West End News: May 24

Common Merganser
Common Merganser

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Congratulations to Birch Grove Community School graduates Ashley Ross, Michael Sjogren and Bradley Van Doren.  The congratulations might seem a little late, as the three finished their studies at Birch Grove seven years ago.  But now they are graduating from Cook County High School.  As is often the case with Birch Grove graduates, they are all excellent students and are collecting numerous scholarships to continue their studies after high school.  The three scholars came full circle this week, returning to Birch Grove to meet with the current kindergarten class. This is a wonderful thing to do, providing positive role models to children that have their entire educational careers ahead of them.

Many Birch Grove alumni who are in college or beyond are returning to Cook County for the summer and stopping by Birch Grove to visit. Marie Nordahl recently spent part of a day at the school, joining the students for lunch and helping out with an art class.  Alumni are always encouraged to stop in and visit.  Again, wonderful examples to encourage the younger students.

Birch Grove graduates Beau Larson of Lutsen and Carl Hansen of Tofte have been in the area lately in their professional capacity as film makers.  Beau and Carl are both graduates of the University of Montana where they studied film.  They are the official videographers for the Lutsen 99er, the marathon mountain bike race that is held in the West End every June. T hey have been doing advance work this week, planning out their race day strategy and getting some advance footage shot.

In more Birch Grove news, the upcoming North House class that will build a wood fired bread oven at Birch Grove has been awarded a $1750 grant from the Cook County Community Foundation to provide scholarships for the course.  Participants will build the oven from September 9th through September 13th, with the grand opening celebration on Saturday, September 29th.  The class is filling up fast, so if you want to participate, get ahold of Patty Nordahl soon at 663-7977. I f you can’t take the class, there are several other ways to contribute, so contact Patty if you have an interest.

Spencer Motschenbacher, of Lutsen, told me that he found the nest of a common merganser duck last week.  Spencer kept his distance, but even then, he could count an amazing twenty-two eggs in the nest.  He said there may have been more, because he wasn’t sure that he could see them all.  It seems incredible that one mother duck could carry that many eggs.  And if she did, what kept her from sinking straight to the bottom of the lake?  It’s not uncommon to see mergansers with a long string of chicks behind them, but I’ve never seen anywhere near twenty-two with one mother.

The North Shore Stewardship Association at Sugarloaf Cove near Schroeder is holding a Recreational Trail Design workshop on Saturday, June 2, 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  You will learn what you need to know to design, construct, and maintain sustainable trails for hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, off-highway motorcycling, and all terrain vehicles.  Sustainable trails require minimal maintenance because their design and materials hold up to intensive recreational use and severe weather conditions. Mel Baughman, U of MN Extension Specialist, will teach the workshop.  There is a small charge, payable the day of the class.  Google Sugarloaf Cove for more information.

The Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder is having its opening party on Friday June 1st, at 6:30 p.m., kicking off another busy season of events highlighting the rich history of the West End.

Not to state the obvious, but thank goodness for the recent heavy rains to relieve the extreme fire danger that we had last week.  For two days, we watched the sky and sniffed the air anxiously as the temperature soared into the eighties, the winds ramped up to 35 miles per hour and the relative humidity plunged to near single digits.  One spark and we would have had a repeat of last fall’s fire season.  After our experience here at Sawbill last September, I know exactly how the people of Ely felt as a fire storm bore down on their homes and businesses. Thank goodness it ended as well for them as it did for us.

Now that is is raining regularly, I have to listen to the complaints of visitors about the wet weather. Sometimes, I have to take a deep breath before I commiserate with them. Those of us who live in the woods are never sorry to see a good, soaking rain.


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