Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Jewels Of Lake Superior

As vacation trips go it was only three days but when our friends Dick and Sharon invited us along  we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Although we had driven the “circle route” around Lake Superior several times before  we had never stopped in Bayfield Wisconsin to head out onto the Apostle Islands.   There are   21 Apostles not 12 as you might think.  This was our chance. 

Along windswept beaches and cliffs, visitors experience where water meets land and sky, culture meets culture, and past meets present. The 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland host a unique blend of cultural and natural resources.  Lighthouses shine over Lake Superior and the new wilderness areas.

 For many decades lighthouses (scattered throughout the islands) have guided ships and boats through the often treacherous waters of this area of Lake Superior.  The Wisconsin town of Bayfield is heavily populated in the summer months because it's the main access point to the islands from the mainland. A car ferry runs from Bayfield to Madeline Island.

 Hop aboard the bus with us as John Grabko of Historic Adventure and Travel Tours leads us to the Apostle Islands…..

Mrs. T photographs Bayfields harbor as we wait for the ferry to take us to Madeline Island. Madeline is part of the Apostle but not of the National Park as several hundred people live year round on the island.

Our bus is loaded aboard the ferry as we head off to tour Madeline, visit a State Park and have evening dinner on the island.
The State Park had some wonderful views and beaches but one not so great was to discover our coach had  gotten stuck. Much shoveling was to no avail till a road grader showed up and pulled us out of the hole.
A definite "adventure" the next day was a visit to Raspberry Island to tour the lighthouse and have a picnic.  Unfortunately hordes of blackflies arrived about the same time by the millions and after visiting the lighthouse we moved the picnic back aboard our boat and went for a cruise among the islands. 
While on board there was a surprise birthday cake for Mrs. T. who later wanted to know "who spilled the beans?"
Dick and Sharon await some smores that evening in Bayfield and a lady from the past who will entertain us with stories of lighthouses, storms and shipwrecks from long ago.
Longfellow said it best, " By the shores of Gitche Gumee, By the shining Big Sea Water". And I can only add "we had a great time....."               

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our Sunny Spot

We built our new house in the woods right next to our old one. There was lots and lots of shade from all the oak trees.  So I had to convert from a "sunny gardener" to a "shady" one with lots of hostas and woodland wildflowers.  But there was one special place right next to our front porch. I call it our "sunny spot."  From that vantage point we read the evening paper, watch the goats across the road    and take life easy.  (Click on pics for a closeup view)
A tiny pond with some floating water plants keep the goldfish happy. Some yellow Iris, and a few dianthus cheer things up. Later the lilies will put on there show. I somehow manage to propagate lots of amaryllis so they come outside to get their share of the sun.
Facing east we get the morning sun and a shaded late afternoon.
In spring the hanging plants are just getting started.
Also the cacti need lots of sun.
It was a long winter and cold spring this year so the "sunny spot" was finally much appreciated.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wasioja Revisited, Part III

Minnesota, as a State, was only three years old when Alexander Ramsey, our first governor happened to be in Washington lobbying for railroad expansion across the Big River, when the shots at Fort Sumter rang out.  He immediately rushed to the War Department when the telegraphed news became known throughout the city. It was there that he was to be the first governor to volunteer  troops to rush to the defense of the nation’s capital.  The First Minnesota Volunteer Regiment was thus there from the beginning at Bull Run to Gettysburg and beyond.  Today, at the Wasiojas Civil War Days, we would see a small reenactment of that regiments decisive role in the pivotal battle of the Civil War.
A potentially fatal crack had developed in the Unions defensive line as several thousand screaming rebels rush through the opening.  In reserve behind the battle line the 1st Minnesota Volunteers were approached by General Hancock "who are these troops?"  "Minnesota 1st" their leader Colonel Colville replied. With that Hancock pointed down the slope towards the onrushing enemy troops and ordered  a charge.  Fixing bayonets and knowing the attack was suicidal but a few moments relief might give Hancock time to shore up the defense they did as order.  It worked but at   a high cost indeed. Of some four hundred men only 40 escaped unscathed. It was the highest single casualty rare of any major unit in the Civil War.

We joined the crowd gathering in the football stands along the highway looking toward a farmstead, woods and a valley to the south.
My new found friends from that morning, the New Ulm Artillery Battery,  soon appeared on the ridge deploying their big guns.
With big bangs and lots of smoke...
And thus from the smoke, pain and horror of a real war one hundred and fifty years ago a new nation emerged and today we are all the better for it.....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wasioja Revisited, Part II

The Battle Of Gettysburg was "scheduled" for three o'clock in the afternoon but we arrived at Wasioja early in the morning.  While there were stores to shop in, speeches, music and authors to talk to, I most enjoy meeting and talking with the reenactors who are always in character. Come on along a take a look....
Mrs. T. stopped to visit with a friendly neighbor lady
Friends Gary and Rosie (on the right) joined a discussion with another local citizen.
Gary led the way up a hill to an encampment where things were just stirring.
A few of the "boys in blue" from the second Minnesota Volunteer Regiment, Company C (Wasioja) were just starting to gather.
I talked to a pharmacist who was just checking his supplies.
In another section of woods some rebels from South Carolina (the Pee Dee regiment) were up and about. They were confident they would be able to push the "damn Yankees" off the nearby ridge.
I talked to artillery men from both sides of the battle.  Here are pictured some of the Confederate guns.  Later, I met the men of a battery from New Ulm,  Minnesota.  They managed to put me in my place when I had said that I had visited their town many times and was highly enamored (being of German heritage) of their famous Schells beer. "So why are you wearing that Wisconsin beer hat, they asked.  Yes, I'd  forgotten I was wearing my Leinenkugels topper, recently purchased on a trip to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin and its fine brewery. I must say were proud of their unit as well as their town beer!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wasioja, Minnesota Revisited. Part I

It had been two years since tiny Wasioja, Minnesota had held it first Civil War Days.  We had attended  then and enjoyed the festivities, reenactments and meeting people from all over the country.  The event had been such a success the local committee decided a repeat was due given the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was a three day affair and we decided to attend  on the second day,  which featured the Battle of Gettysburg. 

