I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas…

claregreenhouseLast January I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with my good friend Clare Hintz of Elsewhere Farm. While I always enjoy hanging with her, this encounter was particularly special because I was drilling her about her year-round greenhouse for Northern Gardener Magazine.

For years, Clare has inspired me with her passion for local food production. She is brilliant, funny and the hardest working woman I’ve ever met. Conversations with her often result in me imagining abandoning my small lake lot for a spacious hobby farm in the woods where I can let my Little House on the Prairie dreams of collecting chicken eggs and wildflowers in the wind come true. The only difference, I don’t actually want to do the work. Clare does. And, she does so everyday through her efforts as a farmer, PhD student and all-around awesome friend.clarehintzgarden

The article came out this November. I’m attaching a pdf of the piece here for any northern gardener that has the desire and drive to create her own winter greenhouse oasis. In the meantime, I think I’ll reread the Little House series, buy some locally laid eggs and perhaps plant a few microgreens in my windowsill. Realistically, that’s what this struggling mama can muster up in terms of farming.

claregarden2 This year, winter hit extra early. I already find myself feeling vitamin D deprived and dreaming of warm summer nights. Instead, I’ll have to make due this winter crashing Clare’s greenhouse oasis in the wonderful Herbster community. As we enter this season of giving, I’m just so happy to have folks that have found their true passion in life a part of my life. It makes me genuinely happy and inspires me to keep pursuing my passion in life… even if it isn’t abandoning life on Moon Lake.

PS We’re soon to be proud landowners in Cable. Turns out we won a land auction last month after the person who outbid us discovered he couldn’t in fact afford to outbid us. Pretty excited to be adding land in the southern part of Bayfield County to our mix!

 

The World’s Oldest Table

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Kahiki Table. Made from Kauri wood. Priced at $100,000. Photo credit: http://www.ancientwood.com

I must admit, I’ve become somewhat of a wood working snob over the years. In part, this is because my husband turns bowls and other treasures. Often times, the wood is local and has a story behind it. Or, not local with a story behind it… like the time we had to call TSA to see if we could bring a stump on the plane since there was no way our luggage would make the weight limit otherwise. Turns out, while you cannot bring a rolling pin on an airplane, they have no problem with you bringing a 50 pound stump that you found discarded near Gettysburg. But I digress.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet Robert Teisberg. Teisberg is the owner of Ancientwood, Ltd. in Ashland. He also happens to be a craftsman and distributor of Kauri wood. What makes Kauri wood cool? Well its claim to fame is that it is in fact the oldest wood in the world. To me, while this is an interesting tidbit, the unique grain is what I love most about this wood. Photos don’t do it justice. But, if you’ve ever seen a finished Kauri wood product up close, you cannot help but be drawn in by the enchanting reflection that occurs when the light hits it. I can only compare it to that of a gentle wave rolling off of Lake Superior.

While I am mesmerized by this wood and even bought my hubby some for his birthday, I haven’t thought much about it lately because the oldest wood in the world costs quite the premium. But, that’s part of what makes the email I got this past week pretty amazing.

Teisberg just finished a work table. Not just any table, but a table made out of 50,000 year old Kauri wood that is listed for a mere $100,000. I, unfortunately, won’t be buying this artistic masterpiece anytime soon. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t salivate over amazing art… that was crafted right here in northwest Wisconsin.

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Kahiki Table. Made from Kauri wood. Priced at $100,000. Photo credit: http://www.ancientwood.com

If you are interested in learning more about Anceintwood, LLC, visit their website. Also, here’s a bit more on the company in the story I wrote for Business North in late 2012.

 

 

 

 

Ashland Company Monopolizes Oldest Wood Market in the World

(first ran in Business North Magazine in late 2012)
Sitting at a desk in the depths of the Ashland Area Enterprise Building, Robert Teisberg is never quite sure what to expect to hear when his phone rings.

“I was sitting at my desk yesterday and this guy from Beirut called me interested in my product,” Teisberg explains. “After talking for a while, it turns out their climate isn’t that much different than ours. It’s pretty neat, actually.”

