Thursday, October 31, 2013

TITLE: READY FOR FREEZE-UP A Waterworks Column by Gordon Prickett for the 11/6/2013 Aitkin Independent Age READY FOR FREEZE-UP Our boats and dock were the last to come off the lake. That good October fishing weather that I waited for never happened, but otherwise it was a pretty good season. Now in the next month we should be making ice - for skating, snowmobiling, and fishing on our lakes. Once again I am reminded that there is no such thing as absolutely “Safe Ice,” as I will step out with an ice chisel to measure the thickness. I’ll be sure to do my skating near the edge of the lake, for starters. KEEPING THE LAKE CLEAN Water clarity in the lakes of this area continues to attract people. Those who live at the water’s edge for a time have the opportunity to help maintain this clean water. Using natural vegetative materials like grass clippings left on lawns, and composted wastes as soil amendments to borders and gardens, can take the place of chemical fertilizers. With an unmown buffer zone next to shore, limited impervious surfaces beside the lake, and creating rain gardens, we can control runoff and erosion that muddies the water. SEASON OF MIGRATION Whether it’s juncos and finches, “V” formations of geese, or the snowbird neighbors bound for the Florida Keys, many creatures are now on the move. Birders are noting dates when species arrive at their feeders. And warm-blooded retirees bid us goodbye until Spring. Some of us wouldn’t want to miss the Fish House Parade for anything!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

TITLE "WATER AND WILDLIFE FOR SIXTH GRADERS" A Waterworks Column by Gordon Prickett for the 10/2/2013 Aitkin Independent Age WATER AND WILDLIFE FOR SIXTH GRADERS Aitkin County sixth graders spent a day in early September at the Long Lake Conservation Center just east of Palisade. This year I followed the money that ACLARA, the Aitkin County Lakes And Rivers Association, donated to County Environmental Services to put on this “Environmental Education Day.” I attended Tuesday, September 10th, and joined the Hill City Sixth Grade through four hours of instruction and ate pizza with them at lunch time. The first hour was about “The Earth’s Water,” presented by the Minnesota Science Museum from St. Paul. For more than four billion years the same amount of water has cycled around the earth in clouds, rain, ground water, and surface water. Just 3% is fresh water and 97% is salt water. The ice caps hold 2% of this fresh water. The lesson is clear that we don’t want to waste any of the 1% that is left. Next we learned about the wild creatures in the state and met a few of them from the Minnesota Zoo. We have 78 kinds of mammals, and 22 amphibians. In Minnesota there are 31 kinds of reptiles, including 17 snakes. And there are 428 kinds of birds, with about 45 to 50 remaining year round. The traveling zoo visitors included a red-tailed hawk, an opossum, and a snake. After lunch naturalists from Long Lake presented a program about frogs and toads. Next we went down to the shore of Long Lake to scoop up sediment and water samples. We collected this material back in the laboratory and identified numerous lake bottom organisms with the aid of charts and microscopes. A BEAUTIFUL TIME OF YEAR Days and nights are now the about same length. Warm afternoons and crisp sleeping nights. Grass cutting is just about over for the season, and the water craft are calling. Before taking in our boats and docks, it is a fine time to enjoy the clear water and the colors that are beginning to turn around the shore. A few years ago we traveled across the Arrowhead, down the North Shore, over into Northern Wisconsin to observe the Fall colors of early October. But when we returned to Aitkin County, the most spectacular show was right here!