Speed Bandage

"The forecast looked good," I reminded my grandfather as we marched through the accumulating snow.

"Welcome, to Wisconsin."

"Well put." I chuckled. Deer prints from early that day guided us along the trail into the 80 acre woods behind my grandfather's farm. I followed my grandfather's size 15 Eddie Bauer foot prints.

Two days before, a high of 50 had melted the midwinter snow, exposing raw fields and the stench of manure for the first time since mid November. Arriving in Milwaukee on Thursday night, I spent a long weekend in Sheboygan County poking around for antiques, enjoying fish fries and most importantly, the rustic serenity of my grandfather's farm.

Waking early and falling asleep before eleven, my daily schedule mimicked the sun's. My cell phone barely worked and the internet was reminiscent of dial up. I didn't complain.


I love these colors.

Country road, take me home. John Denver got it.

Sound the bell.


Sunday I awoke to light flurries as a storm moved in across the plains from the west. Taking the opportunity to explore the recently white landscape, my grandfather and I set out into the woods behind his house.

The heavy falling snow muffled the woods. Occasionally, a branch gave way, shaking the snow resting on top of it. Sparsely breaking the silence, we followed the deer's tracks in the woods.

After an hour walk, we headed back, bushwacking a trail through the dense ceder swamp. Arriving at the house, I packed up my things, bid farewell and headed to the Airport to catch my flight back LaGuardia. Five hours later, I was in New York. I had caught the last flight out before the storm shut the area down.

Call it a speed bandage for alleviating some of the frustrations of living in New York.

Here are some more links,
Wisconsin (Picasa),
Farmville (ART).

Farmville, USA

Geographers laid out most of the Midwest in simple, square-mile grids bordered by country roads. Farmers populated the majority of these grids over a hundred years ago. Last weekend, I visited two working farms in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. Fascinated by the process and details of the farm worlds away from the Whole Foods dairy isle, I wandered the farms taking photos.

Today, larger farms dominate the agricultural industry fueling critiques like Food Inc. However, independent family-owned farms still flourish in specific niches.

The chicken coop.

Grass-fed organic milk, still hot.

Stand off.


Chomping grass, not grain, the Heidel Organic Farm produces a few thousand gallons of milk a week. David showed me around the operation and I did my best to avoid cow shit and take photos at the same time.

Lone ranger.


I always liked Chicken Run.

Twice a week, Organic Valley picks up milk from the Heidel farm.

Fresh eggs, from "unobstructed" chickens.

The farm dog inspecting the chickens.

The view from a hundred year-old hen house.

Milking time!

The Heichler farm vertically produces hand made sweaters. Starting with the lamb, Kathrine and Karl raise the sheep, spin the wool and knit the sweaters. More info here.


More patina.

Catching some rays.

Empty stables.

Ready for an omelet.

David Heidel.
Farming is a livelihood, not a job. These farmers are proud of their work. It was inspiring to spend time on their farms. Visit a farm sometime, you will enjoy it.
Here are some more links,
Farmville (Picasa),
Wisconsin (ART).

"Do I Hear Five?"

"You need to get to the auction at least a half an hour before it starts. The real experts sort through the junk early, separating the good from the bad and figuring out what's valuable."

I listened intently over the hood of my grandfathers Dodge van as we chipped at the frost on the windshield. Before I had a chance to finish scraping the passenger side, my grandfather, Bill, jumped into the driver's seat and urged me to let the defroster handle the rest. Sensing the unbridled excitement in his voice, I obliged.

Each weekend, Bill wakes early and heads to estate sales in the heart of the Wisconsin farmland in search of antique tools and toys. After a career selling electronic switches in Milwaukee, Bill retired to a farm near Adell, Wisconsin and started raising sheep. Tired of the long hours associated with raising fifty sheep a year, he looked elsewhere for entertainment.

Acting on a life-long interest in tools and attempting to clear out his garage for his next project, Bill started selling off some tools on Ebay. Enjoying the craft of researching the history and application of antique tools, Bill started buying tools at garage sales and auctions. Since September of 2002, he has sold over 1800 antiques on Ebay.

