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 since my parents retired. I have three brothers, 10 nieces and nephews, five great-nieces, one great-nephew and a mostly lovable pooch named Molly. Molly now keeps my parents entertained down on the farm.

Capture the moments

Days after my last blog was posted, my nephews were back at the family farm for their final weekend of the slug deer hunting season.

While I won’t subject you to a second round of their constant bickering, I must report that nephew Blake, in his third year of deer hunting, proudly shot his first deer — a doe — on Day One of Weekend Two.

To hope the two brothers would be proud of each other, however, was simply out of the realm of possibility. The younger of the sibling rivals pointed out on more than one occasion that, well, he shot a buck — and it was bigger.

Will they ever be happy for each other?

I’d like to hope so, but time will tell.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been sorting through years of family photographs stashed in albums and boxes, desk drawers and cubby-holes. There are dozens of baby pictures of nieces and nephews, adorable shots of toddling tikes and those funny, goofy poses I captured in exchange for a promise that they’d all “smile nicely” for a photo together.

I was THAT aunt at family gatherings — the one with the camera always dangling from my neck. Never would just one picture suffice. Back in the days of film cameras, multiples were snapped in hopes there would be at least one nice photo.

There must be half a dozen versions — for each year — of the proverbial kids-in-front-of-the-Christmas-tree picture featuring the nieces and nephews. It appears I made the switch to a digital camera sometime between the arrival of the now 10-year-olds and the now 8-year-old, as the sheer number of similar pictures dropped dramatically.

These days, I seldom print photographs. When I do, it’s more for my mom’s photo albums than for my own collection. My photo boxes and books, desk drawers and cubby-holes are no longer being added to. Instead, I’ve amassed a couple of small totes of DVDs filled with images. Since I ran out of storage disks, photos haven’t been downloaded from SD cards or my iPhone’s database. I’ll get to that some day, and I’m sure I’m not the only one saying that!

There are probably kids today whose entire lives are chronicled in images saved in digital formats or in the cloud. And if that’s the case, my nieces and nephews can be thankful they had a picture-taking aunt who captured their growing up years and printed the evidence — no matter how embarrassed they might now be for once being posed in coordinating M&M onesies or for making silly faces in front of the lens.

If you’re gathering with friends and family this Thanksgiving, here’s wishing you might capture the moments and enjoy the memories!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sibling rivalry

It had probably only been an hour since 10-year-old nephew, Reece, shot his very first deer on his very first weekend hunting the four-legged beast, but judging by the tone in Blake’s voice, his younger brother had been bragging about it for days.

“Oh, would you just be quiet,” the elder brother moaned, putting his hands over his face as if he couldn’t take it anymore.

Of course, Reece grinned and giggled all the more.

It was fairly obvious he was on a hunting high when he burst through the kitchen door exclaiming, “Julie, Julie, I got a deer, I got a deer!”

Yep, that’s my Godson. This John Deere-loving nephew and his red tractor fan of an aunt hadn’t seen each other in nearly two months — and he was so proud of himself.

He’s still young enough that he will give his Aunt Julie a hug, although as he did so, he said, “I got deer blood on my pants!”

Gee, thanks Reece.

Meanwhile, Blake was unusually quiet as he plopped down on a chair at the dining room table. The 14-year-old is still waiting to get his first-ever deer. During the past few years, it seemed the boy didn’t care if he shot one or not.

Well, now things have changed. Sibling rivalry has reared its ugly head.

Oh, the memories!

My three brothers and I don’t have sibling rivalries anymore, and I don’t think we had rivalries so much as arguments when we were kids. Thankfully we all grew up. Reece and Blake will too, but for now the barbs are flying.

After taking a short break Sunday afternoon, the hunters were ready to return to the farm fields and grasslands — Reece included.

“What are you going to do if you shoot another deer?” I asked Reece.

“I don’t know. I’ll probably use Blake’s tag,” he said.

“No you’re not!” Blake yelled.

Reece giggled.

Blake growled.

“You’d rather your tag went to waste than to put it on a deer Reece shoots?” I asked.

“Yes! Yes I would,” Blake answered.

Uff da.

The boys will return to the family farm this weekend for their final days of the slug hunting season. I hope Blake gets a deer!

