Archives and Special Collections at the University of Minnesota

Today, I had the chance of a very short tour of Archives and Special Collections that are managed, in part, by the University of Minnesota’s Libraries. Housed under the Elmer L. Andersen Library, a set of football-field-lengthclimate controlled caverns house the materials for the Charles Babbage Institute, YMCA Archives, and one of the largest Sherlock Holmes collections, among many others.  While wandering around with the small group, I took a few pictures.

Main Street Project – Northfield, MN

A few of us took a half-day of vacation from work and headed 45 minutes south, to Northfield, MN.  Northfield is home to St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges, but it is also has a pretty interesting integrated farming endeavor called the Main Street Project.  We visited two sites, one with meat chickens, and another which used the manure from the chicken operation to fertilize rows of hazelnuts, popcorn, elderberries, onions and black beans.


(Videos courtesy of Alex M.)

Two Pines

Front of the house, with two spruce trees; summer 1988

Growing up, the looming, ever-presence of the two large spruce trees in the front yard was a bit of a constant.  You could look out the front windows, and the two trees were simply there.   You did not give any thought of those two trees not existing. They were just there; on summer evenings, the trees shaded the living and piano rooms; in winter, the orange glow of the shallow-angled sun would flood the living and pianos rooms just under the lowest branches.

In the early 1990s, my father knew a fellow with an increment borer; a bore was made into the tree in the right of the above picture.  It was determined, after counting the ring segments from the bore core, that it was likely the tree had been around since 1927 or 1928  – just a few years after the original structure of the house was built (1924).

Alex, age 5, posing in front of north spruce tree

After the addition to the backside of the house was added in the early 1990s, the room just was above the front door became my bedroom.  During winter, while fretting over something – likely school related – at night, I would stand, looking out the windows into the trees.  On those cold, crisp winter nights, those nights without a cloud in the sky, a sky speckled with stars, I would watch thru the trees the stream rise from stacks of the municipal power plant in Hibbing.

Many Halloweens passed with kids walking beneath the hulking trees, toward the front door…only to be disappointed by not receiving any an answer at the door (my mother hated Halloween); on to the next house, those children would pass under the trees, again.

Countless birds and squirrels likely made use of the trees over the years.  You knew spring was under way when there were squirrels spiraling around, up and down the trees.

There were also several winters in the early 1990s where the trees were temporary shelters for large owls.  The suspicion was that heavy snow and cold weather in Ontario had made finding food difficult and had forced the owls south in search.  They found food in the neighborhood; there were not many squirrels around those winters.

These memories are all within my lifetime.  They are within my history; these trees predated me by over fifty-five years, they predated my parents by at least twenty years, my grandmother Clarice (now deceased) would have been about five years old when these trees came to be.  I tried to reach out to previous occupants or relatives of occupants and that was met with silence.   I also inquired with the Hibbing Historical Society for any old assessors’ photos of the front of the house – no luck there either.

In early August of this year, however, the trees came down.  They had been looking skeletal for a while.  Like a slow burning fire – from bottom to top – the needles dropped and left bare branches.  Large piles of needles formed on the ground.  Branches began to die.  By early July, my parents had arrived upon the decision to have the trees removed.  My mother fretted.

Like many blue spruce trees in Minnesota, the trees had a fungus. Rhizosphaera needle cast was the likely culprit.  The disease is generally not fatal to the tree, but in this case it was doing heavy damage to the trees. So, the trees came down.

There is a bit more to the story, though.  We lined up a sawyer with a portable mill to take the trunk pieces and turn them into lumber.  Nine-hundred board feet of lumber.



Boreal Forest Mushrooms

A day outing into a bit of the boreal forest of north eastern Minnesota produced some nice photos of mushrooms.  No porcinis (Boletus edulis) in this batch.

Backyard Creatures – Night Edition (09/11/2015)

A nighttime edition to accompany a previous gallery of photos of creatures during daylight.  For the curious, the photos were taken in with an older edition of a Bushnell Trophy Cam.  And, as far as I can tell, that is a coyote peeing on a tree in one of the photos.