Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Michael L. Offner November 18 1952 to December 27, 2014

Michael L. Offner, 62, of Red Cloud, Nebraska died Saturday, December 27, 2014 at the Webster County Community Hospital in Red Cloud.
The Mass of Christian Burial was held Wednesday, 10:00 a.m., December 31, 2014 at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Red Cloud with Rev. Paul Frank officiating. Interment was at the Red Cloud Cemetery. The rosary was recited Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. at the Williams Funeral Home.
Memorials are suggested in lieu of flowers to the 10th Judicial District Adoption Day in Hastings.
The son of Phyllis and Stan Offner, Mike was born November 18, 1952 at Hastings, Nebraska. He grew up in the Red Cloud community and attended the Red Cloud schools. Mike excelled at sports and was selected his senior year to participate and play in the 1971 Shrine Bowl. He attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln on a full academic and football scholarship. Following the completion of his undergraduate studies, Mike was accepted into the University of Nebraska Law School, graduating in two and a half years.
Mike was united in marriage with Janet Pospichal in 1975. This union was blessed with two sons, Adam and Andrew. They have made their home in the Red Cloud community since 1977. He was a member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church where he was a church lector and parish board member. Mike was a past president and treasurer of the Red Cloud Lions Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cloud Golf Course and the Red Cloud Ball Association. A strong supporter and advocate of community youth activities, Mike announced for many years at the local high school football games and also coached youth baseball for many years.
Left to treasure his memory are his wife, Janet Offner of Red Cloud; sons, Adam Offner and wife Darah and children Faith, Levi and Rose; Andrew Offner and wife Beth and children Devon, Skye, Caleb, JJ and Harper; his parents, Phyllis and Stan Offner of Red Cloud; a brother Steve Offner and wife Susan; sister Shelley Clayburn and husband Neal; sisters-in-law Lori Rock and husband Dean and Mary Pat Uacek and husband Don. Eveyone who knew Mike knows how much he cherished his grandchildren and loved attending all of their activities and photographing all of their events. Also surviving are his nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, his colleagues and peers of the 10th District, as well as a host of friends who had the pleasure to know him who will deeply miss Mike.
Mike was involved in numerous professional activities, included:
2001 – present
Judge of the County Court, 10th Judicial District
(Adams, Clay, Fillmore, Franklin, Harlan, Kearney, Nuckolls, Phelps, & Webster counties)
2004 – 2005, 2009 – 2012 
Presiding Judge of the 10th Judicial District, County Court
1978 - 2001
Private practice of law - Red Cloud, NE
1983 – 2001
Webster County Attorney’s Office, county attorney - Red Cloud, NE
1981 – 2001
Midland Area Agency on Aging, legal services attorney
1988 – 2001
City Attorney - Blue Hill, NE
University of Nebraska College of Law, 1977
Juris Doctorate
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1975
Bachelor of Arts
Judicial/Law Related Activities
Professional Affiliations
Nebraska State Bar Association
10th Judicial District Bar Association
Nebraska County Judges Association
Nebraska Supreme Court Committees
Pro Se Committee and Forms Subcommittee, 2010-Present
National Reunification Day, host judge, 2010
South Central Nebraska Foster Youth Council, lead judge, 2009 – 2010
Court Representative appointed by UNK Chancellor to the Nebraska Safety Center Advisory Council, University of Nebraska-Kearney, 2008 - present
Dispute Resolution Advisory Council, member, 2008 – present
Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative, lead judge 10th District-Webster and Nuckolls County, 2006 – present 
Adoption Day Committee, lead judge 10th Judicial District, 2005 – present
Juvenile Court Review Panel, 2004 – 2010
JUSTICE Automation Advisory Committee for Juvenile Courts, 2012-Present 
Community Activities
Fillmore, Clay, and Webster County Government Day Mock Trial Competition, volunteer judge, 2005 – present
Bar Foundation Law Day Job Shadowing for 5th Graders in Nuckolls and Webster counties, 2013-Present
Honors and Awards
Nebraska Supreme Court Outstanding Judge
2009 recipient, Outstanding Judge for Service to the Judiciary Award.  Outstanding Judge is the highest honor given by the Chief Justice to recognize members of the judiciary for meritorious projects and exemplary accomplishments that enhances the vision of justice within Nebraska communities.
Mary L. Buford Legal Services Award for outstanding services to elderly Nebraskans, presented by the Nebraska Department of Aging, 1992
Nebraska State Bar Foundation Fellow (2011)
An honor based on integrity and character. The Foundation recognizes established legal professionals who are dedicated to improving the administration of justice. Fellows are accredited by colleagues as leaders of the legal profession who contribute to the charitable and community education works of the Foundation.
Teaching & Publishing
Organizing Judge, Through the Eyes of the Child Lecture Series, “Improving Outcomes for Older Youth,” Hastings, 2010
Speaker, Technology in Rural Courts. At Kansas Judge's Spring Conference Meeting, 2010
Speaker, “A Network Approach,” Improving Rural Courts Seminar, 2009
Panelist, Through the Eyes of the Child Initiative, Regional Conference, 2008
Panel Speaker, District & County Judges Fall Educational Meeting, 2006
Panel Speaker, Leadership Program of the Hastings Chamber of Commerce, 2005 – 2008, 2010
Annual Speaker, various area County Government Days and High School Government Classes, 2004 – present 
Speaker, Nebraska CASA Association Annual Volunteer Conference, 2003
Speaker, Library Broadband Builds Nebraska Community Project at Auld Public Library-Red Cloud, 2011
Speaker, NSBA/Leadership Academy Community Service and Bar Governance Workshop, 2012
Williams Funeral Home
241 West 4th Avenue
Red Cloud, Nebraska  68970

