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Sunday, November 30, 2014




Sunday, 8:45 AM.  13 degrees F on the ferry dock, 10 on the back porch.  Wind W, gusty.  The sky has a high overcast, the humidity is 73% and the barometer is rising, now at 29.99".  It looks to be a rather average winter day, and I will  get out in the woods a bit later, unless the weather worsens.
   Saturday had looked promising, with temperatures predicted to be in the 30's.  They made it, for about ten minutes around noon.  Lured by a rising thermometer and a brief spate of sunshine, I dressed moderately and got out into the woods. I thought the deer, such as they are, should be moving.
   As soon as I got situated along the logging road the temperature began to drop and the sun disappeared, swallowed by a humid gray atmosphere that seemingly congealed around the dully glowing orb.
    It didn't snow, it didn't just got colder, windier and more humid until it felt like it must do something...but never did.  By the time it started to get dark I felt like I was encased in an icicle.  It took a warm dinner, a pull at the cooking brandy and a long sit in front of the fire to thaw me out.
   Oh, well... they didn't promise me a rose garden.

Saturday, November 29, 2014



Saturday, 8:30 AM.  25 degrees F at the ferry dock, 22 on the back porch. Wind SW, calm with occasional gusts.  The humidity is 88% and the barometer is falling, now at 29.6".  It is a gray, shapeless morning.
   I went out hunting yesterday afternoon from 2:30 to 4:30 but saw nothing.  There were no fresh tracks in the recent snow, which was an accumulation of about 4".  Added to what was already on the ground it made for tough going for me along the logging road, particularly on the way back to the truck after sitting two hours in the 18 degree cold.  There was little wind at ground level but there was an obvious tussle of opposing weather systems if one looked skyward; white clouds advancing from the west across blue sky clashed with a broad black band of Lake Superior clouds that covered the east half of the dome of the sky.
   I heard no shots yesterday, and have heard none since opening weekend.  I don't think there are many hunters in the woods, and I hear no coyotes, much less wolves, as evening approaches.
   My friend CG Jonson, the owner of the property I hunt on, called last evening to see how I was doing and to check on the progress the logger has been making.  I reported on both subjects, and he informed me that he had bagged a spike buck near Spooner, about an hour and a half southwest of Bayfield.  He had no luck there last year and said the deer population appeared to be rather low but the deer in good shape in that area.
   Eventually the northern deer herd will recover, given a few easier winters, as there has been so much logging everywhere that there will be plenty of browse to support a larger population.  But there will never be as many deer, or as large, in the north woods as in the farm country in the southern half of the state, where they have more food, warmer winter temperatures and less snow. That said, there is an aesthetic attached to hunting in the big woods that is missing elsewhere.

Friday, November 28, 2014


 (photo from internet)



