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Archive for the ‘Wild Wisconsin’ Category

Pleasant places, pleasant times

gorgeous Wisconsin

Today we traveled just a few miles from our small lake-country community, out to the surrounding countryside—the rivers, farms, and woodlands which say “Wisconsin”.  Pictured above is the Rock River, once a part of the Sauk Indians’ Wisconsin and Illinois territory embedded in history by the leadership of Black Hawk.  From the photo you can see that we’ve had plenty of rain; that white thing apparently floating beyond the high grass slightly above center is a picnic bench.

Joe (flanked by Dylan) cast a line in this river park, which is simply a spur off a county road—one of countless natural retreats for travelers in our state.

gorgeous outing

When Dylan wasn’t fishing, he strolled with me along the water’s edge.  Suddenly, he decided to go wading—something he has never done before.  I was amazed, because it’s always a struggle to get Dylan into the bathtub.  But then, haven’t little boys always preferred wading in rivers to getting lathered up in a tub?  So it’s no wonder that Dylan went in up to his belly, which isn’t all that high off the ground.  Perhaps the presence of hundreds of teensy tadpoles darting in the water provided a lure to adventure, even when it meant my corgi had to get wet.

From the river site Joe, Dylan, and I meandered along country lanes west of the Kettle Moraine State Forest where we lived for 21 years—the longest I have ever lived in any one place for my entire life.  We visited a friend on a farm near Fort Atkinson (more historic Sauk country), and Dylan ran free of his leash—something he hasn’t done since we moved nearly 5 years ago, from our wild northern acres.  On that farm Joe and I stroked horses noses and fondled a small herd of mini-Nubian goats—all of whom Dylan approached with friendly enthusiasm.  (Dylan LOVES all living creatures, barring dogs.  He wants to KILL dogs!)

Laden with rhubarb and some of the best fresh spinach we’ve ever had, we returned home via a favorite country ice-cream shop—“Pickets” possibly named after a 1990s TV series, PICKET FENCES, hypothetically set in  Rome, Wisconsin.*

The actual village of Rome (on the Bark River) seems like something Time forgot, except for the occasional local person walking around with a cell phone.

As you readers can probably gather, our octogenarian decade is at this moment an extremely pleasant time.  We live surrounded by pleasant places, and Home is the most pleasant of all.  Currently we have another family living with us—not inside our 4 room condo, but just outside and above our living room/patio door.

gorgeous best yet birds

The nest contains 5 baby barn swallows.  A week ago we saw nothing but mouths lining the edge of the nest; and when they were open the mouths looked like mini-Muppets.  Now the babies are leaning out of the nest, and they are hilarious.  The middle bird is huge compared to his or her “sibs”, and also the most aggressive.  Some have learned to back over the edge to do their bird jobs; consequently we’ll soon have a piece of work to clean-up.

What we are seeing is Entitlement in action; I call it “OCCUPY NASHOTAH”.  For several days the parents have been zooming and fluttering around between feedings.  It seems that Mom and Dad realize it’s time for their nestlings to get out on their own and DO THEIR OWN WORK!  I hope to be out there when it happens!  🙂

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Pleasant places, pleasant times.  Every single day, I thank our Lord for them.  I’ve lived long enough (and through enough!) to know that “pleasant” can change in an instant—to “crisis”, “emergency”, and even “tragedy”.

Because I know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us from our sin and rose to give us Eternal Life, and because I know that I’m in His care forever, I have no fear of the future.  As I rest in Him, He will provide the Grace to bear whatever lies ahead!  Meanwhile I’m thankful beyond expression, for God’s gift of Life—and for the pleasant places and pleasant times He’s given Joe and me today!

©Margaret L. Been, July 2014

*Never having watched PICKET FENCES, I’m not sure of the naming of the country store—or whether or not it was featured in the series.  Perhaps the store was always “Pickets”, and the show was named after it.  Who knows?  Further GOOGLE research may shed light.  🙂

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Hill House

Years ago, for a class at the University of Wisconsin, I read a poignant novel titled YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, by Thomas Wolfe.  Employing a cliché, “I beg to differ” with that deceased American author.  Yes, you can go home again; I know because my husband and I have done exactly that.

