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Thursday, January 20, 2011





Thursday, 8:30 AM.  3 degrees, wind W, light to moderate.  The sky is overcast, the Island obscured and a very fine, crystalline snow is falling.  Our morning walk was invigorating.
    We are heading to Madison today for tomorrow’s quarterly Urban Forestry Council meeting and then on to Texas to visit Dutch, Leslie and three-year old granddaughter Allison Eleanor.  After  some time in Texas we will drive to Denver to visit Eva, Doug, Nickolas and Katie and then back to Bayfield.  We are taking the Chevy truck, it’s ride suits our old bones and the automatic four-wheel drive is great for winter driving.
    We will unfortunately be missing the dog sled races (Feb 4th and 5th, come if you can) and whatever other excitement comes Bayfield’s way in the next several weeks. The Blue Moon Ball, a funky,   dress-up “prom” dance, which is not  usually our cup of tea, also is coming up. The ice rink at Reiten Park has been flooded and is open for skating.
    I hope to do some blogs in Texas and Colorado, and in between, so keep clicking!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011



Wednesday, 8:15 AM.  10 degrees, wind W, calm.  We had a dusting of snow last night, just enough to have to clear the driveway, walk and decks. It is a dark, overcast morning. The barometer predicts partly cloudy skies. We could use some sunshine.
    Anyone wishing to get some insight into what is wrong with our national health system need look no further than an insurance statement for a service rendered by a doctor or hospital.  Being on Medicare for a number of years now, I regularly receive statements from it and my supplemental insurance.  I have been pretty healthy so I have mostly just glanced at my “explanation of benefits” and filed them.  But in 2010  I needed an outpatient operation for carpel tunnel syndrome.  The service was great and the results were good. The bill for a couple hours of services rendered was $6,728.00.  I can’t argue with the fee because I don’t know what the costs and profit margin are.  But, here’s the rub: Medicare paid $1,699 and my medigap insurance paid $340, a total actually paid for the services, of $2,039.  There were a few other charges billed separately.  So the pay for services that was accepted by the provider was almost70% less than the amount billed, with no further charges to me, thankfully. What a bargain! However, if someone did not have insurance, they would have had to pay $4,689 more. How is that either possible or equitable? It is no wonder that virtually everyone is obliged to carry health insurance, at almost any cost (my insurance is far from free by the way, as I pay 100 per month for Medicare Part D, and $150 per month for my supplemental insurance, a total of $3,000 per year). If overcharges by hospitals can be made at will, and without scrutiny, the costs to Medicare and my coinsurance will keep going up ad infinitum, and both premiums will be continually raised, as they have been.  The true cost of services and the profit margins involved are virtually impossible to determine, and the patient does not have any role in approving costs or outcomes. I was never any good at three card monte, the dealer’s hand was always quicker than my eye.  But that didn’t keep me from realizing it was a con game.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011




Tuesday, 8:00 AM.  9 degrees, wind WNW, light to moderate at times.  It snowed several inches last night, somewhat wet, sticky stuff that made the roads a bit slippery walking.  It is overcast but the barometer is up, promising clearing skies.
    The big old mulberry tree across the street has bent over from snow load, I can’t tell if the trunk is broken or not.  If the tree survives, the fruit, which I am very  fond of, will be within easier reach. It’s an ill snow storm that brings nobody some  good.
    The old, old wind sled is now in operation, a noisy, cold ride I am told, but very reliable. The new, modern sled, the big dog,  has not been out of the kennel as  yet.

Monday, January 17, 2011




Monday, MLK Day.  9:00 AM.  14 degrees, wind W, calm.  It is snowing fairly heavily, with several inches already on the ground.  The barometer predicts additional and I think we will get perhaps eight to ten inches.  That’s OK, as it is a holiday and I have nowhere to go anyway.
    Neighbor Tina was on her ATV this morning, heading to her office on the Island.  Last year she went through the ice but luckily did not sink with the machine, and I don’t know if she has a new one or not.  The beach walk yesterday was cold, about 5 above.  We have noticed a lot of logging this winter.  Landowners have to pay their taxes.  We are heading south and west for a few weeks on Thursday, so the next few days will be devoted to packing and getting things in order.

