Thursday, December 27, 2012


Yesterday afternoon Beau and I took a hike down along the stream with the two dogs.  We saw several small groups of deer sneaking among the snow covered cedars.  When we reached the stream we saw these interesting tracks that we soon identified as river otters.  Pleasant creek  feeds into the Mississippi River just a few miles down stream from our place.  

 Through hard work, some wildlife that disappeared over 100 years ago can now be seen again. In 1900 there were no white-tailed deer or wild turkeys in Iowa. Now hunters come from across the nation to pay for the right to hunt a big buck or gobbler. Trumpeter swans, river otters, peregrine falcons and prairie chickens can be seen in increasing numbers. Following these successful reintroductions, some animals are coming back to Iowa on their own. Bobcats sightings are becoming more common.  Several guys have caught them on trail cameras or seen out in the timber. Occasionally an elk, mountain lion or even a bear wanders into the state too.

 Like much of the rest of North America, river otter were abundant in Iowa during European settlement, but unregulated trapping and hunting, and loss of habitat caused them to be essentially extirpated in the state. Wildlife managers began reintroduction efforts in the 1970’s that have helped make otters widespread in North America.

 Iowa’s river otter reintroduction was initiated in 1985 at Red Rock Reservoir. Sixteen otters from Louisiana were released, initiating a pilot project to determine the suitability of Iowa’s aquatic resource for otters. These otters survived normally and subsequent releases were continued until 2003.  In total 345 otter were released in Iowa between 1985 and 2005. This reintroduction coupled with wetland restoration and conservation contributed to the growth and widespread distribution of otters in Iowa.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

* Flurricane *

 Our first measurable snow fall dropped over a foot of snow on us.  Closing school two days early for Christmas break. 

I ventured down to the hoop house to get out of the 40 - 50 mph wind gusts, to find the temperature just above freezing. 

Then I noticed the walls of the hoop house were collapsing inward under the weight of the accumulated snowfall. 

After I remove the snow from the sides  they popped right back with only minor damage.


Shortly after lunch the electricity shut off which gave me a good excuse to sit by the fire and read and have a cup of tea as Susie slow cooked a grass fed beef roast on the stove top.

Susie got several gifts wrapped and it wasn't long before the electricity came back on. 

Looking forward to getting back on the cross country skis
after this storm passes.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Clasic Grouse Hunting Photo

When I was going through a box of old photographs the other night, I came across this great shot of Susie's grandpa and his hunting companions who hunted the upper peninsula for years.  They look like they just came off of a LL Bean catalog cover.  What a great looking bunch.


  Over the holidays I'm going to see if I track down any more info on this crew.  


The ruffed grouse has been called the all-American gamebird, partridge, pats, ruffs, native pheasants and some unprintable names by hunters who experience the bird's uncanny talent for avoiding shotgun pellets. A good day of grouse hunting comes complete with fresh air, the scent of pine and spruce, beautiful fall colors and the smell of a dew-soaked dog. The early season hunter, in mid September, may encounter green leaves and tough hunting. Without a dog the birds take to the air from dense cover and more times than not, the thundering sound of their explosive flush is all that you get for your efforts. You can increase your odds a bit by knowing or surveying your hunting area and planning the best way to hunt it. It is always desirable to position hunters in such a way that the flushing bird will be likely to venture into some kind of opening.  Another good cause for an argument around the campfire, what gun and shells to use. Personally I use Big Jim's old Remington 1148 28 gauge it's a nice little gun that you  can carry all day, with 7-1/2 or 8 shot, either game loads or good target rounds. A little smaller or a little bigger is fine.

The everyman's bird will fall to whatever you have in the closet, even Grandpa's old duck gun. But if you try a gun more matched to the challenge of the ruffed grouse on the fly, you won't be disappointed.   


I  finished up the school week and after a quick trip to the store  I took off for the stream.  The water cress has really taken off with the warm temperatures we've had so far this winter. The fact that areas of the creek support water cress plants is a positive sign.  


An article in our local paper recently reported that successful brown trout reproduction has been confirmed on another Jackson county stream, bringing the total to 46 Iowa streams with reproducing populations.   




 Brown Trout generally spawn between October and December by depositing and fertilizing their eggs in shallow depressions in the riverbed. These light colored depressions are called "redds." The trout's requirements for a successful redd area are quite specific. As anglers, understanding these requirements will not only help us in identifying redds; but key us in on river locations that we may want to concider avoiding during the most critical period in the Brown Trout's yearly cycle. 

