Email from Carol/Mom:

Dear Benjamin,

It was so great to see you and Mel last weekend. I can’t believe how tan you’ve gotten. Have you ever heard of sunscreen? I went online and ordered you a very big sun hat. It should come this week. Very stylish. Wear it. I was pleased with how proud you and Mel were to show me all the work you have done. My favorite part was when you showed me the compost pile that you turned using the front end loader of the tractor. …

Text messages (Printed out):

(From Peter/grandpa)

Carol — Eloise and I are in the truck. We are driving in along the route he would take if he were to try to ride his bike out here. It is only 70 miles. He might be pig-headed enough to try it.

(From Carol/mom)

Okay. I’ve got Mel and we are driving around the neighborhood. We are going to check the library, the park, and the coffee shop. Keep me posted.

P: We’ve got him! He had made it fifty miles and is tired and a little sunburned but otherwise fine. …

Pen on paper — delivered through regular mail:

Dear Grandpa Peter,

Surprise! A real letter! Today Mom took away my cell phone and my laptop. She said that she couldn’t tell when I was working on anything for school, with my face in a screen all the time. I told her that there is no way I can work on anything without my phone and my laptop. She just crossed her arms like she does. She doesn’t understand. She said I could just open a book and learn the old fashioned way. Aargh! I was so mad. She can’t see…

A Note from Benjamin:

Dear Reader,

What you have in front of you is a collection of letters and other correspondence from the fateful year when everything changed and the climate crisis reached a tipping point. My mom, Carol, helped a lot because she kept everything in a big scrapbook. Thanks, Mom! She even printed out text messages. I thought it was weird at the time. She could see what I couldn’t see because I was right in the middle of it. We were in a historic time. …

Hint: it is not a coincidence

Photo of broccoli, cabbage, and kale plants on the farm where I work as a teacher/farm manager.

I am a white person living in rural Wisconsin. Someday I would like to buy farmland in a place near water, grow fruit trees and vegetable crops, build or buy a house, and retire living the good life. There are no barriers in Wisconsin that I know of to owning farmland, except me having enough money and there being a willing seller. It will be hard to save for it, but I could do it. On the surface this doesn’t seem like a racially biased system. …

Will the Real John Henry Christian Lovekamp Please Stand Up?

Click. Click. Click. That is how I add people to my family tree. I use one of the well-known genealogy research sites, and they make it very easy to add people. At this point, I have a tree with over 13,000 individual people, which includes my direct lineage and also connected extended trees for many people who are relatives.

Sometimes I make mistakes when I add people. With my great great grandfather John Henry Christian Lovekamp, I made a big mistake.

Each person in the tree has a profile where…

My brother Peter (left) and I, ca 1980. Photo credit to my mom, Kathleen Myers

Though I had been gone only three years, when I came home from the Peace Corps in 1996, everything had changed for me. My family was in disarray. My friends were scattered. I had no idea what I would do with my life. My reentry was anything but smooth, but those months set me on a path that changed my life.

I came home in February, flying in from the tropics of Honduras first to my mom and step-dad’s house in Memphis, Tennessee, and then to my brother’s place in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was not what I had planned. I…

Me (right) and my brother, about 1978. Photo credit to Luther Memorial Church Directory, River Falls, WI

Twenty years ago, when I was hired as a teacher on a Montessori school’s farm, the school’s principal summed up my job as “creating opportunities for meaningful work.” I can do that, I thought. No problem. I’ve been doing that my whole life.

Looking back, I can give some of the credit for my confidence to my relationship with my younger brother.

It was hard work being an older brother. I had to teach him what’s what. I had to lead by example. I had to toughen him up. I had to adjust how hard I played to his level…

The old chicken coop on the left. My own photo.

“There was a murder in the red barn, a murder in the red barn” — Tom Waits

What does it mean to be a man?

I wish I knew.

I have a possum story I used to tell to my Junior High students. Back then, the story had me as a hero, protecting the school’s chickens. I did what had to be done. I don’t tell it anymore, but If I told the story now, I might tell it differently. I might not be the hero.

Here is the hero narrative:

When I was hired to be a Montessori school’s…

Photo credit:

I am trying to be a good anti-racist. I am reading books and attending online workshops. My workplace is making strides to address its systemic racism. But I have a long way to go. I want to specifically address my urgency pattern which doesn’t allow space in my life for anti-racism.

Tema Okun wrote about white supremacy culture, and she suggested that urgency is a feature of supremacy. White people’s patterns of urgency can make it seem as if there isn’t time to be inclusive and thoughtful. It can make it seem as if whatever the white person thinks is…

Andrew Gaertner

I am a white, midwestern, cis male, het, raised Lutheran, organic farmer and Montessori educator. I live in Wisconsin and am connected to Honduras.

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