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Merry Christmas and Year-End Thoughts...

Grand Marais Mayor Blog - 17 hours 2 min ago
The Christmas Parade
The Ridge Riders Kickoff
The Bake Sale
The Chorale Concert
The Solstice Pageant
Christmas Parties Galore

The past few weeks have been anything but devoid of activity!  This time of year never ceases to amaze me.  Following Thanksgiving we kick it into high gear to get together, celebrate, and plan for the next year.

We also spend some time looking back though, and I think that is a good thing!

2014 was a very interesting year for our county and city.  We faced very particular challenges and celebrated very particular blessings.  People have come and gone, we lost some amazing people, and we hope to get some equally amazing people in 2015.

I have been heading to a lot of meetings and get togethers in the past few weeks to meet some more folks and to ask some questions.  I have been pleased to see that most people are interested in chatting with me and everyone that I have talked with have had thoughts about direction and policy!  Keep it coming!  I appreciate the conversation and am always up for a discussion.

On that note, I would like to invite the community to begin considering candidates for Jan Sivertson's City Council position.  Jan has served well on the Council and is moving on to the County level!  All of the best to you Jan!  The position can be filled by anyone living within the City and who is interested in working with policy to help make our community better.  If you know of anyone or are that person, please let me know!  I would love to talk it over with you and answer any questions you may have.  The Council will be taking up appointing the 5th Councilor at one of the first City Council meetings in January.  We would like to identify an active, interested person as soon as we can, as there are elected official trainings that are optional, but that we would like to have all of the new Councilors attend.

(Thank you to those of you who have come forward and put your names in for the City Board and Commission positions as well.  We are still looking for a few interested people, if you are on the fence, let me know.  I would love to talk you through what expectations look like for each of these spots...)

We spend a lot of time at the government level thinking about budget and revenue projections this time of year too and I want to thank our County Commissioners and City Councilors for their work.  Both the City and County will be meeting near the last days of the year to finalize and approve their 2015 planning.  We have no idea what 2015 will bring, but I would like to offer that it will bring renewed energy on many levels and some serious looks to the future of our city.  To our hard-working City employees and department heads, thank you so much for your work.  I look forward to working alongside you in 2015!

There is a lot more I have been contemplating writing about, but this is Christmas week and we all have celebrating to do.  For all of your hitting the road for the holidays, come back to us safe and refreshed.  For those of you celebrating at your home, the merriest of days and equal doses of relaxation to you!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a great night!

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Inhumane Humane Society?

Boundary Waters Blog - Sat, 12/20/2014 - 7:00pm

The Humane Society is responsible for re-establishing protection of wolves in the Great Lakes Western Region.  This region includes Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota where the wolf population is thriving. The healthy population of wolves in our region is why the US Fish and Wildlife Service decided to let management of the wolf population fall to the State in 2012.  The Humane Society didn’t like this decision and challenged it which has resulted in putting the wolves back on the Endangered Species List.

I have mixed feelings about this decision. In the city of Grand Marais this past fall wolves attacked family pets in broad daylight while these pets were in their yard, sometimes on a leash. These dogs weren’t in the woods, they were let outside to relieve themselves and were snatched up by hungry wolves. Two kids in Josh’s 8th grade class had their dogs attacked by a wolf this fall, one dog was killed the other injured because the kid’s mom chased the wolf down the driveway and the wolf dropped the dog out of it’s mouth.  How many kid’s are in Josh’s class?  Fewer than 50 kids and both of these kids live less than a mile from school.

Our wolf population is large and healthy. So healthy there isn’t enough prey around for the wolves to feed on, they’ve eaten it all and are now seeking human pets. I never feel too sorry for people who live in the middle of the woods and are surprised when a wild animal attacks their family pet but when they live in the city? I don’t know how humane a member of the Humane Society would think this situation is. I wonder if they realize family pets are being attacked and killed in broad daylight sometimes right in front of their owners?

Rules and laws that affect a broad area may not be what is best in this case. Hunting of wolves may not seem humane as wolves are seen as special to many people. But so are deer, bear and other animals that are hunted. I’m not saying the State knows what’s best for managing wildlife but at least they know what the population is and what is happening within the state.

No management? Over management? Humane or Inhumane? I guess we can all have our opinions we just can’t all let our dogs outside without fear of it becoming a meal for a wolf.

Great Lakes wolves ordered returned to endangered list By John Flesher AP Environmental Writer

Posted:   12/19/2014 03:21:53 PM CST | Updated:   a day ago


A gray wolf is shown on Isle Royale National Park in northern Michigan in this 2006 file photo. (AP Photo/Michigan Technological University, John Vucetich) (John Vucetich)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday threw out an Obama administration decision to remove the gray wolf population in the western Great Lakes region from the endangered species list — a decision that will ban further wolf hunting and trapping in three states.

The order affects wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped federal protections from those wolves in 2012 and handed over management to the states.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday the removal was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the federal Endangered Species Act.

Unless overturned, his decision will prohibit further wolf hunting and trapping in the three states, all of which have had at least one hunting season since protections were removed. More than 1,500 Great Lakes wolves have been killed since federal protections were removed, said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. The group filed a lawsuit that prompted Howell’s ruling.

“We are pleased that the court has recognized that the basis for the delisting decision was flawed, and would stop wolf recovery in its tracks,” Lovvorn said.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Gavin Shire said the agency would issue a statement shortly. There was no immediate reaction from officials in the three states.

