{Weight Watchers} Thinking Outside of the Grocery Store

I spend my bus ride to and from work scrolling through the Weight Watchers Connect feature. People post about their struggles, their triumphs, and mostly their relationship with food. On how they would eat their feelings and stressors. Some admit that eating brings them the pleasure that their lives are lacking. One woman said “a pint of ice cream never gave me a nasty stare.” Some ate out of boredum. In their words it dawned on me that so many Americans have a terrible relationship with food. For many it stems from their up brining and using food to cope. 

I’d like to believe that our eating habits reflect our up brining and life style. For me food was always available. My parents were eating organic before organic was a buzz word that graced grocery shelves. Every fall my parents would get a hog from Huttles in Lake city and vegetables/fruit from a meat locker in Downsville. It was a big day when the call came the our bacon and ham was ready for pick up. We had two chest freezers, you know the big ones that you can hide a body in. One was filled with pork and the other fruit,  vegetables, and ice cream. As my parents loaded the freezers I would play in the empty boxes while begging “can we have tater tots!?” 

My parents made sure that my tiny hands touched the soil. A good part of my childhood was spent tending to our small orchard and the fruit trees at our house in town. My dad taught me how to plant, trim and care for our trees. In the fall the picked apples and pears went to Ms. Dorothy. When I think of Ms. Dorothy I think of summer afternoons picking cucumbers, tomatoes, and preparing dill bundles for drying. Ms. Dorothy is the reason I have an obsession with mason jars. She taught me how to can vegetables and fruit, to make jam, apple sauce, and soup. Ms. Dorothy and my parents brought the farm to my childhood table. 

As a child the grocery store wasn’t fun, the only thing my Mama bought was milk, bread, juice, Shasta, and cereal. I would try and sneak canned ravioli and pasta into her cart, she always caught me, took it out and said “no.” I would get so mad because all of my friends were eating canned food and boxed Mac & Cheese, I wanted to eat like they did. It didn’t matter how much I whined, I never got it. Mainly this was for my own health. 

Back in the 80’s food labels held little to no valuable information.  Canned and boxed prepared foods were loaded with salt. Sodium was the enemy in our house, my kidneys couldn’t handle it and my body was still healing from bladder reconstruction surgery. At one time all I could keep down was yogurt and jello. Trust me I have eaten more jello and yogart, than one soul can handle. Fish was a staple, until an eye ball appeared in my fish sandwich. Vegetables, I have a non existent relationship with vegetables. If it’s a root vegetable I will eat it, but you will not see me sit down to a salad. Salads are for rabbits, not humans. My Mama often made two meals, one family and a separate bland meal for me. 

Even when I was given a clean bill of health, we still stuck to the low sodium no processed food regime. In college I was finally away from my parents and you guessed it I bought canned ravioli……. they were disgusting, same with boxed Mac & Cheese. I have never eaten Ramen or a Twinki, I am probably the only American who has achieved this feat. Over the years I have gained and lost weight. My weight gain was not due to my eating habits, but my lack of activity and the medications I was taking. Add in two pregnancies…. then you get the picture. 

The fore mentioned is what brought me to Weight Watchers. Over the past month I have been asking myself “do you eat for comfort? Do you eat because you are bored?” The answer to both  questions is no. For me food is nourishment and not comfort. Don’t get me wrong I love me some comfort food! Many ladies eat because they are stressed or emotional. When I am stressed food is the last thing I want. I rather take a nap or veg out on the couch. If I’m emotional, I want to nap with my dog, not food.

Food doesn’t define me, I define it. My farm to table upbringing has a huge impact on my relationship with food and choices. I stray away from microwave meals, canned goods, Tyson products, and artificial flavorings/sweeteners. Sure I look at pop tarts and granola bars longingly, but I know they are not good for me. Cupcakes and I well let’s just say I can’t have just one, so I don’t even bother to bring them home. Same goes for cookies, cookies stay on the shelf. For me it’s knowing what triggers a slippery slope down fall. Those triggers stay at the store, where they belong. 