Friday, December 26, 2014


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator

     It is hard to believe that this is the last edition of “Straight From the Horse’s Mouth” for 2014. Most everyone has likely celebrated their family Christmas and are resting up from travel and/or eating all the good food that graces our tables during this time of year. This is a wonderful time of year, but also bittersweet. There are so many things to be thankful for including friends and family and I imagine that for many of us this past year has brought loss and perhaps introspection into how mortal we can be. From a personal standpoint I think of friends and family who left us this past year to be with God. Included was my dear sister, Bonnie, who left this earth far too early. But it was uplifting to see one of her daughters continue the cycle when she got married this past month and we could celebrate the start of a new life. 
      From a personal standpoint 2014 brought me a challenge with the dreaded words “You have cancer!” That certainly gets your attention and makes you reflect on life and your immortality. I am glad to say that I am a survivor and the good Lord allowed the doctors to find it early, and the prognosis to be cancer free again is excellent. I know that many others face similar bumps in the road, be it health, finances or any of the other challenges we face on a day to day basis. One just has to sit back and think about his/her blessings and remember that we made it through another year!
     As I reflect on this past year, I think of all the challenges that has faced agriculture, and I have written or spoken about many of those. I would imagine right now a lot of our farmer friends are thinking of a big challenge and something that they are very uncomfortable with – the decisions they have to make about the 2014 Farm Bill. I know I have over the past many years worked with farmers in trying to make sense out of what the government puts on the table for a safety net for our farmers and ranchers and you learn things like “Pick and Roll” or “Subsidies” and acronyms like: AAA, ASP, AGI, CREP, LDP, CRP, CSP, EQIP, FSA, NRCS, USDA, ACRE, WC, WHIP, WREP, CCC, CCP, DP, RMA, WRP, ACRE and SNAP to name just a few. Now we have a whole new crop of vernacular to contend with like: FAPRI, PRC, SCO, ARC-CO, ARC-IC, MYA, and DCP. We of course keep some of the old terms, just to keep some familiarity. When will it all end?
     There is no doubt that the 2014 Farm Bill is not only confusing, but very complex and farmers and ranchers will need to make a big decision, and that decision he has to stick with for the duration of this Farm Bill. Yes, one could lose sleep over that as it is a big gamble, as if farming wasn’t enough. It is really in my eyes a “crap shoot” as there are so many unknowns, uncertainties and I don’t really know anyone that has a crystal ball that can peer into the future for price considerations. There certainly have been some meetings to help the farmers in the process, but that can lead to even further confusion, so it is probably best that producers take a good look an properly using the tools that are available to help make these decisions.
      Farm Bill Training: The good news is that the Texas A&M Agricultural and Food Policy Center and Nebraska Extension are teaming up to present a comprehensive Farm Bill Decision Aid computer workshop.  The hands-on training for farm managers, bankers, insurance agents, farmers, and landlords will be held Wednesday, January 14 at the Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference (NIC) Center, 2021 Transformation Drive in Lincoln (old state-fairgrounds). The workshop is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with registration and refreshments starting at 8:15 a.m. at the new NIC auditorium.  
     The 2014 Farm Bill Commodity provisions are complex and nationally recognized ag economists Brad Lubben, UNL, and James Richardson, Texas A&M University, will lead the training. Richardson is the author of a new, cutting edge computer decision tool endorsed by USDA: the Texas A&M Computer Decision Aid. Attendees will learn how to use the program and interpret results and learn how managing risk is integrated into the model. Participants are encouraged to bring their own iPad, tablet, or laptop computer. There is a registration fee which includes the noon meal, refreshments, and meeting materials. Online pre-registration is open until Wednesday, January 7 at http://go.unl.edu/farmbill. 
     As a result of attending this hands-on meeting, workshop participants will have a much better understanding of the economic implications and complex decisions of updating yields, keeping the old base or reallocation of base, choosing ARC-I, ARC-CO, PLC or PLC plus SCO.  Nebraska farm examples will be used. In the afternoon Nebraska Extension teaching assistants will answer individual's questions. Farmers will need to bring not only a computing device, but also some information that will be needed to use the Decision Aid tool. That includes: the August 2014 Farm Service Agency (FSA) letter or FSA 156EZ or similar worksheet from FSA and a 10-year crop insurance production report history worksheet from your insurance agent. Further meeting details and agenda can be found at: http://bit.ly/1wh96bm
     Need a Ride? I will be attending the workshop. If anyone would like to pool a ride please feel free to give me a holler or contact me at dlienemann2@unl.edu  or call the Webster County Extension Office at 402-746-3417. You will have to register on your own, but maybe it would be fun to join forces as we kick off the 2015 agricultural year working on a critical component of the management phase of our farming operation for the next five years. I suggest that you don’t just listen to the Coffee Shop talk but to attend at least two Farm Bill meetings before you make up your mind!
     Now to everyone that reads this, I want to convey my heartfelt wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year! May the beginning of this New Year bring you manageable snows; timely rains; 100% calf crop; no calves to pull; high commodity prices; no equipment failures; no hail---and bin busting yields! But most importantly a safe and healthy 2015!! 

