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Thursday, April 30, 2009


Thursday, 7:30 AM. 41 degrees, wind is NE, calm. The skies are overcast and .4 inches of rain fell last night, the barometer predicts more.
The paper birch, Betula papyrifera, and the American hazlenut, Corylus americana, are producing their new catkins (flowers). Both are in the birch family, in the birch(the photo with my hand in it) both male and female flowers are produced in different catkins, and in the hazlenut, only the male flowers are catkins, the insignificant female flower producing the hazlenut when fertilized.
Last night’s rain has produced roads covered with thousands of earth worms. The robins should have a good breakfast (to each his own). Come to think of it, catkins look and feel kind of like worms.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Wednesday, 7:30 AM. 41 degrees, wind NE, calm. The sky is mostly clear with some haze. The barometer predicts precipitation.
The box elder, Acer negundo, is a small to medium sized tree that grows everywhere and is generally dismissed as a weed tree, although it is not really that. It is also called ash-leaved maple because it has pinnately compound leaves, unlike other maples. But see how beautiful its flowers are! Everything, in nature has its own distinctive beauty if we but seek it out.
The spring warbler migrations have begun, tiny birds are flitting about, but I do not have the patience to be a really good birder and salute those who do.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Tuesday, 7:00 AM. 40 degrees, wind NE, calm. The sky is blue with some haze, and the barometer predicts sunny weather. The channel is calm. It promises to be a real spring day.
The Reiten Boatyard Condominium job starts in earnest tomorrow, so today we will get a start on spring cleaning of Garden View Lodging, as the tourist season will soon be here.
I forgot to bring the bird feeder in but there were no ursine visitors, but we had a large flock of purple finches at the feeders yesterday.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Monday, 8:00 AM. 38 degrees, wind W, light. The sky is partly cloudy and the barometer predicts mostly sunny skies.
It rained all day off and on yesterday so it was mostly an inside day, watching the Brewers ballgame in the afternoon. Today we start a pretty good sized landscape job for the Reiten Boatyard Condominiums in town and will be busy with it all week.
The daffodils are blooming in earnest all around town, and if it stays cool will last for weeks.
The red maple I have been watching on Manypenny Ave. is in full bloom. Many tree species we don’t think of as being flowering trees have very nice blooms and are quite attractive overall if we only adjust our viewpoints and expectations a bit. Red maples will now be blooming in the swamps and wet hillsides.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Sunday, 7:00 AM. 36 degrees, wind ENE, light to moderate. The sky is mostly cloudy and the barometer predicts the same. It is cold and blustery.
The stay with Bill and Allene Peebles in Mapleton was very enjoyable, and particularly since all of their four grown children and two grandchildren were there. The prairie burn went well, although it was very windy and sort of got away from us, but there really wasn’t anywhere dangerous for it to go except into Bill’s evergreen plantation which we were very careful to keep the fire out of. Which brings back memories of a prairie burn in Lincoln, Nebraska, about twenty years ago, which I was very glad I was not in charge of, as it got away from us and created so much thick white smoke that it shut down the Lincoln airport and the entire air wing of the Nebraska National Guard. It will be interesting to see the increase in diversity of plants next summer or fall, which is after all the point of burning prairies and meadows.
We had a good wild life viewing morning before the burn, the four of us going out in Bill’s pickup truck and seeing all kinds of birds, including sand hill cranes, turkeys and lots of hawks, geese and ducks. The chorus frogs were singing and all was right with the world.
The Peebles and the Odes go back a half a century and it was great to spend quality time with them and their family, particularly since we all have similar interests and views of life. We came back to blustery weather but the daffodils are blooming seriously now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Wednesday, 7:00 AM. 38 degrees, wind NW, strong. The sky is mostly clear but the barometer predicts rain.
I am going to fish the Sioux River this morning in the hopes of catching a steelhead trout (anadromous rainbow trout that come up the river in the spring to spawn). I had hoped it would be a bit warmer.
Later: it was a beautiful morning on the river, and I got plenty of exercise (even hiked overland to the old Finn Hole) but no fish. I had one strike. There were a lot of fishermen, even on the further stretches of the river. I saw no fish, in the water or in a net, so I am of the opinion that not many trout are migrating up the river as yet.
