The lesson of a Dakota Pinnacle Birch: Why blogs, tags, and linking continue to rule for search engine results

I became a member of the Board of Minnesota Offroad Cyclists (MORC) back in January. At a meeting last weekend, a couple of board members who are avid mountain bikers told me that whenever they Google themselves, the search results return blog posts and photos from my blog, Mountain Bike Geezer

A few days later, I got an email from a Northfield area webmaster wondering what my secret was here on Locally Grown Northfield, as he noticed that search results for Northfield-related issues and people seemed to frequently link to blog posts and images here.

I told them that it’s partly because I use lots of relevant tag word and phrases in my blog posts, including first and last names. And I also take the time to label/tag photos.  But I also include a lot of links in my blog posts. Not only do Google and other search engines love links, but so do the people I link to — and they increases the likelihood that others will at some point link back to something here on LoGro. Search results are still largely dependent on having other sites link to you.  The more the better. And the higher the PageRank of those who link to you, the better. PageRank is partly why Google’s Larry Page is a billionaire.

Knecht's Nurseries and LandscapingI was explaining this to Deb Knecht this weekend, since Knecht’s Nurseries and Landscaping has been a longtime client and I’ve been helping them revamp their WordPress-based site to make it Responsive, something that all websites these days need to be since so much web traffic comes from a variety of mobile devices (tablets, smartphones, etc).

I’m also working with Deb to spruce up (heh) their archive of nearly 1,000 blog posts dating back to Feb. of 2004. While most of their blog posts have been assigned Categories, most need the addition of Tag words and phrases. Categories help when browsing a blog; Tags help with both browsing and searching. Here on LoGro we have a few dozen Categories but over 3,000 Tag words and phrases.

wordpress permalinksWhile reading up about search engine optimization (SEO) strategies recently, I learned that permalinks (the URL of a blog post) are more search engine friendly if they use words from the title of the blog post rather than a number with a generic term like ‘post’ or ‘article.’

So I’ve been converting a few of my own blogs over to this permalink naming convention.  A blog post I authored yesterday is titled Mountain biking’s sweet spot for seniors: high impact for bone density, low impact for joints and if you hover your cursor over that link, you’ll see the permalink is a long URL: http://mountainbikegeezer.com/mountain-bikings-sweet-spot-for-seniors-high-impact-bone-density-low-impact-joints/. Previously, the URL might have been http://mountainbikegeezer.com/?p=4821 or other variation using ‘blog’ or ‘archives’ or ‘post’ with a number like I’ve been using here on LoGro for years.

Dakota Pinnacle Birch

At Knecht’s, we’ve been using permalinks with the naming convention /weblog/post/# which is an indication of how old their blog is. Back in 2004, ‘weblog’ was a commonly used term.  Not any more. So when I was revamping their site a month or so ago, I changed the permalink names to search engine friendly names, assuming the WordPress database would automatically redirect anyone who tried to link to a old permalink URL to the updated one. Doing this on my mountain bike blog worked, so full steam ahead! Wrong. It only works for the default permalink, not others.  I should have used a special plugin. Ouch.  The bounce rate has skyrocketed and search engine results for popular trees and plants have plummeted.

But rather than going back to the old permalink style, we’re sticking with the change, and updating the blog posts with tags.  So for example, back in October of 2010, Leif Knecht blogged about a popular shade tree called a Dakota Pinnacle Birch.  There’ve been other posts about the tree, too, so we’ve tagged them all, which means all the posts can be retrieved with the URL http://knechts.net/tag/dakota-pinnacle-birch/ and from there, you can click on the blog post headlines or titles of each for more.

My upcoming task for LoGro will be to convert all 4,000+ blog posts to a new permalink structure. Gulp. In the meantime, however, Google will have to live with http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/29632.

Bridge Square is Northfield’s living room. The public process for planning its future begins Oct. 23

Bridge Square Blog Site Bridge Square press release Oct 18 2013

Last week, the City of Northfield announced on its website and via an emailed press release (PDF) that the public process for creating a master planning update for Bridge Square begins this Wednesday with an open house at the Archer House, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

There’s now a Bridge Square Blog Site. Yes, you can see my fingerprints on it, as I’ve been hired as a contractor (with my Wigley and Associates hat) by the City to handle the online engagement for the project, teaming up with the lead consultant, Stantec Consulting’s John Slack.

Locally Grown - aggregated Bridge Square RSS feed

Here on LoGro, the headlines for all the recent Bridge Square project blog posts will appear in the upper right sidebar.  But like I did when I posted updates on the recently completed Downtown Parking Management Plan, comments are turned off here because the discussion happens there.

