What We've Been Up To....

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Last Year in Pictures


Usually updated monthly

Deer outside the fence

Dog Pile in front of the heater

Pileated on the feeder

.......... We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it...No one has the right to take [dignity] from us. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope. --Pope Francis


19 April 2018
Seems like it's still winter although days are in the 50's and sunny. Snow was shrinking and mud season imminent before the recent 10+ inches of snow. Got to plow one more time. Still, when the sun shines, we don't need a fire; three days now. Which means the pizza we made in the bake oven might have been the last of the heating season. But....not taking the plow off the truck yet.

Perhaps due to the late cold and snow and its effect on insect larvae, we had a Pileated woodpecker hanging on the peanut feeder! Other woodpecker, too. Pine Sisskins finally returned after being gone all winter (they migrate to the east; ?). Gene is taking Bird Watching 101 and 201 at Duluth Folk School and involved with Duluth Audobon, so learning is.

Learning to cultivate new mushrooms, also. With the fir thinning, we have lots of small fir and aspen logs. Asked and got some ideas: Pholiota nameko, an asian mushroom, Turkey tail Trametes versicolor, and a variety of oyster mushroom Pleurotus pulmonarius and trying them all. Also got the mushroom cultivation bug and innoculating logs with another variety of Shiitake, and one of the greenhouse beds with 'Almond Agaricus'. So I'm keeping busy keeping up with all that.

Not that I'm lacking things to do. Keeping the deer off my trees is a full time occupation. Chipping the slash is carpeting the trails. Putting up more fencing to keep them off the homesite. Also skinning some of the fir for fenceposts and treating the ends for a deer fence to protect the hazelnuts I plan to plant. Lots to do.


18 March 2018
As 'calendar' Spring approaches, we're seeing some suggestions of that change. Interesting that the Swedish definition of Spring is the first full week of temps above freezing; that would be awhile here. But the snowbanks are shrinking, we're seeing more Redpols, stopped putting out suet for the birds to avoid the bears coming out of hibernation (they're here, but we don't see them). Deer are moving and more aggressive; put up more deer fence to keep them out of the yard. A few degrees warmer on average in the house and the kombucha is brewing faster or has changed back to a better scobe, and the kefir has found a happy culture; lots of sauerkraut left in the freezer. In the greenhouse the raab is nearing its end (many good meals), the celery survived and is prolific, and we have lots of baby greens. Early sets (Aliums, celery, beets & chard) are doing well; the Big Set Start is next week.

We've stepped up our political activity: delegates from our caucus, alternates to district and state conventions. We have some local candidates that espouse our values and we're hopeful for positive change. The path to well-being is community--local and virtual. We need to break the oligarchy which we are headed. The winner-takes-all economics and politics leaves us bankrupt. Melanie Kline and Clive Hamilton see it clearly. Scary, very scary, but we need to act out of reason and ethics, not fear.

I revert to working on the land for solace. My new toy is the larger chipper, using it to thin the balsam that is a fire hazard and chips for mushrooms. Also making space for hazelnut plantings and (maybe) a space for ducks/chickens in regenerative agriculture. Been participating in the Sustainable Farming Association and surprised that has a beneficial subculture.

UMD for Seniors is about to start up for Spring Quarter. Gene has an Anishinabe course, both doing Tai Chi and GeoTravels with Ojakangas, Gene for a hiking group and Karen for others. Too bad it makes for more trips into town but is energizing. Hope you are looking forward to a growing Year.


4 February 2018
Sunshine anyway, although nighttime temps are single and double digits below zero this week. When the sun shines, the house warms up without a lot of other heating or morning fires. Our kind of 'fire season'--when the bakeoven is available--is great for cooking and eating watching the day's fire. Better than TV.

Gene: I've started thinning out the 'dog hair' balsams (too thick) to avoid the other type of fire season. Starting near the house for firebreak. Also looking to replant the edges of the drive with hazelnuts; some hybrids and some native which are already in our woods. Looking at a lot of moving small trees and cages this spring, too. Nice but hard work. Love that we can see changes that are showing now after 10+ years. The foresters are still touting the 'thin to reduce competition' line while others can show that biodiversity supports better total health of the forest. Wish I could do silvapasture with goats, but that's a huge time commitment.

We are into precinct caucuses this week, so that tension is up. At least we have some candidates who haven't totally sold out. Worrisome. We are taking a 'Climate of Hope' class at UMD for Seniors and will likely get solar electric here when we can, perhaps go to an electric car powered by solar. There are things we can do now.

Leek sets are coming up as well as a batch of greens in the greenhouse. One of the mushroom logs in the greenhouse is starting to fruit.

The year is beginning!


