Saturday, November 16, 2013

Coming down from the sandhill

In several of these columns, I've described events happening "up on the sandhill we call home."

From the threatened Blandings turtle crossing through the yard, to the screetch owl in the rafters of the barn, to the adventure of cutting a wasp nest out of a tree in the llama pasture, a lot of nature happened on that sandy hill outside of Hortonville.

But we no longer call the sandhill home.

Plans for a four-lane highway bypass across the road, running through the farm field where I counted cranes, watched tom turkeys in full display and saw deer gather by the dozens in the evening, was not something we cared to hang around to witness. That and thoughts of growing older in a two-story house with the maintenance of an oak woods sent us looking for a new place in the country.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wolf hunt grey areas addressed

By David Horst 

Not many people are neutral on Wisconsin’s wolf hunt. They represent nature free and wild to you. Or they are a threat to be feared by you.

What if you owned livestock in an area where wolves roam? What if your cultural traditions held them to be sacred?

These and other points of view will be explored fully at a program on Wisconsin’s wolves 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at Mosquito Hill Nature Center, N3880 Rogers Rd., New London. It is a chance to harden your position on wolves or better understand the other side of the issue.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tornado reshapes the woods

By David Horst

Destruction came to visit up on the sand hill we call home.

We were in the path of the f2 tornado that bounced through the Hortonville area. The roar of the wind about 1 a.m. was so loud, sleep was not possible. I went to the bedroom window and saw trees battered by such force that they seemed to be gripping the ground with their roots to hold on.

I thought to myself, we're going to lose a few trees. There was no siren and the forecast said nothing about severe weather. The storm passed so quickly, it seemed like damage would be minimal. A walk of our land Wednesday morning showed that couldn't have been further from reality.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Osprey nests a platform for mystery

By David Horst
View a slideshow

Pat Fisher is concerned about ospreys. Actually, she cares about all large birds, but this year ospreys have her very concerned.

Baby ospreys are disappearing from their nests.

An osprey chick is prepared to be weighed.
The New London bird rehabilitator tracks osprey reproduction in Waupaca, Outagamie and part of Winnebago counties. She counts how many young are in each nest, checks their general health and bands their legs for future tracking.

That’s what we were doing recently when I tagged along with Fisher and her crew and two guys from We Energies with a bucket truck.

Ospreys are bigger than a crow, smaller than an eagle. They are mostly white underneath but the tops of their wings are brown. A substantial brown stripe swooshes across each eye. To identify them in the air, look for wings that are slightly arched.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Eulogy of David Horst Sr.

David John Jacob Horst Sr.
May 6, 1928 - June 26, 2013

My family has suffered a tremendous loss.  We could see it coming from a long way off, but that didn't make it any less of a shock.  When the phone rang at 3:30 in the morning, it could mean only one thing -- what we thought was just days left with him turned out to be only hours.

Still,  I'm fortunate to have had him for 56 years.  Maybe he knew I was going to take that long to shape.   More likely it was that he knew my sister Jane would take nearly 60 years.

Most of what's best about me came from him.  My calm, my patience were his gifts.  That I know a crescent wrench from an open end and can use them to replace a fuel pump or bleed a brake line is his doing.  I got most of what we'll call his attention to detail.  Others might use the word perfectionist.   His blue eyes,  he kept for himself.  His instant and uncanny sense of direction I didn't inherit either. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Paddling Fox headwaters offers a twist

By David Horst

PORTAGE -- We stood there with clothes drenched and the rain beating down.

The landing on Swan Lake where we had taken a break for lunch offered no shelter, other than the mature trees. Still, I was defending the turtle.

I’ve told this story before. Early in the first season of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Paddle in 2010, an Ottawa medicine woman spoke to us about native healing traditions. The weather was threatening that day as well, but she reassured us that she had turned over a figurine of a turtle and that would cause the bad weather to pass on either side of us. It did, and we have been turning over turtles ever since.

Our perfect record of no rainouts was on the line.

Though we got doused pretty good last Saturday, the paddle from Indian Trails Campground near Pardeeville, on the headwaters of the Fox, did continue on to its completion after the storm moved off. Turtle exonerated.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wind and river give paddlers a push

By David Horst

SPRING GREEN -- Take majestic bluffs and a wide, tree-lined river. Add to that 80-degree temperatures, a 4 mph current and a strong tailwind and you’ve got the makings of a good day of paddling.

Better yet if you are with 20 friendly and interesting people.

That describes the second day of Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Paddle 2013. The first day wasn’t bad either.

May 18 we paddled the 11 miles from Arena to Spring Green on the Wisconsin River. The next day covered the 12.5 miles from Spring Green to Gotham.

The Arena landing is tucked down River Road off State 14 about 30 miles and a couple decades west of Madison. Fifteen kayaks and four canoes

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cranes, wolves and paddling

By David Horst

Here's a look at this and that while we wait to see if spring plans to stay for a few days.

