What did you say?

On the way into work this morning a police car passed me. I was going the speed limit and it was hilarious to observe as all of the cars and trucks (that flew past me) slammed on their brakes . . . suddenly becoming enlightened. The presence of the patrol car acted like a cork in a bottle – about fifteen cars and trucks were obliged to travel henceforth in a tight-knit caravan, all the way to St. Cloud. We had become an impromptu brotherhood of guilty souls.

This anecdote is a classical example of how we see and say things. We take our life experiences and arrange them in our mind on a scaffolding of literary devices. In the short paragraph above several literary devices were employed. We are usually not aware that we are using these devices, we just think the way we think and say the way we say.

So how are you doing with your holiday shopping? Do you remember the reason for the season (alliteration); did you purchase special foods for the family get-togethers, like jumbo shrimp (oxymoron); financially speaking, were you able to keep the wolf away from the door (anthropomorphism); was your shopping experience right up there with feeling the cracks spread as the rock (from the equipment trailer ahead of you) fractured your windshield (cacophony)?

We all grapple with our thinking and speaking process, and know it or not, we are all craftsmen who frame our experiences in the most delightful of ways.

We at Tri-CAP hope you have a happy winter. If we can help you in making your home warm, snug and efficient through our many programs – please give us a call.

December energy tips: Change the filters on your furnace monthly, it will save you money (the furnace will not come on and off as much and it will run more efficiently); and also the air quality will improve (this reduces dust, allergens, dust mites and other contaminants). If you have not had a clean and tune of your furnace in more than two years – get one. This will save you big money on your heating fuel consumption. Consider having your duct work cleaned, to also improve air quality. Make sure your heat registers and cold air returns are open and that nothing is obstructing the air flow. Turn down the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees, and take short showers. Your water heater is thirty percent of you energy bill, so use it wisely. If you are struggling with your energy bills, are facing a shut-off, or your fuel tank is on empty, call Tri-CAP. For income eligible families, we may have just the help you need.

December 2016 Blog

By: Stephen Bjorklund

The Funk Hole

I hope that you have been enjoying the client tales as presented in our Tri-CAP monthly blogs. They are great fun for me because the richness of life is the people in our life. This months’ subject is so universal that it applies to both clients and staff at Tri-CAP. It’s not one person’s story, it’s our story. It’s called being trapped in a funk. What’s that, you say? The funk is a perfect storm of factors combining at the same time to make one’s life nearly unendurable. When you find yourself there, most people retreat, pull back from everyone and everything, and go into the survival mode. It’s of little comfort to know that nearly everyone, at some time in their life, gets thrown down the funk hole.
So how does it happen? Have your parents or grandparents ever said any of the following to you? Eat right, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, show up for work on time. Hmmm . . . The greatest joy is in the giving of yourself and your time, the greatest blessing realized when we bless others.
So if your family credos are right-on, then is it true that when we fail to observe these basics, we may lose our peace and risk slipping away bit by bit into the general malaise of the funk hole? Maybe.
Let’s examine the matter. I do know this – not having enough money, or having too much money, can start you on the downhill slide. Embrace the good relationships that you have. A good mate or a good friend is worth more than gold. Having a great job can help, but it’s not the whole ball game. Instead, focus on the job that you have and try to encourage your immediate circle of co-workers and clients. A kind word at the right time brings life; a harsh word at a pivotal time can cause grievous harm. What we speak comes out of our spirit, what we say is who we are.
Another piece of the puzzle is how we see ourselves. If financial status or your job define you – have a care. These things can be taken away by circumstances. If you are a high achiever/type “A” personality, what happens when you don’t meet your goal, or worse yet, when you fail entirely? The tasks that you do are also not you. Do you believe in anything greater than yourself, or are you the center of your universe? Do you entertain spiritual truths that lead to inner peace? Believing entirely in oneself is like carrying water in a bucket that’s full of holes. There may be more wisdom in believing in the one who created the water.
If you find yourself in a funk and can’t manage the burden of keeping up with your fuel or electric bills this winter, or your family budget is all out of whack, give Tri-CAP a call. (Income eligibility guidelines apply.) We’re not the answer to everything, but we’ll have an encouraging word for you and hopefully some targeted financial assistance to get you over the hump, and a few steps closer to climbing out of a funk.
Energy saving tips for fall: Install a timer on your water heater; install timers on some of your electric lighting; don’t use portable electric heaters, use a blanket instead (some heaters can cost over $100 per month to operate); consider sealing your drafty windows with “strip-away” caulk (as the name implies, you can easily remove the caulking when spring arrives.) With a little effort, you can make your home warmer and more efficient this winter.

