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Lynden Blog

April 23, 2015 | Willy

This post is the fifth in a series by Junior Grounds Manager Weston Wagner tracking the behavior of wood ducks at Lynden. Read part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four here.

April 23rd , 2015 – There are wood ducks hanging around the area in between the two nest boxes in the water just about every time I drive past. They still spook when they see you, but now they will only fly to the other side of the lake. With so many wood ducks present over the last couple of weeks, it would be hard to believe that at least one pair isn’t using the boxes as a nesting site. Soon I hope to sneak a peak in the nest boxes over the water to confirm that there is nesting activity happening.

In other news, spring looks like it’s here to stay. There are a lot of different birds besides ducks showing up. I saw gold finches, green herons, and bluebirds today. Not only did we build some brand new wood duck boxes over the winter, we also replaced all six of our bluebird houses. We went with a new style that is more similar to a wood duck box. They aren’t as big but they are much easier to monitor and clean out than the old ones.

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6 bluebird houses in the front row

The six boxes in front are the ones we made for bluebirds. Just like wood duck boxes, predator protection is one of the most important factors in establishing a successful nest box. We added predator guards to the posts the bluebird boxes are mounted on. The bluebird boxes have an oval shaped hole that is sized species-specific for bluebirds. It is also important not to have a perch in front of the hole.

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Bluebird

I've been monitoring the bluebird boxes since we put them up and hadn't noticed any activity. It was a different story when I went to check them out today:

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Bluebird nest box activity

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A fully-built bluebird nest

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Bluebirds make nests of dried grasses

Three out of the six boxes had definite signs of bluebird activity, including one box that had a fully built nest. There were no eggs in the nest yet but that will happen soon! Notice how the nest is made only of grasses. It’s not a guarantee but there is a very strong chance that this was the work of bluebirds because the nest was made only of dried grasses and there was no lining of feathers inside the nest. Other birds will use a variety of items including sticks and feathers to build a nest.

April 8, 2015 | Willy

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

It was a cloudy, chilly morning in March when Jodi Eastberg drove me, along with five of her Alverno students, to Lynden, where we met up with eight more members of the class.

The class is focused on “place,” so my questions were related to this concept. When Harry and Peg Bradley bought Lynden, it was a farm. They hired a landscape architecture firm, Langford & Moreau, known for designing golf courses to shape the cornfield into something else. Later Peg Bradley added sculptures. Looking out over the sculpture garden, I asked what Lynden felt like to the students. Some of the words they mentioned were open, tranquil, and family friendly.

Photo: Jodi Eastberg
Alverno students discuss ideas about place with Hara watching. Photo: Jodi Eastberg

The students had read “Place,” an essay by Tim Cresswell. It made me think about the tension between globalism and regionalism. In western cultures, have places become homogenized, or are differences between places stronger? For Jessica, who grew up near Chicago, Milwaukee and Chicago seem very similar to her. They are both by Lake Michigan and, she noted, “All cities have the same street names.” Erin contrasted urban and rural spaces. She said cities have become “consumer cultures,” with people consumed with buying the newest hot thing. She would prefer to live in a rural area with more privacy and without another house visible from the windows.

Lynden has been evaluating another tension. There is a beauty to Lynden having no paths, except for the service road around the exterior. Yet for those in wheelchairs or those who have trouble walking on uneven grass, it would be helpful to have paths. Executive Director Polly Morris has investigated installing paths made out of a special grass, rather than chips or concrete, which would not hinder meandering.

Mariah has been to the Schlitz Audubon Center, where there are paths similar to most nature centers. Many of us are so used to paths that some of the students were not sure if it was okay to walk on the grass and waited to follow my lead. “If there was a subtle way to do it,” said Chelsey, she thought the paths Polly is considering would be a good idea.

Lynden rests within River Hills. River Hills, in order to create a community for “country living,” has ordinances that forbid any commercial development and all lots currently need to be at least five acres. I asked whether people living in exclusive River Hills could relate to issues of people living in Milwaukee’s segregated central city, which the class has been studying. Nikki thought they might be able to sympathize, but not empathize. “You can’t understand someone else’s struggles unless you have walked in their shoes.”

