In the News: Farming, Cold Weather, and More

Happy Friday – if you happen to be reading this on the day it’s published that is. 🙂

Spring is in the air in some places, and even in Minnesota I see melting snow and hopes of 30-40 degree temperatures for the weekend.

 
I tend to say I like winter until Christmas or New Year’s Day, and then I’m ready for the snow and cold to go. Unfortunately we usually have 3 months of wintery weather to go at that point. Still, mid-March means we are done with the days where temperatures don’t rise about zero.

Cold winter can spark different opinions and emotions in people, but one thing I have never thought about is cold weather actually fostering a better quality of life.

I saw several friends sharing the newest 2017 state rankings from US News and World Report on social media lately, so I browsed through them earlier this week. Best state overall has Iowa coming in first followed by Minnesota, Utah, North Dakota and New Hampshire. For ‘Quality of Life’ North Dakota comes in first with Minnesota again in second. Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and South Dakota round out the top five. Do you sense a theme here? Not only do all these states have large rural and/or agricultural components, they also have distinct seasons and cold winters. Who would have thought?

To quote from the article, “Another characteristic North Dakota shares with other top-ranked states for quality of life – including Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and South Dakota – is its cold weather. “If you’re in a closed environment, you’re interacting with more people,” Berg says, explaining that people tend to separate and “do their own thing” in more comfortable weather. “And then there’s this cultural aspect that you’re in an environment that’s weather-wise a little more difficult so you do have this idea to help your neighbor out when times are tough,” he says.”

For my part, I need to point out that the Midwest doesn’t ALWAYS have cold weather. We actually have reliably hot and humid summers, but we have distinct seasons. When I ponder how seasons relate to quality of life, I think the rhythm and flow of nature actually benefits us as well. We appreciate the warmth of spring more (mud, insects and all) because it follows the icy days of winter. And we yearn for the crisp mornings and orange foliage of fall because it provides a welcome relief from August heat. We typically enjoy fishing on frozen lakes just as much as regular water, and we have parts of every season we can look forward to. We also have other parts we can be glad we aren’t currently dealing with!

I agree cold weather brings people together. You leave behind the chores of yard work, lawn mowing, or endless projects in long daylight and spend more time at community and sporting events. Or you simply stay indoors to enjoy time with close family and friends. You also don’t feel as guilty about calling it an early night and just curling up with a cup of hot tea or glass of wine in the evening.

Every state has individual merits that make it special, and if you look through the various ranking categories you’ll see many warm weather states on the list too. Don’t be offended if you don’t happen to live in a winter wonderland like me, BUT it does make me feel better to see the merits of my climate being touted. Especially because we just had a wicked snow storm a few days ago.

Another story I keep seeing in the news is the low price of milk. I know I follow farm and agricultural media more than most, but even major news outlets such as NPR and The Washington Post are covering the crisis. Obviously non-existent profit margins and mounting bills cause stress on our farm too, and I’m not immune from financial worries. As a farmer often you find yourself spending all your waking hours either working or thinking about working. It’s a lifestyle more than a job, and it’s deeply discouraging to know you are losing money each and every day as you keep going.

Clearly it’s important to take some control and have: a cash flow plan in place, honest conversations with your banker, and steps to minimize expense and maximize revenue and efficiency where you can. But the price of milk is at a low point many dairies simply can’t recover from. It’s terrible to see neighbors around us selling their herd of cows and know those barns will probably never be filled again.

Numerous dairy processing plants and co-ops have even recently included suicide prevention hotlines and mental health resources in with farmer’s milk checks or newsletters.

Can you imagine finding those types of resources tucked in with your paycheck?

So many injustices and heartbreaking stories can be seen around our country and world that I know we as farmers aren’t alone. And we aren’t the worst off –  not by far. I pray for the homeless and refugees and the critically ill before I pray for farmers, but I know all can use our prayers.

I’m also deeply blessed to be a mom and see the smiling face of my almost-two-year-old everyday. Somehow little kids can make everyday brighter and every stressful situation seem less important. We may find ourselves in a difficult year, but no matter what it brings we will work to hopefully come out strong yet compassionate on the other side.

  
What’s on your mind lately? Are you looking forward to spring or relishing the last of winter?

 

 

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What’s Your Olympics?

The Winter Olympics are whizzing by in South Korea, and I’m eagerly taking in the skating, the skiing, the teamwork, and the chronicling of dreams when I have a chance.