These types of calls might seem unusual, but then again, Teisberg’s product isn’t exactly mainstream. You see Teisberg is the only licensed distributor of Kauri wood in North America and one of a handful of sellers in the world. For those wondering what Kauri wood is, its claim to fame is it holds the title of the world’s oldest wood.

In a “Splintered History of Wood” Spike Carlsen explains that Kauri wood comes from New Zealand’s North Island. Carbon dating indicates the wood was buried in a peat swamp about 50,000 year ago and has remained perfectly preserved since. So, how does 50,000-year old wood go from being in a New Zealand peat moss to being manufactured into impressive finished products in Ashland, Wisconsin?

Teisberg, who used to spend a lot of time sailing, learned about the wood during a visit to the region during the Millennium. Teisberg says this “was about this time, Timeless Timber in Ashland was getting a lot of recognition. They were being featured on CNN and their wood wasn’t nearly as old.” Recognizing the product’s market potential, he started doing some research only to discover a huge void in the North American market. He had the skillset (he’s a trained woodworker) and the ambition to make a deal as the sole distributor in North America. By 2004, Ancientwood Ltd. was up and running.

Fast forward to today and Ancientwood, Ltd. employs 5 employees in Ashland. The company’s reach has expanded beyond North America with sales in 27 countries worldwide and sales approaching $500,000 a year. Their most recent sale—two tables from a single, 40 foot piece of wood that when attached will make a table 40 feet long, 5 feet wide, and 5 inches thick. It’s destination—Colorado. The price tag on a finished table of this magnitude is approximately $100,000.

Part of the appeal to Kauri wood is its mammoth size. Many of the trees grew for more than 1,000 years creating massive pieces of wood that can grow to be 40 feet around and 200 feet high. Teisberg says the wood also has an “active grain” that in some pieces creates an impressive shimmering white effect off the wood. In addition, Teisberg says as the oldest workable timber, there is also a finite quantity making it comparable to liquid gold. Currently, the only way the trees can be harvested is by extracting them from below the ground—often times in farm fields. The Kauri tree does still grow in parts of New Zealand but these trees are protected.

The combined appeal makes Kauri wood a natural fit for woodworkers looking for something different. Teisberg compares the wood loosely to Basswood but says each piece varies greatly. From a wood workers perspective, it is worth noting the wood is not petrified, allowing for the wood to finished with normal techniques.

Despite the appeal, the wood has yet to catch-on with major distributors. Part of the issue is major distributors aren’t necessarily comfortable with how the wood will react. Skeptics have questioned the authenticity of the wood’s age, even with the carbon dating conducted by independent organizations. This combined with the recent recession have made times tough for Ancientwood Ltd. but Teisberg remains committed to making this company work.

“We have several routes we’re looking at right now,” Teisberg says. The product seems to be a hit with guitar players that has resulted in one national guitar maker expressing interest in buying their wood. There’s also the potential of making something for the Smithsonian.

The company has yet to make a profit in part because he needs a private investor to help boost his buying power. In a perfect world, Teisberg says a “$2.5 million investment would allow for pre-purchasing 10-year supply of wood, driving the overall price of the wood down and turning a profit.”

In the meantime, Teisberg will continue selling finished and unfinished pieces of wood, never knowing what the next phone call might bring.

The Wild Waterfalls of Iron County, Wisconsin – Part III

The tough ones.

I’m using tough in a generic sense. The falls I was able to find weren’t necessarily difficult to access or remote in terms of mileage on foot. However, they either involved fleets of steps, vague directions, or a lack of signage making it a bit of a hit or miss in terms of finding. That said, each of these falls is definitely worth visiting. Each ones presents an impressive view and in many cases an opportunity to enjoy the falls in complete solitude. Despite it being fall peak, these falls were not overly packed. In fact, with the exception of Potato River Falls, I was a lone hiker at each of these falls.

