St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

St Croix River Open Near Nevers Dam

Rambling up the River Road north of St Croix Falls we were pleased to see open water along the edges from Spangler's Landing (Wild Mountain area) gradually opening up until a mile or so south of Nevers Dam it was all open. 
 Springs along the St Croix add micro-climates with over-wintering plants and early green shoots of Skunk Cabbage and other wetland plants. 
Springs along the St Croix
 The spring banks just north on the River Road off of Hwy 87 already showed some green shoots and some of the red skunk cabbage leafs poking out of the soggy boggy hillside.  Always the first place to start--the spring water keeps things from freezing all winter long.  

The river above St Croix Falls is opening along the edges and by the time you get to N

 The River is open for a mile or two below Nevers Dam attracting all sorts of water birds.  We saw geese, trumpeters, ducks and heard their wonderful sounds of returning spring.  A sandhill crane added his distinctive squawk.   The snow is still deep in the woods, but spring is coming!

Where ever farmers feed their livestock, turkeys, deer, pheasants and all sorts of other wildlife share.  The farmers don't mind.  

The snow is too deep to wade down to the river, but stopping to take photos, we could see trumpeter swans, geese, ducks and here the wonderful spring racket of their calls.  The first robins have been here a few days, puddles are forming, and the muddy season has arrived.    Under the snow, according to the electric linemen digging in posts along the River Road south of Evergreen Av, there is no frost at all--so we are hopeful the water will soak in this spring.  

Although we tapped a few easy-to-reach maple trees today, they are dripping every so slowly.  With the snow dropping fast, we hope to tap the rest this week.  My family has made syrup in Wisconsin at least since the 1860s when they homesteaded in Maple Grove Township, Barron County WI. 
Hanson's syruping -- 1920s or so.  

Maple tapping

With a beautiful sunny day and temps at 40 (feeling like 60), Margo and I headed to the woods to tap some maples.  Snow was still too deep to drive the tractor through, so had to be satisfied to just tap a few by the driveway.  

Four trumpeter swans honked their way around the lake looking for any open water to test--but none available yet.  A sandhill crane croaked somewhere down the hill.  Driving past the lake, a flock of turkeys were on the small field along the road.  The south side of the steep hills have melted free from snow giving some scratch area for the birds. 

First robins have arrived this week; pair of pileated woodpeckers stopped by and some mud is forming in the yard!

Activity across the lake--logs for lumber

Margo does the twist (twerk?)

Sunrise over Bass Lake

Biscuits and gravy with some forced tulips to give color.  Note the 60 year old porcelain steel kitchen table.  Mom bought it new when I was in a high chair.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kathy Krantz -- June 26, 1951 - March 14, 2014

A fellow writer and member of the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Writers (NWRW) passed away March 14th.  

Her obituary is at Kathy Krantz Obit

Kathy Krantz passed away last week. She fell in an icy driveway and was taken to the hospital, then sent home. Spent a night with her daughter then went home and died suddenly. She was 62.

Visitation, Tuesday, March 18, 4 – 7 pm, and Wednesday, 19 March at 10 am, at the Skinner Funeral Home in Cumberland (1245 1St Avenue, 715822-2345). Funeral, Wednesday, 19 March, 11 am at same location.

KATHY KRANTZ (in her own words)

  Into each life some hardships must come. Kathy has had her share of trials and heartaches.
  She has schizophrenia,, She touches on this subject in a book she wrote. It wasn’t until Kathy met Gene that she found the love and acceptance that she had searched for all her life. After being married to Gene for one year she was termed as a “stable schizophrenic.”   This is the best you can get with this disease, Kathy says.
  Gene and Kathy shared a ministry together. No, they were not professional singers, but God used their mistakes and touched people’s hearts anyway.
  They did not preach a theology, but rather they pointed people to Jesus. If God would never have loved, Jesus would never have died.
  Theirs was a whirlwind courtship, whirlwind marriage and a whirlwind death. Gene and Kathy’s courtship lasted three months before he asked for her hand in marriage. They were engaged one year and their marriage lasted seven years. Gene was killed in a car accident on November 7, 1999.
   Who says love only comes in fairy tales?  Her book deals with Kathy’s experiences after Gene’s death, and how Kathy leaned on God and depended on her faith to get her through the hardship of losing her beloved husband.

