Minnesota Farmer

Sunday services in the Ondini Circuit

Sunday services in the Ondini Circuit were always a dress up affair.IMG_1126

Women, youth and men all had their uniform, different some times congregation to congregation, and they all wore it proudly.


Sunday, or even a week day service meant the preachers dressed up.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) has been having a discussion on how pastors should dress and perform services.  They have come to the conclusion that they need to have more ceremony and more elaborate dress in the ELCSA, not less as seems to be the pattern in the U.S.  Sunday services are done with all the pomp and ceremony the congregation can muster.  If they can get 10 acolytes helping with the service, they will all have something to do, complete with ritualized actions, incense and bells.


While we were there they held an induction service for Reverend Ncanana.  Every pastor in the circuit was there, plus the Doicese bishop and representatives from other Circuits, Diocese and the visitors from the U.S. and Germany that were staying at the Centre.

An Induction is not an ordination, or an installation service as we know it in the Lutheran Churches of southwestern Minnesota.  The pastor is assigned a church, then after a few weeks, if they decide to stay, they are inducted.

Pastor Sarah had asked the day before how long the induction would last.  She was told “The whole blessed day.”  And it did.  There was over 3 hours of service and ceremony, a sermon to tell Reverend Ncanana how to behave as a new pastor, communion and a sermon by the newly inducted reverend.  About noon, apples and bananas were passed out and then they kept on going well into the afternoon.  All of this was done in a way that would have fit in well with a service in the Vatican.

In the afternoon portion of the induction there were many gifts to be given.  I even saw them trying to stuff an appliance of some kind into the reverends small car.  After all, what is a party without gifts.

Singing fills every spare minute of a church service.  Before the service starts members of the congregation would be singing hymns chosen by some self appointed song leader.  The pastor would call out a hymn number and some lady would start singing before you could even reach for your hymn book.  They seem to have the whole hymnal memorized.  There is also dancing.  Processional offerings were an excuse to dance.  Hymns quite often had motions to them that everyone knew.  Even in a church so crowded that you could hardly move, they danced.IMG_1083

Offerings would include at least two plates if not three or more.  There were offerings for the wider church, the congregation, the pastor, the youth league, the children’s fund, they sang and danced and added their offering to the pile.  They are a great people for celebrations.

There is great joy in the celebration of a Sunday service in the ELCSA.  A joy in the gospel that I do not see here in the states.  We could use a bit of that joy here.


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.

Young Adult Rally
August 21, 2017, 5:49 am
Filed under: church, Farm, food, Music, Ondini circuit, South Africa

I’ll have to say that South Africans can really party.  Now we were not asked to go to any real blasts, but we were invited as guests to a number of church rallies, and those are some real parties.

On Saturday, August 5th, we were honored guests at the Young Adult Rally held in Ladysmith.  We had seats along the side in front, and special status at meal time.

One thing I should mention is that although printed materials may be in British English, almost every spoken work is in Zulu. This makes understanding what is going on difficult, but the music always translates as great.  For our first timers, this was their first experience with sitting through an event in a language they do not understand, and though our hosts did their best to help us understand, the boredom was easy to understand.  Since this was early in our trip, the boredom often translated into sleep.

The rally was held in a campus auditorium, and the place was full.  When we arrived a very dynamic speaker was on stage.  By the reactions of the crowd he was entertaining as well as enlightening.

I should explain that in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (ELCSA) A young Person can be from 18 to 35, and the group seems to be mostly female.  Every step of ELCSA church life puts you in a group with its own uniforms and gatherings.  Most men seem to skip the young adult group since this is a prime work time in their lives.  Women move more slowly from the young adult group to the women group and have rallies and parties the whole way.  For a link to our experience with the ELCSA Women’s league you can check here for my August 20, 2014 post.

Singing at a rally is part of every step.  They sing when they start, during and after.  They sing when they give the offering, and they sing when they protest.  

We all got to be part of a South African tradition, a protest rally.  A real first for us.

There seemed to be several issues, but one that would bubble up again during our trip was the fact that several million Rand ( $1 = 13.16 Rand while we were there) were missing from the church coffers.

During the meal, we were accorded the honor of having the head of the cow that was butchered placed in from of us.  While the platter did not include the skull, it did include the horns, ears, and brains.  Some of our party declined to give it a try, while others were more or less adventurous in their eating.

Part of the platter was something that we would see many times at meals, dumplings.  Dumplings are mostly cake flour and a few other ingredients cooked in a double boiler kind of arrangement and eaten as a bread.  It is definitely finger food since it does not hang together as well as bread.

More of our time spent in South Africa to come, stay tuned.