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It's Ice Time Again

Gunflint Lodge - Sat, 12/20/2014 - 3:07pm

Gunflint Lake finally froze over on the night of December 17th.  There was a section in the middle of the lake that just would not skim over.  Here is a picture Sheryl took on the morning of the 17th.  You can see the open water.  As a result every time we got a little wind, we would lose a little ice.  Finally we had a night with below zero temps and no wind.  That is all it took.  Now we can start to make ice.
For the past ten days we have had signs up all over warning about unsafe ice.  In fact a measurement by the dock showed that we had only a couple of inches.  All the incoming guests are told to stay off the ice.  We are not quite paranoid but it is close.
Imagine our panic this morning when we saw 1 skier and three dog sleds going down the ice.  They were about 50-75 feet from shore and going down to the west end.  Then around lunch time we saw two of the dog sleds going back to the east end.
So how do we know when the ice if safe?  Years ago Charlie Cook or George Plummer (two Native Americans who lived on the north side of the lake) would come over to tell us the ice was safe.  I am not sure how they determined this but we always waited to get the OK from them.
Today Don Kufahl and Bruce will decide when they are absolutely sure the ice is safe.  Then they wait a couple more days.  Don puts on his dry suit and gets an auger.  We tie a 50’ rope around his waist and he starts walking out.  Every 50-75 feet out he will stop and drill a hole in the ice to check its thickness.  We want at least 6” of solid ice.  While the testing is going on, a crowd (well 3-4 people) gather in the lodge to watch and help if needed.  Luckily help has never been needed.
A some years ago, two snowmobiles came off the public landing and started out towards Cross River Lodge (old Borderland).  One of them slowed down as they got to the north shore.  That machine went right through the ice.  Eric Thompson was still at Borderland.  He ran down with a long extension ladder and pushed it out to the man in the water.  As soon as the man grabbed the ladder, Eric pulled him in.  It just luck that Eric was there and knew what to do.
Even when the ice is frozen over 6”, there are still dangerous situations that can occur.  When the temperatures get really low (20-40degrees below zero), at that point the ice starts to expand but the shoreline will not let it expand enough so a press ridge explodes straight up into the air.  It can be 5 feet tall.  Water flows up and then freezes over.  
Sometimes, however, the pressure ridge goes down.  The water quickly skims over and looks solid.  If anyone walks over it for the next few days the ice will break and the person will go through.
Ice can be very dangerous so be sure to check with locals before you go out on it.
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A Different Type of Holiday Green

Boundary Waters Blog - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 5:11pm

Are you struggling to find the perfect gift for that special someone? I gave up on trying to find the perfect gifts for people a long time ago.

Striving for perfection is the greatest stopper there is.… It’s your excuse to yourself for not doing anything. Instead, strive for excellence, doing your best. – Sir Laurence Olivier

In any case, the Minnesota Pollution Control offered some great green gift ideas that are close to perfect in my opinion.  I will say I am super green when it comes to wrapping gifts because I haven’t used ribbon or a bow in I don’t know how many years. I prefer to use gift bags and always re-use them and make sure none get thrown out at the end of the evening.

I always ask for acts of service as gifts for me and quality time gifts for the kids from others.  I realize these are the most precious of gifts because they require time, but I never thought about them being green too.

I hope you find the information from Living Green 365 as informative as I did.

Season’s green-ings

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons add up to an additional 1 million tons a week to the nation’s garbage piles.

This holiday season consider a new tradition–one that creates less waste, less stress, and more memories.

The idea list
Lessons. A lot of people would like to try new things, but won’t spend the money on themselves. A gift certificate might be just the item for someone who would like to begin a new hobby or polish the skills they have already learned. Perhaps you have can even teach them one of your special talents, like how to cook a family recipe.

Time and energy.  Friends or relatives may value help with snow shoveling, vacuuming, or organizing as a gift. Try our downloadable gift certificates as a way to present your gift.

Reused items. Many gifts can be purchased second-hand. Look at Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse directory and ReUse Minnesota for a list of shops. To help you find the perfect present,  choose a shop that specializes in one type of reuse, like kids stuff or sports gear.

Hand made or up-cycled items. This is a spin on the reused idea, but includes artsy, unique and personal touches. You can tackle your own projects or look to local shops.

  • Find shops that sell collectibles, vintage wear, or antiques
  • Gift hand-knit or home-sewn items
  • Create a book of family recipes


Experiences. There are endless possibilities here. A few to get you started:

  • Minnesota State Parks Permit or Giftcard, for access to all 76 Minnesota state parks
  • Minnesota Ski Pass: Access to ski in Minnesota’s State Parks and Grant-in-Aid Trails
  • Passes to a museum or membership to a community center or park
  • Tickets to a concert or play

Living green items. Help others in their living green journey. Ideas include:

  • Metro Transit bus passes
  • LED light bulbs
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Locally made or Minnesota grown products
  • The Chinook Book, a coupon book for Twin Cities green businesses
  • A rain barrel
  • A counter-top compost pail

Gift wrapping
Did you know that our national annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals 4 million tons? And did you know that if every family just reused two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet? This year, why not try a new way of wrapping that is elegant, fun, and green? Try Furoshiki!

More ways to reduce holiday waste

  • Carry reusable shopping bags with you when you go holiday shopping
  • Select  reusable batteries for electronics, toys and other gifts
  • Recycle old or broken holiday lights and replace with LED lights
  • Encourage the giving of homemade gifts, charitable donations, secondhand goods,experiences, time, by listing your ideas on the So Kind Registry
  • Consider the life-cycle of a product before purchasing. Was it produced locally, or thousands of miles away? Is it durable? Is it energy- or water-efficient, made of recycled materials, or recyclable?
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12.19.14 Central Gunflint Trail is ready for your ski vacation

Bearskin Lodge Ski Trail Reports - Fri, 12/19/2014 - 10:26am

We just came back from a trip to the Twin Cities.  Right before we left, the metro area received a little more snow again.  The grass is almost covered.

