Minnesota Farmer


Ground Blizzard

This morning when they called off school the weather didn’t look that bad.  We had a bit of snow blowing around, but most of the snow was still staying put.  When our mail was delivered about 9 a.m. we were surprised, usually mail doesn’t come until after noon.  Now it is a different story.

Winds are holding at over 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.  We have ourselves a ground blizzard.

If you are out of the wind, temperatures are not too bad.  Step out into the wind and you have a different story.  I have trouble seeing across my yard with all of the snow in the air, and yet, when you look up there is the sun in a mostly clear sky.

I can hear a truck out on the highway but he doesn’t seem to be moving that fast.  I would not want to be in a car in these conditions.  This is the time I am glad for a warm house and plenty of food.  I’m hunkered down with a project or two and a book.  It’s great to live in Minnesota on a day like this and have nothing that has to be done.



Connections to a tragedy

When word first reached me of the death of 16 year old Ross I didn’t think I had any connections with him or the family. Yes, he lived near a neighboring town, but what connections could I have with him.  The connections have begun to pile up.

The first connection was to our church.  He had for a while been coming to Sunday School classes there and still had family who were members.

The second connection was to friends.  His high school choir director was our daughters friend, we know that family well.  She had brought Ross and some friends to our church to sing at the Living Nativity just days before the accident.

Next came connections to Farm Bureau.  His dad is active in their county Farm Bureau and I have seen him at state activities.  He had just won top prize in the foundation raffle.

The last one hit hardest.  Ross had been coming to sing with our barbershop chorus during the summer.  I had talked to him then, but had not seen him for months.  Our chorus has been asked to sing at his funeral today.

Memories now flood back to an earlier funeral of a promising young man we sang for years ago.  Jeff had been my son’s friend.  They sang in a high school quartet and in our chorus.  That death had been a lot closer, but in no way less tragic.  Both deaths involved cars and both deaths involved making lethal mistakes.  Now another young man is gone.

Hold your children today.  Tell them again to be careful and that you love them.



Trust the Bus Driver

It happened to me again today.  I had someone tell me that if they really wanted to know what the local road conditions were they would ask a school bus driver.FarmBuildings00016-300x200

Wow, what trust to put in those of us on the road early in the morning or late at night.  Yeah, we are out in the early hours on roads all over the country.  In fact, I’m usually the first one on many of the county and township roads of my route, all to often I’m there before the snow plow.  I have to know those roads because I’m asked to drive them in fog, rain and snow.  I’ve had many a trip where I have known where the stop signs and corners are by counting the hills.  Those are not the days I prefer to drive.

Winter here in Southwestern Minnesota can be a challenge at times.  Knowing where the road is in hazardous conditions is sometimes a challenge.  The fact is though that I will never take a child out on a road in my bus if I do not feel confident that I can get back to town.  That’s not to say that I have always stayed on the road, but usually if I get into trouble it is not because of a blizzard, it’s ice or fog.

So, thank you for your trust.  We want your kids home safe as much as you do.  Besides, do you really want to spend a cold night in a bus with your child and all of their friends?  Neither do we!



In opposite directions
November 10, 2014, 10:13 am
Filed under: cars, Farm, machines, School bus, travel, trucks | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

While gasoline and oil prices are dropping, another essential fuel is going up in price, Diesel.

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Over the weekend, gasoline prices in our area went down 10 cents and diesel went up 50 cents.  Why should this concern you?  Because the price of everything you buy is dependent on diesel-powered trucks, trains and ships to get it to your house.  Farmers depend on diesel-powered equipment to harvest food for your table and grocery store shelves are filled by diesel-powered trucks making deliveries.  School, city and charter buses use diesel to deliver people everyday.  Diesel is the lifeblood of commerce.

There have been some efforts made to change diesel-powered equipment to natural gas or propane, but the change is slow.  Pressurized tanks for propane and natural gas are expensive and fueling stations are rare.  For now we depend on diesel.

