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Thursday, July 31, 2008


Thursday, 7:20 AM. 60 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is beautifully patterned with areas of glassy and rippled water. The sky is partly cloudy and the barometer predicts rain.
Many rather obscure roadside plants are blooming now, most people ignoring them. A ubiquitous plant is the common tansy, Tanacetm vulgare, known from ancient times as a garden and medicinal plant. The leaves have an unusual and not unpleasant, pungent odor. It was used as a strewing herb in Medieval times, when dirt floors were the norm. It was also used medicinally as a tea for various stomach and internal ailments and as a gout remedy (I may try it for that). It has some toxic properties and probably should not be used without sound advice. Its small yellow flower heads give it the English common name of “buttons;” It is prolific and colorful but will take over a garden if you are not very careful. It is best left in nature.
Another common plant of waste places and sometimes a garden weed is nightshade, Solanum dulcamera, also unfortunately called bittersweet, as though it were somehow edible. It is in the same family, the Solonaceae, as the tomato. Don’t taste the attractive red fruits, as they are at least mildly poisonous. It is a semi-woody, climbing plant, and its blue flowers have yellow centers. Children are often attracted to it and it should be eradicated if found around the home.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Wednesday, 7:30 AM. 60 degrees, wind W, calm with light gusts. The channel is slightly wrinkled. The sky is blue with a bit of haze and the barometer predicts rain.
Along with the barometer, which can predict weather about 12 to 24 hours in advance, I watch certain indicator trees. An old time local fisherman told me some time ago, “when the hillsides turn gray, I head for port.” Certain trees turn their leaves over in anticipation of rain, thereby exposing the stomata on the lighter colored undersides of the leaves to it. This is a subtle indicator and I think must be a response of the leaf petiole to changing barometric pressure. Red maples seem to pretty consistently do this and probably other maples, and maybe poplars and other species as well. The response also seems to vary with individual trees within a species. There is a large red maple in a neighbor's yard that Joan and I use as an indicator of rain and it is consistently accurate. It turns its leaves over about an hour before it rains.
We have available to us a tremendous amount of culturally accumulated and filtered knowledge which we moderns usually ignore as questionable intuition, or worse, superstition and "old wives tales." It behooves us all to give due credit to our own observations and to the accumulated, if “unscientific” knowledge of our collective cultures. To not do so may lead us to “miss the boat,” or worse yet, sink it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 60 degrees, wind W, calm. The channel is wrinkled. The sky is overcast and it has been raining off and on. The barometer predicts more rain.
It is a quiet morning except for the robins rejoicing in their wormy breakfasts, and the dripping of the rain from the eaves to the decks. Our walk was just around the block.
Summer flowers are coming on strong now, purple cone flowers and brown eyed Susan's beginning to bloom. The hollyhocks are beginning to recover from the thrips.
Pictured are evening primrose, Oenothera biennis, a common native plant of fields and roadsides, and common milkweed, Hibiscus syriacus, of similar habitats. The former is a cheery flower which opens towards evening, and the latter is noted for its perfume, which is unbelievably sweet and powerful. Milkweeds are very important ecologically as the obligatory host plant for the Monarch butterfly caterpillar, without which this wonderful insect cannot survive.
The tree board discussed the invasive plant issue at some length at our meeting yesterday, just to get us all actually thinking about…rather than just reacting to…this issue. Then we carried buckets of water to all our newly planted street and park trees, which of course caused us to have a nice rain this morning. The rains have come at fortuitous intervals this year, providing just enough nitrogen-rich rainwater when needed by gardens and rain barrels.
It has stopped raining, but is pretty wet and this may be mostly a clear-the-desk day.

Monday, July 28, 2008

7/28/08 FRIEND OR FOE?

