St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Remodeling the 1917 House

The 1914 Polk County Ledger newspaper has ideas for the modern house.  Maybe I will use it for the remodel of our 1917 house. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Resolutely Unresolved 2015

For many folks, the end of the year is spent reviewing the past year; the events, the successes, failures and the changes that came about. What went right and what went wrong and what to do to make next year better.  

For others, it is a time to celebrate, drink and eat to excess, and to move into the next year, guilty for the binge and in a proper frame of mind to make resolutions also to improve for the next year.   

Not me!  What is past is gone; what comes next is more fun if it just happens!  

I get irritated by the retrospective past year regurgitated to us on TV, in newspapers, magazines and on the internet.  I still have a sound memory, and reminding me that Robin Williams done himself in or someone won a political race does nothing to make my life better.  

I don't dwell on the past, and I don't make big plans for the future just because it is the end of the year.  Instead, I do these things whenever I feel the spirit move me (yes-- I was raised a Fundamentalist and have drifted into Complacentism in my tin years).  Being retired, frugal but well pensioned, and in health good enough not to think about that lets me be free!

What might I do in 2015?   Maybe in a few weeks if winter continues frigid, I will feel the urge to move; hook the truck onto the camper and then ask Margo "Want to come along with me to Mississippi for a month?"   No planning, no preliminaries, just make sure the furnaces are running and the water turned off and get out.   No cats, no dogs depending on me, just a wife who is independent enough to make up her own mind to chose to come or not, and in good enough health to not need my help. 

Or if the weather moderates, I will get back to outdoor work.  I really dislike being stuck indoors, but want it at least 20 degrees to get outside and work and milder would be even better.  Without some sun and physical work, life is boring.  However, the work has to be varied.  I like the farm as there are 10 buildings all in need of repair; 40 acres all that could have some adjustments (several potential ponds) and an orchard, garden, well, septic system, all with the potential to fall apart at anytime; 4 cars in the 1990s with lurking failure; 6 tractors age 50 or more all with major shortcomings and a wife who is more often than not in need of maintenance. 

Some folks are born needing adventure, variety and excitement. Others prefer routine and stability.  I like novelty--no repetition, no regular hobbies--has to be something new that stretches my brain. Learning something new is good.  But it can't be just anything. Learning another language is boring  You just communicate the same things with a different set of words; like washing clothes in front loader versus a top loader.  

The same thing happened when I learned Morse Code and radio theory to become a technician level Ham Radio (KA0KZF).  Once I got there, I realized I wasn't interested in what was communicated via code or voice -- shop talk about the toys.  I loved the learning part -- and still can rattle off some CQs and messages I beep by car horn to the cows as I drive to Luck or St Croix (telling Margo the horn needs exercise to keep it functional). 

Hell would be anyplace where there was a routine.  Even playing harp more than one hour a month would be punishment.  An eternity anywhere would be unbearable if we still had any consciousness left--so promising eternal bliss or eternal punishment are equally abhorrent.  

The worst part of my jobs over the years was anything routine.  In teaching, having the same subjects year after year; having to grade thousands of math and science problems from kids.  It drove me out. I was too conscientious not to carefully look at each algebra problem to note where it went wrong, but at the same time hated doing it.  Too good for my own good I suppose. 

I found the only way I could grade the huge stack of papers was to get plastered Friday night so a stiff hangover Saturday let me plow through them in the proper frame of mind.  I realized this was probably not the right career for me if I wanted to keep a sound liver.    

Working at Mayo was the same.  As soon as I got competent and mastered an area, I tried to find something different.  When given a routine or boring task, I spent most of my time figuring out how to make my computer automate the task so I wouldn't have to do it. Only when I was learning something new did I feel alive and useful.  Of course, my bosses thought the opposite.  Conflict with management helped things stay interesting. 

One task at Mayo Clinic was to record signals coming from the digestive tract into a computer and then have the computer find every "bump" on the signal and count them up and so on.  It took the place of people doing it by hand with rulers and papers and pencils.  From 4 person days  to 4 computer minutes and later 4 computer seconds.  Automating boring repetitive tasks was sometimes my job as a computer scientist.  Computers don't get bored nor jaded with repetition.   Above is a print made from my computer program for a research paper about food moving through the digestive tract.  It moved too fast, too slow or just right! 
Most of my best and most valuable work at Mayo (my opinion of course as I don't speak for Mayo nor against them) was done in escaping something boring and repetitive.  One job, I was a research administration computer database expert for a few years, and was repeatedly asked to write queries to look up information for doctors about their research grants.  Out of desperation,  I created the "My Research" web page for Mayo researchers where the doc could look up the information directly.  I think it is still in use and probably grown a lot in the 9 years since I retired--but don't really care as I was there, did it, and moved on. 

