Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night

Wishing you all a wonderful evening on this Christmas Eve. 

Christmas Greetings

Posted in News

On the Road Again

I can wait to get back on the road again. Today we made a trip down to Duluth and Cloquet and back again.  Josh had a game in Cloquet and had to be there by 6pm for a 7pm game and Abby had volleyball practice in Duluth at 8pm. Thankfully Abby has an Aunt and Uncle who live in Duluth and were willing to let her hang out there and take her to practice so she didn’t have to sit at the gym for 2 extra hours.

The weather was wet and slushy down by the shore and snowy up over the hill.  It’s a different world when you get away from Lake Superior. It’s going to be a white Christmas on the Gunflint Trail but I’m not sure how white it will be in Grand Marais, it’s been predominantly grey as of late.

I’ll be happy to not have to drive for a couple of days but then we’ll make another trip South to spend the weekend with relatives celebrating Christmas.  I can wait and would prefer to wait even longer before getting on the road again. For all of you traveling over the holidays travel safely.

Posted in News

Homeless for the Holidays

Don’t worry, our house didn’t burn down and we are not homeless for the holidays. We have plenty of friends and relatives who would take us in if that were the case. But some people are homeless for the holidays and have been homeless for quite some time.

I don’t personally know of anyone who is homeless in our area but I know there are some people in Duluth without homes. I don’t know if they live together or where they live or how they live as our winters are quite brutal. I read an article online about a tent encampment outside of Detroit, Michigan and at the bottom of the page there were photos of a tent city in California.

I can honestly say I was shocked with what I saw. Call me naive but I never knew a place like that existed in the United States. I know people live in poverty and in ramshackled houses but those photos reminded me of third world countries after being hit by a Tsunami or hurricane.  I can’t begin to imagine how awful their situation must be. I don’t know how they can do it and survive.

They live amongst garbage that must smell terrible. They have little or no privacy and most likely all of their belongings fit into a shopping cart.  What are they going to do for the holidays?

Those people are going to be homeless for the holidays and will still be homeless when the holidays are over. While some people complain about having to travel 5 hours to a relative’s home or about it being too hot in their Grandma’s house there are people who will be cold, hungry and stuck in a desperate situation while we enjoy a Merry Christmas receiving more “stuff” than we can probably fit into the Suburban. Then we’ll add all of that stuff to the tons of stuff we already have while those people will still be homeless.

Why are we so lucky? Why are we so fortunate to have everything we have? I wonder if there is that big of a difference between the lives of the homeless and the lives we live. I wonder where their families are? I wonder how I can make a difference. While I ponder that question I will be forever grateful of the many blessings I have received and will receive this holiday season.

Posted in News

Wintery Weather

It would have been really nice wintery weather if the temperature had been colder. Instead we saw huge flakes fall to the ground and melt quickly after.  Some wet and very heavy snow stuck around but not very much.

We spent most of the weekend in Forest Lake for a hockey tournament. Each time we drove by the lakes I gazed longingly at the fishing shelters out on the ice wishing we could go fishing. I wondered how much ice was on the lake with the fluctuating temperatures we’ve had and heavy wet snows. We’re hoping to get out on the lake this week.

Mike mentioned something about winter camping for Christmas.  We both thought it sounded like a great way to celebrate Christmas but Abby wasn’t sold on the idea. We would only have 2 nights and it does sound like a ton of work to get everything out for just a couple of nights, but wouldn’t that be a great gift? To be able to sleep in a tent on Christmas Eve?

We shall see if we get out on the ice or not but if you plan to venture out then be safe. Here’s some guidelines from the Minnesota DNR.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            Dec. 16, 2014

Think twice before going out on the ice

With the recent weather fluctuation and inconsistent ice conditions, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is urging everyone to think twice before going out on the ice.

“Ice is never 100 percent safe,” said Maj. Greg Salo, DNR enforcement operations manager. “Don’t put yourself in needless danger. Check ice conditions before venturing out. No fish is worth unnecessary risks.”

Anglers and snowmobilers need to be cautious. Several ATV’s, trucks and fish houses have gone through the ice in recent days. Ice that is 6 inches thick in one area may only be an inch thick in another location.

So far this year, one person has died after going through the ice. Last winter, three people died after falling through thin ice.

Salo recommends anyone heading out on the ice should: carry a set of ice picks, check with a local bait shop or resort— ask about ice conditions— and measure the ice.

If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Don’t go on the ice during thaws. Avoid honeycombed ice, dark snow, and dark ice.