Sunday, January 16, 2011



Sunday, 7:15 AM.  -.5 degrees, wind NW, calm.  The sky is overcast, with some desultory light in the east.  The down barometer predicts partly cloudy skies.
    Joan watches the food channel quite often and she reports this information to me, so it is second hand but I believe accurate.  There was a program on Vlasic pickles several days ago that reported in detail the almost superhuman efforts being made by this venerable American company to produce the perfect pickle.
    Now I have some experience with pickles, since when I was young, many people made their own pickles, and Joan and I even made a few batches, the five gallon antique crock now sitting in front of the fireplace.  Sure, I can make my own pickles, but generally speaking it is not worth the trouble and there are many very good commercial pickles on the shelves, including Vlasic.
    As a youngster I picked cucumbers for pickling (although everyone called it “picking pickles”), as several families of cousins routinely grew acres of cucumbers to sell to the packing plants. Later, as a young adult, I had farmer friends my own age in central Wisconsin who grew hundreds of acres of cumbers, hiring migrant Mexican workers to help with the harvest.  This was all hand labor, as I assume much pickle production still is. Believe me, stoop labor is the hardest work of all, and I have the greatest respect for the field workers who still do it.
All in all, I know the pickle pretty well, and there is nothing like a New York Deli pickle, right out of the barrel, to garnish a pastrami on rye.
    But the Vlasic company truly seeks the perfect pickle, having elevated its pursuit almost to the level of the search for the Holy Grail.  They have determined that only the exactly sized pickle, of exactly the right maturity and of the perfect genetic heritage, shall be packed in their sacred bottles.  I applaud Vlasic's tenacity in seeking the ultimate pickle to please the increasingly finicky American palette.  The pickle evidently has become to us barbaric American barbecuers what foi gras or the finest Gorgonzola cheese is to the sophisticated Frenchman.  I suppose I should be flattered to be in such august culinary company.
    There is only one, shall we say, fly in the pickle brine.  The perfect pickle is evidently found only in India, and must be flown twelve thousand miles to be properly packed In the good old USA.  Now I am all for the attainment of excellence in most things, but this seems to me a bridge, or a pickle, too far.  The pickle, a simple thing I have known and eaten all my life, has now attained the status of a rare vintage wine, or a rock star, or a flight-for-life across oceans and continents.  Perhaps Air Force One should be employed when not ferrying the President.  We could use the money. 
    I won't try to elevate the Search for the Perfect Pickle to an environmental or economic crisis.  I don’t think it is appropriate or worth the trouble.  Rather, I look at it as the curtain being raised on yet another act in the theater of the American absurd.  E pluribus pickle. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011





Saturday, 10:00 AM.  12.5 degrees, wind W, light but blustery at times.  The sky is partly cloudy  but the morning thus far has been very pretty, the dark clouds having silver linings.  The barometer predicts much the same.
        The ferry made its last run from Bayfield to LaPoint on Madeline Island last night.  I did not make the trip.  The first wind sleds began appearing  yesterday, the one pictured I believe is a rescue sled, although it may have been acting as a taxi at the time.  The wind sled schedule is now posted, with regular passenger trips daily until the ice road is open.  It looks as though there has been some snow plowing done so the road will freeze deeper and stronger, but there are never firm predictions on when the road will open, as there are many factors involved, such as storm surges under the ice which emanate from far out in the open water of the lake, air pockets, currents, etc. In any case it will be a while before cars and light trucks will begin using the road, and the wind sleds will provide interim transportation.
    All the heavy transport, such as oil, propane and gasoline trucks, most food and produce, and yes, beer (I saw a Budweiser semi drive onto the ferry  yesterday) has already crossed over.  The wind sleds carry no cargo other than people, mail and light packages. There will be no further heavy transport to the island until the ice goes out in spring and the ferries run again.  Folks also use their snowmobiles and ATV’s to make the trip, and they can be seen buzzing across the ice even now, somewhat at their own peril. 
    Ice fishermen are out in the channel in force now, the one pictured just offshore from Bodin’s fisheries downtown.  I haven’t heard any fish stories as  yet.

