You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

As I’ve been spending time training for the Duluth 1/2 marathon, Brandon has been working on plans for expanding our farm.  A lot has changed since the last time we expanded in 1997.

In 1997 Brandon was 25 years old with relatively little hog experience and not much of a track record in agriculture.  The steps it took to get a loan for a 1600 sow expansion were few and the biggest challenge was convincing Grandpa Schafer that expanding the sow herd was a wise idea.

Flash forward to 2011.  Today we are looking at doing an expansion that is half of what we were tackling in 1997, but the requirements from our lending company have been ten times what they were in 1997.  From balance sheets to building plans, from hog health status to manure management, the list of requirements seems to be never-ending to me.  Brandon is a patient man who thrives on planning and implementing those plans, so jumping through all of the hoops doesn’t seem to bother him.

I figured that Brandon’s production records would speak for themselves.  He has created a fine-tuned system  in our sow unit, with pig numbers any producer would be happy to have.  But times continue to change in agriculture and the challenge to run a profitable business continues to increase.  Lending company’s seem to have an inflated concern about the perceived risk in agriculture.  Regardless of whether this concern is legitimate, we have to follow the lending company’s rules in order to secure funding and expand our business.  This is where passion comes in.  It’s our love of farming that keeps us moving forward in the challenging industry of agriculture.


Saturday morning Beth woke up giddy and talkative. Despite the gray overcast day, she was full of excitement and the main reason was Easter and coloring Easter eggs. Our kids are old enough that you wouldn’t think it mattered that much to them anymore, but it does. Saturday afternoon, Brett, Adam and Beth took time to color Easter eggs.  There were plenty of ooh’s and ahha’s as the colorful eggs emerged from the cups. Blue seemed to be the best color this year.

It’s still a tradition to hid eggs on Sunday morning. In the past this was my job but since the kids are older, they take turns hiding the eggs for themselves.

I’m glad the kids can find joy in the simple things. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and forget to just stop and enjoy what’s happening. I also appreciate the traditions the kids want to keep.

Easter turned out to be a beautiful day. The kids spent plenty of time outside in the afternoon playing with their younger cousins, helping them find Easter eggs. The sunlight and warm weather gave us a boost of energy and the hope that spring will finally come.

Bronchitis.  An innocent enough sounding word by itself.  But try to pair bronchitis with running and you get terrible results.

“How long until I can run again?”, was my question to the doctor last night.  I finally went to see the doctor after coughing for two weeks straight.  The doctor told me I would have to hold off on running at least through the end of the week.  I was braced for the worst, so didn’t feel that taking off 4-5 days from running was too bad.  I was also given a prescription for a z-pack, an antibiotic, and an inhaler to use every four hours.

I do everything in my power to avoid antibiotics, but figure this time an antibiotic is the quickest way to my goal of getting back on track with my 1/2 marathon training.  I’m going to get healthy, tweak my training plans a bit, and be back on track in no time.

Running and taking a nap are at opposite ends of the activity spectrum. Yet often when I have a cold, as I did this past week, I find myself trying to choose which activity to do. This was the case on Tuesday, which if you recall, was the best weather day we had this past week. Battling a cold and coming home from a busy day at work, I debated whether to go for a quick run or just make supper and relax afterwards.  In the back of my mind I knew that some type of exercise makes me feel better, it’s finding the motivation to take the first steps.

I found my motivation in the form of Beth, my daughter. When I got home I asked her if she’d ride bike with me as I ran. In a cheerful voice she replied “yes Mom.” While it was only a 2 mile run, the activity combined with the sun on my face and the pleasant conversation of my daughter was just the tonic I needed. To top it off, Dale had prepared supper and everything was ready when I got back home.

I’m glad I forced myself to do a little bit of exercise. In the spirit of full disclosure I should mention that Wednesday night, I did spend most of the evening relaxing on the couch. Thursday I felt much better. I’m sure it’s a combination of rest and exercise that helps me get over my cold, but I can honestly say that when I’m not feeling good, I try to exercise. Whether it’s the blood pumping or the endorphins flowing, something about it helps me feel better.

