“Log In At Eco Camp”

Eco Camp registration is now open! If you’d like to learn more about a specific camp, visit our website for more details. You can even register and pay online.

Right now, we all need something to look forward to, especially our kids. What better time to sign them up for Eco Camp! This year, our theme is “‘Log In’ At Eco Camp” with a focus on the forest and trees, specifically maples, oaks, birches, and pines.

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Kids will get outside and be up close with nature.

Here are the dates:

Grades 1-2 (Mighty Maples), June 22-26
Grades 3-4 (Outstanding Oaks), July 6-10
Grades 5-6 (Brilliant Birches) July 20-24
Prek-K: Ages 4-5 (Powerful Pines) August 3-7.

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The Plant-Based Burger’s Soul

Plant based protein is all the rage.  Given the state of our current agricultural system, one that delivers us unhealthy concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) meat and degraded water, animals make an easy target.  Livestock are living beings, much like our pets who become part of our families. If we just stop eating meat, no animals will suffer and die, we’ll reduce our environmental footprint, and we can put people to work extracting protein from legumes and grains. And because we, as eaters, aren’t exposed to the dangerous saturated fats, cholesterol and other harmful ingredients in meat, we’ll all be healthier.  The world will be saved and we will all live healthy, happy lives. 

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CAFO is a very efficient system, but maybe doesn’t take into consideration the soul of the animal.

One of the first replacements they went after was the iconic hamburger.  If they could make a burger from plants that tastes like ground beef, it would serve as a powerful example of the potential of science. Next they went after the existential, versatile egg, extracting protein from mung beans and turning it into an egg substitute.  As these products have advanced, consumer interest has grown. Economists and agronomists are tracking dollars and trends. Environmentalists, vegans, and investors are touting their support and backing this technology with their dollars.

But nobody asked the cow, the chicken, or the bean.

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Growing Indoors: A Revisit

Trying to stay safely distanced from everybody is the name of the game nowadays. But, don’t worry! We’ve got a few ideas to help you stay productive, energized, and positive. March is the time where getting the garden started sounds like a good idea. However, with cool temperatures and snow still on the ground in Minnesota, you’re choices to get started are limited to pretty much indoors.

In the hope of using your self distanced time for something constructive, here are four past blog articles that can help you with some ideas on creating your very own indoor garden.

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Our first blog post features some easy DIY indoor gardening ideas. Purchasing seeds is still available through catalog and online, so don’t let self-quarantine stop you from getting your green on.

Indoor Gardening Ideas Part 2

In the second blog post, we touch on how to improve the gutter system and why it’s beneficial to add an automatic watering system.

Windowsill Gardens

In this article, we give some tips on the most easy indoor gardening systems to build: the windowsill garden. While they are tiny, but effective, you can make some delicious meals with your sill herb garden and also add a touch of color to your kitchen by adding orchids with almost zero effort.

5 Indoor Garden Ideascelerychopped

If you’re still looking for some help on making your own indoor garden, check out our last article, which covers 5 very easy methods to green your indoor space. From adding zero effort succulents to entry level veggie pots, you’ll find something to get you going.

That’s what we’ve got for indoor gardening ideas, but if you have anything you’d like to share with us, we will make sure to let everyone know about it. We love spreading the love of gardening!

 

Hydrogeological Data

 

What do isotopes in water have to do with soil? One of my go-to podcasts is Down to Earth hosted by The Quivira Coalition.  The Quivira Coalition is a non-profit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico dedicated to building economic and ecological resilience on western working landscapes. According to their website, the coalition was formed to preserve the region’s rich agricultural heritage. It states: 

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The Quivira Coalition is based in New Mexico and is dedicated to building ecological and economic resilience in the arid southwest. A tricky idea, indeed!

In 1997 two conservationists and a rancher who believed that a ranch that supported wildlife and a healthy ecosystem could also support a viable ranch business, came together to create the Quivira Coalition.  Then, in 2003, twenty ranchers, environmentalists, and scientists met for forty-eight hours to figure out a way to take back the American West from the decades of divisiveness and acrimony that now truly jeopardizes much of what we all love and value. But we also met to take the West forward, to restore ecological, social and political health to a landscape that deserves it and so desperately needs it.” 

