Saturday, February 28, 2009


Saturday, 7:45 AM. –15 degrees, wind W, calm, skies are clear, the barometer predicts partly sunny weather.
This is an truly arctic blast, I almost expect to see the returning glacier bearing down on Bayfield out of the frozen north. Dressed as usual except for an added scarf around my neck and face, I was quite comfortable walking, and Lucky didn’t do any three-legged hop.
Anyway, we are persistent, speaking of which, the old black willow (Salix nigra) on Ninth Street persists, although torn almost limb from limb by the winds, and probably blown over a couple of times in its history to boot. I have seen huge red oaks topple in still air, rotted at the roots, to die vaingloriously, while the willow like the cat has nine lives at least, and is far too stubborn to die.
Roxy the black lab is also persistent, her retriever instinct overflowing within, bringing anything remotely able to be thrown to anyone foolish enough to play her game. She will beg and pester her playmate all day long if he doesn’t retreat into the sanctity of the house. She is indefatigable as Rocky sitting exhausted and bloody in his corner exclaiming “I got this guy right where I want him.” Now that’s persistence!

Friday, February 27, 2009


Friday, 7:45 AM. –4 degrees, wind SW, calm. Skies mostly clear, and the barometer predicts sunny weather.
The typical mid-winter weather pattern is…warmer, snow, cold; warmer, snow, cold… A vehicle is speeding across the ice road toward La Pointe, raising a huge white trail of last night’s snow behind it. By my reckoning we got 7-8 inches of fresh snow. I went to the Chamber after hours last night at the mall on First and Washington, hosted by the Bayfield Regional Conservancy, Superior Body Massage and Spa, Lake Superior Kitchen and Bath, and the Mad-Island Weaver. It was an uncommonly nice reception, food, drink and conversation in abundance. Joan declined to brave the blizzard.
To understand a small town like Bayfield, one must understand its small business climate. Communities like Bayfield, and indeed the entire national economy, rely on small businesses for underlying economic health. Small businesses are a microcosm of the economic and cultural diversity of our society, and provide an opportunity for everyone to succeed (and fail) and so learn business and to follow their dreams, whatever they may be. The small business owner is not waiting for a bailout or a handout or a weekly dole. Our government and big businesses, on the other hand are staffed by graduates of Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Chicago…obviously smart, mostly younger people who are obviously often out of their depth because they have no real experience in the enterprises they oversee. How many auto executives have worked on an assembly line or could design a vehicle; how many agricultural gurus could raise a crop; how many economists have ever negotiated a mortgage; how many bureaucrats have ever had to meet a payroll; our confederacy of dunces is exceedingly great. Most of them should be relegated to standing in the corner until they learn their lessons.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Thursday, 8:00 AM. 14 degrees, wind NNE, light with stronger gusts. The sky is overcast but the barometer predicts partly sunny weather. The wind out of the north feels like snow, and we are likely to get some today, in fact a few fine flakes are falling now.
We walked with neighbor Sherman this morning and his dog Pebbles and their guest dog. Dog sitting for six weeks and more rather stretches the bonds of friendship in my estimation.
Stephen Dunker, owner of the What Goes ‘Round bookstore on S. Second St. passed away this week after a lengthy illness. A small town really feels the loss of every individual. We hope his wonderful little bookstore will stay in business, it is the only one in the city. Stephen was by all accounts a real bibliophile, and contributed greatly to the economic and intellectual life of Bayfield. He will be sorely missed.
Ash Wednesday services yesterday evening at Christ Church and the reminder that “dust though art and to dust though salt return” is an admonition we all should take to heart as we rush through our busy days. Most of us will leave little more than memories behind, so let’s resolve that they be good ones.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Wednesday, 8:30 AM. 26 degrees, wind WNW, light to moderate. We got 3 inches of fluffy but kind of wet snow this morning, stopped now. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts snow.
