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Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Good storytellers write about what they know and what they love. For Roberta and Ramona, what they know is that prairie dogs can be pets, calves can sometimes find their way into the kitchen and a Clydesdale named Ruby was destined for divadom. What they love is turning these stories into children’s books about farm life.

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and her daughter Ramona Lampe together have written two novels, six children’s books, four books of poetry books — with several more in the works. I wrote about Roberta last year (http://lynnwoolf.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/strong-women-and-their-stories/ ) and was lucky to meet Ramona this spring.

Roberta has written throughout  her career, but started writing her first novel later in life, as a way to cope with her husband’s cancer and other family tragedies.

Agnes was a story I wanted to write for years. I thought ‘This story has to be told,’ ” says Roberta. Agnes was her grandmother, who emigrated from Germany, moved to Kansas and married a widower with six children.

Ramona started writing her first story, Ruby the Diva Clydesdale, at Roberta’s urging. “I kept saying she should write this story, but she said, ‘I don’t know anything about Clydesdales. You write it.’ So, I did.” Ramona drew upon the personality of a real-life Clydesdale from a horse farm where she works.

Their author relationship is separate from their mother-daughter relationship. Ramona says they’re not a creative team, but a marketing team. They write separately, but share book signings and speaking engagements. Both are good talkers and good listeners, so they enjoy conversations with strangers as well as friends.

I believe their mother-daughter relationship strengthens both their creativity and marketing efforts. And, it’s heartwarming to see their mutual admiration. For instance, Ramona warmly refers to Roberta as her “rebel mother.” Roberta tears up when she says  how proud she was of Ramona at a recent book signing, when Ramona shared her personal struggles after a head injury.

They share a common goal, too: Draw upon their own experiences on their family farm to help educate children about agriculture — and bring a smile or two.

A testimonial from my own farm girl (and artist): “The stories are funny and cute and the drawings are very inspirational. My favorites are Prairie Dog Pet and Calves in the Kitchen.”

You can learn more Roberta, Ramona and their books here: http:\\lampebooks.tateauthor.com.

Roberta Seiwert Lampe and Ramona Lampe

Unlikely content

January 15, 2011

This post is one of confession and admission.

I confess I haven’t officially made my New Year’s resolutions.
I admit that I’m not setting the blogosphere on fire with subscribers to this blog.

Enter this flyer. I’m not sure how it landed on my kitchen table, or why I was drawn to it while enjoying my usual bagel-and-peanut-butter breakfast (with a chocolate chaser). I’m glad I flipped through it, though. I found common-sense, easy-to-remember  nutrition info. And, it reminded me that healthy eating should be a no-brainer when it comes to resolutions.

I found this tidbit:

What is a whole grain? Wheat flour itself is not a whole grain so make sure that the product uses the word “whole” in front of wheat. Look at the ingredients for “enriched flour.” If it is the first listed ingredient, there is more white flour than any other flour in the product. Whole grain must be listed first for it to qualify.

And this:

“Look for items with at least 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. The adequate intake for fiber is 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women.

Use the % Daily Values as a guide for vitamins and minerals. 5% or less is low and 20% or more is high.”

Like you, I check food labels. However, I mostly check calorie counts or fat grams. These simple guidelines will help me better decipher  labels — and make healthier food choices.

The other lesson? Good content can stand on its own, no matter where it lives. Another resolution for me, then: Strive to write great content. Make sure it gives back and is worthy of the pixels or ink it requires, even if nobody reads it or it’s nestled among coupons.

Wordless Wednesday

November 3, 2010

Family portrait through E.’s eyes:

When bins fly

August 22, 2010

You know the moment — that micro-millisecond — when you see  something terribly wrong, but before your brain has  processed it? We experienced just such a moment a week ago. We were driving home about 9:30 p.m. when we saw our small 1,000-bushel grain bin in the neighbor’s field. It was dark and rainy, so we could only see as far as the headlights.

The devastation was frightening as we made our way through our farmyard. Power lines were down. Our 7000-bushel bin was caved in from the impact of the small bin, which had been blown from its foundation. Our mini-van, which we owned just six weeks, was smashed in on one side — another victim of the flying grain bin. Our cattle shed, which V., his dad and D. rebuilt just two years ago, was obliterated from the straight-line winds that reached 70 mph. V.’s pickup was buried in the rubble. Thankfully, the house  had just minor shingle damage. In fact, the power had only been out a short time. If we hadn’t stopped at the grocery store, we would have been smack dab in the middle of it.

