The harvest is almost completed at Annexstad Dairy Farms. The major items left in the first few days of November are hauling corn stalk bales from the field back to the farm, hauling manure (endless as it is) and tillage.
    When done, and if the winter weather permits, there may be time for a few do-it-if-we-have-time projects around the farm. We will need some extra help for these. Lucky for us, a long-time family friend, Doug O’Neal, happens to be planning a visit in a few weeks. His help is legendary.
        Doug visits us from San Diego, Calif., when it works for him to do so and stays as long as he decides. Over the years, he has arrived on a Harley, a 1956 Chevy Truck along with his two elementary-aged sons, an Impala with his entire family, rental cars from the airport and probably some ways I have forgotten about.
    The story of Doug’s affection for our community began with his bicycle trip from the west to the east coast a few decades ago. He was on his journey and stopped at the Nicollet County Fair, met a neighboring farmer who needed extra help and ended up staying there for the summer. He made friends and kept returning for several harvest seasons. While in the Norseland community, he became friends with my brothers-in-law, my husband and many neighbors. He never made it to the east coast, but he still bikes many miles as a hobby.
    Doug brings a variety of people with him on visits to Minnesota, such as his wife, his children or his good friends from the Station 21 Fire Station, where he retired from a few years ago. We know the station number because of the various T-shirts he brings as gifts.
    When he stays with my brother-in-law Mike, he enjoys the meals my mother-in-law makes, the early-morning walk through the pasture to the farm and driving around supervising on the farm Gator.
    He starts each visit assessing what is on Doug’s list and uses keen observation and his people skills to decide what might be needed. I am not sure if it is the years of EMT training, his personality or an innate sense to figure things out, but he always seems to find the most pressing jobs to help with and gives the advice that people need to hear the most.
    Doug has poured cement for bunker silos, fixed the toughest of broken posts, fences and a lot of other things that needed to be done. He makes improvements to make life easier and safer, such as installing poles on either side of the steep parlor steps that were a hazard for many years or adding handles to doors that you did not realize you needed. A classic line of his is, “I’ll fix it better next time.”
    Beyond all of Doug’s help is the pure fun of having such a great person around. He has a positive attitude and motivates people. He has a no-nonsense way of pointing things out that each of us could do better. Sometimes it involves how we relate to the people we work with every day.
    The levity he brings to any situation also stands out. When I asked for some stories about Doug to share, there was one funny tale after another to talk over and laugh about. Like the summer visit where he spent a lot of time driving around in the Gator with my father-in-law, Carl, and a cooler full of ice and beer. We all enjoyed the diversion, and Carl loved the company.
    Doug often plans his visits during family events when every dairy operation needs an extra hand. He came when our twins were born in 2000 and when Carl passed away in 2009. When Lois, my mother-in-law, celebrated a special birthday last January, Doug and his wife, Kathleen, flew to surprise her.
When Mike was laid up two winters ago, Doug came to help with chores. He just so happened to slip on the good old Minnesota ice, breaking his own ankle. He ended up keeping Mike company while they both healed. And, we still got the chores done. Since then, many amusing photos and texts are sent back and forth from Norseland to San Diego of injuries related to ice falls, knife mishaps or bike accidents.
    We will welcome our friend and his help with some projects, but more importantly, we will acquire excellent stories to tell. Here is to hoping there is a person like Doug who brings happiness and a keen sense of humor to make some memories on your farm.
    Jean dairy farms with her husband, Rolf, and brother-in-law, Mike, and children Emily, Matthias and Leif. They farm near St. Peter, in Norseland, where she is still trying to fit in with the Norwegians and Swedes. They milk 200 cows and farm 650 acres. She can be reached at jeanannexstad@gmail.com.