Saturday, January 03, 2015

Winter At Palmquist Farm by Ben Kramer

We thought you might enjoy reading this story about the Farm that one of our guests, Ben, wrote for a memoir assignment at school. Obviously, Palmquist Farm is as special to him (and us) as it is for you!  He got an A on it!

Winter at Palmquist Farm 
By Ben Kramer

   Each freezing winter break, our family heads north to the small town of Brantwood,Wisconsin, to a special place where winter magic truly happens. In the middle of nowhere lies a Finnish farm, owned by the Palmquist family for a little over a century. As we make the turn over the snow-covered dirt road and drive through the log overhang leading to the farmhouse, I know we are there. A sense of lightness and freedom comes over me; I run into the farmhouse. Jim Palmquist, one of the farm’s owners, gives me a warm, friendly greeting and a strong handshake.  The kind, gray-haired man is always happy to see us. For the last two years, we have stayed in theRed Cabin, a small four-roomed log building all to ourselves. I have many good memories of sitting around the fireplace there, playing games and telling stories.
   Each morning, we wake up early and walk over to the farmhouse. The whole building smells of delicious, home-cooked food made by Helen Palmquist, Jim’s wife.Sometimes, if we get there early enough, I’ll play the piano, which Helen andDonna, one of the farm assistants, enjoy. I always tease my mom that Helen’s cooking is almost, just almost, better than hers. My mom is just happy that she doesn’t have to cook for a week.
   After breakfast, we walk back to the Red Cabin and get ready for a long cross-country ski through dense pine forest and open plains. After everyone is ready to go and we are all bundled up in multiple layers of coats and jackets, we head out.The farm has a network of miles and miles of cross-country ski trails; each one is unique and allows people to see nature in a different way. My favorite trail is the Gray Fox Trail, which runs up several small hills and ends in an enormous downhill. I always get a good laugh when one of us stumbles and tumbles slowly down a hill. Another one of my favorite trails is the Maple SapTrail, which runs over forest and open plain. I also enjoy taking the LynxTrail on the way to the Czech Bridge and the Deer Farm. The Deer Farm is an enclosed stretch of forest filled with all sorts of deer that the Palmquists raise for hunting in the autumn. The Deer Farm consists of a long 7-mile loop called the Snow Snake Trail; it takes a couple of hours to complete it and then ski back to the farm. When I am out on the ski trails, nature frees my soul. I forget where I am and who I am, and my thoughts turn into pure joy. I don’t need to remember, because when I am out on the ski trails, all that matters is the silent wilderness around me.
   When we get back, we rest for a while in theRed Cabin. My dad and I play friendly but competitive card games. My dad usually wins, but sometimes (very rarely) I manage to just barely beat him.
   Around six or seven o’clock, we go back to the farmhouse for dinner. Jim tells hilarious stories about strange visitors to the farm. Before Jim begins his story, he gets a little twinkle in his soft, blue eyes. Then, he takes someone’s spoon and taps it on a glass.
He always starts off by announcing, “Could I have everyone’s attention please?”
   Twice a week after dinner, there is a talent show in the farmhouse. I play the piano,and a professor from Illinois plays the accordion. Afterwards, only on special occasions, a small bluegrass trio comes and performs their favorite songs. They also take requests from the guests that stay to watch the late-night concert.We then go outside the farmhouse and watch the clear, bright stars move across the sky for a couple of minutes. Some of my most special memories of Palmquist Farm are the ones in which my dad and I are watching the stars together under a cold, moonlit sky. We slowly walk back to the Red Cabin in the freezing cold and say good night to the farm and the winter outside. As we settle down, I feel like I am at home. I feel like I belong there, like I am the missing piece of a puzzle finally put into place. I feel alive. If I learn anything from my annual visits to Palmquist Farm, it would be that nature, silence, and friendly people are good for your soul.