Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Top of the Farm

Day 26 (11/20/09)
“The top of the hill” or “the top of the farm”, as we often times called it, always held fond memories for me. My earliest recollections are of trips to the top of the hill with Mom and my brother delivering lunch to Dad when he did field work. To this day I remember how much better simple food tasted when eaten outdoors with the family around, especially coffee. Our first taste of coffee was on these special occasions. As we got older we were allowed to deliver the goods to our dad unattended, which probably meant for some grand adventures and late lunches. The top of the farm was the site of the original homestead, the Loewenhagen place sometimes pronounced laebenhagen depending on the branch of the family you had sprang from, at the highest point of the farm. Rumor had it that at some point two brothers had feuded and ever after half of the family went by Laebenhagen even thought they were both spelled Loewenhagen. There were also rumors that the Loewenhagen’s had a still and made moonshine during prohibition. Indeed there was enough copper tubing and other suspicious objects laying around to lend credibility to these stories. I should point out at this point that, being of Norwegian descent, truth is somewhat subject to good story telling. Not to say that they are not an honest people, if anything I probably have gotten into more trouble for my somewhat brutal honesty, but if bending the truth a little will make for a better story so be it. After years of telling, it will become truth anyway, sort of like in a history book. At any rate to a young boy truth had very little to do with anything anyway. We all knew there were still Injuns living in those woods and even a few Nazis and pirates. Upon calling my mom for the spelling of Loewenhagen, she said that the differences in pronunciation had more to do with the enunciation in German verses English. Whatever, next she will try to tell me there were no Injuns. At any rate this is more about the stories that made growing up on a farm such a magical place then any historical exposition. By the time my parents bought the farm all that existed of the original homestead were some foundations, a hand water pump and some of the most beautiful walnut trees you could ever see. Another memory that I have is of later, when I was in High School. Mom had sewn me a down “frostline” expedition parka. The only way, I figured, you could really tell if a parka was any good was to climb to the top of the hill, on the coldest night of the year, and lie down and watch the moon. I remember very distinctly the ring of ice crystals glowing around it and how peaceful it all was. In many ways the top of the farm was a destination. It was probably about a half mile from the farm buildings and all of it up. It was a great place to escape to and since you had to go get the cows anyway it was a place to stop and waste some time or eat some plums. I forgot to mention the plum trees. Many a trip to get the cows was interrupted with a stop at those trees. This year we added another memory. After a Saturday of deer hunting, my friend Nelly, my brother Larry and I built a bonfire and had a few beers. I had forgotten how large the sky is up there. Even though it is not totally uninfluenced by light pollution, compared to what I am used to it was like seeing the sky again for the first time. I could see star clusters that are never visible even in our small town. I was also amazed by the air traffic. Probably due to the proximity to the Twin Cities every time you looked up you would see five or more airplanes. I have another goal for next summer to spend the night camping on the top of the farm.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Day 25 (11/13/ 09)
Who would have thought we would get another chance at Waldo? I had resigned myself to cleaning up the kayaks and putting them away. I had the afternoon off though and the temperature was above 50, or a least it was when we set out for the lake. By the time we got to the lake the wind had picked up and we could tell it was getting cooler. We weren’t going to miss our last chance at some kayaking though. Fortunately, we had learned very early on that paddling with the wind at your back can be a dangerous situation, what seems easy on the way out can be hell on the way home. Because of this we were very careful not to go too far. That turned out to be lucky because as anticipated the trip back was slow and grueling. It is interesting to note that when we started out it was quite sunny and when we were heading back the sun was gone. By the time we started loading the yaks our fingers were getting quite cold. We had done it though. We had kayaked on the 13th of November. On the way home we celebrated by making one last stop at the Renaissance Bakery in Adell, which had become our go to, after kayaking, splurge during the summer. Needless to say the lady at the bakery, who always gets a kick out of our stops with the kayaks, thought that we had elevated to a new level of madness. We took a different road home and found a really distinctive little church that I would like to explore further at some time. It has a unique combination of masonry techniques cobbled together and at once looks both discombobulated and remarkably interesting. I would like to see what the interior looks like. I can’t imagine we will get out any more this year so it was fitting to end the season on the Onion.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Day 24 (11/8/09)
After a month of cold and rain we finally have our “Indian Summer”. Yesterday it hit 71 degrees in Milwaukee, a record for November 7th. Although not as warm as yesterday, we decided to try to sneak in one last trip to Gerber before winter sets in. As expected, it was quite different. By now almost all the leaves are off the trees. It actually makes the lake look a lot smaller somehow. Even the water lilies and other surface plants were absent. You could still see weeds growing below the surface. The next thing you notice is the absence of shore birds and birds in general. We saw a few small song birds and a hawk but that was about it. Later in the day as we were getting ready to go I heard the call of possibly a heron. It was a day of reflection which was echoed in the landscapes. Since Gerber had been our go to lake for the summer (eight visits in all) it was a fitting way to end the summer. We visited each of the more memorable places that we had come to value over the summer including but not limited to the bridge on the outlet stream, the female figure, the scene of the battle of the Ents and of course the corner were I had caught my big northern. Looking back on the summer I am content with the amount we used our kayaks, 23 trips in all but disheartened that the year is over. On the other hand I have something to look forward to for next summer. I still want to navigate as much of the Onion as I can and finish my trip down the Buffalo. On our way home we were already planning a cross-country ski trip to Gerber and the Kettles. I can’t wait for next summer.