April 13
I stood out in the driving snow pre-sunrise to take part in the annual International Crane Foundation Crane Count. Punctuating the prehistoric cackle of the sandhills was the occasional disquieting crack of ice falling from tree limbs after the ice storm that entombed tree branches like I have never seen before.

My count for the day was 27 sandhills -- seven on the ground and 20 flying over.

More noteable was

Monday, April 15, 2013

Author's nature book grows up

By David Horst

In 2006, I wrote an unabashed endorsement of Richard Louv’s “The Last Child in the Woods,” an enthusiastic but reasoned look at the healing power of nature and the ills of what he called Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Louv will be here in the Fox Valley April 22-24, speaking six times in multiple locations as a featured author for this year’s Fox Cities Reads and the Fox Cities Book Festival. So I’m calling the virtual Richard Louv Book Club into session right now. (Full disclosure: A grant program I work with in my day job at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region is one of the funders of Louv’s appearance.)Your first assignment is to go to to read my 2006 column and to read “Last Child in the Woods” — in that order.Next, we begin our critique and discussion of Louv’s followup book, “The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age.” In it, he applies to adults the lessons he uncovered in “Last Child.” He proposes there can exist the hybrid mind, enhanced by electronics like iPhones and video games, but calmed and focused by nature.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Cure offered for nature-deficit disorder

This is a repost of a 2006 column on Richard Louv's "Last Child in the Woods." He has been named the featured author for the 2013 Fox Cities Reads and will make multiple appearances for the Fox Cities Book Festival.

By David Horst
A book that finds hope for Earth’s future in treehouses and walks in the woods has been sweeping the nation, or at least the part of it populated by environmental educators and advocates.

As with most things, I caught the back of the wave. Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” (Algonquin, 2006) was already out in paperback by the time I picked it up.

Louv had me in the introduction. In recounting his childhood, he described mine. Knowing every bend in the creek. Wandering the woods on well-worn paths. Building forts. Catching crayfish with bits of liver tied to string.

My well-worn paths ran along Lincoln Creek (that’s pronounced “crick”) in Milwaukee. The crayfish came from the big lagoon at McGovern Park. The fort was in my friend Richard’s back yard, built with wood from my dad’s job site.

But that was then and now is a world of stranger danger paranoia, videogame hypnosis and league play for anything that would take a child outside.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Snow banks soon will fill river banks

By David Horst

As I drive between the darkening banks mounded along Highway 15, I’m not seeing snow. I’m seeing future river water.

2010 Tall Ships paddle

The red-winged blackbirds are trilling. The sandhill cranes have returned to the sand hill we call home. Winter has held us in its grip long enough.

Already, the creviced ice is receding to narrow frozen ledges along the shore and diehards are sliding canoes and kayaks over them to get back to the water.

The small but interesting band of paddlers I keep company with spent the off-season planning year number four of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Paddle series.

These about monthly paddles started in 2010 with a journey down 190 miles of the upper and lower Fox River. Not all of it -- but enough to see the river’s varied faces and the many moments in time suspended along its banks.

A highlight was cruising amid the tall ships -- wooden replicas of historic sailing ships that visited Green Bay in 2010.

For Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Paddle 2013, the tall ships are back. But that’s in August and I’m getting ahead of myself.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Climate affects small bale economics

By David Horst

Paul Robbins
Paul Robbins has an environmental institute at his disposal, with many ways to measure the impact of the Midwest drought on the economy.

I have only one.

I heard Robbins, executive director of the University of Wisconsin Nelson Institute for Environmental Science, speak eloquently and convincingly to the Appleton Noon Rotary about the need to determine and communicate the impact of climate change specific to Wisconsin's businesses, farms and people.

Afterwards, I offered him my measure -- the price of hay.

Due to another poor growing season, square bales of hay that hobby farmers like me were buying for $2.50 to $3 each for years, this fall were going for $6 or $7 per bale, if you could find any.

Here’s my analysis of small bale economics.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Houdini had the run of our hearts

By David Horst

There's a lot of joy missing from our house.

Nearly two years to the day after I wrote about the loss of our dog Molly, we are experiencing the heartbreak of the death of a pet again.

Houdini, our yellow Lab, was only 6 years old, but cancer is no respecter of birthdays.

We took Houdini to the vet last spring because he seemed to have something stuck in a nostril. He was sneezing and breathing uncomfortably. An examination didn't find anything at first, then in June, A CT scan found a nasal tumor. It was cancerous.

It’s a common story for this unfamiliar cancer. Nasal tumors make up only 1 percent of tumors in dogs, but 80 percent are cancerous. Nasal cancer is more common in larger breeds and older dogs.

We were referred to the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School. The tumor was inoperable, the cancer incurable.