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Sunday, December 30, 2012


Sunday, 8:30 AM.  10 degrees F, wind SW, calm.  The humidity is 81%, the barometer stands at 30.19 in. At dawn the lake beyond Madeline Island appeared to be a fiery, smoke belching cauldron, the sky above it wisping away into shades of orange, peach, pink and finally mauve.  It was a cold night and the fire in the library this morning is welcome indeed.
        A pair of cardinals, male and female, are frequenting our feeder these days.  Hopefully they will stay the winter, adding splashes of color to the snowy scene.  I find the subdued coloration of the female even more beautiful than the scarlet of the male, who is such a standout target that I wonder how he survives the birds of prey. I wonder if the female isn’t always looking for a husband, even if she has one at present.
         This is supposed to be a winter when there is a scarcity of food in the Canadian forests to the north, and more northern birds are expected at the feeder and on the roadsides, although they have not appeared as yet.  Some years ago we had numerous great gray owls, way out of their home range, frequenting the countryside. They would sit on fence posts and road signs, looking fierce and mysterious, and evidently afraid of nothing.
        Yesterday we took recyclables and trash to the recycle center out on Hwy. 13 past the Rez.  There was quite a crowd getting rid of empty holiday boxes and trash.  On the way back we drove down Torbick Road and our four turkeys were right there on schedule, waddling down the road as they had done several days ago. 
        I thought they were being  much too nonchalant about possible danger, so I drove up behind them and blew the horn, thinking they would fly.  Nope, they didn’t recognize a vehicle or a horn as a threat and merely hopped to the side of he road.  I think one or more will likely end up in some poacher’s roasting pan. Perhaps for New Year’s dinner.
        Well, I have tried to educate them, to no avail.  Sooner or later being oblivious to danger catches up with us all, whether we be bird or human.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Saturday, 9:00 AM.  19 degrees F, wind W, calm enough that yesterday’s snow still clings to the pine needles.  Humidity 81%, barometer 30.12 in.  the southeastern and southern horizons are filled with dark clouds which merge almost imperceptibly to gray then white and finally blue skies to the north and west.
        As readers will doubtless recall, Joseph Stalin hated the middle class, the Bourgeoisie, and like all Communists sought their destruction.  But more than they or any other class, he hated the Kulaks, the independent landed farmers who were commoners and not part of the nobility, and he actively sought not just to crush this class he could not subject, but to kill them as individuals, and he set his Commissars on track to do the dirty job.  He was immensely successful on both counts, and Russia has suffered from an anemic agricultural economy since the 1930’s, when millions and millions of Kulaks were starved to death.  It’s hard to raise food if there is nobody left alive who knows how to farm.
        The Democratic Party and the current occupant of the White House profess to love the American Family Farm and its farmers, the American Kulaks, who own their own land and operate as small businesses, rather than as corporations or mere cogs in mega-corporations. But regardless of what the party  and the President profess, they are insistent on the demise of the family farm, and one can only conclude that they secretly hate what they profess to love, for they are indeed trying to kill the family farm. 
        How? By proposing to raise inheritance taxes drastically.  The current death tax exempts up to five million dollars per estate.  The proposed death tax would cut the exemption to one million dollars, and drastically raise the tax rates on estates above that amount, which would affect most economically successful, non-corporate, family owned farms.  Therefore when a successful family farm owner dies, the farm will likely die with him, as his heirs will in most cases not be able to assume the death tax burden. 
        The only alternative for most family farms will be to become corporations if they can before they are subject to the death tax,    or to sell out to the large farm corporations, or to subdivide into small parcels, thus effectively taking precious farm acreage out of meaningful agricultural production.  I’m not a tax lawyer or an agricultural economist, but I think I’ve got this scenario dead right.
        I hesitate to speculate as to why the farthest leftwing Democrats and this President hate the American family farmers so.  But of course I will anyway. 
        I can think of no reason that the current administration should have the destructive attitudes that they do, except that they  have been steeped in Marxist-Leninist theory and propaganda for so long that they have simply all become, perhaps subconsciously, Commissars Who Hate Kulaks; and they simply cannot abide individuals who are economically and politically independent of the collective society they wish to foist upon us all.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Friday, 8:45 AM.  19 degrees, wind W, calm.  The humidity is 87%, the barometer 30.12 in.  The sun rose this morning, shining like a pale lantern inside a gray tent at dusk.  There is still a high overcast covering the dome of the sky, the ascending sun casting only a faint glow behind it.  We were gifted with about three inches of fresh snow last night, and the pine trees are heavily  festooned with it.  The stark white of new snow everywhere reflects the dim morning light, pushing back the darkness.  If the sun manages to free itself it will be a very beautiful day indeed.  The lower Chequamegon Bay is frozen over enough that small villages of ice fishing tents have sprung up across it; no pickup trucks out there yet, unless they are at the bottom.
        We took a little trip yesterday to the Four Corners Store Road, southwest of Sanborn, which is south of Ashland.  And then another four miles to Barb and Steve Robertson’s farm, where we picked up a  quarter of a beef that we purchased from them; grass fed, no hormones, professionally butchered, all the cuts wrapped and labeled.  They slaughter four black angus steers each year and sell three, this one being two and-a-half years old.  We have 159 pounds of meat, which cost $3.45 per pound.  I am estimating about one-third is ground meat, one-third roasts, and stew meat. and one third-steaks and chops.  Can’t wait to try it!  The freezer is now pretty full but there is still room for a smaller Texas wild hog, which we will see about hunting for in March.
        We saw two large flocks of wild turkeys yesterday, feeding in cornfields along Four Corners Store Road.  One flock had eighteen birds, the other around thirty.  They were quite tame, and there were a number of really huge birds in each flock.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Thursday, 8:30 AM.  17 degrees, wind W, calm.  The humidity is 81%, the barometer stands at 30.21 in.  The sky  is mostly overcast with high gray clouds. and penny-sized parachutes of fluffy snow are falling straight down, making the ground fresh and clean again.  The wind has been calm long enough now that there is a skim coat of snow covered ice on the channel,  the fist time this winter, and Madeline Island, three miles out, is almost lost in the fog and falling snow.