Meanwhile, I’ll be at the farm, watching and waiting for them to bring back their hunting trophies — and saying a few prayers for all of them to have a safe, enjoyable hunt.

Embracing change

When I left the office in the snow and wind Wednesday afternoon, I couldn’t help but smile. The snow looked more like round pellets and the wind, well, it was the typical hang-onto-your-hat variety we often experience here in southwest Minnesota.

In other words it was brutal, but if you live in this part of the state, you already knew that.

And still, I smiled.

I smiled because although I had plans to do some volunteer work, my evening was mostly free.

I could go home, cover up with a blanket and turn on the heat lamp — otherwise known as my bright, daylight stitching lamp — and work on a trio of hardanger doilies. It’s what I like to do when the weather turns cold.

This is the time of the year when things are supposed to slow down a bit. It’s that window between mowing lawn and shoveling snow; the time when I start walking 2-mile laps indoors instead of more lengthy treks on the walk paths by the lake. It’s the time of year when the weather outside makes me WANT to stay indoors.

And, oh, I do have things indoors to keep me busy!

Four weeks ago, I spent my days purging papers and organizing projects. I filled up my recycling bin, hauled two loads of stuff to the thrift store and pulled some books from my bookshelf to donate to the library.

By the time I returned to work, I had already purchased more books than I’d given away. Uff da! But, at least everything is in its place — and I’m striving to keep it that way … at least until the chaos of Christmas decorating begins.

By the way, just in case you weren’t aware of it, eight weeks from today is Christmas. That means four weeks from now, the tree will go up; and — oh, by the way — this weekend, the Hallmark Channel starts its Countdown to Christmas programming.
Does anyone else want time to stand still for just a little while?

Maybe we all just need more of those rainy and snowy days of autumn to make us slow down, go home, put on the tea kettle and curl up with a good book or project.
Now, dreaming of those days just makes me smile.


We had the choice to go north or south. Not to Canada or the Gulf of Mexico, but about a nine-hour-drive either way from Worthington.

I was on vacation and ready for a road trip.

After years of leading the way to lighthouses, I offered my folks a chance to see something more their style. Say, oompah music-style.

I still can’t believe I suggested it!

I think the Saturday night and Sunday afternoon polka shows are starting to wear on me. I think … shh… I think I might actually like some of this music. (That’s my German heritage talking!) I like accordion music. And who doesn’t like to watch people yodel. It’s fascinating!

But back to the choices: Branson, Mo., or Minot, N.D. Everyone knows Branson has music, comedy, light shows, acrobatic acts — the opportunities are endless.

And Minot, well, it’s home to Norsk Høstfest, of course. And it just so happened I’d timed my vacation to make “Pure Scandimonium” a viable option.

Mom was teetering on the fence, not sure which destination would be best. Dad, hearing there would be walking involved, said he’d stay home and take care of the dog.

When we discovered the route to Minot would take us near Columbia, S.D., the birthplace of my Grandma Kohls, that settled it. We were going to Minot!

St. John's Lutheran Church in Columbia, S.D., where my grandmother was baptized.

St. John’s Lutheran Church in Columbia, S.D., where my grandmother was baptized. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

When we reached Columbia on a beautiful fall day, I pulled out my cell phone and called Uncle Eldy, the family historian, to confirm the Lutheran church — cornerstone dated 1917 — was the church Grandma attended in her youth. It was. Not only that, we learned Grandma, born in 1916, was baptized there. The town’s welcome sign declares Columbia the oldest town in Brown County — older, even, than the county seat of Aberdeen.

Uncle Eldy, of course, was wondering why we were in Columbia, and when I told him we were on our way to Norsk Høstfest, the line briefly went silent.

“Why are you going there? You’re 100 percent German!” Eldy declared.

I just giggled. We are exploring cultures! We do it all the time here in Worthington!

And really, I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by Scandinavians. I do Norwegian embroidery. I like lefse and sweet rice and Swedish meatballs. I like that I can usually find a goat collectible when I visit a Scandinavian store.

The Stave Church, a replica of one in Gol, Norway, is open to tours inside the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, North Dakota.

The Stave Church, a replica of one in Gol, Norway, is open to tours inside the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, North Dakota.

