Happy Dancing Turtle Blog

We will bring you stories and articles that will educate, entertain, and inspire.

Recent blog posts

Posted by on in Environmental Stewardship

From the beginning, Happy Dancing Turtle has been a strong proponent of local and sustainable food production. We believe that knowing your farmer and how your food is grown is vital to ensuring food security, supporting rural economic development, and for the health of the entire community; the people, land, water, and air.

With this mission in mind, imagine our excitement when we were recently contacted by Chuck and Lynn Welte, owners of Pine River Family Market who are looking to access more local, fresh produce for their store. A recent customer survey revealed that shoppers wanted access to more local food and they are looking to fill that need. 

If you are a grower who is interested in selling produce locally, please contact Pine River Family Market at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

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Posted by on in Environmental Stewardship

The first session of our "Feast, Film, & Forum" series took place last night with lots of good questions and discussion. The night started with a potluck dinner with dishes ranging from vegetarian chili to BBQ chicken wings. Quinn S. made a delicious kale and apple cake (with butter-apple frosting), and someone (me) found out that clementines taste very good when paired with chocolate squares. 

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The participants then sat down for an engaging movie titled, "The Greenhorns." It focused on the recent trend of young entrepreneurs choosing to begin a career in food production. Ranging from southern livestock farms to cheese shops in New York City, the video did a good job of bringing the point home that all people eat but the system the US government has in place is not satisfying the need to eat well. In response, the upswing of new farmers are choosing to utilize organic systems. The film didn't go into the debate of whether it is good or bad to promote this practice, but it did offer up an encouraging and promising feeling; a feeling that these young people are doing hard work for (what they see as) the right reasons. 

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Following the film, Abbie and Luke from B & B FarmCo and Lance and Robyn of Brakstad Green Acres took time to answer questions concerning their new farms. At less than five years each, each family is just beginning their farming careers, but according to Robyn, "Farming is in our family's blood." 

Lance and Robyn raise Jersey beef steers, bale and sell hay, make maple syrup, wine, and grow vegetables on their over 300 acre farm. They try to maintain a smaller herd of cattle because they only use grazing, with zero injections to increase muscle growth. With 70 acres dedicated to rotational grazing, the herd has to necessarily be smaller. However, they average around 5-6 steers sold per month. 

Abbie and Luke have a smaller 13 acre farm, but are focusing on secondary products such as goats milk soap and lotion from the many goats they raise. They also raise cows, horses, pigs, and chickens. 

For more information on the two farms, you can go to B&B FarmCo. and Brakstadgreenacres.com

The next session of our "Feast Film & Forum" series will be Thursday, March 20 with the topic "Local Foods". There will be a panel of local growers from around the area. So, you've got two weeks to see if you can keep pace with Quinn's cake. See you then!

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Posted by on in Food & Water Security

It's been pretty cold up here in Central MN. After a string of bitterly cold weeks with temps only reaching above zero a few times, it's finally taken it's toll on the city's infrastructure. Last week, Brainerd Public Utilities asked it's users to run a faucet of cold water at all times to prevent the main water line from freezing up. This isn't unprecedented, apparently, but it's the first time I've seen it in my life. 

So, I've been running a "pencil width size" stream of water in our laundry room bathroom. (BPU say they'd adjust the cost of the water use in my bill). After a few hours, I went to check on the sink and found the water not running. I thought to myself, "Running the water isn't doing anything!" But, I found that it had simply been shut off. I resumed the stream and left a note telling my family why the water was running. 

Again, after several hours, I went to go check on the faucet and yet again, it had been shut off. I started to look for the little gremlins that turned it off and eventually found one. My teenage daughter told me she had done it, that it was wasting water. I asked if she had read the note by the sink. She had, but then told me that she dove into the internet to find more information. After looking into it, she believes that our family uses enough water on our end to keep up with any freezing in the main line. Since we have a large family (nine people under one roof, I'll have you know) she may have a good point. 

The little rambling anecdote helps best to illustrate what I think is happening to our youth; kids are beginning to understand the resources on Earth are not limitless. Maybe all we need is a little time (or a few generations) to understand that we are just caretakers of our environment and that unless we start to put a larger effort into environmental education, we are (in the great words of George Carlin) *going to be in a lot of trouble*. (His language is above the G rating of this blog.)

So, in that vein I've looked at a few different sites and found some fun, educational water games that your children can play.

1) The Water Family

In this cute flash animated game, you can place your family in a pretend cartoon home. You can learn about how much water any given activity in your day will use. With this in mind, it gives you different tips on how to improve your water consumption. Activities range from washing the dishes to bathing. There's a ton of little easter eggs that your kids will probably dig into this one. 

