working to be able to do that while making a living for our families too.

With thanks for your support,
A writing and working SD rancher

#WeAreRanchers #sdbeef #BeefMonth

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Captain’s Log: The Journey Continues

The course remains uncharted, but our destination stays clear. The water cycles between calm, choppy, and never-before-seen. Though tattered, the ship groans on as the beloved crew commits to staying afloat. Our journey continues with full days of completing routine work, defining new business, and creating a new normal.

Thank you for sharing our journey!
~ Amy Blum, The Writing Rancher

April 13, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate “The Day After Easter”: You can thank me for sparing you a close up visual of this ranch experience!

School today was a quick lesson chock full of education for Middle Son. Anatomy, language arts, math, and MUCH more were well covered in our 20 minute socially distant and responsible visit to the vet.

He is now sure of two things: he wants to be a vet as long as he doesn’t have to de-horn critters, and he wants a couple peacocks because the ones at Dr. Joy’s are the coolest thing he’s ever seen! #ranchlife #learningeverywhere

April 14, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97886.72: It’s birthday week for The Rancher, and the kids are especially excited to creatively help him celebrate turning 50 on Friday❤ If you’d like to join the efforts as we encourage him “Not to run out of gas now” and “To live like someone left the gate open”, watch for a Facebook Event tomorrow night where you can share memories, drop him a note, or give a birthday honk if you want to take a drive … There’s even a birthday dropbox at the end of our driveway (thanks to The Rancher’s Sisters for the idea!!)😉 Love you, Babe😘#cheersto50years #virtualbeers

April 15, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97889.67: I read a lot and generally take great effort to prioritize material quality.

Today, however, I got sucked into the other side, so this lesson is courtesy keyboard warriors …

People are like roosters. Sometimes, they’re graceful beauties, and you can enjoy their presence. Other times, they’re rotten peckers, and you run away. And, if ever either becomes more pecker than beauty, it’s perfectly acceptable to bid them adieu (via different methods for humans than roosters, but you get the idea)!😉

Thank God for the amazing people who fill our life; what beauties you are❤#bekind#graceNgratitude

April 16, 2020
Captain’s Log, Ranchdate “Day B4 Dad’s Birthday: Cakes were baked. Cows were fed. Everyone’s tucked sound in bed. And some days, that’s really all that needs said! #graceNgratitude

April 17, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate “The Big Day–Post 1”: Happy 50th Birthday, dear Rancher! The sun is shining. The kids aren’t yet whining. We’ve got cake for days, and you get to grind hays😉 Enjoy your day; we love you every which way❤ #WeAreRanchers

Captain’s Log, Stardate 97894.99: In keeping with tradition, this entry marks my annual day of PDA for The Rancher. After this, it’s back to sarcasm and keeping him on his toes😉

Dear husband, you’re the calm to my chaos and the grounded to my dreamy. I hope you enjoyed a few moments of celebration today and felt all the love and appreciation we have for you. I am so grateful to share this life with you. Cheers to the now, dear😘

April 18, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97897.92: In a touching turn of events, our pre-teen daughter looked at me, studied my face a minute, and said, “Mom, you’re really pretty, and you only look about 27 today.” Aww❤ Of course, before I could even tell her thank you, middle son stated, “She must want something, Mom. No offense or anything but most days you look as old as Dad instead of younger.” Little turd!👵👴 Also today, pre-teen son realized at birth he was the size of a legal-to-keep walleye. Though he was indeed tiny, I can’t recall ever thinking to compare him to a fish🤣#truth

April 19, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97900.48: A full Sunday morning of chores and clear skies led to the kids enjoying a couple afternoon hours of quality time at the river with their dad. And, “what did Mom do?” you might ask. Not a damn thing more than she wanted!🤗 I enjoyed a scoop of ice cream from the container we adults hide in the freezer … I sat outside to soak in the country quiet and to pray–for us, for you, for all who need a break or rest but can’t find it … I cleaned in the garage and worked on the shed. Then, when my little family returned home, I was happy to see them and hear their tales, and I don’t feel an ounce of guilt or “should haves” about any of it.❤ I think this all means I’m growing up, or as middle boy might say, getting old😉#grateful#SayNoToMomGuilt#IntrovertRecharge

April 20, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97903.32: It wasn’t necessarily the greatest day to have a great day, but we did anyway … Take that all the crap that will remain unnamed😛

In heartwarming news, the big boys embraced my simplicity and whipped up a vintage-inspired “fence” to keep the chickens out of my hydrangea.🐔 Like 99% of the DIY projects around here, it isn’t exactly what I pictured, but it is 1000% appreciated and doing the job required of it!

