Tag Archives: winter

Milwaukee’s Growing Power hosts winter market

Since mid-fall, the fourth annual Growing Power Winter Market has been taking place in Milwaukee.

The second half of the 2016-17 winter market season will begin Jan. 7 at 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive.

Growing Power, an urban farm, has earned national recognition for its mission to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for all people in the communities in which they live.

A Growing Power goal  is to bring together vendors from Milwaukee and the surrounding area to form a local market where the Silver Spring community can shop for fruits and veggies, as well as handmade crafts, goods and products.

Founding vendors include Lopez Bakery, Vadose Orchid Jewelry, River of Dreams Meats and Don the Farmer.

New vendors are joining the market every week.

If you go …


What: Growing Power Winter Market.

Where: 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive, Milwaukee.

When: 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, through March 25.

Proper diet can combat the winter blues

Another gloomy, snow-slippery winter’s day with the sun barely penetrating the cold, overcast skies. Time to settle in and chase away those winter blues with a heaping plate of comfort food and another glass of wine, right?

Before you self-medicate on an overabundance of all the wrong calories, check your diet. Unless you’re suffering from Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder (SADD) or some other clinical diagnosis, your winter blues may be more a function of what you’re eating and drinking than where you’re living.

Nutritionists agree that diet has a greater impact on mood than seasonal changes. You can spin your mood in a more positive direction if you eat the right food in the proper amounts, or even at the right place and time.

“Mood can be positively or negatively affected by not only by what we eat, but how we eat it,” says Susie Kundrat, clinical associate professor and program director in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutritional Sciences at UW-Milwaukee. “The food and beverages we consume provide critical energy, nutrients and fluid for our bodies to function properly. What we consume can have a significant impact.”

A good diet thrives on balance and moderation, Kundrat says. Carbohydrates, proteins and even the right dietary fats give the body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and function at optimal levels. 

You are what you eat, as the saying goes, but Kundrat stresses that when and how you eat also go a long way toward sustaining your health, which can help chase away the blues in winter or any other season.

“A person’s eating lifestyle is most critical to enhancing mood,” Kundrat says. 

Common sense and conscientious dietary habits make the difference when it comes to maximizing one’s food intake to enhance mood, Kundrat says. Eating on a regular schedule, one that includes breakfast every day and at least three to four meals and snacks throughout the day, provides the foundation of good dietary practice.

“Balance your meals with a protein source, whole grains and plenty of produce to get a good mix of nutrients and ‘staying power’ that provides energy over several hours,” Kundrat explains. “And don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day starting shortly after rising in the morning. All of these pillars are so very important.”

The timing of when you eat makes a difference in how effectively and usefully your body processes food. However, most Americans do it backward, according to Beth Olson, associate professor and extension specialist in nutrition at UW-Madison’s Department of Nutritional Sciences.

“Feeling good is less about particular foods and nutrients than it is about your overall eating pattern,” says Olson, who also stresses eating a good breakfast. “If you consume all your calories at the end of the day, when the body doesn’t have anything in particular to do with them, then you won’t have access to the calories when you need them.”

Like Kundrat, Olson stresses a balanced diet to make sure the body has access to needed micronutrients. Complex carbohydrates with ample amounts of fiber to promote an extended release of nutrients, as well as beneficial fats, play a role in making the nutrients available to the body when it needs them.

Olson says the body is better able to absorb and use micronutrients when they come from the food sources rather than as supplements in a pill form. The more food is processed, the more its nutritional value suffers, so eat food that is closest to its original form when it is harvested, both experts say.

“Include a good protein source such as lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, milk or soy products in meals and snacks to help manage blood sugar levels and satiety,” Kundrat says. “If we keep blood sugars balanced throughout the day and feel less hungry, we are less likely to feel stressed.”

Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids — found in fattier fish like salmon and tuna and nuts such as walnuts — play a role in decreasing inflammation in the body. Lower inflammation levels also may help manage the body’s stress response, Kundrat says.

Both experts counsel against using excess amounts of sugar, caffeine and alcohol to chase the winter blues away.

“Dietary guidelines do not advocate drinking alcohol, but if you do so, make sure it’s in moderation,” Olson says. “The same holds true for coffee and other caffeinated beverages, so there is care to be taken with the beverages you consume.”

