I’m at Rec Lab!!



This week’s blog post is a review of some Rec Lab 2016 photos.  The theme was Mardi Gras.  Next week, I should have some great photos and stories from Rec Lab 2017.

Just had to add some pipeline updates.

While at the same time they are requesting refunds on tax valuation from the state, it appears they are increasing costs the state must pay:

commerce increase

And here’s an interesting letter I got this week regarding the Pipeline…  seems there is a loophole that needed fixed and I commend this Citizen for taking action, though it’s sad that the step is needed:



Gratitude in Leisure


Well, it’s been another productive week at the Harn and I feel HUGE Gratitude for being here.

Though we’re working harder than we have in a long time, I am happier than I ever was in Corporate World.  I can’t explain the overwhelming joy I have whenever Dan asks, “So, how are you liking this retirement thing?”  I am overjoyed by the ability to take my day at my own pace, decide what I want to do when, not feel the pressure of an inflexible agenda.  Of course, there are still some things I must adhere to – the Knitting and Garden Clubs meet at specified times, stores are only open certain hours so I sometimes have to wait to make a purchase, especially since I often shop thrift where the hours can be more restricted.  But hey, those people probably enjoy their free-time too!

I‘ve recently been turned on to an article on the concept of NOT working for a living.

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/bertrand-russell-and-buckminster-fuller-on-why-we-should-work-less-and-live-and-learn-more/  The premise is that if we spend all our useful time at a job, or we work so many hours so as not to be able to appreciate any leisure, we lose a great ability to create in our off-time.  We make a living but don’t fully create a life.  In leisure, we can more fully develop and thus, find ourselves happier.  We can also contribute more to our communities.

There are links to the works of others along these lines in the above article.  But here are a few snippets I particularly liked from the Bertrand Russell link (he was writing in 1932):

“In the West… We have no attempt at economic justice, so that a large proportion of the total produce goes to a small minority of the population, many of whom do no work at all. Owing to the absence of any central control over production, we produce hosts of things that are not wanted. We keep a large percentage of the working population idle, because we can dispense with their labor by making the others overwork. When all these methods prove inadequate, we have a war: we cause a number of people to manufacture high explosives, and a number of others to explode them, as if we were children who had just discovered fireworks. By a combination of all these devices we manage, though with difficulty, to keep alive the notion that a great deal of severe manual work must be the lot of the average man….

In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity. … Medical men will have the time to learn about the progress of medicine, teachers will not be exasperatedly struggling to teach by routine methods things which they learnt in their youth, which may, in the interval, have been proved to be untrue.

Above all, there will be happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid. At least one per cent will probably devote the time not spent in professional work to pursuits of some public importance, and, since they will not depend upon these pursuits for their livelihood, their originality will be unhampered, and there will be no need to conform to the standards set by elderly pundits. But it is not only in these exceptional cases that the advantages of leisure will appear. Ordinary men and women, having the opportunity of a happy life, will become more kindly and less persecuting and less inclined to view others with suspicion. The taste for war will die out, partly for this reason, and partly because it will involve long and severe work for all. Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle. Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.”

And Buckminster Fuller wrote in 1970:

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

I have realized the insanity in this idea of working your whole life away for “the man” and instead, am finding a way of life that is more satisfying and fulfilling by working for myself.  Yes, I’ve planted a bunch of trees and garden beds and have a couple hives of bees that require my attention.  Yes, there are days when I am utterly exhausted at bed time.  But it is a good feeling to be working outside with the land, enjoying the natural world around me, getting help from neighbors and assisting them with their work.

It has been a real joy for me to help my neighbor Connie in preparing plants for the Shevlin Garden Club plant sale. I am learning so many new plant names and uses! We are, at the same time, ridding her garden of a lot of extra plants that have cropped up ~ Nature’s abundance can be overwhelming!  And she has given me loads of these plants to put in at our homestead.   I said to her yesterday, “I told Dan I’m not sure who feels like their getting the better deal out of this arrangement!” But we both agreed that we were pleased with the time spent together and we both feel satisfied with the results.  That’s a win-win.  And there are lots of other folks here where it seems we are blessings to each other.  We share our excess (sometimes even our unwanted excess) and others find it to be a bounty…  like trading pallets for old alfalfa bales.  One man’s excess can meet another man’s need.

It’s like that out here in rural Minnesota.  A couple weeks back the neighbor with overproducing chickens came by to unload a couple dozen fresh eggs. It was perfect timing as we were low on eggs.  We bought a couple more this past week from her so I’m feeling like I’m giving a bit back there.

And then there are the times when I feel truly blessed for not having done anything at all.

We just met Okie, brother to neighbor Carol, and friend to many here.  He and Carol were checking our next door neighbor’s place and ended up coming over to our driveway where we checked out the bees and chatted.  We were putting up the greenhouse and, when I shared that I was probably behind on seed starting, Okie offered us a couple tomato plants.  He even offered to deliver them.  When he came back with the tomatoes (an abundance of plants), he also brought us some prizes from his pantry – pickled beets and salsa from their garden.  And the biggest treat? A bag of fresh-caught Walleye!  We were ecstatic.  We ate good that night!  I seasoned the fish in three different ways and Dan grilled them up.  On tasting the various styles, we came to the conclusion you just can’t go wrong with cooking that fish of Okie’s – it’s delicious every way!  Okie didn’t know it but pickled beets are one of my favorite things.  I fretted that his would be too unlike those I’d grown up on to be “good”.  You know how your mama’s way of cooking is the “right” way?  Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find the beets different from those I grew up with but REALLY GOOD!  They accompanied our meal and have been a welcome addition on salads this past week.

Which brings me to the challenge I feel in this new way of life.  I don’t often feel that I have much to offer.  I can give a smile or a hug but I don’t have garden plenty or loads of plants I’ve nurtured to overproduction.  I feel like I’m getting so much more than I can repay.  And I know the gifts aren’t given with an expectation of return. But it sure feels good when I can give something in return; boots.jpgto show my appreciation for what has been shared by also sharing something.  As an artist, it’s sometimes hard to know what things people will like so I find it hard to offer art but that is sometimes the way I give back.  I did have some great compliments on my boots and so maybe I can offer to paint boots for people!  We’ll see how things mature.  I’m sure I’ll find my niche for sharing.  I’m hopeful that it’s in honey.  I have so much to learn with the bees but I’m thinking they might be my key to bringing abundance to the neighborhood.

While I often feel like there is an overwhelming amount of things to do, I know much of that is because we are just getting started.  When I compare our homestead to those of friends and neighbors, I have to remember that many of them have years or even decades of time invested in their places.  The Harn was not built in a day and the Homestead too will take time.  I remind myself that there are only so many hours in a day and almost everything can wait for another day.  But we do stay productive and busy.

We give a talk this week for the Leech Lake Tribal College on our sustainable life for a session called “Earth, Water, and Connection to Others”.  It’s part of a week-long seminar of Open Community Discussions (maawanji’idiwag) on everything from Child Welfare and Foster Care to Nutrition, Exercise, and Addiction – all focused on how we can make the world a better place for our children.  I am hopeful this is a way I can give back to my community.  At least until the honey can be harvested…

The Coming of the Bees


The time has finally arrived.  Lewis and Jami 5-11 for BlogI am officially a Beekeeper.

