A Different Type of Holiday Green

Are you struggling to find the perfect gift for that special someone? I gave up on trying to find the perfect gifts for people a long time ago.

Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is.… It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best. – Sir Laurence Olivier

In any case, the Minnesota Pollution Control offered some great green gift ideas that are close to perfect in my opinion.  I will say I am super green when it comes to wrapping gifts because I haven’t used ribbon or a bow in I don’t know how many years. I prefer to use gift bags and always re-use them and make sure none get thrown out at the end of the evening.

I always ask for acts of service as gifts for me and quality time gifts for the kids from others.  I realize these are the most precious of gifts because they require time, but I never thought about them being green too.

I hope you find the information from Living Green 365 as informative as I did.

Season’s green-ings

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons add up to an additional 1 million tons a week to the nation’s garbage piles.

This holiday season consider a new tradition–one that creates less waste, less stress, and more memories.

The idea list
Lessons. A lot of people would like to try new things, but won’t spend the money on themselves. A gift certificate might be just the item for someone who would like to begin a new hobby or polish the skills they have already learned. Perhaps you have can even teach them one of your special talents, like how to cook a family recipe.

Time and energy.  Friends or relatives may value help with snow shoveling, vacuuming, or organizing as a gift. Try our downloadable gift certificates as a way to present your gift.

Reused items. Many gifts can be purchased second-hand. Look at Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse directory and ReUse Minnesota for a list of shops. To help you find the perfect present,  choose a shop that specializes in one type of reuse, like kids stuff or sports gear.

Hand made or up-cycled items. This is a spin on the reused idea, but includes artsy, unique and personal touches. You can tackle your own projects or look to local shops.

  • Find shops that sell collectibles, vintage wear, or antiques
  • Gift hand-knit or home-sewn items
  • Create a book of family recipes

 

Experiences. There are endless possibilities here. A few to get you started:

  • Minnesota State Parks Permit or Giftcard, for access to all 76 Minnesota state parks
  • Minnesota Ski Pass: Access to ski in Minnesota’s State Parks and Grant-in-Aid Trails
  • Passes to a museum or membership to a community center or park
  • Tickets to a concert or play

Living green items. Help others in their living green journey. Ideas include:

  • Metro Transit bus passes
  • LED light bulbs
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Locally made or Minnesota grown products
  • The Chinook Book, a coupon book for Twin Cities green businesses
  • A rain barrel
  • A counter-top compost pail

Gift wrapping
Did you know that our national annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons? And did you know that if every family just reused two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet? This year, why not try a new way of wrapping that is elegant, fun, and green? Try Furoshiki!

More ways to reduce holiday waste

  • Carry reusable shopping bags with you when you go holiday shopping
  • Select  reusable batteries for electronics, toys and other gifts
  • Recycle old or broken holiday lights and replace with LED lights
  • Encourage the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods,experiences, time, by listing your ideas on the So Kind Registry
  • Consider the life-cycle of a product before purchasing. Was it produced locally, or thousands of miles away? Is it durable? Is it energy- or water-efficient, made of recycled materials, or recyclable?
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Did You Ever Have a Day?

Have you ever had one of those days when you try to do one thing but it seems to take all day long to do it? I’ve been having quite a few of those days lately as well as other days when I can’t stay focused on what I’m doing.

For instance, when one of my family members opens up a Christmas present this Christmas they will find an already worn sweatshirt. That might be an OK gift for some people but not when I had intended to wrap the new one but mistakenly wrapped the one I had been wearing but had taken off because I got too warm.

A small packaged arrived in the mail the other day. I started opening it but then thought, “Oh, I better not, it could be a piece of jewelery from Mike for me!” When I asked Mike about it and told him to look at it he looked at me like I was somewhat crazy and said, “You told me you were ordering that as a Christmas present for someone.”

Mike has told me on more than one occasion that I could hide my own Easter eggs. I’m beginning to believe him.

This evening I was attempting to do some work for the Voyageur Brewing Company. I wanted to post a photo on the Twitter page but the photo size was too large. I’ve had a Mac for quite some time now but I still haven’t found an easy way to resize my photos.  When I had Windows I uploaded a Fast Image Resizer, dragged and dropped photos into that and it automatically spit the resized photos out for me to use.  I have tried to install that on my Mac but it doesn’t work.  I know how to resize in Photoshop but I don’t like having to open Photoshop just for that purpose. So tonight I decided to try creating my own Application for my Mac. It sounded easy enough but after two hours of attempts I was still getting an error message.  So I did what any somewhat sane person would do and just chose a different photo that was already the right size.

