Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day 2010! Garden with the Greeks in SE Como's community gardens

Not only will there be the MIMO Earth Jam Ride happening in SE Como, but 90 volunteers from the fraternities and sororities within the University of Minnesota Greek system are decending on SE Como Community gardens for a neighborhood-wide community gardening opening day. All of our sites will benefit tremendously from the efforts of these volunteers. By the time the MIMO Ride gets underway, all participating community gardens will officially begun the 2010 community gardening season. Thanks goes out to the fraternities and sororities participants.

Other volunteers are certainly welcome to join in. Welcome Spring!

Earth Day Garden Volunteer Events

    • Accord at 15th & como ave SE
      • from 1-3pm
      • Move big rock, Garden Clean-up, light raking , garbage pick-up,cutting down old stems
    • Gateway Garden at 12th Ave SE & E Henn.
      • 3pm-5pm
      • move wood chips, light gardening
    • Talmage Crossing at 21st Ave SE and Talmage Ave SE
      • 2:30-4:30
      • Move wood chip, digging weeds
    • OWLS garden Clean-up, meet at 895 Weeks Ave SE (6 vols)
      • 3-5pm
      • pull up old plants, garden clean-up, seeding and watering
    • Como Corner garden clean-up 22nd & Como Ave SE
      • from 2-4pm
      • trim dead stems, pull-up dead leaves, organize compost piles & etc

Pagoda Dogwood planted at Library last fall by HMEG

I went to check on the pagoda dogwood at the Library today and was surprised to find that not only had it leafed out, but the baby tree had friends! The tree was planted during the fall 2009 Hamline Midway Library celebration event. HMEG was there with information about trees and emerald ash borer (EAB). We also brought along a tree and with fellow neighbors' help, planted in front of the library where the ground's crew had approved. I am not sure who planted the tulips, but the act of volunteers planting a tree proved to be contagious.

Pagoda dogwood is a native Minnesota tree that is smaller in stature and is often found in understory situations. It has a horizontal branching that give it a Japanese feel. This particular pagoda came from the Como Corner Community Garden in SE Minneapolis where the pagodas there often produce seedlings.

Watch the HMEG Blog for more opportunities to plant trees over the next season.

SECIA Student Group Earth Day Plans- Come join the ride!

The SECIA U of MN Student Group has received a grant to do Earth Day celebrations during the month of April. Come and join the Ride (Facebook event) or check out these other April 22nd happenings.

MIMO at U Spring Jam on Campus

Stop by and visit the SECIA Student Group on the University's Coffman Plaza during Spring Jam! The group will have information about SECIA's the Move-In, Move-Out (MIMO) initiative, other green activities, and give-aways. Also, registration for the MIMO bike ride will be located here. (12PM-4PM)

Gardening and More at SECIA

From 12PM-5PM, visitors to the SECIA office can learn about gardening information, solar ovens, green cleaners and more. Further, we will have hands on demonstration on how you can make your own GrowBox for your deck or patio (2PM-4PM). The MIMO bike ride can be joined from here at about 4:45pm.

Group Bike Ride & MIMO Kick-off

Bring your bike and participate in a group ride that leaves SECIA at 4:45 PM and arrives at the U of M ReUse Center at 883 29th Ave SE around 5PM. The route follows 15th Ave SE and Como Ave SE and can be picked up along the way. The U of MN ReUse Center has generously agreed to host our MIMO Free Store in May/June. Come along to see where it's located and be treated to FREE non-alcoholic Como MIMOsas and other snacks! You can pre-register (not required) with or at the MIMO booth earlier that day at the University's Coffman Plaza.

These events sponsored MPCA, University of MN Student Activities Grants Initiatives, Neighborhood Revitalization Program

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ramsey County Master Gardeners supporting Midway and Frogtown neighborhoods

This is a moment to shout out to Ramsey County Master Gardeners (RCMG) in the Midway. So many Midway and Frogtown garden projects are nicely highlighted in the RCMG year end report from 2009. I particularly want to shine a light on Diane's work. She is successfully working hard within this organization to bring in intern Master Gardeners from diverse backgrounds. She also takes her Master Gardening service time to our urban neighborhoods, augmenting community efforts in growing their own food. She would want you to check out another organization she works for called "Growing Food and Justice for All".

Here is that Master Gardener 2009 report (pdf). In it you will find summaries of Hamline Midway and Frogtown community garden projects including Aurora-St. Anthony Peace Garden, Horton Park Community Garden, Snelling Avenue Planter Project, Frogtown Gardeners, Frogtown Orchard Project. Also supported and not mentioned are projects at Galtier Elementary, Hamline High Rise, LEAP Academy, HUMC Rain Gardens, and Midway Green Spirit Garden.

