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.”

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

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Get to Know the HDT Board – Molly Zins

Happy Dancing Turtle has been around since 2007 and we’ve had many board members. Some are locally famous while others prefer to work in the background. The goal of our board is to give our team a direction in which to point our efforts. With each board member coming from many different backgrounds, we are fortunate to have many different knowledge bases to draw from.

We were thrilled to learn that Molly Zins accepted our invitation to be a member of our board of directors. As the executive director of the Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (CRSDP), Zins has a direct connection with the University of Minnesota Extension program and a deep understanding of the breadth of sustainable practices throughout the region. We sat down with Zins to talk about where she sees HDT currently sitting on the sustainability field, and where she sees it heading into the future.

For a video of the interview, head on over to our YouTube page!

“All the work that goes on here is very closely aligned, if not spot on, with my personal priorities.”

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Zins during an interview recorded on November ’16.

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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.

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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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Birds, Bugs, Water & Agriculture

How can we have more birds, cleaner water, better food, and a healthier planet? That seems to be the questions a lot of people are asking now days. You can watch one documentary after another about all the environmental problems we face, many because of or food system. What’s harder to find is examples and stories on how agriculture can provide the food we need, for some nine billion people, and protect the natural world we so enjoy and need.

The good news in agriculture is out there, and you don’t need to go far. Self-reliant and self-educated farmers are implementing practices that build soil health, diversify the landscape, and protect their pocketbook. The farmers, ranchers and resource professionals implementing these restorative practices are new age pioneers, leading the way in conservation agriculture.

Gabe Brown, of Brown’s Ranch, farms 5400 acres in central North Dakota and has led the way in innovative cover cropping, livestock integration, and other soil building practices. In doing so he provides habitat for pollinators and predatory insects, game and songbirds, small mammals, and the microorganisms below ground that fuel the whole system. He protects water quality by increasing soil organic matter and water holding capacity, mitigating runoff and restoring hydrology. This type of agriculture functions as an ecosystem, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, further protecting water, soil, and our children that eat the food he grows. And Brown’s Farm generates greater profits, allowing him to bring his two sons and their families back to the farm, creating the rural economic development everyone wants to see. Continue reading

Presenters Highlight The Power of Change at Back To Basics

Spaces are continuing to fill up for the 11th annual Back to Basics. The theme this year is “The Power of Change” and highlighting this theme are a few of the presenters.

One Back to Basics 2017 presenter, Dawn Molaison of Swatara has taken a different route that emphasizes change. After owning and operating a farm in rural MN for years, it’s only recently that she and her husband have embraced online sales as a way to supplement their local operation. It was only a few years ago that Molaison’s niece introduced the idea of expanding their operation into the online world. Boondock Farm morphed into Boondock Enterprises.

Molaison said, “She began taking us through the baby steps of internet sales and we have been riding the wild waves since, but, I try to keep the foundations sure and solid, while introducing flashes of trendy, unusual, and new. There has to be a balance and it is a continuous juggling act.”

Boondock Enterprises offers over 80 different jams, jellies, syrups, teas, and herb mixes.

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Boondock Enterprises has a large catalogue of homemade wares.

Reaching out through online avenues allowed Molaison to realize how difficult it can be to get tread the line between tradition and the new & trendy.

Molaison said, “Traditions are the old recipes and hearing my grandmother’s voice as she teaches me the art of jelly making or listening to my grandfather as he tells me where to find the best berries.”

Molaison will be giving two presentations on February 11. One will be the basics on making your own homemade jellies and jams while the other will be focusing on the ins and outs of creating a successful online business out of your home. Selling online has only highlighted the importance of adaptation to Molaison.  

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J. Drake Hamilton to Keynote 11th Annual Back to Basics

keynoteb2b2015Happy Dancing Turtle will host the 11th annual Back to Basics sustainability event on Saturday, February 11 at the Pine River-Backus School. It’s a day that features workshops, demonstrations, and a vendor fair all designed to increase awareness around sustainable living.

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Hamilton – Science Policy Director for Fresh Energy

This year, keynote speaker J. Drake Hamilton will be talking on the importance of communities working together to build a more prosperous future. As the science policy director at Fresh Energy, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis with the goal of speeding the transition to clean energy, Hamilton is responsible for policy development and analysis of clean energy solutions that maximize opportunities for the Midwest.

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A New Year in Nature

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Happy New Year! Did you make your New Year’s resolution yet? We often use this holiday as an opportunity to recommit to living a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, overzealous plans for dieting and gym memberships quickly turn into abandoned resolutions. Want a resolution you can commit to? Plan to spend more time in nature! There is an ever-increasing amount of research that provides evidence of the myriad of mental, physical, and emotional health benefits of spending time in nature.

Time spent outdoors increases/enhances:

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Read a book by the lake!

  • Energy levels
  • Your mood & self-esteem
  • Creativity
  • Vitamin D levels
  • Physical activity/calories burned
  • Productivity
  • Mobility in aging populations
  • Overall feelings of positivity
  • Impulse control
  • Academic performance
  • Feelings of happiness
  • Immune system function
  • Memory function & ability to focus

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    Watch a sunset!

