Monday, May 20, 2013

Be the Match

I was maybe 12 years old, and my father and I were working in the shop.  Dad asked If I could go start a fire outside to burn a pile of sticks we had assembled earlier in the day.
       I asked him, "Do you have a match?"
       Without missing a beat he said, "Not since Superman died."
Perplexed, I left with a fresh matchbook in hand.  What did Superman have to do with this?

 I am a match.  Not to superman, but to a 61 year old female with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  While attending college at University of Minnesota, I had a good friend who was diagnosed with brain cancer.  In support of him, my fraternity shaved our heads.  Our bare heads in the middle of winter caught the attention of a lot of people, one of them was a Professor in the Agronomy Department, Professor Vance.  He encouraged us to continue our support by holding a "Be the Match" Bone Marrow Drive.  For those of us not familiar, there is a bone marrow registry that links potential donors with patients in need of bone marrow or Peripheral Blood Stem Cells (PBSC).
The next fall we paired with the U of M's Homecoming Blood drive and signed up 150 college students that were willing to have  a cheek swab and promised to answer the call when a complete stranger needed help. 

Before the end of 2012, I received a phone call from a Be The Match employee asking if I would go into my local clinic to get some extra blood samples to test if I was a potential match for a patient.  After about 9 vials of blood, I was on my way hopeful to help a person in need.

I had nearly forgotten about the blood samples, when I received another phone call in the beginning of April.  I was a match and chosen by the recipient as the lead candidate to donate my Peripheral Blood Stem Cells.  The collection would take place Late April or Early May.

As a caring individual my initial reaction was, "Of course!"  However, as a farmer, I knew that Late April and Early May usually meant planting season and one of the busiest times of the year. I talked to my parents to make sure that they were willing to pick up my load of work on the farm for a couple days if I agreed to donate.  Without hesitation, they said yes.

On May 1st, Kendra and I traveled to a Sioux Falls Hospital. It took about 10 hours in the hospital to process almost 30 liters of blood and spin out the Peripheral Blood Stem Cells that I had been building up for the prior 5 days.

You can see that I had two IV's: One for taking blood, and one for putting blood back in my body after being centrifuged.  The hardest part of the day was that I couldn't bend my arms, so Kendra had to feed me, scratch my itching nose, and keep me entertained for 10 hours.     

I'd love to go into detail about what a great experience I had.  The Nurses, Be the Match Staff, and Hospital made an incredible event go flawless. 

Donating PBSC was not painful.  I took shots for 5 days leading up to my donation.  The nurses as the Fairmont Medical Center were AWESOME to work with, even coming in on a Sunday just to help make it easier and more convenient for me to donate.  I took my shots in the Infusion Center, where many patients take Chemo.  It was cool to see the room filled with inspiration and encouragement, but its a room I hope to not see again.  The shots themselves weren't painful, but came with some side effects.  For me, I had "bone pains" and felt like I had the flu.  Others experience loss of appetite, sleep, and nausea.  The entire week I felt like my body was trying to do a lot, so I attempted to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take a break when needed.  I was able to perform all of my daily tasks on the farm, but some labor-intensive activities took me longer since I needed a break.

Being poked for 16-gauge IV's isn't something I want to do everyday, but the nurses at Avera Mckenna in Sioux Falls really made me feel special.  My ultrasound nurse, (Ultrasound to see exactly where the straigtest part of the veins in my arms were) greeted me by saying, "You're one of the donors. aren't you?  I could see the halo above your head when I walked in."  It just helped me remember why I was putting my body through the discomfort, and taking the time to help a stranger.  There are good people in the world, many of them are nurses.

I may never know if my donation helped prolong the life of the recipient.  I really don't know much about her, and might not ever meet her.  We have the option to know more about each other after a year has passed (If we both agree).  

If anyone has any questions about donating or signing up to the registry, here's a link: or give me a call.   

Saturday, February 23, 2013

How's work?

