Saturday, March 29, 2008

Caucusing for Jack

Today was our Senate District DFL convention and it was, as expected, a longish ordeal, but we did our best to represent Jack to the delegates. I was very tired, and so was the SO as she stayed up even later then I, and we connected with a few people. In the end, Jack got 6 delegates, there were 4 uncommitted and Al got 11. Jack gave a rousing speech that almost moved me to tears, and Al gave his stump speech that was uninspired at best. So the SO is the delegate to the State convention, and nobody voted for me. I'm not that hideous!

Friday, March 28, 2008

micro maple

Yo, I'm tapping a Box Elder tree (Acer negundo, a species of maple) in my front yard. All maples are tappable for sap, it's just the sugar maple that has the most sugar in its sap.

This is a part of my ongoing micro-urban permaculture experiment. It certainly is exciting.

Well, the days are above freezing and the nights are almost freezing, so I figure it is the perfect time to tap. I didn't have the right bit (7/16) but I had a 3/8 bit so I wiggled it around a bit in the hole to get the extra 16th of an inch. I drilled 2" into the tree, and it is about 10" in diameter. Then I squirted the hole out with tap water and bashed the tap in. I fashioned a pail out of an old gallon jug hung it on the tap. The sap was running wildly already, and I got pretty excited about doing this on a larger scale.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Seedling container tags

Here is my idea on cheap and longlasting seedling container tags.

Since I have a hundred plastic containers about I could probably make a trillion of these little signs. Go figure.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Al Franken uses fame to cash in on Senate spot

This just in: Instead of debating Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer in Minnesota, Al Franken flies to New York to go on the Letterman show to get free publicity and a national showing of his ad. How about this Letterman, give Jack a spot on your show to be fair. How about this Al, debate Jack now to be fair, instead of cashing in on your entertainment contacts to gain a lead on a more qualified candidate. This is a sickening turn of events and needs to be discussed and debated.

Friday, March 14, 2008


what is life?

life is the evermoving present moment constantly shifting, spreading, rooting, thrusting upward.

toward the light, the explosion, the nuclear reaction-light penetrates atoms

light is not life, life is not death-death is not life, death is not dark

I realized this the other day, thinking about my friends and family who have experienced life and death

these are not issues to put aside, to think about later, because in all honesty, there is no later

life is the movement, death is the stillness,but as a gardener, I know that it is all relative

as a buddhist I know it is all relative to your bardo, where you are in your transition

I can think I am closer to the beginning of my life then the end, but it is not necessarily so

and then the pure sacredness of the present moment becomes, I don't really want illumination

I want life to continue forever

but what I think I want doesn't matter

I am nothing but life expressing itself

when I die I will not express life, I will express death, and to the living death isn't desirable

and love is what makes the world go round

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Jack speaks

GLBT Issues

I support equal rights for GLBT people.

I advocate repeal of sodomy laws and I support efforts to pass federal, state and local legislation to prevent hate crimes and employment discrimination. I will work tirelessly so that GLBT people are not denied custodial, adoptive or foster parenting options, workplace or housing opportunities, domestic partner benefits and equal marriage rights due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

I oppose any efforts to use legal or constitutional means to discriminate against GLBT persons.

As a religious person, I am deeply troubled by the use of religion to justify discrimination, hatred or exclusion of GLBT people, including denial of dignity and civil rights. I have marched proudly with PFLAG families and will use my personal and public voice to encourage a culture of respect and a politics of equality and fairness

Sunday, March 02, 2008

my forbidden fruits

I don't think that this is right:

My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables)
by Jack Hedin

IF you’ve stood in line at a farmers’ market recently, you know that the local food movement is thriving, to the point that small farmers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand.

But consumers who would like to be able to buy local fruits and vegetables not just at farmers’ markets, but also in the produce aisle of their supermarket, will be dismayed to learn that the federal government works deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding. And the barriers that the United States Department of Agriculture has put in place will be extended when the farm bill that House and Senate negotiators are working on now goes into effect.

As a small organic vegetable producer in southern Minnesota, I know this because my efforts to expand production to meet regional demand have been severely hampered by the Agriculture Department’s commodity farm program. As I’ve looked into the politics behind those restrictions, I’ve come to understand that this is precisely the outcome that the program’s backers in California and Florida have in mind: they want to snuff out the local competition before it even gets started.

Last year, knowing that my own 100 acres wouldn’t be enough to meet demand, I rented 25 acres on two nearby corn farms. I plowed under the alfalfa hay that was established there, and planted watermelons, tomatoes and vegetables for natural-food stores and a community-supported agriculture program.

