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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  22 degrees F, wind W, calm.  The sun, like a silvery searchlight, seeks to shine through the gloomy skies.  The barometer is stuck at bottom.  The roads are slippery.  It is winter.
        The last meeting of the Tree Board for Two Thousand Twelve went off even better than I had hoped, although there were only four of us and no quorum, so technically our decisions will carry no weight.  But they were good decisions so we will go with them anyway.  Actually, we committed ourselves to some New Year’s Resolutions.
        First, we observed that we have been operating in something of a vacuum by not being acquainted with our counterparts in the neighboring communities of Ashland and Washburn, and I resolved to contact them and set up a joint meeting in January with the hope that we can eventually establish some common urban forestry goals for our communities, perhaps put together combined orders for trees next spring that will lower purchase and transportation costs, and that we perhaps can submit joint grants to state and federal entities, the three Chamber of Commerces, and the regional utilities.
        Second, we have never reached out as a tree board to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewas, our neighbors three miles to the north, and we resolved we should do so next year.  There is a great and long tradition of the City of Bayfield and the Red Cliff Reservation talking past each other on any number of issues, and perhaps trees are things we can talk about in common.  Tree board member Howard Paap has many personal contacts among the tribe, and he will undertake that resolution.
        Third, the state highway department is scheduled to repave and improve Hwy. 13 through downtown Bayfield next year, and we have been arguing for the planting of street trees, to little avail.  So all of us have resolved to raise a little hell instead of tip-toeing around and being nice, which seldom accomplishes anything.  We could even pledge to raise money for the trees.
        All in all it was the kind of meeting we should have more often, but hopefully with a quorum.
        I have continued ruminating over the sneaker problem I wrote about in yesterday’s blog, and that has made me not just more agitated, but actually very angry.  There was a tragic fire in a Bangladesh shoe (sneaker) factory last week in which over 100 workers died and hundreds were injured.  It was a seven story sweatshop with no fire escapes, and the fire started on the ground floor.  They never had a chance.  The factory made shoes for Walmart and a number of other stores and brands sold in the US. 
        Here we are, buying shoes which not only are made by virtual slave labor working in deadly conditions, but to top it off our government collects a high import duty that was supposed to encourage American production and jobs but does neither, only raises the price to the American consumer.  It seems to me that two governments, a foreign manufacturer and a number of multinational corporations are all guilty of murder.  We might as well add we Americans who buy these sneakers of death, and the international unions that don’t have the strength of their own convictions. 
        And here I am, a pro-capitalist American, talking like a bomb-throwing Wobbly (Industrial Workers of the World) of a century ago.  But surely there are humanitarian yet rational approaches to such a problem.  This is not free trade, it is a death trade.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Monday, 9:00 AM.  15 degrees F, wind W, light to calm.  The sky is overcast and we had a dusting of snow last night.  The barometer is still down. This is a “no foolin’” start to winter.
        This morning we will hold the last Bayfield Tree Board meeting of the year.  We usually meet at the city hall but the city crew is painting the offices today so we will gather at the Big Water CafĂ© on Rittenhouse Avenue for coffee and conversation, and to recap the work we have done during the year and do some planning for next year.  We are an informal group and usually busy ourselves with pruning young trees and similar tasks, but this morning it will be mainly social.  Howard Paap, local author and poet, will as  usual read something inspirational about trees to get us in the right frame of mind.  We are a good citizens volunteer group, and do as little harm as possible to trees and things in general, and maybe even some good. 
        I have been thinking more about shoes than trees of late.  I have always had, let’s say not an obsession but a concern with whatever I put on my feet.  So much so that I  find it a major  undertaking to buy a new pair of boots or shoes, even sneakers.  If I don’t get exactly the right fit I am miserable, my feet hurt, my ankles swell, my toes rebel.  Consequently I wear my footwear out completely before I give in and buy a new pair.  I try to buy American name brand footwear because I  think they fit American feet better and I would rather employ Americans. One can still buy excellent but  expensive American made boots and shoes, and a good boot or shoe can be re-shod a number of times. 
        The problem lies with sneakers…running shoes, cross trainers, walking shoes…they are all foreign made.  That is something of a mystery to me, as they certainly require far less hand labor to manufacture than a leather boot or shoe made on a traditional last.  Most of the materials for such footwear are American made, so I don’t see where all the cost savings are.  And unless one buys the truly shoddy stuff at the big box stores they are not inexpensive, either.
        Case in point, I did something recently I will never do again.  I bought  a pair of supposedly European made high end trail sneakers out of a catalog.  When they arrived I was impressed with their style and functionality and congratulated myself on a good buy.  Even though they only came in medium width, they seemed to fit well and I started wearing them.  And my feet started to hurt.  The tops of my  feet were rubbed raw, despite a heavy sock. Upon close inspection I found  the shoes were put together with  a seam running the length of the top of the shoe where there should be a continuous, smooth lining.  So I returned them and still haven’t gotten my money back.  Even on sale they were pricey and may end up being a total waste of money.
        Then I read over the weekend that one of the reasons that imported sneakers and similar footwear are as expensive as they are is that many years ago a stiff import duty, often over thirty percent, was affixed to foreign made sneakers to reduce the competition on  US manufacturers, which have in any case since quit the business.  So what happens now is that the US government still collects huge import duties from foreign manufacturers, who in turn pass on the cost to American consumers, who have no other choice.  So here we are, paying high prices for not-so-great goods, while the import duties go into the open, insatiable maw of the federal government.  And I, at least, still have a hard time getting shoes that will fit, and American workers are still out of a job.
        My maternal grandfather used to mutter something about the world wouldn’t be right until everyone had to make their own shoes.  I had no idea what he meant by that but it is beginning to make some sense, all these many years later.
        And I think I remember something about unfair import duties being the root cause of the American Revolution. Something called the Boston Tea Party. I’ll bet most of the imported sneakers arrive by boat.  I wonder at what US port.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Sunday, 9:00 AM.  26 degrees F, wind W, calm to light at present.  The sky is now darkly overcast, whereas an hour earlier the sun had been peeking through the gloom enough to at least silver the equally  dark waters of the channel.  We got several more inches of snow last night which I just finished shoveling, and the city plows have already cleared the roads.  The barometer is either stuck on the bottom or broken.  Unless the sun comes out and the barometer revives miraculously by mid afternoon, I am done with this deer season. 
