You do not have to be good.

a poem about geese, and life. and photos of not-geese, and life.

started seeds, 2008

started seeds, 2008

tufts sunset, 2011

tufts sunset, 2011

tomato, iowa, 2011

tomato, iowa, 2011

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
–Mary Oliver, Dream Work

[from this heartbreaking and soul-warming post on motherhood and depression]

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Close your eyes and take heart

“The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity.”
-Thoreau, Walden

north central Iowa (July 2011)

north central Iowa (July 2011)

“My heroes are the people who do manage to climb out, whose hearts are beating out of their chests, who sometimes can barely take a breath they are so afraid, and still, every day, they climb out and make their own path. Are these not the truly blessed people of the world? If you are out there and reading this, close your eyes and take heart.  Do not cry for your life, as you are radiant. The wind will come and fetch you, and carry you home and the angels will sing to you along the way.”
-Jon Katz, “The Authentic Life: How Deep the Ruts of Tradition,”, 19 January 2012.

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Thoughts and readings on “privilege”

Some friends and I had a really good discussion about privilege after rehearsal this week, and I had some follow up thoughts that I wasn’t able to articulate in the moment. Lo and behold, that seems to be a topic in many of the articles open on my computer today, either the main one or a prominent underlying theme. I started this post as an email to someone in particular, but in keeping with the theme of spreading the good news of the internet, here it is for all to read.
[caveat: I’m still figuring out the ways in which I do and don’t experience privilege in this world, and I hope that writing my thoughts down and sharing them with others will help us all out. If I’ve missed some of my own privilege that’s obvious to ya’ll in my words and phrases, accept my apology–and let me know.]

To people who are denied it in some way, privilege means something very different and more obvious than to people who’ve never experienced the lack of it. I’m not sure I can explain it clearly, but I think privilege is not necessarily whether we are officially allowed to do certain things or whether there are roadblocks in the way of the path a person wants to take through life. Often, it’s somehow a bit more hidden than that. To take one example from the multitude of options, one of the privileges of being straight in our society is that you fit in with all the assumptions about sexuality and family structure that are, if not explicitly pointed out as the “right” way to be, often the only example given. You never have to clarify to anyone else that you’re not quite “normal,” and you never have to grapple with the internal struggle of being “not normal!” When I was a VISTA, my organization did a cultural competency training program and I was struck for the first time by just how much ‘normalcy’ you can casually establish in conversations or social situations by mentioning a husband or wife as opposed to a partner or some other gender-neutral or clearly-not-hetero term.
Continue reading

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Spreading the good news of the internet [aka what I’m reading lately]

I read many things on the interwebs, and want to capture my thoughts/share some of them. My roommate calls me a Messiah of the internet. What kind of Messiah would I be if I kept all the ‘good news’ (ha!) to myself? So here goes…

I always forget how good Graphic Sociology is…I used to check in frequently when I was reading Sociological Images allll the time; hopefully I’ll keep up with the GS posts now that my coursework involves maps and (graphic) data presentation. In looking for posts about maps, I found this one: (You can see more at his website, but there isn’t a direct link. From, choose: projects; food; animal/vegetable.) I like being able to see the distribution of ag value across the US. However, his conclusions seem pretty knee-jerk: the current crop distribution wouldn’t support an entirely local diet for any city, so we can’t do it. I’m pretty confident we can make changes to the food system (both what crops are grown where and the infrastructure to harvest, process, and move those crops around) that will make more local eating possible in more places. And I don’t know too many local food system activists who are saying that it has to be all or nothing. (Though maybe that’s a product of hanging out with planning foodies, not radical back-to-the-land foodies.) At any rate, the maps are a fun, new way to look at some information we already knew (though the overlapping colors are problematic, as Laura Noren points out at Graphic Sociology), and some of Rankin’s other projects look good. Like this Boston review article on what “inner-city” really means. As I was discussing with a classmate this week, shorthand can be really infuriating and confusing.

