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:



Reconnecting with Family

Whew!  What a week!

So maybe Char can give you an  Harn update for this past week or perhaps she and Lucky are keeping that to themselves.  I was excited to see how the gardens fared and am grateful that Char was willing to not only feed the cat but also keep my gardens, especially my lettuce troughs, watered while we visited family far and wide.

Mother Nature was on our side as we got rain about every other day so little watering was needed outside those lettuce troughs.  And BOY was I surprised to see the garden!  The peas were almost 2’ tall when I left and now they are over my head.  A few of the potatoes had started to sprout but now we have a jungle of potatoes that are over a foot high.  The lettuce was beginning to sprout and now it’s getting a bit more production.  And the spaghetti squash I planted just before leaving is thriving in the dirt mound we dug from the pond area. So I planted a few more things here to keep them company.  I hope to have videos posted soon of the garden change at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZcwdxIbsSbKuDKyAQuuG6g

I didn’t think much about weeds in the garden while I was away.  There was just too much to see and do on our trip.  We started at 4 AM heading from Minnesota to Indiana.  Thought we’d arrive about 9 PM but ended up getting a flat tire in Northwest Indiana and had to backtrack to Merrillville for a replacement.  Lucky for us, the local National Tire & Battery had one of our weird sized Smartie Tires in stock.  And thankfully, Uncle Dick, Dawn and Jim were willing to put off their dinner to meet up with Dan and me for some Portillo’s (a Chicago area hot dog chain I used to adore when calling on customers there).

We finally arrived in Indiana about 1AM to a tired Steph and Steve. We had to get to their place as we had signed up to watch their son Rook the following day while they were at work.  The next morning, Rookie was happy to see me… after a moment of confusion since he hadn’t gotten to see me the previous evening.


We had an fantabulous day of playing in the water outside.  Oma Vicki came to play with us and we enjoyed the unbearable hot weather by having the hose spray up in the air.  Rook loved it!

I made a dinner of burgers, mashed potatoes (Steph’s favorite) and broccoli and we enjoyed catching up before heading on to Fran and Ed’s that night.  Tom’s grandparents have been keeping later hours and so we ended up chatting into the wee hours on arrival.  It was so good to see them.  Ed looks fantastic with his new beard and hipster moustache.  He’d lost 10 years from the last time we’d seen him!

Fran and I made a trip to visit Momma Chris – who wasn’t even surprised to see me!  She’d figured out it must be Jami coming to town when Fran told her that she had a surprise for her. That Chris is a sharp one.  We enjoyed checking out her latest creations and even got a little tutorial on card making before heading out for a late lunch at my favorite place – El Sabor Catracho.  Love those pupusas!  We also tried the tacos and they were HUGE and delicious. You should check them out if you’re in Indy: https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-sabor-catracho-indianapolis?hrid=bOmWn2pFt3tbWbTB2pyxZQ

We headed next to Arkansas to give Dan a chance to see his Aunties and Cousins.  The Gaither Family Reunion was to be held Father’s Day and we hoped to catch as many family as we could, since trips to Arkansas are harder now that we’re even further north.  We arrived late in the day for a stay with Cousins Barb and Jimmy in the Pool Suite.  There’s not really a pool with the room… the room used to house their indoor pool!  It’s a huge space with a pool table, dining area, sitting area, you name it.  It’s space for days!

We relaxed with Barb & Jimmy catching both Suicide Squad and Moana (I recommend both) before leaving for dinner with family at Mack’s Fish House, a local favorite.  There was already a wait by the time we arrived for Aunt Marie’s Birthday dinner and an even longer line once we left.  You should check it out if you’re in Heber Springs.  https://www.yelp.com/biz/macks-fish-and-steak-house-heber-springs You will NOT go home hungry. I ordered a chicken breast and mashed potatoes thinking that would be light fare.  Well, I hadn’t accounted for the beans and ham, coleslaw and chow-chow.  Chow-chow is this amazing mix of tomatoes and onions in a sugar/vinegar base – so yummy!  I had it with the chicken and potatoes after Cousin Danae talked about enjoying it over fish and it MADE the meal.  Oh, and I did cheat and try a few nibbles of their hushpuppies.  It was so worth it.  I didn’t have any after effects that I noted but I am pretty sure they have wheat in them.  That outer crust of the hushpuppy is to die for.  They make them small (not like the giant ones we enjoyed as kids at Long John Silver’s) and you can fill up on these babies before dinner arrives.  Beware!

It was good to see Aunt Inez and Uncle ArvillePool Room Marie.jpg at Marie’s dinner since we didn’t catch them at the Reunion the next day.  And Dan finally got to meet Danae’s Tony – a super cutie who is always smiling.  Ann and Marie looked beautiful and we loved catching up with stories from everyone. SO GOOD to get hugs from everybody.  Barb had cake and gifts planned for her place so we headed there and I got to meet Cousin Kelli, Barb’s daughter. The two of us hooted it up giving Barb no end of grief in trying to take our pictures – I like that girl!

