Friday, October 30, 2015


 FOTO FRIDAY this week is dedicated to those community members who make this world a better place. My latest introduction was to a group, Celebrate! Maya Project. These Arkansans recognized the importance of honoring Maya Angelou's life works and promoting  inclusive literacy, creativity and social consciousness. Stay tuned to next week's entry regarding this group and the soiree they held Thursday evening.

Buddy Martha (far right) invited me to join her at the Maya Project Friendraiser
Meanwhile if you have a community group you'd like to give a shout out , here's an opportunity. Send me a brief description with your pic.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Genius Among Us

Accolade after accolade have been bestowed upon this past Wednesday's workshop speaker  sponsored by Western Technical  College's Sustainability Institute.   Perhaps you've heard of this Urban Farmer, Will Allen. Mr. Allen, retired pro basketball player, equipped with a marketing degree had worked for Proctor and Gamble in Milwaukee and left that position in '93 for a dream. Son of sharecropping S.C. parents Allen had grown up on a farm in Maryland and knew something about farming. This man had a plan and a vision in believing in GROWING POWER through Revolution, Redemption and Reclamation by utilizing energy, the earth and community. 

We were promised and delivered this story through 1,000+ slides to illustrate what and how GROWING POWER has and is achieving its goals. Most importantly, Allen's work has connected disadvantaged youth from the inner city with the earth.  He knew that all people need to have good food regardless of where we live.  

This all began when Allen daily passed a failing green house business en route to work in the city of Milwaukee. He decided to purchase GROWING POWER where he not only saved the last city's producing farm within city limits but has built and continues his life's work of helping communities to become more sustainable and grow their own healthy food.

At GROWING POWER there are hoop green houses, kitchens, small animal husbandry (chickens, goats, ducks) hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach and technical assistance." Workshops are given in their indoor and out door gardens covering horticulture, aquaponics, beekeeping, worm culture, composting, soil reclamation, food distribution and marketing. 

Food produced here can feed 10,000 folks.

Recognizing the impact of climate change Allen's vision also involved taking inner city ugly old vacant lots and turning them into both flower and vegetable gardens so folks could have visually improved spaces and also be able to eat locally grown food. On top of asphalt wood chips layered with good rich soil composted from land waste food, useless spaces are turned into laden producing gardens without the use of chemicals. 

fish egg sac
Project  after project we saw among others- mushroom production, filtration ecosystems, vermiculture, etc... We also heard and saw how their fish industry works as Tilapia were raised by extracting the 3 yard long egg sacs and mixing in by hand the male fish semen to fertilize those eggs. The Chinese may have taken over this industry but the quality and flavor  are certainly not the same. Black Perch, a much larger fish are GROWING POWERS newest endeavor.

One of the awards Allen has received was a 'Genius' grant from the MacArthur Foundation, certainly well earned as Will Allen has put two unusual denominators together; sustainability and social justice. 

Thank you Will Allen for the thousands you have educated and continue to educate about food sustainability... you are making this world a better place.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

H is for Hospice

Today the letter "H" is not about the holiday Halloween although it is this weekend. "H" is for Hildegard, my Mom. That same letter "H" of her name has morphed into the word 'Hospice' for our family. Today is my Mom's first day in hospice.  

Early last night the hospital ambulance returned my Mom to her room at the senior home but the difference was she was tucked into bed by a hospice worker.
Within a year her home of over 55 years changed from Grant Street to a senior home on an Alzheimer's floor and today, a new way of living, hospice. 

My brothers and I knew my Dad would come to the same difficult conclusion we had a couple months ago that our Mom's, his wife of over 60 years, health was in a downward spiral with the loss of appetite and weight, both her physical and cognitive abilities were waning. The disease was taking its course and no medicine was going to fix it. Her doctors and my Dad concurred yesterday.

Now with the decision made comes relief. 'Comfort' will be the operative word with a respectful care only hospice can offer.  We are thankful "H" can be for hospice.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Going Parking

Even though I had wanted to take the latest birthday granddaughter to celebrate her 6th birthday to the theatrical version of The Little Mermaid, Natureman had other plans.
My Mom had always warned me about guys who wanted to 'go parking'...
BUT he had his mind set on spending the day in one of Wisconsin's state parks. It is difficult to not take advantage of a beautiful fall day. 