This is absolutely heartbreaking:

I really, really want to write off David Brooks as someone I never agree with, but sometimes he writes good things. Here he attributes the vagueness and ineffectiveness of current protests with our (generational?) desire to strike out against what we know, without a new framework for understanding the world. I don’t like the idea that we need to always rely on previous models to shape current movements (is there really nothing new under the sun?), but I understand his point: it’s exhausting and overwhelming (for individuals and/or fledgling movements) to create a new way of understanding the world on their own. Simply saying “no” to the dominant and accepted models is hard enough, but leaping from the known into the truly unknown, with no guideposts or alternative structure, adds up to feeling lost and confused and, in the case of revolution-like movements, sputtering out.

Finally, my homeland is all over the news as the best superbowl host ever (a big admission from a Baltimore sportswriter, and others), and [45 lucky members of] the Indianapolis Children’s Choir will perform the national anthem with Kelly Clarkson. And I thought singing in the Indy 500 parade was a big deal…

And now it’s time for an exciting Friday night of cleaning, Agroecology reading, researching food marketing regulations and rehearsing Wicked music. [If you’re interested in making your weekend more awesome, let me know and I’ll send you details for what will undoubtedly be the best living-room-production of Wicked ever.]


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Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole
[adapted from]
Prep Time:
30 Minutes
Cook Time:
1 Hour 30 Minutes
Ready In:
2 Hours

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 18 (6 inch) corn tortillas, torn in half
  • 1 (28 ounce) can green chile enchilada sauce
  • 1 (16 ounce) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) container reduced fat sour cream
  • red and green bell peppers
  • red and white onions
  • tomatoes
  • garlic salt and/or fresh garlic
  • 4oz can of salsa verde and/or green chilis
  • extra ½ cup cheese for final bake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a medium baking dish.

2. Season chicken with garlic salt (or add garlic cloves). Arrange in the prepared baking dish. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until no longer pink and juices run clear. Cool, shred, and set aside.

3. Sautee red and green bell pepper, white and red onion and fresh garlic; add fresh cilantro and chopped tomatoes.

4. Mix veggies with chicken and add sour cream. (For more spice, add 4oz salsa verde and/or 1 small can green chilis.)

5. With metal tongs, char each tortilla half over the open flame of a gas stove burner for about 1 minute, until lightly puffed.

6. Pour about 1/2 inch enchilada sauce in the bottom of a medium baking dish, and arrange 6 tortillas in a single layer. Top with 1/2 the chicken/sour cream mixture, 1/3 cheese, and 1/3 of the remaining enchilada sauce. Repeat. Coat remaining tortillas thoroughly with remaining enchilada sauce, and arrange on top of the layers. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, and top with any remaining enchilada sauce

7. Cover, and bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool slightly before serving.

8. Optional: add additional ½ cup of cheese and cook an extra 30 minutes for cheese to bubble and brown.


NOTES: I had to use cheddar for half of the cheese because shaw’s sold me a bag yesterday that expired in mid-August. I didn’t notice the date at the store, but I did notice the big hunks of green mold today. Normally cheddar is my favorite, but it doesn’t melt quite right for this recipe. Also I added chives on the top…frost is coming soon, so I have to use up the herbs I have now before they all die. Finally, I know I’m an inefficient cook, but this recipe takes forever, or at least longer than the it says up top.


  • 1/2” enchilada sauce
  • 6 tortillas
  • ½ chicken/sour cream
  • 1/3 cheese
  • 1/3 remaining enchilada sauce
  • 6 tortillas
  • ½ chicken/sour cream
  • 1/3 cheese
  • 1/3 remaining enchilada sauce
  • tortillas coated in enchilada sauce


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Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies

At the Ames farmer’s market a couple weeks ago, I bought the world’s largest zucchini for only $1! It’s in the middle of the picture below, along with all the other produce I bought at the market, Wheatsfield Coop, and HyVee.

I grilled up some slices with other veggies (pictures and recipes to come), but still had a ton leftover. So this weekend (aka Sunday night at 9pm) I decided to make zucchini chocolate chip cookies with a recipe from my mom. You can chop up the zucchini however you want–if you don’t have little (or big) kids to hide the green stuff from, big pieces are okay.

