Local(ish) Earth Day Events

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This year’s Earth Day falls on a Monday (this April 22, to be specific). Taking the time off to properly celebrate our communal home may be difficult because of that. However, with the Easter weekend taking place directly before Earth Day, finding the time may be easier. In fact, many of the events celebrating Earth Day will be held during this upcoming weekend.

So, if you’re out of ideas for things to do for Earth Day, here are a few highlights to give you a head start.

Local Events:

Metro Events:

Many Statewide Locations:

  • Saturday, April 20-Monday April 22. 167 State Parks Across MN. Any Time – One of the best things about living in Minnesota is the variety of landscapes we have. To the forested areas to the North to the plains to the South, you can find a location that speaks to you. Dotted throughout Minnesota are 167 state parks. From historical locations to sites that celebrate our state’s natural beauty, there are so many to choose from. You’ll be sure to find one to your liking. All you gotta do is get outside!

 

 

 

Earth Day, a History

In 1969, Americans were preoccupied with the divisive Vietnam War. But another battle was occurring on the home front, with rivers and lakes polluted, cities like Los Angeles blanketed in smog, and litter a common sight everywhere.

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US Senator Gaylord Nelson was instrumental in the creation of Earth Day.

Meanwhile Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson had witnessed the effects of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Nelson, a Democrat, decided a “national teach-in” about the environment was in order, and he asked Pete McCloskey, a northern California Republican, to serve as co-chair. Groups representing causes including oil spill prevention, air pollution, toxic dumps, wilderness destruction and endangered species began to realize they were all part of a greater movement.

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Water, Water Everywhere

Happy Dancing Turtle is fortunate to be located in the middle of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Actually, it’s 11,842 lakes, but who’s counting. A person can hardly drive a mile down the road without passing a lake, pond, river, or stream, often seeing one or the other on both sides of the road. With such an abundance of water around us, it can be easy to take it for granted, which is exactly the reason we make it a point to include lessons on water in all of our youth educational programs.

Starting with our youngest learners, preschoolers at Tiny Turtles learn that around 60% of their bodies are composed of water, which always blows their minds! From there, they brainstorm the different ways that not only people but plants and animals as well, use water. Finally, we discuss different ways that we can use less water, not letting the water run while brushing your teeth being the easiest for them to relate to!

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Tiny Turtles seeing how much of their body is made of water.

Second graders in area schools get a water lesson as well, when Happy Dancing Turtle staff visit their classrooms to teach them about the water cycle and all of the different places on Earth that water is found. One of the kids’ favorite facts every time is that (for all practical purposes) there is the same amount of water on Earth now as there was millions of years ago and that the water they drank after gym just might be the same water that a dinosaur drank!

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Outdoor Adventures Await, Even in Winter

We’ve gotten through the “most wonderful time of the year” and now the cold realities of living in Minnesota are starting to set in, again. Instead of curling up in your favorite blanket and hugging your cup of warm cider (which is something you can do after!), we recommend some of the more adventurous OUTDOOR activities that are available in Minnesota.

Following the old Scandinavian saying, “There’s is no such thing as cold weather, only inadequate clothing,” we can surmise that there are some people who might take this saying to the extreme, even in the coldest of weather. However, for those that are just looking to get their feet wet (figuratively, of course, because wet feet in the cold winter is just crazy), here are a few ideas to get you started:

For a Date Night

Look, nothing can beat dinner and a movie for the traditional way to treat your significant other, but we live in Minnesota. We can do that anywhere. If you’re looking for something to do with your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, here are a couple ideas:

1) Snowshoe by Candlelight – February 22 – Nothing is more romantic than huffing around in your snowshoes. Taking the front 9holes of The Legacy golf course, Cragun’s is lighting up a mile long loop from 5-8pm. With a halfway pit stop offering hot chocolate & cider, and a bonfire at the end of the trail with cookies, this looks to be a really fun way to spend time with your sweetie. Plus, the event goes to support Habitat for Humanity.

