Landlocked (or My Big Wet Squishy County)

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spring 2011 016.JPG
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....]

7 Comments

I am so glad you are in the places that you are, saying the things you say and demanding that folks once in a while step out of their box and take in a broader view. Stay vitriolic, KJD. Speaking your truth suits you and it's a cool word.

CJF
P.S. it is highly amusing that someone could use an insult as old as "laws of physics" on you given that recent research indicates that our actual understanding of those laws is about as stable as a prairie gravel road in a floody spring.

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.

Substitute "food" for "energy," and "eat" for "keep up on Facebook," and I think you have a very convincing argument of why it's important to keep our rural roots close at hand. Somewhere along the line, the mechanism that makes it cheaper for someone to go to Walmart to get a head of lettuce, rather than grow it themselves, is going to break down, and when it does... boy, are we going to have problems.

Carol-- thanks for the encouragement to let vitriol roll.

Jake- dude. Looks like we live mirror lives. I read Kunstler every Monday. Also, just finished reading Black Swan. I only made it through the whole book by virtue of books on CD and many hours of windshield time. If I could edit out the "let's talk about Nassim" parts it would flow better.

That said, hope your move will keep you in Greater Minnesota.

Do you check out John Michael Greer on Wednesdays? He's good.

Agreed that food and eating could be another good motivating factor in the flight to rural areas. I sometimes wonder if the whole urban farming movement is yet one more way to say "we don't need no stinking rural places." Oh... there's that vitriol again. By my calculations, we only need about 3% of our current farm land to feed the 5.6 million Minnesotans. So in the long run, not sure that the need for food would get folks as 'far out' of the Metro as Big Stone County. But maybe the marauding hoards would chase them this far. ;-)

Best hopes for food and energy.

You still have that Game? You could always play that, to pass the time.....or not. Another story for the kids to tell their kids, how they were first snowed in then flooded in, thank goodness you have all that food in the basement, you hoarder!!!!

Hey! Hoarding is when you buy food AFTER the crisis. Having buckets of beans in the basement is just food storage. Big Difference. :-)

Isnt the main reason this is possible is that the cheaters, who dont turn left on Oxford, just blend in with the hundreds/thousands of half marathoners making there way back in the last 4 miles. The marathon leaders dont see them or even know who they are when they pass them in the final miles. They just assume they are half marathoners.

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This page contains a single entry by Kathryn Draeger published on April 8, 2011 12:02 PM.

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