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Saturday, February 27, 2016


Saturday, 9:30 AM . 45 degrees F at the ferry dock, 42 on the back porch.  Wind variable directions, with moderate gusts.  The sky is cloudy but clearing, the humidity low, at 56%.  The barometer is steady at 29.62", and snow is predicted for tomorrow.  But this morning is beautiful
   Thursday night's Republican "debate" on CNN was yet another disaster for the unwitting party and its candidates.  CNN baited them into arguing and attacking each other in a disgusting display of stupidity and childishness.  Poor Ben Carson had to resort to pleading, "Would somebody please attack me?" because he was left out of the discourse for so long.  Sensible, rational  (and therefore boring by comparison) Kasich was left in almost as bad a place.  In all, little of real merit was discussed and much bad temper and poor logic was displayed.
   These entertainment shows (that's all they are) are not debates in any true sense of the word.  A debate has a topic, and a set time for each proponent or opponent to make their case, and each in turn has a set time for one rebuttal.  That's it.
   Participants continually grabbed extra time, shouting, interrupting, talking over each other and hurling schoolyard insults (i.e...your mama wears combat boots...).  The moderator should have shut their microphones off numerous times.  Posturing, shouting and making faces and mock threats should be left to barroom arguments, not to a formal presentation of policies before the American people and the world.  The  Democratic debates are no better. As an electorate we have lost both our brains and our dignity. 
   These "debates" are nothing but middle school food fights.

Friday, February 26, 2016


PLUM FRUIT (Google photo)

PLUM FLOWERS (Google photo)


Friday, 8:30 AM.  20  degrees F at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind SW, mostly calm with moderate gusts.  It is a bit chilly out this morning.  The sky is overcast but clearing, and the hills of the iron ranges can be seen in the east and south.  The humidity is 86% and the barometer falling, now at 30.18", predicting snow showers Sunday and Monday.  The average high for this date is 34, the low 8.  There is quite a bit of open water in the channel now on each side of the ferry path.
   We had a surprise visitor this morning, a ruffed grouse that was attracted to the sunflower seeds on the ground under the bird feeder.  I was not able to get a photo, even though it hung around for quite a while.
   There are between 19 and 40 species of plum, depending upon the expert, and many are not found in the wild, having been domesticated for thousands of years.  Plums, of the subgenus Prunus and the genus  Prunus, are members of the rose family, as are apples, pears and cherries.  Plums are a northern hemisphere plant, and possibly the oldest domesticated fruit.  China is the  largest grower of plums by far.
   Plum species range in height and spread from medium sized trees (European species)  to large shrubs (North American species) and the fruits of each are quite unique in color, size, and taste.  Plums are used for preserves, as fresh fruit, juice and of course are dried as prunes.  Plum brandy is wickedly potent (see my posts regarding Slivovitz, the traditional Balkan liquor.
   There are probably as many variations in plum tree pruning as there are species and varieties, but the basics will suffice for most of us: prune out dead and diseased wood, crossing branches and sucker wood; head back new growth to keep the tree balanced and short enough to pick the fruit; maintain as much healthy two year and older wood as possible, and prune to allow sunlight to reach ripening fruit.
   When you are done pruning have a nip of plum brandy.  Especially if it is a damp and chilly day.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


TIMBER RATTLER (Google photo)
TIMBER RATTLER (Google photo)
Thursday, 8:30 AM.  24 degrees F at both the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind NNW,  blustery and bitter.  The sky is clouding up, the sun rapidly being obscurrered.  The humidity is 75% and the barometer steady, currently at 30.19",
   I read the other day that the State of Massachussets has plans for establishing a timber rattlesnake preserve on Mt Zion, the largest island in the Quabin Reservior, the largest body of water in the state, which is 65 miles from Boston.  It claims this is necessary to ensure the survival of the reptilian species in the state.  The public is concerned that the snakes will escape the preserve (rattlesnakes can swim). They are also concerned that the state will close popular hiking trails when the snakes become abundant.  The state snake biologist says the fear of snakes is irrational, based on cultural bias.
   The thing about snakes is you don't know they are around until you or your dog steps on one or you put your hand on one while climbing rock ledges.  Oops!
   It is possible of course that the state has run short of snake oil, but with the political season upon us, there will soon be an abundance of that substance.   Having more of it would, I suppose, create opportunities for politicians and other snake oil salesmen, thereby lessening the unemployment problem.  It will also probably increase job opportunities for state employees willing to catch rattlesnakes.  It may also stimulate the antivennum industry, which I understand has been in a deep recession due to the current paucity of snake bites.
   Now, I don't see anything wrong with having some rattlesnakes in the wild.  Keeps mice, chipmunks, hunting dogs and hikers on their toes.  Same could be said of copperheads, which are also in short supply of late.
   However, I am quite aware of the "shortage" of alligators in southern swamps a few years ago.  Now that they are pretty much protected, there is of course an overabundance, leading to a scarcity of fish and unwary cats and dogs.  Same thing happened with previously waning populations of wolves, mountain lions  and bears; which is at least a factor in the present scarcity of deer in northern Wisconsin and elsewhere.  And citing statistics is no comfort at all for the the owners of the dog or small child that is threatened or harmed.
   Anyway, I see little difference between the venomous snake population and the other predator populations that have rebounded and become a nuisance or a menace.  Maybe I am wrong, and all of us need a little more enforced excitement in our lives.  Maybe terrorism is actually a good thing, psychologically speaking. Concentrates the mind, as they say.  Stimulates adrenaline production.
   At least the Wisconsin timber rattler that my grandfather killed with a garden hoe before it could strike my mother when she was a child provoked a lot of interesting stories over the years. In the course of fifty years of storytelling it grew from five feet in length to eight and more, until it finally stretched across the road.
   Anyway, as the Chinese say, "Be careful what you wish for, you may get it."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016



