Once more, traveling Highway 12

I did a posting, on July 24 of this year, in which I began thinking about U.S. Highway 12, the road between Baraboo and Madison that I have been traveling my whole life.  I focused then on the magnificent quartzite outcroppings that are exposed in the Baraboo Hills — the remnant of an ancient mountain range that dates from an estimated 1,650 million years ago.

As I stated in my July posting, “The highway is, in fact, a living historical record of places, events and changes that have been an integral part of the region and of my life across these years.”

Traveling north toward Baraboo from Madison, just after crossing over the Baraboo Range, is a spot on the highway with significance to me.  Once, back in the late 1980s, my mother had been visiting us for a few days and I was driving her back to Baraboo.  We had made the long climb up and over the west bluff, had just started to coast back down the other side toward Baraboo, when my car suddenly went ‘dead.’  No response to the gas pedal, no sound of the motor, nothing.  I guess the brake must have worked, because we smoothly rolled over to the side of the road and stopped.  I was totally out of gas.  Never happened before in my entire life.  There was a farm house very near by.  I went to the door and shared our plight with the man who came to the door.  He very kindly filled a can with gasoline, brought it out to the car  and siphoned it into our tank.  My mother had the presence of mind to give him $10.  And we had a story to tell.  I never pass by that farm without remembering that event in our lives.

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Back to heading toward Madison again, looking east across the outwash plain, we come upon the final vestiges of the U.S. Badger Army Ammunition Works, built initially to help provide ammunition to the troops in WWII.  The “powder plant” as we called it was one of the largest in the country.  A village of houses and a school was built on the west side of the highway.  I remember staring out the car window at the guard houses along the highway and being able to see the guard with his rifle silhouetted inside. The plant was reactivated during the Korean War, and. to some extent, during the Vietnam War.  Gradually over the years, the buildings from the massive plant have been removed.  Controversy exists over the contaminated state of the land, and what it can be used for now that the plant is gone.  All that exists at this point is a museum, a rather lonely reminder of another age.  



There are three small towns between Baraboo and Madison.  Prairie du Sac is one of them.  The name means “Prairie of the Sauk;” Sauk refers to a Native American tribe indigenous to the area.  The next town, close by, is Sauk City.  The county where Baraboo is located is Sauk County.  Wisconsin has many cities and towns and rivers that have names reflecting Native American origins.  Prairie du Sac is well known in the area for the large numbers of bald eagles that congregate along the nearby Wisconsin River during certain times of the year.  A viewing platform has been built right downtown, overlooking the river. to enable people to watch for the eagles. You can see the image of an eagle on the left stone pillar of the Prairie du Sac sign; you can also see a sampling of small town entertainment being advertised.                                                                                   



Lastly, moving on toward Madison, driving up and over another of Wisconsin’s rolling hills (appropriately named Sauk Hill), a small gravestone used to be visible close to the highway, on the left, at the edge of a nearby woodsy area.  At some point in our many travels on the highway, we realized the gravestone was no longer there.  Ed and I were intrigued, and finally one day we stopped to explore.  We walked through the brush and into the woods and quite soon found a whole cemetery, with graves dating back into the 1800s.  “Oh, here’s a gravestone.  Oh, here’s another.  Oh, there’s a whole bunch of them!”   We had discovered a ‘secret’ cemetery.   Most of the epitaphs were in German, presumably from an early German settlement.  Such a strong reminder of an earlier time, before Wisconsin became a state, when early European people, in this case immigrants from Germany, were arriving in the area and settling down to make a new home.   I was on Highway 12 recently and was going to stop to once more find the cemetery in the woods.  But I was surprised to find the brush and trees so thick that I found it daunting to try to fight my way through.  A Highway 12 widening to 4 lanes that took place in recent years was obviously respectfully diverted around the area where the cemetery is located.  So, this ‘final resting place’ is presumably still there and still on the survey maps.  Rest in Peace.


