Category Archives: Reflections

My Hero

Every Veteran’s Day is an opportunity to thank those who bravely served to keep our Country free. My husband and I spent some time together late Monday night viewing Facebook posts together of our military family and friends; all of us reflecting on past deployments. There is something about the comaraderie developed during difficult times, yet it is good to reflect on the people who were there with us during those times. Thankful for the “battle buddies” in our lives, for the military members and families who have sacrificed so much through the years and continue to do so, and for my hero! Here’s a few photos reflecting on Chris’ deployment to Afghanistan.

A corn field.  Corn seed is spread by hand-it's not placed into the ground-so that is one project the ADT team will be working on teaching this spring.  Things such as hand-planting into the soil and hybrid corn could result in significant yield increases!  Typical ear size resulting from fields such as this is maybe a few inches long.  This is open pollinated corn.  Tall hybrid corn was introduced in some regions of Afghanistan, but the Taliban would hide in it, so a shorter hybrid was introduced in those regions of Afghanistan instead.   Photo by Chris Rees.

Chris in an open pollinated corn field. The team taught the people how to plant seed in the ground vs. scattering on the surface. The result between this and hybrid seed was larger ears with more yield in which the people brought their corn to the next Team to show them.  Photo by Chris Rees.

This photo was taken at a Women's Development Center where women and their children have a safe place to stay.  This is a greenhouse where vegetables are grown and this little boy kept picking cucumbers and giving them to the soldiers so they got a picture together.  The cucumbers were returned to the Center.  Photo via Chris Rees.

This photo was taken at a Women’s Development Center where women and their children have a safe place to stay. This is a greenhouse where vegetables are grown and this little boy kept picking cucumbers and giving them to the soldiers so they got a picture together. The cucumbers were returned to the Center. Photo via Chris Rees.

Part of the Ag team holding a banner with the NE ADT2 logo at the Demonstration farm.

Part of the Ag team holding a banner with the NE ADT2 logo at the Demonstration farm.

My soldier and me at the Boss Lift for Nebraska National Guard Agribusiness Development Training

My soldier and me at the Boss Lift for Nebraska National Guard Agribusiness Development Training prior to NE ADT2 deployment. It was such an honor to watch them train. So thankful for and proud of you Chris!!! You are my hero!!!

Public Issues Leadership Development Experience

As President-elect of the Nebraska Agricultural Agents Association, I had the opportunity to participate in the Public Issues Leadership Development (PILD) ConferenceIMAG3313 in April of 2014.  The goal of PILD is professional development and public issues education.  I never had the opportunity to visit D.C. that time of year before and the cherry blossoms were just opening when the group of us from Nebraska arrived. By the time we left they were in full bloom-just beautiful with an amazing fragrance! Our delegation was Monte Stauffer (representing 4-H), Patricia Jones (representing Food/Nutrition), Diane Vigna (representing community development), and myself along with our Dean and Director Dr. Chuck Hibberd.

For me, these conferences are about networking and people and I truly enjoyed seeing my Ag Extension colleagues from across the U.S.  The conference was very much focused on celebrating 100 years of Cooperative Extension and the challenges/opportunities Extension faces in the next 100 years.

IMAG3299-1

Presentation on the History of Cooperative Extension by a North Dakota State University alum where he does charcoal drawings as he speaks.  I had seen this at an NACAA conference in the past; he is so talented!

Sessions included discussing how to determine public value of what we do and the debate continues to be how do we extrapolate information and who gets the credit.  I think Nebraska is on track with much of what we do in this area as we’ve had many similar discussions here.  There were also discussions about the relevance of Extension and the need to share information several ways; again, I think we have people in Nebraska leading the way in this effort.  But it is critically important for ALL of Extension to be repackaging our information several ways to reach our customers where they view information.

IMAG3294

John Wilson presented on the Missouri River Flood in a panel discussion regarding controversial issues in Cooperative Extension. He did a great job as always!  Additional controversial issues included fracking and the oil boom in other states.

We had the opportunity to interact with National Institute of Food and Agriculture program leaders to express the critical needs for the people we serve in hopes of influencing where research and extension initiatives should be focused in future grant releases.  We also spent a large portion of time discussing different bills of importance to all of our States and determining the key messages we wished to share on the Hill with our Congressmen and Senators.