        We saw two deer yesterday at dusk on Townsend Road.  They are the first I have seen in a month.  I can blame that on a lot of things, including not being out and about at the right time and place, but I do believe there are fewer deer now than at any time since we moved here.  I may be wrong, but I think they have become a cyclical population in our area; wolves, bear and overly liberal hunting pressure causing population booms and busts. An area is cleared of deer, the predators move on and the deer population eventually comes back again, the cycle then repeating itself.  In any event, the Department of Natural Resources has been working hard to limit the deer population’s effect on forest tree seedling establishment and  they have evidently reached their goal.
        I have just finished reading G .K. Chesterton’s 1912 short novel, “Manalive,” which has also just been made into a movie by an independent producer.  I don’t know whether it will be coming to a theater near you anytime soon, but I can recommend that you read the book, especially if you can allow yourself to be immersed in allegorical humor .  I say that in a cautionary, not a detrimental sense.  Some people will love it, others will wonder what it can possibly mean.  The tale is set in post-Victorian England, which is something of a stretch for the modern American to reach in the first place, and the plot and characters are rather fantastical, but are meant to be so.  If one can suspend disbelief and enter a rather upside down world populated by people both larger and smaller than real life, the story becomes at once hilarious and mystical, with all sorts of moral and social lessons, a sort of modern morality play with a slapstick bent.
        Chesterton is often extolled for his “common sense, profound faith, and joy,” and this story has all those attributes.  I will not try to outline the plot, it is so full of silliness you might not want to read it, and you should. I can best describe Chesterton, as I read him anyway, as a rather maniacal poet or prophet of the joy of life. He takes to task the nihilists among us, the agnostic priests and the unscientific scientists and the unenlightened authors who see the universe and life as nothing more than random chaos, and human existence as without meaning.   His descriptions of the beauty of everyday things is unparalleled. Thanks again for the book, Doug!
        Since a lot of Chesterton’s Manalive plot revolves around a pistol, I add the following:  a New York suburban newspaper has obtained and published not only the names and addresses of persons in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland Counties north of New York City who have permits to keep a handgun in their homes; it has published a map of where they live.  It was, ostensibly, performing a service by informing the public where handguns were in their neighborhoods. 
        What they actually have done is inform every criminal which homes are protected, and which they can break into with impunity.  And my guess, having lived in exurban Westchester County for many years, is that the applications for gun permits will now skyrocket, as will the illegal (according to New York State law) possession of pistols.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Wednesday, 9:15 AM.  9 degrees F, cold enough to cause my boots to squeak on the hard packed snow of the road.  Wind W, calm.  The humidity is 88%, high enough to make some of my joints  squeak as well.  The barometer is 30.42 in., high enough that the sky should be clear but again the clouds of steam rising from the warmer surface of the lake water into the colder atmosphere coalesce into great gray clouds on the eastern horizon, which fade imperceptibly into the blue skies of the west.  The result is a not unpleasant day but it would be greatly improved with some sunshine.
        The birds are emptying the sunflower feeders pretty rapidly, the thistle feeder not so quickly, probably because there haven’t been many goldfinches around of late. 
        Wishing to get out of the house a bit yesterday we drove around our usual haunts and came upon four turkeys, all either hens or juvenile birds, walking very sedately down the middle of Torbick Road. 
        We drove up quietly behind them and they picked up the pace a bit, waddling uncomfortably along in front of us for a while, but they decided they did not like the situation and scuttled off into the woods and stood there motionless, magically turning into broken and blackened stumps poking out of the snow, all right before our very eyes.  We only see what we think we see, and if we had stayed there staring at stumps long enough we would not have remembered that we had seen turkeys at all.
        We had a nice if quiet Christmas, got phone calls from all the family and several other very welcome calls.  I think we are entering the stage where folks say, “We really  have to call Art and Joan and see if they are O.K.”  We pretty much are but it’s nice to get the call anyway. 
        Andy and Judy Larsen called.  Their son Eric is bicycling to the South Pole, and still has 500 miles to go, and then I guess to go back.  By himself.  To trace his progress go to 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Sunday, 9:00 AM.  17 degrees F, wind variable, currently W, light. The humidity is 71% and the barometer stands at 30.17 in. The eastern horizon is festooned with black clouds with silver linings, but the rest of the sky is clear.  The channel shines silver in the risen sun, and the still-clean snow sparkles brightly.
        We are pleased that our little Christ Episcopal Church will be open for Lessons and Carols at four PM this afternoon.  We only  have a handful of winter parishioners and thus only occasional services other than during the summer months.  But we have enough interest within the community at large that we will have sufficient readers and singers.  The little 19th Century  Carpenter Gothic church is very pretty in the winter, the precipitous roof and steeple adorned with snow and the interior awash in candle light.  It all will certainly bring back memories of my own childhood Christmases, reciting lessons and singing carols at Woodlawn Lutheran Church in West Allis, Wisconsin, and of our own children doing the same at the  historic St. Stevens Episcopal Church in Armonk, New York, all the participants fantastically dressed as angels and shepherds and turbaned wise men . 
        Unfortunately we will not have our grandchildren with us, nor will there, I believe,  be any children reciting or singing with us today, and that does not seem right to me, since Christmas is all about children, and about all of us being childlike in our innocence and hope for the future. 
        Let’s face it, the world seems an even darker and more foreboding place this year than last, and hope is in short supply.  But as the fourth lesson, which I am assigned to read proclaims, “…the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. "

