St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

May Day

With the maple syruping all done and the equipment stored away and Margo stable, we are switching to our summer activities here on the farm. 

Margo enjoys the outside porch on the old lift chair Dad used in his last few years with Parkinsons.  
Margo is nearly a month out of surgery and gradually improving.  Although the leg and shoulder pain that were so debilitating before surgery seem to be gone, the surgical wound is still quite painful and is likely to be for some time yet.  She wears a neck collar all of the time (and probably for 2 more months) to keep her from bending or turning her head at all.  She is walking with a walker a few hundred feet at a time.  Every Thursday we drive to Barron, WI where she has physical occupational therapy, attempting to get her back to independent functioning.  Balance is still a problem so she uses a walker all of the time. 

Although the surgery seems to have relieved the pain from spinal stenosis, it left her weakened in the arms, hands and legs so the rehab is to get them strengthened and working again.  Pain or function is a hard decision, but the doctors think that she will regain the function with effort. 

Her progress is steady, so we are hopeful that in a few months the pain will be gone, the walker replaced with a cane and she will resume things like driving and washing dishes -- yes, Scott and I do all the housework now.

Sister-in-law Connie stopped by and gave her a very short haircut --to keep it out of the neck brace and make it easier for her to comb -- raising her arms that high is still difficult.  However, things are improving and we were warned the recovery may take a year or more. 

Scott and I finished an average maple syrup season.  That is actually a good result, as average means a quart per tap and with 80 taps (the final count) we did get 20 gallons of syrup.  Neighbor and friend, Dave, helped us during the whole season so we split about 1/3 of the syrup with him.  With Margo ailing and having surgery in the midst of the season, it was great to have someone to collect the sap when we were away.  I think next year we will go back to 200 or maybe 400 taps and cook about the same amount and sell the extra sap to one of the local processors.  Since 2012 with my knee surgery, 2013 with myasthenia gravis and cancer, and so on we have cut back.  
The last (4th) batch of syrup this season was only a gallon and a half -- sort of the cleanup of the last sap to run.  The sap had already turned slightly cloudy, but when it cooked down seemed to taste pretty good.  All of the 4 batches this year (20 gallons) were good flavor and nice looking.  We used to sell it at the Eureka Farmer's market every Friday, but with that closed just sell a little to folks who stop by to buy some.  Not enough to really do any serious selling until we go back to a few hundred taps again.  

Gardening is getting underway seriously as May starts and the nightly frosts seem to be done.  The row of lettuce I planted on March 10th as an experiment finally sprouted last week.  The peas planted then have not.  After a few warm early March days, the weather got back to normal and with a few snows and lots of freezing nights, the seeds just sat, so early planting probably gave me no advantage to planting right now. 

Bought a dozen new everbearing strawberries at Walmart to add to our Winona Giant spring bearers and set them out 2 weeks ago, but it appears they were all dead on arrival, but they still may get going. 

 Looking for some everbearing raspberries to add to the spring bearers we already have.  In the country we usually swap berry plants with the neighbors rather than buy them -- the varieties in the chain stores seem to be suited for southern Iowa rather than the far north.  

Set out two blueberry plants here on the farm.  Hauled a lot of sand from the River Road fields up here to amend the soils for blueberries.  Also, since watermelons grow best on the sand, hauled some tubs of it up here to try container watermelon plants -- big tub containers.  We always have a sand garden but would like to try to consolidate to a single garden this year. 

Broke a part of the west side of the yard extending into the field on the farm to plant a new pumpkin and squash garden this year.  The cabin garden was a little too low and frosted and flooded too often to be successful (last two years total failure).  With 40 acres surrounding the farm we should not need to have three gardens a few miles apart. 

The 1952 Super C Farmall tractor and the 1946 Swedish Farmer disk a new garden spot just west of the farm yard.  Pumpkins and squash garden.  This spot has not been farmed, mowed or disturbed for about 20 years so should make a good garden spot.  
The first pass was with Farmer Chuck's garden tractor to break the sod.  He rents the rest of the farmland and plans to have corn on the field west of the yard.  Right in front of him is the big brush pile from dying apple trees.  I keep meaning to burn it, but it has gotten so large and supports such a number of animals and birds, decided to let it rot down instead.
My latest project is picking rocks from the field and using them to build rock landscaping.  Here is the first try -- Pebble Dam on the dry run that comes through the 40 acres into the pond.  
Every year a new crop of rocks appears on the farm fields.  In the old days, we drug a low wooden stone boat across the field, pitched on rocks and dumped them in a pile here and there on the farm.  With the realization that rocks are now sought after by folks for landscaping, we decided to try to use ours more creatively. 

A little tractor and little trailer to haul little loads

Some water comes through each spring and after rains into the farm pond.  Behind this pile of rocks is a big swamp that at one time was a big lake from a series of three beaver dams in this narrow drain.  The farmers had tried to drain the swamps and farm or pasture them, so my attempt to repair a large old beaver dam right here was to make a very small pool right behind it.  It appears that rock dams are not really dams at all and let the water flow through freely.  Have to find a pair of beavers and rent them for the summer I guess. 

Just below the rock pile, is our farm pond, Dub Lake.  It is an old cattail swamp that had filled in and no longer held water.  In 1970, a dry summer, cousin Harvey bulldozed it out and returned it to a farm pond.  Very nice!