In retirement, I find that, although doing things on my computer is often interesting and often innovative, I get stuck in ruts of my own making.  I volunteered to help folks put their genealogy scrapbooks into "real" printed books through Amazon (cheap, easy, and nice).  However, each page has to be scanned, edited and monkeyed with to get it to look good, and that bogs me down in misery.  I think my future "help" will only be to teach others to do this and be hands off on the actual boring detailed parts.  

I put out newsletters for a couple of groups.  I can do it fast, but it is sooo booorrrring to do -- fold staple, stamp address, as well create the newsletter.  Got Scott and Margo to do that with the last one!

This week I think I will buy ten 80-lb bags of Menards sidewalk sand to carry around in the back of the truck for traction weight (not a 4-wheel drive) with the plan to use them later to repair the old beaver dam on the dry run on the farm this spring and flood a 1 acre pond between the fields.  May have to disguise the sandbags with sticks to simulate a beaver dam for fear of running afoul of some regulation, but as it is a spring run-off draw and won't flood onto any neighbors or roads, nor stop any fish, shouldn't be a problem.  My field renter, Chuck, might get stuck if it creeps into the field, but that should be interesting too -- never really saw a huge tractor buried in the mud!    
Ten sandbags across the dry run should do something interesting!

I have been 20 months now in remission from myasthenia gravis with no medication needed. While MG was an interesting experience, one year of it was plenty.  I haven't been to see a doctor since April of 2013.  I feel fine; I can do what I want physically, and my mind is still functioning at 93.2% efficiency and THEY haven't caught up with me yet--so 2015 will be fine as long as something interesting comes along. 

The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.

Soren Kierkegaard



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Obituaries -- Ethel Flom Swanson and Ruby Hanson

Every Christmas we get back some of our 140 newsletters sent out to relatives and friends with post office undeliverable messages.   This year two of our cousins passed away and we didn't find out until this week.  Another was like us, we stayed put but our mail address changed.   The post office computers are not at all forgiving in box numbers and street addresses being mixed up.  
I think we are supposed to do 
    Box 755
    2558 Evergreen Av
    Cushing, WI 54006     (we actually are using a post office box rather than rural delivery for the past year -- and of course our MN address is still functional as we get our official mail there).  

Ethel Flom was the niece of my grandmother's brother's wife.  Edwin Paulson, brother of Grandmother Hannah Paulson Hanson married Grace Skow (Danish roots).  Her niece, Ethel Flom, who married Maynard Swanson (all of NW Iowa in the Wesley area), passed away at age 93.  We visited her about 1.5 years ago last at the nursing home Britt, IA where she was physically having problems, but mentally sharp.  She and her husband Maynard loved traveling and were often visitors at the farm thinking nothing of staying until 6 pm and then driving 7 hours on home.  

Her obituary:  
Ethel Marie Swanson was born September 30, 1920, in Wesley, Iowa, the daughter of Ole and Mary (Skow) Flom. She grew up on a farm near Wesley. Ethel was a member of the last class to graduate from the Wesley High School in 1938. She went on to become a licensed teacher in the spring of 1940. Ethel then began teaching at the Wesley Township Country School and she later taught at the Titonka Buffalo Township School. 

To further her own education Ethel returned to school at Wheaton College in Illinois before going to what is now the University of Northern Iowa, but was then named the Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where she graduated in 1946. She returned and taught in the Renwick schools before moving back to Wesley to teach from 1948-1968.

On June 9, 1969, Ethel was united in marriage to F. Maynard Swanson in Wesley. After their marriage they lived in Wesley and Ethel took one year off before returning to the classroom. Ethel then taught in Corwith from 1969 - 1981, retiring after 41 total years as an educator.

Ethel and Maynard rarely missed an event in the Corwith - Wesley area and they loved to travel, having visited 47 states and their capital cities. She was a lifelong member of the Evangelical Free Church in Wesley and also a member of the International Gideon Organization. In the fall of 2013, Ethel had the honor of serving as the Grand Marshall of the Corwith-Wesley-LuVerne Homecoming parade.

Ethel died Wednesday, August 20, 2014, at the Kanawha Community Home in Kanawha, Iowa. She was 93.

She is survived by several nieces and nephews and their families.

Ethel was preceded in death by her parents, Ole and Mary Flom; her husband, F. Maynard Swanson on September 23, 2009, and a sister, Anna Flom.

