Get to know your fellow members in the profiles below.
Is there something about you or your land that other MFA members would find interesting? Send an email to Editor@MinnesotaForestry.org.
The southeastern Minnesota farm Tim and Susan Gossman bought 30 years ago has brought endless joy, and work, to the family. They have named their place Thorn Apple Farm which is reminiscent of what local farmers used to call the Hawthorne growing in the area.
The farm, located near Rochester and six miles from Chatfield, is 200 acres. Originally it was has half wooded and half crop and pasture land. Now, 30 acres of the pasture land have been converted to forest.
Managing and caring for the land has been a family affair. When Tim and Susan bought the farm, their daughters, Sophia and Sarah, were in elementary school. All pitched in to plant and prune Christmas trees and perform other woodland tasks. Today, after graduating from college, the daughters still come back to help.
One of Tim and Susan's achievements is a great example of neighbors working with neighbors, the Lost Creek Hiking Trail. Four neighbors got together and discussed the possibility of a trail going across their land. There are lots of bike trails in the area but few hiking trails. The neighbors settled on a hiking trail.
Today, the Lost Creek Hiking Trail extends six and a half miles from Chatfield to Tim and Susan's farm. The route crosses the land of six private owners who have all signed easements for the trail. Construction of the trail was done by volunteers using donated materials, including materials for a bridge crossing the creek.
The neighbors did obtain one grant to erect signs along the trail. Now 31 signs point out good forestry practices along the trail. Tim says, “The signs make it possible for people to take an educational field trip anytime they want.”
The Bluff Country Hiking Club, which manages the trail and maintains liability insurance covering the landowners, has a nice web site at www.BluffCountryHikingClub.org
Another of Tim and Susan's major projects on the farm is reforesting the creek valley which had been overtaken by reed canary grass. Two major strategies were adopted, one for areas of the valley that could be worked with a tractor and the other for areas inaccessible to tractors.
Work in the tractor accessible areas the strategy, carried out over several years, was to control the reed canary grass through a combination of prescribed burning, herbicide application, mowing and tillage. Once the reed canary grass was mostly eliminated, a mixture of bottom land hardwoods and shrubs were planted by direct seeding. The misture included Kentucky coffee tree (featured in Meet a Tree in this issue), black walnut, burr oak swamp white oak, plus plum, black cherry, alternate leaf dogwood, high bush cranberry and grey twig dogwood. After the trees and shrubs sprouted, the challenge was to protect them from deer, which was done with annual bud capping and installing tree shelters.
A different strategy was followed for those creek valley areas which are not accessible to a tractor. This strategy was based on the fact that reed canary grass requires full sun to thrive and will die off in shade. Here fence post sized poles of willow and dogwood were planted. Once these trees shad out the reed canary grass, other bottomland tree and shrub species can be planted for additional diversity.
Tim Gossman created a power point presentation on both the Lost Creek Hiking Trail and the restoration of the creek bottom land. This presentation, which over 80 photos, can be reviewed on our web site at Tim and Susan's Member Profile at www.MinnesotaForestry.org.
Oh, by the way, in recognition of the work they have with the hiking club, reforestation of pasture and of the creek bottomland, Tim and Susan were named 2014 Tree Farmers of the Year for the Southeast Region.
Late summer in the early 1930s, Margaret Earley, Steve Earley’s aunt, had a dilemma. For her 4-H calf to show at the Minnesota State Fair, rules required a farm name. Inspiration was an upland cedar stand just north of the farm house, and Cedar Grove Farm was her choice. Margaret is gone but the cedar stand, now over 130 years old, still stands. When Steve’s family started selling garden produce and custom Christmas wreaths the business name was a “no-brainer“. After 80 years, Margaret’s Cedar Grove Farm name was revived and the fourth generation of the Earley family to earn a wage at Cedar Grove Farm began.
