Happy #WorldTurtleDay

We here at Happy Dancing Turtle have an affinity with the turtle. The majestic turtle is seen in our culture as both patient and wise. From children’s lessons that indoctrinate the values of “slow but steady wins the race” to famous anecdotes of our world consisting of turtles “all the way down“, the grand turtle permeates our modern mythology in many ways.

Take a look at modern turtle poetry. One of my wife’s favorite poems is a classic by Shel Silverstien. It’s called “The Bagpipe Who Didn’t Say No”. It’s a charming poem told in a bouncing rhyming pattern about a turtle who discovers a set of bagpipes on the shore of the sea. If you’ve never read it, take a quick moment to enjoy it.  It’s only just one way we see an aspect of the turtle in our culture.



Shel Silverstein’s “The Bagpipe Who Didn’t Say No” is a classic.

Another way our culture views the grand turtle is through it’s use in cartoons. You have many iterations that highlight the eggheaded nature of the turtle. Just look at these two example:


On the left, you see Toby from the classic Robin Hood. He’s good natured, well-intentioned…nerdy, but a scaredy cat. You could call the turtle on the right a nerd, as well. Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles delivers a punch just like the rest of his brothers, but with the use of his brains.

But, what do these examples say about the turtle? They are continually being represented in our culture, which says to me that they are popular. They’re popular because they have desirable identifiable qualities, such as determination and intelligence. And, above all that, I see another quality in turtles that should be emulated far and wide: resiliency.

Turtles (or more specifically, tortoises) are well-known for their longevity. Only just last decade, the tortoise captured by Charles Darwin himself passed away at the ripe old age of 175 years. Lonesome George, a monument to conservation efforts, passed away at 100 years old. Both these stalwarts lived long, and what is the key to living a long time? You guessed it: Resiliency.


This is Jonathan, a 182 year old tortoise. You can see him at age 81 in the picture on the left.

Who would you say has a more resiliency, a turtle or a frog? Who would you peg to have the ability to bounce back from hardship, a turtle or a rabbit? Moreover, who would you say has a the ability to endure difficulties, ups and downs, and do it in a manner only described as “stoic”? You bet you’d say a turtle. I know I would.

So, let’s celebrate the turtle. Let’s hold it high among the best animals. Not that the mighty turtle would ask us for it, but let us pay tribute to it. Good job turtles! You’re an inspiration to not only our organization, but to the world! Keep it up!

Indoor Gardening Ideas – Update

The indoor gutter system my wife put up last month is going well, but it wasn’t perfect. With a busy schedule (you wouldn’t believe how much time kids take!), watering every day was proving to be difficult and we wanted these plants to survive this time!

We added a reservoir system that automatically watered the plants with minimal thought on our part. Using vacuum pressure, we only need to “water” our gutter system every other week now. Here’s how it looks!


We added PVC pipe that was sealed off on both ends. A hole was drilled in both sides (on the top of the pipe) for access to the water in the pipe.


Each potted plant hanging out in the gutter was given a hollow water bulb. Each bulb has a hose running to the reservoir just beneath the gutter level.


Here, you can see the bulb and the hose a little more clearly. 


You can see our strawberry plant is doing very well with the suction watering system. For our smaller gutter, we used a plastic tupperware dish to hold the water. It works just the same as the PVC pipe. As long as the water level is just below the soil level, the dry soil will “pull” the water through the hose when it needs it, reducing a lot of watering time.


As long as the tip of the bulb stake is above the water line, you’ll have an almost hands-free watering system. We have to fill the reservoir only on a bi-weekly basis. 

The plan is to transfer our cabbage, strawberries, broccoli, and flowers to our outdoor raised beds (I call them our white “coffins” and you can sort of see them in the first picture above). Once they’ve been moved, we’ll start up some herbs for the kitchen that can grow year round. Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh basil?

Get to Know the HDT Board – Erika Bailey-Johnson

At Back to Basics, our annual sustainability event, I get to do a lot of the picture taking and video recording. There’s usually so much going on during the day that I need to plan out where shots should be set up, which interviews need to be recorded, etc. During the lead up to the 2014 B2B, I found that during session 3 (right after the lunch break), there were way too many interesting session to properly cover.

However, as the event date rolled closer, our conundrum was solved on its own. One of the presenters pulled out unexpectedly, leaving us free to mic-up the presenters in the other workshop.

It was at this session where I first met Erika Bailey-Johnson. Stating that she wished to become closer to the Ojibwe culture, Bailey-Johnson introduced herself in fluent Ojibwe. What started as a passion to get to know her local culture, Bailey-Johnson has been able to turn into a project that can influence young generations to think globally.