It takes a lot of strength and will power to pass up the bakery department and center isles of the store. All of the good stuff lies on the edges. Even better the freshest food lives at your local farmers market or butcher. Don’t be defined by your grocery store, think outside of the store and buy from your local farmers. 

{FaceBook} Friend Request From My High School Bully

red wingEver since I can remember I have always gone against the tide. I looked to the sun and answered to a higher calling. My parents will tell you that I am an old soul, that I wear my heart on my selve, and that my zest for life is addictive. That I have always looked out for my fellow-man, cried tears for the less fortunate, and believed that the under dogs would one day fly.

Ya know my parents are right. I grew up in a narrow-minded river town. One that thrived on rumors, turned out shoes, and kicked you in the gut if you were different. I was a biracial girl growing up in a one color town, I was a child with ADD taught by those who couldn’t see my potential, and mostly I was a girl who wanted to be left alone. I recently received a Facebook friend request from my high school bully. I was taken back, the memories shot through my mind like fire to the prairie. All of the pain I buried rose to the surface. I quickly threw my iPhone to the floor (thank God I have an otter box) and feverishly started cleaning my stove. I chose to leave it. I didn’t hit confirm or deny, I just left her hanging in the wind.

You see Sara grew up just around the corner from me and for some reason it was her goal to make my life miserable. High school was the worst, she would tell people that I was poor, that I was ugly, stupid, dirty, and so on. Teachers they ignored the insults that flung across the isle, they turned their heads, as I held back the tears. I finally had enough at the end of ninth grade, I came to my Mom in tears at my spring choir concert, My Mama vowed to make it stop. My dad on the other hand took matters into his own hands and called up her father. A meeting was set, we sat face to face our parents at our sides, and Sara proclaimed “I just want to be her friend. That’s all I want.” Lies spewed from her mouth as she tried her best to cover up her wrongs. The truth it came seeping through and she as told to leave me alone. That very moment set the tone for my high school career. Rumors flowed behind my back, people never forgot the lies she weaved and I couldn’t wait to break free.

You made fun of me for being in the FFA, for working at McDonalds and for buying my cloths at Kmart. Sara, I was never one to keep up with labels. Kmart was the only “department store” in town and well the clothes at Maurices were not my style. To this day I am still sporting my signature cardigan. (not the same ones I had in high school thou) Class, lady it never goes out of style. I wouldn’t be the leader I am today if it were not for the FFA. I am passionate about consumer driven agriculture and can often be found getting dirty in a garden. Red Wing is a farming town, lets face it Goodhue county has more livestock than people. So why not take the time to learn where our food comes from and to grow the perfect pot of petunias. Now for my getting a job in high school, see below……….

Sara, my family is far from poor. I got a job at McDonald’s during high school because I was tired of asking my parents for money. I wanted to make my own and not spend there’s. You see Sara, I grew up in town and spent my weekends at my family’s country house. Three cars lined our driveway, one of them is a 69 mustang that hasn’t seen the light of day in years. My Mom and Dad always made sure that my sister and I had everything and anything we wanted. In hind sight they were probably to good to us. Because now my sister and I need a support group for spoiled child syndrome. One lesson my parents taught me has always stuck with me an that is: “those who have money hide it and those that don’t flaunt it.”

I don’t spend my days keeping up with the Jones, I never have and I never will. You tried so hard to break my spirit and to knock me down the mountain. Your insults were my ammunition, each one whispered made me work harder. I knew my mind would be my ticket out of that backwater town. I cried in my mom’s arms, my diploma in my hand, not because I was sad, but because I was finally fucking free of you. I no longer had to see your face every day. I no longer had to put up with the whispers, I was finally fucking free.

Darling, I stretched my wings and I aimed higher than you could ever dream. I picked a college that I knew no one from Red Wing would attend. In Superior I came into my own, in Superior I discovered my voice, I found my grace, and mostly I shined. Through the hallowed halls I walked studying the laws that built our country. Dr. Cuzzo she helped me realize that I had the power to change the world. She’d tell me “never stop, you are so bright.” That was the first time a teacher ever told me I was bright. In her eyes I didn’t have ADD stamped on my forehead instead my intelligence pushed through.

