Hot Weather Harvest

Neighbors Haying

On a fine summer day conditions were perfect to harvest hay and garlic.

My CSA friends recruited volunteers to bring in the garlic and across the county farmers were baling hay in large round and small rectangular bales.

On Independence Day farmers came to town to buy cultivators, salt blocks, pumps, feed, big pedestal fans, bedding (for horses), air compressor parts, nuts and bolts, and other stuff of life. At the home, farm and auto supply store we also sold a lot of propane, grills and kayaks, but that was not to farmers, as a farmer plans his/her kayaking and grilling ahead of time.

The rain has been good enough my garden doesn’t need much watering. Predatory insects are noticeably in abeyance, I suspect because of the polar vortex and extremely cold temperatures last winter. Tomatoes look as good as they have in years. It is already hard to use all the cucumbers. There will be green beans, okra, hot peppers, eggplant, squash, kale, carrots and more by the time August is finished.

We love summer.

Actually, we love life even in the extreme weather brought on by our own assault on nature. That we have perfect conditions for haying and garlic harvesting may well be an anomaly going forward. It was enjoyable this year and will be for however long it lasts.

I viewed the president’s speech on the environment on YouTube. It was not about climate change, human-made or other. In fact, the speeches by the president and about half a dozen others were devoid of any mention of the science of climate change, or solutions to solve the climate crisis.

I feel certain the bait shop owner from Florida has seen improvement in his local environment by the administration’s work on red algae. His speech was unprepared and somewhat random, but a slice of Americana available for public consumption and that, maybe, was the point. There was praise for the president from his staff, including the despised Andrew Wheeler, current head of the Environmental Protection Agency. If one adds up everything in the 56 -minute event, if we didn’t know the science of climate change, it would be believable. The climate crisis was absent from the environment Trump depicted and that is the problem with the Trump administration.

What bothered me the most, as it does any time I listen to the president, it’s the assertion that covers up a lie. Wheeler was bragging on how many super fund sites have been deleted from the list. Were they actually cleaned up or just declared clean and deleted?

I agree with Al Gore’s analysis:

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the origin of hot weather. Is it coming from Anthropogenic climate change, or from politicians in Washington, D.C.? Maybe a little of both.

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Support for Rita Hart

Rita Hart Photo Credit – Candidate Facebook Page

I first heard Rita Hart, candidate for U.S. Congress in Iowa’s second district, speak on Friday, June 26, 2015, at Gil’s Restaurant, Ballroom and Limousine Service in Clinton at the Clinton County Democrats Hall of Fame Dinner. I have no recollection of what she said as the number of speakers was large, and my memory not as good as it used to be.

I’m supporting Hart for Congress for three reasons: she is a two-term former state senator, as our lieutenant governor candidate in 2018 she helped organize the second district for Democrats, and she has an education and farming background. I already sent a small donation.

Of the two announced Democratic candidates, I know the other better, Newman Abuissa of Iowa City. I like Abuissa a lot, and am aware of his contributions to Iowa Democratic politics and the peace and justice movement. However, this is his first campaign for elected office and we need an experienced campaigner to keep this seat Democratic. Hart has a D behind her name, won her two races for state senator, and has the bona fides of a campaigner to support it. That’s enough for this open race, one of many important ones in the 2020 general election.

What about policy, one might ask. I didn’t agree with every vote Dave Loebsack made during his tenure, and don’t expect I will like every vote Rita Hart makes. I no longer seek a perfect candidate and Dave Loebsack’s endorsement of Hart is what I needed to hear before putting a check mark next to her name on the primary ballot.

View Rita Hart’s Announcement video here.

View Rita Hart’s TED Talk titled Re-envisioning Education – Seeing Schools Differently here.

Donate to Rita Hart’s campaign here.

Follow Rita Hart on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sunday Drive for Ice Cream

Lake Macbride, July 8, 2019.

Sunday afternoon I was getting cabin fever so I drove to Ely, bought gasoline, played Powerball, and bought a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

It is six miles to Dan and Debbie’s Creamery where I shop a couple of times a year. I’d go more often but I keep forgetting they are closed Monday until arriving when the building is locked up. I’m also avoiding sugar and carbohydrates for health reasons or I’d work harder at more frequent visits.

The ice cream was delicious. I debated whether to get a half gallon for $9 or a pint for $5. Economy would have me buying the larger size, but chances are I would have eaten the whole thing in one or two sittings. I managed to split the pint into two dessert-sized servings and fit it into my daily carb budget. I have a carb budget.


Sometimes one has to get out of the house.

My imagination let loose as I drove on Ely blacktop through the Atherton Wetland. So much so I didn’t notice whether flooding has receded, or whether people were using the ATV park.

