Category Archives: Central Minnesota Landscapes

Brilliant Autumn Weekend

Saturday, Bruce and I drove down to the cities and biked around the lakes.  It was gorgeous out; 80 degrees about midday.  The sky was a bit funky though – it seemed as though there was this hazy in the air.  I don’t know if it is from a fire out west, or if because it is so dry here, and the windy wasn’t blowing – but, whatever, it was strange, and I think the photos show that in the color tones.

Saturday evening, we drove out towards Cold Spring – Bruce drives along the country roads until I shriek “STOP” just like my momma!

Sunday we went to Quarry Park.  There the color was definetly off, because it is so dry.  Normally, the forest floor would all be green still – with a lot of red from sumac.  This year the colors seem more yellow than in previous years.  The drought of the past few months was very evident.


See the flickr gallery here:

Sapling Structure at St. John’s, Collegeville

COLLEGEVILLE — Like something out of a child’s dream, environmental artist Patrick Dougherty’s playful roadside creation defies convention.

The cluster of wooden “chapelets” envisioned by the 67-year-old from Chapel Hill, N.C., was completed Friday afternoon with the help of several local volunteers and students.

“We used sticks by the ton,” Dougherty said at Friday’s outdoor reception, which featured refreshments and live music for the crowd that had gathered to celebrate its completion.

Stella Maris Chapel was the inspiration for his outdoor sculpture, which took three weeks to finish with materials harvested from St. John’s Arboretum.

“We had great weather. And we had an abundance of saplings, which made it easy,” Dougherty said. “Everything went just so perfectly that it was impossible to believe.”

Believing in the impossible, however, was what it took to create “Lean on Me,” his life-size artwork that visitors can explore and walk through at St. John’s University.

“Things that are a little off-kilter are more interesting than things that stand up. These things lean on each other and create a kind of a dependency,” Dougherty said. “They look friendly.”

Students from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University and St. John’s Preparatory School also had a hand in erecting the structure.

“We invited Patrick to come to Central Minnesota to create one of his pieces because he is such a collaborative artist. He doesn’t work alone,” said Brother David Paul Lange, an associate professor of art at CSB/SJU and one of the coordinators of the project.

“Because the nature of our two colleges is so collaborative — so much of what we do here is so collaborative — he and his kind of work seem to fit so perfectly with us, in addition to our focus on sustainability and the environmental studies program here.”

Rachel Melis, an associate professor of art at CSB/SJU and a project coordinator, saw Dougherty’s art on display at other colleges and helped bring him to  Minnesota.

“There are other artists who do use natural materials, but this is natural materials with such a high level of craft and an invitation to human beings to imagine themselves as part of nature … what we can do when we live harmoniously with nature,” Melis said.

The project began Sept. 3 and more than 300 volunteers were involved in the construction, which took place during eight-hour work days, according to Lange.

“I love nature and I love the arboretum, so I thought it was a really cool opportunity to get involved,” said Tess Foster, a junior at St. Ben’s. “One thing that I found really surprising was how malleable the wood was. It was really easy to weave in and out.”

Children at the reception ran in and out of Dougherty’s creation, playing hide-and-seek with the slivers of sunlight that filtered through the rooftops and “windows.”

“With all the buildings leaning on each other, I think it really speaks about this whole community in this area,” Foster said. “It’s just breathtaking to me.”

“Lean on Me” will be on display along the main road  in Collegeville for two years.

“Using only what came from the land right here at St. John’s, Patrick shows us that wonder is all around us,” said Richard Ice, dean of academic affairs at CSB/SJU.

Dougherty said, “Saplings are imaginative objects. And my job as a sculptor is to capture people’s imagination and to build things that make people come running.”


Our Friday Field Trip – Adopt a Hen

Friday, I took a half-day off work.  We had an appointment at 1:00 with Matthew Willenbring, to adopt a hen.  We were going on a field trip!!

The girls were already throwing around names they thought would be good for a hen!  We explained that the adoption process was a little different, in that the hen is  going to stay at the farm with all her sisters; but we can visit any time we want.

We got out to the farm, and Matthew was right there to greet us.  He brought us around took a look around at all the chickens roaming around behind the little white fence.  Matthew has 300+ hens, and they are pasture-raised…so they eat grass, insects, plus a very nutritious blend of
ingredients that Matthew grids up for them. Most of those ingredients too, are grown right there on the farm.

He had three hens separated in a smaller fenced in area.  Those 3 were available for adoption today.  Matthew kneeled down and picked up one of the  hens. We all got to pet the hen – who knew it would be like the softest kitty fur?  The girls each got in the fenced in area and started checking out the feathered girls.