As an added bonus, I barely had to mention the need and the project was started, finished, and cleaned up before I knew what happened. Even more bonus, it didn’t cost Jay a dime, and he didn’t have to help. 😉

In other news, kids are creative, resourceful, and happy with FAR less than we tell ourselves they need … This is evidenced by the makeshift shed two boys constructed from leftover junk and without access to power tools or an adult. It is a FAR cry from the beautiful keepsake shed Boy 3 dearly wants, but he went to bed with a happy heart and visions of all the fun he will have with it. And, no one died or even bled enough to need a bandaid!❤#gratefulhearts#NOT4hire

April 21, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate <Tuesday?🤷🏻🤦>: Our tomboy has officially had her fill of burping, farting, wrestling, rough-housing, stinking boys! Her father hopes it stays that way for many years to come, and I hope she knows they don’t get any better🤣

As of today, she sectioned off her room to create a girl-only sanctuary for reading, drawing, nail painting, day dreaming, and journaling for when she isn’t working outside. She would prefer her father to install one of those “fancy buzzer locks like cool city apartments” have, but she is resigned to accepting permission for use of a standard door lock and to deploy any necessary level of martial art skills as long as the said skill won’t actually kill or permanently disable anyone.🥋 It’s about to get fun up in here!😜#likeaboss#onguard#stillgrateful

April 22, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate Earth Day: There was a lot going on today, and I can’t quite capture it all in words yet. But, what I can capture, I’m not sharing with pride. I’m sharing because it’s real. We are real people working through our own real stuff. Though we are full of gratitude, joy, and optimism, we’re human, and some of us use foul language🙋 So, here it is😳 I was working in the office with the window open. Middle & Youngest Boys ran out to put a couple cows in, and I hear, “You dirty <blippity, bleepity, bleeps> turn your <bleeps> outta these trees!” Um, I think we’ve graduated second grade and gone straight to the dark side🤐 On a positive note, I raised my eyebrow at little one when they came back in, and he got very sheepish and said, “Oops, sorry mom. You weren’t supposed to hear that, and I shouldn’t have said it.” Damn cow talk!🤦#grace#gratitude#momfail

April 23, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97911.56: There are days when the emotional gamut both fuels and exhausts you. Today was one of those for me. Not a bad day, mind you; quite the contrary overall. It was simply a very full day. ❤ I was also reminded, if you find yourself thinking of someone, reach out with a call or a card or a text. You have no idea exactly how much your thoughtfulness might be needed! The person you reach out to might not realize how much the connection is needed too. ❤

And yes, I walked on the treadmill while drinking a beer. Don’t judge–middle son told me it was scientifically backed as a method of relaxation as long as I only drank one, and it is infinitely safer than braving the freeway that is our gravel road😉#gratefulhearts

April 24, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97914.2: Picture it … the day is calm and cool. The sun shines in a beautiful blue sky full of marshmallow clouds. Suddenly, your beloved calls and shouts through the phone, “Rattlesnake! Get down here with a spade.” 🐍

Knowing you chewed on him the day before regarding his poor choice in snake killing paraphernalia (a hammer), you overlook the fact he clearly ignored your strongly-worded suggestion to properly outfit his four-wheeler for snake season. 🔨 Instead, you grab the only tools at your disposal–a shovel and a rake/hoe–because your children are like their father and didn’t return the spades.🤦

You speed down the road, through the pasture, and to your partner’s side where you valiantly proclaim, “I will get him, dear!” 💪

Alas, your lack of coordination makes this a laughable moment. Finally, you behead the calf-killing beast and pull his body from under the tire. Instead of rejoicing, you look at each other with disappointment because you realize you wasted a production worthy the reward of a rattler’s tail on, wait for it … a bull snake.😞

