I remember patronizing my hometown taverns with my brother Justin when we were both in our early 20sand still learning to become responsible adults. About a half dozen bars were scattered throughout a three or four block area, and on a Friday or Saturday night, we would visit them all. When we were in Mitchell's we wondered what was going on in The Pumping Station. Then, at the College Pub we speculated that it might be more interesting down the street at The Huddle. I guess that's human nature: always wondering if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, as they say.
I thought about that tendency to feel as though you should be somewhere else. These days, I don't go to many bars except to pick up carryout from the adjoining restaurant, but I still often feel like I am not where I should be. During spring, summer and fall, when I am often on the road collecting stories for the magazine and television program, I am bedeviled by the feeling I should be at home tending the garden, cutting the grass, fixing the gutters or helping answer the phones in the office. During the winter when I am not traveling as much, I get anxious if I am home for more than a week or two, worried that I am missing out some story or event I should be covering.
Well, winter is winding down and my calendar is beginning to fill with appointments and commitments, so it won't be long before I trade one anxiety (of not being on the road) with the other (of not being home).Balance is not something that comes easily to me. I haven't been completely sedentary. On a recent trip through Kentucky, I stopped at the Jerrys Farm in Flemingsburg, Ky., and Jerry Hicks showed me the root cellar he has been restoring. Jerry promised to put together a story soon about this project.
As I write this, I am also getting my camera and audio equipment ready to shoot some horse, mule and donkeys working in Tim Christopher's woods outside of Decorah, Iowa. If it isn’t a productive trip, I will have only myself to blame; Tim has gathered many good teamsters and their teams and set out a half dozen logging arches for them to collect firewood.
In about 10 days I will head to North Carolina for a plow day put on by the N.C. Work Horse and Mule Association, where I will get a chance to visit with some teamsters I haven't seen for many years and get to meet some new ones.
My following week is mostly taken up with the Waverly Midwest Horse Sale, where I'll have our regular booth. Because we don't sell as many calendars at the spring sale as we do in the fall, I am not kept as busy making sales, which gives me a chance to spend time with the scores of folks I see only a couple times a year. The Waverly Sale is one of the most productive events for me in terms of getting story ideas and learning about upcoming events. I suspect we will also be marveling at the high prices being fetched by some of the horses being auctioned off.
Of course, by the time you are reading this, these events will be over. Coming up at the beginning of April, however, Susan and I will be in Salisbury, Md., filming at the 15th Annual Mt. Hermon Plow Days at the invitation of our friend Oren Perdue. On the way home from Maryland, we will be stopping at a farm in Lenhartsville, Penn., where Ansel and Brittany Bachman have been transitioning to a certified-organic, holistically managed operation. There’s a lot to like about their farm, but so far my favorite is their logo which a drawing of a hog wearing a U.S. patriot's tricone hat (www.PatriotFarmsPA.com/).
Later in April, I'll be going to a plow day at Homeplace on Green River near Campbellsville, Ky., where Boyd Sandusky has been recruiting horse and mule teamsters to come and prepare the seedbed for their heritage corn crop.
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I am continuing to reach out to you, my readers, for story suggestions and updates on your farms, livestock or gardens. Most of the folks who write for us started as subscribers. As you wander around your place, think about what you might be doing that would be interesting or useful to others.
I am also trying to bring back a feature that we had dropped for a while due to lack of contributors: a Letters to the Editor, or “Reader Reports” section. Are you proud of your team of ponies? Do you want to share photos of your grandkids working in the garden? Have you developed a piece of equipment that you think might benefit others? I know folks are doing al ot of this sort of thing on Facebook and other social media outlets, but a lot of our readers are not hooked up to those services and would like to be a part of the conversation. Send your photos, stories, suggestions and, yes, criticisms, to email@example.com. Or mail them to me at PO Box 2067, Cedar Rapids IA 52406.
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You probably remember the cautionary tale Ralph Rice told us in the last issue about what can happen when one of your horses discovers an abandoned well. The gist of the story is that it could have been much worse, and the successful rescue was made possible by the quick-thinking and fast-acting professionals who made it to the scene.
If you saw the story, you probably remember the photos of the injuries his Suffolk foal, Gracie, suffered during the ordeal to her neck just above the withers. Ralph was pleased to report Gracie is recovering swimmingly and sent along a photo to share.
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Last year, that was particularly useful as we had a very dry August and, since I don't irrigate, I lost a lot of my crop. The pumpkin-squash did well, but the rest didn't produce. One benefit of that situation was there was a lot less weeding to do last summer. I’m reminded of how big a country the USA is when I think about gardening seasons. When folks in Georgia, Texas or Alabama are planting sweet corn, folks in Wyoming, Minnesota or New York are still waiting for the snow to stop falling and eventually melt off. That said, it is either gardening time or it will be soon for most of us, and if we didn't already know that the seed companies have been reminding us with their catalogs.
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There are some changes coming to the Rural Heritage office. I wish I could say the changes were going to be all positive, but that wouldn't be true. Kelly Loeffelholz, who has worked for/with us these past 15 years is leaving. Her husband, Chris, retired few years ago, and the two of them want to travel. And with two daughters, one on each coast, and a son whose work takes him wherever there are rare seeds to be collected or plants identified, they have many places to which to travel.
Kelly came to us after the flood took down our home and business in 2007. She was among dozens of volunteers who came to help us recover. And once we set up in temporary digs to start rebuilding, Kelly stayed on, volunteering to help rebuild the database and other computer records we lost. A little while later, Susan and I asked her to become a permanent employee.
It would be a titanic understatement to say Kelly hashed an impact here. She helped us develop systems we use every day to track orders, inventory, subscriptions and advertising accounts. Although she works only two and a half days a week, she accomplishes more than what someone else might have done working fulltime.
She will be leaving sometime in late May, we think, and between now and then she’ll be teaching Susan and I how to run the office on our own. It promises to be a bumpy ride, but we'll get through it, using Kelly as a model.
Rather than give into the disappointment we’ll feel as Kelly leaves, we will focus on our gratitude for the years of friendship, loyalty and professional service she's graced our small business.
If you think of a place or event I should visit for a story in the magazine or on our television program, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.