We spent Tuesday preparing the yard for the bees.  We mowed, placed a pallet in the grass and a piece of sheet steel in front of it to prevent grasses growing directly in front of the hive.  This should help the bees have a clear landing strip.  The last thing was to install a bear fence to protect our girls.  Bears love honey as Papaw Ed is quick to remind. And we definitely have bears in the area.  We haven’t seen skunk or raccoon but they also will be good to protect against. Dan and I were able to easily put up the electric fence and install the solar energizer. This fence will keep out bears and also possum, raccoon, skunk, etc.  Since we will have the protection from critters, we decided we should also plant some gardens in the area.  This will be the next adventure as we work around the new arrivals to put in some potato and onion beds.  But first, our Girls!

We secured from Lewis Struthers two colonies of bees in deep Hive Bodies (the box in which the bees live and work), additional Hive Bodies and four Supers (shallower boxes for honey production), and a couple feeders (which we shouldn’t need now that things are blooming).  We picked up the girls about 8AM which is early enough that bees had not yet started out to forage.  We stuffed screen in the entry area and closed up the holes and loaded the hives into the truck.  The hives were warming in the protection of the truck topper as we drove them north. We lost one in Wadena when I went out to check them and opened the truck topper to take a peek.  Decided I would just leave the remaining escapees in the truck cap until we got home.  We lost a few as I saw some bees that seemed to have beaten themselves to death against the windows.  But, for the most part, we got them to the new location at the Harn as intact colonies.

The task of moving the hives was mine as Dan had no veil.  He filmed as I cleaned the boxes to remove excess wax and propolis (a resinous material that bees use to stuff cracks and crevices).  We stored the extra boxes under wood to help keep them intact against invaders.  When the bees seem to be filling the original hive boxes, we will add a second “Deep” (deeper Hive Body) for additional brood (bee babies).  Once they are filling that, we will add Supers where we hope the bees will store lots of honey for us.

There is so much to learn but I feel like I am gaining a good understanding.  I am learning a whole new language and will really begin the adventure when I start opening up the hives to check the health of the bees.  I hope to have a local friend and beekeeper to guide me through the first time.  But I also get that sometimes you just have to forge ahead and figure it out on your own.  So I will be looking forward to lots of new fun with insects.

Video can be seen here:  https://youtu.be/UQX1PHdiNtI

Privileged to be Here


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An interesting thing happened recently to someone I know.  You may have heard about it on the news.  It has made me think about how Privileged I am so this is my discussion for this week’s blog.

A friend of mine, Kima Hamilton, was asked to leave the plane on which he was awaiting takeoff because Delta felt that his going to the bathroom while they were sitting on the tarmac constituted a requirement to remove him from the airplane.  The plane had been waiting for take-off for an hour.  There was no apparent consideration given to the natural need of a human to relieve himself as being normal and necessary.  Kima was forced to purchase another ticket with another airline at three times the cost to make his way home in time to be with his students the following morning.


Kima is over six-foot tall, a black man sporting dreadlocks.  At first glance, and with all our cultural programming, he can seem scary to a white person.  He’s big, black and strong.  I get that.  I know prejudice against blacks is built into me as a white person raised in America.  It’s all over our news, it’s built into the way our whole society runs from politics to economics to housing to jobs to justice.  But once Kima opens his mouth, you realize he is a gentle giant.  Once you see his smile, you feel the rays of sunshine pouring from him into you.  It’s instant love.  He is likely the most gentlemanly person I’ve ever had the chance to meet.  And, even when you ask a thoughtless question, trying to find some comprehension but in the most white-privileged of ways, he answers you with calm and thoughtful consideration.  He leaves you realizing the vastness of his patience and the enormity of his contemplation.  OK, here’s how it went down two years ago…

I was walking with Dasha Kelly (Kima’s wife) and Kima and, after confirming they would be open to a serious question on my mind, asked, “Is being black kind of like being fat?  I mean, I forget that I’m fat sometimes and think I’m a normal sized person like most of the people around me.  Is it ever like that for you?”  Dasha and I ripped into an analysis of this and bantered back and forth as we walked along to the Dining Hall at Rec Lab.  Then she looked at him and asked, “What do you think, Kima.” In a quiet and calm manner, he said, “I never forget I’m black.”  Boom.  The realization of my ignorance came at me full force.  How unaware I am!  I never have to deal with the color of my skin being an instant piece of information for people to decide who I am.  I have no comprehension of how it feels to be judged so instantaneously and, more often than not, in a negative way.  How great must be his strength, emotionally and spiritually, to not lash back in anger at this ongoing and persistent dilemma? I was astounded.

Kima also did an amazing performance of a piece of his spoken word poetry that week at Rec Lab that brought home the feelings of being a black man stopped by the police.  It was a powerful thing.  I was left with tears in my eyes.  But I don’t have to live with that every day.  He does.  I guess the possibility of losing your life for a mis-spoken word may give power to your ability to stay calm.  I am sure I do not have this skill.  I would have been dead a long time ago if I’d been born black.  Being angry and outspoken is another benefit of my Privilege.

Here are some posts from some on FB of Kima’s Delta event:

  • This is my friend and colleague of over ten years, Kima Hamilton. He is a talented spoken word artist/poet, a devoted father and husband, a respected teacher, a damn good DJ, and one of the kindest, meekest and humblest men I have ever had the privilege of befriending. If anyone was ever able to diffuse a potentially volatile situation with common sense, humor, compassion and genuine goodwill it would be THIS MAN. Shame on Delta for targeting him for his looks, and creating a problematic situation where there truly was none. … The part at the end where they describe him apologizing to his fellow passengers for the inconvenience was the icing on the cake. That is PURE KIMA!!!
  • Anyone who has ever met Kima Hamilton knows that he a kind and gentle soul; it just gets under my skin that things like this are happening everywhere. Have we really become more concerned with “rules” than treating human beings with dignity and respect? I understand the need for flight safety, but there has to be a better way than this. #FightThePower#HumanDecency
  • This is crazy! Kima Hamilton is so calm n nice alllllll the time!!!  http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/delta-employees-asked-man-leave-flight-after-using-restroom-videos-n751811
  • Kima Hamilton is one one of the nicest you’ll ever meet. I’m sure he meant no disrespect.
  • My poor friend Kima Hamilton, how dare they do this to you! You handled yourself so well tho. But I wouldn’t have expected anything less from you. :)Love ya Kima!!
  • [And maybe my favorite] Kima Hamilton, I’m impressed by how you handled this and glad that your fellow passengers spoke up and made video and wrote about it. I can imagine I might have been granted more leeway had this been me, and so I appreciate you using the occasion to bring up the way you have to walk through the world evaluating situations based on the body you’re in as a Black man.

Less than a minute of going to the bathroom resulted in hours of delay for everyone.  Ridiculous.