I read somewhere that the Inuit of the Arctic have twenty-three different words for snow, classified according to its physical properties. We might borrow some of their terminology, and perhaps add some of our own ( a few of which might not be printable). Anyway, it is time to start thinking spring, for reasons both emotional and also preparatory. We have our first Bayfield in Bloom committee meeting this morning, down at the hotel. The Bayfield in Bloom kickoff will be Friday, May 15, with the Larry Meillor Garden Talk radio show, broadcast live from the Pavilion. The morning will start with Breakfast with Larry, then on to the radio show, before and after which the pavilion will be filled with displays and more, put on by local Green Industry folks (nurseries, landscapers, arborists), the DNR, and other entities. It is always well attended, and hopefully our tens of thousands of daffodils will still be in bloom throughout the the city. You are invited. Spring in Bayfield is usually long, gentle, and very welcome!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2/24/09 LUCKY DOG(S)

Tuesday, 2:30 PM. 35 degrees, wind WSW, very light. The sky is clear and sunny, and the barometer predicts sunny skies.
This post is late because we had to go to Ashland early this morning and just got back. Lucky is never too happy to stay at home because he thinks he might have missed out on something, like a MacDonalds hamburger. As you can see, he has it pretty good either way, but like most of us he doesn’t realize how really lucky he is. I remind him all the time, but it just doesn’t sink in. In times like these we should all keep reminding ourselves how really lucky we actually are.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Monday, 8:00 AM. 4 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is clear and blue and the sun is already high, perhaps at a 30 degree angle from the horizon, much higher than a month ago, and much further north. In another month it will cross the equator and it will be spring, at least astronomically.
Two immigrant conifers often seen are the Norway spruce, Picea abies, and the Scots pine, Pinus sylvestrus. The former can be told, particularly when older, from native spruces by its very pendulous branches and weeping habit (cones and needles are other characteristics not necessary to go into here). The Scots pine is a relatively short needled species (though not as short as the native jack pine), needles very bluish in color, and the bark of an older tree very orange colored, easily distinguishing it from native pines. Both grow pretty well, the Scots pine being salt tolerant because its native habitat is the Atlantic ocean coast of Scotland. For most purposes the native trees will be better, although the weeping habit of the Norway spruce can be very artistic. The trees pictured were all planted a half century and more ago by good buddy and Yale Forestry School graduate Andy Larsen (he of sugar bush fame) on what was then his his grandfather's property.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Sunday, 8:30 AM. 11 degrees, wind W, moderate. Light snow is still falling, and 2+ inches fell last night. The sky is overcast but clearing. The barometer predicts sunny skies and it promises to be a fine, fine day.
The fluffy lake effect snow has rendered Bayfield pristine this morning, and there are few tracks as yet of any kind on the side streets. Newly fallen snow on a beautiful day makes the walker an explorer, even in well known territory.
Here are neighbor Sherman’s tracks, he was walking Pebbles as well as the dog they are “sitting” for friends.
There are the tracks, well spaced out and in-line, of a very tall runner, I think Scott from the Rec Center. There are very small canine tracks, probably a diminutive red fox. But for the most part, the trackless wilderness of Tenth Street is ready for a new morning’s adventure for Lucky and me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2/21/09 ANOTHER "IS NOT" (with a twist)

Saturday, 9:00 AM. 18 degrees, wind NNE, light with stronger gusts. The sky is mostly overcast but the sun is struggling through, and the barometer s rising, predicting mostly sunny skies.
Yesterday we discussed “evergreens that are not” and it is appropriate today to discuss again another “evergreen that is not,” but with a twist. The young tree pictured (and its leaf) is Ginko biloba, the maidenhair tree, so-called because the bi-lobed leaf resembles that of the maidenhair fern. The Ginko is the most ancient of modern broad leafed deciduous trees, its fossil record going back to the Jurassic, the age of the dinosaurs. It is considered by many to be a true “missing link” between needled conifers (angiosperms, or naked seeds) and modern deciduous trees (gymnosperms, or covered seeds) because it is actually, according to its reproductive structures, a conifer, with male and female cones and naked seeds, rather than seeds borne in a true fruit. But it has modern, deciduous tree leaves. It was found in the Eighteenth Century growing in a remote Buddhist monastery, and since then has been propagated and grown around the world. It is a very tough, adaptable and hardy ornamental and street tree, and has a gorgeous golden fall color. Only male trees should be planted, as the fleshy female cones have a very putrid odor. The seed, however, is edible and considered a delicacy in the Orient, and the leaves are much used in herbal medicine as a brain stimulant. It is truly a living fossil.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Friday, 8:30 AM. 5 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is covered with light, hazy clouds but the sun is shinning through and it may clear up. The barometer predicts snow.
