Sunday, June 30, 2013

Freedom -- just another word?

photo of herd of bison in a pasture
© harrington
Hi! Does your neighborhood have its own buffalo bison herd? That's using the term neighborhood in the rural sense, you know, less than an hour's drive. This herd is about 10 to 15 miles away. Across the road from them, and slightly to the west (toward Center City) is a herd of red deer. I mention them because, together with the yak herd, they mean we live in a pretty exotic locale, or, at least, a locale with exotic neighbors. I have mixed feelings about that. Bison, according to MNDNR, are extirpated "in the wild" from their range in Minnesota. We did that. Perhaps not you or I specifically, but our predecessors and ancestors killed them in great numbers. More of them managed to escape habitat destruction and slaughter than was the case with the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon is permanently extirpated not only from its range but from the earth. I forget who wrote it, but I remember being impressed at the idea that people are a little more humble when they aren't obviously the most dominant animal around. Now you and I both know that we can readily be done in by a bacteria or virus transmitted by a mosquito that is abysmally small and difficult to swat. That's not what I'm talking about. I know that my whole being functions in a different register when I'm walking through an area known to support wolves, or bears, or pumas, or buffalo. (Actually, in one case it was bulls in a moonlit pasture in Vermont.) It did me a world of good to be put in my place as another animal with vulnerabilities. What started me on this train of thought is the fact that this is Fourth of July week. America is big on celebrating our independence. Too often we forget that we're part of an interdependent world. Too often we confuse independence with freedom. In the coming days, we'll talk some more about Freedom and Independence, including Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms (which did not include a freedom to extirpate to the point of extinction). In the interim, we might do well to remember another perspective on freedom, found in Kris Kristofferson's wonderful lyrics from Me and Bobby McGee: "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." Enjoy the upcoming holiday. Come back when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily from slightly left of the middle of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Memories made, memories recalled

photo of common daylilies blooming
© harrington
Hi! I hope you're enjoying the weekend. Thursday, on the trip to pick up the CSA share at Amador Hill Farm, I noticed for the first time this year common daylilies blooming. Their location was much sunnier than our roadsides. I expect ours will start some time over the next few weeks. I was surprised to learn that common daylily flowers are edible and that the plant is considered an invasive species. When I read that another name for the common daylily is tiger daylily, I was reminded of Tiger Lily from Peter Pan. Memory is a fascinating process. I doubt that I've seen or thought about Perter Pan for more than twenty years. Recollection of Tiger Lily was close to instantaneous. Ask me what I had for lunch yesterday and it's likely to take some time and effort on my part to recall. (Of course, many of my lunches aren't terribly memorable.) Memory can be and is selective, misleading, limiting (old injuries) or expansive. I still remember the clarity of the water in Dumbell Lake, the bright day, the roundish rocks on the bottom and the walleyes with their heads wedged between the rocks. The lake, as many in Minnesota, has a fish consumption advisory based on the mercury content of walleyes. I hope you have some great memories, accurate or not, of your own Neverlands in Minnesota. I'm grateful to live on the edge of the St Croix River watershed. Although Minnesota's lakes appeal to many (including me when I'm after largemouth bass), I've always been drawn more to moving water than to still. This seems to be a trait I'm fortunate to share with Raymond Carver. Here's one of his poems. It captures many an evening I've spent in Minnesota (and other) waters.

The River

I waded, deepening, into the dark water.
Evening, and the push
and swirl of the river as it closed
around my legs and held on.
Young grilse broke water.
Parr darted one way, smolt another.
Gravel turned under my boots as I edged out.
Watched by the furious eyes of king salmon.
Their immense heads turned slowly,
eyes burning with fury, as they hung
in the deep current.
They were there. I felt them there,
and my skin prickled. But
there was something else.
I braced with the wind on my neck.
Felt the hair rise
as something touched my boot.
Grew afraid at what I couldn't see.
Then of everything that filled my eyes—
that other shore heavy with branches,
the dark lip of the mountain range behind.
And this river that had suddenly
grown black and swift.
I drew breath and cast anyway.
Prayed nothing would strike. 
Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A time to every purpose ...

photo of summer field with clover
© harrington
Hi! Have you noticed that June is basically gone? One third of the Summer has slipped by. Have you enjoyed it or, like to many of us, have you spoiled your enjoyment by complaining about the clouds and the rain and the humidity and the ...? Over the past few days, as I've notice the way so much of the neighborhood has emerged into Summer's fecundity, with blossoms and blooms beginning to develop into seeds and fruit for Autumn's harvest, I've realized how many miracles I've taken for granted these past years. In six months, My Minnesota has transformed itself from frozen, frigid fields into warm terrain erupting with life. This evening, several does with their dappled fawns dashed across the back field; flocks of chrome yellow goldfinches exploded from the feeder as I pulled into the drive; scattered showers enriched the air with the smells of Summer. The more I've paid attention so I can share events with you in this blog, the more I've learned how much I normally miss of the daily and weekly changes that go on all around us. These changes occur as much and as often in the city as they do in the country. They're just not as obvious. An interesting, charming, delightful and informative urban nature exhibit is in place in Minneapolis. It's focused on how nature asserts itself in an urban place. I think we'd all be better off, and happier to boot, if we slowed down and paid more attention to what nature's up to wherever we are, urban, rural, in between and beyond. After all, we are each allotted only so many Summer days. Perhaps we should consider more carefully the questions Mary Oliver raises in

