St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Computer Dating 1966

Did this computer card have the match for a perfect woman for Russ? It reads, Russell Hanson  Your date is at 7:15 with 016 in ballroom.  

Inside the small brown envelope was a computer punch card, one of those tan colored, don’t spindle nor mutilate items, with a clipped corner and rows of numbers and holes.  Its ordinary appearance belied its importance.   Printed in black across the top was the identification number, 016, that of the girl on the River Falls campus that most closely matched me, my computer selected soul mate.

 “Computer Match” posters had been plastered around the campus where I was a freshman physics and math student.   Dr. Brown, my calculus teacher, said the campus computer gurus had programmed the brand new IBM 1620 computer to match people based on questionnaire.   It cost $5.00 to enter and included a get-acquainted dance where you met your perfectly matched computer date.    

The Student Voice newspaper article for Jan 10, 1966:

Computer Will Play Cupid for Dance
“ In this modern age of science and technology, Cupid and his stinging arrows of love can take on many forms. Students at Wisconsin State University at River Falls will be concerned about this soon when an IBM Computer 1620 here tries to play a modern Cupid. The students will probably do nothing to stop the mechanical mentality from matching couples together for a Valentines Day Computer Dance.”

“Students will begin filling out questionnaires this week about their likes, dislikes, and interests, to see if a machine can find a girl or fella with the same interests.”

“The date matching is based on the theory that like personalities attract. The computer \will count the number of identical responses on the questionnaires. Dates will be those with the highest number of similar answers”

“The questionnaire consists of 38 questions about age, height, religious preference, appearance, how important it be that one's date be attractive, dancing ability, travel experiences habits, political ideas, scholastic ability, interest in sports, TV art, literature and student status!  There is even a question about the number of children you would like in your marriage.”

“Most of the students interviewed expressed enthusiasm and curiosity about the possibility of finding the perfect date.”

  I had been at River Falls long enough to know that I wasn’t going to flunk out—a fear of many freshmen students away from home the first time.  I hadn’t dated – just kept my nose to the grindstone with my full load of hard classes—Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, English and Honors.  Girls on campus were fussy with the 2:1 ratio, and in those days, most of them were out to find a husband.  With my plan to go on to graduate school, I didn’t have room for dating seriously. 

After some more arm twisting by Dr. Larson from the Physics department, my major area, and instructor of the Honors class, a fascinating course for students who had good grades and wanted to talk about big ideas, I filled out a form.  Dr. Curtiss O. Larson was brand new that year as a physics professor and knew some of my cousins from Barron, WI where he had grown up.  He was only 25 years old while I wasn’t too far behind at 19, and admired him greatly. 

    I showed the form to my friends on 1st floor Johnson Hall South, the dormitory so new that we didn’t have curtains on our windows until spring of that year (you sort of get used to living a public life after awhile).   Six of them were sophomores, pre-veterinary students, very studious types.

 At that time, Wisconsin did not have a veterinary school, so WI veterinary students had to apply in MN, IA or MI. They tried to maintain straight A’s so they would be selected in a very highly competitive entrance process.  They had gotten together and all selected adjacent rooms so they could study together and try to have a quiet dorm experience—a rarity.  I was lucky to be assigned to the same studious dorm area.    The rest of us respected their studious ways and I fell into the same habits as they did.

    “I don’t have time or money for dating” said my friend Dennis from Bloomer, “I need to spend all my time to get A’s.  If I don’t get into veterinary school, I will have to be an MD,” he joked knowing the entrance requirements for an MD program were easier than the veterinary schools.    My roommate Al, thought it was pathetic that I would need a computer find a date.  He was so bummed out that his HS girlfriend of 3 years had broken up with him just before he left for college, he was off women for good!

