Monday, March 31, 2008


Sunday, 8:30 AM. 20 degrees, wind ENE, calm to moderate. Barometer down, predicting precipitation. Skies overcast and we have a winter storm warning in effect. The Blog has been down. No church today as the heat is out.
Yesterday I made a few casts at the mouth of the Sioux to celebrate the opening of the early stream fishing season. There were rumors of fish but I saw none, it is early. Lucky almost went crazy when two ice fishermen decided to walk their tent across the ice a ways. It was a sight to see, four feet under the big square tent, shuffling and bobbing along the ice near the mouth of the river. Lucky probably thought it was a very large bear.
The sap didn’t run much yesterday, it did not get cold enough Saturday night. That may been the case today, although it at least got below freezing last night.
I didn’t think snow shoes would be needed anymore and just put on rubber knee boots and suffered for it, punching through the snow over my knees every second or third step. I tipped over once and it was like falling out of a boat and having to swim to shore .Jim’s snowmobile was still able to navigate, thankfully, and we managed to collect about 20 gallons of sap. Andy is busy boiling down sap and the syrup produced thus far is excellent.
Without Jim and Mike and the snowmobile we two old guys would be dead in the water (or in the snow to be more precise). Which reminds me of something I heard the other day, “Inside every old person is a young person…wondering what the hell happened.”


Saturday, 7:30 AM. 18 degrees, wind NE, calm. Barometer predicts partly cloudy skies, which are mostly blue presently. We are supposed to get bad weather today and tomorrow but at present there are no such indications.
There was a late run of about 20 gallons of sap yesterday and enough old guys and young guys to haul it in. Andy will cook today, and I will go out again in late afternoon.
Roxy the black lab was not around all week but appeared with a tennis ball in her teeth this morning. She was evidently on spring break with her family, although I didn’t notice any sun tan so I don’t know where she has been but we can assume she took a ball along. I played kick ball with her for a mile and she about wore me out, but I am now ready to try out for the soccer team (right!). Lucky has no interest in such puppy foolishness.


Friday, 8:00 AM. 10 degrees, wind E, calm. Barometer down, predicting partly cloudy skies. Skies currently mostly blue with scattered high clouds and haze.
No sap run yesterday, and probably none today. We have to have some warmer weather! About 40 or 50 gallons of sap has been boiled down so far.
It is obvious now that the aspens are blooming in earnest. The daffodils are up an inch or two where the snow has melted. The approaches to the ice road are getting rotten and the ice road will probably close soon, even if the main channel still has several feet of ice.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Thursday, 8:00 AM. 17 degrees, wind NE, calm. Barometer predicts precipitation. Skies partly overcast but clearing.
If it warms up to the mid-thirties or so by noon there will be plenty of work at the sugar bush.
Daffodils and crocus are poking up where the snow has melted. Each day brings another harbinger of spring, e.g., I shed the winter boots, which weigh 2 lbs. Each, for my sneakers this morning, and I felt like I was flying over the roads. Can’t walk the woods trail yet with them, though.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Wednesday, 9:00 AM. 24 degrees, wind E, slight, barometer down, predicting precipitation. Skies overcast with some light snow falling, and the sun trying to peek through.
Yesterday was a decent sap run, finally. We collected 30 gallons and with 10 from earlier that’s enough sap to boil down to a gallon of syrup. It was a lot of work collecting, and I for one needed snowshoes or I continually broke through to my knees and beyond. A lighter person could get by without, but not me. The great disadvantage of snow shoes is that they are not very maneuverable, and if one falls over in the deep snow it is tough to assume an upright position. I am not going to the sugar bush today, Andy has a family coming out to help and I have errands to do. I will be available tomorrow and Friday afternoons if needed. This is not a one person project.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Tuesday, 9:00 AM. 32 degrees, the barometer is down, predicting precipitation. Wind E, light with gusts to moderate. It snowed an inch or two during the night and the skies are mostly cloudy. The wind had been out of the W, and since a low is coming in, I think high pressure to the E is flowing into the low pressure to the west, shifting the wind.