When I reduced my schedule at the home, farm and auto supply store to leverage Social Security and phase into a slowdown, I had no idea how it would impact me. Mostly, I’m becoming more aware of who I am. It has taken time and I am not sure I fully realize what it means. One thing is certain, I’m not who I was.

This July hiatus is a chance to figure part of that out.

Not certain when it happened, my driving social-style is in remission. It may be gone completely. I no longer need to be in charge. I’m happy to follow the lead of others if they are competent. I take time for things I would not have had the patience. I did not see that coming.

Lake Macbride State Park Trail, July 8, 2019.

With a form of financial security through a pension, the press of bills due without funds to pay them is also in remission (Thanks FDR for Social Security). Our consumer debt is going down: we gained almost $12,500 in net worth since my pension payments began and debt servicing picked up. Once the pressure of nose to the grindstone was relieved new possibilities opened up and there is more than financial improvement.

The biggest change is feeling comfortable staying home and working. I let one of my farmer friends know I would not likely be returning next year. At some point I’ll leave the home, farm and auto supply store to spend even more time at home. There is work here in the form of household repairs, reading, writing, gardening, cooking and such, to fill more time than I have left on this blue-green sphere.

In addition to the work, there’s the occasional chance to buy ice cream and become lost in the wetlands on my way home. I’m learning to see where I live again.

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We’ve Got to Do Something

U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.

Over the weekend Erin Murphy, a Lee Enterprises Des Moines based reporter, said it was quiet in Iowa’s congressional primary races.

“Perhaps in the coming weeks and months, some of these quieter primary races will become more crowded,” Murphy wrote in the Quad City Times. “For now, though, the fairly low level of interest from candidates has been surprising.”

Murphy recounted the five 2020 congressional delegation races, noted who was in each race, and which were conspicuous by the absence of a declared candidate from one party or the other (a Democrat in Iowa 4 and a Republican in Iowa 2*). It is a long time until the June 2020 primary election, so Murphy’s surprise seems premature, even if he acknowledged the 11 months in the article.

My sense, from talking to Democratic voters, is there is near universal belief “we have to do something.” By that, they mean overturn Republican control of the presidency, keep the U.S. House and retake the U.S. Senate, and win one or both chambers of the state legislature. People are dead serious about it and seem willing to devote resources to making it happen. They will be sure to show up to vote in the general election.

The disconnect, and maybe the premise for Murphy’s article, is between the “we have to do something” feeling and nominees produced by the party. Voters I talk to don’t care that much about who is nominated for Congress and U.S. Senate unless they are an incumbent. They just know what we have now isn’t working.

I know what that’s like. We had to do something toward the end of George W. Bush’s first term. My response was to pick a race, focus, donate money, and volunteer every chance I got. I felt long-time Congressman Jim Leach had to go. While the Democratic challenger Dave Franker wasn’t the best candidate, everyone who volunteered on his campaign worked hard toward his election. “It didn’t work out well,” I mentioned to Dave Loebsack via email when he established an exploratory committee for the Second District Congressional seat in March 2005.

I put 2004 behind me and re-started my effort to ouster the incumbent. Voters I spoke with on the telephone and in person had turned against the once popular Leach. It almost didn’t matter our candidate was Dave Loebsack, because the expressed need for change was so prevalent. We went into election night not knowing if we’d win but hopeful based on the large number of voters who’d had it with the incumbent. As we now know, Loebsack was successful in defeating him.

I haven’t started door knocking or calling voters in 2019. As I mentioned, “we have to do something,” and that’s similar to 2006 which was the beginning of a Democratic wave that culminated in a national trifecta in 2008.

Why is it so quiet in the congressional races in July? I’m not sure that’s an accurate statement. Maybe there are less candidates running, however, the noise, if there is any, is more among rank and file Democrats, particularly those who are normally less active, taking it all in and discussing politics with friends and family. They need space to consider candidates in lives that don’t normally revolve around partisan politics. Outside the presidential preference at the February caucus, most don’t really care who nominees are as long as there is a D behind their name and candidates act like it. People are making room for politics in busy lives, but it hasn’t the high priority that will drive a more exciting race of the kind Murphy was expecting.

Resolved not to let Trump and the Republican policies stand, people seem hunkered down trying to make a go of it in an economy that favors the wealthy and where corporations strive to squeeze regular people out of every last dime. Maintaining the type of resolve needed to change our government takes energy, just a different kind than what’s represented in an active, multi-candidate primary.

People say an open primary and debate between multiple candidates is good for the party. I don’t know about that. Rank and file view it differently and people seem to take stock before declaring candidacy, realizing the financial investment in one of these five races will be significant. Maybe what you see is what you get and others don’t want to run of office.