  • Natural circadian rhythms (responsible for regulating sleep)
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Workout intensity (exercising outdoors is more physically demanding on the body)
  • Social skills/relationships
  • Motor skill development
  • Enthusiasm/engagement for learning

Time spent outdoors decreases:

  • Stress, anxiety, & depression
  • Seasonal allergies

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    Relax in a hammock with a loved one!

  • Inflammation (the bad kind that contributes to autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, & cancer)
  • Risk of eye conditions such as myopia, computer vision syndrome, & dry eye syndrome
  • Risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, hip fractures, & pregnancy complications
  • Aching bones in aging populations
  • ADD/ADHD symptoms
  • Disruptive behaviors
  • Blood pressure & heart rate
  • Fatigue & sleep disturbances/insomnia

The best benefit? Getting outdoors and into nature is often free or very low in cost. We are very fortunate to call Minnesota our home. Our state has a high percentage of publicly owned land, providing a multitude of outlets into nature! The Minnesota DNR manages over 5.5 million acres in 67 state parks, 9 recreation areas, and numerous state forests, wildlife management areas, scenic and natural areas, and more. As Minnesotans, we have access to over 1,234 miles of state trails! Federal lands in Minnesota provide more public land resources for us to explore, including Voyageur’s National Park, Superior National Forest (including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area), the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), the national North Country Trail, national monuments and more.  In addition, Minneapolis, followed by Saint Paul, has consistently been ranked the number one city in America for ease of access to outdoor/green space!

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Boundary Waters Canoe Area at Sunset

Committing to the outdoors is something that will look different for everyone. You can start whenever you want (though considering spring is months away, winter would be preferable), however you want, at whatever level is the best fit for you! If the outdoors is new to you – perhaps simply taking a 15-minute hike in nature is the place to start. Once that feels comfortable, build up from there – a 30-minute walk, a 30-minute walk twice a week, etc. If nature is a familiar setting for you, challenge yourself to something new! Have you tried fat-tire biking? What about going on a snowshoe snow-fari? The opportunities for exploration are endless!

Here are some resources that may be helpful!

I know the cold temperatures and short days of winter can be a daunting factor to overcome. Don’t let these small obstacles thwart your New Year’s resolution! As the saying goes, “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing”. So bundle up and get outside! In the winter, I leave for work before the first light and head home from the office at sunset. As a result, I’ve learned to love walking on cold winter nights with my furry companion.

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A walk at night is a fun challenge for your furry friends to utilize their naturally keen sense of smell and impeccable hearing.

A walk in the neighborhood woods in winter can be just as thrilling as other excursions. The cold, fresh air rejuvenates your lungs and awakens your senses; your eyes adjust to the darkness and you find you can see quite well with the moon’s reflection off the snow; your ears strain to hear far-off sounds drowned out in busier months – the hooting of an owl, the distant bark of a dog, or the cracking of trees as they freeze. Our current snow conditions add the thrilling adventure of tracking to your night hike! Click on the photos below to find out what made the tracks. 🙂

So don’t miss the opportunity to begin the year the right way… outside! Bundle up and go! We’ll see you out there!

Back to Basics Online Registration is Now Open

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There are plenty of things to do at Back to Basics.

Join us for the 11th Annual Back to Basics, The Power of Change! This event combines workshops, vendors/exhibitors, a keynote speaker, lunch & snacks, door prizes and more. Back to Basics bring roughly 400 people together to share ideas on a wide variety of topics related sustainability and resiliency. 

With over 40 workshops and 50 plus booths providing educational materials and locally made/grown goods of a sustainable nature, this is one event you’ll not want to miss!

The vendor area will be open to the public for FREE, but to attend any workshops or demonstrations, you will need to register. Registration is super easy this year. Just hop on over to our online registration site and we’ll get you going.

This is going to be our largest Back to Basics yet, so be sure to register early to ensure your spot in the fun.

Nature Notes: Caching Chickadees

As winter approaches, we are seeing many changes in our bird populations. Some birds, like robins, have formed large flocks and are slowly moving south. Others, like our juncos, have just recently arrived but are only passing through on their journey from northern Canada to southern Minnesota and beyond. Others who will remain here all winter are busily visiting our feeders.

Birds essentially have two options when it comes to winter: they can migrate or they can stay. If they stay, they need a way to stay warm and a way to gSparkyStensaasSnowyOwl.jpget enough food to make it through the harsh winter. Again, they essentially have two options: they can wander widely to find food or they can cache food during times of high food abundance. Owls are a good example of a bird species that stay but wander widely to find food. They have large territories they move around in to search for food. Sometimes, when no food is available, owls will leave their territories and widen their search area. In the last two years, we have witnessed an irruption (a sudden increase) of snowy owls in northern Minnesota as a result of food scarcity in their more northern habitat. Continue reading