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AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

News & Information

News and information, interviews, weather, upcoming events, music, school news, and many special features. North Shore Morning includes our popular trivia question - Pop Quiz! The North Shore Morning program is the place to connect with the people, culture and events of our region!


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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School

School News from Sawtooth Mtn. Elementary: November 26

Sawtooth News MP3 22 November.mp35.59 MB

Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on what we're grateful for. In this edition of Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School News, students share what they are thankful for during this holiday season.

Snow & Needles (Eli Sagor/Flickr)

Wildersmith: November 23

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Back in the woods once more, after another whirlwind trip to Iowa to care for some family illness matters. It’s great to be home to the sereneness of border country.
The venture into semi-civilized urban America finds confusion reigning supreme with way too many people and nightmarish traffic. They call where we live unorganized territory, hah! I guess I’m just getting old and probably way too cynical, only need to be out in the woods!
My return finds that little has been accomplished in the advance on winter. In fact, as I key this segment, it is has been unseasonably warm for this late in month 11.
The forest floor remains dry and uncovered, while some of the lakes that had iced over before my departure have given way to liquid again. Thus, Mother Nature is forsaking the “freezing over moon” of November which is the lunar moniker in Ojibwe lore.
As the territory celebrates this Thanksgiving time we have stepped back into October-like weather. One would hope that the present conditions are not an indicator of another un-winter. Yours truly is thinking that perhaps the full moon of next week will shine down on the northland and usher in a gust from the “great northern express.”
The area is extremely quiet as we offer thanks for the bounty with which we have been blessed. Several of the year-round folks have even trekked off to points south for the turkey day extravaganza. The only activity along the Mile O Pine is that of the wild neighborhood critters, and they have plenty for which to give thanks with my daily provisions.
Speaking of critters, our white tail population can breathe a little easier now with the closing of rifle hunting season last Sunday. Deer have three nemeses as I see it: predators (wolves), fast-moving vehicles and stalkers with guns. Taking whistling slugs out of the equation for another year will improve survival chances by one-third. How about that you deer, only two worries now!  
I don’t know how the venison seekers have done in these parts, but I’m guessing they did OK. Those I know usually put meat in the freezer. Success is in the eyes of the beholder. Hunting, like fishing, is always good, but sometimes the shooting/catching is not. It seems to me the biggest thrill that comes with this pursuit and shoot experience must be from the quiet anticipation while out in this magical wilderness creation. It’s just a bonus if game is taken home.
Last Thursday was the annual statewide Give to the Max day for favorite non-profits. Word comes from the Gunflint Trail Historical Society that many friends and supporters opened their hearts and wallets to donate over $4,500 to the organization in this year’s endeavor.
The amount given placed the GTHS among the top 12 recipients from the northeast Minnesota region according to the Duluth News Tribune rankings. Thanks to everyone who made this happen! If you didn’t get to support this worthwhile event, it’s not too late to make an end of the year donation, just go to the GTHS website for more information.
As if the year 2012 hasn’t whizzed by fast enough, here we are traipsing off into the holiday season. In fact, the turmoil of the coming blitz started before Halloween with the onslaught of catalogs and media ads coming from every which way. The aura of this wonderful, but overindulgent, season across the U.S. seems to just about consume everything and everybody. The Smiths even have a Christmas cactus that is so excited that it bloomed unusually early, shortly after ghosts and goblins time.
See you at the Mall, it’s Black Friday! Oops, you won’t actually see me there. I’ll be shopping in Grand Marais, by mail order and online. The UPS man will be toting my deliveries up this way in his 250-horse, shiny brown buggy. That Mr. UPS is some kind of Santa!
Keep on hangin, on and savor the dream of wilderness adventure!

