Showing posts with label family

 Spent a day visiting a dear friend in northern Minnesota a week ago. My friend lives completely off-grid on over 80 acres of land in the middle of the forest surrounded by the most diverse wildlife (plants and animals) you will find in the state of MN. It truly is a little piece of heaven at his place. It was a great place to escape to for the day.

This past weekend my oldest daughter and I attended another herbal workshop.  This time the location was a beautiful farm in North Central, MN and it was the perfect spot since there was a great variety of wild edibles and medicinals spread over the property, even this beauty… truly growing wild, there were just two plants on the 38 acres.


I think my daughter had the most fun hanging out with the chickens 


While I was busy eating wild foods


We talked about many plants including the a variety of uses for Solomon's Seal


and Black Medick


There wasn't a boring minute while Lise Wolff talked


I really can never get enough of these plant walks.  Lise Wolff is like an herbal encyclopedia that I wish I could just put on a shelf and open when needed.  How she mentally files away so much detail about medicinal and edible plants I will never know.

It truly was a great day!

For anyone who lives in MN and may be interested in these workshops, here is a link to Lise Wolff's website .  Her classes are not always posted on her site but if you sign up for emails she'll definitely send you one when a workshop or class is scheduled.
It is that time of year again, when the kids think they get to sleep in for the first time since the school year ended but instead I am dragging them out of bed at 6 am to go berry picking.

We headed out to our favorite farm yesterday, Sam Kedem's Nursery in Hastings. It was a perfect day; sun was shining and temps were decent.  When we arrived, there were more pickers than I am use to so we got busy before all of the berries were gone.  We ended up with 16 lbs worth of juicy organic strawberries and rushed home to make jam.  

As usual, what was suppose to be a family affair turned into my oldest daughter cutting up all of the strawberries and me finishing the rest on my own. LOL! That's ok, I enjoy it. 












And yes, in case you are wondering (because I get asked this a lot), I think getting a real tree is better for the environment then getting an artificial tree (and supports the local economy) and this is why:
Yesterday we went to the Minnesota Science Museum to check out the Monarch exhibit.  If it wasn't for a time constraint I could have stayed in the butterfly house all day, as it was we had to bribe Aiyana with better things to come just to get her to leave.  


Who knew insects could be so fascinating but I'm finding myself more and more interested in learning about them, and not just the pretty ones either.


Mating pair.


Apparently I am the only one who thought this was fascinating. Mating butterflies. Maya kept telling me to stop taking pictures but I thought it was cool to see.



Monarch (male) - the swollen pouches (circles/balls) along the veins near the ends of it wings tells you it is a male.


Painted Lady Butterfly hitching a ride on Aiyana's head.

Maya and Monarch posing for the camera.

Painted Lady Butterfly

Monarch (female) having a conversation with my husband.  I think she had a crush on him :P






I meant to post this much earlier but I didn't get around to uploading all of my BWCA pictures to the computer until now.

In early July our family took a trip up to the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area), one of our most favorite places to visit in the U.S.  We spent 4 days canoeing, hiking, fishing, camping in addition to looking for bears and wolves.  Unfortunately we didn't find any wolves or bears :( but maybe next time.  

It was a great trip (aside from the whole "losing my dog" situation).  Our guide Kate was absolutely amazing!  We met Kate back in winter 2011 when we were up in Ely for a Wintergreen dogsledding adventure but we didn't have the pleasure of her guiding us on any sort of trip until this year.  She's fantastic with kids and overall just wonderful with families.  Our daughter Middy is tough to please but Kate kept her busy, didn't take no for an answer, and in the end Middy really enjoyed being in the BWCA again and having Kate as a mentor.  Middy learned to bait a hook with leeches, remove her fish from the line, build and start a campfire, prepare and cook camp food, identify wild plants, etc...  Some of the valuable things that not many kids get to learn today.

I really liked that the trip our guide Kate and the owner Jason from Ely Outfitting Company planned for our family was perfect for the energy and enthusiasm level of our kids.  We stayed at one camp site this year, were able to visit several different areas in the BWCA, divide equal time between hiking around and canoeing and we also had some fun fishing and the kids were able to squeeze in some swimming.  Kate is such an awesome guide that when we had one day of solid rain she still managed to keep the entire family entertained by playing cards and other games.  

I recommend Ely Outfitting Company and any one of Jason's guides to anybody interested in visiting the BWCA and not wanting to think about possibly getting lost because you have no idea how to read a topography map or a compass (like me) or if you don't want to go through all the work of packing enough food, finding and transporting a canoe and other equipment.  With Ely Outfitting Company it is all done for you and worth every penny spent.  

Here are some of our pix from this years visit to the BWCA:
Gypsy resting in the canoe.

Pure and beautiful BWCA water (courtesy of Kate Ford).   

Aiyana releasing her floating art (courtesy of Kate Ford).  Kate had the kids create art from pieces of nature and when they released their floating art into the lake they were to make a wish.
Sunset in the BWCA (courtesy of Kate Ford).  Kate got up really early to take some fantastic shots of the BWCA.
Early morning in the BWCA (courtesy of Kate Ford).


