NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Katrina's Reasons to Recall Scott Walker

I love having a daughter in college who is politically active and well-informed on current issues. Me, I have no interest in staying on top of every little detail of what is going on in Washington or in Madison. Too many other selfish pursuits to pursue. I can't stand watching the news or reading the newspaper. When I go to the polling booth I just keep it simple and vote straight Democrat.  But it is awesome having a daughter who can fill in the details for me.

I know I said I was done talking about Scott Walker, so I'll make this quick. Since Katrina came home from school she's filled me in on more reasons to get rid of him besides his infamous union-busting antics.

1. Governor Walker repealed the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. His reason and that of State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), who sponsored the repeal legislation, is that the law "created a lengthy, complex, and unnecessary new set of procedures that put Wisconsin businesses at greater risk for frivolous lawsuits".  Grothman also recently said the reason there is often a wage gap is because "money is more important for men." Women, he argued, are more focused on child-rearing. Really? How many single mothers do we have in Wisconsin? Don't they deserve a fair wage? And what about the women during the recession whose husbands lost their my cousin? If women were getting paid equally, the system wouldn't be "clogged" with lawsuits, and Wisconsin women are getting paid even less at 75 cents per dollar compared to the nation average of 77 cents.   For more information read the Huffington Post article link here.

2. Governor Walker signed a bill in April that will allow hunting wolves which have only been off the endangered species list for 2 months! The Wisconsin DNR has a lot of control over zoning and issuing permits, which I hope will help not put them back on the endangered list, but I still think this seems kind of risky. I understand that farmers and homeowners feel threatened in certain areas by the wolves, but I would have preferred that experts were consulted and other ways of managing the situation were tried first. The bill was heavily supported by Republicans and some Democrats, but like most things happening in Wisconsin these days it seems to have been pushed through quickly. Also of concern, to quote the NY Times: "It was opposed by environmental groups and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Game Commission, which represents Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. The tribes have significant rights in wildlife management in much of the area where wolves are found and said they were not consulted on the hunting plans as required by a treaty. State wildlife biologists also criticized various elements of the bill." 

3. In order to balance the budget and pay for the tax cuts to corporations, the UW system is hit the hardest with about $300 million cut in funds. Katrina's professors are worried about taking pay cuts or being let go, class sizes are increasing, classes are being cut, and tuition will of course be raised. Wisconsin has the 3rd or 4th largest cuts in higher education in the nation this year. Part of the reduction in the Wisconsin and national figures comes because of the expiration of federal stimulus funding that helped the nation’s universities last year.

 Even more disturbing, $18.6 million to the state Department of Health Services will be cut, which would come out of federal bonus money that the state received for covering uninsured children and $8.3 million to the Department of Children and Families, which runs programs such as the Wisconsin Shares child-care subsidy program for low-income families.

4. He has tried to make it more difficult for the poor and students to vote by implementing a Voter ID law, citing a need to fight voter fraud as the reason even though Wisconsin historically has ridiculously low documented cases of voter fraud. The League of Women Voters in Wisconsin filed suit in October and recently a Dane County Court Judge ruled the law unconstitutional. The law, thankfully, will not be in effect during the recall election. My daughter was affected by this new law as a college student with a constantly changing address that doesn't match her driver's license, and currently moving into a new residence just 4 days before the recall election. The College Democrats at UWEC worked hard to make absentee voting information available to students on campus in the final weeks of the semester.

5. Two-thirds of the $13.2 million Walker raised in the last fundraising period came from contributors outside of Wisconsin.

6.  And to top it all off, Scott Walker wants to see a change to the state's recall laws. I wonder why? Ironically, as Barrett pointed out in their first gubernatorial debate, Walker became Milwaukee County executive in a special election in 2002, after the previous officeholder resigned facing the possibility of a recall. Barrett also said he believed the governor had signed recall petitions targeting Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and former Democratic senator Russ Feingold.

I love getting all this information from my amazing daughter, and hopefully I've made it easy for someone else to get this information in return.  Get out on June 5th and vote, Wisconsin!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scott Walker's a Big Deal Outside of Wisconsin Too

I really hate talking about politics.
Everyone has their own opinion, and 99% of the time there is no hope of changing it.