Sunday was the Reunion and it was a small gathering. Photo Review We hoped to catch all five Aunties on this visit – They’re like Pokemon, Gotta Catch ‘em All! (Shout out to C.) Turned out that Jean didn’t make the Reunion so we missed her and Linda and Shirley are BOTH in Florida now so didn’t make the long trip to Heber for the reunion.  So we only captured 2 of the 5 Aunties this trip.

The next day was a 14 hour run to Colorado to stay with Tom and Celia.  It was really wonderful to see them both happy and healthy.  And we got to meet the Grandkitty, Jax.  He is super handsome and a real talker.  We had lots of good eats with Celia and I making her mom’s Pepper Steak one evening.  It was good stuff.  Celia trained me on cutting the peppers, not into strips but dicing them.  This made the dish WAY easier to eat.  Plus they put broccoli in it which was an interesting twist.  We also had my favorite pizza – Beau Jo’s (twice) and the local Mexican place, Three Margarita’s, was also good.

I was happy to have time to finally get a chance to play Life is Strange, the video game for which Tom’s company’s new game, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, is the prequel. It was really good.  It’s a teenage (tweenage?) girl story about life choices.  Every choice you make has consequences in the game and it’s a crazy story taking place at a prestigious high school.  Now that I know the ending, it will be fun to replay and try different choices.  I can see why it was so popular.  I’m looking forward to the Deck Nine game which I hear will have even better graphics and playability.  There’s a review here: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/16/15812218/life-is-strange-before-the-storm-e3-2017-hands-on-interview Or you can see a preview play through here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1180&v=GhIrGIyY01o

Even better was getting to hang with Celia. We spent a whole day (while it was damnably hot outside) gaming in the A/C. Every time we get to visit with her, Dan and I get to know her a bit more and I must say, I’m happier and happier with Tom’s choice.  Which is tough because, you know, no one is EVER good enough for your kid…  😉

We headed for Mom’s in AlexandriaDSCF0197 (shortens our drive by a couple hours) Friday morning.  We were able to avoid the Dakota’s so spent no money there. 🙂 Nebraska was pretty wide open – reminded me of Kansas with a few more trees.  Cutting across the northwest corner of Iowa, we happened (Dan planned this, of course) through Le Mars, the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Capital of the World!  So we had to stop at the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor.  Pretty sure Dan ticked off a bucket list item here.  It was a cute town with Ice Cream Cone statues everywhere – all decorated up.  Lots of fun stuff.

As we crossed the border into Minnesota, we found ourselves in Worthington.  Unbeknownst to me, this was the childhood home of Gramma Natalia. We were trying to figure out more about the town – reminded me of Alexandria in a way – and Dan searched for restaurants and what did he find?  Pupuseria & Restaurant Crystal!!  https://www.yelp.com/biz/pupuseria-and-restaurant-crystal-worthington?hrid=oLo5qyhV1fGXcfNjRLIZnQ Maybe I should have called this post Pupusa Serendipity…  Anyway, we enjoyed a lovely meal of Pupusas de Queso y Pupusas de Puerco along with some Pineapple water – who knew there was such a thing?  Reviews are bad on this place, mostly for service, but the food is worth the not great service.  And, while it may look closed when you arrive, there is yummy goodness awaiting inside.

We wound through the countryside of southern Minnesota all the way up to Mom’s.  It was good to see her and Tom and get a good night’s sleep after four nights of late nights and not a great bed at Tom & Celia’s.  We did go out couch shopping with them but I’m hoping they get a new bed instead and put the futon in the living room – it’s a dreamy sleep!  We’ll head back there in October so hope to have a better bed then.

On the way to the Harn, we stopped at the Nemeth Art Center in Park Rapids for a show featuring Aaron Spangler, a new acquaintance.  The theme was First Colony and I was hoping to hear him speak… but it was a showing for one of his pieces and other folks spoke.  We listened to the first speaker – Sheila Dickinson – who gave a wonderful story on privilege, colonization, and art.  Here’s a piece she did on the recent Walker scandal: http://www.artnews.com/2017/06/05/a-seed-of-healing-and-change-native-americans-respond-to-sam-durants-scaffold/ She was a lovely person, owning her own privilege, and contemplating how we can find solutions to display art in a way that is more true to reality, not depicting or whitewashing the genocide and racism that fill U.S. History.  If we ever want to find peace in this country, we need to have open and truthful discussions on our history.

It was good to get home to the Harn.  Lucky was purring louder than ever, so happy to see us.  Of course, we fed him right away.  Dan found the piece that finally made sense of Char’s nonsense text about “rocks wearing bras” that I thought was just some kind of weird goofing off or typo.  I absolutely LOVE my new Rock Art.DSCF0002

Sending Cards by Mail

I had the lovely experience of receiving a card in the mail this week.  CardIt was most humorous and produced a huge smile. I was so tickled to receive it that I had to post it on FB.  This was a card to let me know how appreciated I am.  There weren’t a lot of words inside but every one told me that the person who sent it loves me bunches.  And that means the world to me.

