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Sunday, January 31, 2016






Monday, 8:00 AM.  28 degrees F at the ferry dock, 26 on the back porch.  Wind NNW, calm at present.  The sky is partly cloudy, the humidity 73%.  The barometer is 30.0" and rising.  It looks like it will be a decent day.  The channel remains mostly unfrozen and the ferry to Madeline Island is still running.
   We are back in the saddle posting again, after a quick trip to Texas and several weeks of frustration trying to regain entry to posting the Almanac.  Evidently we are in a season of mandatory upgrades to servers and web sites, and I had to wade through hours and hours of painful effort to get back in business.  I never would have gotten things straightened out without the help of Jim Nevins, one of our younger tree board members who understands this stuff.   But, all's well that ends well.
   The weather driving down to Texas was brutal until well past Des Moines, Iowa on I35. Texas was relatively cold but sunny during our stay.
   We saw hundreds of hawks posted at intervals along the I road from Iowa south, and upon our return trip saw many large flocks of sandhill cranes moving north towards the Platte River, right on schedule. 
   We spent a lot of time with son Dutch, daughter-in-law Leslie and granddaughter Allison, and among other activities attended the Fort Worth Stock Show, where Leslie and Allison showed their prize Lamancha goats.  They were greatly disappointed in not winning a ribbon.  Guess the goats were off their game.
   The Stock Show is all about goats, chickens, pigs, horses, cattle of every kind, trucks and farm equipment.  Exactly like a state fair, in the middle of winter.  There was a rodeo every day.  Kids were let out of school and families were everywhere.  The crowds were a kaleidoscope of every color and ethnicity, all decked out in Western garb.  It was all very interesting and new to us.
   I was, by the way, sad to see that one of the protesters at the Oregon standoff was shot and killed and others arrested.  It didn't have to end that way, and it will only stoke the fires of western rebellion and be remembered as a corollary to the incident at Ruby Ridge a few years back.  Looks like the feds have declared open season on cowboys.  No Indians bit the dust.

Thursday, January 14, 2016



Friday (posted  8:00 PM Thursday evening).  22 degrees F, wind E, with moderate gusts.  The sky was overcast at sunset.  It has been snowing off and on, the humidity 92%.  The barometer is 29.65" and mostly steady or beginning to rise.  We are leaving for Texas for a few weeks tomorrow morning and will post along the way, or while there, when we can and have subjects of interest.
   I was lucky to spot a visitor from the far north today; a snowy owl.  It was sitting on a telephone pole on Hwy. 13,  just north of the roundabout with Hw. 2.  Perhaps it blew down on a storm front, or there is a shortage of food in the far north.  Whatever the reason, it was obviously here to hunt rodents, perched as it was high above the adjacent marshland.


