Saturday, August 30, 2014

New Glarus, Wisconsin

It is easy to understand why Swiss immigrants chose New Glarus as a place to build their homes and dairy farms, when one considers the beauty of southwestern Wisconsin with its lush rolling green hills and tall river bluffs.  True, it is not quite as wonderful as the Alpine homes the Swiss left in 1845, but it does come close.   To understand this community, known as “America’s Little Switzerland”, we first paid a visit to the Swiss Historical Village located in the town of New Glarus.  Below is the flag of Switzerland depicted by a variety of plantings.
Our guide through the village had a lot of information regarding his heritage to share with us as his mother’s father was one of the first immigrants arriving here from Switzerland.  In the Swiss Village there are 14 historical buildings to explore, including a Swiss church, Swiss bee haus, country school, and a settler’s log cabin, pictured below.
The log cabin was built in the 1850s on a farm northeast of New Glarus.  As families moved in and out of the home, additional rooms were built until the log cabin was concealed within a frame house.  In 1975 as the abandoned house was being razed a 14x16 foot cabin was uncovered and donated to the New Glarus Historical Society.
Pictured above is a typical cheese factory which is stocked with milk cans, cheese kettles, molds, butter churns, and many implements used long ago when many farms around New Glarus had their own cheese factories.  Many of the immigrants on the cheese farms brought with them from the old country knowledge on how to make Emmenthal/Swiss cheese as well as Limburger.  In 1910 Helvetia Milk Company opened in town (known now as Pet Milk).  The company paid farmers far more for their milk than the cheese farmers paid, so many of them closed their factories.  In 1962 when Pet Milk left town “staying Swiss” became a means of economic survival.  Today New Glarus is a tourist town which has been decorated with Swiss- style architectural motifs to create the feeling of the old country.  After touring the historic village John and I spent some time walking the streets of New Glarus where we saw the town’s cow parade hanging out around various shops.  They were imported from Switzerland and painted with unique designs by local artists.  Pictured below is Choco the Brown Swiss cow, the Maple leaf emblem is painted on him and he wears a wreath of maple leaves.  He can be found at the Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus.  Before leaving town we had a delicious supper of Swiss dishes as sausage, vegetable soup with melted Swiss cheese and German potato salad.  One thing I learned is that the German and Swiss culture do have some similarities.


Friday, August 29, 2014

National Mustard Museum

Maybe this blog has been a bit boring, one can take so much of presidential libraries, capitol buildings, old homes and botanical gardens.  I am excited that this posting has a bit of zest to it!  We toured a mustard museum, now how exciting is that?  The history, processing, use and marketing of mustard is delightfully served up with a dollop of humor in this unusual museum.  The lady pictured below is wearing a sweatshirt which has the words POUPON U. written on it.  Many of you are aware of John's penchant for unusual tee shirts, finding a shirt here was his main impetus for visiting the museum.
The gift shop also has mustard from every state in the union, as well as from around the world.  For our tasting pleasure the day we were there samples of cranberry mustard and sesame honey mustard were available for dipping with pretzel sticks.  I found both of them quite delicious!  And would you believe that the store even has a mustard vending machine?
There is an funny story as to how this museum came into existence.  It began with a baseball game.  Barry Levenson, who in 1970 was Assistant Attorney General for Wisconsin, was an avid Red Sox fan (he grew up in Massachusetts).  In 1986 Boston made it to the World Series and in the sixth game they were one pitch away from winning the series.  However, the Mets rallied to win that game as well as the seventh, taking the World Series.  Levenson was so despondent that he could not sleep one night, instead wandered the aisle of an all-night grocery store.  He thought perhaps he needed to get a hobby.  Then he heard voices calling him from the mustard aisle saying: "if you collect us they will come".  He left the practice of law in 1991 and devoted his life to mustard.  His first museum in Mount Horeb opened to the public in 1992, he then moved to the current site in Middleton, Wisconsin in 2009.  As the mustard in the grocery store predicted, thousands have been coming, and we came.
Seriously, we did gain some very interesting information regarding mustard.  Canada is the greatest exporter of mustard seeds and the United States is its largest customer.   It is a part of the cruciferae family, which includes such vegetable as broccoli, radishes, and cabbages.  There are three types of mustard plants, each named for the color of the seed when ripened:  black, yellow, and brown.  There are other uses for mustard other than culinary.  In the seed is a powerful oil which has been known to relieve muscle pain and soreness, it also stimulates the heart and respiratory systems. And I now know what to do with all the mustard that was foisted on us at the end of our family reunion, I can use it for a mustard bath!  According to a Colman's ad which I saw in the museum, when I can't sleep mustard will give me a feeling of repose as the blood which is churning in my head (as I worry and toss) is drawn away from my head and distributed over my body.  Actually, if I did not wish to use up all the mustard and perhaps share it with you, only two tablespoons in my bath water would also cure my insomnia.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mineral Point and Mount Horeb

