With the holiday season upon us, many of us are focused on giving the perfect gifts to our loved ones. Whether it’s the latest gaming system or a fun new kitchen gadget, we spend a lot of time and money shopping for gifts each holiday season.
This season of giving is also a good time to look at ways we can give back to our community. There are so many opportunities to give back that it’s easy to find a way that fits you and your family’s interests and means.
Adopt a family
Many local family centers, churches, schools, and other organizations offer programs for people to “adopt” families who have needs they can’t meet during the holiday season. This can mean anything from providing gift cards to the family, to supplying the components of a holiday meal or purchasing toy and clothing gifts for them. Some organizations also set up trees in local shopping centers where you can choose an “ornament” from the tree that lists needs for individuals and/or families. After making those purchases the ornament and gifts are dropped off at a listed location and will then be provided to those individuals.
You would be forgiven if your thoughts immediately wandered over to the the eleven herbs and spices used in the “finger-licking good” recipe for KFC. It’s not your fault. Ads are prevalent in our society, and there are none more pervasive, none more that have stood the test of time, than the solicitations for that greasy, but oh-so good, fried chicken.
BUT! We’re not here to talk about fast food chicken. In this episode, we do talk about the many different ways you can enjoy herbs and spices in your everyday cooking. We had a lot of fun chatting about our favorite ways to prepare our families meals.
Do you have a favorite spice you’d like to share? Hit us up in the comments.
1) Intro – What to Expect by Jake Bradford on album “Sharp”
2) Gold Fish by Photoaxis on album “Gold Fish”
3) Sun Bird by Geva Alon on album “Wall of Sound”
4) Watch Out by Chaun Davis on album “Be Mine”
This month, the theme we chose for media content was “Conscious Consumerism.” If you’ve been following along, you’ve seen advice on buying local, greener gifting, and giving experiences rather than things. The theme helps us focus our message and our creativity for the month, and ensures we’re bringing you the best and most timely content possible. We gather inspiration from big events, holidays, and national observance days (ie: Nov 15th is “America Recycles Day”). The upcoming holiday season was the inspiration for “Conscious Consumerism.”
During our brainstorming session, one observance that came up was that November is “World Vegan Month.” A slightly…fiery…discussion ensued. For the Food & Water Security team, food choices are the most important aspect of responsible consumption–not only because we grow food at our “day job,” but also because we are farmers, we support farmers, and we see food sovereignty as the foundation of regional resiliency. Deeply connected with food choices are environmental consequences.
Veganism can be a divisive subject; polite discourse is often impossible when there is so much misunderstanding. Yes, as a culture, Westerners eat too much meat. We should consume less meat overall, and use meat like a condiment to flavor and enhance our vegetables, grains, and legumes. However, from an ecosystem approach, agriculture with properly managed livestock is the most sustainable and environmentally restorative.
It’s that time of year where we all turn our minds to the holidays. It is a time we’re supposed to spend cherishing loved ones, family, and friends. A time we are supposed to sit back and relax, to take a break from the stress of everyday life. Unfortunately, most people don’t feel that way about the holidays anymore – it has become a time where we feel obligated to meet all sorts of expectations, like finding the perfect gift for everyone, traveling far to see relatives, and spending time with extended family. A 2016 study indicates that 84% of consumers feel stressed out gift giving during the holidays.1
And what’s the point? Americans are accumulating more and more stuff, while facing the mental health issues that living in clutter can cause. Only 3.1% of the world’s children live in the United States, yet we buy 40% of toys produced globally.2 But we’re not just buying for our kids! Only 12% of the world’s population lives in North America and Western Europe, yet these regions account for 60% of private consumption spending.3 The $100 billion Americans spend on shoes, jewelry, and watches is more than we spend on higher education. Where does all this get us? Homes that have tripled in size in the last 50 years (which cause stress due to maintenance and upkeep), 62% of people with two-car garages can’t use one or more of the stalls, and 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage.4 Unfortunately, the amount of stress we experience at home is directly proportional to the amount of stuff we have accumulated. Clutter overloads our senses, robs us of mental energy, and leads us to feeling anxious, tired, and overwhelmed.5
Are you asking, just what is a conscious consumer? Well, it’s someone looking to have their purchases reflect their standards and principles. In some cases this is easier than in others, depending on access, information, interest, and time. Some of the elements to consider when thinking about whether you’re purchasing is in alignment with your values are as follows. Do you know how and where the item was manufactured? Are the materials renewable, environmentally friendly, recyclable, reusable, or simply waste at the end of the life of the product? Do the company’s values match yours? Is handmade and do you know the creator? And so on. You may create your list of “must haves” when shopping for items. This certainly may be an unfolding process too, where you refine that list as you become more intentional about the gifts you give.
