September 2008 Archives

Mobilizing

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Photo credit: MN Historical Society 1970
(No details with this picture- but I imagine it is a farmer with his banker. Here's hoping he kept that tractor through the farm crisis)

The countryside is mobilized to bring in the crops. Wheat is in- soybeans coming off the field- the corn has a ways to go. Friday I passed a field full of combines and semi trucks-- a harvest crew working together. It was impressive. On Saturday I watched my neighbor climb into his monstrous John Deere combine holding his 2-year old daughter's hand. She pranced around in a fluffy pink dress. I'm sure they both like the time together-- but with two fulltime working parents and farming, sometimes there is no choice.

It seems that people of this country mobilized against the Wallstreet bailout and their congressional representatives listened-- a victory of sorts for democracy. $700 billion is a lot of money and, in truth, I think it's ok to take some time to figure out the right path. There's some lesson here about honest work by real people for real products-- but I'm not sure I know what it is. Just some vague notions about hard times, hard work, sacrifice, integrity, and the democratic process. If you figured it out, I'd like to know.

Jens Jergensen and Peak Oil

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“When the wells begin to peter out, the competition for the remaining petroleum resources will grow even fiercer. Are more than the 0.5 percent of Americans who now serve in the military willing to risk their lives fighting overseas so we can continue to live as we wish? Peak oil will force that question on us.�
Rod Dreher: Peak Oil is Coming, and We're Unready. August 17, 2008—Dallas Morning News [Note: Rod Dreher is a self proclaimed “Crunchy Con� who blogs conservative politics and religion]


My favorite, most savored moments of the day are when I put my boys to bed. I lay between them in their shared bed, looking back and forth between their two sweet faces. Jens smiling, Lake sternly plotting to be the one who gets to turn off the light when we’re done reading. One night after the light was out I looked at Jens, the sprite, who still holds the look of a cherubic toddler at age four. My mind flashed forward to him being a soldier—a conscripted soldier. This thought came out of thin air, nothing I’d read or seen on tv had planted the seeds in my mind. This boy—Jens in particular—is not being raised to be a soldier. He’s being raised with tender kindness, humored in his spirited nature, adored for his adorableness. There are not a lot of hard edges in his world. I looked at him and could see his grown up face startled by a world of violence. I could see him remembering me, his mother, and these times together. So sweet, so safe.

Dreher goes on to say:

“A famed U.S. military leader has warned that the fossil-fuel supply on which American civilization depends utterly will run out someday in the 21st century and that our nation cannot afford to place our hope in "the sentimental belief that the things we fear will never really happen. I suggest that this is a good time to think soberly about our responsibilities to our descendants – those who will ring out the Fossil Fuel Age," said Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, father of the nuclear Navy. In 1957.

We've wasted a half-century of precious time, another non-renewable resource. We probably don't have another one to spare.�

Next installment: Can you live out both your dream and your nightmare at the same time?

Prairie Revealed (Everything is Holy Now)

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If there were a soundtrack to this post- it's this song. This U-tube video was composed as a gift and I'm borrowing it for the music.

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photo credit Bryce Ritcher, UW Madison

The other morning there was ground fog-- heavy and wet-- but we could look straight up and see blue sky. I walked Alma to the bus and went for a run. There is a place not far from here that feels holy-- I stop running and walk down to the prairie. I get to the end of the path where it fans out into a grassy turn-around for hunters. It looked like someone dropped a tissue on a stem of bluestem grass. I walked up closer and see it's a huge, dew-covered spiderweb. I get on my hands and knees to look at the beautiful dewdrops, the intricate patterns and marvel at how this spider flew/hopped from stem to stem creating a 3 foot circle between a number of stems.

As I knelt there, I looked up towards the prairie as the pink sun was coming over the horizon, shining through the fog and this is what I saw.

The entire praire was filled with dewy spider webs -- every foot for as far as I could see. It looked as if thousands of shimmering lace hankies had been spread over the entire tall prairie grasses. At first I couldn't even understand what I was seeing. The angle of the sun and the dew had illuminated the entire prairie so I could, for the first time, see that every stem of grass was part of these intricate webs. The combination of dew, fog, and sun revealed a prairie world I didn't even know was there.

Each day since, I look for those webs and can't see them-- even up close.
Minnesota songwriter, Peter Mayer captues my thoughts:

This morning outside I stood
And saw a little red-winged bird
Shining like a burning bush
Singing like a scripture verse
It made me want to bow my head
and I remember when church let out
how things have changed since then,
everything is holy now.

