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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

12/31/08 IN THE GOOD OLD SUMER TME


Wednesday, 8:30 AM. 3 degrees, wind NW, brisk. The sky is mostly blue, and the barometer predicts sunshine.
The wind makes it a frigid if bright day and extremities were cold by the time we came in from our walk. I have been considering boots for lucky, like those some of the sled dogs are equipped with, but I doubt he will keep them on.
This is summer in the Antarctic, and the weather is about what we have been getting here but the days are nice and long. A trip south sounds good, but maybe not that far south.
Joan and I are looking forward to a quiet New Year’s Eve and the ushering out of 2008, which probably gets mixed reviews from most of us.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

12/30/08 A CLEAN CHIMNEY MAKES A BRIGHT FIRE

Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 9 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is gray and overcast, and the barometer predicts snow.
I watched the ferry grind and crunch its way through new ice this morning, it took a long time to make the trip.
There was a break in the weather yesterday afternoon and I got the chimney cleaned. Joan held the ladder when I climbed down as the edge of the roof was a bit icy. The fire burned brightly last night as the clean chimney drew well. It should be good until spring.

Monday, December 29, 2008

12/29/08 TURKEYS ON THE ROAD, BOOKS OFF THE SHELF


Monday, 8:00 AM. 25 degrees, wind ENE, light with gusts. It is snowing and blowing and the barometer predicts snow. It looks like it may get nasty.
Yesterday was sunny and nice, and we took a ride in the afternoon. Went out Star Route and stopped at the new Jolly Trail parking lot, northern extension of the Ski Hill trails, there were six cars, it has become a popular trail head. We continued west past the Settlement to Happy Hollow Road and drove north to Hwy 13 to go back to town. On the way we met three turkeys in the road, the first turkeys I have seen north of Hwy 2. We were very pleased to see these All American birds so close to town.
Am through reading Byrd’s Little America journal of the 1928-29 Antarctic expedition, and am well into Edwin Morris’ Theodore Rex, biography of Teddy Roosevelt, which promises to be an exciting read.
The chimney will have to wait.

12/28/08 THAWS OVER


Sunday, 8:00 AM. 17 degrees, wind SW, calm. Skies are overcast but the barometer predicts snow.
We had two days of melting, and the drives and walks are bare of snow and ice, but the roads are solid with crusty frozen slush and I walked with my Yak Tracks on. The channel is pretty well frozen over again this time without much snow cover, and it should now freeze solid.
The morning ferry is breaking ice, emanating a scraping screeching sound that reverberates up the hillsides. Snow had been predicted but did not arrive and that is O.K. with me at this point. If we get a few more good days I will clean the fireplace chimney. I usually clean it in fall, January and March. It’s not a bad a job if the conditions are right.

12/27/08 THAWING OUT


Saturday, 8:00 AM. 36 degrees, wind SW, calm. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts precipitation.It looks like there is a lot of open water out there again, with spidery leads going this way and that.
The last few days there have been ice fishing tents appearing to the north off the ferryboat landing, and off of Blackhawk Marina. I would think caution to be advised if this warm up continues. It isn’t unusual to get a thaw after extreme cold weather like this December, but winter gets to a point where one doesn’t like to see everything turn to slush. I was going to do some snow shoeing today but I think not.

12/26/08 A QUICK WALK TO THE PICKUP

Friday, 9:00 AM. Wind SSW, calm. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts snow, of which a couple of inches fell again last night.
We went to a little dinner party at Dot and Grandon Harris’ last night, eight of us “holiday orphans” without family nearby. We had a delightful time, and a lot of stories were told. I found out that the two ferry tracks are indeed so the ice will move from side to side, also on good authority that they will stop running after the weekend.
Heard from Dan Nourse, whose family has managed the area’s largest sugar bush for generations, that he had an encounter with a wolverine, a very nasty large predator in the weasel family. It has black-brown fur with lighter colorations somewhat like a skunk, which it smells like as well. It is one of the rarest mammals in North America. I have heard that years back, in the U.P., when a wolverine appeared in an area the kids were kept home from school until it was dispatched or driven out. Dan said one followed him recently, snarling, to his pickup, which he was glad to reach and jump into. They can take down a deer, and even a large bear will stay out of their way. Such an encounter is one of those “glad it happened, don’t need to do it again,” kind of experiences.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