Not to be deterred, you agree it was an honest mistake, wish each other a good day, and go back to work. And that, my friends, is ranching in a nut shell — Valiant and romantic in gesture but often ANTICLIMACTIC in result🤣🤷🏻#WeAreRanchers#graceNgratitude

April 25, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97919.76: I hope my husband remembers this message tomorrow when he goes to unload the truck. Surely, the gratitude he feels for such a lovely wife will resolve any dispute that might arise around exactly how full is “too full”💆Also, I am infinitely grateful for kids who are generally excited to help cover meal prep; Piper’s fresh apple crisp was a delicious late night supper🍎#grateful#testlimits

April 26, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate “Sunday”: Sometimes, the best part of a day is when it ends; yes, there can be beauty in endings too. Our littlest cow checker missed his mama and wanted to cruise pastures together tonight. After a long, dirty day (week) of work, the time spent present in the moment of sunset and calm was a great note on which to end outdoors! #bepresent #graceNgratitude

April 27, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate “Monday”: Life takes fuel. Sometimes, the tank runs low. Power through when you must, but please don’t forget extra grace and prayers when you’re running on fumes. Then, above all else, make time to refuel — be that literally or figuratively — and don’t forget the prayers and grace then either❤#time2refuel#graceNgratitude

April 28, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97925.09: Today required lots of emotional and mental effort.😴

Our kids cook, clean, and do their own laundry. They drive, work in the fields, and have responsibility for livestock chores. They take on school, 4-H, community service, and extracurricular responsibilities.

They also watch too much TV, would live online if we let them, eat too much junk food, fight like rabid dogs, and challenge us for independence.💞

Do you know what Jay & I often forget in all that? THEY ARE KIDS!💕 We are guiding and encouraging them to function and live and process in a big, scary world full of things their brains aren’t yet capable of understanding. And all that is exactly why I treasure the way they still play together.❤

I go to the basement nightly for visits and prayers; otherwise, it is their domain.

They’ve got a show barn, calving barn, make-shift barn, machine shed, vet clinic, sale barn, implement dealer, and lots more. They spend hours every week moving and changing and trading and improving their operations.🛠

I know they’re “off to a show” when the Bluetooth speaker loudly blares music of various genres up the stairs. I know they’ve developed a new plan when the oldest grabs the mic and starts the auction while the others break out monopoly money. I also know there will come a day sooner than I’m ready when the playing stops, the toys find home in a tote, and these kids fly off to become adults.🐦

Today was not our finest, most calm day. This agricultural climate is a hard one with lots of spillover. But, there is still so much hope with child-like faith and time for play.❤#playmatters#605strong#gracengratitude

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Captain’s Log: Serious §h!+

This whole situation makes me heart sick. I don’t share this video to incite debate or solicit opinion.

I share for a bit of perspective in a very complex time, especially when so many of us are far removed from food and by-product production.

I share because people are hurting in so many ways; there are people in our business who will not survive the pain of senselessly euthanizing the animals they’ve poured their hearts and minds in to raising, casualties of a marketing and political game they’d rather not play.

I share because I look at a yard of fat cattle, yards of feeder cattle, pastures of newborn calves and can’t help but wonder if we have what it takes to think outside the norm, hustle where we can, and survive what we can’t control.

A little kindness and a lot of grace can go a long way in times like these. #graceNgratitude #WeAreRanchers

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A Captain’s Log, Ranch style

Our Easter Sunday dawned a blanket of white. The trees hung heavy with snow. The wind blew cold and strong. The calves, even the freshly born, tucked in tightly to the herd, protected and warm from the wintery chill.

Like a morning so long ago, our hearts awoke a bit heavy with burdens and worry. Had we done enough last night? What would we find when we went to the pastures and barns? Where is the world going, and how will we succeed in it?

Then, as can happen when your heart is open to gratitude and possibility, we rolled back the dark coverings and inhaled the light, the beauty, the freshness of a new day … a new day for love and light despite challenges … a new day of hope and promise amidst uncertainty.

On this Easter Sunday, I’m sharing a collection of log’s from our family’s past 30 days. I share in hopes of offering levity in your own hardships, in solidarity for the challenges we all have, and in prayer that we come out of this perhaps not with understanding for each other’s journeys but at least with grace and empathy.

