Thursday, March 31, 2011

Maple Syrup

My father was born in 1905.  When he was a young man, say between 1910 and 1920, his father taught him the art of making maple syrup.  When I was of that same age, during the forties, we didn’t ever make any, but by the sixties dad had taught his eldest son, Bert, how to make syrup.  I learned from Bert in the seventies, and enjoyed it as a hobby.
In early spring, when the days are thawing, and the nights are freezing, a maple tree draws sustenance from mother earth, mostly in the form of water.  Through some chemical process sugar is added, and it is then called sap which is circulated throughout the tree adding new growth and causing the tree to bud and leaf out for another summer.
The Native Americans taught the early settlers that a portion of this sap could be extracted from a tree, and the water boiled away leaving a remainder of a sweet flavorful syrup.  A rule of thumb is that about forty gallons of sap will produce one gallon of syrup after thirty-nine gallons of water are boiled away, but this is not a hard and fast rule.
My sons used to help me when we boiled sap each spring only for our own table use.  In this manner they, too, learned the witchcraft of producing this elixir from a tree.
Photo number one, taken March 6, 2010, shows my son Carl boiling sap the way we did it back in the seventies.  It is merely a flat pan suspended over a wood fire.  Sap is put in the pan, and a hot enough fire maintained to boil it.  More sap is added to keep the pan from boiling dry.  After enough of this is accomplished you draw off the syrup remaining.  Quite simple.
Photo number two is a more modern system.  Klay Crossett (in photo) and Carl manufactured this system in an attempt to commercialize production.  Out in the woods trees are tapped, and plastic tubing is attached gravity draining the sap into a large vat.  The sap is then pumped into a tank on the back of a pickup truck and transported to the sugar house.  It is again pumped into a holding vat at that point.  Once again it is pumped to yet another tank above the boiler where a controlled gravity feed introduces it to the boiling tank.  Here the sap passes through a series of pans, ever increasing its density.  It is drawn off from the final pan as syrup.  As it is working at the moment they are able to produce about one gallon an hour of maple syrup.  I’m sure they will further perfect the system as time passes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pond Life 3-20-11

About midafternoon I rode back to the pond hoping I might capture a photo or two of our newcomer, Bucky Beaver.  Such was not to be, but I did happen upon another swimming creature.
As soon as I arrived at the pond I noted this rascal in the first photo happily going about his business, paying seemingly no attention to me.  He left that clump of grass as I neared, but returned to it again shortly thereafter.
Photo two shows the little critter after his return.  There was something about that particular section of real estate he seemed to prefer above all others at the moment.  It seemed to be digging into the roots of some sort of plant life I could not see.
Photo three shows his sudden interest in the goings on above him up on the roadway.  He circled over toward me, but immediately returned to his chosen island.
Photo four though shows that while he was surveying me, his buddy (or lover) appeared and began eating at his favorite spot.  He didn’t like this and so they had a small spat.  I took several photos of that, but as luck would have it, I was pointing in the general direction and snapping away as fast as I could, and none of them were any good.
So it seems that Bucky Beaver has created a nice home for a pair of finely furred Muskrats.  We’ll work on photos of Bucky in the future.
On the way back to my home I noted that rabbits had been working on some apple tree limbs that my son-in-law, Ben, had pruned last fall.  It seems like it was a ready food supply for some of them.  I thought all of them were surviving on my wife’s birdseed, but apparently that was only desert.  Photo five shows the results of their labors.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Is Really Here

A dairy farm is hopefully a profit making business, and my neighbor’s is no different in that respect. My dairy farmer neighbor, and certainly many hired workers, milk several hundred cattle.   He sells milk to processors to earn a profit.  All winter he has been storing cattle manure from those hundreds of cattle for use as fertilizer for his fields this year.  It is stored in a giant pit, or lake, with added water to keep it in liquid form.  Each spring the manure must be applied to his land as an aid to growth of his corn crop used as cattle feed.
Today as I headed toward the beaver pond on his land, long before arriving at our mutual border, I detected the unmistakable odor of manure being applied. As I reached our common fence line this first photo was what met my eyesight.  It is the business end of a liquid manure spreader in action.  You can note its deposits in the foreground.
The second photo is a couple of minutes later as I caught up to it, but making sure I was well off to the upwind side, as it progressed almost in slow motion across the field.  I’m guessing that red tank is about 16’ long and 8’ in diameter.

The third photo I’m yet closer, as a good reporter should be, but I’m still not getting any too close to that honey wagon.  That stuff is really flying as it is pumped out using power from the pulling tractor.
The fourth photo shows that the meadow has been drying out since the snow has melted as the tractor and spreader are both staying on the surface being buoyed up by those huge tires on both.  The rig has progressed about half the field’s length now, and taken maybe five or six minutes to do so.
The fifth, and last, photo is merely a zoomed in photo to give you one last look without getting any closer to this rig.  This was about 4:30 this afternoon.  I expect to see tomorrow that the field was completed before dark.  Last year this farm grew approximately 4,000 acres of dairy feed corn, and presumably will again this year.  This meadow is no more than forty acres, or about 1% of what will be done.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

More Life With Iva Calkins (During the depression years.)

Iva, born in 1919, was the daughter of Winifred Lawton and William Standish.  She married John Calkins in September 1941.

