Saturday, June 30, 2012

Beautiful chapel built to last

Dome of Lakewood Memorial Chapel
Large mosaic figure representing memory
Yesterday I went to a funeral at the Lakewood Memorial Chapel in South Minneapolis.  This stunning beautiful chapel was designed by Minneapolis architect Harry Wild Jones and completed in 1910.  It was, at the time, the only building in the United States with an authentic mosaic interior.  The chapel stands almost completely unchanged in appearance since the day it was built.

Highly skilled mosaic craftsmen from Italy came to Minneapolis to install the 10 million mosaic pieces in this exquisite example of Byzantine art.

 Lakewood Memorial Chapel Exterior
The dome of the chapel displays twelve angels. On all four corners are angles holding red roses, symbolizing the four corners of the earth.  The extended wings of the angels reflecting their protective spirit.

Four large mosaic figures on the lower corners of the dome represent Love, Hope, Memory and Faith.

Over one century ago the trustees of Lakewood Cemetery Association invested in the best quality materials and artistry. The result is a lasting architectural jewel, which in 1983 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Disposable fashion

Clothing has become so inexpensive that for some folks they end up throwing out their closet every season.  This is done both in order to stay fashionable and because the clothing is of such cheap quality.

How do we break the habit of buying cheap, poor quality clothing?  Following are a couple of recommendations by Marilyn DeLong, a professor in apparel study at the University of Minnesota's College of Design. (Is disposable fashion worth the price?, Katherine Tillotson, StarTribune)

1.  Consider the length of time the garment will be in use.  If it to be worn only once it might make more sense to rent.
2.  Heighten attachment to clothing with great craftsmanship.  Choose wisely!

To this list I would add consider purchasing quality clothing at thrift stores.  Not only does this save you money, it also reduces waste.

Rather than feeling compelled to chase the latest fashion trends, simply hang with the clothes you love, and wait for the trend to find you in another 5 to 10 years ;-)

I wrote about the benefits of reducing one's wardrobe in an earlier blog, Beauty of a simple wardrobe.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Producing more garbage than goods

While the United States may be producing very little these days, with so much being outsourced to countries around the world, we are still keeping our #1 spot in the world in the production of garbage. The average American tosses 7.1 pounds of stuff away every day of the year.  That is the equivalent of 102 tons of garbage over one's lifetime.  According to Edward Hume, author of "Garbology: Our dirty love affair with trash", the USA's rate of garbage production is twice the rate of other Western economies with similar standards of living.

I was visiting with a friend a couple of days ago who talked about replacing his 20 something year old roof. He noted that thanks to an insurance claim a neighbor recently replaced a two year old roof due to hail damage. Seems a bit wasteful don't you think?

Nowhere is "planned obsolescence" more apparent than in the electronics industry. It can even be cheaper to purchase a new printer, or perhaps get one free with the purchase of a computer, than to replace its ink cartridge, let alone fix it should something go wrong.

I was pleased to visit with a salesperson at an Apple store today that indicate the iPad 2 is still really a great product, despite the new bells and whistles on the iPad 3 that came out one year later. 

If we are to reduce our waste we need to be a bit more discerning of our purchases, and consider the long-term cost to the environment.  It is disgusting to think of all the cheap plastic and disposable products that we consume in this society.  Instead of purchasing items of quality, which will be long lasting, we seem to prefer to purchase things which are cheap.

Buying things used can be one way to minimize our wasteful consumer habits.  Buying quality items will not only last longer, but also provide better service during their lifetimes.  As the Finnish saying goes... "Poor people cannot afford cheap things".

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Swedish proverb

Fear less, hope more; 
Eat less, chew more; 
Whine less, breathe more; 
Talk less, say more; 
Love more, and all good things will be yours.

-Swedish Proverb

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beware of farms as investment property

An article in the StarTribune, "Hot money turns from stocks to farmland", has me deeply concerned.  I've witnessed the impact of an absentee landlord and it wan't pretty.  As many who live in blighted neighborhoods can attest, property maintenance can often become deferred when the owners don't live either in the home or nearby. Caring for property is best done by someone on site, not someone far off who is simply trying to "milk the cow for all it is worth".

We once had a diligent hard working next door neighbor who then move 30 miles away.  It was instantaneous the changes we saw in the property next door. Despite having tenants, no longer was the grass mowed when need, nor was snow shoveled on the driveway. Even the wood began rotting around the window frames.  In only a few years the house was condemned.  By that time we had enough and chose to move out of the neighborhood, which we had come to know and love.

A farm requires far greater maintenance than a home. Not only are their buildings and tractors to maintain, but also there is the land that needs tending.  Who better to care for the land than those living on the land who are deeply invested and will directly be impacted if the ground water is contaminated, the property overtake by invasive species or the valuable topsoil eroded and carried off downstream.