The trees pictured are tamaracks, Larix laricina, common in wet areas, bogs, etc. but also on drier sites throughout northern Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Great Lakes States, New England and much of Canada. It is a conifer that sheds its needles, is deciduous like broad leafed trees, and therefore is not an “evergreen.” There are related species in Europe and Asia that have the same general characteristics. The bald cypress of southern states also sheds its needles in winter. When trees (and shrubs) are deciduous they are exhibiting an adaptation which conserves water in the plant, winter being a very dry season. Woody plants are also often deciduous in climates that have very distinct wet and dry seasons. Evergreen conifers are more ancient evolutionarily that almost all deciduous trees, and most never developed the deciduous characteristic. Evergreen trees, however, retain the advantage of being able to photosynthesize even during the winter, so have used that trait to continue to survive and compete with the more advanced deciduous species. Evolution is not always an either/or situation, ancient and modern often competing with each other over vast stretches of time, and the ancient sometimes out-competes its newer rivals, particularly in odd habitats or niches. In any case, the tamarack is an interesting tree. In spring its new foliage is feathery light green, very refreshing, and its new cones are almost flower-like, a colorful rose-purple. Its summer foliage is dark green and soft, and its golden fall color outstanding. It is effective in naturalizing large areas, and is an unusual accent tree. Because it is deciduous, it can be planted on the south side of a house and still let in the winter sun. As you can see, I am very fond of this “evergreen that’s not.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Thursday, 8:00 AM. 4 degrees, wind WNW, very light. The sky is clear except for the usual band of clouds on the far eastern horizon.
The eastern white cedar, also called arbor vitae (tree of life), is a major component of wet habitats throughout Wisconsin, south into Illinois, and west into Minnesota and Iowa , also the Great Lakes states and New England, Ontario and Quebec. It is a medium sized evergreen tree with soft aromatic flattened needles. It is a favorite landscape tree, especially for hedges. Care must be taken when using it, as it will winter burn in the wrong locations, and the species gets overgrown very quickly. In most landscape situations it is best to use named varieties that have been bred to stay smaller, have more dependable foliage and to be better for hedges. This can be a very good ornamental tree when selected and used properly, and the species can be very effective in a naturalized landscape. There are also southern, western and oriental species of Thuja which can be used with care.
The smaller hedge is in our back yard, is the variety “Techny,” and has to be trimmed regularly. The row of large arbor vitae trees is now mature at perhaps 45 feet in height, and was obviously planted many years ago as a hedge, so look out!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Wednesday, 8:30 AM. 10 degrees, wind ENE, light to moderate, it is snowing, and 4 inches of fluffy lake effect snow fell during the night. The barometer predicts partly cloudy skies.
Winter being still with us, I have been thinking about the process of hibernation, what animals hibernate, what the advantages of the process are, why others do not hibernate, that sort of thing. The word has its roots in the Latin "hybernare," "to spend the winter." There are all sorts of scientific definitions one could go into, but the word itself is pretty all-encompassing, since we all "spend the winter," in various degrees of retirement from the elements. Last night, Howard and Marlene Papp, friends up the road apiece, hosted a get together for a number of the neighbors who pretty much stay here through the winter rather than migrating south, which of course is the avian alternative to hibernation. It was good to be with many neighbors, some of whom have been hibernating quite seriously.
The weather was warm enough for a while a week or so ago that I prodded and poked at a creature that has been hibernating on our deck since late last fall. It is a Grillus barbecueous, in the family Grillaceae, common name barbecue grill. I even tempted it with a brace of T bone stakes, but it only growled sleepily and refused to wake from its deep winter’s sleep. Looking at the thermometer this morning I can appreciate its wisdom, and I will not attempt to rouse it again until it is truly spring.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Tuesday, 8:30 AM. 27 degrees, wind SW, calm. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts snow.
