Books and Farmer’s Markets

Books and Farmer’s Markets

I’m in my childhood hometown of Brookings, South Dakota this long labor day weekend.  This morning I ran down to the river banks of the Big Sioux, my legs remembering the hundreds of other times I’ve run down this road to start the day.  The wind hadn’t picked up yet, and the sun was glinting off the still wet with dew prairie grass and ditch sunflowers.  Even though the view on this little jog has changed over the years – the old gravel road now dead ends at the river, the bridge now years demolished; the two new huge houses on either side of the family homestead; the fences and new driveways where we used to roam free – despite these surface changes, the energy underneath, the whisper of the prairie as the world wakes up and the ancient undulation of the landscape, remains unchanged.  It’s always good to come home, even though I no longer live here.

But anyway, I came to release the first copies of Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth out into the world…or at least out into the hands of some folks of eastern South Dakota.  Yesterday I set up shop across from my dad’s Hillside Prairie Gardens booth at the farmer’s market, and it was an early morning of loading up the market van, helping dad set up all the veggies (hello tomato season!) into their display boxes, positioning the books so they looked inviting, and chatting with the other vendors.  There’s something about the farmer’s market.  It’s a good place to spend some time on a Saturday morning, and I always appreciate the opportunity to be part of the community that helped inform how I see the world.

I’ve had my author copies for a few weeks now, so having the physical books around was nothing new, but handing them over to people who came to purchase it was a little surreal.  As all authors probably say (or at least think at some point) I hope they like it and tell all of their friends.  I’m glad I chose to do the first release in this place.  Returning to your roots is usually a good choice, at least for me.

And people also like it when you give them free baked goods, so I baked a bunch of scones.

Because you really can’t beat a good book, a freshly made scone, and a hot cup of fair trade coffee.

Continue reading “Books and Farmer’s Markets”

Twin Organics: Cultivating Wildness

Twin Organics: Cultivating Wildness

Prairie Grown

Eva, my four year old, and I took a little field trip last week 50 miles to the south of our home in the St. Croix River Valley to my family’s other organic farm.  Twin Organics is located just outside River Falls, Wisconsin and is owned and operated by my twin brothers, Jacob and Andrew Helling.  Jacob and Andrew were instrumental in helping Hillside Prairie Gardens resume larger growing practices in 2010 and are now branching out to their own place to grow organic veggies for restaurants in the Twin Cities area.  They’ve rented 5 acres these last two years on what used to be a grass fed cattle operation, and they share space with a group of jovial Kenyan farmers wielding hand tools to the north and Clover Bee Farm, an organic CSA and market grower, to the east.   They won’t stay here forever, but for now, it’s the home of Twin…

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3 Ways to Live Earth Day

3 Ways to Live Earth Day

Today is April 22nd, and it’s the 46th April that has recognized an ‘official’ day to honor the Earth.  As the day fades into night, the moon is full and shining over the waters of our little lake.  We have a full length window in our shower, (weird, I realize….the former owners of our home had some slightly odd design ideas..) and as I washed off the day’s grime after putting my daughter to bed, I felt like a moon goddess being purified as the water shimmered under the tawny light.  (or something like that…at any rate, the perk of having a full length mirror in your shower that looks out over a lake is a great view of the lake.  It’s worth noting that we have no close neighbors.)  So let’s start with that.   Continue reading “3 Ways to Live Earth Day”

Let Wildness Find You

Let Wildness Find You

Right now the garden is thriving.  Every leaf is reaching its leaves toward the sky, and every root is nestling deep into the soil, drinking up the ample nourishment that comes with abundant rains and enough organic compost.  The sunflowers that were a foot high two weeks ago will soon be taller than me, and their flower heads follow the sun as it arcs across the sky, ending the day gazing toward the westerly hills.  There are cabbages as big as my fist, canopies of kale providing shade for the vole who munches the beets, and if you were to stretch all of the winter squash and zucchini vines out in a line they would reach down the road and around the corner.  Bees and hummingbirds are buzzing about, happily drinking up raspberry and oregano blossom nectar, doing their important pollinating work.  The scarecrow is earning his keep as the peppers, tomatoes and eggplants stake their claim and the potato plants are starting to lean over in hopes of harvest.  Eva, the resident three year old, likes to dart between the staked rows with bare feet and hide behind bouquets of wildflowers.   Like I said, everything is thriving.  And when I can remember how much life and abundance and beauty and breath catching astonishment exists just outside the door, I thrive, too. Continue reading “Let Wildness Find You”

