St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Around the Block

In trying to photograph my own neighborhood, I took a drive this morning from the farm, west on Evergreen to the first south road, 260th street, then south to 250th Av to River Road and then back north to Evergreen and east to the farm.  I suppose it is about 5 miles around this block.

The photos are along the way and the captions include some of my memories
Raymond Noyes barn.  Raymond passed away about 2003 at age 80.  He grew up on the farm across the road from the Hanson farm.  Struck with polio as a youngster, he had a hand and leg that never worked right and were bent.  A limp, special shoe, difficult hand made things hard for him, but he never spared himself hard work.  When WWII began, he was too disabled to be drafted.  He wanted to have his own farm, so went to work in the Twin Cities--a munitions plant I think, and earned money to buy the 80 acres just south of the Hanson farm, the Axel and Anna Ranstrom farm.  He didn't move there, but built this new barn with his earnings shortly after the war was over.  His mother, Inez Armstrong died in 1951.  He and his father lived on the home place across the road from us, and they hired Anna Ranstrom, a widow by then, to come each day and cook, clean, can and run the household.  She lived in the house at Raymond's farm.  Raymond didn't marry until he was in his 60s, had no siblings and no children.  Having the 4 Hanson boys across the road, all versed in farming, Leonard and Raymond hired us to help with farming.  Leonard passed away from cancer in 1959 (I was 13 and had been helping with haying and driving their B John Deere for two years by that time).  The barn has a sheet of tin gone, the haymow door is tipping in, but if someone put just a little work into it, the barn would be good for another 30 years.  My guess is the barn was built about 1951-1953 based on the cinder block walls.  That was the same time Dad removed the wooden base of his barn and replaced it with these blue blocks made from the cinders of coal burned on the railroad or power plants.  The galvanized tin of that era was much better made than nowadays (it is surely 60 years old).
I remember climbing into the haymow to throw down some hay to feed the cows and grabbing a wooden ladder step nailed between the studs, it coming loose and me falling to the concrete floor below (padded with a little hay) and cracking several ribs.  Painful for the next months and put an end to my summer work.
Raymond, possibly because of his being crippled (the word used in those days) didn't marry.  He was a very hard worker and ignored his disability.  However, I think it made him bitter, and as he grew older, rarely had anything good to say about anything -- politics, schools, people, etc.   His main joy in life was farming, especially running a combine.  He had spent some time in ND working and ran a self propelled combine there, and bought a small one here, than a larger one and enjoyed the grain harvest tremendously.
Raymond was not afraid to try making his own machinery.  He built his own wood elevator, a concrete mixer, a camper, and a wide front for his John Deere so he wouldn't drive on the grain row as he pulled the swather.  I remember using it -- Model A front end that bolted under the front of the John Deere.  The only problem was the steering was the opposite direction, so you had to get used to turning left when you wanted to go right -- not terrible unless you got in a tight corner and under stress!   The elevator, cement mixer and camper all worked, but they were overbuilt -- big and clunky but serviceable.  The camper was a trailer with about a 3-foot top-- you opened the door and sort of crawled in and slept in a bunk -- no room to stand up or hardly kneel, but it was his way of saving the cost of a motel room.
Leonard and Raymond and Inez liked to travel.  I remember how envious I was of their old Mercury car (their favorite brand)-- the back side windows covered with decals from all the states they had been in.  This was back in 1950 when travel was still an adventure. 

Pigeons on the roof mean a layer of pigeon manure on the floor inside

Down the hill south from the barn is a woodland that for as long as I can remember was owned by Ralph Doolittle and then his son Duane.  It may have been pastured, but seemed to mostly be wild.  Back in the woods was Deer Lake, a big shallow swampy lake that we walked through our pasture and then Raymond's to get to a few times as a kid.  Not a fishing lake, but where the stream though our dry run went to on the way to Wolf Creek.  Along the road are a series of shallow ponds that are excellent for wildlife, swans, ducks, geese and turtles.  Something looked different this morning -- a brown stripe like a fire had gone through. 

An electric fence with likely a band sprayed with Roundup to keep the fence from being grounded.  Must be getting ready for some cattle to be moved in.   Old pastures like this are very expensive in property taxes if left idle, however if they are turned into farmland or cow pasture or even maple syrup sugarbushes, the property tax will drop to 1/10 or less of not using it.  This is somewhat of a strange law as it encourages farmers to farm every piece of land, suitable or not, or pasture everything suitable or not.  There is no tax break for wildlife.  Very few farmers in our area have cattle anymore so most of the old pastures have grown up to brush on their way to trees. 

These photos are of the deep small pond a little past the new fenceline.  The geese families seem to own it this year. 

Up the hill at the corner of 260th st and 250th Av the logging operation continues.  It looks like whole trees are pulled into the lot on the knoll and processed into logs, chips and firewood.  Maybe connected with the farmer just around the corner on 250th Av as I turned west who sells firewood. 

At one time, this was one of the prettiest farms in the area, the Roy Brenizer Stock Farm with Polled Hereford Breeding stock (I think one bull sold for a million bucks back in the 70s or 80s).  The barn was taken down this last year and the out buildings seem to be deteriorating. It is very expensive to maintain buildings that you have no need for, as I am finding out on the Hanson farm. 

At the top of the big ridge on 250th Av looking east above and west below.  This ridge divides the good clay loam farmland (east) and sand barrens (west).  Drop down the hill and you hit Wolf Creek, some gravel and then sand to the St Croix River.  From here looking west in the distance are the banks of the St Croix River valley in MN.  On a clear day you can see the Sterling fire tower to the NW.  I couldn't see it today with the haze.   

Zoomed views to the NW as I was trying to spot the Sterling Fire Tower where I spent the summer of 1970 watching for smoke in the area you can see in the distance. 

 My trip continued on to the River Road and then north to Evergreen and back home again.  The second half gets a separate blog entry when I have time. 

Margo is off to Mayo today to get a checkup with the surgeon to see how the back and neck surgery is healing -- x-ray.  Maybe she will get to start removing her neck collar/brace.  It is not very comfortable in hot weather, but she has gotten so used to it, she may have some worries about taking it off.  Three months as of today since the last surgery.  Her pain is much less, mostly comes from neck aches after she does some activity.  The healing process continues for about a year and then she will see how things stand.  She drove the car two times now.  The second was to bring our neighbor Jennie Nelson to the 77th Annual Sterling Old Settler's picnic.  Jennie was the oldest woman present at 98.  She enjoyed it very much.  Margo loaned her a wheel chair so she didn't have to walk around so much on her own, but normally Jennie walks with a cane.  
  Want to see the photos of this year's Picnic?  Try this link
2015 Settlers Photos