Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Plans are wonderful things. But sometimes we need more information. Or perhaps we are unknowingly in conflict with other planners and plans.

We have pretty much decided that the Austrees need to go. These 20-30 foot trees were planted by the previous owners. 5 are in the backyard and 3 are in front, all in straight rows. Nature typically has no straight rows. They are a nice screen for views of the road and the house. They contain some of the dust from the road. They have grown rapidly. But they die back almost as quickly with dead limbs reaching high through green growth and dead limbs falling on the ground. They are not indigenous. Their extensive roots rob the vitality of surrounding plants. They are close to the baby fruit trees. Decision made. Easy.

Until today.

2 more pieces of information presented themselves. (1) We had a frost this morning. The last frost date in these parts is April 22. We could easily see the "micro-climate" created by the trees, because the ground was frost free. Nice. Such buffers are very important. I can imagine that surrounding plants would like and need that.

(2) Mama and Papa Robin are proudly building a nest in the 1st Austree we intended to cut.

Plans are subject to change. Right?


Some days present themselves with particular specific challenges. Today I was on a hunt for a quote by organic farmer Fred Kirschenman which I saw in a late 1990's issue of Yes magazine. The quote has inspired me since that brief moment when I first saw it. Could I find it? No. I know it is around here somewhere.

Sometimes, one sees a quote which sticks. It is like a missing puzzle piece on one's life journey. Perhaps it is not simply a quote by one individual but rather a gleaning of universal truth held by all. For this simple quote, I am left to make meaning of it with my own humble words.

An explanation of the context which inspired the seeking of this quote is important. At this time, gardening season is upon us. We have already planted every single one of those 645 trees. I have some visions of shrubbery and trees around the house and yard which will give nurturing and protection to the space we desire to create. We will be planting garden as soon as the soil dries amidst our generous rains. In the midst of these things, some simple words are mulling around in my head.

As I place that shovel into this soil, as I move the soil about with my hoe, I must surely ask the soil permission for what I do. This precious soil of this great Earth gives life to me and all my companions (human and otherwise) yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This soil holds far more mysteries than my simple human mind can hold. I hope and pray that what I do is in the blessed order of things.

That is no small order. It is a humble request that I may know my place in this wondrous order of all things.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Little Break

Spring is now in full swing. We 3 C's are headed into the busy seasons of Spring, Summer and Fall on the Farm. Richard has planted almost all of the 645 trees. Only the Wild Plums and Buckeyes remain. Plants have arrived and they need to find their new homes here. As the ground dries a bit, Spring planting will begin. Things are definitely speeding up.

While I dearly love Blogging, I may be taking a bit of a break. Unfortunately, our server is very slow these days and has been for some time. The simplest task which I would do with a few key strokes before now takes more time and sometimes I get an error report instead. Grrrrr! We have had the system carefully checked. Our desire to leave the fast track and settle on the Farm has left us just beyond the reach of the tower which serves us. We are told that if there are enough people, perhaps another tower will be erected. From our home on this beautiful countryside, we surely have mixed feelings about that.

I believe that everything happens for a purpose. And perhaps I am just supposed to go a little slower on the Blog. And perhaps, you too are supposed to be out in Nature, out in your own Garden, and not just reading what someone else says about it.

So for now, I am taking a little break. I will still check in on occasion. But mostly, I need to be out and about. That feels right.

Chester Is Back...

Last Summer, we had a guest on the front porch. (Or just perhaps, he had guests in the house.) We named the little Tree Frog "Chester". Throughout the Summer, he was quite a lot of company.

The photo above shows him just in front of the screen on the back of the chair, which is where we often would find him. We really enjoyed his company. As the Summer went into Fall, Chester disappeared from our view. We wondered where he spent the Winter. And we wondered if he would return.

Today, we heard the characteristic rhythmic sounds of a Tree Frog. Sure enough, we had a guest, this time on the down spout just as it comes down from the eave. Is it Chester? We think so. We are so excited he is back.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Nature Notes

Spring is a continual round of firsts. Our eyes and our hearts are wide open. We do not want to miss a thing. We have noted the following right here on the Farm:
  • April 17: 1st Daffodil
  • April 18: 1st bloom on Wilson Apricot
  • April 20: 1st May Apples in the South Woods, Cabbage Butterflies, Black Swallowtail Butterfly, Painted Lady Butterfly, Dandelion
  • April 21: 1st Tick (Yikes!), Johnny Jump-Ups, Painted Turtle (We observe her on direct route around the garage.), Tennessee Warbler, White-Throated Sparrow, Yellow-Throat
  • April 22: 1st Dragonfly
Dear Reader, what are your 1sts as this marvelous Spring begins?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pow-wow Bound

This is a quick note as I am writing quite early this morning. That's because Melanie and I are taking off for Grand Forks in about 6 hours. We are headed to the University of North Dakota Indian Association 39th Annual Time-Out Pow-Wow which is April 18-20th. Over the years this has become quite a marker for us: of Spring and the Indigenous heritage and presence on this continent where we make our home. How could we not go?

