Barronett Bob (AKA Corn Man)

This past month I was reminded about the power of social media and journalism 101. While perusing Facebook, I saw a post that was being shared with hundreds about one of my favorite farmers in the world — Barronett Bob. Or, just the Corn Man. The rumor was he wasn’t going to be selling this year due to heart issues. The post going round seemed legit and I was sad to think I wouldn’t get to enjoy the greatest sweet corn of all time so I shared it on my facebook page. The next day, much to my surprise, I learned the Facebook post had bad information. Barronett Bob was in fact healthy and was just days away from heading up to Ashland to sell hundreds the sweet taste of summer. I was relieved to hear he was ok and happy the information was false. But, I got to thinking and what I found interesting is the person who cracked the facebook rumor did so by something so old fashion–they picked up a phone and called him to confirm the story, only to discover it was false. It seems so simple, yet, it was a great reminder about the benefits of speaking to the source for information.

Next week, I’m excited to stock up on Bob’s treats when he rolls into Ashland with his truck of gold. I’m even hopeful for one of his watermelon. In the meantime, if you’ve ever wondering more about the man behind the corn, check out Julie Buckles and her post: The Secret of Bob’s Super Sweet Corn. Julie is a great author and I think you’ll find the story about Bob almost as good as his corn….

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Iron River Coffee Anyone?

So a crazy thing happened today that I feel I need to share in hopes to help me pursue my dreams. If you know me at all, you know I’m a coffee addict. You also know that I absolutely love living on Moon Lake. But, for those close to me, you also know that Iron River’s lack of an espresso machine is a personal conundrum I struggle with daily. For the past 5-months, I’ve been doing my due diligence in trying to determine if the rest of the community feels the same. This has involved meeting with regional coffee shops, talking to businesses in-town, crunching numbers, meeting with a distributor, attending a food show, reviewing real-estate in-town and doing some serious soul searching.

All of this had led me to today. As part of this process, I put my ideas on paper and competed in the area’s business idea contest. Today, I got up in front of a room of 50-60 folks from state agencies, local banks, and community members. There were business owners and agency reps from economic development. And, there were other dreamers who believed their idea was worth sharing.

I had 120 seconds to share my vision. I am confident the last time I was this nervous was when I presented my senior thesis at Bemidji State University in 1999. I hate public speaking. But, what was more at stake was whether this group of individuals would embrace my idea. Would they get the need for a community hot spot in Iron River that provides a premium espresso.

I was a babbling fool who was sweating buckets. Keep in mind, the room did not have air conditioning and it was 90+ degrees in Ashland. But, I got up there and put my heart and soul out to the audience. I laid it all out there. And guess what, I didn’t win. I tied for first. But, I did manage to win the audience choice award. This meant a lot to me because it showed that people understood my passion. They shared my passion. And they believed in me.

Call it fate or something crazier, I met the VP of the bank who happens to own the building I’m interested in purchasing in the bathroom. It was a great conversation. Several other conversations with commuters, economic development folks and bankers provided me insight and feedback on how to make this possible. While energized, I’m also overwhelmed. I have a great stable job and a booming freelance career. I’m the mother of a 2-year old with whom I attempt to embrace every moment possible. My husband and I are involved in the community. We’re stretched thin. And, I’m not exactly a trust fund baby. Folks talked a lot today about being fearless. But, as brave as I am, the whole thing has left me clueless. To be honest, I don’t know what comes next.

But I do know that today felt good. It would have felt equally as good if I hadn’t won. I put myself out there. I put my dreams out there. It was scary. It was intimidating. But, I came out realizing that others will support my dream. It was worth every second. Sitting here typing this note, I don’t know if I’ll be a coffee shop owner in 12-months. But, in this moment, it seems a lot more possible than yesterday. And that my friends is something.

Hot Enough?

Moon Lake summers are awesome… right up to those few days where temperatures surpass 80 degrees. It isn’t the heat but instead the humidity that drives me crazy. Crazy enough that after years of debate, my husband finally realized that if we didn’t get central air, our marriage might not survive. (It helped that I was also 8-months pregnant and on bed rest when he finally caved).

