Garden Wrap Up

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The garden in all its splendor. Photo taken in early August.

The last CSA shares were distributed out last week, (nothing but rave reviews in terms of quantity and quality!) Dave and the garden crew are spending this week and the next few to finally put the garden to bed. An annual tradition of pulling irrigation hoses and planting garlic (for overwinter germination) have been completed, and now the time to look back is on us.

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The variety and flavor of the garden was out of this world.

Dave gave me an amount the garden produced this summer. Counting all the lettuces, garlics, tomatoes (cherry and sliceable), onions, zucchinis, squash, and (of course) all of carrots, we came up with 5,472 lbs out of the garden. Here’s the funny thing, the garden isn’t done giving it’s best. We’ve got a full hoop house that has full raised beds of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and peppers. We’ll add to the almost 3 tons of food for a couple more weeks.

Oh, and if you’ve been paying attention, you know that this year, we’ve had a HUGE bumper crop of carrots. Every week, Britney drops off a wheelbarrow full of the orange roots promising that “This one’s probably the last.” They’ve been dropping off wheelbarrows for weeks, now. The current total is over 900 lbs. of carrots this year. Chef Chris has quipped he’s gonna make carrot cake every week until he runs out.

How cool is that?! Yum!

Speaking of Chris, let’s revisit some of the delicious food he’s put together for staff and Eco Campers. Our campus has been blessed with uncommon recipes from our locally grown sources. Can’t beat it.

This summer we also took in 70 chicks. Jim and crew put together a hen house in the south field where they could be best raised. After two wonderful months of raising them, they had their bad day in early August. They turned out large and delicious, but where we had started with 71 chicks, we ended with 72 butchered. We’re not sure where the extra bird came from, but we’re pretty sure it was a chicken.

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Healthy, happy, free-range chickens made their home this summer in the south fields.

While we were happy to host our flock for the summer, we also were able to give many tours throughout the growing season.

 

We’d love to hear what you did this summer. How did your garden perform? What were some of your successes? Were there any less than successful parts to your summer? We’d love to here them.

Minnesota Tree ID – Part 1

No one should go through the fall season without stepping outside to admire the colors of nature. Albert Camus, a French philosopher, once said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” If you’re wondering what causes our trees to turn colors in the fall, check out our previous blog on Fall Foliage. Fall hikes are a great time to get out and admire the colors, to observe animals preparing for winter, and to squeeze in as much Vitamin N(ature) as you can in the mild temps of autumn. Make your fall hikes a learning opportunity for your family by practicing your tree ID skills along the way! In this blog, we’ll learn some basic tree identification skills and fun facts about some of the most common types of trees in our neck of the woods – central Minnesota. Continue reading

How to Have Carrots Year Round

If you’ve been keeping up with the HDT harvest, you’ve seen that this year has been particularly good for us. We’ve been inundated with a bumper crop of Scarlett Nantes, or in other words, we’ve got a load of carrots! 

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Britney & Dave during the great carrot crop harvest of 2019.

With wheelbarrows overflowing, our campus chef, Chris G. has the pleasure of making use of these flavorful root veggies, and not just through salads and roasting. He’s been treating us to rare forms of carrot use, and we couldn’t be happier.

 

 

 

But, wouldn’t it be great if you could get the fresh carrot treatment all year long? We talked with our food production coordinator, Dave W, and he says that carrots harvested during the fall can last all the way through until the end of spring. You just have to prepare and store them properly.

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How Much Sleep Do We REALLY Need?

It’s a game that I like to play with myself, sometimes. I’ll be binge watching a show (lately it’s been Westworld or The Good Place) and once the closing credits appear, if it’s been a particularly good episode (or a cliffhanger), I decide that one more episode probably wouldn’t hurt me…that is until I pause the feed, check the clock, run the numbers, and see that morning alarms are only a few hours away.

Lot’s of fun, right?sleepingsittingup

There is solace in knowing that I’m not alone in this behavior. More adults are getting less sleep. According to the CDC, over 40 percent of adults aged 18-60 are getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night. Is it because of the binge culture? They say it’s a variety of factors, but the end result is that fewer sleep is had.

But how much sleep is enough? How do we get the right kind of sleep? Should we just sleep when we’re tired?

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It’s Garlic Plantin’ Season

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Cash and Dave showing off their garlic bounty, harvested in mid August.

A quick internet search of “garlic benefits” gave in 303,000,000 results.  Need I say more? One of my go-to remedies for just about anything that ails me is raw vinegar and garlic shooters.  In theory the raw vinegar balances stomach pH and rejuvenates the gut microbiome, while the garlic provides beneficial nutrients and compounds that support health. It seems to work, but it could just be the psychology of my brain telling me to get better so I don’t have to suffer through another shooter. 

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Eating Healthy During the School Year

Holy smokes. When did summer end? Didn’t it just start? I swear I was just helping my kids clean out their lockers. Now we gotta get back in a schedule? Here’s what we’ve learned that might help out your busy school year.