As we drove back up north, we saw more snow, but it wasn’t until we were well up the Gunflint Trail that it was truly winter.

We are getting lots of phone calls  that go like this:  ” (Big sigh) Well, I suppose you don’t have any snow either, right?”  The picture below, from Jonathan Baumann of Golden Eagle Lodge, should clearly answer that question.  Snow in the Twin Cities melted in the rain and then a little dusting of snow fell.  But up here, we lost a small amount of our good snow on that rainy day, and then we were pummeled with 10+  inches of fresh flakes.  This is Minnesota’s premier winter cross-country skiing destination for good reasons — we get the snow and then we keep our snow.  That gets tiresome in April, but it’s wonderful in December.

The skiing is good.  There’s enough snow that the big grooming machines have been able to get out on both sides of the system and they will continue to improve the trails each day.  Don’t be fooled by that wimpy little snow in your metro area front yard or by the so-so snow along the North Shore  — the Central Gunflint Trail is ready for your ski vacation.

Jonathan Baumann photo of Central Gunflint Ski Trail

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Did You Ever Have a Day?

Boundary Waters Blog - Thu, 12/18/2014 - 9:50pm

Have you ever had one of those days when you try to do one thing but it seems to take all day long to do it? I’ve been having quite a few of those days lately as well as other days when I can’t stay focused on what I’m doing.

For instance, when one of my family members opens up a Christmas present this Christmas they will find an already worn sweatshirt. That might be an OK gift for some people but not when I had intended to wrap the new one but mistakenly wrapped the one I had been wearing but had taken off because I got too warm.

A small packaged arrived in the mail the other day. I started opening it but then thought, “Oh, I better not, it could be a piece of jewelery from Mike for me!” When I asked Mike about it and told him to look at it he looked at me like I was somewhat crazy and said, “You told me you were ordering that as a Christmas present for someone.”

Mike has told me on more than one occasion that I could hide my own Easter eggs. I’m beginning to believe him.

This evening I was attempting to do some work for the Voyageur Brewing Company. I wanted to post a photo on the Twitter page but the photo size was too large. I’ve had a Mac for quite some time now but I still haven’t found an easy way to resize my photos.  When I had Windows I uploaded a Fast Image Resizer, dragged and dropped photos into that and it automatically spit the resized photos out for me to use.  I have tried to install that on my Mac but it doesn’t work.  I know how to resize in Photoshop but I don’t like having to open Photoshop just for that purpose. So tonight I decided to try creating my own Application for my Mac. It sounded easy enough but after two hours of attempts I was still getting an error message.  So I did what any somewhat sane person would do and just chose a different photo that was already the right size.

Yes, I have had one of those days. And unfortunately I didn’t have one of these!

Ice cold craft beer

Follow Voyageur Brewing Company on Twitter for more delicious looking brews!

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SplinterTones, Winter Solstice Shadow Puppet Show

North Shore Art Scene - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:44pm

The big news this week: The annual Winter Solstice Shadow Puppet Show will be performed by the Good Harbor Hill Players at North House Folk School at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21.

The event is always a lot of fun.

Here’s a sneak preview of one of the scenes in “Heat Wave,” the Winter Solstice Shadow Puppet Show at North House Folk School at 6 p.m. Dec. 21.

Everyone bundles up and gathers outside the red building on the North House campus to watch a shadow puppet story that’s always full of wonderful characters having quirky and highly amusing adventures. The title of this year’s show is “Heat Wave.”

As can be seen from a a sneak preview shot from the upcoming show, left, the shadow puppets do out-of-the-box things and really catch the imagination.

There’s live music, too, played behind the screen. And there’s a surprise at the end…we don’t know what it will be this year, but it’s pretty well guaranteed.

Then the bonfire is lit and everyone is invited to throw in their gloomies (pieces of paper on which   gloomy thoughts, feelings, etc. are written down and then best thrown into the fire and given up to the flames.) Then everyone goes indoors for a winter potluck.

If you’d like to help with the shadow puppet show, workshops will be held at North House Folk School at 6 p.m. through Saturday. All welcome. Call Betsy at 218-370-8077 for more info.

Liz Sivertson did this painting of the SplinterTones, now the band’s official image.

Also not to be missed this weekend, the high-octane band, the SplinterTones, plays at Papa Charlie’s on Saturday night.

A band that’s both exciting to listen to and dance to, the SplinterTones includes Max Bichel, fiddle; Liz Sivertson, saxophone; Leah Thomas, accordion; John Gruber, guiter; Holly Harwig, percussion; Jeff DeShaw, Bass; Rick Brandenburg, drums. The music starts at 9 p.m.

In other art news, Paula Sundet Wolf’s  pastels and Timothy Young’s acrylic paintings will be on exhibit at Cook County Higher Education from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 18.  A portion of the sales will be donated to CCHE. All invited. Dec. 18 is also the day of the CCHE Holiday Open house from 1-2 p.m.

The Art Underground Holiday Show at Betsy Bowen’s Studio continues this weekend with a wide variety of art by local and regional artists. The show includes pottery, fiber art, fused glass, paintings, woodcut prints, photographs and more. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday through Dec. 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 21-24. The exhibit closes on Christmas Eve.

Neil Sherman was interviewed by painter and PBS videographer Roger Bansimer and his wife, Sarah, for an upcoming program on public television. The couple produce a series entitled “Painting and Travel” for PBS stations. Click to see their web site. Here’s the segment they made with Sherman. The couple are great producers and used a camera drone very effectively in this video. (Plus the interview with Neil is great!) Click here to see the video.  Enjoy!

