Indeed.  That’s Norwegian for wonderful.   We traveled to the northern edge of the state this weekend to visit the very lovely town of Decorah.  My goodness!  What appears to be very small town Iowa is filled to the brim with THE most lovely little shops.   The Vesterheim was celebrating Syttende Mai – Norway’s Constitution Day, similar in thought to our Fourth of July.  

The celebration begins with a parade for the children.

Children's Parade

Children's Parade

 

This little town truly appreciates it heritage, shown through the young Nordic dancers that were there.The children dancing here are 3rd graders and 8th graders.  They are selected through competition in the third grade and will continue to dance together throughout their junior year of high school!  They did a beautiful job!

The Dancers

The Dancers

Sarah loved it all!

Baby Sarah

Baby Sarah

 

We visited Another Quality Chick, a neat blend of farm meets modern…  Decorah’s Hatchery has been owned by the same family for three generations.  When you walk in you’ll be surprised to find yourself in a pretty trendy little shop, and they have the best socks! 

Inside the Hatchery

Inside the Hatchery

What you don’t realize is that you’re in a hatchery – unless the peeping of chicks gives it away.  I wanted desperately to buy their last stock of Cochin babies, but alas, DH didn’t think sitting in the car for the next ten hours would be great for their health.  He was probably, maybe, possibly, right.  The very best part of the shop?  Oh, it HAD to be the incubators.  I had NO idea there were incubator IN the shop until DH pointed them out to me.  They’re huge, wooden incubators built in 1839.  You don’t know they are part of the shop because he’s converted a couple into clothing shelving, so they just fit right in.  And, let me tell you, their shirts REALLY get around.  Don’t believe me?  Look here….

Onto yet another shop…  The Blue Heron Knittery. 

Blue Heron's Shop

Blue Heron's Shop

They were having a “Drop In and Knit” weekend…  A few talented women, sitting in a circle, enjoying one another’s presence, and knitting.  Okay, I was MORE than a little jealous.  I’ve taken two classes thus far on knitting and I’m NOT good at it.  But I want to be.  I’m a work in progress.  DH, that lovely DH ‘o mine, bought me some very lovely, silky variegated wool yarn in a truly gorgeous lime… I have plans for a baby hat.  We did tell you Number 9 will be debuting in January, didn’t we?  Hopefully this little one will inspire me to stick with it.   It was a little difficult to explain to the women, no, I can’t really knit, but I do have a wool fetish and I do shop for wool.  Hmmm… How does that work?  I admit it.  If ever I really learn how to knit, I’ll be homeless, sitting on a corner, with a sign that says, “Will work for wool.”   Don’t believe me?  Window shopping at Hyena –

Back to Decorah…

The purpose of this weekend was Ana’s 13th birthday.  This trip to Vesterheim was officially hers.  It’s why you won’t see any little ones in the pictures.  We dropped them off at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  And just in the knick of time – two of them threw up and one ended up with a fever.  (I felt SO guilty.)  They had an awful lot of fun though.  They got to go to see their cousins, the girls did a bit of shopping with Grandma, and the boys planted flowers and cut and piled “stuff” with Grandpa and then Grandpa, cause he’s a firefighter, took them down to the Fire Station.  I think it’s an awful lot of work for Grandma and Grandpa to take on so many at once, but I just KNOW my kids are going to remember these times.  Grandpa takes them to the Fire Station every time they babysit and Grandma is one of those grandmas that is really GREAT at the home arts, especially cooking.  She is a great, natural cook…. She can toss in ingredients willy nilly and it always comes out right.  She passed the gift down to my husband, unfortunately it hasn’t rubbed off on me yet.  But she always gives the kids treats or bakes with them and they love it. 

This is a gift to her as she is absolutely obsessed with Genealogy.  We have the most information about my Grandfather’s side, as they were German and kept careful track of records & dates.  But she has a significant amount of information on my Grandmother’s side, and they were Norwegian.  She’s wanted to visit Vesterheim for some time and the weekend did NOT disappoint.

Now, me at 13?  Couldn’t have caught me dead in a museum.  But, let me just say, we’re two very different people, and I SO like her!  We were incredibly blessed in that as we started going through the museum we were able to speak with a man who lived his first 52 years in Norway.  He was able to find the place (Sortland) where our relatives lived when they were there.  He showed Ana on a map and talked to her about Norway in his thick Norwegian accent, which was just so lovely.  It made the experience just so rich. 