   I was still pretty shy with girls.  I was one of four boys at home, and a studious type and didn’t have a clue what to talk about with girls.  In those days hunting, sports, farming, science and math were my topics of interest—none of which seemed to be interesting to any girls I knew.   My fundamentalist upbringing led me to think fraternizing with the opposite sex was fraught with danger, and we all would do best to emulate Joseph and Mary and have virgin births.

    This dance was a huge decision.  What convinced me into submitting the form was the idea I might actually get matched with a girl I could actually talk to.  I filled out every answer honestly, except for one where I said something like I was serious and ready for marriage rather than the truth—the exact opposite. 

   With some trepidation, and lots of encouragement from Dr. Larson to his Honors students, I submitted the questionnaire.  The dance was still almost two months off to allow the computer people to keypunch each answer onto a computer card and then run several hundred people through the matching program.  As the date drew nearer, I got more and more nervous.   I realized I didn’t want to do this! 

    I had kept Dennis up-to-date on the process.  He was a little wistful that he hadn’t signed up himself.   “Why don’t you take my date?” I told him, “you and I probably would have had similar answers.”  When he didn’t say an outright “No,” I started working on him and with a bribe of $10 and the entrance fee paid, he was convinced and agreed to relieve me of finding out my perfect match.

   “Are you looking forward to the computer match dance?” Dr. Larson asked me after class one day.   “I changed my mind and a friend of mine is going instead” I replied sheepishly, knowing he had worked on the computer match end of the process.

  “You can’t do that!  After all the work everyone has done to make this a success, you just can’t pass it off on someone else.  You go!” in a tone that said if I didn’t go, my next three years of Physics might become very difficult.

    “Dennis, I got in trouble today with Dr. Larson.  He insists I have to go to the dance and I can’t pass it off to you.”   Now, I had done a superb selling job in getting Dennis to take Miss Computer Match off my hands and he resisted giving her up.  I had convinced him that our match would surely be a mixture of Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein.   Well, another $10 dollars and paying for his new necktie bought especially for the dance returned her to me. 

    The big night came.   The dance was to be at the large low-ceilinged brand new Campus Ballroom with live music.  We were to show up, pick up an envelope with our perfect match number, then pair by pair be brought to the center of the floor and introduced to each other and to the public.   

    I wore dress slacks, a white shirt with thin blue vertical strips and Dennis’ new tie At that time, for one of the few times in my life, I was relatively slim having lost a lot of weight the last year of HS in football.  I was still a Brylcream greaser, no beard and black horn-rimmed glasses, your non-descript, average looking science guy with only a well developed sense of humor going for me.    

    The emcee called off number 16, and I took that long walk from the group of men on one side of the room into the center.  For a few moments, no one came forward.  Then from the women’s side I watched as my perfectly matched computer date detached herself from the crowd and came to meet me in the center. 

   It was Rebecca (name changed to protect the innocent), from the Freshman Honors class.  We knew each other only from across the classroom and having heard each other answer our share of questions competently. 
   Rebecca was slim, several inches shorter than me.  She wore a white blouse and modest knee length brown skirt.  Her hair was short, straight and dark.  She had pretty brown eyes.  She was, I thought, much prettier than I remembered from class, actually very attractive.  I told her straight away that I was mostly a non-dancer.      

   We talked a little about our answers to questions on the match form.  She liked math a lot and science almost as much!  She had graduated from Grantsburg high school and I from St Croix Falls.  Our birthdays were only 5 days apart.  We were both in roughly the same math-physics program in college and both doing reasonably well away from home. Both of us were from farms.  Both of us were used to good grades and working hard.

    We talked a lot, swayed a little to some slow numbers, and stayed until just before 12 pm, the time when girls were locked out of Hawthorne Hall on Saturdays (girls had hours, guys didn’t).  There was no kiss at the door, but I do remember telling Rebecca that I had enjoyed getting to know her and would see her in class next day.

