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Saturday, April 30, 2016

NOTHING LIKE GARDENING

GARDEN MULCHED, TULIPS, PEONIES, POPPIES EMERGING, DAFFODILS AND FORSYTHIA BLOOMING

ROSES PRUNED AND MULCHED, MINI DAFFODILS BLOOMING
Saturday, 10:00 AM.  40 degrees F at the ferry dock and on the back porch.  Wind ENE, very blustery.  The sky is mostly clear, the humidity 85%.  The barometer is at 30.31" and holding steady.  The forecast is for a bit warmer and dry weather for the next week.  This is the longest stretch of high winds from the north and east that I can remember.
   I got some garden work done yesterday; perennials mulched with wood chips, roses pruned and mulched, but at a price.  I am stiff and sore.  Treadmill and cross trainer to no avail; nothing prepares one for garden work but gardening.
  At least I have started, and given three or four decent days the spring garden and yard work should be done.  Hope I make it.

Friday, April 29, 2016

PAPER BIRCH AND BLUE SPRUCE

PAPER BIRCH
Friday, 8:20 AM.  40 degrees F at the ferry dock, 38 on the back porch.  Wind still out of the NE, but less intense; calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is clear, the humidity 76%.  The barometer is at 30.22" and steady at present.  The seven to ten days ahead is forecast to be a bit warmer and with little or no precpitation.  The storms and high winds seem to be abated, and it is a glorious morning.
   One evening, when I was maybe fifteen, I found my dad in the basement, sitting in front of the coal furnace,  drinking a beer.  He had recently bought a small acreage and had started a tree nursery.  He was in an expansive mood, and told me to sit down for a little talk.  Oh, oh, I thought, I'm in for it now.  To my relief he wanted to talk trees.
   I think he had in the back of his mind that I should eventually go into business with him, but fate would soon intervene, although neither of us new it at the time.  He wanted to talk about Colorado blue spruce and paper birch trees.
   "Plant Colorado Blue Spruce and paper birch trees.  They always sell, mostly together.  People will pay a premium because nothing speaks to the city dweller like the lakes and mountains, and nothing says lakes and mountains better than blue spruce and paper birch."
   Long story short, I took his advice, and planted dozens of seedlings of each and nurtured them over the years to saleable size. They paid for a lot of college tuition, and I traded some for a grand wedding cake when Joan and I were married years later.  Even traded some to have our first house painted.  I did well following Dad's advice.
   The Colorado Blue Spruce are pretty much out of favor now because they have become subject to a very debilitating fungal needle disease, for which there is currently no remedy.  And the paper birch have always been problematical,
   The paper birch, Betula papyrifera, in the Birch Family, is a tree of the far north, native in North America from the Great Lakes north to the Tundra and all across Canada and Alaska.  Used as an ornamental, paper birch are usually planted in locations too hot and dry for them to thrive.  The natural habitats of paper birch are stream banks, the edges of swamps, rocky hillsides and wet sands, although they will grow on drier sites in a cool climate.
   Even in nature, paper birch are short-lived trees, seldom lasting more than forty or fifty years, if that.  They are a pioneer species, requiring sun, and are shaded out by oaks, maples and fir trees.  Paper birch trees will often stand dead, held together by their bark, until a strong wind or other disturbance sends them crashing in a pile of lumpy sawdust.
   The bronze birch borer often kills whole groves of paper birch, even in the best native habitat, and it sneaks up on ornamental plantings and kills trees often before it is detected.  Trying to control the borer in the wild is pretty much impossible, and although it is possible to combat it in the home landscape the effort may not be worth it for what is necessarily an ephemeral tree.
   The bronze birch borer is the larvae of a beetle that inserts its eggs under the bark of the host tree, where the borers feed on the cambium of branches and trunks, eventually girdling and killing the tree.  Their presence is indicated by raised areas on branches that trace their tunneling. If the bark is peeled back with a sharp knife the tunnels and grubs can be seen.  Systemic insecticides can be effective if applied soon enough, but are expensive to use and may not be worth the trouble and environmental hazard.
   To make a paper birch last as long as possible in the landscape, it should be planted in good topsoil that is on the sandy side, and it must have good drainage but also adequate moisture.  The roots must be kept as cool as possible, which means mulching, or at least not mowing the grass beneath the tree.  Under planting with compatible native shrubs is also an option.
   There have been a number of hybrids of the paper birch with the European white birch or the eastern gray birch that are more adaptable, and are resistant to borer.  Also, the river birch, B. nigra, has a very ornamental, exfoliating bark when young and sometimes is used in place of the paper birch, although it becomes a much larger tree.
   But my dad was right in his assessment, there is nothing like the combination of blue spruce and paper birch.  Today I would say substitute the native white spruce for the Colorado blue spruce, and plant the paper birch with the expectation that it is a short-lived species, and enjoy them together as long as nature allows.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

PARAKITING ON THE RED SEA

PARAKITING...