        Cousin Susan (a retired railroad VP and an exceptional  woman in a man’s world) called last night, just back from China with her sister Marilyn, nephew Michael and Michael’s Chinese wife Emai and their fourteen month old baby girl.  They had all gone to visit Emai’s parents and other relatives in a very large city in Szechwan Province (I don’t remember the city’s name, which really doesn’t matter).  In the course of several week’s visit they did some of the obvious tourist side trips, terracotta warriors and such, wondered what they were eating, and heard no English except that spoken among themselves.  The air pollution was pretty bad but otherwise they had a fine time. The crux of the visit came unexpectedly one day when Emai’s father took the visitors to a tea house with the obvious intent of having a rather serious discussion.
        First, he thanked them for caring for his daughter (a beautiful, independent and talented young woman) and new grandchild in America.  He thanked them for bringing them to visit.  He prevailed upon them to teach the child the values of both cultures so that she could be a bridge between China and the United States.
        Then he came to his most important point, that it was destiny that had brought Michael and Emai together:
        “A millennium ago in an earlier life they passed each other without recognition.  Five hundred years ago in yet another existence they briefly caught each other’s eye.  In this life they finally met, and realized they had loved each other for a thousand years.”
        Susan looked at Marilyn and said, “Gee, and we thought it was just another internet romance.”
        East is East, and West is West…will the twain ever meet? Probably not anytime soon.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Saturday, 9:00 AM.  20 degrees F, wind W, calm.  The sky is overcast with dark gray clouds and a few snowflakes are floating around  like dandelion seeds.  There is considerable haze or fog or “lake smoke,” out over and past Madeline Island.  Everything is snow covered and icy and the barometer predicts more of the same.
        Yesterday, after digging out, I put on my long johns and went out to the logging road that leads to my tree stand.  I drove in a hundred feet or so and decided all-wheel drive or no, I wasn’t going to get very far without getting stuck somewhere.  So I walked a little further in snow up to my knees and decided against that, too.  That may be it for this year.  Eldest daughter Greta, who lives in Columbus, said I should hunt in the Ohio suburbs, where there are deer in great abundance.  She has a point.
        I see that Hostess Foods, the producers of Ho Ho’s, Twinkies and other such snack or, to use the pejorative, junk food brands, has received permission from federal bankruptcy court to put itself up for sale, either whole or in its constituent parts.  18,500 workers will loose their jobs absent the unlikely event that another food company buys Hostess and elects to retain them. However, it is difficult to see how the same union workers that didn’t accept realistic offers that would save their jobs would be rehired.
        I don’t look at this as a victory of some sort for management and a defeat for labor, but rather as a tragedy for American management and labor alike.  And maybe it was inevitable.  Maybe all the anti-business rhetoric of the past few years and the Presidential campaign is coming home to roost.  And maybe the same can be said about all the nanny state drivel about what everyone should eat and how they should live their lives.  In any case, 5,000 bakers struck, 18,500 workers will lose their jobs, and a storied business is no more.  Sounds like a loose-loose situation to me.
        But their will be  winners, and it won’t be American workers or companies.  It will be foreign (read Chinese) labor and capital.  Ho
Ho’s, Twinkies and other iconic brands will be produced abroad and will be sold here, unless the Administration really puts its money where Michelle Obama’s mouth is and bans all sugary, fatty treats.  The next time you are food shopping, read the country of origin of some of those less familiar processed food product names.  Like Polar canned goods, for instance.  Chinese.  Or seafood, much of it Chinese.  We used to be net exporters of food, but at this rate we will soon be net importers.  We will end up selling Chinese companies the raw materials and they will process them with cheap labor and sell them back to us, for not much less than we presently pay, just like everything else.       
        I don’t pretend to have ready solutions for these world-economy problems, but I don’t hear anyone smarter than me coming up with them either.  I do know that forcing an employer into bankruptcy and dissolution is neither logical nor desirable.  The same applies to all the demonizing of Walmart, and driving consumers away from venerable products because of radical political and social theories.
        Once again, it behooves us all to be careful what we wish for. We already are getting jolly old St. Nick saying, “No! Ho! Ho!” this Christmas.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Friday, 9:30 AM.  24 degrees F, wind west, gale force at times.  Winter arrived yesterday evening in the form of a white-out blizzard that dumped at least 8” and perhaps more of slushy snow on Bayfield.  So that’s why the barometer was bottomed out for the past week!  The conifers are heavy laden, their branches groaning down to the ground.  The sun is trying to make a statement, but at the moment it is at a loss for words. Ominous black snow clouds still swirl high and low, and the barometer offers no hint of relief. 
        Our Thanksgiving dinner was a great success, food-wise and company-wise, but Joan and I were tuckered out by the time the leftovers were put away and the pots and pans washed.
        I had envisioned going hunting this morning in fresh tracking snow, had my clothes laid out and all, but won’t go anywhere until I finish shoveling the driveway.  If I go at all today or tomorrow, I doubt I will chance going all the way down the logging road to my tree stand, which is at the bottom of a steep hill.  If it got stuck there the truck might not be retrieved  until the spring thaw.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, 8;30 AM.  40 degrees F, wind W, light with occasional stronger gusts.  The sky is mostly overcast with stratospheric thin, gray clouds but the sun is struggling to shine through.  There is considerable haze over Madeline Island and the barometer again predicts rain but I think it is a weak front.  I will not hunt today, as Joan needs help with getting ready for guests.
