January 16, 2008 – Can I Meditate?

After Martin got his jammies on, he shouted down the stairs to us, “Can I meditate?”

We gave him the ok to go ahead and meditate, a bit puzzled.  We wondered what a 6-year-old meant by “meditate.” We waited a while so he could do his thing alone.  Finally, we couldn’t stand the mystery of what he meant by meditate (and he was quiet), so we sent Emma up to investigate.  Here’s what she found!


There was an exercise in meditation at church last weekend and Martin at least seemed to pick up on the leg and arm posture and felt inclined to climb a platform like the presenter did so people could see him.  Namasté Martin.

one year ago…no entry

January 15, 2008 – Sandra Steingraber Lecture

Last night author Sandra Steingraber presented a lecture as part of a job interview for a position in the Iowa State MFA program in Creative Writing and the Environment.  Sandra is an ecologist, researcher, and writer who is one of the few popular authors who combines science into a lively and engaging prose.


Her books include Having Faith, a story about the birth of her child, aptly named Faith. The book meanders through an intimate description of a pregnancy and delivery intertwined with evaluations of the critical life-giving systems, including investigations of the purity (or not) of amniotic fluid, brest milk, and other life-affirming fluids now contaminated with chemicals that just shouldn’t be there.  She’s now looking at the data concerning earlier onset of puberty and the effect on learning, brain chemistry and future breast cancer risk associated with earlier onset of puberty.

I hope that both Iowa State and Sandra can figure out what they need from each other and begin a mutually beneficial partnership!

one year ago…no entry

January 14, 2008 – Public Hearing on Coal Plant

Today was the public comment period for the coal plant.  I was in the minority position.  I expected that most, if not all of the local construction and trade unions would turn out; they did.  Trade unions have much to gain personally during the construction of the plant.  Local government officials were also wildly enthusiastic about the plant, both donkeys and elephants.  There were a few surprises for me – first, the former director of the county conservation board spoke in favor; the administration of Linda’s school – the Iowa Valley Community College District spoke in favor, and most shocking to me was that the local hospital spoke in favor of building the coal plant! 

I had to remind myself that the utility board was there to consider the power plant on the merits of the plant according the Code of Iowa.  Most of the endless parade of supporters seemed to think the mission of the utilities board was to create jobs.  Even though the people speaking out in favor of the plant far outnumbered those in opposition, I’m not sure that the notion of job creation is/should be central in the minds of the utility board in making their decision.

one year ago…no entry

January 13, 2008 – Getting Ready for Public Hearing

Tomorrow is a special open session of the Iowa Utility Board to take public comments on the proposed Alliant coal-fired power plant, applying for a permit just outside Marshalltown.  There are a number of reasons I am opposed to building such a plant at this time.  The health, climate, and economic considerations are among the most important.

I realize many others can speak better to the health and climate ramifications – NASA climate expert James Hansen is among those in the expert testimony part of the deliberations.  I thought I’d take a different tack than others and speak to the economic risks.  Each speaker has only two minutes, so here is the statement I will read regarding the owners of the proposed plant and the risks I see for my friends and neighbors.

I would like to thank the Iowa Utilities Board for offering this period of public commentary.

I would like to address the board concerning the management of the coal plant and financial risk to consumers should this plant be built. Quite frankly, it seems like Alliant does not have a very long attention span. Less than two years ago, they sold the Duane Arnold Power plant in southern Iowa to FPL Energy. In the last few months they received permission to sell their power transmission grid to ITC Holdings. I do not understand why a company with the mentality of a day trader would be granted a permit to construct a generating facility shortly after they’ve sold one?

In the current environment, coal-fired plants are now risky enterprises; according to the US Department of Energy, utilities have canceled 14,000 megawatts of planned coal-fired generation and delayed an additional 32,000 megawatts. This is mainly due to properly managing risk. Environmental and political pressures make construction of coal-fired plants risky business. Governor Chet Culver recently signed a regional accord agreeing to lower global warming pollution 60% to 80% by the year 2050. Adding new coal plants contradicts this policy. I’m afraid the management of this company will not have the attention span to manage this risk.

I’m worried Alliant will continue to flip its assets like the recent sales of its generating plant and transmission grid. It is not unlikely that future mandates will require complete carbon capture from coal-fired plants. Alliant management should be fully aware of and financially responsible for this risk. Alliant plans to benefit financially by the operation of this plant; they should assume the risk. I urge the board to make Alliant bear the risk. In other words, if 2, 5, or 10 years from now, complete carbon capture is required, IT SHOULD BE THE MANAGEMENT AND STOCKHOLDERS, not the consumers that bear the risk.

It is not fair for the management and stockholders of Alliant energy to assume all the benefits, and have the consumers assume the future risks of increased costs. Therefore, should the permit be granted, it should only be granted under the condition that any future carbon or pollution controls costs be borne directly by the stockholders and management, not added to the rate structure. It is the duty of the Iowa Utilities Board to safeguard the public interest, not to guarantee a risk-free investment for the management and stockholders of a private company.

one year ago…

January 12, 2008 – Trip Redux – 6 Year Old Style

Martin kept a journal during the trip to Arizona, and I am going to post his thoughts here (to the best of my ability, as the handwriting is that of a six-year-old, often times writing in a vehicle or in bed)! You are lucky that I decided to post Martin’s rather than Claire’s 60 pages of notes from the trip.

I can’t wait to go to Arizona.  Going to Arizona. A book.

Chapter One
We woke up really early this morning.  We had to ride in a plane. We landed in Chicago.

Chapter Two
We get to go on another plane. I have no idea where we are. All I can see is a plane wing.

Chapter Three Arizona
We landed in Arizona.  There are littel cactus and big cactus. and palm trees. We get to go to a picnic and go hiking then we go home and have supper. Good night Martin.

