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Blogs => Fencelines => Topic started by: Dotch on October 10/15/07, 04:45:28 PM

Title: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/15/07, 04:45:28 PM
Hi everybody! Was very kindly invited by staff here at MN Outdoorsman to contribute a column you may or may not be familiar with called Fencelines. They decided this might be a good spot to place it although I've been told by many where I could stick it.  ;)Seriously, have been writing technical/professional ag articles for my own company and others for over 25 years. Decided I'd write a column about the goings-on here in small town rural MN for the local paper when they were desperate for articles. I wrote one, they liked it and asked if I could write another one for the next week. The next week they wanted another one, and before I knew it, there was a full year's worth. It's been 5 years and a new owner; they're still desperate.

The column has little quirks to it that are unique to it and the area of the state we're in. To set the stage, Bugtussle is a nickname for New Richland, Mayberry is Ellendale and Mt. Pilot is Waseca. The scurs referred to when predicting the weather are the vestgial horns collected from the buck lambs and they serve no purpose other than to predict the weather. Just kidding of course, but they have taken on a cartoon like existence as the column has evolved, almost like Elmo in the Minnesota Daily. There is almost always a Seinfeld reference embedded in the column somewhere as it is a known fact that Seinfeld serves as a template for the universe.

My business working with local farmers (my little fat buddies) allows for near weekly observations of area crop progress. In addition, by spending the amount of time outdoors that I do, there are many wildlife sightings. A few years ago we enrolled some land in CREP and restored a small wetland. I enjoy waterfowl hunting but more and more, just seeing them and giving them a place to live has become equally important. Like feeding and watching the birds and you will usually see an update concerning their activities, especially with the passing of the seasons.

We encourage good land stewardship and conservation practices among the clientele in my crop consulting business where I'm completing the 18th season at the helm. Yep, I'm old! We raise Cheviot sheep on our acreage and have an offsite pasture at the "kindly neighbors" pasture. In the column, my wife is frequently referred to as Mrs. Cheviot. Gus and Lucy are loyal border collies, not always the sharpest tools in the shed but that is likely the fault of their trainer (me). One needs to be smarter than the dog.  This is a very Scandinavian area too so the closing on the column is always "real good then", the same closing you'll get out of many of the locals when ending a phone conversation or transacting business.

Enough already, that gives you an idea of what we're about. On with the show, this is it! Real good then...    ::welcome::
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/15/07, 04:50:12 PM
Good men through the ages, Tryin' to find the sun;

The scurs were amiss by not predicting the weekend rainfall but what a day Saturday was. This week will likely offer up more rainfall and by early next week, we’ll get a taste of mid-November temperatures. Starting with Wednesday we get a brief respite from the rain with a high of 60 and a low near 50. Still no sunshine however. Wednesday night, Thursday and Friday the rain comes back with highs both days between 60 and 65 and lows of 40 - 45. Saturday and Sunday we see sunshine again with high temps of 55 and lows of 40. Slightly warmer Monday with possible showers, a high around 60 and lows crashing overnight to around freezing. Colder Tuesday, high of 45 and a low of 25. Normal high for October 19 is 59 and normal low is 35, the same we’d expect to see on April 18th. The high is 4 degrees cooler than it was last week and the normal low 3 degrees off the pace.  We’ve lost approximately 21 minutes of daylight in the past week. Given that cheery news, the scurs are keeping the batteries for the wireless charged and checking their kerosene supply for those long, lamp lit nights ahead.

Harvest progress was herky-jerky this past week. Lots of combines getting stuck and areas of fields left until conditions improve. Some soybeans left in areas and memories of the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 are in the back of everyone’s mind as the fall weather continues to put a damper on spirits. Progress has been made, just not at the record pace it started out.

The white bearded Cockshutt owner made his presence known last week as he trotted out his Cockshutt 40 Golden Eagle and #70 International plow to turn under his soybean stubble. Always brings back memories of the way things were back in the days of the 450 Farmall’s, the 730 John Deere’s and WD-45 Allis. Still remember as a kid fishing through a drawer and finding the metal sediment bowl used when Dad’s Co-Op E-4 was on the mounted International picker, either a 2-M or a 2-MH model. The metal sediment bowl was used when a picker was mounted on the tractor to protect against an errant ear from flying through under the gas tank, breaking the glass sediment bowl and causing a fire. They’re antiques now as are some of the guys who remember those days.