When I was in the fourth grade my family moved from the Wilson School District to the Jenks District.  We only lived about ¼ of a mile from the school which meant we could walk to school easily and go home for lunch.  I finished my eighth grade in this school.  We had to take state finals in the seventh and eighth grades.  After finding I had passed I was excited about going to high school, but just before it was time my mother told me they couldn’t afford to send me.  There was no money for books, clothes for me, and no way to get there so I couldn’t go to school that year.  Dad said I could take the eighth grade over, but I chose to stay home.
The next summer I worked picking berries and cherries which gave me the few dollars I needed for school.  A car load of kids was riding with Ken Stuart to Scottville so I had a ride for part of the year.  Then we moved again, this time to the Ressiguie School District.  I walked a mile each day to Aunt Maud’s house where I caught a ride with my cousins to school so I finished out the year.
The next year I went to Custer School because I could walk the mile and a half to it.  I finished the tenth and started the eleventh grade there, and then we moved again.  We were still in the same school district, but now I had to walk four and a half miles each way to school every day for the rest of my school years.  That wasn’t too bad, and sometimes I got a ride at least part way.
After three years on that farm we moved again, this time back to the Jenks School District, but as I was in Normal School I stayed with George and Ev All in order to get a ride into Ludington to school.  I helped George with the milking, did housework for Ev, and helped at home with the potato cultivating when I could.
When I think back over those years of farming, moving from place to place, changing schools so often, and always having so little of nothing to do with, I wonder how I accomplished my goal of becoming a school teacher, but I did.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beaver Pond 3 26 11

Monday, March 21, 2011, I wrote on this blog that there was a breach of the dam at the pond, and as it was not being repaired that was prima facie evidence there was no beaver there to complete the job.  I presented a photo of the water pouring over the missing area of the dam.  This first photo is that same photo.

Thursday, March 24th, I continued writing telling of my grandson and I spotting a beaver swimming in the pond, and the water level was rising.  It was fairly obvious that the rascal was doing what beavers do.  He was stopping that outflow of water.
Today, Saturday, March 26th, I returned to the pond to ascertain the latest in developments, and hoping to catch Mr. Beaver out and about in daylight so I could take his portrait.  That was not to be, but I did take a photo so you can see how much of a busybody he has been.  About center in this photo you can see the light colored stick on top of the dam.  That is the repaired section where the water was running free a few days ago.  Take note that what was a rushing stream a few days ago is now a trickle as the entire pond fills once again.  Also a few more sticks can be seen trapped in the ice on the pond that our friend has awaiting insertion in his masterpiece creation.

Brother Against Brother?

The sounds of rolling thunder fills the air of the nation,
A cry of dispair comes from the founders of this creation
A family against family, brother against brother;
For a war has begun, a war like no other.
Wayne Bengston

George W (Ware?) Lawton was born October 12, 1806 somewhere?, but I don’t know the answer to that question.  One written account states he came from the Buffalo, New York area when he first arrived in Clarksville, Ohio during 1836, but where was he prior to that.  George married Catherine Regina Daley December 4, 1836, and the next year they had a daughter, Catherine.  She was followed by three sons, Manley in 1838, Henry in 1843, and George in 1848.  It was the following year that the great California Gold Rush began, and the year after that George went to California leaving his family in Ohio where his wife died in 1854.  His children were taken in by George’s sibling’s families.
Manley grew up and became a Civil Engineer, and had moved to Texas by the 1860s.  During 1861 when the Civil War began Manley, the oldest son, joined the Confederate Army as did most young Texas men of military age.
His much younger brother, George, joined the Union Army and died in 1871 of complications brought on by wounds contracted during the war.
Henry, the middle son, joined the Indiana Volunteers for a ninety day stint in the U S Army.  When his time was up he was discharged and returned to Fort Wayne, Indiana from where he had joined.  He rejoined the Thirtieth Indiana Volunteers as a Sergeant, and fought in Kentucky and Tennessee, including the Battle of Shiloh, before they moved on to Corinth and Iuka in Mississippi.  He earned the Congressional Medal of Honor in the Atlanta campaign.
I know nothing of the Army careers of Manley or George, but I often wonder how close any of the three brothers may have come to fighting each other during the fierce battles of America’s war among its own people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beaver Pond

Photos taken Sunday, March 20th show that the beaver dam was running a pretty sizable stream through a two foot wide gap.  One of these was placed on this blog Monday.
Tuesday, March 22, I observed that the water level had risen by about four inches in the pond, but as close as I could tell no work had been done on the dam by beavers.  It appeared to be more likely that some sticks had merely floated to the site and sort of lodged in such a way as to hold back some water, but not really to seal it.
This evening, the 23rd, Alex and I made an excursion to see what we could see.  We proceeded back around one side of our neighbor’s meadow about half its length when suddenly we spotted two deer.  No, it was three, and then a fourth.  Although they ran into the nearby woods they were not panicked, and I’m sure they returned to the meadow shortly after we were out of sight.  We were excited to see our resident deer population.
We continued on to where they had entered the woods to try for a photo op, but such was not our luck so we headed on toward the beaver pond.  As we were crossing the pond on the farm road Alex asked, “What was that,” and pointed to the north side of the roadway.  I turned just soon enough to catch a glimpse of something sliding under the water.
I said, “I don’t know what it was, but I saw something.”  We sat there on our ATV for a minute or two and I noticed the water rippling slightly near the south end of the under road sluice pipe.
“Watch over here,” I said.  Sure enough in a few seconds a body sliced through the water exiting the pipe only a few feet from us.  As it swam, first under the water, and then surfacing, we could tell it was a beaver.  We watched it for a couple of minutes, but it was too dark for photos then so we moved along rejoicing that a beaver had returned.
A minute or two later we spotted two more deer for sure, and Alex thought he might have spotted another.  All together it was a good night for game spotting, and especially nice to see a beaver back in the pond, no matter how short a spell he may stay.
We’ll get some photos of the deer and the beaver as soon as we can.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Fudge Caper

