Gardener’s Wisdom – a book review

Not only do I love the outdoors, but I have a deep love of books that started even before I could read myself. I remember memorizing a book before I could read, and I would “read” that book to anyone who would listen.

Being an outdoor reporter has a bunch of perks. One of them is access to local authors’ books. I have been lucky enough to have many authors within the state send me a copy of their book, which I gladly read and reviewed in my column in the newspaper. I will always read local authors whenever possible and enjoy buying their books and attending book signings.

When I first saw the title of this book, “Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening,” I immediately felt like I was about to get my grandma or grandpa back again. The book is by Jerry Apps with photography by Steve Apps and recipes by Ruth Apps. While I have never met the author, the lessons he was willing to share in the book made me feel as if I knew at least a part of him.

For one thing, there is something about reading a local author, or even one who writes about things close to home. It just makes it that much more personal and fun, at least for me. I would always recommend, for those looking for a good read, the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, It is one of the greatest places I have ever found to immerse oneself in an adventure or a different time in this place. We have so many talented authors in our midst and so many incredible stories to be told.

But back to Apps gardening book. It would be easy to write a book about successes. It would also be easy for any gardener to discount that in hand. Gardening is about learning, and it is an undertaking in which I do not think most ever stop learning. Gardening was something that I learned to enjoy at an early age, regardless of the work involved.

To say that my childhood was a happy one would be a gross overstatement. But I do remember two places where I was happy. One was in the woods with my Dad. The other was in the garden alone. Of course, I would never want Mother to catch me “stealing” vegetables out of the garden while weeding or picking rocks, but the reward was more than worth the punishment to me, so I often munched to my heart’s content. After all, we had bunnies and squirrels and so many other animals that helped themselves as well, I figured there would be little harm in it. We had plenty of food in the house, of course, but there was something about picking a fresh vegetable, brushing off the dirt, and just enjoying it in a moment of solitude.

App’s situation was different than mine, with actual acreage of farming going on, but it was his vegetable garden, and his mother’s vegetable garden, which brought back the most memories for me. I do not remember that my sister nor I were ever involved in choosing what would go in the garden, but I know we looked through seed catalogs, just like Mom did. One of the simple joys, I suppose. Apps, too, remembered his mother doing the same thing – looking for specific seeds from particular catalogs at just the right time.

While I do not have a lot of space currently for a garden, I make use of the space I have. In my old house, I had a large deck that was probably half the size of the apartment in which I now live. And that was perfect, because I lived in the woods. With the deck, I did not have to worry about bunnies or deer or any other critters, for the most part, getting into my garden. Although, in the winter when I thought it would be fun to hang some suet for the birds, some sort of mustelid did come up on the deck and help himself. I think it may have been a raccoon, although I had never seen one around. The other option was a porcupine, which I did find evidence of from time to time.

But, in both instances, it almost feels like cheating to not have to deal with those things. This year I grew two small tomato plants, which suffered some life-ending blight fairly early in the season (I believe I still got 3 or 4 yellow tomatoes, though, and I did manage one sauce tomato). My peppers fared much better, with the jalapenos and garden salsa peppers outperforming the banana peppers. My herbs, too, thrived on the north-facing balcony.

Reading Apps book, and learning about his successes and failures – not only his but those of his parents, and how his gardening has changed as he has gotten older, I am reminded of an elderly gentleman I had the pleasure of living next to when I did have a large garden. He was a botanist, as a stroke of luck, and a teacher at the local high school. I always thought I might bother him by asking “stupid” questions over the fence between our yards – until he told me a story about being overseas in the army and learning to darn sock via mail from his mother. That must have been quite the long process for him! Apps book reminded me of those days, too, and wondering if I would ever have all of the answers to gardening.

The answer to that, by the way, I believe is “no.” Even Apps, in 60 years of gardening, still has a degree of trial and error in his gardening. His book allows us to learn from his mistakes as well, and to follow his lead in his successes. And that is one of the great things about books like this – he is a Wisconsin gardener, just as many of us are. Granted, he likely has more experience than many of us, certainly more than I have, but to know that he is still learning, too, is comforting in some ways. I hate to put it as akin to misery loves company, but those who garden understand. We pour our hearts and souls into some of our gardening adventures, only to be wiped out by a pathogen or a torrential rain!

As you create your winter reading list, I really hope you will consider Gardener’s Wisdom by Jerry Apps. It will truly be time well spent, and hopefully will give you inspiration for next year’s garden.

