Gray Christmas, Continued

Yesterday I posted a blog titled, Gray Christmas, which focused on the windblown dirt particles that were deposited after the big blizzard. Many of my friends responded with photographs of their own from all over the West Central area of the Minnesota Prairie. From the roadsides to their places in towns. Some wrote to say they’ve never witnessed a worse snirt storm … that combination of snow and dirt … in their memory.

We each have our individual experiences, and I can date back to being so fed up with such poor care of precious farm land back in 2014 that I made a series of photographs that became my “Art of Erosion” series that was exhibited at numerous venues and was part of a traveling Smithsonian water exhibit.

Not much has changed since, and every winter since I could have replicated the photographs from six winters ago. Then on Christmas day Mary and I took the dogs for a stroll through our prairie, then later the woodlot, and there was hardly a square meter of clean snow. It was gray from wind blown soil from somewhere. This led to my blog on Gray Christmas, and since readers from all over the prairie had sent pictures they’ve taken. So far we have images from Big Stone, Chippewa, Stevens, Kandiyohi, Pope, Renville, Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine and Lyon Counties. Photos were taken along roadsides as well as in towns, and includes what was previously a white kitten!

Although I’ve included some of the original photos, here is a more complete gallery:

From a farm site in Kandiyohi County, a white cat dirtied by blown dirt … dirtied snow is visible behind the cat.
While we’re in Kandiyohi County, a yard and highway shoulder smothered in snirt.
A Stevens County organic farm may have barely been spared a wind-blown compromise, for the dirt may possibly be contaminated by pesticides and other farm chemicals that would have ruined the farm’s certification.
A fenced pasture on the right side of the fence line and the Pomme De Terre River below are inundated with blown dirt in Stevens County just a few miles south of Morris.
It was hardly surprising that a recently converted glacial moraine to cropland in Pope County exhibited the affects of blown dirt.
A roadside view from a car window in Chippewa County …
A farm site where the buildings and piled snow were covered with snirt …
Stairs of a Clara City home is covered with dirt ..
This lawn of a rural Clara City organic farmer, with no tilled acreage, is literally covered in snirt …
In Renville County …
An in-town window in Olivia …
A roadside near Dawson in Lac qui Parle County …
A country lawn west of Clarkfield in Yellow Medicine County …
And, from Lyon County near Ghent …
A front porch seating area on a farm near Murdock in Swift County …
Shadows and snirt from our prairie here on Listening Stones Farm in Big Stone County.

There are many more, but perhaps the point is made. Poor farming practices throughout the prairie region leave soils susceptible to being blown … land that is laid bare by tillage practices in late October and November, and left bare until spring planting some seven to nine months later. What’s to go wrong?

As one of the correspondents, Tom Kalahar, a retired technician for the Soil and Water Conservation Service, wrote, “So much for a white Christmas in corn country. $50 billion the last few years in farm subsidies should buy us a better environment. Hard to support an industry that seems not to care enough to protect our soil and water.”

That about sums it up.

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

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