Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Niagara Falls USA

If you have never been to Niagara Falls USA, whatever you think you know about it is probably wrong.  I know, I was wrong.  I knew Niagara Falls USA from my Grandparents, they went there on their honeymoon.  It was old school, it was tired, I was way off the mark.  My first visit to Niagara Falls USA wasn't anything I expected.  

Niagara Falls USA is iconic, it is the Falls, it is stories of dare devils and you can see the wonder from the Maid of the Mist, which I did. Niagara Falls USA is also kayaking. Just take a peak at my article from a couple years ago Hobies on the Niagara.  It's about slowing down and enjoying your family and the outdoors.  $608 Million dollars come into the Niagara Falls USA community every year through tourism. 

I can't say enough good things about Niagara Falls USA, mainly because it was surprising.  Surprising in a good way is so rare.  We are all so connected that nothing is new, nothing is surprising.  What I found in Niagara Falls USA were, unique outdoor experiences, I fished on Lake Erie and on Lake Ontario.  I saw what dedication to reclamation of water can do for the rust belt. I saw what removal of dams has done for native species in the Great Lakes. I saw our nation's history at a fort and wondered if my relatives stood there on those same shores wondering if we would ever be a free nation. I saw nesting gulls. I saw the Ramone's memorabilia in the Hard Rock. I ate some of the best chicken wings of my life in Lewiston, New York! 

When I say I love New York, I don't mean that other part of New York. I mean this part of New York.  I mean a place where the people are friendly, the food is great, the music is good, nature is out the back door, there is only one New York that calls to me, Niagara Falls USA

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I was taking photos randomly in the ocean.  Jelly fish were swimming all around the docks but it was difficult to get them captured as a usable image.  It can be really peaceful watch the different types of Jelly fish pulse through the water and I find myself getting lost in the ebb and flow of their movements

Monday, March 13, 2017

Canvas Prints on Etsy

I have taken many photos that I love.  I am in the process of turning them into canvas prints for my own walls.  Then I thought, why not offer them for sale to others as well? I opened an Etsy shop with some of my photos available for purchase on canvas.  If you would like larger sizes I can get pricing for those also.

I will add other photos as I edit them.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wild Turkey Paella

Half a breast cut into strips

Wild Turkey Paella
1/2 of a (depending on size of turkey) wild turkey breast cut into strips about 1 inch long by 1/2 inch
1 pound of Chorizo removed from casing, crumbled
1 pound shrimp, deveined
1 quart chicken stock, plus a bit more
1 whole sweet onion, chopped
1 whole red pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 bunch of parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish Paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons of crushed garlic
2 pinches of saffron
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 lemons, zested
2 cups of rice-I like basmati
olive oil

In a bowl combine at least two tablespoons of olive oil with the paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper, coat the turkey.  Cover and refrigerate while you make the other portions of the recipe.  In a large cast
iron pan or a paella pan heat two tablespoons of olive oil, add rice to coat in oil, add crushed red pepper.  Cook for at least two minutes be careful not to burn rice.  Add bay leaf, lemon zest, chicken stock and parsley.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover,  and simmer until rice is tender.  Be careful to make sure that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  If rice begins to stick add more stock until it finishes cooking.
Finished Paella
While the rice is cooking heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven add onions and begin to cook, add wild turkey strips.  Cook about four minutes or until onions are transparent, add chorizo and red bell pepper and cover.  Cook another four minutes, the turkey should have become firm and the onions should all be transparent, the chorizo will have made the mixture a nice red color.  Add the shrimp stirring into mixture, cover.  Cook until the shrimp are pink and done through.
Check rice to make sure that it is done through.  Serve meat on top of fragrant rice.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

National Wild Turkey Spring Guide

Set up waiting for the Strutter  
The National Wild Turkey Federation has put out a Spring Turkey Guide for states with a season.  It will be here quickly so those that wish to hunt need to plan accordingly.  The bag limits and seasons dates vary wildly so know the areas that you intend to hunt and what the laws are prior to going into the field.  Double check the facts in this guide with the state DNR web sites to insure that nothing has changed between publication of facts and time of your hunt.

