Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Visit to Austin Minnesota: Austin Public Library

The drive from the Mower County Historical Society to the Austin Library takes us less than ten minutes and after we check out the performance area, we unload right away. Still no rain. We are lucky.
As you can see, the Austin Public Library is a really nice building with a beautifully landscaped entrance. What you do not see is that the friendly, efficient library staff is really busy on this Thursday afternoon as people of all ages take advantage of all that is offered.

Anita Bruggerman, who farms with her husband and son and works full-time with events at the library, kindly introduces me to the kids and adults in the audience.
The room is long and he audience sits in he middle and in chairs along the perimeter, making them impossible to capture on one picture.

They seemed to enjoy the show and a few of the adults hung around to ask some questions, tell me stories, and buy some books after the show.

The mother above is wearing an Allis–Chalmers sweatshirt and explains that she farms with her husband and family. They run a lot of land but also take time to collect antique tractors, which is an important way of preserving farm heritage. I'm pleased that they see my books as a legitimate way to preserve farm heritage, as well.

Thanks to Anita Bruggerman for arranging my visit to the Austin Public Library and thanks to the library for their generous donation for travel expenses. Nancy and I enjoyed the trip and would love to return some time soon.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Visit to Austin Minnesota: Mower County Historical Society

Back in February Dustin Heckman, Executive Director of Mower County Historical Society in Austin, MN, contacted me to do a show for their Noon Lunchbox series on June 23, 2011. Lucky for us, after he scheduled the event, he talked to Anita Bruggerman of the Austin Public Library, and she scheduled us to do a show at the library the same day. Since we advertise that we do our show for free but we accept donations, doing two shows that are only a mile or so apart in a city like Austin on the same day is exactly what we need to keep expenses down. We thank the Historical Society and the Library for each giving us a generous donation for travel expenses. I will post the blog on the Austin Library tomorrow.
The Mower County Historical Society is located on the fairgrounds in Austin and although we accidentally drove past the entrance the first time, the sign by the street shown in the picture below made us feel really welcome.

The Historical Society preserve and display a number of buildings on the grounds, including a school, a church, a log cabin, original fair buildings, and the Hormel building in the picture below.
We had no time to stroll the grounds, especially since we wanted to make sure we unloaded our equipment before rain came.

Dustin showed us to the Agriculture Building where Nancy and I set up quickly so we would have some time to get a close look at all the machinery on display.

Another bit of luck is that we were able to pick up our newest book, A Farm Country Picnic, from the warehouse the preceding week, and today would be our first performance of a show that included the newly released story.
I think that having a hay loader in the background is appropriate since the story begins with the family putting up hay with a hay loader.
After the show, people generously bought some books and waited patiently for me to sign them.

Dustin and I pose for a picture in front of the hay loader before Nancy and I have to be on our way to the Austin Library.

Nancy and I would like to thank Dustin Heckman, Executive Director of the Mower County Historical Society, for asking us to visit and taking the time to show us around. The grounds are really nice and we'd love to return during the fair some time to see all the buildings and equipment on display.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Farm Country Picnic

As Nancy and I pick up my newest book, A Farm Country Picnic, from the warehouse in Minneapolis, we are just as excited as when we picked up our first, A Farm Country Christmas Eve, in October of 2008.
Nancy takes a photo of the book as we drive south on Highway 100.

A Farm Country Picnic, our seventh book published by Beaver's Pond Press, Edina, tells the tale of a farm family putting up hay day after day while the children long for a break to go to a nearby lake to fish, to swim, and to picnic. The father admonishes the kids for asking for a break by telling them, "'Make hay when the sun shines' is farming's old rule," but the next morning when when the children wake up to a rainstorm, they know they may get their wish to go to Web Lake to have some fun.

 But as every farmer knows, the word farm comes before the word family in every farm family, and when the Watkins man drives into the yard exclaiming their cows are out, the entire family knows they will spend the day rounding up cows and fixing fences. Their shoulders sag as one at the news.

Like all the stories in my Farm Country Tales series, the story is written in rhyme and meter, portrays farm activities accurately, and shows the positive results of a family working together to accomplish goals. Ever sensitive to the needs of the farm and their children, the parents in the story give the kids a special picnic in their own pasture after the work is done. Nine-year-old Mags proclaims, "This sure beat old Web Lake!"
The book features a map of the farm which shows were the cows got out and a glossary that defines some of the farm terms.
More sample pictures are displayed on my website.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


On Saturday morning the weather gave us clouds and small sprinkles of rain, but the optimism expressed by the hard-working owners/operators at Cedar Summit Farm north of New Prague, MN, was typical of farm people. "It's clearing up," they all agreed. The great thing was that visitors shared that optimism because the cars kept driving into the parking area as people of all ages filled the yard at Cedar Summit Farm, where Dave and Florence Minar, their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, and other workers hosted their annual fun day they call "Milkapalooza."
We arrive early to set up and Linda Minar takes a moment to explain the layout to me.

Patrick Fisher, New Prague Times reporter and photographer captures a moment as I sign a book for a mother and child in the field where cars are parking. The area fill ups with cars rapidly as visitors come.
Visitors get free samples in foreground and ride on ponies and pet animals in the background.

