Annie Humphrey’s We the People has been a favorite for a long time.
Really feeling it’s urgency now.
Looking forward to seeing her again…
You can too…
Let’s not get caught doin’ nothin’.
Earlier this month, I attended the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board’s Environmental Congress. I signed up to attend not realizing there would be livestreaming of the event but I am so glad I attended in person as I was able to make so much of the trip.
I found lodging with a friend in the area and enjoyed a wonderful room full of delight. [Fran, you’d have loved the whole place!] I ended up staying two nights and really enjoying not only getting to know this lovely family but also their terrific town. I got the $10 tour of Owatonna and will blog it soon!
OK, back to the Congress. We had a full day ahead of us! Fermata Sol, an up and coming U of M Mankato a cappella group, opened the day with a nice selection of melodies. After this number, I noted they might yet make me like Taylor Swift!! (A high compliment per Jacob, their beatboxer. As I enjoyed the music, Jeffrey Broberg joined me and told me a bit about MN Well Owners Organization, who are seeking board statewide members. The Plenary speakers were terrific. As Grace Goldtooth ended up falling ill, we had plenty of time to hear Kate A Brauman, PhD (Lead Scientist, Global Water Initiative, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota) explain how Minnesota is getting hotter and wetter and no matter how sexy that sounds, it is not a good thing. EVERY Minnesotan will feel the effects of climate change. Sydney Bauer, recent graduate and member of the Emerging Environmental Leaders Program, challenged and encouraged us to try some new things today, to reach out to a young person, and to understand that they are ready to take on the challenges before us. I am still amazed at the patience of our young people…
Then it was time for breakouts (details at the bottom of this link), which covered quite a lot of ground.
I selected the Innovative Strategy one and heard from Alison Zelms, Deputy City Manager, City of Mankato who spoke on the water systems and risks to wells along the river requiring multi-million dollar projects to secure the water infrastructure. One thing we often don’t consider is all the infrastructure that we will need to replace, repair, or abandon as climate changes our spaces. Jeff Meek, Sustainability Coordinator, MN Department of Transportation spoke about how current flooding changes require new thinking for resolving culvert and bridge concerns. Hilarie Sorenson, Climate Specialist, 1854 Treaty Authority spoke about the work being done with Mille Lacs on walleye populations. When asked what one thing might need to be abandoned to improve going forward, here were the answers: Alison says to not mow to the edge of retention ponds, Jeff notes that we might need to consider what 1% of infrastructure we might abandon rather than continue to support, and Hilarie noted that sometimes problems are not in need of an immediate human fix and that a wait and watch approach can often allow situations to resolve naturally.
My second workshop I did not realize focused on energy as I was focused on the first and third topics in the list: Climate Justice & Equity. This was a panel presentation with 5 members expressing their experience and ideas regarding equitable energy strategies and why they are important. Presenters offered diverse perspectives on difficulties faced by people of color and the policies, programs, and resources available to mitigate them. Presenters included: Briana Baker, Weatherization Auditor, Minnesota Valley Action Council; Carmen Carruthers, Outreach Director, Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota; Ben Passer, Director of Energy Access and Equity, Fresh Energy; Janiece Watts, Policy Associate for Energy Access and Equity, Fresh Energy; and Ansha Zaman, Policy Coordinator, Center for Earth Energy and Democracy. At the end of the session, the panelists joined audience members to answer questions and share ideas. Overall, it was a really good session to bring understanding to the needs and what Minnesota government and NGOs are doing to meet the needs.