The woods walk was pristine with the new snow, which always tells some tale. Rabbit tracks crossed the trail, with a few drops of red blood in the new snow here and there. I visually followed the tracks backwards to see what might have happened, and sure enough, there were clumps of fur on the remnants of an old chicken wire fence which the rabbit had tried to squeeze through, causing some bleeding. I saw nothing to indicate the rabbit was being pursued by anything, so it was evidently just a bunny blunder in the woods. No need to shovel, it is melting.
I have given up fighting with the squirrels at the bird feeder, at least for now. I put a large plant saucer filled with seed on the deck for them and they seemed to have learned to eat out of it rather than jump up to the bird feeder. We will see.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Monday, 8:30 AM. 10 degrees, wind S, very light to calm. Barometer predicts precipitation. Skies blue with some haze on the E horizon.
Clear and cold last night. If it warm up as predicted we should have some sap to haul by late afternoon. Sap flow in maples is not related to the normal transportation of water in trunk and stem which occurs in the xylem tissues of the tree when in leaf; nor does it occur because of root pressure forcing sap upward. According to the latest theory, it occurs because of the freeze-thaw cycle, which causes a decrease in pressure in the xylem tissues when gasses expand, which in turn draws water from surrounding cells and eventually from the root system and the soil (if unfrozen). Ice-compressed gases in the tissues force sap out of the stem as they expand in the sun and warmth. The sugar in maple sap is evidently stored in the xylem itself, rather than elsewhere. Another good source of technical information on maple syrup production is Ohio State U. Extension Bulletin #856. But, no mater how it is explained, it all comes down to cold nights and warm sunny days to produce sap flow in maple trees, and one must simply wait for that to happen.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

3/23/08 - Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, 8:30 AM. 13 degrees, wind NE, brisk. Barometer is up, predicting mostly sunny weather. It is snowing and we have several inches of new snow. There is a white-out across the channel. This is the earliest Easter since 1913, and we will not see another this early for over a hundred years, so I guess we shouldn’t expect daffodils and Forsythia to be blooming as yet. Joan and I helped decorate Christ Church for Easter yesterday afternoon, and inside at least it looks quite spring-like, with Easter lilies and white and yellow daisies. I did not see the Easter Bunny’s tracks in the snow this morning, he evidently is sleeping in a bit.
No sap flow yesterday and certainly none today. Maybe next week.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Saturday, 9:30 AM. 20 degrees, wind E, calm, barometer predicts sunny skies. Skies partly cloudy with some haze. The moon was full last night, and set just about daybreak. It was almost as light as day most of the night.
There was no sap run yesterday, and probably will be none today. Next week, predicted to be in the mid-thirties, should produce a good run and lots of work. To quote John Burroughs, 1886, “A sap run is the sweet goodbye of winter.” And Robert Boyle, 1663, “There is in some parts of New England a kind of tree whose juice…doth congeal into a sweet and saccharine substance.” Both quotes are from the excellent maple sugar web site of the College of St. Benedict/Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Friday, 8:30 AM. 20 degrees, wind E, moderate and at times brisk. The barometer is down, predicting partly cloudy skies, which are currently mostly cloudy with very high, wispy white clouds.
If the sun shines brightly and temperatures rise into the mid-thirties it will be a good afternoon sap run. If not, not much. I will go out to the sugar bush after lunch to see.
Last night’s spring equinox celebration was a great success, if a bit chilly, as dinner was eaten around a very large camp fire, in the middle of a snow drift, with log benches and lawn chairs surrounding it and a reflective tarp to trap and radiate the heat. There were a dozen people, and as always here, the potluck dishes, pies and breads were wonderfully good.
It used to be rumored in these parts that these events ended with everyone dancing naked around the fire, like ancient Druids. I can attest to the fact that is not likely to happen now, as most (but not all) of the current partiers are too old to do such dancing, and probably not very interested in seeing each other naked. These rumors may be derived from the fact that there is still considerable use of the sauna, which requires at least semi-nudity and much coming and going. However, having left early, Joan and I do not really know what may have transpired in the wee hours in the moonlight.
