St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

2019 Maple Syrup Season

We are finishing maple syrup season this coming week.  For us it was a normal season, a normal yield of about 1 quart of syrup per tap, and although it is finishing a little early, and started a little late, we are happy to have another successful year. 
  We used to put out 200 taps, but this year we were just under 100.  We don't have a market for lots of syrup anymore as we don't go to farmer's markets or market it or sell it wholesale as we have in the past.  We make enough for our own use, for some sales, some donations and some gifts. That seems to be the level at which we are comfortable with. 
   Some photos from this season -- we tapped the first trees March 15th and probably will get the last run on about April 15th as the forecast is for extended mild weather after that. 

Most of the trees we tap are 100 years old or more.  We have been tapping them since the 1960s.  Many are at the age where they are in decline and we lose a few each year to windstorms breaking out the tops.  However we have a good replacement crop coming in the 35 years since it was cow pasture. 

We used to use the cabin as our syruping headquarters, but since we moved into the farm 3 miles away, we don't even open it until May when the water system can be hooked up.  When one gets older conveniences are more of a lure!  
When we started there was deep snow from a late February storm. 

Two test taps March 15th.  They had stopped running April 12th.  We added 2 more taps to that tree a week later and they are still running good as of April 13th.  Tap holes are good for about a month.  

The sap shed we built in 2009 is reasonably handy.  We use our 1947 Ford 2N for sap hauling.  

The 1958 sap pan made in Dresser WI by the tinsmith made another year without problems.  Dad had it made after trying a big round kettle, then two wood sided pans and finally this one.  

The maple woods is about 40 acres on Orr Lake.  Lots of spring ponds, hills and old maples with many new maples coming up that will be ready to tap in a few years. 

Some mornings the buckets have ice on the sap.  We discard most of it -- the ice is water and the remaining sap gets concentrated with more sugar.

It takes much dry wood to boil all the sap.  We are dissatisfied with our wood storage and need to put it under a roof rather than piling it outside. 

I have been making some videos of activities around the Farm and travel over the past years.    You can see them at 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Traveling Pests


    From Lake D'Arbonne State Park on the northern border of Louisiana, starting week 6 of our winter trip south. 

    It appears that most folks here in LA and in Texas travel with their pets. Most of our camping neighbors have the latest Megolith 70 ft RV's that have a separate bumpout just for Rover and Mitsy, and so we rarely see the cats (except at the last park where the neighbor fed his 4 cats outside and a dozen feral cats -- he explained were dumped cats by campers wanting them to have a good home..). 
    This morning, at 40F, the patter of on/off rain on the roof and a mostly empty campgrounds, I was up early to do a batch of laundry, take a shower in the very nice shower/bathroom area and enjoy a little "under the awning" spring rain. 
    Two other campers were up early too. One had his black, ugly, snarling mutt-- evidently a cross between one of those pugs that ran into a wall too many times and smashed his face in and a labrador. Coal black and taking up the whole shower area as his owner, a camouflage wearing man of about 35 finished scrubbing him down. 
    "He got into a mess last night, so I tied him outside as he stunk to much to bring in."
    "Oh, that must be the dog that barked all night?" I commented trying to show some irritation. "Didn't hear him, or I would have stopped him -- can't hear through the Megolith's insulated walls -- one of the reasons we got it," he commented appearing to congratulate himself on his foresight. 
    "I let him out to do his business, and he must have found a dead animal to roll in. Absolutely stunk, so I couldn't let him back in and gave him a shower."
    The bathroom stunk of rotten animal carcass as well as the usual wet dog stench. And of course the shower area was not fit for humans anymore. My shower will wait until after the camp host comes in and does here daily mop down and clean. 
    I figured he would next take all of his towels and wash cloths next door to the laundry, and as I had mine along to do an early batch, beat him to it so I could wash before he started his dog trappings. 
    By then it was getting light and the other neighbor still here was out with his dog -- a smaller white one. He walks the dog every morning, taking her across the road from his campsite to the children's playground area where she does her business near the big slide. 
    I walked up the hill and was about to check the air in my tire that has been leaking, when another two dogs came trotting in and one of them decided to help with some stop leak of his own. 
    Yesterday, just before the gas price jumped from 1.84 to 1.94, I filled up the tank. I looked for the window scrubber and couldn't find it. Looking around, I saw it in use. A SUV was parked nearby not buying gas, but a woman had it and had taken her two portable small dog carriers out of the back door of the van and was using it to squeegee the rubber floor mat that the dogs had obviously soiled. She came back with it, soaked it up some more and headed back to do more cleaning 
When we came down, I noticed one of the motels we stopped at -- Motel 6, said "pet friendly" on the office door. 
    "Do you have non-smoking, non-pet room for rent?" I asked. 
    "All of our rooms are open for pets, but I do have a non-smoking one." 
    "No pet free ones at all?" 
    "Well, we used to do that, but found that pet owners just lie and bring in their pets anyway. So gave up trying to enforce it."
    We stopped at many rest stops on the freeway on the way down to TX. At one, I talked a little while to the maintenance man (TX parks were "sponsored" by Geico -- and in return Geico took on part of the cost of the ongoing maintenance}. 
    "What problems do you have with the rest stops?" I asked. 
    "The worst is pet shit. We have pet run area, but it seems that pet owners don't want to walk over there, and so sneak their dogs into the picnic area. Real mess."
    Now before you think I am totally anti-pet, I don't believe that it is the pet's fault, but the owners. And I am sure that there are some conscientious pet owners out there -- seems like I read a story about one not so long ago--although it was in a fiction book....


