Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wisconsin Native American culture and history with Patty Loew

Welcome, Professor Patty Loew, PhD, to the Barn Door.
Patty is a professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication, documentary producer, and former broadcast journalist in public and commercial television. A member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe, she is the author of three books: Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal, Native People of Wisconsin, which is used by 15,000 Wisconsin school children as a middle school social studies textbook, and Seventh Generation Earth Ethics, a collection of biographies of Native American environmental leaders in Wisconsin. She has produced many documentaries for public and commercial television, including the award-winning Way of the Warrior, which aired nationally on PBS in 2007 and 2011. Watch the episode here. Her outreach work focuses on Native American youth and digital storytelling. Visit her website.

What led you to specialize in Communications? 
You know, I really just stumbled into it.  I was a physical education major at UW-La Crosse and thought I'd be a gym teacher. I had grown up in Milwaukee in a neighborhood of boys and was pretty competitive. But I was excited by every class I took in college, so I kept changing majors--history, political science, theater, recreation, English, Speech. It was crazy, but I was responsible in my craziness, taking time to fill out the paperwork every time I changed direction. Finally, I went to a counseling and testing center, and, after a battery of tests, discovered that I had a short, but intense attention span. The counselor suggested journalism, where I could explore all my interests. I took my first communication class and that was it. I was hooked. I have never regretted the decision to become a journalist. It enriched my life and gave me access to people and places I never otherwise would have been able to experience. It was a pretty seamless transition from journalism to academia. The research skills are the same, the daily writing, the emphasis on facts rather than opinions—all of this was very similar. My academic interest was history, so this too felt familiar. I’ve always thought that journalists write the first drafts of history—“late-breaking” history— you might say.

What are your main goals as a Professor, as a Communicator, and as a member of the Bad River Band?
I want to learn from people who love their craft (whatever it is). I enjoyed being a journalist and want to communicate that joy, along with the techniques, the obligations, and the ethics of telling stories. I want my students to get excited about what they’re learning. I want to tell the stories of people who can’t tell their own stories—the people who lack power and access, people like Native Americans. I’ve been working with the young people of Bad River to teach them digital storytelling techniques. Our community has been under assault from mining companies and factory farms. We’re trying to protect our natural resources and our cultural way of life. I want to help grow the next generation of storytellers and land stewards.

What is the hardest part of your work today?
I work with such dedicated people at all levels of the University, but we’re staggering under the weight of unprecedented budget cuts. More students, fewer professors, fewer classes offered, larger classes (mine have gone from 20 to 60 students over the past 10 years), fewer positions for graduate students, cutbacks in routine maintenance for public spaces and offices, etc. It’s demoralizing. I see other universities investing in people and in new technology and I really worry that we are losing our competitive advantage and allowing one of the greatest university systems in the country and perhaps the world to decline.

What do you love most about your efforts as a writer and producer? 
When I actually have time to write or produce a film, I feel a little guilty, like I’m getting away with something. I enjoy teaching and my outreach activities, but research and writing is so stimulating. I just wish I could have an extended period of time—say, six months to do nothing but write. My writing now takes place at night or on weekends, so I’m sacrificing sleep or family time to do it.

Can you share anything about your next project? 

I'm working on a revised Teachers Guide to Native People of WisconsinNative People is the middle school textbook I wrote that is used by about 18,000 fourth and fifth graders in Wisconsin. There is an educational mandate (Act 31) that requires all schools to teach about Wisconsin Indian history, culture, sovereignty, and treaty rights. This book is used to meet that mandate. The Teachers Guide is almost finished and should come out this year.

Thank you, Professor Loew, for visiting the BarnDoor and sharing about yourself and the educational work going on today in Wisconsin. Visit Patty's website and Amazon Page to read more about her books, or check out Wisconsin Historical Press for Seventh Generation and her other work, and take time to watch the film, Way of the Warrior.

        Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal, 2 Edition     Native People of Wisconsin, Revised Edition (New Badger History)     Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal

Friday, February 5, 2016

An Iowa Girl in Narnia

  1. I've experienced winter my whole life. Snow … lots of it. The season's first snowfall always excites me, and when we walk around town after dark, glittering white transforms every single little thing.

But something about mountain snowfall takes the fever to a whole new level. Here in Pine, Arizona, elevation around 5,000 feet, great Ponderosa pines hung heavy with sixteen or so inches of snow one morning.

During a break in the storm, Lance and I walked around in awe for over an hour, with him snapping pictures. And he's been around snow his whole life, too.

"They can have the valley," he quipped, meaning Phoenix and surrounds. Most Iowans think we're going to bask in the warm sun when we trek down here, but not so much.

This incredible beauty has the feel of Narnia, but the next picture reminds me where we are.

Our back deck overlooks Pine Creek Canyon, with a glorious mix of towering sycamore, Ponderosa pine, juniper, manzanita, and holly, plus an apple orchard.

So many branches and twigs immersed in heavy, clinging snow.

In the distance rises the Mogollon Rim, upon which General Crook's soldiers built the Rim Road. Ahhh….the history! Can't even imagine trekking through this area in those days, especially in winter.

Part of the difference between our enjoyment here and in the Midwest may be that we have no deadlines, no iffy roads to tackle. We stocked up with enough food for a week and had plenty of fuel and wood to burn.

Besides that, Lance has a new hobby, and I'm a born cheerleader. Consider this bright little woodpecker he snapped high in a Ponderosa pine, hunkering down for the night about thirty feet above us in a dead tree ...

Does it get better than this?

Just this old midwest girl's take on a gorgeous winter day at the top of the world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Road Trip 2015 - Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

If you live long enough you become a part of history. The Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the end of the Berlin Wall are all a part of my life history. Yes, I went through those atomic bomb drills where we had to scramble under our school desks when we heard the air raid siren sound and hide our eyes from what we were told would be a blinding blast of light. (Those drills have now turned into tornado drills.) No one mentioned that if the bomb did go off there probably wouldn't be any of us left to worry about our sight.

The Cold War was defined as an ideological, economic, and political struggle between the United States and at that time, the U.S.S.R. (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). I'd rather call it like it was/is: an old fashioned line drawn, cross it and you're dead. It was and continues to be a stand off of what is called deterrence strategy: If you bomb us, we'll bomb you and our bombs are bigger.

The Minuteman missile designed back in the 1950s was an intercontinental ballistic missile and part of our air, land and sea based nuclear capability. The Minuteman I and II missiles were to be deployed from underground silos, launched by crews who were stationed miles away. These sites are no longer active but there continues to be others that are.

In 1999 Congress established two 1960s missile sites that were to be national historic sites. They include Delta-09, a missile silo, and Delta-01, a launch control facility. The information center for the historical site is actually a short distance away from the launch control facility and about a twenty minute ride or so from the missile silo, Delta-09. We started there.

Bob's research told him that we needed to get there early to get tickets. They only allow six people on the tour at a time. The space inside the launch control facility can only hold that many. Once we had the tickets (free), we spent some time viewing the video and looking at the temporary information displays. Sometime soon all the papered walls with the information will become permanent displays. Then we got in the car and back on I-90 to the next exit to tour the launch control facility.

We waited with several others outside a fenced in area that had all sorts of warnings to trespassers. While we waited, I noticed a coded message and a challenge to decipher it. It wasn't hard. I imagine our codes are much more intricate than that. I'd tell you what it was but then. . .

One of two key holes.
Our park ranger guide was excellent, very informative and really knew her stuff. She's also learning some as she goes because there are often men who served at the sites coming to revisit them with their families. Lots of stories to share.

Basically, the launch control site had about a dozen men at the site at a time. Several were on security detail, two were missileers who spent their time in the capsule at the controls, and then of course a cook. They were deployed from an Air Force base about an hour away. The missileers would spend 24 hour shifts in the underground capsule that had all the controls and were prepared to each use a key--a double safety system to deploy a missile should the command come. The keyholes were about twelve feet apart so it would take both of them turning the keys at the same time for launch.

