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Lillian Crook

A retired librarian, Lillian Crook is an Army child but completed her junior high and high school education while living in North Dakota’s Slope County, where her parents retired to her mother's family farm and ranch. She completed a bachelor's degree in English from Dickinson (N.D.) State University and a master’s of library science from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and was an academic librarian at DSU for 26 years. She later worked for Theodore Roosevelt National Park as a museum technician and volunteered for TRNP in many capacities. She is married to Jim Fuglie, is an avid reader, gardener and birder and enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, photography and writing, is the mother of twin daughters and loves yoga. She and Jim run Red Oak House Books and Publishers from their home. Lillian is the founder of Badlands Conservation Alliance, a grass-roots voice for wild places in western North Dakota. Bullion Butte is the center of her universe, and she is happiest when floating the Little Missouri River. Her blog, WildDakotaWoman.blogspot.com, consists of random thoughts on wild places and musings on life in Red Oak House of Bismarck. She can also be followed on Twitter @WildDakotaWoman. She takes heart from one of her favorite writers, Terry Tempest Williams, who wrote, "If you know wilderness like you know love, you would be unwilling to let it go. We are talking about the body of the beloved, not real estate."

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Our Comment Letter On The Proposed Little Missouri River Bridge

Jim has written about the proposed new bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River north of Medora, N.D., that is being shoved down our throats by a megalomaniac county commissioner who wants to spend up to $20 million of our gas tax dollars on a “Bridge to Nowhere.”

At the insistence of the Federal Highway Administration, the county is deep into an Environmental Impact Statement process — in fact nearing the end stages of that process — and will soon be asking for federal funds to build its bridge. One of the final steps in the process is a public comment period, which is open now and runs through Sept. 4. If you go to this website, you will find the details and a link to another website which contains the actual Draft EIS, for your reading pleasure.

If you have any feelings about running a lot of traffic through the valley of the Little Missouri State Scenic River, or wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, you should send in comments on the project. Below is the letter Jim and I have sent expressing our feelings. This letter and Jim’s earlier blog should give you plenty of information about the project, so you don’t have to read the entire 178-page document. (Although if you really want to spend a summer afternoon reading, here’s the link to the Draft EIS.)

Even easier, if you agree with what we have written, feel free to just copy and paste a link to this blog into an e-mail addressed to LMRC@kljeng.com and tell Jen Turnbow you agree with the letter in the blog, and your comments will be duly noted.

Jen Turnbow, Project Manager

KLJ

P.O. Box 1157

Bismarck, N.D. 58502-1157

Aug. 17, 2018

Dear Ms. Turnbow:

Please accept these comments on the Draft EIS for the Little Missouri River Crossing in Billings County, North Dakota. We are writing to recommend Alternative L, the no-build option.

If built, this bridge would be the most colossal waste of taxpayer dollars in memory. If it is built with federal or state matching funds, approved by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, it will be a huge embarrassment for both the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration because it is truly a “bridge to nowhere.”

North Dakota has substantial infrastructure needs, as witnessed by several state legislators recently, and the proposed $11.2 million, and likely as much as $20 million, could be much better spent correcting existing problems rather than building a new bridge unlikely to be used by many except possibly the oil industry.

In spite of all being said by the county and KLJ, it appears the only real beneficiary of this bridge would be the oil industry. Federal, and state tax dollars should not be spent to accommodate a single industry, especially at the expense of real and substantial damage to the historic, recreational and scenic properties of the states only designated State Scenic River.

If the bridge is built with Billings County taxpayer dollars, as the commission has indicated it might do if federal or state dollars are not available, it should be subject to a referendum by Billings County voters before it is approved.

Almost no one wants this bridge. It has simply become a cause celebre for Billings County Commission Chairman  Jim Arthaud, who has already spent several million dollars in Billings County tax dollars pursuing it, and despite the fact it is not in his preferred location, has gone too far down the road for him to consider abandoning it without losing face. It is simply now a monument to his persistence, a monument on which he would like his name inscribed.

Almost no one will use this bridge, according to testimony at the public hearings, unless KLJ, the project’s engineers, are misleading us with this statement:

“Traffic volume increase of 3.5 percent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways. Not expected to generate new traffic; however the redistribution of local trips attracted to the new bridge is anticipated to increase the typical 2.5 percent traffic growth rates by 1 percent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways.”

