St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Moving Forward

   Gardening here on the Hanson farm got a boost with nearly 4 inches of rain the past week, one of them being a 3 inch soaker.  The strawberry crop was poor, the raspberry crop good, the blueberries a few handfulls from 4 plants, and the apples set on only some trees.  The late spring freeze seems to have hindered things this year.
Our garden had raspberries and blueberries for Margo's 4th of July cake -- from scratch

    We have a pumpkin garden at the lake cabin, a squash garden on the farm, the fruit farm on the farm with some lettuce, beans, peas, etc., and a water melon farm on the sand land along the River Road.  They seem to be doing pretty good, setting fruit and so far we have kept the weeds in check.
The squash garden has small squash on the vines.  Had to ring it with an electric fence as the deer ate the blossoms.

    Scott and I put a new porch roof on the cabin.  Back in 1975 we built it and a year later added a porch with a roof made of plastic panels. Forty years later, it had sort of deteriorated from sun, wind, and branches dropping on it.  We tore off the old panels and supporting boards and then completely replaced the roof, this time with steel panels screwed to new treated wood rafters and cross boards.

    Barring wind and tree falls, it should last 40 years too.
   Monday afternoons each week for the past several years, I have volunteered at the Luck Museum Ravenholt Family History Research Center to help folks find their family roots.  We have free drop-in help, and also get email requests through our website and local museums.  I spend about 8 hours per week in doing computer searches, local record lookups and other genealogical research as a volunteer.  An interesting detective job that lets me use some of my computer experience and knowledge of local history.

     A request from last week via an email:  "My great grandfather lived near Luck for a time in the 1920s.  Can you find where he lived and how long he was here?"  Usually we get a name, a birth date or death date, and maybe some additional family names.  This time it was that Mr. Iver Iverson, wife Anna and 10 children.  We found them in the 1920 census on, then in the 1924 platbook in the museum, and then Anna and 5 of her children's obituaries in the Luck Enterprise newspaper digital obits file at the museum.  Sending all of that to the California requester, we got a thankyou that said -- the information in the obituaries gave the information they wanted, and that if they got here on a trip, they would like to see the farm.  In the meantime we will photograph it for her.

   It has been 4 years since Margo found out she had breast cancer that had spread to some lymph nodes.  She had a checkup this week, -- all clear and for the future, she can go back to normal yearly mammograms and doctor visits.  Her initial prognosis was 85% likely to be alive in 5 years, and after a year of harsh treatments, she is doing fine cancerwise.  She has to have some heart checks next time as they have found out that radiation treatments to the chest can damage the heart.  No symptoms, but an echo-cardiogram to see.

 Her back surgeries of 2 years ago are mostly healed.  They left her much weaker than before in leg strength and balance.  Most of the sharp pain is gone, but still some chronic pain.  She has been going to physical therapy weekly and will soon finish with that.  She walks now on even surfaces without a cane, but feels safer with one outside. The surgeries were necessary to stop some very serious damage happening in her spine, so that really wasn't a choice.  Adjusting to lowered physical abilities has been tough, but it helps that she has had continued progress and is likely to continue to improve.  She is able to do some of the things she likes to do, and along with many ibuprofen, aspirin and tylenol, can cope with the pain.  Getting older is not always pleasant, but after 4 years, we are eagerly planning a trip south again in January!

An addition to the garage -- a roof for a tractor or car

The 100 year old barn needs paint, but even more a new roof

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Stop Bugging me!

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Summer is here with its pleasant weather, sunny skies and intractable bugs.  This year, on the farm, we are cursed with deer flies.  Normally these biting buzzing bugs stay in the woods, but as the wet spring left stagnant    pools in the big swamps where the larvae grow, both the deer flies and mosquitoes attack during the whole day long.  Only when the wind blows is there respite. A calm day requires thick pants, a thick sweat shirt, big hat and gloves, and they they get you on the neck, face and ears.  
   One bite on my knuckles left my hand tinglingly numb for a half hour.  They land, slice you open, inject their anti-clotting poison and start draining the blood.  Must be difficult for the deer, who although their bodies are safe under the thick hair coat, are attacked on their heads.  Watched one, its ears constantly flicking, head surrounded by these miserable excuses for life.  The male pollinates flowers, but the female needs a blood meal to lay fertile eggs, just like the female mosquito. 
   The month of June went by rapidly.  Our three 4 gardens are doing well, although the pests (bear, deer, raccoon, etc) are taking their share.  The apple trees set some apples, but not very many -- bloomed during a hard freeze this spring.  The strawberry patch was mostly a bust, with it being picked by a bear (who got through the big fence) and a family of raccoon, a wood chuck, and half a dozen chipmunks.  The patch needs to be renovated, as 3 years in one spot is really too many. 
  However, the raspberries are just starting and doing well enough so even with the robins, bluebirds, etc, eating full time, we get some too.  Picking raspberries is more pleasant as you don't have to be bent over all the time.  
  The pumpkin garden at the cabin is just starting to run vines as is the watermelon garden on the River Road sand land.  The squash garden here on the farm is blooming nicely and the fines crowded so I can't till it anymore.  
  Had to enclose the blueberry plants in a covered bird proof fence as they were being eaten before they even turned a hint of blue.  A family of 7 young raccoon with parents were caught coming out from under the fruit garden fence.  So I dug out one of Dad's old electric fencers and put a low and high wire around the whole garden.  This stopped the coon, a young bear, the deer, and maybe the woodchuck.  I had extended the fruit garden and my extension had some snow fence (plastic) and some of the 6 foot woven wire fence, so wasn't quite varmint proof.  Bought another 50 foot roll of woven fence - 6-ft tall to finish the job. 
   The big job in June was to remove all of the farm machinery and scrap metal from behind the barn -- Dad's old machinery lot.  Two wrecked cars, two parts balers, two corn pickers, 3 manure spreaders, a silo filler, and a few ton of miscellaneous farm machinery, long past its useful age. 
  "When I came to the farm in 1941, there was not a single piece of scrap metal here!" complained Dad.  He made up for it by buying machinery, and when it was no longer functional, parking it in the lot behind the barn.  He was a very hand person, and the scrap metal was all potential to build or repair other farm machinery. As he got old, and got rid of his cattle, the machinery lot grew up to grass, weeds and mostly box elder trees, a mess that one didn't dare drive through for fear of hitting an old plow or dump rake tine.  As I am not a welder, or not much into machinery building, and not farming nor planning to, I had long wanted to get this cleaned out and recover it for other use.  
   As the job required a loader and big trailer, I bargained with neighbor Shane and his son to take the machinery in return for the scrap metal value.  They spent a week and hauled 10 loads out and left it almost totally bare of metal.    Scrap metal is abysmally low price right now compared to a few years ago, so I doubt Shane did more than recover his costs, but he did an excellent job, cutting machinery out that had grown deeply into box elder trees, and scraping it down to where I could see the ground again. 
   In the lower barnyard, back in the days when it was tightly pastured and not a machinery graveyard, I recall the three rock foundations there.  "This was the old log barn," said Dad pointing to a rectangle of rocks maybe 16x30, "this the old log house" pointing to a nearby raised square of 20x20, and "this is the silo foundation.  It still had a little of the original pit when I came here," pointing to a rock and concrete ring of about 12 feet in diameter.  Sometime in the 1880s Ole Nelson bought the farm from Charles Howe and at least according to his son Emil, cleared most of the land, built the log buildings and turned it into a farm before his son John lost it in the Great Depression. 
  The current buildings are about 100 years old (the house built in 1917 and the barn about that time too).  The haymow floor joists are all logs from the original barn and house.  
  Shane moved some of the foundation rocks out, but then realized there were too many, so some of it still remains.  The barnyard now is mostly clear of metal, and I am still working on it.  Many of the box elders are gone, but still many left.  There are three large piles of logs, tires, and rocks along the south edge of the lot.  They need to dry for a season, and maybe next winter with snow on the ground and a north wind away from the buildings, I will try to burn what I can.  Whomever gets the farm from me will likely repeat Dad's disgust "there wasn't a scrap of metal on the whole farm.."