Mineral Point is Wisconsin’s third oldest city, it was settled in1827.   As I mentioned in a previous post, it was a lead and zinc mining center during the 19th and early part of the 20th century.  The majority of the city is a historic district, as we drove through the city it was difficult to find any other structures than the stone cottages and large rock buildings which were built by the early Cornish immigrants.  The depot is one of the few surviving pre-Civil War train stations in the United States.   Within its two-foot thick walls is a large collection of artifacts, unfortunately it was closed when we came by.
The scarcity of food and high cost of food gave the Cornish people the impetus to move from England in the 19th century.  Another big factor in their immigration was the fact that there was mandatory support of the Anglican state church.  The heavily Methodist Cornish population resented that fact and sought religious freedom in America.  As we drove into Mineral Point a very large church stood out among the other buildings of the town.  We drove immediately to it and discovered that it was First United Methodist Church. The congregation started in 1854, and the current facility was built in 1987.
Mount Horeb is rich in Norwegian history, by the late 1800s more than 75% of the community was Norwegian.  In the mid 1980s resident woodcarver Michael Freeney, also known as the Troll Carver man, was asked by city officials to create carved trolls for the Business 18/151 highway.  This became know as the “Trollway”.  We walked through the town and were able some of the trolls as “Mayor Troll” and the “Accordion Player”.  The cleanest troll in town is “Tub Troll”.   At the Welcome Center we came upon “Sweet Swill” with her pet pig Arnold.  According to information provided for us at the center she is pondering whether to put her money in the bank or Arnold.
After finding as many trolls as possible we drove to nearby Verona, the home of our nephew Adam and wife Kjerstin.  Our sister-in-law Heidi was babysitting her grandson Kai Sondre for the day, so we were able to visit with her.  All of them, with the exception of Adam who was out of town, joined us for supper in Mount Horeb.  On of the more famous eating establishments in town is a brew pub called the “Grumpy Troll”, he is pictured below.  Beside their wondrous variety of micro beers, the pub is know for its soft pretzel.  It comes warm and served with several sauces.  Just a warning, it is very large and even if shared, can still thoroughly destroy any chance of eating a meal after consuming it! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pendarvis and Shake Rag Alley

We moved to Spring Green Wisconsin on Saturday, and are now parked near the shores of the Wisconsin River.  Temperatures have been unusually warm for this area at this time of the year- throw in high humidity and air conditioning is very much needed!  Fortunately today the temperatures have dropped and the humidity is gone.  We were ready to spend time outdoors so we drove to the town of Mineral Point.  Southwestern Wisconsin is known as the Driftless Area, meaning that it is unglaciated.  Absence of drift, or glaciated silt, makes it relatively easy to find and extract mineral riches under the ground. Non-native people came here in the 1820s to mine lead ore from shallow deposits in the ground.  They were largely itinerant men who lived in crude dug-outs on the hillsides, having no desire to build permanent homes because they could only lease the land.  This group of people became known as badgers because of the similarity of their dwellings to badger’s dens.  From now on when I hear the term “Badger State” (referring to Wisconsin) I will not only think of a particular animal but also I will remember the early miners. 
The 1830s brought the end of shallow lead mining.  Cornish immigrants arrived at what we now know as the town of Mineral Point in the 1840s.  They came with deep shaft mining experience.  They were also expert stone masons and introduced rock houses to the area, much like their homes in England.  In 1935 two men, Bob Neal and Edgar Hellum, began restoring those houses.  That is now known as the Pendarvis State Historic Site. There are ten restored stone and log houses with furnishings of the period in them, most of them opened to the public. Row housing of some of those buildings are pictured above.  We also toured nearby Christmas Mine Hill and saw abandoned mine shafts and “badger holes”.
The mine hill also contains 43 acres of restored prairie.  It thrives with indigenous grass and wildflowers.  Bees, white butterflies flitted around us and a couple blue jays flew overhead as we walked through the colorful prairie on the trail over the mine hill. The sun was hot but there was an ocasional cool breeze.
Another area we visited while at Mineral Point was the Shake Rag Alley.  That was the name given to the neighborhood of Cornish immigrants in the 19th century.  The name referred to the custom of the women to wave rags outside their home when calling their men in from the hillsides.  The Alley is 2.5 acres of restored homes now owned by local artists.  It has award-winning gardens and artisans working in the buildings.  Pictured below is a log school house built in 1830.  It was added to a stone cottage which had been built in 1840.  “Tea Kettle Anne” lived in it until 1958.  I will write more on Mineral Point in my next posting.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

