The Fine Print — how should a small business collect bad debt?

September 30, 2012

By Jan Pierce


“What is the best way to collect bad debt after attempts to beg, plead, and cajole fail? Is it a worthwhile investment to work with an attorney? How much should you expect to pay? Or is it better to try to find a collection agency?”


First of all, just because collection agencies are expert in making people miserable, doesn’t mean that you should sic them on someone who owes you money. Collection agencies really only make sense, if they do at all, for a business with lots of delinquent accounts. Their average rate of success is not high. Harassing people over the phone isn’t really all that effective, but it does work some of the time. So if you’re a business trying to collect on lots of debts, you can play the averages and collect some of your debts and pay only a 33% contingency fee. But if you’re only concerned with collecting one debt, you don’t want to play the averages and you don’t want bad odds, no matter what the terms are. You want good to great odds, and a cost-effective method for getting them.

Suing, or threatening to sue, tends to be the most cost-effective way to get money out of someone. That said, the debtor must have the ability to pay the debt, for this method to work. So, the first task is to determine if they are “collectible.” If not, it could mean that they’re “judgment proof,” or in other words, getting money out of them will be like getting blood out of a turnip. If they own a home, have a job, and/or some assets, they’re probably collectible. The next step is to decide whether to use an attorney or not, and that depends mostly on how much you’re owed.

Small Claims Court recently raised the amount you can collect through its system from $5,000 to $10,000. It’s designed to be used by non-attorneys, it’s relatively quick, and can be a very effective method for putting pressure on someone to pay up, or to get a judgment. Even if your debt exceeds $10,000, it still may make sense to use this route because it is so quick and cost-effective. For instance, you could be owed $12,000, but sue for $10,000. The Small Claims Court system is well within the do-it-yourselfer’s capabilities. It’ll cost you $98 to file the lawsuit, about $40 to have it served, and plenty of your time. If you want to save yourself some hand wringing and hair pulling, you can always hire an attorney, but that will easily add $1,000 or more to the cost.

For amounts substantially larger than $10,000, you have to go through “Large Claims Court.” The process is expensive and time-consuming. Unless you get a default judgment—because the person never disputed your lawsuit, cases can easily stretch out to a year or more. You’ll need an attorney and you’ll need to pay him or her lots of money. This is why folks who are owed $20,000-$30,000 are in a particularly tough spot. Unless you get a default judgment, the attorney fees can chew up most of any recovery. And that’s only if you win. If you’re unsuccessful, the loss is even worse.

Considering the collectibility of a judgment is just as important as getting the judgment itself. If you can get the person to settle the lawsuit by paying a substantial amount of what you are owed before trial, that’s often preferable. That’s because getting a judgment is only the beginning of the collection process. Collecting on a judgment, through garnishment or other means, is an arduous and frustrating process.

Disclaimer: Advice in this column is general legal information and does not constitute, nor is intended to be, legal advice. 

Send your question to To protect your privacy, your name will not be published.

Jan Pierce, S.C. is a law firm in Milwaukee that was founded with the belief that people can make a positive difference in the world and make a profit. The firm’s emphasis is on assisting small businesses and social entrepreneurs in all aspects of launching and managing their ventures. 

Healthy animals, healthy people

September 30, 2012

By Sheila Julson

Pink slime. Sausage contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Salmonella-tainted eggs. Warnings about genetically modified foods.

News of food-borne illnesses and questions about the safety of GMOs, along with Big Ag horrors—the inhumane conditions of the animals’ quarters and confinement—frequent the headlines.

But there is an alternative choice from Ruegsegger Farms in Blanchardville, Wis. Ken and Sherrie Ruegsegger offer their customers meat from pasture-raised, grass-fed cattle that do not consume genetically-engineered animal feed and that are not given antibiotics and growth hormones.

—photo Sheila Julson

“What an animal eats, we eat,” said Sherrie Ruegsegger. She and her husband Ken own and operate their 140-acre farm and Paoli Local Foods, a market and café in Paoli, Wis., near Madison.

Sherrie said their 80 head of cattle and pigs, and their chickens—Red Star, Black Star, Orpington, and Americana (known for their green eggs) are not fed the steady corn and soy diets common in today’s commercial agriculture. “It’s not natural for what those animals normally eat,” she said.

The Ruegseggers’ animals are not confined indoors, except at night for protection against predators. They graze on grass and are fed barley, oats, and some corn.

Sherrie, minding their stand at the Clare Oasis Indoor/Outdoor Farmers Market, explained how their cattle graze in open pastures, and how their poultry ‘commute by trailer’ to fresh grass twice a day.

The Ruegseggers use rotational grazing for their animals, which is an agricultural method where herds (and flocks) are moved to fresh pasture and where grazed pasture is allowed to rest and grow new vegetation. To avoid overuse, they graze only four head of cattle on an acre of pas.

Sherrie said it only takes about 12 months to raise a steer to maturity using factory-farm methods, which may include confined quarters where animals are sometimes “packed in with their own feces” and where they consume fattening solid-corn diets and growth hormone. By comparison, hormone-free cattle fed a natural grass diet mature in 18-24 months.

Sherrie has observed that consumers are developing more consciousness about food quality and its origins. “They have seen the movie Food, Inc., and saw how farm animals are raised,” she said. She winced during a discussion of a scene from the movie that showed factory farm chickens unable to walk due to their abnormal, oversized girth.

Ken Ruegsegger took over his father Albert’s farm in 1979, which originally was a dairy operation. Ken said that in 1988, due to that summer’s drought, standard feed became costly, so he started experimenting with grass feeding. By 1992, he was regularly pasture-raising the animals.

Ken said the unusually hot summer of 2012 adversely affected his farm operation because of the price spike in feed grains, and consequently it will be too costly to keep many animals over winter. “We will be butchering as much as we can before winter,” he said. He recommended that customers order meat this fall, because not much will be available in January.

The Ruegseggers also raise turkeys. They take orders for about 200 Thanksgiving turkeys, on average, each year. “That sounds like a lot, but when one is used to the 10,000 frozen turkeys that are in the grocery stores from commercial farms, it isn’t,” Ken said. Ruegsegger Farms turkeys are delivered fresh the week of Thanksgiving.

