Enbridge Line 3 Public Hearings


The Administrative Law Judge in the case filed by Friends of the Headwaters against Enbridge is currently hearing Public Comments and our chance to speak in Bemidji happens tomorrow.  So while Dan and I had a really wonderful trip out to Missoula and to Denver to visit Tom and Celia, we had to cut our trip short to be home in time to prepare our remarks for and attend the Public Hearing.  [The blog on the adventures out West will follow this week’s timely topic.]

I decided that my focus for the Public Hearing will be on the fact that we cannot afford to pull any more fossil fuels out of the ground.  We need to leave most of what remains in the ground if we hope to have a planet that is livable for humans in the long run.  Here is what I plan to present:

In 2012, Bill McKibben wrote an article entitled “Do the Math” to simplify the then current situation with regard to fossil fuels on Planet Earth.  He explained that, if 2°C is the maximum we can increase global temperature and maintain a livable planet, we could only put 565 more gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. At that time we had 2,795 gigatons of carbon in proven coal and oil and gas reserves meaning we were planning to burn 5 TIMES the amount that would allow us to maintain a planet which supports life for humans.

Fast forward to 2016 for Bill’s update article entitled “Recalculating the Climate Math” after a study by Oil Change International in partnership with 14 organizations from around the world recommended three things: 1) No new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built and governments should grant no new permits for them. 2) Some fields and mines – primarily in rich countries – should be closed before fully exploiting their resources, and financial support should be provided for non-carbon development in poorer countries. 3) This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight. Governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.

Bill concluded: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production.

Meanwhile, we’re finding that the effects of increasing CO2 are far worse than predicted.  You may have noticed the increasing ferocity of Hurricanes and Forest Fires which are not only devastating infrastructure but also killing more and more people.  Scientists now agree a more reasonable target for maximum global temperature rise is 1.5°C which will require significantly less fossil fuel usage in order to maintain a livable atmosphere.

The state of Minnesota has been a leader in this nation, more recently with decisions on gay marriage and health care.  As ideas and opinions change over time, in the end, Time reveals what is best and true for our country.  Scientific development often leads the way and the science is telling us the era of fossil fuels is over.  We need to abandon pipeline efforts in Minnesota and focus on the true future of our nation and our world, conservation and energy alternatives. The future is NOT fossil fuels. Every week we hear of another car company vowing to build only electric vehicles in the very near future; another major user marching away from the fossil fuel industry.

Minnesotans already lead in reduced greenhouse gas emissions by having more E85 refueling stations than any other state.  Minnesota is also a leader in wind power generating over 9% of our electricity with this renewable resource.  Let’s keep growing our alternative energies and be a leader in abandoning the dying fossil fuel industry by saying “NO to Line 3”, “NO” to Enbridge.

Dan’s focus will be on jobs.  There has been a lot of propaganda in the papers regarding the number of jobs that Line 3 will provide but we’re finding that Enbridge’s own numbers contradict what is being promoted by Jobs for Minnesotans which is a lobbying group consisting of the MN Building and Construction Trades Council and the MN Chamber of Commerce.  Their website states: “Combining the state’s rich heritage in natural resources with modern technology and workforce expertise, mining and energy transportation projects can significantly increase jobs and economic development for the state while protecting Minnesota’s water and great outdoors.”  However, their focus seems to be on mineral extraction and energy transport with the environment being an afterthought, if truly given any consideration at all.

In fact, there was a study – requested by Apex, a local business booster – and conducted by University of Minnesota Duluth Labovitz School of Business and Economics, that says of itself: “The study… looked only at the economic impact of the project and gave the caveat that ‘this analysis does not consider the social or environmental impacts of the project and should not be viewed as a cost-benefit analysis or environmental impact assessment.’”  So, it’s clear that they cherry-pick the data to give a good economical showing for these projects while ignoring the more important social and environmental aspects.  I believe most citizens would agree that clean water and air and fair treatment of all citizens, not giving some more protections than others, are far more important than mere money… especially when that money is primarily going to big corporations and not us everyday citizens.  Fun Fact: The best part of the Study to read is Appendix C which describes the assumptions used by the software, most of which are not applicable to a real-world economy.

It was interesting to note that Enbridge only claims 1500 construction jobs will be created while local papers quote figures like 4200, half of which will be local jobs, or even as high as 8600!  Regardless, much of the work will be temporary with only a handful of permanent jobs resulting from the pipeline installation (I believe 31 was the final number I saw).  Interestingly, calculations made using Enbridge’s own estimates show ~8300 job would be generated to remove the old Line 3, 5.5X the jobs of construction!  If we also consider the three additional pipelines that will become obsolete in the near term, we can look at 20X the number of jobs in removing the old energy transport infrastructure than we get in constructing the pipeline.  Removal is where the jobs are, not construction.

Stop Line 3

Some say that this is a done deal… that Enbridge has already lined the proper pockets and the PUC will grant the Certificate of Need and the Route Permit so Enbridge can connect the already constructed pieces on either side of Minnesota.  Even though the Department of Commerce has officially  noted that Enbridge has not demonstrated a Need for the line. There is a piece of me that has listened to the ALJ Hearings to date online and has little hope.  To hear the Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly thanking people for their comments, often in a condescending or sing-song type voice, doesn’t seem to convey the respect for the public that she might be hoping to portray.

What gives me hope?  In a 10-9-17 presentation, the following was presented as a Summary of Commerce Testimony:

  • Enbridge testimony indicates continued operation of existing Line 3 if a CN is not granted despite extensive testimony about the risks of continued operation;
  • To date, Enbridge has not demonstrated need for the proposed project;
  • The PUC could determine that Enbridge has not demonstrated that the minimal benefits to Minnesota of the proposed project outweigh the high socioeconomic and environmental costs.

I guess at this point, we need to provide our testimony and then just wait and see what happens in 2018.


