Balsam bough-nanza

Did you ever wonder where all those Christmas wreaths come from? Well, the Northland’s forest is the easy answer. In Minnesota alone, about 1,700 tons of balsam boughs are harvested each autumn, usually by cutting lower branches to let the tree keep growing.

At about 400 wreaths per ton, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, that’s 680,000 wreaths! Most of those boughs are harvested in northern Minnesota public and private lands, with Itasca, St. Louis, Aitkin and Cass counties leading the way. There are an estimated $30 million in balsam boughs sold each holiday season and that doesn’t include the sale of 9 million pine cones and other decorative items, like pine swags and spruce tree tops.

Bough harvesters generally pay a small fee each year to harvest on public lands.

Now you know.

Nolan to honor vets

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan will be visiting the Hoyt Lakes VFW Post 8144 on Saturday.

To mark the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which propelled the United States into World War II, Nolan will make a presentation honoring Arleigh Birk, who was a 21-year-old Boatswain’s Mate First Class aboard the USS Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941.

After Pearl Harbor, Birk was reassigned to the USS Denver, where he remained in the Pacific Theatre until his discharge in February 1946.

Birk and Marion, his wife of 67 years, still live in their family home in Hoyt Lakes.

Help a kid out

Every once in a while, the tech-connected youth will throw a surprise curveball and embrace the slow, outmoded technology of yesteryear.

Eh? received an interesting request recently. It seems that a fourth-grader in Evansville, Ind., is doing a report about Minnesota and is asking for help from the subject of her report: Minnesotans.

Sabina Alcock is asking Minnesotans to send her brochures, postcards or anything else that might help a fourth-grader write a report on what life is like in the state.

Those interested in helping a faraway kid with her homework should send Minnesota-related materials to Evansville Day School, c/o Sabina Alcock, 3400 N. Green River Road, Evansville, IN 47715.

Minnesota sells itself off

You paid for it once, why not again?

The state of Minnesota will auction its surplus equipment on Saturday in Arden Hills.

Up on the block will be about 100 cars and trucks, generators, welders, air compressors, snow blowers, chain saws and trimmers, bikes and more.

The auction opens for inspection and registration at 8 a.m., with bidding beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the Department of Administration Fleet and Surplus Services building, 5420 Old Highway 8, Arden Hills.

All items are sold as-is, where-is and all sales are final and must be settled in full with cash or personal check the day of the auction.

Auction-goers can find an auction calendar and register online. The state conducts about 12 surplus auctions each year, and sells surplus continuously.

MN Reads, on the radio

A new KUMD radio show called “MN Reads” debuts at 8:15 a.m. today during the station’s Northland Morning.

The weekly program is about books written by Minnesota authors. This week’s show discusses Atina Diffley’s book “Turn Here Sweet Corn,” published in 2013 by the University of Minnesota Press. It was picked to coincide with KUMD’s Sustainability Week celebrated this week.

Horseshoes and health care

Minnesota’s health commissioner has a passion for pitching horseshoes. That has led him to talk health over games of horseshoes across the state during the past two summers.

On Tuesday, Dr. Ed Ehlinger will be in Duluth from 3-4 p.m., pitching horseshoes and ideas in the horseshoe area of the Merritt Community Center, 4017 W. Seventh St.

It’s one of several stops he’ll make during the day to hear from local health officials about their progress and concerns with public health initiatives, his office tells us.

He’ll also lead a presentation and discussion called “What Does Duluth Need to be Healthy” at the Grant Recreation Center, 901 E. 11th St., from 1-2 p.m. A meeting and tour begins at 2 p.m., also at the Grant Recreation Center.

Duluth gets credit for ‘Tarjay’ nickname

An obituary in the Washington Post this week for Douglas J. Dayton — the first president of Target and uncle of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton who died of cancer July 5 at age 88 — described how he turned a subsidiary of his grandfather’s company into the successful discount chain Target.

The late Douglas J. Dayton, the first Target president, gave Duluth credit for the store’s “Tarjay” nickname. (2010 file, Clint Austin / News Tribune)

“We will offer high-quality merchandise at low margins because we are cutting expenses,” Dayton said, according to Laura Rowley’s book, “On Target: How the World’s Largest Retailer Hit a Bull’s-eye.”

Enter the phony French nickname, as written by the Washington Post:

“Mr. Dayton said customers began calling the chain ‘Tarjay’ — imbuing the name with faux French glamour — as early as 1962.”

“Duluth was the first place I heard it,” Dayton said, referring to the store’s fourth location.

And now you know. This Eh? desker and lifelong Duluthian has used the nickname for years without being aware of its origin.

We’re third-best educated

Minnesota is among the best educated states in the country, according to a recent report.

With 46.6 percent of the working-age population holding at least a two-year college degree, Minnesota is No. 3 among the states, according to the report by the Lumina Foundation, a private organization focused on education. The rate in Wisconsin was 39.6 percent, just above the national average.

The national average was 38.7 percent.

The top-ranked states were Massachusetts, 50.8 percent with degrees; and Colorado, 47 percent. Lowest ranked was West Virginia with 27.8 percent.

Cold bracket busters

At least this cold weather could come in handy for something.

Duluth and other Midwest cities have a chance to go all the way this year in the Toughest Weather City Tournament on

Minnesota boasts Duluth, International Falls and Minneapolis as its heavyweights. Green Bay, Wis., and Fargo, N.D., also are in the tournament. All of the aforementioned cities had healthy first-round leads as of Tuesday afternoon. Voting for the opening round ended at 3 a.m. today.

Marriage bill event in downtown Duluth

This is not an endorsement, but we were asked to mention that Minnesota United in Duluth is hosting a fundraiser Saturday to help build momentum to pass the Freedom to Marry bill into law.

Chester Creek Café, Duluth Grill, Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar, New Scenic Café and Savories Catering will provide finger food, and local artists have donated work for a silent auction.

The free and public event is 7-9:30 p.m. at Zeitgeist Arts Café, 222 E. Superior St.