The SpaceThe business of our toilet out of the way, lets get down to all the good points. There is not another inhabited structure that can be seen from the cabin (full disclosure: there is a farmhouse and barn that can be seen from some parts of the land). Full kitchen, including microwave. WIFI that is actually faster than my business class in the big city… who would have thunk that they can do it right out here in BFE?!? (and talk about a show stopper: when live streaming a business meeting with the prairie as a backdrop, a pair of hummingbirds zipping right past between you and the computer!) Air conditioning, as well as wood burning stove. Indoor and outdoor showers (yes, it is well worth it to let it all hang out while taking a shower having a view of one of the most pristine prairies in the state!). Fire ring for campfires, an outdoor hammock chair perfect for reading while keeping an eye out for wildlife on the prairie. A telescope one can use for viewing the planets or the moon depending on the lunar cycle. There is a Weber charcoal grill with a rotisserie collar. And of course, for your pooping pleasure, the composting toilet, which we call the Throne.
The land: what can one say about this unique plot of land? This is one of the most beautiful prairies that there is to experience. The berm across the road is a prairie remnant, meaning never tilled, the soil itself is crunchy, it feels completely different from the restored prairie in the valley. From the top of the berm there is stunning views of the valley. The land boasts thirteen distinct ecosystems including a vernal and an oxbow pond, Oak savanna, 220 foot high hills with hardwood forests including a rare stand of hemlock trees. There have been over 130 native prairie plants catalogued on the land.
Intersecting the valley is the West Fork of the Kickapoo River, a Class A catch and release fly fishing stream, purportedly, I am informed by the fly fisherman who fish here, has been one of the best in the world. We have fly fisherman from all around the world who travel to the Coulees to test their skills, there are many to choose from in the area for those inclined.
We have mating pairs of Bald Eagles, Red Tail Hawks, Belted Kingfishers and American Woodcock (the goofiest looking bird one has ever likely seen. Their brains are upside down, crazy(!), which begs the question: do they think the ground is the sky?). Other frequent visitors include Great Blue Heron, Sandhill Cranes, Wild Turkey, Turkey Vultures, Pheasant, Osprey, Owls assorted waterfowl and many species of raptors. But wait, there are smaller birds too! Cardinals, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Rose Breasted Grossbeak, Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Goldfinch, Bluebirds, Barn and Tree Swallows, and Red-winged blackbirds to name a few. There are daily Hummingbird wars.
Deer are plentiful, as well as the occasional Coyote, Red Tail Fox, Beaver, Otter and Muskrat. A fisherman told me of sighting a Wolf den a couple of years ago down valley, a mother with three pups. This spring there was a new den in the side of the berm that I believe from its shape was a Badger’s new condo. In the spring the Peeper Frogs at the Oxbow Pond can be downright deafening. The bugs on the prairie are truly so astounding in scope and number that I will not even go into cataloging them here, except to say that I often leave the two lights on the south face of the cabin on from before sunset, then come back to examine the buggies after dark. Interestingly, this being a healthy prairie, there are so many critters that eat mosquitos that there are virtually none… I can boast that I have been bitten by a mosquito only three times in over eighteen years. That is not to say that there are not bugs that will bite, but I have truly never bothered to put bug spray on. Gnats can be a pain, but putting a little dab of real vanilla extract behind your ears keeps them away (there’s your DYI fact for the day). At times there are hundreds of dragonflies hovering over the prairie feeding, they hang out normally by the pond. Lightening Bugs come free of charge for your nightly viewing pleasure. Butterflies and Moths? Forget about it! They are all over!
The land is bisected by a sparsely traveled county trunk road, some days there are more Amish clip clopping down the road than cars.
Local attractions: The Kickapoo River is twenty minutes away, one of the most beautiful little rivers I have ever canoed. It is the only river in North America, purportedly, to flow north, south, east and west. It boasts stunning undercut forty foot limestone cliffs around every few curves. Visit Amish farms to check out their wares, everything from amazing rugs to maple syrup to free range chickens and Amish bakeries are scattered throughout the coulees. Viroqua is a lovely little city. One might think this a sleepy farm town, but they would most definitely be mistaken. Due to the hippy commune that eventually became Organic Valley (the largest organic farmer’s co-op in the world) and a Waldorf School, Viroqua is an eclectic burg with a crazy mix of farmers, rednecks, the Amish with hippies and new age practitioners to boot. Peppered throughout the Coulees are a surprising number of world class artists and musicians sending their kids to the Waldorf School. Viroqua boasts a fantastic organic grocery store, a consignment co-op store with all sorts of handmade goods and art and a surprising number of new age home businesses such as hot rocks massage and Reiki. There is a local winery that has very good pizza, not so much the wine, in my humble opinion. There are a number of good restaurants, and even old style supper clubs in the area for those inclined to eat out. In the summer and fall vegetable stands are ubiquitous.
