Squash Blossom Farm adventures are alphabetized in a new book
With a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, Susan Waughtal shares her experiences at southeast Minnesota farm
ORONOCO, Minn. — The ABCs of life at Squash Blossom Farm are the subject of a new book created by Susan Waughtal. Susan and her husband, Roger Nelson, moved to the pre-1900s farm 15 years ago in 2008. Since then, they’ve had all sorts of adventures, such as raising bees, hydroponic growing, making bean-to-bar chocolate, and foraging for morel mushrooms.
When Waughtal moved to the farm, just a bit northwest of Rochester. she started a blog. She still takes photos of the farm every day and posts them frequently on social media.
“The posts have gained a lot of followers, and so many people have urged me to write a book over the years that I have been mulling it over for a long time,” she said.
This past year, Waughtal won a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council to complete the book she’s imagined.
“As an artist, I wanted the book to be more of an art book featuring my paintings and photographs than a narrative memoir or how-to book,” she said.
Waughtal said it was a dilemma deciding how to arrange the book. She considered making it chronological, seasonal, or even topical.
“The realities of printing expense and time made me realize I had to scale it down, and it became a sampler,” she said. “It just made sense to me that a sampler would be in alphabetical order.”
The book is titled “A Squash Blossom Farm Sampler: Alphabetical Adventures in Artisan Agriculture.” Waughtal published the book through BookBaby and plans to sell it at the farm, from the farm’s website, www.squashblossomfarm.org, from their Rochester Farmers Market stand, and at a few local retailers.
The sampler includes beautiful photos of everything from the farm’s namesake squash blossoms to the beloved animals, such as Zinnie the dog and Donk Quixote the miniature donkey. Some sections consist entirely of photos; others include explanations and some of the farm’s history.
One section of the book dedicated to the farm’s history recounts one of its more grizzly events.
“The most infamous event that occurred here was a tragic murder in 1913, when Mrs. Hetzel was shot by her troubled nephew, whom she had taken in to give him a fresh start,” Waughtal said.
Otherwise, the book is filled with joy and depicts the many ways Waughtal and Nelson have nurtured creativity on their artisan farm, from the live music and pizza events they host during the summer to the creation of their mead tasting room.
“It was a joy to go back to my early blog posts and re-read my early accounts of learning absolutely everything about the farm: how to bottle-feed a calf, how to raise chickens, candle eggs, milk a cow, make cheese, put up reliable fences, burn the prairie ... we were absolute novices, and learning so much every day,” Waughtal said.
Some of her favorite stories and photos in the book revolve around the cows they have kept. She calls the cows “the ultimate farm experience.”
“I probably devote a few more photos to cow-related topics than anything else: acquiring cows, birth of calves, milking cows, cow escapes, our annual cow puja (a traditional Indian celebration honoring the cows and thanking them for blessing us), and the passing of my dear milk cow LaFonda,” she said.
The most difficult part of compiling the book for Waughtal was trying to narrow down the many experiences that could have been included but couldn’t fit in the book’s 126 pages. She said it took a lot of effort to cull the many thousands of photos she’s taken of adventures on the farm.
On Thursday, April 20, Waughtal and Nelson will present topics from her book at the History Center of Olmsted County at 7 p.m. Waughtal said Nelson is her partner in Squash Blossom Farm, though they both take on separate responsibilities.
“He is the builder, mead maker, and bread baker; I am the animal-tender, gardener, events-organizer,” she said.
“Way back in high school in Bemidji, after cross-country skiing evening dates, Rog and I would warm up with a cup of hot chocolate at a pizza place and brainstorm a utopian life that combined farming, art and music, and crazily enough, in our senior years, we are actually living it,” Waughtal said.
If you go
What: Susan Waughtal presents her new book, “A Squash Blossom Farm Sampler: Alphabetical Adventures in Artisan Agriculture”
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20
Where: History Center of Olmsted County
Fee: Free for members; $5 for non-members
Tickets: Available at www.olmstedhistory.com/events