“My take-away from this experience is that I will not be flying Delta again. Who treats a person like this? Have you forgotten that the people that pay to fill the seats are actually human beings who sometimes have emergencies (like having to use the bathroom when you have been waiting on the plane for an hour)?” ~ A fellow passenger, Krista Rosolino, and lawyer who recorded the events

So, was what he did illegal?  Here’s a legal link (bold print is my addition): http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/tarmac-delays-airline-passenger-rights-33011.html

New Rules Protect Airline Passengers

New U.S. Department of Transportation regulations on tarmac delays went into effect in late April 2010. So how do the new rules protect air passengers? Here are some highlights:

  • Airlines must return planes to the gate and let passengers off any time a flight is sitting on the tarmac for three hours.
  • Airlines must provide passengers with adequate food and water within the first two hours of any tarmac delay.
  • Adequate toilet facilities must be maintained and made available to passengers during the delay.

What is Kima’s take?

“Was race a factor? Yes. How did I feel? Like another Tuesday. Even if I’m right, as a man of color, I have to calculate when to advocate for myself and when to let things slide, how to preserve my dignity and protect myself from harm. The full letter of the law that Delta keeps referencing actually allows for common sense discretion, but the flight attendant chose not to treat me with compassion or respect. She conveniently reported me as ‘unruly’ which was proven untrue. These are the microaggressions we have to process every day. I waited as long as I could. Communicated at every step. Was mindful not to appear ‘threatening,’ and still, here are two FBI agents with instructions to arrest me? How do I pay money for a flight and be left at the mercy of a crew that doesn’t care about the passengers in every seat?? How do I complain and not be dismissed as ‘the angry black guy’? What do I want? A healthy dialogue about decency. About the abuses in airport culture. About corporate responsibility from Delta and accountability for the unnecessary extremes enacted by an employee. I want us to acknowledge how quickly this unremarkable event became a volatile incident and how easily it could have ended in tragedy. You could be interviewing my wife or mother right now because of a string of events set in motion by a power-tipsy flight attendant. What I want is the return of human dignity.” ~Kima Hamilton

With all this talk of Kima, I have to also give a shout out to his partner, Dasha Kelly.  She is the reason I got a chance to meet him.  She was our main speaker at Rec Lab two years ago and they both presented material.  She, a force of nature in her encouragement and teaching, a gentle breeze of critique.  He, a ferociously honest spoken word artist, a warm hug of comfort.  They are a perfect pair.  That sunshine you feel when Kima smiles at you?  Dasha has that same magic with her words.  You instantly fall in love with her.  I admit I had just read her book Almost Crimson – a delightful and insightful read – so was already in Groupie mode when I met her face to face.  But watching everyone else at Lab, hearing this year how many folks missed the two of them being at camp, I’m pretty sure they are just as buoyantly lovable as I hold them in my heart to be.  Here’s a beautiful story of a student of Dasha’s from recent news: https://www.facebook.com/88nine/videos/10154439929702478/

So what has this led me to?  A real evaluation of Privilege and consideration of what I can do to alleviate the systemic ways we sustain it.  A wonderful article by Peggy McIntosh (sadly, from 1988 – how slowly we learn) on the topic can be found here: https://nationalseedproject.org/white-privilege-and-male-privilege This article is beautifully written and is followed up with a summary of talking points to consider in addressing the topic.  I will readily admit to my own shortcomings in applying them – I am such a bull in a china shop when I get passionate about an idea.   There is much to learn from this piece and I encourage you to take the time to read it along with the talking points.  If we can all incorporate the concept and work towards a more egalitarian way of life, the world will be a better place.

Being at Rec Lab also taught me a real lesson on my Physical Ability Privilege.  It was so interesting to see the world a bit more from the perspective of friends Roxanne and Dorothy who use wheelchairs for locomotion.  Being in Roxanne’s specially designed vehicle was an eye-opener to how much work goes into simply getting from one place to another.  Her strength is amazing.  And that is one of the key points to the article above.  “…’Privilege’ may confer power, it does not confer moral strength…. In some groups, those dominated have actually become strong through not having all of these unearned advantages, and this gives them a great deal to teach the others. Members of so-called privileged groups can seem foolish, ridiculous, infantile, or dangerous by contrast.”  Yes, I can see how foolish I often sound to one who deals with having to work twice as hard to earn half as much.

Even in my attempting to speak with Roxanne and Dorothy about the ideas for wheelchair access, I was clumsy.  And once I realized how much I didn’t know, I wanted everyone to know.  I found occasions through the week at Lab to move chairs or let someone know we might want to be sure we have wheelchair access.  I was not always graceful in these efforts.  I forget how uncomfortable it can be for any of us to confront ideas with which we are not familiar, especially when we are also feeling chastised for not being more aware.  I have such a curiousity that I jump in and try to work on better comprehension and often don’t realize how I leave behind ideas of helping others gracefully walk with me.  Instead, I am like a computer gathering data, knowing I will work on putting all the pieces together later.  I am an enthusiastic newcomer wanting to take in as much about the new idea as I can.  I often ask dumb questions, thoughtlessly.  I direct people or make offers to share on the idea and am often not appreciated or seen as helpful. 🙂  But from those who deal every moment with others who don’t understand, I often find kindness and understanding. They calmly answer my questions.  Gently correct my perceptions.  Show me ways I can help or understand them.

I know I am where I am due to Privilege.  While I experienced my own place of disadvantage when it came to my sex and my size, I faced so little of what others face in a daily way.  I never had to worry too much about being accepted for the most part, knowing life would be easy by-and-large.  Even when things seemed tough, I could usually retain faith that all would work out for the best.  I always had a roof over my head, never went hungry, found it easy to get a job when I needed one, never was dragged to jail (even when I’d done something that likely deserved it).  Many do not have this pleasure.  Many have to deal with an uphill battle that is unrecognized and often invisible to the majority.

It’s a good thing to reflect on my luck of birth.  And to think about how life may be from a perspective of not being so lucky.  I have the privilege of being born white, middle-class, tall, healthy and in America. For all our faults here in this country, we live in ease compared with much of the rest of the world.  And in some ways, this is a good place to be as a person dealing with being in a minority or a class deemed as “inferior”.  There are laws that help assure fair treatment.  Unfortunately, these laws are not always enforced or abided.  We’ve made some progress through the decades… slow, sometimes back-and-forth progress, but some.  But there are many places way ahead of us in dealing with human rights and treating ALL people with dignity and respect.  I am hopeful that instances like the one Kima faced will give us all a moment to think and thus allow us a chance to live in a more humane and compassionate way with everyone around us, not just those in our own groups… who look, walk, talk, worship and love like we do.


Rec Lab 2017… and We’re on the Radio!


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Well, Rec Lab 2017 was another wonderful week of seeing people I love and making Polymer Clay art.  But a big thrill mid-week was listening to the Call of the Wild show about the Harn.  https://beta.prx.org/stories/203798  What a thrill to hear how Milt Lee made a beautiful show of the much longer time we spent interviewing and touring at the Harn back on April 7th.  In 8 minutes, he covers a lot about our place.

