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Straw bale gardening

Last week I went to the Straw Bale Gardening class put on through Rochester Community Education. Joel Karsten, author of the book Straw Bale Gardening, was the instructor. After doing an article on the topic for the March/April issue of Radish, I decided to test out straw bales this summer and wanted to know even more about the subject; I will be chronicling my adventures so I can share everything I learned with you.
The class covered most of what was in Karsten’s book. He peppered his talk with real life anecdotes and answered questions people had as he went along. He also brought a mini straw bale, which was helpful when talking about how to orient the cut side of the straw. ...More »
Seeds to seedlings: Why planting seeds may make sense for you this year

Springtime is the perfect time for starting a project, trying something new. If you have a green thumb or are looking to develop one, then planting seedlings might just be that new project you’re looking for. 
As in any new project, you might ask “How do I start?” This question may be followed by, “Why should I plant seeds instead of starter plants?" 
Starting out
The process of germination, growing a seed into a seedling, is a pretty straightforward process and with cold and unpredictable weather, starting seeds indoors is an excellent option for beginning your garden early to get a jump on the growing season. ...More »
Big dreams come true: Squash Blossom Farm fulfills local farmerís dream

Farming was something Susan Waughtal always wanted to do. Her husband Roger, whom she’d known since childhood, was well aware of her dream. When Susan turned 50, she had a mid-life crisis: what if she never became a farmer? Susan and Roger sat down, got serious and decided it was time to go for it. 
A family affair
Waughtal planned to start with a few chickens and a garden, a sort of hobby farm, but her two children had other plans. “Both of our kids (fledged and living away from home) moved home and said they were going to help start the farm,” she recalls. “It became a family adventure.”
What started out as a hobby farm soon became much more. They had 400 meat chickens, 30 laying hens, two steers, two pigs, honeybees and turkeys. They baked bread and pastries for the Rochester Farmers Market. ...More »
Quarry Hill Nature Center: Natureís learning lab for all

Nestled in the woods off Highway 22 is one of Rochester’s hidden gems. Quarry Hill Nature Center is a 320-acre park consisting of a fishing pond, hiking and bike trails, sandstone caves, fossil beds, a restored oak savanna and a variety of public and private events for people of all ages.
Pam Meyer, executive director of Quarry Hill Nature Center, says, “The park is a lab where learning comes to life. It’s a place where families can come to explore and engage in the natural world. 
The Exploration Hall is a natural starting point for the park. There’s a variety of live animals ranging from snakes to owls. This area also has a large collection of taxidermy and interactive displays. Meyer says, “It’s a good home base to check out displays and then venture out [in the park] on your own.” ...More »
River Roots Skills School: Learn skills for a balanced, sustainable life

It’s a rare and beautiful thing when collaboration clicks and results flourish. The plan for Eagle Bluff, the Food Lab and River Roots Skills School has the potential to be an incredible success.
Located just outside Lanesboro, Eagle Bluff is a “residential Quarry Hill,” says founder and executive director Joe Deden. “People come and spend longer times with us.”
About 12,000 students are brought to Eagle Bluff for learning opportunities each year. Deden says the board of directors has been reviewing ways to expand and reach an adult audience. From that desire, the Food Lab and River Roots Skills School were born. 
Growth ...More »
Two heads are better than one

Gardening with a partner can be a fun and rewarding experience. 

If gardening and canning on your own seems a daunting task, why not try it with a partner? Rochester resident Laura Ruchotzke and her neighbor plan their garden together and share their resulting produce. Laura shares how this type of gardening benefits both parties and keeps her family eating fresh, healthy food all year long. ...More »
Gardening ideas from Squash Blossom Farm

Susan Waughtal of Squash Blossom Farms shares her thoughts on starting seeds.
Everything I’ve learned has been from experimenting and reading a lot. I have a couple books on seed starting and organic gardening that I still refer to every spring when I start even though I’ve done it quite a bit.
I always do it in a couple different ways and I experiment with a lot of things. You can use anything as a container…one of the things I save are paper towel rolls and I chop them up into 2-inch tall containers and put soil in there. They’re awesome to start seeds in because by the time you plant them they’re just about deteriorated so you can either tear them off and put the seedling in the ground so the roots aren’t disturbed or you can leave them in and they’ll just continue dissolving. ...More »
Spinning yarns: Sheep farmers create yarn for weaving and knitting
 
During the chilly winter months, many people find comfort with fiber arts. Whether knitting, crocheting or weaving, yarn is a hot commodity this time of year.
For some locals, using the yarn isn’t enough; they want to make it. Nancy Ellison and Catherine Friend, both sheep farmers in Zumbrota, use the wool from their flock to make yarn, though both go about it differently.
Keeping it natural
Having grown up on a farm, Nancy Ellison is no stranger to sheep. “I got my first sheep when I was about five years old. My uncle gave me three lambs,” she recalls. She’s had sheep on and off since then and currently keeps 36 sheep. They are a mixture of Shetland, Icelandic and Gotland because each variety has a different type of wool. Having a mixed flock gives Ellison numerous varieties when it comes time to spin. ...More »
Chocolate debunked: Fair Trade supports chocolate makers everywhere

Milk chocolate, white chocolate, dark chocolate, flavored chocolate—the possibilities are endless, but which is the best for you and which is the fairest of them all? 
Fair trade
Take a walk through your local grocery store, health foods market or co-op and odds are you’ll come across a shelf stocked with a variety of chocolate. If you take a closer look, you’ll see that many of the wrappers are labelled with certification symbols. Some are gluten-free, some vegan-certified, some USDA organic and some are labelled with a “fair trade” symbol. 
Fair trade—what does this mean and how does it affect that undoubtedly tasty bar of chocolate in front of you?  ...More »
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