Middy with one of the fish she caught (courtesy of Kate Ford).  This little baby was returned to the lake.

Me showing Aiyana how to bait a hook with a worm (courtesy of Kate Ford)
This was actually a good lesson for Yana.  She learned a bit about the process of fishing and what it all entails in addition to seeing a living thing going from nature to her plate.  She decided that keeping fish and eating it wasn't for her (she liked catch and release much better), she also decided on this trip that she'd much rather use fake bait over live bait.

Kate and Middy sunk the canoe and played around in the water with it (courtesy of Kate Ford)

Kate making us dinner.
Pictographs (If I remember correctly these were done by the Ojibwe).


Kate, Maya, Gypsy,  Middy, Ulises, Me, Aiyana

Our little crew in the BWCA
Maya Fishing.
Tea made from nature (I forget the name of the plant)
Scenery from above our campsite.
Wintergreen.
Ulises and I.


Our state bird: the loon.

Kate teaching Middy to put a leech on a hook (you have to look closely to see the leech on Kate's boot)
Aiyana waiting for a big fish.


GOODBYE TECHI

1:51 PM, in
We just returned from four days in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and a 2 day visit to Ely.  Initially our trip north was filled with lots of excitement because not only were we going to be able to relax for the first time in 2 years but we were also going to meet a fellow wolf advocate that I'd only had the pleasure of knowing through Facebook.  Unfortunately three hours into our 4 hour road trip things took a turn for the worst.

GYPSY vs. LEMON

7:00 AM, in
I saw a funny video on YouTube showing various dogs fighting with a citrus fruit and so I thought I'd see how my dog Gypsy, the one that EATS EVERYTHING, would react to a lemon.

STRAWBERRIES!!

7:31 AM, in
If you can't grow your own do the next best thing... PICK SOMEONE ELSES!!

The family and I drove over to Sam Kedem's  Farm in Hastings yesterday and picked over 12 pounds of big juicy organic strawberries.  Sam is the only one I know that grows organic PYO fruits, at least within driving distance from my house so we visit his farm several times a summer to get blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.  Since I didn't get started until later in the evening I only canned 3 jars of strawberry jam.  As you can probably tell by my photo collage my jars have that ugly foamy swirl in them.  I've read in one of my Ball canning books that the foam can lessen the shelf life of the jam so I'll make sure to eat them in the next month.  I should have spent some time scraping off that frothy mess but I was just so darn excited to making jam again that I didn't pay attention to that last step.

Anyone have an opinion on the foamy stuff that appears when boiling the strawberries?  To what extent does it shorten the shelf life?



For anyone else that would like to try making strawberry jam I have two recommendations:

My friend Teresa turned me on to this ebook by her friend Robin.  It is very informative!  I've always struggled to find good canning books that are easy to understand for the beginner but also contain recipes that even the experienced canner will enjoy (once I get there); Robin's book is perfect!

The other "very easy" go to source for canning strawberries is this video:



I don't recommend the video for those wanting to learn about canning per se but more for those who just want to whip up a small batch of strawberry jam quickly without getting into all the details about canning.
Starting with a random post about everything.

Well, in the last couple years I've been a complete failure when it comes to this blog.  I delete, undelete, delete, undelete, promise to post more regularly and then don't, promise again and fail once more. So... Here I go again.
Happy Winter Solstice Everyone!

The Solstice marks the Mayan rebirth and according to American Indian prophesy we are in the time of the 7th Fire.  

We humans are at a crossroads.  We can choose to continue down the path humanity has been traveling for decades or find a new direction, one where our thoughts and feelings are no longer controlled by the media and/or politicians but instead guided by our inner wisdom that tells us the difference between right and wrong.  It is time to treat all sentient beings as equals, recognize their value in this world and fight for their protection.

The choice is ours... we can walk into the new world the same people we were yesterday or we can be better.  


That my creative energy would return and I wouldn't even realize it.  Since August I've felt like a new person.  After turning 40 last year I fell into this nasty little funk and had no energy to write, craft, or even spend that much time in nature.  My summer began pretty poorly but before I knew it I was busy making cards, knitting, baking; all of a sudden I feel good again.  All I want to do is spin fiber, knit, poke around the garden - is it some kind of weird rebirth?  Who knows and who cares right?  As long as I am being productive and enjoying myself.
Howling for Wolves had a booth at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival - Pet Fest Weekend - on Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19 and the response about the Wolf Hunt is exactly what we all expected.  People do not want the wolf hunt/trap this November and they were very eager to sign the petition demanding that it be stopped.  Out of the hundreds of people that passed by the HFW booth I personally only came across 3 that were in support of the hunt/trap and their responses went exactly like this:
That is all I kept thinking about today.  We are running out of time to save our wolves.  The hunt begins in November and although it seems like a lifetime away it's really just around the corner.  The leaves are already beginning to change from a bright green to a dull yellow which means fall isn't far away. 
We hit the great Shepherds Harvest Fiber Festival over Mother's Day weekend.  Lots and lots of fun things too see; angora rabbits & goats, llama, alpaca, and sheep.  We ate fried pickles dipped in horseraddish sauce and fried walleye.  The Shepherds Harvest and the State Fair are the only two places I'll eat fried anything. LOL!

