Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Green Guide: The Complete Reference for Consuming Wisely © Green Guide Magazine

Green Guide: The Complete Reference for Consuming Wisely
© Green Guide Magazine

February 2009

Thumbs up to ten good reads

Add these titles to your reading list.

Kathryn A. Kahler

Check one more item off your list of New Year's resolutions and pick up a good book – or two! Birders, history buffs, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are sure to find something to their liking from this year's list of titles. So make your way from the nearest book store to your favorite Barcalounger, kick your feet up and enjoy!

National Geographic Birding Essentials: All the tools, techniques, and tips you need to begin and become a better birder © National Geographic, Washington, D.C.

National Geographic Birding Essentials: All the tools, techniques, and tips you need to begin and become a better birder
by Jonathan Alderfer and Jon L. Dunn
National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 217 pages, $15.95

Birding can be a great way to connect with nature. It doesn't require extreme physical skills or a huge monetary commitment, and it can be done as near as your back yard. So if you're looking for a hobby to share with both your children and your parents, check out this guide.

Beginning with the basics like choosing a field guide and pair of binoculars, the book offers advice to learn when and where to expect birds throughout the year; keeping a journal; knowing body features bird watchers cite to identify bird species; identifying birds by their size, structure, plumage and behavior; knowing what kinds of variations – sexual, age, seasonal and geographic – to expect in birds; and distinguishing birds that are challenging to tell apart.

The "Fieldcraft" chapter is the most appealing and will help you hone your skills. It will help you develop field skills that put you in position to see more birds. The chapter includes sections on attracting birds by pishing, and using calls and recordings; knowing where and when to look for birds by habitat, time of day, and spring or fall migration patterns; and keeping track of the birds you've seen. For those who want to volunteer their time and newly developed birding skills, the guide lists opportunities to get involved with citizen scientist programs like Christmas Bird Counts, Breeding Bird Surveys or atlases.

True Green @ Work: 100 ways you can make the environment your business
by McKay and Jenny Bonnin
National Geographic, 140 pages, $19.95

True Green @ Work: 100 ways you can make the environment your business © National Geographic

Authors McKay and Bonnin make a compelling case for companies large and small to reduce carbon emissions and introduce sustainable practices into their way of doing business. Even average Joes who think they have no say in how green their workplace can be can benefit from this read.

Many of the 100 suggestions are simple, common sense practices, like using coffee mugs instead of disposable cups, recycling office paper, or turning off lights and office machines at the end of the day. Others have loftier goals like avoiding air travel that isn't absolutely necessary, conducting virtual meetings and calculating your carbon footprint to help decide how to become more carbon neutral. Still others are aimed at design and construction of new facilities. Here is a sampling of the ideas offered:

  • Despite warnings to the contrary (designed to protect manufacturers' profits), ink and toner cartridges can safely be refilled and reused up to four times. Find a refiller who will guarantee against equipment damage.
  • Indoor air pollution can be worse than outdoors. Use natural ventilation, like operable windows, skylights and ceiling fans to minimize the need for artificial cooling.
  • Business attire with its long-sleeved shirts, ties and jackets requires cranking up air conditioning to keep employees comfortable. Consider dress policies that allow more climate-appropriate clothing like short-sleeved, open-necked shirts.
  • Think about how you can turn waste from your business processes into useable byproducts, like turning used cooking oil into biodiesel fuel, or harnessing heat from machinery to meet water heating needs.
  • Food scraps from employees' lunches can be a disposal problem, and when they end up in landfills, contribute to methane production. Consider stylish worm farms that can convert food scraps into compost for office plants.
  • Adopt conservation policies that feed resources back into the production cycle in the most efficient manner. "Replace your linear production processes with nature-inspired closed loops for a healthier bottom line."

National Geographic also publishes a companion book encouraging individual green living...

Green Guide: The Complete Reference for Consuming Wisely © Green Guide Magazine

Green Guide: The Complete Reference for Consuming Wisely
by the editors of Green Guide Magazine
403 pages, $21.95

It's a guide for anyone intent on adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle, with chapters on eating green, natural personal care, green house cleaning and improvement, healthy kids and babies and natural pet care.

Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest
by Merel R. Black and Emmet J. Judziewicz
Cornerstone Press, 252 pages, $35

Wildflowers of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest © Cornerstone Press

Anyone who has thrown up his hands in frustration trying to follow a dichotomous key will appreciate this comprehensive guide designed to help amateur wildflower enthusiasts. The authors provide 'quasi-keys' in a less formal framework than other guides. They require the user to identify the number of flower parts (such as sepals, petals, bracts or upper leaves), then make a quick determination based on descriptions of flower size or arrangement, leaf shape or arrangement, and other features. Once that's done, the user goes directly to a family page containing photos, descriptions and distribution maps for each species.

The narrative for each species includes the status, such as threatened, native, introduced or potentially invasive; a physical description of the plant, flower, fruit and leaf; and the habitat in which it is found. The guide describes 1,087 species and contains 2,100 photographs covering wildflowers from all of Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Ontario. A handy glossary and illustrations will help novice wildflower lovers distinguish between spikes and racemes, umbels and cymes, and rhizomes and stolons.

Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin's Past © Wisconsin Historical Society Press

Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin's Past
by Erika Janik
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 183 pages, $16.95

You can't help but pick up a book that features a cover picture of 'The Ingenues,' an all-girl vaudeville band serenading the cow-eyed Jerseys at the UW-Madison dairy barn to coax a little more milk out of them. Once you start reading the entertaining stories inside, it's tough to put it down.

If you're drawn to the news stories of the slightly absurd and "truth is stranger than fiction" variety, this little book is for you. You'll find that some things – politics and lifestyles – haven't changed much since Wisconsin achieved statehood. "Chicago, Wisconsin?" reveals the political maneuvering that made Chicago Illinois' largest city, rather than Wisconsin's. "A 'Gibraltar of the Wets'" describes the Prohibition years in Madison when bootlegging was rampant and "the queen of bootleggers, an attractive young Italian girl catered exclusively to a fraternity-house clientele." Even back in the 1800s, some considered Madison a place of beauty, while others described it as "not fit for any civilized nation of people to inhabit."

There's a section on ghostly and spiritual encounters, like the story of the Ridgeway ghost documented in the New York Times, and a section on curiosities, like the Shawano gardener who nurtured, trained and grafted 32 box elder seedlings into the country's "only natural grown chair." Other sections resurrect stories of "Odd Lives & Strange Deaths," "Animal Antics," and "Palatable Peculiarities."

Author Erika Janik is a gifted historical writer whose stories have appeared in this magazine, as well as the Wisconsin Magazine of History. She credits "past librarians and archivists at the Wisconsin Historical Society who had the foresight to think that even oddity was worthy of collection alongside more scholarly and notable tomes on state history."

Pocket Naturalist Guide Series
Waterford Press, Phoenix, AZ
laminated and folded pocket guides, $5.95

Pocket Naturalist Guide Series © Waterford Press, Phoenix, AZ
Pocket Naturalist Guide Series © Waterford Press, Phoenix, AZ

More than 250 different handy, durable field guides are available to introduce novices to nature; and each guide can easily be slipped into a back pocket, purse or backpack. You won't find tips for determining the intricate differences between species or explanations of range or habitat, but they're great visual aids for family vacations or nature hikes with your youngsters. There are bird guides for every state; regional guides for butterflies and moths, trees and wildflowers, seashore life and wildlife; and guides to freshwater fishes, animal tracks and duck identification.

If you're planning a business trip and don't have room to pack bulky field guides, consider ordering a couple to tuck into a pocket of your carry-on bag or briefcase. Each guide is printed on laminated stock and folds down to fit into a standard business envelope. There are also specialized guides for emergency first aid, tying knots, reading the night sky and identifying dangerous animals or plants, to name just a few.

Looking for activities to keep the youngsters quiet in the back seat? The publisher also carries a series of nature activity books with puzzles, word games and activities for children ages 7-12. Pair up the Great Lakes Wildlife field guide and activity book for your next camping trip or field trip.