TEDDY ROOSEVELT (note the six--gun) internet photo
Thursday, 9:45 AM.  15 degrees F on both the downtown and back porch thermometers.  Wind SSW, calm with occasional light gusts.  The sky is overcast and the humidity 84%.  The barometer is at 29.75" and steady or falling some.  Snow showers are again predicted for this afternoon and tonight.  The temperature was more or less pleasant walking this morning.
   Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, is enshrined along with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln in monumental sculpture at Mount Rushmore National Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
   Roosevelt was a brilliant student of nature and a very talented and prolific nature writer, a vocation that existed alongside his political career.  His interest in the West and in conservation began in earnest with a brief stint as a cattle rancher in his late twenties.  He retreated to ranch life in 1884 after the death of both his young wife and his mother on the same day.   He bought grazing land along the Little Missouri River and established Elkhorn Ranch, which he owned and operated for several years until a bad winter killed his cattle and nearly ruined him financially, but he never lost his love of the West and its way of life.
   Elkhorn Ranch became a National Memorial Park in 1947.  Along with ancillary lands and sites it comprises almost 90,000 acres; a good-sized ranch indeed!  There is a controversy brewing currently over the development of mineral rights (river gravel)  within the view shed of the site of the original ranch buildings. The rules of development allow only five acres to be "mined" at a time, which must be restored before another five acres are utilized.  This is not good enough for the Park Service, who want no development of the mineral rights at all.
   This is obviously a complex situation, that will end up in the courts for years. But since old TR started the whole federal National Monument and related biological and historical conservation efforts, which eventually ballooned into the EPA, the BLM and myriad other alphabet agencies, many of which are in open war with the ranchers and the West he idealized, it would be interesting to hear what that stone face on the mountain had to say on the subject.
   Would TR side with big government? With the ranchers imprisoned for trying to gain a living from an unforgiving land?  With the businessman who owns mineral rights?  I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for TR to defend the little guy, individual freedom, private property or the sanctity of contracts. TR was, after all, the first Progressive, and was a wealthy eastern elitist born and bred.  In addition he was a true American Imperialist, from Cuba to Panama to the Philippines, who idealized warfare until his own son was killed in WWI.  My guess is he would find a pretext to settle the argument with his six-shooter, and laws and justice be damned.
   Of course, there is a perfectly legal and fair solution to the problem.  The government could purchase the the mineral rights at fair market value, and if the offer was refused, then invoke its right of eminent domain.  
   Probably too simple and fair a solution.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016



Wednesday, 9:00 AM.  0 degrees F at both the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind WSW, mostly calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, with fog over the channel, and it is snowing very lightly.  The humidity is 84% and the barometer is falling, now at 29.97".  Snow showers are predicted.
   We watched the President's State of the Union address last night and could barely stay awake.  To be completely fair, I admit I actually fell asleep during the Republican response by North Carolina Governor Niki Haley.  Today's politicians either make me hopping mad or put me to sleep.  Maybe the problem is me, not them.  But I don't think so.
   Although the lousy weather has kept us mostly indoors, we took the opportunity to work on a project we have been contemplating for a long time: installing a new surround for the fireplace.  We didn't know what we wanted but finally decided on stone tile and are very pleased with the end result.
  There was a time when I might have tried to do it myself, but time takes its toll, and at present my DIY projects are limited to tasks within reach from about my belt to my eyebrows.  Now that's a bit of an exaggeration, but truthfully not much.  So we entrusted the work to a local tradesman whom we have hired before and trust to do a good job.  Which he did.
   A number of pieces of the stone tile were broken in shipment and we are a few short so the job is not quite complete, but close  enough to appreciate the end result.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  1 degree F on both the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind NW, calm with occasional light gusts.  The sky has a low overcast, there is fog over the channel and it has just stopped snowing, after depositing another 3" last night.  The humidity is 82% and the barometer is steady, currently at 30.07".  The roads are hard-packed with ice and snow, and there is at least a foot of snow on the ground where it is undisturbed by the wind.  It often gets much colder than at present in January, but the month isn't over yet, either.
   The Oregon militia standoff (See posts of Jan. 4 and 5) continues, but seems to be disintegrating. The Hammonds, the ranchers who have reported to prison, have asked the militia occupying the federal wildlife building near Burns, Oregon, to go home, as have the local sheriff and the local citizens assembled in a town hall meeting.  The occupiers have been negotiating with the FBI, and they have turned away armed reinforcements.  All things considered, if no one pules a trigger, and everyone is patient, this thing will end soon.
   What won't end is the underlying injustice: of the sentencing of two local ranchers to prison on  ridiculous charges; or the un-redressed grievances of the ranching community; or the arrogance of the federal government, and in particular the present administration, in the appropriation of land for federal "monuments"';  or the imbalance of power between the states and the federal government vis a vis land ownership and management.
   The latter problem is the root cause of much of this and other such controversies.  Consider the following statistics regarding federal ownership of lands within state boundaries: Oregon, 53%; Nevada, 85%; Utah, 66%; Alaska, 61%.  The Western states average over 50% of their land owned and managed by the federal government.  This means that the federal government, and Washington politicians and lobbyists, control an enormous amount of the economic and environmental potential of the those states.  That means Washington controls water, grazing, forestry and logging, roads, mining and oil and gas exploration and production.
   Not only has that control has been overbearing and prone to corruption and abuse,  but it has been very much in the hands of land management ideologues who don't seem to like people, and are more concerned with scientific and historic abstractions than with the livelihoods of local citizens who live on the land.
    Federal ownership of local lands has not remained static nor declined, but has aggressively expanded through executive order and has continually taken lands out of any kind of economic use.  Land owners are forced to go bankrupt when denied traditional grazing rights, and then their lands are absorbed by the feds.  It's no wonder the ranchers are "up in arms."
   Contrast that with the Eastern and Midwestern states, where on average the federal government owns only 2% of the total land; and with another Western state, geographically giant Texas,  in which 95% of the land is privately owned, and which manages all its own public land save the 2% that is federally owned (primarily in one or two large national parks).
   The western militias aren't the only public that sees a continually expanding federal government as a growing menace to their freedom and prosperity, and a lot of folks will identify with the ranchers and protesters when they analyze the infringement of the federal government on their own interests.
  The IRS is a threat to the freedom and well-being of us all and should be abolished.  The EPA controls the air we breath and soon will control every drop of water we drink or use, and what we plant and harvest; I propose it be shrunk by 75% and renamed the Environmental Opportunity Administration. The BLM should be renamed the Bureau of Land Sales, and sell itself out of business. The other alphabet agencies should likewise be shrunken considerably, or eliminated entirely.
   There's an awfully lot of work to be done before we get back our land and our freedoms.

