Jean Atter Chwala is interested in creating art that doesn’t require a trip to a crafts store.
The Boyd-area artist will teach audiences to do just that at a pine needle basket-weaving demonstration at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 15 at the Heyde Center for the Arts, 3 S. High St., Chippewa Falls.
Atter Chwala creates baskets woven from Wisconsin red pine needles, then decorates them with beading. She’s been weaving the baskets for more than 20 years, she said, after watching a woman create them at a Cadott art show.
“She told me about a book, I got the book and started making them,” Atter Chwala said. “It’s kind of trial and error. Now I can make a small basket in about three hours.”
Atter Chwala stitches the baskets using a unique materials: Wisconsin red pine needles she gathers in late summer from the land surrounding her residence.
“They can be stored dried indefinitely, but they have to be soaked in water 18 to 24 hours before you make a basket, to make them nice and soft,” she explained.
Most pine needle basket weavers use longer “pine straws” gathered from trees in the Carolinas. But the local pine needles Atter Chwala gathers are about half as long — roughly six inches — making the process of basket-making more difficult.
After the weaving process is complete, she brushes the basket with melted beeswax, preserving the needles in their woven form.
In total, all Atter Chwala uses to produce a basket is a large needle, a two-inch piece of plastic drinking straw, waxed thread, scissors and, of course, softened pine needles.
Artists and art lovers in the community shouldn’t find the process too intimidating, however.
“I don’t think it requires a lot of practice. It’s just time-consuming,” Atter Chwala said.
At the hour-long demonstration, she will demonstrate the technique of coiling and stitching the needles to form small baskets, suitable for decoration or holding jewelry or trinkets.
Atter Chwala’s baskets will also be available for purchase at the demonstration.
The demonstration is in honor of the Heyde’s 54th annual Spring Art Show, which is currently on exhibit. Art will stay on display until Friday, April 20. For gallery hours, visit the Heyde Center’s website at http://www.cvca.net/events.
With the snip of a pair of large scissors, Collin and Dylan Seubert officially opened their parent’s business Friday afternoon.
Liz and Brian Seubert, of Chippewa Falls, purchased Lake Wissota Golf & Events in December 2017 and celebrated the re-opening of the establishment. The venue has been open for events throughout the winter and the restaurant, bar and grill opened this spring. Golfing will be seasonal as weather permits.
Since the purchase was made final, the business has undergone a variety of renovations and updates, including updating carpeting, general and grounds equipment, docks, the menu and golf carts, which are now electric and include GPS. More staff and premium wine were also added to the venue.
The Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a grand re-opening with a ribbon cutting at Lake Wissota Golf & Events Friday afternoon, featuring appetizers, networking and a small ceremony. The Seuberts were given their first “tax-free dollar” at the event as well, with a framed dollar from the chamber.
Mitch Fredrickson, the venue’s manager, spoke at the event, introducing attendees to the management staff who will be helping run the golf activities, restaurant, kitchen and grounds of the venue.
Fredrickson, who has been with the business since its previous owners, said he is excited for the new venue’s capabilities and changes, adding that people can expect the “best in the Chippewa Valley for playability and customer service.”
For new owners Liz and Brian, the ribbon cutting and grand re-opening signified the official start of fulfilling their desire to continue to remain involved in Chippewa Falls — a main motivator in their purchasing of Lake Wissota Golf & Events.
“I think it was, we live in Chippewa Falls, so to be a part of something that’s a bigger part and also to give back to the community,” Liz said.
While Chippewa Falls Senior High School’s music department has 40-plus events each year, the department has rarely — if ever — gathered all its top ensembles and soloists together for one night of performance.
That’s about to change, said Chippewa Falls Music Association (CFMA) president Annalie Thies.
Thies and the CFMA, a booster club for the Chi-Hi music department, have organized a fundraising event that’s a step in a new direction for the department.
“(It’s) a night of music, celebrating the best of what makes us great … you can’t walk away from it not loving something, if not all of it,” said Chi-Hi band director Mike Renneke.
Encore! is billed as a showcase of “the best musical moments of the year.” The two-hour show touches on the past year’s performances from Harmonics, Wire Choir, Jazz Band, various orchestras, top ensembles and student spotlights.
