Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flying out of Milwaukee ~ Mosaic Inspiration

Acclaimed artist Carlos Alves worked five years on the airport project before completing it when Concourse C reopened in 2007.    Alves' design, an abstract aerial view of southeastern Wisconsin, created in terrazo, runs the length of the concourse's floor. Fourteen colorful mosaic tile medallions, set throughout the floor, feature close-ups of scenery common to sourtheastern Wisconsin. It provides a sweeping artistic representation of the rural-to-urban views a traveler might see from an airplane window while flying into Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport. From farm fields and lake country, set in warm tones, to the downtown streets and buildings, and finally a sea of cool blue, representing the Lake Michigan waterfront, the elaborate tile imagery celebrates the region.

Alves created the individual ceramic images in his South Beach studio. Then he and his wife shopped Milwaukee stores for tiles later shattered into thousands of pieces for brilliant background fields.

The image above is based on a 1950s photo of Milwaukee. Alves said his only change was adding a Green Back Packers bumper sticker on a car. Alves and his wife and working partner J.C. Carroll came into town after spending weeks in their Miami shop firing kilns day and
night to bake the tiles to finish the floor.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Arbor Day in Wisconsin

The Village of Sherwood has been an Arbor Day Foundation “Tree City USA” since 2000.  Sherwood annually takes part in Arbor Day activities, planting trees and helping establish tree cover and forage for birds in the park.  The Village and local schoolchildren have planted over 500 seedlings and 75 young trees, mostly in the Miller Pond stormwater area, to further enhance bird habitat and create a small tree nursery.  The village is currently completing the  landscaping the Wanick Park area with 650 trees, several hundred shrubs and grasses, and nearly 8,000 flowering plants.

Wanick Park plans


Over the past three years, the village has acquired two 5-acre wooded parcelsand  an additional two acres that  will be home to low impact walking trails, new tree plantings, and improved bird habitat.

High Cliff State Park features both shaded and exposed cliff habitats along the Niagara escarpment, talus slopes supporting wet-mesic forest, more than a mile of Lake Winnebago shoreline.  At the escarpment summit are vertical cliffs up to 25 feet high that contain fragile fern, bulblet fern, leaf cup, cliff stickseed, and long-beaked sedge. The undisturbed forest on the slope is composed of sugar maple, basswood, white ash, green ash, elm, hackberry, and butternut. Closer to the lake, willows and cottonwood gradually appear. A rich herbaceous layer includes wild ginger, great water-leaf, false rue anemone, squirrel-corn, toothwort, and Canada violet.

In preparation for the annual Arbor Day Tree Planting and Park Clean Up event on Saturday, April 26th, Jansport volunteers dug 500 holes.  Our local Fox Valley area chapter of Wild Ones provided a $500 grant to help fund the purchase of the trees.

A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that more green space were associated with lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. The study combined mental-health data from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) and Landsat 5 satellite data from July 2009 that analyzed how much vegetation was present in each of the SHOW census blocks. They found that across all strata of society, people who lived in a neighborhood with less than 10 percent tree canopy were much more likely to report symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety.  The study appears to support the “attention restoration theory,” holding that more time in nature restores the ability to concentrate and reduces mental fatigue.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day April 22, 2014

 “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
 ~Theodore Roosevelt

Every year on April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day. Like Earth Days of the past, Earth Day 2014 will focus on the unique environmental challenges of our time. As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever. Earth Day 2014 will seek to do just that through its global theme: Green Cities. Focused on three key elements – buildings, energy, and transportation – the campaign aims to help cities accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier, and more economically viable future through improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology, and regulation reform.

The publication of Rachel Carson's New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962  represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement. Selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.   The first Earth Day celebration was conceived by then-U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson and held in 1970 as a “symbol of environmental responsibility and stewardship.”  Earth Day 1970 capitalized on an emerging enviromental consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement.  As junior high students, we surveyed the trash along the nearby creek and around town in our city of Stamford, Connecticut. Twenty million Americans demonstrated in different U.S. cities.
In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA was tasked with the challenging goal of repairing the damage already done to the environment and to establish guidelines to help Americans in making a cleanerand saferenvironment a reality. The first Earth Day led to passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign, taking Earth Day global. Environmental issues were lifted onto the world stage as over 200 million people in 141 countries were mobilized. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

So what is the state of our environment today, 44 years later?

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report on climate change concludes that busineeses and local governments will need lead the way in minimizing the risks and maximizing the benefits associated with increasing temperatures, focusing increasingly on adapting to a warming climate, rather than focusing on mitigating warming. We can't afford to wait for world leaders to legislate against climate change.  Individuals and communities need to show entrepreneurial initiative, figure out how best to survive in an increasingly volatile climate.