    It has been a weird deer season.  Yesterday afternoon was beautiful, sunny, the barometer bumping up off the bottom for a change and the wind was quiet for once.  So, I went and sat in my tree stand for a couple of hours until almost dark.  I saw nothing, except for a silent blue jay that swooped down and put a couple of kernels of corn in his craw and flew off again, without so much as uttering a thank you.  Yet on my way back to the truck there were fresh deer tracks on the logging road,  only about 100 feet from where I had been ensconced.  The deer had taken little, mincing steps…not running, not in any hurry, just ambling along.  How could I  not have seen or heard them?  I was facing the opposite direction, but even so!  Maybe I dozed off for a few minutes, I  don’t know.  Oh,  well…
    Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, as it has no real ideology except thankfulness and family.  And there is nothing wrong with an occasional feast day, despite PETA attempting to spoil it all by accusing us of killing and eating turkeys, those “intelligent, sensitive creatures,” and attempting, like all tyrannical entities, to turn children against their parents.  You would think we were all cannibals for consuming farm turkeys, which are about as intelligent and sensitive as a fence post.
    But, PETA and other crazies aside, Thanksgiving is a day to enjoy  life and family, and to celebrate our freedom and good fortune.  We will not be with family again this year, but perhaps next year we can gather children and grandchildren under one roof again somewhere in this great country; as for today, we will do what many others will do also.  We will gather a surrogate family for the feast, a few other lonely soles far from their families, and we will give thanks and celebrate.  Have you ever noticed that Americans are very good at gathering themselves together, becoming a family when the occasion calls for it?  I don’t believe most other cultures are very prone to do that.  Tribal societies do that quite well; I see our Indian neighbors doing it all the time. 
    I like to think of Americans not so much as a nation, but as a great extended family; not a tribe based on genetics, but a tribe, if you will, based on shared cultural values and deeply held beliefs.  My faith  in that concept sometimes wavers, but Thanksgiving invariably renews it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Wednesday, 8:30 AM.  40 degrees F, wind W, light at present.  The sky is mostly overcast with high, thin gray clouds. There is a light fog over the channel and Madeline Island.  The barometer has inched upward.
    Life and business intervened yesterday and I did not get out to the deer stand.  The weather, as well, turned even more droopy, foggy and wet.  My intention is to get out this afternoon, weather permitting, as I may not get out at all on Thanksgiving Day.
    The world of Walmart is evidently in turmoil due to employee and union inspired protests, with some public support, against the retail chain’s policy of being open on Thanksgiving Day and then opening early Friday morning (or staying open all night) to welcome shoppers for the biggest retail sales day of the year, known as Black Friday, because the one day can put businesses in the “black” for the year. 
    The Ashland Walmart is probably too remote to attract much of that activity, although there is a prevalent undercurrent of anti-Walmart sentiment among the generally liberal populace.  Folks will say, “I hate Walmart,” and the next day you will see them there.  Humans are inherently hypocritical, but  truth be told, there aren’t many other places to shop up here in the boondocks.
    Employees protest that the policy keeps them from enjoying the holiday with their families and causes stress and disruption in their lives.  The whole matter has actually gone to court, Walmart seeking an injunction against the disruptive protesters. I would think courts would have more important matters to tend to.  If I were a judge I would let the two sides slug it, out labor-management style.
    Since I spent untold holidays and other inconvenient times at work in my lifetime, I am inclined to say that’s tough, if you don’t like it find a different job.  On the other hand, I  wouldn’t get up in the middle of the night to go shopping for any reason, and I think the whole idea, and thus the dispute, is silly and unnecessary.
    There is, however, a simple and equitable resolution to the problem which I have not heard being proposed. Let individual communities decide whether stores should be open on Thanksgiving and other holidays, or on Sundays or in the wee hours of the night, for that matter.  They have every right to institute what used to be called “blue laws.”  If the community in its wisdom and liberality wishes to support the store workers, let it close the stores.  That’s plural, of course, since the law would have to apply to all retail stores, not just Walmart.
    We all know that won’t happen, of course, so how about everyone admitting they like to shop at ridiculous and inconvenient times, and disgruntled workers getting on doing their jobs serving the shopping public. 
    And human nature being what it is, my bet is that if the Walmart workers had Thanksgiving Day or Thursday night off, they would likely be among the first in line to shop early somewhere else on Black Friday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Tuesday, 8:00 AM.  37 degrees F, wind W, moderate with strong gusts.  The sky is partly cloudy, and the reflected light of a molten sun spread a path of fire across the waters of the channel at dawn.  It is a real mixture of weather, with low rain clouds scudding here and there across a blue sky, while heavy mist obscures much of Madeline Island.  I'll see what the day brings weather-wise and probably go out to the deer stand again before dark.  The barometer again predicts rain.  Hunters to the south, around the Onion and Sioux River watersheds, have been shooting some deer.
    Yesterday I didn't go out to the deer stand until an hour or so before closing time, and will do the same today.  That perhaps cuts down on my chances but I have other things to do as well, and I'm O.K. with that.  The late afternoon into early evening yesterday was extremely quiet in the woods.
    There is a recent immigration law that puts a new wrinkle on the iconic Emma Lazarus' poem that  graces the base of the Statue of Liberty:

    by Emma Lazarus

 Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

        Just be sure to bring $50,000 in investment cash to secure residency and a permanent green card.  The Golden Door now opens easier with a little baksheesh. I don't know whether to cry or puke.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Monday, 9:30 AM.  47 degrees F, wind SW, breezy at times gusty.  It is overcast and raining.  The barometer predicts more of the same.
   I have taken the day off from deer hunting, as nothing has been moving, at least where I hunt. I slept in.  The weather has been very odd, with a down barometer and warm temperatures, and I decided not to go  ut until there is a major change in the weather and the barometer goes up. Maybe this rain will get it out of its system.  the wind as been so consistently strong that it was pretty unpleasant in the woods and very tiring.  I was going to finish up the last of the yard work but it looks like it will be a rainy day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Sunday, 5:40 AM.  40 degrees F, wind calm.  The sky is overcast and it is damp.  The barometer is still down.
    When I took Buddy out for his walk last evening he went on point at the end of the driveway.  That was odd, I thought.  As I came up behind him I saw he was pointing a rather large black blob about thirty feet away.  Which moved almost imperceptibly further away as I approached. As my eyes and my brain adjusted to the darkness and the blob, it dawned on me that a black blob that moves in the night is likely a black bear.  Buddy stayed steady on point until I retreated behind him and he followed my command to go back into the house.  Good dog, Buddy!
