You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2010.

The people we surround ourselves with can help us to achieve our goals.  Sometimes we choose these people and other times they are chosen for us. 

We choose to do business with  people we feel will move our farm in the direction of our goals.  They many times have similar business objectives and understand our aspirations.  On the other hand, our neighbors who surround us did not choose to align themselves with us and sometimes are inconvenienced by the daily operation of our farm.

Whether chosen or not, our farm thrives because of the network of people who surround us.  Around ten years ago we wanted to think of a way to show our appreciation to these people.  What we came up with was the “Schafer Pignic”.  Our goals were simple.  Food, fun, and fellowship.

Pig Races

This past Saturday we hosted our “pignic” for 2010.  In the past we have roasted a whole hog, but this year Brandon decided to grill pork loins instead.  Everyone noticed that the meat was cooked differently, but they loved it just the same.  The key with pork is not to overcook.

We had a coin hunt in our rock box for the five and under crowd.  We just sprinkle some quarters, dimes, and a few special dollars among the pea rocks, and on “go” the kids dive in and find the coins.  We also have done “pig races” where the kids pose as the pigs.  We have a drawing for the adults and give away processed pork.  The adults love this as much as the little kids love the coins.

We realize that we can’t farm successfully on our own.  We greatly appreciate the support of our community and feel the “pignic” is one small way to give back.

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With the end of June and the first month of summer vacation just a few days away, I think of that old song that talked about the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” and I think crazy YES! Lazy, No way! June found us participating in the World Pork Expo, Grandma’s Marathon, Spat Camp, Hoops Academy, Fastbreak league, Swimming Lessons, Cross Country camp and our church festival. I think there was only one day that I looked at the calendar and said “hey, we don’t have anything scheduled for today.”

I would like to say that I always have the chance to prepare a healthy well balanced meal, but the truth is that sometimes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is our answer to the food pyramid. It’s 10:00 pm as I plop down into the chair while the last kid finishes showering. I’m hoping to read a few pages of the book I’m really interested in. But in reality I only get one page read before I fall asleep. Unfortunately I think it’s the same page every night!

But you know what; I LOVE SUMMER! Despite the crazy hectic schedules, I love not having the pressure of getting everyone’s homework completed each night. I love the impromptu softball, soccer or badminton games that happen just because we feel like it. I love campfires and roasting marshmallows and looking into a night sky that’s filled with stars, realizing we are so luck to be out in the country where we can actually see the stars.  I love going for a bike ride later in the evening when the sun has gone down and even though it’s still a bit humid, my bike cuts through the air as I race down the road.

But most of all, I like summer because I can be with my kids. During the school year, our schedules and activities revolve around school. In the fall, I’m always a bit sad to “give them back” to school again. I know that getting an education is important and I will always encourage them to do their best in school, but in the summer time, we have the opportunity to get a different type of education that is just as valuable.

So if you hear me talking about how busy our summer is, just smile along with me. Because deep down, I love summer and all the crazy, not so lazy things it brings us.

Grandmas weekend was a blast, and the race wasn’t too bad, either.

As I reflect on what transpired, the moments that stick out had to do with people. Things started for me Thursday afternoon. After arriving at the Radisson, I went out for a run to loosen up. At the street corner I met a skinny guy in running gear that was looking for a good route to run. I volunteered to help him, even after admitting that I hadn’t been down near Canal Park for many years.

I quickly sized this guy up as being much faster than myself, but we did fall into a common pace and conversation easily. This gentleman was from Ethiopa by way of New York, and had been invited to run the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon. He was a little cagy about his projected finishing time, but the end result is that he finished 3rd in the race.

After working at the Expo for a couple hours, and receiving very positive feedback from those sampling pork, I grabbed my race packet and wandered around. I was greeted by a guy seated behind a table “You must be Brett and Adam’s dad.” (We were wearing the same Pork Power shirts). This man was Dane Rauschenberg, who had run 52 marathons in 52 weeks during 2006. Quite an accomplishment, and also an inspiration to many runners.

On Friday the boys and I spent time talking to Vali Tomeschu, the coach of the Romanian women that won gold at the Beijing Olympics marathon. He had some coaching tips for the boys, and wanted to hear how they finished at the William A. Irvin 5K that night.

