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A bunch of farmers pooled their resources and made Union Co-op. You could literally buy cat food and become a part of this place! Co-ops have changed a lot. It used to be common for a farmer to bring in his grain, mix it, and afterwards would take it home. Now they just deliver it. They sell new things, like llama feed. But they still sell old stuff, like horse feed, rabbit feed, and cow cream.
Back in the old days, a farmer’s social time was when the grain was mixing. It wouldn’t be unusual to find shelled peanuts for farmers waiting there.
The Union Co-op is the only hardware store in Belleville, so they have to take care of the basic necessities. They store grain and corn in bins over the winter for farmers. Also, they make fertilizer. You give them a recipe, and they put all the ingredients into a big mixing tank and stir them together. Then it is bagged, weighed, and trucked off to the farm. They also sell fertilizer at the store.
A co-op is a business that couldn’t exist without people’s cooperation. Some farmers who needed a place to buy stuff decided to start this co-op. It has things from udder balm (lotion for cow’s udders) to drench (a drink for cows who need minerals). It sells things like syringes, too, because farmers are part-time vets.
The following animals can find feed here: pigs, birds, cows, rabbits and horses.
Danz Pig Farm
What surprised me the most about our trip was when I saw how big the pigs were. I thought they’d be the size of a small dog, but they are as big as a person on his knees! I enjoyed the color of the baby pigs, their hazy blue eyes and silky pink skin. I loved holding the small, cute piglets, especially when one was really quiet and didn’t try to get away. The smell at the pig farm was beyond the word “strong,” but I did okay. It takes getting used to. I remember hearing the squealing of the piglets and the sows and hogs. I was scared of the big grandfather herd (that means they’re purebred). The most disgusting thing was the placenta the piglets were in when they came out of the sow. The most peaceful thing was when we got OUT of the pig farm.
When you walk in where they keep the piglets the first thought you have (besides the really bad smell) is “oh, how adorable!” But after a while you feel bad for the sows that have to put up with all the racket and squealing. Then you think how much it resembles our class, scrambling to get a seat on the couch! I bet their mothers feel like squashing them! Of course, they can’t—the sows are barred into the center of the cage.
When we entered the building where they keep the sows and boars, the sound was even louder than Randall’s lunch room!
The sudden squeals of the piglets touched my heart, and the adorable piggy’s twingling, mischievous eyes made me want to laugh out loud. How the soft, wet snout on my chin made me feel is hard to describe.
The sows and boars were snorting and banging on the side of the cages when we walked past. They were so loud it scared me, and they would suddenly jump at the front of their cages, which surprised me, too.
At the pig farm the noise shocked me. There was a placenta in the room where the piglets were born that shocked me, but I could not show it or I would get in trouble. The smell at the butcher shop almost made me throw up. Also, at the butcher shop when they were cutting carcasses and shaving them and taking out the bones I was getting very, very shocked.
Volunteer Fire Department
A volunteer fire department is a fire station where the people don’t get paid. The one we visited takes care of 94 square miles.
An average fireman/woman gets paid 40 or 50 thousand dollars a year. It is very kind that the volunteers do the same thing, but for no money. The department has a summer fest to raise money. All of the activities are physical. The activities are meant to improve your skills on things.
Some people have been at the department for 27 years. They go through a 14-week training session. The first thing you learn about is how to keep yourself safe, and how to work with other people. Every time they get a call they see something different. There are no secrets between firefighters. They share almost everything.
About 30 volunteers work at the Black Earth Fire Department. One of the volunteers if Paul Fassage, the chief of the fire department. The department was started over 100 years ago.
In this fire station, there were 35 men and only two women! Wow, what a big difference. The firefighters said that as time goes on probably the number of women will change.
The firefighters showed us the vehicles they used. There was the command vehicle (obviously used for giving commands) and the tanker (carries 3500 gallons of water), which has a fold-a-tank that goes on top of the tanker and also carries 3,500 gallons of water. There is a heavy rescue truck, which carries air, masks, the Jaws of Life, and ten firefighters. They have another tanker that only carries 1,500 gallons of water but also has four-wheel drive. They have a main engine with water pumper, ladders, and the hose.