    When I got back to the dorm, Dennis wanted his tie back and a full debriefing on “his” perfect computer match date.   He knew her from class too.  I told him she was eager to get away from the farm and had her sites set on the city.  “Well, she wouldn’t do for a veterinary’s wife then,” he said sadly letting go of his perfect match.  In those days, veterinarians were mostly farm animal folks. 
      Over the rest of the school year, we dated occasionally—a movie, visits at the lunch room and library and some evenings at the movies shown in the student center.  We both were on limited funds and no car and spent a lot of time trying to keep up with our homework—huge numbers of problems from math and science classes. I liked her very much—although we were probably more good friends than anything else.  We increasingly spent time together—actually talking about things we both were interested in. 

     We dated and hung around together sporadically in next couple years—both so heavily into studies, we didn’t have much free time.  I was sure I was going to stay in school for many more years to go on to grad school in physics and didn’t want to think about anything serious until I was all done with that.  Rebecca planned to get a job after college.  “My Dad looks at my college as an investment.  He expects me to get a good job soon!”   

     After semi-final exams one quarter during my junior year, I went out with some of my male friends to have a burger and a beer at Beldenville, the under 21 drinking town near River Falls. While I was there, I met a former HS classmate, Laurie, who was out with her girlfriends having finished their exams too. 

We visited briefly and she asked me if I had a car.  “I am feeling a little dizzy, and I wonder if you might drive me back to the dorm.  My friends don’t want to leave yet.  I shouldn’t have come along with them.”

“Sure, I’m done and ready to go back anyway.”  Laurie was a year younger than me, and we didn’t know each other very well.  We talked a little about school and high school on the short drive back.  I helped her out to the car and into the entrance desk of the girls dorm – as far as males were allowed.

“Thank you Russ, I am going to lie down and hopefully things will be OK in the morning” she said and gave me an old friend type quick hug and kiss. 

It turns out that a kiss at the dorm entry can get passed around very quickly on a small campus and misinterpreted.  The next time I saw Rebecca, she told me she heard that I kissed a girl at the entry was upset.  “I don’t want to talk about it.  You just aren’t serious.  I don’t want to date anymore.”     

That was true, I thought, as I remembered lying about this very same item on the questionnaire.   I did make an attempt to explain—I wrote a long letter (no email, no texting, not even a private phone in the dorms) and apologized and promised to think more seriously about the future.  However, I didn’t persist as I knew she was right and so we ended.   After graduation, I never saw her again.  She was an interesting friend, and I missed her for a long time.  It is sad how difficult it is for men and women to be just friends.

Some years later, I met my first wife, Margo.  We worked together in the same place and we got to know each other quite well before we started dating, so went into it with our eyes open.    However, if we ever decide to split, I think I would go ahead and try one of those computer matching services again.  As Margo says “Surely someone out there deserves you more than I do!”

   The Rambler’s perfect date was found for him by this IBM 1620 computer back in 1966.  It matched questionnaires submitted by River Falls students.  Sadly, he found out that he should have answered the questions honestly for it to work best.  All was not lost, as he did fall in love with the computer.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Visit to the Cabin

The front yard looking in from Evergreen Av.  This the snowiest year at the farm that I can remember, although one in the early 50s was pretty bad too.  A friend tells me that 1944 set the local record for overall snow depth (different than snowfall).  

This winter the cabin on the lake has been idle.  We stay just down the road at the farm, so other than to pick up some items we want, we haven't been up there and cleaned out the driveway since December.   

This morning, with the temperature almost -20, the wind blowing viciously from the west putting the windchill far below anything a rational human would go out in, Margo got an urge to make something with maple syrup.  

We are preparing for the maple syrup meeting tomorrow night, 7 pm at the Luck Museum, and she thought she might bake something to take along with maple flavor.  

"My maple syrup recipe books are all in the drawer by the refrigerator at the cabin.  Would you run up there an get them" she asked.  Now she hasn't been outside for two days so probably hadn't realized how cold it was and how deep the snow was likely to be wading in the long, long driveway to the cabin door. 

