Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What Can You Learn from a Vizsla in the Winter?

What Can You Learn from a Vizsla in the Winter?
Lately, it’s been frigid cold in north-central Montana. We haven’t been above a HIGH of five degrees in over a week now, with the cold temps expected to last through this coming Sunday. As a farmer, my husband follows weather like it’s religion, and he said the cold air is literally air that has come from Siberia.

Needless to say, we’ve been spending most of our time indoors. At school, the kids have had indoor recess for a week now, and my treadmill has been seeing a lot of love at home. Waaaay too cold to run outside with windchills in the -20s or worse.

Harvey, our short-haired Vizsla dog has been surviving the cold as well. Vizslas are definitely NOT an outside breed in the winter. They have no undercoat and their hair is short. Harvey spends most of his time inside anyway, but even moreso when it’s this cold. I started thinking about what Harvey does to “survive” the coldest days of winter, and thought it would make a fun post! There may be a few tips for humans in there, too! 

Bundle Up!
Even though he wears a fur coat at all times (ha!) Harvey wears extra layers when it’s this cold outside. Even if he’s only going out for a short time, he wears at least a hoodie or his wool coat. Sometimes he even wears both! He’s not a huge fan of putting on the layers, but once he has them on, they don’t seem to bother him.

Frankly, I tend to agree. It can be cumbersome to bundle up and pile on the scarves, hats, mittens, coats, boots, etc. BUT I also like to be WARM! Bundle up out there, people!
Harvey wears his wool coat. Actually sort of like a cape. 
Harvey also has two different hoodies just like this one. One red, and one black.
Sometimes we layer his wool cape over a hoodie for extra warmth.

Fortify Yourself
When Harvey comes in from outside, he almost always hits his food dish first. Something about the cold seems to make him extra hungry. Even if it’s just one or two kibbles, he pretty much always gets a snack. I’d recommend the same for we humans! There’s nothing better than a warm hot chocolate, cider, or cup of tea after coming in from the cold.

Harvey was extra spoiled this past weekend, though, as Jeff and I were working on processing deer meat into jerky. Harvey was very interested in what we were doing, and in waiting for the odd piece of ground venison to drop!
Jeff is loading a jerky gun and is about to squeeze it out onto the dehydrator tray.
Harvey is VERY interested in these proceedings. 

Find a Warm Place to Lie
Harvey excels at finding the warmest places to lay down. Whether bundled up on “his chair,” or curled up on the rug in front of the kitchen sink… which is conveniently located right under a warm air vent… Harvey knows just where to go to warm up!
Seriously... look at that face!

He also has already claimed this old quilt I was finishing up as his own. He likes blankets and furniture that are the same color family as his coat, I think!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been keeping blankets in heavy rotation during these cold days. Harvey is onto something yet again!

Exercise Indoors
When temps are sub-zero and wind chills are dangerously low, it’s time to take the exercise regimen indoors. On a typical nice day, Harvey gets at least 30-60 minutes of off-leash exercise pretty much daily, whether running or walking with us outside. Vizslas need A LOT of exercise, and this gets challenging when it’s so cold outside. Harvey will typically go out and “help” Jeff with some farm chores, and romp in the snow while doing so, but this doesn’t really cut a dent in his energy level. We have to get a little creative with keeping him entertained and helping him burn off steam inside.

Harvey does have his toy crate, but frankly prefers plastic water bottles over just about any dog toy you could buy. We’ll toss some of these around the room for him to pounce on and tackle.

Another favorite activity of Harvey’s is wrestling with Jeff, and something we call “back and forth,” which is where Jeff and I each go to different places in the house, and then call Harvey to us. He’ll go tearing at full speed from one of us, back to the other, and back and forth again and again. Preferably, one of us will be upstairs in the living room and the other downstairs somewhere in the basement. Those stairs really tire him out after several trips at full speed!

Once again, Harvey is on to something. Jeff and I have both been exercising indoors lately. In between games of Back and Forth with Harvey, which is in itself fairly tiring, we’re using our treadmill or elliptical and doing other things inside. You can always get creative and find ways to stay in shape, even if it means staying inside.