The white spruce, Picea glauca, is the most prominent spruce in the Northland landscape. A spruce growing in the wild in our region will almost always be white spruce. The only other native spruce is the black spruce, Picea mariana, a much smaller tree, relegated almost exclusively to bogs, stream banks and other wet habitats. White spruce is an extremely hardy tree of the far Northern Coniferous Forests, ranging throughout the upper Great Lakees States and Canada to the tundra, the needles green to blue-green in color. Black spruce has a similar geographic range, its needles are much shorter and bluish green.
The blue spruce, discussed earlier, and the Norway spruce, Picea abies, are often found in landscaped areas and occasionally in plantations. The Norway spruce is usually easily distinguished from other spruces by its very pendulous, almost weeping branches and dark green needles. Another important identification characteristic of the spruces are the cones, not discussed here.
There are several sure if subtle signs of the approach of spring which can easily be detected now, if one knows how to look. The young branches of willows are beginning to show a lot of color, from shades of yellow to orange. Except for one or two species, for instance the weeping willow (a Eurasian introduction), the willows are very difficult to identify and I will not try to distinguish them, and certainly not in winter. But they are very obvious now. Less obvious is the young growth of paper birch trees, which is becoming quite reddish. Also very subtle but definite are the swelling buds of poplar trees, which in the right light can turn whole hillsides sort of a soft smoky gray. Less obvious from a distance are the swelling maple buds. I cannot catch these subtle changes with a camera, except for the willows pictured here. I can only tell you they are there. I find I have to view a lot of the more subtle colors and shades in nature with eyes half shut, sort of with a squint, to filter out some of the scattered light. In any case, now is the time to start looking for signs of incipient spring.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Monday, 8:00 AM. 11 degrees, wind W, calm at ground level. The sky is overcast except for a diminishing band of orange sky on the eastern horizon, evidence of the slow advance of moisture laden clouds from the west over the entire dome of the sky . The barometer predicts snow.
Yesterday afternoon, since it was so nice, Lucky and I took a walk through the in-town woods trail. We hadn’t been on it for a long time because of the deep snow, but with all the thawing the snow was crusty, and as long as I didn’t step off the few tracks left by another walker it was manageable. We hadn’t proceeded very far before I spotted an object just off the path. It was a small animal, about five inches long, including its short tail.
It was mostly grayish black with a lighter underside, pink feet, and a flat, pink, somewhat star-shaped nose. It was a star-nosed mole, a very small mammal that looks like a rodent but has its own classification, an insectivore. It is native to damp soils of far northern Wisconsin, and I would imagine seldom seen, as its principal habitat is subterranean. It had evidently emerged, perhaps because its tunnels were flooded by the recent thaw, and been done in by a predator. It was possibly a hawk or owl that found its taste not to its liking. There were no signs of a struggle and only one faint drop of blood on the white, frozen snow, so it indeed may have been dropped by a bird in flight. I have seen moles scurry across the ground on occasion, but this was the first time I had examined one closely. They are prodigious diggers, able to proceed rapidly enough through the soil to catch worms and soil dwelling insects. Dwelling mostly under the ground, they have little need of vision, and so are virtually sightless, from which the old adage “blind as a mole” is derived. They are interesting little creatures, exemplifying the astounding variety of evolutionary adaptations in living things. Although murdered by some unsympathetic predator, its life and death served the useful purpose of allowing us to examine in closely. Ce’ est la vie!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Sunday, 8:30 AM. 11degrees, wind W, calm. The skies are mostly blue and the barometer predicts sunny skies. It is a fine winter day, almost, maybe a “10”.
