Guest Post: See You at the Nebraska State Fair

My dear friend, Sarah Hartman, is the “Fun Finder.”  She enjoys life and treats it as an adventure waiting to happen.  Since our family is not going to make it to the Nebraska State Fair this year, I was excited when Sarah was willing to share her experiences.  (And she took great pictures too!)  There are three more days left to have your own adventure at the fair.  Evidently this year The Nebraska State Fair is charging admission, but most of the parking is free.

Grand Island has definitely done its part to make the fair a worthwhile experience.



These were such tiny, adorable goats at the petting zoo.

 Unusual animals at the Hedricks Petting Zoo.  Thinking this might be a Zebu (?).


We loved the exotic bird show!  Very interesting and entertaining!


They’ve done a good job with the Sea Lion show both years, but fortunately they’ve changed some things to keep it interesting for us returnees.



The dog show was very impressive as well.  The trainer says he is the only one in the nation to work 5 dogs at one time.


The skyline.  $3 one way – not very well located as it doesn’t really get you anywhere, i.e. save the walk.  But it looks cool!


Lots of corny slapstick humor in this shoot-em-up, mostly family friendly western show, but they did make me laugh!



Gotta love the free pedal tractors at the Case/New Holland booth.


Another favorite at the fair.  (And yes, real liquid does squirt out if you have the “correct” form).


I didn’t even get pictures of all the rest.  The birthing pavilion had a new baby lamb, lots of little piggies, chicks, and a cow soon to deliver.  The SAC museum put on a great science show for the kids.  We also watched a little of the cattle dog trials that were going on that day- very interesting to see such well trained dogs.  We missed the racing pigs and the pirate show this year.  It was too hot, but we usually walk through and look at all the animals – horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, etc.

We also love the (air-conditioned) exhibition halls – lots of activities at various booths for the kids to learn about agriculture and products in Nebraska.  Then there is the 4-H building with all of the prize winning entries and more fun kids activities.  Not to mention the free combine rides around the horse race track, a free shuttle that circles the entire grounds, the Midway amusement rides, a scavenger hunt with prizes, strolling entertainment, vendors, tractors, parades, concerts, and lots of yummy fair food.  There is usually way more than we can fit into one day!  But that it why we keep coming back year after year.

P.S. Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your day with us!  A note from Gretchen on another week-end activity.  Yesterday when I updated my Odyssey Through Nebraska Facebook page with Nebraska week-end activities,  I mentioned the Living History Days at Fort Atkinson that are happening today.  My friend, Nora, mentioned to me that she has been there several times in the past, and she said that the experience is amazing.   So, if you have time to go a little bit north of Omaha, their re-eanctments are highly recommended.

Categories: Agriculture, Annual Events, Frontier Trails | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tractor and Other Such Farming Books in Nebraska

Perhaps touring a farm is not in your near future.  But you can definitely read more about farming and agriculture, no matter where you are .

If You’re Not From the Prairie … by David Bouchard

Tractor Day by Candice Ransom

 Tractor by Craig Brown (beautiful illustrations!)

A Cow’s Alfafa-bet by Woody Jackson

Chicken, Chicken, Duck by Nadia Krilanovich (animal sounds)

Heartland by Diane Siebert (lovely!)

There is absolutely no educational value in this next book, but the entertainment value is high.  This is one of my 8 year old’s absolutely favorite books.  Still.

Farmer McPeepers and His Missing Milk Cows by Katy Duffield

P.S. If you live in the Lincoln area, I have a longer list of book titles that our library has for checkout.   Please just e-mail for the titles.   Many of the books were rather expensive to purchase now.  For simplicity’s sake, I used Amazon book links, so you could see the covers as well as the titles.

Categories: Agriculture, Recommended Reading | 2 Comments

Old McDonald Road Tour and More: Visiting Farms in Nebraska

Has this week’s farm nostalgia made you want to visit one of your own?  You must want to be an agritourist.  I found out that agritourism is a growing business, especially as people continue to move away from farms and into towns and cities.  We are more separated from the land than we used to be.


Nelson Farm in Merrick County, NE (picture source: Wikipedia Commons)

Nebraska does have several agritourist opportunities.  You can actually go to Pawnee County and visit two different sustainable farms if you sign up for one of the suggested Nebraska farm and ranch tours.  The other two tour possibilities involve visiting a Niobrara elk and buffalo ranch.  (And yes, while both often involve livestock, there is a BIG difference between being a farmer and a rancher!)  You can choose to stay at guest ranches across Nebraska the next time you need overnight lodging (as opposed to a hotel!)