Yesterday was a mild and very quiet day In the woods, except for the wind, which blew incessantly and at times at gale force.  Deer were evidently sitting tight, as I saw nothing and heard few shots all morning, and only two in the afternoon, right into evening.  The day did give me the opportunity to think about deer seasons past, specifically those when I was in my twenties, a half century and more ago, when my buddies and I would head north to the national forest and Langlade, on the Wolf River.  The following is substantially true, given some dramatif license.
    Whether deer hunting, grouse hunting or fishing, we always spent time at Jack’s Trading Post, a stones’ throw from the rapids  on the Wolf.  The North Woods has always been full of characters, and Jack Kolb was certainly one of the most colorful.  Jack, AKA Johnny Red Shirt, or Johnny Red Hat (because he always wore a red flannel shirt and a red felt hat, winter and summer) was the proprietor of a backwoods gas station and  sort of general store, where one could buy a few canned goods and maybe some rancid bacon, or a six pack of beer.  But, more importantly, it was where all the locals and the visiting hunters and fishermen hung out after a day in the woods or on the river.     The Trading Post was a place to tell tall tales, a few true stories and a lot of lies, and Jack was the ringleader in all events.  In Jack’s eyes, a stringer of a few  six inch brook trout became “the nicest mess of trout I’ve ever seen,” and a nubbin buck “a trophy for the wall.” 
    The trading post was filled with deer heads, mounted fish, and jokes…like the stuffed Jack rabbit with spike deer horns attached, which was named a “Jackalope,” and which neophytes were told the woods were full of.  Also photos, “real ones, folks” of the horrible man-eating Hodag which waited on forest trails to pounce on the tenderfoot hiker.  It was a great place to have a few beers, and Jack offered a choice of two; “Chief,” and “Oshkosh,” and whichever was ordered, onto the table was put, with a resounding thud, a Chief Oshkosh, “Pride of the North Woods.”
    Jack sold gasoline out of an old fashioned pump which he cranked by hand.  When a city slicker drove up to the pump (there was only one) he would ask him, “How many octanes do you want?” 
    Jack was a man of some mystery, as nobody seemed to know where he came from or what he did before he opened the trading post back during the war years.  There were rumors that the old scamp was a bank robber who had hidden his stash in the caves along the Wolf, or that he was a moon shiner during prohibition, and that he had a still that he yet operated back in the woods.
    Well, after a while I got married and some time after that we moved to New York, so I never saw Jack again.  About ten years after my last visit to the trading post, one of my friends wrote to me, I think it was in a Christmas note, that Jack had been murdered that last deer season.  And, over some subsequent years, Jack’s story was put together, in pieces, like a puzzle.
    Jonathan Kolb was a poor Jewish boy who grew up in a tough neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.  He was smart, and a smooth talker, so he drifted into being a small time grifter and was eventually enlisted in the local mob.  He ran numbers, operated a speakeasy, that sort of thing.  But he never got into the violence of the vocation, never even carried a gun. And being the only Jew in the gang outside of the consigliore, he was nicknamed Johnny The Jew. The boss liked him so he never had to do any of the mob’s dirty work.  Until there was a war between two rival gangs and he was told to go to the mattresses, like everyone else. 
    Johnny panicked, gathered up his belongings and a few hundred bucks, got in his old Model A and headed north. But he was painfully aware of what happened to gangsters who knew a few secrets and left the brotherhood.  So he followed the North Star and Route 32 until his money ran out, which was on the Menomonee Indian Reservation.  Being a generally likeable guy and down on his luck, he got along with the Indians and the locals, worked at odd jobs and finally met a local schoolteacher, got married and started the Trading Post.  He built a successful little business, based on shrewdness and bullshit.  He forgot all about the mob, figuring they would never find him. 
    And then, one day, they did.
    Jack went out to gas up the Cadillac, not thinking much of it because there were a lot of Chicago Cadillacs up North during the heat of summer.  But when the driver’s window rolled down, a gusher of cigar smoke erupted, and enshrouded therein was the, puffy, scarred face and beady black eyes of his old capo, who said, “Fill ‘er up, kid.”  The car had three other beefy, ominous occupants.
    Jack mumbled something, pulled his red hat further down over his visage, and hastily filled the tank.  He didn’t ask “How many octanes” the driver wanted, either.  A thick hand reached out the window, with a Benjamin in its’ fat fingers. “Keep the change, Johnny.  We just wanted to stop and say ‘hello’ to an old friend.”  Jack Kolb stood for once speechless, his heart racing like the river across the road, as the Caddy sped off, spiting granite gravel.
    So, did the mob finally rub out old Johnny  the Jew?  No, it turned out it was two local high school kids, who beat the old man’s brains out for the couple of bucks in the Trading Post till…
    And a six pack of Chief Oshkosh.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Saturday, 5:45 AM. 33 degrees F. Wind SW, calm.  The sky is star filled with no moon, and Orion now on the far SW horizon.  It is just cold enough to see one’s breath but a pleasant pre-dawn morning.
    Buddy has been walked and I have about half an hour before I drive to the deer stand for opening at 6:40.  Buddy would like to think he is going, but of course he will keep Joan company.  He proved himself an exceptional bird dog yesterday, as he pointed to two pine grosbeaks,   a scarlet breasted male and a dusky female, that were eating crabapples in the front  yard.  They were so tame they just continued gorging themselves.
    This is my birthday so maybe I will be lucky.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Friday, 8:30 AM.  32 degrees F, up from 28 degrees earlier. Wind at ground level W, calm; but at higher elevation clouds are moving slowly from the east.  The sky is partly  cloudy with mixed gray and white clouds.  The barometer is trending down but it should be a decent day.
    Yesterday turned out to be a bright, seasonally warm day, good for many things.  We got the prairie seed put down on the Brownstone Trail first off, before breakfast, then went to visit my deer hunting haunts, much changed by the loggers that are wrapping things up now. 
    The whole scene is visually more open but since it was selectively logged it retains most of its pre-logging character and according to the tracks in the sand at least, the deer are frequenting their usual runs.  They were still loading logs late yesterday afternoon, so I hope they are done today, but in any case they won’t be in the woods much if at all during deer season, which starts tomorrow. 
