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All Gating is Out

There is construction happening at Trails End Farm also, but ours is different from Schafers’. They are building new barns, while we are renovating an old barn for a new use. Currently our nursery pigs, those between 13 and 45 pounds, go to our neighbor’s site and then come back to our farm to be finished out. They are making some changes and so we are fixing up an old gestation barn (which previously had been a finishing barn) to become a nursery barn for our young pigs.

The first changes involved taking out all the gating, which you can see in this picture leaves an empty building. The next task is to change the ventilation so that air will be pulled through the attic and into the barn. This means the air will be warmer for the little pigs. It also means we have to change the way air comes into the barn and goes down unto the pig pens.

The attic of the barn

 All this can be quite technical and requires planning, calculating and constructing but proper airflow is important for the pigs’ health and to get the best growth.

 Dale and the kids have been busy working. On the warm days it gets hot in the attic, so they need to be careful, drink plenty of fluids and take breaks when needed. So far all has gone well – no snapping turtles yet!

 Stay tuned and we’ll keep you up to date on the progress.

Ever had one of those days!  I had a great story to write, I typed it up, I added pictures, I posted it, and… it was all scrambled when it posted!  Ahhhh!  So, instead of taking the time to redo everything, I’m giving the brief version in pictures.

Below is the snapping turtle that showed up at our construction site:

 

Following are some pictures of the wagon train that went by our house.  It is called the Friendship Wagon Train and it raises funds for Camp Winnebago in Caledonia, MN.

 

Below is what will be one of our farrowing rooms.  These will be the last rooms to be completed because they will be the last rooms the pigs will need.

Running motivation from a poster

 
“Is it raining?”, Brandon asked me at 4:30am, the morning of my 1/2 marathon race in Duluth.
 
“It doesn’t matter”, was my response.  After training for months, I wasn’t worried about the weather or my stiff knee or the wind.  None of that mattered.  I just wanted to soak in the feeling of the day, and virtually nothing could ruin that feeling.
 
I love the feel of race day.  Joy and pain and energy

Max didn't run fast enough

and exhaustion and smiling and crying and accomplishment.  It’s a high that is hard to describe.  The race went well, but the weekend was about so much more than the race itself.  The weekend was about bringing the four corners of my life into the center.  I call these four corners the “four F’s”. 
 
The four F’s in my life include family, faith, fitness, and farming.  Which F is taking priority depends on the day or hour, but often only one is in the center.  What is so great about Grandma’s Marathon weekend is that the priorities in my life come together and intertwine, and it is very seldom that this opportunity arises.   It’s a powerful feeling… pork power.
 
 
 

Our weekend in Duluth for Grandma’s Marathon was successful on many levels. First, as pork producers we were able to interact with people at the health fair. This allowed us to share information with them on preparing pork, especially how to avoid overcooking it. The moist juicy pork samples they tasted were a great example of how cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145° and then holding it can create product that is enjoyable to eat and packed with lean protein and vitamins. Many were surprised that we were actual farmers and running races during the weekend. Yes, you can eat pork and run.

 The second success was our actual races. Everyone turned in great times. It seems all of us felt better prepared and perhaps more at ease since this was our second year of competing. Many times we talked about the challenging weather we had to train in these last few months; rain, wind, cold, heat and if you go back far enough, blizzards. The discipline to train during the rough weather definitely helped. As I faced the wind on the back stretch of my race I thought, “This is just like running against the wind on our road. I can do this.”

 Finally the third success was the power of friends coming together and sharing their life experiences.  Saturday afternoon as we strolled along Superior St. we not only reflected on our races but what was happening with our farming operations, our kids and ourselves. It’s important to have the support of family and friends, to have someone grab our arm and help us when we waiver.

 Thank you to everyone who has helped this year’s Pork Power team be a success, not just as athletes but as people working together to promote pork, family and friends.

I want to begin this post with a huge thank you to all the pork producers in Minnesota. Your financial support and willingness to sponsor Grandma’s Marathon is phenomenal.

Our weekend started with a couple promotional shifts during the Expo. Once again, handing out samples of loin roast and having the chance to interact with runners and their families about the nutrition of pork and the recent change in recommended cooking temperature was a great experience. Thursday night gets a little slow in the DECC Arena during the last hour, so I spent a lot of time interacting with various vendors of running and a couple of Olympians that were there. (a shout-out to Lorraine Moller.)