I will attach a comment to this blog post whenever there’s a significant update to the project, just as a way of drawing additional attention to it.  There are better ways to stay informed, however. See my post titled Tools for keeping updated on the Bridge Square planning process.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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: 

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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)

Benjamin Percy book release party, May 20

redmoon_finalAuthor Ben Percy will read from his new novel, Red Moon, Monday, May 20, 7:30 pm at the Rueb ‘N’ Stein.
The Counterfactuals will play a set prior to the reading. Refreshments will be served.

This is certain to be one of the coolest events in which I’ve been involved.

In addition to the Red Moon, Ben is the author of two short story collections, The Language of Elk and Refresh, Refresh, a graphic novel based on the short story Refresh, Refresh, as well as the novel, The Wilding.

Chess tournament at the Cow, Sat. May 11

20130419_182648

A week ago or more I was having a beer at the Contented Cow when Norman Butler told me that these enterprising college students were organizing a chess tournament.

They sent me this info:

11am-6pm Saturday, May 11, 2013

arrive at 10:45am to enter

The Contented Cow, 302B Division Street South, Northfield, MN 55057

Who can play? You! Everyone, of any age, with any level of experience from novice to master, is welcome. You don’t need to be a member of any chess organization to play or win.

Come to compete with students and teachers from Carleton, St. Olaf, and Northfield High School, as well as other members of the Northfield community! Enjoy chess in a casual tournament setting — with prizes! Arrive by 11am to enter. This is not a rated tournament.

Entry fee is $10 cash (no checks or credit cards), with cash prizes and Chapati gift certificates for winners. Swiss pairing, 4 rounds, 30-minute games. First place winner’s name will be displayed on a trophy in the Cow!

If you have a tournament set and clock, please bring them (if you don’t, no worries!). For complete details and to let us know you’re coming (preferred but not necessary), check out the tournament website or contact David McNeil (mcneild@carleton.edu).

Neil Young Tribute show at the Contented Cow, Sat. May 11

Rich-LarsonDown By The River PosterThe management of the Contented Cow in Northfield, MN announced today that they will host Down By the River: A Tribute to Neil Young on Saturday, May 11th, beginning at 4:00 in the afternoon. More than two dozen artists from Southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities will gather to perform the music of one of the most beloved and eclectic musicians of the past 50 years. Performers will play short 3-5 song sets that will span Young’s entire career.

Continuing a string of tribute events hosted by the Cow in recent years, the bill is stocked with talent.

“We have so many great musicians around here that we need to do something every now and then to showcase them,” said show producer Rich Larson of Left-Handed Entertainment. “When you pair that talent with a catalogue of songs that are as diverse as Neil Young’s, you’re bound to get an incredible evening.”

Larson says even Young’s non-fans should enjoy the event.

“Every now and then someone says they don’t like Neil Young because of his nasally voice. Well then, this is an opportunity for people to hear these incredible songs, performed by different voices. In fact, in some cases, you’ll hear them from some people who are incredible singers. Last year the Knightengales, the all-women a cappella group from Carleton College, stole the show when they performed at our Bob Dylan event. They’ll be back again this year, and I cannot wait to hear what they’ve come up with.”

And indeed, the bill does offer a diverse group of performers. Northfield folk/country singer “The Norwegian Cowboy” Jon Larson will be joined by venerable folk stalwart Bill McGrath, garage rockers Martin Anderson & The Goods, upstart punk rock group Some Kid’s Dad, and a host of others.

“It’s one of the things I love most about these shows,” said Larson. “We’ll have performers who are in their 60′s playing alongside college kids. And all of them are stunningly good.”

The show will also serve as the unofficial kickoff of the outdoor performance season.

“It’s been a long, long winter,” said Larson. “Nobody around here needs me to tell them that. But I’ve always said May is the month to be in this state. Everything is in bloom, the humidity is low, the bugs aren’t really out yet. The outdoor stage at the Cow sits just in front of the Cannon river. It’s a really beautiful setting, and their patio is so accommodating.  We expect that we’ll have one of those spectacular May days where the weather is perfect, the music will be fantastic, and everybody will have an unforgettable time.”

Neil Young is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who is known for his eclectic, diverse songwriting. He’s best known for alternately playing soft, folk based songs like After the Gold Rush and Harvest Moon, and ear rattling hard rock like Cinnamon Girl and Rockin’ in the Free World. He has influenced countless artists, including Elvis Costello, Dave Matthews, Sonic Youth, and Pearl Jam. His work with his backing band Crazy Horse earned him the nickname “The Godfather of Grunge.”

Down By the River: A Tribute to Neil Young will be Saturday, May 11th, beginning at 4 p.m., and running deep into the evening. The Contented Cow is located at 302B Division Street in downtown Northfield. For further information, contact the Contented Cow at (507) 663-1351 or Rich Larson at (612) 756-0490.

