Civic Duty

who needs free time

As I mentioned in this post, there have been many, many, things taking up what little free time I have and thus blog writing time. One of those things was being appointed to the City of Dayton MN Planning Commission.

I had attended a few Planning Commission meetings last year with some of my neighbors and had spoken during the public hearings on a variety of topics. After one of those meetings the Chair of the Commission approached us to ask if one of us would be interested in putting our names in to be considered for appointment to the Commission since there was an opening. After several weeks of hemming and hawing I decided to throw my name in. And did not get selected. Apparently there had been a lengthy debate and it had been down to me and one other person and the other person was ultimately selected. Oh well.

A few weeks later I got an email from one of the city administrators asking if I would be willing to apply again because they had another opening and so I said yes, and this time I was appointed. 

It has been a really interesting and valuable learning experience. It took a few meetings for me to get my bearings but I feel like I have settled in well and am enjoying being a part of that body. If you want to see me in action you can view all of the old Planning Commission meetings here.

After one such meeting I was approached to see if I would be interested in running for Dayton City Council and I said no but that I would ask around. I felt like I had just started to get a feel for the Planning Commission and the work I can do there I wasn’t ready to “move up” yet. Then a few weeks late I was asked again by another person to run for City Council. I thought a lot harder about it that second time and ultimately decided to say yes.

I’ll admit I’m still a bit undecided. I feel confident that I would do a great job on the City Council, the issue is time. I am so very busy already and the City Council is a much bigger time commitment than the Planning Commission. But I also feel strongly that if we want our communities to be the best versions of themselves then we collectively need to step up and take on leadership roles within our communities. As they say, the world is run by the people who show up. In reality it is mostly run by the people with money, but those of us who show up do have some influence and it’s time for more of us to take more of that power. 

Because I have recently started up Lantern Farm MN LLC and this website is directly related to that business (that is a whole other post) I don’t feel comfortable using this website as part of any campaigning efforts so this will be the one and only time I post anything about my run for City Council here. I did however make a new (free) website for my campaign so if you want to follow along you can here:

If you are reading this and are Dayton MN resident, please let me know if you would be interested in having a yard sign. And for everyone, no matter where you live, I encourage you to vote in your primary. For Minnesotans that is on Aug 13. In Dayton there are five of us running for two City Council spots and that will be narrowed down to four candidates during the primary. I would imagine in many cities there are similar primaries and we need people to vote. Primaries are just as  important as the main election!


Horse Update-Fall 2023-Part 1

The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Teenager

Literally and metaphorically. Well not literally, well, we thought literally but turns out we were misinformed, never mind – let’s just get in to it.

When we got Juniper last fall her previous owner thought she was about seventeen, which would make her eighteen this year and thus a literal teen aged horse. However, every vet who has seen her thinks she’s older than that and is probably in her early twenties. Which would be fine, ponies tend to live into their thirties, however Juniper’s teeth are rapidly approaching their end of life which is problematic since the rest of Juniper is not.

She had been very slowly losing weight all summer, which wasn’t a bad thing at first since she had a little more weight than she needed, but those two back-to-back colics this fall saw her drop close to fifty pounds in two days and went from “we should probably try to get some weight on her before winter sets in” to “holy crap she is too thin, please don’t die.” There are of course several complications to this (I of course have been gaining weight without any complications at all). Juniper has PPID so we have to be careful about gaining weight safely without triggering laminitis or founder, meaning anything high in sugar is out. Her teeth are no longer up to the task of grinding food properly so filling up on hay is out. And she is an unreasonably picky eater and doesn’t like wet food if it has gotten too cold meaning most mashes are out.  

Her original diet was free-choice hay of varying degrees of nutritional value and quality as well as soaked grass hay pellets and some oats fed in the morning. I would have upped the amount of soaked hay pellets but she is a messy eater and drops a lot of food back out of her mouth and won’t eat it again if it isn’t in the dish and if the soaked pellets sit around for too long she won’t eat them anymore.

