Friday, June 29, 2012

Getting the Finger..

Getting the finger…

Yesterday as my daughter and I took the Miata to town, I was reminded of a hand signal road difference between the city and the country and that is the giving and receiving of the finger… Irv calls it the one finger wave/ the Norwegian wave.

You see in the country when you approach a fellow motorist. They will lift their left forefinger from their grip on the wheel to acknowledge you and say hello.
It’s a subtle and effortless move that I have been working on perfecting. I think I almost have got it down. You just can’t appear too enthusiastic about the move even though this might be the only person you will see going the other direction on that country road.


Hand gestures are not just limited to motorists but motorcyclists as well will lower their left arm pointing down their forefinger as a salutation to a passing cyclist. I feel honored that even I on occasion while in the Miata have even received the finger in passing from a motorcycle driver. Do you think it’s the size of the vehicle?

Well no matter what, as long as I am leaving the End of the Rainbow Valley, it’s a lot better than receiving the bird, don’t you think?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In the Still of the Night...




The night was a still summer evening. No air moving, overcast skies on what appeared to be a starless night. Daughter Lori is home for just 2 days and so I too will be still (at least on blog posting)

Enjoying the quiet moments in the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The 11th plague...

Did you know Mayflies hatch in June, not May?
I was wondering where they were just last week. But as I discovered after 'Googling' them, their name was given not due to their birth month but rather due to when the Hawthorne (alias Mayflower) tree blooms. Go figure. The mayfly is actually one of the oldest living insects from many thousands of years ago, and are part of the same family as the dragonfly. Their lifespan is short, sometimes even polished off as nymphs and lucky to live a day after hatching as birds, frogs, etc... think they are a big fat yummy feast. So why the sudden interest in the mayfly you ask... Well because as far as I am concerned when you live near the Mississippi, G-d has created an 11th plague, the mayfly.

This week the mayflies are hatching and swarms of them abound. Everywhere you look you will see them filling the skies at night. It's obvious that they think lights are their tanning booths. The other night we unfortunately made the mistake and parked under a street light and we returned to the car’s hood being covered with Mayflies. YUCKOLA. Forget that photo, I got in the car as quickly as possible.

There have been occasions when the Mayflies have been so thick that they create havoc on local bridges which are then closed due to the slickness they cause. In Lansing I have seen homes by the Mississippi covered by this insect.
They love Kwik Trips, our area's brightly lit up convenience stores, and when I did frequent them in the past for gas (politically they are taboo to me now), you had to be under attack from the mayflies at the pump.

Well for right now I am super glad for my car wash contract because my car lights are helping those mayflies end their lives a bit faster before they make it to the End of the Rainbow Valley...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Norskedalen...

This summer weekend’s activity was once again within a half an hour from the Valley located at ‘Norskedalen' which means Valley of the Norwegians although almost all valleys are filled with Norwegians around here !

But this particular valley contains a Norwegian historical farm dedicated to preserving, interpreting and sharing the natural environment and cultural heritage of the area.

When I first moved to this area, I joined Norskedalen as a lifetime member because I feel the work they do is so very important.I have volunteered in my many capacities over the years whether it has been gardening research and
planting heritage plants/ ground beautification/ working shifts in different annual events.
So this weekend was the celebration of the second most important Norwegian holiday, Midsummer Fest which marks a happy day, ‘the full return of the light and also a sad day because the next day we begin the descent into darkness.’
The 29th Midsummer Fest gave visitors an opportunity to tour Period homestead buildings which were filled with settler activities.
Horse drawn carts carried folks on the grounds and kids could take pony rides.
Heritage craft demonstrations included:


rope making, broom making, soapmaking, blacksmithing, carding, spinning, rosemalers and hardanger embroidery.

Baking activities this weekend included butter churning, stroll, krumkake, and waffles and delicious hand-cranked ice cream. Flat bread baking was with Clinton and Beverly Bagstad
who btw also made all the Fest doughnuts.

You could savor delicious a la carte food like Troll Rolls (lefse wraps), varme pølse (sausage wrapped in lefse), strawberry shortcake served by yours truly/ rømmegrøt (cream pudding topped with melted butter and cinnamon and sugar) while listening to locals play folk music/watching folk dancing by the Sons/Daughters of Norway Dance group.