Wednesday, 8:00 AM.  32 degrees F at the ferry dock, 30 on the back porch.  Wind NNE, calm with occasional light gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, the humidity 92%.  the barometer is at 30.08" and more or less steady, with snow showers predicted for tomorrow. We had a mini-blizzard yesterday afternoon but with the temperature around freezing there wasn't much accumulation.The average high for today is 30 degrees.
   Several posts back I discussed pruning apple trees in the Bayfield region and the basics involved and that there are different theories and styles of pruning for fruit production.  Bayfield orchardists also grow pears, although for some reason they are not as extensively grown as apples, which is a shame, as they grow equally well here and could be a major profitable crop.  I suspect that since apples regularly sell out every season there is little economic incentive to grow pears.
   In any case, pears share basic pruning principles and styles with apples.  Both essentially produce most of their flowers and fruit on second year growth, mostly on short branchlets called spurs.  Both crops need to be hand picked, so limiting the height of the fruit tree is necessary, as is allowing sunlight to reach the ripening fruit.
   Other tree pruning basics apply to pear trees, such as eliminating sucker wood, dead wood and crossing branches.   As with apples, there are many different pruning styles and theories that can be employed beyond the basics.  Pears can also be grown as espaliers on fences, wires or against walls.  How best to prune for fruit production may vary from one variety to another, so it is best to seek advice specific to the variety.  
   There are excellent schematics and videos on different types of pruning on-line these days, and it is worth spending some time looking at them.  Some are relatively simple and straightforward, but British and European information will be very detailed and perhaps oriented toward varieties not readily available in the US.  Pruning theories and styles vary from region to region and culture to culture, some of them very dependent upon highly specific and expensive hand labor.  Do a little  research and make your choice, but for most situations the basics will suffice.
   Personally. I like pear trees; they are not as spray dependent as apples, and I actually prefer pears to apples to eat out of hand (but hands off my apple pie).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016




Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  30 degrees F at the ferry dock, 28 on the back porch.  Wind variable, calm.  The sky has a low overcast and the humidity is 83%.  The barometer is moe or less steady, at 30.09".  Snow showers ae predicted for later today.
   My Yak Traks, for walking on ice, have worn out and become all rusted and gnarley, so I went to the Army and Navy Store in Ashland yesterday to replace them (I have become almost paranoid about falling on the ice and breaking something).  The young clerk suggested I try a new product, that he liked, called Stabils, of a different design, made in America and the same price.  They have metal claws rather than springs for gripping.  Always buying American when feasible, I bought a pair and put them on my Muck boots.  
   Walking with them seemed much easier and safer on the snow-covered ice as I trudged up the Old Military Road hill.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, a comely, long-legged  young woman blew past me, auburn pony tail flying behind her.  Her stride was long, her footing sure.  She wore running shoes. She gave me a wave as she passed by.
   What I really need is a pair of magic slippers that make me fifty years younger.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Monday, 7:30 AM.  27 degrees F at the ferry dock, 15 on the back porch. The sky is overcast but clearing, the humidity 89%.  The barometer is at 30.28" and falling, predicting snow showers tomorrow.  My Yak Traks (tire chains for boots) are kaput, so later today I will go to the Army and Navy Store in Ashland and get a new pair so we can do some walking on the icy roads.
   But for now, we have a Bayfield Tree Board meeting this morning.  We will discuss spring planting and how best to introduce Bayfield's new Heritage Tree Program.
   Yesterday turned out to be a quiet Sunday without much to do, the weather nasty and the roads slippery with ice covered by a dusting of new snow.  Friends Tina and Jon went fishing Saturday and had some luck, so they dropped off a nice lake trout that we had for Sunday dinner, a real treat, fresh from the icy waters of Gitche Gume.   
   Buddy and I got restless yesterday afternoon and went to the beach, where we found Friendly Valley Road to be covered with about six inches of ice.  We got enough fresh air to satisfy ourselves and called it a day, being careful not to slide the truck into the ditch.
    In a black and white world, It's a good thing Buddy has spots.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Sunday, 7:30 AM.  25 degrees F at the ferry dock, 26 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with occasional strong gusts.  The sky is overcast, the humidity 86%.  The   barometer is more or less steady at 30.23".  We have a dusting of snow over icy roads and Buddy and I have not ventured out as yet and if conditions  don't improve will not go very far.
   The most succinct commentary I have heard on the results of the South Carolina Republican primary: Trump trumped.
   I have been trying to snap a photo of a male and female cardinal (I have seen the same behavior in robins) who daily attack one of our patio doors.  They are too quick for my camera, which takes what seems like almost a second to snap a photo after the shutter button is actuated.  If there is a way to make it react quicker I haven't found it.  No matter, my own reactions are probably not quick enough to catch them in the act either.  I guess I could try it in movie mode.  Hadn't thought of that.
   Anyway, at this juncture you will have to be satisfied with a photo of the female sitting calmly on the deck rail.  She looks placid, but when in attack mode beating at the glass door she is anything but.  Both sexes are equally aggressive.  I assume they are attacking a phantom rival, their own reflection.  Why they see their rival only in the one door I don't know.  I assume the female thinks she is attacking a rival for a nesting site, and the male thinks he is attacking a rival for territory.
   Twenty-five years ago when we lived in Nebraska we witnessed the same aggressive cardinal behavior.  We had a glass ball reflecting globe in the garden, and a female cardinal took to attacking her reflection.  She attacked so viciously with flailing wings and sharp beak that we feared she would kill herself, or at least break the globe.  The globe was cemented to a heavy concrete base and not easy to remove, so I threw a towel over it and the attacks stopped.  Kind of ruined the effect of the globe, though.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


