Nature Notes: Birding Bonanza in the Driftless Region

20180508_173530Last Thursday, Michelle and Quinn traveled down to visit me in Trempealeau, Wisconsin, home of the new Happy Dancing Turtle – Driftless Region! They’ve heard me talking about the area for months and finally came down to check it out for themselves. Although, I must say I think I accidentally misled them. I’ve been talking about blue skies and 70s/80s temps for the last few weeks, but naturally, temps dropped to the 40s/50s and we received a lot of rain. Despite the rather unfortunate weather, there was still much to enjoy! When they arrived, I toured them through Perrot State Park on our way into Trempealeau. We enjoyed dinner at The Trempealeau Hotel, a quintessential restaurant of the Driftless Region located in a historic building from the 1880s. It is one of many restaurants featuring sustainably-sourced, locally grown ingredients on the menu. It also highlights the variety of live music events in the area, complete with an outdoor porch, beautiful gardens, and a bandstand overlooking the Mississippi and riverside bluffs.

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Screen Free Week Observations

Last week children, families, entire schools, and communities across the nation participated in Screen Free Week, endeavoring to not use any screens during non school and work hours. That meant no smart phones, no video games, no TV, no computers, no screens of any kind. Several of us here at Happy Dancing Turtle participated as well, including me and my two daughters, 8 year old K, and 6 year old B.

Screen Free Week started on Monday, April 30, so the Saturday before that I told them all about it and that we would be participating. This news was met with some protest and with the girls watching TV or using their tablets every spare second they could! On Monday, I had an afternoon appointment, so their grandma picked them up from daycare and brought them home. When I arrived home, the girls were happily playing outside on the swing set. After a quick supper, we all headed back outside. The girls rode the go kart with their dad while I putzed around the yard. We headed in at 8:00 and got them ready for bed. After they were in bed, I turned to the giant pile of laundry that had amassed over the past week and got everything folded and put away. With the little time I had left until my bedtime after that massive undertaking, I finished a book I had started a few days before.

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Eco Camp Registration Open

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WHAT WILL MY CHILD DO AT ECO CAMP?

Eco camp is a week-long day camp for children ages PreK-6th grade. We believe a passion for stewardship begins with cultivating a love of nature and being outdoors. We’ll discuss plants, animals, renewable energy, gardening, composting, recycling, and how to be a responsible caretaker of our planet. Children will be engaged in environmental education through a variety of lessons, activities, games, stories, crafts, garden experiences, outdoor play, healthy snacks, field trips, and more!

WHEN IS ECO CAMP & HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

  1. 1st & 2nd Grade – Nature Nuthatches – June 18th – 22nd
  2. 3rd & 4th Grade – Sustainable Sparrows – July 9th – 13th
  3. 5th & 6th Grade – Conserving Chickadees – July 23rd – 27th
  4. PreK & Kindergarten – Recycling Robins – August 6th – 10th

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Turtle Talks Podcast – Episode 6: Covering Your Soil

Well, we did it! We got through all four principles of Soil Health. We talked about maximizing biodiversity, we dug into minimizing soil disturbances, and we needed to let everyone know how important it is to keep roots in the ground.

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There’s so many reasons to keep your soil covered!

We also begin with our Garden Update as Dave W. talks about a little mice problem he’s seen in the hoop house and what he’s done to help resolve pests. The garden crew has also spent time marking and cutting logs for mushroom cultivation.

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Screen Free Week

Are you up for a challenge? We are challenging you to join us for a week as we set aside our devices and refocus on relaxing, reading, daydreaming, creating, playing, exploring, and building our connections to family, friends, and places! From April 30th to May 6th, millions of people from around the world will unplug during non-work/school time to find joy in a wide variety of screen-free activities.

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Reducing our Landfill Output

Reading that an item takes eleventy bazillion years to break down in the environment makes for great attention grabbing stuff when writing articles on green living, but the more I research various related topics, the more I find differences in estimations.

Recycling is great as it keeps our landfills from filling up. However, even if we choose to purchase biodegradable plastics and post-consumer made notebooks, it’s not even a guarantee that we’re making a difference.

Take a look at how our modern landfills work. Modern landfills have mountains of regulations and environmental concerns to deal with, making their task of keeping up with the amount of trash we produce to be an extreme duty. Kudos to all who do! It’s truly a thankless job.

What this post is trying to point out is that even despite all the hard work that landfill workers and administrators do to minimize the harm, they can’t do enough in the face of a planet that doesn’t help.

If we continue to purchase more items, with little concern for how those items are made, packaged, delivered, and eventually tossed into the trash, little progress is going to be made on the landfill front.

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Less Plastic

With Earth Day right around the corner, it’s a time when many pay extra attention to the Earth. It’s an opportunity to take a look at habits in your life that are supporting and even promoting plastic use. Yes, it might be time to consider your plastic consumption a little closer. We have a duty as global citizens and consumers to be making wise choices for the sustainability of the planet. Just as you “vote with your fork” when it comes to food (farming practices, ingredients, food miles, etc) and you “vote with your dollar” when it comes to products, clothing, and supporting organizations and initiatives. Our choices are often equivalent to a “vote for the environment or against it”. So why focus on plastic? In short “If nothing changes, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish (by weight).” 1 Perhaps you’ve heard there is an island of plastic trash that is floating in the ocean. “It’s a dubious honor, but humanity has managed to amass a giant trash mass about twice the size of Texas, or three times the size of France, or about 1,600 miles.” 2 This isn’t a benign issue; aquatic animals are consuming this plastic and a growing number are dying because of this. Beyond that, if you eat fish – you too might be eating small bits of plastic.

There are simple and often repeated suggestions like declining the plastic bags at the store. *Did you know that many stores have bag recycling somewhere on their premises? But far before we get to the end of a purchase and bag selection, we make choices that support a clean planet in the future.

Some New and Some Tried & True Suggestions –

Think twice about buying pre-bagged {manufacturer-bagged} vegetables or those that are wrapped in cling/saran/plastic wrap on a styrofoam tray. Additionally, instead of pulling down and using a new plastic bag for your produce – consider reusing the ones from your last trip. *Keep reusable produce bags (plastic or cloth) in your reusable shopping bags then they’re ready for the next trip to the store. Also, when buying just one (or two) of something – skip the bag.

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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!