The trees pictured are Canadian hemlocks, Tsuga canadensis, large beautiful forest trees native to northern Wisconsin and the other Great Lakes states, southern Ontario and Quebec along the St. Laurence River; New England, New York and higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains. It has very short, soft yellow-green needles with whitish undersides, and small hanging cones. Its wood is not particularly useful except for rough construction. Its bark was used for tanning. It requires cool moist sites, and if out of its natural range can become host to several destructive scale insects. It is one of those trees that is iconic of the northern forests, and often appears as a relic population along north facing stream banks and ravines south of its range, out of place populations left behind by the retreating glaciers ten thousand years ago which have perpetuated themselves in suitable microclimates. There are such relic hemlock groves in unusual settings (New York Botanical Garden along the Bronx River, Mianus River Gorge in Connecticut… that I came to know and love during my long career) but they seem always under attack by pests; insect, animal and human. In the right location and setting the hemlock can be a magnificent landscape tree.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Saturday, 8:30 AM. 16 degrees, wind W, calm. The sky is mostly clear but some light snow is falling, drifting gently down. There is a lot of light fog and snow mix over the channel. We got about 2 inches of fluffy snow last night and the barometer predicts mostly sunny skies.
It is a very pretty day, renewed with a fresh mantle of white. I don’t know if this kind of snow is good for the renowned Berkebeiner cross contry ski races in Hayward, but I would think it excellent for downhill skiing at Mt. Ashwabay. Temperature and snow cover are all back to normal, and I personally prefer true winter to the melting and humidity we had during the thaw.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Friday, 8:00 AM. Wind W, calm. Sky overcast but the barometer predicts sun. It is snowing lightly, and has snowed enough to freshen up the unsightly snow banks. Our thaw is over.
Pictured is a conifer commonly planted as both an ornamental and a timber tree, Abies concolor, the white or concolor fir. It is native to the higher elevations of our western mountains, and does moderately well here, although I doubt it is a really good timber tree in our region. It has a good shape for the home landscape but will eventually become immense. It has a blue to greenish-blue color, and being a true fir the needles are soft and up-curved, and the cones are upright on the branches, rather than pendulous, as on other conifers.
The water on the lake ice has frozen again and is now like an ice rink. The ice road is in good shape again.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Thursday, 8:00 AM. 32 degrees, wind W, light with gusts. The barometer predicts sunshine. We had some icy rain last night and it was a slippery walk. The Yak Traks saved the day. The melting has eliminated the snow load on roofs, but the ice road is a huge mess, with six inches of standing water on top of the ice. It is still open and safe enough, although some wag has suggested drilling holes in the ice to let the water drain into the lake. Maybe the sign should read, “Swim At Your Own Risk.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Wednesday, 8:30 A. 35 degrees, wind WSW, calm. The sky is overcast but the barometer predicts sunshine. The thaw continues.
The pine pictured is the jack pine, Pinus banksiana. It is native to Wisconsin sand barrens, and in our area is prevalent in the Moqua barrens, north and west of Ashland and Washburn. It has stout short needles, green to yellow green in color, and curved cones that often persist on the tree until a fire or extreme weather conditions cause them to open. It is a tough little tree, the most northern of the pines, its range extending far north into Canada. It grows best under very poor soil conditions and cold winters with lots of snow. It makes a great accent plant in the home landscape where conditions are appropriate, because it tends to have a very irregular shape, partly because of the depredations of a borer that kills and distorts a lot of the new growth. It is one of my very favorite trees, in part because it is reminiscent of Pinus virginiana, the pitch pine, which grows in one of my favorite places, the pine barrens of New Jersey, and party because there was one growing next to the front porch of our very first home in West Allis, Wisconsin, obviously brought back from the Northland by a previous owner. Trees and other plants which remind us of wild or unusual places we are fond of should have a place in our home landscapes, regardless of whether others appreciate them or not.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Tuesday, 8:00 AM. 40 degrees, wind SW, gusty. The sky is overcast and the barometer predicts precipitation.
This is a real thaw, the one we didn’t get in January. The roads are full of melting ice and it could turn slippery if the temperature drops. There is still plenty of snow, no grass peaking through anywhere. We’re off to Ashland for errands today.

Monday, February 09, 2009


10:15 AM. 32 degrees, wind W, light. Skies are overcast, and the barometer predicts rain.