Maybe everybody makes peanut butter fudge, or maybe practically nobody makes it, I don’t know.  I do know though that my mother could make it soft and creamy, and so tasty I would drool just to be in the same room with it.  I loved to be in the house when mom decided she would give we children a treat and make a batch.
So it happened one day that she whipped up a batch and cooked it.  The odor was wafting through the house, and I was in some sort of a dream world.  Mom poured the cooked mixture into one of her 8” by 16” cake pans, about an inch deep and let it cool and set.  I remember that my two brothers Ron and Dell were there as well as myself, all of us with our tongues hanging out like sweating hound dogs.
After it had properly cooled enough for it to stay in a square when cut, mom cut it into 1” cubes.  She then allotted each of us a piece which we cut into the tiniest bits so as to make it last as long as possible.  This went on each day for two or three days.
One day dad and mom went off to town to run errands and buy groceries.  Ron, who always thought up ideas first, decided that he, Dell, and myself ought to each have a piece of fudge.  He had decided that mom wouldn’t care.  The only reason we weren’t given any by her was that she wasn’t home.  I hesitated to take any and told Ron that maybe mom knew how many pieces were left in the row that was partially gone.  Ron said, “That’s an easy one,” and removed an entire row leaving the pan looking just as it had except for an entire row missing.
We each then ate two pieces, leaving a remainder of two.  Ron and Dell decided they were the biggest so each of them should get the extra pieces.  No such thing as dividing them up!  I assured them I was going to tell mom on them, but they told me if I did I’d get in just as much trouble as them.  I knew they were right so I just had to settle for my smaller share of the pilfered goods and keep my mouth shut.
Later in the day, after our parents return, Ron had the unmitigated gall to ask mom if each of us could have a piece of fudge.  Mom said sure, and we each got another one.
My wife now has my mother’s recipe.  She makes it several times a year.  Of course I can have any amount I want of it, but it’s not anywhere near as fun as it was that day when we were young and nearly ate ourselves sick on it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just Water Over The Dam

The photos below were taken on Sunday afternoon, March 20, 2011, the last day of winter.  Spring began at 7:21 PM that evening.

The first one is of that part of the beaver pond which encompasses the dam causing the formation of the pond.  It is to the south side of the farm road crossing the pond.  It can be noted that the fast moving water passing over the dam from the snow melt over the past few days has caused a breech of the dam a couple of feet wide, and now a foot or more deep.  Each side of the break in the dam can be seen, as well as the water cascading away past the dam on its long inexorable journey to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond.  The remaining ice will not likely be with us much longer.  I believe it is quite obvious that because the dam is in need of repair that it is not receiving, then there are no beaver there to do it.
After leaving the pond area, traversing on my way homeward bound, I noticed the Pussy Willows are again in bloom, in their attempt to form leaves.  Some may remember that they were forming in January, during a sudden warm spell.  I thought at the time it may cause them harm, but if it did they have overcome it.  Isn’t that a beautiful New York sky for a background?  Our snow is nearly all melted, and I hope it stays away for a few more months now, but this is only March and therefore we could get more yet.

Silly Riddle

In about 1949 my brother Ron took a printing course in high school.  I don’t know what all it entailed, but in one part of it he was required to set up a printer in some manner to print something on a business card sized piece of stock paper.  Now this was many years before the computer was used for this purpose.  However it was done he had to install each letter in a block so it would print out the desired message.  I believe all of the type face had to be installed backward.
Anyway the message he decided to print was the following:
Seville der dago
Towsan buses inaro
Nojo demis trux
Summit cowsin
Summit dux.
After he had printed his card he delighted in handing it to others to try to decipher the message.  At the time I was about eleven years old, and it looked like something written in Italian to me, but he assured me it was not..  Because I could not determine the answer, I memorized it for future use.
Anyone else ever seen it before, or can you decipher it even if you never have?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

John Elmer Lawton

About 15 years ago I learned of John through my work as editor of the Lawton Ledger.  John lived in Cuba, New York, down near Pennsylvania, in the western part of the state.  He had been born five days after the July 4th celebration in 1907, his parent’s fifth child, with 14 siblings yet to come.  In 1999, at the age of 92, John published a book titled, “Mother and Her Nineteen Children.”  Yes, I have a signed copy dated August 30, 1999.
John and I became friends of sorts, although I never met him in person.  He once asked me if I would be his son, but I had to inform him I had always known someone else as my father.
In writing back and forth with John he mentioned he had written a manuscript of a companion book to his published one.  I told him I hoped he published it soon as I really enjoyed the first one.  On June 26, 2000 I received a package in the mail from John.  He really did package up his hand typed original manuscript of his second book, which he never did publish, and mailed it to me.  He told me to copy it, and when I was done mail the original back to him.  I did as instructed, and now, as far as I know, I have the only copy ever produced of that manuscript.
Herewith is a condensed version of a story from that unpublished book manuscript:

