Category Archives: The Future

Beans and Friendship

Husband and I like to grow shell-out beans in the garden.  These are beans that form in their pods and you can let dry and then shell and store,  unlike green beans that you eat whole when they are fresh.  We use them in soups and stews.   We have grown several varieties over the years, like Vermont Cranberry Beans and Good Mother Stallard.  We particularly like shelly beans, as they are sometimes called, because some of them are pole beans and they save space in the garden since they grow vertically.  One problem with the more popular varieties, though, is that their growing season is a little too long to reach maturity here before frost.

The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Indians were agricultural tribes who lived (and still live) on the Missouri River in North Dakota. They liked to grow shell beans, too. Many of their bean varieties were collected by horticulturists in the early 20th Century and can still be bought from certain seed companies.  Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden published in 1917 by anthropologist Gilbert Wilson, is his account of a famous Hidatsa gardener’s advice and stories about gardening in the Northern  Great Plains.  She grew huge gardens of corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers on the rich bottomlands near the river.   All that rich land was flooded with the building of the Garrison Dam and the development of Lake Sakakawea, and the members of the three tribes were moved to family allotments on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. That land isn’t very fertile at all.

We grow Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans, which are fat, creamy white pole beans, and Hidatsa Red Beans, which  are smaller, red bush beans that get to be 3 feet tall and need a fence to grow against or else they  sprawl all over.  Both have shorter growing seasons.  I have never seen either of the seeds for sale locally or on the Reservation.  We got them from Seed Savers Exchange.  Our native friends from the reservation don’t seem to be very familiar with them.

I mentioned to our Arikara friend Bruce what beans we were growing, and he said he got some authentic Ree Beans (another word for Arikara)  from a woman Elder some time ago.  You can see them in the header photo.  He tried to plan them on his allotment, but the soil just wasn’t good enough.  He wondered if we would be willing to try them in our garden. I said we would be very happy to. They are brown bush beans that  seem to be very similar to Arikara Yellow Beans that I see in seed catalogs. I told him that we will have a bean feast next fall with him and his wife, and our Hidatsa friend, Leo.  I may have to refer to Buffalo Bird Woman for some recipe ideas.

Got any good bean recipes?  What are you looking forward to doing with friends once we can gather? How are your garden plans coming along?

Talkin’ ‘Bout My G-Generation

Last week, the Day After the Madness in DC, my daughter and I had a conversation. We packed a lot into a few minutes, she and I – and that conversation has stuck with me, because of what she asked and how she asked it.

On the Day After the Madness in DC, she said that each of her classes took some time to let everyone talk about the events of the prior day. What were their thoughts, what were they feeling, what might they do (if anything) about it? The sort of questions you might expect, especially in a high school history class (one of her classes that day).

This is what stuck with my daughter: her teachers reminded her and her fellow students that they are the future and they can make things better. And she wanted to know, appealed to me to know if I am honest, if I was told the same thing when I was her age. It was clear she felt the message was that the onus was on her and her peers to figure out how to fix what we did not. She wanted to know if the same demand was placed on me, because her eyes and her person was telling me it felt like too much in that moment – too much for her and her peers to take on alone, unfair that my generation was asking them to repair and change what we could or would not, and not right that we should deny responsibility for the mess that we made or allowed to happen.

I assured her that yes, we were told the same thing – that we could and should make things better. That yes, with each generation some of the responsibility to make change is passed on. We tried our best, we got some things right and some things we clearly did not. There is work that takes more than a generation to get right, change that was started before I was born that still needs our voices and labor to bring to fruition. I did my best to assure her that it wasn’t all on her and her peers’ shoulders, I and my peers would be standing with them.

In that moment I saw her fear that change wasn’t possible, that hatred and bigotry are more powerful than inclusion and justice. All I could do was assure her that we can still aspire to be better, we have been working for and will continue to work for change. That while we have made progress for equity in some places, in others there is still a lot to do and I will be there along side her as the generation before me stood with me in the work of justice and change. I’m not sure it was enough because I couldn’t tell her that there will be an end to when each new generation is asked to pick up the mantle, that maybe, just maybe, she will see real change in her lifetime. Because in that moment, I wasn’t sure that I had seen it yet in mine. (Yes, with distance, I can see that there has been good change, real change, but in that moment it was hard to see.) The kids have picked up the mantle, of that I am sure, but don’t let them carry it alone. We still have time. We don’t have to take our hand off the baton in this relay just yet. We can still make change.

Have you ever felt like too much was being asked of you? What did the prior generation pass on to you that you weren’t ready for just yet?

Proceeding Hopefully

In about three weeks,  we will be in a new month and new year.  I have never gone through such an extended period of change at work, societal upheaval,  and perpetual anxiety.  I am beginning to see some glimmers of a more  positive existence,  and have allowed myself to have some hope.

