Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Northside garden

Immanuel Jones receiving recognition
Garden workers and supporters
I rode my bike over to north Minneapolis yesterday to visit a garden that a young man, Immanuel Jones, developed on a city lot.  It was impressive to see how he had transformed a vacant lot into a productive garden.  He was assisted in the development of the garden, The Eco City Olive Garden, by Project Sweetie Pie.

The University of Minnesota Extension program stopped by, while on an urban garden tour with a group of 60 folks.  While they were also there to help recognize Immanuel for his work.  He also received a day in his honor from Mayor of Minneapolis.

Touring the Eco City Olive Garden
The crops grown at the Olive Garden are sold at a nearby farmers market at Penn Ave N & Golden Valley Road.

Rocks removed from the lot
While riding home I notice how much work still had yet to be done after the damage from the May tornado that swept through the Northside.  Sad to see so many homes still with tarps on their roofs.  Also tough to witness the devastation to the mature trees that once gracefully lined the roads and filled the neighborhoods.
Tornado's damage still evidenced in north Minneapolis

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Morning sunrise over Bassett Creek Park
The sunrise is getting later, signaling the changing of seasons.
This morning's picture was taken shortly before 6:30 AM.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Promoting healthy eating at the state fair

Parade promoters of healthy eating
Healthy eating parade marchers
It was fun to see a group promoting healthy eating of local foods at the Minnesota State Fair.  With the great abundance of the deep fried and unhealthy food at the fair this was kind of like seeing a promotion for becoming a vegetarian at a slaughterhouse.  Perhaps not likely to win a lot of converts, but lots of points for effort!
State Fair Parade

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Exceptionally common beauty

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Phlox
I recently captured this picture in my neighbor's back yard.  The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a common butterfly in Minnesota.  It landed on Phlox, a common flower to this state.  So it seems we have some exceptionally beautiful commoners in this picture!

Abraham Lincoln once commented that "God must love the common man, he made so many of them!"

The self-esteem movement has encouraged us to all think highly of ourselves.  It reminds me that I'm special... just like everyone else!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Minnesota State Fair

Armstrong High School Marching Band
Went with some friends to the Minnesota State Fair yesterday.  They had a son playing in the Armstrong High School marching band.  The band looked and sounded great.  Wonderful that the Robbinsdale School District still provides a strong music program, despite the current state and national obsession on testing.

123' Wind Turbine blade
In addition to watching the parade we put on many miles hiking around and seeing the latest exhibits, foot tasting and people watching.

Notice this guy's hair?
The wind turbine blade is firmly planted outside of the Eco Experience building at the north end of the fair.  Always many interesting things there.  One of the cool things this year was plastic made from vegetables.

I also joined many others in posting pictures on TPT's "Capture Minnesota" website. Fun to see photos from around the state.  This coming spring they will produce a photo book once the project is completed.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Respect for dirt

Plant rooted in the soil
What does it mean to treat someone or something like dirt?  Perhaps showing total disrespect?

Seems that dirt, or soil, the base of our environment, has long been under appreciated and often abused.

Did you know that much of the world's topsoil is being eroded?

Every second, a dump-truck load of topsoil is carried by American rivers into the Caribbean; every year, hundreds of millions of tons of topsoil erode from farmers' fields in the Mississippi River basin. "An estimated 36% of the world's cropland is suffering from decline in inherent productivity from soil erosion", reports Lester Brown, one of the world's leading ecosystem monitors. Globally we are losing more than 10 million hectares of arable land a year, with soil loss exceeding new soil production by 23 billion tons, resulting in the loss of 0.5 percent or more of the worlds' fertility annually.  (Woody Tasch, Inquiries into the nature of slow money, investing as if food, farms and fertility mattered).

It takes 500 years to create just one inch of topsoil.  So it seems we ought to take soil erosion very seriously.

Not only is much of our soil being lost by erosion, it is also losing its fertility.  Soil scientist Hans Jenny found that after 60 years of cultivation the farm soils in Missouri had lost a third of their organic matter.

