Friday, May 31, 2013

Pogo-ing

Hi. Thanks for visiting. Alice Walker tells us "we are the people we've been waiting for." Walt Kelly says (through Pogo) "we have met the enemy and he is us." Can they both be correct? Of course they can. Walt Whitman explains this when he tells us "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." Let me explain what brought on this plethora of quotations. Yesterday, while further researching bees, blueberries (or maybe cranberries now, if we can find some cultivars that will work outside of bogs), apiaries, electric fencing and related sundries, I found myself gathering information on costs, a not unreasonable activity for a new undertaking. Did you know that Minnesota has a beekeepers association? Anyhow, from there I was just a short flight from starting to calculate the potential Return On Investment (ROI) and Payback Period for bees and blueberries etc. Now, here's a critical piece of background information: for all of my adult life, I have hunted, fished, owned boats, been owned by hunting dogs, bought and driven 4 wheel drive pickup trucks and spent a bloody fortune on guns, rods, bows, supporting equipment, lodging, travel, vet's bills and other sundries. The cost per pound for all of the ducks, geese, grouse, venison, bluefish, striped bass, bluegills, walleyes, trout... must measure in the thousands of dollars. Not once in all these years have I tried to calculate the ROI on any of this. All of a sudden, what's wrong with me? Have I spent too many years looking at the payback period for energy improvements? Have I become too attuned to the mores of a increasingly cynical country that seems to know "the price of everything and the value of nothing?" Perhaps. Perhaps it is our effort to commoditize and monetize presents and futures that is leading all of us astray. Perhaps there is no escaping Whitman. We do, indeed, contain multitudes. And, many of the multitudes I contain frequently disagree. Do you have a similar "crowd source" trying to run your life? Regardless, if we can agree that, in order for a place to be sustainable, it must be lovable, hadn't we better begin to reduce our efforts to prostitute everything we say we care about? Maybe we need more of the attitude frequently attributed to J.P. Morgan regarding yachts: "if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it." This doesn't suggest we should be reckless with our resources. Many of us have little to spend but time. It suggests to me that we need to be more mindful of the alignment (or lack thereof) between what we value and that on which we're willing to expend our resources, whatever they are. One of my personal heroes, Bobby Kennedy, seems to have covered this topic nicely when he said:
"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."
Maybe we'll end up with an apiary. Maybe the honey, if any, will replace what we've been buying. Maybe we'll have enough to sell. Maybe I'll have enough sense to remember I'm doing this because it pleases me, not just to make money. Since I don't ski, I should try to stay off of all slippery slopes. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections (sometimes mixed all together) served daily here in My Minnesota.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Safe at home?

photo of Spring flower garden
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. The Spring flowers in the picture are certainly pretty. I have no idea if any of them are edible. The idea that something as attractive as a pansy is also edible strikes me as being absolutely terrific. Recently, My Minnesota has become more and more interested in how successful we might be using permaculture concepts on the property. Following up on the blueberries and bees idea, we did some online research today. Findings from the U of M Extension Service, which doesn't list bears among the pests that affect blueberries (more problems from birds and insects), we've decided that an electric fence arrangement around an apiary should be sufficient. Now the question is whether getting hives this year would be timely. We'll wait until next Spring to add blueberry bushes. That'll leave time for soil testing and possibly amending the sand with peat and, since one will probably be needed, figuring out a water supply for irrigating our Anoka Sand Plain soil. As we've been thinking about all of this, and planting Spring gardens and contemplating Minnesota cultivars, we've also been wondering about native species and non-invasive non-native species and what it means to be native to a place and/or indigenous. We all are indigenous to earth (unless there are indeed some Martians or something among us). Earth is made of bioregions, just like we humans are made of cells and organs and systems. Bioregions are usually based on watersheds. The concept of a bioregion  normally includes human culture. The more we've begun to explore the concept of bioregions, the more they've begun to resemble a confluence of Schrödinger's cat and Heisenberg's observer effect. Flows of water and energy and food and waste occur within soft boundaries set by language and culture with most of these factors  nested from the subwatershed or neighborhood or community scale up through the watershed and region and country to the global and universal. If each of us humans had more respect for our own home places, we might have avoided the messes we've made by inadvertently transporting brown snakes and zebra mussels and purple loosestrife and loosing greenhouse gases. Have you ever considered that non-terrestrial civilizations, assuming there are such, might see humans to be a potentially invasive species detrimental to a non-Terran civilization? Far fetched, I know. But then so was the idea, only 50 years ago, that climate change was coming. I keep coming back to the fear that we probably have too many sorcerer's apprentices among us. Learning to manage what we've already created might be a better long term strategy than increasing global corporate profits with "new and improved, bigger and better" widgets or whatevers. Snyder is right, it seems to me, when he says we each should “Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.”Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

... and the living is easy

photo of late Spring flowers
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for the visit. Can you sense Spring slipping into Summer? Although the solstice is still several weeks away, meteorological Summer starts on Saturday, three days from now. There's the possibility of strong thunderstorms this afternoon. The dogs are spending more time panting, with their tongues hanging out, than they did at the beginning of the week. Thanks to outstanding effort from the daughter person and her significant other [SO], the front yard has been prepared and the white clover seed spread. We're all curious to see if this works and if we actually get a decent germination over the next week or 10 days. I don't think any of us want to contemplate astroturf/lawn. That just doesn't fit with laid back country living. Two notable brush piles have been burned recently. One more to go, for now. It's getting so we won't recognize the place. All my years of benign neglect going to waste! I try hard not to feel too envious of the demonstrations of youthful energy to which the old home place and the old home body are regularly subjected these days, although that level of energy seems to constantly be just beyond my reach these days.  Conversations about blueberry bushes and bees (would that make this place a B&B  &B?) haven't yet elicited snorts of derision. Maybe its time to start researching solar powered electric fences. I'm (re)discovering that country property can be subject to the same dichotomy that houses suffer from: is it more home or more investment? It seems the more an owner personalizes their house (property) the more challenging it can be to find a buyer when and if it comes time to sell. So, when decisions must be made about what to do with the old homestead, the question of whether you bought your house (property) as a place to live and raise a family or as an investment can become critical. If the latter, neutral beige may predominate and a distinct lack of character may seep through the "curb appeal." but make the property more attractive to the restless crowd that inhabits this country and moves every five years or so, I've read. Makes me wonder if we can make it easier for folks to come to love a place if they're leaving just as they get to know it. Do you suppose there'd be any kind of market for a "welcome wagon" type of package that highlights the local flora and fauna and seasonal features? Do you think that Minnesota's native species are too numerous to make such an effort worthwhile? Listen to me. I'm busy commoditizing and monetizing a sense of place while I'm still sorting out which trees are growing on the property. None of mine seem to have posed for the identification books we have. All of which brings me back to a realization that "life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved." Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A beautiful day in this neighborhood