We are ranchers, and we thank you for sharing our journey!

~ Amy Blum, The Writing Rancher

March 14, 2020
Day 1 Highlights of Self-Quarantine (kidding–with the children’s social activities halted, we just actually go nowhere): A) My husband survived another day of communicating telepathically during chores. B) I spent seven hours after chores painting a bedroom with an eight-year-old. C) On a paint break, I learned boys made a deal to change beds from upstairs to down. A bunk bed set currently sits in my living room. D) It was our middle son’s night to cook supper; he sweetly made yummy egg salad sandwiches with a side of scrambled eggs. Please send reinforcements. I may not survive (P.S. We do take the current world situation seriously. I also believe in laughing when we can because I know how quickly it can all change.) #laughterismedicine #grateful

March 16, 2020
Day 3 Captain’s Log: I’m somewhere between confident in my abilities as a capable kick ass woman and curled up sucking my thumb while my eyes glaze over. Unplugging from social media, news, and people in general is getting higher on my to do list. But, we’re far from alone; we’ve got a pretty strong faith, and there are AMAZING teachers and friends out there doing what they can to make these uncharted waters a bit less choppy! As a bonus today, the oldest two boys switched cooking nights peacefully on their own so CW’s deer steaks could marinate. We weren’t able to be in the kitchen with them, but our kiddos make my heart so happy! Our daughter answered their questions even though she was totally annoyed by them, and our youngest put his head down to work elsewhere (he cooked hamburger and noodles last night) CJ made fried chicken, something I rarely cook. Jay Blum was thrilled, and no one got burned or started a fire! We live to try another day

March 15, 2020
Day 2: I’ve realized the past few days merely represent “a weekend at home”. Tomorrow begins reality. I don’t mind the slower pace. I don’t miss the social pressures of doing everything or going everywhere. It doesn’t bother me to be socially distant. Even though I joke, I enjoy the kids and all the projects both inside and out. I am grateful we are ranchers with plenty of work and space despite the stress of no market. I am grateful my work doesn’t hinge on in-person connections. Yet, my dog’s face is surely the expression I made when the notion of having to homeschool hit me: “Well played God. It appears teaching–the last thing on my youthful list of ‘nevers’–might come true also.”#weloveteachers

March 17, 2020
Day 4 (but, really, who the hell cares??) Captain’s Log: In an effort for me to keep this ship upright in stormy waters, the children focused on outdoor education for most of the day. I stayed back with visions of accomplishment, organization, and cleanliness in my head. Instead, I spun circles, bawled a couple times, got mad, took the calf for a walk, let our youngest teach me how to do school, and made cookies (aka ate cookie dough) Alas, the four young humans returned home full of excitement from all the education they received (Uncle Bart is a great supervisor, and Grandma Ruth remains a stellar “lunch lady”). Kids really are a marvel when given the opportunity. Also, CW’s meal of 24-hour marinated deer steak was a lovely surprise!! This child likes to play ignorant in the kitchen, which usually results in his sister taking over. Oldest trick in the book though, and I finally won! Of course, it’s all a house of cards at this point, so cheers to living another day

March 18, 2020
Captain’s Log: I’m no longer counting; it feels calmer that way. Settling in to hermit mode is also a comforting norm. Our rural world keeps spinning with activity, and there’s good in that too–even in all the stuff that’s far less than good. We are NOT good at schedules, and I’m most certainly not doing anything close to homeschooling. Our very full day storm prepping and all ended with two special lessons: 1) There is a difference between a “skillet” and a “griddle”, and 2) Those who work until dark eat cold food. Sweet girl made bone-in pork chops and a variety of sides. Even had it all plated for us and everything. She told me, “Damn, now I know why you make simple stuff like tacos most of the time.”#stilldelicious

March 19, 2020
Captain’s Log: The ship remains afloat. TVs and social media can, in fact, be turned off. Doing both is an exceptionally good idea if you’re feeling anything less than empathetic and open-minded. Manual labor, service to others, and fresh air are also good fixes for poor attitudes. And with that, the youngest made supper tonight: hamburger/mushroom pizza on homemade crust seasoned with all his favorite spices. #memories #stressedBUTblessed