Beauty by Way of Carrots

Beauty by Way of Carrots

I want to grow carrots not because agribusiness is a filthy, greedy, heartless beast, but because rooting in the dirt is fun, worms are groovy creatures, and you can’t buy the sweet satisfaction of a fresh carrot at any price.  I want to live a simple, rooted life not because a place of privilege feeds on other people’s poverty, but because meals of venison, potatoes, and berry pie fill our kitchen with gratitude-crazed grins.  I want to leave the car in the driveway not because the carbon spilling from the exhaust will tip the planet into an inferno, but because a bike ride puts wind in your face and birdsong in your ears.  It pumps blood through your veins and reminds us that life is a dizzyingly splendid idea. 

Hank Lentfer

I heard activist Cynthia Jurs say the words be in the conversation, not the fight earlier in the spring, and I think that they can’t be said enough. The destruction left behind by big Ag and the fossil fuel culture, as well as the premise of living simply so that others can simply live are all great reasons to change our ways.  But Hank speaks of living true to his values because of the joy he feels because of his actions.  He acts from beauty and a love of life, not from fear or anger or revenge. He is in the conversation, to be sure.  But he’s not in the fight.

What if we discovered that changing our ways could lead to more beauty and more joy than we thought possible?  What if life really is a dizzyingly splendid idea?  I wonder what would happen if more of us grew carrots and felt the wind on our faces and let birdsong be the soundtrack to life.

Homestead Spring

Homestead Spring

Red Brush Farms

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
~J.R.R. Tolkien


Eva, my three year old, and I spent this past weekend at the family homestead.  We packed up Friday morning and made the five hour trek across Minnesota to the eastern plains of the South Dakota prairie.  Waiting for us were fields of freshly tilled dark earth, young seedlings firming their roots into the earth, and welcoming arms strong from spring planting.   We found garlic fields inching toward the sky by the day and peas and turnips and beets content to drink up moisture by the minute, ever anxious to grow into their full potential.  Life on the farm picks up speed as the month of May winds down.  Summer is coming.


Hillside Prairie Gardens, the family farm, has been in operation for upwards of 30 years, but in the last few  things…

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Shopping With Integrity

Shopping With Integrity

How do you feel about visiting your local large, big box grocer? I don’t know about you, but I tend to dread most things about such an act: from driving to its location perched just off the highway to piloting the car (and a car’s a must…these establishments are typically not pedestrian friendly) through the football field sized parking lot to dodging traffic on foot to get to the front doors to navigating a cart through isle after isle of brightly colored packages, searching in vain for something that fits with my family’s organic, non- processed food preferences and then scanning what I do find through the automated check- out line while the people behind me wait impatiently because my apples are rolling around because I don’t like to put them in the plastic bags the store provides. In short, it’s stressful, over stimulating and isolating all rolled into one “convenient” experience. I typically leave big chain stores feeling depleted even though the goal upon entering was to procure some nourishing, life sustaining food. I leave feeling like a consumer; like just another one of the numbers on an economic check list.

Matthew Matheson, Flickr/CC
Matthew Matheson, Flickr/CC

Yesterday I had a few unexpected hours to myself in the afternoon, so I figured I’d use the time to get some things done that are easier to do without a toddler in tow. I needed some flour, some broccoli (our toddler’s veggie of choice these days) and some cream. I needed to clean the bathroom, do the laundry and bring in some firewood. I thought about heading to the local chain store on my way home from dropping Eva off at her grandparents’– it is right on the way and the act of going in and purchasing a couple items would have been a quick detour. It would have been over and done in 15 minutes, and I would have been on my way to the next thing on my list.