Miss those days of old sometimes when farmers got up in the morning, would milk the pigs and slop the cows.  Thos guys were tough! With all today’s new-fangled contraptions and specialization, it’s just not the same anymore. Me? I’m just content to wax my manure spreader like any other livestock farmer in anticipation of barn cleaning season. Still, with all the reality shows on TV these days, think it’s only fitting they start a show called “Farming with the Stars”. They could ride along with me when I feed the ewes at the kindly neighbors pasture, trying to avoid getting knocked on their rear in the mud by the ram in the dark. Afterwards, they could get a whiff of the fresh manure on their feet when the heater on the pickup kicks in sending the aroma wafting their direction. Just doesn’t get any better than that!   
Was time to give the lawn another shave weekend before last with all the warm weather and rainfall. It’s slowing down though and hopefully it won’t take more than once or twice more. Seems like I’ve been living on the lawnmower over the past 4 months, except when getting off to move the little toads out of harm’s way. Cooler weather has diminished the toad activity substantially and most have likely burrowed in for the winter.

More changes on the bird scene in the backyard. Time to take the hummingbird feeders down I’m afraid. October 9th is about as late as I can remember having a hummingbird appear at our feeders. This week was treated to more white breasted nuthatches and downy woodpeckers at the feeders. On the ground, some mourning doves were on clean up patrol as well as the first dark-eyed juncos of the season. The real treat was the red-breasted nuthatch who replaced last week’s brown creeper. Getting a red-breasted nuthatch to sit still long enough here for a photo would be a challenge and they’re easy to miss.

At the Mall for Men, squirrels continue to run back and forth, hiding black walnuts wherever they can put them. Usually the Dotch pickup is a good candidate for winter storage but so far haven’t found any stashed there. Some kind soul left some pumpkin and apple muffins on our training table for the little fat buddies dining pleasure. Excellent fall table fare. However, Saturday much to my horror I discovered someone had eaten part of one of them, leaving a muffin stump! I know what you thought. They don't have homes, they don't have jobs, what do they need the top of a muffin for? They're lucky to get the stumps.

The little fall spiders were out last week. Could feel the spider web strands and little spiders getting tangled up in my chin underbrush Thursday when driving the 4 wheeler across the fields. With the cloudy conditions the gossamer on the lawn wasn’t apparent until Saturday’s sunshine. These tiny spider hatchlings use the wind to transport them from one area to another in a process known as “ballooning”.  They do this to find new territory and a place to hunker down before Old Man Winter sets in. Not a bad idea.

See you next week…real good then.


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on October 10/15/07, 05:24:18 PM
thanks dotch,  brings back old memories from summers
at the farm.

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Spinach on October 10/15/07, 05:27:43 PM
Thanks Dotch, that was a great read.  happy2.gif
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Grute Man on October 10/15/07, 10:39:03 PM
Thanks Dotch.  I like the retreat to some relaxing times.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/22/07, 12:15:15 PM
I've consulted all the sages,
I could find in the yellow pages,
But there aren't many of them.

While dire predictions of a temperature crash have been delayed by a week, the scurs have been working feverishly to get this one right. This week should be drier but it will be cooler and more seasonal as we trudge toward November. Starting Wednesday, we see highs of 55 – 60 and lows down to 40 – 45. Thursday, slightly warmer with a high of 65 and a low of 40. Friday is somewhat murky but with a high of 55 and lows of 30 – 35, the scurs are sticking with a slight chance of rain. Saturday will be cooler with a high of 50 and an overnight low of 35. Sunday through Tuesday, dry, highs of 55 and lows near 40. Normal high for October 26th is 55 and the normal low is 32, the same we’d expect to see April 10th. We continue to lose daylight at a rate of nearly 3 minutes a day. A sneak peek at Halloween could mark the start of an abrupt cool down. The scurs aren’t taking any chances and are sewing wool lining inside their costumes.

When it’s not cloudy, aside from the moon of course, Jupiter continues to be one of the first heavenly bodies seen in the southwestern sky shortly after sundown. This is the last month to see the giant planet until it becomes a morning visitor in December. October 26th marks the Full Moon for the month of October. This is not so surprisingly known as the Full Hunter Moon. It is the time of year when deer are fat as are ducks and geese. This was a time when the early settlers would fill their larders with the bounty Mother Nature had to offer. Before the settlers came, the Ojibwe knew this as The Falling Leaves Moon. The Sioux also knew this as The Moon of Falling Leaves as well as the Moon of the Changing Season.

There have been a lot of leaves falling making the leaf watching season rather abbreviated. All the precipitation this month along with the breezy conditions have knocked many of the leaves off before we had much of a chance to enjoy them. There are still scattered pockets of color here and there with some hard maples showing their yellows on the odd day when the sun has shone. The colors are not as vibrant as some years though and don’t blink or you’ll miss them. The leaves on the red oak trees in the yard at the ranch will be around for awhile but even their colors are muted somewhat this time around from the deep crimson we’ve become accustomed to.

Progress in the fields went at a snail’s pace last week with 2 rainfall events last week making wet fields even wetter. At the SROC in Waseca, a 93 year old precipitation record was broken for the 3 month period of August, September and October. This eclipsed the record set in 1924 and October isn’t over. Some have resorted to putting tracks on their combines and others have resorted to waiting out the weather at Karl’s playing pull tabs. That’s okay; we can always use a new fire truck. There are some grain quality issues apparent as some corn has been sprouting on the ear and the soybeans remaining in the field are not improving in quality either. We may see a return to days gone by where we felt good about finishing harvest by Thanksgiving.