Tri-CAP November blog

Written by: Stephen Bjorklund

Songs that Remain

As we grow older the interplay between body, mind and spirit becomes more apparent. Maybe it’s because we’re nearer the end than the beginning. We grow ever so aware that the final entries in our book of life unfold before us. Along those lines, let me share a very special story about an older couple that I visited for a home energy advisor consultation. The husband and wife of many years lived by a lake and the house was designed to take advantage of the idyllic scenery. There were ample bird feeders and nectar feeders positioned all around the lakeside deck. Humming birds and songbirds of all descriptions filled the scene. The entire back of the house was flanked by sliding glass doors – and even while seated inside you felt connected to God’s good earth.

The elderly man of the house and I sat across from each other at a small dinette table, and I began to conduct a home energy assessment, asking him many questions about his home and the electrical and heating equipment. As so often happens, the conversation took a turn away from building science, and we began to discuss family. His wife was resting in the back bedroom, and he asked, “Do you need to go into her room?”

I could tell that it was important to him not to disturb her. I replied, “I’ll just ask you some questions and that will suffice.”

“Do you see our piano?” He asked.

It was an impressive grand, handsomely fashioned of finely polished, quarter-sawn maple. “Do you play,” I responded.

“No, it’s my wife’s. At one time she was a well-known concert pianist. She doesn’t play now. Adelyn has had Alzheimer’s for about ten years and I’m her primary care-giver. It’s all I can do.”

We talked about Alzheimer’s and I shared that my mother, too, was a gifted pianist who passed from the disease. He asked me, “At the end, did she ever come back?”

“Yes. She hadn’t spoken for over a year, but the day after my Dad died (he also resided at the nursing home) she looked up at his WWII navy photo on the wall and she asked me, ‘Where is Poppy?’ Then she just drifted into silence once again.”

The old man listened intently to my account, and his eyes teared up. Then he said, “My wife has also lost the capacity to speak. But something remarkable happened last week. In the middle of the night, I was awakened from a deep sleep. Adelyn had managed to find her way to the piano, and she was playing Claude Debussy’s Arabesque – one of her favorites. She never missed a note. As she finished I joined her, and she didn’t seem to know what to do next. Like your Mother, she just drifted away.”

I asked him if he had any observations about what happened with his wife and my Mother.

“Perhaps a person’s spirit is immune from the physical limitations of this life. Perhaps, even with Alzheimer’s, the spirit remains intact . . . perfect.”

I thought a lot about what the old man had said, and found once again that the people that I go out to council in matters pertaining to their household, often end up advising me in the most remarkable of ways. I think that the old man was right. Perhaps the spirit of a human being is above the laws of nature. Perhaps during those times that I visited my mother, when she couldn’t speak or acknowledge my presence – she was right there . . . with me in spirit.

Energy tips for November:   The average Minnesota three bedroom household uses 9516 Kwh per year of electricity (around $1,350 per year); the average household uses about $1375 per year for natural gas or propane; or about $2,000 for fuel oil. Ask your power company to send you 12 months of your consumption data and compare your numbers with the state average. If you are higher look for the reason why. Then call Tri-CAP (ask for the energy home advisor) and we’ll send you energy saving tips and some tips on making extra income.   We’ll do our best to help you master your energy bills.

