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editor’s note ❧
Saving the planet in Southern Minnesota
Here in Southern Minnesota, the environment is
important to us — not necessarily for political reasons but because we live in a rich farmland that needs to be maintained so many of our neighbors can make their living. In this issue of Southern Minnesota, our writers took a look at many aspects of eco-friendly living, from wind energy to organic grocery shopping to homemade, toxin-free household products. Writer Jason Schoonover and photographer Eric Johnson had the opportunity to climb to the top of a wind turbine to learn how turbines generate energy and are maintained. Jason conquered his fear of heights, and the adventure was the talk among our staff members for days. But for the maintenance workers featured on page 22, viewing the area from what seems like the top of the world is an everyday occurrence. Jason and Eric learned about what it takes to maintain wind turbines and why these workers love their jobs. Make sure to check out the photos from the top of the turbines on pages 26 & 28. On page 32, writer Matt Peterson talks to local grocery store owner Jim Stiles about what it takes to compete with big box grocery stores in a small community. Stiles owns Jim’s Super Fresh, an organic grocery store in Austin. In the story, you can read about why Stiles thinks connecting with customers on a personal level is important for making his business thrive. What would an environmental issue of a magazine be without an article for the gardeners? Gardening is becoming increasingly popular as people recognize the health benefits of growing their own food. Fruit and vegetable gardens aren’t the Amanda Lillie only kind of garden that has been growing Editor in popularity, though. On page 17, read about rain gardens and how they can benefit both the environment and the landscape of your yard. If you’re interested in healthier, more eco-friendly household products, environmentalist Clemencia Gujral gives plenty of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle on page 28. Gujral delved into an eco-friendly lifestyle about 20 years ago, and she continues to find ways to improve the sustainability of her home. While some people might be interested in “going green,” they might not want to shell out extra money for the specialty products. We found recipes for homemade, all-natural dish soap, laundry detergent and lip balm, and most of the ingredients can probably be found in your bathroom and kitchen cabinets. Who knew you can make lip balm on your own stovetop? My hope is that you will have as much fun paging through this issue as we had making it for you. So grab an ice cold glass of lemonade, curl up on the porch in the beautiful spring weather and enjoy this issue of Southern Minnesota. While you’re at it, remember to save those lemon peels for your new compost bin.
Craig Wiste, a lead technician for Vestas out of LeRoy, walks across from the nacelle to the hub of a wind turbine south of Grand Meadow. Read about how Wiste and other technicians keep the blades turning on page 22.
What’s inside features
SOUTHERN MINNESOTA SPRING 2012
FROM GARBAGE TO GREEN Colombia-born Clemencia Gujral is surprised at America’s disposable society.
HEALTHY LIVING IN HORMEL COUNTRY Food lovers hope to grow interest in local organic food.
REDUCING TOXINS NATURALLY
on the cover
FIXING THE HORIZON Minnesota’s finest wind technicians showcase Southern Minnesota’s sustainable wind energy.
Clean out the cleaners and rid your home of harmful chemicals.
28 32 34
Cover photograph: Eric Johnson
4 Publishers Scott Schmeltzer Crystal Miller Editorial Editor in Chief Tim Engstrom Editor Amanda Lillie Editor Trey Mewes
❧ SEEN 4 ROSANNE CASH AND THE MINNESOTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
8 bret michaels in rochester 9 FREEBORN COUNTY CHAMBER OF
COMMERCE BUSINESS AFTER HOURS
❧ SAVOR 10 TEWES’ 2 TIPS FOR GRILLING CORN ❧ MOVe 10 do-it-yourself eco-friendly products
12 CHI IN CHECK 14 YOU WON’T BELIEVE YOUR BIKES
❧ CREATE 17 MOTHER NATURE’S GARDEN
❧ DAZZLE 20 spring into fashion
Contributing Writers Andrew Dyrdal Michelle Haacke Rocky Hulne Alexandra Kloster Kelli Lageson Matt Peterson Terri Schlichenmeyer Jason Schoonover Sarah Stultz Contributing Photographer Eric Johnson Art Art Director Stacey Bahr Graphic Designers Susan Downey Colby Hansen Kathy Johnson Sales & Promotion Sales Representatives Jana Gray Crystal Miller
Spring 2012 Volume 6, Number 1
Editorial correspondence: Editors, Southern Minnesota Magazine, 808 W. Front St. Albert Lea, MN 56007. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced without written permission. For comments, suggestions or story ideas call (507) 379-3433 or (507) 434-2230. To purchase advertising, call (507) 379-3427, or fax (507) 373-0333 To subscribe, call (507) 434-2220 © A Minnesota Publishers Inc. publication
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512 E. 7th St. Albert Lea, MN 56007 Phone: (507) 373-4526 Fax: (507) 373-4527
35 BOOK REVIEW: ‘BARN BOOT BLUES’ 36 FINAL WORD BY ALEXANDRA KLOSTER
Visit www.facebook.com/ southernminnesota
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4 | SMM | Spring 2012
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The 56-year-old New York resident sat down to chat with Southern Minnesota. It turns out, she is more than a singer. For instance, she likes quantum mechanics. She released an album called “The List” in 2009. It was the first album Rosanne made since having brain surgery in 2007, from which she has fully recovered. Her cerebellum was too low and was crushing her brain stem. The brave poet tackled this mountain the way she embraces life — full on. She would actually sing “If I Only Had A Brain” from “The Wizard of Oz,” while preparing herself for surgery. Rosanne said her children were not as appreciative of her “morbid” sense of humor as she was and would tell her to “stop.” She credited her husband, John Leventhal, an accomplished guitarist and music producer, for standing tall and guiding her through this bump in the road. When speaking of modernday country and pop music, Rosanne is not the least bit interested in carbon-copy music. She’s guided by a “fear of having a personal quota of first-rate songs.” Rosanne has an urgency that drives all that she wants to accomplish. “The List” provided many of the songs for Rosanne’s stunning collaboration with the Minnesota Orchestra, led by conductor Sarah Hicks. Her work with the Minnesota Orchestra is the basis for an upcoming tour that she is planning. She intends to perform with orchestras in major cities. The idea for “The List” came from her father. When Rosanne was 18, Johnny Cash became alarmed that his daughter appeared to lack a deep understanding of country music. Johnny gave her a list of the “100 Essential Country Songs,” said they would be educational and told her she should learn them all. Determination and creative spirit reveal themselves in Rosanne’s books and lyrics. Happily, the daughter of Johnny Cash is making her own path and casting her own shadow. — Scott Schmeltzer 6 | SMM | Spring 2012
Hardwood flooring is one of the most stunning additions you can integrate into your home. They add warmth, beauty, and elegance as well as providing a whole list of added benefits. Hardwood floors add natural, long lasting beauty to any home. Additional benefits of hardwood flooring include: Hardwood floors increase the value of your home instantly; cost less in the long run other than other types of flooring; can last a lifetime; are more sanitary than other types of flooring; are hypo-allergenic; help to improve air quality; and are easy to maintain when compared to some other types of flooring.