Due to health issues, Joe and I had not made the road trip to our homes 280 miles North since Memorial Day weekend of 2010.  A friend has been taking care of the yards—mowing and snow blowing, cleaning up fallen branches, etc. so the area around the two houses has been well tended.  The remaining 14 acres are wild woods—to be left the way we have always loved them, in God’s hands through the venue of nature.

A daughter visited the homes several times, when vacationing North.  She reported that things were compromised there.  The downstairs at the lake home smelled musty and the sweet house pictured above—a factory home built for our guests when we lived up there full time—had gone to the mice, mothballs notwithstanding.

Two garages at the lake home were packed full of Joe’s tools, half finished carpentry projects, years of nuts and bolts, life jackets, random bicycles culled from rummages, junked furniture, shovels, rakes, an outboard motor, canoe paddles, paint cans, oil cans, batteries—just for starters.  The houses contained dishes, bedding, decorative items, pictures, and enough kitchen utensils in each house to accommodate the vacations we had thought we’d spend there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin in September of 2009.

The above-pictured house has provided a charming site for some of my mother’s favorite furniture pieces:  a cherry wood dining room table, a mahogany secretary with a glass cabinet, Mom’s cedar hope chest, and a highboy in some elegant unknown-to-me wood.  Both houses groaned with books leftover from the many boxes of volumes we moved with us 4 years ago.

What to do with all of this?  I think Joe and I simply stuffed all issues surrounding these homes due to larger and more crucial concerns—namely multiple surgeries and other medical procedures spanning many months.  Occasionally our beloved North, where we’d naively thought we’d live “forever”, surfaced in my mind.  Whenever this happened, I prayed:  “Lord, these are Your houses.  They are in Your hands.”

(Have you ever yielded something you dearly loved to the Lord, with no bitterness and no sorrowful misgivings?  Have you ever relaxed and said, “Lord, this belongs to You?” only to have God graciously hand that something back to you—with a minimum of stress and effort on your part, while taking care of every minute detail along the way?  Well, this is what has happened to us.)

Since 2009 we went right on paying the utilities and telephone bills, and annual taxes on our property North.  Would we ever return?  We really didn’t think so, as we arranged to put business matters in our son, Eric’s hands.  We were happy here in the South.  I think we didn’t want to grieve, so we were refusing to acknowledge the fact that these homes were still ours even though we couldn’t go up there.  Someone else could eventually sell them for us, and we’d pay a commission and just bank or invest the results—all in God’s time of course.

Then about a month ago a man called from Green Bay.  He had been on our road North, and he’d read “For Sale By Owner” on our mailbox up there—with our Southern Wisconsin phone number.  He drove in, walked around the yards, probably peeked in windows, and then called.  He sounded very interested in possibly buying both homes, and he wanted to meet us up there.

We scrambled, quite against our will.  After all, life was so easy here in the South and we were super contented.  We didn’t want to go up there (we thought!) and we certainly did not feel up to the gargantuan task of cleaning those houses and emptying the 2 garages.  But circumstances were kicking us in the head.  Something had to be done and we could not in good conscience dump the burden on our 6 beautiful children.

God was in charge!  We were given the name of a wonderfully efficient and energetic woman, Marilyn, whom we hired to clean the interiors of the houses and wash the windows.  She had completed the above-pictured house when we arrived on the scene nearly 2 weeks ago.  We decided to stay there, on the hill, since Marilyn would be doing the lake house next—approximately a 3 day job.  When we stepped into our house on the hill, originally installed as a guest house, Joe and I had the same sudden and drastic response.  We fell in love all over again irrevocably with this colorful, sparkling, easy-to-manage home high on a hill with maples and birches around the edge of the yard.  Instantly I prayed in my mind, “Oh Lord, if it be Your will, PLEASE don’t let that man from Green Bay want this house!!!”

For the next 3 days, prior to our appointment with the Green Bay fellow, Joe and I planned, sorted, discarded, etc.  Our grounds helper, Allen took loads of burnable trash to dispose of at his home where he has a permit for burning.  Some of the equipment also went home with Allen.  Marilyn and her husband were wonderful as well.  They carried many pick-up truckloads away with things they could use on their property at another lake nearby.  I sold some furniture to Marilyn, and gave her many household items we just didn’t need.  Our friends, Betty and Joe, took many more items—and so did friends, Dee and Jim.  And my Joe took 2 van loads, packed to the ceiling, to our town dump.  The houses are in beautiful condition now, and the 2 garages are miraculously (almost!) empty!

