Tag Archives: North Dakota

Hops Harvest

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Hoisting hops.

Over the Labor Day holiday, Molly and Me took a short road trip to the Ostlie Hops Farm in Foster County, North Dakota. The Ostlie crew had several hands on deck to harvest the mature hops. A couple guys from the Fargo Brewing Company were also harvesting. We learned that Fargo Brewing would brew with the hops being harvested that day. Keep an eye out for “Super Green” from Fargo Brewing.

This was the first time I harvested hops. It was great. And we learned a bit.

A drip irrigation system is a good idea. And so is planting prairie perennials in between the vine rows. I can’t remember who said it, but we heard that bees were nearby. North Dakota is one of the (if not thee) greatest bee commonwealths in the union. The bees are the pollinators between the prairie perennials and the hops vines.

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Mature hops vines suspended with a system of cables and poles

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Prairie perennials for the pollinators in between the hops vine rows 


Post Maah Daah Hey 2016

Yesterday I helped a friend with the supply and gear during his 107-mile jaunt through the badlands of western North Dakota, on the increasingly famous Maah Daah Hey trail. It’s adventure recreational tourism, or even extreme adventure recreation. Bicyclists convene at the northern portion of the Maah Daah Hey trail head on a Thursday and Friday (taking up lodging at the Roosevelt Inn or campsites at the CCC or the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park), and prepare for an early Saturday morning rise to begin the ride.

I started situating this whole activity in the context of the world, and came to the agreement with the friend I was helping that this indeed is a 1st world activity. By that we meant that adventurers who partake in this extreme recreation have the resources to pay the admission fee and train and then take vacation to expend calories — a lot — to complete a 100+ mile mountain bike jaunt through rugged terrain during one of the hottest times of the northern Plains year. Compare that with, say, a country where inhabitants could live, perhaps, an entire year from the cost of admission. Or, when inhabitants of this other country expend calories, it’s toward agriculture, or raising and growing commodities — stuff that will continue to sustain life.

We then started recognizing this, and affirming the goodness of the race, since it was indeed that, and noting that it provided healthy outlets for hundreds of athletes to explore and push their bodies and minds to different stages of exhaustion. This is one of those common and collective experiences. We agreed that the Maah Daah Hey was a good idea. The views during this entire race were extraordinary. And it was fun in the morning to hear the Theodore Roosevelt re-inactor address the bicyclists. The TR actor recited the famous Man in the Arena, and told the bicyclists to continue to do good deeds and think good thoughts. This is simple yet powerful medicine. I enjoyed it.


Maah Daah Hey 100: Supply and Gear

A couple weeks ago a friend, Tayo, texted and asked if I would be his supply line for the Maah Daah Hey 100+ this coming Saturday, August 6, 2016. His original text read, “Do you have any interest in spending a night in the badlands and being my support vehicle for the Maah Daah Hey 100 bike race the first weekend in August?” I asked about exact dates. And then checked with the calendar. And then quickly talked myself into doing this after chatting a bit about it with my wife (she was enthusiastic too).

The trail name, Maah Daah Hey, is from a local language, the Mandan people. The trail name translates into something along the lines of an area that has been or will be around for a long time. I know this because I Google’d it. But there is likely a ton more nuance to the phrase than is captured by this one, Google’d definition.

So what does one need before doing the entire supply and gear (SAG for short) for a comrade and friend? It first requires time to think about what to bring and how to prepare. The Maah Daah Hey association has built up an impressive road map and guide for both riders and the SAG support vehicles. While the rider zips through an impossible and marked course in the rugged badlands of western North Dakota, the SAG vehicles zip around on the scoria/klinker covered roads to meet their riders at the next check point. I was reading that just a bit ago and decided to blog these thoughts.

