Crumby Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is on of the great treats of summer. The sweet/tart flavor is amazing. When the strawberries get ripe, we head out to pick a pail or two, and then cut some rhubarb from our patch and begin to make pies. This pie is a bit different due to the crust which resembles a crisp and the use of an egg in the ingredients. It is as simple to make as other rhubarb strawberry pies and tastes just as good.
Ingredients
1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ lbs. fresh rhubarb cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pint strawberries

Crusts
Bottom Crust:
pastry for single crust pie
Top Crust
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup oat meal
½ cup cold butter

Directions
Line a 9-inch pie tin with crust. Trim and flute the edges. In a large mixing bowl beat egg, then add sugar, flour, and vanilla. Mix well. Fold in rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into crust.
Topping: combine flour, brown sugar, oats. Cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over pie. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and bake for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on rack and store in refrigerator.

Wisconsin’s New Bear Hunting Plan

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The Wisconsin DNR has proposed, and the Natural Resources Board has adopted a new bear hunting management plan. The current plan was adopted in 1980 so it was a bit out of date. In the thirty-nine years since the last plan was adopted, many factors in bear management have changed. The two factors with the largest change are an expanding bear range and an expanding bear population. In 1980, the bear population was limited to the northern third of Wisconsin i.e. most of the bear lived roughly north or near U.S. Highway 8. The bear population has also greatly increased in the same time frame. A study that occurred in the last 6 years determined there were roughly three times as many bears in Wisconsin as previously thought.
The new Plan has many interesting new features. One on the most innovative features is that the new plan will not use numerical quotas to set harvest total but use a number of metrics to determine harvest total. The metrics that will be used to determine bear population goals and subsequently annual harvest quotas include agricultural damage, nuisance complaints, hunter crowding, success, and satisfaction, bear disease and health issues, and maintaining bears’ ecological role. The bear advisory committee will study the data on a yearly basis and help to set the harvest quotas. Most species are managed with a specific population goal that is maintained by increasing or decreasing the harvest quotas. By managing with a variety of metrics, the DNR will be working on a different approach to game management. It will be vital for the DNR to gather sound scientific data on the bear population since black bears are vulnerable to over hunting. Part of the plan calls for extensive scientific research on the number of bears in the woods and periodic reviews of the estimates to ensure that an accurate population count is established and maintained.
Dealing with nuisance bears and agricultural damage from bears is also written into the plan. One feature of the damage abatement portion of the plan will allow the DNR to issue ag damage kill permits to landowners who have a history of bears damaging the crops before the crops are damaged, so the landowner can respond quickly when further damage occurs. Bears really like corn that is in the “milk phase” and this proactive approach may help limit the damage done to corn crops.
There are two types of way to measure the potential for a wildlife population-biological and cultural carrying capacity. Biological carrying capacity is the number of animals that can survive in an area given the amount of food and the amount of space the critters need. The cultural carrying capacity is how many critters people will tolerate in a given area. This plan is designed to manage the bear population based on the social carrying capacity.
The other major change in this plan is the redrawing of the bear hunting zones. Under the old plan there were four zones. Zones A, B and D covered the northern third of the state and Zone C covered the remainder of the state including Dunn County. Under the new plan, there will be five zones. Zone A, B, and D will still be in northern Wisconsin. However, the boundary of Zone D will shift southward from highway 8 to highways 64, 128, 170 and 40. So Southern Barron County and Northern Dunn County will now be in Zone D. This also means that norther Dunn County will go from being a bait only hunting area to an area that hunting with hounds and bait will be allowed. Zone C will shrink to primarily cover the central portion of the state. A new zone E will cover most of the western part of Wisconsin including the southern two-thirds of Dunn County. And a new Zone F will cover much of eastern, southern, and a portion of central Wisconsin.
The DNR plan states that they will manage zone A, B, C, D, and E for the cultural carrying capacity of the Zone and that they will provide liberal harvest opportunities in Zone F. Liberal harvest opportunities translates as keeping bears out of zone F as much as possible. Zone F has the least suitable bear habitat and the densest human population, hence the potential for bad human-bear interactions is the greatest there.
Besides changing the zones, it was also proposed that the new Zone C be opened to hunting bears with hounds. This change proved to the most controversial provision in the new plan. Many hunters in the new zone C were opposed to allowing hunting with dogs in the Zone for a variety of reasons which included lack of public land in some areas of the Zone, trespassing issues, bear hunter overcrowding, disruptions to bait hunters who have hunted this area in previous season, and conflicts with bow deer hunters. The hound hunters contend that hound hunting is a more efficient method of hunting so nuisance bears would be more likely to be harvested. They also noted that training bear dogs is currently permitted in this area. At the end of the debate, the Natural Resources Board decided to remove the hound hunting in Zone C from the new plan.
The issue of the use of chocolate in bear bait was also discussed by the Natural Resources Board. Chocolate contains theobromine which is toxic to some animals. Dogs are particularly vulnerable. Documented deaths of bears from theobromine poisoning have occurred in New Hampshire, and Michigan. As a result, Michigan has banned chocolate in bear baits, and New Hampshire has a near total ban on chocolate in bear baits. In Wisconsin, 3 cubs found dead in 2011 were necropsied and presumed to have died from theobromine poisoning. In 2013, the DNR issued an advisory about use of chocolate in baits. Since then there have been no documented bear deaths from theobromine in the state. This is an issue that will get more scientific study under the new plan.
Now that the plan has been adopted, the long process begins to write the rules needed to implement the plan. The rules writing process usually takes a fair amount of time. The earliest the new rules will go into effect will be for the 2020 hunting season.