Tri-CAP October blog

Stephen Bjorklund


The Bear that Bought the Farm

It’s time once again to turn the calendar to autumn. Fall seems to elicit the season of the whopper – those audacious, outlandish, taller-than-tall tales spun by outdoor enthusiasts of all persuasions. One sunny day during a home energy advisor visit, the farmer in residence shared the following account: “My wife warned me not to buy the Red Ryder BB gun for my eight year old son, but don’t you know, us guys have to stick together. My son had overheard the conversation between me and my wife about the troubles with milk prices and the fact that we had to mortgage the farm, just to keep the homestead. He wanted to do his part and defend our property and bee-hives ‘from bears and other trouble makers’. (I had never seen a bear on our land and we’ve been here for three generations, but I recognized how eight year old boys might imagine the enemies without). His sincerity rated a Red Ryder BB gun, at least with me. Anyway, one day I was out harvesting the wheat on the back forty when I saw six of my milk cows skedaddling down our gravel drive, to parts unknown. Then I saw a sight that will forever remain imprinted in my memory – fast behind my Guernsey cows – stumbling, rolling over and falling, was the biggest black bear I ever did see. He was in such a state! He had my wife’s laundry entangled around him, with my wife’s slip pulled over his eyes. He would run, trip, fall down – all the while swatting at the swarm of honey bees who had targeted his exposed nose. He wasn’t intentionally chasing the cows, they just happened to be in the direction of his get-away, as had been the clothes line. The Guernsey’s had panicked at the sight of the black apparition, who was festooned in a swirl of ladies undergarments.
“I ran to my pickup and sped back to check on the wife and son. My boy was stationed in front of the farmhouse with his Red Ryder BB gun displayed triumphantly across his chest. He called out, ‘I got him, Dad, right in the nose! He won’t be knocking over any more of our bee-hives.’
“My wife was standing at the kitchen door, work apron on and her arms folded, tapping her toes. She gave me THE LOOK. She said nothing, and I dared not ask. I managed to mutter, ‘after I corral the cows, I’ll retrieve your underwear.’ She continued to stare, first at the mighty bear hunter and then at the man who knew best about small boys and guns. Then she turned and disappeared behind the kitchen door.
“My son and I commenced to locate the cattle, and after two hours in the neighbor’s cornfield and twice through the cattail swamp, the Guernsey’s were once again secured. Next, we began to track down my wife’s apparel, one piece here . . . one piece there. The trail led us deeper and deeper into the oak woods, ending at the brook pool. That old bear must have sensed that if he could just get to deep water, he could get untangled from the clothes line, and escape from the enraged honey bees, who had persisted in punishing his sore, BB shot nose. He succeeded, and all that remained was an assortment of my wife’s unmentionables swishing round and round in the current of the brook pool.
“My son took off his shoes and socks, and went to wading. ‘Hey Dad, lookie here!’ I flipped off my footwear and joined my son. ‘Well, by the Eternal . . . I think that you and the bear just discovered a shooting star!’
“And sure enough, there in the brook pool nestled a meteorite as big as a beach-ball, half covered by my wife’s slip cover (formerly worn by the honey bandit).
“Well, one thing had just led to another, and after auctioning-off that one-of-a-kind shooting star, we were able to say in all sincerity . . . that’s how the bear paid off the farm!”
Energy tip for September: Check out the fuel level in your propane or fuel oil tank. It may be time to re-order while the prices are low. Next, fire-up and check your furnace. Change your filter, and if the furnace isn’t up to par, call for a clean and tune with your local heating contractor. Take a walk through your home and make sure that the heat registers and cold air returns are in the fully open position, and that nothing is stacked on top of them, also make sure that nothing is stacked against your furnace.
Don’t forget to check out energy assistance, the energy home advisor program, and the weatherization program at Tri-CAP (for income eligible families).
Tri-CAP blog for September
Stephen Bjorklund

