Seven Years

February 7, 2016. Today marks seven years of marriage for us. It makes me feel both older than I am and very young in the bigger picture of things!

  
We’re having a pretty normal Sunday at the farm, but hopefully we’ll either do dinner or a movie tonight to celebrate. Or maybe just watch the Super Bowl with friends. (We should continue working on the drywall and floor in the nursery, but  we’re making decent enough progress. Sort of. Tomorrow will be another day.)

This anniversary also feels different because we will be parents in just a few short months. Or sooner. 

  
31 weeks

They say a baby will change everything, and I don’t doubt the truth of that. Still, I hope it won’t change for the worse the strength and the bond we’ve built in our marriage these past seven years. I expect we’ll have new and different challenges, and maybe more of them, but I pray God will always allow us to see the blessings in the middle of hardest times. 

Lack of sleep, a messy house, a fussy baby, and hormones galore are only some of the things I know will come our way. And I’d appreciate your insight on whethering any or all of them! But I know we have a lot of support from our families and within our marriage to lean on, and somehow we too will figure out the ins and outs of parenting.

I didn’t really expect we’d be married seven years before we had a baby, but the timing is right. If anything I feel unprepared, so thankfully my plan isn’t the biggest plan. I thank God that His plan is bigger. 

Posted in Christian Reflections, Family Fun | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Calf Barn

Winter is rolling right along, and we’ve almost made it through the generally cold and unforgiving month of January.

Truth? January hasn’t been that bad this year. We had a few cold snaps of solidly below zero, but this last week brought warmer air again and some melting. We’ve got enough snow without being buried, and I hope all you East-coasters are getting back to normal after your ‘Snowzilla’ storm last weekend.

While cattle do well outdoors in winter as long as they have wind-breaks or shelter plus plenty of feed, water and bedding, raising calves outside during cold and snow still proves a challenge. The calves need to use more energy to stay warm, and it simply takes more time and labor to care for them in winter weather. Pushing and shoveling snow, dumping and refilling freezing water pails, and doing the normal chores of feeding and bedding while wearing heavy layers of clothes is a big job. 

The bottom line is overall our baby calves stay healthy and well over winter, but the conditions are still challenging. Especially for us workers. 

For many years we have talked about ways to move more of our calf raising indoors, and this fall we took step one. We purchased a sixty-stall calf barn and got the foundation piers and water lines all set up during the late fall. The building arrived in early December and then the electric, gas, and plumbing were hooked up. We finally started moving new calves in at the end of December.

  
The day the barn arrived. Yes, it came on a semi truck! 

The barn has two separate rooms made for thirty calves each with a utility room in the middle. There are also fans, ventilation, and heaters all hooked up in one system to continually bring in fresh air and keep the temperature consistent. Obviously less air needs to be circulating during the cold weather, but we still need some. 

The barn is kept around 62 degrees, and our new babies move right in to warm up. The calves will stay in the barn for 2-4 weeks (depending on how many new babies are upcoming), and then they move to hutches for another month or so until weaning.

Each calf room is able to be washed with a pressure washer, so that allows us to clean things well and disinfect the barn between groups. This is extra important because of the warmer temperature inside. 

   This is one of the heifers in the first group to live in the barn. 

It’s wonderful to see the calves start nibbling on their grain earlier and having continuous access to water even when the temperatures are below zero. 

  
It’s amazing how quickly they learn to make a mess with their grain on the floor though! 

The barn is set up well for warmer weather with ventilation, so I hope and expect we will be equally happy with starting calves indoors no matter what season it is. 

We’ve had calves in the barn for over one month, so I knew it was time I update the blog with the news. One more feature I love is easier access to the calves. The stalls are much quicker for me and my pregnant belly to get into than climbing into hutches! 

 

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One Month Old

Pepé’s twin daughters turned one month old on the fourteenth. We’ve had a mix of mild and frigid winter weather since they arrived, and fortunately they’ve handled the changing temperatures well.

They are as big or bigger than the calves around them, growing steadily, and I continue to be amazed at their size for being twins.