Yes, I have had one of those days. And unfortunately I didn’t have one of these!

Craft Beer on ice

Ice cold craft beer

Follow Voyageur Brewing Company on Twitter for more delicious looking brews!

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A Good Day of Fishing

I wanted to share a fishing tale with you. It’s about our Mark’s brother’s fishing experience the other day and it made me smile. I’m hoping it will make you smile too. Mark’s Dad wrote it.

Well it appears that either Michael is just plain Lucky — or as I would like to believe — has his big brother was “guiding him” to fishing success.

The attached picture was taken on Friday afternoon – on the Lake Superior bay – at the end of Park Point at around 2 PM.

Mike had barely put his buckshot jig (from Mark’s collecton) down the hole and within a few minutes he described feeling a thunk on his jig.

After a Chinese fire drill of untangling the line from the vexilar (Marks) and getting the fish onto the ice and then having to remove the other 3 lines wrapped around the fish — he and his friend Steve – were then able to take this picture. He also said that as the fish was still on the ice – the reel AND the handle fell off the rod. Now if there isn’t some divine intervention going on here -I don’t how else to explain it all.

Regardless – after Mike and Steve released the fish – and they stopped laughing outloud over what had just happened– the moment was reagarded as “priceless”

Mike said he and Steve had to peel off 100 yards of line and re rig everything – as well as fix the rod and reel.  The fish was approx. 26″-28″ Mikes largest thru the ice.

PS – that was the only fish they caught for the rest of the day (Mark must have been busy or  in a hurry and did’nt have time to stick around) LOL

Anyway thought you might enjoy the story – as you would get much more condensed version if you talked to Mike.

Dave

Mark's brother with a nice walleye

walleye fishing

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Thank You Conservation Corps

What a great group of people we have working for the State of Minnesota. Check out their accomplishments in 2014.  Thank you Minnesota Iowa Conservation Corps, you are welcome in our neck of the woods anytime!

In 2014, our crews:
Planted 125,450 trees
Conducted prescribed burns on 20,785 acres
Built or improved 415 miles of trail

What else did they do?

Habitat restoration projects:
Vegetation management
Invasive species removal
Herbicide application
Planting
Nursery activities
Seed collection
Shoreline restoration
Rain garden maintenance
Prescribed burning
Timber stand improvement
Trail construction
Trail maintenance
Disaster response
Fire suppression

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa

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Oh Christmas Trees

Christmas is just around the corner and trees and greens are a topic of conversation around our house.  A little searching on the internet will bring up a lot of information about Christmas Trees and the traditions surrounding them.  Most websites conclude the tradition of hanging greens on doors or windows has been around for a long time. One website said Ancient people in some countries thought the greens would keep witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness away. It went on to say evergreens were a symbol in some festivals and celebrations that proved the dark days of winter would soon be getting shorter and spring would return. There is more information about the Germans being the first to bring the tree inside and decorate it as a Christmas Tree and how they brought the tradition with them to America.

The Department of Natural Resources also has a plethora of information about Christmas Trees. This includes how to care for them, where to place them and how to water them.  They also suggest purchasing a local tree to help prevent the potential spread of invasive species.  According to my reading I think I’m doing most things right.

Most of the talk at our house has been about selling Christmas wreaths for the kids’  band fundraiser. If you’re in the neighborhood and want a pretty wreath then email or give us a call.  For $25 you can support the kids on their goal to raise money for a band trip and maybe even keep evil spirits, ghosts, witches and illness out of your house while reminding yourself winter won’t last forever.

Tis the Season-MN DNR
Christmas Tree Care Tips

Make a fresh cut. Cut at least 1 inch from the bottom of the trunk just before bringing it inside and putting it in the stand. This re-opens the tree stem so it can drink water.
Water immediately. After making the fresh cut, place the tree in a large capacity stand with warm water. The stand you use should hold at least 1 gallon of fresh water.
Place Christmas tree away from heat sources. Heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, etc. speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.
Check water level daily. Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink. Christmas trees are very thirsty!
This information came from The Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  More information can be found at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/minnesotagrown/christmastrees.aspx

The most common Minnesota native trees that are used for Christmas trees include:  white spruce, red (Norway) pine, white pine and balsam fir.  Christmas tree farmers in Minnesota plant 500,000 to 1.5 million tree seedlings every year.  It takes approximately 7-10 years to get a Christmas tree to the right shape and size.

An 88-foot tall white spruce from northern Minnesota was chosen to be this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree and is now standing proudly in front of the White House.

