Beauty of the winter Northwoods

Winter can sure be a beautiful time of the year! Although it’s technically still fall, I think most of us can agree when the temperature drops and the snow hits, it’s close enough.  This past week’s rain and snowfall certainly helped highlight this. As always, Ma Nature puts on all kinds of wonderful displays and has the power to sweep her green landscape clear with a wave of her windy hand.  Luckily I grabbed my camera and made a few stops on my way home the day of the snow and captured some of the highlights that caught my attention. So sit back in your chair in the warm comfort of your home and enjoy a couple of these shots.

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Let’s be Thankful one more time!

A little over a week ago, many of us were lucky enough to sit down with family and friends to enjoy a great feast and reflect on what we should be thankful for. I think that this is a practice that we all should strive to integrate into our daily lives, but sometimes it is swept aside in our hustle and bustle. Some things in life should truly have more than a single day dedicated to them, but time and time again the daily hustle and bustle sweeps some of these things aside. I hope that by saying it, and putting it into words, I can try to keep myself focused on the positives of life while also trying to drag a few of you along with me.

As I type away this morning, I see the orange glow of the sun starting to rise over the horizon. Shafts of golden winter sunlight shimmer across the thin ice covering Culbertson Lake that I’m so grateful to have in my backward. Most of us do thankfully realize the importance these natural resources play in our lives, and oftentimes is the driving force for why many of us live in the god-forsakenly cold Northwoods. It’s certainly what drives my humble blog and who I am. I’m not sure if we can pay our environment enough respect, but I hope that my pictures over the years have inspired a few of you to want to learn and do more to keep our natural resources in the pristine state they truly deserve.

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Sunset Culbertson Creek

I will verify that recently the skies have been kind and we should be thankful for the great weather and plenty of opportunities to view spectacular sunrises and sunsets. I personally dislike the short days we have right now, but if you’re not a early morning nut like me it gives even the novice morning addict an opportunity to watch the sunrise. This is my caffeine for the morning and I certainly don’t like it black; the more colored juice that ma’ nature throws in the better! This morning she’s heavy on the orange but threw in some purple-pinkish clouds to give it that little extra kick we all desire. Another thing we can be thankful for is she never makes the same blend twice.

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Montana Sky

I want to end this blog with a huge thanks for you waiting on me to get back into writing these posts, and for you to take time to read them and for the positive feedback.

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Ornate Box Turtle in Nebraska

-Steve Johnson

Daylight is Burning

Tranquil Sunset

Fog rolling off the water as the sun starts to rise.

Fall is officially here and even though the thermometer has been raising to summertime levels, the days are certainly getting shorter. For me I have a love-hate relationship with this process. During the peak of the year when its only dark for about 6 hours, I certainly find myself trying to utilize the daylight to do to as much stuff as I can, though this comes with the side-effect of not sleeping enough. This time of year I have a little better balance, but occasionally find myself pushing the envelope and working in the dark instead.

This was the case the other night as I wanted to dig my potatoes up for the year before it rained again. As darkness enveloped me and I was making my best effort to finish when I suddenly noticed something that was shocking and new to even a seasoned veteran to the outdoors like myself. There was some sort of worm glowing in my garden soil, and certainly needed to be investigated. I carefully picked it up in the palm of my hand and started making my way to my garage, where there was better light. Then without warning, I felt a sharp pain in my hand like a bee sting and jerked, flinging the the creature into the air. After I had regrouped I looked in the grass to find the perpetrator. This time I was more careful and used bark and a stick to pick it up. After getting it in the light I realized it had armored scales on it’s back.  The only thing that I knew that glowed was a firefly and maybe it was related to it.

After some quick research on the web it was confirmed that yes, it was a larva of the firefly.  The larvae apparently live in the soil and ruthlessly hunt down worms, slugs and other bugs with a paralyzing agent, which it injects into its prey in order to render them immobile and an easy lunch. Who would think that those peaceful summertime bugs, romantically illuminating the night and children’s imaginations, embraced such violence and darkness? The good thing is that it didn’t paralyze me, but its strike was painful and long-lasting enough to make me think again before picking one of these up again with my bare hands.

On a brighter side if you haven’t been around the golf course to see all the migrating painted lady butteries, I encourage you to get there soon because as the temperatures cool down, they will be on the move again. Who would believe that some of these little butterflies have a massive migration, with research suggesting that they make a 9,000 mile round-trip to the Arctic Circle and back. This is about twice the distance that the Monarch butterfly goes. So get out and enjoy them and the start of our fall colors!IMG_6408[1]

I owe you one!

Many of us have heard that saying in our lives and most of the time it’s just a just a kind gesture that we make when someone steps in to give a helping had. It’s that revolving wheel of love that makes good people even greater in the eyes of others. That was the case on Friday, as I came to the rescue of my wife as her schedule morphed into something unexpected and required me to jump in and fill one of those parent obligations. These seem to pop up like toast in the toaster each morning.

