PRESIDENT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT: JUNE 6, 1944

Today is the 65th anniversary of the landings on Normandy beaches that came to be known as D-Day.  Today on the same beaches where thousands of Allied troops died in the amphibious landing on the European continent for the purpose of breaking the Nazi strongholds once and for all, the present day leaders of the United States and its World War 2 Allies are holding yet another Memorial Observation with speeches and remembrances of what happened there so long ago.  To many Americans, who did not live through that historic day…who were born many decades later, D-Day does not have much meaning, I suspect.  We were a very different nation at that time.

I urge everyone to go to youtube.com and type in "Franklin Roosevelt’s prayer on June 6,1944"    To hear the voice of that long ago day and the words he spoke to the nation are an indication of how much we have changed in the ensuing 65 years.

BIRDS, BEES AND AN ACHING GREEN-NESS

It was just one week ago that we spent such a lovely afternoon under FarSide’s and FarGuy’s oak trees and watched a pair of bluebirds taking care of their baby bluebirds inside a special bluebird house.  Now I have just come in from "oriole" spotting and trying to figure out what kind of birds have built their nest under our deck again this year.  I need to get a good closeup look at the mystery birds….their call is a persistent "chit—–chit—–chit"  Just a one- note call.  I have to get out the binoculars when I go out on the deck to watch birds again.  I put out sliced oranges and a dish of grape jelly and sure enough— the Baltimore Orioles are coming regularly to eat of their favorite food put out by people.

I am also "sleeping and waking" with a pair of swallows who have built a nest in the high point above a second floor  bedroom window.  If I leave the window open a bit at night, I wake up to their tuneful chattering.  The swallow’s  songs are complex and multi-toned. They sound like operatic Divas singing complex arias from a Verdi opera.  It is really a cheerful sound to wake up to in the early morning when the sun is barely up in the northeast corner of the horizon…..the longest day of the year is fast approaching.

Just a week ago our apple trees and wild chokecherry trees were in full bloom and were alive with the buzz of bees and the silent flights of hummingbirds, both of which were sipping deeply of the nectar and pollen in the blossoms.   We should have a fairly good crop of apples after near-perfect conditions this spring—-no early heat, no surprise frosts…just normal conditions for apple trees to come to fruition.

And then—the "aching green-ness".    The trees are in such full leaf and are so intensely green at this moment of late spring that one’s eyes almost DO ache with the vibrant green of nature’s beauty.  I think of the line of a well known hymn:  "robed in flowers of blooming spring" and I can apply it to the robing of the trees in their glorious green leaves.   Too bad all of them are green ash trees….I so hope that the emerald ash borer spoken of in my last blog will not destroy their glory some summer in the future.

I just made a small pot of coffee from some very flavorful coffee beans purchased yesterday for a special reason. I had to taste- test it first.   Tonight 3-4 families of Dads and Sons are coming out to the farm to camp overnight "down by the riverside" (another charming old song).   I promised one of the Dads that I would make a pot of really GOOD strong coffee in the morning so he will not have to miss out on his usual morning cup(s).  I don’t think the others even touch coffee so Mark and I will sip the tasteful brew in the morning hours.  They are planning to make scrambled eggs  for them and the mob of boys…..I volunteered my electric fry pan (not really fitting for tenting and all that kind of camping,  but convenient nevertheless).  MBFriend has offered to run enough big extension cords from the pole building to fire up the fry pan as well.  At the moment, he is out by one campfire site getting one big blazing bonfire going so it will be just right when the boys and dads arrive to cook their supper over the fiery coals.  Other than that they are on their own to produce enough grub to fill up about 10 hungry boys from ages 4-19.  There will be a hot time down by the river tonight folks….plans have been made for a huge bonfire over which hot dogs and other goodies will be roasted and toasted for supper.  The vegetable of the night will be potato chips, I think.  Drinks will be soda pop and if the Dads are smart they will not bring out any caffienated soda pop!!!!  Or else there could be an all night baseball game down on our boys’ old ball diamond!!!!  It will be a cool night so I hope the Moms will remember to send along lots of warm clothes and extra heavy sleeping bags.  I say "Moms" because after listening to a couple of the Dads planning the overnight last weekend, I knew they were going to need assistance from the Moms in the families!!!!  Dads do not think about bringing milk along for cereal or butter for bread or rolls….they are not used to planning food menus—at least these Dads are not used to it.  They all have wives who take very good care of them and their children.   I am prepared to announce to any over-eager boys that cartoon watching on Saturday morning is NOT a part of a camp-out and roughing it!!!  (nor is playing basketball in our basement an option either)