So, I  stuck to the deeper holes.  After creeping up and seeing several nice trout flash, I managed to place a spinner in just down stream from a bank hide that held this nice trout.


It's about time...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Casting A Voice

Casting A Voice

Casting a Voice is a fly fishing conservation film, using the perspective of anglers to examine the risks facing one of British Columbia's most precious resources - wild fish. The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project would run through some of the most abundant wild salmon and steelhead waters left on the planet. The Skeena River and its tributaries remain a rare stronghold for healthy populations of fish, while wild fish stocks have declined elsewhere.

The more time you spend outside in a natural setting will relax and ease your body and mind. All of these factors reduce stress and worry, which will enable you to attract and manifest at higher levels.  Going outside is an investment that pays huge dividends in many ways !

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A River Runs Through It

Cut out after school to fish some more new water.  With an afternoon high of 68* I would have been a fool to not go.

I keep thinking this nice weather has got to come to an end soon.  Lately my fishing trips have been more exploration than setting the hook.

 I watched A River Runs Through It last weekend.  From the opening line, "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing", to the last, "I am haunted by waters".

 I replayed it in my mind as I shadowed cast, roll cast, flipped and pitched my panther martin into each and every hole  along brush creek.

I've lined up several beautiful stretches of  private land to fish this past year.  It gets me back into some very remote areas.

 Geologically the high cliffs rising some 100 feet above the stream are really a region feature you will find here in the driftless region.  The algific slopes that produce cold air during summer, creating climate conditions much cooler than surrounding areas.  Canada yew is one of the unique plants found on Driftless Area.  My father, a former Game Warden,  pointed these unique cold climate plants out to me as a child, as we fished the upper end of the Maquoketa at Backbone state park. These shrub of Canada’s boreal forests, have been separated from the main population in isolated patches, are considered disjunct populations. There are many climate relict species and disjunct populations living on the Driftless Area algific slopes of  North Eastern Iowa.

 One hundred years ago nearly every deep valley in these parts had a pristine trout stream running through it.  The call of the kingfisher reminds me just how remote the area in the center of the section is.  Just down stream i startled a small heard of deer that's been bedding down in the valley.  It was just opening shot gun season and I was glad to see a few nice bucks still out there.

This time of year the sun sets early, so my time along the stream is limited by the fading day light.  But if I'm blessed with another beautiful afternoon  you can bet I'll stop in to wet a line and maybe next time I'll get a chance to set the hook.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


FY, MRX,and BO kickin back at grovers van with bikes already on the van.

 My first memories of any van, was in the early 70's.   It was my brother Steve's cargo van that he customized for camping and hauling his family across the country, from Eugene Oregon back to Iowa.

Bob's Bike Blender
In the mid to late 70's  my high school basket ball coach would pack a dozen of us into his van and we would drive to Dyersville to work at Bucheitte's Chicken farm  to load the birds in and out, pox and vaccinate them.  It was always a good days work and great ca$h for a high school kid.  The van ride wasn't always that comfortable but it was always fun traveling with a bunch of friends, no matter how bad they smelled.

Team Playtex and a maroon ride.
The 80's and 90's brought about a whole new round of van adventures with the RAGBRAI years.  The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state. RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world.  Des Moines Register Media has been the title sponsor of RAGBRAI since 1973.  Once again the van equaled friends, adventure and smelly buddies.  Oh well, you'll have that.
The first few Ragbrais were in Jeff Grover's Blue Chevy van.  Jeff's ride was wall to wall carpet and he had a kickin sound system.  I'm guessing he still has that old van stashed away.
Then came several years of disposable vans and bike blenders. Thanks to my buddy BOB  who dug up the van shots from the archives, great memories and too many stories to get into right now!
off route the van looks alittle out of place
feelin like a rock star.
 Two of the last ragbrais that I road on in the 90's we took a  VWs that Sid lined up from over across the river in Galena, IL.  He worked out a  deal with a guy that had a deluxe transporter that was primed up and ready for tagging and I was hooked.   Still trying to track down a few shots of that one.