        I will recite my lesson with hope, and fervently seek to believe.


Christmas Day, 9:00 AM.  9 degrees F, wind W, calm. The humidity is 85% and the barometer stands at 30.45 in.  Lake smoke is rising high into the atmosphere, rendering the eastern horizon and more a completely gray overcast, which blends imperceptibly into a bluer and bluer sky to the west.  A few lazy snowflakes are falling upon the chickadees that sit in the lilac bush by the porch, waiting their turn at the busy feeder. It is a  very quiet Christmas morning, and a neighbor walking her dog has been the only traffic on Old Military Road.
        Buddy was a very naughty dog on Christmas Eve, and would get a lump of coal in his stocking, if I had one.  About nine o’clock I took him out and he hightailed it for parts unknown, and didn’t return until midnight.  Of course I drove all over town looking for him but that was totally useless, since he can be gone several miles in five minutes.  I knew something was on his mind, such as he has, and it was probably frozen garbage, which he has been trying to sneak into the house for the past day or two.  I will let you use your imagination as to what kind of icy detritus it might be.  Anyway, he had a choice hunk of frozen junk in his jaws when he finally returned… thinking, I suppose, that it was a fine Christmas present for Joan and me.  And, he smelled bad.  I have no idea why a sane person would wish to keep a hunting breed dog in the house.  They are incorrigible in  their bad habits.  On the other hand they are the sweetest of pets, even when they don’t smell that way.
        We watched the West Point Christmas program last night on TV, and it reminded me again of Christmas Eve, 1776,  when George Washington ferried his ragtag 2,400 man army across the ice swollen Potomac River and then force-marched them in the black of night to Trenton, where they surprised the Hessian force early on Christmas morning, and produced the first real American victory of the Revolution. 
        There have been more Christmases than not in the past century that American troops have been fighting or on guard against the forces of evil throughout the world, and they do so still today. Freedom was not free on Christmas Eve in 1776,  and it is not free now. And neither is Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Monday, the day before Christmas.  9:00 AM, 15 degrees F, wind W, light.  The humidity is 80%, the barometer reads 30.02 in.  The sky is part high overcast and part blue, the sun rendering the eastern horizon an ethereal silver gray.  Visibility is poor towards the east, where fog banks are rising from the open water beyond Madeline Island.  A few delicate snow flakes are drifting down.  All in all it is an interesting and rather pretty morning.
        Yesterday was filled with the sound of music.  First, the Christ Church Lessons and Carols were a wonderful success, the little chapel filled almost to capacity.  The candles flickered, the tiny choir of three young girls sang beautifully.  We had a marvelous tenor from the Rez who sang several songs, the organist performed flawlessly, the readers intoned mightily, the impromptu audience sang lustily, the officiating priest was properly priestly; no one set anything on fire with the candles they held (although  there were a few close calls), and all in all it was one of the nicest Christmas programs Joan and I have ever attended.  We have our Indian neighbors to thank for the girls in the choir, the tenor, the priest and about half the audience. Without them there would not have been much of a service.
        The later evening was also filled with The Sound of Music, that is the movie, which has become a Christmas classic in its own right. Joan has it on DVD, but we just relaxed and watched it on TV, commercials and all.  We never tire of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, both miraculously still singing on film, even though Julie has since lost her voice, and Christopher sings now in some heavenly choir. 
        The Sound of Music has everything; it has children, hope, bravery, humor and of course music, and good triumphs over evil in the end.  We watch riveted during the escape scene, and laugh as the Heil Hitlering Nazis are outwitted by the simple nuns of the Salzburg convent. The movie is all the more effective because it is part truth and part fiction.  Most of the story is true but the music is pure Hollywood (yes, Dorothy, there once was a good Hollywood). 
        The best fiction of all is that the song Edelweiss is presented as an Austrian folk song and surrogate national anthem, when it is pure Broadway invention.  But we sing it as though it is the truth, and thus it eventually becomes the truth, and almost a Christmas carol in its own right.  And why shouldn’t it be such, since it extols, beauty, love, faith and freedom.
        Tonight being Christmas Eve it would be nice to hear some carolers at the door but that is perhaps a bit too much to hope for in little Bayfield,  as cold, snowy and silent as was Bethlehem 2012 Christmases ago.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Saturday, 8:45 AM.  19 degrees F, up from 10 degrees an hour ago. Wind W, calm at ground level. The barometer stands at 30.12 in., the humidity is 83%.  The sun rose in a clear sky this morning, announcing its arrival with a soft orange glow that suffused everything with its warm presence.  Now the sky is mostly cloudy with countless small, puffy white clouds.  The eastern horizon is  pink, suffused with broad streaks of gray and mauve.  It was cold enough earlier that I put Buddy’s jacket on him, but he really didn’t seem to need it as he madly ran up and down the road and through the woods.
        By the time you read this, the ex-Marine, Jon Hammar, who has been confined to the toughest prison in Mexico for months for crossing the US /Mexico border with an antique shotgun he had been told was legal to bring with him, will have been released by the Mexican authorities.  Not much  thanks to Barack and Hillary, I might add.
        Mexico has some of the world’s most  restrictive gun laws; make that weapons laws, in the world.  The US border crossing at Tijuana tells US citizens not to enter Mexico with so much as a small pocket knife, as all “deadly weapons” are illegal to carry, transport, or in most cases even possess in one’s own home.  And yet we all know how unsafe it is in Mexico these days, the average citizen caught in a literal crossfire between the drug cartel gangs, common criminals and a corrupt and oppressive government.
        And, as Corporal Hammar can attest, penalties for weapons possession are so severe that one can easily spend half a life-time in prison for a simple violation.  The criminals and the police of course can transgress these laws with impunity, courtesy of the corrupt Mexican legal and penal system.  The Mexican constitution has no Second Amendment guarantee that ordinary people may possess and bear arms, nor do many  other countries around the globe.  In fact the first act of dictators of both the right and the left is to confiscate the guns of law abiding citizens.  And the average individual can pretty much forget about hunting for food and sport.  That is a tradition reserved almost exclusively for the wealthy and the noble or political classes.  You can even pretty much add Great Britain to that list as well.
        So when you hear the anti-gun rhetoric of the far left in this country, think of Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, China, Russia (and unfortunately merry old England), and soberly consider what  you want for yourself and your heirs in the way of self-protection from criminals and dictators. 
        And think seriously about whether you want the high powered computers of the federal government to keep track of your legally purchased and owned weapons, ready at a mouse-click to inform the Jack-booted authorities where and how you live and what resources you have to protect  your home, family and business. Or consider the equally devastating opposite, available to cops and robbers alike; which homes and businesses have no guns,  and can therefore be invaded with impunity.
        By the way, it seems the goons always end up wearing Jack-boots; I guess it has something to do with the sartorial mystique of the oppressor.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Friday, 9:00 AM, and we’re still here. The sun burst through lingering black clouds this morning, right on schedule, and chased them away to somewhere over the horizon.  29 degrees F, wind NW, moderate with stronger gusts.  The humidity is 81% and the barometer has risen to over 30 in. I shoveled  drifted snow from the drive and walks this morning but it was rather invigorating and not really a chore.  As regards end of the world predictions, I think the ancient Mayans simply got tired of chiseling numbers into stone. 
        At last, the winter solstice has arrived and as of today the sun will begin its journey back to the frozen Northland, bringing with it first light, and eventually warmth.  Early Christians appropriately appointed Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ, on a date when the sun has begun to again return to the Northern Hemisphere.  Unfortunately it does the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, although it doesn’t seem to dampen spirits there, and old St. Nick can arrive in arctic clothing in warm and sunny Brazil as well  as in cold and dark Norway, although it all seems a bit bizarre.  In any case, the message of love, peace and renewal is the same all over the world.
        I received an unexpected and much appreciated little Christmas gift yesterday from longtime blog reader Douglas  Petersen of Albemarle, North Carolina; a little book, “Manalive,” by G. K. Chesterton.  Doug introduced me to the works of Chesterton a while ago, and I read and then reviewed for blog readers his outrageously humorous and yet metaphysical work, “The Man Who Was Tuesday.”  “Manalive” promises to be as enjoyable a read.
         I suspect that Chesterton is not for everyone, but he is for me. Thanks, Doug!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Friday, 8:30 AM.  28 degrees F, wind variable, gusty.  I shoveled about an inch of snow this morning, and it continues to snow icy, needle-like, crystalline flakes.  The visibility is poor, the channel completely obscured by misty snow and fog.  The barometer stands at 29.88, slightly up from yesterday.  There is a major storm moving NE out of Colorado and Kansas and present conditions may be an outlier of it.  Buddy glories in these conditions, running and playing with anything he can find to pick up and toss about.  He doesn’t seem to mind the weather, even though he doesn’t have much of a winter coat.  When it gets really cold I put Lucky’s old jacket on him.
        I have been wondering: is it unreasonable for me to be apprehensive about giving the same people, who brought us the deadly “Fast and Furious” gun running fiasco, greater authority to control gun ownership in the United States of America?  I think not.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  23 degrees F, wind WSW, calm.  The sky is again completely overcast with low dark clouds, but for one small patch of lighter clouds directly above. The barometric pressure is 29.75, unchanged from yesterday.  I am about to light a bonfire and pound a drum to summon back the fleeing sun.
        The tundra swans continue to stop to rest on the lower Chequemagon Bay at Ashland.  There seems to be a pattern of arriving around noon, at least that’s what we see.  Lately the individual flocks have been small, with perhaps a total of one hundred birds or less scattered about.  I don’t know if they stay for only a short while and then move on towards their migratory destinations, or if, like many resident geese, they fly out to look for food in the early morning and then return later to extend their stay
        Yesterday we saw  very large packs of ice moving about in the channel to the south,  about half way between Bayfield and Washburn.  We didn’t expect to see pack ice yet as there hasn’t been that much really cold weather, but there it was, prognosticating deeper winter.
        It is to be expected that the politicians and much of the media should be calling for stricter gun control in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre.  Unfortunately it will not be a balanced approach but will be driven by anti-Second Amendment forces.  In the words of the Attorney General, spoken at an earlier time; “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” 
        Unfortunately, that attitude became apparent about halfway through the President’s memorial address, when he switched from mourning rhetoric to campaign mode.  Unrealistically, I keep looking for Ronald Reagan, but I keep finding Barack Obama.


