Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Dandelion and Mother Clucks

On Easter morning as I survey winter damage to my rose bushes, I spot the large yellow blossom on the south side of the house. I kneel close to it, and then I lean closer to gather the many large leaves in my hand. A slow, steady pull brings Mr. Dandelion up by the root, but as I hold the plant, the pungent odor of earth and plant make me pause.
All winter I eagerly watch as Mom assembles goose eggs into neat rows in assorted containers of oats. She places them point down in the oats to keep them still and cool. Under a table in a cool corner of the "other room," shoeboxes, old dishpans, and assorted sizes of cardboard boxes, all without tops, store the eggs until spring.

In spring Mom picks out some hens that aren't laying, we call them clucks, to sit on the eggs in nests made of orange crates tipped on their sides. Each crate has ample straw and is on one end of a small pen in the hay barn, which by this time is empty of hay.

Then the magic begins. We feed and water the cluck as she sits on the eggs, keeping them warm and guarding them as if they contain her own offspring. 

The eggs hatch and as the goslings grow, mother cluck is a fierce protector and provider too, but the hay barn floor yields nothing as mother cluck scratches to uncover morsels for them as if she were scratching the dirt. 

As as they grow beyond her care, I feel a tinge of sadness for the mother cluck.

But the goslings need fresh greens with lots of protein. 
"Fill the pail with dandelion leaves," Mom says as she hands me a small pail and knife. "Cut them close to the ground and be careful with the knife."
I don't have to go far. The backyard is full of yellow blossoms all the way to the road bank. When I return with a full pail, my overalls have green knees, but I am eager for mom to cut the leaves so I can feed them to the goslings.
Mom reaches into the pail to draw out a handful of leaves, holds them firmly on a wooden plank by the milk house, and with a long knife she quickly slices the leaves into small pieces. When finished, I follow her to the hay barn where the goslings are waiting.
"Pa pa pah, goosey!" She greets them cheerfully, saying the phrase rapidly and repeating it several times. The goslings respond with chatter that lets us know they are hungry.
We talk to them as they eat their greens. "Pa pa pah. Pa pa pah." Everyone is happy.

But since I have no goslings to which I can feed my freshly picked dandelion, I toss it on the garden to be plowed under later in the day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Crown of Life Lutheran School

This morning my wife Nancy and I drove to West St. Paul to do a show for K-2 that included my book, If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure. 

Although there weren't many farm kids in the audience, they still got into how to teach a newborn calf how to drink out of a pail (above) and (below) sticking their hands deep into a coffee can of oats to feel the coolness of the grain.

Some students asked questions after the show:
A second grade student asked, "Did Nancy (from my book) eat a pig after it got big?"
My answer: "Yes, farm animals are raised to give us meat and other products." Then I briefly listed some products provided by other farm animals.
Some bought books (above), and others felt more oats (below).

The students listened to the story and watched the screen with intensity. They told me after the show that they liked the story of Nancy and her kitty Dusty.

I thank Mrs. Grundmeier for inviting me to come and also Principal Plath and all the teachers for having me at their school. The kids at Crown of Lutheran School were great and Nancy and I enjoyed our visit. We hope to return soon.

Photograph by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Monday, April 25, 2011

Winona Historical Society

Winona County Historical Society hosts a monthly "Food for Thought" series during lunchtime at the new wing of the Winona County Museum, which was dedicated last fall during a visit by Governor Pawlenty.
Jennifer Weaver, assistant director at the Museum, invited me to speak for an hour and I eagerly scheduled April 20, 2011, at noon.
The facilities were beautiful and the people were really enthusiastic about rural history and the history of their city. It was a fun group.
Nancy set up our book display below a fine grouping of historical details.