Monday, January 11, 2016





Monday, 9:00 AM.  1 degree F at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind WNW, calm with light gusts.  The sky is clearing.  The humidity is 74% and the barometer still falling, currently at 30.05".  Snow showers are predicted for tonight and tomorrow.
   Yesterday was absolutely lousy, weather-wise; temperature around zero, snow, fog, ice, dark.  It was a challenge taking Buddy for several short walks and I did not think it wise to risk a nasty fall anywhere so we pretty much hung out and watched football, which fortunately was quite good.
   The Minnesota Vikings succumbed to the  Seattle Sea Hawks, 10 to 9; and the Packers revived to beat the Redskins 35 to 18 .  Buddy crawled up into my lap and watched attentively for quite a while but lost interest when nothing that resembled a bird crossed the screen.  He kept looking at me as if to say, "Hey, Boss! Let's go to the beach!"  I told him we would both freeze half to death out there but he obviously remembers that he has a jacket to wear when the winter weather gets really bad (he wore it this morning).
    After a long while he left in disgust and retreated to the bedroom, and didn't come out until he was called to dinner.

Sunday, January 10, 2016



Sunday, 9:30 AM.  4 degrees F both at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind SW, calm with light gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, with a hint of clearing.  It is again foggy over the channel and it is snowing lightly; very fine, dusty flakes which we got several inches of last night, rendering the ice beneath all the more treacherous.  The snow squeaked underfoot this morning, and Buddy did his three-legged dance.  We didn't stay out long.
   The Hauser family has been in the orchard and perennial business for well over a century, and in the last few years has expanded into the wine business with locally produced apple and other fruit wines.  Their perennials have always been field grown and among the best.  Now they are expanding again, this time into the growing of annuals and hanging baskets.
   I have written before about Bailey's Greenhouses, a large wholesale annual grower with greenhouse ranges high on a bluff between Bayfield and Washburn.  The owner has retired, and Hauser's purchased their two 80' length glass houses and moved them to their own property on Hwy. J last summer.
   We can look forward to Hauser's Superior View Farm providing a full range of horticultural offerings for the region this coming spring.

