Monday, October 27, 2014

Deep into Fall at Roshara


Last week brilliant fall colors.  Today, as I set by my pond, the maple trees are bare, the aspens are nearly so and the oaks now show the dull brown of late fall, those that still have leaves.
            The pond’s black water contrasts with the dead grasses, victims of several killing frosts the past week.  A cluster of birch trees stand a few yards in front of me, their striking white bark stands out against the tans and browns of fall.
            The smells of fall surround me, not at all unpleasant as I sit quietly listening to the sound of the northwest wind moving through the tops of the naked trees. We are deep into fall.  Winter is many days away, but the symbols and sounds are here—preparing us, I suspect, for what is to come.  

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Take time to enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of fall.

UPCOMING EVENTS:
November 1, 9:00 to 4:00 “Writing From Your Life Workshop” The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 1, 4:30 p.m., Book signing WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County. The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 8, 9:00-11:30, Plymouth Arts Center, Plymouth, WI.  Sponsored by Sheboygan County Research Center. Barns of Wisconsin.

November 12, Noon. Wisconsin Historical Society Tour, La Crosse, Weber Center for the Preforming Arts.  Farm Stories.

November 14, 6:30 dinner.  Port Washington Library.  Meeting at First Congregational Church, 131 Webster Street, Port Washington.  How I became a writer.

December 3, 7:00 p.m.  Live on Milwaukee Public TV.  A Farm Winter.

December 7, 1:00-2:15 and 2:30-3:15 Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells (Two sessions) Wis Farm Bureau Meeting. Writing From Your Life for Children and Grandchildren.

December 8, 8:00 p. m.  Live on Twin Cities Public TV.  A Farm Winter.

December 13, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Barnes and Noble, LaCrosse.  Book Signing.


January 28, 7:00 p.m. Stoughton Opera House.  A Farm Winter.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Birth of a Novel

When I first heard about the successes with hydraulic fracturing as a new way to extract natural gas and oil buried deep in the bedrock of several regions of the American Northeast, West, and Southwest, I was intrigued. But I was also skeptical about the promise of job opportunities and economic development offered by this relatively new technique.
Then I learned that the special kind of sand needed for the fracturing process could be found primarily in Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota and southeast Iowa. As a native of the “sand counties” of Wisconsin, I became even more interested and concerned. After many decades of working in and observing rural Wisconsin, I’ve learned that usually what sounds so good—more jobs and economic development—often has a down side, too.

I began reading newspaper reports that said frac sand mining was spreading, and that companies were buying entire farms in western Wisconsin to turn them into frac sand mines. I contacted the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey offices, and from the WGNHS I learned more about hydraulic fracturing and especially about sand mining—what it is, how it is done, and some of the challenges it presents.

By then I knew that the topic of frac sand mining would fit perfectly within the series of books I’ve been writing about a fictional county in Wisconsin, my Ames County saga. So far I have written five novels, all published by the University of Wisconsin Press and focusing on issues the people in that county have faced in past and recent history: soil conservation, land use planning, water pollution, and large-scale farming.

So that’s how the idea for the new novel, The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County, was born. I continued reading reports from many Wisconsin newspapers to see the ways local people were debating whether and how to allow frac sand mines to open in their communities.

Many people saw sand mining as an economic bonanza bringing much-needed jobs and tax revenues to their communities. Others worried greatly about environmental effects: processing the sand requires great amounts of water; fine dust from the process can cause respiratory problems; rivers and streams could become silted or contaminated with runoff; lights, noise, trucks and trains would transform the quiet countryside.
And, as is often the case with new endeavors, especially those expanding rapidly, laws and rules governing frac sand mining lag well behind the growth of the industry. Sand mining rapidly became a political issue, forcing local officials to vote yea or nay on zoning, regulations, taxation, and other policy issues regarding the mines.
In many of the communities affected, especially in western Wisconsin, emotions flared. Citizens who once were friends became adversaries as they took positions for or against a frac sand mine in their neighborhood.
In my novel The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County, I illustrate how a small Wisconsin community (fictional Link Lake) copes with the possibility of a sand mine opening in the location of their revered community park. The local historical society becomes involved when the sand mine officials declare that they must cut down the Trail Marker Oak, a historic landmark along an old Menominee trail, to gain access for large equipment. With the hope for increasing the tax base and keeping more jobs in the village, the Link Lake Village Board approves leasing the park to the mining company, with a resulting uproar that divides everyone in the village.