Another cousin, Ruby Hanson passed away in September in Watertown SD.  My great grandfather, Charles Hanson had a brother Adolf Frederic Hanson, both born in Sweden and both coming to Wisconsin in the 1870s.  Fred (A. Fred) had 11 children, one of whom was named Henry.  Henry's first wife died in the 1929 tornado that went through the Barron Wisconsin area, just a few weeks after they were married.  Henry, despondent, spent a winter living with his Uncle Eugene (my grandfather) and wife Nettie.  Later he farmed the home farm in Barron County finally selling and moving to SD, where he met Ruby and married her.  Margo and I stopped in to visit Ruby many times on our way out west to visit cousins on the coast.  She was a very nice, active woman and fun to visit.  The last time was about 3 years ago, and she was in a nursing home and somewhat forgetful.  She was the last from the second generation families of Hanson's in the USA.  

Ruby C. Hanson, age 95, of Watertown, SD, passed away on Thursday, September 18, 2014, at a care center in Watertown. She was the widow of Henry Hanson. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, September 24, 2014, at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Watertown. Rev. John Carter will officiate. Music will be provided by Karen Livingston as organist with congregational singing. The family is requested to meet at the church by 10:00 a.m. for a family prayer service.
Visitation will be at the Crawford Funeral Chapel in Watertown, on Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. and prior to services at the church on Wednesday.
Burial will be at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Watertown. Honorary pallbearers will be all former employees of Oak Valley Farms. Active pallbearers will be Ruby’s nephews: Gary Borns, Doug Borns, David Borns, Dan Beutow, James Beutow and Joel Beutow.
Ruby was born on July 18, 1919, at South Shore, SD, to Arthur and Anna (Noeldner) Borns. She was baptized and confirmed at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mazeppa Township. Ruby attended country school at District #61 in Codington County, SD.
On December 27, 1946, Ruby married Henry A. Hanson at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rauville, SD. She was employed as a supervisor at Oak Valley Farms for 50 years from 1944 to 1994. She received an award at Pierre, in 1984, from Gov. Janklow for hiring the handicap.
She was currently a member of St. Martin’s Lutheran Church, belonging to Ladies’ Aid and Mission Circle. Ruby was a faithful supporter of St. Martin’s Lutheran School since it’s inception. She enjoyed cooking for family gatherings, taking pictures and creating feather flowers. Ruby was always concerned and thinking of others.
Ruby is survived by her son, Roger Hanson, of Watertown, SD; one grandson, Ian; one great-granddaughter, Quinn; and two sisters, Jeanette (John) Moes and Delores Beutow both of Watertown.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Henry; one granddaughter, Ashley; her parents; six brothers and one sister.

Although both cousins had long productive and interesting lives, it is hard for us to say good bye--they were the living links to our past.  Visiting with them and listening to the stories of nearly a century ago was fascinating.  Both were gracious hosts, loved company and were active, interesting and vital people for the first 90 years, before health issues came to the front.   It is tough to become the old timers in our family -- as those few left in the preceding generation disappear rapidly.  I think Aunt Ramona may be the last link to my parent's generation left.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas and Reading

  First an update on Margo's back surgery:

   The news is all good as Margo's surgeon says the surgical opening is closing fine and healing well.  She has no leg pain, just scar pain but can began bending and somewhat normal activities again with limits.   I think this means washing dishes, washing and ironing clothes, sweeping floors, watering plants, and maybe even cooking. Scott and I had pretty much taken this over as of June 2012 when she started cancer treatments and had a slow recovery, then fell and had a concussion and then spent the summer at her father's helping out until her back got so bad she began the 6 months of back doctoring leading to the back surgery.  

I think we will start her out slowly, teaching her how to do a good job with each task and see if she can handle each one!  Scott and I are so good at cooking, cleaning, and general housework, it will be hard to share it with Margo again. 

The Hanson Christmas party is Saturday.  It is our second one where my brothers and I are the old timer's.  It always seemed less of a responsibility with Dad and Mom and then just Mom, but we are getting used to it.  

Grandma always got something very noisy for her great grandchildren -- a harmonica one year, a warbling whistle another, and a plastic pipe flute or maybe drums or a party noisemaker.  She couldn't hear too well and liked to make sure she could tell the kids were enjoying themselves.  I'm afraid it may be a quieter Christmas this year as we couldn't think of any good noisemakers.  

Another tradition that stopped with Mom is the gifts that came from "Santa" alternating one year with males and another with females.  It was always wrapped anonymously and the handwriting disguised and some little trinket for each.  She always made a fuss wondering who was Santa so we never suspected her.  As no Santa gift was given last year it must have been her.  She did have a lot of frilly women's handkerchiefs in a box, so that may have been her plan for 2013. 

 For Christmas day, we probably will have brother Ev and son Scott over to the farm for a noon dinner.  Margo hasn't felt well enough to make cookies this year, so I gradually had to eat the chips, stars, kisses and other toppings to keep them from spoiling.  