Wednesday, 8:30 AM.  25 degrees F, wind WSW, calm to light.  The sky is again completely overcast, although we had a bit of filtered sunlight yesterday afternoon. The humidity is 90%, the barometric pressure 29.95 in., up a bit from yesterday.
        Last evening Joan and I attended a retirement reception for Cari Obst, Bayfield Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center director for the past ten years.  Cari put Bayfield on the national tourist map, put the Chamber finances In the black, and dramatically increased its membership.  Her position is being filled by good friend and associate David Eads, formerly Cari’s go to guy.      .
        The reception at Bayfield’s landmark Old Rittenhouse Inn was filled with good food and good companionship, and we were once again impressed with the local small business community that includes very many of our friends and acquaintances. I often complain about the weather and other things, but Bayfield is truly a special place filled with very talented and special people, and we were reminded again yesterday of why we moved here.
        The gun control battle has now begun in earnest, and one fact I would like to present, without prejudice, as they say in court, is that the worst school shooting in America occurred in Bath, Michigan, in 1927, when the elected school district treasurer shot a number of students and teachers and then blew up the entire school with dynamite that he had been secreting for months in the school basement.  Forty-seven students and teachers were killed. Maniacal evil is not a new phenomenon (for additional information see, Gorden Osteen's post of 12/16/12).
        That aside, I have been considering for years why so many Americans (including myself) defend their second amendment right to keep and bear arms even when they personally do not feel particularly threatened with crime or violence.  Commentators (columnist Bernie Goldberg made a statement yesterday) are now beginning to say outright what I have thought myself for a long, long time and what I posit now:
        America was born in violent revolution against a distant and despotic government.  The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, was necessary for the Constitution to be ratified by the original thirteen states of the Union.  The Founders' fear was not only or even principally of crime and violence, or of foreign oppression, but of the Federal Government itself, and that fear continues to exist in the American psyche, and is fed today by the overreaching and some would even say the dictatorial ambitions of the current administration. 
        One of the easiest ways to allay the fears and overreactions of the American public as regards gun laws is for the far left to stop its assault on the Second Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights.
Absent that, gun sales of all types will continue to soar, as they are at this very moment in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. 
        Unfortunately, the President and his Administration evidently do not know, and will not even try to understand, the tens and tens of millions of their own countrymen who will continue to cling not only to their bibles and their guns but also to their constitution.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Monday, 9:00 AM.  27 degrees F, wind W, calm to very light.  The humidity  is 85%, the barometer 29.75 in., holding steady.  The morning is again dark and dreary, befitting our moods. At least it is not raining or snowing, and we only have three more days until the solstice, when the sun will  begin to creep back to shed some warmth and light upon the cold, dark northland.  As the song says, We Need A Little Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Sunday, 9:00 AM. 36 degrees F, wind W, light.  He sky is overcast with low, dark clouds.  It rained some during the night and the streets are slowly being relieved of the slippery slush that had been their burden for days.  The humidity is 93%, and the barometer is steady at 29. 61 in. 
        The day is as dreary as our spirits.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Saturday, 9:30 AM.  38 degrees, wind northwest, light.  Humidity 85%, barometer 29.85.  the sky is overcast with high dark clouds. The sun is nowhere to be seen.  It is a dark, dismal morning, which even the crows seem to be complaining about.
        The tragedy at Sandy Hook is difficult for any parent or grandparent to process and it would be trite for me to try. I shall say that I can understand it only in the old, old way of thinking, which may not actually be so far from the truth  our modern minds may finally accept . Such horrors as we are witnessing these days are best described as pure evil, and logically evil must have a source.  Either the perpetrators of such base evil are actually possessed (does science have a better explanation?) by an external force,  or there is true evil inherent in every human being, which may under the right circumstances possess any of us.  Either case should give us pause to consider the evil each of us, having free will,  is capable of. 
        If one accepts the premise of “possession,” one might then ask what factors in our personal lives and in society aid and abet possession by evil?  I believe we can lay much of the blame on a handful of fundamentally negative influences in our modern lives: constant bombardment of children with sexual images and information that is way beyond their ability to cope; acceptance by society of every imaginable deviant behavior, under the aegis of personal liberty;  constant  immersion of all of us via the media in realistic, gratuitous violence; the confusion and search for love by children of broken homes; the acceptance and glorification of the drug culture; parents keeping children in an ongoing state of dependency well into adulthood, which breeds infantile feelings of inadequacy and puerile narcissism, and ultimately of rage as a young adult; and finally, the philosophical concept  that all morality is situational, with no firm absolutes. 
        What I have said is incomplete and of course patently politically incorrect, but it is time to draw back the curtain, and see things as they really are.  We are witnessing the dissolution of our society. 
        I fervently wish the President had called for a national day of prayer and mourning for not only the children of Sandy Hook, but for the nation. He has been visibly moved by this tragedy, but as yet seems incapable of being the wise and unifying leader we so desperately need.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Friday, 8:45 AM.  25 degrees F, wind presently calm . The humidity is 90% and the barometer is holding steady at 30.21. The sky  is again completely overcast and the sun nowhere to be seen.  The sky was dark at sunrise, and the waters of the channel even darker.
        Buddy did not eat his dog food yesterday.  He accepted treats, so I ruled out any kind of ailment.  Then this morning I found the cause of his lack of appetite, in the shape of an empty  rabbit skin that he was tossing around. The rascal had caught and eaten a rabbit.
        Now that is a considerable sin for a bird dog, but I feel I have to cut him some slack since he survived on his own in the forest for some time before we got him, and catching rabbits was obviously a necessary evil.  Besides, it does no good to reprimand a dog after the fact,  he would not understand my actions. But he will have to learn to walk the straight and narrow path, or in his case to madly run down it.
        So, Buddy, go and sin no more, but the next time you succumb to temptation, you will have to pay for your transgressions, like the rest of us poor sinners.


Thursday, 9:00 AM.  wind W, calm.  Humidity 90%.  The sky is completely overcast with snow clouds.  Lake smoke and snow render visibility very poor.  A few minutes ago the snow was falling steadily with nickel and dime sized flakes but it has since changed to a fine wet snow, which is falling straight down.  There is a current accumulation of perhaps two inches.
      It is amazing how much warmer and less drafty the house is now that I have pulled the storms down on all the combination storms and screens.  I somehow forgot to secure a number of them until we noticed certain parts of the house were pretty uncomfortable during the resent cold snap.  Even thermal double windows need storms in Bayfield!
        This has been a morning when it feels as though one were inside one of those snow globes that you shake and it recreates an idyllic winter scene.  I won’t attempt to clear it from driveway and environs until it stops. The evergreen trees wear the fresh snow as though it were an ermine mantle, and the largest look like kings and queens, the lesser their royal entourage.
        So, the government is going to print $46B (that’s billion, with a B) every month to buy US Bonds, until the unemployment rate goes down to 6%, or whatever.  We are simply writing IOU’s to ourselves to pay our current account bills, which makes the old check kiting ruse look like honest accounting. At least in days gone by the royalty would have had to melt down the gold and silver dinnerware to pay their bills;  our royalty simply takes it out of our pocket by making our currency worthless.  The whole scenario is so idiotic it is difficult to take seriously, but it will affect us all very seriously indeed as food and other commodity prices continue to skyrocket.
         The government, of course, is wagering that the American public is so stupid it will not make the connection between monetary policy and crushing inflation.  Sadly, it’s a good bet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  15 degrees F, wind WSW, light.  Snow is beginning to fall, big fluffy flakes about the size of dandelion seeds with their little parachutes, and the sky is uniformly overcast with gray cloud cover.  The channel is enveloped in “lake smoke,” the fog that rises from the surface of the waters as they begin to freeze.  I dug out old Lucky’s dog jacket and put it on Buddy, who has much less fur to keep him warm, and he seems to appreciate it, does not try to remove it.   “Biiboon,” it is winter!
        We are now fully shoveled out, as I did the decks this morning, and ready I guess for Old Man Winter’s next trick.  Thanks again, Coastguard neighbor Sam.  Of course the city plow truck will soon round the bend and plow the end of the driveway shut again, like a cork in a bottle.
        The following message is for friend Judy and anyone else to whom it may apply:  Please don’t classify yesterday’s blog as one of my “rants,” it is of course Swiftian satire, but if it is not recognized as that then it is not very good satire, so I hope it passed muster. 
        I have not sent out Christmas greetings as yet because I couldn’t decide between a Christmas letter or a traditional card.  My annual report, so to speak, is getting redundant, if not downright boring, so a card it shall be.  For my blog readers, I will send the following e-card, courtesy of neighbor and blog reader Jane, who sent it to me.  I think it is very appropriate. Go to:


