A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

September 14, 2020 by  
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As Andy Aldeen strides across his Montana land, a can of bear spray stuffed in his back shorts pocket, you’d never guess the Midwestern-born hay farmer had spent 25 years working in finance in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Now, his three-generation family is rooted here in the Swan Valley, haying and running three VRBO units for visitors craving clean mountain air far from cities. A homesteader cabin That’s what brings my husband, dog and me here. With COVID-19 numbers rising, we hesitated to plan ahead. Then, we got lucky and snagged a last-minute reservation for a socially distant getaway at what was described as a pioneer homesteader cabin . So here we were, briskly touring Aldeen’s land with his black lab, Sis, acting as hostess and leading our dog Rudy through bushes and brambles. Related: 5 cozy getaway cabins that are perfect for fall The cabin has been thoroughly redone since a Norwegian fur trapper built it in the early 1900s. He surely didn’t have a hot water shower, a full kitchen and such a comfortable bed. Aldeen decorates in what he calls “Victorian explorer” style, which means a fun mix of cheery and unpredictable items, including a red-and-white-checked table cloth on the kitchen table downstairs, a cow-spotted plant stand and a sequined rainbow pillow on a daybed in the cabin’s attic library. Aldeen has scoured used bookstores all through the valley, furnishing his VRBO units with thousands of books of all genres. Best of all was the big front porch strung with Christmas lights. You can sit on an easy chair with a view of hay bales sitting in front of the Mission Mountains. In the morning, you may hear migrating sandhill cranes purring as they hunt for critters or see deer bounding by. Down the road, the ranch’s horses congregate under their favorite shade tree. With two bedrooms and a small, cozy living room, the homesteader cabin is the mid-range option among Aldeen’s VRBO units. The Lazy Bean is a 2,000-square-foot cabin that sleeps up to eight and has the most extensive library . Then, there’s a more primitive, 300-square-foot cabin with twin bunk beds. The Seeley-Swan Valley The cabins sit in the Seeley-Swan Valley in northwestern Montana, on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and just off of Highway 83. This is known as one of Montana’s most scenic roads and is a popular route to Glacier National Park . But it’s also a destination in itself for people seeking outdoor adventures. Seeley and Swan are actually two back-to-back valleys. We were in Swan, the northern of the two, near the tiny town of Condon. The Mission Range of the Rocky Mountains towers to the west, the Swan Range to the east. This is an unusually wet part of Montana, with significantly higher rainfall than most of the state, which accounts for the greenness and abundance of water. Rivers, lakes, ponds and bogs left by long-ago receding glaciers cover about 16% of the Swan Basin — compare that to only 1% wetland habitat for the rest of the state. This is the part of the state to visit if you want to get in the water or if you like scenic hikes with dazzling lake views. With average July and August highs in the mid-80s, the lakes and rivers get lots of summertime use. “Be Bear Aware” One of the things I hadn’t realized until I got to Montana was how many bears call it home. “Greatest concentration in the Lower 48,” Aldeen told me proudly while I shook in my hiking boots. As we set out one morning for the Glacier Lake Trailhead , our route took us on a long stretch of gravel road. When we finally arrived at the parking lot, I was relieved to see other cars. Wilderness is great, but sometimes I gravitate toward safety in numbers. Still, there’s no guarantee that the presence of humans equals the absence of bears. Bears are big, and they go where they want. Signs at just about every trailhead exhort visitors to “ Be Bear Aware .” As we followed the Glacier Lake Trail, I took the information to heart. Bear spray on front backpack strap, check. Talking or singing before turning blind corners, yep. The mountains were gorgeous, and the trail was lined with huckleberries ripe for the picking. I relaxed and enjoyed it, as long as I didn’t think too much about who else loves huckleberries. Paddler’s paradise Bears swim, too. But at least it’s easier to see them coming over open water. This part of Montana is an absolute dream if you like to kayak , paddleboard or swim. Highway 83 has signs for lakes every couple of miles. If you favor motors on your watercraft, a big lake like Seeley will give you lots of space to explore. But if you prefer human-powered vessels, you can also find a quiet lake without motor traffic. The most touristy lake we visited was Holland Lake. This 400-acre glacial lake is popular for good reason, with its well-used campground, Swan Mountain views and easy access to the Holland Falls trailhead . You can rent a canoe, kayak or SUP from the Holland Lake Lodge . My favorite thing about Holland Lake was the cordoned off swimming area. Some of the lakes we visited were nice for paddling but mucky for swimming. Not Holland. You don’t have to worry about putting your feet on the bottom and having them disappear under questionable slime. Van Lake is too small to be of much interest for those with fast boats. A leisurely paddle around the perimeter took less than hour, including stops for wildlife viewing. From my SUP, I saw a bald eagle dive down and nab a fish off the line of somebody fishing from a rowboat. Watching bald eagles swoop, fish and fly above your SUP, and loons swimming alongside you, is a dream come true for any wildlife-enthusiast. The most remote lake we visited was Clearwater. It’s about a 0.7 mile walk from the road. The trail is mostly flat and would be easy an easy trip, if not for dragging an inflatable SUP. But it was worth it, as it was the only time I’ve ever been the only watercraft on a lake, accompanied only by electric blue damselflies. September average high temperatures for Seeley-Swan are in the 70s. There’s still time to get your Montana lake fix before the temperatures dip down and the snow begins falling, although that is another trip full of nature’s beauty. So if you get the chance to escape to a remote Montana cabin, grab your bear spray and go. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: We recommend taking the utmost care to keep those around you safe if you choose to travel. You can find more advice on travel precautions from the CDC and WHO .