West Salem, Wisconsin

West Salem is located about 10 miles northeast of La Crosse.  We had not seen everything there is to see in La Crosse, but there seemed to be several buildings of interest in West Salem which we did not wish to pass by.  Our first stop in the town was at the Tourist Center and Palmer-Lewis House, which is one of two octagonal historic homes in town.
This home was built by Monroe Palmer and his wife in 1856.  Eight-sided homes were a fad at the time.  The home has been expanded once and moved twice.  It is currently being restored to reflect a mid-1900s farm house.  The West Salem Historical Society is certainly to be commended- we saw more workers at this house and the other octagonal house than we saw tourists.  Both homes are in need of restoration and members of the Historical Society are taking that seriously.  We also found the tour guides to be quite friendly and very patient with John’s many questions.
Monroe Palmer and Horace Palmer, M.D. were brothers.  Horace had his house (pictured above) moved once because of the railroad needing land in the village of Neshonoc where he lived.   He used one section of the house for his medical office, that wing is quite large and there is a similar room on the second floor.  Historians suspect that he may have used that part of the house also as a hospital.  The second owner of the house, Mary Lottridge, was also a physician- she was the second woman in the United States to become a doctor.  The stories of the people who lived in these homes are what I found so fascinating!
The other home which we visited was the homestead of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hamlin Garland, who lived from 1860 to 1940.  His early success as an author made it possible to purchase the home for his aging parents in 1893.  He later used it as his summer home for his family.  Garland was also a carpenter- he remodeled the home many times.  Some of the changes he made on the house were for the comfort of his servant.  During the Victorian age it was customary for the servants to step down into their bedrooms- so they would always be mindful of their standing in the family. Hamlin corrected that in this house.  Also, in the kitchen, he had the sink built low so the cook did not have to stand while washing dishes or preparing vegetables.  There are many objects in the house which speak to who the author was as a person and what mattered to him, as Native American rugs on the floor as well as displays of musical instruments.    Pictured below is the room where he did a lot of his writing.  All total, he wrote 52 books- many years ago I read on of them, Main Travelled Roads.    I am looking forward now to reading a few more of his books.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Historic Churches of La Crosse

Yesterday, Thursday we did pack a lot into our visit of La Crosse.  Besides seeing the towering bluff Granddad and touring Riverside Park, we also visited three churches in the city.  The first one was Christ Episcopal Church, a Renaissance style church built in 1898.
 The cathedral has a magnificent Tiffany stained glass window.  We learned at Granddad's bluff that the Reverend L.Breck, pastor of this church in 1850, held the first Christian worship service for the area on top of the bluff.  Christ Cathedral was also the first church in western Wisconsin to have a pipe organ.
The next church, Mary of the Angels Chapel, was consecrated in 1906 and serves as a house of prayer for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  I knew that angels were the theme of this chapel so I made sure to especially look for them.  We had a guide for the chapel, and, as she pointed out the stain glass windows which feature the life of Jesus and Bible parables, she noted the constant presence of angels in each picture. The windows were furnished by the Art Institute of Munich, Germany.  As our guide also talked about the ten bronzed figures of  Saints Peter and Paul, major prophets, and Latin Fathers of the early church fathers, I could not help but notice the little cherubs peering out from under the figures of the statues.
We also were able to step into the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, where two sisters were praying.  Since 1878 day and night, without interruption, Franciscan Sisters and prayer partners have kept vigil before the Blessed Sacrament, praying for the community, the city and the world. 
Our guide told us the story of St.Michael (archangel pictured above) whose statue stands outside the Adoration Chapel.  He was charged by Mother Antonia to let no harm come to the chapel.  In 1923 the church had a fire, no damage was done to either the chapel or the corridor.
Our last church is a bit newer than the last two, dedicated in 1962.  It is the Mother Church of the Diocese of La Crosse.  Above the main entrance is a relief carving of St.Joseph the Workman.  At his feet are lilies symbolizing purity whose leaves are carpenter's squares symbolizing his labor.  The building is modern in style, made of Wisconsin stone and trimmed in limestone.

