A Winter Survivor

Winter certainly provides plenty of opportunities to engage in winter fun and enjoy its beauty; to me there is nothing more breathtaking than a snow covered landscape. The mountains in Montana hold fond memories of some of these magnificent winter sights. I recently was sent some pictures by some of my relatives that are fortunate enough to call this place home. I wanted to share some of these great pictures with you, so enjoy the short slide show below.

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On the other end of the spectrum, winter can be a tough and challenging time for many animals to survive. I’m always amazed at how wonderfully adapted to these conditions the tiny chickadee are. Early Saturday morning I headed outside to fill my bird feeders as the thermometer was reading -22.  If you’re a little bit crazy like me this is a great time to train wild birds to eat out of your hand. Hunger and the will to survive drives all creatures to be a little bolder than normal. As I held my hand out with seed and peanuts I noticed a couple things: the faces of many of the chickadees actually had frost on the tips of their feathers around their face and eyes, and as they flew back and forth and landed on branches they alternated bringing their little feet up into their body feathers to keep them warm. The pace they did this was amazing; to me it almost looked like they were standing a hot bed of coals, jumping from one foot to the other.

I have read that an active chickadee on a cold day will have a heart rate of 1,000 beats a minute in order to stay warm. Warning: these birds are professionals so don’t try to duplicate this stunt without consulting your doctor first. In order to fuel this astounding metabolism, this little bird will have to consume the energy equivalent of over 150 sunflower seeds in a single day. I’ve observed that each chickadee has its own strategy to accomplish this. Some will fly in and manage to get two seeds at a time before flying off, others will sort through the seeds and grab only the ones that have been shelled out, while others yet have learned that cut up peanuts is the way to go.

Trying to photograph this little guys seems like it would be an easy enough task, seeing as they are so tame. The reality of this couldn’t be farther from the truth because they never stop moving. I must admit that the most humorous part of photographing them is when they keep landing on you and your camera because they think you have treats for them.  As fun as I make it out to be, unfortunately camera batteries and fingers don’t last long in this type of weather. After about 15 or 20 minutes, I was realizing just how amazing it is that these little creatures, and many others, manage to survive day after day in this weather. It also makes me think how much they must appreciate my bird feeder and the little effort it takes me to wander outside and fill it each morning.


-Steve Johnson


Small but Mighty

These are the words that come to mind if I was asked to describe our one-of-a-kind member, Betty Paskausky. Over my career here at Voyager, I have been fortunate enough to work alongside her, always admiring how she quietly transforms our community for the better. Betty is Voyager’s own mob boss, but instead of operating with fear she uses love. I would warn anyone new to our community not to look her in the eyes. The spell she can cast with a single smile goes right to your heart, giving you no way that you could say no to her. She started with a vision of offering a ski club in Voyager over ten years ago and it’s apparent she has cast her smile on a lot of people since then. Today the ski club has created over 11 miles of trails that are maintained and beautifully groomed by volunteers who share the same core values and desires as her.

I write this article to celebrate these accomplishments. Today, many of us gathered at the Kilkare Lodge to enjoy the Annual Soup Kitchen—which is one of the most successful fund raisers for the Ski Club. This pot luck of soups and desserts not only fills and warms your belly, but hearts and souls too.IMG_6893[1]

When you open the door to attend this event you are astounded by the roar of happiness and intoxicated by the smell of soup that will fill your mind and body with warmth that is so lacking during the dead of winter. There are no arguments found here, just a bunch of hardy, Northwoods souls enjoying each other’s companionship.IMG_6891[1]

Today I wanted to say thanks to Betty for creating all the wonderful memories in our Village so I searched through my wood scrapes and pulled out a slab from the white pine that used to stand next to the 17th tee box. Betty loved that tree and fought for its survival until the wind storm of 2011 did extensive damage to it. I always saw the tree for the harm it caused the surrounding grass and cart path, and not the warmth it brought to Betty’s heart. I decided it was only fitting that I should make something out of this tree, which lead me on a quest to make her a coffee table that would thank her for her efforts and love of our community.

So here is my salute to you, Betty, for all of your help and community support over the years and if any of you gang members are out there reading this blog remember that she walks quietly but carries a big stick of love.IMG_6894[1]

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.

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.

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.

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 scoop 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.

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.”

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

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