Gold Rush

Gold Rush Photo Credit - Stark Bros.

Gold Rush Photo Credit – Stark Bros.

LAKE MACBRIDE— The last apples are in.

The orchard had two crates of Gold Rush in the cooler. They ripened only in the last week, and are predictably firm and tart. Something to hold in storage until the Red Delicious from our tree are finished. I bought a dozen.

Developed in partnership between Purdue University, Rutgers University and the University of Illinois in the 1970s, Gold Rush is known for its late maturing, fruit quality and long storage ability. When they come in, the season is over. A marker in the circle around the sun.

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Everyman for Five Days

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

LAKE MACBRIDE—Five consecutive days without home broadband has been challenging. My work relies on being connected.

While taking stock of this dependency, which borders on addiction, unnecessary concerns drop easily from view. Instead there is time to contemplate the 4 a.m. southern cloud formation, bright against a sky sprinkled full of stars.

It has been a chance to catch up with where I’m bound.

With nervous apprehension, I await the cable guy, who’s coming between 8 a.m. and noon.

I have become Everyman.

A killer frost has been delayed. The tomatoes, peppers and kale continue to grow, albeit more slowly. Today’s harvest included some of each.

The Bangkok peppers have been good for dehydrating and making red pepper flakes. More than a year’s worth is inside to be processed.

The deciduous trees have dropped most of the leaves they will this fall, so it is time to mow and mulch them: one last cleanup of our wild-grown yard.

There will be much more to write, but for now, waiting on the cable guy, these few words will have to do.

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Into the Bubble

LAKE MACBRIDE— With more to do than hours exist in a day, I am taking a hiatus from daily writing here. Not sure how long I’ll be gone, but I expect to resume once things settle down.

In the meanwhile, click on the tag cloud to read your favorite subjects from the archives. And here’s a favorite recording for this and every season.

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Falling Leaves

LAKE MACBRIDE— The thought of mowing is pushed back until the deciduous trees shed their leaves. Pools of yellow, red, brown and variegated leaves rest silently around tree trunks all around the neighborhood as geese fly overhead. The next step toward winter and its bitter cold.

Yesterday’s options were many—events with politicians Dave Loebsack, Monica Vernon, Rand Paul and Joni Ernst—but I remained working at home. The morning after, I felt better for the decision.

In the last two weeks of the political campaigns, Ernst submitted a Freedom of Information request to a couple of Democratic county auditors requesting detailed information about election procedures. Who knows what motivated the request, but it’s a close election, and if it goes to the wire, expect legal action—not unlike what happened in Minnesota when Al Franken was first elected.

I met my editor at the Press Citizen for coffee in Iowa City. The freelance work for the newspaper was an unexpected bonus as the year moves toward the holidays and its hope of spring renewal. They are short three of six reporters and need help covering stories. Once they get staffing filled, the number of articles I write will decrease. As farmers say, it is time to make hay while the sun shines and I expect to ask for two to three articles per week.

Apple processing began in earnest with filling the dehydrator with slices. The leaves have begun to turn on the Red Delicious apple tree, so it’s time to pick the high apples. Will get the ladder out later this morning. An apple crisp is in the works, as well as fresh juice.

The end of year crunch is here. Fortunately I have learned to come up for air from time to time in the rush of events. Something needed to sustain a life on the Iowa prairie.

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Drinking Country Politics

Legislative Forum in Coralville

Legislative Forum in Coralville

CORALVILLE— The League of Women Voters forum last night was a bust for the candidates in my house district. The league puts on a good show at the table, but only a limited number of constituents were present, and the television feed went to only one of six county precincts in the district. Major outlets published limited accounts of the action, but mostly the evening passed and little news came out of the forum. It’s been that kind of year in the most local of local politics.

The forum enabled me to get away from writing and household chores for a while to socialize. I’ve never been part of the drinking culture that plagued more famous writers, and might have come into play if there hadn’t been the forum. I have been hearing a lot about drinking on the radio while driving across the lakes to work.

“I belong to the drinking class,” sings Lee Brice in his country hit “Drinking Class,” released in August. Country music today is full of stories about using alcoholic drinks to celebrate or escape unpleasantness in life. I hear enough of them during my 20 minute commutes to the warehouse to see the pattern.

“Monday through Fridays we bust our back,” the song goes. I don’t know who, except a small minority of people, works that kind of job, so the song seems more aspirational of lifestyle— a form of hope to define culture around externals that seem ersatz and manufactured.

“What I’m really needing now is a double shot of crown,” sings the protagonist in the Lady Antebellum song “Bartender.” On Friday night she seeks relief from a relationship gone bad. “There’s only one thing left for me to to do. Put on my favorite dress and sky-high leather boots, check the mirror one last time and kiss the past goodbye.”

The signs and symbols are archetypal. Shots of Jack Daniels and Patron, jeans that are painted on— stereotypical images of guys who get rowdy and women locked into frames we had hoped were long gone from the culture.

From “Aw Naw” by Chris Young:

Aw naw, somebody just bought a shot of that Patron.
Hang on, we’ve been here all night long.
Aw naw, it would be so wrong
If we didn’t dance one more song,
Show off those jeans you painted on…

“On” doesn’t rhyme with “song,” but we can accept it in the vernacular of bar culture. What impresses about this music is the way it draws from people’s everyday experiences to paint a picture of longing and possible fulfillment or caesura.

