June 2009 Archives

Ecosystem Envy

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SE MN in spring.jpg
Photo credit: James Neeley

I just returned home to western Minnesota after a couple days in the SE Minnesota blufflands. Minnesota is unique in being the home to the intersection of three differnt biomes/ecosystems (prairie grasslands, coniferous forest, and deciduous forest) and when you travel between them you can see, feel, smell the difference.

So I'm suffering from ecosystem envy-- or probably garden envy! My sisters garden is a sight to behold. For example, last spring I planted 75 feet of strawberries which are soldiering on ankle high against the winds, cold, and dry spells producing hard little berries. At the same time my sister Kelley (and husband Jason- a dairy farmer) planted five plants and have knee high strawberries bursting with big berries and threatening to take over the rest of her garden, which by the way is spectacular.

Like I said in my last entry- the part of the prairie we live in is glorious savahna grasslands- but it is definitely a harsher climate. Violent winds, lower rainfall, longer winters (we are 250 miles North and West of my sister and mom). And not the easiest place to grow a garden. Our tomato plants were sand blasted by crazy winds blowing soil, my herbs just bake in the hot sun. My apple trees froze and thawed on their southern sides causing the bark to turn black and they too soldier on...

It also seems, from driving around, that the people and barns are holding up a bit better in SE Minnesota. Our barns, all around, are greying and collapsing. Empty farmhouses hanging on with thin hopes of being homes again. The barns in SE appear to holding up, painted if still empty of animals.

I tell my kids over and over that the key to happiness is to want exactly what you already have. To relish and delight in what is, not what could be. But dang, Kelley's strawberry pie tasted good!

**p.s. when I was little, a Dr. Neeley in Hayfield, MN sewed up my leg on a Sunday morning after an accident on Grandma's farm. This photo credit is a Neeley with lots of SE farm pictures. Anyone know if it's the same family?

Coming Home to Clinton

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Photo credit: Lori Hynnek Kids after the Clinton Day Parade- June 2009

Tonight Jens and I drove home from visiting the homeopathic doctor in Montevideo with a car full of great smelling authentic Mexican food.

It was an incredibly lush, luxurious, and verdant drive home. As I drove I could hardly keep my eyes on the road because I wanted to take in all of the beauty around me. It looked like the scene from a Grant Woods' painting of rolling green hills and white farmhouses. Cows and horses grazed in the pastures along Hwy 7. The hay is lying in windrows. It is an absolute feast of bursting life.

Since Hwy 7 is under Federal Stimulus road construction, we had to take a zig-zaggy path along gravel roads to get to Odessa Minnesota. The owner of Ellingson's Honey graciously and generously put out four hive boxes and forty frames for me to pick up on mainstreet. See--the bees have already filled up 6 large boxes and need a couple more boxes. I'm telling you - this place is just bursting out of its skin with nectar.

My heart just swells with love for this place--the big sky, the open savanna, the tree lined Minnesota River Valley, the farms, pelicans, ducks, hawks, yellow headed blackbirds, the people. On the road between Clinton and the farm I met one car and one teenage boy jogging--they both waved. That is a 100% greeting rate.

Coming Home to Clinton was the name of our town's 125th Anniversary celebration last summer. I couldn't explain why I had a catch in my throat, my eyes filled with tear for much of that weekend. Same thing happened just two weeks ago for Clinton Days. I wasn't Coming Home to Clinton- I wasn't born or raised here like all the other exiles who filled the closed off mainstreet for three days of fun, baseball, and friendship. But I realized, some months later, that Coming Home to Clinton meant finding a home, a place I intend to stay as long as I'm permitted in this life.

I wonder if I could have been this happy anywhere? We looked at farms throughout Minnesota, places like Vera and a place near Cloquet. I wonder if my heart would have felt the same anywhere. But I'm not anywhere--I'm in Big Stone County. A lovely place to live, build a life, be in a community, and to just take in all the beauty that surrounds us-- if one is fortunate enough to have learned to be mindful.

Green Shoots

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I was up before sunrise and stepped outside to a perfect late spring morning. The air was crisp and cool, a symphony of birds all around me- geese to the west, pheasants to the east, and any number of song birds and mourning doves all around me. Thanks to Mike’s hard work the garden is in. We have nearly five acres of market garden if you count the sweet corn, popcorn, and black turtle beans. Since we’re using organic production practices Mike strode in the house after planting the last of the beans and got on line to order Alma and me a couple of “stirrup” hoes. Says it’s going to be a challenging summer keeping the weeds down.

It’s wonderful to see the green shoots all around—it is full on biomass production time. With green shoots you can see, touch, and smell- shoots that will produce food to feed my family, friends, and folks in the community.

I had a dream last night. I was walking down a city street, like Wall Street, holding my newborn baby in my arms- only a couple days old. As I walked, a tall, young man in a suit pushed me over to get into his office door. I was very mad and walked into his office saying “how rude! You push over a woman carrying a newborn to get into your office?!” He looked over his shoulder, sneered at me, pointed Security over to me, and walked into his office. Three security guards, one like Secret Service, patted me down and one even groped me as my baby lay on the counter. I was furious and started citing my professional credentials. But I was ignored and helpless.

That dream shows my own frustration with giving the moneyed elite on Wall Street our national coffers so that they can get the green shoots going. They are sneering, taking your money, and groping you in the process. This will not end well.

I think we’re best off looking out here for green shoots.

**Note: I have to add that my Dad and Uncle were both community bankers who served families, communities, and small businesses with integrity and feeling (sometimes feeling quite bad during the hard times these).

My Antonia...

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Alma reluctantly exploring an abandoned farmhouse with mom and Megan

The other night I made a couple loaves of fresh, homemade bread for a meeting in town. Alma was begging for me to leave her just ½ of a loaf. “No way! This is for the meeting. Maybe there will be some left over.” As I drove away, the scent of hot, fresh bread filling my car, my heart was heavy that I hadn’t left her a chunk of the loaf.

It brought to mind a story by Willa Cather, Neighbor Rosicky.

They had been at one accord not to hurry through life, not to be always skimping and saving. They saw their neighbours buy more land and feed more stock than they did, without discontent. Once when the creamery agent came to the Rosickys to persuade them to sell him their cream, he told them how much money the Fasslers, their nearest neighbours, had made on their cream last year.
"Yes," said Mary, "and look at them Fassler children! Pale, pinched little things, they look like skimmed milk. I`d rather put some colour into my children`s faces than put money into the bank."
The agent shrugged and turned to Anton.
"I guess we`ll do like she says," said Rosicky.

This story is not about feeding your kids first. It’s about giving the best of yourself to your kids and even your neighbors. It’s a lesson in quality of life-- simplicity with richness-- the richness of cream enjoyed rather than sold. I keep reminding myself and striving to live like neighbor Rosicky.

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

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