Saturday, January 15, 2011

Healing Souls & Bodies, Feeding Us & Cows

FRIDAY, JANUARY 14 – Another early start to another jam-packed day began at 7:45am at the home of our host pastor, Mike Kern, his wife Alison and their energetic toddler Noah. Over wonderful cinnamon rolls, banana bread, and coffee, Alison and Pastor Mike spoke intimately of their hesitations about coming to Nebraska and a rural community, the adjustments they had to make, but especially about how much they have come to love this community and the congregations of which they are a part. As a senior about one month away from regional and synod assignment, I have found words like these to be among the greatest gifts of this visit to rural America.

With Pastor Mike at the wheel, we set sail for the nearby town of Newman Grove (population 700) where we visited with Dave Lapka, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church. Among his many inspirational messages, Pastor Lapka explained to us a critical role that a pastor can play in a rural setting by being involved in the civil life of the community, asking the hard, challenging questions, and like John the Baptist, pointing the way toward “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

Our next port of call was to the Mid-Nebraska Lutheran Home, a long-term care facility also in Newman Grove that is owned collectively by the three Lutheran churches in the town. It is a pleasantly clean and “homey” establishment that serves a growing need in the area. The social services worker said that one challenge in his work is helping residents who have spent their entire lives on farms through the difficult and frustrating shift to living in a facility.

Becca demonstrates the emotion behind such memorable hymns as "Hold the Fort" and "Fight the Good Fight," as found in the Lutheran Home's hymnal.

Navigating through the rolling snowy fields of corn back to Albion, we enjoyed a tour of the Boone County Health Center, a 25-bed hospital that serves a 60-mile radius around Albion. In yet another stereotype-shattering experience, this tour showed us a clean, modern health care facility that would rival any of the huge hospitals in my home city of St. Louis. As social worker Valorie Schlizoski introduced us to several employees, the message became clear that perhaps the largest difference between this hospital and larger ones in more populated areas is the personal attention that the patients receive, because the workers very likely will know personally most, if not all, of the patients. The health center has eleven general practitioner physicians, and specialists come in from larger cities either weekly or monthly depending on the specialty. Rural communities may be a general state of decline, but this hospital delivered 120 babies in 2010 - a reality that should inspire joy and hope.

The Boone County Health Center sign.

This gorgeous stained glass window depicting the four seasons in Nebraska dominates the hospital chapel.

The main entrance to the hospital.

For lunch, we finally we made the long-awaited visit to RUNZA! For those of you who are not from Nebraska, a Runza is ground beef and cabbage wrapped in a roll and baked. Unfortunately, we all remained a bit leery of beef and no one ordered an actual Runza. The employee who filled our order insisted that we could not leave Nebraska without having a Runza, and so she brought us one for free, cut into bite-size pieces, of which most of us partook – though I’m sorry to report that none of us were particularly impressed. Maybe it’s an acquired taste?

While at Runza, we were joined for lunch by Kim Young, a reporter who interviewed us for an article in next week’s issue of the Albion News. They’ve promised to send us copies.

After lunch, Pastor Mike had us hitting the ground running again to make up for our “lost’ day on Monday, so we headed to the Boone County Schools for a tour and meeting with the superintendent, Cory Worrell, before spending time discussing the local economy, prospects for growth, and roles of the churches in town at the Albion City Hall with Shannon Landauer (economic development), Andy Devine (city administrator), and Jill Anding (chamber of commerce).

A quick tour of the Albion grain elevator, operated by Cargill, was next on the docket. If it seems that Cargill comes up a lot, we found out that it is the largest privately owned company in the world. The local elevator was built in 1979, and in 2010 it handled approximately 44 million bushels of corn, nearly all of which went to the ethanol plant just across a field.
Albion's Cargill grain elevator from a distance.

This is what 700,000 bushels of corn looks like.

This is what one pastor, one professor, and six seminarians in front of 700,000 bushels of corn looks like.

The hits just kept on coming. Our last and most… odiferous tour of the day was to the Niewohner feedlot, where cattle are fattened before being sent to the processing plant, most commonly to the very plant we visited in Schuyler the day before. The Niewohner’s hold around 80,000 head of cattle between their three feedlots. Mark Niewohner, operator of the lot we visited, showed us the different types of feed that the cattle eat, and then led us to watch the actual feeding process in which a specially designed truck drops the feed all along a trough that runs the length of the corrals. Mark was kind enough to spend some time with us after the tour to answer any questions we had.
A sample of the thousands of cattle corraled at the feedlot.