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A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

The best eco tourism spots in Montreal

December 31, 2019 by  
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Montreal is a lively city where there’s always something going on. Perhaps you’ll arrive in the middle of an enormous Pride celebration, with pink balloon-festooned streets blocked off for a huge party. Or maybe you’ll play on 21 Balancoires, a set of musical swings — notes play as people swing — that appears downtown every springtime. Montreal has long been a major port city. It’s located at one end of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which stretches from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of two million, Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city. It’s a bilingual city with a European feel. While more than half of Montreal’s residents are bilingual in French and English, quite a few only speak one language or the other, depending on their family’s native tongue and their education. Americans, especially those from the west coast, may love being in a place with Euro-style buildings dating back as far as the 1600s. It’s the mix of picturesque old and totally modern that makes Montreal so beautiful and fun. Outdoors Montreal For a more urban outdoors experience, check out one of Montreal’s many street fairs. May through June are the top months for closing off streets to traffic and turning them into party zones. Unless you’re extremely hardy, summer is the best time to partake in Montreal’s outdoors activities. Winter is long and cold here. You’ll need serious gear to have a good time outside. Mount Royal is a small mountain that overlooks the city and serves as a 692-acre city park that has it all. You can hike , rent a paddleboat, get your cardio workout by climbing the 550-step staircase on the south side, picnic or participate in a drum circle. During winter, people tube, toboggan, ski, snowshoe, or skate on a manmade lake. The Mount Royal Chalet rents winter equipment. Whatever you’re doing on Mount Royal, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the city. The Montreal Botanical Garden is lovely in every season. Check out cultural gardens within the larger garden — Chinese, Japanese and First Nations are all represented here. In autumn you can stroll beneath golden leaves, and in winter you can cross country ski inside the garden . Don’t miss the Insectarium to get a close-up look at bug life. Did you know that 91% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Quebec? If you visit Montreal between late February and late April, get out to the countryside to experience a sugar shack. Many offer games, tastings and maple-themed meals as part of the fun. At La Cabane À Tuque , maple producers harvest maple sap the old-fashioned way, with buckets. Visitors can join in. They run an eco operation with a hempcrete -insulated house, a wall made with recycled bottles, and they even serve vegan meals. Montreal wellness scene Montreal is a secular city, but you’ll quickly notice the gorgeous churches and French Catholic influence. Nuns opened and ran the first hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, in 1645. For a historical look at the local wellness scene, at least from a European perspective, the Musee de Hospitallers chronicles Montreal’s early medical efforts. For one of the best modern spa experiences anywhere, pack your swimsuit and flip flops and head for Bota Bota , an old river ferry turned floating spa. It’s docked in the old port on Saint Lawrence River, where you can soak in a water circuit, fill your lungs with clouds of eucalyptus in the steam room, eat spa cuisine and relax in hanging chairs, all while gazing at river traffic. Bota Bota lets you choose between a quiet zone and a large area where you can visit with friends. Wanderlust Montreal , known for its Wanderlust Festival, is based in Montreal. Check out their website for current studio classes, concerts and yoga events. Eating out in Montreal When I asked local vegan activist Élise Desaulniers why Montreal has so many vegan restaurants, she said, “We hate debates in Canada . We like to find the middle ground. So, the conclusion is you should eat less meat. But being vegan 100% of the time is considered too extreme.” So that means Montreal’s omnivores support the vegan restaurants, making the city full of choices for veg visitors. Montreal has a vegan festival every fall, which Desaulniers co-founded. For some of the most interesting vegan sushi anywhere, Sushi Momo’s creations range from simple eggplant and avocado rolls to complicated concoctions full of exotic ingredients beyond my comprehension in French or English. I let the server choose for me. If you’re with a group, order the 2-foot-long wooden boat filled with assorted sushi. Lola Rosa draws people from all walks of life to its four locations for hemp burgers and international-inspired comfort food. Panthere Verte stays open late and is known for its falafel and organic vegan cocktails. Café Chat L’Heureux features a vegetarian menu of soups, sandwiches and salads, plus eight friendly kitty hosts. This is the place to get your feline fix when traveling through Montreal. Public transit Montreal’s subway system is relatively easy to figure out. Best of all, trains run every eight minutes on average, and every three minutes during rush hour. A robust bus system rounds out the public transportation network and will get you to all major landmarks. An express bus called the 747 Shuttle runs 24 hours a day between the airport and downtown, and only costs ten dollars. Ride-share services also operate in Montreal. The BIXI bike share system runs during fairer weather months, from April 15 through November 15. Since bike shares are aimed at shorter rides, consider renting a bike from Montreal on Wheels if you want one for a whole day or the duration of your stay. The bike rental shop also offers guided group bike tours. Eco-hotels For an upscale eco-hotel, stay at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth . Its impressively long list of sustainability initiatives includes employing three beekeepers , no using palm oil in its menus and turning old sheets and curtains into cleaning rags. On the more affordable, communal end of the spectrum, the Alternative Hostel of Old Montreal offers dorm or private rooms with shared bathrooms and an airy, plant-filled space with a full kitchen. The Hôtel de l’ITHQ , run by the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, is a clean, modern hotel run largely by tourism students. As a member of Canada’s Green Key eco-hotel program, it also follows many sustainability practices. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat and Bota Bota