Friday afternoon we watched Beth run her Whipper Snapper race, along with Callie and Shayna (Joe and Teresa’s daughters). Their races were short and fast, and the girls looked strong running. It is a thrill to see them finish so well.

I stayed at the Expo Friday afternoon, and reached the people-meeting zenith for me. Dick Beardsley was signing his book, and I talked to him for about 15 minutes. Various topics were farming and running, UM-Waseca, where Lori also went to college, and our promotion of pork at Grandma’s. Later, I made it to the presentations, catching the tail end of Kara Goucher’s talk, then Dick’s talk. During the question and answer period for Kara, a lady 15 feet from me said that she had something to give Kara that has been around for 25 years. She was talking about a laurel wreath (given to winners of the Boston Marathon), and that she was Lisa Weidenbach, the last American woman to win at Boston. Kara politely declined, since she wanted to earn hers.

The 5K race went about as I expected, with 1500+ runners causing a traffic jam and a slow start. The 5 Stevermers, Brett, Adam, Lori, Joe and Jenna, foundtheir stride and ran good races. Once again, it was so exciting to see family members working hard and having success.

I will save a blow by blow review of Grandma’s for the next time. My bus ride to the start went quickly because the person seated next to me was a good listener and experienced marathoner. A resident of Boston, he had helped a friend re-qualify at the 2010 Boston, so had traveled to Duluth to qualify. He is a physical therapist, and gave a few pointers on the miniscus tear that I am dealing with. I enjoyed running past the Bacon Section and proudly pointed out my Pork Power shirt. I also met up with some runners from Rochester that I had met 3 weeks ago at the Med City half.

The most important people were the ones I spent the rest of Saturday with: my family and friends that were in Duluth. Thank you for your support, and thanks to the MN Pork Board for spurring me on to run my 7th marathon, a Boston qualifier.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Half-Marathon Finish Line

3:33AM.  I opened my eyes and the hotel alarmclock read 3:33AM.  I sighed with relief, not because I could roll over and go back to sleep.  I sighed because “three” has always been “my number”.  So when I saw a series of threes, that could only mean good things.  Sure, you can call me superstitious.  I consider “threes” my sign that I’m moving my life in the right direction.  Seeing threes on the morning of Grandma’s half-marathon confirmed that I was ready to tackle 13.1 miles.

The reason I was doubting myself was that I had been sick.  Sick enough to go on antibiotics (against my better judgment) five days before the race.  The antibiotics messed with my digestion, and I was having stomache cramping every time I ate.  Not a good thing when running for two hours.

I got up at 3:33 so I could eat far enough in advance of the race (starting at 6:30AM) so if my body decided to reject the food, I wouldn’t be on the race course yet.  I woke Maddie up at 4:15 and we silently went through our routine of getting ready to run.

The starting line was shoulder-to-shoulder people.  Quite an amazing feeling.  At 6:30 we starting moving forward, stopped, moved forward, stopped, and finally we started moving forward without stopping. 

The first miles flew by as we jockeyed for position and settled into a comfortable pace.  I put my arm around Maddie and said “I’m so blessed to be running this race with you.”  At mile four we took our first gel-pack with water and continued on.  Maddie was running a few steps ahead of me and I told her it was O.K. for her to run on her own if she wanted.  With that permission she strode off ahead.  I watched her Pork Power shirt back until I could see her no more.  I checked in with my body.  Everything was feeling good.  I vacillated between the external stimulation (the massive lake to my left, the sound of bagpipes, the encouraging shouts, the sweating runners) and the internal conversation (you’ve got this, my legs feel good, they call that a hill?).  Around mile seven, two jets flew over signaling the start of the full marathon.  Tears filled my eyes from the power of the moment.  During mile eight a slight cramp moved through my stomache.  “Oh no you don’t!”, I willed my stomache to calm down.  It seemed to work, and the cramp faded. 

The final miles were blessedly uneventful.  Within sight of the finish line I saw my family in the crowd.  I high-fived Brandon and moved on to the finish.  I broke two hours, which was my goal. 

