April 16, 2010 – Sometimes the Middle Child Lucks Out

Two women accompanied me to the Elton John concert in Des Moines – my wife and daughter Emma.   Claire drew the short straw and stayed home with Martin. The parent’s could reminisce about the music that was on the radio when they were Emma’s age! It was Emma’s 2nd big Rock-n-Roll show (the first was Paul McCartney).  It was a sold-out show, and even though I bought tickets the first day they went on sale, we were at the very top row, watching the stage and 15,000 other people.  The good news was that no one was spilling beer or chatting incessantly behind us!

Here’s the set list:

Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding
Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
Madman Across the Water
Tiny Dancer
Philadelphia Freedom
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Rocket Man
I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Take Me To the Pilot
Something About the Way You Look Tonight
Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me
Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word
Candle in the Wind
We’re Never Too Old (off an upcoming album with Leon Russell due out in October)
Honky Cat
Burn Down the Mission
Bennie and the Jets
The Bitch is Back
I’m Still Standing
Crocodile Rock
Your Song

Funeral for a Friend was a great arena rock opening song.  The “old people” in the group listed Rocket Man and Burn Down the Mission as the best songs, and Emma tabbed Crocodile Rock as her favorite.  The only song that seemed noticeably absent was Pinball Wizard.  Even though Elton has been doing this for 40 years he was gracious and entertaining.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #161″

April 14, 2010 – Spring Flowering Begins!

Spring blossoming time has just begun! We’ve been 15 to 20 degrees above normal the last week, so plants have really been amping up.

plum blossoms

The plums are first out of gate in offering the bees the first big rush of pollen and nectar.

pear blossoms

The pear trees are not far behind – looks like our trees are finally old enough to produce more than just a handful of pears this year.

one year ago…”Shed Deconstruction Continues”

April 13, 2010 – New York Farm Workers Bill

An article in the Fruit Growers News caught my eye this week. A bill is before the New York State Senate to grant new protections to farm workers. “If passed, the bill would give farm workers rights to overtime pay, a full day off every week, freedom to form unions and other benefits.”

According to the New York Farm Bureau president, if the bill passes “It will irreparably damage our family farms’ ability to produce local food for local New Yorkers.” It’s good to know that Farm Bureau is now a strong advocate of local foods, but evidently believes that eliminating church-going is one of the sacrifices we need to make for local foods!

But to me it sounds a bit like a discussion this country had when slavery was abolished. Heck, even pre-civil war era slaves has Sundays off! I thought I’d look at our founding father’s attitudes towards agricultural workers in comparison to the modern day Farm Bureau. At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s slaves had Sundays and evenings off.

How about George Washington? “The work-day at Mount Vernon was from sunrise to sunset, with 2 hours off for meals. Sunday was a holiday. Slaves also received 3-4 days off at Christmas, and the Monday after Easter and Pentecost as holidays. If a slave was required to work a Sunday during harvest, Washington would allow them a day off later, and sometimes compensated them with pay.”

Any New York readers out there that can shed more light on this bill’s progress/political setting?

one year ago…”New Blackberries”

April 12, 2010 – Claire to India!

Claire has been selected as a Borlaug-Ruan Intern by the World Food Prize! As a result, she gets an all expenses paid internship at the World Vegetable Center near Hyderabad, India for eight weeks this summer.

Here’s a story from the Marshalltown newspaper:

MHS student lands internship to India

Runquist one of 16 in nation selected


Marshalltown High School senior Claire Runquist will have plenty of learning to do before she heads off to college this fall – and she is ready for the challenge.

Runquist was recently selected for a prestigious internship with the World Food Prize Foundation and will be spending eight weeks in India this summer beginning in mid-June.

She will work at AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center in Patancheru, Hyderabad, India.

Runquist said her internship will involve work in nutrition and family gardens. She said she was overwhelmed when she found out she was selected.

“I think it’s the most excited I’ve ever been in my life,” Runquist said. “I started screaming and crying.”

Runquist is one of just 16 students who were selected to receive the Borlaug Ruan International Internship this summer. To be eligible, she submitted her school transcripts and essays on ways to stop world hunger. She then participated in an interview after she was named a finalist.

All of her expenses will be paid for by the World Food Prize Foundation. For someone who has never even been out of the country before, Runquist is expecting to learn a great deal during the trip.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be completely life-changing,” she said. “It’s going to be terrifying and thrilling at the same time.”

Her parents, Mark Runquist and Linda Barnes, have a farm in rural Melbourne where they grow their own food, so it appears their interests have rubbed off on their daughter.

“It’s a great opportunity for her,” Mark Runquist said.

After the trip, she has plans to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.