March 20, 2020–Entry 1
Captain’s Log, Star Date 97817.41: It’s likely there will be multiple reports today. Pre-kids, I told Jay I had a high propensity for becoming a woman who carried a cute little dog in a fancy bag. Four kids and 15 years later, I have become a woman who puts sweatshirts on bottle calves for fun … That’s pretty close, I guess

March 20, 2020–Entry 2
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97818.58: This ship likes to flirt dangerously with life as a three-ring circus. I must correct course or be doomed “Master of the Show” forever! Aside from the regular “must list”, the kids and I bid adieu to the three S’s–School, Schedule, and Sanity. This was a bad idea. Alas, we survived the meltdowns, the mischief, and the multi-project day! Our happy for the day included: Dad coming home to enjoy Jammin’ Minutes with our youngest; our daughter finishing chores so the boys could come home early; our middle son learning to spackle, and our oldest son making homemade pasta. It’s far from pretty or perfect around here, but I’m sure glad theses kiddos are ours!

March 21, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97821.17: No photos were taken; yet, life went on with plenty of memories and lessons. Kiddos did house chores after their outdoor chores. I hauled hay and fed cattle before giving in to a migraine. In a heartwarming twist, I was reminded the kids love me enough to make sure I’m alive while taking great care to not actually make me move or speak As the day winds down, I’m grateful for health, a loving family, and my very patient husband who works hard without complaint. I’m also grateful the kids enjoy taking responsibility for a daily meal. I did not share their attitude for cooking as a child, and I still don’t most of the time. But, I’m working on it and realize what special gifts lie in the simplest of acts. (P.S. our middle son made ham and cheese omelets plus crepes for supper. He is now looking forward to crock pot cooking next week)

March 22, 2020–Entry 1
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97823.94: Today was a good day to have a good day, so we did. It was a full day! Though we enjoy the current simplicity of life, we don’t take the situation lightly. If you are a friend not in or familiar with agriculture, please know our careers–our businesses–also hang in peril. We are filled with uncertainty, and the effects of decimated markets and industry in-fighting remain to be fully felt. We check on our peers because these are overwhelming times. But, we also laugh. We joke. We choose to find happiness and joy. Our kids deserve that and so do we…so do you Now, enough with the sappy! Back to sarcasm and dry humor tomorrow

March 22, 2020–Entry 2
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97824: That last entry was so serious. Here’s a laugh for the day. The Rancher was good for several of them today, and in full disclosure, it wasn’t long after being a total #boss that I nearly ripped the spout of the feed wagon off on a corner post … I didn’t, but Jay Blum did raise his eye brows at me that time

March 23, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97826.62: There appears to have been a struggle, and our newest child–Not Me–is responsible for it all. In other news … If you have a little wrestler, he might want to take his lunches to school. If you let him take his lunches, he might pack egg salad and sliced chicken breast. If he packs those things, a virus may erupt. If a virus erupts, school may be cancelled. If school is cancelled, your little wrestler’s “whole life’s dreams” may be crushed. If his dreams are crushed, he may forget he packed a lunch. If he forgets, he might remember at bedtime two weeks later. If he remembers, you might gag while throwing out containers. And, if you gag, your little wrestler might cry and say he’s sorry, which means hugs all around and gratitude for disposable containers! … In yet other news, pre-teen girls are beautiful, lovely roses full of sharp, prickly thorns, especially when their long-awaited hair appointments are postponed or their brothers look at them funny or, you know, they are trying to deal with a lot. Luckily, fresh air and a list of chores to be done alone keep the thorns in check so far! Cheers!(~Roses are worth the thorns just like daughters are worth the drama.~)

March 24, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97829.44 (in case you’re like Jay Blum, this is a Star Trek thing, and yes, I really am an unapologetic nerd): National Ag Day meant Dad led history, PE, driver’s ed, and ag mechanics, among other sessions outdoors. He even handled a character counts session with his favorite pre-teen girl (who granted permission for this photo use only). He also provided content for the journal entry, so no funny or clever tonight. Stay safe, friends and family; you are loved.