Ruegsegger Farms sell their products at 10 farmers markets a week—four on Saturdays. Ken handles their café and store, Sherrie said, and she runs the market stands. They sell at the Clare Oasis Indoor/Outdoor Farmers Market (at the Marian Center) in St. Francis and at the South Milwaukee Farmers Market. They will also be at the St. Ann Center winter market this year.

The products at their market stands include meats from their farm and products from their Paoli market including natural produce, honey, artisan cheese, and maple syrup, produced by 75 area farmers and producers. The market also bakes its own cookies, a hit at the Clare Oasis market. “There’s a little bit of everything. We’re a smaller grocer, and more selective,” Sherrie said.

The Paoli market doesn’t carry any products that contain MSG or high fructose corn syrup. “Even ‘natural’ stores like Whole Foods carry some products with high fructose corn syrup,” Sherrie claimed.

While naturally raised, hormone-free meats are the Ruegseggers’ specialty, they also grow vegetables including heirloom tomatoes such as Pink and Red Brandywine, Green Zebra, Purple Cherokee, and a number of pepper varieties. Sherrie said their farm has grown from selling via online orders and home deliveries to farmers markets, the Paoli market, and CSAs (community supported agriculture).

“We’re always asking ourselves ‘what is the next step?’” Sherrie said.

Like most farmers, Sherrie said they put in 12- to 14-hour days. Sometimes 16.

They get a bit of a break during winter, but their market and café keep them busy.

Sherrie said there are many rewards in farming, like talking with like-minded people and educating customers about the health and environmental benefits of grass-fed and pasture-raised livestock. “I hope we can retire into farming,” she said.

Election workers needed

September 28, 2012

Bay View resident Neil Albrecht and Director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission is seeking elections workers. “We are in great need of election workers for the November 6 presidential election, including the voting sites in the 53207 zip code. You can work a full day, first or second shift. Bay View has a long and proud history of civic engagement. Please help in maintaining that tradition,” Albrecht said. Contact him: or find more information: here.

Author Jonathan Kozol at UWM Golda Meir Library: talk, booksigning

September 24, 2012

Jonathan Kozol, author of Fire in the Ashes: Twenty Five Years Among the
Poorest Children in America (2012), will give a talk and sign books at
4:00 PM on Saturday, September 29, 2012 in the fourth floor Conference
Center of the UWM Golda Meir Library, 2311 E. Hartford Avenue.
Kozol was awarded the National Book Award for Death at an Early Age:The
Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston
Public Schools (1967) and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Rachel
and Her Children: Homeless Families in America (1988). He was a National
Book Critics Circle Award finalist for Savage Inequalities: Children in
America’s Schools (1991).
The talk is sponsored by Boswell Book Company  Co-sponsors are UWM
Libraries, Friends of the Golda Meir Library, Rethinking Schools, and
Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

MADCC showing documentary “Beyond the Myth,” pit bull documentary, October 25

September 19, 2012

Friends of MADACC will host a screening of Beyond the Myth, a film about dog breeds commonly referred to as “pit bulls” and those who love these breeds, Thursday, October 25 at 7:15 p.m. at The Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee.

Tickets to the screening are $10 and only available online, in advance, at No tickets will be sold at the door.

Viewers are taken on a journey to four U.S. cities where Breed Specific Legislation focusing on “pit bulls” has impacted people and animals: Denver, Miami, Cincinnati, and San Francisco. The documentary explores the contributing factors behind the public’s generalized fear of “pit bulls” and examines the conflict existing between advocates and opponents of breed discriminatory laws, commonly referred to as breed bans. It investigates the myths associated with these breeds, challenges the idea that they are inherently vicious, and presents research regarding the media’s role in influencing people’s opinion on dog attacks.

Beyond the Myth takes a powerfully candid look at the public bias that surrounds ‘pit bull-type’ dogs, as well as the laws that discriminate against them and their owners.

The film allows the audience to experience the fear and frustration of families affected by breed bans, and puts the panic-driven hype  into perspective with ‘real’ statistics and first-person accounts. Beyond the Myth is a ‘must-see’ documentary for any and all dog lovers.” —Jodi Preis, Founder of Bless the Bullys and National Pit Bull Awareness Day

Beyond the Myth is the first hard-hitting, emotionally-charged documentary to expose the truth about ‘pit bull-type’ dogs: dogs as maligned as they are misunderstood. This film shows these dogs for what they are: loving, loyal, and playful companions that deserve fairness, respect, and protection. It is a film that anyone who lives with a dog should consider seeing.” —Kara Holmquist, Director of Advocacy, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)

Proceeds from the screening benefit Friends of MADACC, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the welfare of Milwaukee County’s homeless animals housed at the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC). MADACC currently rescues and assures safe, temporary shelter, veterinary, and humane care for over 13,000 stray, unwanted, abandoned, mistreated, and injured animals each year — more than any other animal control shelter in Wisconsin. Funds raised by Friends of MADACC support facility improvements such as installing outdoor exercise kennels, educational programs like Battle Against Dogfighting (BAD), and spay/neuter surgeries to increase adoption placement of the animals at MADACC and help reduce Milwaukee County’s pet overpopulation program.

For more information about Beyond the Myth, visit

To learn more about Friends of MADACC, visit

City job opening: Election Services Specialist

September 12, 2012

The City of Milwaukee is now accepting applications for the following position:


For more information and to apply for the position, click on the link below.  Applications must be submitted by SEPTEMBER 25, 2012.

Resumes and cover letters are not necessary unless requested in the Minimum Requirements or Application Procedure section
of the job announcement page.  If copies of college transcripts, licenses, certifications or other documents are required for this position
(see the Minimum Requirements section), staple photocopies to the back of the application. Official copies not required;
student copies of transcripts are acceptable.  While we do accept student copies of transcripts, the college transcripts you submit must include both the name of the college or university as well as your name. Transcripts that do not contain identifying information will not be accepted. If you submit the application online, please send hard copies of the requested documentation to the person
and address listed in the Minimum Requirements or Application Procedure section of the job announcement page.
Please do not fax applications and other documents.