Saturday, January 9, 2016




Saturday, 9:00 AM.  17 degrees F at the ferry dock, 16 on the back porch.  Wind N, calm with moderate gusts.  The sky has a low overcast, it is foggy over the channel and it is snowing lightly.  The humidity is 83% and the barometer is rising, currently at 30.03".  Yesterday's melting ice and snow refroze and it is very slippery, covered with a light topping of fresh snow.  My first step on the road this morning left me deposited unceremoniously on the ground.  It was a short walk after that.
   These photos were taken a week ago, on Jan. 2 at sunset, from just west of Hwy. 13, in the valley between the Sioux River and Onion River watersheds.  The skies have been pretty much cloudy since then. 
   I was elated by the sheer joy of the moment when taking these pictures.  The gorgeous sunset lasted only minutes before it all clouded over, and Joan and I felt privileged to have witnessed such a sublime display of nature's beauty, and I was determined to share it with you.

Friday, January 8, 2016


DEFINITELY MADE IN AMERICA(1940's Whirlpool "Hired Girl" model)

...MADE IN AMERICA (at least mostly)


Friday, 9:00 AM.  32 degrees F at the ferry dock, 30 degrees on the back porch.  Wind calm and variable. The sky is overcast and it is snowing, which we got another 3 or 4 inches of last night.  The humidity is 98% and the barometer is still dropping, now at 29.85".  We are headed into the freezer for the next week or more.
   Our electric range refused to work the other day, all the while displaying a perplexing bunch of numbers and letters. A service call determined it was a defective electronic control unit, very expensive and in any case unavailable.  So we checked out the stoves on sale in Ashland, and settled on an Amana, with an "America" sticker on it, advertising that it was made in the USA.  
   Always the skeptic, I questioned the fact on line, and it turns out it evidently was, probably in either Iowa, Indiana or Kentucky.  Probably,  because these claims are very lawyerly, with different qualifications, such as "with some imported parts, " or likely statement.  In any case, I was happy to see the tag, as I am sick and tired of Chinese and other stuff that is shipped halfway around the world, drop-kicked a number of times,  and still expected to work when it is plugged in.  So I will consider it "Made in America," and hope for the best.
   There was a time, within my own memory, when the term meant it was indeed the best.  Tractors made in my hometown of West Allis, Wisconsin could easily outlive a couple of owners.  US made autos were the best for the price until they were made automatically obsolescent back in the 1960's or so.  Striking unions didn't help tractors or autos, either.
   While at the appliance store I spotted a 1940's era wringer washer, a museum piece, exactly like that which my mother used for forty years; a Whirlpool "Hired Girl."  She would spend Mondays washing and Tuesdays hanging things out to dry in the sunshine.  In the winter the drying clothes took up the entire basement, which was strung with clothes line for the duration. When I was a little tike my tricycle came in the basement in the winter, and I would pedal furiously through the hanging sheets and long underwear.
    Joan's mother had the same machine and the same procedure, but with ten in the family it took her twice as long, even with Joan's help.  You can forget about hiring a "girl" nowadays, so the name of the washing machine model no longer means anything to anybody.  The  real "girls" are all at Harvard on scholarship studying to be rocket scientists and brain surgeons.  I hope they all find jobs after graduation.
   Fracking for natural gas is bringing a lot of manufacturing back to the US.  So are quality issues.  So should our economic policies, which have encouraged the use of cheap foreign labor, and companies keeping capital and profits offshore.  Let's hope we all get smart enough to insist we keep more of our money, ingenuity and industry Stateside.
   Donald Trump has taken a lot of heat for what he says and how he says it, and most of the criticism is  probably justified.  But what he says about corporations moving jobs out of the US resonates with me: "Sure, they can move manufacturing out of the country.  But when they try to bring things back to sell them, it'll cost them 30% in import duties."  
   Sounds good to me.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


WINTER ROAD (Tenth Street)

Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  32 degrees at fhe ferry dock, 29 on the back porch.  Wind variable, calm. The sky is overcast and foggy, the humidity 95% and the barometer diving, now at 30.95".  We got about 3" of wet snow last night, with more predicted for days to come.  The temperatures will fall to normal January levels as well.  Looks like Old Man Winter is catching up to us.
   The black willows pictured are in the woods on the east side of Ninth Street, between Old Military and Wilson Ave.  They have not been trimmed except for some branches that encroached on the road.  They are massive and have a wide spread, with deeply ridged black bark.  Their habit is to bend over with age, or for branches to break off and produce new sucker general to spread out far and wide in every direction.
  Willows (except pussy willows) are not for a smaller property, but in the right location and enough space they can be interesting and beautiful in the landscape.  It is difficult indeed to accommodate a mature black willow except on a large acreage, although with care and in the right spot it is possible (see the willow in Martha's Fantastic Garden).

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


SURVIVAL (tough, and well-armed)

Wednesday, 9:00 AM.  28 degrees F at the ferry dock, 24 on the back porch.  Wind SW, calm to very light.  The sky is overcast, the humidity 89%.  The barometer is falling, currently at 30.17".  It looks and feels like snow showers today.  The city is extremely quiet this morning.
   Harkening back to the discussion concerning the standoff in Oregon:  my suspicion is that this confrontation has been going on locally there for many years, that the rancher now in prison has been a "thorn in the government's side,"  and that they have been laying in wait, trying to pin something on him.  Over the years I have seen this happen, and it is always the citizen who loses, and the punishment severe, so as to warn others of his station in life not to be rebellious.  More than five years for a disputed burning of a minor acreage of cactus and sagebrush?  That is akin to the King making a draconian example of a peasant for snaring a rabbit in his hunting preserve!
   Let me theorize as to what may be the root cause of this matter.  The rancher pays taxes, takes risks, and works his tail off.  He is barely holding on in country that is marginal grassland.  He tries to improve his own land by selective burning (a proven method of encouraging rangeland grasses and eliminating invasive species).  The fire gets away and burns a few of the millions of acres of BLM land, that the BLM is attempting to "restore" to pre-settlement conditions.  No matter that the pre-settlement conditions supported little in economic benefit to anyone, including the Indians.  For that matter, the ecologists at the BLM would just as soon put the Indians in an outdoor museum and manage them, rather than the ranchers, if they could.  Remember the academic  debate of twenty or so years ago over whether the West should revert to being a Buffalo Commons, without settlement?
   The BLM folks are enraged by two such incidents of interfering with, of defying, their romanticized, unworkable, uneconomic policies, and vow revenge.  They trump up some charges, find a venue, and prosecute the culprits, for whom they have no respect and consider their enemies.  And, when the sentence is too light to assuage their revenge, they find a hanging judge to appeal to. "We'll try them over and over again, until they're convicted and get the punishment we want them to have."  Sounds like double jeopardy to me, which is unconstitutional.
   Ironically, and simultaneous with putting unwary American citizens in prison on highly theoretical charges of "terrorism," true terrorists are being released by the President from Guantanamo Bay, so that they may go back to committing murder and mayhem.
   The standard question in cattle raising has always been, "How many acres of range does it take to support one cow and its calf?" I propose the question should rather be, "How many acres of desert does it take to support one BLM employee?"
   Ranchers pay taxes and grazing fees.  BLM employees pay neither, since they produce nothing tangible and are paid by the tax payers.  Now we may need government standards for various aspects of land management, but they should be reasonable and take into account the ability of the people who actually live on (and off of) the land to comply with and to pay.
   A very wise man I knew, now long gone, once said to me, "Everyman's's land soon becomes No-man's land."  If the ranchers weren't  on their land, taking care of it and watching over it, how long would it take to be infested with actual poachers, outlaws, drug lords and  terrorists?  And, how many BLM federal employees and US Marshals would it take to try to control it?
   The federal government owns fully half of the western lands.  If it is impracticable to sell it or homestead it to put it where it belongs, in the hands of the people, at least mandate it back to the states so it can be better and more closely managed by their own citizens, who occupy the land.
   Some aspects of my theory may be wrong, but I'll bet it's not far off, and I'll abandon it when the actual facts prove me wrong.

