Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Oh, I forgot to mention that Monday afternoon, on the way home, we did get to go to a Very Super Art Shop!!! It's entitled Studio of Good Earth, owned by William and Annette Gudim. Annette does the pottery. I have always wanted a handmade soup tureen, and I found a very nice one (and brought it home with me!). I also brought some cards by an area calligrapher. Our daughter is a professional calligrapher... I'd like to brag, but I'll try to restrain myself! (However, you'll find her website on my YardisGreen site!)

Annette mentioned that her husband does the woodworking... it is very high quality. They also show artwork created by 45 artists and craftspeople. You might see if you can't find it!

There wasn't a real hurry to be up and out of the motel this morning, but we did have to be back home by 6:00 p.m. (A meeting).

By the time we had driven an hour or so, we called some friends (what nice people we know!!) and found they were both home! So we visited for a couple of hours and had to leave before we wanted to.

It was another beautiful day! We'd been blessed with great weather this entire trip. Wisconsin's fall weather has been like ours... a nice one with prolonged mild weather. No freezing temperatures to create the intense reds you might expect to see at this time of year.

These photos were taken (from inside the car) as we drove along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.
Not much color, but I took photos of what I could.
Here's the "Mighty Mississippi."

We drove quite a number of "back roads"in Wisconsin, driving into Iowa at Prairie du Chien. We stopped in Mcgregor where we found a nice little place with wonderful ice cream(!). We walked out of the store with such generous "double dip" servings. Mine was in a bowl, and (really, she served us two dips of each kind!)I had two dips of huckleberry and two dips of mint chocolate chip. Strange combination, you say? Well... only if you're being too critical! ;-)

We were able to drive through Manchester, Iowa on the way home. We'd lived in Manchester for one year (not long enough). Our son was born there 28 1/2 years ago. It's a very nice little town within 1/2 hour's drive to three nice large metropolitan areas... Waterloo/Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque. We drove past "our old place." We actually found it. Things looked good.

Oh, well. Living in SE Iowa is nice, too.

You just can't beat a nice little trip to almost anywhere when you have no absolutely specific moment-to-moment agenda and you have "all the time in the world!" Very relaxing and fulfilling. While I'm ready for another trip (anytime!)... it IS good to be home.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

Glacial Lakes Cranberries tour
I had reserved the Wisconsin Rapids "Berry-licious" package through Wisconsin Tourism. This included a two-night motel room, a package of chocolate covered cranberries, two packages of cranberry trail mix, two tickets to Glacial Lakes Cranberries (family-owned cranberry bog farm) tour, and two tickets to the Cranberry Discovery Museum; both located within easy driving distance.

Monday morning we drove to Glacial Lakes Cranberries with tickets "in hand." :-) I grew up on a corn/soybeans/alfalfa/oats/hog/cattle/sheep and chickens farm in north central Iowa. So I was very excited and looked forward to comparing how "someone else lives and operates." I'd also seen a documentary and read articles in magazines several years ago.

We boarded a small bus with several other tourists and were driven around the farm. Of the approximate 6,000 total acres that make up Glacial Lake Cranberries, Inc., approximately 3,000 acres of water reservoir support 330 acres (96 beds) of producing cranberry vines.

We drove on the roads surrounding the beds, learning about the irrigation system they employ, and the means by which they propagate, protect and harvest the cranberries, etc.

This part of central Wisconsin is very, very sandy, due to glacial activity so many years ago. Their water reservoir (looks like a big pond) is located at the edge of the cranberry beds. Irrigation pipes run through the cranberry beds with sprinklers sticking out of the ground about a foot or so high. If the sprinklers need to be run, due to drought or impending frost, the water is readily available. (These three photos were taken at the Museum.)The cranberry beds consist of a layer of organic material, a layer of sand (I think around 6 -8"), and another layer of organic material that accumulates naturally. The beds must be absolutely level to ensure proper drainage. The plants are perennial, meaning the same plant grows and matures every year.