Bret Michaels performs at The Wicked Moose in Rochester on Dec. 26, 2011.
8 | SMM | Spring 2012
On the Tuesday before Christmas Day, Southern Minnesota hosted a Business After Hours gathering at Wedgewood Cove Golf Club in Albert Lea in conjunction with the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce. The magazine gave away $1,500 in prizes to people who stopped by to enjoy some relaxation and company after work.
Spring 2012 | SMM | 9
Tewes’ 2 Tips It’s never too early to get out the grill and there’s never a bad time for corn on the cob. Bob Tewes, owner of Crescendo in Albert Lea, swears by two methods for grilling corn cobs. Corn contains oleic acid, which needs to be warmed in order for the body to absorb its nutrients. Grilling is a great way to achieve this. Ingredients:
• Corn on the cob • One teaspoon of butter or olive oil per ear of corn • Salt
Corn in a cocoon
Soak the ear of corn in water and peel the husk back without fully removing it. Remove all silk and then, using your (washed) hands or bread, cover the ear of corn with butter or oil. Peel the husk back over the ear of corn and use a piece of string to keep it closed. This option gives the corn a smoky, grilled flavor. Cook for about 15 minutes, occasionally turning the corn on the grill, until the kernels are tender.
CLEAN GREEN As the eco-friendly movement increases in popularity, so have products made with all natural ingredients. You don’t need to buy everything from a specialty store to live a healthier, more environmentally friendly lifestyle. You may have some of the ingredients to success already sitting in your kitchen and bathroom cupboards. Here are three recipes for all-natural products you can use on a daily basis. If you’re looking to lead a greener lifestyle or minimize the amount of chemicals in your home, try making your own laundry soap, dish soap and lip balm. Homemade Laundry Soap
1 cup grated Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soap (equals one bar of soap) 2 cups baking soda 1 1/4 cup Borax 2 cups washing soda (optional) 3 mL sweet orange essential oil, or your choice of an essential oil for scent Mix ingredients together and store in a container. Use 2 tablespoons per load of laundry. If you double the recipe, it should make about 2 quarts and about 65 loads. This is without adding the washing soda.
Automatic Dishwasher Soap 2 cups Borax 2 cups baking soda 1 cup kosher salt 1 cup lemonade Kool-Aid
The salt and lemonade are optional but help to remove film or residue from your dishes. Use 2 tablespoons per load of dishes.
Sweet Orange Lip Balm
3 tsp. grated beeswax 4 tsp. sweet almond oil 1/4 tsp. unrefined shea butter 3 drops Vitamin E gel capsule (a natural preservative and beneficial to healing skin) 15 drops sweet orange essential oil You will also need small lip balm containers to pour the mixture into.
The second method requires you to completely remove both the husk and silk from the ear of corn. Cover the naked ear in butter or oil and salt, wrap it in aluminum foil and cook it for 15 to 30 minutes, occasionally turning the corn on the grill until the kernels are tender. This method makes the corn easier to serve and eat, but leaves it with less of a smoky flavor. You can save the husks, soak them in water and wrap them around fish or chicken with the ends tied together. It keeps the meat moist and smoky. — Andrew Dyrdal
Melt the wax, almond oil, shea butter and Vitamin E in the top of a double boiler. Stir to melt ingredients together. Remove from heat and add essential oil and color. The color is optional, but you can use a sliver of your favorite lipstick to add tint. Pour into lip balm containers using a dropper. Wait a minute or two, keeping the reserved mixture melted, then top off the containers with remaining mixture. This gives a nice, even looking top. Let cool (in fridge for faster cooling). For a waxier balm use more beeswax. For a glossier balm add more almond oil. This makes 2-4 short pots. — Amanda Lillie 10 | SMM | Spring 2012
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MOVE ❧ Left: The class at the Mower County Senior Center does a meditation before getting under way. Center: A class member goes through her Tai Chi. Right: Tai Chi instructor Art Bauer leads a class at the Mower County Senior Center.
chi in check By Rocky Hulne
In a darkened room, a soft
Shirley Deepsong goes through her Tai Chi during a class held at the Mower County Senior Center.
