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AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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News and information, interviews, weather, upcoming events, music, school news, and many special features. North Shore Morning includes our popular trivia question - Pop Quiz! The North Shore Morning program is the place to connect with the people, culture and events of our region!

 


What's On:
Sam Horak

School News from Sawtooth Mtn. Elementary, January 28

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This week in Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School News, MN Science Museum instructor Sam Horak discusses how the museum brings its hands-on exhibits to elementary school students in greater MN.


 
"The “northern express” arrived last weekend, a bit late, but roaring with a vengeance..." (Anette K/Flickr)

Wildersmith January 25

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“His fullness” the “great spirit moon” (Gich-Manidoo-Giizis) shines down on the northland this weekend. Like a billion candlepower flashlight it will be beaming on some wonderful new powder. Our landscape is whitewashed again in fresh, unspoiled elegance.
 
The “northern express” arrived last weekend, a bit late, but roaring with a vengeance. A storm blew into the upper Gunflint about the time last week’s commentary was being aired. By Saturday night, the snow gods had left over 10 inches of snow in the Wildersmith neighborhood, and it was OK!
 
As if the snow wasn’t enough, a blustery wind followed and ushered in some noteworthy cold. How cold was it? By Sunday morning, the zero mark had been eclipsed by 26 degrees on two different thermometer locations around the yard, (yes it was 26 below).  Then it was even colder by Monday a.m. (minus 35, actual).
 
Although this is not cold by yesteryears’ standards, it was shocking since we’ve been spoiled for the first half of the season. This frosty happening is, perhaps, a flu-killing cure if it hangs around for several days as predicted. We can only hope so, as many have been suffering with the dreaded angst throughout the northland.
 
It was amusing as I peeked out of the crystal-covered windows last Sunday to see that some of the neighborhood critters were confirming the cold. Our resident pine marten was busy munching sunflower seeds, and I could see that its whiskers were white with frost. The whiskers were so pronounced that, at first glance, it had the look of an otter.
 
Meanwhile a couple itinerant deer were browsing around the yard with white-crusted backs and foreheads. Further support for the bitter conditions came when the two meandered about until lying down under our young balsam grove just up from the shore. Over the years, this has often occurred with the whitetails when winter turns severe and shelter is sought.
 
Yours truly spent a number of outdoor hours moving snow, and I, too, affirm that it was plenty brisk. Protecting myself with multiple layers, I was reminded of childhood days when Mom would bundle me up (scarves around the neck, over the face, double gloves and mittens along with other such insulators) for outdoor play and then tell me to bend over and buckle my overshoes. This was always a next-to-impossible task when I looked and felt like that “Michelin Tire Boy.”
 
Sure as night follows day, I would get outside in the cold, and I’d have to go to the bathroom. So it was back inside to go through shedding and then the re-doing process all over. Bet everyone can relate to those days in some manner of speaking if they grew up in cold latitudes.
 
Speaking of another kind of shedding, discussion with friends while around the card table recently, centered on the male of the white tail and moose kingdom. The talk went from whether folks had been finding any antler sheds, to wondering about what it must be like for those critters when one side falls off. It was real important northland trivia!
 
It would seem that they might have a terrific neck-ache after a few days of toting just half a load. Question was then asked as to whether they might have balance issues for a time until they adjust.
 
Further gab moved on to what a blow it must be to the animal ego, when they drop in the pecking order of ungulate manhood due to this annual shedding event. The timid youngster with a full set of junior-sized spikes now steps out front of the old buck/bull that is now sporting only part, or maybe even none, of his cartilaginous headgear.
 
The old guys are probably just not as appealing to the ladies of the woods. It’s got to be tough in the wild neighborhood being relegated to just one of the boys after strutting their stuff each fall during courtship!
 
Without resolve to the subjects of our discussion, the cards were dealt, and the females of the group humbled male egos once again. It’s tough out here in the human neighborhood too.
 
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the hand that is dealt in the wilderness neighborhood!


 
WEN1_24_2013.jpg

West End News: January 24

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The most common question that we hear from our customers here at Sawbill Outfitters is, “What do you do in the winter?”  They seem to feel that when the canoeing season ends, there must not be very much to do.
 