Fish Like a Girl Baits

It has been a long time coming, but Fish Like a Girl Baits is finally here. As some know, this is something I have been working on since I started hand pouring baits about a year ago. Now I have a dual injector, and a good start on the molds that I want for my business. I have a Facebook page set up and a fairly good start. But, of course, there is still more work to do.

I have several photographs of my baits posted on my Facebook page under photos. I will post them here, as well, for those who come to my website looking for products. I will also list my stock colors, but many more colors will be available.

I will be also doing laminate baits as well as swirl baits. Those will be posted after I get all of my stock baits listed. Those looking for a color they do not see, please shoot me an email. If you have a bait you use quite a bit, that I do not stock, please let me know that, too. I will be purchasing more molds in the next month or two and would be happy for the input! Stay tuned for more information. Here is the start of the catalog of baits. I will add a separate page when I get more samples done.

Flip B = 4″ craw 6 pack for $4.00
Mini B – 3.5″ craw 6 pack for $4.00
Sexy Sally – 6″ salamander 6 pack $4.00
Double Trouble – 4″ double tail grub 6 pack $4.00
Rhonda – 4″ craw 6 pack $4.00
Torpedo – 4″ creature 6 pack $4.00
Middle Child – 4″ craw 6 pack $4.00
Big Swim – 3.75″ paddle tail swimbait with eye sockets 5 pack $4.50
Tiny Teak – 2.75″ ned craw 8 pack $4.00
Francie – 4″ French fry worm 5 pack $4.00
Squirrely Girl – 4″ curly tail worm 6 pack $4.50

Blowing in the wind

Today’s writing prompt: Write about wind

Spring tends to be a bit windy. Whether we are out fishing or enjoying some grilling, the wind can change how we do things. The winds of change are called that, I suppose, for a reason.

This spring the winds of change blew quite strongly, not just here in Wisconsin, but across the world. The winds of change drove a deep divide between friends, family, and co-workers. With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe and national media doing what it could to create scary, horrible, and sensationalized headlines, these wedges were driven exponentially deep.

While the “feel good” catchphrase of the spring has been, “we’re all in this together,” nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone is dealing with the circumstances in their own ways. While some of us have others with which to weather this health storm, others are wondering when they will see family again. Not all of us have been torn asunder by this, but some have. But spring is a time for renewed life and a renewed spirit. And spring can teach us much about the world around us, and ourselves.

For those of us who have a deep love of the outdoors, we do not ask for much: water to enjoy and a deep wood to roam. There is nothing more therapeutic, in my estimation, than a long walk in the woods as it starts to green up and the natural world comes back to it’s bright spring green. There is no color quite like that new-growth green, and it is a color that I am not entirely sure can be captured by a camera.

Maybe the reason it cannot be captured it because it is more than a color. It is a feeling. It is a renewed hope. It is the sense that things really can be okay again. The first “peepers” come out and we hear them in the quiet evenings off in the distant wetlands and swamps. Soft shoots of hostas and other early perennials in our gardens start to show themselves, pushing up through leaf duff and other decomposing organic material. Everything feels new again.

And the wind softly blows through our hair to remind us life is coming back, renewed just as promised. Birds start to build their nests, ready to create another year’s young. Eventually we start to see hummingbirds at the feeders again, their tiny wings buzzing as they flit by.

If we are lucky, as we traverse those woods, we may spy some of springs other miracles in the way of baby animals learning the way of the world. I am reminded of one day as a young adult exploring in the woods, headed to a river near by Dad’s new home. I was not thinking about anything, but just enjoying being outdoors. That was the last time I was so careless in that neck of the woods.

I came through to a small clearing with two small black forms playing near its edge. It did not take me long to realize, although they were what I thought was a safe distance away, they were bear cubs. It also did not take long, when I heard an indignant “huff” from my other side, for me to realize I had done just about one of the dumbest things a 22-year-old kid could do in the Wisconsin woods. I had put myself between mama and her cubs.

I slowly, oh so painfully slowly, backed up from where I was, headed in the direction from which I came. Viewing the river would have to wait until another day. It felt like I backed up a mile before I felt like it was safe to turn around and walk out without looking over my shoulder.