The grain loader invented by the Niewohner sons.

This cow won the popular bovine version of "King of the Mountain."

Cows doing what cows do at a feedlot.

Dinner with our host families was a treat, as always. Lorin and I are spending our last three days in Nebraska with John and Sheena Krohn, and their infant daughter Kasey. For dinner, Sheena prepared homemade potato and chicken noodle soups that we could not stop praising, so much so that she wrote out the recipes for us. They are a delightfully friendly couple with such refreshing good humor. As with nearly everyone we have spent time with in Nebraska, the Krohns have overwhelmed us with their depth of hospitality. What a blessing!

Meat, Greet, Retreat, and Eat

THURSDAY, JANUARY 13 – Ah… today’s main activity was the one we had probably most anticipated/dreaded of any in our entire journey: a tour of the Cargill meat processing facility in Schuyler (pronounced “skyler”), a community about an hour south of Albion. Our guide for most of the day was Ruth Boettcher, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Schuyler, who joined us for the tour. Upon exiting the van at the plant, we were immediately assaulted by an overpowering odor that one of our group described as “sickening,” and another pronounced as “chunky.” Mmmm.

A distant photo of the massive Cargill meat plant in Schuyler (photo from Wikipedia)

After signing in we were introduced to Christian Perversi, a Cargill manager who was our personal guide through the facility. I’m afraid that cameras were not allowed and thus I have no photos to share, and for the sake of brevity (I know, I know – none of this blog has been brief), I will omit some details that you will probably be just fine with leaving unsaid.

According to Christian, the Cargill plant at Schuyler processes 1.3 million head of cattle per year, or about 5,000 head per day. Per head, the process takes 500 gallons of water, of which 80% is reclaimed and recycled by the plant.

We began at the end of the process, so as to minimize the possibility of dragging harmful bacteria from the beginning of the process (you know what happens at the beginning, right?). The two and a half story high automated sorting and distribution system organizes packed boxes of meat and sends it to specific pallets based on the specifics of the particular customer’s order. Our vantage point for the rest of the tour would be from catwalks about 12 feet above the floor. Next was the cutting room, in which large portions of beef are gradually sliced by specially trained workers to create specific cuts of meat that are then vacuum-packed before being sent via conveyors into boxes and then into the automated system described a moment ago.

We were led next to the slaughter floor. When it comes to details of this area, it might suffice to say that “less is more.” Live cattle come in one end of the room, and hideless sides of beef go out the other end to the cutting room. We all watched the entirety of the process, and none of us left unaffected by what we saw. I believe we all were impressed by how humane the slaughter process was, how critically important animal welfare before the slaughter is to the company, and how extensively the meat is cleaned to minimize harmful bacteria. We could not say enough about the graciousness of our tour guide, Christian. He explained every process in detail, and told us in precise detail about what we were about to see, and offered us the option not to if we so chose. Some of us became more committed or recommitted to vegetarianism, while others appreciated knowing the process of how the beef they enjoy as food comes to be on their tables. Regardless, it was clear that we would all be taking a break from beef eating for a few days at least.

Shellshocked, not really hungry but in need of nourishment, we adjourned to the Schuyler Senior Center for lunch and a meeting of the local ministerial association. We found out at Cargill that 90% of the employees are of Hispanic origin, and of Schuyler’s population of 5500, 60% are Hispanic.

After visiting the Schuyler Chamber of Commerce and having a quick tour of Pastor Ruth’s lovely little church in Schuyler, we headed four miles north for an all-too-brief visit to a Benedictine retreat center. After the events of the day thus far, I think we all enjoyed the quiet beauty of the retreat center.
The entrance to the chapel at the Benedictine retreat center.

Lorin contemplates the mystery of the cross.

Becca and Brian looking reverently Catholic in front of St. Benedict's statue.

Boarding the Magic Bus once again, Lorin shuttled us the 25 minutes over to the city of Columbus (population 20,000) and Hope Lutheran Church, a mission start now entering its sixth year. We met with some lovely representatives from the church, including Linda Shepherd, a licensed minister serving as their pastor, and we were also joined by Chris McArdle, a personal friend who is a pastor at St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, whose members have been strongly supportive of the mission community. We were inspired by the faith, love, and yes, hope, that the members expressed that sustains their community and gives them the strength to continue despite small numbers.