It has been a few weeks since the governor of ND issued his mask mandate, and while there are still people who go maskless, the number of people wearing masks has increased very noticeably.  It is also very interesting that the number of new, positive cases has dropped precipitously since the mask mandate was issued.  Oh, I know it will go up due to Thanksgiving  gatherings, but the trend of increased mask wearing is encouraging.

Our Tortie was near death a month ago.  Now she is thriving on a maintenance dose of steroids.

My workplace is finally settling down after our move, numerous technology changes, staff turnover, and treatment paradigm shift,  with  good administrators in charge and people getting necessary things done that were neglected for a couple of years.

I try not to wallow in political news since it keeps me awake at night, but that is starting to look more positive,  too, in terms of the changes in administrations.  I also am hopeful now that the seed catalogue are arriving in the mail.

What glimmers of hope are you seeing? What are you hopeful for in the new year?

Driving Dreams

For the most part, I love my car.  I love that she’s red, I love that she is a hybrid.  I love having a hatchback again.  I really like that she tells me when it’s time to change the oil, based on her internal workings and not an arbitrary date.  And she’s small.  No Intimida or Sherpa here; with a tank capacity of 8+ gallons, my monthly gas budget is about $30.

There is one frustrating thing though.  She feels the need to let me know when tire pressure has changed, with a big ding and a reminder every time I start the car once she has noticed a pressure issue.  This usually happens twice a year… when it first gets cold and then again in the late spring when it starts to get really warm.  I usually just drive down to the dealership; they top the tires off right away and I don’t even have to get out of the car. 

But this fall, the pressure notification has gone off TWICE.  When we had a couple of seriously cold days last month and the again this past weekend when it was warmer.  I will admit that I whined a bit to the service guy and he said that it was happening a lot this fall since the temperatures have fluctuated quite a bit.

While he was adjusting the air, I daydreamed about my fantasy car.  I’d like to have those little lights on the sideview mirrors that indicate when someone is coming upon alongside you.  I would love to have built-in GPS and a north/south/east/west display.  Heated seats would be nice.  Of course, my fantasy car would actually drive itself; of course that could only be supplanted by my ultimate fantasy car — a transporter.  “Beam me over, Scotty.”

Tell me about your fantasy transportation. 

A Return to Normal

The weather guy in the Fargo Forum announced this week that we were soon to return to our “normal” weather  pattern of ten months of wind.  July and August are typically the least windy months here on the northern Plains. Oh yay! I can hardly wait for the wind to start blowing!

Our weather shifted abruptly on Thursday morning when we had a torrential rain storm with no wind or hail. It had been hot and dry for weeks. Now it is muddy. Tonight, lows in the 40’s are expected.  The birds are flocking.  Autumn is coming. It seemed like summer would never end. Now I wonder where it went so quickly.

I wonder what we will return to, weather-wise and society-wise, when things return to “normal”. The header photo is of the normal or Gaussian curve.

What are the typical weather patterns you remember when you were growing up?  What do you want “normal” to be like in your life come January?

 

 

Brave New World

YA: I’m going to Costco.  Do you want anything?

VS: Can you get me a box of my sausages?  (Vegetarian – good price at Costco)

YA: (rolling eyes, clearly hoping I hadn’t wanted anything).

VS: Wait, I’ve got a $20 you can take.

YA: Can’t you just Venmo me?  (Online money transfer app)

VS: But I’ve got the cash right here.

YA:  I don’t want cash.

VS:  What?  (You have to imagine the incredulous tone of voice here.)

YA: It’s too much trouble.

 

What has surprised you this week?

Darla Buys a Funeral Plot

My next door office mate, Darla, is just a joy. I have written about her  several times, and she never ceases to amaze and delight. She  monitors the services and care that Developmentally and Intellectually disabled individuals on her case load receive, and makes sure they are being treated appropriately. She has some fairly serious health complications of her own, yet is a fireball of energy with an infectious giggle and a wicked sense of humor.  Her latest quest, started, I suppose by the COVID-19 pandemic, is to have all her own end of life decisions and plans completed, and that means buying a funeral plot. Morbid, I admit, but the way she goes about these things is so refreshing and life-affirming.

Darla decided that she wanted to be cremated, and then buried in a plot near New Hradek, the small Czech community where her husband’s family has a farm, 5 miles north of our town.  She is from a German-Russian/German-Hungarian community 10 miles to the East, and has no intention of being buried in the Gladstone Cemetery.  Her parents are buried there, and she initially  thought she could save a lot of money if she and her husband were buried in the same plot, as all of them would be cremated. “How many urns can you fit in a plot?” she asked a local funeral director.  “They don’t take up that much space”.  He just rolled his eyes at her.  (They are old friends). She  got somewhat fanciful, and suggested that she and all of her seven brothers and their spouses could also be cremated and buried with their parents in the same plot, stacked like eggs in a double layer crate with the same sort of packaging between the urns.   None of her siblings thought that was a very good idea, so she returned to the New Hradek plan, and is waiting for the very elderly manager of the cemetery there to get back to her.  It is taking him a while.  “I just hope he didn’t wake up dead !” she said to me the other day.

