Earth Day is a special celebration on the Northland College campus. We don’t do anything big and loud. Instead, faculty, students, and staff head out into their own individual spaces—places that nurture and feed their soul. The idea for Earth Day was brainstormed—as the story goes—not far from our campus.
Earth Day is a chance to go small, to dig in, rejuvenate, and connect with our backyards, streams, hiking trails, family, community, and self. We asked our faculty and staff to tell us how they celebrate Earth Day. Here are some of their answers.
1. LOOK FOR THE MOON
Gina Kirsten, composition specialist
I decided this year to do something special outside for the rising of each of the full moons. I’ve snow shoed in the bitter January cold, skied in the silent February snowfall, hiked out to a sea cave on frozen Lake Superior to enjoy a March bonfire, and recently, as it has warmed up, walked to a favorite beach to listen to the tinkling of the breaking up of the lake ice and watch the giant April red moon rise.
I am using this monthly ritual to keenly observe the changing weather and view the earth as it is. If it’s bone-chilling cold, I’ll dress warmly when I go out. If there’s ice on the lake, I’ll be sure to walk out on it. I want to appreciate each moon and month for what it is, not wishing for warmer weather, or more snow, or less humidity.
It has been an enlightening marker for me. I appreciate each month and the weather it offers. It has been a lesson in acceptance of and appreciation for this splendid and volatile place I call home. It is one of the privileges of living here—to be able to experience the immediacy of the natural world and the ever-changing opportunities to appreciate its beauty.
2. GROW FOOD, WRITE
Erica Hannickel, associate professor of environmental history and author of “Empire of Vines: Wine Culture in America.”
I’ll be organizing our local community garden for the season—assigning plots, ordering compost for delivery, and maybe starting a few crops in my own family’s square. Along with five other passionate community members, I founded Beaser Community Garden in 2009 to increase gardening opportunities for Ashland residents. We garden to encourage local, small-scale food production and promote healthy lifestyles. Plus it’s fun! My family’s plot gives us tasty tomatoes, kale, herbs, ground cherries, edamame, and flowers all summer, and the garden provides a great space to connect with off-campus community members. I’ll also be reading for my next book project, Radical Botanists.
Stacy Craig, coordinator of applied learning
I plan to take the North Country Trail to Beaverdam Lake, which is where—the story goes—Martin Hanson, Gaylord Nelson, and Sigurd Olson came up with the idea for Earth Day while sitting on the porch, looking at the lake. Beaverdam Lake is where I had my bachelorette party. We went musky fishing at night on Martin Hanson’s old pontoon boat, which Paul Newman is said to have gone out on. We had a box of wine but we forgot the net.
4. APPRECIATE THE HONEYBEES
Jill O’Neill, graphic design communications specialist and beekeeper
Earth Day 2015 will find me doing the first full inspections of my overwintered beehives. I’ll check to be sure that the bees have enough stored honey and pollen. The queens should be laying by now, so I’ll also flip the order of the hive boxes to make more room for new bees. But mostly I’ll sit and watch—soaking up the wisdom of something so ancient and so miraculous.
5. DIG IN THE DIRT
Tom Fitz, associate professor of geoscience
The best way I know to celebrate Earth Day is to dig holes, have people feel the soil, and think about its importance.
Matt Hudson, watershed program coordinator
I’ll be on a wildflower hike at Morgan Falls with my beautiful wife and two daughters.
7. PAY ATTENTION, HOWL WITH THE WOLVES
Erik Olson, assistant professor of natural resources
Earth Day is every day. I love taking my kids on adventure hikes. My five-year-old daughter is at the age where she is really starting to absorb things—for example, our last adventure hike—I was a bit distracted and she ran up to me and pointed out a small plant and said “Dad, look it’s an evergreen.”
I thought for a moment and realized she was pointing at wintergreen, a small plant that does have evergreen leaves, and I said, “You mean wintergreen, right?”
And she said, “Yes, Dad the one that smells like mint.”
She proceeded to show me other interesting things like shelf fungi and she identified red pine from flakes of its bark lying on the ground. We then watched a chipmunk (my first of the year) as it foraged for food through the leaf litter after coming out of a long winter’s dormancy. She was disappointed that we didn’t find any deer antlers that had been shed by bucks this winter/spring. She loves to point out the tracks and—much to her mother’s dismay—the scat of wildlife on our hikes. We do these hikes as often as we can—probably not often enough. We have been doing them since she was born.
I have taken her out to track wolves and to howl at wolves and coyotes—her howl is still a little high pitched at this point—but these adventure hikes alone are just as special.
8. PLANT A TREE
David Metille, administrative assistant Institutional Advancement
Each year on Earth Day we select a tree to plant. Last year I chose a Red Baron apple tree to help pollinate our Honeycrisp and Duchess of Oldenburg trees. This year is Logan’s choice, and I’m fairly certain he’ll be picking a birch—he is constantly commenting on the “pretty trees with white stems.”
Whitney Menebroeker, associate director of admissions
I spend time on the shores of Lake Superior, collecting rocks, beach glass, pottery shards, etc., or hiking, canoeing, swimming, walking the pug along the lake walk and beaches. Or I just meditate on the shore. Lake Superior has always been my go-to place.
10. PADDLE YOUR CANOE
Clayton T. Russell, associate professor of environmental education and outdoor education
It’s another canoe trip for me—nothing like welcoming spring and celebrating our connections to and appreciation of the planet than by paddling. Canoeing, like walking, puts our body and mind in rhythm with the planet. This year, four members of the Red Shirt canoe club intend to paddle from the western edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness up through Voyageurs National Park, across Rainy Lake and into International Falls. The route is roughly 100 miles with an opportunity to explore Ernest Oberholtzer’s Mallard Island. Given what spring is throwing at us currently, we could be pushing ice the entire way.
After that, I intend to take a five-city tour in search of excellent urban outdoor environmental education programs. This is in part, new course development work and preparation for a presentation at the Midwest Environmental Education Conference in Madison this coming fall. http://meeconference.org/
11. BUILD COMMUNITY
Elizabeth Wabindato, assistant professor of Native American studies
I’ll be picking up trash along roadsides in Bad River with Rezberries, our Bad River 4-H club.
Greg Weiss, adjunct professor
I’ll be out whitewater kayaking with students—taking challenge and pleasure from surfing what the rivers give us.
13. TAP TREES
Julie Buckles, communications specialist, adjunct professor, and author of “Paddling to Winter”
Food is a powerful way to connect to the land. Our family taps maple trees in spring, which produces sap, which we then boil down into syrup. It’s like bottling up spring with all the flavors of the season.
Having a sugarbush is an incredible amount of work—cleaning buckets, hanging lines, hammering in taps, cutting firewood, and so on—that involves the whole the family and as many friends as we can Tom Sawyer into it. It’s something that you would only do because you love being outside and getting your hands dirty, and because you love real maple syrup onto your pancakes and in your coffee.
What amazes and awes me about this process, even after twenty years, is that the temperatures must dip below freezing at night and rise above freezing to create the perfect conditions for sap to start. No one has figured out a way to bypass or speed up this phenomenon. You just have to stay patient and go with flow, so to speak.
Mark Peterson, executive director Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute
Every day is Earth Day for me! I will be attending the board meeting for the St. Croix River Association that day, focusing how best to steward and celebrate the river. That evening I will be getting things ready for SOEI’s Midwest Wolf Stewards Conference, which begins the next day.