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We are back from vacation and counting down to our County Fair. We took the Amtrak train out to Glacier National Park for vacation. The scenery was breathtaking and I would highly suggest it for any family. My daughters ran across a mama moose with her baby on a trail, we had a snowball fight on top of a mountain, and the boys skipped rocks on a crystal-clear lake. It was the perfect mix of relaxation and activity for me.
While on vacation my brother-in-law called asking if we wanted a puppy. We had been considering getting a puppy, hoping our older dog would help train a new puppy. So, we came home to an adorable black and white border collie that we named Hal. He is full of energy and is already showing his herding instincts towards the cattle, pigs, and kids.
We also came home knowing that there are only a couple weeks left before the Goodhue County Fair. The 4-H building projects are mosting complete. My dad helped Max build a gun rack earlier this week. My dad has a lot of woodworking tools, so he is a great help. We are walking the pigs twice a day now. It’s amazing how quickly they learn the routine. The kids are also walking and grooming the cattle daily. Our fair starts August 10th, eleven days to go…
We are wrapping up our week at the Faribault county fair. For those of you that have been following us, you know we’re pretty involved in 4-H. The kids took project to the fair in areas such as wildlife biology, plant and soil science, robotics, food and nutrition and self-determined. They also took their rabbits and their pigs. Brett and Adam gave presentations on Saturday afternoon. Combine all those activities with working in the Dining Hall, participating in the 4-H Auction and just viewing the fair and you can see it’s been a busy week.
The kids have experienced the nervous anticipation of waiting to be judged. They have felt the satisfaction of earning a blue ribbon and the delight of a Grand Champion Purple ribbon. They have also been handed a red ribbon, which hopefully will be a motivation for improvement next year. Brett has earned a state fair trip for his rabbit, wildlife biology project and will be giving his presentation. Adam will take his plant and soil science project to the state fair and will also give a presentation.
We’ve had a share of breakdown moments too. Our patience runs thin when we’re tired from moving pigs or cleaning pens or just plain hot and tired. At those times we don’t always use the kindest voice and we have to remind ourselves that we’re all feeling the same way, tired and even a bit stressed.
Sometimes I wonder why we do it. Why do we get so involved and push ourselves so much? The obvious answer is for the kids. It’s true, I’ve watched them become better speakers and more confident individuals and I know that’s because of their 4-H experience. But are there other reasons too?
As Brett read the Code of Conduct Statement before the auction Friday night, there were a few statements that struck home with me. I’d like to share them with you:
It is an opportunity for us to demonstrate some of what we have learned and how we have used our projects to grow and develop as young people. When our days in 4-H are over, we want to take with us what we have gained about honest, ethics, integrity and our desire to be caring and contributing citizens. You’ve taught us how to win; you’ve taught us how to deal with disappointment. But regardless of the color of our ribbons, we hope we demonstrate good sportsmanship today and throughout our lives.
Even though summer time offers a variety of foods and the expanded use of our grill, I still have those “what should I make for supper” moments. Fortunately as I struggled through one of those times the other night, I was able to come up with something new for us that worked out pretty well.
When we process our hams, we like to get ham steaks. Typically we grill these like any other steak. But I was tired of eating that ham that way. So I decided to make kabobs using the ham steak and pineapple. Normally I’m not a big fan of kabobs because they usually have green, yellow or red peppers as part of the mix and I really don’t like peppers.
This combination worked out pretty well. Ham and pineapple are both foods the kids like. They were easy to make and didn’t take long to grill. Okay, so I know I didn’t really create anything outstanding and the Food Network won’t be knocking on my door to give me any awards. But I am rather happy that I was able to take 2 fairly regular foods for us and turn them into something different that actually tasted good.
Now, what to make for supper tonight……
We leave this evening for vacation. Am I ready to go on vacation? No. Well, I’m ready to “be” on vacation, but not yet ready to depart.
Last night a neighbor called and said Max, our 11 year old, got a “boo boo” while out with the neighbor’s grandson. I knew it was more than a “boo boo”, or he wouldn’t be calling me. The “boo boo” turned out to be getting stepped on by a horse and required an emergency room run. Luckily, no bones were broken, but Max is now on crutches because it hurts to put weight on his leg. Max’s new physical condition should add an interesting twist to our vacation. We had plans to zipline, hike, swim, and whitewater raft, so we’ll see how those materialize.
The rest of my day will be spent packing, cleaning, collecting boars, going to the chiropractor, and giving instruction for feeding cattle, fish, and dogs. I’m excited to be on vacation. It’s getting there that’s the hard part.
My 10 year old daughter Beth asked me that question earlier this week. Blue Earth’s Giant Days road races were coming up and she wanted to do the 2 mile run this year instead of the ½ mile kids run. Without hesitating I said yes and then jokingly added, but will you race at a pace that I can keep up with?