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer seen(s)

photo of late June corn field
© harrington
Welcome! Today we picked up our first Community Supported Agriculture [CSA] share from the WEI farm at Amador Hill. Lots of greens, some brilliantly red beets and, for the third out of three times, I got turned around (I don't get lost) on my way there. Chisago County does some interesting things with their road names and road sign alignments in the northern part of the county. One of the reasons I'm picking up the weekly CSA shares (and the organic cookie shares) is to use the trip as an excuse to get out and explore and see what's changed since the prior week. That also means that getting turned around becomes an excuse for further exploration, not aggravation. This trip I learned that Sunrise, Minnesota is the home of "world famous actor, Richard Widmark." Who knew? I also noticed that while some of the fields of corn may be knee-high by the Fourth of July, others look like they won't be knee-high by July Fourth next year. Quite a few folks seem to have hit an early season window of opportunity for timely planting that others missed. The few soy bean fields I saw were barely ankle high. Purple vetch is coming into bloom more and more. One farmer was getting what I presume is his first cutting of hay. The Sunrise River is flowing what looks to be bank full. In the middle of a sunny afternoon, there were three separate does (or one very, very fast doe) standing in their rich Summer pelage feeding in the middle (not the edges) of several of the farm fields I passed. One of them was almost directly under an empty-until-November, home-built, deer stand. Their fawns were no doubt well hidden in thicker cover waiting for mom to come home. All in all, clearly Summer has arrived and is starting to settle in for a spell in My Minnesota. That makes today a good time to share this Joyce Sutphen poem from her recently published After Words.

Making Hay at Jimmy Willikee's

Because I loved the sound of his name,
and because his land was hilly (and ours
wasn't) and his place was on the other
side of town, I always wanted to help
with making hay at Jimmy Willikee's.

It was like going to the moon, somewhere
foreign, where cows had horns and church bells
rang unexpectedly over the trees.
At noon, we stopped to eat our sandwiches
and drink cold water from a mason jar --
the ice just little floating flecks of white.

I wondered why Jimmy Willikee let
us cut his hay -- wasn't hay the best thing
in the world? He must be a very rich man
(that Jimmy Willikee) to have so much
hay that he could let us come and make
it into bales that we would drive slowly

along the almost impossible road
between Jimmy Willikee's place and ours.
Thanks for listening. Stop back when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Morning mistery

photo of misty morning on the river
© harrington
Hi! Have you noticed how humid it's been recently? One of the few nice things I can credit high humidity with is scenes like this one. The water is the Sunrise River, flowing essentially north through Carlos Avery WMA on its way to the St. Croix River. Later in the day, even if the dewpoint stays up there, clear skies and sunshine place a completely different, harsher, aura on this pool. There are lots of reasons I enjoy being up and out and mindful at dawn. Being able to enjoy sights like this is high on that list. Most days (but, unfortunately not all) this early time usually means nothings had a chance to go awry yet. The human noise level hasn't yet peaked so the birds and animals and leaves and grasses can be heard more readily. Mary Oliver, in A Thousand Mornings, has a poem that seems to fit the scene above perfectly, or, maybe it's the other way around.

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to

where everything
sooner or later
is part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.
I hope you find times and places in your life that make you feel quite beautiful. We all are, you know. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The times they have a'changed

photo of misty sunrise
© harrington
Hi. Thanks for stopping by. Yesterday morning was one of those times I really would have liked to have eyes in the back of my head. At the same time that the (almost) full moon was setting (see yesterday's post), the sun was rising looking like this through the mist. Once again some of us were faced with more beauty than we knew what to do with. Instead of staying where I was and enjoying the sunrise/moonset, like a d**n fool I climbed back into my car and headed off to the office. Taking time to smell the roses, or watch the sunrise, or notice that the beardtongue is past peak and the purple vetch is starting to bloom is good for me. I know that but don't follow my own advice often enough. Any of you have similar issues? Yesterday, the Daily Kos had a fantastic piece about two Robert Zimmermans. It made me realize how lucky my generation (talkin' 'bout, The Who) is to have grow up, and start to grow old, with the likes of Dylan and Baez and the first Earth Day (brought to you by a river that caught fire and air you shouldn't breathe and a silent spring or two). We shared civil rights marches and a sense that, if we all just worked together, tomorrow would be better. At least in those long, long ago, far, far away times our split seemed not that deep and shifted more like 55-45 or 60-40 instead of 1% and the rest of us. These days I fear that My Minnesota, together with the rest of my country, has lost its way and fragmented like the mercury from a broken thermometer. We have become contentious, litigious, and obnoxious to each other. Is it possible that much of our problem is based on all of us trying to be first to market, so that we get a first mover advantage? Have we lost our ability to measure value in any but monetary terms? When I first moved here, Minnesota was proud of its reputation as a state that worked. These days too many of us aren't working, are underemployed, or are working at cross purposes. Robert Zimmerman from Hibbing refused to be cast in the role of a topical singer. My Minnesotans, I hope, could equally refuse to be cast in the role of followers to leaders from either coast and could once again find our own drum to which we can march together into a reclaimed and restored prairie, supported by clean water, clean air and clean energy. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Monday, June 24, 2013