We are so fortunate here at HDT to have a leader who eats, breathes, works, and probably even dreams about living the resilient lifestyle.


Erika Bailey-Johnson during a presentation.

As the Sustainability Director at Bemidji State University, Bailey-Johnson’s day job gives her the opportunity to engage her community at different levels. Overseeing sustainability projects at both the university and the city, Bailey-Johnson is able to weave sustainability practices into the everyday lives of both student and citizen.

Some of the projects include removing bottled water from campus stores, enabling student engagement of energy-reduction in their dorms, and even bringing bike sharing programs to the relatively small city of Bemidji.

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Indoor Gardening Ideas

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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TedXGullLake Streaming Party at CLC!

Tickets for the 2nd TedXGullLake are sold out, but you don’t have to miss out on the action. Taking place this weekend at Madden’s on Gull Lake, the action starts Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day!) at 8am and goes all day.

All 14 speakers and performers who will be live at Madden’s can be seen on screen streaming at the Central Lakes College viewing party. CLC will be hosting the TEDx talks, along with snacks, refreshments, and friendly discussion in Room E203 at the Brainerd campus. 


You can watch the TEDxGullLake live stream at the CLC Campus in Brainerd.

The viewing party will be hosted by Curt Nielsen.

This viewing party is FREE for all.

Katie Hunt, TedXGullLake director, said “The wider these stories and ideas can be spread, the greater the conversation that can take place.”

The streaming party will start at 9am this Saturday, with the first three sessions running from 9-10:25 am, 10:50-noon, and 1:30-3:10pm. Light snacks will be provided.

For more information on the event and speakers, go to www.TEDXGULLLAKE.com

Water Water Everywhere, Why Bother Conserving?

#WorldWaterDay is today, March 22. This is a day where we take a closer look at our water consumption habits and see what we can do to increase reduction (that makes sense, right?) However, looking at my driveway currently covered under a foot of snow and ice, I can make a general statement that we are nowhere near using up our allotment of earthly freshwater (less than 1% of all water, btw). Therefore, I declare that we must drink and use up as much water as we can.

In fact, since there is an abundance of water (an…overflow, if you will) I decided to see in what ways I could increase my family’s water consumption. Drinking more water equals less water (snow up here) that will fall on my driveway. Here’s a couple ideas that could help. Feel free to use them, too! Continue reading

TedXGullLake is April 22 at Madden’s On Gull Lake

Advocates, innovators, entertainers, and thinkers will take the TEDxGullLake stage to present their “ideas worth spreading” on April 22 at Madden’s on Gull Lake.

Presenters will include experts on climate change and lake health in Minnesota, a developer of nano-capsule technology used for cancer treatment, teachers who innovate to make science and math real to middle school students, and the winner of National Public Radio’s 2016 “Tiny Desk” Concert competition. In addition, topics during the day will range from the impacts of computer light on our brains, to the challenges of midwifery in rural areas, to what it means to be a man in rural America. A transplanted east coast writer and entertainer will share her discoveries after moving to small-town Minnesota. And the creator of the DocuMNtary video series will talk about Minnesota’s innovative technology scene, past and present.

“Variety and balance is a hallmark of TED Talks,” said Kate Hunt, curator for TEDxGullLake and a 2014 TED Fellow. “When you sit down for a day of short presentations, you never really know what to expect. You might hear something familiar approached from an entirely new direction or you might be inspired by a new idea or topic you never knew existed.”


The Minnesota Harvest Lunch features food locally produced in the area.

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Back to Basics 2017: A Review

Around early September, we start getting anxious around her. The care-free days of summer begin to shorten. The happy giggles of Eco-Campers are in the rear-view mirror. The CSA shares offer up their tremendous bounty. It’s not because of these occurrences that start to get anxious. No, they’re simply a reminder for us that the seasons are beginning to change to winter, and for us, winter is focused on one thing: making Back to Basics the best event it can be.


B2B 2017 

First things first, the crew needs to pick a theme. What makes a theme so robust as to make it the central idea on which the event revolves? There are countless avenues to go down. Should we highlight healthy eating? Homesteading? Sustainability basics? The “best” event must have a theme to bring the crowd in.

Or perhaps it’s HUGE vendor area that needs to be focused on first? Do we have the largest sustainability fair in northern Minnesota as the draw to encourage attendees?

Or is it to secure a dynamite keynote speaker? Is that what makes B2B an annual draw? Certainly having well-known, well-spoken leaders in the sustainability field is the key, right? We’ve had educators, restaurateurs, city-planners, and even environmental activists in our keynote position.

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