Counting Cranes for Earth Day

Counting Sand Hill Cranes in Farmington Township, Jefferson County, Wis.

On Saturday, my friend Liz and I got an early start to Earth Day celebrations. Literally. As in rolling out of bed and venturing out in the field by 5:30 a.m. for the Annual Midwest Crane Count. At such a pristine hour, the sun hadn’t fully risen, but the music of nature was in surround sound.

Wood duck in Jefferson County, WIs., DNR marshland

We saw flocks of Canadian Geese, Wood Ducks and scores of smaller wetland birds. We heard a pair of Horned Owls in the distance and choruses of Sandhills Cranes. And frogs, oh, the frogs!

Annual Midwest Crane Count, Jefferson County, Wis.

We’d been forewarned that our assigned area would be a little wet. You know your friend is a kindred spirit when she’s willing to rise early on her day off and muck through a swamp.

DNR marshland Farmington Township, Jefferson County, Wis.

By 7:30 the sun was up and we’d completed our 2-hour count. Based on the Sandhill calls and the directions from which they came, we recorded hearing six cranes and seeing one in flight. From there, we headed to Sustain Jefferson for its sixth annual Organic Gardening Workshops and Potato Fair.

All in all, what a wonderful way to appreciate the beautiful earth God has given us!

Earth Day is April 22—what are you doing to celebrate?

Day #5: Meandering the Great River Road

Autumn color in western WIsconsin Where do I begin when I have a gazillion pictures of brilliant autumn color, magnificent rock formations and serendipitously winding roads? I could share them all, but first allow me some digression.

Tuesday after touring Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, we pointed our car westward and headed to Cassville, Wis. We had a cabin on the Mississippi waiting for us, but by time we settled in, it was cold, raining and dark.

Eagle's Roost Resort, Cassville, WI When we woke up the next morning—voilà!— here was this welcoming view from our deck. Sunshine. Warm temperatures. The river.


Eagles at Eagle's Roost Resort, Cassville, WI Bald eagles! Lots of them!

Aptly named, our cabin was part of the Eagle’s Roost Resort. We had such a beautiful view of the river, waterfowl and these soaring eagles. I’ve decided a zoomier lens is next on my not-totally-necessary-but sure-would-be-nice purchases.

Mississippi River towns in Wisconsin Cassville wholeheartedly lives up to the expression “sleepy little river town.” It’s a Main-Street village nestled in the narrow stretch between the bluffs and the river. Add a railroad track to that, along with a train coming through every hour or so, and you’ve got a perfect picture of every town up and down the river.

We had a fun breakfast at this cafe. We sat by quietly listening, laughing and finally joining in with the locals as they shared the neighborhood gossip with us. We learned quite a bit!

Wyalusing state park,  wisconsin And then, because we’ve been eating the tastiest of Wisconsin’s food and topping it off with some mighty fine beer (it is our Octoberfest Tour, after all!), we ventured to work it off by trekking through two state parks; Nelson Dewey and Weyalusing. Let’s just say these bluffs are breathtaking in more ways than one.

Poison Ivy I thought a quick stop behind a tree was necessary until I saw these leaves of three. Gee, but they’re pretty. I decided my urgency, like many of life’s woes, was all in my head and I could wait until we got back to the rest area.

Church in bluffs in Marquette, IA We hopped across the river into Marquette, Iowa, to see this totally adorable church. Would you think it’s now repurposed into a home? Perhaps a Doors Open is in order? Imagine seeing those bluffs out your back window.

Pearl Street Brewery sign, La Crosse, WI Finally, at the end of a meandering day, we made it up to La Crosse and checked into our hotel on Pearl St. And eventually found the Pearl Street Brewery, which incidentally is not on Pearl Street. But I’ll leave that for another day.

In the meantime, here’s another shot of a gorgeous winding road.

Autumn colors in western Wisconsin A bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn. — Unknown

Next stop: Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse

Crabapples and Emotions: Marketing Like You Never Knew

Autumn crabapples in Wisconsin

Folklore says that fruit- and nut-bearing trees in their mast year are predictions of a hard winter. If that’s true and my crabapple trees are to be considered, then, yep, a strong winter is on its way. My trees are loaded. Apparently our tried-and-true Farmers’ Almanac agrees because last week it came out with its Winter Outlook 2015: More Shivery and Shovelry! As if all this isn’t enough, today I was in a hardware store that was running a special on snowblowers.

Snowblowers! Really?!

Actually that store isn’t unreasonable. Considering we all love to talk about our weather (better yet, dramatize), the store owner is simply employing smart marketing tactics to get a head start on selling his product. He’s using fear, the number one of 10 emotional triggers that commonly affect our buying and selling. Retailers, bloggers, radio talk shows—they all use fear to rile us up and motivate us to action.