OUR ASH TREES ARE THREATENED

We had an interesting caller at our farm about 2 days ago.  One of our good college- era friends, who is a retired biology teacher now, works part-time for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.  The latest project concerns the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer into southern Minnesota….ash tree damage and destruction has been detected in St Paul, MN .  The Dept. of Agriculture is taking action by distributing ash borer "traps" in areas that have already been detected to have been infiltrated by the destructive insect.  Our friend showed us the ash borer traps which he was about to deliver to several areas close to our area….the Lee Lake Campground just a few miles from our home and at places in the wooded areas near Detroit Lakes, MN.  These traps would be the harbingers of ash borer infestation in our region.

The emerald ash borer is a tiny green insect with a metallic green color; it is so tiny that it is half the size of a one-cent coin.  The larva buries itself under the bark of ash trees and is a segmented worm like creature.  These larvae burror in S-shaped tunnels under the bark and finding this S pattern is a sure sign of ash borer infestation.  An outward sign of ash borer destruction is a decline of foliage in the crown(top) of the ash tree.  As the top of the tree declines there are sprouts of growth at the base of the tree as the tree tries to keep itself alive but it will not survive a total ash borer infestation.  Woodpeckers love EAB larva and an abundance of woodpecker holes on an ash tree is another dangerous sign.

There is no remedy for this insect pest and if it gets a foothold in ash trees, the trees are doomed to total destruction and will be dead in a matter of time.  The ash borer is spread rapidly by hauling infested ash firewood into an area.  The ash borer on its own makes little progress but once infested firewood is brought into an area, the ash disease spreads rapidly. The state of Minnesota is urging people not to move firewood from ash borer infested areas or from gypsy moth infested areas.  Both of these pests in certain species of trees guarantee their destruction.

There is an abundance of ash trees in this region.  Many of the natural forest areas in our area are made up of ash trees.  Ash trees have been planted in shelter belts; they have an  been excellent choice for trees planted in people’s yards for many years.  If the emerald ash borer enters our area, the number of trees that will die is astronomical and the prospect of denuded woodlands is a terrible prospect.

There are phone numbers that can be called to get more information about this threat to one of Minnesota’s truly lovely trees.   In the Metro are the number is 651-201-6684.  In Greater Minnesota, the hotline number is 1-888-545-6684.  

Our Buffalo Bluff is covered with gorgeous ash trees as well as abundant oaks and if the ash borer reaches this far, we are doomed to be looking out on ruined wooded land.

A NEW LITTLE ICE AGE????

 It is June 2nd.  I have just been outside with my "frost sheets" that I normally get out in late September when I want to protect certain plants from early Fall frosts.   But  tonight’s forecast of possible frost had me outside putting my sheets over tomato and pepper plants and the delicate impatiens flowers in some pots.   I cannot remember ever having to guard against frost during the month of June. 

When I was draping the frost sheets, I remembered an article I had read recently in "National Geographic News", an online site published by NG.  I knew I had seen an article about the decline in the sun’s activity (solar storms, sunspots) and I looked it up again.  Sure enough, sun activity IS related to what happens here on Earth as far as our climate goes.   The "Little Ice Age" from 1300-1850 reduced the temperatures on Earth enough to cause the following events.  It was during the coldest part of the Little Ice Age(1645-1715) that Greenland was cut off by ice;  Holland’s canals froze solid;  glaciers in the Alps increased greatly and engulfed some mountain villages;  there was such an increase in sea ice at that time that Iceland was greatly affected by the accumulation of sea ice in its vicinity to the point of ocean water bypassing Iceland in some strange way brought on by the increase of sea ice.

Hmmmmm, I am thinking.   Are we going to  experience anything similar at this period of earth’s history?   Scientists are tracking the lack of sun activity;  they have concluded from careful observation over the years that the sun has 11- year cycles.  This year was supposed to be the year that sunspot activity picked up but it has not happened as predicted.  There are no visible sunspots (seen through powerful telescopes) and no signs of solar storms. This lack of activity brings certain benefits…..less interference with radio signals on Earth is one .  All electro- magnetic activity is subdued  from the lack of activity on the sun.