IMAG3304

Wednesday was the highlight for me.  On Wednesday, each State visits their Congressmen and Senators on the Hill. The Ag Section rep typically sets up the visits, so I was thankful for my experiences in organizing CWF trips! We began the morning at the Nebraska Breakfast and had the opportunity to visit with Senator Fischer immediately afterward. We had the amazing opportunity to meet with all of our representatives  and/or their  staffers that day: Congressman Smith, Senator Johanns, and then Monte and I split up so he visited Congressman Terry’s Office while I visited Congressman Fortenberry’s Office. In between we also had a Capitol tour and visited the Senate Gallery as Monte and Pat had never experienced that before. It was a wonderful day with great visits sharing the great things Extension has done and continues to do for the people of Nebraska! Our Senators and Congressmen also supported the Smith-Lever bill for recognizing 100 years of Cooperative Extension, so we were happy about that!

Night tour of Memorials and Monuments the first evening.  Pat was gracious in listening to all the tidbits I shared from my CWF experiences.

Lincoln Memorial during night tour of memorials and monuments the first evening-always neat to see.

IMAG3297

We had an amazing seafood supper during one of the evenings with Dr. Hibberd who graciously paid for our meals. 

IMAG3301

It was an honor to represent the Nebraska Ag Agents at the 2014 PILD Conference and I thank our Ag Section and Dr. Hibberd for paying my expenses for this trip! This photo is of cherry blossoms with the Washington Monument in the background.

We Will Never Forget 9/11/01

 

In September 2013, I had the opportunity to visit the US Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania.  The Memorial is mostly a grassy field but also has a series of signs to explain the events on 9/11/2001.

In September 2013, I had the opportunity to visit the US Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania. The Memorial is mostly a grassy field but also has a series of signs to explain the events on 9/11/2001.

2013-09-16 09.33.51

This sign shares the heroic efforts of those who fought back against the terrorists on the flight that day.

2013-09-16 09.35.46

May we never forget the lives lost in these terrorist attacks.

2013-09-16 09.42.31

A quiet place to reflect. US 93 would have flown toward us as we view this photo on the left side of the photo.

2013-09-16 09.51.26

The grassy field where US Flight 93 went down. In the distance (center of photo), there is a memorial rock which marks the spot of the crash.  Thirteen years later, we will never forget the innocent people, rescue workers, and all our men and women in uniform who lost their lives.

#Ag Tour Day 1

UNL Extension Ag Educators from throughout Nebraska gathered together in late October for an excellent professional development tour toWhat is that bush and how many educators does it take to figure it out?  Apparently a lot and we still sent it to Elizabeth Killinger! Iowa and Minnesota!

Before the bus started moving we were working on plant identification for a client.  Then we learned about the status of Emerald Ash Borer among other pests at the Douglas-Sarpy County Extension Office.  By the end of the presentation we were considering getting a meat thermometer and recordable Hallmark card!  (will explain later).

Along the way, John Wilson provided an update regarding the flood recovery efforts from the 2011 flood.  He mentioned at Gavins Point Dam, the lake would have drained every 25 hrs. when releases were occurring for  the flood.  He was involved with an effort in putting togetherJohn Wilson speaking a webinar that involved 25-30 agencies and 14 speakers from 5 states.  During the recovery there were 2″ to 25′ drifts of sand in fields.  One piece of ground that was reclaimed cost $125-150K and needed 7 excavators for a month.  One 300 acre piece of ground that wasn’t reclaimed was going to cost $10,000/ac. to reclaim it.

John Hay provided an update regarding wind energy.  He pointed out the different types of towers along the way as we passed several wind farms.  Facts included:  a 1.5Megawatt wind turbine can run 1000 homes each and the gear box is turning 2000:1 compared to the blades.  Iowa is #1 in  percent of electricity produced from wind power (20%) and it costs $3-6 million each to install a wind turbine (essentially double the cost of how many megawatts).  The life span of a turbine is 20 years with a maintenance cost about $0.05/kwh.  When considering efficiency, wind turbines are 40-50% efficient vs. coal power (35%), nuclear (35%), cars (25%); so they’re more efficient at converting free energy into electricity but they are less cost John Hay speaking about wind energy.efficient than those other energy sources.  Windfarms also typically pay for themselves in 5-10 years.

