Those annoying washouts

Our wet spring and summer meant we had to repair the lane several times. The destruction from the last gully washer in July has remained… until today.

I used our Woods HBL rear blade, turned around, to roll gravel from the grass back into the lane and then turned the rig over to Tommy for the final finessing (I know the limits of my earth-moving talents).

Next, hook up the GS72C grading scraper, fill in the ruts with more gravel, and make it look like new again.

I get to do the grading part… I’m just killing some time while I wait my turn.

Away we go!

AKL

The Greatest Show on Earth; Our Own Circus

hereford panaramicSix kids. Seven Herefords. Ten Days. Now that’s a circus.

No, that’s our annual trek to Junior National Hereford Expo, one of the largest youth events in the country. Last week more than 700 kids from 40 states converged on Harrisburg, PA. They exhibited nearly 1,200 head of Hereford cattle and participated in 23 leadership and personal development competitions. The event also brought in more than 3,000 spectators.

Cattle walked through the ring for three full days, crowning champion heifers, bulls and cow/calf pairs. We brought home the banner for Champion Bred & Owned Cow/Calf pair! This was even more special because it was our youngest daughter’s favorite heifer that she raised from a little calf.

JNHE 14 stalls

Though the cattle show is an important aspect of the event, we also focus on the many contests available to improve speaking and critical thinking skills. This year was an exceptional one, with two of the kids winning national speaking events. They also earned one Top Ten in showmanship, two leadership/activities winners in their age group and two Creative Arts winners. We are so proud of them all.

IMG_1474 IMG_1459 IMG_1469 IMG_1462Brett showmanship

So, when education officials talk about the lower quality of education and the lack of opportunities in rural school districts, I just have to shake my head. We know that rural communities offer some of the best opportunities for kids to excel with life skills learned outside the classroom.

 

Locally produced, locally consumed

My sister Maureen and I are exploring New England, one local food at a time.

Our first stop after landing in Vermont was a Richmond diner for spinach salads tossed with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette. We then moved on to Woodstock and Vermont Cheddar (my sister’s new-found love) from Sugarbush Farm. We paired it with an Argentinian Malbec because, according to the man in the pink polo at Mac’s Grocery, “Best to stay with what you love.”

Before we headed east to Portland, we stopped for lunch at Simon Pearce in the village of Quechee for their reknowned Vermont Cheddar Soup and fresh-baked Brown Bread and Cheddar Scones.

Our first stop in Maine: the Maine Diner in Wells (as seen on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives) where we indulged in Lobster Mac and Cheese and a Codfish Cake. Next door at the Maine Diner Gift Shop, we snagged a bag of chocolate covered Wild Maine Blueberries.

Last night at Ri Ra Irish Pub (every stop isn’t local), we devoured a bowl of fresh-caught mussels, paired with Magner’s Pear Cider.

This morning, we’re sipping coffee at The Holy Donut in Portland and relishing a couple Maine Potato Donuts: Chocolate with Sea Salt and Triple Berry. Maureen now refers to this shop as Mecca. We’ll be back.

Tomorrow, we begin our drive up the Maine coast toward Bar Harbor in search of more seafood, cheese, and berries.

AKL

Last weekend of winter

It’s the end of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, so flowers are blooming, the beaches are warming, and the fruit stands are filled with citrus and strawberries.

The seasonal menus feature winter produce, such as pumpkin tomato soup, and leek and cauliflower soup (the latter of which was made with camembert and was delicous!), and of course fresh cool weather favorites, such as rhubarb strawberry crumble, grilled asparagus, and citrus garnish with everything.

Last night, the weather report on Channel 7 from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland predicted a week of seasonally warm and dry weather. The beach report proclaimed all beaches open and called for warmth and sunshine for Saturday and Sunday, perfect for the “last weekend of winter.”

Add all this to driving on the right side of the road, drains swirling in the opposite direction, stargazing at unknown constellations, and it’s a heady experience down under. It’s August and it feels like March. It’s 6:30 am on Saturday and it feels like 3:30 in the afternoon on Friday.

We’ve decided that it’s best not to over-think this upside down, down under experience. We’re going to just relish in the sunshine and enjoy the last weekend of winter.

AKL

Traveling in the same direction

Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong recently noted that married couples who travel in the same direction are happier. Whether commuting to work or taking a morning stroll, those who physically move in the same direction feel a metaphorical link to their greater goals.

Tommy and I have been traveling in the same direction since August 22, 1987. We walked side-by-side out of St. Patrick’s church in Washington, Illinois, 25 years ago today, and have been on the same path every since… sometimes holding hands and sometimes elbowing each other, but on the same path.

The excitement comes from following that path willingly, even though you never really know where it will lead you. Today (Australia time), our path has brought us to Tamworth, New South Wales, Australia. We’re about 9,000 miles from that church in Illinois, but our feet are still pointed in the same direction and we’re open to the possibilities of the next 25 hours, the next 25 months, and the next 25 years.

Today, we’re traveling to Gunnedah for a second day at the AgQuip tradeshow. It is fascinating to see the similarities and differences to the U.S. agricultural industry and talk to Australians who share our way of life. A farm show is certainly not the most glamorous way to celebrate 25 years of bliss, but it suits us to be strolling the aisles hand-in-hand, traveling in the same direction.

Down under

We’re getting ready for an Imageinternational trade mission to Australia. And while that may sound exotic, it’s really just a visit to Australia’s largest equipment trade show sandwiched between two really, really long plane rides.

It will be exciting to meet with our distributor, learn more about how our equipment is used in Aussie cotton, and visit wineries and sheep stations where our equipment is used to maintain the farms. It’s always a thrill to see Woods equipment on the ground around the globe.

Whenever I travel to a foreign country, I am amazed at the commonalities shared by farmers. Farming is undoubtedly a global enterprise in which we all strive toward the same basic goals: grow the largest possible crop with the minimal amount of inputs and pray for rain.

Perhaps we’ll learn an Aboriginal rain ritual while in Australia. Now, that would make for an exotic trade mission.

AKL