Welcome Home, Wayne!

Whether living in the country or owning a home in town, neighbors make all the difference.  We have been blessed in this neighborhood with great folks.  They freely let my kids pet their ponies, check on their chickens, and feed a lamb with a baby bottle.  3 different specifies at 3 different hobby farms.  We try to reciprocate with some big things (using our big machinery for getting a neighbor who suffered a stroke to the hospital in a blizzard) and some small things (just today I called to let my neighbor know some Jehovah’s Witnesses were about to knock on her door — that’s what neighbors are for!).

Yet up until 2 weeks ago, our neighborhood had a shadow hanging over it.  Our sheep farmer neighbor, Wayne Klumper, was not around.  He had been in a terrible motorcycle accident in June and was fighting for his life in Sioux Falls, an hour away.


One of the area sheep farmers who pitched in to help was Don Basche. The reason I have this photo is he also helped me in a pinch: I needed a “Roast Beast” to complete our Who Feast Christmas tradition. We ate antelope steaks.

His family kept the entire community up-to-date with Caring Bridge posts.   People stepped up to the plate to do his daily sheep chores, and a host of other things to keep the farm running.  Hundreds bought T-shirts that showed their support with the word “HEALS”.  People just kept praying for a miracle.  I would not have been surprised if my 2-year-old’s first sentence was, “Please heal Wayne Klumper, Amen!”.

My favorite story of Wayne Klumper dates back nearly 8 years ago when I was 7 months pregnant with Vince.  There had been a storm overnight on Saturday and we had planned to attend a baptism in the Cities on Sunday morning.  We woke up to discover HEIFERS EVERYWHERE (your blood pressure just skyrocketed if you are a dairy farmer) and it is an extra concern because we live within a mile of US Highway 60.  Wayne, from his residence right on Highway 60, spotted us in distress and came to help.  He was very insistent that I had no business running around and I ought to drive his 4-wheeler while he guided heifers on foot.  This just speaks to the kind of man he is:  kind, thoughtful, compassionate, giving.


This a picture of our neighbor’s yard right across the road. Wayne keeps a dozen sheep here every summer and typically comes to supplement with corn every night when the pasture can’t keep up with the sheep. We are patiently waiting for when Wayne travels down this drive again!

Wayne’s healing is nothing short of a miracle.  Weeks passed with no evidence that a recovery was in sight.  Even when he began to make progress and pull out of his coma, everybody was hesitant to be overly optimistic.  As he began therapy, he endured many setbacks, but pushed his way through and simply wowed the doctors and therapists.  In the end, it just comes down to the fact that the Lord has work for Wayne left to do on this Earth.

Every single night that Wayne was in the hospital, his wife, Dea, was right there with him.  As we would drive home at night from trips to the YMCA (where Wayne served as program coordinator for years and years) pool or Pee-Wee Baseball game, the kids and I would look over at their farm.  It was always the same….dark.  Never a light on in the house.  A somber reminder that Wayne was fighting for his life in a hospital far away.

Now, when we drive by, the lights are ALWAYS on.  Klumpers are back in the neighborhood!  It makes me smile EVERY time.  Perhaps I should buy them a gift certificate to the Electric Cooperative.  Welcome home, Wayne!

To see a video of Wayne walking out of the hospital after his 2.5 month stay, click here.


Opening Tear Ducts and Chopping Silage

Two big things going at the “Vander Kooi Ranch” right now.

1.  Preparing for an eye surgery

2.  Chopping corn silage


See that little tear? That has been constant since she was born.

Ava’s right tear duct has been ‘clogged’ since she was born.  Tomorrow morning, Ava and I will leave our house at 4:00 a.m. to be in the Sioux Falls Surgical Tower at 5:30.  Dr. Tufty (who impressed me right from the start of our first visit….amazing how a doctor can either turn you off or develop trust within minutes) will perform what will hopefully be a quick and uncomplicated procedure.  The downside is that it involves anesthesia, but I’m trying to remain positive that she will be safe and the side effects minimal.  Huge shout-out to my sister-in-law, Anna, for having Vince over tonight and my mother-in-law, Deb, for taking Liv.  Kids needed to be ‘farmed out’ because Joe will be up and gone long before the bus comes…..