Here is Aiyana learning how to spin.


One of the many angora rabbits.  This one is a french angora just like our bugs.  I never let buggsies coat get that thick though which is why I don't have much angora to knit with.

Lots of fiber supplies.


Middy enjoying the animals.


How sad is this.  I've dreamed of having an alpaca farm and yet I can't tell you if this is an alpaca or a llama.  That's ok though.  After learning about all the work involved with these little creatures I won't be buying livestock anytime soon.




This is called skirting.  I'm not entirely sure what that means since we missed the demo but there was a sign on the side that said "skirting."  My fiber lingo, unfortunately, is very limited but... I'll get there some day.


I'll blog about what I purchased next : )  Lots of fun stuff.
I recently took my 16 year old to get her nose pierced.  The response to having actually allowed my teenage daughter to pierce any part of her face other than her ears is quite interesting.  I'm the cool mother to  my daughters friends and those working at the piercing shop but among other mothers whose teen daughters now want their noses pierced after seeing my daughter, I'm not so awesome.
It is hard to believe that today is the fifth anniversary of my mothers death. I remember when my mom would count the years after her own parents passed and now here I am doing the same. After losing my sister, watching my mother die was the second hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life and can only hope nothing equally as painful ever comes my way again. 



The death of a loved one is life altering in so many ways. I remember after my mothers third heart attack and struggle with breast cancer I'd try to imagine what life would be like without her. It was a defense mechanism in a way. If I prepared for the loss then maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be quite so painful. Of course I was wrong. No one is ready to lose someone they are so attached to.

One of the biggest internal struggles I had after my mom died was trying to decide how to honor her life and mourn the loss. We have somewhat of an eccentric family (you may have noticed that already by some of my posts :). My mother was raised 7th Day Adventist but ran screaming from the church when she was 18 (not literally, just figuratively). By my own choice I've had lots of experience with Lutheranism, Catholicism, Judaism and Buddhism. Before my mother died she shared with me what she had settled on as her spiritual beliefs and they didn't involve religion. She wanted to be cremated and didn't want anyone coming to mourn her that wasn't a presence in her life when she died.

While sitting with a Hospice Chaplain it came to me. My mother believed in God but she didn't care for religion. She loved nature in all its forms (she could identify every tree, plant and wild berry by name), she raised her children to value all living things and she cherished all the childhood memories she had of her families experience with the Native Americans.

I decided I wanted someone from the Native American community to help me say goodbye to my mother, someone who understood how our family felt not only about my mother but about the earth, its inhabitants and the feeling of loss; but I had feared finding such a person wouldn't be easy. Of course, in traditional Michelle fashion, I marched over to Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis and started looking for "the" person. It should be of no surprise that I was met with a lot of skepticism. It isn't easy going into the Native American community asking someone to conduct a service for your dead mother and it certainly wasn't easy for the Native people to grasp such an idea. As usual though, everything worked itself out. I was very fortunate to find the person I was looking for in the form of Clyde Bellecourt.

Clyde is one of the original founders of AIM (American Indian Movement), a civil rights organizer and a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe here in Minnesota. It is ironic really that he turned out to be what I call my "savior" in the midst of everything I was going through at that time because I had read about Clyde and AIM many times over the years. Clyde, we had discovered, was a friend of my daughters God father. He graciously offered to do a "Wiping of Tears Ceremony" for our family and moms closest friends, all that he required in return was a can of tobacoo (a specific type) used to carry prayers and wishes of our family to the Creator and to cleanse us of any spiritual negativity. Clyde, his niece and great nephew performed the ceremony together.

Again, another odd coicidence, I chose the Minnesota River Valley as the location for the ceremony and it turned out that the Native Americans lived along the river valley prior to Euro-American settlers arriving. We love that particular area because my mother would take our children there for long walks and to teach them how to identify medicinal plants and wild berries. Did she know it's history? Probably.

During the ceremony it was the first time I really felt at peace with all that had occurred. Clydes niece had prepared a bag full of juniper for me to burn in the days after the ceremony to clear my heart and my home of any sadness. We concluded the ceremony with every individual present releasing a single monarch butterfly into the sky. It was a good ending to what had been my mothers life. When I was little my mother told my sister and I the story of how a Native American woman saved my great grandfathers eye sight when he was just a boy and then there we were with Clyde and his family, them helping us heal and move foreward.

I am eternally grateful for what Clyde and his family did for me and my family five years go. There isn't a day that goes by when I think of my mother that I don't think of Clyde, his niece and nephew too. It is the kindness of others that have helped me live with my mothers death to this day.
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