There were rumors of fish, and tales of fish, but no tails of fish to be seen anywhere. Actually when it comes to fish a lie is as good or better than the real thing. You don’t have to throw back a lie because it is undersized. You don’t have to clean a lie. And a lie costs nothing unless it is told in court. So, all you lying fishermen, by the authority of St.Andrew you are hereby absolved of your sins of mendacity; indeed we applaud you, as you give all of us honest seekers of fish hope through your welcome fabrications.
There won't be a post for a few days. Joan, Lucky and I are going to Mapleton, Wisconsin in the southeastern part of the state to visit our old friends Bill and Allene Peebles. I am going to help Bill burn his prairie, Joan is going to do some good cooking for all of us, and Lucky is going to stay out of the way.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Tuesday, 7:30 AM. 36 degrees, wind W, moderate with gusts. The sky is overcast and snowflakes the size of a penny are falling. The barometer however is up and predicts partly cloudy weather. The Larsen's have closed up the sugar shack and headed back to Cedarburg.
We were watching the local newscast last night when I heard Lucky’s usual “knock” at the porch screen door. We have a heavy mesh screen the dogs can paw on without doing any damage. I didn’t remember letting the dog out, but Joan said he must be out because he wasn’t in his usual spot in the living room.
So I went to answer the “knock” at the door, and opening it there was a bear pawing on the screen asking to be let in. I was so startled (I had been half asleep) that I exclaimed “bear!” and slammed the door. The bear, evidently as startled as I, ran off, bumping into the porch furniture as he left. Now he wasn’t a particularly big bear, about 3 feet at the shoulder on all fours, maybe 175 pounds or so. I do believe he wanted to be invited in to share supper leftovers with the dog. He might have been a pleasant and entertaining guest for all I know. But I think his table manners might not have been suitable (even Lucky has to mind his manners at dinner time). From now on I am bringing the hanging bird feeder in at night.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Monday, 8:00 AM. 33 degrees, wind W, moderate. The sky is overcast and it is raining lightly. The barometer predicts precipitation. Both rain barrels, set out yesterday, are full, even though it has rained but little.
It is a rather somber morning, appropriate to introspection and deep thought (both of which are usually dangerous things). As the result of a rather heated discussion yesterday, I have formulated a few comments on religion and science.
Religion and science are opposite belief systems, and should never be confused. They are like the yin and the yang, both existing in equality, and with some degree of practice can both be part of our thought process.
Religion is based on faith, which requires the suspension of disbelief, and is necessary to explain and accept things which cannot be, or are not yet explained by science.
Science is based on the observation and exact measurement of facts, and accepts the concept that there can be no complete truth, as knowledge is always incomplete (every question answered leads to more questions). Science is not democratic, it is based on provable theory, not on majority opinion.
If religion attempts to prove its tenets through science, it destroys its own faith.
If science attempts to prove its theories through faith, it destroys its objectivity and becomes a religion.
We are at an unfortunate juncture in history in which many are abandoning their faith, and therefore their moral compass, because faith cannot be scientifically proven. At the same time many see science and nature as new faiths, which, by the very nature of each, are amoral (not based on morality) and their adoption as faiths will ultimately lead to the destruction of human society, which needs morality to function.
There are scientists and philosophers who have explained these things far better than I ever can, but it behooves each of us to think these things through for ourselves, and I encourage everyone to do so.
It is snowing but it is too warm for there to be any accumulation.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Sunday, 9:00 AM. 35 degrees, wind NE, calm. The sky is overcast and it looks like rain, which is what the barometer predicts.
We have some mini-daffodils blooming in the herb garden and the tulips and regular daffodils will not be far behind, but it sure doesn’t feel like spring, and just now it has started to rain lightly. At least we don’t have three feet of new snow, as reported by daughter Eva from Denver.
The raindrops are welcome, as the ground is becoming very dry, and they make a pretty closeup photo on the white pine needles.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Saturday, 7:30 AM. 46 degrees, wind WNW, gusty. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts rain. Yesterday was a true spring day.
Another half-day’s work and I will be done with spring yard and garden cleanup. It will have to wait though, as I am accompanying Andy and Judy to a Big Ravine Committee meeting this morning to ensure that Andy’s dad, who was instrumental in establishing the area in the 1960’s, is properly recognized on new signs.