This past weekend, we ran it 24/7. It was pretty much heaven. But, I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty about the energy I was consuming. Not enough to turn it off but more like the guilt you get when you sneak a piece of cake when nobody is looking.

I’d like to say my hubby and I are conservative environmentalists. We burn wood when we can, recycle, reuse and steer clear of gas-guzzling vehicles as much as possible. We try to support local businesses. But, I also shop at Wal-Mart and have even contemplated sneaking ketchup packets into the Duluth Grill to avoid using their homemade stuff. It is about balance folks.

That said, I really respect people who walk the talk. In June, I had the opportunity to tour Bailey’s Greenhouse outside of Bayfield. It is a wholesale greenhouse that isn’t open to the public but has gained local attention for its commitment to renewable energy. Driving up, I wasn’t surprised to see the rows of solar panels around the property. But, there definition of renewable energy is so much more than that.

Joe Bailey and Gail Chatfield

Joe Bailey and Gail Chatfield utilize a variety of renewable energies to power their home and business. And, they can truly quantify the savings they are experiencing while doing their part to help the planet. If you’re interested in the numbers, you can read the article I wrote for this month’s Business North here.

This in itself would be impressive. But what really inspired me was their commitment to giving back. They are busy sharing their knowledge and resources with others through a regional website. And, they are investing time and energy into bringing local foods and education to area schools. I only spent an hour or so interviewing and learning more about the operation so I’m no expert on what they have accomplished. But, what I do know is they are passionate about renewable energy and living proof that where there’s a will there’s a way.

Community solar is slowly making its way to Iron River. My husband I were quick to sign up for a few panels. But, after hearing their story and learning more about the potential community solar has for a community, we’ve committed to doubling down on our investment should the initiative move forward. I’m hopeful it will, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it helps me run my AC completely guilt free on those hot, sunny, summer days.

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

claregreenhouseLast January I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with my good friend Clare Hintz of Elsewhere Farm. While I always enjoy hanging with her, this encounter was particularly special because I was drilling her about her year-round greenhouse for Northern Gardener Magazine.

For years, Clare has inspired me with her passion for local food production. She is brilliant, funny and the hardest working woman I’ve ever met. Conversations with her often result in me imagining abandoning my small lake lot for a spacious hobby farm in the woods where I can let my Little House on the Prairie dreams of collecting chicken eggs and wildflowers in the wind come true. The only difference, I don’t actually want to do the work. Clare does. And, she does so everyday through her efforts as a farmer, PhD student and all-around awesome friend.clarehintzgarden

The article came out this November. I’m attaching a pdf of the piece here for any northern gardener that has the desire and drive to create her own winter greenhouse oasis. In the meantime, I think I’ll reread the Little House series, buy some locally laid eggs and perhaps plant a few microgreens in my windowsill. Realistically, that’s what this struggling mama can muster up in terms of farming.

claregarden2 This year, winter hit extra early. I already find myself feeling vitamin D deprived and dreaming of warm summer nights. Instead, I’ll have to make due this winter crashing Clare’s greenhouse oasis in the wonderful Herbster community. As we enter this season of giving, I’m just so happy to have folks that have found their true passion in life a part of my life. It makes me genuinely happy and inspires me to keep pursuing my passion in life… even if it isn’t abandoning life on Moon Lake.

PS We’re soon to be proud landowners in Cable. Turns out we won a land auction last month after the person who outbid us discovered he couldn’t in fact afford to outbid us. Pretty excited to be adding land in the southern part of Bayfield County to our mix!

 

The World’s Oldest Table

Kahiko_Table_2_color_for_printing-1_highres
Kahiki Table. Made from Kauri wood. Priced at $100,000. Photo credit: http://www.ancientwood.com

I must admit, I’ve become somewhat of a wood working snob over the years. In part, this is because my husband turns bowls and other treasures. Often times, the wood is local and has a story behind it. Or, not local with a story behind it… like the time we had to call TSA to see if we could bring a stump on the plane since there was no way our luggage would make the weight limit otherwise. Turns out, while you cannot bring a rolling pin on an airplane, they have no problem with you bringing a 50 pound stump that you found discarded near Gettysburg. But I digress.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet Robert Teisberg. Teisberg is the owner of Ancientwood, Ltd. in Ashland. He also happens to be a craftsman and distributor of Kauri wood. What makes Kauri wood cool? Well its claim to fame is that it is in fact the oldest wood in the world. To me, while this is an interesting tidbit, the unique grain is what I love most about this wood. Photos don’t do it justice. But, if you’ve ever seen a finished Kauri wood product up close, you cannot help but be drawn in by the enchanting reflection that occurs when the light hits it. I can only compare it to that of a gentle wave rolling off of Lake Superior.

