Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Never Too Late to Learn

It’s never too late to learn. Hockey, or should we just say skating, in my case.

Last fall, my son Joey showed interest in hockey so we signed him up for a Learn to Play Hockey program. The volunteers there were exceptional, getting him all geared up, and encouraging him every step of the way. He loved it. Using a chair to help keep balance, he flew across the ice. It didn’t take long before he was using the chair as his hockey stick and thrusting it towards the goal. We had a great time and it got me thinking. Knowing he was interested in hockey and this was only the beginning, maybe I should learn how to skate. I knew if my boys were playing hockey one day, I’d want to be out there with them practicing.

Later, while picking up some stuff at Fleet Farm, I just had to take a look. And wouldn’t you know it, hockey skates were on sale. How could I say no?

A couple weeks later, we found ourselves back on the ice, this time a local ice skating rink. Joey just wanted to slide on the ice with his boots that day. I donned my skates. Now, I remember skating when I was really young and I roller-bladed a lot in high school, but that was half a lifetime ago. It was pretty much like starting from ground zero. The lady running the warming shack was very sweet, offering Joey and I hockey sticks and a puck. For a hour, we raced back and forth pretending we were the Nashville Predators beating team after team. I don’t remember the score, but I do know that Joey kept track of the number of times I fell. Three. Not bad. Stopping was tricky and instead of a sharp cut, I sort of made a circle, more like a rookie figure skater than a hockey player. But it was fun, alot of fun, and I was already looking forward to going again. So was Joey. He was still talking about it weeks later. Afterwards we shared some hot chocolate in the warming house before joining my wife and other two boys for dinner.

Joey’s interest grew so we looked for more opportunities. Again we found a Learning to Play Hockey program, this time at the Greenheck Field House. This time Joey wasted no time challenging me to a race across the ice, then another, then another, about a dozen times before he was done. He won every time but one, although he would tell you he won them all. His confidence was growing. This ice was a lot more smooth than our hometown skating rink, which meant I fell more. Not a lot more, but definitely more. With several other parents watching, I’m sure they got a kick out of counting my falls just like Joey did. It didn’t take long before we were playing a pick-up game of hockey with some of the kids.

The ice may be gone for this year, and although I don’t even want to think about another winter at this point, I am looking forward to getting out skating with my boys again next year. Falls and all.

First Published Here: April 14, 2017


The Business News: UWSP’s Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

WIST research helps fuel business innovation
UWSP institute looks for creative ways to spark local economic development

Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST), part of UW-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources, provides research, laboratory services, and education for business and industry. Their ultimate goal is to bring new ideas and innovation from the university to the private sector. Based on the results they’ve achieved in the six years since their inception and the ongoing demand from local businesses for their services, they’ve lived up to their lofty expectations. Now they’re looking to push the envelope to find new and creative ways to spark local economic development.

Justin Hall, WIST project manager, analyzes natural extracts from potato peels.
Photo courtesy of UW-Stevens Point

“All the work we do is with some form of business partnership,” explained Paul Fowler, Executive Director of WIST. “We focus on improving economic development, sustainability, and minimizing environmental impact and naturally find ourselves working with industries that utilize natural resources.” Some of these include the paper industry, vegetable and fruit growers, and companies looking to utilize biomass waste from these processes. Just in the paper and packaging industry alone they have provided learning and training opportunities to 480 professionals.

Paul Fowler

These connections have translated into opportunities as Bill Cunningham, Manager of Integrated Solutions for Siemens Water Solutions in Rothschild, can attest. “It’s critically important that we have, one, a place to go to where we can have some of these short-term research efforts undertaken and not be delayed by our current research project commitments. And secondly, where we can do it at a place where we can train up students at the undergraduate or the graduate level and hopefully, long-term relationships develop and this becomes a feeder source for our future employment candidates as well. Siemens may be global, but having a local resource like WIST means we can undertake a greater volume of research with our current research staffing, and help develop the talent we’ll need to rely on in the years to come,” Cunningham said.

