Our first delivery of garden seeds arrived this week. I'm excited! I didn't know it at the time, but I was a part of the "green" movement since birth. There were no social programs promoting growing your own food where I come from. Growing plants on the farm to devour came from necessity, not a social conscience. If you wanted to make it through without rickets or scurvy, you needed to eat something that once was green.
There was a time when I wanted to be a game warden. Every boy who loved the outdoors as I did harbored some thought of making a living from working in the outdoors. Farm kids got plenty of exposure to working in the outdoors, but that wasn't the same kind of work we were looking for. We wanted to work with pheasants and quail and deer and rabbits. Somehow they were more entertaining than a Holstein. And, you didn't have to milk them twice a day! So, I applied for Iowa game warden school after I graduated from high school.
I didn't want to do this column. I've resisted even thinking about it. Sometimes it is good to just walk away from something. I felt this year was such a year. But, due to the extraordinary pressure exerted on me by my friends and enemies, I have succumbed to the pressure and have relented.
Dad didn't like it when the government agent brought the land measuring wheel out to our farm in 1957. I was sending text messages back and forth to one of my nephews last week. My nephew was updating me on the 2015 ringneck pheasant forecast for Iowa and South Dakota after our somewhat mild winter. He lamented that about the only place he could find pheasants last fall in that northwest corner of Iowa or the southeast corner of South Dakota was next to a gamebird farm. I agreed that was a sad state of affairs and told him what the pheasants really needed was more grass.
There was a time before dual fuel. A time before solar heating. A time before heat exchangers and ground water heating. It was called "the woods" time. Last week I was able to borrow my brother's portable wood splitter. As I unloaded this piece of equipment from my trailer, I was thinking of the year my wife and I built our house, 1978.
If you've grown up close to the soil as I have, you notice little things that lead you to believe the winter is really over. Oh, I know the old proverb up in the the upper Midwest, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch!" But that phrase rings hollow as the southerly winds waft in our faces and our driveways turn to mud and car wash cash registers ring. Speaking of driveways, some of us remember those days when we put saw horses at the end of our lane-ways to preserve our farmyards.
In about a week, I'm going to be dining on a dish that I wait for all year long. The repast has been thought of an ethnic dish, but hold on there pilgrim, it is not all you have been told it is. Yes, March 17 will see the green beer flowing from taps across the country. People dressed in garish green will parade down streets and across bridges with green water flowing in the river below. The lilt, "My Wild Irish Rose" will be sung in barrooms and drift out unto the streets of our fair cities.
You go from your house to your garage leaning into the wind with your ear-flappers pulled down. Your car battery barely provides enough "juice" to turn your pickup's starter. The road in front of you on your way to the coffee shop is full of hard-packed ice and you meet a snowplow that tosses salt into your radiator. It's that time of year. But, I say, cheer up, you upper Midwest landlubbers! I've got good news for you!
There weren't many "brew pubs" where I came from. The idea of brewing beer to make a living would have been foreign to us. We made our living from picking corn or harvesting wheat or combining oats. Things have changed. It seems today that the art of making beer has become a national phenomenon. Breweries are sprouting up where once people smashed whiskey stills with sledge hammers. There must be a new thought process in place. Now beer is being advertised not only for its social assets, but as a food supplement. Beer has always brought some people together.
We who live in the Northland feel a certain sympathy for our brothers and sisters in the Boston and New England area this winter. We know how it feels to experience a never-ending winter. We've been there. It's a good thing the pilgrims aren't landing on Plymouth Rock this winter. The winter we've experienced so far has paled in comparison to those winters most of the readers of this column remember.