Traditional “comfort foods,” including snacks, also play a dietary role. Again, moderation is key.

“If you are trying to manage your mood by depriving yourself of comfort foods, that might make you grumpy as well,” Olson says. “Consuming these foods in the right amount — and snack foods very sparingly — might be better mood elevators than eliminating them altogether.”

In conjunction with diet, regular exercise and the right amount of sleep play a role. Research suggests people with sleep disorders also may have weight issues, both of which contribute to a lack of energy necessary for mood-managing exercise.

“Physical activity and just being outside generally contribute to a better mood,” Olson explains. “It also helps you mobilize fuel more effectively and helps you think more clearly, but don’t go to the gym without eating something first.”

The short supply of sunlight in winter does bring down moods, due to the vitamin D that sunlight supplies. Vitamin D can be found in supplement form, but that might not necessarily make you feel better if you take it. Good eating habits, exercise and sleep can go a long way to make up for sunlight’s absence.

“No matter what you do, make sure your diet draws from a more complex food matrix that supplies the necessary nutrients,” Olson says. “Add variety to each and every meal.”

Cooking restorative veggie soups against winter’s chill

For the conscientious cook, January is often a month full of surprises. Not all of those surprises are happy ones.

With the fall harvest a vague memory and the holiday leftovers finally gone, January finds us digging through the crisper drawers in our refrigerators and the corners of our pantries in search of something edible. Blackened parsnips, pockmarked squash, spongy potatoes and onions that have become little more than bags of fluid rise to the surface with frightening regularity.

So we harvest what we can, compost what we can’t and make ready various pots and kettles for bracing soups to cure the winter chill. And, in a certain sense, we’re fortunate. From both a nutritional and economic standpoint, “soup season” can be one of the most culinary rewarding times of the year.

As a cooking technique, soup-making has been traced as far back as 20,000 B.C., about the time that watertight clay vessels first came into use. Hot rocks were used to heat the water and cook the plants that eventually became part of the soup.

The word “soup” comes from the French soupe, or “broth,” and can trace its origins to even earlier times. In fact, the word “restaurant,” meaning “something restoring,” was first used in 16th-century France to refer to inexpensive, highly concentrated soup sold by street vendors as an antidote to exhaustion. Homemade soups still perform that role.

What follows are a few favorite soup recipes to warm you up, tide you over through the cold months ahead and, perhaps best of all, make good use of root vegetables and other produce you have in the house, or can purchase cheaply at any good grocery store. 

Each recipe makes multiple batches — roughly six to eight servings — which can be shared or saved for future meals.

Black Bean and Pumpkin Soup

16 oz. (3 cans) of black beans, rinsed and drained

16 oz. (1 can) of tomatoes, chopped and drained

1 tbsp. butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium onions, diced

4 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground black pepper

4 cups vegetable broth (chicken broth can be substituted)

16 oz. (1 can) pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)

Salt to taste

Puree beans and tomatoes in a food processor, in several batches if necessary. Melt butter in a large stockpot, then add garlic, onions, cumin, pepper and salt. Cook until onions are soft and caramelized (about 6 minutes). 

Stir in beans and tomato puree, then add broth and pumpkin mix. Stir well and let simmer for 30 minutes before serving.

Rustic Potato Leek Soup

3 leeks, thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)

1 large onion, chopped

6 to 8 russet potatoes, well scrubbed and thinly sliced with the skin still on

3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

3 tbsp. butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan and add onions and leeks, stirring until they are slightly browned. Add potato slices and just enough broth to cover potatoes, cooking until potatoes are tender.

Once softened, mash and stir potatoes until the desired consistency is reached. As the mash thickens, reduce heat and stir to avoid scorching the mash.

Add cream, salt and pepper, then cook 15 minutes over low heat. Remove and serve.

White Winter Minestrone Soup

1/2 cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups celeriac (celery root), peeled and cubed

1 1/2 cups parsnips, peeled and cubed

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups lentils

15 oz. (1 can) of white beans, rinsed and drained

1 small apple, peeled and cubed

3 cups shredded cabbage

1 cup kale, chard or other green

1 cup toasted pecans

1/4 cup rosemary sprigs

1/4 lb. dried spaghetti, broken into pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in stockpot over medium heat, then add onions and minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn soft, translucent and are slightly browned (about 8 minutes). Stir in parsnips and celery root and cook another 5 minutes until fragrant. Add stock, apples, bay leaves, beans, cabbage and lentils and stir.