Wednesday, 8:45 AM.  15 degrees F, wind SW, presently calm at ground level, but with mottled gray atmospheric clouds moving from west to east at a fair rate of speed.  The sun, such as it was, rose a faint pink streak on the southeastern horizon.       
        I am still intrigued with the tundra swan migrations that touch down in Ashland on Chequamegon Bay.  Yesterday when driving into Ashland from the west on Hwy. 2 at 11:00 AM we looked closely and could see only three swans.  While eating lunch in the lakefront park (Ashland does a nice job of clearing its streets and sidewalks and was easy to get around and park one day after the storm) at 1:00 PM we were fortunate enough to see a small flock of six swans fly in from the east.  When we left Ashland at 4:00 PM swans were dotted all over the lower bay off the power plant, perhaps forty or fifty of them.  The shallower water with the emergent vegetation that they eat freezes readily so they were out pretty far in open water and hard to count.
        I am astonished that Michigan, virtual home of the US union movement, has passed right to work legislation.  A lot of people, including even conservative pundits, do not really understand such laws, and explain them only in rudimentary points of fact such as one can refuse to belong to the union in the workplace, and that one need not pay union dues to go to work. I have not heard any explain what I  think is the greatest danger and injustice of mandatory, by law, union membership; that is the threat, if not the actuality, of the union being the sole hiring agent for the employer, and a job applicant having to go to the union hall and pay dues before being sent to the job site.  This used to be very prevalent in construction and stevedore unions (remember Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront?) and leads directly to organized crime controlling not only the union but the work place.  Being required by law or contract to join the union within so many days of being hired is only a little better.
         In any case, the union movement, supported by the Democratic party, is not going to let this go down easily.  There has already been mob takeover of the capitol building and violence on the capitol grounds, and as one Michigan state legislator said, “Blood will be spilled.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  15 degrees F, wind WSW, light.  Snow is beginning to fall, big fluffy flakes about the size of dandelion seeds with their little parachutes, and the sky is uniformly overcast with gray cloud cover.  The channel is enveloped in “lake smoke,” the fog that rises from the surface of the waters as they begin to freeze.  I dug out old Lucky’s dog jacket and put it on Buddy, who has much less fur to keep him warm, and he seems to appreciate it, does not try to remove it.   Once again, in Ojibwe: “Biiboon,” it is winter!
        We are now fully shoveled out, as I did the decks this morning, and ready I guess for Old Man Winter’s next trick.  Thanks again, Coastguard neighbor Sam.  Of course the city plow truck will soon round the bend and plow the end of the driveway shut again, like a cork in a bottle.
        The following message is for friend Judy and anyone else to whom it may apply:  Please don’t classify yesterday’s blog as one of my “rants,” it is of course Swiftian satire, but if it is not recognized as that then it is not very good satire, so I hope it passed muster. 
        I have not sent out Christmas greetings as yet because I couldn’t decide between a Christmas letter or a traditional card.  My annual report, so to speak, is getting redundant, if not downright boring, so a card it shall be.  For my blog readers, I will send the following e-card, courtesy of neighbor and blog reader Jane, who sent it to me.  I think it is very appropriate. Hope you    can access it, I had trouble uploading it it to the blog.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Monday,  9:30 AM.  24 degrees F, wind W, moderate with stronger gusts.  It is still snowing.  It began about 8:00 PM yesterday evening and by this morning we had a good six or seven inches on the ground.  Fine, granular, crystalline stuff, although the flakes falling now are a little larger.  I awoke to the sound of a snow blower directly outside our bedroom window.  Sam, our young Coast Guard neighbor was clearing the worst of the accumulation from the driveway, while his two boys shoveled a path to the front door.  I accept the kindly act with gratitude, as I still  had plenty to do cleaning up around the edges,  and shoveling the porch and decks.  Joan had an eye doctors appointment in Duluth but this is a real blizzard and we will not chance the roads, even with the truck.
        I don’t know about anyone else, but I am tired to death of hearing about, and arguing about, the rich, the poor and the fiscal cliff.  As for the latter, if it weren’t for the consequences to the military budget and national defense, I would just as soon we drive over it as continue to discuss it.  Neither side in the argument seems that fearful of the result, and perhaps the consequences would be better than the present situation.  At least we would begin to cut the size and expense of the federal government.  And, it might turn out to be quite an adventure.  Perhaps it would even spawn a new party, since if the politicians drive us over the cliff one might hope they would all perish in the process.  Less government, less debt, a balanced budget and all the obstinate  politicians eliminated.  Too much to hope for, I am afraid.
        But as for the rich and the poor, or more correctly in today’s political lexicon the upper class and the lower class,  I have a modest little proposal.
        Since vast numbers of the American population do not consider themselves either one or the other (even though most of us in the middle are being driven inexorably into poverty), I  propose that we who are caught between this rock and a hard place secede from both classes, and let those two extremes take care of each other. 
        By “take care of” I do not necessarily mean eliminate each other in actual battle, but rather that they go off by themselves and argue with each other as to who deserves what, and who should pay for it.  The wealthy 1% can certainly afford the 10% or so that are truly poor, so let them duke out the details.  As a matter of fact, the truly upper class should be required to hire the truly lower class, and pay them a living wage and benefits, thus leaving the rest of us to take care of ourselves, which we can do I am sure if we no longer have the burden of the two extremes.
        But for myself, I do not just want to be separate from both these parasitic classes in a philosophical sense, I wish to be physically  separate from them. I think they  would all fit nicely within the state of California, and if there is any overflow Portland and Seattle would welcome them, although those climates are not conducive to either surfing or living on the street. I am sure the current occupant of the White House would be quite comfortable in Sacramento, which could be their capital, and he would be well rid of the rest of us who he really doesn’t like very much, and we of him.
        The upper class and the lower class after all appreciate pretty  much the same life styles; legalized pot, perhaps some occasional blow, kinky sex lives, living on the edge, not working or doing much of anything that is productive.. They should get along very well together in general, I believe.  I would be loath to give up New York City, however.  It is too genuine. I am undecided about Chicago and Detroit, but being as  they are Midwestern I still hold out some faint hope for them.
        Finally, I will quote Shakespeare’s Mercutio, the unfortunate character in Romeo and Juliet, who gets in the middle of the sword fight between Romeo and Tybalt and says as he is dieing, “ ’Tis not as wide as a church door nor as deep as a well, but ‘twill suffice.”
        I am afraid that the wounds this incessant, politically manipulated class warfare and resultant debt and inflation are causing the rest of us will also  “suffice, ” and that we too shall perish.
        Thus I echo Mercutio’s final words; “A pox on both your houses!”