Steve and Christy are both retired, Steve from the Boise paper mill in International Falls, and Christy from Minnesota Extension Service. They have two teenagers, Eric and Anna who get an equal share of revenue from Cedar Grove Farm as long as they do equal work.
Christy and the kids make and sell 60 to 70 Christmas wreaths each year. Harvesting of balsam fir, spruce, pine, cedar and red-osier dogwood begins after the second hard frost and, if lucky, ends before deer season. A double frost assures the greens remain green for a long time. All the greens are locally harvested from the Farm or a friendly neighbor’s woodlot. Wreath making is Christy’s specialty, handed down from her mother, a national award winning wreath maker.
Beginning in early July, the family sells produce from the
garden such as spinach, sugar snap peas, rhubarb, celery and pumpkins. The gardening is tough work and not as
popular with the equal partners during the hot summer. Work begins in April with the starting of
seeds inside, even though snow piles remain outside. Garden planting is done by Memorial Day.
Cedar Grove Farm covers 100 acres south of the Canadian border. The farm is mostly clay soils with 30 acres of aspen, balsam fir and white spruce and 70 acres of fields. While the first and second generation of Earleys toiled clearing the land of trees so crops could be planted and dairy cows pastured, the subsequent generations have been planting trees in those same fields and pastures.
The woodland has been enrolled in the Tree Farm Program since the 1980s. Steve is active in Tree Farm’s Grass Tops program which advocates for better policies and laws that benefit private woodland owners, in Minnesota and across the country.
Steve was recruited for MFA membership in the early 1980s by Mike Latimer. To include Christy and the children, they now have a Family Membership. Recently, Steve served on MFA’s Board of Directors in 2012-2013.
Will there be a fifth generation to live and work on Cedar Grove Farm? Only time will tell but one teen already is looking at a career in forestry.
It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Priscilla Harvala. Her husband, Harvey, wrote this:
Priscilla passed away in peace at 5:15 p.m. last evening, October 6, 2014. Joining me at her side were three of our five children and her sister, Connie. Priscilla finally has no more pain from the pancreatic cancer and will rest comfortably in her heavenly home with the gift of everlasting life. She is at home in the refuge of the Lord. Priscilla was an incredible woman and will be missed by her family, her many friends and me.
Priscilla worked with Harvey last May to write their profile below:
As part of their retirement plan, Priscilla and Harvey Harvala moved in July 2009 from 50 wooded acres in Esko, where they had lived for 34 years raising their five children, to 300 acres near Snellman, Minnesota and the Smokey Hills State Forest. This is the homestead property where Harvey was born and raised along with his seven siblings. (Snellman is in Becker County, east of Detroit Lakes and west of Park Rapids.)
The tongue and groove wood for the floors, vaulted ceilings boards, and trim were all cut from the oaks on the property that had been damaged by porcupines.
Priscilla retired from a career as a buyer at Potlatch Corporation in Cloquet and Harvey continues his consulting engineering career from his home office. All of their property is managed under the 2c Forest Management Plan, which has proven to be very helpful in reducing property taxes. They are interested in considering property management under a LLC.
The property is located in a transitional zone between the coniferous and deciduous forests and, as a result, has a wide variety of tree species. Priscilla said, “Living in a rural area requires hard work at times and lots of equipment to maintain the property, but is also keeps us physically active. We have always enjoyed the freedom of country living and sharing space with all the wild animals of the forest.”
They recruit family and friends of all ages to share in the work of tapping approximately 400 trees. Even grandchildren get involved in collecting sap and stacking wood. Three outside wood stoves are used to boil the sap in stainless steel pans. After the finishing is done outside, Priscilla does the bottling in the kitchen in bottles bearing their own label, “Old Saps’ Maple Syrup!” The final product is distributed among the helpers.
When people ask Priscilla and Harvey how they know when the maple syrup season starts and ends, they always answer with this old saying: “The sap starts running when the crows begin cawing in the spring, and the sap run ends when the frogs start singing!” It is amazing how accurate this tale has proven to be!