Ah — the Wild Things Again

I wrote a posting, maybe a year ago, about the presence of wild things in our urban neighborhood — a deer in the yard next door, turkey vultures roosting in the big spruce tree in our neighbor’s back yard on their way north in the spring, a fox making the circuit in our back yard one morning at breakfast time.  Our neighborhood blog includes sightings of coyotes, opossums, and raccoons by others in the area.  There is something life giving about having wild creatures right here in our daily lives. Such sightings are often moments of gentle excitement and pleasure for us (apart from the opossum, which is not a thing of beauty by any stretch of the imagination).

Well, here is another kind of wild thing.

Corydalis ochroleuca

This little beauty planted itself in the depths of one of our window wells — a spot with very little exposed soil and little or no direct sunlight.  I noticed the flower and photographed it through a window in our basement (that’s the window sill on the bottom of the picture),

There is something very cheerful about this wayward plant.  We have some Corydalis planted by design in our backyard garden, but this little lady wanted to pick her own site, overcoming hardships of marginal soil and light to take root at the bottom of a window well.  A sign of an adventurous spirit and escape from the planned boundaries of the garden.  I felt a surge of “gentle excitement and pleasure” upon discovering it, and I have been daily finding enjoyment in its presence since.  A small example of the beauty that we can find in our everyday lives.  .

Putting Food on the Table

Gone are the days when most people have kitchen gardens from which they can harvest seasonal fruits and vegetables for their daily meals.  I got to thinking recently about the many other possibilities that now exist here in Madison, and presumably in many places, for getting food on the table.  Meals on Wheels, probably the earliest and only food delivery service to people in their homes, is now one of an amazing variety of other services and businesses, many that bring food to the neighborhood or front door.

Probably pizza delivery was one of the first options for home delivery, its arrival signaled by the sound of the doorbell.  Since those early days, many other restaurants deliver meals as well.  In the newspaper last week was an article about two young entrepreneurs who are starting a meal delivery business for a whole list of restaurants — well beyond the pizza delivery model.

Grocery stores now have large deli sections filled with fully prepared salads and pasta dishes and twice baked potatoes, all ready to put on the table.  In addition, there are hot entrees ready to go — rotisserie chickens, pizza slices, sesame chicken, macaroni and cheese, meat loaf, etc.  Some of the large grocery stores also offer a service by “personal shoppers;” these shoppers are employees whose job it is to do the grocery shopping for people who can no longer get to the store themselves. These customers submit lists of what they need and the shoppers gather all the items into carts, bag them up and send the groceries to the people’s homes in a van.

If not to the front door, then foods may be brought to the neighborhood, such as the farmers’ markets that are wildly popular — at least in the Midwestern part of the United States.  We have a huge farmers’ market here during spring, summer and fall, all around the capitol square on every Saturday morning.  And there are smaller neighborhood Farmers’ Markets as well on other days of the week.

This past summer, somebody organized a weekly Food Carts night in our neighborhood park, just two blocks away from our house — another alternative to cooking the evening meal.

Recently, friends of mine told me about a “fresh ingredients and recipe delivery service” called the Blue Apron.  They have signed on for 3 recipes a week.  The Blue Apron has videos on line that offer instruction in the preparation of the recipes and the  recipes are never repeated in the same year.  The Blue Apron website declares that it “delivers everything you need to cook incredible meals at home.”

And now I’ve discovered that my son and daughter-in-law have signed on to a non-profit agency– Community Supported Agriculture —  that supports local farms by pairing up households with specific farms.  The farm owners deliver bags of fresh vegetables and fruit, and sometimes eggs, cheese or  herbs, to a household station for pickup weekly or biweekly during the growing season.  I have seen signs for CSA at pick-up points around the city.

All of this awareness of food and meal sources has led me to think about the time spent as rehabilitation occupational therapists, working with patients to help them function in an adapted kitchen — to enable them to prepare, cook and serve meals when they are discharged home.  Such a focus in therapy remains valued and needed, but information about other ways to go about getting a meal on the table can also be helpful and an eye-opener.  At the very least, we as occupational therapists need to be well informed about what all the options are in our home territory. We want to be able to appropriately provide information and guidance on the best way for each person with whom we work to put food on the table when he or she goes back home to resume life in the community.