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Sunday, 9:00 AM.  32 degrees F, wind W, calm to light.  The sky is completely gray overcast, the sun nowhere to be seen.  A major snow storm has been predicted, which was supposed to have started yesterday evening, but it has not arrived as yet.  It feels like snow, and all things seem conducive to it.
        It seems almost impossible, but the yuletide season is rapidly approaching.  Our little Bayfield church, Christ Episcopal, no longer has enough parishioners to hold regular services in the winter, but we have been celebrating Advent by getting together Sunday afternoons to read and discuss Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and its historic context and effect on the season and on society.  We all know the story  of old Scrooge and the three Christmas ghosts, but it is good to read it again, with all its Victorian London imagery.  The book had a profound effect on our perception of Christmas and what it means to be a Christian.
        An American contemporary of Dickens, Washington Irving, also wrote about Christmas, but with a more humorous approach.  I suggest his “Old Christmas” be read during the season, as well, and I am going to do so today.
        Although I am far from being any kind of authority on the subject, It has always seemed to me there were two rather distinct periods of real flowering of the English language; the Elizabethan period (Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible), and the Victorian (Dickens, Irving and others).  Dickens, certainly, transports even the modern reader convincingly back to another time, place and social context.
Sunday, 9:00 AM.  32 degrees F, wind W, calm to light.  The sky is completely gray overcast, the sun nowhere to be seen. 
A major snow storm has been predicted, which was supposed to have started yesterday evening, but it has not arrived as yet.  It feels like snow, and all things seem conducive to it.
        It seems almost impossible, but the yuletide season is rapidly approaching.  Our little Bayfield church, Christ Episcopal, no longer has enough parishioners to hold regular services in the winter, but we have been celebrating Advent by getting together Sunday afternoons to read and discuss Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and its historic context and effect on the season and on society.  We all know the story  of old Scrooge and the three Christmas ghosts, but it is good to read it again, with all its Victorian London imagery.  The book had a profound effect on our perception of Christmas and what it means to be a Christian.
        An American contemporary of Dickens, Washington Irving, also wrote about Christmas in somewhat the same vein, but with a more humorous approach.  I suggest his “Old Christmas” be read during the season, as well, and I am going to do so today.
        Although I am very far from being any kind of authority on the subject, It has always seemed to me there were two rather distinct periods of real flowering of the English language; the Elizabethan period (Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible), and the Victorian (Dickens, Irving and others).  Dickens, certainly, transports even the modern reader convincingly back to another time, place and social context.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Saturday, 9:00 AM.  25 degrees F, wind W, calm to very light.  The sun rose an hour ago, a weak orange blob far down on the southeastern horizon, that then more or less disappeared as it ascended into the gloom.  At present the sky is a mottly amalgam of gray clouds suffused with small patches of blue. 
        Snow is predicted by late afternoon or evening, continuing into tomorrow, and there may be a considerable accumulation.  I have at least managed to round up most of the  leftover stuff of summer that got caught out in the first snow storm, and the rain barrels have been put under the porch.  We have to make a trip to the recycle center this morning and then I guess we are ready for it.   
         More about trumpeter swans:  reader Bev Volpone, of Monticello, Minnesota, reports that over 2,000 trumpeters winter annually near her home town, which is on the Mississippi River about half way between Minneapolis and St. Cloud.  Warm water discharged from a nuclear power plant keeps the river from freezing over at that point and the town  has a refuge, Swan Park, from which the birds can be viewed.  There are many interesting stories and facts about the swans and the folks who help shelter them.   Visit the City of Monticello swan web site, http//  A live web cam is in operation from mid December to March.  Bev and her husband sail out of Bayfield during the summer months. Joan, Buddy and I now have a new place to visit on the way to Colorado or Texas, or on a nice weekend getaway.
      Buddy may well get a cramp while trying to point 2,000 trumpeter swans through the window of the truck. What's a poor dog to do?