We had a restless, restless night as we calmed D. and E. and fretted about what was ahead. The morning light revealed more damage — our 70-year-old red barn was shifted eight inches off its foundation, augers and windows were smashed, and our seed wheat was trapped in the crushed bin.

I shed many tears. We will never replace the large bin. It was put up when V.’s family stored a lot of wheat and milo. The cattle shed’s block foundation, each block poured and laid  by V.’s Grandpa, could not be saved. Both our van and the pickup were sure to be total losses. 

The next morning and all this week, V. and his dad, Stanley, showed me yet again what it means to be a farm family. It’s OK to look back on your farm’s legacy, as long as it doesn’t keep you from looking forward. You get up, clean up and rebuild. Along the way, you share meals and care for kids, animals and crops. In fact, thanks to our rural electric cooperative and a caring neighbor, we had power restored by 11:30 a.m. — and came in as usual for a large noon meal.

V. says our farm will be better than ever when all is said and done. I know he’s absolutely right. Plus, our kids will have a great story to tell their own kids as they sit in our yet-to-be-built cattle shed.

A conversation

July 15, 2010

A big deal happened for me this week — I was featured in the “A Conversation With…” feature in the Wichita Eagle’s Sunday business section: http://bit.ly/9750Gz. I was flattered, flabbergasted and flushed. What would we talk about?

The business reporter, Karen Shideler, was interested in my roles as a writer and PR counselor — and that of a farm wife.  Karen is a pro and very easy to talk with, so it was a fun conversation. I greatly appreciated her take on my life here on Woolf Farms.

The conversations after the Conversation have been just as fun. Two families are planning visits to our farm. I’m meeting with one soon-to-be ag journalist and connected with a colleague, who is also doing ag advocacy, on the ethanol front. Others sent notes detailing  fond memories of their grandparents’ farms. This note from retired schoolteacher and farm wife Kay Wulf made my day.

Today’s Americans may be generations removed, but the family farm is still very much embedded in our culture. Let’s keep it that way.

Naming rights

May 31, 2010

I am under no delusions about what happens when livestock leave our farm. However, it’s hard not to become a little attached, especially to those we bottle feed twice a day. So, I name them. Not every one, of course. That would be just plain silly. However, some names just seem to fit. There’s Gladys, our old nanny goat and young Francine, our nanny-t0-be. There’s Butterscotch, our Brahma calf, and his cow, Bossy. Our farm has also been home to Montie, J.T., little Bern, Johnny, Mr. D. and many more.

Now, my farmer-in-law has sent me proof that I’m not crazy — or alone:

“Cows are rarely kept as pets, but giving them pet names could be good for business. Agricultural professors from Newcastle University in England found that dairy cows called by name produce more an average of 68 gallons more milk per year. This tidbit may surprise city folk, but the 516 dairy farmers interviewed for this study were hardly shocked. Ninety-three percent of them agreed that it’s important to get to know each cow as an individual.”

So, bolstered by research, the kids and I have picked Tiki as the name on deck, creature TBD.

Roberta Seiwert Lampe’s life took a different turn than most women of the mid 1950s. She enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and became a reporter, writing at bases in the U.S. and Germany.

Roberta returned home to Kansas in 1959 and took on a more traditional role: farm wife. Throughout the many years of raising her family and helping on the family farm, she heard amazing stories from other farm women, those a generation older than she. The stories were big: how they emigrated from Germany and how they homesteaded in Kansas. The stories were small: how they chased off neighboring farm boys or warmed calves in their kitchens.  These stories ruminated for years.

Then, as she neared 70, her role as farm wife transitioned into caretaker. Her husband now had cancer and her daughters suffered other tragedies. Here’s her account of how she coped:

“In the midst of family crisis, Seiwert Lampe awoke one morning to hear her subconscious say, ‘The time is now.’ She lifted a worn business advertising ballpoint from the desk drawer, grabbed a wad of scratch paper and set about following the directive. Wherever she went, the old pen and paper were handy. With a few minutes here or a half-hour there, she turned to the stories.”

After two and a half years, she had written two novels and nine short children’s stories, all in long hand.  She then set about to transition from writer to author. She self-published until she found a publisher. She peddled books on her own until she landed signings at Border’s and a spot on a local author lecture series. Her husband died, and she kept writing down the stories.

I gathered up all her books at a signing at our small town library. Roberta handled the sale, gathering change from a pill jar in a metal box. She told the story behind the stories, entertaining along the way. She warned that she would “bend our ear,” if we allowed her. We did — and were glad for it.

She is her own “strong woman” story. I’m glad to share it.

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