Continue reading “Shopping With Integrity”

Farm Fresh

Farm Fresh

It’s summer in Minnesota, where I live.  And summer in mid-west America means that farmer’s markets, CSAs, roadside stands, u-pick berry farms, and community gardens are in full swing.  We tend to celebrate the re-engagement with fresh foods around here because in this part of the world, winter is long and the growing season is short.  Some of us have greenhouses and high tunnels and grow lights to extend the season, but the days when tomatoes and peppers and lettuce thrive outside with only the sun above and the soil below are days to savor.

Where are you getting your produce this summer?  What takes you into the field to pick berries instead of down a grocery store isle?  What helps you wait for market day to restock your crisper drawer?  What makes you prioritize weeding your home garden over watching television in the evening?  How do you support your local farmers?  If you ARE a farmer, how do you take care of yourself as you care for your farm?  And most importantly, perhaps, what recipes do you look forward to making when things growing outside start to become abundant? (some of my favorites are found in this Prairie Grown recipe series)

Share your wisdom, and may we all enjoy the fruits of the season as we support a sustainable way of being on the earth.



Eat your veggies.

Eat your veggies.


I talked to a grown man last week who, when asked how he felt about his nutritional habits, responded with, “Well, I don’t eat vegetables. They make me gag and throw up.”


There is a lot of brokenness in the way first world countries interact with food today. At this point, that pretty much goes without saying. But being able to say you don’t eat vegetables? (a staple of the human diet since the beginning of the human experience on earth) Ever? Because you don’t care for them? It’s like saying you don’t brush your teeth – ever – because you just haven’t found the perfect shade of turquoise toothbrush. It doesn’t make sense. How did we get to this place where a human being can be say, “I don’t eat vegetables” and still be alive to tell about it?

Perhaps planting an organic garden, or supporting someone who does and who will share their harvest, should be required. Kind of like taxes. You pay your taxes. You plant your garden. You eat your veggies, and you learn not to throw up. Because that makes sense.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

A good mantra to live by, I think.  Thanks for the wise words, Michael Pollan.


If you need more ideas on how to change your eating habits to include more plants, check out the following:

Healthy Eating Plate – Harvard’s take on what to eat.

Wellness Today – The Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s nutrition article online library.

Healthy Eating Education, in the form of recipes – From The Edible SchoolYard Project.

Shop at the farmer’s market.  Plant a garden.  Learn to cook.  Avoid food that has a barcode…but if it does come in a package, make sure the ingredients list is short and recognizable.    In short, eat your veggies.  And if you can, know where they came from and how they were grown.

Earth Day, 2014

Earth Day, 2014

The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity — then we will treat each other with greater respect. Thus is the challenge, to look at the [story of] our world from a different perspective.

-David Suzuki

You might say that the story we are in right now on Earth is one that sees the planet as a resource – a thing to be used – complete with a hierarchy of power with the richest of humans at the very top. You might say, as Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee does, that “We are the inheritors of this culture {story} that has banished the relationship to the sacred from the Earth.”

How do we shift our thinking into an awareness that breaks free from our conditioning and our fear of doing things in a radically different way? How do we tell a new story?

Earth Day, 2014. How will you celebrate?

-Pray, if praying resonates with you, for the health and healing of the earth. Without ceasing.

-Enjoy time outside regularly, in gratitude for what the earth provides.

-Switch from conventional light bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)

-Use a reusable canvas bag when shopping. Skip the plastic produce bags, too.

-Start a compost pile. Plant a garden. Frequent the farmer’s market.

– Carpool, ride your bike to work, or telecommute 1-2 days per week.

– Meet your neighbors. Share things with them. Chances are, they’re nice and value similar things.

-Plant one native berry-bearing shrub or tree to provide food for birds.

-Buy local, even if it’s not convenient and costs more.

-Join a CSA (community supported agriculture)

-Limit showers to 5 minutes.

-Turn off the car when waiting to pick up the kids or when at the bank drive through.

-Make 15% more of your purchases from providers that commit to fair trade and/or organic practices.

-Commit to buying nothing one month. Maybe longer. Maybe as a part of a group.

-When replacing appliances, install energy efficient models. Or ditch the dryer and get a clothesline.

– Invest in solar hot water or electricity for your home. Or subscribe to a solar garden, like the one in Minneapolis.

– Give up plastic. For good.

We can tell a new story. Part of it is already being written as you read these words. What is your next chapter going to say?

Read the full post at enough.