While I am mesmerized by this wood and even bought my hubby some for his birthday, I haven’t thought much about it lately because the oldest wood in the world costs quite the premium. But, that’s part of what makes the email I got this past week pretty amazing.

Teisberg just finished a work table. Not just any table, but a table made out of 50,000 year old Kauri wood that is listed for a mere $100,000. I, unfortunately, won’t be buying this artistic masterpiece anytime soon. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t salivate over amazing art… that was crafted right here in northwest Wisconsin.

Kahiko_Table_1_for_Print-1
Kahiki Table. Made from Kauri wood. Priced at $100,000. Photo credit: http://www.ancientwood.com

If you are interested in learning more about Anceintwood, LLC, visit their website. Also, here’s a bit more on the company in the story I wrote for Business North in late 2012.

 

 

 

 

Ashland Company Monopolizes Oldest Wood Market in the World

(first ran in Business North Magazine in late 2012)
Sitting at a desk in the depths of the Ashland Area Enterprise Building, Robert Teisberg is never quite sure what to expect to hear when his phone rings.

“I was sitting at my desk yesterday and this guy from Beirut called me interested in my product,” Teisberg explains. “After talking for a while, it turns out their climate isn’t that much different than ours. It’s pretty neat, actually.”

These types of calls might seem unusual, but then again, Teisberg’s product isn’t exactly mainstream. You see Teisberg is the only licensed distributor of Kauri wood in North America and one of a handful of sellers in the world. For those wondering what Kauri wood is, its claim to fame is it holds the title of the world’s oldest wood.

In a “Splintered History of Wood” Spike Carlsen explains that Kauri wood comes from New Zealand’s North Island. Carbon dating indicates the wood was buried in a peat swamp about 50,000 year ago and has remained perfectly preserved since. So, how does 50,000-year old wood go from being in a New Zealand peat moss to being manufactured into impressive finished products in Ashland, Wisconsin?

Teisberg, who used to spend a lot of time sailing, learned about the wood during a visit to the region during the Millennium. Teisberg says this “was about this time, Timeless Timber in Ashland was getting a lot of recognition. They were being featured on CNN and their wood wasn’t nearly as old.” Recognizing the product’s market potential, he started doing some research only to discover a huge void in the North American market. He had the skillset (he’s a trained woodworker) and the ambition to make a deal as the sole distributor in North America. By 2004, Ancientwood Ltd. was up and running.

Fast forward to today and Ancientwood, Ltd. employs 5 employees in Ashland. The company’s reach has expanded beyond North America with sales in 27 countries worldwide and sales approaching $500,000 a year. Their most recent sale—two tables from a single, 40 foot piece of wood that when attached will make a table 40 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 5 inches thick. It’s destination—Colorado. The price tag on a finished table of this magnitude is approximately $100,000.

Part of the appeal to Kauri wood is its mammoth size. Many of the trees grew for more than 1,000 years creating massive pieces of wood that can grow to be 40 feet around and 200 feet high. Teisberg says the wood also has an “active grain” that in some pieces creates an impressive shimmering white effect off the wood. In addition, Teisberg says as the oldest workable timber, there is also a finite quantity making it comparable to liquid gold. Currently, the only way the trees can be harvested is by extracting them from below the ground—often times in farm fields. The Kauri tree does still grow in parts of New Zealand but these trees are protected.

The combined appeal makes Kauri wood a natural fit for woodworkers looking for something different. Teisberg compares the wood loosely to Basswood but says each piece varies greatly. From a wood workers perspective, it is worth noting the wood is not petrified, allowing for the wood to finished with normal techniques.

