The Mill Towns Trail between Northfield and Dundas is navigable, if you’re not a pussy

Armstrong Road between Northfield and Dundas is still closed from the July 13 flooding (Flooding wipes out Mill Towns Trail bridge, slices Armstrong Road, undermines railroad bed) and it could be months before it reopens.  Likewise, the Mill Towns Trail.

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But there’s a way around, as I discovered last night. From Northfield, just ride your bike through the compost facility

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all the way to the back till you arrive at the big rocks by the reconstructed railroad tracks. Then…

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you can ride on the tracks a few yards till you get past Spring Creek. The small rocks in between the rails make it pretty level. Alternately, if you’ve got good balance like Danny MacAskill, you can just ride on one of the rails like he does here. Smooooooooth. Then…

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ride down the larger rocks (pick your line carefully) and you’ll see the trail a few yards away. Piece ‘o cake.

[Footnote: Does my blog title offend you?  It shouldn’t. Remember when the word ‘sucks’ was offensive? If not, read this. Then see this Atlantic Wire article: Free Pussy Riot: When ‘Vulgar’ Words Become Acceptable.]

Northfielder Bill Steele’s first love is not EcoTrans; it’s Bolder Options

Bill Steele—one of at least three Northfielders by that name—is not just the owner of EcoTrans but has been involved with a non-profit organization in the Twin Cities called Bolder Options since its inception.

EcoTrans provides door-to-door serviceBill Steele and Amy Merritt arrive at Bolder Options HQLeft: Amy Merritt; right: Bill Steele
Bill invited me to their open house last Thursday and gave me a ride up in a new EcoTrans Prius (he’s got another that’s closing in on 400,000 miles). Former Northfield Union of Youth Executive Director Amy Merritt, now working with EcoTrans, joined us. From the Bolder Options mission/vision page:

Bolder OptionsBolder Options is an innovative organization focusing on healthy youth development.  The comprehensive mentoring program, wellness activities, and leadership opportunities coordinate family, community, school, and county resources in a united effort to support youth who are at-risk for dropping out of school or becoming involved in delinquent or unhealthy behaviors.

Darrell Thompson and Bill SteeleDarrell Thompson and Bill SteeleBill Steele and George Thompson
Bill has been so supportive of Bolder Options for such a long time that they’ve named a conference room after him in their headquarters near downtown Minneapolis.  With Bill above (left and center) is Bolder Options President Director Darrell Thompson. (For you non-football types, Darrell is University of Minnesota’s all-time rushing leader and a former Green Bay Packer—first round draft pick in 1990.)  On the right: Bill with Darrell’s dad, George Thompson.

Some photos from the open house:

Bolder Options open house 2013Bolder Options open house 2013Bill Steele (center); Bolder Options open house 2013

Bolder Options Health & Wellness Coordinator Courtney GriffinBolder Options open house 2013Bolder Options open house 2013
Health & Wellness Coordinator Courtney Griffin ran the bean bag toss game, with many winners receiving a pair of tickets to Twins games.

Tour, Bolder Options open house 2013Tour, Bolder Options open house 2013Tour, Bolder Options open house 2013Tour, Bolder Options open house 2013
Darrell gave us a tour of the facility. I was particularly interested in their use of bicycles, part of their Bolder V3 program which includes youth competing in triathlons – swimming, biking, and running.

FYI, Bill Steele received the "Making a Different Award" from the Northfield Healthy Community Initiative back in December 2010.

Northfield’s new park could include a mountain bike / pump & jump park and save the city $280,000

Northfield’s acquisition of the Fargaze Meadows subdivision for a future park comes with an eyesore: a huge mound of dirt. In the May 28 Fbo Daily News: Northfield gains 40 acres from Rice County for parks and trails:

But converting the land will neither easy nor cheap. A giant mound of dirt lies on the north part of the land, which not only makes for a poor view, but also causes a lot of problems for the homes in the neighborhood. County engineer Dennis Luebbe estimated it could cost up to $280,000 just to move the dirt.