All went well until early July. That’s when the two landowners discovered that there was a problem with the local office of the Farm Service Administration, the Agriculture Department branch that runs the commodity farm program, and it was going to be expensive to fix.

The commodity farm program effectively forbids farmers who usually grow corn or the other four federally subsidized commodity crops (soybeans, rice, wheat and cotton) from trying fruit and vegetables. Because my watermelons and tomatoes had been planted on “corn base” acres, the Farm Service said, my landlords were out of compliance with the commodity program.

I’ve discovered that typically, a farmer who grows the forbidden fruits and vegetables on corn acreage not only has to give up his subsidy for the year on that acreage, he is also penalized the market value of the illicit crop, and runs the risk that those acres will be permanently ineligible for any subsidies in the future. (The penalties apply only to fruits and vegetables — if the farmer decides to grow another commodity crop, or even nothing at all, there’s no problem.)

In my case, that meant I paid my landlords $8,771 — for one season alone! And this was in a year when the high price of grain meant that only one of the government’s three crop-support programs was in effect; the total bill might be much worse in the future.

In addition, the bureaucratic entanglements that these two farmers faced at the Farm Service office were substantial. The federal farm program is making it next to impossible for farmers to rent land to me to grow fresh organic vegetables.

Why? Because national fruit and vegetable growers based in California, Florida and Texas fear competition from regional producers like myself. Through their control of Congressional delegations from those states, they have been able to virtually monopolize the country’s fresh produce markets.

That’s unfortunate, because small producers will have to expand on a significant scale across the nation if local foods are to continue to enter the mainstream as the public demands. My problems are just the tip of the iceberg.

more here

This is interesting to me because I was just listening to Michael Pollan talking about sustainable ag on MPR the other day and somebody called in with the usual question, namely, where are we going to get all these organic fruits and vegetables? Pollan talked about his hope that more young people would get into farming, and how farming is considered a rather noble profession these days at least for a certain demographic. SO this article is troubling because there are many young farmers out there who may be interested in switching from a commodity crop (perhaps turning their folk's corn and soybean farm into a potato and leek farm) to a more diversified and vegetable oriented rotation on their land. But with legislation like this, what is the incentive for them to do so, at least financially? Basically they would be abandoning the mainstream commodity market which provides them with a certain kind of safety net and incentives, and striking off on their own to try make a go at farming vegetables, a far more complicated process then farming corn.

maple trees: the next corn

Yesterday the SO and I drove up to Mora to attend a maple syruping workshop. We were tired from the previous week of activities, and so when we got to Mora our brains stopped working and we got lost. I couldn't seem to remember which school the workshop was at, and no townspeople knew anything about their own town, it seemed. Finally though, we got directions to the middle school and zipped off to try to find it. At this point it was 10:30 and I though the workshop had started out at 10 so I was a bit consternated, because we had driven so far only to miss a fair chunk of the program.

When we got there the parking lot was pretty full and it turned out that a Rural Living Expo thing was going on, and it actually was pretty cool, with workshops on Native Plants and organic gardening and stuff like that. I thought the entry fee was going to be $15 for each of us but it was $8 for our household in total. Plus the maple syruping workshop started at 11 so we were perfectly on time. We perused and gathered various pamphlets and info and then went to the workshop.

The speaker was funny and very into maple trees. He was an older guy and we both really liked his whole presentation. At the end he made some maple candy which was delicious. We're planning on tapping 20 odd trees or so up at the folks land as well as any trees we can find in Minneapolis that are accessible. It doesn't make any sense not to, as it is an easy process that only requires a minimum of effort on our part, and the maple tree pumps out sap for free. We are going to try to make maple and birch beer as well. I might put the order for supplies in today, as the syruping season may start in a couple of weeks.

Then we traveled up to Sandstone and picked up some terrible food at the supermarket and scarfed that down. We went to Geoff's place and talked a bit with him and the kids about the workshop, and then we went over to the sledding hill and enjoyed speeding down the hill and screwing up our backbones.

After that we were lucky enough to enjoy a sauna with the folks at their friends (now our friends as well) Tom & Steph's place. That was very nice and hot. Afterwards they fed us some good food and we hung out in their funky and relaxing home drinking beers. Before we left we purchased some delicious eggs from them.

What a pleasant day, even though I was totally exhausted by the week.

addendum: Okay, maybe I wasn't totally exhausted, but I was tired enough, not only from the week, but from the whole goddamn winter.

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