Saturday, August 31, 2013

For the birds

photo of field of sandhill cranes
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoy your Labor Day Weekend. The picture above was taken yesterday on my way to pick up this week's Community Supported Agriculture share at the WEI's farm at Amador Hill. I count something like two dozen or so sandhill cranes in that field. That's more than I've seen anywhere else locally. Within the past week, I've also seen Canada (not Canadian unless you saw them cross the border) geese, fully fledged and recovered from their molt, starting their Autumn "training flights." This makes sandhill cranes and Canada geese part of my answer to today's bioregional quiz Where you at question "14.    Name five resident and five migratory birds in your area." Here's my complete answer:

Tomorrow's question, which will get us three-quarters of the way through the quiz, is "15.    What is the land-use history of where you live?" No time frame provided. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. Poetry (see below) irregularly.

Early Frost

By Scott Cairns
This morning the world’s white face reminds us   
that life intends to become serious again.
And the same loud birds that all summer long   
annoyed us with their high attitudes and chatter   
silently line the gibbet of the fence a little stunned,   
chastened enough.

They look as if they’re waiting for things
to grow worse, but are watching the house,   
as if somewhere in their dim memories
they recall something about this abandoned garden   
that could save them.

The neighbor’s dog has also learned to wake   
without exaggeration. And the neighbor himself   
has made it to his car with less noise, starting
the small engine with a kind of reverence. At the window   
his wife witnesses this bleak tableau, blinking   
her eyes, silent.

I fill the feeders to the top and cart them   
to the tree, hurrying back inside
to leave the morning to these ridiculous   
birds, who, reminded, find the rough shelters,   
bow, and then feed.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Grass stains

photo of grasses in early Spring sunlight
© harrington
Hello. Thanks for visiting. Today we're up to Question "13.    Name five grasses in your area. Are any of them native?" Since my area includes rural roadsides, prairie and farmland, as well as some typical residential subdivisions, in east central Minnesota, there's a wide range of grasses from which to select five. Here they are:
  1. Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) native
  2. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium var. scoparium) native
  3. Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis subsp. Pratensis) native, moderately invasive
  4. Reed Canary Grass (Phalaris arundinacea) Europe/native hybrid, invasive 
  5. Side-oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula var. curtipendula) native
Today I'd like to share with you the opening stanzas of a poem I dedicated to Paul Gruchow and was fortunate enough to win a poetry competition with.
                                         John Harrington
What if
Pasque flowers dwarfed you as you
Reclined under prairie stars
All heaven-scattered above prairie grasses
Infinite in their reach
Reminding you of your diminished
Insignificant role in a universal scheme of
things where
Even the prairie and the grasses are ever

Where now can you see
Great horizon-sized bison herds, when what
Remains are only clustered preserves of an
Antique land that was carved into plough-
sized plots
Sliced into fading fragments
Shorn of natural wealth
Ebbing from grass stems to corn stalks
growing beneath prairie
Sunshine, starshine, embedded in a prairie
Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. Poetry added irregularly.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fawning over the same old rut

photo of doe in mid-summer
© harrington
Hi. For the past week plus, we've been trying to understand and answer the questions from a bioregional quiz called Where you at. Today we're at Question "12.    When do the deer rut in your region and when are the young born?" According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, "White-tailed deer mate from November to early December. Their young (often two fawns, weighing eight pounds each) are born seven months later." That would make fawning time in May or June. Most years that would have fawns being born after Minnesota's late spring snowstorms. There are folks who interpret rut differently. Some break it down into a number of specific phases. Others look at seasonal patterns. In any case, it's important to learn

How to See Deer

  by Philip Booth
Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You've come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You've learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling:
in deep relief

things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.
- See more at:

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. If you're interested, tomorrow's question will be          "13.    Name five grasses in your area. Are any of them native?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer shadows shortened

photo of Shadowed summer sun
© harrington
Hi! Ready for today's question? Here it is: "11.    On what day of the year are the shadows shortest where you live?" The answer is on the summer solstice, which, in the northern hemisphere occurs between June 20 and 22. The shortest shadows occur when the sun is highest in the sky. I'm sure each of you knew this and did well on this question. Gary Snyder doesn't mention short shadows in this poem, but he nails the sun straight high and blazing part.

