The Worst Job on a Farm

Some realities on the farm never get any easier.

Death is one of those things. Loosing an animal is always hard. Making the decision to put one down – and having to do it – can be even worse.

Knowing a cow is suffering and isn’t likely to get any better, I often feel the same rush of emotion and stinging in my eyes I felt as a little girl when it was time for my beloved Daisy cow to go.
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Daisy and I back in the day.

Below is a partial re-post from a story I shared several years back. While the ending doesn’t always go this way, the consideration and care that goes into a decision like this is always the same.

Life and death.

It’s reality, right? Especially on a farm.

Sometimes that reality is a lot harder to deal with than I would like.

Here on the farm we are lucky to have many healthy and happy calves born every year.

It’s not the norm, but sometimes cows lose their pregnancy early, just as a human mother may have a miscarriage. Still births also happen on occasion, no matter how carefully we monitor the mother cows.

It’s sad to witness a cow futility trying to coax her baby to stand when there just isn’t life or breath in the little body.

I do think some of these situations are nature’s way of dealing with a calf that wasn’t healthy. Maybe there were developmental problems, and the calf couldn’t have survived or had a normal life.

Other times, a calf is born very much alive, but they simply are not healthy.

A little heifer born this winter started out okay, but she was wobbly on her feet. This is normal for a few days, but instead of getting better, she got worse.

Even at a few days old it became evident that her joints and limbs were abnormal.

We had the vet look at her, and we followed several treatments to try and keep her comfortable while bringing healing to her troubled joints.

In the human world, this baby would be the type you find in the neonatal ICU. There would probably be research done on her specific condition, and specialists would know how to help her.

Maybe she would ultimately be in a wheelchair, but she could still have a chance at life.

Unfortunately, they don’t make wheelchairs for cows. People and animals are different, and when an animal is having serious difficulty walking, the prognosis is bleak.

The decision to put an animal down feels like a catch 22. You hate to give up on her, but it’s not fair or right to let an animal struggle when you know there is little chance of recovery.

After we’d done what we could with treatments and TLC, it was time to say goodbye.

Tonight there will be one less calf to feed.

Even in the midst of 100+, we absolutely notice that empty place. As I walk her row tonight, I’ll give thanks for the healthy and vigorous calves, and I’ll pay somber respect to the one who isn’t there.

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Baby Calf Care | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

A Little Bird Spot

When I’m training for a big race, I can’t help but follow the latest running trends and news. Actually, I like to do this even if I don’t have a single race on the calendar. I’m not just a runner, I’m a running fan. I know people claim it’s “boring to watch people run,” but I’ve been captivated by it since my track and field days.

I suppose because I used to run events like the 100 meter hurdles and the 400 meters, I fully appreciate just how taxing those races can be and how fast the elite times are.

As a marathoner myself, I can also relate to the struggle and elation of those who tackle 26.2. While it may take me almost double as long as the best in the world to cover the distance, I still see progress in my own journey and rejoice in each finish.

So yes, I am a running fan. Two – okay three – things in sports really make me wish I were in the stands and get me ready to cheer. Twins baseball, Gopher sports, and running events. (Read, the Olympics, US Champs, Boston, Millrose, NYC Marathon, etc or even a local track meet.)

Racing against each other is such a pure and simple thing. Runners want to be the best, but more importantly, they want to be their best. I know with each run I take, I believe in myself a little bit more and I’m another step closer to being my best.

Why am I sharing all this today?

Truth be told, it was a rough week. I’m still fighting allergies, and I’ve got sore, tender muscles in my right rib cage. Things started hurting so badly this week that I finally went to the doctor. Mainly I was relieved to learn I hadn’t cracked a rib and my appendix wasn’t about to burst.

When other things were ruled out and the doctor learned I was a farmer, he simply nodded his head and said it would be pretty easy to pull or strain some muscles on the farm. Now I’m armed with muscle relaxers for bedtime, permission to take extra Ibuprofren, orders to “take it a little easier” at work but the ok to exercise as normal as long as things don’t hurt worse.

I’m up in the air about what this means for my race time goals, but I’ve still got April 19th (half marathon) and May 10th (marathon) circled on the calendar to be ready to run the very best I can.