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Here to Help

Newsletter from Sen. Deb Fischer

         One of my priorities as your U.S. Senator is to ensure that your federal government is working better for you.  In Washington this is done through aggressive oversight of our federal agencies, fighting burdensome regulations, and changing federal laws when necessary. But my work to improve your experience with your government isn’t limited to Washington.

I am also here to help individuals who are experiencing specific challenges with the federal bureaucracy and red tape. Unfortunately, difficulty dealing with federal agencies and programs is not uncommon. With outreach and casework staff in Scottsbluff, Kearney, Norfolk, Lincoln, and Omaha, my office is committed to assist you  in whatever way we can.
My staff has a strong track record of helping constituents navigate a range of bureaucratic hurdles — from difficulty acquiring VA medical records, to problems with Social Security, to trouble obtaining tax refunds owed by the IRS. Helping to resolve these challenges can improve the livelihoods of Nebraskans, and it is an extremely rewarding part of my job.
Here are a few examples of how my office has helped to assist constituents over the past two years:
  • A mother needed help to ensure her son suffering from a life-threatening disease received vital prescriptions. Her son’s insurance policy was dropped by his Medicare Advantage carrier because of changes resulting from Obamacare. The carrier allowed her son to apply for another policy and verbally confirmed that he was covered. However, when they attempted to retrieve his prescriptions they were told there was no record of his coverage under the new policy. After several calls to the carrier, the frustrated parent spoke to my staff requesting assistance. My office worked with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to look into the miscommunication and confirmed the son’s coverage. The mother wrote me to say, “In frustration I called your Omaha office. My son would die without his meds….Within a day [my son] was contacted by Medicare, his insurance carrier, and soon had his prescriptions.”
  • Beginning in May 2013 – after hearing from nearly 300 Nebraskans – I led the Nebraska Congressional Delegation in delivering both formal and informal communications to the U.S. Department of Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, echoing the concerns of Nebraskans about the Ponca Bluffs and Niobrara River land management plans being considered by the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The proposal under review would likely result in the government management or acquisition of more than 1.4 million acres in Nebraska and South Dakota. To address this overreach, I sent a letter with Senator Johanns to question Interior Secretary Jewell about potential federal land acquisitions in Nebraska and introduced an amendment prohibiting federal funds from being used to acquire this land.
  • A Nebraskan submitted a payment to the IRS for tax year 2012. This check was an overpayment and he was due a refund; however, the IRS misapplied the payment to an account of a deceased individual. After my office got involved, a refund check from the 2012 overpayment was mailed to John for the amount of $857.97.
These are just a few of the many Nebraskans I have been honored to help over the past year. I am blessed to have a great team of Nebraskans throughout the state who are highly knowledgeable and experienced at working on federal casework. They do an excellent job helping Nebraskans navigate through these complex federal agencies and are ready to assist with any troubles you may be having with the federal government.
Nebraskans are busy working to earn a living and provide for their loved ones. The last thing you need is uncertainty caused by bureaucracies in Washington that take time away from raising your families and achieving your goals.
If you are having trouble with a federal agency, my office is here to help.  I encourage you to reach out to any of my state offices or contact me through my website: www.fischer.senate.gov. My dedicated team of experts will work hard to get the answers to your questions and ensure your federal government is serving you properly.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process, I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator
      Can you believe that Christmas is almost here? Where did 2014 go? Is it just me or do the days, months and even years go faster than they used to? As I write this week’s edition I realize that December 21 is the Winter Solstice. The days now will get longer and we will with each day get closer to Spring and all it brings. But before we start getting excited about a new year, fixing fence or greasing up the planter we need to relish in what the winter solstice also brings us….Christmas!
