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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getting By With A Little Help From Friends and Family

Greetings from Cascade Bluff again! In the interest of filling in some blanks in our ongoing saga, I'm posting today about two big projects that we took on this spring. We had LOTS of help with one, and just a little with the other... 
Val's cousin Ryan is an extremely intelligent and creative guy who also happens to farm in Western MN. He's one of those guys who can solve pretty much any problem, mostly using whatever is lying around... Kind of like the McGyver of Lac Qui Parle County. Word got out to Ryan that we were thinking of installing a gate across our private road up at Cascade Bluff, since we were seeing evidence that folks had been hunting on our land without permission... So, Ryan got to work. He designed and manufactured a gate for us, to specifications, and delivered it personally to our townhome in Bloomington when he was in the metro area for his daughter's concert. It was, of course, raining like crazy that afternoon!

Here is Ryan arriving in his pick up, with the pieces of the gate in the truck, and Val standing by to help unload...
 

Ryan moving gate parts into our garage for temporary storage...
This is where the story goes from wow that's really nice of him to Wow that's incredible!  The gate is made of steel pipes and old manure spreader wheels... Yes, you read that correctly! Really gotta love the ingenuity here. These are the two wheels (from a manure spreader most likely from the 1930's), the axles will serve as posts for the gate. This is really a key point, since up at Cascade Bluff, digging a hole for a suitable gate post would otherwise require a backhoe to pound through the rocks and clay. You can't just go out and dig a hole up there, you have to be creative! 

And Ryan Ulstad is nothing if not creative! 
 Well, he's also extremely nice, and very humble... Thank you so very much, Ryan! You are a prince! (A Viking prince, most likely, with all that Norwegian blood!)

At that moment our plan was to head north with the gate in our own, somewhat smaller Ford pick up, in about 48 hours. Problem was, how to get the gate parts up into our truck bed? Enter our great friend Randy Lewis, who graciously agreed to come over the next day and help us out with the lifting and the planning.

Here's Randy posing with the finished load in place... Many thanks for all your help and practical advice about loading up a pickup, Randy! 

...kind of magnificent, isn't it?
 ...fortunately I remembered to buy straps to hold the whole thing down...
No trip north on the freeway with a gate poking out the back of your truck would be complete without a blast of caffeine, right? 



We arrived uneventfully at Cascade Bluff and unloaded the gate. Now the idea behind those manure spreader wheels is that you simply set them on the ground (no post hole diggers required) and pile up a bunch of rocks on the wheels to hold them in place. 

Turns out, rocks is one resource we have aplenty up at Cascade Bluff! 
This was the first truckload of rocks... It ended up taking about five truck-bed-loads full... (heaves big sigh)

The first few rocks in place, with the upright and cross beam of the gate threaded onto the old wheel axle...

And more rocks... 

 We got more help from our friend Nick, who helped with the set up of leveling everything out and bolting the gate crossbeams in place...

Val and Nick, official Cook County Gate Inspectors at work...
 Here's a man who loves his work! Thank you, Nick!

Ta da! We have a completed gate, and that sucker is not going anywhere! Look at all those rocks-- must weigh about a ton on each side! 

Look closely at the gate, now complete with reflectors! We are ready for anything now...


Our second big spring project was something akin to bringing coals to Newcastle... (We've been to Newcastle, by the way, and guess what their main industry is: coal mining... ) We decided to plant some trees!  As one of our dear friends Linda, said, when she heard about this project: OMG, you live in a X@%^&8!! forest, why do you want to plant more trees???  All too true, but the problem is we've got lots of the wrong kinds of trees, and would like more of the right kind of trees!  If you hear Kathy's voice behind this particularly loony idea, you are absolutely correct... 

We heard about an opportunity to buy bare root saplings of native trees and shrubs through the Soil, Water and Conservation service... Sent in out forms and check in April, and in May, came to town to pick them up... 
We met our friend Maxine for coffee beforehand... Max is a Master Gardener for Cook County, MN, and is generous with her time and advice about all things gardening... Thank you so much, Max! 
Our sack of bare root trees in the back seat, ready to go... 

Now these little fellas don't look like much at this point, so I spared my readers from photo after photo of all 25 white pines, 25 mountain ash, 20 sumac and assorted dogwood, nannyberry, native plum and highbush cranberry bushes... But couldn't resist a few close ups of the newcomers!

A cute little white pine...
 A line of sumac on some ground that was shoved around during construction. Staghorn sumac are reputed to grow well on disturbed, clay soils and hold the banks in place well to prevent erosion, a perfect solution for us for this spot. And we look forward to the fabulous orange and red fall colors, too. These "saplings"--ie, sticks--look for all the world like they are dead as can be... but a few days later were sprouting leaves...
 For those not familiar with the area, these north woods were once dominated by huge, magnificent white pines, red pines and the ancient white cedars... pretty much only the cedars are left. The pines fell to our axes since their wood is straight-grained and terrific for building things (think tall ships masts). If you've never been in a mature white pine forest, you've missed something very special. These behemoths of the tree world are tall and straight, with branches coming off far above and long needles. When the wind moves, it sounds like soft hissing... the eponymous "whispering pines"... With a more recent shift in the climate and environment, white-tailed deer are now far more common up here than a century ago, dislodging the moose and woodland caribou. Caribou and moose ignore the pines, but guess what deer love to eat more than anything? You guessed it, white pine seedlings. Hence the fencing around the trees, which we will have to replace with taller, bigger circles as they grow -- but hey, that's a while off... 
In the meantime we are planning to do our best to help our new guys thrive. Wish us and our new "right" trees all the best!

1 comment:

  1. Your yellow flowers look like rapeseed plant-deer are said to love them. I tried planting some at our place-we will see if the rain has helped them out!

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