Deborahmclaren's Weblog

Sustianable Tourism, Buy Local, Rural-Urban Connections

Archive for September, 2010

Fall Raspberry Picking in Minnesota

Posted by deborahmclaren on September 30, 2010

Every fall my husband Rob and I try to get out in the country for berry picking, usually near the St. Croix river just southeast of St. Paul. I love making hand-picked raspberry jam. This year I took our “friendship family” student, Ayu with us. She’s attending Univ. of St. Thomas for a year and stays in a dorm but we kind of look out for her. She’s awesome! Anil was grumpy and didn’t want to go but as soon as we picked up Ayu for the ride to the countryside he changed his attitude. She’s got that effect on everyone – cheerful and positive. It was fun driving through Minnesota prairies and by old farms. I admit my whole attitude changes too when I leave the city. There’s nothing like fresh air, being in nature, and being away from work and home obligations. Yeah!!!

Ayu ready for a hay ride

We drove to Afton Apple farm and noticed there were very few cars in the lot – normally there might be dozens. Unfortunately we learned a summer hail storm had destroyed much of their apple orchard and raspberry patch. We were determined to glean what we could from the field. We picked for over an hour and only got about a quart each – 3 quarts in all (Anil played while we picked). Most of the berries were small and not ripe yet. The patch had a few surprises though. It was full of spiders – a type I haven’t seen before. Let me know if you can identify this spider.

Raspberry loving spider

Afton Apple is really suffering this year. Some other orchards in the area have provided them with apples to sell that keeps them afloat. And they aren’t making anything on their raspberries. They still had a lot of goodies in their market – cheese curds, jams, everything needed for canning, pies and fresh cider. The animals in the petting zoo are still there. It’s always fun to see them. My favorite this year was a cute little black calf.

Playing in the hay!

The farm workers were happy to have some guests. They are always friendly there, but without the crowd this year they happily chatted away and pointed out the pumpkin field when we were on the hay ride. The pumpkins looked smaller than usually but fine. Hopefully they will have good sales. It was a lot of fun taking Ayu to the farm. She loved picking berries. She was determined!

We ended up getting raspberries from an organic market in Minneapolis and spent the rest of the weekend making jam. Yum!

Locally-owned farms are disappearing. Afton Apple tries to offer a mix of things to get people to come out. It’s a good thing this year when they have suffered because of hail. Please support small farms and get out to one near you today. This is the harvest season so no doubt there’s pumpkins, hay rides, corn maizes, and maybe some Halloween tricks or treats awaiting you! Click here to get a directory of Minnesota farms. Sunny skies are predicted for the rest of this week!

Cow Train

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Green Music Alliance, Cloud Cult and Earthology Records

Posted by deborahmclaren on September 29, 2010

Cloud Cult (stolen from their website!)

Calling all festival goers, music travelers, musicians and fans!

Cloud Cult is an experimental indie rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota led by singer/songwriter Craig Minowa. The name originated from the ancient prophecies of indigenous North Americans. A lot of musicians and bands have become advocates for environmental organizations and Cloud Cult takes it damn serious.

In 1999, lead singer Craig and his wife Connie Minowa formed Earthology with an Earthology Records branch, which was focused on helping to green the music industry. Earthology Records is where all of the bands booking, publicity, CD replication, t-shirt production, and recording take place. Through Earthology, Minowa developed the first 100% post-consumer recycled CD packaging in the U.S. market. Earthology Records was later moved to an organic farm, powered by geothermal energy and built partially from reclaimed wood and recycled plastic. The band’s merchandise is all 100% postconsumer recycled or made of certified organic materials. Cloud Cult has planted over a thousand trees and plants several hundred more each year to absorb the band’s CO2 output. They also donate heavily to projects that build wind turbines as revenue generators on Native American Reservations.

Cloud Cult is music that speaks from the heart, from life, from creativity. After the death of Craig and Connie’s first child they poured their hurt into songs that were extremely personal and painful – yet also celebrated the elements of his life, all of our lives really, by celebrating “the mysteries of life” as Craig says. You can hear and buy their new CD, Running with the Wolves. Their next Minneapolis date is Nov 18th at First Ave. They are also playing Philly, NYC, Brooklyn, Boston and loads of other places.