I send a lot of cards myself and I’m usually much wordier.  [Imagine that!]  Sometimes I write all around the inside sentiment in order to send as much info as I can and I was struck by the huge impact of the simple few sentences that I got in this card.  It’s true that notion that a lot can be expressed with a few words.  Though I don’t know that I can much change the way I’ve always been.  I’m just a wordy woman.

I occasionally send the thinking-of-you card but more often, it’s a thank you that I send.  Momma trained me well as she always encouraged my brother and me to send thank you cards when we were kids.  I am convinced these days that it is one of the most important reasons for my success.

I always sent thank you notes after interviews.  Even when I knew I didn’t want the job.  I believe that this simple act, this quickly completed task, did more for cementing my relationships with people than the actual interview experiences.

It’s a different world we live in today… one of electronic communication, Facebook and email.  All these are great for keeping in touch day in and day out and I love being able to see and hear about what friends and family are doing all the time.  And, as I commented to my husband just today, “When Aunt Inez sends you a comment on Facebook, it’s like you can hear it in HER voice!”  It makes me feel like getting a little hug from her every time!

But I do believe that paper cards, sent in the snail mail, help you stick out in the crowd.  I wouldn’t doubt that a thank you card could very well have been the deciding factor in whether I got hired in more than one case.

Though I will probably never really know the impact of most of those cards I sent, occasionally I do get feedback.  We have an International Dinner group that we joined recently and, after the first one, I sent out a couple cards of thanks.  At the most recent event, I was told by one recipient that it was a Very Nice Card.  And you’d be surprised how many people send a thank you card back for a thank you card you send!

I very much enjoyed spending some time with my good friend, Momma Chris, this week.  She is a Card Sending Maniac!  And the wonderful thing about her cards is that they are all hand made.  When Fran and I arrived for our visit, it wasn’t long until we were looking at all her recent creations.  Of course, we had lots of questions.  “How did you do that?  Is that a stamp?  Was this done with alcohol inks?”  Chris, of course, had other examples to show us and when she went back to her Card Studio, I told Fran we should just follow along.  Within minutes, she was running us through a tutorial using blue painter’s tape, ink pads and paper.  It was so outside the concepts I envisioned.  She is a master of so many ways of making beautiful cards.

And where do all these cards go?  They go to everyone.  People she hears about with illness, those who she just misses (lucky me!), friends of friends, people in her church. I don’t know how many she sends out every week but she has people on rotation to help them get through whatever they are going through.  She told us a story of recently meeting a husband of a woman to whom she’d been sending cards and he was so delighted to meet her because she’s brought such joy to the woman.

I think what Chris gets out of the deal is an ability to never age.  She’s closing in on her mid 80’s but she looks as young as I’ve ever seen her on this visit and I’ve known her for almost 10 years.  I recall Carl Kasell once telling me, “If you want to do what you’ve always done, you have to keep doing what you’ve always done.” (Or something along those lines.)  He is another seemingly ageless gem of a person.  And I believe this spirit of giving demonstrated by both Carl and Chris just goes to show that Karma is a real thing.

A while back I made a book of a bunch of cards… some I sent, some I’ve received, photos and stories about these cards.  I am so grateful my mom gave me this wonderful habit.  I believe it’s just about the simplest and sweetest way to send a little love.  And who doesn’t need a little love?  I think I’ll send a few cards out soon.

Walking for the Water

It’s been a week of Water Protecting here at the Harn.

Dan & I spent Tuesday in Rice Lake for the first of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) Public Hearing and Comment meetings.  It was a well-attended event and I was there on my first assignment as a Reporter for the Farmers Independent, our local newspaper in Bagley.  Since I was on assignment, I didn’t feel I could stand up and comment.  So I also attended the Park Rapids DEIS meeting the following day where I did get an opportunity to stand up and speak.

The Rice Lake event was on Reservation Lands and I was impressed with the focus on having a pipe and drum ceremony to begin the event.  They also asked for first, any Elders to speak and then, any Tribal Representatives.  While none chose to speak at that time, it showed thoughtful consideration of the meeting location and showed respect for the Indigenous People.

Of the 15 commenters, only one, Neal Illies – County Commissioner for District 3, spoke firmly in support of the pipeline.  One other spoke of the fact that we need pipelines but also spoke to the risks.  As a homeowner with 4 pipelines on his property, Dennis Riggs noted in his testimony that Line 3 needs to be shut down.  The remaining 13 speakers were all in strong opposition to the pipeline being run through the proposed area.  There is too much risk and not enough reward for this to be in Minnesota’s best interest.    All agreed that water is more important to life than oil.

There was special concern regarding the possibility of endangering the 1855 Treaty rights of Indigenous people. It is interesting to look at Enbridge’s proposed route.  You will notice that the routes do not cross tribal lands.  It seems the oil boys thought that, as long as they remained off the Native Lands, they would not be able to be opposed by Indigenous groups.  However, the Treaty Rights ensure that Natives have rights to clean water for their fishing, hunting, gathering, and ricing throughout the treaty area.  And Enbridge’s pipeline would run through Treaty Territory.  This would require that Enbridge not only consult with the Tribes but also that they give them an equal seat at the table.  This did not occur.

