Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Harbor at Peace Village

The Harbor, located at Norwood, Minnesota, offers assisted living and senior care. We arrived early and had a chance to visit with many friendly residents as they finished their noon meal before we set up.
They were a fun group, and they responded with smiles and laughter to my Farm Heritage Program, which included my story, A Farm Country Picnic. Many of the men and women in the audience were retired farmers who had lots of interesting stories to tell Nancy and me after the show.

Thanks to Bonita Heilman, Director of Community Relations, for inviting us to do our Farm Heritage Program at the Harbor and for the donation for travel expenses. The residents seemed to enjoy the show and Nancy and I had a good time, too.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dakota County Library's First Annual Author Fair

Over 40 authors and several representatives from publishing and advertising attended the first annual event at the Galaxie Library in Apple Valley on Saturday, January 21, 2012, where the public was invited to meet local authors, listen to keynote speaker and mystery author David Housewright, and attend some workshops on publishing.

Nancy and I were delighted to be part of the event and felt honored to be in the company of so many fine authors. We displayed and sold books at our table and found time to walk around to visit a number of other authors, several of whom have become our friends over the years.

Meeting Brian Leehan, author of Pale Horse at Plum Creek, presented a special opportunity for us because we had purchased his book about the First Minnesota's valiant efforts at the Battle of Gettysburg back in 2006 from a bookstore at Gettysburg when we visited the Battlefield on a guided tour. Nancy brought our copy with us and asked him to autograph it.
Brian Leehan signing and displaying our copy of his book that we purchased at Gettysburg in 2006.

Whether or not you are a reader of Civil War books, Brian's book is one to enjoy. Brian's detailed narrative of the First Minnesota's heroic involvement in the Battle at Gettysburg gives a unique and complete account that makes great reading.

Nancy and I wish to thank Youth Services Coordinator Jennifer Verbrugge and Adult Services Coordinator Lindsey Dyer for inviting us to participate in the author fair and for doing a great job in organizing and hosting the event, which was enjoyed by participants and visitors, alike. 

I leave you with two more photos:
 Nancy (below) and I (above) at our display.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Lafayette Charter School

What would have been a beautiful drive to Lafayette Charter School on Thursday afternoon, January 19, 2012, was spoiled by the bright sun--but what am I saying?! Think how it could have been spoiled by blowing snow or even cancelled by a blizzard! Nancy and I decided to squint and enjoy the view as best we could and feel lucky for the nice weather.

The occasion was called Ag Night and the local Parent Teacher Organization sponsored a really nice lunch and a program that focused on agriculture, which still is the leading industry in Minnesota.

My program on Farm Heritage included my story A Farm Country Picnic, and I spoke for a little over 45 minutes to the audience of students and adults.

Talking about Farm Heritage to the Ag-Night audience of kids and adults at Lafayette was like preaching to the choir. The adults were on top of every farm joke and bit of nostalgia I threw out, and kids of every age showed enthusiasm and interest.  Add the fact that they supplied a sound system that made me sound like a radio announcer and I have to say that for me it doesn't get any more fun than this.
The intergenerational audience is always great to see, especially when
 young students and their parents pick out books together to buy.
Connor, seated second from right, stopped to chat with me after the show.
He said he liked my books and enjoyed the show.
When I asked him about school, he indicated he wanted to learn as much as he could.
Pretty good attitude, wouldn't you say?

Many kind and interesting people took time to talk to me and to Nancy after the show. They wished us well on our endeavor to pass on Farm Heritage, gave positive comments about the show, purchased books, and shared a number of fun stories with us.
I signed books and talked to parents and students, 
and when Nancy wasn't busy, she snapped a few photographs.

I thank the Parent-Teacher Organization at the Lafayette Charter School for inviting me to speak at Ag-Night and for their generous donation for travel expenses. Everyone made Nancy and me feel really welcome at the event.
I especially thank Heather Winkelmann who arranged the event and Sandy Burger for ordering a full set of books for their library.  
I consider it a privilege to be involved with Farm Heritage and enjoy the opportunity to speak on the subject to farmers and non-farmers, alike.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cutting the young trees

After posting my September 6, 2011, blog about thinning the trees Nancy and I planted in the mid-1990s, I received an email from someone who  made me feel better about the job because he offered a unique use for the logs, a use I had never imagined.

Tim Arlt, a program leader with the University of Minnesota Extension, emailed me to express an interest in buying the logs for growing shitake mushrooms. He and his wife Deb have a backyard venture where they use oak logs 3" to 10" in diameter and 44" to 48" long to grow mushrooms by drilling several holes into the logs and placing spawn into the holes. The spawn thrives in the log and sprouts mushrooms in all directions.

Nancy and I thought this was a really good use for our young logs, and since Tim said he needed to implant the spawn within two weeks after the logs were cut, we set up a time line with him on when we would cut and when they would pick them up.

