Our First WWOOFer

Hailing from the farming community of Winsted, MN in central Minnesota, Alayna Karas has a first-person perspective of modern farming. Karas grew up learning the techniques her parents have been using, 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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Turtle Talks Podcast – Episode 5: Minimize Soil Disturbances

New episode is live! Jim, Allison, and I talk about the importance of keeping your roots in your soil, and how key it is for proper soil health. While I liked to call it “no-till”, Jim & Allison were quick to let me know that it is, rather, called “Minimizing Soil Disturbances”.

We also hear from Dave in this week’s Garden Update as the crew tries to mitigate the weirdness of this spring. He tells us how the wild temperature fluctuations and freezing cold has changed how the garden crew is getting the soil ready for the spring, which is right around the corner, I swear!

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Next Level Recycling

This month, we’re focusing on the most identifiable action of “going green.” It’s not Kermit T. Frog (however, that little amphibian has lots to say about being green) It’s not the Green Monster at Fenway. Nor is it the horrible (but oh so delicious) Shamrock Shake. Of course, I’m going to be talking about recycling.

But, while we’re on the subject, I wonder if McDonalds has any idea how much money they would make if they made their little green shake available year-round. The profits alone from my wallet would probably make it worth their time. I’m sure there was a marketing guy who thought up the term “engineered demand” and threw the idea to his bosses and they ran with it, leaving us poor suckers waiting for the magical time of year when we can punish our bodies. (And don’t get me started on the McRib!)

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If you think about recycling as a game, you and the planet can both win!

Where was I? Oh yes, recycling?! Yes, that sounds more like the purview of this blog. Recycling: taking something you have and don’t need anymore and turning it into something else…hopefully, again and again. It’s one of the pillars of the environmentalism movement. It’s what we’ve been hearing for decades, and the necessity of recycling is finally being taken seriously. We can see this by how simple it is to do in our society.

Look at any recycling tote. You can get a little plastic tote and fill it with mixed recyclables willy-nilly. Papers, bottles and cans (and just clap your hands) can be picked up every week from your curb. No hassle. No sorting. They do that for you at the center. All you have to do is make sure you put your recyclables in that tote and bring it to the curb. Here’s a quick FAQ if you’re looking for a list of curbside recyclables. Recycling is so easy. It’s so mainstream. Some might even say too easy and too mainstream.

Well, I’ve got some ideas that will help you go to the next level.

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Turtle Talks Podcast; Episode 4: Soil Diversity

The latest episode of Turtle Talks with the Garden Crew. We talk about the importance of having diversity in your garden. Instead of growing row after row of tomato plants, it helps to alternate your plant selection. This helps grow healthy soil and happy ecosystems, above and below ground.

PLUS, we introduce our “Garden Update” to give you an idea of what we’re doing on campus.

Stay tuned for future episodes twice a month!

48 Hour Water Strike Challenge

Did you know that there are over 700 million people that don’t have access to clean drinking water, and over 2 billion that don’t have access to proper sanitation?

This blew my mind!

With that knowledge, I wanted to bring awareness to how often we take for granted how easy we can have clean, drinkable, potable, flushable, water just at a flick of a wrist. The average daily water use in America is 80-100 gallons per person. This includes drinking, cooking, bathing, teeth-brushing, and toilet use.

So, my thinking is I need to draw attention to this. Someone needs to make sure other know about how fortunate we are in our communities. In central Minnesota, we’re blessed with miles and miles and acres and acres of fresh drinkable water. However, we must be good stewards of these abundant riches.

So, my plan is to use zero water for 48 hours. I planned on utilizing none of these.

You read that right.

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I routinely drink 2-3 of these during my work day. My work is cut out for me.

No water of any kind. No juices, no soft drinks, no teas, and no energy drinks.

No bathing. That means no showers, no sponge baths, and no hand-washing (yuck).

No toilet use. I’ve taken that to mean essentially means no flushing or normal toilet use. Luckily, the engineers up here at the HUG campus have designed a composting toilet, which uses zero water. How fortuitous. I will use hand sanitizer for clean up afterwards, just to be safe. But, remember those over 2 billion people that DON’T have access to hand sanitizer, let alone soap and water.

No teeth brushing. This is a huge deal for me. I brush my teeth at least 3 times a day, sometimes more. It’s a dumb obsession I have. I won’t leave the house before slapping the ol toothbrush between the gums. It’s something I’ll just have to deal with, maybe by using gum or mints.