Driving home the moon was spectacular, a frosty wraith rising through the bare trees on the tops of the hills. We saw no other spring equinox fires, nor any unclothed celebrants.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


8:30 AM, 27 degrees, barometer predicts precipitation. Wind E, calm. Skies clear with some haze on the E horizon. The dawn was orange-golden, suffusing the woods across the street with a soft rosy-pink glow. The roads should melt and the sap run today.
Yesterday there was no sap run, so only minor camp duties to perform. I went to the sugar bush for a bit in the late afternoon but there wasn’t really anything much to do.
I have to go to Grandview today and will miss the sap run, I hope they can handle it. On a good day an average tapped tree will produce 4 liters of sap, so that figures out to about 75 gallons of sap to lug to the sugar shack. A good tree may produce as much as 40 gallons of sap a season ( about a gallon of maple syrup). Hopefully Jim will be there with his snow mobile to haul sap buckets from the furthest stand of trees, about a quarter of a mile away.
Later: I got back by mid-afternoon and went out to the sugar bush. The sap was all hauled (lucky me) and Andy was beginning to cook. It takes hours, depending on the stoking of the fire, etc. to boil sap to syrup. Andy’s evaporator holds maybe fifteen gallons of sap. The sap moves through the separator from one end to the other by specific gravity, the less dense new sap flowing as it is heated to the more dense opposite end of the evaporator through a series of several baffles. The sap is heated to boiling, 219 degrees in the case of the current run of sap with about 2percent sugar concentration, and care must be taken not to overheat the sap and give it a burnt taste in which case it will be ruined. Once the process is started it has to be continually monitored. A hygrometer may also be used to determine the optimal sugar concentration, and I will have to watch closely to see how that is done, but the old timers and the Indians determined when syrup was ready by intuition. As the season goes on I will present technical information on syrup production and sap flow a little at a time. I cannot go to the sugar bush on Thursday, but will spend most of Friday there.
On the way back, coming down Cemetery Hill on Washington Ave., I could see east all the way across the Island and the open water to Michigan and the Gogebic Range and southeast to the Penoke Range, the high hills which are the worn down mountains of the Laurentian Shield, and a source of iron ore and its attendant wealth up to the 1960’s, when the deep mines were abandoned and replaced by the open taconite pits of Minnesota northwest of Duluth. Who knows, the deep mines may become economical again in the future and the good times roll once more in “The Three H’s, Hayward, Hurley and Hell.” I don’t know, maybe the tourists are a better lot to live with than the miners, maybe not.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


8:15 AM, 25 degrees, wind SSE, calm. Barometer predicts precipitation. It is snowing lightly, very fine flakes, and I just shoveled 3” of wet snow from driveway, walks and decks.
It is an extremely picturesque morning, the trees adorned with several inches of fresh snow, which, if disturbed by a gust of wind or by its own weight cascades down in great puffs of white, sometimes causing a chain reaction which goes on laterally as well as downward. It is a good day to keep one’s hood up if in the woods, or the wet stuff will find its way down the back of your neck. There is currently a white out, which obscures the island and most else. Any ice fishermen venturing out will need a compass or their GPS.
Andy predicts that with such a low pressure weather system the sap will flow well if the temperature is above freezing. If he is right I will help haul sap this afternoon.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Monday, 7:30 AM. 18 degrees, barometer predicts precipitation. Wind NE, calm. Skies overcast. It is cold and damp and feels like snow.
This doesn’t look like a day during which the sap will run, but there are a lot more trees to tap so I will go and help Andy with that this morning. It was a busy social weekend, spending Friday and Saturday evenings with Andy and Judy, and Sunday evening at Eric and Nancy’s with neighbors Don and Heidi. Lots of hunting and fishing tales and jokes, and of course it was Palm Sunday with its activities thrown into the mix. And, today is St. Patrick’s Day, and we will have to raise a glass to our Irish friends, some still with us, some long gone (an extra glass to them).