To plan, or not to plan ...

photo of Super moon
© harrington
Hi. Thanks for visiting. Instead of going back and correcting yesterday's post, we're posting a (partial) correction and retraction today (we didn't get all of yesterday's posting wrong, just part of it), with apologies for not having fact checked our sources in the first place. We now want to shed at least bright moonlight on the fact that Minnesota does have a Prairie Conservation Plan. The Executive Summary is dated June 22, 2011. It was developed by the Minnesota Prairie Plan Working Group which includes representatives from The Nature Conservancy, MNDNR, USFWS, MN Prairie Chicken Society, MNBOWSR, Pheasants Forever, The Conservation Fund and the Lessards-Sams Council. The plan, rare for something of its ilk, includes evaluation measures. It also includes estimates of implementation costs. I suspect, as with most good ideas these day, the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan could use more awareness of its existence as well as substantially more financial support. I may have missed something in all the years that I was a regional environmental planner, but I always thought that having a plan, no matter how much it might need improvement or enhancement or funding or support, was not the same as not having a plan. But then, I was surprised to learn (according to the Internet) that Paul Ehrlich seems to have said something about keeping track of all the pieces when we tinker even before Aldo Leopold said something very similar. At least I assume Ehrlich said it first, since he was older than Leopold. (Ehrlich: 1854 - 1915; Leopold: 1887 - 1948). This quotation isn't quite as troublesome, however, as the one about the best way to invent/create/predict the future, which is variously attributed to Alan Kay, Abraham Lincoln and Peter Drucker. I suspect that what we can be sure of is that insightful, creative, useful ideas will often have more than one source. Now, please go and download a copy of Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan, read it, and figure out what you can do to help implement it. To crib another quote, this one from Will Rogers (I think): Go buy land prairie, son. They ain't makin' any more of it. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections (sometimes accompanied by [mis?]quotes) served here daily.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sundry thoughts on a sunny afternoon

photo of horses in a pasture
© harrington
Welcome. As you can see from the picture, the neighbor across the road keeps horses. I think they're "retired" draft horses. I know they look wonderful standing around and grazing in the back pasture. I've mentioned that the neighbor down the road has a herd of yaks. This neighborhood has become eclectically rustic and bucolic. On the other hand, we could use many more dragon flies and bats to thin out the local flocks of mosquitoes. Since we're out side the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, we don't have to be concerned about any of their contract helicopters crashing in the neighborhood. On the other hand, from what I've read, MMCD does a more thorough job of control than the local bats, birds and dragonflies. (What would Rachel Carson think if she saw what I just wrote?) Widely scattered showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast for the next several days. I think our current weather pattern is preferable to an extended drought, but am self-centered enough to wish we could limit our rains to one day every three or four, with sunny skies and gentle breezes and temps in the mid-70s in between. I know, I'm describing heaven, not our Minnesota. Speaking of Minnesota, yesterday, Dennis Anderson had a column in the Strib about our lack of an overall plan for prairie preservation and wildlife conservation. He lists a number of organizations involved:
"Yes, we have the Department of Natural Resources. And the Board of Water and Soil Resources. And the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, among other state and federal agencies.
"Minnesota is also home to more and more active wildlife, conservation and environmental groups than any other state. And we have the Legacy Act, which provides about $100 million a year for fish, game and wildlife habitat.
"But Minnesota’s conservation and natural-heritage preservation problems can’t be solved by a wetland project here and a wildlife management area established there."
It's probably just me, but it seems that the Ojibwes and Dakotas, and other Native Americans, could be asked what they think. I seem to recall rumors that Native Americans were living sustainable lives using indigenous, renewable resources, for quite awhile before we white folks showed up and spoiled the party by monetizing natural resources. I wonder if any of our resource agencies (governmental or nonprofit) thought to invite any "first peoples" to the Summit. I agree with Dennis that it's going to take all the resources we can muster to preserve what we have left. Maybe the Ojibwe and Dakota bands living in Minnesota and the Dakota's (heck, I'll even include Wisconsin) could be shown how and why it's worth their while to take part in a prairie reclamation effort. Maybe, by making it clear to Native Americans, we could then be more successful in explaining it to the rest of us. We're talking about trying to "create a commons." From what I've read, Native Americans are much better at living with and managing a commons than capitalistic Anglo-Europeans. What do you think? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Arks and covenants