Friday, January 14, 2011



Friday, 8:00 AM.  8 degrees, wind NNE, calm.  The sky is mostly clear except for very high fish-scale clouds moving in from the north.  The barometer however predicts snow.  A clear morning allows us to see the progress of the sun in the last three weeks, which is now rising north of LaPointe from our vantage point, where at its most extreme southern position it was considerably south.  It’s not waking me up any earlier as  yet, though.  The ferry really groaned and labored through the ice this morning and will soon just give up, but on the plus side of the ledger the progress of the sun set off some chickadee territorial calls this morning.
    I made a rather amazing and somewhat disconcerting observation this morning.  Perhaps you have observed this phenomenon as well, but did not attach much importance to it.  Roles of toilet paper have suddenly shrunk in width by about a half an inch.  It is quite obvious when they are placed on the roller, which has not gotten any longer.  At a thousand sheets to the roll, and each sheet three and three-quarters of an inch long, this is a significant reduction in the amount of paper per roll.  Now, I assume that the manufacturers who are doing this note the difference on the package, but regardless, it appears like pure chicanery to me. Of course, the price has not gone down. Did they really think we wouldn’t notice? All this should not really surprise me (or you) I guess, since I have long been compelled to read how many ounces of coffee are in a supposed pound package, or in a standard box of cereal, etc.
    So, I guess I should not really be surprised by this latest slight of hand, although it still angers me, mostly because we are obviously thought too stupid to notice. 
    It occurs to me, however, that I am being perhaps unjust in casting my aspersions on the toilet paper industry. Maybe there is a deeper, hidden justification for their cheating us.  Could it perhaps be that the shrinking toilet paper sheet is Big Paper’s justifiable response to the shrinking dollar?  I would have a hard time doing the exact math, but I’ll bet the correlation is pretty strong.  If so, I understand the situation and will shift the blame from Big Paper to Big Government, not that it helps the situation in the bathroom any.    Oh well, a little less toilet paper, a little less coffee, can that really be a concern to us supposedly affluent Americans?  How about the same percentage less of every single thing we consume, a similar inflationary cost increase for everything we buy? Of course I can be accused of being a conspiracy theorist, but can any one truly blame me?  Instead, how about blaming the Federal Reserve and the administration  for their purposeful devaluation of the dollar, and its similar assumption of our collective stupidity?
    Now, I have a theory that will prove me right or wrong, I just don’t know when the proof will become obvious.  If the shrinking toilet paper sheet and the shrinking dollar are indeed directly linked, the day will come, sooner or later, when the two will be of exactly equal value, and their use therefore interchangeable. Now, in regard to the relative softness of the two pieces of paper…

Thursday, January 13, 2011



Thursday, 8:30 AM.  16 degrees, wind NE, calm.  The sky is mostly  overcast with dark snow clouds, and the barometer is down.
    We watched the memorial event at the University of Arizona in Tucson last night with something akin to trepidation, realizing it might be overwhelmingly sad at best, or at worst a political circus.  As it turned out , with its cheers, tears, whistles and shouts, it seemed to us a mixture of revival meeting and pep rally. Rather odd perhaps, but not in final analysis inappropriate. Loss was mourned, reluctant heroes honored, dignitaries welcomed, God praised, hope rekindled.  Everyone said all the right things and none of the wrong things, and the President was eloquent, a fitting figure as head of state.  One prominent commentator was puzzled by the introductory invocation by an American Indian shaman who, eagle feather in hand, blessed most everything possible to bless…the four directions, the animals and plants, things on the earth, above the earth and below the earth…Joan and I, however, found it not only appropriate but comforting, an imagery we are very familiar with, living as we do three miles from the Rez. All in all the event at the University was healing, inspirational, and quintessentially American. As the young hero Hernandez said in his amazing extemporaneous remarks, “We realize we are all Arizonans, and all Americans.” I think the event might have been difficult for someone from another country or culture to fathom, but that’s who and what we are, and proud of it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Wednesday,8:15 AM.  23  degrees, wind ENE, light with stronger gusts. The sky is overcast and it is a dull, dark morning.  The wind is strong enough at times to loudly ring the Carlson’s wind chime, which hangs high u p in a large white pine.  Several inches of new snow fell last night, but the barometer at last predicts clear skies.
    I have recently finished reading a book on hunting in America that may be of interest to you. It is Hunting and the American Imagination, by Daniel Justin Herman, Assistant Professor of History at Central Washington University.  It is a 2001  publication of  The Smithsonian Institution Press. It is a cultural history of three hundred years of hunting in America, from the establishment of Plymouth Colony to the age of Theodore Roosevelt. It explores why Americans hunted (subsistence early, sport and as an iconic American activity later). The book traces the popularity or unpopularity of hunting during this time span, and how it affected the images that Americans have had of themselves throughout our history. 
    Early on, the yeoman farmer was the quintessential American figure, along with the American Indian hunter as his opposite; one seen as the cultivator of the land and therefore the advancer of civilization, the other the uncivilized wild, free spirit of woods and prairies and a law unto himself.  This cultural juxtaposition did not last long, for as the frontier expanded the white hunter and frontiersman became himself an American icon, a mirror image of the Indian, one the “Native American,” the other the new “American Native.” It was out of this rather strange juxtaposition that the historical figures Daniel Boone, Davy Crocket, Lewis and Clark, and the western Mountain Men became American icons, along with all the great Indian figures of our history, such as Sitting Bull, Cochise and Crazy Horse (the author does not mention these names, I add them for clarity).  As the frontier began to close, the hunter, white and Indian, become an image of freedom, self-reliance and manliness in an increasingly controlled, feminized and urbanized society.  The socially constrained men (and sometimes women) of the Gilded Age attempted to emulate the frontier white hunter and the Indian through sport hunting.  The obvious excesses of that era of sport hunting and the drastic decline in wildlife it caused helped to establish the conservation movement of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century America, which sought to preserve not only the continent’s wildlife but hunting and its frontier spirit. Many of our great natural history museums were also established through these same efforts. We are now a century past Teddy Roosevelt and the Gilded Age, but the frontier and its hunters retain a grip on the American imagination and still affect our politics, environment and our sense of self as Americans.
    Hunting and the American Imagination is very interesting and well written, but be forewarned that it is heavy going at times as it is more of a textbook than a popular history.  I did find it very worthwhile, and it will be a useful reference book on my library shelves.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011



Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  22.5 degrees, wind E, calm.  It is snowing, fine flakes falling straight down and we might get some accumulation.  About an inch has fallen so far this morning, and the barometer is down.
    The crunching sound of the ferry plying through the ice as it traverses the partially open path to LaPointe on Madeline Island is easily heard now when walking Bayfield’s hillside streets. We will try to take time and make arrangements to give a first-hand account of the trip before the ferry stops running. 
    I presented the annual Tree Board report to the mayor and council late yesterday afternoon and it was well received.  The Tree Board volunteered approximately 500 hours of time in 2010, planning forestry programs, dealing with the public and watering, fertilizing and pruning young trees, of which we planted fourteen last year.  My job as volunteer forester is to coordinate activities and offer professional advice, particularly on hazard trees, new species and varieties of street and park trees, and other technical matters.  We also announced the award of a $5,000  matching grant from the DNR to update our computerized tree inventory and develop  the initial stages of an Emerald Ash Borer response plan. 
    I have always enjoyed being involved in grass roots community activities, where one has the opportunity to relate on a personal basis to government.   That is one of the things I find so tragic about the events in Tucson; all the people involved were local and were interacting with their governmental representatives on a personal level.  To destroy that close interaction between citizen and government is to attack democracy and our constitution at its very roots, creating fear and distrust between the people and their representatives.  Whether such attackers are sane or insane, they are anarchists in the Nineteenth Century mold, belonging to no political party and having no political philosophy other than to destroy civil society itself, and those who seek to profit politically when such tragic events take place ally themselves with the anarchists in the destruction of America.  Stand up, speak out, take part!

Monday, January 10, 2011





Monday, 8:30 AM.  13 degrees, wind ENE, calm.  The sky is lightly but fully overcast and the barometer predicts much the same.  The cold gray clouds were turned to a fiery blast furnace by the rising sun.
    Yesterday was cold but pleasant, even though much clouded by the ongoing reporting of events in Tucson.  So for respite from the constant coverage on TV, we took an afternoon ride to the Mt. Ashwabay ski hill, which was fairly busy with kids and families despite the cold.  Lucky and I took a walk on the beach but his toes got iced up and we cut it short.  Everything is frozen over now as far out between the Islands as one can see, except for a few rivulets of water emanating from the mouth of the river. The sun was quite spectacular as it set over the marsh, perhaps promising a better day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011





Sunday, 9:00 AM.  11.5 degrees, wind E, calm.  The sky is mostly blue and the barometer predicts the same.  There are minute silver crystalline snow flakes falling gently, sparkling in the sun.
Yesterday’s setting sun transformed the mundane Island Queen ferry into a chariot of fire, and the masts of stored boats into celestial spires of gold.
    The tragic events in Tucson yesterday give us all pause, and should cause us all to pray to Almighty God  for our country, as well as for the dead and wounded and their families.  And, it behooves us all to hold our judgment, and our tongues, until all the facts are in and have been rationally examined.

