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.

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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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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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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Landscaping for Wildlife – A Closer Look at the Upgaard Reserve

This month is Lakes Appreciation Month and (besides delving into how awesome our area’s beaches are) we wanted to showcase some methods that may help you keep your lakes the best they can be.

So, first things first: It’s important to understand that healthy lakes will be able to support all kinds of wildlife, including fish, waterfowl, insects, amphibians, and even larger creatures such as deer and other large mammals.

According to the US Forest Service, wildlife have four thing necessary to thrive:

  • Food – Flowers, nectar, nuts, acorns, berries, grains, or any sort of food you think a critter would like. Animals got to eat, right?
  • Water – This doesn’t have to be a huge pond or stream added to your land. You can easily add something as simple as a bird bath. Animals got to drink, right?
  • Cover – This is basically protection from the elements, such as shrubs, bushes, trees, tall grass, or anything else that provide safety from predators and a place to nest.
  • Space – Animals can be territorial. If you don’t have the space for larger critters, focus on what you can do for the smaller ones. Bluebirds need only 300 feet before they start fighting for area.

If you can provide these four elements on your land, you’ll have a thriving environment for critters in no time, PLUS you’ll have a healthier environment for yourself to boot!

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It’s Clean Beaches Week! BLA’s Best Beaches

July 1-7 is Clean Beach Week, and boy does the Brainerd Lakes Area have some doozys! Let’s be frank: They don’t call it the Brainerd Lakes Area for nothing. As we get into the dog days of summer, there’s no better time to make use of the area’s namesake. But before you double-check your packing list and apply your sunscreen, take a moment to see which beach might fit your needs. I grabbed my kids and we spent a hot afternoon doing a little research of the area’s best beaches.

Gull Lake Recreation Area

 

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Clean sand welcomes all sand castle builders.

The first thing you’ll notice is the amount of green shaded area surrounding the beach. You’ll notice it even more when offset by the narrow beach area. This is, as they say, a feature of the beach. You’ll be shaded while staying out of the water, enjoying your picnic, or playing a game of volleyball. 

If you have only time to go to one beach in the area, this is the beach I would recommend for most. It’s got almost everything you’d like. The positives (shady area, tons of picnic tables, care of shoreline, and access to lots of recreational facilities) easily outweigh the negatives (which are the ridiculously small beach and a large horsefly presence).

Whipple Beach Recreation Area

 

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You’ll love the wide open space for sunning and sandplay, just watch out for burning feet.

Whipple Beach is snuggled just west of Hwy 371 behind Best Buy, about a mile. So, if you’re looking for a beach that is close to the cosmopolitan confines of Brainerd, look no further than the surprisingly sandy shores of Whipple.

The new playground There are many things that will draw you to this location and simply because it’s right in our backyard, it will be visited many times, eagerly. There are so many reasons to enjoy this beach. Bike trails run alongside the sand, playground equipment beckons the kids, a picnic pavilion can generously host groups of all sizes, and changing rooms are available. The only downside I can see to Whipple would be due to its location, it’s always going to be busy on hot days. Moreover, if it’s busy, you’ll be forced onto the Sahara Desert, away from the shady area. But, with clear fresh water only feet away, it shouldn’t be too bad.

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A 2019 Minnesota Summer Festival Highlight

Minnesota has a wide heritage that is as eclectic as it is unique. For those of you that have grown up in rural Minnesota, you understand that the summertime is a time to work hard and make hay while the sun shines.

We’ve got to cram all our summer fun in three months, so there is significant overlap on weekends, but there is definitely no shortage of things to do during the warm months.

We love to celebrate our heritage with festivals and get-togethers that range from New Ulm’s Oktoberfest to American Indian powwows.

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Let’s be honest, garlic’s a pretty weak reason to host a festival, but Hutchinson holds it’s event with gusto, and it’s only getting bigger!

However, there’s really no good list of how many events Minnesota hosts. There’s not a “definitive” list, but some range them between 600 and 1,500 block parties, powwows, concerts, annual town get-togethers, historical reenactments,  and not to mention the the larger events like the State Fair, the Renaissance Festival, and We Fest (the largest camping & country concert in the US).

And it’s not only for the lutefisk and mashed potatoes that people put these things together. There’s big money to be made! According to an article by Andy Greder and Ann Harrington, a significant portion of the $10 billion spent by travelers in Minnesota are dedicated to attending the myriad festivals across the state.

 

You see, Minnesotans love a good get together! There hardly needs to be a reason. However, here are a few of the festivals that might prove to be worth the visit:

Agate Days – Moose Lake – July 13-14
Festival of the Voyageur – Pine City – September 21-22
MN Garlic Festival – Hutchinson – August 10
Potato Days- Barnesville – August 23-24
Bean-Hole Days – Pequot Lakes – July 16-17
King Turkey Days – Worthington – Sept 13-14
Corn Capital Days – Olivia – July 22-28
Dam Festival – Little Falls – June 14-15
Summerfest – Pine River – July 24-28