Cooperative Habitat Improvement Project on Lake Menomin

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Trees are dropped into the water to improve fish habitat. The tree are cabled to their trunks to keep them from floating away and becoming a navigation hazard.

A cooperative effort between the Evergreen Cemetery Association Board of Directors and the Dunn County Fish and Game Club will result in improving habitat in Lake Menomin and in a small reduction in the algal blooms that plague the lake.
The combined efforts of these two organizations will continue the Tree Drop program begun on Lake Menomin a couple of years ago. Patrick Thibado, Sextant of the Evergreen Cemetery, explained the project from the perspective of the Cemetery Board. Mr. Thibado stated that the Cemetery is an integral part of the Lake. The island on which the cemetery is located was not an island at one point in time. When the lake level was raised by 10 feet in the 1950s, a section of cemetery land was flooded and now makes up the bay between the island and shore on the south side of the cemetery. The causeway that runs to the cemetery had to be built at that time to ensure continued access to the cemetery. Being an island, the cemetery has riparian habitat around its entire outer edge. Also, being an island, water quality has a major impact on air quality in the cemetery. What happens in the lake effects the cemetery, and what happens on the cemetery effects what happens in the lake.
The first time the Fish and Game approached the Cemetery Board, they discussed the idea but took no action. The second time, the Board agreed to take on the project. The Dunn County Fish and Game has been working to improve wildlife habitat in Dunn County for decades. Project coordinator for the Fish and Game, Gary Buss, stated that the project is a win-win project which improves habitat on the lake which benefit fish, wildlife and the community. Mr. Buss really likes the program because of all the scientific research which demonstrates how well the tree drops work.
After agreeing to the project, it was time to get the professional help in planning the project, which will occur on the north side of the island. DNR fish biologist. Marty Engle, (Mr. Engle has since retired from the DNR) surveyed the cemetery and plotted all the shoreline trees with a GPS. Trees with a short life span like poplar and birch or trees that could become problems like box elder or cottonwood were identified for cutting. Volunteers from the Dunn County Fish and Game will cut the trees and cable them to the stumps. The cutting that takes place this year is the first year of a two-year project. Additionally, the project is designed to last multiple years if necessary.
The concept behind the tree drops is that on a wild lake that is unmarred by residential or commercial sprawl there are a lot of trees in the water. Some trees fall along the shore and some fall perpendicular to the shore. The trees provide habitat to aquatic critters and help slow down erosion. Since this project is a habitat improvement project the trees will be dropped in the lake perpendicular to the lake shore. After the tree is in the water, a hole is drilled through the stump and the tree is fastened to the stump with a metal cable to prevent the tree from floating away. Scientific studies that have been done on tree drops have demonstrated that up to 15 different species of fish can inhabit one fallen tree. Mr. Thibado also stated that the trees don’t die, they become living under water plants. So the trees will provide fish habitat for years to come.
One concern about the project is that more anglers will fish from the cemetery land. A few sloppy anglers have left trash behind in the past and a few have violated cemetery rules by parking in the cemetery and blocking the road. Mr. Thibado noted that it’s hard to get a hearse past a car parked in the road. He requests that anglers park on the causeway and pack out all of their trash.
Unfortunately, the initial work on the project has been delayed twice by the unseasonable weather that is occurring. Both Mr. Buss and Thibado are hoping for some cold weather next weekend so the chain saws can be fired up. Anyone who would like to come observe the work is welcome. The hope is that other organizations will be interested in starting tree drop projects in different parts of Lakes Menomin or Lake Tainter, or on other lakes.