Thank you for your interest in City of Milwaukee job opportunities

County Board launches real-time and on-demand viewing access to meetings

September 12, 2012

 The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors is proud to announce the official launch of “Connect with Milwaukee County,” an online initiative that allows the public to watch all board meetings in real-time and to access an archive of past meetings, on Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 8:30am in 201B of the Milwaukee County Courthouse, immediately in advance of the meeting of the Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee.

Powered by “CLIC” (also known as County Legislative Information Center), Connect with Milwaukee County is an web-based infrastructure that live-streams board and committee meetings; provides a searchable archive of recorded meetings; and brings all agendas, resolutions, supporting documents and other legislative materials to the fingertips of anyone with Internet access.

“This tool is the latest in a series that demonstrates our new era in Milwaukee County government,” said Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic. “When we say that we, as a legislature, are the government branch closest to the people, we mean it—from our monthly radio show and podcast to my own ‘Chat with the Chair’ traveling listening sessions, from our annual Open House event to this latest investment in communications with constituents.”

The unveiling of the Connect with the County initiative is especially timely, as the County Board of Supervisors has invited the county eExecutive to present his 2013 Recommended Budget to the Board at its September 27, 2012 meeting.

“I’ve made this sort of openness and transparency to the public a cornerstone of my leadership,” noted Chairwoman Dimitrijevic. “For the first time, board committee meetings, in which the core of all county legislation is debated and molded, will be broadcast live to the people.”

Under Connect with Milwaukee County, Internet access means complete access to all board activity, with the exception of closed sessions, which are protected by Wisconsin statute.

During the 2012 county budget deliberations, the board overrode a veto of the technology and equipment related to Connect with Milwaukee County.

Pet blessing September 29 at convent in St. Francis

September 6, 2012

On Saturday, September 29, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi will offer its fourth annual pet blessing on the grounds of the Motherhouse complex in St. Francis (just south of Oklahoma Ave. right along Lake Michigan). The event will be held outdoors, rain or shine, at 11 a.m. and will take place just south of the main building in front of the St. Francis grotto. Fathers Scott Wallenfelsz, SDS, and Dennis Thiessen, SDS, will officiate, blessing each animal individually. All are welcome and no reservations are required. There is a large parking lot along Lake Drive just south of the Motherhouse entrance.

The blessing is offered in observance of the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, known as the patron of all living creatures. Pet owners receive a St. Francis prayer card and medal, and each pet is sprinkled with holy water and receives a personal prayer.

For more information, call the Motherhouse at 414-744-1160 and ask for Sandy Guinta or Jan Parrott, or email

Jean L Merry

Communications Director

Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi

3221 South Lake Drive

St. Francis, WI 53235


Tel: 414-294-7313

Or: 262-502-9034


Results from today’s Milwaukee County Board meeting

September 6, 2012

The appointment of Supervisor David Bowen to the Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission for a term expiring August 1, 2014 was laid over with no objection.

· 10-7 (No: Alexander, Borkowski, Cullen, Lipscomb, Sanfelippo, Schmitt, Taylor) to sustain a veto from the County Executive on a resolution providing for an advisory referendum on whether the U.S. Constitution should be amended to establish that only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to Constitutional rights, and money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

· 16-1 (No: Sanfelippo) to override a veto from the County Executive related to changing the line of reporting for the Department of Labor Relations from the County Executive to Corporation Counsel.

· 15-2 (No: Mayo, Weishan) to layover a resolution relating to County Land Sales and the procedure for the disposition of real estate. All other items on today’s agenda were approved with no objection.

The complete digest agenda from today’s meeting can be found on the County Legislative Information Center:

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 200 of the Milwaukee County Courthouse, when the County Executive is expected to present his 2013 Recommended Budget proposal.

St. Joseph Academy’s free/reduced school lunch and breakfast program policy announced today

September 5, 2012

St. Joseph Academy today announced its policy for children unable to pay the full price of meals served under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program or milk for split-session students served under the Special Milk Program. The school office has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by any interested party.

The following household size and income criteria will be used for determining eligibility. Children from families whose annual income is at or below the levels shown are eligible for free and reduced price meals, or free milk if a split-session student does not have access to the school lunch or breakfast service.

For Determining Eligibility for Free and Reduced Price Meals or Milk



(Household) Size


Must be at or below
figure listed

Reduced Price

Must be at or between
figures listed


Must be at or below
figure listed

Reduced Price

Must be at or between
figures listed


$14,521 $14,521.01 and $20,665 $1,211 $1,211.01 and $1,723


19,669 19,669.01 and 27,991 1,640 1,640.01 and   2,333


24,817 24,817.01 and 35,317 2,069 2,069.01 and 2,944


29,965 29,965.01 and 42,643 2,498 2,498.01 and 3,554


35,113 35,113.01 and 49,969 2,927 2,927.01 and 4,165


40,261 40,261.01 and 57,295 3,356 3,356.01 and 4,775


45,409 45,409.01 and 64,621 3,785 3,785.01 and 5,386


50,557 50,557.01 and 71,947 4,214 4,214.01 and 5,996

For each additional household member, add

+ 5,148 + 5,148 and +7,326 + 429 + 429 and + 611

Application forms are being sent to all homes with a notice to parents or guardians. To apply for free or reduced price meals, households must fill out the application and return it to the school (unless notified at the start of the school year that children are eligible through direct certification). Additional copies are available at the office in each school. The information provid­ed on the applica­tion will be used for the purpose of determining eligibility and may be verified at any time during the school year by agency or other program officials. Applica­tions may be submitted at any time during the year.

To obtain free or reduced price meals for children in a household where one or more household members receive FoodShare, FDPIR, or Wisconsin Works (W-2) cash benefits, list the household member and the FoodShare, FDPIR or W-2 case number, list the names of all school children, sign the application, and return it to the school office.

For the school officials to determine eligibility for free or reduced price meals of households not receiving FoodShare, FDPIR or W-2 cash benefits, the household must provide the following information requested on the application: names of all household members and the adult signing the application form must also list the last four digits of his or her Social Security Number or write “none” if they do not have a Social Security Number. Also, the income received by each household member must be provided by amount and source (wages, welfare, child support, etc.).