One of the funnest things I did was go to the fire station. We got to ride in a fire truck. I waved at people. We got to go around the block and by the ShoeBox. After we came back we had to go to the Jaws of Life. The Jaws of Life is like a big scissors, so you can cut down doors or cut wires or just cut something big. The Jaws of Life weighed like 25 pounds, so it was pretty hard to pick up and cut things.
I really liked when Mike told us the fire stories. Some of his stories were scary, like the one where one man was driving home in his car and it was pretty foggy. And then he accidentally killed himself by crashing into a horse, and he also killed the horse, because when he crashed into the horse, the horse’s head went flying through the air.
There were a lot of calls for the firefighters, and a lot of them were sad, but a lot of them were happy, and some of them were really funny.
One day Mike and his fellow workers received a call that an apartment building was on fire! The firefighters, of course, responded, and they went there in a hurry. But when they got there it turned out that the chimney made the smoke, and there was nothing that was so scary!
Mike’s first story was about a fire in a trailer. When they got there, a neighbor hold them a lady was still in there, so they went in. They looked through the whole trailer. They had to search everywhere. When they looked in the last room, they fell through the floor. At this time there was lots of fire, and they had looked through the whole house. So they assumed no one was in there. They got out of the hole and left. Two hours later, Mike and his brother went in. While they were looking through all the ashes, they found a skull, lungs, and a stomach.
My favorite part of the fire station was when we got to put on the firefighters’ clothes. They were heavy, especially the helmets.
The clothes they have to wear weigh 60 pounds, and that’s not counting the oxygen tank.
When I put on the firefighter outfit and fell down in them I was amazed that I couldn’t get back up!
Perry Halverson owns 500 acres of land. Right now, the “allotment” he is allowed by the government for farming tobacco is only three acres, but he farms tobacco on neighbors’ land as well. (Allotments are used to prevent over- or underproduction.)
Tobacco farming requires lots of people. First Perry buys the plants from a greenhouse up in Michigan. Then he plants them using a tobacco planter. The planter is pulled by a tractor. There are four seats, two small ones and two large ones. There are two wheels and two people feed each wheel. You take a plant and put it in a basket in the wheel. The wheel then turns and plants the tobacco.
Different kinds of tobacco are planted in different places. The type grown in Wisconsin is type 55. You couldn’t grow, say, type 21 here because it’s not adapted to our climate.
After you harvest the tobacco, which is done with a special ax, you use a spear to pierce the tobacco leaves and tie them to lathe boards. Then you hang the boards between logs that are strung all the way up to the top of the barn. The barn has open slits to give the tobacco more air so it dries out.
You have to have proper tools for this kind of work. Even if you’re a professional, it takes about two-and-a-half to three hours to prepare the land and plant an acre of tobacco. So imagine how long it will take to plant one acre if you don’t have tools!
Auctioneering is not often thought of as a professional job, but it is. You go to school and learn things, and you have to get a license just like any other major profession. To learn to be an auctioneer Marvin went to a two-week school called Taylor’s Worldwide Auctioneer School. People came from all over the world. Marvin had roommates from Japan, Brazil, and a couple of other countries. At the school they were taught how to talk fast. One way they did this was by saying, “The big brown bug bit the big brown bear” as fast as they could.
Marvin told us that a lot of things can be worth a lot of money. Someone might pay a lot of money for a very old penny, or one from a time like the Great Depression when there weren’t very many pennies. One time when a guy died, they were taking stuff out of his house and found a painting by Vincent Van Gogh. They sold it for more than a million dollars.
Dew Signs with David Vondra
Something that surprised me was one of the ways to make signs. You have the design on the signs, and then you peel back the paper and instead put on a huge piece of masking tape that covers the whole thing. Then you put the tape onto a piece of metal and push the tape down, then remove the tape and you have a sign! I can’t believe it’s that simple.
The sign painter makes signs usually for businesses. But he’ll do anything from name pins to awards and plaques. He has been making signs for over thirty years. He has done mostly engraving over the years because before he started his business he had some experience engraving.
He started his own business in 1988 and bought the building in 1989. But he didn’t buy the building, the city did. He makes signs for people mostly in a 50-mile range. They made signs for the DNR once, and they put them at the entrance of a lot of state parks.