Saturday, 8:30 AM.  Almost 40 degrees F at the ferry dock, 36 on the back porch.  Wind W, mostly calm to light with moderate gusts. The sky is cloudy and somewhat overcast, the humidity 84%. The barometer is at 29.72" and rising.  The weather for the week ahead looks uneventful, with mostly cloudy skies and temperatures around the freezing mark, a little higher during the days and a little lower at night, without any significant precipitation predicted.
   The local Houser's Superior View Farm perennial catalog arrived yesterday, a welcome sign of spring.  John Hauser and his family came to Bayfield from Switzerland in 1908 and began growing perennials.  An apple orchard was soon added, and the Hauser family has been growing and selling  plants and fruit locally and beyond ever since,  over the years adding ancillary family businesses such as homemade preserves and the All Sisters Winery, and now greenhouses for annuals and baskets.  They are a true Bayfield and American success story.
   The President is not attending the funeral of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia today.  Why would he disrespect the memory of a distinguished jurist and thirty year member of the court  in this way?  Is he simply a petulant child, who insists on having his own way, just because he can get away with it? It is hard to believe that he would really carry partisan politics this far, but it seems he does.
   We have an historic election coming up.  Please, please let us have at least a minimum of good judgement in the matter, and elect a certified adult to the office.

Friday, February 19, 2016





Friday, 8:00 AM.  36 degrees F at the ferry dock, 32 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with light gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, the humidity 87%.  The barometer is at  29.34" and rising.  Steady temperatures around freezing and little chance of precipitation is predicted for the next week or so.
   Bayfield orchardists are pruning their apple trees.  Bayfield has been growing apples since its inception, so many of the apple trees are very old.  Well cared for and properly pruned apple trees can produce almost indefinitely.  I have heard that the apple tree that inspired Newton to write the theory of gravity over three hundred years ago is still producing apples.
   Most apple varieties will grow naturally to be quite large.  A standard apple tree will make a good shade or screen tree. But most apple trees one sees are not very large.  This is because of two factors: the trees are pruned regularly to keep them short; and, more modern trees are grown grafted on dwarfing rootstocks, such as those of crabapples,  that limit the size of the tree.
   Apple trees are also pruned not only to limit the size of the tree, but to improve the apple crop and make the apples easier to pick.  Pruning apple and other fruit trees severely will grow fewer but larger apples, which are easier to pick and ship than a lot of small apples.  Trees are also pruned to allow more light to reach the ripening fruit.
   Every orchardist has their own pruning style, but in general apple trees have a low, spreading profile, no main leader and several strong branches spreading from the main trunk several feet up from ground level.  It should be noted that there are other, more complicated and labor intensive methods of pruning apple and other fruit trees employed to good effect in European and other countries.
   The factors in pruning are simple and somewhat similar to any tree pruning.  Step one: remove sucker branches that grow from the roots and from the base of the trunk and from large branches. Step two: remove any branches that cross each other and rub together.  Step three: remove any dead wood.  Step four: prune to let light into the tree to ripen the fruit, and prune to keep the apples easy to pick.  Personally, and for aesthetics as well as ease of picking, I like the tree pruned to have over-arching branches that nearly reach the ground, in a rather weeping shape.  There are other considerations, such as encouraging the growth of fruiting spurs, short branches on second year and older growth that bear numerous fruit buds, but it is too difficult and time consuming to deal with here, except to say that in general  apple flower buds grow on second year and older growth, and pruning back sucker wood and tip growth will encourage flower and fruit production.
   Growing fruit trees as espaliers, i.e. trained to grow flat against a wall or on a wire fence is an old method that has come back into practice as a modern means of heavy production of fruit in a confined space.  Properly done, the fruit is easier to pick from espaliered trees and the fruit ripens better.  It is a very nice way to have a few fruit trees on a small property as well, and is very decorative.  The trees are grown rather like grape vines.
   Pruning tools should fit the task, and a good quality bypass hand shears should be used on small diameter branches, a lopping shears may be used on those over 1" in diameter and a pruning saw (not a chain saw) can be used on larger branches.  For the best results, trees should be pruned every year in late winter or early spring.  Touch-up pruning can be done during the growing season.  Fall pruning should be avoided as in can stimulate unhardy growth, and wounds that don't heal over for a whole winter can cause problems.
   Pruning apples in Bayfield can be a real chore if the snow is deep, as it usually is in late winter, and orchardists regularly plow lanes between rows of trees, and sometimes must don snow shoes to do their work.
   Apple varieties come and go in popularity and it is a real challenge for apple growers to try to stay ahead of the popularity contests, but many of the old fashioned varieties are as good or better than the new ones as far as taste and appearance are concerned.  Where new varieties are most important, in my estimation, is in selecting for disease and insect resistance, as that will eventually lead to growing apples organically, which is a very important concept, as apples must be sprayed many times during the growing season to render them marketable.
   A return to the growing of apples for apple cider, apple wine and hard cider is an encouraging trend, as those were the primary reasons for growing apples in years gone by, and a good hard cider is as good a libation as beer, and a good way to utilize and store the nutritional value of apples.
   The apple genus, Malus, has as its epicenter Kazakstan in central Asia, where the original wild species still grow. Earlier in my career I met and worked with a Kazakhstan horticulturist who was from the city of Alma atta, which means "Mother of apples," Apples are genetically a very malleable genus, and new varieties are constantly being produced, both in nature and in horticulture, and the prospects for further development of the apple fruit for flavor, for keeping quality and for juice are very bright.

