Monday, July 20, 2009

Cheri Morton combines her passions at Pine Lake Pastures

Cheri Morton leads a horse with Peyton, who has several disabilities and who is held by her daughter Hannah. Riding a horse has several benefits to children, including a calming effect and help with walking.

Cheri Morton has passion. She has a passion for helping people. She has a passion for horses. And at her small ranch north of Baldwin—”Pine Lake Pastures”—she combines her passions in a way that helps people and horses.
Four times weekly Morton’s family along with volunteer coordinator Nikke Hafemeyer and a host of volunteers, hold horse rides for children with special needs. In July there will be a total of 42 visits to the farm from families with a child, teen or loved one who has special needs. These special needs range from autism, Asperger syndrome, cerebral palsy (CP) to traumatic brain injury (TBI). There isn’t an age limitation to riding at Pine Lake Pastures—the youngest is about two years old and the oldest rider is a wonderful young woman of 38 years who has Down syndrome.
Saturday morning’s session featured a special treat with music from the McKinley family playing guitar and electric piano and singing. “We don’t have that for every session,” said Cheri.
When asked why horseback riding was beneficial, she replied that “the motion of the horse is calming, and the horse’s gait is the most similar to that of a human’s gait so it helps with walking.” A teen diagnosed with TBI rides every Saturday morning, said Cheri. When he first arrived at the farm months ago, it was in a wheelchair and now he is only using a cane. They believe that the horseback riding, along with his strong will, has contributed to his great success. “Horseback riding also opens up the diaphragm,” continued Cheri. “and therefore it helps with speech development. We have a lot of nonverbal children speak while riding a horse, sometimes for the very first time. It’s very exciting.”
Cheri said most of her clients come from St. Croix County but some also come from the Twin Cities area including Burnsville and Brooklyn Center because other programs located closer to them are filled and have waiting lists of up to 150 people. The sessions are scheduled for Tuesday evenings, Friday mornings and two times Saturdays. “We do it for no charge,” said Morton. To help defray the cost of the sessions and caring for the horses, Morton also gives horse riding lessons. In addition, Morton provides horse rescues. “We don’t go searching for rescues,” she noted. “They come to us.”
Special education departments of Hudson, Boyceville and numerous other schools have discovered the peaceful atmosphere of Pine Lake Pastures and visit the farm for their annual end-of-the-year field trips. “They are small groups and come to the farm for only an hour or two, but they have a wonderful day and enjoy the riding,” said Morton.
Morton said a goal of the program is to update the metal-sided barn on the property so the therapy sessions can continue through the winter without having to walk in the snow. She is always grateful for donations and volunteers are appreciated. She added that if people have “bomb-proof” (she said horse people will know what that term means) horses, they are welcome to bring them to help out. Currently, the program relies on four of Cheri’s horses that don’t spook: Chaun, Rocky, Diamond and Sam.
Pine Lake Pasture’s program started out with just Cheri, her husband Tom and their four daughters but it has now expanded to about 25 volunteers. Coordinating the volunteers is the job of Nikke Hafemeyer of New Richmond, who also boards her horse at the ranch. She said she started as a volunteer but moved on to scheduling. “I find it rewarding. I like to come to the therapy sessions and be back-up if necessary. It’s nice to help out and you really see the difference in the kids. Some were non-verbal but started speaking. When you see the difference it’s like Wow!”
Anyone interested in helping out with the program can contact Cheri or Nikke. Nikke said even people who haven’t been around horses are welcome to join and that Pine Lake Pastures offers training on how to be a volunteer. “You start as a volunteer and then develop a passion for it,” said Nikke.
You can contact Cheri or Nikke through their website at

Peace Lutheran group gardens

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers (two kinds), zucchini, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi…the list finishes at the end.
A group of Peace Lutheran members has a large garden planted behind the church for the benefit of an area family located through the St. Croix Valley Family Resource Center.
But the garden has more benefits than to just that sponsored family. It can be a lot of work, explained gardener Joy Grognet, “but it is also a form of fellowship.” She added that “we enjoy it. Playing in the dirt can be therapeutic.”
The dozen or so gardeners gather once a week—late Sunday afternoon, or on Monday in the alternative—to weed, water and take care of the growing produce.
As a money-making venture to raise funds to pay for the expenses of the garden, and also to help pay for a garden shed that will soon be built, the group has a large pumpkin patch and sells the pumpkins in the fall. They also have a large sweet corn field which is planted with machinery.
Duane Newton does the spring tilling and plants the corn for the group.
The gardening group was recently the recipients of a donated tiller by the Hostvet family.
The group tries to use environmentally friendly practices including straw bale gardening which seems to be working and watering the plants with the use of timers. The group also had a donation of old carpet and they cut some up into strips and use it between the rows of vegetables to keep the weeds down. But cutting the carpet up into strips is a big job and not all the carpet is cut up yet. Another practice they have employed is weed burning, which proved to be a huge time saver.
The proceeds from the pumpkin sales will be used for the planned garden shed, which will be shared. The group is also open to donations of equipment and supplies and they have an area for people to have their own garden plot if they’re in a situation where they don’t have ground for their own.
The group is also open to new members but each member must make a firm commitments to be present at the weekly sessions. There is also a $20 fee which is used to help defray expenses.
Members of the gardening group include: Pastor John Hanson, Molly Lindus, Joy Grognet, John Vrieze, Gloria Rasmussen, Pam Vrieze, Kerri Stiller, Cyn Niebeling, Barb Hanson, Nancy Rowe and Jackie Arati.
…Oh, and the end of the list: peas, beans, beets, radishes, carrots, sweet potato, potato, onions, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard and rutabaga.