The last time diesel prices were this high, transportation companies added fuel surcharges to their deliveries.  I expect that to happen again.  Look for cruise ship vacations and chartered bus trips to cost more also.  There just is no way to avoid paying for higher priced fuel.  So next time you fill up your tank and celebrate the lower gas prices, take a look at the price of diesel.  You are paying for that fuel also with every purchase of every product you use.



On Lac La Croix

Here I am, barely back from one trip and I’m off on another, this time fishing in Canada.

My son, Paul, has had several fishing trips at work related outings and he decided he needed to take his dad and grandfather along this time.  Saturday we drove to Crane Lake in northern Minnesota.  We got on a boat and started east and then north to Zup’s resort on Lac La Croix.  After a stop at the Canadian border station we continued on to Loon Falls where a marine railroad lifted the boat into Loon Lake.100_3002 Once deposited on Loon Lake100_3005 We continued along the border to the Beatty Marine Railroad portage into Lac La Croix.  The trip included full bore traverses of rice beads and narrow rocky passages.

When we got to Zup’s100_3007 we were put up in the Rock Cabin,Rock cabin fed a large rib eye steak dinner and got ready for a morning of fishing.

Sunday morning’s walleye fishing was good.  We kept the largest walleye for the cooler and ate the small ones for shore lunch.  After lunch we headed over to where Lac La Croix empties into the Namakan River.  We anchored in the current on the east side of the channel and went after the bass hard.  Each of us boated several bass over 2.5 pounds (about 18.5 inches).100_3013

We also boated several large Northern Pike, one taping in at 28.5 inches (6.6 pounds).100_3015

That night were fed a quarter chicken with all sorts of good sides and went to bed early again, but not before watching a great sunset.

Sunset Zup's

Monday morning started out sunny, but turned cloudy and windy.  Although we caught plenty of fish it was not up to the high bar set on Sunday.  Still we managed to fill out with our last keeper walleye and have plenty smaller ones for shore lunch.

We gave crappie fishing a try, but only boated two nice ones.  We decided to go back to the river for a few more bass before we left.  We brought in several nice bass, and a few smaller keepers, but fishing was slow here also.

In the last hour of the afternoon, I hooked the biggest walleye of the trip.  She taped out at 25.5 inches (6.1 pounds) and was indeed a beautiful fish.

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After a rack of pork ribs for dinner we spent some time catching the folks back home up on what we had been doing and went to bed.  The evening had turned cold so we needed the heat on in our cabin.

Tuesday we packed up, took a hike around the island and collected our fish for the trip home.  This was a great trip and a good time of generational bonding.  We’ll have to give it a try again some other day.



Women of Ondini gather
August 20, 2014, 8:36 am
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, South Africa, travel | Tags: , , , , ,

While we were in the Ondini circuit of the ELCSA there were two women’s gatherings.  The first was a meeting of the Ondini circuit women to which the ladies of our group were invited.  It was held at the nearby KwaZamokuhle school for handicapped children.100_2961

The second meeting was held the next week in Ezakheni near Ladysmith and was a “Mini” conference of the whole South Eastern Diocese.  We all were invited to that meeting.

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The roomful of black and white clad women was impressive, but even more impressive is the way these women celebrate.  There was rarely a quiet minute.  Someone would start off with a hymn and soon the whole place was singing, and sometimes dancing.  There was indeed a roomful of joy.

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They were not always in uniform.  At the evening meeting there was a choir and a group of dancers in bright garb to get the crowd moving.  There was also gift giving galore.  Every woman there had at least one gift to take home.

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The evening meeting was also a time to get out your party best and sing and dance.  There was lots of color in motion at that session.  We of course were invited into the dance.  Since we were wearing our yellow partnership tee shirts that evening we were easy to pick out.  Although we did not know the words to the songs, we did our best to follow the dance steps.  We were also grabbed up for picture taking.  We, after all, were celerities, folks who had come from another continent to share Jesus love with them.

