HDT and Agroforestry

On June 19th, fifteen forestry, conservation, and agricultural professionals gathered at the U of M Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, MN. This lucky gardener, from a plucky little non-profit in North Central MN with a mission in sustainability, was excited to be among them. We were all ready for a 3-day intensive workshop on agroforestry.

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Community food forest in Mountain Lake

Agroforestry: Intensive land-use management that optimizes the benefits (physical, biological, ecological, economic, social) from biophysical interactions created when trees and/or shrubs are deliberately combined with crops and/or livestock.  

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Forest Farming shiitake mushrooms

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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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What is the Youth Environmental Education Program?

Happy Dancing Turtle has been sharing about sustainable living topics with children for over a decade. Topics vary widely from recycling and water conservation to pollinators and habitat. The ages that HDT serves range from 4-adult. One of our longest running and most popular kids’ programs is Eco Camp. Eco Camp is a week-long day camp that includes environmental topics, recycled crafts, exploration, and field trips. 

If you want to help support programs like these, please go to our page on the Give to the Max Day website.

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Field trips to the school forest and other outdoor locations offer kids to experience nature in Minnesota.


In 2015, HDT started in-school science education at local schools. These science lessons are aligned with learning standards and periodically supplement the science education in 1st and 2nd grade classrooms. 

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Vitamin N(ature)

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Neither “Natural Deficit Disorder” or “Vitamin N” are actual medical terms but rather two phrases coined by Richard Louv. The author of “Last Child in the Woods,” “The Nature Principle”, and “Vitamin N,” and co-founder of the “Children and Nature Network,” Louv claims our culture is experiencing a crisis of nature withdrawal. Today’s kids spend over 50 hours a week on an electronic device and 90% of their time indoors. But it’s not just the vilified electronic device to blame for the nature deficit, there is also poor urban design, a culture of fear, and the emphasis on organized sports. Our rural and small town locale mitigate the impact of the “concrete jungle” and the fear of neighborhood violence, but for some families, it still takes an effort to find a safe, natural environment for play. However, the rewards are worth the effort:

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CSA Update – Shiitake, Broccoli & Peas

Shiitake Mushrooms!

Shitake mushrooms taste good in almost anything.

Like the rest of the produce, make sure you rinse your mushrooms. The stems can be tough, but they add awesome flavor to your stock. You can add these mushrooms to most dishes, one comment was not to baked ham. You can even dry the mushrooms and store them in a glass container for later use.

The Chinese were the first to cultivate these mushrooms. Japanese scientists developed a method of inserting pencil-shaped plugs of mycelial spawn grown from specially selected varieties of Lentinus edodes (Shiitake) into holes bored in oak logs. Extracts have been used in treating cancer, and claims have been made that they reduce cholesterol, prolong life, kill viruses, and improve circulation.

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CSA Update – Basil & Garlic Scapes

Wonderful News! The broccoli and cauliflower are beginning to grow heads. The peas are climbing and carrots are growing. The bean plants are looking great. The potato vines are reaching for the sun. The squash, pumpkins, corn, and watermelon are coming along. We’ve got red romaine, spring mix lettuce, tomato plants, and pepper plants growing in our hoop house. More harvest is on its way.

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Garlic scapes are a unique way to add flavor to your dishes.

Basil is a new item in your bag. Use it as soon as you can, the flavor fades quickly and it is difficult to keep them fresh. To store, wrap loosely in a damp (not wet) paper towel and seal in a ziplock bag. Place it in the warmest part of your fridge, either in the door or on the top shelf.  Don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Chop with a very sharp knife or use scissors. It’s best to add fresh basil at the very end of cooking, after you’ve removed your pan from heat, to preserve its delicate flavor. Or even better–use it fresh. Sprinkle on a green salad, a fruit salad, scrambled eggs, or pizza. Add to any cooked dish right before serving.  Enjoy!

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What’s Goin’ On 06/24-0626

Weekly Events!
Friday – Farmers’ Market (Pine River Market Square – Farmers’ & Crafters’ Market), 2:30-5:30pm, Downtown Pine River. See Facebook for updates.
Friday – Duck Races!, 2pm, @ the Dam

Saturday – Ideal Green Market Farmers’ Market – Ideal Corners next to the Old Milwaukee Club; 9am-1pm. Facebook for info.

Special Events!
Friday – 371 Flea Market, 9am-3pm, Near the Depot and Chamber Info. Center, off 371

Thursday – Sunday – Cass Co. Fair!, LOTS of family fun! Check out the schedule here.

See you at the Market! OR Fair. 🙂
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Farmers Markets All Around

Interest in local foods is more than a trend, and certainly from a historic perspective – it’s a return to the “way things used to be”.

The number of Farmers’ Markets has grown dramatically in the past few years, this echoes the increased interest by consumers to procure tasty, fresh, unique, and ripe food.

prmspicsmallThere are diverse reasons shoppers appreciate Farm Markets. Many site the interaction with farmers, growers, and crafters to be a highlight. The opportunity to talk with people about their products is powerful. When purchasing relish at the supermarket, for example, it’s not possible to ask when it was made, how it was canned, and if there is a secret recipe, maybe even one that can be shared. A conversation with a grower can be much more than “how much are the tomatoes”; it may inform every tomato purchase that you have after that. Things like fertilizer use, pest prevention tactics, heirloom and open pollinated seed, how to avoid blight, recipe suggestions, and much more may transpire between consumer and grower. This is just one of many thousands of conversations that happen at a typical market. At the least, Farmers’ Markets are a place to find seasonal products; but there is much more to the equation, they are an opportunity to build community, support smaller growers, circulate dollars within the local economy, and boost health and diversity within diets.

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You’ll find all sorts of fresh foods at your farmers market.

Many Markets take place outdoors offering a neat environment for children and adults alike. Some also have kid-focused activities and amenities. Shopping with children at Farmers’ Markets is a neat experience to share. Opportunities to show that food isn’t made in a supermarket but is grown and that the growers are “real” people. Also, depending on the Market, shopping may be a cultural diversity adventure for kids. Different cultures have different vegetables that are common in their recipes and may be present at a Market.

Often referenced rationale for shopping at Farmers’ Markets might be familiar, though it bears repeating. People love that produce is allowed to ripen on the plant versus in the shipping crate or on the shelf.

Almost always, the produce is picked day of the Market, offering freshness that is only rivaled by backyard gardening. In addition, the varieties that are grown by Market vendors can be focused on attributes like flavor, and color versus shelf life and transportation tolerance. Some customers purchase in larger quantities in order to put-by for off-season eating through canning, freezing, and dehydrating.

Take every possible opportunity to stop by Farmers’ Markets, each experience is bound to be different and rewarding. Unique foods, neat ideas, and great people abound. Whether trendy or not, they are dang tasty!

Working Together Can Improve Water Quality

World Water Day is March 22…

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Flint Michigan”.

As of late, it is probably WATER. Lead poisoned water, sick children, an outraged community, and a swarm of citizens and media asking a beleaguered government:

How could you let this happen?” followed by “You need to fix the problem!

That is a fair question and a fair expectation. The leadership should be accountable for their actions and lack of actions. To compromise water/health-safety for the sake of a budget is an affront to our “life, liberty, and the pursuit of ANYTHING…” That sentiment is shared by many of us even though we are blessed to live in a region where we have abundant pristine water. But if something like that could happen in Flint, couldn’t it happen here as well? Continue reading