We have heard rumors of bears, another sign of spring, so will have to consider taking the garbage can of sun flower seeds off the deck and putting them in the shed. Several years ago we had a rather exciting visit and probably should not encourage another.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


9:00 AM. 21 degrees, barometer predicts sunny skies. Wind NE, calm at ground level. Skies mostly cloudy, clouds high and moving in from the NE.
On our walk this morning I noticed a quaking aspen, Populous tremuloides, beginning to flower, on 9th and Rittenhouse. It is a bit early, but it is in a sunny location along the road. The breaking flower buds, male and female on different trees, look much like pussy willow buds, as they are in the willow family (salicaceae). Having read Thoreau again this winter I have become much more observant or perhaps it is that being yet another spring older, I have slowed my pace enough to accommodate better observation. Whatever. There are now 24 trees tapped at the Larsen's sugarbush, with some of them running already.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Saturday, 8:30 AM. 17 degrees, barometer up, predicting fair weather. Wind NE, light to moderate. Skies overcast.
Andy and Judy Larsen were our guests last night, and we all got up early for a good breakfast, as they are on their way to camp to get things organized to start tapping trees for maple sugarin’. As I understand things it takes cold nights, below freezing, and a sunny, warming day to produce a good sap run. I will go out and help tap trees this afternoon, and we will see what the week brings.
Exactly how and why maple sap flows while the trees are still dormant remains one of the unsolved mysteries of nature. Lots of theories, little proof. We will discuss it as the season’s experience unfolds, but we probably won’t come up with much new information as it has been investigated for over a hundred years by far better minds than we are likely to assemble around the camp fire.
I do believe there must be something addictive either in the product or the process of maple sugarin’, and Andy is certainly hooked, as he was up sitting in the dark at 5:30 AM looking out the window, waiting for it to get light, which it did not do until almost 7:00 AM, and then it was only gray and murky out. We were all cursing daylight saving time by the time breakfast was over.
Walking with Lucky this morning a crow flew over with a large twig in its beak, evidently to serve in nest building . Another sign that spring is just around the corner.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Friday, 8:30 AM. 28 degrees, barometer predicts partly cloudy weather. Wind W, light to moderate. Skies with variable clouds and a bit of blue. Earlier, the eastern skies were filled with truly ominous looking storm clouds but they are fewer now.
Yesterday was a good melting day, and I cleared some of the parking space needed for guests and will finish that this morning. The old snow is sometimes crusty, sometimes mushy and generally a mess to shovel.
I made the error of taking the woods walk this morning and about every third step I sunk over my boots, and in one spot I sunk way over my knees and had trouble extricating myself from the goo. The thought occurred to me that if it suddenly got colder I might be frozen in and not have gotten out for a month. Maybe someone would have come along and thrown a cable around me and winched me out like a fallen log, but maybe not.
It occurs to me that this might be a challenging maple sugar season if things don’t either freeze up or melt in earnest. Of course none of this bothered Lucky, since although he is a tad chubby for a Springer he still is light enough to mostly stay on top of the snow. Snowshoes may have helped but I doubt it. Think spring!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Thursday, 8:15 AM. 27 degrees, barometer predicts precipitation. Wind E, calm. Skies overcast, fog envelops the Island.
Surprise!! 3.5” of heavy, wet, March snow fell last night. Not the usual, fluffy lake effect stuff. I was thankful we didn’t get a foot and a half like our daughter in Columbus, Ohio got last weekend. Anyway, it’s all taken care of.
I received a little gift last night for some services rendered to the Bayfield Regional Conservancy. It is a magnetic bumper sticker, which reads:
“Dear Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.”
Very appropriate in these scandalous times, I must say. I have a busy day ahead, with a noon meeting and then getting the house in shape for guests Andy and Judy Larsen who will be staying a few nights while the get their camp in shape for maple sugarin’. There are lots of fun times ahead!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


3/12/08: Wednesday, 8:30 AM. 22 degrees, barometer predicts partly cloudy skies. Wind ENE, calm. Skies high overcast at present. It was a red-rosy dawn.