...ON THE RED SEA
Thursday, 8:00 AM.  38.5 degrees F at the ferry dock, 35 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with strong gusts.  The sky is mostly cloudy with a high overcast.  The humidity is 68%, the barometer 30.16" and more or less steady.  There is a chance of rain today, but cool and dry is the forecast for the next seven days.  The NE winds still blow.
   The Nor'easter continued yesterday, the wind unabated but without rain, and that created a great opportunity for a parakiter in Ashland, who sailed back and forth across the end of Lake Superior's Chequamagon Bay.
   It takes a lot of wind to propel a person through the surf, then lift him high into the air at the end of a run.  This sportsman was very agile and in control, skimming close to rocks on shore.  It looks safe enough, if the hazards below the surface of the water are known; hitting a submurged  object would not be pleasant.   The water temperature is probably less than 40 degrees F, and an unconscious body would be quickly subject to hypothermia.
   But it sure looks like fun!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

THE RED SEA

LOWER CHEQUAMAGON BAY AFTER A NOR'EASTER

Wednesday, 7:30 AM.  38 degrees F at the ferry dock, 35 on the back porch.  Wind ENE, calm with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is mostly cloudy but is starting to clear,  the humidity is 73%.  The barometer is more or less steady, currently at 30.17".  Seasonal temperatures and no rain are predicted for the next week.
   Lower Chequamegon Bay at Ashland was nearly blood red with suspended sand and fine clay silt yesterday, after days of high north and northeast winds.  This is a startling sight when seen for the first time, but is a rather common experience.
   Our soils are very fine clay and sand based, the lake bluffs basically ancient lake sand beaches, and heavy rains and winds erode them, and even the most stable and forested watersheds constantly erode.  The lake here at the end of the bay is comparalively shallow and sandy bottomed as well, and days of strong winds roil the lake bed.  Our rivers are mostly high runoff, steep gradient streams, and erode and gully easily
   It is probably true that logging, fire and farming in the region have had a role in creating this "red sea" condition but it is also a natural occurrence that has been going on for the last ten thousand years.
   The soil erosion probably can't be stopped entirely, but soil conservation, fire suppression, forest health and reforestation efforts can go a long way to maintain stability.
   But for now, Chequamagon Bay is the "red sea."

THE OLD SAILORS SAY A NOR'EASTER LASTS THREE DAYS

FORSYTHIA, DAFFODILS AND HYACINTHS ARE BLOOMING ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE  HOUSE...

...BUT HANG ON FOR THE BUMPY FERRY CROSSING

Tuesday, 8:00 AM.  Wind NE, very blustery. The sky is mostly overcast but the sun is peeking through the gloom. The humidity is 82% and the barometer is rising steeply, now at 30.06".  It is no longer raining but the wind, slightly less severe, continues.
   Yesterday was a day of extreme contrasts.  On the one hand daffodils, Hyacinths and Forsythia are blooming freely now in Bayfield, and it will take only a few sunny days for the city's daffodil display to be in full force. Thw native pussy willows are through blooming for the most part, full anthesis being reached a few days ago, and diminutive red maple flower petals litter the roads.
   On the other hand, the storm  out of the northeast has been fierce, and although the rain seems to be over, the gale force winds, a true Nor'easter, still blow.  There was serious talk of shutting down the ferry yesterday, something which is seldom done, because of the rough crossing.  I watched the four 0'clock ferry leave the Bayfield dock, and it was bouncing around vigorously by the time it got a few hundred yards out into the channel. Landlubbers might have been a little green around the gills by the time they reached LaPointe.
   Our monthly Tree Board meeting this morning was long and I think productive, made longer with poetry readings about spring,  but the prose was all about the awful weather.
   The old sailors say a Nor'easter lasts three days, and this one is getting long in the tooth.