After the trails meeting Saturday I had about an hour before lunch, which was just the right amount of time to go berry picking. I really enjoy picking berries not only because I like eating the pies and syrups that come from them, but also my love to just be outside enjoying nature. This Saturday black berry pie was on my mind and the weather was just perfect for it. I figured that maybe I could cash on an “I owe you” and have my wife bake me one of those mouth-watering pies she’s known for.

It’s hard to eat just one

Blackberries however have one added challenge that one must not take lightly before encountering: thorns. I’m talking the kind that will make you look like you wrestled with a mountain lion that hasn’t eaten in weeks. Many times the true extent of the damage is not realized right away when the body is filled with adrenaline and visions of pie sitting next to a scope of ice cream. However when you hit the shower that night you’ll know that you were in a battle. The amazing thing about blackberries is the entire plant from head to toe is full of thorns.

Serious thorns everywhere on blackberry vines

The funny thing is that I keep coming back for more. I’m like an addict hooked on their black magic and can’t escape their spell. Sometimes it takes a day or two of healing before I return. The only sad part of this story is there is a new type of fruit fly that has been found in Wisconsin from afar that has also found its way to Burnett County. These fruit flies are a serious threat to many types of berries and have almost ruined my raspberry crop.

So lets hope for the best on that front, and if you’re hooked on this black magic then I urge you to get out in the next week. Picking is good right now but I believe it will peak in the next week and then go downhill. Blackberries like disturbance such as logging that allow light into the forest and usually start to thrive 3-5 years after such an event. Many of our trails provide these kinds of conditions. Always keep a eye out for poison ivy as you hunt for you prize as it too can be found in many of the same places. I hope you get a chance to experience some natural magic and remember that long sleeve shirt before you wrestle with the same wild cat that seems to get the best of me each time I hit the patch.

Poison Ivy
Three shiny leaves stay away

Black Magic!

 

In the Fog

This past week has been fairly warm and humid, causing us to have multiple foggy mornings. As I was rolling greens this morning I had some time to think on a host of topics. One of those thoughts was on what was going to be the subject of my blog this week. I was assured just a few days ago that I was going to focus on flowers but then as the fog rolled in it became clear to me what it shall be.

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The fog rolling in this morning about 5:30 AM

The deciding factor was not the fog for my blog but what came out of the fog, a golfer that I routinely see out there with a little hitch to his step from the scars that we all carry as we go older. He had big smile on his face and as he approached me he said “I finally attained my dream.” I glanced at the green to expect maybe a perfectly placed shot only to see his ball in the rough. I turned to him to find out what he was referencing when he told me “I finally hit the ball farther than I could see.”

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Hole 7 at 7 AM this morning

As he left I thought about the importance of staying positive even when things are not going as one had planned. This winter I attend a class that talked about marketing and the importance of protecting a company’s brand.  The speaker then took a twist and asked if we knew that all of us had a personal brand as well. He followed up by explaining that how we walk, talk and act effects the way others view us and it’s on display 24/7 365. This was an interesting point that most of us don’t exactly think about, even though I know we all have times where we wish that we could have handled ourselves better. Keeping your brand in tip-top condition can be as simple as keeping a smile when the fog rolls in.

-Steve Johnson

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Fog can help you see things in a new light sometimes!

The Wild Side

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Learn to enjoy the wild side in you!

After dealing with some technical difficulties with WordPress I’m back up and running!  The positive side to being temporarily lock out of your account is that it gives one a chance to acquire some more pictures that many of my (much appreciated) followers have so positively commented on over the past two years. This week’s main topic is about taking time to get out and enjoy the bountiful blueberry crop that we have this year. With no late spring frosts this year and ample rain, the crop is certainly going to be above average.  This weekend may see crops peaking, with a maximum percentage of ripe berries on the plant. It will quickly go downhill with the warmer temperatures in the forecast so act fast if you want to fill your pails!

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(Posion Ivy) three shiny leaves stay away

I find that the best time to pick is early afternoon, where the plants have dried off and the sun angle is not quite as strong.  If you wait until after supper the mosquitoes can get quite challenging. I find that avoiding areas of tall grass is wise as they can have a high number of ticks right now. Don’t forget that black bears like berries too so if you feel uncomfortable take a can of bear spray and stay out in the open and remember they are almost just as afraid of you as you are them.

For me just having a reason to get outdoors is what I live for, and right now an added bonus is seeing all the different types of wildflowers out there. This week I was lucky enough to spot three different wood lily plants while picking blueberries. The wood lily is a threatened species that is almost endangered and likes semi-open to completely open areas near forest edges. I hope that you have as much fun and luck as I have had wandering and eating my way home.

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Wood Lily

 

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!