“Did ya learn anything?” I could already hear my Dad say as I came out of the woods. It was one of his favorite expressions with me, and, yes, I did usually learn something when it came to a situation where he felt the need to ask. Lo and behold, when I relayed the story, those were his exact words. It was dangerous, to be sure, but it was also one of the coolest experiences, albeit an accidental one, that I have had with wildlife.

The joys of spring. The winds of change. The new life, as well as the need to be careful. I have spied birds learning to fly, fawns learning to walk, and even ducks learning to swim in my time in the outdoors. Trees budding and flowers opening to show themselves off to the world, all at the same time. So many animals rely on native flowers, trees and shrubs. Even the plant community relies on its neighbors to be healthy and strong. Animals creating the food web rely on each other as well, each of them with their own place.

All of these phenomenon remind me that everything truly is connected. So, while we are all experiencing this spring in our own ways, we are not as alone in our cocoon as we may sometimes feel. Somehow we are all connected, and learning to live in a connected way, rather than struggle against each other, is perhaps one of springs greatest lessons.

Calling all birders for Global Big Day

A chickadee visited my bird feeder this morning

With being home more during this pandemic, one of my activities I use to fill time is watching birds. There are quite a few LBBs, as my mom would have called them (little brown birds) around our apartment building, so before the last couple of snowfalls, I put out a feeder for them. They quickly found that a new restaurant opened in the neighborhood, and they frequent the feeder all day long. They are fun to watch, even if a little messy, and I have swept seeds off of the downstairs neighbor’s concrete slab in front of his door several times. Luckily, he is a super nice guy and does not seem to mind.

Being an outdoor reporter has a lot of perks, as I have said many times. One of those perks is that you get to learn about all the cool things that are going on with various groups related to the outdoors. One of those things I just found out about in an email I received from eBird. It is called Global Big Day.

Global Big Day is May 9, 2020 this year. The idea is to get birders from around the world to report their sightings wherever they are. Of course, many people are not going out like they normally would, but eBird does not ask for anything more than 5-10 minutes of looking around right where you are, if you are not comfortable venturing out. I am sure thousands of people will venture, out, however, as birding is largely a solitary undertaking, or it can be. Either way, to me, it gives a person something to do, with a great learning opportunity attached to it.

There are two cell phone apps that will make the day much easier. One of those is the eBird app and the other a bird ID app called Merlin Bird ID. Both can be found in your App Store. I downloaded both of them and lost the next half hour of my life. They are really cool apps. The first time you use either, it will ask to be allowed to view your location, and then download bird packs based on that. The Merlin app gave me the Midwest pack and the eBird app the Wisconsin pack. For those who would rather not use a their cell for whatever reason, sightings can be recorded on the eBird.org website also. But the app makes it super easy to submit a checklist in the field.

A checklist is simply a list of the birds that you see and hear. When you first log onto the eBird app, unless you are good with scientific names of birds (and I, for one, am not), go into the settings and change the names to common names. Now you’re all set to go out and start logging sightings!

One of the coolest things about Merlin is it can help you ID birds that you have no idea about. First you start off with identifying a bird by size. From there, you choose what colors the bird is. The app will populate a list of birds for you. It includes several full color pictures for each bird as well as audio of the bird’s calls and songs. From there, you can go back to the eBird app and log your sighting.

In the eBird app, if you think you know what a bird it, you can choose it from the list, then hit the “Merlin” button. That will bring you to the Merlin ID app and you can go through the same procedure, if you are not sure what bird you are looking at or hearing. Then you log how many you saw. You can also add notes, which I did in my short survey today. I added the chickadees and sparrows were at the bird feeder and the robins were in the yard.

For those who are out somewhere, or even walking their own property, you can record a track to see where you went and what you saw. The whole thing is really cool if you are into wildlife and are looking for something to do while you are at home, or even in the field. It can be done while hiking, fishing (I imagine fly fishing a stream and logging birds at the same time would be a great day), biking or any other activity. Just remember you will need cell phone reception, which can be sketchy in some areas, especially in northern Wisconsin.

I would recommend doing a checklist or two before May 9, just to get used to the platform. If you are like me, you will start looking up a few birds and, like I said, all of a sudden half an hour will have gone by. But I have certainly spent more time in less productive ways.

On May 9, each birder can complete a checklist, or several checklists. The idea is to get as many birders as possible to report their sightings all in one day. Last year over 35,000 birders is 174 countries recorded over 92,000 checklists in the 24-hours of Global Big Day, which runs from midnight to midnight. The goal for 2020 is to surpass 100,000 checklists.