What's in our soil?  Each gram of fertile soil contains hundreds of millions of bacteria and actinomycetes, hundreds of thousands of fungi and algae, and tens of thousands of protozoa, nematodes and other microfauna.  (Woody Tesch, Inquiries into the nature of slow money, investing as if food, farms and fertility mattered).

One of the key players in our soil are the earthworms.  Darwin estimated that 50,000 earthworms carry 18 tons of soil to the surface of an acre.  There can be an astonishing number of earthworms in an acre of soil... up to two million!

So, as we consider sustainability of this beautiful home we call Earth, it behoves us to recognize the critical role the soil plays, and start treating it with greater respect. To be well rooted and productive, future generations will still need good dirt in which to grow.

Wouldn't it be nice to change our perspective on dirt, so that in future generations when someone says he/she is being "treated like dirt", they're being shown great respect!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ruth Stout's gardening system

Chinese squash
Sticking with this week's gardening theme I recalled a video that I first viewed in the 1970's while in college about an eccentric gardener, Ruth Stout. She had a simple and effective gardening method which made great use of hay for mulch. This eliminated the need for a compost pile, weeding, hoeing and watering.

Mother Earth News published an article about Ruth Stout's System.  If you can spare just a bit more time I would also highly recommend viewing a video with Ruth Stout at her garden. I admire her free spirit just as much as her gardening advise.

She's definitely an 'outside of the box' kind of lady.  She didn't need to read a bumper sticker to"question authority".

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Evolving capitalism to include environmental costs

     Following is an e-mail reflection from Tom Miller , the first CEO of the Kentucky HIghlands Corporation and later the head of Program Related Investing at the Ford Foundation to Woody Tasch.  It was recorded in the book "Inquiries into the nature of slow money: Investing as if food, farms, and fertility mattered," by Woody Tasch.

     We are not trying to reign in or correct or punish capitalism.  We are trying to complete it.
     Capitalism remained incomplete because resources seemed inexhaustible and consumption seemed to cause no harm. How, as we reach a new juncture in our history on the planet, this is no longer the case.
     Our most fundamental resources are in large part not counted in the costs of products. Sure I pay for water, but that accounts only for the costs of getting the bugs out of it and getting it to my tap. There is no accounting for the costs of depleting an aquifer. Sure I pay for gasoline, but that accounts for the costs of getting it from the oil patch to my gas tank. There is no accounting for what happens to the air and the planet after I burn it. Sure I pay for lima beans, but their price only accounts for the costs of planting and growing and delivering them to my nearest Wal-Mart. This is no accounting for the costs of depleting soil nutrients or harm to rivers by fertilizer.
     This is not a failure of capitalism, but merely the result of an incomplete system, which it is up to us to complete.

     Mr Tesch suggests that the world would be a better place if more socially responsible investing (SRI).  SRI investing considers the double bottom line, "doing well while doing good", or the triple bottom line, recognizing social, natural and financial capital, also known as people, planet and profits.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Construction of compost bin

Constructing compost bin
Constructing top
Yesterday I rode my bike by a community garden that was established earlier this year by Project Sweetie Pie in north Minneapolis.  A group of  young people were constructing a large compost bin with the help of the Compostadores.  This is a group that helps communities build compost bins out of wooden pallets and other recycled materials.  The Compostadores lead workshops on bin construction and also have instructions on the web that guide one through the process of compost bin construction.

Project Sweetie Pie
The community garden that was constructing a new compost bin is one of a number that was established this past year by a nonprofit start-up, Project Sweetie Pie.  I had a nice visit with the visionary Executive Director, Michael Chaney. An article, "Project Sweetie Pie takes youth from seeds to market", further describes the work that Mr. Chaney is doing to engage young people in urban farming and healthy lifestyles.
Project Sweetie Pie Community Garden

Monday, August 22, 2011

Benefit of being idle

Family pausing from walk to view pond
I read with great appreciation an opinion piece in today's StarTribune, Ideas come to the idle, and we are not.  The author of this commentary, Christian Ewen, suggests that we work too much, eat too fast, don't sleep enough, socialize too little and spend too much time in traffic.  Our harried lives don't provide time to let our creative juices flow.  