"Are you sure you can't just look up a recipe on the internet?" I asked thinking about the conditions outside.  

"No, there is one recipe for maple cake that works just right, and I never found it except in this maple cooking book I have up there."

Well, being a good husband, a guy just goes ahead whatever the danger and inconvenience.  "Wish I had some snowshoes," I commented having an opportunity to push spending $150 off budget.  
Dressing in layers and wrapping my pantlegs in heavy wool socks and tightly tying the laces on my boots,  I got the car started and drove to the cabin.  

The roads in Sterling are kept up well with the two men in the crew. The banks are pushed way back and sand on Evergreen and River Road to give some traction on the ice underneath.  

The lake on the right.  The roads are very good in Sterling!

Wolf Creek as it flows south under Evergreen Av at the intersection of the old River Road
Getting to the cabin, I looked in the long driveway and bucked up my courage and waded through the big snow ridge put up by the road crew.  
Cabin in the distance on the left; maple cooking slabs on the right.  Not even a deer track through the driveway. 

The snow was up to my knees!  After the first few steps, I felt the cold snow filling my boots and starting to freeze my feet.  The wind, probably 20-30 mph came across the open lake and blew bitterly across the driveway.  

A glacier slowly moves down the west wing of my old maple sap cooking shed, made from scrap lumber from our sawmill and various scraps of tin and leftovers based on tamarack poles. Now a storage building.  

The new maple cooking shed--left side.  The walls are all old doors and windows given to me from a remodel of a house in Dresser.  The lean to on the right has the Super C Farmall and some sap tanks.  The cooking shed is just a shelter for the cooker and cookee. My two best maples are on the right--test between 5 and 6% sugar, nearly double the average sugar maple.  

The cabin was fine--no mice in the traps, no breakins (this year I took everything out that was worth taking), and other than being the same temperature as the outside, ready to move in for sap season!

Looking down hill to the NW with the lake in the distance.  Not a track down there either.  Very hard to see that the snow is very deep through here.  
I braved the deep snow and bitter winds and made it to the cabin and shoveled the snow away enough to open the door.  Inside, out of the wind, was just slightly better.   I found the recipe book and picked up a few more just in case and found my maple syrup candy molds too, and then locked it back up and retraced my steps back to the road.   

Margo was pleased to get the recipe books.  She thumbed through them for a while and then commented, "Hmmm, guess the recipe must be in a book I have at Pine Island.  I'll call Scott tonight and ask him to send a copy by Internet.  Thank you anyway." 

A guy shows love for his wife in different ways!

Maple Syruping

With the traditional tapping of maples only a few weeks away, it is time to get in the mood!  Feb 27th, 7 pm, Luck Museum is our annual Polk Co syruping kickoff meeting.  Local producers, local enthusiasts, beginners, and those who are just wondering about it all get together to find out what is happening in syruping this year.  

Steve Anderson from Anderson Maple of Cumberland will tell us what is new.  Russ Hanson, the River Road Rambler himself, will tell us what is old.  Beginning syruping taught. FREE, door prizes and refreshments.  Guaranteed to put you in a spring mood!

My family claims an broken line of syrupers in North America starting when GGGGGGG grandpa John Beebe's family came to New London Connecticut, and learned how to do it from the Native Americans in 1650! 

1960s brother Byron feeding the fire with slabs from our sawmill

Great Grandpa Charles Hanson settled in Maple Grove Township, Barron County WI in the 1870s.  His Yankee wife, Anna Beebe, came from NY and her ancestors from CT and through them we trace the syruping history of the family to the 1600s.  We still have distant cousins in western NY who syrup (for 200 years there).  I think this is Great Uncle George on the right and neighbor Malone left about 100 years ago.  

Margo hangs buckets 10 years ago.  

Administrator Russ guides son Scott in sap filtering.  10 years ago. 

Scott labels the syrup -- about 1985.  