Last night I made a wonderful paella with half a wild turkey breast.  For my first attempt at paella, I believe it was a success.The Fragrant Lemon and piquant edge of the chorizo set off the lean of the wild turkey breast. I can't wait to hunt again this year and to share my new paella recipe with my friends in camp during turkey season.  I will share the recipe tomorrow on my blog.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Combat Cabin Fever with CVBs

Finding things to do during a long winter can be a task, however, if you think like you are visiting your own backyard it can become quite a bit less so.  Often, I hear folks complain about nothing to do, when was the last time you accessed Convention and Visitors Bureau information?  Most likely
Sudden Snow is Part of the MidWestern Life
never for the area that you live in.  Your local convention and visitors bureau is a wealth of information for what is happening right now and into the future for your area.  They want you and people outside your area to have the up to date information, so that events are successful and the area you live in thrives.

Most Convention and Visitors Bureaus or CVBs have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.  They are user friendly sources of up to date free information.  For example, here in Indiana the South Shore CVA (Convention and Visitors Authority) is promoting  Maple Sugar Time at the Dunes beginning on March 4th. This weekend also at the Indiana National Lake Shore, Learn about two women who paddled a dugout canoe around the entire shoreline of Lake Michigan at The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Center on the 26th.  LaPorte County CVB offers similar activities with Maple Sugaring at Friendship Botanic Gardens on the 5th of March.

If sugar maples aren't your thing, maybe a little Geocaching across the boarder in Harbor Country.  Exploring the backroads in Michigan is never a bad idea, seeing nature from a slightly different point of view is a great way to spend the weekend.  The point is, get out of your house.  Explore your neighborhoods with fresh eyes.  See the wonder that's right there.  Most likely it's cheap or free entertainment.  You might learn something about where you live, you might learn a new skill, you might meet different people.  You will be off your sofa and outside.

Finding activities in a community is easy
when you discover where to look. Being local doesn't guarantee that you will know about everything in your community. Use resources like CVBs to find the events or activities that will fit your lifestyle and family dynamic.  The CVBs want to help you and the organizations in their regions.  Engage with your communities and with nature, it's what you're meant to do.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The One I didn't Miss

The Spur on my spring tom

I had all of my things together and ready as my husband Mark and I parted ways in the morning. We had agreed to meet around lunch to hunt together if I was not successful in the morning.  I set up on one of our fields where I have seen quite a bit of turkey activity in and waited.  I heard a gobble, but from where?  I didn’t see a turkey but I could see over 300 yards in three directions.  I caught movement from the corner of my eye and before I knew it a mature Tom was scooting along the field edge within 10 yards of the blind I was in.  Everything I have every been told about turkey hunting was going through my head.  They have excellent vision, don’t move! Don’t move, don’t move. I sat frozen, sure he could see my eyes following him.

I had to wait for the tom to get in a blind spot so I could move my gun into a shooting position.  He skirted the edge of the field so close that I lost sight of him behind some trees, I moved guessing his out come then I second guessed making a walking away shot.  My heart was pounding and I was berating myself for not being better prepared. I called to the tom on my slate but there was no turning him.  He trucked across the field and into the trees on his happy way.

My heart returning to normal as I glassed the field with my Hawke Optics Endurance ED binoculars, there was nothing except song birds, there would be no checking off the plaited woodpecker today, I was here on business.  I waited listening for sounds of turkeys far off. 

My Hawke's and the tom I didn't miss

Mark finally joined me, we would make a move into the middle woods.  During a midday sit the shady middle woods provides a perfect environment for birds like turkeys to forage for grubs and the fresh shoots of spring plants.  If the weather were to suddenly change, like it is likely to do in the spring, it also provides shelter from higher winds with its varied topography.  My chances in the woods were greater than the open windy field.

We had no sooner settled into the new location then we heard the distinctive cutting callings of turkeys coming through the tree line.  Following a meandering course across a small creek, a group of jakes worked into the clearing right in front of us.  As the group spied the decoys, the cartoon light bulb was lite above the head of one.  It was like he said, “Oh look it’s Ed from accounting.” I haven’t seen him since we went out for cocktails and fajitas.  He actually leaned on the Avian X decoy spinning it around on its pivot.  “Hey guys, Ed’s lighter on his feet than I remember.”

As the spring mating dance unfolded, Mark began to try to persuade me to shoot one of the jakes.  “Come on. The one is really big.”  He was right the one was really big but I had the picture of the mature tom fresh in my mind.