Master Gardeners are a well used resource in our St. Paul neighborhoods. Many thanks to their members!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Library series on food and food systems: Authors and films

Another free, food-focused event series, and another chance to screen Food Inc.! Free documentary film screenings have been all the rage this late winter/early spring as community groups are engaging folks in food system topics. If you have already seen Food Inc., Fresh and other similar food documentaries, the included author events could give a deeper dive. The Midway-centric events are added to the HMEG calendar, but all of these dates are interesting to me. The "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" has worked well for me, and the books will go onto my to read list.

The following information is from The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

Eating, Reading and Living Well

Food Will Win the War: Minnesota Crops, Cooks, and Conservation during World War I

Monday, April 26, 7 pm
Merriam Park Branch Library, 1831 Marshall Ave.

Author and food historian Rae Katherine Eighmey will present her latest work, revealing the efforts made by "Citizen Soldiers" who observed Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays to conserve food for the boys "over there."

Food Will Win the War

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Tuesday, May 6, 6:30 pm
West 7th Branch Library (in Community Center), 265 Oneida St.

In the second book by Dr. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, they have taken their super-fast method of bread making and adapted it for the health-conscious baker. Featuring a dozen recipes with 100% whole grain, pita, pizza, and 10 gluten-free specialties. If you've wanted to produce the best yourself, this is your starting point.

"Food, Inc." - a film by Robert Kenner

Monday, May 10, 7 pm
Rondo Outreach Branch Library, 461 N. Dale St.

Featuring interviews with experts such as Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma; In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto), along with forward-thinking social entrepreneurs, this film reveals surprising and often shocking truths about what we eat and how it is produced.

Food, Inc.

Healthy Breadmaking Demonstrations

North for the Harvest

Monday, May 17, 7 pm
Mississippi Market, 1500 W. 7th St.

Zoe Francois, co-author of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, will lead a walk through the market to look at grains and ingredients, demonstrate five minutes of prep, and sample some recipes for you.

The Conscious Kitchen by Alexandra Zissu

Monday, May 24, 7 pm
Highland Park Branch Library, Hillcrest Recreation Center Auditorium, 1974 Ford Parkway

If you have wondered how to manage what is good for personal health, good for the planet, and still tastes great, this discussion will help you to easily make decisions you will feel good about - both physically and consciously.

The Conscious Kitchen

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The Eating, Reading, and Living Well series is presented by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and sponsored by Mississippi Market. Two Saint Paul Locations: 622 Selby Avenue & 1500 W. 7th Street.

Mississippi Market

Monday, April 12, 2010

Permaculture Research Institute offering classes nearby the Midway

"Permaculture Research Institute-Cold Climate" is certainly a mouthful, but they are in important volunteer supported organization here in the Twin Cities who teach sustainable small scale food production. Their instructors are well practiced and have a lot to share. I am profiling their current offerings here for a couple of reasons.

First off, they have a class series running in Frogtown starting this week, which is much closer for Midwayites than their usual venues. Secondly, this series is being taught by fellow HMEGer, Courtney Tchida! Courtney promised us last year she would get a St. Paul class series going and happily that has worked.

Note, PRI classes are not free. There may be some scholarship arrangements for some of their classes. However, these classes are an investment and will arm you with enough information to gain a return on your investment.

Below is the information recently sent by PRI to their email subscribers:

April 13, 20, 27 6-8:30 PM and
May 4,11 6-8:30 PM
Learn small-scale techniques for growing food in urban areas, for your own family’s use or for urban markets. In response to widespread demand, we are repeating this updated Urban Farming series taught by Courtney Tchida.

… choose any or all! $15 per class ($20 at the door) or all 5 for $60. (Click a course topic above for more details and registration.)


May 1 9 AM - 4 PM
In one day, learn all you need to successfully grow food in our cold temperate climate, with special focus on urban gardens and African crop varieties. $60
more details

April 16 7-9 PM
Lecture by entomologist Neil Cunningham gives an overview of biological strategies for insect management in edible landscapes. $15

April 17 9AM - 3PM
Neil Cunningham and Dan Halsey lead a day of combined classroom and hands-on experience. Learn more about options for organic and biological pest controls and how they work. Design and install habitat for beneficial insects. $35

Receive a $5 discount when you register for both the lecture and the workshop!
more details


May 15 1-5 PM
Join others in the Twin Cities area as we continue to shape the permaculture collaborative's role within PRI Cold Climate and bring small groups together around specific permaculture projects. Free and open to all.
more details