One measure of WIST’s economic impact is that they have received approximately $12 million in federal and state grants and $1.5 million in private sector investments. This infusion of financial support has allowed WIST scientists the opportunity to conduct valuable research that is then used by local companies to grow their business and local economic impact. “Patents have resulted from some of our biomass research and are being scaled up by American Science & Technology out of Wausau,” said Fowler. “That’s just one of the many examples. We are also working with Okray Family Farms (located in Plover) on an interesting project where we have a test plot of cold weather grapes with plans to extract the resveratrol which possibly prevents symptoms of certain diseases, like Parkinson’s.”

Pacon Corporation, located in Appleton, and owner of the Strathmore Artist Papers brand, also reached out to WIST after learning about their capabilities. As a result, they now offer fine art papers in three grades to customers across North America. “We could not have launched our Printmaking program, especially in the timeframe, without UWSP. We have been able to bring new products to the market, made in Wisconsin paper mills, that will help us continue to grow our business and cement our position as an innovative supplier of fine art papers,” stated Jim McDermott, EVP of Sales and Marketing for Strathmore Artist Papers, after the project was completed.

Founded in 2010, WIST was initially comprised of a part-time staff that focused only a small portion of their time on the new initiative. Quickly recognizing the demand and potential, Fowler was brought on as the first full-time employee. By December 2014, they were up to 13 staff members. Recent funding decisions at the state level have since decreased that number, but the “work hasn’t dried up, that’s for sure,” Fowler mentioned when discussing their capacity. Unfortunately, some crucial projects, such as biomass fermentation research, have been put on hold until additional funding is available. To fill some of that void, they’ve turned to students. More than 40 students have been involved in WIST training and research.

UW-Stevens Point’s initial ties to the paper industry were the foundation of WIST, but with Wisconsin being one of the top global producers of snapbeans, carrots, potatoes, cranberries, and other fruits and vegetables, working with some of the region’s farmers and growers was a natural extension. With their research efforts, they will continue to infuse innovation into local businesses that rely heavily on natural resources and central Wisconsin will likely see new markets and industries formed, spurring economic development for the entire region.

Published in The Business News on March 13, 2017


Ice Age Trail Chronicles: Eau Claire Dells

Ice Age Trail Chronicles:
Eau Claire Dells Segment, Marathon County
January 18, 2016

Anyone that knows me well, knows that I want to do everything. I guess I’ve always been that way and I’ve learned to love it over the years. One of the things on that list of everything is to hike/bike the entire 1,000-mile Ice Age Trail. With a busy life and missing my family way too much, I’m not able to drop everything in the spirit of Eat, Prey, Love and spend months hiking. Instead, I plan to do it in smaller chunks, an afternoon here, a weekend there, as time permits. It may take 20 years, but that’s okay, even better maybe, because it makes the adventure last.

Last year, my friend Kevin and I got started hiking the Ice Age Trail at Eau Claire Dells. The great thing about having a flexible schedule and a friend that works for the federal government, is that every month or so they get a random day off for an adventure. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was crisp, clear, and extremely cold. Both of us had our snowshoes but quickly saw they were not needed. Well beaten paths could be found throughout this popular destination. That was probably a good thing because at this point we had no maps, and were just winging it. Isn’t that how all good adventures start though?

We started through the woods, linking up with the downriver side. A slight breeze rattled some oaks leaves that have surely seen their share of explorers.  Deer had scraped the ground bare searching for acorns. As we stood on the impressive bluff, we could see the frozen river below. Tracks of the foolish and daring showed that they tempted fate and won, making it across. This time. Upstream was the breathtaking dells. We’d save that best part for last. Our first destination was to head downstream where the river was flowing and still open. It wasn’t long before we came to a bridge spanning the river and connecting to the south side. Here we disappeared into the woods. To our left was mixed forest and to our right we could still see the river flowing through the trees. The conversation was lively as we reached a fork in the road. We continued downstream, coming to a fork in the river, where the water circled an island on both sides. The secluded island was enticing, just as secluded places always are. What would we find there? Pondering we vowed to return and find out one day, maybe on another adventure. At last we came to a sign that we were entering private property. One of the many great things about the trail is the amazing generosity of landowners to open their property for the trail. Without them, the trail would be a patchy mess.

