Increased Enrollment led to additional funding for Trego School

Trego School will be receiving more funds from the state due to increased enrollment. While our school district has a relatively large tax base the local elementary school doesn’t see all of it. One set of our school taxes go to the state which then distributes them back based on enrollment. The intent is to equalize the amount of funding per student, so that more wealthy districts are not funded better than less wealthy ones.

Anyway, with an increase in enrollment our local elementary school was delighted to see a little bit more of that funding returned to the district. The district expects over 25,000$ due to the increased enrollment.  

The amount the district receives is based on a three year average, and given the trend in Trego’s enrollment, that number has been trending downward. 

Each data point represents enrollment for the school year ending in the year listed, so the data point at 2020 represents enrollment for the 2019-2020 school year. The current enrollment is used for this (2020-2021) school year.

Information about school enrollment is publicly available, but does require a bit of hunting. For school year’s ending 2014-2020 the data is available for each school in the state, organized by county. For year’s prior, it’s available via the GEMS system at OPI, but requires considerably more effort to fish out. The 2005-2006 data for the state can be found here.

As you can see, the 2019-2020 enrollment is a shift from a steadily downward trend. With school enrollment currently up to 23 students in 2020-2021, the school board is optimistic about reversing the trend.  

Community, Recipes

Kuchen- a Russian German Dessert

About the time of the American Revolution, Germans were offered a bit of freedom if they emigrated to Ukraine and Russia – free land, freedom from taxation, exemption from the draft and freedom of religion.  Of course that sort of a deal couldn’t last – so about a century later, facing taxation and the draft, the descendants of those Russian Germans moved again, mostly to the Great Plains of the US and Canada.  For years, the Census differentiated between Germans and Russian Germans.

They brought Kuchen to the prairies, and it is South Dakota’s official state dessert.  (While Norwegians also settled the prairies, nowhere is lutefisk an official state dessert)  So here is a recipe for those who want to make Kuchen, just like the Russian Germans do.

Bread Base:

  • 1 ½ c. milk, scalded
  • 1 ½ c. shortening
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 1 heaping tsp. Salt
  • 4 eggs
  • ⅓ c. warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 5 c. flour

Blend together the milk, shortening, ¾ c. sugar and salt.  Let cool.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Blend the warm water, dry yeast and 1 tsp. sugar.   Add the yeast mixture to the first mixture.  Add the flour.  Beat well with a spoon.  Dough will be very soft.  Let rise.  Stir down and shape, or place in the refrigerator overnight.  Take out in the morning and pinch off small sections, one for each Kuchen (this recipe makes 10 or 11 9” Kuchen

Roll out dough as you would pie dough, not quite ¼ inch thick.  Put in greased pan without stretching dough.  Pinch down against the inside of pan.  Do not let the dough rise before filling; spread a layer of fruit or cottage cheese immediately on the bread base.  Then top with a custard appropriate to the kind of Kuchen you are making – one custard recipe is 2 c. sugar, 4 Tbsp. flour, 4 eggs, a pinch of salt and 4 c. milk.  Cook until thick, stirring all the time.  Let cool, stir in 2 c. cream.  Pour over fruit.

Sprinkle Kuchen with a crumb mixture of 2 Tbsp flour, ¼ c. brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. butter and cinnamon to taste.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, then at 325 degrees for 20 minutes until filling is almost set.  Remove from oven, let set until filling becomes firm.  Slide the Kuchen from the pan onto plates.

Recipe from Sei Unser Gast – which probably means something in German or Russian. 

Ask The Entomologist, Community

Non-human immigrants

As Thanksgiving draws near, and we hear tales of “The First Thanksgiving”, and explanations of the tales’ inaccuracy, my mind turns to other immigrants. For better or worse, humans from the Old World journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean, and carved lives for themselves here in the New World. But humans are far from the only species to have done so.

Once upon a time, the Americas had no grasshopper species – genetic evidence suggests that our North American “Bird Grasshoppers” are descended from West African grasshopper immigrants which flew across the Atlantic. While this sounds rather far fetched at first, it become less so, when realizes that Schistocerca grasshoppers flew from West Africa to the Caribbean in 1988…
A decade before, in 1977, related Bird Grasshoppers flew from Central America to Hawai’i with the help of a strong storm system, where they have since caused problems. Most invasive species, though, have made use of human help to travel such vast distances.

