Farm Tidbits

It’s been steadily warming up here in Minnesota. We’ve had a few days of rain and clouds amidst the sun for good measure, and tractors are busy in fields across much of the state.

We are having lots of new spring calves, and even though I’ve felt a little frazzled lately it’s still a beautiful time.

Last night as I finished up work, tired to the bone, I couldn’t wait to get home and eat and sleep. Then I looked around at the fresh grass, the calves lying down for the evening, and the fading sun. Even though the day was long it was still good. I took an extra moment to look at the animals, pet Calvin who trotted next to me, and soak up the sun. When things are busier (like right now) I have to remind myself to find the good. When I do it’s always worth it.

Just a few short months ago it was 20 below zero, and that thought also made me realize I had to be happy on a sunny spring evening!

On Thursday, April 23rd, we had two heifer calves born. The first was about two weeks early, and she was small and feisty. It took her a day to figure out the whole concept of standing, but now she’s jumping around as eagerly as any calf.

The second heifer was a few days late, and for a heifer she was huge. I assumed she was a big bull calf at first glance, but she proved me wrong.

These two girls, numbers 4672 and 4673, will live side by side for the next couple months, and I think they will be a fun pair to watch.

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I’ll bet you can’t guess who was early and who was overdue??

Here’s a few other views of my spring lately.

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My niece Madalyn and I shared a fun morning at her daycare open house a few weeks back. I’m so glad I had a chance to be there. She is 2-and-a-half, and I’m amazed by her inquisitive mind. I think her vocabulary will soon be bigger this mine!

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Baby Calf Care, Calvin, Family Fun, This and That | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Kicking Off the 2015 Race Season

Part of me likes and craves the consistency of running. Sure, it can sometimes feel repetitive and long, but it also makes me feel like me. I like being a runner.

After training through the winter I always look forward to testing out my race legs again, and this spring is no different.

Instead of the 50K I’d thought about and hinted at, I once again ran the Earth Day half marathon. I simply didn’t run enough quality miles to feel comfortable attempting the 50K this spring. I maybe/probably could have finished, but in what condition I can’t say. I also decided I most wanted to complete Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon in three weeks. I knew it might very well be one or the other race, so I made the choice I thought was best.

I also would have been sad to break my streak at the Earth Day run, which became six years strong on Saturday.

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After some trial and error in marathon training I’ve decided it works best for me to do my longest run three weeks out from race day. I’ve already done one run each of nineteen and twenty miles this spring, so I wanted one more run of about twenty this weekend. Instead of racing a fast half marathon I decided to make it a twenty mile day and see what happened.

I arrived at the start a few hours early because I knew I wouldn’t feel like doing the extra miles after the race. Unfortunately I also had to work in the afternoon, so I wouldn’t have too much time later.

I ran just over seven miles in the quiet early morning, and I kept my pace really easy and relaxed. I felt great, and I hoped my race pace wouldn’t be effected too much. I ate my second gel of the morning with water just before the race start, and the 50 degree sunshine felt perfect with my shorts and t-shirt.

I started slightly slower than normal, and I’m definitely glad I did. I never fell apart, but I just couldn’t hack the half marathon pace I normally run.

For the past three years I’ve run in the lower 1:50’s, so I was disappointed when the 1:55 pacer passed me near mile ten. I tried to keep up, but I was sweating bullets in the warming sun and my legs didn’t wish to move any faster. Mentally I suppose I was also holding back for the marathon in three weeks. I wanted to run a hard effort, but this race wasn’t my true main goal.

I did find enough energy to surge at the finish and come in at 1 hour, 56 minutes. That is about six minutes slower than last year, which definitely stings. Lots of reasons (bright sun, a long work week, and the obvious extra miles) likely effected my time, but I always want to go into a race thinking I should improve.

Not every race can be a new personal best, and JR helped me realize it was crazy to expect that when I ran so many extra miles as a warm up.

In hindsight I can see that pretty clearly too!

I’m glad I finished my first race of the year, and I’m happy to keep representing Team Dairy and Team Chocolate Milk. Hopefully this workout pays off, and I will be ready to run stronger in a few weeks.

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Speaking of racing, Happy Boston Marathon Monday! If you ran, cheered, or just cheered from afar like me I hope you enjoyed this amazing day. I’m sure the cows wondered what I was listening to this morning whenever I checked in with the live race coverage. Maybe I can make them into running fans yet!

Posted in Race Reports, Running | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Gobble, Gobble: What’s up with Avian Influenza?

Avian influenza is in the news this spring, particularly if you live in the Midwest. I count many friends in the turkey community, and it’s honestly devastating to hear about flock after flock being infected.

These birds aren’t just more numbers or another dot on a map. They represent the hard work, care, and livelihood of families. This quickly extends to workers, small businesses, and the core of many rural communities.

First, let me say you can and should keep buying poultry and turkey with confidence. This outbreak is well monitored, and it does NOT pose a food safety risk.

If you want more info on the disease itself, here’s some quick background.

Normally avian influenza just makes birds slightly sick, and it is a low pathogen strain. The H5 N2 strain plaguing Minnesota represents the first highly pathogenic strain to enter the state. High pathogen avian influenza, in any form, has only been detected in the United States since earlier this year when a case was found in Washington state. The problem is highly pathogenic avian influenza is much more deadly, and if it’s found in a barn any surviving birds must be euthanized to prevent its spread.

It’s thought that migrating wild birds are the main source of the virus, and right now we’re in peak migration season. Wild birds can harbor and spread the virus with few or no symptoms, but domestic turkeys especially face deadly effects from it.