photo of neighborly urban development
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. We've talked before about the idea that one of the best ways to protect great natural places is to create and maintain great cities where folks want to, and can afford to, live. An issue that comes up with creating great cities is supply and demand. There aren't enough great cities to go around. There aren't enough great neighborhoods to go around. There isn't even enough housing to go around. Over the weekend, a public discussion was triggered by a Sheila Regan column in Twin Cities Daily Planet about gentrification, which prompted comments on the TCDP site and Facebook page that the editor referred to as a debate. Frankly, I see the comments as complementary perspectives on the issue, but then I'm not trying to promote an on-line newspaper. Let's explore some basics. Great cities need people, preferably great people. (Cue Creative Class proponents.) There's aren't enough great people to go around. There aren't enough rich people to go around. Rich people (I've read) get nervous living next to poor people. All of which leaves us relying on the rest of us. [The last time I checked, 115% of us considered ourselves "middle-class."] Most of us, much of the time, don't (can't, won't) agree with the rest of us. This makes it hard to proceed without confrontational delays in "making improvements" to our neighborhood. Some developers I know of do a really good and creative job of engaging the community. Many developers (and local governments) I know have an attitude that oozes "my money (tax base), my project (ward, neighborhood, design criteria), my way." We "develop" by the classic corruption of the Golden Rule, "whoever has the gold (or rulebook), rules." Fortunately, we (cities, developers, residents, you know, those who live, work and play in (_insert name here_) seem to be learning some basic communication skills. We seem to be slowly moving in the direction of recognizing that successful democracies aren't a winner take all proposition. There are three examples I'm aware of, one on the east coast, one on the west and one right here in Minneapolis. The example on the east coast is actually taking place in my old neighborhood (when I lived in Boston). The Codman Square example uses LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) to improve (not "renew" as in urban renewal) an existing neighborhood. On the west coast, Fruitvale is a wonderful example of revitalization through transit oriented development facilitated by a local community development corporation. Finally, right here in the Twin Cities, a Minneapolis neighborhood (Loring Park) not too far from Whittier (the neighborhood Sheila Regan wrote about that triggered this posting and the comments linked above) is using LEED-ND in an asset-based development strategy. But wait, there's more. For an example of using social media to help neighborhoods manage the process of their own redevelopment, there's the Ning crowdsite as exemplified by The Granary District in Salt Lake City. As the column and comments that started this posting make clear, we need to spend more time thinking about "both/and" rather than "either/or." None of us (hard as it is for some of us to believe) is smart enough to have all the answers. We need each other and we need to learn how to meet each other at least partway. After all, we are the 99% [of the 115%]. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here at My Minnesota.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bearly for the birds

photo of male scarlet tanager
© harrington
Thanks for stopping by on what is locally a cool and cloudy Memorial Day. I have a bear visit (3 AM) and sighting (5 AM while walking Si-Si) to report. The responsible members of this household had, no doubt, brought in the bird feeders from the deck railing. A not-so-responsible, Labrador-loving, blog-writing, head-of-household(?) was lazy and left the front yard feeder up and partially filled. That was enough to cause some interrupted sleep when bruin visited. We'll see which of the things hanging with the feeder are salvageable later this morning. Much as the writer would like to, he doubts he would have any success with an attempt to blame the visit on all the new flowers that were planted yesterday around the front yard feeder. (You know, the bear smelled the flowers and came to investigate and that's when the feeder was discovered. Kind of like the dog ate my homework.) Anyway, as the writer and Si-Si were headed north on the gravel road early this morning, toward the pond, a bundle of black hustled across the road from the neighbor's property headed for the general vicinity of that self-same pond. Did you know that,
"a bear in a hurry tends to scamper and scurry?"
You do now. It looked very much like the same kind of tucked under butt that 2 of the dogs that live here show when they're in a big, big hurry. Si-Si, perpetually sniffing for anything good to eat, never noticed the bear crossing the road to get to the other side. So the good news is, this year keeping the feeders up through Spring (but remembering, for the most part to bring them in at night) brought visits from indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers and Baltimore orioles. The bad news is there's usually some clown in the crew who forgets to bring in one of the feeders and now the trash will have to be moved back into the garage and the feeders brought in for a long time since Barry (or Betty) Bruin will now come back to check for a free lunch, probably until the berries ripen. All in all a memorable Memorial Day. Don't forget those who made this day possible, and necessary.
Before you leave, if you care about the fracking issue, you should check Bluestem Prairie's recent coverage of the Wisconsin study. I've been involved in economic development off and on for years and I've known realistic multipliers. The ones being quoted are higher than any I was willing to accept. Stop back when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily in My Minnesota.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Swan song

photo of trumpeter swan pair
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for sharing Memorial Day weekend with us. One of the nicest aspects of living where we do, and taking the sideroads we often frequent, is the opportunity to take pictures like this. We were on our way into St. Paul this morning when we saw these swans (which may or may not be the same pair as seen in an out of the way pond several miles east of here) swimming beside a road that passes through Carlos Avery WMA in Chisago County. Today was the first time this year we've seen swans on these waters. I now get to spend time during the next several weeks wondering if I'll get a chance to see cygnets. Many of the Canada geese pairs already have goslings waddling the road shoulders. Yesterday evening we ignited the brush pile (after activating the burn permit). There's enough buckthorn and dead oak branches for at least one more burn session, perhaps two. After further conversations this morning with the more stable member of this partnership, the idea of trying for blueberry bushes and a small apiary, protected by a solar powered electric fence seems like a potentially interesting course of action. We'll see how it feels in a week or so. In the meanwhile, Si-Si got to explore the "back yard" while on a 50 foot check cord (essentially a long leash). She thought that was a pretty good deal. She's not too sure that water is for playing in in addition to drinking, but we think by them end of Summer her attitude will have changed. In ther interim, she got to blow off some steam charging around and only got herself the cord wrapped around one tree. Since it's a holiday weekend, we're going to settle for a shorter than usual posting today and wee what tomorrow brings. Come again when you can.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Leafing through Spring's abundance