There were subtle signs of spring along Hwy 2 yesterday; a few deer out “grazing” on south-facing hillsides, although I could see nothing green as yet. There was evidence of skunks becoming active. The aspen trees, Populus tremuloides, are beginning to have a hint of green haze about them, an aura if you will, when viewed from a distance. Not leafing out, just branches and buds becoming faintly green. The paper birch, Betula papyrifera, young branches are distinctly reddish, distinguishing them readily from the aspen. Willow tree branches are becoming yellow. Most interesting to me are the willows shrubs, in the low places, which have a brilliant red-orange coloration now. I think what I saw was Bebb willow, Salix bebbiana, but I am not sure. Anyway, they are absolutely stunning in the early spring landscape.
When the lake is viewed from the Duluth bluffs now it is all blue water from the still-frozen harbor as far as the eye can see to the east. The Coast Guard ice breaker was at work in the harbor and shipping season will soon begin.
A very pretty sight indeed was a huge ore boat in the shipyards, its newly painted hull fire-engine red, and its pilot house and such olive green with white accents. I didn’t catch the name, but it’s home port is Wilmington. Someone in the shipping industry has real pride in what they do and it is good to see.
The buds of the red maple on Manypenny Ave. are heavily swollen now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 24 degrees, wind S, calm. Barometer down, predicting precipitation. Skies overcast, sun trying to peek through.
It is much warmer today but rather dreary without the sun. It reminds us of Ohio River Valley winters. We are off to Duluth today and will have an opportunity to observe things along the way.

Monday, March 10, 2008


9:00 AM. 0 degrees, Wind E, calm. Barometer down, predicting partly cloudy skies. Skies clear, deep blue, a slight haze on the eastern horizon.
We are victims of daylight saving time this morning, everything running late. It will take a few days to get adjusted. There are plenty of accumulated animal tracks in the woods now, deer, rabbits, squirrels, mice, etc. indicating increased activity.
The pussy willow at the beach is hardly more advanced in its buds than it was ten days ago, and after a thorough search along the roadside, I see another half dozen or so of them, but none budding out at all.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Sunday, 8:20 AM CDT; 5 degrees, wind ENE, calm. Barometer predicts sunny skies, which are presently clear with scattered, high thin white and gray clouds and some haze on the eastern horizon which somewhat dims the rising sun.
“Spring ahead, fall behind,” I’ve finally got it straight, late in life. But it doesn’t make it any easier, and Daylight Saving Time arrived even earlier this year. Joan and I don’t like it, but it doesn’t seem to bother Lucky who has his own internal clock independent of any human foolishness. The atomic clock does make it easier and less likely to forget, as long as someone adjusts it somewhere up on Cloud Nine or wherever it occurs.
We heard a news anchorwoman say last night, “It will be nice to have more daylight.” Someone should tell her that there is the same amount of daylight, set by the sun, whether there is daylight savings time or not.
Some years ago a visiting Russian scientist told us that one of the time zones (I believe nine time zones in Russia) during WWII went on daylight saving time with the rest of the country, but some apparatchik forgot to turn the clock back in the fall, then the next spring the zone’s clocks were set ahead again, and then there were two hours of daylight savings time. It happened again the next year and everyone got so confused they just left it that way, winter and summer. The birch trees didn’t complain and neither did the residents of the gulags. As the old saying goes, “It isn’t nice to fool Mother Nature.” Go to bed early tonight.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Saturday, 8:00 AM. –7degrees, wind E, calm. Barometer predicts precipitation. Skies blue, some haze on the eastern horizon.
I was almost dressed too warm this morning, and after walking a bit didn’t need my scarf.
Lucky and I were accompanied this morning by two canine “homies,” Morgan and Roxy, neighborhood dogs rather constantly about. Morgan is an immensely furry, friendly male dog, impervious to all weather and always looking in my pocket for a treat. Roxy is a young female black lab who’s primary interest in life is retrieving…sticks, balls, branches, logs…anything she can manage to drag to someone who will give the object a toss. Roxy has been known to come to a door or window with a stick in her mouth, asking to play. If someone should teach her to ring the doorbell (please don’t!) I am sure she would do that too. The only problem with Roxy is that she is relentless, and will put the stick at one’s feet, between one’s feet, anything to get it picked up and thrown. I have seen her entice carpenters and other tradesmen to abandon their work, reverting to boy-plays-with-dog behavior, thereby vastly increasing the cost of local construction. She is captivated by children, and there are several families around that probably would have to own a dog, except that they have Roxy.
