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.

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.

The universal language

Back when I was in the eighth grade at then-Worthington Area Junior High School, I faced my biggest decision ever about class offerings.

I could enroll in one full-year elective as a freshman.

It doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, until you hear the options.

For me, the decision waivered between enrolling in Agriculture 9 and following in the FFA footsteps of my two older brothers (yes, back then it was still called Future Farmers of America); or continuing on in the German language. As an eighth-grader, I had a one-trimester taste of Deutsch thanks to Herr Pearson.

The farm girl and 4-H’er in me sided with my family’s agricultural roots — instead of with my family’s German heritage.

Oh, how I wish I could have taken both electives in place of other classes I had to take — like shop and sewing. (I don’t trust my fingers will ever be safe around saw blades or sewing machines. My apologies to the shop and home ec teachers!)

Having recently connected with a distant cousin on the Aeilts (Aielts or Ailts — there were 12 kids and three different spellings among them!) side of the family tree, I think it’s safe to say we’re both a bit frustrated with our communication efforts.

Matthias and I frequently send email messages and Facebook Messenger notes back and forth. On Christmas day, he shared a video of the children’s choir singing in the beautifully ornate, 800-year-old church in his hometown of Ostfriesland. Last weekend, I photographed obituary cards and old photographs and emailed them to him. He was thrilled to have more information to add to his genealogy research.

In one such photo, the only identification is “Grandpa and Grandma Aeilts.” We didn’t know how many generations back it went, but Matthias recognized the man in the photo as being my great-grandfather — and the brother to his great-grandfather.

Music and pictures can be understood in any language. Actual words, however, cannot.

Last summer, when I traveled to the Crailsheim area of Germany and stayed with a host family, dear Inge and Silke exclaimed, after several challenging days of verbal communication, that “we talk with our hands and our feet!”

And it struck me. You know, my Hispanic neighbors might not understand me sometimes either, but at least we can nod and smile and move our hands and our feet and find our universal language.

Well, the hands and feet do no good through Internet communication!

And so, Matthias will ask someone to help translate my English-only emails and messages, or he tries to run words through a German-English translation program. Sometimes, when he just can’t find the English word for what he wants to say, he writes it in German.

I find myself turning to Google Translate to decipher words like angekommen and arbeite and “Das wünsche ich auch.”

Slowly, I’m finding the words in German to say what I want to say.

We are learning from each other.

Yeah, I wish I could speak German fluently — and Matthias probably wishes he could speak English as he traces back our family tree. But it’s OK. Life is good.

Some day, when he comes to America, Matthias says he will buy me a beer and we will share laughs. Now that is a gesture understood in any language!

Birthday Girl

For the past year I’ve been looking forward to this day, my 44th birthday. Four is my favorite number, and there are two of them in my age for the next 365 days. How awesome is that?

But now that the day is here, well, I’m not quite as excited. In fact, this will be the last year I share my age with pride.

When I was a kid, I thought 44 was old. In fact, I thought if I lived to be 44 that would be good enough. What good can come of living to be, say, 45?

Well, of course we all know that as we age, the point at which we determine someone has reached “old age” is ever-changing. And then, when we really do reach that age, we call ourselves antiques.

I like the use of that word – antique. It means treasured, doesn’t it? (Insert smiley face!) Still, I’m far from being one – an antique, that is! (I can’t say the same about some of my childhood toys, like the Little People Barnyard and Playhouse that are now overpriced relics at flea markets.)

After reading co-worker Robin’s blog in Friday’s paper about her upcoming birthday (we are 10 years, one month and one day apart in age) and learning that her worst birthday was at age 25, I began to get depressed.

Shoot, I’ve been out of high school for 25 years. I don’t even remember my 25th birthday, and it isn’t because I indulged in too much alcohol.

Oh well, age is a fact of life, and we must make the most of life, right?

Like everybody else, my life has been one of ups and downs. I’ve been on Cloud 9, I’ve been in the fetal position on the couch muttering, “Kill me now!”

I’ve learned a lot. I have a whole lot more to learn … like how to use the jumper cables my dad makes me transport in my car, and how to make my mom’s homemade bread and strawberry jam.

I have to read every single page of every single book filling the five-shelf bookcase in my house. I have to finish the stitching projects I’ve started and find the time to make more projects from my stash.

I have to make time for evening walks, fishing trips and lazy days. I have to learn to relax – enjoy life a little more and stress a little less.

These are my goals in this, my 44th year.

Christmas chaos

For the past several years, my mom has toyed with the idea of having our family gatherings somewhere other than the farm. Her reason: the house isn’t big enough for everyone.

She is right, to an extent. After all, there are 26 of us when we all get together.

Last Sunday – the day my brothers and sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces agreed to gather – family members piled shoes at one end of the house and coats at the other. In between, there was a counter overflowing with egg bakes, French toast dishes and homemade caramel rolls (replaced later in the day with oyster stew, soups, meatballs and an assortment of other foods). As if that wasn’t enough, there was an entire table dedicated to Christmas goodies.

Add in 24 people (my oldest brother was sick and my oldest nephew was gallivanting around Atlanta, Georgia) and it was a little crowded.

A cozy kind of crowded.

We sent the little kids to the basement to play, and the older boys went out to play one-on-one basketball in the haymow of the barn. A couple of the nephews even went hunting through the grove.

All in all, things were going pretty well.

Then, minutes after the kids went to the basement, the nearly-9-year-old niece bounded back upstairs to exclaim she lost a tooth.

“Where is it?”

“It’s in the couch!” she said with pride. (She did go back in search of the tooth, thank goodness!)

A short while later, we heard chanting coming from the basement.

“We’re not kids! We’re not kids!”

I can only imagine this stemmed from the adult orders for the kids to go play in the basement.

The chant was soon replaced with what we adults considered to be some sort of screaming contest between all of the girls, ages four to almost 9. I exclude Elsie, the one-and-a-half-year-old, only because she wasn’t downstairs when this so-called contest was taking place. I’m pretty sure the girls were competing for the loudest and the longest scream possible. Elsie could have been a strong contender, though, considering she was battling teething pain for part of the day.

There was one timeout issued against one of the three four-year-olds (apparently she hit a fellow four-year-old in the face); a meltdown over gift distribution from the 7-year-old; and a Christmas present – a plastic toy – broken within a minute or two of being pulled from its box by the 9-year-old.

All in all, I’d say it was a normal family Christmas!

I can hardly wait until next year when we’ll add a new baby to the family. I can already envision it now – the great-aunts, me included, will be jockeying for position to hold the baby and it will be the kids telling us to stop it and, um, start acting like adults.

Hopefully we’ll still be celebrating in the cozy farmhouse.