PicsArt_1439263377112

Seed Bombs are clay balls embedded with seeds,

in this case, milkweed for monarchs!

Milkweed = Baby Food for Monarch Butterflies

Milkweed = Baby Food for Monarch Butterflies

Artists, Activists and Kids love seed bombs,

and here’s how to make your own:

Step One:

Step One

Step One

Step Two:

Naughty or Nice?

Naughty or Nice?

Step Three:

Harvest milkweed seeds from a real

milkweed plant, OR, buy locally,

from,  Seed Geeks, who you can find

at the Tower Grove Market.

Go Local

Seed Geeks

Mix the clay with water, and a few seeds,

until you get the consistency of cookie dough.

Play with mud

Play with mud

Step Four:

Mix into mud, adding more clay, water or seeds

as needed.  You can also add some compost from your garden.

Mix Well

Mix Well

Step Five:

Roll into balls, allow to dry, and harden (which may take a few days).

Bombs Away!

Bombs Away!

Then go bomb a vacant lot.

Next spring,

Milkweed and Monarchs show up!

And that’s how to make a Seed Bomb.

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2014-08 Know Your Farmer

It’s getting harder and harder to find family farms to visit, but it can be done, and here’s one way to do it. You can visit Windcrest Dairy, the only makers of homestead yogurt in our area, conveniently located just 40 minutes east of the Arch, in Illinois.

Here’s the link to the farm, along with a map, and here’s the address to the farm:

Windcrest Dairy

14898 Old Trenton Road; Trenton, IL 62293

 

(Be careful with your GPS device, as it seems to want to divert to Wing Crest)

2014-07-17 Windcrest cows in the barn

Here’s Farmer Kurt, third generation farmer, with a broken rib.  Thank goodness farmers don’t stop farming just because they have broken ribs, or because it’s frightfully cold, or because it’s blisteringly hot outside — because we love to eat!  Call up Farmer Kurt anytime, and organize a field trip; afternoons are best.  Here’s his phone number: 618-910-346four.

Do you know this farmer?

Do you know this farmer?

Farming is hard work, and harder still due to economies of scale and “Get Big or Get Out” farm policies.  Milk is a commodity, so bigger producers have a competitive advantage over the little family farm, yet Windcrest Dairy has found a way to stay in business by making yogurt. 

 

When you go, ask them what “homestead” yogurt means.  Small farms are little businesses, and thus they need to be very entrepreneurial; making yogurt is known as a “value added product”, and has made a big difference for this family-owned farm operation.

2014-08-06 Windcrest  (59)

You can buy Windcrest Dairy yogurt at Schnucks, Straubs, and local foodie establishments; Wash U uses Windcrest Dairy yogurt in their yogurt parfaits.  It’s nice to “Know Your Farmer”, and it’s important know where your food comes from. Heck, do you think a factory farm would let us visit their operation with little girls in tutus?

2014-08-06 Windcrest Tutu (36)

If you visit the farm at 4:30, you get to see the cows get milked at 5 pm.  Otherwise, there are lots of cows, pigs, ducks, geese, donkeys and miniature horses to pet or maybe feed.  Depending on the composition of your group, ask to milk a cow!

2014-08-06 Windcrest  milking (51)

Of course, the stars of the show somehow turn out to be the barn cats. And sometimes toads.

2014-07-17 Windcrest Barncat

A bit of mischief and misadventure always seems to present itself on Green Spiral field trips, as these are true adventures and not sanitized experiences; thus we were surprised, but not surprised, when a big goat jumped up on our yogurt tasting table.

 

Don’t park under the shade trees, as tempting as it might be, unless you want a goat on the back of your car, reaching for the tasty leaves.  Needless to say, goat hooves are not kind to car paint, and I feel badly about that.  Hey, it’s a farm!  What else can we say about that?