Of special interest to Wisconsinites are Great Lakes Butterflies & Moths, Wisconsin Birds, Great Lakes Trees & Wildflowers, and Great Lakes Wildlife. Check for them at bookstores or at Waterford Press.

Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Indian Town © Wisconsin Historical Society Press

Aztalan: Mysteries of an Ancient Indian Town
by Robert A. Birmingham and Lynne G. Goldstein
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 107 pages, $14.95

While countless mysteries remain of the ancient Mississippian community that once flourished at the site of Aztalan State Park in present-day Jefferson County, this award-winning book answers many of the questions that have arisen since its discovery in 1836. Archaeologists now believe that the 300 to 500 people who lived in the fortified village on the banks of the Crawfish River came from the much larger settlement of Cahokia near present-day St. Louis, and after about 150 years, abandoned the village as the Mississippian population moved to the southeastern U.S. Historians are still speculating reasons for the relatively sudden abandonment. Was it climate change, disease, or were they driven out by competing Native Americans?

We know a great deal about how the walls of their village and homes were constructed, what kind of pottery they made, how they dressed, what they ate and how they buried their dead. Modern archaeological techniques have determined that the inhabitants imported certain rocks and shells from areas hundreds of miles away to use for hoe blades and arrow points, and that they played a sport called 'chunkey' using spears and flattened, disc-shaped stones. Yet we can only speculate why. Did the sandstone imported from west central Wisconsin give "the warrior supernatural aid in life and death situations?" Was chunkey part of their highly developed ceremonial life?

Authors Birmingham – who served for many years as Wisconsin State Archaeologist – and Goldstein – an anthropology professor at Michigan State University – write a meticulous yet fascinating compilation of the many studies conducted at Aztalan over the years. Considered Wisconsin's most important archaeological site, the studies began with maps hand-drawn by Nathaniel Hyer in 1836 and Increase Lapham in the 1850s, and continue with modern techniques like electromagnetic conductivity technology that allows scientists to map underground structures without disturbing the land. It's obvious the fascination that drew Hyer and Lapham still attracts the hundreds of archaeologists who have since studied the site. Perhaps future technological breakthroughs will help tomorrow's students answer the mysteries of Aztalan that remain today.

Along Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail
edited by Eric Sherman and Andrew Hanson III, photographs by Bart Smith
University of Wisconsin Press, 104 pages, $24.95

Along Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail © University of Wisconsin Press

A mix of history, geology and nature are woven with cross-threads of poetry and incredible photography, taking readers on a virtual trip into Wisconsin's past along the thousand-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Bart Smith's breathtaking photos represent the landscape, flora and fauna one can find along the trail in all four seasons. Essays by biologists Mike Dombeck, Robert Freckmann and DNR's Randy Hoffman, retired journalist Paul G. Hayes, poet laureate Ellen Kort, geologist David Mickelson, and environmental historian Sarah Mittlefehldt help paint the picture of how and why the trail came to be. John Morgan explains how the trail "was born from the dream of Raymond T. Zillmer, a Milwaukee attorney and avid outdoor adventurer who saw in the moraine a way to bring national park-like status and regard to Wisconsin's own geological and natural history." Construction of the trail spans generations, as well as the 250 miles of its length and the 350 municipalities through which it passes.

This pictorial essay is a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but even better, it's an impetus to lace up your hiking boots – or strap on your skis – and experience Wisconsin's awesome beauty on your own.

On the Hunt: The History of Deer Hunting in Wisconsin © Wisconsin Historical Society Press

On the Hunt: The History of Deer Hunting in Wisconsin
by Robert C. Willging
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 224 pages, $26.95

Willging weaves a fascinating story of the interrelationships of the white-tailed deer and the people who have hunted it, from the Paleo-Indians who first inhabited the southwestern coulee region about 11,500 years ago, to modern sports hunters embracing the Wisconsin deer hunting tradition.