12/24/08 SO NOW IT IS CHRISTMAS EVE



9:00 am. 16 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is partly cloudy, and the barometer predicts more snow. The channel is frozen over and snow covered, but the ferry is still running, as evidenced by the dark scars it has left.
Our first Amaryllis is blooming, huge twin blossoms, salmon with white throats.
So now it is Christmas Eve, and let us listen once again to the ancient stories that well up out of our darkest past, that promise salvation; the stories which began many milenia ago, before there were scribes; the old folk tales told in many tongues, the tales of magic and mystery, of redemption and of ultimate, unreasoned truths. Let us strive to believe in forgiveness, and love...and above all in the freedom and justice that alone can bring us peace. We trod a rough road, and need all the help we can get

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

12/23/08 LOUSY TRAVEL BY LAND OR BY SEA


Tuesday, 7;45AM. 8 degrees, wind SW, calm. It is snowing hard and visibility is poor. The barometer predicts more snow.
The ferry will need GPS, Radar, and full power this morning. As the visibility improves I can see a trail of open water behind it, but it closes up fast. Joan says it will run till New Year's Day, I say another day or two at most, we have to go to Ashland this morning and the roads are slippery and visibility poor.

Monday, December 22, 2008

12/22/08 TAKING BETS

Monday, 8:45 AM, -8 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is mostly overcast but the barometer predicts sun.
The channel is frozen over again, after being blowing open yesterday. Sherman our neighbor neighbor and ferry boat captain says the ice road was once open at Christmas years ago but think a couple of weeks yet. We will see.

12/21/08 THE CHANNEL IS ...OOPS!

Sunday, 8:00 AM. 2degrees, wind NW, strong, spinning the weather vane round and round. the sky is overcast, it is snowing and drifting considerably, four to five inches so far. It is almost a repeat of last weekend. The snow at least insulates the house, and I pile it up around the foundation if I can. We will take the four-wheel drive truck to church this morning.
The ferry looks like it is struggling through the pack ice, but literally as I watch the wind is blowing the ice south and the channel is clear again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

12/19/08 COLD STREETS, WARM SHOPS



Friday, 8:45 AM. 20 degrees, wind NE, variable. Lake effect snow is falling moderately, lake smoke and snow obscure the channel, and the barometer predicts snow. Lucky and I scraped some new snow off the driveway, and will repeat the procedure before we go to get the mail.
Last night was a shopping night in Bayfield, sponsored by the Chamber and its “Shop Locally First” campaign. Local support for retail businesses is essential, since our tourist season is only 90 days maximum, and expenses exist all year round. The business district is small, but what it lacks in size was made up last night in ambiance and hospitality. The new city street decorations are very nice, and the store fronts are all decorated and lit. It was a fine evening even if cold and blustery, and it was good to see folks walking the streets, shopping and socializing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

12/18/08 LIFE AS LAKE SMOKE


Thursday, 7:45 AM. –4 degrees, wind W, calm at ground level. The sky is blue except for the lake smoke, which scuds and billows across the eastern horizon, rising and falling, constantly changing shape and color as the sun struggles to rise through its cloying mass.
We were all saddened, almost beyond words yesterday by the news that Mark Musolf, Common Council and Chamber member, among many other duties and honors, was killed in an auto accident on the way home from Madison Tuesday evening. His wife Jocelyn was seriously injured and remains hospitalized in Wausau. Mark and Jocelyn are owners of the Wachsmuth House Bed and Breakfast.
Mark was a valued member of the community, and an exceptionally nice person. Such tragedies give us pause, particularly at the holiday season. Another prominent member of the community said to me, “I assume there is a higher plan somewhere, but I sure don’t understand it in the short run.” Of course, none of us can. My only way now of understanding such tragedies is to reflect on my own father’s untimely death when I was sixteen years old. I could not understand nor accept that he was taken from us, and was angry at life for many years. It was only recently that it occurred to me that I have thought of him every day for the last fifty-six years, and that in fact he never left me. I am sure Mark will never leave us, either.
Our lives are like the ephemeral lake smoke…constantly driven by the winds of time and fortune we know not where, but filled, even if fleetingly, with beauty and light.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12/17/08 BAYFIELD, THE BANNANA BELT OF THE GREAT LAKES

