Category Archives: Wisconsin Links

Green Christmas

No, not the holiday classic by Stan Freberg (that would be “Green Chri$tma$” anyway) but rather a reference to what showed up in my mailbox yesterday. The Jungs seed catalog.

I think it is fair to say that Jungs is a Wisconsin institution, this years catalog celebrates their 100th year as a family owned business. Frankly not a lot of companies can say that, in or out of Wisconsin, so congratulations to Jungs and all their employees.

Having a seed catalog show up just before Christmas strikes me a clever piece of marketing. For, what, about a hundred years now, the arrival of the seed catalog in the dead of winter has brought joy and hope to many people, even those of us whose thumb is not green. The mere thought of a fresh, warm, home grown tomato at this time of year is enough to send me into a swoon.

If the weather stays unseasonably mild for the rest of the winter, as is predicted by the National Weather Service, we may be getting a jump on the gardening season next spring. So order your seeds early and often, as they might say in Chicago. Tomatoes in June might almost be compensation for a brown Christmas.

Well, almost.


Wisconsin Common Market

This is a fun website filled with products from Wisconsin. It is meant to assist small businesses in finding markets on line. It is a great idea that needs to be made known…

Now go do some local holiday shopping… without even leaving your house.

1000 Friends of Wisconsin

I got an invitation in the mail the other day that made me wish that I had more friends.  The group 1000 Friends of Wisconsin is celebrating their tenth anniversary tomorrow and they wanted me to come to the party.  Actually, if I recall correctly, I just missed being one of the 1000 Friends and my membership number is 1083 or so.

The 1000 Friends are not just a group that gets together to party every 10 years or so, they are a group working to make the state a better place to live.  They seek to do this by implementing Smart Growth, or to put it simply to make cities great cities, and let the country stay open and rural.  Unfortunately I cannot lay my hands on the source of the quote, but one of their mailings said that “cities are the saviour of wilderness.”

This rings true to me on a very deep level.  Even along Franklin street here a number of houses have been built along the road as it goes out into the county, privitizing what was once a very nice view to the north.  Now, those homes were not built into a wilderness of anykind, but in a small way show what can be lost as development spreads further out.

In honor of their 10th anniversary the 1000 Friends are giving out a number of awards for people and organizations that have tried to make our communities more livable while preserving the rural and wilderness areas of the state.  I think it is a good mix of public and private efforts and represents the best of what Wisconsin has to offer.  I hope that we in Wausau will pay heed to these kinds of efforts and maybe at the 15th anniversary we will see Wausau or Marathon county represented in their awards.

Wausau is in a great position as a livable city surrounded by wonderful rural and scenic lands, I hope we can keep that character as time goes on.

So, check out the awards list and see how, working together, we can move towards having the best of both worlds.

Econ 101 At the Tanstaafl Institute

No, that is not a typo in the headline. Many, many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in high school, I took my first economics class. On the first day of class, the instructor welcomed us to the “Tahnsstoffle Institute.” Or at least that is sort of what it sounded like. He then wrote the “name” of the “Institute” on the board thusly: TANSTAAFL. He then grandly announced that this was an acronym that stands for: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

He then told us if that was all we learned in the class that we would know more about real world economics than most economists. Frankly, I don’t remember much else from the class, but TANSTAAFL has stuck with ever since. I was reminded of it again when I was visiting Door County last weekend.

It seems that the citizens of Door County, or at least some of them, are fighting a proposed big box store which may be built near Sturgeon Bay. It is your classic battle. Local store owners and citizens who want to keep local character on one side, developers, chamber of commerce types and people who want to “save money” on the other. Throw in some out of town money and lobbying for the local politicos and you have an All American brouhaha already in progress. You can read the side of the story of the locals fighting the big box here.Door County Cycles

First I have to say, that I think the forces for Big Box development have a point. It is kind of nice to shop in a store that has a huge selection and rock bottom prices. Wal-Mart has often argued that they help average Americans by saving them significantly at the check out. And certainly compared to the Mom and Pop store of old, Big Box prices are much lower.

