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I can’t recall if I’ve explained Minnesota Seasons a la Danny in this blog so we’re going to start with that. Minnesota’s new year starts with Spring in May-June. This is followed by Summer (July-August), Fall (September-October), and then First, Second and Third Winters (November-December, January-February, & March-April, respectively).

So this will be our First Winter update and I will tell you it feels like Spring. I don’t know whether to be happy our wood supply will be lasting us longer than expected, or sad because I wonder what it means for our changing climate.

We’ve taken advantage of the springlike weather to get some things accomplished that would have been much harsher had they been done in the below freezing weather. Like putting some added insulation onto Anne’s trailer. I think she’s calling it her House of Doors now… and I believe there will be some artwork installations in the spring! 😀

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Dan with the completed east side – hoping for more warmth for Anne this winter.
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We were also able to make it to Annie Humphrey’s Eat What You Kill album release. WOW, we love this new album. The title track asks us to each be accountable. There’s a fun track about the way life happens, And an encouraging track about what to do when life brings things we feel are too heavy. It talks about overcoming hardship in so many ways and how our roots are what will serve us best. The songs recognize the importance of our ancestors and gives hope to our descendants. And they remind us how we all get through this thing called life… together.

It was a real treat to see Annie Humphrey perform these songs accompanied by David Huckfelt, Jeremy Ylvisaker, and Adrian Naabek Liberty. David warmed us up with his own new album songs, many of which Dan and I have come to love since seeing him perform in July (especially You Get Got & As Below, So Above). Jeremy’s guitar work gave the most extraordinary stretch to the sounds and Naabek’s powerful but gentle drumming techniques were uplifting. This new album has songs from the life of this amazing woman, focused around her family, and full of power about how to bravely face life with full accountability. This album summary says it all:

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Siibikwe summarizes this album beautifully.

And you have another opportunity to see this fantastic artist perform her new album THIS FRIDAY at Rail River Folk School in Bemidji. You will see video footage of, “life according to Annie”, that accompanies these new songs and, as you watch, you will be tickled, informed, touched, horrified, strengthened, and inspired. These are videos of real life, as it has happened for this family in the last year. They are honest and funny, heartbreaking and beautiful, and they remind us all of the importance of treating each other kindly and remembering to take care of all our families.

And, following Annie’s advice… we helped friends Jeff & Angie of Split Oak Farm Eat What Jeff Killed. We spent a couple days processing deer and I’m happy to say, “I eat Roadkill Deer”. This meat processing is a thing I mainly get to do with Jeff and Angie locally. I’ve butchered chickens with them in the past and Jeff taught me to butcher a deer two years ago when he got one while hunting with Dan. I am glad to do this work as it makes me accountable for my food. I have yet to kill my own deer but I have taken the lives of a two chickens and I recognize this is a huge responsibility. I see helping to preserve the harvest of this deer as a way to honor the animal’s sacrifice and to enjoy and enrich the friendship we have with friends. In addition, we get to learn useful skills that will serve us well.

Jami & Angie trim fat while Dan vacuum seals (and documents) and Jeff cuts roasts and such outside.

We have also been celebrating the lives of loved ones lost and supporting our friends who are losing loved ones… some to violence, some to sickness, all to mortality. We are all dying, a bit every day. And I feel I am truly realizing the LIFE of each day as I appreciate my own pending death. As frequent readers will know, I am a big fan of death. I love talking about all aspects of death and so with these deaths also come more opportunity to figure out life. In understanding our frailty, we find ways to be kind. In understanding our limited time, we find ways to cherish even brief moments with loved ones. And in facing death, we sometimes find the many words spoken in a brief glance, a quiet time of silence, or a simple squeeze of the hand. Death unites us in that we will all die… and we have all lost and will continue to lose those we love to death. Why do we not talk of it more? Why do we fear it so? I’ve found that the more I talk with others of their experiences, the better I understand death. And life, and the important things in life, which aren’t typically things.

As we near mid-First Winter I tend to start to think of death. As the trees lose the last of their leaves and snow begins to accumulate, life finally gives up the green and we head toward the dead of winter (which is apparently also now a game). This year, I continue to think about life as the green stays and the world feels too much like Spring. The snow was melting off with our 40-degree day. Which, appropriately, brings me back to thinking about death. Or more clearly, the way we are changing this planet with what appears to include, as an end result, the possible extinction of the human race. [Which is fine in my book as I don’t think we humans are smart enough to save ourselves from ourselves. Well, some are but maybe not enough of us. And most of us aren’t willing to do what it might take to get us there. And a few of us continue to work to destroy the planet as fast as possible. We, as a species, need to fix our disability to deal with discomfort. Or we’re going to find life more and more uncomfortable.]

So, here at the Harn we continue to try to live as simply and sustainably as we can. And now is the time of year that we get to enjoy the frozen and canned goodies from the summer and fall. We’ve been enjoying lots of home cooking including Cabbage Roll Hot Dish made from local foods.

Cabbage Roll Hot Dish

I make this in a large crock pot starting with some chopped green peppers and a pound or a bit more of pork burger (from Merry Gardens Farm). Sometimes I add some chopped onion and garlic (and if I do, they too are from MGF). Then I add a quart of tomatoes (that Connie and I canned – these too were from MGF). Then I add some salt and pepper and fill the rest of the crock pot with chopped cabbage (from Horse Hill Gardens). Then I cook on low until it’s done to the tenderness I prefer. Note – if you add more cabbage after a few hours of cooking, this will make a better ratio of cabbage to meat in the mix. There is no crock pot big enough for the needed cabbage. One must wait for it to cook down… I usually love to make this ahead so it can marinate overnight and then be warmed up, thus deepening the flavor. I serve it over well-salted rice.

So I made two big crocks of that in the last couple weeks. That one cabbage from Doug and Kathy made two huge crockpots of Cabbage Roll Hot Dish. It was as big as a basketball!

And besides cooking dinner, I’ve been baking more cookies. Still not the weekly batches that I hoped to provide for Dan (and certainly not the daily that he heard me say), but we’ve had multiple batches of cookies in the last month. I started with Peanut Butter (1 c. PB, 1 c. sugar, 1 egg) and they are easy and wonderful so I changed the size of the cookies, ending up really liking the dime sized cookies I got from a tiny little ball of dough. [I also added a bit of vanilla and salt as they are easy additions that kick up flavor a bit. Maybe I’ll try a little butter addition and see what that does… maybe that’s my next batch!]

Of late I’ve moved on to bar cookies. These are preferable as they are not tough to mix up and once pressed in the pan, you’re all done but for the waiting. (Definitely let these cool, too. Don’t burn your tongue.) This is good for not many dishes to clean as well. Here’s the ones I made last:

White Chocolate Walnut Bars

1 c. butter, 1 c. brown sugar, 1/2 c. sugar mixed. Add 2 eggs, mixing in each one by one, then add 2 t. vanilla, 1 c. flaked coconut and then dry mixed ingredients (2 c. flour, 1 t. baking soda, 1 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. salt). Then fold in 1/2 c. chopped walnuts and 1 c. white chocolate chips.

Press into 2 8×8 greased pans and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. I personally like these a bit underdone so they are gooey inside and crispy on top. The coconut keeps them really moist and adds a bit of sweetness so cut the sugar a bit if you prefer.

So Dan is happy that cookies are happening at the Harn. I do enjoy them too. And we’ve shared several of the batches with friends. Connie and I baked cookies at her place a few weeks ago and those were some good batches! Need to make some more for Thursday.

Hope you are enjoying First Winter wherever you are.