If you long for bygone days, you would enjoy visiting Wessel’s Living History Farm just south of York, Nebraska.  While admission is charged, the experience seems to be educational and entertaining, with explanation given as to how farming has changed over the course of the last century.  Here is a description of the experience (directly from their website.

Wessels Living History Farm

The 145-acre farm now features the home David Wessels shared with his brother. It also features a red, timber frame barn, corn crib, machine shed, garage, chicken coop and a large windmill typical of the 1920’s. These structures were chosen to begin the “living history farm” experience. To the south, there is a modern tractor display building with many of the tractors, stationary engines and combine that Dave Wessels restored. Surrounding the buildings is a modern farm operation that is still producing crops.

Another former farm with a touch of history is located in Nebraska City.  Arbor Day Farm has a conservation focus.  While they grow, they want to sustain the land.  Not exactly a traditional farm, but you can definitely have some agricultural experience.

Prairieland Dairy  (tours are available for $2/person – reservations required other than for their annual dairy days each summer)

Kranz Dairy Farm near Lincoln

Farmstead First (2 small family farms combine forces – they especially work with making cheese and other organic products)

I found about this last opportunity from a blog reader (thanks!)  Love the concept of eating food that is grown locally in Nebraska!

2013 Dig Deeper Farm Tour

I am sure that I missing many possibilities in Nebraska.  If you know of any more options, please e-mail me at OR simply post a comment below.

Categories: Agriculture, Frontier Trails, Lincoln, Pioneer Country, Prairie Lakes, Region or City, Sandhills, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Friday Flashback: Harvesting Community

Unless you happen to live in the middle of the boondocks or a ranch some place where you own half the county, you probably can look at your window and see neighbors.  As farmground continues to be divided into acreages or housing developments, we live in closer proximity to each other than ever.  Yet despite shorter distances to people, I think we have lost a bit of the sense of community.

Even though over a century ago, people were more spread out, I think they relied on their neighbors more by necessity.  I enjoy visiting with my neighbors and may occasionally borrow an egg or the proverbial cup of sugar, but I have never asked them to help me wash all of my windows or to put up salsa/tomatoes from my garden.  Large tasks where company and assistance would be appreciated.  We are expected to do such things independently.  Back then, they could not have completed certain monumental tasks by themselves, and maybe they were better off for having to rely on each other.


A century ago, farmers did not have all of the big machinery that exists today.  So, when the crops were ready to come in from the fields, everyone would rotate between farms to get the job done.  Whether threshing or shelling, farmers would form volunteer crews and travel from place to place, helping each other out.

Threshing crews would use giant threshers to separate the wheat kernels from the straw.  For a long time, corn was picked by hand, but eventually a corn picking machine was invented.  But then the corn would still need to be shelled.  So, different men would travel around with “shellers”, removing the corn from the cob.  I have been told that my Grandpa used to have a machine like that – he would venture out to different homesteads and be a part of that process.

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This would involve weeks of long, hard days.  After all, if your neighbors helped you with harvest, you would want to assist them as well.  And just in case you think that women were not a part of harvest, they were the ones required to feed all of the workers throughout the long days of threshing and picking.  Supposedly this was almost like a cooking contest – the amount, type and tastiness of the food was an indicator of just what type of a farm wife you were.  Even the kids were required to help.  They would prepare the meals, haul water and even pick up the chaff left behind.  (And maybe sneak in a little fun with the neighbors also.)

Our inventions and “progress” have made us a bit isolated from both this amount of hard work and time together.  (Although maybe not the long days.)  We obviously cannot and would not want to go back to threshing machines.  But maybe we need to find a way to work together more often.

Thankfully many farming communities do come around and help each other through times of crisis.    Small farming communities will band together to help a farmer who is ill or injured and assist during harvest.  (They even announce such intentions in the paper!)  And there is also Farm Rescue: an official organization that accepts nominations of farms where families need to receive help to survive a crisis (health or weather related), and they will assist with harvesting or planting up to 1,000 acres.   All of this is mostly done by volunteers.

So, possibly the concept of community is simply altered and not just forgotten.  And maybe we need to all learn to take the first step in asking for assistance, whether our project is big or small.  Just as the farmers of decades past realized, many hands definitely make lighter work.

P.S. I debated on discussing more of the technical aspects of harvest.  But, I was afraid to embarrass my family members who are still farmers with my obvious lack of expertise.  I did enjoy reading about the threshing process.  And about the original corn huskers.  Here are sources that I would recommend.

