Category Archives: Environment

This Particular Winter

I have to admit that so far, this has been one of my most favorite winters of my life.  Not because anything spectacular has happened, or for that matter anything remotely out of the order, but just because it has been so pretty.  I often take pretty for granted, and I have to remind myself that I am a lucky so-and-so because I get to live in this gorgeous part of the world.  I live next to the largest lake in the world; when she freezes up, it is glorious.  At first she steams, then ice chunks form, then the ferry stops running and soon, if the islanders are lucky, an ice road arrives.  That’s pretty cool.  And that’s just the lake!  To have my morning commute littered with beautiful trees, decked out in a layer of snow is fairly fabulous.  Think lovely actresses at the Oscars wearing diamonds.  No…it’s actually nothing like that, but it is pretty stunning.  I live in what the beer commercials call God’s Country; although, I think God could lay claim to the whole planet if asked, so there you go.  This winter, I have really enjoyed my wood stove, the snow on the trees, the lake freezing up and the big clear night skies.  It has been glorious and really, really pretty.

I haven’t even been the least bit bummed at the latest ridiculously large snow accumulations.   I actually got giddy this part weekend thinking we would get another 10 inches on the ground.  Why not?  I prefer pretty white to the muddy, brown yuk of Spring.  After a strong, solid, snow storm, it’s as if some nurse from the 1950’s (you know the one – all dressed in white, wearing the nurse hat, and squeaky white shoes) came through town with a bucket of bleach and purified everything.  Apparently, my version is Mother Nature is more of a Nurse Ratchet.

When I was a kid, there was a whopper of a snow storm.  I was around 10 and my sister was 14.   We were home alone, and my parents were driving back from Milwaukee.  Like I said, it was a bad storm, and they had gotten into an accident; they were fine, but it meant we were to be left alone overnight.  Due to the blizzard, my parent’s friends couldn’t even drive across town to check on us.  We were absolutely alone for at least 24 hours.  I remember being really excited about this prospect.  I immediately had visions of Laura Ingalls and wondered if we should make a fire, although we didn’t have any wood…  Maybe we should break up a chair with a hatchet and spark it up in the fire-place!  I saw that in a movie once!  My sister quickly put the kibosh on that.  Instead, she made Mac and Cheese and made sure to be close to the phone, as my mother was calling every hour, on the hour to make sure we were OK.  I could tell my sister was getting worried, and silently prayed for my parent’s speedy return, but I remember thinking it was pretty awesome.

We lived close to the lake, so the strong wind was pushing the snow up over the windows on the first floor.  It was as if we were in our own snow fort, if snow forts had a furnace, television and pong.  We couldn’t see out of the house at all, at least on the first floor.  However, funny thing, the light still seemed to find its way through all the snow.  Our family room wasn’t dark at all, but lovely.  Everything seemed to have a magical glow about it.

The next afternoon, my parents came home, exhausted and emotionally thin.  My father started shoveling us out, but before he did, I opened a window to touch the snow wall that had accumulated on the glass.  I held my hands out and touched the snow.  My hand started to melt it, and left a print of it there in the snow.  It was nothing special, and yet it was.

Yesterday, I got caught in some bad weather while picking up Em from a sleepover.  By the time she got in the car, there was about a quarter of an inch of ice on the windows.   After scraping and cursing, I hopped in the car, only to see I missed the windows in back.  In hopes of a lazy miracle, I rolled the windows down, hoping the ice and snow would magically fall off.  It didn’t.  In fact, the ice stayed glued in the same spot as where the window was.  It looked like some sort of modern, hip stained glass one would see in a trendy, uptown bar.  You couldn’t see out of it, but it allowed light into the car.  Slowly, Emily put her hands up and touched the ice and smiled. “Mom!  Check this out!  This is so cool!”   Nothing special, and yet it was.

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Filed under Bayfield, Environment, Fall, Holiday, Summer, Winter

Autumn

I was made for autumn; there’s no doubt about it.  In literature, the seasons can often represent a lifespan: spring=birth, summer=youth, fall=maturity, winter=death.  However, for me, that doesn’t really ring true.  When I am smack dab in the middle of fall, I am transported back to my childhood in lovely, rich, golden tones of memory.

Flashes of jumping into leaves, trick or treating, wool sweaters, football games and high school kisses jump into my mind.  My first kiss, my first real kiss was in the fall, on a bridge, over a river, under a full moon.  How’s that for heady?  He was tall, blonde and handsome.  Too bad he later came out of the closet.  He now owns a lovely salon in Palm Springs, but that’s beside the point.

I really, really love this time of year.  I’m going to tell you why, but first, let me start with telling you why I don’t love the other seasons as much.