I never thought farming and running would intersect.  It’s a powerful feeling to have my life align like that.  I guess you would call that Pork Power.

   I feel at a loss for word.  If you know me at all you realize that does not happen often.  I just arrived home from Duluth.  It was a very exciting weekend. 

   I first want to thank the Minnesota Pork Board and their members for allowing me the opportunity to represent them.  I feel honored to have been involved in promoting pork. 

   The weekend started out a little rough.  My daughters and I headed up to Duluth on the tail end of a rather violent storm.  We thought that we were in the clear, but the storm swung aroung and we were in the van on I 35 in the grips of a violent storm.  Our prayers were heard and we calmed ourselves and proceded to Duluth.  It was scarry and I am sure we will never forget it.  

  We arrived Friday morning wearing our bright yellow Pork Power shirts and when you place 5 people in that color it was noticed.  We went to pick up our race packets and easily found the rest of our clan.  (They were also in bright yellow shirts).  We warmly greeted by people that we had never met before.  My husband Joe spent much of the rest of the day hanging out at the booth and talking to people that attended the expo.  The girls and I looked around.  Later in the day Shayna my 13 yr old and Callie my 9 year old were involved in the whipper snapper race and both did well in their age groups.  It was fun to sit on the lawn in the park and see all the energy of the young people.  Later that evening we watch Lori, Brett, Adam, Jenna and Joe run the 5 K.  They did a nice job!  After that we went to the hotel so the kids could swim.  

I now want to tell you about my 1/2 Marathon run.  I feel overcome with emotions as I write this.  I feel so blessed and honored to be able to run.  As I run 13.1 miles I notice every inch of my body at first.  Every emotion is on the surface.  I notice all the runner around me.  I am entertained by the people along side the road as they watch.  I feel a chill as the Jets fly over indicating that the full marathon has started.  I listen as a man in a kilt plays the bagpipes.  The morning weather is perfect.  The breeze soft.  The smell of the lake and pines are wonderful.  I find my pace and settle in.  I transition to an inner space.  One that only I feel.  It is quiet and rhythmic.  I know my breath and it is steady.  My ability to sense others around my decreases.  My head is filled with positive thought  “you can do it”  ” you are feeling great” .  I challange myself to push harder.  My body responds.  I feel blessed again.  As I arrive at the 10K mark I realize that I am on pace for a 2 hour finish.  I am excited and feel confident that I can be close to 2 hours.  I return to my calm place.  I do noticed the crowd is getting heavier.  I am in the city limits of Duluth and enjoy the diversion of cheering and sideline parties.  At this point I am interupted by a pain that I have never felt before.  It is located in my right knee.  I think that it must be a tightness and will stretch as I continue to move.  It persists.  I slow my pace.  It continues.  It is sometimes sharp and intesifies as I run down hills.  I try to return to the quiet place and that does not help.  I adjust my stride but it still continues.  I come to the realization that it will be with my for the rest of my race.  I settle into the idea that a 2 hour marathon is not going to happen.  I am disappointed.  This is where the Irish in me comes out!  I focus hard on what needs to be done and I dig my heals in and finish the race.  As I run down the last stretch I was not aware of anything.  I cross the line and stop running.  As I was getting in line for my medal I look back to see 2 hour and 9 min and 54 seconds.  I am overcome with joy.  I realize that I had just run 9 minutes faster than I did 2 yrs ago.  For a female of my age to cut 9 minutes off  her time is awesome.  I am proud of myself. 

Why do I run?  Because it is mine.  I own it.  It makes me stronger physically and mentally.  I am example for my children.  I will heal and I will run again.    

Thank you Dale and Lori for inviting my to do this.  I appreciate your friendship!  Shafers – you are awesome people and I look forward to spending time with you again.  To the Stevermer, Stevermer and Schafer kids, Thanks for cheering me on.  Finally ,Joe,  Thanks for being there.  I knew that it took time away from  farming at a very busy time, but I appreciate it.

