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:


Nov 12, 2015

"Chick Flicks to the Rescue"

We have a new bull.   
Here he is.
(We don't use artificial insemination so 
we have to rotate/replace our bulls every two years
 when their heifer/daughters reach the age for a first pregnancy.)

As bulls go, 
he is considered downright gorgeous!
(Check out the muscular body - broad face - nice eyes...)

For the first few days we had him stay in a roomy pen
 in the Young Animal barn,
 so he could have a chance to settle down 
 and get used to his new surroundings. 
(He seemed pretty aggressive but that was to be expected in a new bull. )

We didn't have a name for him yet,
 and we still had a few cows in the herd who were also nameless, but other issues were crowding in at the time so we put that one on hold.

 When the cold, wet days of Autumn begin
 it is fairly straightforward
 to bring in the cows for milking.

They actually come from the field themselves
and wait at the gate for us to unhook it.
Then they gallop through, anxious to be into the warm barn,
 where they know the grain feeders are full,

and the fresh hay is on the feeding table.

But two days ago...

the new guy in town was let out into the field for the first time and 
had his chance to meet some of the

"prettiest girls in Sweden,"

(...that would be our milk cows.)

The response was every young man's bull's dream:

they loved him!

Every cow wanted her chance to be near him, hunk that he was,
especially at the water cup where a girl could really get 
up close and personal.

But when it came time for the cows to come in to be milked, 
this young cow refused!

There were several of us there, the leaves were falling from the trees, 
the icy wind was blowing,
 and the dampness was chilling, 
so I went to the fence to talk to both of them...

 I tried to reason with the cow first, 
reminding her that it was time to come into the warm barn, 
and how uncomfortable she would be if she missed her milking.
She looked at me squarely, 
considered what I had said for a moment, 
and then, to the astonishment of all present, 
she shook her head NO! 
(See the blurring there with her head shaking?)

Amazed, but spurred on by the unlikely , (but seemingly apparent) comprehension of the two, 
I appealed next to the bull. 
Reminding him that  - #1. he was in our employ,  
and #2. he could go onto the 
"S" list
( the "S" stands for "Slaughter")
at any time for erratic behavior.
 I encouraged him to give the cow a nudge toward the barn.
The response was identical.  He looked at all of us head on ,
and shook his head NO!
(Note the blurring of the bull this time.)

They stayed out in the field together
the entire night.
The next morning it occurred to those of us who 
had a penchant for all Jane Austen videos,
but "Pride and Prejudice" in particular ,
that this scenario was dangerously close to providing 
the perfect name for the new bull and also for that particular cow....

"Mr. Wickham and Lydia".

quoting from the video ALMOST verbatim and describing the determined, and disobedient eloping lovers of the tale,
 we said, in our best Mr. Bennett voice:

"....Mr. Wickham and Lydia have been discovered in London and
she will not leave him..."

The name problem was solved!