From the Exchanges
  Interesting News Items from
    Surrounding Communities

THE SUN (OSCEOLA): Issues with the federal economic stimulus package are causing delays to facility improvements at the county-owned Golden Age Manor nursing home in Amery. While bids for replacing windows at Golden Age Manor came in lower than expected, county board chairman/administrative coordinator Bryan Beseler will hold off on seeking county board approval for the window replacement project until it is known whether or not the county’s application for stimulus package money is approved or rejected. Beseler and county finance director Tonya Weinert said that if the county were to begin the window replacement project before being awarded stimulus package money it would no longer be eligible for such federal funding for energy efficiency. Bids for the window replacement project ranged from $138,353 to $199,800. At its April meeting the county board authorized a grant application for new windows and a new roof, as well as the purchase of new carpeting for some of the building, with some of the nursing home’s 2008 profits to be used to purchase carpeting. Weinert said the deadline for stimulus package grant applications has been pushed back a full month, to the end of July. That means applications won’t be acted on until August, at the earliest. No bids were received for the carpeting, which now will be re-bid. Since it will take at least six weeks after ordering for the carpet to arrive, Golden Age Manor’s maintenance supervisor John Johnson said it appears it will be impossible to have the new carpeting in place by the time  

MONDOVI HERALD-NEWS: An injured man was found lying in the middle of the road in the Town of Naples early last Friday morning. The Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call at approximately 2:15 a.m. from an individual who came upon the man lying on County Rd. HH just west of Alleman Rd. The injured man was identified as Christopher M. Nelson, 38, and was  transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire with numerous injuries. Investigation is continuing on the incident.

BURNETT COUNTY SENTINEL: Bonnie Niemi said it best Wednesday night. "I think it would be a crime if we don't take advantage of this grant opportunity," she said. At issue was the community development block grant (CDBG) the Village of Webster was considering applying for on behalf of the library board for improvements to the library. Niemi is with the Friends of the Burnett Community Library in Webster. Webster trustee Tim Maloney agreed. "I don't think this opportunity will come around again," he said. "I think people will be generous once we get the ball rolling," resident Marie Bremer added. Some in attendance were worried there isn't enough money in the current building fund. "There's still an on-going campaign to raise money," Maloney pointed out. "We don't necessarily have to move forward with what we have in hand." For her part, library board president Laura Rachford said none of the businesses in town have been approached for funds, but her plans include touching base with them. "We will be seeking project donations," she said. "As we have a better plan, we feel people will have a better idea for what we are trying to do." She wasn't alone in that thinking.

RIVER FALLS JOURNAL: It’s not marriage, but some say it’s marriage-like. There will be a waiting period and a fee, but no ceremony needed. In a couple of weeks, same-sex couples in Wisconsin will be allowed to declare domestic partnerships and take advantage of some of the rights and benefits extended to married. County clerks around the state are preparing to accept domestic partnership declaration applications starting August 3. The Domestic Partnership Law was included in the 2009-10 state budget signed by Gov. Jim Doyle June 29. The budget also includes domestic partner benefits for state employees. The application process, said St. Croix County Clerk Cindy Campbell, will be similar to applying for a marriage license. At least one of the applicants must have lived in the county for 30 days or longer, both must be of the same sex and at least 18, neither may be married or in another domestic partnership, the two must share a residence and they must not be nearer of kin than second cousins. Applicants must apply in person and there will be a five-day waiting period. Once the application is signed, it must be recorded with the county register of deeds. Campbell said she has no idea how many same-sex couples will register partnerships locally. She said Dane County, a larger county that already recognizes domestic partnerships has been registering about 30 a year. St. Croix Under the new law, about 40 of the more than 200 rights and benefits extended to married couples will apply to domestic partners. Those include allowing domestic partners to take family and medical leave to care for a seriously ill partner, make end-of-life decisions, inherit the partner’s estate in the absence of a will had have hospital visitation rights.