Reduce heat to medium, then cover pot and simmer 30 minutes until celery root and parsnips are tender. Stir in spaghetti and continue simmering until al dente, then salt and pepper to taste.

Vail Resorts buys Wilmot ski resort in Wisconsin

Vail Resorts says it has acquired the Wilmot Mountain ski area in Wisconsin, between Milwaukee and Chicago.

The Broomfield, Colorado-based company said it plans to improve terrain parks, instruction, dining, snowmaking, parking and other aspects of the resort.

The price of the sale wasn’t disclosed.

Wilmot is 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee and 65 miles north of Chicago. Vail Resorts says Wilmot currently has 25 trails, four terrain parks, a tubing hill, a ski and snowboard school and a ski racing program.

Wilmot will be included in the company’s Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass for the 2016-2017 season.

Vail Resorts owns two other urban resorts, Afton Alps near Minneapolis-St. Paul and Mount Brighton near Detroit.

Vail has eight mountain resorts in California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

Sun Prairie without ground hog after 2015 bite

Sun Prairie is without a groundhog for this year’s Groundhog Day festivities, after the animal used at last year’s event bit the former mayor.

Images of Jimmy the Groundhog biting then-Mayor Jon Freund’s ear were widely circulated, bringing a lot of attention to Sun Prairie.

Afterward, authorities told Jimmy’s owners they needed a license to own a groundhog. That prompted Ti and Jeff Gauger to release Jimmy into the wild. 

Ti Gauger manages the Business Improvement District, which organizes Groundhog Day festivities. She tells the Wisconsin State Journal that organizers are scrambling for a replacement.

Gauger says the city’s event will begin at sunrise Feb. 2 even if no replacement is found. 

But if a groundhog is found in time, this year it will be kept in a cage to avoid another nibble.

Jimmy the Groundhog still has a Facebook page.

This season’s hottest films, from big to small

The Blockbusters


Opens Nov. 6, wide release

The latest James Bond film — and, possibly, the last for Daniel Craig — brings back the villainous organization Spectre, previously vanquished by a combination of Sean Connery and complex copyright litigation (don’t ask). Post-Casino Royale reboot, the organization is masterminding a global conspiracy that threatens MI6 and Bond will have to stop its scheme by defeating an enemy tied to his past (Christoph Waltz).

‘The Hunger Games:
Mockingjay – Part 2’

Opens Nov. 20, wide release

The biggest fantasy franchise since Harry Potter takes its last shot this November, bringing Jennifer Lawrence’s time as Katniss Everdeen to an end. Finishing the story begun in the series’ third film last year, Katniss will lead a full-scale revolution, storming the Capitol to assassinate the leader of her corrupt dystopia (Donald Sutherland).

‘Star Wars: Episode VII –
The Force Awakens’

Opens Dec. 18, wide release

They’ve promised us that this time, the new trilogy won’t suck. Set decades after the overthrow of the Empire in a galaxy still ravaged by war, old allies (Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill) will encounter both new heroes (John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac) and new adversaries (Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie).

The Contenders


Currently screening, wide release

All 5-year-old Jack knows is “Room,” the small space where he’s lived since he was born and his mother’s lived since she was kidnapped seven years earlier. This haunting tale of a mother’s struggle to keep herself and her son alive (adapted by its original novelist Emma Donoghue) is a shoe-in for nominations, both as a whole and for Brie Larson, the rising star who anchors the film. It’s also sure to be a disturbing yet moving experience.


Opens Nov. 6, wide release

The Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal can be tracked back to charges against five priests in Boston and journalists at The Boston Globe who weren’t content to let that be the end of the story. Led by a star-studded cast (Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Lieve Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci), Spotlight has perhaps the strongest Oscar buzz so far.

‘The Danish Girl’

Opens Nov. 27, wide release

Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables follow-up couldn’t be more different. The Danish Girl tracks Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), one of the first-known recipients of sex reassignment surgery, and her wife Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) as they navigate Lili’s transition. The film’s casting has come under some scrutiny — with many criticizing the choice of Redmayne, a cisgender man, to play a trans woman — but its story is undeniably groundbreaking. 

