You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2010.

 Every year we try to work the Oink booth or the Promotions booth at the State Fair. I like to do it for two reasons; first I enjoy meeting people and talking to them about raising pigs and preparing pork. Second, I think it’s a good experience for the kids. It teaches them how to support the pig industry through their involvement and how to interact with people.

 Last Saturday the boys worked in the Oink Booth while Dale, Beth and I were in the Promotions booth. The boys spent time with the sow and litter and answered questions, mostly regarding the pigs’ age and how much they weighed. The largest boar is also a great attraction but the ultimate draw has to be the paper pig ears that people get to wear. You see them all over the fairgrounds. I’m not sure what the record is for assembling paper pig ears in one hour, but I know it’s a lot, especially when people are standing three deep to get them.

 In the Promotions booth, questions deal mainly with cooking pork. Most people overcook pork and end up with a dry piece of meat. Four words of advice… Use a Meat Thermometer. This year I was amazed at how many people took the recipes we had on the counter. Many commented that they stop here once a year to get new ones and that we have some of the best recipes. Beth spent most of her four hour shift restocking supplies. She did have to sneak away once to look at the carved butter heads of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way contestants.

 At the end of our shift, the boys came back with stories about pigs and people. Dale and I had a number of good conversations and felt we had the chance to educate a few people on what we do and how to prepare pork. Beth was just happy to hang out with us as you can see by the picture. All in all, a good day promoting pork.

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Today is the opening day of the MN State Fair. Brett is here with his rabbit, a Jr. doe named Leia.  Jenna Stevermer is also here with her chickens and Kendrah and Maddie Schafer have their cow/calf pairs here. Plus I met some other pork producers who have both pigs and sheep at the Fair. Does it seem ironic that some of my closest pork producer friends also have strong interests in other animals? I don’t think so since I believe it’s all part of our commitment to agriculture. Being pig farmers may be our primary job, but we have other interests.

It’s hard to accurately describe the activity and energy that occurs in the livestock buildings at the State Fair. From entry day to show day, it seems to border on chaos but when you look closer, there’s really a certain energy that drives everyone. Sometimes it’s excitment and sometimes it’ exhaustion but it’s a wonderful experience.

I believe it’s an experience that makes both us and our kids better. We learn to handle pressure, to be organized, to perform in front of people and to handle both achievements and disappointments. Our kids make friends that they will remember for years to come. Most importantly the memories they make will last a lifetime.

Our new puppy, Hal.

After our first puppy ten years ago, I swore I would never allow the kids to get another puppy.  Our dog, Meredith, chewed everything!  Bike seats, toys, boots, Christmas lights, everything.  Eventually she mellowed into a wonderful dog.  Whereever the kids are is where Meredith is.  She only goes to the farm, which is 1/4 mile away, when the kids are over there working.  She used to sprint back and forth to the farm multiple times a day.  In recent years her run has turned into a labored walk.  She used to go for three mile runs with me.  Now she waits for my return at the end of the driveway.

Knowing Meredith is aging quickly got us thinking about another dog.  “A dog”, I said, “NOT a puppy.”  When we were on vacation in July, Brandon’s brother called him and asked if we wanted a puppy.  He was making a farm delivery and the customer had puppies and he needed a decision right then and there.  Brandon said “yes” and we came home to a 6-week-old border collie.

The first thing we did was went and bought the usual supplies.  Collar, food, kennel, Puppies for Dummies book, the usual.  And then we needed to decide on a name.  My one requirement was that the name needed to be one syllable.  Having “Meredith” for ten years has taught me one thing anyway.  The kids started throwing out the typical dog names.  Spot… no, Rover… no, Fido… no, Boots… no, Hal… hey, there’s a name.  Hal, I like that.  Hal it is.  So Hal has joined our family.

The first night Hal cried all night in our garage and I couldn’t find Meredith the next morning.   Meredith normally sleeps in our garage.  I finally found Meredith sleeping in our culvert.  The noise must have driven her out of the garage.  Meredith is slowly warming up to Hal. 

Hal is full of energy with a herding instinct that won’t quit.  He tried to help the kids walk their fair pigs, he tries to help with the cattle, and he even herds the kids themselves.  Hal also likes to jump and chew and run.  If I start getting frustrated with him, all he needs to do is look at me with those big brown eyes, and I smile.  I didn’t think we needed a puppy… what did I know.

