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The city of Mankato held their first marathon this past Saturday and Dale, Beth and I were volunteers at the Ridley Inc. water stop. 2000 runners signed up for the events which consisted of the marathon, ½ marathon, relay marathon and 10K. All indications are the weekend was a success.

The fun started for us on Friday night, when Beth ran the KidsK. It was a nice race and other than a few small toddlers taking a spill, seemed to go quite well. Afterwards we attended the Scheel’s Health Expo and the highlight was listening to Dick Beardsley speak. Dick shared stories about his various running experiences, which certainly are motivational. Adam was captivated while Dick spoke and a highlight for him was getting an autographed picture.

Dick ran cross country at the University of MN, Waseca, back when it was a 2 year college. I also ran CC at UMW about 5 years after Dick. It was fun to share a few memories and a few laughs about our coach and the school, now a federal prison.

Saturday morning we were at our water stop by 7:15 to help set up with the rest of the Ridley group. We eagerly waited for the runners and as we caught a glimpse of them approaching, we ran to our spots. I passed out water. Dale had instructed me to place the cup on the palm of my hand, since it would be easier for the runners to grab. He was right.

Things got busy and then before we knew it, we were told the last runner was approaching. We cleaned up the tables, raked up the tossed cups and took down the decorations as our job was done. When Dale and I dropped off the extra supplies downtown near the finish line, there were joyous sights and sounds as runners filtered through the crowd after finishing. Looks like Mankato’s first Marathon was a success.

On Saturday I was able to finish 2 seasons. In the morning I ran my final race of the summer season, and by 9 o’clock that night I had harvested the last bushel of corn from the field. Both gave me a great sense of accomplishment, and I was able to sleep well that night.

After the deluge of rain on September 22 and 23, I could not have imagined that we would have been able to travel across fields with combines and tractors 6 days later, but we did. For the most part, we didn’t find a lot of mud, and where we did, we let the ground dry out some more before we tried again. Because of the sunny, warm and dry weather that followed the rain, the crops were very dry, and harvest went very quickly. We were able to harvest every day after September 28th.

While it seemed like every spare moment was spent in the field, I did take time to watch cross country races in Spring Valley, Duluth, Waseca and Freeborn. I also got a few training runs in, since I had targeted the Big Woods Half Marathon as a goal race for summer training. I need to emphasize the word few, because weekly mileage plummeted to 15-25 miles over those 3 weeks, and I did what I could to make them quality miles.

The Big Woods Run is held near Nerstrand and about 2/3 is run on trails inside the State Park. I had last run the course about 20 years ago when it was held in conjunction with the town’s Bologna Days celebration. I really enjoyed the race then, and Saturday’s race is another fond memory. With the temperature around 50 degrees and a nice clear sky, I knew weather wouldn’t hold me back. My main concern was the lack of confidence building workouts during harvest, compounded with the amount of sitting I had done while operating the combine or tractors. Once we got into the woods, the pack had thinned out. I saw 2 people trip and roll, and I stumbled a couple times on the uneven, leaf-covered surface. While the course is described as being somewhat hilly, a better description is that it crosses a ravine about 4 times. It is a little tricky running down the steep slope, and going up will ruin your pace. However I kept a steady effort and recovered quickly at the top of the hills.

The best feeling I have from the race is that only 1 person passed me during the entire 13.1 miles, and I got him back within a mile. The last mile was a steady uphill and I passed another runner about .2 from the finish.

After that race I was pumped to register for the Boston Marathon, which I had qualified for at Grandma’s. I filled out the registration form twice and it bounced both times because of server overload. I decided to work while it was light out and work on the application later that night. I found out that the field was filled (24,000+ runners) within 8 hours and now am in search of a good spring race to focus on.

Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. ~Abraham Lincoln

 

Steve Meyer, from Paragon Economics made that statement at a pork industry meeting I recently attended. It’s a simple statement, yet very profound. We may call ourselves pork producers, pig farmers, growers, producers or even farm families, but in the end, we have one purpose, to produce food to feed people.

Every day Dale gets up and goes out to the barns to feed and take care of the pigs. There are sows to breed, young pigs that need to be checked and the occasional pig that may need extra care. There is feed to grind and animals to be fed. Some days there are gates to be fixed or other repairs that need to be done. The end goal is to send a pig to market that is healthy, efficient and a good source of lean protein for the consumer.

