Post-frost Planting

Garlic Patch Oct. 15, 2019

After missing last year I planted garlic on Oct. 15. A couple of clear days dried the ground sufficiently to mow the plot, turn it, and put seeds in the ground.

I increased the number of rows from two to five which if all goes well will yield plenty of scapes and about 60 head of garlic.

Whether I’ll harvest anything next July is always a question. A gardener learns to live with unanswered questions that remain so until season’s end.

This photo highlights a developing process of minimizing the amount of ground I turn over for planting. Garlic needs space with 18 inches between seeds and 36-inch row separation. There’s no good reason to plow up all the ground in the plot. Even though the soil was cold earthworms were near the surface. That’s not to mention the unseen organisms that make soil fertile. I no longer use a mechanical tiller and do everything by hand. It’s good exercise that doesn’t use fossil fuels.

Fingers crossed there is an abundant harvest.

At a meeting of our home owners association board, I announced I’m looking to exit responsibilities as board president. I’ll finish my current term, I said. If the other board members are nice to me I might be convinced to re-up for one more three year term. That would be it. I will have lived 68 years in December and it’s time to focus on other things.

Because of the board meeting I missed the televised Democratic debate. That’s a joke. I haven’t turned on our tube-style television in years. Now that Elizabeth Warren is leading in the polling averages the knives are out. Read last week’s post here for my take on why support for Warren persists now that she is the front runner.

As responses to my email to Solon School Board candidates come in, I’m impressed by the field. Three men and three women who would each bring something positive to the board. Because of a scarcity of information about the election, yesterday’s post really took off, becoming the most viewed new writing on this blog in 2019. The majority of views are coming from Facebook, but I don’t see much discussion in my feed. What that usually means is a group in the district has latched on to my post and discussed it in a private group. Last time that happened, someone trolled me with a letter to the editor of the local paper. Any discussion will be good for what is expected to be a low-turnout election.

I’m sitting on four bushels of apples and need to get to work processing them. It won’t be today or tomorrow as I’m back at the home, farm and auto supply store. I’m blown away by the quality and quantity of this year’s crop. Years like this make gardening rewarding. On deck are more dried apples, small batches of applesauce and apple butter, more juice for vinegar-making, and baked goods for potlucks. Some of the last-picked apples will go into sweet cider, and of course some of them will be eaten raw.

It is fall in the gardening year but even after first frost we are busy planting and processing the harvest. It’s how we sustain ourselves in a turbulent world.

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Solon School Board Election 2019 – Take One

Polling Place

Six candidates announced campaigns for two seats on the Solon Community School District board of directors. The election is Nov. 5.

Terms of current board members Adam Haluska and Jim Hauer expire this year. Haluska is seeking reelection, Hauer is not.

Information about the candidates is scarce. This is the first of a couple of posts intended to share information discovered to help determine for whom I will vote.

The all-male school board came under criticism for implementation of the collective bargaining law signed by Governor Terry Branstad on Feb. 17, 2017. On March 19, Aimee Breaux of the Iowa City Press Citizen reported on a confrontational school board meeting using this lede:

Solon school officials should brace for teachers leaving the district if management insists on reducing insurance stipends, teachers union members warned during a particularly tense contract negotiation.

Teachers did leave the district and those contract negotiations remain an open wound.

School board elections are decided by a small slice of the electorate. 498 district voters, 10.05 percent of registered voters, decided the 2017 race that elected Tim Brown, Rick Jedlicka and Dan Coons to the current board with terms expiring in 2021. Low voter turnout means personal networking plays a greater role in candidate support than during a general election with paid advertisements. Networking information is not often public. In the past, groups in the community have been able to activate voters to support their favored candidates. There is no reason to believe networking will play a lesser role on Nov. 5.

This cycle, information will be available in a special article in the Solon Economist. “We will do our standard question and answer interviews prior to the election,” editor Doug Lindner wrote in an email. Some candidates told me via email they are working on the questionnaire. The article is expected in next week’s edition.

