Posts Tagged ‘wisconsin’

Photo: Kerem Yücel/MPR News.
Em Loerzel is a graduate student and White Earth Nation descendant who started The Humble Horse, a nonprofit in River Falls, Wisconsin. The nonprofit is dedicated to reviving the Ojibwe horse, a rare breed adapted to the forests along the Minnesota-Canada border. 

Here’s s story that weaves threads such as indigenous life, endangered species, love of horses — and brings along associations with Icelandic ponies and Misty of Chincoteague.

Dan Kraker writes for MPR News from River Falls, Wisconsin, “Em Loerzel grew up hearing stories about the Ojibwe horse from her uncle, about small ponies that would roam free near Ojibwe communities tucked among the forests and lakes along the Minnesota-Canada border, and help with tasks such as hauling wood and trap lines. 

” ‘I think when people think about Native people and their horses, they think of Lakota people or southwest people, but he would tell me, don’t forget that we are horse people too,’ said Loerzel, a descendant of the White Earth Nation.

“Loerzel has taken that teaching to heart. Earlier this year, the 28-year-old graduate student in social welfare at the University of Washington raised money to rescue six of the horses from a Canada rancher who could no longer afford to keep them. 

“She brought them to a farm owned by a friend outside River Falls, where Loerzel moved last year with her husband. And she started a nonprofit called The Humble Horse, to raise awareness about the breed – which is also known as the Lac La Croix pony, and to help revive it. Only about 180 Ojibwe horses remain, mostly in Canada. 

“The horses are small, sturdy and friendly. Last month, Loerzel nuzzled a 2-year-old stud colt named Mino. ‘Short for Mino Bimaadiziwin. That’s our word for “a good life.” All of our Ojibwe horses have their Ojibwe names,’ Loerzel explained. … We Anishinaabe people bred them to be really smart, sweet, docile.’ 

“They also adapted over the generations to survive in the border lakes country. Their small stature made it easier to navigate the forest. …

“Loerzel says her main goal is to keep the horses safe and healthy. But she also wants to help Ojibwe people to reconnect with the horses. …

“Thousands of Ojibwe horses once lived near Ojibwe communities on both sides of the border. They would roam free part of the year, but at other times were gathered to help with labor.  But their population dwindled in the first part of the 20th century. Many were killed and used to make dog food, even glue. 

“By 1977 there were only four left, on the Lac La Croix First Nation in Ontario, just north of the U.S.-Canada border.  Word spread that the Canadian government planned to exterminate them. So four men from the Bois Forte Reservation in Minnesota planned a rescue mission. 

“They piled in a pickup truck, hooked up a horse trailer, drove across like beaver dams and portages and frozen ice in the middle of February, said Heather O’Connor, a Canadian author and journalist who spent five years researching Ojibwe horses. 

“It was dubbed the ‘Heist across the Ice.’ 

” ‘I was thinking, well, I’m wondering if this is the last time I’m going to ever see those horses,’ recalled Norman Jordan, a Lac La Croix council member who as a young boy remembers watching the men lead the horses away.  

“ ‘Everybody was so attached to them, in a deep way, a spiritual way. And it was sad just seeing them being taken away.’

“But those four rescued mares allowed the breed to survive. In Minnesota, they were bred with a Spanish mustang, and slowly, their numbers increased, largely among small herds in Canada. …

“A dedicated network of people has developed to help preserve the breed, [Kim Campbell of Grey Raven Ranch on the Seine River First Nation] said. But often, a breeder will retire, or run out of money. She said more are needed for the breed to survive. …

“Dr. Gus Cothran, an emeritus professor at the veterinary college at Texas A&M University who has studied the genetics of the Ojibwe horse, said rare and endangered breeds like it often encounter the same challenge — they need more people willing to take care of them and breed them. 

“ ‘And so one of the things that people involved with rare breeds need to do is create a market for them, and create a demand. And for a horse, that can be very difficult. They’re very expensive and demanding.’

