Friday, January 27, 2023

A Column from Yesteryear Horseshoes and Good Luck

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On the home farm, it was not difficult to find a horseshoe. After all, we farmed with horses until our first tractor arrived in 1945. Horseshoes are important for protecting horses’ feet, especially when they regularly walk on hard surfaces. But horseshoes had power beyond the practical application. Pa, along with everyone else, believed that a horseshoe meant good luck. Sort of in the same category as finding a four-leaf clover.
The horseshoe as a good luck piece goes back several hundreds of years. Some early Europeans believed that iron had magical powers and had the ability to drive away evil. And many people had great reverence for the blacksmith, who was believed to have a lucky trade because he worked with both iron and fire.
Pa did not hang a horseshoe over the doorway into our farmhouse. He didn’t go that far in his belief about this bent piece of iron as a good luck charm. But many people did, and still do. There was some argument as to whether the horseshoe should be hung with the heels up, forming a “U.” Others argued that to be effective, the heels should hang heels down.
When hung with the heels up, all of your luck is kept from running out of the shoe. But if you hung it heels down, good luck would flow to everyone who walked under it. Seems to me, if you want to cover your good luck bases, you would have two horseshoes, one pointed up and the other pointed down.
THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Much good luck in 2023
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Friday, December 30, 2022

Last Column Photo by Steve Apps

 


With another year ending, I’m sorry to report that this will be my last column.  It was a difficult decision to make, as I have been writing columns nearly every year since 1957.  In that year I began work as a County Extension Agent in Green Lake County and wrote columns about Extension activities for the Berlin Journal.  In 1960 I moved to Green Bay and worked there as an Extension Agent, writing columns for the Green Bay Press Gazette.  Ray Pagel was Farm Director for the paper at the time.  He would have made a good English teacher, for with a red pen he took my columns apart and showed me how to make them better.  He showed me how to say something with 500 words or less. For his patience and instruction, I am forever grateful.

In 1962, I moved to Madison to become Publications Editor for the State 4-H Department, editing all the many 4-H bulletins that went out by the thousands to 4-H member around the state.  Bulletins that ranged from how to raise a dairy calf, to tips for sewing and canning.  I had no time for column writing, indeed no time for any of my own writing. 

By 1964, I was teaching in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education in UW-Madison’s College of Agriculture and married with three little kids.  Learning a new job, and helping take of my family left little time for column writing.  Glen Pound, then Dean of the College of Agriculture said I must earn an advanced degree before he could increase my salary.  So, in 1966, I was a full-time in graduate school, learning the nuances of academic writing, which was informative, well researched, and often without much heart.

In 1966, in addition to my academic writing, I began writing a weekly column titled “Outdoor Notebook” for the Waushara Argus in Wautoma, and soon also for the New London and Hortonville papers as well as The Central Wisconsin Resorter.  I wrote for these papers for ten years.  A bit later I wrote weekly columns for the Country Today, and Agriview newspapers.  And for the past few years, I wrote “Sit Awhile” for the Wisconsin State Farmer.  I have also written this column for the past 15 years as both a blog and an entry on my Facebook Page.

I’ve learned much from my many years of column writing. I’ve learned the power of a story.  I have learned that putting a little heart into a story will often take it from ordinary to something better.    I have worked hard to do that.  A little humor helps too.  I write with the hope my words will get people thinking, and perhaps remembering.  Memories are powerful tools to make a life more interesting.

I know I will miss reading all the comments and stories that my columns have evoked. Thank you everyone for reading my words.  I plan to continue to write books and do TV and radio work, and perhaps write a few articles.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS. Thank you.  Without readers, where would writers be?

UPCOMING EVENTS:

Saturday, January 7, 2023, 1:30 p.m.  Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, Wisconsin.  Presentation on my newest book: More than Words.  That book and others will be for sale and signing.  I plan to be there in person.