The Family Secret

As a former weatherization auditor and for the past year and a half, as a home energy advisor, I have met with many colorful personalities. I take people at face value and give them the benefit of the doubt . . . assuming that what they are telling me is true. With that said, there have been times when my trusting ways have been put to the test. Let me share one client story to demonstrate the point.
Leif, (I won’t use his real name) was a blue eyed, red cheeked, silver haired Swede who lived in an 1880 vintage farmhouse. The homestead was situated on a high hill amidst a burl-oak woods and could have served in a late night, scary movie. I met with the old man to do a home energy advisor assessment, and informed him that I would need to have access to all of the rooms, the attic, and the basement. He said that it would be alright, except for one room. I asked, “What’s the problem with that one room?” He cleared his throat, stood up and made a fine shot into the brass spittoon on the far side of the kitchen, which sang out as pretty as any Chinese gong. Then he said, “You see, we have kind of a family secret, and it is in that room.”
I asked, “Can you explain that a little more – my program rules require that I examine every room.”
“Well, I won’t say that you can’t go into that room, but we keep the door locked. It’s been locked for fifty years.” He pointed with a knurled index finger to the far side of the parlor. “Do you see the big bolt on the door?”
“I see it.”
“Have you ever heard the tales from the old country about the troll that lived under the bridge?”
“I guess that I have – you know – Grimm’s Fairy Tales and such.”
“Well, when my great grand-dad came over from Sweden, he brought along a souvenir from the family farm by Lake Sylvan, and it’s locked in that room.”
“Ah, come on now. Are you saying you have a troll incarcerated in that room?”
“Listen, young fella, you just go and hold your ear against that locked door!”
I did so, and heard a kind of knawing sound, “Something’s chewing on something in that room.”
“Sure enough. Great grand-dad said they have real sharp teeth. Go and look through the key hole.”
I did so, but could see nothing but the late afternoon shadows playing across the big, brass bed. I said to the old man, “I don’t see a thing.”
“Great Grand-Pa said that most often they’re invisible, except by the light of a full moon.”
“So what would happen if I went into the room, to investigate?”
“Well then, if you’re brave enough or foolish enough, go and see for yourself. Have a care, though, the troll may take a shine to you and decide to come and reside at your house.”
I took a breath, threw open the bolt, opened the squeaky, hinge-bound door, and entered therein. I cautiously surveyed the scene, then said, “I don’t see a thing!”
The old man shook his head, rang the gong, and replied, “You will, by the light of the next full moon!”
I admit that I wasted no time in finishing my home assessment tasks, and then I left Leif, his house and his family secret, taking one last glance back in the rear view mirror as I drove down the hill on the winding driveway. Leif was peering out of the partially opened kitchen door. He displayed a most peculiar expression. It was much more than a smile, like maybe he had just accomplished some great feat requiring exceptional skill. And upon sober reflection, maybe he had. One thing for sure – he appeared to me to have captured the essence of complete satisfaction.
Energy tip for August
Use curtains and blinds on your windows. In the summer, close them on hot days. In the winter, open them on sunny days and take advantage of the free heat gain. Remember to use portable fans and the furnace fan before you turn on your air conditioner. Open the windows on cool summer nights and close them early in the morning to keep the cool air working for you.
Tri-CAP August 2016 Blog
By: Stephen Bjorklund