It sure was nice to have a piece of home during Rec Lab.  The week at Lab is SO FULL of activity that I had to listen to half the interview before Tuesday’s Write Your Bio session and the second half just after class.  The Write Your Bio Fireside presentation of stories written during this Creative Activity session was just beautiful.  One of my favorite parts was when Ann read her story about her Uncle Galen (a long time Rec Labber who is sweet and funny) and she became so overwhelmed that another classmate came up to finish the reading for her.  Mimi started out strong but within a couple sentences, she too became overwhelmed.  Both finished their portions of the reading in tears but it was one of the most beautiful moments when they hugged at the end of it.  It was a wonderful example of how the beauty of writing can not only help us retain our stories but also find connection with each other.  This seemed to be a strand of continuity throughout this week at Rec Lab.

Our opening night of Lab included a Fireside of Stories giving various perspectives on how Rec Lab has impacted our lives.  Among the speakers were Lynn and Rhoda who spoke on the origins of Rec Lab, Gretchen on how a class can affect you by reading an A-Z poem she wrote during a previous Lab, Jane on how being a great creative artist is not a requirement for attending Lab, Mike on how we receive help and offer help to each other, and Katherine on how we can find acceptance just where we are in our lives.  I think it was a beautiful representation of the many ways that Lab brings us joy.  Colleen’s Joy for the Journey theme for Fireside this year made for many lovely nights spent in contemplating our joy before we headed to bed.  Or… as a brief, quiet respite between dinner/dancing and MORE CRAFTING!  I spent most nights in the Polymer Clay room continuing to work on my projects.

One of my favorite projects this week Fairy Door.jpgwas a Fairy Door made for friend Char’s new Yarn Basket shop.  This photo shows it prior to baking and before I got the “knitting needles” (two little straight pins donated by BJ) in place.  I loved the mixed color I got with the lavender and metallic blue clays, the wood grain effects I copied from an example on Pinterest, the sweet roses, and the little yarn balls as a door decoration which were a perfect addition for a Yarn Shop Fairy Door!

Laura Burlis is an excellent instructor and helps each of us learn new techniques that we can use to continue instruction with people when we head back home.  I’m looking forward to having some friends over to make some lovely little turtles, ladybugs and other fun charms.  This year many made fairy houses and little gnomes and wizards as well in Polymer Clay.  This class is so fun that we often have visitors who stay to watch our work or check out our progress through the week. You can read more about Laura here: http://lolaartistsmn.blogspot.com/2014/07/laura-burlis-turns-polymer-clay-into.html?m=1

The one project I didn’t bring home was a Bottle of Hope.  The Polymer Clay Guild Laura belongs to does a project where they gather empty chemo vials and decorate them with clay, returning them to the hospital for patients to take home to brighten their days.  I used my favorite colors to decorate a whimsical jar that I hope someone will love.  The photo with me and the bottle was taken with my instructor and friend, Laura.  I also included a photo of Gretchen who made a lovely gift for her friend Alan along with a beautiful fairy house.  Everyone’s projects turned out so lovely!

Here are some photos of Friends’ work (Jenny’s painting and Will’s Clay and costumes by Jami, Christine and Tina):

There were lots of new things this year at Lab and some were a great success and some I know will be improved even further in 2018.  We had a LOT of information on classes prior to arriving at Lab and, once at Lab, had lots of info on where/when classes would take place.  Our implementation of Craft Talk (in previous years we did a Craft Walk) was OK but we hopefully will make that better next year.  Opening Night “Northland Derby” was tremendous with amazing food, games and decorations.  And the theme made for a laugh-filled Closing Night presentation created by Laura Burlis with loads of improv by the many Labbers in the show.  This show is our chance to poke some fun at the new Instructors and Discussion Leaders for the year’s Lab.  I really loved the bit on Paul’s Fly Tying class by Mike and Russ and the sister act of June and Gail on the Nature Pendants (by Kim) and Nature Hikes (by Dianne).  Ryan brought levity with his documentarian role (his REAL LIFE job).  The Basket girls (Amy, Hailey & Heather) were hilarious as were Lutz, Nick and Jacob as the “Horses” on their brooms and vacuum cleaners.  But my faves were likely Tina and Jenny who depicted our Energy Discussion Leaders Tina Simonetta-Samuels and Christine Simonetta.  They had me rolling on the floor, as were Tina and Christine!  You can see more about the Eden Energy Medicine the Discussion Leaders shared here: http://www.innersource.net/innersource/

Funny things I learned this year at Lab:

  • There is an uncanny a resemblance between Jane and Nancy. (Also between Linda and Anita and apparently between me and Krista and Heather…)
  • Lots of people enjoy dressing as poop collectors. (There were 6 of us at the Derby party – no fancy hats for us!!  Poo Crew from Iowa, me, Alan and the Discussion Leaders all donned our worst and swept up the Chocolate Bit-o-Honey poops!)
  • Earthworms are BAD. (They eat all the duff – leaf matter – leaving nothing to protect the little seedling trees!)

Our week ended with a display at Art Show.  I will say this was a quite nice part of the week.  This had little to do with it being my committee and more to do with the many hands that jumped in to make it wonderful and, of course, the stunning array of art presented in the show.  There were several folks who helped set up and host the event (Mary L, Jewitt, Hailey, Jenny, Mary R, Vanjie – and whomever I forgot in all the hustle!) and the music truly made us look professional with Harp by Jacob and Keyboards, Guitar, Violin and Singing by the Jam Session crew (Jean, Jewitt, Marti, Nancy and Rhoda).  Thanks to Marti for getting that all in place for the Show.  I was so tickled with how it all fell into place.  I hope to get a video up soon of the event but editing my footage is still in process.  Watch for a link in next week’s blog…

There is just never enough time to do all the crafts you’d like.  I spent most of my time in Polymer Clay with a couple days in Write Your Bio and Yoga.  I also got in a Nature Walk with Dianne that taught me much about spring flowers, birds and worms.  A Naturalist by training, she gives a professional take to this Creative Activity!  And I made one of the two Book Group sessions as books are a BIG love for me.  I only taught a one-session class on Vision Boards / Dream Pages, but with First Day and Bulletin Board work, as well as Art Show and Tech Support, it seemed I didn’t have time for as much Creative Activity as I’ve smashed into the week in the past.  I wish I’d been able to check out the Jam Sessions with Jewitt and Marti, the Loom Weaving with Hailey, Paper Crafts with Amy, Heather and Paula, Cooking with Gail, Caning with Kathy, Silverwork with Alan, and Woodworking with Gerry and Abby.  I LOVE lathes.  But there is the Notebook (done this year by Heidi and Katherine with photos by Paul) that gives details on all the Creative Activities so I hope to be able to try some of these things on my own.

I hope you too are busily creating as we make our way through Spring.  Us Minnesotans are mostly still just waiting for the snow to stop…

Pipeline Walk & Writer Retreat Dreams


This past week has been another busy one with a Pipeline Walk, some Public Singing, a Visit to Cass Lake, our first “Writer” at the Harn, a Trip to Alex for U-Group, and more progress at the Harn.