Wow, what a great weekend at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth! This turned out to be a truly memorable time for all of us. Brett, Adam and I ran the 5K Friday evening. We were nervous and a big crowd and warm weather, held us back a bit, so we didn’t have any record breaking times, but we still ran good strong races. My two favorite memories were lining up at the starting line with my sons and coming around the last turn and having the Pork Power team cheer me on. Monica, Maddie and Teresa will tell you more about their ½ Marathon run and Dale will tell you about his marathon, but let me be the first to say I’m proud of them all.

Another highlight of the weekend was working in the pork booth and promoting pork. These runners and athletes were a new audience to us and the response was great. People really love the taste of pork and were asking how it was prepared and what type of seasoning was used. Just remember, don’t overcook pork! Use a meat thermometer and take it off the grill before it reaches 160 degrees and let it rest a bit under some tin foil. It will continue to cook and you’ll have moist delicious pork.

So much of our blog has been about running and pork, but it has also been about making new friends. As Brandon and Monica, Joe and Teresa and Dale and I along with all our kids hung out together this weekend, new friendships were forged. It took the kids a little while to get over their shyness, but Saturday afternoon we must have spent about 45 minutes on the shores of Lake Superior just hanging out. The kids were skipping rocks and wadding in the water. When we weren’t running or working in the pork booth, the kids wanted to swim together in the pool. I thought about how as farm families, we must share similar values because we all fit in so well together.

This blog started because of the MN Pork Board being a sponsor of Grandma’s Marathon and our opportunity to share our experiences as parents and pork producers and our interests in exercise and nutrition. While the races are over and we close one chapter, we’ve discussed continuing our Pork Power blog so that you can see how we balance work, exercise, kid’s activities and producing food for others. Life is challenging, but it’s also fun.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.

– Diane Ackerman

We’re only two days before Grandma’s Marathon and our races and everyone is getting excited. Part of the reason is that we’re looking forward to some vacation time. The other reason of course is that the race we’ve been training for is finally here and while we’re trying not to focus on how well we run, we can’t help but feel some pressure to do well.

There have been so many people wishing us good luck and cheering for us, that it’s hard not to want to run you absolute best, so you feel you haven’t let them down. Yet our success will go beyond what type of times we run. To me, our success can be defined by 3 things. First, by each one of us runners setting a goal and having the determination and resilience to keep working to reach that goal. If you’ve read our blogs you know that especially in the last few weeks we’ve had small injuries and activities that have taken away from our training. But each one of us will line up at the start and will give it our best shot.

Second, as pork producers, we’ve shared our families and farms with you and hopefully helped you learn a little more about us. We care about nutrition and eating well, that’s why we chose a lean protein like pork for our diets. We care about our animals and our environment, it’s why we operate our farms is a safe, responsible manner. But most importantly, we care about our family and friends.

Finally, I think our pork power team is a success because we took on a new challenge. Everyone involved, from the staff at the MN Pork Board office, to the volunteers and the runners decided to do something different, to promote pork to a new segment, the athlete. Pork Power isn’t just a catchy slogan. It’s the power of a nutrition protein like pork and it’s the power of a team of people working together towards a common goal.

Success – Ralph Waldo Emerson

          To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of the intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.

I followed a great training plan to get ready for Grandma’s Marathon. It had tune-up races that would help determine how fast you should train over the next 4 weeks, and the workouts definitely made me a faster runner than I thought I would be. The idea that a marathon runner should train at low intensity, and just be able to cover the miles, is fine for those that just want to finish the 26.2 mile distance. I knew I had to train harder and better than that because I was representing the pork industry.

I was supposed to do a half marathon race 4 weeks out, then have a couple hard weeks of training before I started to taper and heal the legs. Running Med City 3 weeks out was what I did instead, and I just traded a couple weeks on the calendar. Coach Vies had said that it takes about a day to recover from each mile of racing, and looking at my training log, I would have to say that was about right on. The first week was all about getting the legs to fresh enough to run easy, so 50 miles became 35. The next Tuesday saw me in the dentist’s chair for a root canal. Even though you couldn’t get much farther from my legs, that seemed to be a slight setback, also.