    I also got to the town rifle range and did enough shooting to know the rifle is still sighted in.  In between things, D & J logging delivered two face cords of wood in the driveway, most of which is still sitting there to be put into the shed after breakfast this morning.  It is good, dry, mixed hardwoods (sugar maple, red oak, yellow birch and a few odds and ends of ironwood and elm) most of it split small enough to burn in the fireplace without further hand splitting.  I was down to my last stick of wood so I was happy to get it, $150 delivered. 
    Don, who delivered the wood, got an eight point buck last Saturday with his bow, which is totally amazing to me since he is badly crippled from a logging accident that occurred many years ago and can barely walk with the aid of two arm crutches.  His truck has a bumper sticker which says, “I am a pro-logging, pro-hunting environmentalist.”  Got to get one of those.
    Commentary on politicians that applies to both parties: the way to never be caught in a lie (or even the truth for that matter), is to have a spokesperson.  That way you can always weasel out of whatever it was you said, by saying, “I didn’t say that, my spokesperson said it.”  And the spokesperson can say, “I only repeated the information various sources gave me, as I understood it at the time.”  That scenario is pretty foolproof, unless the spokesperson is your girlfriend, and then things may become problematical.
    Last evening was crisp, clear, moonless and starlit, and I saw a shooting star streak across Orion as I was out with the dog.
     Blogs will be sporadic for a few days to accommodate deer hunting.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Thursday, 7:45 AM.  34 degrees F, wind WSW, calm at ground level, with mottled clouds moving slowly at higher elevation into a dusky orange dawn. The barometer is trending up and it should be a decent day.
    We had a great trip to Wausau and got back yesterday evening.  We were all tired but happy.  I with an excellent forestry meeting, the subject of which I will delve into when I have more time, as right now I have to take advantage of a break in the weather and get the seeding done on the Brownstone trail this morning; buddy with a good run, and all of us with a couple of excellent Wisconsin restaurant meals (Buddy makes out well also) and a break in routine.
    On Tuesday morning there were hundreds of tundra swans on the Chequamegon Bay in Ashland, they are migrating in great numbers now.  And we did, despite all the driving and the meeting, get an opportunity to visit the McMillan Wildlife Area outside of Marshfield.  It is a large, mostly wetland, preserve and public hunting area with a large population of sandhill cranes that we had the opportunity to see and certainly to hear as they bedded down Tuesday night.  The area also has ample room to roam around looking for pheasants, and we  put in a hour or so doing that Yesterday afternoon after my meeting.  We found none, but Buddy worked marvelously well and came to one absolutely classic point but no bird flushed when I stepped in front of him.  Maybe strong scent left by an earlier bird.  I will find out more about the area and maybe make a stop on another trip later. There are few pheasants outside of private hunting preserves in Wisconsin these days, but that is another story also.
    Yesterday afternoon we had lunch in the nice little city of Mosinee on the Wisconsin River.  It is a classic Wisconsin small town, and very nice to visit as long as you are not downwind from the paper plant and its sulfurous odors which,  years ago at least,  was called “the smell of money” in northern Wisconsin.
    Buddy wore himself out and slept all the way home yesterday, when he wasn’t licking a cut or two from the sharp stubble.   
    It will be a busy day, as I also need to get to the shooting range and take a few shots at targets before deer season.  Life is good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Tuesday, 8:00 AM.  22 degrees F, wind WSW, calm at ground level but white-gray clouds are moving fast at moderate elevation.  The sky is partly cloudy and clearing rapidly, and the barometer predicts sunny weather.  It was slippery walking and I stayed on the level.  Buddy lost his footing on a t urn or two and went sliding.
    Winter arrived yesterday with temperatures in the low to mid 20’s and snow, enough to cover the ground and stay there.  It doesn’t seem to bother Buddy, who generates a ton of heat running at full tilt.  But he is also perfectly happy now to come in the house and stay there.  Time to find his coat, as he has little of his own, particularly on his tummy, which is mainly pink skin after crashing endlessly through the underbrush.  The bears should be asleep by now so it is time to put up the bird feeders.
    We head south to Wausau and a regional meeting of city foresters right after breakfast.  Buddy will come along (Joan always travels with me also).  Depending on weather and road conditions we will see if there are any pheasants in the big McMillan Wildlife Area at Marshfield. We will at least try to check it out. I  have learned to take things in stride, and defer to conditions and common sense in most of my outdoor undertakings.  A somewhat belated attitude which I will attribute to the wisdom of experience, not the decrepitude of age.
    As far as General Petraeus’ fall from the CIA is concerned, I guess it should be self-evident that the Spy-In-Chief, the Big  Spook, the keeper of all the secrets, really should have been able to keep his girlfriend a secret.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Monday, 8;15 AM.  22 degrees F, wind W, light.  The sky is overcast  but seems to be clearing, the silvery sunlight lining a few of the dark gray clouds.  We had a very light dusting of snow last night. It was cold but not bitter walking, since there was little wind.  The barometer predicts partly cloudy skies.
Winter is upon us.
        Tomorrow we head for a regional meeting of city foresters in Wausau, where we will discuss, among other topics, better opportunities for urban tree diversity, an important topic in which I am greatly interested.  If we can get going early enough I want to check out a very large public hunting grounds near Marshfield, and see if Buddy and I can find a pheasant (there are none as far north as Bayfield). I also have to get out the deer rifle and do some shooting before the season opens on Saturday.
        From the Associated Press, 11/10/12:
        Bulldozers moved in on Friday, destroying homes constructed on illegally sold land, despite efforts by protesters to stop the demolition.  The Housing Department identified 113 houses in the area that it said were illegally built on land intended for government housing.
    Where?  Louisiana, New Jersey?  Who?  FEMA?
    No, no, and nope.  Lenasia, South Africa, and the South African Department of Housing. 
    But admit it, you were a bit worried, weren’t you?

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Sunday, Veterans Day, 9:00 AM.  52 degrees F, wind W, moderate at present but very strong earlier.  Everything is damp, with puddles everywhere, and the sky is overcast.  The barometer predicts more rain.