“In 2017, almost 40 years to the day after those four remaining horses were taken away from the Lac la Croix First Nation, the horses returned. 

“Norman Jordan, the boy who watched them leave, became Chief. And he helped bring a herd back to the community. 

” ‘It’s almost like when they left there was a piece of my history that was leaving, a piece of me, like a void that I’ve had for all these years. And then that night they came back, it’s like that piece that was missing was back now.’ ” 

More at MPR, here. No firewall.

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If you’re landscaping the capital in an agricultural state, focus on veggies.

First of all, I need to apologize to blogger Rebecca for not telling her I was in town. I didn’t tell anybody. My family kept scheduling impromptu activities around my nephew’s wedding. I’ll just say I thought Madison was a delightful city and share some memories.

The Sunday farmers market at the capital was amazing. I walked the circuit twice.

The university’s “dementia-friendly” Chazen Museum was also pretty amazing. I am sharing “L’Amante,” by Beth Cavener, “Typewriter Eraser,” by Claes Oldenburg, “Thread Landscapes,” by Amanda McCavour, and “Are a Hundred Playing You? Or Only One?” by Xiang Jing. (I agree. That title gives no clue to the meaning of the mesmerizing porcelain sculpture.)

The giant birds were outside a housing complex near our hotel. The illuminated quote from painter Georgia O’Keeffe was inside the hotel, a former paint factory with a paint-and-painters theme. The red letters spell out the name of the hotel. (I needed my grandson to point that out to me.)

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Photo: John Hart/ Wisconsin State Journal.
The State Journal reports, “A 1,200-year-old dugout canoe was raised from Lake Mendota [Nov. 2] by the Wisconsin Historical Society. The canoe … is the oldest intact boat ever recovered from Wisconsin waters.”

My Wisconsin brother sent me a cool article recently about the discovery of an ancient canoe. I suspect that blogger Rebecca Cunningham knows all about this as she lives in Madison.

Barry Adams at the Wisconsin State Journal has the story.

“Tamara Thomsen and Mallory Dragt thought they would take a spin under Lake Mendota on a couple of underwater scooters, motorized gadgets that scuba divers use to propel themselves through the water. It was a beautiful Saturday morning in June, and the duo, who work at Diversions Scuba, debated whether they had just seen a log sticking out of the bottom of the 9,781-acre lake or something extremely rare.

“The discovery, on a slope in 27 feet of water near Shorewood Hills, has turned out to be about as historic as it gets.

“After a bit of investigation, it turns out that Thomsen, who is also a maritime archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, was right in judging that it was more than just a log: It was a dugout canoe. A few weeks later, carbon-14 dating showed that the 15-foot-long vessel was an estimated 1,200 years old, the oldest intact boat ever found in Wisconsin waters.

“On a brisk Tuesday, amid a chop of waves and 50-degree water, the canoe was brought to shore by teams of divers who shared fist bumps and hugs to applause from residents of the Spring Harbor neighborhood who had gathered at the beach to witness the canoe’s return to shore.

“ ‘This is the first time this thing has been out of the water in 1,200 years. And maybe they left from this very beach to go fishing,’ said James Skibo, Wisconsin’s state archaeologist. ‘Not only has it been underwater; it’s been under the ground. The reason it’s so well preserved is that it has not been exposed to the light. So that’s one of the reasons we have to start preserving it.

‘There’s living organisms on it that are chewing away on it as we speak.’

“The canoe will ultimately be displayed in the Historical Society’s proposed new and expanded museum on Capitol Square. But for the next two years, it will undergo a series of treatments. The first, in a 16-foot-long, 3-foot-wide tank at the State Archive Preservation Facility on Madison’s Near East Side, will preserve its liquid environment, although mixed in the water will be a biocide to kill any algae or microorganisms. That’s followed with a treatment of polyethylene glycol designed to replace the water that has saturated the wood.