Monday, 7:30 AM. 56 degrees, wind NW, dead calm. The channel is glassy. The skies are blue and hazy, and the barometer predicts rain.
Invasive plants are becoming a big issue in the community. The DNR has had a team visit Bayfield for several years in a row, doing demonstrations of chemical eradication of Polgonatum cuspidatum, “elephant ears” in local parlance. This plant (those pictured are eight feet high, and create a virtual cane break) was introduced by the USDA for erosion control in the dust bowl ‘30’s, along with kudzu (“the vine that ate the South”) and other plants, mostly Asiatic in origin. Many of these, while doing their erosion control job admirably, have become noxious weeds, and are targeted for control or elimination by state or federal agencies. The dilemma is: if the plants are eliminated, what will happen to the eroding lands they have stabilized? There have already been such questions asked by Bayfield property owners, and battle lines are being drawn between those who see the plants as useful or benign and those who see them as foreign invaders to be eliminated. There is also the nagging question of the environmental hazards posed by the poisonous herbicides to be used, which is a legitimate concern. Our “elephant ears” were planted in the local ravines after a disastrous 1942 flood, and they do hold the banks in place. Trouble is, few people alive today are familiar with the flood except through grainy old photographs.
As volunteer city forester and weed commissioner I am sort of in the middle of a growing controversy, which won’t be easy to resolve because the facts and the science cut both ways. There are many similar issues, on a much larger scale, and what is most needed is a common sense, cost-benefit analysis of each. But common sense, unfortunately, is sorely lacking in contentious ecological issues. Wish us luck!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Sunday, 8:30 AM. 62 degrees, wind W to variable, moderate with gusts. The channel is crawling. The sky is blue and hazy, the barometer predicts rain.
There are a lot of interesting summer weeds and wildflowers now, and fruits on many trees and shrubs are obvious and ripening. The spring and summer, being so late, makes it seem as though the year has flown.
The white fruits of the red twig dogwood, Corns stolonifera, are obvious now in the fields and woods, and the fuzzy fruits of the sumac are suddenly turning red. The twin, beaked fruits of the American filbert, Corylus americana, are already ripe and disappear immediately, the tasty nuts quickly eaten by animals. It won't be long and the first subtle signs of fall will appear.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Saturday,8:00 AM. 58 degrees, wind variable, at times gusty. The skies are blue with some haze. The channel is slightly wrinkled and the barometer predicts rain, but it is not humid and any rain will be passing showers.
Today is the start of the two-day 47th annual Arts Festival, and there are over 90 exhibitors. Two years ago it was virtually blown into the lake by a mini-tornado, and everyone will have their weather-eye peeled.
The American chestnut, Castanea dentata, was a dominant tree species in North America until it was virtually wiped out by the Asiatic chestnut blight a hundred years ago. Almost everyone knows the story. Its wood was highly valued and its nuts prized by man and squirrel alike. There are still remnant population of chestnut trees here and there which may or may not be resistant to the blight, and despite much research, no truly resistant varieties have been developed. The chestnut tree (in flower) pictured here was grown from a seed collected from trees on the Apostle Highlands Golf Course by Howard Larsen. There is also a mature chestnut tree on Seventh and Wilson. The American chestnut was a fabled tree, and it was said that a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic to the Mississippi jumping from one chestnut tree to another without ever touching the ground, and yet they are now virtually extinct. Other trees have taken their place in nature’s scheme of things. Perhaps someday they will return, spreading from resistant populations or through man’s ingenuity. But they will probably remain, like so many other once-dominant species, mostly a memory.