A Face in the Attic

When you think of Tri-County Action Program, what image comes to mind – a community based group of people who act as a conduit for state and federal helps programs for low or moderate income families? This in part is true, but we are also here to be a resource to all of the people in our community. In reality, we are often neighbors helping neighbors – people sharing resources and exchanging ideas. There is a two-way street when we work with people – they bless us with good ideas and great stories as we in turn work our programs on behalf of their family. Let me share one of my favorite client stories, one of about a dozen tales that I will never forget.
I once visited a farmhouse by a creek-fed duck slough, with a long, winding drive flanked by overhanging trees. I passed a weather-worn farmhouse with all the windows gone, looking like the rock of ages stationed a-top a knoll. Then the drive meandered downhill to the “new” house, built in 1920. The elderly lady of the house was a born story-teller, and I settled in for a most enjoyable afternoon visit. Here’s the yarn that she spun: “When I was but a girl, our great Aunt lived with us up at the old house. She was an independent soul and way ahead of her time. As a young woman she had traveled the world over as a Red-Cross nurse. Family legend held that she had amassed a small fortune in precious gemstones, gifts from ardent admirers from her travels in Africa and the Middle East. You see, she was a rare beauty in her younger years. The story goes that she had a hand carved chest of gopher wood that held her treasure and that it was hidden away somewhere in the attic.
“One stormy, dark night, I asked Aunt Louisa about her treasure. At first she laughed and laughed, but then she became quite serious and said, ‘If I were you, I would never enter that attic. There may be those that guard the secrets of the night!’
“Well, Auntie finally died at the age of 102; our family built the new house and the old house was abandoned, but not forgotten. Time passed – I grew older and inherited the family farm. One day I decided to face my childhood fears. I ascended the hill and pulled the boards off the old front door. With a ladder in one hand and a flashlight in the other, I began my fated rendezvous with the second floor attic. I cannot say how fast my heart was beating as I pushed open the lid to the scuttle hole. I could hear rustling sounds above me, wings fluttering and the high-pitched squeaks of unknown creatures. I shined the light straight above me, catching the unmistakable blur of air-born bats. I waited till none could be seen, steeled my resolve and climbed two rungs higher to peer into the blackness. I swung the flashlight around in an arc, suddenly stopping as the beam of light fell upon IT, right there in front of me, staring at me! I dropped the flashlight, but could still see the pale white face looming out of the darkness. I scrambled down the ladder, regained the flashlight and my courage, and once again climbed . . . step by step. Trembling, I focused the light on the dreadful image. It was the death mask of an Egyptian Queen – one of those precious gifts imparted to my lovely Aunt Louisa. I heard other rustlings in that attic – from creatures much larger than a bat, and I quickly closed the lid – and it remains closed to this day! I never again pursued any desire to look for Auntie’s treasure – some things are just meant to be left to family legend.”

And with that, my client ended her tale. If you would like to hear more client stories in future Tri-CAP blogs, let me know.
PS. Stories are shared by permission only.
Energy tips for June:
If you have more than one fridge or chest freezer, turn them off! Each fridge can cost up to $165 per year in electricity; each chest freezer can cost $126 per year to run. If you have an old fridge or freezer – replace them. A new fridge saves $96 per year; a new freezer saves $66 per year. Many of the local electrical providers have appliance programs to replace an old refrigerator or chest freezer for free to income qualified clients – and they will recycle your old unit.
June 2016 Blog by Stephen Bjorklund, Home Energy Advisor

So Be It

Some say what we believe shapes our destiny. I have always been fascinated by diverse cultures from around the world and how they develop strategies for successful living. There is one school of thought that holds that all events in life are dictated by fate (Karma or pre-destination). In this scenario, no matter what we do or don’t do has no bearing, as the outcome already has a foregone conclusion. Others believe that life is merely a series of random events, with no linkage, no cause and effect. Still others say that our actions, good or bad, directly affect our destiny. What we sow, we will reap. And finally, huge numbers of people from around the world hold that our life is molded according to our relationship with the creator.