There will also be a public candidate forum hosted by the Solon Education Association and Solon Parent Teacher Organization on Tuesday, Oct. 22, from 6:30 until 8 p.m. at Palmer House Stable in Solon.

Yesterday I emailed the same information request to all six candidates, as follows:

School board candidates,

I’m seeking information about you to help me decide which two candidates to support in the Nov. 5 election.

Please take a few moments to reply to this email about your candidacy. I’d like a response by Friday, Oct. 18.

I didn’t see any information about your campaign in a Google search. If you have a campaign site, please provide a link.

Why are you running?

How would you like to change the direction of the board, if at all?

Please provide a brief resume of your skills and qualifications.

Have you ever held elected office previously? If so, which one?

I do plan to vote so any response will be helpful. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.
Regards, Paul

Thus far I’ve heard from three candidates, and hope to hear from them all before publishing results of my query.

Here’s who is running in this non-partisan race.

Note the election is framed as non-partisan, and many of us look for what skills candidates bring to the office more than party preference. Voters often have to compromise their partisanship in a school board election to pick the best of the field. I voted for Republican Adam Haluska when he was elected in 2015 for that reason. This year’s election is a new field of candidates and incumbency is not necessarily positive after the contract negotiations. I’ll take a look at what Haluska did on the board.

Finally, I mentioned the current all-male board. Voters told me they would like to see women on the school board. My position is we should vote for the best qualified candidates regardless of gender. If female candidates offer the best outcomes for the school board, they should be given fair consideration. If they represent the best of the six, they should be elected. Determining who is “best” is part of what I’m doing with these posts.

Thanks for reading. The current plan is posts about responses to my query, analysis of the public record of the incumbent, analysis of the Solon Economist article, and a post about what happens at the candidate forum.

To view the series of posts, click on this link to the tag 2019 SSB Election.

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First Frost

Eggplant Parmesan Oct. 12, 2019

Daylight remained as I drove into the driveway after a shift at the orchard.

If the garden appeared scorched by the previous night’s first frost, some tomato plants survived and the kale looked resilient.

The weather forecast is a couple of days without rain. I scheduled garlic planting for Tuesday when the ground should be dry enough. Fingers crossed I get a crop in this year.

I picked another bushel of fully ripened Red Delicious apples yesterday morning. This morning I used apples knocked down and damaged during the picking process to make an apple crisp for the county party’s fall fundraiser. In September I bought 30 aluminum food service trays for potlucks. This was the fifth one used.

We were busy at the orchard Saturday. Because of rainy weekends there is a pent up demand for the u-pick apple experience. I was tired at the end of my shift. I fixed eggplant Parmesan for dinner and could go no further. I was so tired I left the dishes to clean this morning. If there was any doubt, autumn has definitely arrived.

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Errand Day

Hot peppers gleaned from the garden before the first frost.

When we had insufficient income to pay bills few errands were run.

We made almost no home repairs, delayed maintenance on everything, and minimized activities that required resources not on hand.

Now that our retirement income is set, and supplemented with a couple of extra jobs, I can afford to run errands. Yesterday I did so for the first time in a while.

The day began in the kitchen. Using onions and Swiss chard from the farm I made frittata for breakfast. Next, I sliced apples and filled the dehydrator. Sunday is the county party’s fall barbecue so I tested a recipe for applesauce cake to see if it would fit in the foil pans I bought for potlucks. The recipe fit without modification. In between this cookery I managed to glean the garden, bringing in peppers and tomatoes that would be damaged by frost. The kale looks really good right now and a freeze would make it taste better.

I cut five pieces of applesauce cake, put them on a plate, covered with foil, then delivered them to the public library while still warm. The librarian was making tea so the timing was perfect.

Next stop was the orchard where I hiked half an hour up and down hills, picking five varieties of apples: Regent, Crimson Crisp, Mutsu, Fuji, and New York 315. I also got some Snow Sweet and Honeycrisp in the sales barn. The season is about over yet there are lots of apples remaining on the trees.

