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Taking Time and Making Memories

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Taking Time and Making Memories

There are times when time passes with rapid speed. Days fly by, hours slip from our grasp. When this pace goes on for weeks on end, sometimes it takes an effort to take a grasp on life again. Thus the pleasures of living in a small town. Such places can provide unique opportunities to slow down a bit. To feel like perhaps that there is not a need to keep letting time pass us by, but to instead feel it pass through us.

There are so many similarities I find between the small town I live in now and the one I visited my grandparents in as a young child. Granted, the distance between the two is more than 1000 miles. And the population of my grandparents’ rural villa far surpasses where I now reside. But, there is something about the tempo that I cannot help but find accessible… if I take time to listen.

The best place for me to begin slowing down and listening is my garden. This is the third year we have grown a large garden in our backyard and each year it looks different. This year, we have focused on a variety of herbs, tomatoes, and cabbages. This morning I went out to explore what might potentially fit into a scramble of eggs and potatoes. I was please to find an ample amount of chard…

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And some garlic scapes to experiment with…

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And began to seriously wonder what we are going to do with all this tarragon…

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And realized that the tarragon has been growing as fast as the ducks. DSCN8951

And that perhaps all that tarragon would go well with all that duck….

But not today.

After the egg scramble and a little house cleaning, we were off to the Annual Rhubarb Festival at the Eddy County Museum.

Yes, Rhubarb Festival, where the tangy sour stalks of this green leafy plant are honored and transformed into a variety of delectable dishes.

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Such a wonderful variety of baked goods and also slush, and soda, and ice cream too.

I admit, I made some rather beastly noises when I first tasted the ice cream. DSCN9151

My husband was lucky that I let him taste a tiny bite before I cleared it off the plate. Because nothing makes me stop and enjoy the moment much more than homemade ice cream. And considering that I recently discovered many of my digestive ills were related to a gluten-intolerance (and most of the rhubarb dishes were baked goods) I am eternally grateful to a fellow gluten-free friend who made a contribution of a gluten-free rhubarb, strawberry, and raspberry pizza. Simply amazing!

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And speaking of beastly… we explored another of my loves at the museum. Taxidermy!

Yes, I know I’m weird maybe I spent too many hours with the stuffed loon at my grandparent’s house as a child (and as an adult). But there is something about taxidermy that continues to amaze me. In fact, had I not been accepted into graduate school, I would have sought out training as a taxidermist. But exploring wildlife with a three year old through taxidermy mounts can be an incredible experience.

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“Mom, what’s that?DSCN9022

Is it a tye-ote”

“Yes, it is a coyote.”

“It has teeth!”

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“And look Mom, it’s a mean cat. A big mean cat. Can we get a cat like that?!”

And on we went…

“Mom, what’s that?”

“That’s fox. And an avocet. And a five-legged lamb. And a two-headed calf.”DSCN9025

And we visited a small boy wearing clothes from long ago. My son wasn’t sure what to think, but I assured him it was not taxidermed.

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But I still advised him not to touch the boy, as it might bite.

I don’t think he took me seriously.

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I was so amazed at his interest and curiosity in all these old items. “WOW! Look at this!” He said over and over again.

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Truly it was worth every moment. To make time to enjoy, explore, and appreciate. To mingle, laugh, and play. To be part of something larger than yourself. To know that these moments that slip through our hands belong not just to us, but to our future as well. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday.

So when the time came, that my son wanted to go back for another round of rhubarb desserts. What could we say?? After all, it’s the little things it life that make it so sweet.

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Special thanks to the Eddy County Museum for putting on an event that gave us a chance a take the time and make some memories, right close to home!

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From the Ground Up

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I cannot begin to express how great it is to begin feeling a sense of community. To have come to make wonderful friends, acquaintances, and neighbors. It gives me such a sense of arrival and acceptance. Having learned to accept myself, I have also learned that others accept me. It sounds so simple, but this is such a distinct shift in my mind.

I’m learning how to be myself and how to share myself. I’m learning how to build and sustain healthy relationships and how to see myself a part of a community. The piece that seems to bring that all together is the article I wrote for the local newspaper’s lifestyle column, Live Local: The Pulse of New Rockford. 

I share it with you now and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  

http://livelocal.blog.com/2013/04/18/from-the-ground-up/

From the Ground Up

 

Planting the Seeds of a Local Foods Movement

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Planting the Seeds of a Local Foods Movement

Convening with others at the 2013 Dakota Grown Farmers Market and Local Foods Conference made me realize that the most vibrant local foods systems grow from the ground up through collaborative relationships. The local foods movement in North Dakota and throughout the country is driven by a variety of people with varied motivations for a common cause. Often, motivations are health related. Individuals and families want access to fresh and healthy food. They want a diversity of food choices available. This group includes both urbanites who have access to specialty co-ops and CSAs as well as rural families who have to drive more than 10, 20, or 50 miles to even get to a large grocery store.