Monday, April 25, 2016

TRAVEL FOR AN OLD HUNTER'S 80TH BIRTHDAY PARTY

WISCONSIN WEEPING WILLOWS ARE IN BLOOM AND LEAFING OUT FROM WAUSAU SOUTH

BRADFORD PEARS ARE BLOOMING IN MILWAUKEE
A HUNTER'S 80TH BIRTHDAY PARTY
BILL, THE HUNTER, AND ALENE ,THE HUNTER'S WIFE
Monday, 7:45 AM.  37 degrees F at the ferry dock, 34 on the back porch. Wind NE, blowing a gale.  The sky has a low overcast and it has rained all night, an accumulation of 1.25".  The roadside ditches are running full and more is predicted for today.  The humidity is 96% and the barometer has bottomed out at 29.82".  The old sailors say a nor'easter lasts three days. so this may hang around for a while.
   Our trip to Oconomowoc for old  friend Bill Peebles' 80th birthday party was a great success, both party-wise and travel-wise. First, a phenological report on the trip from north to south through the center of the state of Wisconsin:  spring is still in the earliest stages of arrival in the far north, but by the time we got to Wausau in mid-state things were waking up, the iconic Wisconsin weeping willows being in full bloom and leafing out throughout the south half of the state.  Tamaracks are just leafing out from a bit north of Wausau to fully leafed out south.  Everything is leafing out  now in the south, and early flowers and shrubs are in full bloom there.  Bradford pear trees are blooming, and even some wild plum bushes. I think daffodils are mostly through, and tulips and Hyacinths blooming.  
   We stopped to visit with Joan's brother Harry and his wife Sharon, and they had flocks of big turkeys  at their bird feeder (he feeds them dog food and it obviously agrees with them).  We stayed with my cousin Sue, and on our return trip we saw four trumpeter swans on their northern migration.  They were resting at the marsh just south of Hurley.  
   We had a wonderful time at Bill's 80th birthday party, which honored him as a family man, community leader, and as a hunter and conservationist.  Few people remember nowadays that American hunters were our first conservationists, who supported the 1937 Pitman-Robertson Act that established taxes on ammunition for the conservation of wildlife, and that they still pay for significant conservation programs to this day. 
   Bill is the best wing shot and the best naturalist I have ever known, and I have known plenty of both.  Bill was a serious conservationist long before most of today's environmentalists were born.  Being first an educated farmer and later a builder and developer, he understands land use from both a  business and an ecological perspective, which is a rare talent indeed.  He has not only built subdivisions, he has restored and preserved marshes and prairies, and has been a leader in the preservation of farmland  and farming in Oconomowoc County and throughout the State of Wisconsin.
   Happy Birthday, old friend!
  

Friday, April 22, 2016

SOME THINGS JUST GO TOGETHER

FORSYTHIA AND HEATHER

Friday, 7:00 AM.  35 degrees F at the ferry dock, 34 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with occasional moderate gusts.  The sky is overcast and the humidity is 86%. The barometer is steady, at 30.24".  Rain is predicted for Sunday,and snow on Monday.
   The Washburn ambulance came through Bayfield with sirens sounding and lights flashing last night, its destination the Bayfield emergency equipment garage.  They were holding a joint drill.
   We are leaving a bit later this morning for Oconomowoc (outskirts of Milwaukee) for the 80th birthday party of my oldest (still living) friend, Bill Peebles.  We were in the Army Reserves together and have hunted geese and pheasants together off and on for sixty years.There will be no posts for a couple of days.
   Some things just go together, like, you know, bacon and eggs, or toast and jelly, boy and girl, or...Forsythia and heather.
   Forsythia X intermedia, in the Oleaceae, the Olive Family, and heather, Calluna vulgaris, in the Ericaceae, the Heath Family are one of those combinations.  The former is a hybrid of several  Asiatic species, the latter European, but they are an absolutely natural pair.  The heather begins blooming a week or two before the Forsythia.  Last spring the two were blooming together about a week earlier than this year, even though this winter was far milder than last.  Go figure.
   Look for the plants growing together on the corner of 9th and Washington Ave.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

IT REALLY LOOKS GOOD FROM UP HERE

GEE, WE CAN'T SEE THE LAKE SO GOOD ANYMORE...

LOOKS BETTER WITH SOME SHRUBS CUT DOWN...