Under the provisions of the free and reduced price meal policy, the Accounting Associate will review applications and determine eligibility. If a parent or guardian is dissatisfied with the ruling of the official, he/she may wish to discuss the decision with the determining official on an informal basis. If the parent/guardian wishes to make a formal appeal, he/she may make a request either orally or in writing to: Todd Beadle, Administrator, 1600 W. Oklahoma Avenue, Milwaukee WI 53215 (Phone 414-645-5337, extention 245).

If a hearing is needed to appeal the decision, the policy contains an outline of the hearing procedure.

If a household member becomes unemployed or if the household size changes, the family should contact the school. Such changes may make the house­hold eligible for reduced price meals if the household income falls at or below the levels shown above, and they may reapply at that time.

Children formally placed in foster care are also eligible for free meal benefits. Foster children may be certified as eligible without a household application.  Households with foster children and non-foster children may choose to include the foster child as a household member, as well as any personal income available to the foster child, on the same application that includes their non-foster children.

The information provided by the household on the application is confidential. Public Law 103-448  limits  the release of student free and reduced price school meal eligibility status to persons directly connected with the administration and enforcement of federal or state educational programs.  Consent of the parent/guardian is need for other purposes such as waiver of text book fees.

In accordance with Federal Law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call toll free (866) 632-9992 (Voice).  Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).   USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.



South Shore’s Oak Leaf Trail needs some love

September 2, 2012

Story & Photos By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

This section of the trail is on a bridge in Grant Park where large holes pose a hazard, especially for southbound trail users. —photo Jill Rothenbueler Maher

This pothole in Grant Park is 43 inches long and 13 inches wide. It is north of Picnic Area 2. —photo Jill Rothenbueler Maher

beneath grade. Most riders veer off to one side or another to avoid a spill. —photo Jill Rothenbueler Maher

Been on Milwaukee County’s Oak Leaf Trail lately? How about the South Shore segment? Were you surprised by the condition of the path?

Bike, run, or walk south on the trail that runs through the south side’s county parks and you will encounter sections of the trail that are crumbled and deteriorated.

Those on the trail must be vigilant and carefully monitor the pavement as they move along sections of Bay View Park, Sheridan Park, and Grant Park. In these areas, the trail is afflicted with uneven or sunken grade, heaved pavement, bumps, cracks, narrowing from adjacent greenery’s overgrowth, and the occasional gnarly pothole. A runner may sprain an ankle. Riders may be forced to quickly brake to slow down or come to a stop to avoid losing control of the bike, or worse. At times, where there are trees and shrubs crowding the trail, the only choice may be to swerve into the path of other trail users to avoid a pothole, rubble, or other dangerous pavement conditions. At the very least, bicyclists without shock absorbers get bumped bottoms if they aren’t paying close attention.

Ramsey Radakovich, Milwaukee County Parks Deputy Regional Manager—Forestry/Trails/Playgrounds, whose responsibilities include the Oak Leaf Trail, said every part of the trail is inspected every three years. He said the trail is constructed of 3 1/2 inches of asphalt, with a gravel subbase. He deems the South Shore portion of the trail to be in “good to fair condition, with a fair amount of life in it.”

Others grade the trail’s condition less generously.

Local recreational bicyclist Ken Schellin thinks the trail is still worth riding but said the Sheridan Pool section is bumpy. “It’s old pavement, but I’m very happy that it exists,” he said. “[But] it’d be great if this [the South Shore section] were as nice as the northern section—from the art museum, north through the east side and all the way up to Estabrook.”

Dick Knepper, who founded Bay View Bicycle Club in 1989, rides the trail solo or with club members each week. He said parts of the trail, including the section between Sheridan Park and Warnimont Park, are in such bad condition that he gets off the trail and rides on Lake Drive instead. “I wouldn’t advise anybody to ride it—it’s that bad,” Knepper said.

He noted that the trail in Bay View Park is compromised because it is traveled by the sheriff’s department SUVs and cars. “It’s that they patrol the parks but the bike path wasn’t designed to withstand the weight of cars,” Knepper said.

Radakovich disagrees. He said the asphalt depth is sufficient to handle occasional vehicle traffic from the county parks, county sheriff, and relevant police departments that occasionally use the trail for maintenance, safety patrols, or in response to a call.

Betsy Abert, a member of the Friends of Grant Park, said their members hear complaints from bicyclists about the trail. But, she said, the trail is only one source of concern. “There are so many infrastructure issues in the park, you could write a story every month about these issues,” Abert said.

Funding for trail improvement typically comes from the county. There are Federal grants applicable to trails but they are almost exclusively for new trails rather than the repair of existing trails, according to Milwaukee County Supervisor Jursik and Radakovich.

—photo Jill Rothenbueler Maher

Radakovich, referencing a recent estimate from the county’s Planning Department, said that reconstruction of the trail would cost approximately $40 per foot, on average. In light of decreased spending on parks by the Milwaukee County Board since 1983, a large-scale trail update seems unlikely.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Patricia Jursik, whose jurisdiction includes Grant Park, points out that Milwaukee is becoming known as a bike-friendly area. She has sponsored six annual “Pedal in the Park with Pat” events to bring attention to the parks themselves but also to trail’s condition. She said she would seek funding in the next county budget for repair of a small segment of the trail. If approved, Jursik said it will take a few years before the repairs will materialize because of the preliminary steps of the process: surveying the section of the trail to be repaired, soliciting and evaluating bids, and selecting the contractor.

The Oak Leaf Trail is included on Milwaukee by Bike maps, which are free and which can be found at bike shops and libraries. The city of Milwaukee prints 10,000-20,000 each year.

At press time, some local shops were out of the map but the Bay View Library information desk still had a small supply. A similar map that costs $10 is available at bike shops.

The bike trail can also be found on Google Maps, but you must zoom in until the trail becomes visible. The trail on the map is marked with a brown sign bearing the text “Milwaukee County Parks Oak Leaf Trail” and is identified by a green leaf.