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From karagoucher.com and Oiselle.com

Because I follow running news, I came across headlines this week that Kara Goucher, one of the best known and most beloved US marathoners, is leaving her Nike sponsorship for a small women’s running apparel company called Oiselle. I’ve followed Kara’s career for years, and I also know Oiselle because another of my favorites, Lauren Fleshman, signed with them last year.

Oiselle is French for bird, and this company really encourages women to fly. On her blog, Kara talks about finding passion and excitement with founder Sally and everyone at Oiselle. She made a choice to take a smaller contract because of her need to be with a company that stands for the same values she does.

It’s an incredibly cool and rare thing to watch a top athlete walk away from the biggest money contracts as Kara did and instead, “listened to my heart and taken a chance on a little flock of birds.”

I think their whole flock is certainly in the middle of something incredible.

The entire thing is just a feel-good story that has me excited about tackling everything with positivity and thankfulness to God that I can.

Now for the week in review. I know these numbers below are underwhelming, but I post them with the knowledge that rest AND miles will heal me and make me stronger. I wanted to run long on Saturday, but I’m grateful that my more sensible husband, who normally stays out of my running completely, convinced me otherwise.

Marathon Training March 17 – 23

Monday – off
Tuesday – off
Wednesday – off
Thursday – 4.22 miles in 41:00 easy
Friday – 4.05 miles in 38:37 easy
Saturday – 7 miles in 67:04, easy
Sunday – off

Total – 15.3 miles

Posted in Running, Spot of the Week | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sometimes You Just Need Pot Roast

If you read my marathon training, farming, and eating guest blog last week, you’ll remember I said when “you’re running lots of miles every week you’re always hungry.”

This is undeniably true.

I’ve always had a healthy appetite back to the days I grew up on whole milk, meat, potatoes, garden veggies, and my mom’s homemade apple crisp.

Farming and marathon training seem to combine to create a whole new space in my stomach that gets hungry and needs to be filled. Among runners, we even joke that training gives us “runger.”

While I fully believe in the value of lettuce and tomato with feta and an apple and banana nearly everyday, I crave more. This girl likes beef!

To get full and stay full, I need the protein, fat, and filling-ness of meat, eggs, and dairy.

I don’t share a lot of recipes on the blog because it’s not the way I cook. My baking adventures require instructions, but cooking is all about putting things in a skillet or pot until they taste good.

For the sake of recipe-liking cooks, I’m going to try my best at sharing one tonight. If you’ve ever been skeptical about pot roast, I hope these ideas inspire you to give it a try.

My Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast

- 1 beef roast (rump or chuck), 3-4 lbs.
- 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
- 3-4 medium red potatoes, quartered
- 2-3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 can stewed tomatoes (or fresh frozen)
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 beef buillon cube
- 1 cup water
- 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
- dash of red wine, if you please
- salt and pepper

Directions:

Add butter to a skillet and brown roast on all sides. (You can also brown the onion and garlic if you have time.)

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Transfer roast to a large slow cooker, and add in the veggies, seasonings, water, and wine. Don’t forget to salt and pepper generously.

I always have frozen tomatoes in my freezer so I use them, but stewed tomatoes work well too.

Don’t be afraid to switch around the veggies if needed or sub out seasonings you don’t prefer. The bay leaf is worth it though, honest. Throw in two if you can. (And remove them prior to serving.)

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Cook on low for 10-12 hours until beef is tender and kitchen smells amazing.

A few notes:

-My crockpot is big. You can use a smaller roast and roughly 1/2 the other ingredients if you wish.

-For extra awesomeness, make the broth into gravy. Blend about 1/4 cup of flour or cornstarch into cold water until smooth. Put broth in a sauce pan, and slowly add flour mixture to hot broth. Boil and stir until thickened. Use more flour if needed.

-This recipe is versatile and forgiving. If you don’t brown the meat first, just add it directly to the crockpot and it will be fine. Switch around your veggies and seasonings as I mentioned above.

- Even easier variation: Another delicious way to serve beef is burgundy style. I make this easily as follows. Put your browned roast in the crockpot. Add chopped onion and garlic. Top with 1 package dry onion soup mix, 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, and 1.5 – 2 cups red wine. Salt and pepper. Cook on low until tender. Serve with sautéed mushrooms.