When I realized she was consuming very little actual hay and was mostly just chewing it and spitting it back out in little half-chewed hay-balls (“quidding” as it is known) I started looking into alternatives. My neighbor had a spare bag of some manufactured chopped hay from trying it out herself a few years ago so we started with that. She had the all herbivore Square Meal Hay Biscuits and they worked okay but most of the chunks were too big/hard for Juniper’s terrible teeth so I had to break the big ones up before feeding which was it’s own pain in the ass. That led us to the senior variety “Senior Supper” of the same brand, which worked great. A little too great, because when we put Juniper and Highlight together Highlight also REALLY liked the Senior Supper and she eats much faster and much more than Juniper does and we just can’t afford to feed that much since they get expensive! They are supposed to be a complete feed so if it was just Juniper eating them I think we could make a go with it because she wouldn’t need any other feed. But we cannot afford to feed both of them the Senior Supper free choice and we are not currently in a position to keep them separated long term (see this post for why).

That led to us buying a mulcher and chopping our own hay which is an ordeal in and of itself.  You have to be very careful when you chop your own hay to make sure you are in fact only chopping hay that is safe for horses to eat. It is always good practice to check your hay as you are feeding, regardless of method, because all sorts of things can get into a bale of hay. I have found in our own hay and the hay at the various places I have boarded Leeloo things like dead snakes, mice, lizards, tree branches, milk weed (which can be toxic to animals), moldy bits and many other things a horse shouldn’t eat. If I find these things when feeding hay normally, I toss them out and depending on what it was I may toss the surrounding flake(s) or the whole bale, but in general I’m not too paranoid about it because our horses always have enough to eat and generally avoid things that they shouldn’t eat. However, once you run it all through a mulcher the good and the bad get mixed together and a horse can’t always tell them apart and will either eat something bad for them or won’t eat any of it at all. That means every flake of hay needs to be broken up and examined before it gets chopped which causes quite a mess all by itself and that doesn’t even touch the dust issue kicked out by the mulcher and the sheer amount of time the task takes. The entire “hay chopping” section of the barn is a mess and the process was taking way too much time, but at least the girls were eating it.

Notice the past tense in that sentence. They were eating it. For whatever reason our homemade chopped hay is no longer good enough and they are both back to eating normal hay. Which is fine for Highlight, but the number of quidding balls I am finding is on the rise and I’m concerned about Juniper’s overall food intake. Making things worse is that with the colder temperatures Juniper won’t finish even her small amount of soaked hay-pellets. If it is too wet and it drops below a certain temperature she stops eating it and if it isn’t wet enough the hay pellets stay too hard and she can’t eat them.

We’re trying to help you Juniper – eat your damn food!

I’m going to look into getting one of those heaters they use in greenhouses to put under seedling trays to see if I can keep her soaked pellets warm enough that she’ll eat all of them and long term we’re going to see if we can figure out how to separate her for at least a few hours every day to eat her special Senior Supper, but until then we’re just going to have to hope she’s getting enough from the regular hay and keep putting out the chopped hay.

She’s also wearing a blanket this winter so she doesn’t waste as many calories staying warm. Doesn’t she look cute in her coat.

This post has already gotten too long so Highlights update will have to wait until part 2.

Barn Building Update 5

All Trussed UP

Work continues on the barn, the first four posts can be found here – update 1, and here – update 2, and here – update 3, and here – update 4.

At the end of Update 4 they had gotten most of the framing done on the sides and the north end-wall and were getting ready for trusses. 

Watching the trusses go up was a little anxiety inducing. They are large, LARGE, and getting them from their stacked pile and up in place was not an easy feat, or so I imagine. All I did was sit and the house and watch from the upstairs windows, but that was stressful enough for me.

The trusses of course don’t just sit there on their own and need to have all sorts of other things including the purlins installed along the top and additional boards along the bottom of the trusses, which I can’t find the official name for.