Our first stop was at Hawkeye Breeders where we saw their semen storage facility that essentially had enough semen to fertilize every cow in the U.S.  They ship all over the world and their primary customer is the dairy industry.  We also toured their semen collection facility and got the coolest pen from there.

From there we stopped at Blue River Organic Seeds and were surprised to learn that all their organic seed research is done conventionally.  They provide organic seed for corn, alfalfa, soybean, and various forages and are looking for more growers.  We also learned about PuraMaize which was developed by Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer to essentially block pollen from outside sources to maintain purity.Semen storage at Hawkeye Breeders.

That night we had supper with faculty from Iowa State University talking about programming efforts there, including their manure programming, ag economics, and Roger Elmore spoke of the corn programming there.  But before that, a few of us took advantage of the 45 min. of time to get a few geocaches in the area 🙂

IMAG2514 Geocache #1Geocache #2

May We Never Forget 9/11/01

Video released from the Department of Defense.  With everything going on in the world, I don’t have much else to say right now…except this.  Today I’m remembering those who lost loved ones on 9/11/01 in my prayers.  I’m praying for the many military members still serving this great country away from their families today-and praying for their families serving bravely without them on the home-front.  I’m so thankful for those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for my freedom.  And through everything going on right now, God is in control and has a plan and purpose for all.  May God continue to bless the U.S.A. and may we never forget 9/11/2001!

Reflections: After the Storm

It’s been an interesting few weeks.  Last week I was continuing to receive calls about considerations for drought damaged corn.  Then southern rust arrived in the area earlier last week.  Followed by the tremendous August 1 storm that affected so much of our County.

Numb…..

is how I’ve felt these past few days-and I can’t imagine how difficult it is for you whose crops were affected!  It’s just aSunset sickening feeling walking into field after field and driving around the County seeing the storm damage every day.  I’m so sorry for those of you who have lost your crops!  As I look at the crops, though, I’m a little puzzled at the way things are laying, the twisted plants….things aren’t all adding up for “straight-line winds”.

In spite of how difficult things look right now, I can’t help but wonder if we were spared from something much greater?

The follow passage in the Bible has been my go-to during times of drought and difficult times in farming.  I was going to share this in a drought post…but I feel it still applies with as many partial and total crop losses we’ve experienced in the area.

Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! Habukkuk 3:17-18

In the midst of trying to provide advice, it’s nice to know that God has everything already figured out and that He’s always in control.  Even in the midst of this, He is always good!

Remembering Our Fallen

Every time the Remembering Our Fallen Memorial was mentioned, I would get goose bumps.  Clay Center American Legion ready for the escort to arrive.Every time I would mention it was coming to our Clay County Fair, my eyes would moisten. 

Our Extension Office moved out to the Fair early on Wednesday so we could be ready to stand with flags while the Memorial was escorted to our Fair.  The loud roar of motorcycles approaching was soon followed by an amazing site of over 40 Patriot Riders from Omaha to Hastings escorting the Memorial to our Fair.  It was incredibly touching watching them ride in.  Local TV and newspaper crews were on hand to capture the event.  July 11th would mark 9 years since the passing of Clay County residents Jeremy Fischer and Linda Tarango-Griess due to a roadside bomb in Iraq.Over 40 Patriot Riders from Omaha to Hastings escorted the Remembering Our Fallen Memorial to the Clay County Fairgrounds.

That day I just observed the scene from a distance.  I knew I needed time alone to go through the Memorial later.  That time came Sunday morning as it was quiet at the Fair.

Over 80 service men and women from Nebraska have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.  Joshua Mann was younger than me, but attended the same high school that I did.  Patrick Hamburger was in the Chinook Helicopter group that often flew into the base my husband was stationed at in Afghanistan in 2011.  Jacob Schmuecker was married to a gal I group up with in my home-town church.  I didn’t know Jeremy Fischer or Linda Tarango-Griess but many in Clay County and the area did.  Very touching to see all the Patriot Riders escort the Memorial to the fairgrounds.