“It’s not very often that outsiders get to see into a classroom when that light bulb moment happens,” Renneke said.
Audiences will get a little taste of all the department’s performances from the school year, from a 1950s musical theater number to Baroque, classical, jazz and pop pieces.
As for the name? “The reason we called this ‘Encore!’ … (it’s) the best musical moment of the year we get to relive. It’s 18 of them in a row,” Renneke said.
“The Harmonics’ (show) ends with ‘Uptown Funk’ from Bruno Mars. You’ve got the philharmonic orchestra, and you’ve got that,” said Thies, laughing.
Encore! is replacing three years of Chi-Hi Music’s Got Talent, a dinner-and-a-show event previously held at a local conference center and the Eagle’s Club Banquet Hall. The former show involved a $40 price tag, dinner and raffles.
Music faculty said that, although it was enjoyed by audiences, the dinner event wasn’t showing off the full scope of the students’ talent.
“It wasn’t reaching the community the way we’d hoped,” said vocal director Ron Buckles.
The formal dinner show regularly brought in 75 to 100 people, but sometimes created physical challenges for the performers.
“(Standing) on the top riser, you could reach and touch the ceiling… In Wire Choir, we had to flip someone, and her feet almost hit the chandelier,” remembered senior Chase Bucheger. “We needed more height and area to perform. This is going to be a great change.”
Senior Daniel Modl, who remembered performing in Jazz Band in the 2017 event, agreed.
“The people who had multiple instruments had to reach behind and hope we grabbed it, and not someone else’s trombone,” he said.
The auditorium was the obvious choice of venue, Renneke said: “We said, let’s pump the brakes and do it here … We’re familiar with this space, and we can put on a really spectacular show.”
Now, with a 760-seat capacity auditorium and $10 tickets, the CFMA and the music faculty members are expecting a large turnout — not just from families, but from the community as a whole.
One of the student performers said he hopes middle school students will attend, and begin considering joining a musical group when they enter high school.
“Middle schoolers (are) coming up into freshman year of high school, and there’s a lot of tension and anxiety … Especially in marching band, we try to alleviate the scariness, tension and anxiety for kids,” Modl said. “It would be a great opportunity for middle school students to see all the stuff they can accomplish in high school.”
Proceeds from the event go the CFMA, which donates the money to the music department. In the past, the proceeds have funded band uniforms, music stands and scholarships.
“What CFMA does for hundreds of kids is explosive,” Buckles said.
Encore! will debut Sunday, May 6 at 4 p.m. at the Chippewa Falls Senior High School auditorium. Purchase tickets at https://cfhs.ludus.com/ or call the Chi-Hi box office at (715) 726-2406 ext. 2409. Tickets are $10 and may be available at the door.
With just over two weeks left to apply for a license and register to grow hemp in Wisconsin for the first time in more than half a century, state farmers must also factor in low traditional crop and dairy prices—and a possible trade war—when considering adding hemp to their field rotation and market sales.
Jerry Clark, agricultural agent for UW-Extension-Chippewa County, said the extension has been fielding questions about hemp farming possibilities since the Wisconsin State Legislature approved the farming in November, which was allowed through the Farm Bill in 2014.
This is the first year in recent decades farmers can grow hemp in the state. The deadline to apply for a license and register is May 1.
Growing hemp is an attractive option to farmers who have felt the impact of consistently low prices in dairy and traditional crops like corn and grain. But Clark added that the process of growing, harvesting and processing hemp is similar to other crop techniques, and farmers are always interested in furthering their market.
“This crop might be one that they can make some more income on,” Clark said.
Currently, hemp is grown predominantly for its seed, Clark said, but with a fiber market for hemp — which has been traditionally used for ropes, fabric and paper among other products — sales could flourish. That market would be unlike the current corn and other crop markets, which saw a good growing season with a low demand for the product, Clark said.
A possible 25 percent increase on Chinese soybean tariffs — and other tariff bartering as part of a possible trade war — could also impact profits for farmers in Chippewa County, Clark said.