The tale is told that last summer she followed a man with a tennis ball through town, to the ferry dock and onto the ferry to Madeline Island, and got a free ride, both directions, since she had to be returned to Bayfield. I imagine that had someone been able to throw the ball from La Pointe to Bayfield she would have swam back, but the trouble with that scenario is that she would of course have retrieved it back to La Pointe.
The pussy willow, which I have given the scientific name Salix obscura, is now fully in bloom on the dinning room table.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Friday, 8:00 AM. –10 degrees, wind NW, light. Barometer predicts sunny skies. Skies clear at present except for a few puffy white clouds on the east horizon. It was –17 at first light. It really wasn’t too bad walking this morning, as long as ears, mouth and nose were covered. I find almost any temperature O.K. for walking as long as dressed properly and with a scarf about the nose and mouth to warm the air before it is breathed in.
How cold was it? So cold that I saw what appeared to be a very large red squirrel in a tree, but on closer inspection saw it was a gray squirrel in red flannel underwear! How cold was it? So cold that when an ice fisherman augered a hole in the ice it froze over so fast his auger got frozen in before he could pull it out. How cold was it? So cold that when Lucky barked it froze, and it couldn’t be heard until I brought it in the house and thawed it out. O.K., enough of that.
Actually, it seems warmer this morning than last, since it is much less humid. It certainly didn’t bother lucky, and I have to say, it is a very pretty day.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Thursday, 8:30 AM. 0 degrees,Wind NE, very light. Barometer down, predicting partly cloudy skies. Skies foggy but becoming blue.
A half hour ago everything was enveloped in a frosty fog, but the prospects of the day are now improving.
A light covering of snow fell last night, and the atmosphere was so damp that a frosty crust clung to, one might even say exuded from, everything. White pines were encrusted with hoarfrost, as though their very pores had breathed out moist air and it had congealed on their needles. The sun looked like it was shedding not rays of light but frosty fog. The dog’s breath congealed in frost around his muzzle. Had I a beard it would have been well frosted. I wanted to cry out, “Enough already!” Give me spring!” and I almost cursed the pussy willow for its perfidy.
Hot coffee with cream and sugar vastly improves my mood at present, and I perceive the beauty of the morning emerging from under its frosty blanket. Time for a hot breakfast!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Wednesday, 8:30 AM. Temp 15 degrees, wind E, calm. Barometer down, predicting sow. The skies are covered with high clouds, the sun obscured. A half-inch of light snow fell last night, making everything pretty again but treacherous under foot. I neglected to put my Yak Traks on, so had to walk on eggs. Made it O.K. back to the drive way, whereupon I took a tumble. I was none the worse for wear except for embarrassment. Lucky had no trouble, proving once-again that four legs are superior to two for locomotion, and that the superior intelligence supposedly accompanying upright posture does little good if unused.
A large flock (24) of crows seems to be taking up residence in the big white pines on the corner of 9th and Old Military Road, and a large one greeted me on the back porch.
Good friend and noted naturalist Andy Larsen emailed me with his opinion that the pussy willow I mentioned several days ago is probably the native Salix discolor, rather than the non-native Salix caprea, and on further examination I believe he is correct.
Now I will have to lay in wait to catch him in error and even the score.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 0 degrees, up from –3 at 7:30 AM. Wind SE, presently calm. Barometer down, predicting partly cloudy skies, which are blue except for some haze over the Island.
As lucky and I left the house this morning we were greeted by the characteristic three-note whistle of the male cardinal, which I take to be a territorial call, and if it is indeed such, that is yet another sign of spring.
Another hint of spring is that I am beginning to put away the winter’s accumulation of books, mainly natural history tomes, which like fallen leaves are cluttering the coffee table, the end table and various other repositories around my usual seat. The library shelves stand gap-toothed, waiting to welcome back these winter stragglers.