“The process will make the structure more solid and stable, and prevent further degradation, said Amy Rosebrough, a leading expert on the Effigy Mound builders of Wisconsin, who likely made the canoe and inhabited villages and encampments around Lake Mendota and throughout much of southern Wisconsin. A cache of net sinkers, used to weigh down fishing nets, was also found with the canoe, which could have been made from basswood or a walnut tree, two common woods used for dugouts during that time frame.

“ ‘This is extraordinarily rare,’ said Rosebrough. ‘We really don’t have anything like this from Wisconsin. We have found pieces of dugouts before in various lakes (but) nothing this intact and nothing intact this old.’ …

“The people who built the dugout canoes in what is now Dane County were ancestors of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Typical techniques could have included using a combination of burning the inside of the canoe and using stone tools to scrape out the charred and soften remains. Bill Quackenbush, the Ho-Chunk’s tribal historic preservation officer, was on hand Tuesday to watch the dugout canoe emerge from the lake. The Ho-Chunk are referred to as ‘People of the Big Water.’

“ ‘When it comes to items of this nature, if it’s going to protect and preserve the history and culture of us in this area, we’re all in support of that,’ Quackenbush said of the canoe’s recovery. …

“The recovery effort began last week with divers carefully dredging around the canoe. Once sediment was removed and the boat fully exposed, rods of rebar were stuck into the lake bottom and a web of rope tied over the canoe to keep it in place.

“On Tuesday morning, a small armada of boats made their way to the site. … Thomsen drove [a] boat that included Randy Wallander, a volunteer diver from Manitowoc who has years of experience bringing up large objects from Lake Michigan. His equipment included large yellow floats, diving gear and four 45-pound bags of sand that were placed in the canoe to give it weight as it was towed into shore in a sling supported by the floats at just above idling speed. The 1-mile trip took nearly two hours, after which divers unhooked the canoe from a boat and walked it the last 100 yards or so to shore. …

“ ‘It was a team effort,’ Thomsen said. ‘I’m actually surprised at how smooth it went. You always expect for there to be problems and you anticipate the worst and hope for the best, but it came up faster than we thought. Everybody really danced together to make it come up.’ ”

More at Madison.com, here.

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Ronnie Hess

Two people I know got attention for their writing this week.

Ronnie Hess, a friend from childhood summers on Fire island, won a 2015 Hal Prize from Write On, Door County, Wisconsin, for a story about Tina Hess, her mother. “Judge Michael Perry awarded the prize to ‘The Red Shoes,’ ” says the nonprofit’s website.

The mission of Write On, by the way, “is to facilitate and promote writing in Door County by nurturing the work of writers, supporting readers and audiences, and developing opportunities that encourage broad participation. …

“Write On received our nonprofit status in January, 2014. Since then, over 100 programs have been offered, reaching over 1,000 people in every portion of the county and beyond.” More here. And you can read Ronnie’s essay here, starting on p. 48.

In other news, poet Kate Colby, a friend of Suzanne and Erik, got a Publishers Weekly (PW) star for her latest collection, I Mean.

Says PW, “The book’s parts function in tandem as tools via which the author, in various degrees of obsession, contextualizes and re-contextualizes her life, her experiences, and her work: ‘I mean the walls/ are braced/ against themselves// I mean brace yourself// I mean to take the house down/ with its own components.’ ” More from Publishers Weekly.

Although I can’t use everything, I am interested in posting excerpts from your poems or your other writing. Feel free to send something small to suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

Kate Colby

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Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog has featured a number of stories about both homelessness and tiny houses, so I was intrigued when a high school friend linked to this story on Facebook. It’s about helping homeless people build their own tiny houses.