Dick and Janet Hufnagle, Richard’s parents, started a tree farm for themselves in the Big Falls area of Kochiching County (go ahead, say the name of the country for fun!) in 1959. The soil is ideal for growing trees and the location is perfect, just 40 miles from the Boise paper mill in International Falls and 70 miles from Blandin in Grand Rapids. At the time, the Hufnagles also started a tree farm for Richard, who was just 10 years old, with 109 acres.
Today, the combined tree farm has grown to over 2,000 acres. It is owned by the Hufnagle Family Limited Partnership. Partners include several of Richard's six siblings who are scattered around the country.
When Dick Hufnagle was establishing the tree farm, he had a hard time making ends meet. He had to keep costs down and look for revenue in every place he could to pay the taxes. Today, the tree farm is a profitable, going business with a sawmill and a wood treatment plant.
To establish and maintain the woods, hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted over the years. In the early years, there were a few fields to be planted so a machine was used. Today, all of the planting is by hand, mostly done by local people from town. Initially, Norway pine was the main species. More recently, white spruce has become a favorite. This year for the first time, oak was included among the 8,500 trees that were planted. “I tried on two occasions to establish cedar,” Richard said, “but the deer ate every one.”
Work has been done recently to establish jack pine. The soil was prepared with a special scarifying process to remove aspen sprouts and other brush and then allowed to sit for five years. The same results could be achieved with prescribed burning but Richard says, “I’ve been afraid of burning. Of the other prescribed burn efforts I know of in the area, it seems like half of them got out of control.”
The land was enrolled in the Tree Farm program early. Richard’s 109 acres was enrolled in 1960. Dick Hufnagle, besides being an avid tree farmer, was gregarious and hosted many events on the land. He holds a record because he was recognized as Minnesota’s Tree Farmer of the Year on three occasions, in 1982, 1990 and 2000.
Richard enjoys touring the more than 10 miles of roads and trails on the land, constantly stopping to prune a tree or clear a deadfall. He also enjoys hunting and trapping. There is a five-acre pond on the land that is fed by a small creek. It was once stocked with walleyes. “Once, I was trapping beaver in the small creek and caught two walleyes in my traps,” Richard said.
Joanne makes the three-mile trip from their home in town to the land often. She enjoys cross country skiing in winter and hunting for mushrooms in the spring while helping with the maple syrup process.
By Richard and Joanne’s description, the property, which borders on the Big Fork River, is gorgeous. Richard says, “We are privileged to be stewards of this land.”
Paul and Betsy Hoppe bought some land 25 years ago. 10,000 seedlings later they have a tree farm!
Their land, 383 acres, straddles the border between Kanabec and Mille Lacs Counties. Their mail address is Ogilvie and the nearest larger town is Mora.
The former owner had purchased it right after World War II. The owners before him had failed at farming on the land because the soil is heavy clay and poorly drained. This fellow tried to create pasture for beef cattle but gave that up in 1952. “The land wanted to go back to trees,” Paul said.
Paul spent his career as a conservation officer, first in Glencoe and then in the Mora area. He retired in 2002. “It was a wonderful job but it is also good to be retired,” he said.
Now Paul spends part of every day in the woods. He harvests some wood for his outdoor boiler that heats their home and sells some stumpage. But that is just the start. Maple syrup is an annual string time project. This year, he and Betsy made 28 gallons of syrup. That’s a lot by any measure but especially when you consider the fact that all 1, 120 gallons of sap was collected from trees scattered around the property and carried to a tank behind Paul’s four-wheeler in 5-gallon buckets. “We have a few sugar maples,” Pau said, “but mostly we tap red maple which seems to work just fine.”
Right after finishing with maple syrup, Paul starts work inoculating his mushroom logs. He does Shittake and Oyster mushrooms. “Getting a crop of mushrooms required six months of weather in the 70s. That means here in Minnesota it takes two years,” Paul said.