Nebraska, Where Dreams Grow – a book by Dorothy Weyer Creigh.

This title covers many interesting scenarios involving the first 50 years of Nebraska being a state.

History of Nebraska Farming: a site about Wessels Living History Farm.  Outstanding information, including videos of farmers explaining what they remember about threshing and farming long ago.

Vintage Farm Tool Guessing Game: my kids are going to LOVE this!

Categories: Agriculture, Flashback Fridays, Nebraska History | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Riding” Tractors in the City (of Lincoln)

Did you guess our location from my pictures yesterday?

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Place at a Glance

Name/Location Larsen Tractor Test and Power Museum in Lincoln (UNL East Campus)
Website/Facebook UNL Tractor Museum; Larsen Tractor Museum on Facebook
Open hours Tuesday-Friday from 9 to 4; Saturdays from 10-2; closed major holidays
What to Know Mostly stroller accessible – (stairs to get inside but could use alt. entrance?)
Cost Donation
Parking Lot directly north of the white museum building
Group Tours Can definitely happen; smaller groups may work better
Museum Manners Do not climb on any tractors without permission (different guides have different expectations); no running as cement floors can be slippery
Recommended Ages About age 2 + to be able to sit on the tractors and really enjoy the fun

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One of the older tractors in the Museum.  Not exactly the same Ford Motor Company, but somebody happily borrowed the name.  Then produced some shoddy tractors.

A little history … the word “tractor” was not used in the general population until around 1906.  Around this time, they were being introduced to farmers and would have been widely successful.  Except for the fact that the machines broke down … A LOT!  A man named Wilmot Crozier had personal experience with this, so when he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature, he helped to pass the the Nebraska Tractor Bill.  This law required every tractor to be tested before being sold to the public.

This law was extended to other states.  In just under a century, 2,000 + tractors have been tested at the Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory.  As this is the only test spot in the continental U.S., all tractor models must come here before they go to market.  This testing is usually done, partially by agricultural students, in the fall and winter.  The Tractor Museum Visitor’s Guide gives more details on the history and background of the tractor testing.

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The tractor test track is in the background.  Since the 0.4 mile track was not being used, the museum guys encouraged the kids to run the distance instead. I probably looked silly, but I jogged right along with them. 🙂

Although the museum part has been open for 15 years, the place was not exactly on my radar until I had boys.  We have now visited many times, and something about climbing on tractors never gets old for them.

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The huge room is filled with mostly tractors of every shape, color and size.  Some are easier to climb on and a few are more for just looking and enjoying.

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One of the few non-tractor machines.  A college professor used to drive this beauty daily to work.  And this car is only for looking, not for getting inside!

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One of my favorite thing about this museum is the retired gentlemen who give the tours.  My grandpa was a farmer, and as many of the guides are retired from farming in some way, these men remind me of conversations I had with my Grandpa Gus.  This gentleman had lived on a farm in his younger days, so he was telling my older boys all about his experiences driving these tractors when he was growing up.

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My daughter enjoyed the experience just as much as her brothers!

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This is the tractor that the kids are always free to climb in and “drive.”

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The room full of old-fashioned farming implements.  We will be exploring this sometime during the school year when we are studying pioneers.

P.S. For whatever reason, trying to find the exact location of the museum on UNL East Campus was a bit confusing to me as the white building is not directly on a main road.  Until I realized that the vertical stack is nearby.  Now I look for this every time and drive right there!

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The building directly behind the museum to the north.

Categories: Agriculture, Lincoln, Lincoln "Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown", Metro, Nebraska History, Wordless Wednesdays: Where Were We in Nebraska? | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Where Were We (In Nebraska?)

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Categories: Agriculture, Wordless Wednesdays: Where Were We in Nebraska? | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Tractors, Travel and Tomorrow


As I continue my farm week, I am thinking tonight about tractors.  My parents have a couple out at their house including the antique Farmall tractor of my uncle’s that my Dad helped to restore.  (I’ll try to post some more pictures on my Facebook page soon!)  The tractor that he has had the longest is the one that he used to use to plow out his acreage driveway, along with many of his neighbors.  That stopped a few years ago when he realized the advantage of putting a blade on his truck and riding inside away from the elements.  But there is just something so American/Nebraskan about tractors.  I can’t see myself ever getting to drive one (and considering as a teenager I once “crashed” the riding mower into the power generators box knocking out electricity for a few hour maybe that is a good idea to keep me away from that high springy seat, but that is a story for another day!)

