Sunday, March 28, 2021

Some Winter, Some Spring, Some Solar

 The days, the weeks are racing by and as I've joked, even though I'm anxious for Spring, I expected (should know better by now) to be a lot more ready for it.  Our winter, at least here in Minnesota, milder and not just anecdotally shorter seems to quickly be saying goodbye.  The swans and geese are racing north up the Mississippi Flyway, their toots and honks above us night and day.  Just today I summerized the snowblower but wasn't brave enough to put it in FRONT of the lawnmower.....there will be ample time for them to trade places.

Three weeks ago already, the rig was out for its 2nd trip of 2021, this time not on an icy lake, conditions much much wetter and messier than a cold and solid lake.

An early March ride

Two weeks ago, the first real outing for the Himalayan, a real outing ride.  A lunch meeting with Paul and Eric, the rendezvous planned in Nelson for some barbecue.  A loop around Lake Pepin sounded really good so I went north and crossed at Red Wing.  When I found myself close to County A, I knew that I had to make a stop at the Ice Sculptures.  Most people stop in the winter using their automobiles.  I like to visit in early spring on my motorcycles....have never been there in the cold when I was supposed to be.

Not much left by the time I finally made it.....

I monkeyed around on some back roads away from the river and almost too late realized that at that pace, I was going to be late to meet the guys.

I'm never late.  So to borrow a phrase I hear often among the Sport folks, I had to step up my game.  The Himalayan was wound a little tighter than usual, that final part of the route more direct...a text was sent warning about a probable late arrival.  In the end if I was late, it was only by a minute.

We've had some beautiful sunrises......(Eric's shared capture was much better than mine)

A water heater that was making cold water needed emergency attention.....

Jerky was made with Eric's kind gift of Wyoming Elk and Wisconsin Venison.  Hanna provided the Jerky Squeezer a few months back under the Christmas Tree.

All of the (running) bikes have been started and ridden down to the corner, all except the 400Auto.  I'm sure that it will cooperate and be as willing to run as the others have been.  I was a bit over confident with Ol' Blue however...the 40 degree oil early the other morning just wouldn't turn over quite fast enough with my svelte frame.  I never use the button for the first start of the season, not quite enough oomph in the battery which seemed to be even a bit weaker this year.  A few minutes on the charger, next kick it popped right off.

Last weekend, I spent the night in my Continually Improving Minivan.  It's being enhanced to make better use of space, becoming organized (not my natural gift) and will be much more self-contained and comfortable for my upcoming travels.  Just maybe, next weekend will find me out in the woods rather than in the driveway.

That mostly covers my goings on.  Peg's excited about the enhancements that she's making....a new, larger fenced garden with new more formal raised beds.  Worms are doing their part.....

Plants are reaching for the sun, anxious to be out where they belong....

The chickens are on their way, flying up from somewhere down south.  It's really windy today, hopefully not setting them back too far.  If only they could get into the slipstream of our geese or swans....but as I understand it, chickens seldom spend much time up that high.

Finally, Solar

Our system was initially turned loose on August 23rd, 2020.  Too Much Information follows but something easily seen is the drastic difference between a very sunny day and a very cloudy day, no matter the month.


Lots of busy numbers in the graphs above though I haven't done Mean/Median and those other important Statistical metrics.  Here's the info boiled down. Note that March is slightly ahead of September and we aren't even to the end of the month yet.

March 19, 2021, our highest production day so far in 7 months, 74.87 kWh, a very uniform bell curve, sunny, no clouds all day long.

See how different today, March 28, 2021 has been with hazy clouds on and off all afternoon.  That 10.78 kWp is the most that our system has put out at any one time.  There have been multiple days that have reached 10.0 or slightly over but the 10.78 Peak has been in place since that first day back in August.

This screen shot taken at 7:31 (not 7:21), our official sunset.  The panels currently making no power, 67.31 kWh total for the day.