12 | SMM | Spring 2012
tune floats from a flute in the background. People are slowly, carefully stretching their bodies while following an instructor’s voice. They glide through the various motions, and there is a natural rhythm of the room. Welcome to Tai Chi Qigong, a holistic system of self-meditation that Austin residents have enjoyed at the Mower County Senior Center for the past dozen years. For Shirley Deepsong of Austin, Tai Chi has made a big difference in her life. A year ago, she was using a walker to get around as a result of numerous back injuries, but she’s feeling a little better on her feet after attending Tai Chi classes for nine months. “It’s wonderful, and it’s helped me a lot. I just love it. I wish I could come every day,” she said. “It’s helped me with my balance, it’s helped me be more limber and it’s helped me spiritually.” Deepsong learned the art of Tai Chi from Art Bauer, who teaches two classes of 12 to 14 students per week at the senior center and one per week at the Cedars of Austin retirement home. His approach, much like the exercise, is relaxed, and he always has the attention of his class. Deepsong said Bauer has had a big impact on her. She initially joined the class to meet with friends but found her whole outlook on life changing. “I used to carry a lot of tension. Now I work on changing energy to be nonjudgmen-
Photos by Eric Johnson
tal,” she said. “It’s not just the physical; it’s everything combined and how you act with other people.” Bauer’s focus is on self-healing, and he wants everyone to take that idea home with them, even if they’re not believers in Eastern medicine. “Sometimes I’ll talk about the energies coming down from the heavens and healing and sometimes new people will roll their eyes and walk out. It’s all about what you’re ready to accept,” Bauer said. “They don’t have to buy into it. Don’t even believe what I say; just try it out and see if it works. “The biggest thing I want them to take home is how they can depend on their selfempowerment with their health,” he added. During his class, Bauer emphasizes he’s not against Western medicine practices and he thinks prescription drugs can helpful. He just feels that they are used too often when there are other ways to keep the body healthy. He offers the class at a price of $2, or whatever people are able to pay — even if that means nothing. “If you don’t have it just come and do the class,” he said. “A lot of people need it that can’t afford it.” Bauer started with martial arts when he was 19 years old. He ran a karate school in the 1960s and 1970s. One day a Tai Chi teacher came in and told him it was time for him to start healing people. He became certified in Qigong soon after. Since then, he has spread healing across Austin, and most of his students keep coming back for more. “Some of them have been coming a long time, and they like it,” Bauer said.
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By Tim Engstrom
You won’t believe your bikes Products in the bicycle world don’t change as swiftly as computers or automobiles. Bikes are bikes to most consumers, but serious bike lovers follow the new technology. Modern road bikes are making long distances easier on the back, yet speedy like never before. Electronic shifting, a feature many racers enjoy, doesn’t use cables. The shift is immediate, precise and eliminates friction. Mountain bikes and urban cycles these days eschew caliper brakes. Nearly all of them use disc brakes, with the best bikes employing hydraulic disc brakes. And though folding bikes are nothing new, manufacturers are folding them in newer, more compact ways. Here are some products that reflect the latest trends in bicycling.
Campagnolo Super Record EPS Price: Coming out this spring, est. $4,000
Shimano was first to the market with electric power shifting, but Campagnolo does the technology better. Some critics of electric shifting say “Get a moped!” Some say it goes against human-powered transportation, but the change is inevitable. Riders move levers and get a calibrated shift every time, which means a lot less grinding.
Avid Code Hydraulic Disc Brake Price: $160
If you want to stop quickly and smoothly, nothing beats hydraulic disc brakes. The price changes with the diameter of the cylinder, but at 410 grams, Code is lighter than most and can be your best friend heading downhill on a mountain bike. Avid makes an array of bike brakes.
Trek Madone 6.7 SSL Price: $7,040
Notice how the crossbar angles up, rather than down or straight. Sitting up slightly eases strain on the rider’s back. This road bike is fast and precise yet comfortable. Trek handcrafts bikes in its 6 Series right in Waterloo, Wis. The Madone comes in 3, 4 and 5 series, too, in case you don’t plan on riding the Tour de France.
14 | SMM | Spring 2012
Tern Link Uno Price: $650
There are many folding bikes fighting for presence on the market, but the bikes from Tern are getting good marks for their durability and urban look. You ride, fold it up, do what you need, unfold, ride to the next destination. It weighs just 25 pounds, or a 2-year-old child, in parent speak. Tern also sells racks to let you tow the folded bike like luggage.
Skuut Balance Price: $94
Bike Trainer Handle Price: $20
Found online but rarely in stores, a company called Bike Trainer Handle makes this nifty handle and clamp that attaches to most bikes. It allows parents to run behind as the child pedals. This makes training wheels a thing of the past.
Get your pre-K child a Skuut, and they quickly will learn balance. The birchwood bike is small enough for them to reach the ground, with a seat that adjusts easily. As they gain confidence, their strides lengthen. This bike has won all kinds of awards, and your little one will be proud to ride it.
Albert Lea Parks Superintendent Joe Grossman knows rain gardens are good for local lakes.