Joined by Pastor Chris, we ended our day with a fabulous meal at a local restaurant, The Picket Fence, which not only provides a number of vegetarian options (which we were in the mood for!), but also serves slices of some incredible pies! It was a perfect ending to an exhausting day, with another promised for tomorrow.
The gang hunkers down after a great dinner at the Picket Fence.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Boarding School, Bishop, & Bundles of Energy in Genoa

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12 – Our Band of Brothers and Sisters mounted up this morning for a short trip to the town of Genoa (pop. 1000), about 25 minutes from Albion. The tour guide for the day would be Juliet Rasi, pastor of Genoa’s Augustana Lutheran Church. A native of Syracuse, New York, Pastor Juliet is two and a half years into her first call. With contagious excitement and energy, she spoke to us about the interesting challenges of coming to a small town as a single woman, and the first female pastor in Augustana’s 100 year history. The parishioners quickly won her over, and on our visit she simply could not talk enough about how much she loved her congregation and the people in the community, in spite of and often because of their eccentricities. Like Pastor Mike, Pastor Juliet is a wonderful lesson to all of those future pastors who have anxieties about moving to a small town.

She led us to visit the town co-op, where we learned how a “cooperative” works. Cooperatives centralize purchases, storage, and distribution of farm inputs for their members. By taking advantage of volume discounts and utilizing other economies of scale, supply cooperatives bring down members' costs. Supply cooperatives may provide seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, fuel, and farm machinery. Some supply cooperatives also operate machinery pools that provide mechanical field services (e.g., plowing, harvesting) to their members. And, cooperatives can provide the services involved in moving a product from the point of production to the point of consumption. Juliet explained that locals take a lot of pride in their cooperative and it is considered a center point of the town.

Next we visited the museum dedicated to the Genoa Indian School, which operated from 1884 to 1934. This was a boarding school to which the government and school operators would bring Native American children – often against their will – from their parents and villages in order to “civilize” them. It was a sad reality that we reflected upon, then tried to make the best of our visit.
The original blacksmith and sewing building.

The ethereal glow around Pastor Juliet reflects perfectly her energetic personality.

Our tour guide explains to Kadi and Patricia that the modern furnace is not in fact one of the artifacts on display.

Alpha rings the bell to signal the start of class.

Patricia is right at home at the teacher’s desk.

These kids never pay attention in class.

Lunch came next at the only restaurant in town, where we were graciously welcomed by the owners and employees and joined by the bishop of the Nebraska synod, David deFreese, another area pastor (and LSTC alum!) Bob Bryan, and Mitch the Synod Communications Guy. Bishop deFreese, a native of the Cornhusker state, warmly welcomed us and was very interested in our stories and backgrounds, and what we have learned and enjoyed about Nebraska. He shared with us his own impressions of rural ministry, and through his words his love of rural communities shone through clearly.

Unfortunately, ours may be the first immersion group to meet with the bishop and not take his photograph. We’re hoping Mitch the Synod Communications Guy can help us out of this embarrassing development!

Following lunch our gang adjourned to the spacious home of Eugene, one of Augustana’s prominent members. We entered to a living room filled with about 20 members from the church who had gathered to join us for coffee, conversation, and desserts. We each had the chance to personally visit with a number of folks, getting to know them, their stories and their experiences in the church, and to share our stories in turn. Approximately the last hour was spent in a “round table” discussion with all of us and the members, each asking pertinent questions about the other. We all enjoyed so much the relaxed and jovial atmosphere, and especially the incredible sense of community shared among the people and the obvious love they feel for their pastor, and she for them. It was a beautiful experience that I believe will stand as one of the highlights of our journey.
Our group had a splendid time with the Augustana members!

What a "Steel"

TUESDAY, JANUARY 11 – Things are happening pretty quickly here in Immersionland, and it’s getting more difficult for Yours Truly to keep up. After our day off on Monday, we were back to a rapid-fire schedule of events on Tuesday. We managed to dodge small snow drifts and challenging prairie winds en route to the city of Norfolk (pop. 23,000), which is actually pronounced, “Norfork.” This is not some language oddity but is due to the fact that the town originally named itself “North Fork,” but they just wrote “Nor-Fork” on the application to receive a post office and the government assumed they had simply misspelled “Norfolk.” Sigh.