Brother Everett's orginal cooker--now replaced with a new one in a cooking shed.  Neighbor Jana has the old one setup at her place 5 years ago at the end of the season--already green!

Great great grandpa Lathrop Watson Beebe, wife Abigail and children came from Cattaraugus County, Western NY, to Wisconsin after his service in the Civil war (about 1864) and passed his maple syrup making skills to his new son-in-law, Charles Hanson a Swedish immigrant.
Maple syruping was important for the family because it provided the sweetening used for cooking.  White sugar was unavailable or extremely expensive, and maple sugar was a home made substitute that just took your labor.   The family sold the surplus as a way to make a little money in the spring.  

350 years later, the tradition continues with the Hanson's champing at the bit to hit the woods and begin maple season again.  We start in the dread of winter, and end with the early flowers of spring.  The lake opens, the birds return, the snow melt with all of its wonderful muddiness, are all first hand experiences to the maple syruper.  On the farm, the end of the season started the long stretch of the farm crop planting through harvest.  A sweet interlude between winter and summer.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stokely Bean Picking

Brother Ev and I were looking through some of the old color slides from the upstairs.  Sadly, some of them are rather badly molded.  I scanned a few to see what they looked like--and although the mold is annoying, the pictures are still interesting.   

Ev, I, Dad and Uncle Lloyd all worked at one time or another on the Chisolm Ryder Bean Picker's for Stokely's out of Frederic.  Here are a few slides taken in the late 1960s.  The splotches are mold.  I think the only way to stop it once it has started is to put the slides in a plastic zip-lock bag with some dessicant packs and freeze them.   My strategy is to scan them and get what I can.  The mold actually lives in the emulsion, eating it and if cleaned off, leaves clear spots. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Frost on the windows

A frost pattern on a north window of the Farm House.  I under-exposed it and used closeup mode.  I took many many photos to get a few I liked. 

Growing up in the old farm house with single paned windows and leaky storms, we huddled around the stove and later the wood furnace registers.  Of course, in those days we wore wool underwear and wool socks all winter, inside the house, in the school, the barn, as well as outside, so a house with cold edges was not particularly burdensome. 

We prefered union-suits as they didn't slide down and seemed warmer.  At the outhouse, our prefered underwear had a pull open overlapping rear slit, rather than the trapdoor others preferred.   Trapdoors took more work to re-button in those pre-velcro days.  Using an outhouse at -20 wonderfully concentrated the attention and got a guy to tend to his business efficiently without the usual study of Sears and Roebuck.  We used the full catalog, but moaned a little when only glossy colored pages were left.    

 The front did button, but a kid usually could dye the snow without undoing the buttons.  A weekly change at Saturday night bath time was considered quite civilized.  Coming in wet from sliding having a dry replacement helped, so we never went into the winter without two pairs.  

One of the fascinations of living in a house abounding with microclimates, was Jack Frost painting our windows.  The windows to the south were the best.  A sunny day with a lot of wood in the furnace melted them clear, and each cold night gave a brand new pattern.   
The evening sun on a spruce trunk, looking north.  The window is a little dirty, and on the inside is one of those Menard plastic storm window kits that is supposed to keep it frost free. 
The patterns were amazing!  Feathers, forests, fields of wheat, whole scenes could appear one morning and be replaced the next morning.  

As winter progressed, many windows thickened their inside frost to a layer of ice, deep enough we could warm a penny in hot water on the stove and melt it in and freeze it deep into the icy coating.  To see out, our hot breaths blown until we felt dizzy could melt a peep hole into the world.   

Out in the barn, where the humidity was greater from the massive cows breathing all night, the windows built up deep layers of snowy frost.  Between hauling milk to the cans, feeding hay or silage, or helping clean the barn, we might go to a window and take the curry comb and scrape off an inch of snow--making our own snowstorm right in the barn.  

In the backseat of the car, if we got dibs on a window seat, in those days of weak heaters, and 6 of us filling the air with humidity, the only way to look out was to melt a hole, again with breath or bare fingers.  Clean a spot and keep huffing on it and you could see out.  Turn and pester your brother a little, and it was gone.  