Friday,  8:00 AM.  10 degrees F, wind W, calm with occasional light to moderate gusts.  The sky is cloudy and overcast, with snowflakes the size of a dime falling straight down, and we may get some accumulation.  The humidity is 86% and the barometer, currently at 30.20", is trending down.  I will go out to the deer woods this afternoon.
   We went to the Village Inn in Cornucopia for thanksgiving dinner late yesterday afternoon, with friend Claire as our guest, since she, as we, were unable to spend the holiday with family.  I took Hwy. 13 out, and it was not in good shape, being snow covered and icy.  I didn't wish to drive it in the dark so on returning took Hwy. C to Washburn and thence on Hw. 13 north to Bayfield, about a twelve mile detour but the roads were in much better shape.
   I found a really good new sling for the deer rifle, to replace the one that Buddy chewed up.  This one is made of super tough nylon, and should be dog proof.  It also adjusts much easier than the old, military-style sling that was original to the gun.  Buddy has promised to behave himself.
   I have refrained from commenting on the Ferguson shooting and its aftermath until all the official facts were in and I had a chance to think about them.  The incident was and will continue to be a tragedy for the community, the family of the slain young man, and the officer involved, but it appears to me that in this instance justice was served by not indicting the officer.
   The Grand Jury far predates our American experience, and was established in English common law as a protection against the monarchy harassing its subjects with false arrests and trumped up charges. It is a secret process in order to give protection to the jurors and the witnesses from bribery or retaliation by the authorities or others involved in the case.  The Grand Jury is a protection given to all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or social standing, and is as valuable a right and freedom today in America as it was many centuries ago in England.
   The riots and looting, not only in Ferguson but elsewhere, make a travesty of our ancient and honorable system of justice, which is the best in the world, despite its shortcomings. I have personally experienced  some of the worst riots and unrest of the sixties and seventies, which destroyed whole neighborhoods and even entire communities, many of which are not yet fully recovered even a half century later.   I believe that arsonists, looters and anarchists are criminals and should be arrested for their actions, and if marshall law is decreed should be shot on sight.
   The other most recent shooting death of a young black boy by police is another mater entirely. Travis Rice, age twelve, was playing with a paint ball gun replica of an automatic pistol in a Cleveland park.  Someone called 911 to report a child with a gun, saying she did not know if it was a real gun or not.
Police responded, and almost immediately shot the boy, who died the next day.  Of course there may be some extenuating circumstances, but the rapidity of the deadly response renders them unlikely or very tenuous.  The officer who shot the boy was twenty-eight years old, perhaps not old enough to be familiar with the actions and foibles of young boys, and probably too old to remember those of his own childhood.  Did anyone bother to try to talk with this child before killing him?  The incident is truly tragic, all the way around.
   Such tragedies are, however, totally predictable and I believe it is our society and how it raises children, particularly boys, that is responsible.  We have taken play away from children, except for violent and realistic video games.  Boys are aggressive, it is in their biological heritage.  I will posit that boys play with toy guns and other make-believe weapons because those are species survival tactics, programmed within them to train them to be warriors  and protectors of their family, their clan, their nation.  A boy male toddler is almost as likely to say "Bang! Bang!" as "Ma!Ma!"
    Ridiculous? Hear me out!  If a boy child doesn't have a toy gun he will make one, even if its is by taking an appropriate bite out of a ham sandwich in the elementary school cafeteria.  If he doesn't have even that he will use his index finger and a cocked thumb.  By trying to stop rather than to properly channel this natural aggression we penalize the child for his innate behavior, creating anger and frustration which can increase dangerously over the years.
   Many of today's children also tragically grow to adulthood without learning the fundamentals of behavior in adult human society.  The Ten Commandments are passé, replaced by sociological pablum which teaches that everyone should be nice to each other but that there is no "right" or "wrong", since all morality is situational and therefore there can be no guilt.   Our society denigrates positive male role models, including husbands and fathers, often with vicious and unfounded personal attacks.  We ban rough play on the playground, and little boys do not learn the results of overly aggressive behavior from their peers. A black eye when bounds are overstepped in play is a good early lesson in civility for a boy.
   We have dumbed down sports, even baseball, to eliminate the possibility of every minor injury, at an age when boys in particular should learn what hurts and why, and that there are rules against certain behavior.  We worry about them falling off a playground merry-go-round, when the real danger is that someone may shoot them dead before dinner time.
   When I was a boy we often played cowboys and Indians.  I usually wanted to be an Indian because I could make believe I was scalping a cowboy with my tomahawk, after shooting him with my bow and arrow. Pretending to be a fierce, proud, wild Indian was a lot of fun, certainly more fun than Sunday School class.
    Alternatively, we played cops and robbers.  Being a robber was also a lot more fun than being a cop, except that the cops always won.  Certainly my mother would have had it no other way, and our childish consciences, nurtured by the Ten Commandments,  steered us in that direction anyway.
   Left to their own play normal children will usually figure out who is the bad guy and who is the good, and learn that there can be honor on both sides of the fight, and that there are such  things as justice and fair play. Of course, a watchful parent should keep an eye on things to be sure they don't get completely out of hand, but it should not be  forgotten that children at play make up their own, usually pretty good, rules.   By the way, I have never harbored any inclination as an adult to shoot a cowboy or anyone else, nor to rob a bank.
   So what do we do with little boys today?  We emasculate them even before puberty, by taking away their natural play, and alternatively allow them to be alone in  darkened rooms, unsupervised, to be force-fed the most violent and obscene video games and TV programs, where there is no difference between good and evil, and no consequences for one's hostile, crude or immoral actions.
   What should we think the reaction is going to be to life's unpleasant circumstances as emotionally crippled, gender confused and morally immature little boys grow into men?  And what will be the reaction of a young police officer when confronted by a boy with a toy gun, if he himself never had one to play cops and robbers with?  The likely result is more playground tragedies, and rendering little boys yet another endangered species.

Thursday, November 27, 2014



Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, 9:45 AM.  8 degrees F, up from 4 degrees earlier. Wind SW, mostly calm. The sky is mainly clear except for billowing clouds of "lake smoke" (steam) rising from the still open water of the channel.  The humidity is 83%, the barometer high, at 30.45" but leveling off and beginning to turn down again.
   We had intended to visit oldest daughter Greta in Ohio for Thanksgiving but we all decided that the weather was just too threatening to make the trip.  Common sense has prevailed, but we are disappointed at not being among family on this universal holiday.
   So, we will celebrate the day by driving out to the Village Inn in Cornucopia for dinner, and friend Claire from church, who is also alone for Thanksgiving, will join us.
   The cold,  and several inches of new snow that needed shoveling,  precluded going deer hunting this morning, but I may head out for a bit later.  It looks like tomorrow will be a snow day, but the weekend weather looks promising.
   Despite all the curtailing of plans and all the attendant bad weather, we are thankful for countless blessings on this Thanksgiving Day, which finds ourselves and family members generally healthy,  relatively prosperous and quite happy.  We especially celebrate the fundamental liberties we enjoy as Americans under the Constitution and the Rule of Law, without which we would live in poverty, misery and anarchy.
  And above all we thank God for establishing us and our heirs in this land of freedom and opportunity, and we pray for these our blessings to be extended to all people of good will, in our own country and throughout the world.
   Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Wednesday,  8:00 AM,  20 degrees F, wind NW, calm with very light gusts.  The sky is cloudy with a high overcast, and it looks like we will get some lake effect snow today.  The humidity is 87% and the barometer is starting to rise a bit, now at 30.22".
   Joan has an appointment in Ashland today and we have some shopping to do as well, so I won't get out into the woods until late afternoon, if then.
   Yesterday turned out to be a cold but beautiful day.  It took some time to clear the snow from drives and walks in the morning, but I did go out to the deer woods in the afternoon.  The temperature was only in the low twenties, and colder in the woods, but there was no wind and the sun shone brightly.  I was surprised at how much new snow there was in the woods, and there was considerable drifting in places, making walking difficult at times.
    I forgot my gloves in the truck so my hands got cold when I couldn't keep them in my pockets.  And that was most of the time I was walking, since my pal Buddy ate the leather sling on the deer rifle and I had to carry it cradled in my arm with an ungloved hand.  It was really my fault, since I had left the rifle lay on the back floor of truck, which is Buddy's spot.  Being leather and full of my hand scent and probably salty, it was just too tempting, I guess.
   Buddy, and all dogs, I suspect, cannot categorize things easily.  Therefore, he can learn not to chew on a particular glove, or shoe, or whatever, but to him that is only that one, not all gloves, shoes, or gun slings.  He is easily taught not to chase the neighbor's cat...but all other cats are still fair game.  The sling was not in good shape anyway and I will get a new one for myself for Christmas; but the rest of the gun deer season the rifle will be carried in the crook of my arm while walking, not slung over my shoulder.
   The deer had not been moving, as there was only one track, that of a small deer, in the fresh snow.  I had intended to move  to some better nearby cover but found the snow almost up to my waist so abandoned that idea and sat in the same spot as on Monday.   I was warm until the sun sunk behind the hill to the southwest, and then the cold began to seep into my bones and I found it difficult to keep still, so  I decided to walk back to the truck a little early.
   Stepping slowly and  quietly in the soft snow, I hunted my way back to the truck, stopping every twenty paces or so to look back along the logging road in case a deer came out behind me, but I was really just going through the motions.
   As I looked back for  the final time, a large deer walked across the trail, right into the woods where I had been sitting.  I saw no antlers, and it would have been a poor shot in any case.   It had probably been watching and waiting for me to leave.
   A bit more patience, a little more time sitting still...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014