I saw Beth running the 1/4 mile Whipper Snapper race, and her late charge to a 4th place age group finish was cool. I headed back in to listen to Frank Shorter finish his talk, then got inspired again by Dick Beardsley. My take home message from him this year was to give it 100% and not be disappointed with the results if you do. Lori ran a fantastic 5K, shaving a couple minutes from last year.

The boys and I got up at 4:00 to get dressed and sample some of the light breakfast that the Radisson offered. They went off to the Garry Bjorklund start with Theresa S, Monica, & Theresa K, all great mothers for them. Later I learned that they finished the race in 1:40:05 fashion, having run and experienced it together. They finished 30th and 31st in their age group.

It was raining on the bus ride the Two Harbors, but quit as I got off the bus. I met up with Eric FitzSimmons, another Pork Power runner, and also Ben Linder, a med school student from Easton. We chatted and got off to a nice smooth start.

Weather in the 40’s, cloudy, and a nice tail wind are a nice combination for distance running. After a couple miles, I decided to push a little harder and see what would happen. I rolled through 13.1 miles in 1:31, and even though I felt a little tired, decided to do system checks every 2 miles, instead of walking like I had done last year. About the only issues I had were energy (just enough with a combination of ShotBloks and orange slices) and slight cramping in my right hamstring (I just didn’t press as much the last 5 miles). My finish time was 3:04:29 (chip), which is 1:00/mile faster than last year’s effort. It is good enough to allow me to register for the Boston Marathon on the first Monday, so I will get for 2012. Overall I placed 304th, 240th of males and 24th in my age group. Further details, and even finish line footage, are available here .

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. -Steve Prefontaine

Last night was our end of the season track awards ceremony. The coach uses this time to recap how the season went and then spends a little time acknowledging each team member. The senior members of both the boys and girls team also have the opportunity to get up and say a few words.

USC was fortunate enough to send to athletes to the State Individual track meet. Our discus thrower placed 7th in his event and our 800 m runner placed 7th in her event. What I found interesting and heartwarming was that while these two individuals commented that being at state was a great experience, they placed greater emphasis on the support they received from team members, parents and the community. My interpretation was that while being at state was great, having the love and support of family and friends is even better.

As other kids spoke during the evening, their message was similar. The support of their coaches, teammates and parents directly contributed to their success.

These kids get it. Each one of us enjoys having the spotlight shined on us occasionally, but what gets us through the ups and downs is the love, encouragement and occasional kick in the butt, from those around us. We are better when we surround ourselves with good people.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.

          Michael Jordan

With four days left until my 1/2 marathon race, I thought I would be more ready mentally.  But my thoughts have been distracted by pig barns and boar collecting and finding a job  and preparing to host our neighborhood pignic.  The fact that my knee is only half ready for the race hasn’t really bothered me with everything else that’s going on.

I’m sure Brandon is building hog barns in his sleep at this point.  We have gilts arriving in three weeks and one of the buildings needs to be ready to receive them.  Gilts are the female pigs before they have had a litter.  Once they have had a litter of piglets, they are then called sows.

Boar collecting has been “interesting” in a temporary facility.  In my old boarstud, I felt completely safe with narrow alleys and secure gating.  In the sow unit it seems as if the alleys are too narrow so the boars don’t want to walk there or they are too wide where the boars can turn around.  I don’t enjoy coming head to head with a boar.  I would rather stay at his tail.  I know it’s all part of growing pains, but it is just that, a pain.

I’m also at a point where I need to decide whether pigs are my job choice.  There’s definitely plenty to do, if that’s what I choose, but I’m not by nature an animal person.  So I’ve been looking into what my employment options are.  I have to say, after being a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, finding a job isn’t as easy as one may think.

Finally, we host a “pignic” every June to show appreciation to our neighbors and the people we do business with for helping us achieve our business goals.  It’s a fun social event, but of course there are details that need to be taken care of ahead of time.  Every year in the past, Brandon has roasted a hog and we have served pork sandwiches.  I told Brandon the other day that there is no way he is going to have time to roast a hog this year.  I thought he may refute the statement, but he agreed.  So, yesterday I ordered pulled pork from our local catering guy, Russ.  It felt so weird to be ordering pork since we always make our own, but I guess we need to know our limits, and I think we’ve already crossed those.  So the pignic plans are underway.