From the orchard I drove to the recycling center in the parking lot of the former Hy-Vee supermarket on North Dodge Street. This is my go-to place for paper and magazine recycling. With our new clean-up project we are getting rid of lots of old magazines, too many for the curbside bin.

I pulled into nearby Hy-Vee where I bought organic celery and a packet of Morningstar Farms Recipe Crumbles for a pot of chili planned over the weekend. I’d been discussing nutritional yeast with one of the orchard owners so I bought a small container of Bragg’s brand to try it. The recipe we discussed was serving boiled or baked potatoes with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a dollop of yogurt. I’m now one step closer to trying it. They did not have the organic mayonnaise I sought, so I continued to Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s is a store on the island that is the Iowa River Landing. This 180-acre mixed use development borders on the weird side. An arena is being built there and there are high rise apartment buildings, a hotel, a university-affiliated clinic and retail outlets. Despite having a range of activities, there is no sense of community at Iowa River Landing. I picked up two jars of organic mayonnaise and two of French Dijon Mustard. Staff was very friendly.

Westward to a big box home improvement store where I sought a replacement baseboard register for one of the bathrooms. Borrowing a tape measure from staff, I found the one I needed. On the way out I made an impulse purchase of a small bottle of 50:1 fuel mix for my trimmer. Expensive, but the right fuel is important for high-speed, small engines. My trimmer has been repaired twice since I purchased it so paying extra for proper fuel.

Final stop on the loop of the county seat was a drug store where I bought sundries, then drove home through three roundabouts and over two lakes.

Later that afternoon we went to the public library where Jacque delivered a book project she’d been working on as a volunteer and picked up the next. While she reviewed things with staff, I browsed the used book cart to see what was available.

I eschewed community cookbooks this time (how many of those can a person digest?) and bought good copies of a couple of works on my reading list. I also bought Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  by Philip K. Dick and In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World by Gabriele Galimberti, the latter of which I read last night. What a marvelous book of women’s stories, recipes, and photos of the women with their ingredients facing a photo of the dish they created.

Moving from low wages to an adequate retirement income won’t make us rich, except in the ability to get out, run errands, visit with friends, and buy things we need to sustain our lives in a turbulent world.

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October Days

Sunrise over the garden, Oct. 10, 2019.

The forecast calls for 32 degrees tonight so tomatoes and peppers need gleaning from the garden.

There aren’t many left, maybe enough to make the effort useful. While at it, I’ll pick apples I can reach as well.

It is the end days for this year’s garden.

My farmer friends have already been through their fields. They remind me the garden season is not over as kale and other greens, root vegetables, and some squash will continue to grow. They have high tunnels which extend the season. I’m in the fall share with one of them and look forward to seeing what we will receive on Monday.

Last night I made a burger that violated Anthony Bourdain’s instructions on keeping it simple. Using a veggie burger, I thawed a frozen bun leftover from a potluck in the microwave. Buttering it, I placed it butter-side down on the frying pan with the burger patty. When it toasted, I removed it from the heat and piled on mustard, ketchup, a tomato slice, lettuce and onions. It stood three inches tall when fully assembled and hit all the flavor notes. It was a positive, day-ending meal.

Political interests turn toward the school board. One incumbent and five other candidates are running for two seats in the Nov. 5 election. I don’t know any of them very well and plan to attend a forum hosted by the Solon Education Association and the Solon Parent Teacher Organization on Oct. 22. Being on the school board is a thankless, unpaid job that requires a lot of engagement. People are upset with the way the board implemented recent changes to collective bargaining law. It is important to make an informed decision.

On Our Own has become something of a public journal, especially since Mother died on Aug. 15. I’m not sure of the future direction, but for now it serves. There is a lot to engage us in a busy society. Some of that needs consideration for further understanding.