photo of field of beardtongue
© harrington
Welcome. Living on the Anoka Sand Plain in the Sunrise River Watershed is a fine place to be these stormy days. As much as sand is highly permeable, and the rain that falls should drain through more than flow over the land here, the rains we've received the past few nights have resulted in sheet flows even over sand. Evidence is displayed in the leaf litter and gully patterns observable when the water's mostly gone and the rain has temporarily ceased. This set of affairs has started me thinking about the permeability rates of porous pavement and the design storm parameters to be used in designing future stormwater systems. The earlier idea was to move the water as quickly as possible away from the sight. We're learning that that results in higher stream flows and more bank and bottom erosion. It also increases in-stream water temperatures, affecting, usually negatively, indigenous life. So, if the design concept is to enable the first inch or so of rain to recharge the groundwater and flow into rain gardens and green infrastructure, and the developed area is consistently and persistently subjected to rains that fall at the rate of two inches per hour, we might seem to have a problem. Is it possible that fewer, more irregular, more intense storms won't sufficiently recharge our groundwater? Could this issue be further compounded be well-meaning but potentially misguided advice to keep growing and draw our water supply from "underutilized" surface waters? Might we be faced with the prospect of even higher wastewater treatment bills since "intelligent" water supply intakes would occur upstream of treated wastewater discharges, thereby reducing the amount of water on which treatment levels are based? Is anyone looking at all of this as an integrated system? Are the differing agencies talking to each other honestly and frequently enough? Has the legislature been awakened from its soporific approach to water management? I think it's time for me to once again drag out and dust off one of the best paragraphs ever attributed to Bobby Kennedy:
"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. 
To which I would add "It counts the benefits of mismanagement of our natural resources and the cost of repairing the results of mismanagement. Unfortunately, for those of us among the 99%, the benefits usually go on the private side of the ledger and the costs fall to those of us poorly represented enough to pay taxes. Thanks for listening. Stay warm and dry. COme again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Celebrate solstice?

photo of beardtongue flowers
© harrington
Hi! You're looking at beardtongue, a member of the snapdragon family. That helps mnemnonically because they start blooming about the same time dragonflies show up. In case you're looking for a wildflower guide book, I can tell you that Prairie Plants of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum: Including Horsetails, Ferns, Rushes, Sedges, Grasses, Shrubs, Vines, Weeds, and Wildflowers (yes, that's all one title, and yes, Minnesota wildflowers grow in Wisconsin) is rapidly becoming my favorite. [No links to Amazon since they dropped their Minnesota affiliates because of our new sales tax law. "My Minnesota" never was an affiliate, but there's a principal involved here.] Uses of beardtongue by Native Americans include toothache relief by chewing the root and rattlesnake bite antidote. I'll see if I can confirm at least the toothache part in Strength of the Earth, a guide to Ojibwe uses of native plants. Unfortunately, that book is lacking an index so finding specific plants is more than a bit of a challenge. All of this, as you no doubt have figured out already, fits into a broader effort of becoming indigenous. Although I appreciate the beauty of wildflowers, I'm also interested in their practical uses. I don't promote the idea that things should be protected and preserved if, and only if, they have a utilitarian value. The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. [Paul Ehrlich] I suspect (and hope) you also agree that it's worth preserving something if, and only if, its only use is to add to the beauty in the world. On the other hand, I strongly suspect there's much more beauty in the world than most of us take time to appreciate. I think for now I'll go find and appreciate some of the pleasures and beauties in my neighborhood. I suggest you do the same. After all, it's Summer solstice. May you all enjoy wonderful Midsummer Night's Dreams tonight and for the rest of this Summer. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Apple polishing

photo of Summer storm clouds
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. If the weather forecast is to be believed (and when is it ever not?), we'll see more skies like this over the next several days. The rain, should we actually get some, will be good for the new apple trees, which look a little strange ensconced in their gator bags. I'm told not to expect fruit for several years (assuming we can protect them from the deer and the pocket gophers and moles and ... ). That's something to look forward to (eating the apples, not trying to protect the trees). I'm familiar with, and really enjoy, Honeycrisp, a cultivar developed right here in Minnesota. I'm not at all familiar with Snow Sweet, another Minnesota-developed apple, but I like the description. Autumn has long been one of my favorite times of year. If you ask me (which you haven't, but you should), Minnesota does a much, much better job with Autumn than she ever has with Spring. As for Summer, look at the picture and tell me it's not a mixed bag. But then, I suppose in it's own way, each season has its high points and fans as well as low points and those who are just trying to get through it. Several years ago, I came across "The Apple Lover's Cookbook", probably in Yankee magazine. I'm going to have to check and see if Snow Sweet apples are in it. (Report coming soon.) From the beauty of their first blossoms in Spring through the drowsy drone of Summer's bees to the taste treats of fresh apples in Autumn and apple pie in Winter, apples are a joy for all seasons. What joys do you find in each of Minnesota's seventeen or twenty-one different seasons? Thanks for sharing and for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Summer also rises