 October is pasta month and being a former resident of North Dakota’s Durum Triangle area, am proud to have had the privilege to work with durum wheat growers there for 3 years after graduating college. North Dakota raises approximately 68% of the nation’s durum wheat. While durum can be used to make bread or occasionally cinnamon Bobka, its primary use is of course pasta. Hard amber durum is the hardest of all known wheat classes. To make pasta, rather than grinding the wheat into flour, durum is ground into a granular product known as semolina. The amber color of the durum wheat kernel gives the semolina and the resulting pasta its golden color.

At the Mall for Men, we’ve seen an increase in the number of little fat buddies wearing buttons saying “I got my combine stuck. Did you?” Some horror stories but mainly gallows humor to maintain a positive mental outlook. Most also had lists of outdoor fall honeydew projects but were betting some coffee and smart talk would postpone those until our office phone rings anyway. Have to go hide somewhere else.   

Indeed there are plenty of things to do outdoors. After taking down the hummingbird feeders was time to clean up some of the other bird feeders, making them more sanitary for our feathered friends. Didn’t take long and there was a whole flock of chickadees flitting about checking out the sunflower and thistle feeders. This marks the first chickadees we’ve seen in years. Maybe changing deodorant did help! They had to share however. There were also large groups of house finches and goldfinches alternating between feeding stations. Bluebirds are passing through and was witness to another of those perpetual strings of blackbirds Sunday morning while cleaning up the sunflower stalks around the well pit.

Inside the ranch house, Mrs. Cheviot has enlisted the services/opinions of several decorating consultants for advice about window dressings, wall hangings, tables, color coordination, etc. Oddly enough yours truly has not been consulted. Wonder if it has something to do with the velvet black light posters that graced the walls in the apartment shared with the Boy Entomologist, the pear-shaped centerpiece homemade blaze orange swag light fixture that adorned the living room or the blankets we hung over the windows when we were trying to sleep off Friday night on Saturday morning? Perhaps I should consult the sages at the Mall for Men for some decorating tips on my small assigned portion of the living space. I’d really hate to be left out of this process after all. Maybe if I iron that good old slightly rumpled Alan Parsons Project poster…

See you next week…real good then.     
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on October 10/22/07, 06:42:06 PM
akways wondered why i was never consulted
in the home decor...  hmmmm

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/30/07, 01:56:40 PM
Time, time, time
See what's become of me...

The scurs had more success last week predicting a pretty nice stretch of fall weather. What lies in store for us this week? Some rather seasonal conditions through the early part of the forecast and some downright cool conditions to start out next week. Wednesday’s highs reach 50 and lows are in the 30 degree range with a slight chance of rain. Thursday and Friday, slightly warmer with a high of 55 and lows near 30 with another slight chance of rain Friday night. Saturday through Monday, highs  of 50 with lows around 30. Tuesday, highs struggle to reach 40 with overnight lows near 20. Normal high for November 2nd is 50 and normal low is 29, the same we normally experience on April 2nd or 3rd. Again we lost about 3 minutes of daylight per day this past week. After masquerading as weather forecasters this Halloween, the scurs will be falling back and enjoying an extra hour of sleep on Sunday.

Don’t forget to get up at 2 a.m. to set your clock back an hour on November 4th. Changing it ahead of time is cheating and could reduce that imaginary 300,000 barrels of oil we will save you know. Occurring one week later than last year, we get the hour of sleep back that was stolen from us last spring. I have an idea, why don’t we just let bygones be bygones, call it even and leave the clock alone after this November?

Speaking of time, an apology to anyone who got their dander up because the last full moon actually occurred on October 25th rather than the 26th as most calendars said. Most calendars, especially the free ones that are handed out, set the timing of the phases of the moon according to Greenwich Mean Time or Universal Time, which is 5 hours ahead of us during Daylight Saving Time. The actual time of the moon becoming full was 11:52 p.m. on October 25th so technically, in last week’s column, we missed it by 8 minutes. However, either date was correct. The moon was still full at 12:01 a.m. on the 26th. Venus continues to shine brightly in the morning sky, looking like a mini-moon so we should all be happy about that.

Area farmers made generally good harvest progress this past week. There are still some chewy spots though and some gigantic ruts to serve as a reminder to call the tile man. Corn is coming out of the fields very dry and the amount of dryer gas being consumed is minimal. If the weather holds, the majority of the corn should be picked and in the bin as we near the weekend.

The season continues its march towards winter. A true killing frost occurred on the morning of the 28th around Greater Bugtussle so according to local Swedish tradition, we can now officially have Indian Summer. Leaves fell easily out of the trees that morning as the slightest breeze initiated their descent to the earth. The nasturtiums in the yard that had been robust the day before looked like deflated balloons by noon. The sheep were busy lapping up the soft maple leaves as fast they fell on their side of the pasture fence, not unlike kids picking up candy at a parade.