However, even with a couple struggles, a nice hard bike ride on Sunday got me going again. Lori & I went out, averaging over 17 mph. I know I was pushing the pace, but everything felt easy. I added some miles on my own, and probably finished at 16+ mph over 15 miles, the last half into a breeze. 2 more days of running really helped tune things up, and now I just have a 4 miler in Duluth before the 26.2 on Saturday. I am going to go into this race with confidence that the training I have put in will allow me to race Grandma’s, not just make it to the finish line.

Last night we attended the track team awards ceremony, where the Vies commented on each runner’s contribution to the team’s success. Adam had competed mostly at the junior high level, but his distance events were very good, breaking 5:50 in the 1600. Brett was the solid #2 3200 guy, with a SB of 11:29, and encouraged by Vies to work harder to uncover the rest of his potential. Then, a senior stepped forward and presented a bag of goodies that gets passed to a freshman trackster. This is a tradition that helps carry forward the leadership and responsibilities form older kids to the next group coming up, and was given to Brett  Today will be spent mixing feed and doing a couple clean up jobs around the farm before we attend the picnic at Schafer’s. While I will have competent, experienced people doing chores while I am gone, I want to make things as easy as possible for them.

– 26.2 –

“I’m wasted on cross-country! We Dwarves are natural sprinters, very dangerous over short distances.” -Gimli, Lord of the Rings movie series

I haven’t been feeling like much of a runner or farmer this past week.  A cattle show and illness have prevented me from running much and my marigolds are being consumed by slugs.

My family spent last Thursday-Sunday in Albert Lea, MN at a cattle show.  The days were filled with activities, which didn’t leave any time for running.  Minnesota hosted the show so we had the responsibilities of serving meals, organizing events, and providing entertainment.  On Saturday evening a fellow pork producer grilled boneless pork chops for supper.  They were delicious and got rave reviews! 

Maddie & Brandon

Maddie did very well with her showing and, of course, didn’t find any time for running either.  Above are a picture of her and Brandon enjoying the day.  Maddie and I have both been fighting some type of cold/flu.  I’ve had a sore throat and body aches off and on for a week now and have been feeling sluggish.  I’m sure hoping I start feeling better before Grandma’s race this weekend. 

On Wednesday we have a National Pork Board tour coming to our farm and staying for dinner.  It should be an enjoyable event.  I’m not meticulous about how our yard looks, but I want it presentable.  I was outside this morning pulling a few weeds and found slugs everywhere on my marigolds.  They have just about consumed every leaf on every plant.  After some quick research, I learned they like beer more than they like marigolds, so now I have some beverages available for the slugs in the flower garden.

If I can be rid of the slugs and my sluggishness by the end of this week, I will consider it a success.  Wish me luck!

  My exercise routine this week was anything but routine due to my attending the World Pork Expo. For those of you not familiar with this event, it’s a combination of a trade show, educational seminars and grilling competition. Throw in the Junior National Show with about 600 exhibitors showing 1500 pigs and Des Moines Iowa June 9-11 was the place to be for anything to do with pigs.

 My week started off by leaving for Des Moines on Monday to set up the Hubbard Feeds booth. Tuesday we had a swine training meeting for our salespeople. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was the tradeshow, which I worked most of the time. Working the tradeshow involves a lot of time standing, which is tiring. Our booth was really busy so visiting with people all day can also be tiring, although it’s rewarding.

 For me, it’s challenging to fit in some time to work out. We start early in the morning. Typically a group of us go out for dinner in the evening. Later in the evening it’s a great opportunity to visit with people from around the country to see how business is going for them. Not much opportunity to fit in a run.

 I was lucky to fit in a short run on the treadmill Thursday evening as the kids swam in the hotel pool. It felt good to stretch my muscles and get my heart rate going. What I’m really looking forward to is getting home and getting out on my bike. The weather forecast for the weekend is for rain off and on, so I really hope I get the chance to get out.

 The World Pork Expo is a great deal of work for me, but I also find it exciting. I enjoy meeting with people from all over the US and the world and from all types of farms, from small to large. I also enjoy seeing what’s new in the industry. Typically we’re highlighting something new in our booth, so I’m eager to see the crowd’s reaction. The workout I do get involves much standing and walking around the fairgrounds, and while I miss running and biking, I enjoy seeing and visiting with my friends in the pork industry.