Good neighbors don’t need fences

Making friends as an adult is a tricky, tricky proposition. If you’ve got kids, that’s a good place to start.  I’ve found it useful to identify potential friends among my kids’ parent group by complaining about something and seeing if anyone joins in.  Just a little bit, I mean they have to know what they’re getting into.  I like to make sure their kids aren’t too clean or perfectly well behaved, because I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life.  And then there’s the whole thing of being on your guard in case someone seems like potential friend material but then it turns out they just want you to join their multi-level marketing scheme or cult or something or group that actually stays out after 10:00 or something.   There are so many awkward stages, it’s almost worse than dating, because it’s highly unlikely that at any point in the proceedings, you’ll get to break the tension by making out.  I mean, not impossible, but highly unlikely.   So, yeah, tricky proposition all in all.

I wish that I could have just keep all my best friends from all of my stages of life with me as I moved from place to place and job to job.  Create some sort of nomadic caravan of friends that I’ve collected.  That way all I would need to do would be to pop out of the door and wander over to their tent or whatever.  But alas, that’s not the way our world works, and they remain scattered, accessible on a daily basis only through a computer screen. It was so easy back in college, when all you had to do was wander into a dorm hallway and start banging on doors.  It’s harder now, but having a neighbors as best friends sure makes things easier.


The neighborhood keeps me sane


My healthiest relationship and longest neighbor friendship is with Vicky.  I was reminded today of how much she means to me because we had a stupid argument, and that’s what got me thinking. Don’t worry–it’s all fixed up and better, not two hours after it happened.  On the rare occasions when we irritate each other, we argue like professionals.  Seriously, we should be used as a model for couples counseling.  For example, today I said something rude to and insensitive and made Vicky mad.  Then she called me back and, using “I” statements, told me how she felt. Then she allowed me to respond. I took ownership for my mistake, explained my point of view.  She listened. Then I said that I was sorry and asked for her forgiveness. Then she forgave me and we talked about other things and signed off by saying “I love you.” We should take our game on the road, I think.  She is honestly the ONLY PERSON that I argue with correctly!

Vicky and Me and the Kids

Here we are taking the girls to vote in the 2016 election.  It was good to have a friend after that…


To wrap up my little musing on adult friendships, here’s a little something I wrote three plus years ago when a couple of our other neighbor friends moved away.  The feelings hold true today, as new clans fill in the empty spaces of our neighborhood circle:

I like things the way they are.  Maybe not everything, but I love my neighborhood the way it is, and I weep to think of losing it.  I like that our kids have known each other since they were in diapers.  They lope home from the bus each day, secure in the comfort of each other.  Games and imaginings sprout up at a moment’s notice in the backyard tree fort, sunlight dappling the most ethnically diverse locality in all of Franklin, people with the brownish-whitish souls that belong to us.  I like that they belong to US.  I don’t care whose house they are in—they’ll be fed, and scolded, and loved, and entertained, and secure in the knowledge that they belong.  I like that my ugliest secrets belong to these three women and they don’t care.  They are some of the only friends who don’t need anything from me but me.  When I grant them kindnesses or favors I do so not to uphold some carefully crafted image or façade, but just because that the way it is.  I like that our backyards and the lollipop of a street are enough of a world for our kids in the summer, that they can subsist on endless popscicles snuck from freezer after freezer all summer long.  I like that we’ve cried together and even more so laughed together.  I like that my girlfriends are my family, and that we’ve created a magical little village for ourselves that is so rare in today’s world.  I guard it and speak of it with pride and knowledge that it inspires envy.  –me, Friday, April 17, 2015

Four of us

We were always too busy to get better pictures.  Miss this.

