Minnesota Farmer


Getting a bit of South African culture

Again South Africa surprises.  On my third trip to South Africa we did many things that I have not done before, in particular, we got in on a little bit of South African culture.

On our first tour day we made a stop in Ladysmith for an elementary school music and dance contest.  Something totally new to us.  I really wish I could show you the videos from the contest, but you are going to have to see me in person for that.

What was on display that day were native dances and songs from the history of Southern Africa.  Boys did acrobatic dance moves, and girls sang and danced behind them as drums beat out a rhythm.  Historically correct costumes were directly out of early National Geographic stories.  Performances were both inside and outside of a community center.  We were treated as honored guests and given VIP badges for the contest.  It was all quite impressive.  After viewing these dance routines I can see where many of the dances used during church come from.  Music and dance are part of the African soul.  They cannot sit still while music is being sung.

On Wednesday, August 16 we took a trip into the Drakensberg mountains to see the Drakensberg Boys Choir.  Wow, what a vocal and visual treat.  If you check out their Facebook page you can see pictures from the concert we attended.

The school sits in the Champaign Valley just a few kilometers south and west of the Diaconal Centre at Loskop.  The stunning setting hosts a boys school that is turning out musicians for the world.  Sorry, no pictures here either, but you can check out the website in the link above.

As a pensioner, I got in to the concert for 145 Rand ($11.00), regular admission was 160 Rand ($13.16) a real bargain.  The concert started with Mozart, went through some Japanese folk songs, the Lion King, and the first half ended with a Justin Timberlake song.  The second half was a celebration of African wildlife and a plea for the rhino.  There was constant motion on stage, the music was fantastic, and the boys were charming.  If you are in the area check to see if they are performing.  It’s well worth the time.

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Hoffenital

Health and wellness issues are a prime reason for these trips we make.  A major part of this project is the promotion of gardens.  Queen of the gardens and the largest success story is the garden at Hoffenital parish.

Hoffenital parish church has a school nearby, something very common in the area.  The uncommon part here is the orphanage and the 13 gogos (grandmothers) who run it.  These ladies have started a garden project to help support themselves and the orphans that has become a shining example of what could be.

One of our earliest groups to make the trip to the Ondini helped them along by installing a pump and pipes from a nearby creek to the garden.  When the sprinkler system was turned on, the ladies were dancing in the garden for it meant they no longer had to carry water.

Since then the ladies have expanded the garden to the point that they can not only support themselves and the children, but are also paying back by supporting the Zamani Garden Project (an Ondini Circuit, Shetek Conference joint project) that got them going.  Now they are taking another step up by expanding the garden.

Now a garden in this area needs fencing since many goats and cattle roam freely in the area.  The animals are owned by someone and carry the brands of those owners, but are basically let out to fend for themselves.

The Hoffenital garden was recently granted money to add new fencing, the sod had been turned over by a small tractor and plow, and we were there to help plant about 100 pounds of seed potatoes.

Now the sod could have used a few passes with a disk as far as we farmers were concerned, but it was planting day and plant we would.  Trenches were cut by hand with the traditional African hoe which works well for the job, a bit of fertilizer was placed in the trench, potatoes were placed in next and it was covered.  A bit of water from a leaky hose was sprinkled over the top and we were done.

I have no doubt that the ladies will have this part of the garden in shape eventually.  Labor is cheap, and they have plenty of people looking for work in these rural areas.  Members of the congregation volunteer their time to help keep the gardens going, and the parish pastor is likely to bring gifts of garden produce when she makes home visits.

The pastor has her own garden at her parsonage across the valley.  Some pastors can support themselves with diligent and energetic use of the garden.  It is part of the way they are showing members of their parish what can be done in a garden plot.

Since it rarely freezes here, produce can be grown year round.  Cooler season crops like potatoes, carrots and cabbage in the winter and corn, edible beans and squash in the summer.  The key here is access to water and fences.

We are proud to be supporting this project with our labor and money.  This is something that can really make a difference in this area of Africa.