     Of course to the political correct it is just a Holiday; a break from work; a plethora of bowl games; or an excuse to over-indulge in our favorite foods. In the grand scheme of things, winter solstice doesn’t even come close to the real reason for the season. Although we enjoy the winter solstice because we get to balance the negative of the beginning of winter and the prospect of more cold weather with the positive knowledge that the days are beginning to get longer, even if it’s ever so slowly. But to many people, including myself, Christmas is a deeply religious time of the year and is celebrated accordingly. To others, the religious meaning is incorporated into a broader celebration and, to some, religion plays no role in their activities what-so-ever. I do believe, however, that few people can totally ignore the holidays, and even the most Scrooge-like folks absorb the spirit of giving and goodwill to men that it is so embedded in this time of year.
     It truly is the season when our friends and neighbors do the most wonderful things. I am in awe of the number of people who spend their hard-earned money and/or talents to make sure others have a great Christmas. It’s so gratifying to watch people use this time of year to spread happiness and joy to others. Look closely, and you will see people singing carols at nursing homes, gathering baskets of food, stuffing Christmas stockings, and contributing money. You will see Church groups seeing to the needs of those less fortunate. You will see many people playing Santa Claus in ways that will amaze you – and yes even some really playing Santa Claus to bring joy to kids – young and old! People give in their own ways!
     These people who give so much to others come from all walks of life, from all religious persuasions, and from all social and financial positions. These are the people who truly understand that giving is better than receiving, that by helping others we make all lives and our world better. I am proud to be a Nebraskan and to be a part of the world that has not forgotten about the real meaning of Christmas. The real reason for the season. The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ!
     It would be easy to focus on all the horrible things going on in the world and let those incidents overpower the meaning of Christmas. Sometimes, when we consider the people who commit evil acts and those who are self-serving and dishonest, it’s difficult to remember all those who do good things. And the number of problems sometimes appears so massive and so terrible that our hearts hurt, and we wonder if there is any hope. Then, we look around us and see the good in our own towns and little communities, see the people who give so much of their time and talents, see the people who benefit from the good in others and know there is still hope. I just encourage everyone to keep the true Christmas Spirit!
     I thought I would end this week’s edition with a rendition of a familiar poem that I found several years ago. It goes like this ---- “Twas the night before Christmas back home on the farm. The cattle were chewing their cuds in the barn. The feed bags were hung by the mangers with care, in case Old St. Nicholas chanced to stop there. The heifers were nestled all snug in their stalls, while visions of summertime danced 'cross the walls. Well, me in my slippers, and Ma in her smock, had just finished filling our little one's sock. When out in the barnyard there rose such a clatter. I sprang from my chair to see just what twas the matter. Away to the window I flew in a fright, turned on the yard light, and peered through the night. The moon's mystic light on the snow-covered scene, made the countryside look like a fog-shrouded dream. When, what sailed right under some low hanging boughs, but a miniature sleigh, and eight flighty cows. With a little old driver so lively and quick. I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More strongly than tractors his little cows came, and he whistled and 'come-bossed' and called them by name. - 'Now Dolly! Now Debbie! Now Pammy and Flossie! On Cora! On Countess! On Dinah and Bossie! To the top of the barn, to the front of the stall. Now dash away, dash away, dash away all! So on past the granary those tiny cows flew, with a sleigh full of gifts, and St. Nicholas, too. I saw them descend on the roof of the barn, so I dashed from the house, eyes wide with alarm. As I fastened the door and was turning around, down the hay chute St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in denim and flannel from collar to cuff, and his clothes were all covered with hayseeds and stuff. His pocket revealed a bright kerchief of red. He had a farmer-type cap perched way back on his head. It suddenly struck me, I think you'll agree, he's a miniature version of you or of me! He put down his bundle with lightning-like speed, and he looked like a cattleman opening some feed. His eyes how they flashed when he opened his pack, and pulled out some gifts for the heifers out back. Some glass for the window that lets in the breeze, a coil for the pipes so the water won't freeze. More grain for the cows and sows, some straw for the stalls, some lime for the alleys to stop those bad falls. Semen straws from sires with an easy-calving plus, things that make cows as happy as us. He spoke not a word but went straight to his work, and filled all the feed bags, then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, giving a nod, up the hay chute he rose. I stood there a moment, my head hung in shame. I’d forgotten my cows when this Christmastime came. So, I patted Old Bessie as I turned out the light. Happy Christmas, you cows, and to all a Good Night!” – Author Unknown------Thank you to all who give! Remember the reason for the season!  Merry Christmas!!!!

