The Suitcase Lady


October 10, 2017, 8:16 pm

Geology rocks……literally. Look up America’s top natural attractions and you will be looking at the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains, Zion and Bryce National parks, Yellowstone and Yosemite.

Our rocks here in Wisconsin aren’t on the list, but they should be. Wisconsin is home to part of a world famous geological formation that runs through the eastern third of the state and then through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan into Canada and down to Niagara Falls. This massive, 1,000 mile stone ledge is called the Niagara Escarpment.

The Escarpment plays a game of hide and seek. In some places such as Door Country, High Cliff State Park and Horicon Marsh it is unmissable. But in other places it is underground, only to pop up a few miles later.

The geology of the Escarpment is fascinating. Essentially, it is the rim of a vast, ancient sea that formed 430 million years ago in the Silurian Period. In comparison, that makes the 70 million year old Rocky Mountains mere kids.

The rock was originally lime mud on the sea floor. What we see now is the result of “uplift, weathering and erosion”. When the sea dried up, the layer that was soft shale eroded quickly, the harder dolomite limestone remained. A close inspection of these dolomite cliffs reveals wonderful sea fossils such as corals, cephalopods and chrinoids.

More than 10,000 years ago (modern history in geological time) glaciers covered the eastern part of Wisconsin. Those mile thick frozen rivers of ice acted like bulldozers knocking down the Escarpment in some places and creating fissures and caves in others.  So we can blame the glaciers for the “now you see it, now you don’t” aspect of the formation.

Geologists classify the Escarpment as a cuesta, which is a ridge with a gentle slope on one side and a steep slope on the other. In Wisconsin’s Door County, the cliff is on the Green Bay side and the gentle slope on the Lake Michigan one.

People have been drawn to the Escarpment from the earliest times. An 11,200 year old projectile point has been found on the Oakfield Ledge in Wisconsin. Pioneers settled near the ridge as well building lime kilns to burn the rocks to produce white lime powder that was used for mortar, plaster and paint. The limestone itself was used to build homes and churches. 500 designated historic sites and structures can be found within two miles of the Escarpment’s path in Wisconsin.

So lift a glass of wine to this amazing piece of geology. And be sure the wine is from an Escarpment vineyard. The slopes and micro climate of the ledges make it ideal for growing grapes. The Wisconsin Ledge Viticulture Area is a federally designated grape growing region of 3,800 square miles from Cedarburg to Door County, Wisconsin. Watch out, Napa. We are more than Cheeseheads.



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October 3, 2017, 9:36 pm

My husband uses words sparingly, but when he does he is insightful.

The other morning we were in bed, cozy and content, luxuriating in those last moments before we had to get up, when he said, “Getting up is a commitment”.

I laughed out loud. Those five words tell the whole story.

The commitment begins when our feet hit the floor each morning and continues until late at night when we fall into bed. I was still laughing as I went downstairs to feed and water our herd of rescue cats, clean multiple litter boxes, sweep floors and mop up fur balls. Then I opened the garage door to feed the outside stray cats who have found safe harbor in our yard.

Once upstairs, I made breakfast (minus coffee) and then did morning exercises, my commitment to staying in shape.

In the meantime, my husband was doling out various medicines to our aging animals and brewing lattes, his commitment to providing great coffee every morning.

The day proceeded with commitments to our jobs, communicating with family and friends, cooking up “slow food” and being part of a neighborhood.

Country living is not as impersonal as city life. Caring and sharing with neighbors is a way of life where we live. We have been the recipients of a wealth of home grown produce from our neighbors this summer, and we do our best to reciprocate. My husband excels in this department by sharing his talents in all things technical.

Another huge area of commitment is to “stuff”. “Don’t have it if you can’t take care of it” is a motto we both subscribe to. Since it’s no secret that stuff of all kinds needs constant maintenance and repair, much time is spent keeping the house and yard from reverting to disarray.

Painful as it is in these surreal times in America, being an informed citizen also takes a portion of each day. We may not want to know the day’s news, but being willfully ignorant is not a path either one of us wants to take.

So getting up is a commitment. It is also a privilege and an excellent investment in happiness.


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September 26, 2017, 8:48 pm

Americans will fight over anything these days, so it should come as no surprise that a crayon is under attack.

The crayon that has unleashed a torrent of protest is a delightful shade of blue and has replaced the now retired color “Dandelion” in the 24 pack of Crayolas. Dandelion did get to go on a retirement tour before leaving the box forever.

The newest addition to the Crayola family is named “Bluetiful”. The name resulted from an online naming contest and got 40% of the vote beating out four contenders.