Here's what each individual panel produced today.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Vananda Montana - 1916

West is what I committed to and West it shall be but the story starts in the Midwest, a few miles south of Oskaloosa, Iowa.  Or in Cardiff, Wales but going back that far will have to wait for another story.  This adventure jumps forward from there to the Nineteen Aughts.

Just about the only thing left in Vananda, MT, the 3 story schoolhouse that was actually quite grand in its day.

Brother Kevin took this photo while on one of his Sturgis trips, a quick dash up into MT from western SD.

Now back to Iowa....

Dad's mom's family were the Beard's, her father Castile Clegget, her mother Jane Hannah Jones.  Castile or C.C. was born in Harrison Township, Mahaska County which is southeast of Oskaloosa, Iowa in 1872.  Jane, or Jennie was born in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania in 1876.  They farmed in Section 21 of Harrison Township and that's where my grandmother was born in 1904.

Here's the 1913 Platbook and there they are in Sec. 21, just across the road from Moses.  The C.N.& W. Railroad ran right through the middle of their farm, using a few acres of what would have been a total of 210.  C.C. and his brother John were partners of a fashion, more on that in a bit.

Historic Map Works Image

There was scandal, quite a bit of it actually, that and many other things documented in detail in extensive long hand writings that Gram put down and that later on, Gramp typed up into quite a document and from what I can tell, created in the 1970's.  A fight between brothers, based on Gram's side of things, was the result of one of them that worked and one that didn't, and not only that, but theft...meat, eggs, grain, an entire 40 thing after another.  That 1/4 of a 1/4 Section, 40 acres that has brother J.W.'s name in it on the plat, was sold in the dark of night, a forged signature the reason.  By that time, C.C. had had enough.  One of the neighbors, a trusted friend, said, "Why don't you move out to Montana?  Lots of land, it's cheap and crops are growing well!"  He wasn't alone in that assessment, many were moving to central MT from the Midwest during those years, fortune and good times in clear view.

Jennie, C.C.'s wife, was absolutely against going to MT, questioning why going north to Waterloo or Belle Plaine wouldn't be enough....Iowa, the world they knew and understood.  "Why so far??"

A neighbor, Harry B. (later a brother-in-law) heard about C.C.'s interest in going west and together, their enthusiasm grew.  In 1914, after the hay was made and the oats were in the barn, they both ventured west to Havre, didn't like what they found, came back to Vananda and each bought a half section, 320 acres from the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.  The town was established as a water stop for the trains in around 1908, the entire area being promoted for settlement.

In 1915, again after the crops were in back in Oskaloosa, both C.C. and Harry went back to Vananda and built two houses.  There were troubles back at the farm while the men were out west.  A couple of neighbors charged with doing the daily chores spent their evenings frolicking in Oskaloosa, the animals and assigned duties on the farm neglected.  Gram's mother Jennie had to call the police, Gram and her sisters took care of things until dad and Harry returned.

The move to Montana happened in March of 1916.  I'm going to quote Gram directly here....

"Dad began selling some of his horses, he kept Dolly, Nancy, Kate and Trix.  He sold all but 2 cows and some machinery and the buggy, kept what he called the spring wagon and also the big wagon.  A lot of things were left on the place, also a lot in the house, the dresser mom's folks gave us with the pink marble top, stoves, some beds, and many other things.  Oscar Chandler took dad, mom and us three girls up to mom's cousin for dinner and then to the depot to take the train into Minneapolis.  We got there just when it was getting daylight.  A man with a gray tram with seats on both sides took us to another depot, seemed like a long ways.  We took the Milwaukee No. 15 to Montana, there had been snow in Minneapolis and dust in Montana.  When we got there, we ate dinner at Marie's she also had rooms, we stayed there until the railroad car came with stock, furniture and all.  Brother Fred and George Perry was with the car.  In the P.M. after dinner first day, we walked through the dust out to our ranch, we led mom around the 2 room house dad had built and she said, how do you think 7 people are going to live here in Vananda?"