We arrived early as did a number of people who introduced themselves and visited with me and Nancy before the show. In the picture above I am showing Orlin Brommer the illustrations in the original Christmas book that I wrote. 
Orlin lives in Wisconsin and writes a column for the Winona Daily News.
He is pretty humble about it and calls it his "Ramblings," but after Nancy and I returned home, I read a number of his articles and I found them fascinating. His articles display details from routine things of the past and his style is a special cross between fiction and memory that you don't want to miss. To find the articles, just google his name.
The audience enjoyed the show on a big screen. After the hour program, many stayed to ask questions, buy books, and tell stories. Their enthusiasm made the day fun and the knowledge they shared was educational for all.
Allan Aldinger (left) gave me some copies of photos and stories from his childhood after I signed a book for him. I love to see these photos and read the stories. I am always looking for information to put in my shows.
I thank Jennifer Weaver for inviting me to speak and for purchasing books to have available to sell at the museum's fine gift shop. Nancy and I plan to return sometime soon to check out the museum more thoroughly.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Title I Night at Mabel-Canton

In spring and fall each year Mabel-Canton School hosts a Title I Night which features entertainment and ice cream. For this spring's event on April 18, Media Coordinator Laura Schulte invited Tom Savre (guitarist, songwriter, naturalist) and me to entertain the group.
Tom performed songs he had written containing bird calls and animal sounds, and as he sang, children and adults  followed his lead by joining in and doing their best to imitate his calls. His performance was both fun, engaging, and educational as audience members learned the sounds of local birds and animals.
 Tom was a hard act to follow, but he sure put everyone in a good mood, and the audience seemed to be eager to listen to my story, If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure.
After my show, people visited with each other and ate the ice cream served at the event.
As I visited with kids and adults (background), other students came over to talk to Nancy and browse my books after they had finished their ice cream.
I got to sign lots of books and visit with parents and their children.
Several parents commented how they enjoy Title I Night because they never quite know what entertainment they will experience. They said they really enjoyed Tom's music and my stories. They were very kind.
Nancy and I would like to thank Media Coordinator Laura Schulte and Title I Coordinator Sarah Holdmeyer, who were responsible for selecting the entertainment and contacting Tom and me.
The evening's program was fun and educational. Everyone was friendly and eager to visit. I hope we return soon.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tweeten Health Care, Spring Grove, MN

Instead of driving home after the Sunday afternoon show at Spring Valley, Nancy and I decided to stay overnight at Preston because we had scheduled two shows nearby on Monday, April 18, one in Spring Grove and another at Mabel-Canton School.
On Monday afternoon we arrived early at Tweeten Health Care, Spring Grove, and set up in a large room. Palma (right) and Rollie (left) visited us. Rollie talked about his hometown in South Dakota and Palma talked about farming. "It was hard work but we had fun too," she said. 
As in many nursing homes where almost everyone in the audience is immobile and limited in movement of hands and even facial expressions, I work extra hard to elicit reactions. Although they seldom clap or laugh loudly, their subtle smiles and nodding heads spark my desire to do my best. 
Rollie is seated up front and to my right so he can tilt his head up and view my show from his left side.
Many stayed to chat after the show and after most had left, Rollie wheeled himself over to me. I knelt  down to make eye contact, and he talked more about farming and explained the layout of the businesses in the small town he where he was raised. "The town had a population of about 20, including the dogs," he said. Rollie had a keen sense of humor. He decided to buy his nieces the Halloween book instead of the Christmas or Thanksgiving stories because "...they have lots of books about those holidays."

Palma's three-year-old great grand daughter, Olivia, enjoyed the company of everyone and checked out our poster and the books.
The staff and residents at Tweeten Health Care treated us warmly and we had fun doing the show. I want to thank Gloria Oakes-Speltz for inviting us and we hope we can return soon.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spring Valley Historical Society

Doing my 55-minute show about farm heritage at Spring Valley Historical Society on April 17 was a bit like preaching to the choir. Nothing I said was new to the audience, but I could tell from the laughter and head-nodding that they loved hearing it anyway. Since it was their annual dinner, I was assured of a good crowd of people ready to have some fun.

Members were avid historical buffs, and before and after the show they shared many stories of their lives on and off the farm. 

Although the banquet was open to members only, my show as open to the public and a few parents brought young people.

I'd like to thank Spring Valley Historical Society Secretary Julie Mlinar, forefront on the right in the picture above, for inviting me to the banquet. Nancy and I enjoyed the great food, the lively conversation, and the stories many people willingly told us. 
Many audience members purchased books and kindly told me how much they enjoyed the show. This kind of feedback means a lot to me because it lets me know they understand that the small farm heritage belongs to all Minnesotans.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fundraiser for Early Learning Programs

Friday afternoon, April 15, 2011, the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Early Learning Advisory Council had a fund raiser at the Eagan Barnes and Noble store. Several storytellers read from a number of books. I listened to Michelle Smith read before me and Sharon Furth read after me. They both did a fabulous job with the children.
Below, I hold the coffee can while some of the children feel the oats before my show.

