Now is the time to do battle with buckthorn. Buckthorn is an invasive shrub that was brought to North America from Europe as an ornamental hedge plant. Buckthorn is rapidly invading our area. Buckthorn is easy to identify. It has oval-shaped glossy green leaves with finely serrated edges and a pointed tip. Their leaves stay on long into the fall after most other trees and shrubs have lost their leaves. The twigs often end in small sharp thorns. The bark on larger buckthorn shrubs is rough, dark brown with corky projections. The shrubs are tough and "grabby."
Shortly after returning from our place in Cedar Key, Florida and still suffering from thermal shock I went north last week to Washburn to prepare our boat for haul out and winter storage. The weather forecast for Washburn last Tuesday was poor with cloudy weather, cooling temperatures with rain and increasing wind. Tuesday afternoon the manager of the Washburn Marina advised us to move our boat to the east wall of the marina to be first in line for haul out on Wednesday morning.
I returned to our place in Cedar Key, Florida a couple weeks ago to take delivery of a fishing boat. I picked up my fishing friend Frank Fillo of Moberly, Missouri on the way south. Frank and I were fortunate to get out fishing a number of times during our short stay in Cedar Key even though my new fishing boat wasn't ready to hit the water, being rigged with a motor and other equipment at the Cedar Key Marina.
The forest on our property in Martell Township was once a fairly diverse mix of white pine, American elm, sugar maple, black maple, red, white and bur oak, black cherry, basswood, ironwood, hornbeam and butternut. The native Americans intentionally burned the area for thousands of years, favoring bur oaks and savanna vegetation. Early European settlers logged and cleared much of the land, suppressed fire and grazed the woods with cattle, sheep and pigs. Much of the area became pasture and cropland, leaving some large spreading bur oaks, basswood and sugar maple trees.
Although we have all the Apostle Islands on our "bucket list" to visit, we often return to Stockton Island. Last week Wednesday our boat got a workout powering into stiff northeast wind and waves. The "Lake is the Boss" T-shirt logo applies when the wind is from the north and east. There aren't many safe overnight anchorages in the Apostle Islands when the wind is from those directions. Presque Isle Bay on Stockton Island provides fine shelter from the north and east winds.
Carol and I decided that we like Cedar Key, on the Gulf coast of Florida, so we made an offer on a house there for our winter retreat. After clearing lots of snow early April 4, we left our home near River Falls and headed south. The roads were covered with snow and ice as far south as Des Moines, Iowa. It was a relief to drive on dry pavement. We visited friends near Columbia, Mo., and Pensacola, Fla., on the way to Cedar Key.
"Till last by Philip's farm I flow To join the brimming river, For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever." from Alfred Lord Tennyson, "The Brook" Spring is a great time to be out on or along rivers. Brimming with snowmelt and spring rain, rivers are up, sometimes out of their banks and into their floodplains. Fish are migrating to spawning places, young muskrats are searching out new territories, beavers are out scratching around in the middle of the day, songbirds are migrating through and wood ducks are nesting in hollow trees.
Carol and I are retired now and have looked forward to longer escapes from winter for many years. Tired of the polar vortex conditions this winter, we went to Florida before Christmas. We enjoyed many days fishing out on the water and hiking in the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, exploring the "Nature Coast." The Gulf Coast of Florida in January isn't very warm much of the time. It froze a few nights and the locals were chilling.
After six weeks in Florida where it was unseasonably cool but pleasant, Carol and I returned home and had to acclimate to winter again. Now we are heading back south to Belize where we have gone on winter breaks nearly every year since 1990. We look forward to temperatures in the 80s, sun, trade wind rattling the coconut trees and seeing our Belizean friends again. Of course I'm writing this with great anticipation after another below zero morning outside walking the dog and getting in firewood.
There's not a lot to do in Suwannee, Fla., that doesn't involve going out on the water and fishing. Each evening we consult the tide chart to see when the low and high tides will be the next day. We are staying on the Suwannee River-side of town so our dock is in fresh water. The tidal range is 3-4 feet. The first night we were here, our boat was pinned under the dock on a rising tide. When I went out to check it at night, water was nearing the starboard gunwale. I pried the boat out from under the dock and it flopped back to its normal floating position.