Turtle Talks Podcast – Episode 8: Your Summer Appetizer 1

With summer hitting full swing, the garden crew is working long hours outdoors. Keeping the garden functioning properly (not to mention filling CSA shares and many programs off the campus) requires a full time effort from everybody.

Therefore, we decided to change up the format of Turtle Talks just a bit. Instead of a short garden update at the beginning of the episode, we are going to dedicate the episodes to sharing what is going on in the garden.

We plan on keeping each episode 20 (ish) minutes, but will keep to what is happening in the garden.

We are calling these episodes “Summer Appetizers” as they will whet your appetite until we head back to the original podcast format at the beginning of fall, as the garden eventually gets put to bed.

So, we’re still planning on updating twice a month and bringing you information you can use, just at a more leisurely pace.

We hope you’re enjoying the summer!

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Get Outside – Biking Across Minnesota

Summer is here, and we are dedicated to squeezing every last drop of sunshine out of these warm months as we can. In the spirit of summer, we are giving you a look at a few of the fun things you can do in the area.

Starting off, let’s hear from Jim C, who is writes about how mountain biking has invigorated the small community of Crosby-Ironton.

I’m a Crosby – Ironton Ranger, class of ’82.  Growing up in Deerwood, we kind of looked down on Crosby as a washed up mining town. Businesses were dying and the economy struggled.  An important source of high value ore, the Cuyuna Range played an important role in WWII, but production slowed after the war, and the last open pit mine closed in the early ’70’s. The Scorpion snowmobile plant closed about the same time. In high school the “mine pits” were a playground where we drove three wheelers and had parties.  We called them the “mine dumps,” a wasteland with barren overburden hills and lots of bare soil. But some “Rangers” saw potential. A few visionaries and community leaders worked tirelessly to protect these “dumps” and give them a chance to heal, and in 1993 the Cuyuna State Recreational Area was formed.

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Red tires are the symbol of the MTB riders in the area.

Fast forward to current day.  The barren overburden hills are now covered in forest.  The slopes leading to the clean, clear mine pit lakes are vegetated and, for the most part, stable. Though a struggle to make happen, there are currently over 25 miles of world-class mountain bike trails with plans for another 50.  Snorkeling, trout fishing and kayaking in the pit lakes provide additional recreational opportunities. And like the natural environment of the mine lands, the town has begun to heal. New businesses are opening to cater to the tourists that flock to the area and new residents are moving to the area for the abundant recreation. Both the land and the community are healing…  

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Turtle Treks Registration Open

Turtle Treks

Happy Dancing Turtle is excited to offer another summer of overnight camping opportunities for kids! These camping trips provide youth with a chance to visit parks across the state. Through Turtle Treks, children have the opportunity to experience the ins-and-outs of camping while building friendships and enjoying the great outdoors! Youth learn vital camping skills, such as how to set up tents, how to make a fire (and cook over it!), and Leave No Trace responsibilities, as well as information about Minnesota’s natural resources! We talk about Minnesota’s land, water, plants, animals, and the night sky while kids are entertained with games, lessons, activities, songs, riddles, and stories. Payment plan option available.

2018 Turtle Treks Schedule

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2018 T-Shirt Design Contest

During the summer, Happy Dancing Turtle offers four weeks of Eco Camp, week-long environmental day camps, for Pre-K through 6th grade students. The theme of Eco Camp changes each year, which offers continued excitement and learning to our long-returning campers. For the past few years, it has become a tradition that we spend part of the first day tie-dying our camp t-shirts, which depict the current year’s theme. A few years ago, we thought, “Hey, why not have the kids draw the t-shirts?!”

 

 

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This year marked the third annual Eco Camp T-shirt Design Contest.  We ask students from across the state in grades K-12 to participate by submitting a black and white design that fits the upcoming theme. The 2018 Eco Camp theme is Birds of a Feather. Each age group in this summer’s camps will be represented by an environmentally-focused bird: Recycling Robins (Pre-K & K), Nature Nuthatches (Grades 1 & 2), Sustainable Sparrows (Grades 3 & 4), and Conserving Chickadees (Grades 5 & 6).

 

Happy Dancing Turtle would like to give a huge shout out to everyone who submitted a design! We received 412 total designs, all from our K-5 students! We reformatted our age brackets to fit our contestants, enabling us to still give out all three prize packages. The new brackets were Grades K&1, Grades 2&3, and Grades 4&5. We were absolutely blown away by the artwork submitted by these students! It was insanely difficult to pick just three from each age bracket to go on to the finals, but after long deliberation, we selected the designs in the slideshow below to go on to be judged by Audubon Minnesota.

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2018 T-shirt Contest Results – Guest Judges from Audubon Minnesota

A huge thank you to our guest judges from the Audubon Minnesota – Katie, Kristin, & Ashley! They relayed how difficult it was to choose between these wonderful designs!

Winning Design of the K-1 Grade Bracket:

Addie K Madison
Addie – Kindergarten – Winona

Winning Design of the 2-3 Grade Bracket:

Marina 3 Madison
Marina – 3rd Grade – Winona

Winning Design of the 4-5 Grade Bracket:

Nina 4 Madison

Nina – 4th Grade – Winona

Each of these winners will receive an HDT prize item, a $20 Gift Certificate to a local movie theater, and a $20 Gift Certificate to the Minnesota State Parks.

Overall Grand Prize Winner:

Marina 3 Madison

Marina – 3rd Grade – Winona

In addition, this winner will receive an honorary Eco Camp T-shirt with their design printed on it!

Again, thank you to everyone who participated! 

Turtle Talks Podcast – Episode 7: Compost & Soil Testing

In the last several episodes, we’ve talked the benefits of following the pillars of soil health. We’ve spread the soil-health Bible far and wide, and now it’s time to start growing.

In our latest episode, we discuss how to measure what your soil has in it. We discuss the “shovel-test” method and the chemical-test method, and once you learn what’s going on in your soil, how to add soil-amendments to maximize your soil’s growing power.

We also talk on the subject of compost, how it’s made, and how we apply it. Moreover, we go into how to make our compost tea. Now, this isn’t your English grand-marm’s tea. It’s a fluid based mixture seeped with our very own homemade compost.

Included is our weekly Garden Update, where Dave discusses moving towards (finally) a more warm season, and our very first WWOOFer. You can read more about Alayna here. Lots to listen to. Let’s get started!

 

For those that are interested in a more detailed “recipe” of compost, you can find a pretty good video below. They cover the necessary “ingredients” for a well-functioning compost pile.

Our First WWOOFer

We’d love to introduce you to our first WWOOFer. WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF connects farms with those interested in learning more about them and their practices.

Hailing from the farming community of Winsted in central Minnesota, Alayna Karas has a first-person perspective of modern farming. Karas grew up learning the techniques her parents, and her parents’ parents (and THEIR parents) have been using for over one hundred years.

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Alayna stepped right into the planting season her first day.

Yet, despite living on a century farm, bucking tradition seems to be in Karas’ nature. As a child, all of her siblings were expected to do their share of chores. One of these chores, Karas shared, was to take a calf, nurture it to maturity, and then eventually butcher it. She laughed as she told me that she could never bring herself to take that last step.

“My parent’s just admitted that I wouldn’t do it,” Karas laughed. “I’m sure my cow is still alive and running around the farm.”

It seems that Karas has embraced the ability to see what works for her and what doesn’t, and she saw something in her community that wasn’t working.

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Nature Notes: Birding Bonanza in the Driftless Region

20180508_173530Last Thursday, Michelle and Quinn traveled down to visit me in Trempealeau, Wisconsin, home of the new Happy Dancing Turtle – Driftless Region! They’ve heard me talking about the area for months and finally came down to check it out for themselves. Although, I must say I think I accidentally misled them. I’ve been talking about blue skies and 70s/80s temps for the last few weeks, but naturally, temps dropped to the 40s/50s and we received a lot of rain. Despite the rather unfortunate weather, there was still much to enjoy! When they arrived, I toured them through Perrot State Park on our way into Trempealeau. We enjoyed dinner at The Trempealeau Hotel, a quintessential restaurant of the Driftless Region located in a historic building from the 1880s. It is one of many restaurants featuring sustainably-sourced, locally grown ingredients on the menu. It also highlights the variety of live music events in the area, complete with an outdoor porch, beautiful gardens, and a bandstand overlooking the Mississippi and riverside bluffs.

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Screen Free Week Observations

Last week children, families, entire schools, and communities across the nation participated in Screen Free Week, endeavoring to not use any screens during non school and work hours. That meant no smart phones, no video games, no TV, no computers, no screens of any kind. Several of us here at Happy Dancing Turtle participated as well, including me and my two daughters, 8 year old K, and 6 year old B.

Screen Free Week started on Monday, April 30, so the Saturday before that I told them all about it and that we would be participating. This news was met with some protest and with the girls watching TV or using their tablets every spare second they could! On Monday, I had an afternoon appointment, so their grandma picked them up from daycare and brought them home. When I arrived home, the girls were happily playing outside on the swing set. After a quick supper, we all headed back outside. The girls rode the go kart with their dad while I putzed around the yard. We headed in at 8:00 and got them ready for bed. After they were in bed, I turned to the giant pile of laundry that had amassed over the past week and got everything folded and put away. With the little time I had left until my bedtime after that massive undertaking, I finished a book I had started a few days before.

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Eco Camp Registration Open

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WHAT WILL MY CHILD DO AT ECO CAMP?

Eco camp is a week-long day camp for children ages PreK-6th grade. We believe a passion for stewardship begins with cultivating a love of nature and being outdoors. We’ll discuss plants, animals, renewable energy, gardening, composting, recycling, and how to be a responsible caretaker of our planet. Children will be engaged in environmental education through a variety of lessons, activities, games, stories, crafts, garden experiences, outdoor play, healthy snacks, field trips, and more!

WHEN IS ECO CAMP & HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

  1. 1st & 2nd Grade – Nature Nuthatches – June 18th – 22nd
  2. 3rd & 4th Grade – Sustainable Sparrows – July 9th – 13th
  3. 5th & 6th Grade – Conserving Chickadees – July 23rd – 27th
  4. PreK & Kindergarten – Recycling Robins – August 6th – 10th

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Turtle Talks Podcast – Episode 6: Covering Your Soil

Well, we did it! We got through all four principles of Soil Health. We talked about maximizing biodiversity, we dug into minimizing soil disturbances, and we needed to let everyone know how important it is to keep roots in the ground.

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There’s so many reasons to keep your soil covered!

We also begin with our Garden Update as Dave W. talks about a little mice problem he’s seen in the hoop house and what he’s done to help resolve pests. The garden crew has also spent time marking and cutting logs for mushroom cultivation.

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