Nellie’s Grandma’s Zucchini Cookies

¾ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups grated zucchini
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ cup almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)
6 oz. chocolate chips
Powdered sugar  (optional)

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla;  stir in zucchini.  Stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Add almonds and chocolate chips.  Drop by heaping teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees. 15 minues or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.  Sift Powdered sugar over cookies.  Yield 4 to 5 dozen.

I didn’t have my camera around during the baking process, but here’s a shot of the end product. I made the mistake of bringing a bunch with me to work for a snack throughout the week…I’ve eaten 2 already and it’s not yet lunchtime on Monday. Good thing there are lots more waiting at home! 🙂

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Life in Ames

So far this summer I’ve failed spectacularly at getting the photos from my camera/computer and the captions and posts in my head onto the interwebs in a timely fashion. My goal is to do better on that for my last month in Iowa, so I’ll start with some various shots from in and around Ames. Up next will be posts about some field days I’ve attended at farms around Iowa, a roadtrip through the eastern half of the state with my boss for some interviews and a farm to school conference, and my love of having fresh veggies and a grill right outside the back door. Soon, I promise!

Three quick notes: 1. Most of you probably saw this via facebook or gchat, but I’m sort of famous! (Hey, if I can’t brag on my own blog, this thing is kind of useless.) Earlier this summer, my final paper from Regional Planning was posted on the UEP blog as an example of student work. It’s still there, if you want to check it out and read my ramblings on how Northeast Ohio could improve their planning process, and actually address issues of food and agriculture in their comprehensive plan.
2. I can’t really take credit for the name of this blog. It comes from the (former?) tagline of Indiana Beach, a small amusement park at “beautiful Lake Shafer in Monticello, Indiana: Proving once again, there’s more than corn in Indiana!” I’ve searched for commercials that include the I. B. Crow mascot saying the line, but you’ll just have to believe that that’s how I hear it in my head.
3. The new header photo for the site is one I took on my drive home from a field day in Boone (just west of Ames). I borrowed the Leopold Center’s nice camera for the event, and managed to capture a bit of the huge sun and intense sunset. (Not all of the photos on here are of such a high quality, but you can click on all of them to see bigger, more detailed images.)

So, my life. Ames is cute and fun little town. Sort of like Granville, but on a bigger scale, and, you know, with more than one bar. In the old downtown area (as opposed to campus town), on Thursday nights most shops stay open “late” (8 or 9pm instead of 6) and there are musicians performing and such. My first week in town I saw the Ames Euphonium Choir performing on Main Street.

I’m renting a room in a 3-bedroom apartment, we have the right side of the duplex:

They're not in this picture, but Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Mrs Rabbit, and all of Peter Rabbit's family live in our yard/under our front porch.

We share this great backyard that includes a compost pile, a bonfire pit, and a deck with grills and a glider.

My roommates are pretty awesome, and they have a habit of making baked goods and leaving them out for everyone to enjoy, like oreo truffle delicious-ness and pumpkin cookies:

One of my roommates has a dog, Zoe, who’s incredibly energetic and affectionate. She likes to be as close to me (and just people in general), even when my lap is already occupied by my laptop.

So when I’m not at home (aka most of the week), I’m generally at the Leopold Center on campus; we’re on the 2nd floor of this building, Curtiss Hall.

I’ve found that the ledge in front of the right pillar is a pretty good place to sit and eat lunch or do work that doesn’t require a computer. We’ve had quite a heat wave lately, but getting outside for a few is usually a welcome change from the super-powered a/c in our office.

So campus is really big and pretty:

Thunderstorms in the midwest are amazing--these clouds are just the leftovers.

As I was biking across campus, I heard voices and couldn't figure out who they belonged to, until I realized there were kids hanging out near the top of this tree...until security came over and told them to get down.

Be-still my beating heart, this beautiful place also has my favorite creature of all time: HORSES! (sorry Lucy, Nikki, Bella, and other canine friends. No offense.)

This mare was the first to head over to me, in the hopes that I'd feed her some grass from my side of the fence. A few other mares and their foals followed soon after.

This guy has an area to himself and doesn't seem super healthy or happy. His method of stress relief appears to be gnawing on the top of the fence.

I found this group on my way along the bike path from campus into downtown Ames.

And that’s all for now–in the words (internet-speak?) of Tigger, “ttfn! ta ta for now!”


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