I thought about this as I struggled to cope with the brisk West End weather that we had this week. The first chore was to plow and shovel the eight inches of snow that fell over the weekend. As I stepped out of the plow truck a wind gust almost knocked me over. The blowing snow created a total whiteout and branches were flying sideways through the air. 
 
By morning, the temperature stood at 22 below zero. We make our own electricity here at Sawbill and the first thing I noticed was that our diesel generator hadn’t started during the night when our battery bank triggered the automatic start circuit.  The batteries were still providing power, but just barely. 
 
The last thing I wanted to do before breakfast was to trudge through the squeaking snow to the diesel shed to diagnose the generator failure.  It turned out that the propane tank heater on the big diesel engine had been blown out by the strong wind gusts the night before. With the heater re-lit, it only took about half an hour before I was able to get the rig running.
 
The next thing I noticed was that our backup propane furnace was off line. The wood-fired boiler was keeping us plenty warm, but I’m always nervous when there is no backup for a critical system. I had to work my way through five levels of the troubleshooting guide before I discovered that the fresh air intake on the furnace had been packed with snow by the same pesky wind gusts the night before. 
 
Relieved to have everything working again, I headed back to the house for breakfast, only to discover that our radiotelephone system was not working. At first I suspected a power outage in Lutsen, where our base station is located. But after some checking, I found that the electric light bulb, that provides just enough heat to the little radio shed to keep the radios working, had burned out.
 
After replacing the bulb, I was happy to head back toward the house to warm up my cold fingers and finally eat breakfast. But before I got there, I noticed that the diesel had shut itself off. So I passed right by the warm house where breakfast was waiting, and headed back to the diesel shed.  The diesel fuel, which is supposed to be fine down to 40 below, had gone from a liquid to a solid in the fuel lines. By that time, the sun was high enough in the sky for the solar panels to start charging the batteries, so all I had to do was wait for the air to warm up to a balmy 16 below and the fuel thawed itself out.
 
Breakfast was really more of a brunch by the time I got around to it, then the normal daily chores began.  It’s just the price we have to pay to live here in paradise.
 
I’d like to express my condolences to the family and many friends of my friend, Jim Johnson, who passed away this week.  Jim made many contributions to the community, but over the last eight years he served very honorably as a Cook County Commissioner.  Jim always led by example.  His calm and friendly demeanor belied the passion he felt for public service.  He did more for us than we will ever know and did it with dignity, patience, respect and a good sense of humor.  He will be sorely missed.
 
Eight teams eventually signed up for the Birch Grove January boot hockey tournament.  I look forward to reporting the action and the results next week.
 
Remember that Birch Grove is looking for members to join their “Keep It Moving” team for the month of February. All you have to do is go to the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic website, sign up for the Birch Grove team and log your walking, skiing, running or biking miles, or minutes of other exercise. You are also cordially invited to Birch Grove on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. for gentle exercise or walking.
 
If you are of pre-school age, save the date for the “Winter Wonderland” event at Birch Grove on Feb. 4. This is the annual fun day for pre-school children, their families and caregivers.  More details will become available as the date draws nearer.


 
Travis Payer (left) and Station 7 crew filling the boot for Jerry's kids fundraiser

Anishinaabe Way: Travis Payer

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Travis Payer is Nebraska Ho Chunk and Bad River Ojibwe. He has lived in the Minneapolis St. Paul area his whole life and has been a Minneapolis Fire Fighter for 17 years. In this edition of "Anishinaabe Way: Lives, Words & Stories of Ojibwe People," he talks about his work, his cultural heritage and the role that Fire Fighters play in an urban environment.


 
"...I lay the perfect fire. One that burns true and fast, reducing several big logs and burning them down..." (mtsofan/Flickr)

Magnetic North: Playing With Fire

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Welcome back to Magnetic North, where just a hint of wood smoke flavors the air. Air so delicious that I don’t so much breathe it as gulp it down. Icy. Sweet. Winter air infused with maple or birch smoke is one of the joys of living here year ‘round. And so much more. The scent of smoke in the chilly air signals that all is well. It says that somewhere near enough to sniff, to find, to share, there is warmth. Even at minus 20 with a windchill of 50 below. 
 
