France and More

10 years ago JR and I went on an agriculture and dairy study adventure to Switzerland during May term. I extended my stay for a few days with 4 girlfriends to visit Munich and Rome while JR and his buddy spent a few more weeks crisscrossing Europe with stops from Budapest and Vienna to Milan and Amsterdam. We haven’t been back to Europe since. Work, farming, and life seem to become fuller and busier all the time. I dislike that word, busy, but I don’t know what other word captures the lists and schedules and work that I can never quite complete. We love travel, but it’s hard when you are a dairy farmer. And maybe even more complicated when you’re a parent — though I love bringing Speedy with us wherever we can.

Early this summer we got an email with a European itinerary and instructions to buy plane tickets for mid-August. Our dairy farm has been part of a University of Minnesota research study for nearly a decade which looks at cross breeding Holstein cattle with two European breeds — the Montbeliarde from France and Viking Red from Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. The European dairy genetics companies from these breeds wanted to host the participating farms as we near the study’s end. We have been pleased with the process and design of the study, and I must say the results are looking promising in many areas. We also like the red and white cows a whole bunch!

While we worried about scheduling and hay and how much we would miss Speedy, we ultimately bought our plane tickets and crossed our fingers.

On Friday, August 18th we took off for Paris. We spent a day touring the city including a dinner cruise on the Seine, and the next day we made the 3 hour trip to the beaches of Normandy and the US military cemetery. JR had the pleasure (or pitfall) of being one of the few in our group of 18 who brought his driver’s license. So guess who drove one of the three cars from Paris to Normandy? ๐Ÿ˜„ I’ll spare any suspense and tell you we all made it safely, but I felt sorry for the farmer driving the big manual transmission van through the giant roundabout beneath the Arc de Triomphe on the Avenue Champs ร‰lysรฉes.

  

The emotion and sense of loss at Normandy was nearly stifling even next to the beauty of the grounds and the sea. I left more grateful than ever to those who serve our country and fight for freedom and justice around the world.

After a late return to Paris we decided we needed to see the Eiffel Tower at night. With one extra partner, lots of walking, a stop for oysters and wine, and a taxi for good measure we made it about 20 minutes before the tower’s lights went off for the night. 

  

The remaining two days were spent in the Southwest part of France for the main event — touring farms and seeing purebred Montbeliarde cows.

All our hosts were gracious dairy people and 100% farmer. JR mentioned several times that “a farmer is a farmer” truly anywhere in the world. The farmer mentality isn’t constrained by language, geography, or appearance. It’s a lifestyle and way of being. I wish I had the energy and the writing prowess to tell you more specific stories here, but this post has already lingered several weeks longer than I wanted it to. On the farms we enjoyed learning about their grass and meadow hay based feeds, seeing their style of barn and milking parlor, and appreciating many herds of quality cows.


  




  

Every single French farmer we met was wearing shorts. It wasn’t even that warm, but they claim it is standard attire all summer. And it seems that is true.

 

Tasting cheese also provided endless entertainment, as some of us didn’t quite have the palate to appreciate the varied flavors and aromas of the many cheeses. The endless wine and the delicious courses of food always helped to balance things out. We did dub a few “stinky cheese,” but I can honestly say I enjoyed all except the extremely pungent Morbier. That would be an acquired taste. Definitely.

Because scheduling and our hay crop were not entirely cooperative, we separated from the rest of our group in France. We made our way back to the Pairs airport and home while they headed on to Copenhagen and tours of the city and Scandinavian dairies. While we were both disappointed to miss the final stops, we had agreed this was the right compromise. Our hosts were so good to us, and I know I will carry good memories of the French countryside, Paris, and Normandy with me for always.

In case you are curious, my training was a low priority but I managed one glorious daybreak run in Paris. The winding streets intimidated me a bit, but I couldn’t be in Paris on a summer morning and let the opportunity pass. (Twin Cities is still calling.) After turning down a few confusing streets I made it to the river. Then it was a leisurely 4 or 5 miles navigating the cobblestones, the pigeons and the street sweepers. Oh, and running by Notre Dame. Like one does in Paris.

  
Have you been to France or do you plan to in the future? If so, share your memories or your questions with me!

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Cows, This and That | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Long July Days

  

Summer daylight is long. The amount of light we have this time of year is both wonderful and exhausting. It makes me feel like I should be doing more to capitalize on the daylight, and some days I am. But other days, I can see both the weeds and the flowers — the beauty and the mess — and I take a step back to play extra with Speedy or eat a bowl of ice cream.

I’ve always been the type who heavily feels my to-do list. I am always behind on it; usually it’s not physically written down. But I often feel guilty that I’m not doing enough. My house is never clean and presentable, I should be volunteering more, how will I get the stains out of my carpet and Speedy’s shirts?, I need to clean the barn office, I’m behind on moving calves to new pens, blah, blah, blah.