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Friday, 8:00 AM. 66 degrees, wind SW, just strong enough to make the aspen leaves tremble. The channel is calm. The sky is partly cloudy with some rain clouds in the west, and the barometer predicts rain. It is rather humid.
This is the big annual arts festival weekend, and Bayfield will be busy. Joan and I Are escaping to the Barrens again today with Andy and Judy to pick wild blueberries. The dogs will go along again to ward off the bears, and we will go to the Delta Diner for a 50’s late lunch.
Mike Bonney, who has the great garden on 8th and Manypenny, told some berry picking stories when I mentioned to him this morning we were going. He said he and Sharron hadn’t picked wild berries in years, and warned about the bears in the berry patches. He said he has been picking blackberries when you didn’t see the bears, but they were so close you could actually smell them. Anyway, its off to the boonies where it looks like it will be a hot day.
Later: It was a good day in the berry patch, we picked lots of berries, including some huckleberries, before we go chased to lunch by thunderstorms. I got to the point where I passed up the occasional berry to look for a large plant or a whole patch of ripe berries, where one could make some progress. Malts and more at the Diner were great as usual. They were quite crowded. Ice cream and wild blueberries after dinner topped things off.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Thursday, 7:30 AM. 56 degrees, wind S, calm, channel glassy. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts rain. It is a very quiet morning, only a few birds singing.
Judy’s wild blueberry pie is proof positive that wild blueberries are tastier than tame, and well worth the effort. We all had blueberry pie with ice cream around the campfire last evening, and I am fortunate to have a piece waiting for me for breakfast (sans ice cream).
I need to mow the parsonage lawn and get ready for tonight’s concert but if the rain holds off I will harvest mulberries. The white mulberry, Morus alba, has been cultivated for thousands of years in Europe and Asia, both for its fruit and for the leaves, upon which the silk worm feeds. The silk industry is no longer viable in most places outside the Orient. The blackberry-like fruits of the mulberry are still somewhat popular, but most people are no longer familiar with them. This is unfortunate, as every farmstead used to have its mulberry tree. For some reason, the mulberry as a fruit has never been commercially viable in this country.
Joan remembers climbing high into the huge mulberry tree on her aunt’s farm, she and her cousins collecting the fruit for preserves and deserts, and collecting skinned knees and blue stained fingers and faces in the process. It is indeed unfortunate that most children today no longer have the opportunity to have such innocent and rewarding adventures, but are relegated to the artificial and controlled adventures of playgrounds (or worse, video games), designed by adults.
There is also a relatively little known native red mulberry, Morus rubra, sometimes grown for its fruit, but it does not occur this far north. Selections of both species can be very handsome trees.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