Above Pate Valley

By Gary Snyder

We finished clearing the last   
Section of trail by noon,
High on the ridge-side
Two thousand feet above the creek   
Reached the pass, went on
Beyond the white pine groves,   
Granite shoulders, to a small
Green meadow watered by the snow,   
Edged with Aspen—sun
Straight high and blazing
But the air was cool.
Ate a cold fried trout in the   
Trembling shadows. I spied
A glitter, and found a flake
Black volcanic glass—obsidian—
By a flower. Hands and knees   
Pushing the Bear grass, thousands   
Of arrowhead leavings over a   
Hundred yards. Not one good   
Head, just razor flakes
On a hill snowed all but summer,   
A land of fat summer deer,
They came to camp. On their   
Own trails. I followed my own   
Trail here. Picked up the cold-drill,   
Pick, singlejack, and sack
Of dynamite.
Ten thousand years.
Tomorrow's question will be a two parter: "12.    When do the deer rut in your region and when are the young born?" Join us if you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

To everything, there is a season

photo of trees covered with Minnesota hoar frost
© harrington

Welcome. Today we're at the halfway point of the Where you at bioregional quiz. We're up to question "10.    How long is the growing season where you live?" And I thought, being unduly optimistic for a change, that this would be a fairly easy and straightforward question. Here's the table of the growing season length for Forest Lake, which is right down the road.

Derived from 1971-2000 Averages

Base  Median  Shortest  10%  90%  Longest
32 158 128 140 178 191
30 165 138 143 186 194
28 179 150 163 207 210
24 200 150 174 216 225
20 215 189 195 230 248
16 228 197

So, is the question based on median at 32°F? That would seem reasonable. Then the answer is 158 days. I suspect one of the unspecified variables is also growing season for which plant or plants and how frost resistant are they? This seems to be another example of the more you know, the more you need to know. Speaking of knowing more, Joyce Sutphen's poem seems to note growth in every season, growth in awareness and caring.

The Farm

By Joyce Sutphen
My father’s farm is an apple blossomer.
He keeps his hills in dandelion carpet
and weaves a lane of lilacs between the rose
and the jack-in-the-pulpits.
His sleek cows ripple in the pastures.
The dog and purple iris
keep watch at the garden’s end.

His farm is rolling thunder,
a lightning bolt on the horizon.
His crops suck rain from the sky
and swallow the smoldering sun.
His fields are oceans of heat,
where waves of gold
beat the burning shore.

A red fox
pauses under the birch trees,
a shadow is in the river’s bend.
When the hawk circles the land,
my father’s grainfields whirl beneath it.
Owls gather together to sing in his woods,
and the deer run his golden meadow.

My father’s farm is an icicle,
a hillside of white powder.
He parts the snowy sea,
and smooths away the valleys.
He cultivates his rows of starlight
and drags the crescent moon
through dark unfurrowed fields.

Since we're now halfway through, this seems like a good time to share the scoring. (You are keeping score, aren't you?)