...I JUST HOPE THE BLUFF DOESN'T COLLAPSE INTO THE LAKE NOW...
Thursday, 8:00 AM.  42 degrees F at the flerry dock, 42 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  lThe sky is overcast and it has been raining a bit.  Barometer currently at 29.85" and rising steeply.  Rain showers are predicted for Sunday, with snow possible on Monday.  Yuk!
   Yesterday late morning I heard a chainsaw.  That's not unusual, as someone is always cleaning something up in the spring.  But it was very persistent, hardly any pauses at all.  A lot of work being done.  Just as I was about to go and check it out, I got a telephone call from a neighbor on the lake shore, said he had a lot of brush he needed chipped, could I find him someone to chip it up?  I could try, I said, where is it?  How much is there?
  "A whole  lot, maybe an acre by the time we're done."  "It's easy to get to, right down on the hill, overlooking the lake."
   "Who's property is it on?" I asked.
   "I don't know" was the answer, "Maybe the City's...but you can see the lake real good now from the park."
   This is Bayfield, built on the bluffs above Lake Superior.  Everyone wants to look at the lake.  If people had their way, there wouldn't be a tree in sight, just as barren as it was a century ago, after the logging boom.  Almost as barren as it was in 1942, when a flash flood gouged the ravines deeper and sent boulders crashing through downtown, and caskets washed from the cemetery up on the hill into the lake and floated out to sea.  No one remembers the nearby bluff face that had fallen onto the Brownstone Trail below a few years ago, after illegal cutting.  Or the fact that a large section of sewer pipe had washed out last winter.
   The city has strict ordinances: no cutting on city property without permission, and absolutely no cutting in the conservancy areas that protect the ravines and bluffs.  None.  And its done all the time, on weekends and at night
   I was very chagrined when I went to see what had been done, as not only was the cutting extensive, but it was done by should we say people who, good intentions aside, should have known better.  Did know better.  The Director of Public works  arrived, and he was mad.
   Everyone put away their chain saws and protested their innocence and good intentions. Everything O,K,, lesson learned  I thought, until I heard, as we all went our separate ways:
    "Gee, you can really see the lake good now, from up here in the park."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

FORSYTHIA BLOOMING, MAYOR MACDONALD RETIRING


FORSYTHIA JUST BEGINNING TO BLOOM

BAYFIELD MAYOR LARRY MACDONALD...

...RETIRING
Wednesday, 9:30 AM.  38 degrees F on the ferry dock, 38 on the back porch.  Wind variable and calm.  Humidity 90%, barometer 30.15" and falling precipitously, predicting showers for tomorrow.  It is a quiet morning.  The Wednesday Weeders volunteers are spreading mulch in Fountain Garden Park, and a couple of city workers are straightening out sod that was plowed up on the roadsides during the winter.
   The Forsythia began blooming around town yesterday but it will take a couple of days for these icons of spring to look their best.
   Larry MacDonald, Mayor of Bayfield, was all decked out in his traditional tux and high hat yesterday afternoon late for his official retirement after twenty years on the job.  Larry put Bayfield on the tourist map, and in many ways is responsible for its considerable environmental reputation.  Larry brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money over the years, and Bayfield looks good mainly because of his efforts.  He always took his job seriously, but not himself.  He has been an exceptional mayor.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SCILLA BULBS AND LOTS OF TIME

SCILLA  BLOSSOMS  AND SNOW BANK...

                    
SCILLA UNDER OLD APPLE TREES


Tuesday, 8:30 AM.  37 degrees F at the ferry dock, 35 on the back porch.  Wind NE, gusty.  The sky is mostly overcast and cloudy, the humidity high, at 91%.  The barometer is falling, currently at 30.43".
   I went to Hauser's yesterday, to reserve hanging baskets for the porch and decks.  They have done a fantastic job of erecting the two 80' greenhouse ranges they purchased from Baily's, which has gone out of business.  It was a rainy, foggy, cold, dismal day.  But it was cheered unexpectedly by the presence of large drifts of Scilla blooms contrasting with snowbanks and old apple trees.  
   Scilla bulbs will spread over time, and time is what it takes to produce scenes like this.

