St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weeding Ducks

When one sets out to know your home, you can choose any thing you feel like to explore more.  Today I chose something we used to dislike and call pond scum as it turned our pretty blue clear water farm ponds into green sloughs.  We associated it with the dog days of summer -- an aesthetic blight on nature.  Today we take a closer look

Gathered at the south end of the pond, the duck weed has begun in its effort to cover the entire pond by summer's end.  

Wikipedia "Duckweed is an important high-protein food source for waterfowl and also is eaten by humans in some parts of Southeast Asia. As it contains more protein than soybeans, it is sometimes cited as a significant potential food source. The tiny plants provide cover for fry of many aquatic species. The plants are used as shelter by pond water species such as bullfrogs and bluegills. They also provide shade and, although frequently confused with them, can reduce certain light-generated growths of photoautotrophic algae.
The plants can provide nitrate removal, if cropped, and the duckweeds are important in the process of bioremediation because they grow rapidly, absorbing excess mineral nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphates. For these reasons they are touted as water purifiers of untapped value."

The south end of the pond --out of the photo to the right is the location where the duckweed has been blown by the north wind of Saturday.

The pond seeding has begun as the floating cancer spreads across the lake (that was my younger days view of the plants).  When I was 14, I got a microscope for my birthday (my request).   That got me acquainted with the microscopic life of a pond -- rotifers, amoeba, euglena, and all the life in pond scum.  Fascinating to think that all of those creatures and plants were eating something smaller or being eaten by something bigger, had injuries and diseases and struggled to make a life for themselves too.

The Dub Lake Monster appears occasionally.  Brother Byron, I think it was, got a baby alligator at the fair and brought it home for the cement fish pond but as it grew to threaten the grandchildren, he released it to the dark lagoon in the cow pasture -- where it occasionally took a calf and now waits for fawns to come to drink. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Margo Improving

It has been about 8 weeks since Margo's back surgery #2 and 6 months since back surgery #1.   The surgeries repaired problems of the lower back and then the neck and upper back -- moving away bones that threatened to pinch off the spinal cord and paralyze her.  Without surgery there would be no pain relief and continued degeneration.  With surgery, the deterioration would be halted and "possibly" some of the pain would be removed.  

The surgeries were successful in getting the cord free and the back stabilized, but, said the doctor, "it may not relieve your pain."   The  pains from shoulder and leg -- caused by pressure on the spinal cord rather than any leg or arm difficulty itself are mostly gone--so that part was successful!   

In replacement for those pain, is a constant neck ache in the area where all of the hardware and repair was done in early April, and with that, weakness in the arms and balance problems and overall weakness.    

So, Margo uses a walker most of the time, although sometimes tries a cane and sometimes stands a little on her own.  With the walker she can walk a few hundred feet with several stops along the way.   She is working on raising her arms over her head and getting her arms, hands and fingers back in use again.  

The surgeon said that recovery would take a year.  So, two months into recovery, Margo is doing better gradually, but still trying to figure out what will be her ongoing pain level and what will be her functionality. She hopes it will be much better than it is right now.  

Each dayt she does her exercises, walks some and uses and exercise bicycle.  We got Dad's electric scooter running again with new batteries so she can get out of the house and around the yard again -- as she is unsteady to walk on uneven surfaces and had been stuck in the house without help from someone else.  

Pain management is difficult.  "Don't take ibuprofen, aspirin or anything other than tylenol and tramadol as the others will interfere with healing," said the doctor.  

  Too much tylenol is not good long term and tramadol may be the cause of migraines for her.  Oxycodone works fine and also adds some cheerfulness, but the doctors won't prescribe that any more as it is addictive, they might look bad over prescribing, and it is not good to take it long term either.  So it is pain management rather than pain relief.    

June 3rd she has her birthday.  In June 3 years ago, she got her diagnosis with stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes.  The triple negative cancer was the most difficult to treat, so a year of two types of chemo, radiation and surgery left her weak and then the deteriorating back got worse after helping her father recover from a stroke so she had not really recovered from the cancer treatment and the back problems have been added to this. 

Three years later, her cancer is still gone; her back has been repaired, and recovery is coming along slowly, but she continues to improve and we are optimistic that by year's end she will be back to living a life she enjoys.  In the meantime, pain management is still a problem and mobility limited. 

 Thursdays are therapy day at Barron Mayo.  The drive over and back is about as much travel as she can tolerate, and the therapy sessions leave her exhausted and worn out the whole next day.      

She does like visitors and on a nice day can be found sitting on the porch at the farm on Evergreen Av. This June 3rd and for the week she will be back in Rochester at Mayo for some more checks on her progress and cancer followup.   

I think that things will be looking up when she gets to the point where she actually feels up to doing something she likes to do-- like using her embroidery machine or baking or gardening. I think she plans to enter a few Polk County Fair items this year -- in hopes she will be able to scoot around the fair grounds on the three wheeler.  

Friday, May 29, 2015

Swan 86X and Family of Rural Cushing Announce New Arrivals --Quintuplets or is it Sextuplets

Looks like six swans a swimming

Up the Creek with a Paddle or Turtle Heaven

Scott took a late evening kayak paddle across Orr Lake and up the small creek coming into it from the north yesterday.  After a few recent rains and some beaver activity at the culvert, the lake is high enough to get several hundred yards up the tiny stream, a winding channel choked with floating bogs, down trees, tag alders and tussocks of grass.  
Just into the channel looking south back to Orr lake at the cabin in NW Wisconsin.  Some years ago the lake was filled with carp and each summer turned peasoup green as they churned up the bottom and ate the vegetation.  Then two different years, a few apart, the lake froze out -- primarily just carp.  The first year they littered the shoreline and attracted 14 bald eagles and dozens of other scavengers eating 1000s of dead carp -- some very large along the shoreline.    A few years later another freeze out seems to have gotten the rest of the carp.  Now the lake is clear all summer and had a lot of natural underwater weed growth.  My unproven theory is that the freezeouts came on those years the beaver managed to plug the culvert just before freezeup, flooding the lake over the shoreline and creating more dead vegetation that rotted and took away oxygen.   In both of these freezeouts, very few fish other than carp died.  However the lake is not a very popular fishing lake as action is slow and small northerns, panfish, turtles and some bass are reluctant to bite most of the time. 
As kids, we fished the lake from our own shoreline and with the old 12 foot Sears Jonboat.  With turtles and bullheads taking most of our bait, it was not our favorite fishing hole. 

He took along his camera and so we can paddle along with him up stream.   He was looking for the trumpeter swans -- who he thought were nesting upstream in a previous visit.  They weren't.  He mistook an old beaver lodge for their nest.  Likely an immature pair planning a future nest.  Over the many years since trumpeter swans were reintroduced to Wisconsin through Crex Meadows, Orr Lake has often been the site of trumpeter nests and cygnets.  The very first year the swans raised in captivity and released to the wild nested, one of the nine pairs chose Orr Lake as their home.  

There were old and new beaver houses.  This spring the beaver have been trying to plug the culvert on the road to the south where Orr Creek trickles down to Wolf Creek.  The town crew worries about the road washing out so is not at all in favor of beavers who use the road for a dam.  The usual consequence of beavers using roads is a death sentence.  It may have occurred already as there appears to be no fresh beaver activity

Some areas the channel broadens and other it narrows to barely kayakable.  The stream comes from the big swamps along Hwy 87 just south of the Burnett-Polk County line.  There on Hwy 87 is the divide between the Trade River basin on the north side of the ridge and the Wolf Creek basin on the south side.  

These giant snappers are probably the reason for the rumor of the "Orr Lake Monster."   The clawed foot raised in passion!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

80 degrees and humid

Had a real summery feeling day today.  Jumped from 58F this morning to 80 in the afternoon.   Emptied the rain gauge from Saturday - Monday and had another 8/10 of an inch (or 2 cm for those of us who like metric).  Too muddy to plant the last garden so mowed the lawn and worked on machinery and then took a tour of the local 2 mile radius.  
Some photos from the tour. 

The pumpkin garden by the cabin needs to dry out another day to plant.  

Black Cherries are blooming

Looks greener than in April when we were syruping and some snow was still on the ground.  

Wild grapes are getting ready to bloom

The lake is about normal height as the beavers have been loosing the battle with the town crew to plug the culvert. 

The sand fields along the River Road look bare from a distance, but through the stubble rows of sturdy soy beans are popping up.  
Farmers drill the seed right into the stubble from last year's crop to prevent erosion and save on tractor work.  Seems to have sprouted pretty good.  The deer have already found these tender shoots and are enjoying them immensely. 

A field of winter rye or winter wheat on the sand at the corner of Evergreen and River Road

Wolf Creek comes oozing down the marshes to the north and crosses Evergreen Avenue here, the water on its way to New Orleans for a good time. 

A goose pond on 260th 1/2 mile south of Evergreen Av

86K sits patiently waiting for cygnets

The Sterling Turtle Preservation Society has placed a raft in the pond near the swan for a turtle rest stop.   Some folks think it is just a submerged ice fishing shack, but it is a genuine turtle raft with onramp!

My brothers and I worked on these fields many times when we were young.  The upper is the old Raymond Noyes farm on 260th and the lower the Bert Brenizer farm on 260th.  Mostly we hauled hay bales for Raymond who rented his Uncle Bert's hay field and paid something like 10 cents a bale.  He was careful to have an accurate count to pay off Bert, but made bales that were almost 2x as long as the regular square bale.  We had to load these monsters day after day in 90's temperatures all for 85 cents an hour.  By the end of summer, we could pick up any city kid and toss them from the old gym floor to the balcony (St Croix Falls HS) without even grunting.