Mary Closner say don’t think twice, vote twice for swag, and by Monday midnight, please. She could win $5,000 for her business

CameraZOOM-20130503064014908Loveourlocalbusiness
Mary Closer, proprietor of swag – fine & funky art in downtown Northfield, stopped by my corner office at GBM last week. She has been spamming her friends and enemies (I think I’m both lists) with this email:

I’m still trying to get votes for the Intuit program that supports small businesses by giving financial support. You just click on the link below and go to the search button. Put in "swag – fine & funky art" and vote for me, oh please. You can vote daily and on all the different kinds of technology you might have access to. You don’t have to sign up for anything or download anything. I’m so very appreciative of the assistance from all of you! I need the boost (hopefully $5K) to keep doing what I hope to be doing for a very long time! Art is my thing!
https://www.loveourlocalbusiness.com/

When you get to the vote page (follow her instructions above), you’ll see this text:

swagI recently took over the store from my 87-year-old Mom. She is my only "employee." I’m 48-years-old and she still bosses me around & makes me get her tacos. I’m trying to incorporate technology in the store for the first time after 10 years in business. I’ve started a website, Facebook page, and am working on getting set up with Quickbooks. I need help! I can’t afford to hire a techo-slave/geek/"pool boy" to help me learn the wonders of QB, WordPress & Twitter & social media "stuff." I long to blog about my fabulous store, but alas, I need $5,000 to pay for my techo-helper! Pretty please!!!

As of this writing (12:22 PM Sunday), she’s at 931 votes. Let’s get over 1,000 by midnight Monday. Vote today and again tomorrow.

Robbie’s weekend in the limelight

My sweetie, Robbie Wigley, was in the limelight a bit this weekend.

Robbie Wigley - Melaleuca convention 2013 (photo by Vicki Dilley)20130505_061245

Left: She got an award at the Melaleuca convention in Salt Lake City. Among the hundreds of Senior Directors, she was third in customer retention for the year.

Right: She was in a photo on the front page of yesterday’s Northfield News in a story about the Clothes Closet at the Community Action Center of Northfield where she volunteers.

Featured books at Monkey See Monkey Read bookstore: Ordinary Grace; Orphan Train

Ordinary Grace

From New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger comes a brilliant new novel about a young man, a small town, and murder in the summer of 1961.

Ordinary Grace“It’s been a while since a story forced me to abandon my plans for the day. This book has all the elements of a great mystery.  The careful plot, skillful placement of evidence, and trajectory of suspense are all immensely satisfying. What sets this story apart is the unsettling detail of family love and the experience of grief.” –Ann Woodbeck, Excelsior Bay Books

“ Set in the early 60’s, it’s a story told from the perspective of 13-year-old Frank Drum when tragedy comes to call on his family. The author has really captured the era, the small town atmosphere, the Drum family and all the other memorable characters that make up this brilliant novel.Ordinary Grace will stay with me for a long time. ” Kathleen Eddy, Manager, Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, MN

All the dying that summer began with the death of a child . . .

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.

Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.

WKKTold from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer,Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

William Kent Krueger is the award-winning author of twelve previous Cork O’Connor novels, including Northwest Angle and Trickster’s Point, as well as the novel Ordinary Grace. He lives in the Twin Cities with his family.


Orphan Train

Orphan Train“I was so moved by this book. I loved Molly and Vivian, two brave, difficult, true-hearted women who disrupt one another’s lives in beautiful ways, and loved journeying with them, through heartbreak and stretches of history I’d never known existed, out of loneliness toward family and home.” –Marisa de los Santos, New York Times-bestselling author ofBelong to Me and Falling Together

“I loved this book: its absorbing back-and-forth story, its vivid history, its eminently loveable characters. ORPHAN TRAIN wrecked my heart and made me glad to be literate.” –Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys

“Christina Baker Kline writes exquisitely about two unlikely friends . . . each struggling to transcend a past of isolation and hardship. ORPHAN TRAIN will hold you in its grip as their fascinating tales unfold.” –Cathy Marie Buchanan, New York Times-bestselling author of The Painted Girls

Detailed and beautifully drawn, Orphan Train illuminates a little-known part of America’s history:  Between 1854 and 1929, so-called “orphan trains” transported more than 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children between the ages of 2 and 14 from the East Coast to the Midwest for foster care and adoption. But their treatment often amounted to indentured servitude. Chosen first were infants, for more traditional adoptions, and older boys, for their manual labor; adolescent girls were typically selected last. While some children quickly found love and acceptance, many walked a harder road.