        Yesterday was a bummer weather-wise that canceled the seeding on the  Brownstone Trail.   That’s not so bad, we can probably find a warm dry day to do the job yet this year.  The advantage to seeding now is that the sown seed will cold-stratify naturally over the winter.  If it does not get sown I will mix it with sand and keep it in the shed during the winter and it will be sufficiently cold-stratified to sow next spring. 
        The seeds of most temperate climate plants need to spend a few months at seasonally cold winter temperatures in order to germinate properly.
        The following commentary is not meant to be political, it is rather a sad tale of the current state of our American mores, as told by two recent headlines:
        Headline number one; CIA CHIEF PETRAEUS RESIGNS OVER AFFAIR WITH HIS BIOGRAPHER. This is a tragic end to a stellar career for the first US general to be a successful commander in two wars since Douglas MacArthur (who was cashiered by President Truman).  There are a lot of aspects of this story that most readers will know or suspect and that I needn’t dwell on.
        Headline number two; LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP.  OUSTS NEW CHIEF, CHRISTOPHER KUBASIC, OVER IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP WITH SUBORDINATE.  Many blog readers may have missed this one. 
        Both these cases involve very powerful men at the height of their careers.  Both should have known better than to compromise their lives with tawdry behavior that could cost them their jobs, marriages, families and other close relationships.  Both were evidently guilty, and my guess is that it will turn out that both were seduced not just by  a woman but by their political or business enemies as well. The world, after all,  still has  its Mata Hari’s and its Quislings.  Too bad, but no excuses, please.
        Many, however, will excuse them both, saying that a high moral standard is old fashioned (ignore the military and industrial secrets), and cite the fact that former presidents and generals and business executives did far worse and were never punished.  That may be true, but it changes nothing.  Two larger-than-life men are essentially, at least for now, ruined.                 
        Sequel:  Christopher Kubasic will receive 3.5 million dollars as severance compensation.  Immorality, like crime, often does pay.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Saturday, 7:30 AM.  38 degrees F, wind SSW, blustery at times.  The fog is rolling in from the channel and it is misty, not quite raining.  It is an uncertain day.
        This morning I and a few other volunteers will be sowing native grass and wildflower seed on a portion of the new trail head to the city’s Brownstone Trail, which is a highly used and quite scenic trail along an abandoned railroad right of way which leads along the lake shore between the Black Hawk marina and new city boat ramp to Port Superior several miles south of the city.
        I won’t try to go into all the details of the seed mix, suffice it to say that they are sun-loving prairie grasses, including big and little bluestem, side-oats grama, switch grass and Indian grass, and ninety different forbs (non-grass herbaceous plants, AKA wild flowers).  It will take perhaps three years for many of the flowers to bloom, but the little patch of about an eighth of and acre will be a diverse and colorful sunny spot along the trail.  It won’t take long to mix the seed with sand as a dispersal agent, to sow it by hand, rake it in and cover it with straw, but the weather is iffy and if things are too wet we will delay the project so as not to make a mess of things.
        As long as we are on the subject of native plants, I would like to bring up the subject of an endangered species, one certainly upon the brink of extinction.  I speak of the traditional barber shop, where I and most guys used to get our hair cut.  Oly’s Bayfield Barber Shop, touted as Wisconsin’s northernmost tonsorial parlor, has closed.  Oly has retired, tired of standing on his feet all day.  One might say that yesterday Oly was tired, and today he is re-tired.  He sold his two antique barber chairs and the barber pole, packed his AWOL bag and moved to Arizona and a climate more amenable to his arthritis. 
        I am joking about this, but it is really not a laughing matter, as now I must go (and did so yesterday) all the way to Ashland to get my hair cut at, would you believe, the Walmart salon.  Actually, the gal did as good a job as Oly, for about the same price (you might say that I didn’t get clipped when I got clipped, sort of like Who’s On First…) 
        But, she wasn’t Oly, who always gave me not just a haircut but all the local gossip and latest Bayfield business news, along with a lot of opinions, some of which I agreed with and many that I didn’t but said nothing because he was skilled in the use of sharp implements.         
        The barber shop used to be a half mile away, now it is twenty-five miles, one way, and  the only way I can justify getting a haircut is to do a lot of shopping at Walmart.  Lots of guys hereabouts have given up getting their hair cut at all and wear their hair in a pony tail that may hang down their back as far as their belt.  Up here that actually goes over pretty well, as that is Indian style, and most guys now blend right in while stalking the woods, or the slots in the casinos.  My problem is I can’t stand long hair, or for that matter a beard or a mustache.  So Walmart it is.
        Bayfield has now lost its barbershop, along with its dentist office, and its drugstore.  It hasn’t had a doctor’s office or a shoe store in generations.  It still has a gas station, a hardware store and a lumber yard, but if even one of those goes…come to think of it, it’s not just the barber shop that is endangered.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Friday, 9:00 AM.  39 degrees F, wind NE, calm to gusty.  The sky is completely overcast and everything is wet and damp, but the barometer is up so it should clear later or at least by tomorrow.
        The Chamber annual meeting and awards dinner was held last night, at the Bayfield Pavilion.  The business meeting was succinct, the dinner speaker truly  inspiring (a local woman who has climbed the world’s seven highest peaks, despite having the highly debilitating disease of MS).  The retiring Executive Director was awarded gifts, cheers and even some tears.    But the best award of all I thought was that given to the six individuals who got up early every morning all summer to go out and water the city’s hanging flower baskets.
        Yesterday I said I would explain the Managed Forest Law which mandated the logging where I deer hunt.  Actually there are two rather similar Wisconsin laws, the Managed Forest Law and the Forest Crop Law, both of which provide property tax relief incentives to owners of forested land who properly manage their holdings.  And, proper management means responsible logging on a planned schedule.
        The MFL lands must be open to public hunting, fishing and other recreation; the FCL lands are only open to hunting and fishing.  The owner may negotiate some restrictions to public access, but at a  reduced rate of tax relief.  That said, both programs offer very significant tax relief, according to formulas which are rather too detailed to explain herein.
        These programs have several objectives, the first being an incentive to owners of forested land to harvest their timber in a manner which assures that it is being done scientifically, as a certified forester must be hired to devise the plan.  Equally important is assuring that timber on private lands is actually being harvested, which keeps the overall forest young and more healthy, reduces fire hazards, adds more oxygen to the atmosphere while reducing carbon dioxide, and provides optimum wildlife habitat (particularly for grouse and deer).