Tree Drops to Make a Splash for Improving Lakes Tainter and Menomin.

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The shore along Lake Menomin in Menomin Park before the tree drop project began

To clean up the lake, we must take care of the land. While this fact may seem counter intuitive, the green slime in Lakes Tainter and Menomin is a product of the ill health of the land. The most critical land is the riparian zone which is the land, and water on both sides of the shore of the streams, rivers and lakes. Or to use a modern term, it is the interface between land and water. Riparian areas are critical for most of the critters that live in the lakes and rivers at some point in their life cycle. Healthy riparian areas with lots of trees in the water produce clean lakes and lots of fish while unhealthy riparian areas produce siltation, fewer fish and lots of green algae.
A new program known as either Fish Sticks or Wood Drops which designed to improve riparian areas and help clean up the lakes is being implemented on Lakes Menomin and Tainter. The Dunn County Fish and Game Club is sponsoring the program, but the idea comes from Ma Nature herself. My many trips to places like the Boundary Waters confirms that the shores of healthy lakes are full of trees and wood. So why not add trees and wood to the shore of developed lakes to see if they improve water quality and habitat.
Scientists have studied the effect of wood in water and have found out some amazing facts. Up to 15 different species of fish may inhabit one submerged tree. One submerged white pine tree in Wisconsin harbored black crappie, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, rock bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed, mottled sculpin, logperch, Johnny darter, yellow perch white sucker and minnows. The different species of fish use the trees in different ways. Smallmouth and largemouth bass will build their spawning nests near submerged trees. And Rock bass makes the nests under trees. These species of fish defend their nests so nesting nears underwater trees means less perimeter to defend. Smaller fish like blue gills use the submerged branches as cover while bigger fish like walleyes and northern lurk about the trees looking for a meal. Some types of minnows will actually spawn in the holes in the tree to protect their eggs. Other studies have shown that invertebrate species also thrive in the underwater woods. Turtles and birds use the emergent portion of the trees to roost and as a sunning station. Amphibians need the structures provided by submerged trees to lay their eggs. A lack of wood means the eggs will be concentrated in smaller areas and make the eggs more susceptible to predation. Studies show that lakes with fewer submerged trees have fewer amphibians. Birds like egrets and herons find the trees great places to catch supper.
In addition to providing a place for fish and other critters to live, trees have many other positive effects on lakes. The trees lessen the power of waves and of ice that impact the shore: Thus reducing erosion by these two forces. As a result plants are able to germinate and take root near the shore where there are submerged trees. The trees preventing erosions and allowing vegetation to grow on the shore has a multiplier effect for healthy lakes. The grasses filter out run off and reduce phosphorus entering the lake and the bugs that live in the grasses end up feeding the fish in the water.
Trees can last a very long time in the water. Some studies have found that white pines can last as long as 900 years under water! How long a tree lasts is dependent on the species of tree. Aspen has the shortest underwater life span while the eastern white pine can last up to 900 years. The more branches a trees has underwater the better the habitat it provides for more species of critters. However, as the tree begins to rot under water and loses its small branches it still provide good habitat for many critters and even some fish and invertebrates prefer to hang out in or near the trunk of the tree rather than in the branches.
If trees are so good for lakes and river why is there a dearth of trees in most of the lakes in Wisconsin? The answer is shore land development. Building that dream home on that dream lake shore is about the worst action that can be done to a lake. One study in Maine looked at two similar lakes; one that was undeveloped and one that had significant development. The study found a 720 percent increase in phosphorus runoff in the developed lake.