photo of Summer sunrise
© harrington
' afternoon. Yesterday's sunrise, like the one pictured above, seemed designed to to remind us of the stanza in The Vision of Sir Launfal. Prelude to Part First., by James Russell Lowell, that begins:
And what is so rare as a day in June?
  Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
  And over it softly her warm ear lays.
This morning dawned without the spectacular colors. The light, instead of bursting upon the scene, quietly flowed and circled across the landscape like water from a quiet back-eddy in the nearby St. Croix. The wild flowers (and flowering weeds), the towering cumulus clouds, the gentle breezes, the cool mornings followed by warm afternoons like this, all help us put aside long, cold Winters and longer, wetter Springs. Are you doing anything to celebrate tomorrow's Friday's solstice? I think we'll be breaking in a new charcoal grill. The old one, after only twelve or fifteen years of service and neglect, waved an ash-gray flag and surrendered. The new one is larger and has a protective shield to keep the ashes from being blown all over the place as it's being cleaned. The griller in the family is pleased and I'm pleased to consume the results. The septic tank pumper finally arrived today and did his thing. The white clover planted in the front yard has come in as thick as a Berber carpet. Now, once we get back the tractor (broken belt) and the tiller (tune-up), we should be back at full strength. None of this, however, will do anything to deter our record-breaking swarm of mosquitoes, whose diminutive size is inversely propertional to the itchiness of their bites. All in all, a typically fine Summer is emerging in My Minnesota. May yours help you lay in a store of warm memories to draw on next Winter. Thanks for the visit. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer, time

G'd afternoon. This is what the local roadside is looking like these days. The first dragonflies of the season apparated this past weekend. The orange daylilies should start blooming soon. Summer seems to be settling in, just in time to celebrate the solstice. The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things... Have you seen fireflies these past few years? I don't remember seeing any for quite some time, and I miss them. This afternoon, a great blue heron flew across the road at slightly more than treetop height. It definitely looked cretaceous. The emergent laziness of Summer makes me want to slow down. I'm reminded of the poem by James Wright

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

By James Wright 
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   
Down the ravine behind the empty house,   
The cowbells follow one another   
Into the distances of the afternoon.   
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,   
The droppings of last year’s horses   
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
If you've never been to or through Pine Island, it's in southeastern Minnesota, near Rochester. I hope your Summer (and mine) are as well wasted as James Wright's. Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gosling (not Ryan)

photo of geese and goslings
© harrington
Welcome. In honor of the ghost of Father's Day past, observe the proud parents and the gangly offspring goslings (say that fast three times). The families have only been roadside every several days. This appearance was early this morning as I headed to work. I think my photography development is paralleling my development as an angler. First I just wanted to catch a fish. Then I wanted to catch lots of fish. Then I wanted to catch the biggest fish. Then I just wanted to catch fish with a fly rod. I'm still at the "I just want to get a photo" stage. I hope soon to have made it to the I want a good photo stage. We'll see. One of Tony Hoagland's Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America is Mary Oliver's Wild Geese. That seems as if it would go particularly well with today's photo. If you want to hear it read, as it was about this time of year on Writer's Almanac, follow the poem's title link.
Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Does the world call to you? Are you sure? Are you listening? Often, I've found that the world is talking to me and I'm too busy talking to myself to hear it. Try sitting quietly, by yourself, every once in awhile. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants. raves and reflections served daily.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

photo of two apple trees being planted
© harrington
Hi. Thanks for stopping by. The picture shows the daughter person and her Significant Other [SO] planting the two apple trees (Honeycrisp and Snow Sweet) they, with my son, gave me for Father's Day. Materials and labor included. You can see from the pear tree to the left that, once established, fruit trees will survive on our sand plain soils. The challenge is to get them to survive long enough to become established. Daughter and SO have promised to keep the new cousins to the pear watered using alligator bags. The trees are older, and therefore larger, than prior plantings. Maybe that, combined with watering for two or three seasons instead of just one, will lead to success this time. I hope so. All in all a very thoughtful Father's Day present. As I write this, my early present, SI-Si the blond wonder lab is lying down and napping behind me and I, for the first time this "season," am sitting on the screen patio reading, writing, enjoying the warmth and the breeze, and looking forward to a juicy lucy and french fried onion rings for dinner. In a good year, at least once or twice a year, life is good. Any and all rants will have to wait until tomorrow. Today is an opportunity to sit back and experience gratitude for my life, my family and My Minnesota. I wish all of you as much. Come again when you can. Before you leave, see what you think of this poem by Robert Hayden. I think it honors very nicely fathers, families and Father's Day. I know it reminds me of my father.