The 33 Chev had special stick on thin glass patches for the windshield to let you look out even when the defroster couldn't help.  I think they were like a mini-storm window.  I wished I had one on my back window too--but of course, never asked for a frill like that when the store bill needed to be paid.   

Jack Frost painted the windows, Santa brought Christmas toys, the tooth fairy a nickle for a tooth, the Sandman put us to sleep, and God watched everything bad we did and wrote it down (maybe he and Santa shared lists?).  The Boogey Man slept under the bed.
The camera in auto mode.  I went to manual and tried variations of focus and exposure to get the first 3 photos, and then cropped out the flat areas.  I think if I put a very small aperture, I might get close and far focus.   Hopefully winter will hang on long enough that I get the hang of these frost photos!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sunny Afternoon

A good thermometer--always reads 5-10 degrees warmer
than the the other one.  

37th 2013-2014 Snowstorm

I am not sure it is the 37th snowstorm of this winter, just as I am not sure if we've had 41 or 45 days this winter that were below freezing, and 2 that got into the 30s, but it is certainly one of those winters to remember.  

By 10 pm last night, the snow was drifted in and roads all closed.  No more traffic until 6:30 when the Sterling snowplow truck went by--just barely light yet.  I wonder if the snowplow driver takes the truck home at night, as it would be hard to drive down to the corner of Evergreen and River Road to the Town garage.  

Living on Evergreen is good--one of the first roads plowed as it is the lifeline of the Sterling Barrens to get to Hwy 87 and on to work or for us older folks the morning coffee out at the Cushing Corner station.  
Deer taking a last supper in the orchard as the snow storm moved in.  They like the orchard pruning twigs and all the apples I left on the ground -- pretty deep down, but insulated by all the snow. 

10 pm and still snowing

After an hour of blowing snow with the Cub Cadet, the driveway is open, and the car could get out.  After some breakfast, will gas it up and finish the yard.  Margo is headed back Saturday, roads willing, and so I am doing this all on my own!  

The Cub Cadet came from Margo's Dad's farm, when he moved into town a few years ago, he gave us a good price on it and some other items from his garage.  The Cub is really quite wonderful at moving snow--it clears a path in front of it.  Much better than the back blade on the Ford 2n in deep snow.  

Although the winter is getting old, there is still something about a big snowstorm, the fresh deep white snow, and rising to the challenge of getting plowed out that I look forward to.  Having the right machinery is great.  My friend Buz, shovels his whole driveway by hand.  He also thinks of it as a challenge, and unlike me, he gets a good workout doing it.   

Back in the early days on the farm, in the BT days (before tractor), Dad shoveled our long driveway by hand when he had to.  However, that was rare, as in those days the milk hauler from the Cushing Creamery had a snow plow on his milk truck, and loaded  full with milk cans, could pretty much get through anything.  We boys loved to wait for him to roar up the driveway in a cloud of blowing snow,  making the loop around the pump shed and then a few extra pushes to clear our yard before pulling along side the milk house, loading our filled cans and replacing them with empties (#72 was our can number as I recall ).  

Well, my fingers are warmed up, the coffee is kicking in, so it's time to move some snow!

1924 Dodge with Cushingites --needs a snow plow to finish the milk route!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pheasant Behavior changing?

Boss of the Bass Lake Pheasant Commune?
For about a month or so, since I noticed a few pheasants coming into the orchard to scratch around in the snow to find fallen apples, I have been feeding a little corn each morning, both to enjoy watching them as well as giving them a little free food in this hard winter.  

Most mornings, 10-13 show up and spend 30 minutes eating.   I spread the corn out under several apple trees, so there is overhead cover.   

