Tuesday, June 29, 2010
another gorgeous day in Windom – quite warm in the sun but very pleasant in the
Today our theme -- as we work our way through Genesis 1 -- was plants. Although a variety of scheduling changes along the way haven’t always kept themes strictly within the day, today's activities fit together quite well. We finished our morning devotion around a 100-year-old cottonwood tree on the property here.
We started out at the local offices of the Cottonwood Soil and Water Conservation District. An educator there told us a bit about their work with local landowners and farmers, including planting 600,000 trees in the last 20 years. He then led us through a very engaging presentation and game about trees. We learned about everything from rainforest biodiversity to the emerald ash borer. For the record, in the trivia game the 17-and-over half of the group triumphed over the youngsters.
It was a
little ironic that the focus was on trees, because we are, after all, on the
prairie here. Except for areas that stayed cool and moist, and therefore were protected from fire, there weren’t many trees in this area before farmers began to settle here. This is the “outer
coteau” of the tall grass prairie that extends west into
We spent the lunch hour at a lake park in Windom, playing volleyball, swimming and enjoying some pizza. For the record, the winning volleyball team was always the one that was not facing into the sun (no matter what Andrew says).
After lunch we visited the Windom Wetland Management District, a waterfowl refuge which is part of the national network of wildlife refuges. Besides seeing lots of wildflowers and a pair of trumpeter swans (!), we heard about the work of the Youth Conversation Corps and more about the various agencies that are responsible for conserving our natural resources. Again, we had conversation about trees here, because the waterfowl folks do controlled burns and remove trees from waterfowl areas. For them, trees are perches and habitat for predators that can wipe out a nest of ducks or turtles in a night.
Our host also gave us an interesting window into the work of conservation folk. Before coming
to wetland restoration, he was a game warden in
Back at Shalom Hill we finally had what I would call a "real" rural Minnesota dinner: Tater-tot casserole, dinner rolls and red jello with bananas.
Our evening program was viewing “King Corn,” a documentary about the ways in which corn so dominates our agricultural scene and food industry, to the detriment of the soil and our bodies. Around here, it’s all corn and beans, and it’s very clear that it’s hard for anyone who wants to make a living farming crops to grow anything else. This led to some intense discussion among all of us about what can be done with such an enormously dysfunctional system. Pastor Mark, the director here, was helpful in pointing out that small changes do make a difference, and that our very presence here this week is part of that change.
We're going to bed early tonight: tomorrow morning is milking time!