NatureSmart Banner

Indigo Bunting—A Familiar Summer Visitor

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela shares with us the hard work of an Indigo Bunting mother during nesting season. Every now and then, I am fortunate enough that people will give me a call to say they found something cool in their yard and wonder if I want to photograph it. Recently, that very thing happened. It started with a text message from a homeowner who came across a nest when he was clearing the edge of his wooded yard. It was a small nest, low to the ground, and he felt bad about inadvertently exposing the nest by clearing the brush. He took a picture and texted it to me, saying he thought it was a hummingbird nest. When I received the text titled “hummingbird nest“ I got excited, but the moment I looked at the pic I knew immediately it wasn’t a hummer. Four beautiful white eggs were in the nest. Hummingbirds only have two eggs at the...

Read More

Summer Vacation Is Better with Coloring Books

When school lets out, it’s time to enjoy a summer vacation. For some families, this is a chance to bring the kids to popular tourist locations, like Walt Disney World. Others use this opportunity to visit their favorite national park, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite. My family tends to stay closer to our Minnesota home, with day trips to the Mall of America or the North Shore of Lake Superior. Regardless of your family’s preferences, whether your children are sitting in an airplane or riding in the backseat, you can supplement their summer vacation (and yours!) with regionally themed coloring books. At around $5 or so, AdventureKEEN’s Color and Learn Activity Books are a smart investment for any trip. Here’s why: They’re Educational Sure, school’s out, and the last thing your kids probably want is even a suggestion of “learning.” But it can be our little secret. These fun books aren’t just random games...

Read More
NatureSmart Banner

Stan Tekiela—Keen Observer of Nature

In this week’s column, Stan Tekiela shares with us his keen observations of mother nature at this special time of year, when reproduction is the name of the game. Millions of birds of all shapes, colors, and sizes migrate back to the northland and join the resident non-migrators in a frenzy of setting up territories, attracting mates, constructing nests, and getting ready to breed. All of this activity makes it appear that nature is moving at a frenzied pace. Birds are singing, fighting, chasing, gathering nesting materials, eating, and breeding. I have been spending a lot of time out watching and filming all of this activity. Here are a few of my observations from this spring. It’s been fun watching a family of Hooded Mergansers who were nesting in one of my Wood Duck boxes. I have a small color camera with audio installed inside the nest box, which gives me an insight into...

Read More

Just Like Laura Ingalls Wilder

Mary M. Bauer, author of Minnesota Day Trips, takes us on a tour of attractions that visit the home territory of beloved author Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s also a chance for your family to understand the life of real pioneers. Show your youngsters what it was like to live on the prairie without electricity or indoor plumbing. Walnut Grove—Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum In 1874, 7-year-old Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family traveled from Wisconsin’s Big Woods to Walnut Grove, Minnesota, settling on the banks of Plum Creek. The community preserves Laura’s past and celebrates with an annual festival in her honor. Visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum, located at 330 8th Street. Here, you’ll see “Grandma’s House” among the four buildings at the main museum site. The Ingalls homestead site is 1 1⁄2 miles north of the museum. The museum is open daily April through October. The gift store at the museum is open...

Read More

Mini Grilled Blackberry Cobbler—A Campfire Foodie Recipe

Julia Rutland, author of The Campfire Foodie Cookbook: Simple Camping Recipes with Gourmet Appeal, shares with us her recipe for Mini Grilled Blackberry Cobbler. I always make sure I have extra Basic Baking Mix in my supplies, in case I run across a bounty of fresh berries. This recipe is very forgiving if pickings are slim or the berries don’t make it back to the campsite—you end up with a more cake-like dessert. The nuttier texture of whole wheat pairs well with the berries, but use plain if you prefer. Ingredients: 2 cups fresh or 2 (6-ounce) containers fresh blackberries or raspberries 1/2 plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided 3 tablespoons butter ¼ cup Whole Wheat or Basic Baking Mix 2/3 cup milk  Prep at Home: Prepare baking mix and combine with 1⁄2 cup sugar; label and store in an airtight container. At Campsite: Prepare a charcoal fire or a gas grill with lid for indirect heat. Wash berries; drain but do not pat dry (the moisture...

Read More

The Majesty of Our Eagles

Stan Tekiela, author of Majestic Eagles, shares with us his knowledge and amazing pictures of our national symbol. There are nearly 60 eagle species in the world. Found on every continent except Antarctica, the overwhelming majority occur in the Old World, three species are seen in Australia, and a few are in South America. Ornithologists have divided all eagle species into four groups based on similar traits—the Sea and Fish Eagle, Booted Eagle, Snake Eagle, and Harpy Eagle groups, with the Bald Eagle fitting rightly into the Sea and Fish Eagle group (due to its close association with water and fishing). The Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle are the only two species in North America. The Golden is seen around the world in northern temperate regions. The Bald Eagle occurs only in North America, namely the United States, Canada, and Mexico. While we don’t have a large variety of eagle species in...

Read More

Vegetarian Campfire Chili—A Campfire Foodie Recipe

Check out this fabulous Vegetarian Campfire Chili recipe by Julia Rutland, author of The Campfire Foodie Cookbook: Simple Camping Recipes with Gourmet Appeal. Chipotle-flavored meatless crumbles add heat, but any kind works well. You can also prepare this with ground beef, ground chicken, or ground turkey. Cook any of these ground meats with the onion and bell peppers until browned and crumbly. Add toppings such as sour cream and shredded cheese, if desired. Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, chopped 1 red bell pepper, chopped 1 green bell pepper, chopped 1 (12-ounce) package frozen and thawed meatless crumbles 2 tablespoons Mexican or Taco Seasoning Blend (recipe below) or 1.7-ounce chili seasoning mix 2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (chili seasoned or plain), undrained 2 (14-ounce) can dark or light kidney beans, rinsed and drained Worcestershire sauce Prep at Home: Chop onion and bell peppers; store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. At Campsite: Prepare a charcoal or gas grill, wood campfire, or assemble a camp cookstove. Heat oil in a 10- or...

Read More

How Young Wolves Are Raised

Stan Tekiela shares with us his love for wolves in his amazing book The Lives of Wolves, Coyotes, and Foxes. Today he talks about how young wolves are raised. Wolves are not so different from our own domestic dogs, and they hold a very special place in Stan Tekiela’s heart. Each time he gets a chance to see or photograph one or more of these wild canids, he is thrilled beyond words. Every encounter is remarkable and memorable. Wolves are a symbol of all things wild. They indicate an intact ecosystem, complete with top predators. As stewards of the environment, we have the responsibility to keep the ecosystem balanced by maintaining and supporting all wildlife, including animals such as wolves, coyotes, and foxes. It’s an honor and a privilege to share in the appreciation and safe-keeping of our wild and wonderful wolves. Wolves don’t make homes of their dens. They use dens only...

Read More