Each year the United South Central cross-country team holds a scrimmage to kick off the season. It is an opportunity for new runners and their parents to meet the families involved. To create a competition, Coach Vies invites alumni to run. This year there was a great turnout of alumni, enough to create a full team to face off against the current boys and girls teams respectively.

I am proud to say that I was the oldest male alum there. That in itself nearly guaranteed finishing first in my age group! I did clock a pretty impressive time (19:19) for the 4800 meter course and finished 4th overall, so my points counted (maybe the first time in a varsity meet). Brett (20:53) and Adam (14:11 for 2 miles) did fairly well also, and it is fun to run in races with them.

I will also say that today I moved into a new age-group for racing, at least at those that break things down in 5 year intervals.

Time to take off for a birthday supper in Fairmont, so I will cut this short.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” (Walter Elliott)

 

Maddie at the County Fair

It was hot,  it was humid,  but we survived the County Fair.  The highlight for the kids was probably the annual water fight.  On the Friday of the fair all of the champion and reserve champion senior showpeople for beef, dairy, swine, goats, and sheep get to compete in something called Supreme Showmanship.  The senior showpeople get a chance to show each of the different species to the best of their ability.  Several judges determine who does the best job overall and that person is crowned the Supreme Showman.  It has become a tradition for the “Supreme Showman” to get dunked in the cow tank after winning.  After the Supreme Showman gets wet, water buckets start to fly, and the 4-Hers have one humongous waterfight on the washrack.  The kids look forward to this every year, and now come prepared with a change of clothes.

My highlight was probably having Kendrah and Maddie receive grand champion and reserve champion for swine and beef interviews.  I feel that my children’s ability to communicate effectively is more important than how their animals place.  Kendrah and Maddie’s cow/calf pairs did place well enough to earn them State Fair trips.  Now they are eagerly anticipating the Minnesota State Fair.

Beyond the fair, school is sneeking up quickly.  Kendrah started volleyball practice and drivers education classes this week.  Maddie begins volleyball practice next week, and Max will join the varsity football practices as manager.  We did some school shopping this week and now have the supplies the kids need to start the school year.  I can always tell when it is time for school to start by looking around the house…  complete disarray!   I’m not sure if the kids or I am ready for school to start, but our home definitely is.

The MN Pork Board is part of a group of organizations working together to help people understand where their food comes from. Farmersfeedus.org is a website that features eight different MN producers of various products. The incentive for people visiting the website and signing up is the chance for free groceries for a year.

Life is full of contrasts. Because people are 2-3 generations removed from the farm, we as producers need to help them understand how and where their food comes from. On the other hand, because U.S farmers are so efficient, not everyone has to live on the farm and grow their own food, they are free to pursue other careers.

Our family is fortunate that we grow much of our own food. There are meals, especially this time of year, when we can look down at our plate and see that everything we’re eating was grown on our farm. But I’m glad we have farmers in other areas, since I really enjoy eating oranges, especially in the winter time and I know they don’t do well in Minnesota.

The producers I know are committed to growing safe, healthy food for everyone. I would encourage people to visit the website, www.farmersfeedus.org, to learn more about how food is grown and the people who are doing it.

The world population is growing and as other countries develop, the demand for lean protein like pork will increase. That’s a great opportunity for U.S. Agriculture.

The kids have been working hard all summer preparing for this week and it’s finally here.  The County Fair.  The heat and humidity are brutal, but the kids don’t seem to mind a bit.

Yesterday, Kendrah, Maddie, and I worked in the 4-H building while exhibits were being brought in and judged.  It’s always fun to see all of the different projects created by the 4-Hers.  The girls brought projects that they made during the past school year, so there was no “finishing up” pressure on them during the last week.  In the evening  Brandon and the boys loaded up our show pigs and got them situated in their pens at the fair.  Brandon wanted to haul them when it was cool, but there’s no let up in the heat, so evening had to do.  Pigs can’t sweat to cool themselves off, so it’s extremely important to keep them cool with a fan or water.

Today it was the cattle’s turn to take a trailer ride to the fair.  Trying to avoid the hottest part of the day again, Brandon and the kids loaded the cattle up around 7:00am, and got them under fans before it got too hot.  The kids also had to get their market animals weighed.  It sounds like there was only one pig that escaped into the goat barn, but he was quickly put back with his penmates.

