Last night I began my Christmas shopping foray. After dinner we put on comfy shoes and headed for the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase. Pride of Dakota is a place to shop local–sort of, if local counts a whole state. The event is located at the Fargo Civic Center, continuing today (9-5) and tomorrow (11-4).
Ticket prices are nominal–$2 to get in, but if you bring your own green bag, the entry fee is just $1. Your ticket price gets you a Pride of Dakota tote bag (which I managed to fill) and a Passport. Get your passport stamped at three locations by visiting the Auditorium, Centennial Hall, and the Lower Level, and you might win $250 in Pride of Dakota Bucks. I’m kind of counting on being the winner.
I managed to get to all of the shopping rooms, not just shopping, but visiting with some fine folks who have been busy preparing to share their wares. Here’s but a small sample of the offerings, and perhaps some clues to my shopping stops.
Last week I had to buy a cabbage.
Nobody made me buy it; I just wanted it and we had none left in the garden.
I revel in the seasons we enjoy, but I’m not good at saying goodbye to any of them. Light freezes, wilted roses, and cooking already with pumpkin are the gentle reminders that summer is out, autumn is here, and before long the snow will fall and stay.
Another reminder comes today from the Farmers’ Market at Dike East Park, here in Fargo, as they tell us there are only 7 market days left for the 2012 season. They tout a list of “squashes, potatoes, onions, jams, jellies, and more,” but the picture (see below) they posted looks like some of the sad photos I’ve seen of late on my friends’ Facebook page, where they’ve brought in the last bits of bounty.
Still, as we move into winter weather and bring out our heavy coats, I’ll think of these days earlier this summer when I made my first trips to Dike East market.
These folks were pawing through the corn just like I would have been if I weren’t taking their pictures!
So, really, HOW MANY carrots are enough?
Oh, the tomatoes and cucumbers! For a time I thought we’d never run out.
I brought this stalk of brussel sprouts home. How well I remember snapping off each head, and the marvelous taste of them steamed and then stirred into butter and sour cream and salt and pepper. What, that’s not how you eat them? You should!
And the glorious dill.
As I sit and write, wearing a thermal long-sleeved shirt and thinking about the root crops still to come in from the garden, I pine just a little for the season now past.
To stay current with what’s happening at the Farmers’ Market at Dike East Park, check out their Facebook page:
Yesterday I drove 8 hours–4 to St. Paul, leaving the house at 5:20 a.m., and 4 more to get home. The drive was with good company–Emilee and Karl–and for good cause: exhibiting New Rivers Press books and authors at the 12th annual Rain Taxi Twin Cities Book Festival.
The very first book festival I ever attended was on the Capitol lawn in Austin, Texas, promoted by First Lady Laura Bush. It was one of those life-changing events. I met authors face-to-face, chatted with them as though we were equals, and then realized that, hey!–we are equals! Well, except for the part that they have published books. This might sound odd, but knowing that authors are often just regular folks with the distinction of being disciplined writers who work at their craft somehow opened vistas of possibility.
This year’s Rain Taxi Twin Cities Book Festival was relocated from its normal downtown spot to The Historic Progress Center at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, my first-ever visit to this place outside my normal beaten path. In fact, there are about 320 acres with historic buildings and new bandstands to see. We got our bearings on Dan Patch Avenue, named for the Minnesota racing horse of world fame. Dan Patch, harnessed to a sulkie, never lost a race, and in 1906 even beat his own record! Check out this MN State Fair Walking Tour Brochure: http://visitmnhistory.org/sites/visitmnhistory.org.statefair/files/2012StateFair_WalkingTourBrochure.pdf
Since I was representing New Rivers Press (it’s where I work), I’ll show you some of our famous authors:
Although I didn’t get home until about 10:40 last night, it was a trip well worth the while. Rain Taxi is already planning on events for 2013, and I plan to be there, too.
Some related online sites of interest:
Do you remember from your little-kid art classes the way a lump of clay feels in your hand? How it can be mashed and pulled and pressed and made to conform, and how it leaves a residue that dries in the whorls of your fingertips?
Most of us haven’t played with clay in years, but Shon squeezes clay on a daily basis. It is her work. It is her play. She keeps her clay in a chest freezer, set to the perfect temp for keeping the clay close to malleable. Pulling out a chunk, she warms it with her hands, mashing, pulling, pressing with her strong fingers until she’s molded it into the desired shape.