The other morning Brandon received a frantic phone call from another employee searching for a gun.  Of course Brandon’s initial response was “What are you going to shoot?”  But, I get ahead of myself.

The story really began when Max was born and he entered the world with a gun in one hand and a foot trap in the other.  I exaggerate a bit, but Max has been obsessed with hunting, trapping, and fishing from very little on.  He has slowly accumulated enough hunting paraphernalia to last him a lifetime.  Whenever I ask Max, “Why do you need one more hunting gadget?”, he will always respond, “Why do you need one more pair of running shoes?”.  Point well taken.  He equates his love of hunting to my love of running.  It’s never enough!

Back to the story.  Max was hanging out at the farm one day and had some very small foot traps with him.  Too small to catch anything bigger than a mouse he said.  He decided to set the trap about three feet from the entrance to our shop.  Without a second thought, he moved on with his life.  Until the other morning when Max’s foot trap did catch something bigger than a mouse.  In fact, caught in the trap was a ornery skunk.  To make matters worse, Great Grandpa’s 70-year-old gun wasn’t working.  I can’t believe the gun would pick a moment like that to call it quits.

So, Brandon received a call from our employee looking for a gun that was manufactured in the past decade. Of course we had one at the house.  Heck, Max has enough guns to last him a lifetime… Oh that’s right, you can never have enough guns or running shoes!

“I just got my ass kicked.”

Those were my thoughts as I got off the treadmill last night at my second RunSMART session. I had just finished a 3 minute “run to exhaustion,” and I must have done it right because I was exhausted! The machine was a non-powered treadmill, and the telemetry of speed, power, and time was being fed into a computer, to later be crunched through Excel and presented to us.

I also spent time on a regular treadmill as Dr Pettitt videotaped me from the side and rear. When we reviewed it, no major flaws were found. The one thing I have to work on is increasing the angle of hip hyperextension. I think this will be slowly be addressed through strengthening of the core, especially the iliopsae and prirformis muscles.

Our dietician didn’t pore over our 3 day diary, but pointed us toward some on-line resources to help us assess our logged meals (plus snacks and fluids). A couple takeaways from our time with her are:

Keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked with healthy foods.

Eat good food within 15 minutes of exercise (4:1 carb / protein ratio)   Milk for me 🙂

An 80/20 balance works – Keep about 80% of your caloric intake as good food, and the other 20% will take care of itself.

It is important to show our children how to eat well, and yet not become obsessed about the choices we make.

The results of the treadmill test show that I haven’t done my flat-out best in a race yet. In fact, this data shows what I could do physically if I didn’t let pain and other external inputs allow my brain to reduce effort. All runners have to create a balance between a sense of suffering and the desire to run faster. The best seem to have a higher tolerance for those sensations.

I gained a lot from the RunSMART program. Obviously the physical screening by Dr Pettitt will have lasting benefit as I run into the future. I now have a good resource for core strengthening and stretching and also know where to focus my attention. Dr Kamphoff gave us good guidance on developing a mantra and when we should use it. Mine isn’t flashy, but it does change my focus for a short while I run, and serves its purpose well. April Graff’s approach to nutrition synched well with mine. We need to consume a balanced diet, not label foods as bad, but allow special foods as a treat daily. Also, “Don’t try anything new on race day.”

I hope to post my gait video, and possibly portions of the 3 minute test results in the future.

“‘The right stuff’ on this level is some combination of these four qualities: talent, durability, determination and courage. Not everyone needs a monster four, but everyone has to have some combination of the four of these.” – Mark Wetmore, University of Colorado Cross Country Coach


Last Monday night I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural RunSMART program that is based in Mankato. This program is a 3-legged stool for runners based on physiology, psychology and nutrition for endurance athletes, and specifically, runners. It is the brainchild on Cindra Kamphoff, PhD at MSU-Mankato, and utilizes the talents of Bob Pettitt, PhD and April Graff, MS for the physiology and nutrition aspects, respectively.

