Recently in Inner Apocalypt Category

A Counter Cyclical Investment


New fence posts on the farm

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Our neighbors think we are idiots. Not all of them.

The price of corn is so high that it can tempt a good man, a farmer, to not only plow up humble farmsteads (see entry below) but to turn over graves and bury the tombstones in pits. In the face of this gold rush, we took 100+ perfectly good, fertile, flat land out of corn production and are put it into pastures. Yeah, I'll tell you that it's not just the neighbors who think we are idiots, but Mike and I sometimes look deep into each other's eyes and say "what the hell are we doing this for?" We could just rent this land out for an exorbitant price and get rich the easy way. No... we have to do this the poor and hard way.

Watering station piped in. Boys chasing backhoe to next station.

Here's where we're going. We are looking to be grass farmers. This is the rainfed, tallgrass prairie after all and so we know that for most of the past 10,000 years this place has done really well as grassland. The plan, as much as it is, is to raise entirely grassfed beef using what is called intensive rotational grazing and probably mob grazing.

I just paused to ask Mike if we'll be doing mob grazing and he said "yes- depending on the weather" (meaning enough rain to green up the paddocks). Without knowing what I was writing about he said "yeah- that will mean more work, but we can get more cattle on per acre." I started laughing at the "more work" comments. And he said- but we can have the kids do that.

Playing on corner posts.

More work. Less money. For what? For an abstract security for us and for our community. What kind of security? Well, if monopolized seed and input companies decide to jack up the price of seed, fertilizer, pesticides then farmers gotta pay. Can't say the same thing about our 28 species pasture mix. What we're hoping (praying) for is that some of those 28 warm and cool season plant species will thrive in the variety of weather events we've seen on this farm. In just the five growing seasons I have lived here we've seen nearly ½ of our farm under flood water and been land locked because our roads were underwater to the extreme drought we're under now where the soil profile is dry as a bone 15 feet down (by the way 'bone dry' is a figure of speech). The land is under remarkable dryness that is startling even to the old timers.

I ask again--what kind of security are we looking for? What kind of advantage? What kind of return on the investment of our time and our money?


Speaking of money- very unMinnesotan of me- the 3.5+ miles of fence and pipe we installed on the farm this fall cost just over $34,000. Now if you add the minimum we could have received for cash rent for that land ($15,000) that comes to a $49,000 cost with $0 return on investment. Investment... Ha! We've divested in all those ephemeral virtual digital spreadsheets that you can see on your computer screen- you know- those things like college funds for our kids, retirement accounts for us, and bank balances in the black. Our plan for our kids' education (off farm) is selling a few of those cows in the pasture each semester to pay tuition.

You need us for security too. Why? Because any good portfolio is diversified. Just ask any Wall Street investment guy and he'll tell you "Diversity is Good." It's their credo. You need stock, bonds, large cap, small cap, international etc... You don't put all your eggs in one basket. Likewise, there is a need for diversity in farming and farmers too. In case things don't go as planned in Algerian oil fields or we find out the Bakken Oil Play costs us 1 barrel of oil to extract 1 barrel of shale oil, you'll be glad there are oases of farmers and food production across the landscape that have a range of skills and practices to jump start the agricultural system. Diversity is good- especially in something as critical as producing food.


Frankly, I think a huge part of the local foods movement is our instinctual knowledge that having food production (real food- not Hot Pockets and Mountain Dew) that is recognizable and understandable and close by is absolutely connected to our well being and maybe even our survival. The global food supply brings untold pleasures (read coffee and cinnamon to name two), but a local food supply bring daily sustenance. I digress.

We are making this counter cyclical investment for another reason -- we want to be the change that we seek in the world. We've put our family on the front line of sustaining happy, healthy, family farms and the rural communities that they are bound up with. Now there are plenty of good folks down this path in front of us- Audrey, Laverne, Richard, Mary Jo and many more. But it sure feels like the front line from my kitchen table.