I met Shon Profit and her partner Stephen Girard when we were shopping for pottery at the Whitemud Clay Studio in Eastend, Saskatchewan. She is the artist, and he is the scientist and harvester that makes the clay work possible.
The moment I walked into the pottery shop I was drawn to this triptych: three equal-sized squares of blue and yellow-tan, textured to show windrows under the prairie sky. This is the same landscape that surrounded me all summer as we drove north from Texas to Oklahoma and Kansas and Nebraska and then again as we made our way up into Alberta and Saskatchewan. I was smitten with the colors and textures and even the uneven cut of the edges of this fired clay sample. I wanted to touch and to have. And that was even before I knew its story.
When I expressed interest in the three tiles, Shon described them as test pieces for a much larger project, which much to my delight, was spread out on a table in the next room. She was happy to share the masterpiece she and Stephen were making in their studio. Over their worktable lay 246 square tiles, much like the 3 that I found in the front entry, a piece-by-piece depiction of the Saskatchewan prairie landscape and sky. When all the tiles have been fired, the vibrant colors will pop out and each piece will be attached to the exterior wall of the Swift Current Museum.
Shon shows us the back-up plans–a set of pages that illustrate the design for each individual tile. These pages are referred to just in case a tile, or all of the tiles, have to be replaced. Unfortunately, the back-up plan was called into action when the clay tiles failed to fire properly due to an unfortunate mix in the clay.
None of this might be possible without the scientist behind the scenes. Stephen Girard, a potter in his own right (I bought a beautiful pitcher and six tumblers from him about 10 years ago.) harvests the clay himself, and then refines it by screening, blunging, and plugging, making the mud ready for shaping. The clay is pressed through a pug mill, which extrudes the air out of the clay and presses it into the tile-size thickness, ready for storing in the fridge. Stephen makes good use of his degree in chemistry, and when he’s not working on the technical and materials aspects of harvesting and refining, he produces the colors that will appear in the firing process.
I was amazed to learn that Stephen even made his own kiln! His friends in Moose Jaw provided Stephen with 1400 bricks, each painstakingly cleaned of the dirt from when they were used as paving stones, and then over a period of five months made into this fabulous, downdraft kiln for high temperature stoneware firing.
Shon and Stephen gave a great tour, which they’re willing to do by appointment for their summer visitors at Whitemud Clay Studio in Eastend, SK. An appointment is a good idea if you want to see behind the scenes, but the shop is open 8am to 8pm, seven days a week from June through September, with fewer hours during the winter months. If you feel the same as I do about their work, the colors and texture of kiln-fired clay will catch your eye and tug at your heart.
Hunting up shipwrecks is fun to do, especially on New Zealand beaches where access is open and respect for the wreck expected.
Following a brief note in our guidebook and not-very-helpful road signage, we located the wreck of the Zephyr on the North Island of NZ in Taranaki, the 10th largest populated town in NZ, named for the nearby volcanic Mount Taranaki. With the air somewhat misty and unsettled from a recent rain, I carefully stepped over rounded stones to capture images of the remains.
Puddled water against the blue sky frames the Zephyr ruins. On the 11th of September 1864, this top-sail schooner, built of blue gums thirteen years earlier in Hobart Town, was set to unload a cargo of timber. The ship-hands moved some of the timber by raft the day before, but with three loads left, the endeavor was incomplete due to the high waters along shore. The next day, Sunday, a sudden squall from the north interrupted plans for continuing to send the timber ashore.
After the squall, according to the captain’s statement, “the sea fell dead calm.”
The calm was not reassuring; rather it was indication of danger. As evening neared, the captain’s barometer readings dropped and a new heavy swell entered from the northwest. The captain ordered that the anchors be dropped, but when an even heavier squall blew in, the schooner began to drag the anchors just 15 minutes after they’d been set. By 8:30pm the fate of the Zephyr was irreversible.
From the captain’s report: “There being not the slightest chance of saving the vessel, she being firmly embedded in the rocks, and every probability of her breaking up next tide, I felt it my duty to abandon her in order to save the lives of the crew. Accordingly ordered them into the boat, and afterwards followed myself.”
Although the Zephyr had maintained insurance for more than a year, it had expired three days before the grounding. On Monday, the vessel completely broke up. The pieces–including chains, cable, and rigging–sold for a total of £69 9s, 6d. The recoverable timber sold for £22 10s.
In another, less calamatous wreck on the same beach, we experienced our own grounding on the shore of Taranaki: The Wreck of the Commodore.