If that statement is true, there is no need for the bridge. If that statement is misleading (which is not only possible, but likely), and the volume of heavy truck traffic increases dramatically, it will destroy the sanctity and peacefulness of the state’s only designated State Scenic River, likely in violation of Chapter 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code, the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act, enacted by the North Dakota Legislature “to preserve the Little Missouri River as nearly as possible in its present state … (and) maintain the scenic, historic and recreational qualities of the Little Missouri River and its tributary streams.” The North Dakota DOT, as a lead agency for this project, should not approve a project which would violate the law.

Today there are ZERO trucks driving through the river valley and across the Little Missouri State Scenic River between Medora and the Long-X Bridge. That is what the residents of the river valley, although there are few, want the case to be. According to testimony at the public hearings, there are fewer than ten families living alongside the river who could possibly benefit from this bridge. But they live in fear of the noise, danger, and massive dust clouds that could be generated by heavy truck traffic through the river valley and on their farm-to-market roads.

The County Commission has leaned heavily on the need for the bridge to accommodate emergency vehicles. That argument doesn’t wash. Almost all of the county’s emergency vehicles are located in Medora, less than a mile from the bridge across the Little Missouri River there, and can go either way — east or west — to respond to an emergency.

For all of these reasons and others, the county should quit wasting taxpayer dollars and select Alternative L, the no-build alternative, and the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration should reject the use of state and/or federal funds for this project.

Respectfully,

Lillian Crook & Jim Fuglie

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 47: The Daylilies Are Waning

Peak daylily bloom here at Red Oak House has passed, and I can’t help but feel a bit wistful about this.

The focus of this past July has been daylilies of all kinds, and not just in my garden. Late in the month, I took in an exhibit of daylily art at Bismarck Art Gallery Associates, where it was delightful to see the creative talents of friends on display.

Later that week, the Region One Daylily Association had its annual gathering in Bismarck/Mandan, an event that the Central Dakota Daylily Association — I’m a member — has been planning for years. I was truly in the presence of some hard-core daylily enthusiasts and it was great fun. (I confess that I bought three new varieties.) I even got to meet Melanie Mason, one of the nation’s premier daylily hybridizers. I own a few of her creations.

Here is a wrap-up of some of my daylily photos since my last blog. Now it is time to focus on canning and freezing vegetables and preparing for autumn garden chores.

I’ve had a few people ask for panoramic shots of my garden, so I shot some video one evening. Here are two links: Starting in the front yard and the backyard.

Later this month (Aug. 21), Red Oak House is on the Bismarck/Mandan garden tours. Sadly, these folks won’t get to see the daylilies, but there is the promise of asters and mums, and the zinnias that have survived the slug slaughter look very nice. Oh well, they can always read this blog.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Journey To De Smet, S.D.

Like me, my sisters are fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Laura’s stories shaped our understanding of the prairie landscape on which we make our homes. This past weekend, my sister, Beckie, and I made the journey to De Smet, S.D., a place, to her friends’ amusement, on Beckie’s bucket list.

I’ve been there, but it has been more than 20 years, and I was more than willing to return for a more extended visit. Readers of this blog will recall that I’ve written about Mrs. A.J. Wilder on several other occasions.

I hereby testify that De Smet is one of the most beautiful and well-cared for cities on the prairie — indeed, in the United States. The folks in this community display great civic pride at every turn, and a plethora of helpful information for visitors is on the webpage. We were mightily impressed.

We arrived in the early afternoon after a pleasant drive on prairie blue highways and immediately went to the Visitors Center to sign up for the guided tour. The center is located in a beautiful Victorian-era house with three important buildings on the property — the original Surveyors’ House and the schoolhouse that Laura and Carrie attended, as well as a replica of the Webster School, the last school in which Laura taught before she was married. The grounds are filled with amusing items and were bustling with young families eager to make their own Laura memories, some in period dress.

We started in the Surveyors’ House, the house in which the Ingalls family lived in the first winter after they arrived in (then) Dakota Territory. The following spring, Charles Ingalls, the patriarch, became one of De Smet’s founders.