Health Care Antics



This week I had one more realization of how our health care system is so broken.

I am starting service with a new clinic and they emailed me an Authorization for Disclosure of Protected Health Information form to complete.  This will give my old clinic permission to send my records to my new clinic.  The new clinic is only requesting records from 9/1/2015 to present which is a pretty small amount of information I believe, since I rarely go to the doctor.

Anyway, so I completed the form and scanned it in and emailed it back to the address from which it came.  I got a return error…


Apparently, this was a no-response email address.

So I called the clinic… first to listen to their answering machine and then again days later when the office was open again as they don’t allow you to leave a message so they can get back to you when they have time.  You just have to call when the office is open.  You still have to listen to a message when you call but if you sit patiently for a while, your call “will be answered in the order in which it was received”.

The gal who answered the phone was not the same one to whom I spoke previously and who sent me the form.  This new gal said I could fax it and I explained that I don’t have a fax machine.  She asked if I wanted to mail it and I said, “No, I’d like to send it electronically, the same way you sent it to me, so you have it right away and can get the ball rolling. I’d imagine your office has an email address to which these kinds of documents can be sent.  This is the 21st century after all.” OK, I know that last part was not really necessary but, for God’s sake, shouldn’t our medical clinics HAVE and USE the latest technology?

She let me know that the person who sent the letter would typically handle it.  So I asked if she could give me her email address.  She then reluctantly and slowly (because she doesn’t know it by heart) gave me HER OWN email address at the clinic.  I sent the document and she said, “Yep, it looks like I got it.  I’ll print it out and fax it to where it needs to go.”


So, yes, in trying to work electronically, the clinic will still use a piece of paper to print this document and THEN, generate another piece of fax paper – are we really still use these things??? – to get the job done.  Why couldn’t she simply forward my message to the gal’s email who had originally worked with me?  Better yet, why didn’t she have that person’s email to provide to me directly?

No wonder health care is so expensive.  This is a lot of steps and I imagine there is some kind of scanning that will then be done to keep a record of the document.  Which could all have been avoided if they simply knew how to use electronically emailed documents in the first place!

I really thought that the ACA was going to help all clinics go electronic, not only for this kind of communication, but also for sending records from one clinic to another.  With this antiquated system still in use, I’m guessing that my paper records may still be in transit when I arrive for my appointment later this month.



So I love how things just “happen” in life at what seems like just the right time and in a totally unexpected way.  I do think you have to keep your eyes open to see them coming but sometimes they are just real obvious.  And sometimes you have to reach out to capitalize on them when serendipitous moments arise.


This past month I worked the Hostel and there was a great young lady there.  She was reading a book about intentional living and so I mentioned to her that I was trying to live more intentionally.  I basically said that my husband and I had decided to move to the woods and live more sustainably and simply and that we were “happier than ever”.  A couple hours later, she stopped by the office and said something like, “I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier about being happier than ever…”  So I said, “Let’s sit and chat awhile.”  Here she is, considering life and how she really wants to live it and she runs into someone who has decided for themselves how to make this transition to a more meaningful life and was available to chat.

We spent the next hour and a half talking about all kinds of things.  I learned about her world travels, her work experiences, her family and I shared about my life today, some of what led me to where I am, and some of the challenges to making this shift in life.  It was a fun and fulfilling conversation and I applaud her for having the gumption to reach out to me and ask for more on an idea that intrigued her.  And I was tickled to hear more about her story.

We’d invested a couple hours of time in sharing life stories and those little details will carry us forward and make impacts small and large on how we weave our upcoming adventures.  I think we both left hoping for the best future for the other.

At the end of the weekend, a friend texted asking if it was okay for her and another friend (just an acquaintance to me) to stop by the Harn as they were travelling to the area.  I replied, “Sure. We’re making chicken and chorizo but if we need a veggie option I can make some soup.  Let me know.  What time?”  She said they should arrive around 6.

Well, the friend she was bringing was a Producer/Director for a Film Company.  They just happened to be doing a short film on the Paddle to Protect project – you may remember that from a previous blog.  Dan and I were big supporters of these courageous kids as they made their way from the Headwaters of the Mississippi to Big Sandy Lake spreading a message for us to “Love Water Not Oil” and fight the Line 3 project currently pending approval in Minnesota.  These kids get that Water is more important to Life than Oil.  They know that if they want a planet that will support their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it will require clean water and air.  And they are approved as Youth Climate Interveners in the legal battle against Enbridge.

Well, this filmmaker could not believe she’d lucked into staying at a place where there would be people so aware and connected to the project so… she decided to interview us for the film!  She kept saying “Serendipity” and I knew exactly what she meant.  It’s kind of funny how things seem magical sometimes but I find it often in my life.

I don’t know that we’ll get much of a part in the short film but it was really interesting to talk with these two powerful young women in the fight against the Fossil Fuel Industry.  And it felt good to hear about the work they are doing to support these young people in their fight.

I don’t know what life will bring next, but once we have a link for the film, I’ll be sure to share it with you all.

P.S. Sorry for the crappy graphic… I’ll have to spend some time with my son getting tutored on how to do things like this better.  😀

Busier. Than. Ever.


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Note:  This blog may be my sloppiest ever as I’m starting it at 9:30 Monday night to meet my weekly Monday deadline for blog finalization.  My excuse is that we had unexpected company yesterday which was AMAZING (likely to be next week’s blog topic) and today had a full To Do List… most of which was not accomplished as I tend to underestimate the amount of time things will take.

Winter prep continues, but mostly along the lines of food prep.  Dan is now contemplating a build of shelving for our growing food supply… We lost a couple days heading down to Alexandria to visit. And I had to work at the Hostel this weekend after spending the day helping prep for Farmer’s Market.  But we still got quite a lot done.

