Profile photo of Julie Buntjer

About Julie Buntjer

Hi, I'm a farm reporter for the Daily Globe in Worthington, Minn. I grew up on a 96-acre hobby farm raising goats, chickens, turkeys and barn cats. I also had sheep as an FFA and 4-H project. The farm is rather quiet now - just a few cattle which, by the way, scare the dickens out of me (one too many bad childhood memories!) I have three brothers, 10 nieces and nephews, four great-nieces, one great-nephew and a black and beautiful lovable pooch named Molly. Molly now keeps my parents entertained down on the farm.

Searching for something

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend in a day searching for something?

I’m always searching — searching for my car keys, searching for a dropped stitching needle, searching for story ideas or lead paragraphs — or searching for little slips of paper that contain important things like phone numbers or email addresses.

Sometimes I go searching just for fun.

My first find ... a three-point deer antler.

My first find … a three-point deer antler.

A couple of weeks ago — two days before my Grandma died — I went searching for sheds. It was a beautiful Monday afternoon and I’d taken the day off work to get my dad to a doctor’s appointment. We returned home earlier than expected, and I took full advantage of the 70-plus degree afternoon. Time spent out in nature is never wasted. Time spent looking for deer sheds and having no luck is disappointing — but still not wasted.

These past two weeks I’ve had several hours of disappointing walks looking for sheds, but back on that Monday afternoon — my first time out looking for sheds this year — I found two.

I was so excited! One was a three-point antler, the other a five-point. I took pictures and sent them to my nephew, and then I was chastised for going without him.

The five-point deer antler I found.

The five-point deer antler I found.

 

In all honesty, if I’d waited for Matt to go searching for sheds with me, he would have found both of them and they wouldn’t be proudly displayed on top of my curio cabinet — alongside the three other antlers (one of which I found, two of which were gifts from Farm Bleat readers).

Searching for sheds not only gets me outdoors, it gets me walking many miles as I follow deer paths, duck under tree branches and step over gopher mounds and downed tree limbs. At the end of the journey, I’m not sure who is more tired, me or my dog, Molly. The poor girl logs many more steps as she follows critter scents hither and yon.

I guess you could say she’s searching, too.

Last Saturday, it wasn’t me that was doing the searching so much as it was my parents and their 9-year-old and 7-year-old grandkids. The kids were guilty of misplacing the television remote during their Friday night sleepover at the farm, and my folks couldn’t figure out how to turn the TV on without it.

They tore the entire living room apart, pulling cushions out of chairs and couches, looking under blankets and behind furniture, pulling everything out of the toy bin and going through the drawers of VHS tapes and DVDs.

There was no sign of the Hershey bar-sized remote control.

Just before two of the three grandkids left for home Saturday night, Reece had made a comment about eating potato chips while they were up late Friday night.

Mom asked, “Do you suppose the remote is in the potato chip bag?”

Well, Reece darted to the kitchen, grabbed the bag and opened it up.

There, among the collection of smashed sour cream and onion Lay’s, was a greasy remote control.

The TV is back to blaring on Sunday afternoon. My parents have their feet up and their ears tuned to some polka dancing show on RFD-TV. That’s their subtle hint to tell me to go home — at least that’s what I tell them.

All is well. The search is over … at least until Dad misplaces his eyeglasses again.

Saying goodbye

I am often grateful to have a computer that allows me to write from home, but no more so than as I write this blog. I’m still in my PJs, I look a mess and after a couple of restless nights, my box of tissue is mere inches from my keyboard.

I lost my grandma on Wednesday. For the past 24 years, she was my last living grandparent. I will cherish forever all that she was — and all that she taught me to be.

My heart aches for people who say they weren’t close to their grandparents or never knew them. I never knew my Grandpa Buntjer, and my Grandpa Kohls died when I was seven. Had we shared more time together, perhaps he could have taught me to be a better fisherperson.

My grandmothers were always there for me, and I truly believed they shaped me into the person I am today. Rarely would I find Grandma Hattie without a book close at hand — she was such a voracious reader. Just as her books were important to her, my Grandma Elizabeth was never far from a needle and thread. Her hands were always making something, whether it was a quilt, a crocheted afghan, a doily or embroidered dish towel.

The things that brought them the most joy, aside from their family, were their hobbies.

