Let it Grow

Most golf enthusiast took time out of their busy schedules to watch some of the US Open last week, held at beautiful Erin Hills Golf Course here in Wisconsin. The course itself is designed around a great piece of property, where they tried to disturb as little as possible and leave some wonderful natural grass areas. Encouraging native areas can be a win-win for golfers and the environment. These areas normally require less inputs such as water, fertilizer and mowing while providing better habitats for wildlife. Voyager is lucky to already have some great natural areas and I would like to see us continue to add to them.

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This area is great for pollinators

The how, when, where and why of establishing a golf course is unique to each course and deserves a lot of thought before rushing into such a venue. Players at Erin Hills are mostly those who have low handicaps, so carrying a ball a long distance over a native field of grass with a walking path mowed through it is not an issue, but the same might not be a good idea for a course like Voyager.

Having proper irrigation coverage, or ideally lack of it, is also important for maintaining a natural area. An example of this is our own hole number 11. Much of the rough left of the second pond to the green is not ours and was left to grow wild.  Our sprinklers there are not positioned to water just our property and actually water out into the other, non-mowed grass. This promotes a different type of grass that is thick and really unplayable and wouldn’t be easy to change without a plan and inputs. Compare that sight to the hill between the hole one and nine fairways on the par three that we left go natural that doesn’t have any irrigation.

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Thick tall grass hole 11

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Shorter, colorful native par 3 grass

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I can say there is a lot of things that play into making the proper decision in whether an area should be let go natural or not, but it can be great for all walks of life if implemented in a positive way.

Summer Scenes

We all have a list of things we would like to get done before Jack Frost returns to claim his rightful place in the great Northwoods. For me, planting the garden is always a staple on this list, but this year I decided to instead put priority on a memorable family vacation before my kids got too cool for spending time with their old mom and dad. As school got out and the temperatures began to rise, we began our summer adventure by heading West to Yellowstone National Park.

Snow cone anyone?

“Who you calling Short?” Marmot in Beartooth Pass.

Our first stop was to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Here bison, feral horses and tree-covered badlands dominated the landscape. We next headed through the Beartooth mountains in Montana on our way to Yellowstone. Driving through the pass in the Beartooth mountains provided some incredible views, but is not for the faint of heart as you zig-zag your way up to about eleven thousand feet in elevation and then back down. Along the way we saw some hardy winter enthusiast enjoying snowmobiling and skiing on snow that was nearly twenty feet deep in some spots. These trails have only recently been opened and are actually closed again due to more snow.

Mammoth Hot Springs.

White Cap Geyser in Yellowstone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once through the Beartooth pass we spent multiple days in Yellowstone and the surrounding area. The thermal features in Yellowstone are truly one-of-a-kind and really shine a light on how the Earth around us is constantly changing. We also visited Earthquake Lake just outside the park. This more evidence on how the world is at work under our feet; in the late 50’s a 7.3 magnitude earthquake caused a part of a mountain to sluff off and fall into the Madison River, damming its flow and flooding a large section of land.

Earthquake Lake in Montana.

From Yellowstone Park we headed back through the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, which was full of wildlife and ever-changing, great views. Here we encountered one of the many highlights of the trip; we saw eight moose feeding along in one spot and had some of them walk within 20 yards of our truck.

Moose on the move.

We ended our vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where we saw plenty of wildlife and did some successful trout fishing in one of the rivers that provided a tasty supper last night.

I hope that all of you take time to chase down one of your items on your bucket list this year and savor those memories for life!

Don’t mess with me.

-Steve

A real sharp-looking critter!

If you find yourself driving through the Village one day, window down to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors and you just happen to see an animal walking down the road, I can tell you what to not do next. That is to turn the car around, stop the car, jump out of the vehicle with the door wide open, and chase after the thing with the hopes of getting a picture. For me, this scenario happened last week and the animal in question was a Porcupine.

Porcupine climbing tree.

I just wanted a hug!

