Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn colors along Milwaukee River Greenway

Cambridge Woods and Hubbard Park

How far do you have to go to visit a beautiful scene like this? No farther than the Milwaukee River Greenway, between North Avenue and Silver Spring. The weather has taken a turn - it's too early for winter (please!) but it is cooler. So here's a taste of autumn from a few of my recent travels in Milwaukee's urban wilderness. And a shout out to Ann Brummitt and the Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition, which helps to protect this greenway, as  well as Sue Black and the Milwaukee County Parks Department, may they receive more funding.

The river edge at Kern Park

Don't forget to go to the polls next Tuesday and vote for candidates who will support the parks and the environment. Those candidates, for whatever reason, are mostly democrats. But don't take my word for it - check it out at the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters website.

Click here for more information about the Milwaukee River Greenway.

Click here to see more pictures from the vicinity.

Riverside Park from the Locust Street bridge

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Full Moon Party on the Milwaukee County Grounds

Where can you hear great music and also see a simultaneous sunset/moonrise? Only one place: the County Grounds this Saturday.

Sounds on the Grounds
featuring the drumming group Fanka Foli

October 23, 4-7 pm
Moonrise at 5:58 - Sunset at 6:00

It's the last party of the fall season sponsored by the Friends of the Monarch Trail. There will be sandwiches, caramel apples, and cider for sale. The last full moon party was a blast. Even though the full moon declined to show due to cloud cover, the many people who came enjoyed the music and a sensational sunset.

Park in the County Parks administration parking lot at 9480 W. Watertown Plank Rd. If it should rain, the party will move indoors to Barb & Dick's Flowers on Watertown Plank at 124th St.
For more information go to Monarch Trail.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Seven Bridges Trail at Grant Park: short and sweet – until…

I had the morning off Friday so I decided to seek one of my favorite urban wilderness experiences. I don’t often get to Grant Park, which is in South Milwaukee. The seven bridges trail, with its fabled chalet style bridge, was even more delightful than I remembered. It’s just off the first parking lot into the park from the north side and an easy walk downhill through the ravine to the shore of Lake Michigan. The colors were spectacular and the weather unbelievable – how many days in a row now?!!

And at the end of the trail comes the best part – the beach. Here is the place where, more than any other I know of in Milwaukee County, you can go and not only see no sign of the city (I’ve written many times of the many places where I go for that experience) but also not even hear any sound of civilization. A welcome antidote to traffic and everyday busyness.

I dawdled in the warm sunshine. I listened to the surf – crashing, uncommonly ocean-like. I shot some pictures. I took my time getting back to the car through the peaceful wood atop the bluff. When I reached the covered entry bridge once again, my idyll was rudely disrupted by a very uncivil form of civilization.

Two short, heavy-set middle-aged women walking three small poodly dogs on short leashes went across the bridge ahead of me. I stopped to make a final shot (above). Suddenly I heard the dogs begin to yap excitedly; then one of the women screamed at someone I couldn’t see, “put your f – ing dogs on a leash!” A man replied, bellowing equally loudly, “don’t you f – ing tell me what to do with my dogs.” He then bellowed at his dogs, “get back here!” Being unleashed, they were running wildly about. “Keep your f – ing dogs away from ours!” the women shouted – and they had some lungs on them. Then the man’s rejoinder: “Shut the f – up!” The ravine echoed with their epithets.

A large black Labrador bounded across the bridge towards me, followed closely and eagerly by an even larger brown hound. The man appeared, bellowing alternately at the dogs and the women, who were still descending audibly into the ravine. He also was heavy-set, though younger. He wore loose sweat pants, a Packer sweat shirt, and a baseball cap. When he came abreast of me I said softly, “it’s a beautiful day; try to chill a bit.” He calmed immediately and growled sheepishly, “I’m trying.”

I would’ve told him that he should leash his dogs, but I didn’t want him bellowing at me.

On my way back I noticed this tree in the middle of a lawn at the St. Francis Seminary. Sometimes I feel like a lone and twisted tree losing its leaves in a tidily mowed lawn.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A humane way to hunt?

Interesting story in today's New York Times called "A Kind of Hunt that Even Deer can get Behind."