Rather be here than anywhere...

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Prairie Sunset by Tom Lockhart-- Pastel

This was the view as I raced home to the farm tonight.

Earlier in the evening we had our first paid baby sitter out here on the prairie, got dressed up, and went to the vacant Beardsley Minnesota school for a wedding dance. [Aside- Beardsley- pop. 262- has some of the most beautiful brickwork school, church, and auditorium I've ever seen]. Not long after, the phone rang and one of the kids was very sick. All three kids, in some combination, had been home from school sick on Wed- Friday, but we thought we were safe (and due) for a fun night out.

Since we'd hardly started the evening I left Mike with a neighbor and headed back the 30 miles home. Those minutes in the car were the first moment I'd been alone in days. I opened the sunroof to a perfect September evening. Turned the satellite radio up loud to The Verve's "Rather Be Here Than Anywhere" and headed east.

I'd been having a few days where the 'new car smell' had left this adventure on the prairie-- a few hard days in a row-- sick kids, work stress, more tomatoes than I can sell, can or freeze, and when will that wind ever quit blowing?!!

As I headed down the road I saw a line of steel grey clouds stretching across the entire eastern horizon -- a few pinkish floaters in front reflecting the setting sun behind me. Then the moon caught my eye-- a full moon half risen over the bank of clouds. To my left and right were sloughs and wetlands and for a while a flock of ducks flew beside me, just parallel to my car. I could see the blaze orange/pink sun setting behind me in the rear view mirror. The fields of wheat stubble yellow against the still green landscape.

As I turned onto our gravel road--swerving sharply to avoid salamanders-- I could see an animal ahead on the road, either a coyote or very small deer. As I closed in, the tiny deer disappeared into the soybeans. I rushed into the house and scooped up my sobbing, pale, sick son. He's sleeping right here beside me now. It's dark and that same moon is shining right on me. And it is good to feel I rather be here than anywhere.

Frogs are fine-- abundant

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Our farm is filled with frogs and toads. When I walk out around the garden, I actually have to watch my step to keep from stepping on them. Do you remember Rana pipiens? Remember catching frogs in the pasture?

The scientist (or child) in me keeps chasing down and catching the frogs. I'm "surveying" them to see if we have any of the famed Minnesota deformed frogs. Back in the day we had school kids catching frogs to report deformities. The research was eliminated in 2001, but it continues on my farm.

So far. So good. Nothing but healthy looking happy frogs. Brown, green, and red ones. Lots of toads too. I find it a comfort to live among so many frogs and toads. It means that something is right with this land.

Tell me- do you have frogs where you are? Are you having a good year for frogs?

Four Seasons-- an update

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I was stopped on mainstreet Ortonville the other day and someone asked me "what exactly did you end up doing with those eggs of yours?"

It has been one year since we moved here.
One years since we put in the order for those chickens.
I thought that I should revist some past posts and give some updates

~I've found a market for our eggs (Chicken Confidential) selling them to colleagues and friends at some of the meetings I attend in the Cities for $2.50/doz. My artist neighbor, Liz, is also a regular customer and it is nice to have a reason to visit with her on a regular basis.

~Artist Mark Mustful moved to Big Stone County despite the 15 inches of snow the day of his visit last April. It occurs to me that this lovely pottery has an integral connection to local foods as we will need stunning and inspiring butter crocks, bread bowls, grain keepers, and pitchers. James Kunstler says in his book "A World Made by Hand" that as our world became simpler we could no longer fail to incorporate beauty into the fabric of our everyday lives.

~The flash flood through our farm permanently destroyed about 30 acres of soybeans. We moved the bees to higher ground and they seem to be doing well. I opened the hives last week to check on them. The bottom box held dark amber honey, the upper box was pure, clear honey-like thick water. I stuck my hive tool into the honey comb, lifted my veil and tasted the wonderful sweetness of our farm's and the prairie's pollen and flowers.

~ We spent a month at the Ortonville Farmers market (Saturday mornings 8:30 to noon in front of the Columbian Hotel). Since this was our first year we are learning as we go. We've run out of vegetables except for tomatoes and our squash are not quite ripe. We'll spend a few more Saturdays there this year-- maybe selling coffee along with our veggies.

Here's a close up of less than 10 minutes of harvest time. That translates into 10 hours of processing to sauces and canning. This is exactly how I want to spend my Labor Day.

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

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