January 2012 Archives

One- Two- Three- Four- I Declare a Hay Bale War!




People sometimes ask what I miss moving from St. Paul to rural Big Stone County. But when a person has little kids, doesn't matter where you live 'cuz it's all about them.


What I don't miss is the constant vigilance of raising a kid in an urban area where you can't just put them on their bikes-- even on sidewalks in front of the house- because of the driveways and constant traffic.


Rural areas and farming are dangerous business too. But it doesn't seem so relentless. Plus wide open spaces are good for the soul. Sunsets are an event. And giant hay bale are an arena for all kinds of imaginary battles between good and evil. Oh- and those bales are the best of place to kick back with all your kids and launch parafoil kites into the air.



Saving the Saving Remnant


Swany White Flour -- Freeport, MN. Milling ended this month after a fire burnt the late 1800's early 1900's mill to the ground.

I've been buying my flour in 50# sacks from Swany White since about 1997. Even though Mike gave me my very own County Living flour grinder, I still loved my to mix Swany White with my hand ground whole wheat.

The Freeport, MN Swany White flour mill will not be replaced. They were still using the mill equipment from 1913-- and replacement doesn't make economic sense. So much loss-- a thriving small town business, a place farmers could bring their local and organic wheat, a great product that was beloved by those who knew and used it. Makes you kinda ache, doesn't it.

We're losing a lot in these couple of generations-- yours, mine, my children's. Once the pieces of our once thriving rural infrastructure are gone, they can't be replaced with the same quality as before. Just a few days ago, we lost the 2nd to last two story brick building on Main Street Clinton. It looks to me that the gaping holes that remain are filled with pole buildings. To me, those buildings don't have the permanence or skill embedded in them the way those lovely brick building do-- or as the case may be-- did.

Minnesota's 2012 Organic Farming Conference came on the heels of losing Swany White and was hosted less than 30 miles away in St. Cloud. There were a solid 450 solid people at this year's conference. Lots of old timers and new, young farmers. I walked away from that conference saying "Thank God" we have farmer like these who are stewarding the land and holding onto skills that would otherwise be lost in a couple generations. Cattlemen, vegetable breeders, small grain growers are just a few of the folks at whose feet we sat in the last two days.

One thing I learned and the crux of what I bring back to my farm, is that these organic farmers and keepers of animals and seeds (the 'seedies') are practicing "slow farming." Meaning they invest their time and give their intimate attention to their farm's plants (and animals and soil). The lessons I took away from vegetable breeding and seed saving workshop,(by humble, approachable, powerhouse Theresa Podoll) are to know what you want from your crops (taste, storage, pest tolerance) and to be mindful of every plant-- how it looks and feels the fruit; to both study and eat your squash (how long did it last in the pantry, how much flesh, how does it taste?), and; save the seeds from just the very very best.

Men and women out across the landscape (like the Podolls in rural North Dakota and ES and his soybeans) are stealthily saving the best seed from crops, developing even better varieties for the times, and ensuring a very small part of the biodiversity from the past -- for the future. These people and their seeds are the saving remnant. And frankly, in a global near-monopoly of seed companies, they are preserving freedom and independence along with those seeds. Thank you.

Today, Sunday January 15, 2012, we have the most complex food system in the history of humankind. You think it's easy getting your Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew to the Cenex Station in Grygla, Minnesota? It probably took 10,000 people to prepare that meal -- from making the fertilizer to grow the crops, extracting and refining the oil to make the plastic bottle, setting up the distribution system and delivering it so that we can eat it in the car on our way to our next busy task. All that for $2.59 and and a touch of diabetes.

Did I digress? No-- we've have lost a lot of our communities' real food infrastructure like creameries, butcher shops, and even our skills of how to grow food and cook it. And right now, we are under threat of losing even our rural groceries in a mass die-off across the countryside.

Swany White Flour died in a fire-- and it's not 'bankable' to bring it back. You may now check another piece of valued, needed, and beloved local institution off your list. And if you care, then hold on to and invest in your small town and local farmer.

Stirring up the last of our Swany White Flour for today's dinner

Sunrise.... Sunset


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photo credit- Kathy. The sunrises on the tallgrass prairie of Big Stone County hold in common the majesty of the sunrises on the Serengeti Plains of Africa.

This week marks four years since we purchased the farm. Four years of dreaming, planning, working, worrying, planting, harvesting. Four years of awe, frustration, simple successes, a few failures. Four years of family, playing, joy, longing, and missing.

For me, it's been four years of discovering a new world. The prairie and all its subtle beauty and humble and not so humble majesty. Four years of balancing my long distance work life and my little, little children growing bigger every day. Of the contrast between frontier and urban core.

I've learned the remarkable journey of the sun from solstice to solstice. Just how crazy far towards the north the sun rises in the summer and to the south in the winter. Really people- at the 45th parallel, the range of the movement of the sun as it touches the horizon is dramatic. I've gained some intuitive sense of the cycles of the moon. I can tell from glancing at the moon whether it's waxing or waning.

It still feels new to me. And maybe that is one of the secrets (or practices) of being mindful-- keeping that feeling of everyday awe. There is a freshness in exploring the large and the small-- the movements of the sun and the seeds on the prairie grass. Meeting people who are both new to me and a stable part of a community that I will meet again and again. Thinking of new ideas on the small scale of my community life vs the larger scale of my work-a-day world. And opportunities to put my shoulder to the wheel in a way that feels like I'm making a difference on the piece of soil I've been blessed to steward.

It passes fast though, doesn't it? Here's the soundtrack for this entry-- 100 Years by Five for Fighting.

I lost a friend and a colleague this week. She lived big and was taken too soon. Linda moved through the world with an easy humor, spunk, and a perspective that I hope and intend to learn from. She had a joie de vivre like few people I've known. She was elegance and grace, with a wickedly wry and impertinent humor.

At the funeral, the pastor said that the light was extinguished only because the dawn had arrived. We will meet again one day, Linda.

In the meantime, none of us know how many sunrises and sunsets we each have. I do know that my children are getting bigger everyday and that those giddy moments of blissful child's play are numbered. I know that these are the days and moments that nostalgia are made from.

Moonrise on the evening of the December Lunar eclipse. We watched-- all five of us-- this moon rise from the ground of the eastern horizon in all its reflected blazing glory as the sun set behind us. There is magic on the prairie. Come here. Hold still. Be in paradise.
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This page is an archive of entries from January 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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