Our apple crop last year was near zero because the blossoms were killed by late-spring frosts. This year our orchard produced an abundance of apples of good quality and size. We enjoy picking our orchard and making apple juice. Our cider press is a low-tech machine with a hand-cranked apple grinder and a screw-jack oak barrel press. We set it up in front of the shop to grind and press bushels of apples.
My paternal grandfather was a tall guy who grew up in upstate New York and was an avid hunter and fisherman. He coached me in fishing for trout when I was 6 years old standing in the Oswegatchie River near the outlet of Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks. We were using his bamboo fly rod and a wet fly that he had tied. He showed me how to read the currents and to spot the places where trout were feeding. I remember his quiet observation and patient manner. I was thrilled to catch a brown trout. That outing with my grandfather led to a lifelong interest in rivers.
Before heading north from Florida last month we considered our choices of routes to take back to snow country. Poring over our big Rand McNally atlas, we paged through the different southern states and found a route that suited our interests in scenery (much of the way is quite boring), places to stay (we had our dog and fishing boat along) and directness.
For hundreds of years people who were not professional scientists but who were interested in natural history made remarkable discoveries. They made sampling instruments, measurements, collections and careful drawings, shared observations, and wrote descriptions of the world, life on Earth and of the universe. They contributed to the development of the scientific method and the basis of our understanding of the natural world as we know it today.
H2O is a quirky molecule. Among its unique characteristics are multiple phases; solid, liquid, gas with rapid phase changes during minor changes in temperature and pressure. Under certain conditions, water vapor condenses and freezes into hexagonal snowflakes with delicate fractal patterns. Water has lower density when frozen than when liquid. It releases heat when freezing and has multiple forms of ice. It’s a wonderful thing that water expands a bit before it freezes.
A bat flew by my nose as I was sitting on the patio last evening. The swooshing flutter startled me from my book. Bats were flying laps around our valley, eating their way through clouds of insects as the sun started to go down. It was a pleasant evening and we weren’t bothered by mosquitoes. The rough board-on-board siding on our shop building has become a giant bat house. Bats disperse from their winter hibernation caves in May to give birth, raise their young and to forage.
--By Dan Wilcox We’ve had five storms in the last year that started out with sleet and freezing rain and then turned to heavy wet snow that loaded up on the trees. Several storms with four to six inches of wet snow occurred last April after the first bluebirds returned. On May 1 last year it was 50 degrees in the morning and by the next day we had over a foot of wet snow. Last week’s storm started with rain and left about a foot of snow at our place.
I can’t recall how many times I’ve been asked to explain to people inquiring about where the waterfalls are in River Falls. The falls of the Kinnickinnic River are hidden under hydropower dams within the city. Now the City of River Falls has a unique opportunity to reconsider its namesake. After working with regulated rivers for more than 40 years, I appreciate the economic utility and the social and environmental costs of dams.
Carol and I continued south after a good time with my family and friends in Ohio over Christmas. We were fortunate to escape the way-below-zero cold at home that made the news. We visited friends near Gulf Shores, Ala. over New Year’s Day. Our friend Jane cooked us a great seafood dinner; oysters Fenton, shrimp cocktail with remoulade sauce, blue crab claws and oyster shooters. The weather there was relatively warm (for us); in the 50s, windy with some rain.
Many of us enjoy strolling through a park-like setting with scattered trees and grassy ground vegetation. We also enjoy time on a beach. These are common human predilections. Savannas are ecosystems with plant communities consisting of open-grown scattered trees with a grassy understory. Savanna ecosystems are transitional communities found between forests and grasslands. The savanna theory suggests that our hominid ancestors evolved on the dry plains of Africa.