February 2008 Archives

Good strategy from Minn Rural Health Association

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The Minnesota Rural Health Association lists this resolution as their legislative priority. This is a great idea. This could help us get neighbors, enough new kids so there can be a pick up game of baseball on a summers day in the pasture.

State Resolution of the Minnesota Rural Health Association

Whereas there has been a demographic shift in Minnesota; and

Whereas this shift has resulted in declining populations in many rural communities and a decline in economic and social capital in these areas; and

Whereas this shift has also resulted in urban congestion and related problems;

Be it therefore resolved that all new state initiatives include a review to assess opportunity to locate selected state funded jobs and infrastructure, over time and when appropriate, in rural communities, thereby helping to relieve urban congestion and fostering rural vitality.

The review to be called a “Rural Opportunity Assessment, ROA.?

Slow Learning


snow moon.jpg
Photo credit Dan Bush

I couldn't see what I see right now from our house in St. Paul. The nearly full moon is setting about 40 degrees above the horizon. I've noticed that the trajectory of the moon changes-- where it rises and falls on the horizon. In September the full moon set at the end of the driveway as I put my kids on the bus. This morning's haunting moon setting into our dark NW grove with flimsy subzero clouds racing in front of it. In November the hunters moon rose to the NE over our bonfire.

There is a pattern here that I wasn't privy to before living on the wide open prairie. Now I see the point where the moon rises burning orange over the horizon and see it set yellow over the sloughs and fields in the west. There is a cycle to the moon-- but don't tell me. It is my mystery to discover.

Now I know I could Google it and know in an instant the lunar cycle. But instead I'm going to learn it the slow way-- as if I have all the time in the world. I will learn by being attentive to the moon and the land every day. To discern the pattern of its coming and going.

It will take me months and years to learn where and when the moon rises-- is it the same year in and year out? A slow and patient learning. The lesson is in the way I learn, as much as the what I learn.

Neil Linscheid— Brought to us by the UMM Center for Small Towns


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Neil Linscheid

I was at a public workshop in Baxter, Minnesota recently and met Neil Linscheid. Neil is the Economic Development Director for Region Five Development Commission out of Staples.  Neil introduced himself and told this story:

Neil is a born and bred city boy from the metro. He went to school and UM Morris and found himself needing a job.  So he applies at the UM Morris Center for Small Towns.  All he wanted was a job and some $$—he got a mission and it changed his life.  He was given a research project on how the media portrays rural Minnesota.  He says “the metro is hogging the limelight.?  He made up his mind that he was meant to contribute to rural Minnesota.  And here he is.

Kudos to Neil for Resettling Wadena County.  Kudos to Ben Winchester, Tom McRoberts,  David Fluegel and all the folks at the Center for Small Towns for inspiring the Neils of the world.Click on Extended Entry to read the 2050 Scenario inspired by Neil....

A wild Friday night


Alma Lake on wetland winter evening.JPG
Alma and Lake on the edge of the wetland behind our farm

Friday afternoon Lake woke up from his afternoon nap at about 4:45, Jens was still sleeping. So Alma, Lake and I went for a walk down to the wetland/lake/pond behind our barn. It was already getting dark and it is quite a walk for a 3-year old. We crossed the plowed field, lumps and ribbons of soil poking through the scant snow. Then through the grasslands and to the reeds. Alma and I knock a path through the frozen reeds for Lake.

We got out onto the frozen water and the kids and dog run wild on the wide open snow covered ice. We find the remains of a rabbit eaten by a coyote, a muskrat house, and walked down to the beaver house. There were beaver cut branches sticking out of the ice. The house packed with mud about 6 feet high.

The sun had set and it was getting dark. I herded the kids back to the edge of the wetland-- as we pressed through the reeds I heard a loud howl behind me. "Hold still!" I yell, my ears straining to hear another howl. I look across the frozen ice to see if a pack of coyotes or wolves are running across. It's dark. I'm far from the house. There are wild animals behind me and my kids. I get the kids through the reeds, the grass, back into the tamed agricultural land. I look down the field in front of me and see Mike and Jens about 1/4 mile away walking towards us in the dark. I was so happy to see them. When we met up I asked Mike if he heard the howl. "Yup, came from right behind you." It really sounded like the wolves I'd heard in the north woods.

We had a giddy walk back to the house. Inside to hot spiced apply cider (local), fresh bread, and a pot of chicken and rice stew.

A working farm....


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boys and chicks 9/14/07

Walked out the door and into the fog with Alma at 7:10. After she was on the bus, I walked down the road the 1+ mile to the USFWS reserve for a couple moments of calm-- look to the N, S, E, W, the sky, the ground. What did I hear?

Cockadoodle do!!

I smiled. Cross the field it's less than 1/2 mile to our barn-- the prairie wetland preserve is the southern boundary of our farm. I couldn't see the barn through the fog, but hearing those rooster crow gave me a feeling of pride. We ordered up 50 baby chicks the 1st of September and they all survived. Last week the hens started laying eggs and a couple roosters made good eatin'.

I knew we made the right choice about moving our family to the farm when one day the kids and I went into the chicken coup and Alma chased down a big hen, grabbed it, tucked under her arm without a hint of hesitation. It was the unselfconscious confidence to grab the screeching, clawing chicken without a flinch. I thought-- that's the 8 year old I hoped to raise.

The speed of one's soul



I’ve been traveling a lot. It reminds me of something my friend Paul told me. He was in the Peace Corp in Saharan Africa. He was with some Bedouins around the campfire and confessed that he felt out of sorts- homesick. The Bedouins ask him where he came from and he said “across the great desert there’s a great ocean. Across the great ocean is another great land. Halfway through that great land is my home.? The Bedouins said,

“No wonder you don’t feel right. Your soul can only travel as fast as a camel can walk. Your soul hasn’t caught up with you yet.?

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