Big deal, so what, do any of these life philosophies really matter? Aren’t there diverse paths to truth, multiple avenues of enlightenment? How can these lofty ideas be relevant to your life, how can you apply any of these cultural precepts to the outcomes for your family?
If you are one that believes in fate, then you are just along for the ride. Just relax, take life as it comes. The best that you can do is to react to what happens.
If you hold that there is no rhyme or reason to life’s events, you become the leaf floating on a fall pond, subject to whatever wind is blowing.
If your creator guides your actions, then at the very least, you may embrace the notion of hope for a better future.
All of these life constructs are tested by the reality that bad things happen to good people. One thing for sure, adversity in life can add resolve to your character. By overcoming tough situations, you can hone and develop your coping skills.
So what’s the practical application of any of these diverse points of view? Whatever you settle on, it is important to know what you believe, and why. Take some time, think it over, and then examine the matter to see if your present reality lines up with what you believe. Your world-view will affect every aspect of your life – your relationships; your finances; your involvement in the community; the nature of your home and how much of a sanctuary you make of it for you and your family. Even your health and longevity may be impacted by your world view.
I won’t tell you what I believe – but I will say this: whatever is happening in your life, make the best choices that you can, avail yourself of ALL of the resources available to you in your community, never be satisfied with less than your best effort and never settle for less than the best possibility for your family.
Energy saving tips for May: Install low-flow shower heads (they use one third the water); turn down the water heater to 120 degrees; take short showers; fix leaky water faucets quickly; install low-flow aerators on your faucets; water your lawn early in the morning or late in the evening (uses far less water than during the heat of the day). And don’t forget to call Tri-CAP, a golden community asset.
May 2016 Blog By: Steve Bjorklund

And It Begins

There is something extraordinary about April – the big things of life seem to coalesce into a magical swirl. They manifest as the returning birds and waterfowl – who set busily about their task of singing into existence the greening of trees and the arrival of wild flowers. Winter has had its day and its cold furies and frozen ponds are obliged to give sway. It’s a time to start anew. Spring becomes a kind of redemption, a re-birth for both the natural world and for us. It comes with new hope and a promise. It’s a brand new story waiting to be written, waiting for you to write. The wisdom of the ages holds that man perishes without a dream, and what better time than April to make a new plan?
What would you see change for you and your family? Take a notebook and write down your dreams and desires. Gather your personal information and analyze your income and expenses. Write down a monthly budget and take the effort to track your spending for a few months, to see if you need to make adjustments. Check out the Tri-CAP monthly blog, it is full of helpful tips on reducing expenses and increasing income. Check out all of the programs for families at Tri-CAP, and see how we can help you reach your goal or your dream.
Energy tips for April: Now that we are embarking on warmer weather, remember to use fans before you turn on the air conditioning. Turn down your water heater to 115 – 120 degrees. Get in the habit of doing a walk-through in your home in the morning and evening, and turn off all unused appliances. Get a clean and tune on your furnace and air conditioner. (Using your furnace fan in the summer is a smart move to keep cool and save energy). Do these few things and save hundreds of dollars per year on your utility bills.
Remember that it’s your life, your family, and your dream. Start fresh and dream big. With a little planning and maybe a little help, you can make it happen! We at Tri-CAP are waiting for you to call.
April 2016 Blog by: Stephen Bjorklund

Are you ready to think spring?