It is easy to get involved. Go to ebird.org and set up a free and quick account. Download the apps, and you are ready to go. All you have to do is get out and look around, really. I think it will be a fun way to spend some time. Of course, birders can, and do, complete checklists all the time, but Global Big Day gives everyone a chance to be part of a global team, looking for bird populations. This information can be used to determine any changes in population numbers and ranges of different species.

On the Global Big Day page of the eBird website, birders can check in throughout the Big Day and find out what other birders across the globe are finding in their birding adventures throughout the day, too. We’ve got a couple weeks to get used to the platform and to make some discoveries on our own. Then join the global team on May 9, if you get a chance, and log whatever you find. I have found myself not busy that day, so I know I’ll be checking the birds out in my neighborhood at least.

Batty about bats

Photo credit Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

It seems like it’s always “National Something Day,” with most everything getting its turn in the lime light. For me, some of those days are more fun than others, and some I like to point out more than others.

April 17, 2020 was Bat Appreciation Day. In Wisconsin, we think more about bats as they are darting above our heads when we are sitting around the campfire than at most other times of the year. However, with White Nose Syndrome being found in New York in 2007, and moving steadily west, we started to think about them in the winter time as well. Since the detection of the disease, it has been found in 33 states and 7 Canadian provinces.

White Nose Syndrome, WNS as it is knows, is a fungus that affects cave-dwelling bats while they hibernate. It is characterized by a white fuzzy appearance of a bats’ nose and wings. Bats affected by WNS are often seen flying around outside their hibernacula in the winter long before they should emerge. They often come out, looking for water. They usually seem disoriented and can be unable to fly. They quickly succumb to the extreme temperatures, or starve to death, as no food sources are available and the cold temperatures cause them to use up food store much more quickly.

The Wisconsin Bat Program recently reported that approximately 6.7 million bats have died due to this disease since it has been found in the United States. Thirteen species in all have been confirmed to have the disease nationwide with eight more carrying the fungus without exhibiting signs of the disease.

The program’s recent report stated there were over 200 hibernacula in Wisconsin including natural caves, mines, abandoned rail tunnels and old beer cellars. The 2019-2020 winter survey done on these hibernacula showed the disease was still widespread and, even worse, was still decimating bat populations. Every site surveyed this past year showed signs of the fungus, which grows well in these damp, cool conditions, as one would expect. While some sites had decreased to no bats at all, in others a 72-79 percent decline was seen.

According to Bat program lead and DNR ecologist Paul White, there were some bats, however, that were surviving with the disease. He felt the bats had learned to adapt somehow, possibly choosing hibernating sites that were colder and less hospitable to the WNS fungus. It was found that, in some places, year-over-year survival was increasing, even though WNS was still present in the bat community. This was good news!

So, why should we care? That is a common question some ask. Those of us who study the outdoors understand that everything from opossums to penguins are related. For others, those connections are not as obvious. So, what is the deal with bats anyway?

Bats eat insects. Most of us know that. They dive bomb around us, swooping through and snatching insects out of midair as we finish our late picnics or sit around the campfire in the summer. But the impact they have on agriculture is much, much bigger.

Bats, is has been estimated, save billions of dollars per year in pesticides and other control measures for those in the field of ag. One recent estimate I saw was as high as $53 billion per year. Even the most conservative estimates are in the billions of dollars. This total, wherever it falls, takes into account only the direct impact of bats, and does not take into account the downstream effects, if you will, of harm done to other wildlife, native plants, and even humans, when increased pesticides are needed to control a variety of insects on crops.

In the big scheme of things, then, these little bats are big business. This makes their plight important. Of the eight bat species in Wisconsin, all four of the cave-dwelling species, little brown bats, big brown bats, long-eared bats, and the Eastern Pipistrelle, are all listed as as threatened.

The good news is, there are many ways people can help. As many have heard multiple times, I am a citizen science geek. I love learning about anything outdoors. The Wisconsin Bat Program, and, at least in Wisconsin, your local county Land and Water Conservation Department, are great resources to help people learn more about how they can help bats.

Bat houses are fairly simple to make and erect. There are directions on how to accomplish this on the Wisconsin Bat Program website. This is actually a section of a larger citizen science website, so feel free to look around if you happen to visit there. There are many opportunities to monitor bats, too. Summer surveys are done around the state, in an attempt to see which bats are where and how populations are surviving and adapting.