From the NWRW's recent book "Creative Reflections" one of Kathy's stories.    Creative Reflections


   Growing up I didn't see much of my dad. When I did he was always working. Yes, I saw him at the supper table.  I saw him in the fields working his land.  I saw him milking cows. My dad was there for me and yet I didn't know my dad until I was married and we both lived in Clayton, WI in 1972. 
Then my dad became my friend. Then I knew my dad as someone who loved to dance, go bowling and attend church. Then I knew him as someone who grew and harvested an eight acre garden. My dad always worked hard in his life.  That much I do remember. Dad always working, working, and working until the day he died in December 1977.
Dad also taught me about finances. I remember him reading Kiplinger's magazine about what was the best car to buy in that year or what refrigerator was good to buy. Kiplinger’s magazine often faced me as I was doing my schoolwork around the kitchen table. 
Dad read at it night while I did my schoolwork. Mom made Dad's lunch for work the next morning.   He went to bed at 9 pm every night and got up at 3 am every morning. He worked at Stella Cheese in Clayton, Wisconsin.  He also had a farm outside of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin on Hwy 63.  Like I said, Dad worked hard
Over the years of my own life I've implemented the ethics of working hard. Unlike my dad I became sick with schizophrenia and my health doesn't allow me to work as hard as I did when I was younger. However, I didn't let schizophrenia stop me from working as much as I am capable of doing. Mom always said that God helps those who help themselves. I’ve tried to work at the things this body will allow me to do. Another one of Mom's saying was where there's a will there's a way find the way.
Between Dad teaching me to work hard and mom being strong and teaching me to become independent and yes, some people call me stubborn. I have come to a place in my life where I can truthfully say I've done my best. I was a divorced single mom for a long time and taught my children what dad taught me. Work and work hard.    Each of my children has said to me they are glad that I taught them how to work.  All three of them have always held down some type of job.  Sometimes they have held down as many as three jobs at the same time.
Tonight as I sit here typing this up did I know my dad? The answer comes in the reward of a job well done. The answer comes when I lay my head down at night on my pillow and quote my dad as he used to say that he earned his salt today. The answer comes when the anniversary of his death comes around and I recall seeing him on the tractor out in the field plowing it up. The answer comes to me on a hot summer's day when people are out bailing hay and the smell of the flesh cut hay assails into my memory.
Did I know my dad? Perhaps you did. His name was Joseph Donatell of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin and later on Clayton, Wisconsin.  
I hope some of you knew my dad for he was always kind and thoughtful of others. Perhaps about my life someone would remember me in the same way I remember my dad...with love and honor and respect.
Yes Dad, you did earn your salt.
Kathy had a difficult life.  She worked hard to make her way and writing was one of her outlets to help her cope.  


Here’s another saga about our old home! Yes, it’s about the bird’s eye view from a child’s point of view. The home of my youth had dormer windows in the upstairs. They were big enough for me to crawl into and lie down and take a nap in when I was about 4 feet tall. I would go upstairs in the daytime and pretend that these dormer windows were a ship! I was the lady on the ship being taken captive by the pirates!

Oh yes, the eyes of a child. On my ship I became the lady of the hour all dressed in fine linen and silk. Adventure at high sea where the Captain asked me to escort him to a ball on shore at a seaport.

Dressed in fine linen? Nothing but the best for my lady, says the Captain. At the banquet where oranges, apples, pineapples and all sorts of good food which comes from exotic lands. Nothing but the best would do! My Captain was handsome in his blue coat with gold roping and white leggings! A big hat with white feathers was his headdress. Oh yes, the best money could buy. We danced and laughed with other people that were at the ball.

KATHY, KATHY!! K-A-T-H-Y.  Alas! All too soon my dream would be cut short never to know the ending. My mother waking me up and scolding me for having had wasted another day when she thought I should have been helping her to pull weeds!

Now, those dormer windows are gone and I’ll never get to know the end of that beautiful ball.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jack and Jill, fell down the hill...

Wednesday, Margo fell out in front of the farm house coming in from the car.  The sidewalk is under water and I put some planks out to keep us high and dry, but they were not quite stable and she took a nasty tumble.  

Walking the plank was not a good idea for Margo on Wednesday!