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

2019 Winter Vacation

January 9th we headed south driving 3 days and ending up in Sab Angelo state park for a week.  We then moved south to Garner state park near Leakey TX.  Then we moved east to Chicot state park in Louisiana near Ville Platte.  We have been here a week and plan to stay until next Monday -- Feb 10th ir maybe more, 
  The vacation has been nice weather -- no rains and not too cold nor too warm.  I am posting daily on facebook as to what we are doing.  If you use Facebook, just search for Russell B Hanson and as my posts are public, you should be able to see them.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Texas Talk

Overheard in the local Farm and Ranch store in rural TX.

“My foot hurts something awful,” drawled Slim, not really so slim in his middle years sitting behind the counter at the farm store.

“Shoes don’t fit?” replied Jake, sympathetically, also sitting there, but appearing to be a visitor rather than a clerk. 

“Yeah, its always my shoes.  I think I went barefoot too long as a kid and got my feet flattened out too much for shoes to fit good, ever.”

“I didn’t wear shoes hardly never when I was a kid.  My feet got so tough I could run around the rocks and cactus,” bragged Jake, a thin, smoked out, weatherbeaten westerner of 40 – 100 years old.

“Yah, I didn’t wear shoes till bout 12, only when Ma made me for church.  Then I took them off soon’s I sat down,” replied Slim. “

Jake thought  a little, “I figger the first time I wore reg’lar shoes fer mor’n a hour was at my weddin.  You know Nancy wanted a fancy do’ins, and my boots warn’t gonna cut it, so I rented me a pair of fancy black shoes for the day.  Figured at 3 bucks I better get my money out of them.  Nancy liked them so much I added the extra $8 and bought em—savin’m for my funeral.”

“Well, maybe if I started go’in barefoot again, my foot would leave off pain’in me,” said Slim as he limped over to the cash register to check out my latest piece of metal strap to try to remove the Coleman check valve that continues to leak in Leakey.

  By the way, Leakey is really Lake-ee in local pronunciation. 