“It’s at a global level, and how does that impact a farm in Chippewa County? It’s trickle-down there. The market reacts to all news,” Clark said.
China is the largest purchaser of American soybeans, but increases in price could lead the country elsewhere to find its crop.
As for those looking to hemp as another source of income to pad their market worries, the extension has been suggesting farmers parcel off one to two acres of their planting land for the hemp, rather than fully jumping into the hemp-growing business.
“Try it on a smaller scale. Maybe if (the) market expands, that’s where they can expand acreage… I don’t see it being adopted widely immediately,” Clark said, adding that the adoption of larger hemp growing farmers could come within three to five years, should the market pick up.
Farmers who apply for the license will also have to submit to research and tests of their fields and products, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).
Growers will have to submit a planting report by July 1 or 30 days after planting – whichever is earliest – and a final product report by Dec. 15 of the crop year. Records will also have to be kept on a seed source, seed variety, agronomic and production information, fit-for-commerce certificates and the name and address of a processor, according to the DATCP.
Processors of hemp will have to report on the amount of hemp received from growers and markets by Dec. 15 and keep a record of its sources of industrial hemp and those the hemp is sold to.
“These first few years, it’s going to be more of a research and trial period in order for farmers to get comfortable growing it. It has lots of benefits in terms of helping with crop rotation, introducing a new crop in your cropping system for disease and pest management,” Clark said. “Hopefully we can get a few farmers to grow it this year and see how it goes.”
Growing hemp in the Chippewa Valley
Local farmers will want to get hemp into their fields just after soybean planting, Clark explained, provided the soil is warmer. Planting by late May to early June and harvesting by mid-September is ideal, Clark added.
Pest management is almost a non-factor, Clark said, while the fertility of the plant is similar to alfalfa and corn. The plant is also an aggressive species, making weed control an easily managed problem.
It has similarity to soybeans in terms of disease possibilities—farmers should not grow hemp in fields where soybeans were harvested the year prior. Clark recommended old corn or grain fields.
Growers won’t need to hassle with added equipment as well. Clark explained the crop can be planted with a traditional seeder and drill that most crop farmers have, can be harvested with a modern combine and its processing involves a similar drying and baling process like that of hay.
“That’s where I think farmers in this area would have some advantage, because they already have equipment,” Clark said.
All fields have to be tested by the DATCP for THC levels prior to harvesting, the department said. Belonging to the same family as the marijuana plant, THC is present in the hemp, though commonly very low.
Taken 30 days before harvesting, readings higher than 0.3 percent of THC will not be accepted, and farmers will have to destroy the field where a failed test was taken, eating the loss of planting. If the crop passes, growers will receive a fit-to commerce certificate.
According to DATCP, growers will not be prosecuted under Wisconsin law for THC levels that are under 1 percent.
Growers will also have to pay $250 per test and sample.
Farmers should also consider the high moisture levels of the plant, which could make timing a harvest tricky, particularly with the stems, Clark said.
Once harvested, hemp is dried and stored before it’s sold, Clark explained.
Obtaining permission and working through DATCP
Inspections, licensing fees and research proposals are all requirements those interested in hemp farming will have to contend with, according to DATCP.
Growers and processors will have to apply for a one-time license and annual registration through the department by May 1. Background checks are included this process, and those convicted with drug offenses are prohibited from growing hemp.
Growers registering 30 or less acres will have to pay $150 for a license, and the cost increases $5 per additional acre up to 199 acres. Those registering 200 acres or more will pay $1,000.
There is no fee for a processor license, but processor registration is $100 annually. Grower registration will cost $350.
Growers who will also process their own hemp do not need a processing license.
Once a grower is registered and licensed, they will be responsible for obtaining their own seeds. According to DATCP, the department is still in the process of obtaining registration through the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to be a seed importer.
Seed certification is not a requirement for distributors of hemp seed, DATCP explained, but it does provide increased chances of a low THC reading.
Farmers interested in selling seed in Wisconsin will need to become licensed through the DATCP as a seed labeler, according to the department.
For more information on Wisconsin’s first year back in hemp production, visit datcp.wi.gov.
Wisconsin State Journal reporter Rob Schultz contributed to this report.