“They all taste the same”  He was right about that also.  I had harvested a jake last year, I love the meat and got my jake the first day of the season.  I could get a jake if I needed to, I was going to wait and see what happened.  Mark continued his ‘jakes are great campaign’. I continued to scan the through the woods for any late comers to the party.

Movement in the Northern corner of the woods caught my eye.  The group of four jakes continued to scratch and peck the loam clucking happily. I trained my Hawke binoculars through the under growth hoping for something other than a jake.  I clearly made out the elusive full beard, this is what I wanted, in fact this was the one that had snuck past me earlier on the field.

Calmly, I let the Hawke Optics go around my neck and took up my slate call.  Starting with a low purr, not too aggressive, I called to the turkeys that were outside the window of my blind. They perked up, where was the lady?  Ed’s been holding out, he’s got a lady stashed! The jakes began calling back, just as I hoped they would.  Keeping an eye on the big tom, I purred back.  It was more than tom could stand,  I checked him through the binoculars, he went in full strut and then gobbled.  There is nothing more thrilling than hearing that gobble and seeing the strut of a mature bird.
The gutsy little jakes answered back, like hey buddy come to our spring dance and grub party.  They were making my job easy.  My heart was pounding, as the tom decided if anyone was dancing with ladies in his woods it was going to be him.  The tom set off as if on a string right for us.  The jakes continued to cluck and call and the Tom periodically answered until he was within 20 yards of the other birds and my Avian X decoy.  He went into full strut and reach his now fully discolored head out in a gobble, there was no mistaking his intentions.  

The jakes seemed pretty impressed, but for some reason the Avian X kept feeding, huh. Mr. Tom decided to kick his game up a notch and jumped onto a half rotten dead fall next to my blind for his next round of ‘I’m the baddest turkey in the woods’, unfortunately, that is when he was perfectly aligned in my scope. As he stretch his neck out to gobble atop the log I squeezed the trigger sending the turkey load to quickly dispatch him.  He had eluded me once, the second time he had not escaped, he would become a tasty Thai coconut curry among other things.  

The jakes scattered as I  left the camouflage of my blind, surprised that a human had been in their midst all along.  I could hear them putting their distain through the woods, there were still good grubs to be had despite the show off who fell off the log. I would see the jakes circle back behind me to root through the leaf mold as I left the woods, not much phases them.  The synergy of the day had cumulated into the harvest of a great tom. I marveled at the glossy copper of the feathers and the spurs on the tom’s legs. Using the Hawke binoculars,  I was able to distinguish movement through brush that made the difference between settling for a jake or taking a mature tom. 
  To think this was almost our national bird, I do understand Benjamin Franklin’s advocacy for this much maligned bird.  This bird provides more than just a meal, it’s beautiful and it’s often silly.  I love seeing them in my woods scratching for bugs and providing hunting opportunities every spring and fall. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hoppers and Small Flight

Flying the Pass

Sun over the Wing
Caldera on Kodiak 

Isolated, by water or woods from population centers, rural Alaskan villages are often close knit loving communities with people that are more than neighbors. After 8 years of talking and another 5 of hard searching it was an easy choice for my family when we found our Alaska dream home in a village on Kodiak island. Our small community has a population under170 people, many of whom have lived there since the village was built after the great earthquake of 1964. To those ‘Outside’-  anywhere that is not within Alaska is ‘Outside’- the use of boats and aircraft to get necessities is unfathomable. In an average year I fly numerous small aircraft charters to get staples. 

I hate leaving my village but I need things Amazon won’t ship. I have to fly to town.  For people living in a rural village that involves chartering a flight, which most of America never will have the need to do, it’s not glamourous.  It’s just a phone call and a credit card to secure my seat.  If I’m lucky I can split a flight with someone else that wants to go to town.  Maybe they want to go to the doctor, to the movies, or they are stir crazy and want some Sushi, hey it happens.  Sometimes there’s a fabric emergency and the only thing for it is a trip to the quilt shop or maybe the yarn store for a fix, sometimes there is the emergency trip to the marine supply, to each their own.  We get to town to do our business, whatever it might be. 

You get to know your pilots and Alaska pilots are characters, they have to be.  Some play music and some narrate their flights, while others telegraph what they are doing. I’ve flown with some that love speed, they hug the mountains delivering their ‘cargo’ as fast as they can.  Other pilots watch the beauty as they monitor their gauges. They point out the peaks and talk trail hikes, they love the land and the animals they point out from behind the controls. The talk great fishing spots and what run is on and what is coming next.