WHERE TO BUY MY BOOKS (Including my newest one). As you all know, books make fine presents. See my website, www.jerryapps.com, for a listing of my books. Buy my books from your local bookstore, or buy online from the Wisconsin Historical Society bookstore, https://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/books, bookshop.org, or purchase from the Friends of the Patterson Memorial Library in Wild Rose—a fundraiser for them. Phone: 920-622-3835 for prices and ordering, or contact the librarian: barnard@wildroselibrary.
Patterson Memorial Library
500 Division Street
Wild Rose, WI 54984.
www.wildroselibrary.org

If you live in the western part of the state, stop at Ruth’s home town, Westby, visit Dregne’s.  and look at their great selection of my books. Order a book from them by calling 1-877-634-4414. They will be happy to help you.  If you live in northcentral Wisconsin, stop at the Janke bookstore in Wausau (phone 715-845-9648).  They also have a large selection of my books. 



 

 

Friday, December 23, 2022

A Christmas Memory Photo by Jerry Apps



            Christmas is a time for remembering.  Some of my most vivid memories go back to 1939, when I was five years old and in first grade.  I was attending Chain O’ Lake one-room country school, located about four miles west of Wild Rose.  As my fellow students planned for the annual Christmas program at the school, I was terrified to learn that I would have to stand on the stage and say my piece.  I was the shiest of shy little kids at the time.  In fact, when someone stopped by our farmstead, I would hide in the woods back of the house.

            Miss Piechowski, our teacher insisted that I, along with everyone else in the school, all eight grades, would be involved in the Christmas Program and be on the stage.  I told Miss Piechowski I couldn’t do it and didn’t want to do it. But she wouldn’t change her mind, she said I must. And she gave me a copy of the words I must memorize.  I practiced the words every night with my mother, worried that I would make a fool of myself in front of all of my classmates, and neighbors as everyone attended the annual Christmas Program at the school.

            As the night of the Christmas program loomed every closer, Miss Piechowski noticed how disturbed I was.  She said she’d share a secret with me to make my task easier.  And she did.

            The night of the Christmas program arrived.  I was dressed in a new pair of bib overalls, and a new work shirt.  I even combed my hair.  I hated doing that.  And now I was worried if my teacher’s secret would work, and if I would remember all the words I had tried to memorize.

            In 1939, the school had no electricity.  On this night, two gas lanterns hung from the ceiling on either end of the school room—casting shadows in the dimly lit room.  The wood stove in the back of the room was keeping the building warm.  The room was packed.  All the seats were taken and people were standing in the back of the room.

            I was first on the program. Instructed to use my outside voice, and scared to death.  Then I remembered the secret Miss Piechowski had shared with me as I spoke the words I had worked so hard to memorize: “I would like to welcome all of you to our annual Christmas Program.”

            Miss Piechowki’s secret, “Don’t look at the people seated in front of you. Look at the stove pipe in the back of the room.  Everyone will think you are looking right at them, but you won’t see them.”

            I spoke the words, smiled as Miss Piechowski said I should, and ran off the stage to loud clapping. I had my first experience with public speaking.  I have been giving talks for more than sixty years, and I continue to look for the stove pipe in the back of the room.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS. A simple lesson can often be an important one.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

Saturday, January 7, 2023, 1:30 p.m.  Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, Wisconsin.  Presentation on my newest book: More than Words.  That book and other will be for sale and signing.  I plan to be there in person.

WHERE TO BUY MY BOOKS (Including One Room Country Schools). See my website, www.jerryapps.com, for a listing of my books. Buy my books from your local bookstore, or buy online from the Wisconsin Historical Society bookstore, https://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/books, bookshop.org, or purchase from the Friends of the Patterson Memorial Library in Wild Rose—a fundraiser for them. Phone: 920-622-3835 for prices and ordering, or contact the librarian: barnard@wildroselibrary. www.wildroselibrary.org

If you live in the western part of the state, stop at Ruth’s home town, Westby, visit Dregne’s.  and look at their great selection of my books. Order a book from them by calling 1-877-634-4414. They will be happy to help you.  If you live in northcentral Wisconsin, stop at the Janke bookstore in Wausau (phone 715-845-9648).  They also have a large selection of my books. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Remembering Winters Past Jerry Apps Photo.

 

            Several years ago, I wrote a book titled THE QUIET SEASON.  It was about winter.  Here is a little of what I included in that book:

            Many winters have come and gone since those days I spent growing up on a farm.  Although these stories happened many years ago, the details are as vivid to me as if I experienced them yesterday.