Ice is generally thinner where there is moving water, such as inlets and outlets, bridge abutments, islands, and objects that protrude through the ice.

The DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are:

Four inches for walking.
Five inches for a snowmobile or ATV.
Eight-12 inches for a car.
12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.

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Posted in Seasonal activities

Inhumane Humane Society?

The Humane Society is responsible for re-establishing protection of wolves in the Great Lakes Western Region.  This region includes Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota where the wolf population is thriving. The healthy population of wolves in our region is why the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided to let management of the wolf population fall to the State in 2012.  The Humane Society didn’t like this decision and challenged it which has resulted in putting the wolves back on the Endangered Species List.

I have mixed feelings about this decision. In the city of Grand Marais this past fall wolves attacked family pets in broad daylight while these pets were in their yard, sometimes on a leash. These dogs weren’t in the woods, they were let outside to relieve themselves and were snatched up by hungry wolves. Two kids in Josh’s 8th grade class had their dogs attacked by a wolf this fall, one dog was killed the other injured because the kid’s mom chased the wolf down the driveway and the wolf dropped the dog out of it’s mouth.  How many kid’s are in Josh’s class?  Fewer than 50 kids and both of these kids live less than a mile from school.

Our wolf population is large and healthy. So healthy there isn’t enough prey around for the wolves to feed on, they’ve eaten it all and are now seeking human pets. I never feel too sorry for people who live in the middle of the woods and are surprised when a wild animal attacks their family pet but when they live in the city? I don’t know how humane a member of the Humane Society would think this situation is. I wonder if they realize family pets are being attacked and killed in broad daylight sometimes right in front of their owners?

Rules and laws that affect a broad area may not be what is best in this case. Hunting of wolves may not seem humane as wolves are seen as special to many people. But so are deer, bear and other animals that are hunted. I’m not saying the State knows what’s best for managing wildlife but at least they know what the population is and what is happening within the state.

No management? Over management? Humane or Inhumane? I guess we can all have our opinions we just can’t all let our dogs outside without fear of it becoming a meal for a wolf.

Great Lakes wolves ordered returned to endangered list

By John Flesher AP Environmental Writer

Posted:   12/19/2014 03:21:53 PM CST | Updated:   a day ago

 

Isle Royale wolf

A gray wolf is shown on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan in this 2006 file photo. (AP Photo/Michigan Technological University, John Vucetich) (John Vucetich)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday threw out an Obama administration decision to remove the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list — a decision that will ban further wolf hunting and trapping in three states.

The order affects wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections from those wolves in 2012 and handed over management to the states.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday the removal was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

Unless overturned, his decision will prohibit further wolf hunting and trapping in the three states, all of which have had at least one hunting season since protections were removed. More than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves have been killed since federal protections were removed, said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. The group filed a lawsuit that prompted Howell’s ruling.

“We are pleased that the court has recognized that the basis for the delisting decision was flawed, and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks,” Lovvorn said.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said the agency would issue a statement shortly. There was no immediate reaction from officials in the three states.

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Posted in wildlife

A Different Type of Holiday Green

Are you struggling to find the perfect gift for that special someone? I gave up on trying to find the perfect gifts for people a long time ago.

Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is.… It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best. – Sir Laurence Olivier

In any case, the Minnesota Pollution Control offered some great green gift ideas that are close to perfect in my opinion.  I will say I am super green when it comes to wrapping gifts because I haven’t used ribbon or a bow in I don’t know how many years. I prefer to use gift bags and always re-use them and make sure none get thrown out at the end of the evening.

I always ask for acts of service as gifts for me and quality time gifts for the kids from others.  I realize these are the most precious of gifts because they require time, but I never thought about them being green too.

I hope you find the information from Living Green 365 as informative as I did.

Season’s green-ings

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons add up to an additional 1 million tons a week to the nation’s garbage piles.

This holiday season consider a new tradition–one that creates less waste, less stress, and more memories.

The idea list
Lessons. A lot of people would like to try new things, but won’t spend the money on themselves. A gift certificate might be just the item for someone who would like to begin a new hobby or polish the skills they have already learned. Perhaps you have can even teach them one of your special talents, like how to cook a family recipe.

Time and energy.  Friends or relatives may value help with snow shoveling, vacuuming, or organizing as a gift. Try our downloadable gift certificates as a way to present your gift.

Reused items. Many gifts can be purchased second-hand. Look at Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse directory and ReUse Minnesota for a list of shops. To help you find the perfect present,  choose a shop that specializes in one type of reuse, like kids stuff or sports gear.