And inbetween, we will see some very special people who are our North Dakota family. It's a quick and spontaneous trip, so we will not be able to see them all. I know some of you there check this Blog on occasion. If you do, please note:
  • I will be at Amazing Grains having my usual great lunch on Friday from 11am-1pm. Feel free to join me.
  • Melanie and I will both be at the Pow-wow at Hyslop for the 1pm Grand Entry on Saturday. We always sit up above on the North side in the center. Again, feel free to join us at this extraordinary event.
And Sunday, we head back home to the Farm. We aren't leaving the Farm much these days as we are getting into high season. My hybrid tea roses arrived today. We have plants and seeds that are soon to be in the ground. I have tucked in my planning materials for the trip. Spring has at last arrived.


I have to chuckle. I tried very hard to post this next Blog entry (as connected to the previous one). Our server is so very slow tonight. Not only was it slow, but it would disconnect. I had several opportunities to edit while I sat here at my keyboard.

And I thought: "I am getting a wonderful opportunity to practice peace along my path."

Maybe I am making progress. Tonight.

Peace on my Path

Considerable tension is present in our world these days. Tension seems to beget tension. I offer this simple prayer:

May I bring
peace and kindness
to every interaction.
And if I am not yet so far
along this path,
may I learn and grow
with every interaction
so that the peace I desire
will be present
in all I know and am.

1st Day of School

O.K. We knew some about prairie and natural landscapes in North Dakota. Some of what we knew is indeed transferable. But that was 760 miles away. While also a part of the Tallgrass Prairie region, Northeast Missouri is different.

Case in point: Richard has discovered that the plant he thought was Little Bluestem is Broomsedge. I thought it was Little Bluestem too. We were so excited because Little Bluestem is indeed one of our favorites. Broomsedge is a new companion for us on the farm. I do love it. But it is not the same.

So Sarah, this note is for you. You collected seeds of Broomsedge last fall because we told you it was Little Bluestem. It is not.

I guess you could call it a wonderful opportunity to practice humility. Plus, we are right back in the student mold. Every day is the 1st day of school. I remembered how excited I was to go to school, to learn and grow. Isn't that what life is supposed to be?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Look Quick

April 10:

A Rainbow came quickly and left just as quickly. Looking closely, one sees 2. Richard said the purples were fantastic. He caught it with the camera and I missed it completely.

Earth's Lesson

One of the Earth's infinite lessons to all Living Beings is found this Spring season in the humble leaves on the Forest floor. Most of the leaves fell last Fall. With the snow and rain, with the freezing and thawing, and with the acts of processes and organisms we cannot even see, the leaves are beginning to biodegrade. Those wonderful nutrients that the beautiful leaves took from the Earth, Water, Air and Fire are now being released back to the Earth.

As we shift into Spring, little plants awaken through the decomposing leaves. They recycle those nutrients found here and found since time began. These little plants will grow, flower, and bear fruit. Some will serve as food for critters. Others will serve as homes. All will be companions. The Spring will pass into Summer and the Summer will pass into Fall.

Assuming conditions are right, those brand new leaves will grow toward their fullness. Then they too will cascade to the ground this Fall. Over the Winter and the following seasons, the Earth's processes will break them down making them available for all those generations to come.

I think about our little actions as Humans. In our Human-centered world, we put on blinders to the consequences of our actions on others and the Earth. We contrive remarkable products and technologies but they do not biodegrade in the Earth's order of things. Many of them will be around for decades, generations, millennia, and beyond. Just look at our landfills. They are becoming "land-fulls". Separated from the lessons of the Earth, we are increasingly mired in our own waste.

We have some very important things yet to learn.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ask the Earth

Here we are on this little Farm wanting to live as sustainably as possible: growing our own food, living closer to the Earth's cycles, restoring the land. So what do we do? We peruse the best books by the best Human authors that we can find. We connect with 2-leggeds who have expertise. That's a good start. But, we forgot 1 very important thing:

Ask the Earth.

Unfortunately, in our highly sophisticated Human contrived and Human-centered world, we have forgotten how to "read the Earth". Worse yet, we have forgotten that we should read these powerful things. While we are taught in our dominant Euro-centric culture that we are separate from the Earth, we are really a part of the Earth's cycles and systems. We are not separate from them. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.

This wonderful Mother presents lessons all around. We 3 Humans promise to listen more carefully on our journey's ahead.

Chicken Order

Richard ordered chickens this week: 50 White Rock males, 10 Buff Orpington females, and 5 Barred Rock females. The White Rocks will be birds for the table. The Buff Orpingtons are replacers for the layers, which always needs to be considered in the plan. And the Barred Rocks are just because we wanted them. The Cackle Hatchery catalog describes the Barred Rocks as kid friendly.

