Tag Archives: cross country

The Color Of Red…

Fall brings out the color of red – not just in Nebraska where children are taught at a very young age that red is the color of choice, but all throughout the Great Plains as the growing season draws to an end. I never tire of viewing the fall foliage as God’s paintbrush shines magnificently during the month of October.Megfallpicturecollage.jpg

My favorite cowgirl shares my love for the fall colors and does a beautiful job of painting a picture of Nebraska in the fall with this collage of photos that she took with her Granddaddy’s camera.

The 8th of October often finds me traveling to Long Valley, South Dakota to get Megan’s favorite red angus calves. The day starts early as I head north about 5:30am, and I always take a moment to appreciate the sunrise in the beautiful meadows and wetlands south of Valentine, NE.

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Mid-morning finds me at the ranch loading the calves so that they can travel south to the feed yard. Megan loves the calves because of their beautiful red color. I love them for their outstanding disposition which makes the transition into the feed yard and the feeding period so much smoother. It is a joy to feed cattle that receive excellent care during their entire lifetime, and Larry and Donita Denke are great partners to have in this great journey of beef production.Denkecollage.jpg

This year my favorite farmer traveled to South Dakota with me making his first “ranch trip” in more than a decade. The fall is such a busy time of year, and having a full day to spend with Matt is always a blessing. He rode along (outside of his love of spending time with me) because we made a detour to Ainsworth, Nebraska on our way home to watch our favorite Cross Country running brunette lead her team in the Conference Championship meet.XCcollage.jpg

The Lady Haymakers brought home the team gold placing all four runners in the top ten individual places. Ashley Grace ran a PR of 20:24 for the 5K race with a 2nd place individual finish. The Lady Haymakers compete in the District Championships this Thursday with their sights set on the Nebraska State Championship meet Friday October 23rd.

On the home front, things remain busy. The Feed Yard Foodie family prays for kindness from Mother Nature this time of year as the fall farm chore list remains extensive. I try to start each day with a two tiered chant: Go Haymakers! Go Beef!  My favorite farmer usually throws in a Go Big Red!

Fall blessings to you and your families.

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The “Chore” of Happiness…

After I conquered Graves Disease, I made a promise to myself that I would treat each day as a gift – always aware that life is a blessing. Despite that promise, I am human and sometimes find myself in the midst of small struggles that challenge both my commitment and my confidence.

Last week I read an article in Time.com entitled 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy, According To Neuroscience. The psychology major in me found the article fascinating with very practical advice for daily life.

The four rituals are:

  • Consistently ask yourself the question, “What am I grateful for?” The search for gratitude provides a positive mindset that plays a critical role in creating happiness.
  • Label your emotions so that you can define them, acknowledge them, and take control over them.
  • Make decisions – It is stressful to worry about possible outcomes, so make a decision and move on.
  • Give Hugs – Personal touch is a vital component to creating confidence, support and ultimately happiness.

Like any good wife and mother, I required everyone in the Feed Yard Foodie family to read the entire article 🙂 It is a rather long one with a lot of nerdy physiological psychology terms which brought curiosity from my oldest, and plenty of grumbling from my two younger “budding intellectuals”.

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In typical “Anne fashion”, I also put the advice to work the following morning…

I started the day getting my pinky finger squashed between the metal arm of the squeeze chute and the head of a calf. The calf tossed his head as I was manually reading a faulty EID ear tag that my wand reader refused to scan. I have a new crooked bend in my finger and it appears that my fingernail is likely to fall off, but the pretty blue/purple color does give my unpainted nails a nice flair. It was the perfect opportunity to remind myself how grateful I was for technology (at least when it worked).

I continued the day checking cattle health at the feed yard because my cowboy decided to travel up to the Black Hills to watch the annual buffalo roundup at Custer State Park. I am the “back up cowboy” so his daily chores fell to me for the long weekend.

