Clean water, wildlife and parks – but dirty politics

Let me clarify a few things: First and foremost, I’m a mother. My four boys are my sun, moon and stars, even when they drive me crazy. On top of that, I’m a farmer, a rancher, an agriculture advocate, a student, a blogger, a paralegal, a softball player, a writer and someone who enjoys having a fun time. I am not an economist, a tax expert, a politician (yet), an accountant, a lawyer…none of those things.

boys on first day of school

I have four reasons for writing…and here they are.

So when I write, I write from the heart, I do my research and I write my opinion. It’s how I view the world, and the $18 per year that I spend on this site gives me the right to share those views as I see fit, within legal reason. If you want to point out what you see as flaws in my reasoning, I’m OK with that. But be careful what you wish for – because I like research. And I like information. And I like to share.

Recently one of my posts on Measure 5 apparently ruffled some feathers. I was told that my “pie analogy” was flawed. I actually find that funny, because one of the “Yes on 5″ ads brings up the same analogy. Stating something along the lines that there’s still “enough to go around.”

He stated that this proposed constitutional amendment does not affect the general fund. I think he needs to double check that. Unless, of course, my research is all flawed. And it’s possible, since I’m not paid to do this professionally.

Check out the numbers yourself:

Oil Tax allocations for 2011-13 biennium

So that little issue should be answered. Yes, Measure 5 would seem to have an impact on the whole “pie” thing. But let’s say that wasn’t an issue. There’s still a lot of flaws here.

Let me check off my biggest concerns:

1) Mandated spending in our state constitution. How many times can I emphasize that this is a bad idea?

2) An extraordinary amount of money with no clear plan. It sets up a fund where money can be “granted” to projects that are approved by a board of people (only one is specifically a farmer).  $150 million per year. Almost $3 million per week. Yikes. I was told that it’s really not all that much money. I’m sorry, but as a mother of a child that has been diagnosed with a rare metabolic condition, I could only imagine what that type of money could do for research into a cure. Not that much money? I shudder to think of the type of world we’re heading towards, when you can scoff at that type of funding.

Yes, our family values the outdoors. But the type of funding tied to this constitutional amendment could change the world for a lot of kids in our state...including George's.

Yes, our family values the outdoors. But the type of funding tied to this constitutional amendment could change the world for a lot of kids in our state…including George’s.

3) I wonder if they forgot that our last legislative session passed a similar fund already. Oh, that’s right, though…they can’t buy land with that money.

4) We have some real needs in our state that this money can address. There are children with rare conditions that slip through the cracks. There is research that can be funded. There are advances that can be made.

I have no desire to get into a mudslinging fight. But I cannot put my children’s future at risk with this type of irresponsible mandate.

Do we really want to keep North Dakota’s traditions alive? Then let’s take care of the water, the air, the land the right way. Because it’s the right thing to do. That’s the North Dakota tradition.

My sunset tonight was just as beautiful as it was yesterday – and it will be beautiful tomorrow, too.

Hungry for Harvest – Chicken pot pie

I decided that I would start a little feature on my blog called Hungry for Harvest. I’ll post occasional, easy recipes that are a hit at harvest time. And my first one was a doozy!

I’ve never made homemade pot pies before. I don’t mind the one I buy at the store, and I always thought homemade ones were time consuming and difficult. I was wrong. And they are delicious!

The best part? Less than 15 minutes from start to in the oven. Can’t beat that during harvest season! (And I bet it would freeze amazing, too!)

Here’s my ingredients:

  • Two refrigerator pie crusts (go ahead, make your own, I’m just not that good)
  • Chicken breasts, cooked, cut up and seasoned to your liking
  • Frozen bag of mixed veggies (whatever you like)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • Heavy whipping cream (milk, half-and-half, all work)

I sprayed a glass pie plate with olive oil, and then laid out one pie crust.

In a pan, I heated the chicken, soup, veggies and cream. Mix thoroughly.

Dish into the pie plate, top with second crust.

Pinch together the two pie crusts. I then pressed the edges with a fork. Slice four slices in the crust, about an inch from the edge.

Cook in the oven at 375 for about 25 minutes, or until crust is golden.

chicken pot pie slice

Not the cleanest photo, but that’s real harvest cooking right there.

Stand back as the herd devours supper.