I've never minded deer hunting, as long as it's done legally and in faraway places. But this sounds very cool - a mashup of hunting and photography. I can relate to that. Hey, we call them both "shooting" don't we?
 (Don't let's get started on hunting other kinds of animals, though, say mourning doves.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Milwaukee River Greenway in yellow and gold

It never fails to surprise me, no matter how many times I’ve been there. I walk away from the Urban Ecology Center, through Riverside Park, and down to the waterside. The twin parks flanking the Milwaukee River there, Riverside and Gordon, make a wonderful open green space. But a tall apartment tower and the Locust St. bridge remind me that I’m still in Milwaukee. It’s when I wander upstream along the hilly river trail that I begin to lose track of where I am. Not literally, of course. But by the time I reach Cambridge Woods, across from Pleasant Valley Park I have to pinch myself and listen for the traffic that can still be heard in order to be reminded. Milwaukee suddenly seems very far away indeed.

We have been blessed with one of the warmest, driest Octobers I can recall. My favorite time of the year, it’s hard to spend any of it indoors. Here is an offering of images from my recent hike into the Milwaukee River wilderness. Enjoy!

To see more pictures from the Milwaukee River Greenway go to my website.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

MARN brings “Beyond the Canvas” to the Menomonee Valley

You are invited! Artworks fresh from the field and stream – and industrial sites.

October 15 – gallery night: preview and auction, 5 – 9 pm.
October 16 – gallery day: preview and auction, 10 am – 4 pm.

Also on October 16, at 3 pm MARN director Melissa Musante will give a talk about collecting art and, in the evening, the big event…

Artists reception, Public Auction, and Party featuring Trio DeJaneiro, 4 – 8 pm.

It all takes place at Helios in the Menomonee Valley at 1207 W. Canal St. Details at MARN.

Urban Wilderness revisited

The Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) and the Menomonee Valley have something in common: they have both seen significant growth in the past ten years. After decades of economic decline and environmental degradation, the Valley is seeing new industries and jobs return. Restoration projects and planned parklands also will make the Menomonee River a major component of Milwaukee’s urban wilderness. As a tribute to these developments MARN has devised a special event that will bring artists to the Valley. MARN, which has likewise been experiencing an exciting surge in membership and influence, has also distinguished itself with creative ideas for bringing together artists and the public. Like this one!

It is billed as “Beyond the Canvas: A Plein Air Event Celebrating the Transformation of the Menomonee Valley.”

Artists working in any medium were invited to produce art works in the Valley between October 1 and October 11. (I was out bright and early – sunrise – on October 1 myself. Hey, I have to admit this is one of my favorite subjects in Milwaukee!) Each registered artist may submit two pieces to be exhibited, auctioned, and judged for prizes. Last I heard there were over 40 artists registered. Since I’m involved I’m biased, but I think this is going to be outstanding.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Menomonee Valley over the years and I’ve seen firsthand the transformation that is ongoing. It wasn’t so long ago that very few people went there (except to the old County Stadium.) Now Miller Park, Potawatomi, Harley Davidson, and the Hank Aaron State Trail are just a few of the good reasons to visit. If you haven’t been in the valley – or even if you’re one of the growing numbers of regulars – come to Helios and see it in a new light, through the eyes of painters, sculptors, photographers, and other artists of all types.

Soo Line

The two images that accompany this post are from my forays during this event, but are not the two that you will see at Helios. Let’s make that a surprise. I hope you’ll come find out what they are.

Click here for more information about MARN and “Beyond the Canvas.”

Hawk gets flight training by the Wisconsin Humane Society

I shouldn’t have been surprised. In fact, I’m a bit embarrassed that I was. I’ve had only occasional, and mostly sad, contacts with the Wisconsin Humane Society. It is, unfortunately, the place of last resort, where we take our sick and dying pets to be “put out of their misery”—a truism that rings hollow despite its truth.

The Society also brings the joy of a new pet into many people’s lives, of course.

But I hadn’t considered that they would be involved with wild animals, too. Me, the urban wilderness guy! Of all people I should have known that.

Well, I do now. I was riding my bike home from work through Doyne Park last week when I came upon a tableau I couldn’t resist: three gloved young women in the field with a very large red tailed hawk. I watched as the one who was grasping the hawk by both legs threw her arms up and launched the bird over her head. The hawk, whose name I later learned is Maria, immediately flew straight sideways and downwards trying—but failing—to make it into the nearest tree. Maria was tethered to Crystal, the team leader, with a slender length of hemp twine.

It is a rehabilitation technique called creance that helps birds recovering from injuries to fly once again. Maria had been admitted to the Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center a couple months ago with a fractured radius, or wing bone. Her bone had healed but she wasn’t yet ready to be released back into the wild. I learned from Crystal that it takes weeks to recover from the injury, more time in a large flight cage inside the Center, and then this outdoor creance conditioning. The creance training is especially important for a predator like Maria that needs considerable strength and stamina to survive in the wild.