I'll quote one of my living folk heroes, John Michael Greer, in his recent column

...any meaningful response to the crisis of our time has to begin on the individual level, with changes in our own lives. To say that it should begin there doesn't mean that it should end there; what it does mean is that without the foundation of personal change, neither activism nor community building nor anything else is going to do much. We've already seen what happens when climate activists go around insisting that other people ought to decrease their carbon footprint, while refusing to do so themselves, and the results have not exactly been good [kjd notes: the result is that people don't take climate change seriously and even stop thinking that it is really happening]. Equally, if none of the members of a community are willing to make the changes necessary to decrease their own dependence on a failing industrial system, just what good is the community as a whole supposed to do?

So we are rolling the dice that we need to have a diversified, labor intensive farming system in place so that over time whatever trajectories we are on-- you name it--the end of petroleum era, the consequences of leaving the gold currency standard, a flu pandemic, climate change, the zombie apocalypse (I've trained my children to "repeat after me 'the zombie apocalypse is a metaphor for what happens to humans in the collapse of civilization'") or a dust bowl.

Be the change you hope to see in the world. What do we - what do I--want to see in the world?

  • Meadowlarks on my farm

  • Green fields for months on end

  • Vital, thriving rural communities

  • Wholesome food that feeds our bodies without making us fat and feeds our souls in its production

  • Animals that thrive in healthy, real environments until they become our food (note: our baby calves dance, jump, run and play through the green grass. And I don't ever recall calves frolicking in dense, dirt feedlots)

  • Soils that are protected and regenerated and held in place for generation of farmers to come

  • Trees, orchards, windbreaks

  • Clean energy

  • The sense of pride of meal on your table that comes from your land, your labor and G-d's goodness.

  • Raising children who know the value of hard work and actual 'fruits' of their labors

  • Needing to pay attention to the natural world every day and throughout the day for the well-being of the animals in your care and for the crops you are tending.

Along with these earnest hopes for my world, I hope that I am gaining the street cred to promote this path. Voluntary simplicity. Voluntary labor. Investment.

Just tonight Mike and I noodled over the numbers to get our John Deere 4440 fixed--a cool $7,000 in repairs. If we fix it we could still get the money back if we needed to, cuz' we could sell if for more than the cost of the repairs. Let me say, there's a lot of that kinda reckoning going on around our farm.

Political activism, community building, and a great many other proposed responses to the crisis of our time are entirely valid and workable approaches if those who pursue them start by making the changes in their own lives they expect other people to make in turn. Lacking that foundation, they go nowhere. It's not even worth arguing any more about what happens when people try to get other people to do the things they won't do themselves; we've had decades of that, it hasn't helped, and it's high time that the obvious lessons get drawn from that fact. (John Michael Greer again)

Oh, and did I mention that we saw the first Meadow Lark on our farm since we moved back? Priceless.

On Elephants and Agrarian Populism


A mighty fine day at the end of the Age of Abundance

circus elephants boys.jpg

The Circus came to town on Tuesday-an honest to goodness professional circus. It was the first time, to the best of the town people's considerable knowledge, that a circus had set up the Big Top in Clinton, Minnesota. As far as I know, it is the first time that elephants and a zebu spent the night in Big Stone County. Maybe an elephant or two had passed through the county in the past, but it was remarkable to be standing in the rural prairie with elephants. Don't get me started on their cousins the mammoths (which I miss).

It started as a day like any other. I woke up early on my farm-- a place on the edge of wild. A rough place of fields, flies, weeds, and animals. I took the kids to town to see the Big Top go up- rumor had it that the elephants would be part of the work crew. There was a crowd of people, not all of them with kids in tow.

The two performances that day, as I heard it, were the best of local entertainment. They were brought to this corner of the earth by expensive gas and a poor economy that makes a hamlet like ours (and the next down the road) both viable and appealing to this family owned Circus and their business model.