There is a ditch around the perimeter of each cranberry bed. These ditches are the vehicle through which the cranberry beds are flooded when it is time for harvest. the specific beds that are to be harvested. Cranberry vines will not survive if flooded very long, so they only flood the beThe water is pumped from the reservoir into ditches aroundds that will be harvested within a short period of time. (A 2 - 3 day period?)

It looked as though one bed was being flooded and another drained as the one in the "center" was being harvested. Due to the fact that most of the bed is sand, the water drains very easily, returning to the ditches where it is pumped either to another bed or returned to the reservoir.

It was discovered in the early 1900's that the farmers could harvest twice as many berries if they flooded their fields to the tops of the cranberry vines and hand raked the floating berries. Now they use
small tractors
and tools that
gently loosen
the berries
the vines.
Did you know
that they dislodge the berries driving one direction only? (In this case, from west to east). I guess it's kind of like the nap on corduroy. Then they raise the machinery to return to the other end.

Cranberry beds are gradually flooded in the wintertime (in 3" layers, to a depth of 9," if I remember correctly) to protect the plants from freezing and thawing that would happen otherwise due to temperature fluctuations.
About every three years, trucks
spread a layer of sand over the ice. As the ice melts, the sand settles over the plants. This extra sand layer is said to aid in pest control as well as provide the
drainage necessary during the flooding/harvesting periods.

Here are some photos of how they "corral" the cranberries and "herd" them into the elevator which separates
the berries from the
water and "gunk"and
settles the berries into
a truck. These berries are being harvested for juice and products
other than packages of fresh berries. (You'd better have a pair of hip waders!)

We were taken to a building that housed the old separating equipment. This is where the berries that are bagged for retail as fresh cranberries are cleaned, sorted and held. This job is still done by hand.
As we returned to the original meeting place,
we drove past the water reservoir. Here we were able to
witness trumpeter swans. Guess they were intimidated by our bus.
After a brief time perusing their little shop of Wisconsin gifts, we drove a few miles "down the road" to Warrens. This is where we enjoyed touring the Exhibition Hall at the Cranberry Discovery Museum. This interesting exhibit explained the early history of the cranberry bogs and harvesting the berries, to the farming and harvesting methods presently used.

Just how did cranberries receive their "moniker?"
(click on these photos to see the detail)

This is a little explanation of how the cranberry
got its name! (Do you see the resemblance?)

I took a lot of pictures while we were at the museum. Mostly to show my dad! I also browsed the gift ware and many cranberry products: jam, jelly, apple/cranberry butter, etc., etc. Last but not least, were the nice, tall, cranberry ice cream cones we enjoyed! Yea! :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sunday afternoon, October 7, 2007

After leaving Sandhill Crane Wildlife Area, we drove northeast towards Wisconsin Rapids. As we we drove, I noticed in the Wisconsin tourism booklet that the Annual Pumpkin Festival was taking place in Nekoosa. We decided to check it out on our way through town!
One of the first things we saw was this collection of pumpkin carvings:

Then we spotted this row of entrants for the largest pumpkin.
The one in the foreground weighed 612 pounds!

Next, we noticed a signboard listing the day's activities. The last activity started at 1:00 p.m. (It was now 1:45 p.m.) It was listed as the Pumpkin River Race. This is when we noticed the river alongside the park. We walked towards a group of people near the river's edge. They indicated that the contestants had not yet reached them, so we walked further towards the beginning of the race. Periodically we visited with a few people and finally found a place to "park." It was only a matter of minutes before we saw the first couple of boaters headed our way.
(You might want to click on photographs for detail!) Yes, they were inside
huge pumpkin shells!

And they were paddling with canoe oars, kayak
oars, and... snow shovels! Somehow the snow shovel users were not at the head of the race. Someone near us wondered about putting the shovel on each end of the "pole." Hmmm... worth consideration??

Want to try?

And, I don't know What was going on with the fellow in the green squash sporting the white flag! We thought perhaps he'd carved all the way through and was paddling with his feet. (This theory wasn't proving advantageous however as he wasn't in the lead!)

A little later, we found
ourselves at the place where the race had begun.
We decided someone would certainly be back... collecting "pumpkin litter." Those are probably very valuable seeds!