After my shift I also strolled through The 17th annual Lloyd Thrune Woodcarving Show, competition, and sale. Demonstrations were given by the Coulee Region Woodcarvers Club.

There was some beautiful work.

There’s a story I have to share re: those magnificent work horses. Apparently last night they broke through the gate and walked back home. Their owner found them in the barn this morning, 11 miles from Norskedalen. Isn’t that incredible? See even they know, there’s no place like home…

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Something's fishy...

Living in Rural America is more than just farming chores as locals look forward to their area’s community events. Last weekend one such event took place just down the road from us in Coon Valley which just happens to also have the infamous Coon Creek known to all trout anglers and thus the perfect venue for ‘Family Trout Day.’

All day long there were activities starting out with kid fishing competitions after domestic trout were released upstream. One little five year old beamed as he announced to me that he had caught all 3 kinds of trout - Rainbow, Brown and I can’t for the life of me remember the third. I also learned that domestic (raised) fish are slower and less picky about food? Hey anglers will take any advantage they can! There was also a bobber race, cast flying instruction, informational fishing booths, food and of course fish paraphernalia for sale along with some crafters and home businesses. Local bands provided great music to enjoy a beverage, snack and visit. People are real friendly and anxious to visit. After admiring this gal's 'trout' hat she shared its story. You see her husband gave it to her as a 30th birthday gift. She quickly pried open the trout's mouth searching for that hidden 'jewelry 'gift only to discover that there was none. Gee what was she thinking - what else could a fishermen's wife want??? She added, well he did take her out for a nice dinner. I wonder if it was a fish place???

The only problem was that the weather didn’t really cooperate as it rained off and on all morning – poor kids. Some braved the dark clouds and rain just like our newest fisherman in the family Cameron. His Mom Jolene schlepped all 4 kids to participate in the rainy morning’s activities but many more people didn’t brave the morning rains and were fair weather friends perhaps like me showing up in the afternoon.

Irv always comments that local events are an opportunity to rub elbows with all types of people in our community … Heck it’s just good to see one’s neighbors and especially to celebrate that joy to be out of doors after the seclusion of cold Wisconsin winters in the End of the Rainbow Valley

Friday, June 22, 2012

Growing weed... lots of weed.

Growing Weed…lots of weed. I have a confession to make as I have been growing weed… lots of weed. In my city mouse years I like the rest of suburban dwellers sprayed herbicides in order to have a pristine ‘weedless’ lawn. The goal was to have a golf course like turf and great homeowner pride was taken in not having something like a’ god forbid’ dandelion blemishing that green expanse. A lot of money is spent to maintain that ideal…and the bottom line is that we are spraying poison. There’s a reason those signs are placed to keep pets off freshly sprayed yards. In the country I don’t have a Chem – Lawn bill as those very weeds we worked so hard to remove are the very ones that are nitrogen fixing and good for the earth such as clover and alfalfa. I don’t have the worry that neighbors will complain that my weed seed is going to ruin their lawns as my closest neighbor is at least a half a mile away. In fact, here in the Valley we have areas due to the steep terrain that we have even stopped mowing to be ‘naturalized.’ July is my favorite month as all the wild flowers go crazy dotting the hillside and we have even spread some native wild flower seed to help return it to its natural state. . Yet when you plant a garden, you usually have a ‘plan‘ of what you want growing where. Perhaps this is why gardeners call a ‘weed’ anything that is growing where we don’t want it to grow. With the help of Mother Nature native seeds are spread. Whether it’s the wind/ animals helping spread that seed there is stuff that I never planted that appears and a decision has to be made whether to leave it/remove it. Sometimes I wait to let it flower and decide whether I like it or not. The problem comes if it is invasive and smothers other plants. Yesterday was once such day. I am always behind in weeding but even more so since the accident, bugs and the unusual heat. The recent rains helped make that weeding more feasible and there’s a lifetime of weeding to do. I had planted flower seed in front of the coop but now it was way overgrown and I couldn’t even distinguish where the new plantings were. I had a lot of one plant I didn’t recognize. I should have known if it was that prolific it probably wasn’t what I planted. As it turns out Irv informed me last night that I had a great crop of ‘pig weed’. I had to laugh … Beauty is all in the eye of the beholder right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley even with all its weeds…

Thursday, June 21, 2012

STRESS...Post Traumatic Country Living?