2) Snowshoe Class at the Northland Arboretum – If you’re looking for more of an outdoor date, that the entire family can enjoy, the Northland Arb is holding snowshoe classes on Saturday, February 23 at 9:30am.

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Turtle Talks Podcast – Episode 18: Kids in Nature

*For complete event details including workshop descriptions, vendor list, and to register and pay online, visit www.happydancingturtle.org. If you’d like to register now, you can go to our online registration site.*

 

We were able to tear Michelle H. and Nora W. from their Back to Basics setup (taking place THIS SATURDAY, February 2) to talk with us about the important topic of kids and nature. You won’t be surprised to learn that more and more children are spending less and less time outdoors and are choosing to instead spend their time in front of screens (of any kind).

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Shared from Allison R.

This was an eye-opening episode for me.

It made me re-evaluate the amount of time I allow my children to be occupied by electronics, and furthermore, how I, myself interact with my screens.

The point isn’t that technology is bad or worse than not using technology. What has become evident is that children are missing out on some of the things that inherently make them kids. They have optimism, energy, and want to explore things. It’s built into their core.

What is happening is that the extreme uptick in screen time use is stopping children from being able to use that core.

We need to be mindful as parents that the use of technology and the, possibly, unintended consequences of allowing too much screen time, do not interfere with letting a kid be what a kid is supposed to be.

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Giving Back this Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us, many of us are focused on giving the perfect gifts to our loved ones. Whether it’s the latest gaming system or a fun new kitchen gadget, we spend a lot of time and money shopping for gifts each holiday season.

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This season of giving is also a good time to look at ways we can give back to our community. There are so many opportunities to give back that it’s easy to find a way that fits you and your family’s interests and means.

Adopt a family

Many local family centers, churches, schools, and other organizations offer programs for people to “adopt” families who have needs they can’t meet during the holiday season. This can mean anything from providing gift cards to the family, to supplying the components of a holiday meal or purchasing toy and clothing gifts for them. Some organizations also set up trees in local shopping centers where you can choose an “ornament” from the tree that lists needs for individuals and/or families. After making those purchases the ornament and gifts are dropped off at a listed location and will then be provided to those individuals.

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Four Reasons to Buy Local Turkeys

There are so many reasons to purchase your turkey from a farmer that is local. You can easily find out the conditions the turkey was raised in. You can find out what they feed the turkey. If you’re serious about looking locally for your Thanksgiving feast, Minnesota Grown is a valuable resource that will connect you with local producers throughout the year, not just for Thanksgiving. You can search for the local producer nearest you, or the one that best fits your values.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to go local or not, here are five reasons why searching locally is the best way to go.

  1. No Surprises
    Buying a local free range turkey gives you the opportunity to know what you are eating and where it came from. Buying local gives you the ability to talk to your local farmer about their farming practices, feeding program, and processing program. You should do your research, of course.

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    Your Tom might be as big as this gorgeous fella.

  2. Just Look at Tom Turkey’s Home 
    Not really, but you can learn a lot by seeing how a farm raised turkeys are raised. If they’re brought up in a humane environment with the option to the great outdoors, you can check that off your list. They get their nutrition from pecking all day with additional quality feed from the local feed store (compared to the store bought turkeys that are cooped up and fed low quality medicated feed). To be sure of this, you should do your research, though.
  3. What Would you Pay for a Robust Local Economy?
    Buying meats from your local farmer keeps money in your community. Shopping local keeps four times the money in your community’s economy compared to shopping at chains. The dollars spent locally go towards the regular things your local farmer buys! (How Quaint!) These include dentist bills, holiday presents, and other things that other “normal” people buy around town. So, shop local! Your farmer will thank you!

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  4. Your Taste Buds will Thank You
    Knowing where your meat is coming from, how it is raise, and how it is processed will automatically make you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner that much more. But the truth is, a farm fresh free range turkey tastes better. Usually, they are not pumped full of preservatives, saline, or other added ingredients. When you buy from your local farmer you are getting what you pay for… fresh turkey. But, as always when making a choice of this nature, you should do your research. 