2014-08-06 Windcrest Sally and the goat

Green Spiral brought about 34 people, which was just about the right number, although a bit crowded in the yogurt making room.  A better number might be around 24.  Be sure to ask what makes Greek Yogurt different.  One answer is that it has more protein, which makes it a “superfood” for growing kids. 

2014-08-06 Windcrest  (41)

Sharing food builds community. We all got to sample different flavors of yogurt. Here’s a yellow cucumber from Schlafly Gardenwork seeds, along with a simple recipe to inspire a cool summer treat made with greek yogurt and mint:

2014-08-06 yellow cuke

2014-08-28 Cucumbers

You can also just show up at Windcrest by yourself or with a small family group, as dairies are always open, and cows still need to milked, twice a day, even on holidays. There is a “store” where you can buy yogurt, and even buy frozen yogurt not available at your local grocer.  Remember to bring your cool pack or cooler for transport.  An indoor restroom facility is available on site.

2014-07-17 Windcrest windmill and horse

This is a fabulous field trip for any age and you can pretty much wear anything you want, including a tutu. Every adventure teaches us something new, and from here on out, everyone is encouraged to wear batman capes and tutus to future Green Spiral field trips!

2014-08-06 Windcrest  Elisha and tutus

You’ve been on the field trip, and now here’s your homework!  It’s important to take time to reflect on your experiences and integrate what you have learned into your framework of understanding. You can respond in the comment section below.

2014-08-06 Big Red Barn

Homework: 

  • Got milk? Do you have a basic understanding of how milk gets to your table? Does it matter?  What if you lived in China? Would it matter then?
  • Patronize your local farmer’s market and help grow the local food ecosystem (every dollar makes a difference!)
  • Share recipes and food to help build community. (Remember, the best place to store food is in other people’s bellies!)
  • Ask your own special magic question.  You will know you have found the magic question when you just have to find out the answer!
  • Inventory books in your personal, school and public libraries.  Do they include The Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollan or Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver?  Do your children’s books present an accurate picture of how food gets from farm to table?
  • Ask children where milk comes from.  Then ask them what cows eat.  Write down funny answers for later.
  • Know your farmer!  Visit a local farm, or better yet, lead a field trip to a local farm! Take kids.
  • Buy Windcrest Dairy yogurt, if you live in the Saint Louis area.
  • Blog! or use social media to show what you know.  Here’s a blog called Magpie at Heart which has particularly nice photos from our field trip: http://www.magpieatheart.com/dairy-farm-adventure/
  • Vote! Amendment One is a constitutional amendment that gives the courts, not the voters, the authority to decide about future farm practice disputes. In general, this is probably a long term win for those with deep pockets, such as  puppy mills and factory farms. For more, here’s a non-partisan link to Ballotpedia.

During Year Two of Green Spiral Tours, families experienced many magical moments, and learned directly from local entrepreneurs, farmers, educators and leaders in the sustainable field, at a wide variety of locations throughout the Saint Louis area.

Experience really is the best teacher!  Plus, bringing friends along is more fun and helps create a vibrant learning community.  At Green Spiral, we especially welcome adventurous families who like to write and photograph, will reflect and debrief online, and will share the learning via social media.

Green Spiral hosted 10 field trips in Year Two, (up two field trips from Year One).

Field Trips Include: 

IMG_2258

Pie Making at BEGIN New Venture Saint Patricks Center

We learned how to make pies with “Pie Oh My!” entrepreneur Jane Callahan, at the BEGIN New Venture “kitchen incubator,” a cutting edge program for local food entrepreneurs, located downtown at the Saint Patrick Center. 

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IMG_2358Bocce Ball, Herbaria and Ravioli Tour of “The Hill”

One mother’s testimonyI’ve lived on The Hill for seven

years and didn’t know all this stuff was here!”

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*

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mail“Living Building” Tour at Tyson Learning Center 

Saint Louis is home to one of the very greenest buildings

in the world, a “Living Building” built by Washington University as a lab

and learning center. We got to see it on a rainy day. Closed to the public.  