The lawn got one last shave on Saturday and while I almost got stuck in the ditch, the dry leaves in the rest of the yard were pulverized into confetti. There are a few leaves yet on area trees but they are becoming scarce. The bur oak leaves at the kindly neighbors pasture have fallen and the ewes there have to fish through the dry leaves to get to the green grass underneath. There’s enough forage there to last a few weeks yet, weather permitting but one knows that eventually the inevitable is coming.

The birds don’t seem to be all that concerned about the change in seasons at this point. The chickadees are busy going from feeding station to feeding station and there are some newcomers. Sunday morning saw the first red-bellied woodpecker of the season and the first purple finches that have been seen here in many moons. Having been so used to seeing house finches, these looked a little odd at first, slightly larger and the females with the white stripe above the eye made me look twice. It is gratifying after starting the remodeling project a year ago and removing 3 large trees to see that the birds still find the yard inviting. Not only inviting but more hospitable. There is more variety this year than ever before.

Mrs. Cheviot got the stools for the center island and was fortunate (or so she thought) that 2 out of the 4 were already assembled, saving us lots of time as there are lots of bolts in them. After actually reading the instructions and putting together the other two, discovered the previously assembled stools had bolts missing, not in just one or two places but all over. In addition, they hadn’t used the proper bolts or washers in the proper places if at all so they didn’t fit together well. Luckily none of the little fat buddies visited and got a chance to sit on them. Could’ve been disastrous.

The easiest solution was to ask for another hardware kit, disassemble each stool completely and reassemble them. The furniture company was gracious about getting us another hardware kit but apparently whoever had put the 2 stools together decided that lock washers were unnecessary, discarding part of them. We were still 4 short, making another trip to a hardware store necessary. Estimating that the pre-assembled stools actually cost us about 4 additional hours. On the bright side, figure I am now qualified to get a job at a furniture store. Better than working at the Pottery Barn I guess.

See you next week…real good then.       

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: GOGETTER on October 10/30/07, 05:00:06 PM
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Grute Man on October 10/30/07, 07:34:29 PM
I thought something was funny about the moon and my calendar.  Glad I didn't blow up or anything.   ;D

Nice read.  Thanks.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/05/07, 01:54:19 PM
How soft your fields so green…

The scurs were on track for most of last week with some pretty decent weather. This week will bring some marked changes but not all that out of the ordinary for the second full week in November. After the early week winds, breezes should moderate making it feel a little warmer. Look for highs Wednesday and Thursday of 40 – 45 and lows around 25. Fridays high should top out at 45 with a low of 40.  Saturday, warmer. High of 45 – 50 and a low near 40. Warmer again Sunday with a high of 55 and low between 35 and 40. High for Monday around 50 and low plummeting to 20. Tuesday, much cooler with a high of 35 – 40 and a low of 15 – 20.  Normal high for November 9th is 45 and the normal low is 26. The normal high has cooled 5 degrees in the last week and the normal low is 3 degrees lower than a week ago. We’ve lost 18 minutes of daylight in the past week. The scurs are not worried however. There is plenty of leftover chocolate from Halloween to help keep their mood positive.

We experienced a fair amount of virga (not Viagra) this past weekend, a situation where rain falls out of the clouds but does not reach the ground, partially due to extremely low humidity. Skies last Saturday afternoon looked ominous and while radar showed rain, it never fell. Sunday it sprinkled lightly but didn’t amount to anything.

It’s amazing to drive around the countryside and see all the green lawns and hayfields. Actually mowed a little lawn this past weekend after getting the last of the apples picked up under the tree. Some operators have taken a late cutting of hay and the chances of damage to stands now that forages are essentially dormant are reduced as long as one allowed the alfalfa to bloom during one cutting. Still some corn to be harvested around the area but finding standing corn is getting tougher. Fall tillage is progressing well although who would’ve guessed a month ago we’d be this far along. There are also indications that some cornstalks will be left for no-till soybeans given the contract price for next year.

Asian multicolored ladybeetles have outnumbered the boxelder beetles inside the house for the first time this fall. Numbers are not as dramatic as in years past so one is left to wonder why. Soybean acreage was down and most acres were treated for soybean aphids which in turn also takes out a portion of the ladybeetles. It could also be that perhaps we are beginning to see the insects reach some type of equilibrium such as they have in China where soybeans have been raised for centuries.

At the ranch, the show sheep came back off the road, having traveled across much of the US with our friends from NY Mills. They always stick out once they’re mixed in with the rest of the group, their show coats still clean and freshly trimmed. The ewes in the home pasture have enjoyed the leftover apples. Now the grass has stopped growing it won’t be long and they’ll need to be hayed. The ram and ewes at the kindly neighbors pasture will have to come home in the next couple weeks too. Lucy is looking forward to bringing them up and holding them in the barn until I can get there to close the door.