Tuesday,  9:45 AM.  20 degrees F, wind S, calm with occasional light gusts.  The sky is mostly clear, the humidity 75% and the barometer is rising, currently at 30.05".  The storm deposited about 4" of new snow, light enough to be shoveled easily from walks and driveway before breakfast.  It is a nice winter day.
   Yesterday's early morning weather changed from rain to snow and progressed from there to more-or-less blizzard conditions, which continued throughout the day until becoming relatively quiet by nightfall.  Our dutiful tree board members all came to the 10:00 AM meeting and endured my lengthy reporting on the urban forestry meetings I attended in the last two weeks and the challenges that the new incursions of emerald ash borer bring to northern Wisconsin.
   Trapped by the brutal weather, I spent most of yesterday afternoon reading the winter issue (Biboon 2014/2015) of Mazinai'gan, A Chronicle of the Lake Superior Ojibwe, which is published quarterly by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.  The periodical always has pertinent, well written articles on fish and game, forestry, historic preservation, native language education and the political and cultural activities of the eleven Ojibwe tribes of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan.  It is delivered free to residents of the United States and Canada and I recommend it highly to anyone interested in environmental and American Indian issues.  Visit their website at for further information.
   I did not brave yesterday's weather to go out in the woods.  I am either becoming a softie or have finally acquired some common sense.   This winter makes me think of my maternal grandparents who braved Wisconsin winters without running water, indoor plumbing, central heat, appliances,  telephone or a functioning vehicle.  Heat was provided by a kitchen wood stove and a potbellied stove in the parlor that burned wood and coal.  My principal memory of my grandfather is of him poking cut up apple tree prunings one by one into the stove, seemingly all winter long.  I herewith forswear any and all complaining about winter weather.
   My present plan is to see what things look like by noon today, and probably hunt from early afternoon until dark.

Monday, November 24, 2014



Monday, 8:00 AM.  34 degrees F and falling.  Wind NNE, calm with occasional gusts.  The sky is overcast, it is foggy and large snowflakes are falling; it looks like we may get some accumulation, and  the road was getting slippery as Buddy and I took our morning walk.  The humidity is 92% and the barometer, now at 29.22",  is starting to rise.
   Yesterday afternoon was densely foggy, warm (mid-forties) and very wet.  I got out to the deer woods around 2:00 PM and sat until dark without seeing any deer, but fresh signs of deer activity...tracks and droppings...were evidently left during the night or early morning. The extreme dampness left me feeling stiff and cramped.
   With no deer activity I had to occupy my mind with something, so thoughts and camera turned to one of the small understory trees nearby.  Ironwood, Ostrya virginia, in the birch family (Betulaceae), is a common component of the northern mixed hardwood forest.  It seldom reaches a height of more than twenty or thirty feet under the canopy of oak, mapple, basswood and conifers such as balsam fir and white spruce.  The trunks seldom reach a circumference of more than six inches diameter at breast height, and the flaky bark of older trunks is a predominant winter identification characteristic.  Some of the small, elm-like leaves often remain on the tree in winter, as do the dormant male catkins, usually appearing in whorls of three. The dormant buds are small and sharply pointed, the young twigs reddish brown. The flowers and seeds are borne on the new twig growth, and resemble those of hops; thus another common name for this little tree, hop hornbeam.  As the common name ironwood implies, the wood is extremely hard and tough, with a very tight grain due to its slow growth.  Carpinus caroliniana, also in the birch family, is another small,  forest understory tree that also has the common name of ironwood.  It is also called blue beach, or muscle wood, because of it peculiar, sinewy, smooth bark.  It is usually found somewhat farther south in Wisconsin but the ranges of the two ironwoods can overlap.
   This morning will be occupied with our monthly Bayfield Tree Board meeting, and I will have a lot to report on from my recent urban forestry meetings.
   A rising barometer,  snow and colder temperatures are predicted for today. If it makes sense to me I will go out and hunt the incoming front later this afternoon.  If it doesn't, I will wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 23, 2014