Margo is not ready to try a trip to her visit her family in West Bend at Christmas, but maybe we will try in January.  So, she and Scott made a trip to the local cheese factory -- Burnett Dairy Co-op and sent some cheese boxes to a few of the relatives there.  She sent them on Monday morning directly from the store and Tuesday at 4 pm she got a call from Aunt Bernice in West Bend (all the way diagonally across WI) thanking her for the cheese box!   Pretty fast service!

My Christmas present this year will be a new computer tablet.  I got a Nextbook 7 ($79 at Walmart) for Father's Day 2013 but 18 months later it refuses to start up.  I did the usual things like doing resets, factory clears, trying different power supply and so on and it gets stuck starting up.  I didn't realize how dependent I was on it -- mostly as my book reader at night in bed. 

My vision is a little on the blink in my old age and reading a fine print book in bed calls for a bright night light, reading glasses and annoys Margo who likes to lie down and immediately fall asleep.  I have to read for a time until I drop the book then turn off everything.  

With the tablet, I downloaded dozens of out-of-copyright books, stories and magazines from the millions of free ones scanned by Google Books and dozed off reading them, dropping the tablet instead.   With extra carpet along the bed this has mostly been without problems to the tablet, but maybe it had it's last fall on Sunday.  Anyway, I announced my Christmas present would be a new tablet, this time the $59 Walmart Nextbook 7 new version (a Chinese clone of Android tablets that are more expensive).  This one has twice the memory, higher screen resolution, longer battery life, and a quad-core 1.7 GHz processor (about 2 times better in teh details than my old one and $20 cheaper).   They didn't have them on hand, so I ordered to be delivered to the store on Monday with free shipping.  

The old one lasted 18 months at $80 so about $4.44 per month cost for the use I got out of it.  I really can't complain about that!  If the new one lasts as long, I will be happy.   I hope to figure out a drop-free strategy for this one, although I don't think the dropping was the problem, but rather some memory inside that failed -- it seems to complain it can't boot because of some problem like that.  

I think this will be the 5th tablet (or book reader) I have bought.  None cost more than $80 and some of the old ones still work, but are limited without internet access or too slow to read complicated pdf files with lots of images (right now I am reading old Harper's magazines --the bound volumes per year from about 1850-1923 are all scanned and online in large pdf files--thanks to Google's plan to scan every single book in the whole world!).  I am doing the 100 year old stuff -- 1914 -1920.  The magazines have many stories, many essays, poetry, along with political and cultural information about the time.  Teddy Roosevelt and WWI are big items along with Taft, Wilson and others of that era.   

Want to try it?    Go to Google Books  and then search on something.    Want to find the free Harper's magazines?  
Free Harper's Magazines old   

So for the past week, I have turned on the light and forced myself to read paper books.   My tablet lets me zoom the print huge with a black background and white print for easy night viewing.  My paper books are intransigent and bothersome.  However, I finally started reading some of the books from fellow local authors some in our book club -- Northwest Wisconsin Regional Writers.  

   -- Swanberger's Song by Buz Swerkstrom.  In the last century, a River Road neighbor from Burnett Co, WI, Arthur Birnstingle (?) lived on a 680 acre sand farm.  When his first wife got a divorce and then second wife, leaving him with children,--1940s-- he wrote his US Representative, Alvin O'Konski in Washington DC asking for help in getting a wife.  O'Konski passed it to the Washington press who had great fun with it including a story with photos in Life Magazine.  My friend Buz, in his newspaper reporter days, back in the 1970s when Birnstingle was pushing 80, interviewed him for a new article.  Buz changed the names and some of the details and wrote it up as a play.  I helped him with the cover layout and got a free copy for my efforts.  I had long heard of Birnstingle and had dismissed him as sort of nut, however, he comes through as a humble, intelligent, thoughtful and interesting person.  Some of the 18,000 letters written to him by women seeking a husband are included.   He never got married again, but his natural foods, no-TV, somewhat secluded lifestyle is rather appealing.  

The next book I plan to read from Buz is "Did Adam and Eve Live in Wisconsin," a collection of Wisconsin history that Buz wrote over his years as a newspaper free-lancer and reporter.  He wrote for the Osceola Sun, which I turned to when some complicated issue came up at the county government and I wanted a clear, concise description -- Buz was best in the area for doing that.   However his real interest was visiting and interviewing interesting persons.  I suppose that is why I didn't get to know him in his newspaper days. 