        The second objective is to provide recreational opportunities for the public on private forest land.  This is a considerable recreational resource, which can be accessed by computer search by county or a hard copy Open Lands Listing of properties enrolled in the programs (available from the WIDNR). Word of mouth and local knowledge are probably just as important.
        A third objective is adding forest resources to the forest products income stream of the state and nation.  Forest products…logging, lumbering, paper production and other wood products, is one of the most important industries in the State of Wisconsin, and vital to its economic health.
        It seems that these programs are win-win for everyone, although as with all tax supported programs, they must be continually monitored by the tax paying public to see that the benefits outweigh the costs. There is also the very real hazard of lands being held primarily for real estate investment at an artificially low tax rate.  Timber companies, many of them huge national and international corporations, have been very deft at this, holding enormous acreages and then subdividing them into smaller parcels when the market is ripe. 
        However, for myself and many others the most obvious benefit is a good place to hunt.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Thursday, 8:00 AM.  40 degrees F, wind SW, moderate with stronger gusts.  It is a sparkling morning, the dark clouds being blown out rapidly and the sky quickly becoming blue.  The channel has a chop on its waters, and the sea is shining in the early morning sunshine.  A pileated woodpecker drummed incessantly from somewhere as we walked.  It is a fine day, although the barometer predicts rain.  But hopefully not before we get some last yard work done.
        So, back to blog basics.  Far less, I promise, of politics and more of weather observations, wildlife interest, and small town life.  Of the last, the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual meeting tonight and Joan and I will attend.  It is always a good evening, light on business and heavy on socializing.  A special aspect of tonight’s event will be retirement best wishes for Executive Director Carrie Obst, who will leave at the end of this year.  She has done a great job of leading the Chamber to financial solvency and new heights of community and member service.  The membership has grown almost exponentially and the organization has become a true partner with the city in community development.
        Also, as the election dust settles, Wisconsin has again proven itself a political enigma, as although the state went rather solidly for President Obama and filled a vacant U. S. Senate seat with a liberal Democrat, on the state front the Republicans retook the state senate and Wisconsin now has a Republican governor, and Republican senate and house majorities.  Go figure!
        My usual deer hunting territory has been closed to me for quite some time due to a squabble between adjacent landowners over an access road, the upshot of which is I finally got down to my usual deer stand yesterday via a new entrance to the old logging road, and the new truck negotiated it just fine. Joan and I and Buddy drove down the logging trail yesterday just before dark, and met one of the loggers on his way out, so we had a chance to talk to him, a very nice young man in his beat up old pickup truck. 
        They have cut and stacked some pretty big old oak trees from a portion of the tract that they did not log several years ago and the logs are stacked up at the end of the road, ready to be loaded out.  He said they planned to be done, weather permitting, before deer season (which starts November 17, just ten days from now).  My tree stand is intact and there doesn’t seem to be much disturbance in its immediate vicinity.  He was kind enough to warn me of a coyote trap he has put out, so I won’t let Buddy run there.  He said he has not seen any grouse so I probably won’t bird hunt there anyway. 
        He he has seen lots of coyote and quite a bit of deer sign, including a big buck rub down one of the ravines.  Sometimes active logging actually attracts deer, as it provides a lot of fresh browse when the downed trees are limbed. 
        Now that I have access again I will spend some time scouting a bit. The area I hunt is enrolled in the Managed Forest Law program, and basically that is one reason it has been logged.  I will explain that program in tomorrow’s blog.
         I am not as excited about deer hunting this year as I sometimes have been, as I really don’t have anyone to hunt with anymore and that takes a lot of the fun out of it.  But I sure would like some venison in the freezer.   

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Wednesday, 8:45 AM.  38 degrees F, wind W, calm.  The sky is overcast with high gray clouds that are lightening somewhat as the morning progresses.  It evidently rained a bit through the night, as everything is wet.  I will have to put on my boots if I am going to do any last yard work.  But the barometer predicts sunny skies.
        Yesterday there was a large flock of migrating native whistling swans on the bay in Ashland, the adults white, the juveniles still gray. Chickadees are being seen around town in increasing numbers.

        I remain mystified by the continuing assault of the DNR and many environmentalists on the non-native mute swans that used to be seen on our Wisconsin lakes, and which helped to keep the local Canada goose populations under control by their aggressive territoriality.  They are stately and beautiful bids, but non-native, and so they have been pretty much eradicated, while the non-migratory geese become more and more of a problem.  The native whistling swans only migrate through and I don't see how they are much affected by the non-native mute swans.
        The election is over and I feel the way I felt a few days ago when I nearly got stuck in the blackberry blow down.  Bloody and torn but basically intact.  I could go on and on with my own analysis, feelings and observations but I won’t, except to say that the divisions are still there after a very close election with no true mandates.  The deficit is still there, inflation is still there, waiting to pounce… and I think we will have basically the same situation going “forward” as we have had in the past four years.  The House is still Republican, the Senate still narrowly divided, the mid-term elections are just two years away,  and the President’s victory speech was another campaign speech, so here we are, still stuck in the raspberries.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Tuesday, 8:15 AM.  35 degrees F, wind S, light with moderate gusts.  The sky is overcast and it is raining lightly.  The barometer predicts more of the same.
        The leaves are all down now, and the last tourists, snow birds and boaters have gone to where ever they winter.  The seasonal businesses are all closed and those few of us who remain have assumed winter attitudes of more or less grim survival.  It is almost time to put the bird feeders up, as I haven’t seen a bear in weeks.
        Election Day is here, and predictions are as unreliable and diverse as they were months ago.  And that is probably a good thing, since I at least view virtually all the polls as flawed in one way or another, and few if any are large and diverse enough to be relevant, statistics not withstanding.
        Anyone who regularly reads the Almanac knows my political and environmental views, for which I have few apologies.  But I probably owe at least a few interested readers a final philosophical declaration concerning why I will vote Republican today.  For President, Vice President, Senator, Congressman and state and county offices.
