First Frost Means Bedtime for Gardens

Now that we’ve had a few frosts, many think they can hang up their garden gloves.  But think again. If you want a successful garden next year, start this fall. Your garden is still alive and the microbial livestock in your soil need to be fed.

First, stop!  Shut off that tiller!  I know you went for that to make your garden look clean and spiffy, but tilling your soil is bad for the bugs. Imagine a pile of bricks.  It would be hard to walk through, right? Now build a house out of those bricks. It’s easy to go from room to room and move around your home. Soil structure, or aggregate, is the house for your soil livestock. Your tiller is a tornado that turns good soil aggregate to a pile of bricks, reducing water infiltration and microbial diversity.   

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Frost brings beauty and a sense of the change of time.

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Harvest Recipes

In Minnesota, we have our four seasons, and at the end of the bright, sunny, summer, leading into crisp, sweater-weather, fall, we are inundated with a bounty of end-of-season produce that can make your grandmothers recipe book open by itself in excitement!

Just take a quick look at some of the most used produce here in MN; we’ve got garlic, squash, potatoes, carrots, romaine lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, and apples. There’s a lot to go with here, lots of directions to go. Do you want a savory, filling, meal? Are you looking for a light, fresh, entry? Are you hankering for a sweet treat?

Fall is the best time to make your taste buds scream in joy. Here’s a few recipes that will take advantage of the bounty you’ll find.

Pumpkin Curry

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We’ll start with something a little different. Of course, there’s the popular pies, cupcakes, coffee drinks that usher in the cool weather. But, what if we tried to do something a little different with our pumpkins. Let’s make a deliciously savory & spicy dish. Note: You can use any winter squash . The texture and taste is all up for grabs.

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HUG Campus Open House

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Visitors were able to visit the buildings and gardens all over campus.

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Brittany gave visitors a tour of our mushroom farm and compost mound.

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The Hieroglyphics room is a highlight of Old Main.

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Visitors were able to tour the gardens and hoop houses.

On Thursday, September 20, we hosted our very first open house. Hearty visitors braved rain and gloom to learn about what goes on up here.

Raising Healthy Eaters

Healthy food has been important to me for a long time. I loved pregnancy and breastfeeding, and because I’ve always been a “good eater,” feeding a baby, inside or outside, just meant I could eat more. But when it was time to feed my first child solid food, I sooner would have known how to feed a puppy. I was determined to start her off right, so I dove into books, articles, and mommy blogs to find out what works.

My oldest is nine now, and my second is five, and for the most part, they are good eaters. The baby stage was the foundation for good habits, and all that time with the books and blogs, the steamer and food processor, cutting veggies into finger food and insisting on whole grains…it has paid off, but the work’s not done. Yes, my kids complain. They make faces. They poke at their vegetables and ask for more bread instead. It’s part of parenting. However, I do think I have fewer food-based battles than other families I have spent mealtimes with. Thanks to all that early and ongoing research, I’ve found and stuck to six critical practices around food.

  1. Be a role model.

Eat healthy foods yourself. Don’t complain. Smile and say, “Mmmmm.” Remember, you’re the grown-up here. I am honest when I don’t like something. Sometimes I eat it anyway, sometimes I pass on it.

Examples: “I don’t really like peas, but I eat them anyway because I know they are good for me.”

“No thank you, I don’t care for green apples.”

I even ban “yucky,” “eew,” and “gross” when talking about food, especially when seated at the table. It’s not only rude to the cook (a.k.a. me), but if an older child says, “Spinach is gross,” younger children are automatically deterred from trying it. A polite “No thank you” is preferred, or a simple “I don’t like it” is OK.

  1. Distinguish the difference between “snacks” and “treats.”

It’s not just semantics, it’s an important distinction. Snacks are healthy mini meals, with the intention of nourishing the body and brain and staving off hunger. A treat is something special to have once in a while. After nine years, I am still reminding my husband and daughter to use the right term at the right time. A cupcake is a “treat.” An apple with nut butter is a “snack.”

  1. One family, one meal.family-dinner

Do not make special meals for picky eaters. Try to include one or two sides at each meal your child does like. It makes the other foods easier to try. When they are old enough, the option for them to make themselves a peanut butter sandwich is OK. But they need to make it, not you.

 

  1. Do not turn mealtimes into battles.

Don’t try to force them to eat. Do not make pleasing you an incentive to eat. It puts all the power in their court. If they don’t eat dinner tonight, breakfast is just a sleep away; they will not starve.

Use: “You don’t have to eat it, but you aren’t allowed to complain about it.”

Not: “You can’t leave the table until you finish your broccoli.”

“Please eat your tomatoes for me.”

I do make eating veggies a prerequisite for having dessert, if there is one, but I don’t use dessert or treats as an incentive.

