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West End News: March 22

Early spring conditions at Sawbill.
Early spring conditions at Sawbill.

The West End was saddened to receive word of Reuben Tofte’s passing last week at the age of 96. Reuben is the last of a generation that was born in Tofte during the era when Scandinavians were moving to the North Shore. Reuben was the son of Tofte pioneers Cecelia and John Tofte. It is hard to conceive of all the changes that Reuben witnessed during his long and full life.

After a distinguished career as a dentist in Duluth, Reuben retired to Tofte and lived next door to the beautiful Tofte Park for many years. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Lucille, Joel, John, Lynn and the rest of Reuben’s family. The family requests that memorials be made to the Tofte Historical Society.

One thing that lifelong West End residents have never seen is a spring thaw like the one we are experiencing now. This abrupt end to an already mild winter is at least a month ahead of schedule. International Falls has set high temperature records for eight days in a row. Some of the smaller ponds here in the West End are already out and it looks like some of the lakes will start to shed their ice here in the third week of March. This is more than two weeks earlier than the previous early ice out record, set two years ago, and more than six weeks earlier than the average ice out date.

University of Minnesota climatologist, Mark Seeley, appeared on public television’s Almanac program, and said that this warm spell is the most extreme since Minnesota weather records have been kept. He went on to say that 1910 was a warm year, but wasn’t even close to the current warm winter season. He then mentioned that 1910 was one of the worst forest fire years in the state’s history. My blood ran cold when I heard that.

It’s hard to think of this as an extreme weather event, but this warm spell is actually just as extreme as a killer blizzard or a line of tornadoes. Somehow though, “extreme pleasantness” is just harder to get worked up about. Of course, in northern Minnesota the weather turns on a dime and it’s not out of the question that snow and cold could return with a vengeance before this weird winter of ‘11/’12 finally enters the record books.

Many thanks to the townships of Schroeder, Lutsen and Tofte for voting to support the Birch Grove Foundation at their recent annual meetings. The townspeople can rest assured that there are many good things happening at Birch Grove.

For instance, the weekly senior lunch, held every Wednesday, will feature a presentation from county housing coordinator Nancy Grabko on March 28. The next week, April 4, there will be a video presentation of the “Sugar – Sweet and Sour” program that had to be cancelled earlier due to a snowstorm. Blood pressure and blood sugar screenings will be available also.

The Hobbits, also known as the Hearth Oven Bread Baking Initiative Team, are meeting Wednesday, March 28 at 9 a.m. at Birch Grove. Everyone is welcome. Patty reports that she has received a lot of positive feed back on this project.

The Tofte Fourth of July planning committee has decided to move the parade time to 2 p.m. from its traditional time of 1 p.m. Volunteers and vendors for Tofte’s renowned Independence Day event are needed, so if you have an interest, contact Patty Nordahl. Her email is bgf (as in Birch Grove Foundation) and her phone is 663-7977. You can always Google Birch Grove Foundation to find a full listing of activities and complete contact information.

Round River Farms in Finland is still looking for a few more families to sign up for fresh produce this summer. For a flat, one-time fee, you share equally in the farm fresh produce with the other subscribers. Our family has been a member for years and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Families can go together on a share if they want to. If there are enough subscribers from the West End, the farm will deliver to Birch Grove, making it much more convenient for everyone. For more details, call David Abazs at 218-353-7736. You can also Google Round River Farms to find their website.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that a remarkable series of musical events has been happening at Papa Charlie’s nightclub at Lutsen Mountains on Monday nights. It’s called the Songwriter Series and features some of the best songwriters in the music business in a quiet, intimate setting. The crowd for this event has been growing since it started, and locals make up a fair share of the audience. It seems like most of the people are there because they love music and they clearly are enjoy the experience. The songwriters also seem to enjoy the careful attention of the audience, which lifts their performance to another level. The whole thing is just working, so you can check it out every Monday night from 8 to 10 pm.