Minnesota Farmer

What came first
August 14, 2014, 1:41 pm
Filed under: garden, Kwazamohkuhle, planting, South Africa, tillage | Tags: , , , ,

While helping to plant cabbage sets in the garden at the KwaZamokuhle Centre in South Africa we answered the age old question “What came first, the chicken or the egg.”100_2833

Pastor David Xaba was digging holes to put the cabbage sets in and unearthed an egg.  We’re assuming the egg was laid by a wayward hen before the field was tilled.  We had been unearthing potatoes that were missed from the last seasons crop but this finding of an egg was totally unexpected.  Still we can now say with certainty that the question has been answered in Africa where it all began.  The egg did indeed come first.

Funeral SA style
August 14, 2014, 9:27 am
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa | Tags: , ,

There were two funerals on Saturday, the traditional day for funerals here in rural KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.  One was an over 80 year old woman, the other a 40 year old man.100_2772
Multiple pastors presided and each spoke a part of the service. The service lasts until the grave is almost ready.  The service may start with the church mostly empty, but as more people come it will fill. For this double funeral the hall was filled and many stood outside.  People, and pastors, would come and go as they wished.  Many stood outside.
One funeral had a 6 wheel Mercedes Wagon100_2773 and two vans for mourners. There was a large canopy100_2783 to sit under and a mechanical lift, that did not work, to lower the casket.
For the other funeral there was only a Mercedes van.  At both grave sites they ended up carrying the casket into the grave.
The digging of the grave starts in the morning.  It is dug by hand in the hard rocky soil here, if it is not dug by the time the funeral is over, people wait, preach and sing.
The procession walks to the grave site. In this case it was only a short walk down the road.100_2776
A  “beach” mat is placed at the bottom of the grave and the casket is lowered onto that. A duvet is placed over the casket and wood poles are placed around the casket. Another straw mat is placed over that and the hole is filled.  Singing continues until everyone leaves for lunch.


The cemetery was full of recent graves, both ornate and simple, depending on family finances.100_2781  

There is little for grass here, but what there is is clipped by sheep.100_2780

The cemetery has grown since I was here in 2011, but the people are the same.  There is a community of concerned people here to console those in grief and celebrate life every other day.  

Back from South Africa
August 13, 2014, 8:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

imageIn the D.C. airport and heading home.

I’ve been two weeks away from home and ready to finish this trip.

South Africa was great!  We spent most of our time working with, and meeting with, people from the Ondini Circuit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa.  This is an area of poor blacks who have little hope, but great faith. 

Our projects have been aimed at feeding and giving jobs to the local people.  Our partnership is developing demonstration garden projects in the area helping with irrigation and fencing.  Most animals seem to run fenceless in the area so a fence is essential.  In the winter there is no rain so pumps and piping are needed to get water from non-seasonal creeks.

It was winter in South Africa when we were there.  Temperature can get below freezing, but when the sun comes out things warm up nicely.  They were growing cabbage, onions, salad greens and carrots now.  Soon the rains will fall and they will switch to warmer season crops.

There is a great disparity between white owned areas and black owned areas.  White farms are only a bit behind U.S. farms.  Those in the black areas lack funding, education and land to do more than supplement their meager incomes.  Nationally South African unemployment is terrible, in the rural areas it is almost complete.  One of the congregations we worked with has just short of 400 members with only 22 employed.  They have no chance for advancement without food and jobs.

South Africa brags about the fact that 85% of the country now has water piped to their houses.  In the rural areas electricity and water can both be inconsistent.  Most rural homes do not have water heaters, water is warmed over an open LP gas (bottle gas) fire.

There is a huge safety net for the poor.  Old age grants and aid to parents is available, but nowhere near sufficient.  Many single mothers are trying to live on the $31/month the government pays.

imageThis partnership has been in the works since 2008.  There is much more to do, but we feel we are making progress.  Meetings will continue between people of the Shetek Conference and the Ondini Circuit.  Our friends in South Africa are committed to helping their people. We continue to do what we can to help them.


Back to South Africa

10514736_10203421737456157_6026339247793523776_nPacking has begun and last-minute jobs are being checked off, soon I leave for South Africa.

I was last in South Africa with members of the Shetek Conference of the ELCA in February 2011.  You can check out the old posts from that trip.  We have been told that much has happened in the Ondini Circuit since we were there last and we are going to check up on the progress of projects that have been ongoing since the first group traveled there in 2008.  I feel that I can be of more help since I will be one of the old hands this time.

It will be winter in the foot hills of the Drakensburg Mountains.  Not a winter such as we have here in Minnesota, but colder than it was when I last was there.  Packing will be different.

What lies in store for our group this time?  Stay tuned.


July 23, 2014, 8:58 am
Filed under: church, projects | Tags: , , , ,

A bit over a year ago we had some work done on the outside of our church.  In the process the sign by our parking lot door was taken down.  Originally each letter had two or three screws that secured it to the limestone wall.  We decide to change those letters and mount them on a bar to cut down on the holes into the wall.  Thanks to a pair of talented members of our congregation the letters were mounted on aluminum bars and powdered coated.  Yesterday  the letters were placed back on the wall.10560438_10152397916545677_2963932186419901231_o

I’ve often joked with others about how few people notice the things that change.  I’ll be waiting to see if this is even noticed.  The real proof for that was confirmed as we were installing the sign.  Two ladies were exiting the church as we were working.  One of them, says ‘Oh, You’re taking the sign down.”

So what happens around you that is unnoticed?


There is just something about hitting that perfect chord that sends chills through my body.  I got them again today as I sang with the Chordhultlers Chorus.

I have sung with the Chordhuslters Chorus for almost 40 years now.  We sing four-part a cappella harmony usually in the Barbershop style.  Our chorus is part of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

Today we finished our third Sunday of touring churches.  In those three Sundays we have sung in 21 churches in the area.  We sing three songs in a church then march out to go to another church.  Now not every church is the same to sing in.  Some are easier and some are harder to sing in.  Those whose acoustics make it easiest to sing in are the ones that are most likely to bring on the chills.

This year we are singing something new that has given me chills almost every time we sing it.  It is not Barbershop style, but it is cool none the less.  The song is called ” Alleluia” and it is written SATB by Andrew Miller.  To sing it four parts for male voices we have the tenors sing the alto line an octave up, the baritones sing the tenor line and the leads sing the soprano line.  This changes the chord a bit, but really makes it pop.  Each of the four parts may be singing the same word, but rarely at the same time and the mixture of words and notes when we all join in on the central verse is truly awesome.

Until you have felt that chill of the perfect chord in the perfect place you cannot understand why we practice for hours and enjoy our hobby so much.  It’s the chills that keep bringing me back for more.

Up with the birds
July 18, 2014, 4:36 am
Filed under: birds, Farm, Wildlife | Tags: , , , ,

It starts at the first hint of day light, at this time of year that’s about 5:00, and continues until the sun is truly up, the wake up call of our area birds.

Dawn song



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 657 other followers