photo of Spring day lilies
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. Before we get started on today's conversation, the daughter person tried to leave a comment on yesterday's. Since the functioning of Blogger's comments function seems erratic at best, I never got the comment so she sent an email with a link about attracting indigo buntings. Thanks, daughter person. Now to today's topic(s). The interesting stippled patter you see in the picture is caused by an infrequent visitor to Minnesota called sunlight. The tan background is caused by a superabundance of oak leaves. Since the predominant trees (not counting buckthorn) on the property are oaks, especially near the house, oak leaves everywhere are to be expected. Today, four adults spent unconscionable amounts cleaning up last year's (actually, several year's worth of) oak leaves from the flower beds, driveway edges, air conditioning unit, and similar locales where an abundance of oak leaves is more of a hindrance than a help. The green shoots you see are day lilies. I suspect that many, but not all, of them are tawny (orange) day lilies. I recently read that most day lilies don't spread across your property. Tawny day lilies were specifically excluded from the well behaved day lily category. Since we have an annual abundance of oak leaves (that would be a sustainable supply to some folks, since it seems as if they continue to drop forever and ever) and oak leaves help make soil acidic, I believe. I've been contemplating the idea of using oak leaves to mulch large (currently nonexistent) beds of blueberry bushes on the sand hill in back of the house. Supposedly, blueberries like acidic soils. The big unanswered question is whether this could grow (pun intended) into a "pick your own" farm or whether the local deer and bear populations would leave (no pun intended) the literal "slim pick'ens" for humans after such critters enjoyed nightly forays into the aforesaid blueberry patch. These are among the more interesting and perplexing current considerations of this aspiring country squire. Before we get to any of the berry patch kids stuff, however, we're going to confirm or deny the prospect that clover (as a replacement for dead lawn) is basically immune to canine urine. I'll let you know after next winter. What laughingly passed for lawn in front of the house didn't make it through last winter and the major culprits seem to be two of the now three dogs in the house. The third wasn't here last winter so she can't be blamed. Besides which, she's my dog which makes her almost always blameless. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here in My Minnesota.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Just add water?

photo of male rosebreasted grosbeak
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for the visit. I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and spend at least some of it remembering those for whom Memorial Day was named. In the past day or so, the several rosebreasted grosbeaks have been joined by an indigo bunting and at least one scarlet tanager. I personally have seen the tanager but not the bunting. Several members of the household claim that the presence of the previously rare to non-existant bunting and tanager is attributable to having added a bird bath insert to the flat feeding tray (which was replaced with another flat tray). Much as I'd like to believe that (and consequently take all the credit for my brilliant bird attraction skills) I think the world is a little more complex than "just add water" and rare species will arrive. My personal belief, and that's all it is for now, is that there's been a subtle shift in the forest mix or level of maturity, or both, or something, that's making the area more attractive. Lord knows when either is around it's almost impossible to miss them, although, not having personally seen the indigo bunting I'm hoping it wasn't a mistaken identification of a bluebird. Minnesota is smack dab in both tanagers and buntings Summer range but I don't recall seeing any tanagers and only rarely buntings and never previously at the feeders/bath. Another addition of water occurred today. We all went and tried our hands at fly fishing for bluegills at and in a local pond. The breeze was both too strong and too much in our faces [literally] for reasonable, let alone ideal, conditions. No 'gills were hooked (by us at least). However, despite a contrary wind, neither did we hook ourselves or each other. It did feel good to get out and give it a try. I'm looking forward to some future, calm evenings with bassbugs and prowling largemouths. Stay tuned. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here in My Minnesota.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sing a song of Spring sense

photo of flowers in bloom
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for visiting. I'm ready to nominate today as one of the three prettiest days of 2013. Have you noticed that almost everything that can bloom and blossom is? Take a moment, stop, step outside if need be, and draw a deep breath? No matter where you are in My Minnesota, I bet if you do that you can smell freshly-cut grass. And, for the next several weeks, if you slow down a bit from your normal hectic pace, you'll catch the aroma of lilacs. I still remember from my time in grammar school, the nuns used to prohibit students and their parents from bringing large bouquets of lilacs (or even small ones) to school; something about soporific smells diminishing the already distracted attention of students on sunny afternoons who were already looking forward to Summer vacation. I can vouch for the fact that there are few places in Minnesota, or elsewhere, that there is a concentration of lilac blooms sufficient to be inhaled at 70 mph. (The same can't be said about barns in greater Minnesota on a warm June evening, however.) After a long, cold Winter and Spring, having all of our senses assaulted at once is a delight. We get to hear birds singing, smell the "roses", see flowers every which way we turn, feel cool, Spring zephyrs or gentle rain on our skin, and taste the good life in Minnesota (which sometimes includes fresh walleye or bluegill fillets). Those poor folks in their high-rise penthouses should have it so good. Oh, I know, we've still got bills to pay, chores to do, bosses (or clients) to assuage and problems to solve. This is still the time of year to savor small pleasures, and some large ones too. George Copway (Kahgegagahbowh), Ojibwe, is quoted in The Wisdom of the Native Americans as saying something perfect for this time of year: "I was born in Nature's wide domain. The trees were all that sheltered my infant limbs, the blue heavens all that covered me. I am one of Nature's children. I have always admired her. She shall be my glory: her features, her robes, and the wreath about her brow, the seasons, her stately oaks, and the evergreen -- her hair, ringlets over the earth -- all contribute to my enduring love of her." Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Make belief

photo of Spring wildflowers
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for visiting. Today, let's pretend. OK? We'll pretend that some day the rain will stop and the sun will come out and it will be warm. Just like in some fairy tales. And then, and then, we'll be able to go out and see wildflowers just like the ones in the picture above. I believe the pink flowers in the lower center are hepatica. Believe means that I don't know for certain. If I knew, I wouldn't have to believe. Sometimes, it makes me happier to believe something is true rather than to know the contrary. For example, I believe there could be fairies, especially in the Irish countryside and in the less inhabited parts of this country. I believe they hang around with fireflies and Spring peepers. I believe my dog Si-Si likes/loves me. She seems happy (tail wagging) when she comes to say Hi! after I've been away at work all day. But, you know, I really don't know what's going on in her head or her heart so it's my belief, not knowledge. What do you believe? Do you believe that Minnesota is not a perfect place, but the right place for you? Do you believe that we could do better at protecting the things that make Minnesota Minnesota? Where in Minnesota is important to you? Why? Is it where you fell in love for the first time? Is it where you heard your first loon cry or wolf howl? Is it where you saw your first dwarf trout lily? Where your child was born? Your children go to school? Where in Minnesota is home to you? We Americans are a restless people. We move often and, sometimes, far, like from the Massachusetts coast to the St. Croix valley. Do you know what watershed you live in? Do you know where your drinking water comes from? How far away does your food grow? I know, I ask lots of questions. One thing I learned a long time ago (it's something I know) is that, if you don't learn to ask the right questions, you'll never get the right answers. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Native wisdom