I Learn To Swim

Uncle Ed told me he would teach me to swim so we went to the stream in the cattle pasture.  We stripped naked and Ed, without waiting for me, gave a warwhoop and jumped as high as he could and speared the water like a fat, white javelin.  He swam away underwater, then disappeared, but I could see him quite a distance through the clear water.
I stepped into the water, about a foot deep and it seemed cold.  I shivered and moved back to stand on the warm gravel.  I looked up and down for Uncle, but he was nowhere to be seen on the whole creek.  I got worried a little at first and then real worried when he didn’t show up for at least two minutes.
Of course I was just guessing but I had counted the breaths I had taken and it came to four of them.  I went over to my clothes and took the pants off the fence and started putting them on, thinking I ought to find an adult and tell them about Uncle disappearing under the water.  I was sure he was drowned and I didn’t know what else to do.  I kept catching my big toenail in my pants leg and was looking to see what held me up when the water geysered up behind me and Ed splashed out of the water, almost covering me with a wave.  He stepped near me and showered me again by shaking his long hair.  He started laughing like everything.
“Give yuh a scare?” He asked.
“I’ll say you did.  I was just about to run for help.  I didn’t know what to do.  I thought sure you were lying on the bottom of the creek, drowned.”
He continued to laugh.  “I can hold my breath under water for two minutes and ten seconds.  I was the best in the prison swimming team.”  He saw that I wasn’t laughing.
“Well come on if yuh want to learn to swim.”  He said stepping out into about three feet of water.
“Come on it hain’t that cold.”  He said as I hesitated with one foot in the water.  “Jest  jump right in.  It’s cold only fer a second.”
So I made a valiant effort, shaking with the cold, I finally made it to where he could get both my hands in his.  As soon as he had my hands, he whirled quickly and threw me over his shoulders.  I landed in deep water.  I went down and touched the bottom and kicked back up to the top, my head just out of the water.  I gagged, strangled and tried to stay on top, but sank like a stone.  Then I thrashed my hands and feet desperately and came to the top again, breathing great gulps of air.  Ed was laughing so much he could hardly stand up.
Then something wonderful happened.  I found that with my splashing with hands and kicking feet I could stay on top of the water, and Boy! Oh Boy!  I was slowly making my way to Uncle Ed who had stopped laughing and came my way.
“Nothin’ tuh it, is it?” and he took my hand.
That’s how I learned to swim.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Abounds

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 20, 2011 is officially the first day of spring.  As I’ve stated in the past, it is my opinion it ought to be the first day of a new year.  The dying snow banks of last year’s winter are nearly gone, melting into oblivion, and good riddance.  This new year is alive with new hope for a better tomorrow.  Red Wings, Robins, Geese, and a myriad of other sorts of birds are returning from their winter hiatus in parts unknown, but probably much warmer than we were subjected to here in the northcountry.  Life is good.
Friday, March 18th, I spotted these geese swimming and feeding in a small stream nearby.  I stopped my vehicle in an attempt to snap a few photos actually believing they would depart before I could get my camera into action, but I guess they were tired from their long flight, and they continued to swim and eat.  For those of you that might read this from our more southern climes, let it be known your winter guests arrived safely.
In the evening of the same day, an Amish draft wagon happened by our residence.  This gentleman, whom I do not know, has passed our home six days a week for a couple of years now.  He cuts cedar fence posts from other folk’s land, draws them home, and sells them.  He cuts what are available from one person’s groves, and then moves on to another.  Three or four times a week he passes with a new load of posts.
Taking a second look, you might notice that the horse on the far side in this photo is larger than the near one.  Also it can be reasoned that the larger horse is next to oncoming automobile traffic.  It must take a brave, or very stupid, horse to face those huge metal monstrosities coming at them at such terrible speeds.  This Amish, and that large horse, have been together for at least the past couple of years, and possibly far longer, but the horse on the near side changes periodically.  I reasoned that the Amish man uses the large black horse, to train other horses for road work.  His big black is steady as a rock in traffic, causing the newer smaller horse to learn that it will not hurt it (hopefully).  Even if the smaller horse was to get excited the larger horse can hold it from bolting.  All Amish horses that are used on asphalt roads have steel shoes attached to their hooves that leave scratched tracks in the road as they pass.  Yes, those are steel wheels.  Rubber tires are a no-no for this branch of Amish.
When this gentleman first started coming by our home, he had a very small boy with him, no more than a couple of years old.  Day after day, my wife or I would wave to the boy, but he always shyly hid his face.  Now he doesn’t come any more, so he must have started school.  The Amish in this area have their own school system of one-room schools.  Although they are required to pay school taxes, as are all state residents, they get no benefit of their money spent in that manner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ides Of March

It was 2055 years ago, March 15th, 44 B.C., which was called the Ides of March.  It was a day of feast dedicated to the God Mars, and much pageantry with a military parade was scheduled.  Julius Caesar was making his way to the Theatre of Pompey, when on a whim he stopped to visit with a seer who had previously foretold that great harm would befall Caesar not later than the Ides of March.
Caesar jokingly remarked to the seer that the Ides had come, and absolutely nothing had happened to him, implying that the seer was some sort of a charlatan.  The seer then answered Caesar with the remark, that yes the Ides had come, but they had not gone yet.  Caesar laughed it off and continued on his way to the Senate.  It was while at this meeting, surrounded by Marcus Junius Brutus and 60 other well-known friends and acquaintances, all co-conspirators, that all fell upon Caesar bent on assassination.  Stabbed in the neck and face, eyes blinded with blood, Caesar fell, whereupon many jumped on him stabbing him a total of 23 times, killing him.
Yet today people still use the term the Ides of March mostly because of Caesar’s death on the date.  Few recall that several other months also had midmonth dates known as Ides.

