Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Good Gouda

My friend Carol loves cheese and specifically raw milk cheese.
I love cheese too, but whether the milk has been processed, or not, means little to me.
A small cheese factory & farm in Thorp, Wisconsin has received several awards for their Gouda Cheese, made in the tradition of Holland, using raw milk.
The owner, Marieke, was born and raised in the Netherlands on a 60 cow dairy farm.  Her husband was a dairy farmer too, & their story has brought them to Thorp, 
where they now milk in excess of 350 cows.
Carol and I were ready for a road trip with Spring in the air, so off we went on Monday morning.

I don't know what I expected, but I did not expect to see such a nice layout.
The cheese store / gift shop is an inviting store with a variety of items which compliment cheese.
Several items made in Holland are also for sale.
But most importantly, the Gouda.
The cheese store women were knowledgeable and very generous with samples.
After tasting what I am sure is the most delicious Gouda I have ever had, 
I got busy shopping.

The younger Gouda has a softer, creamier texture.
As you can see, I invested in a nice selection of cheese that will last me quite some time.
I also bought some Dutch Licorice Pastilles, and once those are gone, I'm probably going to have to go back, as I love love love those too.

I think there are tours of the cheese plant offered, next time for sure I'd like to do that.
As you can see, they are aging quite a few rounds of Gouda.
 Award winning Gouda as seen through the window from inside the cheese store.
Those are Dutch Pine planks by the way, in case you were wondering.

Next time, I'd like to tour their dairy operations.
As you can see, their cows are large.

From what I could see inside the barn, the cows are Holsteins.

Now I'm starting my research on raw milk and the pros and cons.
This has been a controversial topic in this area over the past year or more and now I'm a bit more interested since I've tasted this delicious cheese.

Road trips are fun,
life is good.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

It's that time of year

The birds are migrating and looking for love.

New to the feeder this week are the house finch.
This female was enjoying a snack and a perch.

Downy Love?
Also, it is time for the Barron Electric Co-Op Annual Meeting.
This is an opportunity to hear about the financial status and future plans of our electrical co-op.
Glenn and Kathy get an invite because of their lake cottage, 
so it is a chance for us to visit a bit as well.
It's always interesting and they serve us a sandwich & ice cream for lunch!
This year, I even won a door prize.
I've looked at these and thought it could be very handy.
I rarely win anything, and Glenn wins often, 
so to win this while at an event with Glenn & Kathy, 
that was even sweeter!

Friday, March 27, 2015

The baby now plays with a baby

When my great great niece, Alaina, was born, I knit a small pink blanket, 
just big enough to cover her in the car seat.  
I was hoping that after she outgrew the car seat, 
the blanket might be a baby blanket for Alaina to use with dolls.

Today I got a cute text & a few photos from Payton, Alaina's Mom.

The past few weeks Alaina has been very interested in her baby dolls. She sits on the couch and holds them or puts them in her little shopping cart and pushes them around the house. One day I wrapped her baby in one of her small blankets, which didn't last too long. Later that day Rusty wrapped one of her dolls in the little pink blanket you made for her. For the next few days she would constantly bring us babies to wrap. Now she won't use any other blanket for her them except the one from you. She learned yesterday how to wrap them herself. But she will only wrap them on the couch. 
I finally got a few pictures....

What a sweet little girl, taking care of her baby doll.

Life is Good.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stump Be Gone

The Pileated Woodpeckers who are visiting the suet logs daily in the front yard, 
have also been busy in the backyard.

About to launch himself up to the suet block.

Today, I was doing a walk around the backyard and noticed that this stump, 
which I have been covering with an old wash tub planter, 
is being turned into sawdust.
These holes are deep and tunnel through the entire stump.

I should have taken the photo to show the pile of sawdust below the work area.
Since I have not witnessed this process, I am only guessing that it is the pileated doing the work.
Today, I set up the trail cam and hopefully, I'll have the evidence of this destruction very soon.

Every since I asked Ryan cut down this elm tree and leave a stump about 2 feet high, 
for some purpose I was not sure of at the time, 
I have wished this stump to be gone.
It looks like my wish is being granted.

Fame and no fortune

Small town newspapers accept reader submissions and often publish the photographs.
Last week I sent in my eagle 'moneyshot' and was delighted to see it in the The Leader.

So, once again, I have fame but little fortune.
But I was glad to share the eagles with the readers.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Feeder birds

I did some rearranging of the bird feeders today to get them out over the grass to minimize the amount of mess & poop that ends up on the deck.
New swivel hooks allow the feeders to hang over the grass.
The suet bags really make a mess, so I'm really happy to have those further from the decking.

The little song birds were flying right past me while I was working 
so I brought out my camera and took a few pictures of my friends.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Black Capped Chickadee in the feeder


With his prize

Head shot, such pretty feathers on his back

The male downy woodpeckers don't get along

Getting low to run off another male.

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

This guy screeched as he flew in, made me jump.
 Meanwhile, in the house, the cats are lounging.
Hops has no shame.
Napping in front of the fire
Life is good.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A not so rare sight

The tufted titmouse is uncommon for my region of the state.  Normally this bird is only seen in Southern Wisconsin.  For the past few years, I've had the opportunity to see one of these little birds at my feeder and this morning was the first time for this year.
Through the living room window, a snap of the tufted titmouse
Seeing this little guy always inspires me to log into ebird.org to record my sighting.
I wish I would do this routinely but I can't seem to make it part of my regular computer surfing.