Christina Baker KlineOrphan Train is set in modern-day Maine and early twentieth-century Minnesota.  Kline spends every summer on the coast of Maine and has built a large fan base in the area.  She has also spent 25 years traveling to Minnesota where her husband’s family lives, and has strong ties to the orphan-train riders’ community in the state.

Christina Baker Kline is the author of five novels, including Bird in Handand The Way Life Should Be. Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University from 2007-2011, Kline is a recent recipient of a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship and several research fellowships (to Ireland and Minnesota), and has been a Writer-in-Residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She lives with husband and three sons in Montclair, New Jersey, and spends as much time as possible in northern Minnesota and on the coast of Maine, where she grew up.


The books are available at Monkey See Monkey Read in downtown Northfield.

Cannon River Outfitters vs. Cannon River Outfitters

Back in February, the Heritage Preservation Commission approved Jim Bohnhoff’s sign request on behalf of Northfielder Dale Gehring’s new business, Cannon River Outfitters. See the Feb. 28 packet, pages 4-8:

Jim Bohnhoff's Cannon River Outfitters sign sketchesThe Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) is being asked to review a sign permit for a new wall sign at 310 Division Street South for a new shop called “Cannon River Outfitters”.

The sign will be located on the historic Bushnell Building, constructed in 1897.

Dale Gehring is leasing space from the property owners, Lisa Schneewind and Eric Hope, and is proposing three new signs at this location

Northfield Patch ran a story that week titled Bike, Canoe Rental Shop Opening in Downtown Northfield:

Cannon River Outfitters is a full-service bike, kayak, canoe and tubing rental store. There will also be limited fishing equipment and tackle in stock. Local anglers will be happy to hear nightcrawlers will also be available. “I thought it would be a good fit for Northfield,” said proprietor Dale Gehring. “We need to take advantage of the river here in Northfield and I feel that this would be a great addition—a good start.”

Gehring, a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, is also an advocate for bike trail connectivity in the area, particularly the Mill Towns Trail route project. After seeing many full-service rental shops in his travels and researching the idea of a similar business in Northfied, Gehring thought a rental shop would work here and could bring more tourism to the area. Cannon Rivers Outfitters is slated to open in late April or early May, Gehring said. It will be located on the backside of The Local Joint, 310 Division St.; the entrance will be in the back of the building.

(FYI, in addition to the PRAB, Dale Gehring is also on the EDA.)

I noticed recently that The Gear Resource at 200 Division has announced on their Facebook page here that they’re launching a ‘sister’ business called Cannon River Outfitters (Facebook page here).

The Gear Resource The Gear Resource - window

Their store window has the announcement, too.

I contacted Dale Gehring a couple weeks ago when I first noticed the dueling businesses but I’ve not heard back.

Do you live in/near downtown Northfield? Does the school calendar matter to you? Then your input is needed

Some news on the two Northfield-related citizen engagement projects that I’m working on:

NDDC's Ross Currier, making the roundsSchool Calendar Straw Poll
Left: my photo of the NDDC’s Ross Currier, navigating icy sidewalks last week to distribute invitations to residents who live near downtown, inviting them to a residential stakeholders meeting this Thursday, 8 pm at the Northfield Public Library. Details here.

Right: a screenshot of the Northfield School Calendar Conversation straw poll that’s now live. Details here.

Sex al fresco redux by the Northfield News: ‘Getting it on in the great outdoors’

Last month, the Northfield News posted this to their Facebook page:

There is something blissfully naughty about getting intimate in public. In high school, we necked in the back seat of our cars on a deserted road because there was no where else to go. Then, we grew up, got married and forgot about the thrill of fooling around under the threat of getting caught. Plenty of studies suggest a little hanky panky in public is a great way to heat up your sex life. But let’s be real, we’re southern Minnesotans. We don’t do that kind of thing.

Or do we? When the mood hits and you’re looking for a change of scenery, where do you take your partner? A local park with secluded trails? A dead end road with a great view of the sunset? A boat in the middle of a quiet lake? Let us know, SoMinn, where do you go to fool around in the great outdoors? We’ll use as many of the locations as we can in our upcoming edition of our A&E publication, SCENE.

I added a comment in response to Faribault Daily News editor and article author Jaci Smith:

Props, Jaci! I did a “sex al fresco in Northfield” blog post back in 2007 on LoGro, based on a Vita.mn article by Alexis McKinnis. Details: http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/post/1607/

So MN Scene - April cover 2013 So MN Scene - Getting it on in the great outdoors
The April issue of SouthernMinn SCENE is now out in print and online and Jaci Smith’s article, Getting it on in the great outdoors, is on page 42.  She included this reference to VitaMN and LoGro:

Closer to home, about six years ago, the Star Tribune’s Vita.mn took an informal poll and discovered that there was plenty of outdoor sex going on in the Twin Cities, particularly in some of the more isolated areas of the University of Minnesota-St. Paul campus.

