Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Muskrats…

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Now there’s something you probably have never thought about, or at least have thought very little.  Me, neither.  But for some reason, muskrats have recently shown up at my sister’s pond out front.

When I visited in October, we spoke of them, but this visit, I began to wonder, “How did they come to be here?  Did they throw their belongings, hobo-style over their shoulders, saunter along the fields, and say, ‘Hey, this looks like a nice spot.  Let’s build our village here,’?”  It gave me an interesting visual, so I googled.

Wisconsin muskrats (not sure there are other kinds) are rodents, that live in and out of water.  They have burrows, but my sister’s muskrats have lodges that stick up above the surface of the pond,, and that was what I was seeing.  Those are the humps you see in the photo below.  Yes, the pond is frozen.

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Muskrats can be aggressive, but they are nocturnal, so I’m not too worried about myself or the dog or my family.  We are early go-to-bedders.  Muskrats are beneficial, in that they help maintain marshes, which in turn provide habitats for aquatic birds, and here, those will be the Sandhill Cranes, of which I am so fond.  Plus the muskrats feed on cattail, and those things, while attractive, can be a mess.

Muskrats live for about three years in the wild, and the babies are called kits.  They can have as many as three litters a year, though the number of babies in a litter was not revealed.  Guess they hold their privacy.

So far, I have not actually spied a Muskrat, adult or child.  That’s probably due to the nocturnal bit, but the pictures don’t show them as all that cute to me.  Nevertheless, with three litters a year, if they grow and stick around, could increase the number of lodges that show up in the pond.

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If the coyotes don’t take them out, and if they like the spot, (and why wouldn’t they?) we may have quite the Muskrat town here next year.

That seems to bring me back to my question of from where did they come?  Their last area of residence may have gotten too crowded for the population, and they followed the waterway that cuts through the fields.

No matter.  They sure hit payday here!

 

 

An Evening at aWisconsin Supper Club

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What’s a Supper Club, and why are they a Wisconsin phenomenon, you may ask.  Heck.  I ask the same question.  Sister Number 2 and her boyfriend have made Friday night Supper Club visits a “thing” for them, and many a time, at the folks’ kitchen table, Supper Clubbing has been a topic of conversation when my Atlanta brother and sister-in-law visit the farm.

So, to answer the question, a Supper Club is a restaurant, mostly family-owned, which features Friday night Fish Fry, steak dinners, and cocktails.  The traditional cocktails being Old Fashioneds, Martinis, and Manhattans.  That sounds sort of 1950’s-ish, and not that unique, but for some reason, Supper Clubs are a big deal here.

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Supper Clubs didn’t even originate in Wisconsin.  According to my Google research, the first Supper Club was begun in Beverly Hills, California by a Milwaukee native in the 1920’s.  Before that, they actually began as Speakeasys to cover up serving alcohol during Prohibition, and flourished in the 50’s.  I actually remember Friday nights at the Log Cabin, owned by my classmate, Melvin Silver’s family in Indianapolis, Indiana, though I didn’t know then I was in a Supper Club.  I’d get my Shirley Temple, and my mother would get her Martinis.  It was the way to begin a weekend.  That was years and years ago, though.

Last night, Sister Number 1 and her date took me to The Green Lantern for dinner.  When we hung our coats up, it dawned on me that I was about to have a cultural experience.  In North Carolina, we just flop our coats over the back of our chairs.  Here in “cold country,” the coats are too thick and heavy to be comfortable clumped up behind us, and the tables are too close together to allow for the extra space taken by outerwear.  People arrived in couples and groups, the wait-staff was fast-paced, and the background conversations were loud and lively.

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While we all passed on the cocktails, we did enjoy a glass of wine or beer and the Friday Fish and steak.  I have to say, there is a definite “atmosphere” that makes it a whole different kind of dining event.   Though there is nothing really that unique, inexplicably, it is.  Maybe it’s the cold, the frozen lake with the ice fishermen and their shacks, or the glow of the holiday lights, festivity reigns.  It was like going back in time, and for me, that was a very sweet trip.

If You Like to Eat, Thank a Farmer…

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Recently, I reposted a meme from several years ago.  It said, “Without farming, you’d be hungry, naked, and sober.”  So true.

I’m in Wisconsin, again.  I’m grateful to be able to visit here two or three times a year.  It is a blessing.  My dad turns 95 years-old next week.  He and my step-mother have been married 65 years on Christmas Day.  I have two brothers  (sadly, one of whom is deceased) and two sisters who live here, two fantastic sisters-in-law, four grown nieces, a nephew, and a growing number of great-nephews and nieces, all who live near-by.  Arriving soon are another brother, his fantastic wife, and another grown niece and nephew.  You’d have to be crazy not to appreciate this bunch, actually a small city, of fun and loving family members!