Potato River Falls
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This falls barely makes this list. The primary reason is the falls involves at least 150 steps to and from the parking. The waterfall is a 90-feet drop on Potato River near Gurney. The falls is located within a town park that has rustic picnic campsites. I also found the outhouse to be particularly photogenic among the golden leaves. Once in the park, you have two main options. The first is to head to a nearby observation deck where you can see the river valley. This does not provide great views of the falls, though. From there, you can take a footpath to the dramatic descent down. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne thing worth noting on this staircase, the step sizes vary dramatically depending on the steepness of the grade. In some areas I felt I could skip two steps each time while in other areas, a single step was the height of three. This is something to watch if you are use to uniform stair steps. In terms of finding the park, it is relatively easy. Take Highway 169 South from US 2 through Gurney. Turn west on Potato River Falls Road and drive approximately 1.5 miles. The park is clearly labeled.

Peterson Falls
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeterson Falls was my first stop of the day. At first glance, I thought this waterfall would be simple to find. To be frank, it ended up being way more complicated than it needed to be due to false directions. Both the Iron County website and Travel Wisconsin provide directions that reference an Ero Nasi Construction sign. I’m not sure at what point in time this sign existed and/or if I’m blind but after multiple drives along Highway 2 outside of Hurley and never noticing this large construction sign, I finally veered off highway 2 in frustration at Stoffel’s Country Store. It was here I noticed a dirt road heading the approximate direction of the falls. At the intersection of 2 and this road, a white TODD sign indicating Peterson Falls. Once you find that road, you drive approximately .3 miles. Directions imply a small turnaround. Highlight the word small. I missed what is the turnaround and ended up driving on what I can only describe as an ATV trail. Keep in mind this is literally 1 mile from a major state highway. Regardless, it definitely felt remote. Once parked, the rest is easy.

A spacious footpath through a dense forest leads you directly to the East Branch Montreal River. From there you follow the path and river upstream to Peterson Falls. It is a 35-feet drop and takes about 5-minutes to walk to. From there, you can continue along the footpath for additional views of the river. I followed the path for approximately 25-minutes before turning back due to a mixture of rain sleet. In addition to a couple of waterfall snapshots, I also enjoyed the side pools of water filled with swirling fall leaves.

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Spring Camp Falls
Since several folks have written about this waterfall, I have to believe the falls does in fact exist. However, despite my best intentions to find this remote waterfall I certainly could not find it. It doesn’t help that the Travel Wisconsin website cuts off its directions mid-sentence. My secondary source from the County was more helpful but I was unable to find East Branch Road. Or, if I did, I didn’t know it was East Branch Road and the rustic path signs never came into my view. After more than an hour of driving up and down gravel roads in this approximate area I gave up. Next time, I may have to use a GPS.

Foster Falls
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the flip side, finding Foster Falls was a walk in the park compared to Spring Camp. The falls is somewhat remote in the sense that you are once again driving on unmarked roads. However, this waterfall has just one dirt road you travel down making it easier to navigate. Also, the road abrubtly ends when it intersects with the Potato River. From there, you just put your car in reverse until you see a dirt road on your right. You travel down this road right into a remote riverside campsite. Once parked, you can hop out and hear the falls. Follow your ears to Foster Falls. The 25-feet falls is the only thing you’ll hear in this country. Not much for traffic, homes, hikers, anglers. I was not only the lone sightseer on this fall Saturday afternoon but the only car on Sullivan Road. To get there, go north from Upson on Highway 122 for 5 miles. Turn left on Sullivan Road (this was not marked when I drove so be sure to use your mile gauge) and proceed 2 miles until the road abruptly runs into a raging river. When you get there, you’ll know you’ve gone far enough.

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Wren Falls
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf all the waterfalls in Iron County that I visited, this was my favorite. I’m not sure why. Perhaps, it was the drive in. It was particularly picturesque. It was also the most adventuresome portion of my journey. My 10-hour journey took place immediately following a solid 12-hour rainfall. Many of the roads were muddy and at times had standing water that I was never quite sure about. Each time, though, my trusty Subaru plowed through… except this time. During my drive to Wren Falls, I hit a particularly muddy patch of road. Unfortunately, my car halted. I’m confident, with a little acceleration motivation, I would have continued along my journey. However, it was during this time that a lone truck drove around the bend. In it, a man determined to rescue the damsel in distress. As someone who has watched a few too many after school specials, not to mention my remote location, it caused me great angst. Once standing in the muddy waterhole knocking on my car window and gesturing he could help, I decided to accept his help. In addition to being quite nice, he was very effective in getting my Subaru back on dry land. The timing was odd given he was the first and last truck I saw in this portion of my journey, but sometimes that’s how life works. I continued along until I hit the hairpin turn where a center road would take me to the entrance of the trail to the falls.