Friday, December 7, 2012


Friday,  9:00 AM.  26 degrees F, wind W, calm at present.  It is again overcast with a patch or two of blue. Yesterday it turned windy and somewhat sunny in the afternoon and that seems to be the pattern, and hopefully today will take the same turn.    I did clean the chimney yesterday.
        First, let us remember that this is Pearl Harbor Day, and as FDR said, “a day that shall live in infamy.”  I am afraid there are fewer and fewer Americans alive who can remember that infamous day.  I myself was only five years old and do not remember the attack, although I  remember much of the rest of the war.  I do remember cousins and uncles going off to fight, and there are even some old  photos around somewhere of them in uniform.  Anyway most humans, and I think particularly Americans, do not normally dwell long on events of the past. Rather, we Americans at least, are futurists, and by and large that makes it easier for us to forget past grievances, and forgive.  Certainly most of us hold few grudges now against the Japanese.  But if we forget such things entirely, we risk history repeating itself.
        I have been telling readers about the continuing migration of tundra, also called whistling, swans, huge white native birds with black bills, easily distinguished from the European mute swans, which have yellow bills.
        The other day we saw one much larger swan in the tundra swan flock on the bay at Ashland, and further thoughts have led me to believe it may have been one of the now rather rare trumpeter swans, which I have read may travel with the tundra swan flocks.  This bird was really quite a standout.  Although I am not any kind of ornithologist or serious bird watcher, I did do some online investigation, and found that not only is the trumpeter much larger than the tundra swan, the tundra usually has a yellow mark just below the eye at the top of the beak, and the trumpeter usually does not.  The later also often carries its long neck in more of an “s” curve when swimming or taking flight, whereas the tundra swan swims with a straighter neck.  The trumpeter also has a communicative display in which it bobs its head and neck up and down while vocalizing as it swims.  If any reader has additional knowledge about swans please comment.  For more information go to the Trumpeter Swan Society website. Wisconsin has a large federal wildlife sanctuary near Necedah, where swans stop during migration. 
        In any case, we will be sure to take binoculars along on future Ashland trips.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Thursday, 8:45 AM.  37 degrees F, wind WSW, light at present but with occasional strong gusts.  The sky is overcast with high gray clouds again, but yesterday turned out to be a nice sunny day so today may as well.  I hope so, because the chimney needs to be cleaned.  It is no longer drawing well, and that is a final, so to speak, warning. It is time to do so anyway, as I usually clean it fall, midwinter if we have a thaw, and spring.
        The tundra swans just keep on migrating through, I wonder if anyone has made any kind of a rough count in Ashland, where they congregate on the bay.  Yesterday there were only a few at 11:00 AM and at 1:00 PM there were probably fifty.  As far as I could see, they were all white feathered adults, no dusky colored young.  That must have been a flock which had poor a poor nesting season.  I wish we could have seen them arriving, as they are magnificent in flight.
        California is deconstructing;  taking itself apart piece by piece.  I have been watching it happen for some years now…punitive taxes, every restriction on business imaginable, high unemployment, social chaos, billion dollar railroads to nowhere, and systematic destruction of the world’s finest agricultural industry.  And to top it off, if you haven’t seen it, now there is a cartoon produced by the California teachers’ union (obviously meant for children or child-like adults) which culminates in a cartoon rich person pissing on cartoon poor people.  Nothing subtle about California class warfare.
        I have, or had, a lot of relatives in California.  Of four maternal uncles, three made their way to the “Golden State” by Model T in the 1920’s, and three uncles eventually settled and raised their families there.  The opportunities were great, everyone made money and did well, one even became what the Democrats now classify as “rich.”  Oranges and pomegranates and almonds grew in their back yards.  The oil wells were everywhere. California was an earthly Paradise.
         Those days are fast diminishing, if not already gone, and California is no longer golden and the descendants of my pioneering uncles have begun leaving to find jobs in colder climes, themselves victims of a self-destructive society.
        If I were God, I would rethink the whole idea of letting human beings into heaven.  I would have St. Peter shut those golden gates posthaste.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Wednesday, 8;30 AM.  22 degrees F, wind W, calm at present, and if it weren’t it would be frigid.  The sky is overcast and it looks as though we will not see the sun much today.  In the Ojibwe language they say "Biiboon," (it is winter).  I really do believe my barometer is stuck and I will probably have to get a new one.
        The bird feeders have not enticed any bruins from their dens, and are attracting a lot of birds, mostly chickadees and nuthatches, we have seen nothing more uncommon as yet.
        Social commentary: I probably shouldn’t put my foot in this one but I can’t help it, and I will be pilloried for it I am sure. 
        The punditry is busy, busy, busy trying to analyze the  unfortunate murder/suicide committed by a Kansas City Chiefs football player.  A large amount of the discussion (some of it violent in and of itself) focuses on the so-called “gun culture,” upon bizarre accusations of a secret plot against black youth, and more seriously, railing against the Second Amendment right of citizens to own guns.    The National Rifle Association and everyday citizen gun owners are being demmonized, as though they were somehow responsible.  There is tragedy and blame enough to go around for the problem of violence in our society, and I am not going to try at this point to make any defense of anybody or anything in this all too common tragedy.
        But I will be so bold as to assign some blame.  I have heard a lot of different arguments and theories regarding “what went wrong” last Saturday, but one that I have not heard is the contributing, and  I think dominating, factor: life style.  Here were a very young man and woman, literally wallowing in money, living together and even having a child together, without making the most basic of commitments to each other, in the form of a marriage vow.  It seems neither made a formal moral or legal commitment to each other or to their child.  It appears that both came and went out of their home and each others lives as they pleased.  The murderer (let’s call him what he was) had another woman.  Love, sex, jealousy, hate, violence…this is an explosive scenario as old as humanity, repeated over and over, down through the millennia, irrespective of race, ethnicity or culture.  The gun was almost an innocent bystander.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Tuesday, 8:15 AM.  26 degrees F, wind S, moderate with stronger gusts.  The sun climbed a scaffold of black clouds at dawn, eventually reaching a mostly blue sky.  The weather changed dramatically overnight and it is finally a sunny, cold, wintry day again, a relief from the dark, gloomy weather that had been hung around our necks like a heavy weight for the last ten days or more.  Bayfield had become Seattle, and this feels more normal.
        The bird feeders got hung up on the back porch yesterday; two with sunflower seeds, one with thistle seeds, and the chickadees found them as soon as I closed the patio door.  I still have to buy some suet/seed blocks.  I hope the neighborhood bear has gone to sleep.
        I assume by now that you have heard of, and seen the photo that “went viral” on the internet, of the NYC cop who bought socks and boots for a barefoot homeless man and put them on his freezing, blistered feet.  Now that homeless person is seeking “a piece of the action” that he assumes there has been from the story and the photo, and he is now back on the street, barefoot again.
        It is said, and we should fully expect, that no good deed goes unpunished. Or even appreciated, for that matter, as in this case. 
        So what should we make of all this?  Simply that good deeds are their own reward, and are not contingent upon approval, disapproval, reward or punishment.  The homeless man would not be sitting on a New York sidewalk with bare feet if he were a rational person, so we shouldn’t expect a rational response to a good deed.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Monday, 8:15 AM.  40 degrees F, wind again W, calm.  The sky is again uniformly overcast with high gray cloud cover.  There is a band of lighter clouds on the eastern horizon but that is the only sign of the sun.  At dawn the whole east hemisphere of the sky was suffused with the faintest pink light, which was very soft and beautiful, and yesterday evening the moon and stars were caught  in a fine mist net of high clouds.  The  barometer has not yet risen from the depths of its depression.
        I  have mentioned before the excellent news periodical published by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), available by contacting the organization at MAINA’IGAN, P.0. Box 9, Odanah, WI 54861, phone 715-682-6619, and mailed free to US and Canadian citizens.   The current issue has many interesting articles, but one that really captured my imagination regards the ongoing efforts to increase Pacific salmon and lamprey spawning on the Columbia River. 
        There are a series of dams on the river, including the largest, Bonneville Dam, built in 1933 during the heyday of United States dam building for flood control and electricity production.  These dams, unfortunately, blocked the spawning runs of the Pacific salmon and lamprey, greatly damaging the economies and lifestyles of the Indians living in the Columbia River watershed, as the native population harvested these species for both their own use and for trade. The cultural and economic damage to the tribes did not end there, as their best crop land, and many village sites and burial grounds were inundated.
        Over the years, fish ladders and other devices have been installed to allow the migrating fish to swim upstream and complete their life cycles.  GLIFWC’s counterpart, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, has worked with the federal government to increase both the production of the fishery and Indian access to it (building parking lots, boat ramps and access roads to the river, which is otherwise rather inaccessible due to the high water and steep banks created by the dams).   
        The whole cooperative venture has been so successful that lampreys and salmon now not only migrate upriver to spawn, but congregate in great numbers in pools below the dams waiting their turn to ascend the ladders.  At first this appeared to be a great opportunity for the Indians to catch the fish; but soon the great concentration of fish attracted hordes of sea lions, who would not pass up an easy meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner).  One would think that the Indians now would have the best of all worlds, feasting on the sea lions as well as the  salmon and lamprey.
        An aside: in the Great Lakes region the lampreys, which are an invasive species parasitic on salmon and other large fish, are killed in electric weirs in the spawning streams as well as poisoned in the larval stage.  Perhaps we are missing the boat, so to speak, and should be eating them and even exporting them to the Pacific Northwest and to France, where I understand they are considered a great delicacy, like eels and snails).
        At any rate, it turns out that the Indians do not in actuality have the best of all sea worlds, as the sea lions are a protected species and cannot be killed and eaten, or even physically removed. So it is the sea lions that eat many of the fish which would otherwise continue up river to spawn and provide for the Indians, who are again left holding the  bag, or in this case an empty net.   
        There is an upside to this upside down story, however, as scaring the sea lions away from their seafood feast with specialized fireworks has become the summer job of college interns…who one assumes are learning far more about ecology on the banks of the Columbia River than in the classroom.
        But I wonder if the story ends here, and I think that perhaps the grizzly bears may yet come o feast upon the feeding sea lions, and then the killer whales upon the swimming bears.  And who knows what Mother Nature may yet have in mind for the zany two-legged creatures who started it all?    