My youngest brother is a farmer.  Among other endeavors, he and one of my sisters raise Scottish Highland steers for meat.  I’ve written about this before, and you can read back about the rogue steer and the butchering episode. 

This week, I was sent to pick up the remains, I mean meat, of some of the most current residents, now no longer with us.  I have to say, that after the pick up, I was once again a vegetarian.  This is what greeted me when I pulled up to the processing place:

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My sister-in-law gave me a lesson on the difference between deer and cow toes.  (Deer toes, close together/Cow toes spread apart)  Who knew?  Who cares?

Then we entered the store, where the smell near knocked me over.  “Doesn’t it smell wonderful?” she asked.  NO!  It did not!  But, ready for the experience, I took a few photos, and collected two terrifically heavy bags of frozen hamburger, steaks, and roasts, and breathed through my nose until I could get out in the fresh air.

Though it’s not my cup of tea (today), I am grateful to those who do the work (breeders, growers, butchers, processors, and y’all who are the eaters), because this is economy, People.  And these are the ones who feed us, clothe us, and give us wine, beer, and booze.  And though I’m a vegetarian, at least for today, I have an affinity for clothes, and I like my wine.  And, I especially love my family!

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So, on behalf of my brother, I say, “Thank a farmer.”  God knows, they deserve at least that much.

Woodpeckers…

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I’ve written about birds before.  I posted about Wild Turkeys, about  Sandhill Cranes, and about my most favorite bird of all, the bluebird.  I haven’t written about Woodpeckers, because I haven’t really thought about them.  Until recently.

Woodpeckers, came to my attention, and NOT in a positive way, when Sister Number One, in Wisconsin began her War Against Woodpeckers.  For some reason, last fall, the Woodpeckers in her neighborhood (and I use that term “neighborhood” loosely) began to attack her house.  Her home is cedar-sided, and the Woodpeckers were pecking right down to the insulation.  In multiple areas!

She tried everything!  She put up fake owls. She foamed the holes.  She hung up shiny strips of silver mylar.  She put up cameras, and sounded some sort of alarm when she saw one of the birds land and begin to peck.  When I was visiting her last fall, she had me hold onto her waist as she leaned out of the second story window to set up her defenses.  I’m not kidding to call it War.

Here at the Lake, Pileated Woodpeckers thrive.  These last days, I have “enjoyed” the woodpecking serenade every morning, and I’ve thought about the War.  I’ve wondered if I should engage in battle, down here, on behalf of my Lake family.  It was a swiftly fleeting thought.

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The Pilated Woodpecker is the Woody Woodpecker of the species.  He (or she) is the size of a chicken.  It has a wingspan of 28 inches, and is the largest of the North America Woodpeckers.  They, like all woodpeckers, eat sap, bugs, fruit and nuts.  They have a distinctive cry, and my former spouse and I used to sit here at the Lake, gazing up stiff-necked upward at the pines, trying to see one of those guys.  I never have.

The War Against Woodpeckers up north is currently at Truce, as the “Great Polar Vortex” put Woodpeckers into a cease fire.  Hopefully, when the Thaw comes, those guys will have found richer feeding grounds, or at least will have used the winter to get therapy for their OCD.

Here at the Lake, I think I might grab a chair, plant myself in the yard with some binoculars, and site a Pileated.  You’d think with a 28-inch wingspan, they would be hard to miss.  Then I can tick that off my “life’s desires” list, and move on.  Hoo-boy.  It’s the simple things, for sure.

 

 

A Missed Blogging Opportunity…

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Warning:  Pictures are graphic and an animal lost its life in the process.

I wasn’t there.  When you read this, you will be able to figure out why.  (Also, I wasn’t invited.)  And special acknowledgements to Brother Number One for the photos, and Brothers One and Four as primary resources / eyewitnesses.

It happened like this…Brother One and I came up to the farm in Wisconsin from the south for a weekend gathering.  Brother Four, the farmer, had been trying to get a renegade steer butchered since September.  (See blogs titled Love Me Tender and Chesseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.)

I will fill readers in on some background information in case you might have missed the blogs cited above.  Sister One and Brother Four raise Scottish Highlanders, then sell the grass-fed beef.  Last fall, on Butchering Day, one of the steers, aka Renegade Steer, leaped the fence, escaped and went rogue for six weeks in a two square mile area from my sister’s place.  He clearly had a screw loose with a propensity for endangering people.  During that time,  the folks combed fence lines on foot and neighbors searched on horseback to no avail, although there were a few reported sightings.

Finally RS turned up at a cattle farm, where the owner of which disallowed the butchering to take place on his property.  Eventually, after several months in residence, RS broke through his barn wall twice and charged said owner knocking him over.  He relented.  Also, he was promised a goodly amount of the beef, gratis.