When you look at the DEIS, it seems written to make Enbridge look attractive.  It’s insulting and disgusting to see the lack of concern for the added stress this puts on Indigenous people, for the risk to generations to come, and for much of any consideration to be given to the many flora and fauna that could be affected.  One of the most disturbing things to me as I read in the portion regarding pipeline abandonment, was that Enbridge seemed more concerned with affecting infrastructure and closing roads and thus, this was reason for NOT removing the pipeline that they would instead abandon.

And the prioritization of Enbridge of infrastructure over people and animals was in the sections on Environmental Justice which noted:

“Specifically, the company considered an alternate route of the pipeline going down Interstate 94 as too dangerous because of the possibility of pipe failure and crude oil flooding the highway, causing accidents and it’s routing through populated areas.” Line 3 DEIS, Environmental Justice section

Well I say, “What about the populations where they DO plan to run the pipeline?  How are these populations acceptable to risk?”  Dan and I have had many beautiful messages from our birds and other wildlife in the last week.  On the drive home from the Rice Lake DEIS, we happened upon a male and female Sandhill Crane crossing County 2.  We stopped to let them pass and, once they had crossed, we started to advance.  But the female ran back across the road and the male advanced on our car with head tucked and wings spread wide, making himself look as threatening as he could.  He charged toward us and we noticed popping up on the original side of the road, a small baby Sandhill.  Momma escorted him across the street while Poppa kept a close eye on us.  Even after they were crossed and in the ditch, he watched us and kept up a threatening stance.  This was a reminder of the many migratory birds that are born in this area where they want to run this Tar Sands pipeline.

More recently, we’ve also seen a duck with about 8-10 ducklings and a doe with a tiny fawn crossing.  And then, a most rare sight.  A Red Fox with her pup.  It’s almost as if Nature is saying, “Thank you.  Please keep speaking for us.”

At the Rice Lake meeting Sierra Club Executive Member, Marty Cobenais, shared that Enbridge said in 2008 they “needed the Alberta Clipper” but nine months before it was built, the oil industry asked Enbridge not to build the line as it wasn’t needed.  Then Enbridge told us the Sandpiper pipeline was “needed” but Sandpiper was abandoned last year for the Dakota Access pipeline in neighboring North Dakota.  He asked, “Do they really need this project?”

Some referred to more sustainable Hemp Oil, recently given agricultural approval by the State of Minnesota, which would be a safer alternative to the Tar Sands Enbridge wants to transport across the waters and wetlands of our state.  One mentioned that Hemp could be grown in the buffer zones to help clean the runoff from the fields, making it a two-fold solution.

The elders were given an opportunity to speak first but ended up being the last speakers of the day.  Lawrence “Sam” Crowell said, “Enbridge already has the pipe staged in Lake George,” and he believes that these 22 meetings are meaningless as a decision has already been made by the state. He asks the state of Minnesota to “prove him wrong”.  Irene Auginaush told the story of how her ancestors had to keep watch over Rice Lake with shotguns to prevent farmers from pulling planks to take the water from the rice.  She said, “They fought to save our rice on Rice Lake and we are going to fight to save our rice again just like our ancestors did.  Miigwech.”

The Park Rapids meeting had a much higher attendance with a largely older and white population that filled the cafetorium of Park Rapids High School.  Again, the comments were by a large majority Anti-Pipeline.  Only a handful of the many speakers were in favor of the pipeline and several of them spoke about the importance of having the oil available for the next 50-100 years.  Are these people aware that fossil fuels are a finite resource and that we’ve almost exhausted the available sources?  There isn’t another 50 years of oil available, forget about 100!  It seems when listening to these people that I can hear the slurping of the straw sucking up the last bits and, instead of finding a new source of energy, some seem to want to keep sucking the straw in futility.

The week wrapped up with a wonderful Water Walk in Bemidji from Sanford Center to Diamond Point Park.  The Walk was led by Annie Humphrey and included the beautiful Daughter Water Walker puppet that towered over the rest of the group.  I was honored to hold one of her hands as the walk began.  It was a small but vocal group and we had lots of honks of support and cheers from passersby, several of whom decided to join us in our walk.

It gives me hope to see fellow Water Protectors walking for the Water.  I know not all of us have the time, inclination, or information on how to get involved with work like this.  But I truly believe all of us know the value of water.  It is disheartening for me to see some who seem to hold money as more important than clean water.  It may be that it is only when they must face a life without drinkable water that they will finally wake up and realize you can’t drink money.



Stopping Line 3: The Real Work Starts Now


, , ,

I had the privilege and joy of attending the Rice Lake Community screening of First Daughter and the Black Snake last week.  Keri Pickett, the filmmaker, was present as was Daniel Geiger, who edited through over 800 hours of footage to bring us a coherent and detailed film.  And though we didn’t know it on arrival, we were surrounded by movie stars as many in the Rice Lake Community were in the film.