North America should focus on the increased risk of wildfires and urban flooding. Some people will profit from beefed-up flood-insurance policies; others will be forced to relocate their homes. New forms of insurance may develop against "weather-related yield variations" in the agricultural sector.  Additional focus should be on heat waves, which may incapacitate and kill people. Communities may invest in public "cooling centers," and employers may have to adjust workers' hours.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Searching for signs of spring

He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba. He who despairs of spring with downcast eye steps on it, unknowing. He who searches for spring with his knees in the mud finds it, in abundance.” 
~ Aldo Leopold

Deer appear at dusk

The ice has melted and water runs from Butterfly pond
down to the lake again
The purple martin houses have been reinstalled and
a neighbor burns brush gathered from native planting beds in the distance.

The Chubby Seagull, our neighborhood ice cream shop,
has opened for the season, so we stop for whitecaps to celebrate
along with a doggy dish topped with a dog biscuit
for our favorite Aussie.
We head home as the sun sets over our house in the distance...

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Appassionata: Ode to a Lilikoi

The scent of plumeria's lovely;
The taste of pineapple divine -
I love nothing more than to sit on the shore
Of a black sand beach in the sunshine.

Oh a coconut's creamy and nutty,
Macadamias food for a king,
The coffee from Kona is likely to own ya,
Paniolo will tear up your heart when they sing.

The musk of the rain forest woos me,
Fresh guava juice better than wine,
But the fragrance that whispers Hawaii to me
Is a lilikoi straight off the vine.

The slack key guitar is so haunting
It will bring a grown man to his knees.
A glimpse of an outrigger's likely to trigger
Nostalgia for groves of palm trees.

The sea turtles bask on the shoreline
And the butterfish melts in your mouth;
The reefs are a dizzying rainbow;
A healing breeze wafts from the South.

The wind from the sea is a delicate wind,
Fresh and pure as a maiden's first blush,
But cut open the fruit named for passion
And Hawaii comes back in a rush.

Hawaiian white ginger seduces
With scent that's both tender and bold,
The voice of the ocean will lull you to sleep
And the sun there will turn you to gold.

Oh, hibiscus is brazen and scarlet
In the hair of the virgins entwined,
But the fragrance that sings of Hawaii to me
The perfume that whispers Hawaii to me
The scent that brings back my Hawaii to me
Is a lilikoi straight off the vine.


While there are over 500 species of Passiflora, only one of the species can be called passion fruit. Of this, there are two varieties, purple and yellow. Brought to Hawaii in the 19th century from South America, the yellow-skinned fruit has spread more throughout the islands. In 1951, the University of Hawaii chose it as the most promising crop for development and created an industry based on quick-frozen passion fruit juice concentrate. By 1958, 1,200 acres were devoted to yellow passion fruit (Passiflora edulis, botanical form flavicarpa) production and the industry was firmly established. Today, due to high labor costs and rapidly increasing land value, there are no longer commercial passion fruit plantations left in Hawaii.  Wild lilikoi continues to grow up fences and through the branches of trees and in groves, with many local fruit stands selling it from June through January when it matures. The fruits are large egg shapped yellow balls with a smooth, glossy rind filled with many juicy flesh covered seeds. Once the fruit ripens it drops off the vine and makes "picking" these fruits easy. Passion fruit is high in beta carotene, potassium, dietary fiber, lycopene, and vitamin C. It is also great for people who have high blood pressure.

Passion flowers (Passiflora incarnata) grow wild in the southern part of the United States and in South America. Purple passion-flower is an herbaceous vine, up to 25 ft. long, that climbs with axillary tendrils or sprawls along the ground. Intricate, 3 in., lavender flower are short-stalked from leaf axils. The petals and sepals subtend a fringe of wavy or crimped, hair-like segments. The pistil and stamens are also showy. Three-lobed, deciduous leaves are dark-green above and whitish below. The fruit is a large, orange-yellow berry with edible pulp. Like some other passion vines, Maypop spreads by root suckers. This unusual flower is widely distributed in the Southeast, especially from Florida to Texas.  Passionflower is considered a warm weather Southern belle, but it can take winter temperatures into Zone-5 as long as you give it a protective layer of mulch before you put it in the garage for the winter season.  Or you can prune the vines back and bring plants indoors over the winter months keeping consistently moist.  Some gardeners prefer to pot passionflower and then bury the pot in the garden to keep the plant from growing out of control.  If you think watering might be a problem, invest in a self-watering pot and make sure to add moisture beads or a layer of mulch to your setup.
You can make a sedative tea by adding 8-ounces of boiling water to a teaspoon of dried passionflower leaves placed in a tea ball or muslin bag. Let steep for five minutes. Limit the dosage to one cup about an hour before bedtime.