Here in Montana, we have no shortage of invasive weeds, and many of them are immigrants that are here thanks to human activity. Spotted Knapweed stowed away in seed shipments, Mullein, Plantain, Dandelions, even Stinging Nettle All came over with European settlers, and were put to many uses.
On the other hand, Spotted Knapweed, both a more recent import and a more noxious weed, was not deliberate. Its seeds stowed away as contaminants in seed shipments, and the species has since spread through much of North America.

Honeybees, as well, are newcomers to this continent – deliberate introductions, unlike many insects. According to Thomas Jefferson, Native Americans called the honeybee the “white man’s fly,” and thought it associated with European settlements. While North America once had its own native species of honeybees, they went extinct long before the European honeybee made American landfall in the 1600s.

Our homes’ infestations of Cluster Flies? I suspect their introduction was less than planned. Likewise, European Paper Wasps, Asian Longhorned Beetles, and Multicolored Asian Ladybeetles were all stowaways who have done quite well for themselves here in the Americas.

Immigrant species aren’t all bad, however. Indeed, I’m very glad we have immigrant species – for every “bad” one, there’s another out there, somewhere, that presents a solution. Biological control can be a wonderful way to put imbalanced systems back into stability.

If you’re interested in learning more about what species became immigrants alongside European colonists, consider browsing Nunn & Quian’s “Columbian Exchange“. It gives a good summary of what foodstuffs, diseases, and technologies arose from immigrant species on both sides of the Atlantic.

Some of my favorite insect immigrants – flies which help control knapweed.
These two adults died with the coming of the cold,
but their young are safely overwintering inside seed heads.

Community, Wildlife

Do You Recognize this Head?

The little dog found the body – the buck had been hit by a vehicle, two legs broken, his head cut off, and left in the ditch by the pond.  We had been watching him in person and on the game cam – a young buck with a lot of potential.

Have you seen this head?

Had we known about it earlier, it would have taken little effort to get a salvage tag, and dress the buck out.  Instead, he became the third deer this year I’ve loaded into the pickup and hauled to the hilltop – because a dead deer alongside the pond puts 4 dogs at risk, as well as attracting predators.  This one was a challenge – I lacked the strength to load him into the back of the pickup.  But things worked out – as I decided I lacked the muscles to load him, the medical oxygen delivery guy came down the road, stopped, grabbed an end of the deer, and we loaded him.  There are a lot of good people you meet briefly in this world.

At the posted 35 speed limit, you have a great opportunity to miss deer on the ¾ mile straightaway going by the place.  Extra speed provides less time to watch for the deer.  Cutting the animal’s head off for a trophy shows some appreciation of the animal – yet dumping the body in the ditch instead of getting a salvage tag and using it shows something else.

I’ll continue to move the bodies as people hit deer.  I notice a lot of pickups that drive slow, and come close to stopping when there’s a deer on the road.  I’d like to say thanks to all of you who make my life easier by driving carefully and not leaving me a dead deer to haul away.  It took someone who would take the extra effort to cut off the buck’s head and dump the body in the ditch to make me realize how much I appreciate the everyday responsibility I see in most drivers. 


Standard Deviation and Stable Genius

About three thoughts came together and gelled last week.  One was a headline that explained voter turnout in Wisconsin was 5 standard deviations from the mean.  The other was looking at Trump assessing himself as a “stable genius” and Biden’s frequent challenge of having a high IQ.  I realized that I don’t have to explain how to calculate a standard deviation – there is a chart that shows it all in terms of IQ, and it really simplifies matters. 

If you look at the linked table, on the scale that accepts 15 points as the standard deviation, an IQ score of 175 is 5 standard deviations above the norm.  To make that statement understandable, that’s one person out of 3,483,046.  Chances are that I have never met one, despite a career in science and the academy. 

Nasim Taleb writes “IQ” is a stale test meant to measure mental capacity but in fact mostly measures extreme unintelligence”, so let’s look at the IQ 25 – whom I also haven’t met.  0.0000287105% of the population would score below this mark.

Tierman’s classification for genius (based on a standard deviation of 16) was 140 and over – so if you check the chart, that’s one out of every 161 people.  Statistically, we should have four or five living within the Trego school district boundaries.  I don’t know what it takes to be a stable genius – maybe a horse?

