Waseca County Pioneer 111 W. Elm Ave.

Waseca, MN (507) 837-6767


A privilege to write

I’ve mentioned before what a privilege it is to hear and write the stories shared with the Pioneer by the wonderful people of our communities.
This week there are a number of cases in point. Whitey Thompson of WET Signs and Murals is a good man with a big heart (Sorry, Whitey, your secret is out.). I felt truly blessed to be the conduit for sharing the story of his memorial paintings with the community. When it comes to drawing and painting, my skills are about kindergarten level, so I am always in awe of people who can transform a canvas into a carnival for the eyes.
But as much as I admire Whitey’s skill, the conversation I shared with him led me to a deeper appreciation of his spirit. Even he is not sure why he took the time to paint 70 portraits and then give them away, but he felt compelled to do it–gladly, and with a full heart.
Another conversation that brought me joy was with Jeanine Vorland, area wildlife manager with the Department of Natural Resources.  You’ll see the story in next week’s Pioneer, but I spoke with Jeanine this week about the wildfire that “devastated” Findley wildlife management area and Moonan Marsh. 
Jeanine recommended that, on the drive to interview her in her office at Rice Lake State Park, I have a look at Moonan Marsh along the way.
Last time I was there, the word “devastated” definitely seemed to apply: The vast areas of blackened territory spoke loudly of destruction and loss.
If, like me, you haven’t seen the area since March, you should take a drive. It’s a whole new place, coming to life in a way it would not have if there had not been a fire. As I said, watch for the story in next week’s edition.
I enjoyed my conversation with Jeanine the same way I appreciate talks with Chasity Marquette of Aspyn Acres Farm. Both are so knowledgeable about wildlife that I feel as if I’m learning something every ten seconds or so.
First, Jeanine informed me the indigenous Dakota people were farmers more than they were hunters. Then she told me they farmed in the forest. Next she said they regularly used “controlled burns” to keep the forest “understory” clear. (In Jeanine’s case, I not only learn new information, I learn new vocabulary.)
She informed me that, in the same way peas thrive in the cooler temperatures at the start of the year and beans prefer the hot weather of summer, the soil at Findley and Moonan has roots or seeds for “cool weather” and “warm weather” plants. Removing the “litter” left from previous years’ grass growth has made some adjustments to the ecosystem of the two marshy areas, giving the cool weather plants an advantage for the next 4 years or so.
One trouble with being a “conduit” for information is that a whole, fascinating conversation must be condensed and summarized so as to deliver the most significant information in a way the reader can follow. Things learned during the little side conversations never get into the finished piece. That’s just how things go–but therein lies part of the “privilege” for the reporter. I learned more than there’s room to share.
In our discussion about how fires affect an ecosystem, Jeanine offered the example of a controlled burn carried out in Rice Lake State Park. She mentioned how some “cool weather” flowers were thriving because the leaf litter had been removed and its nutrients added to the soil. Well, of course you know what I had to do then. After our conversation wound down, I headed into the woods. Sure enough, there those flowers were, thriving. Yet another privilege. 
Remembering my role as a conduit, I’m including a photo here–along with the idea that you might consider having a look at some aspect of nature before spring has ended and summer has changed everything. No sense letting the reporter have all the fun.


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