I agree, it seems creepy at first – little mice with wings, as some people say. But if you can get out on a lake with an eco-locator that can capture the sounds of bats that we cannot hear with our “naked ear”, and later get to hear those sounds – it really can change your mind about them.

I remember Joel Knutson, a young man with a passion for bats, coming to talk to a Master Gardeners group a few years back. He brought audio of bats he had been out monitoring. It was really a cool experience to hear them darting through the trees, using their sonar to not run into anything at a dizzying pace. There was one recording where the sound went quickly dead for not even a second, and then picked up again. It did not take much for the group to interpret the fact the bat had been chasing an insect, and had caught it in midair, causing the brief pause in the action as it swallowed it’s prey. It was a really interesting discussion overall, but I think the audio really made it stick for all of us.

Bat Appreciation Day. On the surface, it might sound about as important as National Pickle Day (although at one point in history, I am very sure those were more important than as a burger side or a stir stick for a Bloody Mary). But, in reality, bats provide a much-needed service in the food web. I encourage everyone to hit the link for the Wisconsin Bat Program above and check it out with the whole family. Bats really are an interesting and important species.

The top 5 reasons to buy your baits locally

Buying baits online is easy. Buying baits from a local manufacturer may seem more difficult – where do I find local guys? How do I know they will provide what they say they will? The answer is social media and word of mouth. All small bait manufacturers rely on those two avenues to gain customers.

We could all shop on Tackewarehouse…. and most of us get at least some of our products there. It is easy. It is a one-stop shop, if you will. But there are many reasons to shop local when it comes to artificial baits of any kind.

Color choice

Every angler has their favorite color. Many of us have an idea for a color, but it is not one we can get in a the type of bait in which we want it. While I have heard Gary Yamamoto is an awesome guy, I cannot believe I could call him on a Monday after a tournament:

“Hey Gary! Yeah, Beckie Gaskill from Fish Like A Girl in Wisconsin. Hey, I have this great idea for a color for your twin tail grub….” Not only will Mr. Yamamoto likely not answer his phone, but if he does, I would imagine he long ago tired of random people asking him for different colors. On the other hand, I can call one of the several local bait makers I have a relationship with, and likely get the bait and color that I want by next weekend’s tournament. I make soft plastic baits now, too, and have for a couple of years. But I know people who have molds for baits that I do not have, nor do I want. I will certainly rely on them when I am looking for a certain thing.

Turn around time

Expedited shipping from a major supplier can be bought, of course. But, for the most part, you and I are just a number – not that I would expect it to be any other way. At some point in a business’ growth, everyone needs to be treated equally. But, I cannot tell you how many times I have called a local soft plastic bait maker and, really, called in a favor. Can you get me # of X by Friday? Any chance? The answer is almost always yes.

Individual attention

In a world where your order number is your identity, most local bait makers will follow you back on social media. They will start to understand who you are, how you fish, and a million other things about you. While you will most definitely get individual attention when you call or text to place your order, occasionally you will get that text:

“Hey, I saw what you were fishing last week. I made this color I want you to try out.”

Input

Local bait makers get out on the water, too, but they may not be on the bodies of water we are on. They may have different experiences on the water. When they find people who are ambassadors of the sport, and who really put in the time and the effort, they often reach out to us – what is working, what is not working. Our input can help shape their business. For me, there is no bigger honor.

Networking

To me, there is never a harm in networking. I love to learn from everyone I meet. Occasionally I learn what not to do – as others learn from me what not to do! That is part of fishing and part of pitting yourself against any other animal on the planet. While we like to see ourselves as top predators, and we are, we can easily be tricked fairly easily by our prey, as any angler or hunter knows. There is a reason we celebrate our wins.

Networking allows us to meet people and get an insight into why they do the thing they do, why they fish the areas they do at certain times of the year, how they break down a lake, why they choose certain colors…when we order from a local bait maker, he or she wants us to be as successful as possible. They want us to talk to other anglers about what we caught on their baits and how it worked for us. Again, social media and word of mouth is the life blood of, really, any small business. The bait making business is no different.

I would highly recommend taking a look at what bait makers are near you. Find those who seem to have the same vision as you do, and place some orders. I do not say this only because I am making a few soft plastics myself. I am saying it because I love this industry and I would like to see people throw something created by their neighbor, or the guy down the street, across the county, etc.