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The best eco tourism spots in Montreal

Minnesota to implement low- and zero-emission clean vehicle standards

September 27, 2019 by  
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In a move that would make both hybrid and electric car manufacturers see dollar signs, Minnesota announced a new proposal that will require auto manufacturers that sell within the state to deliver more hybrid cars and electric vehicles (EVs) to comply with its new low- and zero-emission initiative. The measure places the Gopher State alongside 13 other states that have implemented clean vehicle emissions standards. The standards will take a minimum of 18 months for roll-out, due to the rule-making process set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).  Thus, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is expected to see more hybrid and electric cars in sales lots starting around the 2023 model year. This roll-out will also allow time for the state to beef up its investments in more public electric-charging stations, while similarly brokering anticipated alternative energy deals with the likes of none other than Tesla, as the latter ramps up its nationwide plant acquisition plans. Related: This calculator tracks the carbon emissions of your travels Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety currently reports that residents of Minnesota, on average, prefer large pickup trucks, followed by SUVs. Broad capacity recreational vehicles ( RVs ) are also a Minnesota favorite. Minnesotan loyalty to pickup trucks, SUVs and RVs could make the shift to relatively compact EVs challenging. However, the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy does offer EV tax credits and incentives that Minnesotans and other U.S. denizens can take advantage of. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gives a tax credit “for $2,500 to $7,500 per new EV purchased for use in the U.S.” The tax credit varies depending on the vehicle and its battery capacity, but the incentive is a way to shift more consumers to EVs. The tax credit is “available until 200,000 qualified EVs have been sold in the United States by each manufacturer, at which point the credit begins to phase out for that manufacturer. Currently, no manufacturers have been phased out yet.” You can learn more about the tax credit here . Via Consumer Reports Image via MN Administration

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Repurposed coffee grounds provide sustainable clothing pigment alternative