We've seen what damage wealthy Wall Street investors have done to the stock market.  I hope that these same investors will not be allowed to take that reckless investment behavior to our heartland.  It was encouraging to read that since 1939 Minnesota has had laws to restrict corporate ownership of farm land.  I hope that our state and national laws will continue to safeguard our nation's family farms.

StarTribune article "High cropland prices sow fortune and worry" discusses further the impact of investors on farming.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chinese puppet theater

Enjoyed a Chinese puppet theater production of "There's nothing to tell" at In The Heart of the Beast theatre last night.  This was an original production created and designed by Fulbright scholar Annie Katsura Rollins.

Annie Rollins
Children of all ages were spell bound by the colorful puppets and engaging story as shared by Annie.  Audience members were allowed to walk around the theater during the production, much like the informal atmosphere at shadow puppet shows in China.

After the performance children were invited up to try their hands at using the shadow puppets.

Chinese shadow puppetry began back around 200 AD, and has since developed into a folk art throughout China and much of Asia.  To learn more about Chinese shadow puppets visit AnnieRollin's website on Wordpress.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pond art

On morning walks around Bassett Creek Pond I'm sometimes struck by the beautiful mirror images created between the water and the sky.

I've rotated the middle image 90 degrees just for curiosity sake.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

10 reasons to buy local food

  1. Locally grown food tastes better. The average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. Food looses the quality of taste over time.
  2. Local produce is better for  you.  Fresh produce loses nutrients quickly.
  3. Local food preserves genetic diversity.  Unlike large farms that seek a standardized product that ships well, local farmers grow a wide variety of plants that grow well in their area and taste good.
  4. Local food is GMO-free.  Most all of the genetically modified seeds are being sold to large factory-style farms.
  5. Local food supports local farm families.  There are now fewer than 1 million full-time farmers in the US.  Cutting out the middle man provides farmers with a better income for the food they produce.  Farmers now get less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar.
  6. Local food builds community.  Buying directly from the farmer re-establishes the long standing connection between the eater and the grower. Also, isn't it nice to know who grows your food?
  7. Local food preserves open space. When the value of land for farming in urban areas can compete  with other development options it is more likely to be preserved as fields of crops.
  8. Local food keeps your taxes in check.  Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, unlike suburban development costs.
  9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.  A well managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued.  A patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings also provides the perfect environment for many species of wildlife.
  10. Local food is about the future.  By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful and abundant food.
This material was adapted from Growing For Market, the national monthly journal for direct market farmers.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Changes in "family farming"

 While visiting the international headquarters for Land O' Lakes yesterday our class on the business of food heard a presentation on "A future of growth... in a world of opportunity" by Karen Grabow.  She spoke of the power of cooperatives, which allow participants to have ownership and grassroots governance. Working collectively as a cooperative allows farmers to enhance their financial returns.  Ms. Grabow noted that working directly with farmers keeps Land O' Lakes committed to long-term and sustainable farming methods.

She noted how dramatically farming has changed sine 1930.  For example back in 1930 one farmer fed his family and 9 others.  Today that farmer feeds 155 others.  In 1930 22 percent of the US population was involved with agriculture.  Today fewer than 1.5 percent of the population is involved with farming.

Karen Grabow speaks with participants
at Land O' Lakes presentation
Looking forward it was noted that with the growing world population, compounded by the increased consumption of meat and dairy products in 2030 the demand for water will be outstripped by its supply by a staggering 40%.  This confirms what you may have already heard, the demand for water will be like that of petroleum.

Land O' Lakes Corporate Headquarters

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Minneapolis Farmer's Market celebrates 75 years at current location

Early years of the Minneapolis Farmer's Market
Minneapolis Farmer's market
Our food class visited the Minneapolis Farmer's Market yesterday.  We discovered it began way back in 1876, when hay was the primary item for sale.  With horses being used as the common means of transportation hay was in great demand.

In 1937 the Central City Farmers Market was established in its present location off Lyndale Avenue, just north of downtown Minneapolis.

The market was restructured in 1971 as farmers took over the administration.  A resurgence of the flagging farmer's market begin in the 1980s with the addition of Hmong farmers.
Signs above food stalls indicating vendors

A local farmer who presented to the group shared concern about the future of farming. She noted that the average US farmer is 58 years old.