12-31-07
New Year’s Eve I was the 1st one to see the red rock.  We had pancakes and sausage. 1st we went to Oak Creek then I got a turtle.  Then we went to a volcano. then we went to the indian ruins. Good night Martin.

1-1-08
We had eggs for breakfast. We have a long trip to Walnut Creek 7 miles long.  Emma scarde me right now.  We are going to the petrified forest.  We are there now.  We watch a movie. We buy a box of wood. It is a long ride to the wood. We go hiking now. We are going home we watch a movie. We go to bed.

1-2-08
We go to Montezuma Castle. Then we go to tuzigoot. We come home to eat supper then me and Emma go in the hot tub.

1-3-08
We go to the Grand Canyon and have a coca. Then we go on a hike. Then we go home and me and dad have a big pizza. Me and dad go in the hot tub good night Martin.

1-4-08
We pancakes and sausage. Kathy and Jill left today and we went to Red Rock Crossing then we went home the have lunch then Dad Mom and Emma left and I had a nap then I came out and Mom and Emma came home. We had dinner.  We went in the hot tub then we got bed. Good Night Martin

1-5-08
We have omwits today then we went to red rock crossing.  then we have to go home to have lunch then I get a dirt shirt then we go home and then we have dad’s birthday cake!

One year ago…

January 11, 2008 – Congrats to Linda!

Linda has worked tirelessly for many years, mainly on her own time, to try to establish a sustainable agriculture program and entrepreneurial farm at Marshalltown Community College where beginning and established farmers could rent a section of a 140 acre farm to start a farming enterprise. 

She just found out that Congressman Tom Latham has agreed that it is a concept whose time has come, so it earned a $250,000 appropriation!  More details are forthcoming.  She’s still waiting for the new farm bill to get through congress to see if there will be a tiny slice of the farm bill for the program as she has met with Senator Harkin and his staff about the concept as well and it was very well received. 

one year ago…

January 9, 2008 – Ouch!

There’s a lot of good things to be said about a fender-breaker.


No one gets hurt; better this week than last week in the rental van.

One of the drivers in the family turned from a wet road onto an icy road and nudged a truck waiting at a stop sign.  This is what $1700 in damages looks like.

one year ago…

January 8, 2008 – Winter Chores

One of the winter chores is hauling buckets of corn from the wagons in the shed to the mud room.


I like to keep nine buckets full – this will last for 3-4 days, depending on the weather. You’ll notice a topping of oyster shell on the buckets – that’s to help reduce the “clinkers” on the stirrer in the firepot.

one year ago…

January 6, 2008 – Leaving for Home

We left the house very early this morning, and I had just a few photos of the house we rented.

Not many houses have a better view than this out the kitchen window!


The house was great for us – there were 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, along with a large kitchen and great room for hanging around.  We’ve had great luck renting houses instead of hotels on vacation.  It’s cheaper and better as you can “stay on your feed” and cook meals as you wish.  This house was well stocked and was a good base for our travels. We’ve had good luck finding houses and cabins, including this one at the vacation rental by owner web site. Interestingly, after we left, the caretaker commented to us, they liked our organic jams we left (from high hopes gardens) and her mother was (and still is) one of the pioneering organic farmers in Pennsylvania!

I was a bit worried we wouldn’t be able to drive out as some dry washes cross the road and in high rains, the road is flooded and there is only one way out.  With a day and night of light rain, I was a bit anxious about getting out in the early morning to catch our flight. I walked out the front door in the morning darkness and there was light hail, rain, and it sounded like a raging river.  I quickly got Linda and we drove to the place where the temporary streams cross the road to see if that was where the noise was coming from, which would mean we would miss our flights – but there was just a little bit of water flowing across the road – the roar must have been from Oak Creek down the hill a bit further.

one year ago…

January 5, 2008 – Rain in the Desert

The unseasonal weather held off until our last day.  Rain. I was tempted to stay in the house and read or just be lazy, but I ended up walking over to Cathedral Rock to see if the rain brought another mood to the landscape.


Here’s a wet prickly pear cactus with drops of water – a welcome event.


The kids spent some time in the hot tub in the back yard – they used the umbrella usually used for sun as a rain umbrella.


Cathedral Rock in the rain.


The beginnings of dry washes filling up with water.


It was such a neat time to see the water cascading off the red rocks, that I called the kids on the cell phone and told them to walk down to meet me.  They, too got to have a good time – we just followed one dry wash up the mountain and came down another, exploring all the ephemeral pools and small waterfalls.


The whole family, dressed in various clothes depending on age and sensibilities – from Martin in his winter coat to Emma in a T-shirt!

one year ago…

January 4, 2008 – Hanging Around Sedona

After a bit of driving the last few days, today we stuck to Sedona to look around.  Our first stop was Red Rock Crossing, which was just around Cathedral Rock from our house, but about a 20 minute drive by car because there just aren’t that many roads, and only one crosses Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona.


The first treasures we came upon were a group of rock cairns down by the creek.  Originally constructed for trail markers in remote areas, they seem to pop up in many places, and once you see one, you want to make one yourself.  Soon a village of cairns appears.  But not to worry – the next big rain will knock them all down and the cycle will repeat itself – we like to think of it as biodegradable folk art!


Here the kids start building their own.


Martin ponders, well, I’m not sure what he is pondering, but it looks like a good place to do it!


Here’s our entire group – it was fun to have both grandmas join us on this trip.


You might remember Emma up in a tree at Sunset Crater a few days ago – here she is at it again (with Martin in training behind her!)


Later in the day we hiked up Long Canyon trail and Emma found another tree over a dry wash.

one year ago…