Cleveland Bound

It has been an old axiom among our family members that there is no unsolvable problem, it’s just a matter of how much money it takes.  However my daughter and her husband were in Cleveland with car problems, and little money.  Big problem.  They phoned me, but I had little money to offer either.  Bigger problem.  At that point there was only one thing left to do.  I had to go ask my oldest brother Bert for whatever help he could offer.
Bert told me to see if I could locate a car dolly used for towing cars.  It is basically a very low trailer that one end of the car sits on while you tow it down the road on its other two wheels.  I located one that could be rented in Gouverneur, a village about twenty five miles from home.  Bert, who had a heavy duty four-wheel-drive pickup a year or two old, said, “Let’s go to Cleveland.”
So it was that we started on a 500 mile or so each way trip to bring home a daughter (niece), her husband, and their car.  We slipped down I-81 to Syracuse, and turned out onto the New York Thruway headed west.  We passed Rochester, and after a while Buffalo was also behind us.  Then we came to the Angola service plaza located between the east and west roadways.  We needed gas, and wanted food, so it seemed ideal that we could get both at one stop without even getting off the highway and having to reenter again.
It was rather late in the evening at the time so when we entered the food place we were alone there with the exception of one tired lady attendant.  We each ordered some sort of a local thing that was essentially a longer than average hotdog. As well, I had a small carton of milk, while Bert ordered some sort of a cola.  Ultimately the lady passed the food over a counter to us, and moved down to a cash register to accept payment.  She mumbled something that seemed to be the amount of money due, but neither of us heard what she said.  Bert looked at me as if to ask if I knew what she said, but as I didn’t I merely shrugged my shoulders as Bert held out a $20 bill to her.  She took it, and then she and Bert stood staring at each other.  Bert was waiting for his change.  We had no idea why she didn’t offer it.  Finally she said, “Well.”  Bert said, “Well, what?”  She spoke again, “Well, aren’t you going to give me the rest of it?”  By this time neither Bert nor myself knew what to say, but come to find out the price of the two hotdogs and drinks was over $25, so Bert handed her another $10.  When she gave change she stood there like we were going to tip her some more, but that didn’t happen.
At the time we knew it was highway robbery, but there was little could be done about it so we ate quickly, and got out before the lady decided to charge us for overtime or something.  Many times over the years we laughed uproariously about Bert and the service lady staring at each other, both rather dumbfounded, but at the same time we never made the same mistake again of eating at a service plaza on the thruway.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deer Me

I went for my usual ATV ride to get some fresh air, and to see what I could see.  I went through the little patch of woods on my land, out the other side, and continued into the meadow of my neighbor.
I had went only a hundred yards or so when I spotted some movement 200 to 300 yards ahead of me.  Looking closely at the dark shapes against the mottled coloring of snow and corn stalks, I could just make out that they were deer, three of them.  I unzipped my coat, unzipped my vest, and dragged out the camera lurking in there somewhere.
Setting the camera on telescopic, which sometimes gives me blurry photos, I began to ease ahead angling to one side so the deer might think I was not getting any closer to them.  To my consternation that ruse didn’t work at all.  The deer immediately took flight.
I snapped the first photo which turned out to be very blurred as they started to move.  Shortly thereafter I snapped a second, at just about the same time as I saw one get so excited it fell down.  It must have hit a small patch of ice before it got into full stride.  This is that second photo.  I am going to attempt to leave it full size, (click on it to expand it) but it may not upload.  All three deer can be seen with the third one just arising again after its tumble.  It is easy to see the snow that arose from the fall.  I assure you it got up just as fast as it fell, none the worse for its fall, except maybe a sense of “drat, did I do that?” as Urkle would say.  All three ran into nearby woods unscathed.
Hopefully we will see this same cast of characters all summer.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Beaver Pond 3 11 11

Friday, March 11th I rode my ATV back to the pond where I hadn’t been for a few days due to snow depth.  The first photo is of the pond north of the roadway crossing it.  That’s the old original beaver house protruding through the ice near the top right corner.  It can be noted that the melting snow and ice runoff is now flowing across the surface of the pond atop the ice layer remaining.  It comes past the beaver house toward the left of the photo and then circles back to pass through the sluice pipe under the roadway.  Did you note the two sort of forlorn looking cattails in the right foreground?  They’ve had a long hard winter to get that way.
The second photo shows the water leaving the sluice on the south side of the roadway.  The ripples in the water denote its movement over to the dam still covered with snow.  Under that snow though, the water is passing over the dam and cascading down the six foot wide stream on the four foot lower side.  The ice appears whiter under the fast flowing water, as opposed to the remainder of the pond, due to the erosion effect.
This stream flows over to where I wrote about my short swimming experience those many years ago.  It then turns a more southerly direction again where it ultimately flows into the Oswegatchie River at Heuvelton.  Our beaver pond water then goes with the flow, continuing on to the St. Lawrence River at Ogdensburg.  Some forty miles later the St Lawrence enters Canada versus being the border with the United States.  The Akwasasne Native American Reservation is located at that point.  Our beaver pond water then continues through Ontario and Quebec until it is unceremoniously dumped into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to become a part of the Atlantic Ocean.  Sooner or later it will be again evaporated into the atmosphere to once again fall as rain somewhere on earth.  Possibly within another million years some of it will again fall onto a local meadow that drains into this same beaver pond completing a never-ending cycle.  Maybe next time by I’ll drink a glass of this sparkling fluid.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Swim Meet

The pond that I so often fondly visit is formed by a beaver dam across a very small stream which is created by the natural drainage of the surrounding woods and meadows.  Once the pond attained the level of the dam the water continues to flow, through a spillway, in the small creek as it probably has for thousands of years.  The dam only temporarily stopped the flow while the pond filled.
This particular stream meanders southward for about a half mile until it crosses under the road I live near about a quarter of a mile from my home.  After crossing the road, a short distance away, there is another pond, once again formed by a dam made by beavers.  The wandering creek continues northeast until it crosses a county road about a half mile past this second dam.  This point is little more than a half mile from my home, the creek having made a half circle around my home and property.
I mention all of the above to bring you to this last point where the water crosses under the second road.  It is here where my friend Dean and I one fine spring day when we were about 14 years of age decided to go swimming.  The road was little traveled on a Sunday afternoon in those days, the sun was warm, and a swim seemed like just the right thing to do at the time.  The stream as it passed through under the road was about six feet wide and maybe three feet deep, running rather swiftly, but nothing that you might drown in.
The weather was a beautiful day, with a temperature in the high seventies, with that bright sun warming everything.  After a quick glance up and down the road to insure we were alone, we stripped naked and dove from the road edge into the water.  It was about the time we hit that water that we remembered the day was April first, and this was springtime in the northcountry.  There was no ice floating in that water, but there may as well have been.  Oh!  Was it ever cold?  Let me assure you it did not take us very long to decide we’d had enough swimming for one day.  We got our clothes back on far faster than we got them off a couple of minutes earlier.  So much for April Fool’s Day swimming in this area, we learned hurriedly who the April Fools were.