September 27, 2019 by  
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Scientists from Iowa State University (ISU) recently unveiled a natural alternative to synthetic clothing pigment. This natural alternative is sourced from brewed coffee grounds. The research team , spearheaded by ISU Assistant Professor Chunhui Xiang and graduate student Changhyun “Lyon” Nam, found a possible alternative via repurposed coffee grounds. Rather than adding to landfill density and single-use waste, brewed coffee grounds can instead be transformed into another high-value resource. Related: Blue dye could be the next key to harnessing renewable energy Brewed coffee grounds are feasible because 100 million Americans drink coffee daily, meaning there is an adequate supply of coffee grounds that can be upcycled and diverted away from landfills. Shades of brown can be extracted from the coffee grounds, then bound to various textiles and fabrics. Of course, there remain the quandaries of fading and of replicating consistent hues. While the use of pigment fixative helps to bind the color to the fabric and reduce fading, producing consistent hues that can match a template proves to be more complex. More research is required before repurposed coffee grounds can be ready for mass-production of pigments.  “One disadvantage is that it’s hard to measure the quantity needed to get the same color,” Xiang explained. “There may be a difference in the type of beans, or maybe the coffee was brewed twice. Creating an exact match is a challenge, especially for manufacturers.” However, Xiang asserted that hue consistency can be overcome by changing consumer attitudes. If consumers are able to reframe their interests so that they accept the uniqueness of colors rather than demand their consistency, then repurposed coffee grounds, as a sustainable source, can be a worthwhile commercial venture. Historically, textile hues were originally sourced from plants and minerals.  But industrialization forced the textile sector to turn to synthetics, because laboratories could produce them at cheaper cost. Over time, these synthetics have become less and less environmentally friendly. Because the textile industry utilizes upward of 2 million tons of chemicals for its synthetic pigments, there has been a growing movement in today’s society to find more sustainable sources, such as repurposed coffee grounds. + Taylor and Francis Online Via Phys.org Image via Couleur

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Repurposed coffee grounds provide sustainable clothing pigment alternative

Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

May 22, 2017 by  
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Lake Chad in Africa spanned over 770,000 square miles in 50,000 B.C., according to Cameroon -based architecture firm Hermann Kamte & Associates (HKA). But over the centuries it has shrunk, dwindling to a mere 1,544 square miles in 2001. HKA hopes to use architecture to jumpstart regeneration of the dying lake in the form of a desalination and research center called The Forgotten – Dead or Alive. The center would begin a process that would eventually be handed over to nature . The first humans made their home near Lake Chad, according to HKA, but this body of water is in danger of disappearing forever. It could die out in this century if no steps are taken to preserve it. Lake Chad – bordered by Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, and Niger – is vital to the health of the region; HKA says its disappearance would impact over nine million people nearby, and indirectly, 30 million people in the region. Related: Green-roofed wooden tower in Lagos maximizes daylight and natural ventilation So they designed a center to help keep the lake alive. The self-sufficient Limnology Center would offer a location for researchers to study Lake Chad and the surrounding region. A desalination center onsite would actually connect the lake to the Atlantic Ocean via pipelines , which would transport water from the ocean. The desalination center would treat the saltwater so it could be reused as fresh water to help restore Lake Chad and provide a source of water for people in the region. HKA designed the center to have an amphibian-like form to blend in with the lake surroundings. They envision three stages to help revitalize the lake, beginning with the center and then slowly transitioning the job over to nature. Construction of the pipelines and lake research would take place between 2016 and 2026. In 2020 trees and vegetation will be planted around the lake. The greenery will eventually take over the job of regeneration; in 2080 pipelines will stop bringing in Atlantic Ocean water as natural regeneration takes over thanks to a thriving woodland. + Hermann Kamte & Associates Images courtesy of Hermann Kamte & Associates

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Architect designs solar-powered research center to save dying Lake Chad

