July Reprise

July is usually the hottest month in Minnesota, but this July was pleasantly mild, with very few really hot days. This made for a good mix of hanging out on the front porch reading and puttering about in the garden.

I read 16 books in July, mostly fiction (6) and poetry (6). But the two best books of the month were nonfiction (and both will likely make my Best Books of 2014 list—these are books I read in 2014, not books published in 2014).

Sweet CornMy favorite favorite, and one that will likely be in the top five at the end of the year, was Turn Here Sweet Corn, by Atina Diffley. This is the story of the Gardens of Eagan, a local organic farm in Dakota County (one of the counties in the Twin Cities metro area). I loved it for the local angle, of course, but I would have loved it regardless. Diffley is a good writer and passionate about soil, land, nature, and organic produce. She communes with nature. She is practically a force of nature herself. Who else could (or would) take on the Koch Brothers?

After losing their land to development in Eagan, Gardens of Eagan relocated to nearby Eureka. Just after they had really gotten established in their new location, they received notice that the Koch Brothers were planning an oil pipeline right through their prime fields, including their prized kale field. Eminent domain. Pipeline companies don’t change routes. Diffley says:

Maybe it is historically true that pipeline companies don’t change routes for landowners. But this time they have picked the wrong plant, on the wrong farm, the wrong woman, and the wrong community.

The Diffleys won. But that is only a small part of the book. There is so much here, I just want everyone to read it. A high recommend!

MuirThe second excellent book of July was My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir. This is a book I bought 25 years ago, June 19, 1989, and am only now getting around to reading. It was worth the wait. Immerse yourself in love of nature and mountains and an insatiable curiosity, all wrapped around a poet’s heart. “Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”

I mentioned the garden. We had a good raspberry crop this year, and I’ve harvested currants and a few cucumbers and tomatoes (I only have two of each plant). I’ve also got basil, thyme, rosemary, chamomile, calendula, and lemon balm. I’m drying the chamomile and calendula flowers, and have used the lemon balm to make an insect repellant (it’s still macerating in witch hazel, but I will let you know if it’s even remotely effective).

Also in the herbal world, I put up a tincture of sage (which will be useful primarily for night sweats, but also cold and flu).

In the writing world, I launched the Obama postcard project (wherein I send him a postcard each week) and July being so long resulted in five postcards to Obama. Here is the first one: Dear President Obama, Earned income is taxed at higher rates than unearned income. Doesn’t this seem wrong? Or even backwards?

I’ve also continued my regular haiku project—for the 9th month! A lot of them reflect the beautiful weather:

a gorgeous cool day
    outdoor chores are a pleasure
clipping the wild trees

Some of them focus on the explosion of life that is July:

robin convention
    baby squirrels and rabbits
I watch for hours

I have never seen so many monarch butterflies as I have this year. And I have seen two caterpillarmonarch caterpillars on my swamp milkweed and I’m absolutely thrilled. I don’t think I saw but one monarch butterfly last year, and this year I see them almost daily! Also, a beautiful yellow swallowtail butterfly has been frequenting the front yard. Is it possible to see a butterfly and not smile?

On the activist front, I’ve been contacting my representatives, talking to others, and blogging about finding the $1.1 million needed for bird-safe glass for the new Vikings stadium that’s going up in east Minneapolis (a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River Flyway, a major route through North America for migrating birds, including our own state bird, the Common Loon).loon

I also got together with a lot of extroverts this month, and it has led to a very spirited discussion with my introvert friend Sheila about the dynamics of conversation. It seems like the ideal conversation between two people would be 50/50, each contributing about half. But with my extrovert friends, I often find myself with 20% of the conversation. I just can’t find a place to interject. And if I try, they just keep talking. I wonder if they would say an ideal conversation is them talking 80% of the time, or if 50% is a goal they’re working toward, or perhaps they think they talk 50% of the time.

Any extroverts out there?

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