Sunday, 8:00 AM.  42 degrees F at the ferry dock, 38 on the back porch.  Wind west, calm with light gusts.  The sky is overcast and there is considerable fog over the water.  The humidity is 96% and the barometer, currently at 29.47", is still trending down.
   The weather yesterday ended up pretty much as predicted, the gusty SW winds gradually calming, while the weather became relatively warm and sunny, reaching into the high thirties by afternoon.  I got out into the woods well before dawn and got  to a spot I had found along a pretty well-trod deer run, but it was cold and uncomfortable and I had a hard time staying still; so much so that I decided to go home for lunch and a nap, as I had been up since about 4:00 AM.
   Back in the woods, about three 0'clock I saw two deer while I was walking on the logging road.  They appeared, one after the other, on the crest of a hill, perhaps 125 yards away.  The first was a doe, that looked directly at me while standing broadside, which would have been a decent shot for me if it had been a buck.  She moved on and another deer immediately followed.  I could not see any antlers so had to assume it to be another doe, but it did not stay on the road long.  It would have been a quick shot and probably not successful had it been a buck.  I waited for a minute or so without moving to see if a buck would follow but one did not.
   I saw nothing after that until closing time at 4:45 PM.  I was getting cold again by then and the walk to the truck was a matter of loosening up stiff joints and muscles on slippery snow.  Two early morning's in a row seemed beyond my present ambitions, so Joan and I will go to breakfast at the Egg Toss in town and I will go out to hunt again this afternoon, when the weather will presumably change again.
   I am encouraged by seeing some deer, and maybe luck will be with me this season.  The fact that I hunt alone now complicates things, as I must take care to shoot a buck where I can get it out of the woods by myself.  If I can get it to the road I can always find someone to help me lift it into the truck.  At this point I can still drive down the logging road with the four-wheel drive truck, but if it gets slippery that nay not be possible.  Getting stuck would complicate things even more.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Saturday, 5:50 AM..  The thermometer has been rising rapidly, the temperature now 32 degrees F,  rising to the mid-thirties by noon.  The wind, which is  gusty at present,  will be SW, diminishing throughout  the day.  The barometer, currently at 30.27"", will be falling rapidly throughout the day, in advance of stormy weather moving in late Sunday.  There is starlight, but no moon.
    Conditions are very changeable, and whether that encourages the deer to move straight to heavy cover or to go out to feed before the storm arrives is anybody's guess.   I will go into the woods and see what happens.




Friday, 9:00 AM.   11 degrees F,  wind westerly, with moderate gusts at ground level.  The sky is filled with fish scale clouds, which presage a coming storm.  The humidity is 76%, and the barometer, which has been very high, is falling rapidly.  It looks like bad weather is in the offing.
   Yesterday evening I went out to look for deer tracks at my deer stand.  I put the truck in low-range four-wheel drive, and drove up and down the logging road to be sure I could get in to hunt on opening morning, but if the temperature rises as predicted I won't be able to negotiate the melting snow.  There are indeed deer tracks in the deep snow, and it is tempting to imagine they were made by a ten point buck. But since tracks have no antlers, I will be a realist.  They are probably the tracks of a lone doe and her fawn, and most likely left by them in the light of the moon at midnight.
   The president's speech last night on immigration was about as enigmatic as the deer tracks, and leaves as much to the imagination.  I wish someone would pull the plug on his teleprompter.
   There is another enigma, on the Bayfield waterfront: a replica of the Statue of Liberty, flanked by four American flags.  I pondered what it all might mean yesterday evening: to me the four flags stand for Freedom, Democracy, the Constitution, and the Rule of Law.  Without those cornerstones, the Statue of Liberty can promise nothing to anybody, and without them the President's speeches are  vacuous rhetoric, reminiscent of King George III's incoherent rambling in the final days of his congenital madness.  It seems we have a king; perhaps we need a regency.

Thursday, November 20, 2014



 Thursday, 9:15 AM.  11 degrees F, wind NW, with light to moderate gusts.  It is snowing lightly.  The sky is overcast an there is fog and blowing snow.  The humidity is 73% and the barometer is rising, now at 30.01".
   Our trip from Bayfield to Duluth and on to Wausau and back home was grueling but well worth the effort.
   We started out Tuesday morning in what has become the all-to-familiar lake effect,  white-out blizzard, but once out of Bayfield County it cleared up, and roads and weather were wintry but O.K. until we returned on Wednesday afternoon and we again encountered lake effect conditions from Minaqua north all the way to Bayfield.  By now we are in our winter-survival driving mode...find the cleared lane and stay in it, take it easy, no quick movements and don't pass unless absolutely necessary.
   We drove US Hwy. 53 diagonally SE from Duluth to Chippewa Falls, about two hours through mainly forested country (mostly-oak hardwoods and pine) with a few towns and rivers evident but not much else.  The further south one gets the more often farms pop up in the landscape and the more patchy the forested areas become.  At Chippewa Falls we took Wisconsin Hwy. 29 east, driving about two hours to Wausau, a medium sized city in the center of the state. WI Hwy. 29 is straight east and west all across the state from the St. Croix River western border to Green Bay.  We had never driven the portion we  traveled Tuesday, and were greatly surprised at the scale of the farming all the way.  The farms are large and evidently very prosperous, mostly dairy farms from the looks of them but a lot of mixed agriculture as well.  Corn was still being picked, a highly mechanized operation with corn cobs, leaves and stalks all being chopped and left on the field and corn kernels loaded directly into wagons to be driven by tractor to driers and granaries.  All so much more efficient than what I remember it being as a youth.
   Hwy. 29 is divided, four lane and mostly limited access, one step below an Interstate road, but in many localities there were caution signs regarding Amish buggies on the road.  I find it amazing that the Amish, with horse-drawn equipment and traditional, mostly 19th Century technology, can be profitable enough to purchase what must be very expensive farmland indeed.  I would expect that it is their community oriented, conservative social and economic philosophy that allows them to survive; and the fact that they don't go heavily into debt for modern equipment.  In any case it is good to see archaic  methodologies exist alongside the modern, and and the old knowledge and skills preserved.
   There was a pretty good turnout of city foresters at the Wausau meeting, despite the weather.  The recent find of EAB (emerald ash borer) in Rhinelander, in far northern Wisconsin, has everyone on-edge and looking to see how the problem is being handled.  We had a fine presentation by a new Department of Natural Resources team that is developing ways of handling large amounts of wood from dead urban trees by utilizing modern logging equipment,  and recycling it into saw logs and other products.  To watch their interesting video, just click on .