Things were moving along smoothly but a large project wouldn’t be one of our large projects without some sort of hiccup. The worst storm we have had all summer blew threw with ridiculous straight line winds. Nate and I watched with mounting concern as the wind just whipped by until the power went out and we opted to hangout in the staircase. Once the storm had abated we checked everything out and all appeared to be well. Except for the port-a-potty. Unfortunately the barn wasn’t quite as untouched as it appeared. The next day when the crew inspected everything it turned out that the storm winds pushed the bracing posts on the north end out of position and everything had shifted about four inches out of square so the rest of the week was spent putting things to rights.

In the end they lost about a weeks worth of work having to reset everything but in the grand scheme of things it could have been much worse. The following week they got back on track and slowly finished out the trusses and the framing.

Once all the trusses were installed they put up the south end-wall up and poured the final concrete into the post holes on the post holes on the south end and finished up the ones near the north end that they had run out of concrete for the first time around.

The city inspector was out Monday to sign-off on the work done so far. Now on to the metal siding!

Barn Building Update 4

forms cannot contain us

Clearly my goal of getting back on a regular writing schedule didn’t happen. Hopefully this week will go more as planned  and I’ll get another one written and I can get some positive momentum going to keep at it.

Work continues on the barn, the first three posts can be found here – update 1, and here – update 2, and here – update 3.

At the end of Update 3 they had gotten all the posts installed and standing square and level on the cement discs (which probably have a technical name but I don’t know it). Once all the posts were up they started installing the wall girts which are the boards that run horizontally around the building.  

They were also getting ready to pour the concrete around the posts. If you are also wondering how they were going to get those concrete forms around the posts that were already installed in any way that would be useful you are not alone.

Turns out they had a plan, but that plan did not work as expected.

As you can see the concrete chose to ignore their efforts at containment with the form and instead just filled the whole cavity. After the first several they just gave up and poured concrete into the entire hole. Unfortunately that meant they ran out of concrete before they were able to finish, having planned for significantly less. This means the last six posts on the northwest corner don’t have any concrete yet; but they will be getting some when the concrete truck comes to do the posts on the south end. 

After the concrete got poured they finished up with all the wall girts and moved on to the and headers and/or eave struts. I’m not totally up on my pole barn anatomy so I’m not as certain on their name, but the larger beams running horizontally along the top. 

Can you tell which holes are missing their concrete?

Next up – trusses!


Edible Forest Garden – Practice Plot – Part 3


As mentioned in the first and second post I was inspired by the books Edible Forest Gardens Volume I and II and have been using a sheet mulch option.

We were able to get the first few steps completed on Saturday and had left off with uncomposted manure on top of potentially seedy hay and some very rough path approximations. The next morning we started out with me breaking down cardboard boxes and removing all labels and tape and Nate raking up the leftover hay that the girls hadn’t eaten all winter and spring. My assumption is that since that hay had been left out in ideal growing conditions for the past few weeks any seeds would have taken their chance to germinate and what was left is relatively weed free. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, both tasks took more time than I had planned. As Nate continued to rake up hay piles I brought all my cardboard up to the site to start laying it out. The book has lots of recommendations that I have either done and have been happy with or intend to do next time, but there was one recommendation that I have to wholly disagree with. They recommend laying out cardboard for the paths as well as for the planting areas and to do that right away to help minimize soil compaction. That did not work at all! The other thing they recommend, which I do agree with, is to make sure that your cardboard overlaps by at least four inches and that all seams have another layer on top to make sure the weeds can’t grow through. Great suggestion. The problem is that every time I stepped on my cardboard “path” the cardboard would shift and slip and all my carefully laid out seams would shift and slip leaving many an exposed space; and cardboard with hay on top turns out to be really slippery resulting in several near falls. Will not do that again! They also recommend going to a furniture or appliance store to get really big boxes to minimize seams. This I would 100% support!! It turned out that once I got all my seams covered and made sure my edges overlapped by at least four inches I had barely enough cardboard to cover half my planting area. A few emails and some driving for bigger boxes would have been well worth it and I will definitely do that next time!