Splendor in Bay View

September 2, 2012

Kim Kelly's front yard garden, 220 E. Smith St. —photo Jennifer Kresse

You don’t have to look very far to find a garden in Bay View. The passion for gardening spills out everywhere. It cascades from restaurant flowerboxes, invades curbsides, glows in front yards, or is secreted in private spaces.

Gardens in Bay View run the gamut from postage-stamp size to urban farm, from strictly ornamental to completely edible, from public to private, from practical to fanciful and back again.

Bay View gardeners are a plucky lot, claiming any and all available space to ply the art and science of gardening. Faced with weeds, pests, poor soil, drought, and rodents, they soldier on, finding solutions on their own or in concert with their friends and neighbors.

Here is our humble tribute to all who have put spade to soil. We share this string of pearls—a tiny sampler of Bay View’s garden splendor captured as late summer gives way to fall.

Neil Albrecht's garden. —photo Annie Weidert

Neil Albrecht’s garden, 3262 S. Taylor Ave., has been in the process of creation since 1994. He started his garden after he was inspired by English cottage gardens he saw during a visit to Great Britain. “Every year my yard is someplace different,” he said. “Most often, someplace better.”

Many of the plants in his garden symbolize milestones from his life. “Plants in one of the front gardens were given to me when I left my job at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. Next to those are three peonies that were given to me when my father died. Many others have come from friends and neighbors,” he said. “I barter a lot: A plant from your yard gets you a plant from mine.” His yard also includes what he describes as “uncharted areas” that he has “surrendered to nature.” These areas are thick with plants such as prairie grasses, bee balm, vining hydrangea, and wild aster. He suspects that rabbits live in this area, and possibly other creatures. “I’m not sure and I like that I don’t know,” he says.

Albrecht’s garden is chemical-free. He relies on mulch and weeding.

He develops his gardening skills chiefly by observation—planting, watching, and planting more. The solitude of gardening is what Albrecht likes best. What surprised him most when he got into gardening was that he likes it. “My experiences as a kid in the yard were limited to mandatory chores. I was in [this] house for years before I challenged my adolescent perceptions of yard work and really got some dirt under my fingernails,” he said.

Albrecht’s advice for first-time gardeners: Give yourself a generous gardening budget every year. Don’t spend more, but don’t spend less. Be patient; don’t be discouraged. Learn from your soil and approach your yard like this is a longtime adventure. —AW

Anodyne Café —photo Jennifer Kresse

Anodyne Café, 2920 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., sports a sidewalk vegetable garden on the south wall of the building. Lacee Perry, Matt McClutchy and their three children tend the garden next they’ve tucked up next to their café. Peppers and tomatoes proliferate in the petite garden. “We grow vegetables because they taste so good right out of ground, and it’s a good way to get the kids to eat more vegetables,” Perry said. “[Our children] can’t deny a cute little green bean they have planted, watered, loved, and picked themselves.”

The garden soil was enriched with compost from Sweet Water Organics. No synthetic fertilizers are used. Instead Perry and McClutchy use worm castings and tea to enrich the soil during the growing season. In fall, composted bedding from the family’s chicken coop is spread on the garden soil.

The biggest obstacle for gardeners Perry and McClutchy is the dearth of space for gardening. “Early spring rolls around and we have visions of stacks and stacks of home-canned goodies. The challenging part is to adjust those visions down to a city-size plot,” Perry said. “[Matt and I] were used to larger garden beds as kids. The city lots have forced us to plant in small beds carved out between swaths of concrete, both at our home and at Anodyne. Despite space constraints, the garden has been a source of delight. It’s great to talk to the customers and neighbors as they walk by about our garden’s progress and about their own patches of earth.” —JK

Jamie Beauchamp's and Andy Reid's garden. —photo Jamie Beauchamp

Jamie Beauchamp has cultivated the garden at 2943 S. Clement Ave. for only three years but in that brief time, along with his partner Andy Reid, transformed a banal landscape to something all together more interesting and pleasing to the eye. He has been gardening since he was a child and continues to do so as an adult. He is a professional floral designer and the proprietor of Jamier’s Floral.

Beauchamp and Reid revamped the space behind their home, previously defined by an ordinary lawn, into an outdoor living room of sorts, decorated with lush greenery, flowering plants, and shrubs, while retaining a small section of green lawn. The garden and yard were designed by Reid and planted by Beauchamp, who refers to their project as a friendship garden. He said that about 85 percent of the plants were acquired from friends through plant trades. “Almost all the plants in the garden have a story of where they came from. That is what makes a garden,” he said.

For those just who are just beginning to garden, Beauchamp advises that they start with low-maintenance plants that grow in a manageable clump, rather than those that spread. “I’m the type of person who will plant something one year and see how it does. If I don’t like it, I take it out the following year,” Beauchamp said. “Start small. If you start out with a big garden, it can become overwhelming very fast. Gardening is all about experimenting with all sorts of plants.” —JK

The Knapp Family garden. —photo Annie Weidert

The Knapp Family (Shannon, Kent, Zoey, Miles, Isaiah, and Oscar) lives in a house at the top of a very steep slope leading up from the street. Matriarch Shannon Knapp was dismayed to see their neighbors mowing their lawns with mowers tied to ropes (in order to navigate the inclines), when they moved into their home four years ago. She thought there had to be a better way.

In their first year in the new house, 2839 S. Linebarger Ter., Knapp removed the grass from one side of the steps and replaced it with perennial plants that didn’t require mowing.

Later, while she was away for a week with one of their sons for a school trip, her husband Kent Knapp surprised her by removing the grass from most of the other side of the hill. He replaced it with terraces. They are now planted with a mix of native plants and perennials, herbs, and edibles such as strawberries and tomatoes. The family also tends a large raised bed and container garden full of vegetables and greens in the back yard.

Knapp said she gained her gardening skills by trial and error, from friends, and Google. Most of her trees and perennial plants were acquired through an annual plant swap she participates in each spring and by trading plants with neighbors. For annual and edible plants, she saves seeds and trades them with friends. In late winter when it is still too cold for planting outdoors, the Knapp family starts seedlings in the basement. “The happiness of creating the seedlings in the middle of winter brings joy to a difficult time of year,” Knapp said.