Through fiction I’ve tried to illustrate, in an entertaining way, how complicated local development issues can be. Too often emotions can trump logic, historic fact, and scientific findings. Clear thinking can disappear in a cloud of angry words.
In cases such as my Ames County story, and in my other five novels that all take place in this fictional Wisconsin county, I advocate the need for critical thinking, which allows for economic, environmental, historical, and political views to be examined in a clear-headed and deliberate way to make wise choices for our present and our future.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Who would have thought sand would become so valuable.

STILL ROOM: For those interested in writing your life stories, a few openings are still available for my November 1, 9-4 workshop.  Contact The Clearing for sign-up information: www.theclearing.org.

UPCOMING EVENTS:

October 23, 5:00 p.m. dinner, 6:00 p.m. presentation: Green Bay Neville Museum. Horse Drawn Days. Registration required.

November 1, 9:00 to 4:00 “Writing From Your Life Workshop” The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 1, 4:30 p.m., Book signing WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County. The Clearing, Ellison Bay, Wi.

November 8, 9:00-11:30, Plymouth Arts Center, Plymouth, WI.  Sponsored by Sheboygan County Research Center. Barns of Wisconsin.

November 12, Noon. Wisconsin Historical Society Tour, La Crosse, Weber Center for the Preforming Arts.  Farm Stories.

November 14, 6:30 dinner.  Port Washington Library.  Meeting at First Congregational Church, 131 Webster Street, Port Washington.  How I became a writer.

December 7, 1:00-2:15 and 2:30-3:15 Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells (Two sessions) Wis Farm Bureau Meeting. Writing From Your Life for Children and Grandchildren.

December 13, 1:00-5:00 p.m.  Barnes and Noble, La Crosse,  Book signing.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Frosty Morning Walk


Frost covers everything: the lawn, the woodshed roof, the cabin roof as I start my pre-dawn hike.  It is quiet, so quiet in the woods north of the cabin.  No sound except for the crunch of fallen leaves as I slowly move along, listening, looking—the oaks are about one-third full color, the maples at peak—and I am smelling the wonderful aroma of fall so different from the smells of all the other seasons.  Pungent, earthy smells recording the hand-off of fall to winter.

As I hike back toward the cabin, the sun begins to peak above my neighbor’s pine plantation to the east and soon I see the first rays of sunlight reflecting off the top of the big maple tree in front of the cabin.  This tree, a gift from my children on my 60th birthday, shows russet red from top to bottom.  A stunning display.

Spears of green winter wheat contrast with the white frost in the garden spot—now tucked in for the winter with its green cover.

Once back in the cabin I start the wood stove for the first time this fall.   I sit at my kitchen table with a strong cup of coffee.  It will be a good day.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS:  Take an early morning walk.  It’s good for the soul.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  For those in Central Wisconsin: Mark your calendars.  Launch of my new novel, THE GREAT SAND FRACAS OF AMES COUNTY will be at The Patterson Memorial Library in Wild Rose, October 16, beginning with refreshments at 6:00 P.M. Everyone invited.

STILL ROOM: For those interested in writing your life stories, a few openings are still available for my November 1, 9-4 workshop at the Clearing in Door County.  Contact The Clearing for sign-up information: www.theclearing.org.