   
Calvin likes to help me check on all the calves including these two!

  

I appreciate everyone who sent me name suggestions, and I did sit down one night with JR and consider them all. 

After a lot of ideas back and forth we thought we’d name them after types of peppers. But — then the only pepper name we liked for sure was Gypsy. Finally we decided, and the twins are called Peppermint and Gypsy (Pepper). I’m excited to watch their continued growth, and I’m extra thankful they are a strong and healthy pair.

As I mentioned before, having twins can be hard on a cow. Many do just fine, but unfortunately their mother Pepé was not one of them. After a few good days following delivery she gradually wasn’t eating or feeling as well as she should. First she got additional calcium and every vitamin and supplement we had in our repertoire. When she started running a fever she went on an antibiotic, and we kept checking her for signs of a displaced abomasum or twisted stomach. 

A twisted stomach can happen in ruminants, and it’s most common for a cow soon after giving birth. The condition requires a relatively simple surgery to correct, and normally cows recover from it well. After not one but two vet visits we finally confirmed her twisted stomach, and the vet did surgery.

At this point Pepé had moved into our small ‘hospital’ pen so she could be in a little group as close to the parlor as possible. I hand delivered her extra nice alfalfa hay every day in addition to regular feed, and after a bad day on December 23rd she was improving on the morning of the 24th.

We got back to the farm about 9:30 on Christmas Eve night, and I went straight to the barn to check on Pepé. I found her chewing her cud, which was a great sign because it meant she was eating better again. I brought her a nice piece of leafy hay, which she promptly started eating, and I felt relieved as I tucked her in for the night.

Early on Christmas morning I checked on the basics and then went to find Pepé. I was surprised and devestated to find she didn’t live through the night. I was so glad I had checked on her and found her comfortable the night before, but it didn’t take away the broken sadness I felt.

As I type this now my tears are dripping fresh on the keys, and I know the hormones of pregnancy don’t help. “Take good care of her twins,” JR told me, and he is right. That is the last thing I can do for one of very favorite cows. She was the best. 

   

  

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Baby Calf Care, Cows, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Christmas in the Country Exchange

Connecting with others has always been one of the things I enjoy about blogging, and this year I participated in a blogger’s Christmas exchange that let me do just that. 

Christmas in the Country is for rural and farm bloggers, and we were each encouraged to learn about our person as we put together their gift. It was fun to look through posts, photos, and social media clues about my draw and know that someone else was doing the same for me! 

My gift traveled from Ohio, and I was grateful and impressed with everything inside. It came from Jess @ Cultivated with Love, thank you again! 

  
The first thing I noticed were the great aromas coming from the package.

I got a bag of Ohio roasted coffee which is great because in my household we go through a lot of coffee, and good stuff never lasts long. Even though I’m pregnant my doctor is okay with small amounts of caffeine, so I can keep enjoying a little cup on cold winter mornings. 

The warm mittens are probably my favorite item because they are so cozy. Knitted on the outside and fleecy on the inside, these are awesome for snuggling my fingers into anytime. I won’t wear them in the barn because they’re too pretty, but I may use them for winter running when the weather is really cold. 

The snowflake ziplock is full of several homemade soaps, and the lavender in them is so pleasant and soothing. I love the scent of lavender, and I’m not even sure how Jess knew! I really appreciated the thoughtful note she included with gifts too. 

I also had fun picking out items for my recipent, Val @ Corn, Beans, Pigs, Kids. She is an Iowa mom and pig farmer, so one of the things I sent was a jar of our homegrown and homemade sauerkraut. :-) You can see everything I sent by visiting her post above.

Both of these ladies were fun to get to know through their blogs, and the exchange as a whole is wonderful for those of us in the country who sometimes get more isolated during the long winter months. 

Thanks again to the Christmas in the Country organizers for helping us connect during this happy season. 