IQ RangeClassification
140 and overGenius or near genius
120-140Very superior intelligence
110-120Superior intelligence
90-110Normal or average intelligence
70-80Borderline deficiency
Below 70Definite feeble-mindedness
Table developed by Tierman, source: IQ Comparison

When we look at Biden’s quote, “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect.” and look at the chart in Talib’s paper, toward the bottom we see the range for “legal professions”.  Talib’s comment at the bottom is just as valid for attorneys as college professors.  It does add a bit of perspective.


The Difference between Triumphs and Tragedies

This time of the year we often turn our thoughts to gratitude, to the things we are grateful for, both simple and profound. It is remarkably easy to find things to be thankful for, to make lists of things large and small. The reason it is so easy is that it is simply a matter of attitude, of perspective.

The difference between a triumph and a tragedy is attitude. The same event can leave one man cursing his luck and another breathing a prayer of thanks for his good fortune.

Years ago, at the start of my second year of college, my pickup was struck by a semi. There’s a lingering list of problems stemming from that, the most notable being the brain injury and associated faceblindness. Prosopagnosia, or faceblindness, means that I will never again recognize a face in a crowd, not even that of a loved one. In fact, I cannot recognize my own face in a mirror (this has led to some interesting misadventures with reflective surfaces, but that’s a story for another time).

It’s very easy, as one struggles to adapt to all of the things that are suddenly different and hard, to ask “Why me?” and to lament the misfortune. But the difference between a triumph and a tragedy is attitude.

The beauty of that, of course, is that it is a choice. If I say, “I am so lucky to have lived. I am so fortunate to have so much that I can still do.” Then the story is a happy one, upbeat. It isn’t a story without difficulties, but it is a story about overcoming them. If I say, “This was so terrible, there is so much I cannot do” the story is sad. The difference between triumph and tragedy is attitude.

In this time of cultivating lists, perhaps instead cultivate attitude. In the long run, the attitude will be of far greater use.

As for me, well… I have memories that are missing, but the ability to make new ones. I’ll never recognize the faces of my family again, but I know their voices. I may be living life on a higher difficulty setting, but I’m living it.


The International’s Last Run

Few of us recall Trego’s first fire truck.  We have to go abeam nearly a half-century to get to those of us who drove it – and I guess I’m one of the youngest.  Tommy White, Jack Dickinson, Ted Burke, LeeRoy Mee, Tom Johnson, Cecil Storm – all gone, and with them many of the memories and stories that involved the old International.

It was red – faded, and pebble-textured in the way that only a lead-based paint endures the elements.  It may have been from the late forties or the early fifties.  I don’t know of any photos remaining.  It wasn’t the sort of truck that inspired photographers – just an old International, with a cylindrical water tank, a couple of wooden ladders strapped to the side, and a marginally reliable single cylinder engine powering the water pump.

I recall driving it up to Gongaware’s for a chimney fire, along with Curtis Schroeder.  Curt went up the ladder with three fire extinguishers, and, by the time I had the pump running, he had the fire under control.  Another trip was to Norby’s – we were too late to save much of anything that time.  I don’t know how many runs the old beast made – but I drove the International on it’s last run.

We were backup for a fire up Deep Creek. As I started the truck from our root-cellar fire hall, and headed out, I could see Jack Dickinson stop at the service station, and get out of his rig to be picked up.  I pulled toward him, stepped the brakes down, and, since there were no brakes, kept the International in third to cross the tracks and continue down the hill.  Jack passed me on the downhill, and parked at the substation for pickup.  This time I used the emergency brake and stopped for Jack.  He asked “Why didn’t you stop the first time?”  Shifting into third, I answered, “No brakes.”  Around the Ant Flat Ranger Station the horn button flew out of the steering wheel.  Jack grabbed it as it flew towards my face.  As I tried to stop when we reached 93, the emergency brake lever came loose.  Jack took it, since it wasn’t doing me any good.  Things went well along the highway, and we headed up Deep Creek.  When I went to downshift into third, a chunk of the clutch linkage gave way – but we were in third, and continued to the fire.

We parked and started the engine on the pump.  I crawled under and managed to get the clutch functioning again.  I never knew if Jack got the board to buy the ton and a half Ford that replaced the International, or if he just bought the second-hand truck himself and started transferring parts.  I know it was a better truck than the International – and that Jack Dickinson’s presence made a better community.  


Icicles: Get them before they get you!

It’s that kind of weather. Lots of melting and refreezing, perfect for the formation of massive icicles that will eventually crash to the ground, shattering. But that’s not the only way icicles can cause damage. Icicles can also curve inward towards a building, damaging siding or breaking windows.