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Record

Newsletter from Sen. Deb Fischer
I recently released a digital report detailing my work to represent Nebraskans during the 113th Congress. As I’ve said before, despite the gridlock on many of the big challenges, I have been focused on finding common ground on smaller, but important issues where we can make progress.
The result is a record I am very proud of. I hope you and our fellow Nebraskans take some time to review the report. It’s also a tool to ensure accountability and transparency – both of which are key to a properly functioning democracy.
Highlights from the report include several legislative initiatives I led that have been signed into law.
Many of these accomplishments relate to provisions included in the Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA). For example, I proposed legislation to authorize and oversee the Department of Defense’s effort to neutralize Syria’s chemical weapons. In May of this year, I visited the men and women performing this vital mission and toured MV Cape Ray – the vessel used to neutralize those dangerous weapons.
I’ve also led in the fight to end sexual assault in the military. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and I offered an amendment to the FY 2014 NDAA that directly bolsters the rights of victims impacted by crimes. Our amendment empowers victims of sexual assault by ensuring they are aware of their basic rights to be informed, present, and heard at critical stages throughout their ordeal.
On March 10, 2014, the Senate unanimously passed the Victims Protection Act — legislation I offered with Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to combat military sexual assault, bolster victims’ rights, and boost accountability for offenders. The legislation was incorporated into this year’s NDAA.
I also worked across the aisle to provide regulatory relief for farmers and ranchers impacted by the EPA’s Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule.  A version of our bill was adopted in the form of an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which was passed by Congress.
Provisions I championed to advance stalled flood control projects, including levee improvements essential to protecting Nebraska’s metropolitan drinking water supplies, were also included in WRDA and signed into law by the president.
Other regulatory relief efforts I led were also signed into law, including a bill (H.R. 724) to eliminate unnecessary paperwork requirements placed on car dealers. In November, my E-Label Act was passed by Congress and became law. This commonsense legislation modernizes costly, outdated physical labeling requirements on electronic devices. This saves manufacturers money and ultimately makes products more affordable for consumers. The signing of this bill was also noteworthy as it was one of only two stand-alone bills written by a freshman senator and signed into law.
President Obama recently signed into law the Satellite and Television Extension and Localization Act, commonly known as STELA. This law includes language I fought for to address television market arrangements that often leave rural counties without local TV programming.