  We took a loop tour from the park, east to Utopia, then back to Leakey on highway 377.  377 is one of those wildly twisting roads that switchbacks up and down big hills on narrow roads with the edges either rock wall with falling rocks or drop off a 1000 feet to valleys below.  No traffic this time of year, as the park is a big summertime attraction with the Rio Frio (Cold River) for swimming, tubing, kayaking, etc.  Now the park is almost empty, the concession stands closed, and the local cabins, motels, antique stores open on weekends if at all.

 Margo takes a walk on the level road along the river in the park each day.  Yesterday I tried a more interesting hike – a trail to the top of one of the big hills in the park.  It was only about ½ mile up 1000 feet, but the trail was loose rocks and footing much of the way needed careful attention.  At the top was an excellent view of the river valley and nearby hills. 

I videoed some of the climb and put it on youtube at: 

It reminded me of the Boy Scout camp in Philmont, New Mexico, that Scott and I and the scouts backpacked on nearly 30 years ago.  Out there we climbed up mountain trails a few thousand feet and then back down in a valley to camp each day, something like 10 miles each day with 40 lb backpacks.  Philmont was in the 10,000 to 14,000 foot altitudes and the air thin, so we huffed and puffed at times.  Here, with no backpack, but carrying almost that much in extra personal weight, and with altitudes only a few 1000 feet or more above sea level, I still huffed and puffed on the way up.  However, I was probably overly satisfied that I got to the top; didn’t have “the big one” and came down again intact.

 I found two old books on local SW Texas history, written about 1900, describing TX from the 1830s through 1890s.  I downloaded both to my book reader from Google’s scanned books.  One is the story of a freight hauler who took wagon trains of freight from San Antonio into Mexico and back in the 1860s and 70s.  The other is mostly of battles fought with Mexico and Indians as the Texans broke away from Mexico, had an independent country for 10 years and then became part of the US.  The local Indians were continually at war with the settlers coming in and taking over their land and the Mexicans were upset that this state of Mexico was trying to be independent. 

  There are localities with settlers from Spain France, Germany, Poland, and just about any other country as Texans tried to get settlers to come.  One nearby, was a rich Frenchman who paid to bring hundreds of French families to settle in West Texas.  Each of these stories is interesting and often the folks were successful and the families continue to live here.

   There is a culture here called Tex-Mex, sort of a blend of Mexican and American western culture.  Cowboys, pickup trucks, hunting and all sorts of small businesses run by Mexican Americans.  It seems to me the most ambitious folks are the newer immigrants who start these businesses and through hard work make a good life for their families.  Many of the folks are bilingual and switch from accent-less English to Spanish as needed.  I can understand just enough to get the idea of what they are talking about, but not the details. 

  The Mexican food is generally much less spicy than in Mexico, as watered down for the American preference for blandness.  It suits us well.

You can see some of our trip videos at this youtube link   

Monday, January 21, 2019

Margo and I took off headed south Wednesday, January 9th.  We drove 3 days south south west and got to San Angelo State Park in TX and stayed there a week. 
Today, January 21, 2019 we drove another four hours south and ended up in Garner State Park.  
To follow our trip, you can see the daily posts on facebook for Russell B Hanson. 
A brief video of some of the week's scenery at San Angelo State park can be seen at my youtube channel 
   San Angelo State park
Garner State Park is bereft of cell, TV, and WIFI unless you go to the office and then an abbreviated, slow version is available!   Hard to adjust to no signals in or out.  

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Happy Holidays 2018

The Annual Christmas newsletter is online --
2018 Christmas Newsletter

Friday, December 7, 2018

Four Cheerios Box Tops and $1 Buys a Radio

Brother Everett and I got into radios in our early teens. It started when Uncle Lloyd loaned us a WWII.  Then I got one for Christmas from Sears.  
  Crystal Radios were very simple.  A crystal (hunk of galena -- lead ore), a tiny wire to poke into it to find a hot spot, a coil, an antenna, a ground and an earphone.  
  The simplest crystal set looks like this and can be home built easily.   (note-- all photos here are from the internet and not of my own radios, now gone, but look like them).
Coil with slider to tune, sharp pointed wire to poke into galena crystal (bottom right), and earphone and antenna and ground make a crystal radio. 
Our Cheerios cereal package had a deal-- 4 boxtops and a $1 and we could get a radio from General Mills (nearby in the Twin Cities). 