The Spirit of the Wilderness is inviting artists of every age to participate in an exhibit at the Johnson Heritage Post (to open March 13) entitled “Igniting Imagination.” The show encourages artists to examine the overlap between creativity and spirituality — specifically paying attention to illumination and how it is expressed in the artist’s particular medium. Illumination is a broad and nuanced term. Electric lights illuminate a room would be the literal meaning, for example, but medieval artists illuminated manuscripts and painters have “illuminated” music.

In the art show, all artists are invited to explore this theme. Choose a “significant passage” to illuminate, or consider working with another artist, perhaps across a media or genre.

Questions? Call Lee Stewart at 218-387-2983, Bonnie Gay Hedstrom at 218-387-2538 or Mary Ellen Ashcroft at 218-387-1536.

Here’s the music for the weekend.

Thursday, Dec. 18:

  • Eric Frost & Bill Hanson, Poplar River Pub, Lutsen Resort, 6 p.m.
  • Gordon Thorne, Gunflint Tavern, 8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 19:

  • Eric Frost & Friends, Gunflint Tavern, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 20:

  • Portage Band, Grand Portage Lodge & Casino, 3 p.m.
  • Al Oikari and Rod Dockan, Papa Charlie’s, 3:15 p.m.
  • Briand Morrison, Lutsen Resort, 7 p.m.
  • Cook County’s Most Wanted, American Legion, 8 p.m.
  • SplinterTones, Papa Charlie’s, 9 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 21:

  • Eric Frost, Papa Charlie’s, 3:15 p.m.
  • Timmy Haus, Gunflint Tavern, 8:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 22:

  • Boyd “Bump” Blomberg, Papa Charlie’s, 3:15 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 23:

  • Timmy Haus, Poplar River Pub, 6 p.m.

We found some great photos this week.

Here are two wonderful shots of dogs enjoying the outdoors.

Photo by Lori Schaefer.


Photo by Erin Altemus.


Photographers are starting to post wonderful birds-in-winter shots, too. Here’s a chickadee by John Sikkila.

Photo by John Sikkila.


Gail Murton caught this classic shot of a blue jay.

Photo by Gail Murton.


John Sikkila posted this great shot of a gray jay, too.

Photo by John Sikkila.


Ice has been a big topic this week, as well. Here’s a pretty wonderful natural ice sculpture that Bryan Hansel found.

Photo by Bryan Hansel.


David Johnson caught this moment on the ice-covered shores of Lake Superior.

Photo by David Johnson.


Here’s a wonderful icy sunset by Ann Possis. She calls it “This is the season of sherbet sunsets.”

Photo by Ann Possis.


This black & white beauty is by John Ongaro.

Photo by John Ongara.


Here’s another black & white…this time of a shot of a river’s ice flow by Thomas Spence.

Photo by Thomas Spence.


David Grinstead took this photo of an ice volcano where the Brule River in Wisconsin enters Lake Superior. There’s black sand on that beach and it is carried onto the ice when the water rushes through the “volcano’s” hole.

Photo by David Grinstead.


The hoar frost was also beautiful this week. Here’s a lovely photo by Don Davison.

Photo by Don Davison.


Nancy Seaton took this beauty.

Photo by Nancy Seaton.


And where there’s ice, there are fishermen. This is one of Layne Kennedy‘s photos from “A Hard-Water World.”

Photo by Layne Kennedy.

 And since Christmas is right around the corner, here’s a beautiful holiday shot by Thomas Spence.

Photo by Thomas Spence.

Happy Holidays!



















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A Good Day of Fishing

Boundary Waters Blog - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 8:25pm

I wanted to share a fishing tale with you. It’s about our Mark’s brother’s fishing experience the other day and it made me smile. I’m hoping it will make you smile too. Mark’s Dad wrote it.

Well it appears that either Michael is just plain Lucky — or as I would like to believe — has his big brother was “guiding him” to fishing success.

The attached picture was taken on Friday afternoon – on the Lake Superior bay – at the end of Park Point at around 2 PM.

Mike had barely put his buckshot jig (from Mark’s collecton) down the hole and within a few minutes he described feeling a thunk on his jig.

After a Chinese fire drill of untangling the line from the vexilar (Marks) and getting the fish onto the ice and then having to remove the other 3 lines wrapped around the fish — he and his friend Steve – were then able to take this picture. He also said that as the fish was still on the ice – the reel AND the handle fell off the rod. Now if there isn’t some divine intervention going on here -I don’t how else to explain it all.

Regardless – after Mike and Steve released the fish – and they stopped laughing outloud over what had just happened– the moment was reagarded as “priceless”

Mike said he and Steve had to peel off 100 yards of line and re rig everything – as well as fix the rod and reel.  The fish was approx. 26″-28″ Mikes largest thru the ice.

PS – that was the only fish they caught for the rest of the day (Mark must have been busy or  in a hurry and did’nt have time to stick around) LOL

Anyway thought you might enjoy the story – as you would get much more condensed version if you talked to Mike.


walleye fishing

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Drinking like a True Detective

Unorganized Territory - Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:32am

A person can waste a lot of time on the Internet, especially on Facebook. But it is also an easy and fun way to stay in touch with friends and relatives. I love seeing what my grandkids or nieces and nephews are doing—you can literally see kids growing up online.

I really like being able to stay in touch with my sister in Missouri; my friends in Wisconsin, Illinois, Alaska and Florida; my cousins on the Iron Range and former co-workers across the country. The distance doesn’t seem so far when we touch bases with notes and photos—and jokes.

I really like the little inspirational quotes and silly thoughts that get posted and shared. It tickles me when my cousin on the Iron Range shares the same joke as my friend in Florida. It is amazing how fast things can travel on the Internet!