Currently, nearly a third of Nebraska’s counties are considered to be so-called “orphan counties,” meaning local TV content comes from outside the state. I have heard from Nebraskans expressing concern about the challenges of staying informed on local issues if they can’t access local programming.
These are just some highlights of my record and the important issues I am working on. To learn more, I encourage you to read the full digital report. It is available through my social media outlets and is also hosted on my website, www.fischer.senate.gov  .
As your U.S. Senator, I remain committed to working with my colleagues in both parties to achieve positive, meaningful, and lasting solutions to our nation’s challenges. It truly is a great honor and privilege to represent Nebraska values and advance our shared interests in Washington. Bruce and I, and our family wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas, a blessed New Year, and a joyous holiday season.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process, I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Duane A. Lienemann
UNL Extension Educator
    I was sitting at home in front of our fireplace pondering what to write about this week. Now, so you don’t get the wrong impression, our fireplace is one of those electric ones that also serves as a mantle for our television set – so don’t be too impressed. I was however enamored by the glow of logs in the setting and it brought back some very good memories of my childhood. I remember as a child getting ready for the annual Christmas Program at good old Pleasant View Christian Church. Of course we had our parts in the play, and in my case usually involving a bathrobe, a branch cut out of the “woods” and an improvised beard. We so looked forward to the festivities and especially the sack of nuts, candy, and fruit that we knew awaited us when the program was over. Never has anything tasted as good as those treats.
     We also, in preparation for that evening, did some craft work in our Sunday school classes prior to Christmas. Oh, we made lots of cool things to present to our parents and grandparents, but the one thing I remember most brings me back to that log that I have been staring at in the “fake” fireplace. It was a fun and challenging task, taking as I recall an empty oatmeal tube (the large size) and placing plaster around the entire tube after cutting a hole in a part of the tube and perhaps gluing a couple of corks to it. Before it set we took forks or tongue depressors and made lines or groves that looked much like bark on a tree and circles on the ends like the rings of a tree.  It was then painted with wood colored paint, and the more talented even used different shades of brown. We did not know at the time, but what we were making was a “Yule Log”.
     While that was a neat project, and they adorned many of Ash Grove area homes with candles, candy, etc. I don’t know if I really knew what they were other than a fake log. Of course we couldn’t burn this log, as it was decorative, but it did have meaning. It was years later before I found out what they really were and where the tradition came from, so I thought that would be a good topic for this week’s discussion. So let’s this week explore the history of the Yule Log!   
     The custom of burning the Yule Log may date back as far as Europe’s Iron Age. Most likely a Nordic tradition, Records indicate that even before the medieval era, people would gather in the end of December to welcome in the Winter Solstice. Yule is the name of the festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, such as Germany. Thus the connection to my heritage. These celebrations would mark the end of winter season, and people would celebrate the days getting longer. To welcome the New Year and relieve the air of last year’s events, families would burn logs that were garnished in holly, pine cones, or ivy. There were other traditions concerning Yule Logs, depending upon the country. However, no matter what country they would then keep the ashes as a good luck charm, particularly as protection from lighting strikes! 
     As I understand it, the Yule Log was originally an entire tree that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room! The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year's log which had been carefully stored away and slowly fed into the fire through the Twelve Days of Christmas. It was considered important that the re-lighting process was carried out by someone with clean hands. Nowadays, of course, most people have central heating so it is very difficult to burn a tree! I can also about visualize a long log sticking out in the middle of your living room!! 
     I found it interesting that enterprising individuals found that different chemicals could be sprinkled on the log like wine to make the log burn with different colored flames! I even found out what they were: Potassium Nitrate = Violet; Barium Nitrate = Apple Green; Borax = Vivid Green; Copper Sulphate = Blue; Table Salt = Bright Yellow. This sounds very dangerous, so please only try this out with some adult supervision or in the case of men, be sure to clear it with the woman of the house!!  Of course, it could be fun to try these colors in a fire outside away from any possible accidents!
     In France, it is traditional that the whole family helps to cut the log down and that a little bit is burnt each night. If any of the log is left after Twelfth Night, it is kept safe in the house until the next Christmas to protect against lightning! In some parts of Holland, this was also done, but the log had to be stored under a bed! In some eastern European countries like Ostfriesland, Germany (the home of my ancestors), the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening. 
     In England the log is called 'The Mock'. The log is dried out and then the bark is taken off it before it comes into the house to be burnt. Also in Britain, barrel makers (or Coopers as barrel makers were traditionally called) gave their customers old logs that they could not use for making barrels for Yule logs. The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kinds of wood are used in different countries. In England, Oak is traditional; in Scotland, it is Birch; while in France, it's Cherry. In some parts of England, some people have a very large bunch of Ash twigs instead of the log. This comes from a local legend that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were very cold when the shepherds found them on Christmas Night. So the shepherds got some bunches of twigs to burn to keep them warm. 
     It goes even further and makes perfect sense to me. The ashes from the Yule logs were collected and kept until Spring, when they were scattered on the gardens. The ashes of Yule logs were meant to be very good for plants and were rumored to bring good luck and good vegetables for the table. This is true, because the ash from burnt wood contains a lot of 'potash', which helps plants flower, bloom and grow. As I mentioned earlier they also believed it would protect them from lightning strikes. But if you throw the ashes out on Christmas day it was supposedly very unlucky! I will not tempt fate!!!    

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Salute to a True Statesman

Newsletter from Sen. Deb Fischer        

The Senate recently wrapped up its legislative activity for 2014. And as we gavel out of session for the holiday season, I bid farewell to a friend, a colleague and a long-time champion for Nebraska’s values, Senator Mike Johanns. Senator Johanns has devoted more than three decades of his life to serving the people of Nebraska. He will retire from public office when the Senate reconvenes in early January, closing the book on a long and distinguished career in public service.

