Nov 12, 2017

 "Chalk" Value!

This is Elisa, our Diminutive Dynamo from Germany 
who was interning with us last year at this time on our farm.  
She is modelling a haute couture chalk-drenched coverall, 
in front of the Pump House,  
just before going in to strip down and change.

This post will take you through the process that got her there,
and will introduce you to yet another miraculous event,
(and there were a lot of them on the farm that year)
that we have experienced.
This particular one pertains to  
"The Wonderful World of Chalking"
and it's... 

All good news!

Past years have found us every June striving to get:

all the new calves that were born in March, April and May
weaned, bottle trained, grain/hay fed, and 
out into the front field safely to graze for the Summer and Fall, 

the eco Kitchen Garden tilled, dunged, planned, planted,
and covered with fiberduk,  which is that white webb-y stuff you have to 
use in northern Sweden so that the seeds will actually germinate 
when the soil is still pretty cold, 

                                                                                the Small Animal barn emptied of baby calves one group at a time,  power-washed, along with the main barn,  from ceiling-to walls-to floors in preparation for the chalking.
and finally, 
ALL the milk cows who have been wintering in the main barn, 
fully recovered from their calf-bearing, with their udders stabilized 
and their milk production consistent,
going out every morning to the fields after milking,  
and not coming in until the early evening for milking again. 

That meant we could have about 8-10 hours 
during the day to do the...
 D-r-e-a-d-e-d   C-h-a-l-k-i-n-g.

Even with all the cows out and the power-washing completed, 
 it felt like a daunting task to do by hand.  Add to that the problem of the consistency of your chalk mixture.  If you had it too thick when it dried it fell off the walls again in clumps and sheeted layers, if you had it too thin, it didn't cover properly. 

Not good.

Working on the lower walls you could carry your bucket of liquid chalk with you. Working on the upper walls it was a larger bucket and a step ladder,

or if you were tall enough, you could sometimes do it from ceiling to floor
in one pass.  

But no matter how you did it, the chalk mixture eventually made your nose itch - at the best of times -  and sting -  if you were particularly sensitive.
Witness "The Painting Mask Trio" pictured here.

 An arduous task to say the least, and it usually took a full week , with a fair number of "drink breaks"
for the teams to accomplish it all.

But last year.....

Pappa looked again at an item he had seen several times before in one of the farm implement magazines.  Made in Austria, it purported to be a 

"Chalk Sprayer"

promising quick and even coverage, 
with a minimum of mess/cleanup and 
a maximum of speed/efficiency.
It was a bit pricey, 
and more importantly, 
unfamiliar to farmers in this area, 
most of whom no longer chalk their barns. 

That is because we are one of the few surviving "Family Farms"
in this region who milk 16-24 cows each day, use a bull instead of A.I.
and have their cows calf once a year in the Spring.

The great advantage of chalking the barns is that 
it discourages insect pests, both flying and burrowing,
making it much more comfortable for the animals throughout the year. 

We decided to give it a try, ordered it up, 
and it arrived on the truck a few days later.

Enter the "FAB FOUR".

 Left to right - Elisa - Germany, Melayne - USA, Shushy - Canada,
and Gibb - USA.

Here were their qualifications:

#1 - Spoke German so she could actually read the instructions.
#2 - Incredibly cheerful and intelligent, so she could understand the instructions.
#3 - Had a work ethic and a "can-do" mentality that would make Steve Jobs proud.


#1 - Ready and willing to do anything, even if it was new. 
#2 - Strong enough to mix up the ensuing batches of chalk .
#3 - Detail oriented so she could check pressure, do walls, and mask. 


#1 - Totally tall, and could reach places no one else could reach . 
#2 - Tons of fun in any situation or challenge.
#3 - Never gave up no matter what.


#1 - Smart as a whip so he could figure out better ways of doing the job efficiently.
#2 - A champion at power-washing - fast and accurate.
#3 -  joy to be around and work with with his sparkling personality.

It was a win, win, win, win team.

With the four of them pitching in,  the power-washing and wall prep work in the small animal barn were finished super fast .
  Next was the masking, the most time-consuming part 
 as the ceiling is very high.  
In the picture above you can see some of it on the walls.

Then Pappa stirred up the first batch of the chalk mixture,  showing an example and making sure it was correct, and filling the big, blue barrel. 