Monday, April 18, 2016

BUZZARDS DON'T GET NO RESPECT

A WISCONSIN TURKEY VULTURE, IN THE ORCHARD COUNTRY
Monday, 8:00 AM.  37 degrees F at the ferry dock, 36 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with strong, bitter gusts.  The humidity is 87%, the barometer more or less steady, at 30.45".  A chance of rain is predicted for Wednesday and Thursday.  Hope it doesn't snow.
   Turkey vultures, AKA "buzzards,"  have become a rather common  bird in Wisconsin within my lifetime.  I don't remember seeing them at all when I was, say, in my twenties.  In fact, my Birds of Wisconsin book, by Owen Grome, published in 1963, lists the turkey vulture as an "uncommon transient," and its counterpart, the black vulture, as "accidental."  
   Turkey vultures migrate from the southern states to the upper Midwest and eastern Canada, the black vulture are non-migratory.  In any case, turkey vultures do not overwinter in Wisconsin, and I have never seen them in the winter in Bayfield. Neither have I ever seen a black vulture here, although I see them frequently in Ohio.
   Turkey vultures have been evident in northern Wisconsin for some weeks now, however.  They are a large bird and might be mistaken for eagles in flight except for the way they hold their wings in a loose "V" when soaring, and their lack of a white head and tail.  The  bald eagle tail is also shorter and broader.
   The black vulture is a similar bird in appearance to the turkey vulture except for head coloration, and it soars higher when looking for carrion, as it lacks the olfactory capability of the turkey vulture.  The two birds are often seen together where their territories overlap, as the turkey vulture can smell carrion better, but the black vulture has a beak that can rip open carcasses with ease.  Both vultures are gregarious and roost in large flocks.
   The California condor is a third, and very rare, North American vulture species.  Vultures are an important operative in the economy of nature, ridding the land of dead animals that otherwise would become repositories for disease organisms.  The digestive juices of vultures are so strong that the disease organisms  they ingest are killed.
   Every year on March 19th, without fail, the swallows return from South America to the Capistrano Mission in California.  Just as faithfully, on March 15th, the buzzards return to Hinkley, Ohio from the South. Somehow the images are rather incongruous, the one a thing of beauty, the other of something darker. 
   My Aunt Helen lived to be almost a hundred years old, and she always kept a caged canary, which she would entice to sing by saying to it ,"Pretty bird, pretty bird."  That wouldn't work with a turkey buzzard, as they lack a vocal box, and can only emit grunts and hisses.  Besides, they aren't very pretty.
   Buzzards don't get no respect.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

ZIIGWAN SNUCK UP ON US!

MALE CATKINS SHEDDING POLLEN NOW...

...FEMALE FLOWERS IN BLOOM...

...WHILE LAST YEAR'S EMPTY SEED CONES STILL HANG ON...
RED MAPLE (ACER RUBRUM) IS BLOOMING
FIRST DAFFODILS BLOOMING ON SOUTH SIDE OF HOURS

RELATIVELY LARGE, TOOTHED LEAF  OF TAG ALDER (UW Herbarium photo)


Sunday, 8:30 AM.  60 degrees F at the ferry dock, 58 on the back porch.  Wind SW, calm with occasional light gusts.  The sky is mostly overcast, the humidity 57% and the barometer more or less steady at 30.32".  There is a chance of rain showers this morning.
   It has become spring this morning, which I count as really here when the red maples flower (Acer rubrum, in the Maple Family, the Aceraceae}. Add to that the first daffodils, and it cannot be denied. 
   Tag alder, or speckled alder,  Alnus incana, is a common large, multiple stemmed shrub (occasionally small tree) of wet areas throughout most of North America except the South and the prairie states.  It can occupy huge areas that have been cut over, particularly in the North (in my observation).  It is called speckled because o the light colored lenticels that occur on its reddish, cherry-like bark.  I do not know the derivation of the name "tag alder."
   Alnus incana has several synonyms, including A. serrulata and A rugosa, and there are a number of other species of alder with which it hybridizes, particularly at the edges of its range, so I can't get too particular as to its exact botanical classification.  Additionally, there is a larger European species, A glutinosa, which is occasionally used as a street tree.  The alders have a light, useful wood but probably none but the European species becomes large enough to be milled.  The genus also has considerable folk medicinal value, as all parts of the plant contain salicilates, and  alder bark was used in kinnikinick, the American Indian smoking mixture.
   Alders are nitrogen fixing plants, and are important in preparing mountain soils for forestation; they are intolerant to heavy shade and thus are a natural nurse crop for Douglas fir and other forest trees, which shade the alders out as they grow.  Like many people, tag alders don't seem very useful or important until we really get to know them.
   Spring is "ziigwan" in the language of our Ojibway neighbors, and it rather snuck up on us.
   