The students needed time to complete an assignment, so we went our separate ways and then gathered in the conference room to meet with Polly. River Hills came up again. When the Bradley family established Lynden as a weekend retreat, they drove out on a two-lane dirt road. There was a geographical distance between the Allen-Bradley factory in Walker's Point, where they lived, and Lynden. Now, it is a fifteen-minute drive away. Polly called Lynden an “oasis” in close proximity to urban Milwaukee, but many people have a sense of psychological distance from Lynden based on “the perception of wealth and a family having so much land and a huge sculpture collection.”

Photo: Jodi Eastberg
Students work on an assignment. Photo: Jodi Eastberg

The class wanted to know how the sculptures had been sited on the property. Polly explained that ideas about how to place outdoor sculptures change. Currently it is more common (especially in larger sculpture gardens), to place sculptures independent of one another, in their own environments. Peg Bradley liked to be able to see as many of the sculptures as possible from her porch, and grouped them together to allow for what Polly calls “conversations between them.”

On the ride back to Alverno, Jodi mentioned the three students in the back of the van were sitting in the “best friends seat.” This led to a discussion about personal space. In different cultures more or less distance is appropriate between people who are not related. The seat in the back should have felt too close for comfort, but the three students looked cozy.

April 7, 2015 | Willy

This post is the fourth in a series by Junior Grounds Manager Weston Wagner tracking the behavior of wood ducks at Lynden. Read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

April 6th, 2015 – There were five male wood ducks at the nest boxes this morning. The wood ducks are showing more and more activity with each passing day. I didn’t see any females so there is a good possibility that one was occupying a nest box. I didn’t check the nest boxes over the water but I did check the ones in the field. The first box I checked had something in it, and it wasn’t a wood duck.

Photo: Weston Wagner
Eastern screech owl occupying a nest box

It seems as though an eastern screech owl has no problem occupying a nest box designed for a wood duck. I snapped a quick picture and left the owl alone. There are two color variations of eastern screech owls. This particular owl in the picture is the gray morph. My post from March 27th has a red morph eastern screech owl pictured. It’s not what we were expecting to occupy the nest boxes but we will take it.

April 3, 2015 | Willy

This post is the third in a series by Junior Grounds Manager Weston Wagner tracking the behavior of wood ducks at Lynden. Read part one here and part two here.

April 3, 2015 – I noticed two pairs of wood ducks occupying their usual spot on the lake this morning. I have yet to capture a picture of them as they are very wary of human activity. It is possible and likely that these two pairs are the same wood ducks I have been seeing over the past couple weeks. It’s hard to tell but it is also possible that these wood ducks are the same wood ducks that have successfully nested in the boxes here at Lynden in previous years. I have yet to see a wood duck in a location other than the South East corner of the lake where two nest boxes are positioned. If these wood ducks do decide to use these boxes as nesting sites, it will be soon. My guess is they will start using the boxes, especially the ones over the water, next week, if they haven’t already. I won’t check the boxes until late next week to prevent disturbing any nesting activity. Once a nest is established, the hen will lay one egg per day until her clutch is complete. On average, the size of a clutch is usually between 10 and 14 eggs. Once the hen lays all of her eggs, she will begin the incubation process.

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Bufflehead duck

Unlike the wood ducks, the lone male bufflehead duck I observed this morning was oblivious to my presence. Buffleheads are a diving duck that feed underwater by catching aquatic invertebrates. One thing they do have in common with wood ducks is that they are cavity nesters. This leaves the possibility that buffleheads are checking out the nest boxes as potential nesting sites as well.

March 27, 2015 | Willy

This post is the second in a series by Junior Grounds Manager Weston Wagner tracking the behavior of wood ducks at Lynden. For part one, click here.

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Wood duck nest box in the water

March 27, 2015 – The ice is now completely off the lake. That certainly doesn’t mean it’s warm. I read 20°F on the thermometer this morning. There was just enough wind blowing to prevent the lake from skimming over with ice. I checked for nesting activity in the wood duck boxes in the fields today. No signs of wood ducks but in one of the boxes there seemed to be some screech owl activity happening. Some owls, like wood ducks, are cavity nesters and would have no problem occupying a nest box designed for a wood duck. Although no nest boxes showed signs of activity, there is still time for things to develop. Once we get some consistently warmer weather things will start unfolding as they should, and before you know it we’ll be in the full swing of things.