I don’t like lutefisk, but then I also don’t like sauerkraut. My genetics may say I’m German, but I feel connected to those northern European neighbors.

We spent a day at Norsk Høstfest. Mom took in all of the polka music she could — the country music shows were more my style, although I must admit, I spent a lot of the day walking around looking at all of the stuff. I admired rosemaling and wood carving and hardanger embroidery and I sampled so many sweet foods my stomach began to ache. (The caramel topped warm bread pudding, covered with thick cream just before serving, was the limit — but, oh, it tasted good!)

Before leaving town, we visited the replica Stave Church, from Gol, Norway, and a 25-foot-tall Swedish Dala Horse in Minot’s Scandinavian Heritage Park. It was pretty cool.

The 25-foot-tall Dala Horse is also in the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, North Dakota.

The 25-foot-tall Dala Horse is also in the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, North Dakota.

Then, we were Minnesota-bound, destination Bemidji, to see Paul Bunyan and Babe, along with other roadside attractions. I captured pictures of the largest Northern Pike statue in Erskine, and a gigantic Paul Bunyan statue in Akeley. Along the way, we saw lots of farmers harvesting sugar beets and potatoes, we passed sunflower fields and pulled off to park in front of any used bookstore Greta Garmin could find for me. Most of all, we enjoyed the scenery — the changing of the seasons, the vibrant colors of autumn. Oh, it’s my favorite season of all!

It was a wonderful, four-day getaway. For the next trip though, I think the lighthouses are beckoning me toward the water.

Erskine Pike

The World’s Largest Northern Pike roadside attraction at Erskine, Minnesota.

Bemidji Babe Bunyan

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji.

Akely Bunyan

The Paul Bunyan roadside attraction at Akeley, Minnesota.



The urge to purge

Earlier this year, after watching a TV show about tiny houses, I looked around my home and grew depressed about how much stuff I have.
That little voice in my head asked, “What have you done?” as I perused my surroundings — the wall hangings, the knickknacks, the needlework supplies and scrapbooking stash, the collection of books, magazines and mementos.
It wasn’t always like this.
Right out of college, nearly everything I owned was courtesy of estate sales and hand-me-downs. There was only so much that would fit in a small, one-bedroom apartment. As long as I had the essential furniture pieces, life was fine. It was also quite advantageous, considering the number of times I moved around.
Then I bought my house in Wabasso. Suddenly I had so much space, and so little to fill it. As a poor journalist, I picked up a few more estate auction finds and hosted Home Interiors parties to get deeply-discounted wall decor.
I’d acquired so much that when it came time to move to Worthington, I had to rent a trailer. My belongings no longer fit in the back of the pickup truck.
Now, after living in one place for more than a decade, I realize it would take more than a trailer to move my stuff. Simply put, I’ve failed to purge.
Well, that needs to change.
For the past several months, I’ve been working to minimize. I don’t think I’ll ever reside in a tiny house (it reminds me too much of my claustrophobic college dorm room), but I’m organizing, recycling and donating. I can’t say a single room is finished, but I will get there — one day.
I recently went to work on the area below the kitchen sink out of necessity. My faucet developed a drip and my oldest brother kindly installed new hardware.
As everything was scattered around my kitchen floor, I discovered no fewer than six extension cords and more AAA batteries than my MP3 player will burn through in its lifetime. I won’t even mention how many bottles of cleaning solution were under there!
As I organized the space, the work naturally led from one spot to another — that’s the way it is with my Attention Deficit Cleaning Disorder.
I found fishing lures in the antique sideboard (while searching for rubber bands to wrap around the extension cords) and fish hooks upstairs (while retrieving a basket for the cords and batteries) — even though my tackle boxes (yes, plural!) are in the basement. Before I carried the stuff down the steps, I grabbed the fishing reel that has sat next to the microwave for so long I can’t remember if it’s broken or in fine working order.
I recycled magazines and put stuff in its proper place and was feeling a sense of accomplishment.
And then I came across a floral card stuffed among a collection of papers.card
“Happy Birthday Granddaughter!” it read. I sat down on the floor, opened it up and found within a letter from my grandma — the wonderful woman my family lost in March, the grandma who would have celebrated her 99th birthday in August.
Suddenly, the urge to purge had left me.
Some things are simply worth saving.