The pheasants fly in from the north about the time the sun comes up, first landing in a row of trees along the road, pausing a few minutes and then running 50 feet to the next group of trees where I have spread 4 quarts of crack, shelled corn with a few sunflower seeds mixed in.  I spread it widely and thinly under several of the full size apple trees, trying to give an uncrowded feeding area, all under cover, and making it difficult for the deer to find easy pickings.  

Each night, about dusk, 1-7 deer have started to show up to browse on the apple trees (and the branches on the ground from my pruning efforts), and to pick up the remaining scattered corn.  The area under the trees is packed down from deer and pheasants, so has a hard crust--although every week a few inches of new snow build it higher.  

This morning, still 31 degrees after 2 days that got up to 40 and days fast approaching 11 hours of light, I noticed a different behavior.  

One large male flew in at 7:15 am to the lower row.  He waited 2 minutes, then flew up into one of those apple trees, about 4 feet off the ground and perched there for another few minutes, then flew into the feeding trees, landing on the ground and carefully looking all around, began feeding.  He was alone for over 5 minutes. 

Another pheasant
Across the driveway in the further trees is the feeding area

Feeding area on the right, row to left is where the pheasants come into the orchard, hide out, and leave. 
flew in about 7:25 and stayed in the lower row.  Then over then next 5 minutes 8 more flew in; one group of four, and the others coming in gradually, all from the north.  Each stayed for a while in the lower row, moving west down the row until just south of the feeding plot.  Then each made a dash for the food, and began eating.  

When several were in the feeding area, the original big male started rushing around chasing away other males--one ran off, one flew a short distance away, and after about 5 minutes of this, all of the pheasants except the male (I think it was the original one), were gone from the food plot, back into the shelter row.  

Another five minutes and they were all back feeding again, and a few minutes later, all were back in the shelter row, then all gone.  I didn't see anything that scared them.  Possibly they had all they wanted to eat, as each could have quickly picked up all the food they could fill in their crops in a few minutes.  

Speculations:   Possibly the warm weather has started some territorial behavior by the males.  I had noticed a little of this before, but not so pronounced as this morning.    

For two mornings, the pheasants came in before I got out to spread the corn (they used to come in about 8 am, but seem to follow the sunrise and are coming earlier.)   Those two days, there was not much food available, as the blue jays, crows, and other birds ate on it all day and the deer in the evening.  Possibly with a scarcity of food for a couple of days, some survival of the fittest is being played out.  (I purposely got up and spread the food at 6:45 am, before full morning light).  
Post meal warmup on a -20 day in the lower cover row

View out the "picture window" Mom had put in the old house 40 years ago so she had some light.  On the left is a covered deck with a wheelchair ramp put in for Dad back in 2003 when his Parkinsons got so he used a wheel chair and scooter.  The tree just beyond the deck is a Catalpa, leaning heavily to the north.  Catalpa's are at the northern edge of their range, and don't make very good trees here, freezing off many years, but always trying again from the root.  They are a beautiful late blooming tree with huge leaves and full of long seed filled beans that nothing seems to eat.  

The other wildlife activity picking up in the big old farmhouse--box elder bugs and asian beetles are crawling out of the wood-work and onto the south windows attempting to get outside.  Some have shown up each day of the winter, but just 2 or 3.   Yesterday I personally wiped out 17 box elder bugs and 3 ladybugs desperately trying to get outside.   I suppose I should have practiced catch and release, but letting them outside this winter would have surely been a hardship.   

I think they spend all fall trying to get into the house and then all winter trying to get back out with increasing desperation as spring arrives.  

The puddle on the sidewalk was firming up early this morning; the weathermen in a tizzy over coming snow, I have gassed up the tractor and snowblower, so let it come.  By now, 6-12 inches of new snow is barely noticeable.  

I have been filming the pheasants coming into the orchard in the morning.  Set my camera on a tripod, zoom it into the area I want, and leave it sit pointed out the east window.  Lots of film but so far, very little useable action.  Eventually I hope to select and combine the interesting parts into a short video.