Halloween 2017

What’s just as cute as a cuddly 7-month old in a dragon/dino costume?

A 19-month old in the same dragon/dino costume of course!



Last year I searched around for a friendly green alligator costume or the like, and I finally settled on a green creature I’ve come to call the dragon/dino. The size was listed as “infant,” and I figured it should fit him more or less. MORE was the key word, and the sizing was so big I did quite a bit of folding and tucking as I draped him in his green suit.

This year at 35 inches tall he was spot on in his “infant suit.” 😂 Next year I suspect we will have to find something new to dress him up in. And maybe we will get a picture with both parents.

Winter has been threatening to come early, and we’ve already had several snowfalls that made our world turn white. The ground is warm enough that none of it sticks for too long, but it makes me wary. I know the permanent drifts and snow of the winter season are far closer than I wish.


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Everything is melted a few hours later, but the girls still moved off the last of the pasture for the season on November 1st.

As predicted it has been a long harvest, but we can finally see the end of the field work. We are also in the midst of trying to pack for our move to the house at the farm, and that is proving to be a long process. Speedy’s favorite part of packing is unpacking, so if I’m not careful everything is undone when I shift my attention elsewhere for very long. I will still take this helper one hundred times over rather than being without him though. 😊

I specifically try not to wish time away, but it’s true that I will be grateful when all the moving, sorting, transition, and paperwork from this year are behind us.

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My Twin Cities Marathon

It was a beautiful October Sunday morning in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I was on my way back from dropping a friend off at the airport. I had driven I-35 to get there, but I opted to take Highway 5 to Snelling Avenue on my return. The leaves were just starting to change, and I knew the drive would be pretty. As I neared Summit Avenue I saw more cars parked along the side streets than normal, and suddenly I arrived at a “road closed for event” sign. I looked ahead and saw runners streaming up Summit amid yellow leaves and cheering people. I had driven right into the Twin Cities Marathon.
“Someday…” I thought. Someday.

In early 2017 it’s over a decade later and still no Twin Cities Marathon. My busy farmer schedule has usually made it easier for me to train for long races over the winter and early spring, so all of my marathons have been run in May or June. After running my traditional Earth Day Half Marathon in April of this year I decided I was going to go for it. Amid what I knew would be a crazy summer of work and business transition at the farm, added responsibility, and an impending move, I decided I needed those training miles more than ever.

I signed up for a little support and expertise with the Train Like a Mother Club, and in June I finally submitted my marathon registration. Training with a group, even virtually, was such a fun change for me and a smart accountability tool. Camaraderie is important when you’re getting up at 3:45 a.m. to run 16 miles in the dark by yourself. Trust me.

Race week arrived, and with it my biggest fall race fears were realized. It is so hard to schedule specific dates during harvest. Each September week had been punctuated with rain delays, and that meant instead of harvesting our Corn silage (see fun silage + sauerkraut blog post here) in one stretch it was broken into painstaking intervals.

Instead of being nervous about several sub-par training weeks and missed runs throughout September I became nervous about whether I would be able to run the marathon at all. The bright spot I had been motivating myself toward all summer might not happen, and I was consumed by both a crushing sadness and a crazy energy to make every preparation possible at work and at home toward racing.

Race day was Sunday, October 1st, and by Thursday and Friday the forecast was strong for Sunday rain. I didn’t actually want it to rain on our harvest yet again, but if it had to rain I would running.

Harvest continued all day Saturday, and I was at work by 5:00 a.m. to feed calves and do numerous barn chores for people who were in the field. My gracious mom came to stay with us for the weekend, so at least I knew my son, aka Speedy, was cared for and happy during my long work day.

When we finish our silage pile (or when it’s going to rain) we cover it with giant sheets of plastic and re-used slices of semi tires to hold the plastic down. It’s hard to describe, but it involves lots of walking and carrying even with many people to help. Here’s a few visuals for you!


By about 8:00 p.m on Saturday we were sure the rain was coming, so we gathered people and prepared to cover the pile. A few hours later we were finishing, and the first raindrops were falling. I was super glad I had packed a preliminary marathon bag on Friday night because I would need all the sleep I could get.

 

Fortunately I had found a fellow mother runner from my training group to pick up my marathon number for me and meet me Sunday morning. All I needed to do was hear my 3:30 a.m. (or 3:40 or 3:42) alarm so I could make the drive to St. Paul and meet up with her. My mom thought perhaps I was too low on sleep and should consider not running, and a small rational part of my brain agreed I was exhausted.

But I quickly shut that rational part down. 😄 I had already adjusted my expectations because of less than ideal training, and I could adjust them a little more based on the past week. I had been looking forward to this marathon all summer, and I had been wanting to run it for over 10 years. I would give it my best.

The morning was dark as I drove in a light drizzle to St. Paul and met up with fellow mother runner Jaime to get my race bib and catch a bus to the start. Looking back I wonder why we didn’t get a pre-race photo together, but it’s probably because the gusty wind and rain caused us to huddle under a overhang until we absolutely had to be in our starting corral. I’m so grateful to Jaime for the friendly chatter and companionship during that cold wait.

I promised myself I would run the first few miles easy and not get caught up in the start line excitement of downtown Minneapolis. It’s always best to conserve energy in the early miles anyway, and I knew I was starting with less to burn.