I don’t like spring.  This is because where we live, there is no spring.  We live in the most northern point of the state of Wisconsin, right on Lake Superior.  I tend to get spring envy when it comes to states south of us. We get two weeks of mud in May.   That’s it.

 

(This is Emily and our friend Linda.  It was Easter Sunday.  Seriously.)

My friend Steve Dunker wrote a short poem which I think captures the magic and beauty of our two weeks of mud.

SPRING – Steve Dunker

Drip, drip

Dog shit. 

Even in April we still have banks of dirty snow on the ground, or if by some miracle the dirty piles of snow have melted, we are left with cold, cloudy, rainy days and some brown grass for color.  During these few weeks, the locals are absolutely insane because they’ve just finished their 6 month sentence of winter.  They have a look of desperation about them, particularly around the eyes, along with very pasty, if not translucent skin.  If I can’t get out of Bayfield County for a few days during March or April, then I try really hard to stay very busy, in order to keep from stabbing my face with a fork repeatedly.  I find directing a play does the trick.  (Fun Fact, the “low” tourist season time in Bayfield is during March and April and now you know why.  One might bump into a dangerous, crazed local while trying to enjoy the lovely, brown terrain.)  So much for spring.

Summer is way too hot for me, as I am a pretty, pretty princess who doesn’t like to sweat.  I would normally jump in a lake to cool off, but Superior will maybe get up to 60 degrees in the summer, and as I am a pretty, pretty princess, there will be none of that.  I have friends who love summer.  They do things like deliberately get on a boat, sail to one of the Apostle Islands with their families, and camp for at least a week.  Are you  freaking kidding me?  There is so much wrong with that, I can’t even begin to diagram it out, but for the sake of humor, I will try.  I guess it comes down to 3 words:  Sailing, Camping, Beach.

1)Sailing.  Not for me.  Sure, the boats are pretty when they’re out in the bay and the tourists who own sailboats tend to drop major cash in Bayfield’s lap, but I get seasick something fierce.  Casually lollygagging around the Apostles in a boat for a day or two might actually make me more interested in swimming in Lake Superior.  Frankly, I don’t want to put that much trust in the wind.  One time, this thing called “wind” put a tree on my house, so I don’t think it’s necessarily that trustworthy.  I’ll take a motor, please.  In a pinch, I’ll take the ferry.

2) Camping.  Seriously?  With family?  Do I need to go on?  Who does that shit?  No running water, no refrigerators, no wi-fi – get me a free hotel upgrade and we’ll start talking vacation.  No fun ever came of a woman peeing in the woods.  Ever.

3)  Beach.  To be fair, I don’t mind beaches per se.  They are lovely and I have had some wonderful moments on beaches, so I should clarify – sitting on the beach.  I have friends who just sit at the beach and do nothing.  Then I automatically think Stepford Wives.  Seriously, who can do that?  Who just sits at the beach all day?  Sitting in general is tough for me.  Unless I am watching a performance of some kind, I don’t really just sit.  I suck at sitting.  If sitting were a sport, I wouldn’t have made the Jamaican Bobsled Team, even just the guy in the middle who sits.  I’m a mover.  I was once referred to as “a fart in a windstorm” which I agreed with whole-heartedly, although, now that I think about it, it really depends on what the wind is doing, as I hear it can be untrustworthy and capricious.  Second problem with this messed up “beach” idea is sun.  That implies heat and I don’t like to sweat.  At all.  I hate it. There are times in life when one has to sweat; it can’t be avoided.  Doesn’t mean I have to like it.  Sun also means, for me, sunburned.  (Remember?  Pretty, pretty, princess.)  Finally, beaches also have this thing called sand.  It gets places it shouldn’t, and it isn’t comfortable.  At all.  This is made even more offensive when one is sweating.  Sand blows.  Sure, it can scrape off the callouses on my heels, but that means I am walking, not sitting.  Oh yeah, just one more beach bitch, beaches often have flies.  Beach flies are more than just a nuisance, as they tend to bite, especially if one is sweating.  I think I’m making my point.  I’ll stop myself now.

Winter is fine, but it lasts at least 6 months up here, so by May, I’m really ready for those 2 weeks of mud.  I don’t mind winter, but the length of it can do a girl in.  I do like being cozy, and making fires, hopefully in the fireplace, and cooking things with booze.  That is kind of a winter thing, isn’t it?  Nobody uses rum in a ham glaze in the summer.  Nobody pours a little whiskey over their pork loin in the fall.  No one puts an entire bottle grain alcohol in mashed potatoes in spring…

My family LOVES winter.  A lot.  They have been talking about winter since July.  Why?  They ski.  They love to ski.  They do it a lot, they talk about it a lot, they smile when they do it a lot.  I tried to like skiing, I really did, but it didn’t take.  I even took lessons.  I own really cool skis and really cool boots, but I bet I go down that tiny hill once this winter, and that will be it.  I don’t like to be cold, I don’t like to go fast and I have a fear of heights.  When I used to really try to ski, my legs would shake the whole way down the hill, not because I was out of shape, but because I was trembling with fear.  So, I gave up trying to be a skier, with Kriner’s blessing.  Now, when my family skis, I bring my laptop into the lodge, and pretend to get some writing done, but really, I’m sipping vodka and checking facebook.