Wednesday, 8:00 AM. 1 degree, wind WSW, calm but the flag in the park is fluttering. We got a little more snow last night and the barometer predicts more, but the sun has begun to shine.
It is considerably warmer than yesterday at this time, and the cloud of condensation over the channel is light enough to see the Island. There is still no skim coat of ice on the water, but there is ice on the Island shoreline, and I can make out the ice down in the Chequamegon Bay proper. Everything looks very distant today, even if visibility is relatively good. Atmospheric conditions often drastically alter the perception of distance, particularly in the winter, I think it has something to do with the way light refracts in more northern (and extreme southern) latitudes. Byrd makes note of this in “Little America,” which I am reading, evidently making even travel on skis difficult at times in the Antarctic. Things very near seem distant, and distant objects close. He also notes the amazing colors and shadows of the frozen landscape and the skies, something which I comment on all the time even here in Bayfield, which after all is not the Arctic (although of late you could have fooled me). But we take heart, since Bayfield is “the banana belt of the Great Lakes,” as was touted by one enthusiastic 19th Century real estate developer, as is proven by the 20 degree rise in temperature this morning compared to yesterday.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12/16/08 WHAT'S ANTARCTICA GOT THAT WE HAVEN'T?

8;15 AM. –19 degrees, wind SW, calm at ground level. The sky is lightly overcast and the barometer predicts snow.
Ten minutes taking care of the new snow on the driveway were enough for man and dog this morning. The “lake smoke” is rising in dense clouds off the water, up perhaps a thousand feet before being carried off by the wind. It is a dense fog, obscuring the Island and the shoreline.
I called Andy and Judy Larsen last night and they report that son Erick and his contingent of four (one dropped out) European tourists are progressing nicely toward the South Pole and they have reached and found their first supply cache. The weather, without the greater wind chill factor, is about what we presently have in Bayfield, and when the sun shines they get too warm skiing. If the Antarctic can attract rich young European tourists at $50,000 a pop, Bayfield should have a bright future. We certainly have the weather, and the supply caches (Maggies, The Northern Edge, Old Rittenhouse Inn, Morty’s Pub, Bayfield Inn, Big Water CafĂ©, etc. ). And, we have cross country skiing, sled dog adventures, the ice road and the wind sled, and the ice caves…bring on the Europeans, or at least the Minnesotans!

Monday, December 15, 2008

12/15/08 BAYFIELD AND OTHER COLD PLACES



Monday, 8:45 AM. –3 degrees, wind WNW, gusty. It is still snowing lightly and visibility is maybe two hundred yards. The barometer predicts clear skies, which means the temperature will plummet.
The drive is cleared except for the plug at the end where the city plow will almost certainly fill it up again so I won’t clear it until I need to go to the post office late morning. I have shoveled at least 16” of snow from the drive, and factoring in drifting I estimate we have gotten at least 12” of fallen snow so far. I put on my long underwear and wool deer hunting pants and was quite comfortable, except my bare fingers wanted to freeze to the metal parts of the bird feeders while I filled them (the juncos look like feathered tennis balls all puffed up against the cold). I remember well the admonition, “don’t put your tongue on the pump handle” when I was a kid, even though there weren’t many pump handles still around. Nevertheless, some dumb kid in the schoolyard took a dare to put his tongue on the metal post of the swings, and it was an object lessen to all.
Lucky and Roxie don’t mind the weather, even without long underwear. The old Boston Whaler is encountering rough seas.
There is still lots of snow clearing to do today, and between times I will read Admiral Bird’s “Little America,” his journal account of the 1928 expedition to the South Pole, which was my mother’s book, but why she was so interested I have no idea. Anyway it is a fitting read for a blizzard, and also because at this very time Andy and Judy Larsen’s son Erick is leading a group of tourists, would you believe, to the South Pole on skis!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

12/14/08 BLIZZARD!



Sunday, 8:00 AM. 25 degrees, wind ENE, gale force. We are approaching white-out conditions, and have gotten 3” of snow.
Church service has been canceled.
The snow is fine and crystalline, driven into every nook and cranny by the relentless wind, which now roars through the trees. The infamous blizzard of 1888 was 120 years ago and although this will not reach those ancient proportions, it is a respectful reminder.
The temperature is falling and I am glad I scraped the snow off the drive before it froze tight to it.
There is a certain glory to such weather and I am tempted to go for a hike in it somewhere, but prudence prevails and I will have plenty of it shoveling snow.
Folks who think man can control nature need to poke their noses into a blizzard once in awhile. All we can do is stay out of the way or pick up the pieces.
“We’re having an old fashioned winter,” people my age will say. That’s exactly what my folks said sixty and more years ago, what their parents and grandparents said when they were children, and what children of today will say sixty years hence, after we have gone through yet another cycle of weather…periods of harsh winters followed by mild, and then repeated all over again, in nature’s unrelenting cycles of decades, centuries, millennia; of repeated, undulating weather patterns. They are not precisely predictable but all will come and go, in their own good time. We moderns measure minutiae, and ignore history.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

12/13/08 BIG ONE ON THE WAY?