I'm a huge fan of the value of slowing down to walk, think and observe our natural surroundings.  The writer Henry David Thoreau noted the following "Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow."

Bike break by pond
In concluding his article on promoting the value of idleness Mr. Ewen quotes the poet Mary Oliver, who speaks to the importance of solitude for creative work...  "It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching till it comes to that certainty which it aspires to. ... Privacy, then. A place apart --- to pace, chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Financial humor

Gold continues to soar
As downright depressing as the stock market is these days I thought it appropriate that I post some financial humor.  Perhaps better to laugh than to cry? These pictures were taken yesterday.

The U.S. sent Vice President Biden to assure nervous Chinese that we
are still good to pay back their one trillion plus of investments in our
treasury securities.   China sent these Shaolin Kung Fu martial artists to
the U.S. to remind us they still intend to collect.
The Shaolin Kung Fu presenters are at the Mall of America all week, promoting travel to China.

The American Osprey is fishing at Bassett Creek Park in the city of Crystal.  Both times I've witnessed the Osprey catching fish they've been gold.  Apparently one of the neighbors has been dumping gold fish into the pond.  I'm guessing it is much easier for the Osprey to spot a gold fish than a gray carp.

While the stock market has plunged, the price of gold is skyrocketing, up 30% this year.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Nature's banes or blessings

Thistle and bee
Have  you ever noticed how beautiful thistle is?  Hard to believe that many despise this plant.  Yet, if growing in your yard or garden, you might easily find it a nuisance, and quite prickly to touch.  This plant, that so many of us dislike, is a major source of food for the beautiful American Goldfinch. Thistle is also a great source of nectar for many butterflies.

The thistle is the national symbol of Scotland.  During medieval times when the Norse were invading Scotland it is believed that one of the Norse warriors stepped on a thistle, which then alerted the Scotts to their arrival.

Another bane for many are bees.  If you've been stung before, you can empathize. Yet, were it not for bees many of our plants and fruit trees would not be pollinated, and hence cease to produce. There has been a dramatic reduction in bees in recent years, caused by a virus and by the application of pesticides on farm land.  This is a concern, since it dramatically reduces the pollination of crops and wildflowers.

So, it seems that many of the things we may dislike play a significant role in the ecosystem... and are great photographic material!

Busy bee with Swamp Milkweed

Friday, August 19, 2011

The pace of life

I went for a slow three mile run yesterday around Lake Harriet.  Truth be told, I far prefer running fast.  But without training, this is tough to do, particularly as one gets older.  It also requires regular training, and a slow progression to improve one's running times, much like any other sport or endeavor.

Biking got me spoiled with speed this summer.  I can go twice as fast on a bike as on foot. However I also discovered biking is considerably more dangerous.  When going fast on narrow tires it doesn't take much to have a fall.  I feel far safer and "grounded" when I'm walking or running.

Whatever pace one might prefer, it seems we've all been thrust into "life in the fast lane".  Electronics now move at lightening speed, and so goes the pace of our communication in the 21st century. This however is out of sync with the natural world.  I realize this every time I look at our garden and think, "what's taking those beans so long to grow?"... or, "come on tomatoes, we haven't got all day to ripen".

I'm reading a book Inquires into the nature of slow money: investing as if food, farms, and fertility mattered, by Woody Tasch, that highlights the dissonance between our face paced world with its increasingly unrealistic expectations and the slower cadence of nature and agriculture.  I particularly like the following quote from the prologue of this book by David Orr, author of Our Land, Our Selves.

Having exceeded the speed limits, we are vulnerable to ecological degradation, economic arrangements that are unjust and unsustainable, and, in the face of great and complex problems, to befuddlement that comes with information overload.

