You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2011.

Last week Dale and I spent two days at the MN Pork Congress. It’s a busy event for us filled with MPPA meetings, Taste of Elegance, the tradeshow and seminars. The best part of this time is catching up with our friends. Some of these pork producers we only see once a year, at this show. For that reason, it’s rather like a class reunion. Despite the challenges we face as pig farmers, we are a young, enthusiastic group that has an eye on the future.

This week is the Iowa Pork Congress. I will work the tradeshow and once again catch up with my pork producer friends and industry associates. The Iowa show is larger, mainly because Iowa has more farmers and sells more pigs. While I don’t know the people as well, they too represent a group of people determined to meet the challenges of farming head on and succeed.

I’ve been involved with these tradeshows for almost 25 years. There have been many changes but one thing remains constant, the commitment these people have to the pork industry.


Last week three of my children participated in a fun-filled, energetic theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz” sponsored by Goodhue County 4-H.  Missoula Children’s Theatre directors travel throughout the United States and work with schools and local organizations performing children’s stories.  In one week the children audition, learn their given character parts, and perform two shows.  It’s a whirlwind week of highs and lows that the kids really look forward to.

Monday began with auditions and the news that not every 4-Her who signed up would get a part in the play.  This is the first year that there were too many actors and not enough parts.  Auditions only last about 1 1/2 hours and culminate with the announcement of which actors will receive which parts. I nervously watched and listened as each of my children’s names were called and they walked up front to receive their parts.

Kenny got the part of a flying winkie.  Basically equivalent to a flying monkey in the real story.  Max would be a munchkin along with many of his 6th grade friends.  Finally, Maddie received the part of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.  Maddie is rarely found without a joyful smile, so this part seemed fitting for her.  Maddie high-fived the girl who received the part of the Wicked Witch and both were thoroughly thrilled with their given characters.

Along with the 4-Hers who were excited about their role in the play, their were also 4-Hers who cried because they did not receive a role or received a part that they deemed less than desirable.  This was just the beginning of the emotional roller coaster that Missoula Week becomes.

Tuesday, the kids began to get familiar with their characters as the evening practice flew by.  On Wednesday, the songs from the play were learned and repeated over and over and over again.  My kids sang the songs on the way home from practice that evening and gave me a glimpse of the play.  By Thursday, the excitement had worn off and the long hours of practice had started to wear on the kids.  Luckily, Friday was a no school day for Goodhue, and the kids got to sleep in. 

And then Saturday arrived.  This was the day the costumes were unveiled and the dress rehearsal was performed.  At 2:00pm the kids had their first performance followed by our traditional supper at Liberties.  Finally, they had their last performance at 7:00pm.  The 4-Hers were exhilarated, and a little sad, as they autographed each others shirts and munched on cookies after the show.  It was such a fulfilling week!  I wonder what play they will do next year?

Our Christmas pigs have reached the right age and weight to wean them from the sows. On our farm, it works best if the pigs are about 21 days of age and weigh about 13 pounds although many of them will weigh 15-16 lbs.

The pigs will go to a nursery barn on our neighbor’s farm where they will be fed a diet that contains milk products, rolled oats and other complex proteins along with soybean meal and corn. Having these complex ingredients is important as the pigs’ transition away from sow’s milk. When they are about 25 lbs, they will be eating mostly soybean meal, dried distillers grains (DDGS), vitamins and minerals and corn.  

Having a good vaccination program and keeping a close eye on the pigs, especially the first week, helps keep the pigs healthy and reduce the need for antibiotics. The pigs grow quickly in the nursery and by the time they are ready to move to the finishing barn in about 7 weeks, they will be gaining over one pound per day.

Meanwhile, it’s time to get the farrowing barn ready for the next group of sows to farrow.

I’m sure many parents can relate when I say I spent all of last weekend in the gym.  Of course I wasn’t working out.  I was sitting on the bleachers, cheering on my children in their respective sports.

On Saturday  morning Madison had to be to her basketball tournament at 7:30am.  I found a spot on the bleachers next to some other moms and spent the next four hours chatting and cheering.  You get to know the other parents really well after spending that much time with them!  I didn’t get to watch the entire basketball tournament, because I was off to my next destination.

I went home next to pick up Kendrah, who was now finished working  in the barn.  We picked up one of her friends and headed to Rochester to the National Volleyball Center.  Kendrah is on a JO volleyball team that plays volleyball January-May.  I do have to say that I prefer watching volleyball over basketball, but that’s just because I prefer playing volleyball over basketball.  We arrived home that evening around 7:00pm and I felt exhausted from sitting all day!

