October 2009 Archives

Slow Down

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The View from my rear window

We may name the puppy "Lucky" but my speeding luck ran out -- I was caught and ticketed yesterday at 4:30 a.m. driving between Rochester to St. Paul campus. Usually I assume I can drive with impunity between about 3:30 and 5:30. In those early hours I can drive 40 miles (out west) without meeting another car. It's quite pleasant.

Even as I merged back onto the highway I wondered to myself whether I would really slow down. It's not that I'm a compulsive speeder (ok maybe I've become one), it's just that I feel I can't afford to slow down. Hell, with some much going on in my life, I don't feel I can afford to slow down on any front.

Mike often asks of my blog entries "what's that have to do with resettling Big Stone County?" I guess the point is that living in rural areas often requires a lot of driving. I was at a meeting yesterday in St. Paul of about 15 people- one from SW Minnesota. She made a point of saying "why don't we meet in Slayton next time?" Then she laughed. The roads seem to only go in one direction for such things.

Living in Big Stone County is a choice I made and the cost is a lot of windshield time. Lately, I've taken to driving in complete silence- not flipping through my 300 satellite radio stations. Maybe it's a kind of meditation... with my eyes on the road, and my foot on the pedal- perhaps just a little too heavy.

Lost and Found

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That which you manifest is before you.

My wonderful sister-in-law gave me a book to read "The Art of Racing in the Rain." If you're having a rough week, this book is enough to make you want to slit your wrists- (ok- a bit melodramatic). Thwarted dreams told through the eyes of a dying dog, wife dies, losing custody of young daughter, arrested for sexual assault, and, of course, the dog dies.

The one take home message that doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out is "that which you manifest is before you. Simply put- your race car goes where your eyes go."

So it seems that Mike and the kids manifested a pair of dogs. Mike has been talking about getting a hunting dog and Alma said we could butcher her ducks if we got her a puppy (kinda gruesome bargaining wouldn't you say?). By now you know that we live alone on the prairie. So last Sunday Mike and the kids were driving home from Artichoke Baptist Church and saw a dog on a nearby unoccupied farmstead. When Mike got out of the car, a momma and her pup came out of the grass--weak, tired, hungry-- alone.

I was in the garden when the minivan exploded with screaming kids and dogs. Mike and I reminded them that the dogs were probably from a "neighbor's" house and started calling around. We put an ad on the radio as well. But it looks like we now have two golden labs.

That which you manifest is before you.

So now the naming begins. I think the momma should be Joy-- in hope that Joy will get along with Happy. The boy puppy is another story. I say he should have a character name- like Courage, Honor, Reliable, Honesty... At breakfast this morning Mike, exasperated, asks "How do you think it will sound if I'm yelling "INTEGRITY!" while out hunting?" Which led to a chorus of us all practicing yelling "INTEGRITY" at the tops of our lungs while eating our blueberry buckwheat pancakes. I don't know- I think it sounds like a great thing to yell out. Try it. "INTEGRITY!"

That which you manifest is before you.

I read books like "The Not so Big Life" "The Artist's Way" etc... about how to achieve a calm, contented life of directed and leisurely purpose. And I can't help but think that it is all a crock-- I mean, give that book to the mom in Haiti who is feeding dirt to her child to stave off the ache of hunger. It's all a narcissistic dream of a pampered western world. Keep in mind that most Americans live better, more comfortable lives than the wealthiest nobility a few hundred years ago.

One of my elders tells me of her neighbor, a farm wife, who died too young- in her 40's. She always suspected that the poor woman worked herself to death on that hard scrabble farm with a half dozen kids. Poor thing probably welcomed the big rest.

That which you manifest is before you... When I was in grad school I peacefully mulled over my future. My mind's eye had me on a farm, growing spices and herbs, the theme songs was "I always cook with honey, 'cuz it sweetens up the nights..." There was calm and candlelight and a handsome man adoring me. And maybe I'm partway there- a farm and adored. But like Denny, the main character in The Art of Racing in the Rain, I have to go through some trials before I can take that deep breathe and relax into that future I manifest for myself.