To him, rain gardens are like miniature wetlands. “Rain gardens in a small way do their part and cleanse water before it goes into the lakes,” Grossman said. Rain gardens are growing in popularity and for good reason. They are fairly easy to install and don’t require much maintenance. Using grasses, flowers and other native plants, rain gardens filter rain water before it flows into ground water and then into lakes and waterways. The city of Albert Lea, in collaboration with other area entities, planted a rain garden in Lakeview Park. Homeowners can make their own rain gardens with just a few simple steps. First, examine your soil to see whether its sandy or clay-like. Most residential rain gardens are around 100 to 300 square feet. With heavier, clay-like soil, you’ll want to use a larger area because water will drain slower. You want water to drain within 24 hours after a rain, which helps prevent standing water where insects like mosquitos hatch. A good place for a rain garden is beneath gutters, where water drains off your house or garage. Next, dig out some soil to make a depression a few inches deep. Then plant local flowers and grasses. It is important to make sure the species you plant are native to your area, because any other species will not survive. In Southern Minnesota some native flowers to plant are Turtlehead, Fox’s Edge, Meadow Glazing Star or Sweet Flag. Mix in sedges and grasses with native flowers for hundreds of options. Your local landscapers and seed houses can sell you seeds or direct you to the best kinds of plants to use. “You don’t want to buy from other states or regions,” Grossman said. Now you’re left to maintain the garden. Based on your preference, during the winter months you can choose to leave the garden as is or mow it. If you decide to mow, make sure to leave a few inches so that the plants can grow back in the spring. Another thing to keep in mind is dealing with invasive plants. These are plants that will take over the whole garden — like Creeping Charlie — if not removed and dealt with every so often. For more help: Applied Ecological Services has an office in Prior Lake and its website, www.appliedeco.com, features guides for homeowners who want to start a rain garden. — By Kelli Lageson
Spring 2012 | SMM | 17
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Whether you want to wear bright colors on a sunny day or you’re trying to impress a first date, this spring’s fashion trends will definitely dazzle. — Amanda Lillie Photos courtesy of modcloth.com
Fashion AND Function!
For a look that could pass for chic or casual, throw on a trench coat. Not only are they fashionable, they are perfect for keeping you the right temperature in the mild weather. This year, 1980s styles are coming back, along with chambray styles. Pair a neutral trench coat with a bright umbrella on a gloomy day for a cheery touch.
Don’t hate, separate!
We all know that spring is a time worthy of celebration in the form of colorful clothing, but this year bright separates are the way to go. Pair a bright jacket with grey slacks or a nice pair of jeans if you want to add a splash of life to an everyday ensemble. If you’re on the braver end of the fashion spectrum, you can try a pair of red capris or skinny jeans with a muted color tank or blouse. Working just a few bright pieces into your wardrobe can add the spark you may be craving while costing half as much as buying an entirely new spring wardrobe.
Put your best nail forward!
Fun nails and floral prints are also trendy this spring, so be sure to hit the nail salon before touting your clutch all night!
20 | SMM | Spring 2012
Cut it out!
For an evening out, go bold with one of the many cutout dresses featured this spring. Cutout dresses are the perfect way to incorporate a bit of flirty sex appeal without going overboard. Add even more class by carrying a clutch as your accessory. Everyone will be sure to notice your elegance.
What would spring be without pastel? Pastels are perfect for spring weddings, whether youâ€™re a bridesmaid or a guest. Make sure to wear pastels during the day, as darker colors work better for evening and nighttime events.
Spring 2012 | SMM | 21
horizon By Jason Schoonover
Photos by Eric Johnson
“There’s something really satisfying about getting a multi-million dollar piece of machinery running again.” Craig Wiste, lead technician with Vestas Americas in LeRoy
Craig Wiste and Eric Anderson are lead technicians for Vestas out of the LeRoy office, helping keep the wind towers under their watch up and working.
22 | SMM | Spring 2012
Wind towers stretch west across farm fields just south of Grand Meadow.
Craig Wiste and Eric Andersen
face a tall order every morning when they arrive at work. Their task is comparable to maintaining and repairing a car, but everything is bigger, taller and more complex. Their job is to ensure 243 Vestas Americas wind turbines — 182 in Iowa and 61 in Minnesota — continue operating efficiently and producing power, a job in which most technicians take great pride. “There’s something really satisfying about getting a multi-million dollar piece of machinery running again,” Wiste said. Wiste and Andersen are part of a 34-person team working out of the LeRoy Vestas office at the 400-megawatt Pioneer Prairie Wind Farm. Though the job of a wind farm technician requires skills with mechanics, electricity and hydraulics, there’s no other job quite like it. “There’s really no job that can prepare you for this job,” Wiste said. “It’s a job like no other.” Andersen said it’s a job technicians don’t take lightly. “Our guys take a lot of pride in their work,” Andersen said. “They make sure that they catch everything they can during rou-
tine service, and that really minimizes the chance of a turbine faulting.”
While many people spend workdays at paper-littered desks, the bulk of a wind farm technician’s day is spent in a turbine’s nacelle, the base of the turbine at the tower’s top that houses the bulk of the machinery. Though some towers have climb assists or lifts, many workers reach the nacelle by harnessing into a guide wire and climbing a ladder located inside the turbine so the climber’s back is near the turbine wall. “You get so used to it, it doesn’t feel unsafe at all,” Wiste said. The company prides itself on safety and holds safety meetings every morning, one of the ways they keep themselves safe keeping turbines running. Wiste, who previously worked as an auto mechanic, said much of a wind technician’s work is comparable to routine maintenance on a car. Technicians, who generally work in three-man teams, spend six to eight hours a day maintaining a turbine by checking oil filters, greasing gears, cleaning and torquing bolts. But a career as a mechanic doesn’t fully prepare workers for the challenge
of a turbine. “Everything’s so big; everything’s higher voltages,” Wiste said. “You’re not running around with a little torque wrench like you are on a car. ... You’re using big tools and heavy tools. Guys really have to take care of themselves up there when they’re working.” The nacelle resembles a large, simple engine with the blades turning a large axlelike rotor shaft that extends into the gearbox. The gearbox is large enough that workers can lay over its curve for warmth in the winter. The inside of the nacelle is comparable in size to a small, cramped bus. The turbine is shut down for maintenance. For the most part, workers only need to service turbines once or twice each year for maintenance purposes. And with 243 turbines for about 30 technicians, Wiste said they’re always moving on to the next turbine. “You can about imagine that we never get a break,” Wiste said. “By the time you finish the last one, you start the new one.” Andersen described the work as multiple specialties tied into one. “You get a real good taste of everything,” he said. As lead technicians, Wiste and Andersen Spring 2012 | SMM | 23
Lead technician out of the LeRoy office for Vestas, Eric Anderson talks about wind tower maintenance while standing on top of one just south of Grand Meadow.
