St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Catching Up Days

The sap stopped running on Sunday but we had gotten behind on the cooking, so Scott is finishing up the last 100 gallons by tomorrow afternoon.  Sap that sits in a few warm days gets a little milky looking as the bacteria and fermentation process goes on.  If it gets too far along, the flavor of the syrup will be bad, but with the cool temps today and tomorrow, we probably will be fine. 
Ice over half of the lake.  Scott has been watching up to 6 bald eagles come in on the ice.  They are eating a few large carp that must have died over winter.  Carp are actually the first to die if the oxygen level drops too low in the winter.  Good way to keep them in control. 

The lake was about 1/3 open this morning and 1/2 open this evening.  I think this is about as late as I can remember for the lake to open, except last year when the last ice left on April 29th (it had opened somewhat earlier and then refroze).    Over the years, we had figured it normally opened before Dad's birthday on April 18th with several recent years actually being open by the end of March. 

Apple trees are a bet on the future.  Even if I don't see them bear fruit, someone will.  Grandpa kept planting until he died, as did Dad and Mom. 
A row of trees along the River Road just north of Evergreen Avenue.  My youngest brother, Byron, planted this row probably 25 years ago or more.  When I see them, I think about him.  He died in a motorcycle accident in 2002 hitting a deer and without a helmet getting severe head injuries.  He was the most interesting of us boys, always doing something different and exciting. 
This morning I planted 2 Wolf River apple trees and 4 Macintosh. With luck and care, they will grow to be large trees.  I don't plant dwarf or semi-dwarf --prefer ones that will grow above the deer browse level.  Then I disked and disked the rough area along Evergreen Av where I plan to plant 30 Siberian crabs for flying wildlife and beauty. 

Stopped to check the fenced in sand garden along the River Road.  Brother Everett and I bought 70 acres from Grandpa in 1968.   The soil is sandy, and without plenty of rain and plenty of fertilizer, is not good for crops.   It does raise wonderful watermelons.   I had a different view this year, looking at hundreds of redpines we planted over the years, but no longer owning the land.  We sold it to nephew Colby in January, passing it on to the next generation.  The logs we didn't cut, the firewood we didn't clear, the trails grown in and the 30 year old pine plantation all passed on.  You can't hold on to things forever, but it is hard after nearly 50 years switching from owner to trespasser. 
The ground where I want to plant the rest of the apples--the old cow pasture, was rough from years of pocket gopher mounds.  Got it down smooth enough so I am almost satisfied to set out the trees.  
Small pocket gopher mound, fresh this spring.  They mess up farm fields by leaving the mounds of dirt.  In their niche in the western prairies, they allow for diversity in the prairie sod--a place for new seeds to sprout.  They are unknown much west of Luck, WI, having migrated in from the west into the original sand prairie along the east side of the St Croix.  Want to learn more about pocket gophers?  Check and earlier blog post: A Gopher Tail  

Spent the afternoon at the Luck Museum listening and watching Jay Bergstrand's very interesting talk on his work with the US Fish and Wildlife service in Alaska beginning in the late 1950s.  Jay, as a sophomore biology student in River Falls, took a summer job along the coast in southern Alaska, camping out along a salmon spawning river scaring off salmon poachers to allow the fish to go upstream to spawn.    Fascinating, well illustrated, and worthy of being turned into a book!   From fishing, flying, policing a frontier village, to living through the 1964 earthquake, Jay certainly had an interesting career in Alaska.  

I thought about my own college summers driving a string bean picker down field after field at 1.5 mph and realized my own experience was sadly lacking in adventure!