A few years ago, after Gram moved into assisted living, she asked me if I ever got lonesome. As her one and only grandchild who never married, I told her no. I have shelves filled with books and an out-of-control needlework stash.

For her, it was a lonesome time. She’d lost her husband, she’d lost all four of her siblings, she’d lost many of her friends. As time went on, she even lost enthusiasm for her stitching.

In the last 48 hours, people have told me she lived a good, long life. At 98 years, 7 months and 5 days, I know she did. Still, it doesn’t lessen the pain of losing someone you love.

My mom and I had just visited Gram on Sunday. Even though she slept the entire length of our stay — she was tuckered out from the flu bug — we are so thankful now that we’d made the drive. I can still see the faint smile she gave me when I tickled her toes before we left late that afternoon.

My visits were never complete if I couldn’t get a smile out of Gram.

I carry with me so many memories — of her teaching me how to embroider dish towels and crochet a chain.

I learned never to walk stocking-footed in Grandma’s house, and later in her apartments. Stick pins — lost from her quilting and sewing projects — all-too-often jabbed painfully into my feet.

I learned to accept her moistened kisses on the cheek as we readied for home after visits.

I admired her strength — strength in her faith and trust in God, her strong-willed nature to stand up for herself, and her silent strength to overcome life’s greatest obstacles.

I appreciated her for enduring the hard times of the Great Depression, for working alongside her dad on the farm, milking cows, separating milk and feeding the pigs, and for continuing the livestock chores after she married. Being a housewife was no easy task. Back then, washboards, wringer washers, clotheslines and cloth diapers were what you had to work with. Food came from the garden and from the barn, and canning was a necessity.

In a book of memories Gram wrote for me, she told of how they didn’t have money when she was growing up. Her lunch box usually contained “white sandwiches.” If butter wasn’t available, her mom spread lard on the bread.

“You ate it because there was nothing else to eat, but I didn’t like them,” she wrote.

Gram’s sandwiches are something all of us grandkids will remember. No matter when we visited, we were always sure to be sent home with some of her homemade buttered buns and whatever lunchmeat she had on hand. She’d put them in a bread bag and we couldn’t leave without accepting “something for the road.”

On Wednesday, as my mom, uncles, aunt and I sat at the kitchen table before the funeral arrangements were made, we dined on sandwiches — this time on homemade buns made by my mother. I grew up on them, but I guess my uncles had missed out. Oh, how they praised my mom’s baking, saying the buns “tasted just like Mom’s!”

Gram may be gone, but I know there will be many times when something triggers a fond memory of her.

We will say our goodbyes — for now, but not forever — on Monday. My tears are still flowing, the lump is still lodged in my throat. I will not be able to sing “Just As I Am” or “Amazing Grace,” but my Gram will know that she was loved.

Now I know my ABC’s, won’t you read along with me?

Oh, I love to read,

How I do, yes I do!

And I’m sure many of you

Just love to read too!

 

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Through a book’s lovely pages.

I’d read all day

If I didn’t need wages!

 

The first books I owned featured horses and cats

Oh, how I enjoyed The Cat In the Hat!

Green Eggs and Ham, well that sounded gross.

My breakfast would be peanut butter on toast!

 

Thanks Dr. Seuss for writing such stories;

To you on this day we give the glories.

It’s Read Across America Day.

I’d read a book, if I had my way!

 

Happy birthday Dr. Seuss,

Happy Birthday to You!

You brought us the Grinch and Cindy Lou Who,

The Lorax, the Wocket — and Thing I and Thing II.

 

I learned to read from the books that you wrote,

But why did you never write about goats?

Oh, it’s OK. That’s just fine!

Billy Whiskers prevails on the bookcase of mine!

 

My taste in books, now they do vary,

My favorite is If You’re Not from the Prairie!

No murders or mysteries appeal to me,

I’m simply happy just reading Debbie.

 

Books entertain and inspire;

Make you dream or admire,

Play the villain, be the star.

Read a book, wherever you are!

 

Now go get a book,

An actual book or a Nook.

And sit down to read;

Take all day if you need!

 

Books make you think, hope and dream;

They make you laugh, cry or believe.

Oh, go get a book as I wrap up this rhyme

And sit and relax for a moment in time.