This past week we:

  • Canned 12 quarts of tomatoes.  Thanks, Connie!!
  • Continued with our Corn Cob Wine recipe.  It still seems to be working… though I’m not sure why I think so.  Mainly because the yeast foams up with we feed it every day.  But as this is our first time winemaking, we could be way off base.  [Comment if you have feedback or experience to share!]
  • Froze two quart bags of sweet corn and two gallon bags of broccoli.
  • Made a batch of granola with Harn Honey.  It is a simple recipe that produced a super crunchy, delicious munch.  The Hostel guests loved it!
  • Canned 5 half-pints of roasted tomatoes.  One was mostly juice and it didn’t seal but I’ll make some soup with it for next gathering with Bruce and Bud.
  • Got the refrigerator defrosted.  [This was ALL DAN… he’s a keeper.]
  • Made two batches of cilantro pesto.  Who knew you could use cilantro? Boy was this basil hater happy to find that. [Though I love Mom’s basil pesto in soups.  Mom taught me this amazing skill and it really makes soup lovely, giving it a thickness and flavor kick.]  I made the first batch with 3 cloves of MGF (Merry Gardens Farm) garlic and it was SUPER garlicky.  So I only used 2 for the next batch.  They are all frozen in little ice cubes and ready to drop into soup.
  • Canned 10 half pints and 2 pints of Ginger-Cardamom-Crabapple Preserves and 3 pints and 4 half-pints of syrup made from the scraps. This is the second time I’ve tried this trick of using scraps from preserve making only to get syrup, not jelly. I think I’m not boiling it to a high enough temp (220-222°F) but next time I try this with crabapples, I won’t rely on the pectin in them but will add some Sure-Jell.]

We didn’t make progress with the Wood Shed or Cobbing but mostly because of the other work commitments and steady light rain most of the week.  But we did invite people to call if interested in learning more about it.  This is a busy time of year for everyone so perhaps we won’t hook up this week but hopefully we will soon.  We did have a few new visitors to the Harn and it’s always fun hearing what people think of it all.

There were many moments of Serendipity of late and I think I will share about that next week.  Now I need to head to bed for some well-earned rest.  But here are some photos of the food adventures this week.

The group is my tomatoes and one of Connie’s (we did mine first and hers second). The 3 jars are her beautiful heirloom tomatoes getting ready to bath.  You can also see her amazing set-up for canning in the garage.  We’re planning a similar porch system at the Harn.  The pesto was brilliant!  The pot of Ginger-Cardamom-Crabapple preserves was actually the batch from Connie’s place as I didn’t take one today at the Harn; but the scraps in cheesecloth photos is from today.

Winter Preparation in Progress!



A few weeks back I was pretty worried about whether we would get all our winter prep done.  It seemed like we had so many big projects to do and so many other little things also filling our weeks.  I have been helping my friends at Merry Gardens Farm prepare for the Farmer’s Markets the last few weeks, canning with Connie, and harvesting honey, all while still also finding time to relax and visit friends like Bruce and Bud in Osage.  Whew!

Well, we’ve made some really great progress over the last few weeks and this past weekend, we made strides on our big projects.

We mixed 4.5 buckets of mechanical cob – cob with some additions for strengthening (manure, cattail fluff, and straw) and were able to get it all applied to the Rocket Mass Heater. This batch was pretty thick and dry so now I know to mix the next batch a bit differently for better workability.  I will likely add some sand and lots more water.  I’m feeling better having added quite a bit of mass to our stove.  We were able to do this with some help from new friend Diana who really enjoyed painting the mud for me as we laid cob. We also got a few more buckets of cob mixed for more applications in the coming week.

We cleared the trees in the area where we need to put up our wood shed.  I think we only took out 6 larger trees (2.5″ diameter or larger) and a dozen or more small saplings.  We also got Wyatt over for stump removal.  It’s amazing how the grading really opened up the space!   We are now thinking we’ll push the shed a few feet to the east for better accessibility around the NW corner of the Harn.

Wyatt also did excavation so we could add our foam board perimeter on the North and East sides of the Harn.  What is that?  Well, it’s an addition of foam board coming out from the foundation of the Harn which pushes out the frost line.  Theoretically, we should have a warmer slab this winter than last.  Time will tell…  Check out this video of Wyatt’s work.

We are set now for the expected rain this week; things should settle into place.  Once the rain quits, we’ll work on building the wood shed and chopping some of the MANY trees we culled from the forest.  We had some big storms last year so Dan and I have collected quite a lot of deadfall to process.

And while it rains?  I’ll be canning tomatoes, more crabapple jelly (last batch was syrup which should be pretty yummy on pancakes), maybe tomato soup (Connie has a great recipe) and possibly starting on some corn cob cordial.  We’ll keep you posted!  Hope your fall has been productive and fun too.

My First Honey Harvest


I have now experienced the rewards of beekeeping.  This past week was the gathering of the honey.  Big thanks to Emily Lindell (Nerdzilla) and Barb Magnuson for making this job so easy.  It’s great to have fellow beekeepers who can show you the ropes.

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Some call it “robbing” and I guess that technically is what I’ve done.  But I like to think that I offered the bees something in return… that there was somewhat of a symbiotic relationship.  I did protect their home from bears and other larger intruders with an electric fence.  I provided them with frames of comb giving them a jump start on their honeymaking operation – other bees must first create their comb and then fill it with honey.  I switched the hives thinking the strong colony would give the weak colony a boost in population.  And while my efforts were futile with the weak hive of the two I purchased, I did provide extra brood frames (from the strong hive) to help increase their bee population.  It was definitely a sad day when I realized that the weak hive was just fading away and there was nothing more I could do to help.  But I still had one good hive!

Harvest day began awful cold and cloudy… I figured I would call my bee guy to ask about gathering any of the honey in the hive bodies.  He wasn’t home so I’d have to figure it out on my own.  I thought I’d call back later with more questions.

I went out about 9:45 and asked the sun to come out.  By 10:30, she was shining!  At 11, I texted Nerd (my beekeeper friend who was helping me gather honey) that we had full sun.  She arrived a short while later and we began our work.