Scientists are also cautious about the effects of global cooling from this lack of sun activity. The increased amount of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere at present has an offsetting effect on the cooling produced by the lack of sunspots and solar storms.  But scientists have conceded that it is entirely possible that certain areas on Earth can experience significant cooling in this time period….northern hemisphere areas were mentioned….Siberia, Europe and North America were mentioned. Other areas of Earth will feel no noticeable effects.

So perhaps our much cooler weather this spring IS a result of what is NOT going on upon the sun’s surface at this time.  It feels downright chilly this evening and it was chilly during the day as well.   I have had this premonition that it is going to be a cold summer.  Maybe it is not just a premonition after all.  I usually put stock in National Geographic as a source of information so we shall see what unfolds in June, July, and August.

Meanwhile I was taking no chances with the new plants tonight….they will stay wrapped in their frost sheets til morning dawns.

COMING TO AMERICA: HARD TIMES

The young couple had made up their minds; they would emigrate to America.  It was the winter of 1906 and in the spring they would make their long journey to the middle of the United States where an elderly aunt of the bride had asked them to come and live with her and her husband on their homestead.  The elderly aunt was aging and was beginning to suffer the effects of old age. The young couple were a perfect choice…both of them were strong and capable of hard work that was needed on a prairie homestead in North Dakota. And the elderly aunt loved her niece dearly.  Another aunt of the young bride lived just a few miles aways on another homestead farm so the young couple would have the support of close relatives in their venture to the new world.   None of the other relatives in the "old country" were coming to America so when the young emigrants decided to some alone, they knew they would not see fathers or mothers, brothers or sisters, cousins or aunts and uncles again.  It was a sad parting but a hopeful one.

79 years after the young couple departed their mountain home in Norway, a relative who was an aged man himself by then, remembered the leaving from the village train station.  Everyone in the two  families were weeping because they all knew this was a final goodbye.  Nobody would be seen again if they emigrated to America.  Unless other family members joined the masses of emigrants, the families would be parted forever….at least in this earthly life.  The members of both families were deeply religious and believed the would be reunited in Heaven but seeing one another again on earth……it was never to be.  So the weeping continued as the young couple’s train pulled out of the rural railroad stop. The young husband had sung a song of farewell just before the train left….he was a good singer and guitar player having been a traveling lay preacher around a large lake near their home in Norway.  He also was a traveling shoe cobbler and leather worker in his youth, having been apprenticed to an older cobbler and leather worker.

The young couple boarded a sailing ship bound for North America and after a tumultous sea voyage, they landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they boarded another train bound for the middle west.  They were greeted by the husband of the aunt when they arrived by train in the growing town in the middle of North Dakota and they departed for the homestead southwest of the town.  They had arrived in time for spring planting and the young husband was engaged immediately in farming with his wife’s uncle by marriage.  The arrival had been a shock to the young couple when they learned that in the interim of time since they had communicated by mail (slow mail service in those days) that the aunt had passed away shortly before their arrival in the new land.  So the young wife became the chief housekeeper and farm wife at the homestead.  There was another thing as well—-the young wife was pregant with her first child due on September.  One can only imagine the stress of the long voyage on a mother- to- be but this young woman was made of hardy stock.  She survived the long journey without any complications and went on into the summer with her infant growing in her womb while she worked tirelessly to fill in the role of the farm wife, cooking, washing, scrubbing and cleaning, raising a garden, canning and preserving, milking cows and feeding chickens and other livestock that were in the domain of the housewife of those days.

One unknown factor came to the surface after the young couple arrived to be with the uncle who had been married to the young bride’s aunt.  He was irritated with the "religion" of the young couple who read their Bible  together and prayed each night before they retired. They had been a part of the "Bedehus" movement in Norway; these were people who were far more evangelical and mission-minded than those in the old state church of Norway.  They did not hesitate to sing praises to their Lord, to read their Bibles and pray aloud…and the old Uncle was convicted by their faithfulness.  He resented their "bible-thumping" and let them know he disapproved.