For those map lovers who might want to follow this the coordinates are:
Beaver pond behind my home is 44 40 56.80 N  75 22 16.27 W
Road crossing near my home is 44 40 23.36 N  75 22 08.70 W
Second beaver pond is 44 40 24.30 N  75 21 53.51 W
Swimming spot is 44 40 46.33 N  75 21 16.43 W

First Robin

For much of my life I have known that the first robin heralded the beginning of spring.  Every year the one who spotted the first robin yelled it out so everyone in the vicinity could get a glimpse of it.
Then about twenty years or so ago my brother Bob informed me if I watched closely, and spent more time observing, then I would notice that the redwing blackbirds were almost always ahead of the robins in their appearance.
About two weeks ago my wife pointed out there was a redwing eating seeds among the other birds feeding from the ground.  I just had to see it for myself, but of course she was correct.  The unmistakable yellow stripe was there on the shoulder like an Army badge.
Yesterday my brother Lawrence stopped by to chat for a while.  He mentioned that he had not seen either a redwing or a robin.  Less then 15 minutes later, I spotted a redwing in the maple out front of our house, and pointed it out to him.
Today I was minding my own business when my wife shrieked, “There’s a robin in the maple.”  Sure enough there was one there, and within two or three minutes a second one appeared next to it.  Within minutes they flew over to beneath an evergreen not too far away.  A couple of minutes later they rose into the tree.  Both, my wife and I, voiced our thought that it was probably the same pair that summered there last year, and raised four young’uns.  The one on the left is numero uno for this year.
So to all those here in the northcountry that haven’t spotted one yet, the robins are back.  Fishing season can’t be far away.  I’m ready.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

George Lawton Of Canada

On February 27th I wrote a little about Sylvester A Lawton of Lyme, Jefferson County, New York being hung for his participation in the Battle of the Windmill during the Patriot War in Canada.  Here is a bit more about another Lawton, also caught up in the Patriot War, from a different perspective.
George Lawton was born August 27, 1786 in Staley Wood, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, England.  About 1810 George married Mary Wolley.  They had four children before sailing across the Atlantic about 1817.  About 1818 the family left the Philadelphia area to settle in Upper Canada along the shore of Lake Erie near what is now Dexter.  Their original homestead was gradually disappearing into Lake Erie so by 1830 George was trying to save money to purchase another farm for the family which now numbered eight children.
The Upper Canada government was an entrenched group considered by the general population to be nearly dictators.  George became one of several outspoken reformers, supporting the cause of William Lyon Mackenzie.  Open rebellion was undertaken but quickly defeated, and Mackenzie and others escaped to the United States.  A warrant for the arrest of George Lawton was issued.  In December 1837 he rode a horse due west for two days until he arrived at the St. Clair River.  Leaving the horse behind, George crossed the river into the United States on foot, not knowing if he would ever see his family again.  In the next two months 15 and a 12 year old sons died leaving Mary with a loss of three of her men in a three month period.
As time passed an investigation was completed by Britain which substantially agreed with the program endorsed by the reformers to the dismay of the entrenched government.  A formal pardon was issued by Queen Victoria to George Lawton on September 29, 1841, nearly four years after he had left Canada.  He returned home after learning of his pardon to find that Mary and his remaining three sons had flourished on the farm.  The previous year from the farm’s 160 improved acres of the 200 total acres, they had harvested 700 bushels of wheat, 150 bushels of oats, 100 bushels of peas, 200 bushels of corn, and 50 bushels of potatoes.  They owned a hive of bees, 11 horses, 22 cattle, 4 sheep, and 70 hogs, placing them among the more substantial farmers of the area.
As a testament to hard work this farm is yet in the Lawton family today.

Making Butter

In a previous blog I mentioned slathering butter onto fresh homemade bread.  This is how the butter was made for our eating pleasure.  Being brought up on a dairy farm I am a bit familiar with certain aspects of fluid milk and milk products.  This by no means makes me an expert.  However, I thought it might be interesting to those who have never been around such things, to learn a few things about one of the healthiest foods used by American citizens on a regular basis.
No Virginia, milk is not manufactured in a supermarket.  Most milk sold there comes from dairy cattle located sometimes great distances from where you see it on the shelf.  The milk is extracted from the cattle by machines specifically adapted for this purpose.  By the time it gets to you, the consumer, it has been changed in different ways to make it more adaptable in its usage.
One of the processes it goes through is called pasteurization, where it is heated and cooled in an exact manner to deter the product from possibly passing on certain diseases to you, the human consumer.  Another process is called homogenization.
With little doubt you’ve heard the adage that cream rises to the top.  It is used as a simile in many different scenarios in human relations.  This started with cream in milk rising to the top.  In natural milk, as it comes from the cow if left for several hours, much of the cream will rise to the surface of the container, separating from the base product.  Homogenization stops this from happening by breaking the fat globules in the cream into smaller parts, which will not so readily separate.
Milk as it comes from a cow contains between 3.5 and 4.0 % fat.  This milk fat is what butter is made from, and is often called butterfat.  When we were children we knew that we could let our cows’ milk sit overnight and the cream would rise.  Further we were aware that the cream could be scooped from the top and put into a container.  That cream could be changed into whipped cream relatively easily, and when applied to cake was delectable.  Further it was relatively easy to turn it into butter.  We knew that it was possible to pour a quart bottle about ¾ full of cream.  Then a cover could be placed on it, and the bottle could be shook by hand.  Soon the fat globules would separate within the cream and a ball of butter would form inside the bottle.  It is that simple, but, I’m sorry to say, cannot be done with homogenized milk as found on the supermarket shelf.
We actually rarely did this as it negatively affected the price we received for the milk we sold to earn our livelihood.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Winter Bread Baking