Despite the appeal, the wood has yet to catch-on with major distributors. Part of the issue is major distributors aren’t necessarily comfortable with how the wood will react. Skeptics have questioned the authenticity of the wood’s age, even with the carbon dating conducted by independent organizations. This combined with the recent recession have made times tough for Ancientwood Ltd. but Teisberg remains committed to making this company work.

“We have several routes we’re looking at right now,” Teisberg says. The product seems to be a hit with guitar players that has resulted in one national guitar maker expressing interest in buying their wood. There’s also the potential of making something for the Smithsonian.

The company has yet to make a profit in part because he needs a private investor to help boost his buying power. In a perfect world, Teisberg says a “$2.5 million investment would allow for pre-purchasing 10-year supply of wood, driving the overall price of the wood down and turning a profit.”

In the meantime, Teisberg will continue selling finished and unfinished pieces of wood, never knowing what the next phone call might bring.

The Intersection of Healthcare and Technology: My Firsthand Experience

Greetings from northern Wisconsin! This weekend I’m heading outside to enjoy what is sure to be fall peak in my neck of the woods. I couldn’t be more excited in part because this comes after a nearly a month of my entire family being sick. And, knock on wood, but right now we are all healthy and ready to get outside and enjoy fall.

I won’t go into the gory details but needless to say, in the past month we’ve visited our local Community Health Clinic 11 times. We’ve spent one morning in Urgent Care. I utilized my employee health plan and Urgent Care during work one day. And, I got to experience Westfield Hospital’s Wal-Mart set-up over Labor Day weekend.

It has been an interesting ride. I work at a hospital. I serve on the board for our Community Health Clinic. I’m passionate about health disparities and have written several articles about the impact of the affordable care act in northwest Wisconsin. But, I’ve experienced all of this from a relatively healthy perspective and as someone with health insurance.

As I watch the medical bills roll in from what started as a simple round of Pink Eye, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have health insurance. I’m also grateful that despite living in what many folks would refer to as Hicksville, I have access to amazing providers in both an Urgent Care and Clinic setting. Our public health system is strong, despite continuously having funding cut. As frustrating as the system can be, this last month reminded me of the positives including the quality care my family received.

This comes on the heels of me writing several health related articles that will come out in MN Business Magazine the next few months. The first, came out in September and focuses around a software system focused on reducing medical errors. Ambient Clinical Analytics is currently being test at the Mayo Clinic. Someday, should you find yourself in an ER, it may become part of your patient experience. Read the full article here.

As someone who just recently got around to downloading the Kindle Ap on my IPad so I could read my first e-book, I tend to be slow when it comes to technology. But, I’m all for outside the box solutions that allow providers to focus on care and not charting or attempting to read charts. Kudos to this organization for taking that step. And, I hope many others follow.

Meet Hannah

My first memory of Hannah Stonehouse Hudson is of a newspaper ad I saw many moons ago. It was an ad for her business that featured a wedding shot where the bride’s face was in focus and her dress was blurred from spinning in circles. Now knowing Hannah, it seems appropriate. Somehow, despite her entire world being in utter chaos, she continues to succeed in life while inspiring thousands along the way.

My first real encounter with Hannah was back in 2011. We asked this up and coming photographer to take our adoption portfolio photos. Keep in mind, my husband and I hate having our photos taken. Turns out our dog refuses to make eye contact with a camera as well. (This may be PTSD from an overzealous home photographer when she was a baby. I’m curious to see if Jake has this problem as well as he gets older). But somehow, Hannah made us appear normal—even like a happy glowing couple—despite our distaste for professional shots. The entire shoot took about 30-minutes. I think the reason, in addition to her being a fabulous photographer, is she gets people and pets. Capturing someone’s spirit means you must engage with them enough to understand who they are as people and how to best represent that in a single image. This is a pretty hefty task but Hannah always seems to deliver.

Over the years, our paths have intersected on occasion. I always leave a conversation with her energized about life and inspired about what happens when one sets their mind to something. This past month, I had the opportunity to delve a little deeper into what makes Hannah successful as a business person. The article ran in the July issue of Business North and can be found here.

While this article certainly cannot capture the spirit and adventure of one of the neatest people I’ve had the chance encounter to meet, it is a start. Be sure to check out her blog as well if you want to learn more about her story and her work.