The Spring migration is beginning so it is time to keep an eye on my yard to see the new arrivals.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wellness Check

On Tuesday, I took a drive Up North to check on our Sandcastle cabin.  
No one had been up there since last fall and it was time to check things out.  
A sunny, breezy and cool Spring day, but a perfect day at the cabin.
All was well and in perfect order.
Almost all of the snow is gone and it is a little crunchy up there, so we need rain.

I tested my new firestarters...dryer lint that I stash in kleenex boxes.  They were very successful, in short order I had a small fire in the stove, so I will continue that project.
Then I enjoyed a beverage and the scenery.

Even the view from the powder room is nice.

After spending a little quiet time here, wishing I had packed my overnight gear, 
I headed back towards home.

As I motored through Gordon, I noticed this beautiful bird house so stopped to check it out.
The letter states it was donated by the Gordon Corrections staff.
It is an amazing bird house and I love it.

A work of art, and I'm glad I didn't miss seeing it.

Nice road trip and mission accomplished on checking on the cabin.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The rest of the story

As you can imagine, those eagles, from Friday afternoon, stayed on my mind.
I kept wishing I could have taken a few better photos.
When I woke up Saturday morning, 
I was debating whether to drive to Grantsburg to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area for the monthly meeting of the photography club 
or to stay home & enjoy the day in my yard.  
But then it dawned on me that those eagles could be along the way to Crex,
 if I chose it to be, 
so the decision was made and I headed West.

As I got close to 10 Eagle Farm (my words, not the homeowners), I started looking for the eagles.  Accidentally, I drove right past, but just as I realized my error, 
something caught my eye on the other side of the highway.
In a corn field, I could see the heads of about 8 to 10 mature eagles, 
so I found a place to whip-a-louie
and went back to a spot where I could pull off the road safely.

I could only see the heads of the birds over the corn stalks, but it was obvious that they were enjoying some version of road kill delight.
As I watched and clicked away, I saw some interesting behavior.

Some squabbling over the menu I think.

This crow thought he had a reservation at the feast.

But he was mistaken.

Evidently the seating was not agreeable to all.

And there is always one who is late to the party.

Settling into the party.

The Money Shot - My favorite of all that I took.
Bloody talons, I guess there is no etiquette about washing before the meal.

Something got under their wings

Washing up or getting rid of the evidence...

These two might be the hosts of the gathering.
This corn field was less than 1/8 mile from where I had seen the eagles the day before, but don't be fooled, these were not the same eagles I had seen the day before.
I drove back to check where I had been the day before and to my amazement, I saw another 10-12 eagles, bringing my total for the day to somewhere between 20 and 30 eagles.
This area was very busy with eagles too, at least 10 adult and 3 immature were working on this hill.
To say this was an exciting morning is a major understatement for sure.
It was hard to leave and continue on my way to photo club, but other cars were starting to stop to see what I was up to, and I didn't want the eagles to be disturbed, so I motored on, excited to see what images I had captured.
Early Spring is opening up water early too and that gives our wonderful swans a place to land.
I happened to see a couple on a patch of water in a field just West of Frederic and pulled over to snap a few pics.
15T, 22 years and going strong
I could see the number on her neck ring said 15T.
My friend Kathy follows these banded swans and told me that 15T was born in 1993 & hatched at Phantom Lake inside Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.
So, here is a 22 year old tundra swan (local gal) and her mate.

I love seeing these swans return to Northern Wisconsin.
These two are early, but I'm sure more are on the way.
Finally I arrived at the Visitor's Center at Crex.
A few fellow photographers were waiting outside and we said hello.
One woman introduced herself and said she was 'new', so when I said hello New, she pointed out that her name is really Marilyn.  (I crack myself up.) We visited a bit before and after the meeting and then decided to take a drive through Crex and see what we could see.
It's great to have a new friend and her interest in wildlife and photography gives us good common ground.  She gave me a couple of tips regarding a new lens I will consider adding to my gear.

Not much is happening yet around Crex as there is still a lot of ice, very little open water.
We did see a few swans
 and then came upon this swamp area with a very pretty pattern to the grasses.

A little artwork by Mother Nature
I wrapped up my outing with lunch and cheese shopping at the Burnett Dairy.  My egg salad wrap was tasty and a new-to-me brand of cheese, Wood River Creamery, Alpha's Morning Sun with Pesto, turned out to be an excellent choice (in fact I should have bought more).

I decided to ride through Luck on my way home and stopped to see what was happening with Gus & Lois's final move out of their old garage.  I stayed and helped a little bit.  My ankle still can't take too much but at least I showed up for a bit.  They were making really good progress and I think most of the work was finished by end of day on Saturday.

Finally making my way back to Rice Lake with plenty of daylight left, I checked out the eagles only to find that just one remained on the hill side and the corn field was empty.
I'm guessing with so many eagles working on a carcass, it doesn't take long to strip off the meat.
By now they are probably somewhere new with another road kill feast well underway.

I am thrilled with my luck & good timing to get to view this spectacle.
And that is the rest of the story.

The Rest of the Story was a Monday-through-Friday radio program originally hosted by Paul Harvey. Beginning as a part of his newscasts during the Second World War and then premiering as its own series on the ABC Radio Networks on May 10, 1976, The Rest of the Story consisted of stories presented as little-known or forgotten facts on a variety of subjects with some key element of the story (usually the name of some well-known person) held back until the end. The broadcasts always concluded with a variation on the tag line "And now you know the rest of the story."  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rest_of_the_Story


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