It was here we turned around, working our way upstream to the dells. We weren’t disappointed. Finding an scenic overlook, we sat in silence soaking in the beauty. Large rocks comprised the dells with water flowing every which way as it tumbled over the boulders. The temperature caused the water to freeze in a variety of ice creations. Shelves of ice formed everywhere. The water kept flowing, causing additional sheets to form with a magnificent layering effect. Closing my eyes, I could hear the power of the water rushing through. But, I didn’t want to keep my eyes closed anymore. I wanted to see the beauty one more time before we continued upstream.

Across the highway that split the park, there is an old dam. A small lake is formed above where summertime campers no doubt have their picnics and swim. Today the otters are the only ones swimming with their trademark slides crossing the ice and disappearing into the icy water below. We cross the dam back to the north, meandering back through the park. Finally, we head back to the truck, our journey almost complete. But before we do, we are drawn back to the dells. Jumping across the rocks, we now find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the dells. For a few blissful moments, we remain, captivated once more. Then our journey had to end, but only for a while. Soon, we would return to our adventure once more.

Published: March 10, 2017

Wolves in Wisconsin – Part 3

Pressure to take action on the wolf issue is once again on the doorsteps of Congress. What the outcome will be is anyone’s guess but it increasingly looks like they will take action. This is great news for anyone that realistically understands that wolves in Wisconsin, and elsewhere, need to be managed. For others, their disillusion to think that wolves haven’t recovered until they roam the streets of Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, and Minneapolis are foolish and have now set a dangerous precedent. Congress shouldn’t need to be involved in removing wolves from the Endangered Species Act. Science should and clearly shows that they have recovered and established a viable, sustainable population in the Great Lakes region. Unfortunately, now Congressional action is the only way to take action because scientists are fighting over this issue (with most supporting removing them from the Endangered Species List) and making it political rather than relying on the science that is telling them that the wolf recovery has been an astounding success.

Isle Royale Wolf Track

Isle Royale Wolf Track

For two years, I had the pleasure of covering the Wisconsin Wolf Committee for Wisconsin Outdoor News. This body was designed to provide recommendations to Wisconsin’s Natural Resources Board on how to effectively manage wolves at the state level in Wisconsin. There were a wide variety of opinions, but I believe they had a practical, pro-active approach to managing the growing wolf population in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, when wolves were returned to the Endangered Species List this committee was essentially disbanded. With ongoing pressure to remove wolves once again from protective status, my guess is that this committee will be quickly reinvigorated. Hopefully, I’ll be there covering their progress once again.

This article is one of my early ones covering the committee:

Dec 27, 2013 – Wolf committee ends year with long to-do list

Wolves in Wisconsin – Part 2

The sad reality is that this is exactly what happens if wolves are not managed properly. Dogs get killed. Many are hunting dogs, but others are just playing in their yard out here in the country. Most don’t get reported like the ones in this article because people don’t understand the process of getting reimbursed or don’t want to go through the hassle. When dogs get killed by wolves, parents are afraid that kids are in danger. Then you have the vicious cycle of fear and people begin to change their patterns. The easy solution is to let states manage their wolf populations.

To read one of my 2013 articles for Wisconsin Outdoor News regarding wolves, please click here:

Dec 13, 2013 – Number of dogs killed by wolves in ’13 matches state record

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Success at the Badger State Games

Here are my Badger State Games boys!


As a family, we went out to compete in the Badger State Games two weeks ago. Joey and Marty surprised both my wife and I with their stamina and energy to sprint the entire kids race. They were rewarded with their very own medals, proudly on display in the picture above.

My race went equally as well, but with a lot less energy. It was simply painful. I’ve done several 5K runs, 10K runs, a half marathon, triathlons, and who knows how many hundreds or maybe thousands of forced Army runs and ruck marches over the last 16 years, but this was among the most painful endurance event I’ve experienced. Maybe I’m getting old? Five kilometers, 3.1 miles, running on snowshoes. And to think some people decided to do the 10 kilometer version. From the beginning, I knew I was in trouble. Looking around, everyone had small, ultralight snowshoes designed just for this purpose. Several made comments regarding my bulky footwear. Sporting my trusty snowshoes, made for adventure in the woods, I was determined.

Coming in at just over 35 minutes, I was happy with my time and took home the gold. Pretty easy when you’re the only one in your age class:)

Recovery took a few days, but it was totally worth the pain. The crowd was also right. It would be worth investing in lighter snowshoes in the future. Along with meeting a lot of great people, we discovered a unique winter culture of snowshoeing. An entire series of races are held throughout the winter with one interesting series called the Braveheart Series. Now, the kilts makes sense! It’s a great way to stay active during our long winters, meet some new friends, and just have fun.