When you hear the term 'country living', does this type of a scene come to mind? I hope that that scene still pops into your head after reading about this city mouse's transition to country mouse's life. BUT for me 'Reality' is affected by 'past' experiences, specifically that 'dang flood' that resulted after 14-16 inches and wiped out our road. The peaceful pastoral feeling diminish when storm clouds appear to be stuck over our valley and I get tense, real tense... The dog's not the only one who hates thunderstorms. During those first 3 days in August'09 when the raging creek had eaten away the access to the outside world, it wasn't the fear of shortage of food that psyched me out because we had a pantry full of our canned goods and even if we lost electricity (we're the last home on the line), we had the wood stove and bar-b-que grills for cooking AND we had plenty of candles/ kerosene lamps.( Those things aren't just for charm. Wink, wink.) It was the thought of not being able to get out. Have you ever experienced that? It's knowing that you can't leave. So even with all this land around, we were stuck. Sometimes Natureman refers to those vertical slopes on 3 sides as claustrophobic. I never really felt that until I knew I had no way out. So what brought all this up now ? Well last night's rain. Every time it rains continuously, I start wondering when/if it's going to stop. The weathermen had been predicting rain and I knew after such unseasonably warm weather that when it came, it was going to be a good storm. Menacing clouds kept teasing us off and on for days and last night the booger of a storm arrived. We had had lots of hot wind blowing like crazy all day but we had to head into 'town,' leaving the Valley sunshine. There were some some mighty dark menacing clouds awaiting us with the heavens letting loose about 8 and the deluge continued on the journey home. OH joy. (That's sarcasm.) It was like G-d just pulled his thumb out of the dyke. I just kept thinking, I just hope we can make it home. As soon as one downpour was done, another followed... All I can say is I didn't mind the caloric intake of that remainder of that celebratory leftover bubbly after arriving home. BUT then it hit me, would we be able to get out today? What was I thinking re: anxious to get home? Well, we won't know until we head down that country road if we can make it out. Heck, we survived the storm of 2009 in the End of the Rainbow Valley, we can handle anything, right???

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 Years with Natureman...

10 years… It’s been 10 years since Irv and I had our first date. Many may know this story but what are anniversaries for if not for reminiscing? How would a guy who lives in the middle of nowhere across the state of Wisconsin meet a city girl like me? Well the computer of course! We met on J-date, a Jewish dating service and as they say, the rest is history. We were even chosen as one of J-dates success stories. We joke and say we were their senior citizen poster children. Here we're on a billboard on Times Square... So reverse time where ten years ago I found myself back in the dating world after 25 years of marriage. At the time I lived in Milwaukee and was dating mostly guys from Chicago. One day it occurred to me that if I could date men one hour south , why not type in the area code 608 for Madison, one hour westward. Little did I know that 608 goes all the way to the western border of Wisconsin. I started corresponding with Natureman, (I named all of my dates : Golfer boy, Pet Food Boy, Biker boy, Skateboard boy etc.. You’d think I would have known right then that Natureman was the only MAN for me.) Any how, after a month of writing and calls, we decided to meet… I still hadn’t looked up where Chaseburg was as I figured it was just outside Madison like Janesville. Well Natureman suggested the Crane Foundation as a halfway point and that was 2 hours from me. How can that be halfway? I’m thinking this guy has a lot of nerve making me drive 2 hours - besides I envisioned this locale in the middle of nowhere. Then he suggested meeting at a Madison bookstore and we would go on a bike ride. OK, that was closer… It had to be the hottest day of the year just like yesterday and 20 minutes into the ride, I am soaked in perspiration. Nice look for a first date. ☺ Natureman suggested a rest and perhaps something to drink…

Out of his backpack he pulls a chilled bottle of bubbly and wrapped up very carefully 2 champagne flutes… We celebrate each year with the bubbly and the flutes. Well, that first date lasted 6 hours and the romance has never stopped. He’s the one who lights candles every night at the dinner table, brings strawberries and chocolate on picnics as we enjoy our homegrown food in our meals…



 I can’t think of anybody else that I would like to spend my golden years as we face Mother Nature, health issues and whatever else life sends our way… He‘s my Natureman right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eureka...