After World War II was over, and sugar could once again be freely purchased as rationing had ceased, mother would often bake all sorts of good things.  If she had any faults I do not know what they might have been, but at any rate being a poor baker would absolutely not have been one of them.  My mama could bake bread that would make your mouth water just to think about being in the same house with it at baking time, or for that matter even on the porch, or near it.  Is there any smell that is more breath-taking than that of the odor of bread baking in a wood-burning range on a cold winter day?
Mama would mix all the ingredients in a round pan about six or seven inches deep and about sixteen inches across.  Next she would knead it with her fists until it was properly ready to set.  Then I can remember it setting on a shelf near the wood-burning parlor stove to make it rise.  After kneading it once again it had to rise again.
All of this time I would sit reading a book in an old platform rocking chair pulled up as close to the living room stove as I could get.  I loved the steady radiant heat emanating from the big Kalamazoo wood burner almost as much as I did getting lost in the pages of a book.  Do you recall “The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island” or maybe “Misty of Chincoteague?”  This also placed me close to the yeasty odor of the rising bread.  Once in a while I would have to steal a glance at it to make sure it seemed to be rising properly, not that I really knew anything at all about it.
Finally, when it had bulged well over the top of the pan, mama would judge that the bread was ready to make into loaves.  She would carry the pan to the kitchen where she would slice off the right sized slabs, form them into proper shape, put them in her metal pans and place them in the oven.  Oh the heavenly odors that permeated our home while that bread was baking.  If we children were lucky enough, she might take one loaf, hot out of the oven, rubbed with butter on the top, slice it and allow us a mid-afternoon feast.  Soaked with fresh home-made butter from our own milk, it would make your mouth water long before biting into it.  Never after is bread as good as when it first comes out of the oven.
It may be far easier to go to the supermarket and buy any of several kinds of offerings, but none will ever be as good as what mama used to turn out from her old wood-burning kitchen range.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saved By Alex

Sunday, the 6th we got several inches of snow making it unusually difficult for our feathered friends to locate sustenance.  Grandson Alex to the rescue.  He volunteered to come across the driveway to feed the little critters that congregate in and around our front yard.  The first photo shows where he has dumped a coffee can full of seeds on the ground for those that prefer to eat it from there.  This includes the Doves, Blue Jays, and some other species.  He is beginning to operate on the post feeder.
The second photo looks like he is doing some sort of strange dance to lure in the birds, but actually he is removing a small cable that holds the cover down.  The yellow pitcher in his hand is full of delectable seeds for the ones that prefer to eat a little higher on the food chain.  Sparrows will eat anywhere, as will Starlings, Finches both House and Gold, Cardinals, and some other species.  Both photos show the sock dangling from the upper porch rail.  It is full of thistle seeds for the Goldfinches who just love it.

The third photo shows his thoroughness in that he has found an old screwdriver to clean the ice from the slot that the seeds drift out at the bottom of the feeder.  He will make sure they have a proper feeding this late afternoon.  There are also suet feeders on the end of that feeder he is working on.  The Woodpeckers can hardly wait for a new suet dish to be inserted to find what sort of concoction will be there now.  The Chickadees also love the suet.  A little help is all the birds need to have a healthy happy existence among the trees and shrub cover in our yard.

Iva Growing Up On A Farm

It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  Sometimes it was a pleasure, but most times it was a hard life.  I started school in Scottsville.  Two months later my father decided to farm.  We moved to Wilson School District held in a tenant house on a farm.  My father farmed on shares.  My mother had to carry water from a well across the road.  One day my brother Earl went with mother after water.  He climbed the wind mill ladder, and when he came down he sat right in the pail of ice cold water.  He scrambled home with a cold wet seat.
It was two miles to school.  Often cattle were in the road, and it became necessary to detour through the woods to get around them.  One day at school the boys were pulling my hair so I ran and hid until they went home.  Is it any wonder my mother had to bribe me with pennies to get me to go to school?
My dad worked hard long hours in the field.  We liked to run and meet him when we saw him coming home.  One day we ran really fast to meet him returning from town in a buggy.  When we reached the wagon it was some bearded man we didn’t know.
One day I got angry at my mother so decided to run away.  I intended to go to where my father was working in a potato field.  When I got there he wasn’t there.  Then I remembered he had gone to town with a load of potatoes.  There was nothing to do but go back home and face the music.  Mother met me at the door with a switch, but she had to laugh so she said, “You just wait until your dad gets home.”
I was back in a field one day where my father was cultivating.  He sent me to another field to get a water jug.  Just as I was about to pick up the jug I saw a monstrous big blue racer.  I left the jug and ran.  When I looked back the snake was following me.  I reached my dad all out of breath and told him the snake was chasing me.  He said, “Don’t worry!  He’d never catch you!”
Three years passed and we moved again.  This time we were about ¼ of a mile west of the Jenks School where I was in the fourth grade.  Here we could walk to school even in winter, and we could go home for lunch.  We lived on this 80 acre farm, on shares, for six years.  We moved, and our first day of school, was the day after Halloween.  We must have been strange looking as every kid stopped playing and followed us into school.  Pranksters had a two horse cultivator on the boys’ outhouse, a one horse buggy on the girls’ outhouse, and a wagon on the wood shed.  I was afraid to go into the girls’ outhouse as it looked like it could tip over.(to be continued)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tales From Iva Calkins