            I remember the feeling of walking back to the house after the evening milking on a below-zero night.  I would look upward and behold a sky full of start, for there was no light pollution, nothing to block out the tiny slivers of light punching holes in the black night.

            I remember trees in winter, the oaks and maples, aspens and birch, stark, thick gray trunks and bare branches like hundreds of skinny fingers reaching skyward, grasping for the unknown, embracing the unknown, embracing winter and allow it to paint ribbons of snow on their branches.  Everygreens became pieces of art: the spruces tall and pyramidal, covered with snow from top to bottom; the red and white pines looking a bit tortured as their limbs sagged under the weight of the winter white.

            I have always been intrigued by snowflakes, especially the large, cotton-like ones.  I like to watch snowflakes falling en masse, and I marvel at how quickly they can turn a drab and brown landscape into a world of white.  Most impressive to me is the close-up of a single snowflake: a frilly, fragile piece of frozen water that nature has arranged into the most intricate of patterns.

            Winter brings sounds heard only during those cold months.  A crow’s call in winter is one of my favorite sounds.  Crows are tough birds.  Songbirds pack and leave for the South in winter.  So do the wild ducks, Canada geese, and sandhill cranes.  But not the crows.  On a cold day when I’m out walking, I often hear crows calling, a loneseome, solitary sound.  When I hear it I am reassured; winter may be the harshest season, but the crows remain, withstanding the worst that nature throws at them.

            Perhaps the most striking and impressive sound of winter is the sound of silence.  In winter the birdsong and animal chattering and fluttering of leaves has ceased.  On a windless day there is often no sound at all.  I may not have understood the power of silence in those days, but I do today, when it is more difficult to find than it was when I was a kid.


            Of all the seasons, winter is the most influential on the lives of people who experienced it.  It is not just the length of winter that creates a group of people called “northerners.”   It is the less tangible, often mythical characteristics of winter that forge a true northerner.  Winter is much more than cold and snow.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS. Take time to remember how winter has influenced you.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

Saturday, January 7, 2023, 1:30 p.m.  Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, Wisconsin.  Presentation on my newest book: More than Words.  That book and other will be for sale and signing.  I plan to be there in person.

WHERE TO BUY MY BOOKS (Including the Quiet Season). As you all know, books make fine Christmas presents. See my website, www.jerryapps.com, for a listing of my books. Buy my books from your local bookstore, or buy online from the Wisconsin Historical Society bookstore, https://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/books, bookshop.org, or purchase from the Friends of the Patterson Memorial Library in Wild Rose—a fundraiser for them. Phone: 920-622-3835 for prices and ordering, or contact the librarian: barnard@wildroselibrary.
Patterson Memorial Library
500 Division Street
Wild Rose, WI 54984.
www.wildroselibrary.org

If you live in the western part of the state, stop at Ruth’s home town, Westby, visit Dregne’s.  and look at their great selection of my books. Order a book from them by calling 1-877-634-4414. They will be happy to help you.  If you live in northcentral Wisconsin, stop at the Janke bookstore in Wausau (phone 715-845-9648).  They also have a large selection of my books. 



 

 

Friday, December 09, 2022

Finding the Perfect Christmas Tree Jerry Apps Photo



We started the tradition in 1967, the year after we purchased our Roshara Farm.  We have searched for the perfect Christmas tree every year in late November.  That first year, our kids were five, four, and three.   Finding the perfect tree was not a small task.  We began planting pine trees at Roshara in 1966, mostly red pines.  Some years we planted several thousand trees.  It takes about eight-to-ten-years for a pine tree to reach Christmas tree height. So, during those early years we searched among the trees that were self-seeded—meaning nobody planted them.  During the 1930s, the drought years in much of the country, the Coombes family who owned our farm at that time, planted two long rows of white pine trees to prevent wind erosion.  By the 1960s, when we bought the farm, these white pines stood tall and thick, and were dropping white pine seeds on our sandy soil.  Many little white pine trees were now appearing near these now “way too tall for a Christmas tree” white pines.

            White pines are beautiful trees.  They have soft, long needles that grow in clusters of five.  But they grow fast and the branches are too far apart for a perfect Christmas tree.  Sometimes there were exceptions, especially when they grew out in the open and had access to more sunlight.