That happened this week with a silly coffee-themed post. The post included a simple black and white line sketch of a coffee cup and the declaration, “I can’t stop drinking the coffee… If I stop drinking the coffee, I stop doing the standing and the walking and the words-putting-into-sentence doing.”

Me, drinking from my Big Hug Mug. Priceless!

It made me laugh out loud—LOL— for the folks that like using the Internet abbreviations for everything. And it helped me make the decision about my topic for Unorganized Territory this week.

I was waffling over writing about coffee cups again—my theme in the last two columns. I didn’t set out to write a trio of essays about coffee mugs, but somehow the topic keeps coming to mind. I think this will be the last column on coffee cups, but I can’t promise—longtime readers may remember a string of columns about pink flip-flops a few years ago.

This week I’m looking at my “Big Hug Mug” cup again. During the week I’ve used several other cups—my cute Tazmanian Devil mug, my souvenir Tower of London cup, and the pretty “Grandma” mug with the names of all five grandkids, a present from my dear sister-in-law.

I have not used my Big Hug Mug lately. Thanks to the Internet, I’m a bit nervous about using—and breaking it. When I wrote the first column I searched the Internet for information about the Big Hug Mug. I know how and when I got mine, but I wanted to confirm my memory. Was it an FTD Floral campaign? Was it popular in the 1980s? Yes and yes.

However, I was amazed to learn that the Big Hug Mug is in great demand, thanks to an earlier appearance in a Matthew McConaughey HBO movie True Detective. I have never watched True Detective, but according to the Internet, a Big Hug Mug sits on the table where McConaughey’s character Rustin “Rust” Cohle writes up his reports. Also according to the Internet, unlike Otis in Chicago Fire, McConaughey’s character is never seen actually drinking from the mug.

But that does not stop fans of the movie from wanting their own Big Hug Mugs. They are available on Ebay at premium prices—google it yourself and you can see the promotion, “Drink coffee like a True Detective.”

There is one on Ebay, described as “Excellent, Near-Flawless Condition. No Chips, Scratches or Stains. Vivid Color” with bids currently reaching $83. According to blogger Hugh Merwin on, who also wrote a column about the Big Hug Mug, a mug recently sold for $97.

That is far more than what my friends paid for my original Big Hug Mug with the flowers and teddy bear that came with it. And it creates a little temptation for me. Should I sell my Big Hug Mug? If demand is high and quantity is low, the asking price for the funky orange mug will only increase. Should I put it away in another cupboard where it is safe from breakage?

I didn’t consider selling my Big Hug Mug for long. The going rate is not worth the time and effort to take a photo, post it to Ebay, oversee the bidding, and then package and mail it to a buyer. But more important than not having time to be an Internet vendor is the sentimental value of the cup.

It was sent to me at a time when I was feeling sick and sad. It brightened my day then and every time I pull it out of the cupboard it makes me feel good again. Knowing that it is worth $80 or so adds to the enjoyment. It’s crazy that someone will spend that much for a coffee cup, so it makes me laugh.

But truly, knowing that someone cares is what makes the Big Hug Mug precious. That is something money can’t buy.


Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Oscar Wilde

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12/16/14 - After a few days of melting, winter has returned in the most pleasant way here at Sawbill.

Sawbill Newsletter - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:47pm

12/16/14 - After a few days of melting, winter has returned in the most pleasant way here at Sawbill. We now have an honest foot of snow on the ground, the trees are snow covered and the lake is frozen solid. It is enough to put you in the holiday spirit!

Here is last week's edition of the Cook County West End News from WTIP-FM, North Shore Community Radio. - Bill

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Thank You Conservation Corps

Boundary Waters Blog - Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:15pm

What a great group of people we have working for the State of Minnesota. Check out their accomplishments in 2014.  Thank you Minnesota Iowa Conservation Corps, you are welcome in our neck of the woods anytime!

In 2014, our crews:
Planted 125,450 trees
Conducted prescribed burns on 20,785 acres
Built or improved 415 miles of trail

What else did they do?

Habitat restoration projects:
Vegetation management
Invasive species removal
Herbicide application
Nursery activities
Seed collection
Shoreline restoration
Rain garden maintenance
Prescribed burning
Timber stand improvement
Trail construction
Trail maintenance
Disaster response
Fire suppression

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Oh Christmas Trees

Boundary Waters Blog - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:01pm

Christmas is just around the corner and trees and greens are a topic of conversation around our house.  A little searching on the internet will bring up a lot of information about Christmas Trees and the traditions surrounding them.  Most websites conclude the tradition of hanging greens on doors or windows has been around for a long time. One website said Ancient people in some countries thought the greens would keep witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness away. It went on to say evergreens were a symbol in some festivals and celebrations that proved the dark days of winter would soon be getting shorter and spring would return. There is more information about the Germans being the first to bring the tree inside and decorate it as a Christmas Tree and how they brought the tradition with them to America.

The Department of Natural Resources also has a plethora of information about Christmas Trees. This includes how to care for them, where to place them and how to water them.  They also suggest purchasing a local tree to help prevent the potential spread of invasive species.  According to my reading I think I’m doing most things right.

Most of the talk at our house has been about selling Christmas wreaths for the kids’  band fundraiser. If you’re in the neighborhood and want a pretty wreath then email or give us a call.  For $25 you can support the kids on their goal to raise money for a band trip and maybe even keep evil spirits, ghosts, witches and illness out of your house while reminding yourself winter won’t last forever.

