Monday, March 9, 2015

Thoughts of apple trees & maple syrup

We experience a couple of 40˚ days and our thoughts turn to trimming apple trees and tapping maple trees!  Conventional wisdom says to trim apple trees in March or April, but recently we've heard that modified to...trim apple trees whenever you can!

Our "tame" orchard is a mix of really old trees--75 years old or older--and the ones we've planted in the last ten years.  And they have been shown the results of a mix of trimming styles in these last ten years.  Two summers ago we experienced a major case of fire blight for which we had to cut off and burn all the affected branches.  So they were a little out of control!

We've read many how-to articles in books or on the Internet on trimming apple trees, but this time we decided to bring in someone to help.  So enter our local expert, Konrad, who gave us lessons on what to cut and why, and what to watch out for around the base of the trees.  And we learned a lot!  He was almost like a tree-whisperer as he decided which were the leader branches and which ones needed to go for the good of the tree.  It was an afternoon well spent!

The apple trees look like apple trees again instead of branches going every which way.  And we're sure the trees are heaving a sigh of relief for getting the extras taken off.  I went back over this evening to check on all he had done this afternoon.  The difference was amazing.  He's coming back with a chainsaw to take off some of the large, dead branches in the older--and TALLER--trees.  Now we need another good apple year!

 And because temps were up in the 40s, we had to tap a couple of maples.  Here I am with the brace and bit drill on the first tree.  The key is to drill it up at a slight angle in order to get gravity working for you when it starts running.  It was slightly moist inside the hole but no drips.  It seems really early, especially compared to last year, but we'll see what the next few days brings.

So below are the two trees (looks like one, but two close together) near the house, each with a bucket to catch the sap.   
Every year I ask why we're still using the brace and bit when we have several cordless drills around.  I guess we're missing the drill bit for the size of the hole we need.  And like most of the tasks involved with tapping maple trees and making syrup, the fun is mostly in the journey and not the destination.  Good thing because the journey is usually more fun than the little bit of "destination" that we end up with!  :-)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Girls BB going to State!

Port Wing has had some extra excitement lately!  Our high school girls basketball team won their way through most of the WIAA Division 5 tournament.  Division 5 includes the smallest schools in the state, and their 24-2 season stats predicted that they would probably do pretty well at season's end.  And if you check the South Shore scores for the Regionals and Sectionals, you'll see they were pretty lopsided in South Shore's favor.  And now they will head to Green Bay for the Semifinals game on Thursday afternoon this week.  And the whole town might be traveling to Green Bay to watch!

South Shore Cardinals - Photo from Art Roebken
While there are several great players on the team, there is one player that really stands out in so many ways, but especially in scoring points.  Her name is Megan Gustafson and I'll let you guess which player is Megan!   Last month she broke Wisconsin's all-time scoring record for girls high school basketball with 2882 season points, and ending with 2917 points in that game.   And she's scored many more points since then! Megan has signed to play with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes next year.  Go Megan!

And the player whose point record Megan broke this year?  That was Jolene Anderson, also a South Shore player, whose record was 2881 points.  Winning girls basketball teams have been a tradition here in Port Wing.  They have reached semifinals several times in the past, but I'm not sure if they have won the championship.   If so, it was before I lived here.  This could be the year!

A couple years ago the girls team won one of the preliminary games but then had to pull themselves out of the competition.  Why?  Many of the players were also band members and the band had been fundraising for months to go on a band trip at the same time as the tournament.  When the school is so small, the same students get to have several roles.  The band is going on a trip to New Orleans--after lots of fundraising--this spring, too,  but NOT during tournament season!!

Thanks to ALL of the players on the team and their coaches for giving us even more reasons to enjoy living in Port Wing!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Hot topic, at least for now - Ice caves!

Another 11,000+ visitors came to see the ice caves today.  Our B&B guests spent most of 6 hours today getting to Meyers Beach--the starting point--and then walking out onto Lake Superior to make the trek over to the caves.  The weather was perfect--sunny and temps in the upper 30's, so it was a perfect day on the Lake.

Our pilot friend Carri posted a Facebook account from a friend who flew up here from Oshkosh (I think) today to see the caves.  Check out the link above to see the rest of his pictures, but I was interested in seeing the crystal clear ice he had to land on with the ice on the rock walls behind him.

They don't allow any motorized vehicles within a certain distance of the National Lakeshore area, so he had to land a distance away from the shore.  THEN he had to TIE DOWN his plane so it didn't "ski" away while he was away checking out the caves.  He did this with ice screws and apparently it worked great.  Last year Carri landed her plane out on the Lake on the day we were there, but then there was a think layer of snow so tying it down might have been easier.  There's something about ice that clear and that smooth on that BIG Lake that just fascinates me!

And finally, below is the crew of eight or nine deer that shows up every late afternoon around 5:30 to see what's what in the feedbox in our back yard.  They are usually pretty feisty with each other.  The bullies get up on their hind legs and "box" the others away with their front hooves.  It explains the marks and scars that some of them have on their backs.  

Time to change the clocks again!  I like this one best because it means spring will soon be here!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Getting back on the horse!

Today I received a gentle reminder "through the ether" that I have neglected my blogging habit in the last month.  To say I was too busy to blog would not be the truth.  I'm retired, it's winter and it has been REALLY cold out...until today, so what's my excuse?  I have none, so let's move on.

It's only March and, thanks to weeks of cold weather, the ice caves are accessible again this year so we're back in the B&B business!
Section of ice caves visible from the wave observation camera
Last weekend the National Park Service opened them for the first time and I've heard anywhere from 11,000 to 14,000 people flocked to see them last weekend.  We didn't!  The lineup of visitors' cars parked along the side of the road was said to be four miles long.  Then a storm brewed up on Tuesday and they were closed to visitors Tuesday and Wednesday.  The winds were going to be quite fierce and they didn't know what that would do to the ice cover on the lake and the ice formations hanging on the rocks.  But, the storm ended and they opened them up to visitors again this morning at 7am.  So, we have guests all weekend.  Temps up in the 40's are predicted for next week--it might be a short season!

Below is a scene of snow blowing across Lake Superior on Tuesday.  Those winds caused lots of whiteout conditions and drifted roads over those couple of days.

And thanks to the winds, these interesting designs showed up along the road on my walk on Wednesday.

And another update from the last month, our church had another Mardi Gras event that doubled as a Pampered Chef fundraiser.  If you are familiar with Pampered Chef products, they are really nice--and, yes, expensive--pots and pans and kitchen gadgets that we are invited to buy from their catalog.  And unfortunately the woman who demonstrates all the products is REALLY good at her job!  So now we have some new kitchen gadgets in our house and thanks to all the people attending, the church did well in the fundraiser!

Leann has been doing some furniture finishing on these new bed stands in our Woodland Room.  We bought them as unfinished furniture and she put several coats of some kind of poly finish on them.   It's always hard to find furniture with a natural finish that isn't maple or oak or something too dark for everything else in the house.  So she did these two tables, another bed stand and an end table in the living room.

One of my last posts talked about my family picture organization project.  So after going through and scanning hundreds (thousands?) of pictures from all of my extended family and my own children, I am left with the EMPTY boxes on the left, and the very organized boxes and notebooks on the right.  Somehow I thought I'd be getting rid of a little more stuff...

And, we're still feeding deer and birds, usually not intentionally at the same time.  Below is "Mouse Ears" outside our window caught in the act of lapping up sunflower seeds from the bird feeders.  Yes, we see you!

I'm back on my blogging horse now.  By the way, I began this blogging thing a year ago on February 20th.  I'm up to 29 countries now.  I'd better hang on so I can reach some more!