Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Olaf's COVID induced writing binge

So why am I showing you a photo of 16 month old me?  I  do not remember much from 1967, although it was a big year for me.  I learned to walk and well, I got inspired for a project that it took 48 years to complete.  Now it is 2021....and whoa!  What a rush.  I have been a writing machine. I am just finishing up a contract volunteer writing and research project creating a 214 page book on the history of a storied campground and community in the Upper Midwest, that will be the sixth book I've finished since the start of COVID, but one in which is not available to an outside audience but the other five.....  I've also even finished a magazine article on rare butterflies, and way too many blogs, although truth be told, I have not put too many blogs up this summer as I have just been too busy writing. 18 months of lock down, isolation and I somehow got in the biggest creativity and researching mode of my life.  All thanks to COVID.

I decided to not list any of these books on Amazon, as I'd have to sell 10-20 books to put through the costs of one, and on the historical books, writing them was more about sharing things I liked or were meaningful to me, than making money, but I would like to lose less money on any project.  So all of these are available from me, directly, email me at

Book events, I did just two.  I am have a presentation of my Rolite book in Grantsburg on the 14th for the Rotary Club, and other that will be me only event for this book.  A little advertising on Facebook, a couple of emails and well, I sold a few, good enough.

So here is what I put together:

ROLITE: Eggs to Nails to Tin Cans
The history of Grantsburg's niche camper manufacturer that existed from 1960-1973.  Selling a book describing a niche manufacturer that only made 6065 campers and the last one was built 48 years ago.  Lots of good memories there with the original motorized pop-up hard-sided camper.  It was not a perfect book, the information on the company is quite scattered and unfortunately a couple of people have information and we just could not connect, for reasons unclear.  Oh well, in not too many years all of what I did not put in here will be gone.    

So back to 1967.....the year my great uncle showed me a competing brand and I was not very impressed, so he bought a Rolite.  Well sort of....

From photos of the trailers to even photos from inside the plant.  I even got to do a book event at the Grantsburg Rotary Club.

CLUB ORIENT: A Photographic History
This is a photographic history of St Martin's iconic clothing optional resort destroyed four years ago from Irma, and first opening in 1981.  Of course it is NSFW, and as I did marketing for the resort in 2008, and with all I had, who else could put this together?  I managed to get photographic work from four world renowned photographers to include, stumbled upon some other tidbits and put together a colorful 230 page 8.5 x 11 book with 200 photographs to catch the flavor of a place like no other in the world. It also includes shots from the 1992 movie "Treasured Island" shot there, not an Academy Award winner but a rather funny little movie produced by an European travel agency as a marketing project and released to get people to think about the place.

If you want to see the uncensored views of this one-of a kind place destroyed on September 6, 2017, this is it, but if photos such as these offend you, this IS NOT the book for you.  This is an accurate depiction of life on the Caribbean's largest and most famous naturist beach, so I just depicted life of what was photographed and the way it was.   It is a place you can still dream about, paradise on earth.

Brown Boobies, Hairy Peckers, and Great Tits.
Although this book documents my (our) experiences from 2017 through Covid 2020, it mostly looks at our 2019 adventures around the world to see places less travel and less attired to a circumnavigation of America by RV, to South America, a voyage across the south Atlantic, safaris in Africa, and life in France, I visit places some do not even know exist.  Definitely, the road less traveled. 

We followed in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, famous author Robert Heinlein, and Thor Heyerdahl along with many other notable people and events at many of our stops.   

From the grave of Ernest Shackleton of South Georgia Island 

To the beach where Charles Darwin first came ashore on South America aboard the HMS Beagle and maybe where he conceived his theories on evolution of species while bathing in Uruguay

To Olaf cruising around with 2000 naked people all over the Caribbean 

GRANTSBURG: The Golden Years
The history of Grantsburg Wisconsin, my hometown from about 1920 to 1985.  I wrote this as a bucket list item with my mother (that was the bucket list item).  Grantsburg has had some quirky past and many interesting businesses and as such, this 420 page book, was a very nice and so far, well received historical document of the community.