Wasioja isn’t really much of a town. It’s just a few scattered homes from the 1950's. Also,  there are some nearby farms and a nondescript business or two. You would begin  notice  some limestone buildings obviously from the 19th century. This home, for example, built in 1858

There is a sign in front of another small limestone building which begins to tell the tale.  When the Civil War began in 1861, brand new Minnesota was the first state to offer and send troops to aid the Union cause. In April 1861, this building, which had been built as a law office and community meeting center in 1855 for the village, became a recruiting station.

Recruits from the Wasioja station numbering over 200 formed the nucleus of Company C of the 2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The building was Colonel James George's, a Mexican war veteran, law office who later led the volunteers at the Battle of Chickamauga.  Another stop on a wooded hillside told a more grim story. There was a scene which might remind Civil War buffs  of a   famous photograph of the ruins of Richmond, Virginia at the end of the Civil War.

Sometime after the Civil War this building had been destroyed in a fire. It does speak, however, to a time when Wasioja was a live and vital village. Anxious to promote the growth of the new town it citizens agreed to provide the Free Will Baptists a seminary. A structure of native limestone was completed in 1860. The seminary opened in that year with an enrollment of over 300 students. By 1862 Wasioja had more than a dozen stores, a hotel, a flour mill and was surrounded by farms and quarries that promised a great future.

Then the course of history was changed. The Civil War had begun and men from Minnesota were on the battlefields. Colonel George asked for volunteers. Led by Professor Gilley, many young students from the new seminary and others from various walks of life marched down to the law office and enlisted. Just over a year later, on Snodgrass Hill, near Chickamauga, they stopped the Rebels advance at a very high cost. Of the eighty young men who left Wasioja only twenty-five returned with life and limb intact. The town never recovered from that loss and also the railroad that bypassed the town.

Wasioja and its people paid in the coin of their future, by standing for Union and against the immorality of slavery.  Thus the tiny Minnesota crossroads still pays homage to those people and events of long ago.  Join us in Part II next.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Yellow Ladyslipper (A native wild orchid)

The yellow ladyslipper is the most common wild orchid in the U.S. and is found in almost every state. There are 3 accepted varieties of Yellow Lady's Slipper, 2 of which are found in Minnesota: Greater Yellow Lady's Slipper (var. pubescens) and Small Yellow Lady's Slipper (var. makasin). Despite their wide range, they are threatened or endangered in many states. Habitat loss and public destruction are the main causes.
Recently, Mrs. T along with our friends Gary and Rosie visited a State preserve in Northeastern Iowa. There we saw what I can only describe as the most amazing appearance of a native wildflower I have ever seen in my life. There were literally thousands of these rare gems within sight..... 
A bad idea, besides being illegal, is to dig native orchids up and try to transplant them to your own landscape.  They rarely survive. Here Karl Ruser  explains why.....
"Why don't you sell the Minnesota State Flower?!!!!", is a very common question. We really don't like to disappoint our customers, really we don't! But, we just don't feel that the Showy Lady Slipper and the other native orchids are suitable plants for the landscape.


First of all, they cannot be sustainably produced in a commercial sense. It takes 12-15 years for a plant to reach flowering age. That would mean we could only have raised two generations - at best - in the whole time Landscape Alternatives has been in business!


Second, they are very picky as to site conditions. For the most part, orchids grow where most other plants cannot. This is usually in soils with very low fertility. Believe it or not, almost any otherwise suitable landscape setting has far too many nutrients available for the plants to survive for more than just a few years.


Third, each orchid species requires a very special fungus to associate with it in a complex cycle. A native lady slipper seed must be in contact with some of this fungus when it germinates. The fungus provides the energy and nutrients the young orchid needs to grow. Eventually, the orchid develops enough so that its own leaves and roots can sustain it. At this point the role of fed and feeder switch. The fungus partially grows into the orchid plant and is sustained by it for the rest of the orchid's life. When the orchid finally is able to produce seed, the fungus is already there and ready to once again take on its supportive role for any new germinating plants. Without this natural association neither the fungus or an orchid patch will survive for long.


The only way an orchid can get this fungus into itself is for it to be there during germination. If it is introduced later in the orchid's life it will not be taken up. There are tissue cultured native orchids that can be found for sale. Unfortunately, the methods used to culture the plants cannot also include a fungus or any other microbial growth. The medium that the seed is germinated on takes the place of the fungus - while the plant is young. However, once the plant is removed from culture and potted up it is too late for the fungus to be introduced. Therefore, while such a plant may reach maturity in your garden, its seeds will never have the opportunity to naturally spread and develop into a self sustaining orchid patch in your garden. The plant you buy is the plant you get. That is not the Landscape Alternatives' way. We strive to help our customers develop self-sustaining native plantings in their gardens. The opportunity for re-seeding is an integral part of native plant gardening!

Please support efforts to protect natural remnant populations of our native orchids. DO NOT DIG THEM FROM THE WILD! From time to time "rescued" plants from construction projects become available for sale. Again, while these plants may grow in your garden for a few years, all the problems in 1-3 above will still apply. It is far better to make sure that these plants are not disturbed in the first place or, at the least, are transplanted to sites with active native remnant populations of the orchid (and thus the fungus).