• Jenny Hill

Activity Important All Year Long

Winter can be tough. When it starts in December, we might console ourselves that after Winter Solstice, the daylight hours slowly start increasing again. In the Pine River area, January of 2022 proved bright, but cold. Now at the beginning of February, many of us go to school or to work when it is light out and also come home when it is light out.


Still, we may find ourselves hearing about animals hibernating and think “Yeah, that’s the life!” We may be tempted to hunker down with a good book (or video game). We might be relieved when the other members of our household seem to be occupied too. And there’s nothing wrong with any of those thoughts or activities.


But research shows when we make the effort to be more active, it benefits our mental and physical health. Added bonus: it may even boost our immune function! And your brain will continue to grow as long as you challenge it–a concept called brain plasticity. So why not take the opportunity to learn something new?


Get Out with Family or Friends

Great opportunities for doing things with another member of your family or friends include

in-person Back to Basics classes which continue through February 24 at Pine River-Backus School. Although initially planned for adults, here are 3 workshops suitable for ages 8 and up, when accompanied by an adult:

  1. Lotions and Potions, Wednesday, February 9, 2022 6:00 – 8:00pm Make your own lotions and skin remedies with all natural ingredients! Your skin is your largest organ and best defense against germs and toxins. Learn to make healing and protective lotions for all seasons with natural oils, minerals and essential oils. Take home samples too! Led by Christine Jones, Autumn Diederich, and Mike Rundhaug, Pure Soap Flake Company.

  2. Needle Felted Gnome Thursday, February 10, 2022 6:00 – 7:00pm Learn the basics of needle felting and take home a gnome with a beard or braids. There is a $5 material fee that covers making one gnome. Materials for a second gnome will be available for purchase in class. Presented by Esther Endicott & Julia Blenkush Serenity Now Yarn & Alpaca Shop.

  3. Soap Felting Thursday, February 17, 2022 5:30 – 6:30pm Learn how to wet felt a soap bar with wool roving. Felted wool is naturally antibacterial, breathable, and odor resistant. Not only does the felted fiber act as an exfoliating washcloth, but it also uses every bit of soap without leaving soap "slime" on the soap dish or on your sink. There is a $5 material fee that covers making one soap bar. Materials for a second soap bar will be available for purchase in class. Presented by Esther Endicott & Julia Blenkush, Serenity Now Yarn & Alpaca Shop.

Learn more about these in-person Back to Basics workshops here.


A Wealth of Low-Cost or No-Cost Activities

The University of Minnesota Extension Service, like many other organizations, have really ramped up their online offerings since the start of the pandemic. They offer many courses via Zoom that are no-cost. Their “Family friendly earth care series” offers courses such as “Edibles and decoratives from the woods or backyard” and “Reducing your family’s carbon footprint.” See a full list of courses here.

Photo by Tammy Bargy.

This winter has seen a great amount of snow in the Pine River area–perfect for snowshoeing. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources lists some great pluses of snowshoes:

  • they are easy to use

  • they can take you deeper into the woods than skis

  • they are the ideal way to travel to spot wildlife

  • you can snowshoe almost anywhere–you do not need a trail.

This article lists some great spots to travel to snowshoe. But you may discover a whole new dimension to favorite local spots, just by visiting this time of year on ultra-quiet, ultra-easy snowshoes. Not ready to buy? Several state parks and some local resorts rent snowshoes.


Learn Even More

Finally, if the examples in this post have not won you over for being more active and getting outdoors, there’s a Back to Basics in-person workshop that might:


Play Outside! Thursday, February 24, 2022 5:30 – 6:30pm Our lives are continually becoming more structured and digital. There is a strong need to get kids (and adults) outside and away from screens. Kids don't need to learn sitting down. Let's discuss the physical, emotional, sensory, and cognitive benefits of being in nature. We will learn strategies for ensuring our kids grow into confident, balanced, resilient, self-reliant, healthy adults. Discussion will be based on research, experience, and guided by participant questions and interest. Presented by Kim Norman, Early Childhood Educator. Register for this in-person Back to Basics workshops here.


As we head into the winter months that can seem the longest, learning something new or making an extra effort to get outdoors can help build your resilience, possibly even your immunity, and will give you extra bragging rights this summer as you think back to February 2022.