This Memorial is striking and different because it’s about viewing the faces of the fallen.  There are other pictures added of their lives and people leave additional tributes at the Memorial as well.  Scanning the QR codes to watch the tribute videos and reading letters left behind by moms, spouses, relatives, friends, coaches, and fellow service-members brought me to tears.  We must never forget that freedom is not free!

A special thanks to Laurie Jarzynka and her family for organizing the honor escort and getting this Memorial at our Fair.  I will leave you with a video I captured of Jim Fischer, father of fallen soldier Jeremy Fischer, talks about his son and thanks everyone for being there.the Memorial.  May we never forget those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our Freedom and the families left behind!  God bless all our men and women in uniform and their families and God bless the U.S.A.!

Joshua Mann

Patrick Hamburger2013-07-14 19.15.422013-07-14 10.38.55

County Fair Time!

This year marked my 10th Clay County Fair.  It was bitter-sweet in a way as I have watched this group of youth from their pre-4-H Clay County Extension Office shows our Patriotic spirit!  Jenny, Deanna, Rachel, Holli, Cindyyears through graduation this year.  It’s neat seeing the young men and women they’ve become, ready to take that next step in life towards college and careers!  Rachel and Kristen, our interns, helped us greatly in different ways which was a blessing; it was another smooth fair overall!

Also bittersweet is the fact that this was Cindy Strasheim’s last Clay County Fair as a UNL Extension Educator as she plans to retire in December.  We will miss her and if you see her around, please thank her for her 29 years of dedication to the Clay County Fair and serving our constituents here!

I realize I say this every year, but we wouldn’t have fair if it wasn’t for all of our 4-H and FFA leaders, families, and youth-so thank you all for your hard work and efforts with your projects and the many ways you volunteer at fair!  Thank you to our awesome fair board who we greatly enjoy working with and who keeYouth showing meat goats; judge appreciated the quality of their meat goats.p our fairgrounds looking great!  Thank you to Deanna, Holli, and Cindy for the long Greatly enjoy working with these guys and all our Fair Board members! hours of preparation and also during fair in ensuring everything ran smoothly!  Thank you to our 4-H Council and all our Superintendents for working so hard in various capacities during fair and throughout the year!  Thank you to Tory, Kris, Teri, Karla, and Megan with the Clay County News for sticking out all the shows in the heat to cover the fair for us; we truly appreciate your support!  Thank you to Lonnie Stripe for auctioneering, all our auction buyers, plaque and award sponsors, and donors for supporting our 4-H and FFA youth!  Thank you to everyone who made the 2013 Clay County Fair a success!

Dusk at the end of entry night of fair.

Blurry pic but youth competing in Beef Team Fitting Contest.  So cool how youth from different clubs throughout the County are brought together to work together on teams!

Adorable kitchen set made from recycling a tv stand by a 4-Her!  Would love to make something like this sometime!

Roasting marshmallows for smores at Family Fun Night :)Family Fun Night at the Fair-beautiful evening and lots of activities for kids of all ages!

Reunion and Reintegration

This morning I woke up excited.   Welcome Home Banner for returning military members

Today the Nebraska National Guard Agribusiness Development Team 3 (NE ADT3) would be reunited with their families!  I found myself going back 10 months ago to the day after Memorial Day 2012.  That was the day several of us were reunited with our soldiers and airmen from NE ADT2.

Today I was remembering bouncing up and down while holding hands with other military spouses watching the bus with our military members pull up.  I remember seeing my husband get off the bus and running to his arms.  I remember that even amidst all the family members and friends gathered that day, the military members were always gravitating towards each other-looking for each other.  Sure, they were excited to be home too….but their best friends….their battle buddies who they’d spent the past year with was who they felt most comfortable with at that moment.

I remember how tired they all were-how they all just wanted to go home…and yet how quickly they all missed each other.  I remember so many things being overwhelming to my husband…crowds of people and everyone asking him the same questions, going to Golden Corral after we left the welcome-home event and him being overwhelmed by the amount of food available to eat (he ended up eating very little), going to a grocery store where we have such a variety of EVERYTHING and having so many choices…

We truly are so blessed in the U.S.A. and take these blessings for granted everyday!

As I drove to the welcome home ceremony today, I thought back on this post and how I left many of you hanging about what happened next.  Honestly, I’ve started many draft posts but struggled to know what to write or really what to share.