In the yard, small groups of robins continue to pass through, snacking on the crabapples.  A hairy woodpecker was the most recent arrival at the feeders. The addition of suet cakes in the feeders met with his approval. While finishing the apple harvest, noted 9 bluebirds in a small flock flying overhead, calling as they made their way south as if to say “goodbye, see you next spring”.

The “Orange Army” was out in force this past weekend. Not sure just how many were successful in getting a deer but there were sure a lot of guys in pumpkin suits sitting in trees. As long as they didn’t shoot themselves or somebody else, most of us out enjoying the warm weather weren’t too concerned.

Recently checked the rat bait boxes in the barn the other night after chores and to my amazement, they were all empty again after just a few weeks. Restocked them and thought nothing of it until the next night when I decided to see how much poison these rats were eating on a daily basis. Opened up one of the boxes and to my surprise, there was a small opossum in it, hissing at me and baring his teeth. Quickly grabbed the pellet gun and dispatched the varmint, marveling at how the little contortionist got through a 2” diameter hole.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, when walking back to the house, I spied another one stumbling around in the dark, almost like it had a drug overdose, perhaps opium. White lotus. Yam-yam. Shanghai Sally. It was more likely suffering from the effects of the rat bait. Grabbed a pitchfork and made short work of that one as well. Decided to dust off the live trap once again. At $20 a pail for rat bait there are probably cheaper methods of controlling opossums.

See you next week…real good then.


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/12/07, 08:04:00 PM
Hey, what's that sound?

Ah those scurs keep dishing out nice weather forecasts and wouldn’t you know, we keep getting nice weather. More on tap for this week and the deep freeze will have to wait another week. Starting with Wednesday and stretching through Friday,  highs of 40 – 45 and lows of 25. Saturday, slightly cooler. High 40 and low of 25. Sunday’s high should be warmer at 45 and low should be 25. Monday and Tuesday are out there a ways but it looks like 45 for a high on Monday with a low of 20 – 25. Tuesday looks cold with highs of 30 – 35 and a low of 20. Best guess for Thanksgiving is a 40+ degree day which will help all you turkey grillers save on charcoal. Normal high is 41 and normal low is 23, the same we’d expect to see in mid-March. We’ve lost 17 minutes of daylight since last week although the rate at which we’re losing it slows as we approach the winter solstice. After the warm weather, the scurs are starting to look around for that perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

My favorite female Star - Eagle columnist tossed a question my way concerning what happened to the woolly bear caterpillars (larva of the Isabella moth) this fall as she had not seen any. I saw relatively few but did see some crossing the road west of Ellendale this fall. The brown band was very narrow and they were fairly large. As you all know, the width of the brown band is according to folklore a predictor of how harsh the winter will be. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, the width of the band is related to the caterpillar’s age. It increases as the caterpillar gets older and is also related to the moisture conditions they developed under. Wetter conditions usually mean the caterpillar has wider black stripes and less brown and so forth.

Woolly bear caterpillars over winter as caterpillars, wake up in the spring and eat for a bit, then spin a cocoon. There are 2 generations of woolly bears per year in this latitude, with cocoons being formed in spring and summer. Why weren’t there as many this fall? It could very well be moisture related. With record rainfall for the 3 month period of August through October, there were many pathogens that could have affected insect larva including fungal diseases such as beauvaria. While one can’t count on the woolly bears to predict the winter, (we have scurs for that) at least Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are still real.

With all the leaves now gone, it’s amazing to look around the yard at the ranch to see all the bird nests, well over a dozen including those of the robins, grackles, doves and red-winged blackbirds. No wonder it was so loud in the morning this past summer. Herring gulls descended out of nowhere Sunday on the neighbor's plowing to the north, plucking earthworms and night crawlers as fast as they could. The red-bellied woodpecker has become a regular this week and the chickadees are everywhere. On the ear corn feeder, Scratchy the fox squirrel eats the hearts (germ) out of the kernels, then drops them on the ground for the pheasants to clean up later. Or perhaps a Cornish gamehen.

Opossums continue to plague me. As of this week, the score is Mr. Cheviot 7, opossums 0. May have had some close encounters I wasn’t even aware of as well. At the kindly neighbors, the light had been burned out in the barn so was doing chores there by the Braille method. When I asked about changing the bulb, got a profuse apology from the kindly neighbor as he agreed the light needed attention. Apparently there were opossums in their barn too, hissing in the dark when they’d go down there to feed the cats in the room with the water hydrant. Here I thought it was just their cats!

Deer hunters were out in force over the weekend and was very politely asked if it was okay to hunt the land around the pond. It would’ve been easy to just blow through the area without asking and if no one saw them, who would’ve been the wiser, right? It boils down to a matter of a hunter’s ethics. If you’re one of those who thinks it’s okay to trespass and go anywhere you please, all you do is spoil it for those who know better. Thank you to all hunters who ask permission first.