Hi! Thanks for taking time from building your ark to visit. When this rain stops and the sun comes out and warms us and the soil, you'll be able to hear the plants growing. The little guy(?) in the picture is Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose) or, according to some who know more than I about such matters, a pasque flower (cultivated, not wild). Last year on March 24 it looked like the picture above. This year, on May 21, it looks just about the same as it did last year on March 24. That's about two months variation. I've often thought, and said out loud more than a few times, if Minnesota we more like its averages than the extremes we "enjoy," then it would be a much more pleasant (but less interesting) place to live. The time of year doesn't seem to have as much impact on the vocal outbursts from our friendly, local barred owls. This morning on our walk in the dark and the mist, about every minute or so, Si-Si and I heard "Who-cooks-for-you? Who-cooks-for-you-all?" I believe I enjoyed the calling more than Si-Si who, had you been there to see it, obviously enjoyed the morning's smells more than I could or do. To each his or her own. Speaking of which, recently I've been doing a lot of reading about Native Americans (North Country: The Making of Minnesota and The Wisdom of the Native Americans). You know,  the first people who lived in North America before it was "discovered" (see yesterday's posting about "discovering" the local pair of swans) and from whom Europeans "bought" the land. Ae major difference between the two cultures was/is their relative perspectives on the "ownership" of land. I was particularly moved by the statement by Black Hawk [Sauk] in The Wisdom:
My reason teaches me that land cannot be sold. The Great Spirit gave it to his children to live upon and cultivate as far as necessary for their subsistence, and so long as they occupy and cultivate it they have the right to the soil, but if they voluntarily leave it then any other people have a right to settle on it. Nothing can be sold except things that can be carried away.
As I think about the difficulties we current dwellers on the land have dealing with climate change, green house gas reductions, protecting the quantity and quality of our surface and ground water and the minute by minute loss of habitat and environmental services we impose upon ourselves and others, I wish we had learned more from our predecessors in My Minnesota. Do you think we still could? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Celebrations

photo of sandhill crane in rushes
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for visiting. Today is a day full of celebrations. This morning, the daughter person was awarded her Master's Degree in Human Resources (and Industrial Relations) from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota. Celebration #1 was lunch at the Dockside in Stillwater. Celebration #2 was finding a parking space withing walking distance of the Dockside. Celebration #3 was because we didn't get rained on during lunch. (The rain actually didn't start until 20 minutes or so after we finished lunch and had done some other errands and were on our way home.) Before we get to some of the other things we're celebrating today, let me ask you: Can you see a sandhill crane in the picture above? It's almost exactly in the middle and it looks almost exactly like the stumps in the picture. After I took this photo, I looked again and the crane had disappeared. I didn't see it fly away. My wife, sitting in the car, said she didn't see it fly either, but neither of us could see it any more. Magic? Did you ever read about the cloak of invisibility in Harry Potter? We think the crane sat down and became invisible. It worked like magic. Now, on the way back from lunch today, driving in the rain, we took the back road by the swan pond and there they were. So, my wife and daughter got to see the swans that were "discovered" (they knew where they were the whole time) the other day. Celebration #4. But, you say, why the story about the disappearing crane? Since you asked, I'll tell you now. Not a quarter mile from the swans, on top of a hill in a freshly disked field were 6 or 7 or 8 sandhill cranes. Celebration #5. It's not every day we get to see a whole flock of cranes. Celebration #6 is because we all got to share the first 5 celebrations together (daughter person, her significant other; my wife, me). I'd say that's pretty good for a rainy Monday in May in My Minnesota. One more celebration: today is the last day of the legislative session. I hope they all get safely home, chill out, and come to their senses before they start a session again next year. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Find your place on the planet

photo of Spring sunrise
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for the visit. Living in the moment and enjoying ephemeral pleasures while they last seems to be a skill I'm still acquiring. This morning, Si-Si, the yellow lab, and I walked beneath a stunningly pink sunrise. Picture everything blue above looking like the sky was nearby when a pink cotton candy machine exploded. I'm grateful Si-Si got me up in time to see it. Ten minutes later, it was gone, and not a trace left. Yesterday, I would've sworn there wasn't a dendelion in the entire state. Today, I noticed their bright yellow blossoms almost everywhere.  Now, I know there are those who consider dandelions as nothing more than pernicious weeds. Most of these folks are focused on maintaining the purity of their Kentucky bluegrass lawns. That's sort of like being concerned about maintaining the purity of a bed of purple loosestrife or zebra muscles. None of the three are indigenous to North America. Dandelions can be used as food; to make wine; and for medicinal purposes. Bluegrass serves as cover for small animals and as food for insects. The seeds are also animal food (if allowed to grow to a point that seeds are produced). I'm not suggesting we rid North American of Kentucky bluegrass (although, if we're going to consider eliminating non-indigenous species it would seem to qualify). I am proposing that our fixation on monocultures such as corn, soybeans, pine plantations, Kentucky bluegrass lawns and industrial-scale agriculture is sorely misguided. My mother and grandmother repeatedly told me when I was young: "be careful what you wish for, you may get it." I took that to mean, if I wished for a pony, I'd best be prepared to muck out the stall. It seems to me we have become like the sorcerer's apprentice. We wish for magical solutions without being willing to put in the effort and sacrifice needed to support them over the long term. First it was magical herbicides. Weeds responded so we needed magical genetic modifications so our agricultural production could survive more and stronger herbicides.I don't know of anyone, outside of Wall Street or the Tea Party or a few farmers, that thinks magic is a sustainable solution to the challenges we face. I'm coming more and more to appreciate the wisdom of Wes Jackson, Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry and the approach outlined by Ian McHarg in Design with Nature. Nature has been working out sustainable strategies for eons. Perhaps we should try a little harder to understand how she does it. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily in My Minnesota.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Legislative llamas?

portrait of a llama
© harrington
Hi. Thanks for the visit. I've been checking the Internet for the outcomes of issues the legislature is supposed to take care of this session. I don't mind telling you that I'm not pleased with the way a number of things are being resolved. One of my major disappointments is the legislature's unwillingness to pass a reasonably stringent (I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it? But, just as there are known knowns and known unknowns and unknowns, there are unreasonably lenient, unreasonably stringent and reasonably stringent regulatory solutions.) regulatory framework for frack sand mining in the environmentally sensitive region of southeast Minnesota, an area laced with trout streams supported by public and private investment. Perhaps I shouldn't expect more in a country that concurrently subsidizes tobacco farmers and tries to reduce the health impacts of tobacco use. (Alternative approach, work with farmers on the development, growth and marketing of replacement crop(s).) Nevertheless, I can't get over the incredible shortsightedness (a polite term for a 9 letter word that also begins with "s") of thinking that the same agency that has failed to properly manage groundwater in and around White Bear Lake and other locations in My Minnesota is somehow now going exhibit the necessary wisdom to protect trout streams heedlessly exposed to industrial exploitation by the frack sand industry and understaffed local governments. If ever I've seen "magical thinking" I'm looking at it now. Of course, this is the same basic crew that brought us e-pulltabs as a solution for the Viking's stadium. One of the reasons I'm so incrediblt frustrated is that I expect this kind of nonsense fro pro-business Republicans. I keep, foolishly it seems, having the high hope that Democrats represent an alternative. All too often, they don't. So, this brings me to an alternative approach: legislative llamas as environmental protection animals. The serve as guard animals protecting flocks of sheep and goats from being ravaged by predatory animals. Mightn't they be trained to serve a similar role in legislative committees and floor sessions? I mean how much of a transition could that be. Even a llama could see that what's being proposed as a successful compromise (see Sally Jo Sorenson's coverage in Bluestem Prairie) is a recipe for failure. I'm not sure I fault Sen. Schmit as much as the "Democratice leadership" (speaking of oxymorons) that is failing our citizens and their environment. If legislative llamas drove off the predators from the appropriate hearings, maybe with the help of a few livestock guard dogs, might'nt we be better protected than we are now? They'd also be a more organic way to keep the capitol grounds in shape than using fossil fuel powered mowers. Thanks for listening. Cme again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Friday, May 17, 2013

