Week 164 May 20, 2017

This week began with us still visiting dear family on their farm and surrounding community in Nebraska. We first went to a cousin’s baseball tournament – saw him bat, catch, pitch, and, field at 3rd and short stop.
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Life on the farm in spring is more physically challenging, time consuming, and requires more varied skills than we had previously been aware – this was our first spring visit to the farm. Last week I neglected to mention the mechanical skills required for such things as flat tires, slipped chains, greasing parts, repairing a ball-bearing socket, and welding a marker device – this list just for that 12 row planter vehicle, which in itself needs knowledge and great skill to manipulate. Nor did I mention diagnosing a shear pin on the seed bin trailer’s auger, as well as belt problems, simply knocking mud chunks off the engine and greasing of one of the small farm vehicles. Our cousins are able to quickly fix such problems, on their own and with each other’s help. We assisted when possible but mainly just observed.
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I also want to mention how the farm work requires such physical strength – for working with cattle, sometimes in deep mud, lifting large feed bags and full 5 gallon buckets, operating heavy equipment and vehicles, carrying heavy duty iron tire jacks – the list goes on. They attend to the needs of nearly a hundred head of cattle – we learned the difference between Black and Red Angus, and Hereford breeds this time, forty-some goats, the hen house, an aged horse, dogs, cats, a number of pastures, several barns, driving a multitude of farm vehicles small and large around the farm and country roads, stocking a machine shop with innumerable various tools and spare parts, among other outbuildings, in an often dusty environment… yet at the end of the day it is rewarding.
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I must also mention the efforts of maintaining their houses and homes, raising children of the next generation, caring for their personal autos and a free standing double garage, house gardens, shopping for basic supplies, cooking, canning, crafts, and commitments in the community – for example being on the local Fire board, church council, 3H – and surely I am missing more aspects of farm life. There is so much to know and to do – I realize we have just a limited sense of what being farmers or farm hands is all about.
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What is inspiring is how our cousins also finds time for commitments in community work – like 4H, Fire board, church council, as a few examples, as well as another holding a full time job with benefits in town. There was a soft calming of country western music tunes in the background at times. Occasionally there is time to enjoy a “pop” – what I call soda, maybe to play a game of cards, while enjoying a scrumptious homemade dessert…
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What I think makes it all worthwhile is the uplifting presence of the new borns – calves, kids, chicks, kittens, babies, each one unique and amazing.
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I even was privileged to choose the newest born twin kids’ names – please meet – Ta Da: Chocolate and Cinnamon! It was so meaningful to visit the farm again and especially at this time of year. Thank you again dear cousins!
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On bidding a fond farewell to our precious farmers, Loren and I were on our way to visit childhood friends of his who now live in Sioux Falls. We noticed a handmade sign on private property once we were in South Dakota:
   Eat steak
   Wear furs
   Keep your guns
   The American way
Before we had left our farming family – who safely employ guns for deer hunting – I was already reflecting on differing needs and interests of country versus city living, and, appreciating a respective need for using versus banning guns. Our friends, too, reminisced about memorable times on pheasant hunts in South Dakota. We learned that the entire South Dakota state population is less than 900,000, a third the size of the state of Nebraska, and less than the population of the entire city of San Jose… There is much to consider when comparing needs and lifestyles.
In Sioux Falls, our friends offered us bicycles to ride to the falls along a beautiful bike path, where we saw more signs of new life. We then went together for a drive around the city to see some of the area sights.
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Our friends’ daughter was also visiting her parents, and we all enjoyed two evenings of wonderful home cooked dinners, with fun conversations catching up on many years of life experiences. We also had a delightful backyard fire that included cooking ‘smores and singing along with our friend on his guitar. Another meaningful and memorable visit with friends who we rarely see…
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Loren and I said another fond farewell this week, then went on to drive along parts of the historic east-to-west or New York-to-San Francisco Lincoln Highway eastward.We stopped to stay with the sister and her husband of a dear friend from California, who live in Colo, Iowa. Colo is also exactly where the historic Jefferson Highway which ran south to north, from New Orleans to Winnipeg, and the Lincoln Highway, meet and cross.
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We enjoyed a memorable visit with these Iowans, learning about their years as former hog farmers. Now retired, they are still active with their family and in their community. Our new friends made sure that we visited the Living History Farms in nearby Des Moines, where we saw a turkey, geese, ducks and hogs in addition to horses, steer – who will soon be called oxen once they are castrated, and chickens. We ambled through the park’s working farms using historical tools and farming methods. We learned here that in 1840, 69% of American workers were farmers, then just 60 years later, in 1900, that number had dropped nearly half – to 38%. Thank you, friends, for your hospitality!
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Now Loren and I have driven further east to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, looking forward to visiting an Amish community in Amana tomorrow, followed by Herbert Hoover’s Presidential Library in West Branch.

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