Just Not One of Those Moms

I like having the house all to myself.  It soothes me to get it straightened up and, for some hours of the day, to know that the state of order won’t be constantly eroded.  I wasn’t home alone this past weekend.  And I hit a mothering breaking point.  It kind of embarrasses me, but I’m hoping that some commiseration and like-mindedness will improve my sense of self worth.  You see, unlike the mothers in those commercials for paper towels, I just can’t handle out of control messes–AT ALL. 


paper towel ad


You know the ads.  The kids are baking and, OOPS!, they spill a bag of flour all over.  Hahaha, no problem!  Let’s dab it on eachother’s noses and throw in some eggs for good measure!  I have some awesome paper towels that will make it all better instantly!  Oh you kids, nothing you do can make me lose my temper! 

I hate that prototype.

I know that patience is a virtue and I try, really I do.  I’m patient about other things–listening to music lessons, reading long books.  That’s really about it, I guess.  But something about in-your-face messes just gets to me.  This is why I often suggest that to keep mom in a good mood, having the area just inside the garage door neat and tidy will go a long way.  Create a jumbled heap of shoes and bags and coats and papers and rocks for me to step over–I’m going to be surly.  I just am.   So to actually stand by and WATCH such a gory mess accumulate? Not in my skill set.   

Now, baking with the girls?  Love it.  I control the counter top and we stay ahead of the mess.   But lately they’ve wanted to bake all on their own.  Again, I know in my brain that this is a good thing, but my symmetry-loving, clear-countertop-relishing gut refuses to fall in line.  This weekend’s bake-a-thon was extra special as the baking happened while I was attempting to cook some dishes to take to a neighbors informal pot luck later that night.  Where’s my counter space, huh? To gild the guilt lily, it actually involved a moment that should have made me proud. Natalie invited the five-year-old neighbor to come and bake with her, a lovely, heart warming, mature gesture.  But.  Not only did Natalie have to get the baking completed from start to finish, but she had to shepherd a preschooler at the same time.  

Natalie is an enthusiastic, exuberant, terribly unfocused baker. I frequently find myself intervening before a teaspoon of baking soda becomes a tablespoon, or she forgets something like flour altogether. And the mess, oh sweet Jesus the mess. There is no attempt to keep one’s work space clean as is extolled on those TV cooking competitions.  Lids are left off of all ingredients, measurements routinely overflow and pool around the mixer. Eggshells drip their contents over the counter and onto the floor, where they are mashed into a slurry along with spilled dry ingredients and then crushed underfoot and spread throughout the kitchen and the rest of the house. But she got the job done, and sort of even cleaned up the dishes after herself.  

That’s when Evie announced that she too wanted to bake something. I was already at the end of my proverbial rope, so she really bore the brunt of frustrated mommy.  Oh well, she got her No Talent Cake (actual name as written on the recipe from my mother.  Self esteem issues anyone?) in the oven, and I hightailed it out to take a drive to the grocery store.  My car was an oasis of calm, and I left vague yet threatening instructions about getting the kitchen back in order before I got back. Those poor kids. But I just can’t believe that every other house is inoculated against the panic that child-led cooking brings about, just because they own brand name paper towels. It can’t just be me, can it????

Valentine Bier: Settling in on the Rock Prairie

[Note:  I’ve neglected the Valentine Bier story for too long.  When last we checked in on the family of yore, they were improving their lot at various rented farms in Rock County.  The family’s next move would make all the difference:  they are about to begin farming on the Rock Prairie.  To discuss the significance of this move from a geologic and soils perspective, I’ve invited my brother, Major Pete Bier, to contribute as a guest blogger.  Take it away, Pete]

Pete Bier family

Pete Bier at his recent promotion ceremony, along with his lovely wife Mary and their two children.  Also pictured are my mom and dad, Tom and Janice Bier.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard members of the extended Bier family go on and on about how the Rock Prairie is some of the best farmland in the entire world. Growing up, I knew there were a lot farms in the area, and they all seemed to be prosperous. But the Biers also never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  So I chalked all the “best farmland in the world” comments up to the spinning of a good yarn.  Some years later, while studying for my Master’s in Soil Science at UW-Madison, the hyperbole quickly became rooted in fact.