Jen Hayden wrote at Daily Kos, “Out of the Occupy Madison protests a cool idea was hatched: Building 98-square-foot homes for those without. The homes have a bed, kitchen, bathroom, storage and propane heat. Future residents take part in building the homes. [According to WMTV,]

The homes cost just $3,000 to construct, most of it funded by community donations. A revolving crew of volunteers provided the labor, including Betty Ybarra. Previously homeless, she now resides in the home she helped construct. “It’s exciting. I’ve never even owned my own house,” Ybarra told WMTV

“After getting shuffled around the city while they figured out the best place to build the village, they finally settled on a location and it officially opened this week. [Reports Jennifer Kliese at WKOW,]

‘Rather than taking people from the streets and putting them in a building, we thought we could work together to create our own structures,’ says Luca Clemente, with Occupy. ‘We don’t give houses to homeless people, we enable people to build their own houses to create their own futures.’When complete, there will be nine homes in the village made from reclaimed and recycled materials. Organizers hope to add a garden, tree orchard and chickens.”

More here.

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The Upper Midwest has some unusual races. One year in Minnesota, for example, my husband and I went to an outhouse race, and I wrote up the experience for an East Coast community paper.

Today I read in the NY Times about a Wisconsin race. Mitch Smith writes, “In Spain, they run bulls. In Kentucky, thoroughbreds. But here in America’s Dairyland, llamas are the four-legged athletes of choice.

“On Saturday afternoon, the llamas converged on this tiny town in the corn-covered hills of western Wisconsin, as they do each September. A llama named Lightning, a 14-year-old with swift feet and a bit of a temper, claimed the heaping basket of tomatoes and peppers that goes to the speediest camelid.

“To the roughly 1,900 residents of Hammond, the Running of the Llamas is something far more than an annual excuse to watch South American pack animals lope down Davis Street. In the 18 years since a local bar owner first let the llamas loose, the event has become a source of communal pride and identity in a state where it seems every dot on the map has its own quirky festival.

“ ‘It makes our town unique,’ said Ariel Backes, 16, the reigning Miss Hammond. ‘It just shows small towns are the best.’ …

“Some llamas were eager to race, sprinting swiftly behind the handler holding its reins. Others were compliant but unenthusiastic, making their way past the cheering fans, lined up four and five deep on some stretches of sidewalk, at more of a brisk walk than a run. And a few llamas were downright uninterested, forcing their handlers to practically drag them to the finish line.” More here.

Suzanne and Erik’s two-year-old fed a llama this summer. I can’t quite picture that llama wanting to do anything but eat.

Photo: Colin Archdeacon on Publish September 14, 2014.
This llama-racing event is in its 18th year in Hammond, Wisconsin.


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Photo: Julie Van Stappen, National Park Service
Apostle Islands sea caves

Winter seems to be hanging on, so it’s not too late to blog about the Apostle Islands and the sea caves in winter.

My husband and I visited the Apostle Islands 16 years ago, almost to the day. We stayed in a pleasant B&B that had a waitress who, my husband recalls, acted like one’s sojourn there “was the experience you had been waiting for your whole life.” We drove around and tried to keep warm. I’m looking at a pottery pitcher with an apple on it that we bought in a little shop.

At the New Yorker, Siobhan Bohnacker introduces a slide show on the sea caves, calling them “Cathedrals of Ice.”

“This past February, thanks to an unusually cold winter, the sea caves along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, in northern Wisconsin, were accessible by foot for the first time in five years. Visitors were able to walk two miles over the thick ice of Lake Superior to see the ice formations that run up the coastline. Erin Brethauer, a photographer living in North Carolina, visited …

“Describing the trek to the caves, Brethauer told me, ‘A steady stream of people cut a colorful line on the horizon. More than a hundred and thirty-eight thousand people visited the ice caves this winter, up from twelve thousand seven hundred in 2009.’ …

“The shorelines along the Apostle Islands have been slowly shaped by the movement of the water of Lake Superior, and by its annual freezing and thawing. Sea caves, which resemble honeycombs, are sculpted in the course of centuries by waves breaking onto cliffs. This impact creates what are called reëntrants, or angular cavities that tunnel into cliffs. When reëntrants join behind the cliff face, sea caves result. When water is trapped in the caves and cavities, and freezes, dramatic ice formations occur.