UPCOMING EVENTS:
October 16, 6:00 p.m. Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, WI. Central Wisconsin Launch of The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 19, 12:30 p.m. Wisconsin Book Festival, Madison Main Library. The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 23, 5:00 p.m. dinner, 6:00 p.m. presentation Green Bay Neville Museum. Horse Drawn Days. Registration required.

November 1, 9:00 to 4:00 “Writing From Your Life Workshop” The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 1, 4:30 p.m., Book signing WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 8, 9:00-11:30, Plymouth Arts Center, Plymouth, WI,  Sponsored by Sheboygan County Research Center. Barns of Wisconsin.

November 12, Noon. Wisconsin Historical Society Tour, La Crosse, Weber Center for the Performing Arts.  Farm Stories.

November 14, 6:30 dinner.  Port Washington Library.  Meeting at First Congregational Church, 131 Webster Street, Port Washington.  How I became a writer.

December 7, 1:00-2:15 and 2:30-3:15 Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells (Two sessions) Wis Farm Bureau Meeting. Writing From Your Life for Children and Grandchildren.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Real Books


Ruth and I just returned from the Heartland Fall Forum held at the Depot Renaissance Hotel in Minneapolis, which is an old Milwaukee Road Railroad Depot, renovated and turned into a conference center.  The Heartland Fall Forum brings together independent booksellers (bookstore owners) from throughout the Midwest, plus a goodly number of publishers, librarians and a considerable number of authors.

 I was there signing my new book, THE GREAT SAND FRACAS OF AMES COUNTY.  I also signed THE QUIET SEASON, and RURAL WIT AND WISDOM.   It was a busy day of chatting with bookstore folks, from Omaha, NE; Leavenworth, KS, Bayfield, WI; Redwing, MN; St. Louis, MO; Minneapolis, MN plus folks from Indiana, Ohio, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and more.  Nonstop talking—but great fun.

            It was an opportunity to chat with my publishers, especially Andrea Christofferson from the University of Wisconsin Press, publisher of “Sand Fracas;”  Rebecca Weber McEwen and Melanie Roth from Fulcrum Press (publisher of “Rural Wit;”) and Kathy Borkowski, Kate Thompson and Halley Pucker with Wisconsin Historical Society Press (publisher of “Quiet Season”).

            And how could I not mention my old friends Chuck Erickson, a retired book salesperson, and Sam Spiegel, with Partners Book Distributing in Michigan.   Both have helped me so much over the past 20 plus years.

            Oh, need I mention that printed books—real books some folks call them—are still popular and much in demand.  Thousands of them were on display (children’s picture books, young adult books, and many new fiction and nonfiction books for adults) along with their smiling publisher representatives, and an equally smiling and upbeat group of independent booksellers who were paging through catalogs and books and writing orders.

            Back to work after three days in the Twin Cities.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS:  Try reading a real book.  They never need to be recharged, nor have their batteries replaced.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  For those in the Madison area: Mark your calendars.  Launch of my new novel, THE GREAT SAND FRACAS OF AMES COUNTY will be at Barnes and Noble, West in Madison on October 7, 7:00 p.m.  Everyone invited.


UPCOMING EVENTS:

October 6, 5:00 p.m. “Live At Five” TV show on Madison Channel 3 (CBS) Discussing The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County.

October 7, 7:00 p.m. Barnes and Noble, west Madison: The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 9, 11:00-12:30 p.m.  The Larry Meiller Show, Wisconsin Public Radio. The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County.

October 16, 6:00 p.m. Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 19, 12:30 p.m. Wisconsin Book Festival, Rm. 302, Madison Main Library. The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 23, 5:00 p.m. dinner, 6:00 p.m. presentation Green Bay Neville Museum. Horse Drawn Days. Registration required.

November 1, 9:00 to 4:00 “Writing From Your Life Workshop” The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 1, 4:30 p.m., Book signing WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 8, 9:00-11:30, Plymouth Arts Center, Plymouth, WI,  Sponsored by Sheboygan County Research Center. Barns of Wisconsin.