Wolves in Wisconsin – My Journalism Roots

Although it wasn’t my first article, my first true taste journalism was with Wisconsin Outdoors News. Covering all aspects of wolves in Wisconsin, it was a dream come true. Like many, I always had a fascination with the mighty beast, but quickly discovered another side – the ongoing politics behind wolf management.

Click on the link below to read my first article for Wisconsin Outdoor News:

Dec 1, 2013 – Five wolf units close as harvest moves along briskly

There are many more article here, and even more that I have to add yet.

First listed on the federal endangered species act in 1974, wolf recovery has been an amazing success story.  Unfortunately, many fail to recognize that success and have fought to maintain their protective status, taking valuable resources away from other endangered species. Our own US Fish and Wildlife Service advocate for removal from the endangered species list. They too have been denied. To look at the history of federal actions on wolves, please click here:


With roadblock after roadblock, it may require Congressional action to remove wolves from the endangered species act and return them to state management. It’s a shame it has come to that.

And the Winner is…Mountain Lion

Courtesy of Mountain Lion Foundation

Courtesy of Mountain Lion Foundation

Thanks to everyone that participated in last week’s, “Can you name this track?” challenge. For those that voted mountain lion, you are correct. That’s what I instinctively thought when I saw it in the mountains of Colorado that day too and exactly why the hairs on my neck stood up. Over the years, I’ve seen the tracks of many wolves, bobcats, dogs, and other predators, but never a mountain lion until that day. I could instantly tell it was differently than any track I’ve seen and I’m sure the picture doesn’t do it justice.

Our polls were correct too with 64% of those voting choosing the mountain lion. Bobcat and wolf each had 14% and dog had 7%. This video shows how to correctly identify a mountain lion track. Stay tuned for more great polls.

Mountain lions have been popping up here in Wisconsin in recent years as well. In fact, one went through Lincoln County just last year. I remember my grandpa and uncle talking about seeing a cougar in Lincoln County when I was a kid back in the 90s. Besides thinking they were crazy, I thought it was pretty cool that they passed through our area. Their mystique made me think back to the Little House on the Prairie days when the mountain lion screamed from the Big Woods. As you can see in this informational website about mountain lions, they have been expanding their range and on the move in recent years. That means we will likely see more pass through so keep your eyes open for mountain lion tracks on your explorations.

Mountain Lion Territory

Mountain Lion Territory

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The Business News: Swiderski Equipment

The Business News is another newspaper that I have the pleasure of writing for most months. After a brief hiatus to finish my military coursework, through the Command and General Staff College, I’m back to writing. To read the most recent article published, please click on the link below.

Jan 2, 2017 – Swiderski has filled a need since 1925

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Or if you prefer, I’ve pasted the original text here along with pictures:

Swiderski Equipment Inc. was founded in 1925, on the Swiderski family homestead in Mosinee, to support the local farming community and that is exactly what they continue to do today. Owned by Alex and Dianne Swiderski, the company is preserved in the Swiderski family more than 90 years later. By evolving with the agriculture industry, they have captured, “more than 50% of the market share in the areas that we are responsible for,” explained Sly Krautkramer, Chief Operating Officer. But that wasn’t always the case. As recent as 2010, they struggled to define what the next level would look like for their business. Finally, all the pieces fell into place and they have been growing ever since. “We’ve had a pretty good surge here, which started in 2010, and took the business to a new level,” said Krautkramer discussing their secrets for growth. “We got into high horsepower stuff, precision farming technology, and took our offerings to a higher level with bigger farms demanding bigger equipment.”

Owners Alex and Dianne Swiderski

Owners Alex and Dianne Swiderski

That is where Swiderski Equipment’s evolution paid dividends. When they were founded in 1925, there were 193,155 farms in Wisconsin and only 116 farms were over 1,000 acres according to the 1925 Census of Agriculture. Naturally, their business supported these family farms, first by training and selling work horses and later by selling New Holland and Minneapolis Moline tractors and implements by the late 1930s. That evolution continued throughout the subsequent decades. Fast forward to recent years and there are now less than 70,000 farms in Wisconsin and almost 2,500 of those farms encompass 1,000 acres or more. Now, all five of their locations – Mosinee, Wausau, Thorp, Antigo, and Waupaca – offer product lines to support the larger farm operations in an 18-county area that spans from the Chippewa Falls/Eau Claire area to Outagamie County and throughout central and northern Wisconsin.