To my surprise, when I hit this turn, a large sign summoned me to the falls. The only downside – it was a rusted out sheet of metal, filled with bullet holes and spray painted Wren. It didn’t exactly scream pristine waterfall but at least it verified the directions. Once parked, I hopped out my car and made my way to the falls. The falls, which is located on the Forks River, is 12-feet. While this may not sound large, the vantage point from where you can see the falls makes if feel much larger. While there isn’t much in terms of a footpath to walk along the river, the natural rock formations lend themselves to scrambling up and down over ridges providing a number of angles to look at the river. In every case, the view doesn’t disappoint. I ended up spending nearly an hour taking in the sites of this waterfall and wandering through the woods. For those wanting to spend even more time exploring, a primitive campsite positioned just a hop, skip and jump from the falls await. To get there, head 5.5 miles south on US 2 on Highway 169. Take a left turn on Vogues Road. Travel about 3.5 miles until a hairpin turn. From here, take the center road for about 1 mile where the road forks. You can hike up the hill to the primitive campsite and waterfalls from there. (I missed that part of the directions though, and drove which is also a possibility. In all honesty, it is very easy to mix up ATV trails and dirt roads in this country).

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The Wild Waterfalls of Iron County Wisconsin – Part II

The easy ones.

Iron County has no shortage of water. The county boasts 300 crystal clear lakes covering 34,000 acres. To the north, the county line is Lake Superior. This creates the perfect storm of waterfalls—some easier to access than others.

Upson Falls:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpson Falls is located within a well-maintained town park. The falls is a mere 18 feet drop along the Potato River but has picturesque river views that you can access via a rugged walking trail. In terms of amenities, there are a couple of shelters, grills, camping spots and a permanent out building with bathroom facilities. To access the park, take Highway 77 into Upson. Turn north at Upson Town Park. This particular waterfall is well signed.

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Gile Falls:
In full disclosure, I did not photograph or see this waterfall due to torrential rain. However, I did find the parking area and view the nearby Gile Flowage. Given its proximity to Upson Falls, I thought this was worth mentioning. This is a beautiful flowage with a modern park, boat launch and amenities. According to the Iron County website, the falls include a 15 foot drop on the West Branch of the Montreal River. To access, take Highway 77 into Montreal. Turn left of Kokogan and then right onto Gile Falls Street.

 

Superior Falls:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuperior Falls hugs the Wisconsin/Michigan border. It is an impressive waterfall and at least during my viewing, a popular spot for anglers. The waterfall itself is a 90 foot drop of the Montreal River. It is the final drop the river makes before heading into Lake Superior. The falls is located next to an Xcel Energy dam. There is a dirt parking lot. The walk down to the falls is a bit steep and rather than stairs, it is a mix of cement, dirt and gravel along what I imagine service vehicles could drive down. There is a rope you can grab as a hand railing. Once at the bottom, go behind the Xcel dam along a trail and head upstream. Within minutes you’ll be at the falls. If you head the other direction, you can enjoy an expansive and untouched view of Lake Superior and its shoreline. There is not much in terms of picnic benches, rest areas, etc. To access the falls, take Highway 122 north off Highway 2 in the Saxon area. Travel approximately 4.7 miles and then turn left on a gravel road. This falls is marked with an Xcel sign.