Tuesday, November 18, 2014



Tuesday, 7:30 AM.  12 degrees F, wind variable, with gusts.  It is overcast and foggy with considerable lake effect snow falling.  The humidity is 81%, the barometer more or less steady at 29.93".  The snow continues to mount up, well over 2' has fallen in Bayfield in the last 7+days, and the Michigan U.P., just down the road, has gotten 50+".
   A top climatologist is now saying we are well into a thirty year cold cycle brought on by weak sunspot activity.  Makes sense to me.
   We are traveling to Duluth this morning and then diagonally across northwestern Wisconsin to Wausau to attend a Wednesday meeting of regional city foresters.  The meeting will focus on the recent find of an Emerald Ash Borer infestation in Eagle River in northern Wisconsin.  This puts Bayfield right in it's path from three directions, and we won't escape this scourge much longer.
   No time for a longer post, and no post tomorrow.  The roads are still awful so it will be a tedious trip, at least along the lake shore.  Play us  a little travelin' music, please.

Monday, November 17, 2014



Monday, 9:00 AM.  14 degrees F, wind NW, calm with moderate gusts.  The sky has a heavy, low overcast and lake smoke is rising from the channel.  The humidity is 81% and the barometer is more or less steady, and now stands at 29.80".  It is snowing lightly with about three inches of new snow on the ground, giving us at least two feet of snow in the last week,  and there is  a lake effect snow advisory through tomorrow morning for northern Bayfield county.
   We have to spend most of today in Ashland, with a dentist appointment for Joan and a lot of shopping ahead of a busy schedule of travel, meetings and deer hunting in the next ten days.  The early winter with heavy snow and bad roads has taken a toll on our schedules and activities. And to top it off,  I haven't had a chance to take the rifle out and do some shooting before deer season, and this afternoon is probably the last chance I will have to do so.  It will be a busy day.
   Yesterday we all sort of just crashed, but we did get out to my deer stand, the Ridgeline again managing the snow really well.  Buddy raced up and down the logging road blowing off pent up energy, and Joan helped me spot deer tracks crossing the logging road to strategize where the best confluence of deer runs, such as they are, might be.  There are enough tracks that it gives me some hope of seeing a buck on opening weekend.  I haven't seen any buck rubs, although I haven't really done much exploring in the deep snow.  I will have to hunt near the logging road, as I will never be able to drag a deer very far by myself through the deep snow and heavy brush.
   Congress is also getting ready to finally vote on the Xcel pipe line, the Senate Democrats bringing the matter up now in an attempt to help Louisiana Democrat Senator Landrieu in her upcoming runoff election with a Republican challenger, even though the President will surely veto the joint bill if it passes.
   The whole pipeline project has been a political football right from the start, and is evidently a moot question after six years, as the oil industry has moved on and completed the southern half of the pipeline, from Nebraska to Louisiana, and rerouted much of the northern US route, which serves mainly US oil production,  through existing pipelines and rail transport. The Canadian oil will find its way to refineries and markets by other routes. Economic issues on the scale of the Excel pipeline are not likely to be determined by legislation or the lack thereof,  only delayed and made more expensive. And the Congressional Budget Office says that completing the pipeline will have no effect on carbon emissions, since the Canadian oil will get to the world market without it.
   Truth and logic are always the first casualties in political warfare.