See all Upcoming Events on the front page left column of the PRI Cold Climate website.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pine needles as hen bedding for damp days

Last season I discovered the utility of pine needles (sometimes called pine straw). As you may have noticed, annually in late summer, pine trees shed their oldest needles. Sometimes this is in mass. Just in routine clean-up, I tossed them into the chicken run for bedding. It turned out to be a wet week, but the cool thing was that those needles did not get soggy. Usually I use leaves as bedding. As I described before, I save autumn leaves for my year-round hen bedding. Free and sustainable. The leaves do need attention whenever it rains, which is my cue to rake out the run and compost the works.

The discovery of the needles were a significant help though this spring during the ice thaw. My least favorite time for run maintenance for me is when the snow is melting but the ground is still frozen. Puddling, build-up of frozen bedding plus hen activity is messy. This year, I implemented the pine needles during thaw. What a difference! The thick layer of needles kept the hens up an off any icy mucky puddles underneath. Since pine needles take longer to compost, I elected to bring the pine straw to the yard waste site when the wet period was over.

I now keep an eye out for local pine trees. When the next drop happens, I will be knocking on doors and asking if they would mind if I rake up their needles for them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The wide range of chicken droppings

I sure wrestled with which picture to post for this entry. I decided to spare the non-chicken keepers the visual of chicken droppings. However, for a very complete and graphic picto-log of the extremes of poo see this page from the UK called Poultry Pages Forum. The range of characteristics that chicken poo that appears from healthy hens is disparate and extreme. This is due to the fact that chicken have two forms of droppings and diet also greatly affects appearance.

Despite this, is still a good idea to pay attention to changes in droppings. They are an early indicator of bird health. For a list of droppings of concern, this forum page has a long list of descriptors and possible causes.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The compost hunt is on

The compost hunt is on. The county sites are stocked, but will go quick. Community gardens are jostling for a complimentary delivery. Residents all over are looking at their woeful soils thinking, "I need some compost". Yes you do!

This is a perfect segue to highlight the compost bin sale that is happening now. Its also a great opportunity to reveal that the Hamline Midway Environment Group is hot on composting too, so much so they are working on a compost Google map much like the original community compost map of Philadelphia.

In this vein, I want to share a post written by Kirsten Saylor of Gardening Matters. It appears they have noticed the compost cries too.

"It's the time of year (spring), when folks start asking us about how to get some compost for their garden. This question comes up every year on the listserve. I recommend people checking out the COMGAR archives (search on keyword "compost") for additional advice and insight, but basically here's my quick recommendation...

If you're a community garden in Minneapolis or Ramsey County, there's instructions for compost on If you're a community garden not within Minneapolis and Ramsey County, then contact your city or county to see if they have any resources or policies about providing free or deeply discounted compost to community gardens.

If you're private/home garden, then here are some options for you...
1) ask neighbors if they have more compost than they can use. You may be surprised.
2) just advertised that they are trying to help people with surplus compost connect with those that need it.
3) make your own -- worms or a bin out back -- and I don't mean to be flippant, gardeners need to be on the vanguard of keeping valuable nutrients in their "ecosystem" and not letting any of that good compostable stuff get away and stuck in a landfill or burned for energy. If not gardeners, then who will?"

Happy Planting! Kirsten

Occurring now are two notable trends nationwide - 1) a rabid and valuable desire to grow-your-own food which requires good soil, and 2) a needy trash system which is overburdened with food waste. Compost intersects both of of these trends, each satisfying the other.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Early Community Gardening in SE Como

The activity in the SE Como neighborhood community gardens is revving up. At the Talmage Crossing Community Garden, gardeners report, "Just in time for the holiday weekend: the first tulip and first several daffodils have joined Lila's scillas and other bulbs, blooming on the boulevard. The median is starting to show buds so the bulbs there will be doing lovely things soon." Jake, SECIA's community garden intern, has sowed peas, lettuce and spinach in the demo GrowBoxes that the office is trialing. OWLS gardeners have picked out new seeds at the Community Garden Resource Fair offered by the MN Green program (of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society). Como Corner has just brokered a lease with BNSF, a new era for that location. And finally, despite spending the winter under sewer construction machinery, the Gateway Garden's plants are emerging!

How to catch-up with these growing folks? The SECIA Calendar lists all the pertinent community garden dates. Most SE Como gardens are kicking in on Earth Day April 22, 2010. Other news is that both the the Accord Native Plant Community garden and the OWLS Community Garden have both started Facebook pages.