Side note for my fellow environmental geeks: I was uber impressed with Janiece Watts from Fresh Energy in that last breakout. Then, I sat down to lunch with J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director for Fresh Energy!! And she raved with me about how great Janiece and Ben both are. [We’d been talking for several minutes before I finally realized who she was… and then we had an awesome discussion about TBIs! 🙂 She is a real gem. I now understand the amazing outpouring of love and prayer and good energy I witnessed earlier this year, from the entire environmental movement, when she took her tumble on the ice and hit her head. SO glad she’s back in action. And I turned her on to Annie Humphrey’s new song on this topic… The Boy Who Lived. Listen to the whole album though – it’s terrific. And buy it. 🙂 ]Just a little ramble on how magical my life is…
Lunch followed and Governor Walz gave an address (start at 49 minutes in as apparently no one knew how to edit the video which recorded the lunch background noise for almost an hour before getting to the presentation…) before turning us over to a panel of his Commissioners and others involved with the new Subcabinet on Climate Change (they start at 1:12 into the video). Steve Kelly did a nice job of specifically saying that the Department of Commerce is an “advocate for the public interest before the Public Utilities Commission” (PUC) for regulated utilities. [Let’s hope they continue to stand with their statement that there is NO PUBLIC NEED for Enbridge’s proposed Line 3, currently being considered by the PUC.] He also mentioned they are working with the insurance and banking aspects of climate justice. (I got a chance to shake his hand and thank him for this at the end of the event.) The announcement of the Climate Change Subcabinet, announced with the signing of Executive Order 19-37, seemed to be the precursor to the Environmental Congress – excellent planning. While I had some expectation that the Congress would be a watered down, “Hey, look how great Minnesota is doing on climate change! Tech is going to save us! No worries!” thing, instead the presentation was a pretty honest assessment of the dire straits in which we find ourselves. There was some talk of things we hope to do and some that we’ve implemented already, but mostly it was a recognition that we have a long way to go. Even here in progressive Minnesota.
The most participant-driven part of the day was the Open Space time. If you’re not familiar with Open Space, the way it worked at the Congress was that any participant could create a room to discuss any topic they want to deep dive. Once the rooms were assigned, we all went off to our topics and, if we wanted, at any time, we could transfer to a different topic. The requirement was that each room have a note-taker to capture the conversations. These notes will reportedly be compiled and presented by the MEQB at the Environmental Congress website.
Our topics were quite varied: Greenhouse gas emissions accounting (data, methods); How to encourage inter-generational action on climate change; Diversity in MN Resilience Planning; How to make mass transit cool; How do we elect bold champions for a livable planet; Natural climate solutions to reach MN’s emission reduction goals! (2% to 33%!); Having meaningful discussions with people you disagree with; one on carbon fee and dividend (CCL was there), a few others and the one I attended, Implications of Line 3 on climate.
The Line 3 Open Space had about a dozen people and was pretty evenly divided between MN agency reps and citizens. Julie Goehring, MEQB Congressional District 7 Representative; Mary Otto, DOC Tribal Liaison; Helen Waquiu, MPCA Tribal Liaison; Steve Colvin, MN DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division Director; DNR Planner Nora (?); Laura Bishop, MPCA Commissioner; MPCA Educator (missed her name!), Sara Wolff, Minnesota Environmental Partnership Advocacy Director; Matteo, Sierra Club/MN350 Videographer; Robert Red Thunder, Red Lake Tribal Member; Jackie (didn’t catch her info); Lindsay Anderson, Green Corps Member; and me!
Sara Wolff began the discussion with a presentation of some data she had on Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) for MN. In 2005, we were at about 130 MMT CO2/year and we’ve reduced this to about 110 MMT CO2/year. Out 2007 goal for 2025 was to reduce by 30% – to about 90 MMT CO2/year – and by 2030, we hoped to reduce by 45% below 2010 levels to about 65 MMT CO2/year. Our old 2050 goal was to reduce to 80% of 2005 levels. But Walz’ new Climate Change Subcabinet calls for 100% reduction by 2050, at least for our electrical production. It will be interesting to see how the group proceeds. [I’ve applied for a seat at the table. Put out the good energy for it!!]
Sara noted that, while we started out strong, Minnesota is no longer on track to meet goals for GHG reductions. We need to further reduce by about 7 MMT CO2/year to hit our old 2025 goal or 13 MMT to meet our new 2025 goal of 30% reduction. That means a 40 MMT reduction by 2030 to meet the goal. She then noted that the GHG emissions for Line 3 will be 200 MMT CO2/year. I mentioned McKibben’s 2012 Do the Math article – where we learned that much of the remaining fossil fuels must remain in the ground.
I mentioned also that the only spill since 1989 on current Line 3 happened during a repair. When we look at the new lines for Keystone and DAPL, we’re seeing spill after spill negating the “improvement” that new pipelines bring. Instead of the jobs for putting in a NEW Line 3, we can create ongoing employment via maintaining our currently safely operating Line 3. Safer AND more jobs.
