Posted on May 31, 2017
In my youth, May brought two noticeable changes to the big Lutheran church my family faithfully attended. The first was heat. No building on earth better held daytime heat from Mother’s Day through Reformation Day than that century-old house of worship.
The second was the season’s short-sleeved parade of lost limbs, a brutal testament to the […]
Posted on April 26, 2017
Farmers and ranchers pride themselves on neighborliness, and rightly so. Rare is the season, after all, when the local newspaper or radio station doesn’t carry a lump-in-the-throat story explaining how neighbors of an ill or injured member of a farm or ranch family gathered for a day or two to do a month or two’s […]
Posted on April 19, 2017
For someone who rarely attended auctions, my father somehow managed to host or co-host four different auctions in the last 20 or so years of his long life. Is that a record of some kind?
The first, held in the mid-1990s, was a dispersal sale for the 100 or so Holstein cows, heifers, and calves that […]
Posted on February 22, 2017
January started gray, stayed gray, and ended gray. Worse, it wasn’t a shining silver gray or an inviting blue gray. It was the flat, disengaging gray of used dishwater that seemed to whisper, “Don’t bother.”
The one-colored weather wasn’t cold weather, though. Early in the month, a few days of Arctic temperatures did thicken the lake […]
Posted on January 4, 2017
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 […]
Posted on December 8, 2016
The cold, gray drizzle of November finally found central Illinois on Election Day. No one complained, however, because the warm, dry harvest season had ended weeks before.
Fifty or more years ago, that was never the case on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. In fact, if we were half-done with harvest on Election […]
Posted on November 30, 2016
Recently, a baker’s dozen of old farm and food friends got together with a group of young farm and food friends to discuss everything from yesterday’s disappointments to tomorrow’s hopes.
The differences in our age (mid-20s to early 80s), vocation (farmers to poets), education (undergraduates to Ph.Ds.), and experience (beekeeper to university dean) fueled warm—and, sometimes, […]
Posted on October 12, 2016
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 […]
Posted on August 3, 2016
Recently, my pastor, a former U.S. Army chaplain, noted that the only thing with a higher rank than a chaplain on any Army helicopter is the mail. “I could bump a general off a flight—not that I ever did—but the mail flies before either of us,” he related.
That makes perfect sense; no amount of striped, […]
Posted on July 20, 2016
It’s hard to think of summer without thinking of the many neighbors we shared the southern Illinois heat, humidity, and mosquitoes with on the dairy farm of my youth.
Back then, in the mid-1960s, we’d often see neighbors across the table-flat Mississippi River Bottoms as they cultivated corn or soybeans and we baled straw or raked […]