Friday, December 25, 2015

Winter Wishes

Waking up to a white Christmas and wondering now what the new year will entail. Making reservations for parks to take HaRVey the RV next summer and dreaming of warmer places to go.

Combating the cabin fever with a couple of new TV videos, thanks to my husband.

Here's a toasty warm fireplaces to hang out and chat.

Ocean side, I can just imagine digging my toes into the sand and the sound of the waves.

Better yet, how about snorkeling along the barrier reef off Belize.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Monday, December 14, 2015

International Owl Center

126 Cedar St., Houston, MN
Located just across the Mississippi River from La Crosse, we have the only owl education center in North America, International Owl Center.

This very cool place in Houston, Minnesota has displays, programs, a gift shop and of course live owls. They just opened up this visitor facility in March of 2015 and have big plans for the future.

Presenters Karla and Uhu

During our own visit to the Owl Center we enjoyed a presentation by the Karla Bloem, executive director and the owl ambassador Uhu. I won't give away all the details so you'll enjoy the program yourself.

Uhu, Eurasian Eagle Owl

Uhu, Eurasian eagle owl,  is a member of one of the largest species in the world. Shown here at 5 pounds, they can reach up to 10 pounds, the same size as an eagle.

The center offers a number of programs, you can even arrange an off-site program for your event or group.

Alice, Great Horned Owl

Other owl ambassadors include Alice, a great horned owl, who was injured at a young age. She is now a permanent resident.

You may also want to go their website and view other owls on a live cam, .

Educational displays

There are displays throughout the center offering lots of information about owls and how to get involved.

Owl displays

Gourd Owl Tree Decorations

One of my favorite parts was the gift shop. Beautiful, artistic representations of owls. From charms and tree ornaments, purses and t-shirts. The owl decorated gourd ornaments were especially sweet and for under $10.

We were scoping out the owl houses too, now we have to see if we have a good spot for one. We do hear either barred owls or great horned owls in our backyard.

Now that I know what they sound like I'll be able to identify which one and provide them with another nesting option.

New center image for the future

Aviary image for the future
Plans are in the works for a new owl center and aviaries for the many owl ambassadors and research studies. As you may guess donations are always welcome.


The International Festival of Owls will be celebrating their 14th year, March 4-6, of 2016, in Houston, MN. With visitors from all over the world, you can participate in programs and trips to hear owls, plus partake in contests and actvities. Lots of things for all ages. For more information

The International Festival of Owls will be celebrating their 14th year, March 4-6, of 2016. With visitors from all over the world you can participate in programs and trips to hear owls, plus contests and awards. Lots of things for all ages. For more information

Sunday, December 13, 2015

SunDay FunDay Part 3

Display Owls at the Center in Houston, MN
The saga continues on how to have fun in wintery months of upper Midwest's Coulee Region.

The warmer weather and lack of snow made it a great day to go birding again. We traveled to the overlook just south of Brownsville, MN to see the Tundra Swans. They have continued to revitalize themselves along the upper Mississippi before the long venture south. We even saw a White Egret hanging out in the trees. To find out more about viewings go to Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge websites.

Tundra Swans south of Brownsville, MN
We then ventured to Houston, MN to enjoy a program at the International Owl Center. They were offering a free visit for anyone from the counties of La Crosse and Trempealeau. It was a real surprise to find this new treasure in our area, they just opened up last March. If you're reading this today Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015 they have a program at 11 and 2 pm. Otherwise it's well worth the $5.00 admission whenever you get a chance. It was so good I'm devoting the next blog to their efforts.

Ultimate Perfect Margarita

To wrap up our day we had to celebrate with some libations. There's nothing like Margaritas and Salsa to spice up the dreary weather we are having. We went to none other than Manny's Cochina, Onalaska's very own bit of Mexico. A very authentic restaurant run by the Rivera family.

With 1/2 off Margarita's we couldn't resist the Grande Ultimate Perfect, I even had a second one,  just try their cucumber margarita which was delightfully cool and refreshing.

Other treats included Cerviche Fresco Cocktail with homemade tortilla chips and a bowl of Queso Dip with Chorizo served in a hot molcjete. Check out their menu at

Get this they even have their own SunDay FunDay with $5.00 fish tacos and 1/2 off Margaritas all day. Great minds think alike.