To make street signs, you cut out the pattern on the material, then lay it onto a huge roll of masking tape. It will stick. Then you make sure it’s straight on the metal and lay it down. The adhesive is stronger than on the tape, so it will stick to the metal; then you smooth it down. It’s a good idea to heat up the metal before you use it.
Black Earth Meats
The slimy sausage filling was very interesting, but when they sawed a cow in half it made me feel a bit uneasy.
Two large cow tongues sat on the counter I was standing near. If you looked closely, you could see that the end that had been connected to the mouth was jiggling back and forth just the slightest bit.
The butcher shop was awesome. Actually it was gross too. There was a dead headless cow lying upside down on a table, and they were culling the skin off of it. The skull and the tongues were on a table and both of them were moving. When we went into the next room I had to dodge dead cows hanging from the ceiling.
It shocked me how they skinned the cows and how they cut them in half. Another gross thing was the smell of guts.
Green County Auctioneer
When we went to the auction, I saw a whole bunch of cows. I was wondering what they were for, but then I figured out they were selling cows! Nobody ever bid. I guess nobody wants cows. Or the prices were too high. I didn’t get a thing they were saying, because they talked too fast. How do they do business there, anyway? The only thing I got was those two dudes on each end. They were raising their hands and saying, “Hep, hep, hep, hep . .” But I didn’t get why they were doing it. Maybe to entertain the customers.
The cow auction was in Green County. They only sold Holstein heifers. When we went inside the building I began to smell a smell of hottish hay. I mean it smelled hot, and smelled like hay. I could hear a little auctioneer’s speech. It sounded like, “Two thousand, two thousand and a half, who’ll give me three quarters…” but it was really fast.
We first walked through a room that had about 150 cows in it. When we stepped into the auction room, we were greeted by a blast of hot air. Two auctioneer assistants were shouting “Yep!” whenever they saw a bid. Here’s what I mean by saw a bid. These men are experienced buyers, so they don’t raise their hands. They make little movements so the bidding doesn’t go higher than the person wants it to. We’re glad the auctioneers’ assistants didn’t take any of our movements as bids.
There’s a gate, and when that gate is opened a cow comes out. It stands in a cage while the auctioneer describes it. Then a man comes into the cage and swats the cow with a cane to make it move. All the cows have been bred at under a year old, and all of the cows are pregnant. Auctions aren’t just for buying and selling! There is a food stand and tables so you can just sit and chat with your friends.
Schubert's Old Fashioned Café and Bakery
Schubert’s is the community meeting spot for Mt. Horeb. Every morning, a group has coffee there. They tell stories, mostly about recent events. The story going around lately is about a deer disease law suit. They also tell stories about how Mount Horeb used to be a small town, and as it got bigger, the government wanted to put in subdivisions. But the people of Mt. Horeb felt they should keep some areas the same. (There are 6000 people now, but 20 years ago there were only 1800.)
At the restaurant, we got pastries. Very good ones. We got to pick out of a selection of them. I got a Long John with frosting and sprinkles on top. Gabby got a chocolate cupcake with loads of frosting. They also gave us the recipe book that is used for the creations of the restaurant, Norwegian pastries called rosettes – dough that is shaped and then deep fried and sprinkled with powdered or brown sugar. Mmmmmm!
The guy who gave us pastries was a 4th grade teacher long ago (well, not so long ago). So next time you are in Mount Horeb, stop at Schuberts!
When we went into the kitchen, we were greeted with a warm aroma of some unknown delicacy.
Several residents of Mt. Horeb came to talk to the kids about their community. Mount Horeb is a really clean town. The people are really polite and friendly. There’s good industry, antique shops and really good places to eat. You will remember a lot of people who live in Mount Horeb, because it is a really small town.
Spinach Farm with Judy Hageman and Bill Warner
The farm is 240 acres of land, a house, and hoop houses. Bill Warner and Judy Hageman take care of the WHOLE thing.
The only thing that heats the greenhouses is the sun. At night, they are as cold as outside.
Bill’s secret is to freeze the spiniach. So, when the other farmers say, “Don’t freeze, don’t freeze!” he says, “Freeze, freeze!” If you freeze and than, the spinache gets sweeter every time. Other farmers try what he does, but the taste is “down in the soil”, he says. They sell spinach to restaurants, and sometimes at the Farmer’s Market, because they get better prices selling to the market and restaurants than to stores.