March 25, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97832.19: The pre-teens have asked not to be shared on social media until or unless they change their minds The middle one has decided girls are too much work to be around so he’ll live in the basement until I die; then, he’ll move upstairs and live with a bunch of cats (he doesn’t even like cats) The little one wishes he could do all his school work in one day, work all day every other day and thinks showering is for the birds … “But, mom, why smell good? People are supposed to stay away from me aren’t they?” Our schedule is more like a guide, and our teachers are gifts straight from God. We grow increasingly grateful to be in the country and are looking forward to calving season … after or without bad weather if requests are allowed!

March 26, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97834.84 (that’s March 26, 2020 at 10:20 pm for you non-nerds): I’ve entered the house only moments ago to realize the pork chops I left warming on the stove for the kids are plenty warm Apparently, when I left at 7:30 to gather a cow in need of calving assistance, the idea of pork chops for supper went with me. Luckily, the children noticed smoke before flames erupted. On the bright side, our house no longer smells like sour calf poop … In other news, we have officially started calving. … In still other news, we are doing well social distancing and with school work at home. Our teachers are rock stars We’re far from perfect, but right now, in this time, we couldn’t ask for anything better. And, there’s today’s lesson: Sometimes it’s worse. Sometimes it’s better. But, our attitude right now is the best and only thing we can actually control. With that, I’m going back to the barn! This house stinks

March 27, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97837.58: While I’ve got a newsfeed full of friends and acquaintances doing all sorts of amazing activities, I’m watching this horrible show called ‘Sports Center’ on some channel called ESPN because I’m too damn tired to get off the couch for the remote. And that’s how this journey goes, boys and girls! It was, however, a good day of great moments, and I’m a pretty blessed lady. Our youngest was especially sweet as he and I moved panels around. The stinking things are heavy, and I’m out of shape. A particularly awkward gate panel was giving me trouble, and I said, “Buddy, I don’t know if I can do this by myself today.” He looked at me so sweetly and said, “You’re my mom. You can do anything.” Lo and behold, he was right. Boom–job done with only slight concern for my ability to move tomorrow (PS: We all took the night off cooking and ate pizza from a box with a side salad from a plastic sack that I probably didn’t wash off when I brought it home.) #balance

March 28, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97840.39: Every day we’re blessed with “normal” is a pretty good day, and today was a routinely normal day Got the feed wagon stuck. (well, I didn’t, but who’s keeping track?) · Couldn’t find the log chain that’s “always” in my tractor. (Well, I didn’t use it for something else and then not return it to the proper place, but does it really matter?) · Jay taught the kids to play blackjack. (Called it ’21’ though and told them it’s a math game.) · Our daughter took my lessons of self-care to heart and went outside to draw. (Might have required forceful prompting and been brought on by a fight with her twin brother, but hey, we’ll take it!) · Ended the night with three generations of Blum Men pulling a backward calf. (Our middle son promptly interrupted the sweet memory with a colorful comment regarding his observations of the birth process … oy vey) And so it goes again#grateful#WeAreRanchers

March 29, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97840.32: Today was a GORGEOUS day (for a nap in the sunshine–and yes, I took one this afternoon without an ounce of guilt for all I “should have” been doing)! Even more divine than the nap were the kids who peacefully played blackjack and kickball outside In other news, sending your non-mechanically inclined wife to find a bolt in a box of “junk” is like asking your husband to retrieve anything from the fridge–probably faster to do it yourself In yet other news, dinner conversation took a turn tonight. Apparently, the kids fear I might never go to the store again, and we may have to start eating each other. After much banter, our youngest was informed he’d be the first one to go because he is “youngest and most tender, not old and tough like Dad”. Without missing a beat, he told the others, “Well fine then! I hope you choke on a bone. It’d serve you right!” Aside from needing new conversation topics, we start and end each day with gratitude, and we are sending love to all we hold dear! #SayNoToCannabalism

March 30, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97845.94: Full days with kids who like to work mean we have WAY more projects than we do energy. Of course, it also means they ask if it’s “time for bed yet” because they are exhausted too. The little humans had several clever quips and sweet moments today. In proving my age, though, I didn’t write myself notes and have forgotten them all. But, I know we all enjoyed laughter and smiles, and quite frankly, that’s the memory I pray we retain from this time. Cheers!