Gram was 12 at this point, her younger sisters 9 and 6.  In 1910 when Gram was 6 years old, her mother Jennie began to lose her sight, something Gram blamed herself for.  Mom was still been bedridden after the birth of the youngest daughter.  Gram was out exploring with the dog in an Iowa pasture, a violent summer storm came up and mom, worried got out of bed and went out in the storm to retrieve her oldest daughter.  "Blood poisoning" is what Gram wrote as the cause.

"There had been a newspaper started up but soon quit so the building sat empty so dad bought the building and had the Schow brothers move it out and then a carpenter joined it to the house but left a space in between for us to put a bunk and storage underneath.  Dad bought a tent and we stored things in there and (brother)Fred and Perry slept out there.  Dad had Schow's plow up to plant wheat 1st year and just before it was ready to harvest a hail storm came and the entire crop was gone.  We had some very blue days for our dad.  He had a man name of Frietag come to drill us a well, he said Beard I don't want to put this bit in the ground.  What you should do is get a railroad car and leave, you can't make it with hail as big as baseballs and hot winds.  He said I've been here 5 years and leaving this year but dad told him to go ahead and drill.  He came in and said they sure have some real liars here, then told how big he said the hail was.  But he saw it later that same year."

"Then the next April 1917 the 27th Fred said he was going to Miles City for a physical that evening to join the Navy.  Lyle Ballard rode in on his horse with a telegram that Fred had joined the Navy and was being sent to Mare Island Naval Base in California.  That floored us all, found out later Fred had Cook and Jesse Smith sign for him to join."

Fred was barely 18.

"I was in the 8th grade and things got so bogged down at home mom would be crying so I quit school and helped dad and mom so they wouldn't have to worry so much.  It's very hard mom losing her sight so young and trying to do housework and raise a family.  No wonder she didn't lose her mind, she had lots of patience.  It was hard for our horses to work Dr. Parker gave them shots when they left Iowa then in Mont. a vet Al Frisle came and said they had to have shots in Montana too.  Dad told him but he would not listen and different atmosphere air seemed lighter, they were sick."

"We never had one good crop in 1919 summer, we moved down to Johnson's as they were gone, and lived there all winter.  Harry B. moved over to our place."

That is as far as Gram's story transcribed to Gramp's typewriter goes and I'm not finding any documented details about what followed from Gram's perspective but Gramp took over and wrote his part down in the saga.  When the Beard family left the ranch and moved back into town (I'm reaching out to Rosebud County officials to see exactly which two 320 acre plots belonged to the family), I'm told they took over the hotel in town, C.C. Beard became Section Master for the railroad, blind mother Jennie and the three girls ran the hotel.  Stories I've always heard, Jennie and her daughters were quite the piano players and singers, entertaining themselves and guests.  Harry B. married Gram's youngest sister sometime later, after everyone had moved back to the Minnesota.

The house...

Gram Bea and her sister Blanche...Gramp's rig cut off there on the right.

The 3 Beard girls, Burnice (Bernie), Beatrice (Bea our grandmother) and Blanche.


Newspaper story from  1953.....

How Gramp wound up in Montana is highlighted in a Post I wrote back in December, 2017.  Basically, he went West looking for work, eventually arriving in Vananda and meeting my grandmother Bea.  That was 1922 but they weren't married until 1925 in St. Paul.  Bea left MT around 1924 and returned to Iowa for reasons I've had to read between the lines to understand.  What is clear is that all of the Beard's left Vananda in September, 1925 arriving in St. Paul on the 12th.  The railroad car arrived in Vananda on the 7th, was loaded and C.C. left with the horses and household goods on the 9th., the women left on the 11th.  Grandpa Allen and his wife Bea met them at the St.Paul Union Depot on the 12th and brought them to the newlywed's apartment at 1923 St. Clair St. in St. Paul.  The family moved to a farm on the east side of Pine City, MN and in April of 1926, our dad Robert was born on that farm.