12 January 2018
Karen's Report:
On Sunday, New Year's Eve day, in very cold weather, I saw a beautiful, sleek wolf just past the triple intersection on Thompson Lake Road. He crossed the road and then stood on the side for a bit and looked at me; I'd come to a dead stop when I saw him and just looked back. I saw him again near the same place on the way home; there was very little traffic that day and he was walking down Tracy Road and melted into the woods by Thompson Lake Road and was close enough that I could see him watching me. What a beautiful animal! Our neighbors Martha and Hilary who live on Thompson Lake say that something has been raiding the garbage cans left out for pickup and hope it isn't this wolf, because if so he will be shot. I haven't seen him again but we have wolf tracks all over our property, especially out at the southern boundary by the huge pile of maple logs that Gene cut down and split in fall, 2015. Miss Bea is always very interested when I take her walking out there.

A couple weeks ago I was following deer tracks across the drive and nearly walked in to a bird's nest at eye height between two aspen at the west side of our road; it has snow on it now but I'm hoping it will be re-used this spring.

Walking along Cannonball Lake Road it is deer and wolf city: many tracks and other wolf signs (urine); Miss Bea never fails to sniff the wolf pee and then mark it, four separate times, before I can convince her to move on. Deer prints and droppings are everywhere, and especially on our shelter trail: every 10 feet is another deer highway with droppings. I have also seen some fox tracks every so often along the road, but not in proximity to wolf tracks. I'm seeing groups of deer near the highway on the way home, they bunch up close to the highway and then all stand there and stare at me, and I often have to beep at a deer or two standing in the middle of Thompson Lake Road when I'm driving home at night, just to get them to move. There are too many when one sees them as often as I am! So far, it's been a very interesting winter for animal life.


7 January 2018
Finally a reprieve from subzero weather! We even had a number of morning fires to keep the house reasonable. Living here requires a willingness to thrive with a significant temperature flux; so far, so good. Not much snow as yet. Been sledding the maple in; there's enough snow for that. But minimal plowing. Wood is holding out well even with big fires this week.

Rant Warning: Winter is a good time for reading. Anyone concerned about the looming climate crisis ought to read Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything." Although written a couple of years ago, the book is packed with information and thoughtful analysis that should change attitudes. Also reading E.O. Wilson's last couple of books that show remarkable optimism for us regarding eusocial humans and how to support nature on earth. We have a lot of work to do in a very short time.

We may get politically organized soon, also. Very dissapointed in our conressional representative--a Democrat who has mouthed environmental supports in the past--abandoning us by supporting sulfide mining in Minnesota by a notorius Chilean corporation. The majority of Minnesotans oppose that, but the DFL figures that they could lose the northern Minnesota electorate; indeed the majority there voted for Trump. The rhetoric goes that they did well with iron mining (debatable) and turn a blind eye to the fact that there never has been a sulfide mine that didn't leak and pollute. To say nothing about the need to keep more of the earth undeveloped and reduce population; the rhetoric goes that "Our kids should be able to get a job here" regardless of chronic, population-related problems. The data--a recent employment study--shows differently; the jobs sulfide mining would produce are an order of magnitude less than the corporation's rhetoric, and most of those would be brought in from elsewhere, with the inevitable increase in crime. In fact, with the limited timeline of the mine and loss of tourism and retirement income due to the contamination of habitat, mining would reduce employment in the area over a couple of decades. This just postpones the problem while creating others. So we're supporting an alternative candidate for congress that comes closer to our needs, although third parties have a dismal record; we'll see. Anyway, living out in the woods does not insulate one from political concerns, for sure. OK, End Rant.

The gardening year commences by starting sets for leeks, celery, and greens for the greenhouse. Did my "winter gardening" and reviewed this year and ordered seeds for the spring. It won't be that long, but lots of winter to get there.


22 December 2017
Life in the woods continues. Was able to cut and split next year's already-a-year-old wood, and as soon as snow allows, I'll begin to sled in about a cord of maple that has been drying in the woods. Not enough snow to do much skiing or snowshoeing yet; pack boots suffice.

After recent travels, we decided to stick close to home this winter. Works better to manage keeping the house warm and it is quiet (mostly) and lovely in the winter. Enjoy finishing up some of the remaining home-building tasks: trim, additional wiring and such. Snow up to several inches is easily cleaned off the walk and drive. I'm working on an "Owner's Manual" for the home; there is quite a bit here that is unlike suburban tract houses. It has its benefits; even in sub-zero weather, a sunny late morning in the greenhouse paying attention to things is remarkably restorative. Dog walks are enjoyable and an opportunity to keep up with (wild) neighbors' activities.

No activity on the shiitake innoculated logs last year yet, but brought a couple into the greenhouse just in case they might fruit over the winter. I often cogitate about managing the years of bearing on these logs; there is lots of info on inoculation but little on timing and tweaking the humidity, light, soaking, etc. I've always taken a 'just give it time' approach but think there is likely more to it than that. Despite the moisture last summer, it was a thin year for mushrooming; maybe this coming year.


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