2) Test Your WaterSense 

Test Your WaterSense is a fun Pac-Man clone that asks you to make your way around the pipes without running into the "Water Wasters." The goal is to get the highest score and the quickest way to do that is to answer water related questions. Your kids will love it. 

3) Mission H2O

This game is a fun little thing that highlights all the different ways that water is being wasted. There are eight mini-games that you can play that have instructional videos which are pretty funny. You're older kids will enjoy this game. They can even win prizes. Try it out. 

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Posted by on in Food & Water Security

I just spent a nice three days in California. The climate was what some people call "Sweater Weather"; where you can walk around in your shorts and sweater without being too uncomfortable. It was nice. After a brutally cold winter, these three days were a welcome respite. 

Little did I know that up here on Campus the weather had taken a very nice change for the better, as well. The sun shone brightly down and melted a lot of the snow. This was a good thing, for the most part. However, driving past the south hoop house on Wednesday, I saw that too much of something (even sunshine!) can be a bad thing. 

The snow covering the building began to gain weight as it melted and, unfortunately, the framing just couldn't hold up. The south wall, the wall that was able to get the most sunlight, fell onto itself. 

 

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We had to see how bad the interior was, if the hoop house could be salvaged. After shoveling a path to the door we saw the trusses were bent to unusable shapes and would probably not be able to be reused in the future. The reinforced plastic was stretched holes were beginning to show. 

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We've got plenty of options ahead. There's talk of salvaging the irrigation hoses, electrical, fans, and anything else that could be reused and build a new hoop house. Jim C. joked that the mobile (movable) hoop house would fit nicely on the plot of land if a hole in the fence was placed large enough to drive it through.

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The upside to the location is two fold. First off, it rests nicely along the south end of the property. It is guaranteed to get the most sunshine to maximize its usefulness. Second, the soil underneath the hoop house is super fertile. It would be a shame to just let it go to grass. 

Either way, any repairs will have to wait until the snow begins to melt around the structure. So, we're looking at around a month or so. Until then, we'll keep you posted on what we'll be doing. 

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Posted by on in Food & Water Security

It's snowing outside. Right now, I can look outside my window and see the beginnings of (yet another) snowstorm. These are nothing new in Central Minnesota. As hearty Minnesotans, we're raised to endure the cold. We have flannel pajamas given to us for our first Christmas. We endure, and like Garrison Keillor will have you know, we are nurtured to endure quietly and stoically, one hand on our snow shovel, and when not accelerating, one foot always hovering over the brake.

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With this recent (of many) snowstorms, I'm here to tell you that life is more than white landscapes inter speckled with black-barked trees and grey skies. I'm here to remind you that green is still a color. Remember green? Remember color? We can have color, even in the cold snowy winter. Even in Central Minnesota! But, instead of growing your entire garden indoors, let's start a little smaller. Let's start with windowsill gardens!

First things first. Take stock of what you want to grow. In the cold and dark winter, it's easy to forget the taste of fresh greens, but that's what I'd recommend you start with. They will be able to use the natural light coming in through your window. In central MN, you'll get the most light coming through your south facing window, so be sure to set up near one.

There are literally hundreds of different places to purchase your seeds. You can go to your local home and garden center and pick up many varieties year-round. If you're looking for more selection, going online or through seed catalogs is your best bet. I love the Seed Savers exchange. They focus on heirloom plants. These plants are able to produce plants that will in turn produce more seeds for the next growing period. It's kind of an art; to grow a veggie that hasn't changed for generations. You can get very defined features from your plant if you go this route. Over the years, growers have particularly cultivated particular qualities to keep the varieties of plants ever growing and ever diverse.

However if you're just getting started, grabbing some seeds from your local hardware store is a great first step.Windowsill-Garden-in-Tea-Tins.jpg Remember, you're looking to get the feel for growing. You can dabble with the millions of varieties later. If you're looking for something green to eat right away, you can't go wrong with sprouts (either buckwheat, sunflower, or pea shoots). However, if you want something that is a little more substantial, you can choose a nice cold crop such as kale, broccoli, or spinach. If you go that route, you'll need a little more space.

Speaking of which, so you've got your seeds. You'll now need a place to put them; for them to grow into the delicious greens you've forgotten are so colorful. One idea is to reuse any container from your house. My wife and I use used loose leaf spinach containers. You'll have to use potting soil for the time being. (The cold frozen ground under eight feet of snow will have to wait).

The only thing left to make sure your little guys will thrive will be water. You could invest in a drip irrigation system; a system that waters each plant at its base on a timer. That way you can be a little more hands off. However, setting an egg timer to water them works just as well and is much less expensive.

And that's about it. Just make sure your seedlings get plenty of light and water and they'll do just fine. We can do this. Together we can get through this long and winding winter.

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