Comet Photos & Other Nighttime Diversions

· Posted by Joshua in Headlines, Nature

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, discovered only a few months ago, is now putting on a marvelous show in the northern sky.

I went out last week with a 55mm F1.8 lens to capture some obligatory comet photos and then turned my camera on a few other highlights of the July 2020 evening sky over Wisconsin. Click on a picture to expand it.

I. Comet NEOWISE above the pines:

Comet NEOWISE streaks across the blue sky of early evening as the last colors of sunset fade below the horizon.
Comet NEOWISE and a pine grove. About 1½ hours after sunset.

II. Comet NEOWISE and the Farm Silo

Comet NEOWISE sits in the dark sky just above the horizon, with a farm silo illuminated in the distance
Comet NEOWISE nears the horizon, with a farm silo illuminated in the distance. About 2¼ hours after sunset.
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Wisconsin Prickly Pear Cactus

· Posted by Joshua in Nature

Although Wisconsin is better known for its trees, lakes, and snow than its cactus, multiple species of prickly pears have a native range extending to the Upper Midwest. The cacti are not abundant, but they can flourish in the micro-climates created by well drained, sunny slopes in the Driftless Area.

These wild prickly pear cacti grow along a south facing outcrop of St. Peter sandstone in southwest Wisconsin. I was lucky enough to find them just in time for their short lived yellow blossoms in early July.

Stages of Spring, 2020

· Posted by Joshua in Nature

While shops, schools, and museums shut down for safety from March to May amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, the woods of Driftless Wisconsin came alive in their usual burst of spring color. This photo gallery looks back at the emergence of spring wildflowers week-by-week.

For another perspective on spring in the Driftless Area, don’t miss the nature walk video series from B&E’s Trees on YouTube: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]. They’re full of interesting information on Wisconsin’s spring ephermals.

April 20

Fragile points of color, the first flowers in April rise only slightly from the bed of last year’s decay. Bloodroot, hepatica, and dutchman’s breeches announce the new season throughout much of the woods. The marsh marigolds cluster only around a well-watered natural spring.

May 2

As April turns to May, whole stretches of the woods are carpeted with pink-and-white spring beauty. Tree leaves are beginning to bud, but the canopy is still wide open for sunshine to reach the forest floor. Both rue and wood anemones are widespread, and ferns are uncurling from their fiddleheads.

Spring Beauty and Rue Anemone
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Remove Prairie du Chien’s Confederate Memorial

· Posted by Joshua in Headlines, History

Note: This is a repost of my opinion letter printed in the June 10, 2020, Courier Press. The memorial sits in a federal cemetery managed by the National Cemetery Administration, which opposes any modification to Confederate symbols on its property. More information on the memorial is available from the Historical Marker Database and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Since the murder of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd on May 25, Americans across the nation have marched to protest the United States’ long history of institutional racism — from Black slavery and segregation to present disparities in policing and incarceration. In Prairie du Chien, one relic of this white supremacist history endures in the stone and bronze plaque memorializing Confederate President Jefferson Davis at the Fort Crawford Military Cemetery. Lately, cities including Birmingham, Alabama, and Richmond, Virginia, have begun to remove Confederate monuments in an effort to overcome histories of racial violence. Madison, Wisconsin, removed its Confederate Soldiers’ Memorial from Forest Hill Cemetery in 2017. Prairie du Chien should follow the example of these cities by replacing its own small Confederate plaque with historic markers that better represent local history.

A common objection to the removal of Confederate monuments is that taking them down erases history. The American Historical Association disagrees, noting that “To remove such monuments is neither to ‘change’ history nor ‘erase’ it. What changes with such removals is what American communities decide is worthy of civic honor.” Jefferson Davis briefly stayed at Fort Crawford during the 1830s as a U.S. Army Lieutenant. His time there should continue to be examined in exhibits at the Fort Crawford Museum and books at the library, for we can learn from history only by recognizing both successes and failures, good and evil. That said, the community does not need to preserve a memorial for Davis at the entrance to the cemetery simply because of his brief time here. Prairie du Chien gives no comparable public honor to any other military officer who served at Fort Crawford.

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Backyard Crocuses

· Posted by Joshua in Nature

a cluster of crocus flowers in full blossom

A sign of spring in safer-at-home Wisconsin.

Summer on the Lake

· Posted by Joshua in History, Nature

Sailboat on Chequamegon Bay

Summers are fleeting but beautiful on Lake Superior. These photos come from a weekend camping trip to Chequamegon Bay and Madeline Island.

The island, known as Moningwunakaauning in the Ojibwe language, was merely a visiting destination for me. For the Anishinaabeg people, it is a sacred place.

Read Winona LaDuke’s essay Restoring a Multi-Cultural Society in a Sacred Place to learn about the island’s history and the challenges of protecting this culturally and environmentally significant corner of the Great Lakes.

Spring on the Prairie

· Posted by Joshua in Nature

A cluster of purple-blue wild lupines.
Wild Lupine

Spring took its time in coming to Wisconsin this year, and when it arrived the rain clouds seemed to hang overhead for weeks at a time. All that water had to make something grow eventually, though, and the prairies were in blossom by the end of May.

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Jack-in-the-Pulpit

· Posted by Joshua in Nature

A Jack-in-the-Pulpit plant, showing leaves and flower.

New Blog Title

· Posted by Joshua in Miscellany

A small cedar tree amid some grass and a ledge of standstone.
“A Tree Left Standing”

After more than a decade under the title “Acceity,” I have renamed this site “A Tree Left Standing.” It’s a bit longer and a bit less whimsical. But I hope it is more pronounceable, more meaningful, and easier to remember and spell.

The address has changed to atreeleftstanding.com, but old links should continue to work for some time thanks to the magic of HTTP redirection.

The new title, A Tree Left Standing, stands for preserving memories, learning from the past, and conserving the planet that we all share. It comes from the poem “An Old Settler” by Laura Case Sherry. The poem is not my favorite — Sherry wrote many better ones — but the opening lines work well as a metaphor for this blog.

A tree left standing
From a grove that has been cut away…

Laura Case Sherry, “An Old Settler”
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Moonflowers

· Posted by Joshua in Nature

White flowers at the lakeshore in the moonlight