Lead technician Craig Wiste sits inside the hub of a wind turbine just south of Grand Meadow, describing the basics of how they work.
Eric Anderson steps across from the nacelle to the hub during a trip up a wind turbine south of Grand Meadow.
spend more time on the ground, helping general technicians and doing some managerial work. Similar to cars, leaks and other issues will show up on turbines often during regular checks. Issues frequently come up during a scheduled maintenance check. The goal is to maintain turbines regularly to save the workers from extra work later and keep the turbines producing energy for their customers. Technicians also take turns being on call. During the week, they’ll focus on alarm turbines, which makes for 10-hour days along with some weekend and night work. “Everyday’s the same, yet everyday’s a little different,” Andersen said. Alarm work generally requires maintenance crews to repair electrical problems like loose wires or hydraulic issues. Wiste said they rarely see the same issue break down a turbine twice, and a variety of different things can cause a breakdown. Repairing a turbine that breaks down can be anything but routine. Wiste said a great deal of troubleshooting is required because many different variables can cause a turbine alarm. Despite the extra work, Wiste said a lot of workers like on-call duty, because it breaks up the routine of regular maintenance and it’s a good chance to learn how to troubleshoot a range of issues.
The side walls of the nacelle are mostly fiberglass, so workers must deal with Minnesota weather yearround. In the summer, turbines don’t always make for fun in the sun. Wiste said nacelle temperatures can reach 140 degrees. “You’re working with the extremes,” Wiste said. In high temperatures, Andersen said crews only work early or don’t go out at all. The nacelle typically stays comfortable enough to work in a sweatshirt in the winter because the hydraulics give off heat before they’re shut down for maintenance. But once a machine is shut down, the cold can take over quickly, Andersen said. For much of the year, Wiste said they have comfortable working temperatures of 50 to 70 degrees. Though there are limits for working in high winds, Andersen said a nacelle will sway as much as 4 to 5 feet on breezy days. Being stuck on top of a swaying turbine with a colleague can generate conversation as well as a water cooler, and many friendships start on the job. Site Manager Michelle Berdusis said she’s seen technicians build strong friendships while working. “They also have built some really strong friendships, and it’s nice to see, and they’re keeping each other safe up there, because I can’t be there with them,” she said Most of the workers have been with the company for multiple years, and Berdusis said the company tries to promote technicians from within. With all the variations in the job, Andersen said one thing is for certain: “It’s definitely a unique job.”
26 | SMM | Spring 2012
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TURNING garbage to green “Every little thing we recycle is one less thing nature has to deal with.” — Albert Lea resident Clemencia Gujral
28 | SMM | Spring 2012
By Sarah Stultz Photos by Eric Johnson
lbert Lean Clemencia Gujral always considered herself in tune with Mother Nature. She was environmentally conscious and she knew from a young age how to live with less. It wasn’t until she noticed some of the waste coming from her own life that she started a personal journey to implement change. “We consume so much that is not necessary,” Gujral said. She started practicing the basic principles of reducing, reusing and recycling, and she was amazed with what resulted. She became hooked and wanted to do more. “Every little thing we recycle is one less thing nature has to deal with,” she noted. “Everything we do is related to nature.” Now, about 20 years later, the 62-year-old makes conservation a major part of her life. In fact, she keeps it in mind for most decisions she makes — down to what she chooses to eat, where she chooses to shop and how much driving she does. “My goal is to slowly, slowly take small steps,” Gujral said. She’s called catalog companies to have her name removed from mailing lists if she receives catalogs not printed on recycled paper and has talked with owners or managers of local restaurants about eliminating the use of Styrofoam containers. She no longer drives on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, which forces her to plan her trips in advance. Gujral even takes her passion a step further by seeking opportunities to educate others about the effects of their choices. She wants people to know it is possible to enact change. “Most people feel it’s not going to
continued on next page
Spring 2012 | SMM | 29
make a difference, but little by little it makes a difference,” she said.
Growing up in South America, Gujral was not surrounded by McDonald’s and other fast-food chains that serve large quantities of food — in large quantities of packaging. “I never saw that,” she said. “When I came to the states and saw all of that, I was turned off. Seeing all of that throw-away culture, it hit me.” The U.S. was a vastly different place to live. What was worse, Gujral either didn’t have or couldn’t find many recycling options. With a few more years of experience, two daughters and two grandchildren, she realizes taking care of the earth is something that needs to be done on a worldwide scale. “Everything I do is not just for my family, but it’s for every child on earth,” she said. “We have to be global. We need to care of everybody because if we do something wrong, it has ramifications all over the world.” Those ramifications struck a chord when she took a trip to Belize about five years ago. She had visited the country when she was younger and remembered the beaches and water there as paradise. That’s why she was so
dismayed when she returned. There were bottles strewn about and bags washed ashore, and the setting was anything but the perfect image she stored in her memory. “You really feel that nature is so sad,” she said. “It just looked so sad to see the shore with all this garbage, plastic bags and bottle caps.”