On Sunday morning we headed to Cannon Falls with Max for a wrestling tournament.  More bleachers, more cheering, more sitting.  The Goodhue Elementary Wrestling Team ended up taking first in the tournament and it was an exciting day for everyone.

It’s easy to spend an entire weekend sitting, but it’s important to make time for yourself and get moving.  Whether you enjoy walking, running, cycling, or skiing, it doesn’t matter as long as you move.

An unexpected snow storm blew up Friday and as you can see by the picture, the wind was blowing hard. You may be curious why this blog is called winter biking. No, I’m not crazy enough to try biking in the snow and ice. For my birthday/Christmas gift, Dale gave me a Cyclotron, which is a frame that holds the rear wheel axel on my bike so that I can bike outdoors.

Biking indoors helps break up the monotony of the treadmill. Even though I vary my workouts, it’s nice to do something different. So far, I’ve enjoyed biking. The only downside is that the speedometer/ odometer is on the front wheel of my bike, which doesn’t move. So I have no way of tracking how fast or how far I go. (Yes, I feel the need for speed). This forces me to go by time and I really don’t like watching the clock. But I can watch TV or a movie and it helps pass the time away.

It’s nice to have alternatives on days like these.

As 2011 stretches out before me, I’m curious as to what it holds.  One thing I’ve been contemplating is whether this is the year to run my first marathon.  I’ve been a runner for many years and have slowly increased my mileage and races.  I’ve run three half marathons and have really enjoyed that length of race.  Just recently I’ve felt “the itch” to try something more.  Taking the leap is a little scary, though, considering I have a few reservations.

First of all, the training is a huge time committment.  Is it fair to my family to spend so much time running?  Secondly, will my body hold up to the high mileage?  I’ve had minor injuries over the past couple years and wonder whether they will worsen with overuse.  Thirdly, I don’t have a partner to train with.  I’ve never trained for a race alone.  I’m a pretty motivated person, but it always helps to know someone else is counting on you being at the trail at 5:30am.

Running Snowshoes

 I’m weighing both options carefully and leaning towards going for it.  Running in the winter itself can be a challenge.  After spending some time walking the halls in our high school, I just knew I needed to get back outside.  Our gravel road that runs by our home is often icy, so that is rarely a good option for running.  What I’m trying this year is snowshoeing.  I bought snowshoes that I can run in.  Now that the snow is packed, I can go out our backdoor, hop over the electric fence, and go for miles out in our pasture.  Whew!  Running with snowshoes is a workout!  I’m planning to build my mileage base on the snow.  We’ll see how that goes.

As I turn the calendar to 2011, I close the books on 2010. Some of  the financial stuff has yet to be done, mostly because I have spent a lot of time watching basketball games. Adam & Beth have a combined schedule of 10 basketball events over the first 2 weeks of 2011, some with multiple games.

There are a few things that I learned while running those 1500.5 miles last year.

First, there are some really neat clothes for runners on the market now. I am not a real clothes horse, but winter running requires protection. I am constantly amazed at the protection from cold that some of these newer materials offer. Thanks Goretex for the Windstop technology. I also picked up some YakTrax to eliminate the poor road condition excuse I used this last December.

Second, a middle-aged guy can learn how to run with a new stride technique. Last January and February I surfed the internet enough to pick up on the barefoot / minimalist running trend and eventually read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. A very good story to read. With the new stride technique came the chance to try new shoe styles. While I still have fewer shoes than Monica, I know I closed the gap considerably in 2010

Third, a middle-aged guy can learn to run fast again. I followed a race training plan by Matt Fitzgerald and found speed again. Even though I was disappointed with my 3:30:29 Grandma’s Marathon finish based on training results, I was pleased with it from a perspective of a low mileage base leading up to last January. I also clocked 2 sub-1:32:00 half marathons last year, finishing 4th in my age group both times.

Fourth, due to those half-marathon finishes, I learned that I should start closer to the starting line to fully capitalize on my chances to bring hardware home:) After the Big Woods run, the race director told me that chip timing was used for finish times and placings, not for net times.

Fifth, running is a great way for me to relax. A couple stressful moments happened in the past year that long runs, and the ensuing endorphin rush, helped me get through. I am thankful that I am now in good enough shape to be active that long.

2010, and the miles I put in, transformed me into a runner again. I enjoy training, I enjoy racing, and I enjoy reading about the feats of fellow runners. For my part, I will try to best last year’s mileage and put more of my thoughts on this site.