Sunday, February 28, 2010

Messing around

As you can see, I'm messing around with the appearance and layout of this blog. As someone who knows nothing about programming or html or css, it is quite a learning curve. There will be further changes as I have time to make them. It seems to take me a long time to figure out how to tweak one little piece of the puzzle. Any offers of help will be gratefully accepted.

Let me know what you think of the new 'do.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

100 years

Remember this picture from a previous post? It is of maintstreet Clinton, MN, in 2010.

Here's a photo of mainstreet Clinton, MN, taken in 1910.

The arrows on the right side of the road are pointing to the same building in both pictures. Also for the arrows on the left side of the road. The two-story brick building on the extreme right of the older photo is also still standing, although it is not shown in the 2010 photo. I can't tell if the building that our current grocery store resides in (the far left building in the 2010 photo) is original or not. I'm thinking not.

So, I think that only three buildings from 1910 are still standing in 2010. Seems a shame to me, to lose all those lovely old buildings. The thing is, buildings take money. Roofs, mortar, paint, plumbing, etc. And money is something not a lot of people in our neck of the woods have had a lot of during the last 100 years.

The population in 1910 was 384. In 2000 it was 453. In 2009 it was estimated at 401. I wonder what this year's census will tell us.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feathered friends

This is what usually greets me as I enter, and leave, the park every day. Scores of pheasants. We've got some of the best habitat in the county for pheasants, deer, turkeys, etc. Of course hunting isn't allowed in the park, and the animals seem to know that. We have one particular buck that shows up like clockwork every November, hanging around inside the park. He's huge, maybe sixteen or eighteen points (the number of points on his antlers). And he's smart -- he knows where he's safe, and he knows what time of year to hide out.

These guys are really the only company I have at the park this time of year. Not a lot of demand for outdoor recreation here in February. Which is a shame, because it's really beautiful, and peaceful. And cold.

I made homemade crackers again Friday night. I only used half the bread dough, and made buns from the other half. They look pretty darn yummy, if I do say so myself.

Not a lot to report, really. Sometime this week I'll start onion seeds in my basement. I was talking to a friend the other day, and she'd heard that for onions to grow well from seed, they need 'haircuts.' In other words, when they get six or eight inches tall you need to snip them down to two or three inches. I'd not heard of this before. Guess I'd better do more research.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Get my drift?

As I've said before, our grove makes a wonderful wind break. But when the snow builds up in the ditch in front of the grove, it gets dumped at the end of our driveway. The 4' high wind fences we put up in the ditch last fall have long since disappeared under snow. They did their job for awhile, but they just couldn't keep up. Next year maybe we'll put in 10' tall fences. Sunk in concrete.

The wind is a living thing on the prairie. It speaks, its voice rising and falling, following you wherever you go. It pats you on the back, ruffles your hair and kisses your cheek. It plays tricks on you -- the pail you left on the porch yesterday is wedged in amongst your currant bushes today. The wind comes and goes, sometimes overstaying its welcome, but when it is absent for too long you begin to miss it.

The drifts at the end of our driveway are daunting. Hubby spent four-and-a-half hours shoveling us out yesterday. That, on top of the shoveling he did on Saturday and Sunday. The picture above was taken just a few hours after hubby had finished on Sunday. The plows didn't bother coming out that day, or the next. You can't even see the county road that runs past our house. It's just a vast white desert out there.

Today most of the roads have been cleared and I was able to come to the park. As you can see, the plows really have their work cut out for them (haha). The sun feels so nice after so many days of gray and mist. The eaves of the roof are dripping, even though it is still just 20 degrees outside.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hole in 35

The two eldest boys and I ventured forth today to the "31th Annual Arctic Open". The kids were psyched, despite the cold and the snow and the wind. The temp was a balmy 18 degrees, but the wind was pretty fierce and flurries were falling. The lady who registered us inside a snugly-built icehouse told us the course was nine holes in length. Emerging outside, I was able to see four greens (clumps of Christmas trees). The rest of the holes were lost to swirling snow and mist.

In the picture above, the two kidlets on the left are mine and the one on the right is a friend. As you can see, the sign itself was made awhile ago. It gets reused every year with new number placards nailed on the front. I guess the economy is hurting everywhere; apparently the city didn't have enough money to make a 'st', just a '31'.

We started out on the putting white. The holes were made with augers, drilled about a foot deep. The balls were painted red and yellow.

The plows had cleared the putting area, and plowed a fairway and green for each of the nine holes. The holes were quite long -- a par three on a normal course, but a par eight on a frozen lake.

In this picture I am standing at the tee-off point, and the Christmas trees in the distance mark the green. Owen sped off in front, leaving Graham and I behind. Owen took 16 shots to make it into the hole. Graham took 35.

Here are the proud golfers at end of the first hole. After his 35 shots, Graham decided he'd rather head back and play on the enormous mound of plowed snow instead of finishing the course. Owen would have liked to play on, but he soon forgot about golf and became embroiled in a rousing game of King of the Hill. And after that, a snow ball fight.

Finally, after the monkeys had burned enough energy to last me through a month, we drove two blocks to the local cafe for cheeseburgers and hot cocoa. All in all, a good morning spent.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Population 401

Welcome one and all to the beautiful town of Clinton, Minnesota. A lovely little village, with all the essentials. Unless you count things like Wal-Mart, McDonalds and Home Depot essentials. If you do, and if you just can't live without 24-hour shopping and fast food, then you probably don't want to live here. Or in any small town, for that matter.

I like Clinton. There are lots of reasons why, but I think I've nailed down a big one for me--the music. That's right, the music. They (I'm not sure who exactly) play music in the downtown streets during the day. Last week while running errands I was treated to a bagpipe rendition of 'Auld Lang Syne'. This week I heard Elvis Presley sing 'Hound Dog'. An eclectic mix, to be sure.