Most people don’t have to worry about ‘getting home’ but here in the End of the Rainbow Valley that is never a given where one dirt road /driveway is bordered by tall grasses and lots of trees which dead end in the bowl we call ‘home.’ My first trip back to the homestead 10 years ago, this road resembled a path more than a road. That path was obliterated after a 14” downpour and flash flood five years ago. The 500-year flood caused 8 mudslides and downed a hundred trees just on that one mile stretch. It took 3 months to rebuild this new driveway/'super highway' and then nine months later another ha ha 500 year flood downpour returned. That damage was minimal in comparison although emotionally draining to say the least. Here's of a pic of Lietke Lane before Coon Creek overflowed and ate all the bridge approaches. When we ask the other if we want to walk to get the paper/ mail that ‘yes’ reply entails a one mile trek to arrive at the mailbox on the black top road called Lietke Lane. There are 3 major inclines to achieve this task – down, up, down and then the return. You can even experience a temperature change as the wind blows down the ridge and through the valley. There’s also a difference in the bug population along different parts. AND I would know. BUT the thing is YOU never know is what you will encounter along the way whether it’s wildlife as in snakes or pond frogs, toads, deer, turkeys, hawks ‘ the resident owl or a limb/tree across the road the latest storm/wind has brought down. It’s never a bad idea to leave some extra time when going into ‘town’ just in case. One night we had to park the car leaving the lights on to be able to see in order to crawl over a humongous felled tree, walk home to change clothing and return equipped with gloves and the chain saw so that we could have a clear path the next day. Our best friend is the Husqvarna chain saw. The only ‘chainsaw massacre’ that happens around here is for firewood /when another tree or one of its appendages bites the dust and ends up on the road. BUT it’s never a bad idea to leave some extra time when going into ‘town’ just in case. Our standard wish for visitors is 'to be careful' coming in and going out the End of the Rainbow Valley … A Greek may have been the first to declare 'Eureka,' but we living in the back of a valley that is not so easy to get to can understand why Californians chose the phrase for their state's motto. Any time we make it in or out, we can exclaim, " Eureka, we made it!"

Monday, June 18, 2012

Physical Attraction...

Physical attraction… If you thought you were going to get more stuff about the birds and the bees, well you are, but maybe not exactly as you thought… When planning a garden there are many considerations regarding plant selection which can include placement regarding sunlight, height, color, zone… just to name a few but for me it’s a must to incorporate plants that will attract butterflies. So when I help others with their garden plans I always include some of these beauties. The list is extensive so I thought I’d provide a list of my favorites that are in my own garden… By including any of these you will be encouraging the butterflies to not only visit your gardens longer but to also return. In alphabetical order: Beardtongue, Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, Candytuft, Columbine, Coneflower, Hollyhock, Lobelia, Lupine, Marigold, Oregano, Primula, Sage, Spirea, Shasta Daisy, Sunflower, Verbena, Yarrow and last but not least Zinnias. You won't be disappointed when you add any of these to your garden 'bed.'

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A special light show...

Last night even the crickets were quiet and the air was not moving. The sky was overcast and there was a stillness blanketing the summer evening. Nature's special light show was going on as thousands of lightning bugs lit up the valley with their energies and flickering lights. Irv and I whispered so as not to disturb the quiet of the firefly show. It is truly magical here in the End of the Rainbow Valley…

Friday, June 15, 2012

Things that Go Bump in the Night...