Many think that once our military members return that all is right in our world.  But the reality is that while there’s a honeymoon period, there’s also a great deal of hard work to make reintegration occur.  You see, military members and their families have been living in two different worlds the past year.  My husband and his comrades were living in similar to Biblical times working with great people but yet always had to be on guard for the enemy.  I was living in a fast-paced techno-savvy world trying to hold everything together here.  We both were fortunately forming bonds with military buddies and spouses that will last a lifetime.  I was safe at home with my dogs.  He and some of his comrades had close calls with death.

I will never know…

what it was like for him to leave home and everyone he loved to serve a Country that he loves and was willing to lay his life down for.  To work as hard as he could so he could go to bed exhausted in hopes of not missing the home he loved so much.  He will never know what it’s like on this end…to have everything in our home remind me of him, to spend endless nights and go to countless events alone, to hold my breath at every bit of news I hear from overseas, and to continually say silent prayers throughout the day for all our military members and their families.  But these are the sacrifices military members and their families are willing to make to defend the cause of freedom.  We love this Nation and are so proud of and thankful for those who are willing to defend her!

Since the deployment, I learned that it was hard for him to want to connect with home and me.  His coping strategy was to not connect so he could focus on the mission and not think about home or worry about how things were going here.  (He now would never recommend this strategy to any military member!)  My coping strategy was to send him letters and packages-to show him he was loved and missed.  But lack of communication is hard on a marriage and it takes time to re-build that.  I would say for many military couples, reintegration is even harder than the deployment and separations themselves.  We all have good intentions for a good reintegration…we learn what to watch for and have resources available to help…but the reality is that we’ve been going two different directions for a period of time.  It takes work to bring those lives back into the same direction again.  But it’s worth the effort!

One way that helped us get away and start communicating again was to attend a Family Life Weekend to Remember Event.  There are discount rates for military members and their spouses and there are special locations where there are military emphasis breakout sessions for military couples to talk about military specific issues such as deployments, separations, addictions, etc.  It really helped us to start that conversation again and I would encourage any married couple to attend one!

I smile everytime…

I see my husband going through his Afghanistan pictures with the sweetest smile on his face.  I know he misses it…he misses the daily work with hisADT2 speaking about their mission in Afghanistan to a packed audience at the Sprague Community Church buddies and the difference they were making in the Afghan people’s lives.  My husband took lots of pictures and video with his helmet cam.  As he shared his stories, I realized how much I take for granted.  His buddies and us wives have also often gotten together as the guys have spoken at various events.  Those are good things-things I will continue to encourage.

I’m so thankful God allowed my husband to be on that deployment with great leadership and friendships.  I know he’d go back in a heartbeat-especially if he could go with the same people he served with.  I think of these Agribusiness Development Teams’ mission to provide for a sustainable Afghanistan…to teach the people how to feed themselves and provide for their families…of the successes that have been achieved.  I’m praying for a sustainable Afghanistan and hope that one day-maybe in 10 years-my husband and I can both go and see the places he was, meet the people, and hear the stories of how their lives were changed as a result of our brave men and women serving.

Keeping Your Farm in the Family for the Next Generation

I would encourage any farmers, spouses, and adult children to consider attending this Farmers and Ranchers Program! Communication and fair transition plans are keys to keeping family ties and the family farm strong. I’ve watched too often where communication doesn’t occur-even most recently with my extended family-and the heartache caused as a result. Work on the communication and transition plan now before it’s too late!

Views from VanDeWalle

The final Farmers & Ranchers College program for the 2012-13 programming year will be held on March 14, 2013 starting at 6:00 p.m. with a meal and the program to follow. It will be held at Evening with Friends Restaurant in Milligan and will feature Dr. Ron Hanson, Neal E. Harlan Professor of Agribusiness, Ag Economics Dept., UNL. A description of Hanson’s program is provided below.Logo

The entire process for mapping out a succession plan to transfer the eventual ownership of a family farm from one generation (parents) to the next generation (their adult children) can be an overwhelming task for many families.  Where does this process even begin?  Who makes the final decisions?  Can you be fair to everyone involved?  What if there is not good communications within the family?  How do you keep emotions and personal jealousies from taking over and preventing good decision making?  These…

View original post 348 more words

%d bloggers like this: