Monday, July 30, 2007

In a Pickle Out

In a Pickle is in the bookstores. Saw it for the first time in a bookstore last week in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

It's all about small family farms and why we have so few of them today.

And, to continue with old timer wisdom. Heard this one the other day:

Fella had a willing team of horses. One horse was willing to pull and the other one was willing to let him.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Having Fun

An old timer shared this with me a while back. Thought you might enjoy it as I did.

"If you ain't havin' fun doing something, you won't think much of what you've done."

Oh, just heard that IN A PICKLE is on its way to bookstores. You might want to look for it. Read more about the book on my website, especially in the press kit that UW Press put together. Click on my Biography section to find it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Travels of Increase Joseph & In a Pickle

THE TRAVELS OF INCREASE JOSEPH was the title of my first novel. Folks have asked me if Increase Joseph is at all related to my new novel, IN A PICKLE. Yup, there's a relationship. Both novels take place in the fictional town of Link Lake Wisconsin. Increase Joseph takes place from the early 1850s to 1900--the years that Link Lake was getting established.

IN A PICKLE takes place in 1955, about 100 years later. In the first book we see family farms becoming established. In the second we begin to see them disappearing.

An old timer shared this with me the other day: "You don't get it done 'till you get at it." Seems to make sense.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wis Dairy Farming Changing

It's not difficult to see how farming has changed in Wisconsin; you need only to drive around the state and see the many abandoned dairy barns. The numbers can help put what you see into perspective.

Wisconsin Dairy Farms


But, interestingly enough, Wisconsin has nearly as many dairy cows in 2007 (1.25 million) as it had in 2002 (1.24 million). In 1974, Wisconsin farmers had 1.73 million cows.

Dairy farms are fewer but larger, no question about it. In 2007 the average number of cows per dairy farm was 88 cows. During World War II, when I was a kid, our dairy herd numbered 15 cows, which we milked by hand because we hadn't yet gotten electricity on our farm. (Numbers are from the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service)

My new novel, IN A PICKLE: A FAMILY FARM STORY looks at some of the changes in family farms, and the effects on rural communities.

"If you put all your eggs in one basket, be sure to keep your eye on the basket."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Family Farm

I've long been interested in the small family farm. Some of my interest goes back to my childhood when I grew up on a farm near Wild Rose, Wisconsin. There I milked cows by hand, hoed a cucumber patch in summer, helped make hay, threshed grain, husked corn and all the rest.

My interest goes deeper. Many of the values still prevalent in our country have their roots in these small farms. The importance of hard work, doing more than what is asked of you, showing up on time, looking out for your neighbors, and taking care of the land are a few examples.

My new novel, IN A PICKLE: A FAMILY FARM STORY is about family farm life in the 1950s. Check my website for more detail.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Ringling Bros. History

Interested in circus history? Want to learn more about the famous Ringling Bros. and their circus?
Did you know that the Ringling circus spent its winters for many years in Baraboo, WI?
Are you aware that the Ringlings once employed 1200 people? That they had 500 horses?

On Wednesday, July 11, 2:00 p.m. stop by Barnes and Noble West in Madison and learn about these famous brothers that made circus history--and a lot of money as well. And for the kids, a free circus clown nose.

See you there.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lovers of Old Barns

Here's an opportunity to see how an old dairy barn has been remodeled for new uses. Henk Newenhouse of The Merry Farm in rural Lone Rock, Wisconsin is hosting a field day on Tuesday Evening, July 10 from 6-9 p.m.

If you are the owner of an old barn or simply interested in the history and future of old barns in Wisconsin, you will enjoy this workshop.

Directions to the farm: From Madison, WI travel west on Highway 14 past Lone Rock and Gotham. Turn north on Fairview Road and left on Slow Lane, which leads directly to Merry Farm.

Oh, almost forgot. I will be sharing some history of old barns and their interesting past.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Oh, those cukes.

When we weren't calling cucumbers "pickles," we called them "cukes." During the 1940s and 1950s, nearly every farmer in the sand country of central Wisconsin had a pickle patch. For some reason we never called them cuke patches.
These pickle patches ranged from a quarter acre to sometimes as much as two acres, all picked by hand. You could guess the size of a farm family by driving by and checking the size of the pickle patch. The bigger the patch, the more kids in the family.

My upcoming new novel, IN A PICKLE, digs into the pickle business and its many fascinating dimensions.

Words for the day:

My wife says I never listen to her. At least that's what I think she said.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Pickle Patch

When I was a kid we had a pickle patch on our farm. Our city relatives pointed out that we really had a cucumber patch, and that cucumbers needed processing before they could be called pickles. We listened patiently. When the relatives left, Pa said, "Those city relatives, what do they know? They never picked a pickle in their lives."

Look for my new book--IN A PICKLE--it's all about pickles . . .I mean cucumbers. Check my website for a description.