City Life Meets Country Living

This past weekend, my family, my husband and I packed up and headed to the big city – Chicago. (Our dog spent the weekend on the farm with my dad) My cousin got married in a small town about two hours outside the city, but we thought we would take the opportunity to do a little sight-seeing.

This was my husband and my second trip to Chicago, but the first time there for my mother and sister. We hit all the usual spots — Navy Pier, Wrigley Field and Magnificent Mile. And of course, we had Chicago style pizza. wrigley

I wanted to visit Lincoln Park Zoo, which, let me tell you, is a wonderful little zoo and it’s free! It was a bit of a trek from our hotel. (Sat on the train for a while and then walked several blocks.) The first view we got of the zoo was kind of like seeing the farm back home! It was a barnyard right in the middle of Chicago, complete with cattle, goats, sheep and all the animals. It was actually very cool to see a city take this step to teach urban children about another lifestyle and where their food comes from. They even had a milking demonstration. They showed the old fashioned hand-milking, as well as the modern machine based milking. (I wanted my husband to step in and show off his skills. He grew up on a dairy farm. He is always boasting about how well he can milk a cow.)

While we saw several children and school groups excited to see the monkeys, bears and sea lions, it was nice to see the same energetic faces get excited over a cow, chickens and goats. (A while the city is fun to visit, the green zoo was nice to get a little break from the concrete jungle.)

The day after sight-seeing, we made the quick two hour drive to a small town outside of Chicago. My cousin got married in a small country church with their reception on his wife’s family Illinois farm. (Complete with a barn dance!) It may sound silly, but I think a lot of farmers do this. My husband and I kept checking out the crops. Was the corn taller here than back home? How do their beans look?cooling tower

One image I will definitely remember is, while we were driving through the country to the church, we kept getting closer and closer to these huge cooling towers of a power plant. When we drove right past the smoking towers, we all thought there is no way this is a nuclear plant. They would never let a road get that close right? Wrong. A quick web search revealed it was indeed a nuclear power plant surrounded by corn fields.

It was just amazing to see power for millions of people being produced in the heartland where food grows every day for millions of people.

As a look back, this past weekend was filled with city life meets country living.





Blog Bio Pic with Color

Orange Poppy Seed Dressing

orange poppy seed dressingIngredients
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/4 cup canola oil

1. Put the first 5 ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
2. Slowly add oil; blend until combined.
3. Pour into a storage jar; add poppy seeds and shake.
4. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
5. Serve on a salad of mixed greens with mandarin oranges and toasted sliced almonds (or create your own combination).
6. This dressing keeps for at least 3 days in the refrigerator.

Yield: 1 cup dressing

Recipe from with modifications and photo by Lois Linke.

Farmers Face Challanges to Rebuild After at Tornado

It’s been an interesting storm season in Nebraska this year. It seems like we’ve had quite a few tornadoes than past years. When the twin tornadoes hit Pilger, my heart sank not only for the people I know who lost their homes, but also for those I don’t know. Driving home the weekend after, the road into town was still closed. I saw trash littering fields all through Stanton County. It was heartbreaking to see landscape I know so well look so foreign, and yet I was thankful the storm missed my parent’s farm. It was a little too close for comfort and I would wind up thinking that a couple more times in the following 5 Bierman homestead cropped

The tornadoes that ripped through Pilger passed south of the family farm. The next night, tornadoes roared into Cedar County. This time I was concerned for my in-laws’ farm. Again, thankfully, they were not affected. But June 30th started with a bang. Tornado warning for Wayne county at 8:30 a.m. When I hear a meteorologist say my hometown, Hoskins, I get a little worried. A town of about 300 people doesn’t get mentioned much. But, watching radar from my office in Lincoln and following twitter, I pray my grandparents are in their basement and the dogs are safe. (Mom and Dad typically would be at work.)

This time the tornado passed a mile or so to the North. After I am sure it’s safe, I call Grams. She tells me Dad took the day off to get some farming done. He kept them well informed. They were in the basement cutting up freshly butchered chickens. Safe and sound. It got VERY windy, but everyone was OK and nothing happened.

IMG_1935Knock on wood, tornado season is over and I won’t have another mini-heart attack with worry.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a couple farmers who were affected by the stationary tornado that grinded Cedar County for an hour June 18. (That storm system held over Cedar County for about four hours. At least half a dozen tornadoes were reported that night.) Some farmers were able to replant, others were not as lucky. They are trying to rebuild their entire farms. I know Pilger took the spotlight, and don’t get me wrong, people lost everything and need a lot of help. But sometimes tornadoes that hit rural areas are shrugged off and forgotten. I don’t think people realize that damage that is done to farm fields and rural homes. You have to remember, to farmers their land is more than just a home, it is also their business, their livelihood.

Now, if a tornado wipes out a town, are victims will be able to qualify for state and even federal aid. Usually, FEMA will assess the damage and if it reaches a certain level, the government steps in to help. This isn’t always the case for farmers. Since the tornado hit only a couple farms, the damage isn’t enough for the federal government to render aid. The state will do their own assessing and may determine to provide aid, but it can be a toss-up. So, that means the farmer is relying on insurance to cover and replace everything, but that coverage may fall short. That’s why the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture started the Tornado Disaster Relief Fund. The money will be used to help farmers and ranchers rebuild. They are people who supply food and fuel for all Nebraskans, some of whom have lost not only their homes but their way to make a living.

TOrnado Relief Fund

There are two ways to donate, mail in a check or go online.