The list could go on indefinitely. You get it, right? It’s hard to feel like you don’t measure up, even if there’s no one in particular you’re measuring aganist. I don’t let it make me unhappy though. I see my blessings clearly and know I live a life of more than plenty. I have a son who absolutely lights up my world. I take time to relax (or randomly fall asleep on the couch) because my body forces me to. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m fulfilled, but I just wish I could shake that ache of always feeling behind. Not doing enough. 

A few days ago my parents were in my living room, and as Speedy was running to and fro squealing with delight my dad remarked, “don’t forget that these are some of the best days of your life.”

I love that, and it sticks with me often as I look at my son. Only I don’t think the best days have to end as Speedy grows. I want to see each new day as one of the best days. Amid the balancing act of work and home demands I pray I can intentionally find those best moments and see the joy.

I haven’t written in a few weeks, so I’ll update you on another highlight that isn’t about stress or feeling guilty or pulling weeds. ๐Ÿ˜‰

On July 1st I ran a 10K PR. Crazy, right?? It was cool for a July morning, and I laced up my shoes for a race in my hometown I try to run every year. One of my sisters was walking the 5K with her baby son and another volunteered to watch Speedy so I could run stroller-free. Now I had no excuse not to go for it. I tried to take the pace out easy, but race adrenaline does gets to me. A lot of my miles have been slow and aerobic lately with speedier efforts only here and there. Base building. I was running by feel though and not staring at a watch because I decided not to bring it. (I did start the GPS on my phone so I could over analyze later.) 

I know I kept pushing hard through mile 2 and had to back off a little by mile 3. I redeemed myself some from mile 5 to the finish, and I kept trying to gain ground and pass the lady in front of me. I didn’t quite get by her, but that hard effort the last few miles helped me finish with a time of 50:19.

If I would have realized how close I was to breaking 50:00 maybe I could have found an extra gear, but I doubt it. This race was a 19 second PR, and it was faster than I thought I was in shape to run. I admit in the WAY back of my mind I entertained thoughts of running close to 50 minutes if the weather was good, but that was mostly just optimism. I haven’t run a personal best since May of 2015 in the marathon, and my previous 10K best dated back to 2013. It was such an amazing feeling to realize that 15 months post-baby I attacked this race and ran 6.2 miles faster than ever before. I had some serious soreness the next day and an angry hip for awhile, but it was well worth that feeling of exhaustion and success at the finish. The best feeling of all was seeing this guy waving at me as I finished and scooping him up for a sweaty hug after. Good thing he’s not old enough to be embarrassed!

   
   

 

  

Once we got back to my parent’s farm after the race Speedy needed a nap in his stroller. ๐Ÿ˜„

Posted in Calvin, Christian Reflections, Family Fun, Race Reports, Running, This and That | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

June is Rolling By

It’s June in Minnesota, and summer is in full swing. Well, technically we just had the summer solstice late last night, but it has felt like summer all month.

Speedy is doing what little boys do and discovering joys such as playing in sand, eating crayons, chasing after puppy dogs, and fighting his bedtime because it’s still light out.

  
I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but I strongly feel that being a mom to my son is the greatest joy ever. Ever. I love everything about him, and I hope I can somehow manage to grow into a normal parent who sets proper boundaries, and guides effectively, etc, etc. Because right now I mostly just want to kiss his cheeks and play with him and bring him with me everywhere I reasonably can. Except to work everyday. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am grateful for our daycare provider, who allows me to get uninterrupted work done during weekdays, and it does make the rest of my mama time even sweeter.

We did our first cutting of hay at the dairy several weeks ago, and the alfalfa fields are already filling into a lush green again. Summer is busy and full of long days, but it still goes so fast!

  
 I continue to make more progress on my running than I expected, and Speedy still loves the jogging stroller. Both of my typical summer races fall on the same day this year (sadness), so I’ll have to make a choice between my hometown and my current town race on July 1st. I expect I’ll push the stroller either way.

I’m also nervously ecstatic to say I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon. I’ve got some other great moms I’m virtually training with, and I am pumped to finally run a race I’ve wanted to do for over a decade. I’m honestly busier than ever this summer, for many reasons, but getting up in the wee hours to run is proving therapeutic. I also love the days I can find time for a few miles with Speedy after daycare pickup.

  
Yes, he’s wearing a sleeper here. This was a particularly cool morning early last week. He wasn’t sleeping well, so we went out together as soon as the dawn was light enough.

June is DAIRY MONTH, so I’ll leave you with a few glimpses of the cows. 

   
   
I hope your summer is off to a great start! What do you hope to accomplish and enjoy during these warm months? 