At the time, chasing after a Porcupine seemed somewhat daring but ultimately fairly low risk, as they are not extremely fast nor vicious as long as you don’t get too close to their tail. Once I caught up to the thing it stopped and started to turn around, showing me its backside in self-defense. We got into some sort of dance of me trying to face it head-on to get a decent picture and it trying to keep its rear pointed at my face. Eventually we got into a position where I was still behind it, but it happened to now be facing the road and, more importantly, my parked car. Before I could even process the circumstances that might transpire, the Porcupine decided to bolt towards my car for safety. It was finally now when my brain realized that I had left the door to my car wide open. It took me a few precious seconds to actually start moving, a part of me frozen with the mental image of what could happen; a huge prickly rodent stuck to my front seat, filling it with quills. Luckily the thing was feeling somewhat merciful to me that day and opted to instead hide under the driver’s-side rocker panel of the old Caprice Classic.  So remember, the next time you see something you want to chase, take time and shut the car door.

This past week we also saw our first run at some warm temperatures that apparently allowed some remaining turtle eggs to hatch from our sand traps, as I saw a cute little painted turtle headed across the number one green.  I took a picture to help you reference how small and fragile they are when they hatch.

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Was that a right turn or left?

The fly in this past weekend was a great success and I want to thank all that helped make that happen, or simply took time to be part of it.  On the unfortunate side of things, I saw the emergency helicopter using the airstrip yesterday, but I suppose it makes you appreciate this great asset that we have in the Village. IMG_5213[1]

 

 

Please Bee Careful

I hope that you all find time to enjoy this wonderful weekend and explore all the things our area has to offer. For the nature hikers out there, this time of the year means that some of the Black Bears have cubs. Even though we all know that mothers can be protective of their young, don’t let this discourage you from enjoying yourself outdoors. In the past century there have been less than 70 fatal Black Bear attacks across North America, according to the North American Bear Center. Most attacks by Black Bears are defensive reactions in response to a person who gets very close to them, which is an easy situation to avoid. A Bear has recently been hanging around the Mullner trail near the Eagle nest so be sure to use caution.

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Picture by Kermit VanRoekel

There are many other animals who are currently prepping for and raising their young. I hear the young eagles making a lot of noise trying to get there parents attention on our lake. I also see the foxes are doing well in Voyager and I counted a total of 10 pups playing around by our maintenance shop on hole 18 the other morning. This should help keep the rodents down and may discourage the geese from bringing the young on the course for awhile.

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Fox takes it easy

One of the biggest downsides of Spring is certainly all of the pollen in the air, at least for those who suffer from allergies. I feel for you on days like today; my honey bees are providing plenty of proof as they return to their hive that pollen is plentiful right now. They work so hard all year to provide their beekeepers with some of their liquid gold each year and it’s certainly worth it. When you pop open a jar in the middle of the winder you can almost taste the sunshine from a day like today.

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Plentiful Pollen

Take care and enjoy the fishing opener on Saturday!

 

This weather is for the Birds

Tuesday morning snow made for a delightful site

This week saw the first spring snow to have fallen since the robins returned from the south. Folklore says that it will snow on them three times before we are done with the white stuff for the season. I did see a chance of rain and snow in the forecast early next week; I hope that we’re not on track to prove this folklore true, as I don’t want to deal with snow anymore. I really do enjoy the beauty of winter, and it’s not too bad to stomach when it’s all melted the same day that it comes. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this, seeing as not very many were excited to see the snow this week. Golfers and some of the birds looked a little confused about what to do next.  The woodcock below seemed to have the right idea to just sit tight and wait it out.

“I knew I should have listened to mom and dad and not fly north so fast.”

We have also been blessed with some nice weekend weather recently and lets hope that this trend continues for everyone’s Easter weekend.  No matter if your main focus is feasting on some great food or just spending some quality time with the family, it’s important to take time to savor the moment.  Time is most important thing in our lives so make the most of it when its in the palm of your hand waiting to be taken!

The Voyager desert bar is always a hit on Easter Sunday

From my family to yours!

Out like a Lamb!

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Birch Island, very “Lamb Like” on this final day of March

The last day of March went out in style; sunshine, light winds and above normal temperatures were the theme for today and most of this week. The maintenance staff took advantage of the nice weather by installing a couple of long steel poles that hold our new dock in place at Lake Little Bear. Since the water drops off so quickly we need support poles that are 35 feet long. A special barge was brought in to help us with this task.