  Buz is not in the writer's group, having retired from journalism a few years ago and trying out the secluded, quiet, low maintenance lifestyle himself in nearby downtown Atlas.  You can get his books by calling him in the local phone book (James Swerktrom) or on Amazon.  He doesn't usually put them in ebook form, believing it is not a book if it doesn't smell musty (ha!).   He has local history, novels, and is just completing a family history of the Liesches.  He is a polished writer and I like his books from the Alice in Wonderland spinoff to Swanberger's Song. 
Buz Swerkstrom Amazon Books

Next I read "The Bells of Red Glen" by NWRW writer Michael Vieth (I think from the Frederic area or thereabouts).  I had resisted this as I thought it was a child's book--a group of mice, cats and dogs acting sort of human with a big battle at the end.  I don't like to put effort into reading books which I don't think I would like.  

However, I read the first chapter, where I got introduced to the main character in the book, a mouse named Montgomery Worthington, who made his living as a negotiator settling disputes in the mouse world.  He seemed like a mouse I wanted to get to know, so read the whole book.  The main story is of a coming attack of alley cats and Montgomery's travels as a negotiator to try to enlist dogs, other mice in the impending doom ahead.  Although a battle is a part of the book, the message that comes out is that alternatives are better.  I liked it, and think I will pass it along to one of my great nephews or nieces.    I just bought the sequel to the first volume (which is broken into books 1 and 2) and if I can find where I set it down after the meeting last Friday, will read it next. 

Michael's writing is very well edited and during the whole read, I found nothing to quibble with about the writing itself.  I think I will mention to him that his mice community is pretty much stereotyped as for roles for males and females.  The villain is a mean queen cat, but the females are support cast only.  
Michael Vieth on Amazon

The book I am on right now is not from my club, but from an old friend of mine, Beth Blodgett.  We were both in the college physics program together where she and I both competed for the best grades in these classes.  The difference between us was that Beth would finish her tests in about 1/2 the allotted time whereas I took every minute, and at the end our scores were equal.  Frustrating to me.  She married early, moved away in her senior year, then went on to school to become a pediatrician.  I managed to keep in touch every few years as she began doing humanitarian trips to Honduras as part of her medical practice.  

About 2005, she gave up her US practice and decided to move permanently to Honduras, in two roles--as a health provider and more interestingly, founding a United Methodist Monastery for Women.  The emails of her first years are collected into a book. I bought a copy off of Amazon (paper version) and am re-reading it again.  
Her updates from Honduras are online at: Amigas del Senor  
Her book is at   Book Amigas del Senor (friends of God) 

I have a pile of other books to read yet-- I read a few pages per minute unless it is a physics or math textbook and then I slow down just a smidge.  I plan to re-read my friend Walt's book on his 14 years in a New York orphanage--not at all depressing like you might imagine.  I read it as I helped him put it together, but want to now read it as a book rather than a book binder.  
   You Don't Belong Here Anymore! : Hey Gunther

More books in the pile ahead!   I think the evening reading sessions are my favorite part of the day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Well Driller's Manual

Margo is headed back to Mayo for a followup appointment on her back surgery.  She thinks it is successful, as she doesn't have the leg pain.  The pain from the surgery is going away gradually and she is beginning to walk around without a walker, sometimes with a cane and sometimes without!   So we expect the surgeon to look at the scar and say things are healing fine and remind her to not lift or bend much yet, but to get into an exercise program including walking.  Another success from the Mayo Clinic!

After several days of 30s and 40s the snow all melted and things looked almost like March around the farm.  However, Sunday night it cooled down and an inch or so of new snow covered everything--making it white again. As it is not enough to bother getting around the woods or fields, there is no excuse for not getting at some of the outdoor fixes here on the farm, and maybe cutting some of the dead fenceline elms into firewood.   Always can use more for sap cooking.  

After cleaning the basement, I got sort of sick for a couple days -- probably all the dirt, dust, mouse manure, cobwebs I breathed in.  Next time will try a face mask on a job like this.  I catch about one mouse or vole each week in the basement, mostly in glue traps.  Assume there is an unlimited supply outdoors that migrate in through all the old house cracks.  

The farm has a lot of buildings and space.  Mom and Dad got rid of their cattle in the late 1980s and after that,  it seemed every building got filled with the leftovers from neighbors and relatives stuff they asked to "store" in the buildings or passed along.  Old pieces of wood paneling; plastic dishes, stoves, heaters, bolts, nails, beds, furniture, mattresses, and pretty much anything you can imagine.   I suppose I should just get a dumpster and dump it, but feel obligated to sort through and separate out anything recyclable, usable, or potentially usable.   Does one  really need two big old fanning mills?  Does one need an extra pumpjack for parts?  How about a sawdust blower from grandpa's saw mill?   Bulky and probably at least 50 and maybe 100 years old.   Speaking of pump jacks got me thinking about farm water systems.  So stand back and get saturated with the farm well. 

