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Cat’s Feet

The early morning fog, like poet Carl Sandburg once noted, arrived on cat’s feet and remains, napping, on the lake until a warming sun causes it to slip away the way it came, in silence.
Fifty years ago I watched the September fog while waiting for the morning school bus on the southern Illinois dairy farm […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

Originally written on December 25, 1994, this column is now reprinted annually by Alan’s editors across the country to celebrate the season of giving.
The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered our farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby woodstove. Yellowed […]

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Life in the Slow Lane

September arrived on a bright, beautiful sunbeam after one of the soggiest Augusts central Illinois ever muddled through.
The wet month was a quiet month, though. Not even the ever-cheerful wrens could find anything to sing about during the monsoon. One bird-based benefit, however, was that our lake’s always honked-off Canada geese moved on to, I […]

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The Quiet Month

January was a quiet month on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. Maybe it was quiet because we were quiet, drained after December’s month-long buildup to Christmas and New Year’s. Maybe it was quiet because most of our farm machines, like all of our fields, were quiet.
Whatever the reason, January still brought 100 […]

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Winter From the Window

January’s week of blistering cold was met with the blissful heat from the farmette’s two efficient woodstoves. Red oak and hickory are, after all, the July and August of wood heat both when you split ‘em and when you burn ‘em.
Zero degree cold was not common on the big southern Illinois dairy farm of my […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

Originally published in 1994, “Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving” continues to be the most requested, most reprinted Farm and Food File column. The column inspired The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey which will be published by The University of Illinois Press in May 2015. 
The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that […]

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Books, Plans, and “congress”

A week or two into every new year, most folks review, often regretfully, their list of resolutions already bent, broken or buried.
That never happened on the big southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth for one simple reason: We never made any New Year’s resolutions.
We didn’t. Honest.
In fact, I can’t recall one instance that of […]

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“Hoard’s” Priceless Christmas Gift

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.
“I believe this […]

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