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We received 2” of rain Tuesday night and all day Wednesday. Having just completed a dirt rebuilding project in Pen 12, we moved cattle into the pen a few days prior to the rain. When it came time to check those cattle, I stepped confidently off of the concrete pad behind the water tank all while looking carefully at the nearby cattle. I promptly sunk down to my knee in watery mud, quickly discovering that my crew had not packed the new dirt in properly.  As the moisture seeped into the top of my Bogg boots, I realized how grateful I was that the rain had “settled the dust” at the feed yard.

It was about 1:00pm by the time that I finished checking cattle health (sloshing around in my wet boots with a still throbbing finger), and I have to admit that I was pretty well wearing my “grouchy pants” by that time. But, I spent the car ride home (to change my clothes) lecturing myself on gratitude, labeling emotions, making decisions, and thinking where is the heck is my favorite farmer because I think that I need a good LONG hug…

I found him at the office, and he was happy to offer a smile and oblige. By the time that I picked up my favorite ten year old, I was able to look Karyn in the eye – smile – and tell her that my day was much better now that I got to spend the rest of the afternoon with her.

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Karyn and I arrived in Ogallala and hour and a half later to watch my favorite Cross Country running teenager have the best race of her budding career – earning the 1st place gold medal in the Varsity High School Girls 5K run. She ran with heart, perseverance, and strength gaining the lead in the final 150 meters of the race.

With tears in my eyes, I had much to be grateful for as I threw my arms around her for a post-race hug. Dozens of different emotions floated around in my brain waiting to be labeled as I made the decision to cherish the moment and thank God for all of the blessings in my life.

While it certainly was not a romantic day on the farm, happiness undoubtedly prevailed…

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Agriculture Needs To “Pack”…

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As I watched these young ladies dominate the team competition at the Broken Bow Invitational Cross Country meet on Saturday morning, I thought of farmers.  A very wise coach has taught these athletes how to “pack run” — setting both group and individual goals, and mentally supporting each other through the long 5K high school races.

I think that many distance runners would tell you that the middle of the race is the most challenging.  The adrenaline from the start has worn off, but the promise of the finish line is still miles away.  The culture of the “pack” lends strength to both the individual and to the team as well as building tenacity for the long run.

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The journey of the American farmer is much like a distance running race.  Growing food is an expedition full of challenges.  From Mother Nature, to the availability of natural resources, to food safety, to animal welfare priorities, to ever increasing government regulations, to sharing the story of food production.  Every day is it’s own race, and the days clump together into something similar to a marathon.

I believe in the power of teamwork.  The lonely individual marathon of farming can be overwhelming, especially while embarking on the trek of transparency and sharing the realistic story of modern day food production.  It is hard to motivate at the end of the day to post blogs and pictures — even when you believe in the necessity of reaching out and explaining your farm story.  Some of the challenge comes from simple physical fatigue, and some comes from the fear of ridicule and harassment from those that do not believe in raising animals for food production or using modern food production systems to raise them.

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While each individual farm has it’s own uniqueness, farmers share many things in common.  Embracing the “pack run” philosophy could be a very powerful tool for American agriculture.

There is certainly some of this already occurring, but it is a concept that could be used on a much more powerful scale.

  • The first step is for farmers to adopt a universal set of basic standards for responsible food production. The Beef Quality Assurance program is a great place to start for this relative to beef production. A pack offers support but, in turn, requires its members to contribute in a meaningful way. Quality animal care is imperative and needs to be unanimously adopted across food animal production.
  • The second step is acceptance of all farming practices that meet the basic standards, and respect for all farmers that care enough to join the pack of responsible food production.
  • The third is an important element of teamwork – recognizing that no matter how strong we are as individuals — together we are stronger. Mutual respect and support of each other makes for a powerful combination and a unified voice telling the true story of food production.

When I peruse the internet and see farmers fighting amongst each other or making their own way by belittling others, I am saddened. I think of the success that my daughter and her cross country team have on the running course, and I wish that farmers could be as unselfish and supporting as these teenage girls.

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I think that agriculture needs its own wise coach to lead a unified effort to share the true story of American farmers.