Those Winter Sundays

By Robert Hayden 
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wild! flowers! weeds?

photo of prairie wildflowers
Welcome. Atypically, I just showed enough sense to come in out of the rain. We were taking the dogs for a walk and "she who remembers these things more readily than I" was once again trying to teach me about the wildflowers blooming on our property. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. The same may be true about the way to a man's brain. If it walks, flies or swims and I hunt or fish for it, my species identification is pretty good. Maybe if I started eating wildfowers? Anyhow, here's a list of some of what's presently blossoming within several hundred yards of where this is being written. Perhaps typing names and linking references will help me remember and provide you with an incentive to learn.
Speaking of learning (as we were above the list) while researching this post I learned the the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (our tax dollars at work) has an interesting and impressive web application the lists all the vascular plant in Minnesota, by county and several other factors. Well done, DNR. More research is required to find a reliable resource (or resources) for foraging purposes. Suggestions?
Finally, for today, I spent some time this morning reading a wonderful essay by Tony Hoaglund in Harper's, Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America. One of those poems focuses on a creature that is special to me. Here's the poem, I hope you enjoy it:
God’s Justice
By Anne Carson

In the beginning there were days set aside for various tasks.
On the day He was to create justice
God got involved in making a dragonfly

and lost track of time.
It was about two inches long
with turquoise dots all down its back like Lauren Bacall.

God watched it bend its tiny wire elbows
as it set about cleaning the transparent case of its head.
The eye globes mounted on the case

rotated this way and that
as it polished every angle.
Inside the case

which was glassy black like the windows of a downtown bank
God could see the machinery humming
and He watched the hum

travel all the way down turquoise dots to the end of the tail
and breathe off as light.
Its black wings vibrated in and out.

From: “Glass, Irony and God” page 49
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Seeds of change?

photo of prairie wildflowers
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. I'm not sure what it is about prairies that continues to draw my attention and affection, but they do. Broad horizons and sweeping vistas (to use cliched phrases) are natural to those of us raised at oceanside, plus, there are few flowers blooming on the ocean's expanse. Native prairies, as far as I know, contribute little in the way of water pollutants and they serve as carbon sinks. These qualities will become increasingly important as we adapt and adjust to climate change, try to reduce the amount of green house gases we discharge, and, reduce our impacts on the quality of the lakes and streams of which My Minnesota is so justly proud. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been told by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to start setting lower limits on the permitted phosphorous discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants. This is the kind of action that would usually have me saying "about time." Not this time. I'm not in favor of pollution. I am in favor of accountability and picking low-hanging fruit. Most (about 60%) phosphorous comes from stormwater runoff.  Stormwater runoff phosphorous comes largely from agricultural fields. Unfortunately, agricultural fields aren't owned very much any more by family farms. They're corporate owned and operated, often by tenant farmers (today's version of sharecroppers). Look up a former agriculture secretary's advice to "get big or get out." We've done that and then some. As far as I'm concerned, a corporate person should be held to the same accountabilty standard as a local government. How much of the soy beans and field corn produced these days goes to feed Americans. And if we're using corn to produce on ethanol, does it make sense to trade increased water pollution for reduced air pollution? I'm glad that my friends at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy were successful at pushing EPA to lean on MPCA to set stricter limits in discharge permits. I just think it would make more sense if we also had discharge limits for tiled fields. Instead, we're all happy and giggly that Minnesota is undertaking a study of voluntary reduction in agricultural runoff pollution. About time. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Spring into Summer

photo of prairie wildflowers
© harrington
Hi! Happy Summer. Are you enjoying it? Since tomorrow's forecast calls for late day thunderstorms followed by rain on Saturday, this may be all we get this year. On the other hand, with a little more sunshine, the roadsides and prairies should soon start to look like the picture above. A few wildflower-weeds are blooming along our roadsides. It's probably time for another trip to Wild River State Park to see what's happening on (in?) their prairie restoration. Have you ever thought about how easily we can destroy prairie and how much work it is to restore it? Of course, if we never made mistakes, we'd never have an opportunity to learn from the ones we make. Lately, as I've been reading about bioregionalism, I've been thinking more and more about the differences between being and becoming. From what I think I've learned of the world, stasis is not an option on an ever-changing Earth. "You can't step into the same river twice." [Heraclitus] This, then, feeds the question of being compared to becoming when we think about rootedness in a place. This isn't to suggest there is no such thing as native. Clearly, there is. I was born in New England, actually in Massachusetts, one of the six New England states. I have lived in Minnesota for most of my adult life. When I return "home" from time to time I don't necessarily feel at home in all my old haunts (You Can't Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe). Neither am I a Native Minnesotan, although I continue to become more of one. As with many things, perhaps we are looking at both nature and nurture, since many who were born in a place often fail to appreciate its qualities. Perhaps it's like the successional stages of plants following disturbance of what had been there. Perhaps, like the seasons and succession, it is an ongoing dance of adaptation and adjustment. Perhaps becoming native means being sensitive to, aware of and openly embracing  where we are at any moment. Perhaps, for now, I should leave you with this Spring Song fragment of becoming. Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Spring Song

