I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve given a Harn Update and I’m just too overwhelmed still to write about the PUC decision on Line 3 so this week’s blog will be on happier things. And an uh-oh situation.
We sure have been busy this summer. Got Mom and Tom moved from their gigantor house on the lake to a small condo on a smaller lake and they seem to be happier than clams in their new abode. It was a long couple days getting the last minute things packed up and cleaning the entire house to prepare it for the new owners but we did it. And Mom has been unpacking like a fiend so they are almost all settled in the new place.
A result of the downsizing was that we “inherited” a LOAD of boxes of stuff. We were like the Beverly Hillbillies all packed up from the big move. So now we’re going through all the things and dividing them among friends. Angie got a bunch of clothes and shoes and the toaster oven. Jill and Randy got the wreaths, the hose attachment, and the food covers for farm meals – which we will enjoy often! Connie has the Krumkake iron so we can make that at her place this fall. There are still many boxes to sort. And we have some new quilts, blankets, books, graters, fabrics for crafts, clothes, and many family heirlooms from the last couple generations.
This past week, we spent time clearing out the garage to hopefully get the car back in someday. We also found a little uh-oh situation in the wood shed.
Seems the top portion of the two west stacks is bowing out for some reason, so we decided we’d go ahead and prepare for winter and stack that wood in the garage wood pile rather than re-stacking it in place and THEN moving it to the garage storage in another month or so. [We’re already seeing the cooling with lovely cool evenings, so fire time will be here before we know it.] We still have cords of wood to cut but we have enough for this winter already we’re pretty sure – that is, if we get the Rocket Mass Heater built out!
That’s another of the tasks that has gotten pushed to a back burner – we’re just so busy – or our friends are busy – so we’re hoping to find a couple weekends in August/September for the cob building workshops to get that finished. We did dig out all the sand for the project from the tarp where it’s been sitting the last 2 and a half years since we started the major cob work. We have about 11 buckets left and think that will get us through the most of the build. The more mass you have on the heater, the more heat you store in the house with each burn. So the more mass, the warmer we stay and the less we have to burn fires so the less wood we use.
The first winter I was here, 2016, I burnt through a bit more than 3 cords of wood but the stove at that point had cob only over the bottom layer of exhaust ducting and little else. I was losing a TON of heat through the chimney! I held as much heat as I could in blankets over the top exhaust ductwork, but that was not optimal. Last year, after getting a bit more cob in place and covering almost all the ductwork, we went through a bit over 2 cords of wood. It was a bitter cold winter with a couple LONG spells of cold, rather than the couple 35+ below days I had in 2016. Both winters we supplemented with electric heat to make it through the worst and assure our wood lasted the season. This year we’re hoping to minimize the electric heat and only use the RMH for warmth. And we hope to burn under 2 cords of wood as well. We’ll see how the experiment continues…
As a part of our clean out the garage/bucket the sand/prep for wood move day, I also got some of my gardens cleaned up. What with all our volunteering and working on farms and gardens off-site, it seems that we never have time for our own gardens – which are quite unproductive anyway due to the lack of sun in our Harn clearing. I have managed to harvest quite a bit of rhubarb and even pickled some – which turned out to be a bit too spicy for me. I’m gonna try to tweak the recipe to something a bit less clove-y and make another batch sometime soon. Meanwhile, I’ve been sharing the first batch with friends and finding some really like the cloveyness. I have noted that Minnesotans use more clove than I do in pickling so the first batch will find homes! Took a couple jars to Bruce and Budd’s and a couple to Garden Club this week.
We also picked raspberries at Merry Garden Farms and I made a few half-pints of jelly. Well, I hoped for jelly but, though raspberries have a higher than normal pectin content, I got syrup. Actually, I almost prefer syrup since it means less maple surple we need to purchase for our pancakes! We made a few batches last season of the crabapple ginger cardamom that didn’t gel and it is lovely on pancakes. Or ice cream. YUM.