So, Northfield blogger Griff Wigley did his own informal poll on Locally Grown Northfield, and found out that outdoor sex is alive and well in the city Jesse lames made famous. And Wigley makes a great point, too. Sex al fresco has been going on since the Garden of Eden.

For a look back, see my 2007 blog post Sex al fresco in Northfield and attached comment thread.

VitaMN‘s original story by Alexis McKinnis, Sex … al fresco, is still online.

vitamn-sexalfresco-cover-tn

An invitation to bands: ‘Paradise Live at Grandpa Al’s – A Tribute To Johnny Cash’

549870_345495298901799_1695749899_nThis fall will mark ten years since the passing of Johnny Cash, one of the most beloved performers of all time. On Saturday, October 12th, the Paradise Center for the Arts (PCA) in Faribault will present Johnny Cash: A Tribute to the Man in Black. Eight selected bands and artists will perform songs written by and associated with Cash in a tribute to his enduring legacy.

To that end, the Paradise is sponsoring Paradise Live at Grandpa Al’s every Thursday night this summer, from June through August. Two to three bands will be invited to perform a 45 minute set at Grandpa Al’s in Faribault each week. They must play at least three Johnny Cash songs during their set, and are free to fill the rest of their time out however they choose. The best eight bands, selected by members of PCA’s music committee, will perform at the big show in October.

This is a call, then, to every musician in the state (and Wisconsin too, if need be). We need bands, we need solo performers, we need groups and combos. Come one, come all.  Whatever type of music you play, if you think you’d want to get involved, get in touch with us. Send us a YouTube link, or a link to your website, or Facebook page, or MySpace. Or send us a CD. We’ll take a look and then see about putting you on one of the Thursday night bills. Send us your information to info@paradisecenterforthearts.org.

Grandpa Al’s is one of the premier music venues in Southern Minnesota. Getting a gig there isn’t always the easiest thing to do. This is a rare opportunity to get some exposure on a great stage while paying tribute to an American legend at the same time. The scheduling begins in April, so we hope to hear from you soon.

For more, see Left-Handed Entertainment’s Facebook event page for Paradise Live at Grandpa Al’s – A Tribute To Johnny Cash.

Featured books at Monkey See Monkey Read bookstore: The Fate of Mercy Alban; The Truth About Love and Lightning

The Fate of Mercy Alban

The-Fate-of-Mercy-Alban-150x231From award-winning novelist Wendy Webb (The Tale of Halcyon Crane, winner of the 2011 Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction) comes a spine-tingling, modern-day haunted house story set on Lake Superior.

Grace Alban has spent twenty years away from her childhood home, the stately Alban House on the shores of Lake Superior — for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother’s unexpected death brings Grace and her teenage daughter home, she finds more than just her own personal demons haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House.

Wendy-WebbLong-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters, and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery about a scandalous party at Alban House during which a world-famous author took his own life and Grace’s aunt disappeared without a trace. That night has been shrouded in secrecy by the powerful Alban family for all of these years, and Grace realizes her family secrets tangle and twist as darkly as the hidden passages of Alban House. Her mother was intending to tell the truth about that night to a reporter on the very day she died. Could it have been murder, or was she a victim of the supposed Alban curse? With the help of the disarmingly kind — and attractive — Reverend Matthew Parker, Grace must uncover the truth about her home and its curse before she and her daughter become the next victims.

Wendy Webb is editor-in-chief of Duluth-Superior, an upscale lifestyle magazine. A journalist with two decades of experience, she lives in Minnesota.


The Truth About Love and Lightning

From the author of Little Black Dress comes a new novel about family, lies, and getting what you wish for…

MC.March_.McBride“Seamlessly toggling between decades, McBride delivers a poignant page-turner with flawed but lovable characters.” —Publisher’s Weekly

McBride’s novel is a gentle reminder of the unexpected and inevitable nature of change.” —Booklist

“A tender story of a mother and daughter in search of the man they love. Part mystery, part romance, it’s an emotional tale of the power of forgiveness. A truly notable book highlighting the importance of family, this novel is a must-read pick.” –MomTrends.com

Susan McBride weaves a tapestry of words, and balances wry humor with a deeply touching narrative in the story of one family, and the history of the lies that built it up. Pregnant with her ex-boyfriend’s child, Abby Brink returns home to the family farm on the day of a twister, only to discover a mysterious man, struck by lightning—who ight be the father she’s wished would reappear in her life for years. In the midst of this chaos, Gretchen Brink, Abby’s mother and a compulsive teller of white-lies, becomes the caretaker for Abby and the mysterious stranger—all while nursing a fib that could shatter her family.