It’s a survival thing, something that the poetry of Robert W. Service awakened in my 12-year-old soul. Service’s “Spell of the Yukon,” published in 1907, a collection of his most popular ballads about the characters and critters caught up in the Canadian gold rush, came into my suburban Philadelphia home as a gift to my father. But I was its true beneficiary. I daydreamed my way through soul-sucking junior high subjects, conjuring up the Lady known as Lou and, though I’d never heard even a dog howl, the song of the “huskies gathered round in a ring” carried me away from the torture chamber that was algebra, taught by Mr. Miller-who-flunked-his-own-daughter.
 
My most beloved poem in that collection was “Cremation of Sam McGee.” Which begins this way:
 
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.
 
It gets worse. 
 
You see, Sam, being from Tennessee, hated cold weather. He knew he was dying and asked his prospector partner to cremate his corpse. Of course the fellow says OK, a clear case of not thinking things through. So with no access to timber, the partner ends up lashing Sam’s frozen body to the sled and carting it  around for heaven knows how long until he finds an old barge on the shore of, uh huh, Lake Lebarge. The barge furnace is big enough to stuff Sam in and the rest is historic macabre humor.
It goes like this:
 
 
Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.
 
I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.
 
And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."
 
I recited the whole thing for my junior high talent show and I think doing that - instead of belting out Honey Bun from South Pacific - changed my life. The boys in my class no longer ignored me. They practically ran the other way when they saw me in the hallway. Except for Michael Landis; he invited me to come over to his house to cremate his brother’s hamster. 
 
No one seemed to get it, the whole fire and ice thing…how you could love both, especially together, with wolves nipping at your heels and mountains of gold beyond every horizon? But I saw myself in that vision and kept it alive for the next 30 years when finally I moved to the North Shore of Lake Superior. Wolves, subzero winters and, according to recent mineral exploration reports, possibly even precious metals are us.
 
And as for playing with fire, I have a wood burning furnace, a Franklin stove, two fireplaces, more oil lamps than anyone needs, and - most sacred of all - a 10 by 12 woodshed. I can spend an entire day gathering kindling or chopping kindling and nobody thinks a thing of it. In fact, since I don’t fell my own trees, I am probably considered a bit of a wuss.
 
All the good trees on my 80 acres were logged long ago. Just aspen and new growth evergreens grow there now. So surrounded by woods, I need to bring in food for my furnace. Starting just about now, before this winter’s woodpile is half-burnt, I start scoping out next winter’s stash. Will I need a full logger’s cord again? Should I try for more maple? It burns so much longer than birch. And should I order right away? Last season I nearly ran out. And so forth. When I decide, I go through the list of wood sellers and order a full cord - that’s 128 cubic feet - for delivery in June. 
 
I hire a neighbor teenager to stack the wood, then eagerly wait for the warm weather to go away so I can burn my first 10 sticks. That’s how many split logs I can fit on my old blue plastic kiddy sled. This winter, thanks to lack of snow, pulling that load from the woodshed to the back door has been a hassle. My reward is the satisfying crash as the avalanche of logs careen down the steps to the back door.
 
I carry in the logs with purpose, according to which will be split and fed to the fire first. These I line up on the red tiles of the furnace room. Then comes the laying of the fire, a task requiring discipline and focus, Tough stuff when twisting at least 10 pages of newsprint, just enough birch bark on hand to cradle four to six lengths of kindling and luck. It’s a fingernails-on-the-blackboard task as it is accompanied by soot, knotty logs that resist reduction and the occasional cross wolf spider rudely wakened from under a bit of bark. 
 
But all that pales when I lay the perfect fire. One that burns true and fast, reducing several big logs and burning them down to neon red-gold embers. And as I perch in front of the open furnace door, basking in the glow, I search in vain for  the outline of old Sam McGee, reanimated by fire, begging his friend - begging me- to not let in the cold. To “close that door.” And, reluctantly, oh so reluctantly, I do.

Airdate: January 22, 2013


 
Veronica shares her experience with planning her health care directive (Michael Krigsman/Flickr)

Creating a Health Care Directive: A Personal Story

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Do you have an advance directive in place? Maybe yours is called a health care directive, or a living will. If you already have one, you probably know that just a few minutes filling out a form can save your family pain and stress at the end of your life. But if you're like WTIP's Veronica Weadock and do not have a directive, there is a lot to think about. In this feature, WTIP's Veronica Weadock talks about her experience putting together her personal health care directive.