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Politics Near the Lake

Tulsi Gabbard at a house party near Lake Macbride

BIG GROVE TOWNSHIP — On Tuesday a neighbor hosted presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard at his home.

On a large patio facing Lake Macbride, about 40 people gathered to hear what the candidate from Hawaii had to say. That is, 25 regular people along with sundry staff, volunteers, journalists, photographers, and videographers.

I invited the editor of our local paper, The Solon Economist, and he attended.

What’s newsworthy is it was the only presidential campaign event to be held in Big Grove Township, and one of only two in the Solon area this cycle.

As a neighbor, I baked an apple crisp to serve at the event using Northern Spy, Macoun, and Red Delicious apples picked at home and at the orchard. My neighbor supports Gabbard because of her views on defense department spending. I was recognized for my apple work.

I met Gabbard the summer of 2016 at Congressman Dave Loebsack’s Brews and BBQ fundraiser a few miles away. She has yet to make a memorable impression, although I don’t feel negativity toward her as I did when I met Bernie Sanders in 2014. The brief speech under sunny skies was not enough to have me remove the Elizabeth Warren bumper sticker from my car.

It was a unique event in our neighborhood and I was glad to be part of it. Any time a sitting member of congress shows up here it is worth the time to listen and learn.

James Q. Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette posted an article about the event here.

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Autumn Transitions

Dinner salad, Oct. 7, 2019

Leaves of deciduous trees are turning to autumn.

Despite the changing season there was local lettuce, bell peppers, radishes, kohlrabi and tomatoes to make a fresh salad with last night’s pasta dinner.

I made the pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes as well.

Red Delicious apples are at peak ripeness. As I picked another bushel under an azure sky, I couldn’t resist eating those I knocked to the ground. The variety is unjustly maligned… and delicious.

Three things stand out in the second half of 2019: coping with diabetes, Mother’s death, and increased political activity.

When I was diagnosed with type two diabetes on May 13 I reacted with a lifestyle change. I counted carbohydrates consumed, then in September added counting calories. At around 200 carbs and less than 1,800 calories per day, I shed 15 percent of body weight since May 6. While my daily numbers are not exact, they accomplished what we hoped. I also keep track of exercise and work toward getting at least a half hour done daily. On Aug. 19 my A1C had reduced from “diabetes” to “prediabetes.” I’m hoping to get a clean bill of health during my November doctor’s appointment, fingers crossed.

I haven’t processed Mother’s Aug. 15 death. I feel her absence yet I’m not sure what it means now or going forward. My own mortality is in relief. I want to phone her, but she’s not there.

My calendar is filling up with political work. I decided to support Elizabeth Warren in the Feb. 3, 2020 Iowa caucus. My Warren organizer provided tools to begin a precinct canvass. I look forward to making the initial contacts. The presidential race is only part of it.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst has been popular in the state so making her a single-term senator will be challenging. Five Democrats announced campaigns for the nomination which will be decided in the June 2, 2020 primary election. In order for a potential Democratic president to make progressive change, a Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate is required. Unseating Ernst will be a high priority after the February caucus.

My congressman Dave Loebsack announced his retirement. Retaining control of this seat is a high priority. There are two Democrats competing for the nomination with Rita Hart favored to win over Newman Abuissa. This race will also wait until after the precinct caucuses.

Yesterday Iowa House Republican legislators chose their leadership team. Democrats hope to regain the majority in the lower chamber. Our state senator Zach Wahls is not up for re-election in 2020, and no one has been able to beat Rep. Bobby Kaufmann since redistricting after the 2010 census. If there is a viable candidate for state representative this cycle, he or she will require some bandwidth. Kaufmann hasn’t announced a re-election campaign, but it is expected.

Today presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is scheduled to appear at a house party hosted by a long-time neighbor. I’m making an apple crisp for the event. Macoun and Northern Spy apples are warming on the counter after storage in the ice box. When I publish this post I’ll head upstairs to make the dessert and hope something meaningful came from this piece of writing.

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