As for the left over "boats," they might be a valuable addition to someone's compost pile! :-)

This was a fun event. I'm glad we stopped, but...
... all this talk about pumpkin left me hungry for pumpkin pie! And there was only one to be found! Oh well, maybe next time. :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sunday, October 7, 2007

At 4:30 a.m., Sunday morning, we were up and ready to go! The night was dark and the stars were Bright and Plentiful - I had not had this experience for some LONG time. We walked about a mile or so to a look-out tower located within the canopy of surrounding trees. We waited for the blush of early morning, and as it slowly appeared, so did the very faint and gradual sound of the many waterfowl. The ducks (mallards?) were the first to laughingly proclaim the arrival of morning. The light was still pale, but growing to a warm, golden hue.
(taken at 5:19 a.m.)Gradually the Sandhill Cranes began to awake... along with a solitary Canada Goose.
Did you know that Sandhill Cranes sleep in the water?
Their predators are coyotes and wolves. If these predators were to try to get at them, the Sandhill Cranes would be forewarned by their splashing.
(taken at 6:09 a.m.)
By the time this next photo was taken, we'd been in the tower for quite some time. And the noise level was increasing. What a beautiful sunrise. It cast a golden glow over everything.

The far left photo was taken of the foreground scenery at 6:14 a.m., while the near left photo was taken at 6:28 a.m., just prior to our leaving the observation tower.

(The lighting difference is more the case of the camera's angle.)

What wonderfully artistic compositions... and my hand had nothing to do with them.

Thank you, God!

Walking along the road, we so enjoyed the scenery. The golden sunlight bathed the trees, accentuating their colors (looking westerly at 6:38 a.m.).

The next photo shows the water that stands in so many roadway ditches (east side of the road at 6:52 a.m.), alongside the cranberry bogs, etc. It was explained later that the water table is only 3 feet below the surface of the ground in this part of Wisconsin.
(Note: A couple of coot float ahead of us... suspicious of our presence.)

This photo was taken of a tree (again, looking westerly) at 6:47 a.m. Although most of the trees are not yet showing color, I found this one to be quite unique and beautiful.

Upon returning to camp, we were served a wonderful Wisconsin outdoor breakfast! Eggs with cheese, sausage with cheese, muffins (were there cranberries in there?), etc.

A couple of boys found some wild cranberries. Because they'd been unprotected and suffered a freeze at some point, most of them were soft and inedible.

This was a memorable event. The DNR invites participants to this event every year. If you're interested in attending someday, just get in touch with Wisconsin tourism.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Saturday, October 6, 2007

We left home at 7:15 a.m. and arrived at Sandhill Crane Wildlife Center near Babcock, WI just prior to 2:00 p.m. (as instructed). We had registered to participate in an overnight "workshop" on Sandhill Cranes, and met at the Activities Center with several other couples and one family. Our group was led by a DNR education employee and a number of area volunteers.
After getting acquainted, and learning a bit about the area and its history, we were driven to where we could set up our tents. Afterwards, we were taken to bog area and finished the trip by foot. Watching where you walk takes more effort when you're admiring the colors...
...and the plant material. The milkweed pods and their seeds were plentiful.
Hopefully the Monarchs had been, also!
After walking along the top of a dike, we spaced ourselves and sat along the edge within the plants and foliage. As we sat, we heard Sandhill Cranes calling and waited for them to appear. We watched the birds and the sky... absolutely beautiful.

Sandhill Cranes are large birds with a wide wingspan, long necks and legs that hang behind them as they fly.

They are also very observant. We were instructed to wear very dull colors and/or camouflage clothing. We had to be very quiet and remain as motionless as possible in order to not be detected. The following video clip is a bit of what we heard and observed!

By the time we returned to camp, it was dark. A delicious dinner was waiting for us! After some visiting, we headed for our tents. The morning agenda started early!

About Me

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I enjoy being outdoors! I also love that I've two children (now grown up with families of their own)and six young grandchildren! :-) Sure would like to see them more often!!