Tyler’s birthday party was a great success, and he ate two pieces of birthday cake. His parents, grandparents, little brother Luke and uncle Eric all were there, with Joan and I as guests. Tyler got a “long" skate board for his birthday. Wear your helmet, dude!
The maple sugar season is over, the spiles being pulled from the trees yesterday, and only some last cooking and the cleanup left to do. The small tapping holes in the trees will soon heal over and the trees can be tapped next year in a slightly different spot on their trunks, and so on indefinitely. Maple trees are like dairy cows, and are about as much work, but at least they don’t need a barn.
The lupines are poking up all over, and in about two months will present a riot of bloom throughout the Bayfield region.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Friday, 7:30 AM. 40 degrees, wind WSW, calm. The sky is a hazy blue, and the barometer predicts rain.
The worst of the yard and garden cleanup is done, only a couple of hours of raking etc. remains in the front yard. The garden is all cleaned up, the Iris and poppies and daylilies and daffodils already coming up vigorously, and the roses shrubs and trees are all pruned. I will not mulch the garden with wood chips this spring, I overdid it last spring and there is still sufficient mulch. In fact, I think the garden did not look as good as it could have last summer because even though I fertilized pretty heavily the wood chips still robbed the garden of nitrogen. I will mulch around some of the trees and shrubs but that’s it. Andy and Judy’s family are staying in Garden View Apartment for a few days while they help wrap up the maple sugaring for the year. Tyler (Andy and Judy’s grandson) is eleven today, and we all are going to Maggies tonight to celebrate. Joan is baking a birthday cake. We just returned from visiting our own kids and grandkids but we miss them already.
It feels like rain, and I will hustle to get the yard work done before it does. Maybe if we get a good rain over the weekend it will be good stream fishing next week.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


7:00 AM. 43 degrees. Wind W, calm. The sky is clear but a bit hazy. The barometer predicts sunny skies.
More yard and garden work today. There are still a few places that are tough to rake.


Wednesday, 7:00 AM. 32 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is clear, and the barometer predicts the same. The weak low has given up without producing any rain.
Today will be devoted to yard and garden cleanup. I am way behind the competition; The Boneys have their big vegetable garden cleaned, and probably have their peas in. They have plastic refuse bags piled like cordwood by the roadside, and Martha Larsen, just back from a winter in Florida, has her French fantasy landscape sparkling. Except for a Bayfield in Bloom meeting I will be hustling in the garden.
The ferry is struggling through pack ice again this morning, so how late can I really be in my spring gardening duties?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 38 degrees, wind WNW, calm. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts precipitation. It appears to be a repeat of yesterday’s weather, with a weak low stuck off to the west without enough moisture to cause showers.
I am looking for a good spring rain to bring the rainbow trout up the Sioux River to spawn, but I would like to get some yard work done first.
The channel is full of ice again today, and the ferry looks like it is stuck in place out there. One day it is open water, the next a change of wind direction brings pack ice back in off the open lake. At present it is not very possible to get a sport fishing boat out there, but all of a sudden it will be, and I have to get the boat ready as well.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Monday, 8:00 AM. 38 degrees, wind WNW, calm. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts precipitation. It’s off to Duluth for Joan’s eye checkup.
The old apple tree in the back yard gets an annual pruning to keep it in scale and to make it esthetically pleasing. It produces nothing but small scabby fruit only good for deer bait, it is some kind of Delicious apple but is probably a seedling. I used to spray it but it is not worth the effort. But it is pretty in bloom and I like its shape.,
I won’t give a treatise on apple tree pruning because there are so many varieties and root stocks (dwarf, semi-dwarf, standard, etc.) that it is a large subject. Suffice it to say that as in all tree pruning one first eliminates crossing branches, dead wood and water sprouts (suckers) and after that prune for shape. One wants the tree to be easy to pick, and for the fruit to receive sunlight to ripen. Apples need heavy pruning to produce well, and copious amounts of wood are removed every year. Late winter or early spring is the best time to prune. Make flush or nearly flush cuts to avoid “thumbs,” stubs which are unsightly and will cause lots of problems.
I am not a fan, generally speaking, of apples in the home landscape. Apples need to be sprayed constantly as they develop, and growing them organically is very difficult because they are so disease prone by nature. But an apple tree can be a very pretty thing in the landscape, and can live for hundreds of years so it is nice to have one around for those reasons alone. As for the fruit, I will go to the orchards.