I think that agriculture needs to learn to pack…

*Author’s note #1: In Nebraska, Varsity High School Cross Country runs 6 and scores 4.  The four girls pictured at the top ran an impressive race as a pack finishing strong with Ashley Grace and one of her teammates running the last mile at 6:20 pace and finishing the 5K under 21 minutes. The second two runners were very close behind and the girls individually earned 10, 11, 12, and 13 places to win the title.  This young team gets stronger and more confident with every day that passes — it is a true pleasure for this Mama to watch.

*Author’s note #2: I have always had a strong passion for animal welfare and have worked to improve this in beef cattle for more than 15 years.  I found my pack on this journey with the Beef Marketing Group and it’s Progressive Beef QSA program.  I began the lonely blogging journey to share the story of how feed yards prepare cattle to become beef in the spring of 2011.  I am still waiting patiently for other cattle feed yards to take this step in order to offer appropriate transparency to the beef production cycle.  The list of other cattle feeders that have packed with me on this journey is very short.  Unfortunately, the list of people who ridicule and label me as a factory farmer is much longer…

 

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Haymaker Victory!

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My favorite 9th grader and her Cozad Haymaker teammates brought home the team trophy last night at the first Cross Country meet of the season.  Ashley Grace earned the 6th place individual medal in the varsity girls race with a time of 21:22.6.

I figure that gives me bragging rights as a 6:53 minute mile average for her first 5K race is pretty awesome 🙂

She’s fueled by beef and tenacity —Have you had your steak tonight?

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Believing…

Thoughtful Thursday

My favorite 9th grader: Circa 2002...

My favorite 9th grader: Circa 2002…

Today is a very special day.  My favorite 9th grader will don her Haymaker Cross Country uniform and compete in her first Varsity race.  Beneath the nervous pre-race jitters, I look into her eyes and see the determination and focus of an athlete.  What I see makes me a believer — I am not only her mother, but also her biggest fan.

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Today, as pride fills my heart, I remember a quote by Drew Brees:

“Believing—there are several layers to it.  There’s the surface-level type of believing, where you acknowledge that something is true.  Then there is a deeper kind of belief–the type that gets inside of you and actually changes you.  It’s the kind of belief that changes your behavior, your attitude, and your outlook on life, and the people around you can’t help but notice.”

What kind of believer are you?

Go Haymakers!

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Good Coaches Don’t Just Build Athletes, They Build the Future…

I wear many different hats in my life, but perhaps the hat that brings me the most pride is my coach’s hat. When I think back to my own teenage years, outside of my parents, my swimming coach played the single largest mentoring role in my life. He taught me to work hard, believe in myself, and most importantly to be tough.

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My swimming coach and I after an “ocean mile race” off the beaches of South Florida…

My successes in the swimming pool and on the Cross Country course were plentiful. I graduated from high school a two time finalist at the 18 and under National Championships in both backstroke events as well as being an All-American High School 100 Backstroke qualifier.  I also brought home two Florida Cross Country Championship team victories playing the role of the #2 runner on the team placing individually in the top 10 my Freshman year and 2nd my Junior year of high school.

1991 Florida State Cross Country Champions...

1991 Florida State Cross Country Champions…

Although the medals and recognition brought me pride and self-confidence, it was the hours spent training and working with my coach that most shaped my character. Though he was a man of relatively few words, he inspired me to dig deep and always persevere with excellence. Although I never fully appreciated this gift until my adult years, I am now inspired to try and do the same for the young athletes in my community.coachannethumbsup.jpg

Saturday the Haymaker High School Cross Country team participated in a day long “training retreat” that combined a local road race 5K with additional fitness running, a swimming and running duathlon, and a blend of motivational speakers throughout the day. I was honored to be one of those speakers. My favorite teenager is a member of the team, and her coaches are two of the finest people that I know.

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While I shared a variety of things with the runners, my talk had three main points. Today, I share them with each of you…

  • The road to excellence is never comfortable. The brain is our weakest muscle and must be toughened in order to achieve excellence.
  • The most important part of a race is the moment you decide to believe and push through the pain in order to achieve victory.
  • Every race, every practice, every moment in life is an opportunity. Respect yourself enough to take full advantage of each of those opportunities as you will never get them back.