Driving an hour north as the sun rose, Bill explained, "Your Grandmother comes sometimes just to people watch. There will be a few hundred people filtering through today. People come to bid on farm equipment, silverware, guns and others for tools," he grinned.

"What's the auction today?"
"The description says estate auction: farm equipment, guns, cheese-making and a pick up. You can't go into an auction wanting something specific. You won't find it," Bill explained.
Grinning ear to ear, I nodded.
Arriving early, we registered with the auction service and went out searching through piles of farm equipment. Surgically, Bill sifted through the various piles and boxes making frequent introductions to other such addicts.

"He is in it for the oil cans." Bill motioned.
"Oil cans?"
"Yeah, oil cans. He collects vintage oil cans to go along with his cars," Bill explained as he turned over a box full of Stanley planes.

Nursing my coffee, I went out in search of gems. Shivering in my wool while inspecting a wall full of shovels, pitchforks and saws, I heard the familiar pop of an aluminum can. Turning expecting to see a diet Coke or perhaps a Mountain Dew, I spotted a group of camo-clad Wisconsinites starting off their Saturday with a case of Busch Light.

With a smile, the ring leader nudged the opened case with his foot, "Want one? these things (auctions) usually last a while."

"I am good, thanks. Trying to get through this coffee first." I looked at my watch, 9:17.

For the next five hours, these guys stood guard centrally located between the food cart, auctioneer's booth and port-a-potty. Providing a running commentary, they chimed in their two cents often as I passed by.

"Whatcha got there?
"What'd ya pay?"
"What the hell do you need that for?"

Good things.

As the last item sold, we packed up the Van with the day's bounty, bid farewell to the observers and headed back to the farm.

Looking back from the drivers seat, Bill smiled. "We did good today. That was one of the best auctions I have been to in a while. Now we just need to figure out what the hell we bought."
With no point of reference, but ecstatic from my day spent haggling and searching for gems, I nodded in approval.
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From Dawn Till Dusk

I reclined my seat and started to doze as the plane taxied through the fog and rain of Lagurdia International Airport. Like a five year old falsifying a snore in the back seat of the car to get carried into bed by their parents, I disguising my disregard for FAA regulations with an apparent catatonic slumber. Giving up on my returning my seat to its upright position and removing my headphones, the flight attendent moved on. Sliding into a much needed nap, I woke with a jolt some hour and half later as the pilot announced over the PA our initial approach to the Milwaukee area.

Grabbing my backpack from the over head bin, I stutter stepped and spin moved around the stragglers in the ile, eager to end my travels. Leaving my offices on Madison Av some four hours earlier, the cold midwestern air greeted my exposed skin as I waited for the familiar sight of my grandfather's van. Within a few minutes we were heading north on 57 towards my grandfathers 97 acre farm near Adel Wisconsin.

After an hour chat with my grandfather on our way north and a pleasant reunion with my grandmother as soon as we walked through the door, I headed towards the guest room. Before sunrise the next morning, I rolled out of bed. Greeted by the subtle smell of the wood stove in the next room, I dressed and headed towards the backdoor with my camera in hand.

These photos document my first day spent exploring my grandfather's farm and shop, from dawn till dusk.

Ten miles to the east, the morning's sun reflected off the water of Lake Michigan, creating one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen.
The back of my Grandfather's Dodge Ram.

Local Suffolks grassing in the cold November morning

All of the license plates my 76 year old grandfather has ever owned.

The inside of his barn.

After a stint raising sheep post retirement, my Grandfather now enjoys his time hunting for antique tools, cleaning and researching them, and subsequently selling the cream on eBay. Check out his Ebay Store.


A brisk November Sunset.

I shot all of these photos with a Zeiss 35mm F2.0.

Tire tracks compressed by the mornings frost, leaving lasting marks in the recently cut grass.

As the sun sank towards the east, I returned to the very stairs where I started my day, some ten hours earlier. Curiously anticipating the next days estate auction, I found comfort in the periodic dashes to the woodpile and the biting cold of Wisconsin's november night. Tired from the days exploring, I put up a meek fight against extending my evening, and was in bed before 10.
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