The Cheapskate Intellectual

A journey through matters of spirit, sustainability, and self-reliance

To autumn.

“How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking – chaste weather – Dian skies.” – John Keats, Sept. 1819 In autumn the world is tipped between flower and seed, between glorious life and the turning of that life back into the soil, into sleep, into waiting. Klondike cosmos folds into itself […]

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In the country of frac-sand mining.

Yesterday, I took an all-day bus tour (sponsored by and including many Allamakee County Protectors) to see frac-sand mining up close in Trempeleau and Chippewa Counties, Wisconsin.  In our group were filmmakers, writers, lawyers, water-quality specialists, Winneshiek County Protectors, journalists, farmers, geologists, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, a long-distance hiker, and ordinary citizens from […]

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Cleaning out, again; or, my first yard sale.

As I have written here, getting rid of stuff you aren’t using anymore feels pretty damn good, for so many reasons.  There’s the knowledge you’ve freed up space (and money) for more mindful choices about what comes into the house in the first place from now on, and you have reminded yourself to make that […]

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Resilience.

Nine o’clock after my evening writing class in the community arts center and I’m coasting on my bike through the river bottoms, on my way home.  Not a sound but tire-slurp in mud, animals, birds.  Mist rises from the water.  A rustle in the grass becomes a garter snake, a long stripe with a darker […]

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MOOCs in Citizenville.

What happens when you use technology to “serve people” by taking people and their physical presence in particular places – and thus their sense of responsibility and relationship to one another and to that place – out of the picture entirely?  One result is MOOCs, or “Massively Open Online Courses,” packages of videotaped lectures and […]

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Evanescence on a plate: spring pasta.

The raw ingredients of a simple, overwhelmingly delicious and seasonal spring dinner last week: asparagus, morel mushrooms, and ramps (or wild leeks, which have a delicate, indescribably oniony taste), with perhaps a few cherry tomatoes in for color.  Chop and sautee them in butter, lemon juice, and white wine (or verjus blanc), then spoon over […]

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The patient gardener? Labor and humility.

I spent the middle of May — just after classes ended, even before turning in my grades — in a fever of garden work, reclaiming a quackgrass-infested lily bed and moving and spreading a giant pile of mulch and constructing a long-dreamed-of raised bed by hand.  All of this I did by myself, in one […]

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Essentializing the animal: owls, war horses, and poetry.

Coming out of my office late this afternoon, I spotted a barred owl up in a tree outside the building, hunched against the trunk, squinching his eyes against the light and stoically standing off a pair of crows who were hassling him. I got concerned, especially when he was still there at dark a couple […]

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