Things that go bump in the night… The old farmhouse sits directly behind our new one… maybe 12 feet apart but we jokingly say with a couple hundred years difference. If those old walls could talk I bet we would have lots of really interesting stories… The one I am sharing today is about Mr. Snake. Mr. Snake decided to take up residence in the old house’s basement long before I ever came to live in the valley. In a late 1800’s structure, it’s not really a basement but it’s a root cellar… rickety stairs that descend onto an earthen floor. Two naked hanging light bulbs light the dank area. You get the picture and let me be clear it still creeps me out. I would let out a little yell as I clicked on the light switch from above before taken down laundry. It was like giving forewarning to anything living down there to just move before I saw them and this was with good reason… You see Natureman had shared stories about Mr. Snake. Mr. Snake was the house’s resident bull snake. (BTW on my list of not favorites are any kind of snake although I do appreciate the rodent control.) Irv had told me about once finding resident Mr. Snake wrapped around the base of the toilet. OK I get it, it’s cool and must have felt really good to Mr. Snake. BUT I really was not interested at having a snake at such proximity when I was sitting with my pants down no less. Hence any time I went to the bathroom, I would check out the bathroom first to make sure I had the place to myself. At night I would flip on the light, a habit I had never had previously. Heck, I was a Girl Scout, I could deal. NOT. Irv had even shared how Mr. Snake would slither behind the medicine cabinet into the wall. TMI. (Actually way too much information. Now I didn’t even want to open the medicine cabinet!) Maybe it was safer to relieve yourself outside – after all we do live in the woods. There were other Mr. Snake episodes but this was by far the best… One night Simon was home from college and he is awakened by his Dad’s scream. Simon runs to see what’s wrong. Now picture this – Natureman who of course sleeps ‘au natural’ has stepped on Mr. Snake en route to the bathroom. OK this is just way too much NATURE even if it is in the End of the Rainbow Valley…

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Webs we weave...

Ah, the WEBS we weave… For those that have spent any time with me know I can ‘butcher’ any idiom/saying. I don’t know if it's all those languages jumbled in my brain or just the fact that I was raised by a second language learner / maybe it’s a combination. Anyhow, I wanted to talk about webs and those that weave them and I thought I had better check the saying as I remembered it “Oh what an evil web we weave. “ but after Googling it , it turns out Shakespeare used ‘tangled’ so that may change my post but then again maybe not… After living in the valley I am regarding all these spiders with whom I co-habitat a bit differently. A lot of folks really dislike spiders but I was always the kid at Girl Scout camp that instead of squishing the Daddy Long Legs in the cabin picked him up and moved him outside. Now sharing my space with spiders full time, I'm not always so generous to my arachnid friends although I do appreciate them cutting down the fly and mosquito population. Some weeks they make it look like I never clean. Webs can be found in every corner of the house. OK not just wall corners but any space to be joined is game to have a web spun. AND these guys are super busy. Some days I feel all I do is remove webs. Does this make me the house’s webmaster? I think not... Well I have a particular ‘spider’ story to share of someone who obviously appreciates spiders a lot more than I. NATUREMAN. One day I was showering in the old house and I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and heck I screamed. I don’t know why… Irv responded from another area of the house, ‘what’s the matter?’ and I called back there’s a spider in the shower.’ Oh that’s my pet spider, that’s where he lives.’ " Oh, OK," and even though I found it strange, I continued sharing the shower with Mr.Spider although never turning my back on him as he continued to grow and grow each visit. I looked for him before I entered the shower and one day decided that he had gotten BIG enough and informed Natureman that Mr. Spider had to go. Mr. Spider was bid farewell outside. By the way- It turns out that Mr. Spider was a ‘wolf spider‘and they jump and can cause a nasty bite as I have since learned... Now fast forward 10 years and in the new house's guest bath I discover a small wolf spider and I decide you know for sentimentality’s sake I am going to let this guy grow as long as he stays in this space. Besides Irv and my 10th Anniversary is coming and what a meaningful gift to give to the man who doesn’t want/need anything. I daily check Mr Spider’s whereabouts before sitting down on the commode and all goes well for a good month until we are having an overnight house guest. Irv’s youngest, Simon, is coming home, and I need to clean and spray out that shower removing Mr Spider but he’s nowhere to be found. I search high and low and I am spraying cleansers and water so I figure he’s left. WELL, not really... as Simon has a story to share at mealtime how this huge wolf spider jumped on his knee while he was showering and he killed it. Without even thinking, I told him that it was going to be a gift for his Dad. If looks could have killed… Ah what a tangled web we weave… here in the End of the Rainbow Valley

