A familiar fall task in Southwestern Wisconsin is picking up walnuts. The lime green husks are easy to spot; not so easy are the ones fallen a few days earlier with the husks now a dark brownish-black. Although gloves might be used to pick them up, fingers are always stained a luscious brown for more than a few hand-washings.
One tree stands behind the garage on my farm–it wasn’t there when I grew up there–but squirrels conveniently planted it and it has survived. It now provides shade and an abundance of walnuts.
I could leave them for the squirrels and one year my husband picked them all up and put them in the bath-tub that lives in the garage. The squirrels thought this quite convenient as when he returned in the spring thinking he could spend evenings shelling walnuts, the bath-tub was empty.
My father used to lay them all out on a tarp to dry; then would husk them, let them dry again and then shell them in the evenings. He cracked several pie platefuls on an anvil in the basement; sometimes used a vise, turning the handle being a bit easy than whacking them with a hammer.
Before dogs arrived I would spend twenty minutes or so on my front porch cracking and shelling walnuts—until the mosquitoes descended upon me. Whacking away at an inanimate object was a great stress reliever.
Picking up all those walnuts–I stopped at two dog food bags full was a pleasurable reminder of past days and memories.
Thinking back upon my experiments with indigo dye–the first color appearing is a wonderful lime green—the same as the walnut husk.
I grew up just a few miles–as the crow–or now as the eagle flies–from the mighty Mississippi River. Early mornings were marked by the view of the mists rising from surrounding rivers–the Mississippi to the west, the Wisconsin to the South, and the Kickapoo to the east. The Kickapoo was also north of us but too many ridges between us to see mists.
The sun might shine brightly on the ridge but the valleys were frequently foggy.
I cross the Mississippi three times on my route from Texas to Wisconsin–St. Louis, the Quad Cities, and then in either Dubuque or Marquette. There are always fabulous vistas to view and enjoy.
There are two channels–the East and West–both quite wide and in the spring time those channels swell and expand with melting snow from further upstream. The locks for the barges close sometime in the fall and re-open in the spring with ice blocking traffic. Eagles nest near the dams/locks. Sometimes the bridge access is under water and those people living in Iowa but working in Wisconsin use boats to cross.
At one time the crossing was a toll bridge. The Locals were not appreciative of this inconvenience since they had paid for the bridge–and so one night, the toll-taker’s little shed was taken apart. Imagine my surprise one year when the bridge was moved about half a mile south–no longer entering Wisconsin on Blackhawk Avenue.
Blackhawk and his tribe named this river many years ago. At its origins in Minnesota, this river can be easily stepped across—here you need a canoe or water craft of some sort. I always thought it curious that they called it Grandfather rather than Grandmother or Mother.
In the past there was a brisk business in fishing for clams for the pearl button factory. I have some of those buttons–my grandmother bought them–as they would have been inexpensive at the time. I have a few postcards of the fishing rafts used to collect the clams somewhere in my post-card collection.
French fur traders used this area as a jumping off spot for the west and north–collecting supplies; French and Indian wars meant several forts and a battle or two–including George Washington. Geronimo supposedly hid out in a local cave. And then there was William S. Beaumont who studied the stomach and its workings in one of his patients he had patched up.
Each trip to Wisconsin means a mandatory stop to see the Mississippi from a high point, a drive along the Kickapoo and Plum Creek, a view of the mist rising from the Wisconsin, and the farm.
as promised here is the link to the Fourth of July parade.
This is a steam engine that tootled its way on Hwy 27. Amazing to think that not so long ago we depended upon this type of power. Note the metal wheels. My neighbor said his dad used the metal wheels on his petroleum powered tractors in the spring time–so he could plow before everyone else==in the muddy fields. Spring in Wisconsin meant MUD, MUD, and more MUD.
That neighbor also had lights on his tractor so he could plow at night. Making hay had to be done in the daytime as the dew would make the hay too wet to bale–it would spoil.
Here are the rest of the photos. http://sylviaweirphotos.smugmug.com/organize/Fourth-of-July-2015-in-Eastman
No doubt it was a foolish thing to do.
I just drove 1400 miles and back again hoping to see a hometown parade, eat bratwurst and homemade pie, and watch fireworks. Rain chased me in and out of Wisconsin, provided sloshy driving through road construction demolition derby lanes but welcomed me back to Texas. Traffic was not as heavy as I expected confirmed by national news broadcasts announcing travel was down another 2.6%. I suppose economic woes are convincing people to stay home.
Unfortunately I missed the parade—and the brats—and the home-made pie with ice cream—and watched the fireworks from a distant viewpoint for only a few minutes before tumbling into bed.
The two days I spent were short but oh so wonderful.
Here I am in the corn field
Each morning began with drinking coffee while sitting on the front doorsteps overlooking the bean fields with the fog rising from the distant Wisconsin River. I sat and gossiped with my good friend while plucking dill heads to freeze for pickle making and snipping the leaves for dill-weed spread. Raspberries were ripe and I had grand intentions of picking them for a batch of jam but I ate them all while I worked on thinning the patch. Glen and I rode out to my favorite spot on my farm—through waist high grasses, surprised a deer, caught our feet on firewood hidden under the grass, and hacked our way through head high blackberry bushes. We also toured the Villa Louis, a mansion on St. Feriole’s Island, ate lunch at the Depot bar overlooking the Mississippi River, and came home to pull weeds in the garden and pick leaf lettuce.
The farm house is slowly moving along; I inspected the cupola on the barn and the interior pigeon proofing—and while chatting with my youngest brother was thrilled to see a bald eagle circling high above. We took pictures of us standing in the corn—to have a good crop it must be knee high by the Fourth. Flowers were in bloom everywhere including thistles. These are considered noxious weeds and I am supposed to have a plan to work on eradicating them on the farm—but the blooms are so beautiful.
Things seem to grow so bountifully and without the effort I seem to need here in Texas.
It is good to be home; but already I am looking forward to a return trip.
As usual, more photos can be found on smugmug at