Sara in the past 13 years I have set foot on three continents, got married, survived a stroke, lost a child, got divorced, dined with politicians, danced in the rain, and loved like I was dying. My voice is helping raise awareness about strokes in young women. I pounded the pavement in DC, crisscrossed the country lobbying for a better day, and took a moment to look into my nieces eyes. I have gone further than you will ever go. For you see I no longer fear the label you placed on me. You were right Sara I am different, I am so different from you that I am extraordinary. It takes an incredible amount of courage to stand up and to fight back.

Because of you Sara I strived to change the world and to make it a better place. Mostly I strove to return one day and walk up to you and say “Fuck you, fuck all of you” and then proceed to walk out of our high school reunion. Which I was totally going to do. However I decided that you weren’t worth my time. You see Sara you no longer have power and I will never mark my word be your friend. Not on Facebook and defiantly not in real life.

Different is beautiful and remember whose toes you step on because you just might have to bend down and kiss their ass one day!

{Love Thy…..} Put a Lime in the Coconut Body Scrub

Over the past year I have changed my diet, gone are the days of processed food and eating out almost every day. Instead I only shop the outer isles of the grocery store, buy organic, and buy local whenever possible. My diet is 85% clean and my health has immensely improved. I have more energy and weigh less. The number on he scale no longer matters to me, its how I feel about the person in the mirror that matters. Since I have cleaned up my diet I started to wonder what else I could do to improve my health and decrease my impact on the planet.

Enter the bathroom, I like every other woman on this planet have a cabinet full of lotions, potions, and serums that I use to improve the look of my skin. I like you can barely pronounce the ingredient list on the back of the bottles. Lush is one of my favorite stores and their natural bath products smell amazing. Now I can pronounce every ingredient that’s in a Lush product and know that it is free of chemicals. So I thought to myself……..”could I make my own body scrub?”

Google told me that it was possible, the recipes for homemade body scrubs were endless. I wanted it to be simple, something that I could throw together in under ten minutes. I don’t do complicated and I wanted a scrub that was budget friendly. After doing a little research, trial and error I came up with my own scrub.

I call it: Put a Lime in the Coconut Body Scrub

ingredients You will need four simple ingredients: Sugar, Salt, Coconut Oil, and the zest of 1 Lime.

coconut oil Melt 1/4 cup of coconut oil in the microwave for about 1 minute.

salt and oil Add 1/2 cup sugar to the melted coconut oil.

salt sugar oil Add 1/2 cup salt to the sugar and coconut oil.

lime zest Add the zest of 1 lime to the salt, sugar, and coconut oil.

Stir Stir the lime zest, salt, sugar, and coconut oil together.

body scrub Spoon the mixture into a jar, seal with an airtight lid, then store it in a cool dry place.

The sugar and salt smooth your rough spots, while the coconut oil hydrates your skin. I use the scrub about twice a week and it keeps my skin super soft. Plus the hit of lime will chase away the winter blues.

{Ninja In The City} Living Large in 465 Sq Ft

What can I say I have mad love for the city of Minneapolis. In the winter our friendship is tested by snow emergencies, however when spring comes our words are forgotten, and I fall madly in love all over again. I live in uptown, an up and coming hip neighborhood on the southwest side of Minneapolis. In this area of town commercial blends seamlessly with residential and one can often find a cute trendy shop to pop into. In my area condo/apartment buildings blend in with single family homes. I am just a short walk from the lake and an even shorter walk from a big cemetery.

A cemetery may creep you out, however I find it peaceful and I can honestly spend hours strolling through the stones. It’s a way to learn about the cities past and how people memorialize their loved ones. One can find simple stones mixed in with the ornate mausoleums along side famous and not so famous citizens of years past. When I am not poking around in the cemetery you can find me and the muppet like dog walking around Calhoun.