Saturday, 8:00 AM. 20 degrees, wind W, calm. The barometer predicts snow, and we got about 3” last night.
The channel looks like glass or maybe ice (there is some around the La Pointe dock and some pack ice floating around) and the sky is heavy with storm clouds. We are expecting a big blizzard, and it looks like we won’t dodge this one. We have errands to run before it hits and it will likely be a busy day

Friday, December 12, 2008

12/12/08 SANTA CAME EARLY



Friday, 9:00 AM. 3 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is mostly cloudy, which is what the barometer predicts. 2” of snow fell last night, and we dodged another blizzard that went to the south of us. It is cold but dry, and doesn’t feel that uncomfortable.
The photo is of my Christmas present, a new gate for the side deck. It was designed and fabricated by Kathie Snyder, proprietor of “Indoors and Out,” of Washburn, a gardener now also doing decorative metal work and other nice things. It replaces a makeshift affair, and is really necessary to keep small kids and dogs within bounds, and to indicate to Garden View Lodging guests that the house environs are private, as we encourage them to utilize the gardens and grounds. If this cold continues we will probably have an earlier freeze of the channel.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

12/11/08 ONCE A YEAR IS PROBABLY ENOUGH



Thursday, 8:00 AM. 9 degrees, wind WNW, light. The sky is clearing although snow and fog cover the channel. The barometer predicts sunny weather. Two inches of new snow fell last night.
Last night was the annual “Forever Ed’s Lutefisk Dinner” at Maggies Restaurant (also owned by Mary Rice). It is an annual community affair, free to all willing to brave the elements and eat at least a forkful of lutefisk. Doors opened at 5:00 PM, first come first served. It is always crowded. Joan and I ate at the bar. Ed Erickson was a much loved native of Bayfield who died a few years back, a businessman and onetime Mayor, who is hereby forever honored.
Lutefisk is dried cod, resurrected by soaking in lye, boiled, and traditionally served at Christmas. It is best described as a quivering mass of white jelly, almost palatable if drowned in sour cream, salt and butter. I guess you have to be Scandinavian (Joan and I are of German extraction but drive a Saab, and that seems to help). The dinner is also a celebration of many very good Scandinavian things, like lefse (an unleavened bread sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and rolled up like a tortilla), Swedish meatballs, boiled buttered potatoes, caviar (from Lake Superior trout) and pickled herring, and wonderful bread pudding, all washed down with aquavit, a liquid fire handy for thawing out bodies found frozen in the snowdrifts. The following is the first stanza of “O Lutefisk,” sung to “O Tannenbaum,” I will spare you the rest.

O Lutefisk...O Lutefisk...how fragrant your aroma
O Lutefisk…O Lutefisk...you put me in a coma
You smell so strong...you look like glue
You taste yust like an overshoe
But Lutefisk...come Saturday
I tink I’ll eat you anyvay

It takes two shots of Aquavit to sing “O Lutefisk” if you are Norwegian, three if you are not. “Yumpin’ Yimminee...Yingle, Yingle.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

12/10/08 MORE "UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?"




Wednesday, 8:00 AM. Twelve degrees, wind W, calm. The skies are partly cloudy and the barometer predicts the same.
The photos are of the Xcel Energy power plant in Ashland. I have been watching it for several years as they have increased the use of waste wood from mills and urban forestry to supplement their coal power production.
Xcel has some great conservation programs, among them a successful peregrine falcon reintroduction program that utilizes nesting sites on their high smoke stacks, so I have a degree of confidence in what they do.
Now, I understand the coal is being phased out, to be replaced with forest biomass harvested from the surrounding area. Such harvesting is like clear-cutting on steroids, since it takes everything that will burn, leaving not even slash on the ground. There are few models which can predict long term effects of such land use, and looks to me like an endeavor likely to be fraught with “unintended consequences.”
I hope Xcel and the DNR have thought this one through very carefully. How will nutrients be recycled into the harvested site to sustain re-growth? How will new trees and other plants be regenerated? What will happen to habitat for forest creatures when even the slash is removed? How will biodiversity be affected?
Clear-cutting in the forests of the Pacific Northwest is a process of wanton destruction which leads almost any reasonable observer to believe that Nature will have its retribution. Harvesting for biomass has the same aura about it. Photos of logging in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, when hardly a tree remained in the northland, can give an approximation of what it will look like...utter devastation. Do we never learn? For a very good discussion of the topic, see the winter 2008 issue of Mazina'igan, published by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

