Waatebagaa-giizis (Leaves Turning Moon)

Hello everyone,

September is a good time for starting a fresh round of cool-season and overwintering crops. This includes lettuce, spinach, and other greens, as well as some crops such as broccoli and cauliflower. Short season root crops such as radishes can be grown now to harvest before winter, and overwintering roots such as garlic and onions can be planted.

Just as importantly, its harvest time for those warm season crops! Here are some tips on harvesting different groups of vegetables:

  • Melons – Most melons will detach from the vine with pressure from just one finger when ripe. And melons do not continue to ripen off the vine, so be careful not to harvest too early.
  • Squash – Summer Squash are best harvested while still on the small side, because not only is the flavor better, but if left on the plant a long time it begins seed formation and reduces further fruit set. A Winter Squash is completely mature when the stem is brown and shriveled.
  • Peppers – Many varieties of both sweet and hot peppers change color from green to red or yellow as they ripen, and as much as possible this should be used as the guide for harvest for best flavor.
  • Tomatoes – Tomatoes are at their peak when they easily detach from the stem with only the slightest tug. But what to do as summer wanes, and you are still facing green globes on the vine? You can boost the ripening of the larger fruit by removing all flowers and the smaller, immature tomatoes, beginning about September 1st (these smallest of fruits won’t have time to mature, in any case).

Also, caterpillar damage is at its height in autumn. While many of the less damaging leaf eaters can be ignored because the leaves are going to fall off soon, tent caterpillars can do extensive damage if ignored. A large population can kill major branches of mature trees. Common targets include birch, ash, and maple.

This September the Bimaaji-Idiwin Garden Program has given the Sawyer Elderly fresh produce. Which includes: tomatoes, potatoes, chives, peppers, swiss chard, onions, and beets.

Fresh Produce Ready to go to the Sawyer Elderly

Fresh Produce Ready to go to the Sawyer Elderly

We also held a canning workshop on September 25th, we canned fresh tomatoes and smoked salmon fish. The workshop was great and our community members showed up to learn about preservation. Get your pressure cookers tested today at the University of Minnesota Extension Office in Carlton MN!

Dave Wise presenting

Dave Wise presenting

As you might know already, the ricing season has come to an end and our rice lakes have been nicely harvested. Time to put away your canoe and knockers everybody! Our garden has been nothing but wonderful this summer and it has grown amazing produce with the condition it was in before. I’d like to thank Bruce Savage for the work and time he has taken to help this years Bimaaji-Idiwin Garden thrive!

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Dagwaagin Gitigaan (Fall Garden)

As summer slowly starts to drift into fall, it would be a great time to start preparing the vegetable garden for fall planting. Getting your garden ready for fall and winter will help you have an easier time come spring. It’s also a good time to improve the area for your spring garden. Getting your garden ready for the fall will give you plenty of time to rake up all those falling leaves before the first snow of the season, if you live in a snowy environment.

First you want to  Preparing your garden for fall is not just about cleaning or removing plants, it is also a way to enjoy your garden longer. When it comes to cleaning the vegetable garden you have to remove any of the old remnants from your summer garden. Remove all the left over plants, weeds, mulch from the planting area and place it in your compost pile as long as they are disease free. Now you will just have a row naked soil showing.


Next, you want to loosen the soil with a shovel to chop up large clumps of soil. Once the soil is all well loosened up you must now amend the soil. There are many different kinds of amendments, but the best  is compost. Once you add a layer of compost to your row or bed you want to repeat adding the compost depending on how you have. The more the compost the better your soil will be in the spring.


Shoveling compost into rows to have more rich soil.

Getting Compost at WLSSD Composting Yard

Getting Compost at WLSSD Composting Yard

The next phase of preparing the vegetable garden for fall is to cover the soil. Usually you would use some type of organic mulch, like straw or shredded bark. So, if you decided to cover everything with black plastic sheeting. You would remove the mulch from the pathways, line them with black plastic, and replace the mulch. You can also cover the rows with black plastic as well. This will help suppress weeds much better and keep the soil warm once temperatures start to drop later in the fall.


Any time you are planting vegetables in an area where you just grew vegetables you need to replenish the soil for the best possible results. It is very important to amend the soil as heavily as you can when preparing the vegetable garden for fall planting. The summer crops have used quite a bit of the nutrients in the soil, so you need to add more back in before planting fall crops.Once the fall crops are done for the year you will need to repeat this preparation for upcoming spring crops. I hope this was some good information for you fellow gardeners out there!


