Larger than life

Wieses’ winter project produces giant snowman

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GREENLEAF, Wis. — What started as a fun winter activity last year has turned into a tradition, as the Wiese family produced a giant snowman on their dairy farm again this year. This time, more preparation went into the project.

“Last year, it was kind of a warm day toward spring, and my five grandkids wanted to do something outside,” Dave Wiese said. “So, after about five hours, we had it all carved out, but then everybody had to tease us and tell us somebody else built a bigger one. So, this year we prepared a little bit.”

The snowman, built in a parking lot, stands 32 feet tall including the hat and is equally round. Wiese prepared by plowing snow into a pile every time it snowed. There were a couple of 1- to 3-inch snowfalls that gave him all the snow he needed. Then, they got hit with a blizzard that produced another 6 inches of snow.

Wiese and his partners milk 6,400 cows in two parallel parlors near Greenleaf. The farm is operated as a partnership between Wiese, Mark Wiese, Ross Wiese, John Wiese and Dan Wiese.

Wiese was set on building the snowman Jan. 20, but it was a cold day and everyone else wanted to watch the Green Bay Packers game. They put it off until the following day, even though it was still a chilly 15 degrees.

Wiese began by packing the snow pile with a telehandler with an extendable lift. He flattened the top, packed the rest of the snow pile and then carved the snow with his five grandchildren. They started at the top and worked their way down.

The snowman’s head is about 6 feet tall, and each level below gets a few feet wider. The base layer measures 140 feet around. The family used shovels to carve out the levels. The entire process, from the time supplies were gathered until the carving was done, took about 5.5 hours.

“Everybody was pretty tired at the end, so we didn’t actually decorate it that day,” Wiese said. “The kids would stay out and help for a bit and then go back in and warm up.”

Wiese used a piece of 36-inch culvert for the top of the hat and a tractor innertube around it for the brim. The eyes are round corn planter discs, the nose is a safety cone, and the mouth is a 6-foot piece of drain tile.

“It was all parts from the farm that we had just lying around,” Wiese said. “It is not perfectly shaped; he looks a little like the Michelin Man.”

The family shared photos of the project on the farm’s Facebook page and asked followers to help name the snowman. The community came up with the name Taylor Drift, which is a play on the famous singer’s name.

The snowman is clearly visible from Highway 57 so passers-by can enjoy the sight. Last year’s snowman was built further off the road, so Wiese wanted to make sure more people could see it this year.

“Every time I’d drive by it last year, I would smile, so I put it out there this year,” Wiese said. “When we were building it, people were driving by, blowing the horn. I had a semi driver stop to take a picture with his semi in front of it the other day.”

Now the family is having social media followers predict when Taylor Drift will melt completely. Wiese said they plan to continue the tradition next year and will plan on more ideas.

“It’s a family affair,” Wiese said. “When this gets out, I will have lots of help next year.”

Wiese’s father purchased the original farm in 1972. Six brothers started a partnership in 1982 as a cash cropping operation. In 1995, the dairy operation was started and has grown to its present size. The current owned and rented land is approximately 7,000 acres.

Two principal partners remain — Wiese and his brother, Mark. The other partners are their sons and a nephew.

Cows are housed in free stalls and bedded with fiber bedding. A fiber separator is used to separate manure, which is then run through composting drums to heat and sterilize it before it is reused for bedding.

“We’ve done that for about 17 years,” Wiese said. “It takes management, but we’ve got good people in place, and it works really well.”

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