12/09/08 THE SUN DID SHINE (FOR A WHILE ANYWAY)



Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 19 degrees, wind E, light with gusts, the sky is overcast and there is snow in the air. The barometer predicts sunshine.
There are 12 days until the winter solstice and I can hardly wait for the days to start getting longer. I don’t think I could survive winters much further north. Right now I am looking forward to crisp, bright January and February days. It’s no wonder we need lights and singing and festivities this time of year. The days are so short now that I seem to get little done, and breakfast, lunch and dinner are compressed into a melange of fitful grazing. I need some excitement...maybe the Ashland Walmart will suffice.
Later: Walmart didn‘t do it, but the sun came out, and it did.

Monday, December 8, 2008

12/08/08 AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT




Monday, 8:30 AM. 13 degrees, wind S, calm at present. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts snow, of which we received about 2” last night, just enough to make things pretty, if slippery, yesterday evening for the annual Seniors’ Christmas Party at the Wild Rice Restaurant about a mile south of town, on the lake. The party is hosted by owner Mary Rice, who used to hold it at her grand old home in Bayfield, until the affair got too large.
The party is an extravaganza, completely free including cocktails, and first class all the way. I usually rebel at being a called a senior, but call me anything but late for this one. There must have been 200 in attendance, we sang carols, talked with friends, and Santa and Mrs. Santa arrived with gifts for all, and all had a very good night, including Mary, who loves a party. Mary is an entrepreneur, artist, philanthropist and backer of so many good efforts. It’s hard to imagine this event anywhere but Bayfield.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

12/07/08 A SUNSET, AND A DAY, TO REMEMBER



Sunday, 8:45 AM. 4 degrees, wind E, calm at present. The skies are mostly overcast, and the barometer predicts partly cloudy weather.
Lucky and I went for a walk on the Sioux River beach yesterday late, there is a shelf of ice beginning to form along the shore, but nothing much. This is because of the almost constant wave and current action, and it will be four to six weeks yet I imagine before the bay and channel are frozen over.
The sky was wonderful, the snow clouds to the east (the direction the photos were taken) coming to life and color with the rays of the setting sun. When the sun sets low in the southwest the light radiates all over the other horizons, reflecting and re-reflecting, creating a kaleidoscope of colors, shapes and shadows.
On this anniversary of Pearl Harbor, let us honor the memory of all those who died that day while also realizing that with good will it is possible that enemies can become friends and allies, and that all things change with the passing of enough setting suns.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

12/06/08 COLD CATCH



Saturday, 8:30 AM. 17 degrees, wind W, blustery. The sky is overcast, and the barometer predicts snow. It snowed 4” last night.
The wind cuts like a knife down at the City Dock. Several of the ferries and a number of fishing tugs are also moored there. I still see trawlers going out but the season is probably drawing to a close. It’s a cold catch out there!
The flags flying at the dock represent many of the ethnicities and nationalities important to the area; French, English, Norwegian, Canadian, etc. The red, white black and yellow striped flag is that of the Red Cliff Reservation. The US flag flies high above them all, but is not in the picture.

Friday, December 5, 2008

12/05/08 WHERE THERE'S FIRE THERE'S SMOKE

Friday, 8:30 AM. 5 degrees, wind S, calm at ground level, but moving clouds briskly in the atmosphere. The sly is blue, and the barometer predicts partly cloudy weather. About 2” of light, crystalline snow fell last night. This is one of those freeze your nose, fingers and toes mornings, but it is beautiful to behold. The “lake smoke” is rising off the cooling channel waters, and the Chequemegon Bay appears to be frozen and snow covered from Ashland almost to Washburn and across to Long Island. If this keeps up the ice fishermen and the snowmobilers and 4-wheelers will soon be risking their lives on the thin ice, and It won’t be long before I get the snowshoes down off the wall.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

