May 2011 Archives

Wind Beneath his Wings

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Earnest sails again!!

Wind speeds sustained over 30mph, gust over 40mph. Must be good for something.

Admit it. When the wind blows like that you just want to lean into the wind and fly away. I can in my dreams. I tried as a kid. Strapped styrofoam onto my arms and jumped off the top of the slide. Fell to earth.

Jens would have been the best of my 3 kids to fly, but refused to be strapped up to the kites. Said he would cry. So we turned to Earnest. He's game for anything. In fact, when I found the screen off his second story bedroom window this morning and resting on the porch roof, I didn't even question his brother/roommate. It was "dude! were you trying to get on the roof??!!" It seems a toy had been thrown up onto the porch roof below his window.

So Earnest got fitted with some wings and got some loft, but it didn't last long as they were shredded in seconds.

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When Mike was in college at Bemidji State (before going to the U) he had a teacher who would constantly question whether he had been driven mad! mad I tell you!! by the relentless prairie wind. Just this morning Mike was telling me how the wind always blows like this when filling the silos. No matter which silo had to be filled from which direction, it was always sand blasting him in the face with corn plant materials.

The wind blasts the garden plants, drives fine dust into your pores, knocks the geese and ducks from the sky, and makes a strong, determined woman have to call home for a ride because she can't walk into the wind another mile. Poor Happy turned around 1/2 down the driveway and went back home (a first). She knew that the wind was just too much for her poor old body.

And so we may as well have some fun in that wind and turns those dreams into reality. Fly up into the sky tethered by joy and love (and madness).

That, and we're getting a wind turbine. I only wish it were up today.

The Best Laid Schemes of Mice and Men

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Our corn waiting to be planted... May 27, 2011

Any farmer seeing this picture will know that it's not looking good for us to get that corn seed planted in 2011. Time's up folks. The window is closed on planting corn in Big Stone County. Or I should say the window is closed on getting a corn crop planted and harvested. Same difference.

Time for plan B.

But first I'll reflect on plan A. A plan that was based on, well..., a form of greed. The decision process was not unlike the familiar "Make hay while the sun shines." Instead it was "Grow corn while the commodity prices are in the stratosphere." Corn at $7.50 a bushel was just simply too promising to say "no" to. Yeah, sure, we were going with the morally superior Organic Corn, but corn all the same. And we weren't going to market it as organic, just deliver it to the elevator with all the other RoundUp Ready GMO Corn. The decision was simply a "count your chickens (or corn as the case may be) before they hatch" calculation that we could make a chunk of farm payment off those 40 acres of corn-- even a fair to middlin' crop.

The sky got progressively darker this morning until is started to rain at 10:30am. When I stepped to the door as the rain started I yelled "NOooooo!!!" It is the second time this year that we were close, really close, to getting into the field when the rain started back up.

To add insult to injury, 80% of the State's corn crop is already in the field. You may not know me personally, but I don't take kindly to being in the trailing 20% of anything (except maybe in youth and those days of being the youngest person in the room are fading fast as well). I don't mind being on the fringe, but let's make it the leading fringe please. So it's depressing as hell, frankly, to be looking at this from my farm house window.

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View of our silos from my 2nd floor window

Which leads me, finally, to Plan B. Oh yeah. There is no Plan B. Plan A is bought, paid for, and sitting on pallets on our machine shed floor.

One of my rare talents is to recite Robert Burns poems in my made up 1785 Scottish accent, with strong overtones of Minnesotan and a hint of Iron Range. But since the old Scottish is indecipherable, I'll leave you with the standard English version of the great Mr. Burns' last two stanzas of his immortal "To a Mouse, on Turning Her up in Her Nest with a Plough." Oh and ask me sometime to recite this for you... although you may have to buy me a couple beer first. And frankly, that's sounding pretty good about now. As they say "it's 5pm somewhere."

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

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The very last of the "fresh" beets... they lasted until April

The nettles are bursting out of the ground and provide a wonderful spring tonic for the blood and soul. I've cooked two great nettle meals and plan to spend the afternoon/evening 'putting up' stinging nettles by freezing and drying. I'll probably sip some nettle tea as I work wearing thick rubber gloves. Touching fresh stinging nettles hurts (hence the name) and last year I ended up with swollen fingers because I thought I had developed a 'relationship' with the nettles that would protect me from their painful pricks. Yeah... right....