It is time to question the bigger and faster is better belief that has us all running like lemmings over a cliff.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

USA Ultimate Youth Club Championships

2011YCC logo
This past weekend I had fun watching the Youth Club Championships (YCC) held here in the Twin Cities at the National Sports Center in Blaine. I had special interest, since our daughter was playing for the girl's team from "Minnesnowta".  

Minnesota and Seattle girls playing after the game
This is a fast action sport, so figuring out how to capture it in photos can be quite challenging.  I've discovered it helps to anticipate where the disc (frisbee) is likely to be thrown.  

Throwing low through traffic
The weather was ideal for the tournament, which had teams playing from around the country. Rain the night before helped to soften the fields for the many players who "layed out" aka dove to catch/defend discs that were thrown.
Laying out for a catch in the endzone

I've posted a lot more pictures from the tournament on a Picasa website.

Minnesnowta Girl's Team

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spontaneous photo opportunities

Common Cormorant

Eastern Kingbird with bug
Went to the park yesterday afternoon to take pictures of a cormorant that I had spotted moments earlier.  These diving birds don't often visit Bassett Creek's shallow pond.

Next I noticed a Eastern Kingbird perched overhead in a tree with a large insect (possibly a dragonfly) in its beak that it was attempting to eat before it escaped.

After getting a quick shot of the kingbird I soon discovered a cool looking a dragonfly by water's edge.

A couple of American Osprey flew by on an unsuccessful fishing mission (already pictured in yesterday's post).

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed
While watching for the Osprey I noticed Monarch Butterflies visiting the Swamp Milkweed by water's edge.

Then before I could put my camera away Goldfinches appeared.

Quite a photographic smorgasbord!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

American Osprey soaring

American Osprey morning shot
 Yesterday morning it was a pleasant surprise to see an American Osprey soaring above Bassett Creek Park.  Rather take than my usual extended walk I went home to grab the camera.  I was hoping it might make a plunge and grab a fish for breakfast.  No such luck.  The water was still quite murky.  Another osprey joined it for couple of circles around the pond.

Later in the day, when I was going out for a run, what do you know, but the osprey was back.  So, again I changed plans and got a camera back into my hands.  This time the light was much brighter, making for better conditions for photographing this magnificent bird.  Again, no luck on the fishing end.

Hopefully the osprey will be back and I'll be able to catch some shots of it capturing a fish.  I was able to do this a couple of years ago, but now have stepped up my camera and lens just a bit.
Osprey with afternoon sun and blue skies

One of the things I like about nature photography is that there is no schedule.  Things just happen when they happen.  However, it helps tremendously if you're prepared with the equipment, know how to operate your camera for optimal pictures,  are up early to capture the morning light, etc.  It also  helps simply to spend a lot of time outdoors looking for the beautiful shot, my favorite part of all!

PS  To get a better view of these pictures you can simply click on them with your mouse.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tips for reducing stress in the workplace

I've been saying for some time now that either you're stressed because you have a job, or because you don't.  I might add, given the recent financial craziness you might be stressed because either you have money in the markets or you don't...  
I'm sharing a helpful article that was originally posted in the St. Petersburg Times in today's StarTribune, "Work got you down? These tips might help".
  • Look for at least two things that make you happy on your way to work each day.
  • When you're stressed, take a moment and breathe deeply. Then let your breath out slowly. You'll feel yourself calm down.
  • Avoid the office gossips and people who complain all the time. They'll only bring you down.
  • Make a list of all the things you like about your job. Things might seem negative now, but there are bound to be aspects of your work that give you pleasure and a sense of purpose.
  • List how your job benefits you. Income, training, ability to be with other people.
  • Get away from your desk or work area at least twice a day. Take a short walk around the area. It's good exercise and gets your mind off the things that are pulling you down.
  • Take baby steps as you attack your workload and set realistic goals. You'll feel better about your job and yourself when you complete what you can. Then forget about work until the next day.
  • To the extent you can, make your work area someplace you enjoy. Use colors you like, pictures and reminders of happy times.
  • Percolate the perks. Take advantage of training, networking opportunities and recognition programs that are available to you. Sharpen your skills, add new abilities and stay in a positive frame of mind.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Canada Geese flying with setting full moon at sunrise (Great Egret lower right)
Morning sun coming through trees
This morning I was compelled to get the camera out to capture the majestic start of the day.  There was mist on the water from the cooler air temperatures.  In addition, a full moon setting and the geese were flying.