A little missile humor.
The security men were there to monitor the alarms and check on breaches of the silo areas. Unfortunately in the early days, the settings were so delicate that squirrels and rabbits would set the alarms off and the men would be out, often in the weather, finding nothing wrong. This was not lost on the local youth who, for a fun time, would toss a rabbit over the fence to trigger the alarm. Eventually a better security system was implemented and save a lot of false alarms.

We explored the upper levels of the control center that had living quarters, a lounge, a kitchen, and a security office with monitors. An elevator took us below ground to the launch control center which is like a large capsule suspended inside a cement cavern. It has its own life support and was equipped for seven days of survival but as we all agreed if you had to launch a nuclear weapon there probably wouldn't be much reason to want to survive. Not much would be left of our world.

Delta-09 silo.
Lots of information can be found at the NPS site if you want to learn more. After our foray into the Badlands and Wall Drug, we went to the actual silo. On a sign at the fence entrance is the number you can dial for an audio tour. Bob dialed in and walked around the fenced in area while I sat in the shade. The sun was blazing and I'd already seen the missile in the silo. He was thrilled though at all the other information he gleaned.

Probably the most impacting information I received that day though came when our ranger guide showed a map of the area where Hiroshima is in Japan. There was a small black dot ringed by a red circle that turned pink as it radiated out. It indicated the whole area on the map where the atomic bomb had wiped out the city. She explained the power of the Minuteman II missiles but it didn't make sense until she flipped her map over and showed the illustration of what a Minuteman would have done. The area on the map was at least 10X bigger.

She went on to explain that we now have Minuteman III missiles with even more fire power. I shivered as I thought, "And we are not the only ones on this earth with that capability." I hate scary thoughts.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Twinkie, Twinkie Little Cake

by Connie Cortright

Our trip down memory lane this month takes us to a food that our grandparents might have tasted and can still be found on the grocery shelves today. Hostess Twinkies have been around for eighty-five years, invented on April 6, 1930 in River Forest, Illinois.

Hostess brand named snacks were sold originally in the 1920s by the Continental Bakeries Company. At that time, they sold a product called Hostess Little Shortbread Fingers, which included a strawberry filing in the little cakes. They sound yummy! This product sold well, but was only produced during a couple weeks in June when strawberries were ripe in Illinois.

James Dewar, the vice president of the Chicago plant, wanted to find a use for the Shortbread Fingers baking pans during the rest of the year. He baked some of the shortbread cakes and injected them with banana cream filling and named them Twinkies, a name he came up with when he saw a billboard advertising Twinkle-Toe Shoes. Seems like an odd thing to name something after, but it stuck!

The newly invented snack was an instant hit when it arrived on the shelves. Two Twinkies were sold for a nickel back then, a price even a mother could love. The one big problem they had was that Twinkies had a two day shelf life, so a Hostess truck had to replace the supply every two days. I imagine that they must have been only sold to local stores at that time.

The recipe was later changed to replace the milk, eggs, and butter to have a longer shelf life. This also improved when the snack was sealed in cellophane wrappers. Today Twinkies have a shelf life of twenty-five days.

The banana cream filling was changed to the well-known vanilla crème filling during World War II. The banana shortage caused by the war precipitated this change, but the vanilla filling was well-received by all. Wish I could have tasted the banana flavored Twinkies. They've been vanilla filled most of the time since then.

Twinkies has been a snack in lunch boxes or after school for generations. The only time they haven't been in production was during the last part of 2012 and first half of 2013 when Hostess Company filed for bankruptcy. Apollo Global Management bought up the company in early 2013 allowing Twinkies to return to production by July of that year. Thank goodness for that!

What is your first memory of eating this delicious snack?