And then there’s the half marathon.  This is the most relaxing part of my life right now.  I love to run, even with a bad knee.  I love the race atmosphere, with energy that is palpable.  I love that I am pulling two huge pieces of my life, pigs and running, into one place.  Go pork power!

Farrowing Barn Construction

Construction on our pigs barns is moving along quickly.  The walls are all up and the tin is on the roofs.  When the project is finished we will have four barns in all.  Two barns will be for gestation.  That is where the sows are bred and hang out during their pregnancies.  One barn is for farrowing.  This barn is where the sows will have their piglets and nurse them for around 20 days before the baby pigs are weaned off of the sows.  The final tiny barn is my boar stud.  The boar stud is where the male pigs live.  This barn already exists, and I have continued to work there during construction.  I go in twice a week to collect semen from the boars, add extender to the semen to give it a longer shelf life, and put it in tubes to be used to breed the sows.

The boarstud is getting a makeover during construction, so the boars needed to be moved.  On Wednesday, Brandon loaded up the boars and hauled them up to our existing sow unit.  This will be their temporary home until renovation of the boarstud is complete.  The boars love this new home!  They are surrounded by approximately 1000 females and it appears they are enjoying the hormones in the air.

Yesterday, all of the lab equipment and other supplies necessary for collection were moved to the sow unit.  My daughter Maddie has been to the boarstud with me countless times and she was an invaluable resource for our employee Will as he set up a collection pen for the boars in the gestation barn.  Maddie felt pretty good about being able to give orders to the barn manager.  She did a terrific job laying out the collection pen.  Yesterday evening, Brandon and I made sure the new facility was going to work for collection by working a couple of the boars.  It appears this temporary set-up should work just fine.

While all of this construction and moving and collecting are going on, I’m still finding time to train for the 1/2 marathon.  Teresa K. and I are going to run the “Udder Run” tomorrow morning.  This is the race that happens during our towns “Volksfest” celebration.  It’s called the Udder Run because of our towns huge ties to agriculture, dairy in particular.  The weather is supposed to be cool, which is perfect for running.

Summer vacation is officially here for my kids!  They had their last day of school yesterday and celebrated by having about 25 classmates over to our house for a party.  The 9th and 10th graders hung out together while the 3rd and 6th graders kept me posted on what the older kids were up to.  I completely trust my girls, but they forbid me from checking in on them, so I needed to have someone report back on the older kids whereabouts.  The classmates had a great time playing football, capture the flag, and having a mud fight in our pond.  All good, clean (well not all clean), fun for kids. 

Today, the first day of summer vacation, my oldest three children headed off to work.  Our kids will not be spending their entire vacation going to sports camps, hanging out with friends, playing video games, and watching TV.  Instead, they are expected to work on the farm, even if that means missing out on some of the events their classmates are taking part in.  Our children don’t always find this fair, but we feel work experience is an important piece of raising responsible, self-reliant future adults. 

After I delivered all my kids’ friends to their respective homes today, I went for a run with Teresa K.  The 1/2 marathon in Duluth will be Teresa’s 1st 1/2 marathon and she is so ready.  I have been training with her for a few months, and just when I got done whining about my lung problems, I started having knee issues.  I’ve been wearing two knee braces on runs now and I think these will see me through the race.  I’m not pain-free, but the discomfort is tolerable.  Teresa is a yoga person and has had no injuries or illness.  Maybe I’ll try to work yoga into my training routine next year.  Couldn’t hurt.

Grandma’s Marathon, 1/2 Marathon and 5K are less than 2 weeks away. Despite that, most of our discussions lately have centered around our families and farm activities. This is for good reason, since these are the activities that take up most of the time in our lives.

But as our races get closer, I get the feeling that most of us feel pretty good with where we’re at. Dale has a good solid base and isn’t feeling the aches and pains he did last year. I have more confidence since I’ve been running more. The boys are fresh off a successful track season and even though the 1/2 marathon is a stretch, they’ve vowed to run together and help each other out.

So the excitement builds and we look forward to the race, hanging out with our friends and meeting new people as we promote the product and lifestyle we love.  Stay tuned and see you in Duluth!