Friday, August 22, 2014

La Crosse, Wisconsin

We have moved up river to Goose Island County Park, which is part of a National Wildlife refuge.  It is located three miles south of La Croose.  This area is all about majestic bluffs, coulees and marshes, and has some of the most spectacular scenery along the Mississippi River.  Besides the Mississippi River, the Black River as well as the La Crosse River flow through the city.  Yesterday we drove up the largest bluff around here,which is called Granddad.  It rises 700 feet above the river, most of the other bluffs are at an average of 600 feet. 
From the top of the bluff we had a wonderful view of the city, rivers and valley below.
Situated around the top of the bluff are interpretive signs relating to the history of the city.  French explorers had observed the Ho-Chunk Native Indians playing a game with a ball and long sticks which had a wicker basket at the end.  We now know that game as la crosse- which became the name of the early settlement, and later the city.  At Riverside Park, which is located at the waterfront of La Crosse, we saw a sculpture called the LaCrosse Players. It depicts two Native Americans playing the game.
There is a third Ho-Chunk on the ground between the two players.  The river front was quite active while we were there.  The river boat American Queen had just arrived and was going to be docked for five hours while its passengers toured the town.  Pictured below is a A Simpler Time,  a life-size sculpture of children and their dog greeting the boat.  The American Queen has a passenger capacity of 436, it cruises between New Orleans and the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
There is a number of other attractions besides boats and barges at the river front.  The Riverside Museum features a large number of artifacts brought up from the steamboat War Eagle which sank in 1870.  Behind the museum is the Riverside International Friendship Garden featuring typical gardens of La Crosse's sister cities in France, China, German, Norway, Ireland, Russia and Africa.  In the Germany garden I saw an awesome succulent which really does look like the name given it; Mouse Ear.
While waiting for John to finish at the museum I sat at the riverfront where a man pointed out to me a river snake of about 3 feet long.  What was very entertaining about that sight was the presence of a large flock of sparrows surrounding the snake and chattering excitedly about the strange creature.  They followed the snake to the edge of a hill and then very perplexedly watch him slither down the hill and into the water.  I could just imagine the sparrows asking: "where did he go?"  I know, there are so many more wonderful sights to show you in the city of La Crosse, and it did seem silly to post one of sparrows.  But I thought that the sight of those birds peering down at the snake was a bit comical!  It was like "where did he go?".

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Final notes on Dubuque

After visiting Crystal Lake Cave we drove over to Mines of Spain Recreation Area.  This park, which features woodlands and rugged limestone bluffs, is the location of  Julian Dubuque's monument.  That man was born in 1762 in Canada.  When he came to this area of Iowa he was active in trading and mining with the Fox and Sauk Indians.  In 1788 Dubuque obtained an official land grant from Spanish Governor Baron de Carondelet in St.Louis which gave him 73,324 acres of land.  This land, shown in early 18th century maps as "Lead Mines",  became known as "Mines of Spain".   His monument is marked by a tall brick tower overlooking the Mississippi River.  From that site I took the picture posted below.  On the left side of the picture below can be seen the town of Dubuque, which Julien Dubuque founded.
Driving through the park we saw fields of wildflowers.  In Dubuque's Museum of Art are some wonderful illustrations by George Olson of prairie grasses and wildflowers.  So I can make a safe guess that some of the yellow wildflowers which we saw at Mines of Spain were black-eyed Susans, goldenrod, sawtooth sunflower, compass plant or the grey-headed cone flower- just to name a few of the possibilities!
From Mines of Spain we drove to Wartburg Seminary where our nephew Martin and niece Anne met us to show us around the seminary.  We met at Luther's statue which stands in front of the buildings.
On the grounds is a small vineyard.  The grapes are starting to ripen and, according to Anne, will be ready for a community grape stomp in another month or so.  The grape juice is then made into wine for communion.  On Tuesday, our last day in Dubuque, we toured the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.  I must say that this river town does have a lot to offer!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crystal Lake Cave