Eagan Pump and Jump Bike parkDavid DeLongBack in May after a downtown parking management meeting, I was chatting with Ward 2 Councilor David DeLong about my mountain biking adventures and mentioned to him that many municipalities are building bike parks (pump and jump parks) as an amenity for their citizens of all ages. Eagan has one that I regularly use (left photo), Maple Plain has one, and Cottage Grove starting building a big one this week.  Others are in the works for Duluth, Maple Grove, and Cuyuna and probably many more. When Dave learned about the cost of removing the big dirt mound at Fargaze, he emailed me, wondering whether some of that dirt could be used for a bike park. I replied:

The type of dirt used to build the features for these parks matters, as the jumps, berms and rollers deteriorate quickly if it’s not hard-pack dirt.  I’m guessing that mound of dirt at Fargaze is black dirt.

He replied:

Griff, I don’t know what the dirt is but I think there must be more than black dirt. If it was most likely there would have been greater erosion. Amateur opinion. The quietness and growing popularity [of bike parks] along with the age range of participation does intrigue me. Thanks for the links and following up.

Last night while riding my around-town bike in the area, I decided to take a closer look.  I was shocked to not see black dirt. So today I went back, took photos, and dug (heh) a little deeper. It appears that Councilor DeLong’s amateur opinion was correct.

First, some perspective:

Fargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking westFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking southFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking northFargaze Meadows, Northfield - looking north
The mound of dirt looking west, south, and north. Far right: looking north from atop the mound.

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Left: My markup of the Google Earth view of the Fargaze parcel. Right: satellite view of the neighborhood with the pond and the mound.

Fargaze dirt cutFargaze dirt washoutFargaze dirt mound showing dirt cuts/washouts - Google Earth
Left and center: two of several dirt cuts/washout areas that indicate that the mound is not made of black dirt. Right: the dirt cuts/washout areas viewable from Google Earth’s satellite.

Access point to Fargaze dirt moundFacing east at the bottom of the Fargaze dirt moundFacing west at the top of the Fargaze dirt mound Facing northwest at the top of the Fargaze dirt mound
Primary access to the dirt mound is at the corner of Ford St E and Brogan Dr. (left). Once on top, it appears that the mound is big enough to locate a significant portion of a bike park on top of it.  The dirt could easily be moved to build the bike park adjacent to / south of where the mound is. Or both.

Griff Wigley, no trespassing signtruck: City of Northfield's Public Works DepartmentAn apologetic Griff Wigley
While I was there, a couple of thugs helpful staffers from the City of Northfield’s Public Works Department pulled up in a city truck to inform me that I was trespassing in a place that was given by Thermo King. I politely thanked them and profusely apologized, promising to never do it again. (Consider this paragraph to be one of these.)

As for the type of dirt needed for a bike park, a guy I know who’s working on the bike park in Cottage Grove wrote to me:

You want to be able to make a dirt ball, like a snow ball out of it. If it holds together, maybe bounce it a little to see how it holds up. If it does, that’s good. Also look for that reddish brown color. That is mineral soil.

Soil in the Fargaze dirt moundSoil in the Fargaze dirt mound Moistened soil from the Fargaze dirt mound
I scraped some some dirt from the side of the dirt cut, brought it home, mixed it with some water and made a ball. It split apart when I dropped it from a height of about a foot so it may not be perfect.  I put it in the sun and it was baked into a hard rock by day’s end. So it’s definitely promising and probably worth the money to have a company drill soil samples of the dirt mound.

I’ve begun having conversations about all this with Nathan Knutson, Chair of the Park & Recreation Advisory Board, City Administrator Tim Madigan, and Joe Stapf and Jaspar Kruggel from the Public Works Department.

Eagle ID bike park 1Eagle ID bike park 2Eagle ID bike park 3Eagle ID bike park 4
The photos above are from a profile of a bike park in the city of Eagle, Idaho that was built by a company called Alpine Bike Parks. It has some similarities to the location and height of the Fargaze dirt mound here in Northfield:

Once the community was ready to develop the park, they reached out to Alpine Bike Parks to develop the full-service public bike park facility. Mechanized construction included slopestyle downhill trails, skills development areas, and competitive mountain cross and dual slalom courses. These trails raised the public profile of the project and assisted in developing capital for future project phases, including additional skills areas, and competitive BMX and mountain bike race courses.