The author's meticulous research helps carry readers back in time to when the atlatl – a simple carved piece of wood that allowed Paleo-Indian hunters to hurl a dart great distances – gave rise to the bow and arrow some 1,500 years ago. Bowhunting transformed the Indians' pursuit of their favorite prey. "The Indian deer hunter...always having to match his intellect, skill and weaponry against an animal that had been designed by nature over the course of millions of years to thwart the hunt at every opportunity, took to the bow and arrow immediately and made it very nearly a part of his being."

The 18th and 19th centuries were years of incredible change in Wisconsin. An era of subsistence hunting gave way to market hunting around the time Wisconsin was being settled by Europeans. The persistent hunting of deer for hides reduced the deer population by about half. Then, as Indians were forced onto reservations and farms sprang up on the landscape, agriculture created new edge habitat and deer populations recovered. The rise of a new type of hunter – the pioneer farmer – sparked a renewed era of market hunting that exploited every piece of the deer – from hide, to venison, to bone and antler. That hunting pressure once again significantly reduced the deer population by the time of the Civil War when the first hunting regulations were enacted.

In the chapter "The Rise of the Sportsman," Willging details how deer scarcity in some parts of the state brought "a new phenomenon: an increase in hunters from somewhere besides northern Wisconsin...who traveled north for the opportunity to hunt deer... .These hunters represented a new and growing segment of the American hunting population: the sportsman. Rather than hunting out of necessity to feed a family or for profit, the sportsman placed primary value on the experience of the hunt. This new breed of hunter was willing to travel, sometimes a great distance, simply for a fulfilling recreational hunting experience."

The remaining chapters detail the effects on deer hunting of such historical events as the end of the great logging era, the Great Depression, and cultural changes like the effects that the sight of "deer stacked in great heaps at the railway stations" had on the "influx of summer tourists who liked nothing better than to observe the wild animals of the north." Willging devotes sections to "Women and Deer Hunting," "Earn-a-Buck," "The Great Bait Debate," and an entire chapter to how chronic wasting disease has changed Wisconsin's hunting traditions.

The book abounds with wonderful old photos of early hunters proudly displaying their quarry on poles at their hunting shacks or tied to the front fenders of their cars, illustrating how traditions have changed over the years. The theme that persists from the first chapter to the last is a lasting reverence and respect for the whitetail held in the hearts of generations who have pursued it, making "the hunt" one of Wisconsin's greatest traditions.

If You Didn't Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat?
by Bill Heavey
Grove Press, New York, 304 pages, $14.00

If You Didn't Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat? © Grove Press, New York

You'll want to be sure to read this book in private. Otherwise you risk having to explain tears of laughter or heartbreaking sadness to strangers around you.

Heavey is the well-known columnist from Field and Stream whose collection of outdoor stories is now available in paperback. It's an anthology of entertaining, poignant and utterly hilarious tales of fishing, hunting and outdoor life. Don't keep it on your bedstand – unless you need something to keep you awake and in a good mood until your teenager gets home. If you need more convincing, here's a snippet from a section on field lessons and advice Heavey felt were too valuable not to pass on:

"Shut the bathroom door. Much of my rifle practice occurs with a pellet gun in the basement when nobody else is home. After a session this fall, I was sure my earplugs had migrated almost to my brain. Rushing upstairs to the bathroom mirror, I was probing deep in my auditory canal with a Leatherman Wave when at the door I saw the mother of a child with whom my daughter had evidently missed a playdate. She had entered the house when no one answered. Her face was pretty much the mask of horror you would expect to see upon discovering a man committing suicide via earhole. Her hands were clamped protectively over the eyes of her child, whom she dragged bodily backward through the living room, her mouth moving soundlessly. I watched – but did not hear – the door slam as she fled. I knew it was only a matter of minutes before my wife got word and returned home to deal with the large order of trouble with anchovies and extra cheese I had whipped up. The only question was how to spend the brief interval of peace remaining. I returned to the basement and shot a few more targets. Looking back, it was the smartest thing I did all year."

Kathryn A. Kahler writes from Madison. She formerly managed the circulation and promotions programs for this magazine.