After all the chores are done, the kids get to participate in their favorite part of the fair… socializing.  On top of all the great things 4-H teaches youth, the kids make great lifelong friends.  This evening Kendrah, Maddie, and Max will all take part in beef and hog one-on-one interviews.  Being able to communicate effectively is such an important skill. 

Tomorrow the kids will participate in the beef  cattle show and Thursday will be the hog show.  By the end of the week we need to get the toothpicks out to keep our kids’ eyes open.  What a full and fun week it will be.

 Our family vacation this summer was to Washington D.C. We haven’t taken a big trip for a few years, so we were pretty excited. Fortunately the trip lived up to all our expectations. The kids really enjoy history, especially American history, so it was rewarding to see the excitement on their faces when they were actually able to see many of the sights they’ve read about.

 We stayed in a hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a couple of blocks from the White House, so we walked just about everywhere. On our first day as we walked to the Capitol for a tour, Brett turned to me and said, “Now I know why they call it Capitol Hill.”. Yes, you do walk up a hill to get there. As we toured the Library of Congress, Adam was impressed by the fact he was looking at books that actually belonged to Thomas Jefferson.

 The kids will probably say that the monuments were their favorite and they truly are awe inspiring. We saw them during the day and at night. I think nighttime is my favorite. The lights shining around and through the memorials make them even more impressive and add a certain serenity to them. It seemed like no matter where we went, you could see the Washington Monument, which is fitting for our first president and the city named after him.

 One of the highlights had to be viewing the original Declaration of Independence. That really made history come to life for the kids. For those of you that have seen the movie National Treasure, you know the Declaration of Independence has a role. The kids commented on how the actual room where the Declaration of Independence is kept is not as well lit as in the movie. Ah movie magic.

 I feel fortunate that we were able to take this vacation. Our kids grew in their knowledge of our country and its historical roots. They had experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Vacations are important not only for what we learn, but for the time we’re able to spend with each other as family. As I turn the page on the calendar, there is only one month of summer vacation left. But what a great summer it’s been.

The last month has been a relaxed one for running.  I’ve continued to log easy miles while working through some hip discomfort.  My hip had begun to bother me more and more while lifting and bending, but was fine while running.  I wasn’t sure whether to visit a medical doctor, chiropractor, or massage therapist specializing in sports massage.  I decided to try a chiropractor first and that turned out to be a wise choice.  I’ve been getting adjusted for around a month now, and the pain is definitely getting better.  He even diagnosed and adjusted a shin splint that was just starting to flare up.

With my hip condition under control, it is time to sign up for my next race.  I will be running the Whistlestop Half Marathon in Ashland Wisconsin in October.  I ran this race last year with my sister and two friends.  It’s a flat course that follows a wooded trail.  October is the perfect time for this race, with the trees vibrant with fall color.  So… time to step up the training again.

More on that later.  My family is asking for an early supper (pork roast that has been cooking in the crockpot all day ~ YUM).  Brandon and the kids are headed down to our fairgrounds to set up the barns for the County Fair next week.

I am sitting in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport waiting for the final flight back to Minneapolis /St Paul. While here we got news that Brett Favre decided to retire (??) Time will be the final judge on that decision, but it was good for some meal time discussions. That was far less important than some of the time I was out and about the last 5 days.

We traveled to Washington DC to spend some leisure time and soak up a lot of the nation’s history. We were able to see a lot of important sites and sights, and put in a lot of walking miles. One of the best things I did, though, was go for a run every morning (except Sunday). Far from making me more tired, the runs warmed me up and got my day started right. Even though we would be on our feet for 10 hours or so, walking used different muscles and actions than running, so both were compatible. It was also great to see the National Mall with far fewer people around than later in the day.

During 2 of these runs, I had company. Monday morning’s run was with Brett and Adam, complaining about the early wakeup time (6:30), but willing to put in 5+ miles at an “old-man’s pace.” I felt proud that my sons were willing participants in the sport that I enjoy. This morning Lori and I let the kids sleep in while we put in an easy 2 miles to start the day.

All in all it was a great vacation. We live in a great nation and should honor those that helped shaped our country and also those that currently serve our country in various capacities.