The Knapp garden is grown entirely without chemicals. She buys ladybugs to reduce the aphid population and employs companion gardening to fend off pests. Even though tending the garden is hard work, it is rewarding for everyone in the family, especially at harvest time, when a garden “feeds our bodies and souls,” Knapp said. —AW

The Bay View Library gardens are the creation of volunteers, members of the South Shore Garden Club.

It’s impossible for patrons and passing pedestrians not to notice the bodacious flower gardens at the Bay View Library, 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Since the mid-90s, the flowerbeds have been planted, nurtured, weeded, pruned, and lovingly maintained by volunteers—members of the South Shore Garden Club (SSGC). During the past decade and a half, an evolving, eclectic mix of annuals and perennials has characterized the library’s floral landscape design. As they work on each year’s designs, garden club members consider plants’ growing habits and choose various species and cultivars to ensure that there’s something in bloom throughout the growing season. Daffodils, grape hyacinth, Russian sage, irises, daylilies, Brown-eyed Susans, asters, Liatris, butterfly bush, gaillardia, sunflowers, hollyhocks, and cosmos are some of the colorful blossoms bedecking the library’s flowerbeds. “One constant is the moss rose. It reseeds faithfully each year,” SSGC’s Kitty Schaefer said.

Hydrating the plants can be tricky because the island beds are not supported by the library’s in-ground watering system, Schaefer said. That stimulates an ongoing search for drought-tolerant plants by club members.

The volunteers apply fertilizer once or twice a year to give annual plants a boost. “We are constantly trying to improve our lovely clay soil with mulch and compost,” Schaefer said.

Schafer said she’s gratified and enjoys the positive feedback she receives every time the SSGC members work in the gardens.

Schaefer’s main advice to new Bay View gardeners is to amend the soil. “You have to have good soil, so keep working on that clay,” she said. —JK

Note: SSGC meetings are held at Grace Presbyterian Church, 2931 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., on the first Monday of each month at 6pm. Walk-ins are welcome.

Ann Wegner Lefort garden. —photo Annie Weidert

Since becoming involved in the local food movement about a decade ago, Ann Wegner Lefort developed a strong interest in growing, preserving, and cooking her own food, and being as self-sufficient as possible. Over the past seven growing seasons, with help from her husband, she has transformed the family’s backyard in the 3700 block of South Wentworth Avenue into an edible landscape. They dug up the soil, installed numerous raised beds, planted fruit trees and berry bushes, and made the most out of both horizontal and vertical space to grow their garden.

Window boxes are planted with edible greens, the gate to the backyard is arched with a grapevine, and a “hedge” of blackberry bushes grows along the foundation. Garlic plants grow at the base of a fence. Pole beans climb tall teepees and trellises. Edibles including salad greens, carrots, zucchini, winter squash, herbs, watermelon, turnips, tomatoes, kale, and beets spill over the sides of raised beds. Lefort said she’s most proud of how she has maximized the limited growing space of their small city lot.

Lefort’s urban garden also includes a cold frame that extends the growing season into colder weather. There are also rain barrels to capture rainwater. Lefort fertilizes her plants with organic fish emulsion, compost that the family makes themselves, and compost tea. Instead of using harmful chemicals, she manages pests by picking insects or insect eggs by hand or by using homemade solutions such as a soap and cayenne pepper spray to deter aphids. She uses beer-filled tuna cans to catch slugs.

Lefort acquired some of her vegetable growing skills at Pinehold Gardens where, she traded some labor for part of her share in their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).She learned from reading gardening and urban homesteading books, Mother Earth News, and through a lot of trial and error. “I’m usually very ambitious when it comes to vegetable gardening, but as a result have made a lot of mistakes from which I’ve learned valuable lessons,” she said.

Lefort loves gardening’s benefits. It provides time for deep thought, exercise, and fresh food. “I’m always surprised at how little time it takes to maintain a good-sized food garden. If you weed early and often and do little bits and pieces of upkeep every day, it’s really not a huge chore, which is what often keeps people from even trying it,” she said.

There are also challenges. Lefort said the 2012 drought brought abnormally high pressure from insect pests. Earlier this summer she was heartbroken one morning to find that  foraging raccoons had pulled down half of their cherry tree just when it was in full fruit. Lefort advises new gardeners to start small, set goals for the next year, 5 years, 10 years, and to keep checking the plan to see “where you are with those ideas or if they have changed.” The best thing about gardening is that even if something goes terribly wrong, there’s always another season, she said. —AW

Paul Lewandowski garden. —photo Annie Weidert

Visitors often comment about Paul Lewandowski’s unique garden at 2787 S. Linebarger Ter., which some describe as a magic kingdom or secret garden. In contrast to the more typical front lawn landscape, vibrant, colorful panoply of perennials, wildflowers, vines, and shrubs bursts in contrasting shapes and sizes against the cheery backdrop of a sunset-orange bungalow. Lewandowski has been cultivating his front yard garden for the past 10 years. “I always loved cottage gardens,” he said. “My house is a cottage bungalow, so it works well with the style of the house.” Because his lot has no backyard, he said he makes the most of the front yard.

The result is an eruption of color, visual interest, and life. Playful artistry ties the house and garden together.

The front perimeter is subtly lined with low, ornamental wrought-iron work that evokes twisting tendrils. Orange trumpet vine blossoms draped on an arched arbor attract hummingbirds. The arbor beckons and draws visitors towards a bright blue and white mosaic in the bungalow’s entryway. The interior of the garden opens up into a design that suggests a space of different rooms. Stone-and-brick pathways wind around shrubs and flowers, birdbaths, and a bench framed with flowers. At night, small white lights trailing over the arbor animate the garden and confer a sense of magic. “I love the wildlife [the garden] attracts,” said Lewandowski. “I feel like I created my own forest.”

His plants were acquired over time from garden centers, were started some from seed, or were given to him by friends and family. His garden skills are self-taught, mostly through trial-and-error and the aid of “a few good garden books.” Lewandowski said the biggest surprise about gardening was his discovery that “it doesn’t happen overnight.” He remembers looking at cottage gardens in books and thinking, That doesn’t look that hard! “Little did I know, it would take years, and I’m still working on it,” he said.