1) Make Dinner Time a Priority

Sometimes a simple act can have important life-long benefits. According to studies, having a set aside time for meals can do the following:

  • Improved grades – It’s not the meat & potatoes. It’s the communication and reinforcement of expectations (like a simple “Got any homework, left?”).
  • Foster family bonding – Again with the communication. With busy schedules, dinner time is the perfect time to just reset and be with your family.
  • Improve nutrition – This includes picking out more healthy foods, understanding proper cleaning techniques, and proper portions.
  • Save Money! – Who would think that eating out costs more money than prepping and cooking every night? There’s a reason that restaurants are so popular! It’s found that a family of four could save over $150 a week simply by choosing to eat dinners at home. Save going out for special occasions. Your pocketbook and kids will (eventually) thank you.

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The Buzz on Citizen Science Bee Programs

Pollinators have been all the buzz in recent years as research has shown steady declines in populations. We’ve heard a lot about how pollinators are losing habitat and we need to plant more native species; or how pesticides like neonicotinoids are decimating bee populations across the country; or how our tendency for monocropping destroys the diversity of the ecosystem and the pollinators that depend on it. Overall, research regarding bees and other pollinators has come a LONG way over the past decade. Continue reading

Tools for a Pollinator Friendly Farm

We don’t want to be an alarmist blog. But there’s something you need to know.

Here goes:

Modern Agricultural Practices Will Kill Us ALL!!!

Did I get your attention? Good. Now, let me walk that statement back a bit.

The industrial agricultural model, or “conventional” farming, is built on a combination of mono-cropping and use of chemical inputs. This is an efficient system designed to produce high volumes of a specific product (like corn, wheat, soy, or cotton) to meet the demands of a growing population.

This system produces more than enough to feed and cloth our entire planet and has its benefits. The people that utilize this combination are meeting the demand in a way that works, but at what cost? And, to generalize, instead of prioritizing soil health or diversity, farmers who utilize this method are prioritizing scale or the commodification of crops, which isn’t a bad thing! It is a “big ask” to feed the world, and with the use of appropriate technology, more people are able to be fed by fewer farmers. We need to look at farming through a different lens, one that views farms as ecosystems.

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National Bee Awareness Day – August 17

This month we are focusing on the importance of the pollinator. Coming from an urban background (Brainerd, MN so please allow me to be liberal with the term) I have a limited experience with pollinators in general. However, looking into the many types of bees and then looking at the central focus they have on pollinating our yards, gardens, and crops, it can be eye opening to see anything more than the common honeybee.

It’s no surprise that with the popularization of the honeybee in our culture, it’s the most recognized pollinator out there. There are THOUSANDS of species of bees in this world. But, did you know that the vast majority of the pollinating done by bees is NOT done by the socially inclined bee.

Pollinating is done mainly by solitary bees, like Carpenter Bees, Leaf cutter Bees, and Sweat Bees. These species perform the majority of pollination throughout the world. And it’s pretty easy to get them naturally in your garden.

I found out that there are, in fact, stingless bees! Check out this video. Stingless bees don’t make honey at the rate of the honeybee, so it’s pretty neat to see them part of someone’s yard like that.

On campus, we’ve housed several colonies of honeybees, but are currently taking a break from hosting duties. We did this as a method of getting our gardens pollinated adequately, encouraging a natural ecosystem, and, (of course!) for the honey. On some of our collection days, we collected up to 14 quarts of the sticky gooey treasure. But we also fed the bees sugar water before the plants bloomed and kept them safe from natural predators with a fence around their hives. Check out this video from when we harvested our honey.

So, the question stands: What does your garden (or even just your lawn) need to attract busy little bees (stingless or otherwise)? Instead of creating a common green desert of Kentucky bluegrass you should try to grow things that bees will actually like…you know, like flowers.

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How to Make Your Lawn Pollinator Friendly

YOU can make your own lawn a pollinator paradise. If you’ve got any size green space around your home, you can help bring pollinators to your area. Here are four simple ways to make that happen.

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This grassy area is without much needed food for pollinators, yet it looks like the majority of yards in the US.

Build it and they will come

It’s simple. If you plant pollinator-friendly plants, the many varieties of pollinators will find them.

If your lawn is like the green area above, you probably have zero bees in your yard. This is a picture taken of one of our fields. Dave W. explains that we keep it this way to minimize any growth on the south fence. It looks much like any other green lawn (except it doesn’t really need to be mowed). There is no bug life out here except grasshoppers who thrive on hot open sandy areas.

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Now, take a look at this picture taken just across a tiny access road. It’s a field that has been allowed to grow naturally. It has a variety of wildflowers, bushes, moss, trees, and other things that grow in northern Minnesota. This section of our field is alive with all sorts of bees, butterflies, and other insects (yes, including grasshoppers). In other words, without a habitat that supports the insects you want, you won’t get those insects to live there!

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