For 10 nights, we slept in the commodious bedroom on the hill—the sleep of contented, well fed and amply exercised children.  For 9 days we happily did projects, and spent quality time with the above mentioned friends.  We went to town (10 miles from home) several times.  In every store and restaurant, we were greeted as good old friends.  “Where have you been?”  “I’ve thought of you so often!” were familiar refrains.

However for several days prior to the man allegedly coming from Green Bay, I carried an ache in my heart.  We had advertised 2 houses.  What if he wanted both?  We were settling into the hill house, bringing in more “treasures” from the lake house, making the hill house ours for future vacations now that we realized we were healthy enough to make the trip and enjoy the North once again!

Then one night we picked up a message from our phone answering machine in the South.  The man from Green Bay reneged and would not be meeting us.  He would not be thinking of buying anything until maybe spring of 2014, and then he might see if a house was still available.  Joe and I were in bed at our hill house, when we got this news.  We shouted for joy, and I wept!  We were enjoying our vacation home, and God-willing we will enjoy more.

Even if this was to be our last vacation North, it would be a priceless gift.  But we anticipate more.  In fact we hope to go up for a couple of weeks in January when, although much colder than South (like minus 25 degrees F) the air is always fresher without that damp, penetrating (and I think, miserable!) Lake Michigan chill we have South.  The only problem with winters in the North is that (I think) they last just a bit too long.  When I was itching to dig in a garden, we were still blowing snow.

Judging from his melancholy novel, Thomas Wolfe had a disillusioned slant on life—sadly lacking in any vision beyond the material and temporal.  So the character in his literary work could not go home again.  Things were never the same at home, in that book, and all was lost.

Praise God that doesn’t have to be so!  Joe and I have “gone home again”—home where there are more Virginia whitetails than people, home abounding in howling timber wolves and ever-ravenous-until-hibernation-time black bears.  Things are the same.  No, I rescind that statement!  Things are even better!  We willingly yielded the North to the Lord, and God has graciously handed it back to us—for whatever amount of time He’s ordained in Eternity Past!  What a PRAISE!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  We plan to list the lake house with a realtor, by spring of 2014.  Again, it’s all in God’s hands!  What a GOOD LIFE!  (Our Lord must have a sense of humor to put up with us, if we sometimes lapse into thinking we are in charge!)

ANOTHER NOTE:  Sunshine, are you online?  I’ll see you on a 4th Monday sometime in 2014!

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North

My above-pictured collage, simply titled “North”, tells a story—an account of eight years when my husband and I lived, year around, north of Highway 8 in the Wisconsin Northwoods.  Included in the collage are photos of our lake and the Big Elk River around the bend, snippets of my cropped art, bits of aluminum foil, Japanese lace paper, some cheesecloth, lots of acrylic paint, and a favorite quote from a beloved American author:  Henry David Thoreau:  “I had three chairs in my house . . . one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.”  Walden

People who know me may laugh when I share this favorite quotation.  They know that:  1) I have far more than three chairs in our home, as well as far more than three of most anything else.  I’m a collector of everything! and 2) My idea of “society” is a lot more than three people.  We have a gargantuan family.  All are welcome to come and sit on our multiple chairs—although many are still in the stage of running around rather than just sitting.  (My “up north” friend Sandy commented after viewing a photo of our family, “That’s not a family; that’s a tribe!”)

Meanwhile, aside from Thoreau’s eastern philosophical views, I love most everything that he wrote.  His chair quote, to me, symbolizes an inner peace and unswerving stability.  A true Yankee at heart, Thoreau was never swayed by customs, crowds, human opinion, or even his own precarious health issues.  I have his complete diary spanning 24 years and two huge volumes.  Right up to his last entry, when Thoreau was dying of tuberculosis, his focus remained on the wonders of creation and the intricate details therein.

