A Spot for an Idea

Since the beginning of training this winter, I’ve been thinking about a cause to dedicate my marathon to. It’s a small race with no need to sign up with a charity to gain entry, and I never envisioned fundraising on a huge scale.


I don’t even like asking people for money. You never know which families are already pinching pennies, and I don’t want to add to that stress. I also really want to run this marathon. I enjoy the journey and the training. Why should people donate money for me to do something I want to do anyway?

{I’ll stop there because I don’t want to talk you out of it. :-) }

I will just say that in the last week I’ve found an idea and a cause that’s squelched my reservations. It has gotten me even more energized to run, and I hope it will resonate with you too.

It’s late and I want to do justice to the details, so please look for a new post early this week on what I’ll be running for! Now I should be doing as this lady does and getting some Zzz’s…


But I’ll share the week’s training first. I kept it mellow after the numbers last week, and hopefully I’ll be ready for another big week starting tomorrow.

Marathon Training March 31 – April 6

Monday – off
Tuesday – 3.15 miles easy-ish fartlek in 30:00
Wednesday – 5.13 miles easy in 47:57
Thursday – off
Friday – 5.25 miles in 47:11 with 4 x 800m @ 7:54, 3 x 400m @ 7:42
Saturday – off
Sunday – 11 miles easy, not timed

Total – 24.5 miles

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A Spot of Spring

With April just around the corner, it’s inevitable that snow is melting and and spring is slowly coming. Yes, I know spring officially arrived on March 20th, but that doesn’t always mean much in Minnesota!

We got fresh snow on Thursday, and now it’s already so stark and brown again amid the leftover grey piles of snow. Somehow it’s pretty in the plainness. I haven’t shared an ordinary look around lately, so I’ve decided to give you a peek at the last week.






This last one is just me celebrating the first outdoor run I’ve done in shorts all year!

Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better training week. I eased in to my runs with some shorter efforts, had a nice speed session on Thursday, and felt good enough Saturday to tackle 20 miles. The pulled muscles that were painful last week now just feel like a very mild side ache. I’m hoping the ache will fully go away soon, but right now it’s totally manageable. I also couldn’t believe how relaxed I stayed over 20 miles, keeping my heart rate around 150 for the run. I ran everything outside this week except the 7 miles on Thursday, and my legs feel better and my heart just doesn’t have to work as hard when I’m running outdoors.

Here are the details…

Marathon Training March 24-30

Monday – 3.5 miles in 32:20, easy in light snow outdoors
Tuesday – 4.26 miles in 39:59 easy
Wednesday – off
Thursday – 7.38 miles in 1:07:00 with 3 miles @ 8:25, 3x400m @ 7:54, HR 170
Friday – off
Saturday – 20.1 miles in 3:08:38 moderate pace with last 2 miles @ 8:50, 8:33, HR 152
Sunday – 5.53 miles in 54:15, very easy recovery run

Total – 40.8 miles

Posted in Boo the bulldog, Calvin, Running, Spot of the Week | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Behind the Scenes with Henrietta

It’s been a long , cold winter across Minnesota, but Etta (the blog cow of Cow Spots and Tales) has just kept working hard doing what she does best.

Being a dairy cow!

I caught up with her at the feed bunk yesterday as she was having lunch with her red-headed friend. She let me snap a photo, and she was even kind enough to answer a few questions.


Q: So, how has the winter been treating you this year?

Etta: It’s been long but pretty good from my perspective. I’m glad I’m an indoor cow that lives in a barn because there were some really cold nights for sure! In some ways winter is nice because all the flies and bugs are dead so they can’t bother us. I never get too hot in the winter, and the sun still shines through the curtains on nice days. I am looking forward to all the curtains and doors being opened up for the summer though.

The other bad thing about winter is that sometimes if it’s snowing and the weather is really bad it takes longer for fresh feed to get to my pen in the morning. I try to be patient though, because I always know it will be coming. Usually I can hear you guys pushing the snow away for the tractor and feed wagon to get through, and then I know feed is close behind.

Q: It sounds like you have a good attitude about the seasons, Etta! Speaking of seasons, I hear you’re expecting a baby this summer. Is that right?

Etta: Yes, that’s right. I’m due on August 8 with my second calf. I don’t know whether it’s a bull or heifer; I’m looking forward to being surprised. Most of the cows around here have a baby about once a year, so I’m glad to stay on schedule.

Q: Does that mean you’ll get some vacation time during the hot days of July?

Etta: I sure will. All cows “dry up,” or quit giving milk for 1-2 months prior to having another calf. At this farm the normal dry period is 45 days, so in late June I will quit giving milk and spend my days just eating and resting until baby arrives.

Q: How has this lactation (your first period of producing milk) been going?

Etta: I feel I’m doing really well. So far, I’ve given 16,180 pounds of milk (about 2,000 gallons) this lactation. The barn computer keeps track of that number so I don’t have to remember it.

Every month, someone comes out from the Dairy Herd Improvement Association to monitor and test all of our milk. On his last test day, I gave 70 pounds of milk (just under 9 gallons), and my milk had 4.2% fat and 3.0% protein. I also had a low somatic cell count, which is a measure of udder health.

Things are going really well if I do say so myself!

Q: That’s great. It sounds like your milk production is in line with the other first-lactation cows.

Etta: Yes, I think so. The older cows give a little more on average, but I’m not worried about that. After my next calf I’ll likely give more milk too!

Q: That sounds good. Are there any other happenings you want to share with our readers?

Etta: Well, my days are pretty easy and I’m happy for that. I like being milked in the parlor three times each day, and I’ve made lots of friends in pen 2 where I live. I’ve been vaccinated a few times this winter, and that has helped keep me healthy.

On April 1, my heifer calf Sophia will turn eight months old. I can’t believe how fast the time goes! I think that’s all for now.

Thanks Etta, for taking the time to share with our readers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this inside look into the life of a dairy cow on our farm. If you’ve got any of your own questions for Etta, please leave them in the comments. I’ll make sure to include them in our next Q&A.

Etta in the milking parlor. Apparently I caught her sticking out her tongue while she was chewing her cud.

Posted in Cows, Henrietta (Etta for short!) | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

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.
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.


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