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Kimball Falls
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’d be difficult to find an easier waterfall to access. Kimball Falls is located within a town park in Kimball, Wisconsin. The park has paved roads, gorgeous picnics areas, a small playground and restrooms. It is also next to the West Branch Montreal River. The Kimball Falls is small—a mere 10-feet drop. But, the park marks the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic. Little to no hiking is needed to enjoy this waterfall. And, it is just minutes off of Highway 2. To access the falls, turn south on Park Road just 3 miles outside of Hurley. The park is clearly marked. There is a small one land bridge that goes over the river. Those wishing to hike can follow the footpath upstream for additional scenic views of the river. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read more about my adventure touring Iron County’s northern Waterfalls.

YOLO: The Wild Waterfalls of Northern Iron County, Wisconsin

This isn’t meant to be a political post. Over the course of the past year, news from Iron County has inundated my Facebook feed via a flurry of political, economic and environmental posts. The posts were often triggered by a proposed mine that may or may not ever happen. But buried within the posts were references to countless, unknown waterfalls that I hadn’t seen referenced on a regular basis in travel publications or local news stories.

Waterfalls mesmerize me. I’m naturally drawn to water and there is something cascading waterfalls that calms my soul. When my husband and I completed the Lake Superior Circle Tour, we stopped at every easily accessible waterfall on Lake Superior. We’ve done countless North Shore trips, day hikes and exploring in our neck of the woods to photograph just one more fall. By default, this included at least 2 waterfalls in Iron County. But, after some digging on the Iron County website and reading an article on the Travel Wisconsin website, I learned there were at least a dozen documented falls that were accessible to the public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a cool, crisp, and extra wet fall morning I decided to load up my trusty Subaru with my camera, snacks and a worn-out gazetteer to see just how many of these falls I could find. I had 10-hours and a full tank of gas. Given my time constraints and location (I live two counties away), I had to limit myself to northern Iron County. By my initial estimate, I thought I could photograph and explore seven waterfalls. My initial estimate was wrong. I didn’t factor in a torrential downpour, mismarked roads, flooded backroads, incomplete directions (thanks Travel Wisconsin), and at times a lack of common sense on my part.

By day’s end, I managed to discover and enjoy seven of the nine waterfalls and a gorgeous overlook where I enjoyed some serious windburn and a beautiful view of the Penokees. As usual, Mother Nature did not disappoint me. Many of these waterfalls were remote. Fall colors were at their peak with the rain and haze drawing out the vibrant golds and radiant reds against the grey sky. Swirling leaves, rapid waterfalls and solitude provided the perfect backdrop for the photographer in me to pause for a moment and reflect on what an incredible place I live.

The day held one flaw I saw repeated over and over again in the backroads of Iron County. A disconnect between man and nature. As someone who loves hidden gems, I understand the value of locals keeping some things private. I also get many of these backroads aren’t meant to be major thoroughfares for folks to travel. But, would a simple, occasional road name sign be so much to ask? Or better yet, could we limit the bullets to hunting animals (in-season of course) versus signs? As a lone, single women in God’s country, it is not very comforting to find the path to what you hope is a waterfall posted with a graffiti ridden bent metal sign filled with bullet holes. Last time I checked, this isn’t the wild, wild, west in the 1800s. It is disheartening to see remote, pristine campsites posted with a simple request of no cutting trees, next to a series of stumps. But I digress.

I end my day at Superior Waterfalls. Here the Montreal River makes a final 90-foot plummet before finding its way home to Lake Superior. It is an impressive way to end a day full of discoveries and a thunderous reminder that sometimes exploring in your own neck of the woods is as calming and invigorating as any far away place.

Over the course of the next days I’ll share directions and additional photos from this day but in the meantime, here are a few of my favorites:

 

Amnicon Falls: The Unassuming State Park of the North

Amnicon Falls is one of those often overlooked but beloved state parks near my home in northwest Wisconsin. The park is small compared to nearby Jay Cooke State Park. It is often lost in the hype and marketing of the North Shore and the countless parks and waterfalls that dot the shoreline. By some respects, it falls on the wrong side of the bridge. I have a hunch, if it were 15 miles northwest, it’d trump Gooseberry Falls in visitor counts and poised family waterfall photos.