Of course, we cannot discount the big tackle guys. Even though I make a lot of my own baits now, I will likely always have some Yamamoto, Strike King, and Reaction Innovations in my boat. But, for the rest of my tackle, I will rely on local people to get the big fish in the boat.

What are your favorite baits? Do you have a local bait manufacturer you love? Feel free to share that information here!

My traveling goals

Many bass anglers would look to fish Lake Fork or Okeechobee, El Salto or Smith Lake. But, for me, I do not have much desire to go far from home. I am not a world traveler by any means. And, with the current world today, and even before the health scare we are all subject to at this point, I do not have much desire to even leave the state, really. I feel like my second home is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so to me that is a great place to be. I spent a great deal of time there as a kid.

So, if I could travel anywhere, where would it be? I live in Wood County, Wisconsin now, but I came from Oneida County. In Vilas and Oneida County, there are more than 2,700 named lakes. Where would I travel? I think that is the answer.

No matter if a person wants to fish largemouth, smallmouth, walleye, panfish, musky, or nothern pike, there is the perfect lake for that. If it is windy, there are smaller lakes less susceptible to wind, making boat control a bit easier. If it is a heavy boat traffic day on one lake, there is sure to be another not as busy.

One bass club that I was in fished a set of two lakes on opening weekend of bass fishing every year. I was able to fish one of those tournaments with them (in central Wisconsin, not northern Wisconsin, actually), and hauled in my personal best largemouth, hitting the scales at 6.02 pounds. We were not far from home, less than two hours – this is when I lived up north – but it was an awesome day that I will never forget. It was a pair of lakes that had really no pressure, even on opening weekend. What a great time!

But, fishing isn’t everything, right? Well, to me, it’s pretty close really. Definitely number one on my list. But as far as other pursuits, I do not really feel leaving my two-state home is necessary, either.

I have found a love of gardening in later years. I think the reason I moved away from it for a while was the number of hours every summer I spent as a kid weeding, picking rocks, shelling peas and picking other vegetables from a garden bigger than our house. Of course, I always appreciated the fresh vegetables, but at some point, as a kid, you tire of that sort of thing, I think. I am happy to say I am back into it, and wishing my mom was still here to help me when I struggle. Luckily, my aunt Judy is still here and I lean on her for that type of advice.

Of course, hunting was a big part of my youth and most of my adult life. I have pretty much given up deer hunting since I have moved and do not have the access to the land I had up north, but should I undertake that again, I still do not have far to go. Turkey, grouse, rabbit (which is not as easy as it was when I was a kid and got my first .22 at an early age), squirrel… all of these are things I have hunted before. I have never had the opportunity to coyote hunt, but I know I could make a phone call or two and get that chance. Bear hunting is a different animal, but if I were to be lucky enough to draw a tag, I know I could find someone who would help me fill it, or at least get a chance.

Mushroom hunting? Wild asparagus or other wild edibles? I still never have to leave the state. Camping, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, shed hunting, stream monitoring, fighting invasive species, bat monitoring, wolf tracking, other citizen science projects – all of these things I can do within the state of Wisconsin.

I totally understand people who want to travel the world and experience everything there is to see, do, feel, and love. I travel through the food I cook, much of which I learned while I was in school. But when it comes to planning a trip, I would much rather stay close to home.

For those of you who enjoy travel, know I love to see your pictures. I love to hear your stories. I hope you can soon again travel safely across the globe. For me, I will likely be close to home, just exploring every inch of the place in which I grew up, but still do not know everything about.

If you care to, drop me a comment about where you have been, a photo you could only have gotten on that trip, or a favorite memory. Why not relive some great memories while we are all at home hoping for better days ahead?

Admiration

Another topic from the 30-day challenge is admiration. Writing about one person I admire or look up to in the outdoor world is so difficult. There are so many of them in the outdoor world. So many.

One who comes to mind is a man I was lucky enough to meet, and even interview, when he was being inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. Greg Bohn, the innovator who brought us slip bobber fishing – I do not know what I can even say about him. I wrote a two-part series about him, the first of which was entitled, “Faith, Family and Fortitude, triangulating a fishing career.” Honestly, that is what he is all about. His faith is so strong, and his family bonds seem even stronger. I was able to meet his wife and daughters at his inauguration party. What a down-to-Earth and genuine bunch of people. I do not say that lightly.

