content before flipA story about Gwen and W Hall by stories writer Sherry Bronson When you think you have reached the wilderness, go 30 miles beyond. On the banks of Lake Imagination (a mowed hay field bordered by northern deciduous woodlands just outside of Palisade, MN) Gwen and W Hall care for their 60 acres of paradise. In 1981, concerned with the impending water shortage in the southwest, they quit their jobs with the Southern Pacific Railroad, sold their home and headed north. they were "going back to the land," fully intending to purchase Gwen's family farm in the middle of, yes, nowhere, and earn their living by growing and selling food. Now, 30 years later, they are still there but for different reason. “We love it here!” Gwen’s face glows with health and happiness. W, born and raised in Tucson, echoes her sentiments. With the exception of a few luxuries, like coffee and bananas, they grow and preserve their own food. Meat and eggs come from cousin Jane’s farm about 4 miles down the road. Wheat is purchased from the Farm Service Coop. They grind the wheat into flour and bake their own whole wheat bread. In the greenhouse they start plants in late March extending the short Minnesota growing season by several months.The tomato bushes look like small trees.Mystified I asked., "W, why do you need so many tomatoes?” He looked at me with raised eyebrows and said one word, “Salsa!” He may live in Minnesota, but W’s salsa is wicked hot and most of the local Scandinavians simply wave a chip over the fumes and swear it still burns the tongue! Their home is a peaceful oasis in the midst of hundreds of acres of woods and prairie. The Hall’s are part of a loose-knit community of neighbors who tend to stop by unannounced for coffee and are always ready to help if something breaks. And speaking of neighbors, they are not what you may expect. Among them is a psychiatric nurse, a pipefitter, an aeronautical engineer, a research scientist with her PhD "and the families of farmers and loggers who have managed their land for generations," injects Gwen. Perhaps this is a blueprint for a sustainable future. But don't head for the wilderness. We can create community in our own city neighborhoods. Gwen emphasized the importance of community. “You have to get to know your neighbors. People working as a group can accomplish so much more than one person who tries to do it alone.” Extremely well-read and politically savvy, the couple has a no-nonsense approach to the issues. "Politics are local and so is your use of the planet." Says W. "Turn your yard into a vegetable garden, walk. bike, take the bus (if I walk to the farmers market I can afford to buy that extra canning jar) recycle, reuse etc etc. Big oil and big coal don't care. They have a strangle hold on the resources and the politics. Until there is a viable alternative nothing will get done. So we're back to localness. Write, call, sign the petitions, go to the demonstration protesting oil...don't use any getting there. Oh...and be secure in the knowledge that when the world goes dark you can eat that tomato in the front yard." Committed supporters of MN350, Gwen and W believe that Sept. 24th is our opportunity to show up locally and let our voices be heard. We will come together as a concerned community on the State Capitol grounds to let our lawmakers know that we mean business. They need to see that we aren’t just one person…that we are many and we want change.
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