Thursday, February 18, 2016



Thursday,  8:00 AM.  22 degrees F at the ferry dock, 20 on the back porch.  Wind variable, calm.  The sky is mostly overcast  The humidity is 67% and the barometer is 30.2" and falling, predicting rain showers tomorrow, when temperatures will be in the thirties.  The ferry was still struggling through the channel at 7:30 this morning.
   Even short-lived trees such as paper birch have fairly long lives (perhaps fifty years or more under good conditions in nature).  Many trees are very long lived, such as white oaks, that can live hundreds of years, or some species of conifers that may live thousands of years.  Sugar maple, Acer sacharum, is moderately long-lived, perhaps two hundred and fifty years in nature.  
   The tree pictured is a sugar maple perhaps thirty or forty years old, still quite young, not even middle-aged for its species.  It is perfectly shaped for its stage in life, having had a terminal leader for a number of years before it started to develop several co-dominant trunks.  To my knowledge it was never pruned and never suffered any significant damage due to accident, disease, insects or birds.  It has not been overly crowded by other trees or shrubs.  
   In short, it has led a charmed life that is reflected in its beautiful appearance, whether in leaf or dormant.  It will change in shape as it matures, its canopy spreading and its branches beginning to grow so tightly together in such a narrow "V" that the bark becomes included and the branching structure weakened.  That tendency of sugar maples to have a weak branching structure as they grow older is one of the real problems with maples grown in a city street environment.  In Bayfield we regularly have sugar maples that literally fall apart due to a weak branching structure when eighty or more years old.
   But for the present at least, this tree is a "Perfect Ten;" healthy, beautiful and structurally sound.  That said, it is unwise to over-plant any species or variety of tree, particularly in an urban environment.  As a society, should have learned that lesson with Dutch elm disease, but then we over-planted ash trees, which of course are being decimated by the emerald ash borer. Neither should we over-plant a given species or variety of tree because of one feature or aspect of its life history that we admire.  Hybrid red maples, such as 'Autumn Blaze' come to mind, as do varieties of ornamental pear that may look fabulous until a bad ice storm strikes and they disintegrate before our eyes.
   Speaking of sugar maples, it will soon be maple sugaring time.  One of the true mysteries of trees is why some have a sap flow when dormant (maples, birch, a few others) and most others don't.  Or, for that mater, why some species have a sugary sap (maple, birch) and others don't. 
   In any case, maples need to be monitored carefully to determine when to tap them to get a decent sap flow.  It is very difficult to be the absentee owner of a "sugar bush" (a maple woods where trees are tapped for their sap) as proper conditions for good sap flow can be quite local.  Cold nights below freezing followed by warm sunny days typically produce a good run of sap.  Judicious tapping of trees over 6" in diameter does the trees no harm as long as the tap holes heal over well before the next sugaring season, which they generally do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016