My interview with Mr. Bohn was like sitting down with a good friend I had never met before. We talked about how guiding, and fishing, used to be, with him telling me more stories than I could ever remember. I will always cherish that time, and will likely never delete the recording of that interview.

Another who comes to mind is a very good friend of mine, who may not be too excited about me telling the world how great he is, but I will take my lumps for that. Again, he is a man with a great deal of faith and a super strong family. I first met Gregg Kizewski through my late husband. He struck me as a no-nonsense tournament director who was also such a genuine human being. He used to own Super K Jigs, and has since sold that business, but I learned so much about jig fishing from him while he owned the business. One thing about Gregg is he is always willing to help. I can text him with some random question whenever, and he always gets back to me with a real and helpful answer.

Gregg was also one of the most important people in my life when my late husband was sick. Rod was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and we fought that for two years. During it all, Gregg took Rod fishing on the opposite week of his chemo treatments, at least as long as Rod was strong enough to get into a boat. When Rod got too sick to fish anymore, he wanted me to keep fishing and told me to find someone to fish with that we both trusted. I did that, but when Rod was home on hospice at the end of his illness, I was not sure if I should fish. Gregg came over and sat with Rod for the entire day. I was happy it was one of his last lucid days and the two could talk. Later Gregg brought me the last jig Rod ever asked him to make, a design the two came up with together. That jig has a prominent place in my fishing room right now and forever.

Later, Gregg came over to help me with the boat. I had several problems that he was right there to help me with. After my husband passed, once Gregg had become a concealed carry instructor, I took his class and, again, he helped me with weapon choice and made sure I knew what I was getting myself into and how to conduct myself in situations that we both hope I will never be in.

Gregg is first class all the way, and again this year, I am looking froward to fishing his newly revamped bass tournament series, The Upper Midwest Bass Challenge Series (UMBCS).

That would bring me to the reason I fish tournaments today, my late husband Rod Gaskill. He taught me a great deal, but also let me learn so much on my own. I remember when we were running a Thursday night league, he let me make the decisions on the water for the first time. It was on the lake that is now likely my favorite lake, Mohawksin, but at the time I knew little about it. I picked a bay that looked like perfect bass habitat. Rod pulled in there and put the trolling motor down. He fished what I thought was going to be super-productive water.

“So, are you ready to go somewhere with fish?” he asked about 45 minutes later. He knew the bay we were in, and had fished Mohawksin for many years. He knew we would not catch any fish there, but let me figure that out for myself. Of course I slapped him, well, backhanded him in the arm, really, but I doubt he felt it. He just grinned at me and idled out of the bay.

Over the course of almost 15 years, he taught me so much about bass fishing, and about owning a boat in general. We bought a boat for me several years before he died: a 1985 Tuffy Maurader with a 50 hp 1963 Mercury on it. Now that he is gone, I wish I knew or could remember every single thing he told me. But we all know that never happens. A certain amount of information dies with everyone who leaves us.

All of these men, and so many more, are those that I admire in the outdoor arena. One thing I have learned is that I can always learn, and I will always find more people that I admire. I will likely get in trouble for this one, too, but my boyfriend Chet Netzel is one of those that I have admired for his fishing skills, which was how we originally met. In fact, he was friends with both Rod and I, and we fished a lot of the same tournaments. When Rod told me to find someone to fish with that he could trust to not do anything crazy on the water, and I told him Chet had asked me to fish with him, Rod was happy. He knew Chet was a good guy. I did not know, for quite some time, that there would wind up to be more to the two of us than just fishing together, but he was another person who never let me be alone with everything I was going through with Rod’s illness. As a friend, he cared more than I expected anyone to. As a fishing partner, I learned a lot from him, as our ideas are much different. While it is sometimes great to have two people in a boat who fish very different strengths but can still be friends, to me, the most fun I have is when I am learning about how other people fish.

How many people do I admire in the outdoor world? As I said, there are really so many. Hunters in pursuit of all types of game, anglers, small business owners in the outdoor world, and other journalists and outdoor writers who bring the outdoor world to the page and electronic screen.

Who do you most admire? I would love to hear your comments…

Great things come in fours

This is another prompt in the 30-day challenge, which I decided to undertake for the month of April. We always say that bad things always come in threes. So, perhaps good things always come in fours! Four seasons, four elements (Earth, wind, fire, and water). Those were the two that stuck out to me. On a side note, yes there are WAY more than four littles in the geese photo, but it is a fun summer photo that I took that I wanted to share.