Susan’s own life is the stuff stories are made of. After being named one of St. Louis Magazines top 20 singles, McBride met and married her personal prince-charming, Ed, only to have this highpoint of personal happiness marred by the trauma of her battle with breast cancer. Now, McBride is stronger than ever, a survivor—and a new mother! Ed and Susan welcomed daughter Emily Alice into their family on June 28th. In the midst of all this familial bliss, it makes sense then that McBride’s latest novel revolves around the bond between a mother and a daughter. In the midst of all this familial bliss, it makes sense then that McBride’s latest novel revolves around the bond between a mother and a daughter.


MC.March.McBride.portraitSusan McBride is the author of women’s fiction, including The Truth About Love and Lightning, Little Black Dress, and The Cougar Club, as well as the award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries. She calls herself an “accidental cougar” after meeting a man nine years younger in 2005 when she was a St. Louis Magazine “top single.” They were married in February 2008 and live happily ever after in a suburb of St. Louis. She is a six-year breast cancer survivor and often speaks to women’s groups about her experience. In January 2012, she was named one of St. Louis’ “Most Dynamic People of the Year” by the Ladue News. In April 2012, she was given the “Survivor of the Year” Award by the St. Louis affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In late June of 2012, Susan and her husband, Ed, had their first child, Emily. As Susan likes to say, “Life is never boring!”


The books are available at Monkey See Monkey Read in downtown Northfield.

A new blog reflects a shift in my consulting business: Engage Citizens

I’ve been a bit of a laggard here on LoGro lately. For years, I’ve had something new on the blog everyday but in the last month, I’ve only had a few new posts/week and have not been very active in the comment threads.

What’s up?

Engage Citizens - Vertical - 185wI’ve created a new blog called Engage Citizens as I’m shifting more of my Wigley and Associates consulting work to helping local units of government (state, cities, counties, townships, school districts) use online tools and services to—you guessed it—engage citizens.

I’ve been doing online citizen engagement as a citizen since the early 90′s in my work with Northfield.org and continuing here on Locally Grown Northfield since 2006.

Grandview-Development-Framework-finalGriff Wigley, Scott NealBut it was my consulting contract with City Manager Scott Neal and the City of Edina back in April of 2011 when we created the Edina Citizen Engagement project that helped me see how other local units of government could benefit from something similar.

The Grandview District Development Framework project in particular was enlightening because of how the online tools complemented the face-to-face work of the steering committee, consultants, and city staff over the course of 9 months.

Griff Wigley at  League of MN Cities annual conference, 2012Tim Madigan at  League of MN Cities annual conference, 2012Last summer, I presented and facilitated a session for the League of MN Cities annual conference about my work with the City of Edina titled Government 2.0: New Strategies for Engaging the Public.

One of the people in the audience that day was Northfield City Administrator Tim Madigan who, a few months later as most of you LoGro readers are aware, hired me to manage the online engagement for a Developing a parking management plan for downtown.

Chris Richardson, Griff Wigley, Matt HillmanShortly thereafter, when I heard that the Northfield Public Schools District had a calendar project in the works, I approached Superintendent Chris Richardson and HR/Technology Director Matt Hillman about adding an online citizen engagement component. I just finished up the Transformational Technology project for them and last week started another online engagement project with them titled A school calendar conversation with the Northfield community.

I’ll continue to post client updates on my Wigley and Associates blog but most of my consulting-related blogging energy will be devoted to the Engage Citizens blog. I’ve also changed my Griff Wigley Twitter username to @EngageCitizens. I’ll tweet all my new Engage Citizens blog posts but you can also subscribe to Engage Citizens via email or RSS.

Now that I’ve got all this in place, I’ll get back to posting more regularly here on LoGro. I’m scheming on a new doodad for y’all.

Photo albums: engaged citizens and the Northfield Public School District

Back in mid-January, I took photos of people speaking at open mic at the Northfield Board of Education meeting about the proposed calendar (blog post here).  This week, I took photos of people attending the calendar conversation meeting at the High School (blog post here).  I had my consulting hat on for both events but I thought I’d blog the photos here on LoGro, adding to my collection of 15,000+ photos of Northfield-related events and scenes since 2003.