As we move into the Holiday Season, our minds become focused on gift giving as our lives become inundated with holiday ads and promotions. As a culture, we’ve come to believe that we should show our affection for friends and family by gifting them items. We are all quite familiar with this process. Perhaps you are also familiar with having too much “stuff”, a situation many of us are in. It’s easy to accumulate items that don’t contribute to happiness and well-being. Perhaps this year, we go about gift-giving in a slightly more intention manner.
Thrift & Secondhand Shopping – Your dollar will go further purchasing gently used. Other benefits – you’ll find one-of-a-kind items, you aren’t directly supporting the creation of those goods, you are keeping items out of the waste stream, and depending on your favorite store and it’s affiliation, you may be funding the mission work of a non-profit (i.e. – Goodwill, Salvation Army, Common Goods, etc.). A great suggestion from HDT Staffer Nora, is to search out board games and/or movies that you enjoyed as a child, they make great sentimental, special gifts for new generations. Plus playing those games with the recipients is interactive and memorable.
Credit Patrick Q via Flickr Creative Commons
On Thursday, November 8, we gathered at Bites Bar and Grill for our annual holiday party. Our crew ate scrumptious hors d’oeuvres, laughed at the great games provided by Janis & Shirlee, snacked on delicious desserts made by Bites owner, Wendy, and then counted our blessings, one by one.
Door prizes were handed out for those that could guess how many beans were in a jar and we even played a form of HDT Jeopardy, to the delight of all participating.
A big thank you to the party planners, Janis, Shirlee, and Chris. I look forward to this night every year. Another success!
Poor Chris G. had to count out over 3,000 kidney beans. That poor guy!
Shirlee & Janis playing as emcees during the fun night.
Chris and Michelle G. all smiles.
Colin and Amy M. happy to be out of the house.
Jim and Audra C. posing for a picture between stories.
Quinn, Wayne, and Roy.
Robert and Janis discussing how much fun they’re having.
Robert and Terri share a laugh.
Paul shows off his door prize (a game night in!)
Rochester, only 19, won a gift basket of vodka and tequila. He quickly exchanged it for the game night prize. 🙂
Quinn and Roy show off their door prize of coffee from Stonehouse Coffee in Nisswa.
Dan and Michelle show off their door prize of a movie night at Bear Pause Theatre in Hackensack.
Being thankful is the reason for this event.
There are so many reasons to purchase your turkey from a farmer that is local. You can easily find out the conditions the turkey was raised in. You can find out what they feed the turkey. If you’re serious about looking locally for your Thanksgiving feast, Minnesota Grown is a valuable resource that will connect you with local producers throughout the year, not just for Thanksgiving. You can search for the local producer nearest you, or the one that best fits your values.
If you’re still on the fence about whether to go local or not, here are five reasons why searching locally is the best way to go.
- No Surprises
Buying a local free range turkey gives you the opportunity to know what you are eating and where it came from. Buying local gives you the ability to talk to your local farmer about their farming practices, feeding program, and processing program. You should do your research, of course.
Your Tom might be as big as this gorgeous fella.
- Just Look at Tom Turkey’s Home
Not really, but you can learn a lot by seeing how a farm raised turkeys are raised. If they’re brought up in a humane environment with the option to the great outdoors, you can check that off your list. They get their nutrition from pecking all day with additional quality feed from the local feed store (compared to the store bought turkeys that are cooped up and fed low quality medicated feed). To be sure of this, you should do your research, though.
- What Would you Pay for a Robust Local Economy?
Buying meats from your local farmer keeps money in your community. Shopping local keeps four times the money in your community’s economy compared to shopping at chains. The dollars spent locally go towards the regular things your local farmer buys! (How Quaint!) These include dentist bills, holiday presents, and other things that other “normal” people buy around town. So, shop local! Your farmer will thank you!
- Your Taste Buds will Thank You
Knowing where your meat is coming from, how it is raise, and how it is processed will automatically make you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner that much more. But the truth is, a farm fresh free range turkey tastes better. Usually, they are not pumped full of preservatives, saline, or other added ingredients. When you buy from your local farmer you are getting what you pay for… fresh turkey. But, as always when making a choice of this nature, you should do your research.
The growing season is coming to an end. Our garden is finally put to bed. In our 14th episode, we discuss what we did to put our garden to bed.
We also do a season-end review, bringing all the numbers and pounds of food produced.
In the third segment, we talk about a hugelkultur project added to the south field.
On the cusp of winter, it’s time to put away the lawn care tools and equipment and bring out the snow removal tools and equipment. Depending on the size of your lawn or driveway, this may be a simple and easy job or one that is difficult and a hassle. We’re Minnesotan, it’s part of the deal! In our household, Mr. Man is the primary caretaker of equipment, regardless of season. For your information (and mine!) I asked him what he suggests regarding preparing equipment for the winter ahead.
The equipment we’ll address includes lawn mower, weed whip, backpack blower, and roto-tiller, though the suggestions below apply to essentially all small gasoline engine power tools. While not all these pieces are standard for each home, they definitely are in ours, not exclusively because Mr. Man used to have a lawn care business. And certainly partially because he is a mechanically-savvy-motor-head that loves to have the aid of machines in accomplishing outdoor projects. “Every job goes better with the appropriate power tool” he says.
He began by relaying that all small engines – likely your lawn mower, weed-whip, backpack blower, and roto-tiller will all require a few treatments to keep them in prime running order for years to come. While not all of these steps are critical they are an investment in time and materials for the safe, long-term, use of equipment with fewer costly repairs and replacements. If you aren’t comfortable performing these tasks personally, local small engine folks can winterize your equipment on your behalf, for a fee.
- Fuel stabilizer is a must to keep engines happy. Before our discussion, I thought the best tactic for gas machines was to drain the gas before winter. Turns out, as I learned, that’s not a good idea. Instead, add the appropriate amount of fuel stabilizer for the size of the gas can. And if possible, fuel your equipment with stabilized gas while still using during the last month before winter. He additionally recommends storing equipment with full [stabilized] fuel tanks. *Note, small engines should be fueled with non-oxygenated/normally 91 octane fuel. This is important because the ethanol in typical 87 octane can make fuel system components brittle and the alcohol can contribute to moisture and corrosion in the fuel system. Additional fuel note – modern gasoline has a short shelf life where it begins to degrade within ~1 month (if not treated with stabilizer) regardless of time of year. Final fuel note, if you have an engine that requires mixed gas but your use of that piece of equipment is limited consider purchasing shelf stable mixed fuel from an auto parts or small engine store.
- Drain and refill oil tanks. This is important to do as oil that is exposed to internal combustion has acid and contaminants in it that can be potentially harmful if they sit in the engine. Many folks think to change the oil in the Spring before seasonal use but the strong suggestion here was to do it in the Fall because oil has three jobs: to lubricate, help cool the engine, and keep the engine clean. Summer use has made that oil dirty, don’t let it sit in there. *Note, if you are working on a 2-cycle engine you will not have a separate oil tank as they operate with mixed gas (a mixture of oil and gasoline).
- If there is an external spin-on oil filter, change that at the time you change the oil. Equipment that has a pressurized oil system will likely have this external oil filter, like many riding lawn mowers.
- Clean or replace air filters. If you have a foam filter wash with warm water and mild detergent and let air dry. Before putting it back onto the equipment, reapply the air filter tack oil. If your air filter has paper elements it will need to be replaced. Filters (and filter supplies) can be found at auto parts stores.
- Fogging, perhaps like me, you’ve never heard of this! Let me tell you more. To fog, the engine must be running with stabilized fuel long enough to be warm. Fogging oil is sold in spray cans, again available at hardware or auto parts stores. Once the engine is warm and before you’ve finished the above step of reinstalling the air filter, spray fogging oil into the carburetor in small bursts. After a couple of those applications, attempt to kill the engine by spraying fogging oil until the engine dies as it can’t burn off the amount of oil you’ve applied. *Exhaust will smoke significantly in the fogging process. If you aren’t able to kill the engine with fogging oil, release the safety handle or turn off the engine then spray while the engine stops rotating. The function of fogging oil is to prevent rust on internal engine components that don’t get engine oil. An additional location to consider spraying fogging oil is into the upper cylinder head of the engine. To find this, remove the spark plug and spray into space inside. Pull start-cord a couple of times to distribute that fogging oil. These are quick “cht-cht” sprays of the fogging oil. Replace the spark plug. *Note, the internal protection that the fogging oil provides may prove to be damaging to the spark plug so in the Spring they may need to be replaced.
A bonus note about lawn mowers, while you (or your trusted equipment maintenance team) are putting the mower to bed for the Winter – also consider sharpening the mower blades. Sharp blades cut the grass and dull ones tear the grass. Torn grass looks browner and more unhealthy on your lawn.
This is by no means a comprehensive maintenance list for all the equipment in your life, but this hopefully can help you go into the Winter season with greater confidence in the Spring performance of your equipment. We wish you luck with end-of-Fall wrap-ups!
Last week, we were able to pull University of Minnesota researcher Lois Braun into the recording studio. She opened up her world of hazelnut plantings and cross-country experiments for us all to learn.
This special episode of Turtle Talks is a Q&A session with Lois and her technical assistant, Connor. On this day, they came up to the HDT gardens to plant over fifty hybrid hazelnut plants. (You can check out pics from the planting here!)
You can read more about her research at www.midwesthazelnuts.org/