The 1 day old baby chicks will be shipped on April 30 with arrival scheduled for May 2. Allison LaDuke arrives for a visit on May 4. Alli is very special to us. Melanie wanted to have baby chicks when she arrives, just like Grandma Crawford used to plan for Melanie's visits some years ago.

When Richard placed the order, he could hear baby chicks peeping away in the background. This hatchery is a 3rd generation family business beginning operation in 1936.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

She's Coming Alive...

I knew this day would come. We have had a long slow spring season, which means the temperature has been slow to turn from winter to spring. I admit part of me has been impatient. The other part has celebrated the fact the season is turning slowly. When the temperature is a little more rambunctious with dramatic highs and lows, it puts stress on the plants. That is not good.

Today we had lots of rain. We watched dark clouds race across the sky from South to North. The temperature was turning warmer. On those days, the migratory birds catch the wind at their backs and they fly. It is always fun to see what birds show up after such weather dramas.

As the rain stopped, we headed out for a walk. First, we checked on the tree seedlings. They were happily making themselves at home. Everything was sopping wet with deep squishy mud abounding. Next, we went down into the forest and watched the magic unfold.

One of my favorite books is The Education of Little Tree, also available in video. Little Tree is a little boy who is part Cherokee. After the death of his parents, he moves in with his Grandmother who is full blood Cherokee and his Grandfather who is Scottish, I believe. They live in the Appalachians in a traditional way. One of their morning riturals is to go to the top of a mountain and greet the Sun. The old man says: "She's coming alive!"

When I looked at the forest today, I could say the same thing: "She's coming alive!" At last, the Earth is pushing all of that wonderful exuberant Spring energy. I could almost feel it to my very core.

You will see below some images that I took on our walk. As you see these images, please also know that these were our observations on this remarkable day (and tomorrow it may snow):
  • 100 plus White Pelicans in 3 bunches inside 1 big bunch flew at low levels in their characteristic swirling flight.
  • The Eastern Towhee is back.
  • The Brown Thrasher is back.
  • We saw a very unusual looking bee and he saw 2 very unusual looking Humans (that would Richard and me).
  • Leopard Frogs' singing is now routine (they sound like they are laughing). We are now hearing Gopher Frogs (they sound like they are snoring).
  • Field Sparrows are on territory.
  • Meadowlarks and Cardinals are beginning to pair up and nest
  • Robins are back in good numbers.
  • We found what would have been a Northern Harrier's nest with 3 broken eggs, probably from last year and just in our backyard.
  • Vultures are back.
  • The Woodcocks have stopped "peenting" which means these elusive birds have found mates and are on nests.
  • Meadowlarks are quick to announce their territories.
  • Goldfinches are turning yellow, perfectly timed with the greening of the grass.
  • Migratory Canada and Snow Geese are gone leaving local pairs who are busy at their spring doin's.
  • Lilacs are beginning to bud out.
  • As Richard let the chickens out, Kayte (the Buff Orpington henny) went running out of the chicken house, grabbed a worm, showed it to her friends, and the whole entourage went running after her.
  • We have seen Mourning Cloak Butterflies.
  • My 6 daffodils are just about to bloom. (Next year, I plan to have more.)


As Melanie is gone for a few days, she has left some instructions for the 2 leggeds. She has precious little seedlings growing in the basement window. Her seedlings seem to be far more abundant and robust than ours. Her instructions regarding the seedlings was to be sure to water them, and to sing to them. I asked if there was any special song. She said any we felt we would like to sing would do. I am starting first with humming.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Family Chronology

Glinda writes (3rd Draft--April 10, 2008):

I have often found that the conventional reporting of family history, while interesting at some level, lacks spirit and life. Somehow, the heartbeat of the people and their times is missing. So I have done my best to honor and report the spirit and life of my family members in as much as I am able to do so. This Chronology is just 1 piece of that puzzle. And it is in draft form.

When we explore our family’s histories in the conventional way, we focus on specific standard events in their lives as if they lived in isolation from other kin. Plus, we tend to erase the context of the world around them. Consequently, we do not see how their lives and contexts flow and interweave together, just as ours do today. The information in such reports is essential. We get a simpler view and omit a far richer text.

I put together the following chronology of important family dates for the Brenz-Hart-South-Cragg families. My Grandparents Fred Albert Brenz and Lottie Hart (Brenz) are focal points. They are parents of Thelma Louise Brenz (Wells Glassburner), Ruth Irene Brenz (Griffin), and Dorothy Ione Brenz (Bloskovich). Thelma Louise, Ruth Irene, and Dorothy Ione are our Sisters, Mothers, Grandmothers, Great Grandmothers, Aunts, and Great Aunts.