The Pipeline Walk was an event sponsored by Honor the Earth (http://www.honorearth.org/) to give people an exposure to how close the pipelines are in our area.  Cass Lake has multiple pipelines through it and we began the walk at the Rest Stop on U.S. 2.

The day began with Annie Humphrey making a Spirit Plate to begin our lunch.  Anne Dunn offered up the plate and also a song, which she asked me to help her sing for the folks.  This was a transformative experience for me as I am NOT a public singer.  But how could I leave Anne to do it alone?  She hAnne Dunn makes Jami sing in Public 4-9-17ad asked me to come up with her as I’d been a part of the group from Mallard Island that developed the song last year.  I didn’t think fast enough to realize that her granddaughter Cedar, also at that retreat, could have joined us as well. So here I was… my first singing engagement.  It worked out fine as no one threw anything. I have to think that maybe the reaction from the group was the same as my reaction when someone sings as a leader.  Namely, “Wow, that is pretty brave of her to get up and sing in front of everyone.” And they must have thought me extra brave as I’m not a good singer!!  Dan says I did OK and it was good that the song was simple so people could jump in right away.  We got through it and then Anne said, “OK, now we know it, let’s sing it for real.”  WHAT?!?!?  And then she also walked away!  So here I am at the front on my own trying to lead this song.  Well it must have been a good experience cause when Sadie asked me to sing the song for her the next evening, I did.  It is a really nice song thanks to Patty Kakac.

Marty Cobenais, long-time and successful pipeline resistor, showed us the pipelines running under Cass Lake (1 & 2) which have been there since 1950.  Spent some time watching Sarah Littleredfeather documenting the event on livestream for Honor the Earth.   Here’s her video on this portion of the day: https://www.facebook.com/WinonaLaDukeHonorTheEarth/?ref=br_rs At about 2 minutes in, Marty talks about the lines running under the lake. We discussed how, if there was a leak on the decades old lines, the lake would be poisoned with the chemicals used to make the sticky stuff flow through the pipelines. Benzene, Toluene, 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene… nothing you’d want in your water.

We then walked across the road to where three lines ran on the opposite side (67, 4 & 3).  12.5 minutes into the above video, Marty talks about Enbridge providing the parking lot for the public and then the shutdown processes in case of a leak. At 15 minutes in, he talks about Enbridge’s recycling program. And then he discusses the thousands of integrity digs awaiting Enbridge attention (like 6000). While at this stop, Dan happened to notice a white truck so he went down to investigate.  Dan wandered down and the driver got out of the truck.  After noting the chevrons on Dan’s jean jacket, he asked if he was in the Marines and they started a brief conversation. He was wearing a private security uniform. He was watching the group of Water Walkers… for Enbridge (more on how we know that later).

The group headed back across the street to the Rest Area, and from there, to an area across the lake where the pipeline was exposed, even though they are supposed to be buried three feet deep (four feet in agricultural land to prevent the farmer from plowing into them). Dan stayed back at the Rest Area with Anne and Cedar and a few others who didn’t want to make the hike.  This hike was about ¾ mile back through the woods and into a swampy area where the lines are above ground and you can walk on them.  I didn’t opt for a photo, instead watching others walk the line well into the wetlands.  Some examined the exposed pipe and found the protective rubber coating to be spalling, exposing the pipe surface to the elements.  https://www.facebook.com/WinonaLaDukeHonorTheEarth/photos/p.1300132750107171/1300132750107171/?type=3&theater Here’s Sarah’s video for segment 2 of the day: https://www.facebook.com/WinonaLaDukeHonorTheEarth/?ref=br_rs – we reached the site about 18 minutes into the video and you can see the deterioration of the pipeline.

It was a long walk and I enjoyed the conversation with other Water Protectors.  We were gone for quite some time and I worried if Dan was keeping occupied.  Well, he was as I found out later.  While we were at the hike, the Enbridge guard, paid time-and-a-half that day to watch the Water Protectors, had gone back to the Rest Area.  Turns out, when we all headed out to the hike, he thought we’d be going to the Superfund site (our last stop of the day) where they planned to intercept the group with law enforcement.  So as we headed East, he headed in the opposite direction.  After realizing he’d lost us, he went back to the Rest Area where Dan was hanging out waiting for my return.  They had a longer conversation this time. Unfortunately Dan could offer no information to him on “where’d they go?”  The amazing part is that he headed out of the Rest Area moments before we arrived back to take a break and then head to our final stop!  From the below video, it looks like there was almost a half hour before law enforcement was called to intercept these dangerous citizens.

This video is from the last stop which is a Superfund site near Norway Beach. https://www.facebook.com/WinonaLaDukeHonorTheEarth/?ref=br_rs At about 7 minutes, Marty gives an explanation of the 2010 spill near Deer River.  At 9.5 minutes, he mentions the spill nearby whose size is still unknown though 200 cubic yards of waste have been removed thus far.  Spill levels are self-reported so there was some speculation on how accurate they are.  I know in previous jobs I’ve had, we worked hard to minimize the negative information getting to our customers.  I’ve heard dozens of stories of people being paid to lie for their companies and I’d imagine Enbridge is no different.  At 12 minutes, Marty discusses the Mayflower, Arkansas line which was de-commissioned and then re-used.  At 17 minutes in, there is a discussion on what we can do.  At 22 minutes, it’s noted that they are standing on a leak – it’s underground and not visible but it’s there. There was a law enforcement interception at this final stop which I missed as we had another appointment in Cass Lake. But my friend Joshua filmed it here: https://www.facebook.com/JoshuaHWatkins?ref=br_rs (best portion is 1:20-3 minutes, and one great ending at 5:25 where Joshua states the obvious to the oblivious officers). At 1:20, Annie tries to address the Sheriff.  At 2:30, the Sheriff addresses the group and tells them, “The Railroad has called and asked that you please leave.”  REALLY???  The Railroad has some kind of camera on their “right-of-way” and monitors it and then calls the Sheriff to ask people to leave the right-of-way??  Has this EVER happened to you?  I call BULLSHIT.  Probably a good thing I wasn’t there.  I might have been arrested for being belligerent.

Meanwhile, Dan and I were visiting Milt and Jamie Lee, a couple that does the radio show Call of the Wild (LINK) for KAXE/KBXE.  They’d interviewed us for the Harn Edition of the show and having learned of their strawbale homestead, we had to go and see it.  What a treat!  They have been developing their place about as long as we have ours and it was fun to compare stories on the development process.  Jamie is also a local writer and I’d had a workshop with her at Farm by the Lake where I received her book.  Well, I finally took time to open it this week and I couldn’t put it down.  I finished it in one sitting and it has become the third book to make my Top Five Favorite books.  It is a lovely, spiritual, story and the way it came about is pretty magical as well.  I highly recommend you to read Washaka the Bear Dreamer: A Lakota Story Based On Leon Hale’s Dream https://www.amazon.com/Washaka-Bear-Dreamer-Lakota-Story/dp/0972900241

Having met up with Sadie at the Pipeline Walk – she’s working on a thesis related to pipelines – we headed home to the Harn with her after a lovely dinner with the Lees.  Milt is an awesome cook!  Sadie ended up staying a couple nights and while we had loads of good conversation, she also was able to complete some writing.  I realized she could be the seed of the Writer’s Retreat I dream of one day opening.  🙂  Had a lovely time with a bonfire at the full moon.