Chopping silage.  The crew has been at it from 6 a.m.-10:30 p.m. for a little over a week now.  Joe has a little prep work to do before they begin in the morning and checks on stuff some when he finishes at night, so that means he has been home for less than 7 hours a day for a lot of days.  Thank goodness for Sundays!  God must have considered corn silage when He asked us to rest on His day.


My photograph was a winner in a contest a few years back. Vince, 2 years old, cleaning the chopper.

Chopping silage involves taking almost the entire corn stalk, ear and all, and chopping it into tiny pieces.  Then, it is blown by a spout, into a semi that is driving beside it.  The semi is quickly filled and he hauls it to the place where a pile is being built.  Another semi pulls in, and this routine goes on and on and on.  For our dairy farm, 1200 cows and 400 youngstock, it takes about 9 days, working 16 hours days.  Also, we do some custom (which means people hire you to do theirs) chopping, and so my husbands phone has been ‘exploding’ with calls from other farmers (and their nutritionists) who feel the more they call, the quicker we will somehow finish ours.  It is important to chop corn silage with enough moisture so it ferments correctly.


This photo is actually from haylage, but the part of the semi driving beside the chopper is the same.

When finished, the silage is covered with some huge white plastic ‘sheets’ and then tires thrown on top to prevent the wind from blowing it away.  The pile has to last us until next harvest, so it is crucial to have enough.  If you have any questions, please comment below.

While I miss Joe dearly, and so do the kids, I love this season because:

1.  I make a plan and stick to it.  Other times of the year, if I ask Joe to watch the kids for an hour here or there, he says, “There is an 80% chance I can”.  Hmmm, that leaves me hanging.  Now, I just plan on no Joe.

2.  I love to cook, and feeding 7-10 men is good for that!  My mother-in-law (I sincerely apologize for those of you who do not like their mother-in-law, mine is fantastic) and I take turns making sure they are fed.  Even one of Joe’s sisters did lunch the other day.  Many of the men in our crew do not get home-cooked food often, so they are always polite and thankful.

3.  After months and months of praying, it is just great to have stuff to harvest.

One part of the whole process that I DON’T enjoy is that Joe quits shaving his beard.  He is just too exhausted when he comes home at night.  He is blonde and his beard grows in red (with some white, I might add).   Nope, no way am I posting a photo of that!


Support Redhead Creamery

Really, now, who doesn’t love cheese?  That’s what I thought.  And, really, who doesn’t love supporting small-town America and a seeing a young gal’s dream come true?  Read on.Image

A friend of mine, Alise Sjostrom, is this young gal.  She’s in her mid 20’s and she’s a wife, mom, and dream-chaser.  She happened upon a farmstead cheese operation when she was 16, and decided cheese-making was how she intended to be a part of her family’s dairy farm when she graduated college.


Alise and I getting to know each other over a glass of wine at a cooking class.

Building a cheese plant takes a ton of money and support.  Her family is asking for everyone’s help.  She has started a Kickstarter campaign.  If you’ve never heard of it, Kickstarter is a way to raise money for your business, band, movie, whatever….but you have to achieve 100% of your goal or you get nothing.  They have just hit 50% of their goal and have 20 days left to achieve the other 50%.


Here’s why I supported them:

1.  I’m all about dreaming.

2.  I believe she has done her research.

3.  They are totally looking at this project though the lens of “what-does-this-mean-for-my-family-in-the-long-term”.  That means a lot to me.

Can you imagine growing up on a farm where your family milked cows and then made cheese? Super neat.  To find out more about their project and watch their video, click here.  You can learn all kinds of neat aspects of their plan, including how they plan to use the whey to help fuel their digester that makes electricity to put back on the grid.  As for me, I just supported them and can’t wait for my pound of cheese (yep, there are prizes for funding them!).


Does this make you think of some plan that has been floating around in your head and you’d really like to kickstart?  I think my kids, without my help, could come up with at least 10 ideas.  Kids are fantastic that way.  I have always thought the Nobles County fair could use a cheese curd stand.  Hmmm….where could I source the cheesecurds?