Once I had all the cardboard laid out we started covering it with the spent hay. We carted many a load up from the pasture to the planting area. Many a load. As with every previous step I needed a lot more material than I thought I would.

We were finally ready for planting!

The book has lots of suggestions for planting into such a sheet mulch layering and I won’t go into details here but this photo from the book summarizes much of it.

I started by planting the wild plum tree and that was the only thing that required some actual digging into the ground. Another tip from the book was to dig out the soil in layers and keep them separate because different biology is happening at the different layers, and you want them to stay separated so the right organisms are in the right locations to do their jobs. An even better tip was to lay all your dug up soil onto something (sheet, tarp, cardboard, etc.) so that it doesn’t fall into the surrounding soil. That made such a difference from previous times I’ve planted something and then wondered where the hell all the dirt I just dug up went and how come I don’t seem to have enough to put back in the hole?! The hole for the plum tree may not have been quite big enough but it was close enough. I then used our three-tine pitch fork (used to be a five-tine fork but Nate managed to break off two of the tines picking up frozen horse poop this winter) to loosen the soil in the hole. Then I planted the plum tree with some quality compost. We didn’t want to spend too much money so I only bought enough quality compost to put directly around each plant, not the whole space.

Once the plum tree was in I moved on to the lead plant bushes which were the next biggest thing. For them I only had to dig off the very top layer of grass and use the three-tine pitch fork to loosen up the soil. Which managed to turn itself into a two-tine fork by the time I got to the third one; at this point it is clearly faulty craftsmanship and not user error. I also realized that my fourth quadrant landed right at the “door” in our fence and I really couldn’t plant that area until last or I would be constantly trying to not step on my newly planted things and would probably fail.

With three of the four lead plants in I turned my attention to the first quadrant and that was when my carefully laid out plans pretty much disappeared. I just set out the plants in their containers and eyeballed things until I was relatively happy and started planting.

By the time I finished one whole quadrant it was dinner time on day two of my “morning project” and the bugs were starting to feast. I opted to stop for the day to finish up tomorrow.

I did manage to get the other three quadrants planted the next day. The quality of my efforts decreased fairly steadily from the plum tree which I would give myself a B+ on in terms of following all the guidelines suggested by the book down to a D for the last few plants.

All total it took me three full days to get this fruit tree guild planted. These are my big take-aways for next time (there will be a next time!):

  • Have all the various layers and materials ready and close to your site BEFORE you buy the plants! One of the reasons I was in such a hurry is I had already purchased the plants and didn’t want them to die while I got everything else in order.
  • Have more than you think you’ll need, you will in fact need it.
  • Get the big giant boxes!!
  • Do not use cardboard for the paths! My plan for next time is to use these “mud grids” we have for some of the muddiest areas in the pasture that are easy to move and set up nice and rigid and square to use as my initial path for each new planting and then pull them up when I’m done and replace them with a permanent path material. Though I haven’t figured out what that will be yet…
  • Get decent tools. Cheaper tools that break are not actually cheaper in the long run.

It has officially been one week since they were planted and everything is still alive, can’t tell if they are thriving but I’ll take living for now. We’ll focus on thriving for the next one.