Somewhere I have a photo (probably in their scrapbooks) of me with my daughters, standing in front of this building all those years ago.

Next was the interior of the De Smet school, where we all sat in the old school desks, complete with slates and such. I had a little fun with my slate and my sister played along.

Our tour guide bore an uncanny and pleasant resemblance to Laura herself and did a most excellent job.

The final stop on the guided tour was the house Pa Ingalls built after Laura was married, where after his death, Ma and Mary took in boarders until Ma’s death, in order to make ends meet.

When we toured the exhibits in the Visitors Center, we acquired new nuggets of knowledge. We were particularly thrilled to view the “Big Green Book,” the animal storybook the Ingalls family owned. There is no photography allowed within the exhibit. Be sure to budget time to read every single word on the displays.

Next it was our chance to make the driving tour of the town and surrounding areas, completing our checklist of Ingalls sites, beginning with a drive north of town to the site of the farm on which the newlywed Laura and Almanzo made their home, where their daughter, Rose, was born.

Onward we went to the area just south of town, past the site on which the annual LIW pageant is held each summer (we just missed out on that), to the Charles and Caroline Ingalls homestead site, all along sharing with each other our personal recollections of the stories from the books. Five of the cottonwood trees that they planted still stand and it is, for many of us, a deeply spiritual and peaceful place. The first time I was there, I gathered some twigs and kept those for a very long time.

Finally, we headed to the cemetery, where many of the family members are buried along with other notable members of De Smet from Laura’s time. Many of the markers have been replaced and are thus more readable than Pa’s (below).

We checked into our lodgings, a bed and breakfast located in the former banker’s home, two houses down from the aforementioned Ingalls home. Although we had considered lodging at the Ingalls Homestead, The Prairie Manor was a very pleasant place to stay and a better choice for us this time. We were in the Japanese Garden Room on the main floor.

After dining at the Country Club, we strolled around the town, walking past the park in which the Father De Smet statue pays tribute to his influence on prairie life and on to the Ingalls’ original church.

Other places we stopped along the way included the site of the town of Manchester, where Laura’s sister, Grace, settled with her husband, notable because in recent memory the town was completely destroyed by a tornado, followed by a stop in a nearby prairie town in which our Norwegian ancestors settled in the early 20th century prior to their arrival in southwestern North Dakota and southeastern Montana, fellow pioneers who might have known the Ingalls family.

Our final hearty laugh of the trip was a drive-by of the International Vinegar Museum. We had just missed the community Vinegar Festival by one day. Who knew?

Our only regret was that we had not thought to bring along our sunbonnets. (I have one made by my Ma Crook, my great-grandmother, to shield my Aunt Frances’ head oh so many years ago.) Maybe we will take these on our next journey down Laura’s memory lanes.  How lucky am I to have a sister who enjoys doing these activities with me? Danged lucky.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 46: Red, Red, Red

Red daylilies are stealing the show a wee bit these days in the garden.

And then, there is the delicate beauty of the Leopard Lily.

Happy days!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Dispatches From Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We slipped away from domestic chores this week for an interlude in Theodore Roosevelt National Park (South Unit) along with a night in the charming village of Medora, N.D., where we were treated to two very pleasant days, warm and sunny, with a gentle breeze. We took a hike on the Jones Creek trail and two drives through the Park loop road for wildlife viewing and strolled around Medora after supper.

The wildflowers are abundant with plentiful rains. The highlights of the visit were being greeting by my sister in her new job at the TRNP entrance station and the huge herd of bison walking by our car (more on that later).

Sometimes visits to the park are all about the wild horses, sometimes the birds (we did see a pair of bald eagles), sometimes the wildflowers, but this time it was all about the bison.

At the trailhead, we had a friendly chat with visitors from Great Britain and Germany, who were in awe of the bison bull hanging around nearby as well as the fact that we were actually going to hike in his vicinity. They had just been to Yellowstone and Glacier and just happened upon TRNP as they made their way to Minneapolis leaving them very happy about this.

The Rocky Mountain juniper provide welcome shade, here and there on the trail.

The bacciferous shrubs are loaded with berries this year, especially the buffaloberry and chokecherry bushes. The sharp-tailed grouse and other birds will feast this winter.