That leaves fall as the big winner!  Fall!  October is the C.E.O. of my yearly calendar of awesome.  It is the crowning jewel in my tiara of fun.  Autumn is large and in charge, packed to the brim with opportunities for merriment, mischief, glory and abundance.

First weekend in October means one thing around here.  Applefest.  Some people don’t like Applefest, but you know what I say to that?  Maybe Applefest doesn’t like them either.  I FREAKING LOVE IT.  I love the crowds, the music, the food, the events, the silliness, the parade, the smells…I love it all.  I love that friends come and park in my yard.  I love that you can carry booze around for that weekend.  I love that there is sometimes controversy concerning who is king and queen.  I love the apples, the gyros, the corndogs, and the rides.  I think you get the picture.  Another good thing about that weekend is that it usually falls on Kriner’s birthday.  My fabulous husband has his fabulous birthday in early October.  You might think Kriner gets a little cheated, as we rarely celebrate it as we should, only due to Applefest, but he’s actually cool with that.  He is not a “pay attention to me” kind of guy.  If I make his favorite meal, get him some cool work out stuff, he’s usually pretty happy.

There is also a fairly, fabulous reunion of sorts toward the end of the month, lovingly referred to Floyd E. Queeb.  It always happens on 10/28 and it changes locations every year.

I won’t share too much of the folklore, as the words of Gandolf are ringing in my head; “Keep it secret, keep it safe.”  Suffice it to say, it has happened every year for the past 30 years, and centers around Northland College students and alumni.  I have been to my fair share, usually as a musician, and I am always treated with a wealth of outlandish fun.  It’s kind of our own little Burning Man, but it lasts only one night.  I think Joseph Campbell would absolutely love it, as every year, the myth of it grows and takes on a life of its own.

Then we get into the BEST holiday EVER.  Halloween.

Need I say more?  What is not to love?  We get to dress up, pretend to be something/someone else and eat candy.  Puh-leeze.

These events are fun to look forward to, but frankly, I think the month of October can stand on its own even without the social stuff.  The foliage alone becomes a glorious quilt that the earth seems to pull up over her chilly shoulders.  The reds, oranges, browns and yellows are in such a striking contrast to the almost denim blue of the lake.  Lake Superior tends to change colors (albeit subtly) throughout the year, and that autumn blue is something to see.  Lighter than the darker, almost black water in winter, and much prettier than the muddy spring melt, the lake in fall seems more clear, more crystal, more full of light.  She is in her glory.  She won’t let those trees take all her thunder.  She can give a show too, after all.

Here’s to falling in love with fall.

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Filed under Bayfield, Environment, Fall, Humor, Summer, Winter

Ticks

I need to fess up.  I have lived in Northern Wisconsin for 23 years, and I have never had a tick embedded into my skin. Never, which is freakishly rare for someone who lives where I live. Kriner and I can take a walk together and he will have 37 ticks crawling on him but somehow, I come off clean. I once read they are attracted to heat and my body temp runs low, so I assume they go after my hot-blooded man.

Ticks are gross, disgusting, and at times dangerous, but I’m not going to talk about Deer Ticks.  They’re the ones that carry Lyme disease, and yeah, it’s singular; this is something you learn when all of your friends, co-workers, acquaintances, students, former students and enemies get Lyme disease. They will correct you and you know what?  They get to, because they had Lyme disease.

“It’s not Lyme’s, it’s just Lyme.”

“I’m so sorry that you know that.”

That would be a downer to talk about and I want to keep these blog entries fun, so, I’m just going to talk about the ticks that are disgusting rather than dangerous. Those would be the Wood Ticks. (*Note, if you are squeamish about ticks, or bugs in general, please stop reading now.  It’s going to get really, really gross fairly quickly.  Also, I am sure my paramedic friends would point out you can catch bad stuff from Wood Ticks too…)

If you have never seen a Wood Tick (and I doubt there is anyone in an English-speaking country who has never seen one, since they are so common that I frequently see them pushing grocery carts at the local IGA and driving cars up and down main street) they are flat, tear-dropped shaped, brown insects with 8 legs and 2 big pincers coming out of their head. They are as thin as a thumbnail, that is, until they find a host.