Here for the singing
September 7, 2016, 10:44 am
Filed under: history, Music | Tags:

I’m just back from Calgary in Canada where I was attending the North American Festival of Wales.  That’s Wales without an H.  Wales is an area of Britain.  It’s on the west side of the island.  Welsh folk were there before the Romans, Saxons or the Normans.  Their language is more ancient than most in Europe and has given few words to the modern English language.  It very nearly was a dead language since the rest of England tried to outlaw the language, but it and it’s people still survive.

Many Welsh people emigrated to the Americas where they became miners, teachers, farmers and businessmen.  If you see someone named Jones, Roberts, Williams and a host of other names, you can probably trace their roots back to Wales.

I go to Welsh/American events for the singing. It’s the only reason I go, well maybe not since I married into a Welsh/American family that has been, and continues to be very active in Gymanfa Ganu’s (or more properly Cymanfa Canu) and many other things Welsh. It is only half a joke when I tell folks that I had to audition to join the family.

I’m of German/Prussian/Norwegian decent. When I was growing up I remember my dad’s family singing German and American songs at family gatherings. There were violinists, pianists, accordion players and guitar players, and that was just the men. One uncle had a polka band. On my mothers side we had a great aunt who had run off to Hollywood to join the music scene then came home to work in a music store and give piano lessons. Holiday gatherings there were filled with Norwegian and American songs. Music was part of my growing up years.

School years also contained music. I took piano lessons, studied the clarinet and bass violin, those things never took with me, but singing did. I joined a barbershop chorus and the church choir and continued singing harmony when I settled into my own place, I still do. That tells you why I love to sing with the Welsh, it’s for the harmony.

The Welsh have a joy of harmony that is hard to contain. You will be just as likely to find them bellowing out a hymn at a rugby game or a pub as you would in church. Music seems to fill them. They will let anyone with a similar joy of harmony join in. The most difficult part of singing with the Welsh is learning to sing Welsh.

For those of you unfamiliar with the language, it contains 28 letters, and leaves out about 6 or 7 letters usually found in English. DD and LL are actual letters of the alphabet for them. The rules for the differences between F and FF give you a hint as to why English is at times so hard to pronounce and spell.  Their list of vowels also includes W, and has some interesting sounds for the rest of the more common English vowels.

After 40 years of attending Minnesota based Gymanfa’s and a few national festivals I can almost pronounce the words, there is no way I can understand more than a few of them.  The Welsh joke that it is a language in which you cannot buy a vowel.  Their words seem to be all consonants.  Much of the time I will just sing on a oh or keep singing the same English verse over and over.  I’m not the only one.  There are many a Welsh descendant that is doing the same.

It is perhaps the habit of singing in harmony that most draws me to Welsh music.  Yes, you can find songs that have only the melody line, but most are 4-part harmony.  Many Welsh enclaves in the America’s have a habit of holding Gymanfa’s at least once a year locally and a “National” or North American event annually also.  In Wales there have been Gymanfa’s going on for over 1000 years.

So if you have a hankering for singing in harmony and hear about a Gymanfa Ganu, Cymanfa Canu or Welsh Festival of Song, check it out.  Join in as they sing out those hymns and folk songs.  I know you’ll have a great time.

Christmas Music Memories
November 16, 2014, 2:44 pm
Filed under: Christmas, family, Music | Tags: , ,

It happened again.  The first hymn starts and I start singing and the children of the dad in front of me who does not sing turn and stare.  Yes, guys do sing in church.

But why is it that I sing?  Well, I guess it is because of this bunch.


This is my dad’s family from the year I was born.  I’m that little guy in the back row.  When your father sings it is a huge influence on a boy and I grew up with music.

Grandpa Julius played the violin, Robert and Ernie played the concertina and several of them played the piano.  Christmas meant music in Julius and Ann’s house, and lots of good food.  We sang mostly in english, but there were some german songs also.  I can still remember most of the german for “Stille Nacht.”  The house was crowded with family and music.

I do not remember as much music at Harry and Agnes’ parties.  Grandpa Harry was not musical.  Grandma Agnes’ family was and we learned norwegian when the Iverson’s got together.  Corrine, Agnes’ sister, taught and wrote music so she would take command of the piano for those Christmas sing alongs.

Music and the holidays make a big impression on a kid.  I’m glad my family were singers.

A time of learning, a time of worship

It’s time for Synod Assembly and many groan.  They see the votes, the work, the controversy and the bother, what they do not see is what draws me back year after year.  The renewing of friendships and finding new friends, the learning and the worship.photo-3

Many of my friends show up at multiple places.  They will be at church meetings, farm meetings and political meetings.  We are all busy, caring people who get involved in many areas.  Yes, we work, but we also learn, laugh and pass on news of family.  Long lost connections can be renewed and family we seldom see can show up.  Organizational meetings are so much more than just work.

photo-4I had not seen the Olson’s for over 40 years, yet there they were at a recent political meeting.