Matthew shared so much information with us about the hens.  Do you know what the comb and waddle are for?  It acts as a radiator to draw the heat away from them, and keep them cool.  Did you know that chicken’s have tongues?  Yep, it looks like a little triangle inside their mouth.  Their eyelids go from the bottom up, opposite of ours.  They each have over 8,000 feathers!  He is so knowledgeable about the species, And so kind and patient, he was fantastic with the kids!  Did you know that the shell of the egg isn’t formed until the last day.  I could only
hope to recall a small portion of the info he told us about cholesterol, LDL and HDL, it was like speaking with a scientist.  Bottom line – these eggs are actually REALLY good for you!

For the price of the adoption ($36) Matthew gives you a punch card for 12 dozen eggs, to pick up whenever you want, and however often you would like.  You can pick up a dozen farm fresh eggs and visit you hen! Did you know that eggs will last for 5 weeks in the refrigerator?  They should be stored point-side down.  There is an air-pocket on the rounder end of the egg, keeping that side up helps in keeping them fresh.

Lydia and Rachel each named their hen.  Lydia’s is Lexis Jeanne and Rachel named her’s Hailey Lynn.  Matthew took a photo of each of the girls with their hen.  And soon they will get  an adoption certificate in the mail.

We decided to take home 2 dozen eggs, so we went in the farm house for the next stop on this fabulous adventure.  The girls needed to help Matthew candle and sort the eggs he had gathered this morning. They got to see each egg go over the spot where the light illuminated
the shell and you could then see if there were any cracks or imperfections in the shell.  Then the eggs get sorted into size by their weight; the girls then put them in the cartons.  They just marveled at the stacks and stacks of empty egg cartons he had!

Next stop, milking cows! There again, we learned the process of how the cows get milked, what temperature the milk comes out at, and just a bunch of other cool things.  He makes it all so interesting, the girls were having a great time!  My favorite fact: the cows go out to
pasture two times a day.  When they return to the barn, they always go back to the same exact stanchion, EVERY. TIME.  There is no fighting about who gets to park where; each one has its own spot and always returns to it.  Looking into the bulk tank of fresh milk, waiting for the milkman to come and pick it up and transport it to the next step in the milk-making process, WOW, that was neat.  The look on Rachel’s face says it all!


On to giving the baby calves water.  These little things are sooo cute!  They really latch on to the bottle.  It was funny because the calf that my dad was giving water to must have been taking her old sweet time, because we moved on without him!  We got to see calves (twins actually, which is rare and very difficult for the mama) that were two days old.

I mentioned to Matthew that the girls were not sure they wanted to have chicken for dinner tonight.  He so beautifully explained the cycle of life;  Before leaving to go home for happy hour, we had to go say goodbye to our newly adopted kin.During our visit to the farm, each one of the girls told me how much fun they were having.  Last night, after a wonderful, fun filled day, when I was tucking in the girls and kissing them goodnight, they each thanked me for taking them there and for getting them each their own hen!  They really had a wonderful time; I would highly recommend going out to adopt a hen, and meet Matthew.

Every hen needs a home…adopt a hen!

Farm Address – 25113 Co Rd 50 ~Cold Spring MN 56320 ~250.1624



SIDE NOTE:  I made  French toast with the eggs this morning, the yolks are nearly orange!  Like little sun shines.  I am anxious to try them scrambled!

Autumn Road Trip

This weekend Bruce and I went on a drive to see the fall colors.  The colors are certainly not peak – far from it, but we did manage to find some beautiful spots!  To view the animoto slide show click here

Road Trip

Tonight, after dinner, Mom and I went out to see some spots she and my dad saw while they were out on a bike ride.  She had all three locations written down for me.  All these are within a few blocks from our home!  Thanks Mom!!

We are all going to miss you so much.  Can you hear the cats crying?

Monticello Swans

photocrati gallery

Trumpeters were once fairly common throughout the U.S. and Canada. During the 19th century, near extinction was caused by market hunting, and mass market use of feathers for hats, pens and writing quills.  Swan eggs were also harvested for eating. By the late 1880’s, it was believed they were extinct, until 1919 when two nests were found in Yellowstone National Park. Minnesota Swan restoration began in 1966, pioneered by the efforts of Hennepin Parks followed by the Minnesota Department of National Resources recovery program in 1982. By 1994, the project had raised and released 215 Trumpeters and estimated a free-flying flock of 250 in Minnesota. Today, Monticello continues to play a key role in rebuilding the Swan population, providing a safe harbor in open river waters during winter months.

Trumpeters weigh between 21-35 lbs. and can live for up to 25 years. They form a pair bond with their mate for life.

Nesting occurs on land between 3 to 6 years of age in remote areas of ½ to 50 acres. Nests are approximately 6-feet around and in late April, 3 to 8 eggs are laid with incubation at 33 days with only a 30% success ratio.  Cygnets are gray colored for the first year and gradually turn snow white.

Trumpeter Swans do not maneuver very well due to their size and need sufficient space for take off and landing. This is why it is important not to scare them as many can be injured trying to escape. Lead poisoning, illegal shooting, power lines, predators and loss of wetland habitat are the main threats to the Trumpeter Swan population.