Happy Dancing Turtle Blog

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Posted by on in Food & Water Security


Did you know that access to local food is one of the most important factors to lasting community stability?


Would you like to make locally grown food more available?


Do you have a vision for the future of our community and ideas for how to get there?


If you would like hear about some of the work being done to increase access to local food and to share your unique perspective on how to make our rural communities more food secure, join us


November 12th


at Happy Dancing Turtle

2331 Dancing Wind Rd SW

Pine River, MN 56474


at 6:00 pm.


There will be a brief presentation on the concept a Local Food Innovation Center and how such a place might serve the Pine River Area. We will then discuss barriers to local food production and access and how an Innovation Center could address those challenges to help strengthen our communities.


Food and Beverages provided


Check out this link for background information on this project:





Please contact Hannah Klemm to RSVP and with any questions.


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

218-587-5001 ext. 230

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Posted by on in Environmental Stewardship

Comic from the Cartoonist Group

The last couple mornings I have woken up (having fought the urge to stay under the warm cocoon of blankets) to find frost on our grass, fog rising from our lake and a chill in the air that subtly reminds me of what is coming.  For some of us, this may mean saying goodbye to lake life in the Northwoods and hello to ocean life down in Florida. The decreasing day length and dropping temperatures are a signal to (some) humans and birds alike to start preparing to head south. But are birds leaving because they don't like the cold? Actually, most birds are capable of withstanding freezing temperatures, so it's not the cold that drives them south. It is our waning resources. It's hard to find food, whether that be seeds, worms, mice or something else when everything is buried under a couple feet of snow. In this sense, migration can be defined as a movement from areas containing few resources to areas containing abundant resources. In the spring, birds head north in a hurry as our icy days are replaced with sunshine, our white, snow-covered world fades away in place of the bright colors of spring, and the eerie silence of winter is broken by the drone of the insects returning to the Northwoods. Birds can spread out in the northern habitats as we are released from the iron grip of our winters, settling in to find mates, build nests and raise their young on the abundance of food the summer months bring us. Now, as winter slowly creeps back and mother nature begins to prepare, our local birds have one foot out the door. But how can they do it? How can they fly hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles? How can they sustain themselves? Their flight? How do they even know where to go? While many aspects of migration still mystify scientists around the world, light has been shed on some of the migration secrets. Although these blog posts are mostly phenology related, we are going to have deviate momentarily to a more ornithological focus to see how cool birds really are!

Birds were born to fly. Not ground breaking news? But really, they are fine-tuned flying machines. Many people are aware of the importance feathers and hollow bones play in the role of flight, but it goes much deeper than that, quite literally. Nearly all of the organ systems in a bird have been modified to aid these creatures in their remarkable mode of locomotion. Their skeletal and muscle systems provide the physical requirements for flight. They have pneumatic bones, meaning there are air spaces in between criss-crossing struts, that allow the bones to be strong, yet light. Many of their bones are fused together, including all of the vertebrae (except for cervical, or neck, ones) providing the rigidity required for flight. The sternum has a large, thin keel (blue, at left) protruding from it, serving as an attachment area for the massive muscles involved in flying. The location of the keel helps keep the main mass low in the body, increasing aerodynamic stability during air time.  Their digestive systems are designed to process an energy rich diet quickly and efficiently. Birds need to eat a lot to keep up with the high energy demands of flight, but they don't want to be carrying around that extra weight as food moves through the digestive system - so it does so quite rapidly! A shrike can fully digest a mouse in three hours; a thrush can digest a meal of berries in just 30 minutes! The circulatory system has to work fast enough to support this high metabolism. Birds have a four-chambered heart, like mammals, but it is quite large and strong, comparatively. It also beats extremely fast (a chickadee's heart beats 500 times per minute at rest, increasing to over 1000 beats per minute while active!) to create a high pressure system capable of keeping up with the high metabolic rates required for flight. How can their bodies keep up with the oxygen demand? Birds have very unique lungs that utilize a series of air sacs (for storage) that essentially provide the bird with an almost continuous stream of oxygenated air. They also have a very efficient, vascularized system for getting oxygen to the muscles to sustain flight. Even their excretory system is modified to fly! Birds excrete waste in the form of uric acid, which has a very low solubility compared to the urea of mammals. While it takes about 60 mL of water for a mammal to get rid of 1 g of urea, it takes a bird 1.5-3 mL of water to get rid of 1 g of uric acid (and a lot of that water is reabsorbed before the waste exits!). This greatly reduces the demand for water intake, and thus water weight. Of course, anything that reduces weight is going to make it easier to fly! Lastly, birds have the most developed sense of sight in the animal kingdom - not a bad thing to have if your chosen transportation method is head-first, high velocity flight.

Photo credit to Marco Photography.