The Commodore was no more meant to be beached on the Taranaki than the Zephyr, but there we sat. The lack of signage and the free access led us to believe that we could drive along this beach as we had in other ports on the same voyage. Wrong. The Commodore, with about a 2-inch clearance and its teeny tires, does not respond the same as the 4-wheel-drive trucks we rented for outback driving Down Under or even my little Jeep to get around North Dakota. As you can see I avoided the puddle, but I sunk the car into a quicksand pit of sandy gloop.
No matter how much we scooped out the wet sand, sweeping it away with our travel guide books, we could not budge the car. Instead it sank up to the axle. That’s when we learned about sand fleas. They didn’t bother us as we scouted around the ruins, but once we were high-centered and desperate, they delighted in pestering and biting. Hard.
With no choices left and no assistance nearby, we walked out to the main road and hiked to a not-so-nearby house for help. The story ends well for us, with a chap giving us a ride in his 4WD and then dragging loose the Commodore. We’re not so sure the story ended well for him–he wasn’t where he was supposed to be when his wife squeezed us into her pickup truck and went looking for him on our behalf. But there’s not room here for the story of a third wreck . . .
The captain’s statement may be found here:
“The Wreck of the Schooner Zephyr,” Taranaki Herald, 17 September 1864, found at paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/ where it is repeated in the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 22 Mahuru 1864, p. 2
When we married–in our backyard under the apple tree–we served our guests kuchen. My husband-to-be and I worked to perfect our recipe, finally (after many taste-tests) ending up with a thin, lightly sweet crust and a custard decorated with apricots and juneberries.
This past weekend, on a new kuchen hunt, we visited the Model Bakery, owned and operated for 36 years by Mary and her husband. After making my way through racks of baking pans and various doughs, I met Mary in the back room, pressing out the kuchen and filling pie tins with custard and apple topping.
According to the bakery clock, it was time for an afternoon snack. We made our purchase of cottage cheese kuchen and an apple blachinda (to share, because we’re not gluttons).
Our visit to the Model Bakery was deliberate. Mary will provide kuchen, caramel rolls, cinnamon rolls, apricot & cherry & lemon blachindas, and ham & kraut bierschkis for breakfast to all those who are registered for the 19th Annual Preservation North Dakota Historic Preservation Conference: Prairie Places Festival, to be held mostly in Wishek, ND, May 18-20, 2012. Hope to see you there!
Link to Model Bakery address: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/231/1106526/restaurant/North-Dakota/Model-Bakery-Linton
Link to Preservation North Dakota conference registration site: http://www.prairieplaces.org/
Several times a year, I can be found out at the Hutmacher Farm in Dunn County, North Dakota. Since 2006, this farmstead has been under the care of Preservation North Dakota, and in recent years service-learning students from North Dakota State University have been adding sweat equity to the preservation project. While we’ve had a variety of volunteers over the years from many states (Oklahoma, Washington, Louisiana, Georgia, and many more), the majority of our volunteers are from NDSU. Wherever they come from, we’re just glad they’ve arrived!
Before we get to work, we have an orientation to the place. Here Dr. Tom Isern takes the volunteers on a cemetery walk to introduce them to the Hutmacher family. In the distance, straight up from the fencepost, the original Hutmacher homestead ruins are barely visible.
Since the morning was still chilly, the orientation continued inside the protective walls of the Hutmacher granary, one of five buildings still extant on the farm site. Here’s a perfect photo to show the construction of the roof interior. A single ridgepole runs the length of the building, north to south. Laid up on top of the ridgepole are rafters, all of which rest upon rock and mud walls, built more than a foot thick. Across the rafters, past volunteers laid brush–sometimes plum but only once did we use bullberry (ouch!)–carefully pushing the brush tight to weave a rooftop. On top of the brush are layers of flax, mud, and a sprinkling of scoria. The rafter and wires hanging horizontally were used by the Hutmacher family to string up hams and sausage.
Our weekend goal was to build up the wall of the lean-to chicken house, attached to the garage, and begin throwing on rafters.
Here you can see the chicken-house wall, which last summer had to be taken down a few rows. Too much deterioration in the wall meant it had to be reconstructed, as shown here. A labor of love with mud mixed and spread by hand.
Just like the Hutmacher family, we have to haul in our own water for all purposes.
All this hard work in the windy outdoors makes for some hearty appetites.
From our picnic spot inside the granary, we have a gorgeous view of western North Dakota landscape.
The weather was kinder our second day out. Smiles more prevalent, short sleeves and pulled-down hoods the order of the day.
