St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Margo getting into treatment routine and Russ Rambles

Could use a little rain at the Cabin to give the watermelons
the final push into getting ripe before it freezes.  It looked
like rain last week, but fizzled out with just about the amount
trickling down as the poor folks see from a tax break for the
The third week of chemo begins with more testing.  She is enrolled in a clinical trial (research) that adds an addtional drug and additional testing to the standard chemotherapy for breast cancer.

This week includes her treatment on Tuesday morning, about 3 hours of drugs dripped into her chest port along with blood tests, another biopsy of the breast tumor and an MRI.  The additional tests are all "free" as part of the research study--being done on Friday and will give her an early snapshot if any of the chemo is working--are the tumors larger, the same, or smaller.

The routine is: chemo on Tuesday, feeling normal on Wednesday, some tiredness and upset stomach on Thursday through Friday morning, and then OK through the next Thursday.  This will continue for the 1st 12 weeks of part one of chemotherapy.    She is optimistic, tolerating things well, and overly cheerful and pleasant.

I am down for the week to Pine Island, before heading back to WI for Friday and the weekend.  Friday, we have a celebration at the Luck Museum to watch the Luck Area Historical Society receive a check for $90,000 from the Albert Ravenholt foundation to build an addition to the library/museum for a family heritage center.  Luck is the center of the Danish community in Polk County, and we are putting together a resource room for local history and family research centered on the Danish culture.  The Polk County Genealogical Society, the Luck Area Historical Society and other groups are all helping to make this happen.  My role is a technical one--I am working to digitize old records, photos and documents to make them available online and at the Ravenholt Family Heritage Center (name not yet finalized).  The Ravenholt foundation is making this all happen.  You can read more about this amazing family at Ravenholt Family of Luck Wisconsin

With my myasthenia gravis, I gave up spraying Mom's apple trees this summer.  It is a shame as they are many very nice apples on the trees, already ripe and some falling to the ground.  Some are fine, some are wormy and some are blemished and wormy.  I made a few pies already, cutting around the worms.  I couldn't hold the sprayer nozzle up to spray them decently--muscles just don't work right yet.  If I spray every 2 weeks from July -September with Sevin, I normally get worm free apples, and the Sevin is about as mild a spray as I can find to use.  Seems that "organic" meaning "wormy" apples are not much in demand ;-)  However, there are a lot of them for the deer to eat--and they aren't so fussy.

Sent off another proof copy of the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Writers book that we are getting ready for Christmas sales.  Need to have it finalized in a month or so to get it all ready.  I use's for book printing--looks like it will be about 300 pages and cost about $5 to print to be sold for $10 each.  I expect to give them as Christmas presents this year.  Lots of good stories and poetry by local authors, including some of my own Polk County Fair blue ribbon entries!

I am still waiting for improvement on myasthenia gravis.  Mostly I have lost the double vision and can function--just can't do anything physically vigorous without getting tired immediately and being unable to breathe.  MG makes "voluntary" muscles so they don't function right-you get one or two good pulls on the wrench or to open the jar, and then you can't do another one until you rest up for a while.  Very annoying and makes things like cutting wood and even walking something you have to think about ahead of time and really pace yourself.  However, the doctor says "be patient, things will improve."   She sees this as about 6 months to get things under control and balance--I am 3 months into diagnosis.  Probably the year I will put in a propane heater at the cabin so we don't have to bother with wood until we are both back to normal.

Visited with Ward Moberg, of Taylors Falls, MN this week.  He has been researching moonshining in the St Croix River Valley for many years.  I passed along some names of local folks he might contact and told the little I knew about it from local stories.  Phil Peterson, of St. Croix Falls has a new book out on the subject.  Northern Moon   Hope to pick up a copy soon.

The home I grew up in on Evergreen Avenue was for a time used for making moonshine and homebrew.  Dad bought the farm in 1941.  The big cattle watering tank had been chopped full of holes by the Revenuers, and carefully soldered up again to hold water.  The basement of the house has charred floor joists overhead from a still explosion there.  The basement of the older house, which was exposed when the water pipe trench from well to house went through it, had lots of old clay jugs for liquor storage in them.  We boys never tried making moon, but did have some explosive batches of homemade rootbeer!

 The 1920s Prohibition of alcoholic beverages pushed folks into making their own, some for home use and some for sales to local folks and some to sales for speak easy's in the Twin Cities.  Out in West Sterling along the St. Croix, moon-shining thrived as it was isolated, lots of springs for cooling water, and somewhat of a lawless area too.  Even after the repeal in the early 1930s, moon-shiners continued to make the product and sell it, competitive with the highly taxed commercial liquor trade. I think that the coming of World War II with sugar rationing, the economy doing better finally drove the last shiners out of business.

The mother bear and her two cubs came by the cabin again last week.  This time they managed to pull the garden hose loose from the faucet under the cabin (the cabin is up in the air on posts with a walk through underneath) and it ran the water all day while I was gone at the same time draining the hot water heater and burning out the element when it heated without water--so I am applying to the DNR for bear water system damage to get things fixed (not really--although I am starting to worry about all my nice pumpkins ending up as bear fat if I don't rescue them soon).  The pumpkins are orange and a lot of them this year; the squash, for the second year in a row didn't set.  I think they aren't gettring pollinated, as the vines are great, they bloomed all the time, it was warm, enough moisture but no squash.  Have to hire some bees I guess. A neighbor suggested using an electric toothbrush and hand pollinated the blooms--thinks the buzzing sound might help convince the flowers a real bee was visiting!

Nothing much exciting happening as we hunker down with the health side in focus for the winter.  We have Medicare and supplemental insurance (through Mayo where I worked) that makes things quite pleasant when the bills show up mostly paid.  I have nothing to gain from Obamacare except the peace that knowing others too might get decent medical insurance from the program--so out of feelings of guilt for how good we have it, I am very much in support of extending this to others and am not bothered that it might cost me some more taxes.  How people can feel happy about themselves and at the same time accept that others in our society don't have access to medical care is something I think is absolutely immoral, un-Christian and selfish.  Repealing Obamacare without an alternative, as conservatives are so eager to do, is much worse than just fixing what is wrong with it as we find out.