"How's work?" It's such an easy question, and for most anybody that answers it, there is a quick one-word response.

"Good" or "Busy"

For me, this simple question is loaded with a long explanation. I'm no longer selling seed in the two neighboring counties, and I've moved onto my dream career: Farming with my family.

I grew up on a 5th generation farm and since Highschool, I've known that eventually I wanted to follow my grandfather and father's footsteps and take over the family business. As of January 8th, I was given that opportunity.

I remember a trip to the State Capitol several years ago. My FFA State Officer team was meeting with the president of a farm lobby group, Kevin. Kevin asked us to introduce ourselves and as part of the introduction, tell him your dream job. I went first by saying, "my name is Dan Helvig and I just want to be a farmer when I grow up."

Kevin stopped the introductions immediately. "Just a farmer?!?!? Just!?!? Don't short-change yourself. As a farmer you need to be an entrepreneur, a master marketer, a constant learner, a hard worker, and a innovative businessman. Not to mention a plant biologist, agronomist, animal nutritionist and large engine mechanic. Farming was the occupation of our nations forefathers and Farmers will always be the most important occupation, because no doctor will find a cure for cancer if they're worried about where their next meal is coming from. No scientist will solve global warming if he's worried that his next meal isn't safe to eat, and no student can afford the time for more schooling if they need to grow their own food first."

Kevin's comments that day have always stuck with me, but as I start this new chapter in my life I think of these comments every day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My good deed for the day

As I opened the door for her, she grabbed my shoulder bringing it closer to her level. Her soft left hand trembled as she brought it to my face, caressing my cheek. Her other hand still forcefully on my shoulder left enough space on my other cheek for her to make her mark: one set of wrinkly lips outlined with red.

That's right ladies and gents, I did a good deed worthy of a kiss on the cheek from a lady old enough to be my grandmother.


I was running an errand in the middle of the day, trying to buy time unitl the end of the day. I stopped at the local Hyvee and as I was getting back into my truck, I noticed this frail, elderly figure that was ever-so-slowly making her way down the sidewalk.

She said, "Where are you heading?" in a voice that was shaking and as frail as her stature.

"My next stop is in Jackson, just south of here...." I paused, not realizing why she was asking, "Why? Do you want a ride somewhere?"

"Why yes! Just three blocks down the street to the hair salon," she said with her eyes lighting up.

I offered my arm as a extra support as we walked to the passenger side of my truck. I took a minute to clean up my extra work supplies. She took the big step (atleast she made it seem like a big step) into my truck.

As I closed the door and walked around to my side of the vehicle again, I thought about how odd of an occasion this was and the courage it took for her to ask the simple questions of where I was going.

As I got in the truck, I asked her what her name was (Eva) and gave her mine. I put the truck in drive and asked her again where we were going. It was at that moment when she said something that really caught my attention.

She said, "It is good to know that there are still good people in this world."

My mind raced to this picture I saw just the other day:

This shirt is from They sell shirts for $20 and in turn the profit goes to feed roughly 30 meals (per shirt) to children that are starving all over the world. I haven't picked one up quite yet, but I'm sure I will.


The shirt makes me think of my encounter with Eva and how it took two of us to perform a tiny miracle that day. Eva believed that I, a stranger that she knows nothing about, was a generally good-hearted person. And I, a person who tries to live a faithful life, did what is right.

My role was easy, and I believe that most people would do the same thing I did and offer Eva a ride three blocks. What fascinates me to this day, is the belief that Eva had. That a young stranger was a good person. Eva believed that there was good in this world, and allowed me to be the good in this world.

Eva, you are my hero, and I thank god for our brief encounter. I hope to learn from you. I hope that as I see the car broken down on the side of the road, I stop to help rather than worry the strangers are probably going to rob me. I hope that I will seize the opportunity to serve, volunteer, or help. Most of all, I hope that I have the courage to ask a stranger for their help when I am in need, believing the the world around me is not corrupt,


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Canada Fishing - 2012 edition

Back online!