  • Duration of Construction: Two months
  • Scope: Master planning, trail design, trail construction, community outreach.
  • Methods: Excavators, tracked loaders and skid steers, hand shaping
  • Budget: $130,000
  • Client: City of Eagle, Idaho

Curious as to what a pump track is all about? Like swinging higher and higher on a swing with no one pushing you, it’s going around and around the track on your bike without pedaling, a foundational skill that makes mountain biking even more fun. Watch this video of instruction for a high school mountain bike team:

httpv://youtu.be/7Vl80yZ0O-g

Lastly, I realize that neighbors in the area may have concerns about having a bike park adjacent to their property. If you’re a neighbor and reading this, please attach a comment or contact me.

MPR’s Molly Bloom visits Northfield for their ‘Get Out There’ segment

More than a few Northfielders got this email recently from Molly Bloom, Public Insight Analyst for MPR News and their Public Insight Network:

Molly Bloom, Public Insight Analyst, MPR NewsI’m writing today because you’re a source in our Public Insight Network and you’ve told us that you live in Northfield. We’re working on a series of stories that we think you might be able to help us with.

MPR News is been doing a series of stories called “Get Out There,” in which we profile Minnesota towns (you can see them here). We want to find the places, eateries, and activities that might be hidden gems. So we’re coming to you to see what you think people should see, do or eat when they’re in Northfield. If friends were visiting from out-of-town, where would you take them? Please tell us here.

Griff intrudes on Almanac tapingMolly heard from 35 Northfielders and graciously let me follow her around yesterday while she visited some of the recommended "hidden gems."

I promised that A) I wouldn’t make any suggestions on where she should go; and B) that I’d try not to get in the way like I did the last time a public media journalist visited.

Chip DeMann, Molly BloomChip DeMann, Molly BloomMolly Bloom, Hayes Scriven, Brad Ness
Her first stop was the Northfield Historical Society where Chip DeMann, Hayes Scriven and Brad Ness tried to impress her with, what else, lots of old stuff.

Molly Bloom at the NAGMolly Bloom at the NAGMolly Bloom at CakeWalkMolly Bloom at CakeWalk
After a quick couple of photos at the NAG, she bought a cupcake at CakeWalk and forced me to eat half of it.

Catherine Dominguez and Molly BloomMolly Bloom and Nathan NelsonMolly Bloom at the Weitz CenterMolly Bloom at Chapati
She chatted with Catherine Dominguez at GBM and took a photo of Nathan Nelson reading newspapers there, a quaint activity that they probably don’t see much of any more in the public media empire. After a visit to the Weitz Center (alas, closed for the summer), she had lunch at Chapati, and then ventured–no further stalking by me–to the Brick Oven Bakery and the Northfield Farmer’s Market in Riverside Park.

Molly Bloom, Victor Summa, Paul HagerShe also was witness to how much I get abused by the citizenry on a daily basis, courtesy of Victor Summa and Paul Hager.

Her story should appear on the Get Out There blog on Thursday, at which point, I invite y’all to chime in here with your suggestions on the other places/hidden gems of Northfield that she should also have profiled.

Women farmland owners in southeast Minnesota invited to free conservation discussion and field tour July 23 in Northfield

Women Caring for the LandWomen who own or manage farmland in southeast Minnesota are invited to a free conservation discussion and field tour on Tuesday, July 23, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 500 3rd St. West, Northfield, MN. Coffee and registration begin at 8:30 a.m. A free lunch is provided. The program will end with wrap-up and dessert at 3:30 p.m.

RSVP ASAP to me, Beth Kallestad, Cannon River Watershed Partnership, at (507) 786-3913, or email me at beth@crwp.net.

Women, Food and Agriculture Network is sponsoring the meeting as part of its Women Caring for the Land series, in collaboration with the Land Stewardship Project, Cannon River Watershed Partnership, and the Center for Rural Affairs. Funding comes from a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Women now own or co-own 25 to 50% of the farmland in the Midwest, and an increasing number of them are sole owners. “We have worked with women landowners for 15 years,” says Leigh Adcock, WFAN executive director. “They are some of the most dedicated conservationists in the region, but are typically overlooked with traditional conservation outreach, which is targeted at the tenant farmer.”