Taking advantage of the warm weather, I did the monthly water well maintenance:  check the belt is tight, oil and grease the bearings, add air pressure to the water tank (has a slow leak) and screw in the winter light bulbs so the small building won't freeze up.  It is a clunky system, but has been working with few problems for the past 60 years (with various replacement of parts, motors and pipes, etc.)   However, it worries me.  

 The next big repair on the farm -- probably next summer-- is the water well and system.   The original farmer here, Ole Nelson, who came in the 1880s had a hand dug open well -- about 90 feet deep and probably 3-4 feet in diameter.   

In the old days, you hired someone like neighbor John Penny to dig a well (or did it yourself).  You took a pick, shovel and windlass with bucket and hand chipped your way through the red clay making a hole big enough to work in.  As you dug down, a wooden square frame slid down the hole, being added to at the top -- to keep the dirt from caving in (although on the very deep clay layer here, that probably wasn't needed.  Eventually you got below that into wet sandy gravel--the water table and you dug some say into that cribbing it up with rocks to keep the sand back.  The windlass was kept--to pull up a wooden bucket with water.  Most folks built a foundation a couple of feet higher at the top to keep out surface drainage and added a roof over the open well.  

Sometimes a second rope was added to the windlass to hold a

bucket of items in need of refrigeration to be lowered into the well in the hot days of summer.  Down the well, the temperature was about 50, so cream, butter, meat and other food lasted a few days longer in the cool damp well. 

Sometime in the early 1900s (or maybe even earlier), the well was changed.  A 4 inch metal pipe casing 90 feet long was lowered to the bottom of the well, and the dirt filled in around it.  Open wells were unsanitary with frogs, mice, dirt, etc falling down into the water.  Nelson mechanized the farm by adding a windmill tower and blade on a 30 foot metal frame above the new casing.   Inside the casing, a well point, pumping cylinder connected to a 90 foot well rod and 90 feet of 1 1/4 inch pipe was lowered down the casing. 

At the top, a well pump with handle was screwed onto the pipe and the well rod hooked to the handle.  Moving the handle, moved the well rod up and down and inside the cylinder, a piston moved up and down, activating some flapper valves to bring water to the surface and out the pump spout.  

The windmill blade had a set of gears that turned with the wind and changed rotary motion to up and down motion that ran the well rod and automated pumping water.  

Wind power was pretty good, but some times the wind didn't blow, so the windmill was replaced by a gas engine pump sometime -- probably in the early 1930s.  The Worth School (out in West Sterling -- on Trade River) closed about 1932.  John Nelson bought the old wood shed and moved it to the farm to put over the well and as a storage building and milk house and engine house for the pump.   He also used it for keeping the moonshine cool in the tank where he put his milk cans and pumped cold water on them.  

When Dad moved in, he put overhead pipes to gravity tanks in the upstairs of the house and barn for water to the cows -- with water cups and for the sink in the house.  

Well, to get back to the well, in the dry 1930s, the well went dry too--couldn't pump enough water for farm needs.   Axel Bergstrom (I think), the local well man, came out and pulled the pipes up.  The casing had no perforations in the bottom and no point on it, so the only water that came in came through the bottom of the pipe -- 4 inch opening.  He put a well point (3 feet of perforated pipe with a point on the end) screwed to pumping cylinder (a home made one that was strong enough to drive) and then the connected the 90 feet of pipes and well rod.  When he got it above ground, he drove the point on the end another 8 feet down beyond the casing so it would give a much bigger area to draw water from.  That solved the problem and ever since, Dad followed that strategy when replacing the well (every 10-20 years the pipes rust, the cylinder fails or the well rod wears a hole from rubbing or something goes wrong).  

In the 1960s, Dad replaced the gravity system with a "pressure system" with a 30 gallon tank at the well that the pump jack raised to 40 lbs of water pressure and sent directly into the pipes in the barn and house rather than to the gravity tanks.  

I plan to pull the 90 feet of pipes, cylinder, rod and point this summer.  When we used to pull it ourselves, the first 8 feet had to be pulled with a couple of jacks to "undrive" the point out of the gravel.  Then we pulled it by 10 foot lengths and unscrewed each as it came up until all was out.  Then we replaced everything and put it all back down. 

This time I want to use plastic tubing with an electrical wire and rope connected to a submersible pump at the bottom to simplify things.  The question is whether there will be enough water seep into the end of the casing to make this work or not.   Otherwise I may have to have some kind of addition put on the end of the casing to go deeper and let more water in.  

What are the tools and supplies used in old well systems?

   -- the well pipe dog -- a device to keep the pipe from dropping into the well as you let the pipe down, stopped to add screw on more pipe and then lower it again.  Marv has one in his museum, so I need to take a photo of it -- Dad used it.

    -- Pipe wrenches of the modern type and a sort of special pipe wrench called a pipe tong, which I have to find in the garage and take a photo.  It had handles and a set screw that locked it onto a pipe I think.  Maybe in Marv's museum too. 