Photograph from the Northern Plains Sustainable Agricultural Society

Others are motivated for environmental reasons, they are uncomfortable with the reliance current conventional agricultural systems have on fossil fuels, pesticides, herbicides, and irrigated water. They see their choices in the food they eat as a powerful stance against environmental degradation.

Photograph from the Northern Plains Sustainable Agricultural Society

A third reason people make the choice for local foods is the economic benefits for communities. Produce available in commercial grocery stores can be expensive. Some choose to grow their own food to help off set food costs. Others would rather pay 5.99 a pound for kale or Swiss chard if it was grown by someone in the community. The economics of local foods benefit small family farms and food business, but it also adds the value of relationships. Buying local foods builds resiliency in communities.

The one thing that people from each of these categories (or others I failed to include) have in common is that they are creating a demand for fresh, whole foods grown and produced in their region, state, and community. They are the consumers. They are driving the system. They are the main ingredient for building a local foods movement in an community. They are the seeds in the soil, they are the feet on the ground.

If you are one of these people, please know that you have influence in so many ways. The first thing you can do is find others in your community and share your concerns, interests, and hopes. Find folks who have similar ideas. No matter how small or large the town is, no matter where your community is on the path to increasing access to local foods, there is the potential for local foods to be a greater part of your community.

One example is the story of Sheyenne, North Dakota. This is a tiny town of just 200 people. A few years ago a young girl wanted to start selling the produce from her garden. Her mother helped her make a plan, they connected with an older couple who also had a bumper crop and a high school girl with a talent for baking. A farmers market was created and continues to grow, as does a community garden and orchard. Each Saturday, community members visit the farmers market, visit, snack on home baked goods, buy produce for the week, and catch up with their neighbors. On Monday nights, many of the same community members spend time in the community garden, tending to plants, pulling weeds, and finding fellowship and a sense of community. These simple acts of including local foods as a community priority grow over time.

Photo by Sarah Smith Warren

Photo by Sarah Smith Warren

But sometimes even the grandest efforts can hit a standstill. From my experience, standstills happen because a shortage of resources. Sometimes the resources are economic. Some communities get stuck and find themselves saying, if we just had the money to do this… Sometimes the resources are social and communities find themselves looking at each other saying, we just need someone to do that…

Both issues become an issue of capacity. A new avenue must be taken, to either secure resources or pursue education. This is where tapping into the larger networks is invaluable. North Dakota is a vast state and support can sometimes be hundreds of miles away. We live in a digital age, and so much can be shared through email and social media. With a little work, needs can be documented, assistance can be found, and progress can be underway. In addition, sharing the burdens of roadblocks opens the lines of communication and help develop truly viable plans.

This being an area I am experienced in, I know how difficult it can seem to figure out the next step. My mantra for capacity building is, “Focus on what you do well, and make small steps to make it better.” Keep in mind that “better” is a relative term and to fully get a sense of what is “better” for a community, it is imperative to get community member input. With true collaboration, expansion will come in time, like a blossoming flower. Again, please feel free to share some of your challenges or concerns for your community in the comments area below. Be sure to reach out and explore the resources below and consider what could benefit your community in dynamic ways.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

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Again, this is not a definitive list of resources for community projects in local foods. It is simply a starting point. Additional resources and support can be found at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, the North Dakota Farmers Market & Growers Association, the Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture, the Northern Plains Sustainable Agricultural Society, or your local NSDU extension office or research center.

Review the 2012 Local Foods Directory- The 2013 directory is being prepared for the upcoming growing season. In the mean time, this is a great starting point to identify markets and producers in your area.

Start a Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Project- Grow a Hunger Free Garden and donate extra produce to area food banks to increase access to fresh healthy foods. Steps to start a community garden can be found here.

Find the Best Seeds for Your Region- North Dakota does not have the most forgiving climate when it comes to growing plants. We have a short growing season. The chances for frost continue last into the year (around May 20) and begin early in the fall (about September 10). The season can be critically dry or overly wet. Some varieties of crops will do better than others for our region. In fact, there is a seed farm right here in North Dakota that produces a variety of vigorous vegetable seeds. I highly recommend them at Prairie Road Organic Seed.

Start a Community Orchard-The North Dakota Dept of Ag put together a fantastic resource on creating a community orchard of fruit and nut trees.

Start a Farm-to-School Program- Build relationships between youth, schools, and area farmers and provide children access to local, healthy and nourishing foods. Learn more about this nationwide grass-roots movement to develop community support and awareness about local food systems.

Understand the Regulations for the Production and Sale of Poultry and Livestock- If you are interested in integrating the production of poultry and livestock into your local foods community, it is essential that you understand the North Dakota meat laws and regulations. ND Century Code §36-24 andND Administrative Code §7-13 require that meat or meat food products offered for sale must be safe and wholesome. To prevent contamination, meat must be prepared under sanitary conditions, and the equipment used must be suitable for the product being sold. Requirements differ depending on the type and degree of meat slaughtering/processing and sales of products involved. The different types of meat businesses include custom exempt, retail exempt, official slaughtering, official processing establishments, or combinations of these. This document provides information on the guidelines for opening a meat-processing business. 

Get Familiar with Farm to Market Strategies- This brochure provides an in depth look at the opportunities to sell farm grown produce or livestock, as well as any regulations or requirements to do so.  Get familiar with topics such as business licensing, sales tax collection and permitting, and food safety and health districts.

Find Grants for Sustainable Agriculture-The program for Sustainable Agriculture Education & Research is a great resource for organizations looking to build their capacity for sustainable action through professional development and program enhancement.

Explore Opportunities for Growing Specialty CropsThe North Dakota Department of Agriculture is now accepting applications for the 2013 Request for Proposals for the Specialty Crop Block Program. Applications are due May 24, 2013. Specialty crops are defined in law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” This includes a vast array of products, ranging from apples and asparagus to sweet potatoes and spinach. Projects should benefit the specialty crop industry and/or the public rather than a single organization, institution, individual or commercial product. Single organizations, institutions, and individuals are eligible to participate as project partners.

Conduct a Variety Trail There are many varieties to choose from to grow each year. When we choose what we want to grow each year, we might look at variety traits such as the height of the plant, how many days to maturity, and its yield. If you live in an area with a short growing season, like North Dakota you’ll also want to be sure that the varieties you select to grow have early season vigor, grow quickly, mature early, and yield well. There are opportunities to conduct variety trails. This past year, Marv Baker of North Star Farms in Caprio, ND did just that. At North Star Farms, they planted and monitored 14 varieties of carrots and then did a taste testing to determine the right variety for their farm and their customers.

Explore Opportunities in Agri-Tourism-  Agri-tourism is one of the buzzwords of our day. Agritourism is the practice of inviting guests to visit and/or participate in normal farm or ranch activities. Farms and ranches participating in agritourism activities are most often working farms and ranches, and tourism activity is a secondary income for the family. Explore the opportunities to see if there is room for you to integrate agritourism into your local foods community!

listening to the trees, in late winter

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The air this morning was crisp and cold. The thermometer read -2 when we left to take my son to school. He says to me, “It looks like a lamb outside, a cold lamb.”

Given it is the first of March, this would suggest we will see this month in like a lamb, out like a lion.

The drop in temperature left a dusting of fluffy frost collected on the trees.

Sunrise over the First Lutheran Church of New Rockford

Sunrise over the First Lutheran Church of New Rockford

In that a moment, as the sun captured the flecks of crystalized moisture, the trees spoke to me. Even though it was cold, I listened.

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They said, “Go back home and get your camera. We are feeling photogenic today.”

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“The sky is the most exquisite shade of blue. A deep contrast on the shades of white, grey, and brown shown on our limbs. The same way the snow on the mountains accentuates the shades of color in the sky. We know you miss the mountains, but we are glad you are here. We are glad to be here too.” 

DSCN8325“Mornings like this are exciting. We awake, dressed with an unsurpassed beauty. A beauty we only welcome in winter.”

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When we are dressed with such beauty, its almost as if our blossoms have returned. As if our buds have burst. But we know this dress is only temporary. For it is not yet time to begin stirring for spring. The birds have not yet come, to eat our remaining fruit. Our sap has not yet started running, to nourish our green parts. The air is not yet warm enough, to comfort our new growth.”

DSCN8330“Nonetheless, we are grateful for the day. For the elegant frost. For the beautiful sky. For those who take the time to notice. If they don’t take the time to notice us now, while we are dressed up and pretty, we will not laugh. We will not be disappointed. Afterall, that is just what life does to people.”

DSCN8345“But we will snicker, even giggle, later in the day. People will notice when we begin to shed our decor. They’ll think its snowing! And then, they’ll see the blue sky and feel relief. ‘Its not snowing outside! Its sparkling!’ And those are the moments we hope to hear, hope to feel. To feel the moments in which people feel the beauty that is all around. The moments in which they feel the beauty from which we come.”