Gujral tries to share her passion of taking care of the world with anyone who will listen. Within the last five years, she tried to collect enough signatures to make Albert Lea a “green city.” She walked door to door, collecting hundreds of names and statements from people who were on board, but nothing ever came of it. She also talked to a group of high school students about her efforts, though there wasn’t any concrete action from the group. Though Gujral sometimes gets frustrated that her efforts may be slow in the making, she knows things happen for a reason. She also knows that every little bit helps, and each item she recycles will be one less piece of washed-up trash on a shore somewhere. “It’s doable,” Gujral said. “It’s not impossible. If everybody did it, little by little, we can make a difference.”
things you can do today to make a difference:
• Buy or find three containers you can use to start recycling. Have one container for metal and glass, another for plastic and a third for paper. Divide items into each of these categories as you’re disposing of them. • Purchase reusable bags that you can take when you go grocery shopping. You may forget them at home the first couple of times, but soon enough it will become habit to take them with you. • Change the incandescent light bulbs in your house to energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs. And don’t forget to turn the lights, television, etc. off when you don’t need them. • Don’t waste water. Use it with awareness and respect. • Pay attention to how you shop. Avoid purchasing items that have excessive packaging. • Don’t be afraid to call or email companies and voice your concerns about excessive packaging or other environmentally harmful practices. • Educate your children or grandchildren about recycling and the importance of taking care of the earth. Children pick up on the principles quickly.
30 | SMM | Spring 2012
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Wayde Groh stands in his greenhouse where he grows his own vegetables and sells them at the Austin Farmers Market.
Healthy living in Hormel country Local
foods lovers abound in
A couple of customers mill about the storefront while the owner pops out of the back room and puts on his apron. He’s not swamped with work, and the small staff is busy with some not-so-pressing tasks. One prunes flowers in the greenhouse. Another makes a pie, in plain view, behind the front counter. The scene is much different just a few blocks down the road, where two major grocery store parking lots are packed, and employees gather shopping carts outside while the constant beep of scanners ring from within. While customers wait in lines at those stores, Jim Stiles, owner of Jim’s Super Fresh in Austin, is holding the door for one of his customers and giving a short tour of his grocery store at the same time. That interaction with the customers, he said, is still important.
For more than 30 years, Stiles has maintained the Ma and Pa image at his store. Old-fashioned candies line the shelves of a wall, while pre-packaged items sport brand names few people would likely recognize. However, those images throughout the store are more byproducts of Stiles’ business model than thoughtfully placed timepieces. They stem from a vision that few locals have, but may slowly return to
By Matt Peterson 32 | SMM | Spring 2012
but organic eating is still an uphill battle
small towns: buying and selling local, naturally grown foods. Persuading more people to do that is the trick, however. “That’s the million-dollar question there,” Stiles said about creating a larger community of local buyers and traders. Not too long ago, Stiles started carrying more organic produce and naturally raised meat and poultry. He and others notice a few more people, like some at the farmers markets, who are focusing on naturally raised, local food. In the Austin and Albert Lea area, the movement is growing slower than elsewhere. Towns like Lanesboro, St. Peter and Decorah, Iowa, have tight-knit communities with businesses that support one another. Back at Stiles’ store, organic produce is slow to move off the shelves. Like businesses in those other towns, Stiles buys some produce, but more pork, beef and poultry naturally raised by producers in the area. “The meats have done a lot better than fruits and vegetables,” he said. “Maybe that’s because we live in a meat and potato town, I guess.” Organic, or naturally grown foods are expensive, but Stiles and others who follow the vision say the costs are worth it because they support the local economy, along with the trend of living a healthier lifestyle.
Photos by Eric Johnson
“It just keeps those dollars local, and that’s good for a small business like me that really relies on people that want to buy local and support local,” Stiles said. “If people don’t have that in their way of thought, I’m gone, basically. I’d rather have a hundred small businesses than one big business.”
heart of the city’
Across town, near the hub of Austin, a moderate-sized greenhouse proudly stands among the grocery and convenience stores. Its owner, Wayde Groh, shares very similar views to Stiles. “One of the reasons I chose that site is it’s in the center of town,” Groh said about building his greenhouse. “It’s kind of in the heart of the city. I wanted it to be a model for locally grown food, right here in the heart of the city.” Groh admits he can only grow a limited amount of produce. Though he has the 72- by 30-foot greenhouse and several other gardens, Groh wants to grow more vegetables. He doesn’t use any herbicides or pesticides on his plants. Like many, he thinks too many chemicals are going into America’s produce. So he offers consumers a way around that issue with his produce. Groh, like Jody Maloney of Lyle, takes his goods to the Austin Farmers Market. There, he and Maloney not only trade goods, they cooperate with other vendors, learn from them, help them. “We should all be helping each other, so we can better everything,” Maloney said. Groh agrees. “It’s a lot of work, but I learn a tremendous amount just from customers and other vendors,” he said. “That’s the rewarding part about the farmers market.”
