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West End News: April 25

Cook County Ramble
Cook County Ramble

WEN_finalcut_20130425.mp35.29 MB

The Cook County Ramble that I mentioned last week was a huge success.  It brought many of Cook County’s talented musicians to Cascade Lodge Pub to pay musical tribute to the life of Levon Helm.  Twenty plus musicians performed and over 100 people attended.  It was a great party and concluded with 18 musicians on stage together singing Bob Dylan’s song, “I Shall Be Released.”  $100 was donated to Levon Helm’s charity and $800 was donated to the high school band instrument fund, effectively doubling the annual budget for instrument purchase and repair at the high school.  Judging from the smiles on everyone’s faces at the show, I think we can count on it becoming an annual event.
We got a note the other day from David and Lise Abazs, who own and operate Round River Farm, the community-supported agriculture business in Finland. They reported having 60 trays of seedlings in their living room to protect them from freezing temperatures and snow here at the end of April.  They are poised to pounce on planting as soon as spring springs.  I don’t know a thing about farming, but I would think that iceberg lettuce might do well right now.
The Abazses also announced their development of a new 7-acre farm at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland.  Their goal is to grow all the vegetables for the 140,000 meals served at Wolf Ridge each year.  The farm will also provide a robust educational experience for the schools and other groups that visit Wolf Ridge.  They are just putting the finishing touches on a 30 x 96 foot tunnel-style greenhouse and are raising money to complete the remaining infrastructure for the new farm.  For more information and a link to their online fundraising site, just Google “Round River Farm” or call WTIP for contact information.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation is warning West Enders about some Highway 61 construction that will slow down travel in both directions. The long stretch of truly terrible pavement on both sides of Little Marais is slated for replacement this summer and next.  At times there will be a detour up through Finland.
Next year, another rough stretch of Highway 61, from about a mile west of the Ski Hill Road all the way to County 7, will be subject to a major milling and resurfacing project.  Maybe they can fix the annoying bumps on either end of the Onion River Bridge while they’re at it.  No word on detours for this project.  It will slow down traffic while it’s in progress, but I don’t think anyone can argue that it isn’t necessary.
Care Partners of Cook County is a wonderful program that offers support to those on the journey of aging and/or serious illness.  Care Partners volunteers provide ongoing friendly visits, a compassionate presence at end of life, phone check-ins, or caregiver respite.  If you’re interested in volunteering for Care Partners, training is being offered this spring.  It will be held for three Tuesdays, May 21 and 28 and June 4 from 1 to 4 p.m.  Pre-registration is required, so contact Kay Grindland at 387-3788 for more information.  As always, you can contact WTIP for details and contact information.
Cindy Hansen saw a raccoon on the Sawbill Trail this week, about seven miles north of Tofte.  It was in no hurry to run away, so she was even able to snap a picture on her phone.  I’m hoping the raccoon is an aberration and not a sign that they are moving in to the West End.  That said, I know they are spotted fairly frequently these days closer to the big lake. 
Here are Sawbill, we’ve had visits from two raccoons in the last 10 years.  Both were pretty clearly brought here by hitchhiking in the engine compartments of cars arriving from locations in the deep South, like Owatonna or Madison. The first one appeared outside the house in February, then quickly disappeared under the porch of another building.  We never saw it again, and when we tore the building down a few years later, we found its skeleton, perfectly preserved.  The second one appeared one fall and camped out on the bird feeder.  After a day of that, we baited a live trap with marshmallows and caught it in less than 30 seconds.  Who knew that raccoons love marshmallows?  That fellow was rendered to an undisclosed location where he was released near a stream.
Raccoons are worse than bears when it comes to being pests, so let’s hope the fellow Cindy saw was just another hitchhiker.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

(Photo by Cathy Quinn)