So for those that don’t know, the Rock Prairie is a term that locals from eastern Rock County, WI, like to use to refer to the land roughly bordered by County Road A to the North, Highway 14 to the West and South, and the county line to the East.  During my graduate studies, I investigated if the Rock Prairie’s soil could actually make it more desirable agricultural land than other local areas. Soils are very complex, and more often than not, they exhibit very little homogeneity spatially. One can be in a field studying a particular soil, and 10 meters away there may be a completely different soil series or even a different soil order.  This is not the case for the soils of the Rock Prairie. As seen in the below picture, the soils of the Rock Prairie are unusually homogeneous. In an approximately 3.25 kilometer-wide swath running east-northeast to west-southwest from the Rock County/Walworth County border to Highway 51 south of Janesville, a strong dominance of a single soil series, Plano Silt Loam, can be seen. North and south of the Rock Prairie, a more usual heterogeneity of soils can be seen.  So, Rock Prairie soil is unique, but what makes it unique?

Pete image 1

Soil Survey Staff. 2016. Web soil survey: Soil data mart. USDA-NRCS

There are five factors that go into the formation of soil: climate, organisms (flora and fauna), relief (topography), parent material (what the soil is made of), and time.  Now, three of the five factors are pretty equal across southern Wisconsin. The climate is generally the same, organisms are relatively similar, and the time – glacial and other geologic processes are such that the soil of southern Wisconsin is roughly the same age.  The relief and parent material of the Rock Prairie are what make it special.

In the picture below, we can see that the Rock Prairie is extremely flat.  Although the areas to the north and south of the Rock Prairie do not appear to be mountainous by any stretch of the imagination, there does exist a greater disparity in elevation and relief than on the prairie itself, which shows very little elevation change at all.  This tremendous flatness of the area likely prevented erosion and movement during soil formation and allowed one soil series to form, which cannot be said regarding areas in the vicinity, where relief, although minor, could have played a bigger factor in soil formation.  During formation, the Rock Prairie also may have acted as an area of deposition for clay and silt particles (preferable for farming) from the surrounding areas.


Esri. 2016. ArcGIS Online.


The final soil forming factor, parent material, plays a tremendously significant role in what makes the Rock Prairie’s soil distinct from the areas around it.  The Rock Prairie was not glaciated during the late Wisconsin glaciation (35,000-11,000 years ago). The terminal moraine of the glacier is just to the north of the Rock Prairie, which causes the rolling terrain that can be seen in the above photo.  The Rock Prairie was glaciated during the Illinoian glaciation (191,000-130,000 years ago), which helped to influence its flat topography, but it was not glaciated during the Wisconsin glaciation.


Pete image 3

(Syverson, K.M., and P.M. Colgan.  2011. The Quaternary of Wisconsin: An Updated Review of Stratigraphy, Glacial History, and Landforms. In: Jurgen et al., editors, Developments in Quaternary Science 15. Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. p. 537 – 552.)

Although the Rock Prairie was not glaciated, the Wisconsin glaciation did influence the area.  It is distinct in that outwash dominates the area and thus is rich in sorted sand and gravel. The surrounding areas are either terminal or ground moraines and comprised of an unsorted mix of materials much larger than sand and gravel.  This means that the Rock Prairie will have adequate drainage for farming and will not be too rocky (I know, a bit of a misnomer).


Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey: University of Wisconsin-Extension and State Planning Office: Wisconsin Department of Administration. 1976. Glacial Deposits of Wisconsin: Sand and Gravel Resource Potential. Land Resource Analysis Program

After the glaciers retreated, parts of the Midwest were covered with wind-blow loess (dust-like particles that were blown annually from dry riverbeds to the West.  In covered areas, loess becomes the true parent material of the soil). All areas were not covered equally though. Parts of Rock County received a deeper covering of loess than other areas.  Specifically, the Rock Prairie is covered with a deeper loess layer than surrounding areas. Loess is desirable due to the fact that it has a high nutrient holding and water retention capacity.  In laymans terms, it’s good for farming.