Information taken from Delish - History of Snack Foods

Friday, January 29, 2016

Velvet Shoes

This past year I reconnected with one of my best friends from college. We both tended to be dreamers and idealists. My favorite poem then is my favorite yet: 'The Mist and All' by Dixie Wilson. Her favorite was (and maybe still is) ‘Velvet Shoes.’ I revisited it this morning and it reminds me that, while not a fan of cold, I’m blessed to live in the Midwest where each season has its own peculiar beauty.

Velvet Shoes

Let us walk in the white snow
          In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
          At a tranquil pace,
          Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,
          And you in wool,
White as white cow's milk,
          More beautiful
          Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
          In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
          Upon silver fleece,
          Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
          Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
          On white silence below.
          We shall walk in the snow.

Elinor Wylie

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowman Craft

This lovely craft is easy, fun to make, no snow required. It's much more fun if you have a few friends over to share treats and talents. Allow three hours from start to finish.

The cost is $25 or less, depending on if you plan ahead and shop bargains.

If everyone brings their own felt, ribbon, and letter or other decoration,
each lady will have something that fits the color scheme she chooses.

You can make available various bits of trim, beads, flowers, buttons, glitter, and paints so each can be fancied up to the creator's taste.

I made this one intending for it to welcome friends at our chocolate brown door. Unfortunately, the dark wreath didn't stand out well in that setting, and is much more lively decorating the kitchen wall. As an alternate idea, I could've sprayed or touched up the grapevine with white paint, which would've stood out on the brown door.

Buy two grapevine wreaths. One slightly larger than the other.

With floral wire wrap the two together with the smaller one on top.
With wide burlap ribbon, cover the wiring. Hot glue to secure.
Using more wide burlap wrap as you would a scarf and make a bow. Hot glue to secure.

Paint a purchased letter of your family initial. Let it dry.

Cut from felt two mitten shapes. (To save some time you can purchase small mittens and/or a stocking cap.)

Hot glue a length of twine joining them. (as when your mother bought gloves that used to thread through your coat.)

Position and hot glue onto the lower grapevine.

Cut from felt 2 shapes of a stovepipe hat OR 2 rounded shapes, as in the above picture. Hot glue the edges, but leave the bottom open. When the glue is dry, stuff with cotton balls, batting, or newspaper.
Hot glue in place on the top wreath.

Add trim and add finishing touches, hot gluing as needed.

You can twist floral wire to create a hanger on the back of the top wreath.

I hope you have as much fun putting this together as I had with friends. It's amazing to see the variety and personalities expressed with each of the snowmen/ snow ladies. They make great gifts, too.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

There's a POET in our neighborhood!

I love beans, don't you? 

In a house full of boys and men, jokes about beans and gas proliferate any meal that includes those tasty legumes. About an hour later, there are contests to see who can out-aroma-size the man cave. But I digress.

On the edge of our little town is a bean and corn refining plant named POET. They tell me they make renewable fuels, chemicals and feed for animals. If there's anything Indiana soil is good for, it's growing an abundant amount of beans and corn, which keeps the deer population happy.

I don't know how I feel about so-called "renewable" fuels. On the one hand, I know they do provide our job-needy area employment, so that's a good thing. But I do worry about whether or not it's really a sustainable resource. Should we really be burning food? I don't know. I haven't studied it enough, really, to form an opinion. I've only heard other people talk about it. 

Here's how corn ethanol is made:

I think for rural areas, being able to have another way to sell a harvest has been a positive thing. Only time will tell how it plays out in the long run. With technological advances, I'm sure they'll find even more uses for grains and beans. I just hope that animal feed is still as nutritious as it needs to be. We are what we eat!

What do you think about renewable fuels? What do you use to fuel your car? Have you ever given it much thought? Let me know in the comments below!

All photos in the post are from North Manchester Real Time via Facebook.

Karla is the author of several history books for
homeschoolers including O Canada Her Story,Sacagawea and Jacques Cartier. Her first novel, The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots features a homeschool mom. Her work has also been published in The Old Schoolhouse MagazineSplickety Magazine, and she currently writes for Happy Sis Magazine. You can find more information about her life and ministry at


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