Oh Christmas Tree! Local Buyers Guide

 

Choosing a tradition that suits your needs and values can be a difficult decision each year, especially when it comes to the Christmas Tree. Research has shown that selecting a naturally sourced tree each year has less environmental impact than owning an artificial one....unless you plan to keep your artificial tree for 20+ years, after which the environmental impacts even out. 

 

URBAN TREE LOTS
With two locations, one in Northeast Minneapolis and one in South Minneapolis' Longfellow neighborhood, Mother Earth Gardens provide a marketplace for sustainably grown Christmas Trees. They stock a variety of responsibly grown, chemical free trees from the family farms of Henry and Gracia Anderson in Osseo, Wisconsin and Wade and Heather Comstock in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin. They offer trees as short at 4 feet and reaching over 12 feet tall, starting at around $25 each. 

DOWNTOWN DELIVERY
Fresh Fraser firs and wild balsam trees are available for local downtown delivery only at the MillCity Farmers Market through Nistler Farms.  The market moves indoors all month long with not only house christmas trees but locally grown produce, breads, cheeses and more. 

COUNTRY DRIVE
If you are looking to get your tree out of the city and enjoy a beautiful drive check out  Krueger’s Christmas Tree Farm in Lake Elmo. A real working family run farm with a  large selection of sustainable pre-cut trees or trees you can cut from their fields. 

 

A symbol of goodwill and love

The Fraser Fir has become a very popular tree due to its short, strong needles, tendency to hold them and its compact form. Native to the mountains of the Eastern United States.

The Balsam Fir has an aroma that says “Christmas.” Native to Minnesota and all of Central Eastern North America.

The Eastern Balsam, gaining in popularity, has characteristics of both Fraser and Balsam Firs. Nice smell, good needle habit.

The White Pine has many loyal customers. Its soft, long needles give a different look and feel. Native to Minnesota and all of Central Eastern North America.

The Black Hills, Meyer and Blue Spruce all have a shorter, compact needle and colors that range from blue to cool green. Black Hills Spruce are native to the Upper Midwest.

 

After the holiday season is over be sure to responsibly dispose of your Christmas tree by taking it to your local compost, recycling or waste management site. Some municipalities also provide curb side pick up and chipping services, reusing the trees for landscaping mulch and keeping them out of landfills. If you live in the Twin Cities you can drop off your tree at either Hennepin or Ramsey County's compost sites. Spend this Christmas with a clean, green conscience!

 

Thanks to Mother Earth Gardens and Dovetail Partners for their contributions to this post!

Farm Story: Little Bend Heritage Farm

For many people, Thanksgiving is a time to sit down and eat piles of turkey surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones. The catch: Most of us still have no idea where our turkey came from or how it was raised. While much of the protein world has already shifted to healthy and humanely raised meat, the turkey has lagged behind. There are however a handful of wonderful turkey farmers growing healthy, happy, tasty turkeys right under our noses. We had the good fortune of getting to know one recently. 

If you were one of the lucky ones able to scoop up a pasture raised turkey from Little Bend Heritage Farm this year (they just sold out!), not only will you know exactly where your bird came from, you can feel pretty darn good knowing your bird lived a good life. The Bourbon Red Turkey is known to many chefs as the best tasting bird around, and thanks to the nice folks at Little Bend going out of their way to preserve this special breed of heritage turkey, next Thanksgiving your carving table can feature one.

Heritage Breeds by Definition
have a story to tell

We want to congratulate Steve and Little Bend Heritage Farm for the great work they do and for selling out of this year's turkeys. You can order turkeys next year from Little Bend directly or check out the crop shares available at Cooks of Crocus Hill. 

Little Bend Heritage Farm
26352 300th Street
Chatfield, MN 55923

 Steve Berg, owner and full time farmer at Little Bend Heritage farm.    

Steve Berg, owner and full time farmer at Little Bend Heritage farm. 

 

     

 

 

 99% of all turkeys raised in the Midwest are the “Broad-Breasted White” variety, sometimes also called the “Large White.”   These birds are raised in confinement in extremely crowded conditions on factory farms. The birds have little resemblance to those found in a more natural pasture setting like these Bourbon Reds.   

99% of all turkeys raised in the Midwest are the “Broad-Breasted White” variety, sometimes also called the “Large White.”  
These birds are raised in confinement in extremely crowded conditions on factory farms. The birds have little resemblance to those found in a more natural pasture setting like these Bourbon Reds.

 

What is the main mission of your farm?
To provide a great tasting, alternative meat selection that people know were humanely raised and to help save the Bourbon Red heritage turkey which is on the watch list of heritage animals.

