Eco Efforts

Old World Wisconsin: How the gardens grow

May is a month of hope and faith for gardeners who begin with seeds or fragile stalks and dream of a cornucopia of color and food. A shady yard, brown thumbs and limited dedication challenge my own success, but even visions of spindly tomatoes and out-of-control perennials get me revved up during this time of(…)

Pinehurst Inn, Bayfield: Color it deep green

Listen to how Nancy Sandstrom torments herself. The topic is organic cotton sheets, and these are a few of the questions she contemplates: Where does the cotton come from? Who’s picking it, and how are these workers treated? How far are the raw materials, and the sheets, transported? How long will they last? What is(…)

Mining: a matter of heritage, tourism, survival

Note: A proposal to resume iron ore mining in Wisconsin, after a lag of four decades, means we’re likely to hear more than usual about Iron and Ashland counties during the next few years. Gogebic Taconite wants to spend $1 billion on open-pit mining on 22,000 acres of the Penokee Range, between Upson and Mellon.(…)

Tourists assist at Apostle Isle sled dog races

We know we are in the right place because tire tracks over fresh snow lead only one way, to the Echo Valley gravel pit, and because the howling is incessant. It’s the sound of impatience and high energy. Fifteen miles from Bayfield, near the northern peak of Wisconsin, dozens of eager dogs and their mushers(…)

Valley of the Kings: exotic animals’ last stop

I have not met Jill Carnegie, but I know what’s on her wish list: blankets, office supplies, wheelbarrows, lumber, fly traps, chest freezers, straw and many other items. She needs food, too, about 1,500 pounds every day. Send money, and you’re officially part of a family with Chelsea, Jasmine, Shera, Nadia, Bruno and dozens of(…)

Indy via Segway, in White River State Park

For years I’ve been a master at avoiding the Segway. Those little helmet-headed drivers would look pretty dorky, I decided, if their sets of wheels went AWOL, leaving behind bruised bodies and egos. Mind you, it’s not like I ever witnessed somebody getting flipped off the machine, unless you count footage of President Bush in(…)

Traverse City: new uses for insane asylum

Sunshine, fresh air, beauty as therapy, physical exercise through work: These were crucial components of mental health treatment in the mid 1800s, and Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride of Pennsylvania came up with plans to make this happen throughout the United States. His sturdy insane asylums were zigzag, two-wing buildings full of windows and cross-ventilation, typically(…)

Little Lanesboro’s slogan: Live local, live well

Engrave your name on a brick or add it to the back of an auditorium seat: That’s how a lot of nonprofit enterprises raise money. At Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, Minn., donors get their name on a Mason jar and fill it with whatever they choose. So lining a wall are rows of containers that(…)

North House Folk School in Grand Marais

Forty miles southwest of the border with Canada, a Minnesota village of 1,400 overlooks a shore of near-paradise, its foundation hardy in character and nostalgic in spirit. “We’re a long way from everywhere, for the average person,” observes community leader Greg Wright, and most people who stay for more than a vacation “don’t come here(…)

German heritage strong in New Ulm, Minn.

Forces of nature brought me to New Ulm, Minn., for an overnight that I didn’t expect to be pretty. Tornado-level winds and blinding rain had uprooted trees, flooded and closed streets upon my arrival around 8 p.m. I had no lodging reservation and no clue about the tidy image or pride of German heritage that(…)

Mackinac Island: a study of high horsepower

Most people who visit Michigan’s Mackinac Island come for just a few hours, so they’re more likely to study fudge shops and fort history than contemporary city rhythms. Up to 15,000 travelers per summer day roam the island’s roads and trails on foot, bicycle, horse or horse-drawn carriage. Motorized vehicles were banned in the 1890s,(…)

Fairfield, Iowa: Full of influences from India

I dunk a wedge of focaccia into the day’s soup – Bogota Potato, spiced with a mild curry – at Revelations Cafe and Bookstore, while assessing the pulse of this unusual community, sandwiched within the many cornfields of southeast Iowa. People behind me are talking about energy fields. Another table debates academic freedom vs. accreditation.(…)

Off-the-grid living: Fern Hollow, Decorah

Fresh flowers show up in a half-dozen containers. Gingersnaps cover a fancy ceramic plate. A jar of mint-flavored water chills in the refrigerator. I read Mary Oliver’s poetry and thumb through a book of blessings. I write, doze and almost grab a flashlight – to sneak a midnight snack from the berry patch, a few(…)

Enlarged Madison Children’s Museum opens

When people see a part of themselves in a project, it creates a sense of ownership, and that sure seems like a sturdy foundation for building loyalty. The Madison Children’s Museum soon opens at a new location, a 1929 Montgomery Ward department store. The move triples museum size and allows staff to wow a larger(…)

Duluth: Solglimt, smokehaus, Park Point, pie

People who vacation in Duluth find their way to Canal Park, an area where a fine mesh of lodging, restaurants and boutiques complement the gleaming Lake Superior waterfront downtown. The Duluth Lakewalk extends 4.2 miles, along shoreline and through parks, and Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge looms near the southern end, at St. Louis River.(…)

Twin Cities: new ballpark, Red Stag dining

Fans of Target Field, which opened in April as home to the Minnesota Twins – seem to talk up three things more than anything else online: Fresh air. The new baseball stadium’s open-air design replaces the stuffy Metrodome, the enclosed, musty and annoying echo chamber where the Twins played 28 years. The view. The city(…)

What to see, do in Kansas City: beyond BBQ

How much do you care about preserving your era of history? Maybe the answer depends upon how and when you assign value to whatever is within reach. When the steamboat Arabia in 1856 hit a toppled walnut tree and sank in the Missouri River, about 10 miles north of Kansas City, all people on board(…)

St. Louis sites: City Museum, basilica, more

One of the best attractions for children and young adults in St. Louis isn’t about the next best thing – as in movie, toy or cartoon. It’s about finding new life for just about any old thing. The city’s ultimate recycling project adds elements of entertainment, suspense, adventure and danger. So imagine a school bus(…)

National Eagle Center overlooks Mississippi

She is strong enough to fly but will never know what it feels like to soar. The bald eagle was found on the ground, near her probable nesting spot, a few months after hatching. She likely survived on whatever herons dropped while feasting in nests above her. Guardians tell Angel’s story almost every day. She(…)

Leopold Shack: newest national landmark

Preserve and protect, or expand and improve? How hard it is to do all in the name of progress. Call it human nature to take cherished places for granted until we feel their survival is endangered, but sometimes real or perceived threats become excellent catalysts to nurture and nudge plans into positive directions. Forty places(…)

Inside Ridges Sanctuary, Door County

Twenty-two years. That’s how long the dwarf lake iris has sat on the federal list of threatened plants, but I know where it grows like a weed during this time of year. Hundreds of the tiny blue-purple flowers, most no bigger than a thumbnail, mingle among junipers and pop through sand at The Ridges Sanctuary(…)

Down to Earth Tours study state’s northwest

One of the first things Dave Thorson does, when he stops his 14-passenger bus, is take out a pouch of tobacco and talk about a ritual that goes back thousands of years. We are at the wild and unblemished Totogatic Flowage in northwest Sawyer County, and Dave tosses bits of tobacco in four directions, as(…)

Green Leaf Inn, Delavan, sets eco-bar high

If you presume that sustainable living requires a high degree of personal sacrifice, listen to the developers of eco-serious lodging near the tourism-rich Lake Geneva area. “We want to show people that they don’t have to eat granola bars and camp out to be green,” says Catherine McQueen, who with husband Fritz Kreiss plan to(…)