   --pipe cutter

   --pipe threader

   -- pipe fittings (note that driveable pipe couplings were needed on the well when it was driven down). 

   --neighbor Glenn Lucken worked on wells too.  When you dropped a pipe down the well accidentally, he had a special tool to recapture it.  I think it was a tapered solid point that you fished down the well and tried to get it into the dropped pipe opening and then twisted it and it's tapered threads let it grip the lost pipe and retrieve it.  I think my brother Ev might remember this -- will see if he knows.  I don't think we ever dropped a pipe--we were paranoid about clamping things onto it to keep it from falling.  When you have a point, cylinder, 80 feet of pipe and rod, it gets pretty heavy!


For shallow wells, you can use a pitcher pump that "sucks" the water up to 25 feet.  I use one at the cabin -- lakeside when my regular water system fails.  Just hook it on a pipe driven into the spring. 

The hand pump system that used to be on our well.  The flat rod at the top was hooked to the windmill and later to a pump jack to mechanically pump the handle. 

Inside the pipe is a rod that connects to the cylinder at the bottom where the pumping actually takes place.  On the handle up position, the rod goes down, a foot valve opens and lets water into the cylinder.  Pushing down the handle closes the valve and the leathers in the cylinder move the water upwards.  A tiny hole in the pipe about 6 feet below ground lets water in the pipe drop to that level when not in use so it won't freeze in winter. The rod sometimes rubs against the pipe and wears a hole in it.  The leathers in the cylinder wear out.  The pipe rusts.  The rod may wear thin and break.  However, repairs are usually good for 10 years or so.  

All sorts of tools are used to grab the pipe tightly so you can turn new sections on or hold it from dropping down the well.  Tongs

What I need on the bottom of the farm well is some perforations in the casing
To clean mud out of of a well

To bucket sand out of the bottom of a well--neighbor Raymond Noyes had his well cleaned with something like this. 

A somewhat older version of a well drilling machine

The bottom of my well has the casing with no holes or point

An old style pump jack with open gears.  Mine is modern with enclosed, oil bathed gears.  Turns rotary motion to up and down pump handle motion.

Graphite well/pump sealer

Well point -- at the bottom of the Hanson farm well driven into the gravel about 8 feet.  


Monday, December 15, 2014

Cleaning (and Building) the Cellar

The Olsen oil furnace has been smelling like kerosene when it runs for the past week or so.  Time for maintenance call.  I called a few months ago, and the man didn't show up, but the oil smell then disappeared, so didn't really mind.  
The way-too-steep basement stairway.  Mrs. John Nelson fell down it one time (she had 21 kids in the house her husband built for her),  Originally, a tip-up floor tipped back so it covered the stairway and made this area under the stairway going up to the upstairs sort of a walk in closet.  But it was unreliable (I think that was how Mrs. Nelson fell) and never used by the Hansons. 
With Margo somewhat delicate from the back surgery (she is doing good, starting to walk without walker or cane some of the time), and the smell coming back, called again.  The furnace man apologized and said he would be out this afternoon.  

As it is mild outside and raining, I opened up the outside basement stairway door and started hauling out some of the junk.   Got about 1/4 of the basement cleaned. Mostly old dishes, magazines, newspapers, bank statements, clothes that mice had rummaged through.  

 Full of cobwebs and signs of the red squirrel who had moved in this summer -- chewing on black walnuts and messing up some of the insulation.   Two days ago, I shot the 3rd red squirrel that came up by the house.  I am hopeful I have got them all -- I think they made about 4 different entrances into the basement and then up an interior wall, across the ceiling between downstairs ceiling and upstairs floor and into the living room wall.  Trapping failed, but I pinged them with 22 shorts from my single shot Western Field, $14 from Wards in 1960.

As I was cleaning (about 1/4 down), I noticed the east wall had a water leak, the cement wall cracked here and there, and lots of junk to get rid of.  In her younger days, Mom had the basement in great order, but as she got older she let it slide -- too steep of stairs to get down and so sent her grandson's with what should have been tossed or recycled or junked and stored it in the basement. 
Digging a basement--not Hanson farm

Scraper to move dirt
Emil Nelson was a kid when the house foundation and basement was dug (1917).  He said he "helped."  One team pulled a walking plow with a man to make furrows and loosen the hard red clay and another pulled a scraper to drag out the loose clay.  Emil rode the horse that pulled the scraper.  

Too loosen the dirt in the hole for the scraper, a walking plow cut furrows.  (This is not at the Hanson Farm!)