Young vendors at the Farmer's Market
She expressed optimism however about the public's interest in purchasing foods locally directly from the farmers.  This type of transaction puts more money directly into the small farmer's hands, which in turn supports the local economy.  We learned that for every dollar spent on local food four dollars return to the community.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mill City Museum

A view across the river to the EastBank and Pillsbury building
Water tower across the mighty Mississippi River
Raging Mississippi River
Shattered window 

Ruins from old mill
The Business of Food seminar, sponsored by The Blake School, took us on a trip to the Mill City Museum yesterday.  We learned that beginning in 1880 and continuing for 50 years the city Minneapolis was known as the "Flour Milling Capital of the World".   As milling was decentralized and incorporated into large plants that further processed the flour into products the Washburn-Crosby Mill was abruptly closed in 1965.  A fire in 1991 left a skeleton of a building that  has since been renovated into a museum.

While we learned a lot about the milling history of Minneapolis, this field trip also turned out to be a great opportunity for photography!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Expansion of local gardening efforts

Snap peas in the backyard garden
Did you know that in 1943 the United States had 20 million gardens that produced 8 million tons of food?  Up to 41 percent of all the vegetables consumed in the nation were produced in these Victory Gardens.  (City Bountiful: A century of community gardening in America, Laura Lawson).

With the nation's dependence upon oil, vast dependence upon corporate farming and unhealthy diets, I would vote that we reenact the Victory Garden movement.  There are indications that this movement has already begun.  Certainly First Lady Michelle Obama has been a great example, planting a vegetable garden in 2009 at the White House.  She has recently written a book "American Grown" that tells the stories of the White House garden among others.

I'm excited to be going to three days of workshops starting today on "The Business of Food".  Photos and stories sure to come in the days ahead.

Pictures from our vegetable garden.
Backyard garden

Raised bed gardens
(new this year)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Living in a new day

Don't you just love the following words of wisdom by Ralph Waldo Emerson?

Enjoying a new day!
Finish each day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; 
forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

This day is all that is good and fair.
It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

People for bikes

Stunt bike rider flipping out by Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood.

While at the Nature Valley Grand Prix bike race this weekend I visited with a couple of friendly folks working at the People for Bikes booth.  They were handing out buttons and encouraging people to sign the following pledge to support biking...
I am for bikes. I'm for long rides and short rides. I'm for commuting to work, weekend rides, racing, riding to school, or just a quick spin around the block. I believe that no matter how I ride, biking makes me happy and is great for my health, my community and the environment we all share. That is why I am pledging my name in support of a better future for bicycling—one that is safe and fun for everyone. By uniting my voice with a million others, I believe that we can make our world a better place to ride.
You can learn more and sign this pledge online at their website, People for Bikes.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nature Valley Bicycle Race

Women's race

Colorful riders and bikes in motion
Men's racer
Lap leader during men's race
Kid's racer
It was cool watching bicycle riders cruising at amazing speeds, while successfully negotiating hard turns on city streets in south Minneapolis yesterday.

I had lots of fun trying to capture some of the colorful high speed action digitally.

A strong breeze could be felt as riders cruised by in a tight pack, drafting off of one another.  They've got nerves of steel, with legs and lungs to match!

I was in awe of the speed and endurance exemplified by the racers, and amazed to think that this was just one race in a five day series of Nature Valley Grand Prix competitions in which they are participating.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Deer in the park

One morning this week I was thrilled to discover a doe and her fawn wading into the pond at Bassett Creek Park.  Later I wandered around hoping to catch some additional photos of the two of them together, but the fawn was nowhere in site.  Hopefully it has a good hiding place.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What health activist can learn from the Old Testament

An article in the June 6, 2012 Time magazine highlighted Saddleback Church in California where the parishioners have literarily lost tons of weight. Their pastor, Rick Warren, has been preaching  from the book of Daniel, where the Prophet Daniel encouraged the King to have his staff practice a diet of vegetables instead of the rich court foods.  This change in diet paid off, and consequently they all were in better health.  The king then changed the diet plan.

This message caught fire at Saddleback and the "DanielPlan" has become widely followed, both by people within the church and the community at large.  The following seven simple tips are provided to help people lose weight and get healthy.
  1. Don't drink your calories.  Stay away from sugary drinks!
  2. Eliminate the white menaces. (flour, white rice and white potatoes).
  3. Replace refined carbohydrates with whole grains and vegetables.
  4. Focus on the healthy fats.  Stay away from refined fats and enjoy fats in fish, nuts and seeds.
  5. Get enough protein.  Focus on chicken and fish, along with beans, seeds, nuts and tofu.
  6. Exercise.  Get in 30-60 minutes of vigorous exercise at least 5 times a week.
  7. Relax and connect.  Develop your social network and spend time outdoors.
There are loads of additional information and tools to develop a healthy lifestyle at the DanielPlan webpage. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What environmentalists can learn from faith traditions

Many within the environmental movement are weary and skeptical of religion, whom they see being represented in the Bible waving Tea Party movement. Former presidential candidate and global climate change skeptic Rick Santorum noted "The Earth is not the objective; man is the objective."