Wednesday, 9:00 AM.  16 degrees F and rising, at the ferry dock and on the back porch as well.  The wind is variable and calm.  The sky has some clouds, but the sun is bright.  The humidity is 74% and the barometer is steady, at 30.33".  It is a nice winter morning,
   As of yesterday, the ferry was still running and the wind sled was not.  The weather has warmed up some again so it looks as though the ferry may struggle on a bit longer.  At this juncture there is a long pressure ridge near the ferry dock that is hampering access for the wind sled, and there are probably other weak spots and hazards as well.
   After the ferry stops running and prior to the ice road being open, the wind sled takes over the transportation of people, but it can carry only limited supplies.  So, traditionally this is when Madeline Island runs out of consumables, such as propane, fresh fruit, milk, and most importantly...BEER!
   The precious commodity is, fortunately, able to be transported in considerable quantities by snowmobile, and I think I witnessed a practice run yesterday afternoon.  Or, perhaps the cargo was something stronger.
   I have heard tales of dogsled runs from Canada to bring whiskey to the Island during prohibition, from whence it was distributed by bootleggers to the big cities.  If such tales are true, the famous Alaskan Iditarod dogsled  mercy mission pales by comparison.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016




Tuesday, 8:15 AM.  Twenty eight degrees F at the ferry dock, 26 on the back porch.  Wind W, calm with occasional light gusts  The sky is overcast and the humidity 89%.  The barometer is at 29,86" and rising.  We got a surprise 3+" of new snow yesterday evening around dinner time.  It was not predicted, and everything is covered again with a fresh coat of powder.
   I went to the IGA in Washburn yesterday around four o'clock, and noticed that there were at least a dozen vehicles parked at the end of Friendly Valley Road at the beach.  There were also numerous fishing tents out on the ice there, which is near the mouth of the Sioux River.  The ice had not been sound enough on the upper reaches of the Bay for much ice fishing activity.  When I returned a half hour later there was only one vehicle and one tent.  Either the fish weren't biting or they all had strict instructions from their wives to be home for dinner.  They must have been the Holiday variety of fishermen, as Real Fishermen don't pay any attention to either factor.
   On the same trip I spotted a huge bald eagle perched in a tree that overhung Hwy. 13.  By the time I turned back to take a photo it was gone.
   Since yesterday was President's Day, which celebrates both Washington and Lincoln's birthdays, I will comment on two good biographies I have read this past year:  
   Killing Lincoln, by Bill O'Rielly and Martin Duguard, is excellent history, and reads like a fast-paced detective novel.  It is a quick, excellent read, with much historical detail that will be new to many readers.  It is the way to teach history.  
   Washington, a Life, by award winning historian Ron Chernow, at over 800 pages is a rather exhaustive biography, but extremely interesting and detailed, and elucidates all the experiences and traits that made Washington the "indispensable man" that he was to the revolution, the adoption of the Constitution and the establishment of the United States as a nation.
   A number of years ago I had the privilege of spending some time in Washington, DC, for a week  each of  several years on business.  I was still running  early every morning and would run the National Mall, past the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial and would stop for a breather at the Lincoln Memorial, where I would sit on the steps and watch the sun come up, its rays reflected in the water of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. 
   I have never felt more connected to the nation and its turbulent history than at those times, and it filled me with deep emotion to see the lagoon, the mall and all the monuments and memorials in the peace and quiet of a new morning.

Monday, February 15, 2016





Monday, President's Day, 10:00 AM.  19 degrees F at the ferry dock, 18 on the back porch.  Wind WSW, calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, the humidity 83%.  The barometer is mostly steady at 29.83".    Except for the absence of sunshine, it is a nice winter day
   I stopped by Mount Ashwabay Recreation Area yesterday afternoon to see what was going on.  The lvery large park, jointly owned by federal, state, county and a local non-profit organization, has downhill skiing and cross country skiing, hiking and snow shoeing in the winter and is the summer home of the Big Top Chatauqua and Blue Canvas Orchestra.  It is also the home of local high school ski teams.  It wasn't particularly busy yesterday even though the temperature had moderated into the mid-teens.  It is very busy most weekdays with high school ski meets and is a great winter recreation opportunity for the local communities. It is located just west of Hwy 13 about two miles south of Bayfield.
  Downhill skis, snow boards, snow shoes and Nordic  equipment can all be rented at reasonable rates.  They have a very complete web site that details all their prices and rental options. Food and drink are available at a congenial warming hut.
   This facility probably does not meet the aspirations of highly experienced skiers, but is great for the beginner and for families.