NFB-Foundation for Agriculture

ATTN: Tornado Disaster Relief Fund

P.O. Box 80299

Lincoln, NE 68501



Blog Bio Pic with Color



Mom’s Fruit Salad Dressing

mom's fruit salad dressingNote: This is a very versatile dressing. It keeps for a long time in the refrigerator and can be used to dress nearly any mixture of fruit.

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup evaporated milk or half and half
Dash of salt

1. In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients.
2. Cook over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, stirring constantly.
3. Chill before using as a dressing. It will thicken as it cools.

Recipe from Lois Linke’s mother, the late Irene Peterson, and photo by Linke.

Hot time in the Summer….

garden lanscape toolsWhen it comes to Nebraska weather, we all tend to forget how quickly our feelings can switch. Why, only six months ago many of us complained about how cold it was outside. Many pleaded for Mother Nature to give us a bit of warm weather to remind us spring would soon return. Only two years ago, we were entering the beginnings of the Drought of 2012, the soil was parched, plants were withering, and many lawns were turning brown. Without moisture, the grass was going dormant in the heat.

This spring and early summer has been enjoyable with rainfall that is more normal and at times cooler temperatures. There isn’t anything quite like summer in Nebraska. The old adage “If you don’t like the weather – wait five minutes – it’ll change” certainly comes to mind. But every year Mother Nature turns up the heat and sends us more normal summer weather, and that normal weather will drive many of us into the cool respite of air conditioned houses and outside searching for shade to avoid the heat.

July and August for many is a time for vacations, celebrating the Fourth, and enjoying the sweet taste of vegetables from our vegetable gardens. For those of us in the nursery industry we spend our time helping clients try to keep their landscapes and gardens looking their best. For some that could mean dealing with disease and insects, others it could mean assistance with caring for their plants, and for others installing new plantings. Yes, I did say planting.

While the summer is not a time to “plant and forget,” it can be a great time to plant. Many have extra time and possibly some help from kids out of school or are simply spending more time at home caring for their kids over the summer. While some days bring terrible heat, most summer mornings or early evenings usually bring moderation to the heat making it actually enjoyable to be out working in our landscapes and gardens.

When we talk about planting in the summer, it is with some understanding and care. Simply put, people who plant in the summer usually tend to care for their plants better than those who wait for fall. The nicer weather in spring encourages people to believe that Mother Nature will take care of new plants without our help. We see our plants standing strong and tall and mistakenly believe that we will not have to do much because the plants are looking great. However, with our Nebraska summer we need to make sure we are caring for our plants, whether we planted them last fall, this spring, or this summer. Keep an eye on any plant younger than about 12 months, make sure you water them about once or twice a week and you should do fine.

For those who are itching to add a few plants or simply have finally found time to work in the landscape, summer planting can be rewarding and offer great success with proper care. A young plant, whether it is planted in the cool spring or the hot summer, simply needs a bit of assistance to make sure it survives until it can set its roots and begin caring for itself. How long this takes will depend on the plant. Check with your local nursery professional for specific care instructions for your specific plantings.
When it comes to caring for your older plants while they should not need as much supervision, do not worry if they are not looking as good as they did in the spring. A bit of timely watering, maybe some trimming to shape the plant, and a bit of mulch to help hold the moisture around the root system of all your plants can do wonders to help them through the summer. With a bit of care, plants showing stress in the heat should perk right back up and yes, even thrive, in our challenging summers.

Now when we talk to clients about summer plant care the first thing we mention is to try to walk the landscape at least once a week even in the heat. Check for weeds, look for insect or disease issues, and generally try to catch problems before they can get out of hand in the heat. A bit of work in the heat could solve a problem with minimal effort versus waiting until the weather is cooler but now the problems have grown and it might take lots of work to get things back in shape. Many of our clients usually do this walk around when they mow their lawns.

As you walk your landscape keep an eye out for insects eating on foliage, red spider on evergreens, bagworms, turf damage from grubs or webworms, and fungal issues on roses, turf, and other plants. Most problems, if noticed before too much damage occurs or pests are allowed to get out of control, can be controlled with timely treatment. While many chemicals are labeled for plants and pests, always follow label directions and consult a nursery professional with questions and to get help picking the right control for your situation.

As long as you are able to check on your plants once or twice a week through the summer and add a bit of water as needed, and possibly deal with a problem before it gets out of hand, you should be able to keep your plants growing well and looking good even in the heat of summer.

Overall Mother Nature can be our best friend or worst enemy. Which one we believe she is all depends on what she brings us each day, and I for one have said a few choice words about her already this year. However, if we are there to care for our plants here and there, the summer time in Nebraska can be an enjoyable and often fulfilling time in the landscape.

Remember these 5 tips:

• Keep watching for insects and disease in your turf and plants. The added stress of summer heat can make any problems they cause affect your plants even worse.
• Check your turf for grub issues. Consider applying preventative treatments if you have had grub issues in the past. Otherwise, keep an eye out for damage then treat ASAP.

• Watch your watering! It is just as easy to over water your plants as it is to under water. Best results are to water at least a day or two apart and apply the water slowly and have it sink deep into the soil to encourage plants to establish vigorous root systems. Aim to water for longer duration less frequently for best results.

• Dead head old blooms as needed to encourage plants to re-bloom faster or to give a cleaner appearance on plants done blooming for the season.

• Keep an eye out for fungus. With higher humidity this time of year, we are seeing fungal issues. Use preventatives if you are worried as prevention takes half the material and effort as attempting to cure will take.

Andy Campbell is manager of Campbell’s Nurseries Landscape Department. A Lancaster County Farm Bureau Member, Campbell’s, a family owned Nebraska business since 1912, offers assistance for all your landscaping and gardening needs at either of their two Lincoln garden centers or through their landscape design office.