By Anonymous
Translated By Frances Densmore
As my eyes search the prairie
I feel the summer in the spring.
Source: Chippewa Music II Bulletin 53 (1913)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sunrise rainbow

photo of rainbow at sunrise
Welcome. What you see here is proof positive that the Anoka Sand Plan and the Sunrise River come together at the end of the rainbow. We also have to agree, I think, that rainy weather can been good for making rainbows as well as Spring flowers. Laurie Hertzel of the Star Tribune points out in today's column that rainy weather is also good reading weather as she notes a number of books by Minnesota author's scheduled for publication this autumn. I'm not quite ready to give up on Summer just yet. (This gives you an idea of the level of denial and unrealistic, romantic, optimism of which I am occasionally capable.) Let's continue to find reasons to celebrate our Minnesota weather. Rain has the Sunrise River, and others, flowing nicely. It's ended the drought, at least for now, and is probably beginning to replenish our groundwater, on which we are so dependent, being at the headwaters of several major river systems. Plus, although the rainy days have gotten wearisome, rain has also inspired, or helped to inspire, some wonderful poetry. Here's an example:

The Rain

By Robert Creeley
All night the sound had   
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,   
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,   
even the hardness,   
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,   
something not so insistent—
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,   
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,   
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.
Be wet with a decent happiness encompasses emotions we can all share about now, can't we? As Annie sings:
"The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!"
Thanks for listening. Until tomorrow. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Snaking through the watershed

map of the Sunrise River watershep
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Hi! Come on in. Yesterday we talked about the Anoka Sand Plain. We also live in the Sunrise River watershed, which is part of the larger St. Croix River watershed, which, in turn, flows into the Mississippi River watershed and then into the Gulf of Mexico, from which water evaporates, is often carried north, falls as rain and ends up in the Sunrise River watershed.  We just covered much, but not all, of the hydrologic cycle. Gary Snyder and bioregionalists think we should know in which watershed we live. (When I'm at work, I'm in the Mississippi watershed.) Many of the waters in the Sunrise River shed (and elsewhere in Minnesota) are "impaired," that means they don't meet one or more standards to be suitable for fishing and swimming. I suspect that watersheds are going to become more and more important in My Minnesota as we find ourselves facing more and more situations like that in the White Bear Lake watershed. The lack of alignment between political boundaries (see those straight lines around the blue shading up above?) complicate resource management issues. As one of our favorite authors, Bill McKibben, is supposed to have said, "The laws of Congress and the laws of physics have grown divergent, and the laws of physics are not likely to yield." Think about it. On a brighter note, the MNDNR habitat study we talked about yesterday mentioned Blanding's turtles, hognose snakes and bullsnakes. Since living in the area, we've seen all three. Also supposedly common in Minnesota is the redbelly snake. We saw one of those last year and another (I think it was another and not the same) this year, but never before that we remember. All this talk about snakes reminds me of an Emily Dickenson (she's a New Englander, you know) poem, The Snake :
A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him, — did you not,
His notice sudden is.
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,
Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun, —
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.
Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
 Thanks for listening. Come back when you can. Rants, raves and reflections (and sometimes poetry) served here daily.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sand plain, sandhills

photo of two sand hill cranes
© harrington
Hi! I hope by the time you're reading this it's sunny and warm wherever you are (even if you're south of the equator). The two brownish blobs in the picture above are sand hill cranes walking across a broad, flat, sandy farm field. On the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources web site and you can find a page on the "Anoka Sand Plain." Once there, you should be able to locate, at the bottom of the page, a link to a PDF titled Tomorrow's Habitat, with a subsection on the sand plain. Much of what you're going to see below comes from there.
 A broad, flat, sandy lake plain dominates the majority of this area and forms the eastern and northern boundaries. Historically, the predominant vegetation was oak savanna and upland prairies surrounded by varied wetland complexes.
... Urban development and agriculture (primarily sod and vegetable crops), which occurs in about one-third of the subsection, has resulted in the loss of prairie and savanna and drainage of peatlands.
This subsection is well-known for sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, bald eagles, bobolinks, and lark sparrows. Other important species are badgers, Blanding’s turtles, and gopher snakes.
• Important habitat features include dry prairie associated with scattered wetlands, rivers, and streams, which provide excellent habitat for Blanding’s turtles, both species of hognose snakes, and bullsnakes.
• Some of the best examples of dry oak savanna in the state occur in this subsection.
•    Carlos Avery WMA and Sherburne NWR are important stopover sites for migratory birds.
So, you can see why we feel very lucky to live where we do. However, despite seeing scarlett tanagers and orioles, we don't recall ever seeing a bobolink (near here or elsewhere). The other thing about bobolinks, is that the good folks at Cornell don't seem to think that a yellow headed blackbird (which we do see on occasion) rates as a "similar species" to the bobolink. Maybe their definition of "similar" isn't based on appearances? Finally, for now, the lark sparrow looks (to me) a lot like a chipping sparrow. I may need to do some more watching with a book in my hands. Thanks for the visit. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here dail.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wet weather wears out welcome!