Even Harvey can be distracted from the cold outside by things like Christmas decorating and wrapping presents.
Ok… he was definitely more interested in attacking the wrapping paper tube than in wrapping presents! People can definitely stay busy with all the trappings of Christmas, too, and maybe even forget that it’s too cold outside to do anything fun anyway… right?

Settle In for the Night
At the end of the day, it’s always nice to snuggle in to a warm, soft dog bed…

Who am I kidding?! Harvey sleeps in the people bed! It works out great for us, too, because he’s like a little space heater!

Stay warm out there, people! And learn from a Vizsla that the coldest days of winter are survivable with a little creativity! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Five Recent Photos

Well, it’s been months and months since I’ve written any blog posts.

I started a new job in August as the Secretary at our local elementary school. My commute is easy, but lengthy, and my job is busier than my previous job, which means overall, I have much less free time! Also, I spend pretty much my whole day at work staring at a computer screen, and I don’t really want to add more screen time when I get home. So, motivating myself to blog has been tough! But, as always, I’ve come back around because I do miss the outlet of writing.

I thought I’d start with a simple post. My idea was to post the last five photos I took on my phone, and write a bit about them. Here goes!

Above is a photo from a run I went on with Abby and Harvey. I’m not training for anything specific these days, but still getting out for short runs of 3-4 miles. The dogs always love to go!

The angle of this photo is kind of weird, but this was our Thanksgiving feast!

We hosted my parents for Thanksgiving, who were visiting from Iowa. They were here for about a week, and it while it was a pretty low-key visit, it was nice to catch up and spend time together. I don’t see my family very often, since I live in Montana and they live in Iowa.

Jeff and I cooked the Thanksgiving meal. We were pretty traditional for the most part, but we spatchcocked and grilled our turkey with southwest seasoning and wood chips. It took some time, but it was DELICIOUS! We used THIS RECIPE for Smokey Spatchcocked Turkey from Cooking Light. Actually, the November Issue of CL was more or less our Thanksgiving Bible/Menu. We also served mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted brussels sprouts with cranberries and walnuts, homemade stuffing, fresh cranberry sauce, and crusty bread. I was really excited about cooking the meal. Everything was from scratch, except for the bread. I probably should be embarrassed to admit that I have never actually made mashed potatoes, gravy, or stuffing before, so that was all new to me and I was really happy with how they turned out!

We also had (unpictured) pumpkin pie, which I also made from scratch. So satisfying to bake a pie from scratch! I use THIS CLASSIC PUMPKIN PIE recipe from Bon Appetit, and a standby crust recipe that I use a lot. Seriously, if you’ve never made a pie, start with pumpkin because it is truly very easy. You can purchase a ready-made crust if you’re not confident in your abilities to make one from scratch, or if you don’t have time.

We went for a run on Thanksgiving morning, too! It was me, all three dogs, and Jeff. You can see in this and the earlier photo that I got to sport my blaze orange vest… During hunting season, I wear one every time I run. There are enough extra people around that it just feels safer to wear one even if I’m not hunting.

Ok, so I didn’t take this photo… I downloaded it from a friend’s facebook post. I’ve been thinking a
lot lately about the diversity of the town I grew up in, Ames, IA. You wouldn’t think of central Iowa
as being a very diverse place, but as a university town, there were people from all over the world
living in Ames. The university family housing was within my elementary school district, too, so I had
many classmates of a wide variety of ethnicities and religions in my classes. I feel tremendously
lucky for the perspective on world cultures and people that having such diversity in my school gave

When I was in Elementary School, our school district decided that the break from school that
happened in the winter between the Christian holiday of Christmas and New Years would no longer
be called “Christmas Break,” but would be renamed “Winter Break.” I distinctly remember one of my
friends, who was Jewish, saying that she felt happier and more included at school just because of a
simple name change.

When I saw this post on my friend’s FB feed, I remembered that time in Elementary school when a
simple name change made a lot of people feel more welcome at school. I couldn’t agree more with
the bottom line, referring to the thought that, while I believe in and celebrate Christmas, I recognize
that there are a great many people in the world who celebrate other holidays in the winter, or none at
all, and I respect them, too, and wish them warm greetings regardless of their religion.