Lindsey asked about what our current state is and Steve Colvin pointed to Laura Bishop who noted that the permits are on hold at the MPCA. The updated EIS is needed for those permits to be reconsidered. I gave a summary of the court cases where the Court of Appeals required an updated EIS. Steve Colvin noted that Enbridge has to do the analysis but the Department of Commerce does the EIS and presents it to the PUC. He also denoted the open DNR approvals pending: water appropriation permits for different purposes, utility license to cross public lands, utility license to cross public waters, listed species taking permit, a calcareous fen management program, and a public waters work permit (an oddity for public water crossing permits). I summarized that there is currently NO Certificate of Need or Route Permit and, until the EIS is issued and re-approved as adequate, no EIS.
Someone asked about green jobs and a brief discussion ensued about the need. Someone asked about pre-construction work status and I mentioned the difficulty with understanding WHAT you are seeing in the landscape – is it Enbridge pre-construction or high line construction? Is it Enbridge pre-construction or Charlie clearing his timber to pay for his kid’s college?
Current state of the EIS and when and how it will be deemed adequate were unclear. The EIS due date of the 9th (or 10th?) noted by the agency reps. Whether it was supplemental was denied – it is an “update”. I noted that this is all potentially new territory as we have never done an EIS for a pipeline prior to this in Minnesota. Sara noted that the rationale from the PUC for approving Line 3 was to protect the people from disaster; building the pipeline would be a means to that end. [I’d argue now, after all the spills on new pipelines, that the current Line 3 is safer…] However, that decision was made in summer 2018 and, in October 2018, the IPCC released a report that noted an increased urgency for addressing climate, reducing to 45% of 2010 emissions by 2030. In November 2018, the US report on how climate is affecting us was a second major notice on the urgent need for considering how we make decisions in light of the climate crisis. None of this information was available when the PUC made the decision to approve Line 3.
Lindsey noted that we may need to include other states or governments to work on emissions reductions in a more global way. The health of the citizens where the oil will be burned might help involve more people in understanding the risks. She lost enthusiasm when it was mentioned that much of this oil will be exported to offshore users… noting, “China’s not a democracy.” [I’d argue that we’re doing nothing and we supposedly have a democracy…] Colvin noted that this brings us to considering the cumulative effects of these GHG emissions. Matteo noted the argument from Canada could be that we’re impeding their national interests to use their natural resources.
This led to a discussion on lobbying and a note that Enbridge accounted for more than twice the amount of the second largest lobbying source for Minnesota. I asked Steve Colvin about his comment that, “Minnesota is a pass through state” for Line 3. I asked on what basis the PUC made the decision when so many groups opposed, from the DOC to the Tribes to other intervening parties. While Steve didn’t want to speak to the actions of other agencies, he noted the rationale must be noted.* Sara also noted that the laws in the US were developed long ago to give allowances to the fossil fuel industry, for example, allowance to use eminent domain to take land needed for pipelines, to create the growth of the country. We’ve given deference to the free flow of fossil fuels and now we are swimming upstream with a change in our circumstances. The money supporting the fossil fuel industry is also a factor for consideration.
Sara also noted that the ads being placed by Enbridge – full page ads in the Star Tribune run ~$30K – are wrapped into the costs of getting the pipeline built!! This is assessed to the people in the area where the pipeline traverses. Per Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), these people are assessed a rate that includes the costs of these ads. So every time you see an Enbridge ad, you should be seeing it as more money you’ll be paying for these fuels. This explains why they advertise so heavily – it’s on our dime in the end anyway – but what about the risks of them going out of business? Globally we are discussing divestment from and an end to dependence on fossil fuels. Could not getting Line 3 bring bankruptcy leaving Minnesota on the hook for it all? Also noted, regarding ads, Enbridge markets as a “renewable” energy supporter… but they sold off all their wind assets!!
Lindsey noted that when she Googles Line 3, Enbridge pays to be sure their link is the top site listed. This is what money can do. I noted that this same thing happened as Exxon faced court challenges recently in New York.
The discussion turned next to jobs. Julie noted the county commissioners in her part of Minnesota are focused on jobs. This is their focus for Line 3. “Safer and brings more jobs” is the message from them. We hear this all the time in Greater MN. One of the agency people talked about how government jobs are great because of the mobility and possibility. But they’re in the Cities… Jobs are really in need in Greater MN.
I noted that the road to people ratio in Northern MN offers a lot of potential to capitalize on the new green economy coming my way. Julie noted that Paul Douglas recently noted he couldn’t take his electric vehicle for an outstate event because he didn’t have the charging possibility there. Lindsey noted that no car in her price range has the mileage range needed for her to get from where she lives to her parent’s house which makes an EV an impossibility for her. Everyone else in America is dealing with these same issues.