2/04/08 ITS BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS


Thursday, 8:30 AM. 17 degrees, wind W, calm , light snow is falling with an accumulation of about 4”. The barometer predicts more of the same.
The photo is of the city Christmas tree, outside the Pavilion on the City Dock. Someone donates a tree every year and between the Chamber and the city it gets put up and decorated. This one was overtaking a house on North Second street. Jay’s Tree Service cut it down and the city crew did the rest. It is partially decorated.
Colorado blue spruce, Picea pungens glauca, are often donated because they have grown into monsters. They are beautiful Christmas trees, inside or out. They are good landscape trees, hardy and tough, but do get immense. Plant them if you must (they are overused) but only where they have plenty of room to grow. Don’t plant them under utility wires, or for that matter, in front of your living room picture window.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

12/03/08 COLD, BUT THE CHICKADEES DON'T MIND

Wednesday, 8:30 AM. 17 degrees, wind WSW, light. Skies mostly overcast, a few snowflakes drifting down. The barometer predicts cloudy weather.
It was pretty chilly walking the dog.
The chickadees are the only birds at the feeders at present. They are among my favorite creatures…lively, inquisitive, self-confident…little fluffy bundles of life. Such enthusiasm for living has to embody what we would call a soul. Maybe it is transitory, or resides within the species itself, but one just has to believe it is there and that it is vital. Humans should do as well.
The channel is in the lee of the westerly wind this cold morning and it looks as though it is starting to congeal, but it will be another two months before there is an ice road across it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

12/02/08 THE SUN ALSO RISES; THE WINDS ALSO BLOW

Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 22 degrees, wind SW, gusty. The sky is overcast except for a small band of fire on the SE horizon, as the sun rises. We have gotten through November without a really severe storm, you may remember that the Edmund Fitzgerald went down on Lake Superior in a storm on November 10, 1975, with 29 hands on board (do you also remember Gordon Lightfoot’s song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"?). The channel is dark and angry, the ferry boats will give a good ride today.
Later: went to Ashland this morning, there are no swans or geese on the Ashland shore, as the ice has formed several hundred feet out into the Bay already. I did see a flock of mallards in the shelter of the Fish Creek Marsh, everyone else seems to have left for warmer climes. The wind was gale force on the south end of the Bay.

Monday, December 1, 2008

12/01/08 DEER +++, OLD MAN 0, AN UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE


Monday, 8:00 AM. 20 degrees, wind NW, light. It is snowing lightly and the barometer predicts more. The Island is obscured.
The deer season was a complete bust and I am glad it is over. The muzzle-loader season starts today, and there is yet another, late gun deer season for antlerless deer, Dec. 11-14, but I doubt I will participate. I think the deer herd is way down, contrary to the DNR’s assessment. I think it will be back to the “bucks only” hunt. There have been too many liberal seasons, and too liberal an attitude towards predators (at least from the standpoint of the deer hunter, if not the paper companies). I got a call last night from an old friend who lives in Mountain, WI, in the Nicolet Forest, far south of Bayfield, and the talk is the same; no deer, everyone seeing coyotes, wolves, bear, bobcats, and a resident cougar in his neighborhood.
I think we are seeing the intervention here of the Law of Unintended Consequences, which pops up all the time in science, management, economics, religion…in every aspect of human existence. We gather a bit of information, analyze and act on it, and it often blows up in our face. It’s because we all, always, think we are much smarter than we actually are, and we ignore the caution signs…the traditional knowledge, customs, even the old wives tales… all the accumulated information that should engender caution.
There is also a good argument here for making decisions at the lowest possible management level, rather than in distant bureaucratic centers where it is often not facts but factions, and outside economic and political influence that sway the outcome. A case in point is all the recent criticism of Alaska’s controlling wolves by shooting them from the air. The critics don’t live there, have no economic or cultural interest in the caribou and moose herds, and have an outsider’s romantic view of what the people who actually live there should be like and do. Add to that, most moderns have a Pollyannaish view of nature, where everything is in some sort of idyllic balance. The truth is, that although nature is ultimately in balance, the pendulum swings erratically from one extreme to the other, often with drastic consequences for the human interests caught in between. A prey population becomes overabundant, a predator population catches up, depletes the prey population and itself crashes, and the cycle starts over, and in between these extremes a human population which also depends upon the prey population for sustenance or sport goes wanting. The same thing occurs with agricultural plants and their pests and diseases. This is all an oversimplification of course, but if man is to be part of nature at all it had better be as a truly intelligent manager (I fully realize this concept goes completely contrary to current politically correct thinking, which sees man as an outsider, a meddler, in nature).
So, it was deer +++, Old Man 0, and now on to other things.