May travel: fully Kraeusened.

After having spent 13 out of the 31 days in this month in places other than Madison, I have to say that I am very, very happy to be back home for nearly a month before my next trip. I was at the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival in Seattle for five days at the beginning of the month — a time which also happened to be the absolute busiest of the semester, what with having to write two papers and trying desperately to stay on top of prelim reading (no comment). The trip was good, Seattle and the (other) UW campus even lovelier than I remembered, the film festival passing fair; but I have to say that I was incredibly glad to be back in Madison when it was over, given that I only had a week to get myself together w/r/t the semester. I managed to pull everything off — Spanish for Reading Knowledge exam (pass with advanced competency), revisions on one paper, writing another one — before zipping off to the other coast for a week to look at apartments in Middletown for the fall with Paul. And I thought having a week to finish up my semester obligations was stressful! Apparently I’ve forgotten what it’s like to find a place to live.
Despite the insanity, I did at least get to see a game at Shea, and though everyone was in a rather foul mood at the outset and though said mood was not at all improved by the Mets’ loss to the Nationals (WTF?), a relatively good time was had. We also got to have dinners with friends, which helped us along a great deal and distracted us from our incessant driving back and forth along the Merritt. Thank goodness for the tiny Civic.
Suffice it to say that the week in NY/CT was a hectic, strained, and exhausting one, after which I returned to Madison feeling emotionally defeated and not at all eager to leave town again in a day and a half. I managed to hit up the department picnic the day I got back, at which I did a positively heroic job of manning the grill and cooking up some impeccable sausages, since apparently nobody else wanted to do it and I happened to say that I didn’t mind. There you have it. I ended up doing another bit of laundry as a result, just to get the smoke smell out of my clothing before the next trip.
That would be the annual CHE Place-Based Workshop. We spent three days in the driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin (that would be the unglaciated part of the state — geological treatise here excised for sake of brevity and inability to appropriately illlustrate without requisite right-palm-as-map-of-Wisconsin visual aid) thinking about agricultural landscapes, with visits to two different kinds of dairy operations, a cheese factory, an Amish farm, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, the Ho-Chunk bison range, Mineral Point, Organic Valley’s headquarters, and a few other choice spots. It was all capped off by a canoe trip down the Kickapoo River, which trip was supposed to take about an hour and a half but which ended up being rather epic, lasting at least four hours due to a little SNAFU on the part of the canoe company, which dropped us off at the wrong spot and thus gave us inaccurate directions as to where to get out and be picked up. Long story short: there was no bridge 12 (designated meeting spot), no one had a phone with them (b/c one of the profs had advised us not to bring phones due to risk of dropping them in river), several of the roads we passed under were abandoned thus making it quite difficult to flag down a passerby to use their phone, an eventually we ended up canoeing all the way to LaFarge, at which point it was after 6 p.m. and we were all completely exhausted. Thank goodness the weather was positively sublime — otherwise I think people might not have taken the screwup so lightly.
Other highlights of the trip included Andrew’s superb fire-building skills, as well as his ability to conjure up 30-packs of Lacrosse Lager (fully Kraeusened!) with an almost magical quickness. Though this trip was perhaps less intellectually intense than last year’s Apostle Islands excursion — it certainly had a very different feel — it did have more down time, which was probably a good thing all told. I have to say, though, that I am very glad to have experienced the Apostles in the way I did — there was something really quite special about that trip, and I think it is something that will be hard to recapture. Although there may be a similar intensity next year when the group goes to Chicago and the Indiana Dunes — shall we title that one “The State of Nature’s Metropolis”? I’m predicting a real Cronon-Mitman powerhouse, and I hope I can tag along again.
Back in Madison, I am enjoying the perfect spring weather (still a chill in the air, but gorgeous during the day) and recovering before I start to really pound out this conference paper for Ag History next week. It’s been a long recovery thus far, with lots of sleep, a fair number of baths, and a bit of mindless reading and some crossword puzzles. Oh, and catching up on the news — apparently my vacation suspension didn’t go through, and so I have a bunch of papers piled up in my room waiting to be gone through. Today may hold a bike ride around Lake Monona, and perhaps the baking of a rhubarb crisp.

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