Sunday, February 14, 2016



Sunday, 8:00 AM.  0 degrees F at the ferry dock, -2 on the back porch.  Wind WSW, calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is partly cloudy and the humidity has dropped to 66%.  The barometer is also dropping, now at 30.29".  It did not get as cold as predicted last night, which was good for the participants in the Book Across The Bay event (ski and snowshoe from Ashland to Washburn).
   It was, however, plenty cold enough last night to freeze the ferry path through the ice fairly solid, as its progress this morning was accompanied by loud scrapping and crunching noises that could be heard a mile away up on the bluff.
   I also heard the unmistakable sound of a big wind sled yesterday, and saw one (very distant) zipping across the ice near Madeline Island, but it is not making the trip to Bayfield as yet.  As soon as the ferry stops running and the ice is solid at the Bayfield shore it should begin service.  
   We were shocked, as was everyone else in the country, by the untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, an iconic defender of the constitution in these days of near anarchy.  His passing had a major impact on the Republican debate last evening, which in my estimation dishonored his memory with its crude infighting and ad hominem attacks.
   There will now be a prolonged and bitter fight over his replacement on the court.  Conservatives must win this battle, or the nation will risk spinning out of control down the black hole of a far left wing or far right wing regime.
   Justice Scalia proved throughout his monumental career that one can be tough and principled, even overpowering, without rancor and even with a good deal of geniality.
   Rest In Peace, Justice Scalia.  I have heard that the angels sing Puccini arias.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016



Saturday, 8:45 AM.  -3 degrees F at the ferry dock,  -2 on the back porch.  Wind calm and variable.  The sky is partly cloudy with scattered clouds.  The humidity is 74% and the barometer 30.60" and beginning to fall.  It did not get as cold as predicted last night and it looks like we will be warming up some for the next week, with little precipitation.
   The record high for this date was 49 degrees in 1976.  The record low was -25 degrees in 1271.
   Buddy still has a bad cough so we have only been sticking our noses out of our den.  We aren't either of us a hibernating hibernating species but we have come close.  It will be good to get us back to normal activity.
    I have started to go to the Bayfield Recreation Center and use the treadmill and the New Step to try to get back to where I was before we left for Texas.  Fridays are free for seniors, and there are various price options for other days.  Joan and I will probably opt for the daily rate for seniors of $4.90.  I think two days a week (one paid, one free) should be sufficient.
   We have a litttle "gardening angel" in the herb garden. 
   She looks frozen.

Friday, February 12, 2016




Friday, 8:00 AM.  4 degrees F at the ferry dock and on the back porch as well (the two locations seldom agree, due to difference in elevation and wind directions).  Wind NNW, calm with occasional strong gusts.  The sky is cloudy, overcast and there is considerable fog. The humidity is 74%, the barometer 30.3" and rising somewhat.  We are in a cold snap through Saturday night at least, when it is expected to be well below zero.  Very little snow is predicted for the next week or more and temperatures should warm up.
   Joan and I watched the Democratic Debate last night.  Impressions:
   Sanders: compelling naive.
   Clinton:  Slick Hilly.
   The Book Across The Bay is a unique ski and snowshoe event held annually to benefit the Washburn and Ashland libraries.  This is year 20 for the Book, which has become huge, attracting thousands of participants.  
   The course is 10K, from Ashland to Washburn.  Preregistration is required.  The course is prepared with ski hill grooming equipment, lined with Christmas trees to mark it, and lit with candles burning in ice blocks.  The temperature will plummet to nine degrees F below zero on Saturday night.  Participants park their cars at Washburn and are transported by bus to the starting point  at Maslowski Park in Ashland.  To ensure everyone is off the ice, it is a one-way race.  A tragic accident several years ago killed a college student who went back to Ashland across the ice by himself and was struck by a car.
   I used to contemplate snowshoeing the event but those days are long past.  Besides, I think it advantageous to be thawed out for Valentines Day.

Thursday, February 11, 2016



Thursday, 10:00 AM.  8 degrees F at the ferry dock, 9 on the back porch.  The wind is WSW, mostly calm with moderate gusts.  The sky is mostly overcast and the humidity 77%.  The barometer is falling somewhat, and is now at 30.37".  We should have a few more cold days and then moderate warming, with no snow, next week.
   Buddy and I are both staying out of the cold.  He with a very bad cough that seems to be a recurring ailment every winter, and I with a nagging sinus condition.  We have not been out and about as much a usual and have less in the way of outdoorsy news to report.  So we will fall back on some political commentary.
   According to the news, a superpac has been created that will not support any candidate, but has as its goal "to destroy Donald Trump."  This is exactly the wrong thing to do, for two reasons:
  1.  It is evidently too late in the evolution of American politics to have a fully positive campaign, but to be purposely and only negative, without advocating anything  constructive, sinks the political process to a new low, when we all thought it not possible go lower.
   2. It will more than likely backfire, and draw ever more of the electorate, most of whom consider themselves disenfranchised, abandoned and abused, to The Donald, who will skillfully transfer the insults hurled at him to them, and they will elect him their champion.
   The people who are behind this superpac, and perhaps the rest of us, will likely live to regret their actions.
   It is a very bad idea.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016