  • 0-3 You have your head up your ***.
  • 4-7 It's hard to be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all.
  • 8-12 A firm grasp of the obvious.
  • 13-16 You're paying attention.
  • 17-19 You know where you're at.
  • 20 You not only know where you're at, you know where it's at.
Thanks for visiting. I hope you're enjoying this (or at least learning something about Where you're at). Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served daily.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Trash talking

photo of black chokeberry awaiting compost mulch
© harrington
Hi. Let's get straight to today's question, shall we? That is: "9.    Where does your garbage go?" The straightforward answer is: The garbage (food waste) goes to the compost heap along with the yard waste and eventually becomes soil enrichment helping us to grow more food. Our post-consumer recycling is picked up and presumably (I've never followed the truck) goes to an aggregation/bundling center and then to processing facilities. Our trash goes to the local sanitary landfill, located one municipality south of us. We also participate in a rural equivalent of a "freecycle" by taping "FREE" signs to still usable but no longer wanted items and leaving them by the road. See why it's essential to clarify what's meant by "garbage" to answer this question? Ted Kooser nicely mixes these meanings and more in this poem:

In the Basement of the Goodwill Store

By Ted Kooser
In musty light, in the thin brown air   
of damp carpet, doll heads and rust,   
beneath long rows of sharp footfalls   
like nails in a lid, an old man stands   
trying on glasses, lifting each pair
from the box like a glittering fish   
and holding it up to the light
of a dirty bulb. Near him, a heap   
of enameled pans as white as skulls   
looms in the catacomb shadows,   
and old toilets with dry red throats   
cough up bouquets of curtain rods.

You’ve seen him somewhere before.   
He’s wearing the green leisure suit   
you threw out with the garbage,   
and the Christmas tie you hated,   
and the ventilated wingtip shoes   
you found in your father’s closet   
and wore as a joke. And the glasses   
which finally fit him, through which   
he looks to see you looking back—
two mirrors which flash and glance—
are those through which one day
you too will look down over the years,   
when you have grown old and thin   
and no longer particular,
and the things you once thought   
you were rid of forever
have taken you back in their arms.
Tomorrow we'll be halfway through the quiz when we answer question "10.    How long is the growing season where you live?" Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily, often with a rasher of poetry.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Where do all our flakes come from?

photo of snow falling on pines
© harrington
Welcome. I hope the sight of snow doesn't shock you too much, especially as a contrast to our current 90°+ heat wave. It goes with today's bioregional Where you at quiz question: "8.    From what direction do winter storms generally come in your region?" Since both snow and rain fall "down", the obvious answer is "up." On a more serious note, the prevailing Winter winds in Minnesota are consistently from the Northwest. This means that Winter storms generally come from the Northwest (Alberta clipper, anyone?).

Tomorrow's question "9.    Where does your garbage go?" is going to require us to decide whether it refers to garbage as only food waste, or in the more generic sense as all trash. The answers vary significantly.

 You might want to take a break from thinking about your garbage to enjoy this Hayden Carruth poem about other aspects of Winter storms.

I Know, I Remember, But How Can I Help You

By Hayden Carruth
The northern lights.         I wouldn’t have noticed them
    if the deer hadn’t told me
    a doe         her coat of pearls         her glowing hoofs
                      proud and inquisitive
                      eager for my appraisal
and I went out into the night with electrical steps
    but with my head held also proud
                      to share the animal’s fear
                      and see what I had seen before
    a sky flaring and spectral
                      greenish waves and ribbons
and the snow         under strange light         tossing in the pasture
    like a storming ocean caught
                      by a flaring beacon.
    The deer stands away from me         not far
                      there among bare black apple trees
                      a presence I no longer see.
    We are proud to be afraid
                      proud to share
the silent magnetic storm that destroys the stars
                      and flickers around our heads
    like the saints’ cold spiritual agonies
                      of old.
I remember         but without the sense         other light-storms
    cold memories discursive and philosophical
                      in my mind’s burden
    and the deer remembers nothing.
We move our feet         crunching bitter snow         while the storm
    crashes like god-wars down the east
                      we shake the sparks from our eyes
    we quiver inside our shocked fur
                      we search for each other
    in the apple thicket—
                      a glimpse, an acknowledgment
    it is enough and never enough—
we toss our heads         and say good night
    moving away on bitter bitter snow.
Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily, often with a relish of poetry.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