Once we had our guest on her way, we were back to real work.  We had started clearing the deadwood from the woods surrounding the Harn proper and were able to resume this work.  We pulled small trees, large branches, and sticks it into clear areas, and now have a load of wood to process in a place where we can do so without major tick troubles.  So far, things are pretty quiet on the tick front but they’re coming…

We received our plants from Edible Acres (http://www.edibleacres.org/) this week and began planting our orchard with nut tree guilds.  What are guilds?  In Permaculture, a guild is a grouping a plants, trees, animals, insects, and other components that work together to help ensure their health and productivity.  There’s a quick overview here: http://www.neverendingfood.org/b-what-is-permaculture/permaculture-guilds/ We still have to get the grass covered but we have hazelnut trees, bee balm, black current, and onions planted thus far.  Thanks go to Connie for our bee balm and black currents as we spent a morning splitting plants at her place for the upcoming plant sale and headed home with a truck full of beauties: Asters, Purple and Yellow Coneflowers, Bee Balm, Curly Chives, Day Lily, Oxeye Daisy, Sweet William, Rudbeckia, Perennial Onions, and Mullein.  So we have spent several days planting.  We did:

  • 5 hazelnut trees (3 in the Orchard clearing and 2 at the Greenhouse clearing)
  • 9 walking onions (some with the hazelnuts and others near the house)
  • 9 holes with coneflowers (purple & yellow) Along the wetland at drive curve by Big Rock
  • 7 day yellow-orange/rust lilies (divided from one large clump) at front entrance by Big Rock
  • Couple dozen perennial onions (near hazels and near house)
  • 3 black currants (near hazels)
  • 6 holes with bee balm (near hazels)
  • 7 holes with asters (at turn north in the drive)
  • 4 raspberries (in the zone 2 woods)
  • 3 black caps (in the orchard clearing)
  • 3 sun chokes (on the garden hugelbed)
  • Two plots of rhubarb (heirloom no less – one full sun and one on hugelbed in garden)
  • A bunch of curly chives (in hugelbed)

Garden Hugel 4-15-17I am amazed at the fun we’re having and the progress we’re making.  I can’t believe we got the Hugelbed done and planted in a single afternoon!!  As I wrote to several people in thank you cards and notes this week, it really seems that the Universe is bringing messages, almost faster than we can read them, that this is a true and good path for Dan and me.

Busy First Week of Homesteading at the Harn


Dan and I have made it through our first week of retirement at the Harn and it seems we’re busier than ever.  I have told many people that once you retire, it’s not about taking it easy.  Instead, life seems to be busier than it’s ever been before!

Dan says he not really retired, he just has a new boss. He claims to be the Head Maintenance Technician and Assistant Grounds Keeper at the Harn (working for me!). You need to be sure to read that as the Technician of Head Maintenance.  So far, it’s going good.  Pretty sweet job as he gets to sleep with the boss AND after a grueling day, health care benefits include shoulder rubs… from that same boss!  I’m pretty sure there will be no sexual harassment claims.

Since we’re still seeing cold temps most mornings, I continue to let him sleep late.  This is a real treat for him after the last few years of O-Dark-Thirty workdays.  Dan is NOT a morning person.  Once the weather warms, I foresee us hitting the bricks, actually the dirt, EARLY more often than not. But time will tell on that one.

Though we’ve had some later starts to the real workdays, we’ve gotten much accomplished.  Since Dan’s retirement we have:

  • Hung baskets on the ceiling to free up shelf space in the kitchen.
  • Cleared the frost heave at Garage Door and Porch Doors, replacing the pallet at one and adding rocks at the other.
  • Spread clover at both Porch Doors and in the Driveway.
  • Gathered wood in the forest as we went out to check mail.  [This is a becoming a daily routine.  See below.]
  • Built a bonfire and stored a box of wood for inside.
  • Moved all the furniture in the living room again to put the sofa back where it was… As Dan says, “We move things at the Harn.”
  • Built our humanure station and dumped nine buckets from the last six months.Humi Bin Build 4-6-17.jpg
  • Interviewed for a local radio show to talk about the Harn (which is airing in a few weeks so keep your eyes peeled for that blog post).
  • Pulled dozens of dead trees from the forest for firewood and kindling.  [Can’t prepare for winter too soon here in the hinterlands.  See above.]
  • Walked the property line with our neighbors to the south and everyone is pretty happy with how much space we seem to have.

Oh, and I won the Rewrite Your Life essay contest sponsored by Wellness Retreats for Women!!  My submission, should you want to read it, is here: https://womenwellnessretreats.com/news/2017/3/22/contest-entry-jami-gaither-leaving-the-rat-race The objective was to write a letter to your current self from your future self about the book you’d written.  And I won!  Big thanks to the many people who took the time to vote for my submission.  With my prize money I am Super Stoked to be participating in Jess Lourey’s Rewrite Your Life Online Course.  Ever since I heard about Jessie’s new book on writing your life, I KNEW I’d be getting a copy at Cherry Street Books and I really hoped I would be doing a workshop with her on it as well.  And here it is!  My dream coming true.  If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, or help yourself heal from some life experience, I’m betting this course could help you as well.  Check it out here: http://learnhowtowriteabook.teachable.com/p/rewrite-your-life

I also got a communication from the Editor at Permaculture Design Magazine that there’s potential for me to write some articles about our Homestead experience for them!  Check them out here: https://www.permaculturedesignmagazine.com/  It just may be that my childhood dream to one day be a writer may result in more than just my blog.  Maybe even some income?

Dan’s already helping a friend with electrical work – Char’s new Yarn Basket Shop is in progress and I’m looking forward to its grand opening.  And he has a couple more local people interested in talking with him about their own projects that need done.  Things seem to really be falling in place for us to potentially create some income to help that nest egg last a bit longer.  We’ll see how it all develops.

But I definitely think the Universe is telling us we’re where we’re supposed to be.  🙂

Dan Retires… Harn Life Officially Begins

This week marks the beginning of the Harn Homestead development with both Dan and me on-site full-time at the property.  It’s been a bit longer than originally planned and we’re a LOT further north than we thought we’d be (original plan was for Arizona but the water wars were already starting there in 2003), but we are finally here and ready to try this simpler life.  We are both happy to be free from the Rat Race but a bit nervous about the minimization of income this year.  I’ve been here at the Harn for over 4 months and have some notion of how, when you’re always at the Harn, it’s harder to spend money.  But we also see how much pricier groceries are up here in the Hinterlands and we know some of the gardens and other capital projects will require an influx of cash.