Special days ahead

Did you know there is a celebration or special day for every single day on the calendar? I hadn’t really researched it until yesterday, when I was desperate to come up with something to write about for my blog.

Not only is there a designated special day every day of each month, some days have more than one.

For instance, yesterday was President’s Day, but did you know it was also Do a Grouch a Favor Day? That is not to be confused with Random Acts of Kindness Day, which is today. I suppose if you do a random act of kindness for a grouchy person today, you should feel extra special!

Better yet, treat yourself to some chocolate mints, but wait until Thursday, which is National Chocolate Mint Day. If chocolate mints aren’t your thing, you can always wait until Friday, which is Cherry Pie Day.

Later this month are National Tortilla Chip Day (Feb. 24) and National Pistachio Day (Feb. 26).

In between now and the end of the month, there are also some days that make you wonder just who was in charge of the designations. For instance, Feb. 23 is International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day. Really? We need world-wide appreciation for dog biscuits? Perhaps I can celebrate by buying my Molly another bag of Marrow-Bone treats — she loves them! Then again, if I bought the treats on Friday, it could be her “Love your Pet Day” gift.

There is also Walking the Dog Day on Sunday. Because Molly is a farm dog, she doesn’t wear a leash and doesn’t get walked, per se. She likes her freedom to roam wherever, whenever.

While many of these daily celebrations sound kind of silly, the one that seems really random to me is Pistol Patent Day (Feb. 25). Public Sleeping Day on the 28th is another strange one.

I haven’t even mentioned the month-long celebrations, although the list did produce an idea for our Culture Team here at the Daily Globe. I see a celebration of Great American Pie Month in our near future!

Our other option would be to give every employee here a grapefruit (It’s also National Grapefruit Month), but I have a feeling that wouldn’t go over quite as well.

Attention deficit, times two

He acted as though I’d never been responsible for a child before, the oldest brother of mine.

Obviously he’d forgotten all the years I’d spent babysitting the neighborhood kids.

“I can handle it,” I assured.

Really, what can a four-year-old get into anyway?

I should have listened. After all, the warning came from my oldest brother — oldest, as in the most responsible — the first-born, the one whom all younger siblings should trust and respect.

I’m a middle child. We tend to take life as it comes. We can be responsible when we need to be … and I am, at work.

Yes, it’s fair to say my days of looking after little kids have long since passed. My brother probably figured I’d lost the knack.

Before he left me with his granddaughter, he issued us each a warning.

“Be good!” he said to Kiera in a stern, grandfatherly voice.

To me, “You’ve got to watch her ALL THE TIME! She gets into everything!”

Oh, and he not only brought me this smiley little girl to watch during the big football game, he also brought along her supper — a Happy Meal. I guess he figured he’d either save me some work or ensure she had something to eat. In my defense, I was making a hotdish when they arrived.

While I left Kiera to dine on her chicken nuggets and fries, I was cooking noodles and frying beef. My back was to her for maybe 30 seconds — a minute, tops.

The pitter-patter of little feet caused me to turn around, only to discover Kiera had pulled the key from the curio cabinet and was trying to put it in the keyhole of the antique buffet.

“No, no, no,” I cautioned, urging her to put the key back where she found it. Kiera listened and returned to her seat at the table.

Minutes later, as I assemble the hotdish, I heard drawers opening.

Kiera, apparently moving quieter this time, had made her way across the room and began pulling out drawers to look at my movie collection.

I convinced her to get back to her supper while I put “Frozen” into the DVD player for the umpteenth time.

Not long after that, the timer sounded and I pulled the hotdish from the oven, only to turn and find Kiera admiring my latest stitching project with her chicken nugget-greased fingers.

Time for a teaching moment: “Little hands must be washed before touching Aunty Julie’s needlework!”

The teaching moment for me: Listen when big brother says you have to watch the little girl ALL THE TIME!

All in all, we enjoyed a nice aunty-niece visit. We had a tea party on the living room floor, she was amazed I had a Barbie Jeep, and she was intrigued by the fishing poles. Yes, she explored every nook and cranny of my house and, at the end of the night, she exclaimed, “I want to come back to your house again!”

Next time, I’ll remember to put the stitching away, hide the curio cabinet key and have the plastic tea cups waiting.