March 31, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97848.7: It was the best of times; it was the okayest of times. It was this thing called life From more independent baking and decorating for our youngest to puzzle time and history lessons with Grandpa & Grandma for our daughter, it was another full day … A bit too full for some of us. I actually hid in the bathroom at one point for some actual quiet. It worked for nearly five whole minutes Bring on tomorrow! #StillGrateful

April 1, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97859.54: The pandemic has prompted Jay Blum to learn technology, and he has been taking pictures. He still doesn’t know how to get them off his phone, but I’ve embraced his resistance to technology as more good reason to keep me around In other news, Jay taught the boys to enjoy early morning calm and the beauty of getting along. Meanwhile, I taught our youngest how to properly open the cap on a beer bottle while our daughter learned the art of tactfully distancing herself from annoying people. (Hopefully, I don’t regret teaching either of those lessons And in my defense, our youngest was baking bread by the way!)#balance#grateful

April 2, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97854.03: I think the kids did some schoolwork today. I know they did some ranch/house work, and I’m quite certain they had fun in between. (Thanks for the family call, Kelly, Brenda, & Laura!) In other news, big day for Jay Blum. He got a “new” tractor for the third time. (ATTN: This is a joke–his tractor’s hour meter actually rolled around from 999,999 to 0!) And, because I still refuse to go shopping, I made my big, tough rancher his very own custom blend coffee creamer#littlethings#runlikeadeere

April 3, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97856.78: Thanks to the current pandemic, we’re finally doing it every day, sometimes multiple times a day. That’s right, after years of only doing it when we felt obligated, we are now running the dishwasher and washing machine at least twice a day. To brighten the day even more, our youngest hugged Jay tonight at bedtime, looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “I’m getting so grown up that I can put my arms around Dad’s whole tummy. That means I could hug a whole horse, not a pregnant horse, but a pretty big horse, I bet!”#dirtyminds#cleandishes#hugahorse#stillgrateful

April 4, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97859.57: Gratitude is an interesting feeling. The more you feel, the more you have. However, even a life full of gratitude and blessings gets heavy. Today felt heavy. I even considered not posting anything because I didn’t want to seem whiny, but to ignore days like today feels fake. So, here’s the deal. Great memories were made: our daughter & Grandma worked on headbands with buttons; Jay got quality time with each of the kiddos, and the little boys decided you can have a nice kitchen even if you don’t have a wife I had a few bright spots of my own. But, the hard, yucky stuff is still just that. It’s okay to feel the weight of stress, worry, or sadness … Do your best not to grab hold of those feelings and drown in them Tomorrow, we shall rest! #gratitudefirst#keepmoving

April 5, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97862.16: The three Fs were precisely what the doctor ordered today … Family, Fresh air, and Feeding cows. Our youngest researched Palm Sunday for us and gave a little report on the day’s meaning. Our middle son and I finished “Trumpet of the Swan” this afternoon, and we all ended the night feeding cows and putting out mineral. Yes, there was also time purposely for some much-needed mental rest and prayer. Our family thanks all of you for reaching out or following along. We appreciate you and enjoy staying connected! #gratitude#ranchlife

April 6, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97864.95: There’s apparently something contagious making its way around the Blum Ranch. I like to call it “nogasitis”. This condition leaves people afoot and causes cussing. It also seems to be passed on from the father to the children because the mother, though not totally immune, knows it takes less time to fill the top half of a tank than it does to walk five miles uphill both ways while cussing in search of a gas can. Sadly, there appears to be no cure for this syndrome; however, I’m told a good woman with a solid vocabulary, a deeply annoyed vocal tone, and an affinity for details helps mimimize syndrome flare ups#fillerup#stillgrateful

