January 2008 Archives

Inner Apocalypt Part II

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I'm posting this Youtube clip, in part, for blog practice. (it appears to work on Internet Explorer, but not Mozilla Firefox)

A couple weeks ago Tex Hawkins, US Fish and Wildife Service in SE Minn, sent the link to an article that clearly laid out the calamitous intersections of peak oil, climate change, and growing economic disparities. There was something particularly disturbing for me about that article. It was too well organized, written, and fact supported to dismiss. I sent it to a few level headed people I know, nuetrally asking for their opinions. They replied "Yes, that looks like what I've been hearing in the news, etc..." No one dismissed the article, but none of them felt a frantic sense of urgency to do something or advocate for something to be done. NOW!

I've ordered this movie and will post a review when I have time to sit and watch it. The boys will be in Kindergarten in 2 years-- I should be able to get to it then.

In Perpetuity

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Back in my Masters degree days, Dr. Terry Cooper gave our Soils class an assignment to take an actual farm area in Minnesota and use the soils data to create your dream land use. I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun with an assignment. I saved the resulting drawing- replete with lamas, wild rice, tea and herb gardens on a farm site I chose in Dodge County, MN.

So now we are doing a similar exercise for real. A contingent of US Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resource Conservation District, and Ducks Unlimited folks pulled into our driveway in a convoy of white federal pick up trucks. They laid out some really tempting visions for a grass based farm. We focused on the wetland/grassland restoration lined in purple. It is a beautiful vision—working lands—grazing cattle.

The hitch is that it is in perpetuity. Forever. That concerns Mike especially. We’ve hardly owned this farm any time at all and now we’re talking about ceding 1/3 of it to federal government oversight?

Kids are up… More later…

Counting keys (blessings)

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Funny where blessings come from and how you can actually see and count them. I've been traveling a lot-- like usual-- I run a statewide program. But now I don't have a home in the Cities to stay in. So when people say, "ya need a place to stay?" I say "Yes-- how about Thursday night?"

Thursday night I stayed with my friends Chris and Steve. We've been so busy over the past few years-- Chris going up for tenure, me having a gaggle of babies, working, etc... So it was great to stay with them in their lovely house that exudes peace and beauty. They greeted me at 9 pm with a cheese tray, tea, and good conversation. There were fresh flowers in my room and a big bed with quilts so thick I thought I was back in Grandma's north room in the wintertime (upstairs, no heat). The next morning Chris pressed house keys into my hands with tears in her eyes. Stay here anytime.

I'm gettting a collection of keys.

Each of them a blessing.

Food for 5,000 Part I

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Went to a meeting of Big Stone Area Growth last night. My mind is whirling with all the possibilities; one of which is recreating a local foods economy. Can we support a local foods industry with just 5,000 people living in this county?

Do the math:

5,000 people
X $120/month spent on groceries (a conservative estimate)
= $600,000 per month on groceries or $7.2 million per year on food to eat

If just 10% were spent on local foods that would be $60,000 per month or $720,000 per year. That could support 5 new small farm families with a gross income of $120,000 per year on a 40 acre parcel or so. That could be a decent quality of life.

Increasing from 0% to just 10% local foods sold in grocery stores, butcher shop, direct market and farmers market means $720,000 per year stays in our county. We retain our wealth, we support our community. We could produce healthy, local pork, beef, chicken, eggs, fruits, vegetables, jams, pickles, and maybe could include some grains like oatmeal.

As one of those consumers/producers I want healthy local foods-- meaning some grassfed animals and sustainably produced produce.

Those figures don't even include local foods sold in the restaurants, care facilities, the local schools....
And maybe some day microbrewery using locally grown hops to make some Big Stone Brew...

Could this be low hanging fruit for some quality of life, quality of place, economic development? Someone check my numbers please.

A winter view from here (there)

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The frost so thick on the trees-- the sky so big-- the prairie shimmering.

Congratulations CGB High School

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I'm pleased, and have no hand in-- from either end, the kudos given to our school district in this recent U of M study ranking it among the top 10%. Guess we just lucked out moving here.

Actually, the 2007 Small Town Symposium at UM Morris was on schools and community revitalization. So in terms of resettlement, it looks like we have a firm foundation. So here is an advertisement on this blog to Resettle Big Stone County. We have good schools-- move here, move back here, stay here. I'm looking for an artisan cheesemaker in the community. Got milk? Got school age kids?

This quote from rural SW MInnesota author Paul Gruchow seems apropos

"Among the science courses I took two full years of biology, but I never learned that the beautiful meadow at the bottom of my family's pasture was a remnant virgin prairie. We did not spend, so far as I can remember, a single hour on prairies-- the landscape in which we were immersed.