The Indies

‘Beasts of No Nation’

Currently screening, Netflix and limited release

Cary Fukunaga is clearly winning the break-up with True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto. His follow-up, about a young boy who becomes a child soldier in West Africa, is receiving lots of early buzz despite a boycott from the country’s theater chains due to its simultaneous release on Netflix and in theaters. It’s their loss. Limiting it to small, intimate houses — potentially including your own — will increase the impact of this sobering, stunning film.

‘James White’

Opens Nov. 13, limited release

Perhaps the most truly independent film of these three, James White offers us Girls’ Christopher Abbott as the aimless, troubled 20-something of the film’s title. Over a scant, tight 85 minutes, we watch as he’s forced to either grow up or face the consequences, as his cancer-stricken mother (Cynthia Nixon) faces her final days.


Opens Nov. 20, limited release; Dec. 18, wide release

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara form a powerful duo in Carol, as an older, married woman and a young photographer/department store clerk in the 1950s who are romantically drawn to each other. With the two of them leading the way, the film was expected to be powerful, but it’s received a festival response well in excess of what even its artistic team expected.

Cyclists riding out winter, gearing up for funding fights

One recent morning while motorists were scrapping ice off their windshields, Bill Hartz hopped on his Schwinn hybrid and rode the scenic route to work. “I took the long way and went down by the lake to watch the sun rise,” said Hartz, who lives in Riverwest and works at Marquette University.

That same morning, Paula Schewe cycled 4 miles into work on her Surley fat-bike, stopping on the way at the Shorewood Colectivo for coffee and granola bars with some biking buddies. “I get to work on a riding high, there’s really nothing like it,” said Schewe, who works at a retail shop on Milwaukee’s Capitol Drive.

And on that icy morning, Steve Czerwinski daydreamed about the arrival of spring, about pumping up the tires on his Trek Bike and cruising on the Capital City State Trail.

Wisconsin is one of the best biking states and Madison is one of the 10 best biking cities in the country, said Czerwinski, a cycling enthusiast since his sixth birthday, when he got a BMX bike coveted by every kid in his neighborhood. “In a couple of weeks, with spring, everyone will see why. For cyclists, this is just a superb time of year to be in Wisconsin.”

March madness exhilarates cyclists. Warm-weather riders tune up their bikes, register for tours and update their gear. Four-season cyclists change out their rides or their tires, and also their clothes, as they shift from winter to spring. 

Schewe has cycled, literally, through 12 Milwaukee winters. “The first year, my friends thought I was crazy and my parents thought it was because I didn’t have enough money for a car — which was kinda true,” she said. “But it’s just a way of life for me. If you know how to dress, and you learn how to ride, and you take care of your bike, it’s all good.”

Bike retailers, mechanics and association members report a recent uptick in winter bicycling in Wisconsin. The explanations: refinements in cold-weather gear, attention to infrastructure, the popularity of fat-bikes with jumbo tires that seem to float on snow, rising gasoline prices and environmental awareness.

Hartz said he’s long cycled in warm weather to work, where he’d otherwise have to pay $65 a month to park a car. “A few years back, I decided to see how far into winter I could go,” he said. “It turns out — all the way through to spring. This is my third winter.”

Cycling, he said, is “far cheaper than a car, less crowded than a bus and gets you out in the fresh air for exercise year-round.”

And it’s also a way of life, Czerwinski would add.

Czerwinski doesn’t ride through the winter, but he thinks about riding all winter. And he saves what he can from tips to kickoff the spring season at regional bike expos. “There’s Bike-o-Rama, that’s big,” he said. “And Wheel and Sprocket, that’s the biggest. Everyone goes.” This year, Czerwinski is considering trading up his bike, an opportunity offered by the Wheel & Sprocket Bike Expo Sale at the Wisconsin State Fair Park next month.

Six years ago, the university student and barista relocated from Kentucky, ranked No. 48 on the League of American Bicyclists’ list of bike-friendly states to Wisconsin, ranked No. 3.

He’d like to see Wisconsin reach No. 1. So Czerwinski is taking an interest in political goings on at the capitals — in Madison and in Washington, D.C.