So where did I find this information? I didn’t do it alone. I started with Mother’s (Dorothy’s) records and my own. Cousin Russ Wells shared what he had from his own and his Mother’s (Thelma Louise’s) files. This includes published accounts in local press, correspondence, writings (especially Thelma Louise, Ruthie, and Dorothy’s Round Robin Letters), plus oral stories. [You could consider this a call for any relevant information that other family members might have. We each have our pieces of the puzzle!]

When I list information, I will do my best to give sources. You will note that some sources will need to be completed as I did not have this wonderful idea until a little later in the process.

In consultation with Cousin Russ, we decided to include exact dates where available. In some cases, exact years cannot be determined, but approximate years can. For example, if Aunt Louise describes a certain event which happened when Dorothy was 1 and her birth date is October 4, 1922, does that mean 1923 or 24? In cases of approximation, I have listed the date as 1924ca. I believe we would be very close.

Sometimes sources list inconsistencies in data. The Reader will need to determine what to do here. Some pieces may remain forever a mystery. Others may be resolved over time. At the very least, we will be encouraged to list significant facts in our own lives for those Nancy Drews and Sherlock Holmes in our own family line who follow us in the future.

So what about these Chronologies reported as “drafts”? I am posting the latest drafts on the Blog to encourage family participation as fully as possible. Please do not consider this as final version. Read carefully as you may have other data to add or inconsistencies to report.

The data reported in this draft is mostly complete on the Brenz side. A brief overview of the names in this family would include: Fred Gottlob Brenz and Matilda Waibel Brenz had 4 surviving children: Louis Edward (Sr.), Fred Albert, Clara Alice and Della Emma. The Hart-South-Cragg families are on Grandmother Lottie’s side. We have a few introductory pieces here.

For my family members and me, this Chronology is like our very own movie. Stay tuned because more is unfolding…


1853: Matilda Waibel (Brenz) is born to Abraham and Mary (Marquette) Waibel, August 24, in Bethel, Missouri. (Matilda’s obituary and funeral program)

1871: Fred Gottlob Brenz and Matilda Waibel marry, May 24. (Matilda’s obituary)

1877: Harl Samuel Wiles was born, the son of Jacob Marion and Sallie Miller Parcels Wiles, at Kirksville, February 25. (Harl’s obituary)

1878: Fred Albert Brenz is born at 422 W. Burton St., Kirksville, to Fred Gottlob and Matilda Waibel Brenz, July 19. (Fred’s obituary)

1879: “At the time of the cyclone in Kirksville there were only two other houses in the northwest part of town and the Brenz home was destroyed and the entire family separated over the northwest part of town.” (Matilda’s obituary) Although the house was leveled by the tornado, the baby Fred Albert was found in his cradle in the family potato patch. (Family story, Louise’s Round Robin Letter) I assume this to be the cyclone on May 30, 1879, which was “the most severe storm prior to the great cyclone of April 27, 1899”, reportedly hitting the northwest part of Kirksville (Violette’s The History of Adair County, 1911, page 374).

1880: Margaret Ann MacDonald (Brenz) was born April 5. (Margaret’s funeral program)

1881: Clara A. Wiles was born in Kirksville, August 29, the daughter of Fred Gottlob and Matilda (Waibel) Brenz. (Clara’s obituary)

1883: Hattie Louella (“Lula”) Myers ( Hart) is born to Joseph A. and Alice Carder Myers in Adair County, September 21. (Lula’s Obituary)

1884: Lottie D. Hart is born near Greentop, September 18, to Robert Nelson and Louisa (South) Hart. (Lottie’s obituary)

1886: Della Emma Brenz is born to Fred Gottlob and Matilda (Waibel) Brenz, August 24. (Della’s obituary)

1887: Matilda Waibel Brenz becomes a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Kirksville, September 7. (Matilda’s obituary)

1896: Fred Gottlob Brenz died November 26 of jaundice. (Matilda’s obituary and family story)

1897(ca): At 14, Lula Myers (Hart) is united with the New Prospect Baptist Church, remaining a member there throughout her life. (Lula’s obituary)

1900: Lula Myers and Jessie Hart marry, June 1. She is 16 years old. (Lula’s obituary)

1902: Dr. Harl Samuel Wiles graduates from the American School of Osteopathy at Kirksville, June 26. (Harls’ obituary) After graduating from the American School of Osteopathy, Dr. Louis Edward Brenz opens practice in Arkansas City, Kansas. (Louis’ announcement of rites for Doctor, 82)

1906: Della Brenz graduates from the Kirksville Normal School. (Della’s obituary)

1909: Lottie Hart graduates from the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages in Kirksville. Clara Alice Brenz marries Dr. Harl S. Wiles, August 5. (Clara’s obituary) Lottie’s maternal grandparents Isaac and Catherine (Powell) South celebrate 55 years of marriage.