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35 foot pole being slid into place

Emmett, the owner of the barge, is no stranger to running a lift or handling tall tasks. He actually was the guy who ran the crane that installed the new three hundred foot cell tower in Web Lake. Believe it or not he actually flew a drone and operated the crane at the same time in order to get an aerial view and make things a little easier.

The boat landing at Little Bear was also fixed today, as good as we can do for the time being. Caution should be used until more concrete pads can be hauled in and installed. Little Bear beach house will also be the location for the start of my Earth Day seminar on April 22nd at 1 pm.  We will be learning about a host of tree issues including whatever might concerns the attendees.  Then we will be going across the street to try and find some desired specimens for everyone to take back with them to their house or other areas in Voyager.

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This tree has signs that it could fall on your house or garage

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Hundreds of trees need you. Please come give them a home!

 

As we leave winter behind us I wanted to share a couple of pictures of things that I found interesting around the golf course.  This past winter with the water levels high the ice has pushed up mounds of dirt around our lakes, including on Birch Island by our par 3 course. The wind also made it marks in many ways, as it blew piles of sand out of our sand traps and caused some problems that will haunt us for sometime.

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Line drawn in the sand between greens tarp and sand that blew out of the trap.

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Ice push on three green, par 3

 

Reflections

Each time the Trumpeter swans dipped their necks into the mirror-like waters of Culbertson Lake, I carefully made my decent down the steep bank. I had stalked these two swans before and even though they knew I have never posed any immediate danger, they still kept their distance. Earlier this year they had eluded my lens by moving into the shadows of the trees. Today provided a different outcome where I was able to slither my way through the maze of downed aspen trees to reach the banks. They quickly recognized they had a spectator and slowly swam toward the beaver hut, away from the lone wolf of the paparazzi on Culbertson Lake.

Two swans a swimming

As the swans made their way around the perimeters of the unthawed portions of the lake, I heard another noise that came from the frozen section. An otter was popping up from one hole to the next enjoying a little spring-time warmth. He too was on the outer limits of my camera and made me think that I might want to invest in a spotting scope and give that a try. I hear that you can use that with your camera to get some great close up shots. That gives me two good reasons to get one now, so that makes it a necessity in my mind right?

Midnight blue ice

otter fun

As I watched the otter I couldn’t help but think about the family of beavers that used to keep the lake levels a bit higher. If you weren’t aware, many times otters chase off the beavers and take over their lodges. The otters, like the beavers, will give me plenty of entertainment this summer that I hope to share with you.

This year’s weather has sure been interesting too. I look up the stats so far this year and the month of January was 6 degrees above normal, and February was an astounding 11 degrees above normal. Both months have also seen over an inch more precipitation than average, but mostly in rain rather than snow. March has been about two degrees below normal on the temperature side of things, but has been ahead on the moisture end once again. This little cold snap is about to end and this weeks temperatures should rebound quite nicely. This warm up will finally allow us to  open the driving range on Monday and the golf courses on Wednesday at 11 am.

The course was originally nice and green when the snow first melted, but the recent cold and wind has turned it brown in most locations. The best looking grass on the course can be found on the putting green. 12 green and 9 green which we had tarps on. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done yet before the course can return to its normal green and pristine condition.

12 green after the tarp was removed

So spread the word and enjoy your upcoming week! I hope to see you swinging the club sometime soon.

Danger: Thin Ice

Pressure crack opening up on Birch Island

Ice conditions on our area lakes have been deteriorating for almost a month now. Warm weather and stronger sun angles have already pushed some lakes into the final, critical stage of ice-melt. For us, this means dealing with shoreline erosion. When the ice is no longer frozen to the shore, large chunks start to shift around. This shifting is further driven by strong winds, like those we experienced last week. Intense winds can move these ice sheets in manners similar to Earth’s tectonic plates; in some spots sheets of ice will collide with one another, often causing the lighter of the two sheets to be pushed under the other. Other sheets of ice can be forced up onto the shore, creating rapid erosion of the shoreline. All of these processes create more open water, which the wind can then blow around to eat away at existing ice, which in turn creates more ice sheets that drive the process even faster.

Ice push on Par 3 golf course

Needless to say, the end result of the winds this week was a lot of open water on multiple area lakes. What’s crazy to me is that you can still go out to find up to 10 or even 12 inches of ice in some places, but it varies so greatly even on a single lake. I can’t help but dread that we’re going to have some very cold days coming up. It’s my fear that some of these spots of open water will freeze up again with a thin layer of ice and someone will walk or drive a vehicle over them and fall in. I honestly have never seen such varying conditions on our lakes so please consider my warning and pass it along.