July 2019 may be the quiet before a political storm that’s brewing next year.

* On July 8, Erin Murphy reported that Bobby Schilling filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission to run for Congress in Iowa’s second district as a Republican.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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Garlic Harvest 2019

Pulling Garlic

In a year of weird weather, garlic suddenly became ready to pull at Sundog Farm.

Some cloves began to burst and if the farmers couldn’t figure out exactly why, they decided to harvest it all before any more went past its prime.

It was a good call as the garlic heads brought to the barn were large and the crop was bigger than expected. It was an exceptional crop. The harvest took place on two days this week. I helped with the second.

Eight of us worked the field and racked the garlic for curing. It was hot work, and I couldn’t stand the sun and heat for long. After two and a half hours pulling garlic from the field, I changed to the racking operation in the barn to get out of the sun. There was plenty of work for everyone. Here are some photos of the operation.

Eight rows of garlic remained to pull on day two of the garlic harvest. The ground was wet so we pulled, shook off dirt on the roots, and let it dry in the sun for a bit.

Staying hydrated is important and we refilled our water bottles multiple times over the morning.

After an hour or so, the stalks were cleaned of remaining dirt and hauled to the barn in a pickup truck.

The stalks were inspected, sorted by quality and lined up along a two by four rack, three deep. Next a second two by four was placed on top and they were bolted together with three sets of nuts and bolts.

The individual racks were lined up on sawhorses where they will rest and dry until fully cured.

The farm crew got to take some fresh garlic home. Here are six heads I brought back. These are “seconds” that were a bit deformed or had been hit by the fork during harvest. They eat as well as any of them.

After clearing the field of garlic the crew met at the farm house where we ate lunch of grilled brats and hot dogs, fresh grilled vegetables, and pickled asparagus put up last year. The grilled onions had been picked just moments before hitting the grill. Days like this one feels something got accomplished.

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Can Educationism Solve Anything?

Big Grove Township School #1

Blaming the woes of society on our K-12 education system is a habit I need to break.

In the post below the target was a failure to teach children about their responsibilities when signing student loan papers. A high school graduate is an adult at age 18 in our culture, so when taking on debt that has the potential to cripple them for decades, they should be equipped to know what they are doing.

Parents also play a key role in educating youth, however my grievance with the way the Iowa legislature funds public schools is they are not spending enough money where it is most needed, and the results show in the form of an ill-educated electorate that makes what I believe are bad decisions.

It is unfair for me to pin this on public schools as State Senator Claire Celsi immediately pointed out:

In the July issue of The Atlantic, author Nick Hanauer addresses the tendency to blame public schools in an article titled, “Better Public Schools Won’t Fix America:”

Long ago, I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America.

This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself.

Hanauer assigns blame to our economic system: income inequality and the fact workers are underpaid.

“Allow economic inequality to grow, and educational inequality will inevitably grow with it,” he wrote. “By distracting us from these truths, educationism is part of the problem.”

While sad that my participation on Twitter is sometimes a distraction, eventually I can get around to a more reasonable position thanks to the commentariat. One commentator accused me of adopting the policies of U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. That’s not the case, but at least we didn’t have to invoke Godwin’s Law to resolve the issue. Despite any issues with an ill-educated electorate, hope for a better world remains.

Read Hanauer’s entire article here.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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Independence Day 2019

Flags at Oakland Cemetery -2012

Happy Independence Day… reluctantly.

I’ve not been a fan of the Independence Day holiday since military service. It’s not that I paid much attention to it previously. As a military officer I had time to reflect on the meaning of independence while stationed far from home among strangers.

People celebrate the Declaration of Independence and its grievances against the King of England. I don’t mind. While I’m as glad as anyone Elizabeth is not our queen, and Prince Charles will never be our king, Columbus’ “discovery” of the Americas was an affront to human society. 284 years later the damage had been done and the founders were formalizing a relationship with the King as the hegemony of natives had been diminished by disease and warfare.

Few things point out the advancement of pre-Columbian society, and what was lost, as much as the recent book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann.

The premise of Mann’s book is there were societies in the Americas that were as sophisticated as any on the globe. They endured for multiple millennia, coming and going over time before Columbus arrived, cultures unknown to Europeans. The Declaration of Independence was an insider deal among participants who had no standing to occupy and exploit the Americas. Yet they did.

It was not unusual for Americans to side with natives at the time of independence, especially when compared to living under English rule. I side with Frederick Douglass who said,

Your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.

If I celebrate anything this day it is the renewed opportunity to get along with neighbors and friends, something I believe is critical to healing our broken Democracy. While we may not agree about the meaning of Independence Day, it is better to find common ground every way we can. We’ll need that in the Anthropocene Age.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

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