Gearing up for funding fights

Conservative Republicans at the state and federal levels this year launched initiatives to weaken biking programs. So the National Bike Summit this month was bringing bike advocates to Capitol Hill to: 

• Encourage federal lawmakers to co-sponsor the Vision Zero Act to prevent traffic fatalities and the Transportation Alternative Program Improvement Act to provide more local control on transportation priorities and funding decisions.

• Counter a campaign to strip bicycle funding from the transportation bill. Congress could vote in May on the anti-cycling initiative, which is backed by right-wing groups with strong ties to the fossil fuel industry and billionaires David and Charles Koch. 

“Despite billions in Highway Trust Fund shortfalls, Washington continues to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit,” read a letter signed by representatives of Tea Party Nation, the Heartland Institute, Club for Growth, American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity seeking to eliminate federal transportation money for cycling programs.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has strong political and financial ties to those in this conservative coalition, is at the forefront of the campaign to puncture the state’s bicycling program.

Earlier this winter, at the start of his second term as governor and an apparent run for the White House, Walker offered a budget that proposed: 

• Cutting $2 million from the Transportation Alternatives Program.

• Gutting the Stewardship Fund used to buy and preserve conservation and recreational land for the public.

• Repealing the Complete Streets Law mandating that bicyclists and pedestrians be considered whenever a road is built or rebuilt.

State Sen. Chris Larson, in a statement responding to Walker’s proposals, said repealing the Complete Streets Law “jeopardizes pedestrian and bicyclist safety, resulting in fewer safe places for our neighbors to bike.” Larson added that cutting TAP “will result in fewer pro-bike projects, some of which seek to create more safe ways for children to get to their schools.”

Larson said, “The governor’s budget lacks a long-term, sustainable vision for our state. In fact, at the same time the governor is seeking to curb the growth and popularity of cycling in the state of Wisconsin, he is also borrowing $1.3 billion to pay for large highway projects. Each day, I grow more amazed by how backward Walker’s priorities are for Wisconsin.”

Dave Cieslewicz, executive director of Wisconsin Bike Fed, has described Walker’s budget as “a direct assault on biking.”

Bike Fed is collaborating with many organizations and lawmakers to protect the programs, according to Cieslewicz, who served two terms as mayor in Madison.

Czerwinski said he plans to get involved in the pro-biking push.

“Maybe there will be a bike-in,” said Georgia Cramer, of Kenosha, who also is interested in crusading for cycling.

Cramer, interviewed by WiG via Facebook, is a recreational rider — bicycling is a family activity on the weekends. But she wants to see bicycling opportunities expanded in Wisconsin. Like a majority of bicyclists, Cramer said she’d ride more if she felt safer on the roads, and she’d allow her children to ride more if she felt more secure in their safety.

Biking for all

“I love riding. And some of my fondest childhood memories are of riding my bike in the summer,” she said. “Government should do more, not less.”

Earlier this month, the nonprofit People For Bikes released a study showing 34 percent of Americans ages 3 and older rode a bike at least once in the last year and, of those who ride, 70 percent rode six days or more.

The survey also found that a majority worry about being injured on the road and 48 percent of adults in the U.S. don’t have access to an operational bicycle. The statistics are higher for people of color, according to a groundbreaking report, “The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity,” from the Sierra Club and the League of American Bicyclists. The research, for example, showed that efforts to improve infrastructure for cycling can skirt communities of color, contributing to a higher fatality rate for Hispanic and African-American riders.

The study also outlined the benefits of bicycle access and examined transportation costs. The average family with an income of less than $50,000 spends about 28 percent of its annual income on housing and 30 percent on transportation. The average yearly cost of operating a car is $8,220; the average yearly cost of operating a bike is $308.

Such statistics and real-life situations motivate Wisconsin cyclists to promote projects such as Bublr Bikes, the Milwaukee bike rental program, and participate in efforts such as Milwaukee’s Vulture Space, a nonprofit do-it-yourself bike shop that redistributes repaired bikes in the community; the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective, which educates and encourages the re-use and recycling of old bikes; and DreamBikes in Madison and Milwaukee, which since 2008 has employed and trained dozens of teens while refurbishing and returning more than 10,000 bikes to the community.

“I’m for a bike for everyone, because biking is just good for your health, mind, for the environment and it’s economical,” said Czerwinski, the guy who spent that recent icy morning daydreaming about riding out winter and cycling into spring.