Sunday, November 16, 2014



Sunday, 10:00 AM.  22 degrees F, wind SSW, moderate with strong gusts.  The sky is mostly clear except for "lake smoke" (steam) rising off the channel and high into the atmosphere.  The humidity is still 79%, and the barometer is trending down, now at 29.90".  Buddy and I had a cold, slippery walk earlier in a biting winter wind.
   Yesterday was a catch-up day after  hectic travel left us all a bit tired,  Buddy and I did stop by the land behind the apple orchards where I usually deer hunt to check things out.  We were both happy to really stretch our legs after all the hours in the truck.
    The logging equipment has been relocated somewhere else and in doing so it packed down the deep snow enough that we negotiated it fine with the all-wheel drive locked in and got back to where I have relocated the deer stand.  I am afraid that I will not get it up this season as I can't raise it without some help and time is getting short.  There are deer tracks  in the deep snow near my new location, and I may do just as well without it.  In any case, it looks like I will be able to get around O.K. in the knee-deep snow.
   The 5:30 PM ferry from La Pointe was all lit up yesterday at dusk as it glided past the empty slips of the Bayfield municipal marina.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Saturday, 9:00 AM.  15 degrees F, wind WSW, calm with moderate gusts.  The sky is mostly clear with a few stubborn, errant snowflakes falling. The big storm and its follow-up left us with about twenty inches of snow on the ground and icy, snow-packed roads.  The humidity is 85% and the barometer is starting to head down again. currently at 30.33".
   The trip to Madison on Thursday morning started out badly, driving in an unexpected white-out much of the distance between Ashland and Hurley on US 2, and also for quite a distance south on US 51.  I would have turned back and stayed home if I wouldn't have had to drive as far back as to forge on and hopefully get out of the mess.  South of Wausau there wasn't much snow and the roads were pretty good.  Madison was as cold and windy as Bayfield.  The road conditions were O.K. on our return last night.
   The deer rut is beginning I am sure, as we saw does moving several times on Thursday, even in the blizzard.  For the next several weeks it will be very important to watch for deer on the roads.  Even though the deer herd is obviously way down in numbers, it seems  there is always one ready to jump in front of your vehicle during the rut.
   The Urban Forestry Council meeting was very interesting, and the usual show-and-tell by DNR staff welcome enough, but the current big topics are the use of recycled wood from urban trees for consumer products, and a new initiative, a statewide (ultimately national as well) Urban Tree Inventory Assessment.
   Recycling urban trees when they die from insects, disease, or other factors is certainly a worthy goal.  Turning them into lumber, veneer, construction beams, furniture, etc. is certainly a higher use than making wood chips or firewood from them, and gaining all those products far better than sending trees to the landfill.  Currently there is a lot of interest in this subject by the general public, the wood products industry,  engineers and craftsmen, and it has become rather fashionable to utilize recycled urban trees.  This is all to the good in my estimation, as long the trend is driven by market forces and not by intrusive and uneconomic government programs.
   A majority of Wisconsin communities, certainly all the larger cities, now have computerized inventories of street and park trees.  There is valuable information in these inventories which should be categorized and shared for common use.  Such things as tree species and varieties, growth rates, mortality, insect and disease information, and esthetic qualities all are important to good urban forestry.  Many of these factors are also part of traditional forest management on public and private lands, and the premise is that this systematic inventorying of information should logically be extended to  urban areas.  This makes sense and essentially I agree with it,
   However, as always, the devil is in the details.  Getting all public urban tree inventories, existing and future, into a common data base is a relatively straightforward task which would not be too expensive and time consuming to do.  But the plan is to extend the inventory onto private property (evidently with the owner's permission, or at least via municipal legislation), and that is where the devil lies.  This is proposed to be a completely blind study, with no one but the investigative agency knowing the process or the end data.  The neighbors are not to know what is going on while the inventorying of  a neighboring property is taking place.  The sample plots are relatively large for an urban setting, one-sixth of an acre.  When asked how many plots were being proposed, the answer was, "we haven't determined that as yet."  When asked what the ultimate cost would be, the answer was the same.
   I personally am extremely dubious of an ill-defined, secretive, open-ended, hidden-cost government program of any kind, no matter how benign it may seem.   The random collection of raw data on private property without a well defined public purpose seems uneconomic at best, and smacks of totalitarianism at the worst.  At this point I am opposed to the extended program, which is fostered by the US Forest Service and therefore will ultimately be national in scope.
   But, as has recently been said about voters and Obamacare,  maybe I am just too dumb to understand the proposal.

Thursday, November 13, 2014



Thursday, 8:15 AM.  23 degrees F, wind variable, with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is overcast, foggy, and it is snowing moderately hard.  The humidity is 83% and the barometer is rising slowly, now at 30.29".  There are several more inches of snow atop the foot or more already dumped on us by the initial blizzard
    We are leaving shortly for Madison to attend an Urban Forestry Council meeting at the US Forest Products Laboratory, which is on the UW campus.  We hope the road conditions are decent.  The Madison weather forecast looks very similar to that of Bayfield.  It will be an unseasonably cold trip.  Buddy, as usual, is going along.  We are staying at a new La Quinta motel, which is pet friendly at no extra charge, so he won't have to sleep in the truck.
   I have recently encountered several Almanac readers who evinced a bit of poorly concealed frustration at my perceived lack of political polemics of late.  No, I didn't promise to throw them more red meat.  Let me explain my less bombastic rhetoric of late.
   I am increasingly tired of combative politics.   I hate being angry all the time, even if the situation calls for it.  It spoils my day.  That doesn't mean I am less incensed by the banality and treachery of this president and his administration, and it doesn't mean that I am any less fervent in my opposition to big government, high taxes and over-regulation.
   What it means is that I am sick and tired of ad hominem attacks and ridiculous attempts at character assassination based on things that happened in high school.  It means that I am tired of rumor mongering and unwarranted legal action. I am tired of politicians who to divide us into races and classes instead of uniting us. I am tired of fake science.  I am tired of being lied to by politicians and academics who think I am too dumb to understand their games.
   What  I want to see is political platforms that are realistic and and inspirational.  I want to see achievable goals that can be measured. I want to see patriotism, not me-ism.  I want laws to be enforced as written, and the Constitution of the United States upheld.  I want to see elected officials and public employees at their posts hard at work, not galavanting all over the planet on the taxpayers dime.  I want to see government work.  I want the United States of America to be respected for its strength and justice, not dismissed as weak and divided.
   So I shall try to tone down my own rhetoric, be logical  and fact based, try not to get too far out of my own areas of expertise in my commentary, and maintain a sense of humor.  Now if only the opposition will do the same.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014