Cloud Cult is a member of the Green Music Alliance, an organization founded in 2008 for music industry companies and artists who agree that it is time for the industry to examine the way they do business, create products, promote music, sell music and influence their fans. Also, the Green Music Alliance is for music fans who want to know what they can do for the planet. Members of the Green Music Alliance (featured artists this month are soul man John Legend, the lovely and kick-butt Sheryl Crow, and heroes Cloud Cult) strive to reduce the carbon footprint of their companies and raise awareness within their businesses and with their fans about how to reduce our impact on the environment. Their website is a great resource for every aspect of the music industry – everything from where to buy sustainably harvested bamboo guitars to solar stages, and how to tour sustainably. The website also tells the stories of musicians and others who are sending the sustainable world message to their industry and their fans. Radiohead telecommuted for the Conan O’Brian show to reduce their carbon footprint and KT Tunstall tours on a biodesiel bus. I love green rock.

nabbed free and with their permission

Note: Some of this info was blatantly lifted from the Green Music Alliance and Cloud Cult’s websites… oh, and YouTube. Enjoy!

Posted in award, climate solutions, environmental education, green music, green travel, Minnesota, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Free Entrance Days in Our National Parks

Posted by deborahmclaren on September 24, 2010

Free Entrance Days in Our National Parks

This weekend (Sept 25) and Nov 11 the national parks are not charging entrance fees.

Watch a film about the founder of our national parks.

Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

Posted in environmental education, family travel, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Wild Food and Mushroom Foray in the Minnesota Northwoods

Posted by deborahmclaren on September 22, 2010

Finding mushrooms and a skull in the forest

Last weekend my fungi-lovin’ family piled into the car and drove 5 hours north of the Twin Cities to White Earth Indian Reservation. Our mission: hunting wild mushrooms with the Anishinabe (Ojibwe), seasoned experts and other mushroom fanatics like us. It’s fall here in Minnesota where it can get chilly, especially at night, so it was most likely to be the last weekend of the season for a wild food foray. In fact, although we collected a lot of good, healthy mushrooms we saw plenty that were already slimy, dried or otherwise gone bad.

Kelly Larson

The 2010 Fall Wild Food Festival and Mushroom Foray took place September 17-19 at Little Elbow Lake Park. The weekend was structured into a two and a half day outdoor, hands-on learning experience and was coordinated by White Earth Tribal and Community College Extension Service in Mahnomen, MN. Robert – Bob – Shimek, the coordinator, introduced us to the world of fungi.

We started the wild edibles foraging on Friday afternoon and continue the harvesting and identification of wild mushrooms on Saturday and Sunday. Kelly Larson and Steve Dahlberg were the featured wild edible and mushroom gatherers. Becca Dallinger coordinated the camp – set up, cooking, equipment, break down, etc. Bob, a local Native who has spent most of his life in northern Minnesota, had warned us in advance to wear blaze orange since the foray occurs during the muzzle loader deer season. The campground and foraging areas are located in a remote area of the reservation, in black bear and wolf habitat.

The Camp

Our leader, Kelly Larson, is a long-time mushroom enthusiast. She’s a member of the Minnesota Mycological Society, the Paul Bunyan Mushroom Club (an informal group of avid mushroom hunters in Bemidji), and lives at The Bagley Farm in Clearwater. She’s also a keen birder and can tell you a lot about prairie chickens. We were lucky to have her lead us into the forests and appreciated her donation of one of her delicious heritage turkeys for a camp meal.

Becca and her Crew!

Steve Dahlberg is the Extension WETCC Director. The WETCC Extension Office acts as the liaison between the college and the community. They offer classes and workshops at little or no cost to community members. The Mushroom Foray was supported by a grant through WETCC and was free to registrants. Steve and his colleague, Stephanie Williams, have helped create and lead many of WETCC programs, including the Local Food program, classes and seasonal camps, tracking, naturalist training, Indigenous crop research and ecotourism. They have also both successfully completed a local foods challenge, eating only food grown within a 250 mile radius where they live for one year.