Enter a captionBlack: 8-16 feet thickness, maroon: 4-8 feet, red: 2-4 feet, pink: .5-2 feet, and white: 0 – 0.5 feet.  Yellow indicates eolian sand. (Schaetzl, R.J., and J.W. Attig. 2012. The loess cover of northeastern Wisconsin. Quaternary Research 79: 199-214.)

So, the Rock Prairie is comprised of one soil series, generally flat, has glacial outwash as a substratum, and is covered by 4-8 feet of wind-blown loess.  

The Rock Prairie hit the geologic lottery. This is a farmer’s dream.

The loess provides soft soil that is easy to plant in that has the ability to retain sufficient moisture and nutrients for crops.  The outwash provides drainage during large precipitation events so that the soil will not flood or pond. The flatness allows farmers to worry less about erosion, terracing, or strip cropping, Finally, the fact that it is one soil series means that farmers can generally use similar practices across their entire field and achieve similar results.  This is not the case when fields are riddled with diverse soil series.

Now, is this the only place in the world that had all of these factors come together so nicely? More than likely it is not.  However, when combined with the fact that the area receives adequate sunshine and precipitation to grow crops without irrigation, the list narrows considerably.  But most importantly, the Rock Prairie sustained my family for nearly 100 years and 4 generations when the Biers were farmers and many of my friends make their livings off this wonderful soil today.  So you know what, as far as I’m concerned, the Rock Prairie is the best farmland in the world, and always will be.

A Preponderance of Caution

Door County Obi

The other day our 60 pound, one-year-old Goldendoodle Obi ate a grape.  Despite being a novice dog owner, I was somehow aware of the fact that grapes are toxic to dogs.  Everyone seems to know the chocolate thing, but grapes are a problem too. The girls were also aware of this, and I have to say they’re pretty good about keeping concerning foods away from him.  Other items (slime, paper, underwear), not so much. But they’re pretty vigilant on the food front.

That Friday morning Obi had been particularly…spirited.  He snatched up anything that the girls dropped or had recently held in the hope that they’d give chase and a fun time would be had by all.  So when Natalie dropped a single purple grape while packing her lunch, the dog was all over it like a cheap suit. “He’s got a grape!” she screamed, and I joined the chase while her younger sister immediately devolved into hysterics. I caught him, and heard an almost cartoonish “gulp,” as he swallowed the grape and knocked the entire day off kilter.

I was supposed to drive the carpool to school and then immediately pick up my mother-in-law from the airport.  Instead I found myself on the phone with my vet and then Animal Poison Control–it’s a thing! I mimed for the girls to find another neighbor to drive the carpool and texted my husband, asking him to inform his mother that I’d be late.  I soon learned that the professionals are unable to identify the minimum toxic grape amount with any degree of certainty. They could not simply write this one off.  So, as a preponderance of caution and fear of litigation, they advise the same measures whether your dog was getting greedy in a vineyard or fell victim to a single grape temptation: make the dog vomit with hydrogen peroxide and call us back.

This plan assumes having hydrogen peroxide in the house.  Or should I say, “good” hydrogen peroxide. Come to find out, my 15-year-old bottle had lost its kick.  I scooted the girls out the door to school (they’d found a helpful neighbor), and raced to the drugstore. My mother-in-law called while I was en route and cheerfully informed me that she was waiting because. Of course my husband hadn’t called her and her flight was right on time.  I tried to give the condensed version of the story over the phone with moral being: I’m going to be late. Given my frantic mood and her status as a non-native-English-speaker, I’m pretty sure she didn’t get much other than “wait there.” So then I felt guilty AND worried, and so I called up another neighbor, the Best Neighbor Ever (BNE).  Because, well just you wait.