It was also probably our last weekend to see the vestiges of fall as oak leaves are about the only leaves left on the trees. and our first visit to this particular park. 

Wyalusang Park outside of Prairie du Chien, WI was our destination with a whopping $3 'senior' car entrance fee. We started with the Bluff Trail and the million dollar view of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. Pretty spectacular

Following the trail down a gazillion stairs and back up some we ended up inside Treasure Cave.

My Natureman
Natureman, in fact, borrowed a gal's phone for a light to crawl into the space and then decided maybe not.

The views were spectacular and the weather ended up being the sweatshirt weather type. Perfect hiking weather. 

 Take note if you venture to Wyalusang, the maps are a bit misleading, maybe drawn free hand(?)

On Sentinel Ridge we enjoyed the trail notes and monument commemorating the billions of passenger pigeons which used 850 miles of the Mississippi as their home and routing. With 
deforestation and hunting the pigeon population disappeared. Their swarming used to be like moving dark clouds as pictured on the right.

This ridge top trail meandered along the 1/2 mile prehistoric Bear Effigy mound. In 1829 the Winnebago Indians were sent westward to reservations after ceding their land to the Government but returned and stayed until the early 1900's. Many other folks besides the Winnebago used this same path throughout the ages; mound builders, Black Robes (the priests), French Voyageurs, lead miners (Fortunately no ore was discovered so they moved on), farmers, and hikers like ourselves. 

Although the forest ranger had suggested the Sugar Maple Trail, Natureman opted for the Sand Hill Cave Trail which was a couple of miles long. 

Big Sand Cave
Trickle, trickle
The caves were a bit disappointing after experiencing Treasure Cave as these were more outcroppings with a little sandy floor and some trickling water overhead. 

Natureman remembers a cave with drawings but the only thing on the sand cave walls were recent visitor names carved creating a modern day "parietal art". Perhaps those caves are closed to save them...

The Sand Caves are good shelter for a rainy/unbearably hot day regardless  Thank goodness there was signage / we would have walked right past these 'caves', especially the Little Sand Cave. 

I was glad to be heading back before nightfall came as the leaf laden paths would disappear.  Hey, we only saw a couple folks during the 4 hour visit. You know I've spoken before about how our walks become adventuresome hikes. Anyhow-

Wyalusang Park is a treat with picnic areas, campgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, canoeing, boat landing, bike trails besides a nice size pavilion, and place to have astronomy programs besides the varying 11 different trails totaling some 20 miles. It was a lovely introduction to a park about an hour from home and a good 'parking' afternoon.

We were blessed with a lovely Missisippi River sunset on our return to the End of the Rainbow Valley. 

Yep, this was probably the last Miata trip for the year before it's winterized. I do still hope to take the birthday girl to the play next weekend. :)

Monday, October 26, 2015

World's Greatest, An Hour Away?

Doesn't every town have a favorite burger joint?  

Sunday I  experienced lunch from Pete's, a hamburger stand, established in 1909 in Prairie du Chien. Over a 100 years in business is nothing to sneeze at. Originally Pete started his business on a cart and later added stands with refrigeration.

Sunday happened to Pete's last day open for the season. What luck to just be hungry and lunchtime as we were passing through town en route to a state park we hadn't visited before AND now able to try what's touted as the world's best burger.

                                                   Two long lines extended on both sides of the building. Popular to say the least in a town with a pop. of a little over 5500. 

What's so special about this burger?

The gal in front of me explained that Pete's burgers are steamed. So I imagined a big steamer. But that's not it at all as a sauce pot filled with water is poured on the grill. As the standing water starts steaming, a mound of onions is added, followed by meatball chunks. Each ball is flattened into a patty with a spatula after which it is flipped and moved over to the left. The burgers are  allowed to cook until the water is absorbed. 60 hamburgers are cooked at a time and then placed in buns with a slab of the dripping cooked onions. 

The customer is asked if  ketchup, mustard/ brown mustard should be added besides the onions. I opted for for a drier burger which then is placed double-decker atop another burger and squished down with the spatula to remove some of the liquid. ( Personally  soggy buns are not my thing.) And so these moist tasty burgers have been made for over a 100 years... Raw onion can also be requested but that's it. No cheese for those burgers. A drink and chips can be added. Burgers cost $4.25 each, soft drinks and chips @1.25. 