The grocery store is on the far left, followed by the newspaper, barber, community center, post office and gas station. On the right are the computer repair shop, municipal building, fire hall and bank. Yes, you heard me -- this little burg has a computer repair shop, which is where our main computer resides at this very minute. I'm working on our back-up computer right now, and will be for the foreseeable future. The repair guy knows his stuff and his prices are reasonable, but he can be slow sometimes.

We've gotten a little bit of snow recently. There's about 18 inches on the ground right now. This is not unusual for this time of year. A blizzard bringing two feet of snow isn't really a newsworthy event. In fact, it usually happens at least once a winter. I feel for the folks out east that are getting lots of the white stuff, really I do. But to be honest, part of me wonders what the big deal is. We get those storms fairly frequently here in Minnesota, and no one puts us on the front page of CNN. Which, now that I think about it, is probably for the best.

This is the old train station, originally built in 1885. From 1885 through the late 1920's four trains carrying passengers and freight stopped at the Clinton depot each day. Service slowed over the years and the depot was closed in 1969. The track was torn up in 1981. Since then the building has been used as a local museum. Right now it's raised on blocks awaiting some foundation repair. I'm pleased that the community has decided to take care of this little piece of history.

Clinton is also home to "the world's longest running ice golf tournament"-- the Arctic Open. This Saturday the 31st annual Arctic Open will be held on Lake Eli. The holes are marked with old Christmas trees, which the city picks up from people's yards after the holidays. After the tournament the trees are left on the ice and in the spring sink into the lake, providing some additional fish habitat.

The kids' golf starts at 10 am and the adults' tournament follows at noon. We're bringing the boys and meeting some friends there in the morning. There's snow flurries forecast for Saturday, but that won't stop us. Snow is par for the course here in western Minnesota.


Boooo! Hisss! Rhymes-with-Fonsanto-and-starts-with-an-M is appealing the USDA decision that regulates the sale of Round-Up Ready Alfalfa seed. The USDA decided to regulate the sale in 2007, because they believed that the above company hadn't addressed how the planting of this genetically engineered (GE) seed would affect non-GE alfalfa growers.

Well, the USDA has a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) now, and apparently the EIS says that growing this GE alfalfa wouldn't really hurt non-GE alfalfa growers.

Ha! Haha! Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

The organic farmer from whom I buy my milk has asked me to spread the word about this. He grows his own organic alfalfa, and feels very strongly that the sale of this seed would be a disaster. Bees would travel from one field to another, cross pollinating his crops. Then the Fonsanto guys in black suits would descent upon his farm, test his plants, and sue him for using their patented crops. Not to mention his dairy cows would now be eating the contaminated alfalfa, potentially losing their organic certification.

The USDA is asking for public comment about this. The public comment period ends FEBRUARY 16, 2010. That's next Tuesday!

Anyone who wishes to make comments should do one (or both!) of the following:

1) Federal eRulemaking Portal: Click on this link to submit or view comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.

2) Postal Mail/Commercial Delivery: please send two copies of your comment to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8,
4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Please state that your comment refers to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044.

Here's a link to the USDA news release about all this.

You can also google 'round-up ready alfalfa' and find lots of information. Best to put on your propoganda-proof goggles beforehand, however. It's likely that the result of this ruling would also affect any USDA's decision on round-up ready sugar beets in the future.

So, if you give a rat's bum about genetically modified food, and how this would affect small farmers and organic farmers, speak up! Right now!

No, I really mean it -- right now!

Sunday, February 7, 2010



Hubby brought the eggs in today, and on one of the shells I saw a tiny speck begin to move. Then I saw a few more specks moving. Aaahh! My chickens have mites!

Has anyone else ever dealt with mites before? I have ivomectin pour-on for my goats, so I can try that on the birds themselves. But what should I use for everything else (nest boxes, litter, etc.)? There are so many insecticidal sprays and dusts out there. What works best?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dreaming of dirt

My seed orders have been sent. My graph paper garden sketch is nearly complete. Now all I can do is wait until late March, when I can finally start a few tiny vegetable and herb seeds in my basement.

Following last year's success, I am enlarging my garden by 1/3, to 45' x 45' in size. My nine-year-old son has promised help with weeding (in exchange for a modest allowance, of course) and my husband has promised help with tilling and digging and fencing. I still need to find more steel siding for pathways, but I think I know where to get some.

Surrounded by 6' welded wire fence and interwoven with steel paths, my garden isn't pretty. But it is productive. Someday I will have a pretty garden, with brick-laid paths and raised beds and trellised vines. That day is far in the future. I still have to master the art of growing things. I need to learn about succession planting and cover crops, dealing with blight and mildew, how to improve the soil and manage weeds.

I need to learn, and learn fast. This year I am experimenting with a few new things. I am planting herbs for the first time: dill, sage, chamomile, basil, thyme, lemonbalm. I am planting cayenne and paprika peppers, to grind my own spices. I am planting lettuce and amaranth for the first time. And I am going to start a permanent bed of asparagus.

I hope I am not over reaching. To help with weed control I am going to experiment with some black plastic mulch. I have the plastic already, so I might as well use it. I am going to use Bt spray to control the creepy crawlies on my brassicas. I am going to make two plantings of my cabbage, carrots and rutabagas: one for summer eating, and one for winter storage.

Putting this all down on paper scares me a little. The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. I have such high hopes--I always do. But that is what gets us through these cold and dark days of winter: the hopes we have for a warm spring, the dreams we hold for the rich brown earth.

All we can do is wait. And dream.

And swing!