Sunday Funday


Sunday, December 6, 2015

SunDay FunDay Part 2

Norskedalen- Bekkum Homestead
We couldn't wait til Sunday to start having fun. Warmer December weather made it ideal for a road trip on Saturday.

Norwegian Specialties

First stop Norsekedalen for their 31st Annual Old Fashioned Christmas weekend. Among the bluffs is a recreated Norwegian village from the settlers days. Located near Coon Valley, WI, about 30 minutes from La Crosse.

Each building had something to offer from a person doing blacksmithing, a wool spinner and of course a Lefse lady, making the potato based flat bread like food. Lots of food and crafts too, sorry I forgot the names of the specialty dishes.

Norsekedalen ride

Mississippi overlook
Then we had to stop along the Mississippi River in a little town called Stoddard to see migrating birds. Due to the warmer weather the tundra swans were still feeding before their long journeys and also saw a large gathering of Pelicans too.

Packer Fan

Along the way we were reminded we are in Packer country. A very loyal fan shows their support with hay bales for Wisconsin's professional football team.

Mount La Crosse Chalet

Ski Lounge

We also checked out the local ski hill Mount La Crosse. They are still waiting for snow but would happily sell passes and gift cards. Since the lounges were empty it was a perfect photo opportunity to try and capture the beautiful wood details and ambience.

Ski Lounge

This will have to be a place to hang out on a snowy day and drink some hot chocolate and people watch, even though we don't downhill ski.

Last Stop

Spice it yourself
Our "sunday"  outing wouldn't be complete without a Bloody Mary. Those who have lived in the area may remember Hungry Peddler. Well it's still there. Current employees don't remember the yummy popovers they used to have with dinner, but everything else remains the same. They offered a spice yourself Bloody and mighty generous beer chaser. A nice way to end our adventures for the day.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

First People of Wisconsin

A continuation of the wonderful programs experienced through the Master Naturalist Program at the MacKenzie Center

A guest speaker from the Ho-Chunk Nation enlightened us on the history of Wisconsin's first people.
The Ho-Chunk, formerly referred to as the Winnebago, began their history in Wisconsin over 12,000 years ago. Their oral history is passed on by having at least three generations present when the stories are told. This way all have a say in the accuracy and any need for corrections or additions is met at the same time. Understanding that it is their story to tell, not mine, I will not elaborate on details.

Tree Marker
He really left us all wanting more information, as many of us in the audience did not have the background on native peoples in our years of education. Now it is mandatory is Wisconsin schools to teach American Indian Studies due to Act 31.

So if you need to catch up I can recommend two books I'm currently reading by Patti Loew, PhD. titled "Native People of Wisconsin " and "Indian Nations of Wisconsin".

Tree Marker

Trees were often used by various native American people to mark trails or significant sites. Here a tree at the center is identified as a marker, probably identifying a linear mound adjacent to it. Young sapling trees are bent just several feet above the ground and trained to grow in a specific direction.

Friday, November 27, 2015

UW Geology Museum

Boaz Mastodon-center
A continuation of the wonderful programs experienced through the Master Naturalist Program at the MacKenzie Center.

We had a guided tour of the Geology Museum on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. It's a smaller museum but packed with rare and world class specimens.

A few that stood out were the Boaz Mastodon shown here among other interesting finds.


I thought I'd share the State fossil the Trilobite-Calymene celebra. Related to our modern day anthropods (like crabs and spiders), it would molt and shed it's shell that was often left behind and fossilized.

Red Granite


Here's the State Rock, Red Granite. This igneous rock includes minerals of Quartz, Feldspar, Mica and Hornblends. You'll find plenty of this rock around Wisconsin and also in a few kitchens as it makes a beautiful counter top.

Pine Cone
My favorite fossil was this pine cone.

When you're in Madison be sure to go to this little gem of a museum, they have self guided tours and best of all it's FREE.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Aldo Leopold Nature Center

A continuation of the wonderful programs experienced through the Master Naturalist Program at the MacKenzie Center.

We toured the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, located in Monona, WI near Madison, a modern facility, where you can explore the environmental challenges we face today.

As a climate science center the interactive exhibits are amazing. My favorite Science on a Sphere shown here with atmosphere patterns.

Aldo Leopold, author of "A Sand County Almanac", was the nations first professor of game management at UW, and known for his call to action for "Land Ethics".

His legacy lives on the through the Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, WI.