Map of Norway - Sortland

Map of Norway - Sortland

Four levels of Norwegian history, culture, and artifacts.  They even had a ship, yes a REAL ship, inside the building that traveled from Norway with its’ cargo of two brothers. 

The Tradewind carried two brothers to America from Norway.

The Tradewind carried two brothers to America from Norway.

  What was impressed on me the most was their love of beauty.  So often we think of the immigrants and pioneers to be purely functional.  But when we traveled around the museum we grasped their love of beautiful things.  Almost everything was beautiful as well as functional… They carved, burned, painted on so many of their items.

Spoon

Spoon

The marriage chests were lovely too.  Each had carved or painted the bride’s name on side and the groom’s on the other.  What a gift that would be to give!

Marriage Chest

Marriage Chest

Plenty to see, plenty to look at!

Vesterheim

Vesterheim

 

From there we dropped into the Oneota Co-Op to see what they had and again, we weren’t disappointed.  You’ll be relieved to know they had local soap made by Linden Soaps.  It’s something I look for in every shop and I’m thoroughly disappointed when Iowa shops don’t carry local soapers.  I was VERY impressed by the soap they carried as well.  It was all essential oils, sold by the log, naturally colored, and silky smooth.  I have to admit here that I am a total soap snob.  I’m pretty judgemental when it comes to soap…  These soaps were perfectly poured without a flaw, log after log, and a nice selection.  A truly gifted soaper, and I really liked her website as well.

As far as co-ops go, you’ll find one in almost every college town these days.  They’ve gotten very popular lately and it’s easy to see why.  It allows people to have so much more say in their food, makes organic affordable, and provides a great selection.  I was surprised to find Oneota was far ahead of themselves though!  They were established in 1972, long before the current food movement.   And, I admit, finding maple syrup there at $6.90 per pound tickled my to the tips of  my toes.

And finally, the best part of the trip was saved for last…. A field trip of sorts to Seed Savers. 

Seed Saver's

Seed Saver's

 

Seed Saver’s is committed to continuing heirloom variety… Um, well, everything.  They are breeding and producing heirloom plants, vegetables, flowers, and even cattle.  We were able to visit their new little chicken coop where they’ve just gotten in their new little flock – all listed as critical on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy’s list.  I was tickled to see they had Buckeyes, but I admit a little disappointed to see they had no Iowa Blues, which are not on the Critical list as they are currently being studied, but would have been such a nice addition.  Though I haven’t yet been able to find where I can purchase the chicks OR the eggs.

We loved their setup in the coop and in the coming weeks you’re going to see us do a few fabulous things.  We’ve been planning, trying to decide which chicken breeds to breed for our own flock and for others and it has been a long hard fight/discussion.  As of yesterday we finally made our decisions.

Buckeyes – Critical
Andalusians – Critical, though we think we lost all of our McMurray blue stock in a recent massacre that swept through our stock.
Faverolle – Critical – But our hands down favorite.

Faverolle - Picture from MyPetChicken

Faverolle - Picture from MyPetChicken

Delaware – Critical
Wyandotte, Blue – Though on the recovering list, we know these are an assette to any flock.
Orpington, Buff – Again recovering, but for the same reason as above.
Ameraucana – These are currently being studied and are not at risk, but who can resist the blue egg layer?  Moreover, we won’t be having Aracaunas as they have a genetic lethal allele that causes a high mortality rate in chicks.

So, we’re redoing the entire coop so that we can have several of these birds as breeding stock.  It will be a long road, but we will be hatching our own stock next Spring!  Very exciting for us and as it will be set up, we’ll be able to allow each breed out every day…  Nice for them as well.  While there were several breeds to consider, they had to lay well, be able to handle some confinement, and handle cold Iowa weather.   I’m desperately pleading my case for Brahmas, but limited space and all that jazz.  But, my I like them.

Brahma Hen

Brahma Hen - Picture from My Pet Chicken

 Quiet and tame, they are strong, brown egg layers, that end up being a fairly heavy breed if you don’t go in for the bantams.

We had started many seedling from heirloom varieties in February from Baker Creek to avoid genetic modification, but our broccoli died.  We picked up some broccoli and yet more tomato plants… Are we up to 52 plants now?  I think that’s where the count stands. 

And, on the bunny front, the colony is coming along very slowly.  DH built the first nest box this weekend and I’m going to attempt to teach myself to use his tools and saws this week to make toys.  I never thought I’d be making rabbit toys.  The rabbits, on the other hand, seem to be very happy in their little Bunny Commune.  Have a great and productive day!

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