Keep On Keeping On

one foot in front of the other

Another week has come and gone. The coming spring and summer are very double-edged this year. Normally I can’t wait to be done with spring semester and moving into the few weeks of summer when I feel like I am in control (which is always a joke, but every year I think “this summer will be different”). Now I want this spring semester to take as long as possible because I really don’t want to go back to my normal day job. This has paradoxically made me feel crappy lately because it feels like I’m stuck in a very long Sunday night funk, which is not helpful. I should be enjoying the hell out of this last month of my sabbatical. Of course part of that is the pressure to actually finish the things I need to do for said sabbatical. Shocker, I have been procrastinating. A quick aside – a few years ago I did my first round of textbook reviewing and they only give you two or three days to go through this whole chapter and unfortunately it happened to coincide with a conference I was going to so every free moment at the conference involved me sitting with my laptop somewhere going through the book pages and I got a lot of sympathy from my fellow conference goers. However one of them asked, with no malice, if I had had an entire month or even a week to get it done would I have actually worked on it over that entire time or it would have always been just two or three days to get it done? When I thought about it the answer was – no, I would not have worked on it the entire time, I still would have waited and only had two or three days to get it done. Procrastination has been and will always be an issue for me – though I am coming to terms with it. For example, I still have three whole weeks before my last two papers are due so I’m not *as* bad as I used to be. Or rather I have the potential to be better, I haven’t actually done anything for them yet…

Speaking of conferences I will be at a conference this Saturday through Tuesday so there will not be a Monday blog post this week. I have been trying really hard to get something posted every Monday and Friday, though they are getting done later and later in the day and I missed one last week entirely. I’m still not entirely sure what the purpose of this blog is and I’m not sure posting twice a week is something I need to be putting my energy towards. However, if I wait until I have “something important/entertaining to say” then I will never actually post anything. Some of the posts that people seem to enjoy the most, or comment on the most, are the ones that were last minute pieces that I viewed as just filler to take up the space but clearly they held value for people. So for now I will keep on, keeping on. Who knows, maybe I can get some work done on those papers while at the conference and free of the many distractions of home, and then I will be able to enjoy the end of my sabbatical more completely.

Spring is coming

Tapping Out

mother nature, you win

I am officially over and done with winter, as are Juniper and Leeloo (Nate has been done for a while). The latest round of snow and extreme wind brought frozen gate latches and crabby mares; okay crabbier mares. A windchill of nineteen below in the middle of March is total bull sh*t. We fed the girls mostly in the shelters so they could stay out of the wind but they still had to come up to the house for water. Juniper takes longer to drink than any living thing I have ever met. Overall she and Leeloo are getting along okay, but Leeloo gets impatient with how long Juniper takes to finish getting a drink and the antics can be rather amusing.

Since the weather was such garbage my goal was to get some indoor things done and on that count I was not particularly successful. Though I did finally get my kitchen clean (mostly), so that’s a thing. Historically I have blamed my job for why I struggle to get everything else I “want” to get done, done. Being on sabbatical however has really shown that work isn’t the issue, or rather it is just one of the issues. Becoming minor hermits in 2020 and not really coming back out of that also made it clear that extrinsic motivation is actually really important for me. People coming over to our house is still the only reliable way to get me to clean it. For some reason cleaning for other people (who probably don’t care) is more motivating than cleaning for myself even though I know I feel better when my house is clean. But some things I have never ever been good about getting done; usually the less visible things or things with little to no consequence for avoiding them. Like cleaning the vents above the stove. If I clean the vents they will work better and extend the life of the motor which will save me money, which are good things. If I don’t clean the vents though nothing bad will happen, at least not for a long time, and even then, at worst it will cost me some money sooner than it would have otherwise. How do other people motivate themselves to do those kinds of tasks? I’ve been pondering listing literally everything I do that isn’t “fun” and identifying those things that I don’t have issues accomplishing (or have only minor issues) and seeing if there is any pattern to them that I could use to help me with the other items that sit on my to-do list for weeks or months.

If I don’t get something figured out I might have to resort to inviting people to our house again.

Inch by Inch

wear that mountain down

A mentor of mine once said that sometimes you have to be a glacier. Progress may be slow and may seem undetectable, but year by year, inch by inch, glaciers can wear mountains down.

I have to remind myself of that a lot during this current journey. I very often look back and wonder where my week (or weekend) went and how did I not get anything done?! But I am making progress, inch by inch, but progress all the same and that is how you wear a mountain down.