Was barn cleaning time at home once again. Under the close scrutiny of Lucy and Gus, put the heathouser on, changed oil and moved stuff around so when the snow flies, life will be easier. And it always takes a little while to find all the grease zerks and chains the first time out with a different spreader. Don’t mind though; I love the smell of JB chain lube in the morning.

The spreader got a workout and I put ‘er through the paces. Was so used to the old spreader clanking, whirring and banging that I had to look back a few times to make sure the new one was running. It was although it complained a little on the last load when I piled it on a little too heavily and made the belt squawk. That’s alright. Don’t have to load it quite so heavy I guess. The neighbor will get more loads of manure that way.

See you next week…real good then.


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/19/07, 03:24:18 PM
It's fun to stay at the YMCA...

The scurs were on track except for the slight ugliness that was Sunday. Oh well, it is November. This week brings us back down the earth once again with some slightly cooler than normal conditions.  Wednesday through Saturday, highs will struggle to get above freezing. Highs in that timeframe near 30 with lows between 15 and 20. Perhaps a light dusting of snow leftover from Wednesday will greet you as you light the charcoal grill Thursday morning for that Thanksgiving turkey. A warm up on Sunday with a high of 40 and a low of 25. Slightly cooler Monday and Tuesday with highs of 35 and lows of 15 – 20. Normal high for a November 22 Turkey Day is 37 and normal low is 20, the same we’d see early in the second week of March.  We’ve lost about 13 minutes of daylight in the last week but take heart: In about 6 weeks the hours of daylight will start to increase again. The scurs will be napping between copious amounts of leftover turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie in the meantime.

8:30 a.m. November 24th brings us another full moon, this one known as the Full Beaver Moon as it was common practice to trap beaver when this time of year when their activity is at its peak. Several locals can attest to their activity as the beavers have been busy making dams to slow running water and creating lodges where they can over winter in comfort.

The little fat buddies have been busy training for the upcoming holidays, sharpening their rapier-like wits and expanding their stomach capacity for the onslaught. Cookie and bar samples are always accepted at the Mall for Men training table. If we survive, they’re probably safe to give to someone else. It has been revealed that local religious leaders are encouraging the need to take a day of rest and not a moment too soon. It’s hard work trying to find new places to hide this time of year.   

Are you ready for that after-Thanksgiving dinner nap? Good news for all nappers including the editor and fellow nap aficionado. Recent information indicates that folks who take at least three 30-minute or more daytime naps weekly cut their risk of dying from a heart attack by 37%. According to Michael Rossman, director of Agri-Wellness, the ideal nap is 10 to 30 minutes. That after-dinner snooze is one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Birds continue to be active at the feeders and the latest new sighting: A flicker on the suet. First time we’ve actually seen one at a feeder. As if on cue though, large groups of greedy starlings have shown up again to consume more than their fair share of suet. European starlings were brought to the US originally to New York City back in the 1890 as a part of someone’s cerebral flatulence to populate Central Park with all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. They since have become nuisance birds, crowding many native species out of their original niches and the large flocks have become hazardous for aircraft safety.

Starlings have also been identified as carriers of Campylobacter and Salmonella, capable of spreading these pathogens from farm to farm. More recently starlings are being studied as possible vectors of some of the recent E. coli outbreaks on vegetable produce. Turns out the strain of E. coli found on some of the area dairy farms near vegetables identified as contaminated is the same as that carried by local starling populations. Studies are being conducted at Ohio State University thanks to a grant from USDA.

Area farmers are putting the finishing touches on fall field work. Anhydrous ammonia prices have skyrocketed, reaching $600 per ton commonly across the area. Supply has been less than stable as well with some able to only apply a tank or two a day. Fall tillage is nearly completed and fields have worked up surprisingly well, given the wet conditions that had us wondering not more than 6 weeks ago if we’d ever get the crop out.