See the large slideshow (recommended) of 38 photos from the Jan. 14 meeting, or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

See the large slideshow (recommended) of 32 photos from the Mar. 7 meeting, or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

A school calendar conversation with the Northfield community: back to square one

Back in early January, I blogged here on LoGro that Northfield Public Schools Superintendent Chris Richardson had hired me (with my Wigley and Associates consultant hat on) to manage the online engagement for the  ‘balanced calendar’ that was being proposed.   It never happened. Chris later wrote:

At the Jan. 14, 2013 Northfield Board of Education meeting, 26 parents, students and community members spoke with concern about the proposed change to the school district calendar structure for 2013-14. The board voted unanimously to stop consideration of a more balanced calendar for the 2013-14 school year. They directed the administration to recommend a 2013-14 calendar in an upcoming meeting based on the traditional academic year with an after-Labor Day start. In addition, the board requested that administration develop a plan to more deeply engage our community in a discussion about what kind of academic calendar will most benefit students in the future.

Instead, I worked with the District to manage the online engagement for the Transformational Technology proposal which was approved by the Board on Feb. 12.

Northfield Schools Calendar ConversationI’ve now been hired by the District to manage the online portion of a community discussion about school calendars.

I’ve got the project blogsite up and tonight, the District is hosting the first in a series of three community meetings led by Mary Grace Hanson, Director of Teaching and Learning.

(The other dates are April 2 and April 30. All meetings will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the high school upper cafeteria.)

School Board Member Rob Hardy has been writing about school calendars on his Learning Curve blog.

And here’s a Feb. 27 Northfield Patch video by Supt. Chris Richardson talking about the calendar conversation:

Tandem Bagels, opening Tuesday: Northfield likes baked goods with coffee

Jim Bohnhoff Tandem Bagels Howie Holt
Last Wednesday I had a front row seat from my corner office window at GBM as Jim Bohnhoff , Howie Holt and crew mounted the exterior signs for the new Tandem Bagels shop next door that opens tomorrow morning.

Tandem Bagels, Northfield Tony Frentz Tandem Bagels
Shop co-owner Tony Frentz was inside, also wearing his hat as owner of Frentz Construction in Mankato. Tony said his wife, Anne Frentz, runs the bagel business (they also have a shop in Mankato) but that one of their employees there will be moving to Northfield to manage the shop here.

This means that the east side of the 300 block of downtown Northfield will now have three shops selling baked goods with coffee: Tandem Bagels, Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse ("Coffee, Tea, Bakery"), and CakeWalk Custom Cakes & Dessert Bar?.

Nfld News: Tandem Bagels opening Tuesday in downtown Northfield

Update March 5, 6 am:

Marty Larson, Tandem BagelsTandem Bagels, NorthfieldTandem Bagels, NorthfieldTandem Bagels, Northfield
I arrived for my GBM coffee at the usual hour this morning and the new manager of Tandem Bagels next door, Marty Larson, was out shoveling the sidewalk.  Marty and his wife and daughters (ages 6 and 8) will be moving to Northfield in the near future. He took one look at the fat bike I was on and noticed the Milltowns Cycles sticker on it. "I’m friends with Ben Witt."  He then let me inside to take some pre-7-am-opening photos.

Back room, Tandem Bagels, NorthfieldMenu, Tandem Bagels, NorthfieldThe A Team, Tandem Bagels, Northfield
Left: There’s a back room for meetings and those seeking a little peace and quiet.
Center: The menu has some items named after Northfield businesses
Right: The A-Team on duty for opening day: Marty Larson, Lisa, Anne Frentz (co-owner), and ??

Scott Carpenter reading at Monkey See Monkey Read bookstore on Friday

Scott Dominic Carpenter will read from This Jealous Earth this Friday, March 8th, 7:30 pm. at Monkey See Monkey Read bookstore in downtown Northfield.

ibg.common.titledetail.imageloaderA man puts his beloved pets to the knife; a family prepares for the Rapture; a woman in a department store slips a necklace into her purse. Whatever the situation, the characters in This Jealous Earth find themselves faced with moments of decision that will forever alter the course of their lives.

Always moving and often touched with humor, Carpenter’s stories examine the tension between the everyday and the transcendent—our struggle to grasp what lies beyond our reach. Whether hawking body parts in a Midwestern city, orbiting through the galleries of a Paris museum or plotting sibling tortures in an Arizona desert, his characters lead us through a series of dilemmas of universal appeal.

Parking management for downtown: Focused blog discussions all week

For the next week (and maybe longer), I’m moderating three focused blog discussion threads on the Parking Management for Downtown blog.

