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April 16th, 2010 - Transition

Holy smokes, it's been a while. We finally got replanted here in the Suburban Wonderland of New Berlin, Wisconsin, giving up our stake along the Mississippi River for the rolling drumlins and moors of southern 'Sconny.
It's been a transition all around.
For the most part, the people are friendly and like to engage you in casual conversation at the hardware store, gas station, or while they are installing kitschy sculptures on their well-manicured lawns.

Where Minnesota is known for 'Minnesota nice', here we're apologetic to the nth degree, even being sorry for any convenience.
Whatever it is, we're sorry. Have a smoke and a beer and go work on your yard.
Myself being originally from northern Wisconsin, for me to move anywhere south of Wausau, is, I'm sure for many of my northern brethren, the equivalent of selling my soul to the Devil.
When I was growing up in Ashland, WI, almost about as far north as you can go in the state, to us the southern half of the state was thought of as "where all the Fat Cats with all the tax money live" and was not acknowledged by Northerners as even being physically connected to our streets paved with wooden beams and iron ore (you think I'm kidding).
Once you crossed the 'Cranberry Curtain' across the middle of the state, you had better be; 1. Going to the State Fair, 2. Going to a doctor's appointment, or 3. Going to another state. You just didn't mix with 'them people.'
There was even talk and a fair amount of backing to secede and become 'The 51st State' by combining northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan into the State of 'Superior', or 'Ontonagon', due to the cultural and financial differences from North to South in the two states. (Sound like any Civil Wars you may have heard of...?)
So here we are. Trying to bring a little northern naiveté to the untouchables. We're missionaries of culture, people. We come in peace, eh?

Happy the Dog seems to like it, mainly because he has more indoor lounging opportunities, and can stare out the patio door at the squirrels.
He is on a learning curve with all of his new sensory information, such as the neighbor noises and squeaky floors of a multi-unit apartment building, as are we all.
But, he gets his own little stake and rope and lawn space to gel in the sun and greet the neighbor's dogs; 'Rocco' and 'Speedbump'.
There are a lot of city parks and open spaces. Unfortunately to everyone's dismay, especially Happy's, the free-range dog park we discovered close by is downwind of 'The Gun Club', and the shooting noises scared poor Hap into a foaming-at-the-mouth bolt for the car. Anyone's car.
We are all still making our adjustments here.

Our sanctuary though, (quite literally) is the deer sanctuary that our building borders on the north side.
It has tons of red-bellied, downy, and hairy woodpeckers, phoebes, chickadees, robins, ducks, geese, black-morph squirrels, and of course, deer.
We have also recently seen a few kestrels, flying and perched, some brown-creepers, and a couple different types of hawks.
I apologize for the non-photo documentation, all of the pics here are from 'the little camera' which doesn't play nice with the telephoto, unless you're about five feet away.
More to come when I get time to go through my camera cards. Barely have all the cardboard moving boxes open at this point, and we're still buying all the things we need but can't find, so I expect we'll find everything soon.

The deer park has a ton of spring ephemerals coming up, such as these Bloodroot in various stages of bloom.
So called for their blood-red roots, they spend most of their time working underground for a short push for daylight in the spring, then 'go back underground' for the rest of the year again.
Once on a hike near the Minnesota river, they were in bloom at the start of the hike and gone three hours later on our way back to the car.
An interesting thing about how their seed gets planted is, ants do the work for them!
"Bloodroot is one of many plants whose seeds are spread by ants, a process called myrmecochory. (Glad I'm writing and don't have to pronounce that)
The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris."

Bonus! Hey, ants, thanks for the poop, and the ride.
Anyway they are pretty cool flowers, very delicate and with these unfurling ice-cream cone leaves.

