In late March, a Ramsey County, Minnesota judge made headlines with a ruling that should prompt us to ask a deceptively simple question: "Who owns our water?" The pronoun "our," in this case, means the planet's water; on the surface in a lake or pond, a creek or a river, or underground in the aquifers we tap for irrigation and for use in our homes.
I'm as ardent a believer in the democratic system of government as anyone. But sometimes you have to admit it has its weak points. Winston Churchill, one of the most important world leaders of my parents' generation, put it well when he said that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Meaning, of course, that while democracy has its failings, other forms of government are worse.
The human olfactory sense — our sense of smell — is not always fully appreciated for its power. Some say it's the most powerful of our senses when it comes to generating emotions and memories. The scent of marsh muck, wet dog hair or Hoppe's No. 9 gun cleaning solvent can unleash a tide of memories, and transport us momentarily back to a duck blind or a deer stand. Or, when our nose catches the aroma trail from a restaurant kitchen, we hunger for a ribeye steak or a juicy 'burger. Scent carries an undeniable emotional punch.
It's been little more than two months since the end of the regular Minnesota deer hunting season, with archery hunting ending on the last day of December. Interest in whitetails at this time of year is most often focused on their surviving the winter. The major worry is deep snow that can restrict access to food when they are at their most stressed and vulnerable. Late winter snows duel with thawing temperatures in a contest to determine when the threats winter poses to our deer will be past.
The records and wisdoms of history can be found in all sorts of places; from fragile scrolls stored in clay pots in a Middle Eastern cave, to inscriptions on a mummy case in a long-forgotten tomb or something as modern as tape recorded archives of a presidency. The social fabric, politics and current events of a time are among the things that come to light in such discoveries.
When it comes to attracting birds to your backyard, it's hard to beat an ornamental crabapple tree. Not the kind that a youngster would pilfer sour-tasting fruit from, but tiny crabapples less than an inch or so across that turn a deep red as they wither in late fall, and which many birds feed on as eagerly as we'd dig into an apple pie.
Last weekend my wife and I and our Labrador retriever took a walk to enjoy what was predicted to be the warmer and sunnier of the weekend days, that being Saturday. We left the car in a boat launch parking lot at the end of a lake that's the site of the family cabin. Here the road is close to the lake, and you can walk its perimeter without trespassing. It's a lot quieter at this time of year, though there's a certain amount of traffic to and from a restaurant and pub just across from the boat landing.
I saw a picture of a proud deer hunter in a newspaper last weekend. Nothing unusual about that at this time of year, as the main firearms deer season was winding down and we were entering Minnesota's late muzzleloader deer hunt.
If you were to pick one month out of the twelve that seems more forbidding than the others — perhaps even dangerous — November would be a good choice. November ushers in a harsh changeover from a time that is warm, comfortable and benign, to a time increasingly inhospitable to creatures wild and tame, plant or animal. To cope with the climatic extremes that lie ahead, some life goes dormant. Some life exits via migration. Other life has somehow become adapted to tough it out through impending winter, in a place that could easily pass for America's Siberia.
When the deer season that has just begun concludes, it is widely expected to signal a return to better times and greater hunter success. Perhaps as high as 40 percent of the state's 500,000 deer hunters could be stocking their freezers with venison steaks, chops and sausage this year. One of the causes for high expectations is the several consecutive mild winters we've had. One of the effects of those mild winters is strong, healthy does, which — in a domino effect — has led to a crop of strong, vigorous fawns.