Sunday, November 20, 2011

First snow

It looks like winter has arrived in the Northwoods. We got about 4" of snow yesterday, our first snowfall of the season.
Front yard, yesterday afternoon.
Back yard, yesterday afternoon.
Front yard, this morning.
Back yard, this morning.

Friday, November 4, 2011

November ride

Clear skies, sunshine, and comfortable temperatures in November for our afternoon ride on small, quiet country roads past serene lakes--just the kind of weather we had hoped for... 

Monday, October 24, 2011

RIP Monarch

The life force left the Monarch butterfly today.
RIP beautiful, precious Monarch.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

More on the Monarch

It's Sunday evening and the Monarch is still with us. We've been keeping him in a plastic salad container, lined with a paper towel and covered with a paper towel with some holes punched in it. (This Monarch is a male because he has a dark spot on each hind wing, as illustrated below.)
Yesterday, after it warmed up to about 60F outside, we put the Monarch outdoors, in the sunshine in a place sheltered from the wind, giving him a chance to fly away if he could. He moved only a few feet, staying close to the house. I read that a Monarch's flight muscles must be at least 55F before it can fly. I fear that this Monarch has missed the window in which it is warm enough for it to fly south.

I did some more research and found that a sugar water solution (1 part sugar to 4 parts water) can substitute for the nectar that Monarchs eat. So I've been giving him sugar water a couple of times each day, helping him to eat by gently placing his proboscis, that looks like a coiled straw when a Monarch is not eating, in the solution. I gently and carefully uncoil his proboscis with a straight pin. Today, I also gave him water to drink and got some watermelon for him to eat, another good food source.
Drinking the sugar water solution.
Drinking from a water-soaked paper towel.

This image shows the coiled proboscis.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Another Monarch butterfly encounter

Just before heading out on a bike ride this afternoon, I noticed a Monarch butterfly on our front step, close to the house. It was sitting very still in the sunshine, probably seeking warmth. We watched it for awhile and it didn't move. Then, Mike picked it up and cupped it in his hands, and gently blew his warm breath over its wings. There was a hard freeze overnight and we thought it might be having a hard time recovering from the cold. We then brought the Monarch inside the house and placed it on a fleece sweater for warmth. We've been watching it ever since and it seems to have revived a bit more. This is our second close encounter with a Monarch butterfly. (I told about our first encounter in my Sept. 26 post.)
I looked up the life cycle of the Monarch on the internet and found a fascinating website with much information. I learned that each year there are four generations of butterflies. The first three generations live 2-6 weeks as an adult butterfly. The fourth generation, born in Sept/Oct, doesn't die in this time frame, but migrates south and lives 6-8 months in Mexico or southern California. After hibernating through the winter, they awaken and mate in Feb/March of the following spring and then lay their eggs. We hope this Monarch will survive the night and be ready to continue on its long journey tomorrow.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fall Bike Tour, Stone Lake Cranberry Festival, Fall Mountain Bike Ride/Indian Summer, the Park Theater, Mini-golf and Petanque

The Hayward community library sponsors a Fall Bike Tour every September with rides ranging in length from 5 to 100 miles. We did the 45-mile loop that went from Hayward to Stone Lake and back. We were hoping to meet other cyclists and ride together but there was no set time for the various length rides to depart. Thus, we ended up riding just two of us for most of the route. At one point we rode with three other cyclists who passed us along the way. We drafted them for awhile and tried to get a paceline going to no avail. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the ride and discovered some new roads to add to our repertoire of road rides.

On October 1 we went to the 33rd Annual Stone Lake Cranberry Festival. This small community of 572 residents hosts over 30,000 visitors during this one-day event. The festival originated in 1978 when five women came up with the idea while enjoying a hot-tub soak and a glass of wine. The first festival drew about 100 people and 14 vendors. We enjoyed a cranberry pancake breakfast upon our arrival in Stone Lake, walked the local streets lined with vendors selling everything from cranberry-related food products to "Red-neck wind chimes" and took a tour of a nearby commercial cranberry marsh operation where the fall harvest was taking place.
Cranberry bog
The machine that shakes the cranberries from the vine.
We learned some interesting facts and statistics about cranberries and their harvest from our tour and the official Cranberry Festival visitor guide:
-Cranberries score among the highest of all fruits in antioxidants.
-Cranberries grow on vines (not bushes, like in Alaska) in sandy bogs and marshes. When the fruit is ready to harvest, the bogs are flooded. The cranberries are mechanically shaken loose from the vines and float in the water, where they are then corralled with a floating boom and vacuumed into a holding truck.
-Wisconsin is the top cranberry-producing state and is expected to hold that status for the 17th consecutive year with a crop of 4.3 million barrels of cranberries during the 2011 fall harvest.
-Cranberries are Wisconsin's largest fruit industry in both value and size.
-More than 250 growers produce cranberries on approximately 18,000 acres of land throughout 18 counties in central and northern Wisconsin.

The Fall colors reached their peak here the week of October 2, complemented by a week of Indian Summer with temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s. We did our first mountain bike rides since arriving in Hayward on the Hatchery Creek Trail whose trailhead is just a few miles from our house. Riding the forest trails bathed in golden light and carpeted with golden leaves was a feast for the senses.
Here's a video link to a portion of our mountain bike trail ride.