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Eastern screech owl

I saw two pairs of wood ducks yesterday. Once again, they were hanging out between the two nest boxes in the water. I haven’t seen them actually put the nest boxes to use yet but it seems like they are interested in that area. Every year this is the first place they show up. I haven’t had much of a chance to observe them because wood ducks are very skittish. As soon as they see you, they take off flying. It will be important to leave any wood ducks undisturbed so they can take time to establish the boxes as nesting sites. Predator protection is one of the most important parts of installing a wood duck box. If you have predators, including humans, constantly moving around the area where potential nest sites are available, chances are wood ducks won’t feel safe and might look for other locations to nest. This is probably why the most successful wood duck boxes here at Lynden have been the ones that are over water.

March 19, 2015 | Willy

This post is the first in a series by Junior Grounds Manager Weston Wagner tracking the behavior of wood ducks at Lynden.

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A wood duck hen on a nest at Lynden in 2014

March 19, 2015 - I witnessed the first pair of wood ducks of the year today. They were scoping out one of the newly installed boxes that we placed over the water. Wood ducks usually show up around the 1st of April or when the ice starts disappearing from the lake. There was just enough shore ice melted for the wood ducks to start to come and check things out for possible nesting sites. We put up the 3 wood duck boxes over the water on March 13, including an additional box at a new location. The new box is located over the water not too far from where other successful nest box sites are established. Wood ducks are not very territorial and do not fight over nesting locations.

I recently attended a nest box building workshop at the UWM field station. There were a handful of very knowledgeable people hosting the event. They mentioned that wood ducks are so non-territorial that you could have two wood duck boxes mounted back to back on the same 4 x 4 post and wood ducks would possibly use both boxes as nesting sites in harmony without conflict.

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Weston building a wood duck box

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Lynden's wood duck boxes, built by Weston & Bob Retko

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Installing a wood duck box

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Possible nesting site for wood ducks

February 27, 2015 | Willy

This post is by Pegi Christiansen, a Lynden artist in residence through October 15. Learn more about her Distance project here.

One of my favorite temporary art pieces at Lynden is Sightseer by local artist Brian Nigus. For Lynden's Winter Carnival I proposed to roam Lynden in the fall, save what I collected, and create a “Winter Forest” display inside his “portable think-space.”

Jeremy Stepien was a student of mine at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in the nineties. For “Winter Forest” Jeremy, Lynden’s Director of Education, was my teacher and advisor. He asked this important question: “What will happen to the display at the end of the carnival?” It took several months before I came up with the solution.

In October I met with Brian to discuss “Winter Forest.” No one had mounted a display inside Sightseer since it came to Lynden last summer (Brian had made the piece in 2011 while he was a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and it had been used in various ways before arriving in Milwaukee). Brian requested that everything I placed in Sightseer come from Lynden.

I made four major collection trips to Lynden during the fall. Except for cutting wild weeds, I would only collect what I found on the ground. The trips were exhilarating. I would always lose track of where I was and find plants I had never come across before and wonder, “What’s this?”

In January I made three planning trips to Lynden. I spent time inside Sightseer and measured it carefully. Jeremy showed me all the types of items, like vases, I could use to help with the display and I experimented with eight basic designs before I selected the one I wanted.

On January 30th, I started making “Winter Forest.” Naomi Cobb, Lynden’s naturalist, asked me whether it was primarily planned or being made on the spot. I told her it was a blend of both. Sightseer only has one door and is less than six feet wide. I had to plan carefully because I needed to work from the far end toward the door. Once I arranged an area, I could no longer reach it to make changes. At the same time, I was totally winging it. I spent 25 hours over five days musing inside Brian’s very special “think-space” and my head popped with ideas about where to place particular items I had collected.

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Winter Forest

It was at this point that Naomi told me that she was going to have a bonfire during the Winter Carnival. What a perfect conclusion to "Winter Forest": to burn all the branches and wild weeds during the final hour. Jeremy's question was answered. I spent twelve days making “Winter Forest.” It would be on view for five hours, and then it would become ashes.