Recreation of Leopold shack at Center

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Baraboo Hills

A continuation of the wonderful programs experienced through the Master Naturalist Program at the MacKenzie Center.

East Side of Devil's Lake
We learned about the unique geology of Wisconsin with a guided tour, by Sue the Naturalist, at Devil's Lake State Park.

Devil's Lake is located along the Baraboo Hills, an ancient rocky outcropping. The exposed rock, called Baraboo Quartsite is older than the Hymalaians. Thought to be 1.6 billion years old by scientists.

Note: Here's were evolutionists and creationists differ.

West Side Driftless

On one side of the Lake the last glacier advancement ended and the other side is known as the Driftless Area.

Learning about rocks

You'll see a variety of landforms in the Baraboo Hills, created by glaciers. A very unique area right here in Wisconsin.

Pigmy Forest

Other unique ecosystems included a pygmy forest. These trees of hickory and ash are much older than they appear. Their growth is limited by the available nutrients but they still survive  atop the Eastern Trail at Devil's Lake.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanks Volunteers

Lodge and Education Center
Since this week is Thanksgiving, I like to express my thanks to the new volunteers from the Master Naturalist Program at the MacKenzie Center. Who will be doing great things in the coming year to reach out and serve a variety of nonprofit organizations and educational centers.

I myself also participated in the 6 days of workshops, presentations and tours, helping us to understand our natural surroundings. Among 20 other self proclaimed nature nerds, from across the state of Wisconsin, we will put our new found knowledge and skills to use, through interpretive programs, citizen science or stewardships, known as our Capstone Projects.

My volunteering will be to communicate to the public the variety plants at the Midway Prairie Garden along the Great River State Trail. By spring of 2016 I hope to have signage identifying these amazing plants along with a blog site to find out more information on their benefits.

Log Cabin Museum
If you haven't heard of the MacKenzie Center, keep on reading this article.

Located on 500 acres, just 25 miles north of Madison, Wisconsin near Poynette, the Center offers environmental education and outdoor skills classes. This diverse center also has interpretive trails, exhibits and museums, plus its adjacent to an arboretum.

Check them out on line and sign up to receive news about upcoming programs. I hear the spring Maple Syrup Festival is a fun place to be the first weekend in April. Admission is free on this WI DNR property, but donations are always accepted.


Shown are a few of my favorite animals in the small rescue zoo on the property. These animals are unable to be released back into the wild. Many were injured animals rehabilitated by agencies or removed from private individuals holding them captive.





I stayed in the dorms on the property with four other ladies. A bit like a hostel, and just as affordable. We enjoyed the evenings discussing the days programs and working on our Capstone Projects.


Evening Fires

In the evenings we could relax in the lounge with a nice fire surrounded by the collections of animals on display. As another guest commented it was a bit like "Night at the Museum". 

An even bigger Thank You goes out to the team from the MacKenzie Center and Devil's Lake, for organizing some of the best programs and tours.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

SunDay FunDay Part 1

Rotary Lights starting earlier and earlier
Summer and fall are my camping season. In order to spice up my weekends in the upcoming months of snow and ice my focus is on a some fun every Sunday. This is good therapy, as so many things that I enjoy are over and it can be a long winter.

Happily as things close down other opportunities open up.

Looks like the tide is out at Riverside Park.

The last  Sunday of October and we hit it right.

A journey to downtown La Crosse started with the farmers market, then the Antique and Flea Market at the La Crosse Center. We walked through Riverside Park where they were stringing up the millions of lights for the holidays and Riverside International Gardens.

Charmont boutique Hotel

After our morning walk we decided to explore the new Boutique Hotel the "Charmont". Some may remember it as the former Ross of La Crosse Building or originally as the Funk Candy Factory.

Since our favorite Sunday treat is a Bloody Mary, we just had to see if they got it right.

Bloody Done Right

Indeed they did, with a view to relish.

We ordered their Bloody, a superb concoction of spices, that never tired your palette. I heard they use a lot of coriander from a very reliable source. OKay la la, I won't tell. The side chaser of beer, dark being a favorite, was so delicious we had to have a second round.

Seating and gas fire pits

Just drink up this view. They have a roof top bar. This being their first year, they only serve beer and wine up top, but they promised next year more selections and a wood fired pizza oven will be seasoned by then.
Love Rain Chains

Roof top bar and Herb Garden wall to the left.

Don't Miss the Mississippi beyond.

Postcards from the Ledge