 

Question of the week

Q: When I hiked in the Black Hills of South Dakota recently, I observed the many dying trees related to insect infestation. We take all these precautions when using firewood, but is there cause for concern with Christmas trees being shipped from various places around the nation? It seems like a possible way to spread pests and diseases.

A: You are right to be concerned. According to the lead nursery inspector at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), most of our imported Christmas trees are from Michigan and Wisconsin, along with Fraser fir from the Carolinas. Gypsy moth is the main concern on trees coming from those states, and regional inspectors visually check Christmas trees as they come into Minnesota in bulk. The Agriculture Department also conducts spot checks on tree sales lots. The focus of these inspections is proper certification under all applicable state and federal quarantines.

Mountain pine beetle is the insect responsible for killing pines in the Black Hills and in much of the western United States. This insect attacks trees that are 5 inches or more in diameter. Most Christmas trees you’ll find on sales lots are smaller than this. The MDA is considering regulations to prevent the importation of pine wood with bark on it from states where mountain pine beetle occurs. These regulations would be enforced through a state exterior quarantine tentatively scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

Finally, consider buying Christmas trees grown in Minnesota. That way, you can be sure you won’t be importing an unknown pest.

Val Cervenka, DNR forest health program coordinator

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Posted in Seasonal activities

Spearing Northern Pike

This time of the year is one of the few times of the year people choose to go spear fishing in the Boundary Waters.  Once it gets later in the winter the ice gets very thick and in the BWCA you can’t use a gas powered auger or chainsaw to cut the hole.  It becomes too difficult and time consuming to cut a hole big enough for spearing fish through the ice.  Outside of the BWCA some people will go longer into the season but with our cold temperatures it becomes a big chore to keep the hole free of ice.

The best thing to do if you want to spear through a darkhouse is to share it with someone.  With more than one person using the hole there’s a better chance at keeping the ice at a more manageable depth.  We used to do this when we lived in St. Cloud. We loved to go out on the lake and watch for northern pike to swim into our hole. We had a wood burning stove in there and stayed nice and cozy no matter what the temperature was.

The DNR had a neat little description about spearing the other day and it reminded me of all of the hours of fun we used to have doing it.  The only thing the author says that doesn’t sound right is when he says, “Throw the spear.” I don’t know how many of you have ever speared but if you throw the spear then the chances of you spearing a fish aren’t very good. If you carefully lower your spear down and into the water and then release the spear over the fish the weight and balance of the spear will make it slide right through the fish.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Keep safety in mind when enjoying darkhouse spearing

After sawing a wide rectangle into the ice, a person holds a fish spear at the ready while looking through the water, past a small decoy meant to lure northern pike into range. A well-placed throw results in a pike on the ice and destined for the frying pan.

Darkhouse spearing has ancient origins, but the activity may be new for many. It’s become especially popular on the newly-formed ice on Mille Lacs Lake, which opened for darkhouse spearing this year for the first time since the winter of 1982-83. The current season for darkhouse spearing opened Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 22.

For those new to spearing, there are some additional points of safety to keep in mind while out on the ice, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Once a block of ice is cut, it can be pushed under the ice or pulled out onto the surface.

If removed, the ice should be placed back into the hole and the hole marked when the spearer removes a darkhouse.

If the block of ice is pushed underneath the surface, the hole should be marked, as should any blocks that are left on top of the ice.

“It’s great to see the crowds come out for this new opportunity to spear northern pike on Mille Lacs. We’ve got an abundance of smaller pike which can make for a great day on the ice, and for a great fish fry,” said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR Aitkin area fisheries supervisor. “Along with the popularity of spearing, we’re reminding folks to mark their holes when they leave them. Safety for those spearing and others traveling on the lake is the most important consideration.”

Paul Lundeen, president of the Minnesota Darkhouse & Angling Association, said the organization stresses the importance of putting your block of ice back in and marking that spot with biodegradable markers, preferably in each corner of the hole.

“Push that block back in the ice and make sure you mark that hole,” Lundeen said.

Usually, Lundeen said, the practice of pushing the block of ice under the surface is easiest because the ice bobs after being cut free.

“It’s actually so much easier. Why lift the block on top of the ice? That thing is heavy,” he said.

The spearing association also stresses to make sure spearers know their target, to avoid spearing fish that aren’t northern pike.

“Just like deer hunting, don’t throw your spear unless you’re aware of what your target is,” Lundeen said.

Lundeen also said spearers might consider passing on the large fish. While small pike have increased in abundance in Mille Lacs in recent years, large pike are limited in numbers and worth conserving. Also, make sure to pick up any litter from the ice when leaving, he said.