A CT scan at St Croix Falls Clinic and visit to Dr. Wallace showed no permanent or serious temporary problems, but a mild concussion and several days of taking it easy prescribed along with pain killers for her back and shoulder soreness.  

Over the years, the sidewalk has gradually disappeared into the lawn and needs to be re-done.  Project is suddenly high on the fix-it-up list for the farm. 

Bare hillsides!

Full moon arisin' soon

Melting snow adds a wonderful texture to the west field

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Signs of Spring

Spent Monday at the Luck museum -- my volunteer day is normally 1-4 pm.   I ended up staying until past 5 because the clocks there had not been set ahead, and fooled me.  Margo, whose memory is better than mine, did the car clock.  You push some buttons, hold them for x seconds and push some more and then it is right.  

Sunday thru Tuesday were 40s and even into the 50s one day, and so I put out the first maple sap pail.   Tap holes are good for only 5-6 weeks, and seasons can last until the end of April (last year), so you don't tap ahead of time or you might miss some of the sap flow.  However, one bucket on a proven tree, easy to get to, is necessary to let you know when they start. No dripping yet. 

Last year, several neighbors tapped the maples on the lake 40 and got involved with syruping when Margo and I had decided not to do it (Margo's cancer treatment and my Myasthenia Gravis had us under the weather).   It ended up that Scott and I were up for part of the season, one of the best ever, and so we all shared in the syrup.       The previous year, when nephew Bryce and friends tapped them, the whole season run was 8 gallons (vs 50 last year).  This year we are going to try to do it as a group effort with several volunteers helping out for a share of the syrup.  Will be interesting to see how it works--poor season and they may be disappointed.  However, a poor season means little work as not much to do.  

The deer are having a difficult winter here in NW Wisconsin with the very deep snow.  I feed a dozen pheasants and some birds, and up to 7 deer show up to clean up their leavings.   Here in this area, a couple of years ago, a deer was found with chronic wasting disorder, and we are under strict orders not to feed deer as that brings them into contact and may help spread the disease.  So, as much as Margo and I would like to feed them.  However we have an small orchard and the deer browse the twigs and some apples that are left on the trees and fall in a wind.  

The deer are yarding up (in the orchard)

Almost due east sunrise

Found a single small shed antler in the orchard Tuesday.  It looked fresh on top of the snow, so maybe recent--although this is very late for that to happen.  
Deer shed found in the orchard -- 4 points

The yard is deliciously muddy after 4 months of harsh winter
 The yard got wet and muddy with melting snow; the snow dropped from 2-3 feet to 1-2 feet; the sun comes up almost in the due east early and stays late; and Margo and I have spring pushing us into thinking about flower beds, gardening and of course syruping. 

Water flowing down stream

The test maple sap bucket is hung

Geranium seed -- very tiny

Yesterday we planted another 100 geranium seeds and about 60 wave petunias.   The sun room (dining area off the kitchen) has the south and east walls of windows and makes a nice inside greenhouse.  Mom loved lots of flowers and a big garden, but had to cut back in her last few years as she got into her 90s.  Hopefully Margo and I have another 20 years of playing in the dirt. 

Saturday 10 am at the Cushing Community center another spring ritual -- planning for the 76th Annual Sterling Old Settler's picnic.  I usually volunteer to be in charge of the Kool Aid.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cow Jewelry

Back in the 50s, growing up on the farm, we had lots of things that our cows wore.  I got to thinking about it after Margo and I came back from the Polk County Fair planning meeting, where it was decided that the fair should rent a cow to allow people the chance to learn how to milk by hand. 

That seemed minor to me, as the fair is full of cows during fair season, but it turns out that a real cow, is way too dangerous to allow people to sit down on the milking stool, pail between their legs and squeeze away.   So renting a full-sized plastic model with realistic milking appendages is the way folks go about this nowadays, and it appears that the St Croix County fair (or someone down that way) rents them out for $600 per week.  

I mentioned this in my email summary of the meeting to my Fair support group, and one of them, Jay Bergstrand, president of the Polk County Genealogical Society (and former farm boy) asked "Will that plastic cow be swinging a tail full of poop and pee?  That was part of the learning experience."