It's blooming May! It's blooming, May!

photo of blossoming pear tree
© harrington
It's a blooming wonderful time of year. Or, maybe, it's a wonderful blooming time of year. We are experiencing a major outbreak of floweritis eruptus. Thanks for taking the time to stop and smell the flowers with us here at My Minnesota. The rain showers should help a lot with greening up and damping down the fire danger. The back yard pear tree is almost exactly a month behind last year's schedule. One the way home, a flock of male goldfinches flushed from the side of the gravel road like shrapnel from an exploding gold mine. The Canada geese are mostly paired up. I've seen very few turtles crossing the road so far. I don't think things have warmed up enough yet for them to be active and laying eggs, although nature seems to have reached and passed the tipping point from Winter to Spring and is now on the downhill slide into Summer. We'll have a full moon in about a week. The Anishnaabe call it waabigwani-giizis, meaning blossom moon. Have you noticed the fresh smell of wet Spring air? James Russell Lowell, a fellow New Englander, wrote "...what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days;..." may be technically correct as far as he went, but he should have given more acknowledgement to the growing perfection that is May in Minnesota. Until the season's thunderstorms with wind and hail arrive to blow them away or knock them down, many of our trees and shrubs grow more enticing with their blossoming beauty and their flowering frailty. Winter and Summer seem to settle in and stay for awhile. Spring in Minnesota is the essence of ephemeral. We need to enjoy it while we can. We earned it last Winter. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It is what it is, is it?

photo of male rose-breasted grosbeak
Welcome! Thanks for the visit. Have you ever thought about the fact that a male rose-breasted grosbeak doesn't have to look like this? The color pattern is similar to that of a downy or a hairy woodpecker: black and white and red. Somewhere along the evolutionary line, after birds evolved from dinosaurs(?), grosbeaks became grosbeaks. Now, we're learning that what we have come to believe is pristine wilderness, has been manipulated by our ancestors. Take a minute to skim True Nature, I'll wait. Now, if you skimmed to the end, let me try a different spin. Humans are part of nature. Humans and the rest of nature have been co-evolving since forever, or thereabouts. Nature has developed a fair amount of resilience to cope with humans ability to "screw things up" and, if I understand evolutionary theory at all, will find a way to knock us out of the picture if that's what's needed to keep the planet functioning. To the extent there's an element of truth in my hypothesis, I feel better. It reinforces my preference for a universe, or at least a world, based on emergent, self-organizing systems. It also seems to mean that our desire to attain or maintain some sort of stasis or end-state of balance with nature may be very misguided. One of my past heroes, Steward Brand, publisher of the Whole Earth Catalogue, once said something to the effect that "we have become as gods, we might as well get good at it." Now, I have just enough classical education in my background to be deeply troubled by what I see as a massive amount of hubris. I remember quite well the contrary quote "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." (Euripides). All of this is going to make me go back and re-read Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild in an attempt to fit this new perspective into a framework I've been trying to incorporate into my life. Talk about someone moving my cheese! In many ways, Snyder seems to have anticipated this more recent perspective. He wrote "...we must consciously fully accept that this is where we live and grasp the fact that our descendants will be here for millennia to come. Then we must honor this land's great antiquity--its wildness--learn it--defend it--and work to hand it on to the children (of all beings) of the future with its biodiversity and health intact." Could this be another way of saying "the more things change, the more they remain the same?" What do you think? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served daily at My Minnesota.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shades of green

photo of Spring leaf out
© harrington
Most of Minnesota is under Very High and Extreme fire danger ratings. Farmers are in the fields. Spring has arrived in Minnesota and you have arrived at My Minnesota. Thanks for coming. There's a good sized brush pile on the property awaiting the lifting of burning restrictions. On the way out to do an errand, the SO and I noticed several charred areas that probably weren't intentional controlled burns. On the way back from doing that errand, we spotted a pair of swans on an out-of-the-way pond nearby. I'd been watching for swans in the Carlos Avery pools and had been disappointed that I hadn't seen any. I doubt there's anyone who doesn't think that swans add class to the neighborhood. The "greening up" that you see in the picture isn't nearly enough to keep grass fires, once started, from quickly spreading out of control. As Spring progresses, and the ice melts in lake Mille Lacs, the greens will spread and deepen and the burning restrictions disappear like fog on a sunny day. Have you ever taken some time to notice how many different shades (colors?) of green there are in the Spring? Different trees leaf out on different schedules; there are different species of grass with various blade shapes and kinds of green. Have you pondered why all this variety exists? Tree leaves don't have a particular reason that I can envision to exist in the variety they do. There's crowns and understory and strategies for capturing and storing sunlight through photosynthesis. I get that, but it still doesn't give me any real insight why nature might not have accomplished the same thing with just one or two shades of green. I find myself wondering also if different shades of green are good for nature, might not a variety of shades of green building programs also be good for us? I'm not suggesting greenwash, but if some programs are focused on affordable housing, as they are, and others on local building markets, as some are, and others on the top 25% of buildings, as one is, are we better served than if there were only on system? I would think so if we had a better equivalency or correspondence among the programs and if they represented full coverage potential for our building stock. Right now it's challenging, to say the least, to find a green rating system for a moderate rehabilitation or renovation of a moderate-priced single family house. Some of us are working on that. I like to think it may be the equivalence of finding and ecological niche that needs filling. What's your take? If we have miles per gallon and car fax for our vehicles, shouldn't we have something comparable for our homes? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Not all black, not all white

photo of lambs in a pen
© harrington
Thanks for visiting. Watch out for crazy weather. Lots of ice on Mille Lacs over the weekend, and now, on Tuesday, it's already 85°.  We weren't at Mille Lacs this Mother's Day. We did stop by the Shepherd's Harvest sheep and wool festival but you probably figured that out from the picture. It's become a fairly regular annual or biennial activity to see what the weavers and herders are up to. The question of adding sheep and/or goats has been an ongoing discussion in this house for more than a decade. Just about the time that common sense starts to prevail, something happens to push the needle in the other direction. I haven't told you yet that the yaks are back! One of our neighbors has a herd of about 6 or 8 yaks. They disappeared awhile ago, maybe late last summer. I though the neighbor had made his point with the assessor, that his property really was agricultural, and that was the end of it. Once again life has proven me wrong. Yaks are really on the bubble between interesting and semi-cute. For pure aesthetics, I prefer Highland cattle, but that's just me and yaks appear to be a more manageable size. The other livestock issue that has made life interesting is a recent discussion about whether a draft horse or two is really more sustainable (has a smaller carbon footprint) than the little tractor we've been using. In part, it may boil down to the frequency of delivery of feed for livestock compared to the gas consumption of the tractor and the number of trips to or by the vet for horses compared to trips to the mechanic for tractor service. The daughter's Significant Other has become entirely too adept at this systems analysis and debating stuff (sorry for the technical term) we've been exposing him to. I no longer get a pass on "ex cathedra" pronouncements I make. Being kept one one's toes is probably good for one but not always the most comfortable aging strategy available. (I'm afraid that made me sound like an aging ballerina. Sorry for any misdirection.) The temperature is now up to 87°. I'm going to walk the dogs before it gets any warmer. Enjoy today's weather. I have no doubt we could get snow by the weekend. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily in My Minnesota.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A place in the sun?

