St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

1950 Farm Photo

Cleaning in an upstairs room on the farm, I came across an aerial  photo of Uncle Andrew Pederson and his wife, Dad's Aunt Dena Paulson's farm.  They bought her parents (my great grandparent's) farm just south of Barron Wisconsin.  The photo is probably in the early 1950s.  

I split it up into parts to look at the details
The cow pasture, south of the house, surrounds a pond.  You can see a few cows.  Uncle Andrew probably had a dozen cows.  The farm was 40 acres.  Just to the right of the pasture is the fenced garden, and then fields including a shocked oats field.  It is odd there are so many shocks left, as there is a big straw pile behind the barn already.  The two tracks of farm machinery indicate a tractor is likely used with a wide front end or else two horses. 

The buildings were built by John Paulson, who came from Norway.  It was his second farm.  The buildings are still there, although the house has been remodeled to look totally different.  Directly behind the house is the outhouse.  Andrew and Dena had only one child, a son who died as a baby.  His digestive tract was so he could not take food by mouth.  He lived several months with IVs or something like that (in the 1930s) but no operation was available in those days, so eventually they had to let him die. 
The 1922 "History of Barron County WI" book gives this history where the Maple Grove Farm is this one.

John E. Paulson, who owns a garden plot, and a comfortable new home in Section 8, west, Maple Grove Township, has been one of the real leaders of the community for many years. He has served on the school board of his district for nearly a quarter of a century, four years as clerk and twenty years as treasurer, and in all this time he has proved himself a real friend of education, and has taken the deepest interest in the welfare of the school. For two years he was also town supervisor, and in other ways as well, he has served the public. 

He was born March 3, 1852, in Norway, son of Paul and Gurena (Ottesen) Paulson, natives of Norway, the former'of whom died in that country, and the latter of whom came to America in 1872, and made her home with her son, the subject of this sketch, until her death, April 11, 1900, at the good old age of ninety-one years. John E. attended school for a while, and was reared as a fisherman, following the sea for several years. In 1872 he came to America and purchased 80 acres in St. Croix County, this state. He erected a set of buildings, cleared 60 acres, and there farmed for twenty years. 

In 1892 he sold out and came to Barron County, where he bought 40 acres, in Section 8, west, Maple Grove Township, cleared practically the whole tract, erected a set of buildings, and carried on mixed farming and dairying. July 20, 1920, he sold the place, purchased his present tract of three acres, and erected his present home. 

Mr. Paulson was married July 19, 1879, to Olena Olson, daughter of Ole and Ellen (Halverson) Severson, who spent their entire lives in Norway. This union has been blessed with five children: Hannah was born July 31, 1880, and is now Mrs. Pearl Hanson, of Maple Grove Township; Olaf was born Aug. 22, 1881 and died Aug. 13, 1917; Edwin was born Jan. 1, 1883; Oscar was born Nov. 15, 1885, and died May 20, 1887; Deanax (Dena) was born March 25, 1890, and lives at home. The family faith is that of the Free Mission Church.

(They are buried in the Baptist cemetery at Maple Grove, WI).  

John Paulson and wife Olena Olson 1879 (wedding?)

Back: Olaf, Hannah, Dina   Front: Oleana, Edwin, John
Hannah was my grandmother -- married Pearl Hanson.
John Paulson and wife bought 3 acres next to his daughter Hannah's farm and moved there with his wife and daughter Dena.  In April 1929, a tornado killed his wife, damaged him so he died a few months later with Dena coming through alive.  The buildings were leveled along with those of Pearl and Hannah.  Dad and his family lived through it.  

The 1920 retirement house and barn were totally destroyed.  Great Grandma was found in the pasture.  Dena said the last she remembered was the washing tub rolling at her--but she came through OK.  Great Grandpa was in the barn, and attempted to go to the house and was badly bruised.  He died a few months later--being in a wheel chair and unable to get around after the storm.   Next door, Dad and his siblings and parents weathered the storm in the bank basement of the well building and granary with all of their buildings destroyed too.  The family was very religious -- Baptist and Free Methodist.  I imagine this act of God was difficult to understand.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Deer Hunting Season 40 deer killed within 3 miles of my deer stand today!

A fawn that managed to make it through the first day of deer hunting on the Evergreen Av farm. 