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The same portion of the bank a year after the tree drop project was installed

So what are “Wood Drops?” . I spoke with Richard Mechelke about a pilot wood drop program that was completed last year by the Dunn County Land Conservation Department at Menomin Park. He explained that Wood Drops are a method to reintroduce woody structures into developed lakes so that the woody structure will have a maximum habitat and water quality benefit. He also noted that habitat quality is as important as water quality in having a healthy lake. A highly eroded section of the lake bank was selected for the project. Mr. Mechelke noted that based on the number of old bricks found on the site, the erosion problems had been occurring for decades. The two keys to a successful Tree Drop are placing the tree in bunches and keeping the trees from floating away. C R Bryan & Sons Inc did the work on the project. Mr. praised CR Bryan for doing excellent work and for volunteering some of their time spent on the project in order to help meet the budget. Since there were no trees on the shore to use, the contractors got the trees from a nearby timber stand park. The trees were mostly pulled out by the roots. First trees were placed parallel to the shore right at the water line. Other trees were placed perpendicular to the shoreline so they extended into the lake. Some of the trees were placed in clumps and some were placed singly. About 5 to 6 feet of the logs that were perpendicular to the shoreline, were buried in the dirt to ensure they did not float away and to hold the rest of the wood in place. In areas where the trees line the shores, the trees are cut down into the water with a chain saw, and then the trunk of the tree is attached to the stump with a cable to keep it from being washed away by wind and waves.
I toured the site with Mr. Mechelke this summer and the changes are amazing. Soil erosion has been stopped, grasses and other plants are starting to take root in the once barren soil. I also observed minnows and other small fish swimming around the submerged wood. This demonstration project has been a major success.
The Tree Drop program has been successfully implemented on several other lakes in Northern Wisconsin. One of the benefits of the programs is to diversify and expand fish habitat in the lakes, which will spread out the fish population. Spreading out the fish population will also spread out fishing pressure in the lake since anglers will have more secret holes to find fish.

Canoeing the Flooded Dunnville Bottoms

I was able to sneak in a canoe trip to the Dunnville Bottoms between rain storms this week. The super wet spring combined with the heavy snows from this winter have kept large portions of the river bottoms under water all spring. The river bottoms are formed by the confluence of the Chippewa and Red Cedar Rivers. Both are extremely high right now. I launched the canoe off of 580th Street into a bottom land lake. Late last summer this lake was mostly a muddy pit as the water level was really low. Now it is flooded. While paddling around the flooded bottoms, I was reminded of the bayou country I visited around Pine Bluff, AR. At least when floating the bottoms up north, I didn’t have to watch for alligators or water moccasins.

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I went around a bend and a goose exploded out of the brush. A closer look at its exit point revealed this goose nest. I snapped a quick photo and got out of there as the two geese were flying over head and angrily honking at me. I expected to be divebombed by the geese. But I guess, I am too hairy and scary, so the geese left me alone. I hope the waters don’t rise even higher and flood the nest.

Once among the trees, navigating the tangled mess of trees and brush was interesting. I used a combination of paddling, poling with the paddle, and pushing and pulling on the trees and brush to crash though the areas where the trees and brush were the thinnest.

I was surprised to see water flowing swiftly in this area. The water creating the current had to come from the Chippewa River which is about a mile away from the launch point. The flooding is indeed mighty.

When you a paddling this summer, I hope the wind is at your back and the skeeters are few.

Veggie Herder’s Breakfast

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This recipe is a different take on the classic Sheepherder’s Breakfast, which uses bacon, hash browns, onions and eggs. I was looking for something different, so I threw this together this morning for breakfast and it was quite good. Give it a try.
Ingredients
Red bell pepper diced
4 ramps chop entire ramp into 1-inch pieces
Half a bag of shredded hash brown potatoes
1 cup whole cherry tomatoes
1 avocado sliced the chopped into large pieces
4 eggs
Oil
Directions
Heat oil in cast iron skillet and add ramps and peppers. Cook until ramp leaves are wilted. Add hash brown potatoes and cook until potatoes nearly done. Add cherry tomatoes and sliced avocados. Mix well and heat for about 2 minutes. Crack four eggs on top of potato mix, cover, and cook on low heat until eggs are done. Serve with salsa.