Laurie @ Country LINKED
Lara @ My Other More Exciting Self (isn’t this a great literary-inspired name??) 
Jamie @ This Uncharted Rhoade
Kirby @ 15009 Farmhouse

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), This and That | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Running Through 2015

I’ve written a yearly running recap every year since I started blogging. Most years as I reflect I’m also starting to increase my training in January and think about a spring race. This year is different, and I’m enjoying the freedom to be slower and more deliberate. I’m working out solely to sweat and feel good — and keep my body healthy for baby — instead of eyeing a big race or time goal.

The change is hard in some ways but mostly refreshing, and I will say it’s nice not to feel guilty about skipping long runs when the winter weather is wicked and the alternative is hours on a treadmill!

I have been pregnant for almost half of 2015, but the early part of the year still brought a lot of race excitement and success.

I ran throughout the winter months planning to do the same two long races as 2014, Earth Day Half Marathon in April and Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon in May. While I also trained toward the possibility of an April 50K, which would have been my first ultra marathon, I ultimately decided not to run it. Read: My body, hips, and shins were hurting a lot in March, and I realized it was probably a poor idea to increase training even more and run my first ultra feeling miserable or worse.

I used the Earth Day Half as a final training run before Lake Wobegon, and while that made my time slower than the previous few years I knew I was actually in good shape for the marathon. It was also the nicest weather for this mid-April race day I can remember in the six years I’ve run it. Sunny and around 50 degrees feels amazing after a long winter.

I ran a local 5K I wanted to support during the last weekend of April, and while it also wasn’t my fastest time I ran a strong negative split, placed second female, and loved the rural course and familiar faces. I felt as ready for 26.2 miles as ever.

May 9th came, and it proved to be a beautiful day for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon. I was (and still am!) so thrilled I was able to run the race I hoped and thought I was capable of.

 Marathons are great for making new friends! 

Crossing the finish line at 3:57 was a two minute PR and a five minute course PR, but it felt like so much more than that. After a training cycle full of small but frustrating aches and pains and setbacks I was over the moon to run a PR and another marathon under four hours. Even better than my time was the fact that I kept fighting the whole race. I kept it together during the final 10K when things really start to hurt, and I never gave up on my time goal.


The race was doubly special because I got to celebrate with my friend Jill as she finished her first marathon! Running and racing is always better with friends to share the journey — both the successes and the rough spots.

After this race I decided I would take a break from the demands of marathon training. I kept running, but it was slower, easier, and included more days off. I also figured it may help our chances of having a baby if my body was under a little less physical stress.

In June I ran another local 5K and on July 11th I ran a four mile race for my thirtieth birthday. It’s fun to race for fun, and there was something really satisfying to me about celebrating a new decade with a race. Even if it was ridiculously humid and the course sent us on a wrong turn. :-)

In August I found out I was pregnant, and my training focus since then has naturally switched. Running was no longer about me; it’s about baby and me. Hard training just didn’t seem right anymore, and first trimester exhaustion and upset stomach weren’t exactly motivating either. I know some women keep racing longer and even run marathons while pregnant, but I am not one of those women. And I don’t even think I want to be. 

For me I’m glad to be able to walk and move lots at the farm, mostly keep up my normal work activities, and run enough to enjoy it without worrying much about pace or distance. Some months I’ve set small goals to run more than the previous month or do a certain number of workouts per week, but these are flexible goals just meant to keep me from skipping exercise for no reason.

I did do a holiday 5K race in November to connect with some friends, and that was the perfect blend of running and fun. I’m so glad these ladies agreed to run with me and embrace the Christmas spirit early!

  
This is a 2015 recap and not a post for new year goals, so I’m not even going to attempt to outline 2016. I do hope by the end of this year I can get back to some sort of running routine I feel good about, but that’s all I need to decide right now. So many things about having a new baby are unknown to me, and I want to take time to embrace the journey and maintain as much patience and wonder as I can. This is true for the happy times I know will come and those inevitable late nights and early mornings when I will be so tired I can’t think straight!

I’m grateful for the past year, and I look forward to what will come!

Do you have any personal highlights from the past year, running or otherwise?

 

 

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