April 7, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97867.78: The pre-teen allowed a photo! He also took charge of the aged cow calving barn and pitched a business plan around it. We’ve been working to develop a routine, and I think we’re making progress. The kids seem to especially like the assigned cooking days, which we’ve linked to being their individual laundry day and day off from outdoor chores (unless there’s an emergency or they want to help). In other news, I still dislike farming but remain responsible for a role in it all, so I trained the little one to run the combine. Aside from getting a sore butt from all the sitting, he did exceptionally well as long as I kept his radio cranked and spotted the steering wheel so he could rehydrate once in awhile. There’s a lovely peace in the back and forth of it all, but I also look forward to my retirement And yes, we still have four wonderful, helpful, cooperative, talented children; they simply don’t all like being photographed or talked about at the same time very often! #strongertogether#retirement2021#graceNgratitude

April 8, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97870.52: Lest anyone follows these posts and is fooled: please don’t be! Our house is a constant state of “lived in”. I saw our oldest three children for roughly three and a half hours total: about an hour was spent sorting out who had what for schoolwork; another hour was spent wondering why SmartMusic was being so dumb, and at least another 45 minutes were spent refereeing, which left me 45 minutes to give them meaningful time. I tried but know I didn’t. Our fridge and cupboards are running on fumes, but I haven’t found the headspace it takes me to navigate going to town. Besides, I’m stubborn, and if I’d gone shopping, our night’s chef never would have found a recipe which involved topping a hamburger with a marshmallow. I spent nine hours of the day in the cab of a farm implement and a solid two hours of that on the phone for other work. Oh yeah–the boss had to find a 150′ cable in order to pull a cow from the most idiotic place in the dam by our house; she was dead and so is the newborn calf she followed in. <<–Yep, today was real, which is exactly why I share our moments of humor or joy and not the laundry list of stuff. Our story isn’t told in the hustle and hassle of reality; it is told and remembered in the moments of gratitude, simplicity, and calm. Those are moments we all have even if it feels like we have to look really hard to find them. Find them and hold on!–>>#strongertogether#graceNgratitude

April 9, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97873.1: In case you’re not aware, the sun sets in the west, and 7:30 is a bad time of night to drive into it … Out of the river bottom with a dirty, cracked windshield … Especially if it’s the night you’ve chosen to give driving lessons On the bright side (literally), prayers were answered, and it was a gorgeous, though chilly, night Also, in relationship-saving news, when “the boss” doesn’t like the way you feed fat cattle, you put on your “real boss” pants and let him show you the way … Guess who worked her way out of a job? And, with four kids, you’re near-certain to have the right personality for any job at hand#sunsetprayers#graceNgratitude#strongertogether

April 10, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97876.06: “For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven…” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1 … I’m not very handy with a Bible, but this verse has stuck with me for years. And, it’s the first thought I had when recapping our very good, very full day. Bryce Healy doesn’t like when I stray too far from sarcastic humor and witty banter, so I won’t preach But, I will tell you I believe in the importance of a life with full seasons … Yes, even the yucky, hard ones because that’s where real lessons in growth and purpose can be learned. And, since it was national sibling day, I will say my siblings are simply the best, and they are very lucky to have me#strongertogether#toosleepy2Bfunny

April 11, 2020
Captain’s Log, Stardate 97878.72: Some days you’re saving lives and moving the needle of progress forward. Other days, you’ve run over the battery charger, had two yards of cattle mix themselves up, and not received the much-needed part you ordered … All before noon, when you had really planned a full day of weather prepping On those days, you’re grateful it isn’t all worse, and if you keep looking for the good, you might be reminded exactly how much of it you have all around you! (And, if you don’t see all the good, phone a friend. The good ones will listen, remind you of the good, and listen some more) #gratitudeB4platitude

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We Love Teachers

Day 2: I’ve realized the past few days merely represent “a weekend at home”. Tomorrow begins reality.

I don’t mind the slower pace. I don’t miss the social pressures of doing everything or going everywhere. It doesn’t bother me to be socially distant. Even though I joke, I enjoy the kids and all the projects both inside and out.

I am grateful we are ranchers with plenty of work and space despite the stress of no market. I am grateful my work doesn’t hinge on in-person connections.

Yet, my dog’s face is surely the expression I made when the notion of having to homeschool hit me: “Well played God. It appears teaching–the last thing on my youthful list of ‘nevers’–might come true also.”#weloveteachers

Copper's face surely looks like the face I made when homeschooling was mentioned!
The look you make when you realize the last item on your youthful list of ‘nevers’ might become reality!
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