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Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze

Sol Sisters in the Rain; The Women of MREF

As we drove from Minneapolis, through the torrential rains, to the Portage County Fairgrounds I wondered just how this year's MREF would be. It had rained every previous year with at least one day of sun sandwiched into the weekend somewhere. Locals were telling us it was going to pour all three days.

I love MREF best of all the Fairs we go to. It has an aura of working and learning and teaching that is hard to beat. The brightly striped tents where the workshops are held are easy to find, only a short walk from the midway. The workshops go on all day every day. Most are repeated each day so if you miss one one day you still have a chance to catch it later.

Women

I look forward to seeing my friends there, the women of MREF. Many of the workshops are taught by women. A lot of the booths are wo"manned". It seems as though women are on more equal ground in the Midwest than even here on the tolerant West Coast. I figure it must be because the people who settled in the Midwest were really the first pioneers to head west in covered wagons. They soon found out that it took every able hand to keep body and soul together through the hard winters and humid summers. Women were a great part of that teamwork. I see that pioneer spirit in my friends at MREF.

Workshops

Larisa Walk not only taught a workshop on Solar Food Drying in a Humid Climate she also made a small dryer and brought it with her from Minnesota. All her workshops were full, standing room only. It's hard to say if there were more men or women wanting to learn her technique.

Sue Robishaw (see HP#35) again taught her workshop on Gardening in Harmony with Nature. I try to attend every year. There is always some new information from Sue or a participant from the audience. This year Sue told us she and Steve were going to try to live off only their garden this year. Of course if it freezes and is not a good harvest they will wait till next year. Sue was very interested in Larisa's workshop but they were both scheduled at the same time. They did get together and have a long discussion though. Sue expects to dry a lot of her harvest. She taught another class this year. This one on Small/Micro/Nano Home Businesses. Although I missed it (working the HP booth) I look forward to attending next year.

Julie Wurl-Koth taught her class in Solar Ovens to packed tents and then sent her students to my Cooking with a Sun Oven class. If people came to my class first I referred them back to Julie's workshop. Her class was always earlier in the day so I often had people fresh from her basics and eager to soak up as much as they could. One woman told me she had attended Julie's class last year, then mine and has now been cooking with the sun for a year. I love to hear that. That's why we do it.

Just Plain Work

Lynn Sagrillo didn't teach a workshop but she held down the booth, at the bottom of the huge windtower, while Mick taught several classes. Even though it was cold and rainy most of the time there were still a lot of people out there wanting hard facts, asking good questions and wanting good answers.

I think of Julie Weier as the grand coordinator of MREF. I can't count how many times I heard, "Where's Julie?" She was always there somewhere, solving problems, changing, rearranging, working to make it all come together. I think of Carol Welling as her able assistant. Carol is always highly visible directing, mediating, listening and working. Then there was the woman behind the desk in the office. No matter how many times I presented myself to her with a problem she always greeted me with a smile and helped me out. Many of the MREA (Midwest Renewable Energy Association), the sponsors of the Fair, are women.

It wouldn't be MREF if I didn't see my friend Amy Wilson there. Amy doesn't teach a workshop or work a booth. What she does do is show up about a week ahead of time and volunteers to help get the Fair ready to open and then stays after to help tear things down and clean the grounds. All during the Fair I see her on errands helping keep the wheels running smoothly, and thoroughly enjoying herself.

All's Well

Even though it rained the workshop tents were full of people eager to learn about all phases of renewable energy. I like that a lot. It makes me feel that we are a powerful, growing force in America. And, I get to see my friends once again.

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Kathleen Jarschke-Schultze has returned to her home and garden in Northern most California c/o Home Power Magazine, POB 520, Ashland, OR 97520

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