Days are best spent doing some of the above then retiring for cocktail hour to the Naked Lady Pool on the river, eating appetizers and drinking cocktails, watching the trout rise and the swallows bounce off the water as they feed, keeping an eye out for large avian visitors. As the sun lowers towards the horizon it is BBQ time! Light a bonfire and watch the stars come to life. For the patient it is sometimes clear enough to spot satellites crossing the sky. Often, depending on the dew point (I’m guessing here) a fog will come creeping up from the river, sometimes so thick that one cannot see the prairie just twenty feet away! Have no fear though, it may be totally clear just a half hour later. Ah, what a way to spend a day! Rinse and repeat!
Things we have seen on the land: My parents once watched as an Osprey swooped down and grabbed a trout out of the river, then as it rose a Bald Eagle stole the fish from it in mid air. That’s some Nature Channel sh*t there! Once while sitting at the bend in the river having cocktails a Great Blue Heron flew in and started feeding not fifteen feet in front of them. After coming back to the cabin from dinner out they gasped as they drove into the valley, it was glowing with not tens of thousand, but hundreds of thousands of fireflies, the entire valley pulsing in unison with their ethereal glow. I have witnessed frog balls (epic, amazing and sometimes tragic all at once… look it up!) Had an American Woodcock flush not a foot from in front of me from its nest. I knew exactly where it was and came back the next day to photograph it. It was so well camouflaged that I could not find it! I have photographed butterflies that are so drunk on pollen that when they got on a flower that wasn’t as pretty as I would like, I give them a little bump on the butt to get them to go to a better flower right next to it. I have witnessed the fledge flight of a baby Bald Eagle. Once while sitting in the Naked Lady Pool with the water up to just below my nose, a mother Muskrat swam up river to bring some grass to her two little babies. They sat there, not eight feet from me, munching away! I have not only seen but heard meteorites and have seen two blow up right above me. After hearing the small crunch of a leaf being stepped on I turned to see two fawns, born earlier that morning, stagger on their wobbly legs, right up to me and sniff my pant leg. The Milky Way is painted across the sky on new moon evenings and I have sighted Jupiter, Saturn and Mars through the telescope. Once, at three in the morning in the winter there was Aurora Borealis so astounding, whirling to a nodule in the southeast, that I got dressed and drove up to watch them from the ridge. I have had heat lightening blasting so loud and close that it shook my innards. Once there was a forty foot tall fire devil dancing across the prairie, shrieking so loud we had to plug our ears, as we did a prairie burn. Approximately an hour before sunset there is a noticeable change in the fragrance of the prairie, it is as if every flower on the land has exhaled at once! At peak the prairie is a virtual sea of flowers both in the valley and on the berm. I once staked out a yard square space that had 14 different species of flowering plants within its bounds. We have seen these and so many other amazing occurrences here. And you no doubt will see none of these, for this is nature. But the good news is that this amazing place is smack dab in the middle of Mother Nature Central… who knows what she may share with you?
We will be renting this gem for only two times this year, for a full week both times. One will be around the traditional peak prairie flower season, the other, peak Autumn color season. This is an estimate based on past year’s experience, not a science, we do our best.
I understand that some may look at what we are charging for a week and think it too expensive. In our defense I will say that we are not just renting a cabin, but an experience of communing with nature. This place is magical, and for me at least, is the sanity that allows me to fight the good fight in the big city. For full disclosure: my parents are getting up there in years and maintaining all this prairie (derned hard work, believe me!) is becoming too much for them. 72 of these 76 acres are for sale. It is entirely conceivable that the two renters this year will be the last to ever have an opportunity to tromp over all of this stunning acreage. We are using the proceeds from this rental to finance the sale of the land.
Please check the calendar. As a prerequisite of my work, often I must have my phone and sound on my computer turned off… please be patient regarding me replying
Be well!!! Michael