Four and twenty chickens...baked in a pie.

Four and twenty chickens…baked in a pie.

Measure 5 – Wrong for this Dakota

I’ve spent a lot of time recently talking to people about politics. I don’t mind, actually…in fact, if I can let you in on a little secret – I’m a bit of a political junkie. I love a good debate, and I enjoy crunching numbers and calculating polls. Yeah, I probably need to seek therapy.

But this Measure 5 that will be voted on in a few weeks in North Dakota has me worried. It’s not that I don’t think we can beat it – I’m pretty certain we will. What I’m worried about is that people really don’t understand what’s at the heart of the issue. And the only thing worse than someone that doesn’t vote, is someone that doesn’t understand their vote.

Let me try to explain: Measure 5, if passed, would take 5% of North Dakota’s share of the oil extraction tax and will set up a fund, where it will be mandated that at least 75% of the money must be allocated prior to the end of the fiscal year. It is a constitutional amendment.

Let’s just stop right there. The fact that this is a constitutional amendment should be enough of a cause for pause. This measure is intended to change the course of our state. Period. Our state constitution will mandate spending. Mandate. Spending. Is anyone getting this?

The amount of money is astronomical. We’re talking about millions per week. Per. Week.

But enough about that…I’ve already discussed that before.

Let me break this down a little further:

This mandated spending will come off the top. Imagine, if you will, that I have baked a pie. I give my oldest son a slice. Then when my other three boys come in the house, they ask about the pie. It would be pretty hard for me to convince them that the whole pie is still there. Yet, that’s exactly what the proponents of this measure are trying to do. They claim that it’s not taking money from other projects. But, when you take a piece of the pie, that piece is gone – no matter how hard you try to convince everyone that the whole pie is still there.

Big Bro passed his Hunter's Safety test this summer, which means this fall was his first year deer hunting. I bought him his own .243, along with hearing protection, and he had a great few days in the field - even though the amount of crop standing didn't help us out.

Big Bro passed his Hunter’s Safety test this summer, which means this fall was his first year deer hunting. I bought him his own .243, along with hearing protection, and he had a great few days in the field – even though the amount of crop standing didn’t help us out.

Listen – I love hunting. I love our parks. I’m a member of a few. I love wildlife. And I think they’re tasty, too. In fact, I just made pheasant for supper. I have no desire to see detrimental changes to our landscape.

But I will not saddle my children with a constitutional amendment that has no spending plan. I cannot vote for a measure that mandates spending in our state constitution. And I will not give my state an open checkbook to drive up land prices and wreak havoc with our property taxes.

Right now, EJ plays in the dirt...but I hope that someday he'll be able to farm in this great state. I'm doing my part to guarantee that. Will you?

Right now, EJ plays in the dirt…but I hope that someday he’ll be able to farm in this great state. I’m doing my part to guarantee that. Will you?

During the length of time allotted in this amendment, almost every acre of farmland could be purchased. I cannot vote for something that could possibly destroy what I love most about this state, and using tax dollars to do so.

Don’t worry. I’m not done writing yet.

When you worry about a worrier

My oldest child is a worrier. Yes, I know that it’s common for the oldest to take responsibility on, but this is a bit extreme. He worries about things that most children should never even think about – paying bills, ensuring that the cattle are safe, listening to the news, etc.

In fact, just last week we had a discussion that really opened my eyes to his level of concern – he wanted to know about the selective service process, when he needed to start signing up and his likelihood of being drafted. He’s 12.

My oldest son...he has the kindest old soul.

My oldest son…he has the kindest old soul.

I’m guessing that there was a conversation about this topic through health class. I am grateful that he comes to me with his concerns, but I wonder how long he let it bother him before he finally broke down and asked his questions. He sometimes has a hard time sleeping because his head is so full of questions.

I have no desire to change who he is as a person. And I am most certain that his worrying has not reached a level of needing medication. It’s not that he’s incapable of concentrating on anything else when he’s worried…it’s just a distraction.

An idea hit me on Sunday afternoon that I thought may work for him. In fact, I had read about it in a fiction book, but at the time it didn’t occur to me that it may help my son. But now I think it may be just the ticket.

