May 2010 Archives

Big Stone Riches and Resources

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Author and veterinarian Melissa Nelson with her book "Small Scale Farming"

There is a breadth and depth of talent and goodness out here on the prairie. And coming upon those folks is one of the riches of life. Meet Dr. Melissa Nelson, veterinarian, author and farmer. She lives just 10 miles from our farm and is an interesting and resourceful neighbor to have around. Melissa is the author of the The Complete Guide to Small Scale Farming: Everything You Need to Know About Raising Beef and Dairy Cattle, Rabbits, Ducks, and Other Small Animals

She also has a couple other books in the works- one on Financially Successful Small Farms and a work of "fiction" about the experiences of a vet in an industrial USDA slaughterhouse. I got a sneak peek at the novel- looks like something for which Michael Pollen should write "in advance praise." It's so great to have met Melissa, found a cool vet for our new little herd, and gained one more member in that thing we call "community."

The Underside of Local Foods


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The last of last years harvest...

The farm is alive with all things fully leafed out -- the blooms have come and gone from the fruit trees. So what is a local meal in May in Minnesota? Well, I'm making a stew of dried edible beans and the very last of the carrots and onions from the pantry.

Those carrots are not the botique image of local foods that people think about. But to eat seasonally, some stuff comes up from the pantry in May- before the new crop is ready to harvest and last year's produce is barely recognizable.

One of my elders said to me that when I talked of "local foods" all she could envision was the flacid, black carrots that the family dug out of the sand box storage under the floor boards (Minnesota circa 1950). Those carrots, like mine, bear little resemblance to the lovely fresh carrots we pulled from the ground. Eating seasonally and storing food needs to be part of the local food scene.

But I make it look worse than it is. My herbs are up and I have fresh thyme (which will go into the stew), cilantro, parsely, and oregano. We've had our first rhubarb and asparagus. The stored food in the pantry also includes canned candy apples, hot pepper relish, and italian sauces. We still have lots of frozen beets, sweet corn, chicken and one small package of lamb. For dried foods we have wheat, beans (in the stew), dried raspberries and strawberries (an experiment with the dehyrdrator), and dried sweet corn that I grind for corn bread- delicious.

Out with the old and in with the new... next month.

How You Know You are Loved if You're Married to a Norwegian


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The first milk from our cow

A friend of a friend says that her Scandinavian heritage husband has a daily limit of 30 spoken words per day. I would say my husband is somewhat similar. Once we got into what I thought was an awful argument and we didn't speak at all for a couple days- sat across from each other at meals, went to sleep together, etc... all in perfect silence. When I finally couldn't take it any longer I said "Enough! we have to talk this out." He said "Talk what out?" He didn't know we were giving each other the silent treatment.

So when I came home to this jar of fresh milk in the fridge, I knew that it was the expression of pure love and esteem from my husband. It's the little things- like the internal injuries he sustained milking a wild and never milked before cow- that lets me know just how very much he really loves me.

Now... How to explain the Mother's Day present he gave me. A mule.

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Starting our Herd-- an exciting 24 hours


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Our first cows- May 7, 2010

I came home from St. Paul to a great sight last night-- our very first cows. Five of them. As you can imagine, the farm was in an a state -- the cows running around the lush green pasture for the first time in a long time and the kids running around "with" them. They are a breed of cattle called Dexters. Compact, triple duty cattle- milk, meat, and draft animals.

This morning while the family slept I made coffee and walked out the door to go for a walk. I wanted to get up close to the cattle. I noticed something wasn't right. One of the cows was down. I thought it was the smallest one who had suffered from bloat before we bought her. Then I looked again and counted 1-2-3-4-5-6. Huh? 1-2-3-4-5-6! We have our very first calf.

So now I am working very hard on my dairyman husband to start milking that momma for me. Oh- think of the fresh milk, butter, yogurt, cheeses!!! I talked to one of my colleagues yesterday about getting my breast pump back. Think that will work?

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Our first calf May 8, 2010

Stewards! Start Your Engines


In the weeks to come you will be seeing many images of dying birds and ocean life. In the mean time, take a look at this boy with his feet in the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico and read what his mother writes about these last days of white beaches...

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photo credit: Jeri Shaffer

Even with the threat of bad weather, the beach was packed. Unlike the previous week, the crowd was eerily quiet. There was no music and no small talk. We all stood staring out across the sugar white sand and watching the waves crash into the shore. A group of kids played volleyball and a father tossed a football to his son, but even these activities were low key and quiet. We walked down the beach, watching our children play in the breaking waves and wondering when another day at the beach would be possible for them. Everyone on the beach seemed to be in a stunned silence. The sadness was palpable.

I have lived within 30 miles of this spot my entire life and I have never seen so many people taking pictures. I snapped pictures, too. I want our children to remember the beach that we have always known. Our youngest child will be 3 years old at the end of May. I took a picture of his tiny feet in the sand knowing that he won't remember today. I don't know what the beach of his childhood will look like, but I wanted to give him a small piece of the beach I came to love.

I'm a fan of church hymns. They give us a glimpse into the thoughts and prayers of many generations before us. On Sunday, I am sure by coincidence, the last line of the last hymn we sang was...

"...bring good news to this and every age, till earth and sky and ocean ring with joy, with justice, love and praise"

How's that "ocean ring with joy" thingy goin' for ya?

There's an old joke about the congregation of a church all leaving the Sunday service so fast that it looked like a car race. One of the congregants jumped on the hood of his car and yelled "Christians-- START YOUR ENGINES."

My fear is that as we consume every last resource on this planet we will take down all of G-d's creation along with us. I picture a large whirling funnel flushing down the Meadowlarks, frogs, whales, and pelicans along with us. What is the answer? Probably a new austerity- a completely new way of living. "I bring you a new commandment 'loves others as I have loved you.'" Sunday's gospel.

Hear the call-- Stewards! Start Your Engines. Wait- reverse that.

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