Gramp goes into great detail of how, when and why he ventured to MT with his HD sidecar rig and it's covered in my December 2017 Post

Some other links to what is now a Historical District at Vananda.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

More Of The Old

 As many of you are already aware, I seem to have been on a history kick lately.  In fact, I'm almost getting the impression back that there's some genuine concern...concern that I'm too close to possibly living in the past.  Not to fear, I'm still a huge fan of my wonderfully modern Himalayan motorcycle and I do drive a minivan with power windows, automatic transmission too!

Not sure what it is, maybe I picked the wrong Major.  Still, I'm calling it and will continue to call it an interest, a curiosity, a hobby.  This paying attention to things I've been or been on the edge of being connected to is just incredibly satisfying, not sure what else I can say.  I'm not a lumberjack but I'm still okay.

You know how it is, someone asks a question about a text you sent, a 'quick' online search ensues and the next thing you know, the dishes never even got started let alone finished.  I've got to get my nose closer to a grindstone I guess.

If there's been a central theme, it's centered around our region, the Mississippi River and Wisconsin (this will likely reach a broader area in the next Post) and that would be only natural since this area is both what I know best and is the closest to my family history.

Horse-drawn Ferries across the Mississippi, replaced by a Spiral Bridge, replaced by a bridge named after our 34th President and now in 2020, an even newer bridge.  This was one subject that took on some other legs of its own.  Ike was there at the ceremony to christen the last new bridge and I knew a guy that while serving in the National Guard, was present that day performing crowd control.

Little humble Hillsdale, Wisconsin was the center of the next bunch of oldness.  As I was going through an old scrapbook, I came upon a local newspaper story, featuring my grandmother's sharing thoughts on how times and the people that had lived through them had changed their little community.

Dad was 4 years old, helping HIS dad build a house...

One of the barn raisings....

The Busy Hour....

The Herman A. family, oldest 6 of 9 children.  Looks like midwifing might have been an even better gig than modern day Influencers?

May 1914, last day of school.  Grandpa's younger brother Lorence, just behind the center parasol girl.

Fourth of July festivities, 1912....

And later, dad and his little sister.... you can tell that she was quite comfortable on the 4-legged ones.

This exact moment may very well have been the deciding moment that turned dad away from the equines to his Cushman and soon thereafter, a '35 Harley Davidson.

I'd seen all of the above photos before and knew of their existence though maybe would not have been able to direct anyone to their exact location.  It was this train photo however that sent me to the Internet to do a Blueberry Line search, the fry pan hadn't even been put in to soak yet at that point.


This book wasn't though it soon developed into what I was looking for.  I remembered another local story about The Blueberry Line but the search led me to Arlyn's website and his wonderful books highlighting a number of abandoned central Wisconsin Railroads.  I had to place an order before even getting up to go put the blue soap in the by then tepid water.

Correspondence back and forth followed and I learned not only about his other already published books but also about his current-in-process book, an abandoned line that ended just north of us in Ellsworth, WI (Cheese Curd Capitol of the World).  So far, this one has only been thumbed through but Arlyn has done a fantastic job with it.  I'm watching for his next one.

Wisconsin Railroad Books

Other than the history diversion I've been busy watching birds at the feeders.  We're cognizant of our neighbors' needs and for that reason I put together a tray feeder that has a peanut butter trough ... no jelly.  It appears to be a hit with at least some of the flyers.  Four varieties of woodpeckers, the Nuthatches, now House Finches, the old standbys too.  It's the weekend so once again a hike into the woods to exchange memory cards in the trail camera.

I had planned or soon will have, a Post highlighting the current status of our solar panels and output, another fun thing I've been watching.  If not next, then soon.  As of right now, there's a good chance the following Post will focus on some family history in far away central Montana.  Hillsdale and Wisconsin in general was where Gramp's family came from, Gramma's family was from Oskaloosa before their move West.

Hope everyone's staying healthy and ready for some public, outside time soon!

P.S. Himalayan is off the lift....maybe the wheels will turn tomorrow.