The event was amazing.  Dawn was in the kitchen organizing when I arrived.  I then met Keri and talked with her about the movie.  She is a joyful person.  I also met Nicolette Slagle who talked with me about what Honor The Earth (HTE) is doing moving forward.  There are a lot of initiatives for starting local sustainability projects – local food, local energy (solar installation training), local art – with a focus on Pine Point as an example for how it’s done.  http://www.honorearth.org/pinepoint  Also met Kaylie, one of the young ladies facing felony charges from the Standing Rock event on October 27th.  In case you don’t recall, this was the day that Water Protectors and Law Enforcement clashed, resulting in over 140 arrests.  The event became chaotic, largely due to the excessive and disproportionate force by Law Enforcement.  I remember seeing inappropriate action when I was at Standing Rock in mid-August and there has been much evidence of the continued escalation of force against the Water Protectors.  The repercussions of Standing Rock on the Native Community continue.

By this time, everyone was ready to eat.  Dinner was terrific – wild rice, fresh fish, berries.  All the foods that are endangered by the pipeline running through this area.  These people LIVE from the land.  They rely on Mother Earth’s abundant food and they know this is what is at risk by burying pipe in the earth and using it to move some of the dirtiest products the fossil fuel industry has ever developed.  And the chemicals used to make them flow aren’t things you want to ingest… things like benzene.  These chemicals are pulled out and piped back north to  be used again.  Lots of dangerous things to be piping through the waters of Minnesota where water is the lifeblood of our economy.

The movie was powerful. Winona LaDuke is the focus with her organization Honor The Earth but there is a large portion of time spent in showing everyday people and their day-to-day interactions with the clean waters, harvesting the abundant food.  This is not easy work.  There is a detailed review of the ricing process and you realize just how much work goes into the harvest and processing of wild rice.  It’s a beautiful endeavor that brings delicious food.  And, as hard as it can be, none present at this screening are willing to risk it for a Tar Sands Oil pipeline.

At the end Keri asked what we thought and I piped up with my typical but sometimes inappropriate humor, “You should bill it as ‘See Winona LaDuke naked’.”  You see, there was a photo of her as a toddler in the film, completely naked, a toy gun dangling from her hand.  It was the most adorable photo and I realized later that this is kind of a metaphor for what the film actually depicted.  Winona bares herself, shows her home, shares this process revealing much about her fight, her friends, her family and fellow Water Protectors.  The film tells a story of all that is precious and in need of protection from the pipeline plans.  And, (spoiler alert!), in the end, she shoots them down.  The Sandpiper line was abandoned by Enbridge.  We won.

And then we lost.  Kind of.  Enbridge moved from Sandpiper to Dakota Access.  While this was a loss, as we didn’t prevent the completion of the pipeline in North Dakota as hoped, it can’t be considered a win by DAPL proponents either.  You see, the pipeline has yet to flow.  They are testing the line and keep finding leaks.  Gee… I think some Water Protectors mentioned this as a concern and here we are.  LEAKING!

And the work continues.  We now are facing the long haul to prevent Line 3 in Minnesota. What do we need to do?

  • Stand up and speak about objections.  Get to the public meetings.  Here Enbridge and the PUC will present the Draft Environmental Impact Study for Line 3 and secure public comment.  Public meetings begin TOMORROW, June 6, 2017.  Here’s where you can attend: https://mn.gov/commerce/energyfacilities/documents/34079/Notice%20of%20DEIS%20Availability,%20Meetings,%20Comment%20Period,%20Line%203,%205.15.17.pdf  I’ll be there in Bagley to start it off.
  • Write to the MN Public Utilities Commission about why we oppose risking Minnesota’s environment to push dirty Tar Sands (it’s not oil!) through the ground from Canada to elsewhere.  As James Botsford argued in Keri’s film, it’s not a public service… it’s not a waterway we can access or even an electrical conduit into which we can tap to pay for electricity.  It is a risk for our land to support a commercial corporate venture.  And it’s a risk not worth taking.  Write to Jamie MacAlister, Environmental Review Manager Minnesota Department of Commerce 85 7th Place East, Suite 280 St. Paul, MN 55101-2198 or email pipeline.comments@state.mn.us,   Fax is 651.539.0109.  Comments will be accepted through July 10th.

How to write good comments:  The best comments point to specific sections or page numbers of the DEIS and explain precisely how and why they are inaccurate, incomplete, biased, based on unfair assumptions, etc.  It is also good to reference credible sources of information that you think the State should take into account.  Feel free to include personal stories or accounts of how the project will directly affect you, your rights, your community, the resources you depend on, etc.   Comments such as “Please build the pipeline because I need a job” or “Water is Life, No Pipelines!” do not have much impact…but may be counted in an overall tally, so something is better than nothing!  ~ From Honor The Earth website

This will be a harder fight than we might imagine.  6-3-17There is much going on of which we are not aware.  Just today, Dan and I had two young men enter our property without permission.  They THOUGHT they had permission.  They’d talked with their Enbridge contact that morning and were under the impression we had been contacted about the pipeline project and that they had a right-of-way.  I explained that Enbridge has not been in contact and we had no information from Enbridge about the possible reroute of the pipeline through our back yard.  We found out about it when, several months after orange flags showed up along our East property line, the neighbor mentioned that pipeline people had been by to talk with them about putting the line through their property.  Only the property in question wasn’t that neighbor’s property. Seems Enbridge has a piss poor understanding of plat books or just doesn’t comprehend how maps work.  These neighbors had no property in the proposed area of the pipeline re-route.  They pointed the oil man to our neighbor to the south who owns the piece in question.  The pipeline people reportedly noted they, “had talked with him”…  Didn’t sound like they’d made much progress.