The very last photographs are the before and after shots I promised in my September 6th blog.
But first, here are a few photographs of the cutting process:

I cut the trees about 48" from the ground so the bottom would be a perfect length
 for Tim and Deb's mushroom logs. 
I was pleased to discover that some trees had two or more logs of 48" diameter and 48" length. 

Then I cut the trunk off as close to the ground as I could.
Although I cut only 13 trees, I was able to get 25 logs over 3" in diameter.
My chipper, which you can see mounted on my tractor in the background, will easily take up to a 6 " log so I could have just chipped the logs, but I liked the idea of the logs being used to grow something.

Looking west, before(above) and after (below) the cutting.

Looking east, before (above) and after (below).
In a few years, I'll cut out the trees in the middle row, and I'll check with Tim to see if he needs more logs. I plan to use the smaller logs for making some benches for outside use. I'll see how ambitious I am when that time comes.

I meant to get pictures of us loading the logs on Tim and Deb's trailer, but Nancy and I were so busy visiting with them and listening to them explain the mushroom process that we forgot.
Maybe next time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

As 2011 closes..

As December 31st comes around, most of us do some looking back as we review the year, count our blessings, and consider ways to improve personally and professionally.

As you may know, my wife and I offer free Farm Heritage shows about my Collector series of Farm Heritage books to preschools, elementary schools, other schools, museums, libraries, historical societies, clubs and banquets of all types, nursing homes, senior centers and assisted living facilities. The shows are intended to be entertaining and educational for all ages of children and all ages of adults.
If you know of a place we should visit, give us a call.

My records show that in 2011 Nancy and I visited and performed for over 6,000 children and adults, visiting over 80 different facilities, including over 40 schools and nearly 40 museums, libraries, historical societies, senior care facilities, and other facilities.
 Since we were on vacation for 10 days in January and 16 days in September, and since we were at the fair for 7 days and at Farmfest for 4 days, you can see the schedule was pretty steady, especially if you factor out holidays and other days we vended at other sites. 
But our goal is to do more shows in 2012.
Can you help us? if you know of a place we should visit, give them a call and recommend that they call us. My stories aim to entertain and educate, and I enjoy making people of all ages smile.

We also published two new books, If I Were a Farmer: Tommy's Adventure and A Farm Country Picnic, which brings our book total to seven titles. You can view sample pages and order on line at or just email me at

First, we are thankful to be so busy. We thank all of those teachers and principals in schools and all those activity directors and club leaders for taking a chance on us by letting us try to entertain and educate your group. I know it's a risk to invite an unknown to your school or group. I hope we didn't disappoint.
If we succeeded, please pass the word. Please invite us back. We can only continue if leaders continue to invite us to perform at their facility.

Second, our goal is to entertain and teach about farm heritage in a way that provides fun stories that are accurate according to what farming was really like for kids in 1950. It is my goal to write 16 titles of the Farm Country Tales series that cover the whole year of January through December of 1950 so that in 100 years or more there will be an entire body of work that displays what it was like on a farm in 1950.
I write my stories to preserve our farm heritage and as response to two things in our society:
(1) many children's books make farming look like a petting zoo. It wasn't then and it isn't now. I try to show things that farmers really do in my stories, like chores, haying, threshing, feeding calves, and milking cows.
(2) popular media either seems to get stories about farming wrong or ignore stories about farm people entirely, as if no stories can take place in a farm setting.

Third, since traveling and producing books are expensive endeavors, our goal is also to sell books. If we don't sell books, we cannot continue to do free shows, and I think free shows are essential because many groups have little or no money available.
At this point I wish to point out the many, many schools and other facilities who stretch their budgets to give us a travel donation for our efforts. Regardless of the size of the donation, we greatly appreciate it. Recently, teachers in a school actually donated their own money to us for travel expenses (thank you, Amy). I was moved by their generosity during Christmas Season when money for every family is at  a premium. Also, lots of schools purchase a complete set of my books for their libraries. The books are a perfect and unique addition to any library collection, in both rural and metropolitan libraries.

In 2012, Nancy and I are working on  A Farm Country Harvest, which will be longer than the other books and include illustrations of my story and real photographs of harvest in the middle of the last century. It should be done in 2013.
We plan on publishing a fun book called What I Saw on the Farm Caused Me Great Alarm, which is not a series title. The story is illustrated by twelve-year-old Bradley Simon, who goes to New Prague School.
And I hope to progress on my teen novel, Garden Ghost, which takes place on the Carlson farm in February, 1955, when Jimmy is 14, Maggie is 13, and Joey is 10. The story is based on an event when my sisters and I saw a ghost in our garden when I was about 9.

Thanks to all who invited me to visit a facility in 2011.
Thanks to all who managed to give a donation for expenses,
Thanks to all who purchased my books. I know you appreciate that they are keepsake books, meant to be passed on from generation to generation to preserve farm heritage. I hope you enjoy them often.
Thanks to blog readers everywhere.
Happy New Year!