January 2010 Archives

Children of Men

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U of M Board of Regents meeting 1889

This week I sat in a room with 20 other people helping to create the 25 year vision and pathway for sustaining Minnesota's waters. The meeting included a presentation from the State's Demographers office on the trends for Minnesota's population. I was the youngest person in the room-- a women in the late July of life and mom of three. I ached, ached for a young voice in the room.

48 hours earlier (to the minute) I had been in a sea of 4, 5, and 6 year olds- confined to a gym and allowed to run wild. Screaming, chasing, hugging, playing. It was called "recess"- which I understand is the 4th important educational "R." Standing in that gym amidst loud, rowdy, and giddy children- my eyes filled with tears of wonder and joy.

I've seen the movie Children of Men a few times. It's set one generation in the future when women can't have children and the youngest person on earth is 18 year, 8 month, and 16 days old. For what every reason I hadn't really resonated with the movie's ache- the human longing and hunger for the rollicking presence of children.

By the end of that 5 hour meeting I had, in all honesty, lost the yearning for young voices and engaged my ego with those around me. The truth is, there are few places on earth with the social and resource capital to really plan for a sustainable future 25 years down the road with the hope those dreams can be realized. And frankly- as the youngest person in the room- I know that the earnest investment of goodwill at that meeting is not for our own future but for those who come behind us.

The Value of a Rooster

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Our rooster- Shing Hun- in the midst of his hens

Every once in a while I look at the roosters and wonder if they are worth their feed. Frankly, Shing Hun is getting old and probably not so tasty and, obviously, he doesn't lay eggs. He is absolutely lovely and grand and the kids love him- but he's too fierce to be played with like the hens.

Shing Hun struts around, crows a lot, and is something of a dandy.

Then one day we found a dead hen at the barn door. The next day Mike went into the barn and found Shing Hun in a battle to the death with a 15 pound tomcat. The hens were in one corner and Shing Hun was between them and the cat- battling to protect them. Thanks to Mike's intervention- Shing Hun came out on top.

On days when I come out with chicken scraps- Shing Hun walks around the scrambling hens- too dignified and watchful to fight over bread scraps and the kids' left over oatmeal. At night, he seems to check to make sure all the hens are in their coop.

Most days the roosters have pretty light duty. Pleasant even. But we can rest a little easier knowing that Shing Hun has his eyes on things when we're not there and he's proven fierce in protecting his flock. And that's the value of a rooster.

A Working View From Here

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The view from my home office desk

This is the view from my farmhouse office on a day with life threatening wind chills and 6 foot high drifts in front of the garage. Note the froth on that espresso! I have fiber optic digital wireless internet- which means my home office is as fast or faster than my University of Minnesota office in St. Paul. I spent part of the day working on a nation-wide survey of natural food companies (research), talked to Minnesota's State Economist Tom Stinson, and shared some laughter with a staff person.

I'm telling you folks we live in the best of times. Here I am a woman, mom, scientist, "farmer" (more like the overlord who critiques the farm work from that same window! Hey! you missed some weeds over there! Get the lid back on the compost bin!). I have a challenging intellectual job, I do from the middle of the state's capitol city or from an isolate farm on the prairie. I feel like the work I do makes the world a better place for my kids and I have a boss who supports me telecommuting.

Seems like a person should just stop and appreciate all that the early 21st century is and can be. Virtual yet connected. Rooted but mobile. Global yet local. Fast and yet that espresso went down nice and slow to some XM satellite radio background music.

January Local Foods at the mid-continent 45th Parallel

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Farm "fresh" foods in January 2010 at -30 degree F

My husband's ancestors come from a village in Norway north of the Arctic Circle. In my mind I imagined it would be a relief to move to Minnesota- way down by the 45th parallel. That was until someone pointed out that the ocean moderates Tromso Norway's weather- as a result the all time record setting cold temperature is -4 degree F. Here we sit midcontinent- 120 years later and 25 degrees colder.

What's more- I recall sitting in the Cabin Cafe in Clinton listening to an elder tell how her grandfather moved here from Norway at the turn of the 20th century. In Norway he had electricity. He lived in Big Stone County for another 30 years before his farm was electrified. "Imagine" she said "having to go back to living without electricity after having it in Norway!"

Here we are in January 2010, -30 F, still eating as much local foods as possible. And doing fine. However, the "fresh" squash, apples, beets, and cabbages in the pantry have to be processed or lost. I'm dehydrating tray upon tray of apple rings, making yet more apple sauce, and cooking all things apple. The patrilineal side of Mike's family is at odds with any vegetables in the cruciferous family (cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, only a little brocolli thank you). If I serve saurkraut for a meal it has to be covered at all time. So using the cabbage is tricky.

Last night we had a nice 90% local meal in January. The appetizer was crackers with sweet jalepeno relish, pickled green and yellow beans, and chokeberry wine. For dinner we had sauted beets, sweet corn, potatoes, sweet pickle and jalepeno relish over kielbasa sasuage. Dessert was apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream.

A couple nights ago we ate two of our ducks. They tasted fine roasted- but we wondered whether they were really worth the effort of raising. I used the leftover duck to make a duck confit (olive oil and thyme stewed duck meat) and tossed it with pasta and shredded parmesean cheese and served with roasted beets. That maybe tipped us to trying the ducks again next year.

Well my early riser is up and it's time to work on a puzzle or pull out the Candy Land.

Best hopes for a Happy New Year to you and yours.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2009 is the previous archive.

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