As soon as Bluetiful made its debut, Twitter lighted up with criticism. One of my favorites was, “The dumbing down of the U.S. continues as Crayola replaces ‘Dandelion’ with ‘Bluetiful’. 90,000 submissions and they picked one that’s not a color, object or word.”

I concur but will stay calm. This a minor dumbing down of our young people in comparison to what the advertising media and textbooks published in Texas are doing to our kids every day.

So in the spirit of not dumbing you, the reader, down, here are some interesting facts about Crayola crayons.

The new brilliant blue Crayola color was an accidental discovery by Oregon State University chemists. The scientists were heating up chemicals in an attempt to find new materials for use in electronics. Serendipitously, one of the chemical mixes came out of the furnace a striking blue. The pigment was named Yin Mn from the elements it is made of: yytrium, indium, manganese and oxygen.

The Crayola Company was best positioned to bring Yin Mn to market. They have been making crayons since 1903.

The Company was originally founded in 1885 by two cousins, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. They originally produced pigments for industrial use, their most popular items being iron oxide pigments for red barn paint and carbon black chemicals to make tires black.

In 1900 they began manufacturing slate school pencils and then went on to invent the first dustless white chalk. The development of their famous product line of wax crayons followed, and it was a collaboration of Edwin Binney and his wife Alice Binney, a former schoolteacher.

The Crayola name was also invented by Alice Binney. It comes from ‘craie’, French for chalk and ‘ola’ for oleaginous or oily. It should be noted that the suffix ‘ola’ was popular at that time giving America in quick succession granola, pianola, Victrola, Shinola and Mazola.

Over 100 years later, Crayolas are still thriving, and that is beautiful.

Photo: ABC News

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September 19, 2017, 7:32 pm

According to the calendar, summer is still here. Fall doesn’t officially begin until September 22 at 3:02 (CDT). Mother Nature, however, is setting the stage for autumn with each passing day, adding hints of the colorful drama ahead. I only have to go as far as my own yard for a preview.

Warm-hued colors are popping up in patches here and there.


The late blooming flowers are mostly yellow such as these of the cup plant.


We’re hoping a monarch emerges from its elegant chrysalis on the side of our house.
Time is running out for the long journey to Mexico.


Our woods are full of jewel weeds and the bees who fly all the way into the flowers for a late summer drink.


The milkweed pods look like fat little boats, but soon they will split open and sail their fluffy seeds into the wind.


Our blue-green bluestem grass has turned to gold.


But the surest sign of fall’s approach in our yard is the abundance of spiders. Like Charlotte, they know their days are numbered and are busily laying eggs and carefully packaging them in their special silk. Everywhere I look one can be found, which is fine with me. They are busy with their business, and I with mine.


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September 12, 2017, 9:22 pm

On June 17, 2008, I posted a blog on how to wash a chicken. It’s time for a corollary to that blog. It’s about thinking bigger. So here’s how to clean a whale.

A news item in the NY Times entitled, “Thar She Glows”, tells all…how The American Museum of Natural History in New York City gives its life size blue whale model an annual “bath”.

Cleaning a 94 foot long, 21,000 pound mammal is no easy task. Plus, she is suspended from the ceiling in a dive pose. The cleaning takes two days and is done from a cherry picker. One worker with strong arms and shoulders wields a vacuum cleaner with long attachments ending in a soft brush. As the dust is sucked away, the whale’s delicate blue-gray color reappears.

Real blue whales need no cleaning. They use all the world’s oceans as their bathtubs.

Blue whales are thought to be the largest creatures of all time, even surpassing the size and weight of giant dinosaurs. Here are a few more whale size facts:

  • Blue whales can reach 100 feet long and weigh 180 tons. The female is bigger than the male. (Go girl!)
  • The whale’s tongue can weigh as much as an elephant.
  • These colossal mammals eat tiny food, krill, a shrimp-like zooplankton. Up to 4 tons of krill can be consumed in a day.
  • Blue whales are among the loudest animals on the planet, making groans and moans.
  • After a 12 month wait, mother blue whale gives birth to her 3 ton baby.
  • Baby blue whale dines exclusively on mother’s milk for a year and gains 200 pounds a day. (Yes, I tripled checked this!)
  • When blue whales breathe out, the spray from the blowholes can shoot up to 30 feet in the air.
  • The life span of blue whales is 80 to 90 years.
  • 95% or more of the entire blue whale population was killed during the whaling era. They are now a protected species.

Here is a picture of the actual size of the blue whale’s heart which I painted to use in my science classes for children.

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