Children varied in age and there were lots of adults in the background nearby.

When there was no one reading, children eagerly browsed the book shelves with serious intensity, enjoying each book as they tried to find just the right book to take to their parents to purchase. 
Parents and children also enjoyed viewing Dale Johnson's artwork,  which he displayed during the afternoon as he chatted with visitors.
Nancy and I had to leave early and had to miss readers Michelle Mergler, Karen King, and Jennifer Watterson. The Sibley High School Fiddle and Friends performed before the fundraiser ended at 8 PM.

Nancy and I wish to thank Angie Mozeika of the Early Learning Advisory Council for inviting us to the fundraiser and Barnes and Noble for hosting the event. I hope the Early Learning Program found the event to be beneficial to them.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Saturday, April 16, 2011

St. John's Steppingstones Preschool in Savage,MN

As Nancy and I set up our equipment to do a show on my book If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure, just a few feet away from us Steppingstones Preschool teachers successfully continue with lessons in their farm unit with 3-4 year-old students. I watch and listen and marvel at their ability to retain the focus of the students.  You can't let up on your energy for a moment with this age group, even as cute as they are.
Below, students in the first group ask questions after the show. Many of the teachers wore bib overalls today, including Mrs. Pfeiffer standing buy the door.

I did a morning and afternoon show on Thursday, April 14, and a morning and afternoon show on Friday, April 15. The students were fabulous! In fact, this was the first time I've encountered groups of students this young who actually knew how to call cattle the way farmers call them. "Come, Boss. Come, Boss."
Second group of students

Third group of students

Below, group four turns to wave and say "Hi" to Nanc as she snaps their picture.
Students line up patiently to take their turn to feel the oats in the coffee can.

All the groups showed patience and curiosity throughout the shows. Usually, during what is supposed to be "question" time, students this young will tell stories about their animals or their grandparents' farm. I like to listen to the stories because I know storytelling is important to everyone, but these students created and asked more original questions than I've ever experienced with kids this young. The parents and teachers should be proud.
I'd like to thank all the teachers for having me do my show in their classrooms, and I especially thank Mrs. May for arranging the event.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Monday, April 11, 2011

SALT (Senior Adults Learning Together)

SALT is a nonprofit corporation offering "enrichment learning" to people 55 and up, and they hold sessions on four consecutive Mondays every spring and fall. Sponsored by a coalition of churches in Dakota County, their goal is to appeal to a variety of interests by offering four speakers (two speakers each hour) during the morning followed by a lunch and some entertainment.
Today's sessions were held in the Church of the Risen Savior off County Road 42 in Apple Valley, and I was especially pleased to do my Farm Heritage program at the 9:30 AM session.

Since over 75 percent of the audience members had either farmed or grown up on a farm, they responded warmly to my program.
They listened intently, smiled and nodded as my words hit familiar notes, asked questions after the show, and bought some books.
I especially like that many of them expressed that they agreed we need to preserve our farm heritage by telling our stories.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mabel Public Library

On Saturday, April 9, driving east on I-90, we take exit 193 onto Highway 16, then turn onto Highway 52 to go through Preston. Just a few miles east of Preston we are treated to spectacular views of valleys, hills, woods and fields. Even though we have a few miles to go, we stop for some photos.

The highway follows a ridge for miles until we turn onto Highway 3 to go to Mabel, which is nearly in Iowa.
Our drive to the Mabel Public Library takes us less than three hours, including two stops, and we are greeted by library director Donna Johnson, volunteer Gail Stortz, and library president Sharen Storhoff.
We set up quickly and then are surprised when two friends we had first met on our trip to Hawaii in January stop by to watch the show, Janice Storlie (right) and Yvonne Krogstad (left), pictured below.

