Life on the Farm

Happy Slow, Quiet, Dull New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day was wonderfully different than every other week of the year on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

      Overall, it was the slowest, quietest, and—especially for my hardworking parents—dullest week of the year.

      Most post-Christmas weeks, Mom and Dad napped longer than usual, actually had time to enjoy […]

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‘Why are you giving extreme voices so much attention?’

The last column of the year usually features comments from readers whose views differ from those found here the previous 50 or so weeks. Most point out, often in vivid language, the shortcomings of my ideas, opinions, and—increasingly—the “fake news” I peddle through both.

      At least that’s how it has been for at least 25 […]

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Howard’s Priceless Gift of Simple Giving

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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A Challenging Year but an Unforgettable Thanksgiving

Rural people often reminisce by years. The general rule for any talk about “good” or “bad” years is that good years rarely merit as much mention as great years and great years usually play second fiddle to bad years.

      The reason that challenging or tough years like 2019 and 2020 leave an impression is not […]

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Out of Many “Theys,” We

      Ten or so years ago a friend asked if I would help him move a gun safe from his garage to his basement. I agreed not knowing what I was in for.

      I had heard of gun safes; I just hadn’t ever seen one. My father’s “safe” was a corner living room closet where […]

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Now Would Be a Good Time for Honest Dishonesty

Somewhere in southern Illinois there’s a high school yearbook that contains a photo of me and another student leaning against a classroom wall on either side of a 1972 campaign poster of a smiling Richard Nixon. The caption writer, another student, notes that my buddy and I are “standing” with our man, the then-incumbent president.

      […]

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Perilous Bounty is a Journey Well Worth Taking

      Some books are worth more in your hand and on your shelf than they are as electrons in your e-reader. These books, and their authors, are valued friends and you return to them often for information, advice, and comfort.

      Two downsizing moves in the last 15 years have pared my library to a few shelves […]

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Sixty Days Until the Farm and Food World Shakes

In March 1919, John Reed, an American journalist, published Ten Days that Shook the World, his eyewitness book on one of the new century’s most defining events, the Russian Revolution.

      Eighty years later, Reed’s groundbreaking work was still shaking the world. New York University ranked it seventh on its list of the 20th century’s 100 most consequential works. […]

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Ahead of Her–And Our–Times a Century Ago

My grandmother was both a woman of her times and a woman far ahead of even our times. For example, today’s electric cars would be a yawn for her; she rode in them “before the war.”

      World War I, that is. Grandma (her given name was Ruth) was born in 1902 and lived 86 active […]

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Sometimes the Hardest Thing to Do is Nothing; Let’s Do it

Mid-July was always summer’s sweet spot on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.

      With June’s rush of sweaty work—wheat harvest, straw baling, laying corn by, cultivating soybeans, and weed spraying—finally complete and before another cutting of alfalfa was ready, mid-July slipped in with treats like fresh peaches, sweet corn, and juicy garden tomatoes.

      Mid-July also […]

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