The goldfinches are now in their bright mating plumage and are flitting about everywhere.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Sunday, 8:15 AM. 36 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is clear, and the barometer predicts sunny weather. The morning is filled with bird song.
We have been seeing a lot of wild life. We came within inches of hitting two deer yesterday afternoon with the truck about two blocks from home; almost got my venison the hard way. We then saw a lot of deer in fields in the Onion River uplands south of town. I saw an eagle sitting on the ice yesterday on Seagull Bay just down the street, and a few days ago in Ashland saw another eagle on the ice (they attract mates that way. But, it gives new emphasis to the phrase “getting cold feet”) and tundra swans on the open water off Fish Creek.
Easter is not only the quintessential Christian holy day, it is also a celebration of Northern Hemisphere spring. This year it is arriving just as all of natures creatures are awakening from a particularly long winter. Joan and I spent part of yesterday afternoon decorating Christ Episcopal Church for Easter Sunday, and whether you are religious or not, hope you enjoy our spring aesthetics and the majestic and beautiful traditions of Easter and its rites of spring, celebrating earth’s new life, and its ancient message of faith, hope and love. We are all especially thankful this day for the safe release of the Captain of the Alabama and the defeat of the pirates.
Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Saturday, 9:00 AM. 32 degrees, wind SSW, calm to very light. The sky is clear and the barometer predicts the same. There was a light skim coat of ice over the channel this morning that has pretty much melted.
Well, the sap run yesterday morning was very light, about 15 gallons of sap, but by the time I finished collecting at 10:30 AM, there was a continuous drip, drip in most of the buckets, so there should be plenty to collect this morning, but not by me, as I am through for a while, needing to attend to other things. I think Andy has cooked about 1,250 gallons of sap, down to about 50 quarts so far.
We know more-or-less how and when maple sap runs, but we do not know why. Why do only maples and a few other tree species, notably birch, have sweet early sap runs. Many acquired traits of living things are beneficial to their survival, and are passed on to their progeny for that reason. Many more are harmful, and if passed on at all are done so as recessive genes, sort of a stealth characteristic. Neither Andy nor I have come across any information which indicates that sweet, early running sap is a characteristic beneficial to the trees which have acquired that trait, nor can we ourselves think of any particular benefit, as those trees which do not have such sap evidently survive just as well. Now, many acquired characteristics are neither beneficial nor harmful, and are passed on merely because they are there, and that may be the case with maple sap.
However, if one were a Native American shaman, or a Christian creationist, one might very well attribute the why of maple sap and thus maple syrup to a beneficent creator, who has given Man a great gift in the maple tree and its sweet sap. Now don’t turn your nose up at such a theory; it is straightforward, logical and answers the question, all characteristics of good theories. So, why shouldn’t we accept this theory, since we have none better to present ourselves? It seems particularly arrogant for any of us in our own ignorance to deny the perfectly good theories of others. All truth is but partial, its completeness to be further revealed to us as our own ability to understand increases ("we see as through a glass, darkly"). Thus, a good theory is always succeeded by another that is better, and so it is, ad infinitum.
Therefore, in the absence of any scientific theory which explains the “why” of maple sap, I will boldly attest to the simplest, most straightforward and complete theory yet promulgated: maple sap is sweet and runs early simply because it is a generous gift from Nature to those with the ambition to obtain it.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Friday, 7:15 AM. 31 degrees, wind W, light with gusts. The skies are clear with some haze, and the barometer predicts sunny weather.
The sap run was lighter yesterday, only about 30 gallons. It didn’t get below freezing Wednesday night, and the current theory according to Andy is that it is necessary for sap to freeze in the root cells at night for the sap to run, as the melting creates carbon dioxide, the gas pushing the sap up the conductive tissues of the tree. If that is the case it should be a good run today. Andy says this is the longest sustained sap run, which began more than a month ago, that he has experienced. I will help again this morning, collecting sap and splitting firewood, but then will take some time off to catch up on my own work. Andy and Judy have their family coming to help, starting with son Eric who arrives tonight, so I don’t feel remiss.
