Saturday, May 26, 2012

Kindergarten Musical and Art Show

We were delighted to get an email from a kindergarten teacher at Gideon Pond Elementary in Burnsville. Mrs. Odegard said, "...come back to Gideon Pond to sell your books to families before and/or after our musical on Friday." She added, "We would love to have both of you watch our musical performances, as well!"

Sure, it was an opportunity to sell books, but the day provided Nancy and me with so much more.
Our location was handy because we set up near the door of the gym, where the art show was displayed and the musical would be performed. But more than that, our location provided us with a window into the rhythm of the school.

Mrs. Odegard had us set up our table at a busy intersection in the school, and as classes of students moved from their regular rooms to the art classroom or to lunch, the students often lined up near our table and stopped to talk, many of them remembering our visit on May 7th when I did shows for K-2. "Aren't you the Farmer who was here before?" students asked.
On more than one occasion, we watched a student stop for a moment to play farm or rearrange the layout.

 We strolled around the gym to see the hundreds of art pieces made by the students to help depict the various intricacies of the farm. Displays covered the walls of the entire gym.

We decided to attend the musical performance of both the morning kindergarten and the afternoon kindergarten, starting at 10:30 AM and 2:00 PM, respectively.

After brief introductions of scenes and songs by individuals, students stood in place to sing group numbers while other students came down stage to demonstrate the activity in the song.

 One of the first numbers entitled "Planting Seeds"featured a couple planters (above) demonstrating the activity while students sang the refrain, which included a phrase that rings true to most of us who are from the farm, "...and the work is never done!"
Of course every number was a hit for the audience of parents, grandparents and friends, but hey, Nancy and I were objective viewers and we were enthralled with the fun of it all. 
In the picture above, three boys "wormed" their way across the stage during the "Worms." song.

Before, after, and between shows customers and students of all ages stopped to look at our books, make their purchases, and tell us their farm stories.
After each show, students took their relatives around to show them where their art was hung. Above, a young man shows Nancy his creation.

More artwork pictures below:

Time for pictures.

For me, the day brought back many fond memories of when I directed high-school plays and musicals. Consequently, I do not underestimate all the work and time required by staff and students to prepare these two half-hour performances. 
But I know the rewards are great. We saw kids of all backgrounds working together, singing together, learning together, expressing themselves together, and having fun together. 

The songs about the farm revealed natural elements ranging from seeds growing, worms in the soil, growing of flowers, and work on the farm. Kids will remember this, too! Songs stick in their minds. We heard kindergarten children singing the words in the hallway as they walked by our table.

After the show, Mrs. Odegard read a long list of credits and "thank yous." I know that for any large program to work, it takes a lot of cooperation from everyone at the school and a deep commitment  from a few to make it work. I congratulate everyone involved, especially Mrs. Odegard and Mrs. Trekell, who were the Producers and Art Directors; Mrs. Odegard's and Mrs. Trekell's Kindergarten classes, who performed the show; Musical Director Mrs. Wood; Science/Poem Director Mrs. Rau; Art Co-Director Mrs. Shriver; and Interpreter Mrs. Toay.

For Nancy and me, it was a super-fun day, and we felt really privileged to witness the event as audience members and as hallway observers.

As a parting note, I ask you to support teachers in their efforts. They are doing a great job.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The gal in "Two Guys From Scott County, Inc."

Obviously, I appreciate all the publicity that comes with releasing a new book. It is exciting as heck for Nancy and me. So Jessica Fleming's article in Thursday's St. Paul Pioneer Press discussing my new book and its 13-year-old-illustrator, Brad Simon, made us feel pretty good, especially since the new book, What I Saw on the Farm, is unique for a couple of reasons.

First, Ms Fleming's article emphasizes exactly what should be emphasized as unique to the book: the illustrations were done by thirteen-year-old Brad Simon! Wow! They are fabulous. Check them out and you will agree.  I wanted a child's imagination to interpret my text, not an adult illustrator trying to imagining what a child would imagine. Brad did a great job, and I sincerely hope that all his effort pays off for him in as many ways as possible. Well, maybe not so much so that I can't afford to hire him again (just kidding).

Another really important element that is new with What I Saw on the Farm is that the name of Nancy A. Fredrickson appears on the cover after "Photographs by." In all the other books, we only included one picture, the dedication photo, and we credited it under the photo, but in this book we needed nearly as many photos as illustrations. I felt it was an opportunity to get Nancy's name on the title page. At first she disagreed, but after I convinced her how important the photos were to the concept of the book, she relented, making it an historic occasion where I actually "prevailed" in a discussion with her during our first 41 years of marriage.
The name of our company is TWO GUYS FROM SCOTT COUNTY, INC.
In the picture above, the two "guys"( Nancy and me) pose with our 8N Ford at a Farm Show in Owatonna.

Now, just in case you're wondering what else she does in our constant uphill efforts to market and sell our Farm Heritage Books, read on.