How to pick 'em

Welcome. If you've been here over the past several days, you know we're doing a bioregional quiz called Where you at. Today we're up to Question "7.     Name five edible plants in your region and their season(s) of availability." Let's assume, although it's not stated, that the question means wild plants and not things like late Summer tomatoes. Minnesota has an abundance of edible wild plants, including:
a)     the almost ubiquitous dandelion in late Spring, early Summer.
I was surprised to learn, from the High Country Press, that 
b)    In China, where daylilies got their start, they are considered a vegetable instead of an ornamental flower.
c)     Blueberries in July-August

d)     Raspberries in July

e) and f) wild asparagus and fiddlehead ferns
If you want to research the answer to tomorrow's question, here's the question. "8.     From what direction do winter storms generally come in your region?"

In honor of today's wildflowers and Summer, I hope you enjoy Jane Kenyon's poem. Please come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily (often with a garnish of poetry).

Heavy Summer Rain

By Jane Kenyon
The grasses in the field have toppled,
and in places it seems that a large, now
absent, animal must have passed the night.
The hay will right itself if the day

turns dry. I miss you steadily, painfully.
None of your blustering entrances
or exits, doors swinging wildly
on their hinges, or your huge unconscious
sighs when you read something sad,
like Henry Adams’s letters from Japan,
where he traveled after Clover died.

Everything blooming bows down in the rain:
white irises, red peonies; and the poppies
with their black and secret centers
lie shattered on the lawn.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Walking on the roof of hell gazing at the flowers.*

photo of Spring grassfire
Hi! Thanks for stopping. Today we're up to question 5 of the bioregional quiz. Here it is: "5.    When was the last time a fire burned in your area?" The first challenge is to decide what's meant by "in your area." In our back yard, we've already burned several brush piles so far this year. Somehow, I don't think that's what's meant by the question. Minnesota is known for grass fire season each spring. There is usually one or more local grass fires that comes within a mile or two of the house each season. Does a mile or two constitute "in your area?" Or, is the question framed from the perspective of Westerners who have to deal with forest fires that cover thousands of acres and more? Does it refer to things such as controlled burns, used for prairie restoration and/or major forest fire suppression? Or, does it refer to major conflagrations such as the great Chicago Fire or, right up the road but separated in time, the great Hinckley Fire? Perhaps we'll find question 6 more straightforward. Shall we try?

"6.    What were the primary subsistence techniques of the culture that lived in your area before you?" The area where I live is about midway between historically identified Ojibwe villages (to the north) and Dakota villages (to the south). Each of these cultures used hunting and gathering and horticulture as subsistence techniques. Over time, as white settlers invaded the area, each of these cultures became increasingly dependent on trade with the white culture. I find it questionable, however, if that fits a reasonable definition of primary subsistance technique. (YMMV) My primary references are: North Country, The Making of Minnesota and Mni Sota Makoce, The Land of the Dakota.

This brings us to question "7.    Name five edible plants in your region and their season(s) of availability." I hope you'll be able come back tomorrow so we can compare notes on our answers. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.
*Gary Snyder

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Raindrops keep falling on my head

photo of wet day in the backyard
© harrington
Hi! We've been working our way through the bioregional Where you at quiz. Today we're up to question "4.    What was the total rainfall in your area last year (July—June)? Slack: 1 inch for every 20 inches.) " Yesterday, we were unduly optimistic in our suggestion that the answer might be simple and straightforward. When looking at the Chisago County Soil and Water Conservation District web site, the tab at the top of the page was clearly labeled "Rainfall Amounts," as is the web page title. However, each of the annual tables is labeled Precipitation. Those of us who have lived in Minnesota through a few Winters know that we get precious little rain in December, January, and February, although there is the occasional anomolous weather event, this being Minnesota. So, what we've decided to do is to report the total precipitation from July through June (2011-2012) minus December, January and February. Of course, if we were really into the spirit of bioregionalism, we'd have a rain gauge that we checked daily and recorded the results on a spreadsheet or in a database so we could generate our own reports. I haven't managed to bring that much daily routine to my life yet. Maybe when I retire. Anyhow, here's the answer for Lent Township in Chisago County: 2011-2012 Rainfall for July-November and March-June--27.74 inches. I'm suspicious that the original developers of this quiz may be native to the West Coast or other places where it doesn't snow very much, or they're aspiring climatologists. Finding annual precipitation is easy. Getting a breakout between rainfall and snow, not so much. Here's a fitting poem from one of my favorite poets.