   
  
  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

HAZEL BUSHES ARE IN BLOOM

BEAKED HAZELNUT MALE CATKIN...
...DOUBLE-TOOTHED LEAVES AND BEAKED HAZEL NUTS(wisflora photo)...

...MINUSCULE FEMALE FLOWER

Saturday, 7:30 AM.  Fifty degrees F at the ferry dock, 52 on the back porch.  Wind SW, calm with light gusts.  The sky is partly cloudy with some haze in the east.  The humidity is low, at 55%.  The barometer is holding mostly steady, at 30.12". It is another very quiet, soft spring morning. 
   Wisconsin has two species of native hazelnuts, the beaked hazelnut shown here, Corylus cornuta, and the American hazel, Corylus americanum, both in the Hazel Family, the Corylaceae.  they are medium sized, multi-stemmed shrubs of the deciduous and mixed forests of the North and and Midwest, and the western mountains.  The edible nuts and other plant parts are important wildlife food, and the and the nuts can be a valuable crop for human consumption.  The European hazel is an important agricultural crop and a lot is being done with the native species in that regard, particularly by the National Arbor Day Foundation.  I see no reason why hazel nuts could not be a viable cash crop for the Bayfield region.
  The hazels are one of the earliest woody plants to bloom, the male catkins just now beginning to shed pollen.  The female flower, located on the same plant as the male (monoecious, "one house"), is so minute it is easily overlooked.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A GLORIOUS MORNING

SHRUB WILLOWS ALONG HWY. 2
Friday, 8:00 AM.  48 degrees F at the ferry dock, 50 on the back porch.  Wind SW, calm with light gusts. The sky is clear with some haze in the east.  The humidity is 63% and the barometer is more or less steady, currently at 30.12".  Rain showers are predicted for Sunday night.  It is a warm, soft and quiet spring morning
   A trip to Duluth is an all day commitment, any way one does it.  We left before 9:00 AM and got back around 4:00, including Joan's appointment and a stop for lunch at The Pickwick Club, an ancient landmark restaurant in Duluth that has great food and atmosphere.
   Not much to report about spring as yet along Hwy. 2, except for shrub willow branches coloring up red-orange, along with red-osier dogwood branches, and aspen buds and tag alder catkins swelling.  All in all one can see spring creeping up, but little evidence that is able to be photographed.
   We did see a number of bald eagles, mostly flying high.
   Signs of spring were rare indeed, but this morning is glorious.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

PRUNING CITY TREES



PRUNING OUT DEAD WOOD IN A RED OAK...

...END RESULT, HANDSOME TREE


OLD OVERGROWN BLACK WILLOW...

...PRUNED ARTISTICALLY
Thursday, 7:30 AM.  38 degrees F at the ferry dock, 34 on the back porch.  Wind variable, calm.  The sky is partially overcast with cattered clouds.  The humidity is 83%, the barometer falling gently, now at 30.15".  A lot of snow melted yesterday and another day or two of melting should eliminate most of it.  It is a very quiet morning, the dawning hushed, the early morning hours muted; no wind, little activity. I havre given up on feeding the birds, which adds to the sense of quiet.  It is just too much trouble to take everything down and bring it inside in the evening and out again in the morning.  And, if I forget, our buddy the bear will raise hell on the back porch.
   The humming bird feeders will go up in another month.  The bears have usually found other food sources by then.
   We are off to Duluth in a bit for a doctor's appointment for Joan.  We will see what's happening  wiht plant and bird life along the way.  It was a relatively easy winter, but it has been long.
   Yesterday morning Jay from Jay's Tree Care, who does our city arboricultural work, stopped by with his crew to get instructions for some scheduled tree work.  We spent the morning with projects, but started out just down the block on 9th St. pruning a red oak that had a lot of dead wood.  Red Oaks can have a lot of large dead branches and still be sound trees. It took an hour for Jay to climb and prune while his crew cleaned up and chipped, but the end result was a handsome tree.
  The City of Bayfield has a lot of wooded roadsides and conservation areas, and is responsible for trees up to thirty feet from the center of an average width road, so we care for a lot of native trees that are not typical city street trees.  The woods on 9th St. has several huge black willows that tip over, break up, and occupy large amounts of territory.  They can be problem trees but are very much a part of the landscape and can be very beautiful if artistically pruned, as evidenced by the end result in the above photo.
   Jay has a new heavy-duty chipper (cost:$28,000).  It got a good workout yesterday.