After not hunting deer for a dozen years, Scott and I decided to try it again.  I am hunting on the 40 acres here on the farm--trying to thin out some of the deer that are so hard on the orchard, and Scott is trying it at the lake. 

I saw 7 deer today and Scott 11, none of the sightings were quality ones--too far away, running, or fawns.  So, other than a lot of fresh air and some exercise, it was a quiet day hunting. 

Of course, it wasn't really quiet.  The shooting started about 6:45 with a shot here and there, and increases to 2-3 shots per minute from 7-8 am, then tapered off as the morning wore on and only half dozen an hour by afternoon with a burst in the evening.   

I think I can hear the shots for about 2 miles from where I sit and hunt here on the top of the hill at Bass Lake.  So as I was sitting listening to the shooting, I tried to calculate how many acres that would cover.  A square mile has 640 acres (1-mile by 1-mile).  As a math student, teacher, and heavily involved in mathematics in my work, I feel brave enough to just take right off and do some mental math, even on the deer stand!
Deer beds were common in the brush and trees near the barn
Danger Ahead: Mental Math

My estimate of 2 miles hearing range, means 2 miles in any direction -- a circle radius 2 miles. 
 A = 3.14 x 2x2 = about 13 square miles or 13x640 acres (mental estimate  15x600 or about 9000 acres)
I bag these deer fertilizer tabs and bring them to Margo to add to her indoor geraniums.  After eating her outdoor geraniums all summer, it is only fair they help out with the ones we brought in!
   I heard many single shots, many double and many triple shots and a few with 4 and none with more than that in a burst. 

Low 30s caused some melting

Let's assume that I heard 2 shots per minute for the first hour or 120 shots. After that I will estimate an average of 5 shots per hour 9am - 4pm for 8 hours or 5x8 giving another 40 shots.  Probably a conservative estimate totalling 160 shots during the day.  Some hours were maybe 1 shot and others 10.      

  Let's also assume that it takes 2 shots per killed deer and that maybe 1/2 of the hunters shooting actually got a deer --giving us 1 deer per 4 shots.   So that would mean 160/4 or 40 deer killed in my 4 mile diameter hearing ring.  

Now taking our 9,000 acres /40 deer we get   (900/4 mental math  gives a deer shot per every 250 acres in my neighborhood on the first day.   By the end of season, we probably will have twice that or a deer per 125 acres in my immediate area --80 deer in the 9000 acres in my hearing area.  So my deer kill estimate for the 9000 acres in my hearing range -- 120 this season.  

The 9000 acres are farm land dotted with swamps, woods, lakes, marshes, fencerows, steep hills and valleys so overall maybe 1/2 of the land is farm fields that are now mostly harvested and the other half deer cover.   The deer are well fed, having alfalfa, corn and soy beans as their meat and potatoes and my apples, Margo's geraniums and our garden for the hors d'oeuvres and dessert.   

Got the snow blower back working with the new worm gear.  Under the snow, the grass is still green.  I used the pad to kneel on and the board as a pry.  Went together easily and seems to run fine. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014


The "exploded" view of the snow blower auger drive box with the new bronze gear on the shaft.  Had to sand down some of the ridges on the shaft, put on flange sealer and fill it with grease before bolting it back together.
The snowblower is almost ready for use -- the new gear and gearbox repaired, but one of the bearings on the outside end of the auger needs replacing.  Not because it is worn out, but disappeared from my repair area.  When I removed the auger and shaft, on each end was a bearing housing and bearing, but somehow I lost one.  I think it stuck in the housing without me noticing it.  After I took out the auger, I used the snowblower-tractor as a snow plow and undoubtedly it was lost somewhere in the acre of driveway and yard I plowed--buried under the snow not to be recovered until I mow over it next spring and break my mower on it!

So, I ordered the housing and two bearings as they were somewhat worn anyway.  Should be in late next week.  Another $30 with shipping.  In the end I will have about $60 bucks repair and 4 hours labor costs and about $500 value in learning about the machine for Scott and me.

The Ford Tractor started up with the new ignition coil, so I didn't take the time to put in the electronic ignition points replacement yet.  My fingers were frozen with a little delicate work in the unheated shed.  Leaving the switch on with the points happening to be closed let the coil overheat.  The $10 coil from the Internet worked fine and replaced the $45 one that came from Tractor Supply a few years earlier.    I really wonder why the local shop has to charge 4 times as much (I bought 2 coils online for $21 shipping included).  Sort of like the gear for the snow blower --- local supplier said 2x as much and wait a full week (2 days more than the internet order took). 