April Rain Song

By Langston Hughes
Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night—

And I love the rain.

I've started researching tomorrow's question and have discovered it's a real challenge. Here it is: "5.    When was the last time a fire burned in your area?"
Thanks for stopping by. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. This afternoon it's WEI CSA pickup time. This week's contents include the usual suspects plus early tomatoes and hot peppers. Maybe the peppers will work for a cheese-stuffed, bacon wrapped pepper recipe I've been waiting to try.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Heaven above, earth below

photo of not quite full moon
© harrington
For those of you who just "tuned in," we're working on answers to a 20 question bioregional quiz know as Where you at. Today's question is:

"2.    How many days until the moon is full? (Slack of 2 days is allowed.)"

If you've recently been reading My Minnesota, and paying attention, you know that the last full moon was yesterday, August 20, 2013. The photo above was taken about 6:21 this morning, thanks to my wonderful wife who called me on her way to work to alert me. The "full moon" appears to continue for today. The Internet provides a range of answers about how long the moon is full. After reading a number of them, this one seems to me to make the most sense. To continue, the next full moon is September 19, 2013 which, as I'm sure you know, is close to the Autumnal Equinox (September 22 this year), the beginning of Astronomical Autumn. Meteorological Autumn begins September 1.

The next question took awhile to get a detailed answer. The Soil Survey for the county lacks a map. That had to be found separately. Here's the question and the answer along with some resources.
"3.    What soil series are you standing on?"

According to the Surficial Geology map, I think I'm standing on Qbc: Silt and clay facies—Silt and clay; interbedded with fine-grained sand in places; locally rhythmically bedded. Capped by less than 3 feet (1 meter) of fine-grained sand, and generally less than 10 feet (3 meters) thick. Deposited in deeper, quiet water of glacial Lake Anoka, in depressions on the lake bottom. Unit occurs at the surface likely where the overlying sand facies was stripped away by wave action as the lake level was lowered, and finally drained. Where present at the surface above the Hugo level, the unit was likely deposited in calm bays isolated from the main body of the lake, where the prograding sand facies was laid down. Interestingly, the map in no way that I can see matches the Minnesota Online Soil Survey Manuscript for Chisago County. To be candid, I have no idea whether or not to give myself credit for a correct answer to this question. Anyone want to help reconcile the sources by using the Comment option?

Tomorrow's question: "4.    What was the total rainfall in your area last year (July—June)? Slack: 1 inch for every 20 inches.)" is more straightforward and answerable.

Come back when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

All wet

photo of Summer thunderstorm clouds
© harrington
Where You At, a quiz by Leonard Charles, Jim Dodge, Lynne Milliman and Victoria Stockley, was originally published in 1981 in Issue 32 of CoEvolution Quarterly. [It] ..."is a self-scoring test on basic environmental perception of place. Scoring is done on the honor system, so if you fudge, cheat or elude, you also get an idea of where you’re at. This quiz is culture bound, favoring those who live in the country over city dwellers, and scores can be adjusted accordingly. Most of the questions, however, are of such a basic nature that undue allowances are not necessary." We'll share the Scoring toward the end of the quiz.
"1.   Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap."
About half of Minnesota's annual precipitation falls during summer thunderstorms. Since we have our own well, (discretely located at the edge of the front yard) we'll shorten the hydrologic cycle and ignore groundwater-surface water interactions and trace the precipitation to the groundwater which is recharged by infiltration of storm water. We pump groundwater that's been filtered through the Anoka Sandplain, pressurized by our pressure tank, and then, depending on whether its hot or cold water we want, flows from the water heater or not.
For folks who depend on municipal water supply, you can try checking the Minnesota Utilities GIS Data water supply section.
Tomorrow's question, in case any of you want to do some research, will be:
2.     How many days until the moon is full? (Slack of 2 days is allowed.) (Check yesterday's posting for a good start.)