But Austin’s farmers market is small. Maloney, Groh and Stiles all realize the locally grown, naturally raised movement is a slow process. As a grocery store owner, Stiles sees it every day. “There’s so much pressure on the consumer now to make things easy,” he said, and added that many meals from chain grocery stores aren’t only quick and easy to prepare, they’re cheap. Inevitably, organic and naturally raised foods will be more expensive, as growers can’t chemically enhance them. Selling naturally raised food takes more effort because the grower must pay more care during the process. The approach is straightforward, or as Stiles calls it, “grass-roots.” “You’ve got to look the consumer in the eye and say, ‘These are the best green beans I’ve ever tasted in my life,’” he said. “It just takes that grass-roots thinking, that grass-roots level where it is one-on-one, telling them your story. As retail, that’s what I do all the time.” However, people like Groh and Maloney have somewhat hidden stories. They want to foster local trade, but they aren’t certified organic farmers. For that reason, they can’t sell to stores like Jim’s Super Fresh. They are limited to farmers markets and word of mouth. Along with Stiles, they wish the scene would be more like it was decades ago, when people bought and sold locally. It may take a complete reawakening for people to do that, however. Stiles, Groh and Maloney said they have noticed more people paying attention to what is in their foods, like preservatives and chemicals that may not be in locally raised produce. That alone is promising. Meanwhile, customers at Jim’s Super Fresh finish their shopping. Perhaps they’re purposefully buying locally, perhaps not. Few of them venture out to the greenhouse, where a small chalk board sits in front of some items for sale. On it, someone took the time to write, “Go Green! Earth Friendly Gifts.”
Jim Stiles, owner of Jim’s Super Fresh in Austin, shows off a bag of organic tortilla chips made in Welcome. Many of the products Stiles carries are organic and produced locally or elsewhere in the state of Minnesota.
“It just takes that grass-roots thinking, that grass-roots level where it is one-on-one, telling them your story,”
— Jim Stiles, owner of Jim’s Super Fresh.
A majority of the produce at Jim’s Super Fresh in Austin is all natural, coming from organic producers, many of them local.
Spring 2012 | SMM | 33
Reducing toxins naturally
Jillian Hoium Stitt’s admitted misconceptions
about “going green” left her overwhelmed when she decided to make her New Brighton home more environmentally friendly. Stitt, formerly of Albert Lea, began her quest for living a greener lifestyle when she became pregnant with her first son in 2009. Using all-natural household cleaners to reduce the amount of in-home toxins with a baby on the way was her top priority, and cloth diapers were a close second. “There are so many products out there and conflicting information, a lot of people don’t even know where to start,” said Stitt. “Out of all consumer goods we bring into our home, household cleaners take the lead in being most toxic.” Stitt took to the Internet for tips about less toxic products, and she ran across Only Green, an educator and supplier of ecofriendly products and services. She was immediately hooked and attended her first EcoWorkshop in her hometown of Albert Lea that October. By Christmas 2009, she was an Independent Only Green EcoAdvisor. While Only Green offers environmentally friendly health and beauty, home, baby and pet products, Stitt said there are alternatives — already found in most households — to make the transition to a greener lifestyle seamless.
34 | SMM | Spring 2012
Stitt provided the following quick and easy tips to help make your home more environmentally friendly and cost efficient: • Common household items, like vinegar, baking soda, Borax and lemon can be used to clean nearly everything in your home — from sinks, tubs and toilets to ovens and glass. • Sodium hydroxide or lye, which is in most oven cleaners, is a corrosive poison and hazardous waste. Use baking soda, vinegar and lemon as a healthier alternative to clean your oven. Pour baking soda into the bottom of the oven, onto the charred food. Pour a bit of vinegar over the baking soda and watch it fizzle. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes and use a lemon half as a scouring pad to scrub your oven to a “sparkling” clean. • Hang clothes, blankets and towels to line dry. If using a dryer, avoid dryer sheets, which can be fire hazards and create a chemical buildup on clothes, and opt for dryer balls. • Air dry dishes cleaned in a dishwasher instead of wasting electric heat to dry them. Run the dishwasher at night before bed or before you leave for work in the morning to allow time for the dishes to air dry.
• Use soy candles instead of paraffin candles. One of the benefits to soy candles is that they are clean burning. Unlike paraffin, soy wax is nontoxic, with no petrol-carbon soot that can blacken walls, ceilings and furniture. Paraffin wax can also add toxic carcinogens into the air you breathe. Soy candles burn much slower and cooler than paraffin wax, creating a longer burning candle. This makes them a much more cost-effective choice for consumers.
• Replace energy-wasting incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. • Reduce your plastic bag pile-up problem by taking sturdy, reusable cloth bags to grocery stores — some stores will even give you a five-cent refund! • Keep your air conditioning temp 72 or higher, or don’t use it at all. • Shut your blinds during the day to keep your home naturally cool. • Ensure outlets, windows and porches are sealed in winter to avoid drafts. • Use reusable water Klean Kanteens and coffee mugs. • Reuse paper in your office or at home for crafts or scratch paper. — Michelle Haacke
Barn Boot Blues School is beginning, and your flip-flops are all packed away.
You loved them so much. Wearing them felt like going barefoot, so they were the first shoes you grabbed whenever you went anywhere. They were your favorite color and they were worn in just the right spots. Putting them on was like donning a favorite old sweater. Oh, how you loved that slap-slapslap. And now your flip-flops are packed away and you’re wearing shoes that are warmer and more school-approved — or maybe, like Taylor McNamara, you’ve got boots. But in the new book “Barn Boot Blues” by Catherine Friend, Taylor’s troubles kicked off with an ugly pair of footwear.