Now comes the day long awaited for by the family,  just because the whole episode drug out for nearly six months…RS’s last living day on earth.  The boys met the sharpshooter and butcher.  The RS was clearly ID’d, as he was the only one of his breed present.  Brother Two, farrier and sharpshooter himself,  urged the gunman to “shoot, shoot.”  He was a little eager, in my opinion.  Nevertheless, the aim was swift and true.  RS was down, throat slit (sorry), and properly declared dead by Brother One, the doctor.

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The steer was drug away a short distance with a skid loader, hoisted with a crane, skinned, gutted, and cut up.  All this in the cold windy gloom of the day, and I missed the whole event.  I am pretty grateful, frankly.  I got a little sickish feeling when I asked for details this morning.  All adventures aren’t equal.

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This is what happens on the farm.  This is where hamburger, steak and pot roast come from, and had I been present, I probably would have become a vegetarian.  In a little while, we will all gather again in the folks’ kitchen and eat ham and scalloped potatoes.  I’m glad tonight’s meat entree isn’t beef

Deb’s 2017, by the numbers…

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Another trip around the sun, and seven trips since I moved to North Carolina.  It seems impossible, and the years have flown.

So, by the numbers, this is my story for 2017, and not in chronological order:

Number of weeks spent in Wisconsin with my Remley family…. six.

Number of visits to long-time, dear friends, here in North Carolina…three.

Number of talks with all sisters…too many to count.

Number of pizza nights at my NC brother’s…also too many to count.

Number of overseas trips made by me…one.

Number of countries visited on above trip…four.

Number of blessings gained from above trip…still counting.

Number of visitors to my Winston-Salem home, including parents, Atlanta brother and family, former principal and friend, Australian “nephew,” Lake Sister and two mutual friends, my two WI  sisters, niece, grand-nephew, Arizona BFF and her spouse…a bunch.

Number of meaningful connections with Arizona family, former students and their parents, teaching friends, and more…lots.

Number of Flat Stanleys to travel across country and hang out…one.

Number of books read and discussed with Book Club and others…not sure.

Number of dinners with neighbors…same.Number of Canasta games played…probably eight.

Number of GOOD Canasta hands played…one.

Number of opportunities to serve others…numerous times daily.

Number of prayers requested, prayers answered, thanks given…countless. 

I wish all of you the infinite blessings of this Christmas season and the same in the New Year to come.  And so, Amen.

Merry Christmas

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If I had to choose one word that would define the year of 2016 for me, it would be FAMILY.

Remember, family comes in all shapes and configurations and is not only determined by birth or blood or even marriage. For me, I am related to my family by love.

Year ‘round, I am enveloped by my sisters and brothers, their spouses and our parents in North Carolina, Georgia, and Wisconsin. I couldn’t survive without them, and I hope I give back just a little of what they give to me. Laughter is everything. Presence, in many forms, is everything.

My Australian family hosted me in Sydney. It was an amazing time, swimming as the sun rose over the oceanside pool, walking beaches, visiting vineyards in Tasmania, and shopping in Melbourne. I could live there. And then, Patrick visited me in November. Who knew a busy, funny, adventuresome young man would want to spend time with me?

My Arizona family, and that includes my BFF, welcomed me for a few days, and we picked up, just as family-of-the-heart does…right where we left off. Some things never change, and it’s all good.

My Lake Waccamaw family helped me celebrate my birthday in June, accompanied me to Wisconsin for a whirlwind week, and fed me Thanksgiving dinner. They fed me more than that. They fed my soul.

Last, but not least, I have my neighbors, who have become my family, as well. We have a book club, frequent dinners, snow day movie fests, walking times, talking times, and even some crying times. We look out for one another.

I hope this heartfelt, though maybe not so creative letter finds you well and happy. May each of you be surrounded by the strength and the joy and laughter, and especially the love of FAMILY at all times. May you feel the Peace of Christ. …and so, Amen.

Wild Turkey”

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Prior to this summer, the only Wild Turkey I’d seen was in the liquor/ABC store in the section of top shelf bourbons.  Today, I saw two flocks of the real wild turkeys, the birds, in two different places.  I have seen others on and off all summer.

So, I decided to do a little research.  Wild turkeys, which by the way were Benjamin Franklin’s choice of national bird, are found pretty much in all the states of the good ol’ U.S.of A.  They live in open fields and brush at the edge of forests.

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The baby daddy has a harem of “wives,” and they mate in the spring, of course, and lay from eight to twenty eggs.  I can’t imagine that all those eggs would hatch and the chicks would survive, but that’s just me.  The mama raises the chicks, also of course.  In the winter, everyone goes off on their own, and I’m not sure what happens after that, but winters are harsh in Wisconsin.  While the whole co-families are together, before the empty nest part, literally, the chicks grow, and become teenagers, gawky and all.