Progress is being made little by little on lots of fronts.

Books being read: Building Community Food Webs by Ken Meter, Edible Forest Gardens Volumes I  by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, and No Dig Organic Home and Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty. Of this set I am enjoying the Edible Forest Gardens book the most, but I have had No Dig Organic Home and Garden book longer and need to get it back to the library soon so I’m trying to get that finished first. The Community Food Webs is for the book club starting next week so I also have to get my chapters done for that. 

Making progress on getting the hay-box lids finally finished. You may be confused since I posted about having finally gotten the hay-box lid figured out back in December and how are they not done yet?! Well funny thing, I am a hardcore procrastinator and of course something went wrong with the measurements and every lid frame is off by 2.75” in one dimension so I’ve been working on fixing that. Also I managed to mess up cutting the hay-net part and need to fix that. Goal is to have them done and installed by Tuesday.

I am currently waiting on quotes for building the barn from four builders. Hopefully I’ll have those in soon and we’ll know if we are building this year or not.

We are all still figuring out our new morning chore routine now that we finally have the “barn” shelter cleaned out and have been using that to feed them every morning. But even that is getting streamlined and morning chores are down to about an hour when I do them on my own.


It doesn’t have to be perfect, just try to be better.

Procrastination and Taxes

two things we can always count on

The weekend was mostly dedicated to taxes, or more accurately various distractions while we procrastinated doing taxes, followed by finally doing most of our taxes, followed by some video gam time as a reward for doing taxes. I should note we still haven’t actually finished our taxes; but we have a good start!

However there isn’t much exciting to say about doing taxes so instead of a blog post enjoy this photo of a blossoming fruit tree to remind you that spring is right around the corner, even though the four inches of snow we got makes it feel like it is still months away


Videos from 2022

I have been working on a side gig (in addition to the Fleet Farm job) with a friend for some extra money (that barn will not pay for itself!). The other people who were supposed to be working on the project with us have all fallen through so we have been pretty slammed getting everything done which has left no time for a post. So instead enjoy some video highlights from 2022 (plus a bonus video from Jan 1 2023). 

Was not expecting that reaction to the hay boxes. They are old news now though.

You cannot beat breakfast in bed! 

Juniper is a very food motivated horse and she makes this sound not only for breakfast but for “fresh” hay too. Though she is not always eager to leave the shelters to come get her food.

Leeloo loves to help with chores. Here she’s helping me put the hay out. So helpful she is.

Leeloo is a very busy horse so we put together this toy to keep her busy. She didn’t seem to play with it much after this first introdcution but a few weeks later we found it utterly destroyed. Hence moving on to the new toy.

Here Leeloo is demonstrating why getting the haybox lids made is a priority. Stop wasting the hay!

Another napping video – I love the big stretch and sigh.

Sometimes Juniper decides she’s done with breakfast a little early and goes looking for grass under the snow – not sure what she finds but she keeps on looking.

Leeloo also gets excited for breakfast. Now that the snow is deeper she tends to canter up – higher speeds make it easier to plow through snow apparently.

Everything is a toy for Leeloo, even her water. We were bringing them water during the ridiculous cold and blowing snow days since some of the drifts were taller than Juniper. 

Here is Leeloo enjoying her new toy – she loves this thing!

And bonus video from Jan 1 – 2023

Leeloo playing with something that is not a toy because Leeloo likes to play with everything. At one of our previous barns someone asked if they could let Leeloo and their horse run around in the arena unattended and I said no – this is why! 

There are more videos on our YouTube Channel. I’m going to try to upload a new video every Wednesday – we’ll see if that actually happens. I’m still using YouTube to post videos because as far as I know (and I don’t know much) they are one of the few platforms that actually make it pretty easy for content creators to get some share of the ad revenue and as I said above, that barn isn’t paying for itself, so I need every penny I can get!