And the raspberriy canes that Char gave me for Mother’s Day are producing too!! I was tickled to eat a few ripe berries this past week as we mowed the front garden area in preparation for the Shevlin Garden Club coming for a visit. Connie and I are hosting the July Garden Club meeting as we live close together and we’ll be sharing our gardens with the club. Hers are much more developed and beautiful than mine but mine are unique in their own way with their hugelkulture and other crazy methods. For example, I plant potatoes in old tires, stacking them up as the plants grow taller in hopes of more production along the vines. And I have a new asparagus bed to show off, thanks to Connie’s abundance. We also pulled out the old stove drawer we salvaged from someone’s loss on the highway and put it next to the asparagus bed as I hope to plant some mints in it for next year. That gets it out of the way in the garage.
We are needing work space in the garage to finish the build on our canning table. Dan and I got a 3-burner propane stovetop that we’re building a base for so I can use it for canning this year. We found an old table at the dump and are converting it into a canning station. We also realized this summer that moving the toaster oven to the porch helps keep the house cool while still allowing me to bake banana bread and such – I got a whole bag of day-olds for 99 cents! We had originally planned to build an outdoor kitchen on the east end of the house but now we’re thinking we’ll just house the outdoor kitchen on the attached screened porch. Hopefully this will be a workable and simpler solution. It’s kind of interesting to see how things fall into place here at the Harn… it’s not always as we plan.
Speaking of plans, while we planned to eat all the potatoes we helped harvest at Merry Gardens Farm last fall, we’re still working through them. We ate all the ones stored in the burlap bag and I’ve gone through the ones stored in peat moss in the garbage can and pulled some with very long eyes! (PIC) These potatoes are still sturdy and delicious so we’re still eating them. I did plant a few of these guys to see how a Harn potato crop will do this year – last year we were inundated with slugs and only got a handful of potatoes. I see the slugs this year too but have also frequently seen the snakes out in our garden so hopefully they are helping us.
We’ve been weeding weekly at Merry Gardens Farm and bringing home delicious veggies now that things are really in production. Cuckes, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Sungold tomatoes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage – lots of yummy stuff that we’ve eaten and shared at potlucks. Just this past week we finally made it to Bruce and Budd’s for a Monday Potluck and took a big pot of venison (thanks, Jeff Ness) vegetable soup that was a big hit. FULL of meat!! We’d made a ham roast a few days earlier and I’d wondered how I’d like the flavor. I’ve told myself that I’d have to adjust to the flavor of venison with its gaminess. But I was amazed to find it very beef-like in flavor. I LOVE it. In fact, it’s even better than beef as it has a richness that brings almost a livery quality. So yummy.
In addition to the Farm work, we’ve begun volunteering at the Farm by the Lake Garden Club, newly created by Connie Nunemaker, our wise and fearless leader. She is about the best person you could hope to have when you’re working to restore gardens to a vision held by a plant collector and gardening enthusiast. She knows plants, knows how to transplant and split them to maximize color and avoid overcrowding. Richard Davids donated the land for the Farm by the Lake to exist and when it was donated, it was lush with flora from all over the world. In the intervening years, there has been intermittent care of the beds and now we’re working to restore the original vision. And weed and kill poison ivy and nightshade along the way! So far, we’re trending well with one volunteer (Rebecca Monley) joining us at the first meeting and two (Avis Sundbom & Adam Ams) at the second. Hope to keep growing in numbers as we work. This is not quick fix but our first project, the Peony Bed – which we’d discovered as we walked the grounds early on – has now been uncovered and de-weeded and is looking pretty good. You can see a peony to the right of our group in the second photo, along with several to my left and one behind Connie. There are peony seedlings everywhere!
We’ve had some fun this past month for sure – spending 4th of July and that weekend meeting more hippie friends up here in the Northwoods. We got to meet new friends from Not Your Average Family Band at both shin-digs and spent a lovely hour in the Lake Bemidji State Park listening to them play last Sunday. I hoe to post a video soon.