James Joyce’s “Araby” in Dubliners, is a variation on this theme, albeit a bit obscure for the drinking class. It’s more about me that this story came to mind.

What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days. I chafed against the work of school. At night in my bedroom and by day in the classroom her image came between me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go to the bazaar on Saturday night.

Much different and yet similar. I’d rather listen to the song about lighting watermelon candles upstairs, “Doin’ What She Likes” by Blake Shelton. “Fixin’ up a pitcher of margaritas,” and then calling the fire department when the watermelon candles ignited the bathroom, is a different and more interesting kind of disappointment than in the Joyce story. To weave a story with that imagery requires talent, and it resonates with people.

I’ll continue to listen to country music in the car, but am not ready to join the drinking class. For now, the occasional political event will have to serve as release in a life of work.

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Odds and Ends

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

LAKE MACBRIDE— It is a late frost this year. Oct. 20 and the tomatoes and peppers are still growing, inspiring hope to pick more before the season finally ends. I gave away a bushel of kale on Saturday, confident there will be more.

In between part time jobs there are blocks of time with which to build a life. There are fewer of them, but between interactions with members of the public and spells of writing in public, there is a private life about which I haven’t and won’t write much here.

In most ways, mine is the plain life of a common person. The profound awakening I had as a grader—that Cartesian view about communication with others through media—shaped much of who I am and have been. Realizing it was not unique to me has shaped my life as I moved from school to worklife to homelife. I don’t mind being a commoner.

Part of each week is spent with people in public, and discontent seems to lie below craggy surfaces. Some appear to have had a rough life, and take little joy in human interactions. Others, especially people accompanied by children, are more positive and joyful. Life in society is a mixed bag, and that is not news.

For me there is much more than getting through to the next day. Since Monday is my Friday, I am resolved to get something done during these weekdays. To transform this quotidian existence into something at least as beautiful as the fall colors—or as close as I can get.

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Politics 18 Days Out

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

LAKE MACBRIDE— The general election is 18 days away, and how my ballot will shape up is finally clear. This coming week, the two of us will head into Iowa City and vote at the auditor’s office. The down-ticket races and issues have been challenging to make a reasonable decision.

In particular, the township trustee election has no candidate on the ballot. As chair of the board of trustees, I made the following press release regarding the absence of a candidate on the ballot:

October 17, 2014

SOLON, Iowa– DeWayne Klouda is running a write-in campaign for Big Grove Township Trustee in the Nov. 4 election. He currently serves as a trustee and was appointed this year upon the retirement of Elmer Vanorny. He has prior service as Township Clerk, beginning in 1998. He is familiar with the roles and responsibilities of the township, which include managing the township budget and the Tri-Township Fire Department, operating Oakdale Cemetery, custodian of the pioneer cemetery at Fackler’s Grove, and resolving lot line disputes.
Klouda’s filing paperwork was delayed by the U.S. Postal Service, so his name is not on the ballot.
We seek to make voters aware of this campaign and hope voters in Big Grove Township will consider writing in DeWayne Klouda for township trustee on their Nov. 4 ballot.

Late breaking situations like this are why I don’t like voting early. This year, I will be in the Chicago area in early November, so won’t be around to vote on election day.

The U.S. Senate election is garnering a lot of media attention, and the Republican advertising campaign has been thorough, well crafted and abundant. Counting how many impressions of Joni Ernst have filtered into my no-television lifestyle would be tough. Suffice it to say her name is everywhere I go. This last week, her sign advertising has begun to crop up, along with new radio ads I hear on my way to work. There are web ads everywhere, and bumper stickers. She will have no problem with name recognition.

Bruce Braley’s name is also most places I go, although there have been less impressions of Braley than his opponent. My sense is that because Ernst and her third party supporters appear to be outspending Braley in an attempt to buy this senate seat, the outreach of her messaging has been effective, the way anything that is well capitalized can be. The benefit for Braley, is many voters that matter most don’t seem to like what they are hearing from Ernst.

When I talk about “voters that matter most,” I refer not to polling subjects, but to people I meet and know who are less partisan in their approach to elections. It seems clear to me that neither candidate has cracked the code to get these votes, other than to work hard at it. It’s hard to tell because people don’t want to talk about the election the way they did during the 2006 and 2008 cycles. As I work my network to turn out votes, people plan to vote for Braley or one of the less well known candidates, but not Ernst. My network has a Democratic bias.

I proofread our local paper and there have been very few letters to the editor supporting one candidate or another. Because I read the stories from text files, I’m not sure who is buying ads in the paper, and can’t provide a meaningful evaluation there.

My state representative is bringing Senator Rand Paul to a fundraising event at his political family’s farm. His challenger is publishing an ad with a photo of himself with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. There is talk that these two senators are evaluating a 2016 presidential run—key word is evaluating. I suspect they are here more to help Ernst and Braley and other candidates. Neither one of them seems likely to pull in the less partisan voters, although Paul has moderated some of his views in a way that will appeal to some of them.

October will soon turn to November when we’ll know the result. In the meanwhile, there is work to be done in the ground game Democrats are counting upon to win.

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