Darla has a very specific directive for her husband if she goes first. He is to rent a coffin long enough so that all her DD clients can view her body and see and understand that she is really gone.  Then they can cremate her. I can hardly wait to hear how this all turns out.

What are your plans for eternity?  Got any good funeral stories?

King of the Mountain

The other day I happened to look out the window as three squirrels were playing… I can only call it King of the Mountain – they were taking turns being on top of the snow piles, alternating with a round of Hide and Seek, followed by more King of the Mountain. (Turns out it’s as important for animals to play as it is for humans, according to Dr. Gray, see below.)

There is precious little outdoor play happening around our neighborhood – the one family whose kids would regularly be out playing during the warmer months has moved away. I see several kids walk by afternoons after the school bus deposits them, but I seldom hear see/hear them later on.

So this article, based on the work of Dr. Peter Gray, psychologist, caught my eye yesterday, about what has happened to Play here in our tightly scheduled culture. In the article, “for an activity to truly be considered play, it must:

– be self-chosen and self-directed

– be done for its own sake and not an outside reward

– have some sort of rules/structure

– have an element of imagination

– be conducted in an alert frame of mind.”

Then I found the TED Talk by Dr. Gray, which is even better (16 minutes).

He points out that kids are now more depressed and anxious, largely due to no longer having an internal sense of control over their lives that comes from experiencing plenty of real play. Adequate play allows children to learn to solve problems, get along with peers and practice empathy, be creative and innovative.

Here on The Trail we have told stories of our various play exploits in freer times, and have lamented the loss of this kind of childhood. At the end of his talk, Peter Gray suggests some ways for us to get play back into the lives of children, but first let’s give our baboons here a shot at it:

What changes would you make in our homes, schools, and neighborhoods that would allow more true play to exist for children?

REAL CRABBY

I had a strangely quiet afternoon on Tuesday, and when my only late afternoon appointment cancelled, I went home. I felt  tired, slightly unwell, and really crabby.

I was crabby for several reasons. It is bitterly cold out most of this week. Our local paper just announced it is going to be published only weekly starting in March.  Since January 4th,  our mail has been  delivered a total of four times.  The last time it was delivered there were five pieces of mail belonging to a couple who live on the next block. I delivered it to them myself.  We are told that the carrier for our route quit, and our mail will only be delivered if other carriers have time. They are in the process of hiring, and suggest we have our mail held at the post office for us to pick up ourselves until we have a regular carrier.  Who has time to do that? Grrr! I wrote my congressman about this even though I don’t care for him and he makes me crabby, too.

I also was crabby due to the frustrating work of getting all the necessary documentation for an  appointment later in the week to get my REAL ID.  That is the identification card/drivers license that one needs to have after 10/2020 to use as an ID for air travel.  My driver’s license expires February 1, so it was time to get the new ID. There are very specific requirements for the documents so that there is primary source verification of identity and address. Do you think I could find my Social Security card?  Of course not. I am thankful that my most recent W-2 form came in one of the two mail deliveries this week so I can use that to provide proof of my Social Security number.

I am a government employee and I am pretty used to the slow workings of the bureaucracy.  That said, I really hope that the bureaucracy is in good fighting trim and all my documents are the right ones and sufficiently current to make my appointment at the DOT go smoothly this week.

What makes you crabby? Are you getting the REAL ID? Got any good bureaucracy tales?

Inked For You

Photo credit:  Cody Black

I saw an article about the taboos of tattoos on bbc.com yesterday. We all know that tattoos are much more prevalent  – almost a fashion statement these days – among the younger generations, but there is still a lingering social taboo against them.  Apparently it is legal in the US (and the UK) for companies to have a “no tattoo” policy.  Never occurred to me that a company would even have such a policy, much less that it would be legal!

YA has a few piercings and two tattoos. I’m not crazy about her tattoos (some style choices, some money issues) and just a few days ago we had a discussion about still being careful about tattoos and piercings until you know the acceptance level of a possible employer.

For quite a few years, I’ve fantasized about getting tattooed myself. Small, on my wrist (toward the inside), multi-colored hibiscus flower with YA’s name, in her handwriting.  She knows about this plan and every now and then tries to encourage me.  My guess is it will probably never happen, but you never know.  I know it won’t be a problem here at my company but I might have to wait until Nonny is gone!

Knowing you could get rid of it tomorrow if you don’t like it, tell me about the tattoo you would get.