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Cook County Ridge Riders Drag Races on Devils Track Lake - January 19, 2013.  Photo by Stephan Hoglund

Cook County Ridge Riders Snowmobile Drag Races

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The Cook County Ridge Riders Snowmobile Club hosted an afternoon of drag racing on Devils Track Lake Saturday afternoon.  Cathy Quinn was on the ice to talk with organizers and racers about the event.

Video and photos by Stephan Hoglund.

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Kari O'Brien and Lorelei Livingston

School News from Sawtooth Elementary, January 21

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Kari O’Brien, a student teacher assigned to Lorelei Livingston’s 3rd grade class, has just begun her experience at Sawtooth Mountain Elementary.  In this week's edition of Sawtooth Elementary School News, Kari shares what it is like to be a student teacher in Cook County.


 
"After doing damage to the crystal charm of our winter landscape...the atmosphere deity sent us back into the freezer"

Wildersmith January 18

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It’s been a little bit of déjà vu in the Gunflint corridor. The weather outside’s been frightful, only not as we would have expected.
 
A second consecutive monthly meltdown has tormented us since we last met on the radio. Thus, when we did have available moisture, it came in the liquid form. One thing positive, we still need the stuff regardless of the delivery scheme.
 
Rain in January is not good! It makes for sloppy slush, glazed roads/driveways, dripping rooftops and dangerous mobility circumstances. Over one-half inch of rain fell in the Wildersmith neighborhood. Our already thin white carpet has been changed to a patchwork of dead-needle-brown and dirty-looking urban snow.
 
Then after doing damage to the crystal charm of our winter landscape, and dealing a setback to several outdoor activities, the atmospheric deity sent us back into the freezer. As I scribed this weeks scoop, we’re recording minus something readings in the mercury column.
 
On top of going another week without having to start the snow blower and keeping me from the enjoyment of a mid-winter’s snowfall clearing, the driveway is now a glazed accident waiting to happen. The Smith vehicle has logically been moved to top of the hill/driveway for fear of being stranded (though I can think of worse places to be mired).  This is OK from an exercise viewpoint, but requires mandatory ice gripper application just to get at it.
 
I think that the subtle point is being made that spring will be early once again in the northland. To make things even more chafing to winter worshippers, seed and plant catalogs are already finding their way into our mailboxes. Perhaps those filing such documents have an in with the one controlling these unwelcome seasonal occurrences. It’s just plain depressing.
 
This atypical weather, however, has been a blessing for the construction projects being administered by the Gunflint Trail Fire Department and EMT volunteers. The addition at fire hall number two (Gunflint Lake) is now completed. And finishing touches are being applied to the two new structures at (mid-Trail) hall number one. Meanwhile, earth preparations were completed at hall number three (Seagull Lake) by the end of fall.  Future work at this site will continue in the coming construction season.
 
Yours truly had the opportunity to walk through one of the two new structures at mid-Trail. This building is set to become the facility that will accommodate not only volunteer training sessions and a command post in emergency situations, but also a unique gathering place in the mid-trail area for community functions.
 
I was blown away at the organization and work that has gone into bringing these much needed improvements to fruition in such a short time. Tremendous thanks are extended to the organizers, designers, fundraisers, trades contractors and many financial backers/contributors; job well done! Gunflint residents will surely be pleased and proud of these facility additions and updates.
 
Another important Gunflint trail community function, the annual Canoe Races, is heading into early planning stages for next July. A call from the chair people a while back finds that they have their heads together and are kicking off initial phases of event organization. It seems hard to believe that we should be thinking of that happening already, but it is a significant undertaking that needs attention to dozens of details.
 
The big weekend for ice anglers was most unpleasant what with the sloppy conditions. Yet, their enthusiasm for short pole/rod fishing went undaunted as the roar of power sleds and ice augers have dinged the silence of the territory.
 
Questionable ice thickness may be keeping some modes of outdoor protection on shorelines, but those portable lightweight shanties have been popping up all over area lakes.
 
Happy fishing to all, and please be good stewards of the lake upon which you stand.
 
Keep on hangin’ on and savor an adventure on the Trail!

Airdate: January 18, 2013

Photo courtesy of Mike Hoff via Flickr.


 
Sam West

School News from Cook County Middle School, January 18

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Cook County Middle School offers students a variety of exploratory classes that are exciting and fun. In this edition of CCMS School News, Industrial Technology instructor Sam West talks about his exploratory classes.