One of their recent podcasts, titled The Science of Water, features the work of Dr. Kate Zeigler, a geologist/ hydrologist. 

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Dr. Kate Zeigler

Dr. Zeigler’s work has focused on groundwater recharge rates in the dry southwest where the average annual rainfall is seven inches. The soils in this region recharge very slowly, often percolating through the soil at the same rate your finger nail grows. She goes on to explain that not all water is the same.  As groundwater ages, the isotopes in it change. By studying the changes in protons versus neutrons in the individual atoms in the water, they can determine how old the groundwater is and how fast the aquifers are recharging, or how fast they are being depleted. With the philosophy that knowledge is power, they share this information with farmers and ranchers as a tool for decision making.    

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Microplastics

This year, World Water Day occurs on March 22, focusing our attention on one of earth’s most important resources: water. According to the United Nations, we’ll hit a global population of 8 billion by the year 2023. As our population continues to grow, our water resources are becoming increasingly stressed. The World Health Organization shared that 29% of the world’s population still do not have safe drinking water located on the premises and roughly 2.2 million people die from water-related illnesses each year. Unfortunately, there is a new cause of concern as it relates to our water.

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Global plastic production has skyrocketed over recent decades as we’ve increased our reliance on plastics to allow us to live a life of convenience. Originally, plastics were introduced as a “cheap” alternative to other materials, such as fabrics, animal products (like bone or tortoise shells), metals, and other ores. They made many consumer goods less expensive, increasing accessibility for many products. Plastic production continued to increase as we moved into the convenience of disposable products: diapers, cups, straws, eating utensils, plates, to-go containers, bags, cleaning aids, and more. If you look around your house, you’ll probably find that many (if not most) of your items have some sort of plastic in them – food containers in your fridge, toothbrushes and other cosmetic products, most fabrics, carpets, electronics, office supplies, home decor and so much more. If it wasn’t made with plastic, there’s a good chance that it came packaged in plastic. But what does our use of plastics have to do with the safety of our water? Continue reading

Get a Head Start on the Growing Season with Soil Blocks

Don’t look now (and I would hate to jinx it), but it seems that winter is loosing its grasp over central Minnesota. The ravages of winter snow storms and below zero temperatures are being replaced with sun showers and melting snow.

However, that doesn’t mean you can just start planting into the (frozen) ground. Your little seedlings wouldn’t stand much of a chance and you’d break your tools digging a hole.

What we do around here is create our very own soil blocks to help the little seeds get a head start to the growing season. With a giant atrium in the Mani Shop, we’ve got a good place to let them stretch their baby root legs.

Dave W. (our Food Production Coordinator) likes to use the following formula to build our soil blocks for the little seedlings.

  • 4 Parts Peat Moss
  • 2 Parts Compost/Soil
  • 1 cup Perlite/Vermiculite (helps prevent soil compaction)
  • .5 cup Pel Lime (helps balance pH of soil)
  • .25 cup Green Sand/Azomite Clay (adds micronutrients)
  • .25 cup Humate
  • .25 cup Kelp

This recipe is good for 4-5 trays that can hold 50 or so 2in blocks. All in all, you can make about 300 blocks, which is a good place to start if you’re just getting into it.

It’s a fun process, but can be a little dusty, dirty, and muddy. There’s a lot of mixing by hand and sifting of small sticks and other larger bits so it can be best used for the block mixture.

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Here, Dave sifts the detritus from our homemade compost to get nothing but nutrient rich soil.

Once you’ve got the mixture down, add a little water and to make it nice and sticky (this is so it will hold its blocky shape. We have several types of soil blockers, but for the majority of our uses, we prefer the 2 inch model.

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These soil blockers are good for 2in cubed cubes. They’re good enough size for most starting seedlings.

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Back to Basics 2020 – A Review in Pictures

On Saturday, February 15, we held our 14th annual Back to Basics sustainability event at the Pine River-Backus School. There were a record number of participants and a wide variety of new and repeating vendors & presenters.

We were able to have a roving photographer (Thanks Marisa!) take some awesome shots of the event, and we would like to share some of them with you.

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Collective Energy = Wow

The energy of a collective makes pursuit of big ideas possible. This is true for Back to Basics: without the effort of a few for months followed by an intense amount of effort and energy by many, this long-running event wouldn’t be the success it is today!

Another great example of collective energy resulting in realized dreams is that of co-ops. While there are different types of cooperatives, the one many consumers see commonly is that of food co-ops. In this region of MN, we are fortunate to have a few options up and running with a few more in process or emerging! Co-ops have been supporters of Back to Basics (B2B) from the beginning! We gratefully accept the donation of Peace Coffee made possible by the Crow Wing Food Co-op (Brainerd, MN). The Ideal Green Market Cooperative (Ideal Corners, MN) donates tea and the Countryside Co-op (Hackensack, MN) is donating trail mix ingredients this year. Often, local co-ops host booths at B2B, too. This year, visit with Crow Wing Food Co-op, Ideal Green Market Cooperative, and the in-formation-phase Free Range Food Co-op (Grand Rapids, MN). This is a great opportunity to ask questions to understand membership, offerings at each co-op, and much more!

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Back to Basics has become a hub in the winter for people to connect. Our local food co-ops are an integral part of making it happen.

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Back to Basics 2020 – An Interview w/ Presenter Laura Adrian

*For complete event details including workshop descriptions, vendor list, and to register and pay online, visit www.happydancingturtle.org. If you’d like to register now, you can go to our online registration site.*

 

At every Back to Basics, we try to get a wide variety of workshop presenters. We stick with ones that have filled out year after year but we also like to make sure that new topics are introduced to bring a fresh feel to the event.

We do this to keep B2B an attractive use of your time, which is a challenge we love to attack. We get so many quality speakers and workshops, it’s amazes me. However, the underlying truth is that available time is becoming more and more of a diminishing product. There are constant demands on our attention from sun-up to lights-out.

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Laura Adrian will be presenting two workshops at this year’s B2B, one on Kundalini Yoga and the other focusing on using Earth energies to heal.

I had a chance to chat with first time B2B presenter Laura Adrian who’s trying to tackle this phenomenon through the art of targeted yoga and nature immersion experiences.

In her first workshop, Healing with the Earth, Adrian, founder of Whole Life Elevation & from the School of Earth Medicine, will help participants focus on becoming aware and in tuned with the energies of the Earth. She feels that once a person is able to become more in synch with these energies, they will be able to defend against many issues currently assaulting our society.

“Historically, people have spent most of their lives outdoors, [yet] now in a very short time we’ve inverted that to spend most of our time indoors! Add in sedentary living, less community, and changes in food sources, it’s no wonder people are experiencing off the charts physical and emotional health issues.”

In a frank disclosure, Adrian opens up about working in a well paying, stabilizing, yet increasingly dissatisfying career, which made her feel stifled and trapped as a “caged bird”. (If you want to read more about it, you can at Adrian’s website Whole Life Elevation).

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Back to Basics 2020 – Our Longtime Partnership with PR-B Schools

We’re about to hold the 14th annual Back to Basics sustainability event and everyone on the Happy Dancing Turtle staff works with a passion and vigor for months before the event even takes place (Saturday, February 15). Yet, even with our “all hands on deck” mentality, we must ask for outside help, and that’s why we’ve continually returned to the Pine River-Backus school system year after year.

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We use countless rooms in the PR-B school and even though our event causes disruption, teachers and staff continually agree to let us hold B2B at the school. Why? Because they’re awesome!

As B2B has increased in attendance and prominence in the region, we’ve discussed if now was the time to move to a larger, more centralized facility. We’d hold these discussions and we would, every time, come back to the conclusion that the PR-B school district bends over backwards for us.

Let’s go over what awesome work the PR-B school district does for B2B.

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