1910: Catherine Powell South dies. Dr. Harl and Clara Brenz Wiles move to Kansas. (Harl’s obituary)

1911: Lottie Hart and Fred A. Brenz marry, November 15, east of Greentop (Lottie’s obituary) at the home of her parents. “The groom has a home already furnished for his bride and they will be at home to their many friends after Dec. 1, at 422 West Burton avenue [sic], Kirksville.” (Brenz-Hart wedding article) (Note: 422 was the address of Fred Albert’s parents and so is in error. Mother believes the house was actually to the east of her Grandmother’s house.)

1912: Isaac South dies. Lottie’s parents Robert Nelson and Louisa Hart move to town, near her maternal grandparents (Isaac and Catherine South) home and the Matilda Waibel Brenz family home. These houses are along the same street and within the same block. Dr. Harl and Clara Brenz Wiles move to Neodesha where he practices until his death. (Clara’s obituary)

1913: Lottie’s paternal grandmother Elizabeth Cragg Hart dies. Lottie’s father Robert Nelson Hart takes poison by mistake and dies. Russell Trigg Wells was born to R. B. “Ben” and Rosa Silvers Wells, March 2. (Russell’s obituary)

1914: Lottie and Fred Brenz welcome the birth of their 1st daughter: Thelma Louise. (Thelma Louise’s obituary) World War I, the “war to end all wars,” begins.

1917: Lottie’s Mother Louisa Mariah South Hart dies.

1918: World War I ends. Influenza (Spanish flu) pandemic begins lasting until 1920. 50-100 million died with many victims being healthy young adults. “During the influenza epidemic in 1918, Dr. (Louis) Brenz didn’t have a minutes’ rest for three days and three nights, when there were only five doctors left in Arkansas City due to World War I demands.” (Louis’ obituary).

1919: Lottie and Fred’s 2nd daughter, Ruthirene, is born.

1922: Lottie and Fred’s 3rd daughter, Dorothy Ione, is born.

1923(ca): Lottie is seriously injured in a farm accident. She does not walk for 4-5 months. She suffers effects of this accident throughout her life. (Source: Louise’s Round Robin Letter)

1927: Lottie and Fred move from the Porter School community to Kirksville. (Lottie’s obituary)

1931: Lula and Jessie Hart’s daughter Freeda marries Lester Lindquist January 21.

1933: Thelma Louise Brenz graduates from Kirksville Senior High School. (Louise’s obituary)

1937: Thelma Louise Brenz and Russell T. Wells marry December 11. (Louise’s obituary)

1939: Jessie Hart dies December 23. (Lula’s obituary) Louise and Russell T. Wells have a son Russell Douglas Wells, Jr., September 9.

1940: Lottie’s brother-in-law Dr. Harl Samuel Wiles, 63, dies in June in Kansas after a 3 year heart ailment. (Harl’s obituary) Dorothy graduates from Kirksville High School.

1941: Daughter Ruth marries Albert A.Griffin. War is declared with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7.

1942: Daughter Dorothy marries Jack Felix Bloskovich January 10. Sons-in-law Jack and Albert leave for active duty service.

1944: Fred is injured at home (406 W. Michigan) from a gas explosion, May 25. (Article: Fred Brenz Suffers Burns in Explosion, May 26, 1944) He dies 3 weeks later, June 12. He was 68 years old. He was an employee of the International Shoe Factory. (Fred’s obituary)

1945: Matilda Waibel Brenz, 91, died January 6, at her home, 422 W. Burton Street, where she had lived for 67 years. At the time of her death, she held the oldest membership in the Presbyterian Church with 57 years. (Matilda’s obituary and funeral program) Albert Griffin returns home from the Pacific to a hospital in Iowa. With the ending of World War II, Jack Bloskovich returns home from service in the Signal Corps in North Africa and Italy. Jack and Dorothy, Albert and Ruth, and Lottie share a house at 510 W. Pierce. They are lucky to find a house to rent with all the boys returning from the war. Albert enrolls in Osteopathic school to complete training as a physician.

1948: Lula (and Jessie) Hart’s daughter Freeda dies April 25th. Both Lula and Lottie advise the pregnant sisters (Ruth and Dorothy) not to come to the funeral. As was custom in those times, many believed that such associations with someone who had passed would leave a “mark” on the baby. Dorothy and Jack have Glinda (9/7) and Ruth and Albert have Susan (9/24).

1949: Albert completes medical school. He, Ruth, and Susan pack their car to head to Yakima, Washington where Dr. Griffin will intern. With Albert, Ruth and Susan’s move, Aunt Lula Hart moves in with Dorothy, Jack, Glinda, and Lottie.

1950: Lottie dies at age 66, December 17, at 510 W. Pierce, in Kirksville. (Lottie’s obituary) Russell T. Wells, Sr., becomes a member in the Collie Club. (Russell’s obituary)

1951: Jack, Dorothy and Glinda move into the house that Jack built at 211 N. Ely.

1953: Russell Trigg and Thelma Louise Brenz Wells with son Russell Douglas, Jr., move to the farm east of Sublette. (Russell’s obituary) Glinda Bloskovich goes to Kindergarten.