Our first task was setting the fume board which has a stench that pushes the bees downward from the supers.  Barb Magnuson, Nerd’s Beekeeping Mentor, had loaned us the fume boards and they worked like a charm.  We were soon able to pull the top super from the hive and see if it was bee-free.  Pretty good but a dozen or so bees made our decision to pull each frame separately.  We pulled each frame from the super to a nearby empty super box that we had prepped so we could cover it once we pulled the frames.  Once we pulled all the frames, we could then carry the super to the truck where we would again have it covered to prevent the bees from finding it.  The first super was pulled with no “Oh, Shit” moments – in bee world, this means no one was stung.  We got it to the truck and covered it with towels to keep curious bees from finding it.

We pulled the second super and found it to be almost empty.  Hmmm. A month ago, this hive was FULL of necter.  Now the super I added is showing almost no activity.  This was discouraging. 😦

What we soon realized was that the wasps were robbing honey faster than we could and the hive did not appear to have a new queen in place.  We determined this hive was not going to survive the winter.  It was tough for me as I had so hoped to over-winter my bees.  Earlier in the summer, I thought this colony would be strong enough.  I had already let go the other colony which had pretty much collapsed.  But, before this day of harvest, I was still hopeful for this colony.

I had worried a couple months back when it appeared they were losing their queen, I hoped they could recover.  The bees had produced several queen cells ~ so it seemed they knew they needed a new queen.  However, a fellow beekeeper visited about six weeks ago and, thinking a queen cell was a “bad” thing and not being aware that the colony might be in need of a queen, he unfortunately grabbed the about-to-produce-a-queen cell and squeezed it.  Inside was a nearly fully developed queen bee. I was pretty devastated, especially as we continued to look through the hive and soon realized it didn’t appear to have a queen in sight.  Perhaps we should have not acted in haste.  Maybe we should have left the bees their new queen.  They say that one of the worst things for bees are… beekeepers.  Some friends swear by just leaving them to their business and simply adding supers, not “managing” at all.  I’m thinking this is perhaps the best program for beekeeping.  Next year, I will likely do less checking.

So, with hopes dashed, I continued through the harvest trying to keep my chin up.  I was somewhat consoled by both Nerd and Barb commenting that getting a new queen that late in the year likely would not have allowed this hive to survive.  Perhaps there is nothing I could have done to help this colony make it to winter.  And I guess the up side is that I will not have to babysit and feed this colony through the cold months.  And I will have all winter to fix up the equipment and prepare for a new season.

If you want to see a video… click here –> honey harvest.  I hope to have a link there to the extraction process as well soon.  Video editing takes SO LONG!!

Once we had all my harvestable frames, we headed to Nerd’s to pick up her six supers and then to Barb’s for extraction.  What a thrill to see Barb’s operation!  An amazing set-up for extracting honey and preventing bee infiltration. Nerd and Barb entertained Dan and me with stories of the innovations over the years and previous years antics, none of which we had today.

It seems each year there is a new idea like taping the windows over with plastic which this year meant we had ZERO need for the vacuum to suck up infiltrating bees.  Previous improvements include a kick-stand on the bottom uncapping bucket to allow for drainage and the use of gated buckets, which really help with filtering and bottling. And there is a new toy, I mean TOOL, each year as well. This year it was a hook scale so we could weigh our honey buckets.  My favorite tool was the refractometer which measures the moisture in the honey.  More on that later.

We pulled in our supers and hive bodies on 9-7-17 (54)trolleys (another innovation from a previous year’s work) and Nerd’s were rolled in first.  She was insisting that we do my honey first, in case Dan and I got bored and wanted to leave before her honey was processed.  But I’m glad we did her honey first.  It was a joy to see her harvest – her best yet it turns out – which was made up of mostly perfectly capped, beautiful honey.  It was a dream to uncap with the hot knife.  It flowed and filled buckets quickly.  And it was about 15.6 on the refractometer.

The refractometer is a tool that measures moisture content.  Barb loaded a bit of honey in the test area and then we all took a look through the eyepiece.  There is a scale inside that shows the reading and anything below 17 is good, meaning the honey will not ferment.  Nerd had a few necter frames which we bucketed separately but even that was beautiful stuff.  It tested about 20.2 which means she will need to use it quickly – or evaporate it down to the proper level.

We celebrated Nerd’s amazing harvest – 194# – her best ever!!  She said her best year to date was 130#.  Well done, especially since she didn’t think she would have any honey at the end of June.  Then we moved on to my hive body frames first.

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I was horrified at the difference.  Nerd assured me that the hive bodies are always ugly because of all the bee traffic on them.  They are the “living room” of the hive.  So I mostly scrubbed through the capped honey on the hive body frames as they were not really knifeable.  The comb was old, dark, uneven.  The wax was heavy and thick. There was one frame that was in such bad shape it was literally just nails for the ears.  That frame is now trashed – sitting outside the hive for bees to clean.  I will burn it later.  At least we didn’t have to deal with brood as we left all those frames in the two hive bodies back at the Harn.

Nerd and Barb were really encouraging as I worked my way through the ugly hive comb.  They spun it in double batches – for large frames, you load the frames (Top to the Left) and spin, then flip them and spin again.  This removes the honey from each side separately.  The smaller super frames go in sideways and thus get spun for both sides at the same time.  The bucket indeed was filling and, even though it looked pretty dark, the honey was light coming from the extractor. And it tasted nice.  I was surprised at how much honey we ended up having.  We extracted 31# from the hive body frames!  And it tested at 17 so it should be good to go.

I was able to complete opening of all my super frames before the hive body frames were spun.  These knifed better and some required no uncapping at all.  The wax was newer in these and cleaner as well.  We ended up cleaning the whole system between my hive body frames and the super frames, which I believe was a good idea.  In the end we got another 30#, though this high moisture content nectar (20.2) will have to be evaporated to become honey.