Lyman Pearly Lawton was born near Fowler in St. Lawrence County, New York April 11, 1845.  He was a 9th generation descendant of the original immigrant to Rhode Island Thomas way back in 1639.  In 1850, when Lyman was 5 years old, his parents, Henry and Elizabeth decided to homestead in Michigan which had become a state in 1837.  By oxcart they traveled to an area named Big Springs near Coopersville in Ottawa County.
Lyman was 22 when he married 17-year-old Margaret Harris, and a year later their daughter Addie was born, followed by a son George three years later.  In the next few years Margaret died and Lyman remarried to Sarah Ann Smith in 1877.  Unto this union seven additional children were born and six of these lived long healthy lives, as well as Addie from the first marriage.
The last daughter born, Winnifred in 1892, married William Standish in 1918, and they had four children the first being Iva in 1919.  In the latter 1990s Iva and I became pen pals of a sort.  Within our correspondence Iva passed on to me many separate stories, tales, writings, family genealogies, and an almost endless amount of information.  If there is such a place to go, then Iva has since passed away to what I am sure is a better world.  I now take this opportunity to pass on to anyone who cares to share family lore some of the abridged writings given freely by my friend Iva.

Growing Up With Iva Calkins

We had an outdoor backhouse.  We had no toilet paper, and catalogs were stiff and harsh.  The last thing at night was to light the lantern and go to the backhouse.
We never owned an ice box, so kept our butter in the well, and never kept milk overnight.
We used kerosene lamps, one for the kitchen and another in the living room.  If one broke we all stayed in one room, and it may have been quite a while before a new one could be afforded.
Our floors were nearly always bare.  Once we had a linoleum in the living room, but it didn’t last as we moved.
We played a game called books.  With a homemade deck of cards it was substantially the game of fish.  We also played dominoes a lot, which was good training to learn math combinations.
A trip to town was two hours each way.  At times my mother and I took Nubs and the buggy to town.  Nubs tried to turn into every driveway on the way to town hoping she wouldn’t have to go any further.  On the way home Nubs never noticed any of the driveways.

Alabama Assault

Among the members of any family there are always those who seem to be unlucky, or lucky, enough to have events happen to them that others seem to pass by.  Usually these selected family member’s stories are just a bit more vivid than those others who live an entire lifetime without making or leaving a ripple on life’s surface.  One such person that made newspaper headlines, certainly through no apparent fault of her own was Nellie Marie Lawton, born November 14, 1884 in St. Joseph, Michigan.  Nellie’s mother died while Nellie was young.
Of this item I know only in general, specific details have passed me by, but I am aware that the Courtland Enterprise newspaper dated August 13, 1897 stated in a story that “the three Negroes named Lewis Thompson, Walter Neville, and Rosa Binford were found guilty of assaulting little Nellie Lawton at Decatur, and sentenced to hang on Tuesday, September 7.”  I do not know if the sentence was actually carried out, but I suppose it was.
Nellie obviously survived her harrowing experience, whatever it may have been exactly, as she married in 1905, and raised a fine family of 8 children of which I have made the acquaintance of some of her descendants.
I have wondered about this event for many years with little way of learning more about it, but I wonder if any relative of mine might have an interest of going to the nearby Decatur Library to search through dusty old newspaper files to see what could be learned of this sad occasion?  As justice was much swifter in those days, than within our maddeningly slow courts of today, I suspect the assault took place not too long before the trial, and probably in the spring or summer of 1897.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What's For Lunch

When I was a much younger version of what I am today, I used to like to hunt.  That is the pursuance and taking of game animals.  On many occasions when I returned from an excursion, and was asked what my success had been, I might say, “Well, I didn’t actually get anything, but I saw a lot of tracks of one thing or another.”  My daddy always smiled as he told me that tracks make poor soup.
Well, that was easy for him to say.  He wasn’t out there slogging through the deep snow carting an old single-shot .22 caliber rifle trying to bag a rabbit that was running at about 90 miles an hour.  Yet, he was correct in that what I had bagged could leave a fellow awful hungry.
Today though was one of those days.  I rode my ATV back through the meadows and woods to see what I could see, and like those days of yore, I saw nothing but tracks.  Because my daddy said so, I know they don’t make good soup, but it’s the best I could do.  At any rate I spotted a set of hoof prints made by a large whitetail deer.  It was heavy enough that each print splayed at the front leaving an exceptionally wide print.  I suspect it was a large doe, heavy with young, but maybe not.
I also spotted, in near proximity, a set of dog-like tracks that I suspect were more than likely a coyote as they are prevalent in the area, and with little doubt would love a taste of venison after a lean winter spell.
The large turkey flock I spotted a month or more ago I believe has broken up as I spotted turkey tracks in many places, but none seemed to be of large flocks.  A few here, and a few there, and a total probably of many, but not all together.  I suppose they are preparing for their summer groupings of young toms (called Jakes), older toms, and the hens singling out for nesting.
As if that were not enough veiled excitement for one day, I also saw a perfect set of small cat-like tracks of some sort.  It is possible they were made by a common house cat, but also they may have been by some other small animal.  As I stated a few days ago, I am not good enough to recognize many different types or species of animal tracks. Skunks come out of their winter dens for breeding about this time of the year, so it may have been one of those.