If you want a closeup look at this landmark here's a youtube clip of PBS's Around the Corner in Prairie du Chien about PETE's with John McGivern's public tv segment at 6:08.

Pete's traditionally reopens the third week of April. So, my friends, you'll have to wait until then to go for one of those yummy steamed burgers.

Friday, October 23, 2015


FOTO FRIDAY this week is not Hitchcock's classic Room With a View but in a way it is. My kitchen sink window's view is a peep hole into the south end of our valley. Who would want to admit they like doing dishes so they can see what's going on in the world outside? It's not like I 'm going to see a car driving by/our next door neighbor as they are almost a mile away in the opposite direction. When you live in the End of the Rainbow Valley your view are the vertical hilly slopes and the creatures that roam/fly within it. This Friday brings us to the peak fall show. The sun/lack thereof change the intensity of those leaf colors some of which have already dropped. Those chickens out there have quite a view too.

Do you have a favorite window view in your abode? Do share.

Arkansan friend Martha's entire backside of her house has views of the Arkansas River. Here's her kitchen view I have been enjoying as I rinse out my tea cup. 

Last week's FOTO FRIDAY was :GRATITUDE, did you catch it?

Thursday, October 22, 2015


There are two types of shopping I abhor.  The first is car shopping and the second, shopping for electronics. It's easy to avoid the first since my decision to drive the all wheel Highlander (over 170 K miles on the speedometer at present) until it dies and the second, the electronics, this week can't be avoided. The almost 11 year old once state of the art 42"plasma flat screen HDTV Toshiba decided not to turn on Monday. Dang. 

About two years ago we thought the tv was on its way out as a red line appeared at one top corner of the screen.  It might have been my imagination but that red line seemed to grow in length for a couple of days. After fretting about its screen life and assuming the worst that it would have to be replaced, one day after playing around with the screen size, the red pixel issue disappeared. Whew, the TV had received a reprieve and spared us having to go in search of a new one until this week when it wouldn't turn on. Seriously, the little red 'on' light just kept blinking and blinking with no picture nor sound. It had to unplugged to be turned off. So sad. :(

Usually I am the one in the household that researches purchases but since I was working on another project, I asked Natureman if he could take over the computer search. He lasted an hour and stated he was done. OK, this man scanned the internet years for a tractor.

So many features to compare but the restricting width of our cabinet did not make the process easy.  This living room TV  had a cabinet custom made by the Amish no less, a people that don't watch TV. The door hinge placement is such that there is not much wiggle room with the accordion like arm wall mount.

Supposedly there are a few models which will work. I made a couple of calls to see if those models were in stock besides checking on delivery/set up charges. Waited a day for more energy to attack the inevitable.

Yesterday was the day and the guy who claims not to be a TV person transforms as he enters Best Buy and can't even wait for me as he takes off  for the TV section. Oh my Lord. Natureman heads straight for the new HUDTVs 4K's with curved screens. All the research became inconsequential as did the price tag. 

OK, Natureman the non-TV person settled down during the HOUR plus search, thank goodness the width thing helped. We also discovered the once highly touted TOSHIBA is now in the 3rd tier of performing TV's. Actually the company is selling and won't be making TV's any more. Top TV quality seller one day, replaced. The big new star is LG followed by Samsung.

 Here's an excerpt from Amazon should you be in the market regarding pixels...

1080P VS. 4K: So far, HDTVs have come in three varieties: 720p, 1080p, and 4K. Each of these terms refers to the TV's resolution, or the number of pixels that make up a single frame in the video you're watching. The more pixels you have, the crisper and more lifelike the image. 
Today, 1080p is the standard, while 4K UHD—with resolution four times greater than 1080p—is generally seen as the wave of the future. For the most part, TVs that max out at 720p are a thing of the past. The only exceptions are very small sets intended for use in bedrooms, kitchens, and garages.

OK, the shopping excursion was unsuccessful. We didn't return home with a TV. We remeasured. The TV purchase will have to be postponed another couple of days. Couldn't it just be over already?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


What a delightful Tuesday evening thanks to the UW-L latina student women's group, Mujeres Orgullosas Latinas ( Proud Latin Women) who shared 2 Mexican folkloric dances with an audience of about 75 folks at the Centro Latino to not only celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month but also the center's first year anniversary with representatives from the community, staff and students from both universities( UW-L and Viterbo) in addition to Centro Latino's director, Sister Antonia.