The lakes are truly a treasure and one can spend an entire day dodging the suburbanite. Summer brings the suburbanite into the city. They like to feel as if they are hip and trendy. They are far from hip, they stick out like a sore thumb, and the hipsters give them the square eye. Calhoun is lined with many swim beaches and it is a sailing lake. Its fun to go down on a week day afternoon and nestle in with a good book on the beach. During the week the beaches are not as crowded and you can take in the suns rays while watching a sail boat lazily drift by.

Now I love my neighborhood I have two really cute cafes right around the corner from my apartment, a coffee shop and a pizza joint are also just a short walk away. Everyone is friendly, parking is not a problem,and the crime is practically non-existent. Best of all its quiet, you simply forget you live in Minneapolis because our little part of uptown is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Calhoun Square.

Necklaces In uptown the apartments are small and you will usually get a trendy pink tiled bathroom, a remanent of the 1960’s. At frist I hated my pink bathroom, it has grown on me. I have decorated my bathroom with a few pieces from my costume jewelry collection. It gives you something to look at while you are taking care of business and adds needed pops of color.

Pops of color anchor my living room design. I spend most of my free time in my living room so I wanted into to be comfortable and cozy. My couch is from IKEA it is the Karlstad Sofa in Dark and so if my coffee table. Truth be told my apartment is littered with IKEA furniture. What can I say it fits my budget and style.Living Room 1 I puffy heart the Swedish and their gift of IKEA to America. The pillows on my couch and the throw are from Target. Living room 2Target is my happy place and where I do my hard thinking while strolling down the isles. The gum ball machine is a vintage piece from my Father. I love mixing vintage with modern or reproduction pieces. During my travels around the globe I have amassed a large collection of nick nacks and use them as decoration through out my apartment. I love having my nick nacks on display, each one has a story and they are reminders of my journey. I also have a lot of Native American pieces, they remind me to be humble and of my heritage. I come from a long line of warriors who fought for a better day.

I rest my head next to the muppet each night. I wanted my bedroom to be simple yet quaint. Again I have pops of color to brighten my morning. Each day I wake up to Pairs. Bed Room 2How can you not wake up smiling when the first thing you see is a photo of Paris. When it came to linens I had to keep my trusty muppet in mind. I didn’t want any thing fussy or with a tag that read “dry clean only.” If you have a dog then you know how dirty they can and will be. Cullen thinks its fun to roll on the bed when he is muddy and wet. My coverlet is from IKEA and the sheets are from Target. Both can be machine washed and they are pretty darn cozy. My dresser is lined with turtles and photos of family and friends. I have a few paintings on my walls as well. Bed Room 3 To me my room is well-organized (I love organized spaces) and cozy. I don’t know about you but instead of a monster under my bed I have a muppet. Cullen when he gets to warm or tired of my tossing and turning leaps off and curls up under the bed. The muppet is a funny one. One of his favorite words is “Nap.” He goes nuts when I ask him if he wants to take a nap. He jumps right in bed and snuggles up next to me licking my cheek as I fall a sleep.

Enough about sleeping. After all everyone knows the real magic happens in the kitchen. An well my kitchen is literally from the pages of the IKEA catalog. kitchen 2 My kitchen is small, however I am not complaining and I make it work. Many tasty things have come out of my kitchen and many more have yet to be made. The muppet is always nestled at my feet as I cook. He loves it when we make bacon an waffles for breakfast. kitchen 1I always make a little extra for sharing.

I am a Minneapolis girl who is desperately awaiting the return of spring. The gray winter days have gone on far to long and it is time to tuck away the parka and snow boats. It’s a dream I know, but I have faith that spring thou late will return to this lovely city. I want to fall in love all over again with her many lakes, patios, and farmers markets. One must be tough to be a Minneapolisnite, well all you really have to do is learn the rules of “hide and go park,” having your car towed is no fun. It hasn’t happened to me yet, however I have stood in line and waited with friends. In the end it doesn’t matter where you live. What matters is that you a living large and treating each day as a gift.