There are also a crap-ton of daffodils and jonquils everywhere, in the woods, in peoples yards, taking over the local movie theater, out-witting the National Guard. Well, maybe not that last part so much.
Along with those we have many pockets of purple Wood Violets or 'Viola papilionacea':

which just happen to be the Wisconsin State Flower (whatever that means).
When the official tally for State Flowers was taken on Arbor Day 1909, Wisconsin school children selected the wood violet over the wild rose, trailing arbutus, and the white water lily.
The wood violet is a small flower commonly seen in wet woodland and meadow areas (that's us). Not only is it the state flower for Wisconsin, but it also holds this title in Illinois, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Copy cats. Go get your own flower.
Believe it or not, the leaves are very tasty and can be used in salads, candies, and jellies. Mmm. And they make your lips purple.

Alongside those, we seem to have an inordinate (at least to what I'm used to seeing) amount of Blue Crocuses (Crocii...? Crocus'...?)
They were some of the first flowers up, and looked a lot like a flowering grass they were so tiny.

Now they are a little past their prime in most places, but still popping through the leaf duff in others.
Happy seems to single them out to pee on, so I don't know if there is some deep symbiosis going on there or if it's just something personal for him.
I'm not sure how I did it actually, but I also found some poison ivy in taking these pictures, as I got a spot on my elbow. I'm not usually even sensitive to it, or haven't been in the past, but they say you can touch it and get a reaction the first time, or touch it a hundred times and not react until the hundred and first.
"Initial treatment for Poison Ivy includes thorough washing with lots of water to remove any trace of the irritant that may remain on the skin. You should avoid further exposure to known irritants or allergens." (Ya think...?)

"In some cases, the best treatment is to do nothing to the area."
Hmmm. Do you do nothing before you do something? Or do you find out you should have done nothing by doing something first...?

Another vivid plant we came across during one of our dog walks through the 'hood, was this blooming tree.
I'm going to have to get some more pictures of it now that it has blossomed out because it is something spectacular, and the wind is going to play reek havoc with the huge blooms.
I'm not sure what it is, yet, most probably a non-native, it looks like something out of oceanside California:

This is ironic, because all the streets in this neighborhood have California names, 'San Mateo', 'Vista Granada', 'Vera Cruz', and 'El Sirroco' to name a few. It's kind of spooky.
Then you cross the street and you're on 'Acredale'.
Of course you know you're in the right place if you see a 'wau' in your name: 'Waukesha', 'Wauwatosa', 'Milwaukee', 'Pewaukee', 'Wausaukee'... you get the idea.
I've wondered what 'wau' means, jumping to what I thought the obvious conclusion was: 'Water'.
But no.
It seems that "The Algonquin Indian languages that gave names to these and many other places in the Midwest were oral, like all North American Indian languages. Place names like Milwaukee and Waukegan weren't written down by Indians but by white dudes who had no familiarity with the subtleties of the Indian tongue (some of them had a pretty shaky grip on their own languages, for that matter). The spellings have changed God knows how many times--Milwaukee, for example, first appears as "Melleoiki," which may or may not have meant "good land" in Chippewa.

Thus we have the 'wau' syllable popping up in a slew of names that seem to have nothing in common: Waubonsee, from the name of a Potawatomi chief who attacked his enemies at dawn (wapin, "daybreak"); Waukegan, from waukeegance, a translation into Indian of the original name, "Little Fort" (the -ce, which meant "little," was dropped out of civic pride); Waupaca, where wau seems to come from waub, the Potawatomi word for "white" (the same goes for Waupecan Creek, "white sand bottom"); Waukesha, "little fox"; Wausau, from wassa, "far away place"...

In Internet slang 'wau' means "What About You...?"

Until next time, I wish you wau.

1 comment:

dignature said...

After I posted this, my dear sister Bethy wrote in to comment: "Tim dear, the bottom entry (unfolding pinkish flower tree) looks to me like a magnolia or Japanese tulip tree- I've seen them in San Jose and the like; we may have some in Sonora also..."
After our trip to The Todd Weir Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee yesterday, I would agree with the Magnolia call. They had an area with a collection of Magnolia trees of all species, and one that looked exactly like the one pictured here, though I couldn't find the species listing. The blossoms were a little darker pink, but ready to pop. We'll have to check on our neighborhood tree and see how the blooms are doing. Thanks, Bethy!