One of the things that has been on my mind is how much of a help Mom and Tom have been to us in this venture.  It’s really impossible to pay back their gift of hospitality and I’m probably most grateful to Tom for putting up with us MUCH longer than he was originally expecting…  More than we were too.  It seemed to us, once we got to Minnesota, we’d be so close to the property compared to Indiana that our progress would prepare the Harn in about a year.  But with taking on so many activities in Alex and me also starting a job, we were hindered in putting in as much time as was needed to get everything done.  In the end it took us 29 months, instead of the hoped for 19 which would have gotten us to the Harn by May 2016 when Tommy graduated from Purdue.  But we also got to meet lots more friends in Alex, take time for a big trip to Tom’s graduation with Mom & Tom, make a big MN-IN-MO-CO-MN road trip to get Tom’s stuff moved to his new job near Denver, and enjoy a lot more local music with Mom and Tom.

We could have lived in an apartment in town and not paid rent for our son in Indiana and been about the same off financially.  However, we didn’t want to create a situation where Tommy incurred the debts that we both had to pay when we were going to school. He was working throughout college and was able to support some of his own needs but rent is a big hitter for most college students.  I remember my co-op job being the only way I could afford to pay for housing and school in the last half of college and I was making darn good money at the GE co-op gig!  I still had a student loan for my senior year ending with $4000 in debt.  Dan had it much deeper than me with about 10X the loan buildup but he spent a lot longer getting his degree and used loans for living expenses for quite some time.

It’s harder growing up now.  Some time back, the presenter at the Senior College opener at ATCC mentioned how his kids were unable to make much headway with savings even though they had lucrative careers – they were putting so much into paying off debt.  We believe we gave Tom a leg up on life by giving him a debt-free start to adulthood after college. He even has a small nest egg of a 529 and his own savings that remain ready to support him when he needs them. This is in large part thanks to grandparents Fran and Ed who paid for part of his schooling and Mom and Tom for supporting his schooling and housing us, so we could support him by paying his rent.  I think that part of the joy for Mom and Tom in helping us was because they knew it also helped their grandson.

And I am so happy that circumstances resulted in Dan and I spending our time with Mom & Tom.  I am glad to have gotten to know my mother better and to have become so close with Tom.  He is a joy.  People in town often came up asking if I was “Tom Obert’s daughter” and it tickled me to no end.  A sweet lady at the book store, a friend of Tom’s from Jefferson High, once told me she could “see my dad in me”.  I loved her for it but had to explain to her that wasn’t really possible… that Tom was not my biological dad, just my favorite dad.  She said it must be the smile.  We are both quite smiley!

And perhaps it’s a good thing I have him as it seems my biological father has decided I am no longer his daughter.  [My brother Rob seems to now be caring for him to an extent with our step-mom having passed last year.]   I guess the Universe has ways of taking care of us that we don’t always comprehend.  And this may likely be a blessing for us all as I’m sure it will be Dan and I who will care for Mom & Tom as they age with us being the closest kids. Perhaps one day they will be living on our land in a cabin of their own.  You never know what life will bring.

But it sure is wonderful having Dan here.  He says it’s not going to hit him until he doesn’t have to pack up the car after the weekend and head back to Alex.  It’s already hitting me as we try to find locations for the last of the stuff moved up from Mom’s.  Thankfully, it’s getting organized to a point where it’s not super cluttered even with the additional influx.  We will keep downsizing and figuring out where things work best, now with both of us using the space.  And we’ll figure out how to live together again after another hiatus.  Lucky is happy to have another warm lap to confiscate.

We did celebrate by toasting with shots of Jim Beam from a small bottle received from the Broker who laughed at our plan to leave the Rat Race.  We’d gone in to have our taxes done with the guy who handled all my investments.  [I’m pretty sure he was aware we were in recovery and didn’t drink so I kind of felt like he was pushing us away with that token gift.]  I think we were small potatoes to him as many of his clients were multi-millionaires. Well, after being laughed at for our dream, I met a Broker on a plane in New York who seemed to have no problem with our plans.  In fact, she thought she could help us make it happen.  And by gosh, she’s had our money ever since and done pretty well by us.  If you’d like some investment help, she’s a real gem.  http://www.nuccifinancial.com/

Here’s our video of the toast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncF9Zbgp9B0

Dan Retires

Happy Birthday to Me!



What a great week!  I have now embarked on my 49th year and it was sure a sweet birthday.  I got lots of calls, including the official Birthday Song call from Mom and Tom and a lovely call from my brother Rob. 3-24-17 Birthday FB was full of happy wishes and it’s so nice to see all the wonderful people thinking of me, people I think of often as I see their posts on social media.  It’s amazing how big the Social Media world can be and while I’ve probably wasted more time than I should on Candy Crush, I really appreciate being able to connect with so many people all over the world.  And I got some nice cards (a handmade from Momma Chris – she’s the bestest!) and a few gifts too – 5 books (they know me!), some cash (always come in handy) and a couple adorable family photos.  I am feeling so loved.

I also began Knitting!  Mom brought me an afghan a couple months back that was in need of repair – she was sure that Char and I could fix it back to good.  It’s a beautiful melba peach color and I would love to have it whole again as it’s really pretty.  I actually ended up working on it with Bernis at Knitting Club, first taking off the ruined part back to one level, and now adding back a finishing edge.  It’s tough but I’m getting used to the process.  It will take some time but I can soon add Knitting to my list of crafts.  I will admit to trying to impress Dan Saturday evening and realizing I just could not be sure about how to start that next row… so the impressing will have to wait!  I’m sure with the strong encouragement from the Knitting Ladies, I’ll be getting the hang of it soon.

And I joined the Garden Club.  Got started with these folks at their March Seed Swap – another early birthday gift?  I will say YES.  I scored dozens of seeds and look forward to getting them planted as we start our gardens here at the Harn.  Met some really great folks here, including Jeff and Angie from Split Oak Farm who have invited me to come over and see their “kids” (baby goats!).  I plan to stop there often when I’m heading to Bagley as they are expecting baby pigs any time now as well.  Everyone was friendly and it was a fun way to spend an evening talking about plants and phenology.  What’s Phenology?  It is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.  There were a bunch of great reports: lots of swan sightings (including Trumpeters); pussywillow, rhubarb sprout and crocus sightings; and my favorite first hearing and sighting of Sandhill Cranes.  My neighbor Connie (new Garden Club friend) and I both heard them – she is around the corner but her back yard and mine are closer than our driveways.  I got a lovely offer for some lily starts which I will surely be taking her up on this spring.  Oh, plus I met a Death Doula (Lorrie).  How cool is that!?!?  Can’t wait to spend some time with her.

I share this birthday week with some friends and Dan and I were able to gift one of them with a present on her big day.  The other I had gifted with her present weeks earlier but I will from now on be sure to give her a gift on or super close to her actual birthday as it’s really special to have the specific day recognized.  This year having so many wishes truly made my day special.

