Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Close to Home - Gibbsville "Groceries"

Gibbsville, Wisconsin is pretty much a crossroads in Sheboygan County. It's one of the many unincorporated "census designated places" (a concentration of population identified by the U.S. Census Bureau for statistical purposes) that we find all over Wisconsin.

When Rick and I visit his grandchildren in Sheboygan, we usually make a point of stopping at the Gibbsville General StoreThe store's motto is "Almost Everything for Almost Nothing." If you're in the market for hot sauce, marinades, or vinegar, you'll have about 57 choices. Dented cans - even more choices. At least the cans have labels.
The store is only open on Friday (9:00-6:00) and Saturday (10:00-4:00).
Wooden floors, narrow aisles - about the width of a shopping cart - definitely
an old-fashioned grocery store shopping experience!
Shopping at this store isn't a quick in and out. It takes a while to explore
everything on the shelves.
It's always an adventure at the Gibbsville General Store. Easy on the wallet, but not necessarily the store for everything you need. 

Another favorite is the Gibbsville Cheese Company. Usually the line of customers is out the door.
We've been there in the summer during the week and picked up fresh cheese curds after 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Finally, if you're in the area, make sure you stop in at Dutter's Gibbsville Orchard. Last year the orchard was spared the April frost that decimated so many apple trees in Wisconsin that had blossomed a month too early. Yet owner, Dustin Dutter, did not gouge his customers in the fall. I remember paying about $4.50 for a gallon of apple cider at the Orchard. At a roadside stand not too far from where Rick lives, the grower was charging $12.00 a gallon. 

We'll be back to Dutter's this season for some of that sweet cider.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Flora and Fauna - Florida Style

All of this snow in March has me longing for our days in Florida last month. So, as a reminder that spring will arrive one of these days, I thought I would share some photos of the flora and fauna of Florida one last time.
Bougainvillea at the Edison and Ford winter estates in
Fort Myers.
We loved being able to go to Farmers' Markets several days a week. One vendor in Punta Gorda had these beautiful plants for sale.
 Our own Dane County Farmers' Market, the largest producer-only market in
the nation, will soon move outdoors. Opening day for the market around
Madison's Capitol Square is April 20.
These plants were for sale at a local flea market. I also picked my own
strawberries at the same market. The berries were being grown hydroponically.
Art fairs, car shows, and antique fairs were abundant in Florida - some in conjunction with Farmers' Markets, others were stand-alone.
This scene greeted us in Placida at a Saturday art fair. As a vintage camping trailer
 enthusiast, I had to snap a picture since the pink flamingo (especially the plastic variety)
is the "official" bird of our ilk.
We learned about cypress tree "knees" during a tour at the Babcock Ranch Preserve.
These knees are part of the root system of the cypress and not the start of a new tree.
Our guide gave us a great deal of information about alligators during the tour. She even gave us the opportunity to touch this two-year-old. An alligator's belly is soft. This is the part where alligator shoes, boots, and wallets come from.

One can tell how long an alligator is by measuring (or estimating, since you don't want to get too close) the distance between its eyes and the end of its snout. Convert the measurement in inches to feet. So, if only the alligator's head is visible in the water, it's easy to tell how much of its body is out of sight. Kind of like an iceberg. Alligators are the least dangerous during the winter months. Because they are cold-blooded animals, they're not able to digest their food as readily in cooler weather so they eat less in the winter, including humans. Regardless of the threat this animal may pose, it's against the law in Florida to annoy an alligator during any season.

Another interesting tour was on a boat where we saw a very small part of Charlotte Harbor. Charlotte Harbor is an estuary with the Peace, Caloosahatchee, and Myakka Rivers emptying into it. This estuary is second in size only to Tampa Bay about 100 miles to the north. 

We were treated to a show by several dolphins that live in the Harbor.
I think this one was doing a back flip near the side of our boat.
Manatees are another animal that one associates with Florida. We had heard that the animals are not native to Florida, but that's just a myth, I found out later. Where best to see this water relative of the elephant but at Manatee Park north of Fort Myers. It was late afternoon when we stopped in and I think the manatees were taking their afternoon siesta. Not too much action in the short video I shot.