August (Wild Rice Moon)- Manoominike-Giizis


The month of August in the garden consists of harvesting and preparing for next year. This month with the Minnesota weather, the garden has been fairly dry and needed extra watering. Also, this month our garden has hit it’s peak of growing and producing fresh vegetables. Our garden is filled with produce that is ready to harvest and give away. We have given the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School some fresh produce, from the garden, for the Summer Lunch Program to keep feeding our schools fresh, healthy, and local foods. Going into September our tomatoes will be ready to harvest along with our unions and corn. The corn stalks are getting big and the beans that we planted are beautifully vining up the stock.

We also had a workshop this month about the business food production. We had topics covering grass finished beef, chickens, and organic grown produce. The workshop consisted of going to tour two local successful farms. The farms we went to were The Food Farm and 4 Quarters Holdings both in Carlton County. During this month we have participated in the Local Farmers Market, located at the Fond du Lac Gas and Grocery. We brought some fresh produce from the garden along with Spirit Lake Native Farms wild rice and maple syrup. Next Saturday, they are hosting a local farmers market with food tasting, custom ice cream makers, demonstration by local beekeepers, and participation by the local youth gardening club. So come on out and support our local gardeners and buy locally fresh produce!

This month in Indian country, ricing season is coming about and the people are getting ready for the rice harvesting season. Harvesting season starts in late August and goes into early September. Harvesting the wild rice traditionally consists of two people in a canoe. One person guides the canoe using a push pole, while the other uses knockers to harvest the rice. The push pole and knockers are usually made from white cedar trunks. Cedar’s light weight helps prevent stalk breakage, and with push poles the long rods are used to move through the water are made of two types of wood. The staff portion is cedar, again because of its lightness. The “foot,” however, is made from hard maple. That’s because the tree’s branches contain a natural “fork” that helps grab the lake’s soft bottom. With a knocker in each hand, the ricer reaches to one side and pulls the stalks over the canoe. Care is taken not to break or damage the plants. Harvesting wild rice is a tradition that we practice and will continue to pass it on to our generations to preserve and protect our local wild rice lakes. Be sure to get a canoe and a partner this month and get out on the rice lakes to harvest!

wild rice harvesting

wild rice


Abitaa-Niibini-Giizis (July)

Boozhoo! This month in our Bimaaji-Idiwin Garden we have been able to harvest a few vegetables and gave them to the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School Summer Lunch Program. We brought them fresh cabbage heads, lettuce, summer squash, and cucumbers. We are going to continue doing this during the rest of the summer before our very last harvest. Lately, we have encountered green worms on our cabbage and they have infested our garden! The most common of cabbage pests are cabbage worms, which are caterpillars of various butterflies and moths. They feed on the leaves and heads of cabbage, broccoli, and closely related crops. Cabbage worms weaken plants by removing plant tissue, and they can ruin beautiful heads of cabbage or broccoli by boring inside. Organic controls for cabbage worms include handpicking, excluding them with row cover barriers, or treating with a Bt pesticide. With some help we applied an organic mixture and applying bacteria to the affected areas of our garden to get rid of these pests. These worms will eat any green leafy plants and lay little green eggs that will infest. They will lay their eggs in the small layers and in the loose leafs of your cabbage. Be sure to check your cabbage and cauliflower my fellow gardeners. Due to the hot, dry weather lately our plants started to wilt and needed extra watering.  On the flipside our tomatoes are coming in and starting to get ripe, we pruned and tied them so they can begin to grow taller. We have peppers also that can be harvested soon.    

    We can’t wait for our workshop that is going to be on August 11. We will be touring two farms to learn about the culture of organic food practices and how to make a garden of your own. We would love to see community members visit our garden !


Ode’ Imini Giizis

This past month a few things have took on life in our Bimmaji idiwin Garden. We’ve also made a lot of progress in our high tunnel. We started out by laying down our black tarp to prevent weeds from growing. Then, we planted our starter plants which were peppers, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. As they grew bigger in the high tunnel, we made a cucumber fence so the cucumbers will grow upwards and out of the way. We also planted our pumpkin and squash patch on the side of the high tunnel.