 Got the cabin plowed out easily as the snow was soft.  The ground underneath was soft, and turned up a little too easily -- plowing snow and gravel.  Put the Ford back in the shed and turned the switch off!

Now I have to get the Super C Farmall out and see if I can pull a trailer through the snow across the field.  I had planned to cut some of the dead elms bordering the fields to use for sap cooking next spring, and for the wood stove, so hope I can still wallow through the snow to them.  The narrow front tends to plow snow rather than drive through it.  I don't have the chains on it either--have to see if they are needed. Winter came a week ahead of my schedule. 

My Olsen oil furnace at the farm failed to start the other morning.  The house was down to 50 when I got up.  It had tripped the circuit breaker in the basement.  It was doing that 2 years ago, so I put in a new breaker, and then it worked OK.  It worries me as we have two houses and the one we are not at might freeze while we are away-- and we spend time at both. The new remote monitoring thermostat at Pine Island is slick--I can check the temp anytime I want.  No problems yet. 

 When Margo goes in for surgery in a few weeks, I need to be sure the furnace is working at the farm while we are away.  I have a phone dial alarm that I need to set up -- if it goes to 45 degrees F, it dials a phone number and then continues to dial it every 15 minutes until the temp if fixed or you shut it off.  The furnace here has a two wire thermostat, so if I wanted to put one of the fancy wireless digital ones in, I have to add a 24 volt transformer to power it.  That unit with isolation costs about $40 and the thermostat about $99, so will work with the phone unit (I already had -- $65).  

Furnaces, as heating people will tell you, are not reliable machines.  They may go for a year or two, but will surely fail often enough to keep all of the furnace repair people busy enough to show up two weeks later than you want them.   In MN we have it better with the 1-hour service in Pine Island that gives you a free service call if they don't show up in 1 hour.  I had them out once -- cheerful, competent and on time!  Spoils a person. 

Here in Polk County, WI, I have found the people who do services like electrical, furnace, and other on-site repairs are almost totally unreliable as to when they tell you they will show up and when they do.   My neighbor spent 3 weeks with a down furnace last year waiting for the furnace man to show up after the initial call and fix (which worked for about 3 hours and then failed) -- calling him often and being assured someone would be out later that day each time.  Eventually after trying to keep the house above freezing with wood and electricity during the 20 below weeks, he got a 2 week fix and then one that lasted through the rest of the winter (quite expensive too).  
    I think these repair people lie intentionally knowing you have little choice except to live with it.  I have a call in for a furnace cleaning that is not critical, but is now a month out from the promised date.  If someone actually ran a responsive business in the area, they could drive all the others out of business quickly!  

    My own solution here is to have a backup system so when the furnace fails I can still survive.  I had a Jungers oil burner as backup, but hauled that into the barn and put in a wood stove.  I like the independence wood provides--but don't have a lot on hand unless I cut a little more for the emergency that might come along. I have some oak in the basement and some elm in the yard.  I can always haul some of my maple syrup wood from the cabin if I need to.  

 I also use the internet a lot.  People post manuals, videos, and discussions of many of the problems that I run into--so during the long wait for a repairman, I see if I can learn how to fix the problem myself.  Sometimes I can.  

I did the plumbing in our Pine Island house, consolidating it in one corner of the house.  The upstairs and main floor bathrooms stacked with one interior wall "wet."  That same wall backs the kitchen sink too.  I also made all of the pipes with faucets for draining them--the idea I had was to be able to easily drain the plumbing, put washer fluid in the traps and toilet, and drain to the entrance line which is wrapped with thermal tape.  Haven't tried it, but I think it should work.  However, I would rather keep the house at 50 degrees.  I put in a great deal of insulation so the house takes less than a 1/3 the cost of the farm house to heat.  

Mechanical and electrical things wear out.  Some of it is planned obsolescence, some is poor design, and some is actual old age.  Mom bought an IHC freezer in the late 1950s.  It ran for her trouble free for 30 years.  Then it got passed around the family including a few years at the cabin.  Last I heard, brother Marv had passed it along to a friend and it may still be running.  In studying the Cub Cadet (MTD owned) snow blower, several bearings were plastic and none were greasable.  Even the gear box had a plastic plug on the bottom where in earlier models a grease fitting had been placed.  Maintenance free bearings probably means they wear out sooner. 