Before the nettles sprouted, the local foods were getting to pretty slim pickings. We're fine for local meat- chicken, lamb, beef, pork. We still have sweet corn and squash in the freezer. But the frozen strawberries, broccoli, pea pods, green beans, spinach, basil, summer squash, etc... are long gone. We still have some potatoes sprouting in the pantry - they're delicious, but will probably become this year's seed potatoes since they stored so well.

Back to the nettle meals, I made Lamb Vindeloo which is basically a curry in which the meat is braised in vinegar, the curry added and simmered, then after 30 minutes add coconut milk to make a nice sauce. I added the raw nettle and sauteed them with the meat just before adding the coconut milk. It made a delicious saucey lamb dish that all 5 family member loved!

I have to tell you that the day after we had that nettle sauce, I felt like a new person. I swear that nettle is just the thing a person needs to get winter out of their system.

Last night I made a nettle quiche. Simple recipe: saute nettles with garlic. Wisk 12 eggs with about 2/3 C milk. Put nettles, couple handfuls of grated cheese, and egg mixture into a pie crust (I used Pillsbury- not from scratch). Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.
A suitable meal (where's the meat?) and delicious with a side of pickled beets and fresh fruit from Bonnies Hometown Grocery Store in Clinton.

We are desperate to use eggs as our chickens are at full laying power, producing 4 dozen a day. We don't yet have the market to sell that many eggs in Big Stone County... So this evening I may be making pickled eggs as well as putting up nettles.

The soup pictured below was made from the last of the winter veggies-- carrots, beans, and potatoes and ham from Pastures a Plenty (nearby Kerkhoven, MN). This ham has a great unique smokey flavor that is heavy on cloves. Adds a special taste to the beautiful soup.

One more thing I learned from Audrey Arner, Moonstone Farms, is that it is much easier to pick what natures offers rather than (in addition to) gardening, which requires tilling, planting, weeding, harvesting throughout the season. Nettles are free and abundant and I can pick them right out my back door- even closer than my garden. And yes- I have the kind of yard where nettles grow.

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Spring at last, spring at last...

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It is completely and utterly spring. it was 37 degrees this morning and made it to 70 degrees this afternoon. The grass is green, the farmers are mobilizing, and there is not a moment of silence to be found on an early morning walk. Not from any mechanization, but from the natural world completely bursting forth in song and noise.

Here's an interesting exercise-- focus on just one sense at a time. This morning I walked and listened. My feet on the gravel, geese, ducks, rana pipiens (the frogs), red wing and yellow headed blackbirds. I've come to love the song of the yellow headed black bird... It has a lyrical beautiful song with a rasping croak at the end. I long to hear their call. I know just where to find them.

A couple days ago I stood facing east my toes to the edge of the water, my eyes closed, drinking in the spring. When SPLASH!! a muskrat slapped the water just 2 feet away from me. I jumped and gave a startled scream. He swam about 4 feet away and made a big splash again. Playful, territorial... whatever. I like to watch them swimming. I see them everyday.

Then Sunny comes trotting up from behind with an offering of good will and bumps the back of my leg with a freshly dead 2+ foot long member of the rodent family. A huge mink -- it's body about as thick as a huge summer sausage. Again with the screaming. But Sunny is not detoured. She runs around me in tight circles proud to offer some really fresh meat to her family. Poor thing wasn't expecting me to yell "ewwwww ewwwww ewwwwww-- get AWAY from me!"

Last sound of the morning was the lure of loud frogs in the prairie preserve. As I crossed the prairie I could hear them from just over a small ridge. I made my way there... I'd been there before. This year the grass is really slow in growing and so I can see the contours of the land so much better. There was what looked like a hollow- about 30 feet around. I made me think of a buffalo wallow- and maybe it was. This low spot had water in the bottom and it was filled with the sound of frog.

When a person focuses all their attention on just one sense it can be overwhelming. Just overwhelming to be present and mindful of what is.

In beauty may I walk...

All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.

Beautifully will I possess again.
Beautifully birds . . .
Beautifully joyful birds

On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.

With beauty may I walk.
With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.

It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

A Navajo Indian Prayer of the Second Day of the Night Chant (anonymous)

About this Archive

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

April 2011 is the previous archive.

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