Downtown building owners mtg at RuebDowntown bike commuters mtg at GBMDowntown pedestrian commuters mtg at HideAway

Although each one addresses the concerns of the particular stakeholder group (F2F meeting photos above), the discussions are open to all. Here are the links to each blog post:

Among the many issues raised by the three groups:

  • parking meters
  • enforcement
  • diagonal vehicle parking
  • painting center lines and sharrows
  • crosswalk safety
  • walking routes to downtown

Extra virginity now available in Northfield from Joe and Sherry Morgan

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive OilAbout a month ago, I happened to hear Splendid Table’s Lynne Rossetto Kasper interviewing journalist Tom Mueller about his new book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil on her show.

I normally don’t pay much attention to food shows but I knew that Northfield Olive Oils And Vinegars had opened their store in downtown Northfield earlier this year. I’m glad I caught it. Read or listen if you want a quick lesson on EVOO, both the industry and the product: What extra virgin means, and who in the olive oil industry abides.

The bar for extra virgin olive oil qualities is fairly low. Apart from some chemical tests, the law essentially says that it has to remind you in odor or in taste of fresh olives, and it can’t have any defects. The typical defects defined by the law are rancidity; fustiness, which is a fermented taste; and earthy, which is dirty olives. Each is connected to a flaw in the oil-making process. The law doesn’t say that it has to have any positive attributes apart from reminding you of olive fruit, so it’s a fairly low bar. Nonetheless, a lot of oils don’t clear it.

Joe and Sherry Morgan, Northfield Olive Oils And Vinegars, Northfield Olive Oils And Vinegars Northfield Olive Oils And Vinegars Northfield Olive Oils And Vinegars
Robbie and I stopped by Northfield Olive Oils And Vinegars on Bridge Square store yesterday and met the owners, Northfielders (10 years) Joe and Sherry Morgan.

Robbie Wigley, Joe Morgan, Sherry Morgan Northfield Olive Oils And Vinegars Northfield Olive Oils And VinegarsNorthfield Olive Oils And Vinegars
I used my better-than-before smartphone camera to take a few photos (the store is a visual treat) while Sherry gave my personal-chef-of-a- wife a tour of the store’s offerings. We got a short lesson from Joe on how to properly do an olive oil taste test: swirl, sniff, slurp and swallow. Who knew? We came home with three bottles of something and I expect we’ll be regulars.

Graham Wigley, Blue Door PubAs we were about to depart, Robbie mentioned to Joe that our three sons were foodies and that two of them manage the two Blue Door Pub locations in the Twin Cities.  Joe laughed and said that he and Sherry are longtime Sunday regulars at the BDP in St. Paul where they’ve gotten to know our son Graham quite well.

You can follow Northfield Olive Oils And Vinegars on Facebook and on Twitter @NorthfieldOlive.

See also the Jan. 4 article on Northfield Patch: Oil and Vinegar Store Opens in Downtown.

Corey Butler resigns from Northfield Patch. What will the impact be?

Northfield Patch

Longtime Northfielder and Northfield Patch editor Corey Butler announced his resignation on his Facebook page earlier this week.

I got his permission to post it here and coaxed him into posing with me for a photo at the Spur this morning:

Corey Butler, Griff Wigley - Feb. 2013It’s with excitement and sadness that I inform those of you who care that I have resigned from Patch. I’ve accepted a job as the communications coordinator for the Minnesota Society of CPAs, a not-for-profit organization with 9,400 members. I’ll be responsible for developing, editing and coordinating the MNCPA’s print and electronic publications, social media, some event planning/execution and working with the media (fielding calls and pitching stories).

It’s a great move for me as I focus on my long-term career goals and look for a new challenge. I greatly enjoyed my time with Patch, especially getting to know so many wonderful people near and far in the company. Most of all, I’ll miss working with so many great people in Northfield.

You can continue to follow Corey on Twitter @CoreyButlerJr.

Will the AOL-owned Patch replace Corey with another Northfield-based editor? If not, what might it mean for the other hyper-local media organizations in Northfield? I’m guessing that the Huckle Media-owned Northfield News is happy to hear the news of Corey’s departure, as he built Northfield Patch into a formidable competitor for local news-related pageviews. (He had worked for Huckle/Northfield News/Faribault Daily News for 2.5 years prior to launching Northfield Patch.)

But Northfield Patch never appeared to put much of a dent into the local advertising dollars currently going primarily to the Northfield News, KYMN Radio, and the Entertainment Guide, so I don’t see any substantive revenue shifts.

Northfield.org

The real opportunity, it seems to me, is for NCO’s Northfield.org to step into the void, especially when it comes to Patch’s Local Voices section. Corey nurtured an ever-growing list of regular Northfield-area contributors (good example: Myrna CG Mibus) who might thrive in the local group-blog environment of Northfield.org.  The site really could be so much more than a community events calendar and blog/tweet aggregator. There are new Board members on the way, I’m told, so I’m holding out hope that new blood combined with the old will seize the day.

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