On Monday, September 18, I had my last breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, and homemade apple cider at the Sliwas' organic farm near Decorah, Iowa. I enjoyed one last visit to the raspberry bushes to pick that wonderful delicacy before I got into the car to head to LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
Raspberries and tomatoes are foods that I will never take for granted again after my time at the Federal Prison Camp in Danbury, Connecticut. When I was picking up the litter on the prison grounds (I had given myself the title "Environmental Improvement Engineer" and told people that I had a "big government job" that paid... twelve cents an hour!), I had been caught a few times picking raspberries and was forced to "dump the contraband." Also, I helped out in the greenhouse and had brought some tomato seeds that I had taken from tomato slices that I had been served for lunch. The greenhouse crew and I dried those seeds and planted them and transplanted them... and they grew tall and produced many tomatoes.
So... I love raspberries and tomatoes!
But I digress. After enjoying my last visit to the raspberry bushes, I got into the car. David drove Perry-O to the co-op in Decorah so that she could do her volunteer job. He took me around Decorah so that I could take photographs. Then we left Decorah and headed to LaCrosse through a bit of Minnesota.
I asked David how he and Perry-O found their way to Iowa and how they made the choice to become organic farmers. David is originally from Massachusetts and Perry-O is originally from Michigan. David told me that his education is in entomology, which is the study of insects. So that would make him a bug doctor! He and Perry-O had dreamed of living on the land and they had researched places where they might like to fulfill that dream. Those places included parts of the northeast, the Pacific northwest, and the northern section of the Mississippi River. I asked David why he didn't consider a more southern climate. He said that they wanted to experience four seasons, including winter, and they decided that the south was not for them. They spent a brief amount of time in the upper Mississippi River area, but were unable to get employment so they headed back east. David said that he got a job on the entomology faculty at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He traveled around the state to tell people about insect populations. David said that, many years after leaving this job, he continues to have an interest in statistics and in preducting bug populations.
Not long after he started working at Cornell, he and Perry-O had an opportunity to move to Iowa to fulfill their dream of living on the land. He said that, then, they were young and idealistic and were willing to leave the benefits and the security of a full-time job.
More than thirty years after coming to Iowa to follow a dream, David said that he is happy with the choice that he and Perry-O made. He said that he has worked a variety of jobs in addition to taking care of the farm. Perry-O worked as head of the Learning Skills Center in Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, for a number of years. Also, until this year, David and Perry-O grew a garden of crops to be sold at market.
On our way to LaCrosse, we saw cows, horses, sheep, llamas, and a few bald eagles.
David left me at the Franciscan Spirituality Center. It belongs to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. I was introduced to Sister Arlene, who took me to lunch in the cafeteria where the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration eat. After lunch, Sister Virginia took me on a tour. The tour included the chapel, called the Mary of the Angels Chapel. I also saw the room where the sisters have perpetual adoration. That is where they got their name. Perpetual adoration has been going on nonstop since 1878. I saw the gift shop, where many of the sisters sell their arts and crafts. Also, I saw a series of paintings depcting the history of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, from their start as a group of immigrants from Bavaria to present times. They have worked in schools, orphanages, hospitals, and in foreign missions.
After the tour was completed, I went to my room and called my friend Mary. We made arrangements to go out for ice cream after dinner. In addition, Vickie came to clean my room. It was really something to watch her. She made the bed and cleaned the bathroom so fast that I suggested that she enter a contest! She is the first person whom I have ever met who made cleaning into a spectator sport.
After going to mass and then dinner, I went out with Mary for ice cream. It was just a few blocks from the Spirituality Center. We had yummy ice cream... I had cherry ice cream with bits of chocolate in it... and we chatted and shared stories. Mary told me that she has joined a network to work on disability rights issues. This is an area where much advocacy is needed, and Mary's research skills will be valuable.
I returned to the Spirituality Center and read for a while...
That was the end of my first day in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.