Monday, December 5, 2016

Navarino offers big trees for a pair of sawbucks

By David Horst

NAVARINO -- For us, getting a Christmas tree is always an adventure.

Our tree is live. It’s cut by us. It is large.

We've had big fat trees, tall conical trees and bigger, fatter trees.

We’ll travel 20 miles for a tree. We have hiked every inch of an 80-acre tree farm and then walked away empty-handed when none of the trees met our -- well, really her -- standards.This year we went to the wild side. Unshorn trees in a former tree farm in the Navarino Wildlife Area were going for $20. Any size. Any species. Sales benefit the Navarino Nature Center.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Smaller turnout in the locks was OK

By David Horst

This was a far cry from 150 boats.

That's how many kayaks, canoes and stand-up boards we expected to show up at Lutz Park for the Appleton Locks Paddle.

That was before the one-week delay, due to hazardously high water flow on the Fox River, and the forecast for rain all day on our substitute date, Oct. 1.

The 38 boats that showed up didn't pack the locks full, as photos of past years' trips testify. No clanking of gunwales. No pushing of boats into the path of the lock gates.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ellen's 'Migration'

By David Horst

The love of my life and I visited the Green Bay Botanical Garden this summer. As we always do, we went to the domed Stumpf Belevedere gazebo to read the line of Ellen Kort's poetry inscribed there.

Ellen Kort
It was the first time we had been there since Ellen's passing more than a year ago. There was such a powerful feeling of loss that we had to leave the shelter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

At Home with Hummers

Each year nature seems to send a special gift to us up on the sandhill we call home. Last year, it was a bounty of monarch caterpillars transforming into butterflies. In recent weeks, we have been surrounded by frolicking hummingbirds.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Cottonball sky

The sunsets frequently are beautiful up on the Sandhill, but tonight the sky turned alien. Reds, purples, greens. A ridge of cloud containing a cottonball sky.

This explanation from WRFV-TV5 meteorologist Dave Miller:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Park-to-Park paddlers must portage

NEENAH, Wis. — A strong showing is expected for the Park-to-Park Paddle, launching at 9:20 a.m. July 23 from Neenah’s Shattuck Park and organized by North East Wisconsin Paddlers.

Paddlers received plenty of help when the P2P participants had
to portage around the Menasha Lock in 2014.
Kayakers, canoeists and stand-up paddlers will travel 8.5 miles along the Fox River, out onto Lake Winnebago, through downtown Menasha and on to Lutz Park in Appleton by way of Little Lake Butte des Morts and the Fox River. For the second time in three years, paddlers will have to portage around a closed Menasha Lock.

“In 2014, the lock was closed for mechanical repairs,” Jeff Mazanec, president of NEWP said. “This year the lock has been ordered closed by the DNR in an attempt to prevent the round goby from getting into the Lake Winnebago system.”

The small, highly invasive fish was discovered in Little Lake Butte des Morts by two Neenah High School fishing team members late last summer.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Upper Fox elevates quality paddling

By David Horst

Our group paddles have had an impressive history of good weather, but this was ridiculous. Temperatures lapping at 80 on May 21. Wind that was only detectable on occasion. Sun a constant companion.

We launched our 24 colorful boats at the White River Dam. We have used multiple times before. It's back in the woods east of Princeton. The reference to the dam is a historic one. This low head dam is so low as not to be visible.

The 28-foot Fox of the River.
This Fox River is not the same one that's bordered by houses, industry and urban parks in the Fox Cities. It flows through marsh and farm fields. The catfish outnumber the people.

Our usual circle gathering to talk route, rules and safety before launching took a solemn mood as we remembered Warren Brown, a paddler who had been with us on the Wolf River two weeks earlier and was with us no longer. Despite a protective suit, a lifejacket and training in self-rescue, he lost his life on Lake Winnebago.

Our ambitious route today takes us from White River to Berlin, 16 miles, just because there's no where else to land.

