March 2009 Archives

Ringing our own Bell


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Minnesota's Local Foods Commission Legislation- introduced Monday March 23rd, 2009 All dressed up and in its jacket

A bill for an act relating to agriculture; creating a commission on local foods; requiring a report

It seems to me that a civilization and by extension, its government, should be devoted to first providing the basic needs of its citizenry. Frankly that is why I am incessently crabby about spending $10 trillion dollars on AIG, Citi, Bank of America, and others too big to fail. Another way of looking at the $10 trillion you and I are giving to banksters on the backs of our children's children's children is that it is the equivalent of paying for 170 years of the US Farm Bill-that includes food stamps, agriculture research, conservation practices, commodity payments, and all things agriculture.

That is why I am heartened and encouraged by Minnesota H.F. 2075. A bill to create a statewide commission on local foods. It is about bringing together our best, brightest, well intentioned, agrarian populists to make sure our state is doing all it can to ensure that healthy, local foods are available to us and our families. Contented sigh...

With all due respect to Representative Larry Hosch and Senator Gary Kubly (hopefully the senate author), the sound track in my mind for this legislation is "Sisters are doing for themselves! Standing on their own two feet. Ringing their own bells." That song is probably as close as I can come in my mental jukebox to a song about taking control of the basics of a wholesome, healthy, fruitful life.

You see that's the magic in local self reliance. That is the Jeffersonian ideal of a solid democracy. Can you see it? When we, collectively and supported by our institutions, are able to provide basic food, energy, water then we are free to be citizens. Standing tall and proud. And isn't that part of the beauty in small, diversified farms? It's why the eye and heart are drawn to a farmstead with a barn, garden, chicken coops, house, windmill and well handle.

Big Stone Bounty


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Our son "Earnest" holding the Boxelder Syrup we made

Yesterday the boys and I went to Big Stone State Park for our first adventures in collecting Box Elder sap for syrup. It was chilly and rainy, but Joanne (ranger extraordinaire) took us out to see the trees she had tapped, showed us how to tap a tree, and let us collect 3.5 gallons of syrup. At home we boiled the 3.5 gallons down to one golden, delicously sweet and buttery cup of Boxelder Syrup. Compared to Maple Syrup, the Boxelder is milder- almost marshmellowy. I hope I can do this every year from now on.

Do you have any suggestions for very special dessert on which to use this syrup?

The Big Stone Bounty isn't only this amazingly delicious syrup, it's the generousity of time, talent, and spirt that led Joanne to make this possible for us.

What a difference 120 degrees and 10,000 geese can make


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Geese rising from our south field just before sunrise 3/19/09

I'll try to find a photo later, but in the mean time you'll just have to picture this. Last week we had one day where the high was -11 degrees with a -50 windchill. Yesterday it approached 70 degrees. That feels like 120 degrees warmer. So we decided to eat some seasonal foods on the front porch (Girl Scout Cookies) and watch the kids play in the gushing streams and rippling waterfalls all around our farmstead. There were 10,000's of geese all around-- honking loudly in every direction. We saw the first ducks migrating through today and some seagulls as well. The sun is now setting nearly due west down the driveway.

The kids played until their feet were nearly frostbit from the 32 degree water and came thumping up to the house crying (at least the little ones) with numb feet.

What a difference a 100 degrees warmer and 10,000 geese can make to a winter weary soul. Mike said that as much as he hates the cold, he wouldn't give up the feeling you get when the seasons change. I think he means that pure joy of the first day of spring.

First Sightings of Spring

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Photo Credit: Kelley Reber 3/14/09 see that little patch of grass?

Has this winter seemed as long to you? There've been a lot of snow days, blizzards, sick kids, sick parents, and below zero days. The howling winter winds kept me awake some nights.

But last Sunday we saw the first flock of geese flying over the farm. That could only be greeted with jumping up and down with whoops of joy. The boys, in their snowpants, were in the mudpit beneath the tree swing surrounded by snow. What a welcomed sight-- almost hard to believe that spring will really come.

Today Kelley and I went for a walk and saw flocks of geese in all directions. We soaked up some vitamin D in the glaring sun. As it happened, we were at the point of the driveway when the pond on the north side burst through the culvert on the south side with gallons of water burbling up through the 4 foot deep snow drift and the water started cutting its path through the snow into the field. It was pretty cool to be right there when that happened.

It's heartening to see signs of spring, but I hold back my enthusiasm remembering the 23 inches of snow last April. Also, there are all kinds of pressing farming decision to be made and so I view spring a little differently-- will all that water work it's way out of the south field? Can we get in early enough to plant wheat? Should we fence in the 35 acres around the farmsted first or the south 90? Think I'll get a cup of coffee.

Local Foods -- Late in a Minnesota Winter


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photo credit Jenniferr Hess from her blog Last Night's Dinner

I've toyed with the idea just eating local foods-- foods grown within a couple hundred miles of where I live-- for Lent. Our ELCA Lenten e-mail messages started out with a treatise on eating local foods. Lent comes at a hard time of year to eat local in Minnesota-- it would be much more convenient if it were in September.

It might not be much of a sacrifice as we've been enjoying some incredible winter meals with local foods.

Our meal the other night was entirely local- from our farm and our neighbor's- except for the salt, pepper, and maybe the butter (but it was Cass/Clay and so could have been from Wade Athey's dairy east of us). We had:
-Pork Roast (Jim VanderPol) and pork gravy
-Pickled beets
-Mashed potatoes (Yukon Golds still looking fantastic in our root cellar and about 100 pound remaining)
-Squash (we had to cook and freeze all the remaining squash as it was going bad)
-Candied Crab Apples- from our own crab apple tree
-Well water to drink

Last weekend we enjoyed an all you can eat rib fest of beef and pork ribs (both pasture raised by neighbors) and cole slaw. We finished the last of the cabbages -- they looked moldy and dry on the outside, but peeling away the outer leaves left nice cabbage on the inside. We mixed the last heads of purple and white cabbage.

We are on the last frozen roasted red, yellow and green peppers. But we still have lots of sweet corn, chickens, lamb, venison, squash, frozen beans and pea pods, various edible dry beans, garlic, jams, apple sauce, beets, pickles, roasted red pepper spread, tomato sauces, potatoes, and a few frozen strawberries.

The carrots I buried in sand boxes in the root cellar are doing amazingly well -- I pulled out a large carrot that was sprouting last week and you could smell the sweet carrot fragrence and it was still firm and tasty to eat raw. We also have about a bushel of apples left in cold storage in the basement and they are still fine for fresh eating.

I'm not sure it will last us until this years harvest, but it will be fun trying...

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

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