“Discombobulated” is a good word, unless it has to do with yourself. That’s what Taylor McNamara decided, because that’s what she was: discombobulated. Off-balance. Weird. Not quite right. It started when her parents packed up all their stuff and moved from Minneapolis (population 400,000) to Melberg (population 7,380) and a farm (population 77, including three humans) — a farm that was not exactly where 12-year-old Taylor wished to be. Determined to make the best of things, she was eager to start school — that is, until the first day. That was when she forgot she had on her ugly old barn boots and the bus came early. Wearing brown rubber boots all day is hot, but not the kind of hot you want to be when you’re in middle school. Still, Taylor managed to make friends and most of them totally understood why she missed
“Barn Boot Blues” Catherine Friend of Zumbrota © 2011 Marshall Cavendish 144 pages $16.99
Minneapolis. There was no cable TV on the farm. The goats were smelly, the chickens pooped everywhere, and animals die on the farm. Taylor was homesick, quick, so her friends devised a plan to help her get back to the city. If Taylor, who was once a good student, could learn to misbehave, maybe her parents would re-think that stupid farm business. If she could somehow prove that this move was not a good thing, then maybe they’d go back to the city. Operation TEFF (Taylor Escapes From Farm) began, and Taylor became a teacher’s worst nightmare. And then something horrible happened, followed by something wonderfully magical. Was being booted off the farm really what she wanted? Looking for something that’s lacking in teenage angst? Then here’s the book you want: high on cute, low on hysterics, and featuring zero profanity, “Barn Boot Blues” is perfect for the middleschooler who believes theatrics are best left for the stage. With barely a hint of drama, in fact, author Catherine Friend’s main character, Taylor, tells her own story of change, and the nice surprises you get when you relax and embrace it. Readers will enjoy the supporting cast in this book (even the nasty ones, I think), and parents will appreciate that Friend gives Taylor enough maturity to inspire but enough kid-ness to maintain believability. While this book can undoubtedly be enjoyed by tween-age boys, I think 10-to-13-year-old girls will better appreciate it (and so will their parents). For them, “Barn Boot Blues” is a real kick.
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— Terri Schlichenmeyer Spring 2012 | SMM | 35
final word ❧
By Alexandra Kloster
wait, remind me again what to do?
rowing up surrounded by bountiful forests, swimming in the Great Lakes, breathing clean air, and having a personal relationship with the Northern Lights produces two types of people: those who recognize their good fortune and vow to preserve the land around them and those who take it for granted. I took it for granted. What did I know of pollution? Nothing, except that it happened someplace else. I never even saw litter in our town unless you count the potholes that pockmarked our roads every spring because we got foot after foot of sparkling, pure snow. No one was after our trees or our water or our air. Environmentalism was something Ed Begley Jr. talked about, and I didn’t take it much more seriously than I did his electric car. It took me a long time to understand that our environment was not limited to the town we live in. Ruined land and contaminated water across the country or on the other side of the world may not affect us now, but someday it would. Three things helped crystallize my conversion to conservation. I found a piece of blue gum and other debris in the ice of a melting glacier in Alaska and wondered why anyone would casually spoil something so pristine. I met and married a man who had joined the Sierra Club to meet girls and ended up a devotee of recycling, wind energy and allaround clean living, and I moved to the big city, where my sheltered lungs couldn’t handle the dirty air. I started coughing and never stopped. I admire people who make a complete textbook transition to living green. Things haven’t been as seamless for me, but I’m 36 | SMM | Spring 2012
making progress. While my husband is a pro at reduce, reuse, recycle, I’m more of a remind me, remind me, remind me kind of gal. The other day I heard Graham say, “I rescued the shampoo bottle from the garbage.” “What’s its number?” I asked. It turns out the shampoo bottle has a recycling code of 2. Who would have thought? Usually I can remember that 1 and 2 are recyclable and 3, 4, 6 and 7 aren’t. Five stymies me. Fives are recyclable some places but not others. Being green would be a lot easier if everything were consistent. Why not
put a skull and cross bones on everything that’s eventually going to ravage the earth? Then we’d all be able to make informed decisions. Last year Graham started our transition from incandescent bulbs to fluorescent, which is tricky if you have vintage or antique lamps. Lamp makers of yesteryear were clearly left out of the loop. Little did they know, that which made them their bread and butter would one day be accused of sucking too much energy out of the earth. They didn’t make their lampshades adaptable to the curlicue fluorescent saviors, and now I
have a house full of crooked lamps. The only place I declared a no-fluorescent zone was the bathroom. I’m not putting my makeup on under that harsh glare. I’ll buy incandescent bulbs on the black market if I have to. Going green is one thing, looking green is quite another. So I’m not the perfect environmentalist, but like most of us, I try and I’m getting better. Newspapers, magazines and junk mail get recycled, but sometimes I get lazy and drop my Entertainment Weekly into the wastebasket. Graham fishes it out, and I do the walk of shame down to the recycling bin. I’m proud of the fact that I take reusable bags with me to the grocery store even if I forget them in the car half of the time. I think it’s better to gently encourage green living than it is to coerce or try to scare people into doing it, but sometimes I encourage with a little too much zeal. The last time Graham and I were at my parents’ house, Graham asked my mom if she recycled. “No one has asked me to yet,” she replied innocently enough. “I’m asking you, Mom,” I began. “Woodsy the Owl is asking you. Give a hoot, Mom. Give a hoot! Your planet is asking you, Al Gore is asking you, and if you listen very closely, Mom, God is asking you.” I’m pretty sure she’s never going to recycle after that outburst. In fact, she may go out of her way to buy more plastic and throw it in the trash. From now on I should probably keep my own recycling bin full, my mouth shut, and leave the public relations to Ed Begley Jr. Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears in each issue. She may be reached at email@example.com, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at alexandrakloster.com.
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