From the circus I went to the local branch of our State's land-grant University where I was able to stand shoulder to shoulder with boiler engineers, farmers, students, professors and other people who hold their heads up high without a single doubt that they belong exactly where they are. The inscription on Northrup Hall reads:

The University of Minnesota
Founded in the Faith that Men are Enobled by Understanding
Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning and the Search for Truth
Devoted to the Instruction of Youth and the Welfare of the State

And for that one night it was true. We were enobled... to the person. We were there for a common purpose (clean energy, sustainable food systems, clean water) though approached from many perspectives. We were treated to some of the finest foods I've ever tasted (all locally raised meat and produce), good homespun local music, and the best of people. In the glow of it all, I earnestly loved each and every one of them.

In some ways, Tuesday August 2nd, 2011 was the remaining shadow of the pinnacle of the Age of Abundance-- a time when public universities educated everyone, when we could afford to take risks with resources to see what innovations would emerge, a time, frankly, when the seeds of a Minnesota miracle could take root and grow.

One should savor every moment of the waning Age of Abundance. As I drove home from UM Morris the orange sliver of a new moon pierced the red and purple horizon and around me were pelicans, geese, fox, a turtle, and frogs to dodge on the road.

But do not despair at the end of this Age-- because it brings things to us that we might not otherwise have, like elephants in Big Stone County. Proof in point: On one single day in very rural America, a woman can go from her rustic farm to seeing elephants to being enobled and inspired at a public university.

And I'll leave you with these words from a Wall Street Journal article titled "The End of the Age of Abundance"

"Dynamism has been leached from our system for now, but not from the human brain or heart. Just as our political regeneration will happen locally, in counties and states that learn how to control themselves and demonstrate how to govern effectively in a time of limits, so will our economic regeneration. That will begin in someone's garage, somebody's kitchen, [somebody's farm- kjd notes]... The comeback will be from the ground up and will start with innovation. No one trusts big anymore. In the future everything will be local. That's where the magic will be. And no amount of pessimism will stop it once it starts."

Kicking the Can -- 2030 A Book Review


2030 Albert Brookes cover.jpg

Well well well. Minnesota's political leadership is boldly kicking the can down the road. "A historic day" as the news is saying, to basically not deal with any of the complex issue that need to be faced.

What really steams me, is that this is Minnesota. We've enjoyed a high quality of life, great education system, and a pretty decent bunch of people at about the same social class. I was raised to believe that you are not the sum of your net worth. Minnesotan didn't flaunt their wealth or put the rich on a pedestal. It seems that we've become so materialistic. It was ingrained in me that the rich aren't better than anyone else. Being rich doesn't mean you worked harder (re: Paris Hilton), or are better education (again PH- a highschool dropout), or have any particular blessing from God.

So what? Does everyone want so badly to be in the top 2% of wealthy that they have begun to see themselves in the top 2% of the wealthy? So much so that they (we) can't bear the thought of taxing them. What do people think-- that if they tax today's top 2% that they'll one day be the taxing themselves, their kids, their grandkids? Enough already. Our nation's political leaders are bound up with the wealthiest people and corporation who support their campaigns.

In terms of state spending and revenue. Be tough-- tough with spending and tough with taxing. Make it work people. I'm sick of the can being kicked down the road. Which leads me to the book review I wrote yesterday and submitted to the Star Trib. Don't know if they'll publish it. So here it is.

Also-- especially in light of today's news, READ 2030. It is one hell of a book.

Book Review

Twenty Thirty: The Real Story of What Happens to America

By: Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks' book takes on current issues that leaves many of us glassy eyed, but manages to create a riveting story of where America could be heading. In 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America, Brooks fleshes out some of today's most critical social issues and through believable characters and story lines that show us where we could be in a mere 19 years unless we begin to act like grown ups in the face of our so-called "new normal."