Our first session involved learning strengthening exercises, plus a run-through of dynamic and static stretches. We also had a musculoskeletal screening process to identify weaknesses and imbalances in our body. This screening will be combined with next week’s video gait analysis that will appraise my running technique. I hope to end up with knowledge of what I need to focus on to enable me to run pain and injury-free for years to come.

We spent time discussing the psychology of running (50-90% of performance) with Cindra. There were 4 men in my group, 3 of us masters (1 a triathlete) and a younger guy that has gotten into ultramarathons recently. We seemed to be on the same page about what makes up a mentally tough runner, and shared some of our race experiences and some of our road blocks to better performance. One common theme was importance of family, and how to balance that with the admittedly selfish commitment required of endurance sports.

Next Monday, along with our video gait analysis, we will have our current nutritional intake analyzed and critiqued. We also will have a 3 minute “run to exhaustion” to help us determine training paces and race goals.

Overall, the RunSMART program wraps up the Mind, Body and Nutrition of sports into a neat package. I know that these 2 sessions will help me improve as a runner. I hope that we can create a follow-up session in a month or two to assess progress towards our goals.


Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. -Albert Einstein


My baby is turning 9 today!  I guess I really shouldn’t be calling Kenny my baby anymore, but he will always be my youngest child.  Kenny woke up to 9 balloons on his bedroom door this morning.  Of course one of them has a tractor on it, because Kenny loves farm equipment.   Balloons greeting the birthday boy/girl has become a tradition in our home.  I started this innocent tradition when my daughters were one and two and didn’t think much about how long I would carry this on.  So year after year the balloon count has increased for each child and it just wouldn’t seem like their birthday without the day starting with balloons.

There have been times when I’ve needed to get creative because I haven’t been organized to get the balloons ahead of time.  Kendrah always has her birthday during the County Fair and one year I was settling in at home after a long day at the fair and all of a sudden, I sat up with horror as I realized that I had no balloons for her birthday the following day!  Brandon was finishing a shift working in the Pork Producers building that night.  I called him frantic that he needed to locate some balloons.  He searched the buildings that were starting to close for the night and found a kind politician with balloons sharing his election message.  So Kendrah received election balloons on her door on that particular birthday.  What was important was that she got her balloons.

Sometimes the balloons are well thought out with a theme… gold for a golden birthday, Dora balloons for a Dora the Explorer fanatic, pink and purple for the birthday princess, and red and blue for the Twins fan.  Many times the balloons the kids receive are those that are easiest to locate.  Regardless, this is one way to make each birthday special.

Kenny is trying to come up with 9 special things today because he is turning 9.  So far he has balloons, chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, library day at school, show-n-tell, and I’m sure there will be at least 5 more ways that his birthday becomes a special one.  It’s so important to celebrate the yearly birthdays, but equally important to celebrate the daily accomplishments.

Although sites like this snowpile in our yard indicate that winter has not completely left, the signs of spring are here. The robins are back and you can hear birds chirping in the morning. The temperatures are warmer and the spring winds are blowing. I have an urge to clean my kids closets.

Track season is underway for the boys. The past 2 Saturday’s they have had an indoor meet at MSU in Mankato. This Thursday they will have their first outdoor meet in St. James.  Brett has run in the 4 x 800 relay , the 3200 m. run and triple jump. Adam has done the 1600 m. run. The events may change depending on the needs of the team, but they will generally do longer distances.

With Dale’s help and encouragement I’ve run some longer distances outside. Increased exercise through the winter months has given me a better base to train from.

Spring is a time of new beginnings. After the cold, quiet winter, plants and animals (and people) come to life. We have a new found energy that makes us want to do things, especially outside.

Welcome back Springtime!