We chose up birds we wanted to see beforehand. The orioles, great blue heron, osprey and pileated woodpecker all made their appearances. The first eagle showed up while we were still on shore talking about them, and they kept coming until we couldn't count them anymore.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Paddle series ready to launch year 7

A trip on the Wolf River through downtown New London to Shaw’s Landing on May 7 will open the seventh year of the Heritage Paddle Series. 

Presented by North East Wisconsin Paddlers, with partner the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, the eight paddling trips for kayaks, canoes and standup boards will feature a return to the Peshtigo Flowage and the Tall Ships Festival in Green Bay, a beautifully rural stretch of the Upper Fox River and the popular annual Park-to-Park Paddle and Appleton Locks Paddle. Two of the weekends feature paddles on both Saturday and Sunday.

The 7.5-mile Wolf River trip will launch from the New London Electric Utility property at 400 E. Water St., near where the Embarrass River enters the Wolf, at 11 a.m. on May 7. Paddlers are to arrive at the utility starting at 9:30 a.m. to unload their boats and gear, take their vehicles to Shaw’s Landing and be shuttled back to the launch. Good weather last year drew 90 participants to the season-opening Wolf River Paddle.

Paddlers must complete a registration form and pay $10 to cover insurance, transportation, printing and other costs. Details on the paddle schedule are available at People who want to take part but don’t own a boat can book a seat in the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway voyageur canoes for most trips by calling 920-707-2965.

The rest of the series includes:

  • Upper Fox Paddle, May 21, meet at 9:30 a.m., launch at 11 a.m. from the White River Dam near Princeton to Berlin (16 miles) and 11 a.m. May 22 from Berlin to Omro (14 miles), with camping in Berlin’s Riverside Park.
  • Peshtigo Flowage near Crivitz, June 25-26, meet at 9 a.m., launch at 10 a.m. from landing No. 13 on the Caldron Falls pool Saturday (6.5 miles) and Landing No. 6 on the Big Falls pool at 10 a.m. on Sunday (5 miles), with camping at Gov. Tommy Thompson State Park and a shared camp meal Saturday evening in the Woods Lake Shelter in the campground.
  • 15th annual Park-to-Park Paddle, July 23, meet starting at 7 a.m. for a 9:20 a.m launch at Shattuck Park in Neenah to Lutz Park in Appleton (8.5 miles). Expect to have to portage around the closed Menasha Lock.
  • Tall Ships Paddle, Aug. 6, meet starting at 7:30 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. launch from Bomier Landing in De Pere, through the center of the river channel in downtown Green Bay where replica historic tall ships will be moored along both banks, to Green Bay Metro Landing (8 miles).
  • Appleton Locks Paddle, Sept. 24, meet starting at 7:30 a.m. for a 9:30 a.m. launch from Lutz Park in Appleton, through the four historic, hand-operated Appleton locks to Sunset Park in Kimberly (6 miles).

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cranes get social

By David Horst 

It appears this social media thing isn't just going to go away after all, so I decided to embrace it for this year's Midwest Crane Count.

With paid freelancing eliminated from The Post-Crescent and Gannett's Wisconsin newspapers, I am searching for another writing outlet. Heaven forbid, it might be social media. I dabbled in it last Saturday by delivering updates of my crane count over Facebook. People seemed to "like" it. I even discovered that there is a "love it" Facebook icon.

Here is a reprint of the morning's posts, with typos and omissions made on a pint-sized keyboard in the dim light of morning corrected.
Four cranes swoop into the counting area.

5:30 a.m.: I am at my counting site near Hortonville. The horizon already has an orange rim. The cranes will call soon, but not show themselves for a while.

5:40 a.m.: Two deer run and jump in the farm field as I set up the spotting scope. Not because they need to. Just because they can.

5:48 a.m.:
Crane calls mix with turkey gobbles. Nature is waking up. I won't count these. Too undefined.

6 a.m.: Two deer are at the edge of my crane area. That won't keep the birds away. The morning light is defining the farm field.

6:03 a.m.: Loud alarm calls ahead of me and to the east. They'll be out before long.

6:09 a.m.: First crane spotted. It flew in to the far edge of the field. Joined by No. 2.