The ice flow incident on Lake Erie over the weekend, losing one ice fisherman dead and 150 rescued from an ice flow, reminds me of the tale told hereabouts of several Bayfield fishermen back in the 1960’s who got caught in a somewhat similar predicament off the ice caves. As usual, there was open water way out in the lake, a high wind came up, and the piece of ice they were fishing on suddenly broke off and started to float north into the open seas.
No one saw them drift off. This was before cell phones, and yelling and waving their coats did no good. When night fell and they didn’t return, folks went looking for them but saw nothing but heavy seas in the moonlight. The wind blew fiercely all night and the next day and they sailed, not too merrily along, on a shrinking block of ice.
At last they bumped to a halt, tight against the Canadian shield. They trudged ashore and finally found civilization and a telephone and called home. Relieved relatives who thought them lost to Davey Jones Locker hurried north to pick them up. It is said that after that, they always carried their passports when fishing the Big Lake.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Sunday, 8:15 AM. 20 degrees, wind WNW, calm, but puffy white clouds are moving fast high up.
The photos are of the Bayfield Town of Russell Recycling Center. The BRRC is a multiple municipality recycling and garbage collection center, which like the Post Office, is a sure place to meet friends and neighbors. Garbage is accepted and compacted at $2.50 per large bag, and membership at $15 per year allows unlimited recycling. Contract pickup is also available in Bayfield, but I prefer the BRRC as less expensive and more practical. Like most folks our age, Joan and I have been recycling all our lives…paper and scrap drives in school, saving aluminum cans to sell or for redemption, collecting metal of various kinds to sell by the pound at the junkyard. In our youth our cars were kept running with parts scavenged at the junkyards. A beer party might entail searching the basement and garage for junk to sell and bottles to redeem.
When I was a youngster the rag man would come every few weeks, driving his decrepit horse and wagon through the alleys crying “Rra….gks” and we kids would holler “What do you eat for breakfast?” and he would reply, “Rra…gks” much to our childish delight. Housewives would emerge with old clothes, towels, etc. no longer useable and they would be weighed and purchased by the rag man. Now that was recycling!
You don’t need government programs to recycle. All you need is the incentive of hard times.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Saturday, 8:00 AM. 35 degrees, wind SW, calm. Skies are overcast and hazy and the barometer predicts precipitation.
Neighbor Erick and I went to the ice caves off Meyers Beach Road yesterday, a repeat of a similar trip a year ago. To tell us apart in the photographs, I am the younger looking one. If you still can't tell, I have two ski poles. Last year it was frigid, windy and sunny, yesterday 30 degrees, cloudy and calm. The ice caves are magnificent and compelling, but always are seen in a somewhat different way. The trail, along shore and on lake ice, tended to be slippery, and in retrospect I would have worn snowshoes with cleats or Yak Tracks. I ended up being overdressed and sweaty, as it is a pretty long hike out and back, for us about four miles round trip. Of course one need only go a mile or so to the first caves. As it was, we could have walked another mile or more to go to the east end of the caves. I found it too slippery to go far into the caves, not wanting to slip and fall and have to slither on my hands and knees to more solid footing. Of course many visitors did go into the caves, some of which go back perhaps a hundred feet from the face of the cliffs. With melting going on one might also be a bit cautious of the huge ice stalactites that hang down from the cave ceilings.
When visiting the ice caves I would encourage you to take your time walking and really look all around, not just hurry to get in and out of caves. As Henry David Thoreau admonished, one must “saunter.” Erick spotted several eagle’s nests perched high up on a cliff face (note the one pictured), and there were many small red pine and birch trees (even some quite large) growing directly out of rock crevasses, without apparent help of soil. We saw, with aid of binoculars, two canines, either coyotes or wolves, running determinedly far out on the frozen wastes, probably to engage in mating (it looked like boy chasing girl, although she slowed up if he got too far behind). If you intend to visit the ice caves, I encourage you to do it soon, as weather and ice conditions can change abruptly.
We need to take recycles to the Bayfield Town of Russell Recycling Center out on Hwy 13, past the Rez, this morning, another small-town ritual.