Back to Basics 2018 Seeking Exhibitors & Presenters

We are now accepting Vendor/Exhibitor proposals for our January 2018 event!  Vendor/exhibitors must have their proposal in by Saturday, November 4th to be included in our event promotion. Proposals will be accepted up until the event, as space allows. Note: we typically fill our vendor area well in advance of the event, so submit your proposal early!! For more details, feel free to check out our Vendor/Exhibitor Guidelines. Vendors will need to fill out an ST-19 form, which can be returned to us by email, mail, or at check-in the day of.

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We are very lucky to have quality presenters every year. Do you have what it takes?

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Brainerd Lakes Beach Review: Part 2

I found out that Crow Wing County only has four “public” beaches in the county limits: Gull Lake, Lum Park, Whipple Beach, and Serpent Lake Beach in Crosby. That’s it. You would think that with how much the BLA relies on our lakes for business and recreation, that there would be a larger emphasis on public beaches.

With that in mind, I wanted to take a closer look at the beaches that are a bit outside of town on the east side of Crow Wing County.

Serpent Lake

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“Kahnah’ bek” is a sight to see.

Crosby has been undergoing a sort of renaissance, one which has allowed the area to be noticed on a national scale. The little town boasts world-class mountain biking, upscale eateries, and has been a fisherman’s paradise for years, and it’s only a matter of time before the region’s best-kept secret starts to draw more visitors from out of town.

 

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Green grass is a perfect way to get some sun.

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Nature Notes: Turtle Crossing!

As May comes to end, we’ve seen a dramatic transformation of our landscape. I was out of town from May 12th-20th and was shocked by the changes upon my return! It’s a jungle out there! Everything has leafed-out, the grass is green, and the flowers are blooming. The woods are filled with birdsongs and are wetlands are alive with the chorus of the frogs. It’s a busy time in the animal kingdom; animals are finding mates, laying eggs, giving birth, and/or raising young. Our turtle species are also occupied with this survival need at the moment.  Turtles lay their legs on land, so females must take on the dangerous journey of coming out of the safety of the water to dig a nest and deposit eggs into it. Males rarely travel far from the water, but a female may venture up to a mile away from water to find the perfect spot to lay her eggs. This journey usually requires her to face the hazards of cars on roads near our wetland habitats.

A study from a student at Clemson University found a frightening percentage of drivers actually swerve out of their way in order to run over turtles on the road, which is hard for me to even fathom! Why would anyone want to do this? The student, Nathan Weaver, put a very realistic rubber turtle in the road, hunkered down out of sight of the cars, and recorded their interactions. In one of his locations, one out of every 50 cars ran over the turtle and, shockingly, nearly 70% of the cars that hit the rubber turtle did so deliberately.

We’ll find turtles on the roads from now until about mid-summer, but mostly during the month of June. Up here in our neck of the woods, the two turtles that are seen mostly commonly are the beloved Painted Turtle and the more feared Common Snapping Turtle. Snapping Turtles are very large in size and can weigh up to 35 pounds. For some reason, (such as serious damage to your car), people seem to be able to avoid these behemoths, as I rarely see injured or dead Snapping Turtles on the road. Unfortunately, I do see a lot of injured/dead painted turtles on the road, so please be on the lookout for turtles while you are driving!

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Snapping Turtles are MN’s largest turtles. With powerful jaws and a long neck, they can quickly lunge out and strike at prey, or a threatening human hand!

Why don’t turtles just lay their eggs closer to the water to avoid crossing the road? As it turns out, a female’s decision about where to make her nest can have a huge impact on her offspring! The sex of young turtles is determined by the nest temperature during a particular phase of egg incubation. In Painted Turtles, temperatures above about 83 will typically produce females while temperatures lower than that will typically produce males. Therefore, if the turtle picks a place that has relatively thick vegetation cover providing shade, the soil temperature will be lower and more likely produce males. If she picks a spot that is relatively uncovered, the sun will raise the soil temperature, likely producing female offspring. Snapping Turtles apply the same principle, but backwards; lower nest temperatures typically hatch females, while warmer spots hatch males.

In May, it is not uncommon to find tiny Painted Turtles making their way towards the water. As these turtles do not start laying eggs until May and it takes between 50-80 days for the turtles to develop in their eggs, this is too early for these tiny turtles to be from this year’s clutch. Instead, they are turtles that hatched at the end of last summer or early last fall but did not emerge from the nest. Sometimes, the young hatchlings overwinter in the nest and emerge to travel back to the water early the next spring. Years with cold temperatures and little snow cover for insulation can be devastating to these overwintering hatchlings.

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This little guy was found in the first week of May, sure to be a hatchling from the previous summer’s nest!

Female Painted Turtles lay between 3 and 20 elliptical (oval) eggs in their underground nests. Female Snapping Turtles lay up to 100, but usually 25-50, spherical eggs in their nests. The difference in shape can be a useful identification clue if you find turtle eggs or eggshells. After laying the eggs, female turtles will not see or care for their young. Now, they are on their own. Unfortunately, most of the eggs will never hatch. Many of the nests will be dug up by a predator, such as a skunk, raccoon, or fox, within the first night or two. Of the eggs that do hatch, more turtles may be lost to freezing temperatures if they overwinter in the nest. When they make the journey back to water, even more will be lost to dehydration, predators, or cars on their pathway.

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What remains of a nest after being dug up by a predator.

So what can you do? If you see a Painted Turtle in the middle of the road,  “rushing” as quickly as it can to the other side, help a sister out! The best thing you can do for a turtle is to park in a safe spot on the roadside nearby, turn on your flashers, and alert oncoming traffic to the turtle in the road. Let her cross on her own. If you do move a turtle, make sure to put her on the side of the road in the direction she was heading, otherwise, she may try to cross the road again. Make sure to wash your hands if you handle a turtle. If you see a snapper in the road, it is better to leave her where she is, as they have a pretty fierce bite. Some people attempt to pick them up by their tails to steer clear of those snapping jaws, but please don’t do that! It can damage the turtle’s backbone and your well-intentioned rescue mission can end up causing more harm than good! Again, if there is a safe way to alert oncoming traffic to the turtle, it is best to let her cross on her own! If you find a turtle in or near your yard laying eggs, keep yourselves, children, and pets at least 20 feet away. Enjoy watching her from a distance in order to keep her stress level down! Lastly, the best way for you to help is to educate your family and friends about turtles, their awesomeness, and how to protect them, especially during nesting season!

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 a 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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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

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

Working Together Can Improve Water Quality

World Water Day is March 22…

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Flint Michigan”.

As of late, it is probably WATER. Lead poisoned water, sick children, an outraged community, and a swarm of citizens and media asking a beleaguered government:

How could you let this happen?” followed by “You need to fix the problem!

That is a fair question and a fair expectation. The leadership should be accountable for their actions and lack of actions. To compromise water/health-safety for the sake of a budget is an affront to our “life, liberty, and the pursuit of ANYTHING…” That sentiment is shared by many of us even though we are blessed to live in a region where we have abundant pristine water. But if something like that could happen in Flint, couldn’t it happen here as well? Continue reading

Nature Notes: Water Awakening

March, in the minds of many, marks the arrival of spring. Locations all across the US have shattered record highs this week, with the warmth scheduled to continue this weekend. Spring has sprung – fast and furiously. But spring isn’t the only thing arriving in March. As our days continue to lengthen and temps continue to rise, our landscape undergoes a magical transformation, with more and more wildlife returning to the area each day. Of course most of this is due to increased sunlight and temperature, but there is another magical force stirring the land – water! How fitting with World Water Day fast approaching!

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