Tis the Season-MN DNR
Christmas Tree Care Tips

Make a fresh cut. Cut at least 1 inch from the bottom of the trunk just before bringing it inside and putting it in the stand. This re-opens the tree stem so it can drink water.
Water immediately. After making the fresh cut, place the tree in a large capacity stand with warm water. The stand you use should hold at least 1 gallon of fresh water.
Place Christmas tree away from heat sources. Heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, etc. speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.
Check water level daily. Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink. Christmas trees are very thirsty!
This information came from The Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  More information can be found at

The most common Minnesota native trees that are used for Christmas trees include:  white spruce, red (Norway) pine, white pine and balsam fir.  Christmas tree farmers in Minnesota plant 500,000 to 1.5 million tree seedlings every year.  It takes approximately 7-10 years to get a Christmas tree to the right shape and size.

An 88-foot tall white spruce from northern Minnesota was chosen to be this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree and is now standing proudly in front of the White House.


Question of the week

Q: When I hiked in the Black Hills of South Dakota recently, I observed the many dying trees related to insect infestation. We take all these precautions when using firewood, but is there cause for concern with Christmas trees being shipped from various places around the nation? It seems like a possible way to spread pests and diseases.

A: You are right to be concerned. According to the lead nursery inspector at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), most of our imported Christmas trees are from Michigan and Wisconsin, along with Fraser fir from the Carolinas. Gypsy moth is the main concern on trees coming from those states, and regional inspectors visually check Christmas trees as they come into Minnesota in bulk. The Agriculture Department also conducts spot checks on tree sales lots. The focus of these inspections is proper certification under all applicable state and federal quarantines.

Mountain pine beetle is the insect responsible for killing pines in the Black Hills and in much of the western United States. This insect attacks trees that are 5 inches or more in diameter. Most Christmas trees you’ll find on sales lots are smaller than this. The MDA is considering regulations to prevent the importation of pine wood with bark on it from states where mountain pine beetle occurs. These regulations would be enforced through a state exterior quarantine tentatively scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

Finally, consider buying Christmas trees grown in Minnesota. That way, you can be sure you won’t be importing an unknown pest.

Val Cervenka, DNR forest health program coordinator

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'Tis the Week Before Christmas

Gunflint Lodge - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 7:59am

Christmas is coming and we are getting ready at the lodge.  Most of the decorations are up.  The tree in the lodge looks wonderful.  It is hard to show it off with this daytime photo but here we are.  Out on the Trail by Birch Lake, Daryl Popkes and Tom Leddy have lit up their tree with white bulbs.  It looks great as we come up the road home.
Gunflint Lake is not frozen yet.  There is about a one mile section from Heston’s east that is still open.  We just need some cold weather and no wind.  No sense is fussing about it as there is nothing to be done.  Mother Nature has her own plan and she will not be hurried.
The animals in the area are doing very well.  Fred smith reports that there is still a lynx haning around the Mile O’Pines Road.  He probably comes down our way too but we just haven’t seen him.
Guests last weekend had a lot of moose sightings.  On Friday night about three parties saw a cow and a large calf around seven miles below us.  The two animals must have hung around the road for quite some time.  All these parties saw them over about a two hour period.  In all cases the animals stayed around enough to give a good view.  On Saturday Bruce and I drove down to Poplar Lake for a party.  We saw the cow and calf both coming and going to our party.  There is also a big bull moose between Mayhew and Birch Lakes.  Again people have had wonderful views of the animals.
Let’s not forget the wolves.  In spite of a hunting season,  around 8:00 a.m. last Saturday everyone in the lodge could see a pack of 7 wolves come over from Canada.  They must have started at the Pines and then went down the lake to the west.  I am sure that they will be hanging around looking for dinner during the winter.
I have my bird feeders full with friends coming in.  Bruce has a metal box for bread for the Gray Jays and Blue Jays.  When he puts food in, Bruce bangs on the edge of the box.  As soon as he moves on, there is a steady stream of birds to take their share.  Soon the box is empty.
It is pretty warm out now but due to cool down next week.  I am ready for a big snow storm.  Eight or ten inches would be just fine.  Of course, Bruce will not be too happy about it if he is out dragging in our Christmas tree.
Lee, Eva, Grant and Mae are due up here on the 27th.  There should be a good snowfall for them to be out playing in.  They also want to take a dog sled ride.  We will see how the snow comes.
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Spearing Northern Pike

Boundary Waters Blog - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 6:56am

This time of the year is one of the few times of the year people choose to go spear fishing in the Boundary Waters.  Once it gets later in the winter the ice gets very thick and in the BWCA you can’t use a gas powered auger or chainsaw to cut the hole.  It becomes too difficult and time consuming to cut a hole big enough for spearing fish through the ice.  Outside of the BWCA some people will go longer into the season but with our cold temperatures it becomes a big chore to keep the hole free of ice.

The best thing to do if you want to spear through a darkhouse is to share it with someone.  With more than one person using the hole there’s a better chance at keeping the ice at a more manageable depth.  We used to do this when we lived in St. Cloud. We loved to go out on the lake and watch for northern pike to swim into our hole. We had a wood burning stove in there and stayed nice and cozy no matter what the temperature was.

The DNR had a neat little description about spearing the other day and it reminded me of all of the hours of fun we used to have doing it.  The only thing the author says that doesn’t sound right is when he says, “Throw the spear.” I don’t know how many of you have ever speared but if you throw the spear then the chances of you spearing a fish aren’t very good. If you carefully lower your spear down and into the water and then release the spear over the fish the weight and balance of the spear will make it slide right through the fish.


Keep safety in mind when enjoying darkhouse spearing

After sawing a wide rectangle into the ice, a person holds a fish spear at the ready while looking through the water, past a small decoy meant to lure northern pike into range. A well-placed throw results in a pike on the ice and destined for the frying pan.