In the end, I am so glad to have had this experience.  The pulling of the honey frames – OK, Robbing! – was much easier than I expected.  Extracting honey was a lot more constant work than I thought – especially since Nerd and I had both Dan and Barb helping.  There was not nearly enough time for snacking! 🙂  But we did get some bites in which Nerd says was good as we’d basically worked through two meals, lunch and dinner.  On the other hand, it was a lot less sticky than I expected. I think this is due in large part to Barb’s well-designed extraction lab.

After all was done, we took Nerd and her stuff home and headed back to the Harn with our bittersweet results.  We still have to filter and evaporate the honey.  And while we will have no bees to winter over to spring, we did get some honey.  Most importantly, we gained a lot of experience.

Here’s a link for the Honey Extraction video: https://youtu.be/ampvs8BuLA8


Labor Day Weekend – The End of Summer


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As Labor Day approaches, Dan and I realize we’re running out of summer to get things done.  I was starting to feel like we’re behind the 8-Ball so… we did some planning.  There are three big things we need to finish before winter: Adding the final mass to the Rocket Mass Heater, Building a wood shed, and Cutting wood for the Rocket Mass Heater.  Simple as ABC…

But, like anything here at the Harn, it’s not so simple.  In order to build a wood shed, we need to move the wood and pallets that are in the place where we want to put the shed.  In order to get that wood out of there, we need to re-set the wood pallets in the garage where we stored wood last year… but which were cocked slightly when we added our garage door opener this spring.  In order to re-set these pallets, we need to move a bunch of stuff in the garage to have room to re-set them.  In order to move stuff out of the garage, we have to move stuff out of the hightop (our extra garage).  You see where this is going…  We also need to cut down some trees where the wood shed will go and then remove stumps from the area.  So, there’s that too.

But we have at least created a list of things to get done, noting which things need to be done before other things, and hopefully we’ll start to chug along on checking off items on our list and be ready for winter this year.  But first, we were going to enjoy Labor Day Weekend.

Friday, we met friends from Alex, Jon and Rita, for a quick bite of dinner before heading to the Bonnie Raitt, Indigo Girls, and Annie Humphrey show.  I was SO EXCITED!  Dan loves Bonnie (and I do too) but I was most pumped to meet the Indigo Girls.  Not only are they part of the reason we ended up here at the Harn in Minnesota, but they also founded Honor the Earth with Winona LaDuke.  How did they factor in our decision on this location?  Well, I loved their song Ghost which has a line in it…

…And the Mississippi’s mighty
But it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across
With five steps down.   ~ Ghost, Indigo Girls

When we visited Itasca State Park and the Headwaters of the Mississippi years ago, I was hooked on this area and we eventually found our little piece of land just north of there.

On arrival to the concert, we got our tickets and back stage passes – first time ever for backstage for both of us.  We found Annie’s bus right 20170901_173754away and headed over.  Cedar (her daughter) was there and so was my good buddy Anne Dunn (her momma)!!!  I didn’t expect to find Anne so I was tickled… so happy to see her that we spent a while catching up.  Zayne was there too (Annie’s grandson) and we were regaled with stories of his super hero cave on the bus.  Annie has an awesome cool bus. Here we are standing in front of Zayne’s cave.


I was super pumped to hear Annie perform as, at the Duluth show where we first saw her play, we only got a few songs from her.  As I hoped, she played some songs from the new album The Beast and the Garden.

We got a copy at the show and got it signed.  She is a powerful singer and she started the benefit concert off right with some commentary about the importance of fighting pipelines and protecting the rights of the Indigenous.

The whole show was a wonderful event for Honor the Earth.  Every performer encouraged the Water Protectors and emphasized the importance of resisting the pipeline.  The Indigo Girls ROCKED – didn’t realize what rockers they were having never seen them in concert.  But they kicked it up a notch and then Bonnie Raitt closed the show with an amazing performance.  This woman is one of the best guitar players around, her slide is sexy and strong, and she’s still got it at 67 years old.  She looks great, rocks the show, and is a sassy activist!  An amazing performance by all three groups.

Backstage was really well done.  There 20170901_231234_1504556641683is a small cabin area with a deck, heater, fireplace and seating behind the Bluestem Amphitheater where the crowd awaited the arrival of our stars.  Winona LaDuke and Keri Pickett were hanging out so we already had celebrities among us.

Dan and I were able to get our Stop Line 3 shirts signed by the Honor the Earth founders: Winona, Emily and Amy.   We also met some interesting people and spent some time talking with friend and fellow Water Protector Andrew.  He’s been a real supporter of Winona the last few weeks and it makes us feel good to know he’s a strong protector for her and she’s a good Elder for him.  The whole concert adventure was a real blessing.

Good friends from Indiana, Steph and Steve, made the long drive up to the Harn for the weekend and we wanted to show them everything!  Of course, we knew they’d get a feel for Harn Living but we really wanted to give them a big taste so we made a little game for them to pick out the things we’d spend time doing on their short visit.  As you can see, we rigged the game a bit…  9-1-17.JPG

Actually, we let them pick the things they wanted to do and we ended up sleeping in (after being up until almost 4 AM that first night) and then touring the Harn grounds and heading to Bemidji to see Babe and Paul.  A stop at Bemidji Brewing for lunch and some beers made everyone happy and then we stopped at Coffee Pot Landing and the Mississippi Headwaters before heading home for some dinner and a bonfire.  Rain Monday kept things low key but made for a great day of game playing.

And… this week our work starts again in earnest.  Dan has already moved the wood into the garage from the wood shed location so we’re started on that process of getting the wood shed in place.  I’ll be moving chives and flowers at the East side of the Harn so we can add foam insulation to push out the frost line.  We’ll fix the corner of the Harn we found last year where we’d forgotten to put the metal corner trim on when we added the screen door for the porch – that was a lot of cold air seepage!  Soon we’ll fill that area with foam and add a better cover for it.  And we’ll get started on the wood cutting and cob building to assure out stove is ready to heat us this year.  I think we need to harvest some potatoes in there sometime too, and maybe some spaghetti squash, but we’ll see what this week brings as it unfolds.