First to go back is a volume of Alexander Pope’s 18th Century poetry, which I had scoured to find a quote from one of his poems which has been a mantra of mine for forty and more years; “Nature, in whose variety we see, though all things differ, all agree.” That phrase is more-or-less accurately adapted from his poem “Windsor Woods.”
That line is carved into the fireplace mantle in the old library at the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee, and has affected me more over the years than any number of college ecology courses with all their measurements and statistics. The pen it seems is not only mightier than the sword, but perhaps mightier than the slide rule as well.
No birds at the feeder as yet, but this is only my first cup of coffee.

Monday, March 03, 2008


8:15 AM. 3 degrees, wind W, light to breezy. Barometer predicts sunny skies, which are partly cloudy at present. It is a pleasant day, but a bit chilly . Glad to still have the flannel lined blue jeans on today. This is the first year I have worn them and I will not be without them again. They are a lot more convenient than longjohns and more comfortable in the house. I remember my grandfather putting on his red flannels sometime in November and removing them the first of May. No wonder he spent a lot of time outdoors!
Howard’s presentation on Ojibwa traditional maple sugaring was well received by about 80 people, and quite entertaining. Except for the use of some traditional elements such as wooden spiles and birch bark buckets the original methods are not much different from what most non-Indians would do, even today. One obvious difference seems to be the use of kettles to boil the sap rather than an expensive evaporation stove, but the end result is the same. The amount of work, firewood, etc. is about the same also. One main difference is that traditional Ojibway use was based on granulated sugar, rather than syrup, the latter being only good for pancakes, and maybe ice cream, the former being used in all sorts of food preparation, including pemmican. Sugar is also much easier to store and transport than syrup.
It is getting light a bit earlier every day, with first light around 6:00 AM. Soon I will have to start going to bed before midnight, as I usually wake up with the light.
I searched in vain through previous journals and didn’t find any previous reference to the blooming of pussy willows, so I don’t presently have any former benchmarks of the event.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Sunday, 8:30 AM. 20 degrees, wind SSE, calm. Barometer predicts precipitation. Rain and snow were predicted by the media but have not arrived as yet.
I found a pussy willow in bloom at the Sioux River beach yesterday and went into the snow above my knees collecting a few branches in the interest of scientific investigation, those now residing in a vase on the dining table.
The pussy willow, Salix caprea, is native to northern Europe and Asia, and is present here as an escape from cultivation. I don’t know if it hybridizes with native species or not, probably not since it flowers so early. But willows, over 300 species worldwide, are daunting to pin down, and I don’t pretend to be at all expert at it. Anyway, the blossoms were a sure and welcome sign of spring, their flowering obviously triggered by day length rather than just warm temperatures, as we have had very few such days. Temperature does have an affect on their blossoming, however, as the remaining unopened buds are now beginning to open in the warmth of the house.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Saturday, 8:30 AM. 0 degrees, barometer up, predicting sunny skies. Wind ENE, calm. Skies clear. It is a bright, sunny morning, but colder than predicted. Cold enough for Lucky to do a three-legged hop at times, alternately keeping a foot off the cold pavement.
The woods walk was delightful, sparkling new snow dappled with shadows. One birch tree along the trail has shed its tiny seeds on the new snow, the catkins usually dropping their seeds from September through March.
I met Howard and his grand dog Rosie coming out of the woods, as they were coming in from the opposite direction. Rosie is a large Labrador who fancies herself an alpha female, and Lucky discretely kept his distance. Howard’s talk on Ojibwa maple sugaring tomorrow promises to be very interesting.
It was cold enough this morning to pull the earflaps down on my Stormy Kromer cap, a Northwoods favorite. It has an interesting history, which I will relate at some better time.
We didn’t get to the Bayfield/Town of Russell Recycle Center last Saturday, so must go this morning. It, like the post office, is one of the more reliable places to meet acquaintances and get the latest gossipy news, so it is something of a small town social setting, much like the corner tavern of my long-ago Milwaukee youth, but without the smell of tobacco smoke and stale beer.