I also let those boys know that they ought to be careful as most folks up in these parts aren’t real keen about strangers coming onto their property unbidden.  Some even have guns and will shoot first and ask questions later.  They appeared to be nice boys and they may end up being on the right side.  Seems they work for West which does bat surveys.  You see the Long Eared Bat is endangered and they are looking to do surveys to find out if these bats are present on the proposed pipeline grounds.  Sounds like Enbridge is looking closely at this re-route to run through our neighbor’s property…  And maybe a bat will save the day and stop Line 3.  In the end, they decided to leave until they could figure out where they were really supposed to be.  I told them they should ask Enbridge to be in touch at the address on the mailbox at the driveway.  We also gave them our number.  It might make me feel like they actually care about communication with the people they are potentially going to affect.

So glad we attended the movie screening for First Daughter and the Black Snake.  It was an encouragement.  I know it’s just a small group but there is a lot of power in this little group of people.  You can see more here: http://www.blacksnakefilm.com/

5-30-17 (10)All the yard signs at that event were taken by the end of the night, but my favorite is the one that supports Enbridge cleaning up their mess with pipeline removal.  Now those are some jobs we need.


This Week for Me – Busy as a Bee!



Wow.  I continue to be amazed at how life fills all the time you have!  I really thought when I retired from the rat race that I’d have too much free time and might even get bored.  Especially when I headed to the Harn on my own, I thought there could be a chance of feeling like I was too isolated and alone.  But that is SO FAR from my reality.

What’s been happening in the past week for me? 

Last weekend Dan and I were down in Alexandria.  Dan helped do some electrical work for a friend and we got to check in with Mom and Tom a bit.  We took a bit of a day off Monday as I think I got exposed to a cold virus while in the Cities.  It was a cold, rainy day anyway and, while I didn’t really have yucky cold symptoms, I did have some morning congestion and just felt like resting after a few busy days.  So there was lots of cuddling with Lucky and some napping.  I did check out the pond Dan dug while I was away and that was pretty cool; loaded videos on that and the potato planting the next morning as we headed to Bemidji.

We were able to finally secure a cistern to replace our broken one.  Kind of bummed that we are going from 1500 gallons to 500 gallons but it’s better than just losing all that water back to the land.  It’s been a pretty dry spring so we need water for the gardens.  Even with hugelkulture, we still have to water some of the time when we go for a long stretch without any rain.  Plus we are nurturing the orchard plants a bit and I continue to plant more stuff!  Connie and Mom, and now Sherry and Char are making the Harn grounds GROW.

We gave our presentation on the Harn for the Leech Lake Tribal College and it was good to present our story as a couple of new homesteaders focused on sustainability and living in harmony with Earth, Water, and Other Beings in Nature.  We were able to discuss some of the things that we are doing to live more lightly and one of the attendees noted that making a commitment to changing just one thing can be a step in moving forward.  I agree.  So, what’s the one I recommend?  OK, my pet peeve is watching someone wash dishes or brush their teeth while the water runs continuously.  So my suggestion is to change how you brush.  I use a glass of water to brush my teeth.  I dip the brush in the water and suds up my teeth.  When I’m finished with all the brushing, I take a mouthful of water and rinse, spitting the rinse water over my brush.  I do this a couple times and then rinse the brush with water from the glass a final time.  All the water is used.  None just runs down the drain without doing a job for me.  If we all did this, we could save thousands of gallons a year!  I also use a plastic tub when washing dishes for wash and rinse water which drastically reduces the water needed.  Any water I run is over these tubs so it is used a couple times.

I spent a couple days working with my bee hives.  On Wednesday I checked the hives for the first time since receiving them.  {Every day I’d hoped to check up to this point had been windy or cold and just not optimal for checking on the bees.  It was still windier than I’d like but it was sunny and far too long since I’d gotten the girls, so I went for it.}

First I opened up the weaker hive and saw kind of what I expected… low population and little brood.  There was honey and pollen being stored but it just seemed like not a lot happening.  Also, I noted lots of dead bees on the bottom board under the frames and it just seemed sloppy – quite un-beelike.  I was not able to find a queen and wondered if they had one.  Next I went to the active hive.  This hive had a damaged bottom board so I’d gotten a hive box with bottom board from Angie at Split Oak Farms and planned to transfer all the frames from the old hive box to this new box.  The old bottom board on the hive box had a space at the back lower corner where the bees seemed to love exiting and entering the hive.  Luckily, the new hive box from Angie had a hole in the back which I knocked out to hopefully give them a similar situation for access.