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Poll: Partisan divide on politicians and degrees

The latest survey from Public Policy Polling shows that 62 percent of Americans want their president to hold a college degree.

That could mean trouble for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a general election.

However, there is a partisan divide on the issue. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to think it is important for a president to graduate from college. So, the lack of a degree may not be a hindrance to Walker’s pursuit of the GOP nomination. PPP found that 81 percent of Democrats want their president to have a degree, but Republicans were evenly divided at 45 percent.

PPP also surveyed people on a variety of other issues, from literary choices to vacation destinations.

A glance at the polling:

• Eight percent of Americans think “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a better book than “To Kill a Mockingbird.” And 63 percent think “To Kill a Mockingbird” is better. A majority say they’ve read “To Kill a Mockingbird” but just 17 percent say they’ve read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Democrats are more likely to have read both books.

• Asked to choose whether to visit Philadelphia, Brooklyn or Columbus, Ohio — the three finalists for the Democratic National Convention in 2016 — more chose Philadelphia. And that’s where the convention will be held.

• Just weeks from the official start of spring, 52 percent of Americans said they have a favorable view of winter. But consider that 91 percent have a favorable view of spring and 82 percent a favorable view of summer and 91 percent a favorable view of fall.

Cold-weather birding often a hot pursuit

In the treetops high above Gardner Park an uncommon visitor is flying about. Its short curved bill is built for feeding on seeds and fruit. Below, near the banks of Bozeman Creek, the bright red hulls of berries litter the snow. It’s these morsels of food, mountain ash berries, for which the pine grosbeak has come.

The pine grosbeak, a robin-sized finch, summers in the boreal forest of northern Canada, except for a small band extending south along the Rocky Mountains where the birds remain year-round. The male has a bright red head, gray breast and gray flanks. Around Bozeman, the pine grosbeak breeds near Hyalite Lake and Emerald Lake in Hyalite Canyon during the summer months. The birds move down into the foothills when the snow flies.

For whatever reason, a flock of pine grosbeaks has moved out into the valley this winter and the birds have been regularly spotted around Gardner Park. It’s a thrill for winter birders like Robin Wolcott, a member of the Sacajawea Audubon Society and an editor for eBird, an online database for submitting bird sightings.

“The pine grosbeak are feeding on those mountain ash berries, but why they are down here this year I have no idea,” Wolcott said Monday. “I’m not sure if pine grosbeak are irruptive, but maybe that is part of the equation as they only show up in the valley like this once every 10 years.”

Irruptive bird migrations occur when there is an irregularity in the food supply. Pine grosbeak typically feed on the seed cones of conifer trees, but may also utilize alders, river birch and Douglas fir.

“Irruption is a mass movement of birds that get into geographic areas you wouldn’t expect to see every year like a typical migration,” said John Parker of Sacajawea Audubon Society. “When it happens it is kind of exciting because it is unpredictable.”

Winter birders looking for unusual birds often pursue irruptive species. Red crossbills, white-winged crossbills and hoary redpolls are irruptive species that have made an appearance in the Gallatin Valley this winter.

While rare and irruptive species are undeniably appealing to avid birders, the winter also provides a great time to see a variety of more common but no less fascinating species. From red-tailed hawks to chickadees, there’s always a bird that piques the interest.

Wolcott said birding during the winter requires a few changes from the warmer months. Instead of being keyed into bird song, Wolcott said birders must listen instead for calls.

“Bird song is breeding behavior,” Wolcott said. “But birds have calls they make at other times of year that alert you to their presence. So we are still birding by ear, but winter birding tends to be a bit more visual.

“In the spring you really want to be out there early because that is when the birds are most active,” Wolcott said. “In the winter they are foraging and talking all day. In the summer I am happy to be out at 6 a.m., but you couldn’t drag me out there in the winter.”

The rise of eBird has made the process of locating birds a communal affair. Birders use the database to enter observations that can be viewed by others. Each entry includes the location, date, time and number of birds seen, along with optional notes added by birders.

As an eBird editor, Wolcott reviews observations made by birders in Gallatin and Madison counties. She said rare sightings cause a buzz among the birding community the way an observation of two sandhill cranes in Belgrade did last Saturday. The cranes, typically long gone by this time of the year, were spotted in flight near Dry Creek Road.

