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  • Writer's picturelilmyacofield

snowbirds Head Home

By Michael BromkaLaVerne and Janice Graber packed for their trip north to Freeman SD.Snowbirds in Carlsbad for 22 winters, they do volunteer work at Jonah’s House, Abundant Harvest, and Packs for Hunger.LaVernedoes volunteer home repairs, driving a pickup truck on loan from Gene Harbaugh.On occasion in the evening they’ll visit and play board games with Ken and Kaye Kurkowski, who also let out the house they rent for three months.But in late March, SouthDakota crops beckon for LaVerne’s return.For 51 years he farmed full time.Now to help his nephew, he only works 48 hours per week from late April till early June.Plus the autumn harvest.LaVerne is 83 years old.Ten years back, LaVerne passed along the major headaches and worry of full time farming to his nephew, David.The younger man has a secondary career as a registered nurse, at least three shifts per week.So LaVerne’s spring planting and autumnharvest labors arevital contributions to the farm’s success.“LeVerne wouldn’t be happy without playing in the dirt,” says Janice.“Why let those tractor skills languish now that he’s honed them for over half a century?”But their latest task at hand was to saddle up. ///Packing a van with three months of a productive couple’s stuff is tricky...Packing a van with three months of a productive couple’s stuff is tricky.LaVerne’s tools cram into a rooftop carryall, less than aerodynamically ideal.Janice lists categories —music, cooking, sewing, knitting, clothing —both boxes and bags.LaVerne golfs twice per week at Carlsbad’s municipal course with pals Chuy, Doug, and Wayne.(His worst and best scores this season were 92 and 81, teeing from the reds.)So don’t forget the clubs and golf bag!As well not to be forgotten —Janice’s harp.LaVerne to his credit has never suggested a piccolo instead.Moving the harp is a two-person job,

requiring a big wheeled custom-made dolly, which also must be packed.Fitting it all in the van challenges their ingenuity even after 42 iterations.Were there any goods which might have been left at home?Well, who knew that an embroidery computer motherboard would give up the ghost?It can be replaced back home.But a bulky apparatus plus a box of threads and materials languished just to enjoy being packed for journeys south and north.Devoid of fancy embroidering, Janice put in equivalent time making several sets of fancy quilted placemats to donate to the museum gift shop back home.As well,spending most of the winter attending Zoom church required fewer formal outfits than they had brought along.Scheduling and getting their Moderna shots against COVID-19 finally freed them to forgather with fellow elder congregants.Late in March, it wasgood to share services in person at Carlsbad Mennonite, Nick King presiding.The Grabers had fled South Dakota last December just ahead of a forecast blizzard.It rolled down after them through Nebraska, Kansas, and even into Oklahoma.Close call!The April trip back north through Colorado included two nights visiting some lifelong friends of LaVerne.This happens only three months of each year —yet now approaches one quarter century.Seasonal residency by Janice and LaVerne Graber has been a boon to Carlsbad

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