It all began in 1983, when he was elected to the Lancaster County board of commissioners on the advice and encouragement of friends who recognized his big heart and passion for helping others. He later joined Lincoln’s city council and eventually became mayor of Nebraska’s capital city where he served for two terms.
In 1998 and in 2002, Nebraskans elected Mike to serve as governor. In this role, he focused on fiscal discipline and the responsible use of limited state tax dollars—principles he upheld here in the Senate as well.  In addition, Senator Johanns always had a heart for the most vulnerable among us, particularly those suffering with mental illness.
Senator Johanns has always been a strong advocate for Nebraska’s ag producers. Before entering public life, he worked on his family’s dairy farm—a job that undoubtedly instills work ethic, character, and humility. Every day—before school, on weekends, even Christmas morning—he would rise early to milk and tend to the cows. The experience provided a deep understanding and passion for agriculture. So when President George W. Bush was looking for someone to lead the Department of Agriculture, Mike was the obvious choice.
Senator Johanns dutifully served in this role, overseeing a new reform-oriented farm bill and opening doors to new global markets for our nation’s ag producers. As secretary of agriculture, he saw firsthand the challenges facing hungry nations. It was in this role that he fell in love with the people of Africa, and has worked in the Senate to develop food aid programs that not only feed, but also empower hungry populations around the world.
All of these experiences have helped to shape his work as our senator. It is rare to have a representative with such a deep understanding of the role of government, having served at virtually every level. His well-rounded approach to his work here reflects that unique wisdom.
In the Senate, Mike has been a staunch advocate for Nebraska’s values and interests.  He has always been willing to work across the aisle to reach solutions for the common good without ever compromising his principles.
He is known by his colleagues for his calm, confident demeanor and plain-spoken clarity. He is not motivated by seeing his name splashed across front pages, but rather by helping to improve our nation.
This is who Mike Johanns has always been: A quiet workhorse with a soft spot for the world’s most disadvantaged, and a burning desire to help. Friends who have known him since before he began his career in public service say he is the same man today as he was back then—never losing sight of his goal of helping people, never getting a big head, and always putting Nebraska first.
Over the years, Mike has crisscrossed Nebraska countless times, listening to the concerns of constituents and comforting his fellow Nebraskans in times of crisis. Throughout it all, his wife, Stephanie has been by his side, always supportive and steadfast.
Mike Johanns is a statesman and model citizen. Nebraskans can be proud of his legacy and service. He has represented us with dignity and integrity. I am thankful for all the work he has done, and I wish Mike and Stephanie the very best. I know wherever life takes them, they will continue to do extraordinary things for Nebraska and the nation.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process.  I will visit with you again next week.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Duane A. Lienemann
UNLExtension Educator
     As I write this column we have just nineteen days until Christmas which is too early to write about the 12 days of Christmas so I will start this week talking about a new game that I think should be under every young child’s Christmas tree! Of course, anyone who knows me will tell you who passionate I am about agriculture literacy and a newly revised and revived farm game is right down that alley. Shoot, I may have to get it for myself. I will share with others though…… 
     The question is – “Can a video game help train the next generation of young farmers?” When I was still teaching in the high school venue there was a game that came out called SimFarm, I would bet some of you played that game. It was kind of addicting and was fun, but not really very realistic. I was happy later to see a Facebook game called FarmVille, when it came out, as it put people who had never lived on a farm or generations from ancestors who may have lived and worked on farms a little taste of agriculture. Exposure of any kind to me is an important inroad for those of us who are trying to bolster the literacy of agriculture and place farming and ranching in a different light than what is being portrayed by so many anti-farm activists on television, internet and even in our schools. Let’s take a look at this video game this week. 
     Farming Simulator 15, a computer game by Giants Software, was released last week and promises: "new graphics and physics engine, new visual effects, a new interface, new gameplay mechanics and, a new and vast game environment;" The first version of this game was released in 2007 and had an impressive fan base selling millions of copies.  The company has a website: http://www.farming-simulator.com/  and www.Twitter.com/farmingsim  where you can learn more about the game. What is amazing is that the worldwide video game marketplace, which includes video game console hardware and software, online, mobile and PC games, may reach $111 billion in 2015. Driven by strong mobile gaming and video game console and software sales. I had no idea that there was that much impact in the gaming world, but then I should when I see my grandsons playing all types of games on their big screen TV’s.  Could this gaming technology be adapted to help ag? 
     From what I can determine the main goal of the game is to harvest your crops/produce and sell them in order to expand your farming enterprise (e.g. machines, fields, animals and buildings). Hmmm.. sounds pretty realistic The players are free to explore, grow whatever crop they want and invest their money how they like.  Players can participate in multiplayer sessions where they farm together. One interesting feature is that there are more than 100 detailed farm machines and vehicles, including the largest New Holland combine ever introduced - the 2015 CR10.90 Elevation Combine - WOW!
     It may be hard to imagine using a game to help train young farmers in the United States. But, it is reported that 60 percent of Americans play video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association, an industry trade group. That’s more than the percentage of Americans who tuned into the last Super Bowl, pay for cable or subscribe to Netflix. As the technology becomes more realistic, there could be applications developed to help familiarize farmers to new tractors, combines and equipment before hitting the field and can be done in the off season.  Here is the intro video of several that are fun to watch:
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rK7NAXO-0&index=2&list=UUOmANDuJs2IHiEq8p9Ll5tw  . They even have a video created by a player who provides an overview as he plays. The graphics and operations continue to improve and become more realistic.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oGj8cd-l-wo .  For all of you involved in agriculture out there that have not even started looking for Christmas presents – you are welcome!!!!
     Speaking of ag literacy and anti-farm activists. I was both sickened and elated this past week when I heard that my own University of Nebraska was the target of an anti-animal agriculture effort under the guise of climate change/global warming concerns. If you didn’t hear about this, a group of students initiated an effort to bring “Meatless Mondays” to all the residence halls and fraternities on campus.  You can find a YouTube that espouses the benefits of meatless Mondays at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpziz8cJMaI  brought to you by --- guess who?  You got it ---the Humane Society of the United States – HSUS! You don’t suppose they had something to do with this student ASUN effort do you?
     I thought first that someone was pulling my leg, but no…..it was really happening. A group called the “Environmental Sustainability Committee” proposed a bill to the Association for Students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (ASUN) senate meeting that was aimed to educate students in all of the UNL dining halls about Meatless Mondays. It did not go unnoticed by collegiate ag students and I am proud of what they did! About 100 students showed up at Wednesday’s meeting of the ASUN Senate, most who were opposed to this anti-livestock bill. During an open forum session ahead of the meeting, five leaders representing campus groups spoke out against the bill. The speakers were members of UNL Collegiate Cattlemen, UNL Block and Bridle and the UNL Collegiate Farm Bureau, several of which are former and present FFA and 4-H members from across our State. I understand that the Nebraska Beef Council, A-Fan and Nebraska Ag in the Classroom provided information to help the students prepare, in a very short time, to offset the dialogue that was presented by the individuals that were pushing this agenda. I was elated to hear that after much debate, the bill was rejected by a majority of senators. Great, we are after all a Land Grant University! You can find some of the information used at: http://factsaboutbeef.com/2012/10/12/are-meatless-mondays-better-for-me-and-the-environment . Way to go Aggies!!! 