Unfortunately, those low prices have a price, as it were. The TAANSTAAFL law applies to Big Boxes just like everything else. Yes, the prices are lower — and so are the manufacturing wages for those products. Often so low that the jobs pay so much less than our minimum wages they have to go overseas. Mom and Pop can’t compete, downtown fades to a romantic memory and the Big Box acts as a conduit for the money — from all those hometowns to the Head Office. Suddenly all those nickles and dimes that were “saved” pile up into huge fortunes. If Sam Walton were still alive (and his now somewhat scattered fortune still intact) he would be the worlds richest man, by far. Target’s CEO raked in over $12 million in pay in 2004 and has some $174 million in stock options waiting for him. That is a lot of “savings!”

There is a place for a nice big cheap store, by now you can’t help but shop at them. But I always try and remember the TANSTAAFL Institute everytime I pull in the parking lot and especially when I see ground broken on yet another corporate money vacuum, come to suck our hard earned dollars away. Development is good, trade is good. But local development that focuses on people and community is best.

Teach Your Children Well

This weekend we visited one of Wisconsin’s great State Historical Sites, The Wade House. These sites are a wonderful reminder of how we came to be who we are… as well as some lessons that could be implemented in everyday life today. The pioneers did not have words for conservation, recycling and reuse- it was a way of life. Very little was wasted.

The State Historical Society has done a wonderful job creating living history museumsWade House Stage Coach Inn in several locations across the state. There are, of course, locally run historical sites as well. There are far too many children who have never experienced Wisconsin’s past, an art museum or the performing arts. Take time to teach your children! Check out these websites for more info:

Consider becoming a member of the State Historical Society. Benefits of membership include their magazine (a great read!), discounted admission and discounts in the shops.


BTW- Are you humming that song now?

Severe Weather Geekiness Ahead

They say that everyone talks about the weather and with the advent of the internet, that “talk” just get more and more geeky. But I love it. I am a bit of a weather geek. Fortunately I have met some people even worse off than me, so I feel a bit more normal now.

The weather forecast for the next couple of days (hot! bleah!). I seem to remember that last Memorial Day was cold enough to require a jacket, and last summer we did not have a 90+ degree day all summer. Now the forecast calls for 90 degrees for the next couple of days. So you might be wondering, what is the weather supposed to be like on Memorial Day? Unbelievably even to me, I found this page on the climatology of Memorial Day in Wisconsin. Some people have too much time on their hands, I guess.

Perhaps you might also be wondering if we have been hotter, cooler, wetter or drier than “normal,” as you head off to the water cooler at the office. That kind of information can be found here. A quick look at the April map shows that April was about 5 degrees above normal here in Central Wisconsin.

Or maybe you would like to know what to expect this summer or even next winter. You can find that sort of thing here. Unfortunately the map for this summer only shows that we should be “normal,” which is not too exciting. But if you really want to have some fun around the water cooler, take a look at this prediction map for the winter, which shows pretty much the whole country as having a good chance of being warmer than normal. Perhaps another lousy cross country skiing season. You heard it here first.


The rain last night may have been brief, but it was fairly heavy. A friend of mine got a third of an inch of rain in about 15 minutes, so it was coming down.

raingardenWe live in a river town, and so when rain falls like that it sweeps off of our roofs, driveways and lawns right into the river.  Such a short trip doesn’t allow for any filtering so the oil from the driveway and pesticides on the lawn are very quickly sleeping with the fishes.  Not good for the fishes really.  But there is something you can do, it is fairly easy, fun and quite attractive.

You can make a raingarden.  No, it is not a place where you grow more rain.  A raingarden is simply a garden which is designed to hold and filter water.  Generally raingardens are planted with native plants which like wet soil and are strategically placed to catch storm water runoff, such as putting them in front of the downspouts from your gutters.

The DNR has a fabulous site loaded with links to all the information you need to learn about, plan and build a raingarden.   They even have a few links for raingardens around the state.  Sure would be nice to see Wausau on this list soon.