The pigs we raise could end up as a dry aged pork chop in a white table restaurant. The ham could be part of a school lunch meal, perhaps the best meal that some kid has for that day. Pork ribs could be part of a tailgate party before a big football game. The loin roast could be part of a hot delicious meal on a cold winter night.

The farmers I know are modest, perhaps too modest. They don’t want to call attention to what they do, so unfortunately some people don’t understand what it’s like to raise pigs today. It’s like many other jobs, rewarding, challenging, frustrating and gratifying. But to farmers, it’s more than a job, it’s a livelihood, a passion they have for raising livestock that one day feeds people.

Next time you see a farmer, any type of farmer, tell him or her thanks. They may be surprised, but they’ll appreciate your gratitude.

We just purchased some new boars for our boar stud.  Before they are brought into the barn, we put them in isolation for three months.  This allows for any disease risk the boars may be carrying from their old home to be minimized.  We don’t want the animals already in the stud or the new boars to get sick.  The five purchased boars were recently moved out of isolation and into our boar stud.  Once in the boar stud its time to train them.

Training boars takes a lot of patience.  There is a dummy sow that the boars need to mount in order to be collected.  With a real sow, instinct takes over.  But the instinct to mount a dummy sow isn’t as strong.  There are a lot of tricks to try to get the boars to mount, but no one technique works 100% of the time.  That’s the frustrating part for me.  Each boar has its own personality, just like humans.  Along with the different personalities comes different preferences when in the collecting pen.

My goal this week is to get some of these boars trained.  Wish me luck!

Bow hunting has started in Minnesota.  In the past, I had been completely unaware of the hunting season, but my son Max really has a passion for hunting, trapping, and fishing, so I’ve definitely become more informed.  On Friday evening Max asked me, “Do you want to hunt with me in the morning?”  I’ve never hunted before, so it caught me by surprise.  I answered, “Sure.”

Saturday morning I sent Brandon and our daughters off to work in the sow unit and I woke up Max.  He was excited to get up and get going.  We put on the usual camouflage clothing.  Max looked like a tree with leaves hanging off of his clothes.  We then drove out to what we refer to as “back of the woods”.  Max got his bow out and gave me a backpack to wear.

We quietly walked out to a tree where Max and Brandon had built a tree stand.  We climbed up into the tree and sat and sat and sat.  Once settled in, we started to hear the world waking up.  The sky delivered a magnificent sunrise.  A painting of pink, purple, and red.  That  would have been reason enough to get up before dawn.  Then two ducks flew down to the pond below us and found breakfast for themselves.  As we listened to the wildlife around us, a deer slowly walked out of the woods.  Three more followed.  We just watched because they were too far away for Max to have a shot at them.  After a time, they wandered back into the woods.

Max then had an idea, “We should follow the deer.”  I was game for whatever he wanted to do, since I had no idea what’s involved with hunting.  We climbed back down from the tree stand and walked over to the opening in the trees where the deer had just been.  As we went farther into the woods we spotted two of the deer.  When they moved, we moved.  We followed them for as long as they would allow.  Finally we lost sight of their white tails.

Then we just walked and talked and enjoyed nature all around us.  It was really a special time with Max.  It’s amazing what an 11-year-old can teach you if you let him.

After getting off to a very wet start, the fields dried out surprisingly well and now harvest is in full swing. Except for a few small wet spots, bean harvest is complete. Yields haven’t been totaled, but appear to be better than expected. Dale has started to harvest corn. The quality seems good and he was happy to have fresh corn for the pigs, which they always seem to eat better.

This is an exciting time of year as there is lots of activity with tractors, wagons, trucks and combines. Six months ago tiny seeds were planted. The ground has been fertilized, cultivated and watered. The combination of sunshine and good weather along with the hopes and prayers of many farmers has culminated in what they glean from the fields today. It not only takes science, skill and technology, but a little good luck to get a great harvest.

I listen to the drone of tractors going late into the night. Fall harvest means long hours. Farmers take advantage of the good weather while they can. Everyone has a job to do, even if it’s just making lunch for the workers. Growing food for people and animals is an important job.