The damage a falling icicle can do is fairly straight forward. It’s a function of the force they hit with, which is in turn determined by the size of the icicle and the height it falls from. Falling icicles are a danger to anyone they strike. The risk is for bruising, broken bones, and even death. No solid numbers for the number of falling icicle related deaths, but it is decidedly possible, if rare.

The more insidious form of harm comes as they slide off of a roof and curve inward. The warmth being given off by the house causes melting below the surface of the snow atop the roof. The water freezes, leaving a sheet of solid ice on the roof.

Icicles descending and surrounding an outside light- this is last year’s photo, I have since grown wiser to the ways of icicles and do not allow them to progress so far.

Another day with temperatures warm enough for melting, and there’s a bit of water below that ice sheet. It slides. Gradually, in increments, the ice sheet makes its way off the roof. Icicles, which had previously hung straight down begin to curve.

This week’s observation of icicles beginning to turn inward

This can be bad news for the side of the house, and worse news for windows and outside lights. Yes, icicles can break windows! I came home from work one day to an unexpected break.

The best strategy for preventing this is not to allow the icicles anywhere near your windows. If you’ve a place where icicles tend to curl inward, threatening delicate structures, remove them. I recommend knocking them off with a long pole, so that you can stand at a safe distance and not below them when they fall.

Icicles present a hazard to windows and siding, and to anyone/anything under them. For looming icicles that are regularly walked under, pick a time when the area is clear, stand a safe distance away, and take them out.

Icicles. You have to get them before they get you.

Weird Words

Weird Words: Procrustean

“Procrustean” is a fun word with an interesting history.

According to Merriam-Webster, it means: “marked by arbitrary often ruthless disregard of individual differences or special circumstances”

The story the word come from is marked by someone who was precisely that.
Προκρουστης, known to us as Procrustes, is a figure from Greek mythology. He was a robber who invited travelers to his home, then, after supper, put them to bed. As his unfortunate guests would discover, Procrustes’ guest room’s bed was made of iron, and he was determined to make it fit everyone perfectly.

If a guest was too small for his massive iron bed, he’d tie their ankles to one end of the bed, and stretch them until they were the right size… tearing limbs out of joint in the process. In the unlikely event that a guest was too tall for his bed, he’d take his hacksaw and remove as much of their feet and lower legs, as was needed to make them the perfect length.

The name “Procrustes” itself comes from two Greek root words: “προ” (pro) meaning “in front of” and “κρουειν” (krouein) meaning “to strike” or “to beat”. These words paint the picture of a smith lengthening a piece of metal by beating it out.

A fellow who goes around murdering travelers doesn’t really add to the quality of one’s local community, but Procrustes got away with his crimes for quite a while by claiming to be the son of the sea god, Poseidon. Eventually, he was killed by another Greek who claimed divine parentage. Theseus, ostensibly another son of Poseidon, was the last person to stay in Procrustes’ home. You see, Theseus made Procrustes fit his own bed.

A procrustean policy is one that treats everyone the same, regardless of circumstances, with the implication that it does so in a way that is harmful. Of course, those complaining that a policy is procrustean are the people “the bed” doesn’t fit. If the policy fits most people, there will be few that find it procrustean in their experience.

What policies do you feel are procrustean?


Bread Giveaway

By now, you’ve probably noticed the frequent bread giveaways occurring in Trego. A few things to note:

It’s for everybody. There’s definitely enough bread, and it all needs a home.

Much of the bread is double-bagged and freezes well for storage

It’s not just bread, but other baked goods as well: english muffins, donuts, cookies, bagels, pizza crusts, hot dog buns…

This is not just about to go bad, days after the expiration date bread. It’s surplus from a warehouse, and a perfectly good product.

Why is it being given away? While we can thank the various places hosting the bread giveaways, the real force behind this is one man. He’s a retiree, who made arrangements with a warehouse, and collects surplus bread (and related products), often several times a week. He’s responsible for the bread giveaway at the senior citizen’s center in Eureka, and also provides bread to the food bank.

If you want to say thanks, the folks hosting the giveaway will be able to pass on your well wishes when next they see him. Given the situation (warehouse surplus, run by a single individual), it’s difficult to predict when/if the next giveaway will occur. So, keep an eye out!

Pick up bread. Pick up bread for your neighbors. And drop a word of thanks for the man who thought to arrange this, and has been selflessly giving away bread to the food bank and senior center for years.