“That was huge,” Wolcott said. “I know the birder that saw those cranes and he is a reliable source. It seems like there have been a lot of interesting sightings this winter.”

Wolcott said eBird has revolutionized birding.

“Instead of writing down an observation that disappears when I die, it is available to the public today and 100 years from now,” Wolcott said. “We all become contributors to the public knowledge and it is making real changes in the world.”

Data from eBird has been used to monitor shorebirds in California’s Central Valley. Conservationists have used the data to identify farmers in the valley and paid them to flood their fields during migration periods, creating a benefit for the landowners and wildlife.

Wolcott said contributing to eBird gives birders purpose, but experiencing nature and the chance to see something amazing are all the motivation she needs.

“I love birding because it gets me outside and gets me exercise,” Wolcott said. “And there is always a rare bird out there and if you get it, it makes you a star.”

An AP member exchange.

Bundle up for a good cause, great tunes at Mitten Fest

Why wait until the temperatures warm to enjoy an outdoor music festival? On Feb. 7, Bay View bar Burnhearts will present its third annual Mitten Fest — a free, one-day music festival benefiting the Hunger Task Force.

Burnhearts owner William Seidel says the idea came as a result of an annual summer block party, a giant bash that takes over more than a block of Potter Avenue at the end of June. Two years ago, Seidel and the Burnhearts team got tired of waiting a whole year to host another event and realized there was nothing more Wisconsin than holding a music festival in the middle of a February afternoon.

Seidel said there were some doubts. He and the bar were inundated with comments like, “‘This is not going to work, and nobody’s gonna show up.’”

But the first two years proved the doubters wrong. Both concerts featured strong attendance and last year, Mitten Fest collected more than $2,500 for the Hunger Task Force, along with a ton of food and 36 giant bags of winter clothing.

“(The winter placement) gives people a little bit of light before the end of a dark tunnel,” Seidel said. “Going on its third year, it has become quite a big event.”

This year’s concert will feature Canopies, Greatest Lakes, Towers and Sin Bad. DJ Chris Schulist, a co–founder of local hip hop rarities record label Dope Folks Records, will provide music between sets.

Seidel said deciding who to select “boils down to who hasn’t played at the festival yet,” in part, but he also likes to pick acts that are on the upswing.

This year’s bands certainly qualify.

Synthpop quintet Canopies was recently featured on college radio tracker CMJ, thanks to promotion from WMSE. Greatest Lakes’ dreamy single “Looking In” was listed as one of the 10 best Milwaukee songs of 2014 by the Journal Sentinel’s Piet Levy. And both Towers and Sin Bad made waves when they debuted in the garage rock scene this year.

Seidel said playing in the cold can be daunting for bands, but he’s able to convince them to sign on by reminding them that “people who come don’t forget that show.”

In addition to the music and a craft fair, Mitten Fest will feature specialty drinks provided by the event’s sponsors: Central Waters Brewery, in Amherst, Wisconsin, and Founders Brewing Company, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Seidel said Founders was invited because you can’t have a Mitten Fest without inviting a brewery from the “Mitten State.”

The tastiest beverage might be Burnhearts’ own concoction: a specialty brandy old-fashioned. “We take old used bourbon barrels and fill them with Korbel brandy,” Seidel says. “In one of them we put 40 pounds of fresh ginger and simple syrup, and then we age it for quite a few months. The other one we put in all the fixings for a traditional Wisconsin old-fashioned.” The cocktails are sold at Mitten Fest and then the empty barrels are turned over to Central Waters, which will age beer in them for a year and sell the result at next year’s Mitten Fest.

It’s a tantalizing treat that Seidel said always draws attendees into Burnhearts — but they’re not the only local beneficiaries. “There are lots of other bars and restaurants in the neighborhood, and they love it when people show up to get warm, have something to eat or drink, and then head back,” Seidel said.

First-timers, take heed of Seidel’s parting suggestion: “Bring three pairs of socks, and make sure you have nice warm boots.”


Burnhearts’ third annual Mitten Fest is noon–8 p.m. on Feb. 7, at 2599 S. Logan Ave. Attendance is free, but food, clothing and cash donations for Hunger Task Force are encouraged. Visit facebook.com/burnheartsbar for more details.