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DayCreek Journal

October 31, 2004

Japanese Lilac Tree

From left to right: Lauren, Jo's Dad (George), Elizabeth and Lindsey

For those of you who have followed the website, you may recall that last December Jo’s mother passed away. Jo’s mother really enjoyed visiting our home-in-the-making and Jo’s family thought it would be a fitting tribute to plant a tree in her honor up at the house.

I wanted to be sure that whatever tree we were to plant would be a hardy tree and not one that tastes good to the local deer and rabbit population. We considered a number of trees including varieties of apple (she made the best apple pies), ornamental pear and lilac trees.

I was concerned that an apple tree would be subjected to the nibbling of deer, plus diseases such as scab and rust have been quite a problem in the area. So we narrowed it down to the ornamental pear and the Japanese Lilac tree. The Japanese Lilac tree was hardy down to Zone 3 of the USDA hardiness map, while the pear was hardy to zone 4. Considering the weather extremes in our area, the Japanese Lilac tree won.

The tree grows to a height of around 20 feet and has beautiful blossoms that cover the entire tree in late spring. It seemed the perfect tree to plant in honor of Jo’s mother.

We planted the tree on October 23 rd with Jo’s family in attendance. It was a rather moving ceremony with each of her three granddaughters reading poems that were picked out by Jo’s father. The poems were very nice and a fitting memorial for the love that Jo’s mom had for her family.

The tree is prominently located just to the west of the house and can be readily seen from inside the house as well as outside of the house. I couldn’t think of a better memorial and tribute to her life.

Soil Temperature Readings
Being the weather geek that I am, I quite often check out the La Crosse, Wisconsin National Weather Service home page on the Internet. Earlier in the year, they were looking for someone to take soil temperature readings in our area. I called the weather office explaining that I could take readings for them. Unfortunately, my schedule prevented me from being at the house 365 days out of the year. Typically they try to find farmers in the area who are “strapped” to their land most of the year. (Readings are taken at 7AM and 5PM daily.) Since I didn’t fit the mold of a typically Minnesotan, Norwegian bachelor farmer they never pursued my request.

Months passed and they were still looking for someone in the area. So, I emailed them once again and a few days later I got a phone call from the office. They said that they would have to do some more research, but if the land profile fit, they would take me up on my offer.

About a week later, Brad from the National Weather Service arrived with his GPS to make sure that my location would meet their criteria. I gave Brad a tour of the house and showed him how I had incorporated various temperature sensors throughout the house.

Well, to make a long story somewhat shorter, our location was approved and the NWS has some interest in working with me to develop a new temperature sensor probe for soil temperatures.

Using digital temperature sensors, a couple of IC chips and a circuit board I’ve built them a probe that should be quite a bit more accurate than their existing analog system and it uses a computer to store and forward the information. The beauty of this digital system is that no one needs to be there to take the readings. The computer does it for you.

So, last Tuesday Brad came out with his auger and we dug a 5’ hole to test the new digital probe system. Actually, we were going to dig (2) 5’ holes, but ran into numerous (rocks) that made drilling just one hole quite an adventure. We were only able to get one of the probes installed, so Brad will be back on Election Day to drill another hole.

The temperature probe takes readings at various levels: 2”, 4”, 8”, 20”, 40” and 60”. If you care to follow along with the test, you are more than welcome to view the statistics on-line. (The file is updated at 2:30 AM daily.)This is just a text file, so don’t expect anything fancy as far as web graphics. Maybe I’ll pretty it up over the winter.

If the side-by-side test goes well, I might be making a number of these for the NWS. The study of the weather has been a hobby of mine since I was five years old and it would be great if this works out as a small, home business.

What’s going on with the house?
Unfortunately I haven’t had much free time to work on the house over the past few weeks and I’m considering whether to build one more wall or not before the snow starts to fly. There’s plenty of other indoor projects to do, so I might just slurry the paper left in the barrel and call it a season.

I’d really like to get started on framing out the first floor and finishing up the electrical work. Plus, I’ve still got a front door and design Jo’s kitchen cabinets. Lots to do!

Finally…with the rising costs of fuel I bit the bullet and bought a Honda Insight last week. This will bring my round-trip fuel expense down from $60 to $18, plus I’m doing something good for the environment too. My first trip from Minnesota to Illinois netted 70 MPG. Read all about it in the next journal!

The Honda Insight Hybrid.