Women Caring for the Land meetings bring together women landowners in an informal, discussion-based learning format for a morning discussion, followed by a more in-depth look at the two or three topics of most interest. Female conservation professionals are on hand to answer questions and share resources. Following lunch, area conservationists lead a bus tour to view practices on the ground. Topics for discussion range from managing soil and water conservation, wildlife management and government cost-share programs, to how to talk with tenants about changing management practices.

“If I’d have known it would be so interesting, I would’ve brought a lot of friends along,” said one participant. Another said, “Thank you for explaining things in a way I could understand.”

For more conservation information from WFAN for women farmland owners, visit the program’s website, www.womencaringfortheland.org.

Flooding wipes out Mill Towns Trail bridge, slices Armstrong Road, undermines railroad bed

Another (100-year?) rainfall ‘event’ has brought me out of my blogging hiatus.

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I took these photos early this afternoon on Armstrong Road near the Northfield compost facility where runoff from this morning’s torrential rainfall cut through the road, washed away the Mill Towns Trail bridge, and completely undermined the railroad bed.

More photos to come? Probably.

Update 7 am, July 14:

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More photos to show the size of the washout on Armstrong Road.

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A construction crew evidently arrived yesterday and has begun work on the railroad bridge. My friend used to do water damage repair in Los Angeles and is on the work crew.

Update July 18:  A few more of my flooding-related photos below. See Rob Hardy’s comprehensive listing of links related to the flooding on Northfield.org.

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Seeds Farm CSA now offering shares, optional add-ons, and an experiential partnership with the Northfield Y

Becca Carlson, Seeds Farm

I blogged about the SEEDS Project (Social Entrepreneurship Environmental Design and Stewardship) back in July of 2010 so I was glad to get an update about it a couple weeks ago from Seeds Farm Manager Becca Carlson when she stopped by my corner office at GBM.

I asked her to send me a write-up about the recent changes and I’ve included it below.

The biggest developments under the SEEDS umbrella are the Seeds Farm ("A sustainable vegetable farm community project in Northfield Minnesota"), the Seeds Farm CSA, and its experiential partnership with the Northfield Area Family YMCA.

Seeds Farm  Northfield Area Family YMCA 

They released a new video yesterday:

httpv://youtu.be/43nqqiBCb5Y

Here’s Becca’s summary of the latest on the Seeds Farm:

There’s more to eating locally than just the vegetables…

To thrive and survive, humans need to eat every day. For those of us that eat three meals a day, that means each week we have 21 opportunities to make a decision on how we are going to fuel our bodies, what type of agricultural system we are going to support, and what we want our communities and the landscape of America to look like. One thing we are adding on to our locally grown vegetables is that we are offering chicken coops for sale. This will make it possible for fresh eggs to be entered into the program.

Because of this, we have the ability to make a huge impact solely with how we chose to buy and consume food. Here are some reasons why I think it’s important to use our purchasing power to support local and sustainably grown produce:

Excellent taste and freshness

Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from far away. Produce picked and eaten at the height of freshness tastes better.

Celebrate a healthy lifestyle!

You are what you eat-so fill your body with healthy, nutritious and wholesome.

Support our farming neighbors, local economy, & community

Buying locally helps ensure that our local farms keep in business so they can provide you with delicious and nutritious produce, keeps your dollars circulating in our community, and is an investment in healthy communities.

Help preserve the environment

One of the biggest ways we interact with our environment is through agriculture; i.e. how our food was grown. Support farmers that help nurture our resources so they are not depleted for future generations.

Pass on the environmental ethic

Practice what you preach and encourage others to do so as well! When you buy locally produced organic food you cannot help but raise the consciousness of your friends and family about how food buying decisions can make a difference in your life and the life of your community; and about how the basic act of eating is connected to larger issues.

At Seeds Farm, a four-acre diverse vegetable farm just one mile south of Northfield, we help make it possible to embody these ideas by providing a unique, experiential CSA in partnership the Northfield YMCA and Bon Appétit. This includes:

  • 16-18 weeks of a box full of local and sustainable fruits and vegetables grown by Seeds Farmers.  Full-shares & Half-shares are available
  • Weekly recipes included written by Bon Appétit chefs
  • Weekly newsletter will include stories from St. Olaf students involved at Seeds Farm.
  • A media component all about “Life on the Farm”!
  • “Food on the Farm” dinner at Seeds, prepared by Bon Appétit chefs with Seeds Farm ingredients.
  • Free admission to other Seeds Farm events, this includes our Spring/Summer Celebration, Children’s Garden Days, cooking demonstration by Bon Appetit Chefs, workshops, and more!
  • A discounted rate for the Budding Farmers program
  • …and so much more!

