Finding ways to balance farming and clean water

A story of redemption 26 years ago, Brian Axdahl and his father bought an old sod farm near the St. Croix River and plowed the turf under with moldboard plows. The soil was compacted from years of poor management. Lakes formed in the fields whenever it rained, and runoff flowed to the river, carrying sediments…

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Designing with nature, braiding science with beauty

I was asked, “So, why do you want to study botany?” And I answered, “Because goldenrod and asters are so beautiful together, and I want to know why. I want to know why these stand together. Why do they grow together and look so beautiful when they could grow apart?” “That’s not science,” he said.…

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GreenCorps members prescribe a low-salt diet for Minnesota waters

Water softeners are a surprising part of the problem In 1961, the newly elected President John F. Kennedy launched a program to help mitigate poverty around the world and spread American ideas and goodwill. The Peace Corps program immediately captured the attention of young people around the country, and thousands of applications poured in for…

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Listening for the trees

They say that trees can speak to each other in a language we humans are too busy to hear and too self-absorbed to understand. Peter Wohlleben, a German forester who wrote the now famous book, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, has learned that trees in a forest actually live…

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Valley Creek flows clear on a cold midwinter’s night

As it spins through the galaxy in trajectory around the sun, the Earth leans on its axis, 23.5-degrees. That slightest lean means all the difference between warm summer days, sun on the back and toes in the soft, brown dirt – that and the cold bite of winter, frozen breath before your face and wind…

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Hugo and Forest Lake find innovative ways to Reduce, Reuse & Replenish

Like most suburban communities, the City of Hugo uses nearly half of its municipal water supply to provide some form of irrigation. Unlike most communities, the city is telling residents in some neighborhoods to go ahead and keep the sprinklers running. It’s not that Hugo wants to waste water. In fact, the city is keenly…

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Brown’s Creek fish hoping for a big chill

This is a story about trout. It’s also a story about local history, changing landscapes, and people trying to do the right thing. Somewhere in the wetland dappled landscape near the now-closed Withrow Elementary, water begins to gather and form a stream we now call Brown’s Creek. The stream flows through soggy fields in Grant…

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It’s all about the bees

Washington Conservation District recognizes Pam Arnold & Laurie Schneider for their conservation efforts The bee is a curious ambassador for the Earth. They are little. They sting. They tiptoe across flowers on insect legs, waving insect antenna, and peering out at the world through kaleidoscoped insect eyes. The females do all of the work, and…

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Thankful for toilets that flush

‘Tis the season for gratitude, and this Thanksgiving I’m counting flushing toilets among my many blessings in life. What did people do before toilets were invented? Well, depending on where they lived, they either walked outside to use the outhouse in the freezing cold or did their business in a chamber pot and then dumped…

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Tip-toeing through the Tamaracks

If you sit very quietly in the middle of a tamarack fen and close your eyes, you can hear a goose honking in the distance, a red-winged blackbird trilling from the cattails, and 24 little kids, desperately trying to be still. Woodbury’s Tamarack Nature Preserve is the southern-most tamarack swamp in Minnesota and a jewel…

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