June 2008 Archives

For the Beauty of the Earth


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Tonight the clouds actually roiled into thunderheads before my eyes. The setting sun lit the clouds to the southeast brilliant pink. This picture doesn't capture how bright pink that cloud became- I had to put down the camera and do chicken chores as Mike ran down to the lake to help his dad. We have 60 broilers (raised for eatin') that have about 10 days of life left. As I moved the portable hutch I could see that the one with the gimpy leg was down-- too weak to move. I brought her over some water- tried to get her to drink. I could see she was dying. If I had the mettle I would have put her down. I don't.

So I petted her back and blessed her. Go in peace little one. Lord let this little guy pass in peace.
She'll be dead by morning.

Sometimes the contrast between City and farm is so great it make my heart ache.

Earler today I was having what would have been a 3 martini lunch (if not for the drive) with a very cool executive friend of mine. We sat at the window of a most comfortable, elegant restaurant enjoying good food and conversation.

I went down to the barn to care for the layers. As I walked back under roiling pink clouds, in the lush green of a late, wet June there was a song playing in head. As long as I can remember I've often had a tune in my mind. If I actually listen to that tune it usually has some meaning-- a subconcious connection to what I'm thinking, seeing, doing (as profound as the Wham hit "wake me up before you go go" when a kid gets me up 'cuz they have to go pee at night).

The song in my head was For the Beauty of the Earth (Folliot Pierpoint, 1864).

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

(To read the full version click "continue reading")

Lost Menagerie


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Last Thursday I was a "distinguished environmental scientist" on a panel at the Form + Content Gallery in Minneapolis- packed to standing room only. The exhibition was by artist Christine Baeumler whose work I've loved, admired, and collected for over 10 years. She soulfully captures the poignant beauty, tinged with grief, of the natural world slipping away under our watch. One of Chris' works is the lovely center piece of our home -- a mosaic painting of 8 extinct fish speicies. It's just about the only thing we yell at the kids not to wreck-- "Quit hanging from the radiator pipes-- You'll hurt the art!!"

But I shook for two days; move by the exhibit, the panel discussion, my own fears.

On the panel, Kris Johnson and I talked about the Minnesota 2050 work/research we've been doing the past 1.5 years. We've been working with groups around the State to create scenarios of the year 2050. Most people, from Grand Marais to Worthington- Crookston to Winona, believe that we are in for a rough ride ahead what with intersection of climate change, peak oil, mass extinctions, economic strains, etc... Hope lies in what emerges from the ashes. Brent Olson, a writer from Big Stone County, articulates this perfectly in the scenario he wrote for Minnesota 2050 (click "continue reading" to read it). I read this scenario for the crowd and they were moved.

We are living in a time of transformation- that's the message I see in Lost Menagerie.

The Good People of Chokio


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I spent 2 hours on main street Chokio (pronounced Cho-ky'-yo) yesterday. I enjoyed a couple diet cokes at John's cafe while Alma had her swimming lessons. Brilliant that they have 2 hour swim lessons for those of us who live remotely. The CHOKIO EQUITY EXCHANGE towers over the town of 400 people. There's something inspiring about sitting under the 20 foot high word "EQUITY." And don't be so sure that when it was painted that they just meant common corporate ownership-- there was probably an undercurrent of equity meaning:

"the concept or idea of fairness or justice in economics, particularly in terms of taxation and welfare economics"

When I rode in the ambulance from the farm to Ortonville last month I was with the county's emergency plan coordinator. Of course we talked about disaster preparedness. He told me that the city of Wilmar is planning that within 72 hours of a disaster their population will swell 2-3 times. That means in case of a pandemic or other scary unpredictable event that many cousins, great neices, college buddies, etc... will flee the Twin Cities to head to safer ground in Wilmar.

What does this have to do with Chokio?

Well- Chokio's population is swelling 2 to 3 time this weekend. Last night was the Federated Telephone Cooperative Annual meeting. I'm lucky and thankful to be a Federated Coop member. John, owner of the Chokio Cafe, was planning on feeding 750 people for that meeting! It doesn't stop there. Tonight is the 1947-1948 class reunion. Tomorrow, Saturday, is the town celebration and they are expecting 1,000 people to attend. They are serving FREE MEAT-- just bring your own salad for the noon meal, following the parade. On Sunday there's a fund raiser omelet breakfast at the Catholic Church to help pay for a new "Welcome to Chokio" sign.

On Saturday night Todd Sandberg, the Rock 'N Roll Farmer, will DJ the Chokio street dance from 9pm to 1 am.

The crops are under water-- we may as well dance the night away.

Flash flood in Big Stone County


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I scoffed at the idea of a flash flood in Big Stone County-- those sloughs and pothole ponds don't look threatening. Well-- we had a flash flood on the farm today. Hurrying to move cars and tractors as the driveway turned into a water fall. We have well over 100 acres under water.

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Mike and I made a desparate attempt to move my bee hives. The pink spots are my hives sitting on the cement bridge that crossed the grass waterway. We moved the hives to higher ground. They were already filling with water and I hope they will survive. We lost a couple chickens.

Part of why this flooding is so dramatic is that our farm is at the bottom of a subwatershed that has been increasingly ditched and drained. The neighbor informed me last week that the county is putting a bigger culvert between our lands-- meaning water will flow even more rapidly onto our land... Looks like I'm finally living some of the watershed work I did in years past.
Whiskey is for drinking.
Water is for fighten' over.
Or else we just give into the landscape and the drainage and make that north 100 a wetland.

Holding still


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On Sunday I was outside before the sunrise. As I stood looking to the pinkening sky to the east, a fog rose from the prairie grass just 100 yards from me-- its genesis right before my eyes. A deer walked into that fog. Birds were singing all around. I remembered a lesson from my high school band teacher, Mr. Paulisch, playing a symphony and telling us to train our ears to hear one instrument at a time. I trained my ears and pulled out different bird songs one at a time. A small, nondescript sparrow landed a few feet from me and startled me with the most lovely calls-- unexpected from such a drab, brown bird.

Three jets made their way east over the prairie-- maybe looking down on "fly over" country. Then the sun rose like a neon pink laser-- a pin point piercing over the praire. The world exploded in color-- the white silo turned pink and casting a 1/2 mile shadow across the field.

Later, at church I was surprised to read in the bulletin that I was the day's lector-- reading scripture about our responsibilities to our children. Muffins and coffee afterwards with the good people of Trinity. I walked with the kids to Bonnie's grocery on main street-- collecting an entourage of little kids along the way and the cell phone number of a local stone mason. After gettting our groceries we went over to the Clinton Depot playground. Our three kids the nucleaus for what became a gathering of 16 kids--a couple of whom went back to Bonnies for ballons. The waterballons were flying-- the ground around the water pump covered with multi-colored scraps of ballons. Lovely kid confetti.

When we came home, I made a batch of homemade mozzarella cheese, picked some basil from the garden, took a loaf of freshly baked crusty bread out of the oven and watched Star Trek TNG with my kids.

It was the best birthday of my entire life.

I had been asked to consider running for the open Minnesota District 20A House of Representative's seat.
I decide not to run.
I would hold still.
At least for now.

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

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