photo of ferns growing in the sun
© harrington
Welcome! Thanks for visiting. Have you noticed that certain plants thrive in a location where the sunlight and moisture and soil type(s) best meet their needs? Along the ocean shores, there are some animals that only thrive within a narrow range in the intertidal zone, an area flooded with saltwater, usually twice daily. Bluefin tuna are creatures of the pelagic zone (open ocean). Ruffed grouse do very well in mixed-age poplar stands. With, maybe, the exception of the pelagic zone, none of these places would normally be considered to be a monoculture. Diversity, within limits, seems to provide an optimal habitat for many living things. One of my all-time favorite coffee shops is eclectic and diverse. I've been in other shops that have been the epitome of modern, with clean, simple lines. I haven't been able to thrive in them. I'm sure other folks prefer that type of place. I'm still working on the concept that if all that existed was what I like, the world could get awfully boring after awhile. Aldo Leopold has some wonderful essays on people, including him, learning that eliminating competing predators doesn't automatically mean more game for human predators. I think that we Minnesotans need to spend more time and effort thinking about all of this, and more, as we consider what kind of place we want Minnesota to be. If it were all corn and soybeans, farmers might make more money unless all the other farmland produced lots of corn and soybeans, creating a glut and low prices. How many acres of corn and soybeans do we need? How many trout streams are enough? (By the way, have you ever read Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America? Consider it for your summer reading list.) Do you ever miss the passenger pigeon? Have you seen a bison in person, on the prairie? Is it the same as seeing one in a zoo? Is baseball or football in a domed stadium as good as experiencing it played outside? Do we all have the same answer to each of these questions? Isn't the United States, and particularly Minnesota, about being the kind of place where we find ways to accommodate our differences with a minimal of exploitation and friction and bloodshed? I think that's what we started out to make, since we were founded largely by a group of religious dissidents looking for an opportunity to practice their (minority) religion in peace. We've made some fair size messes along the way it seems to me, but, overall, we seem to be continuing in the right direction despite ourselves and our neighbors. That's good, I think. What do you say about the kind of place you want Minnesota to be? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother's Day wish

photo of emerging day lilies
© harrington
First and foremost, to any any all mothers reading this, and any other reader however related to a mother, Happy Mother's Day. In case you ever wonder what, if anything, mothers have to do with place, let me assure you that my mother always, always, always managed to put me in my place. I'll forever be grateful for that, I think. Now, if you can wait several more weeks, the day lily bouquet just emerging in the picture will be blooming and will then look more like a bouquet. However, if you're too impatient to wait, please, slow down and enjoy the greening of the year. Over the past week or so, we've been enjoying replaying DVDs of the (mostly) excellent "Minnesota A History of the Land." If you haven't seen it, you should. As a matter of fact, it would please me no end if our legislature would mandate viewing be part of the middle and high school curriculum for every school district and charter school in the state. Minnesotans are proud, and rightly so, of many things they've done well. I wonder, however, if "Minnesota nice" isn't a major hindrance to what some might believe would be an appropriate sense of outrage triggered by the unnecessary ravaging of the environment and its first inhabitants. Recently, the Star-Tribune published a series of articles on The Vanishing Prairie. I'm still irritated by one of the quotes from a farmer in western Minnesota who wanted to know of those who would preserve our prairie inheritance "how much is enough?" My answer would be turn turn the question around and ask those in favor of "development" how much is enough: does the world need more carbon in its atmosphere; more prairie turned into corn and soybeans; more obese people because we sit on the couch too much eating too much disguised and camouflaged high fructose corn syrup; more sprawl and fewer and fewer places worth preserving and protecting; more writing off our investment in trout fishing and water quality in southeastern Minnesota so a few can make money shipping Minnesota silica off to help wreck Pennsylvania and New York and elsewhere; do we really need more profit and jobs or more equitable distribution of what we already have? Sorry. I got carried away. Normally reticent New Englanders with a solid dose of Irish blood tend to do that. They often have a well (over?) developed sense of outrage, even on Mother's Day. They believe in the validity of the t-shirt slogan "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention" and they hope that mothers will realize that better lives for their children means we need a better world and to get that we need to do better, not more. That's the Mother's Day wish from My Minnesota for mothers and everyone related to them by blood or marriage or motherhood.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Place, poetry, responsibility

Well, we've made it to fishing opener, even if Mille Lacs and other northern walleye factories are still ice covered. Thanks for stopping by. Have you noticed that the roadsides and ditches have really started to green up in the past few days? We've been talking about place the past few days. (At least I've been talking about it, I hope you've been reading.) I should probably have mentioned the upcoming Poetry of Place workshop on May 18 with Dr. Joyce Sutphen and Emily Brisse. As you probably know, Dr. Sutphen is Minnesota's current poet laureate. You probably don't know, however, that Emily is one of those who inspired me to start this blog. Think about going and hearing what they have to say. Another writer who has some definite ideas on place is Eudora Welty. Here's a paragraph from her book On Writing:
...It is by knowing where you stand that you grow able to judge where you are. Place absorbs our earliest notice and attention, it bestows on us our original awareness; and our critical powers spring up from the study of it and the growth of experience inside it. It perseveres in bringing us back to earth when we fly too high. It never really stops informing us, for it is forever astir, alive, changing, reflecting, like the mind of man itself. One place comprehended can make us understand other places better. Sense of place gives equilibrium; extended, it is sense of direction too. Carried off we might be in spirit, and should be, when we are reading or writing something good, but it is the sense of place going with us still that is the ball of golden thread to carry us there and back and in every sense of the word to bring us home.
Did you notice that what she says here could apply to urban or country places? What she doesn't touch on is what about place or which place "absorbs our earliest notice and attention." That suggests to me that, perhaps, Welty shares a perception with Gary Snyder who has famously said "Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there." Some of us love urban places. Others the wild. Most of us love home but could stand to do a better job of taking responsibility for it. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here at My Minnesota.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Love of place