Our first stop was to St. John’s Lutheran Church, where we had an inspirational conversation with the pastor, Edgar Schambach, about both his extensive experiences in rural ministry and also his methods of building up the spiritual dimension of a congregation.

After the delightful soup lunch served to us by the church, we joined up with Norfolk’s Dr. Jim Merritt who served as our tour guide for the rest of the day. The biggest event was a guided tour of a Nucor steel mill ( Nucor is one of the largest employers in Norfolk, and the company over all is a major force in the world steel production. It is also one of the largest recyclers in the world: the Nebraska location alone recycled over 1.9 billion pounds of scrap steel.

We had to wear special outfits for our protection. For some reason, they made me think of the old sitcom, “Laverne and Shirley.” “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Schlemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated.

We’re gonna do it! Give us any chance, we’ll take it. Give us any rule, we’ll break it.

We’re gonna make our dreams come true. Doin’ it our way!”

Okay – I’m alright now. Sorry about that. So… we were told that we couldn’t take photos inside the plant itself, and thus I urge you, dear readers, to check out the Nucor website to see depictions of the process. I can tell you that we saw virtually the entire process of recycling steel, from the raw scrap brought in on rail cars to its being melted at over 3,000 degrees F and finally re-formed into raw steel that will be turned into everything from hammers to wind mill parts. We all enjoyed the look behind the scenes of the production of something we use every day, and at an industry that is employs a significant percentage of this Nebraska town.

Next it was off to visit the offices and warehouse of the Orphan Grain Train.

The Orphan Grain Train is a fantastic organization begun in 1992 and based in Norfolk that ships clean clothing, food, and medical supplies to where they are most needed in America or around the world. More than 63,000,000 pounds of supplies have been shipped thus far. Their warehouse occupies space the size of several football fields.

To end the day, after driving by the boyhood home of Johnny Carson and making a quick stop at the mall, we had dinner at Leon’s Mexican restaurant with Becky Beckmann, who pastors a three-point parish not far from our home base of Albion and spoke frankly to us about the challenges, frustrations, and moments of joy and satisfaction in such a ministry. We drove back to Albion and spent our first evening with different host families. Another busy was planned for Wednesday. This is an “intensive class” after all!

“Nothin's gonna turn us back now,
Straight ahead and on the track now.
We're gonna make our dreams come true,
Doin' it our way.”

Today’s blog prayer:
Dear Lord, in my blog entries for the rest of this trip, please help me to come up with more relevant pop culture references than “Laverne and Shirley.” Amen.

The Flip Side of "Snowed In"

As reported on Monday, the rumors were flying that the four unisolated students were in fact themselves flying across the snow fields on snowmobiles and four-wheelers. Turns out the rumors were true. The photos speak for themselves:

Patricia takes a ride on the wild side.

Kaila gets instructions so she doesn't get the four-wheeler stuck in the snow.

Becca is all smiles, despite getting the four-wheeler stuck in the snow.

Patricia, Kaila, Becca and Alpha couldn't gush enough about the great "off day" they had.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back to the Future

We walked out the door this morning and faced a temperature of -7 degrees (not wind chill). Tonight the low temperature with wind chill is predicted to be -32 degrees. There is at least a foot of snow on the ground and it is drifting to two feet or more.

I have joked with friends about traveling to enjoy the “bright sunshine, warm breezes, palm trees and ocean views” in Nebraska over J-term. I’m not wrong; just a few years too late:

Eastern Nebraska, circa 75 million years ago.

In the late Cretaceous period, three quarters of Nebraska was covered by a body of water known as the Great Inland Sea. Prehistoric sharks and plesiosaurs prowled the depths. Pretty cool stuff. You should look it up.

Eastern Nebraska, circa 20 hours ago.

In the Holocene epoch of the Quaternary period of the Cenozoic era (read: right now), three quarters of Nebraska is covered by fields of various grasses and crops. Livestock and combines prowl the lengths and widths of the fields. This is pretty cool stuff too (though maybe not as cool as sharks and plesiosaurs). Our immersion team doesn’t need to look it up; we just look outside the windows.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snowed In

Be careful what you wish for…

Yesterday, several of us expressed our disappointment that we did not have the chance for much downtime to process our visit thus far, nor a lot of time to spend with our host families.