We discuss mail order brides, a decade of lying about the weather, an opera diva, bank failures, a toll bridge empire, and well, many of the characters along the way
Dr Anne Carlsen, a woman who made severe handcapped seem normal (being given a award from Richard Nixon)

To Dr. John Toepfer, the man who literally wrote the book about the greater prairie chicken, a person I met randomly looking for the birds back in college
The Search for Paradise
This is a compilation of many of my photographs from all over the world.  I look at 50 of my favorite places

The photos include butterflies, landscapes, animals, and birds from six continents, and the arch in Malta no longer even exists

Magazine Articles:
My research on photography of two South Dakota threatened and endangered butterflies which will be feature in the South Dakota Magazine next spring:  Dakota skippers and regal fritillaries need to be saved. 
Dakota Skipper

Regal Fritillary 

So that is what I did last winter and summer IDK, maybe I actually send Christmas cars. 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Of Mice and Olaf

 Oh Canada, how have I missed thee.

With Canada opening the border on August 9 (but with us being in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area) we waited until August 20th to try to get ourselves north in order to get to some phenomenal fishing.  My Mother and Dad, originally scheduled to come with, decided that the threats of COVID and the process put forward from the Canadian government was too daunting.  We had to coordinate our departure, get negative COVID tests with results in hand 72 hours from the submission and be at the border within that time frame.  There were a lot of ifs.

We convinced some other travel partners of ours, Don and Nancy to go with and take my parents place, promised them some fish and well, that seemed like an easy promise. 

After our long absence (well it seemed long), the lake was the same, the cabin was the same, our award still hung on the wall, and the fish bit. 

There were still signs all over in Canada to wear masks and such and even Leroy had to abide.  It was like it was last October in the USA, where somewhat unfortunately, we've seemed to move on despite COVID around mostly die to vaccine avoidance

In Armstrong, Ontario, there was no eat-in dining.  We walked in, ordered pizza and twenty minutes later, we walked back in an carried it out and ate it.  Otherwise, save for the camp and the border, we never stopped to see anyone or buy anything.  

Gail's, the finest (only) place for food in Armstrong Ontario

 With COVID being the big concern of Canada, who would have guessed that this trip, however would be plagued by, of all things…mice.  I had figured this would be the trip of the wolf (note later) but no, it was something totally different.  Over the course of the week, our cabin would progressively be taken over by the little vermin.  It started by seeing one scurrying around in the bathroom, we found a trap and then trapped it.  By the last night, the whole gang had arrived and one got in a chair, so we took to barricading the doors to our rooms but as it would turn out, it was to no avail.  On our last night in camp, I was awakened by something running over my leg.  I was thinking that could not have been a mouse when something ran over my face.  Yuck!

My wife and I watched him poke out from under the mattress and then scurry around the room.  She went back and fell asleep and was soon snoring.  I moved to another room but then I heard strange sounds above, below, and all around me.  It sounds like one is in the lower part of the oven trying to get out.  So I got out and wrote this.  As I write this, there goes one in the bathroom.  I had to take a break from writing this to get the broom to defend myself when two were looking at me.

A week of wildlife and fishing to a place that has been closed for 17 months and all I can write about is mice, or so it seems.  Unfortunately, I’m done with sleeping in this cabin, my hearing is still too acute and my imagination is just too strong.  Oh well....sleep is overrated, I guess.

The walleyes on the lake bit like they had not been fed in two years and they seemed, two years bigger.  We caught as many as we wanted and we got into holes where it seemed they were only 18-20 inches in size, and I mean like all of them.  Mind you, the biggest two were just around 23 inches, but catching fish under 15 inches was a difficult problem to do, something everyone who fishes, wishes they had.

There goes a mouse across the living room, oh one is on the stove looking at me.  We had one trapped in a chair, we made a barricade to force the critters to cross over some extra sticky, Gorilla tape, sort of a poor man’s sticky trap, unfortunately, the vermin can walk right over it without any cause for concern.  I think that mouse went in the bedroom with my wife but well, what can I do?  Wait, one just went under the fridge, or was that the same one?  How did he just get into the counter, or is that yet another one.  I hear a noise in the bathroom and yet another one scurries out the door.