These taxi men of the skies fly in some of the most difficult conditions for flight in the world.  I hear pilots outside complain about light wind, I raise my eyebrows, look at my husband and say, “They need to go fly with the pilots on Kodiak and learn a thing or two.”  Granted, on Kodiak when it’s blowing a 40+ nobody’s flying, everybody is hunkering down-but that’s cool.  We don’t want anyone flying in really bad weather, because we also all know someone that has crashed.  

There is a saying in Alaska, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots; but there are no old bold pilots.” We all still fly though, we make our choices judicially, we love the views of our island from above and we are thankful for our safe landings and the pilots who make sure those landing happen. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Low Tide

Low tide to the head of the bay

Treasures in the Tide
Headed to the Pass

I spend quite a bit of time in Alaska on the ocean.  I look out my window and see the tide come and go.  The tide takes logs and other detritus out and leaves new things to be discovered.  Each tide is like a new opportunity.  Reinvention is possible at every roll of the wave and hope it always is there, existing despite everything to say otherwise.

Glittering glasses and new sea creatures in tide pools wait to be seen.  Beautiful in their place among the vegetation of the bull kelp and barnacles.

Constant gulls circle with the ever present possibility of a eagle soaring across the celadon waters.  Majestic, symbolic predators of the nation flex and drive only marginally arousing the notice of drifting otters.

The ocean teems, next to the bright green of the temperate rainforest.  In the dark shadows the alpha predator of our island lurks.  Sometimes the word goes around, he's by the bay looking for a silver flash in the water. Mostly he is staying away. Brown and melding within the spruce and alder, so large and nimble. The bear is gone like a wisp of smoke from the cook fire.

The brown of the wood and green of the mosses surround, it's the fairy kingdom. It could be one hundred years in the future or in the past it's hard to tell.  It's a place of peaceful being. It's being right where you should be.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sturgeon Time Again

The Sturgeon Spectacular is set to kick off February 10-12 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin nestled on the scenic shores of Lake Winnebago.

The sturgeon on Lake Winnebago are once again singing their siren song, calling those brave enough back to her icy blue waters.
It's nothing short of a conservation miracle that sturgeon exist today on Lake Winnebago. If it were not for the foresight of a few passionate sportsmen who wanted to sustain the fishery for generations to come, the sturgeon would have continued the downward spiral to extinction.  Thus, Sturgeon for Tomorrow was conceived.  Thanks to their tireless pursuit for the conservation of the species, the first sturgeon hatchery in the United States was opened, sturgeon watch was developed to combat poachers, and the sturgeon population on Lake Winnebago is thriving today.

Ice Bowling after a Day in a Shanty
Sturgeon for Tomorrow not only raises funds for hatcheries but also organizes "Sturgeon Watches" to combat the illegal poaching of sturgeon for roe and meat.  Poaching of sturgeon has long been a temptation, especially during an economic depression.  Depending upon the grade of caviar it can bring upwards of $200 an ounce.  It doesn't take much to imagine the temptation and the rising caviar market offering a shady quick payday.

Combating the temptation, "Sturgeon Watch" works during spawning season to ensure that the sturgeon make it to spawn.  Working in volunteer teams they line the banks of spawning areas to watch for potential poaching activity. Sturgeon can take up to 24-27 years to reach sexual maturity, ensuring that they are allowed to spawn rather than become a one time poachers profit has helped turn the tide of the once declining population.

Educating the younger generations through classroom programs and visits to the hatcheries has helped to generate new interest in the species.  A once little know bottom feeder is now celebrated in festival and classroom. The Sturgeon Spectacular is more than just fun, it's a way to be in touch with those conservationists that have come before.  It's a way to fish like our ancestors, out on the ice, peering into the depths.  Waiting for that ancient remnant of days gone by to come to the brightly painted decoy. To enjoy the camaraderie of all those that come every year with their brightly painted shanties and their party.  It's Sturgeon time. C'mon in.

Sturgeon Check In At Wendt's on the Lake

Skating, kites, ice bowling anyone?  There is something for the whole family.  Fish, don't fish, watch the Spectacular from the coziness of one of the many locations on the lake, it's all there if you just C'mon in!