Paul’s newest projects are honey bees and a pollinator pasture in which he’s planted 60 species of wild flowers.
Off the land, Paul does lots of volunteer work. He is chair of the Kanabec County Soil and Water Conservation District Board, chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Snake River Joint Powers Board and participates on the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Forestry Committee. Needless to say, Paul spends hours each week in meetings!
Back to those 10,000 seedlings. As anyone who has planted and tried to nurture that many seedlings knows, there are lots of ways to fail. “Some seedlings I planted in the understory 15 years ago aren’t much bigger today than when I planted them,” Paul said. But, those that do grow provide great satisfaction for Paul and Betsy and a legacy for their seven grandchildren.
Because he has attended the last 20 consecutive Annual Meeting events, Lowell Thornber has earned the title of MFA’s Most Loyal Member!
Lowell, 78, lives in a Roseville condominium. He does not own any woodland but has an interest in trees and nature that goes back to his childhood. Thornber family members were pioneer farmers in rural Illinois and their original homestead is now maintained by the local historical society. Lowell remembers fondly spending time in the black walnut plantation that was part of the farm.
After serving in the Marine Corps, Lowell came to the Twin Cities to study at Macalester College and then the University of Minnesota where he earned a masters degree in business marketing. Lowell spent his career doing computer work for the Great Northern Railroad, Gould National Batteries and Remington Rand, which later became Unisys.
After retirement, Lowell worked at Byerly’s for 15 years until heart problems forced him to quit. Those heart problems resulted in two by-passes, a new heart valve and a pacemaker yet, with all that, Lowell still made it to our Annual Meeting!
The Krantz’ Goods From the Woods Help Finance Retirement
Each year, with permits from Itacsa County, DNR and the Chippewa National Forest, John harvests about 1,000 willow sticks and 400 sticks from eight to ten year old aspen. “These sticks are easy to sell,” John says, “especially the further south you go. We have been showing our products at a show in Kansas City for the last 10 years. People come from as far away as Arkansas to buy them.”
A second product is butternut that can be made into plates, bowls, etc. by wood turners. But the main product of their business, Krantz Wood Sales, is basswood for carvers. “In the area north of the Twin Cities, we grow the best basswood in the world,” John says, “probably because it grows relatively slowly here. But, even this best basswood is a low value timber that becomes high value after we prepare it for sale.”
First, basswood has to be harvested in winter. If basswood is harvested in summer it deteriorates very quickly and will not hold its bark. Some of the Krantz’ products have the bark attached.
After harvest comes the drying process. Air-dried basswood has characteristics in demand by Krantz’s carver customers. The sawmill John uses to cut the rough lumber does the first step in drying by stacking the rough lumber outdoors. During breezy, low humidity days in April, May and June, the lumber will lose half its moisture. Then the wood is moved into the loft of a barn on the Krantz’ Deer River-area farm. “The barn has a metal roof which allows the summer temperatures to get into the 90s “ John says.
By fall, the basswood is moved to the Krantz’ small wood shop in Forest Lake where their one part time employee cuts and planes the wood. Most of it is ready for sale to carvers as-is but John takes one more step with a few of the boards. Some customers like wide boards on which they can carve relief images. The problem is, a single wide board will warp so John glues 4-6” boards together to make one that is 12-18” wide.
Listening to John & Marcie talk, it sounds as though their business is working almost too well. “We have enough business coming in,” John says, “that we are never fully caught up.” They are cutting back a little on their main marketing effort which is displaying at carving-oriented shows in the southern states. This year they skipped a show in Phoenix. For the last 10 years or so, John and Marci would load their pickup and a trailer full of basswood and sell it all at the show. They will continue to sell to their past customers in the Phoenix area via the telephone and Internet.
As to MFA, John as been a member since 1976, the year that our association was brought out of dormancy after having been idle for several decades. In fact, John recalls participating in the very first meeting in Brainerd.