Wednesday, 8:30 AM.  4 degrees F at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind NW, light.  The sky is mostly cloudy, the humidity 79%.  The barometer is at 30.2" and rising slightly.  Snow showers are predicted for later this morning.
   The route of the ferry has provided an opportunity for melting and wave action to keep much of the channel open until now, but the current cold snap is building a lot more ice, and although the path of the ferry is still evident things clearly froze over a lot last night.  Now I suppose the thin ice will entice a lot of fishermen out onto it, let's hope there are no serious accidents (a number of pickups have gone through the ice on the lower bay near Ashland, I am told).
   The big political news out of New Hampshire this morning for the Republicans is that Donald Trump won big, with Kasich a distant second and everyone else bunched up behind.  This is also big news for the race ahead for the Presidency and  for the country.
   Having participated in national elections since the Nixon-Kennedy years I can attest to the fact that the political pendulum always swings back and forth, and the further it swings to the left one cycle the further it will swing to the right the next. 
   Trump is the exact opposite of Obama, and the excesses of the left will automatically lead to triumph, if not to excess, on the right.  Luckily for us as a nation, up to now the constitution has damped excesses in both directions.  That is the primary function of the constitution, with its wise provisions for divided, limited and balanced governance at every level.
   Humans are imperfect, impatient and very unwise.  And, yes, often evil .  The Founding Fathers knew this very well, and recognized their own weaknesses and evils when establishing the new order.  It has worked well up to this point.
   Let us keep the faith. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016



Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  6 degrees F at the ferry dock, 7 on the back porch.  Wind NW, mostly calm with occasional moderate to stronger gusts.  The humidity is 80% and the barometer is more or less steady, at around 30.65"  It just stopped snowing, and we have about 4" of new snow.  It is relentless; never seems to stop for long.  It occurs to me that this is how glaciers grow.
   I have written about Martha's garden before (use the search engine at the top of the page to see Martha's Fantastic Garden I and II, September 28 and 29, 2013).  Located on several city lots on the corner of 9th St. and Washington Ave., it is a wonderful garden of combined French and Chinese elements, what the French called a Chinoiserie,  and is the work of one lone and very determined woman gardener.  It is interesting to see it in stark design detail in midwinter. Of course most of the garden ornaments have been taken in, and the snow is Bayfield deep.
   But the bones are there, like a fossil in a museum.

Monday, February 8, 2016



Monday, 9:00 AM.  17 degrees F at the ferry dock, 16 on the back porch.  Wind NNE, calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is overast and cloudy and it is snowing lightly.  The humidity is 85% and the barometer falling, currently at 26.86".  About 3" of new snow has fallen.  It looks like a day that could go either way.
   We watched Super Bowl 50 on CBS yesterday evening.  As the whole world knows by now, the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers, 24 to 10.  It was a boring, almost endless game, devoid of any really exciting plays and overrun with personal fouls.
   Endless and needless commentary and flashbacks interrupted the flow of the game.  The halftime show was mostly crude and devoid of artistry.  The commercials were relentless, and every time one came on it reinforced my dislike of  televised football.  The play action was interrupted so often and for such long periods of time that it was difficult for the viewer to stay in the game.  I can only assume that the play is mostly filmed and the commercials inserted to make it really a semi-live broadcast, as the players could not possibly stay engaged in the game with so many and lengthy interruptions.
   I have to admit that I don't understand most of the commercials because they do not directly identify the product or say much about it; they are mainly stream of consciousness presentations and devoted to blowing things up.
   Shakespeare must have been anticipating American football commercials when he coined the phrase, "Like a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing."

Sunday, February 7, 2016



Sunday, 8:30 AM.  31 degrees F at the ferry dock, 28 on the back porch.  Wind SSW, calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is overcast and cloudy, the humidity 93%.  The barometer is at 29.57"and momentarily steady.  It is beginning to snow again.
   We had a surprise visit from a niece and her friend yesterday and we went to Maggie's for dinner.  Joan and I hadn't been there in a long while and we had really good burgers with all the trimmings.  The iconic eatery is a must for visitors, and is often the only restaurant open in the winter.
   Joan and I watched the Republican debates again last night.  We are all debated out, having watched the debates of both parties.  My succinct impressions of the candidates:

   Trump: capable but crude. Would drop the F bomb on Putin, get a missile in return.
   Cruz: great debater, but a  right-wing sourpuss.
   Rubio: inexperienced but silver-tounged (a Republican rendition of Obama).
   Carson:  Could make a fortune performing brain transplants on politicians.
   Christie: aggressive, and smart about everything except closing the George Washington      Bridge.
   Bush: Barbara would get my vote.
   Kasich: saved Ohio, could save the country.
   Fiorina: the country's evidently not ready for a woman candidate smarter than the men. 

   Clinton: "What difference does it make now?" Not much, she's through.
   Sanders:  It's a good thing high school sophomores can't vote.
   Biden: "He's too old to cut the mustard any more."

There you have it.  I don't answer polls.