Airdate: November 23, 2012

Beau Larson and Carl Hansen

West End News: November 22

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Beau Larson and Carl Hansen from Lutsen and Tofte are independent filmmakers who are both graduates of the University of Montana Media Arts program and Cook County High School.  They recently collaborated on the production of “Breaking Trail,” a film about the North Shore, Lutsen and the growing mountain biking scene here in the West End. There will be a Hollywood-style premiere for the film at North House Folk School Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., complete with a red carpet and paparazzi. Although there will be bouncers at the door with a “guest list,” it is all in fun, and everyone is welcome with no charge.  Snacks and refreshments will be served.
Carl and Beau were recently featured on the popular television program, The Playlist, hosted by Karen Sunderman on WDSE, Channel 8, in Duluth.  The well-done program highlighted the young filmmakers’ creativity and success by weaving together interviews with footage from “Breaking Trail” and other films they have made.  You can watch the Playlist story online at or just Google “Channel 8 Playlist.”
As everyone knows, the recent accidental explosion at the Taconite Harbor power plant in Schroeder caused serious injuries and burns to Joe Fredrickson from Silver Bay. Joe is recovering slowly in the burn unit at Miller Dwan in Duluth. He has undergone a series of painful and difficult skin grafts, but is showing continuous improvement and is expected to make a full recovery. You can follow Joe’s progress on the Caring Bridge website by searching it for Joseph Fredrickson.
At the most recent meeting of the Taconite Harbor Citizen’s Advisory Panel, power plant manager Dave Rannetsberger talked about the accident, Joe’s recovery, and the ongoing investigation into the cause. He said that three different investigation teams have conducted detailed inquiries. It will be a while until the results are made public, but it is obvious that the explosion was caused by coal dust coming in contact with an ignition source. Meanwhile the power plant has been, and remains, shut down while repairs are made and a new set of safety protocols are developed to prevent any chance of a similar accident in the future. 
The explosion was so powerful that it blew the ceiling off the room where it occurred. All four walls were bulged out and extensive damage was done to equipment. Dave commented that he was glad to have several well-trained first responders on hand to begin treating Joe immediately after the accident, which very likely helped reduce the severity of his injuries.  Dave also had high praise for the Schroeder, Tofte, and Lutsen fire departments.
Another piece of bad news was received this week with the announcement that Northshore Mining in Silver Bay would be shutting down two furnaces in the taconite plant.  It is estimated that 125 workers will be laid off in Minnesota, but it isn’t clear how many of those will be cut from the plant and how many from the mine.  Unfortunately, those most recently hired are most likely to be laid off, so breadwinners for quite a few young families will soon be out of work.  They will be eligible for unemployment benefits, but many have not accrued much supplemental wage support that the company pays to laid off workers. The plant’s owner, Cliffs Natural Resources, says that they are making the cuts quickly in response to market conditions, hoping that by doing so they can reduce the length of the layoff.  Although the announcement was made last week, the furnaces won’t be shut down until shortly after the first of the year.
The ice on area lakes continues to come and go with the big swings in our local weather conditions.  Sawbill Lake is about half thawed at this writing and appears to be on its way to losing most of its ice for the second time this season. Looking at the forecast though, I think the next freeze up will be the one that lasts until spring.
In this season of thanksgiving, let me wish everyone in the extended West End community a safe and happy holiday season.

Gray Wolf - photo by Tracy Brooks, USFWS

DNR wolf specialist Dan Stark on Minnesota's inaugural wolf hunt

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The early season for Minnesota's first regulated wolf hunt has closed with nearly 150 wolves killed.
The state Department of Natural Resources numbers show that by the Sunday, November 18th 10 p.m. deadline for registering the last day's wolf kills, hunters reported 147 animals taken in the state's three zones.  The northwest zone had 78 wolves killed, followed by the northeast with 61 and the east central zone with eight. 
The DNR had set a limit of 200 wolves for the early season. The number that weren't taken to reach the limit will be added to the second season, which is open to both hunters and trappers. That season runs from November 24th to January 31st. The limit for both seasons is 400.
The DNR issued 3,600 permits for the early wolf-hunting season and 2,400 for the late season.
The region's wolves were taken off the endangered list last January.

DNR Wolf specialist Dan Stark spoke with WTIP morning show host Mary Manning on Tuesday, November 20 about how the early season went and what to expect in the upcoming late hunting and trapping season. 



Anishinaabe Way: Wendy Quade

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Wendy Quade has taught Anishinaabemowin and American History at Cloquet Sr. High School for ten years. In this edition of Anishinaabe Way, Ms. Quade and her students share their hard work in learning how to speak the Ojibwe language.

Ms. Quade also discusses the importance of indigenous language retention and cultural history curriculum in our schools.

(Photos by Staci Drouillard)

Jupiter (LeydenBlue/Flickr)

Northern Sky: Jupiter dominates in late November

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Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column. In this edition of Northern Sky, Deane explains the apparition of Jupiter, one of the brightest objects in the sky; its opposition (which is supposed to be a nice one); and how to differentiate it from the stars around it by location and color. We can also see Venus and Saturn, the November full moon, and much more.

Read this month's Starwatch column.

Preschool Teacher Amanda Hand

School News from Sawtooth Mtn. Elementary: November 19

Sawtooth MP3 News 15 November.mp38.34 MB

Minnesota law requires all families to participate in early child screenings. In this edition of Sawtooth Elementary School News, preschool teacher Amanda Hand explains how early child screenings work.