Brooks' first novel takes current trend of increasingly health care costs, the gap between the rich and poor, a crushing national debt, and demographic shifts towards an aging American population out to the year 2030. Characteristic of his larger body of work, he does so with humor, intelligence, and heart.

2030 imagines the lives of some average and not so average Americans in a period when America has ceased to be the empire that it is today. Characters such as angry disenfranchise youth, the AARP (the most powerful group in America) leadership, and a young woman whose pain comes from seeing the fall of her father from a middle class blue collar worker to being chronically underemployed and impoverished. The President of the United States appears in this novel with a sense of humor and real sense of what is right for the country. This character, more than others, seems to voice Brooks' own wry sense of humor and provides ballast for what could still be put right in the world

Reading this novel, I waited with President Bernstein to see how the American people would poll over giving China the rights to a major American city. "People wanted it done quickly, and at a low price, and that was the way it was going to be. It started with cars, went to food and clothing, and now it was the very places they were going to live and work. Resistance was not just futile, it was gone."

Brooks paints a picture of a world in which health care is miraculous, expensive, and out of reach for many. One main premise is the unintended consequences of finding a cure for cancer, which extended life for older Americans but places an even greater burden on younger generations to fulfill the social obligation of health care and retirement for older generations.

Brooks has succeeded in creating an artful and engaging scenario of the not so distance future that takes the reader from today's contentious civic discourse to the resulting dystopic future, should we persist upon our current path. 2030 is one of the more creative and, frankly, seemingly plausible of the increasingly popular genre of futuristic dystopic novels. Brookes immerses himself in building a plausible future and doesn't shy away from difficult and even controversial issues. He takes on such topics as the burden of entitlements on younger generation, and the impact of today's 'kicking the can down the road' approach to those issues, such as national debt and access to health care. We would do well to take heed of Brooks' message and work backwards from 2030 to today in order to create a more equitable and prosperous future.

Landlocked (or My Big Wet Squishy County)


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....]

Appetite Fatigue


graceville grocery store.jpg
A View inside the Graceville, MN Grocery Store

It's important to me that my kids can comfortably eat a really wide variety of foods. You never know in life when you will be called upon to eat something that you are unfamiliar with for a long period of time. Without a wide repertoire of food familiar to your palate, you simply may not be able to force yourself to eat. That is called appetite fatigue.

Part of preparing my kids for an uncertain future is to make sure they are exposed to many and varied foods! For example, I'm prepping the fam (and myself) to start eating rabbit, because it would be pushing the "meat" envelope for our family. Plus, it is considered one of the "sustainable" meats of the futures.

But I realized I may be taking the appetite fatigue thing too far, as evidenced by this morning's children sermon. Today's Gospel lesson was the familiar:

"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?

The Minister called the kids up to the front for the children's sermon and held out a plate with a toy snake coiled up on it. She asked the kids "if you came down for breakfast and asked for eggs and your mommy gave you a plate with a snake on it- what would you do?" Jens replied for all to hear "My mom would say you have to eat it or you'll get appetite fatigue!"

One of the things about eating local foods is that our menu is based on what is available, when it is available. After living this way for a couple of years, it surprises me that some people don't change their meals based on what is fresh and local. For example- eggs. First, there are some people who only want to eat "industrial" eggs. I had a woman at the farmers market tell me she cannot eat farm fresh eggs because they go "straight from the pooper to the pie." Imagine if that woman was stuck in a farm for some period of time and the most abundant food was farm fresh eggs. With that level of aversion, she could starve before she could eat them. Seriously. But some folks simply don't think about meal planning with what is before them- here's a dozen eggs. Hey I could make egg salad sandwiches, a quiche, devilled eggs, etc... No, they work it the other way. I'm hungry for custard, better find some eggs.

It's going to take some "reverse engineering" to get many of us to change what we eat from what we want to what can we make with what we have.