Our plans Monday were to visit the art museum of Dubuque.  We should have been wise to the fact that most museums are closed on Mondays!  We quickly changed our plan and drove 3 miles south of town to Crystal Lake Cave.  About a month ago we had seen Mammoth Cave and were not quite ready to see another cave, but as we discovered, this one is much different.  In Mammoth Cave we climbed up and down many staircases and entered large cavernous rooms.  In Crystal Lake we descended only once, and walked through narrow passageways.  The latter cave is also a very wet cave with water dripping down on us, and muddy floors.  Crystal Cave has many springs seeping into it, according to our guide.  He can be seen below bending under a very large brown onyx-shaped bell.
In 1868 a group of lead miners drilled 40 feet into the ground to find traces of a rich vein.  They found very little, but instead discovered a natural cave with rooms and passageways lined with stalagmites and stalactites.  The Chandelier, pictured below is a cluster of stalactites which are still active and growing.
The cave has formations known as anthodites (cave flowers) which are a rare form of aragonite crystals.  They are found in only two known caves in the United States, Crystal Cave being one of them.
Remember the Biblical story of  the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah?  Lot's wife looked back on the burning cities and became a pillar of salt.  She can now be seen in Crystal Cave.
This caves also has bats which as yet do not have the white-nose fungal disease.  We saw a couple of them as we walked through the cave.  I think Crystal Cave is one cave I will not forget because of its many formations, it was fortunate for us that the art museum was closed!

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Sunday in Dubuque

John and I started our day attending services at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Dubuque, with niece Anne and nephew Martin joining  us.  Both of them recently moved to the city with their families- Martin will be a professor at Wartburg Seminary and Anne will be a student in her fourth year.  They, as well as spouses and children, are looking forward to this school year when the families will be living close to each other.
After church we all met for a picnic lunch at Eagle Point Park, which is situated along the Mississippi River.  Pictured below is some of our group watching barges passing through the locks.

  After lunch John and I drove to the Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.  The first bed of flowers we saw, which lie in front of the gift shop, is quite striking with colors of white, pink and silver.
The gardens are relatively new, they were established in 1980.  Their dahlia collection at present is absolutely beautiful with their very large colorful blooms.
Many of the summer lilies have passed their blooming stage for the summer, except for the foxtail and surprise lilies, which are pictured below.  I was compelled to touch a petal of a foxtail lily- it looked like a piece of velvet and also felt like that.  That lily is the one in the foreground of the picture below.
The shade garden is a rather large section of the park, with quite an extensive collection of hostas. 
We finished our Sunday in the park, attending a concert by Mark and the Ridge Rangers.  It was a good concert- if you like country and western music.  As I get older it seems not to be to my liking!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Port of Dubuque

Yesterday we moved from Keokut, Iowa to Kieler,Wisconsin- which is across the river from Dubuque, Iowa.  I thought it was all a bit confusing until John informed me that from the Fenelon Elevator in downtown Dubuque we would be able to view a third state, which is Illinois.  After I looked at a map of Iowa, and saw how Dubuque is situated in the lower southeastern corner of the state on the Mississippi River,  it all made sense to me.  Here in Wisconsin we are about 10 miles from the downtown of Dubuque.
Pictured above is the Fenelon Elevator with two cars coming down the hill.  In 1882 Mr. Graves, a promoter of mines and local baker, lived up on the bluffs and worked at the bottom.  He was unhappy that, if he wanted to go home for lunch and a nap, his lunch break of an hour and half was consumed by a buggy trip around the bluff to the top and then back down again.  He consequently built a Swiss-style car on two rails which was hauled up and down by a hemp rope.  In 1893 ten neighbors obtained the franchise for the right of way for the track and used a streetcar motor to run the elevator- the rest is history.  The elevator is the described as the " world's steepest, shortest scenic railway".  We rode to the top where we were encouraged to walk around in the residential area behind the elevator and look at the large Victorian-styled homes.  One resident even had her gate open and allowed us to walk around in her garden.  The view from that vantage point was quite spectacular.  In the picture below we are looking at the Illinois side of the river.
Back at the bottom of the bluff again, we drove to the waterfront and the Port of Dubuque.  Here we found the historic Shot Tower, built in 1856.  Back in the 1760s an Englishman invented the "drop process".  Melted lead, dropped from a high level, became a sphere because of surface tension.  After landing in water and cooling down it keep its shape to then be used as rifle shot.  Shot was produced here until 1881. 
From the shot tower we walked over to the riverfront and the Mississippi River Walk.  It was quite the active place for a humid summer evening.  We counted at least four different wedding receptions taking place, either at the Dubuque Star Brewery or at the Grand River Center.  Small children were running barefooted down  the green grassy slopes in their wedding finery while couples were strolling along the river's edge.  Adding to our enjoyment of the evening were the exhibit of 11 sculptures,  public art offered by the city which are for sale.  Most of them could be found in small flower gardens along the river walk.