Hand made or up-cycled items. This is a spin on the reused idea, but includes artsy, unique and personal touches. You can tackle your own projects or look to local shops.

  • Find shops that sell collectibles, vintage wear, or antiques
  • Gift hand-knit or home-sewn items
  • Create a book of family recipes

 

Experiences. There are endless possibilities here. A few to get you started:

  • Minnesota State Parks Permit or Giftcard, for access to all 76 Minnesota state parks
  • Minnesota Ski Pass: Access to ski in Minnesota’s State Parks and Grant-in-Aid Trails
  • Passes to a museum or membership to a community center or park
  • Tickets to a concert or play

Living green items. Help others in their living green journey. Ideas include:

  • Metro Transit bus passes
  • LED light bulbs
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Locally made or Minnesota grown products
  • The Chinook Book, a coupon book for Twin Cities green businesses
  • A rain barrel
  • A counter-top compost pail

Gift wrapping
Did you know that our national annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons? And did you know that if every family just reused two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet? This year, why not try a new way of wrapping that is elegant, fun, and green? Try Furoshiki!

More ways to reduce holiday waste

  • Carry reusable shopping bags with you when you go holiday shopping
  • Select  reusable batteries for electronics, toys and other gifts
  • Recycle old or broken holiday lights and replace with LED lights
  • Encourage the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods,experiences, time, by listing your ideas on the So Kind Registry
  • Consider the life-cycle of a product before purchasing. Was it produced locally, or thousands of miles away? Is it durable? Is it energy- or water-efficient, made of recycled materials, or recyclable?
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Posted in environment

Did You Ever Have a Day?

Have you ever had one of those days when you try to do one thing but it seems to take all day long to do it? I’ve been having quite a few of those days lately as well as other days when I can’t stay focused on what I’m doing.

For instance, when one of my family members opens up a Christmas present this Christmas they will find an already worn sweatshirt. That might be an OK gift for some people but not when I had intended to wrap the new one but mistakenly wrapped the one I had been wearing but had taken off because I got too warm.

A small packaged arrived in the mail the other day. I started opening it but then thought, “Oh, I better not, it could be a piece of jewelery from Mike for me!” When I asked Mike about it and told him to look at it he looked at me like I was somewhat crazy and said, “You told me you were ordering that as a Christmas present for someone.”

Mike has told me on more than one occasion that I could hide my own Easter eggs. I’m beginning to believe him.

This evening I was attempting to do some work for the Voyageur Brewing Company. I wanted to post a photo on the Twitter page but the photo size was too large. I’ve had a Mac for quite some time now but I still haven’t found an easy way to resize my photos.  When I had Windows I uploaded a Fast Image Resizer, dragged and dropped photos into that and it automatically spit the resized photos out for me to use.  I have tried to install that on my Mac but it doesn’t work.  I know how to resize in Photoshop but I don’t like having to open Photoshop just for that purpose. So tonight I decided to try creating my own Application for my Mac. It sounded easy enough but after two hours of attempts I was still getting an error message.  So I did what any somewhat sane person would do and just chose a different photo that was already the right size.

Yes, I have had one of those days. And unfortunately I didn’t have one of these!

Craft Beer on ice

Ice cold craft beer

Follow Voyageur Brewing Company on Twitter for more delicious looking brews!

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Posted in voyageur brewery

A Good Day of Fishing

I wanted to share a fishing tale with you. It’s about our Mark’s brother’s fishing experience the other day and it made me smile. I’m hoping it will make you smile too. Mark’s Dad wrote it.

Well it appears that either Michael is just plain Lucky — or as I would like to believe — has his big brother was “guiding him” to fishing success.

The attached picture was taken on Friday afternoon – on the Lake Superior bay – at the end of Park Point at around 2 PM.

Mike had barely put his buckshot jig (from Mark’s collecton) down the hole and within a few minutes he described feeling a thunk on his jig.

After a Chinese fire drill of untangling the line from the vexilar (Marks) and getting the fish onto the ice and then having to remove the other 3 lines wrapped around the fish — he and his friend Steve – were then able to take this picture. He also said that as the fish was still on the ice – the reel AND the handle fell off the rod. Now if there isn’t some divine intervention going on here -I don’t how else to explain it all.

Regardless – after Mike and Steve released the fish – and they stopped laughing outloud over what had just happened– the moment was reagarded as “priceless”

Mike said he and Steve had to peel off 100 yards of line and re rig everything – as well as fix the rod and reel.  The fish was approx. 26″-28″ Mikes largest thru the ice.