Use: “If you’re not hungry enough for green beans, you’re not hungry enough for cake.”

Not: “If you eat your peas, you can have a cookie.”

I do make an exception when it is a holiday or birthday party with family and friends around and everyone is having dessert. But if it’s just the four of us, the kids don’t get dessert if they didn’t eat a good dinner.

  1. Verbally encourage them to be adventurous.

And praise them when they do try it. Tell them you’re proud of them. Your praise means more to them than you may think.

Example: “You tried beets! It’s OK if you didn’t like them, I’m proud of you for trying.”

  1. Keep trying.

Research shows that it takes up to ten tries of a new food to decide if you like it or not. I have to thank my daughter’s science teacher for this tidbit. She learned this in class, brought this knowledge home, and reminds us all with pride. She keeps trying new foods, and so do we all.

Choosing vegetables, whole grains, and cooking from scratch isn’t just about taste, it’s about habits. I am constantly reminding myself that we want to raise adults, not children. Healthy eating is just one of those foundations that we help them build now; it will support them for a lifetime.

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

Tips for Healthy Snacking

With school back in session, many of us have kids coming in the door at 3:30 absolutely “starving” after a busy day of learning and playing. While it’s easy to hand them a pre-made, packaged snack, there are much better, healthier, earth-friendly snacks that they will happily gobble down.

So, how do you get your kids to actually eat that healthy snack?

kids vegThis first step is to get them involved. Kids, and most adults, are much more apt to get excited about something that they have some say in. Ask them what they want and have them help prepare it, whether it’s cleaning and chopping fresh fruits and veggies or mixing up homemade granola, if they help make it, chances are they will want to eat it, too.

 

Don’t go overboard. A snack is just that, a snack. It’s not a meal, it’s just a little something to give them a boost until dinner time. Giving too many choices is overwhelming and could also cause them to fill up on snacks and not be hungry when it’s time to sit down for the next meal. Also, finger food is the best snack food. Anything that kids can eat without utensils is way more likely to get eaten!

Make it interactive. Offer some different sliced up fruits or meat and cheese cubes that kids can put on a skewer to make their own kabobs. One of our favorite snacks at Eco Camp is Moose Lips. Each kid gets apple slices, raisins, a spoonful of peanut butter, and a butter knife. They then spread the peanut butter on an apple slice, top it with another apple slice, and stick raisins to the peanut butter that squishes out between the two. This one also makes for fun pictures!

Prep ahead of time. If you want your kids to eat those delicious fruits and veggies, have them all chopped up and ready to go so they don’t have to wait. Spend a little time on the weekend cutting up carrots and celery or slicing up a watermelon so that when your littles are hungry it’s quick and easy for them to grab that healthy snack. Some of that prep work can serve dual purposes, too. Another tried and true, and more substantial, Eco Camp snack is bagel faces. The kids are given half of a bagel spread with cream cheese, then they choose what they want from the assorted cut up veggies and arrange them on their bagel to make a face. All of the veggies you use for bagel faces make great salad additions, too!

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Eat the rainbow. Kids love color! Offer a variety of fresh fruits and veggies and challenge your kiddos to eat at least one item from every color of the rainbow. Or, go the opposite and eat all foods of one color. Have them help pick out snack foods that are all red, like cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and watermelon. Or orange like carrots, cantaloupe, and cheese. Each day can be a different color!

Get creative! If you have the time and the interest, there are many ways to present snacks that will make them irresistible to kids! We’ve made rainbow fruit fish, Oscar the Grouch out of broccoli, and Elmo out of cherry tomatoes. If you need a little inspiration, a quick Google or Pinterest search will have your snack schedule set for the rest of the school year!

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: Camper Camping

In recent years, campers can be seen headed out on adventures nearly any summer day, especially on weekends. For many people, the draw of a camper is being able to enjoy the tranquility of the great outdoors without giving up the comforts of home – you can literally bring the kitchen sink with you!

There are several different types of campers, so let’s start with a basic overview.

Pick-up campers are just that, a camper that sits on your pick-up truck. While there are a variety of styles, they generally include a double bed, a table that folds down into a single bed, a sink, and a small fridge. Great for one person, a couple, or even a small family. With the camper right on your truck, there’s no trailer to back up and your camper is always with you. On the downside, your camper is always with you. If you want to go out exploring for the day, it generally means packing up and securing everything in the camper so you can safely travel, and setting up again when you get back to your site.

Pop-up trailers, with their canvas sides over the beds, give you some of the feels of tent camping with the some of the luxuries of a camper. Most have storage space, a small stovetop, and can include a sink, fridge, and even a toilet. They’re not as big to pull as a travel trailer, but give you more space once they’re set up.

 

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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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