Thanks for listening. I hope  you're enjoying this. Rant's, raves and reflections served here daily, often with poetry included.


By Ralph Waldo Emerson
The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Three Sisters

photo of full moon
© harrington
Welcome. Did you know that tomorrow night, Tuesday, is the August full moon. No, that doesn't make it the state fair moon. Nice guess, though. According to the Western Washington University Planetarium, the Ojibwa call this month's full moon the berry moon, while the Lakota named it "moon when the chokecherries are black." Speaking of Native American interests, did you notice the wonderful story in today's Star Tribune about "Dream of Wild Health saves traditional Indian seeds and health?" During a time when the world is literally loosing species through abnormally high rates of extinction, restoring historic plants to contemporary use seems to me to be one type of restorative development that we could use more of. The next time I'm near the Midtown Global Market, I'll stop by and see what Dream of Wild Health has to offer. Let me ask one final question (for today). Have you ever heard of the bioregional quiz "Where you at?" Reportedly, it first appeared during the '70s in the journal CoEvolution Quarterly. (Once again my hippie roots are showing.) I think, starting tomorrow, we'll go through the quiz together, one question at a time and see if we can answer the questions for various parts of My Minnesota and point others to where they can find their own answers. I hope you'll come along for the exploration. I'm not sure how we may use the answers, but I'm pretty sure we'll be better off for having found them. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Aronia

photo of hand picking Aronia berries
photo of collecting Aronia berries
photo of Aronia berries cooking
photo of mashed Aronia berries
photo of  Aronia berries being strained through cheesecloth
photo of Aronia berry juice dripping through cheesecloth
Collect Juice


Robert Frost's poem could almost apply to our chokeberry harvest.

After Apple-Picking

By Robert Frost
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Living Downsteam

photo of turtle  sunning on a rock in the St. Croix River
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for stopping by. Can you see the turtle sitting on the rock in the St. Croix? He (or she, it's hard for me to tell with turtles) could well be thinking unpleasant thoughts about whoever or whatever is doing something upstream that's creating all the gunk that's floating by. Or, the turtle could be ignoring the gunk and just enjoying soaking up the warm sunshine. I'm probably guilty of projecting and anthropomorphizing. I was certainly disappointed to see all the clumps of foam or whatever floating downstream. Perhaps the turtle was simply wishing someone had given him (or her) a membership in the WEI CSA just down the road so s/he could enjoy a nice lunch of bok choy. If that's the case, the turtle would probably eat and enjoy the Chinese cabbage raw, since there are few stoves that will fit on small rocks in the St. Croix River, and even fewer that turtles can reach the top of. For those of us with stoves we can reach, we might want to check out The Featherstone Farm Cookbook. We picked up a copy in the last year or so from the Mississippi Market Co-op. It has lots of fun reading and even more useful recipes, including Bok Choy Provencale and Stir-Fried Dungeness Crab with Sweet Chili Sauce and Bok Choy. The downstream benefits that come about when folks upstream care about their neighbors (farmers producing cookbooks being one example) are immeasurable. I know I'm not always mindful of the impact I may have on those living downstream from me, but I keep working on it. How about you? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily. And by the way, have you thanked your CSA farmer recently? Here's an example of what they go through on our behalf.
By Gabriel Welsch
Forsythia, scaled and bud-bangled,
I pruned to a thatch of leaves
for the curb, by the squirrel-gnawed
corn, silk strewn, kernels tooth carved
and husks shorn over the ground
pocked with paw prints.