2016 rendition

Oh, give me a home
Where the buffalo roam
And the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard
A discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day

Now I have a home
Where the scientists roam
And the BLM plagues me all day
Where dubious their cause
And oppressive their laws
Turn the beautiful skies all to gray

So here I do stand
With my gun in my hand
You'd think it was centuries ago
Protecting my land
From some outlaw band
'stead  of some of the folks that I know


(Port Superior /Pike's Bay Marinas left center, Bayfield far distance, right center


Tuesday, 10:00 AM.  28 degrees F at the ferry dock, 29 on the back porch.  Wind SW, very strong.  The sky is clear, the  humidity 77% and the barometer 30.17" and falling.  Snow is predicted for Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning.  Today is a repeat of yesterday's great weather.
   Yesterday developed into an absolutely gorgeous winter day, with temperatures in the high twenties and startlingly bright sunshine in a cloudless sky, and the beach once again beckoned.
   I find the beach a great place to walk now, before ice forms on the lake.  The long strand of sand is either frozen and easy to walk on, or wet and solid where lapped by the waves, and with rubber boots on, also easy to walk on.  I am now through with cardiac rehab and have to get sufficient exercise, particularly walking, and the beach is a great place to do so right now.  And Buddy loves it.
   The beach at the mouth of the Sioux River looks like it has a bad haircut (or one of those expensive spiked cuts) with the beach grass still covered in ice.  And as clear as the atmosphere is, one can see the little city of Bayfield, about eight miles away, quite clearly.

Monday, January 4, 2016



Monday, 9:00 AM.  26 degrees F at the ferry dock, 23 on the back porch.Wind variable, calm with occasional gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, the humidity 77%.  The barometer stands at 30.53 inches and falling.  We got 1" of snow last night and snow is predicted for Wednesday.
   Remember the dustup in 2014 when federal agents attempted to coral cattle owned by Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher, because they were supposedly trespassing on Bureau of Land Management land?  That was a confrontation with armed ranchers, who's families had been grazing the land since settlement and felt that the BLM had stolen the land from the state, and imposed its own illegal presence.  It ended without violence in a tenuous peace.
   Now another iteration of  the issue is occurring in a remote area of Oregon, where a rancher and his son were convicted of setting fires on BLM land, served their sentences and now have been ordered back to prison by a federal judge who determined the sentences too light.  The ranchers claimed they were combating invasive species with the fire, the feds contended they were covering up poaching.  
   Add to the mix all the unreasonable, uneconomic, draconian environmental laws, rules and regulations of the current administration...that attack the lands and livelihoods of everyone from coal miners to strawberry growers and all in between...through absolute control of water, air and other basic resources, and the propagandizing of the same...and much of America is very restive.
   I don't know all the details of the takeover, which are in any case, in dispute.  But the deeper problem here is federal control (which often is abusive), of lands that local farmers and ranchers depend on for their livelihood.  When their traditional livings and their freedoms are infringed upon, Americans are likely to push back.  Federal agencies, particularly under the present administration, have become arrogant and highhanded in their promulgation and prosecution of administrative law.  And it would seem that in this case at least there was a vengeful judge.
   I remember well the occupation of federal buildings by the American Indian Movement protests of the 1970's, in particular the occupation of an unused Coast Guard Station on the Milwaukee lakefront, that was occupied for several years.  No one was shot and everything ended peacefully in that case, although not so everywhere.  As a consequence of such protests and confrontations, the Indians won back their treaty rights that had been eroded by both state and federal governments over the years. The current protesters and occupiers should be given as much a chance to win back their rights as were the Indians nearly a half-century ago.
   Americans are mostly level headed and basically reasonable.  But they are prone rise to the old battle cry, "Don't Tread On Me."