Dan and I are keeping busy with helping friends in the neighborhood and getting to know more of the locals.  It’s really feeling like “our town” the longer we’re here.  Only a few more days until he’s here for good!  I am enjoying getting settled and look forward to lots of fun the more people and plants we get to know.  We had the neighbor from around the corner stop by… his wife had said to him, “That driveway has been getting lots of use!” So he came by to introduce himself which made me happy, happy, happy as I’ve been meaning (for months) to take a walk over to their place.  It will be an easier decision to head their way now that I have a standing invite to visit.  They are home bodies like us.

I spent most of a day with Anne to look at possible cabins and that was a bunch of fun.  We hit every resale shop along the way and I scored BIG finding not only a couple good books I have wanted (Mists of Avalon, Lee! And Cutting for Stone, KP!) but also a new set of 8 ohm speakers for Dan ($3) and a replacement crock for my crock pot ($2.50).  I also scored a nice pair of new house shoes for Dan ($3) and some ribbons and fabric (of course).  Anne took me to her favorite place in Grand Rapids for lunch, Sammy’s.  https://sammyspizzagrandrapids.com/ and I took her to my favorite place (which she LOVED)… Aldi’s! https://www.aldi.us/  They have a brand new store in GR and it’s the biggest Aldi’s I’ve ever seen – yes, I think it’s even bigger than the St. Cloud one which was the biggest in the state.  Now if they will just get one put up here in Bemidji…  I truly see them as life savers because they bring affordable and quality food to the area.  I was talking with a couple in front of us in line who have been astounded at their food bill reduction, which really helps having 5 kids.

I will say, the best part of the trip with Anne was probably Nigig running from the house with her arms spread wide.  I thought she was so happy to see Gramma home and I was smiling big as we watched her approach. But at the last minute, she came to me!  I got the first Big Hug!!  Just made my heart burst!  I think to her I’m this lady that shows up unexpectedly but it tickles me that she’s so happy to see me when I visit!  Later I taught her how to swing herself on the porch swing and told her she is powerful.  I think that’s a pretty good trade.

We had a visitor from Mann Lake Bees [They’re having a big sale but it ends soon! https://www.mannlakeltd.com/]. Our friend Patrick showed us a couple good places for bees.  It was great walking the land with the warm sunshine!   We will need to put up an electric fence for the bears but I think we’re gonna start with bees this year. This will be a good fit as we don’t have anyone close by doing honey.  We have egg people, meat people, yarn people, and flower and veggie people, but no one we know for honey.  This will make a great product that we use a LOT and give us something to give for gifts.  I have friended a couple bee people here locally online and hope to learn a lot from everyone.  Patrick was interested in the Rocket Mass Heater so we gave him an explanation of them and had a fire and some conversation.

The highlight of my birthday week was Sunday evening.  I did a writing workshop with Jamie Lee (not Jamie Lee Curtis as I reported to Anne the day before…) at Farm by the Lake (https://www.facebook.com/farmbythelake/).  You can find out more about Jamie Lee here:

I was full of writing ideas by the time we wrapped up and I’ll have lots to practice as I continue to pursue my writing.  I may yet publish a book as Mom foresaw when I was young.

I was also able to get in a visit to new friends Jeff and Angie at Split Oak Farm in Bagley on the way home.  They gave me a tour of their sustainable farm with pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese.  Oh, and cows (who we didn’t visit… next time!). Their goose eggs are HUGE!  And they just had baby goats so I got to hold the little girl and she was so soft and sweet.  I’m really looking forward to their little piglets which should be here any day! https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009080365262&hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf  They’re super fun and we had a great time chatting.  The only thing that would have made it better is if Dan was able to join us.  But that will happen soon, I’m sure.  He moves up here this week!!!

Finally… the Harn is Home



Well Spring is seeming to come early, though we’ve had little re-freezes these past few weeks.  And with the onset of Spring, we are gearing up for lots of tasks at the Harn.

Some of the work is repair from the winter:

  • Removing the cracked garden cistern.  We hope to be able to use this for ponds once we cut it apart.  Really a bummer of a loss this past winter – we should have drained it completely at the end of fall. 😦
  • Digging out under the porch door to remove frost heaved areas that prevent full door swing.
  • Remove frost heaved dirt under the pallet porch to allow the porch door to open.

Some just infrastructure repair/modification/upgrade:

  • Filling in holes to flatten the side and back yard areas.
  • Adding insulation to the ground on North and East sides (then covering it with dirt) to push out the freeze line.
  • Digging ponds and swales for water flow from the South facing roof.

Some of it is prep for the new gardens:

  • Creating Hugelkulture mounds.
  • Building an herb spiral near the door.
  • Planting herbs, perennials and annuals for food, nitrogen fixing and dynamic accumulation and to draw pollinators and predators and ward off herbivores.
  • Planting 75 trees from Clearwater County Soil & Water Conservation District.
  • Planting several berry bushes from Honeyberry USA –  We’re still working to determine how many types we will plant and how many overall bushes we will need but this is important as it takes a couple years for trees to become productive.
  • Planting some apple, pear, plum trees – we need to consult on this still as well but I imagine this will be about 5-8 trees.

And some things for our final move to the Harn are just now coming to fruition:

  • We moved the Bed to the Harn – it’s finally BEDreally Home now.  So much more comfy than that futon!
  • Getting the furniture in place – and finding room for it all – now that everything is here.
  • Finishing the kitchen countertop that has been planned for years now.  I got all the bottle caps in place and now the epoxy just needs to be poured.  I tried a small project first to be sure it works and it does!  I think I have WAY too much epoxy to I see more little projects once the counter is done.  We’ll likely have to wait for a span of nice warm weather so we can open the windows or do it outside – it’s a little stinky!
  • Working on the decluttering, the downsizing of stuff, to make things easy to find/manage/complete.  It seems like every time a flat surface opens up, it’s filled with something else!

I’m amazed at how little things can bring big change.  We’ve seen it this past season with the some of our projects:

  • Prior to adding the deer carcass, we had almost no bird activity, even with a heated water bath and sunflower seeds.  But once we hung the carcass, we immediately saw a HUGE influx of birds.
  • Worrying about heating with wood as I watched our supply dwindle faster than expected was quickly eased with the addition of a space heater.  Using this backup heat, while costing a bit on the electric bill, gave great peace that I would have enough wood for heating and wouldn’t be too cold. I still keep things much cooler when Dan isn’t here.  There are also a lot less lights on when he’s not here! 🙂
  • I have been collecting wood this past week – just the deadfall from the trees.  It really stretches the remaining logs I have and I’m feeling good about what I have in reserves.  Those few pieces can really make a big difference!
  • Being able to turn on the sink to wash hands – so much easier than pouring water from a jug.  And I use less water too!
  • Even just a few days of warm can result in large quantities of snow melt!  The cisterns remain pretty much full, even with my current water usage.  We had rain steady most of Thursday (yes, when we moved the mattress north) and that will help as well.

I am really excited about Dan being here full-time.  It’s been a long time coming and will be a big season of work ahead of us so it will be nice to work together on everything.

Hope you have some exciting spring projects.  There’s always some kind of adventure in life, eh?