Some may ask why we should even consider appetite fatigue with all the variety and abundance of our current global food system. I mean- I just bought some Labneh (Middle Eastern sheep's milk cheese) from an Asian market in Fargo, North Dakota no less. I can think of many reasons for concern- and that is why I have a category for these blog entries called "Inner Apocolypt."

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...

boy in white sand.jpg
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.

The anti-Dubai (or things I'm thankful for)


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Boys on wood pile - day after Thanksgiving

I unloaded two trailer loads of cut wood yesterday. In the morning, a huge flocks of geese passed right overhead. One flock was so large it looked like a small black cloud. I leaned back on the trailer to take in their flight. The multiple V-formations had a pattern inside it. Large goose, little goose, large goose, little goose. Parent/child/parent/child. At the end of the flock the very last goose had a section of his wing missing-- I could see the sunlight through where there should have been wing feathers. And yet- they stayed together- maybe a Grandparent pulling up the rear.

Last night the boys (all of 5-years-old) and I unloaded another load of wood while the sunset and the combines, unseen, rumbled to the north and west and all around. The stars came out ("star light star bright first star I see tonight...") and the moon had a large halo around it nearly touching our silos.

We're in the midst of clearing out our old grove (about 3 acres!) in anticipation of a major tree planting next spring. The bulldozer was in last week to pull up the stumps and our farmstead looks like a tornado passed through. What's exciting is that we're hopeful we have enough wood for the next 3 winters already cut. It's like money in the bank to see the stacked wood piles- strategically placed to cure or to burn.

Two years ago I was talking with my neighbor Brent wondering what we would do with all the standing dead wood on our farm. He said "get a Central Boiler" and we did. It's turned out to be a great move. Instead of letting the dead wood rot in place (emitting CO2) or burning it in a massive pile, we are metering it out to heat our house and water year around. We haven't purchased any propane since we installed the boiler two years ago.

It's the anti-Dubai.

Two years ago when I heard National Public Radio do an uncritical and fawning hour of "financial reporting" on Dubai I was sickened. Couldn't everyone see that this was the most unsustainable, ill-fated project of our times? I mean really- we need artificial luxury islands, indoors ski-slope in the desert, and unlimited high end shopping? All built and sustained on fossil fuel supplies and profits. And now bankrupt. Surprise.

Instead, I'm grateful for stacked wood, my family (mom helped out all Thanksgiving week and sister Kelley left her dairy farm in SE Minn to visit us), for a nice community and singing in the church choir, and the opportunity to be completely content. 'Tis a gift to be simple and, frankly, a lot safer.

Lost and Found


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That which you manifest is before you.

My wonderful sister-in-law gave me a book to read "The Art of Racing in the Rain." If you're having a rough week, this book is enough to make you want to slit your wrists- (ok- a bit melodramatic). Thwarted dreams told through the eyes of a dying dog, wife dies, losing custody of young daughter, arrested for sexual assault, and, of course, the dog dies.

The one take home message that doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out is "that which you manifest is before you. Simply put- your race car goes where your eyes go."

So it seems that Mike and the kids manifested a pair of dogs. Mike has been talking about getting a hunting dog and Alma said we could butcher her ducks if we got her a puppy (kinda gruesome bargaining wouldn't you say?). By now you know that we live alone on the prairie. So last Sunday Mike and the kids were driving home from Artichoke Baptist Church and saw a dog on a nearby unoccupied farmstead. When Mike got out of the car, a momma and her pup came out of the grass--weak, tired, hungry-- alone.

I was in the garden when the minivan exploded with screaming kids and dogs. Mike and I reminded them that the dogs were probably from a "neighbor's" house and started calling around. We put an ad on the radio as well. But it looks like we now have two golden labs.

That which you manifest is before you.