Sunday, January 3, 2016




Sunday,  10:30 AM.  26.5 degrees F at the ferry dock, 24.5 on the back porch. Wind WSW, moderately gusty.  The sky is mostly overcast and cloudy, the humidity 74%.  The barometer stands at 30.26"and is still rising, but snow showers are predicted for early afternoon.  The city streets are mostly hard packed snow and ice and are somewhat slippery. We slept late after watching a very late, exciting football game between West Virginia and Arizona State; the Mountaineers won.
   I have been pondering the fate of the Almanac for some time.  I had been thinking that 8 years was enough to impose my generally trite news and views on others.  That, and the fact that it has been getting redundant, recounting all the annual transitions of weather and blooming times, illness and misadventures,  over and over again. Ad nausium, perhaps.
   Which might account for a considerable drop in readership.  Who cares what an old man thinks, anyway?
   But then again, it has been a small daily adventure and minor accomplishment, to write it.  And it has been a very positive thing for me to look forward to each morning, to see what the day has to offer in the way of beauty and knowledge, and to record our little misadventures, intuitions and insights.
   So I have resolved to continue to glean the positive from each day, and pass it on to any who care to read.  To do otherwise is to condemn myself to the negativity of old age.  I am reminded once again of Robert Ruark's classic, "The Old Man and the Boy," when the old man, being in his cups, says, "Two things got no place on this earth.  An old dog and an old man.  Neither serves any useful purpose, and both generally smell bad."
   Can't do much about the latter, but the former is at least subject to modification. Upon further consideration, maybe both.

Saturday, January 2, 2016




Saturday, 10:00 AM.  26 degrees F at the ferry dock, the same on the back porch. Wind westerly, very windy.  The humidity has dropped to 69% and the barometer has bottomed out at 29.84" and has begun to rise.  It was nippy earlier but is going to be a nice winter day.
   I have been familiar with and closely watching the common black capped chickadees for almost as long as I can remember, as it is one of the most common and familiar of forest birds.  They are very bold; they are so quick and agile that they are practically fearless, particularly concerning us slow, clumsy humans.  I have even had them perch on the bill of my cap when deer hunting.  So I didn't think there was much I could learn about chickadees, except that I have very often seen a chickadee at our Bayfield feeders that looks different from the black capped chickadee.  I never thought much about it, considering it a variation on the black capped chickadee theme.  
   As I have said before in the Almanac, I am not that much of a birder, but I am learning.  And, one thing I have now learned is: if you see a bird that looks different, it is probably a different bird; a different species from the ordinary one you relate it to.  
   I should have known that the chickadees with the rufus side feathers (I had not noticed the brown cap) were not the usual black capped chickadee, as the two do not come to the feeder at the same time.  I finally decided to look into the matter yesterday and discovered that the rufus-sided chickadee is actually a boreal chickadee, a different species from the black capped entirely.  Its normal habitat is the black spruce and fir trees of the boreal forests of Canada.  There is only an outlier population in a few counties of northern Wisconsin that have suitable habitat.  
   I have actually been seeing pretty rare birds, quite far a out of their normal range across the big lake and beyond.

Friday, January 1, 2016




Happy New Year 2016! 10:00 AM.  20 degrees F at the ferry dock, 18 on the back porch.The sky is partly cloudy and overcast but is clearing from the W and may soon be a sunny day.  The humidity is 85% and the barometer stands at 29.96" and is still falling.  It is an O.K. start to the new year.
   Things change quickly in the Northland.  The lower Chequamegon Bay is frozen over in the last few days, by the looks of it from Ashland all the way to Washburn, at least.
    And on the beach the beach grass is covered with frozen spray from the lake, the whole shoreline a crystal palace then crashes and crinkles like glass about one's feet.