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As I sit down to write, my mind is pulling me in 500 other directions.  I’m thinking about the bars and bbq I need to make for my nieces graduation, the training run I should be doing, the phone calls and appointments I need to make, the endless list of household chores, planning our annual pignic, my husband who has become as scarce as a clear spot on our kitchen counter.

Lunch Break

Brandon has begun construction on a new barn, actually three barns, to house our sows that will make replacement gilts.  The sows that live in these barns will be bred with semen that has the maternal characteristics we find favorable in a sow.  The sows in our current unit are bred with semen to create butcher hogs.

So construction has begun and Brandon is in his element.  He functions best

Checking out the farrowing barn pit

when the stakes are high and the deadlines are tight.  Even after being married to him for 16 years, I’m still surprised at the environment that he thrives in.  I don’t know a lot of people who enjoy dealing with the constant hiccups and headaches that arise when tackling a big project.  Brandon appears to welcome the challenges.

Yesterday my four kids, my nephew, four high school boys, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and Brandon laid the flooring for our farrowing barn.  Tomorrow the walls will go up on one of our gestation barns.  The project keeps clicking along and the weather hasn’t been too much of a hindrance.  We have pigs scheduled to arrive the first week in July, so the gestation barns need to be ready.   Stay tuned as the barns take shape.

 

 What do you do when you’re in the basement cleaning and you hear the voices of extra teenagers and wonder how you’re going to feed them? You call on pork, the versatile meat.

Brett and four of his classmates were working on an extra credit project for history. He told me they might come to our house to do some videotaping. I believe my last words to him were, “Let me know if you’re coming so I can be ready.” Well, Friday evening they showed up, which of course I’m glad they are at our house doing their homework, but then I’m also a little stressed because I realize I hadn’t picked up anything for supper and the nearest grocery store is 10 miles away.

I first considered the two thin crusted pizzas in my freezer, but knew they wouldn’t go far and quite frankly, they seemed kind of cheap. After all, I had to make a good impression on Brett’s friends. I don’t want to get a reputation as the “Mom who can’t cook”.

I collected my thoughts and turned to one of my favorite go to meats, pulled pork. I had 5 buns in the freezer, which combined with the soft shelled tortillas, offered a choice of either pulled pork sandwiches or carnitas. Add some sliced fruit and carrot sticks and the meal is complete.

I called the kids in for supper and they seemed surprised there was food, but that didn’t stop them from eating just about everything. I felt good about giving them a solid meal, especially since 3 of the 5 had track practice earlier in the day.

I make it a point to have our butcher prepare pulled pork for us. We freeze it in one pound packages which are about the right size as a meal for our family. As you can see it’s a quick and easy and really hits the spot, especially for hungry teenagers. It seems though they did leave room for the Oreo eating contest, but that’s another story.

Those of you following this blog know that a couple of weeks ago I talked about how Adam had to step aside in running the 3200 m so the USC/AC track team could have a better chance at making it to the State True Team finals. Well the team not only made it, they won the class A True Team title on Saturday.

For those of you not familiar with the True Team concept (don’t worry, I didn’t understand it either until this year), the scoring is based on everyone’s efforts. Typically in a track meet only the top 8 finishers count towards the scoring. But in True Team, every participant counts towards the score. So placing 15th in a race will still get the team a few extra points compared to placing 18th. The best team is not dependent on just a few good individuals, but how everyone does.

All day long the overall score had been close between the top 4 teams. Most of the time there were only 4-6 points that separated the top team from the 4th place team. As if following a Hollywood script, the winner would not be determined until the final event of the day, the pole vault.

All the boys’ teams gathered in the center of the field. Starting with 9th place, each placing team was announced. After third place was announced and USC/AC’s name hadn’t been called, the tension mounted. When Morris Area’s name was called for 2nd, the USC/AC people held their breath and then burst for joy when they were announced as the True Team Champions.

To say I’m proud of the team seems like an understatement. I have to admit that tears filled my eyes as I watched the boys accept their trophy and medals. As I watched Dalton, one of the biggest guys on the team give Adam, one of the smallest guys on the team a big bear hug, it seemed fitting.  This was a team that truly supported each other and knew how to work together to achieve great things.

Saturday, the USC/AC Boys track team did not have a bunch of superstars who won their events. They had something more important: a group of guys who consistently did their best and collectively found a way to work together to achieve something more as a team then they could have as individuals.

A good example for all of us to follow.

 The farmers have not been the only people feeling the pressure to get their crops planted. I have experienced the same thing with our vegetable garden. The cool, wet spring weather has delayed the planting of my garden. The old adage of planting potatoes on Good Friday went by the wayside, even though Easter was late this year. It seems that just when the ground had dried out enough to plant, we were busy with a track meet or another event. When we were ready to plant, the rains came.

Last night I organized the kids and after supper we “attacked” the garden. The weather forecast was for rain Friday and Saturday, which meant Thursday night, was our best opportunity for planting. I ran the tiller and prepared the ground. Beth and Brett focused on the potatoes. I planted the lettuce, carrots, beets, onions and beans. Adam wanted to start a strawberry patch so we purchased new plants and he worked on getting them into the soil.

After 1 ½ hours, we’d accomplished our goal, the garden was planted. I still need to put in my tomatoes and we’ll probably plant a mound or two of squash and perhaps some sweet potatoes. Having the majority of the crops in the ground makes me feel better, just like the farmers as they’ve worked late nights to get the corn and soybeans planted.

Guess what happened, just as predicted. It started to rain early Friday morning. As I listened to the raindrops hit the roof, a sense of relief came over me. Unlike the early pioneers, my life doesn’t depend on whether I get my garden planted, but it still makes me feel better knowing that I did.