The groups that I saw today, and other days, too, had a whole bunch of teenagers.  They are sort of a mess, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.  They were back and forth all over the shoulder, wanting to dash in front of my very slow moving vehicle, and behaving in an extremely indecisive manner.  Finally after much excitement, the teenagers and their confused and beleaguered parents flew up into a bunch of pine trees.

I know hunting season will come.  The wild turkeys will be targets, and some of the people in the farm neighborhood will have a wonderful entree’ for their Thanksgiving meal.  I would kind of hate to think that the guys I saw today might be dressed in their finest well-browned and crispy skin, but it is possible.  It’s enough to make me go vegetarian.

 

 

 

A Few of my Favorite Things…

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There are some very simple things that really bring me great joy, and I was listing them in my mind as I walked around the track today.  The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies, and I know almost all of the songs by heart.  I used to listen to the soundtrack on reel-to-reel tapes on a tape deck that my step-dad brought back from Okinawa when he returned from one of his tours back in the 60’s.  I can belt out almost word-for-word every lyric.  I sound really good…to myself, by the way.

So favorite things… I just really love fresh, crisp, clean sheets, and a freshly made bed.  Sunday nights are glorious for me, because that is when I change my sheets.  I wear fresh jammies, and turn on my fan, and crawl in and scrunch up.

The Carolina blue of the Wisconsin sky on a breezy, dry day is a perfect joy.  I have lain in the grass and looked up through the trees.  I have lain in the bed of a pickup and felt thrilled.

I can’t even tell you how laughing with my sisters makes me feel…or the hug of a brother.  Hoo-boy.

When I open Yahoo, and see that I have an email from my beasties, my heart races.  I know I will feel the pull of friendship, and am grateful that I have been blessed with these beautiful women in my life.

I love the way my little dog, Hattie, will lie on my chest when we take a nap together on the sofa after lunch.  And I really love a nap, too.  When Beedle Ray Weedleman (boy cat, extraordinaire) joins us, I am in heaven.

I find joy in a red or yellow autumn leaf.  I can hardly step over a perfectly colored leaf.  I pick them up, take them home, and put them on my kitchen table until they curl up, and I have to throw them away.  I found a craft of making a bowl from leaves that I am going to try, just to make them last a little longer.

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I love the smell of crayons, and I can’t help it.  Sometimes I believe that’s why I taught first grade for so long…so that I could smell Crayolas and arrange them by hue.

Freshly cut grass and new-mown hay are pretty special.  The look and the smell of the lawn send me back in time.  I also have a good bit of house-pride, so that attributes to my joy.

And bluebirds.  Seeing bluebirds makes me really happy.

Yep, it really doesn’t take much.  I’m a pretty cheap date. And now, I have the earworm of Julie Andrews, who I sound so much like in my own mind, and I must belt it out, My Favorite Things.  I wish you could hear me.

Maxwell Street Days…

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That’s what they call end-of-summer sidewalk sales here in Wisconsin.  Who knew?  This is the way it came down…the same Saturday that my lake “sister” and I went to the Farmer’s Market in Madison coincided with the Maxwell Street Days.  BTW, the Farmer’s Market in Madison is one of the best in the country, and I should know, I have been to many of them all across the U.S. of A.

But I digress…back to Maxwell Street, which is what I thought was actually a street in Madison, where there were sidewalk sales.  There were displays aplenty, and Geege and I visited most of them.  We’d pretty much shopped ourselves out of money before, so we didn’t actually find anything we couldn’t live without.  Then, last Saturday, my sister and I were in Stoughton, and she said, “Oh.  It’s Maxwell Street Days.”

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“Where’s Maxwell Street?” I asked, reasonably.

Her (befuddled):  There’s no Maxwell Street in Stoughton that I know of.

Me (even more befuddled): Well then, why are there Maxwell Street Sales?

She didn’t know, and then my sister-in-law phoned to invite me to the Monroe Maxwell Street Sales.  Hello?  Does every town in Wisconsin have a Maxwell Street?  No, is the answer, and here is the history, and the best kind of history:  a history of shopping sales!  How great is that?

In the late 1800’s there were retail sales twice a year…in January, after Christmas, and in July and August, at the end of the summer.  During the beautiful summer weather, the shops on Maxwell Street in Chicago would put their sale merchandise out on the sidewalk.  People looked forward to that sale weekend all season long.  The tradition radiated around the Windy City, and viola!  Maxwell Street Days!  Confusion resolved, history revealed.

What more could any shopper and writer want?  An uncovered story, great bargains,  AND shopping at three towns’ Maxwell Street Days?

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