Oh well, that is why we work so hard to make money--to buy and repair the machines to clean our driveway and haul us to the job. 

Barely Legal buck paws for apples


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Dramatic Start to Winter

Sunday, the swans were enjoying a nice day on Orr Lake

Tuesday things looked different!

The 2014 winter season began suddenly with Sunday Nov 9th sunny and cool -- not quite 40, but as Brother Ev and I strolled around the green yard we agreed that a November like this would be fine!  We knew the forecast was for snow and cold, but when the lawn is green, the ducks and geese flying around, corn still being harvested, it seemed a long way off. 

However, Monday's 13+ inches of snow and Tuesday's temperature drop into the teens and 20s brought on the beauty of the first snow along with the gloom of the dead of winter all at once.   

Plowing snow is a challenge.  Tuesday afternoon, with the snow stopped, I brought out the snow blower and started to blow some snow.  It seemed sluggish -- but as the ground was not frozen and the lower layer of snow was wet, I figured I just had to go slow.  Then it stopped working.  The two stage front mounted blower on the Cub Cadet auger was stopped although the blower fan running.  
The shaft from tractor to auger gearbox was turning, but no power to the auger.  I stopped it and checked -- the auger turned freely as if not attached.  Broken or stripped worm gears was my jumped to conclusion, that turned out correct. 

190 341 100  42 inch front mounted snow blower -- note in the center of the auger is the auger gear box--about $300 with shipping from online sources and more locally.  Another $100 labor to repair or estimated about $500 fix if taken to town for the fix.   

Of course, I never do anything the expensive or easy way, believing that I can probably fix any machine (or at least tear it apart to see if I can fix it).  Using the internet I downloaded and printed out the manual for the snow blower and the exploded view of the auger gear box.  Very simple -- a shaft with worm gear coming in from the tractor driving a bronze worm gear to turn the augers.  Looking on the internet for parts, I found that these gears were available ranging from $25-60 including shipping.  

I also found a site (tractor talk) where several folks discussed fixing this part.   Easy, they said, remove 7 bolts and the whole auger and fan parts just "fall out."   Then take off the augers, remove another 5 bolts and split the auger gear box and look at the damages.  

An hour later I had the gearbox on the kitchen table whacking it with a hammer to drive apart the gearbox halves with a screwdriver.  When it opened up it was full of grease, bronze filings and a broken bronze worm gear.   

The gear had broken and the other worm gear had ground away the bronze teeth.  The steel shaft worm gear was fine and the softer bronze one needed replacing -- probably a design to keep both from getting damaged.  
Ordered the new gear (20 tooth) as it was not available locally for a week -- longer than from Ebay and more expensive.  

I also ordered some auger shear pins, thinking that maybe my replacement of the shear pin last year with a regular bolt may have been the cause of the gear breaking rather than the pin!   Stupidity sometimes catches us. 

So, having the blower out of service at the farm, decided to go up to the cabin and get the Ford with backblade and bring it down to clean out the yard.  When I got there, Scott said "It won't start."

Noticed the switch was left on--he said he tried to start it several hours earlier and jumped to the correct conclusion that the points got burned.  You leave a switch on on an old vehicle and if the points happen to be closed, draws current and burns the points and may melt the coil too.  

The 2N Ford has a front mounted distributor, so you reach in and unhook things, unsnap things, unbolt things and bring it out where you can work with it, hoping your bloody knuckles (scraped against the radiator fins) will heal OK.    Burned points that I filed to decent condition again.  Put it all back together and no spark, so likely a burnt out coil.  They are available at Tractor Supply for $45 and on the internet for $10.  So I ordered 2 off the internet that came in 2 days later for a total of $26 including shipping!  While studying the coils, decided to order new points too, however I got lured into spending $105 to get an electronic point replacement unit that promises never to have to do points again (probably unless we leave the switch on!).  I had already converted it from 6 volts to 12 volts. This is supposed to come in tomorrow, along with the gear for the snow blower.  

In the meantime, I took the augerless snowblower and used it as a snowplow (not too bad) and cleaned out my driveway and enough of the yard to get around.   I kind of hate to make these piles as they freeze up hard and as I don't have a loader tractor (that is in Pine Island with the loader off), I have to live around them the rest of the winter.  