7/23/08: Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 52 degrees, wind SW, calm. The channel is glassy, the sky blue with some haze. The barometer predicts rain.
The blueberry picking excursion to the Barrens was a modest success, fun in the fresh air and sunshine with pals Andy and Judy. The berries were rather sparse, but we picked enough for a few pies and a lot of pancakes. The wild blueberries are mostly Vaccinium angustifolium, with a few closely related huckleberries for good measure. Wild blueberries have a stronger flavor than domesticated, and some folks much prefer the former. They are also much smaller than the domesticated, and hard to pick in quantity. Marlene Paap, who grew up on the Rez, says that her whole family picked and picked to sell the berries, and Jack Erickson of Rocky Acres berry farm says that in the ‘30’s families would camp out in tents to pick the berries to sell at, I think he said, $8 for a 16 quart flat. Even during the Depression that would have been a pittance, as it would take me all day to pick a quart I am sure. There is a reason blueberries are farm grown. Most of the wild berries are eaten by animals as soon as they are ripe, and it occurs to me that the most efficient way to harvest wild blueberries is to shoot and eat the deer that has browsed them. Anyway it was fun, and we topped the day off by drinking schooners of cold beer at Fishlips tavern in Cornucopia. Judy is baking a pie today for desert tonight. We will bring the ice cream.
No bears or anything else were encountered which is one reason it is called “the Barrens,” thousands of acres of scrub oak and pine forest with all the interesting plants associated with them, but apparently not much else. The “critters” come out mostly at night, and it is a good place to conduct a “wolf howl,” going out at night and howling to see if you get an answer (roll up the window real quick if you get a reply right in your ear).
Having gotten into the hunt and gather mode, I am going to pick mulberries from a tree in the woods across the road from the house, and will try to get up the ambition to pick wild raspberries from a huge patch, at least an acre in size, that I came across out in the boondocks while grouse hunting.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 56 degrees, wind NNE, calm. The channel is slightly wrinkled, the sky mostly blue, and the barometer is predicting partly cloudy skies. It promises to be a fine afternoon for blueberry picking in the Pine Barrens.
The morning will be spent mowing the lawn and tending to the garden. The hollyhocks have an infestation of thrips. Yesterday I dead-headed and fertilized the roses and all the pots and baskets.
I doubt we will meet any bears wile picking blueberries…one is far more likely to have a face to face encounter with one in a patch of tall raspberries or blackberries, in which case one announces, “Nice berry patch you have here, sir (or madam), and please, take these berries which I have in my bucket as well.”