Any event where kids and parents are having fun together makes me smile, and this day gave me a lot to smile about as I watched kids pet calves and cows; milk a mechanical cow; discuss chickens, honey, maple syrup with a farm families who supply some products sold at Cedar Summit; visit the barns; sit for a caricaturist; sample sheep cheese; ride to the pasture to visit the cattle herd to learn why grass-fed is best; and dance to music provided by two different bands.
Jazmine displaying caricature done by John Busacker.
Jazmine displaying her new book 

The cows attracted fans.
The cow milking contest was a popular event.
So was visiting the herd as shown below.
Tractor and wagon with visitors return from the pasture where they viewed the fine herd of cattle 
as seen in the distance from our tent in the farmyard in the picture below.

Florence Minar giving samples of a new product made at Cedar Summit Farm, drinkable yogurt.
Dave Minar talking with one of the handlers of the two cows available for petting.

Dave and Florence Minar deserve special recognition for their creation of Cedar Summit Farm. Their interest in producing healthy, more natural dairy and meats goes back to before the 1970s. I urge readers to visit Cedar Summit Farm website at and click on the appropriate tab to read the history of the farm's development and the special products they have to offer. They sell their own dairy products, grass-fed beef and pork, but they also provide a retail outlet for natural, healthy products produced by like-minded neighbors, such as honey, maple syrup, eggs, and chickens. Nancy and I have enjoyed their healthy foods for years and urge you to give them a try. You will be glad you did.

The Minar family were very kind to Nancy and me, providing us with a spot to sell our books under their big tent and a big room to perform my stories for lots of kids and their parents. We had a great time talking to old friends and meeting new people. The atmosphere was fun and exciting, as kids and adults of all ages mingled with each other and discussed the operation with the friendly Minar family members who made themselves available throughout the day. Keep the event in mind and check the website regularly to discover the date for next year's Milkapalooza.

Nancy and I wish to thank Dave and Florence Minar and the entire family for having us at the event.
We especially thank Linda Minar for her time and effort in arranging our visit.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson, except for the one below, which was taken by a friendly customer.

For more pictures of the event, click on Read More below.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trucks and Travel

"Trucks and Travel," held annually for the last 18 years, aims at entertaining little kids, and in doing so, tickles lots of adults, as well.

TriDistrict Community Education holds the event in the parking lot of Sibley High School, Mendota Heights,  where trucks tractors, buses, and other equipment assemble just so kids can climb in, honk the horn, and generally do what they are otherwise discouraged from doing–experiencing things hands-on.
Our tent happened to be next to the Ford 4630 so we were able to enjoy watching kids take their turns at the wheel of the tractor.

We had a bit of rain before the show yesterday, which delayed the arrival of the crowd, but after the sky cleared, parents and kids turned out to experience the variety of hands-on exhibits.
Police car and fire truck were popular attractions.

Where else can a child (or a father) get a chance to climb into the cab of a ready-mix truck or a soda delivery vehicle?

Everyone enjoys the horses.

Preschoolers loved boarding the bus, and the experience provided a bit of nostalgia for the parents.
And speaking of nostalgia, the Teddy Bear Band rocks! 
The kids love the games the band organizes, but when it comes to dancing to the music,  I saw as many or more adults moving to the beat as kids on the dance floor.
And that's what I really liked about the event–sooo many parents grab the opportunity to really have fun with their kids as their kids get to let loose.

Oh, yes, and I got to do some of my favorite things too, as Heidi's mother purchased a book (above) and as Emma posed with me after her mother purchased a book for her in the two pictures below.

As the day comes to a close, some children enjoy riding off into the sunset. Looks like fun, eh?

Nancy and I wish to thank all he people on the Early Learning Advisory Council, District 197, for inviting us to attend the event, and we especially thank Kerry Appleton for organizing the event and sending us a personal invitation. Also, thanks to Kerry for so generously asserting that Nancy and I brought the sunshine, not the rain.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deer damage again and popping poppy, II

A few days ago Nancy and I planted a small apple tree that we thought was tall enough to resist deer damage on the top branches. We were wrong.
The tree was well over eight feet tall before the deer broke off the top piece.

Next, we checked to see how the buds on the roses were coming and discovered mama deer had eaten those off as well. I find it remarkable that such a large animal messes with trying to fill up on the buds of roses. On the other hand, humans eat marsh mellows, hard candy, and potato chips because we want to, not because it's practical. 

While I pouted a little as I weeded around the rose bush, Nancy commented that she would make more deer repellent and spray it on the roses. I continued to weed after she left.

Then I heard her yell, "Hey, Gord, poppies are popping!"
The flower is beginning to force the green covers off. The process takes about 15 minutes and if you are patient, you can see the movement and the blossom emerge.

Last year ( June 21, 2010, to be precise) I posted a short piece with pictures detailing a poppy blossom popping into full bloom. I was fascinated then and was equally fascinated once again as the birth of the blossom took place before my eyes.

The poppies easily managed to change my pout into a grin. I hope they made you smile.

All photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson 

To see more flower photos,  please click below on Read More.