Saturday, February 6, 2016





Saturday, 9:00 AM.  23 degrees F at the ferry dock, 21 on the back porch.  Wind SSW, calm with occasional moderate gusts.  The sky is mostly cloudy and overcast, the humidity 84%.  The barometer stands steady at 30.10". It is a quiet, not unpleasant morning.
   It is dogsled race day again, and unless we have been in Texas have always attended.  This year we are in the middle of painting and varnishing and cleaning up after work on the fireplace surround so are preoccupied.  Too bad, but we had to make choices.
   The snow and weather conditions should be perfect for the dogs and the the  times should be good.  If you haven't seen a dogsled race you have missed an interesting time.  The race is actually a race against time, but the competitors do bunch up so there is plenty of action,  and interaction, between teams at choke points and at the crossings.  The dogs can be seen up close at the starting point.  
   Dog lovers can sign up in advance to help harness the dogs and interact with them.  It is a yearly event, so if you missed it this year, come join the fun next year.
   Mush On!

Friday, February 5, 2016



Friday, 7:45 AM. 13 degrees F at the ferry dock, 10 on the back porch.  Wind variable, and calm to very light.  The sky is overcast but attempting to clear, the humidity 85% and the barometer 30.39" and falling.  Buddy and I are waiting for it to warm up a bit before we take our walk.
   I have been suspicious and apprehensive concerning communicating via the so-called social media (twittering, tweeting, texting).  My concerns have certainly been confirmed by the dust-up over what occurred in the Iowa presidential caucuses, when CNN erroneously broadcast that Ben Carson was heading home and might be dropping out of the race.  Bad journalism, that. 
   The Cruz campaign immediately jumped on the "news "and used social media to tell all its caucus captains that they should spread this rumor and persuiade Carson supporters to cast their vote for their candidate.  Given that there were 1,500 caucus sites, there could have been a considerable shift in sentiment; we will never know.
   The Donald of course, ever bombastic, tweeted his outrage at the Cruz campaign and claimed they  stole the election from him.
   The Cruz campaign then twittered (or whatever) an apology that was not just insufficient, it was really a smarmy denial of any wrongdoing.
   Even NY Congressman Steven King got into the act by twittering that Carson was out of the race and the Cruz people should take advantage of it.  This stuff metastasizes like a cancer.
   So here we go again,  beginning a very serious election season with lies, half-truths and stupidity. 
   I have all I can do, as a fairly serious person, to express myself fully and clearly in actual writing, much less by electronic shorthand, without time to think or reflect.  I suspect that most people are similarly unsuited to using social media for much more than jokes, outbursts of temper or immediate driving or shopping information.  I for sure don't want it used by politicians, most of whom are no more intelligent or thoughtful than me or you.
   OMG...LOL, BFF.  I just tweeted that you are fat and ugly, but I didn't really mean it!  See you at the popular kids table at lunchtime.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Thursday,  8:30 AM.  14 degrees F at the ferry dock, 12 on the back porch.  Wind SSW, mostly calm with light gusts.  The sky is mainly overcast, the humidity 83% and the barometer is at 30.16" and rising.
   We were extremely lucky to have returned from Texas before the massive storm which hit the Midwest during the last few days struck.  We would have been marooned somewhere along the way, for sure.  The storm closed hundreds of miles of I70 in Kansas and I80 in Nebaska and I 35 would have been almost as badly affected.  As it was, we got the leading edge of the storm all the way north to Bayfield, where the roads are still slick and drifted.
   It is now February, and the channel between Bayfield and Madeline Island is again open water, the strong winds spawned by the storm breaking up the ice and blowing it out.  The ferry has been breaking ice to keep operating, as the ice has been too hazardous for any kind of vehicle traffic, and the windsleds have not been in service as yet. 
   It looks now as though the ferry might run all winter, although a spate of really cold weather without strong winds may still freeze the channel.  We had a mild early winter and little really frigid weather thus far, and the groundhog predicted an early spring yesterday.
   Can't come soon enough for me.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016





Wednesday, 7:30 AM,  20.5 degrees F at the ferry dock, 17 on the back porch.  Wind NNW, very strong and gusty.  The sky is overcast, with thick, low black clouds.  It has just stopped snowing.  The humidity is 89% and the barometer is at 29.0 and rising.
   The snow; fine, needle-sharp pellets, is swirling off the roof and around the house, trying to find a crack in our defenses.  Last night's blizzard left us between five and six inches of snow, and it was for sure nothing to be out and about in.  Buddy and I are hesitating to enter its realm even now.  It is a dark morning except for the brilliant white of the new snow, which contrasts starkly with the black clouds enveloping, or actually emanating from,  the channel.  Madeline Island is still only a dismal blob on the eastern horizon. We will have to go out eventually, as Buddy has an appointment at the vet to get his rabies shot updated, and we have a lot of other errands to run.  
   Joan had an eye doctor appointment in Duluth yesterday, so we checked on the roadside sculptures which have been appearing just east of Brule on Hwy. 13, and sure enough, a nice catch was dangling from the line of the rod and reel.  
   The fish is a very good addition, but it seems to be a hybrid species.  Maybe a cross between a walleye and a northern pike.  Or maybe a little artistic license was taken.  In any case, the artwork is very realistic and fun to view. 
   The whole display could be something by the late contemporary artist Andy Warhol, if he had been a Northlander.