Monday, July 21, 2008


Monday, 8:00 AM. The temperature is 53 degrees, the wind SW, calm. The channel is calm, and fog is lifting from the channel and the Island, and the barometer predicts sunny weather.
Andy and Judy came back yesterday after two weeks in Cedarburg, and had dinner with us. They both remarked that this year’s weather, cool and moist up here, hot and humid further south, is what they remembered it to be thirty and forty years ago. It is a good reminder that weather is cyclical over decades and even hundreds and thousands of years, dependent upon sun activity, volcanic action, ocean currents, variations in the earths orbit and other complicating factors; as the old saying goes, “whether it’s cold or whether it’s hot, we’ll have weather, whether or not.”
The strawberries have been excellent this year, and the raspberry crop, just starting now, looks heavy. The blueberries will soon follow, and in about three weeks the blackberries. We are going blueberry picking with Andy and Judy in the Moqua Pine Barrens Tuesday afternoon. They have a well-kept “secret” spot they have been going to for many years (Judy's wild blueberry pies are a culinary treasure) . Andy has a pocketful of M180 firecrackers he says will keep the bears at bay if necessary; I’m not sure that is a good idea.
The common Old World mullein, Verbascum thapsus, is a ubiquitous field weed almost everywhere. It is a pretty thing and very strong as a vertical element in the landscape, the one pictured being almost six feet tall. The birds love the seeds and spread them everywhere. They can be a troublesome weed, but I like to keep a few around. The fuzzy leaves, applied as a wrap to a festering sore, are a wonderfully healing poultice.
Lots of yard and garden work to do today.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Sunday, 8:30 AM. 57 degrees, wind NNW, calm. The skies are mostly blue, but the Island and the channel are mostly obscured by fog. The barometer predicts rain, which we got one-eighth of an inch of last night,
The cool, somewhat damp weather has been wonderful for tree growth, a young maple in the yard putting on almost 4’ since spring. All the lilies (native wood lily, oriental and Asiatic lilies) are beautiful this year, as is the lavender. For whatever micro-climatic reason, lavender does extremely well here. I usually think of it as a plant adapted to sunny, arid places, like Provence. But, if there were a market for it I would think it could be a cash crop hereabouts.
We have cyclists staying in the apartment, and they have taken some nice local road trips. This is wonderful cycling country, with only moderate traffic even on many of the state and county roads, and with hundreds and probably thousands of miles of sparsely used paved and unpaved roads to explore. Just be sure to carry a compass, area map and plenty of water if venturing into the barrens or other boondocks on your bicycle.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Saturday, 9:00 AM. 60 degrees, wind W, light. The channel is wrinkled, the sky is partly cloudy, as the barometer predicts.
The paper birch, Betula papyrifera, is a true icon of the north woods, and as such is grown throughout the Midwest and beyond. Its peeling white bark is very decorative, and it is a pleasing tree in all seasons, particularly in fall, when its leaves turn a stunning golden bronze. It is a popular landscape tree, but should be considered an accent plant rather than an anchor in the landscape, as it is notoriously sort lived and is prone to pest problems, particularly the bronze birch borer, which girdles branches, starting at the top and eventually killing the entire tree. The borer can be combated with systemic pesticides, but it is seldom worth the monetary and environmental cost. Birch are pioneer plants of the northern forests and want moist but well drained soil conditions and like to have their roots shaded. If you plant them remember that shrubs, ferns and other things planted around them will provide root cooling and protection, as will proper mulching. The best landscape practice is to use paper birch with caution and the knowledge that may be ephemeral in nature.
It is a nice cool summer day, the kind that entices visitors to come here from the hot, oppressive, cities.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Friday, 8:00 AM. It is 55 degrees, the wind SW, calm. The barometer predicts rain, It is densely foggy, but the sun is trying its best. A far off foghorn is chanting and the ferry is sounding its horn.
Another bear story: a neighbor up on eleventh and Wilson awoke last night to some grunting, went to the door and saw a sow with two little cubs trying to take down their empty bird feeder. She shouted at the bear, who then bluff-charged, coming up the porch steps. She hastily closed the door. Bear rule number one is, don’t challenge a sow with cubs.
It is very pleasant just to sit here on the porch and listen to the young birds practice their vocalizations as the fog lifts around us, and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee.
As the sun burns off the fog, heavy droplets of dew sparkle on the white pine needles, and on the long suspension-bridge webs built by hungry and industrious spiders.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Thursday, 7:45 AM. 53 degrees, wind SW, calm. The channel is calm, and the sky is pretty much overcast. The barometer predicts rain, which we got a trace amount of last night.
We have a coast guard house next door, and we have had a succession of Coasties as neighbors, mostly young families with children, whom we have enjoyed immensely. Their tour of duty is usually two years. The house is currently between occupants, and is getting some work done, including a new roof. The Coast Guard has a roving construction crew based in Salt St. Marie, who are doing the work. They are a disciplined and effective work force. It is good to see our tax dollars being used so effectively. The Guardians ad immeasurably to the security and economy of Bayfield.
The old playground on 6th and Wilson is being updated and the old swings, etc. are being replaced with a lot of fanciful new play equipment. Being an old foggy, I see nothing wrong with plumber pipe swings and teeter-totters. But, watching my grandkids play on such new equipment makes me realize how out of date I am, as they really enjoy it. However, I don’t see climbing walls and zip-lines as any safety improvement, as evidenced by Katie’s broken arm, courtesy of a zip-line in Denver. But, time marches on.
I ran into acquaintance Glen at the recycling center yesterday (I was getting rid of the old dishwasher) and asked him if he has been spending any time at his little trailer out near Andy and Judy’s place on Hwy. K. He said he has stopped going there until the blackberries are ripe, when he figures the bears will vacate the area. A bear broke into his trailer a couple of days ago, opened his refrigerator and made off with a steak Glen had been looking forward to grilling. All the bear left behind was the potatoes. The only good thing to say about the incident was that the bear didn’t use any of his charcoal, and he did close the refrigerator door.
There is a concert at church tonight and as usual I am ushering. There is still a lot of work to do around here beforehand, catching up from or company and being away last week.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

