Posts Tagged: spring 2016 Inspire(d)

What We’re Loving – Spring 2016

Spring 2016: A little list of what we think is awesome in the Driftless Region right now…

FarmersMarket_Small

CSA Decorah

WhatWereLoving_LogoWhen we asked Roxie what momma’s favorite food was, her answer was “lettuce.” Momma would actually say it’s a tie between lettuce (aka salads of any sort) and pizza. But suffice it to say we like our fresh veggies around here. Luckily, here in the Driftless Region, we are surrounded by an amazing crop (pun!) of real-deal farmers. Vegetables. Meats. Flowers. The array at local farmer’s markets in mid-season is astonishing. We also love going the community supported agriculture (CSA) route because it’s often a great deal (more goods for the money, woot!) and we get to explore different options of products that we might not normally choose. So we were excited to find out there is a new coalition of Decorah-area CSA-sellers working together under the umbrella CSA Decorah.

You can check out www.csadecorah.com to see profiles of each of the farms that are working together on this project, as well as details on their CSA offerings. Offerings vary from weekly subscriptions of assorted in-season vegetables and products, to market shares (you put money on your “account”, then just bring your bag to the market and write down your purchase amount – it will get subtracted until you’re out of funds), flower subscriptions, and more. Supporting your local farmer not only tastes amazing, it closes an incredible financial loop to support local ag. Whoohooo for that! Visit csadecorah.com or facebook.com/csadecorah to learn more.

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Mid West Music Fest: Where music and community meet

We love Winona’s annual community-centered music festival, Mid West Music Fest. In six short years, the fest has quickly grown to be a fun gathering of fantastic proportions for regional music lovers. What started as an idea of Winona’s Sam Brown in 2010 now brings over 100 acts to multiple venues throughout downtown Winona.

True to its community mission, MWMF is all-inclusive: it’s an all-ages, multiple-venue, multiple-genre, multiple-day affair. In fact, MWMF is even jumping out of Winona this year with a 1-day fest in La Crosse to start the fun, Saturday, April 16 (say hi to Benji doing audio at the Cavalier if you go!). The main festivities in Winona run April 28-30, 2016. The fun kicks off Thursday night with a special show at the historic Masonic Theatre in Winona featuring Jeremy Messersmith and Romantica. The great line-up continues through the weekend with regional favorites such as People Brother’s Band, Apollo Cobra, Charlie Parr, and lots, lots more.

MWMF organizers are also super excited to announce that Midwest independent music moguls Daytrotter will be recording sessions all weekend for future web session releases. Cool!

MWMF has become an incredible showcase for bands from the upper Midwest and beyond – as well as a showcase of downtown Winona, which just like the mighty Mississippi, keeps right on flowin’. Don’t miss all the music – advance tickets (or greatly appreciated donations for the non-profit festival) at www.midwestmusicfest.org

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Syttende Mai in Spring Grove, MN.

Syttende Mai Gosh!

The 17th of May. Seems like a good day for a celebration. Amiright?!?

But in all seriousness: Syttende Mai, or the 17th of May, is a holiday lovingly embraced by much of the Scandinavian population in our Driftless Region. It marks the May 17, 1814, signing of the constitution that would serve as the basis of government in Norway while they were in union with Sweden. Thus Syttende Mai commemorates “Norwegian Constitution Day.”

It also offers up an annual excuse to enjoy spring while celebrating all things Scandinavian. (But who needs an excuse?!)

Vesterheim in Decorah puts on a large, family-friendly event on the actual 17th of May, with activities, food, and fun for all ages. Details at vesterheim.org.

The City of Spring Grove, Minnesota, throws an even larger shindig – always on a weekend near to the 17th. This year’s festivities run May 20-22, and feature Giants of the Earth Academy, Norwegian craft and food demos, the grand parade, a quilt show, a car show, and tons of food and entertainment throughout town throughout the whole weekend. Check out details at www.sgsyttendemai.com.

Luckily, Westby, Wisconsin’s Syttende Mai celebration is the weekend BEFORE Syttende Mai: May13-15. It highlights bike tours, a 5k run/walk and half marathon, and, of course, Norwegian history, food, and fun. Find more info at www.westbysyttendemai.com.

So what are you waiting for? Brush off the bunad and get ready for some scandihoovian fun!

Shoes

Wanna Race?

We love getting a good race on our calendars to get us motivated to lace up those running shoes, head outdoors, and get a bit of exercise in the Driftless! Feeling the same way? Sign up for one of these road races or events on tap throughout the region this spring!

APRIL
April 17:

Sole Burner Hula Hustle 5K Run/Walk and Kids RunOnalaska, Wisconsin

MAY
May 1:
Unleash the She 5K and 10K Run, Kids Run, and Coed Walk, Rochester, Minnesota

May 7:
Grandad Half Marathon 13.1M Run and Three Rivers 5K Run/Walk
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Rockin’ Robin Run, 20K, Half-Marathon, and 10K Runs; 5K Run/Walk; and Kids RunRochester, Minnesota

May 20:
Stay Out of the Sun Run 5K and 10KRochester, Minnesota

May 21:
Root River TriathlonHouston, Minnesota

May 28:
Barre 5K Shuffle Run/WalkBarre Milles, Wisconsin

May 29:
Scheels Med City Marathon and Half MarathonRochester, Minnesota

JUNE
June 4:
Driftless Discovery Trail Run 10K, 5K, 1M Trail RunDecorah, Iowa

Chester Woods Trail Races 50K, 10M, 5K Trail RunEyota, Minnesota

Rhubarb Run 5K, 1M RunLanesboro, Minnesota

June 18:
Running with the Stars 5K Run/WalkLa Crosse, Wisconsin

Insane Inflatable 5K Obstacle RunRochester, Minnesota

June 19:
Got Energy Triathlon, Sprint and IntermediateWest Salem, Wisconsin

Rochester Triathlon, Sprint and OlympicRochester, Minnesota

Houston Nature Center

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Houston Nature Center
215 West Plum Street
Houston, Minnesota, 55943
www.houstonnaturecenter.com
507-896-4668

Hours: Vary by season; check website for current hours
Admission: Free, but donations always welcome

The realistic taxidermy displays – have you ever looked a fox or an otter in the eye? – are impressive. The timber rattlesnake exhibit is fierce. But the real star of the Houston Nature Center is its natural playground, opened in 2013.

