Eco Camp – 3 Down, 1 to Go!

2018 was designated the Year of the Bird by the National Audubon Society, so Birds of a Feather seemed like a natural theme for this year’s Eco Camp. With August now upon us, we have just one camp left. Our first three camps were a huge success and so much fun was had by all!

There are favorite activities that we do every year with each group. The week always starts with introductions, making name buttons, and tie-dying our themed t-shirts. This year, each group also made a version of the bird that was their mascot for the week to put up on our Eco Camp wall.

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For the second year, we were able to take our three oldest groups to the lake! This was a great day with swimming, kayaking, yard games, and jumping off the dock. Each week ends with the campers’ family and friends gathering Friday afternoon to see what the kids have been doing all week. The campers turn into the counselors, with an opportunity to teach their families all about campus and the weeks’ activities!

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Happy National Blueberry Month

The official Minnesota State Muffin is the blueberry muffin. Almost anyone who lives in the north star state can recite this fact. It’s simply because blueberries are awesome.

It’s true.

In fact, all the way back in 2003 (two years before YouTube, even!) the US Department of Agriculture declared that July would be the month of the blueberry. And, why not! These little guys pack tons of flavor in their tiny bodies. They’re also high in vitamins and nutrients a body needs. So, it’s not even that bad when you help yourself to a couple containers.

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Aren’t they beautiful?!

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Eating Healthy, Shopping Locally

Finding the time and money to eat healthy has been a problem ever since the microwave was invented. So, I’ve put together a short list of ways to make organic eating a habit. Also, there are several links of local resources where you can learn more about eating organically.

1) Buy from your local farmers market.

There are so many great deals at farmers markets. You can find local meats, cheeses, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and many other goodies in one place. The food is fresh and grown locally and you have direct access to the farmers where you can ask questions about how they grow their food. They usually start in may but the best selection becomes available as the growing season gets into full swing. Farmers markets usually last through September in this area. Plus, if you’re on EBT (SNAP/Food Stamps) many markets will accept them. The Lakes Area Growers Market in Brainerd, the Pine River Market Square in Pine River, and the Onamia Area Farmers Market are great places to get started locally.

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Eating healthy is easy when you’ve got delicious food to choose from.

2) Buy into a CSA.

A CSA is a community-supported agriculture program. Every week you will get a new box of fresh produce (often delivered directly to your door!) Variety is good. You’ll get so many different fruits and veggies that you never would normally purchase. I’ve even heard of CSA programs actually providing recipes and cookbooks with their produce in an effort to give the buyer an idea of how to prepare with the different produce. This is a great way to experiment with different varieties and eat produce that you wouldn’t be as used to. There are so many ways to choose which CSA you’d like to invest in, so go to Minnesota Grown to pare down what you want and where to sign up.

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Turtle Talks Podcast – Episode 9: Your Summer Appetizer 2 (Agroforestry)

 

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This is the Garden Crew Podcast team. Not pictured: Colin M, who does whatever he can to keep his hands as clean as possible.

In this week’s episode, we talk about the different ways you can incorporate trees and woody shrubs into your garden or farm. This is called “Agroforestry,” and has five different methods to use.

  1. Alley Cropping
  2. Riparian Buffers
  3. Silvopasture
  4. Windbreaks
  5. Forest Farming

HDT is using two methods (alley cropping and forest farming) and will introduce a silvopasture method next year. You can read more about our attempts in Allison’s recap of her trip to the Agroforestry Institute, OR you can listen about it right here. 🙂

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Take Time To Recharge (In The Great Outdoors!)

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During the first week of June, I left for a 10 day adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). This was the third annual trip I’ve taken with a friend of mine, Bry. Although traveling is one of my favorite pastimes and I am always careful to carve time out of my busy schedule for trips, the annual Boundary Waters Trip holds a special place in my heart. From the moment my paddle hits the water, I’m enchanted by the mesmerizing colors and reflections in the endless waters. The dark water against the bright blue sky, with the light green of the new leaves of the deciduous trees blending with the dark greens of the conifers, and the sunlight making it all sparkle just so – it captivates my attention, letting all my worries from the “real world” slip away.

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HDT and Agroforestry

On June 19th, fifteen forestry, conservation, and agricultural professionals gathered at the U of M Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, MN. This lucky gardener, from a plucky little non-profit in North Central MN with a mission in sustainability, was excited to be among them. We were all ready for a 3-day intensive workshop on agroforestry.

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Community food forest in Mountain Lake

Agroforestry: Intensive land-use management that optimizes the benefits (physical, biological, ecological, economic, social) from biophysical interactions created when trees and/or shrubs are deliberately combined with crops and/or livestock.  

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Forest Farming shiitake mushrooms

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Turtle Talks Podcast – Episode 8: Your Summer Appetizer 1

With summer hitting full swing, the garden crew is working long hours outdoors. Keeping the garden functioning properly (not to mention filling CSA shares and many programs off the campus) requires a full time effort from everybody.

Therefore, we decided to change up the format of Turtle Talks just a bit. Instead of a short garden update at the beginning of the episode, we are going to dedicate the episodes to sharing what is going on in the garden.