November 12, Noon. Wisconsin Historical Society Tour, La Crosse, Weber Center for the Preforming Arts.  Farm Stories.

December 7, 1:00-2:15 and 2:30-3:15 Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells(Two sessions) Wis Farm Bureau Meeting. Writing From Your Life for Children and Grandchildren.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hollow Potato

This was the year of the potato. We harvested about six bushels from the 12 rows in our Roshara garden, the highest yield in my many years of gardening. The yield was great and so was the size of the potatoes—many were larger than my fist, some as large as two fists. Unfortunately, some of the largest potatoes were also hollow, caused by stress and when potatoes grow too rapidly.  Hollow potatoes can be eaten, merely cut out the hollow part, which is usually discolored.

My dad grew acres of potatoes on the home farm and occasionally some of them were hollow.  He told the story of when he and Wilbur Witt, my uncle, peddled potatoes from door to door in Oshkosh.  This was back in the 1930s.  They sold a bushel of beautiful, big white potatoes to a woman.  The following week they returned to Oshkosh, and found themselves confronted by this woman who said, “Some of the potatoes you sold me were hollow.”

            “Those are special potatoes,” my dad said, with a straight face.  “What you do, is you plug the potato, removing a little core.  Fill the hollow part of the potato with butter, replace the plug and bake them.  Nothing better tasting.”

            “I’ll take another bushel,” the woman said

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Sometimes a hollow potato is a special potato.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  For those in the Madison area: Mark your calendars.  Launch of my new novel, THE GREAT SAND FRACAS OF AMES COUNTY will be at Barnes and Noble, West in Madison on October 7, 7:00 p.m.  Everyone invited.

UPCOMING EVENTS:
October 2, Heartland Forum, Minneapolis: The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County (A trade show, which is not open to the public.)

October 7, 7:00 p.m. Barnes and Noble, west Madison: The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 9, 11:00 a.m.  The Larry Meiller Show, Wisconsin Public Radio. The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County.

October 16, 6:00 p.m. Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 19, 12:30 p.m. Wisconsin Book Festival, Rm. 302, Madison Main Library. The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 23, 5:00 p.m. dinner, 6:00 p.m. presentation Green Bay Neville Museum. Horse Drawn Days. Registration required.

November 1, 9:00 to 4:00 “Writing From Your Life Workshop” The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI.

November 1, 4:30 p.m., Book signing WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI.

November 8, 9:00-11:30, Sheboygan County Research Center, Plymouth, WI. Barns of Wisconsin.

November 12, Noon. Wisconsin Historical Society Tour, La Crosse, Weber Center for the Preforming Arts.  Farm Stories.

December 7, 1:00-2:15 and 2:30-3:15 Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells(Two sessions) Wis Farm Bureau Meeting. Writing From Your Life for Children and Grandchildren.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Stonefield: Where You Can Visit The Past



STONEFIELD, Wisconsin Historical Society’s Museum of Agricultural History and Village Life, is tucked in a valley next to the Mississippi River about a mile north of the little river town of Cassville.  If you are a former farmer, have relatives on a farm, or are merely interested in what early farm life in the Midwest was like, STONEFIELD should be on your “a place I must visit” list.

Here you see early farm machinery, the real thing, not replicas, of such implements as reapers and corn binders, high wheeled wagons and threshing machines.  There’s a farmstead with an early 1900 farm house and barn and out buildings, and when you cross over a bridge you find a fascinating little village of yesteryear complete with a newspaper office, a one room school, a saloon, blacksmith shop, country grocery and meat market, hardware store and much more.

I was there Saturday with my fellow Fulcrum published writer, Kenny Salwey, who calls himself the “The Last River Rat.”  We were there telling stories, signing books and visiting with people spending the day learning about The Great River Road and life at an earlier day when people were less hurried and took time to visit with their neighbors and enjoy their surroundings.