Can you tell us about your operation?
We started raising Bourbon Red turkeys 3 years ago. We started out with 10 hens and 3 toms. This year we had 35 hens and 5 toms and we sold 300 eggs for hatching, 400 poults (baby turkeys), and 250 turkeys for processing. Next year we will have 75 hens and 15 toms and are forecasting selling 700 eggs, 750 poults, and 400 processed turkeys.

You guys are known for your Heritage Turkeys–what else is going on around the farm?
I got into beekeeping a couple of years ago and next year we will have 15 beehives which we will sell the honey and beeswax products. Also this year we decided to grow gourmet garlic so next summer we will be selling that as well.


Let’s talk heritage Turkeys, specifically the Bourbon Red, how did you guys arrive at this breed?
A co-worker’s children had raised some for a 4-H project and he did not want to keep them so I took them as I thought they would be a good meat source for my family. But after researching them and finding out that there were not many Bourbon Red turkeys left I knew I had to do something to help save these majestic animals. With more research I found that there is a niche market for the turkeys and I believe the best way to save the Bourbon Red turkey is through promotion to get people to eat them rather than the factory turkeys.


What exactly is a heritage turkey?
A heritage turkeys is a domestic turkey which has kept it historic characteristics from turkeys that were brought to America by the settlers and bred to the Native American wild turkeys. In order to be classified a heritage turkey the turkeys must meet the following criteria: 

  1. Naturally mating: The Heritage Turkey must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating, with expected fertility rates of 70-80%. This means that turkeys marketed as “heritage” must be the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.
  2. Long productive outdoor lifespan: The Heritage Turkey must have a long productive lifespan. Breeding hens are commonly productive for 5-7 years and breeding toms for 3-5 years. The Heritage Turkey must also have a genetic ability to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor production systems.
  3. Slow growth rate: The Heritage Turkey must have a slow to moderate rate of growth. Today’s heritage turkeys reach a marketable weight in about 28 weeks, giving the birds time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass. This growth rate is identical to that of the commercial varieties of the first half of the 20th century.
 The pasture allows the turkeys to roam and forage, increasing muscle while maintaining a happier flock. 99.5% of turkeys raised in Minnesota are not pasture raised, you can change this by supporting small heritage breed farmers.    

The pasture allows the turkeys to roam and forage, increasing muscle while maintaining a happier flock.
99.5% of turkeys raised in Minnesota are not pasture raised, you can change this by supporting small heritage breed farmers. 

 

Do Heritage Turkey’s require any specific cooking or preparation methods?
All heritage turkeys have a greater dark meat to light meat ratio and also given the fact that our Bourbon Red turkeys are not injected with a water/salt solution means that our turkey cooks faster than the standard factory turkeys you find in your grocery store. Other than the shorter cooking nothing else is different. However; the meat is more savory due to the slower growth period and the natural diet they receive. Check out their website for some of their trusted recipes.


What are the biggest challenges you’ll face or are currently facing this season?
Matching the amount of turkeys to raise to the customer demand. Unlike beef, pork, or chicken, turkey is mainly a seasonal meat and it is hard to get someone to think about a turkey until it gets close to Thanksgiving. This means we have to forecast demand very carefully as it take 6 months to grow our turkeys unlike the 3 months it take to raise a factory turkey.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 3.03.39 PM.png


What are you most proud of this season?
Getting our website up and running, securing a large turkey contract to a major cooking school in the Twin Cities area, and being able to reach a large audience to teach them about our Bourbon Red turkeys but also about the simple heritage lifestyle.


How can people support what you’re doing?
The best way is to visit our website where you can buy our hatching eggs, poults, and our processed turkeys. Next year we plan to expand the store to include the honey and gourmet garlic as well. Also, people can visit our website and read our blogs and watch our videos as a way to support us and get the word out.


What qualities do you think it takes to be a farmer?
Patience, and a love of animals and farming. A willingness to put all your heart and faith into the animals, the farm, and yourself.
 

 Check out the wheels on this vintage manure spreader, no air needed!

Check out the wheels on this vintage manure spreader, no air needed!

ALL NATURAL DYE JOB: EASTER EGGS

Time out for a little nostalgia..

Every year growing up my sister and I would dye Easter eggs in my Grandmother's apartment building's laundry room.

We bickered, made a mess and for some reason always ended the evening eating Pringles and watching the Statler Brothers (no thanks) while my mother and grandmother played cards in the background. Every year since Tootie's death I can recall this Easter routine and I feel close again to my Grandmother once more.

We hope you have some traditions of your own that from time to time are able to transform you back to the ole ladies in your life who loved you more than you could ever know. 

So here we go; I'm going to say it, I'm not crafty at all.