I got the first dose of peroxide / bullion / peanut butter slurry mostly down the dog, and then handed him over to the BNE.  She was still in her pajamas, but proceeded to walk him around the yard while I raced to the airport to collect my husband’s 80-year-old mother. The BNE kindly waited several days before letting me know that she’d thought that I was crazy.  She gently suggested that her veterinarian sister had said that less than (I don’t remember how many) grapes per pound weren’t likely to be a problem. But I pressed on. I’d called Dog Poison Control and committed to a course of action! And if I remembered one thing from human medicine, it’s that Poison Control has got their shit together and are to be ignored at your own peril.  So I told the BNE that her job was to find a an entire grape in whatever vomit Obi produced. If this didn’t happen, repeat the peroxide.  Buh bye.

I managed to find my tiny Asian mother in law waiting patiently in the central concourse of the Mitchell Airport.  During the drive home I told the story as best as I could. She’d owned dogs, and the whole grape situation was new to her.  In fact, her oft-repeated refrain that weekend, uttered whenever the conversation lagged, was “one grape? Who knew that!” As we pulled into the driveway, my pajama-clad BNE handed over a chagrined Obi.  “Let me show you what we’ve go,” she said, and led me through the woods to his…results. There she proceeded to dissect through a pile of the dog’s breakfast (h.t. Ina Garten!), partially digested treats,  and a completely intact pair of girls underwear.  But no grape.  True to her word, she’d actually sifted through the…results and hadn’t found a grape. So, she repeated the peroxide, forcing it down with a syringe.  The dog has studiously ignored her since, turning his back if she appears.   “I don’t know, but I’d be a little more concerned about that underwear than a grape…” the BNE opined, and headed home to put on some clothes and be glad that they don’t own a dog.

My follow up call to the Poison Control was reassuring, and the vet on the other end deadpanned that if he’d brought up the underwear, the grape was probably the least of our worries.  Obi was pretty subdued the rest of the day, but he eventually perked up and started wreaking havoc again. The girls have sworn off grapes entirely, my mother in law has a great story to share with the relatives, and I have invested in magnetically closing laundry hampers.  Did I mention that this was Obi’s fifth pair of girls underwear that he’s vomited up, intact but partially digested, in his short life?  So, yes.  Grapes are toxic, but underpants are the forbidden fruit.

The easiest decision


Mom and me at medical school graduation in 2002

Almost four years ago now, I retired from medicine at age 37.  It feels like I should be saying this in front of a group to whom I’ve pledged anonymity.  “Hi, my name is Angie.  I’m a recovering physician.”

I’ve already told this story countless times to people whose responses range from confusion to concern, pity to envy.  I contemplated whether a public admission is even necessary, or is it simply more self-satisfying hubris?  The other day a friend sent me an essay written by a woman who had retired from medicine at 37.  I haven’t been able to read it–I think it’s something about wanting to get my own story out there before I become an accidental copycat.  So here goes!

The facts of the case are as follows:  I went to medical school straight out of college, where I met my future husband.  We then moved to Arizona where I completed a residency in pediatrics and practiced at a clinic for two years before we returned back to Wisconsin.  Then I joined the faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin and practiced as a pediatric hospitalist, taking care of kids ill enough to require hospitalization.  I flatter myself that I was pretty good at the job, and I especially enjoyed the teaching duties that came along with it.  I was doing well and had garnered some awards and leadership positions during my six years there. During this time we had two children, and we managed to hobble together a two-physician life with the help of nannies and family and luck.  I grew increasingly disenchanted with my work, and I assigned most of that feeling to the world of academics.  So I left and joined a local general pediatric clinic–the BEST clinic imaginable in all honesty.  Wonderful coworkers and patients, just really everything.  And I remained gnawingly unhappy.   And I retired.