Starting conservatively proved easy because my legs needed warming up, and I developed a side ache almost right away. I was running slowly enough that hundreds of people were passing me, and I managed to smile because at least I was sticking to the plan. My heart rate stayed just under 140 as I warmed up, and I was glad I’d made the choice to wear it and get that physical feedback. I thought about how grateful I was to even be running, and thankfulness remained a nearly constant theme when my body started to struggle.

I started wearing a light jacket covered in paint stains, but by mile two I cast it to the side of the road along with other discarded long sleeves, pants, and warm up gear.

I didn’t think about much for awhile other than gratitude. Many people in this world cover long distances every day to secure clean water, food, work, or education. I get to do it for fun, for mental clarity, and to reach goals. That is a true privilege.


I ran mostly in my own bubble until mile four or five when a familiar voice from behind greeted me by name and said she liked my tank top. This was none other than Sarah Bowen Shea (SBS), co-founder of the Train Like a Mother Club and host of the Another Mother Runner podcast I have listened to over many training miles.

I met SBS last year at the Twin Cities Marathon Expo when I ran the 10K with Speedy, but I feel like I’ve known her much longer. I’m certain the friendly way she shares stories and advice on the podcast invites everyone who listens to feel like a friend. We chatted for a few minutes, and I shared the pitfalls of corn silage and my early morning wake-up. Being from the west coast I’m sure she also felt the effects of the early morning and her time change.

Soon we found our own solo rhythm again, but every now and then I would leap-frog with her and share a wave or hello.

In these middle miles I talked to lots of people — especially giving encouragement to those who already looked rough or cheering along someone who whizzed by me looking strong. The road is invitingly narrow as it travels around lakes and the river, and many neighborhoods lined their streets to give high fives and provide their own refreshment.

I ate less of my own gel packs than ever because I took advantage of their offerings. At one point I ran carrying and eating a whole banana, and I also feasted on pretzels, several lengths of licorice, and numerous jolly ranchers. Around mile sixteen I stuck my earbuds in my ears and turned up the music. This is usually the point I need something to change, and as always the music provided welcome energy and distraction. I focused on the pumping beat of Pink as I continued high-fiving little kids and wondering when I would finally get to Summit Avenue.

By mile twenty the off and on drizzle had turned to rain, but it was a light rain. I didn’t feel particularly wet, and I thought about how much happier I was running in fifty degrees with light rain than I would have been in seventy degrees with bright sun.

Miles twenty-one to twenty-three are some of the longest sustained hills on the course, and my legs were starting to crumble. I smiled and waved like a weirdo when I saw the mother runner cheering squad after mile twenty-two, but once I passed them I feel back into my own little world of struggle. To this point I had felt reasonably good after the first few warm up miles. I wasn’t pushing the pace, and I had been soaking in the joy of the day — just how I hoped to. But by mile twenty-three it got hard. Really hard. I turned my focus again to gratitude, but my stride was halting and choppy. I knew it would be a grind to the finish.

Just then a pleasant surprise showed up behind me when I needed it most. It was SBS, telling me to smooth out my stride. She told me, “we’ve got this,” and I started to believe her. I ran in back of her until mile twenty-five, and then I found the legs to catch up. We were both running at a good clip compared to the people around us, and it was encouraging to me to be passing people again and finding a second (or maybe third) wind.

My legs and feet were cramping, hurting, stinging as we started on the final downhill that leads to the finish, but I was still running even with Sarah. I couldn’t let myself give up or miss the opportunity to finish together.

As you can probably tell, I often chat or run with people in the middle miles of a race. I have never actually finished a marathon with a friend — be it an old friend or one newly acquired along the way. I think it’s truly rare to be so in sync with someone at the end of 26.2 miles that you naturally run stride for stride. Usually one person has just a little more to give, and neither wants to hold the other back. During the last mile of the Twin Cities Marathon I felt the connection of our steps, and I’m certain we were both running with everything we had. Though she looked smoother doing so than I did!


 The finish was a blur of trying to raise my arms enthusiastically and then get my hands on water, bagels, salted nut rolls, and anything else I could manage to hold. I did have my arms up, but apparently not long enough for the photographer to capture

As I stopped I instantly became a shivering mess. My feet cramped, my toes started to curl inside my shoes, and it took every shred of my concentration to keep walking forward and thank the volunteers. I was more than relieved I had put a sweatshirt and long pants in my finish line gear back, and I was grateful not to be alone as I painfully but triumphantly made my way through the crowd.

 

And so I got to run my Twin Cities Marathon. Hundreds of miles in training — almost 100 run while pushing my favorite little running buddy — and the virtual support of amazing women across the country helped me get to this race. It was my sixth marathon, my first since becoming a mom, and my slowest to date. Alas, my marathon PR streak ends at five, and at 4 hours 34 minutes I ran over four minutes slower than my very first. It was still worth every step, and I wouldn’t change my strong finish with SBS for anything. I don’t think I have ever found more catharsis in my training miles or more value in the journey. I will run faster again someday, but I don’t think I will ever run more grateful.

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Littlest running buddy approves

 

 

Posted in Being a Mom, Crops, Race Reports, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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? 😄 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 Élysées.

  

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. 🙂 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. 😉

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. 😄

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. 😉 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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