1954: Jack and Dorothy Brenz Bloskovich welcome a son Brian Bloskovich, April 5. His Mother is very vigilant because at the time, polio outbreak is rampant; his doctor advises limiting activity of babies and small children especially during the hot summer when polio is believed to spread.

1957: Della Brenz moves to make her home with her sister, Clara A. Wiles, in Neodesha, Kansas. (Della’s obituary)

1964: Margaret Ann MacDonald Brenz dies January 24. (Margaret’s funeral program)

1968: Lula Myers Hart moves to the Baptist Home For the Aged in Ironton, Missouri. (Lula’s obituary) Ironton is a long way from Adair County. Clara Alice Brenz Wiles died on Saturday, July 13, at the age of 86 years. (Clara’s obituary and funeral program) Della Emma Brenz, 81, dies on Monday, July 15, in Neodesha, Kansas. (Della’s obituary)

1970: Russell Trigg Wells retires in March from 17 years at Producers Creamery due to ill health. (Russell’s obituary)

1971: Dr. Louis E. Brenz Jr., 57, 403 S. Second St., a lifetime resident and prominent osteopathic physician and surgeon, died. Louis was the son of Dr. Louis E. Brenz and Margaret Ann McDonald Brenz. (Louis’ obituary)

1976: Russell T. Wells, 63, dies, October 21. (Russell’s obituary)

1982: Lula Myers Hart dies, April 23. (Lula’s obituary) Thelma Louise Wells marries Earl W. Glassburner, October 15. (Louise’s obituary)

1989: Earl W. Glassburner dies, March 12. (Louise’s obituary)

1991: Thelma Louise Brenz Wells Glassburner dies at 76, August 25. (Louise’s obituary)

Monday, April 7, 2008


Thomas Berry is an author and Elder who has inspired me deeply. I used his book The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (1999) in senior level Environmental Studies classes that I taught from 1999 until the year I retired in 2005 from the University of North Dakota.

My small cadres of students and I were deeply concerned about the world around us and the environmental destruction which seemed to be escalating on so many fronts. Talking about such things was important to us, but even more essential, we were committed to an environmental walk. Over the precious months we shared, they too were moved by Thomas Berry's simple, rich, profound and poetic words.

A quote gave me impetus for a 180 degree turn in thinking. As that shift had already begun in me, Thomas Berry's words gave me that little nudge which precipated a change. That simple shift in view was like a homecoming for me, something I had sought and known on some deep level for a very long time. Here it is: Nature is not only more complex than we think. It is more complex than we can think.

I shared this quote with a group of senior professors at the University while we were on our way to a retreat in 1998. We had all just experienced a devastating flood in 1997 in the Grand Forks/East Grand Forks area where 60,000 people were evacuated. Our lives individually, as families and as communities were reeling during the months and years that followed. When I shared this quote, a Distinguished Professor said she found the statement depressing. I said I did not. Rather I feel that this knowing places me as a Human in a position of awe, humility, even relief toward something far grander than I can completely know. Rather than attempting to control this force or to live in artificial separation from it, I must learn to live with it and to respect it in every step of my walk on this Earth.

As a Human, I am very small in the scheme of things. Nature, that Great Giver and Nurturer of Life, gives me infinite lessons along my path. I must learn to respect and use those lessons with all the grace I can muster. I can accept there are things I cannot know, perhaps do not need to know. I am deeply grateful for the radiant beauty in these many known and unknown wondrous things.

A Kindred Spirit

Melanie and I visited Eldon, Iowa, last week. Eldon is the site of Grant Wood's famous painting "American Gothic" completed in 1930. While at the visitor's center which overlooks the little farmhouse with the famous window, I was immediately drawn to a box of cards based on the mural "Dinner for Threshers". I know some folks who will like this. Plus, inside was this quote by Grant Wood:

"I joined a school of painters in Paris after the war who called themselves neo-meditationists. They believed an artist had to wait for inspiration, very quietly, and they did most of their waiting at the Dome or the Rotonde, with brandy. It was then that I realized that all the really good ideas I'd ever had came to me while I was milking a cow. So I went back to Iowa."

Since I was a teen and deeply drawn to art as a means of expression, I have loved Grant Wood's work. To me, he seemed to capture the spirit of the regional agrarian landscape and lifestyles; plus he touched on something which moved me deeply yet I could not describe in words. Quite frankly, I had forgotten him until Melanie and I just happened to stop by this little spot.

I have milked very few cows in my life, but some of my best ideas have arisen when I have been in Nature or when my hands have been playing in the soil. Perhaps that is in part why I am now making my home in Adair County on this little Farm.

Dear Reader, who are those treasured kindred spirits who have inspired you along your path?

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Sometimes, one just knows that a road trip to a particular destination is in order. Nothing else seems to satisfy that yearning. You just have to go.