If you would like to know more about early child screening, please contact Lynn Schields at the Early childhood and Family Education office at 218-387-2271, ext.  446.

Billy Mills

School News from Cook County Middle School, November 16

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It’s National Native American Heritage Month. Cook County Middle School students celebrated this event with a visit from Olympian Billy Mills. Learn more in this edition of CCMS News.

Ice skating on a frozen lake - photo by Anneli Salo

West End News: November 15

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Time is short to make your reservations for the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum's third annual storytelling dinner.  This popular event will be hosted by Lutsen Resort Saturday, Dec. 1. The storyteller will be Adolph Ojard, who is currently the executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. Adolph is a Knife River native and the grandson of two distinguished North Shore fishing families, the Ojards and the Torgersens.  He will talk about his experience with commercial fishing in the ‘50s and ‘60s, as well as a peek into the future of commercial fishing in Lake Superior.  Social hour starts at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6:30.  Call Lutsen Resort for reservations at 663-7212.  There is a reasonable charge for the dinner, as it is the main fundraiser of the year for the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte.
I want to give a shout out to Senja Ahlgren and her staff at the AmericInn - Tofte for a recent effort that they made to support military veterans and their families in Cook County. As part of a national effort by the AmericInn hotel franchise, Senja and her staff gathered donations from local businesses and individuals to make up bags of products and certificates that were distributed to Cook County veterans that encourage family activities and togetherness.  As always in the West End, everyone got behind the effort and 70 bags were distributed to veteran families in Cook County.  Thanks to AmericInn - Tofte and all the volunteers and donors for their good work.
And while I'm on the subject of good works, The Tofte Branch of Grand Marais State Bank will have a "Giving Tree" again this year for the holidays. The bank is collecting referrals of anyone who could really use an extra surprise or two this holiday season. In order to keep it confidential, they ask for the gender and age, and the person or group who will be responsible to pick up the gift at the bank by Dec. 18 for delivery before Christmas.  For information, talk to Nancy at the bank in Tofte or e-mail Patty Nordahl at Birch Grove Community Center at or call 663-7977.
I was very impressed, again this year, by the amazing energy created by the annual Bluegrass Masters weekend at Lutsen Resort, sponsored by the North Shore Music Association.  For the last 22 years, this event has filled Lutsen Resort to the gills with musicians and music fans for a weekend of jam sessions, workshops, concerts and musical networking. I only mention this event after the fact because I think it flies a little under the radar with local folks. It's a really interesting and entertaining thing to witness, just as a cultural event, if nothing else. The public is welcome to walk through the resort and listen to the dozens of jam sessions that break out in every nook and cranny. The level of musicianship is amazingly high, with some of the best acoustic musicians from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario mixed in with amateurs and beginners. 
I urge every Cook County resident to check it out when it rolls around next year on the first weekend in November. In addition to the musical fun, it is a great model for promoting tourism during the shoulder season when business drops dramatically. I can picture any number of events that could make use of excess resort capacity, contribute to the local economy and provide great entertainment for local people.
This continues to be a dramatic year for ice formation on Sawbill Lake.  The lake froze over about 70 percent back on Nov. 2.  By Nov. 7, the ice had completely disappeared in the face of warm temperatures and rain. Then, on the night of Nov. 13 it skimmed over again. Based on the forecast, it is very likely that it will thaw again. It is a rare phenomenon for the lake to freeze, thaw and re-freeze in a given year. If it does indeed thaw and freeze again, it will be first time in almost 60 years, at least, that it has frozen and thawed twice before the final freeze up.  And who knows… maybe it will freeze four times before we're done.  As I've discussed this interesting phenomenon around town, the conversation always ends with people saying to me, "Let me know if it freezes smooth enough for skating."  Rest assured that I will post to Boreal News if that happy condition develops!

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Nellie - the Bourbon Red turkey (photo by Carah Thomas)