7/15/06 SUMACS

Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 60 degrees, wind SW, calm at present. The channel is glassy. The sky is partly cloudy, and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, is a constant component of the landscape here, growing naturally on woods edges, fields and other sunny spots. It is attractive in all seasons, with blood red fall color and showy panicles of red fruits. It has large yellow flower heads, which are evidently quite variable. In our area the female flowers develop into clusters of hairy red fruits that have a pleasant lemony, astringent flavor. They aren’t really edible but can be chewed, and make a refreshing tea.
The flowers on shrub clones I have seen here are borne on separate male and female plants, the male flower heads being bright yellow and rather broadly conical in shape, the female flower inflorescences yellow with a reddish cast, and more spindle shaped.
Sumacs of all types are invasive and don’t belong near a garden. They develop into large clones of plants, that send out suckers twenty and more feet, from which spring up new shrubs.
If you have sumacs in a landscape enjoy but control them. If you don’t have them you probably don’t want them, except in a very large informal or native landscape.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

7/15/08 WILD TIMES

Tuesday, 7:30 AM. 58 degrees, wind WSW, light and picking up considerably., The channel is glassy but rapidly becoming wrinkled. The sky is clear and the barometer predicts sunny weather. We got one-half inch of rain from a quick thunderstorm last night. It feels like a windy high is coming in.
The roadside wildflowers (not all native) are magnificent now in many places. Hwy 2 between Ashland and Superior has wide, long sweeps of white daisies and yellow St. John’s wort, and Hwy J in Bayfield’s orchard country is glorious, with Coreopsis, St. John’s wort, and beach pea(all native), mixed with snap dragons, mullein, daisies, and even Verbena peruviana (non-native escapes from old flower farms) in glorious perfusion. Many purists will scoff at such mixed native and non-native displays, but such roadside landscapes are there for all to see and appreciate. The mix will become more diverse as the summer goes on.
We were treated to the sight of a large sandhill crane in a field on J yesterday evening. I stalked it for a while trying to get a decent photo. They stand 5’ tall and can walk as fast as I can without effort, but I did get pretty close before it flew, all the while uttering a very loud CRAAAK, CRAAAK alarm call. Later we saw two deer, one a buck in velvet, and a raccoon the size of a young bear cub. It was all a fine welcome home to the Northland.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Monday, 7:45 AM. 54 degrees, wind WNW, calm to light. The channel is wrinkled to glassy, the sky is blue with a few high thin white clouds, and the barometer predicts sunny weather. Today promises to be a “10”.
Rain is predicted later in the week so the first order of business is to mow lawns and try to catch up with things. The herb garden needs a thorough going through, but the baskets and pots are fine.
The olive pits finally won, so I need to go to Ashland to pick up a new dishwasher.
My lost bag arrived on the stoop yesterday morning courtesy of Northwest Airlines, with the camera and its digital photos still inside, renewing my faith in the airlines (for now, anyway).

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Sunday, 8:00 AM. 56 degrees, wind NNW, strong. Skies are overcast, and the barometer predicts rain. There is one and one-half inch of rain in the rain gage since Tuesday.
The America in Bloom trip to Toledo was great except for delayed or canceled flights in both directions and consequently I arrived home with my bag still in Detroit, with camera in it. I had decided to check my carry-on bag on the way home. I’ll not make that mistake again. If the camera survives I will post some photos.
Toledo is an old industrial city making a very strong comeback despite a series of economic blows, including current ones. It is a very livable city with a strong community spirit and great and mostly free amenities. It has excellent city services and programs. And, it has the Toledo Mud Hens baseball team, almost big league play at yesterday’s prices (went to a game). Visit Toledo… it’s a great American hometown!
If one actually experiences many American cities in some depth, one comes to realize first hand the strength and beauty of our nation and its culture, and how united in spirit and action we all truly are…I don’t pay much attention anymore to the national media, I consider them mostly cynics and naysayers.
Things are fine here at home but I have lawns to mow and gardens to weed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

7/08/08 DUTY CALLS

Tuesday, 7:15 AM. 54 degrees, wind NW, just enough to make the aspen leaves flutter. The channel is “dimpled,” the skies are mostly overcast and the barometer predicts partly cloudy weather.
All the kids and grandkids are now safe and tired at home after their long road trips, and probably are relieved to be back in their own beds and routines. But, it was a great reunion.
The robins are feeding on the ripening juneberries, and the hummingbirds are back at the feeders so their young must have left the nest as well. I spent several grueling hours yesterday cleaning up the overgrown perennial garden and I am stiff and sore.
I am off to the Duluth airport after breakfast to go to Toledo, Ohio to perform my duties as an America in Bloom competition judge. It would be nice to sleep in another morning or two, but duty calls.
I get back on Saturday so no blog for a few days unless I have time to do so from the hotel computer. I should have a photo and a tale or two to tell then. All the roses are great this year!