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Cool Water Charities

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. We are home to more shoreline than Alaska, Hawaii, and California combined. We take pride in the fact that we have pristine, clean, usable water for drink and play. We base our lifestyles around it. We base our livelihoods on it. Clean usable water is so ingrained in our Minnesota culture.

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HDT’s hometown of Pine River utilizes it’s water sources for drinking and recreation.

With our overabundance of great water, do we take it for granted? Probably not. But, are we blessed? I think we are. Just last year, I was able to write a series of posts focusing on the MANY beaches in the #BrainerdLakesArea. (Gull Lake Recreation Area was my clear favorite).

However, look at other areas of the United States, and then widen your view to other areas of the globe. With other areas of the world suffering through a seemingly endless drought, unusable or unavailable water supplies, and zero access to sanitary water conditions, there has to be something we can do to help.

Fortunately, there are many water charities that are putting the effort into making water more accessible to both communities and nations, alike. Here are just a few:

Water.org

Co-founded by Matt Damon, Water.org seeks to go beyond drilling wells to ensure that all projects are sustainable for the long-term, involve local partners and community members, adequately address sanitation and hygiene, and have appropriate monitoring systems in place to keep track of issues and successes. They have also developed the WaterCredit initiative, which uses small loans to individuals and communities to empower people to address their own water needs.

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Happy National Pancake Day

Tuesday, February 27 is National Pancake Day (with International Pancake Day on March Sunday March 4 following close behind). Historically hosted as the last day before Lent, the date moves yearly and always occurs on Fat Tuesday (also known as Mardi Gras).

Since pancakes are universally loved, we thought we’d share out favorite recipes from around campus.

Jim’s Homemade by Hand Pancakes

Food & Water Security Coordinator, Jim Chamberlin thinks it’s better to take your time with your batter and that it’s not too important to be exact.

Chamberlin begins, “I start with four hand fulls of Natural Way Mills Gold N White Flour. Then I add two eggs, a couple capfuls of raw apple cider vinegar, and a couple blobs of melted butter. I pour in milk until I get a consistency of wet cement. Then I let it stand for two to 12 hours.”

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I went to the St. Cloud IHOP to research some other famous pancake recipes.

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How to Read a Seed Packet

When you finally get the itch to start planting, you’ll find that can get your seeds anywhere. You can go through online sources. You can order through seed catalogs. You can go to Costco. You can go to your local hardware store. You can probably go into one of your own kitchen drawers and find some.

The seed quality will vary. The packaging will be different at each place, but, they will almost always have information that you need to know about the seed you hold in your hand.

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Even dark mage Yordles take the time to learn what their seed packet can teach.

I had my good friend Veigar find some seed packets from his dark wizard tool shed and he kindly took the time to show me what kind of information they have on the front and back of each packet.

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Top 5 Indoor Garden Ideas

1) Indoor Succulent Garden succulents

One of the best things about succulents is their variety. You can fill your dining room table with so many varieties of succulents without repeating that you may have to eat your dinners in the kitchen. Not requiring constant attention, succulents are a perfect entry to putting some green in your house.

Go to Jessica’s Design Blog for more ideas.

2) Regrowing Veggies from scrapscelerychopped

Getting your kids to eat their veggies can be difficult sometimes, but now you’ve got a trick up your sleeve. Tell your child that once they eat their green deliciousness, they can turn their scraps into a living, growing plant. Some tasty veggies only require being set in a cup of water to get it sprouted again, such as celery, bok choi, and cabbage. Super easy and a great way to reuse. Check out here for more ideas.

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Window Sill Gardens

It’s snowing outside. Right now, I can look outside my window and see the beginnings of (yet another) snowstorm. These are nothing new in Central Minnesota. As hearty Minnesotans, we’re raised to endure the cold. We have flannel pajamas given to us for our first Christmas. We endure, and like your kind old neighbor will have you know, we are nurtured to endure quietly and stoically, one hand on our snow shovel, and when not accelerating, one foot always hovering over the brake.

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While not as edible as some plants, succulents can add green to your dreary winter.

With this recent (of many) snowstorms, I’m here to tell you that life is more than white landscapes inter speckled with black-barked trees and grey skies. I’m here to remind you that green is still a color. Remember green? Remember color? We can have color, even in the cold snowy winter. Even in Central Minnesota! But, instead of growing your entire garden indoors, let’s start a little smaller. Let’s start with windowsill gardens!
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