Claire has been very focused and deliberate to be in this position.  It has been a long process and we are all thrilled for her. Following are some former blog posts showing part of the journey to today:

World Food Prize Symposium Sessions
World Food Prize Ceremony
World Food Prize Youth Institute
World Food Prize Intern Interviews

one year ago…”Shed Implosion: Part 1″

April 11, 2010 – New Front Door

I’ve given up on the fancy weathertight storm doors. It seems like no matter what, the doors last less than two years before the wind destroys them. I even made sure to get one with two pneumatic closers the last time, but it seems once the wind catches them from a certain direction, the closed glass fosters an uncontrolled opening that rips the hinges off and/or rips the closers out of the frame.

So I thought I’d try something a bit more charming and lo-tech – this screen door. My hope is the lack of glass will prevent the wild backswing that wrecked the other doors.  To top it off, it looks like it fits the house!

one year ago…”Serious Garden Progress”

April 10, 2010 – Getting Garden Started

It’s finally dry enough to start getting some of the early season crops in the ground.  Today onions, peas, and lettuce hit the ground.  Enough early season crop beds are ready to go, so we swapped the tiller for the potato digger to trench in potatoes in the next few days.

Here are a couple of the new four foot beds we’re trying out this year.

one year ago…no entry

April 9, 2010 – Claire’s College Search is Over!

It’s now the end of digesting college guide books, filling out applications, completing essays and financial aid forms, and touring colleges.  Claire seriously considered Grinnell, St Olaf, Iowa State, and Macalester.

The last two days we attended a “sampler” at Mac.  We were able to check out the food in the dining hall, attend classes and info sessions.  The weekend ended up confirming what Claire had decided – that Macalester was the best match for her.

Here’s Claire in front of the “skywalk” to the library we we hope she ends up spending at least a little bit of time!

This is one of the newest buildings on campus a LEED certified Platinum building.

Another shot (notice her carrying the fresh bread from the bakery across the street from campus) with a small turbine on the south side of campus.

She was even welcomed in the college chapel with a UU banner representing the UU student group on campus.

As if she didn’t need any more convincing, the straw that tipped the scales firmly on the Macalester side was the adult size swingset outside the rec center!  All in all, we are very pleased witht the outcome of Claire’s search.  We hope that it will be great for her to be smack dab in an urban environment, minutes away from the State Capital.  As a bonus, she’s only 15 minutes from my brother.  Watch out St. Paul!

one year ago…no entry

April 7, 2010 – Random Advertising Thoughts

What’s the deal with the cell phone commercials I saw during the NCAA tournament? I was especially struck with a commercial disparaging phones that were incapable of surfing the web while you talked on the phone.  So, if I’m understanding this correctly, first cell phones become ubiquitous and allow you to ignore those you are physically with while you talk with and text those out of your sight.  Now, with the new phones that allow you to surf the web while you talk, you can not only ignore those that you are with, you can also ignore those that you are talking to while you watch videos or make reservations!  This is a great country!

That brings us to the next thought – I’m not a marketing genius, but I think I could probably do better than the company that designed the following ad I grabbed off a web page.

I’m not sure the photograph and the text are a good match.  Perhaps the ad agency had a low budget for an image gallery and this photo was the best match for urging people to go back to school? Or I could be reading the ad incorrectly – just maybe the elderly gentleman’s name is Grant, and I can qualify to have him come live with me and take care of my children and household while I return to school?  Furthermore, I’m not sure that this guy would even stay alive through four year’s of college!

one year ago…”Early Strawberries”

April 6, 2010 – Tiller Attached and Tested

The “new” tiller is finally attached and has been tested out on a 50-foot bed.

It was a bit of a long struggle to get it attached. First I needed a different category top three-point link. Then I had a lot of trouble getting to move the PTO shaft to extend it to fit on the tractor. I finally gave up and called in some more experienced hands – the neighbors. I had no clue whether the PTO shaft was beat up beyond repair. After a couple of hours of beating, sanding, greasing, and more beating, the tiller was attached and successfully field tested!

Now we can begin our transition to 4 foot wide plots with grassy strips between for foot and tractor tire traffic.

one year ago…”Top Shelf Middle Shelf and Bottom Shelf”

April 5, 2010 – Linda’s Speaking Gig

Last week Linda was the featured program for Women’s History month at the Ames USDA facility and was simulcast to a facility in New York as well.

She spoke a bit about the generational changes that have been exhibited by the women in her family.  Perhaps if we get a video or soundtrack of it, we’ll post it for mass consumption. Not surprisingly, there were some familiar faces in the audience, including folks from church, past colleagues, including an old office-mate from graduate school days.

one year ago…”April Snowstorm”