There was another unknown factor awaiting the young emigrant couple.  Another uncle…the man married to the young woman’s other aunt on the nearby homestead…was resentful of the promise made to the young couple by the other aunt and uncle…that if they came and helped them and took care of them in their old age, the farm would be given to them as way of giving  them get a start in the new country.  This promise was a welcome one to the young couple who loved the idea of their own farm and land to work.  They were willling to fulfill their end of the bargain and had already proved their willingness to work hard for the elderly uncle.  But then one night in early September, the two brothers-in law (the  men married to the aunts of the young woman) got together and were indulging in an alcoholic spree,  to the point of getting dead- drunk together.  Somehow the one man convinced the other man that he should go home and kick those bible-thumpers off his farm and get rid of them …he wanted that farm for his own sons, of whom he had sired 5 young strapping men, who needed farms and land also.  The drunken uncle went back to his farm, awakened the young couple who were sleeping deeply, and told them to pack up and get off his farm , immediately!  In a daze of confusion and distress, the young couple put their few belongs into suitcases and began walking down the road toward what they thought was the direction of the town some 15 miles distant.  But in the dark of the night, they did not turn toward town, but headed in the opposite direction, following the narrow dirt road that was little more than a rough trail.  They walked all night til the grayest light of dawn showed them near another farm along the road.   In exhaustion and despair, the young husband and wife sat down to rest atop their suitcases til they could see a light in the farmhouse and go and ask for directions.  

There was another young immigrant couple living on that homestead.  They had come from Sweden just a few years before the young Norwegian couple came in 1906.  The Swedish immigrant farmer spotted this young couple sitting along the road and walked out to them.  Fortunately the farmer, who spoke only Swedish, could understand the Norwegian spoken by  the young couple.  When he learned of their plight, he invited them into his home, where his wife and several young children were up for breakfast.  The Swedish couple gave the young immigrants a temporary home for the fall months.  The first child of the young Norwegian couple was born at that farm… and about 3 weeks later, the Swedish wife gave birth to her newest baby.  The two young women served as each others’ midwives and the two babies were healthy and strong.  The Norwegian couple’s child was a boy and the Swedish couple’s baby was a girl.  Those two young familes were fast friends for the rest of their lives and the two babies born so close together remained friends for life also.

The Swedish couple also helped the young Norwegian couple get a start in the town because the young Norwegian husband was a skilled cobbler and leather worker and the young growing town had a great need for a man who could make horse harnesses and other horse equipment.  The town was a booming railroad town and all the work on the railroads was done by horses and men.  A new business was begun by the young man who thought he would be a farmer on his own homestead that had been promised to him and his young wife.  The banker was a Norwegian speaking immigrant himself, and he was willing to give a loan for the new shoemaker and harness maker to get a business going in town.  So the young couple and their baby moved into a home in the town where they would spend the remainder of their long lives.

But in the countryside, the Uncle who had kicked them off the farm , sobered up and came to great grief when he realized what he had done to the young pair.  He searched all over the countryside til he came to the Swedish homestead and found his young relatives living there with their newborn son.  He pleaded with the young couple to return to his farm but the young husband was adamant….he would never return to a place he was not wanted and he remained firm in his resolve, moving instead to town where he became the owner of the business that was known for the rest of his life as the "Shoe Hospital".    The aging uncle brooded over his deed of turning his wife’s niece and her husband off the farm they had been promised.  Just a few years later, neighbors found that old man who had hanged himself a room in his home.  Ever after that the people who lived on that farm kept that room closed up and locked.  The other sons of the brother in law ended up inheriting the promised farm and they would never allow the young boy who had been born on the neighboring Swedish farm to ask questions about the room that was closed up.  Not til the young boy grew up did he learn the circumstances surrounding the locked room or his parents’ connection to the tragic death by suicide of the elderly uncle-in-law.

The young immigrant couple from Norway lived in the town for the rest of their lives. They had 7 children, one of whom died in infancy from whooping cough, but 6 who survived into adulthood and went on to marry and raise families….the grandchildren loved to come to Grandma’s house and be fed her homemade bread slathered with the homemade butter she had churned herself from the cream of the cows that were kept in the in-town barn.  The young immigrant bride who had arrived in 1906 suffered a bad stroke when she was in her seventh decade and died within a year after that illness.  Her husband survived by many years and lived as an aging widower til the age of 95 when he finally closed up the Shoe Hospital and went to another small North Dakota town to spend his final years with one of his daughters.

The baby who was born in 1906 in a home where his parents had been given refuge was my father in law.  He was the most wonderful man, a man who understood hardship and hard work.  He was as much a father to me as my own beloved Daddy.  I still miss both of these wonderful men who were such important parts of my life.

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