The pike fishing was spotty.  Chaos in spots and in other spots just plain good.  The weather was not conducive for pike when we arrived, it was too hot and dry, but then the weather changed and when I could convince my bride of 31 years to pike fish, we got into some fishing chaos.  Mayhen in a boat.  Pike fishing is a lot of work, but worth it when the big ones hit.  To save her arms, she geared down her walleye rod and then used a leader on light line so she could more easily cast.  She caught some fish, but on the next to last day, in a bay that has historically produced monsters, she finally changed her mind when she got a big one on, and well, even with a special second drag system all of my reels have on, her line broke and she lost it.  It is just very difficult to land something big if they refused to be coaxed to the boat on light monofilament and a small rod.  One thing on our normal pike set-ups now, nothing breaks.  One may not get the hook set properly, but no fish is ever found to successfully bite through stuff that is better meant for barracuda fishing or towing cars.

So, on the last day she was back fishing the heavy tackle and in the first bay, setting her rod down with the lure a foot or so above the water to warm her hands, a good-sized pike jumped up and grabbed it, and utter chaos ensued.  I was bringing in a smallish northern when I heard the commotion and saw the only thing keeping the rod in the boat being the reel catching on the side of the boat.  My wife grabbed it, somehow clicked on the baitrunner drag and let the fish just go out to sea. 

“I think you can reel him back toward the boat now,” I said assessing the situation, my wife was still startled.  But now it was a normal fight and in a little while I grabbed the fish, extracted the hook, and she held it up for a picture.  

At 35 inches, it was her largest fish since she caught a series of 42.5, 43, and a 44-inchers in a reel pike bonanza in Manitoba, earning her three “master angler awards” for catch and release from the province and more fully described in my book Confessions of a Pike Whisperer.

Me, I missed one in the upper thirty class momentarily losing concentration at the end of the last day and did not get the hook set properly, but I did what I had to do, earning our trophy for the biggest pike again, a 37 incher caught a few days earlier. It wasn’t huge, but well it was nice to fish again. It had been a few years since I got to “pet the beaver” and capture the "Falun Sucker Club Trophy" for monster northerns on Smoothrock Lake. There is a beaver pelt under the award in the now mouse infested cabin.  The year was basically a year fishing against myself, and the odds of no one again even getting here in 2021 was pretty high.  Just trying to get up here was deserving of some sort of award. 

My fifth Falun Sucker Club Memorial Trophy, the ugliest trophy for angling

My first award from 1985

It was worth the fish hook I had to cut out of my hand and the significant cut I had on my finger that would require stitches in another setting plus the myriad of other cuts and pokes.  As they say, your not pike fishing unless there is blood in the bottom of the boat.

The mouse under the fridge also ended up in the stove and now sounds like my two cats are stuck in the litter box.  How can they make so much noise?  Then later it was on the stove on the counters, everywhere or so it seemed.  The mouse circus was in town.  They climbed, scurried, jumped, fought, mated, and even it seemed, flew around the room.

The mouse circus, we made them do tricks, or so it seemed

The highlight of the trip was seeing a family group of wolves.  We saw them on two days.  Seeing a wolf is some sort of omen, in many cultures, but I’m not sure mouse induced insomnia is one of them.   But when you see a wolf the first time and it urinates as it watches you and the second time you see it, it lays down on a rock with a look of total disregard towards you, whatever that means cannot be good. 

We got to even see the Wolf pups

 As for other wildlife, we saw a moose driving up, but not from the water or from the air.  The birds were the usual—Canada jays, some flocks of Sandhills coming south, a breeding pair on the lake, a few warblers, lots of eagles, and many loons. 

With the cold and wet setting in mid-trip, the few late season butterflies vanished save for a few large luna moth caterpillars going somewhere to make their cocoon to survive upcoming winter and remerge as the huge green moths in 2022.  I did photograph a common branded skipper.  The only butterfly I was able to do so all week.

Common Branded skipper

Bald eagle feeding

Canada Jay

Luna moth caterpillar


All in all, a good week of fish, mice and wolves, but note to self, bring mouse traps, real sticky traps, a lot of them, and maybe also more than the usual amount of jig tails for 2022.  We also brought way too much food.  Maybe this was just another fish story but well, it IS a trip story, and with Bhutan 2021 like Bhutan 2020, Canada Fishing 2020 A, B, C and 2021, A B and C, as well as Amazon 2020 and 2021 cancelled, well we at least got somewhere once.