I learned these lessons as an athlete from an amazing man who cared enough to not only coach the swimmer but also to mentor the person. I internalized them and have used them every day of my adult life.

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Good coaches don’t just build athletes, they build the future by shaping the character of those that they mentor.

 

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Passion—Preparation—Perseverance

Friday afternoon brought record temperatures (a high of 104 degrees) for the first Haymaker Cross Country meet of the season.  It was hot—there was no other way to describe it.  Mother Nature’s harshness presented an incredible challenge for the young athletes that gathered to compete.

My favorite teenage in a huddle with her teammates before the Junior High race...

My favorite teenage in a huddle with her teammates before the Junior High race…

There were some that were victorious—those that worked hard over the summer months to build a running base that would carry them past the vicious hurdle of a long run through what some might describe as the fires of hell.  There were others that were defeated both mentally and physically by the ruthless conditions.

As I watched the hundreds of athletes make their way across the course, there were several words that ran through my head:

  • Passion
  • Preparation
  • Perseverance

There was a visible difference between the young people that had developed these life skills, and those that were still searching to find them.

A gutsy run brought her both a 3rd place finish and a smile...

A gutsy run brought her both a 3rd place finish and a smile…

I was reminded of my own years as an athlete.  Little Anne Gibson was never the most physically talented athlete in the competition, but my 5’3” frame was packed full of the three P’s.  Although there were certainly times when I longed for another 6”s of height and muscles that would move me just a little bit faster, the three P’s brought me many athlete victories.

A younger Anne with her coach---a great mentor in her search for the three P's...

A younger Anne with her beloved coach after a victory in an ocean mile swim…

Although I retired from competitive athletics almost twenty years ago, I have taken that same passion, preparation and perseverance with me during every day of my adult life.  It is what drives me toward excellence as I raise both my children and my cattle on the prairies of Nebraska.

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I cherish the opportunities that I have to pass along the three P’s to my daughters, and it brings me tremendous pride to watch them mature into hard working and determined young women.  I am also incredibly thankful for both my parents and my youth swimming coach for instilling these values so deeply in my heart.  I hope that they realize that every success that I achieve is linked back to their diligent mentoring.

Youth that develop the three P’s learn not to settle…

They learn to aspire for greatness, and figure out that the joy of success is sweetened by the hard work and determination that ensures it…

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Hats Off To The Haymaker Cross Country Team!

I love youth sports.  I especially love Cross Country.

The focus, the intensity, the determination…

I love my community–its youth, its spirit, and most especially its camaraderie.

The bond that is established in the search for victory…

I love it when youth work hard, establish goals, and realize their dreams.

Basking in the glow of the realization of a goal—obtaining a 3rd place finish at the Conference Championships—while also sharing the joy with a new friend and competitor…

I love it when I can share even just a small part of that beautiful accomplishment.

The 2012 High School Girls Southwest Conference Championships…

I know that what these dedicated kids learn on the Cross Country course will help them to be successful contributors to the country that I love so much…

The drive to work hard for both personal and team success is a critical life skill.

Thursday night, I proudly watched my favorite team place all varsity runners in the Top 15, with every one of those runners receiving ALL CONFERENCE honors.  I watched my daughter lead the Junior High team to score three runners in the top 10.  I watched a team of more than 40 Junior High and High School kids push themselves to realize success…

AG strode ahead to beat both of these girls—despite the untied shoe that threatened to fall off…

Today I am proud and my heart is full.  Although Ashley Grace’s 7th grade Junior High season has come to the end, both of us are looking forward to traveling to Ogallala to watch the high school varsity runners continue the proud tradition that Coaches Dustin and Alisa Favinger have helped the Haymaker CC athletes to build.

Sharing the dream—making memories to last a lifetime…

Today I am thankful to every one of these athletes for bringing joy to my life, and I look forward to many more proud and happy moments as I cheer on my favorite Haymaker Cross Country team!

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