Hope you are all ready for winter once it arrives!Winter is Coming

Photo credits: Beast and the Garden Album – Annie Humphrey Music FB Page & Winter is Coming – Pinterest


Hostelling Fun

I knew I would love spending time as the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel’s Guest Services Associate.  What a fun place to hang out!  I love all the people I’m meeting!  Interacting with such a wide variety of guests has been such fun.  And I think they like me too. 😉

So far I’ve met several people who are doing the Bike Across America thing – riding from Seattle (or some West Coast point of origin) to Bar Harbor (or some East Coast endpoint).  I even had a pair of guests recently who met at a local pub, realized they were both riding these long journeys, and were both headed to the Hostel  One called in a reservation and the other booked online (www.hiusa.org).  But they weren’t doing quite the same ride.  You see one was doing East Coast to West Coast while the other was actually doing a Ride AROUND America – taking the perimeter of the country from California down through Texas and back up and around the North Side and around the corner in Washington and back to California.  Whew!!


I’ve had families large and small and big (or small) groups who rent the entire Hostel.

We have 31 beds and I’ve yet see a group fill all the beds but I’ve had several large groups of teens and a great group of environmental 8-4-17 (142)folks who warmly welcomed me into their group activities.  We had a power outage during their stay… luckily on the night they planned to grill outside!  Thankfully, they invited me and Dan to dinner (he’d come down to check on me since we had no means of communication with the storm).  The rain passed quickly and they were able to create a feast that was enjoyed in the summer evening. And was it tasty!  They had a professional chef in their midst and we ate well that night.  It was a lot of fun dealing with the lack of water and power and they rolled with it like a bunch of camping pros.  The big joke was throwing the paper plates into the fire as we yelled, “Doing the dishes!”  They left me a beautiful thank you sign when they left and I feel like I made a bunch of new friends that weekend.

And speaking of Foodies, one weekend we had a family who cooked most of their meals on the campfire – or at the campfire on a camp stove – except for the French crepes they made that last morning of their stay.  We also had a pair of ladies there who shared all their good food, as did I, bringing in fresh squash from Merry Gardens Farm to cook up for the whole crew.  This was lucky for one couple who’d come to the Hostel without any food – they had such a feast!  And we had a father son & friends do some fishing and they prepared a beautiful Crappie for dinner.  The final evening of their stay, we grilled burgers and shared pickles and squash and berries and bananas, along with homemade granola and ice cream.  This gang, along with a solo older gent – we’ll just call him Santa Jimmy – had spent the afternoon at the Harn with Dan and me chatting away the rainy day on the porch.  It was fascinating conversation.


Families are fun whether they have younger children or are all grown up.  I had a hoot of a group recently – Mom and Dad and four grown boys (some of whom were retired) – that was so kind they brought me back a sweet roll from their breakfast visit at the Douglas Lodge!  The people who hostel are SO NICE!

I’ve really enjoyed finding the commonalities of our lives as I interact with guests from the various groups.  It’s especially fun to tell stories and share jokes.  Life is full of fun times and interesting experiences and perspectives and it’s a joy to listen to theirs and share my own.  I’ve learned of some great places to put on my bucket list and have shared stories of what Dan and I are doing here at the Harn.  I’ve listened to travel stories about Minnesota and around the world.

I think I especially enjoy the times when I find real connection.  Whether it’s a guest that also has Celiac and shares some of her Chocolate Cobbler or a fellow poet that shares some of her ideas and experiences, I love feeling like I’m at home with a bunch of family and friends.  You find a real intimacy as people open up around the fire and there’s something that seems so normal to see someone you barely know in their jammies in the kitchen as they fry an egg or have a late night snack.  Only at the Hostel…

If you want to come try some of the fun at the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel, you can make arrangements for a stay with us at hiusa.org.  Or call direct to make a reservation: 218-266-3415 ~  Office Hours are 8-10 AM and 5-10 PM.

Major Climate Change Litigation in Bagley, Minnesota?


I  never would have dreamed that the next time I would see Bill McKibben in person might be Bagley, Minnesota.  Or that there would be potential to meet James Hanson ~ yes, the dude who challenged NASA for suppressing his work on Climate Change ~ in this tiny county seat!  But Bagley, a town of less than 1400 people, may very well become the place where Climate Change Activists make their next major step forward.

I had no idea what I was getting into when Dan and I agreed to attend the hearing for a couple women in Clearwater County.  I actually thought it was two young ladies who had been hanging with Winona LaDuke, one of whom I’d met, so I was anxious to show support.  If I hadn’t been so busy, I might have actually read the event, Googled the names, and realized how major this case was going to be.  And if I’d thought about it for a second, I’d have realized the girl I’d met was facing an issue in North Dakota, not Minnesota.  But I showed up, believing I was supporting folks in the Anti-Tar Sands Pipeline Climate Change movement.  And once things got rolling, I was amazed.

When the hearing began, it was to arraign a fourth defendant in the case, Benjamin Joldersma, who was late in being charged with a felony crime.  His role in the event would become clear in later testimony but first we walked through his getting consolidated into the case with the three other defendants, Annette Klapstein, Emily Johnston, and Steve Liptay.

Valve 1

So, what did these people do to warrant felony charges?  They carried out an act of civil disobedience in the name of protecting the planet.  They put their lives on the line to help increase awareness, among the rest of us, that the world is running out of time to make the changes necessary to prevent even more catastrophic climate events.  They put themselves at risk for arrest to show that we need to act now if we’re going to prevent the 100,000+ lives lost every year to Climate Change.