Then it snowed… and snowed.

10-12 inches of snow later, with more on the way and “blustery” winds predicted, we found ourselves restricted to our guest quarters with plenty of downtime and the opportunity for considerable time with our host families. Lorin and I have been staying in the beautiful guest house of Mark and Bonnie Wagner. We accompanied Bonnie to the village of Petersburg after breakfast to collect some groceries before the predicted wind arose. The Wagners reported that when the snow builds up and the wind blows, drifting snow can become a significant hazard. We made it to town with no difficulty, perused the small grocery store (well-stocked with considerable variety of products), then in search of postcards we visited the wonderful and charming Leifeld’s, the hardware/furniture/clothing/toy/knickknack/and-just-about-everything-else store that one often finds in small towns. We found our postcards, and visited with the owner Jim Leifeld - who has lived there his entire life - about the town and some of its religious history. Lorin was pleased to purchase a snazzy pair of new gloves:

Is he showing off his gloves, or acting like a mime?

Then we headed back to the ranch, where we spent a lovely afternoon enjoying the silence of falling snow, bulls across the road slowly turning from black to white and quietly munching their hay, and soaking in the chance to simply be in Nebraska.

Breakfasting bulls.

Brian demonstrates that in a rural setting, sometimes the pastor will have to shovel the walkway.

We heard a rumor that some others in our group might be snowmobiling today. We’ll check into it and report back soon. Hopefully, there will be photos!

Worship, Injured Soldier Benefit... and Pterodactyl

SUNDAY, JANUARY 9 – We awoke this morning to a light blanket of snow covering the ground. From our respective guest quarters we all headed into the town of Albion to worship at Zion Lutheran Church. We chatted with attendees of the early service and then met with around 20 members during the Sunday School hour. They all very graciously introduced themselves and shared some of their history in the area, what they loved about being in a rural setting, and what they looked for in a pastor, and then listened with appreciation to our questions and responses.

We attended the 10:30 worship service, and some of us noted the many representatives of different age groups, including what felt like “half the congregation” who ran to the front for the children’s sermon.

For lunch, we shared pizza and enlightening conversation with eight members of the Luther League, also known as the high school youth group. We told our call stories in brief, then listened to the youth explain to us what it’s like for them to live in a small town, what their goals and dreams are for the future, and what they do for fun. As a demonstration of the latter, they introduced us to the circular interactive games of “Ninja” and “Pterodactyl.” Trying to explain either of them in the space of this blog would require another entry at least… suffice it to say that hilarity ensued and a great bonding moment was shared by all.

Patricia and Alpha join in on playing "Pterodactyl." You'll just have to look it up.

After lunch, interim senior pastor Bob Johnson shared with us some insights and experiences from his 50 years of pastoring.

With the schedule changing nearly each hour as the snow continued to fall, Pastor Mike elected to take us to visit Albion’s funeral home, owned and operated by Ron Levander. Ron and his wife Mary shared with us many of the joys and challenges in the funeral home business, including some of the special considerations found in small towns. Ron tenderly explained that a significant difference between operating this business in a small town versus a large town or city is that in a town like Albion, where “everyone knows everyone,” he will almost always know personally the person who has died and their family and friends. This fact adds another element to the personal service provided by the funeral home that one is hard-pressed to find in an area of high population.

A brief respite back at the church, then a ride through the still-accumulating snow to the village of Petersburg (population approx. 300), where we ate a fried fish dinner at a benefit for Neil Claar, a local US Army soldier who was seriously wounded in Afghanistan by a suicide bomber. Despite the cold and snow (the latter of which was getting to be more than our van could take), the place was packed. Pastor Mike told us that Neil received a hero’s welcome when he finally returned home. Rural people are often proudly patriotic and treating a returning soldier with the respect that they have for Neil is something that they are honored to do.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Fresh Milk and Fellowship

SATURDAY, JANUARY 8 - From this entry’s title, you might be able to guess where we were headed next: yes, a working dairy. Considered small by dairy standards, the King Brothers Dairy Farm has 70 Holstein cows which are milked twice a day. The family-run multi-faceted operation also includes a number of angus cattle to be eventually sold for meat and acreage for raising crops as well. Our purpose in visiting was to see the dairy end of things, and so after fussing over several adorable three and four day old calves, we watched the real action take place. Ten massive Holsteins at a time were led into the milking bay, where they were hooked up to the vacuum milking device that monitors the milk flow and automatically stops when the flow slows so as not to harm the animal. The milk travels into a pump which then sends it to a refrigerated tank in the next room, where the product is rapidly chilled and held until it is picked up by a tanker truck every couple of days.