The wonders of creation predominate around our home in Northern Wisconsin, along with solitude and an undescribable stillness.  Black bears abound. Despite the fact that they tore up a few bird feeders and pulled a screen off our front deck, I loved the bears (but my husband did not!).  Perhaps the most unique thrill of all was seeing timber wolves on the ice in front of our pier.  The wolves brought unforgettable excitement to a minus 25° morning.  (That’s 25 degrees below zero, folks!)  But nature’s wonders notwithstanding, my most precious memories of up north have to do with the friends we made—friends forever.  As always, I was thankful to have more than 3 chairs in my home!  🙂

Now we are back in the Southern part of our state, where much needed medical care is within 13 minutes from our door.  And family!  In recent years, 16 great-grandchildren have appeared on the scene and we live close to 9 of them.  We are watching the little people grow up.  We attend their school concerts and some of the birthday celebrations.  I attend church with children, grandchildren, and 7 of our great-grandchildren.  When out-of-state family members visit, we are all together in one county—so tribal gatherings are easily managed.  Joe and I enjoy our condo home, my little gardens, the good neighbors on our lane, the park and woodlands beyond our door, and quick access to great restaurants and bistros.  A new grandbaby is due in June—within rocking and cuddling distance. 

Yet now and then on hot summer nights—when I lounge outdoors on the patio while viewing the hazy moon and scanty stars over our nearby metro area—I recall those northern night skies, plastered with millions of stars.  I often think of my friends up there, and I’m thankful that we stay in touch. 

We never really lose the beloved people or places in our lives.  There’ll always be a part of my heart labeled, “North of Highway 8”.

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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Assuming there is some wisdom in the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, today I’m offering extra pictures.  Some of you have seen the above shots of our Sunday afternoon visitor a few years back, at our home up North.  I’m posting them again because:  1) they are fun, and 2) a new online friend, a retired gentlemen and photographer who lives in Finland, had expressed an interest in another photo of a black bear which I posted awhile ago.

For a wonderful tour of Finland, try http://sartenada.wordpress.com/  .  You’ll be glad you did!  I’m amazed at how Finland and Northern Wisconsin are so similar.  (We have the immense Lake Superior for our Big Water.)  The entire earth fascinates me, but I love the far Northern reaches of the world most of all!  They are “home” to me.

Here ↑ is a glimpse of one of our winter gardens.  Indoor plants help to keep us Northerners contented during the long, cold months—and they satisfy our craving for earth and greenery.  The structure which houses some of my African violets is a Wardian Case (a replica of course) named after a 19th century English physician.  Information on Dr. Ward is available online:

“Dr. Ward was a physician with a passion for botany.  His personally collected herbarium amounted to 25,000 specimens.  The ferns in his London garden in Wellclose Square, however, were being poisoned by London’s air pollution which consisted heavily of coal smoke and sulphuric acid.

“Dr. Ward also kept cocoons of moths and the like in sealed glass bottles, and in one, he found that a fern spore and a species of grass had germinated and were growing in a bit of soil.  Interested but not yet seeing the opportunities, he left the seal intact for about four years, noting that the grass actually bloomed once.  After that time however, the seal had rusted, and the plants soon died from the bad air.  Understanding the possibilities, he had a carpenter build him a closely fitted glazed wooden case and found that ferns grown in it thrived.  Dr. Ward published his experiment and followed it up with a book in 1842, On the Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases.”  Wikipedia

I have at present six African violet plants.  I rotate them, three at a time, in and out of the Wardian case as the closed container helps to keep them hydrated without over-watering.  Fortunately we don’t have any coal or sulphur pollution here—just a gas furnace which tends to dry out our indoor air.

In Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Horticultural Domes, African violets grow close to the ground in the shade of huge plants in the tropical dome which is kept moist at a constant temperature in the low 70s, Farenheit.  This is where I got the idea of a little extra hydration for my beauties.  They don’t like to be over-watered (and must be watered from the bottom) but they love moist air.

Our East facing living room and patio door make a perfect environment for the above plants which don’t need (or can’t tolerate) huge blasts of winter sunlight.  But our Christmas cactus, blooming instead for Lent, and a few other succulents (some jades, orchid cacti, candleabra, and an aloe plant) happily thrive in the Eastern exposure—with the morning sun.