In this particular story (sorry, I cannot remember the name of the book), the character worried about a lot of things. In order for her mind to rest, she would right down the problem, then write down the potential solutions. Nothing was too outrageous to write down. And finding a solution also gave her an outlet to research the problem. She was able to focus better, because she had an immediate source to go to with any problem that she encountered. And she didn’t spend so much time worrying about the “what-if’s.”

And I think this could work beautifully for my son. A journal of sorts. Yet he’d be able to write down the answers to his questions.

Maybe I can help him spend more time enjoying the little things...we all need to do that.

Maybe I can help him spend more time enjoying the little things…we all need to do that.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. I’m pretty excited to try this out and see if it works. And I think he is, too.

I never in a million years thought that as a mother I would have to worry about my son’s tendency to worry. But I’m willing to help him in any way possible – because that’s just what mothers do.

I’m there for him. And that’s one thing he’ll never have to worry about.

A wolf in geese clothing

November is sneaking up on us…which means that it’s time to start thinking about what’s going to happen at the ballot box. And, let me tell you, as a North Dakotan, there’s a few things that have me concerned. Let me take a minute to explain to you one of my largest concerns:

The “Clean Water, Wildlife & Parks Amendment.”

Let me just say, that if it walks like a duck, and talks about ducks, doesn’t mean that it’s good for the ducks.

And it’s not good for North Dakotans, either.

gun, hunting

I love hunting. I love eating what I hunt. I will be hunting with my oldest son this year, something we are BOTH looking forward to.

Let’s start off with the obvious: this is a change to our STATE CONSTITUTION. That’s right. We’re to put a “tax” into our state constitution. A bad idea. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes any state can make is putting tax code into the constitution. Why? Because the constitution is meant to be a permanent, living, breathing document…and also not the easiest to change. We need to take any state constitutional amendment seriously. And this doesn’t belong here. Ever.

Second of all, check out the numbers:

  • $150,000,000 – the amount the fund would receive per year, right now
  • 75% – the amount that MUST be spent each year, according to the amendment
  • $2.8 million – the amount that the fund would receive each WEEK, right now
  • $4.8 BILLION – the amount the fund would receive in the next 25 years
  • $65,000,000 – the amount that ND already provides to conservation through the state legislature
  • 13 – the number of members of the advisory board who would provide funding recommendations
  • 1 – the number of farmer members on the proposed board
  • 0 – the number of spending plans proposed for this constitutionally-mandated fund

I don’t know about you, but those numbers don’t sit well with me.

How does a fund of this magnitude spend $2.8 million each week? Well, I checked out the website for the backers of the amendment…and it was pretty easy to see what the intentions for this money would be: to purchase land.

As the number of farms and ranches in North Dakota dwindles, and the age of farmers and ranchers increase, I cannot help but worry about the future of agriculture. My oldest son has already expressed a lot of interest in farming, yet if he has to compete with an entity that has an unlimited checkbook…well, how can he even begin to compete?

Waiting his turn...his dad is in the tractor, his grandpa is in the combine. Is his future in jeopardy?

Waiting his turn…his dad is in the tractor, his grandpa is in the combine. Is his future in jeopardy?

We talk about wanting to see small family farms make a comeback. We talk about wanting to see more young people involved in agriculture. Yeah…we do a lot of talking…but it’s time we put our votes where our mouth is.

Let’s address conservation funding where it should be addressed – legislatively.

This is a pile of deer carcasses that were collected from our hay yard a few years ago. Approximately 60-80 deer in this group. We had hundreds in our yard, and many died that winter. Less than a mile away was a parcel of land that was taken out of agriculture production specifically to provide habitat for wildlife. Yet it did nothing to "conserve" these animals.

This is a pile of deer carcasses that were collected from our hay yard a few years ago. Approximately 60-80 deer in this group. We had hundreds in our yard, and many died that winter. Less than a mile away was a parcel of land that was taken out of agriculture production specifically to provide habitat for wildlife. Yet it did nothing to “conserve” these animals.

I love hunting. I love fishing. I love wildlife.

But I love my farm. I love agriculture. And I love my children.

I’m pretty certain that Little Red Riding Hood’s mother wouldn’t have sent her out to the wolf, had she known what was going to happen. I have no intention of letting the wolf loose on my children’s futures, either.

I’m voting NO on the constitutional amendment.