Or maybe I should just get back to work.

Farmers Market 2009

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Our stand at the Ortonville Farmers' Market

We shared some of our bounty at the farmers market again this year-- eggs, hand ground flour from Big Stone County, garlic, lots of veggys.

I was not a reliable vendor, but a happy and enthusiastic one when I was there. It's just that after working in St. Paul and then having to harvest, prep, and spend Saturday at the stand got to be a bit much. I'm glad my fellow farmers market folks were more consistant than me.

In reality- the economic don't really work out for us. It's not just that we don't earn much selling at the market, it's the opportunity cost. What else could we be doing on the farm to make it a productive enterprise? Is selling vegetables really our best way to have a successful local foods and farm venture?

Like Pooh Bear- I'm tapping my finger on my cheek going "think... think... think..."

What I treasure about those Saturday morning markets is the time with Alma, the faces of the community, the friends I made with folks in the stands around me. So we will see what 2010 brings.

Too Few BLT's

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This killing frost came last night. The temperature dropped to 19 degrees just a few miles down the road in Benson, MN. This was not a good year for the tomatoes, or potatoes (massive size with thin skins), or the peapods. The orange and red peppers never made it past the green stage. The cold summer left the tomatoes green on the vine and our massive September rains left them un-ripened and splitting open on the vines. I still managed to put up over 30 quarts of tomato sauces and pastes, but we had 135 plants and hoped for more.

And as summer makes its rapid escape, I'm left with some regrets. Too few bonfires, picnics, cold drinks on the lawn while the kids swam. Too few hours of splendor in the grass, way too few Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches. One should eat all the BLT's one can stand- day after day with sun warmed tomatoes straight from the garden and freshly washed greens.

It reminds me of a poem I memorized and love by Emily Dickinson
Nature: XLV As Imperceptibly as Grief

AS imperceptibly as grief
The summer lapsed away,--
Too imperceptible, at last,
To seem like perfidy.

A quietness distilled,
As twilight long begun,
Or Nature, spending with herself
Sequestered afternoon.

The dusk drew earlier in,
The morning foreign shone,--
A courteous, yet harrowing grace,
As guest who would be gone.

And thus, without a wing,
Or service of a keel,
Our summer made her light escape
Into the beautiful.


This year's summer made no light escape. Tonight's forecast -- snow. Two fronts coming through this weekend.

Snow.... already.... October 10th.

Life Among Stoics

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Congregants at Holden Lutheran, Beardsley MN 1936

I'm reading The Land of the Living: The Danish Folk High Schools and Denmark's Non-Violent Path to Modernization. I stole this book from a very good man and frankly at this point have no intentions to return it (sorry John!). Mostly because I envision a rural landscape full of these remarkable folk schools and figure we'll need an instruction manual.

I read with interest the chapter on why Scandanavians are melancholy, or as I would describe it -- stoic. The author muses "an obvious direction in which to look... is the dark and cold northern climate." But then he decides these Danes actually take pride in living with extreme cold and short summers and delight in the changing of the seasons. Instead he decides that:

"A possible consequence of the overwhelming rural heritage...is [an acknowledgement that] death awaits everyone and gives no exemption."

Whatever the reason, I find myself living among (one could even venture to say "with") stoics.

I know a man who served in World War II, married, raised a number of fine and productive children, farmed and worked very hard past the point he was able. He lived a solid life, stern and upright, he frowned on tapping ones toe to the hymns in church because it was too close to dancing.

And then he was stricken with Alzheimers and lost control. He now gushes over his wife of nearly 65 years, enchanted by her, unable to to stop telling her how much he loves her, holding her close. All those years of holding himself so close only to burst with love and delight as the twilight hastens.

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