However, Scott Walker is a little difficult to avoid talking about. Personally, I thought it was a hoot when The Daily Show covered the protests in Madison last year. Being married to a union worker myself, I've had the opportunity over the last two decades to find out what unions do (and don't do) and feel strongly that while unions aren't perfect (is anything?) they definitely serve a purpose and are needed. Most corporations, given the opportunity, would screw over the workers to increase profits for the guys at the top. But workplace safety, both physical and mental, is where it's really at. And union busting is really what the "budget cuts" were about.  I was stunned to discover that not everyone agrees with this philosophy, including a friend I went to school with. When I told her my daughter was collecting signatures for the recall Scott Walker petition she voiced her opinion that unions just weren't necessary in "this day and age". When I told her how safety standards would slip if unions were eliminated, she refused to believe that could happen in this enlightened time and is behind Scott Walker and against unions 100%. My husband's huge, well-known company has tried numerous times over the years to push through contract changes that would increase the likelihood of injuries on the job, not to mention take away vacation and sick days and curb pay increases.

Crap. I'm talking about politics!

Okay, that's all I have to say about this particular topic. The recall election is coming up on June 5th, I plan on voting against Scott Walker, and I hope enough people in Wisconsin do the same so that the teachers and other state union employees can get their right to collective bargaining back.

And, as my title suggests, Scott Walker is a big deal outside of Wisconsin, too. We found this out on our latest trip to North Carolina. The campground owner where we stayed in Cherokee mentioned him right away when learning we were from Wisconsin. She is also pro-union, her experience being with miner's unions in West Virginia, I believe. While staying at Lake Powhatan Campground outside of Asheville we ran into a man with an opposing opinion who stopped us on our bike ride to enlighten us. We happened to be filming with our new GoPro camera at the time, so enjoy the show. You'll be able to hear our fellow camper better when he approaches us, just hang in there because I'm still figuring out how to edit video in the software I just downloaded today. Oh, and notice how I keep looking for exit opportunities and when I finally get one I pedal like crazy to get out of there!

And on the subject that our fellow camper covered at the end of this video...I'm sad to report that the constitutional amendment in North Carolina he was referring to did pass. And the hate goes on. Watch the video and sign this petition at Human Rights Campaign's website if you're as appalled as we are.  Even though we don't like talking about politics...and religion, as my husband states in our video, sometimes you just have to.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Anderson Japanese Garden in Rockford

My daughter came home from college for a few weeks and we were looking for something new to do together that wasn't too far from home. We thought about going to the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie, but I decided we needed something a little more upbeat on such a beautiful day.

I knew there had to be gardens in the area that we haven't been to and discovered there were two in Rockford, Illinois, which is a little over an hour drive away from us. Anderson Japanese Gardens gave exactly what it advertised, a place for reflection, serenity and renewal. There were a lot of little corners with benches where you could feel as if you had the place to yourself, but my favorite part was the koi that were in every pool of water along the path.

The path twisted and turned, and while there weren't as a large a variety of plants in this garden as what I am used to, there were a lot of interesting statues, stones, and buildings that made it feel as if you were in a different world.


The highlight of the garden is a sweet little waterfall toward the end of the path. The pictures in the map pamphlet they gave to us showed this waterfall in the different seasons, and I'm looking forward to coming back again to see this lovely little garden in the fall and to visiting the Klehm Arboretum next time I'm in town, too! It was a very relaxing way to spend an hour with my daughter before she heads back to Eau Claire in June. My next adventure will be helping her move...including driving the UHaul truck myself and camping for the night in my new tent cot! It should be a lot easier to maneuver and set up than a big fifth wheel!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Two New Wisconsin Trails in One Week

This week I got to check out two new trails. The White River State Trail is mostly used by snow mobiles and bicycles, but my neighbor Margie and I checked it out on foot earlier this week after first stopping at Gooseberries in Burlington. They have great produce and bakery items and you can always count on them for something new and different to try. This time I picked up some locally made honey roasted peanut butter along with a fresh chicken pot pie.

There wasn't alot of wildflower activity along this trail, but I could tell it would make a great bike ride so I'll have to get back here with my bike soon. Rocket was blooming though, and it was a gorgeous day for a walk.

This 12-mile trail follows a former rail corridor as it travels between Elkhorn and Burlington, passing by numerous bridges, scenic vistas, quaint towns, farmlands, and wetlands. We walked about 1.5 miles in and then turned around. The section by the Burlington trailhead that we were on is bordered by a few farms and a beautiful wetland area. We could hear some Canada geese, but mostly it was songbirds in the trees that kept us company.