How to Handle the Harvest

So you’re drowning in vegetables?! It’s that time of year! A few things to keep in mind: a. You likely chose this situation (signing up for the CSA, planting the garden, buying at the Farmers’ Market/Farm Stand, leaving your car door open), b. It can be managed, c. You are not alone! Welcome my friend, we’re in the same club.

There are options for how to handle the overabundance that is likely pushing against your fridge door’s capability to seal (or is this just my fridge?). Eat right now, eat soon, or preserve/prepare for later consumption, or find a new home – these are the options we’ll be addressing.

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Salsa – Fresh garden salsa might be one of the reasons I survive winter each year. The gorgeous variety of tomatoes and peppers can wow any audience. *Plus, you can can OR freeze salsa! Continue reading

Camp Safety

Some of my best memories are of times my father took my sister and me camping. We wouldn’t go far off the beaten path. In fact, our location of choice was the Gull Lake Camp Ground, just west of Brainerd International Raceway. (We could hear the big boys all day, even miles away).

The point I’m trying to make is that even though we weren’t exactly “roughing it.” We were only a short drive away from any population, restaurants, hospitals, or help. Yet, we always had the proper safety equipment close by and followed common sense camp rules.

I talked with Dave W. who takes his kids camping on a more frequent basis and he shared a few things and tips that he uses for safety at his campsite.

  • First Aid Kit – A well-stocked FAK should include bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain medicine, tweezers, safety pins, and an instruction manual. These are only the basic and you can fit yours out as full or bare as you like.
  • Insect Repellent – This is more of a long-term safety item. The fewer insect bites you have to deal with, the better. A good repellent keeps mosquitos and ticks away while you’re out in the wild. However, remember to check for ticks after your activities in the woods, and before bed. Those little guys can get anywhere.
  • A reliable source of water. – You can trek yours in, but that stuff is heavy! If you can’t bring yours in, you’ll have to rely on a local source. Make sure to boil any water you intend to drink for several minutes. A water filter is a good idea, as well.
  • Keeping your food safe – You’ll want plenty of ice for temperature sensitive foods like uncooked meats (yummy hotdogs!), and dairy products. You can also try canned, dried, or fresh veggies and fruits for your trip. The last thing you want is to get sick while out in nature.

Dave is also a volunteer firefighter at Pequot Lakes, and he tells me that taking care of your fire is one of the best ways to keep forest fires from happening. He recommends the following.

  • Use a fire ring or rocks around a campfire. This can be part of the fun of a new campsite, building the fire circle. If you can’t find any rocks, clear the area of combustible material (needles, leaves, etc.) five feet in all directions around your fire area.
  • The campfire itself should only be three feet or less in height. Keep it small, keep it manageable.
  • Keep water and a shovel nearby. Also, it’s good practice to never leave a fire unattended. Sparks can fly when you’re least expecting it.
  • When you’re done with your campfire, use the drown and stir method. Pour water on the coals and stir with a shovel or stick to make sure all embers are extinguished.

Wherever you decide to set up camp, you should be able to last the night with these few tips. If you have any ideas for camp safety, we would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below!

 

Introduction to Camping: Wilderness Camping

“In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.” -Excerpt from The Wilderness Act of 1964

Wilderness camping is what camping is meant to be all about. You’re powered by the work of your own body; your luxuries are limited to what you’re able to carry yourself; you’re away from the hustle and bustle of society and large crowds; you rely on your own resourcefulness to get past bumps in your journey. This type of camping takes a bit more prep work – planning a route, planning your meals, packing the right equipment, and making sure you have a plan in case something goes wrong. Often, wilderness camping takes you out of cell service range, which can be a curse and a blessing all at one time. That inability to connect with the world at the touch of a button can give you a true “unplugged” vacation, allowing you to reach a whole new level of relaxation. At the same time, you need to be aware that if something did go wrong, you may not easily be able to get help. So planning for this type of trip is key to your success. That being said, this is in no way a comprehensive guide. If you’re new to wilderness camping, do some serious research about any trip you plan on taking. Think of this as a jumping off point.

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