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Twin Cities Transition Town and Neighborhood Sustainability Networking Fair

Posted by deborahmclaren on October 14, 2010

Twin Cities Transition Town and Neighborhood Sustainability Networking Fair

Keynote speaker will be Richard Heinberg, author of The Party’s Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies and Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World. Richard is a Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.

Neighbors from Cocoran, Powderhorn, Phillips, Seward, Longfellow, Standish Ericsson and other neighborhoods from around the Twin Cities will meet with volunteers from local congregations, immigrant associations, garden clubs and student volunteers to plan how each neighborhood can build local resilience and find ways to thrive as we adapt to climate change, peak oil and economic disruption.

For more information please contact Sean Gosiewski, Alliance for Sustainability 612-331-1099 ,

– $5, November 13, Minneapolis, MN

Meet you there!


Posted in climate solutions, environmental education, Minnesota, Saint Paul, Volunteer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Wolves, Kills, Kids and Our Future

Posted by deborahmclaren on January 2, 2010

Children’s Outdoor Environmental Education Experience Story of the Week!

Today I helped my nine-year old write down his memories about the week his class spent at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Minnesota’s great northern woods. His group consisted of about 125 4th, 5th and 6th graders from the Twin Cities who braved below zero winter weather during a very cold December to spend a week near Lake Superior. My husband went along as the Dad chaperone.

Founded in 1971, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center was the first environmental learning center in the nation to be accredited as a K-12 school and is recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in environmental education. Wolf Ridge is a place where minds open to the joy and wonder of discovery of our natural world. WRELC’s mission is to “stimulate a love and understanding of nature by involving children and adults in direct observation of and participation on the outdoors and promote self-awareness and leadership development in the process.”

Activities and classes at Wolf Ridge are nearly all outdoors, typically three hours in length (and seemed to go from 8:30 am until 9:00 pm every day). Class subjects include environmental science, cultural history, contemporary environmental issues, personal growth, team building and outdoor recreation.

Apparently these kids had some pretty amazing outdoor adventures (ropes course, zip lines), including orienteering (finding your way around in the woods with the help of a compass), a three-mile Lake Superior trail hike where they spotted wolves and a deer kill (4th graders think that is the ultimate in cool), navigating icy cliffs, and instigating some major snow ball wars. The food was yucky but “way better than our school” and the indoor classes included rock wall climbing, learning that if you live near Lake Superior and choose to go on vacation rather than fix your septic tank your neighbor will have to deal with your pee in the water, and how to make Dream Catchers. I loved the photos of my son dressed as the eastern cotton tail, the smallest of the US hares – including the western jack rabbit and snow shoe hare – using his big buck teeth to demonstrate how to eat bark off a branch (and the stories of the morning they were off tracking the snow shoe hare).

Since I had been the first in our family to volunteer as a chaperone I was slightly bummed not to get to go. However, Dads are a scarce resource and my husband was needed to watch over the wild pack of 4th grade boys, including staying in their dorm room where they apparently threw Fudge (someone’s stuffed spider) around until midnight, spent another hour shining their flashlights around the dark room, and got up multiple times to run into other rooms and the bathroom.

The kids raised their own money to go, and raised funds for everyone who wanted to attend. What I’m truly impressed with them about is that they were determined that every kid could go – and their school is very diverse – mainly Hmong, Somalian, and other kids who are, in some situations, the first person in their families to even go to school. A lot of the kids haven’t been out of the city. Connecting with nature in Minnesota’s great north woods is a fantastic experience for anyone – no matter what your age. Hopefully some of them will be inspired to work in nature. We certainly need them. Handing them our messed up climate is one of the things I worry about the most.

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

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