The second trail I hit this week was at Beulah Bog in East Troy, which has been designated a state natural area. From the WI DNR website:  

Beulah Bog lies in a series of four kettle holes and features an undisturbed bog with many unusual plants more typical of northern bogs. Classical stages of ecological succession are exhibited in the bog including: a shallow bog lake dominated by watershield with white and yellow water-lilies and extensive floating mud flats; an advancing, quaking sedge and sphagnum mat between 25 and 50 feet wide; northern wet forest of tamarack and bog shrubs and; a wet open moat surrounding the main bog, dominated by wild calla and cat-tails. Undisturbed bogs in this area are rare and the site supports a number of regionally rare plants with more northern affinities including dense cotton grass, large and small cranberry, and small bladderwort. The site harbors at least six species of insectivorous plants and the state-threatened plant, kitten tails (Bessya bullii), is also found here. The bog lake provides habitat for several dragonfly species and other invertebrates.

When my son, Cory, suggested a Mother's Day hike as his gift to me, I was one happy Mama!

Wobbly trail

The trail starts off as a dirt path and then there is a sudden turn downward to the boardwalk. Cory brought his camera along also, so the both of us spent a lot of time crouched down looking for things to shoot. He was particularly good at spotting frogs, and for some reason I was on fire with the insects for a change!  The boardwalk was wide at first, but then quickly narrowed down to a rickety path that had extra boards thrown on top because some of the trail had become submerged.

wild calla lily in bloom with small frog underneath

  We forged ahead carefully, but a little water wasn't going to keep us out. My internet research had revealed that there were pitcher plants in the area, so I wasn't leaving without seeing them!


We had to jump around a bit on the sphagnum area, but wet shoes and socks were a small price to pay, in my opinion. The boardwalk ended at the bog "lake" and after discerning that there really wasn't much more to see we turned around and headed back.

 I'll have to come back to this bog when fall comes around. There are supposed to be cranberry and blueberry plants here and bogs turn such pretty colors in the fall.  Hope you enjoy the insects as much as I did! Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there!

green tiger beetle


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

High Cliff State Park

As promised, I'm posting today about our trip to High Cliff State Park in April, 2010. Wayne had broken his tibia and fibula slipping on ice in our driveway in February, and had been pretty much housebound ever since. We hadn't bought our fifth wheel yet, so, we took out my parents' Laredo for a 4 day weekend.  Since Wayne was incapacitated, waste management was up to me.

  We were surprised when we got there at how large and well spaced the sites were. The campground has 112 sites, 32 with electric, and many amenities including a shower building.  High Cliff is located along the shore of Lake Winnebago, and also atop the Niagara Escarpment. The Niagara Escarpment, often called "the ledge," was formed by the settling and hardening of limy ooze at the bottom of the Silurian Sea, which covered much of Wisconsin nearly 400 million years ago. It stretches from New York through Illinois.

Most of the land in the park used to belong to a limestone company and some remnants of the kiln operation still remain. The State of Wisconsin took ownership when Western Lime closed in 1956.


Wayne was content sitting at the picnic table with a beer, watching the squirrels and woodpeckers at work, but I hit the trails as much as I could. The trail system there is incredibly good, though I did get a little turned around on the outer horse trails when I went for a run on our last morning there.  The easiest trail is the Red Bird trail which circles the campground area and travels along the top of the escarpment. It was especially beautiful at sunset and as I mentioned in my last post this is the first place that I saw may apple growing below the trees.

There is also a stairway that takes you to trails going down the escarpment.  I saw lots of dragonflies and even a few chipmunks on this trail which eventually winds its way down to the lime kiln area.

I also saw quite a few turkey vultures, even coming upon one in the middle of the trail getting ready to take advantage of a raccoon carcass. Once he saw me he took off but he and his buddies didn't go far, just circled above me relentlessly until I left them to it. This is a really great campground, and I hope we get back to it sometime soon so that Wayne can explore it with me...and so I can bring a lens to capture those turkey vultures!