{Love Thy Farmer, Not Thy Brand} Historic PickWick Grist Mill

Follow the Great River Road from Minneapolis to Southern Minnesota and beyond. Along the road you will find many hidden gems and tid bits of our states history. Hwy 61 is lined with dozens of brown historical marker signs. Most signs will lead you to historical markers that tell you about days gone by. Take the turn off to Pickwick, I promise you will not be disappointed. Nestled along the river sits a 6 story limestone brick grist mill.

The Pickwick Mill was built from 1856 to 1858 by Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis. It is one of the oldest water powered grist mills in southeast Minnesota. Pickwick is Constructed as a gristmill and sawmill on the banks of Big Trout Creek. The mill ran 24 hours a day during the Civil War and produced 100 barrels daily for the Union Army. After the war, the mill became a flour-milling center for most of southern Minnesota and portions of Iowa and Wisconsin.

Pickwick mill was built from locally quarried limestone, with a timber frame that was so closely fit, that nails were not used except to nail the floorboards down to the joists. The six-story building was severely damaged in 1907 when a tornado took off the roof and top storage room. The mill was then retrofitted with a flat plank roof. The mill’s roof has been restored to reflect the originl design.

$3.00 gets you in the door. Pickwick is a self guided tour and the mill is filled with fantastic artifacts of our nations milling past. The elevator only carries grain, so you will have to walk all six fleights of stairs yourself. The friendly staff are happy to turn on the educational video (yes I said video) and answer any questions that you may have.

So travel the river road, let the brown signs be your guide, and pull off in Pickwick for a glimps of days gone bye.

PickWick Historic Mill Tourist Iformation
Location Address:
24813 County Rd. 7,
Winona, Minnesota 55987

Days and Hours of Operation
The Pickwick Mill will be open
* Weekends during May, September, and October
* Tuesday through Sunday during June, July, and August
Hours of operation:
10AM – 5PM Tuesday through Saturday
11AM – 5PM Sunday
Tours at other times available by appointment. Call 507-457-0499,
507-457-3296, 507-457-9658

Ticket Purchase
Tickets cost $3 adults, $2 teenagers over age 12, $1 children age 12 or under. Group tour prices available.

For more informtion visit: http://www.pickwickmill.org

{Love Thy Farmer} Auntie Annie’s Fields

So why did the chicken cross the road? I know that’s an age-old question, however I do believe I know the answer. Gone are the days of the small family farm. Farming has been modernized. We as Americans have found a way to grow our chickens quicker, bigger, and apparently better. The average size of a factory farm chicken is between 20 and 35 pounds. The chickens actually grow so big that their little legs snap under their body weight. Grocery store shelves are lines with chicken breasts the size of your head. Factory farm chickens graze on feed that is injected with growth hormones and antibiotics. We then turn around and eat that chicken. One has to question “How do the growth hormones and antibiotics affect the human body?” I dared to ask that question.

The further away we get from the farmer the less healthy our bodies become. Our health is connected to the food we eat. What we eat depends on the health of the land. I wanted healthy chickens that I could be happy about eating. Thanks to Google I came upon Auntie Annie’s fields. Auntie Annie’s Fields raise natural free range chickens on a small farm in Dundas Minnesota. The lucky chickens end up at Elizabeth and Ian’s farm. Here the chickens get to spend their days wondering the fields eating bugs, clover, and doing the things chickens do. They are not confined to a dark barn like on a factory farm, instead there coop is on wheels and is moved from field to field. Auntie Annie’s chickens get a lot of fresh air and room to roam. Keeping the flock small allows them to maintain the health of their birds and they do not need to use antibiotics like conventional producers.

I had the pleasure of Meeting Elizabeth and her adorable children when I picked up my chickens at the Northfield Farmers Market. Instantly I knew my chickens were going to be good. Why, because you can instantly tell when someone puts a lot of love and passion into their product. To Elizabeth these are not just chickens, she is raising good quality food that will nourish the soul. Elizabeth and Ian have mastered the art of growing food and that is something a factory farm will never do. Auntie Annie’s focuses on quality, not quantity. Unlike the factory farms that care more about profit than quality.