My letter to George…

My dearest little boy,

I am certain you know how much I love you. If I have said it once today, I have said it a hundred times. You have taught me so much about life, but you have taught me even more about love. I have learned from you to not take time or life for granted, for we never know what tomorrow will bring.

For the last five years I have held you in my arms and protected you from everything that I could. I asked questions when I wasn’t satisfied, I have demanded action when I thought it was needed, and I have fought for what I thought was right for you. And it’s been worth every sleepless night and every tear-filled moment.

George, summer 2010, before we had a diagnosis more than "failure to thrive." This picture sometimes makes me cringe...wishing I could go back and cheer myself on...pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

George, summer 2010, before we had a diagnosis more than “failure to thrive.” This picture sometimes makes me cringe…wishing I could go back and cheer myself on…pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

I have spent so much time ensuring that you have a long life…and now it’s time for me to let you live.

Kindergarten. I wasn’t sure this day would come. They’ve said from the beginning that we can’t take the little things for granted. That there’s a chance that some day we’ll have to start over – you may need to learn things over and over again. They’ve warned us about regressions and delays. But they weren’t prepared for you.

They do not know your spirit. But I do.

This is the George that we know and love...he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it's  not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

This is the George that we know and love…he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it’s not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

You will get on a bus this morning and start a new chapter. And I will have to fight against every fiber in my being to keep you safe with me. The world does not know how to protect you like I do. I can tell them all they need to know, but that does not mean that they will understand what’s on the line. But you will show them.

They will see the light in your eyes, and they will understand. You are not just a little boy going to kindergarten. You are hope. You are love. You are life.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

My dearest George, you are meant for great things. Your story was written before time began. You will touch people in ways that they won’t understand for years to come.

You are going to school to learn so many new lessons. But what they don’t know is that you will teach so many as well.

You have faced adversity and tribulations that many could never imagine. And yet, you continue to trust with a loving heart that so freely gives that it sometimes takes my breath away.

Kindergarten. Such a big step. I’ve worked so hard to ensure that you’ve been growing. I forgot that it means that you’re also growing up.

This is what love...and hope...looks like.

This is what love…and hope…looks like.

I do not know what the future holds. And I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t scared. And I’ve always promised not to lie to you. Even when something may hurt. And as much as this hurts me, and as unsure as I am, I know that I can not hold you back. Even if I wanted to.

My dearest little boy, as you walk into that school tomorrow, I can only hope to be half as strong as you are. And never mind Mom if her eyes are a little damp, and she holds you just a little longer – I’d hold you forever if I could.

I know it’s just the first day of kindergarten – but I think I know what it feels like to have sent the first mission to the moon. I’ll rest easy once you’ve landed back home.

I love you, little man – to the moon and back.

Mom

It doesn’t take distance

I recently traveled with my boys on our first “real” vacation. It was a blast, and I have to thank Miss A for planning 99.9% of it. I seriously do not know what I did to deserve her, but I thank God every day that she’s been in our lives.

A vehicle of love and fun...no matter where we're going!

A vehicle of love and fun…no matter where we’re going!

After returning, I started thinking about the trip and what it meant to my family. And then a comment was made to me that really got me thinking – do we really need to get away to love each other?

Now, hear me out before you judge what I’m saying.

I love my boys dearly. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. And they knew that, whether or not we went away on a vacation. Our relationship did not improve, nor did it change, just by leaving the farm. All that the vacation did was give me some amazing memories and removed a few distractions. It didn’t strengthen my love. It didn’t change how I felt. It wasn’t a magic cure-all.

Because it doesn’t take distance to know how you feel. Your heart knows…whether you travel a mile, or 1,300 of them.

The same can be said for anyone in a relationship, whether it be husband-wife, sisters, friends, etc. You don’t have to go anywhere to make someone feel loved. Does it feel good to sometimes “get away” from it all? Sure. But it shouldn’t change your feelings towards the people you’re with. No, going on a vacation just relieves a few of the pressures. It eliminates that nagging feeling that there’s something else you “should” be doing. It makes it easier to just enjoy the moment. But it doesn’t change the heart.

Do I love my boys more now that we’ve returned? Nope. But I don’t love them any less, either. My love was never based on the place where we were located.

Because the distance between two hearts is no greater than the space you allow.