The borers mashed the squash vine,
the drought tugged the roots of sage,
catmint languished by the sidewalk,
tools grew flowers of rust.

That winter we left our hope
beneath the snow, loved through the last
of the onions, watched the late leeks freeze
to crystal, bent like sedges, their shadows
on the snow. That winter we left
our hope beneath the snow.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gaining Ground

photo of orchard buildings at WEI Farm at Amador Hill
© harrington
Hi! Thanks for visiting. If you've been here before, you might have noticed one of several mentions that we've made about having shares in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)  at the Women's Environmental Initiative Farm at Amador Hill. One of the reasons we became members is to have access to  delicious, fresh, certified organic vegetables. Recently, another, not so obvious reason to be a member occurred to me. This CSA effort, along with many others, strengthens rural urban connections in Minnesota. One of the themes we've stressed here on My Minnesota is our interdependence. Urban areas such as the North Side of Minneapolis aren't the only places to suffer from disinvestment. Rural Minnesota has also lost people and investment. Not as bad as the farm foreclosure days, but bad enough that there are too many empty buildings where there used to be businesses. Operations such as WEI's are a source of reinvestment in rural Minnesota. A long-time Minnesota Institution, Minnesota Public Radio, has been reporting for more than three years now, through a project called Ground Level, on what many rural communities in Minnesota are doing in their fight to survive and thrive. I had heard some of their reports from time to time as I listened to MPR while driving to and from work. I learned today that it's become a multimedia production and an ebook through the Daily Yonder blog. The trailer, if you care about rural Minnesota, will move you. (One of My Minnesota's regular readers commented that I should say it's really, really important that you watch the trailer.) The ebook may be the reason I finally get an iPad. I've had the pleasure of visiting many of the small towns captured in the trailer, including during some of our infamous Minnesota Winter weather. We are all truly in this together. I don't believe we can protect the wonderful natural environment we enjoy in Minnesota unless we also create great cities. To that I'm pleased, if belatedly, adding "and wonderful, thriving small towns. " Ground Level legitimately and effectively makes the point that cities depend on thriving rural areas for food. (Research the growth in farmers' markets and CSAs.) To food, I'd also add urban dependence on rural Minnesota for water supply and, increasingly, for renewable energy.
photo of rural Minnesota farm with wind turbines
© harrington
 I'm extremely grateful that there are those, at organizations like WEI and MPR who recognize how much we have to loose if we let either rural or urban Minnesota fail. I'm also grateful that we have leaders in Minnesota  who are willing to take the risks necessary to help rural and urban places thrive in this climate-changed, new economy of ours. It's up to the rest of us to keep zealots, whether red or blue, from driving wedges between us so they can gain a political advantage. We need to acknowledge and act on the knowledge that we all need and depend on each other. That's what community is about. Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

And the seasons, they go round and round

photo of Summer road dust
 © harrington
Thanks for stopping by. Welcome. We've reached the beginning of the end of Summer. Due to lack of local rain, there's a perpetual haze of dust in the air over the class 5 aggregate surfacing country roads. It settles on the plants growing in the ditches and the rural mailboxes. The Minnesota State Fair starts a week from today with forecast temperatures promising this sultry season will go out in a blaze of glory, or at least a blaze. Back to School sales are already advertised. But, before Summer completes its winding down, and Autumn takes over, bringing apples and pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns and turkeys and The Circle Game and The Urge for Going, we have yet to experience Summer's end, as nicely captured in this poem. To help with any nostalgia triggered by the passing of another season, keep in mind that the author of this poem became poet laureate of the United States at 95. He was still actively publishing and promoting poetry at the time. For those of us who have already seen many Summers come and go, that's a really encouraging prospect.