Fear is okay. But it can usually be filed under “not quite all the facts,” right along with many old-time folklores. In truth, those crabapples of mine are rather pretty and will feed lots of birds this winter. I like to think of them as preparation for the months ahead (maybe even a batch of crabapple wine or cider—how’s that for putting the cold in order :-).

If I’m going to use emotional triggers to sell my services or my clients’ products, I prefer “trust,” “value” and “belonging.” I like “trendsetting,” in terms of innovative, or ahead of the game. I really like “time,” because when you let me help you with your marketing, I give you more time to do the things you’re best at doing: running your business.


Fermentation Fest: A Live Culture Convergence

Nameplate for Fermentation Fest

Turn on the T.V. or page through any number of magazines and you’ll find that Wisconsin is cultivating a prestigious culinary scene. From James Beard award winners to specialty food entrepreneurs, our beloved Badger State is taking on an epicurean eminence that goes far beyond beer, cheese, sausage and fish fries.

Knowing this, you can rightly assume Wisconsin’s putting on some sumptuous food festivals. Among them, Fermentation Fest is literally bubbling its way to the top.

Definition of culture shed, by Jay Salinas, Wormfarm InstituteNow in its fourth year, Fermentation Fest is a 10-day celebration of the arts, farming and fermented food. There are how-to classes for the ancient art of fermentation. There are tasting events that expand one’s senses beyond the homogeneity of today’s grocery stores. There are musicians, poets and storytellers. And, if that’s not enough, there is art—how does a 50-mile self-guided Farm/Art D’Tour through the breathtaking farmlands of
Sauk County grab you? Think meandering country roads…rolling unglaciated hills…October, in all its autumn glory. As organizers define it, Fermentation Fest is a celebration of the “cultureshed” of Wisconsin’s Driftless area.

Fermentation Fest is the brainchild of Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas, and their Wormfarm Institute, a non-profit organization fostering arts and agriculture. Supported in part through the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America, Sauk County is the only rural county to receive art funding, says Donna. The fest is also hosted by the Sauk County UW Extension and the Reedsburg Chamber of Commerce, and sponsored by a multitude of businesses and organizations. Yes, Fermentation Fest is truly a convergence of culture.

So this year I’m super excited to be part of Fermentation Fest. My dear friend, Ann Foley, who designs for The Creative Company and Madison’s Brat Fest—another great food event—recommended me for doing the Fermentation Fest newsletter. Thank you, Ann!

And thank you, Donna! I’m honored to be working on this project and loving the time I get to spend in beautiful Sauk County!

Hey, make sure you sign up to get the latest on Fermentation Fest’s schedule and registration!

Why Christians Should Celebrate Earth Day 2014

Moss growing on log in Glacial Drumlin Bike Trail, Jefferson Co., WisconsinToday is Earth Day and here’s why Christians should be part of this annual celebration. And even though our main focus is eternal life in heaven, here’s why we should practice mindful stewardship during our time here on earth—not just on Earth Day, but every day.

God’s Creation

In the Bible book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2 tell us the earth and everything in it were created by God. The earth is God’s masterpiece, both in form and function. We wouldn’t dream of littering an artist’s work in a museum with garbage or toxic waste. Certainly God’s work—his earth—deserves this same respect.

Granddaughter looking up to a beautiful blue skyGod’s Assignment to Us

I realize we humans can’t determine the fate of our planet any more than we can the length of our lives. But we can take responsibility for both their quality and care. After all, this is what God entrusts to us when, in Genesis 1:28, he commands “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.”

I think of this as my husband and I enjoy nature with our granddaughter. Shouldn’t she and every other precious child be able to lay in God’s green grass and look up to his beautiful sky without fear of chemicals and pollution? Shouldn’t they have natural food to eat that won’t harm them or the children they may someday bring forth?

God has given us the job of being caretakers of his earth—for ourselves, for our children and for their children. Such a high calling this is!

Spring blossoms against Fachwerk BarnAppreciation to God

When God offered us his gift of salvation, he precursored it with a temporary stay here on earth. Given the state of our sinfulness, we certainly deserve accommodations much worse. Yet our Lord, in his great love, lets us live in this beautiful world. Wow, we are so blessed! The more I travel, the more I learn of the environment and our human body, the more I strive to live naturally—the more I do any of these things—I am so much more amazed by the graciousness and intelligence of God’s design.

In Psalm 139:14, David writes, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” We owe God this same appreciation. We can show this by caring for everything and everyone he has created.

Sunset on Georgian Bay, Ontario, CanadaGlory to God

Some people are worried Earth Day has taken a paganistic twist. Others feel we’ve allowed “saving the environment” to become our modern day idol. Well, instead of automatically denouncing this annual celebration, why don’t we Christians just speak out? On Earth Day and every day, let’s praise God with our voice and glorify him with our actions. Let’s be good stewards of his earthly masterpiece.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31.