On Wednesday, Melanie and I headed out for an excursion. I had heard of an organic greenhouse in Batavia, Iowa, which is 100 miles from the Farm, give or take. I didn't know its name, nor did I know the exact location. We headed out on a wing and a prayer.

We found it: Dovico Gardens and Greenhouse, 2212 Ashe Avenue, Batavia, Iowa. I was absolutely delighted. We were greeted by Lois Dovico who is owner and creator of this treasure. The operation is indeed organic. I knew it right away.

When I go to conventional greenhouses, which I try not to, I find myself blanketed in an invisible cloud of chemicals. My nose is not happy. My tongue picks up the taste of chemicals. I get a dull headache and my thinking sometimes becomes a little fuzzy. While I love plants and am committed toward acquiring what I need, most of me just wants to run. So I never stay very long.

I find such places a contradiction: How could a place that deals in plants even consider poisoning the air, water and soil with toxic chemicals? People who work there and gardeners who are inspired there surely deserve something better. And don't forget the Earth and all beings.

I followed Lois into that 1st greenhouse at Dovico Gardens and Greenhouse and the air was just beautiful. We don't get good air in most commercial places and urban areas these days. I find greenhouses among the worst. In this space Lois had created, not only was the air free of those oppressive chemicals, but I also could feel the living energy and vibrancy of the plants. The organic practices, the ambiance, the love and kindness of Lois and her staff toward the plants and the Earth, was a greeting to my core. My spirit wanted to dance.

What touched me most was to be in the presence of someone who is living her purpose here. I think we each one come with a purpose. While here, it is our role to live that purpose.

I do not believe that many people in our fast paced world are living their purpose. We seem distracted on a lot of things which are not very important in the scheme of things: the material, acquiring stuff, an upward climb, other people's dramas. I remember watching people head to work during rush hour. I would sit at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Columbia waiting for the light to change while on my way to work. In those brief moments, I was permitted to watch a sea of faces swirling by as people headed to work swiftly, with hands gripping the steering wheel and great tension etched upon their faces. Surely, life is supposed to be more than that.

I believe we are supposed to bloom while we are here. That life spirit, knowing, and yearning are at our deepest core. In order to bloom, we must be deeply rooted in our life's purpose. We must cherish that maximum living vitality: our own, that of the Earth and all beings.

What, Dear Reader, is your purpose in this precious time and space? How are you making sense of these things?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Reaching Out

Moving here has been a leap of faith. That fact is evident every day. The learning curve is steep. Sometimes we seem to be looking up a cliff. We really want to live sustainably and we want to restore the land. What that means is not particularly clear. So we are reaching out.

We feel deeply blessed we live in a state where many people value both land and wildlife. We also feel deeply blessed to live in a time period when these interests and issues are much more in the forefront. We are further deeply blessed by the fact that Richard has made a career of wildlife management and restoration work; it has been primarily on the prairie region of the Northern Plains. While the specific practices are different, the principles are often much the same. That means many resources are available to help us along our journey. We are not alone.

Yvette Amerman, Resource Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), visited with us March 26. We walked about the farm, keenly paying attention to her eye on things that we have not yet seen. We listened attentively toward her suggestions as to what we might do.