End of Summer

An agitation of the air,
A perturbation of the light
Admonished me the unloved year
Would turn on its hinge that night.
I stood in the disenchanted field
Amid the stubble and the stones,
Amazed, while a small worm lisped to me
The song of my marrow-bones.
Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.
Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When you care enough to take care

photo of dovetail cornered outbuilding
© harrington
Hi. Thanks for the visit. Many years ago, I read something to the effect that, if the world suffered a major natural or man made catastrophe, we'd be in a lot of trouble trying to replicate our previous evolutionary stages because all the easily mined iron ore had been already. I have my doubts about how many of today's contractors have the skill set needed to restore, repair and rebuild the outbuilding above. I do know where many of us could learn the necessary skills, at the North House Folk School. I can't tell you how much I lust after a writing cabin like the one shown on their web page. I suspect that my youthful, "back to the land," hippie-folk leanings are reasserting themselves. One of the reasons I write this blog is that it forces me to pay attention to what's going on in the world around me. The more I see of the ordinary built environment, the greater the cause for discouragement. The next time you're walking through a neighborhood, particularly in the suburbs, take a hard look and ask yourself, "what here is worth conserving?" Regular readers know that I grew up in Boston, home to the U.S.S. Constitution, "Old Ironsides." That ship is but one of many pieces of our history located in New England that we've found worth preserving. There are houses in New England that are hundreds of years old and still in daily use. How many of our contemporary houses can we expect to serve that long? Have we become too fixated on the cost of our houses more than their value? The last time I checked, which was awhile ago, about two-thirds of the cost of a house with a relatively typical thirty year mortgage was the interest payments. We're paying more for money than for quality housing. More and more, I'm finding that model to be of highly questionable sustainability. But, since the "value" and price of housing always increases, what could possibly go wrong? Everything's returning to "normal" now, right? Right? If we want to create a sustainable world, we have to create one that we care about, preferably one that we love. Otherwise, we won't take care of what we have. Come to think of it, isn't that fundamentally what's wrong with how we treat the world and each other these days? I think we can do better, don't you? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Season of fruition

picture of black chokeberry bush with fruit
© harrington
Welcome. Thanks for stopping. If you look carefully, you can see both maroon and green berries on the black chokeberry bush in the picture above. The bush next to this one is full of dark red berries. I'm both excited and a little apprehensive about the upcoming harvest and rendering the fruits into preserves. Will it work? Will we enjoy the results? I have no idea what they'll taste like after they've been subjected to heat and  quantities of pectin equal to the juice rendered from the berries. September is supposed to be prime time for Aronia melanocarpa. The race between humans and other animals to see who gets to harvest the fruit will, I suspect, be a close one. The local deer have already been helping themselves to the lower branches of the pear tree. The local bear has been checking out the bird feeders' sunflower seeds. Either or both may find chokeberries appealing and I've also noticed the local robins casting covetous eyes toward the bushes. We'll learn about Aronia while we wait for the apple trees (safely ensconced behind their fence?) to start to produce fruit, assuming we continue to prevail over the cedar-apple rust. Do you forage? Are you a locavore? Which guidebooks have you used? Are they helpful? Thanks for listening. Come again when you can. Rants, raves and reflections served here daily (for the most part). In honor of our transiting seasons, I hope this poem brings you the pleasure it brought to me.

The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost

By Tim Bowling
Here at the wolf’s throat, at the egress of the howl,
all along the avenue of deer-blink and salmon-kick
where the spider lets its microphone down
into the cave of the blackberry bush—earth echo,
absence of the human voice—wait here
with a bee on your wrist and a fly on your cheek,
the tiny sun and tiny eclipse.
It is time to be grateful for the breath
of what you could crush without thought,
a moth, a child’s love, your own life.
There might never be another chance.
How did you find me, the astonished mother says
to her four-year-old boy who’d disappeared
in the crowds at the music festival.
I followed my heart, he shrugs,
so matter-of-fact you might not see
behind his words
(o hover and feed, but not too long)

the bee trails turning to ice as they’re flown.