Once that was ready, Elisa started  with the spraying of the ceiling
 ('always do the worst first'), 
then moved on to the upper walls, then down to the lower walls.

Both Gibb and Shushy had to leave the farm before the spraying part was finished.  He went home with his Dad to the U.S.A. and she went on to the next leg of her Swedish trip with her relatives.

That left Melayne and Elisa plowing on together and look at the result!

A work to be proud of !

Going from a main-barn interior  that looked like this.....

to one that looked like this seemed almost like a miracle!  And truly it was....

But in the end result, we happily 
"Chalked" it up 
to a job...


Nov 21, 2015

"Politically Correct"

Robert Louis Stevenson and Isobel Steel Bannatyne,
1st May 1943,
on the front steps of Fisherwick Presbyterian Church,
Belfast, Northern Ireland
This was my parents' wedding day.

He was  a 24 year old American from Chicago 
who was working in the war effort 
for Lockheed  Aircraft overseas. 
 She was an 18 year old Scottish girl whose family had come to Belfast
for her father's work when she was a child.
 She was working in the accounting office of a tobacco company.

They met at a church service that was held up the stairs, 
on the second floor, above a fish and chips shop. 
It was during the darkest days of World War II.
Amidst air raid sirens, Luftwaffe bombings,
food rationing, and Vera Lynn war ballads,
they fell in love.

Cutting the wedding cake at the reception

The second youngest of eight siblings, 
6 of whom were girls, 
she was the first to be married.
Her widowed mother, (my grandmother) 
was determined,  despite the wartime restrictions, 
to make the wedding not only as GRAND, 
but as "politically correct"  as possible.
When there was no appropriate cake mold available 
for the top of the wedding cake,
 a tubular propeller housing was found that was exactly the right size.
They used it to bake the final layer you see the happy couple cutting into,
and they called it good.

Fast forward 63 years...

Hans Göran Karlsson and Lorayne Gay Stevenson
30th December 2006
by the front door of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
Örnsköldsvik, Sweden
(one week after their wedding)

He was a semi-retired surgeon who owned a dairy farm just a few hours from the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden.
I was a school teacher from Cache Valley in northern Utah.
Between us we had 17 children and 25 grandchildren.
Greeting guests after the post-Sacrament service ceremony
in the church meeting room,
(that shared the building with a Yoga parlor)
Christmas Eve, 24th December 2006

Both of us were determined, 
despite the swiftness of the decision to be married,
(I had only been in Sweden for five days),
 and the distance involved from my home and beloved family in the U.S.,
 to make the occasion as Grand, and as "politically correct" as possible.
When there was no appropriate wedding dress available, 
 we borrowed a "folkdräkt"  (traditional costume) of Junsele 
from a woman in the village, he put on his best suit 
and a Swedish blue tie, 
the "Swedish sisters" his daughters, baked a cake and made
"hjortronsylt" topping with whipped cream for refreshments, 
and we called it good.

Sounds pretty romantic right?
Well, it really was. 
Bob and Isobel had checked with all the requirements to be married legally and reside in Northern Ireland until his commitment with Lockheed came to an end, after which he returned to the U.S. and Isobel followed a little while later with their first child, a girl, who had been born in Belfast.

If only it could have been that easy for us.
We were good on the romantic part.
It was a wonderful time with so many new and exciting adventures 
to share together.  
There were still children at home on the farm to be raised, and a lot to learn for a "city slicker" who had never even touched a cow before.

We were confident we had done it all legally 
by checking with the government agency,
about an hour away in the kommun of  Sollefteå, 
before we got married. 

They were kind and helpful.
They assured us that because Hans 
was born in Sweden and a Swedish citizen, his marriage to me 
gave me "automatic" residency.

If only it were true.

Arriving at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm after a visit back to the U.S.
I was stopped at the immigration desk and asked to prove I was married. 
My passport was in my maiden name.  I hadn't changed my driver's license yet, still in my maiden name.  I didn't have a copy of our marriage document with me.
The officer was  pleasant but firm as he explained that the law had changed and I was required to "register" as a resident of Sweden. 
Furthermore, if I had nothing to prove I was actually married,
 I would not be allowed to enter the country. 
My mind moved instantly into resolution mode. 
What did I have that was in my married name that could prove what I was saying was true? 
1. Flip open wallet
2. Scan cards on one flap of wallet - Dang! (All U.S.)
3. Scan cards on next flap of wallet - spot something Swedish - HOORAY!