Sara asked us to all consider what the world would look like if it was the way we imagined it to be. A world where no matter what part of the state you lived in, you could have a job that is meaningful for you and provides for your family, and no one has to breath the fumes of pollution and our waters are clean. AOC did it. [Seriously, watch this – it gives hope.]
I talked about the question from the earlier session on what we need to let go of moving forward. I noted that the decision to stop mowing to the edge of the retention ponds also brings a solution to the goose problem because they fear predators in the foliage. And these solutions can become the snowball that we see rolling forward, leading to more and more solutions.
What’s the future for Line 3? Stick more people on repairs, eventually rid ourselves of it? Sara noted that the DOC report advised no need for Line 3 and that we could even NOT build a new Line 3 AND close the existing Line 3 and STILL meet all Minnesota’s needs. I noted that a bigger question is whether Enbridge is looking at bankruptcy near term as the Fossil Fuel industry dies. Will we have to clean up their mess of old and dead pipelines? If we want to talk JOBS, there are 3-5X more jobs in pipeline removal than pipeline construction. MN Taxpayers will be paying for the cleanup if we don’t get our ducks in a row to hold them accountable. Why not let Enbridge pay for their own removal? Starting NOW.
Steve Colvin noted that he’s not sure what financial assurance requirements are embedded in the regulations. For metallic mining, there are financial assurance requirements (though the figures are debated!). This protects against common mining bankruptcy.
Have we talked with the province from Canada that is likely also looking at their own GHG emission reduction programs? No one was familiar with their requirements but the idea of working together on these issues is a good one.
I mentioned the David Dybdahl report from Michigan on Enbridge’s financial liability. I noted there are programs for Line 3 but that the details are not public as Enbridge claims they are “trade secret”. One suggestion was to find whose oil they are transporting and stop supporting those businesses. Enbridge is only the mover, not the one selling the product, so we are largely unable to impact Enbridge as a company.
Laura noted timelines and said that MPCA has a responsibility and she is working with her staff on this work. MPCA’s is determining timing with USACE and they need to provide a schedule to the USACE as their default is 60 days. This consultation work is in progress. Nothing final on EIS as of yet. Route permitting was noted as “not done”.
One final question was to ask about carbon taxes which was a bit outside this group’s balliwick. Most agreed that all costs will eventually come back to consumers. I tried to give the CCL spin on this idea that those who spend a lot will pay more and those who spend less will gain with the standard refunds to all citizens. Had a bit of a discussion on where this would fall with MN being a pass-through state.
And finally, the feed lot that was questioned for GHG emissions was brought forward. There was speculation that this could affect the pipeline discussion as well. Laura addressed the MEQB factoring in of climate. This will be factored in on the EAW/ER. There is a larger idea of how we tackle this as climate as well, including what rule changes may be needed. This and health too will factor into the work being done by the MEQB.
This was a really interesting and diverse conversation and I was excited afterward to meet the other Northern MN person in the room and ended up finding that she’s a cousin to a friend of my parents! Small world. This was a perfect lead in to the closing for the Congress which included some beautiful closing comments and blessings. I wish I had caught the names and more information but it was moving quick and I was enthralled by the commentary and words of blessing. Just beautiful. I was just too in the moment taking it all in…
All in all it was a pretty inspiring conference. There were real conversations and challenges. I don’t know if we’ll end up doing enough but we’re talking a good game so far.
I’m glad I attended. I had an opportunity to meet some amazing people, deepen some relationships, and learn a lot about the state agencies and NGOs working for climate justice.
* For those who have made it this far, below are further details on the PUC decision and it’s avoidance of recognizing GHG emissions from Line 3.
In their Certificate of Need order, the PUC note:
The lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from the Project are a significant consequence. However, the lifecycle environmental costs include emissions from ultimate consumption of the oil transported over the Project. These costs do not result directly from the Project, but instead result from the continued demand for crude oil to produce refined products used by consumers.
This contradicts the Department of Commerce assertion that both direct and indirect effects must be considered, which itself is supported by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines, and which the DOC quotes: As noted in the Council on Environmental Quality’s 2016 Final Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change (Executive Office of the President, Council on Environmental Quality 2016), all greenhouse gas emissions contribute to cumulative climate change impacts.
The DOC laid out the climate impacts of Line 3 to the PUC. The PUC had a chance to take a major stand on climate, and they punted instead. If they wanted to deny the CN based on climate impacts (as well as other environmental and indigenous cultural impacts) they had the regulatory cover to do so as the Council on Environmental Quality (2019 version) itself says:
A projection of a proposed action’s direct and reasonably foreseeable indirect GHG emissions may be used as a proxy for assessing potential climate effects. Direct effects are caused by the action and occur at the same time or place. 40 CFR 1508.8(a). Indirect effects are caused by the action and are later in time or farther removed in distance, but are still reasonably foreseeable. 40 CFR 1508.8(b). Following the rule of reason, agencies should assess effects when a sufficiently close causal relationship exists between the proposed action and the effect. A ‘‘but for’’ causal relationship is not sufficient. Agencies should attempt to quantify a proposed action’s projected direct and reasonably foreseeable indirect GHG emissions when the amount of those emissions is substantial enough to warrant quantification, and when it is practicable to quantify them using available data and GHG quantification tools.
Where GHG inventory information is available, an agency may also reference local, regional, national, or sector-wide emission estimates to provide context for understanding the relative magnitude of a proposed action’s GHG emissions. This approach, together with a qualitative summary discussion of the effects of GHG emissions based on an appropriate literature review, allows an agency to present the environmental impacts of a proposed action in clear terms and with sufficient information to make a reasoned choice among the alternatives. Such a discussion satisfies NEPA’s requirement that agencies analyze the cumulative effects of a proposed action because the potential effects of GHG emissions are inherently a global cumulative effect. Therefore, a separate cumulative effects analysis is not required.
[Thanks to my buddies for these links – the emphasis is ours.]
The Administrative Law Judge, Ann O’Reilly, noted in her findings on the proposed Line 3 what appear to be clearly reasonable conclusions:
676. The ALJ accepts these calculations as established in fact and adopts the finding of the incremental life-cycle GHG emissions (GHGe) for the Project will be 193 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e), totaling $287 billion in social costs.
677. The adoption of these figures by the ALJ is based upon Applicant’s testimony that: (1) the Project, with a 760 kbpd capacity, will predominantly transport heavy crude; (2) the 390 kbpd of light crude currently transported through the line will be displaced by heavy crude; (3) the 390 kbpd light crude currently transported on the line will transferred to other lines (and, therefore, does not “disappear”); and (4) the new line will add an additional 370 kbpd of (new) predominantly heavy crude on the Mainline System to eliminate apportionment.
678. Consequently, reducing the annual life-cycle GHG emission of non-displacement (273.5 million tons CO2e) by the annual life-cycle GHG emissions from 390 kbpd light crude (80.5 million tons CO2e), equals the “incremental” (i.e., increased) annual life-cycle emissions of the Project (193 million tons CO2e). The calculation is as follows: 273.5 million tons CO2e (the estimated annual emissions from a new project bringing 760 kbpd of “new” heavy crude into the environment) minus 80.5 million tons CO2e (the annual emissions from the Existing Line 3), equals 193 million tons CO2e (the annual increased amount of emissions anticipated by the Project).
679. Sierra Club witness Andrew Twite maintains that approving the Project will make it difficult for Minnesota to meet the GHG emission goals set forth in the U.S. Climate Alliance, which affirms states’ support the objectives of the Paris Accord. The U.S. Climate Alliance is bipartisan coalition of governors committed to reducing GHG emissions by at least 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, consistent with the Paris Accord. Minnesota is part of this coalition.
Sadly, the PUC is under no obligation to heed ANY of the ALJ’s recommendations.
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! 😀
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:
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.
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.
As Labor Day approaches, Dan and I realize we’re running out of summer to get things done. I was starting to feel like we’re behind the 8-Ball so… we did some planning. There are three big things we need to finish before winter: Adding the final mass to the Rocket Mass Heater, Building a wood shed, and Cutting wood for the Rocket Mass Heater. Simple as ABC…
But, like anything here at the Harn, it’s not so simple. In order to build a wood shed, we need to move the wood and pallets that are in the place where we want to put the shed. In order to get that wood out of there, we need to re-set the wood pallets in the garage where we stored wood last year… but which were cocked slightly when we added our garage door opener this spring. In order to re-set these pallets, we need to move a bunch of stuff in the garage to have room to re-set them. In order to move stuff out of the garage, we have to move stuff out of the hightop (our extra garage). You see where this is going… We also need to cut down some trees where the wood shed will go and then remove stumps from the area. So, there’s that too.
But we have at least created a list of things to get done, noting which things need to be done before other things, and hopefully we’ll start to chug along on checking off items on our list and be ready for winter this year. But first, we were going to enjoy Labor Day Weekend.
Friday, we met friends from Alex, Jon and Rita, for a quick bite of dinner before heading to the Bonnie Raitt, Indigo Girls, and Annie Humphrey show. I was SO EXCITED! Dan loves Bonnie (and I do too) but I was most pumped to meet the Indigo Girls. Not only are they part of the reason we ended up here at the Harn in Minnesota, but they also founded Honor the Earth with Winona LaDuke. How did they factor in our decision on this location? Well, I loved their song Ghost which has a line in it…
…And the Mississippi’s mighty
But it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across
With five steps down. ~ Ghost, Indigo Girls
When we visited Itasca State Park and the Headwaters of the Mississippi years ago, I was hooked on this area and we eventually found our little piece of land just north of there.
On arrival to the concert, we got our tickets and back stage passes – first time ever for backstage for both of us. We found Annie’s bus right away and headed over. Cedar (her daughter) was there and so was my good buddy Anne Dunn (her momma)!!! I didn’t expect to find Anne so I was tickled… so happy to see her that we spent a while catching up. Zayne was there too (Annie’s grandson) and we were regaled with stories of his super hero cave on the bus. Annie has an awesome cool bus. Here we are standing in front of Zayne’s cave.
I was super pumped to hear Annie perform as, at the Duluth show where we first saw her play, we only got a few songs from her. As I hoped, she played some songs from the new album The Beast and the Garden.
We got a copy at the show and got it signed. She is a powerful singer and she started the benefit concert off right with some commentary about the importance of fighting pipelines and protecting the rights of the Indigenous.
The whole show was a wonderful event for Honor the Earth. Every performer encouraged the Water Protectors and emphasized the importance of resisting the pipeline. The Indigo Girls ROCKED – didn’t realize what rockers they were having never seen them in concert. But they kicked it up a notch and then Bonnie Raitt closed the show with an amazing performance. This woman is one of the best guitar players around, her slide is sexy and strong, and she’s still got it at 67 years old. She looks great, rocks the show, and is a sassy activist! An amazing performance by all three groups.
Backstage was really well done. There is a small cabin area with a deck, heater, fireplace and seating behind the Bluestem Amphitheater where the crowd awaited the arrival of our stars. Winona LaDuke and Keri Pickett were hanging out so we already had celebrities among us.
Dan and I were able to get our Stop Line 3 shirts signed by the Honor the Earth founders: Winona, Emily and Amy. We also met some interesting people and spent some time talking with friend and fellow Water Protector Andrew. He’s been a real supporter of Winona the last few weeks and it makes us feel good to know he’s a strong protector for her and she’s a good Elder for him. The whole concert adventure was a real blessing.
Good friends from Indiana, Steph and Steve, made the long drive up to the Harn for the weekend and we wanted to show them everything! Of course, we knew they’d get a feel for Harn Living but we really wanted to give them a big taste so we made a little game for them to pick out the things we’d spend time doing on their short visit. As you can see, we rigged the game a bit…
Actually, we let them pick the things they wanted to do and we ended up sleeping in (after being up until almost 4 AM that first night) and then touring the Harn grounds and heading to Bemidji to see Babe and Paul. A stop at Bemidji Brewing for lunch and some beers made everyone happy and then we stopped at Coffee Pot Landing and the Mississippi Headwaters before heading home for some dinner and a bonfire. Rain Monday kept things low key but made for a great day of game playing.
And… this week our work starts again in earnest. Dan has already moved the wood into the garage from the wood shed location so we’re started on that process of getting the wood shed in place. I’ll be moving chives and flowers at the East side of the Harn so we can add foam insulation to push out the frost line. We’ll fix the corner of the Harn we found last year where we’d forgotten to put the metal corner trim on when we added the screen door for the porch – that was a lot of cold air seepage! Soon we’ll fill that area with foam and add a better cover for it. And we’ll get started on the wood cutting and cob building to assure out stove is ready to heat us this year. I think we need to harvest some potatoes in there sometime too, and maybe some spaghetti squash, but we’ll see what this week brings as it unfolds.
Hope you are all ready for winter once it arrives!