Categories
Home Life Writing

On Our Own

Main Street
Main Street

LAKE MACBRIDE— Unexpectedly, as the automatic garage door opened, the rural mail contractor was pulling up the driveway in his SUV to leave the box that contained my last 1,610 posts, written in a fever since 2008. They didn’t seem like much for the investment in time and resources. I thanked him for the delivery and walked into the garage and closed the door.

Within a few minutes the box was opened on my writing table, the volumes examined, then in place on the bookshelf with the previous iterations of this blog. Familiar with the work, it was time to turn to other things.

It was foggy on Sunday as I left the newspaper to return home. The new lamp posts faded from view down Main Street. I focused on traffic, instead of a distant view obscured by weather. The new crosswalk was comforting— the brick-like impressions guiding me across Highway One and toward the vehicle which would carry me home via Main Street, then Highway 382, going west out of town.

It is hard to imagine the landscape without roads and pathways. Harder still to believe it is possible to step off main traveled roads. Yet, in the fog of morning, after the snow has been melted by rainfall, we think we can make our own path— and sometimes do.

At times like these we are on our own, hard pressed to explain how or why— making it hard for others to provide succor, even when succor is needed. In a turbulent world, full of beaten paths and depleted resources, we make choices and ask, is all vanity, or is it possible that if the earth shall abide forever, we shall too?

With this refreshed blog comes a challenge, the same challenge as before, to sustain our lives on the prairie, but with it, something different. It is an edgy feeling— an urgency. That before long, our time to make a difference will have elapsed and our relevance in society faded like the vanishing point on Main Street that morning. By beginning again, there is new hope, a fresh view. There is a belief we can depart from la vie quotidian and sustain a life when people seem caught in a vortex of desperate conformity. It doesn’t have to be that way, especially once we realize we are on our own.

Categories
Home Life

Sagrada Família Basilica

LAKE MACBRIDE— Runoff rainwater filled the ditch along the road most of yesterday, eroding the soil mixture laid there by the contractor last fall. The frozen ground could not absorb water, so it accumulated, and flowed downstream to Lake Macbride, the Coralville Reservoir and beyond. We needed the rain. There was talk of snow, but none stuck here, if it fell during the night— we continue to need the moisture.

While paying my property taxes, the newest Johnson County supervisor walked into the building, paused in the entryway, a lanyard dangling from his right pocket. He lacked purpose with which most people enter, perhaps he is still getting used to the building and position. He seems taller and thinner than he appeared in news media.

While in town, I stopped at Paul’s Discount store on Highway One and purchased some garden seeds. With the snow melting, it is time to get ready for planting. I bought some soil mix and a plastic flat to try starting seeds. Now that I have seen how it’s done at the CSA, I feel more confident about growing my own seedlings.

In 1974 I took a photo of the Sagrada Família Basilica in Barcelona. There was a story about it on television last night. It wasn’t a basilica then, Pope Benedict XVI consecrated the unfinished structure as such in 2010. A lot of work has been done since my visit. It remains unfinished, but with hope for closure via completion sometime in the next decade or two. It has been a remarkable project, spanning generations.

As I write this morning, I am considering a name for the new weblog. The issue is not settled, but will be soon.

Categories
Home Life Kitchen Garden

Food in the Afternoon

LAKE MACBRIDE— Food. The afternoon revolved around food after a once every two weeks trip to the grocery store. Root vegetables, a turnip for $1.09, a parsnip for $0.85, potatoes for $0.40 per pound, carrots from the fridge and a leek for $1.05. It’s chik’n stew tonight. With protein cubes from Morningstar Farms®, and vegetables past their prime, but good for stew. The pot is full of the simmering stew. Hope it tastes good, as there is enough to last ten days and I hate to waste— food.

Categories
Writing

Brownies and the New Format

LAKE MACBRIDE— Last night I made brownies for the first time since I can remember. I saw the box of baking cocoa, the recipe on the package, and knew we had all the ingredients in the house. They came out very well, light and chewy, so I copied the recipe into my red book.

Have been preparing my new blog on a test site, and here is a very tentative snapshot of what it will look like. More to come as it develops.