I learned from their website that the Wisconsin Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center receives and cares for over 5,000 wild animals annually. What an excellent program! —another tribute to Milwaukee’s urban wilderness. (The urban wilderness at this time of year is especially hard on birds, though. The annual migration through the city results in many window collisions. The Society website also has tips on how you can help reduce tragic window collisions. Click here.)

If you were unaware of this program, or have been too busy to check it out, I invite you to visit their website and learn more. You can see Maria and portraits of many other animals currently being cared for. You may, like me, even be moved to consider sponsoring one of the lovely creatures.

I watched the team launch Maria several times. Maria never got very far and the trees, not the open sky, were clearly her goal. She grimaced fiercely and pecked at the gloved hands as she was bundled back into the transportation cage. She’ll need more time. I hope I get to see her try again!

And I will no longer think of the Humane Society as that sad place.... Crystal and her team, along with Maria, have given me a welcome new perspective.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Join the Global Work Party on 10/10/10

October 10, 2010 is coming this Sunday. 10-10-10, an auspicious date, has been adopted for a “Global Work Party” by the organization Their website says “We’re calling it a Global Work Party, with emphasis on both 'work' and 'party'.”

I know of two 10-10-10 events in the Milwaukee area, one on the east side and one in Wauwatosa. Both are family friendly. There may be others. I hope you’ll join me to do something for the environment on Sunday.

At the Wauwatosa Lion’s Club:

Cookies for a Cooler Climate
Make and arrange cookes, write letters, network, brainstorm, and energize! Rhythm for Unity will provide a drum circle to help with the engergizing. This one is very kid friendly!

Sunday, October 10 from 2 – 5:30
No admission fee.
For a full schedule and directions go to Cookies for a Cooler Climate.

At the Urban Ecology Center:
10/10/10 Tour with Ken
Join Executive Director Ken Leinbach’s “Global Work Party” tour and clean-up of the newly protected Milwaukee River Basin. Inspired by author Bill McKibben’s “Global Work Party” invitation to communities around the world to understand and work toward solutions to protect the environment, Ken is sure to inspire. Tour includes: 5-10 mile hike depending on how far we get, a clean-up service project along the way and an environmental conversation focused on action. Come dressed for the weather.

Sunday, October 10 from 1 - 4 p.m.
For adults and children accompanied by an adult
$10 (Nonmembers - $20)
For more information or directions go to Urban Ecology Center.

Sunrise from the County Grounds in Wauwatosa

Click here for more information about

Friday, October 1, 2010

What Matters: valuing the land for what it is

We went on our annual apple picking foray recently. It's a mere half hour drive from Wauwatosa to Mequon, where the Barthel Farm has pick your own fruits. It was a fine day and there was a line of cars waiting to get in. The orchard rows were mobbed with families munching and picking apples. Nearby were fields full of pumpkins where more people sought the perfect jack o' lantern for the coming season. I enjoyed being there amongst the apples, the folks picking, and the wild asparagus (below) as much as I enjoyed acquiring apples. On the way home, loaded with a bushel of apples, anticipating Lynn's fresh pies, it was hard not to notice the "for sale" signs on other farm land, the half-developed subdivisions sprouting like weeds on other parcels of former farms.

Here is what Wendell Berry wrote in "What Matters:  Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth:”

Common sense suggests that it is not possible to make a good thing out of a bad thing. We can see that we cannot prepare a good meal from poor food, produce good food from poor soil, maintain good soil without good farming, or have good farming without a good culture – a culture that places a proper value on the proper maintenance of the natural sources, so that the needed supplies are constantly available. Thus, food is a product both natural and cultural, and good cooking must be said to begin with good farming. A good economy would value our bodily nourishment in all of its transformations from the topsoil to the dinner table and beyond, for it would place an appropriate value on our excrement, too, and return it to the soil; in a good economy, there would be no such thing as “waste,” bodily or otherwise. At every stage of its making, our nourishment would be a finished product in the sense that at every stage it would be brought to a high order of excellence, but at no stage would it be a finished product in the sense of being done with. …

The industrial economy, on the other hand, reduces the value of a thing to its market price, and it sets the market price in accordance with the capacity of a thing to be made into another kind of thing. Thus, a farm is valued only for its ability to produce marketable livestock and/or crops; livestock and crops are valued only insofar as they can be manufactured into groceries; groceries are valued only as to the extent that they can be sold to consumers. … nothing is valued for what it is.

(And) when nothing is valued for what it is, everything is destined to be wasted.