Finally, this photo is from the day the Bobcats beat the Grizzlies in football. Many of you know that
my Montana family are big Bobcat fans. The Cats were definitely the underdogs in this game, so it
was a big surprise to all of us that they won. A few of my family members decided to drive the flag
around town in celebration. All in good fun!

If I’m being honest, this is my least favorite game of the entire football season. I just don’t like how
people can become so antagonistic, on both sides. To me, even as a football fan and a Bobcat fan, the 
best part is just spending time with family. Nevertheless, I’m glad that the Bobcats, who have had 
dismal season, will have something positive to take into the off season and hang their hats on.

How have the rest of you been? Hopefully you’re all in good health and happiness!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Weekly Review through August 6

Reviewing fitness, farm, and life on the blog! 
View of one of our pastures with that big Montana sky! Also, can you spot Harvey? :)
Now that the triathlon is behind me, it's time to focus on running again. I have a goal 10K race coming up at the end of August, and I'm shooting for a PR. This year, I'm adding a little mileage to my training leading up to the race as compared to past races. I found a training plan that encompasses long runs of 7 and 8 miles as part of a "Run Your Fastest" 10K plan, and also mixes in speedwork. I think this will help me feel less fatigued at the end of the race. Plus, by the time I get in a pre-race warmup and a cooldown afterwards, I'm usually up to 8 miles or so anyway, so it makes sense to train with that distance a few times to get my body used to it. I'm also doing more yoga again, which I love!

July 24-30
Sunday- rest.
Monday- 30 minutes yoga
Tuesday- 5.3 miles running
This run started with me hitching a ride with my husband in a semi truck!
I ran the 5.3 miles back to our house from here. 
Wednesday- 30 min yoga
Thursday- 5.7 miles treadmill interval run
Friday- rest
Saturday- 30 minutes yoga

July 31-August 6
Sunday- 6.3 mile run
Many of my runs are starting or ending at the harvest field lately.
Monday- rest
Tuesday- 4.2 mile treadmill speedwork
Wednesday- 30 minutes yoga
Thursday- rest
Friday- 45 minutes elliptical
Saturday- 7 mile run! Longest run I've ever done in my life!

Year-to-Date through August 6
Running: 358.15
Walking/Hiking: 93.6 miles 
Yoga: 1310 min 
CC-Ski: 500 min / 14.1 miles *Done for the season
Alpine Ski: 3 days *Done for the season
Mountain bike: 174.6
Swimming: 11500 yards

We have started harvest, which is our busiest time of the year on the farm. Looooong days are spent in the field. This year, Jeff and Tom started the harvest season out by helping some of our heighbors cut their winter wheat. Then, we began cutting our peas and barley. We should be done with barley tomorrow. Then, it seems like we might have a bit of a break before our spring wheat, which is the bulk of our crop, will be ready. Some of the specific tasks I have been helping with have included helping Jeff move and set up the auger, moving vehicles from one field to another, cleaning out grain bins, preparing lunches and dinners...other duties as assigned... I'm also continuing to try to keep the garden going. Right now, I'm harvesting zucchini, carrots and cucumbers while tomatoes and green beans are just coming on.
Barley is unloaded from the truck into the auger, and goes up into a grain bin.
I have some great news in this department- I have a job! I am going to be starting as the Elementary Secretary at North Star this school year! I'm so, so happy to be working at the school. I applied for the job in July, followed up on my application, and interviewed shortly after that. After the interview, I was offered the job and accepted. (Some people have asked me if I was just given the job- and that's not the case. I applied, just like anyone else would.) One thing I know is that I'm grateful and honored to officially join the North Star staff. In my previous job, I worked in the school, but I wasn't actually employed by the school. So, this will feel different. I'm most excited about interacting with students and staff on a daily basis. We have the BEST kids and staff at our school!
This is our cat, Quincy, who felt the need to "help" me repaint this table. One of my "holy crap summer is almost over!" projects. :)
What this means is that my summer is going to be over very shortly as I will be reporting to school on August 15! We will definitely still have harvest happening on our farm at that time, so it could be a little crazy/stressful at first balancing a new job with on-farm obligations. It will certainly be fun, though! Wish me luck! :)