The preceding information comes from the research and personal observations of the writer which may or may not reflect the views of UNL or UNL Extension. For more further information on these or other topics contact D. A. Lienemann, UNL Extension Educator for Webster County in Red Cloud, (402) 746-3417 or email to: dlienemann2@unl.edu or go to the website at: http://www.webster.unl.edu/home 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Investing in Our National Security

Newsletter from Sen. Deb Fischer
As we approach the end of the 113th Congress, lawmakers in Washington still have a number of important legislative items to consider before Christmas. Among them is a bill to fund programs and personnel dedicated to securing our nation. This bill is commonly referred to in Washington as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and I believe it is one of the most important bills Congress must consider each year.
This year, we’ve seen Russia increase its belligerent behavior, Iran relentlessly pursue development of a nuclear weapon, and terror groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threaten our allies and wage a violent campaign against civilians. Although we are reducing our mission in Afghanistan, many challenges remain. That’s why it is so important for our military men and women to have the tools and training they need to safely fulfill their mission. Failing to act on an updated funding authorization for our Armed Forces is simply not an option.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have had the opportunity to offer several amendments to improve the NDAA, and I’m pleased that they have been incorporated in the final bill that was recently released, agreed to by the House, and will soon be considered by the Senate.
One of the amendments, which I introduced with senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), would build upon historic reforms Congress made in last year’s NDAA to curb instances of sexual assault within the military. It allows victims who are subsequently discharged to challenge the terms and characterization of their separation from service. It also boosts accountability among commanding officers by strengthening evaluations of how they handle reports of offenses within their unit.
Recently, the Department of Defense released a study highlighting the progress that has been made since last year’s reforms. According to the survey, instances of sexual assaults have decreased in 2014, compared with previous years. More survivors are also willing to come forward. This shows that we are headed in the right direction, but we won’t stop here. The survey also identified the issue of retaliation against those who report sexual assaults as a serious problem. Congress must focus on this specific issue as it continues to address this grave problem.
Our military men and women often put themselves in harm’s way for all of us. They should not face threats from within their own ranks. I will continue working to reduce sexual assaults, with a particular focus on retaliation, in our military.
This year’s NDAA also includes the final funding installment for construction of a new, state-of-the-art command and control facility for U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) at Offutt Air Force Base. As the nature of threats continue to evolve, it’s imperative that STRATCOM maintains a cutting-edge ability to detect and deter potential attacks. This facility upgrade will help ensure the safety and security of all Americans well into the 21st century.
A number of other provisions I supported to strengthen our nation’s nuclear deterrent and invest in training for our special operations forces are included in the final NDAA bill as well. As Ranking Member of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee, I am particularly proud of provisions we submitted to prioritize funding for training and readiness requirements of our soldiers that were not funded in the president’s budget request.
The success of our troops depends on our commitment in Congress to support their efforts. The NDAA is one very important way to ensure they are equipped to focus on their mission, defend our nation, and return home safely. I look forward to supporting this legislation when it comes to a vote in the coming days.
Thank you for taking part in the democratic process, and I will visit with you again next week.