Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shovels and Snowshoes

Me, Sarina, and Colleen after the first major storm of winter. We were snowed in all weekend.

Cross-country skiing on the bike trail in Lanesboro
 What a wonderful winter! We have had nothing but fun in all this Minnesota snow. Eagle Bluff is nice enough to let us use XC skis and snowshoes whenever we would like. On top of that, I have spent the past week alone with the fireplace and 3 windowed walls composing the very first draft of Our Farm. If anyone is interested in reading the full text please respond and I will email it to you ASAP. I appreciate all the feedback I can get.

One of the most interesting findings to me was this:

“Research…suggests that low levels of collective efficacy (a perception of mutual trust and willingness to help each other) are associated with adolescent obesity.”
(Fish, Ettner, Ang, Brown; 2010)

The purpose of Our Farm is to connect people to create sustainable communities that will inspire others to do the same. The most major problems that our nation faces are due to the lack of human interconnectedness. We do not have the trust or the inner-security to depend on the goodness of others. Perhaps it was not instilled in us at a young age, or perhaps we have been heartbroken and fear opening up again. Whatever it is, communities will be created and sustained by mutual trust and willingness to help each other. What are we doing to make our communities stronger? I feel most at home when my dorm-mates are working together to share a meal or shoveling out the walkways. Do the thing that makes you most happy and others will benefit from your beauty.
Snow-covered farm across the road from the Bluff

Fish, J. S., Ettner, S., Ang, A., & Brown, A. F. (2010). Association of Perceived Neighborhood Safety on Body Mass Index. American Journal of Public Health, 100(11), 2296-2303. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.183293

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spreading the Seed

Everyone I meet soon learns of My Farm Dream. Through numerous dialogs I have gained knowledge, insight, and connection. Many have recommended different places to explore. By coming to Eagle Bluff I have begun my pilgrimage. Each new place I learn about is a new opportunity to build upon and shape the dream. Here are some of the places I have heard about. Feel free to add to the list through comments:

Green Chimneys A teacher from Hastings Middle School who specializes is special needs and recreational therapy directed me to Green Chimneys. I have learned that many organizations that have succeeded with the farm school model focus primarily on students with "emotional, behavioral, social and learning challenges." Everyone needs this kind of education to grow strong roots in their community and their lives. Brewster, NY

Frost Valley Frost Valley (FV) stands out in the environmental education field as a powerhouse. Operated by the YMCA, FV is Eagle Bluff on steriods. While we employ about 25 staff, they have hundreds. Not only does FV run all the same programs as Eagle Bluff, it also has a farm school and countless other ed. courses for people of all ages. Two of my co-workers have friends working there, though I am sure I would have learned of it soon enough. It is high on my pilgrimage "must-sees". Claryville, NY

Journey's End One of my beautiful spirited friends here is Sarina. She is a joy. Each summer Sarina has ventured to Pennslyvania to work at Journey's End, or as she lovingly refers to it; "farm camp". With "cows, calves, pigs, chickens, goats, rabbits, [and] donkeys" students experience all of nature with "room to play and explore the creeks, woods, hayfield, [and] fern patch."
Sterling, PA

Pond Hill Farm I volunteered at Pond Hill for a couple of days this summer when I wasn't in the bike shop. Pond Hill is a wonderful place to take young-ones to get a taste of farm life for a day. It has a plethora of activities to view and do right when visitors arrive, from the squash launcher to petting the pigs to feeding the chickens. Pond Hill is unique to this list because it is a private entity owned and run by Farmer Jimmy and his family. Harbor Springs, MI

Dodge Nature Center One of the first school groups at Eagle Bluff strongly encouraged me to visit Dodge. At MNA this past weekend not only did I meet some of its employees, but they offered up their parking lot as a place for my car while I fly home for Thanksgiving. I intend to visit them on Monday morning, learn the ropes, get a ride to the airport, and take a cab back to my car on Saturday. Naturalists make really great friends. West St. Paul, MN

All my best,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MNA Adventure

First snow followed by my first Naturalist's conference and more snow. I had a fantastic experience meeting new stewards of the environment from all across Minnesota. I was especially excited to meet people from Dodge Nature Center (an educational farm in the Twin Cities) and Wolf Ridge ELC (Eagle Bluff's "father").