John & Marci’s country estate is a 150-acre farm located just north of Deer River that has been in the family for 109 years. When John was young, the farm was mostly pasture on which his father raised beef cattle. When John went off to forestry school at the University of Minnesota, his father began planting the pasture to red pine and white spruce. Today, all but 20 acres are forested.
For more information you will find an article John wrote for Carving Magazine in which he describes his process in detail.
He is a member of MFA, Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association and American Tree Farm Program. He is a Master Woodland Steward, Woodland Advocate, Coverts Cooperator and graduate of the Wisconsin Woodland Leadership Institute. As you will see in the piece he wrote below, Neal has a passion for sharing what he has learned with others.
Wanted: volunteer educators-mentors
By Neal. W. Chapman
What do you value about your land? Do you enjoy sharing your passion with others, talking about what goes on there, sharing pictures taken there as if it were a child or grandchild?
If you answered in the affirmative, then I ask you to consider becoming a volunteer educator/mentor with other landowners. One opportunity would involve putting on a class at your local community education program. I have found this to be a relatively easy way to reach others.
Last winter, I piloted a woodland stewardship program to reach woodland owners through local public school Community Education Programs. I contacted three school districts with my idea, and was enthusiastically received. The class “Learn About Your Woodland” was first offered through the Roseville Community Education program during the winter of 2012, followed by 2 schools in Wisconsin. These classes were offered in two-hour increments over two or three evenings, and focused on identifying landowner goals and objectives in preparation for professional visits from a forester. I chose the Community Education venue because this simplifies the location, registration, equipment, and some of the promotional activities associated with class offerings. It also provides a local, inexpensive opportunity for landowners to learn about and become engaged in woodland stewardship, and to network with others.
Working with Eli Sagor at UMN Extension, I chose to use the text “Woodland Stewardship”, 2nd ed., as the foundation for the class and provided participants with a number of handouts. I also focused on wildlife management on their properties. There were 21 total participants and I found my audiences engaged, full of questions, and ready to take the next step in managing their woodland properties. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in class and was very personally rewarded.
I am prepared to share the process and resources with others who have an interest and passion for sharing their knowledge and experiences in a casual environment. It really is easier than you may think! You will come away with more information as well, not quite a walk in the woods, but close.
Recent cuts in funding at all levels has dramatically affected the ability of both DNR and University Extension to provide the level of services previously available to assist private landowners in caring for their land. Volunteer educators/mentors can help deliver woodland stewardship information to help meet landowners’ needs.
There are many other ways that volunteers can make a difference working with fellow landowners. Discussions are ongoing with DNR Forestry leadership, University Mn Extension, and other resource professionals to best utilize the time and talents of those who volunteer.
This effort is currently very much in the development process, but volunteers are needed NOW to help shape the effort. Please contact me directly if you wish to explore the opportunity to help other woodland owners make informed decisions about managing their land. The commitment is small, the reward great.
Contact Neal W. Chapman at 612-998-7901 or via email at email@example.com
The Big Woods Farm
Dave Medvecky was working on a power line project near Cambridge in Isanti County in the mid-1970s when he saw a For Sale by Owner sign outside a small farm that looked appealing to him. Dave wrote down the phone number meaning to give the owner a call. A year later, Dave hadn’t gotten around to calling when he saw the owner’s obituary in the local newspaper.
Dave contacted a neighbor who had been appointed executor of the estate and learned that the farm would be sold by auction and that the bee hives on the property needed attention. Dave volunteered to care for the bees and made plans to bid on the farm. A few weeks later, Dave and Bev were proud owners of the 40-acre Big Woods Farm. Since then they have acquired another 200 acres nearby, making for a nice 240 acre spread. The place was an enrolled Tree Farm when the Medvecky’s bought it and they have maintained the relationship.
Most of Isanti County is in the Anoka Sand Plain, suitable for pine. The area around the Medvecky’s farm has heavier, clay soil and was called the “Big Woods” by local farmers in the early days because of the huge maple, oak and basswood growing there. The original owner named the place, The Big Woods Farm, a name the Medvecky’s have kept.
While Dave was working, he’d spend his spare time in the woods at the farm. He learned that it takes a full winter season to thin five acres of woods. At that rate, he spent eight years covering the entire 40 acres. Then, in 1995, Dave was laid off from his job and went to work full time on the farm. “Now I work out in the woods from sun up to sunset and love it,” Dave says. “One question is what would happen if I were to get hurt out in the woods? I don’t have a cell phone because I’d probably smash it somehow while working. But, without the phone, Bev wouldn’t come looking for me until after dark.” Good reason to be careful in the woods!
Through the years, Dave has found markets for most of what comes from his woods. “Maple syrup is the easiest product to sell. People ask to be put on a waiting list for it. Last spring was a total bust but we’ve had good years, too. Our best was the year we produced 90 gallons of finished syrup.”
“One problem with producing maple syrup,” Dave says, “is that you have to be in the woods during breakup when the roads and trails are most vulnerable to damage. It seems that some years we’ve spent most of our maple syrup revenue on fixing up the trails after the season.”
Somehow, Dave got connected with a woman who calls herself The Nature Lady. She collects rustic items and resells them to floral shops in Dallas and Austin, Texas. She was at Big Woods Farm recently and loaded up on birch logs, branches and bark plus mushrooms that grow on birch trees and hornets nests Dave found in his woods. Dave and Bev’s 14-year old grandchildren, a boy and a girl, helped load the woman’s truck and saw Dave collect the money. “It is good for the kids to see that you can make money from the woods but I had to warn them that most sales aren’t as easy as this one.”
Dave has a local fellow bring in his Wood Mizer saw mill several times a year. They saw lumber for a local outfit that makes flooring and paneling. Also, logs with figured wood, ones with what normal mills would call defects, are sawed for local bowl turners.
In all, the Medvecky’s have more than two dozen other customers who buy everything from cherry wood for smoking on grills to logs for export to Japan.
One of Dave’s favorite customers, is the Ebner family in Elk River. Five members of the family, who are the 5th generation in the business, make wooden berry boxes. The do it all by hand with no outside help. They do have machinery that is approaching 100 years old. Like the flour mills used to be operated, all of the machines are run off belts from a single shaft that is powered by one three-phase motor. The berry boxes have seen an increase in popularity thanks to the organic fruit market. Recently the Ebners received an order for one million boxes! On average they buy three semi loads of basswood from the Big Woods Farm each year.
What to do with the wood scraps?
The Medveckys have always heated their home, and all their hot water, with wood. Their only back-up system is a second wood burner. Recently Dave bought a new outdoor wood furnace from Classic Sales located just down the road in Isanti. At some point in the near future, the U.S. EPA will ban the current models, smoky models of outdoor furnaces and require that all new models be a more efficient type that produces less smoke. A problem with the efficient type is they require seasoned wood for fuel. Dave says, “As a tree famer, we always have wood scraps we can use for heat but they are not dry. I bought this new furnace so we can put into operation when the old one, that is 25 years old, needs replacement.”
Bev also has a little business going. She maintains a huge garden that produces flowers and vegetables to sell locally. Her biggest seller is asparagus which, according to Dave, is as easy to sell as maple syrup. Bev has 400 feet of asparagus rows in her garden. Another of her major products is peonies. From a few plants obtained from a relative 25 years ago, Bev now cultivates over 250 peony bushes. Vegetables include tomatoes, strawberries and peas. Bev plants one row of sweet corn every week for eight weeks so she has sweet corn available for two months.
Since they purchased the place 35 years ago, the Medveckys have never used any fertilizer or pesticides on Bev’s garden or anywhere on the farm. Dave says, “I guess this makes us organic, although we have never applied for certification.”