Are you ready to think spring? Can you imagine the green just waiting below those last piles of snow? The seed catalogs are arriving in the mail, and for those of us with cabin fever, we relish the possibilities. What follows is for those of us with a small space, like a balcony or a deck – which we could turn into a vegetable garden. My brother-in-law, Brad Wedge, put this story together for you – to give you a vision of spring.
With the limited space of a balcony and wanting to grow vegetables think about choosing vegetables that are: best picked at prime ripeness (tomatoes), vegetables that are best used fresh (tomatoes); plants that are normally more expensive (tomatoes); nutritious for you (beans); that you can pick all summer long (pole beans); and vegetables that can grow in your location. East exposure offers only morning sun and shades the plants all afternoon, south exposure will have sun all day, and west exposure, the hardest location because they receive the sun only during the hottest time of the day. I would avoid vegetables that are root crops (potatoes, carrots, beets), they tend to like cool soil, which is really hard to achieve in above ground pots. Root crops also tend to be very inexpensive to buy.
My choice in order of vegetables: 1. Tomatoes (choose the indeterminate varieties so you can stake them vertically); 2. Herbs – they are best fresh and are easy to grow in pots; 3. Pole Beans – a vine with lots of nutrition and continuous picking throughout the summer; 4. Sugar Snap peas – choose the vine type, they are great fresh and very nutritious; 5. Lettuce – especially varieties that you can pick repeatedly; 6. Cucumbers – because they add so much to a salad, are best fresh, and can be used lots of ways; 7. Peppers – they are nutritious, and great used many ways. If you want to try fruits, the only one I would recommend is the day-neutral strawberries. They would have to be grown as an annual, but growing in vertical tubes they can produce heavily from mid-July to frost.
Your most critical choice is your soil mix. Choose a top quality mixture with good drainage, good water holding ability, holds the plant upright, is sterile, and light weight (to get it to the balcony). A good quality soil may cost more, but will produce so much more. Many articles will tell you to add large particles (stones, Styrofoam) at the bottom of the pot for drainage, but science has proven that this actually impedes drainage. It is always best to have the same soil mix from top to bottom, and the deeper the pot the better the drainage.
Consistent and sufficient watering is needed for success. It is hard to keep a constant supply of moisture for the plant and not fill all the air in the soil with water (which eliminates the oxygen that the roots need to live). A good soil mix that drains well will make all the difference (soil from the garden is very poor at drainage in a pot). Make sure to remove any trays under the pot (unless you have an air break between the pot and the tray) that will prevent full drainage. For best results consider using a drip irrigation system. Automatic control valves that run on batteries and small irrigation hose are very inexpensive and easy to install. You can set up a water tank, and fill it as needed and let the irrigation system do the daily work.
There are many containers to grow the vegetables in. To gain more space try window boxes (overhang inside or outside the balcony, or even straddle the railing), hanging pots or hanging rectangular boxes, vertical tubes, trellises, rain gutters etc. Just make sure that they all have sufficient drainage holes. Use all the space available including the area over the door and the walls. If your balcony has no overhead, build a framework so you can use this area for growing too (which can even provide shade for the balcony).
Energy tip for March: Don’t forget your pioneer heritage – grow what you can and can what you grow, and don’t forget the pickles! Being veggie self-reliant cuts down on trips to the grocery store and is healthy for your family. A fully stocked fridge costs less to run, so fill it up with your home-grown produce!
Text by Brad Wedge, Nurseryman
Introduction and energy tip, Stephen Bjorklund

Snuggle Up To Winter

Ah, February – in the epicenter of long-john, throw blankets and the hot-chili season! I like winter. Most of my contemporaries have fled to Arizona, Florida or Texas, but I’m one of those die-hards that embraces winter. My wife does the cross-country ski routine and I try to keep up to her pace with my snow-shoes. We both agree that some of the most arresting scenery in Minnesota is to be found in the midst of winter – the stark and formal relief of the dark tree-trunks and finger-like branches against the pure white snow and sultry gray skies – tinged at times with purple, lavender and rose. The black-capped chickadees, snow buntings and nut hatches make for reliable companions every single day of the cold season.
For those of us that stick it out here on the snowy slopes, by choice or of necessity, we must acquire coping skills. The reality for many is that there just isn’t enough in the family budget to keep the heat up to 70 degrees. Many, many people set their furnace thermostat way down low, just warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, and they stay warm by dressing in extra layers, using blankets, or closing off the second floor or other less used rooms – keeping the heat only flowing where the people are. If this is You, you’re not alone – this is how many cope. The struggle to stay warm every day can take all of the joy out of the season.
If you are one who employs these strategies, consider calling Tri-CAP and getting signed up for energy assistance. This also makes you eligible for a home assessment to see if home weatherization, or our other energy saving programs, are right for you. Give us a try and maybe next year, coping with a good old Minnesota winter may be a great deal less challenging. Don’t let winter get the best of you – recapture what a wondrous season it can be.
Energy tip for this month: Change your furnace filter monthly (makes your furnace run smoother with less start-ups and stops) and pull your refrigerator out a few feet and brush clean the coils. Both these tips will save you energy dollars and extend the life of your furnace and refrigerator.
February 2016 Blog by Stephen Bjorklund