We’ve also really been enjoying the wildlife this summer. I love the snakes and frogs best I think. But we also enjoy watching the hummingbirds who come to our feeder. We have two brilliant boys and a smattering of girls, though of late they are not as frequent visitors. We hear a grouse close but haven’t seen them since finding the momma on the nest earlier this spring. We have a robin family with a nest in the pine tree just outside the porch – convenient for them as they love to hunt in our clearing. Happily the squirrels have moved off to their summer homes and we have not seen any chipmunks or mice, which can be destructive or invasive, near the Harn. And no bunnies to eat our lettuce and radish! The deer have been quite scarce this summer too though we often jump them in the winter when we go out to pee. We’ve had a couple BIG spiders, one in the house and a couple on the porch but for the most part, we and the spiders co-exist peaceably. Unlike the one raccoon I chased out of the yard a month or so back – he has not returned so my cursing appears to have worked.
We seem to always be very busy but also always have time for some porch sitting and relaxation so this life seems to be working out pretty well so far. We talked with our financial adviser and things look good on that front too so we’re not feeling too worried. We continue to watch spending but we also still spend more than we ought at times. Though the longer we’re here, the less we seem to need and the more we seem to do cheaply. I made another batch of laundry soap – the second since our move to the Harn in 2016. It cost less than $2.25 to make a batch and it lasts for quite a while. I also recently made a new batch of deodorant for about $2 – should last me through until winter.
We have watched a few things of late that have been fun. Had Bill and Connie over for venison stew and a movie – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – as we’re all JK Rowling fans. We also spend a bit of time on Netflix and have seen some good movies, lots of funny comedians, and a couple good food series; we especially like Somebody Feed Phil. The best comedians of late have been Hannah Gadsby – she will change how you see the world , Ali Wong – she is so “wong”, and Chris Rock. We occasionally watch classics from our DVD collection. If you haven’t seen Idiocracy lately, you might want to check it out as it’s a bit relevant in today’s political climate. And we’re getting the last two films of the Hunger Games Trilogy, which became a 4-movie deal, from the Bagley Library this week. That should be interesting to watch as well as we prepare for Revolution. Perhaps we will learn skills for taking on the Empire. The Rebels need all the help they can get at present and I’m hopeful we’ll take the resistance to a whole new level this fall. Time will tell.
And so, we keep up the Pipeline fight. We plan to continue supporting the protests against Line 3 and also to support the Valve Turners when that trial finally makes its way to the Clearwater County Courthouse. I may yet get that bucket list item checked to Be Arrested for Activism. Happily, some recent Duluth Water Protectors were given the right to use the Necessity Defense, giving me hope that we are seeing a turn toward common sense when it comes to saving our planet from the greed of corporations… not to mention keeping it livable for our grandchildren. And there is a planned Youth Climate March on July 21st in Washington, D.C. that I pray is a tipping point that wakes the public to the crisis our children face as we continue destroying the planet.
The latest in my exploits was a trip to Camp Turtle Island for a Day of Resistance. What an amazing day. full of prayer, music, good food, community, and encouragement. I met some lovely people in the “Besistance” (being resistance – I love it!). And the next day Dan and I headed to Duluth for the Honor the Earth fundraiser concert. Next week I hope to share more about that. We also met some Water Protectors who shared their home with us. I love the community in my life.
If you want to help in the pipeline fight, please read the recent MN350 statement on the MN PUC decision and take a pledge to help resist Enbridge’s New Line 3. And please end all relations with JP Morgan Chase, the #1 Wall Street funder of Tar Sands oil. You can send a message to CEO Jamie Dimon today right here. Wells Fargo too needs to be abandoned (not just for tar sands pipeline support but also for their discriminatory lending practices and funding for the gun industry and private prisons). Divestment is the only language these banks seem to comprehend.
Thanks for your support.