Before all this, though, Tayo and I spent the last week hypothesizing how we might locate or bum an appropriate SAG vehicle. Even a modest weekend outing in western North Dakota requires a bit of gear. And something that requires gear requires the proper vehicle to haul that gear. The last time I did something recreational like this was with Adventure Science, the 100 Miles of Wild: North Dakota Badlands Transect. In this 2013 outing, I helped the team with supply and gear. It was during the late winter or early spring. With the snow thawing, it turned the badlands silt into super slick mud during the day and afternoons. Then, at night, it would refreeze. And the process would repeat itself. It’s been doing this for a long time. Which, when thinking about it, makes the Mandan description applied to this place all the more fitting. It’s the first week of August, though, so we don’t need to concern ourselves with the thaw and slick mud. I checked the weather forecast, and it said no rain too.

I touched base with a friend who has a huge pick up truck (but small by Bakken Oilfield standards). He said go ahead and use it over the weekend. So this evening my wife and I picked it up and drove it over to Tayo’s to load most of his gear. It’s now parked. And I’m taking this blogging break from laying out my own gear. I still have to toss a couple changes of cloths into a backpack.

I want to continue narrating this and uploading it eventually to this blog. I won’t be hooked up to internet. So I’ll type out updates on Microsoft Word and later upload them. That’s the ambition. It’ll provide Tayo and I with a bit of future history and memory. Tayo will be way too focused on the ride. So again, this little log will be quite a bit of fun.


Washington, DC and Dakota Territory: Then and Now

US Dakota WarsA Washington, D.C.-Minnesota and Dakota Territory historical note: the US Capitol cast iron dome approached final construction at the same time that the US-Dakota Wars unfolded in Minnesota and Dakota Territory from 1862-1864. On December 2, 1865, the “Statue of Freedom” was placed on top of the US Capitol dome. To bring this into the present, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (SNMAI) has a Dakota-US War of 1862 exhibit up through December 29, 2015. This is a bulletin that speaks to that outside of the SNMAI’s entrance. The US Capitol’s cast iron dome in the distance is undergoing a much needed preservation/rehabilitation update. Here in the Dakotas, we are undergoing a much needed reappraisal of the US-Dakota Wars.


The Latest Theodore Roosevelt Scholarship

I’m sitting here with a couple fresh biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, getting a little downtime around the 10:04PM hour. To my right is Edward P. Kohn, Heir to the Empire City: New York and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt (Basic Books, 2014) and Paul Grondahl, I Rose Like a Rocket: The Political Education of Theodore Roosevelt (Free Press, 2004). Being from North Dakota, these are nourishing reads since, naturally, North Dakota has claimed Theodore Roosevelt because Theodore Roosevelt claimed North Dakota.

They are nourishing reads because Kohn’s central idea challenges traditional TR scholarship (a Great White Battleship’s worth) which accepts TR’s ideas about himself as being a cowboy and American westerner. Kohn says no. He says TR was a New Yorker through and through. Kohn opens the introduction by saying, “Theodore Roosevelt’s path to the White House may have gone through the West, but it did not start there.” This is true.

Grondahl’s work situates TR as a young man in his freshman year with the New York State Legislature. In 1882, TR entered the assembly chamber in Albany, New York. In the second paragraph of the prelude, “Practical Politics,” he sets the stage for the reader, at least what TR was facing, using the present tense for added reality and to situate the reader in 1882:

“The atmosphere in Albany during the legislative session is part carnival, part college fraternity. Some of the city’s denizens are just passing through, looking to ride along on the political parade for a while. Others arrive full of idealism and a burning desire to make meaningful change. A few seem perplexed to be elected public officials in the state’s capital, as if they had awoken from a Rip van Winkle-like slumber to find themselves holding a seat in the Assembly or Senate. It’s a dream job for some, a nightmare for others. Many build their reputations here. A few sacrifice their respectability on the alter of politics, learning the rules only to abuse them. The Legislature is a closed system, a kind of political union shop. The principles of prep school secret societies guide its old boys’ network, clubby familiarity, oaths of loyalty, and rituals of initiation.” 

This is what TR faced when he caught wind of the plans of “Big John” McManus, one of Tammany Hall’s “persuaders.” McManus wanted to haze TR by tossing him in a blanket. TR, though, having fought his childhood through asthma and monetary privilege, made a bee-line for McManus and, flat out, said to him, “By God! McManus, I hear you are going to toss me in a blanket. By God! If you try anything like that, I’ll kick you, I’ll bite you, I’ll kick you in the balls. I’ll do anything to you — you’d better leave me alone.” This method, later popularized by Rooster Cogburn, worked.