On days like this I'm reminded of the old, but true saying "Each dawn is a new beginning."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Turkeys in town

Tom Turkey

Wild Turkeys

Yesterday evening my wife and I went for a hike to Eagle Lake Park, part of the Three Rivers Park system. Public parking was hard to locate, so we parked about a mile from the park and walked through some of the residential area surrounding Eagle Lake.  Just after getting out of our car we discovered two groupings of Wild Turkeys.  Each group seemed headed by a large tom, along with four or five hens.
Eagle Lake Golf Course

Much like the Trumpeter Swans, Wild Turkeys have made a huge come back over the past hundred years. It is estimated that the entire population of Wile Turkeys was as low as 30,000 in the early 1900's.  That number has since sky rocketed, with upwards of 7 million turkeys now roaming the U.S. 

Eagle Park also hosts a public golf course.  While it looks like a nice course, I'm not much of a golfer.  As Mark Twain opined, "Golf spoils a perfectly good walk."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Home and garden invaders

Rabbit by garden fence
Rabbits and beetles and mice, oh my!

Yesterday we were under attack by some of mother nature's cute little creatures.  It started with the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit that I had to chase out of our fenced garden.  I cornered the rabbit and then got him run out through the gate, which I had left open.

We recently added a couple of feet of plastic webbing to the lower section of the garden fence, since the rabbit had been squeezing its way through the metal garden fence earlier in the year.  Apparently I need to more closely adhere this webbing to the fence, as it appears that once more this rabbit has figured a way to sneak through.  I guess those green beans have quite an appeal.

Then it was on to the grape vines, where I removed many dozens of Japanese Beetles.  They seemed to love our grape leaves for some reason.  I've heard they leave pheromones on items they enjoy eating, as markers for others to come and feast.  To remove the beetles I brush them off the leaves into a pan of soapy water.  They quickly drown in the water.  From what I've been reading there seems to be a widespread infestation of Japanese Beetles throughout the region.

Finally, while working at her computer yesterday evening my wife  spotted our cat, Mimi, chasing a mouse in our house.  The cat expertly chased the mouse behind some furniture.  The mouse ran out the other side, into the awaiting jaws of our dog, May.  May then released the mouse for me to take outside and let go in the park.

While I have nothing personal against these creatures, I just wish they could stay out of my home and garden.  Maybe some signage is needed?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seven deadly sins and financial investments

Mahatma Gandhi believed there were seven deadly spiritual sins, which included the following:
  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Worship without Sacrifice
With the current plunge in the stock market it seems there are going to be far fewer of us guilty of the crime of wealth without work.  The S&P 500 is down 18 percent since 4/29/2011. Even investments in "Real" Estate have turned sour for many.

As the "sound investments" many of us have made take a pounding one has to wonder about where are the quality and secure investments.  In my work to support children of disadvantaged circumstances I don't recall anyone feeling like they made a poor investment when they gave of their time or money to help a child.  I'm sure the same might be true of feeding the hungry, or investing in clean water for those without.  

When it comes to investing Jesus Christ urged "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and thieves break in and steal."  (Matthew 6:19)  

Looking for a sound investment?  It might just be wisest to invest in the lives of others. As so often is the case, through such giving we receive far more than we give.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Victory Peace Garden Open House

Garden marigolds


Garden visitors


Last Saturday I hosted visitors to the Open House at Victory Peace Garden.  We were one of over 50 community gardens on the tour sponsored by Gardening Matters.

As you can see, in addition to vegetables we planted some flowers to add a bit more beauty to the garden.  Over 50 pounds of produce has already been distributed to the food shelf at PRISM, with much more on the way!