Pinterest tutorials are in fact pretty intimidating to me, I also hate to read instructions and would rather take a guess then go back and read the instructions for the first time just to troubleshoot. BUT we were inspired by our tour of Born & Dyed in Minnesota and wanted to take their natural dye philosophy into the kitchen for a spin.

What better time than Easter egg dying, especially when you are avoiding taking your colorful, boisterous sometimes nudist two year old daughter anywhere to pick up a box of PAAS. The important lesson is that this was not hard. You aren't eating them, so it really doesn't have to be perfect.

And really doesn't perfection take all of the character of what you are doing? 

SUPPLY LIST
White vinegar
A dozen white eggs
A sauce pan for each color you plan to make
Strainer
Cheese Cloth (optional) 
Empty egg carton

 

DYE + COLOR KEY
Yellow/Amber: Yellow onion skins with a teaspoon of Turmeric
Pink to red: Red beets
Pale purple to red: Red onion skins
Purple: Red cabbage
Green: Spinach
Lavender: Purple grape juice
Tan to brown: Coffee (but really why not skip this and just use a few brown eggs?)
Orange: Chili powder
Pink/Purple: Raspberries or blackberries
Pale Green: Yellow or green apple peels.

 

 

 

INSTRUCTION

  1. Get organized, decide on what/how may colors you want to try and ensemble the same number of jars and sauce pans. Set aside the cheese cloth+Strainer over a bowl.
  2. Get your water boiling and toss in a big handful of the cut up veggie/fruit or about a tablespoon of the spice you are using into the individual sauce pans. 
  3. Add the eggs, you are going to hard boil the egg while the dye gets cookin'.  
    *make sure the eggs are completely covered by the water.
  4. The eggs need about ten minutes to cook, but really get the water boiling then let it simmer for about 30 minutes. 
  5. If you want to avoid spots, you can stop half way thru set aside the eggs and strain the dye liquid. Return the dye water to the sauce pan with the eggs for a little more time on the stove. Keep beet chunks in with the dye jars or the eggs will be a pink/brown color.
  6. Pour out the water into the individual jars and carefully return the eggs to the dye water. 
    Let the eggs sit out over night. 
  7. Carefully remove the eggs and let them dry in the egg carton.
  8. Sit back and enjoy your edible, crafty creation.

The Art of Behaving Well, A Lesson in Giving Thanks

We asked our dear friend and etiquette expert Therese Sterling-Little her advice for behaving yourself around the dinner table this Thanksgiving. Perhaps you are a recent kid's table graduate or spending your first Thanksgiving with the new in-laws, we promise you some great advice along with a healthy side of Thanksgiving's conflicting backstory. So with that, we turn it over to Therese. 

 Norman Rockwell's  Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving

We have writer and civic activist Sarah Josepha Hale to thank for our modern celebration of Thanksgiving. Hale was adept at cultural myth making; she counts the classic “Mary Had a Little Lamb” amongst her works. She was an early pioneer of opportunities for women and girls, and considered somewhat of a domestic expert in her time. For thirty-six years, beginning in 1827, Hale aggressively petitioned to unify the USA in one national celebration of Thanksgiving. At the time, the holiday was celebrated only in New England, and on a different date in each state. Abraham Lincoln eventually responded, and in 1863 declared Thanksgiving a national holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November. In 1939, Roosevelt briefly moved the national celebration up a week, hoping to spur holiday retail sales. But the people wouldn’t stand for it.  Two years later, the feast was moved back to the end of the month. In 2015, we will celebrate on Thursday, November 26th. 

I grew up under the tutelage of a master hostess. My memories of Thanksgiving are drool inducing and bathed in hygge; roasted pears and gorgonzola, the pope’s nose, dripping gravy in a fine china boat, twenty hands clasped in a circle for pre dinner blessings. But I’m a little conflicted about this love. The Thanksgiving holiday is incredibly complicated. Of course, festivals and celebrations of the harvest bounty date back to ancient times when Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks gathered their crops and paid tribute to the gods with epic feasts. The Jewish faith historically celebrates the harvest in Sukkot, a seven day festival. Sukkot is derived from the Hebrew Sukkah–a temporary dwelling where farmers lived during harvest. Similarly, Native American commemorations of the fall harvest likely pre-date any European invasion of their shores. And the story of Thanksgiving we learn and propagate in the United States, that we want to believe, is one of peaceful collaboration amongst disparate communities.

We learn that Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, taught malnourished settlers from the Mayflower how to hunt and grow on his homeland. That he helped these same settlers form an alliance with the Wampanoag people and that together the communities flourished harmoniously. That the Native Americans and the Pilgrims celebrated their bond with feast and merriment. 