There is always something wholesome, gritty, and wondrous about people focusing on a dream for many years and then standing on the cusp of achieving it. With the world watching, athletes from teenagers to fifty-somethings compete in the sports they have perfected. Medal or not, simply being an Olympian is an accomplishment most of us can’t imagine.

But we love the Olympics anyway. We tune in by the millions, and we cheer and swoon as athletes we’ve mostly never heard of chase the clock or the scoreboard. I love to cheer for Lindsey Vonn because she’s a fellow Minnesota girl. She grew up skiing on a hill – literally – just south of Minneapolis. And somehow she developed into arguably the best Apline ski racer in the world. She keeps coming back from debilitating injuries, and it’s easy to wonder how she can still win races as her broken and repaired body ages. Obviously it’s a myriad of reasons, but I think mental toughness and belief are the biggest ones.

Why do we love the Olympics? I suppose it’s because all of us know about dreams. Maybe not an Olympic dream, but we still work and strive and set goals. We go after things we want, and often we fall short. We dedicate our minds and bodies to careers, or we put in long days to take care of our kids or volunteer for causes bigger than us. We hope these investments of our time and care will pay off.

Maybe we even have that periodic event we look forward to and work toward. For dairy farmers who enjoy the show ring they might see World Dairy Expo as their Olympics. As a cheese maker you might set your eye on the World Cheese Awards. (We should all be so lucky as to attend – or simply taste – at the world cheese awards!)

As a runner and marathoner I see many recreational athletes go after goals that fit the same criteria. The fastest amateurs may run toward hitting the Olympic Trials qualifying time in their distance while triathletes hope to earn a spot in a championship race.

Life is busy. At times when farm work seems endless and my house is such a mess of chaos I want to donate everything I own and move into a tent I start thinking my other commitments and goals are silly. (Side note: I would NOT want to move into a tent in Minnesota winter, but it sounds really appealing to downsize come June.)

“How can I continue to spend several hours teaching elementary kids at church on Wednesday afternoons when I don’t even have my own life together? Am I even the right person?”

“How dare I spend an hour running today when my family and my work both desperately need my time too?”

Figuring out how to balance priorities and portion out my time is one of my hardest tasks. I will always hit deadlines for critical bills and paperwork, and we always make sure our animals and child are fed, but other priorities can be harder to decipher. I was glancing through a farm magazine the other day, and this quote stuck out to me like a giant neon sign.

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” -Earl Nightingale

The time will pass anyway; so I may as well intersperse my day with meaningful moments, small victories, and steps toward the goals I want to accomplish. I have goals for creating a more welcoming, cozy, and CLEAN environment in our home. The battle is uphill, but I might as well keep working on it. The time will pass, and I’d rather have a small amount of progress in one or two or three years than none.

There are numerous upgrades and projects we’d like for our farm, and taking small steps is better than taking no steps. Currently the price of milk is so low that we are simply working on survival and paying bills month-to-month. Eventually a season will come where we can chip away at our larger goals again.

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And the running. Ever since I started believing I could run a marathon I have found a peace and a calling to this event. I like to think it’s a blessing God helped me discover so I can be more engaged in the rest of my life. And I think it helps me be a blessing to others when they need it.

I did just run my slowest marathon last year, but that doesn’t stop me from believing I can get faster again. I’m comfortable with some of my goals being on the five or ten year plan because the time will pass anyway. I want to keep running races and achieving personal records, and someday I will qualify for the Boston Marathon. That is MY Olympics. My best time is still about twenty minutes shy of what I need, but that’s ok. If I keep taking small steps (and continue to get older), eventually I’ll find the right time for a training cycle to go after it. And until then I’ll keep running because I love it.

 

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What is your Olympics?

 

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Running Through 2017

Another Minnesota winter is half over, and I’m grateful it’s been low on the snowfall totals. We have had our share of below-zero, frigid days, but at least the roads have stayed relatively dry and open for running! I’m getting back in a rhythm — sort of — and I’ve even had Speedy out for a few stroller runs during our January thaw. My running has taken a far back seat to work and home/family since fall, but 2017 was still a great year.


I keep meaning to write this annual running recap, and tonight is finally the night. After a crushing defeat for our Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship I need a little athletic cheer-up. It’s time to reflect on my own athletic accomplishments for the year.