PS – that was the only fish they caught for the rest of the day (Mark must have been busy or  in a hurry and did’nt have time to stick around) LOL

Anyway thought you might enjoy the story – as you would get much more condensed version if you talked to Mike.

Dave

Mark's brother with a nice walleye

walleye fishing

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Thank You Conservation Corps

What a great group of people we have working for the State of Minnesota. Check out their accomplishments in 2014.  Thank you Minnesota Iowa Conservation Corps, you are welcome in our neck of the woods anytime!

In 2014, our crews:
Planted 125,450 trees
Conducted prescribed burns on 20,785 acres
Built or improved 415 miles of trail

What else did they do?

Habitat restoration projects:
Vegetation management
Invasive species removal
Herbicide application
Planting
Nursery activities
Seed collection
Shoreline restoration
Rain garden maintenance
Prescribed burning
Timber stand improvement
Trail construction
Trail maintenance
Disaster response
Fire suppression

Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa

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Posted in environment

Oh Christmas Trees

Christmas is just around the corner and trees and greens are a topic of conversation around our house.  A little searching on the internet will bring up a lot of information about Christmas Trees and the traditions surrounding them.  Most websites conclude the tradition of hanging greens on doors or windows has been around for a long time. One website said Ancient people in some countries thought the greens would keep witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness away. It went on to say evergreens were a symbol in some festivals and celebrations that proved the dark days of winter would soon be getting shorter and spring would return. There is more information about the Germans being the first to bring the tree inside and decorate it as a Christmas Tree and how they brought the tradition with them to America.

The Department of Natural Resources also has a plethora of information about Christmas Trees. This includes how to care for them, where to place them and how to water them.  They also suggest purchasing a local tree to help prevent the potential spread of invasive species.  According to my reading I think I’m doing most things right.

Most of the talk at our house has been about selling Christmas wreaths for the kids’  band fundraiser. If you’re in the neighborhood and want a pretty wreath then email or give us a call.  For $25 you can support the kids on their goal to raise money for a band trip and maybe even keep evil spirits, ghosts, witches and illness out of your house while reminding yourself winter won’t last forever.

Tis the Season-MN DNR
Christmas Tree Care Tips

Make a fresh cut. Cut at least 1 inch from the bottom of the trunk just before bringing it inside and putting it in the stand. This re-opens the tree stem so it can drink water.
Water immediately. After making the fresh cut, place the tree in a large capacity stand with warm water. The stand you use should hold at least 1 gallon of fresh water.
Place Christmas tree away from heat sources. Heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, etc. speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.
Check water level daily. Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink. Christmas trees are very thirsty!
This information came from The Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  More information can be found at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/minnesotagrown/christmastrees.aspx

The most common Minnesota native trees that are used for Christmas trees include:  white spruce, red (Norway) pine, white pine and balsam fir.  Christmas tree farmers in Minnesota plant 500,000 to 1.5 million tree seedlings every year.  It takes approximately 7-10 years to get a Christmas tree to the right shape and size.

An 88-foot tall white spruce from northern Minnesota was chosen to be this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree and is now standing proudly in front of the White House.

 

Question of the week

Q: When I hiked in the Black Hills of South Dakota recently, I observed the many dying trees related to insect infestation. We take all these precautions when using firewood, but is there cause for concern with Christmas trees being shipped from various places around the nation? It seems like a possible way to spread pests and diseases.

A: You are right to be concerned. According to the lead nursery inspector at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), most of our imported Christmas trees are from Michigan and Wisconsin, along with Fraser fir from the Carolinas. Gypsy moth is the main concern on trees coming from those states, and regional inspectors visually check Christmas trees as they come into Minnesota in bulk. The Agriculture Department also conducts spot checks on tree sales lots. The focus of these inspections is proper certification under all applicable state and federal quarantines.

Mountain pine beetle is the insect responsible for killing pines in the Black Hills and in much of the western United States. This insect attacks trees that are 5 inches or more in diameter. Most Christmas trees you’ll find on sales lots are smaller than this. The MDA is considering regulations to prevent the importation of pine wood with bark on it from states where mountain pine beetle occurs. These regulations would be enforced through a state exterior quarantine tentatively scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

Finally, consider buying Christmas trees grown in Minnesota. That way, you can be sure you won’t be importing an unknown pest.

Val Cervenka, DNR forest health program coordinator

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Posted in Seasonal activities

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