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Monday, July 16, 2007

Laboratory for Sustainability

I haven’t researched ecovillages yet, but I did stay at a hobby farm last night! This weekend my coworker James and I visited my cousin John Munter and his family east of Grand Rapids in northern MN. John’s farm is somewhat of a laboratory for sustainability. He has planted a wide variety of hazelnut bushes, which do well in cold climates, and sea-buckthorn, which not only can survive in harsh conditions, but also is said to be a good source of protein, vitamins, anti-oxidants, and omega acids. While on our tour, we ate green pole-beans off the stem, and snacked on a purple prairie plant that may have been a clover. John also has plum and apple trees, and stores the apples in a root cellar during the winter.

The root cellar is a work in progress, and we did some digging and hauling, though it is a slow and slightly claustrophobic process in the unlighted, cramped interior. I am particularly interested in subterranean construction, given that the earth is a good, energy-efficient insulator. We also did some digging to replace a fence post for one of his Alpaca pens, and gathered hay for them, remaining after professional bailing equipment had come through. After hauling in most of the hay manually, a wagon was connected to the back of the lawn mower to speed up the process. It was a reminder of how easy we have it with fossil fuels. Other parts of the farm were left in their natural state, with daisies and black-eyed susans in bloom this time of year.

We also husked hazelnuts and cracked them with a hammer. James grew up on a farm, and suggested that an adjustable roller device, automated or manual, could be used to crack the nuts. But not all of the vacation was work. We also enjoyed a Finnish sauna, Scottish caber toss, and attended a Russian Orthodox church. We saw at least six deer on the way to and from church. John’s wife is a great cook and we also played games like catch and chess with the kids.

In small towns not only on this trip but on a trip to my Uncle’s in Iowa for the Fourth, I was surprised to encounter racism. My responses were a little slow, but I’m working on a line about how I benefit from 400 years of white affirmative action (John liked that one). As a Matthew 7:12 Christian, I am deeply offended by the evils of racism.

Tomorrow it’s back to my day job, but with any luck, I’ll keep gathering ideas for a plan to "stick it to the man" by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and corporate agriculture!