Monday, July 7, 2008

7/07/08 POW WOW TIME

Monday, 7:45 AM. 54 degrees, wind E, moderate with strong gusts. The channel is crawling, and there are a few white caps. The sky is blue with some very high thin white clods. The barometer predicts sunny skies.
The Texas kids got home last night, and Columbus and Denver each got half way home. Joan, I and Lucky are still in recovery mode.
I stopped by the Pow Wow Grounds at Red Cliff late yesterday afternoon, things were winding down but the dancing and drumming and singing were still going on. This is a small affair as inter-tribal powwows go, but is very colorful and has some good Indian vendors from all over, including Mexico and South America. There are also food vendors (Indian tacos, brats, ice cream). There are traditional and fancy dancers, women’s dances with gingle dresses, and drumming and singing galore. It is a friendly mix of traditions and cultures, attended mostly by Indians but everyone is welcome.
The military tribal traditions are very evident, with US flags, Airborne and Marine and POW flags very prominent around the dance grounds. I particularly appreciated one that proclaimed "Freedom is Not Free," very appropriate for the Fourth of July weekend.
Red Cliff and Bayfield are closely intertwined but yet very distinct communities, a sort of cultural yin and yang. It is more a relationship to be appreciated than understood, and left alone rather than poked and prodded. When we drove by at 9:00 PM it was all over and most of the campers and vendors had departed, a fitting conclusion to the holiday.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Sunday, 7:30 AM. 60 degrees, wind SW, light. The barometer predicts rain. We are having a heavy shower right now, and we all got caught in the rain walking the dogs. The kids and grandkids and their pets leave this morning, after breakfast and a break in the rain. The Denver contingent enjoyed the heavy downpour, as they seldom see that kind of rainfall.
Everyone got to see the neighborhood bear yesterday when it suddenly appeared in the garden at lunchtime. It is a yearling, a “teenager,” probably unceremoniously booted out on its own after mama bore new cubs, and he didn’t clean up his room for the umpity-umpth time. He will no doubt have to get a job at Mickey D’s or take out a student loan and attend Bruin University, where he would get to wear an “Old BU” sweatshirt, and could try out for the track team and compete in the garbage can-toss event. Life is tough sometimes but it usually turns out O.K.
The rain is letting up and the sky is turning blue, so it’s time to cook some breakfast for the travelers and get them on their way.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Saturday, 8:00 AM. 58 degrees, wind SSE, very light. The channel is crawling slightly, the sky is blue, with haze, and the barometer predicts rain.
The fireworks were good and we all went to bed late. The baby couldn’t stop jabbering about it in her crib.
The wren house is empty, the last of the fledglings gone and the parents vacationing on a cruise ship somewhere. Our nest will soon be empty too, the Texas fledglings and their babe (children are always fledglings to their parents) leaving this morning, the Ohio and Colorado contingents tomorrow. Joan and I won’t be going anywhere though.
More summer things are blooming now, like the old fashioned mock orange, Philadelphus coronarius, and the Pekin lilac, Syringa pekinensis, both in bloom up the street. The closely related Japanese tree lilac, Syringa reticulata, is a good small street tree candidate, and will soon bloom as well.
The yard and garden have been neglected during all this family activity, and I have a lot of catching up to do. We will miss all the kids and dogs and family fun, but only after a couple days of recovery.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Friday, July 4th, 7:30 AM. 55 degrees, wind NW, calm. The channel is slightly wrinkled, the skies are blue, and the barometer predicts partly cloudy weather.
Last night’s concert at church was very nice, the Sonora Reed Trio being composed of faculty from UW Eau Clair. They performed pieces by Paradisi, Hoffmeister and Rimsky-Korsakoff, and then a few WWI songs and some very interesting South American tangos and such. Not the usual concert and pretty well attended. At the end the audience joined in and sang America the Beautiful in honor of the holiday.
The Madeline Island parade is at 11:00 and if any of our crew is going they should be on the 10:00 o’clock ferry. Maybe they will make it, maybe not.
Later: we (Eva, Nick, Katie and I) made it to the parade, which was a charming spectacle of small-town kitsch, mostly humorous spoofs too inane to relate. For instance, a "drill" team made up of two dozen guys singing army marching songs ("I don't know, but I've been told...etc.) while each holds a cordless electric drill aloft; a live enactment of the Boston Tea Party with signs reading "drink beer, not tea," and a guy dressed up like a wood tick and dancing to Elvis' "I'm Stuck On You." No fighter jet flyover, no tanks with missile launchers, no jack-booted storm troops. Just ordinary citizens of a great democracy having a little fun on their national day. We will top it off with a back porch barbecue and fireworks tonight.
I leave you with a little 4th of July message from our song:
“O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain…for heroes, proved in librating strife…for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years…America, America, God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.”