We left at 6:00 AM this morning and we're coming home with a full belly, a full battery, and an almost full limit of fish. We can bring home 16 walleyes and 16 northern pike, but we fell two short on the northern pike. I'm sure that if we had fished a little harder earlier this week, we could have easily filled. After eating two fish for lunch everyday I'm okay with having a break.


I hadn't realized it, but it had been two years since I was at camp with the men of the family (well most of them, my brother was on tour being a rockstar). I REALLY missed it. Being isolated (away from the women, the web, and the work) is a great way to build our guy relationships and remind ourselves of why we come.

A typical day at camp.

6:00 am - Wake up. We don't set an alarm, but my Dad has an internal clock the size of Notre Dame's Bell Tower.

6:10 am - I actually get out of bed after using ten minutes to build the body heat to survive a chilly morning in Canada.

6:11 am - Put clothes on. Its usually cold, so it doesn't take long.

6:30 am - One of the most important parts of the week. Blueberry Pancakes! We buy fresh picked blueberries or stop and pick them ourselves. They are wild, juicy, and small. The blueberries combined with my father's culinary skills make for a fantastic meal to start the day.

7:00 - 7:30 am - Pack the coolers, stove, pans, rods, reels, rain gear, and take off for the first fishing spot

8:30-11:30am - Fish! The morning is usually spent trolling islands, bays, and weedlines looking for walleyes. We prefer walleye for lunch because it is less oily and contains less bones than northern pike. We fish places like Jon's Honey-Hole, Todd's Rock, Lee's Bays, and the Alley. All filled with as many fish as memories for the people they are named after.

12 Noon - Shore lunch! Another essential part of the trip. We dock the boats, clean the fish and start melting a block of lard in the frying pan. We eat walleye, potatoes, and beans. The fish is fresh, golden brown, and melts in your mouth. I usually eat two whole fish. Its way too much, but it only tastes like this for one week out of the year. This year, the mosquitos were pretty obnoxious, so we tried something new - Boat Lunch. We tied our boats up in a calm bay and stayed bite-free.

1:00 - 4:30 pm - Fish! The afternoon is spent casting reeds and reeling in pike. This year the pike bite was slow, so we went on mini adventures. We drudged through small streams and rivers to make it to Lake Aldous this year. There, we fished around a small island that was burnt from a small fire. As we trolled around the corner, a small Caribou jumped up and hid in the trees. It was a small island so my boat mate and cousin Alex got out dad's attention and tried to surround the small island. Unfortunately, we learned that caribou swim faster than a four stroke, 25 horse, Johnson motor and the caribou made it to mainland with us only getting a glimpse. In order to get to the lake, Alex and I had to pull the boats through a small bog.

5:00 pm - Get back to camp and start our night duties. The men clean fish and the old guys cook.

6:30 pm - Supper. The first night we eat fish, but after that its pork loin, boneless ribs, ribeye steaks, or chicken thighs. Sweet corn, potatoes and some sort of fish appetizer are the sides. We eat too much.

9:00 pm - After dinner. With a Labbatt's Blue in hand (for us that are "of age") we've finished dishes and showers. Its time for a card game. This year's specialty was 4-handed Cribbage. The dad's beat the boys pretty badly each night, but we definitely had an equal amount of fun.

10:30 pm - Lights out. In the old days this was literal because the owners shut off the generator, but now its only figurative.


Yet again it was a successful year. Although my battery is fully charged and I'm ready for a big work week, my Ipad's battery is not.


Canada Fishing

I love road trips, my family, and the outdoors, and the trip I'm on today is about all three. Each summer, the men in my family take the trek 18 hours north into the land of blue waters, green trees, lots of other great stuff, eh? That's right, Ontario!

My grandfather, Bruce, started coming to Ignace, Ontario in 1951. Why? nobody knows, but the fishing has always been good, the water always clear, and the company, well that changes year to year but we are always among the best. The annual fishing trip to Canada was a right of passage for the Helvig Family. At the age of 7, you've learned enough about water safety, respect of elders, and fishing to earn the right to come. When I first started coming up, the camp was full of relatives and neighbors from the county. My grandfather always brought his 1971 16-foot Lund, and filled it with my great Uncle Merle, and neighbor Dave. They had to leave early because in an 18 hour trip, there are atleast 4 casinos on the way, and a lot of crab leg buffets to attend to. My family always consisted of my father, uncle, brother, and later on my younger cousins. My sister and mother even came one year, but I think we scared them away with snakes, fish guts, and primitive bathrooms.

This year, its my father, Jon, Uncle Jon, 16-year old cousin Alex, and myself. Its been the same crew for the last several years as most of our fellow fishing mates are with the Great Fishermen upstairs. Its nice to take a small group, but it puts more responsibility on each individual. Cleaning fish, cooking supper, and doing dishes are just a few of the daily chores that need to be done each night. As a 7 year old, dishes were my duty, but through persistence, hard work, and excellent quality control i've climbed the preverbial corporate ladder and become the fish cleaner. Like the Heavyweight Title in wrestling, I once had a shot at being the camp cook, but some hot coals gave my potatos a little too much carbon. The result was a deflated ego, sore jaw from a hard meal, and a new job cleaning fish.

Rumor has it that the camp has internet. Although I look forward to Skyping with my new fiance, I think I'll unplug for now.


Thursday, July 5, 2012


I am extremely excited to share that I am no longer "on the market" and now engaged to the love of my life, Kendra Van Beusekom.

We've been dating for over two years after meeting at school during a FarmHouse BBQ (both of her brothers were in the house with me during school). Our first date was in the park in St. Paul, MN where we learned to dance to 50's music and walked the historic streets of downtown.

It's been the best years of my life with the pinnacle of our relationship coming last night (July 4th, 2012). The story, as it follows, will be told for ages and passed down from generation to generation. (I hope)

It all starts on July 3rd when we headed down to Spirit Lake, Iowa where we met up with a group of firiends that I attended high school and college with. There, many of them asked if I was ever going to "pop the question" to which i gave the normal response, "maybe in 5 years." We watched fireworks, built a bonfire, and slept in tents. It was a FANTASTIC start to the 4th of July Festivities.

After packing up our tent, eating breakfast, and taking a much needed mid-morning nap, we started celebrating Independence Day by packing a cooler and tying up few boats to float in the sun on Fox Lake (where I live). By 6:00 pm we were hot and tired. We were cleaning up for a supper with family at my aunt and uncles' Fox Lake home when I nonchalantly asked if Kendra would like to see fireworks tonight to which she replied, "I don't really care, we saw some last night at Spirit Lake, its up to you." Not the answer I expected, so I had to improvise.

"Kendra, what if we went to a quieter place to watch fireworks and didn't have to deal with traffic? We'd be done by 10:30 pm and home by 11." She fell for it... so i went on,

"Its a quiet place that I like to watch the Fairmont fireworks from, but its kind of a secret so you can't tell anyone about it," I said.

Kendra started laughing, "What do you mean a secret?"

"I mean that its top-secret, so i'll probably have to blind-fold you, so that you can't tell anyone else where it is." I wasn't sure how she would react, or if this was even what I wanted, but she played along with a willing attitude.

So I got Kendra in the truck and put the blindfold on, but I "forgot" something so quickly left to grab a bottle of white wine from the fridge, two dixie cups, and a corkscrew (almost forgot that part...) She was left in the truck feeling the back of my seat looking for where I could have gone. It took about 25 minutes to make the 18-mile trip to the home farm because I had to throw in a few wrong turns (kendra was counting turns and trying to remember the path like any good victim of a kidnapping).

