Wisconsin has turned out to be a favorite state, and by the time we arrived in Belgium WI, about 40 minutes north of Milwaukee, lakeside, we thought, “hey, we could really live here.” The area is gorgeous. Rolling hillsides and farmland, quaint towns, roadside farmer’s markets, trees, and quiet county roads winding through the countryside.
My brother-in-law grew up in this old farming community (pop. 2000), and almost all 9 of his siblings, and parents, still live in the area today. Sherry, my brother-in-law’s sister, and her husband Dave generously let us set up our rig on their property. They have an incredible block of land out in the countryside, 40-acres that have been in the family for years, complete with horses, a pond, a garden, beautiful landscaping that the two have done all themselves, and trails in a forested area. It’s the perfect example of what Jim and I are looking for when we land somewhere.
We arrived Thursday at his parent’s house, and watched the party unfold as everyone started showing up. They weren’t all there because of us; this was a typical evening at Mom and Dad’s. Their home is Grand Central Station for siblings to meet up, kids to get dropped off for babysitting, gossip to catch up on, and so on. When you get everyone together in the same house, this big German Catholic family is almost louder than my own Mexican family, and that’s saying something! The Weilands are wonderfully welcoming and generous, and made us feel so at home.
Sherry and Dave had a fish fry party on Friday after work, but it had a twist; the guys were supposed to catch enough fish in their big pond to feed about 25 people. By 9pm, only four tiny bluegill had been caught! Dave says that the weather front coming through made it bad for fishing. Uh huh.
Sherry saved dinner by cooking up brats and burgers, and along with food that others brought, dinner got served. Later, once Dave broke out with his excellent home made pear wine, then the party really got started. It went on till almost midnight.
Many of their friends had known each other for years, shared life’s ups and downs, and watched their kids grow up together. I’m envious of the bonds they share, and hope that wherever we end up next, we can find such great people to share our lives with. People like that are one in a million.
The time we spent with Sherry and Dave was some of the most fun we’ve had in a while. Dave played tour guide on a rainy Saturday, showing us around the area, and went with us to a new Trader Joe’s just outside of Milwaukee (our first TJ’s since California!). On rainy Sunday night, we hung out and, what else, drank more pear wine!
It was also an educational weekend. These two come from a farming background, growing mostly cash crops (like soybeans and corn), and gave us the lowdown on what’s it’s really like to have your livelihood be completely dependent on Mother Nature. They don’t farm anymore, if that tells you anything. Dave’s an electrician, Sherry’s a 4th grade teacher. When Jim told Dave how I want to be a farmer, Dave said “you don’t have enough money to be a farmer; you’ll go broke.” In these parts, the only farms that survive are huge operations with lots of money behind them; everyone else struggles to get by. Oh well. I can always be a hobby farmer.
This area has definitely made our “return to” list. Weilands, consider this your warning . . . we’ll be back!