I realize how lucky I was to have been able to indulge in contemplating my dissatisfied feelings, let alone acting on them.  Were I not married to someone bringing home a nice salary on his own, there’s no way I could have retired.  I would have been trapped by my student loans, which we only just recently paid off.  I totally get that I was lucky to even be able to see leaving medicine completely as a viable option.  But as soon as it reached that level of viability, my decision was simply.  It was getting to the point of not worrying about who I’d disappoint / what others would think / loss of identity that was the hard part.  After that, the decision was easy and the path forward clear.   And I have a lovely spouse who greeted my decision with “you only live once” and has never once made me feel guilty about it.

Since quitting medicine, every few months I’m contacted by a colleague from a past stage of my career.  They are generally going through some turmoil surrounding their medical life, and they want to talk it through.  I think they want my practical opinion and advice.  But I think that I also serve as a living worst case scenario–I quit the thing entirely and emerged intact.  It’s like they are wanting to touch the nail holes to confirm that I am, in fact, still alive;  wanting to prove to themselves that life after admitting disillusion with medicine is possible.  Awhile back yet another female medical colleague contacted me to hash through her moderate dissatisfaction with her medical career.  I had NO IDEA that was the purpose of our lunch date;  I didn’t see it coming from her.  Usually the calls I field are from women my age (for interestingly, all of the advice-seekers have been women).  However, this colleague is probably about 10 years my senior and childless.  Two of the most common denominators of the typical conversation were absent, and she is REALLY REALLY good.  I didn’t see it coming–either her malaise or need for my perspective.  Even the most stalwart have these moments, I’ve learned.  Medicine does that to a person. If she found use in my thoughts, then they are worth publishing.

Before I launch into my lessons, let me reiterate that the field of medicine remains a noble profession that is truly rewarding for many, my husband included.  His role as a physician is vital to his sense of self, as it is for so many of the best.  I simply wasn’t cut from that same cloth.  Further, I do not mean to discourage ANYONE who is truly called to that life and profession–for medicine is both.  I mean, instead, to allow space for anyone needing it to contemplate some of these Big Questions.

Here’s my thoughts about the process of entering medicine in general, at least in the U.S. system:

  1. Once a person has matriculated in medical school, there’s no looking back.  The competition to get in is so fierce, the classes are so rigorous, the peers so singularly focused.  There is no time–either literally or metaphorically–for a medical student to pause and query:  “is this path I’m on leading to a life that I really want?”  Which is too bad because…
  2. The degree of debt that most students take on to complete their medical training necessitates that they practice medicine for at least 20 years.  The repayment schedule is such that a move into a similarly-well paying entry-level position in another field is virtually impossible.
  3. Most 22-year-olds have no idea what they really want in 15 years, the time when the reality of life as a physician (following the years of schooling and residency) truly sets in.  It is challenging to try and introduce the topic of work life balance and delayed child bearing to this age group, especially when they are immersed in the culture of #1.

Here’s my lessons about myself in particular, with thanks to a particularly skilled therapist:

  1. I went to medical school because I was very good at school and had little confidence in anything else about myself.  Believe it or not, I fell rather thoughtlessly into the decision.
  2. I ignored many warning signs of my poor fit and developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with them.  However…..
  3. I met my most important people through these life decisions and, therefore, wouldn’t change them for anything.
  4. Medicine is an especially difficult profession to emotionally manage if you are a people-pleaser by nature.  And paradoxically we pleasers make especially good providers.

If people are at all interested, I plan to break down in an occasionally amusing fashion some of those numbered items above.  It’s hard to admit things like this, but at least now I can go read that essay my friend shared with a clear conscience!

The Meaning of Bier

I’ve mentioned my correspondence with Stephan Bier, a former Ketzelsdorfer who now lives in Berlin.  He publishes on the history of the area and has been someone with whom I’ve been lucky enough to correspond.  Before the family trip to the homeland, one question that I hoped to have answered was, “where does the name Bier come from?”  Many from this side of the pond have suggested, joking only to a degree, that a predilection for the beverage may have something to do with it.  Indeed, even when the family was newly arrived and largely destitute, their small gatherings always included a small keg, in addition to music and card games.  These activities are still cherished by the Valentine Bier progeny to an almost universal degree, as far as I can tell.  In fact, the eventual homestead now boasts what is essentially a small private club in what used to be the pig barn, known as “Bob’s Man Cave.”  The Biers, they love their beers.