The local Park Theater, which celebrated its 5th anniversary as a not-for-profit arts center this past Friday evening, is a great cultural resource. We've attended three events at the Park in recent weeks: a community talent show, a showing of "Green Fire," a film about Aldo Leopold, and a concert by jazz pianist Mary Louise Knutson.

During my parents' recent visit to Hayward we played mini-golf three times at the local Lumberjack Village 18-hole mini-golf course, probably the nicest course in the Hayward area. Mini-golf is big here. The nice thing about Lumberjack Village is that on Mondays thru Thursdays during the off-season you can play "self-serve" golf. Everything you need, clubs, balls, scorecard, is set up outside the un-manned office. The price is a bit cheaper than the Friday-Sunday price and payment is on an honor system.

We also christened our Petanque set while my parents were here, which consists of six heavy steel balls and a wooden target ("jack"). We played this game, which is very popular in Europe, especially Italy and France, at a suitable spot we found at the Sawyer County Fairgrounds. The game is similar to horseshoes, with the "jack" being the target.

Before closing this post, here's a few "family" photos we took before my parents headed back home to New Jersey:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spring Lake pontoon float

We rented a pontoon boat for the afternoon from Wilderness Haven Resort on Spring Lake. You see pontoon boats everywhere on the lakes in this area. The weather was delightful, the water was glassy smooth, and the fall colors were a feast for the eyes.

 Mike drove the boat most of the time but my mom also took her turn as "captain."

We brought a picnic dinner to enjoy on our cruise around the lake. We spotted a pair of bald eagles, a flock of Canadian geese and a Great Blue Heron and came ashore at dusk.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Green beans, Spring Lake paddle, and Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival

On our morning rides we often pass a house that has a "Free" sign propped up against the mailbox by the driveway. The first time I noticed it, I wondered just what was "free" as there was nothing to be seen by the sign. The next few times we rode by, same story. Then, one morning, I noticed a large brown paper bag at the base of the sign. I stopped to check it out. Handwritten on the bag were the words "green beans." Free fresh green beans from their garden for the taking! How nice! I brought the bag home and we had green beans with our dinner that night. The best we had ever tasted! I wrote a thank-you note and stuck it in their mailbox a few days later. The next time we rode by, the "free" sign had a few plastic bags at its base with a handwritten note attached that said "Feel free to go in our garden and pick as many green beans as you want. We're done with them." Signed "Mary & Larry." I did just that and we had green beans to go with several more dinners. Eventually, we met Mary and had a nice chat with her and got to thank her in person for her generosity. The other day we rode by and she had put a box of "windfall" apples, a zucchini and some hanging flower planters by the free sign. I took the planters and some apples. Maybe I'll make an apple pie...

Earlier this month we took our inflatable kayaks for a paddle on Spring Lake, a lake we often pass by on our morning rides. It was a beautiful warm day with puffy white clouds and calm waters. We saw one female loon, two blue herons and 10 Painted turtles during our afternoon paddle.
Mike painted his kayak to look like a loon.

The 29th Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival was held September 16-18, with the start of the 40-mile mountain bike race from Hayward to Telemark Resort in Cable on September 17. The 40-mile race has a mass start of 1,850 riders on Main Street in downtown Hayward. They wheeled by for over five minutes as they left town and headed for the Birkie ski trails. Two hours later, the first riders crossed the finish line at Telemark at an amazing pace of about 20 mph. Here's a link to a video of the 40-mile start.

We volunteered to help with the Fat Tire festivities and were part of the concessions crew at the Big Top tent at Telemark on both Friday and Saturday. Our job was to keep the various t-shirts folded and in good order and to answer any questions about the clothing.
On Sunday, we helped with the "Fun" Day events. We were put in charge of the Klunker Toss. About 40 people took a turn at throwing a klunker bike as far as they could down a hill. Our job was to measure and record the distance for each participant and retrieve the bike each time it was thrown. This took place in steady rain for over two hours, negating the "Fun" factor.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lake Superior Big Top, Amnicon Falls, Hawk Ridge Observatory, and a Monarch butterfly

We drove to Bayfield on Saturday, Sept. 10 to meet my parents, who departed New Jersey on Sept. 6 to drive to Wisconsin for a visit. We went to the Lake Superior Big Top season finale Saturday evening. Wisconsin author Michael Perry was the host for the evening. What a great story teller and sense of humor! He had the entire audience in stitches at times throughout the night. (See the "Michael Perry on Wisconsin 101" video that we posted on YouTube.) The Blue Canvas Orchestra, a very talented group of musicians, also performed as well as an an actor who specializes in pantomine, Gayle Lajoye.

We headed to Amnicon Falls State Park on Sunday, where we camped for the night. Went on a short hike with my parents and their dog, Willow, early in the day and then Mike and I went on a longer hike at dusk.

Just before our evening hike, Mike had an amazing encounter with a Monarch butterfly who chose to alight on his hand three separate times and then stayed there for at least 15 minutes, long enough for me to capture a number of images.

On Monday, we visited the Hawk Ridge Observatory in Duluth to see what raptors might be flying through on their migration south. Saw a bunch of sharp-shinned hawks and a couple of bald eagles.
Some banded birds were released while we were there, including this Northern Harrier.