My Coop-Konsum Swedish grocery store rewards card 
in the name of "Lorayne G. Karlsson",
and with that...

They let me through!

Nov 14, 2015

"Mighty Joe Banks"
and his 
"Beautiful Assistant" 
(Part III)

The day after the first hard frost was rainy and cold
with an icy glaze on the roof of each farm building.
Despite the rainbow, it was a red-flag alert to us that we needed to do 
something right away about the water issues that were still pending.

Of course it is always a concern if a cow misses a milking, 
mastitis can be just a step away, and that is serious business,
especially when the weather is turning colder.
On the top of the "water issue" list was that we understood 
we had to do something about the water (or lack of it) in the front field 
where the animals love to stay, even long after the freezing begins. 
As long as they have food, shelter, and water, they love to be out.

The small green water cup that Mr. W. and Lydia are drinking from on that wooden post  is not freeze-proof and in the past, 
when the temperature  started to dip
it was replaced by a large green plastic tub that had to be filled  at least once a day and sometimes more often, by hand, with a bucket.
Worse than having to fill it every morning and afternoon  was trying to break the thick layer of ice that formed on it throughout the day and during the night.

There had to be a better way.
Much earlier in the season Pappa had replaced the culverts on the fägata which is the main pathway that heads up to the forest along the edge of the farm where the Spring and Autumn run-off flows. So we knew there would be no stoppage along that water line with the enlarged culverts.  An early fall of snow caught us by surprise but didn't stay long, and didn't deter Pappa and the digger from also making a new bridge of large cement culverts over the back water ditch so the cows could go over it and out to the fields without being afraid of the ice.

The front field was a different kettle of fish.

Look closely at the first picture below and you can see that Joe had begun a continuation of a water ditch that runs toward the main house, along the side of the garden plot.

He started it on his own while Sara was baking a beautiful carrot cake inside, but it soon became clear that this was not a one-man job, so she put the cake to rest and came out to help. He was pretty discouraged at first - that's him sitting in the ditch -  but her good humor was contagious, Joe perked up and they dug in together to un-earth a pile of massive rocks and boulders and move the ditch farther and farther along.  
And when the initial enthusiasm began to wane, even  for Sara, 
Pappa left his cheese-making in the dairy to come out 
and offer some good advice and  a much-needed pep-talk.

That was all it took.

Even the coldest and wettest days didn't stop them in their quest. Undaunted after Sara had to board the bus to go home to Gothenburg, the two shovels became one and Joe braved it through alone to the very end.

We were so proud of his determination...

and loved this picture of him 
when he finally made it all the way to the fence-line of the front field.
 His work enabled us to supply water to the animals who were there, 
even when it was minus degrees outside,
using the black water line you see there lying in the newly dug ditch. 

Pappa always refers to this good young man as 
"Beloved Joe". 
It is an apt description.

 From Cornwall, England,  Joe had had a challenging life growing up
 and had faced many difficulties.
He credited a loving and supportive family,
and a strong faith in God as the key elements in his successes thus far.

When a little three-year-old granddaughter we had never even had a chance to meet was diagnosed with leukemia and was half a world away, 
I was crying quietly at the kitchen sink. 
Joe came over and put his arm around me tenderly and said, 
"Nainy, sometimes in life there is nothing you can do but pray",
and he was right. 

Leaving us as winter approached, he headed East 
and hopped on the Trans-Siberian Railway, 
took it across Russia into China, saw the Great Wall, 
travelled on to Viet Nam, 
and that was where we lost track of him.

Just a few months ago we contacted his parents in England 
and asked about him.
His father e-mailed us back right away and assured us that Joe was well and happy and getting ready to be married in the coming weeks.

One of his comments about Joe's time with us on the farm 
gave us the greatest joy of all....

"We often have said, we have rarely seen him 
so happy
he loves hard graft (work) and being outdoors". 

Joe's efforts were not only tireless, but highly effective.
He had only been gone a few short days when winter hit with all it's fury.

Did WE worry? 
NO we didn't.

Our animals had food, they had shelter, and they had WATER!

Our three W's: