A couple weeks ago I introduced myself and asked for feedback on what people like about The Country Today and what they’d like to see done differently or better. The response exceeded my hopes.

A column like that is always a shot in the dark. It’s not guaranteed to get a reply, much less the kind of helpful responses our readers provided. We’re using those comments and suggestions to make some tweaks to our approach. Don’t worry, we’re not doing a complete overhaul or radically changing things. The goal is to take what our readers said they like and amplify it.

There is a new columnist joining the paper (see page 8A) and we hope you will like her work. “Lovina’s Amish Kitchen” is written by Lovina Eicher, an Old Order Amish cook. It’s a slice-of-life column that runs 500 words or so. Each one recounts events in her community and includes a recipe she uses.

From what I’ve seen, there’s always some curiosity about the Amish. Who better to tell the community’s stories than a member? We’ll have the chance to learn a bit about the Amish in their own words, and enjoy some cooking ideas, too.

One new item we’ll have won’t be in print. The U.S. Drought Monitor tracks drought conditions nationally, and we’ll be keeping an eye on it for our readers. Unfortunately, that’s going to be constrained a bit by timing. The monitor closes its week on Tuesdays and releases the data on Thursday — the day after our paper comes out. So anything in print would always be a week out of date.

Our website offers a way around that. We’ll have a basic update on what’s happening in the upper Midwest on Thursdays, after the new maps are released. And we’re looking at ways to report on it, too, with less time-sensitive information.

By way of continuing my introduction, let me tell you a little bit about my first experiences with rural life. I called myself a city kid, and that’s true if you consider the suburbs part of the cities they surround. It certainly felt like a city to me. There were always people around and my neighborhood had lots of children in it. Except for one little area.

At the top of the hill my street was on, probably a good 10 to 15 minute walk, was a fence where the road ended and a large pasture beyond it. Yes, a suburban pasture, complete with cows. The woman who owned the land never sold to developers. The farm had been in her family for generations, and she wasn’t about to let it go.

As farms go it wasn’t a lot. Some cows. A flock of guinea hens. Every now and then the latter would wake people in the neighborhood up after they got out and went on a morning run past our houses. But it was as much a farm as me and my classmates had seen.

A couple teachers at the elementary school I attended had a good relationship with the farm’s owner. Once each year the fourth grade students hiked up to the farm to see it. What stuck out to me was the barn. It was white (mostly) and had no nails. Wooden pegs held it together, just like they had since it was built before the Civil War.

Eventually my family moved away. The farm, now a YMCA complex, sold after the owner died. Years later I went to college in a small town. The sign at the edge of town said it had 3,000 residents. The college said it had 1,000 students. I’m still not sure they weren’t both exaggerating.

I arrived early for my freshman year, in the middle of an August heat wave, for soccer practice. The dorms weren’t air conditioned and I was sweating through a hot, muggy night when I heard this strange sound come through the open window. It took me five minutes to realize it was a cow from a neighboring farm.

“Welcome to the country, city kid,” I thought to myself.

And I swear I heard that cow snicker in response.