Not only do Elizabeth and Ian grow healthy chickens, they also dedicate a part of their land to be used by the Main street Project, which is making land and infrastructure available to aspiring Latino chicken farmers. Auntie Annie’s Fields gives Latino farmers access to land and creates economic opportunities for rural Latino families. Now that’s a farm I can stand behind.

Do you want some incredible chickens? I know you do! You can head on out to the farmers market in Northfield and say “Hi” to Elizabeth and her cute kids on the dates below:

The Riverwalk Market Fair is open 9 a.m.-2 p.m., and is right on the Cannon River in downtown Northfield. We’ll be there every other Saturday: 6/16, 6/23, 7/7, 7/21, 8/4, 8/18, 9/1, 9/15, 9/29, 10/13, 10/20, 10/27.

Don’t want to make a trip to Northfield? Lucky for you they travel to Minneapolis:

Minneapolis: every 3rd Sunday, June through October (6/17, 7/15, 8/19, 9/16, and 10/21). We’ll be in the Longfellow neighborhood, about a mile south of Lake Street, and about a mile west of the Mississippi River.

Want to know more about Auntie Annie’s Fields? Well then visit them on the web:


So why did the chicken cross the road? It got tired of the factory farm and went to join the happy chickens at Auntie Annie’s Fields.

{For the Love of Cheese} Bass Lake Cheese Factory

If you have found yourself without weekend plans I have a suggestion. Minnesota is right next to the dairy state and let me tell you “there is nothing like handcrafted Wisconsin Cheese!” The state of Wisconsin is littered with small family owned cheese factories and dairies. Lucky for us Minneapolis is pretty darn close to the Bass Lake Cheese Factory. I actually found Bass Lake a few years ago by accident. I got lost on my way to Somerset and stopped in for directions, now I go there on purpose.

Bass Lake Cheese factory has been a Wisconsin staple since 1918. Today the state of Wisconsin has less than 200 cheese factories, many of them are automated and no longer make cheese by hand. The old-fashioned traditions of cheese making are a live and well at Bass Lake. The Cheese Master continues to use traditional recipes and techniques to create an amazing variety. Hastings creamery supplies Bass Lake with the milk that is needed to create the different types of cheese. You can’t get more local than that, Bass Lake is truly a gem in the dairy state’s crown.

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to make a good quality cheese? I know I have. During my visit I chatted with the very friendly counter staff and they gave me a brief lesson in the art of cheese making. I learned that it typically takes about 8 hours to make cheese and that all cheese is actually white. Yellow was used if the cheese was of the cheddar variety and white signaled that the cheese was a jack. Today the same coloring system is still used to identify the different types of cheeses. No worries, the dye is vegetable based and is chemical free. “I like the sound of chemical free cheese, I want cheese in my cheese, not chemicals with my cheese.”

The staff at Bass Lake are very helpful and love to answer questions. If you have a question about a certain cheese or need help pairing it with wine just ask. Bass Lake is known for their Butter Jack, no butter is not in the cheese. Butter Jack is similar to Monterey Jack however it has a richer creamier flavor. They even have CHEESE CURDS! What, you’ve never heard of the curd before. Well then you’ve come to the right blog. Curds are cheese that has yet to be pressed into a solid block. You can eat cheese curds straight out of the bag or you can dip them in beer batter (Yes beer batter) and deep fry them. Trust me once you sink your teeth into a curd, you’ll never look at cheese the same way again. At Bass Lake curds come in plain or flavored. Plain curds make me a happy girl, however when I am feeling a bit daring I will go for the Cajun flavored curds.

In addition to fresh cheese Bass Lake offers made to order sandwiches, pizzas, soft serve ice cream and cool drinks. They have a good selection of beer and wine to go along with the cheese you bought. The factory also sells an array of jams, jellies, and syrups from local Wisconsin companies. The best part of the factory is the viewing window that looks into the factory. Yes, you can watch them make cheese and stroll through their collection of antique cheese making equipment. Bass Lake has a large deck outside and welcomes bikers. So why not get lost and find your way to the Bass Lake Cheese Factory.