photo of hummingbird at feeder
© harrington
Welcome. I fear the hummingbirds may be spending the weekend in their nests with covers pulled up to their bills in this windy, wet wearisome weather. More seasonal and winning temperatures are supposed to arrive during the week. Well, we'll see. (In case you haven't figured it out, today's alliterative winner is the letter "W.")  When was the last time you felt winsome, warm and wonderful (I mean since you turned the heat off for the season, whatever that means). Will we welcome Summer weather when it wends its way to where we wait? Or, will we complain it's too hot and wince as it wears out its welcome? Whatever. The white clover has germinated and is wrapping the front yard in wonderfully verdant miniature windrows. We''l watch for wiped-out brown spots when we reach snow melt next Spring. Meanwhile, we've become interested in the possibilities of three sisters plantings. I'm thinking that making compost and using that to either mound or raise the edges of a bed to retain water would work. It may be late for this season (and we've got the CSA shares coming, although starting a week late) but next year waits for a season's worth of compost. What do you think? Can we weave cultures with native warps and western Euopean woofs? Or would that only be for wookiees? Thanks for weading. Come back when you wish. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here in My Minnesota.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A moment of your time?

photo of small flock of turkets
© harrington
Hi. Thanks for the visit. This morning, before the cloud cover returned, four of these folks were back. They spent fifteen or twenty minutes standing almost completely still in the sunshine on the hillside. If they were cats, they might have been curled up and purring. I know I could use time curled up with a good book in a quiet corner in the sun. Maybe an opportunity to do that will present itself before the Summer's over. Then you might be able to hear me purr. I've been wondering more and more if other animals are actually all that different than us human animals. Let me clarify that. I've been wondering if animals have an internal life and, if they do, how much like ours might it be? For example, I've read that animals "live in the present" and so they don't worry. This makes me question how we think we know that animals aren't subject to time. Don't we seem to have difficulty understanding ourselves, let alone putting ourselves in someone else's shoes? The current issue of Poetry magazine is full of photos of current Afghanistan and stories about and poetry from those living there. It made me appreciate my accident of birth. It made me wonder how, in the 21st century, humans live and think as many do. I also realized though, that no matter how I might think, my feelings are comparable to those experienced by all humans, all over the world, for all times. The more we learn about the world we live in, the more we find other animals using tools and communicating and being clever. Perhaps those of us in "first world countries," on our [all too rare] best days have, in an evolutionary sense, become the equivalent of prepubescent youth, while others are still functioning at the level of the "terrible twos." Perhaps other species reached ecological maturity some time ago and we humans, being literally the new kids on the block, have a lot of growing up to do. Maybe as we mature, we'll learn to more readily live in the present. How's that life thingy working out for ya? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily here at My Minnesota.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The birth of a season

photo of Canada geese on a pond
© harrington
Goslings, protected by geese and ganders, are walking (waddling) roadsides (photos soon). In woods away from roadsides, whitetail deer fawns are fast finding their feet for a lifetime of fleeing. Hummingbirds are at the feeder. This is a magical time between the start of meteorological and astrological Summer. I remember, years ago, when my children were just that, reading to them from Spring is a New Beginning. There seem to be few poems about fawns that fit this late Spring, early Summer season of birth. One of the better ones I've found is by Edna St. Vincent Millet. Try this:

The Fawn

There it was I saw what I shall never forget
And never retrieve.
Monstrous and beautiful to human eyes, hard to
He lay, yet there he lay,
Asleep on the moss, his head on his polished cleft
small ebony hoves,
The child of the doe, the dappled child of the deer.

Surely his mother had never said, "Lie here
Till I return," so spotty and plain to see
On the green moss lay he.
His eyes had opened; he considered me.

I would have given more than I care to say
To thrifty ears, might I have had him for my friend
One moment only of that forest day:

Might I have had the acceptance, not the love
Of those clear eyes;
Might I have been for him in the bough above
Or the root beneath his forest bed,
A part of the forest, seen without surprise.

Was it alarm, or was it the wind of my fear lest he
That jerked him to his jointy knees,
And sent him crashing off, leaping and stumbling
On his new legs, between the stems of the white

In My Minnesota, Summer is often too short and winter too often too, too long. Paraphrasing an old acquaintance of mine, "make it be a good season, whether it wants to or not." Thanks for stopping by. Rants, raves, and reflections served here daily. (Poetry served frequently.)