April 2011 Archives

When Good Things Happen to Good People


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Last Saturday night found Main Street Clinton, MN packed with cars and an overflow crowd at the Memorial Building. It was a community gathering in support of a steadfast neighbor who found himself with a severe health crisis.

In all honesty, it is the first of such events I've ever been to in my life. Sure, I've seen posters and even sent in an occasional check or stuck a couple bucks into the coffee cans sitting on convenience store counter tops. But I hadn't ever attended or brought food to contribute. So, it was another of life's firsts for me.

The particular gentle man for whom this event was held is, as one of the people in line for dinner said, "an old-school good guy." He didn't just offer to help everyone, even those he didn't know well, he just stepped in an lent a hand. For example, just last fall I went to Ortonville to pick up some furniture. This kind hearted "Norwegian" bachelor farmer was in the store and quietly lugged a few loads to my car with a smile on his face. I first met him in church where, week after week and year after year, he ushered the congregants in and out. He was the youngish guy with a great head of dark hair and gentle smile. Being usher, you don't exchange a lot of words, but tend to each person as they come and go from the sanctuary.

And then just like that, he's struck with cancer and goes from being a strong vital farmer to being, well, disabled. A lesson for all of us about this ephemeral life.

And so on Saturday night 500 people showed up (in a town of 400 people) to help out a quiet, solid neighbor, friend, and relative. And I think 'what a treat to know that you are beloved-- beloved by your community.' In life, you seldom see such a dramatic display of what you mean to the people around you. Generally speaking, a person has to die to have such a gathering in their memory/honor.

So I don't mean to be flippant, because a sudden and traumatic health crisis is a tragedy. But sometimes, just sometimes really good things happen to really good people.

Last Picture Snow

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The last of good sledding for winter 2010-2011

Even though we woke up this morning to snow covered fields, these are the last snowy pictures I'm posting for winter 2010-2011. By all accounts, it's been a long winter. I think we're approaching 100 inches of snow, record snow days, and community fatigue with all things dark, cold and wintery.

Spring is so much later this year. All our Girl Scout cookies were eaten before there was any sign of snow melt or migrating birds. At least the birds knew enough to delay coming north this year (or so it seems). I'm afraid I missed the waterfowl migration this year. Too much traveling to other places. But I did get to see a few swans, geese and ducks as they passed through the farm. Not in as many as years past. The Pelicans are returning flock by flock. They are so dramatic and rhythmic in the sky.

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Landlocked (or My Big Wet Squishy County)


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Road going north from our farm (note: the land on either side of the road is our normal crop land)

A few days ago the Otrey township supervisor stopped by our farm to let us know the road had been washed out to the south of our farm. Not a huge problem since we can get off our farm by going north. Then on Monday, the flood waters washed out the road to the north of us. We were landlocked.

From my point of view it is a grand adventure-- Headline: "Prairie Family Landlocked on Farm." Mike didn't find it anywhere near as invigorating as I did. In fact, it gave him nightmares. Within a day or so the water was down, the county brought in a few loads of gravel, and we were mobile once more. Hardly even an inconvenience. Since it is still April, there's still every hope that we'll be able to get crops in the field in good time.

As it turns out, one of the reasons I had to drive away from my lovely farm was to get to a meeting at the U of M's Center for Transportation Studies. The juxtaposition of having washed out township and county roads at the exact same time that I have to drive to this prestigious Center to discuss sustainable transportation over the next 25 years is priceless.

I am grateful for good roads. I am grateful for a responsive and caring township and county. I am grateful for the speed and comfort of individual car transportation. I don't take it for granted-- at least not all of the time.

But how can we as a society continue to support the extensive transportation infrastructure that we have? Oil is at $112.12 a barrel at this moment. Our asphalt roads are, simply put, concentrated hard packed oil. Besides which, I do not believe that the earth is a gooey nougat of unlimited oil. We're going to have to rethink this sooner or later. Maybe our gravel roads are easier to maintain and I am THANKFUL that they are, but really-- we are the only family living on this road. Those two flood washed out road repairs-- they will be done for us and for all practical purposes, only us.

I got into a fight on a RUPRI (Rural Policy Research Institute) call last month. It was a nationwide call to talk about the opportunities and impacts of renewable energy on rural communities. I said "hey! this is our chance to discuss how we can build communities around the sources of renewable energy. Instead of building the infrastructure to bring energy from it's source (like our windy prairie) to concentrated populations areas (big cities), we can bring people to live where the energy is." Oh boy! That started the sparks flying. And when the argument got too hot, I was accused of not understanding the Laws of Physics. How do you spell "p-shaw"? Seems to me that it is the Law of the Center Sucking from the Periphery. The flow of resources is unidirectional- to centers of power. Enough already.

If I had my druthers, I'd build up this rural renewable energy system with a switch that says "Us First." When energy gets to be in short supply, we flick the switch and keep our own lights on. Then watch as the people start flowing out the cities and to places like Buffalo Ridge, where they can still keep up on Facebook because the juice is stilling running there.

Well, here's hoping the roads are good enough that they can still reach us. Or maybe, I'll be happy to be land locked with a nice steady turbine blowing in the breeze.

[KJD Notes: This post may be a big more vitriolic than I actually feel. I suspect I'm affected by the closing this week of Minnesota Rural Partners. We lost another great advocated for thriving rural places....]

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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