“Brethauer said, ‘We were struck by the size and coloring of the ice along the coastline. Some ice was a pale blue, while other formations were yellow or reddish, depending on the sediment the water collected when it was freezing. … I loved watching how people interacted with the caves and ice, climbing or taking pictures. They provided such scale and added to your feeling of wonder. And then, stepping inside one of the caves, looking up, and listening to the silence or the ricochet of sound, it felt like being in a cathedral.’ ”

Check out the slide show at the New Yorker, here.

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Recently, documentary filmmaker and journalist Erin Kron collaborated with designer-printmaker-photographer Nathan Biehl on a Narratively feature about a very unusual house in rural Spring Green, Wisconsin.

The eccentric house is “the brainchild of self-trained architect Alex Jordan, who purchased land on the Deer Shelter Rock formation in 1956,” writes Kron.

“Jordan incorporated the rock’s contour into the base of the large house he constructed near the edge of the cliff, adding asymmetrical rows of canted windows looking out over the valley. He proceeded to fill the place with his extensive collections of kitsch  …

“He took a ‘more is more’ approach, tallying up tarnished collectible penny banks, reproductions of gothic and samurai armor, stained glass salvaged from churches, ornate replicas of the crown jewels, while slowly adding on wings to the building so he could pack it all in. …

“The Organ Room is perhaps the strangest of all. In it seems to be just a gigantic pile of metal machinery. It includes, as its name suggests, a few organs (and a lot of organ pipes). But mostly, it contains a nightmare-like assortment of large wagon wheels, stage coaches, church bells, typewriters, copper kettle drums stacked up to the ceiling, and a giant engine with a huge propeller.”

Matt Schneider, the House on the Rock’s marketing manager, admits that he doesn’t understand the Organ Room. “He’s quick to add: ‘I mean, it’s a really, really neat… I like the room! It’s not that I don’t—it’s just that I understand it the least.’ ” More here.

I wonder. Maybe, like the so-called Music Room in my house, it started life as a room with an organ, and they just kept calling it that after its function changed.

Photo: Nathan Biehl
House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

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We went to Honk! in Somerville today. A few uncomfortable-looking masons and many counterculture bands marched to Harvard Square. It was a hoot. So nice to see these offbeat ’60s types are still springing up. All is not lost! The name of one band may give you a sense of where they are coming from: The Extraordinary Rendition Band. The Institute for Infinitely Small Things joined forces with the Occupy Boston contingent.

Represented below are Nomad Rights (a Tibetan group), unions (including the Postal Service), Darfur activists, and the Puppeteers Co-operative.


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Philip Levine, 83, is a poet laureate for our times. He expresses, as the NY Times puts it, the “gritty voice of the workingman.”

“Half an hour to dress, wide rubber hip boots,
gauntlets to the elbow, a plastic helmet
like a knight’s but with a little glass window
that kept steaming over, and a respirator
to save my smoke-stained lungs. I would descend
step by slow step into the dim world
of the pickling tank and there prepare
the new solutions from the great carboys
of acids lowered to me on ropes — all from a recipe
I shared with nobody and learned from Frank O’Mera
before he went off to the bars on Vernor Highway
to drink himself to death. A gallon of hydrochloric …”

Read the Times article.

Levine’s appointment as poet laureate feels timely to me for several reasons.

While income inequality in the country has become increasingly pronounced over the last few decades, public attitudes toward the labor unions that worked to level the playing field have become markedly negative. Are unions really no longer needed? Certainly, there have been abuses of their power: for example, the way some teachers unions have protected bad teachers. And weak government officials in Central Falls (RI), having routinely succumbed to the demands of public safety workers, now find there is no money to pay the promised benefits. This summer Central Falls filed for bankruptcy.

But intensely hostile antilabor actions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and even Maine are like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

A balance between workers and other stakeholders seems to make more sense. Workers are still sometimes abused, after all. That’s why I was happy to see unions helping out foreign “cultural exchange” students to protest conditions at a Hersey’s plant in Pennsylvania last week. (I blogged about that here.)

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