Wednesday,  8:15 AM.  24 degrees F, wind changeable, light.  The sky is overcast and it is still snowing lightly but hopefully this is the tail end of the big storm and not just a lull.  We have at least a foot of snow on the ground.  The Michigan UP, beyond the Bay, got two.  The humidity is down some, at 86%, and the barometer is almost steady but beginning to rise, now at 30.20".  Hopefully this will all be over and the roads in good shape for our trip to Madison tomorrow for a quarterly Urban Forestry Council meeting at the US Forest Products Center.
   Yesterday was pretty much a snow day...shoveling it some, watching it some...interspersed with some desk work and reading.  And, we were saddened to learn from Dawn, his widow, of the passing some time ago of long-time Almanac reader Einar Olsen, an orchardist with whom we shared an appreciation for trees and nature.  He was one of those rare birds in the uber-liberal Northland...a social and political conservative.  Say hello to the Gipper for us, Einar!
   One of my environmental associates sent me an article by e-mail, "The Tree Peddlers" by Nina A. Koziol, which appeared in the publication "Outside the Old House," in 1998.  I would reprint it but that requires some sort of software I don't possess.  I recommend that you Google it and read it in its entirety, but in brief, it commemorates the 19th-Century tree peddlers, who travelled by horse and wagon with their dormant nursery stock in the spring, taking apple, nut,  shade and ornamental trees, also roses and other shrubs, to farmsteads and communities that had few other ways of obtaining the  plants they needed to homestead and cultivate new lands.  By the start of the 20th-Century mail-order nurseries took their place, but their work can still be found on old farmsteads and in small towns.  Where did that huge old horse chestnut tree come from?  Whence that Harrison's yellow-rose-of-Texas?  It probably arrived via a tree peddler's horse and wagon.
   My father was a tree peddler, pretty much in the image of the originals.  He sold nursery stock to farmers and homeowners, laying out orchards and vineyards, and drawing landscape plans for new homes.  He was a sales agent for a large Iowa nursery; he would place all his orders for spring delivery to our home, where the dormant plants would be stored and kept watered in our garage, then delivered to the purchasers in a trailer pulled behind his beloved Hudson automobile.  Eventually he started his own nursery, but did not live long enough for it to be successful.
   I carried on the tradition in my own way, so I guess I have been a tree peddler as well, and I hope my father would be pleased about that.  He was a great man, positive and joyful all his too-short life, and his photograph occupies a prominent place in my office.
    And like those who came before him, he peddled dreams along with the trees.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014





Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  Veterans Day, fly your flag!  24 degrees F, wind NW, blustery and driving the snow, which is still falling from leaden skies 8+" already on the ground.  There is considerable fog over the channel and the Islands. The humidity is 93%, the snow crystalline and sticky.  The barometer is moving up slightly, currently at 30.10".  The whole mess is coming off the lake now, as the low passes through,  and a Nor'easter usually lasts three days.
   Buddy and I took an abbreviated walk this morning, only venturing around the block in the snow,  and  I having to stop several times on the unplowed 11th street hill.  It got my blood moving, though.
   Yesterday's trip to Duluth was a nail-biter on the way there, and a white-knuckler on the way back, easily one of the worst winter storm experiences in my sixty-two years of driving.
   It was bad enough when we left the house at 10:00 AM, and we knew how really bad it was going to be when we got fifteen miles down the road, just past Washburn on Hwy. 13, when we passed a  gruesome recent accident, the ambulances still arriving.  A head-oner between a pickup and an SUV, the top of which was sheared off, the first and only time either Joan or I had seen that happen to a vehicle.
   Hwy. 2 from Ashland to Superior was icy with high winds and blowing snow, with very poor visibility leading into Superior and Duluth.  On the way back from Joan's eye doctor appointment the roads were even worse, the temperature in the mid-twenties and the blizzard driving straight at us out of the east.  The conditions worsened to an almost complete white-out of fog and blowing snow, becoming almost impossible to see as it became dark.  On top of that the windshield kept icing up, making things even worse.  Thirty-five or forty miles per hour was absolutely top speed all the ninety miles back to Bayfield, making the trip all of three hours long.  Once out of Superior, there was no place to spend the night, so we had to forge on.  I will have to say that the Honda Ridgeline is the best winter driving vehicle I have ever owned, handling ice, snow and high wind conditions with aplomb.  But it couldn't do much about the poor visibility.
   When we finally got to Washburn I was tempted to stop for a double of something, but that would have left twelve miles of hills and curves to go, so I forgot about that tempting prospect.  There being not one watering hole open in Bayfield, and the brandy bottle empty at home, I had to settle for a beer.  It took a couple of hours for my fingers to straighten out.
   This blizzard reminds me of back in the day when a couple of buddies and myself would put chains on one of our pickups, load the bed with concrete blocks, and go out at night in a blizzard looking for cars stuck in a ditch or plowed in, the exasperated drivers desperate for help out of their plight.  We'd hook a chain from truck to car and with a little luck and some pushing by two young guys we would make five bucks a rescue.  Two rescues and we had enough for a six-pack and a pizza.
   I sure hope this blizzard, which is still raging, is the worst we will see this coming winter, and not just a harbinger of even worse to come.