Our other winter garden sits in our bedroom, facing South ↑.  This is a glorious spot for succulents—including large and small leaf jades, and a crown of thorns.  The succulents remind me of another beloved place on earth—New Mexico, especially Taos and Santa Fe.  The curly creature in the above foreground is a Hoya, commonly called Turkish Rope.  I have a couple of these, and delight in them.  Maybe that’s why I love my Potato Chip scarves.  They look like the Hoya.  🙂

The toothbrush in the Hoya plant belonged to a precious Pembroke Welsh corgi, Meeghan.  On the sad day that she died, I put her toothbrush in a plant pot and it has been in one pot or another ever since.  Meeghan hated to have her teeth brushed. That’s why the brush is in such good condition.  I could almost use it, but I probably won’t!  Meeghan also refused to floss.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

 

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One of the many perks here at our pleasant Nashotah home is the fact that in our very same building there is a man who has a northern home just a short distance from where we lived up north, near Phillips. Wisconsin.  Earl gets up north frequently, something we’d hoped to do but so far haven’t managed. 

But never mind!  A recent chat with Earl, apprised me on happenings in our beloved northwoods.  I relished this conversation with our neighbor—good conversation about cougars, black bears, and wolves, oh yes!  It was a deja vue for me, having lived in the north full time for 8 years where tales about the wild things abound.  At nearly every gathering someone has a story to tell, and the talk is never dull! 

I’m keeping track of people who have seen a cougar (mountain lion) in Northern Wisconsin, and now—happily—I can add neighbor Earl to my list.  He has seen a cougar, just west of Phillips.  A few years ago our northern neighbor, Kathy, saw a cougar on County Highway “H”—our road into town.  Other eye-witnesses have surfaced in recent years.  It’s a hoot that for years the Wisconsin DNR denied the existence of this large cat in our state.  A standard answer to the sighting claims was:  “It must have been someone’s escaped pet.”  Or:  “It must have been a bobcat or lynx.”

The bobcat or lynx reply is especially silly.  Both the bobcat and lynx have tufty ears, and a cougar does not.  Both are smaller than the cougar.  The bobcat has a skimpy tail just a few inches long, while a cougar’s tail is spectacular—measuring from 23 to 33 inches!  Bobcats and lynxes are common around Wisconsin, especially in the north.  It would be hard for anyone who lives there to mistake them for a cougar!

Finally the Wisconsin DNR has admitted to the existence of cougars.  DNR researchers have tested blood samples, tracks, etc., and now they are saying:  “Yes, we have cougars.”  Although I certainly don’t want cougars around my great-grandchildren or dog, I do love knowing they are up there in the deep woods! 

When we lived up north, we had a motion-sensitive camera strapped to a tree outside our bedroom window.  We put a sled filled with deer corn near the camera at night and got photos of visitors while we slept—like the above ↑ shot of one our most commonly-sighted wild mammals, north and south!

One night our camera produced the below ↓ photo.  What is it?  We assume it is a fox, but it’s fun to wonder.  If it’s a fox, it’s not a very hairy one!  The tail looks foxy.  But I like to think it looks a bit cougarish, as well!

The next picture ↓ captured by our night camera highlights one of my favorite critters.  In our family, I think I’m the only foolish one who likes black bears.  Yes, they are distructive and they can be dangerous.  It’s essential to leave your cookies and sandwiches inside when you go walking up there.  And try to avoid Mom and her babies!  But aside from confrontations over food and babies, I’m with Teddy Roosevelt.  I think the bears are cute!  I probably will always think bears are cute!  Otherwise why would I have a home full of benign, make-believe bears (which neither eat nor have babies)?!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of our big canine neighbors up north.  We did see wolves several times, twice on our frozen lake.  My heart nearly stops when I see a wolf.  I certainly don’t want to be mystical about wolves, but they are so beautiful!  My husband can do without them, but I enjoy knowing they are out there—far away from my little children and dog of course!

According to Earl, both the bears and wolves are getting more and more pesky.  Anyway, they make good conversation.  We’re never totally removed from wild nature, even down here in Southern Wisconsin.  Our northern home is only 5 hours away.  Meanwhile our neighbor, Earl, has brought the north right back to our doorstep!   🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011 

Note:  I couldn’t resist including the following “rendering” which I did of “Brother Wolf”.  The wild ones are ever close, via my imagination!

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