I am in awe of the bison and can never get enough time with them. We had considered another hike, but came around the corner to find a herd of over 200, including about 12 bulls, right on the road. They were all around us, and some of the bulls were sparring because it is full rut season. Many were also rolling in the dust.

Thanks to the moonroof on our Toyota, I was able to get some great video footage, which you can enjoy below. Be sure to watch the one with the bison calf that got separated from its cow but makes an escape at the end, as well as the one with the vocalizing rutting bull that stood next to our car for an extended period. Perhaps the only North American megafauna that is more impressive is the grizzly. Both should be given wide berth.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park July 24, 2018 bison herd

TRNP bison herd July 24, 2018

TRNP bison herd July 24, 2018

TRNP bison herd July 24, 2018

Until the next dispatch from this Wild Dakota Woman, I encourage you to get outdoors for the good of your spirit!

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 45: Life Is A Garden, Friends Are The Flowers

The riotous beauty of the daylilies has me feeling that I’m somewhat neglecting the glory of my hostas, so today I’m featuring the front yard.

As I’ve written in the past, I’m no fan of lawns and mowing, thus we’ve converted nearly every foot of our yard to beds, including the front yard.

The sight in the first few years was not good, but I had a vision. It started with the removal of the pitiful grass under the shade of the Red Oak Tree and the delivery of two very large rocks, one for Christmas and the other my birthday present, eight years ago. Then we started hauling in smaller prairie rocks ― lots of ’em. We used our trailer and a ramp and the wheelbarrow. We kept the neighbors amused, no doubt.

 

Then, I started with about a dozen hostas or so each year. I’ve recently learned this about hostas: the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap. It certainly does take patience, but this year they are spectacular ― all 126 varieties.

Here are some of my favorites:

The ones shown below were just tiny sprigs when I received them in the mail, and it has truly taken patience to see them become worthy of their names.

And what the heck, I’ll wrap this up with some of the latest daylilies:

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 44: Daylilies, Daylilies, Dayliles … And A Bunch Of Voles

The daylilies are coming fast and furious, accompanied by a fierce outbreak of mosquitoes. I have 189 varieties of daylilies. My sister, Beckie, and I collect these and together we have 225 varieties. We also belong to the Bismarck-Mandan Daylily Club and have great fun together at the annual auction.

On Sunday, my absolute favorite of all of the 189 burst forth with its first blooms: Wide Wide World. There will be weeks of pleasure from this plant, which I strategically placed right next to my patio for maximum enjoyment.

In the vegetable beds, Jim has so far trapped 15 voles, so he is triumphant. The magic formula turned out to be half a peanut superglued to a mousetrap, and he runs his trap line twice a day. The photos below show the initial crop of new potatoes and the damage the varmints can do if left unchecked.

He also spends a good portion of his time harvesting vegetables. The cucumbers are coming on big and pickle-making will commence any day now. His special thrill was discovering that his pepper crop is ripening early this year. Peppers are tricky to grow here in the north country and last year, he had to ripen these in brown paper bags, late in the autumn.

Below is a gallery of some of the newest daylilies to open, along with a few zinnias for good measure.

Further in Summer than the Birds –

Pathetic from the Grass –

A Minor Nation celebrates

It’s unobtrusive Mass –

No Ordinance be seen –

So gradual the Grace

A pensive Custom it becomes

Enlarging Loneliness –

‘Tis Audiblest, at Dusk –

When Day’s attempt is done –

And Nature nothing waits to do

But terminate in Tune –

Nor difference it knows

Of Cadence, or of Pause –

But simultaneous as Same –

The Service emphacize –

Nor know I when it cease –

At Candles, it is here –

When Sunrise is – that it is not –

Than this, I know no more –

The Earth has many keys –

Where Melody is not

Is the Unknown Peninsula –

Beauty – is Nature’s Fact –

But Witness for Her Land –

And Witness for Her Sea –

The Cricket is Her utmost

Of Elegy, to Me –

Emily Dickinson

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 43: The Daylilies Enter The Stage With A Bang

Now is the time when all of our hard work in the gardens of Red Oak House pay us with the joy of abundant blossoms and fresh vegetables. We’ve eaten the first of our tomato crop ― all juicy and scrumptious, along with fresh peas and beans. Now are the days of meals we call “nothing from the store.” Meanwhile, Jim is busy trapping a vole outbreak before these ruin our potato crop.