Such a beautiful sight. The east wall (facing the viewer) and the north wall have been built up to specs, and we’ve begun to lay the rafters across the lean-to. The chicken house relied on the east wall of the garage for support, although in later years this lean-to place was used to store coal. A previous work party labored to dig out the coal remains.
The stunning view from the interior of the chicken house, standing in the doorway and looking north. Although there’s still plenty of work to do next time, our weekend mission is a success.
Whatever you do, do NOT feed the wombats.
The wombats are on a special diet today at the Cleland Wildlife Park, Adelaide, South Australia, hence the sign requesting that they not be fed. But mostly you must stay clear of wombats because they bite.
This was not at all what I expected. Sort of a scruffly, shambling along creature, the wombat made no noise to alarm us, but he is all business. This southern hairy-nosed wombat is a powerfully built, burrowing marsupial who comes out at dusk to feed on native grasses–or during the day to see who’s wandered into the neighborhood. He had no fear of us, but then he is protected by law. There are little more than 100 wombats of the hairy-nose variety (southern and northern) in existence, owing to the early 1900s drought and death by dingo.
Aborigines feasted on common wombats, more plentiful than the hairy-nosed ones, but farmers and graziers found them to be just a pest. Farmers here gripe about gopher holes; imagine the size of a wombat burrow! Weighing from 70-90 pounds, wombats make big holes in the ground (and terrible messes of cars on the highway).
Maybe I shouldn’t have been sitting there, dangling my sandaled foot over the side, but I wanted to see this amazing creature from as close as possible. He has fine hairs around his nose that help stem water loss, but he never came close enough for me to tickle them, so I don’t know if they’re like my dog’s whiskers. Even though he looked rather pig-like, his coat (I’ve read) is soft and silky. I didn’t feed him, nor did I touch.
It didn’t take Jack (male wombats are jacks) long to figure out I was just paparazzi, so he made his way back to some carrots hidden in the shade (where he also had a friend–Jill). As I studied his girth, and equated him with swine, I wondered if he might be tasty.
Wombats have square poop. Why? So it won’t roll off of rocks. Which is very helpful if you have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell, and if you otherwise would not be able to find your way home.
Seems like a good place to end this Home and Away story.
Quick! Get yourself to the Plains Art Museum today! April 1 is the last day to view the Misfit Cup Liberation Project by artist Michael J. Strand.
Our travels don’t have to take us far to find something to satisfy curiosity. Yesterday (at long last) I made it over to the Strand exhibit, just one day before it starts to be packed up for a voyage to China. Yes, pottery will soon be on its way to China–and Norway and even more countries before they make their ways back to Fargo.
I first met artist Michael J. Strand a few months ago, when several of us were invited to lunch to talk about creative collaborations. Michael is way ahead of all of us. His Misfit Cup Liberation Project begins with crafting beautiful, hand-thrown cups. He trades them for a “misfit” cup, but in return for his marvelous cup, you have to give up a story. As a historian and literary editor (and coffee drinker), I am in seventh heaven to muse my way through this exhibit.
The cups are full of character, little chips, dings, matched sets, oddities. But the stories, oh the stories . . . Here is a small sample.
By good fortune (maybe because it was my birthday), as my husband and I were exiting the exhibit, the artist was entering. He graciously allowed me an impromptu photo, and answered my questions about the exhibit. When I asked him which traded-in cup was his favorite, he quickly replied, The Ex-Con, and directed me straight over to see it. He is having lunch with the contributor this week.
When guests give up a cup and a story, they choose their cup–which was originally housed in the place their old cup now sits. Guests sign a picture of the cup they took. It was a marvelous idea to post the cup-shots; otherwise these works of art would disappear totally from our view, perhaps until another chance to make a trade.
Do not despair if you can’t catch the misfit cups. After the multi-nation tour, Michael will do something new with the cups that will capture our interest and curiosity. He doesn’t know just what that is yet, but he says that is all part of his research–studying the stories, “scrutinizing the function of art and craft in contemporary society.”
According to the gallery, we can expect more collaborative projects as an impulse of Engage U–”a cross-disciplinary group of art activists, students, and others seeking to develop innovative and thought-provoking art projects.” Congratulations to Michael J. Strand for getting Engage U in the public eye.
Funding organizations: Engage U, North Dakota State University, Members of Plains Art Museum, The McKnight Foundation, The Minnesota State Arts Board, the North Dakota Council on the Arts, and the cities of Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo through The Arts Partnership