So now the naming begins. I think the momma should be Joy-- in hope that Joy will get along with Happy. The boy puppy is another story. I say he should have a character name- like Courage, Honor, Reliable, Honesty... At breakfast this morning Mike, exasperated, asks "How do you think it will sound if I'm yelling "INTEGRITY!" while out hunting?" Which led to a chorus of us all practicing yelling "INTEGRITY" at the tops of our lungs while eating our blueberry buckwheat pancakes. I don't know- I think it sounds like a great thing to yell out. Try it. "INTEGRITY!"

That which you manifest is before you.

I read books like "The Not so Big Life" "The Artist's Way" etc... about how to achieve a calm, contented life of directed and leisurely purpose. And I can't help but think that it is all a crock-- I mean, give that book to the mom in Haiti who is feeding dirt to her child to stave off the ache of hunger. It's all a narcissistic dream of a pampered western world. Keep in mind that most Americans live better, more comfortable lives than the wealthiest nobility a few hundred years ago.

One of my elders tells me of her neighbor, a farm wife, who died too young- in her 40's. She always suspected that the poor woman worked herself to death on that hard scrabble farm with a half dozen kids. Poor thing probably welcomed the big rest.

That which you manifest is before you... When I was in grad school I peacefully mulled over my future. My mind's eye had me on a farm, growing spices and herbs, the theme songs was "I always cook with honey, 'cuz it sweetens up the nights..." There was calm and candlelight and a handsome man adoring me. And maybe I'm partway there- a farm and adored. But like Denny, the main character in The Art of Racing in the Rain, I have to go through some trials before I can take that deep breathe and relax into that future I manifest for myself.

Or maybe I should just get back to work.

V is for Vendetta



Sunday morning at 5 am the wind hit the farm like a thunderous wall. All the upstairs doors were knocking in their frames -- trying to open and close at the same time from the violent gusts of wind coming in the windows. The windows had been left open just a crack to let in the comfortable and fresh nightime air.

And I was hit with the flu- classic high temp, chills, body aches, headaches, etc... So I was in and out of consciousness while watching V is for Vendetta three times. I've always been one of those "things worth dying for" rather than "things worth killing for" kind of people. So while I don't relate to the Vendetta as much, I appreciate (to tears) the courage of people to take to the streets in search of truth and freedom.

I hope you can see this movie. And I hope you don't have to get the flu in order to do so.

What's the big idea...


EQIP Planning Project1.jpg Natural Resource Conservation Service Grazing Plan for our Farm
(EQIP = Environmental Quality Improvement Program)

Mike and I signed on the dotted line for the conservation plans for our farm- 172 acres total into grazing and organic agriculture beginning between now and 2011. We'll start by creating 92 acres of rotational grazing for beef cattle in 2010. This part scares me the most-- lots of fences, new well, many water lines and watering stations, big beefy animals that could step on little kids....

Across the driveway (not shown) we've enrolled 80 acres into the brand spanking new USDA Organic transition program. **Proud moment- we ranked 2nd in the entire State of Minnesota for this program** Mike is more intimidated by this organic 80 acres. In my mind, we could make this work just by force of will -- weeding by hand every day of the growing season if need be. Harvest with scythes, whatever... We actually calculated out the kids ages to figure out if they would be of good weeding ages in 2011 (7, 7 and 11).

So between the two of us we are confident we can make it work on the north and south side of the driveway (or conversely scared it won't work on the north or south side of the driveway).

In all honesty, part of my motivation for doing this (which my husband of nearly 15 years won't know until he reads this blog entry) is that we as a civilization have to-- HAVE TO-- learn (or remember) how to farm using sunlight as the major food source (grazing cattle) and making due with resources lower on the petroleum food chain (organic). Because in an uncertain future there will still be sunlight and some poop to keep this farm going.

So I am comfortable taking the risk of moving from conventional row crops (corn and soybeans) which we know can make the farm payments to experimenting with sunlight and crafty labor and inputs. When I say "Lord help us" that is not just a figure of speech.

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