It's fair to say that the ideas for the stories are exclusively mine, unless you consider the fact that as I write, I constantly bounce my ideas off her and search out her opinions and approval. No, she is not an editor, but she is my muse, my support arm, and the reason I go on.. and on.

Nancy creates all of the marketing paperwork on her IMac, checks it with me, prints it, assembles it, and places it in pre-packaged stacks to be sent out school, libraries, museums, historical societies, senior care facilities, and various clubs. She prepares and stuffs and mails over two thousand envelopes each year to places that may wish to have me perform my Farm heritage Program.

When we get calls to book a show, we work out the schedule together, but Nancy puts it on the website.

Before we visit a facility, she maps it out, creates a poster specifically for the show, and mails it to the place to ensure all times and dates are accurate. After I prepare a list of photos to use in a program, she assembles the photos on the IMac and burns a DVD for me to use in the show. Then, while I rehearse, she prints thousands of handouts and assembles hundreds of packets to be given free to  teachers and other staff members in various facilities.

When we drive to a show, Nancy navigates while I drive. Since we each have have food issues, she always packs a lunch so we can be ensured of having food that will not make our traveling more difficult. Often we spend seven or more hours a day on the road.

After we arrive at a place to do a show, she takes as many photos as she can find time for and sets up the table to sell the books as she tries to visit with as many people as possible. She also times the show and gets a head count for each show. When we are at schools, she makes sure she talks to every teacher and passes them handouts, free stickers for the kids, and a free pen for each teacher.

In all facilities, she handles the sales and calls me over for book-signing. She is always preparing better displays for when we vend at places like Farmfest and Dakota City at the Dakota County Fair. This year for these places, she has created about 15 large posters displaying some of the many farm heritage pictures that have been submitted to us recently. You will find these displays fascinating. I hope you can drop by to visit us.

When we return from any show, she updates the website to include our latest visit while I record sales and prepare a bank deposit.

When I hire an illustrator, Nancy helps me prepare pictures and references so the illustrator knows exactly what I want on each page. (This was not necessary in the last book because I wanted Brad to draw them strictly from his imagination after reading my text.) If an illustration needs to be changed or "tweaked" in any way after the illustrator has finished it, Nancy scans it and makes alterations on her IMac in Photoshop. For example, since our illustrator David Jewell was ill and passed away before many changes could be made on Tommy's Adventure,  it was only due to Nancy's craft on Photoshop that we were able to complete the book.

Nancy handles my FaceBook account, which she enjoys but it takes up many hours each week. When we get a book order through the mail or email, I handle the shipping activity, but when we get a phone call requesting a free catalogue in response to our ad in several national magazines, she prepares the sheets for mailing.

Whenever we have a new book, she creates an entire group of new marketing materials, special stickers of the cover, and then prints them so we can provide them free for kids and adults where ever we go.

In the next book, A Farm Country Harvest, Nancy's name will again be included as one of the creators because she is responsible for assembling a section which will make up over half of the book. This section will contain farm photographs donated by people from all over the Midwest and beyond. These photos will show the process of harvest, including cutting, shocking, shocking/stacking, tipping shocks, hauling bundles, shock threshing, stack threshing, handling grain, handling straw, lunch preparations, and all other facets of harvest for which we can get pictures.. The activities in the photos will be narrated and the contributors of the photos will be identified. If we use one of your photos, you get a free book. There is still time to submit a photo and get your farm heritage in this unique harvest book.

So how much of the book production could I do without her?
Well,  I really do not want to think about it. I'm just glad she seems to like it.

One thing I know we both enjoy doing is making lists of new ideas as we travel together or as we sit at home relaxing with a glass of wine.

So, I dedicate this blog to Nancy, the gal in "Two Guys From Scott County, Inc."

Photograph by Gordon W. Fredrickson

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A drive to southeastern Minnesota

On  Tuesday, Nancy and I drove about two and a half hours to the town of Houston, Minnesota, where we parked at a nice, shady spot in front of our first destination,  Valley View Healthcare and Rehab.

When we entered the facility, we were quickly greeted by cheerful staff members Deb and Grace, who helped us decide where to set up.
I signed several books for Margie, who spent some time visiting with Nancy before the show.

The audience was not large, but they seemed to enjoy the program, which included my story A Farm Country Picnic, and many shared their comments with me after the show.
Adeline and Ellinore, (far right) look on as I show them my book, A Farm Country Christmas Eve.

Nancy and I enjoyed our visits with the residents and staff at Valley View Healthcare and Rehab, and we thank Activities Directory Judy Munson for inviting us to do our Farm Heritage Program.

We also thank Judy for calling Marie Howard at Caledonia Care and Rehab in nearby Caledonia, who arranged for us to do a program at the care facility later on the same day. 
After packing up and saying "Goodbye" to folks at Houston, Nancy and I took the scenic drive to Caledonia.
As the road winds through bluffs and valleys for about 11 miles, we are treated to lovely views of the countryside that make the curvy trip up Badger Hill a highlight of the day.

Although many fields were already planted, farmers were busy working to finish up.