The old concrete walls show the imprint of the board forms.  Dad put in glass block windows and Mom had it whitewashed in the 1950s.  Sort of cracked and crumbly after the 1st 100 years, probably only last for another 100. 
To dig a basement this way made a much larger hole than needed, but it was "mechanized" better than digging it all by hand.   The concrete basement walls were poured with board forms, leaving their imprint on the walls.  In one corner is the charred ceiling where Ole Olsen's moonshine still blew up and burned the joists and ceiling boards.    Mom, disliking dark rooms, had Dad whitewash the whole basement making it brilliant white for a time.  
The basement was where all the canned good were stored on wall shelves.  A colder area kept potatoes, apples, and other root crops.  In the fall, 2/3 of the basement was filled with split firewood to feed the massive round furnace.  Dad put a copper line inside the furnace that ran to a metal water tank (like a hot water heater tank) so we got free hot water from the furnace heat coil.  The water was gravity feed from a 100 gallon water tank in the upstairs filled with an overhead pipe running from well house to the house.  
Dad did his own plumbing and never let looks get in the way of a straight shot for his plumbing.  Here the sewer line went in front of the canning shelves.  They are filled with junk!  Originally all cast iron with lead poured joints, one section is replaced with plastic line now.  Old lantern on the floor.  
Also in the basement was the small wood water heater, used in summer when the furnace was cold.  On washing day, we fired it up and heated 20 gallons of hot water for the Maytag washer--sometimes kept in the basement too.  

Originally, when Dad moved here in 1941 (married 1942), the basement had a dirt floor.  In the 1950s, we borrowed Grandpa's cement mixer, a few wheel barrows, hauled gravel from the Gullickson pit, and with a crew of Dad's brother's poured a complete concrete floor in a day.   Sometimes I got to mix--think it was 3 scoops of gravel for 1 scoop of cement mix, add water until it was soupy.  Quite fun for kids.

In the late 1940s, Harvey Olsen of Cushing ran electrical wires across the basement and up the walls to have 4 circuits in the big house.  In the 1950s Dad add indoor plumbing adding pipes and sewer lines here and there.  The wood furnace was replaced a couple of times and finally about 15 years ago the oil furnace replaced wood.  We tried to get Mom to go for a cheaper running propane furnace, but she was sure it would blow up, so the oil furnace is in.  I think fuel oil (#1) costs about 3-4 times as much as propane this year and requires much more furnace maintenance too. 

The brick chimney seems sound. Dad had a stainless steel square liner put in when he began to worry about chimney fires.  We did have chimney fires occasionally when I was young.  Dad would scramble up a ladder onto the top of the roof and sprinkle snow down the chimney as we shut off the furnace draft.   Never called the fire department for something like that.  They might pour water down it and crack the blocks -- sprinkled snow worked much better.

A wet spot today on the east wall near the north window--today's rain must be leaking in.  I have to do some landscaping around the house to slant the water away next summer.

Carrying beam north-south -- squared logs

Looks like Jed Hanson did some patching for Grandpa and Grandma!

The old Maytag.  Note the electric motor is gone.  Any spare electric motor went to run a grinder or other tool in the workshop!  Brother Ev has a genuine Maytag 1 cylinder gas engine I maybe could put on here to go off the grid!  Piled in with junk around it.

Old kerosene heater or two burner stove?  Update:  the furnace repair man took this home with him.  His grandmother had one for the summer kitchen, and he felt the urge to rescue this rusty two burner stove.  Note the green kerosene jug on the left!   New Perfection wick burners with isinglass. 

Do it yourself plumbing when you try to save money on pipes and copper is often cobbled up as they say in the country. 

This was once lath and plaster on one side (fartherest in) where paneling went over it and wainscoting on the other torn off to access the sink drain.  The lumber in this house was much from recycling an old log house and another old frame house.  

Cleaning out a basement is not all drudgery -- it is a good rainy day job and a little bit of a treasure hunt wondering if anything you find is actually worth saving.  In one corner is a walled in 6x5 sort of closet that was originally our photo darkroom, but got converted to the cold storage room for spuds, canned goods, and so on.  It still has canned goods from the 1990s that I have to take out and dump and clean the jars including about 20 quarts of a bad tasting batch of maple syrup from 1996 that we bottled, but never cared to use!   I opened one and tasted it, and age has not improved the flavor. 

Update:  The furnace repair man showed up, replaced the nozzle, cleaned here and there, cast a few spells and said call me if it still has problems.   Possible problem:  solenoid that shuts off the fuel line when the furnace stops might drip a little and that could cause some oil smell when starting. Otherwise it is a relatively new furnace with all the parts replaceable.   He admired the New Perfection two burner stove so much, even with the layers of rust and neglect, that I sent it home with him.  My brother's didn't want it -- I bet they missed out on a real treasure!   At least I think it will get repaired and used now!