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

PROBABLY A LAW AGAINST THAT

BLACK PHASE IMMATURE BALD EAGLE

SPOTTED PHASE IMMATURE BALD EAGLE

Wednesday, 7:30 AM.  37 degrees F at the ferry dock, 31 on the back porch.  Wind NE, calm with light gusts.  The sky is mostly overcast , but with some sun and clouds.  The humidity is 91% and the barometer is falling gently, currently at 30.77".  We may get some rain by Sunday.
   I photographed this big, immature spotted phase bald eagle yesterday about 11:00 AM just south of Bayfield where it had been feeding on a road-killed deer.  The immature eagles go through a spotted phase, and then a black phase, before they assume their adult plumage.  It is interesting to know the phases of their lives, which rather correspond to human phases of growing up, I suppose.  In any case, it all reminded me of the following post, and I thought it appropriate to re-publish it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


1/08/09 JACK AND THE EAGLES


FISHING TUGS AND BERRY FIELDS
   Jack is a berry farmer and is even older and crustier than I am. You have to be a tough old bird to make a living growing berries.
   In the old days on the big lake, if the fishing wasn't good for a few years a fisherman might sell his boat and buy a berry farm; and conversely if the berry farm wasn't doing well, might sell it and buy a boat.
   Jack was a fisherman in his younger days, and watched the gulls and eagles from his boat. Some of his old fishing tugs now ply his berry fields, mouldering away, joining sea to land. When he became a landlubber he missed his birds, and forty years ago started putting fish heads and entrails that he got from his old haunts onto his fields in the winter to attract the birds.
   First came the gulls and eventually the eagles, and for about six weeks each winter, until the eagles went off to mate and nest, anyone could watch Jack’s birds from his parking lot. They perched by the dozens in the surrounding trees, chased the gulls, and did aerial acrobatics. One could watch their social interactions, observe their flight patterns and see their various plumage stages. Occasionally one might see a huge golden eagle, or an osprey. It was great, innocent fun. The eagles aren’t around this year, and I knew why even before I asked Jack about them while having coffee in the Northern Edge yesterday morning.
   “They shut me down,” he groused, hurt and angry. That didn’t surprise me, as I could come up with a number of reasons why it might not be a good idea to feed the eagles their fish. After all, we can’t have dump bears anymore, because the bears become a nuisance. We can’t feed deer in the southern part of the state for fear it will spread chronic wasting disease (but baiting is encouraged in the north, to help  hunters reduce the herd…go figure that one out). Maybe Jack’s enterprise was upsetting the eagles’ natural routines (or maybe not). Maybe it encouraged disease (or maybe not). Maybe it actually benefited the eagles by making them stronger for mating (or maybe not). For every eagle maybe, there's a maybe not. I asked him what laws they cited, and he replied, “They said I needed a solid waste disposal license to put a few fish on my land, and a CDL drivers license to haul a couple boxes of fish.” Nothing at all about eagles.
   Sorry, Jack. Big Brother got you…you were doing something different, something they didn’t like or didn’t understand. “The nail that sticks up will be hammered down," is what Chairman Mao used to say. You can’t be different, be an odd old coot these days, you will get on somebody’s list and they will shut you down. What did you expect, Jack?
   It’s what I have expected would happen from the first time I saw Jack’s eagles. But, what really gets me, is no one even bothered to ask old Jack, a life-long observer of eagles, what he had learned about them.
    Can’t be much.
    After all, Jack’s just a crazy old berry farmer who loves eagles.
 ------------------
   Jack is no longer with us, he died a few years back.  His daughter inherited the berry farm and is doing great.  I don't know where they buried old Jack. I hope it wasn't in a church yard, as I am sure he wouldn't stay there and he would be wandering the countryside trying to find a farm or a fishing  boat to haunt.  
   Jack wasn't always a nice old man.  He cussed like a sailor and some of the stories that are told about him will raise at least your eyebrows, and perhaps your hair.  In his lifetime he had some serious brushes with the law, and with the game wardens and the DNR, and they laid for him until they got him.  Spent some time in prison, I am told.
   I heard once about an inveterate old duck hunter who left a codicil in his will that he was to be cremated and his ashes loaded into 12 guage shot shells and his hunting buddies should load up and go hunting at his favorite ponds and marshes, the ash-loaded shells mixed in with the shot shells so that his remains ended up in the places he loved, in the way he loved them.
   I would like to think they cremated old Jack and took his ashes out on the big lake in the middle of a Nor'easter and let him go into the gale to join his eagles.  
   Probably a law against that.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

LOTS OF LODGES

LOTS OF MUSKRAT LODGES IN THE ASHLAND MARSH

INDIVIDUAL LODGE
ADULT MUSKRAT (Google file)...