Steve Dahlberg

Each day we traveled to diverse forests on the reservation that Bob had selected in advance. The first day we stayed around Little Elbow Lake and primarily hunted in a hard wood forest. The Maple trees were bursting with orange, red and yellow colors. Together with the clouds over head they made beautiful reflections and patterns on the lake. The first mushrooms we found were only steps away from the camp. We found chantrell, puffballs, lobsters, coral, and many LBMs (little brown mushrooms – there are so many that it’s hardly worth trying to identify them all), and much more. Kelly showed us how to carefully cut each mushroom away from the root, placing them in a special loose-woven basket or separate small brown bags to take back to camp to identify later.

Lobster mushrooms

Identifying mushrooms with Kelly

The second day Bob took us to a pine forest loaded with Rassulas. Rassulas aren’t good to eat. But when the lobster mold catches hold and turns them red… ta da! A tasty mushroom treat! We also got to see colorful Indian pipe (really another type of mold), lots of TBMs, fairy ring mushrooms, boletes, and lobsters. The kids found a skull and some bones they will research and identify. It looked like a coyote to me. We could hear hunters in the nearby woods and were glad we had our blaze orange on.

During our time at camp we helped Becca prepare and cook the meals. She cooked everything on a camp stove or the fire pit. The food was incredibly fresh and delicious, however the leek soup and lobster mushrooms sauted in butter were my favorites! And, being northern Minnesota – especially White Earth Reservation – we had plenty of locally harvested wild rice (manoomin).

wild rice

As the sun went down the kids played together along the shore of Little Elbow Lake. We could hear their laughter, laughter created by spending an adventurous day together in the Northwoods. The sky was clear and the evening got chilly. Away from cities and urban light pollution we were able to gaze at thousands of brilliant stars scattered across the universe. Sitting together around the fire, Kelly, Bob, Becca and Steve shared some of their favorite mushroom recipes and preservation methods with us. We pondered the identity of some of the mysterious fungi we’d collected. Naturally, as Minnesotans, we discussed our beloved morels. Eventually I rounded up the kids and headed over to Becca’s house to spend the night, grateful I didn’t bring a tent on this cool evening. Becca (who is also an herbalist), her husband Joe and their kids have been good friends of ours for a long time and encourage us to come up and share these wonderful experiences together.

Indian Pipe (actually a mold)

The final morning, after a huge breakfast prepared by Becca, Bob took the gang to a mixed forest to hunt. We packed up our bags and mushrooms and headed south. We’ve become fans of WETCC’s wild food program and look forward to coming back for other seasonal camps (maple sugar, berry picking, wild rice harvest) and the “Wild Food Summit” next June for the annual gathering of wild food enthusiasts in the Northwoods of Minnesota. We are also looking forward to doing more wild edibles foraging around the Twin Cities.

Driving home I reflected on how wild food was our traditional food until very recently. Agri-businesses has developed cultivated and genetically modified food that most of us now rely on. Wild food was once necessary for human survival, but now most traditional knowledge of wild food has been lost. Wild food has no packaging, no chemicals to force it to grow, no pesticides, can be picked locally (minimizing food miles and pollution from vehicle exhausts), is fresh and tastier, ensures plant diversity (as opposed to mono crops), is free, gives us a chance to spend time in nature, and often provides medicinal benefits. Thank you Steve, Bob, Kelly, Becca and everyone who attended the foray. Your dedication and commitment to helping people understand the importance of healthy food, healthy communities, and healthy families is deeply appreciated!

I hope to see you at the next camp! – Travel Momma

Some recommended books:

* Mushrooms Demystified By David Arora
* Peterson Field guide to edible wild plants; Eastern and Central North America By Lee Allen Peterson

For more information, contact Robert Shimek at 218-407-0698 or

Posted in environmental education, Minnesota, mushrooms, Uncategorized, wild food | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Commodore Hotel writers and gangsters

Posted by deborahmclaren on September 8, 2010

Opened in 1920, the hotel and its elegant art deco bar attracted literary figures F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald , and Sinclair Lewis as well as gangsters Al Capone and Fred Barker. The hotel was renovated in the 1970s but still looks much like it did when Ma Barker met her son Fred’s girlfriend here.

1st Mondays at the Commodore, 79 Western Ave, 4-8pm. Cash bar, music, and conversation in the historic Art Deco Bar with unique, exotic treasures from world travelers, artists, designers, collectors and antique aficionados.

Fore more information: The Commodore Hotel, part of the University Club of Saint Paul

See you there!

Posted in food and wine, Minnesota, Saint Paul, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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