Audience members vary in age as shown in pictures above and below.
After I finish the show for A Farm Country Thanksgiving,  several people stay to chat and purchase some books. I discover Gail (Tripp) Stortz, pictured below, is a cousin from my dad's side.
Once again, we had fun meeting interesting people and enjoyed the surprise of meeting friends and relatives. We look forward to returning to Mabel for a scheduled visit to the elementary school later in April.
The drive back offers more great scenery, though the day was a bit hazy.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mystery Reader at Victoria Elementary School

Friday, April 8, 2011, is Mystery Reader Day at Victoria Elementary, Victoria, Minnesota, and the mystery reader is Bernie Henderson, who is my wife Nancy's cousin. None of the second grade students in Mrs. Behun's class know the mystery reader's identity in advance, including her daughter, Caroline, so when we walk in, Caroline's face shines like the sun.
In the picture above, Caroline (in yellow) watches intently as her mother reads my book, If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure.
In the picture below, you can tell that Bernie's reading is effective because Mrs. Behun and the students are focused intently on the story. 

Mrs. Behun is kind to let me say a few words so I talk about the real things that farmers do that are shown in my books, and then I demonstrate how to teach a newborn calf how to drink out of a pail in the picture below.

In the picture below, as I point to a picture of Caroline's grand uncle Ambrose on the dedication page of my book A Farm Country Thanksgiving, mother and daughter share an intergenerational moment. 
Moments like the one pictured above and below help make Nancy's and my efforts worthwhile.
Caroline Henderson posing for a picture with me.

Nancy and I wish to thank Cousin Bernie for arranging our visit to Caroline's school, and we especially wish to thank Mrs. Behun for inviting us visit her classroom and allowing me to speak to her wonderful students. It's pretty clear to me that she is doing a great job of teaching them to be good listeners and audience members. I hope they invite Nancy and me back soon.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School

On Thursday, April 7, Nancy and I left at 5:30 AM to drive to Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School and arrived a little before 9:00. The greeting we received from the office staff made us feel welcome, and the principal, Mr. Rutten, took time to show us around while he explained how they are coping with space after last summer's tornado which demolished the high school. They adjusted by shifting grades to other buildings and renting another whole building. They've met the challenge, but it wasn't easy.
The sign outside the media center made Nancy and I feel really welcome and eager to begin.

Above, first graders listen intently to the story If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure, and
below, they all turn to wave to Nancy after I show them her picture from the dedication page in the book.

Likewise for the kindergarten students in the two pictures below.
 The picture of Nancy on the dedication page with her kitty Dusty is more clear in the bottom picture than on the first picture of this article.

The picture of Nancy and her kitty Dusty projected on the screen in the picture below was taken in 1956.

Once again, Nancy and I had fun meeting great kids and great staff. We sold books and listened to stories. We thank the Principal Rutten and the staff for having us visit Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School, and we especially thank Media Specialist Loni Niles for inviting us and arranging our visit.
Hope you have us back soon.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Red Pine Elementary School

Second Grade teacher Mrs. Nelson arranged to have us perform If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure for all the second graders during their farm unit in April, 2010, and she was kind enough to invite us back this year to do a show for this year's second graders on April 6, 2011. We did three shows for about 176 students total. They were great as an audience and they had lots of questions after the show.
Pictured above is the is the first group just as I am starting the show. 
Mrs. Nelson is seated at her desk by the wall. 
Lydia bought the book before the show and followed along with her friends as I read the story (below):

Group two watches as I explain how farmers used the handkerchief as a dust mask.
Students in group two listening from the back of the room (below):

Pictured above, group three listens as I explain that we used a coffee can to measure oats to the horses.
After the show kids line up to stick their hands in the oats to feel it. I tell them it's "cool" but I'm talking about the temperature of the oats.
In the picture below, students in group three hold up two fingers to learn how to teach a newborn calf to drink from a pail as second grade teacher Mr. Olson sits on the table to take some picture of the students during the show.

The kids and the teachers seemed to have fun, and you know I had fun, especially when I was able to do what I most enjoy: autographing books.
Lydia and me (above) and
Nidhi and me (below)

Thanks to everyone at Red Pine for having me back this year, and a special thanks to Mrs. Nelson for making the arrangements and allowing me to use her classroom for all three shows. Hope to see you all next year!

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson