the moving carousel of milking cows

I love factory-type tours so when my mother in law asked if we would be interested in visiting a new diary during our recent stay in Minnesota, we were quick to agree.

To be honest, my expectations were low. I’ve been spoiled living in Idaho with fresh, raw cow milk. I’ve been friends with the farmers. I know what the cows eat (grass in the summer and alfalfa in the winter) and how they are treated. These cows are not given a number, but a name. These are happy cows. Happy cows are going to give me awesome milk. Lately, I’ve even had the milk hand delivered to my front door two times a week. That’s a tough act to follow. But as I said, I love tours so how I could I not go?

Cow Carousel

Upon arrival we were entranced by the moving carousel of milking cows. What a sight to behold! Just over 100 cows (most of them Jersey) slowing turning in a circle taking a 6 minute ride from start to finish while they are milked.

cow field trip

Next, we saw where the collected milk is cooled and transferred directly into the trucks that will deliver their load to a nearby cheese plant within hours of milking.

cow field trip

cow field trip

One of the most mind-blowing aspects of the tour was this little machine that processes the cow manure in such a way that almost all of the moisture is removed. The resulting product is dry, crumbly and reused to line the cow beds!

cow field trip

cow field trip

As we visited the mama cows, we were greeted with the best surprise of the day-a baby calf being born right in front of our eyes! We stood quiet and in awe, ever thankful for the wonderful timing of our tour. Click here to view the 2 minute video of the birth.

I still love my raw milk and the option to farm on a small-scale. However, I will willingly admit that for a large-scale operation, this dairy was doing a lot of things right and I’m glad we had a chance to see it in person.

the perfect potty break: or the time we accidentally visited Pompeys Pillar

As I write this we are driving west on Hwy 90 through Montana. Brown hills poke up around me in the distance with patches of green trees and low-laying brush. Fields with freshly harvested hay show off their large round bales and a gentle breeze is coaxing the leaves lining the road into a steady wave of hello and farewell.

80 miles back Ashlyn was in need of a potty stop. In what has turned out to be the second serendipitous stop in two days (the first being a potty break yesterday right next to a Geese in Flight sculpture), we found ourselves at the entrance of Pompeys Pillar National Historic Landmark.  My eyebrows raised at the words “National Historic Landmark”. We’ve driven this route approximately once a year for the past eight years and I’ve never noticed this sign nor did I have a clue what was historical about Pompeys Pillar. However, after a quick search online, I realized the significance of this location and petitioned my husband for a visit.
((Cue the angels singing their Holy songs of glory))
I married up my friends. Mr. Wonderful agreed to another detour (this would be following our before mentioned detour to see the World’s Largest Holstein Cow and our recent stop to see the World’s Largest Buffalo).
buffalo
Buffalo detour

Our quick potty stop morphed into a beautiful hour of discovery. We learned about bull boats (boats made out of buffalo skins reinforced with bent sticks), saw examples of dugout canoes and for the piece de resistance: William Clarks signature carved and dated into the side of the Pompeys Pillar! This signature happens to be the last remaining physical evidence of the Corp of Discovery’s trail. Even better? Today is William Clarks birthday! I stand amazed at the perfection of this potty break and grateful for a husband who enjoys the journey just as much as the destination.

pompeys pillar
Standing at the top of Pompeys Pillar
Junior Ranger Pompeys Pillar
Ashlyn getting a new Junior Ranger badge

On the banks of Plum Creek

“As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then. It is not the things you have that make you happy. It is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder

Any Little House on the Prairie fans out there?  I’m waving my hand! We haven’t read all the books yet. In fact, the only book we have read so far is Farmer Boy. Does it count that we own all of the Little House books? Does it count that we have been working our way through the TV series DVDs? Yes? Thank you, I agree.

Moving on.

If you are familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder, then the town Walnut Grove will perk your ears. Guess who recently visited Walnut Grove, Minnesota? I’m waving my hand again!

We walked on the banks of Plum Creek and stood where the Ingalls’ dugout home once stood.

Photo: the banks of Plum Creek
Photo: The yellow rope marks the perimeter and location of the location of their dugout home

 

Continue reading “On the banks of Plum Creek”

Minnesota bound

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The Ledeboer gang loving their audio books

We’ve recently embarked on our last big road trip before we officially launch our family’s traveling adventure this September. Locking up our RV and piling into our van, we headed east from Idaho to Minnesota to celebrate my in-laws 50th anniversary.

The back of our van was shamefully full as we brought some items to store with my in-laws that we did not wish to leave unattended in storage. The rear seat between Hunter and Ashlyn was ridiculously heavy-laden with library books as we seem to be sucking all the remaining marrow out of the bones of our library cards before we tearfully say good-bye to easy, free accessible literature. The middle row was filled with a cooler of snacks between our younger two boys and Trent and I smiled deeply from the front as we hit the road once again with our family in tow. Continue reading “Minnesota bound”

Top 3 lessons from our first RV excursion

Our first RV family excursion took place last week as we traveled several hours Northwest toward my childhood home of Kettle Falls, Washington. Our trip was prompted by my 20 year high school reunion as well as the opportunity to visit family.  Although we have been living in our little home on wheels for a little over a month, we had not yet taken her out on the road as a family. Now that we have our maiden voyage tucked safely in our pockets, I thought I’d share our initial impression of this new lifestyle that we have chosen and the top three things that stood out from our trip.

Faster packing

Our family is no stranger to road trips. In the last several years we have driven back and forth from Idaho to Southern California, Minnesota and Tennessee. Each trip has varied in time and focus, but the process of packing has always been tedious. How many outfits should we pack? What kind of snacks should I bring? Do we need swimwear? Should we bring our own pillows? What kind of shoes will we need? Regardless of how many trips we take, the questions do not always have consistent answers due to changing variables. This time however, the question shifted from what do we need to take to how do I best prep our house for movement down the road? Since this was our first trip, I had not yet established “traveling places” for items that need to be stored during travel. We did our best to protect items that were prone to movement or shifting. The Berkey water filter was moved to the shower. The appliances in the pantry were padded with a pillow to prevent extra shifting.  Glass bowls under the sink were padded with kitchen towels. While none of these preparatory processes were tedious, they were more time-consuming because it was our first time. By the time we were prepping for our return trip, I could already sense the improvement in our process. I also gained the awareness that I could prepare most of the kitchen and living room the night before our departure making for a more efficient morning. Continue reading “Top 3 lessons from our first RV excursion”