Lucky for me, it isn’t. Instead, this unassuming park provides meaningful moments of reflection and an opportunity to pause in life. This past month was no exception. I awoke early on a Sunday morning to meet a friend for coffee in Duluth. As I pulled out of the driveway, I discovered I was ahead of schedule and had an extra 20-minutes to kill before breakfast.

As a new mom, these moments of unexpected solitude are prized possessions that compare to winning the lottery. I immediately knew I’d find myself at Amnicon State Park. I arrive at the park just before dawn. Despite the park being open for over an hour, the parking lot is empty. This is often the case when I visit these falls. I hop out of the car and take in what the park has to offer. By many definitions, it isn’t much. But for me, it is everything.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe park has no extensive trail system. There isn’t a single set of stairs to an expansive overlook of Lake Superior. The state hasn’t invested in a multi-million dollar interpreter center or deluxe restrooms. Instead, it is a simple park that encompasses an impressive portion of the Amnicon River. Within seconds of getting out of your car, you find yourself staring at a series of small but picturesque waterfalls. A few moments later, a wooden canopy crosses the river framing a set of lower falls that is a photographer’s dream.

amniconbridgeAccording to the Wisconsin DNR, the bridge is a Horton or bowstring bridge, named after Charles M. Horton. Horton patented the bridge structure while working in Duluth. In its prime, it was one of several highway bridges that allowed folks in northwest Wisconsin to connect to the west. Today, only 5 of these Horton bridges remain. The bridge moved the park in 1930. During the height of the Depression, the Brule CCC constructed the wooden roof that covers the bridge.

One can’t argue the park’s beauty. But what I love most about it is its simplicity. To me, parks exist for people to reconnect with nature—a simple time-out in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. In some cases, this means wilderness areas that can take days to explore or hikes that are measured in miles not footsteps.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI snap photos for a few minutes and then pause to take in the silence. Despite being just moments from Highway 2, the only sound is that of thundering water. I wander across the bridge and upstream to another set of falls. Snap, snap, snap. I have photographed these various streams of water countless times. I pause on the riverbank and take in this untouched beauty. I admire the neat line of pines and the golden needles that are starting to fall from their branches. After another few moments of pause, I make my way back to my car. As quickly as I arrived, I leave knowing this park will wait for me until next time.

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The Intersection of Healthcare and Technology: My Firsthand Experience

Greetings from northern Wisconsin! This weekend I’m heading outside to enjoy what is sure to be fall peak in my neck of the woods. I couldn’t be more excited in part because this comes after a nearly a month of my entire family being sick. And, knock on wood, but right now we are all healthy and ready to get outside and enjoy fall.

I won’t go into the gory details but needless to say, in the past month we’ve visited our local Community Health Clinic 11 times. We’ve spent one morning in Urgent Care. I utilized my employee health plan and Urgent Care during work one day. And, I got to experience Westfield Hospital’s Wal-Mart set-up over Labor Day weekend.

It has been an interesting ride. I work at a hospital. I serve on the board for our Community Health Clinic. I’m passionate about health disparities and have written several articles about the impact of the affordable care act in northwest Wisconsin. But, I’ve experienced all of this from a relatively healthy perspective and as someone with health insurance.

As I watch the medical bills roll in from what started as a simple round of Pink Eye, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have health insurance. I’m also grateful that despite living in what many folks would refer to as Hicksville, I have access to amazing providers in both an Urgent Care and Clinic setting. Our public health system is strong, despite continuously having funding cut. As frustrating as the system can be, this last month reminded me of the positives including the quality care my family received.

This comes on the heels of me writing several health related articles that will come out in MN Business Magazine the next few months. The first, came out in September and focuses around a software system focused on reducing medical errors. Ambient Clinical Analytics is currently being test at the Mayo Clinic. Someday, should you find yourself in an ER, it may become part of your patient experience. Read the full article here.

As someone who just recently got around to downloading the Kindle Ap on my IPad so I could read my first e-book, I tend to be slow when it comes to technology. But, I’m all for outside the box solutions that allow providers to focus on care and not charting or attempting to read charts. Kudos to this organization for taking that step. And, I hope many others follow.