Plants use sound to find water and survive, new research shows

May 22, 2017 by  
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Many people believe that playing music to plants makes them grow better , but scientists would say that’s absurd. New research from Australia might prove them wrong though. Monica Gagliano, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Western Australia, found that plants utilize the sounds of nature , from the buzzing of an insect to the sound of liquid rushing through a pipe, to find water and survive. In her recent study , Gagliano placed pea seedlings in a pot in the shape of an upside-down Y. Scientific American reports , “One arm of each pot was placed in either a tray of water or a coiled plastic tube through which water flowed; the other arm had only soil. The roots grew toward the arm of the pipe with the fluid, regardless of whether it was easily accessible or hidden inside the tubing.” According to Gagliano, the plants “just knew the water was there,” even though they could only detect the sound of the water flowing inside the pipe. When the seedlings were given a choice between the flowing tube and soil that was moistened, their roots chose the latter, however. The lead scientist says the plants use sound waves to detect water from far away, but follow moisture gradients to move in on their target when it is within reach. Related: Energy-generating ‘artificial plants’ turn greenhouse gases into clean air Gagliano’s discovery was published in the May 2017 issue of Oecologia, an international peer-reviewed journal. In the paper, titled “ Tuned in: plant roots use sound to locate water ,” she writes: Because water is essential to life, organisms have evolved a wide range of strategies to cope with water limitations, including actively searching for their preferred moisture levels to avoid dehydration . Plants use moisture gradients to direct their roots through the soil once a water source is detected, but how they first detect the source is unknown. We found that roots were able to locate a water source by sensing the vibrations generated by water moving inside pipes, even in the absence of substrate moisture. She added, “Our results also showed that the presence of noise affected the abilities of roots to perceive and respond correctly to the surrounding soundscape.” Considering the phenomena of “buzz pollination,” in which the sound of bees buzzing at a certain frequency stimulates the release of pollen in plants, has already been validated, it doesn’t seem too outlandish to propose that plants rely on sound vibrations to find water and thrive. Gagliano elaborates on her findings in the video below: Via Scientific American Images via Pixabay

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Plants use sound to find water and survive, new research shows

Monstrous goldfish found in Australian rivers were released as pets

August 23, 2016 by  
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Australian researchers are warning of a new, invasive threat to the continent’s native wildlife: goldfish that were abandoned by their owners and released into the wild. Most of us think of goldfish as a small and harmless species, but apparently Western Australia’s rivers contain just the right conditions to allow the fish to grow into two kilo monsters that wreak havoc on the local ecosystem. There are a number of reasons why these fish pose such an environmental hazard. For one, they tend to eat the eggs of native species. But even when they aren’t directly affecting the reproduction of other fish, they’re releasing a nutrient-rich waste into the water column which creates dangerous algae blooms . They’re also carriers of nasty diseases that don’t naturally occur in Australia’s waters. Related: Great Barrier Reef tourist pollution may be causing turtle-specific herpes outbreak It’s believed that pet owners who dump unwanted fish in local waterways are to blame. The practice is called “aquarium dumping.” Once they are released into the water, they breed at a rapid rate, taking over the area. Because they can travel quite far, up to 230 kilometers per year, they’re incredibly difficult to eradicate. In fact, scientists from Murdoch University are calling them “one of the world’s worst invasive aquatic species.” This isn’t the first time pet goldfish have caused an ecological crisis. In 2013, researchers at Lake Tahoe in the US found abandoned goldfish that had grown over and foot and a half long terrorizing the waters. Via Gizmodo Images via Murdoch University

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Monstrous goldfish found in Australian rivers were released as pets

Building sustainable systems, one farm at a time

July 20, 2016 by  
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Stories of sustainability success in the field from Land O’ Lakes.

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Building sustainable systems, one farm at a time

The rise of results-based climate finance

July 20, 2016 by  
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To meet the Paris Agreement’s target, “simplicity, certainty” and public-private partnerships matter.

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The rise of results-based climate finance

Acid Rain is Turning Canada’s Lakes Into Jelly

November 20, 2014 by  
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You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that acid rain is a monumental problem, but these days, the consequences of industrialization are beyond anything we could have imagined. Witness Canada’s jelly lakes: thanks to acid rain, several of Canada’s water bodies are now turning into a gelatinous mess. Read the rest of Acid Rain is Turning Canada’s Lakes Into Jelly Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: acid rain , Acid Rain Canada , Acid Rain US , calcium plankton , Cambridge University , Canada gelatinous lakes , Canada jelly lakes , Canada Jelly water , Canada lakes , Climate Change , climate change acid rain , environmental study , gelatinous lakes , gelatinous plankton , jelly plankton

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