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2011-05-20 Loden BradstreetStrawberry Picking at Thies Farms at the Creve Coeur location

Still the best place for u-pick strawberries within easy reach.        

Don’t let your kids grow up without strawberry picking at least once!

The best strategy for organic strawberry picking in Saint Louis is still DIY.

*                                     

mailRue Lafayette Cafe and Lafayette Park Pond and Playground

Saint Louis has a rich french heritage and it’s important to know at least a little something about it. Renting sailboats for the Lafayette Park pond and eating chocolate croissants is a nice way to start! This was our third year to Rue Lafayette Cafe on Lafayette Park.

 

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2011-06-09 Earthdance (4)Farm Tour at EarthDance FARMS

One of the primary movers in the Saint Louis food movement, 

EarthDance FARMS hosts regular tours on Sunday afternoons in the summer. 

If you want to explore to the front edge of the food movement, it’s a must visit!

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A river runs through it...Arrowhead Hunting 

The historic drought made this year an excellent year for arrowhead 

hunting, and it’s fascinating to hunt for artifacts from past civilizations,

which may be hiding surprisingly near you!

*

mail

Crawdad Fishing 

Missouri is home to the biggest spring fed rivers in the world,

and this makes us a biodiversity hotspot for “crawdads” (crayfish). 

We went to catch a few with very young children in Forest Park.

*

Schlafly GardenworksSustainable Sensory Tour of Maplewood

The City of Maplewood is a hotspot for sustainability, 

anchored by the Gardenworks at Schlafly Bottleworks. 

We went to visit the gardens, along with sustainable

chocolate maker Kakao, and two healing arts centers:

The Salt Room and Cheryl’s Herbs. 

*

mailMetro Journey to the Whispering Wall at Union Station

Union Station is again in transition, and so the annual

Metro Journey to the Whispering Wall was cancelled this year.

We are holding a bright candle for Union Station and know

that this rich cultural landmark will continue to be part of Saint Louis’ living legacy,

well into the future.

 

      

 

Friday, September 21, 2012 –

In Summary – Maplewood is attracting a constellation of businesses devoted to sustainable and healthy living, and children learn through their senses, so Green Spiral combined the two into a “Sustainable Sensory Tour” of the City of Maplewood.  Key “take aways” include how much you can learn on foot, and the power of small group learning.  You simply learn more, faster, on foot, and in a small learning group, than you can by driving to an establishment all by yourself.

Starting at The Salt Room, we learned about the salt caves in Poland, and about how salt is used therapeutically in other parts of the world to address respiratory issues.  From Clay, owner/operator of the Salt Room, we learned the story of bringing the Salt Room to Saint Louis as part of their family’s odyssey in addressing their daughter’s asthma.  The Salt Room is literally a room made of salt, with salt on the walls, and piled thickly on the floor.  Participants lie comfortably in lounge chairs, the lights are turned low, soft music plays, and pulverized salt is infused into the room.  It’s much like going to the beach.  Small children are given toys and allowed to play in the salt like sand.  The sessions last a little less than an hour, and the rates are quite reasonable, however, the Green Spiral walking tour allowed us only enough time to get a “taste” of the Salt Room before pressing on with our busy morning.    http://mysaltspa.com/

The sun and the sea Kakao  

Moving along to Kakao Chocolate, with chocolatier Brian Pelletier, we learned about FairTrade and sustainable chocolate practices.  Most of the world’s chocolate is grown on small farms, which means family farms, where child labor is essential, so issues surrounding certification and child labor are complex and filled with subtly. Brian knows his chocolate and is clearly devoted to bringing the finest and most ethical chocolates to market in Saint Louis.  Kakao adds value by blending chocolate, and using as many local and sustainable products as possible.  In the center of the chocolate shop is a long table, used for chocolate tasting parties after hours.  Chocolate Party dates are difficult to come by, as the tasting parties are popular.  The cost is $10/per person and you are allowed to bring your own wine, with no corking fee.  We were reminded that dark chocolate is one of the most antioxidant rich foods you can possibly eat, and that probably helps sell a bit more chocolate, but what a wonderful way to make people happy and support your local merchants.   http://www.kakaochocolate.com/Home.aspx