The loud voices to the far right however do not fairly represent all within faith traditions.  Martin Palmer is an Anglican minister who is seeking to help the conservation movement learn from religion.  His article "Conservationists can learn a lot from religion" was printed in the  StarTribune on 5/19/2012.

Palmer noted that there are many rigid thinkers on both sides, but perhaps even more within the conservation movement.  They are always trying to "stop things", yet one of the oldest religious texts in the world, the Chinese book of I Ching, is a book about change.  Jesus noted how for seeds to grow they must be firmly rooted.  Seeds enthusiastically scattered on hard or shallow soil will die after a short time.  

For the environmental movement to sustain itself over time Palmer suggests it might learn much from religion, which has been one of the most sustainable institutions on the planet. Religious organizations are also large land  holders, owning five percent of the commercial forests.  They also run half the world's schools and produce more weekly newspapers and magazines than does the European Union.

Many within the faith traditions have become actively involved within the environmental movement.  The Sikhs have planted 25 million trees in Punjab in the last 11 years.  The Daoists have 26,000 temples in China that will all be solar powered by 2016.  Lutherans of northern Tanzania have pledged to plant 8.5 million trees around Mount Kilimanjaro, and are well on their way to meeting this goal.

Interfaith Power and Light is an organization that seeks to harness the power of faith communities to combat global warming. The Pachamama Alliance is also working with faith groups to develop conservation awareness and change.  They will be holding their workshop "Awakening the Dreamer Within" on June 16th at Edina Community Lutheran

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bird with prey

Juvenile Red Tailed Hawk with squirrel
Red-tailed hawk

I heard birds making a racket in the front yard yesterday.  Turns out a hawk was perched nearby holding a dead squirrel in its talons.  A Red Winged Blackbird had the audacity to loudly squawk and fly within inches of the hawk's head.  It was perhaps complaining about this bird of prey's actions and warning all nearby of its presence.

Hats off to all who risk life and limb to protect others and warn of impending danger.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Responses to concerns about biking

This past week I had letters to the editor printed in the StarTribune and the SunPost regarding concerns  about bikers not currently paying fees to cover the cost of infrastructure to support bicycling and the reduction in automobile lanes to accommodate bike lanes.  My responses to these concerns follow:

A writer fairly observed that there is considerable cost to adding bike lanes and trails to our transit system.  However I think that additional taxation aka "user fees" would be a disincentive for to getting people to change their deeply seeded habits of driving cars. 

Why shouldn't we tax bikers?   First, there is considerable environmental cost associated with motorized transportation that bikers don't incur e.g carbon emissions. On the flip side there are many physical and mental health benefits for those who choose to bike rather than drive. Finally, it also makes financial sense for us as a society to encourage/subsidize biking given the many work related and medical costs associated with our astoundingly high rate of obesity. Investing in biking is a form of preventative medicine that pays big dividends over the long run.   (Printed in StarTribune)


A couple of residents raised concerns in the last SunPost about the addition of bicycle lanes to area roads. As an avid biker, health advocate and environmentalist, I too am concerned about the bicycle lanes, mainly that they’re not being used nearly enough.  These lanes make biking considerably more safe and enjoyable than trying to cycle and fight traffic while battling the gravel and trash that accumulates along the roadside.

However, people should beware of the many impacts biking has, should they want to give it a try.  Having become more actively in biking these past couple of years I’ve discovered the following side affects:
  •  Calories are burned, rather than fossil fuels, so both my weight and transportation costs go down
  • Creativity spikes when actively peddling
  •  Drops in blood pressure and pulse rate, with an increase in fitness level
  • Road rage is non-existent; I actually smile at other bikers and pedestrians
  • Mood elevates as I breath fresh air, hear birds and notice scenery
  • I feel like I’m “being the change” that I want to see in the world 

I would encourage readers to dust off those old Schwinn’s they have collecting dust in the garage and hit the road.  You might start with a ride around the block. With a rack and saddlebag/backpack I’ve discovered I can easily bike to the library, grocery store, meetings, church, bank and even to the dentist office.

I hope to see you enjoying the bike lane next time I’m out riding. Happy trails!   (Printed in SunPost)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Scenes from a cemetery

I visited Union Prairie Lutheran Church and cemetery to place flowers on the graves of relatives.  It is located at a beautiful location, situated a couple of miles outside of the quaint town of Lanesboro, Minnesota.

Ole Olson Storlee's grave marker
Gaaet Hjem ... "Gone Home"
(1822- 1877)