Kaila made many friends of the bovine variety by promising, "I'm not going to eat you!"

Mr. King and his sons were extremely gracious and open, inviting us into the milking bay to try our hand, literally, at the process itself, each of us getting a taste of what it was like to milk a cow the old-fashioned way.

Got milk, Kadi?

And speaking of getting a taste… Mr. King at last poured for us from the holding tank a cup full of the freshest milk any of us ever had; as we each drank from the cup, we shared a moment that was beautifully Eucharistic, a communion between ourselves, the animal, the land, and indeed the Divine spirit that is in with, and under it all.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite all that… truth be told, it weirded me out a little. But it was good milk, and it was without a doubt a special moment.

And finally, like the – ahem - “overly eager” altar guild member, Kaila happily consumed the remainder of the cup with no objections from the crew. Grateful for the day but increasingly wearied, we piled back into the van for the return trip to the church and on to dinner with our host families. SalĂșd!

Bottoms up!

History and Helping Hands

SATURDAY, JANUARY 8 - Following lunch we made our first trip to the town proper of Albion (population approx. 1200), the center axis of our entire journey and the home of Zion Lutheran Church, where Pastor Mike is the assistant pastor (not to be confused with Immanuel-Zion, mentioned earlier). Our first stop was at the Boone County Historical Museum, closed for the winter but opened especially for our group (but not heated for our group – it might have been colder inside than outside). Warmed by his encyclopedic knowledge, local historian Paul Hosford appeared unaffected by the frosty conditions and regaled us with fascinating stories about the Native American tribes from the area, the early European settlers, and several aspects of Albion’s changing social and technological conventions over the decades.

Alpha hasn't found a keyboard yet on this trip that he can't resist, even at the museum.

Lorin inquires about what's for dinner in the museum's kitchen display.

Then it was back into the Mystery Machine for a visit to the Boone County food pantry, impressively well-stocked and skillfully organized and managed by the enthusiastic Nancy Krohn, who explained to us the magnificent support the pantry receives from the churches of the community as it serves the needy of greater Albion (below). May God grant them continued success!

Corn and Cold

Some days on this trip are bound to be so packed with activities that limiting their description to a single blog entry will prove impossible.

This was the first of those days.

We began by breakfasting with our host families, who then delivered us to Immanuel-Zion Church where Pastor Mike showed us a very comprehensive and helpful episode of “Modern Marvels” that was all about corn: how it’s grown and harvested; the difference between sweet corn that we eat as kernels and “dent” corn that is processed for just about everything else, from ethanol to plastic to corn flakes cereal; what genetic modification has meant to modern corn production; and the debate over high fructose corn syrup. Present at the viewing were Paul and Jeryl Kettelson, corn and soybean farmers who are members at Immanuel-Zion. The Kettelsons shared their thoughts and experiences related to farming and in contrast with the video, giving a real human voice to the challenges and realities of modern farming.

Soon we standing on the very land the Kettelsons own and farm, listening to Paul explain their methods of irrigation that keep nearly every drop of water on their land and prevent any runoff that would remove the valuable topsoil, observing the remnants of the corn and soybean harvest, and getting up close and personal with the Kettelson’s machinery, their combine and tractors. They treated us to a splendid lunch in their beautiful home while we heard tell tales about the county fair and the history of the Immanuel-Zion congregation.

Above: Paul Kettelson (in red coat) explains the basics of water, soil and planting to the students in the middle of a corn/soybean field.

The immensity of one of the Kettelson's tractors is evident!

And it was cold. Really cold. Just take my word for it. I won’t say more about the cold right now, because if the weather predictions are correct, you’ll be reading plenty more about the cold next week… there’s a cold snap coming that is worthy of writing home about. Brrrrr.