Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Four States, Seven Days!

Jeff and I recently returned from a week-long road trip to and from an FUE gathering in Bayfield, WI. This post is mostly going to be photos from that trip, with some commentary by yours truly interspersed. If you can't remember what I'm talking about when I say FUE, refer to this post: http://prairieponderingsmt.blogspot.com/2013/06/welcome-to-fue.html, which I wrote just over a year ago after our first FUE engagement. 

It's just over 1000 miles from our farm to Bayfield, WI, which is on the south shore of Lake Superior, east of Duluth, MN. We decided to road trip it this time, rather than fly, which afforded us much quality time together in the car driving through scenic northern Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. We have solved all of the world's problems, or have at least come close to doing so, during this extensive time together. 

One of the real reasons we decided to drive rather than fly to Wisconsin was the opportunities we had to visit the farms of a few of the other couples in our FUE group. A person can learn so much by seeing another person's home, farm, and way of doing things. Most of all, we enjoyed spending quality time with families we have come to know quite well throughout this FUE experience. 

The first farm we stopped at was that of our friends in North Dakota, just south of Rolla, ND. They raise spring wheat, canola, and soybeans. Below is our friend Mark showing Jeff his tremendous spring wheat crop. I couldn't get over how green the landscape was in North Dakota and how tall the crops were compared to what we grow here. I suppose it largely has to do with the fact they receive much more moisture than we do, but they also grow different varieties of wheat and other crops that are well-suited to their environment and local climate. 

Mark is out standing in his field, and Jeff is standing next to him. Har har har... 
What's the old saying? Belly-button high by the 22nd of July? Because that's how high this wheat was on the day we were at their farm! Jeff and I joked that we'll use this photo on our Christmas Card and try to pass it off as our own wheat crop (wheat just does not grow that high here, at least not what I've seen so far) but truly, it is a tremendous wheat crop and our friends are great famers!
 Mark and Mindy and their family were outstanding hosts and we enjoyed our time with them! Below is a photo of a road bordering some of their farmland. Spring wheat on one side, canola on the other. Beautiful, big sky near sunset time. Just lovely.

The next day we continued our drive on to Wisconsin to stay at our friends' place which was actually near Bayfield, close to Maple, WI.  The drive went well and again the hospitality and generosity of our hosts was phenomenal. They took us out to dinner at a great little place right on a lake called the Deep Lake Lodge. Food was fantastic and service was outstanding.
 Bad photo... terrible glare off that car, but at least you can get an idea for the setting. It was peaceful and wonderful, with great food and even better company!
 The next day, Jim and Lisa and their kids took us on a tour of their farm by four-wheeler. I had thought that North Dakota was impossibly green and lush... until I saw their farm! I couldn't believe how many plants and grasses and trees were growing here. It felt like being in a jungle compared to dry north-central Montana!
This is what their pasture looks like. They move their cattle from one field to the next every three or four days! Ours stay in the same pasture for months before they use it up. LOOK AT ALL THAT GRASS!
Corn being raised for silage. 
They have forest bordering and within their pastures.  I have to say that I do not envy them for rounding up their cattle among the thickly wooded sections! 
After visiting the peaceful, beautiful farms of our friends along the way to Bayfield, it was time to get to Bayfield itself. Bayfield, WI is home of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which is actually part of the U.S. National Park Service.  It was a gorgeous setting for the next two days of FUE meetings. 
This was the view from our meeting space in Bayfield. Pretty rough, right?
Seriously. FUE takes us to some pretty amazing places!
The theme for our meetings this time was on maintaining a balanced life through the sometimes-chaos of farming and all of our many hectic responsibilities. The speaker was great, as always, and gave me a lot to think about. He emphasized writing out your goals as individuals, as a couple, and as a business, which is essentially what farming is. We are in the business of growing food. Jeff and I have talked about it some since returning but I think we'll have to revisit the subject as time goes on. Right now, we're focused on the pre-harvest hubbub. 

As always, it was so, so good to get together with the other couples in our FUE group. We have some pretty outstanding people in our group and have formed some amazing connections that I feel will be lifelong. This time, the couples who will make up the next group of FUE joined us. It was their first conference together, and for us it was the next-to-last meeting. Our last one will be when we fly in to Washington D.C. in September. The couples in the new group each bring a unique perspective and will offer some interesting viewpoints, I'm sure. 

The new couple from Montana is a couple we had met several years ago at the Montana Department of Ag Young Couples Conference in Helena. We hadn't seen them since then, but remembered the connection we had with them that weekend and thought we'd invite them to do this FUE program. It was really great to reconnect with them and rekindle a friendship. They are not too far away from us in Montana, so we're going to try to do better about NOT waiting 3 years between times we see each other! 

We also reconnected, oddly enough, with the new couple from North Dakota. They are lifelong friends with the couple from Minnesota who is in our group, and got into FUE sort of through them. We had actually met them last fall when we were in Minot for our fall FUE get together. Another pretty awesome couple that Jeff and I seemed to hit it off with right away, and with whom I hope we can keep in touch. 

One evening of our trip to Bayfield, we had an organized cruise of the Apostle Islands. I did manage to take a few photos of the scenery while on the boat. Now, I'm kicking myself for not getting a good photo of me and Jeff while we were out there, or of us with our friends. Next time. 
A little blurry... but still beautiful.
Lighthouse under construction. 
Another lighthouse. Wish I remembered the names of the islands... 
At this point, we are looking forward to our DC fly-in in September. It's actually only about 6 weeks away. In this sense, FUE will book-end harvest for us. I have somewhat mixed emotions about what will be our final experience as an FUE couple. I am looking forward to it as the culmination of our training and gatherings from the past year, and as another chance to spend quality time with people who have become close friends, but I am also sad to see this all come to an end. 


  1. We have you both to thank for drawing us into this amazing experience! Thanks for sharing your photos of your stops on the way over. It's cool that you took the time to do that and I'm sure it enhanced your FUE experience tremendously. We hope you have an amazing time in D.C.!

  2. So glad you are enjoying it and getting something out of it so far! We'll keep you posted on our trip to DC. Hope to see you all soon!


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