Wind sock at attention

Beside making a mess out of our area lakes the wind caused a host of issues for people in the community. Trees that were weak or compromised by something fell victim to the raging winds that hit 50 mph at times.  Parts of the golf course look like a mad-man with a samurai sword went to town through our beautiful course. When our wonderful volunteers assemble this spring for our annual golf course cleanup day I’m quite assured that everyone will go home knowing that their kind gesture was needed and made difference.  For me it is this assembly of member power that signifies the start of a great new season!

Spring will soon be here with all its renewed beauty (Hanscom Lake 2016)

The Color Green

I would have to guess that if someone were to ask my blog followers “what do you think is Steve’s favorite color”, a majority of you might answer green for obvious reasons. The answer to that question is actually blue for about 10 months of the year, but when spring comes around I confess that I turn into a green lover.  For me there’s no better sight than a green blade of grass poking out of the grips the ‘winter midnight white’ as I call it.

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14 green on Feb 23

2017 will forever be remembered by me as the first year that I saw almost the entire golf course look green in February.  This was such a relief for me, as I had worried about the course ever since ice formed on our greens and other low areas right after Christmas.  Normally Poa Annual grass is not a big fan of stress in the winter and would rather die and come back from seed in the spring that fight for is life.  This years early melt however allowed some fresh air to get to the plant and was literally a life saver for some of our turf.

I know that many of you were happy to hear this morning that we missed out on a snow storm that went just south of us, but I personally would have welcomed a blanket of snow to insulate the grass from the ever-changing temperatures this time of the year. But before we all celebrate and grab our clubs and head out to the course, we have to remember that we’re not out of the woods yet. We very may be open by St. Patrick’s day like last year, and might even be our earliest opening yet, but only time will tell.

One thing  is for sure that the changing weather this past week has provided some great sunrises and sunsets and lots of noise from geese and swans already returning for the season.

Sunrise at West Cadotte Sunday February 19, 2017 as we got ready to install the new docks on the ice

Sunrise at West Cadotte, February 19th, as we got ready to install the new docks on the ice.

If you’re looking for something to do these days, come join the adventure club and take a hike around the Village.  The conditions are perfect for hiking right now and those pesky bugs shouldn’t be an issue this weekend. However, my son was down by our creek early this week and already had a tick, so don’t let your guard down and forget to practice tick safety when you are out enjoying the outdoors.

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Irrigation pond already open and taking goose reservations

-Steve

Help Wanted

The past two weeks have once again seen a melt and then return to winter.  This up and down weather certainly is not good for the golf course as ice continues to build up.  Snowmobile trails were shut down for over a week, but thankfully this week’s four inch snowfall has enabled most of the trails around Voyager Village to be opened up again. For snow enthusiasts good news is in the forecast for next week and conditions should continue to improve. The ski club has also been busy and overcame some equipment issues earlier in the week and now have the trails in good conditions.  A skating area has also been graciously established by a member in front of the East Cadotte beach so lace up those skates and have some fun!

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Melt water on greens last week

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Caution: slippery when wet!

 

Unfortunately for the maintenance staff this winter has been hard on our ranks; two full-time employees have been laid up with injuries. This along with budget cuts have been at the forefront of my mind lately, especially since there is never a shortage of projects to tackle year-by-year in our community. I’m sure most of you know I’ve never particularly been the type to ask for help, but right now I could truly use some extra hands. If any of you have time to spare or a passion to help out I would highly encourage you to adopt a hole, beach, flower bed, sand trap, dock, trail or recreational area to help maintain this coming season. I will be creating a list over the next few weeks and will share it with anybody who is interested. Even if just a fraction of our members pitched in for one hour a week, that can quickly add up to hundreds of hours over the season spent improving our community. We have accomplished so much over the years together and I have high hopes that this will be no different. If you have any inquires or even project ideas, please email them to me at stevejohnson@voyagervillage.com.

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Volunteers paved the way for many of the changes that members and guests enjoy today. Here in 2006 they fixed the rough and approach around 8 green.