The tick has the “awesome” ability to squirt a numbing chemical into your skin before it starts sucking you dry, so you really don’t feel it once it is in you. You may feel them crawling on your leg or arm, but if you don’t catch them early, they will find a nice, warm, quiet spot on your body (think gated community in Florida) before they proceed to dig in. They will stay there until they’re found or until they have satiated themselves and drop off, which can be a very long time.   (Have you checked the back of your neck while reading this?  I have.)

If you’re a dog owner in the northern part of Wisconsin, you are well-versed in ticks.  Dogs aren’t able to find and remove ticks as affectively as humans (you know, opposable thumbs and all) and most humans don’t find them on their dogs until they can feel them under fur, which means the tick has gotten bigger and more bloated.  You pray at this point your dog doesn’t bite them off and yes, I too just threw up in my mouth a little bit.  Most dog-owners have their own special rituals for dealing with the ticks they find on their beloved animals. We’ve all heard of the scotch tape trick, and if you haven’t, it’s time to leave the city.  Other tricks are the “toilet dump”, the “fingernail squish” (very difficult to execute but most impressive and final) and of course, the “burn.”  However, perhaps the most intriguing yet repulsive tick containment/elimination technique is the “tick jar.”  That’s right; sometimes there are so many ticks on a dog, that you need a jar when you check your animal.  And here’s the best part, sometimes people don’t get rid of the ticks right away; they keep them in the jar for fun.

This great little craft can be enjoyed by the entire family.  It’s easy, fun and educational!  Here’s how you do it.  You will need a jar or can, some cooking spray, and lots and lots of ticks.  When attempting to make your own tick jar, it’s important to spray the aerosol cooking spray on the inside of the jar, preferably one without ridges. You want to make it impossible for the ticks to climb out.  Since the top of the jar is open, you get to see the ticks, in all of their disgusting glory, in a not-so-natural habitat. You may think this is horrid and gross and only a select few humans would opt for this method, and you’d be right.

Among some of my friends, there seems to be a competition to see who can have the most lively tick jar. When I first moved here, Brian Grube had a tick jar he  never emptied and we all found it fascinating, albeit disgusting.  To this day I have never seen a tick jar that even comes close to his, but to be fair, he had 4 hairy dogs in one house.

I feel at this point, I should spend a little time describing the occupants of the jar, because based on diet, these ticks can range greatly in appearance.

On the bottom of the food chain are the newer, or “probationary” ticks.  They are small, lively and thin. When a dog’s owner finds them, these ticks are most likely only crawling on the dog, and not yet embedded.

Then you have the “less than a day” suckers; they still look like ticks, but they are thicker, maybe the depth of a quarter. They are “all that” in the tick world, because they have just recently fed. That’s really what it comes down to with ticks. If they’re hungry, they’re nothing, but if they’re fed, the world is their oyster, so to speak.

Now we get into the “John Gotti” tick. They have sucked blood for days, and have lived the good life at the expense of others.  They have lived under the radar, and in spite of petting, scratching and brushing your dog, they have remained unfound. They’re sneaky and smart.  If they got pulled over, I’m sure they would tell the officer that the blood just “fell off a truck.” These ticks look like little balls; they have so much blood in them you would think they would start to roll downhill, but they are still brown in color and still look like ticks, much like Violet Beauregarde when she got all plumped up on blueberries. They have trouble moving around in the tick jar.  They’re pretty damn gross.

(SPOILER ALERT – Now we move into the “no longer look like a tick but still a tick” arena. We are moving into the really, really disgusting aspect of ticks.  Feel free to drop out here.)

Unless you live where I live and have animals, you will not have experienced the “Grape tick” and you should be grateful for it.  A funny thing happens to ticks that feed for more than four days. They get big, much like a grape, and they no longer look like a tick. They turn into a sick, gray-purple color and their legs seem to disappear, under their bloated bellies.  They look like a raisin that has plumped itself back up by soaking in bleach.

Here’s what happens when you drop one of those vile, revolting plumped up, over-fed ticks into the tick jar. Remember the hungry newbie ticks?  They are so hungry and little, and the grape ticks are so big and slow, that the newbie ticks attach themselves to grey grape ticks’ bellies. So in the ultimate act of parasitic disgusting “ish”, we see ticks sucking on other ticks.  It’s like eating by proxy.

So, during this very special time of year, let this serve as a reminder to be sure to tuck your jeans into your socks, wear a hat, check yourself at night, get out the Frontline for your pets, and be careful when you scratch under your dog’s collar.  You never know what you’re going to find.

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Filed under Bayfield, Environment, Fall, Family, Humor, Parenting, Wisconsin