Let's talk about people.

Crop circle which says Attack Here and points at farmhouse
A scary crop circle…
You know a bit about Beth already, but you probably didn't know that she laughs more than any person I know and sings while she works. For the first few days we'd work through the day and then hang out in the evening or take walks down long, gravel country lanes with a billion stars (not quite a bazillion, though) overhead, that dim glow on the horizon which is the accumulated light of the world falling off the edge into the void, and high corn fields on either side. When cars would go by, we'd sneak off to the side of the road and use my maglight to make what we hoped were terrifying scenes of terror, though no cars have yet stopped or swerved off the road. Early this week she took a trip out to Wisconsin to visit her family, leaving my alone on the farm for several days. This was somwhat lonely, but I got a lot of work done, both for the farm and for myself.
One of the things I'm trying to do out here is to get work done on my senior theses for physics and philosophy. I've been pretty much all over Minnesota so far this summer, but I think I'm getting more work done here than anywhere else. I'm waking up at a reasonable hour, sleeping at a somewhat more reasonable hour than usual, eating three meals a day, getting outside and exercising myself, and still having goodly amounts of time to get writing done. I don't think I'd ever want to manage a farm of this size, especially the animal side of things, but working as part of one is a good time.Laptop with porch windows in background
The upstairs kitchenSteve owns the farm and, like Beth and I, lives above the store. He wears tie-dye shirts and has a bit of a hunch in his back, but is a good fellow. He used to be a gynecologist, but was jaded by the number of hysterectomies being recommended and performed in his hospital, and chastised for explaining charts to patients. Of course, quitting didn't stop the hysterectomies; in 02003, over 600,000 hysterectomies were performed in the US, of which greater than 90% were performed for benign conditions.1 He's owned the farm and general store since then and has several children younger children, older children, and children of older children living in the area.

He was also a Scout and a canoe guide. One of the first longer conversations we had was after he learned that I was studying both physics and philosophy. One of the unfortunate truths of life is that if you tell this to people, they always take it as a signal that they should begin telling you all of their wild ideas about physics, asking you questions about things that Nobel laureates are still puzzling about; asking you about obscure philosophers or "pop-philosophers" (they write those popular books with big questions on them that you see in bookstores). Both of my prime areas of study are big, which is why I work with them, but it also means that I know very little about them in the grand scheme of things. The side-effect of people asking questions about them is that everyone ends up looking either stupid or crazy, and you'd like to get back to talking about the weather.

But Steve's conversation moves past physics and philosophy, past paranoia about the government, and into a long talk about the evolution of and downfall of coops in southern Minnesota and Minneapolis. He speaks about corporate interests and term-dilution. He tells me how the term organic, originally representative of a sustainable relationship with the land and a sustainable economic relationship with the people, came to have a much narrower definition which left out the farmers and the people in favour of mass-producable organics. He tells me about how the Wedge coop in Minneapolis actively worked against the interests of other coops, how the number of coops shurnk from somewhere in the thirties just twenty years ago to maybe seven today. It's an educational talk and we don't go back the the former subject of what I work on.

The barnyard
The barnyard

Although I've become adept at feeding and caring for the animals in simple ways, it seems like every day they present a new way to confound me.

  • The goat won't leave the shed. Is it because it wants to stay in the shade? Because it's hurt? Because it's actually pregnant and about to give birth? Should I be rolling my sleeves up like James Harriot?
  • The horses are way out in the meadow. Does this mean they don't need to eat? Don't want to? If I whistle will they come? If I clap will they come? Am I breaking a routine?
  • There's only one llama, Steve took the other two to the county fair. Do I still feed it? How much do I feed it? I let the other animals out, how do I convince it to go in?
  • One of the mother goose's eggs hatched. Do I do something with the chick? Will it choke on the corn if I let it eat it? How do I herd the geese now that the mother and chick move so slowly?
  • The bloody yellow cat keeps swiping at my boots. How mean can I be to make it go away?
  • This item in the store isn't priced. Is the price on the other item Steve's? Is it the manufacturer's? What's a fair mark-up?

But I'm muddling through alright. A couple stopped into the store the other day and walked around, looking at everything. They picked up a magazine before they left, asking if it was free, and told me that "You don't see places like this much anymore." I asked them if they'd like to purchase anything and they said no. There are probably many reasons why little stores like this don't exist anymore (*cough*Walmart*cough*), but those people's attitude is certainly one of them.

Anyways, I need to go candle some eggs.

1I've uploaded several articles on this.
Hysterectomy in the United States, 01988–01990 provides raw information that useful for following up later to see the result of hysterectomies.
Hysterectomy in the United States, 01990–01997 shows little change in the rates and methods of hysterectomies, despite some the development of some new procedures.
Hysterectomy in the United States, 02003 compares different procedures' safety and hospital stays, concluding that the best option isn't always used.
The Time Magazine article "Are Hysterectomies Too Common? " covers dangers, side-effects, and percents of procedures that are "unnecessary".

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