Hidden in Plain View

Dateline: Plainview, MN , pop. 3408,

The Heart of the Greenwood Prairie

Saturday, June 25, 2011
Country Breakfast on the Farm
Location: Little Valley Dairy
Donny & Holly Thompson, owners

Rochester is in the rear view mirror as we drift eastward through bucolic Olmsted County, a county without a lake, not a single one, in a state with the motto: Land of 10,000 Lakes.   Planning to neither fish nor swim today, as investigative journalists our objective is a 5 dollar pancake, cheese, sausage breakfast, on a “reported” dairy farm, with “supposedly” 182 Holsteins☀, 1 crossbred, and 1 Brown Swiss who are “speculated” to produce 27,000 pounds of milk a year.

This is an obvious undercover scam, because we all know milk comes from a refrigerated wall at Trader Joe’s®, produced in plastic milk cartons, free of rBST, @ $1.99/half gallon, between the 2% Greek yogurt to the left and the organic brown eggs on the right.

However, we arrive at the Little Valley Dairy on CR 10 NE, nearly 4 miles south of Plainview, along with 100’s of families who have been duped by this sign:

Time: 6:30 am – 11:30 a.m.
Details:  Enjoy a pancake breakfast.
Sponsor: Rochester Ag Committee, Olmsted County Farm Bureau Federation

Do these people look like someone you might trust ?

Tents, tables, vintage tractors, modern combines, milk parlor, barns, hay, more hay, cows, more cows, and celebrities;

“Victor”, the suspicious official mascot of the Minnesota Vikings attempting a ‘field goal’.  Behind the facade of this uniform, the now retired Brett Favre, who, has at last found a real job.  He still knows how to make a “pass”.

L- Mutant corn on the cob; R-Undercover agent

Donny Thompson in profile, Hollywood material for “Survivor-Dairy Farm”, a series coming to you soon

In spite of all the misconception, the people watching and the breakfast were both delicious.  Armed with a full tummy we learned that:

and except for a Dairy Queen, no one can consume 7 gallons of ice cream in a single day.

The sights, sounds, and the aroma combine to make this the most memorable Saturday morning ever.

Thank heavens for holsteins, John Deere, and little girls

¤Holstein- a black and white milk producing hybrid between a buffalo and a dalmatian, with four, very large, ice cream dispensers.

We came away, convinced, that the photo below is true, that milk subsidies are essential, calcium builds strong bones, and running a 970 acre dairy farm is fun, demanding, and at times, very dangerous, and the debt we owe Donny and Holly Thompson defies translation into words.


p.s. These two “tired” imps tried to convince this investigator that hamburger comes from feeder cattle and NOT McDonald’s, so I am off on a new assignment:

ooo❍❍❍OOO are you really Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC ???



Dangerous work~~It pays to be nuts

The joy of this community blog is the literary license, ordained by the administrator, to describe the unusual, the lame, the mundane, those insignificant events that spice our daily lives.  A recent entry described the near catastrophic result of tannin stains on the hands of a clumsy pecan picker.  My first thought was….egads, like the second cousins living in the attic, they never go away.

dscn4207.JPGJoshua Sherrick, about 40′ up in the cherry picker

We have, for years, lived on a 150 year old farm, surrounded by trees, several hundred trees.  One in particular, a 60 foot high eastern black walnut over a century old, was splitting at the primary bifurcation, threatening the granary and the electric lines to the barn.  But worse, the annual fruiting of this tree deposits hundreds, perhaps thousands, of walnut husks every fall.


Typical wheelbarrow load of fallen nuts.

One of forty loads

The husks, green when they first fall, are the size of a baseball, and quickly blacken both on the inside and outside due to polyvalent metal ions reacting with tannic acid.  This creates an ebony black dye, with no mordant necessary, equivalent to Sheaffer’s Skrip Ink Permanent Black, or Parker’s Quink # 274.  Aren’t you glad you’ve read this far?  Exciting facts, free, and they don’t cost anything. The dilemma: the walnut hulls fall on the old brick driveway, are then run over by our cars resulting in serious stains not to mention the split infinitives.


The brick drive; not oil stained by leaking old cars

Imagine the horror, like a Watergate scandal; dirty bricks.  After agonizing for years I opted to have the tree cut down by the local guru, Joshua Sherrick, The Cutting Edge professional.  It took three hardworking guys three days, with the very best equipment, to complete the task.


Cherry picker at work

They sawed the trunk into one foot lengths, split all the wood, then stacked it precisely in the corn crib for two years of drying.  Yield~~ 16 ‘stove cords’, piles measuring 4 feet by 8 feet with an average length of 12 inches, enough to heat the house for two years.


Pile of logs, awaiting the splitter


Nice logo on the truck

They used Stihl and Husqvarna gas powered saws

In the past, I have placed a sign on the road, “Free black walnuts”, no limit.  Each year a few unsuspecting victims, enticed by the something-for-nothing virus ( familiar territory for many Airstream owners) show up.  I provide them empty plastic grocery bags, welcome them to the farm and the u-pick buffet, then quietly retreat.  The walnuts have a wonderful taste, are good for cooking flavor, but the shells are hard as rocks.  Cleaning the husks from the shells is a filthy task, certain to ruin clothes, and staining the fingers, much like the pecan pickers learned. 


For the tree huggers, a trio of ladies in waiting

Oddly, none of the previous visitors has ever returned.  However, we have the fattest squirrels in the township.  And I haven’t thrown away the freebie sign, yet.  We have more fruiting walnuts close by.  You are welcome to stop, but wear disposable gloves and your oldest Goodwill ensemble.