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Thursday, August 30, 2012

08/28/12- Step by Step

Can You Dig It?  
We're plugging away at the Elk's Bluff Greenhouse. The trickier subground work is now done. The above ground work will go very fast, especially as a bunch of friends will be coming over to work on it.

Even if all the details aren't finished, they'll be ready for the Open House and party on Saturday, September 15th. See the Facebook announcement at Come one, come all! There will be food, crafts, our books for sale, and music on Saturday, September 15th, 2012, from 2 until 8 pm. Look for the greenhouse on the east side of Highways 7 and 59, just north of Montevideo, Minnesota!

Busy, busy, busy

My next book is also coming along nicely. It brings me joy to remember my voyage of discovery, and to talk over what I found with others.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

08/28/12- Good News and Bad News

Good News!
Progress on the greenhouse at Elk's Bluff continues. Yesterday I put in a few hours helping with ventilation pipe for the heat storage system. We should have the entire sub-ground section done by Thursday.

Their plan is still to have a big Open House and party on Saturday, September 15th. See the Facebook announcement at Come one, come all! There will be food, crafts, our books for sale, and music on Saturday, September 15th, 2012, from 2 until 8 pm. Look for the greenhouse on the east side of Highways 7 and 59, just north of Montevideo, Minnesota!

Bad News

I got a phone call today from a contact in the Twin Cities. She wanted to talk about the Great Garlic Disaster, which most of us only heard about at the annual Garlic Festival. Few people realize that most of the garlic in southern Minnesota was wiped out by a freakish invasion of leaf hoppers! These critters, blown in on strange winds from Texas, carried a virus that mostly effects garlic. We're lucky, as a slightly different version effects carrots, cone flowers (eccinacia), and dozens of other plants. She's been having some trouble getting solid information on just what happened, and on whether it's safe to plant her surviving garlic as seed for next year.

I told her that this illustrates something that I've seen in my travels- pretty much everywhere is having plagues of invasive species, or locals gone all out of kilter. I've seen mites, Japanese beetles, leaf hoppers, flea beetles, and various borers. In some places they're worried about grasshoppers going berserk just before harvest.

The problem that concerned her is that nobody seems to be talking about this. As gardeners/farmers we're all effected by such events. Knowing what's going on, and what did or didn't help, is vital. I remind folks that we have a site for discussing issues- It's not much, but it's a way to get the word out. Join us, and post what you've been seeing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Taking It to a New Level

I'm carving out time as best I can to work on the travel book. My contacts around the loop gave me a lot of good material.

I'm also helping some people here get their greenhouse up and going, as the project has expanded on them. It started with a retired engineer wanting to put a small greenhouse off of his barn. Friends and relations got involved. The greenhouse is now going to be twice as big, and the barn converted into a shop for selling crafts and local foods. The guy is also planting more fruit trees, expanding his spring sugar tapping, and building a chicken coop. This is what the New World looks like.

They're having an open house/grand opening on September 15th, just northwest of Montevideo, MN. ( There will be food, a couple of local bands, and media coverage. We want to start this operation off with a bang. It would be wonderful if some of you could come, to meet our sustainability community, and to share your own adventures. Building community is the whole point, and if our community can help inspire yours, or vice-versa, great.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Road work can be good for you

This morning I awoke to find that it's our neighborhood's turn for the water and sewer upgrade work that's disrupted things around Milan this summer. I got home late from the theatre, so of course they started bright and early, with machinery that sounded like a whole battalion of tanks was invading. The critters were all upset. One cat kept running from window to window, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I hid in the back bedroom and managed to get enough sleep- I hope.
When I awoke it was to find a workman at the door, asking that I move my car. I hadn't realized that they'd be tearing up BOTH streets on our corner. I guess that we'll be parking in the alley and coming in through the garden for a while.

I'm not really complaining. The work needs to be done. Change, especially positive change, tends to be disruptive. This had been put off for a while, so it was being a bit more disruptive than it might have needed to be. Things need fixing when they need it- the longer you wait, the harder it gets.

Being thoroughly awake, I put on some music and tackled housework. Today I chose a '50s pop mix: I like the old crooners, the McGuire Sisters, Percy Faith, and Les Paul. While doing dishes I was hit by an epiphany, one of those moments when several ideas crystallize into something new.

The first insight is very obvious, that change requires tearing out the old structures, and is disruptive and scary.

The second was in considering the sentimentality of the music. You can't really blame those who regret the passing of that age. I know, it wasn't great for everyone, far from it, but it was for a lot of folks.

The third element was the conversations that I've had with people about the idea that Western Civilization hit its peak around the late-middle Twentieth Century.

Then it struck me. By the 1950s we'd hit on the general framework for a just and prosperous society. The Civil Rights protests that were starting then were a sort of “road work,” fixing things that weren't quite right. It was work that desperately needed doing, but could be accomplished. The work got more intense in the '60s. We tackled racial equality, women's rights, pollution, and poverty. These things needed fixing, and could be in that general social framework.

Then it went wrong. Some people didn't like the “road work.” They wanted the peacefulness of the '50s without the disruption. They thought that things had been fine before all those troublemakers got uppity. They stood up to put a stop to the whole thing. Nixon got elected. Fundamentalist religions exploded.

We spent the '70s vacillating, then Reagan was elected, and our fate was sealed. The “road work” was left half done. It became mainstream to say that there'd been no need to “tear up the streets” at all.

Consider that Nixon, a scary conservative, would be a Lefty today. That's how much things have changed.

So, here we are, with far worse disruptions on the horizon. We could have avoided many of them if we'd finished what we'd started decades ago, but too many people found it inconvenient.