Farmers are doing everything they can with sanitation, barn specific clothing and footwear, and farm traffic to make sure the virus doesn’t get onto their farm, but it’s harder than you might think. Just this morning I saw numerous wild ducks flapping across our road and was reminded of the risk.

Can you imagine if every day you woke up wondering if today might be the day your entire turkey flock would be wiped out? It would be emotionally exhausting, but right now it is reality.

In case you’re wondering, we don’t have any birds at our place right now. We butchered our last birds this winter, and we plan to wait awhile before getting more.

Backyard Flocks

If you do have a backyard flock or even a few egg layers, it’s important for you to protect your birds and help curb disease spread too. I came across a blog post addressing this very topic by On the Banks of Squaw Creek. This is a great, quick read if you have backyard birds.

As the number one turkey producing state Minnesota is especially concerned and effected. A great collection of info and news is available here from MN Turkey Growers if you want to learn more.

I know I’m a dairy farmer, but agriculture in Minnesota is a close-knit community. I care about this outbreak, and I also want consumers to have a place to go with concerns. If you have any questions the resources I’ve shared can’t address, please let me know. I will find you the answer or direct you to someone who can.

IMG_2393Photo: Minnesota Turkey

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Happy Easter Thoughts

I hope you all had a blessed weekend. Whether you celebrated Passover, Easter, Palm Sunday, or just the arrival of April, I hope you feel as renewed and joyful as I did.

After putting down some speedy miles on Saturday, caring for new calves throughout the weekend, connecting with so much of my family, and hearing the brass on Sunday morning proudly proclaim “Christ The Lord is risen today !” I think I’m ready to tackle whatever comes my way. The delicious pie and lamb should be mentioned too.

Also, if you’re a baseball fan, Happy Opening Day. Let’s go Twins!

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Posted in Family Fun | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Making Moments

Don’t we all feel the squeeze of time?

Whether it’s hurrying from task to task or just wishing for an hour of solitude, it’s easy to get too “busy.” I say that in quotes because ultimately we bring busyness on ourselves. Right?

I know there are lots of things we need to do to keep life going on a normal, healthy path. Work probably tops this list, whether it’s your job, your own business, or the endless role of being a stay-at-home-parent. Making meals, washing clothes and dishes, paying bills, and dealing with leaves, snow, or unruly lawn (depending on the season) also come to mind. Because my husband and I farm, I understand the urgency certain times or seasons can bring. For us that usually means field work. When we are making hay, we MUST MAKE HAY. It’s ready, and rain is (probably) in the forecast. For planting season or fall harvest the same holds true.

With that background in mind, let me tell you this is not a post to encourage you to shirk responsibility, let your home and family fall apart, or let your job come to ruin.

This is, however, a post to encourage you to make and carve out and fight for the moments you value.

We all have twenty four hours in a day. (If you have more, please see my contact info above and let me in on the details.) We use those hours, and we choose how we feel in those hours. I know I’ve mentioned before I think finding joy is a choice. It doesn’t mean you are always happy, and it certainly doesn’t mean things always go your way. It does mean you look for the good. It means you know you can’t control everything, but you are always in control of how you respond. Carving out moments in each day to find joy and to do what you enjoy also helps you respond better in everything else you do.

I encourage you all to think about what you love to do. Make a list, and ponder over it for a few days. Maybe even a few weeks. How many of these things do you regularly do? Which are most important to you? Do you enjoying playing an instrument or a sport, but it’s been so long since you’ve done it that you almost forgot?

After I got married I have to admit I felt lost for awhile. I loved my husband, but I found myself in a small town with few connections and no friends close by. It was a stark reality after years at a large university where I lived with many friends and had endless opportunity for interaction.

For me, getting connected to a church was important. Not just attending but getting involved. I love God, and giving back through a children’s ministry was just what He had in mind for me. It just took a few years for me to listen to His call on that.

I have played piano since forever, and a few years ago my parents brought my grandma’s old spinet to grace my downstairs. I originally thought I didn’t need it, but I get joy out of those black and white keys even if I don’t play all the time.

Connecting with my family and close friends also gives me joy. Most work can wait if my parents or one of my four sisters needs to talk. I don’t make it to every event, but I rearrange things when at all possible because it’s worth it.

Working seven days a week has its draw backs, but I focus on the mid-day flexibility I usually have, the beautiful sunsets I take in, and the new babies I see every day.

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If you are a regular reader, I know you’re waiting for me to mention this next one. I run. I run to see progress and achieve goals. I run because I can. I run because nothing feels better than crunching over gravel on a crisp morning and knowing you are getting stronger with every step. I run even when it feels hard and dreary because bad days are part of reality.

When I started training for 5K’s, then half marathons, then marathons, I didn’t magically have extra hours in my day that needed filling. I knew I needed to find more joy, and I worked around the schedule I had to make that happen. It didn’t even mean cutting out anything major. It involved a little planning and sometimes lost sleep, but it was and still is mostly about being intentional.

At times when we can, JR and I love sitting around with hot cups of coffee just hanging out with our dogs, talking, and soaking up the morning sun through our huge south window. Usually there are 100 other things we “should” be doing, but often they can wait.
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I have plenty of other things I want to do, volunteer for, and see, and I hope I can keep incorporating them when the time is right. I don’t have the perfect mix, but I stubbornly insist on finding joy where I’m at anyway.

Remember that list I wanted you to make? Look at the things you wrote, and ask yourself if you’re doing any of them. I hope you can say “yes,” but if you can’t, then ask yourself why. Talk to your spouse, your kids, or your friends, and see if there is a way to make more joy happen.

What helps you find joy? Share it with me in the comments; I’d love to hear!

Posted in Boo the bulldog, Calvin, Christian Reflections, Running, This and That | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments