Arbor Day 101

Arbor Day is an international holiday that encourages celebrating participants to plant and care for their trees. Did you know that the word arbor is the latin word for tree. The first Arbor Day celebration was organized in a small town in Spain in 1594, but the first recognized celebration in the United States was in the Kansas Territory in 1872 where an estimated 1 million trees were planted.

Across the world, Arbor Day has been celebrated at different times due to the rotating nature of the seasons affecting the prime date for planting trees. For example, New Zealand honors Arbor Day on June 5, while in Namibia, the holiday isn’t celebrated until October 8.

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Jim will be the first to tell you the importance of trees, whether they’re incorporated in your farm via agroforestry practices or simply providing shade on a hot day.

In fact, Arbor Day was only considered a regional holiday in the US until 1970, when, of all people, Richard Nixon initiated a national observance to take place on the last Friday in April (for this year, April 24, 2020).

*On a local note, late April is a perfect time to plant trees in Minnesota.*

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Finding Wonder in the Small Things: A Social Distancing Blog, Part 2

Things are different. It’s okay to feel different. If you need help, the National Alliance on Mental Health is a great resource and can help put you on a path back to feeling more like yourself. 

Nowadays, it is so easy to just get caught up in the big picture. Practicing safe protocols and doing what you can to “flatten the curve” has probably taken over a large section of your day. To be safe, we need to keep abreast of health protocols and guidelines. It’s just smart to do that. However, it’s really easy to get wrapped up in the stress.

The fear and the unknown can feel real.

So, the purpose of this article is to help remind you to take the time to focus on the something “close to home”, the something “small”.

The something “small” can be something that brings you joy. It can be the silver lining. It can be the touchstone that helps bring you to center, away from the fear and unknown.

One thing we do during our weekly virtual meetings is help bring everything to center. One of the techniques we practiced is the Awareness of the Five Senses.

This is a guided meditation script that helps to bring mindfulness to your five senses and I’ve found it helps to bring you to the here and now. It’s good for when you’re feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable and can really center you.

Once you’re centered, you should be able to get a grasp of the little things that make your day.

Here’s what our crew has been doing to help center themselves.

Shop Engineer Simon (Hunt Utilities Group), from over in the Mani shop, shared with me that he’s taking more time with his kids (as they’re home for school), going for bike rides and walks in the forest. He’s even been able to get a few board games in with them.

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Dave snapped this pic on one of the nicer days

Food Production Coordinator Dave (HDT-Pine River) has been working with his hands in this time, which is to say he’s still been wrist deep in seedlings and raised beds. He has been able to get out and paddle around in his kayak, though.

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We’re All in this Together: A Social Distancing Blog, Part 1

This is an unprecedented time. If you need help with your mental health, here are a list of numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health that are searchable for your county. For more information on mental health preparedness, here’s a good article from PBS

We are individuals. We are separate. We’re being asked to stay away from friends, family members, worshipers, and colleagues.

But, humans are social creatures. It’s in our nature to be in close contact with others. We love our get-togethers, our barbecues, our baseball games. Our society we fashion our lives around these social interactions.

However, for now and the near future we are being asked to run counter to what’s in our biological programing, what we’ve done in the past. Now, we are being asked to distance ourselves from each other.

Data is showing that people are doing this in Minnesota. You are flattening the curve and we are so proud of you because it is so hard!  That’s why we wanted to show you that you are not alone, not really. We are all in this together.

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Does this look familiar to you? Our crew has been social distancing for several weeks but we still need to keep in contact. Online is one of those ways. This is our monthly all-campus meeting…not held on campus, of course.

Our staff has been social distancing for close to a month, and we’ve each fallen into our own routines. We are keeping up our workload but we are finding ways to make our families and ourselves stronger.

Maybe reading how we are individually managing at our homes will give you the inspiration and strength to battle on and maybe also the solace in knowing that we are all in this together.

Executive Director Quinn

My days seem to be passing even more quickly. Are yours, too? Although I haven’t identified the reason, I think there are many contributing factors. At-home-working means less physical and mental separation between work and home so my “to do list” for home is growing all day waiting for lunch break or the end of the work day.

So far this morning water plants, empty dishwasher, kitchen clean, and deck sweeping have made the list. Plus, have you been seeing the myriad of amazing online opportunities being shared each day? Facebook Live and Zoom yoga classes, lectures/learning sessions on nearly any and every topic and so on!

*Note, I may never want to visit an in-person yoga class again; I am in love with yoga classes from afar.*

Also, it’s getting nicer outside! My husband and I take a near-daily walk. It used to be each weekday morning about 4:40am. Now it’s shifted to an afternoon/evening after he returns from work time-frame. As the days have grown lighter longer and snow has melted revealing litter the last few have been trash pickup walks.

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We can find purpose even in an afternoon walk. Here Quinn shows off how she’s cleaning up her stretch of road.

Before that, I was searching for acorn “tops” on walks. In the evenings I enjoy craft endeavors and as of late, the craft project du jour has been felting “acorns” to set into the tops.

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Quinn has been able to enjoy crafts with nature while at home.

I have been able to more frequently have catch ups with friends and family, utilizing calls, video chats, and texts, too. Typical or normal and new ways to while away time have made for quickly passing days.

Simply though, I recognize with deep gratitude, that I am fortunate to get to spend any day, let alone these days, in good health.

May we, looking back, find that these days were but quick, maybe productive, blips.

Program Coordinator Michelle

These last few weeks have been a big change for all of us. One of the things that have helped my family stay on track and maintain some sense of normalcy is having a schedule. Even before we started distance learning last week we made a schedule that included time for reading, writing, outside time, and STEAM games and activities. Now that they are doing formal schooling again, this schedule has helped my girls focus on their work and be productive.

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Getting outside is important.

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Focusing on the good things is too.

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Finding time to relax

We aren’t strict with our schedule, though. My girls are 8 and 10, in 2nd and 5th grade. Suddenly being home all the time and trying to figure out distance learning can be hard and stressful. Sometimes we need a break, even during our scheduled “work” time, so we take a break if we need to.

Getting outside is almost always what we need to regain focus. We’ve taken daily family walks, sometimes two or three times a day. There have been hula hoop contests, batting practice, and target practice with a bow and arrow. With the snow mostly gone, my youngest has finally been able to get to the swing set. She could swing for hours! My oldest and our puppy love to head off into the woods to explore and almost always come back with a pile of sticks to practice her fire building skills with.

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Routine is important.

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Schoolwork can keep you busy.

The guidance and support we are receiving from our school is absolutely amazing, too! Their teachers have gone above and beyond in providing instruction and work for our students. Each of my girls have spoken on the phone with their teachers, more than once, and that is a huge morale booster for them. The teachers are delving into new, unknown territory right along with us and they have more than risen to the occasion.

We recently started receiving lunch and breakfast from the school that they deliver each day. We didn’t sign up for them at first because we didn’t think we needed them. That was before we tried to come up with something different for lunch every day! The girls so look forward to that walk to the end of the driveway every day to pick up lunch and there hasn’t been anything yet that they haven’t eaten!

All in all, while this is not an ideal situation and there are still a lot of unknowns, I am thankful to have this time with my family and incredibly thankful for all of the support and services that are available.

We hope you found a little inspiration today in reading this. We will drop another post next week where other members of our staff share what they are doing through this difficult time.

“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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