The daylilies have entered the stage with a bang. Their abundant blooms salve my displeasure that most of the zinnias have been consumed by slugs. Here is a gallery of some of my favorites from this week.

The winner for today was Happy Returns daylily, with 42 blossoms!

Wednesday, I counted 31 blossoms on Itsy Bitsy Spider daylily.

Although their beauty is more subtle, the hostas are blooming, too. What a great time of year it is.

“Each day you must say to yourself, Today I am going to begin.” ― Jean Pierre de Caussade

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Missouri River Reverie

My sister and I slipped away Thursday for a Missouri River kayak trip, on a perfect blue sky, windless day.

We launched at Washburn, N.D., with her son and his girlfriend, their first kayak trip on the big river. The current at the Washburn boat landing seemed a wee bit intimidating, but as soon as we were under way, it was clearly going to be a smooth float.

Because of the high water, there are not as many sandbars as in previous years, however, we did find a nice, little sandy beach for a break.

Although I’ve canoed and kayaked many lakes, including several trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, rivers are where my heart is happiest, and we are blessed to live on one of the finest rivers in the world, with clean water that runs in our section of the river mostly through prairie, thus does not suffer the severe effects of agricultural run-off. Right now, the water is very cold and we could only keep our feet in the water for short stretches.

Near the north border of Cross Ranch State Park, on the Nature Conservancy land, we spotted two adult bald eagles with two juveniles, right on the water’s edge, in the big cottonwoods. They just watched us float on by.

My kayak mascot, Baldy (which perches on my desk when I’m not on the water) was happy to see her kin.

Yellow warblers, spotted sandpipers, and swallows were all about. We spied on mama ducks (mallard, wood, and mergansers) with ducklings and a few Canada geese gathered with 14 goslings hugging the bank as we floated by.

We disembarked at the Sanger boat ramp, closed to boats because of the high water, thus all to ourselves (other than an extremely chatty camper at the adjacent campsite), and enjoyed cold libations. All in all, a perfect river day.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 42 — A Mostly Cool June

Although we had a few scorcher days in June, most days it was cool and the Red Oak House windows remained wide open. Late June also brought the blessings of rain, an inch and a quarter in the last days of this week. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief that the drought is over.

The vegetable garden looks terrific, although the rabbits got the replanted broccoli and have munched about one-third of the carrots (these in an area outside the rabbit-proof fence). Pea harvest will begin this week and the potatoes show great promise.

My meager strawberry patch, sadly in a shaded area, rewarded me to a few bursts of flavor in my mouth. We talk of converting this patch to another use, but it is difficult to decide what to grow without ample sun, this being in the vegetable garden area.

Other bacciferous plants are being attacked by the robins, especially the juneberry and viburnum bushes. We try to be gracious with the co-inhabitants of this place and let them gorge.

Between the rabbits and some insects, the 90-some zinnias I planted this spring are down to about 25. I’ve dusted them with an organic powder and sprayed with Liquid Fence to save at least a few. I really like these annuals, but doubt that I will bother with any in the future as it is not worth it when I have hundreds of perennials.

We had visitors here a couple of weeks back, family from Mississippi. It was a great pleasure to show my cousin some of the beauty of North Dakota on his first visit to the state, including Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where the post-burn wildflower bloom is abundant, and Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

These are the days of summer when there is a brief pause — the early season flowers have subsided and the daylilies will soon explode in color. The walleye bite on the river has slowed and all talk here is of how high the river is with the massive releases from Lake Sakakawea.

Soon each day will be filled with harvesting the vegetables. A few early season daylilies and hosta have begun to bloom, and much of our time is spent sitting on the back patio watching the never-still house wren pair busily raising their brood. I captured a short video here and if you listen closely, you will hear the little ones cheeping frantically as the adults arrive with insects.

Now for some thoroughly enjoyable Fourth of July celebrations in Bismarck-Mandan with lots of fun, family and fireworks!

P.S. About the time I was publishing this, the baby house wrens flew the nest box. Pretty quiet on our patio now.