His advice for new gardeners: Just get out there. Start small, and keep adding each season. Don’t take it too hard if something doesn’t work out, because there are many plants to take its place. —AW

Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar flowerboxes are planted with herbs and edible flowers. The were created by Lynn Goldstein of Creative Landscape & Design. —photo Jennifer Kresse

Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar, 3001 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., gets a little help from its friends. The restaurant’s window boxes and containers are designed and maintained by fellow building-tenant Lynn Goldstein of  Creative Landscape Designs, Inc., 3003 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Goldstein changes the plants seasonally. “We start with pansies in the spring, which are used by Pastiche for garnishes for their dessert plates and for salads. Then we plant the window boxes and containers with a mix of annuals and herbs. What’s great about the edibles is that the chefs can just open the door and pick the herbs for whatever they are cooking that day,” Goldstein said. Annuals in the boxes include lantana, geranium, and Million Bells, all selected for their bright color and drought tolerance.

Pastiche chef/owner Mike Engel gave Goldstein a list of herbs and edible flowers he wanted in the boxes and planters including sweet basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, lemon verbena, Johnny Jump-Ups and nasturtium. “The nasturtium is used in salads and desserts. The lemon verbena is used in panna cotta. The rest of the herbs are used for seasonings, sauces, and entrees,” said Goldstein. She anticipates the herbs and annuals in the window boxes will be harvestable until late fall.

The concrete containers on the sidewalks flanking Pastiche’s main entrance are planted with Alberta spruce and periwinkle. In fall, they will likely be planted with mums, hostas, coral bells, asters, and flowering kale. Around Thanksgiving, the planters will be adorned with red twig dogwood and evergreen boughs. —JK

Donna Pogliano's patio garden. —photo Katherine Keller

Donna Pogliano’s patio garden at 1930 E. Estes St. makes use of containers and pots in combination with permanent beds. Herbs and annuals grow in pots and her flowerbeds are planted with perennial coral bells. Coleus are the predominant annual in the flower pots, which Pogliano says she can never resist, despite their tendency to overwhelm whatever is planted with them. “I particularly love the lime greens and some of the pink and green combinations, and of course, the black, and there seem to be wonderful, sometimes whacky new cultivars every year,” said Pogliano.

Pogliano’s garden starts in late May after she makes a trip to Custom Grown Greenhouses to discover what new varieties are available. There she also picks up some of her favorites: verbena, phlox, petunias, begonias, rue, and sun impatiens that she interplants with coleus. “I love, love, love annual vincas for their disease-free hardiness, their neat, dark green foliage, and their lovely reliable blossoms in shades of pink, purple, and white. I particularly like Little Bright Eye, which has white petals with a red ‘eye’,” said Pogliano.

The mix she has contrived for her pots is a blend of timed-release fertilizer, soil, and occasionally she includes polymer granules. The soil itself is a mixture of bagged potting soil, organic peat, and a generous amount of vermiculite. Pogliano uses vermiculite attic insulation rather than horticultural vermiculite because the attic variety is less expensive, just not as finely ground. Her biggest challenge in the garden is a wily chipmunk with which, Pogliano said, she resignedly coexists.

Pogliano, who dug her first Bay View garden in 1975, said her advice for newbie gardeners is to realize that gardens of every kind are always a work in progress. Nothing is forever. If you try something and it doesn’t work, not only is your compost heap a little richer for your failed experiment, but you have also opened up a new opportunity in the form of a vacant space in your garden. —JK

Nancy's Tawney shade garden. —photo Jennifer Kresse

—photo Jennifer Kresse

Nancy Tawney has been creating her gardens at 2973 S. Delaware Ave. for 17 years, since she moved into the neighborhood. Her desire to have a garden was one of the compelling motivations behind her move from a downtown apartment to her present home in Bay View.

Her gardens in the front and back of the house are deftly designed and highly sophisticated landscape quilts fashioned with the foliage of myriad green hues. A large sugar maple in the backyard plus two birch trees in the front yard create lots of shade. Consequently Tawney created a shade garden with plants that cannot tolerate much sun.

Twenty varieties of hostas, along with ferns, wild violets, astilbe, impatiens, and lamium  adorn the  garden behind her home. A wooden deck overlooks the fenced-in backyard garden that is stitched with winding walkways paved of Lannon stones. “I feel like I have created a personal park in my backyard—Nancy’s Secret Garden,” Tawney said. “I enjoy spending much time on the deck in my backyard, looking at the garden. I find much serenity in this.”

The front yard is planted with pachysandra and hostas. “The garden keeps evolving over the years as changes are made,” she said.

Tawney does all the gardening herself and she finds inspiration in taking garden tours. “Seeing things that I like in other people’s gardens give me new ideas for things to try in mine,” she said. —JK

One of the large vegetable gardens of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. —photo Joel Jaecks

Sister Mary Lou Schramer with some of the bounty of the convent's gardens. —photo courtesy Sr. Mary Lou Schramer

Sisters Helene Mertes and Mary Lou Schramer oversee and help maintain the huge vegetable gardens at the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, 3221 S. Lake Dr. Volunteers from Clare Hall, a residence for retired sisters, and a number of other people who live in the complex or nearby in the neighborhood, assist Mertes and Schramer. The volunteers weed, harvest, and tend the garden. The sisters started the kitchen garden three years ago. It is planted chiefly with vegetables and herbs plus strawberries and rhubarb. New additions this year include fennel, sweet corn, popcorn, dried beans, and the herb Veronica. “Every year we plant something new,” Schramer said. There are also flowerbeds and a squash garden that the sisters oversee, all pollinated by bees from the numerous hives on the grounds of the convent.

Schramer plans the garden’s layout, while Mertes is the primary seed starter. The majority of the garden is planted with heirloom seeds, which are started in the basement of the Motherhouse under grow lights. If pest control is required, the plants are treated with insecticidal soap and “beetle juice”— a mixture of hot peppers, dish soap, and water. This summer the drought and extreme heat were a challenge. To cope with the severe conditions, the garden was watered twice a week, and the time workers spent in the garden was scaled back.