What a great thing to have your daughter ask you to run with her. During the week we got out a few times to train. Beth likes to talk when she runs so we have great conversations. Hopefully these small conversations will set the groundwork for her teenage years, when having someone to talk to is vitally important.
Race day ended up being a family affair, as you can tell by the picture. Dale and the boys ran a 10K race. He helped set their pace since neither of them has competitively raced at this long of a distance. Both did well even though Brett struggled a bit with his stomach and Adam got a side cramp.
Beth and I waited around while the guys ran, since our race was later. She commented a few times on how she was nervous, but I told her being nervous was normal and encouraged her to channel her nerves for positive results. The race started out fast. Dale also ran with us and we slowed the pace down a bit. True to form, Beth conversed along the way. It really was a pleasant run. Dale encouraged me to pick up my pace a bit, which I did and those two stayed slightly behind me. With about 30 yards left, who should come up sprinting from behind me but Beth. She ended up crossing the finish line at 18:01, 3 seconds ahead of me.
Doing activities together is an important part of who we are. Fortunately we’re in good health and in good shape that we can run races. But we’re not just running races; we’re using these moments as a chance to teach our kids about themselves and how to react to the various things that happen to them. Running through a side cramp now can teach them how to work through a difficult project in the future.
Beth and I didn’t just run a race today, we shared an experience.
Brett, Adam and Beth belong to 4-H and with our county fair only 2 weeks today, many of their activities now revolve around finishing their projects. 4-H not only teaches leadership, community involvement and responsibility, it also teaches you how to work with a deadline. Sometimes that deadline is really tight as the kids finish their projects on entry day of the fair. We call that “working under pressure”.
The kids take pigs and rabbits as 4-H projects. Their 4-H pigs are in the same barn as our regular market hogs, but get fed a special diet, so part of the kid’s job every day is to carry feed to the pigs. That’s what Brett is doing in this picture. This is a good activity for them because they learn to work together as they fill the pails with feed and haul them in a wagon to the barn. They also learn how to care for animals and understand the responsibility of making sure they have feed. They also need to communicate with Dale when the bin is empty, so that he can grind more feed.
Interacting with the pigs every day help them monitor the growth of the pig and determine which ones will be best suited for taking to the fair. Generally we’re looking for pigs that represent our targeted market weight, which is 260-280 lbs. We want them to be well muscled and move well. The kids have all taken a Livestock Quality Assurance and Ethics class (LQA&E) which teaches them about animal care and well being and also about proper showing ethics. This is a good class and is required by the packer the kids sell their pigs to at the end of the fair.
Being in 4-H not only teaches the kids about the projects, it helps us as parents learn how to “teach” our kids. How “hands on” should we be on a project vs. letting them learn for themselves? Also, when things don’t go right, how do we treat each other? Sharing responsibility and not putting the blame on others are qualities we all need to use, not only for 4-H but for life.
These next 2 weeks will be busy. The kids also have projects to complete in plant and soil science, wildlife biology, photography, crafts, robotics, food and nutrition. 4-H is a great experience for our kids and the county fair is certainly one of the highlights of their summer.
June was a month packed full of giving back to our communities. Hosting picnics, camera crews, and cattle shows. Helping with 4-H clinics, 4-H camp, bible school, and a funeral. And of course, showing our Pork Power while running in Grandma’s 1/2 Marathon.
July brings a change and time for vacation. We are going North, South, and West for our trips. My son Max headed north to the Boundary Waters last week with a friend’s family. He loves nature and the outdoors, so I’m sure he will have great stories to tell from this trip. There’s no way to communicate with him while he’s there, so we will have to wait until he gets home to hear all the exciting details of his vacation. The house has been pretty quiet without him around.
My daughter Kendrah, who loves to show animals, headed south to College Station, Texas for the Gelbvieh Junior National Cattle Show. We told her a year ago that we wouldn’t be going because it was way too far, but she was determined to go. She coordinated a ride with a couple other Minnesota families, and she is in Texas as of last night. I’ve been communicating with her a lot through texting. She’s told me things I really didn’t even need to know.
Finally, our whole family is heading west to Glacier National Park in Montana. We are taking the train out to Whitefish which should be an interesting experience. My husband Brandon is the only one from our family who has ever been on a train. We plan to zipline (even though I’m deathly afraid of heights), whitewater raft, and hike while out there. Any other must see or must do activities?
Coordinating a vacation is a little trickier when owning a farm. The animals require attention every day. We can’t close on the weekend or holidays. We got over this hurdle by growing to a size where we need employees. Employees mean more management challenges, but employees also mean more flexability to take a day off. We really appreciate our employees, and wouldn’t ever be able to get away without them. It’s a win-win situation all around.