So at the risk of upsetting the familial apple cart, I proceed.  Once again, I owe thanks to John McSweeny for translating the following from Stephan’s February message:

You asked me where the name Bier comes from.   I confess that I asked myself the same question for quite awhile.  My parents (ordinary people) also did not know the answer, just as they could not explain how we had come to the Bohemian-Moravian highlands so long ago. [However], these puzzles were already solved by clever people before me.  In the book “Ketzelsdorf: A place of pilgrimage in Schönhengstgau“ by Otmar Embert (a teacher in Ketzelsdorf), Franz-Sales-Press, Eichstätt and Vienna, 1984, there are some explanations. (To be specific) there are some explanations of the names on pages 192-194. This book primarily concerns the old Ketzelsdorf residents and is only available in a small edition.

In anticipation of the question of those more scholarly than myself, this book is out of print and I can find no obvious source of a copy in my online searches.  I’d be happen to be proven otherwise to any potential sleuths.  Fortunately, Stephan transcribed the portions of mutual interest:

Origin and Meaning of Some Ketzelsdorfer Family Names

Old German names: In pre-Christian times, the Germans took a single name which was closely related to (the everyday life) of the old Germanic culture and which originally was taken exclusively from the German vocabulary. These ancient names continue to exist in many current family names. However, in the course of centuries most (of the names) have become transformed such they are difficult to recognize. For example, the current family names come (from):  

Here follows a list of such old-Germanic derived names until we come to . . .

Baar, Behr, Bier = Bear (Considered by the (old) Germans to be the king of the forest).

I mean, what else is there to say?  Our Biers, the ones who left from Ketzelsdorf, historically acquired their surname from the king of the forest.  Hopefully, this highfalutin’ derivation will provide some solace to those who will part with their stein only reluctantly.

Stephan goes on to include some information on the arrival of the Biers to their neighborhood of Ketzelsdorf and neighboring Schönhengstgau towns:

Baar – Bier. The earliest bearer of the name Baar is Gierg Par, who appears in Schöffe in 1532.  The name Bier does not appear in the early days of the city (of Ketzelsdorf) but we do find a Merten Bier in 1600 in Hemersdorf.  The [eventual] strong distribution of the two names Baar and Bier in neighboring Ketzelsdorf, which was already a part of Bohemia, is striking.

Are there Biers roaming about whose name DOES derive from the beverage to some degree? would seem to suggest so, explaining that the origins of the surname Bier are several, including:

“German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): from Middle High German bier ‘beer’, German Bier, Yiddish bir, a metonymic occupational name for a brewer of beer or a tavern owner, or in some cases perhaps a nickname for a beer drinker. South German: from the short form of a personal name formed with Old High German bero ‘bear’. Northern English and Scottish: variant of Byers.”

A colleauge of John McSweeny’s at the University of Toledo reviewed the evidence, and seems to agree.  According to Dr. Bernhard Sulzer

It seems to me that the name “Bier” as it is used today and has been used earlier has at least two roots, either from bier (beer) as in the drink or from bero (bear) which, according to a site I found, was derived from the Old High German word bero for “bear” and used especially in Southern Germany and quite likely, in the parts that were once the Sudetenland.


So, my dears, the bear didn’t turn into the drink.  Rather, Bier seems to have come to us via two historic paths: one originating from the drink and one from the animal.  Maybe you will be slightly disappointed, but I know one person who will not be:  my brother Pete, who sports a tattoo of a bear on his back.  It is of a size that he once told me that the head is “about the size of a melon.”


bear by david creighton-pester

From Pinterest, by David Creighton-Pester