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Wednesday, 8:45 AM.  22 degrees F, wind W, calm at ground level with gray, sometimes rosy-gray clouds moving rather quickly from the west at a moderate height.  There is a considerable patch of blue sky on the NNE horizon but the sun is rising through silver-lined dark clouds in the SE.  The barometer predicts snow, which we got another couple of inches of late  yesterday afternoon and which I scraped off the driveway this morning.  It is a very quiet morning in Bayfield.
        Reader Doug Peterson of Charlotte, NC recently put me on to the writings of G. K. Chesterton, whom I had never read.  It must have  been some minor act of fate when I found a new reprint of his “The Man Who Was Thursday,” at the What Goes Round bookstore in town a few days ago.  It is even published in large print, which of course I don’t need, but may be useful to some of my elderly friends as it gets passed around.  I was enthralled by this book which at times is uproariously funny (I haven’t laughed like that in years)  and at other times deeply philosophical and religious.  Thanks, Doug.  He also sent a photo of his eleven year old granddaughter and the eleven point buck she shot this fall in Louisiana. Ah, youth!
        I also thank Bayfield reader Heidi Nelson for her immediate and generous response to our Tree Board resolution regarding trees for Rittenhouse Ave. in downtown Bayfield.  She sent a check for $100 towards a tree fund to Mayor Larry MacDonald, with a note saying she remembers years ago when the Avenue had magnificent old sugar maples that shaded the street and lit up the town with their fall colors.  That can’t be too long ago, as I consider her still just a kid.
        I often wonder who reads my scribbles and why they would do so.  It gives me considerable gratification when I find out. 
        Hundreds of tundra swans are still on the bay in Ashland, scattered about, and bobbing on the waves like blobs of ice.  It is hilarious to see these huge birds tip up their bottoms into the air as they crane their long necks down into the water feeding on vegetation that is rooted in the shallows.  It has occurred to me that they perhaps are mooning us humans (and me in particular) for that is what it looks like, but I don’t know why they would bother to do that.  Could be, though.
        We head to Madison tomorrow for an Urban Forestry Council meeting on Friday, so no blog for a day or two. Hope the roads are O.K.


Sunday, 8:45 AM.  35 degrees F, wind W, calm.  The day is a ditto of  yesterday, and the barometer suggests it won’t change anytime soon.
        It being Sunday and not in my habit of making any political statements on the day, the converse of that might be to make a religious statement, but that would not be proper either.  So I think a philosophical, or if you will, a poetical statement suits Sunday rather well.
        Accordingly, I will present the poem which dedicates G.K. Chesterton’s “The Man Who Was Thursday,” the novel I wrote about a few days ago, and the reader can decide what category it fits.  The poem and the book are dedicated to Chesterton’s boyhood friend, Edmund Clerihew Bentley.  I could easily appropriate it for rededication to one or more of the friends of my own youth, and perhaps, if you are old enough, you could do the same.  The poem was written in 1908, a time of worldwide turmoil and social upheaval equal to or greater than our own present time, and just before the terrors of the First World War.  I believe it is perfectly understandable without a lot of background information, but ask Google if you feel you must.

Title:     To Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Author: G. K. Chesterton


A cloud was on the mind of men, and wailing went the weather,
Yea, a sick cloud upon the soul when we were boys together.
Science announced nonentity and art admired decay;
The world was old and ended: but you and I were gay.
Round us in antic order their crippled vices came--
Lust that had lost its laughter, fear that had lost its shame.
Like the white lock of Whistler, that lit our aimless gloom,
Men showed their own white feather as proudly as a plume.
Life was a fly that faded, and death a drone that stung;
The world was very old indeed when you and I were young.
They twisted even decent sin to shapes not to be named:
Men were ashamed of honour; but we were not ashamed.
Weak if we were and foolish, not thus we failed, not thus;
When that black Baal blocked the heavens he had no hymns from us.
Children we were--our forts of sand were even as weak as we,
High as they went we piled them up to break that bitter sea.
Fools as we were in motley, all jangling and absurd,
When all church bells were silent our cap and bells were heard.

Not all unhelped we held the fort, our tiny flags unfurled;
Some giants laboured in that cloud to lift it from the world.
I find again the book we found, I feel the hour that flings
Far out on fish-shaped Paumanok some cry of cleaner things;
And the Green Carnation withered, as in forest fires that pass,
Roared in the wind of all the world ten million leaves of grass;
Or sane and sweet and sudden as a bird sings in the rain
Truth out of Tusitala spoke and pleasure out of pain.
Yea, cool and clear and sudden as a bird sings in the grey,
Dunedin to Samoa spoke, and darkness unto day,
But we were young; we lived to see God break their bitter charms,
God and the good Republic come riding back in arms:
We have seen the city of Mansoul, even as it rocked, relieved—Blessed are they who did not see, but being blind, believed.

This is a tale of those old fears, even of those emptied hells,
And none but you shall understand the true thing that it tells--
Of what colossal gods of shame could cow men and yet crash,
Of what huge devils hid the stars, yet fell at a pistol flash.
The doubts that were so plain to chase, so dreadful to withstand--
Oh, who shall understand but you; yea, who shall understand?
The doubts that drove us through the night as we two talked amain,
And day had broken on the streets e'er it broke upon the brain.
Between us, by the peace of God, such truth can now be told;
Yea, there is strength in striking root, and good in growing old.
We have found common things at last, and marriage and a creed.
And I may safely write it now, and you may safely read.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Saturday, 9:30 AM.  324 degrees F, wind WWSW, light. Roof icicles are  dripping.  The sky is overcast and gray, the waters of the channel are gray, Madeline Island is gray, it is, without a doubt, a gray day.  The gloom is somewhat lightened by the whiteness of the snow, which is also melting in a rather gloomy fashion.
        We had an easy trip to Madison, the roads were good and Thursday was a nice enough day  that we stopped at  the McMillan state wildlife area near Marshfield and tromped around with the shotgun, but we found no pheasants (and I didn’t really expect to).  Buddy had his usual good time hunting and had plenty of treats on the trip.  He is a great traveler, and sleeps in the truck at night without any fuss.
Joan did Christmas shopping in Madison while I was at the Urban Forestry Council meeting, which accomplished a lot of work towards a five year strategic and action plan.
        The Council is a diverse group, and in includes two professional foresters from two different Wisconsin utilities.  They were both back from two weeks helping clear power lines and streets of fallen and dangerous trees on the East Coast.  They  worked nonstop.  This is the setup:
        The utilities nationwide have mutual assistance agreements and come to each others aid in emergencies.  There were crews there from as far away as California and Texas.  They brought their own support equipment, gasoline trucks and supplies and ate and slept in two hundred man tents (the latter services provided by sub-contractors also part of the mutual aid agreement).  Lights out at 10:00 PM, on at 4:00 AM, no alcohol allowed. All were paid their regular rate and overtime and made a lot of money.  The emergency expenses are spread out nationwide as a cost of doing business.  Hundreds of evergency response utility personell came from Wisconsin alone, and (I believe this is correct) 14,000 professionals came to the East Coast from around the country.  Both said it was very gratifying work as people were extremely relieved and grateful to have them show up in their devastated neighborhoods, doubly so when they found out that they came from all around the nation.
        All this is business to business cooperation, and works.  Whether the federal government has any coordinating role I don’t know, but I rather doubt it.  What do the people at FEMA know about utility work?  This would seem to be a mutual assistance model for other aspects of the nation’s economy.  There could be (perhaps there are some, I don’t know) mutual assistance agreements directly between cities, and between states.  What, other than monetary assistance, does the federal government really have to offer?  The FEMA response to Katrina was poor, and the response to Sandy underwhelming to say the least.  But you know the politicians will never accept a lesser or non role in these tragedies, as it gives them great photo opportunities and bragging rights if things go right (and brings on their blame game if things go wrong).
        After what I heard first hand about mutual assistance response I still have a number of questions, but the most  nagging question is this: why wasn’t this great story reported by  the news media?