photo of kingbird fledglings over front door
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. The birds you see are young (fledgling) kingbirds. A nest like this has been over the front door almost every year that we've lived here. Obviously, the nest is attached to the house. What other attachments are involved? I choose to believe that the previous year's offspring return to the site, instead of thinking that the location is so attractive that random kingbirds decide to nest here every year. I've removed the old (unoccupied) nest a couple of times. It gets rebuilt next season. Does that mean this strain of kingbirds is attached to this place? We know that many animals have a home range that meets their needs for food, water, bedding areas and breeding opportunities. Kingbirds are migratory. Do migratory birds have a home range? What makes a home range for humans? Do we have one? Did we ever? Many Native Americans made seasonal circuits from summer ranges to winter ranges. I've been reading that Native Americans were/are attached to places their ancestors were/are buried. I've lived more than 40 years far from where any of my ancestors are buried. I feel many attachments to New England, and remember visiting my grandparent's graves when I was younger. Is convenience part of attachment? We Americans are a restless breed. We move with an unsettling frequency and, all too often, we relocate over distances that sever ties to our ancestors and places we grew up, places full of our memories. I watched a video of a walkability workshop in a St. Paul neighborhood. Dr. Katherine Loflin emphasizes that building on assets, no matter how small, strengthens a place and, presumably, residents' attachment to it. I like that approach. It fits with the idea Steve Mouzon points out in Original Green, that, to be sustainable, a place or a building must be lovable. I think we could gain a lot if we all tried to make the world we live in more lovable. What do you think? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily in My Minnesota.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The place for a Land Ethic

photo of turkey gobbler and hen, mating display
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for coming. Yesterday, we talked a bit about attachment to place. Today, I saw Ron Madore's column about the coyote's visit. That made me think about why I'm attached to living in the country. Many of the things I like to do, such as attend a poetry reading, take a class at The Loft Literary Center, eat at a nice restaurant or see a play occur primarily in the urban center. They also occur, more or less, depending, at a certain time and often on a certain date. Try as I might, I haven't been able to schedule turkey mating displays (see above), or turtles crossing the road, or wood ducks in the pond, at a specific time or date. If I lived in the city and traveled to the country to see wildlife, it would be the proverbial "crap shoot." I'll admit that wildflowers blooming or trees greening up and leafing out are more amenable to timing a visit. And yet, if you think about the 42 day difference between ice out last year and this (that would be 6 weeks difference), clearly even horticultural schedules are more volatile than those for plays, readings or birthday and anniversary dinners. This is a long-winded way of explaining that I live in the country because I'm among the minority Aldo Leopold  was talking about when he wrote in The Land Ethic:
"Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech."
As I get older, and, presumably, wiser ('though some would question that), I find that I'm more willing to include in my standard of living the necessity of places empty except when visited by wild things. How about you? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections erved here daily in My Minnesota.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Finding our place in the Universe

photo of fungus attached to oak tree
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for stopping. Today's topic is attachment to place. There's a whole series of meetings in the Twin Cities this week examining and exploring the questions of aesthetics, social offerings and openness. There's a multiyear wide-ranging study underway on urbanism and the soul of community.  I was really happy to see the following quote from the lead consultant: "I've been to places where people clearly say, 'This is what we need to hold sacred about our place—these are the values, the characteristics, the narrative, the convenant with place that we want to hold sacred as we go down the path of growth.'" I'd be even more happy if more and more people, everyone, as a matter of fact, said that about the place they lived. As I understand attachment, it necessitates some kind of rooting or holdfast. Could it be that the development of attachment to place is a sign that our culture is beginning to mature? That we don't always feel compelled to take the short term outlook, trash somewhere and then figure out where to move on to? Many birds are migratory, but most still require certain habitat characteristics to thrive. Rivers can't thrive cleanly without mussels. Mussels can't filter feed if they're buried under silt that belongs on and would benefit farm fields. It's just possible John Muir was correct when he noted "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." To be hitched to anything else in the Universe would seem to me to require some kind of roots or holdfast. I think, I hope, we can consider this a good thing. New and improved can be better if it's authentic, organic, local.  If we learn to care for the places that we live, we might be able to help create a new and improved Universe year after year after year. That sounds like a sustainable approach to me. How about you? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here in My Minnesota.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Weave me the sunshine?

photo of Spring sunrise with crescent moon
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. There's a tiny light spot in the right-center of the picture, a little less than midway between the tree line and the top of the picture. That's the crescent moon. It was much more intriguing "in person" as I was leaving for work the other morning. Spring is once again stutter-stepping into Minnesota. The days are getting longer, Skies are, on occasion, clear. Grass is greening up and the sound of lawn mowers and tractors can be heard throughout the land. his is getting to be the time of year when rustic and idyllic start to become synonymous. Hornets are building nests on the soffits. Reports are coming in that the local tick population is thriving. Yesterday, four white tail does bedded down on the top of the backyard hill. Soon they'll be giving birth to this year's batch of fawns. Do you know what biophilia is? E.O. Wilson wrote a book about it suggesting that there is an instinctive bond between humans and other living systems. I'm not sure but I suspect it might be the antithesis of cabin fever. Another way to think about it however is to find nature wherever you are. Although we often lose track or intentionally think otherwise, we are part of nature and nature is part of us. Too often we mistake the mechanical metaphor of the universe and the world we live in with a reality that is organic, emergent and self-organizing. Thinking or believing we have the ability to manage the world (geo-engineering anyone?) is as legitimate as thinking we can control the sunrise because we know what time it will occur. It seems to me the world would be a better place if more of us were more humble more of the time. Speaking strictly for myself, I have good cause to show more humility. What about you? Can you create something as beautiful as the sunrise? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dovetailing east and (mid)west

photo of aged buildings near apple orchard
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping by. The buildings in the picture have clearly been around for awhile. Just as clearly, either they've been well cared for or they're being restored. They have character and help create a sense of place. I'm hoping that, sometime this Summer, I get a chance to go inside one or both. Have you ever heard of wabi-sabi? It's a philosophy and aesthetic based on beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete." Do you think these buildings qualify? I do. As an antidote to the constant barrage of "new and improved," wabi-sabi provides a sense of the real. It reminds me of the New England philosophy of "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" which may have been learned from my grandmother and my mother who learned it during the Depression, WW II, and the Korean conflict (a "police action" rather than a war). I also wonder if the fact that there ore two buildings reflects the prudence of someone who learned "if you find something that you really, really like, get another one before they stop making them." Now old isn't always best, although as I continue to age I find more often than not older is better. But, many of the things we've had and failed to take care of may be irreplaceable. Here's an example of not so benign neglect: 
photo of derelict dovetailed corners
© harrington
Look at those dovetail corners. How many builders/carpenters today do you think know how to do that? I'm not sure if this outbuilding is restorable. I wonder if the lumber could be put to use in furniture or flooring by someone who knew what they were doing. It just doesn't seem right to let pieces of Minnesota's history rot in place. Especially when it has inspired poets like Jim Johnson to write prose poems that accompany the photos of Marlene Wisuri and J.C. Hendricks in a book titled Dovetailed Corners. Here's a sample:
The barn roof collapsed in the middle. Tired of standing alone in the field against the odds-on popple trees, it just sat down. The logs of the one wall need time to consider. Soon they will be what they once were. Like you. In the middle of your life you came back to where you came from. Stopped the car, got out, and walked through the balsam trees. There were but two ruts where the grasses high-centered. Eventually you came to a field. In the middle of the field, so far back in the woods, so smack dab in the middle of this great continent that you might as well say in the middle of this world, now there you are. The barn roof collapsed in the middle.
I hope you enjoyed Jim's poem. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Turn, turn, turn