Overall, Lundeen said, spearing can be a thrill, just like hunting. And there’s the craft of making decoys that attract fish, of living the history of spearing, and of getting kids and grandkids out on the ice to share in the fun.

“It’s just like deer hunting – you can sit there for hours and all of a sudden you can look and there’s a deer. It’s just like that with spearing,” Lundeen said.

Statewide, anglers and spearers can keep three northern pike, and one of those three can be over 30 inches. On Mille Lacs Lake, anglers and spearers can keep 10 northern pike, and one of those 10 can be over 30 inches. All spearers and anglers should check for special regulations that may be in effect for individual waters.

For more information on Mille Lacs Lake management, see www.mndnr.gov/millelacslake. For darkhouse spearing regulations, see www.mndnr.gov/regulations/fishing.

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Bird Identification Crow versus Raven

I’m pretty good at identifying birds when they are sitting next to each other but when I see one independently of another that looks similar then I’m not so good.   Woodpeckers can trick me, with the exception of the pileated, they are somewhat difficult to tell apart.  Crows and ravens also often get the best of me.

Besides the fact the crow and raven are both smart black birds they really aren’t that similar in appearance if you look closely. Ravens are much bigger and have a shinier wet look to their feathers while the feathers of a crow are duller.  The tail feathers of a raven are more diamond or wedge shaped when compared to a fan shape of the crows. The bill of a crow is shorter and sharper than the longer more curved bill of a raven that is also larger on the top than on the bottom of the bill. Ravens also have feathers beneath their bills called hackles.

The raven appears more majestic and graceful to me while the crow a little bit more wild and harried.  Ravens don’t flock or gather in large groups like crows do and they also don’t caw incessantly.  Here’s a short video that can help you distinguish between the crow and the raven.

Ravens and Crows in Mythology- http://www.diffen.com/difference/Crow_vs_Raven

Crows are associated with war and death in Irish mythology. In Cornish folklore crows are associated with the “otherworld” and so must be treated with respect. In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the crow is an ancestral being. In Buddhism the protector of the Dharma is represented by a crow in one of his physical/earthly forms.

The raven is revered as god by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest in North America and in northeast Asia. Several totem poles erected by native Americans in Washington, Alaska and Oregon depict ravens and the stories they feature in. In the Old Testament of the Bible there are several references to common Ravens. In the British Isles, ravens were symbolic to the Celts. In Irish mythology, the goddess Morrígan alighted on the hero Cú Chulainn’s shoulder in the form of a raven after his death.

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Warm and Clear

Gunflint Trail Sunset

Sunset on the Seagull River

imageToday was a very beautiful day followed by a gorgeous sunset that Tony snapped a couple of photos of.  We’re hoping the skies are clear the next couple of nights because it’s going to be moderate temperatures which would make for perfect viewing conditions for the meteor shower and possibly northern lights.

Space Weather News for Dec. 12, 2014

http://spaceweather.com

GEMINID METEOR SHOWER:  The best meteor shower of the year, the Geminids, peaks this weekend when Earth passes through a stream of debris from “rock comet” 3200 Phaethon. Forecasters expect to see as many as 120 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th.  Visit http://spaceweather.com for photos and observing tips.

AURORA WATCH:  A geomagnetic storm is underway on  Dec. 12th as Earth enters a high-speed stream of solar wind.  Aurora alerts are available from http://spaceweathertext.com (text) and http://spaceweatherphone.com (voice).

Posted in News

It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like a Brewery

The Voyageur Brewing Company looks like a real brewery now that we have all of our tanks set up.  It took some finesse but they are all in place.

Voyageur Brewing Company equipment

Voyageur Brewing Company equipment

Voyageur Brewing Company

Brewery

Brewing in Grand Marais, Minnesota

Brewing in Grand Marais, Minnesota

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Weather and Climate

MPR news printed an article about climate change and weather that I thought was very interesting and disturbing.  While our winter weather was much colder than normal last year the climate is changing and our winters are 7 degrees warmer now than in the 1970′s. That’s bad for people who love winter and the recreational opportunities it presents.

National Weather Service

There’s a big group of people who are very concerned with the warming trend.  Protect our Winters is an organization made up of the global winter sports community. They hope to reduce the climate’s effect on snow sports and the economies they support.  Their mission is “to engage and mobilize the winter sports community to lead the fight against climate change.  Our focus is on educational initiatives, advocacy and the support of community-based projects.” You can find out more about them by visiting their website.

Let’s hope they can do something.

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