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Spring Races 2017

Running might not seem like the most natural complement to my life as a dairy woman, wife, and mom in rural ‘middle of nowhere’ Minnesota, but this year has given me a fresh realization of how grateful I am to be a runner.

When the stress of long hours, poor weather, or employee problems makes me crabby and short-tempered I know I can find some solace out on the paved trail just east of my home.

I give thanks every time I strap Speedy into the jogging stroller that he enjoys this time as much as I do. I was pretty certain once he started walking he wouldn’t tolerate being constrained in the stroller, but so far he has proven me wrong.


Last night he was nothing but smiles as we got ready to “go fast.” In reality we went for a super easy jog because I’m still a little sore from the half marathon I’ll tell you about in a minute.

The mild spring weather and warm afternoons helped me get in more training than I thought I would, and I did two races in April.

The first was Goldy’s Run at the University of Minnesota. I met up with two of my sisters on a gorgeous spring morning, and we walked, jogged, and chatted together the whole 5K as I pushed my bright orange stroller with a happy little boy inside. He loved seeing his aunties and cousins post-race, and it was really neat to do an event together with family.



We had a small snafu the morning of because my sisters were driving together and they forgot our race numbers. They were almost at the race when they realized, but they quickly turned around and an understanding husband met them along the way with the needed numbers to save time. We all found each other at the start with about one minute to spare, and we will laugh about this every time we think back on the race.

My second spring race was the Earth Day Half Marathon on Saturday. This was my seventh time running it so I know the course well. It felt a little strange to go without Speedy as it’s the first race I’ve done without him since he was born. (Or before he was born if you count the races I did in the first half of my pregnancy.)

If things went really well I thought I could break two hours, so I lined up several feet behind the two hour pacer at the start. Speedy had not slept well overnight and I was fighting a cold, but I was still optimistic. I had no stroller to push and the day was gorgeous. Maybe too gorgeous.

The bright sun warmed things up to 65 degrees by mid-morning, so I was a salty, sweaty mess several miles in. The pace didn’t feel easy, but I could manage it. I decided to try to run as even as possible and stay within sight of the two hour goal as long as I could.

I chatted with a few people but mostly went along in silence until about mile 6. Then I put in an earbud for some music, and a few minutes later I bumped into a friend which was a welcome distraction for a few miles. She eventually went ahead, and I was back to wondering if I would hit my goal.

I’d forgotten how hard the end of a long race feels, and it’s a little disheartening how tough the pace felt at the end. From mile 10 and on I mostly found myself just ahead of the two hour pacer. He was vocal and encouraging, and he kept shouting things like, “Stay strong and beat me to the finish” or “Just another 14 minutes at this pace. You can do 14 more minutes at this pace.”

At the time I found it a little infuriating, but I thanked him at the finish because I think he really helped me keep charging ahead. My last mile ended up being my fastest at 8:36. Clearly I was in shape for the pace, and I’m glad I didn’t just back off at the end when things got uncomfortable.

Official time of 1:59:09 which I am pleased with for my first post partum half. This race has been my training focus for awhile, so now I need a new goal! I’ll probably be spending more time working and less time training out of necessity as planting season approaches, but my littlest running buddy and I will definitely keep getting out there.

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She will be called Parsnipย 

Happy April!

A small boy who keeps growing is keeping me on my toes all the time. He walks, crawls,and babbles with vigor. His favorite activity is loading and unloading — whether it be cans and bottles from any non-secured kitchen cabinet, dirty laundry from his basket, or items from the dishwasher if mom turns her back. 

We celebrated Speedy’s first birthday with JR’s family last weekend, and in a few weeks we will celebrate with my side. I thought I would save the photo onslaught until then, but here’s a sample of how much he liked his cake. 

  
I’m also writing today to finally announce a name for Henrietta’s newest heifer calf. She is 1 month old today, and it reminded me I needed to attend to this.

I didn’t get ANY suggestions on the post itself (sniff), but thankfully twitter and Instagram yielded a few ideas. 

– Midnight

– Shadow

– Nzuri

– Veronica 

– Parsnip

– Radish

The spring weather made me gravitate to the vegetable names, and I couldn’t help but smile every time I thought about naming a calf Parsnip. So that’s it. Parsnip she will be. She was more uncooperative for picture taking than I expected, but here is how she looked this morning. I simply wanted a nice profile or head shot of her standing outside in her yard. Every time I would shoo her out of her hutch she would dart back inside once I was ready to snap a picture. I compromised by standing in the doorway of her hutch and blockading her to take this first photo. She already has her own ideas about how she wants to do things — kind of like my son! 

   
 

Posted in Baby Calf Care, Being a Mom, Henrietta (Etta for short!) | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment