Thursday, June 20, 2013


I'm in bed with the full-on intestinal flu. The fever, the aches, the every-ten-minute-trips-to-the-bathroom, the bucket by the bed, all of it. So much for everything that had to get done today — it's hard to work when you can't stand up.

Being sick always makes me really miss my mom. I think everyone wants their mother when they are sick, actually. From the time I was little and she would leave me with my glass of flat seven-up (and then try to get some work done, much as I am doing now), to after my neck surgery when she came over and sat with me every day, she was always there for me.

Luckily, those I love try their best to fill the void. Patrick has risen to take care of things wonderfully, even though he is still on the mend from a cold. Beatrix comes and hangs with me. My friend Geri dropped off a care package, even though I am the worst friend in the world because she had the same thing a few weeks ago and I did not even know. Even Mimi hung out with me all day like cat velcro.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Current status of 466 Iglehart:

Meanwhile, Nicole Curtis tells me that Minneapolis has demo orders out for 54 properties. At a completely conservative estimate of 20K each for demo, that is over a million dollars of taxpayer money going out to tear down houses that don't need to be torn down and that leave gaping holes in the neighborhood (remember that when you get your property tax statement next year).

These empty lots are not "pocket parks" or "green space," they are open hazards that cause risk and community decline; a recent City of Saint Paul study found that empty lots generally cause a 15-20% decrease of the value of the adjoining properties.

Proving the insanity of this situation, today the City of Minneapolis is tearing down a North Minneapolis home that Nicole actually had a purchase agreement on. And, after spending taxpayer funds to demo sound homes, they will then donate at least some of the lots to Habitat for Humanity (rather than the already empty lots they have.)

Anyone else confused by this?

Monday, June 3, 2013

We Can Grow!

Just a few weeks back, the back corner of our yard was a mess. Stacked high with wood and debris, volunteer trees several inches thick growing, generally inaccessible. We finally decided to do something about it, though I forgot to take a picture of the "before." This gives some idea, if you multiply it literally by 10 and throw in a lot of trash:

So, late one night I am messing around on the internet, and I see a FB ad for a new-ish organization called We Can Grow. I had already written off the idea of starting a garden this year — so much work, so time-consuming, so much added stress. But at the same time, Beatrix has been a lot more interested in gardening, and the information on We Can Grow was so interesting...I bit the bullet and applied for a scholarship.

The idea behind the organization is to provide a full (urban-style) farm-to-table experience. Mike, the founder, had a 2,600 square foot garden last year, planted with the express purpose of providing food to his neighborhood. To some extent, it worked — he gave away food and created a stronger community. he gave zucchini to the little old lady down the street, who baked zucchini bread for everyone. He helped till other gardens. People started talking to each other. But lots of people didn't take him up on his offer, and when he asked why, it was reasons like "I don't know how to cook that" and "It's easier to just get Happy meals for my kids." He realized change went a lot deeper.

So I got accepted for a scholarship, but I had to give back. I had to attend 10 hours (4 nights, once a week) of classes about planning a garden, cooking healthy and easy meals, preserving food, and gardens and community. ten hours is a lot of time, and I wasn't so sure it would be worth it. But I learned some interesting new things, and the people in the class were great and varied and interesting, and I discovered I was already building community.

We Can Grow is a new organization, 501c3 status pending. Right now, it gets all its funds from selling the garden beds (and at a pretty low cost), which subsidizes the scholarships and related expenses. They do get donations of time and seedlings, worth their weight in gold.

Our garden arrived on Saturday. It's beautiful — full of rich soil, with a water reservoir — sturdy and strong and attractive. I'm excited to see everything growing in it. Hey, if nothing else, it got us to clean that corner out!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Living History

For the past two weekends, we've been immersed in history.

Last weekend, we went down to the Mankato area. I'm working on a National Register determination for an apiary near Janesville, and I got to show Patrick and Beatrix some of the work I've been doing in Waseca and Mankato. Beatrix's favorite, however, which she still talks about constantly, were the Betsy-Tacy houses, which I think really made the stories come alive to her.

The next day, we visited the Jeffers petroglyphs — though it was too cold, with the wind coming off the prairie, to stay long. We also stopped at the Harkin General Store — also a little cold and crowded. Nevertheless, we had fun at each.

Building on that, we visited the Ramsey House today. They have a kids' time capsule program, where a certain year is featured and there's a kind of treasure hunt through the house. The year today was 1857, and we stopped at various points through the house for different activities, from guessing when common foods were invented to learning about Marion Ramsey meeting President Lincoln. Beatrix came home saying "It was SO FUN!"