St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Early Morning Walk About the Farm

Rain burst upon us at 5 pm yesterday, dumped 1/2 inch in 1/2 hour, cleared a moment, then clouded over and added another 1/10th before nightfall with fog forming in the lowlands over the swelling in Wolf Creek we call Lily Lake, a mile to the NW.  

With daylight at 5 am, I am up and take my morning stroll around the farm yard.  I am reminded of my youth, when getting up early to see what was happening, I rarely was up ahead of Dad, who would have already dressed, put half rubbers on over his shoes and walked to the night pasture to gather the cows and begin milking.  He thought 5:30 was early enough to begin his day, unless he had other work pressing and then 5 am.  
Wild grape bloom fragrance pervades the yard this morning

I can remember a few times where I was up before him, and the special feeling that I was the only person aware of the farm at that early hour.  My tour included the hillside pasture, the swamp, and ended as I found the cows lying in the pasture chewing their cuds, seeming never to sleep nor stop with the eating process.  

On those rare occasions, I might urge the cows to get up and prod them to slowly stretch and walk to the barn, where I opened the two doors and each cow found its stantion.  By that time, Dad would be up and having seen me bringing the cows in, was in the milkhouse rinsing the milkers and preparing for an hour of milking.   

Dad synchonized his dairy herd to have their calves in the fall, so by July they were mostly dry.  This meant a very short milking time and plenty of time to work on haying, or if that was caught up, to spend a few weeks with Uncle Maurice carpentering.  They built sheds, shored up foundations, laid blocks, repaired farm buildings--what was known as rough carpentry to make a little extra money when farm prices were low. 
An above view of the farm after it had been at rest for 15 years (CRP -- a program to keep it out of production)
Back in farmland again-- but no cows to graze the pasture
Moving back to the farm where I grew up is special.  I know this 40 acres well.  I remember where Dad rolled the tractor on the sidehill field; where when we hayed, the kangaroo mouse colony thrived; where the blood suckers floated and swayed in the tiny stream like hula dancers; where the huge elm tree and a few rocks blocked the stream to make a tiny pond where minnows might swim; the field below the barn that plowed so hard we hooked the Farmall F14 in front to the Farmall Super C to pull the two bottom 14s; the big hill in the SW field with the stone that would break the plow if you forgot of it's existence, and disappeared as Dad gave Sterling township the top 15 feet of the hill as fill for the road across the cranberry bog east of the farm.  The neighbors thought he got rich from selling dirt, but as town chairman, he decided to give the red clay away, "made the hill much more farmable anyway."  Evergreen Avenue is the name of the road now and it is high above the swamp so as never to flood over as it did in the olden days.  

It feels selfish to be back on the home farm where I lived from 1946 - 1970.  The buildings, the fields, ponds, swamps, orchard, silos and even the rocks all have rich memories that have value beyond price.  
Byron and Everett with their rhubarb leaf umbrellas.  I think Marv made the chair in HS wood shop. An overhead pipe goes into the house to an upstairs gravity feed tank. The porch to the left (back porch) has been "built in" but the front porch is still an open porch.  Lucky, our German Shepard, is never far away from the kids.  Cow manure added fertility to the pie plant so it grew immense leaves.  

I remember when Dad, who grew up on a farm in Barron County, would return to visit that farm in later years, now owned by others, and ask permission to walk the fields, pastures and see the building insides.  Having to ask permission to see "home" is what most of us have to do.  

Brother Marv who lives on Grandpa's farm that we knew, and I who live on the homeplace, try to encourage the family to feel comfortable visiting and checking if the kangaroo mice are still around.   
The southwest hillside in the SE field was where we found these jumping little mice.  Every few years the crop rotation was back into hay, and as we picked up the bales, we uncovered jumping mice--big hind legs.  We never were sure if we were the only repository of them or not, but now, as this wikipedia photo shows, there are others.  I checked that corner the other day, but with it in corn and mostly bare, I think the mice may be bouncing around in the fencerow and where the creek drains from the pond.  

The Farm this week
The sweet smell of grapes run amuck pervades the yard this week.  An area not yet under control!

The first ripe strawberry will be this week

Ample rain for the past few weeks has everything growing and so green that we have forgotten the months of white