photo of red-tailed hawk in evergreen tree
© harrington
Welcome. I hope you've been outside enjoying the sunshine and that you realize that today's title is taken from one of Pete Seeger's masterworks. Pete turned 94 a couple of days ago. He's a living testament to progressive living. Speaking of progressive living, I took a drive earlier to day with the daughter's Significant Other [SO] through northern and eastern Chisago County. Last weekend when we were learning about prairies in Wild River State Park, we also looked for the Women's Environmental Initiative farm. We missed locating it last weekend but only by about half a mile or so. Today, we came at it from the other direction and, except for one wrong turn, found it with no problem. This is important, since I'll be making this trip weekly to pick up our Community Supported Agriculture shares and have this long-standing fixation on knowing how to get to where I'm going. As the SO and I were exploring, we had our cameras semi-handy. That's how I ended up with this photo of a red-tailed hawk that looks like it's suspended but is actually perched on the top of the evergreen. When we moved a little closer to compensate for the limitations of my telephoto lens, the hawk decided (s)he didn't want to play anymore and glided away. Earlier in the trip, SO managed a couple of pictures of a turkey vulture flying through some trees away from whatever it had been feeding on. The spring flowers, like scilla and snowdrops, have started to bloom in the yard and the day lilies are responding to the warming soil. For, perhaps, the first time this season, there's no snowstorm forecast during the next five days. Maybe we've finally turned the corner as evidenced by some local farmers starting to turn the soil. I don't know about you, but I certainly hope so. Thinking about yesterday's posting, I've had enough of Winter for now but haven't yet reached a sufficiency of Spring. Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here at My Minnesota.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Enough? Already?

photo of prairie skies
© harrington
Welcome. I think today is Quatro de Mayo, since tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and also the 15th Annual Walk with the Animals, a major fundraiser for Northwoods Humane Society. All this talk about numbers makes me wonder about what's enough compared to what's too much. Part of the key to sustainable living in a sustainable society, I believe, is to enjoy what we have and to learn when we have, or have had, enough. Take a look at the picture of the prairie and the sky and consider: is there enough sky? Would more sky make us (the viewers) happier? Is there enough prairie? Would more prairie improve the view? If more prairie made for more prairie flowers in total, would we need bigger eyes of a broader horizon or a deeper field of view to enjoy the additional flowers? My one labrador retriever makes me quite happy. If I had two, I doubt that I'd be twice as happy. Four might make me (as an individual) quite unhappy. Do you have a car? More than one? How many can you drive at one time? I really think we've lost our way when it comes to deciding we've had enough. There are studies that show that, once people reach a basic level of income, more money doesn't make them happier. The quality of relationships can and does, but, again, that's a measure of better, not more. Perhaps that's where we take a wrong turn: when we confuse more with better. I know addicts who could never get enough of their drug of choice until they passed out or died. I doubt that's what we want for ourselves, our families, our friends or our communities. Is it? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Friday, May 3, 2013

And the seasons, they go 'round and 'round

photo of Si-Si, the yellow lab
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting this fine  Winter Spring day. In case you didn't recognize it [perfectly understandable] today's title is from Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game, one of my all time favorite songs. This year, the seasons seem to be circling much faster than normal. Have I taken a nap and missed Summer? I hope not. Now, please let me introduce you to Si-Si (my spelling), the long-legged, beautiful blonde who's my new girlfriend. We've been living together for a little more than a week now, with my wife's blessing and understanding. In fact, Si-Si is my wife's idea and an early father's day gift. Si-Si's full name is Chelsea and the "official" spelling of her nickname is Ce-Ce. I think my spelling better reflects her attitude, always ready to try almost anything, especially if it might involve food or fun. Having a lab back in my life makes My Minnesota a consistently happier, more friendly place. Si-Si and Franco get along entirely too well. It remains to be seen if we can train them  to take and keep the rowdiness outside while we still have a house left. Keeping a water pistol handy helps, since Franco hates being sprayed and Si-Si finds it an interesting distraction. Labs and water, you know. Water also turns the dog run into mud, so on days like today running around like crazy as we chase each other, or digging our way to China, isn't the best way to blow off steam. It's very much like having a pair of 3 or 4 year old siblings who are stuck in the house on a rainy day and convinced that whatever one has, the other has something better that must be taken away and then displayed for all to "See what I have." If the original possessor doesn't try to reclaim it, interest is lost and other ways to tease each other are tried. We'll report back from time to time on how leading a dog's life is going around here. Meanwhile, the river crest is receding in Fargo-Moorhead, snow will soon be all melted in Owatonna, farmers may yet get in the fields this year and we should be back above 60 degrees by Monday. The seasons progress and life is good most everywhere except around White Bear Lake, right? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served daily. Come again when you can.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Don't molest natural resources

photo of American hazel
© harrington
Nuts! Hazelnuts, that is. Wild River State Park has American hazel shrubs  growing as understory in a "fenceline" of oak trees dividing the two areas of prairie we visited. If I had seen a hazelnut previously, I didn't recognize it as such. The rough bark is, I believe, one of the characteristics of this plant. Another, of course, would be the nuts themselves when visible on the plant/shrub/bush. As I understand it, it's legal and permissible to harvest nuts and berries, but not to pick flowers in state parks in My Minnesota. The all too dry regulatory language is on the revisor's web site under administrative rules. Now, here's where I may start to get a little snarky. I understand and support the prohibition of destruction of state property, especially property managed on behalf of all Minnesotans by the Department of Natural Resources. Unfortunately, this would be the same DNR that's been permitting groundwater withdrawals to the point of unsustainability (withdrawals exceed recharge, so groundwater levels drop). Ron Madore has an article on MinnPost that's written with more journalistic objectivity than I could easily manage if I were writing about the same topic, which, in fact, I did several weeks ago. [You can use the search box and enter "groundwater" for additional postings.] And, since they're in session and, theoretically, could do something about the abysmal and deteriorating condition of our groundwater, let's remember that state agencies are supposed to operate within a framework set by our legislature who, when they're not busy pandering to well-heeled constituents, are only too willing to raise taxes on the middle class. How about raising user fees on groundwater to the point where we might see some conservation? How about requiring new construction to use fixture's approved by EPA's WaterSense program? How about requiring water utilities to implement retrofit programs for existing homes with rebate programs for WaterSense labeled fixtures? If there's anything to these rumors of some sort of warming trend, maybe we commonsensical Minnesotans should try a little to get ahead of it by doing a better job of adapting and conserving the resources we have. Thanks for coming and listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.