On October 11, 2016, the two women reportedly entered the Leonard, Minnesota valve station and started to shut down the pipeline.  This action was planned to coincide with the International Days of Prayer and Action With Standing Rock.  Along with their cohorts, they were able to shut down every tar sands pipeline entering the US in an act of love & solidarity.  In Leonard, Minnesota, a shut down of Enbridge’s line 4 and 67; TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline was closed in Walhalla, North Dakota; Spectra Energy’s Express pipeline in Coal Banks Landing, Montana was eliminated; and Kinder-Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline in Anacortes, Washington, reportedly offline anyway, was also stopped.  Democracy Now! had a brief report.

Here’s the report from the industry… sounds like they are saying, if you use the Emergency Shutoff Valve, you could rupture the pipeline.  I think that is something we might want to investigate, don’t you??  Since Enbridge has shown us that they can take up to 17 hours to “realize” a ruptured line is a ruptured line and not a bubble they need to push from the system with increased pressure, it might be nice to think we citizens could, should a spill be happening, turn off the valve and save our town.  What we really need is to stop relying on fossil fuels and move to renewables with intensity.  NOW.

Back to our hearing…

Annette Klapstein took the stand and explained her history with the Climate Change movement.  She became active in 2009 and was one of the Seattle Raging Grannies that chained themselves together in rocking chairs to stop a Shell oil rig from heading out for Arctic Drilling. By the end of the summer, Shell sent ships back to Norway and abandoned drilling efforts in the Arctic.  Annette testified that she realized, in order to fight for social justice, it would require work in the arena of climate change.  In 2014, she was part of an effort to block oil trains in Anacortes, Washington and Shell subsequently dropped plans to add a rail spur… once an EIS was required.  Annette’s position: Civil disobedience is the only option citizens have left with a government beholden to banks and fossil fuels.

She explained that their intent in closing the line was to stop Tar Sands oil flow to prevent ecocide.  The operation was done safely by giving notification to Enbridge 15 minutes prior to closing the valve and again 5 minutes before the action happened.  In fact, when they began to turn the valve to close it, they could see the screw turning down as Enbridge closed down the line remotely.  When asked if there was an imminent threat, Annette explained that there is.  We have super typhoons increasing in the Philipines, Washington has had the worst air quality for the last two weeks, and there are fires raging in British Columbia.  Over 100,000 people are dying annually due to Climate Change, we’re in the middle of the 6th Great Extinction, and each year, the scientists explain that the trends are looking worse.  Climate Change is happening faster than we predicted every year.  Coastal cities are facing crisis and droughts continue to intensify.

On cross-examination, the Prosecutor asked a few main questions to each Defendant.  Side note, just after the Judge accepted a motion to join all the cases as one for efficiency,  the Prosecutor made a request to sequester the Defendants.  This means that they would not be able to hear each other’s testimony.  A discussion ensued with the Defense Attorney noting that allowing each Defendant to hear the other would prevent reiteration of details already explained by the other Defendants.  The Judge agreed that sequestration would defeat the purpose of joining all the cases and prevent the Defendants from their right to be present at each critical stage of their trial.  The Prosecutor’s request was denied.  I’m thinking he didn’t want them to hear his questions as he basically had the same questions for each Defendant:

  • Are you a Scientist?
  • Was there an active oil spill present?
  • Were there individuals in immediate danger on the site?
  • Have you engaged in letter writing or legislative contacts in Minnesota prior to this action?
  • How much carbon dioxide did you prevent with the shutdown?

Annette also got extra questions: Can you define ecocide? and When will the world end?  Oh, yeah, and How did you get here? (implying that she is a fossil fuel user).  Annette had an excellent response to this question in noting that the system is set up to require her physical presence but that she was able to secure a ride from Seattle with a friend who was delivering a car to Minnesota.  So basically, she had very little carbon footprint above what was already needed for the friend’s original journey.

Emily Johnston was our next Defendant.  She has been active in Climate Change work since 2011 when she got involved with 350.org and participated in the Keystone XL protests.  KXL was subsequently denied by President Obama.  Sounds like that civil disobedience worked!  By the way, 350.org was named based on the fact that, if we want to keep the Earth viable, we need to remain below 350 ppm of CO2.  Where are we now?  About 410 ppm.

Emily was a part of the Kayaktivists who rode kayaks to prevent the Shell oil rig from leaving port.  This is not only risking arrest but literally putting her life on the line.  Emily was willing to risk a felony charge because when Activists take a personal legal risk, they show their vulnerability and this increases the chance that people will take their actions seriously.  She noted the science that says we have about 3 years until we hit 4.5°F (2°C), the point of no return… the point where we can’t really make a difference that will allow our planet to remain viable.   She contends that we have no time for small changes.  The solution is to reduce emissions by 15% each year as we begin reforestation and regenerative agriculture.

Emily also explained that Civil Disobedience is a derivative of English Common Law which allows if, say, a house is burning and a baby is inside, you to override the law of breaking and entering the private residence to save the life of the baby.  In other words, it’s acceptable to break the law for a greater good, a higher law.  [On cross-examination, the Prosecutor would ask her if there were any “babies attached to the pipeline”.]

Emily made clear that the Activists are not “fighting Enbridge”, they are “fighting Tar Sands”.  She believes that civil disobedience is required to increase consciousness of the danger of Tar Sands.

Benjamin Joldersma was our third Defendant to take the stand.  Benjamin has three children from 2-7 years old.  His most compelling testimony regarded explaining the tough decision he and his wife made in him being a part of this work.  I was in tears as he noted that he wanted to be able to look his young daughter in the eyes when she one day asked what he did to try to stop Climate Change.  I cried because I too feel an obligation to my son when I think about the work I do in water protection.  Ben discussed the effect the Paris Climate Talks had on him: even with agreement by 197 countries that we must to something, we will still bypass 2°C.  All legal efforts have been exhausted.  Civil disobedience is our only option.  He told a story of a 2015 camping trip where he met some climate scientists and, based on their stories, he realized we were out of time.  Ben’s role on October 11th was to call Enbridge with a notification of the pending action at 15 minutes out and 5 minutes out.