“Kids just love it,” says Connie Verse, center manager. “Actually, so do adults.”

Take a look at photos of the center’s latest addition and it’s easy to see why.

No swings or jungle gyms dot the decidedly untraditional play scape. Instead, pedestal pipes create opportunities for music. A sand pit (with hidden fossils!) invites digging. Stone tunnels and caves promote old-fashioned games of hide-and-seek. A wooden wall facilitates climbing. Straw bales invite stacking. And a slide provides plain, old-fashioned fun.

“The oldest person who has gone down our slide was over 80, and the youngest was riding in a parent’s arm,” says Verse. “The playground is just one of the ways we help people of all ages unplug from technology and get out and experience nature.”

HNC_exterior

Built in 2001, the center sits on 18 scenic, peaceful acres at Trailhead Park and functions as the eastern trailhead of the 60-mile Root River Trail System. In addition to its natural play scape, the park offers a native prairie and primitive walk-in camping facilities – nine tent-only sites, available on a first-come, first-serve basis – along with shower and restroom facilities that Verse proudly describes as “the best along the entire Root River Trail.”

For almost 15 years, the center was also synonymous with Alice, the great horned owl that now “works” at the International Owl Center in downtown Houston. And while the owl-based programming that was once a Houston Nature Center staple is now offered a stone’s throw away at the International Owl Center, there are plenty of other programs planned for the spring and summer sure to interest nature enthusiasts of all ages.

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In June the center will begin offering its popular children’s summer programs – which include hands-on educational activities, play time, and (of course!) snacks – two Wednesdays a week. Family–friendly programs are offered every Saturday through the year and focus on a single topic each month. Wetlands will be spotlighted in May, pollination in June, biking and bike safety in July, and arts and nature in August.

“Our mission is to educate people – children in particular – regarding nature and its benefits and to help people experience the outdoors,” says Verse. “Between our natural playground, our camping facilities, and our programming, everyone is bound to find something of interest here.”

What not to miss: A guided walking tour to the Houston sign on the bluff will take place at the center during the Houston Hoedown, July 29–31.

See more Driftless Nature Center profiles here!

– By Sara Friedl-Putnam

Probituary: A Notice of Life! Jim Schaffer

Jim Schaffer, born July 14, 1934 on the family farm in Iowa, on what was one of the hottest days of that century. Interviewed by friend Gayle  Nielsen

Some people are just so interesting that you NEED to let others know. Jim Schaffer is one of those people. We first met Jim and his wife, Judy, when they became our neighbors, moving into the house across the road from us from when their son, Ed and his wife Vickie moved to the next house down the road. It was so nice being included in the family gatherings and getting to know everyone.

One of the things that people notice about Jim is that he never stops learning. Even after retiring from iron working, he continued making iron yard and garden sculptures and even an iron spiral staircase at the house. It looked like a pirate lookout. He taught himself to paint and to make guitars. He just keeps getting better and better and learning new things. Jim is one of the most real and kind folks out there. It was a sad day for us when Jim and Judy moved away, and even sadder when Judy passed last year, but it’s nice to stay connected through family and through music.

GayleJim

Interviewer Gayle with Jim and her new guitar.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I think I heard it from real estate folks… “get a lot while you’re young”.

How about the worst?

My advice to myself. I made a lot of bad decisions, but never anything with my family. I learned from my mistakes. I always did what I thought was “proper”. My family never heard foul language around the house even though I used it maybe 50 times a day around my fellow iron workers. I’m a product of the 1940s and I just don’t think cussing is proper (unless it’s in front of the cat).

What did you want to be when you grew up?

An iron worker. Always an iron worker. I also liked carpentry.

What do/did you do?

I was initiated into the iron workers union in 1962, at 21 years old. That was young. We worked as high as 1100 feet in the air, and there was no safety gear in those days. We iron workers were “the elite” then. I thought I could whip Ali (Muhammad Ali). I retired in 1996. Now I paint, especially portraits and play and build guitars.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?

Gin, vermouth, and olives.

Try to describe yourself in one sentence.

I have the ability to laugh at myself.

If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Macaroni and cheese. Of course, it’s not the healthiest thing, but macaroni and cheese.

Name one thing you could not live without.

Music. I started making guitars because I wanted a 7-string guitar for myself, so I started with a classical guitar and lumber from the lumberyard to make it. Then made the next one, out of rosewood, for my son Jimmy, and now I’m making guitars for disabled veterans and custom guitars for other musicians. I’m booked for the next year with orders.

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Jim with his late wife, Judy.

Tell us about your wedding day or your favorite memory.

My favorite memory is my wedding day. I married Judy, in a church, in 1955. I never really dated anyone else. That pastor didn’t want to marry us because we were too young; she was 17 and I was 21. Well, I spent 61 years with her and we never even had a violent argument. I remember my dad giving us a toaster as a wedding present. Back then, we didn’t have big, expensive weddings and the gifts were something we could use.
Every guitar I make now has a hand painting of a bluebird, from Judy’s china pattern, in her memory. Everyone who gets one of my guitars get a painting of a bluebird on it somewhere.