Darkhouse spearing has ancient origins, but the activity may be new for many. It’s become especially popular on the newly-formed ice on Mille Lacs Lake, which opened for darkhouse spearing this year for the first time since the winter of 1982-83. The current season for darkhouse spearing opened Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 22.

For those new to spearing, there are some additional points of safety to keep in mind while out on the ice, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Once a block of ice is cut, it can be pushed under the ice or pulled out onto the surface.

If removed, the ice should be placed back into the hole and the hole marked when the spearer removes a darkhouse.

If the block of ice is pushed underneath the surface, the hole should be marked, as should any blocks that are left on top of the ice.

“It’s great to see the crowds come out for this new opportunity to spear northern pike on Mille Lacs. We’ve got an abundance of smaller pike which can make for a great day on the ice, and for a great fish fry,” said Rick Bruesewitz, DNR Aitkin area fisheries supervisor. “Along with the popularity of spearing, we’re reminding folks to mark their holes when they leave them. Safety for those spearing and others traveling on the lake is the most important consideration.”

Paul Lundeen, president of the Minnesota Darkhouse & Angling Association, said the organization stresses the importance of putting your block of ice back in and marking that spot with biodegradable markers, preferably in each corner of the hole.

“Push that block back in the ice and make sure you mark that hole,” Lundeen said.

Usually, Lundeen said, the practice of pushing the block of ice under the surface is easiest because the ice bobs after being cut free.

“It’s actually so much easier. Why lift the block on top of the ice? That thing is heavy,” he said.

The spearing association also stresses to make sure spearers know their target, to avoid spearing fish that aren’t northern pike.

“Just like deer hunting, don’t throw your spear unless you’re aware of what your target is,” Lundeen said.

Lundeen also said spearers might consider passing on the large fish. While small pike have increased in abundance in Mille Lacs in recent years, large pike are limited in numbers and worth conserving. Also, make sure to pick up any litter from the ice when leaving, he said.

Overall, Lundeen said, spearing can be a thrill, just like hunting. And there’s the craft of making decoys that attract fish, of living the history of spearing, and of getting kids and grandkids out on the ice to share in the fun.

“It’s just like deer hunting – you can sit there for hours and all of a sudden you can look and there’s a deer. It’s just like that with spearing,” Lundeen said.

Statewide, anglers and spearers can keep three northern pike, and one of those three can be over 30 inches. On Mille Lacs Lake, anglers and spearers can keep 10 northern pike, and one of those 10 can be over 30 inches. All spearers and anglers should check for special regulations that may be in effect for individual waters.

For more information on Mille Lacs Lake management, see For darkhouse spearing regulations, see

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Bird Identification Crow versus Raven

Boundary Waters Blog - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 10:53am

I’m pretty good at identifying birds when they are sitting next to each other but when I see one independently of another that looks similar then I’m not so good.   Woodpeckers can trick me, with the exception of the pileated, they are somewhat difficult to tell apart.  Crows and ravens also often get the best of me.

Besides the fact the crow and raven are both smart black birds they really aren’t that similar in appearance if you look closely. Ravens are much bigger and have a shinier wet look to their feathers while the feathers of a crow are duller.  The tail feathers of a raven are more diamond or wedge shaped when compared to a fan shape of the crows. The bill of a crow is shorter and sharper than the longer more curved bill of a raven that is also larger on the top than on the bottom of the bill. Ravens also have feathers beneath their bills called hackles.

The raven appears more majestic and graceful to me while the crow a little bit more wild and harried.  Ravens don’t flock or gather in large groups like crows do and they also don’t caw incessantly.  Here’s a short video that can help you distinguish between the crow and the raven.

Ravens and Crows in Mythology-

Crows are associated with war and death in Irish mythology. In Cornish folklore crows are associated with the “otherworld” and so must be treated with respect. In Australian Aboriginal mythology, the crow is an ancestral being. In Buddhism the protector of the Dharma is represented by a crow in one of his physical/earthly forms.

The raven is revered as god by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest in North America and in northeast Asia. Several totem poles erected by native Americans in Washington, Alaska and Oregon depict ravens and the stories they feature in. In the Old Testament of the Bible there are several references to common Ravens. In the British Isles, ravens were symbolic to the Celts. In Irish mythology, the goddess Morrígan alighted on the hero Cú Chulainn’s shoulder in the form of a raven after his death.

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Warm and Clear

Boundary Waters Blog - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 9:33pm

Sunset on the Seagull River

Today was a very beautiful day followed by a gorgeous sunset that Tony snapped a couple of photos of.  We’re hoping the skies are clear the next couple of nights because it’s going to be moderate temperatures which would make for perfect viewing conditions for the meteor shower and possibly northern lights.

Space Weather News for Dec. 12, 2014

GEMINID METEOR SHOWER:  The best meteor shower of the year, the Geminids, peaks this weekend when Earth passes through a stream of debris from “rock comet” 3200 Phaethon. Forecasters expect to see as many as 120 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Dec. 13th and 14th.  Visit for photos and observing tips.

AURORA WATCH:  A geomagnetic storm is underway on  Dec. 12th as Earth enters a high-speed stream of solar wind.  Aurora alerts are available from (text) and (voice).

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It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like a Brewery

Boundary Waters Blog - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 9:26pm

The Voyageur Brewing Company looks like a real brewery now that we have all of our tanks set up.  It took some finesse but they are all in place.

Voyageur Brewing Company equipment

Brewing in Grand Marais, Minnesota

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A Play, Holiday Art Underground & Printmaking

North Shore Art Scene - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 10:49pm

Paul Sundberg took this fantastic photo of the full moon  over Split Rock Lighthouse the other night.

Christmas in two weeks! Meanwhile, there’s lots to do in Cook County this weekend.

First up is the annual holiday play at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts.