We also have a considerable number of jack pines, which are native to this part of Wisconsin.  They are tough trees, able to withstand drought and whatever weather Mother Nature brings to our farm.  They have short, sharp needles.  But not candidates for Christmas trees.  And finally, Scotch pine trees grow wild on the farm.  They do make nice Christmas trees.

During those early years the kids, with Sue, who was the oldest, leading the way on the Christmas tree hunt. “How about this tree?” Sue would ask, standing by a tree that was many times taller than she was.  “It’s a dumb looking tree,” Steve would say, as Jeff tagged along not saying anything.

            And so it would go as we moved from tree to tree, until we found one that the kids agreed would make a decent looking Christmas tree.  We did this for many years, eventually including grandchildren in the hunt. A couple weeks ago, my son-in-law, Paul Bodilly, and I went searching for the perfect tree. By now we had planted more than ten-thousand trees at Roshara.  They were of every size and shape.  So, selecting the “perfect” tree was no small task. “What about this one?” Paul would say as he stood by a Scotch pine.

            “How does it look on the other side?” I asked.

            “A little thin,” he said, as he began looking for different one.  And so the afternoon went until Paul had decided on two good looking trees, both Scotch pine.  One was little, one was big. Upon returning home he brought the little one into their house.

            “Isn’t the tree a little small,” Sue said with a bit of a concerned look on her face.

            Before going too far with his little trick, Paul brought the larger, beautiful tree into the house.  Sue was smiling. The tradition of searching for the perfect tree has remained intact.  Hard to believe that we have been doing this for fifty-five years.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS:  Searching for the “perfect” Christmas tree is a fun thing to do.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Talk About Crows Steve Apps Photo

 

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Back when I was a kid on the farm, maybe ten years old, I remember one Saturday Pa asking if I’d like to ride along with him to see a fellow farming on the other side of Plainfield.  “Sure,” I said.  Saturday usually meant lots of work to do, and riding along with Pa seemed a great way to leave behind the several chores I ordinarily would have to do on a Saturday.

“The fellow has something I want you to see,” Pa said.

“What?” I asked, always interested in stuff that Pa wanted me to see.

“It’ll be a surprise,” Pa said, smiling.

Now I was really curious, as I wondered what a farmer west of Plainfield would have that was different from what we had on our farm.  Soon we were driving through the village of Plainfield and into farm country. Not long later, we pulled into a driveway of a farmstead, similar to many in the area.  Nothing special here, I thought.

We got out of the car and the fellow Pa wanted to see came out of the house and began talking to Pa.  I stayed near the car.  I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but Pa motioned for me to come with them as they walked toward the corncrib.  Seemed like an ordinary corncrib.  We had one just like it at our farm.

The fellow pulled open the corn crib door and entered, with Pa and me following behind.  Then I saw it, a big black crow sitting on a little perch in the back of the corncrib.  The farmer said to crow, “Hello.”

The crow, with a rather high-pitched voice, said, “Hello.”  Wow!  A talking crow.  Then the farmer said, “Jimmy Crow,” And the crow said “Jimmy Crow.”  I had never seen anything like it—a crow speaking words I could understand.  This is what Pa wanted me to see and hear. I’ve never forgotten the experience.  Now so many years later, I did some research on talking crows.  One report I read said that a crow living in close company with humans can be taught to repeat as many as a 100 words and phrases.

A few weeks ago, on one of those summer-like autumn days, I was sitting outside the cabin at the farm, enjoying the day.  “What are you doing?” my son, Steve, asked.  There was work to be done and I was doing little of nothing.

“Listening to the crows talk to each other,” I said.  And they were.  Several of them were perched in the windbreak just west of the cabin, and several more were in the pine trees a hundred yards or so south of the cabin. Both groups were cawing loudly.  Crows are highly social birds and they do try to stay in constant communication with each other.  In addition to keeping in touch with each other, they have a variety of calls, including one indicating danger may be near. Crows are highly intelligent birds—it’s easy to ignore them and take them for granted.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS:  There is much about crows that we don’t know.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Saturday, December 10, 1:30 p.m.  Verona, Library.  Launch of my new book, MORE THAN WORDS.  I plan to be there in person.