If you don’t want to get lost, here is the address:
Bass Lake Cheese Factory
598 Valley View Trail
Somerset WI 54025

or visit them on the web: http://www.blcheese.com

{Buy Local} Love Thy Farmer, Not Thy Brand

A couple of months ago I made a conscious decision to no longer buy dairy and meat products from my local grocery store. I grew up in a farm to table family. My parents always bought meat from our local butcher and fresh produce from a farm co-op in Wisconsin. My mom purchased very little at our grocery store, can goods were the anti christ in our house. If we didn’t make it from scratch, then well we didn’t eat it. One could say that we were organic before organic was cool.

Lately I have been doing a lot of research on factory farming, feed lots, and so on. My thought process changed the moment I watched a clip of chickens that were so large their legs broke when they tried to walk. A chicken is not meant to be 40 plus pounds. A chicken breast should not be as big as your head. We do not have solid research on the effects genetically engineered food has on our bodies. Hell its been found that most processing plants spray the meat with a solution to kill bacteria, then we turn around and eat that. I’m sorry but I do not want any chemicals with my meat, I just want plain old meat.

Truth, I am an agriculture geek and I was even president of the Red Wing FFA. Farmers are amazing people and their connection to the land they til runs deep. I have a soft spot for organic farmers and their families. I want to know the family that is raising my food and not the label the store sells. Each farm, each family has a story to tell, and they are the reason we all have food on our tables.

My table has wonderful organic free range pork and chicken on it. I get giddy when I place my order and then the farmer calls me to confirm. If something is out of stock they don’t go to the back of the store to get more, instead they say “AJ it’s going to be a while, we are currently raising ______ for your consumption in the fall.” I love it when they tell me that!

We have the power as consumers to fight back against the factory and to put the profits back into the pockets of the families that tend the soil. Many farmers are losing ground and are handing over their deeds to corporations. Many are going into debt in an attempt to stay alive. If they do not change or do what the Corporation says, their contract is pulled, and they are left with a mountain of bills.

You and I can end this, end this once and for all, you just need to join me and buy local. Buying local is a small part, yet its the wake up call Washington needs. The FDA and USDA are riddled with former Monsanto, Tyson, USA BEEF, and Cargill executives. They are the ones making the decisions regarding our food, our health, and for what to create a profit. That is what our country has come to “Profit over People.” Our small farmers are barely holding on and they are praying for a record yield that will quiet the banker. They are praying for someone like you to see the light and to fight against the feed lot down the road. They are fighting to put food on the table for their family, while trying to grow food for yours.

My table will be a symbol of one almost 30 something’s dream to end the factory farm and to bring the farmer to my home. Food always taste better when its grown with a smidge of love, strength, and hope for a better day. After all farming is what made America the great nation it is, that and the rail road. The rails brought the grain to port, the port brought it to the river, and the mighty Mississippi brought the grain belt of the midwest to the world.

Drinks, Flats, and Ninja Antics

I am a firm believer that everything in life no matter good or bad happens for a reason. My last position ended miserably, yet even then I found a piece of silver in the lining. Maybe I was brought there to meet the wonderful Miss. Angela. I am grateful for her friendship and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite BFFs. Yea, Yea I know I’ve got like 300 BFFs. Come on now, every Ninja needs a pack and well my BFFs are my Ninja crew.

Ninjas always travel in pairs. It’s true they do. Friday night we went out to celebrate my new-found employment. I love my job. What can I say its a big giant leap forward from the last joint I worked. Professionalism rules the day and best of all there is no Kansas girl. Thank God for that! An its blissfully quiet no annoying shrill talking about their family in the background, just pure silent bliss. This was worth celebrating. An Celebrate we did. Dinner at Barrio yummy margaritas, The Big Ginger at The Local, and well all evenings must end in cake. Angela was a very good sport, putting up with my ADD brain and the ooo let’s go here, now there mind set.