I took history courses for years, but I never learned that one of the founders of my town and for decades the leading banker... was also the author of the first comprehensive treatise on Minnesota's prairie botany. I can only imagine now what it might have meant to me- a studious boy with a love of nature- to know what a great scholar of natural history had made a full and satisfying life in my town. I did not know until long after I left the place that it afforded me the possibilities of an intellectual life.

Nothing in my education prepared me to believe, or encouraged me to expect, that there was any reason to be interested in my own place. If I hoped to amount to anything, I understood, I had better take the first road east of town as fast as I could. And, like so many of my classmates, I did."

A peaceful place in time

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Mural in the sisters' break room. I will try to get the name of the artist. It is about 6 feet wide and 4 feet high.

I woke up this morning in a monastery

It is the third time I've been here. It is a beautiful place-- once a farm along the river. The mural depicts the life of the sisters some year ago when they were probably food self sufficientand then some . That mural has been etched in my mind since the first time I saw it two years ago.

The first time I was here, fall 2005, one of the sisters led us on a tour along grounds and the nature trail that follows the river. I noticed there were small signs set into the woods about 20 feet from the trail. I went in and read the simple words-- paraphrased "He Came" "He Lived Among Us" .... I would walk along the trail and see another quiet, simple sign just in the woods. Leave the trail to see the sign. "He suffered" I'm not Catholic and didn't realize it was the 12 stations of the cross. "He died" I got then to the last sign along the river, in the quiet woods, right next to the monastery's cemetary and it read "He is risen." I don't know why (or maybe I do) I burst into tears. The walk, the peace, the absolute art of these stations of the cross set into the woods. Somehow it was so personal to me- it was the short, too short, walk I had with my daughter Milly who died. Yet at the end was hope.

We're here to inhabit the year 2050 and become more agile to COPE with all the futures in front of us. This is my job. Wow. This is the thought among the action. There was a lot of discussion about hope-- "even if there isn't hope we could act as if there is" (Gretchen). Look for "true hope" (Eddie)

Our faciliator, Brian Stenquist, wrote the poem in the "continue reading" link below

Vultures, possums, and West Nile

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48 degrees and sunny. Kids said "It's spring!" The sledding hill has melted to mud. My father-in-law warns that our gumbo soil (heavier clays) need the hard freeze in order to "mellow." Otherwise they will be large hard ribbon clumps of clay that need lots of work to get a crop in. It was 41 degrees yesterday. January 5th and 6th.

There have been vultures flying in the skies over Big Stone County.
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I asked Uncle Mick-- who has lived in the county for 81 years-- whether he had seen vultures in years past. Nope-- he never had. This was the first year he saw them. He doesn't believe in global warming.

There are possums here now too. They're new to the area says a younger farm neighbor-- but he finds them disconcerting. I've only seen them dead along the road, but I grew up in SE Minn and never saw a possum dead or alive. Big Stone County also had a death from West Nile and numerous infected. see news article under my November 19th entry (I'll learn to link soon!)

One of my board members from SE Minn expressed concern that we bought a farm in western MN-- concerns for out future in light of global warming. She didn't think we would fare well in a hotter world with less water. She may be right-- but these gumbo soils did well this past summer. 1 inch of rain in 10 peak weeks of crop growth. We still managed a yield of 100-125 tbushels of corn per acre this past year because that gumbo soil had some water holding capacity. Just 35 miles to the SE where the soils are sandier they were wiped out if they didn't have irrigation.

Well-- it looks like the temperature is dropping again. It's down to 43 degrees.

Salad Redefined

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As I walk to meet the schoolbus this Friday afternoon it is a gorgeous, sunny 25 degrees. The sun is going down as I walk due west to the bus-- the world so sparkling fresh and warm I really want to do somersaults. I've never achieved a somersault in life but just ache to go end over end somersaulting down the driveway.

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I pick up the ever delightful Alma and we hold hands walking back to the house. A long, slow 1/2 mile of rare Mom and Daughter time uninterupted. Alma says her gym teacher brought the 2nd graders an almond cake as a treat today. "What's an almond cake?" I ask. It has bits of this an that and is like a salad. "Like a salad?" Ewww lettuce and spinach in a cake? "You know Mom - with Cool Whip." Four short months and salad has come to mean a jello-y, cool-whippy thing with mini-marshmellows in it. She doesn't mean anything green other than the food coloring in the pistachio pudding blended into the cool whip. Salad redefined.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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