Thursday, June 27, 2013

Old World Wisconsin- Day trip!

An old barn, one of many historic buildings
 I'll try not to gush too much about this wonderful place, but it is one of my favorite day trips from Milwaukee.  Located in Eagle, WI, it's open May through October and is living history for the early settlers and immigrants who came to Wisconsin.  Old World Wisconsin schedules special events throughout the season.  We were recently there for the midsummer celebration that was focused on Scandinavian dancing, eating, and music.

Admission is kind of hefty at $16 per adult, and $9 per child, but there is plenty to see.  If you are active duty military, you can get in free and bring your family.  We were there for 5 hours and only covered about half of the buildings.  At each place, they often have people in costume acting out what might have been done in the past.  We saw cooking, wood splitting, a blacksmith, and had fun in a schoolhouse with a teacher.  You will also see sheep, pigs, turkeys, horses, and chickens.

This is the ultimate picnic location.  You can easily spread out a blanket under a shade tree (it is set in the Kettle Moraine Forest) or find a picnic table.  Although the grounds are rather large, you won't have to do much walking.  Check out the interactive map on the website.  I think one of the guides said it is about 2-3 miles long, but they have a tram service that takes you between areas, if you choose not to walk.  I brought along a stroller too, which fit nicely on top of the cargo platform attached to the tram.  There is a restaurant in the barn near the entrance, which we used for the air conditioning, modern toilets, and ice cream bars.  You have to access it from the rear of the building, where they also have patio seating.

If you enjoy gardens, go later in the summer for the heirloom gardens.  They do have some flowers blooming near the front of the grounds, but the accurately planted vegetable gardens are still pretty small.  And for fall foliage, this place would be absolutely beautiful.  And I haven't mentioned yet how good it smells here.  There are so many pines, flowers, and plants that the air is super fresh.  Go see for yourself.  Enjoy my photos until then.

spinning wool
Blacksmith making S hangers

Knitting a purse

Sheep newly shorn

Curious pig

Baby pigs too

Summer flowers in bloom

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bender Park a Haven for Naturalists and Hikers...and Perhaps a Ghost or Two

Bluff and marina at Bender Park

I recently visited Bender Park with the Lake Park Friends group where Brian Russart, natural areas coordinator, and several of his interns led a hike that took us through old orchards, prairies, and along the lake bluffs.  If you're not familiar with the natural areas program, you might go view the Facebook page.  I've learned so much about native plants and animals from this resource.

We spent about 3 hours on this hike.  There are 2 parking lots.  One is near the prairie and old orchards.    The other is at the marina,  which is currently under construction.  You can park at the first one you come to, and begin your hike through grasslands, ponds, and native trees.  You should be aware that Bender Park is absolutely loaded with poison ivy, so if you veer off the trails, you will likely encounter some.  I recommend wearing long pants and Brian suggests tucking pants into the socks to keep skin areas clean.  The trail was quite wet in some places.  Boy Scouts have built several structures in the park that make it easier to get over these wet patches, but you might want to wear waterproof hiking boots until we get a little drier weather.
Poison ivy is shiny and somewhat red this time of year.  Some also have flowers ready to bloom

Bender Park has been in the news recently about a controversial purchase.  They were trying to acquire additional land, but it would have meant hunting being allowed in the park.  Because that didn't fit with the philosophy of this greenspace, the land was not purchased.

The park has had an interesting history, including stories of being haunted.  Apparently there was a farmer who axed his wife and neighbor.  As recent as early May 2013, ghost detectors brought equipment to the park at night hoping to find paranormal activity.  You can see the video on youtube that explains the haunting and what they found or rather didn't find.  You should know that the park does close at sunset, so you really aren't legally allowed to go hunting for ghosts under a full moon.

We didn't experience anything this interesting during our hike, but we did enjoy an immature bald eagle, along with dozens of other birds, tadpoles in a pond, a snake, toad, and prairie crayfish.  If you like hiking in natural areas, this is a great place.  The apple orchards are about done blooming, but later this summer, the fields will be full of flowers...and perhaps mosquitoes.

Pond where tiger salamander breed


immature bald eagle in flight

Butler gartersnake found underneath one of the research boards

Prairie Crayfish


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Forest Home Cemetery Tours

Frederick Pabst grave

Visiting a cemetery may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about getting outdoors this weekend, but if you are interested in local history, it can be a lot of fun.  Forest home Cemetery is the place where so many of Milwaukee's famous fathers are buried along with their families.  The cemetery was founded in 1850 on land that used to be a farm.  It is now 200 acres of rolling land with flowering trees, shrubs, and greenspace.  With 150 years of burials, the stones themselves are quite interesting to see.  The most significant people don't necessarily have the grandest burial plots.

You can do a self guided historical tour at any time by downloading the map and the information about the people buried there.  Because it's such a large cemetery, you can drive around the cemetery, park your car, and walk to the well marked lots and find the specific stones.  Or each month, volunteers take visitors on tours of the cemetery, pointing out various graves and telling the stories behind the people who are buried there.  

The schedule of Walk in History tours for this summer:

Sunday, June 9 Beer Barons- Bob Giese guides
Sunday, June 23 Cemetery Art and Symbolism- Paul Haubrich guides

Sunday, July 14  Mayors of Milwaukee- Bob Giese guides
Sunday, July 28  Civil War Veterans- Margaret Berres, Tom Ludka guides

Sunday August 11  Milwaukee History- Paul Haubrich guides
Sunday, August 25  Beer Barons- Bob Giese guides

Saturday, September 15  Famous Milwaukeeans- Bob Giese guides

All tours start at 2:00 pm at the Halls of History.  Phone 414-645-2632 for more information.

The Halls of history should be the starting place for any tour.  It's a building near the entrance and is well marked with that name on the side of the building.  Go downstairs where you can see the photos and stories of many famous Milwaukeeans who are buried there.  You can also find restrooms and drinking fountain there.  If you walk across the street from this building, you will see stairs down to a garden and at the top of the other side is a pretty chapel.  The landscaping throughout the cemetery is well done and maintained.  You can drive over beautiful stone bridges, see a pond and waterfall, and enjoy the flowering trees, which are in bloom right now.

small chapel

Halls of History display

Blatz gravesite

Best gravesite

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Cass Park- very artsy

I first read about Cass Street Park in "Oddball Wisconsin", a book about strange places one can visit in Wisconsin.  It's more of an art park, than a playground, but it does have swings, a set of play structures, basketball courts, and a couple of tennis courts.  It's in the Brady Street Neighborhood, so it fits right in with the character of the neighborhood.  I highly recommend stopping by and taking a look at these beautiful fiberglass structures that are so colorful and delightful.  This is a park that was dedicated while John Norquist was mayor, and there's a plaque that says a time capsule was buried at the park opening, to be dug up in 2098.  Unfortunately the play equipment has been broken in some places, and the park in general needs some maintenance, but you can still enjoy it on a sunny Milwaukee day.  It's at the corner of Pleasant and Cass streets.

All of the artwork was done by  Wisconsin artist Marina Lee.  She received a Mayor's award for the work in this park, which was a revitalization effort.  The playground is used by the school and the boys & girls club which are directly across the street.
A cat resembling the" Alice in Wonderland" Cheshire cat greets newcomers

creature clad light pole!

This bright colored 12 feet high bird looks down to say hello

The whimsical dragon also functions as a climbing structure 18 feet long and 6 feet high!