Saturday morning brought me a nasty surprise. The Prius had a flat. I was on my way into do some work at the firm and didn’t notice that I had a flat tire until I drove half way down the block. Yay for AAA, they came quick, changed my tire and I was on my way. Thanks to the tire protection plan, I didn’t have to pay for the repair. Sadly the tire tech told me that there was a screw in my tire and that I didn’t pick it up on the road. Someone put the screw into the side wall of my tire. What the hell, can’t people just leave things alone. Do you realize how dangerous that could have been if my tire blew while going 70mph? Do you realize I could have been hurt? Thank God I was close to home and only going 20mph when I noticed it. I have a sneaking suspicion of who placed said screw in my tire. On the bright side I didn’t let the flat get me down. Nope not one bit. Tires are fixable, life is to short, and well what goes around comes around.

In deed it does. Life works in mysterious ways. Part of my Saturday plans were tossed because of the tire. Yet, I didn’t let me stop it from my pending Ninja Antics. There is always Ninja time. I had an awesome afternoon teaching a group of kids about CSA’s and helping them plant a community garden. Dirty hands are the best hands to have. It reminds us that we are connected to this earth and that it is a part of us. After the garden was planted, it was time to tackle The Bear at Pizza Luce with friends and sip wine while watching the clouds roll by. This, this is the life. Everything I’ve worked for has finally come to me. Hard work and ninja antics alway pay off in the end.


Ninjas lets all say it together “Hydroponics.”

I first learned about hydroponics in my high school horticulture 101 class. It was me and a bunch of zit faced awkward teenage boys in that class. But, that is where my nerdiness showed for sustainable agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture.

Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota and that means its planting season. Well sort of, we’ve had a very cold spring and it doesn’t want to make me put my hands in the soil. So I’ve started my plants in doors with out soil.

What No soil? Trust me this isn’t star trek technology and no it’s not some new age science. Its called Hydroponics, a method of growing plants in a nutrient rich water solution instead of soil.


Some of the reasons why hydroponics is being adapted around the world for food production are the following:

No soil is needed
The water stays in the system and can be reused – thus, lower water costs
It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety – thus, lower nutrition costs
No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system
Stable and high yields
Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container’s mobility


The hydroponic conditions (presence of fertilizer and high humidity) create an environment that stimulates salmonella growth. Other disadvantages include pathogen attacks such as damp-off due to Verticillium wilt caused by the high moisture levels associated with hydroponics and over watering of soil based plants. Also, many hydroponic plants require different fertilizers and containment systems.


The two main types of hydroponics are solution culture and medium culture. Solution culture does not use a solid medium for the roots, just the nutrient solution. The three main types of solution culture are static solution culture, continuous-flow solution culture and aeroponics. The medium culture method has a solid medium for the roots and is named for the type of medium, e.g., sand culture, gravel culture, or rockwool culture.

There are two main variations for each medium, sub-irrigation and top irrigation. For all techniques, most hydroponic reservoirs are now built of plastic, but other materials have been used including concrete, glass, metal, vegetable solids, and wood. The containers should exclude light to prevent algae growth in the nutrient solution.

I prefer the Ebb and flow or flood and drain subirrigation method of hydroponics. In its simplest form, there is a tray above a reservoir of nutrient solution. Either the tray is filled with growing medium (clay granules being the most common) and planted directly or pots of medium stand in the tray. At regular intervals, a simple timer causes a pump to fill the upper tray with nutrient solution, after which the solution drains back down into the reservoir. This keeps the medium regularly flushed with nutrients and air. Once the upper tray fills past the drain stop, it begins recirculating the water until the pump is turned off, and the water in the upper tray drains back into the reservoirs.

Hydroponics gives a solution to create a sustainable food source for the world population. A Minnesota company Bushel Boy Tomamtes is currently using hydroponics to grow their delicious bright red tomatoes. If one small company can harness the power of hydroponics to provide in season tomatoes to all Minnesotans. Imagine what you could do with this technology in your own lives. My parents grow herbs hydrologically throughout the winter. Everyone loves having fresh herbs at their finger tips.

So the next time you’re at the farmers market look for hydrologically grown fruits, veggies, and herbs. There out there, trust me. You may of just eaten a hydrologically grown plant for dinner. Heres to community supported agriculture and harnessing the power of hydroponics.