Incredible, right? But don't worry - it gets better; their navigational systems give their anatomical systems a run for their money. Bird migration is highly varied; some travel thousands of mile, some travel to the state next door; some migrate in one, continuous flight, others travel more leisurely, stopping many times to refuel; some go one way north, then take a different route back south. But no matter how they choose to migrate, they have to know where to migrate to. Scientists have been studying the mystery of bird navigational systems for many years. And quite honestly, there is no consensus. Different birds use different methods and many likely use a combination of more than one method. Some birds navigate by visuals - they follow topographical landmarks such as rivers, mountains, lakes, etc.  Some experiments indicate that birds have a magnetic compass that uses the earth's magnetic fields to align them in the correct direction for migration. Other experiments indicate that birds have an incredible "internal clock" that keeps track of time extremely accurately. They can then use this clock in collaboration with the sun's movements to figure out directions. But not all birds migrate during the day when they can use the sun. That's okay, because birds have a solution to that, too. Other experiments conducted in a planetarium proved that some birds use the stars as a map, orientating themselves using the location of the constellations that rotate around the north star!  However they complete this magnificent feat, it truly is quite astonishing. The Arctic Tern, the world's record holder for migration distance, navigates north past the Artic Circle to reach is summer breeding grounds and then south to Antarctica for it's wintering grounds - a distance of nearly 12,000 miles! As it turns out, these birds can live to be over 30 years old and the distance they fly in their lifetime is the equivalent of flying to the moon and back.... and then there and back again. ... and then once more.

So it's time to get outside and observe some of these awe-inspiring birds as they pass through briefly! If I could give them a high five as they flew by, I would. Better yet - make sure your bird feeders are full because our feathered friends could use all the caloric help they can get! While many of our summer residents have already departed on their journey south, there will still be a frenzy of bird movement to observe through November. While many of our songbirds have already passed through, such as the majority of the warblers, there are still some headed south. Keep your eyes peeled for large flocks of dark-eyed juncos, lingering robins, a variety of sparrows, palm warblers, hermit thrushes, and a few other songbirds (even though they're currently much quieter then when they move through in the spring!). As we progress further into October, the waterfowl migration scene will continue to heat up - so keep one eye on the lakes, rivers and wetlands for more geese, ducks, mergansers, swans and others! Here are some birds on migrational journeys that I have recently encountered to inspire you! Get outside and enjoy some brisk hikes in the beautiful scenery of fall to search for these winged-wonders!

American robin, persisting through the season's first "wintry mix", 10/3/14.


Left: Palm warbler, 10/6/14. Right: White-throated sparrow, 10/6/14.

Pair of wood ducks (male above, female below), 10/6/14.

Two trumpeter swans & a mallard, waking up to the frost, 10/7/14.

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Posted by on in Food & Water Security

I don't know if you know this, but I drive to work about 45 minutes each morning and back home for another 45 minutes. It gives me a lot of time for sports radio and the latest news and takes on the Twins (the left side of my heart). I also listen to audio books or sing along with John Coulton if the whimsy strikes me. What I'm saying is that I'm in my car a lot. It's a 2006 Toyota Prius and I love it. The mileage is fantastic, the sound system still bounces, and the back-up camera is something I didn't know I needed until I got it. I love this car. It's my baby (or ONE of my babies...I have 6 kids, you know. Here's a pic of three taken just last month.)

What I'm saying is that I try to take very good care of my champagne colored chariot. So, when I first start using the heat in the morning on some random late October day, I make a note to schedule a "Winterization" appointment with our mechanic. If you're interested, I found a great checklist for car winterization. But, now that I mention it, that's the same time you should start looking at setting up a "winterization" appointment with your garden at home!b2ap3_thumbnail_rakingsmall.jpg

The main purposes of winterization is to make your garden area clean for the winter and to make the soil ready for spring planting. There's really not a definitive way to winterize your garden, but there are a few tips that will give your garden a head start next spring.

1) Pull out dead plants - I know what your thinking. "They're dead! I can let them rot over the winter. It'll be better for the soil." Yes, you can, but that also means that any diseases or eggs from annoying bugs will be allowed to live in your garden over the winter. They are pretty hearty pests and might make your summer a long one. Best advice is to dispose of all the dead plants in your garden to start with a clean, healthy slate in the spring.

2) Keep weeding - Nearly the same principle applies to weeds. If you pull out the weeds now, you'll have fewer of them growing (or re-growing) in the spring, which means you'll have to pull them out anyway. Bonus! Pulling older weeds now is much easier pulling newer stronger weeds next summer.

3) Plant for spring - You're making a face now, I'm sure, but follow me here. There are some really neat plants that can be planted in the fall and harvested in early summer. Garlic is one of these plants. Also, if you plant a little earlier (late august around here), you would have a nice green cover crop that makes for a great fertilizer when tilled underneath. Just be sure to b2ap3_thumbnail_rakingleavessmall.pngtill them underneath before they start going to seed. You wouldn't want to have competition for the plants you really want to grow in the spring.

4) Clean your tools- I talked with Jim Chamberlin (one of the fantastic gardeners here at HDT) and he suggested that all tools need to be cleaned before being put away. He recommends cleaning the metal parts with water and soap and then take a steel wool brush and remove any rust that may have collected. Then take a bit of linseed oil and polish all the wooden parts of your tools. This will help keep moisture in the wood (keeping it from cracking and falling apart). Hang them up in your shed (or garage or basement) where they can stay dry for the winter.

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