It is always fun to talk with folks I’d met other times at Stonefield, and visit with my old friend. Allen Schroeder, who is director.  My daughter Sue, author of One Room Schools: Stories from the Days of 1 Room, 1 Teacher, 8 Grades, accompanied me.  She signing her book and talking with folks about life in a one room school.


It was a good day.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: A day visiting the past is a day to remember.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  For those in the Madison area: Mark your calendars.  Launch of my new novel, THE GREAT SAND FRACAS OF AMES COUNTY will be at Barnes and Noble, West in Madison on October 7, 7:00 p.m.  Everyone invited.

UPCOMING EVENTS:
September 24, 10:15. Wisconsin Retired Educators, Marriott West, Madison. Rural Wit and Wisdom

October 2, Heartland Forum, Minneapolis: The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 7, 7:00 p.m. Barnes and Noble, west Madison: The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 9, 11:00 a.m.  The Larry Meiller Show, Wisconsin Public Radio. The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County.

October 16, 6:00 p.m. Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 19, 12:30 p.m. Wisconsin Book Festival, Rm. 302, Madison Main Library. The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 23, 5:00 p.m. dinner, 6:00 p.m. presentation Green Bay Neville Museum. Horse Drawn Days. Registration required.

November 1, 9:00 to 4:00 “Writing From Your Life Workshop” The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 1, 4:30 p.m., Book signing WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI.

November 8, 9:00-11:30, Sheboygan County Research Center, Plymouth, WI. Barns of Wisconsin.

November 12, Noon. Wisconsin Historical Society Tour, La Crosse, Weber Center for the Preforming Arts.  Farm Stories.

December 7, 1:00-2:15 and 2:30-3:15 Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells(Two sessions) Wis Farm Bureau Meeting. Writing From Your Life for Children and Grandchildren.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Last Days of Summer


During these last days of summer, my prairie at Roshara is a panorama of yellow with a sprinkling of purple accent.  Goldenrods provide the yellow; blazing star wild flowers offer the purple. Honeybees are everywhere, working on the goldenrods, gathering nectar for what must be a delightful goldenrod honey.  And the sometimes scarce Monarch butterflies flit here and there by the dozens.

On a steep prairie hillside, the big bluestem grass, several large clumps of it, is now six feet tall with its flowers spread wide—in the shape of a turkey’s foot, as the grass is sometimes called.

And a few hundred yards to north, in the deep woods, a maple tree’s leaves have turned a brilliant red.  Soon hundreds of other maples will join the aspen, birch and oak in a blast of color that will convert my woodlot from its many shades of green to reds, yellows, tans and brown.

Once more the seasons are changing.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Every new season is welcomed; every new season a joy.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  For those in the Madison area: Mark your calendars.  Launch of my new novel, THE GREAT SAND FRACAS OF AMES COUNTY will be at Barnes and Noble, West in Madison on October 7, 7:00 p.m. Free.  Everyone invited
UPCOMING EVENTS:
September 20, 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Stories From the Land, Stonefield Village, Cassville.

September 24, 10:15. Wisconsin Retired Educators, Marriott West, Madison. Rural Wit and Wisdom

October 2, Heartland Forum, Minneapolis: The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 7, 7:00 p.m. Barnes and Noble, west Madison: The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 16, 6:00 p.m. Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 19, 12:30 p.m. Wisconsin Book Festival, Rm. 302, Madison Main Library. The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County

October 23, 7:00, Green Bay Neville Museum. Horse Drawn Days.

November 1, 9:00 to 4:00 “Writing From Your Life Workshop” The Clearing, Ellison Bay, WI

November 1, 4:30 p.m., Book signing WI The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County The Clearing, Ellison Bay, Wi.

November 8, 9:00-11:30, Sheboygan County Research Center, Plymouth, WI. Barns of Wisconsin.

December 7, 1:00-2:15 and 2:30-3:15 Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells(Two sessions) Wis Farm Bureau Meeting. Writing From Your Life for Children and Grandchildren.