The party went on for hours, with the evening meal finally served at 9:30 p.m..  It proved to be a short night, as we all were ushered off to host homes.  We had to be back for the church service at 8:00 a.m. and some of us had miles to travel.

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Church the next morning was very “high” church with alter boys, incense and chanting in both Zulu and English.

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The deans and the bishop played their part and were also dressed in their best.  They went through all of the ritualized  service.  During the 45 minute sermon they had translators scattered in our midst to help us understand the message, which was about Jesus coming to the disciples walking on the water.  The message went very well with our partnership theme of “Walking together with Christ.  It was so fascinating that we really did not know the service went for three and a half hours until it was all over.

This was an interesting experience and one that few from across the pond get to take part in.  The experience was just lucky timing on our part.  So glad we could be there to take part.



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.

Michael



Get off the Donkey
June 18, 2014, 9:52 pm
Filed under: charity, church, make a difference, Politics, travel | Tags: , , , , ,

We go through our lives being busy, there is so much to do.  When it comes to helping others, learning about those less fortunate than we are, we fail to get off the donkey.UnknownAs long as you sit there on that donkey you cannot be of help to your fellow-man.

This past weekend at Synod Assembly we had two great speakers, Rev. David Vasquez and Rev. Sunitha Mortha.   They both independently spoke about the differences of the new Christians in the U.S.  Most of these new Christians have darker skin that we Nordic types, and they come from different traditions.  Rev. Vasquez reminded us that ever since the time of Christ, Christians have been a people on the move. We move from places of no work to places where we can find work. Our future and past are both bound to those who are migrating.  Our ancestors were once immigrants.

Did you know that one-third of all immigrants to the U.S. are moving north up the I-35 corridor today?  These are people looking for work, for opportunity.  They are not the shiftless, seekers after an easy dollar that many would have you believe.   Many of these people are well-educated.  27% of our doctors in the U.S. are foreign-born, 24% of our health care workers are foreign-born, 18% of our countries small businesses are owned by recent immigrants. These are not people who are a burden on our society, but drivers of our economy.

These new people also bring their cultures with them.  Pastor Sunitha Mortha talked to us of what happens when these different cultures clash. For many, these new cultures are scary, so we judge those not like us harshly.  Can we change judgement to curiosity?  We too were once immigrants to a new land.

If you get off of your donkey, you can develop a relationship with some of these new people.  When you do that you are doing mission work.  Mission is about relationships. Where is your mission? Are you cultivating that relationship? Where is the power in that relationship.  Are you sitting on your donkey in the place of power, or are you joining in the mission to love your neighbor?  Christ taught us to wash the feet of those around us.  You cannot be like Him sitting on your donkey.



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.



Got to keep moving
May 17, 2014, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Farm, history, time, travel | Tags: , , , ,

A few years ago an older friend told me “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”  Many years ago my grand father told me that in his body “If it works, it hurts, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t hurt.”  As I get older, I am starting to understand.pain-profile-no-background-3-hi

I knew a woman once who just decided to not get up one day.  The doctors could find no reason for her not being able to walk, she just chose not to.  There are times, especially when a storm is coming in, that I have trouble getting to sleep because of all the places I hurt, but then I fall asleep and nothing hurts until morning.

Work on the farm stresses the body.  Things need to be lifted, hauled, pushed or moved, most of the time by using the body.  Many of those things are large and/or heavy.  After the deed is done, the body can start to hurt.  Age, with its accumulation of stressors, adds to the pain.  Things that moved easily when I was younger, now do not move so easily.

When all of the pain gets to seem too much, I have only to remember two friends of mine who are living with the after effects of polio.  Neither of them complains about pain, and yet each and every movement could be their last as their bodies struggle with muscles that will never really be whole.  Somehow they continue to move on.  They have not gone to bed to stay, and neither will I.  Pain tells me that I am alive.

Consider the turtle, who never gets anywhere if he does not stick his neck out.  So it is as you get older, you never get anywhere without a little pain.UnknownSo keep moving, there is a lot to see out there and a little pain just reminds you of the effort expended to get there.

Michael