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The carving is done, and our initials have been carved by Mike, and at the back of the tree, he added his signature as artist.

Mike Bihlmaier – 815-404-6375 – and his skateboarding avatar, the bear, have completed the chainsaw carving of our bicentennial oak.

He began the final animals by roughing in the doe and her fawn at the base of the tree.


While the curious squirrel looked on from above.

Meanwhile, the wood chips piled up higher, and higher.

At last, the deer were fully hatched.

While elks Joan and Fred looked on from behind the stone wall.

All the remains is to give the oak its new protective coating, take down the scaffold and clean up the scraps, and maybe add some initials and an autograph (see final edition to come, in a few days).

The frisky squirrel on his branch is now completed.

For more about Mike Bihlmaier of the Echo Carving Team, see this website: http://www.echo-usa.com/Carving-Team/Members/Mike-Bihlmaier. Here’s Mike with his array of echo chain saws being used at the Applewood Lodge oak project.

Mike has prepared the base of the massive tree for the impending carving of a doe and her fawn, which will complete the new, permanent animal and bird population of our tree.


Artist Mike continues to discover new occupants. Here’s a long look at work to date.Now we see a nest taking shape. And so here they are, a wise mother owl enfolding her two chicks in her broad wing. And, now, another character scampers onto the tree — a curious squirrel! The owls better keep a close eye on Mr. Squirrel.

Another cat joined our first today, as artist Mike Bihlmaier (815-404-6375) continues his chainsaw sarving on our deceased, but still kicking, bicentennial oak here at Applewood. Here’s the latest progress:

Last night, I witnessed, along with more than 150 other agitated citizens, a City Council meeting in the small Wisconsin resort town of Lake Geneva, where the mayor and aldermen, including two women, “entertained” with a stylized Kabuki performance in which the local government’s secret greed for geographic growth was pushed into the open through challenges by dozens of local citizen speakers intent on restraining such growth urges and preserving the small-town character of their community.

At issue was a massive 710-acre partially wooded rural site, a major watershed into pristine Geneva Lake, with important wetlands, adjacent to a State Park, which separates the site from the rest of Lake Geneva. The property had been purchased from local farmers by a developer more than a decade ago. He tried to get it rezoned for residential building by the Town of Linn. Failing that, he urged the land be annexed by the City of Lake Geneva, where he thought he’d get a better development deal. But when he property was annexed, and the developer came forward with plans for more than a thousand homes and a golf course community, the citizenry balked, and opposed such a massive development that would over time almost double the size of their city. Plans were revised, but the city council rejected the project, under increasing pressure from it citizenry.

Last night, dozens of the citizens present spoke out, with passion, intelligence and even rhetorical brilliance, on the need to protect and preserve this land in a natural state, for a variety of environmental reasons and to constrain the long-term growth of their small lakeside community. The City Council listened to hour after hour of such heart-felt testimony, then quickly moved to a vote, with most of the council members saying nary a word. One alderman had the courage, at the last-minute, to point a finger at the mayor, suggesting that an under-the-counter deal had been made with the developer. to drop a $120 million law suit against the city claiming it had unfairly blocked the developer, in exchange for a vote to remap the land from rural holding (meaning 20 years — a generation — before residential development could be considered) to residential. Such remapping would be the first step in rezoning the land to allow housing development. The city’s corporation counsel hushed the nervous alderman.

The citizens argued that the community’s Comprehensive Master Plan, adopted less than 18 months ago, requires the land to remain rural. The City Council seemed to view their own master plan as being just as irrelevant as they viewed the citizen speaker opinions. The City Council chose to ignore a previous community referendum which had overwhelmingly turned down the proposed development.

The dance played out, as choreographed by the City Council. After the mayor mumbled that the city, which currently already has 1100 other approved residential development sites, at a time when nothing is being developed, must plan for the future, and have an area to grow, the council voted to let its small town character slip away, delivering on its decade-old secret promise to give the developer exactly what he wanted. It was nearly midnight when the dejected citizens could go home, having witnessed a performance that left them further ashamed of and estranged from their community’s government.

This dance may be over, but the play continues.

The 1979 James Bond film Moonraker, which I watched again tonight, reminds us of a space program that was then exciting and new, and which has now been left to wilt on the vine by a U.S. government that seems more bent on war than on exploration.

Moonraker, written by Ian Fleming in 1954, was due to be filmed in ’73, but was not shot and released until 1979. Its release preceded the Space Shuttle by 2 years, though the film featured not less than six of the shuttles, and the manned space station featured in the film was not actually started until the core section was assembled in space in 1998.

The film also featured the supersonic Concorde passenger plane, showing a BA plane landing in Rio. The Rio service, via Paris, began in 1976, and the Concorde, of which 25 were built, flew from 1969 to 2000. Thus, the Space Shuttle and the Concorde featured in this 32 year-old movie, are no more, and only the Space Station, which began 19 years after the film and is not due to be finished until next year, remains. It is expected to fly until 2020, and possibly 2028, and maybe there will be a U.S. spacecraft capable of shuttling to it again before then.

Great industry and progress continues as chainsaw artist Mike Bihlmaier adds to the menagerie in our 200-plus year-old oak. Here is a raccoon holding and apple, and then another apple on a branch.

Now, Mike begins to carve a cat, lounging on a branch, then a more but not completely finished cat emerges.

And, the work goes on…

When I contemplated our gracious bicentennial oak tree, here at the edge of the forest of Applewood Lodge, I never imagined it populated by a cross-section of the animal kingdom, but now that chainsaw sculpturist Mike Bihlmaier (http://www.7-sons.com/) of Marengo, IL is at it, the first creature has emerged.

It is a red-tailed hawk.

Over the next week, Mike will be adding many other birds and animals of our property to the old oak, including at least one cat, because we have the feral variety on hand, as well as our trusty house cats. Watch this site for more postings, as they arrive. Here is the scaffolding from which Mike is working, and some shots of the work in progress to date.

This human sized hummingbird nest, which sleeps three (humans) has been on display at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. Unfortunately today is the last day to see the nest, so check it out in this video (http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/127789228.html).

I visited the wonderfully unique nest after lunch today with zoo officials. A real hummingbird nest is about the size of a penny, which is more than the value of some people-sized homes in today’s real estate market.

At the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the country’s last free zoos, your penny goes a lot further, and could even be a down payment on a tasty lunch at the zoo’s pond-side Cafe Brauer!

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