Tiny Worlds of the Taiga

42.0943° N, 93.5700° W

Scalloped-edged lichen unfold into paper-thin leafy waves of ashen sea-green. Old pine bark pushes up into patterns and around limbs on branches and trunks where bryophytes and bright green mosses sprout spores. Tiny worlds cover everything, but who notices in the company of white pine, birch and cedar.


Jack Pines Cleared for French Fries

46.4425° N, 95.1361° W

12,000 acres of pine forest were purchased by a North Dakota company to convert into potato crops. The clearing of this rare Minnesota forest in Wadena impacts wildlife unique to the area and creates a possible water safety issue. Potato crops typically use heavy pesticides, a potential threat to a local aquifer and drinking water source. 42 square miles of Jack Pines were cleared, an area equivalent approximately to three cities combined, before the clearing was stopped by the Minnesota DNR.


Brian and Marianne Grow Their Urban Homestead

Brian’s academic training is in groundwater geology and environmental engineering, but his interests are much broader and have been always evolving. He spent a lot of time at his grandparents’ house on Lake Michigan, which imbued in him a deep reverence for water. He also spent some time living on a hobby farm in rural northeast Wisconsin, where he worked on dairy farms. In the past, his jobs involved remediating contaminated groundwater—mostly from leaking underground storage tanks. He wanted to help clean the planet. His job at Chevron, and later engineering consulting work, allowed him to see oil production in far-flung places (Azerbaijan, Angola, Kazakhstan).

I began to realize that humans were mis-using this one-time bounty of stored energy from the sun—cars and plastic bags being examples of mis-use. We’re using this carbon too quickly—and we might just eliminate our species in the process. Not to mention all the others. I am trying to fight my own anthrocentrism.

Marianne Combs and Brian Davis

Marianne works as an arts reporter at Minnesota Public Radio, and has always had a strong connection to the environment, which has deepened significantly over the past decade. She grew up along the Pacific Ocean, and remembers picking up plastic trash that washed up on the shore with her mother. Her mother and walking buddy Laurie would using a Swiss Army knife to release birds caught up in fishing wire.

When I return to the coast these days, I’m always saddened to see how the wildlife—starfish, sea anemones, mussels—has diminished.

As a high school exchange student in France, she learned the importance of locally-sourced food, but didn’t connect it to her own actions until she bought a house in 2002. She planned to fill the yard with roses, lilies and tulips, but her mother suggested she start a little herb garden behind the kitchen. Now the tulips she planted have been overrun by strawberries, and the lilies are crowded out by the tomato beds.


Continue on to read the interview with Bran’s 3 Tips for Urban Gardeners and Marianne’s 3 Tips for Reducing Household Waste.

Continue reading

Lisa Becomes an Artist-In-Residence In Her Own Home

As an artist, illustrator and animator, Lisa’s creative spirit ripples through the household where she lives with her husband, son and daughter. She has always been an artist, and has a long list of accomplishments, but now she is dedicating a period of time to making her art into a business, using the family dining room as her studio.


You have to protect your life as an artist. It’s like having all the tabs on the computer open all the time and that openness requires focus. I don’t multitask. I fully focus in  with a project or an animation.

Continue reading

Personal Chef Kristin Hamaker Explores the Constellation of Life, Work and Creativity

Farm to Fork chef Kristin Hamaker is blurring the lines in life, work and creativity to make stronger connections between personal life, family, her writing and her job as a personal chef in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

Chef Kristin Hamaker

I’m finding myself at once in the throes of growing an in-demand business and diverging to pursue other interests, such as writing. Slowly, I’m coming to terms with the reality that my professional and personal lives are ever-entangled and one way I’m grasping that now is with the help of an image, that of constellation.


Continue reading

How Freedom Inspired Elizabeth to Start Her First Novel

In early 2014, Elizabeth was accepted into a 3-month residency program at The Helen Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. The residency’s “do whatever you need” philosophy allows artists, writers and composers the freedom to explore their own creative processes and builds confidence by removing pressures associated with deadlines and results.

Exploring creative process and connecting with other artists and writers, Elizabeth expected to focus on a book manuscript that she began during her MFA. Instead she started writing her first novel.

Elizabeth Tannen

Continue reading