Eventually we had the boxtops (everyone saved boxtops from any product as sooner or later they would be useful for some deal) and the dollar.  

A few weeks later it came.  We opened the box, read the instructions, clipped the antenna coil to the wire clothesline, poked the earphone in our ear and sure enough, WCCO radio playing faintly if we tuned it by moving the rod up and down.  

I found a few of these for sale on the internet today, and they ranged from $60 - 100.  So instead of buying one, I instead downloaded the photos.  A memory is good enough as I probably couldn't hear the faint stations anymore.  

We ended up opening our radio, connecting a separate ground wire (soldering it on) that improved the signals and selectivity.  Eventually we took it apart and used the diode (a modern replacement for the galena crystal) and loopstick in making our own radio.  

The original packaging from an Internet sales offer 

The bottom came off if you bent the tabs that held it in.  The metal case was actually an aluminum radio part -- the shield that went over a coil.  It was made in the Twin Cities.   General Mills was a big part of early radio beginning broadcast station WCCO, beginning the first advertising on radio, the serials (cereals) shows and even in the electronics in broadcasting.  So putting out a little radio was right in line with their history. 

The loopstick coil had a metal core that slid up and down to tune the radio.  

Rocket Crystal Radios were made with the exact same insides, but more glamorous on the outside.  

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Historical Map of the St Croix Falls to Grantsburg area

   Got interested in what one can do with Google Maps.  They have the satellite maps of the whole earth online and let us create our own map layers to point out significant points of interest. 
   I am making several and have several planned.  The main one right now is a local history map that we may use for the 14th annual River Road Ramble (4th Saturday of September) 2019. 
  You can explore it at this link St Croix River Historical Map

   Another map is the Genealogical History of the Hansson family beginning in Sweden and jumping to the USA and into Wisconsin.  Each marker has an explanation and maybe a photo or link. Just starting this one.  Only have Swedish sites started as of this post. 

  I am planning a cemetery map too where our relatives are buried. 

These maps are easy to make, easy to share, multiple folks can work on them and rather fun to do.  You have to have a free google account (you can create a gmail account and that does it all).

Highly zoomed view of Skee Parish, Hansson Farm, near Stromstad Sweden.  Where our Hanssons evolved out of the ooze

Deer Hunting Season in Wisconsin 2018

Uncle Maurice raised this fawn after its mother died in a car accident.  