Exactly where does your food come from?  Brandon and I had the opportunity to answer that exact question yesterday during an “Oink Outing”.  The MN Pork Producers connected us with 4 moms from the Cities who answer the daunting question of “What’s for supper?” every day.  We also had the opportunity to visit with Chef Paul Lynch of Fire Lake Grill House.  Chef Paul shared with the moms and us how easy it is to prepare pork, did a cooking demonstration for us, and finally served us a delicious meal.

Following our meal at Chef Paul’s restaurant we drove to our farm for a tour.  The four women who were unfamiliar with farming had excellent questions ranging from, “What do the pigs eat?” to “What have the high corn and soybean prices done to our farm’s profitability?” and everything in between. 

Society has access to so much information that it is sometimes hard to sort out fact from fiction.  That is why we really appreciate the opportunity to show people what exactly it is we do, and more importantly, why we do things the way we do them.  It is not only in our pigs’ best interest to be comfortable and healthy, but in our best interest to raise production animals in a comfortable and healthy way.

Your food doesn’t come from a grocery store or a restaurant.  Your food comes from a farm.  Happy Eating!

Typicially when we run, it’s to benefit ourselves. The exercise is good for our mind and bodies. But running can also help others. Many weekend races involve a charity and this past weekend Dale and I ran the 7 on 7 near Mankato to help the Backpack program in Mankato. This program is designed to discreetly get nutritious food to kids over the weekend by sending it home in their backpacks.

It was a great day for a run and the course was challenging, since we were running on trails at 7 Mile Creek Park. I ran the 5K and had just one hill to climb. Dale ran 7 miles and had to climb about 4 hills.

We both ended up second in our age group, which as I like to say, means we need to either get faster or older. In any case, this was a good tune-up run for Grandma’s Marathon weekend, plus we’re helping kids get a good meal. Both good things to do.

Kendrah & Hal

Our border collie, Hal, has amazing instincts.  He lives to herd anything.  Cattle, sheep, cars, children… he’s not picky. 

This afternoon I was washing the dishes and looking out my window at the amazing view of our pastures, fields, and neighboring farmland.  As I stood there scrubbing fried egg off of a skillet my mind wandered to who knows where.  My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a 4-wheeler and barking.

I focused in on where the noise was coming from and quickly realized Hal was trying his best to help my brother-in-law herd the cattle.  Unfortunately, my brother-in-law wasn’t try to herd the cattle.  He was trying to move them from one pasture to another.  Hal wouldn’t allow it.  His instincts told him to keep those cattle right where they were.

I giggled to myself, because it was quite a funny site.  Then I felt guilty, because I’m sure my brother-in-law saw no humor in this situation at all.  I grabbed Hal’s leash and figured I would at least try to remove Hal from the situation.  I hiked out into the pasture, down our big sledding hill, and up to Hal, the cattle, my brother-in-law, and Andy, an employee.  Hal paid no attention to me, he had work to do.

I had seen Hal follow our 4-wheelers many times, so suggested that Andy drive his 4-wheeler up towards our house.  Andy slowly moved up the hill with me walking beside him.  It worked!  Hal ran along behind the 4-wheeler.  Whew!  The cattle were moved onto fresh grass and the work day continued. 

It looks like we may have one more job this summer… training Hal.

Track is an interesting sport. Most of the events, except for the relays, are judged on individual performances. Yet, at the end, it’s the collective scores of these individuals that decide which team has done the best.

All season Adam has been running the 3200 m. run. His times have improved and he’s set some pretty aggressive goals for himself. Therein lies the challenge. For the True Team meet, the one that decides which team gets to go to the state tournament, the number of entries is limited. In order to get the best team score, the coach must choose the individuals that can run the fastest, even if it means some of these guys are running multiple races like the 800 and 3200, which they don’t often do during the season.  

Despite Adam’s improvement, he’s not one of the fastest 2 guys on the team. In his heart he knows it’s best for the team if the other 2 guys to run, but he’s still crushed by the fact he couldn’t run fast enough.

As we discussed this the other night, my own heart was breaking. Adam is unselfish and he wants the team to do well. Yet you could see the disappointment in his face as he realized he wasn’t going to be the one to run that race to help the team. He had given such a great effort, yet in his mind he fell short.  As I repeatedly told him how proud I was of him, I also reminded Adam that he’s an 8th grader and that the other two guys were a Jr. and Sr. He’s done quite well and his time will come.

I know that Adam will use this as a learning experience and it will motivate him to run even better. Perhaps one day he’ll be on the other side of the fence and as a Jr. or Sr. he’ll be looking into the eyes of an 8th grader and remembering that he was once in that spot.

“Sports do not build character. They reveal it”

          John Wooden

We broke ground yesterday on our sow expansion project.  There wasn’t a golden shovel to scoop the first dirt.  No press to capture the moment in photos.  All that was needed was a backhoe, a willing crew, and sunny weather. Thankfully, we had all three.

A farmer’s work day is always long, but now Brandon’s days will become extra-long.  Yesterday he started work at 6am, took a 10 minute lunch, snuck away to Maddie’s junior high concert from 7-8:30pm, went back to work and finished up around midnight.  Although the days are long, I think Brandon is really glad to be moving forward with the project finally.  Planning and doing all of the groundwork gets long and feels unproductive.

Training for a half marathon sometimes feels that way… it gets long and sometimes feels unproductive.  I’m trying a different approach to the training this year.  I’m only running 3-4 days a week in hopes of staying injury free.  We’ll see how this approach works and if my final time suffers because of it.  Seven weeks to go!