Draft Blog HEader
Draft Blog Header
Categories
Home Life

Snow Cover is Deceptive

LAKE MACBRIDE— The snow cover is deceptive, hiding spring, which is here, but not showing for a couple of weeks— an illusion that there is more time before outside work begins. There is a lot to do to organize for planting, and everything else.

The blog books have been shipped from the printer, and I am a week or so away from creating a new look for my blog. I have been sampling the free templates, and the only one I settled on was the same used during the previous iteration of this blog. Will work harder on it.

I have resolved to take down most of my posts here, once the paper copies have arrived. Browse through the older posts if you are so inclined. By April, they will be deleted.

Categories
Kitchen Garden

At the CSA

RURAL CEDAR TOWNSHIP— Yesterday was the first of a long series of work days at a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. I spent three and a half hours making blocks of soil mix to grow seedlings, then planted lettuce seeds in some of them. I had no expectations for the day, but mostly because of dehydration, had to cut it short. (Note to self: next time take a water bottle). I am not physically ready for farm work, but hope to be soon. As this growing season evolves, my physical condition should improve. The reason for being at there was to learn how a greenhouse works in late winter, and about growing lettuce from seedlings. I am also trading labor for a share of produce.

If one would write about local food, some experience on a CSA seems mandatory. It is one thing to talk and write about local food and another to grow it. The latter takes more work than people realize. What was immediately apparent was the labor intensity of sustainable agriculture in its current iteration. Machines could have done all of the work I did more efficiently, but with substantial capital investment. Local, sustainable agriculture starts out behind in the race with large scale operations over efficiency. It is a conscious choice among options for how to spend limited capital, and as long as cheap labor is available, capital investment will be directed to other things on a long list of priorities.

We didn’t talk much, but between periods of work, managed to catch up on news, and what’s going on with family. The only thing to report is that local CSAs continue to struggle to find customers, with some of last year’s customers cutting back to half shares, or not renewing this season. Managing a base of members whose investment is less than $1,000 per year is also labor intensive.

My sense is that there are pockets of strength in the local food movement in Johnson County. It is not really a cohesive system yet. People enjoy going to the farmers market to buy produce, but they often do so with discretionary income. In a tight economy, discretionary income can be reduced or evaporate completely, effecting farmers markets and CSA business alike because they are perceived as an indulgence rather than a way of life. There is inadequate attention paid to the role of home cooks as buyers/promoters of sustainably grown food. That needs a remedy as well, but is also labor intensive, and the planting season is here.

Categories
Living in Society

On the March 5 Special Election

002JOHNSON COUNTY— Voters elected the first Republican to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors since 1958 last night. There was no surprise.

In a county with better than a 2-1 Democratic registration advantage, the enthusiasm of general election years has been supplemented with paid staff. During the 2012 presidential election, the most paid staff ever dominated the local GOTV effort. Campaign work is mostly done by a local party organization in other counties. When the 2012 election was over, the exit of paid staff created a vacuum, which sucked Terry Dahm’s campaign into the vortex, leaving a weak party organization and John Etheredge as our new supervisor.

Dahms was not as exciting a candidate as Janelle Rettig was when she won the January 2010 special election, to which this contest has been compared. Etheredge was less a public lunatic than Lori Cardella was in 2010, and that served to his advantage. Local Republicans were slow coming to modern electoral political campaigning developed during the Howard Dean and John Kerry campaigns of 2004, but they have figured it out, and were able to win last night.

The snowstorm leading into the hours the polls were open didn’t help, but it was a minor problem compared to the lack of a party organization and related voter apathy among Democrats.

A Republican victory has been a long time coming to Johnson County court house races, and one supposes last night’s win is like a burr that will be sanded off in the carpentry shop of the 2014 general election, returning the board of supervisors to all Democratic. Such an outcome is predictable, but remains to be seen. Today’s congratulations go to the Johnson County Republicans for last night’s win.

Categories
Home Life

Almost There — A New Blog

Almost There
Almost There

LAKE MACBRIDE— Walking There is my third iteration of a blogging site, and it is time for the fourth. Please be patient while I use the free services of Word Press to pick a new template, new images and different widgets to re-engineer my on-line presence here and elsewhere.

Fair warning: I plan to take the previous posts private, or remove them completely when I launch the new site. I just ordered the archive paper documents, and once they arrive in a couple of weeks, I’ll be ready to make the changes here.

I hope you will stay with me during this transition.