One of the joys of maple sugaring is maple sap tea, which I dearly love. It’s just a standard tea bag steeped in boiling maple sap that is about half way to becoming syrup. Adjust the sweetness to taste by taking the liquid from an earlier or later part of the evaporation process. In maple sugaring, sap is poured into the top of the evaporator, and it circulates slowly among the evaporator baffles until it is boiled down to syrup, lighter or darker, according to official standards or one’s own, and drawn off to be filtered and bottled. Andy keeps little bottles of syrup which are samples of #1, #2, etc. syrup to use as examples of the different grades. Boiled down beyond syrup, sap becomes candy and finally granular maple sugar. One can also use a hygrometer to measure the sugar content to determine the grade of syrup, but I expect most syrup makers know what is right according to their experience. I like a really dark syrup as well or better than the lighter grades, it is really all a matter of individual taste. There are two stoves pictured, the one with the evaporator top, and an old cook stove with sap being preheated, and water being heated for cleanup.
As I have said before, there are many theories as to why maple sap runs when and how it does, but that leaves greater questions, such as why it is sweet and runs early, when the sap of most other trees is and does neither. It is pretty much an axiom of science that when a question is answered, it creates other questions equally difficult that must be answered, and more of that tomorrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Thursday, 8:00 AM. 35 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is partly cloudy and the barometer predicts sunny skies. I am on my way to the sugar bush, where we collected 80 gallons of sap yesterday.
Andy and Judy came to dinner last evening, they were glad to get away from boiling sap for a while. About 8:30 neighbor Sherman called to tell me there was a cub and a big sow bear up a tree in Albrecht’s yard next door. While he was on the phone the sow came down the tree and both he and Pebbles made a strategic retreat to the garage. Soon all the neighborhood dogs were out and about barking and the bears evidently left for a quieter location. I bought bird seed yesterday but I think I will be circumspect as to how and when I put it in the feeders.
There is a lot of open water now. The Forsythia branches I brought in to force are blooming, right on time for Easter.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Wednesday, 7:00 AM. 33 degrees, wind W, light with gusts. The sky is mostly clear, but the barometer still predicts precipitation.
The sap run was heavy yesterday, I lugged 50 gallons of sap, which should make two quarts of syrup. By all accounts the sap shouldn’t have been running as it was 20 degrees, but it sure did. The how, when and why of maple sap flowing has many theories, but the variables are so numerous that no one theory seems to cover it. What is needed is a unified theory of maple sap, like a unified theory of physics. There might even be a Nobel prize for the sappy theorist, something appropriate perhaps, like a lifetime supply of buttermilk pancake mix.
The big old red maple pictured has attracted a piliated woodpecker, that either has found a mother load of grubs or is building a condominium. My guess is that he got an economic stimulus grant for the project, to reduce the avian unemployment rate.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Tuesday, 7:00 AM. 20 degrees, wind W, light to moderate, the sky is blue, but the barometer still predicts precipitation. It will be a beautiful day in the woods.
Two ferries, one coming in each direction, are making their way quickly this morning, now that the channel is quite wide. A few fishing tugs have been tentatively venturing out of their berths, doing their part to break up the ice, as is the one pictured. Commercial fishing is a tough business, cold, wet and often dangerous, but it evidently has its compensations, such as enjoyed by a crew member riding, balanced on the top of the cabin, as the amazingly powerful tug runs up on the ice, its sheer weight crashing through it. It’s even fun to watch. It appears the Coast Guard patrol boat might be ready to pull him out of the drink if he is pitched in.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Monday, 7:30 AM. 26 degrees, wind W, moderate with stronger gusts. The sky is mostly clear and the barometer predicts precipitation.
I am off to the sugar bush to help out this morning. I am guessing the sap won’t be running, but there is always plenty to do.
Noon: The sap wasn’t running but there was plenty in the buckets from yesterday afternoon, and after knocking an inch or two of ice from the top of buckets I collected 25 gallons total, a pretty good sap collection that took a couple of hours. By then the sap was starting to drip, and I will collect again tomorrow morning, giving Andy and Judy the opportunity to concentrate on cooking. It was a cold but beautiful morning in the woods, and there is still considerable icy snow underfoot. On the way home on Hwy K, I saw five deer, which looked in good shape, and a very large coyote (might have thought it a smaller wolf except for the way it carried its tail and the way it acted). Tree board meeting this afternoon, we will start pruning small ornamental trees. The ferry path is starting to widen out, actually creating some open water.