Sly Krautkramer

Sly Krautkramer

Even though they now can easily serve those large farms, “we have equipment to support hobby farmers with only two acres up to those with more than 2,000 acres,” noted Krautkramer. Agriculture may be the core of their business, but Swiderski Equipment is involved in many other areas as well. “Construction equipment, governmental contracts, weekend adventurers, landscaping, and snow removal are just a few of our markets,” described Krautkramer with the help of Melissa Heise, Director of Marketing and Human Resources. “There’s also another side of agriculture we support, in addition to traditional dairy and crop farming, including cranberries, potatoes, grain, and beef operations. We’re using technology to help those growers and producers be profitable in their own businesses.”

Melissa Heise

Melissa Heise

Evolution of their product line is clearly one key factor to their dominating growth in the region, but certainly not the only key to success. “We have high level, quality people with little turnover,” said Krautkramer with pride. “Not only that, but we hire talented people and empower them. Each person has a different personality and a different flavoring which we capitalize on to get strong results.” According to Krautkramer, that wasn’t always the case either. “We went from having a hard time finding employees to having people knocking on our door because everyone wants to work for a winning team.”

With success due to their never ending evolution and a strong team in place, Swiderski Equipment is looking to continue their success. “We always have to grow and have growth plans in place, but the real key is to capitalize on new opportunities,” explained Krautkramer. One key aspect of that continued growth is what Heise calls their “sixth location.” Right now, they are investing in advancing their online presence or that “sixth location” and will be launching a brand-new website sometime early in 2017. With that, they hope to reach out to both current and prospective customers to discuss technology and innovations so they can stay on the cutting edge and provide their customers with exactly what they require to be successful.

Even with all that, Krautkramer says there is one last key to their continued growth and success. “We support our communities through different programs and community events, whether it is 4-H, the FFA, or June Dairy Breakfasts, we’re engaged and active members of our community to show them we truly care.”



Winter Silent Sports in Wisconsin

Last week, there was a perfect combination for outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of one of Wisconsin’s most popular and oldest silent sport – snowshoeing. With ten inches of fresh snow in Wisconsin’s Northwoods and a full moon, conditions were perfect for a moonlight snowshoe. Walking around the farm, I could clearly see over a half mile from one corner of the field back to our dirt road, despite the fact it was nearly 10 o’clock at night. The moon glowed off to the east, high enough to light the woods, but low enough for the trees to cast shadows wherever I walked. And the shadows always played tricks. Was that a deer? Or maybe a wolf? Two winters ago they killed a deer in this very location. Or maybe it was nothing at all? More than once, I looked over my shoulders just to be sure. Everything looks different at night, especially in the moonlight. The air was crisp, yet refreshing, as it touched my face. Returning home, I felt energized with the adventure, ready for the next.

The next would be coming soon. In four short weeks, I hoped to be in the woods again during the next full moon. But before that, the Badger State Winter Games will be coming to Wisconsin and if all goes well, I’ll be snowshoeing in the upcoming competition. For those that have never gone, it’s our very own version of the Olympics, complete with alpine skiing, archery, snowboarding, hockey, and more than a dozen other events. Plus, of course the silent sports that I discuss in the article below – fat-tire biking, nordic skiing, and snowshoeing. Last year, some friends of mine and I tried curling. I was trying to relive the glory from the Winter Carnival curling championship I won in college at Michigan Tech over a decade earlier. We were all in for a big surprise at the level of competition. It’s never good when the team you’re competing against wants to stop and give you lessons. 0-3 was our record, but the atmosphere made us forget all about it. Spectators were everywhere enjoying the festivities. This year, I figured I’d give snowshoeing a try and hope to see you all at one of the events. For more information on the events and schedule click on the link below:


To view my latest article on winter silent sports in On Wisconsin Outdoors magazine, please click on the link below:

Jan/Feb 2017 – Silent Sports Make Winter Fun

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