Saturday, January 8, 2011



Saturday, 9:00 AM.  12 degrees, up from 9 degrees earlier.  The sky is overcast but the barometer is up and the sun is struggling to emerge from the gloom.  Wind N, mostly calm, and it is still snowing lightly.
    It has snowed nine or ten inches in the last twenty-four hours and the temperature has remained in the teens or lower.  It occurs to me that those are pretty much the conditions under which glaciers form if continued long enough, and it might not be too surprising to see a wall of white advancing through the snow and fog from the north. The persistent rumors of a herd of musk oxen grazing in the apple orchards seem to be unsubstantiated, however. Our resident cardinal seems rather disoriented by all this.

Friday, January 7, 2011



Friday, 8:30 AM.  7.5 degrees and falling.  Wind WSW, gusty at times.  It is snowing moderately, fine dusty flakes which will drift and lodge everywhere.  It has been sort of a mini-blizzard, and the barometer predicts snow, which I shoveled about three inches of.  But, all in all it is a pretty day. 
    Andy and Judy are at their farm for a few days and they were over for dinner last night. We had a nice time catching up on what has been going on in the last two months.  Joan tried out a new soup, with chick peas and Swiss chard as the main ingredients.  Very nice. I would think it impossible to survive Bayfield winters without homemade soup.
    The ferries are struggling mightily to get through the ice, and I think if this keeps up the wind sleds will replace them in a week or two.
    While in Columbus last week I finally decided on a pair of rubber knee boots for casual winter and wet garden work and for shallow stream fishing and beach combing.  I have looked in vain locally, in Duluth and Wausau for American made boots but its either Chinese or nothing.  You can get American rubber pull on boots but they are extremely utilitarian work boots exactly like I wore in my ditch-digging days, that haven’t changed in over fifty years and are uninsulated.  I have always been fussy about my foot gear and still buy quality  American leather boots from Red Wing and Columbia, but that’s about it.  So I ended up with the Muck brand, a very comfortable, breathable waterproof knee boot that I am pleased with but unhappy about their place of origin.  So, now that I have fallen off the wagon yet again, I am taking this pledge: I will not buy anything that is not American made on Mondays in 2011.  This is tokenism, I realize, but one has to start somewhere.  How about making this pledge with me, keeping track of the results and problems, and reporting your experiences in the blog comments from time to time? Maybe it will start a trend, who knows?  We desperately need manufacturing jobs, we need more of our dollars to stay here at home and we need to reduce our trade and fiscal  deficits.  Buy only American on Mondays or not at all.  We are pretty much inundated with stuff in the attic, closets and garage anyway.  I just read that Polaris is moving its last plant to Mexico (watch your heads, guys) and Amana appliances have left Iowa for China.  So the blood lettitng continues. When, like George Washington, will we simply give up and die?

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Thursday, 9:30 AM.  15 degrees, wind SW, light.  It is snowing, big dime-sized flakes, which makes the view from the library window akin to looking into one of those snow-scene globes.  The sky is overcast and Madeline Island is obscured by fog and snow, but the barometer predicts only partly cloudy weather.  The ferryboat captains will have to watch their radar and GPS closely today.
    Talked to old friend Paul over in Three Lakes yesterday to catch up on things, and he had two hunting stories to tell, one good and one not so good.  Good: he bagged a monster elk in Colorado, and brought home 435 pounds of meat;  he bagged it high in the mountains, at a distance of 345 yards, quite a (single) shot.  Not so good: he hunted with friends in a remote area of the southern Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in north-central Wisconsin, where they have taken good whitetail bucks in the past; he saw only one deer, and had his tree stand surrounded by a pack of ten wolves, all bloody from a recent kill.
    The birds have found our feeders again, so I bought a fifty pound sack of sunflower seeds yesterday.  Lots of birds, but nothing unusual as yet.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Wednesday, 8:30 AM.  9.5 degrees, wind S, calm.  The sky is overcast and it is snowing gently, very fine flakes falling straight down.  The barometer predicts snow, so we may have some accumulation.
    While picking up a ton of mail at the post office yesterday I ran into Dwayne Zott, who swims daily off the Reiten Park boat dock.  I asked him if he was still swimming, and he said he quit on Monday when he found the ice too thick to break.  He said the water was 32 degrees and the air immediately above was the same on New Year’s Day and he was very comfortable in his wet suit and goggles.  Better him than me.
    On our return trip from Columbus, Ohio we listened to some local Indianapolis talk radio, the guest being a Purdue University economics professor who spoke the usual supply side lingo, much of which I often agree with.  A caller suggested a sliding tax scale for American manufacturers, the greater the American content the less the corporate tax rate, the less  such content the greater the tax, this as a way to encourage “Made in America” manufacturers.  I thought it a worthy concept, but the professor blasted it as anti free trade and a horrid economic idea.  He then went on to say that American workers had to compete worldwide, and that all Americans need college educations in order to perform the highly technical work of today’s world.  Now, I thought, economics is a social science, and any social scientist should realize that human populations manifest standard bell curves of intelligence and other critical abilities, and if we have no useful work for the fifteen percent or so of the American population that are innately incapable of performing highly technical or critical thinking tasks we will face equally high permanent unemployment and welfare rates, as well as permanently high deficits.  Unless of course we adopt truly draconian Social Darwinism concepts and let people starve, or ship them off to island colonies to let them fend for themselves.  I say these things only somewhat facetiously, as recent history has seen Germany, Russia, China and many other societies limit their populations and eliminate unwanted persons in just such ways.
    So, thinking about how dismally stupid our current trade and economic policies are, I decided to take an informal survey of items for sale the next time we stopped to eat at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and store (I am not picking on them in particular…they were just convenient). As you may surmise, about the only American products you can buy there is the food.  Of fully two dozen items I randomly picked off the shelf, only one item was American made.  Even some of the candies produced in America or Canada were sold in Chinese containers.  Our one-sided trade agreements are guaranteeing employment for millions in China and other developing or third-world countries, while forcing our own citizens onto the dole.  How dumb is this? To add insult to injury, China manipulates its currency to be even more competitive, and the Chinese Army owns many of the companies whose products we buy, so that our dollars often go directly into the coffers of a foreign war machine.  Why have we been manipulated into having our citizens compete with artificially low-cost foreign labor and market prices? On top of all this dangerous economic nonsense, we are purposely devaluing the dollar, which is bound to result in hyperinflation. Is it all a grand game to redistribute American wealth and subvert American power and influence? And if so, who is behind such a nefarious plot? And finally, how can an economic professor at a major university not understand these things, and what is he teaching our sons and daughters? But what do I know, I’m just an old tree hugger.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011



