Clear my head. My thoughts and ideas do not seem to jell these days with so much of life upended by COVID-19 pandemic information and the ensuing changes. There are stay-at-home rules with unknown added weeks looming ahead. Cancellations of many enjoyable things keep piling up. Milk is being dumped throughout the dairy farm landscape due to market disruptions and prices nosedive. Health care and EMT workers must put their lives at risk to save others, and we worry about loved ones. And there is so much more to think about.
    These are difficult times for certain. How do we keep moving forward? How do we resist getting mired in negative thinking due to circumstances beyond our control?
    No one has answers. I do not intend to be political; however, I will call out Gov. Tim Walz as being a gem of a leader for Minnesota. He speaks with clarity, calmness and calls forth unity. His examples of how Minnesotans step up to the plate makes me glad to live here. I listened to his State of the State address as I cleaned up after milking and fed a newborn calf. It moved me to tears and made me feel better at least for a while.
    “Staying home is some of the hardest work, but it’s the most crucial work. … You are making a difference, and you are certainly saving lives,” Walz said.
    I decided I should start a COVID-19 journal a few weeks ago to focus on some good things happening each day. Not to gloss over these scary and uncertain times, but there are many fortunate outcomes that result from this current situation if you seek them. Some happen because of factors beyond our control, yet we can also choose to create opportunities.
    As I read through my journal entries, some patterns emerge in my writing. There are comments about the kids coming home for spring break and then not returning to college. As classes resumed, they each found a place to do the required online learning. They plug into headsets, watch screens, do problem sets, write papers. When the weather is nice, they take their laptops outside on the deck. It makes us happy to see them there.
    Leif is asked to train for his summer internship of breeding cows earlier with his more flexible schedule, so he works with technicians to learn and practice a few times a week. When home, he catches up on his classes and chores.
    Matthias studies hard and helps with calf, milking and other chores when he can. He asks questions about our farm’s practices with crops and cows as he is learning about plant nutrients, ruminant nutrition and physiology right now. It is cool to see him apply what he is learning first hand on our farm.
    Emily can do the work for her University CFANS job remotely, although she really misses her contact with co-workers. It is her final semester of college and understandably she is sad to miss the last of so many things with classmates and friends. She patiently helps with calf chores and milking when needed.
    On March 20, the first full day of spring, I write about the dueling conversations going on as I make a meal:
    - The boys are having a Zoom meeting with friends about securing a grant proposal for their food insecurity non-profit called Fasting for Friends.
    - Emily is at her desk giving input during a dairy production management class online.
    - Rolf is napping in the sunroom.
    - I am wondering if I will ever get an opportunity to vacuum and clean my house.
    I find I write a lot about the weather, farm work, the kids helping, how nice it is to have them home and get to visit with them at meal time, and how much we appreciate their help. Spring is always busy with lots of new mammas and babies, so more help is a silver lining, especially for me.
    March 25 is a rainy day and perfect for sorting and cleaning, I note in my journal. I now am taking time to work on overdue projects with fewer places to go.
    On March 26, I wrote, “Argggg! I don’t want to know anymore about viruses, how they work or how they make us sick.” I am listening to more educational things, attending webinars and watching how-to videos with endless chances to learn.
    April 2: “We got done with chores early and were about to sit down to supper. Mike poked his head in the door and said, ‘You don’t have to help, but all of the big heifers are out.’ We went out for the round up, got them back in their pen and secured the gate. With three more younger helpers, it went way faster.” So, there is some good that comes from things beyond our control.
    Nobody’s life is easy or certain at this time, but we must work together to seek the good. We will make it through. Take care.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.