We plan on keeping each episode 20 (ish) minutes, but will keep to what is happening in the garden.

We are calling these episodes “Summer Appetizers” as they will whet your appetite until we head back to the original podcast format at the beginning of fall, as the garden eventually gets put to bed.

So, we’re still planning on updating twice a month and bringing you information you can use, just at a more leisurely pace.

We hope you’re enjoying the summer!

Get Outside – Biking Across Minnesota

Summer is here, and we are dedicated to squeezing every last drop of sunshine out of these warm months as we can. In the spirit of summer, we are giving you a look at a few of the fun things you can do in the area.

Starting off, let’s hear from Jim C, who is writes about how mountain biking has invigorated the small community of Crosby-Ironton.

I’m a Crosby – Ironton Ranger, class of ’82.  Growing up in Deerwood, we kind of looked down on Crosby as a washed up mining town. Businesses were dying and the economy struggled.  An important source of high value ore, the Cuyuna Range played an important role in WWII, but production slowed after the war, and the last open pit mine closed in the early ’70’s. The Scorpion snowmobile plant closed about the same time. In high school the “mine pits” were a playground where we drove three wheelers and had parties.  We called them the “mine dumps,” a wasteland with barren overburden hills and lots of bare soil. But some “Rangers” saw potential. A few visionaries and community leaders worked tirelessly to protect these “dumps” and give them a chance to heal, and in 1993 the Cuyuna State Recreational Area was formed.

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Red tires are the symbol of the MTB riders in the area.

Fast forward to current day.  The barren overburden hills are now covered in forest.  The slopes leading to the clean, clear mine pit lakes are vegetated and, for the most part, stable. Though a struggle to make happen, there are currently over 25 miles of world-class mountain bike trails with plans for another 50.  Snorkeling, trout fishing and kayaking in the pit lakes provide additional recreational opportunities. And like the natural environment of the mine lands, the town has begun to heal. New businesses are opening to cater to the tourists that flock to the area and new residents are moving to the area for the abundant recreation. Both the land and the community are healing…  

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Turtle Treks Registration Open

Turtle Treks

Happy Dancing Turtle is excited to offer another summer of overnight camping opportunities for kids! These camping trips provide youth with a chance to visit parks across the state. Through Turtle Treks, children have the opportunity to experience the ins-and-outs of camping while building friendships and enjoying the great outdoors! Youth learn vital camping skills, such as how to set up tents, how to make a fire (and cook over it!), and Leave No Trace responsibilities, as well as information about Minnesota’s natural resources! We talk about Minnesota’s land, water, plants, animals, and the night sky while kids are entertained with games, lessons, activities, songs, riddles, and stories. Payment plan option available.

2018 Turtle Treks Schedule

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2018 T-Shirt Design Contest

During the summer, Happy Dancing Turtle offers four weeks of Eco Camp, week-long environmental day camps, for Pre-K through 6th grade students. The theme of Eco Camp changes each year, which offers continued excitement and learning to our long-returning campers. For the past few years, it has become a tradition that we spend part of the first day tie-dying our camp t-shirts, which depict the current year’s theme. A few years ago, we thought, “Hey, why not have the kids draw the t-shirts?!”

 

 

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This year marked the third annual Eco Camp T-shirt Design Contest.  We ask students from across the state in grades K-12 to participate by submitting a black and white design that fits the upcoming theme. The 2018 Eco Camp theme is Birds of a Feather. Each age group in this summer’s camps will be represented by an environmentally-focused bird: Recycling Robins (Pre-K & K), Nature Nuthatches (Grades 1 & 2), Sustainable Sparrows (Grades 3 & 4), and Conserving Chickadees (Grades 5 & 6).

 

Happy Dancing Turtle would like to give a huge shout out to everyone who submitted a design! We received 412 total designs, all from our K-5 students! We reformatted our age brackets to fit our contestants, enabling us to still give out all three prize packages. The new brackets were Grades K&1, Grades 2&3, and Grades 4&5. We were absolutely blown away by the artwork submitted by these students! It was insanely difficult to pick just three from each age bracket to go on to the finals, but after long deliberation, we selected the designs in the slideshow below to go on to be judged by Audubon Minnesota.

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2018 T-shirt Contest Results – Guest Judges from Audubon Minnesota

A huge thank you to our guest judges from the Audubon Minnesota – Katie, Kristin, & Ashley! They relayed how difficult it was to choose between these wonderful designs!

Winning Design of the K-1 Grade Bracket:

Addie K Madison
Addie – Kindergarten – Winona

Winning Design of the 2-3 Grade Bracket:

Marina 3 Madison
Marina – 3rd Grade – Winona

Winning Design of the 4-5 Grade Bracket:

Nina 4 Madison

Nina – 4th Grade – Winona

Each of these winners will receive an HDT prize item, a $20 Gift Certificate to a local movie theater, and a $20 Gift Certificate to the Minnesota State Parks.

Overall Grand Prize Winner:

Marina 3 Madison

Marina – 3rd Grade – Winona

In addition, this winner will receive an honorary Eco Camp T-shirt with their design printed on it!

Again, thank you to everyone who participated!