This is long term. Shifts will not happen overnight. Some insights that she passed along which were particularly helpful were:
  • Baby Oaks need full sun.
  • Highway 36 (20 some miles south of here) is the line for Pecans. (I don't know how Pecans know a Highway is a line, but I guess they do.) We do have Pecans in our bundles of trees. We may or may not be successful. We should plant them in protected areas.
  • We have beautiful 10 year old White Pines which the Kerby's (the previous owners) proudly planted along the drive. Richard did order more, so we have more to plant. They really are beautiful. Ivette cautioned us to not rely too heavily on these trees. They may be beginning to crash. We should be a little more diverse in our planting particularly in the screen along the drive. We should also give consideration to the fact that Deer have a special appetite for these trees.
  • Those with knowledge of Northeast Missouri as a prairie region would conclude that today we have way too many trees.
  • Trees were "slicked off" about 1900. (I remember when we were in the North Country, similar stories were told of the Minnesota North Woods.) That explains the stumps and the tightness of the groves of trees especially in the southwest section of the Farm. Some of the Oaks in the far southwest corner are experiencing "Oak Wilt". The trees are too tight, leaving them susceptible to this disease which kills trees very quickly.
  • We need to get the forest healthier.
  • Yvette put us onto a Poison Ivy extract "Oral Ivy", a homeopathic remedy. We shall be researching this.
  • She helped us to think about planting trees according to their unique needs.
  • We will be removing most of the Honey Locusts, which are very thorny. Plus we will be taking out Autumn Olives, which were introduced for wildlife habitat by the MDC in the 1970s. This practice, while well meaning, has been common in our culture. The full consequences of introduction were not known at that time.
  • The presence of "thorny" trees and shrubs are markers for overgrazing. Cattle give a wide berth to such things. As a result, thorny trees and shrubs in pastures flourish.
  • Every bit of land that could have been farmed earlier, was.
  • Coming from a land of few trees (North Dakota), we 3 Crawfords love trees and hadn't even considered the fact we would need to cut some. We had also not considered some of the trees would have a market: the Maples which are overgrown and Hedge Apples (Osage Orange). Sale has never been are priority. Yet, this could help with other costs on the Farm. Plus, some of these may have multiple uses for us right here.
  • Pathways through the woods which have a good cover of Oak leaves should not need to be mulched or covered for protection from erosion.
  • We have Post Oak, Pin Oak, and Shingle Oak on the property. We have ordered from the MDC: Black Oak, Red Oak, White Oak, and Burr Oak. We have also ordered Shellbark Hickories and Walnuts, all in an effort to provide greater diversity and long term stability. We also have added a variety of small trees and shrubs such as Hazelnuts, Wild Plum, Elderberry, Juneberries (also known as Serviceberries, Saskatoon Berries) and others to provide a greater diversity for wildlife and to provide cover for the land. Plus we intend to use the wonderful gifts of these trees for many of our own purposes as well. You can figure out those varieties.
  • When we plant trees, we should plant heavier than the desired end result. Some of the trees and shrubs will make it. Others won't. We will need to thin as they grow.
  • We are looking for information regarding the land at earlier stages. She suggested that we check out the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) for old aerial photos. The USGS (US Geological Survey) in Rolla may have old photos. Since this was a Centennial Farm, records of the historic uses of the land may be on file.
  • We should watch for upcoming workshops. She and Jennifer Schutter will be presenting on diseases and insects of trees, including orchard trees, in May.
In a relatively short period, Ivette gave us a lot to chew on and we are very grateful. We will be considering priorities. Further, we will be taking baby steps through all of it. We will go one step at a time. What an adventure!

Photo above: Melanie, Yvette and Richard look out over the land, while I take position for yet another photo op.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Year of the Frog

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a worldwide coalition of experts has designated 2008 as the Year of the Frog. It's Leap Year, of course. Their web site tells me that efforts for this celebration arose out of the recorded decline of 1/3 of the 6,200 known species of amphibians worldwide. This conservation education effort is intended to raise awareness about the declines in Frog and Toad populations as well as to raise funds to help species in trouble. (Be sure to check out the video on this site.)

1/3 of 6,200 means approximately 2,046 species of frogs are on decline on our watch, folks. Can you even imagine that such things are ongoing in the world around us? What are we thinking? The little kid in me says: "Do something!"

So why are Frogs in trouble? Richard, the environmental scientist, tells me that Frogs are very sensitive little critters. In many ways, they serve as indicators of the health of our environment. Their thin skin absorbs what's in the water. If the water is polluted, you get the picture.

Last fall, a couple that we know in Kirksville talked about how they used to hear Frogs in their neighborhood. They no longer do. The land is drained, urban lawns have replaced natural habitats, and a lot of people (liking lawns) use chemicals to take care of weeds and green things up. I guess we are taking care of Frogs too.

OK. You just saw a picture of our lagoon. I am assuming you know the purposes of such things. I shall talk in quieter tones here for the more delicate tastes of Readers. Waste water from laundry and dishes, water from those wonderful showers and brushing our teeth, simple but important matters of flushing toilets, all those things go through our home's plumbing system to pipes which head directly to the lagoon. The waste is broken down by natural processes of this beautiful little ecosystem which looks like a little pond surrounded by a fringe of cattails and willow. Bacteria, microbes, small plants and animals, duckweed, algae, cattails, break it down.

Since we live in the country and we have a lagoon, we are very aware of where our waste water goes. We are also very aware of the organisms that might be affected by it. Early on, Melanie brought to our attention that everything that goes down the drain affects the Frogs and other living beings.

What we put in the water is a direct "gift" to Frogs and other critters. Most people just don't think about such things. We didn't used to think about it. But then we started thinking about it, and we began to care. I say without hesitation that we care about Frogs and all living things. Plus, we care about our own health. In that spirit, we have long since switched to less toxic cleaning and personal care products (such as Ecover, Life Tree, Seventh Generation). We do not use synthetic pharmaceuticals. OK, maybe it costs a little more, but it is worth it. When we hear those frogs singing, it surely means we must be meeting our goal.

People usually don't go around showing pictures of their lagoons. They show pictures of things they are quite proud of: their kids, pets, home, vacation. Maybe we should be proud of such essential processes. Next time we meet, I would like to see a picture of your lagoon and I would like to hear the Frogs singing around it at this time of the year.

2008 is the Year of the Frog. How are you celebrating? Every year should be the year of the Frog. Just ask Kermit the Frog or any of those Frogs singing at the top of their lungs in this glorious early spring.