Even managed to get the big barn at the ranch cleaned finally. Was wondering while loading the spreader if the snowflakes were real or there were just some beeswings floating around the yard. They were real alright. Sometimes it feels like barn cleaning has become more calisthenics for my aging joints although I do enjoy playing with the toys. Like every other farm operation, raising livestock is a rough sport. While the exercise component (Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum!) of manure handling isn’t what it used to be, you still need to use the pitchfork to clean up the little messes left behind by the skid loader. Getting bounced around for a couple days and jumping on and off of equipment umpteen times, one is always stiff and sore. Reminds me of the visit I had one time with a dairy farmer from Owatonna. Not so long ago when milk prices were in the dumper he was convinced the only thing he was getting out of milking cows was the exercise,  If he wanted a fitness program, he told me, it would be a lot cheaper to join the YMCA. Hard to argue with logic like that.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on November 11/19/07, 03:36:14 PM
another good read!  thanks dotch.
randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: GOGETTER on November 11/19/07, 04:40:36 PM
Dotch:  I remember those Honey hauling days in SD in the 60's. Those A and B John Deeres' just putted along all day.  I hated unloading those loads by fork when the chain broke from too much weight. The boots got smelly then. Good Read.  Thanks..  Geno
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/19/07, 09:43:55 PM
Thanks guys! Geno: Those Poppin' Johnnies were quite the machines, little different operating with the hand clutch but tough as nails. Always enjoyed hearing their familiar yet distinctive sound across the fields as a kid. Forking loads off is never fun. Last load last fall my old New Idea 210 spreader finally gave up the ghost and I blew the beater out on one side. Had to get my pitchfork out and fork the load off in the dark. Apron chain still works though so I can use it to haul and unload brush and stuff. Replaced it with a New Holland 520 someone had bought new and parked when they retired from dairy farming. Less than a 100 loads went through it. Looks like new, paint was still on the beaters. Works great but it's a lot bigger than the old spreader. Gives the 656 a workout. Hope I never have to pitch a load off of it or I'll get one too.   :taz:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: deadeye on November 11/20/07, 07:59:44 AM
AHHH, the good old days of farming.  Brings back memories, some good, some not so good.  You guys complain about hand unloading the occasional broken spreader.  You get no tears from me.  We never had a loader.  My brother and I hand shoveled the gutters every day in winter. 
Then there is the on about the Preacher, Banker and Farmer discussing what they would do if they won a million dollars.
The Preacher said he would give it to the poor and help improve many lives.
The Banker said he would loan it to business and help people prosper.
The Farmer said he would just keep on farming as long as the money lasted!

Thanks, for the memories.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/20/07, 10:14:57 AM
Those were the days deadeye+, weren't they? You dairy guys got the raw deal on a daily basis. Ours was more time delayed. We could just toss in more straw to keep the barn warm and dry. Holiday season approaching brings back more manure memories. We didn't have a skid loader growing up so when Christmas "vacation" came, had to pitch out the sheep barn. It was an area about 30' x 30', low ceiling, with about 3' of hard packed sheep manure, sometimes frozen. There's a reason they call those things they use to make roads "sheep-foot packers". Took a pick axe to bust the pack loose and then it came off in sheets with the 4 tine pitchfork. Had to plop it in the wheelbarrow, wheel it up a ramp and dump it in the spreader. Gave the Co-Op E-3 and old Schultz tandem wheel spreader all they wanted bouncing across the plowing. Too frequently we'd shear pins on some of the bigger frozen chunks. With 2 of us it wasn't so bad but by yourself, seemed like it took forever. Had to get it done though. We had other areas to pitch too including the henhouse but they were staggered over the course of the year. Pushing 50 now, can't imagine even attempting stuff like that anymore. Makes me hurt just thinking about it. :bonk:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/26/07, 10:39:27 PM
Get your motor running, head out on the highway...

After surviving a pre-Thanksgiving feast dusting of snow, the scurs are setting their sites on the upcoming week’s forecast. Unfortunately it contains none of the warm temperatures from this past weekend. Wednesday and Thursday are twins with highs both days of near 30 and lows of 15. Slight chance of snow for Wednesday. Colder Friday and Saturday with highs of 25 and lows around 10. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday highs of 20 – 25 and lows around 10. Normal high for November 30th is 33 and normal low is 15, the same we experience the last week in February. We have lost approximately 13 minutes of daylight in the past week. The scurs have eaten their last piece of pumpkin pie as they peruse the circulars for Christmas bargains.

Did it seem like Thanksgiving came early this year? That’s because it did. Thanksgiving is traditionally the fourth Thursday in November in the US. That means that Thanksgiving can come anywhere from November 22nd to November 28th when the month begins on a Friday. The good news: The little fat buddies get to feast early. The bad news: They get one more week of Christmas shopping.

We had numerous guests for Thanksgiving Day. They included chickadees, blue jays, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers, a flicker, mourning doves, goldfinches, white-breasted nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos and the smallest of them all, a red-breasted nuthatch.

Stopped out at One Stop last week to get a bite to eat for lunch. I got the chicken and wild rice soup (No soup for you!) and the female half of the Bandwagon star duo informed me they had just caught the banty they made the soup from that morning with one of those “hooker-thingies”.  What she was referring to of course was those leg hooks that were commonplace on most of the farms we all grew up on. The hook on the end was used to slip under the chicken and when pulled would allow you to reel the chicken in. If you didn’t have one or couldn’t find the one you thought you had, a long piece of #9 wire could quickly be fashioned into one of those “hooker-thingies”. Oh yes, the soup was real good.

With the holiday weekend, the sheep were brought home from the kindly neighbors pasture. Not without a struggle however. The sheep were up around the barn which his usually a good sign. However, some of the ewes had other ideas. The dogs and I had them where we wanted them and were about to close the door when suddenly, 7 or 8 of them bolted for the hills. Noticeable amongst them acting as ringleaders were a couple ewes from a friend who had brought them over to breed. Penned the cooperative ram and ewes in and went off to see if we could find the others.