Tuesday, 10:00 AM. 12.5 degrees, up from 3.5 degrees earlier. It is partly cloudy, wind SW, calm at ground level with clouds moving quickly in the upper atmosphere. The barometer predicts snow.  We arrived home yesterday evening about 6:00 PM.  It looks like some snow melted while we were gone and perhaps little new snow fell.  There is still plenty of snow cover left. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and southern Wisconsin were without snow as we drove back from Columbus.  On the way there we ran into some icy rain across the UP  but driving was O.K. in the automatic 4-wheel drive, which works exceedingly well.  The UP was quite beautiful with hills and trees sparkling with ice and frost. Overheard in Bill’s Restaurant somewhere along M28 in the UP, as a grizzled old guy chatted with the young waitress: “Yup, high school was the best three years of my life.  But by then I was thirty, and it was time to move on.” Ah, Upers!
    The Mackinac Bridge was a magnificent sight as we crossed into Michigan’s Lower Peninsula at dusk, bedecked as it was with red, green and blue lights which one might think purposely strung for the holiday season.  The upper half of lower Michigan is always surprisingly remote and wild, the oaks, pines, and lakes and bogs reminiscent of parts of northern Wisconsin.  Further south the countryside becomes first agricultural and then more and more urban, and the radio announces Detroit with hip-hop music and black talk radio, which we often find extremely interesting,  exhibiting social and political commentary which is unexpected and often radically different from expectations.
    Crossing into northern Ohio the landscape becomes rural again, with a lot of farming interspersed between medium sized cities cities and small towns.  Off the I system, it is not unusual to see Amish farms, and their characteristic buggies and wagons trotting along on the road shoulder.  Ohio is neither east nor west, north nor south, urban nor rural. I cannot think of a state which is more of a mix of Americana, including its politics, which makes it a bell weather state in national elections. Even its weather is middle of the road.  The temperature was 60 degrees on New Year's Day.
    We enjoyed the five years we lived and worked in Ohio, but if the state is an amalgam of many things American it also seems rather bland, as there are few extremes to liven things up.  We had a great visit with daughter Greta and her friends in Columbus and we did a few chores around her house. On the way home we breezed through downtown Chicago (always unpredictable)and stopped for an overnight visit in Racine with old friends Tom and Barb. The only wildlife of consequence we saw on our trip was a lot of hawks, mostly red tails, sitting on fence posts and in trees, looking for a meal in the snow-less countryside.  Now it’s time to fill the bird feeders and the wood box, pick up the mail and get back to what passes for normal in Bayfield.  I have some other observations which I will post tomorrow.