The group showed recognition and appreciation to their instructor Candia
The Mujeres Orgullosas Latinas were also lucky that my friend Candia (UW-L staff) was able to help the group learn the 1800 folk dance steps (she danced professionally some 11 years) After a couple hours of instruction and practice, the group's members were gracious  to share their new knowledge with us. 

These young mujeres latinas have other outreach projects in mind as they want to serve as mentors to younger latinos in middle schools to share their experiences in higher education and emphasize the importance of taking their studies seriously and continuing their education while still fostering their heritage.


Following the performance the student dancers introduced themselves and shared their majors and the importance of having each other as a support group.

Their group's meetings are purposely planned for Fridays to encourage members to stay on campus and become integrated in campus life rather than rush home on weekends. These young ladies understand an important key to college success is this bonding. 
(photo courtesy of friend Marta Martinez)
After the presentation we were treated to a wonderful dinner buffet by community members and three local restaurants: El Rodeo, Fiesta Mexicana and Burrito House. 5 types of taquitos with fresh tortillas, traditional relishes of radishes, cilantro, onion, salsas and sides of Spanish rice, beans, cooked peppers and of course, many yummy desserts.

Sabrosa. (Delicious) Simplemente sabrosa. 

What a terrific evening filled with community, dance, music, food and conversation working towards bringing us all a little closer -  COMMUNITY in its true from of all different ages and backgrounds. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Up, Up and Away in ...

New Mexico isn't the only place that has hot air balloons. In fact, you could have headed across the Mississippi from us  to one of the scheduled launches in Caledonia, Minnesota this past Sunday. Although there were beautiful blue skies, sadly, it was just way too windy.

Competition might involve a lead balloon landing and others attempting to land as close as possible to the basket/ dropping an  item at the basket. Sunday's gathering wasn't a race/competition but just for fun.

Since one can't steer a balloon but rather maneuver it, a pilot must know and understand wind velocities in addition to a lot of training and fly hours before taking a pilot's exam. Being a crew member initially is part of that training. The ground crew is responsible for following the balloon to be there for the balloon's landing.

But to not disappoint those present one hot air balloon was set up to show folks how the how the balloon is filled at the morning launch time. You can see how the wind is pushing in one side of the balloon.

Despite better wind conditions even at the 4:30 launch time, the ballooning was also cancelled. As we learned there are different velocities at different heights and even if a take off might have been possible, the landing would have been too dangerous.

Sharing a passion for hot air ballooning
A crew member from Nifty Gadget Ballooning filled us in on all this and how she became a balloonist when she was eyed at one such event to fly as a passenger for 'extra' weight.  She was hooked after that initial flight some 11 years ago. The pilot of that flight introduced her to another pilot buddy who is now her husband, a 30 year veteran pilot. 

Yep, both crews and spectators were disappointed Sunday as many had driven across the state to participate but realize how important safety is. 

We'll just have to wait for another time to see the beauty of those hot air balloons up in the sky and who knows may be even asked to ride in one for 'extra' weight... No insult taken. 

Here's a youtube clip :Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?

Monday, October 19, 2015


What do a pair of compass cufflinks, Grand Canyon t-shirt, apron, yak bell, house slippers, cane from the Red Cross, Bears mezuzah, hanger, sheet music, German water pitcher, house slippers, ticket to the opera La Traviota and a Farm booklet, all have in common?

All of the aforementioned were items shared Saturday at our monthly Show and Tell get together. And the memories these items evoked added even more stories.

Any particular story you would like to hear?  You get the say. All requests honored.

BTW if you're interested and in the area you should come join us for the next Show & Tell Saturday November 21st, 9:30 a.m. at the La Crosse County Historical Society 145 West Ave S.


House Shoes. 
- Show & Tell's organizer, Sue (alias Susan T. Hessel,) shared the story of her Mom always changing after dinner into her night gown, robe and slippers. Sue and her brother tended to be absorbed in the paper.  After dinner one night their Mom appeared in a dress, all coiffed and donning a string of pearls. This different appearance really got the kids attention and they looked at her in shock and asked her why she was all dressed up? Her reply: "Well, I thought if I looked like Donna Reed you would pay attention to what I said." The lengths a Mom will go to for her kids's attention, eh? I'm sure glad Sue inherited her Mom's sense of humor.