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Here are a few other people who feel the same way about tractors. (All quotes were found at Brainy Quotes.)

That’s the great thing about a tractor. You can’t really hear the phone ring.
Jeff Foxworthy

My father kept me busy from dawn to dusk when I was a kid. When I wasn’t pitching hay, hauling corn or running a tractor, I was heaving a baseball into his mitt behind the barn… If all the parents in the country followed his rule, juvenile delinquency would be cut in half in a year’s time.
Bob Feller

Maybe I should just go home and ride my tractor.
Chuck Grassley


We did go places as a family growing up.  Usually they involved the site where my Dad had meetings – Mom would take us shopping, then later our whole family would go to a baseball game.  Where my sister and I would bring magazines, much to my brother’s chagrin.  This is rather ironic now since we both actually really like baseball.

I did not completely realize how much my traveling changed me.  That is until I started teaching my own children.  And when I had the opportunity to teach a weekly middle school geography class once a week.  I began to recognize how much experiencing other places impacted me.  While our travel with four kids is a bit limited due to budget and time constraints, I can still enjoy nearby adventures with our kids (another reason why this blog has been fun for me!)

The focus of my geography class started with terminology, world wonders and more, then moved to the world, then the United States, then Nebraska and Lincoln.  For our week of studying the capital, we used an excerpt from the Lincoln Journal Star to assist in our learning.  Several years ago, they ran a weekly series identifying different places in Lincoln, only showing just a glimpse.  You were supposed to try to guess where the pictures were taken.  I tried to find a link for that, but since the series ran in 2009, the link seems to be long gone.  So, I took a picture of one of the sheets, just so you can see the idea.

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These pictures ran on Sunday February 22, 2009.  Pictures were taken by Erin Duerr for the Lincoln Journal Star


Until I started writing a history/travel blog, I did not realize how much my photography skills were going to need to grow.  In the past, I noticed my blogging friends sent out a post featuring “Wordless Wednesdays.”  I was amazed that they could say so much with just pictures.

I decided that I would also like to start doing that, at least some weeks.  But with a twist.  I am going to take the idea from the Journal and try that on this blog.  Rather than showing you complete pictures of where we have been, I am just going to show you glimpses.  Then we will see who can guess correctly.  I wish I could offer you grand prizes, but mainly it will just be the satisfaction of knowing you determined where we had visited just by seeing the pictures.  🙂

Anyway, sometimes the locations will be obvious, but other weeks they may be trickier.  I guess it will depend on what angles I manage to capture with my fledgeling photography skills.  I am excited to keep improving – maybe someday I will even be considered a shutterbug rather than just a bookworm!  (Notice my insect terminology – obviously 3 out of my 4 kids are boys!)

Categories: Agriculture, Where to Begin | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Day on the Farm

My grandpa was a farmer.  My two uncles have also farmed at various times.  (Three of my great grandpas were also farmers, although I never met any of them! 🙂  )  But I do think that is rather pathetic that my first time ever to ride on a combine was right before I turned 39 years old.  Pretty sad that I waited so long.

Not like I didn’t spend time out on the farm growing up – we were out there several times a year.  I have many memories of going out to “put up” sweet corn (more on that later this week!).  So, I don’t know if we never were out at harvest time or if my uncles were too busy working to drive a girl around.

Last fall I asked my uncle if I could remedy that.  So, we went out, picked up my aunt and met him at his nephew’s farm, and we all took turns riding along inside the combine.  Watching the corn be sucked up in the chute was rather cool – I am sure my contained excitement was rather amusing to the farmers who watch this all of the time!





I would imagine that riding along in air conditioned combine is a bit different than farming once was.  But  while they may be cooler, I do think that the technology has also required longer days.  You can get more done, so you have more fields to do.


We also went by the homestead and to go see the cows.  Yep, we’re city folk.  My kids liked it all, other than the farm dog that had a bit too much energy for my littler ones.  After the men needed to actually get back to work (we were slowing them down a bit), we headed out to home of my cousin, his wife and kids.  This was the point at which my kids were convinced that maybe we should relocate.


Especially after they rode on the 3 wheeler around the farm!  I am so thankful that we had family that allowed us to hang out for the day.  (We love you!) Sometime soon I hope to share about some area farms that allow visitors because everyone in Nebraska should get to have a day on the farm.

Categories: Agriculture, Pioneer Country, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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