I began by pulling the hive box with bottom board from the pallet and then I put the new hive box on the pallet where the stronger hive box had been.  When I opened up the hive, I was ecstatic to find a hustling, bustling bunch. I started pulling frames to see how things looked and there were LOADS of bees.  I pulled each frame and placed it into the new hive box.  There was a little tightness but everything fit. This hive box hadn’t been used in a while so I had to squish the frames in a bit at one point.  I was trying to check for the queen but mostly I just wanted to see what was happening and get them re-housed in the new hive.  It was obvious there was a queen as I saw LOTS of brood (workers and drones).  I kept moving frames and ALL the frames had activity.  I thought there might be a queen cell developing (which can be a sign of pending swarm – the hive will start to raise a new queen so the old queen can take a part of the colony and head out to find a new space while the new queen continues in the old location).  With all this activity, I knew it was time to add a second hive box for the bees to expand their operations. I again did not see the queen but, since I was working on moving them, and I was struggling with the smoker staying primed, I just got them moved with the new addition and closed everything up.

I planned to call Lewis when I got back to the Harn but… as is typical, something distracted me.  I don’t know what I did really with the rest of the day but I kept busy.  I spoke with a retired friend in Alex this weekend and she agreed that this is how life works for her too.  She is constantly busy but couldn’t tell you with what.  That is totally it!  Maybe it’s cooking, cleaning up, reading, getting a call – whatever, it definitely makes for staying busy!  And I’m super happy.

Thursday I called Lewis to ask his advice on the bee situation.  He noted that he’d given a frame of brood to the weaker colony prior to giving it to me, which he had told me when we picked up the hives, but we agreed that didn’t seem to have done the trick.  He suggested moving a second frame of capped brood (mostly developed and ready to hatch worker bees) from the strong to the weak hive.  BUT… if I did this, I had to be SURE not to transfer a frame with the queen from the strong hive into the weak hive. I questioned whether that queen would be in the top hive box, but Lewis was sure the queen would still be in the lower hive box, since I’d just added the top box yesterday.  Since I was going to be heading to Alex to meet with Mom the next day, I knew I needed to do this that day.  I tried calling in a beekeeper friend but couldn’t get in touch with anyone so… I headed out to give it a whirl!

I pulled the weak hive top cover and checked a couple center frames – smoker working better today but I was still nervous about how much time I’d have so I worked quickly.  I was able to find the queen on the weak hive right away!  I pulled a side frame with almost no activity and put it aside.  Then I headed to the strong colony and pulled the top cover and flipped it over.  I set the top hive on the cover so just in case my queen was in top, she wouldn’t drop into the grass.  I pulled a frame and checked it for brood and didn’t see the queen. As I placed the frame into the weak colony, Dan asked about the bees on the frame… I hadn’t asked Lewis about that so, I hope those worker bees are OK in their new location.  🙂 A fellow beekeeper thinks that perhaps those bees will fly back to their home hive.  We’ll see.  I looked at some more frames (spent more time than I realized…) but didn’t find her.  I am sure hopeful she is still in the strong colony hive box!   I did confirm a couple queen cells developing in the strong colony so, I should be OK regardless but it definitely will lose me a few weeks if I put the strong queen in the weak hive box.  So much to learn…

Here’s a couple videos:

In addition to beekeeping, I also started some seeds that afternoon.  I know, I’m WAY behind schedule.  But, we’ll see.  Some people aren’t putting out plants until mid-June.  I figure we’ll see how things go and I’ll probably get a few plants from the nursery or friends.  Char says she’s got a few things for me.  God love her!  She’s really helping this homestead to start out with a lot of help garden wise.  Oh, and we watched the Bee Movie – you know, the one with Jerry Seinfeld – and I realized how much of a load of crap that movie is!  I mean, the main character is a BOY BEE!  And so much of the film focuses on guys doing all this work.  What BULLSHIT!  It’s the GIRL BEES that do ALL the work!  I mean, besides that donation of sperm from the drones, everything that happens in the hive is done by the females.  Ah, so frustrating.  It’s definitely an interesting experience to watch this movie now that I know so much more about bees.  It’s fascinating to see all the social aspects of that film – the mosquito is a black dude (Chris Rock – a fave!) and there is so much on that topic I could spout off about too.  Anyway, if you watch it, look for all the conditioning.  It’s annoying but helps you realize how we socialize ourselves with film.  Guess I expected more from Jerry.  Oh, and we saw lightening bugs tonight when we went out to pee.  A little phenology for you.

I started off Memorial Day weekend (holidays mean nothing to me anymore) with a trip to Mom’s.  I was getting the truck title transferred and was gonna go with her to the doctor.  I am SO GLAD I got there in time for that as I think it was a help for me to be with her.  She did SO much better getting this shot than she’d done in the past.  I think part of it was being a tough momma in front of her baby.  🙂  I was also able to sneak in a visit to Cherry Street Books to see Anne and that was wonderful.  I am so glad she was hired to take my vacancy – I definitely feel like she’s a well-read and customer-focused person.  I was able to see book club buddy Mary too and that was fun.  I really miss everyone from the book store world.