- Pot roast is always better with homemade biscuits and butter. Trust me.

Posted in Cooking and Foods | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Spot of the Week: Derailed?

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You know those weeks when things don’t go the way you envision?

Those weeks?

When work is busy, time is short, dinner is frozen-something, you’ve got a cold or allergies or both, and even your trusty car is mad at you?

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The spring thaw always creates some chaos at the farm because calves and hutches need to be moved from a melted, muddy field down to drier quarters.

Our winter area in the field is easily accessible and more sheltered from northwest storms, but not so good once the ground gets too soft.

Our paved feed area is full of feed in the fall after we finish harvest, but by spring as the feed gets used there’s more and more empty space. I would’ve liked to start moving the calves to the tar earlier this year, but we had to wait until the ice and snow started to melt enough to clear it off.
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Fresh hutches with feed in the background.
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Only the littlest babies need coats in the more mild weather.

Since Friday we’ve relocated about 75 calves, and I finally feel there’s light at the end of the tunnel. My car tire is even fixed! And the forecast says a full-blown Minnesota blizzard tomorrow with 6-12 inches of snow.

I’m still in denial about that last part.

Yesterday morning about 6:30, as I checked for new calves and mulled over all the work that needed to get done, I thought about my running for the week.

I’d run 2 miles instead of 6 on Wednesday because my sinuses were so ornery, and I hadn’t managed my long run at all on Saturday.

With last week being less than planned (only 20 miles) and this week coming apart at the seams, were my efforts derailed?

Does it even matter?

I’m probably being too dramatic here, but it’s easy to start doubting yourself. At least for me.

I decided then and there my efforts were not derailed unless I believed them to be. I can still do this. I ran 16 miles just two short Saturdays ago.

I also decided I could and would run when I got home on Sunday night. Outside if possible, inside if need be. (It was dark when I got home, so inside it was.)

One of the verses I frequently turn to when I need some perspective comes from 1 Thessalonians. It states, “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Joy. Pray. Give thanks.

I don’t claim this verse because I always feel happy or thankful. Often it’s more of an attempted call to action.

It can feel almost impossible to rejoice and give thanks when things pile up until you’re dizzy from the momentum. When I’m tired and sick prayer can be the last thing on my mind.

I think that’s the power in this verse. When it seems like everything may derail, God is there reminding you beauty and joy can be found in the hardest places. You just need to ask Him to show you where.

I don’t know what this week will bring either, but I do know I won’t be derailed. I’m going to keep moving forward.

Marathon Training March 10 – 16

Monday – 5.11 miles in 47:25 with 3 miles at 8:57, 158 HR
Tuesday – off
Wednesday – 2 miles in 19:00, 155 HR (still sick…)
Thursday – off
Friday – 4.44 miles in 40:00, progressively faster run, 9:01 average pace
Saturday – off
Sunday – 11 miles in 1:43:40 with 2 x 1 mile in 8:57, 2 x 2 miles in 8:55, 166 HR

Total – 22.6 miles

Posted in Christian Reflections, Running, Spot of the Week | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Marathons, Farming, Spring, and Me!

Spring showed up a few days ago, and now we’ve got warm sunshine, melting snow, and more mud than we know what to do with. Every season brings its own challenges!

Just because it was 50 degrees today doesn’t mean we can’t get plenty more snow in March and April. Only time will tell if spring is here to stay.

While it lasts, I’m excited to get in some longer runs outside without worrying about covering my face and wearing 3+ layers! It’s also more pleasant at the farm for animals and people alike as we do our day-to-day routine.

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Hanging out yesterday with my girls in the sunshine.

My training will move along no matter the weather, and today I realized I’m already half done with my self-declared 16 weeks of “official training.”

My thoughts on running, eating, farming, and more were also featured recently on the Dairy Makes Sense blog.

Check out the link to read about why I run and see a few fun pictures from my winter training.

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This is me last year in mid-April. Can you guess why I’m not convinced spring is here to stay? ;-)

Posted in Cooking and Foods, Running | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments