Archives for category: Philosophical Synopsis

“We must learn to reawaken, and keep awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of a man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, or so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”  – Henry David Thoreau

Do you think about this? How you can affect the day? How you affect days, one each at a time, that they accumulate to be this wonderful lifetime of influence, of interest, of modification, of evolution. And, because we know that we have this life, that we get to take it and mold it with all of the unknown circumstances, with all the jubilant elation, with all the piercingly humbling moments, with all of the ambiguity, and still, we have every power to make it exactly as we imagine. If we hold tight to the presence of gratitude and its overwhelming ability to find a reason to appreciate and grow from all that comes to each one of us, we are truly allowed to evolve. Truly empowered to affect each day. To welcoming each day to affect us.

It is cold. It has been icy. It continues to snow. But each day, the next season comes one day closer to being within our reach, our grasp, out sight, our breath. The sun is gaining more color. The long shadows twist and bend, caressing the long, smooth curves of the landscape, themselves subtly exaggerated in the snow’s memory of the wind. It has been so gratifying to be paying so much attention that even a few minutes added to the sun’s presence is noticed. And I find that I have gravitated to so many who are so present and observant of the incremental changes as seasons acquiesce. What a big and full breath to fill my enchanted journey, all of these people who have come to me in my 31 years and six months; what a grand parade that has been presented as my interests and expeditions have me venturing the realm of spectrum. So grateful, so grateful for all of my evolutions, for all these influential and guiding people, places and moment.

A winter solstice hike at Lime Creek Nature Center just north of Mason City. Mary, Paul, Tom, Lisa and myself. A group of folks who believe in sustainability, speaking up about things that matter, living very presently with an awareness of others. It’s a good group. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to find so many who like the seasonality of this latitude, that share a desire to soak it up, that show me there are many ways to do so. So, amongst us some make sure we don’t walk on the cross country skiers’ trail, some who hypnotically throw sticks for the dog, some who make guest appearances on the CBS evening news, some who allow change to flow through gently, all of us taking turns inspiring one another to wake up and affect the day. This is what we all need. The love and support of others that keeps us thinking in new ways, acting on our intuitions, seeing with unspoiled eyes. We all have a lot to share. Don’t forget to just stop and listen. Hear the stories.  Soak it in.

And, so, too, will Ame de la Terre. Take time. Continue to evolve, like the rest of us. Today is Dad’s birthday. It leads to a lot of forward thought and backwards reflection, and there is a way that they intermingle in a nebulous sort of way seemingly right in front of me. It’s hard to see through such a space without much for clear definition or guidance. So where do we go from here? Well, of course I continue to grow a garden for my own sustenance. That’s a given. And I promise not to try to reinvent the wheel again this year. I will keep it fairly simple, manageable, bite sized. The new challenges and nuances of farm planning on a piece of land known for its eccentricities; there’s a seemingly pretty high bar. So, 13 acres of native tall grass prairie – five acres of that will need to tolerate wet feet. Eight acres of teff, something we have never tried growing before. Eight acres going into semi-permanent mixed hay – grasses, legumes unknown. Eight acres of whatever my brother deems the most productive bird habitat once we can actually get down into the soft, swamp bottom peat ground… at this rate maybe the middle of July.

Record number of snow cover days this winter… a couple of months yet to go. It also means, then, a record number of days that the ground has been insulated, protected from the brazen east wind, from the striking cold, the sharp geometry of winter shadows. I’m curious to see how she emerges. Each day one day closer. Not to miss appreciating any one of these days I am reminded more today than most; cold and white and long as it may be, each will be here just once, each will give us but a fleeting moment to indulge, to embrace, to revel in all that comes to us, to all that encourages us and pushes us. We each move forward, one step at a time, one brilliant and beautiful moment falling wavelike into the next. To this year, to this decade, to this life.

“… Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but…life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”  – Gabriel García Márquez


“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.” — Edward Abbey

kayaking coffee

Autumn. She’s here in full force – the cold rain a stark reminder of progress according to seasons at this latitude. It has been a long time since I have posted. So many things have manifested since my last opportunity. A lot of kayaking. That was my saving grace, the integration of balance – a little after the fact as “burnout” left its lingering mark – but, nonetheless a learning experience – after all, I remember a quote along the lines of “we only learn our limits by going beyond them”.


This is my best friend, Stephanie. On a still and beautiful morning at Crystal Lake when we were in “training”. She spent a number of years as a naturalist professionally, also, so we compliment each other well in our curious  and curiousity of nature, and can usually identify for one another the flora and fauna of the little ecosystem. I say in training because since the last time I wrote I turned 31 and I participated in my first triathlon/adventure race. Really, during the race I was realizing I had been terribly negligent in actually training – more for the running and bicycling portion – the kayaking was the relaxing and enjoyable part, as usual. About 27 miles in total. Stephanie, her sister Laura, and myself. We stayed together and finished together – it was a great way to spend a morning – completely outside… even if 15 miles of bike riding on Iowa blacktops surrounded by corn and beans gets a little last saturdayWe had our last Saturday market together the week before my birthday-  there is our good friend, Carol, perusing the offering: winter squash, Red Russian kale, lemon cucumbers, Ukranian Beauty eggplant, heirloom tomatoes. There is a lot of good energy around this Saturday market, and a lot of people working very hard at helping it evolve into an event – with more traffic, more vendors, more entertainment and engagement. We are moving in the right direction. We just really need to get a buzz about it – keep spreading the word – write to the editor, attend community events – such as the Taste of Iowa that was held at the fairgrounds last week. Stay in the loop. Stay active. Bring your friends. There is ALWAYS delicious food (of course there aren’t any of us that are involved that are not below stooping to using the stomach, tastebuds and conscience to lure interest!). I was graciously invited to attend the fall meeting of the Regional Food Systems Working Group help at the Iowa Arboretum this past week (if you have not visited the arboretum south of Ames, it’s a must-do for the priority list!). It was so fantastic for me to be there listening and absorbing all that is happening in the state of Iowa for the local food movement. There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the Food to School Program. In our area we are arriving to the necessity of a dedicated local foods coordinator. There is so much to be done. The momentum is here.rainbow salsa

Speaking of local foods – the tomatoes are here in full force. I have been a slave to the kitchen many mornings – creating sauces (sometimes with roasted vegetables like Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash, eggplant, carrots, onions and zucchini) and salsa, like the one pictured above, affectionately referred to as rainbow salsa. Red, yellow, orange and green tomatoes make a lovely combination in flavor and aspect. This batch I tried to make particularly spicy with jalapeno and Habanero peppers.gingerAnd today I finally potted my ginger. I read an article stating at how easy it was to get ginger to root from a store bought rhizome, and I have to contend it is easy… if one has good, fresh stock. This was my third attempt. I bought this ginger at the co-op in Ames. It has been sitting in a jar in the bathtub upstairs for a good 4-6 weeks patiently waiting for me to come across an appropriate container, and the to actually alot time to tend it. Finally. I did. Maybe in a year I will be harvesting my very own fresh ginger! A key ingredient in that ever popular strawberry jalapeno jam. 🙂

“How to Overthrow the System: brew your own beer; kick in your Tee Vee; kill your own beef; build your own cabin and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it.” — Edward Abbey