Our chives and radishes grew fast and we got to harvest them and give them away to the elders.  During this month we have also installed a water line in the garden for easy access to water within the garden. We also installed drip lines in each of our garden plots so that the plants each get enough water. As far as using compost or wood chips, we used wood chips for our shrubs and tree plants to suppress the weeds. We are also going to put in a few more mounds for our corn plants. We have made a lot of progress within the garden and love hearing about our hard work we have dedicated to this garden. We will upload photos for you to see our progress in the garden. We took a couple trips to the University of Minnesota Duluth College and took a tour of their garden and we also visited The Food Farm in Wrenshall which is owned by the Fisher-Merritt family. It was a wonderful learning experience and used some of their ideas for our garden. We are beginning to put the ojibwe names and scientific names as well on our plants. Enrollee day is coming up fast and we are preparing for our demonstration garden we would love for you to come out and give us your thoughts on it. Miigwetch!

Putting up our fence for the cucumbers!

Putting up our fence for the cucumbers!


Peter observing the squash! Our first blossom!

Peter observing the squash! Our first blossom!

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Waabigwanii Giizi

Waabigwanii Giizis

Moon of Flowers


In our Western Great Lake region, our forest is starting to blossum with wild flowers and the fruits are growing. But the early May frost wasn’t helping to start out the season which is hard on our fruit buds .It is a great time to spend inside our forest there are not too many bugs to chase you out.

Also, its time to start working with our garden beds so we can start planting our frost hardy plants. I see our chives doing great, the garlic is also growing well and our rhubarb is almost ready. We are still looking for asparagus. Some folks within the region are harvesting wild leeks, fiddle ferns, and to the west of us a few mushrooms are starting to sprout.

Within in our lakes and rivers our walleyes, northern, and suckers are done spawning. We are looking forward in the upcoming weeks to start planting peppers, corn, melons, herbs, lettuces, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. The month of May started out dry, but lately we’ve been getting a lot of rain and with that brings out the mosquito’s along with the other spring and summer bugs.

We cant wait for the season of gardening to get rolling and the plants, herbs, and food to start growing. We are looking forward to seeing people come out to the community garden to see the fruits of our labor

Iskigamizige Giizis

All across the Great Lakes region, both natives and non-natives alike are making sugar from the maple forests. Everyone I’ve spoken with said this year’s flavor is wonderful yet again. I hope everyone is closing out the 2015 season with sticky fingers and enough sugar to get us through the rest of the year.

Spring has so much to offer. Soon, it will be time to harvest wild leeks, ferns, and later mushroom hunting. Also, as the ice begins to open on the lakes, we can begin fishing again. As the sun warms the soil, some have begun to uncover their garlic beds to look for new growth.

Although Spring seems to be here, remember that we can still get a good snow storm for the next couple months. We have fished the Minnesota state fishing opener in the snow so don’t put away your hat and mittens just yet!

Soon we will be out working in the gardens and looking for the first wild berries of the season. This Spring has been a dry one, increasing the likelihood of fires. Please be mindful of your fires, and of your new seedlings who greatly need water in this dry weather.


Bruce Savage


January and February are when we access our food through the ice. It was a slow start this year, but as usual, more fish were caught when the weather began to warm. Now we are working hard to make sure our snowshoes, snowmobiles, and other gear is ready to go into our aninaatig (sugarbush) forests for our first ziinzibaakwadwaaboo (maple sap) harvest of the year.

After we make our offerings for the harvest, we boil down the sap to make ziinzibaakwad (maple sugar). Today we make a lot of maple syrup and other value added products. Some of these will be maple cream, maple sugar candies, syrup, cotton candy sugar, maple coated nuts like pecans, peanuts, almonds, and many others. It is still an important part of our diet, being used in the process of smoking fish and preserving fruits and meats in the year to come. We try to access enough sugar and syrup to make it through the year and to create an economy in our community.

Making maple syrup and sugar is a family and community affair. Here, everybody has a place, and everybody has a role. The sugar camp needs a variety of people with different skills. A good sugar camp needs people to take care of the children and elders, and cook our food. We also need fire-tenders, sap haulers, sugar makers, language keepers, and basic camp tenders. Today, we have expanded some of these roles to include bottlers, packagers, and others. Each of these people is essential to the proper function of the sugar camp. Without any one of them the sugar camp cannot function properly.

In the months after sugaring season, we will be starting our open water fishing, bark gathering, and begin working on our forest harvested foods. We’re also getting hungry thinking about what we will plant in our summer gardens!

If you have any photos of you or your family members taking part in these activities please send them to Bruce Savage at brucesavage@fdlrez.com.


Bruce Savage

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