I have had foreign and domestic travel opportunities open up.  Travel that would cost so much more if I was doing it alone is less expensive when you do it with the group.  My first tour of Europe was because of FFA.  I have been to Israel and South Africa because of church activities.  I have visited several states because of Farm Bureau and the Barbershop Harmony Society.  Along the way I have met the same people and shared many good times.

Perhaps for me the greatest part of these meetings was the learning I did.  There have been so many chances to see and study.  Tours of historical sites and seminars on current issues are only part of the learning I have had an opportunity to take part in.  I have also sampled new foods, visited museums and found out how others live in different areas of this world.

My most recent meeting was the annual meeting of the Southwest Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  I have always enjoyed these meetings for all of the reasons above, plus the chance to worship.  There are introductions to new music from around the world, fantastic speakers and some really interesting people to visit with.

So the next time you have and opportunity to attend a meeting of a larger organization, take a chance and go.  You never know where it will lead you.

Adapt or die
March 23, 2014, 4:04 pm
Filed under: history, Music, time | Tags: , , ,

“The South moves North the North moves South a star is born a star burns out
The only thing that stays the same is everything changes everything changes”

From Time Marches On by Tracy Lawrence

It would be easy because of my advancing years (60) to want things to stay the same as they were yesterday.

Yesterday when I was young
So many happy songs were waiting to be sung,
So many wild pleasures lay in store for me
And so much pain my dazzled eyes refused to see.
I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out,
I never stopped to think what life was all about
And every conversation I can now recall
Concerned itself with me and nothing else at all.

From Yesterday, When I was Young by Roy Clark

But one of the few things I have learned is that time changes things, and we must adapt to them or die.  Too many see this world as a friendly place and do not see how we must wrestle life from the earth through sweat and struggle.  Our lives here in the developed countries are too easy.  When things go wrong we say “Why?” as if we are owed an easy life.  I’ve watched as even the poorest, most defenseless in the developed countries are guaranteed life.  Yes, we have the resources to provide for the poor and the cripple, but that is not the way of life.

Mankind has transcended the mundane struggle for life in most cases.  He has placed himself as a supreme being that no longer has to struggle unless he is severely disadvantaged.  So here is my warning to those who feel entitled, life is tough, and if you are living the easy life, it will not last.  We all are born in pain and struggle, and we all will die.

Sitting with Mama alone in her bedroom
She opened her eyes, and then squeezed my hand
She said, I have to go now, my time here is over
And with her final word, she tried to help me understand
Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same

From How can I help you say goodbye by Patty Loveless

So go ahead, look back on the past with fondness, but realize that the past will never come again.  You can live in the past, or change and embrace the future.  Life is about living today and planning for the future, the past is dead and gone.


Young McDonald

Many in our country complain about the large farms and, to them, questionable technology that is used on today’s farms.  The truth is that we no longer live in “Old McDonald’s” world.  In an effort to produce more food using fewer inputs, Old McDonald and his son have adopted the technology that makes the rest of the world run.  So instead of Old McDonald, I offer you here the words to a new farm song,  Young McDonald.

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

And on their farm they use a lot of technology, E I E I O

With at smart phone here and a computer there, here and iPad, there some GMO’S, everywhere there’s new technology,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.


Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

And on their farm they have lots of computers, E I E I O

Figuring rate of gain here and days to market there, watch the weather, watch the market, computers are helping everywhere,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.


Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

And on their farm they have some smart phones, E I E I O

With a hash tag here and a photo there, call the seeds man, call the feed man, and what’s the latest on the weather forecast,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.


Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

And on their farm they have some GPS’s, E I E I O

With a turn left here and a turn right here, keep that planter moving straight and increasing efficiency of that tractor,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.


Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

That new technology is helping them everywhere, E I E I O

With use less fuel here and use less herbicide there, they’re producing more with less on their farm everywhere,

Young McDonald farms with his dad, E I E I O.

Do you want the real story?

Do you want the real story, or will you believe the “shocking” news of some entertainer?  I’ve seen it so many times, a TV celebrity makes a statement or brings on a guest who makes a statement, that is totally at odds with the truth, and people actually believe it.  When they make those comments about what we do here on the farm it can really hurt.  I’m proud to tell you that a broad array of farm folks are stepping up to tell the real story.  Among my favorites are the ladies at “Finding our Common Ground.”  These young mothers are telling about what happens on the farm in a way that other young professional women can believe.  One that came across my facebook feed today is about GMO’s. (http://findourcommonground.com/food-facts/corporate-farms/)

I’ve also watched the Peterson Brother do their thing in song parody that both entertains and informs.  These young men and their sister are entertaining and informative. Check out one of their videos at

I’m Farming and I Grow It (Parody Song) – YouTube

Today a really good video came to my computer from Midwest Dairy producers that is one of the best I have ever seen.