I drove to the home farm and parked right under a new grain bin. Its the newest member of the "grain handling division" of Helvig Farms Inc, and it has a nice spiral staircase running along the east side making it an ideal way to allow a blindfolded Kendra to climb as high as she did. I got out of the truck and pretending to say "Hi" to people i knew. I opened the door for Kendra and asked if she had brought her inhaler because the next part was quite the hike. I raced up the steps to set up the blanket. After getting her safely secured on the top step, I popped the cork on the wine bottle and took her blindfold off. The fireworks were just getting started. It was a perfect evening with a slight breeze from the south carrying the sweet smell of swine. The bugs had gone to bed and the Moon was full. Kendra even commented that people do crazy things on a Full Moon (I now agree).

During the night I had told Kendra that one time I watched the fireworks from the top of our leg which is only 10 feet taller. (For those of you not involved on a farm the leg is a tall, metal, octopus-looking attraction that acts like an auger to put the grain in the bins) I love being on top of the grain bin because its as close as I can get to heaven while being on the farm. I find that its a great place to pray, make life decision, smoke a cigar, and drink a beer. (All things I have done)

It was a PERFECT night almost to the point where I thought Kendra knew what I was up to, so I threw in a few comments to not only calm my nerves, but to throw her off. I said, "I'm so dehydrated from being in the sun, afterwards remind me to steal a gatorade from my parents." and "This is quite the date, but don't worry I'm already planning August's date" (a joke that we only go on one date a month)

I can't say that I was necessarily nervous, but I was giddy, and if you've ever sat next to me in a class where I'm giddy you know that I move... a lot.

The finale came and Kendra started thanking me for such a wonderful date night, but the night wasn't quite over. I got down on one knee (which is awkward on a small, metal staircase) and I pulled the box out from my back pocket. I said, "Kendra, I hope you don't mind, but I kind of have a finale of my own... I've loved you VERY much for a long time and promise to continue to love you for the rest of my life." At this point, the box was open, but since it was so dark, Kendra was still looking off in the distance not realizing exactly what was going on, so I raised the box in front of her face and said, "Kendra Ann Van Beusekom, Will You Marry Me?"

She freaked out and started crying, breathing heavy and trying to talk. My hands got sweaty and my heart started racing. She said, "Yes, of course! Oh my gosh, I can't believe this is happening!"

She immediately started grabbing for the ring, but with her shaking and my intense fear of dropping a ring off the side of a grain bin, I had to stop her. I put the ring on her finger, but since it was dark she still couldn't get a good look at it. Now, this part wasn't planned, but its probably my favorite part.

I said, "would you like to see your ring" and I grabbed my phone and turned the flashlight on. From darkness to intense light, Kendra got the first look at the newest piece of jewelry that she will wear for the rest of her life!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Its about time!

Finally, I'm starting a blog.  Its a decision I've contemplated for about 2 years, and after making it my "New Year's Resolution" I'm finally getting started... in May.

To introduce my blog, I'll start by first introducing my self, my passions, and my reason for blogging.

My story starts on a family farm in Martin County, Minnesota.  I recently graduated from the University of Minnesota and returned to my hometown.  I work for a regional seed company, farm part-time, and try to be involved in the community, not necessarily in that order.  I love being around my family, walking in my own corn field, or sitting at the end of my dock with a fishing pole in hand.  I'm starting a blog for many reasons.  I've noticed that since leaving college, I never get to write anything besides an email and I actually missed it.  I also wanted to place to collect my thoughts, share my views, and join the agricultural blog-o-sphere. 

#CountryLivin is a twitter tag my older siblings often used when returning home from the cities for the weekend.  They highlighted a lot of the things I take for granted while living in smalltown America.  Whenever I see it I feel grateful for where I live, the passions I have, and the family that surrounds me.

Pic:  This is my Family Farm as it was throughout my childhood.  So many memories, stories, and people come to mind when I look at this picture, but soon