My favorite session taught about hydromorphology, the study of how rivers move and change. We have impacted the way water travels extensively causing many rivers to be unstable. Some signs of a healthy, stable river are lots of riparian vegetation along its banks to prevent erosion, an accessible floodplain, and pools for fish to live (see image below).
Signs of an unstable river are heavy erosion, limited floodplain (water has no place to flood, causing further erosion), and limited riparian vegetation (see images below). To build roads, develop farm land, and construct our communities we have straightened and leveled our waterways causing habitat loss. What I love so much about Central New York is that we still have winding rivers and creeks to play in and explore.
 Check out for an awesome tutorial.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Life on the Bluff

                           Eagle Bluff Naturalists 2010-2011
What have I been up to?

I have spent the last month and a half getting to know my new home, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. Joe Deden is our fearless executive director who is ever a support and motivator. His dream was to bring Germany's model of environmental education here to the US, and as a result we have Eagle Bluff. Joe and his wife, Mary Bell, has been extremely supportive of my goals in the midst of their sustainable home renovation (their walls will have an R-rating of 40...the current standard is about 9!). They happen to live on the edge of our scenic bluff with their dog, Will, and three horses that live down the road. They are very welcoming to all the visitors that cluster to their overlook to admire turkey vultures, red-tailed hawk, and bald eagles. It is a real treat to see such majestic birds from above in their natural environment.

What do we do?
Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center was originally funded by a grant to make mushroom production profitable to farmers. EB is now home to 12 naturalists fellows and more than 20 staff that work to create "healthy sustainable communities that value the natural world." ELC's throughout Minnesota teach state-recognized academic classes to students K-12, typically focusing on the middle school level. Classes are three hours in length with a third of class time spent in the classroom introducing and concluding curriculum and the other two-thirds spent outdoors. Full-time Naturalists and Naturalist Fellows (like myself)  teach classes like Fungus Among Us, Insects, Pond Life, and Group Challenges. Eagle Bluff has three ropes courses for team and individual growth, as well as a rock climbing wall, archery range, and river for canoeing. When fellows are not teaching, we work as liaison for whatever school group is on campus. Our role as liaison is to facilitate the groups' extracurricular activities outside of class time.

The folks in the photo above are my co-workers, friends, and family. We live and work together everyday to make Eagle Bluff as awesome as it is. I have already learned so much from everyone's life experiences and our growth as a team. I welcome any questions you have about EB and will continue to provide updates on my own journey.

Goal for next week: first mountain bike race in Wisconsin.

Keep smilin' 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wish Sticks and Farm Dreams

We put our hopes and dreams into the universe and hope they are well received. As a kid I would blow on dandelion seed heads with all my might hoping that I would get a dog. I would go to church on Sunday thinking that the purpose of communion was to ask God for a dog. I asked my parents too, but I figured I would have better luck with the greater powers of dandelion seeds and the big guy. I've grown since then. I've grown taller and wiser, but I still like to throw my dreams into the universe to ensure safe arrival. Today I begin by putting my dream out to you. This blog is one of the seeds I am blowing into the air with all my might. If I keep blowing I know one will take root and grow strong.

My dream is to connect people through a farm, creating sustainable communities that will inspire others to do the same. Sustainable communities are built on healthy soils, lifestyles, and relationships. My farm dream will teach courses on communication, teamwork, consumption, farming, and more. I seek to utilize teaching forms I have learned at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Rochester Institute of Technology and its Interactive Adventures, and Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center (my current home), while expanding upon my experiences with higher education.

Running Trail at Eagle Bluff
I have yet to buy or acquire land, but once found I see a large common hall used for classes, concerts, dining, and receptions; a working small-scale farm; a farm store selling produce and locally made goods; a ropes course; a common residence for workers and visitors; cross-country skiing and hiking trails; and a mountain biking balance course.

The farm will be provide a home for ideas to grow and dreams to spread. I will consistently update this page with my experiences and dreams and I encourage you to do the same.