Steven Liptay was our final witness and he was simply a cameraman documenting the activity.  He believed he was within his First Amendment rights to document the happenings and share the information with media outlets.  He had a pretty impressive array of Climate Change work to date including work as an intern on Everything’s Cool, cameraman on Do the Math, and he worked on the HBO documentary How to Let Go of the World And Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.  And, he IS a scientist, having an MS in Environmental Policy and working as a Biologist for Audubon.  He believes that when mainstream media is not telling the story, it requires independent media to inform people on what is happening.  There is a Climate Change Emergency and he wants to inspire others to take action.

I was so impressed with each of these four people.  Not only for their courage to take a strong stand in fighting Climate Change, but for their coherent and articulate explanations of what they are doing and why they are doing it.  Their passion to save our planet from its imminent destruction is admirable.  Their commitment to civil disobedience is commendable.

In the end, each of the four Defendants plead Not Guilty to the charges.  They are claiming their actions are “Necessary” as the legal means for addressing climate change have been exhausted without response from our government and corporate leaders. As citizens, our only recourse remaining is civil disobedience.

I think the fact that 45 just disbanded an Advisory Committee on Climate Change is a good indication that they are on the right track.

Photo credit to Daniel Gaither.

Local News – Second Glance Farms


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Note: This article was published in the Farmers Independent last week. My second byline! Front page… below the fold. 😀

Second Glance Farms hosted an open house on Saturday, July 22nd.  Visitors walked the many gardens, enjoyed the greenhouse that is the heart of the operation, and then gathered for a talk given by Nancy Kuhta. The presentation space, full of beautiful art, depicted Second Glance’s theme of Diversity: art, science, geometry, color, math, and even spirituality.  Everything is connected in this space where each task is done with contemplation and mindfulness to listen to the earth, the seeds, the sun.


Inspiration: An interactive contemplation area celebrating the intersection of Intention and Imagination.

Donnette Rizzo, a librarian from Chicago, spent the last few days at the farm and shared her experience of helping to create an interactive space from willow stems depicting the integration of Intention and Imagination as Inspiration.  This Venn diagram honors both the individual ideas and the confluence of the two, just as Second Glance Farms honors diversity as its key to success. Nancy once gave diversity presentations to Walmart employees but now she and her daughter Jannel are working on a diversity of tasks.


Jannel and Nancy Kuhta display an ear of Blue Eagle Corn and a jar of Rainbow Corn.

You may know the Kuhta’s from past adventures with Nature’s Gardens, which produced bedding plants.  Or perhaps you’ve seen some of their landscaping work.  If you have the new telephone book, the cover shows a flower garden they installed at Bemidji State University.  Or maybe you ran into them at Carlson Greenhouse.  More recently, they have begun to grow their farm, inviting others to share the beauty of their abundant flowers and vegetables.  After first linking to the farm-to-school program with Bagley Public Schools and working with Fireside and U of M at Itasca Park, they are now reaching out to the community at-large.

Nancy has been gardening for forty years, starting with digging in her mother’s garden in Chicago as a child.  Her focus is on protecting heirloom varieties that are nearly extinct.  Her goal is to lead by example and encourage others to replicate her efforts.  Nancy reflects, “We visited a seed bank and realized the importance of the North with the 12-hour day and we said, ‘We’ll help’.” With 1000 tomato plants in 25 varieties, they are going to offer U-pick so that people can experience a variety of heirloom vegetables at reasonable prices.  I tasted several of the lettuces and each was delicious in its own way; the crunchy, the buttery, and my favorite, the peppery arugula.

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Jannel and Nancy Kuhta are passionate about seed-saving for endangered varieties like their Blue Eagle Corn.

Lincoln Lettuce, like that harvested at the Lincoln plantation, is available.  Or you can secure some Beauty Way Bean seeds to help bring these beautiful beans back to abundance. But Nancy’s true passion is Corn.  She will share with you in detail about Blue Eagle Corn, often called Peace Corn. It disappeared about the time of the Trail of Tears and in 2010, a group of Pawnee gave a Kansas farmer the last 25 seeds in known existence to plant, as his land was their old homeland.  For the first time in memorable history, that year the Pawnee ate the corn of their heritage.  It is said that when Blue Eagle Corn returns, it will bring peace.

The garden and nature speak to all ages and are wonderful places for the generations to connect.  Kathy Mitchell of Minneapolis expressed her appreciation of how nature has brought her and her father together.  A dedicated Catholic who once saw salvation only through the church, he’s begun to spend more time with trees and has found a connection that brings him closer not only to God, but also to his daughter.  Jannel shared about her experience with a child who explained to her that “the plants like you to sing to them”.  This youngster took Jannel to the Back Forty field so she could sing a song to the watermelons.  Later she let Jannel know she’d introduced the watermelons to the pumpkins.


There is beauty throughout the garden.  Flowers and hand-painted signs designate long rows of tomatoes.

 When asked about the name Second Glance, Nancy notes that the beauty of the farm will cause you to give it a Second Glance.  They are offering local produce, grown naturally, with a variety of tomatoes, squash, herbs and corn.  You can contact Nancy and Jannel at secondglancefarms@gmail.com to arrange a visit.

If you pay a visit to the farm at 19008 Highway 200, you’ll also get a chance to meet Corn Dog, about the most serene animal I’ve ever met. Found nearly dead among the corn in an Oklahoma garden and nursed back to life by Jannel, Corn Dog would not leave the garden area for months after being discovered.  He would greet Jannel every day at the garden gate.  If you see him here at Second Glance, take a moment to say hello and give him a scratch.  He will calmly look you in the eyes, and if you’re smart, you’ll follow his lead and spend some time in the garden.