Four seasons. Every outdoors man has their favorite. Some of us cannot choose a specific one, as we find beauty and fun in each of them, but in much different ways. While I am not a fan of winter, and tend to dread some things that come along with it, I do have to say it can be quite beautiful. Crucnhing snow under my feet, pine trees heavy with a fresh few inches, animal tracks in the snow that give me an idea of “who” has traveled this path before me. I had the opportunity to do a bit of wolf tracking while I was up north, and that is something I may get into again, if for no other reason than to strap on some snowshoes and get out and do something in the winter.

Fall has been my favorite season for many years. Hunting season, and the beauty of the trees as they change and prepare to hibernate for the long, cold winter make that so. Those things have always been close to my heart. I enjoy getting together with other hunters to talk about what they do, how they do it, and how their most recent hunt turned out. I love all of the stories. I also enjoy the fall harvest and attending farmers’ markets to talk to growers about their season.

Summer, of course, is a favorite, too. It means fishing tournaments and bon fires, grilling out and gardening. There are so many reasons I can say that I love summer. And, I suppose, all four of the elements I mentioned above, are part of those reasons. When I became an outdoor reporter, it gave me a strong reason to learn more about photography, and summer allows for being out and doing a lot of that – and I am always learning. In fact, I have a Great Courses course on photography going in the background as I write this. Shooting storms as they come in is exciting and fun, really. I have yet to get the lightning strike I would love to add to my photos, but summer is the best time to get those. I am also a storm spotter for NOAA, so getting those shots is not only interesting, but important, so I can look back and see what I reported, and what I photographed.

Summer. How much is going on in the summer? I love to be out on the water. But I also love to dedicate my time to water quality and things such as aquatic invasive species (AIS) management. I am now also looking into monitoring a stream or two near where I live in central Wisconsin. This week I attended the Lakes and Rivers Convention online and learned about a stream monitoring program into which I fully intend to get involved. Those who know me know I will also dedicate my small balcony garden to pollinators. I had a bit of success last year, and I look to build on that this year.

It is interesting, too, how a person feels about season can change over time. Spring, when I was a child, meant picking rocks out of a garden that was bigger than the house in which our family of four lived. It was a job I would not want to do again – but then the year came that I decided I was going to try out for Little League. My sister had an old wooden bat, and I took it over. I batted rocks for hours per day, out of the garden and as deep into the swamp as I could get them. Suddenly, picking rocks was not so bad. On a side note, I did make the majors in Little League during tryouts, but my best friend did not make it, so I played in the minors that year.

Summer, too, felt different as a child. I used to have pretty harsh reactions to mosquito bites. My doctor told me mom I was allergic to mosquito bites, but I have no idea if that was the case. But I did have a bad reaction to them. A mosquito bite on my forearm, for instance, would soon become a three-inch welt at least an inch tall. If I were to get bit too many times, I would get a fever and start to feel pretty horrible. My mom would make me stay inside until I felt better, which could be days. I do not remember how many years this went on, but I know I did eventually outgrow it – thankfully! Imagine how different my life would be!

What is your favorite season? Can you pick one? Or do they all have their draw for you?

30 days of blogging

This month I signed up for a 30-day blogging challenge. First off, in an effort to get into the habit for using this blog more frequently, I thought this would be a great way to do so.

Second, with the “Safer at Home” in Wisconsin and many other states, and a future that seems a bit uncertain, I felt it might be a good time to talk about issues of the outdoors, and to give people something to read.

So, as we go through this month, I have no idea what the prompts will be for each day. I also have no idea how the prompts I will be given will relate to this particular blog. But no matter what the month brings, in prompts or in life, I intend to see everyone here, on this blog.

As we sit and start the month of April, many things are uncertain, obviously. One of those things is the tournament season itself. While we have not been told we cannnot hold our tournaments, we do all understand we cannot have more than 10 people in any one place and we need to stay at least 6 feet apart. I, and other tournament directors, have made plans to make that happen.

We are just hoping this will all lift before we have to go through more than our first tournament with these regulations in place. While that does not look super-likely, it seems like less is known rather than more, about what is actually happening in the world.

Thank you for starting this 30-day journey with me (and yes, I am starting a day late, so I will post twice today). I look forward to seeing your comments and starting a dialogue about the people and places of the outdoors.