Feeding‘ A Nation (Parody Song)

These are only a few of the many good efforts being made by agriculture today.  The truth is that we few are a misunderstood group.  What we do is shrouded in mystery because what we do is often hard, dirty work.  Work that is rewarding in ways that many city jobs are not, but often so hard that many of our ancestors left the farm for the easier life in cities.529984_495798610485209_1247879837_nNot only hard, but today very costly.  It is harder and harder to get into farming without lots of money.  For most of my life I struggled to make a living and feed my family on a farmers income.  Because I was able to work with my dad I was able to keep going and now, 40 years later, can feel good about the life I live and the income I make.  Today land and machinery prices are even higher and I wonder how the next generation will be able to farm.

My life is not “shocking,” but it is complex.  We do things on the farm today in new ways because we have a heavier burden on our shoulders.  When I started farming the average farmer fed 26 people, today he feeds 155.  98% of the farms are still family owned and account for 85% of the food you eat. In the last 100 years the average farm size has gone from 140 acres to about 500.  Of interest is that there are now more farms today that there were 10 years ago, not hobby farms, but farms that are actually viable, $500,000 per farm gross profit farms.

So the next time someone tries to tell you how things really are on the farm, check out their bonafides.  Do they really know what goes on on the farm, or are they telling you “shocking” story to get you to buy their book.  You all are invited to check out the many farm stories that are now on the internet, and I know any one of us would love to hear from you.  We’ll tell you what really happens down on the farm.

American Farm Bureau in Nashville

cropped-2013_blog_headerWe made the trip to Nashville for this years Annual Meeting.  Since my sister lives just south of the city it was a dual event.  Our weather started out really nice, and then went cold and rainy.  Wish we could have brought some of that rain home.

Essential things for the AFBF Meetng

Essential things for the AFBF Meeting

Site of the meeting was the Opryland Hotel.  It’s a huge place with 2881 rooms and 15 restaurants on 6 floors.  Because of continued expansion and no understandable structural layout the hotel is bit confusing.  Each hotel area has a central garden area that is really stunning, with each different in many ways.  The attached convention area was also a bit confusing so keeping a map within reach was really helpful if you were going someplace new.  They said we had almost every room in the place booked for Farm Bureau members.

Sunday morning started out for us with a Minnesota breakfast at 7:30 gathering.  It was a place to get to see most of the folks who made the trip from Minnesota.  It was also a chance for President Paap and his staff to give us our tasks for the event.  Since I’m not known to be shy, I was assigned 4 radio stations to call back in Minnesota at specific times.

After breakfast we gathered for the opening session.  Along with many awards and introductions of important people we all needed to know, we had an address from AFBF President Bob Stallman.  Bob talked about the challenges and triumphs of the past year.  Included in those challenges was the lack of a Farm Bill in the U.S. congress.  This lack of a farm bill leaves a lot of uncertainty for all involved in agriculture.  He also addressed some disturbing government regulations that we were able to stop.  These included a regulation that would have prevented farm folks from employing their children on the farm, and threatened regulations on a small chicken producer that would have forced them to get a pollution discharge permit when nothing was being discharged.

We also got to spend some time at the trade show where they had displays from each state showing what they were doing to promote agriculture, as well as displays from several agricultural companies.  We had our choice of seminars put on by companies and the Farm Bureau.  I got to meet some old friends and make some new ones along the way.  The evening was free to spend as we wished.

Fellow bloggers Ryan Goodman and Janice Person

Fellow bloggers Ryan Goodman and Janice Person

Monday included more seminars and demonstrations in both the morning and the afternoon.  At noon I joined other county presidents for a luncheon and a speaker.  Our closing session started at 3 in the afternoon and included more awards and contest winners.  We also heard from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack who spoke of the optimism he has for the future of agriculture.  The real highlight of the day was Keynote Speaker Captain Mark Kelly.  He had a great story to tell.UnknownThat was the end of the sessions for the general public.  Tuesday brought the delegate session and regional caucuses, wednesday was the AFBF Board of Directors meeting, none of which I attended.

With the rainy and cold weather, the rest of our time was mainly spent indoors checking out area attractions including one night spent in a country music bar, we just had to check out Vince Gill andTTJ_LOGO_225group_MainFeature  It was a fun and restful trip, but it is good to be back home.