Of course, none of this is true. Before Squanto met the “pilgrims”, he had been kidnapped by an Englishman and sold into slavery, eventually escaping and returning back to North America. It is likely that the Thanksgiving we celebrate today first occurred in 1621, after  a violent struggle. Settlers arriving on the Mayflower found hunting and growing in their new environment incredibly difficult. Many displayed hostility towards Natives, and some were exceedingly brutal. Their three day Thanksgiving celebration occurred after a long period of hunger and a battle. The European Settlers rejoiced at the opportunity to fill their starving bellies. The United States has not made things right with the Native Americans, and propagation of the myth behind this national holiday is only one small aspect of that. The National Day of Mourning and UnThanksgivng are amongst protests that acknowledge this truth on the fourth Thursday of November every year, while our nation gives thanks.

Truth is an onion, shedding skins all across our lives. At best we leverage heightened understanding to empathetically inform our actions, big and small.  It is important to remember and note the complex history of Thanksgiving. Just as we gain historical perspective with age and inquiry, we can gain insight into the lives and histories of those around us and in turn be better guests. Many of us will sit around a Thanksgiving table not starved in the least, having ate our plenty the day before at dinner. Many of us will find the holiday hectic with travel, perhaps dashing to multiple feasts, dealing with missed flights and bad weather. Everyone can take the opportunity to give back and give more. Emotionally, energetically, as a guest, a host, a citizen, or a friend. To try, in a scary and shifting world, to be earnestly thankful. 

Just like I didn’t understand the full significance of Thanksgiving growing up, I was for the most part blissfully naive to the magnitude of planning and labor that orchestrating and hosting Thanksgiving, or any event, entails. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of hosting many lovely, kind people in my own home. My gatherings aren’t as fancy, but they’re still perfect. Guests mix craft cocktails, come replete with bouquets and loud laughter, hand us scented oils and tell stories. These great guests have inspired me to be more thoughtful and conscious of my behavior in other’s homes, and more appreciative. Below you’ll find some tips I’ve acquired along the way:

1. Don’t be a maybe.
Dinner Parties require a lot of planning, and this is just rude. If someone is nice enough to invite you to Thanksgiving, respond promptly. And don’t ask what they’re making or who’s coming as a predicate to your response. 

2. Ask what you can bring, and bring your own tools.
Inquire with your host as to what you can contribute. Bring your own serving dish and spoon, as well as any last minute ingredients or tools your dish requires. Don’t figure out how to cook it when you get there, or bring something raw (exceptions exist, obviously). When necessary, inquire in advance about oven and counter capacity so the host can incorporate your needs into their planning. 

3. Pick up a little gift.
Bring your host something! They’re going to a lot of trouble, and probably spending lots of money. Plus, you’re nice! Make something, bring flowers, pick up a jam or a knick-knack. You know them better than me.

4. Warn of allergies. And if they’re severe, offer to bring your own provisions. If your food allergies are severe, warn your host. If you are on a restricted diet, it’s nice to give a warning and perhaps bring your own food if you can’t eat most things. It’s nice to set expectations and not accidentally offend, or have a reaction!

5. Don’t be early! Or more than 45 minutes late.
Send a text if you’re running late.  We all know it’s rude to be late. But when hosting a party, a half hour to forty five minutes of wiggle room between guest arrivals can give you some welcome time to breathe. As a guest, what might be worse is coming early. Unless you’ve arranged with the host, don’t ring the bell before starting time.

6. Offer to help, of course, but generally stay away from the kitchen.
Kitchen crowds can cause stress, and everyone tends to congregate near the kitchen at parties. Be conscious of your utility in keeping things moving, at times you can contribute greatly by conversating in another room. 

7. Don’t be on your phone the whole time, come on.
Also, don’t be an asshole about people being on their phones, and loudly call them out. You don’t know what’s going on with them. Engaging with conversation works better than humiliation.

8. Help clean up.
Maybe insist on it–and if the effort seems discombobulated you can always arrange the willing hires and manage the situation. Step up for clean up.

9. Don’t overstay your welcome.
After spending hours prepping, planning, and hosting a party, your host probably doesn’t want you to eat and run–they can finally sit down and chat! But don’t linger too long or get too drunk, after a long holiday nothing is more relaxing than chatting with an overly imbibed guest late into the night... 

10. Send a thank you.
It’s the digital age, so I think a text or email will suffice. My wife often sends a handwritten note, and I admittedly swoon whenever we receive them. No matter the medium, it’s nice to acknowledge your host after the swirl of their effort has subsided. 

Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving!!  

 

 

Therese lives in Brooklyn with her wife. She spends her time reading, ranting, and thinking about how we might build better communities. She has too many decorative platters