WHERE TO BUY MY BOOKS. As you all know, books make fine Christmas presents. See my website, www.jerryapps.com, for a listing of my books. Buy my books from your local bookstore, or buy online from the Wisconsin Historical Society bookstore, https://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/books, bookshop.org, or purchase from the Friends of the Patterson Memorial Library in Wild Rose—a fundraiser for them. Phone: 920-622-3835 for prices and ordering, or contact the librarian: barnard@wildroselibrary.
Patterson Memorial Library
500 Division Street
Wild Rose, WI 54984.
www.wildroselibrary.org

If you live in the western part of the state, stop at Ruth’s home town, Westby, visit Dregne’s.  and look at their great selection of my books. Order a book from them by calling 1-877-634-4414. They will be happy to help you.  If you live in northcentral Wisconsin, stop at the Janke bookstore in Wausau (phone 715-845-9648).  They also have a large selection of my books. 



 

 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Opening Day Steve Apps photo

 


OPENING DAY                               Steve Apps Photo

Opening day of the deer gun season.  Number 76 for me.  “You’re still deer hunting?” A question I hear on occasion.  “Yes,” I answer with a smile. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

I must confess that weatherwise, this opening day for the 2022 deer gun season was no prize.  The temperature hung around 18 degrees, the wind blew from the northwest, and snowflakes fell.  Fell so hard that at times I couldn’t see across the little field where I was sitting.  We already had two-three inches of snow at Roshara, and within a half hour or so we added another quarter to a half inch.  If you like to sit in a snowstorm—and believe it or not, if I’m dressed properly, and I was, I rather enjoy it.

In my early days of deer hunting, bagging a deer with bragging rights was always my goal.  Then for a number of years, filling the freezer with venison was the goal.  Especially when the family numbered five and my income was on the low side.  For the past 20 years or so, bagging a deer was a secondary goal, being with family was first, and being outside, no matter what the weather was always a goal.  I have always enjoyed the sights and sounds of nature—and deer season is one time to do that.

I remember so well the days when my dad hunted deer—he did it into his early 90s. In those days, the family hunters included my brothers, and my sons.  Three generations.  One of the stories passed on over the years was when my dad was 92, and he was standing on a little hill with my son, Steve.  They spotted three deer running across a field some 100 yards away, maybe more depending on who was telling the story.  “Is one a buck?” Dad asked.  “The middle one,” Steve answered.  Dad pulled up his 30-30 Savage rifle, and fired one shot.  The buck deer dropped, shot through the neck.  When asked why he shot it in the neck.  His answer, “Didn’t want to spoil any of the meat.” He said it with a big smile on his face.          

 This year the crew hunting at Roshara included me, my son, Steve, my brother Donald; his three sons Marc, Eric, and Matt, and Matt’s son, Ian.  Three generations once more.

I did not bag a deer.  My nephew Eric did.  He is a true deer hunter.  But once more, we all have stories to tell.  Deer hunting has always been and will always be storytelling—some of them even may be true.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS:  There is so much more to deer hunting than bagging a deer.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Monday, November 28, 7:00 p.m.  Watch “Jerry Apps: Food and Memories” on PBS Wisconsin.  An hour-long documentary with my daughter, Susan, and based on our book, OLD FARM COUNTRY COOKBOOK/

Saturday, December 10, 1:30 p.m.  Verona, Library.  Launch of my new book, MORE THAN WORDS.  I plan to be there in person.

WHERE TO BUY MY BOOKS. Buy from your local bookstore, or buy online from the Wisconsin Historical Society bookstore, https://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/books, bookshop.org, or purchase from the Friends of the Patterson Memorial Library in Wild Rose—a fundraiser for them. Phone: 920-622-3835 for prices and ordering, or contact the librarian: barnard@wildroselibrary.
Patterson Memorial Library
500 Division Street
Wild Rose, WI 54984.
www.wildroselibrary.org

If you live in the western part of the state, stop at Ruth’s home town, Westby, visit Dregne’s.  and look at their great selection of my books. Order a book from them by calling 1-877-634-4414. They will be happy to help you.  If you live in northcentral Wisconsin, stop at the Janke bookstore in Wausau (phone 715-845-9648).  They also have a large selection of my books.