Magnetic North: Old memories and new beginnings

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Welcome back to Magnetic North, where the blustery winds of winter stir old memories. So very, very many memories of getting the farm ready for winter and the holidays - they warm my heart, if not my fingers and toes!
This time of year Paul and I usually get our woodpile restocked and stacked. AND we haul half a dozen bales of golden dry straw to the goat barn and another two to the chicken coop. We overdo it, spreading the stuff in all corners and mounding it about two feet deep - so it’s really the human equivalent of dressing the bed with flannels and comforters.
For the past three years, Paul hasn’t been able to help. In March of ‘09 he broke his hip in a nasty late March ice and snowstorm while carrying water to the chicken coop! As terrible as that was, Paul’s health was already compromised. Five years before the broken hip, doctors at the Mayo Clinic said Paul had “mild cognitive impairment.” Simply put, his brain was getting smaller.
Well, so big deal, I thought, what 79-year-old guy doesn’t have have a cog or two impaired? And for a few years more, until the broken hip and three operations, Paul carried on much as always. True, in the summer of ‘08, I became the sole driver in the family. And then there were some errors in judgment - putting hot embers from the fireplace into a paper grocery bag stands out - that no old boy scout would ever make. Eventually our denial caved. Our life was getting smaller too. 
With the relentless shrinkage of his brain went Paul's marvelous talent for thinking through a project, like putting a new deck on the chicken coop or building a bird feeder. Then away went his ability to dress himself, or write his name or read.  But never, ever his sense of humor… handy thing when living with me. Not to mention a horde of accident-prone critters. 
And every single day, come snow, fog, wind or what have you, Paul would look out the windows and marvel that we could ever have found such a magical place. I couldn't imagine his ever leaving here. And I knew I would do anything to keep him where he loved being. 
And then one day Paul looked out the window and shocked me by asking “When can we go home?” It was one of the cruelest moments for me, to know that he had lost his sense of place. A place he cherished. About that time there were other frightening changes. His mind told him to walk when he couldn’t. Or to get out of bed to leave the house in the middle of the night. 
It was time. On Sept. 19 Paul moved to the Veterans Home in Silver Bay. The hardest day of my life. And probably his too.
As I write this, I am looking out the window facing the barn. A ridiculous and yet beautiful female turkey is staring in the window at me, willing me to get off my duff and feed her. The grass holds on to just a tinge of green following the morning frost and the goats wander in slow motion around and around the corral. Going into their winter trance where all that matters is the morning hay. The evening grain. And someone to keep their straw deep and sweet.
Soon I will get in the car and drive for an hour to see Paul at the Veterans Home. But first, he and I will do chores. 
Yes, I said “we.”  ‘Cause when you do something seasonally for 20-some years with another person, they are there, in spirit, from then on. For instance, in the barn yesterday, I could almost hear Paul chastising me for forgetting to bring the chore scissors needed to cut the binding twine off the straw bales. And in the coop, I imagined he’d take one look at the oldest nest box hanging by a splinter and say, “Why don’t you pop for a new box, one of those metal jobs, and just burn that piece of garbage?”
Believe me, the giggles are few and far between in these first months without Paul in the house. After living with and loving him for 25 years, with the last five being with him pretty much 24/7, I am in a bit of a daze. A daze broken often with tears over the smallest thing. Besides that, now that I am caregiver to only a motley crew of critters, I hardly know what to do with myself. When to eat. When to get up or go to bed. 
I found that as that as Paul’s impairment increased, my own mental and physical health declined. And even though I have probably never prayed so often and so fervently in my life, spiritually I was in rough shape as well.
In the beginning I tried hiring help, respite people to spend a few hours with Paul one day a week. But frankly, it was so expensive that I felt unable to do anything on my free day that required spending money. That’s when Care Partners came into my life by way of a friend who had just trained as one of their first volunteers. 
What this great local organization did for me was provide a volunteer, free of charge, to stay with Paul so I could have an afternoon off. Also free, came a registered nurse visit monthly. My "caregiver coach," she called herself. And what a great coach she was and still is.  Because when I began thinking of the next step of Paul’s and my journey together, she was there to help me think things through. Tough things made tougher by raw emotions and fatigue.
I know that had I kept Paul at home, which was always my goal, Care Partners would have helped and supported me 100 percent in that. And when I came to the conclusion that moving him was best for him and me, they were there too. They still are and will be the whole way. What a priceless gift.
And while I will never be able to repay them, I came up with a scheme to give back. Some smidgen back. It’s something that actually started many years ago with Paul’s decision to let the east end of our meadow grow up in spruce trees. It was so rocky hardly any hay grew there, but now there is a large and handsome stand of Christmas trees, within shouting distance of our house.
And so for the next three Sundays I will host a Christmas tree cutting benefit at Paul’s and my farm. Kids are welcome. Dogs have to stay in the vehicle since the goats and geese will be loose. All that is asked is a donation to Care Partners in exchange for a tree. Details are on the WTIP website, in the paper and on the Boreal calendar. 
Paul was so happy when I told him about it this week. Nothing gave him more joy than sharing our place with friends, old and new. And since the tree stand was his idea to begin with I know he will be there in spirit.  Just as he is when I do chores, chop kindling or watch the mallard flock set down on our pond. 
For this place holds on to to those who love it. It hugs us close and warms us for years to come. Come see for yourselves. Come and cut a tree on Sunday. Cider and cookies and memories, are free.