Today, November 17th, 2018, starts the traditional Thanksgiving week deer hunt in Wisconsin. As I am far too thrifty to hunt deer here, I instead remember hunts of the past.
As a MN resident until next spring when I hope to sell the MN home and move to WI, I have to pay the $165 non-resident hunting license; that and the shells, the $75 deer processing cost and the other incidentals costs of hunting and my decreasing interest in killing animals or birds other than mice how want to co-habit for the winter, have pushed me to retire from hunting.
My two brothers still hunt, although brother Marv is more into providing a good hunting experience for his grandchildren, and brother Ev into being surrounded by comfort in his hunting experience.
Here on the NW Wisconsin Farm, we started the day at 20F, cool breeze, small flakes of snow drifting onto the mostly bare ground; a cloudy foot freezing morning to the start of deer hunting season.
Dozens of campers, SUVs, huge pickup trucks and even a few cars headed west yesterday on Evergreen Avto the 1000s of acres of public land to the west reminded me of 60 years ago when the parade was instead,
Saturday mornings, when we boys were up early to count the string of cars headed out there in the dark to find their hunting spot. Then it was a hunter dressed warmly, his old car, and a bolt action or pump deer rifle and maybe a folding wooden camp chair, We usually counted up to 300 in the almost continuous parade of lights as they crept around the narrow dirt roadway skirting Bass Lake, came across the swamp to the Tee and headed west to their hunting spot on public land. In those days, a jeep was so rare and so cold to drive as to be remarked on--those were still the days when every 4th car had one headlight out and the owner probably had to decide between the cost of a box of rifle shells and fixing the lights.
This morning a dozen or so cars went west, and as many east. Many have their hunting shack on the barrens and have been out several weekends earlier cleaning out the mice; stocking up the food, and testing the chimney and wood stove, and last night moved in having their first liquid meal. Sterling rents its land for siting hunting camps, others just pull into an old logging trail and park.
Another group parks at the horsse camp on Trade River abandoned by horses and riders for the week, at least those who don't have blaze orange colored beasts.
The deer hunter campers are small, often pickup truck versions and generally older as compared to the luxurious behemoths used by the equine folks.
In the 50s, as light came to the Farm, we listened to the rifle shots, being able to hear them about 3-5 miles away on quiet mornings. Always some single bangs and some other bang,bang,bangs right as light came enough to see to shoot. Automatics were just coming into popularity, and most hunters had their old bolt and level actions, pumps and some single shots left from an old war.
Before dawn, Dad would have the morning milking done and when I was 12 and of hunting age, we too were headed out to hunt. We had our own cow pastures, trails and stumps picked out ahead of time and tried to sneak in before sunrise too, so that if we had timed it right, our feet had frozen about when the sun came up.
In my pre-hunting days, when the cars parade on our otherwise quiet road was still exciting, we gathered again at the big road-facing picture windows, playing monopoly while watching out the window to count the return of cars -- only those with a deer draped over the hood or trunk counted. 300 cars out in the morning and 30 deer back in the evening was what we expected.
Nowadays with campers and shacks, comfortable deer stands with heat, my morning count was 15 cars out.
Deer hunting tip #1: If your shot at a deer is a long distance, and you have an automatic; always take two shots as fast as you can. That way the first bullet breaks the air barrier and friction while the second one following tightly behind gets a free ride and as it nears the deer, pushes bullet 1 out of the way and hits the deer with more wallop. It is what racing bicyclists call drafting and geese call vee-ing (although geese, like those 1950 cars send their drafting messages with honks).

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Scanning Old Photographs Rapidly with Epson WF 7620

Epson WF 7610, 7620, 7710, 7720 -- How to scan a stack of photos
This is an educational post -- and one that will refresh my memory of the process next time I need to do it. 
   Moving from our Minnesota to Wisconsin has been interesting as I look in boxes stored away.  Some of the boxes are filled with old photographs -- from my parents and from our own, and I have hundreds of these I want to scan and have in digital format. 
   I hoped that my Epson Work Force 7620 would scan these in stacks.  It has a stack feeder called the Automatic Document Feeder (ADF)  that does double sided scans of various size papers and works good for regular paper scans.  
  The ADF smallest size says A5 (5.8x8.3 inches).  I tried a stack of 15 glossy photos 6x8 and they fed fine, didn't damage or bend the photo.  However most of my photos were 4x6.  To get them to feed they have to go portrait feed, but the two guides won't slide close enough together to hold the photos straight.  
   Looking around, I found two empty cassette tape holders and using a little Scotch tape, mounted them inside the guides.  That held the photos in place and they too scanned without problems.  I didn't try double sided as the photos were one sided and didn't want to fuss with testing that out. 
   Smaller photos didn't work -- they fed in but stopped part way through.  
   Also, as I was using the printer/scanner as a stand-alone machine, my choice for scan size smallest was A4 so had some white space to crop later and also had to rotate them later too.  Not a problem with microsoft office picture manager that came with my MS 2010 program.  Can batch crop and batch rotate and batch autofix.  
   I think I might be able to have more control over scan image size and rotation if I used my pc to control the scanner, but I don't do that much, just scan to memory device.