I also stopped by Special Memories to see Marlys. She’d just put away a puzzle so I didn’t get a chance to find a few pieces but it was really great to catch up with my old friend.  And then I headed to 2 Guyz Pizza for my favorite GF pizza.  Mom’s favorite is the 2 Guyz Favorite – so that’s easy to remember!  They are top notch!  http://www.2guyzpizza.com/ I think Tom was happy to have pizza too so we had a great evening.  Even opened up a bottle of Sauterne – definitely Tom’s fave!   After dinner, Mom and I headed down to the lake shore for some plant gathering – she had some iris and a French lilac she wanted me to have.  Plus we had to burn sticks!  (Mom’s second favorite thing after mowing the lawn on her rider.)  All in all, it was a relaxing and fun evening.

Saturday I packed up and then Mom and I grabbed a couple of “Rita’s Hostas” for me to take up to the Harn.  She threw in a few more things that had grown into the driveway while I showered.  More planting!  And then I headed north as Mom got on her mower. 🙂

I was headed to the Nemeth Art Center for the Beagle and Wolf Bookstore’s book signing for Amy Thielen’s Give a Girl a Knife5-27-17 Me and Amy ThielenThis is a fun memoir of her adventures in NY and in coming home to MN.  She really recommends coming home.  I hope to read it soon.  So, anyway, I was hoping to hook up with new friends Bruce and Cheryl and also to see Amy’s husband Aaron again; we’d met him briefly at Bruce & Cheryl’s.  He adorable.  He had a load of colostrum for Amy.  The only reason I knew this word was because I nursed my son so I was a little concerned about what she might be making with it.  I had to ask.  I introduced myself to her at the end of the gig and she said she actually froze that, took it to NY, and made them a pudding out of it!  (It was cow colostrum.)  I also explained to her about how her show gave my mom hope for me to be a TV star when I moved out to the woods – not gonna happen – and how my husband was tired of hearing about how adorable Aaron is.  Not sure that was what she wanted to hear so I didn’t tell her that he’s now going to get tired of me talking about how adorable SHE is.  And she is!!  She is so tiny!  But she’s a giant bubble of personality. The event was Standing Room Only. She did a short reading from the book on arrival and people who were late missed it.  It was a cute story on working in NY while pregnant.  She’s super cheeky!  I realized her short reading was so she could spend the majority of the time socializing with her fans.  She was so happy to see everyone that I swore she knew them all for years.  Aaron assured me she didn’t know the people she was with when I mentioned to him how she seemed to know EVERYONE.  She is just a super fun and hospitable Midwestern girl.  Just don’t call her a Homestead Honey… or so says Bruce. 🙂

I have to share that this Nemeth Art Center is a hidden gem.  http://www.nemethartcenter.org/about.html  They have a standing Gabor and Edith Nemeth Study Collection that includes 42 European paintings, some dating back to the 16th Century.  They accompany this with amazing contemporary art. There is also a quaint historical museum downstairs.  What a fun place.  And the guy who runs it, Michael Dagun, is pretty amazing too.  Friendly and welcoming – you need to check this place out.  There’s an upcoming Opening Reception & Symposium June 24th from 2 – 5 pm for their current exhibition.  I’m hoping to make it…

After that fun I headed to the Mississippi Headwaters Hostel to talk with Sara about work schedule plans.  I stopped by Rock Creek to fill up on gas, pulling in right behind Kelly.  I think I came around the corner a bit too fast for her…  I swung wide at the corner so I wasn’t RIGHT on her butt but I’m thinking it was a little too close for a momma with kids in the car.  :-/  So much for not tailgating people anymore!  I guess it is rare these days but I definitely see how when I’ve got a TON of stuff happening, it’s easier to slip into driving a bit faster too.  Have to watch that…

I ended up spending quite a bit of time talking with the guests at the hostel and checking in with Sara – it had been a while since I’d seen her.  I imagined, years ago when she was about the only person we knew up here, that once we lived here, we’d see her all the time.  But she’s so busy and we’re so busy that it’s lucky if I see her once a month!  We talked about everything that’s been going on since we last chatted and then put in some screens and moved storm windows down to the basement so I earned a few bucks too!  I really love working at the hostel; it’s fun meeting people from all over.  There are loads of great stories to hear.

Lucky was happy to have me home to feed him later that evening.  He whined and cried to me about how lonely he’d been.  And then he curled up with me a kept me warm all night long.

Dan’s coming home from his weekend at the Boundary Waters for Cliff’s Bachelor party – sounds like they had a super time.  It will be good to see him.  And we’ll start another busy week.  We’ll be heading to Char & Wyatt’s for a cookout Memorial Day but will likely also sneak in some Yarn Basket shop organization and maybe putting up some light fixtures.  There’s always something to keep you busy once you’re “retired”!!


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


, , ,

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!


, ,

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…