The garden harvest begins in mid-June. After the early-morning harvest, the produce is taken to Clare Hall, where the vegetables are prepared for the various kitchens of the complex. Tomatoes are often served fresh; others are juiced and later in the season, some will be made into sauces. From the 63 tomato plants comprised of 18 varieties, to date 1,100 pounds of tomatoes have been harvested. Last year, the garden produced 910 pounds of potatoes. “That is the excitement—the yields,” said Sister Mary Lou. “No two years are the same and thus adjustments and experimentation is always being done. That’s what makes gardening a surprise.” —JK

Lu Wyland's garden. —photo Jennifer Kresse

Lu Wyland has lived at 1936 E. Oklahoma Ave. for more than two decades. When she started gardening, she originally planned to plant some asparagus. She tore out some yews, and eventually “a garden overtook the entire lawn.”

Wyland’s beautiful garden is a maze of sedum, lilies, passionflowers, delphinium, daisies, verbena, asters, coral bells, roses, balloon flowers, masterwort, and Love-in-the-Mist. She planted milkweed to attract Monarch butterflies after the neighborhood milkweed plants were removed when the Lake Parkway was constructed. “I gather the seeds every year so that everyone [around me] doesn’t have to have milkweed,” Wyland said.

Somehow though, the asparagus never got planted. “I could have been eating asparagus for 17 years!” she Wyland.

Wyland’s backyard is a combination of flowers and vegetables in a beautiful landscape. Along the patio, viburnum, cucumbers, hibiscus, clematis, miniature roses, peonies, marigolds, and potatoes intermingle. A lush champagne grapevine winds along her fence. “The grapes are really good and the birds got every last one this year. They came ripe so soon and I wasn’t expecting it,” Wyland said.

Just behind the patio is a meditative space—Wyland’s memorial garden for her cats and dogs that passed away. The garden is populated chiefly with plants given to her by friends and neighbors and includes sedum, bleeding hearts, foxglove, lavender, day lilies and irises. A tiny Japanese maple features prominently.

Her raised bed vegetable garden grows next to her garage. Carrots, watermelon, and butternut squash grow in elevated beds that require less bending and stooping, a boon since Wyland has had both knees replaced. She said another benefit of her raised beds is that they are “a tad” harder for the rabbits to access.

Wyland’s advice to anyone embarking on the first steps of a garden odyssey: Start small, with good soil. “Make sure,” she said, “you do really good things with the soil early on. Don’t think you’ll come back later and do it because that’s a pain in the neck.” —JK

Basil grows at the base of the potted palm at Sven's. —photo Jennifer Kresse

Steve Goretzko’s love of gardening and plants is evident everywhere you look, inside and outside Sven’s European Café, 2699 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Inside, customers dine under the imposing boughs of a 40-year-old rubber tree plant and fresh-cut flowers adorn tabletops. Outside, garden beds host shrubs, flowers, and crab apple trees. His potted palm trees share space with basil and peppermint plants, which Goretzko uses in various menu items served at the café.

Goretzko brings a lifetime of gardening experience to his café. “I had a garden at [Mitchell] Airport when I was 12. I grew my own stuff out there. Back then they had garden plots at the airport,” he said. So it was a natural progression for him to establish gardens outside his café, where he said every employee helps tend the gardens.

Some of his customers have given him plants. One of his customers was the source of the big rubber tree. She called Sven’s and asked if Goretzko would rescue her rubber tree when she could no longer keep it.

The palm trees were brought in from Florida and overwinter at Custom Grown Greenhouses (Milwaukee) each year. Goretzko grows tomatoes for the café in a couple of raised beds at the Hide House Community Gardens.

Gardening, Goretzko said, is fun. “It’s a peaceful thing,” he said. “It’s seeing something grow.” —JK


To watch a slideshow of more Bay View gardens, click on image.









Boiled Turnip Greens à la Mabel Walker

1.  Wash and remove the thick stems from the turnip greens (leaves). This is very important as any remaining dirt will end up in the pot and will make the greens gritty. Wash them repeatedly, 3 or 4 times at least. Separate the main stem and any other large side stems from the leaf. Throw away the stems or compost them.

2.  Buy or harvest far more greens than you think you will need for your dinner. They boil down considerably. It will take several pounds of raw greens to feed 3 or 4 people after stemming and boiling.

3.  Bring a large pot (2-gallon capacity, or larger) half full of water to a hard boil.  Add 4 tablespoons salt, 4 tablespoons sugar (to kill the “bitter”), and vegetable oil or salt pork, to taste. (I use them interchangeably.)

4.  Add de-stemmed and washed greens in batches. As they begin to boil they will shrink, so just keeping adding them as they boil down until they all fit in the pot.

5.  Cook on a low boil for 3 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

6.  Serve the greens over cornbread or alone. The juice that the greens are cooked in can also be
consumed. It is known as “pot liquor” and is high in vitamins.

The main points to keep in mind are to always wash the greens thoroughly, to remove the stems, and to use sugar in the water. Otherwise, you will most likely end up with a bitter, gritty, green mess that is completely inedible. If done right, they can provide a highly nutritious, low cost meal.

Clint Walker's turnip, cabbage, and broccoli garden. —photo KatherineKeller


This is the recipe that my grandmother Mabel Walker used and put on the table for the better part of 75 years. We grew the greens, but they are available in grocery stores here year-round.

In the South, they are planted in the fall and eaten all winter. However, here in Milwaukee, I have managed to grow them as a summer crop and they seem to do quite well. In the South, the term “greens” usually refers to mustard, kale, or collard leaves, but turnip greens can be used. The main reason mustard, kale, and collard are used is that they produce a greater amount of greens for a given plot of land than turnips do. Greens are planted in a mix, ordinarily. Back home, turnips are primarily grown for their roots—the turnip, when boiled, is eaten much like a rutabaga.

Mustard does not grow well in the summer here in Milwaukee, so I have had to depend entirely upon turnip greens. This year the total cost of planting and growing my turnip plot was less than $1.00.

Clint Walker
Bay View resident
Laurens, South Carolina native

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