The family spends a lot of time in the library. Books about farming help them. They grow spinach organically. They have a little problem with aphids. The aphids eat some of the spinach. If you eat an aphid, the aphid would die. Nothing would happen to you.
Mary was born on the farm. It used to be a dairy farm.
Spinach, green and wet.
In rows they lay.
Not ready to pick.
It tastes good when cooked.
Cook it as you like.
Hooray for spinach.
Cedar Grove Cheese Factory
Cheesemaking in the Cedar Grove Cheese Factory begins at 10 P.M., when 100,000 pounds of milk arrive. By late the next morning, that will become 10,000 pounds of cheddar cheese.
Not long ago, there were close to a hundred cheese factories in Dane County, but now there are actually zero, zip, none, nada. We had to drive OUT of Dane County to find one.
The Cedar Grove Cheese Factory is 102 years old. In the early 1900s, it was just a basement, and upstairs is where the cheese maker lived.
To make cheese, there are two things you have to learn: Science and the Art of Cheese. Here are the basic steps:
- Heat milk to high temperature. The pasteurizer does that.
- Put the milk into a vat.
- Add bacteria for flavor.
- Put enzymes to make the milk thicken.
- Cut cheese into cubes with a machine called a harp.
Cheeses are all made differently, so a factory will probably make only one or two kinds of cheese.
The Cheese Factory
is the noise
KIDS-4 TV Station
Kids 4 is an television station operated by kids from little to 17. It’s on Channel 4. On these shows, the kids do the acting, directing, editing, and everything else, but sometimes they don’t control the cameras. In the building, there is a “Wall of Fame.” It has all the names of kids who have participated in Kids 4 on it. There is layer after layer of names. The station has high-tech equipment, such as digital editing and expensive cameras, and although kids do operate the cameras, they usually edit non-digitally.
Since the kids do everything, after a while they can graduate to a larger and harder position. Kids 4 has two sets, and that is so you can have two shows being filmed at the same time. Kids 4 teaches kids about life, and how not everything you see on TV is true. It teaches about peer pressure.
Kids go to Kids 4 when they are about my age (I’m 10). There, the professional TV people show them all kinds of things about TV. For example: how to work with a camera, how to work with a microphone, etc. Once the kids are finished with the basic steps, they go to an advanced level where they make commercials, shows, and even a little movie! Once you have done five special programs (you have completed them successfully), your name gets on the paper, and once you’ve done ten special programs, your name goes on a golden sheet, so everybody would know you’re an accomplished TV dude.
When we went to the well driller’s, we got to see all the tools they use. One of them looked like a fist with brass knuckles. The other two were like gears. One was made out of some sort of steel. The other one was made out of some metal. He also said his dad made some tools like a hook, spear, and a big tweezers.
The well drillers drill holes in the earth to pick up aquifers. Aquifers are groups of water moving through the earth that come from lakes and landfills. The well drillers suck up the aquifers so water can run through your house.
Well drilling is kind of iffy. If you hit a crack in drilling and an aquifer comes through while you’re drilling, it will completely flood your well. Then you have to suck up all that water before you reach the full length.
Well drilling has run in the family. Here is a story from when his grandpa worked: one time his grandpa guaranteed a farmer water, so he dug him a well. But it took him four years before he hit water. By this time his well was 10,250 feet deep and the average is 200 feet deep. That is why they don’t guarantee water.
Some people think that when you drill down for water it’s just there in a pool. This is not true. Water moves through a level in the ground called an aquifer. If you have a leaky landfill or something else like that, it can affect aquifers in the areas because the dirty water from the landfill will mix with the clean water, making it dirty. There are two kinds of aquifers: sand and rock. Rock is tighter, and clay separates different aquifers. If the aquifer is rock, the water moves through different cracks. If the aquifer is sand, the water sifts through.
When they used to make wells longer ago, they would line the well with rocks or wood. These kinds of wells are the kind most people fall into. These wells were dug with a shovel or an old tool that looked like this: leave space for drawing. They would pound the tool into the ground and then clean it out with a shovel.