6:17 a.m.:
The sun is a bright orange ball to the east. Three cranes are feeding in front of me. Another feeds with three turkeys to the west.

6:24 a.m.: A turkey in full display tries to attract a lady. Two cranes are with the turkeys now. Three more are feeding ahead of me. The count is five.

6:41 a.m.: I am in the company of 24 cranes and one confused tom turkey displaying for the cranes.

6:51 a.m.: Have not had a year like this in some time. There are 28 sandhills feeding in front of me.

7:14 a.m.: Sixteen minutes to go. 24 on the ground.

7:30 a.m.: Time is up on the crane count. My total is 28. 

It was an interesting media experience. But I have to say, Facebook definitely detracted from my experience. Instead of being fully immersed in nature, I had one hand in technology.

Will I do it again. Maybe. If I figure out a better way to do it. Or if I have no choice.

As friend and newspaper mentor Arlen Boardman told me, I can always go back into the woods some morning just for me.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Our time with Krash not long enough

Uncle Krash
By David Horst

I'm working on another cedar box.

This isn't for a planter or storing blankets. It's for an old friend.

Krash had been with us for 22 years. He was our second llama, a companion for our first purchase, Comet, because llamas are herd animals and aren't happy alone.

Krash earned his name. When he was a little cria on a llama farm in Cedarburg, his owners were walking some potential buyers along the pasture fence. A group of small llamas was coming at them from the other direction. The youngsters peeled off to either side of the approaching humans, except for one. Krash ran straight on. His tendency to be clumsy stayed with him.

His full name was Sharden's Krash Kradick. The farm's name combined with a spelling-altered version of a country singer's name.

He was far short of a herd sire. His ears were too long. His wool was too thin. His legs too skinny. He didn't measure up to conformation standards, but he was long on personality -- and loyalty.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Round goby threat was discovered by teen fishing club members

By David Horst 

NEENAH, Wis. — As Alec Schussman fished below the Neenah dam last summer, he couldn’t have known that operation of the Fox River’s navigational locks hung in the balance based on how he responded to the tug he felt on his fishing line.

He reeled in a 5-inch round goby, the first verified catch of that invasive species in the lower Fox River system, just a short swim from Lake Winnebago.

Alec Schussman (left) caught and Tristen Knuijt
identified the first verified round goby in the Lower
Fox River.  David Horst photo

The Menasha Lock was immediately ordered closed to block the little egg-eating fish from swimming upstream into Wisconsin’s largest inland lake. The closure temporarily stranded boats from their winter harbors and threatened the annual revenue and elaborate plans of the Fox River Navigational System Authority, the quasi-governmental organization that operates the 17-lock system on the lower Fox River on behalf of the state.

Quite a burden for the junior at Neenah High School, and a testament to his involvement in his high school fishing club.  

His fishing buddy since seventh grade, Tristen Knuijt, stood next to Alec, eyed the suction cup-shaped lower fin and black circle on the dorsal fin and knew it was a round goby.

“I’m a fish geek, so I know a lot about fish,” Tristen said. “I was 100% sure it was a round goby.”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Christmas enthusiasm leaves a mark

By David Horst

Our 2015 Christmas tree was
a ceiling-scraper, but it
was a 
beauty -- a 10-foot Fraser fir.
I discovered coworker a kindred spirit in a coworker this week when we started comparing stories about the greenish-brown streaks on our ceilings at home.

These are the marks of a homeowner who insists on a live Christmas tree -- a big, live Christmas tree. They appear when you push the envelope on your 9-foot ceilings or cathedral ceiling or two-story foyer and miscalculate by an inch or two.

Tip the tree up and the very top scrapes the ceiling. The combination of firm stem and green needles betray your miscalculation to all who enter your home.

We have a storied history of trees that push that envelope. None brought the woods into the living room like "the Beast." It was a massively thick white spruce that exceeded or 9-foot ceilings and was nearly as wide as it was tall. 

We gave up significant square footage of living space that Christmas season.

My coworker had heard my stories of Tannenbaum excess in the past and sought my advice when she and her husband decided to find a different tree farm to assure they could add to their ceiling scrapes.