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Winter Forest, photo: Eddee Daniel

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Winter Forest, photo: Jeremy Stepien

At 3 pm on February 7 as the Winter Carnival wound down, friends and carnival visitors, as well as several children very eager to throw things on the bonfire, gathered around me. I was alone for those twelve days of making, so it couldn’t have been sweeter to have a group of children and friends carrying everything over to the flames as we unmade "Winter Forest."

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Bonfire, photo: Eddee Daniel

Sweetest of all was a child, Caroline May, who named the dried dead toad “Hubertus.” I saved Hubertus for her and brought it to her home. “Winter Forest” lives on.

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Hubertus, photo: Jeremy Stepien

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Hubertus, photo: Eddee Daniel

February 12, 2015 | Willy

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

The instant I picked up Wendy Hamilton, Healthy Neighborhoods Program Manager for Sherman Park Community Association on Fond du Lac Avenue November 10, I became lost in thought. My father was a mapmaker for General George S. Patton during World War II and I pride myself on using real maps (not GPS) and getting where I need to go without making mistakes. However, I was so caught up in my conversation with Wendy (on a very easy drive straight north on Sherman Boulevard) that I had to backtrack twice.

When I am with visitors at Lynden, along with talking about distance, the one other thing I need to do is make sure to take a picture. I forgot to do this. Instead, Wendy sent me a photo from inside her home in Sherman Park. It gives you a sense of how vibrant she is.

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I have known Wendy since 2007, but have never spent time with her outside of the SPCA office. I knew it would be special to have one-on-one contact with her. Just like with the planners from West Allis a week earlier, we talked about distance nonstop, but in a way I never imagined. Wendy had carefully considered the topic and knew what she wanted to say. I was riveted.

Once at Lynden, Wendy told me, “Distance equals peace.” Wendy grew up in Sherman Park and lives in the neighborhood now. She said, “I am a city girl and love it, but I also care about being close to the earth.” She believes everyone should be able to experience both the urban and the rural. This means taking her two daughters, who want action and excitement, to places where teenager Afrika first says, “This is too quiet.” Afrika soon starts to soak it in and imagines her daily life in these places and spaces. Fourth grader Nadiatier believes they have left the state when they drive to a rural community.

Wendy is searching for ways to bring the untroubled and natural environment of Lynden to Sherman Park. Living in an urban environment can be stressful. Wendy believes bringing tranquility to Sherman Park will “bring peace to the landscape of people’s minds” as well.

We discussed lots of ideas. It would be possible to create prairies in vacant lots. You could plant a dense forest area in Sherman Park. You could create spaces that would attract birds and other wildlife right in people’s backyards.

Lynden could be a part of this process. Lynden's education staff offers field trips for school groups that invite students and teachers to observe and inquire about place, nature, and art. Participants then explore ways to bring the things learned at Lynden back to their own schools and neighborhoods.

February 11, 2015 | Willy

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

These visits keep surprising me. On November 5, I picked up City of West Allis planners Shaun Mueller and Bart Griepentrog. During our two hours together that morning, I didn’t ask any of the questions from my list. We discussed distance in all sorts of new ways.

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L-R: Bart Griepentrog and Shaun Mueller

I reside 23 miles away from Lynden in Greenfield. Since moving there in 2009, I spend more time in West Allis and find it intriguing. West Allis has more history and breadth than most Milwaukee suburban communities. We stopped in at Executive Director Polly Morris’s office and she agrees. She has a background in history and when she moved to Milwaukee in 1987 one of the first places she visited was the former Allis-Chalmers site in West Allis. One of the reasons I asked Bart and Shaun to come to Lynden with me is because, like Lynden, West Allis is an undiscovered treasure for too many people.

When I summarized the history of Lynden on the drive out, Bart remembered hearing that the sculptures at Lynden almost ended up at the Milwaukee Art Museum. We asked Polly about this. She said after Jane Bradley Pettit died in 2001, her descendants debated donating the sculptures to the MAM. The family decided to open Lynden to the public instead.