Van go!  taggin lesson with another  ragbrai betty. 
A favorite memory of some of the great people we met.
Dance like no one is watching.
My first VW was an 85 automatic, Westphalia camp mobile that came with a 17' Coleman canoe. I had it for several years and made a great road trip Colorado with a return trip home by way of the black hills and Sturgis.  The only two bike rides it made it to, was the ragbrai one hour casper adventure and fridged BRR ride where it provided shelter for sid. 
BRR riders travel a 24 mile round trip from Perry to Rippey and back, regardless of the weather.  Riders have experienced everything from below frigid temps and zero wind chills to unseasonably warm weather like we had this year, which made for some very slushy riding conditions for over 1,000 riders. It came to its demise when I overloaded it with bricks and blew the head.

Jim and maxine. 
I love my Riviera—really—I do. When i bought her, i didn’t know a ton about Westys and Rivieras, just that the camper conversions were done by two different companies (Westfalia and Riviera respectively in case that’s not obvious) and we knew that Riviera tops pop straight up and Westys pop up at an angle.

The thing I did not at all anticipate is the near impossibility of finding replacement camper parts for it. One of the biggest differences between Westys and Rivieras is that VW contracted with Westfalia to build Westys, while Rivieras were shipped from the factory to distributors as standard (non-camper) busses/vans and the distributor contracted with Riviera to do the camper conversion.

Now  my 71 Rivera is parked below the gardens under the willow waiting for spring and with a little help from a friend she'll be tuned up and back on the road for trout fishing adventures next spring. 


Folk art piece. Oil pastille on cardboard by Artist Bob from his one man show at Monk's "The Fly in the Ointment" circa 2006

Monday, November 12, 2012


Friday night we caught up with our friends along with  Joe and Vicki Price down at Kiels Tap.  Joe plays finger style guitar in the Elmore James/Muddy Waters tradition, a bit rough and tons of fun. Their music has been described as a righteous, joyful, foot-stomping jubilee. Joe’s mean slide guitar brings a touch of Hawaii and a clean beachy vibe to Bellevue.
 If you like upbeat, straightforward blues, you can’t go wrong with what the Prices are laying down.

Vicki’s powerful bluesy voice evokes an image of a woman in a 1920’s speakeasy singing her heart out.

Joe and Vicki put on a great show for us.  Just when you thought Joe was pulling the train into the station for a set break,  he'd keep it rollin right on by and jam on two more tunes. 

Susie and a Butterfield sculpture at the Bradley Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee

For over 20 years, Montana sculptor Deborah Butterfield has transformed scrap metal, discarded wood, and bronze into larger-than-life sculptures of the horse that are breathtakingly beautiful.

  Me and a  George Sugarman sculpture,  1972 - 1973      Painted yellow aluminum Trio,
Just three miles down the road from where Susie grew up are the works from the Bradley Family Foundation Collection

The exhibition in the gallery includes paintings, small sculptures and works on paper by Milton Avery and Alexander Calder just to name a few.
 Outside is the Lynden Sculpture Garden. It offers a unique experience of art in nature through its collection of more than 50 monumental sculptures sited across 40 acres of park, lake and woodland. The Lynden Sculpture Garden is committed to promoting the appreciation of art, sculpture and the environment. 
Just what we're looking at doing here at Bckrvue. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I thought it appropriate on election day to repeat one of my favorite equations for happiness--a stoic flowchart that comes via Mark Fraenfelder of BoingBoing and the Rootsimple blog.  At the end of the day, about half of America will be happy, and half will be dismayed. All we can do is remember that beyond voting, we cannot control the outcome of the election. So a stoic would advise us to not to rail against what we cannot change or affect, but to focus on what we can change--ourselves, and our immediate environment: our household, our block, our school district, our city.

I'm happy to say that i got out and did my civic duty last night.  After school I traveled south  to clintion county to get the word out to VOTE.  Senator Todd Bowman and I drove around and talked to folks about Rita Hart and out hope that the Iowa Senate Democrats could reach a majority after this election with a Republican Governor here in Iowa.  Checks and balance are key in a democracy. 
You've been listening to the politicians for over a year.  Now its your time to be heard 

And here are the election results.   Newcomer Rita Hart, 56, a
 Democrat from Wheatland, Iowa, defeated Andrew Naeve, 28, a Republican from Andover, Iowa, who made his second try for the Senate.
With all precincts reporting, Hart had 17,290 votes to Naeve’s 14,383, according to unofficial results.

Hey Superhero if ya get the chance swing by the Motley Cow in IC and check out my wife's art.
the link is from last weekend but the show is up for another couple weeks.