Monday, November 10, 2014




Monday, 8:15 AM.  31 degrees F at the ferry dock, 25 on the back porch.  Wind ENE, gusty.  The sky is overcast, the humidity rising, now at 79%.  The barometer is still headed downward, now at 29.91".  The storm in the northern Pacific is indeed sending cold temperatures and snow our way, and there is a storm warning for ten to twenty inches of snow driven by high winds for our region, from this afternoon through Wednesday.  We have to go to Duluth today, and Spooner tomorrow.  We'll make Duluth O.K. but will have to opt out of Spooner.
   When we moved into our new home fifteen years ago I planted a small, potted Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens) that I bought somewhere between Dayton, Ohio and Bayfield.  A patented variety that I don't recall the name of, it has grown like Topsy into a slender, steel blue spire,  and become a focal point in the landscape.  Recently I noticed to my dismay that some of its lower branches were losing their needles.  Upon close examination I determined that the tree is infected with needle cast, a serious fungal disease of Colorado blue spruce.
   The disease is technically named Rhizosphaera kalkhoffii.  It has become a serious problem in the more southern regions of the state, but I had not seen it this far north.  The disease is spread primarily in  wet weather by fungal spores, and once a tree is infected the spores are spread about the tree by the splashing of raindrops.  The disease will disfigure the tree branch by branch, usually progressing from the bottom of the tree upward, and if not controlled will eventually kill the tree.
  The disease can be contained by increasing the air circulation around the tree, and by removing affected branches and either disposing of them in the garbage or burning them, and also spraying thoroughly with Bordeaux mixture (coper sulphate, lime and water) in the spring.  As always, pruning tools should be sterilized with alcohol or bleach after each cut.
   Colorado blue spruce, native to the western mountains, are over-planted as an ornamental tree, but are very valuable once established in the landscape.  White spruce, Picea glauca, native to the upper Midwest, eastern Canada and the eastern mountains, is less susceptible to needle cast and is a good substitute for Colorado spruce.
   For more information, go to the New Mexico State University Extension Guide H-163, available on the web.

Sunday, November 9, 2014



Sunday, 8:20 AM.  29 degrees at the ferry dock, 26 on the back porch  Wind NW, with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is clear except for some clouds on the eastern horizon.  Enough icy snow pellets fell last night to whiten lawns and rooftops.  The humidity is down to 50% with the cold temperatures, and the barometer is steady but starting to rise, now at 29.75".  We are on the leading edge of a huge cold air mass pushing into mid-continental North America from a big storm off Alaska, and we are due for snow showers and unseasonably cold weather most of next week.
   As captivated as I am with Bayfield's wild apples, I decided to add a few more in today's post.
   By the way, did you know that apple seeds are poisonous?  Eating an apple core won't hurt you, but apple seeds contain cyanide, in the form of prussic acid (HCN), and there are enough urban legends regarding apple seed poisoning, including at least one tale of death, that the matter should be taken fairly seriously. Evidently enough people like the taste of apple seeds that they are sometimes saved up and eaten in quantity, and that should definitely not be done, as even a quarter of a cup of the seeds is enough to be harmful, and children and smaller adults should definitely not eat many apple seeds.

Saturday, November 8, 2014






Saturday, 9:00 AM.  Wind NW, very gusty.  The sky is cloudy with some overcast, and the humidity is 63%.   The barometer, now at 29.92", is beginning to fall again after .24" of rain fell last night.
   One of the very interesting aspects of the Bayfield regional landscape is the amount and variety of wild roadside apple trees, which bear a great variety of fruit in almost every size and color imaginable.  Bayfield is famous for its apple orchards, and there are many old abandoned orchards with ancient trees as well.  And of course every farmstead and many town lots originally grew apple trees.  So there has been and still is an almost unlimited seed source for wild apple trees, and plenty of uncultivated vacant land for them to spring up on.
   Apple trees have been cultivated at least for the last 6,000 years.  The domestic apple, Malus domestica, in the rose family, originated in what is now Kazakstan in western Asia, and forests of the original trees still exist there. Many years ago I had the good fortune of working with a Soviet botanist from the Kazak city of Alma Atta, which translates as "Mother of Apples."
   The genus name of the apple is derived from the Latin word for fruit, and the species from the fact that it is domesticated.  There are many species of apples, all of which are native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  The parent species of the domestic apple is M. sieversii, commemorating the Russian botanist who discovered it in Kazakstan two hundred years ago.  Apples other than the domestic apples are usually called wild apples, and the smaller fruited wild apples are categorized as crabapples.  Most wild apples are inedible, but some are soft and sweet enough to be palatable.
   Apples of all kinds do not self-pollinate, and require pollination by other trees in the genus Malus to bear fruit.  It follows that the only way to propagate edible apples is asexually, by cutting or graft; all Red Delicious apple trees, for instance, are propagated from the first tree to bear that name.  It also follows that every apple seed is a mystery as to what its fruit will be like when it grows into a tree.  Thus all the diversity of the wild apples around Bayfield.
   I have often thought that it would be fascinating and perhaps profitable to taste all the different roadside apples of Bayfield, and find one or more that would be a new and superior edible apple variety. Not only the edible characteristics of the wild apples are interesting to contemplate, but also fruit size and color, flowers, and tree size and shape, as there may also be a good landscape crabapple awaiting discovery on the Bayfield backroads.  Years ago, when I was landscaping the first house we built, I found a wonderful wild crabapple in a hedgerow and carefully, with very great effort, dug it up and planted it in our new backyard, where it became a fine focal point; I often wonder if it is still there.
    At this point in time I will leave all those exciting opportunities to a younger horticulturist, but the field is ripe for the endeavor, if you will excuse the pun.