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Screened in... in the Valley

Screened in We really do use every area in our house but the space that gets the most use after cold weather departs is our screened -in porch. Whether it’s eating a meal/snack, visiting, reading, bird watching, swinging , listening to the radio, rocking/ just plain sitting, this particular porch gets a whole heck of a lot of use. We will even eat all 3 meals, weather permitting, on this west facing porch. The fan can make some still hot air a lot more bearable. And a light jacket will allow us to remain enjoying the space through fall. 

Romeo also enjoys this space as he has his own doggie door to come and go as he wishes as his food, water and bed are also housed here. Don’t worry we do switch the cushions when guests join us! It also offers him a reprieve from those pesty flies.

There are occasions that other guests besides people find their way onto the porch. It is not unusual to find a bird hopping around inside probably wondering why they have landed in a big cage. Of course, maybe if they hadn’t pecked through the nylon screening, they wouldn’t be in this predicament. We will need to repair some panels eventually. Most recently a chipmunk has found Romeo’s food. Uh oh. We can also watch the feeders and the orchard orioles have been frequenting their jelly bowl at dinner time and the other feeders tend to be very busy as are the woods beyond. In the mornings the goats will hear us talking and start baaahing wondering when their breakfast is coming. Kids!

The porch is filled with all types of lighting from kerosene lamps (once used in the old house), a wide array of candles, porch and twinkle lights to add to the ambience. The house wall is being filled with valley botanical prints. Some evenings Natureman brings out his harmonica to add music to the valley. I have to admit that I really wanted a wrap around porch but unfortunately the land didn’t allow that but I think I got the very best next thing as there’s nothing better than being part of your environment in a screened-in porch right here in the End of the Rainbow Valley…

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

BUGGED? You think you're bugged?

For all the beauty of country living in a valley near water, there are some definite negatives for this City Mouse… one of them being that it can get real ‘buggy.’ All my life mosquitoes have loved me. They will leave everybody else alone and just feast on me. It’s a given so I douse myself in Deet when I know I am going to be spending a lot of time outside. This year due to the mild winter I even got less reprieve because starting in May the voracious deer fly arrived and has been relentless. You see this pointy winged fly lays its eggs in milkweed of which we have an abundance. What makes me hate them is that they really BITE. Within seconds of being bitten, I start to swell and that area will become hot and hard. The itchy pain will persist days. I kid you not. The dog and goats have to endure them with me but geez they have more fur. These pests usually attack Romeo’s ears. Poor guy. Swarms can even force Natureman inside. Of course, they are worse than the ‘no see ums,’ those tiny gnats which tend to disperse if you swat at them. The deer fly is persistent and will follow you even if you run. They do tend to like sun more than shade. I have been told that vanilla might help. I'm willing to try anything. The lightning bug/firefly who has now arrived on the other hand is one bug that actually adds nightly magic lighting up the valley darkness like little Tinkerbell’s friends.. Some find their way inside the house but at least they don’t hurt anything... The next winged bug to arrive in the Valley is what we call 'head flies' so called because these guys actually circle your head - so we wear hats on our walks. In my opinion there’s not many leisurely summer walks down our country road. Romeo will lead our pack and the head flies just encompass him. GROSS. The mosquitoes will start hatching with the rains and the heat. And there are alot of areas that have stagnant water in a valley too. My favorite new apparel purchased since moving to the valley is a mosquito netting jacket equipped with hood and face veiling. It's not real stylish but certainly functional to work out in the garden. These guys are hungry suckers... I don’t have to tell you about those obnoxious Asian lady beetles and Box Elder bugs as both city and country homes unfortunately are plagued with these. Birds could care less about eating them since they taste so bad. Enough of these pesty winged bugs… I cherish the limited time when we are ‘bugless’ and can actually sit outside without a flying pest landing on me. I love when the breeze picks up as it has these last couple of days. BUT you can bet your lucky stars that I what I love most of all is our screened-in porch in the End of the Rainbow Valley...