Next, we make a visit tot he Weenen Game reserve.



Harvest complete
October 21, 2016, 6:11 pm
Filed under: children, Corn, Fall, family, Farm, farm life, grandchildren, machines, Soybeans | Tags:

img_0013There it sits all quiet.  The machinery that was busy for the last few weeks is silent.

img_0009The dryer that was so busy and noisy is now silent.  The bins are full and the clean up has begun.  Harvest is over.

It was a good harvest.  Corn yields were at least 10% over last years record crop, soybeans yielded 25% over last years record crop.  It was a very good year.

img_0014As usual we had granddaughters and friends over to help with the harvest.  Everyone loves being in the big machines at harvest.

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We also had their help when we harvest the pumpkins from the garden, What a haul!

Hope your harvest season went well!  Now for cleanup and tillage, then we start getting ready for next year.



Plain spoken

Farmers are still some of the most trusted people in our country, maybe in part because we know how to speak about our work in terms that everyone can understand.  More and more we on the farm are having to deal with science that is not understandable to those off the farm.  Some of the problems we have communicating modern farms was brought home to me when I read an article in Time Magazine about translating science.  We on the farm need to remember to translate our farms into plain language that all can understand.

Everyone loves the old style farmyard.  Dogs, cats, baby animals, they all have an attraction for those of all ages.  Yet unless you really live the farm life, it is so hard for people off the farm to understand having thousands of one type of animal.  Anyone who has thousands of chicks just cannot be a farmer some think. 13-boy-watching-chicks

Farm machinery is fascinating to folks of all ages.  The chance to be in and control those huge pieces of machinery is really exciting.  People can understand the small farmer who does all of his own work on a few hundred acres.  What they have trouble understanding is how a family farm could extend to 10,000 acres or more and still be a family farm.  All of those computers and modern science things are hard for the general public to put on a family farm.

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The recent bankruptcy proceedings of Broadacre Farms Inc., a Saskatchewan based Mega-Farm now has many talking of the unsustainability of large farms.  How can these large farms be right?  The truth is usually more difficult to understand than most would like to believe.

In farming as in few other occupations there are so many roads to success.  In the end good management will win out.  Can you make the most of what you have to earn a living for those who depend on your farm.  If you are not the best, do you deserve to continue farming?

We have just come through some of the best years in agriculture I have ever seen.  Yet some types of agriculture have had hard times.  It is a fact of life that nature is a harsh mistress.  Farmers not only deal with local conditions, but world markets that can move market prices in ways we do not understand.  We also deal with government regulators that seem determined to frustrate our every attempt to provide food for our families.  Farms of all sizes will fail, large, medium and small.  There is no one best for the world.

Please, if you have not been on a farm, do not try to tell farmers how they must farm.  Each farm is different, each region of the world is different, yet we all deal with trying to feed our families.

So here I’ve gone again, starting off in one direction and ending up in another.  In the whole though, I am trying to be plain spoken about what we on the farm deal with.  It is my hope that this will help you understand me and my fellow farmers better.  And please, if you have a question about farms, ask a farmer.  We’ll tell you about farm life as we see it and as we are living with it.



Little Gwen
December 31, 2014, 2:11 pm
Filed under: children, family, grandchildren | Tags: , ,

We’ve been spending some time with our grand-daughter Gwen. She’s in the time of life of great changes.

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She’s starting to crawl.  That means she is getting into new things.  There is not much on the floor that is safe.

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If there is anything that allows her to pull herself up, she is standing by it.  Gwen has decided that standing is much to be prefered to sitting on the floor.

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Put Gwen in a walker and she is all over the place.  Her favorite new trick is to pull open drawers and doors. Soon she will be into them.  That means that Grampy has been busy installing child latches on kitchen doors.

The girl needs constant attention.  Anything hanging over the edge of a table will find her tugging at it.  Lamps and books look out!

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Now that she has the hand to mouth routine down, there is nothing going to stop her!  Isn’t life with a toddler fun!