How Keewaydin Farms Got its Name

September 25th, 2012

Back in 1976 two ambitious young back to landers from the east coast of Wisconsin found a piece of land like no other.  After several years of searching Elva Hetzel (she will be 100 in a couple of days), my mother’s mom, came across an advertisement in the local paper listing what would become Keewaydin Farms.  The past owner, Lynford Looker, was particular about who he wanted to sell his farm to, a young family, passionate about farming and dedicated to honoring the land that he had known for over 40 years.  Lynford loved his farm and would come visit every couple of years until the year he died at 95 or 6.  When we were kids he would come with a metal detector and take us on hikes down into the valley where at one time there was a homestead.  It was a treasure hunt, an adventure, the past revealed after vigorous digging.  We found all kinds of interesting things, old horse shoes, square headed nails, tools unrecognizable to us kids, and the best prize of all, an old double barrel pistol.  Lynford let us keep all our treasures which have since gone into the farms memorial library.  That is kind of a joke we have around here, my mother bless her soul, has kept so many artifacts from her kids younger years and her farming years that she has almost achieve library status.  As I grow older it is becoming less of a joke and more enjoyable, the beautiful thing about preserving these memories is that they add to the lore and story of life on Keewaydin.  Lynford did the same, he kept a journal of activities and at some point I think in the 80’s put together a book about his life on the farm with pictures that date back to the early 1900’s.  I take out that book a couple times a year, read a few pages and look at the pictures.  It has helped me connect with this farm's past and to realize the legacy we leave in the trees we plant or the buildings construct, our store lives on in these creations.

Because we are a ridge top farm it seems the wind is constantly blowing and that is the meaning of Keewaydin.  The Ojibwa word means the north wind or the god of the north or perhaps my favorite, the home wind.  If you ever get a chance check out the beautiful poem of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in it you will find reference to Keewaydin.  Here is just a small part of the poem.

” Thus departed Hiawatha,
Hiawatha the Beloved,
In the glory of the sunset,
In the purple mists of evening,
To the Regions of the Home-wind,
Of the Northwest-wind, Keewaydin,
To the Islands of the Blessed,
To the Kingdom of Ponemah,
To the land of the Hereafter. ”

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Frosty Morning

September 18th, 2012

Well it happened last night, our first frost!  Can you believe it, I know we live in Wisconsin and this is the kind of thing that happens this time of year but really, already?  This morning I hiked around the farm as the sun slowly gained momentum in the eastern sky, crisp still air filling my lungs and puffs of steam trailing me as I exhaled.  I was trying to see, before I had to hit the road, whether frost had touched Keewaydin ridge, but without enough light to relay my eyes I left it up to my hands.  The grass was drenched in dew and a heavy fog had nestled in the valley below us.  Since this was the first of the near frost mornings my hand were as unreliable as my eyes, the grass felt cold, maybe crunchy, but I couldn’t be sure.  Like the first really hot days of the year the first cold mornings usually feel colder than they are, after a string of cold strong enough to kill the green these upper 30’s will feel like a heat wave.  Funny how that works, I have to admit I got use to those upper 80’s, lower 90’s towards the end.  As I continued my walk around the tomato field on the horseshoe piece, past the old dead elm that no longer exists except for in family lore, and back to the house it was still not quite light enough to really tell.  Oh well, I couldn’t delay my departure any longer, off farm duties called me away and so I came to the conclusion that we had made it through unharmed, after coming home at the end of the day I think that is true.  I did however see some patches in the valley once it was light enough to really confirm.  That ghostly white now sparkling in the first rays of morning sun and while it didn’t linger long at those spots I’m sure it reminding us of what’s to come.

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Friends, Family, and the Ugly Apple

September 11th, 2012

There is a lot to be thankful for in this world.  When I was a kid we had to do chores almost every night.  Hearing the call to duty would often invoke the “It’s not fair” response from at least two if not three children in that universally recognized whiny child voice all parents are familiar with.  In my family the parental response would most often be “Life’s not fair, deal with it”.  That of course would lead to some back and forth eventually ending in, yes you guessed it, the Haucke children doing said chores.  Well the truth is life isn’t fair, and yet I believe there is more capacity for fairness then we give our world credit for.  Learning to deal with jobs or situations we don’t feel are fair opens more doors then it will close.  I know now as an adult how much our parents needed our help.  As dairy farmers their work load required many hands, children included.  I also know it brought us kids together, sometimes with friends in tow.  As I reflect back on that time all the unfair stuff fades away and I’m left with a laughing sister, or a friend helping to throw hay bales while we listen to some awesome late 80’s early 90’s rock and roll, a pickup game of football in between projects.  I fondly remember cousins coming to visit to help make maple syrup, the smells of fresh cut hay, splashing through rain puddles, or playing tractors in the sand box with my little brother.  It seems like the older I get the more those are the things I really remember and to top it all off I get to continue to make more of these memories with my own children.  “Come on kids I have some things I need you to do for me”………”BUTTTTTT DADDDDD”, ahhh the circle of life!

So this year marks the third or fourth season we have picked wild apples for the CSA.  Yes the ugly apple.  Every year I’ve gotten at least one person who is offended by the look or taste of these apples and I am always a bit surprised to tell you the truth.  I’m not sure why, I get it, they can be ugly.  But I’m not going to give up.  I love these wild apples; to me it is a celebration of who we were and where we have come from.  My friend (she has an apple farm) and I walked the isle of a local grocery looking at all the varieties of apple available for purchase and it is truly amazing how far the apple industry has come in the last 100 years.  If you get a chance thank your local apple grower and buy some of their apples, some have had a tough year and they need our support.  Our apples a different, wild, they go about their business, another plant in a vast landscape of plant and if you are lucky and happen to pass by a tree at the right time you could be in for a wonderful treat, or not.  It’s hit or miss, by now I know enough about our trees to know the ones I like and those are the ones I share with you.  So please look past the ugly apple, this tree only fruits every other year and this is the year.

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Making Hay

September 4th, 2012

Make hay when the sun is shining.  Well that is what my brother and I did last week.  He was on the first shift and I was on the second or maybe it was the other way around.  Around and around you go in a progressively smaller circle until you have finished the field, then it’s on to the next one.  With the last bale complete a total of 120 1500 pound bales are wrapped and ready for transport.  This year farmers around the country are particularly desperate for these bales of hay.  Although these bales are destine for more local markets the pressure and urgency to find that winter supply of fodder for the animals is palpable.  It’s been two years since cows last graces this acreage and when I think about a year like the one we have had I am kind of glad I don’t have to deal with it.  It’s hard enough watching your veggies wither and die, but a living being devoid of food is too much for me to handle.

On Keewaydin Ridge the rain clouds have returned and with that moisture hope returns.  There is still time to get crops in the ground, fall lettuce, beets, spinach, peas, carrots and chard in the greenhouse, all the scrumptious greens to compliment the heavy winter squash and root crops.  After trying twice to get a crop of carrots going, with limited success, we have a nice looking crop that will show up in the last couple of boxes at the end of the regular season.  The trees are starting to turn color around here and the kids are freshly home from the first day of school but the fields are still full of beautiful produce and will be for weeks to come.  Then our produce world begins to shrink again.  Closer and closer we will move to the buildings until all that is left is crops in our greenhouse and storage house.  I hope you enjoy the end of the season and have as much excitement for this time of year as you do for the beginning.

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