I took some notes as I talked to Rosie Laumb (back to camera), who explained that she milked five cows regularly at the age of ten. Since they had no stalls for the cows, she milked them as they stood in the barnyard.
She said her father lost an eye working on the Genoa Dam in the 1930s.

After my Farm Heritage Program, which included my story, A Farm Country Picnic, several residents and staff members stayed to visit with Nancy and me.
In the picture above, Stan Schroeder looks through my books
 and remarks, "You're doing a good thing."
I thank him and tell him that his comments made my day. 
We go on to discuss our farm experiences as I take notes.

Nancy and I thank Facility Services Coordinator, Marie Howard, for arranging our visit to Caledonia Care and Rehab. Residents and staff were friendly and eager to share their stories.

We had a good time at both Valley View Healthcare & Rehab and Caledonia Care & Rehab, and we look forward to a return visit.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Prime Time Over 55 Club

On Monday Nancy and I drove north to do a program for Prime Time Over 55 Club, which meets monthly at St. John's Lutheran Church in Norwood, MN.
The new addition is built alongside the original church, fitting in really well with the architecture and providing a very useful social hall and entry.

Several of the members came early to help arrange the tables and chairs for the meeting.
Nancy visited with Dorothy Graunke (left) and Ruth Kloth, who were working on  a large quilt in the quilting room.

I visited with Art, who was a school teacher and principal for 41 years.
Before the meeting, the group listened to my Farm Heritage Program. Seated on the right is Orville Bachmann, President of the club. 

Nancy and I enjoyed visiting with the many club members during the fine lunch. 
Thanks to Marlaine Gnan for inviting us to the meeting, and we especially thank all those folks who stopped to visit with us, buy a book, or share a comment about the program.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Verndale Historical Society

Verndale is over an hour's drive north of Sauk Centre, but Thursday's weather was pleasant and Nancy and I enjoyed the trip.  Since 1977 the home for the Verndale Historical Society has been in a small building that had been a church. As with most museums in small and large towns that I've been to recently, their collection of antiques was fascinating and it had managed to grow larger than could be accommodated by available space.
The small church building is tucked in among the old trees not far from the center of town.

President Bill Hess, who arranged our visit, spent a few minutes showing us around the museum.

The sign "the Wadena County Bank" is the original sign from the bank, which was established in the late 1800s. The leading on the glass was recently restored.
Since the space in the museum was limited, we set up for our show in the near-by Senior Center where  a pot luck supper awaited us all. 

The audience was small in numbers but their response to my program, which included my story A Farm Country Picnic, was very gratifying. After the show members told stories of the early days of working on farms as kids and later as adults. They told us of their struggles to make ends meet and their family tragedies.  Shirley, the lady seated immediately to my right, told of how she began milking cows at the age of six on her family's farm north of town. As an adult, she farmed on a dairy farm with her own family.
Muriel or "Murry" grew up farming near Verndale. She married Ralph and moved to the city where he worked. Since they both agreed that they wanted their kids to experience their farming roots, they brought them over to work on her parents' farm as often as they could. 
Even now, long after their children are grown, Murry and Ralph spend a good deal of time at a cabin near Verndale, near  her childhood home.

Nancy and I thank the members who attended my program. We thank them for their kind words and for their for sharing their stories. We especially thank them for purchasing our Farm Heritage stories and we hope they can pass them on to future generations with pride.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gideon Pond Elementary School

We are lucky that Gideon Pond Elementary in Burnsville has a custodian like Keith Carlson. After seeing our literature, he brought it to the attention of Mrs. Odegard, who teaches kindergarten there, and she decided to arrange for us to visit and do shows for students in kindergarten through grade two.
Keith posed for a photo with me before the first show. He had greeted us and helped us set up. He even set up a special spotlight to illuminate me so that we could cut the lights in the room to make the projections brighter. 
The first group of kindergarten student with their teachers as they wave and say "Hi" to Nancy.
Seated on the floor, lower left, is Mrs. Odegard who arranged my visit to the school. The lady standing to my right signs my entire program for hearing impaired students. 

Grade 1 students in group 2 waving and saying "Hi" to Nancy.

Group 3 consists of kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade students.

Grade 2 students in group 4 waving and saying "Hi" to Nancy.

During each program I promised the students they could "feel the oats" in the coffee can as they exited the room. 
Most of the children bravely stuck their hand into the oats. Some relished the moment and hesitated to leave, some felt only a few kernels on the top, and still others stuck their hands to the bottom to the of the can as they exclaimed the feeling as "cool", "like stones", and "sticky". and "fun."  Others took the opportunity to tell me a quick story of their farm experiences. See the photos below:

Thanks again to Keith Carlson for bringing my program to the attention of Mrs. Odegard, and thanks to Mrs. Odegard for arranging my visit and working out the schedule. We thank all the teachers and students for making Nancy and me feel welcome at Gideon Pond Elementary and for their kind comments after the shows.The students were fun and attentive. Nancy and I had fun and we hope they did too.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson