St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June Berries


Photos from around the farm the third week of June 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Graduation Parties

    Margo and I showed up at our great niece Karra's high school graduation party yesterday.  The only one we went to this year.  Karra has uncertain plans for continuing her education, possibly working a year and then going on to school.  We always try to encourage new high school graduates, that this is just a step in their education, not the end of it. 
  When I taught high school in Goodman, WI, back in the 1970s, I encouraged my students to go on to college or vocational school, telling them "life can be quite enjoyable if you get a good job that you like and pays a decent wage,  but that requires preparing yourself by more education."
   Goodman is a small lumber town on Hwy 8, near the Michigan border.  The town had a large veneer mill and sawmill and originated as a mill town where Mr. Goodman owned everything including the houses, bank, store, etc.  Louisiana Pacific had bought the mill when Goodman died, and decided they didn't really want to own a town, so sold all but the mill, store and bank to the folks living in the houses. 
  The problem I had with the mill was we had opposite views on the future of the Goodman students.  
  I thought they all should continue in school after high school.  The few jobs in town that were not mill jobs, were small service businesses (hardware, gas station, bar/restaurant), the school system and not much more. 
  Mill jobs were low paying, low benefits and not quite enough for a family to live on without a two-income family. 
  The Mill liked to hire kids right out of high school, first a summer job to earn some money for college,  but then a bank loan to buy a car, tying then into monthly payments, gas, insurance etc., taking most of the income.  I had one mill manager tell me straight out -- "we need labor to run the mill, so don't tell everyone to go on to school."  
  The mill needed lots of manual labor with a skill set learned on-the-job.  The highest pay for anyone working there, not in management, was about half of the $12,000/year I made teaching (working 9 months to earn that).  Margo and I and our new baby Scott struggled to live on that income, and it was impossible for the mill hands to live on a single salary income. 
  Many of my students did go on to school. With few opportunities in Goodman, they had to leave to find a job.  
  One student was particularly difficult for me.  She (we will call her Emma -- not her name)  was a very bright student, loved science and math, even to the point where I got a "do it yourself" type electronics course for her to take under my guidance.  When I tried to encourage her to go on to college or technical school, she was interested, but uncertain.   Her father was gone from the scene (not sure why), and her mother was very religious and of a sect that didn't believe in education or being much of the world. 
  At the parent teacher conference, I talked to the mother about her daughter's obvious abilities and interests and desirability of encouraging them in the future, and was completely shut down, with the "I don't believe in that for my children.  Education will turn them away from God and our beliefs. You must quit talking to her about college."  
  I talked to Emma after this, and told her that life is made up of choices we have to make for ourselves, and that while our parents are looking out for what they think are our best interests, in the end we have to make our own way through the world.  I don't know what she chose to do; as we moved away as I made a choice to try a different career than teaching. 
   I don't really believe that God thinks we should remain intentionally ignornant in the world, but I too had that advice from the church I attended. Ignorance and religion too often seem to be partners in turning life into a dream of the hereafter rather than a good life in the herenow.  
  My friend, Beth, who lives in Honduras, tells me that poverty there is not only the result of corrupt government, but of corrupt religion; one that says suffering here is good for you and all that matters is getting into heaven, so put up with all the crap, don't better yourself, just keep focused on the reward after you die.  
  I find this view of religion total nonsense.  Who would want to go to heaven where a ruler who liked seeing us suffer during our lifetime reigned?  Rather we take on our own lives, and with God's help make it a joyful life.  And to get that you get all of the education you can possible cram into your head.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


    Since 2003, the year we visited our cousins in Skee, Sweden, Midsummer day is special.   In Sweden where the Hansson family came from (in the area along the Norway-Sweden boundary about 60 miles south of Oslo), the climate is cooler, damper and milder in the winters, but not terribly different from here in Cushing, WI (maybe more like along the Lake Superior shore).
  However, being much farther north, the winter days are dark most hours, followed by summers that by mid June the days last from 3 am to 11 pm and barely dark in the 11-3 night.  The long days are cumulate in the Midsommar celebration. 
  Cousin Arne believed that he had to have new potatoes from the garden and fresh strawberries for the celebration.  He cheated a little by raising a hill of potatoes in a 5 gallon plastic pail, kept in the barn overnight, and let out during the day at first.  The new potatoes might be small, but were part of the old life when the long winter food supply was, too often, gone by the time the garden began producing, so new potatoes were counted on by mid June. 
  Another tradition was fresh strawberries on Midsummer, festooned on a white layer cake.  
  When we visited over Midsummer, Arne and Lillian had both.  The garden strawberries were still only pink, but southern Sweden had ripe ones and whatever the price, one bought some for the cake.  
  So this year, with the strawberry picking beginning this morning (2 quarts), and the potatoes thriving in the garden, we may have the Swedish dinner too.   
    My Swedish cousins will get together for their family reunion on midsummer day again this year, as they always do, and celebrate. We are invited, but it seems as if our world traveling days are over now.  However, we will remember them with a glass of aquavit this Thursday at 5-7 pm at the Luck Museum where Scandinavian beverages are featured as the new "Skal" exhibit goes up the following week. 
  Some photos from the Farm

The Farm gardens, orchard, and berries look prosperous

Saturday, June 10, 2017


The thermometer in the shade says 89F at noon today, however the strong breeze and dry air make it pleasant to sit on the roofed porch, and sip my iced well water from my $8000, 2015 well. I figure each drink cup of water should be valued at 10 cents until I get my full return from the well. I think that will be about 2050. Maybe I should change it to 20 cents each to half the payoff time.
Scott and I were out early finishing the new metal roof on the garage. We had it almost done, just one half-sheet along the edge and the ridge. Got it all done by 9 am before it got too sunny and hot to be on a roof.
The garage was built in about 1948, and had three layers of asphalt shingles which we roofed over with steel panels. Steel, 3x12 feet panels, go on very fast using a battery drill and screws, are not any more expensive than shingles, last at least twice as long, and although hail will dent them, it will not puncture the roof.
The first garage roof was hit by golf-ball and baseball size hail back in the 1960s, punching large holes in the blue shingles. Insurance helped pay for a new roof then. Another roof lasted nearly 30 years and then Dad hired his grandson to put on a third layer. These turned out to be the Certain-teeded junk ones that in 15 years were already in rough shape. So the steel covers it all.
Next spent an hour mowing the lawn, but the mower seemed to be overheating, so I moved to the garden and hoed for an hour, but the hoe-er was overheating, so thought about taking the garden tiller to the sand garden -- where the watermelons finally have appeared, but I was worried it would overheat too.
Margo is doing a Luck Museum shift today (10-1). She volunteers some Saturdays to keep it open Memorial Day to Labor Day. She never really recovered back to normal from the neck and back surgeries and the cancer treatment. She lost strength, stability, and functionality and so has to choose less strenuous activities that keep her enjoying life.
Last week she had her final cancer followup check. If you make 5 years after diagnosis, it is a milestone that says you are likely going to make another 5 OK. June 2012-Aug 2013 was a hard time that then was followed by two surgeries that stabilized a back and neck worn out from years of being a nursing assistant in the days when heavy lifting was part of the job.
I watered her flowers as the rain that almost came this morning didn't. The forecast is for a cool wet Sunday and then hot wet early week, a good chance to relieve the couple of weeks of dry weather.
When I was a kid, on a dry hot June day, it would have been an almost 100% certainty I would be spending all of a day like today hauling hay bales-- the square bales that you loaded by hand. If not with Dad and my brothers, then for my neighbor Raymond Noyes. It was hot, hard work.
I suppose I shouldn't complain as Dad or Raymond were out there working hard too, and before and after haying had to milk their cows too as well as try to motivate a young man whose mind was elsewhere, often straining my young eyes to see if one of the Gullickson Twins was raking hay in the next field, working on her tan in a bikini. Odd how interesting that was at the time.

Here on the farm, we have 4 gardens this year. The fruit garden-- strawberries, raspberries, grapes, and blueberries with a row of tomatoes too. The vegetable garden--potatoes, peas, radishes, and lettuce. The sand garden with watermelons and muskmelons along the Riverroad. And the pumpkin/squash garden to sell at the River Road Ramble. All but the squash/pumpkin garden are doing well. We had to replant that one.
The apples set quite well in the orchard, and so the spraying regime of every 2 weeks begins now.
The lawn has finally slowed down with the dry weather and we made it through the flush without going out and buying a new lawn mower. Sharpening the blades regularly helps old mowers make another season.
The events of spring and summer are coming rapidly. Memorial Day we put together a booklet on all of the 13 WWI soldiers buried in Wolf Creek Cemetery trying to do a little research on each. The Rock club has it's big rock show in Frederic next weekend. Then comes the Sterling Picnic. July is Lucky Days and the Fair, and then August, Cushing Fun Days and finally the Ramble in September. Margo and I volunteer to do various jobs at each and so it becomes quite busy for the summer. Sometimes it is hard to enjoy the events when you feel responsible for helping make them a success.
I had my visit to the doctor for the year and other than being a more substantial person than she would like, I am in fair to good condition (always with the qualifier -- for my age.).

For a few recent videos from the Farm, check out my youtube channel.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Epson WF 7620 Banner Print

This is purely an educational post that explains how to take advantage of an Epson WF 7620 printer to make a banner as big as 13x47.24 inches (the limit of the printer). 
  I have one of these printers and the Luck museum has one.  We bought them because they have an 11x17 scan/copy area and can print on up to 13x18 size paper (all measurements are inches).  
  The printer is reasonably decent output, but as the clerk at Best Buy told me, "if you don't print regularly with Epson printers, the heads clog up."  She was right!!!
  However, I have found that I can unclog the heads by following the DIY information found on the internet that includes soaking the heads over a wet paper towel and if needed, gently syringing distilled water through them.  Something one shouldn't have to do!
  Anyway, the printer specifications claim to print banners up to 47.24 inches long. (that comes from the metric 120 cm long and 33 cm wide maximums which may be some metric standard? ).
  I bought a roll of cheap paper at Walmart in the art supplies area.  It is like typing paper only on a roll and 12 inches by 100 feet.  I cut off 48 inches of it and tried to feed it into the single sheet feeder, but it was too floppy.  So I taped the leading edge to a sheet of heavier 12x18 paper and that would let the printer grab the paper and feed it through OK.  Once it gets started through, it goes the rest of the way fine. 
  Next I tried to find a program that will let me do a page layout of 12x47.24.   Word will do 12x22 -- and no longer.  Printshop 13x18 and nothing longer.  However, Open Office (the free word processor) lets me define any size. Wonder why the other programs don't? 
   I went to the printer setup on my computer and defined a "Banner" paper type of 12x47.24.  Then I designed a poster and printed it to the Epson selecting the rear feed, the new Banner paper size and pushed the print button.  It worked!!! 
  Of course, since the paper was not glossy, the quality was not wonderful, and the Epson was not printing through all of the nozzles as usual, so a little streaky until I told it to print slow and high quality.  And I have to cut the tape holding the back stiffener paper off.  
       Imagine this 47.24 inches long and 12 inches tall.  Now I think I will see if I can find 13 inch rolls of glossy ink paper.  
     I tried to find out how to do this on the internet, but nothing for the Epson WF 7620.  Some printers have a roll feed paper and cutter built in, but not mine.  However it is pretty handy to have a 4 foot poster.
  What is my rating for the printer?  It does pretty good with the scanner top feed.  I can scan double sided and up to about 25 pages at a time without much trouble jamming unless it is very thin paper or badly wrinkled.  The scan quality can be set to be plenty high for the museum.  I can scan to a flash drive, SD card, my computer or the cloud.  
   I have it networked at home and that works fine. At the museum the networking would sometimes drop out, so I just hooked it directly to the computer.   
  The ink is very expensive and it does use a lot.  At home I refill my own cartridges with pigment ink and at the museum we buy them.  Their first printer clogged so bad, I took it back after a year (we had a 3 -year extended Best Buy warranty--and they gave us a new one).  That one also had some error messages indicating stuck paper or something.  I have had my own for nearly 3 years now and other than the clogging nuisance, it works pretty good.  I don't print a lot and that is my problem too.  The heads are expensive, but replaceable -- but cost nearly as much as the printer ($200 for the printer, $120 for the heads).  They have "micro fine" holes that are almost impossible to keep functioning without a daily print with each color and black. 
   Every inkjet printer I ever had clogged, so I expect that.  The old HP's were easiest -- their print head was right in the cartridge and every time you bought a new cartridge you got to start over new.  My Kodak was terrible, and all of my Epson's spent about as much time having the heads being soaked as they did printing even with Epson ink cartridges.