Some fish were almost the size of the lure

Boats waiting patiently for fishermen to finally arrive, we were the only guests at Smoothrock Lake last week

even a 31 inch pike was a welcome fighter

a photographic moment with a 32 incher

Digging out a hook of a 31 incher in No Fish Bay

a nice 23 inch walleye

I'm back out there exploring and writing about it, immunized and hopefully, full of COVID antibodies and hopefully to places with less vermin, yuck!


Monday, March 8, 2021

The Deceitful Plovers


I have never seen a deceit or possibly a brace of Wilson's Plovers (who gives out these names for groups of birds?  We will get to that).  I have only seen one or two birds at a time, and even at that I have only recorded 9 different sightings of this bird named after Alexander Wilson, whom never saw the species (was documented by George Ord from Cape May in early 1800s).  Of my nine sightings, three have occurred on St Martin, where a pair nested near the salt marsh behind the resort I frequented, but did not find every year.  Today, though this bird was hanging around the east end of Fort DeSoto Park in spades...were there 30, definitely, could there have been a hundred, possibly, they were sitting, feeding, snoozing, and one even took a bite out of a sanderling for offenses not apparent, maybe for just being too pale or something.

My wife went off to see manatees and I figured it was a good day for me to go birding, so off I went, being too lazy to get up at 4am to head north to see the flamingo.  DeSoto was a more manageable drive.

Wilson's plovers are interesting birds, and possibly a bird in some trouble over disturbing their beach habitat.  One source estimates on 22,000 breeding pairs internationally, and less that 9,000 pairs in the USA.  Maybe only 2-3 times the totals of Florida scrub jays for comparison.  People, dogs, and the dreaded peregrines are also listed as culprits.  

Their large beaks make them good at fiddler crab feeders and they are rarely if ever found inland and away from beaches.  I have seen them on one of the access waterways nearby to South Padre but that area looks like a salt marsh, so it was not that much of a surprise.

I have no real agenda for this blog, just enjoying a day out from our COVID hibernation in Lutz, Florida.  What does one do?  DeSoto is a safe outing and with all of these plovers, a lucky bonus.

The only other plover around were a few semipalmated plovers, smaller beaks, with a little orange on them.  They are about the same size.

The end of land here was not very busy, it was cool and windy, good for birders, no so for bathers.  I started at the north end where I usually find Nanday parakeets and I was not disappointed, but I'm not photographing them unless I get something good, now.  I think this is now the most reliable spot for these guys.  They are always near the parking lot here in the mornings.

DeSoto Park is a place where apparently the Mottled ducks (and there was just a pair) are suspect, as on eBird Mottled ducks are rare and mallard/ mottled are NOT.  This looked like a mottled duck drake to me.  I looked at other reports from there and there are was I over thinking this to mark it as mottled/mallard or was I lazy, as I did not have to write a description?  

the hen was nearby

Also  nearby was a pair of redheads, which had attracted the attention of two guys with large cameras

Redhead is not a "rare duck" here

The small flock of red breasted mergansers was much more interesting to me, but no one save me with a large camera, cared.

I had actually came here to get my year reddish egret
No one cared about him.  My friend Barry says the redheads are already up north, so big deal, I guess.
I saw a group of tripods, people with hand held cameras in the distance, being the skua birder I walked over and looked and looked at what rarity they were on, no one talked, no one seemed even remotely friendly, and all I was seeing was this osprey in her nest, but then I figured out the stakeout was FOR this osprey.  I wandered away to photograph a white peacock butterfly, then more butterflies before I drove back to the RV after a trip to the post office.

then a monk skipper

Gulf fritillary

The migrant passerines are a month away from here, but it was a pleasant morning outing and worth the ten bucks of tolls and the admission.  What is the value of seeing a deceit of plovers?  More then 10 bucks IMHO.

A "deceit" of plovers...It comes from a 1486 book of venery of St Albans and from the northern lapwing's broken wing routine, and also used for plovers which, not to be outdone by their larger cousins, can perform the hoax very well themselves, maybe better, but today, they were just eating and scurrying away from Olaf, the birder. Such a pejorative description of many majestic birds.
The Alexander Wilson's I've said before see them while you can, because the future is unknown, both from COVID, sudden illness, and habitat destruction. 

Stay safe out there


Olaf's COVID induced writing binge

So why am I showing you a photo of 16 month old me?  I  do not remember much from 1967, although it was a big year for me.  I learned to wal...