“We Happy Few,” a production of the Grand Marais Playhouse, is getting good reviews and will be performed at the ACA at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The dramatic comedy was written by Imogen Stubbs.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.

The Grand Marais Art Colony will hold a Community Ink Day on Saturday from 1-4 p.m.

And on Saturday, the Grand Marais Art Colony will hold a Community Ink Day from 1-4 p.m. in the Print Studio.

Participants will learn how to make a monoprint (a cross between painting and printing) and be able to make their own Christmas card, if they wish.

All invited. Some instruction included. $5.

Also this weekend, the Holiday Art Underground show at Betsy Bowen’s Studio continues.

The show features new work by more than 40 local and regional artists and includes ceramics, woodcut prints, paintings, fused glass, photographs, sculpture, jewelry and more.

The studio is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday through Dec. 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 21-24. The exhibit closes on Christmas Eve.

Also in Betsy Bowen news, she was recently featured on Minnesota Public Radio in a program entitled “In Grand Marais, She’s the Community’s Woman for all Seasons.” To hear the interview and see photos of her working, click here.

And on Saturday night, Barbara Jean will be among the musicians performing at Papa Charlie’s in “Into the Wild” North Shore Triple CD Release Party.” Communist Daughter (Johnny Solomon and Molly Moore), Rogue Valley (Chris Koza and his band) and Barbara Jean and her band will perform from 8:30 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Barbara Jean just recently released her second album, “Bluer Than Blue.” She’ll perform at 11:30 p.m.

In another headliners-return-home story, Dave and Amy Freeman, who completed paddling 2,000 miles from Ely to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and to present their “petition canoe” to federal officials, will be interviewed on WTIP’s The Roadhouse on Friday night. More than 1,400 people signed the canoe during their journey  to ask for protection of the the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from sulfide mining pollution. The Roadhouse airs from 5-7 p.m.

“The World of Birch” at Sivertson Gallery.

Sivertson Gallery is highlighting  artwork in the gallery for the next week or so.

One of their posts put the spotlight on the world of birch including porcelain mugs and tumblers by Lenore Lampi, “Autumn Birches,” a painting by David Gilsvik and a silver and copper “birch” ring by Silver Seasons. Twelve themed days are planned.

This is the last weekend for the holiday sale at the Blue Moose, featuring artwork as well as handmade Christmas decorations and treats. It will close for the season Dec. 15.

And if you’re planning to attend the 30th annual Christmas Caroled Dinner at Naniboujou Lodge & Restaurant this year, now is the time to reserve your seats. The event will be held Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 at 6 p.m., and features a multi-course dinner with all the trimmings while carolers share songs of the season. For tickets, click here.

There’s lots of music this weekend, too. Here’s the line-up:

Thursday, Dec. 11:

  • Teague Alexy, Gunflint Tavern, 7 p.m.
  • Eric Frost & Bill Hansen, Poplar River Pub, 6 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 12:

  • Portage Band, American Legion, 6 p.m.
  • Pushing Chain Quartet, Gunflint Tavern, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 13:

  • Cherry Dirt, Cascade Lodge Pub, 7  p.m.
  • Joe Paulik, Lutsen Resort, 7 p.m.
  • Pushing Chain Quartet, Gunflint Tavern, 8:30 p.m.
  • Into the Wild: North Shore Triple CD Release Party, Papa Charlie’s, 8:30 p.m.
  • Wild Horses, Grand Portage Lodge & Casino, 9 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 16:

  • Jim & Michelle Miller, Poplar River Pub, Lutsen Resort, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 17:

  • Open Mic, Gunflint Tavern, 5 p.m.

We found some wonderful photos to share this week.

First up, some wildlife shots. Nace Hagemann calls this “Moose Eyes.”

Photo by Nace Hagemann.


Michael Furtman caught this hawk on the wing, totally focused on hunting. He said it was a Rough-Legged Hawk, light morph.

Photo by Michael Furtman.


Sunrises and sunsets were really incredible this week. Here’s a selection.

“December Sunset Over Lake Superior” by Travis Novitsky.


Sunrise by David Johnson.


Conditions were perfect for full moon photos, too.

“Moon Rising Over Split Rock” by John Gregor.


“Christmas Moon” by David Johnson.


And ice formations along Lake Superior’s shores were incredible as well. Here’s a selection from the photos we found.

“Ice Fields Forever” by Allison Gimpel.


And here are two spectacular ice shots by Paul Sundberg.

Ice Sculpture 003 by Paul Sundberg.


Ice Sculpture 004 by Paul Sundberg.


Enjoy your weekend, everyone!













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Brewhouse under Construction

Voyageur Brewing - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 7:35pm

It has been nonstop excitement at Voyageur Brewing since our consultants from TurnKey arrived Saturday night, and our equipment arrived the next day from Marks. The view above is from our taproom window. Today the tanks and grain arrived. Here are some photos of what’s been happening. It is a joy to be at this stage and see so much talent coming together to create our brewery.



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Weather and Climate

Boundary Waters Blog - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 6:57am

MPR news printed an article about climate change and weather that I thought was very interesting and disturbing.  While our winter weather was much colder than normal last year the climate is changing and our winters are 7 degrees warmer now than in the 1970′s. That’s bad for people who love winter and the recreational opportunities it presents.

There’s a big group of people who are very concerned with the warming trend.  Protect our Winters is an organization made up of the global winter sports community. They hope to reduce the climate’s effect on snow sports and the economies they support.  Their mission is “to engage and mobilize the winter sports community to lead the fight against climate change.  Our focus is on educational initiatives, advocacy and the support of community-based projects.” You can find out more about them by visiting their website.

Let’s hope they can do something.

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