The plants were given the name Passionflower or Passion vine because the floral parts were once said to represent aspects of the Christian crucifixion story, sometimes referred to as the Passion. The 10 petal-like parts represent Jesuss disciples, excluding Peter and Judas; the 5 stamens the wounds Jesus received; the knob-like stigmas the nails; the fringe the crown of thorns. The name Maypop comes from the hollow, yellow fruits that pop loudly when crushed.

Yellow Passion Flower (Passiflora lutea), a small yellow-flowered species, occurs from southeast Pennsylvania to Florida, west to Texas and Oklahoma, and north to Missouri, Illinois, and West Virginia.

Although passion flowers are native in many regions of the southern U.S., they can become invasive. Check with your local Cooperative Extension or DEC to see if you should avoid passion flowers altogether or if certain species are preferable.

A lot of gardeners prefer to grow their passion flowers in containers which will limit speading through rhizomes. You have the convenience of being able to move it to a sunnier site or even bring it indoors for the winter.

Passionfruit Cheesecake

1    sleeve     graham crackers, crushed finely
5    T.         butter, melted
2    T.         sugar 
2-8 oz         packages cream cheese, softened
2                 eggs
1/2 c.          passion fruit syrup
2    cartons Chobani passiofruit Greek yogurt

Pulse graham crackers and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add melted butter and press into cheesecake pan. Press so crust is even on bottom and sides. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or until crust firms up.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.
Mix together the cream cheese, eggs, and passiofruit syrup using a stand or hand held mixer. Mix until everything is combined and fluffy. Pour into cheesecake crust and bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes or until the cheesecake is firm, but still has a slight giggle to it.
When cheesecake is done, remove it from the oven. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.  Let cheesecake sit for 20 minutes.  Stir passionfrut yogurt well and spoon onto top of cheesecake.  Baek for 5 minutes until set.
Refrigerate until serving time.
Slice and drizzle with thickened (cook down in pan on stovetop) passiofruit syrup.

Happy Easter

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Viewing a "blood moon" last night during the lunar eclipse

A lunar eclipse takes place when the sun, Earth and moon line up in space. The moon passes through Earth’s shadow. (Wikimedia Commons)
During a lunar eclipse, the Earth’s shadow creeps across the moon’s face. The shadow will appear dark, like a bite taken out of a cookie, until the shadow completely covers the moon.  During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth lies directly between the sun and the moon, causing the Earth to cast its shadow on the moon. If Earth didn’t have an atmosphere, then, when the moon was entirely within Earth’s shadow, the moon would would appear black and invisible. During a total lunar eclipse, when the moon is submerged in Earth’s shadow, there is circular ring around Earth, the ring of our atmosphere which extends 50 miles about the Eath's surface, through which the sun’s rays pass. As sunlight passes through our atmosphere, the green to violet portion of the light spectrum is, essentially, filtered out. 
The reddish portion of the light that is least affected is bent (refracted) toward the Earth’s surface when it first enters the atmosphere. It’s bent again when it exits on the other side of Earth. This double bending sends the reddish light onto the moon during a total lunar eclipse. Depending on the conditions of our atmosphere at the time of the eclipse (dust, humidity, temperature and so on can all make a difference), the surviving light will illuminate the moon with a color that ranges from copper-colored to deep red. (In December 1992, not long after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, there was so much dust in Earth’s atmosphere that the totally eclipsed moon could barely be seen.)

Lunar eclipse of March 3, 2007. Image by Joshua Valcarcel via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of red moon morning of April 15, 2014 from Appleton, WI.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A trip somewhere wam like Costa Rica sounds appealing right now...

as we woke to more snow this morning, April 14th!

Where are those "April showers"?

"Sweet April showers
Do spring May flowers."
-  Thomas Tusser, A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry, 1557 

As for views of the flora and fauna from our journeys through Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano is an active andesitic stratovolcano in
 north-western Costa Rica around 90 km northwest of San José,

It's hard to resist a place whose Spanish name
 translates to "Dream of the Sea"
El Sueno del Mar Bed & Breakfast in Tamarindo...

offers wonderful spots for relaxing…

by the sea

and tropical plants tumbling into refreshing
oudoor showers

and local garden art hidden among the tropical plants

and local ceramic vases filled with fresh flowers

In a tranquil littler nearby village, Guaitíl,  descendants of the Chorotega people have been making their unique pottery, piedra, of red or black or ocher using the same methods for generations.  

They turn the clay on wheels, polishing the pottery with small jade-like grinding stones taken from nearby archaeological sites, and firing the pots in large open-hearth kilns. 

There are several artist families, with every family attended by the matriarch. Women run the businesses and sustain families and village structures.

And a few of the promised photos of the "fauna"

We woke to the howler monkeys each morning.