I know. It’s been awhile. But you have heard about the winter we had?

I’ve sort of been hunkered down, trying to survive Wisconsin’s horrible winter. My heavens it was terrible. For like a month, there was a foot of ice with ruts in the alley where I parked the jeep. A FOOT of ICE. It was unbelievable. I mean, I spent eight years in Cleveland and I don’t recollect anything this miserable. There were a few weeks where I had to carry my dog to a pee spot, put her down, let her pee, pick her up, carry her to number 2 spot, put her down, let her do her business, then pick her up and rush her back in the house before she shivered herself into shreds. Brutal. And don’t even get me started on the heating bills.

But I digress.

Continue reading

Dave vs. Obamacare

This story neither supports nor vilifies the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” Though, as a backdrop for a crazy story, you couldn’t ask for anything better. I mean, it’s a law that was ostensibly passed to give millions of Americans access to affordable healthcare, something every other country on the planet already has. Unfortunately, what Americans actually got was another massive bureaucracy with a comically messy rollout, a bungling mishigas of code and, thus far, a lot of empty promises. It’s an awesome allegory, a brilliant metaphor, a wonderfully parallel story arc, or whatever the writers are calling such things these days.

Another important aspect of this story is the main character, Dave. Dave is an obsessive, compulsive guy. We’re not talking about someone who just checks the stove a few times before he can leave the house. But we’re also not talking about someone who can’t stop checking the oven and can never leave the house. He’s somewhere in the middle of the obsessive, compulsive spectrum. His worst problem is he tends to get bogged down in minutia. Anything from buying vegetables to sorting the post-it notes on his desk will occupy him for much longer than it should. So what happens when an obsessive, compulsive guy interacts with a byzantine government program? A really good story is what happens, especially if that guy is Dave.

Continue reading

Art? Along the roadside? In the middle of dairy land? Really? Huh.

It’s Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. For 11 days, anything you want to know about fermentation, there’s a class (or lecture) for that. But it’s not just fermentation. There’s also ecology and art.

I know. Sounds weird. Ecology I’d expect, but art in Wisconsin? Whodda’ thunk it? But somebody did and their names are Donna and Jay. They’re from Chicago and they came out here about 20 years ago to farm, which seems sort of random to me, and I don’t know the whole story behind their decision, just that they did it and 20 years later, they’ve gotten grants and have made this wonderful thing that combines food, ecology and art.

Continue reading

Cranes are so cool

They’ve woken me up with their trumpeting more than a few times. Their voices just ricochet off the bluffs outside the room I’m staying in and it’s like an alarm clock going off. It’ll jar you right out of a sound sleep…at about 5 or 6 am. Every time I see them, it takes my breath away. They are radical birds; they’re big, about 5 feet tall, their wingspan is at least 6 feet and they’re the biggest migratory birds. According to my CousinWIki, wild turkeys might be heavier, but they don’t migrate.

Anyway, I thought I was doomed to not catch them with my good camera. Every time I saw them, I was usually walking the dog. I used to carry my camera when I walked the dog, but it usually became a tug of war with her. She refused to allow my attention to be on anything other than her fabulous walk. So I gave up. This time, however, I ran her back to the house, grabbed the camera and I was lucky they were still in the field when I got back..

Prior to this shot, they were tossing leaves and things in the air. I guess that’s part of their dance. So, behold Lucy and Ricky, a couple of juvenile birds, briefly dancing in a Wisconsin field.

Very Ducky

So, my adventures in the wild continue.

This morning, I woke up a 5am to go band ducks. I know, it sounds crazy. I mean, I lived in Brooklyn for 25 years, but here I am and this is what you do here.

Banding is when you catch a bunch of them in a net, put metal bands on their legs and then set them free.

The site sort of looks like this early in the morning, only, there would be lots of ducks eating the corn. It’s right along the Wisconsin river.


Somebody sits off to the side somewhere in a blind, being really quiet and camouflaged and waiting for what they think is the maximum number of ducks. Then, they press a button and bam, a net shoots out and a bunch of ducks are caught.

Don’t worry. They’re not harmed in anyway, they’re just a little freaked out.

 We were a ways away and could hear the thing go off pretty well. We sort of had to jog to the site when we heard it because we were out by Curt’s house.

So basically, you have to work your way into the net and grab hold of one of the ducks, untangle him (or her) and then carry it over to be banded.


They tend to get their heads out one of net holes and occasionally, the longer feathers on the wings will be tangled as well.

The bands are all set up according to sex and estimated age.

DSCF4983And once they figure out the sex and approximate age, they band it

DSCF4982and let it go. These were wood ducks, so, to tell what sex it is, you look at the white tips (scalloped means female I think) and to tell the age, you look at the tail feathers to see if there’s any down left. Also, I think you can look at the wiener for the  male ducks. The older the duck, the bigger the wiener. But it’s really buried in there. Really hard to find, like worse than Hedwig hard to find. One guy was quite the duck guy. He’s been doing this for nearly 25 years. He says he must’ve banded over 10,000 birds. He had this giddy smile on his face the whole time.

Holding a duck is kinda weird. These were about the size of large pigeons. Squirmy as hell. To get a hold of them and control them, you sort of have to grab them by their wings and gently pin them back a bit, like making their “elbows” touch. Then, if they’re still squirmy, you can try to tuck their heads in the crook of your arm or, if you have big hands and can hold the wings together with one hand, you can use your other hand to cover their heads a bit. They don’t bite at all but they do scratch. They have, like, pointy toenails. I’m sure there’s a technical name for it, talons or something, but not as dramatic, cause, like, it’s a duck. My first one really got me good before I realized I had to stay away from their feet. Ideally, you want to hand the duck to the person who’s  doing the banding “business side up” which means legs up, butt out. but I didn’t do that. I was too worried about losing my grip. And yes, the front of my shirt was covered in duck poop.

This time, they banded 117 ducks, which I guess was a very respectable number. It would’ve been 119, but two people accidentally lost their grip and the bird got away. Very embarrassing. SO glad that didn’t happen to me. And one bird was already banded so they just wrote down the number and will look in the database to see if it was one of theirs or somebody else’s. I guess most of these birds will migrate down to Louisiana for the winter. Some go elsewhere, a few even went to Ontario, but most go to Louisiana.

So, to my family down there, if you see a banded wood duck, it might be one of my new neighbors from up here.





A funny thing happened on the way to the prairie…

Finally made the move to Wisconsin. Drove all the way up from New Orleans to La Crosse, Wisconsin, via Memphis and St. Louis.  Before it was all over, we drove nearly 1,200 miles in two cars and a truck. That was some trip. And I have never seen a lovelier place than Wisconsin.

The view across the road. The Wisconsin river is on the other side of that tree-line.

The view across the road. The Wisconsin river is on the other side of that tree-line.

One of my favorite things about Wisconsin is I have family here. Right now,

Continue reading

It’s been an odd week

Wow. I haven’t posted for two whole weeks. Where has the time gone? Oh, right, I know. I’ve been on the move. Peter is staying behind in NOLA, teaching at UNO and starting his two major research projects and the stepson got his first, full-time summer job. After a rough year and an even rougher move, I just felt the need to mooch off family… in the North… where the temperatures are more reasonable. (Lagniappe is comfortably enjoying her stay at the Spa, a.k.a. my in-laws’ house on the North Shore.)

Read on….

Continue reading