...DITTO


Tuesday, 9:00 AM.  30 degrees F at the ferry dock, 28 on the back porch.  Wind variable, with light to moderate gusts.  The sky is partially overcast and cloudy but the sun is shining strongly. The humidity is 65% and the barometer is beginning to descend, now at 30.4".
   Things have changed little in the transition from winter to soring across Wisconsin since our last trip; still looks like winter pretty much throughout.
   Muskrats are mostly nocturnal, so unless one spends a lot of time in a marsh or similar environment, a person might never, I suppose, see one.   They are mammals about 18-25" long including a long rat-like tail, from which part of their common name is derived.  They weigh two to four pounds as adults.  They also emit a musky odor from glands near their tail, which accounts for the rest of their name.  Their tail is not flat like a beaver's, and fur color varies somewhat from dark brown to black, with a lighter underside.  Their average lifespan in the wild is about a year, and in that time a female may have as many as three litters of young, six to seven young in a litter.  Muskrats eat cattails and other marsh vegetation, as well as insects, crustaceans and small fish. They are preyed upon by larger mammals and birds of prey.  Their fur is valuable and they are trapped everywhere in their North American wetland habitats.
   All the above information is relevant to what Joan and I are seeing in the large conservation area marsh on Hwy. 2 just west of Ashland.  Lots of muskrat lodges.  A light snow fell early on last Wednesday morning, outlining and emphasizing all the muskrat dwellings (and smaller shelters that they build to feed in). 
   Muskrats are rather solitary as adults, so one can say that each lodge represents an active adult to a degree.  Lots of lodges quite probably translates to a whole lot of muskrats.  Muskrat populations tend to be cyclic, with highs and lows due to predation, food supply and other factors. We both commented simultaneously on the great number and density of lodges,  which leads to the conclusion that the population may be about to crash, and that the good times for Ashland muskrats will son be over.
   On the other hand,  our observations may have little relevance.
   But there sure are lots of lodges.

Monday, April 11, 2016

IT TAKES A LIFETIME

STILL THERE...

...THE ODE FARMHOUSE, CIRCA 1920-25

THE BREWERS TAKE THE FIELD...

BUT THE FAMOUS RACING SAUSAGES ARE THE STARS
Monday, 7:30 AM  32 degrees F at the ferry dock, 26 on the back porch.  Wind WNW, blustery.  the sky is mostly cloudy with some high overcast.  The humidity is 66%.  The barometer reads 29.82" and is  rising sharply, predicting better weather ahead.
  Buddy is still at the kennel, I will pick him up later.  The bear has been back and has absconded with the suet log and the peanut bar I had left hanging on the porch.
   Our trip to Milwaukee was a great success.  Our niece's wedding was a small but very nice event;  we had a great time at the Milwaukee Brewers v Houston game (even though Milwaukee lost), and we visited an elderly cousin who took the time and effort to show us the farmhouse that she was born in, that my father and her father and mother owned from 1920 to 1925.
   I vaguely remember my father driving past the place with me once, but I could not remember at all where it was.  My father and his brother bought the farm in 1920. My uncle was married, and he and my Aunt Helen had three children born to them in that house.  They lost their place in the farm depression that preceded the Great Depression. 
   Deeply in debt, they worked for years to pay off the bank.  During those years on the farm, my father also had a hunting accident in which he lost the function of his left arm and hand.  Bad years, those.  But he never talked about them, and I never heard him complain.  He was always a positive, cheerful man.
   The farmhouse today has been modernized, and a three-car garage added.  The barn and outbuildings are gone, and the farm fields have sprouted houses.  But the essence of the place is still there. It stands on a hill, with a marsh below to the west and the old farm road winding past.  
   It takes a lifetime for children to get to know their parents, and  even then only if they are very, very lucky.