My last post about Florida wouldn't be complete without a little whimsy - and some of the "created" fauna and flora of the state.
This turtle makes its home in Englewood in front of the Arts Alliance of Lemon Bay.
I couldn't resist buying a lovely cloth purse created by one of the Alliance artisans with this print on the flap. 

We were so delighted with what we found and the people we met in Florida this year that we have decided to really practice being snow birds. We will return to the same area (Charlotte County) next year for four weeks!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Wintering in Florida

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were two of the most famous Northerners who wintered in Florida. Edison built his winter home in Fort Myers in1885 and Ford purchased his home - across the street - much later in 1916.  Neither of the homes was ostentatious. But considering the Edisons were only in Florida for the month of February and the Fords for only two weeks, every luxury didn't need to be present.

Here is the Ford winter home.

Even though his winter estate was on the Caloosahatchee River, Edison built a swimming pool for his family on the grounds. He used Portland cement, one of the many companies that Edison owned.

He just wasn't about light bulbs, Victrolas, and motion pictures. In fact Edison even had a Wisconsin connection with his purchase of a wood products company in New London to build cabinets for his phonographs. When phonographs were no longer popular, the company built children's furniture.

Edison's home had an attached guest house that eventually included a dining room following a remodeling of the place.

Lush gardens surrounded the estates - thanks to the women. Edison even had a lab on the estate where he worked on finding a native source for rubber that was needed for the tires on all the Model T Fords that were on the road.

Edison and Ford enjoyed Fort Myers but we prefer the area to the north surrounding Charlotte Harbor. Punta Gorda is just beautiful. Here's a view of Fisherman's Village.

We took a cruise around a small part of the Harbor and were treated to a dolphin show. We also learned a bit of history which I'll write about in a future post.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Florida History and Wisconsin Connections

The Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de León, landed on Florida’s west coast on Easter Sunday in 1513. And so he named his discovery Florida after the Easter Feast (Pascua Florida). During 2013 Floridians are involved in a statewide initiative – Viva Florida 500 – to commemorate Ponce de León’s arrival. While we were visiting Florida last month, we participated in one of the more than 200 events that are occurring during the coming year throughout the state - a living history program featuring a recreated Calusa village.
Volunteers who taught us more about the Calusa, the native people that
Ponce de Leon encountered. The Calusa culture was based on estuarine fisheries
rather than agriculture. No Calusa are alive today. However, the name remains
on banks, marinas, and golf clubs.
This volunteer demonstrated how the Calusa caught fish.

The Calusa even had a visitor – a Tocobaga warrior – from the Tampa area on the day of the event. He showed us some of the arrows he had fashioned out of rock from the area.

The Charlotte County Historical Center was a block away from our cottage. It offered a number of informative exhibits about the communities surrounding Charlotte Harbor. We learned that Isaac Trabue, one of the founders of Punta Gorda (just over the Peace River bridge from where we were staying), wanted to name the town after himself. He didn’t succeed but did name many of the city’s streets after his family and friends. The city’s name means “fat point,” the name given to the area by Spanish explorers.
A view of Punta Gorda (the point of land across the water) from the Bayshore Live Oak Park. This view was just a few
hundred feet from our cottage.
We discovered a great restaurant in Port Charlotte that was owned by a former UW Badger. John Hall, a Port Charlotte native son, was a kicker for the Badgers in the 1990s and later for the Jets and Redskins in the NFL. One of the burgers on the menu was named after teammate, Cory Raymer, a Fond du Lac native. However, no deep-fried cheese curds.
John Hall's UW jersey.

The Punta Gorda Art Walk - an evening of music, art, live demonstrations, shopping, and food in downtown Punta Gorda - was a great way to spend our last evening in the area.
This shop's owner gets her cheese from Wisconsin. She sold cheese curds!
As long as I’m mentioning the Badgers, I’d better bring up the Packers. We found the Tervis Tumbler outlet store on one of our wanderings with plenty of permanently sealed, double-walled tumblers with the Packer logo. The factory is located one county over from where we stayed and was the only evidence of industry we saw on our trip.
We couldn't believe how crowded the outlet store was when we stopped in.
Even though we didn't buy these tumblers, we did get a couple with the
signature bird of vintage trailer enthusiasts - the pink flamingo.

One more post to come about our time in Florida – stay tuned!