Wayne's pant leg is cut off to accommodate his walking cast he was still using

Monday, May 7, 2012

Big Foot Beach State Park

I've made it a goal this year to get to as many Wisconsin State Parks as possible. We've been to quite a few already, but there are probably just as many that we haven't seen since we are so fortunate to have such a large state park system.  I decided to start by checking out the one that is practically in our back yard that I have never even driven through.

photo courtesy of Friends of Big Foot Beach State Park

Big Foot Beach doesn't look like much when you drive by, which is why I've never gone in. It has a four foot high chain link fence separating its boundary from the road that runs alongside the shore of Lake Geneva, away from the downtown tourist area. Immediately inside is a fishing pond with a couple of bridges spanning it, and the treeline behind this pond blocks any further view of the park. I didn't even know until I went on the WI DNR website that they have a campground inside. I took a quick drive around the loop, and it looks like an older design for smaller campers. Most of the sites do not have electric and seem to be geared more towards tent camping. The park also has ample day use areas for volleyball and picnicking. What makes the park worth a stop though is their trail system.  For a smaller park it is a nice one, with trails that intersect each other and display quite a variety of forest and wildflowers. There is also a lot of bird activity here, including some birdhouses in the more open areas that attract birds, as well as bat houses.

At one of the trail intersections I saw a smattering of these blooms on some short trees growing. If someone knows what these are, please let me know! I did some searching on the internet but couldn't figure it out. I've never seen these around here before, and trees are definitely not my forte.

I was pleased to discover we have trillium here in Wisconsin too! I knew we had Jack-in-the-pulpit since I first came to know this plant through a gardener friend of mine some years ago.

While looking for plants on the trail I occasionally stopped and pulled the annoyingly plentiful garlic mustard, leaving piles of it behind me on the trail as I went along. Much better than a trail of breadcrumbs if I needed to find my way back to the parking lot! It came out easily since everything was soaking wet from last night's rain. During a break from all that pulling I found a rotting branch with some great orange fungus growing on it. You don't see that kind of color around here normally. 

The may apple was in bloom, which I got so excited about that I laid down in the mud with only my tripod cover to kneel on to take some photos. I only recently found out the name of this plant and that it even bloomed at all! I first noticed these plants at High Cliff State Park up by Appleton when we camped there two years ago. I'll post about our visit to that park in my next blog entry.

I'm not the only one interested in the may apple

 We've had a lot of rain the last few days and by the time I was done squishing my way along the trails I was pretty wet and muddy. When I got home I got rid of the evidence as quickly as possible so I didn't get a lecture from Wayne before he headed off to work the mid-day shift today. Those non-photographers just don't understand the lengths we photographers will go to get a shot!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spring in Volo Bog

Eager for a hike after working 4 days in a row, I headed out to Volo Bog. I was there about six weeks ago during the strange warm-up that the midwest experienced and thought that I had seen what the bog looked like in spring, but I was wrong!

Volo Bog has a visitor's center with a perennial garden, benches and bird feeders.  The bulletin board had up a notice about guided bird walks on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 and 1, so if you're in the area stop on in!  Some of the perennials are up and blooming already, including this plant that I've never seen before.

After passing the visitor's center it's just a short stroll down to the interpretive trail that is a floating boardwalk through the bog. When I was there on Sunday I spent some time watching two pairs of Canada geese who were hanging out by the boardwalk and also watching this Great Egret fishing for lunch.

While the interpretive trail is nice, after watching the birds for a little while I opted for the 3 mile long loop hike instead. It was full of blooming bushes and there are birdhouses set up along the trail so visitors can glimpse them easily. I saw 14 varieties of birds, without binoculars and without trying! It seems I missed a lot of the spring wildflowers, or else there just aren't that many here.

I went off trail a little bit to see if I could find some jack-in-the-pulpit or other plants common to wet areas, but all I found was this darling little fern....and my first muskrat of the year!

Back on the trail, I heard movement in the bushes and spied this fat robin, then a few minutes later found this unusual fungus growing on the top of branch. It's great to come back to a place you've been before and still discover new things!

Since I was here six weeks ago they've done a lot of work clearing brush, burning, and creating a new observation deck. A large portion of the bog wasn't visible before along the trail because of the heavy brush growing there, but now it's all cleared out and it felt like I was someplace I'd never been before. I also stopped at the observation blind but there weren't any waterfowl in that area today. If you visit, make sure to watch out for coyotes - they've been spotted hanging out there according to signage. They've marked their territory and the blind is a little smelly! I also saw rabbit fur and coyote scat on the trail, but don't let that keep you away, Volo Bog is the best outdoor recreation area I've seen in Illinois!