Got me to thinking about the good old days on the farm.  By the time I got involved with milking, we had milking machines so only milked by hand if Polk Burnett rural electric co-op had an outage, quite common if the wind picked up for a spring storm.  Even then, Dad usually parked the Super C Farmall next to the barn, ran the garden hose out the window and connected it to the manifold (he had a valve screwed into the plug) and ran one machine from the vacuum provided that way.  

Even with milking machines, there was a whole set of paraphernalia related to cows and milking them.  Taking a tour of the barn and milkhouse, pretty much left as they were when Dad quit milking back in 1986 (except for an unbelievable amount of junk stored in it as neighbors dumped their left over items and Mom said --put it in the barn).    

First some photos, and then some description.  I got these from the internet, but we do have them all either in Brother Marvin's milkhouse museum on his farm, or at the farm here on Bass Lake. 

A necklace.  Put around the cow's neck, barbs pointing toward the cow, when the cow tried to shove her head through the strands of the barb wire fence, it gave her an extra poke to remind her that even though the grass was greener over there, she belonged on this side.  Reserved for those very few cows who ignored the barbs on a regular fence.  We had one cow who would put her head down, twist it sideways through the fence and ram forward taking the whole fence along.  Later, with electric fences, cows learned more respect for their boundaries!

Kicking chains.  A young heifer, being milked the first few times was often very much like a bucking bronco.  This type of chain went over the back of the leg, just above the knee (if you can call it a knee), and cinched the two back legs in tandem.  Cows always haul off and kick you with one back leg--standing on the other three.  They can pull the free back leg far ahead and really deliver a wallop to a dog, cat annoying them or a human trying to milk them.  Tying the two back legs together means they can't kick you with one of them without tipping over themselves.   Very effective if you can get them on without being kicked across the barn first. 

Above and below are methods of turning  bull calf into a steer.  Bulls grew ornery and were likely to kill a farmer if they turned on him, whereas steers were very reasonable animals.  A farmer only kept one bull for his herd of 20-30 cows and often raised the bull calves as steers for sale as meat.  A good farmer tried to get this done as early as possible in the bull calf's life so as not to give him any false hopes of fulfilling nature's role for him.  It never seemed to hurt them physically, but did hurt us thinking about it and they did seem to have sort of a dejected look about them right after the deed.  

Cows kept in the barn in the winter didn't need the longer hair they grew to keep them warm. It was a problem with sanitary conditions as they might lay in some manure and build up manure chunks in the hair.  So we often clipped the hair long the back flanks to keep them clean.  We had hand clippers and then an electric one.  

We fed our cows magnets if they seemed to be a little peaked or off their food.  This was not because we were holistic healers or into magnets for healing, but because of the voracious appetite of cows for whatever was in front of them including a piece of hay wire (used in the 40s and 50s to tie hay bales), old barb wire, or a piece that fell off the machinery and into the food.  The magnet stayed in one of the many of the cow's stomachs and attracted the irritating iron and for whatever reason, brought the cow back to good health.   A special tool was used to shove this past the teeth and down to where the cow would swallow it.  A few of these were used each year on our farm.  As his own veterinary, Dad always tried a magnet, a few shots of antibiotics, a teat reamer and other items before bothering the real veterinary with the cows problems or a real doctor with our human problems.
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 Cows grew horns.   They used them against each other, often injuring another cow.  Cows are hierarchical in herds--boss cow, boss cow's lieutenant, and so on.  To keep the rest of the herd cowed and in their place, they were free to jab them with their horns and a sharp horn could kill another cow, or at least poke a hole in them.  So we dehorned the cows.  The best way was to try to do it as a calf (caustic solution to burn them out; an electric burner to kill the horn bud, or a gouger to cut it out ...), but if you let them grow too long, you had an instrument like the one in the picture.  Two handles drew back the guillotine cutter, it was placed over the horn and a strong man made the slice while the cow or bull was secured in a tight frame.  Bloody, painful, exciting and dangerous.  We sometimes hired specialists to do this rather than do it ourselves.  

So, what have I missed?   The teat reamer to clean out the milk duct; the curve needle to sew up the udder or skin; the trocar to poke a hole into a bloated cow and let out the gas; the milking machines; the nose rings and anti-calf sucking rings and necklaces; hoof trimmers; syringes for shots; the artificial insemination equipment; the charts to track records; scales to weigh milk; strainers, cans, pads, bulk tank, milk pails, milk stools, milk testing equipment and ???
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