We also spoke with Polly about former artist in residence Roy Staab, who lives in West Allis. For the city’s 100th anniversary in 2006, the mayor commissioned Roy to create Fountain in the Sky at the West Allis City Hall. Roy made the temporary sculpture out of weeds bound with jute and plastic cording. As we started our walk, I suggested West Allis could designate a permanent site where Roy could create a series of temporary installations.

I asked Shaun and Bart about ways in which, as planners, they think about distance. It turns out they are thinking about distance all the time.
--How far do people live from shopping, restaurants, and entertainment?
--How much time does it take for people to walk or drive to various locations?
--Potential employers want to know how far away potential employees live and whether it is easy to get to the airport.

Distance can be political as well as geographical. In the four-county Milwaukee area, some people want distance from the city, which increases segregation. West Allis needs to alert citizens about certain land use changes happening in their neighborhood, but only if they live within 200 feet. If you live outside this arbitrary zone, you are not directly notified.

The final stop on our walk was by my favorite cluster of permanent sculptures. In the area just south of the bridge are two Linda Howard sculptures (I enjoy watching the way they interact with the sun), Isaac Witkin’s Kumo (it makes me laugh), and Deborah Butterfield’s Hara (the horse looks like it is made out of wood, but it’s really bronze).

It turns out Shaun and Bart care about clusters, too. People tend to come to West Allis for one thing--perhaps the farmers market or the Wisconsin State Fair. West Allis wants to encourage people to explore a cluster of things. For example, after shopping at the West Allis Farmers Market, open May through November at 65th and National, what would it take to convince a person to check out Oniomania, a funky gift shop a block away at 6430 W. National?

On our way back to the parking lot, Bart challenged all my typical thinking about noise. Although Lynden is pastoral and serene, the sound of cars on Brown Deer Road, a state highway, is audible. Bart said that Cathedral Square, a one-block park in downtown Milwaukee, is actually quieter. “This is because people downtown have alternatives to using cars,” Bart explained. “They can walk or bike, and the cars downtown are driving 25 miles an hour and have to stop about every three blocks for lights.” Bart is frustrated by all the commuters on Brown Deer Road who, in order to escape the city to reach the small communities where they live, in Menomonee Falls or Germantown, destroy the calm for everyone in between.

January 9, 2015 | Willy

This is the third in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

On Wednesday morning, October 22, I visited Lynden with two more members of the Grand Avenue Club. Tuesday had been windy and overcast, but Wednesday was calm and the sun poked out now and then. With no wind, Cathy Litwin, Aaron Leverence and I could see the clouds and trees reflected in the pond.

I explained on the drive out that 4000 trees were planted at Lynden when it was converted from cornfields into a private garden for Harry and Peg Bradley in the 1930s (the sculptures didn't begin to arrive until 1962). Cathy told us she has a friend who plants a tree for every grandchild.

The first question I asked Aaron and Cathy was, “If you could use a Star Trek transporter so you could step in right now and arrive somewhere else immediately, who would you want to see?” I was delighted to hear from Aaron that scientists have teleported atoms. In the Netherlands this year three atoms were teleported about ten feet. Who knows what might be possible ten years from now?

Cathy currently has a niece in Argentina. She would want to go to there to “see what she’s seeing.”

Aaron, thirty years old, lives in Elm Grove and has a nine-year-old brother who lives in Cudahy. He wishes he could see him more often, but acknowledges that “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” As he reminded me, “Sometimes you take people who are close to you for granted.”

Cathy picked up some leaves from the ground. After she moved to Milwaukee, she would press leaves in a book and send them in letters to her godparents in Manitowoc, and they would send leaves back. Cathy and her sister-in-law in Minnesota exchange cards with each other. She likes choosing which card to send. She generally doesn’t keep the letters and cards she has received, instead anticipating new ones in the mailbox. Cathy is an acute observer of people's penmanship: “My godmother wrote large and clear,” she recalls. “My husband had swirly handwriting.”

I mentioned the photographers I know who used to live in Manitowoc, John Shimon and Julie Lindemann. It turns out they photographed a friend of Cathy's, Susan, and Susan’s daughter. “Everyone is connected in a smaller city,” she said. “A smaller city keeps you grounded.”

On our way back to the car we walked by a stunning stand of birches where I took a picture of Aaron and Cathy.

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