Around the corner, behind the Schlafly Bottleworks building, we found the gardeners of the Schlafly Gardenworks, Nolan and Jack.  Nolan gave us a tour of the gardens and everyone asked a lot of questions about what was growing in the newly planted fall garden.  The compost pile greets visitors on their way into the garden, and at this time of year, the compost pile is predictably full of spent hops and tomato plants.  As any gardener knows, healthy soil is the first rule in gardening success,  and the compost pile is key to feeding the soil.

 

At one point, Nolan pulled a “weed” from the garden, purslane, and held it up to us, exclaiming at how this little volunteer plant was probably the healthiest thing to eat from the garden, full of omegas and antioxidants. This is exactly why field trips are so important:  learning to identify purslane, or indeed, learning about anything important, like gardening, healthy food, and parenting, is almost impossible to do over the internet, and requires lots of face time mixed with real world experiences.  Most people don’t realize that Schlafly Bottleworks has a garden, located just around the corner from the patio, so if you haven’t found it yet, it’s totally okay to get a beer from the bar and wander out to enjoy the garden.  Also, know that food from the garden goes into both restaurants, and shows up mostly in the daily specials.   http://schlafly.com/bottleworks/gardenworks/

Finally, we found ourselves getting weary and were relieved to land on the soft couches in the reading room at Cheryl’s Herbs, located further down on Manchester.  Cheryl’s Herbs embodies a whole world of healing, healthy living and herbs, and we were honored and delighted that Cheryl herself came out to chat with us and share some of her deep knowledge with us.  She sprayed a hydrosol of orange blend mist into the air, and the children immediately settled down to nurse and play.   Cheryl’s Herbs offers free “Healing Night” forums, about once per month, which are very much worth attending.  Watch their web-site closely for these dates.  At these sessions, Cheryl gives a little talk, followed by short talks by other practicioners, who might be energy workers, therapists, etc. http://www.cherylsherbs.com/

Social Impact:  While many were interested and couldn’t make this exact date, 18 people came out to enjoy the field trip, along with the Maplewood editor of Patch, which is always a thrill.  In case you don’t know Patch.com, they are a “hyper-local” news service that reports on neighborhood events, including school board votes and football scores.  http://maplewood-brentwood.patch.com/search?keywords=green+spiral  Rachelle L’Ecuyer, the Director of Community Development in Maplewood, served as our tour guide; upon their request, Green Spiral made a $60 contribution to the Ryan Hummert Scholarship Fund, in honor of a young fallen fire-fighter, who died from a sniper attack in the line of duty.  As a note, the park across from Stone Spiral Coffee in Maplewood, is dedicated to Ryan Hummert.   www.cityofmaplewood.com/ryan.hummert  Green Spiral families clearly enjoyed the field trip as evidenced by the action provided to the merchants’ Facebook pages after the field trip. To be sure, a bit of cash was sprinkled along the way, enriching the Maplewood merchants by some small measure.

What you can do:  Watch the above establishments on Facebook.  Schlafly in particular is a nexus point for sustainable practices, with many groups including Slow Foods and Green Drinks meeting regularly in the Crown Room at the Bottleworks.  The best way to keep up with the Schlafly events and activites is to watch the Gardenworks Facebook page, and to check the physical announcement board for posters, located just inside the front door on the way into the restaurant.

You also might be inspired to host your own sustainable walking tour of Maplewood, by contacting the above merchants through their web-sites and referencing Green Spiral Tours.  Many other entrepreneurs came to our attention as a part of the walking tour, including Foundation Grounds, Pie Oh My!, Shana Watkins Photography, Scheidt Hardware, Saratoga Lanes and Mystic Valley.  Visiting four merchants in one busy morning worked out just fine, but you might consider exploring two locations in depth, followed by lunch!