If I get the snowblower back together, and the Ford Tractor running and the backblade on it, then I will tackle putting the front plow on the Super C.  Dad rigged up a truck front plow to mount on the tractor -- and that works OK too, but didn't bother to put it on last year as I had the other units working reliably.  This year, with snow and cold so early I think I need a backup.  

Normally we would head for the south in December, but as Margo has back surgery on the 2nd, we are unsure of the winter plans right now.   After a couple of cortisone shots, various pain killers, and physical therapy, the surgeon reviewed the x-rays and said he thought they might as well try that next.  

You all need to feel sorry for me a little --I have to watch her hobble around the house with a look of pain on her face day after day, barely able to get around and unable to do shoveling, wood splitting, or even cooking and dishes most days.   It has been a hard last few months putting up with her, but after surgery she plans on spending 2 weeks in a rehab center, and I think if she isn't in good shape, I might leave her there for the winter and head south.   I suppose you could feel a little sorry for Margo too.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Taking Control (of my furnace)

We have too many places right now with the Evergreen farm and the Pine Island home and the lake cabin.  The cabin is not a problem as we just drain the water, turn off the electricity and nail everything shut with plywood for the winter.  However, the other two places have water systems and furnaces and have to be worried about when we are at the other place. 

The Pine Island one is the worst as the 25 year old Bryant 90+ furnace has always had a bad habit--it occasionally tries to start up and then fails and won't try again--letting the house cool down.  Not a problem when we are living there but a real worry when we are away. 

Last year we had a freeze alarm dial us when the temp got down to 40 degrees, however then we had to call a neighbor to have him come over and turn the thermostat down and up again (or flip the on/off switch I hooked to the furnace power).   It always starts up then and after many service calls and lots of expensive boards, ignitors etc, it never was fixed.  We gave up on this after the Bryant guy told us "the early high efficiency furnaces had problems..."   This year our neighbor is headed out for the winter -- so no one available free to reset the furnace. 

All I needed was a remote switch -- to turn off and on the furnace from 140 miles away (or more).  I studied up on wireless (wi-fi) thermostats that use an internet connection to communicate to others on the internet.  The price range was from $99 up to several hundred.   The $99 Honeywell available at Home Depot looked adequate.  

Scott and I picked it up, took apart the old one and did a little re-wiring (added a C wire -- common ground, and jumpered a red wire to another red for power) and put it on the wall,  We followed the instructions and soon were controlling the furnace from smart phone, tablet and computer.  

Now, if the temp drops below 50 (or whatever we set), emails will be sent to Margo, Scott and I every 30 minutes until we get the problem fixed.  When the emails come, we go onto the internet, connect with our thermostat and turn the furnace off and on and see if that works.  Heck of a deal if it actually works.  

Of course, nothing is free, so we have to leave the WI-FI connected at the house even if we are gone for a few months.  Normally if we are gone for more than a few months we can put the wi-fi on hold and save the monthly fee.  I think we will be at Pine Island December as Margo has her back surgery Dec 2nd and has a few weeks in rehab after that.  Not sure about Jan and February. 

Bryant 90+  propane gas furnace showing the guts

Had to add a wire from "C" -- common ground to the new thermostat. 

 I added a jumper between R and RC on the left (not shown here) to power the new thermostat. I had red, blue (C), yellow and green wires.  

Main control screen on my computer.  Lets me set up 4 periods each day (night, wakeup, leave for work, home again) for each day of the week.  Idea is cool at night, warm for getting up, cool while gone for the day, and warm to get home except for weekends (or for retired folks).
This morning it felt cool when I woke up at 5:30, so using my Android tablet in bed, I set it to 68!   Now with Margo sitting in her chair with her laptop, she can turn the thermostat up without getting out of the chair, and I can turn it back down too!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Rural Town Hall voting in restored school house

My residence is Roscoe Township, Goodhue County MN where our permanent home is located (near Pine Island).  We summer in NW Wisconsin now that we are retired, in the Twin Cities TV and Radio zone so get all of the MN political advertisements!

I was 89th to vote at 11:30 am, a good turnout so far according to the election judges.  500 registered voters in the district.  The town hall is a 1913 restored school house and quite wonderful to visit!