Cost for a Full-Share is $500 (~$30/wk) and Half-Share is $275 (~$16/wk)

  • Full-share is perfect for a family or group of four or more!. You will receive a large box full of seasonal fruits and vegetables each week.
  • Half-share is great for an individual or couple.

You also have the option to sign up for additional CSA “add-ons.” These include:

  • Flower share add-on: every other week you will receive a beautiful bouquet of flowers grown at Seeds Farm by Brad and Toni Easterson $70
  • Egg share add-on: a dozen eggs weekly from Seeds Farm chicken $95 (opportunity to start receiving eggs before CSA can be discussed)
  • A children’s educational program add-on: Budding Farmers, $50.  *Note, this is a discounted rate only available for Seeds Farm CSA members! (regular cost is $68)

And you can purchase pasture-raised Seeds Farm hogs and naturally raised Main Street Project chickens from us too! 

At Seeds Farm, we care about the health and well being of you, our community and the environment.

For more information, check out our website at seedsfarmproject.com, follow @seedsfarm on Twitter, like the Seeds Farm Facebook page, and watch our video: 

httpv://youtu.be/1EhDfUup_Oo,

Forza! is hosting an ‘Original Strength’ workshop on June 22-23

I’ve been using kettlebells ever since Gretchen Falck opened her Forza! studio here in Northfield back in 2008. And my wife Robbie has been a regular at her classes for 3+ years. So when Gretchen is excited about something new, we pay attention.  What’s new?  See her blog post titled Resiliency! Excerpt:

Gretchen Falck - Original Strength workshopForza! is hosting an “Original Strength” workshop on June 22 & 23, 2013 with “Original Strength:  Regaining the Body You Were Meant to Have” authors Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert.  Their passion is helping people like you regain your original strength through a simple, and unique way to “reset” your body and overcome movement compensations, dysfunctions, and injuries.

I’m so excited to have these two amazing men come to Forza! and share what they’ve learned about being resilient and regaining our original strength.  During this one and a half day workshop, you will learn all of the resets they’ve discovered (rediscovered?) plus determine which resets work for you.  While at the “Becoming Bulletproof” workshop I attended last fall, the resets I learned that work for me helped me go from having a difficult time staying in a squat position without falling over to being able to drop into a squat with ease.  I found out it had nothing to do with my ankles being tight (which is what if felt like to me), and everything to do with reflexive core stability, which is what these resets will help you get back.

(continued)

Celebrate State Water Trails – Paddle with CRWP

State_Water_Trails_50th42013 is the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota State Water Trails system, the first and largest in the nation.  State Water Trails are recreational routes on waterways that are managed for canoeing, kayaking, boating and camping.  They include a network of public water accesses, campsites and rest areas. They thrive on the support of local units of government, paddling clubs, nonprofits and outfitters.  In the Cannon River watershed we are fortunate to have two State Water Trails:  the Cannon River and the Straight River.

To celebrate this anniversary Cannon River Watershed Partnership is hosting some paddles on June 22nd and 23rd.  Join us for a leisurely paddle exploring our wonderful waters!

There is no cost to join us (unless you need to rent a canoe or kayak) but preregistration is required by June 20th so we can plan out shuttling needs.  Register by contacting Alana at (507) 786-3916 or alana@crwp.net.

No one under the age of 18 without adult supervision.  Life jackets/PFDs required. We will do a brief safety review at each site but paddling lessons are not part of this event.  CRWP volunteers will be there to help people get in and out of the water and manage shuttling.

More details and information on canoe and kayak rental can be found at www.crwp.net, click on News and Events.

June 22nd

Route 1 – Cannon River – Cannon River Wilderness Area Park to Northfield

Route 2 – Cannon River – Cannon Falls to Welch

June 23rd

Straight River – Clinton Falls to Medford

The people, scenes & events around Northfield, MN