I did four races this year including one each 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon. I thought I would race a little more, but I’m really pleased with each and every race. Definitely a #win.

My racing year started in early April with a family 5K. I did a walk/run at Goldy’s Run with Speedy and several of my sisters for fun. We all graduated from the University of Minnesota, and it was great to enjoy a beautiful spring day on campus as we covered the course together.

Two weeks later I ran my seventh Earth Day Run. I was only trained somewhere between decent and adequate for this half marathon, but I really wanted to run strong in my first post-partum 13.1. Mostly I wanted to break 2 hours. It took every shred of my concentration to fight through the final few miles and stay on pace, but I squeaked in with 1:59:09. This finish was totally an overachievement for my redeveloping fitness, and I felt the effects as I hobbled around with sore everything for a few days after. It was well worth it!


I thought about a summer or fall half marathon, but by June I decided I really wanted to give marathon training a shot. I signed up for Twin Cities and went after the training the best I could.

I actually ran really well and consistently through June, and in early July I ran the 10K at my hometown running event. It was a cool morning for summer, and I was ECSTATIC to set a PR of 50:19. I still don’t know where those sub-8:00/miles came from, but I was cruising.


Training got harder to keep consistent as the runs got longer and the summer got busier. Corn silage harvest in September made it even worse, but I kept carving out insane early morning time for the long runs and doing my best on the strength and weekly mileage.

I won’t rehash the entire marathon because you can read about it Here, but I loved this race and wouldn’t change it for anything. (Fully acknowledging this was my slowest marathon to date.) I feel so grateful even now when I think about crossing the finish. Training for and running Twin Cities brought me excitement and fulfillment, and I will be back! In a few years. 🙂


What’s next? I’ve left my goals rather vague the last couple years, and it has worked out ok. I want to keep up a healthy, balanced approach to my running, and I want to make the most of stroller running while Speedy continues to enjoy it. Right now my sisters are talking about Goldy’s Run again, and I always plan to run Earth Day. I don’t have a specific PR goal looming, but I’ll evaluate what seems realistic as races get closer.

I’d like to meet up with the Another Mother Runner community again at Twin Cities and run one of the weekend’s races.  I’ll either enter the 10 Mile lottery or do a shorter Saturday race.

I wish I could make it a goal to take a run along the Seine in Paris again, but sadly I suspect it will be a while. This was certainly my most memorable training run of the year.


I got notice a few weeks ago that I will continue as a Team Chocolate Milk member and ambassador for a seventh year, and I can’t believe it’s been that long. I’m happy to keep representing a recovery beverage I believe in AND the dairy community I love. I again have complimentary race bibs to several Rock’n Roll races through the team, so maybe this will be the year I finally use one. Who knows?

What are your fitness plans and goal for this year?

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2017 is Coming to a Chilly End

Frigid. That’s an apt way to describe the last week of the year. We reached a high of about -2F / -19C on Christmas Day, and today, December 28th, we finally climbed above zero to a balmy 12 degrees. The high for the next three days looks to vary between about zero and 10 below zero. The HIGH.

I will say nothing makes me appreciate a warm house and a hot meal or cup of coffee/tea as much as icy winter. We work all day, but we hibernate when we come in at night.

We did have a blessed Christmas in spite of the cold. A whirlwind of food, family, travel, and gifts. Speedy enjoyed tearing paper and eating cookies, but I think it will be another year before the true wonder and magic of Christmas come alive for him. I can’t wait. I really enjoy his current age though as he discovers new words, new preferences, and shrieks at me with glee. Or little fits of toddler anger. 😉 He’s almost as cute either way. 

   
   
Year-end also brings lots of paperwork and accounting, and that’s especially true this year with our new farm transition structure. It’s making my evenings as busy as my days, but I’ll get through the worst of it by the end of January. Somehow. We are still working on moving, and originally we’d hoped to be moved to the farm by the end of the year. Now my goal has adjusted to be settled before Speedy’s birthday. That gives us until late March – which is more than generous. If our house is sold by then even better!
I’ve written less this year than ever, but I still enjoy chronicling tidbits about farming, weather, cows, running, and family. I love and appreciate the feedback my readers share, and I thank you for sticking with me through another year. It’s been a full and hard and crazy year, but as I reflect on this cold evening I can also see it has been very blessed. 

   
    
 

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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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