        The reasons for my partisanship can be summed up in three words, which are  probably not very original:  Faith, Family and Freedom.
        By Faith I mean not just my personal Christian religious beliefs, but a fundamental belief in a just God, a higher power and evolving creative force, from which our American Constitution, civil laws and social compacts all devolve.  What man ordains, other men can deny. What their Creator has endowed mankind with, other men cannot take away.
        By Family I mean not just my own, but the recognition that the traditional family is the basic unit of society, the atoms with which all other aspects of human society are built. When governments ignore or denigrate the family  unit all the institutions of society are threatened.
        By Freedom I mean individual liberty as endowed to us by our Creator and defined by just laws.  Without individual freedom all governments are despotic, no matter how altruistically they are constituted or defined.  Utopian theories and obtrusive governments,                                                whether inspired by religion, social and economic equality or any other well-meaning concept, are fraudulent destroyers of individual liberty and the human spirit.
        I am of the opinion that the current administration has neglected or actively eroded Faith, Family and Freedom on a continuing and massive scale, and that another four years of the same will be devastating to our nation.  I therefore humbly suggest that you cast your vote in support of these fundamental values.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Monday, 8:30 AM CST.  33 degrees, wind SW, calm. This morning is a repeat of yesterday morning, with high gray clouds covering the sky except for a small band of late dawn light on the southeastern horizon.  The barometer is still down.
        We have spent the last several days, and particularly yesterday, being even nicer than usual to folks we meet at the post office, on the street and at church, and they to  us.  It seems everyone wants politics to cool down a bit before the election, so that we are not immediately at each others throats again after it’s all over.  It is easy to let the rhetoric go over the top, and hard if not impossible to put it back in the bag.
        But we do, all of us, want to elect our candidate.  But of late it is hard to recognize the candidates and their respective roles.  One pundit said the other day that if he were a space alien dropped down from his spaceship he would not be able to correctly identify which candidate was the incumbent.  So much of the time now the President looks like the challenger and Romney looks like the president.  One looks tired and irritable, says small, mean things; the other looks in charge, presidential, and speaks in broadly  uplifting terms.  You be the judge, who is who? 
        Remember the old Abott and Costello comedy routine, Who’s On First, What’s On Second?  Maybe I Don't Know really is on third, and it will remain that wayt until sometime late tomorrow night, or maybe Wednesday, or perhaps sometime before Christmas.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Sunday, 9:30 AM CST. 35 degrees F, wind SW, calm at present.  The sky is overcast with high, gray clouds except for a band of clear sky on the southeastern horizon.  The barometer predicts precipitation.  It is a quiet, gray day.
        This is a special Sunday, the first Sunday before the first Tuesday in November, so I am breaking what has been a rather iron-clad rule of my blog; no political commentary on Sunday.  It is a special Sunday because we are only hours now from one of the most important elections in the history of the United States of America.  Some have likened it to the election of 1860, which elected Abraham Lincoln, ignited the Civil War, and assured the end of slavery. 
        If some say that is a gross overstatement of the importance of this coming Tuesday, consider that we are offered a stark choice for the future of the country, a true fork in the road; to the left is the road to Socialism and Statism at least, to dependence on government largess and the deadening of personal freedom; to the right lies a course toward renewed freedom of opportunity  and individual liberty, and a diminished role for a bloated and oppressive government. 
        We have been pushed inexorably toward the left in the last four years.  Another four years on the present course and we will be firmly on that path to a grim, grim future.  A future of class warfare, stagnant economic growth, and crushing debt.  A future where the American spirit has been impoverished, demeaned and factionalized.  We are being tempted to sell our birthright of freedom and independence for a bowl of welfare pottage. 
        The path to the right is uphill, but it is straight and the goal at its end is clear; freedom.  Freedom to grow, to progress, perhaps to fail…but above and beyond all, the freedom to dream.  In other words, the goal is to reach America itself, the promised land our forefathers saw from distant shores and labored towards, long before we were born.
        The President said yesterday that his followers should cast their votes for revenge.  Governor Romney said in response that we should vote not for revenge, but for love of country.  Think about it.  Revenge and recrimination, or the American Dream.  It is a stark, clear choice.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Saturday, 8:45 AM.  32 degrees F, wind SW, calm to very light.  The sky is completely overcast with high gray clouds.  We  had a dusting of snow last night, but the barometer is up.  The days are short, and winter is upon us.
        We had a nice trip, a good visit and a good time in the field, but my Madison meeting was canceled.  Didn’t find out until meeting time, and then only by my own efforts.  It turned out I was e-mailed notice on Wednesday noon, and by that time we were already on the road.  I guess nobody had my cell phone number, but that begs the question of why everyone is expected to respond to everything “just in time” today. 
        I imagine there are folks arranging their days and their very lives now by twittering and tweeting.  Everything is supposed to be instantaneous.  Frankly I think it is all a recipe for disaster, with little thinking ahead and everyone saying and doing whatever comes into their heads at the moment.  I suppose I will have to get an Iphone with a thousand apps to keep up with the daily demands of what is actually a rather simple life. “I think we are all in big trouble,“ said the old man.
        Speaking of big trouble, that reminds me of the frog in the pot.  You remember the parable of the frog placed into a pot of warm water on the stove, which he could have easily jumped out of, but it was nice and comfortable and he did not.  Then the cook turned up the heat a little bit, and a little bit more, so gradually that the lazy frog adjusted to it bit by bit, still comfortably warm and snug in the pot.  Finally the water started to boil, and that was the end of the frog, as it was by then too late to jump out.
        We are all frogs in the pot right now, with more and more government largess that feels pretty good, but goes from a lower to a higher intensity without our even noticing it, with greater and greater intrusions in our daily lives, with more and more laws and regulations and bureaucracy until we are finally cooked, no longer free frogs, but frogs legs on the dictator’s plate (the dictator being an individual, an economic or social class, a tyrannical majority, a religious faction…or simply the “state”).
        Alexis De Tocqueville saw this scenario as a progression from “soft tyranny” to “hard tyranny,” the result being the eventual elimination of freedom and the absorption of the individual by the state, and the greatest threat to democracy.
        Friends, we are approaching the boiling point, but we still have time to jump out of the pot.