While I’m only in the introductions to both, I don’t see the biographies by Grondahl and Kohn challenging the traditional TR scholarship so much as they do to humanize TR. Life is about change, and it is about evolving as human beings, and as circumstances warrant and dictate. It’s important to remember that, lest we think of historical actors as monolithic (a fancy way of saying 1 dimensional).


Northern Great Plains Cowboy Poetry: Shadd Piehl

Shadd PiehlWestern Americana persists and thrives on the northern Great Plains. A photo of a poem from cowboy poet Shadd Piehl, this commissioned by the Hotel Donaldson, Fargo. Shadd is a good friend.

The Bohemian pulse runs thick in the Piehl DNA (see here for detail). Some days I know we’re living out a long extension of a Willa Cather My Ántonia novel here in the 21st century. We’re sitting in the saddle of the 49th parallel on the northern Great Plains, North America.


Looking Minnesota, Feeling North Dakota: Time in California

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Muir Woods, California.

Before we spill into the new year of 2015, I thought I’d get in one more running blog post. At least to set down a cross section of what happened in the last week. Molly and I originated in Bismarck, drove to Valley City and picked up Mira and Matthew, and then headed to Minneapolis. We overnighted at JB and Kris McLain’s, and then flew out of MSP to SFO, San Francisco. (Note: JB McLain is one of the horn players for Brass Messengers in Minneapolis, and you need to get a CD if you haven’t already).

Once landed in SFO, we picked up our car rental and headed up to Mill Valley. We stayed with and were hosted by Molly’s aunt and uncle, Barry and Mary. They are more than gracious. We rang in Hanukkah with Barry and Mary and family and company. It was also a time of reflection and memorial and remembrance. The first and last time I hung out with Barry and Mary was under sad and sober circumstances last February, at the funeral of Harley McLain. Harley and I only knew each other for a couple years. We had many more ahead of us. This is why I always love to hear from Harley’s siblings, as it adds for me more and more of who he was.

In Mill Valley, we had the privilege of visiting Muir Woods, California (the state which, when unpacked, means good [“cali” in Greek] growing/fornicating). While sauntering through Muir woods, I couldn’t help but think of John Muir’s friendship with Theodore Roosevelt, and how Teddy sought refuge in the Badlands of western Dakota Territory (North Dakota) after his mom and wife died on the same day.

Historical aside: Teddy retreated from New York City to the Elkhorn Ranch in the 1880s to reconsider and reflect on what was essential. Years later, he developed a friendship with Muir. In 1906, a couple years after he became the president of the United States (McKinley was assassinated and, since Teddy was VP, he took over), Teddy and Congress passed the Antiquities Act. It was and still is huge: Theodore used this act to designate Bear’s Lodge (or “Devil’s Tower”) as a national monument. Numerous other national parks and sites were created with this act.

A mosaic at a rest stop on I-94 in Minnesota. Redwood boots bottom of photo.

A mosaic at a rest stop on I-94 in Minnesota. Redwing (MN) boots bottom of photo.

As for the redwoods, these trees fascinate. One redwood is a clone of many redwoods. The DNA of a redwood growing today is that of the redwood it cloned itself after. So the DNA of a redwood today is the same as the redwood it descended (or ascended, since it’s a redwood) from 8,000+ years ago. A redwood forest is living and ancient, all at once. The smells of the forest are damp and piny. The majority of the time you can hear running water from the creeks and streams.

Beyond the woods, our group found fresh shucked oysters on the half shell at Bungalow 44 in Mill Valley on Christmas Eve. If you can make it to Bungalow 44 during happy hour, and on a non-holiday, they will serve you these for $1/oyster. It was a holiday when we visited. So we ordered 1/3 of our regular intake, and made sure to enjoy them 3x as much (whatever that means — I am set on returning to these places for $1/oysters).

There was much celebrating and feasting over the holiday. We returned to MSP, picked up our vehicle (I had it stashed at my Uncle Jim’s), and hauled back to North Dakota. Now we await the New Year here in Bismarck.