January 2009 Archives

An Unheard of Silence


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This morning I stopped and listened to a silence in the world that I have never heard before. It was about 10-15 degrees, windless, a light fog hung all around the edges of the world.

The silence was startling in its completeness. No birds, cars, planes, people, machines, or wind. It was complete, total, and utter silence. There was not a single sound except my own heartbeat.

The only sign of life this morning was death.

I found a dead mole in the middle of the road. His whiskers still full of the ice crystals he made with his last breathes. He was curled in a comfortable ball- his fur lovely and rich in the early morning sun. What was he doing out there?

Mike came in the other night astounded that it was so quiet he had heard the 6 pm whistle blow in Clinton- 10+ miles away. Imagine standing in Highland Park, St. Paul and being able to hear a noise made in Edina.

Imagine being so surprised by a quiet world, having lived in it for 40 years. After a bit I hollered “I am here!? My voice echoed back- but I’m not sure off of what on this prairie

Walking on Water

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Ice on (yet) un-named pond on our road

I dreamt the other night that I was in the barn with Jens and Alma. It was warm and I had lost one boot. Jens was barefooted. It was getting very dark and I decide to run back to the house with the one boot and with Jens in my arms - feet wrapped. I ran throught the snow and then fell through the crust and up to my chest. I could see the yellow glow of the house lights close- but out of reach. Alma and Jens crawled across the crust and I tried to "swim" my way out of the snow.

Monday I walked into the ditch to get on the pond. I walked on the crust until I fell in up to my waist- the dream returning to me in the pre-dawn morning. I walked around the ice taking in the frozen animal tracks, the drifts of snow like isthmuses across the blue grey ice, the patterns of cracks. Again yesterday I waded through snow onto the pond, thinking I was taking a completely different path and surprised to find I was walking the same steps. By day 3 it has become a looked for path of comfort. I smiled at myself the critter- a path making critter. There was an element of instinct- I'd found a safe path and sought that path.

What lies ahead of us is uncharted and we need a new path. It's going to require some trail blazing. There will anxiety, even fear. But somehow, sometime that new path will bring comfort.

Sunrise on the pond
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With Eyes Froze Shut


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One of our children playing outside BEFORE his eye froze shut

You might ask yourself what kind of parent would:
1) let their children play outside when it is -30 degrees (not counting windchill)
2) let they play outside long enough that their eyes froze shut.

I'm that parent. We were on Day 4 of of blizzard/life threatening cold that had cancelled school for 2 days and an additional two days where the buses couldn't get within 2.5 miles of our farm to pick up our kids. Hence, the outdoors kids. I never had 4 contiguous snow days in my life!

What's more, our power went out yesterday morning. Among the crisis this caused was our well line froze UNDER the barn floor and the potential for our central boiler (wood boiler) in our backyard to geyser scaling water into the -37 degree air (it didn't) .

Through all this I was single minded, completely focused, obsessively working to.... MAKE COFFEE. In a crisis I must first have my coffee. After rigging up a bunch of candles under a pan I realized that I no actual plan for cooking anything without power. With an electric stove I'm, politely, out-of-luck.

I will tell you this. In the Cities there are layers upon layers of conveniences that make severe weather a theoretical issue. Bad weather is, in large part, not even an inconvenience. Out here on the prairie- a single family- it is another matter. The elements are right against you, a raw and exposed feeling. There is a but a thin wall between my family's well being and the cold and blizzard. When I drive into the Cities- I can feel the layers of soothing complexity and comforts abounding. But my eyes see things differently than others -- I see those underpinnings as a fragile balance with tenuous supports.

In the mean time, the water came back yesterday afternoon. Kids are none the worse for the exposure to life threatening cold. I should have included the photo Alma took of me with my elbow on the table, head resting in my palm, bottle of chokeberry wine in hand.

The Granary Coop- Ortonville Minnesota

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Alma in the storefront

Alma and I spent the better part of the day running the Granary Coop on mainstreet Ortonville, Minnesota. This store is a gem, and would be a gem anywhere it was located. It is a 100% volunteer run coop with the best variety of bulk organic foods that I've seen anywhere- Twin Cities included. The Granary, with its huge picture windows in a historic building on Mainstreet, adds a lot to the richness of living in Big Stone County for me.

This is a nice time for Alma and I to spend together- playing at being proprietors of our own little store of organic and local foods. Today there was bright sunlight, the smell of wholesome food, public radio playing in the background, and a mom and daughter with a world all our own.

This store wouldn't be here except for the dedication of a handful of people in Ortonville. Many thanks to Donna and Meg and all the others whose dedication keeps this great place open.

Adventures in Wheat and Flour


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Mike is the king of gift-givers (I'm not as evidenced by the soap dishes he got Year 1 and Year 2 of our marriage). Lookey lookey what I got for Christmas this year! My very own Country Living Grain Mill. So now I can make my own flour, corn meal, bean meal, nut butters, and maybe oatmeal.

We had a great day yesterday-- foraging for good things in Big Stone County. We headed down to Odessa (population 113) to buy bulk honey from Ellingson's. They have a robust honey and beeswax industry that employess folks year around. [Sadly my hives died last week with the extended below zero and 60mph winds and windchills. A sad lesson learned]. Then we went to JoAnn's house to buy some homemade soap and we plotted together to make some 100% Big Stone County soap- lye from our woodstove and vegetable oils from local crops. Lunch at The Cabin in Clinton and over to Todd's to pick up some wheat.

Bless Todd's soul- he pulled two bushels of wheat out of his grain bins. The variety of wheat Todd grew, Traverse, was developed by South Dakota State University and is named after the lake and county just north of us a few miles. So now I have some local wheat to turn into flour. Luckily Todd's son Travis (the football player) dropped by this afternoon and ground a couple cups. This is NOT as easy at it looks or sounds.

Grinding the wheat has a lovely smell. I've baked since I was young and never experienced the aroma of fresh ground flour. It is the smell of that Gerber dry baby food. It is probably lovely because it evokes those golden days of feeding babes their cereal.

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The Norwester


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I raced out of the house as fast as I could, ran through snow drifts, fell face first, but still couldn't catch the remarkable sight of a strong Northwest wind sweeping across the farm stirring up the cold icy/snow crystals in front of the setting sun.

As subtle as this landscape can appear, one can observe huge changes over seconds-- setting sun, rising sun, wind whipped snow, the sound of my own feet dislodging ice crystals that clatter across the hardened snow drifts (sound a lot like ocean waves retreating with pebbles).

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

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