Sent Lucy to find the group and she brought part of them up but some were still being stinky about it. Made her go back and bring the others up which she did beautifully. After some coaxing they decided we meant business so they went in as Lucy held them while I grabbed the barn door and slid it shut. Earlier in the week was a little worried that Lucy might not make the trip. Had taken her to the vet to examine a lump on her leg. After a biopsy the news was good: Benign for now anyway. At 10 going on 11, not sure how many more sheep round-ups she has left in her. Was sure glad she made this one though. Seems like it’s getting a little farther to the north end of the pasture each year.

‘Tis the season to bring all the animals home including some of the rams we’ve leased out. We don’t lease very many rams out because frequently those who lease them are doing so because simply because they’re cheap. They’ll want to haggle on the price and when the animal is returned, it’s in poor condition. However, a gentleman by Chatfield has been leasing a ram from us every fall for years and this one was no exception. When we first met Gary Stolz years ago wasn’t just sure how it would turn out. Here was a guy wearing Harley clothing, sporting a bushy beard driving a little Suzuki 4x4 pulling a small 2 wheeled trailer with a pickup topper on it. He wanted to buy a half-dozen ewes, some with lambs at side. We had some and he didn’t bat an eye at the price. He’s increased his flock to about 30 head and keeps coming back every fall to get a ram to use. Every year the ram comes back in better shape than when he left.
Turns out he works at Mayo and since he lives on an acreage near Chatfield from which many of the Bernard clan hail, we’ve been able to connect the dots on mutual acquaintances. He spins wool into yarn and knits his own creations. Gary’s made stocking hats from the natural-colored (black) Cheviot ewe they had and the one thing he’s made I’ve always been impressed with is a neck warmer made to fit down inside your shirt for those cold winter days on the prairie when the wind blows.

When he showed up Saturday, we were able to back right up to the pen to unload the ram, something that made all of us happy since we didn’t have to handle the tightly wound beast. We visited about tractor restoration. He and his Dad recently restored the Massey 33 he'd had when he was farming. He brought photos along of the finished product and it was flawlessly done, his Dad proudly seated behind the wheel.  Gary paid me for use of the ram and then said “Oh, almost forgot”, as he ducked back inside the Suzuki and produced a neck warmer he’d made himself from the Cheviot wool he’d spun. “This is for you.” It was perfect. Somehow he knew. First impressions? Sure, they’re important but one should never judge a book by its cover.

See you next week…real good then.     

your motor running, head out on the highway...

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: deadeye on November 11/28/07, 08:49:12 AM
"Tis the season to bring all the animals home including some of the rams we’ve leased out. We don’t lease very many rams out because frequently those who lease them are doing so because simply because they’re cheap. They’ll want to haggle on the price and when the animal is returned, it’s in poor condition."

And, just what condition would you be in if you were leased out during the summer for "service"????

Maybe he's in poor conditon, but happy.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/28/07, 12:44:08 PM
Would depend on the "ewes", how many naps I could take and how much food I could eat I guess. A feller's gotta keep his strength up! :popcorn:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/04/07, 01:07:46 PM
We come from the land of the ice and snow...

After getting their Christmas gift lists in order, the scurs get down to brass tacks with another week’s weather forecast. Below normal temperatures for much of the week with some snow potential. Some relief possible early next week. Wednesday through Friday, highs of 20 and lows between 5 and 10. Slightly warmer Saturday with highs of 20 – 25 and lows near 10. Chance of snow Wednesday through Saturday. Sunday and Monday it warms up with highs near 35 and lows of 15 – 20. Tuesday slightly cooler with a high of 25 and low of 15. Snowfall is also a distinct possibility. Normal high for December 7th is 30 and normal low is 12, the same range we’d expect to see in mid-February. We’ve lost another 9 minutes of daylight in the last week but the rate of loss is declining. The scurs are stoking the pot bellied stove in the parlor, mesmerized by the light flashing through the mica vents.

Last Saturday’s storm took many of us somewhat by surprise until we realized it is December. Still, after experiencing high temperatures near 50 on November 25th, it was a shock to the system to experience the sub-zero wind chills one week later. True enough we had to endure the greasy skid stuff on Friday but the glaze left from the freezing rain one day later caused church services to be cancelled and a tendency for those who didn’t need to travel to hunker down. A wise idea. There will be more church services and risking life and limb to get there doesn’t make much sense.

St. Olaf Lake froze over hopefully for good sometime during the middle of last week. Up until Thursday there had been ducks sitting on the ice shelf on the west end of the lake and 4 swans were sighted one morning on my drive in to the Mall for Men. Sunday, wedges of geese were spotted heading south almost like wave after wave of bombers. Not sure if they were locals from one of the area municipalities or if they’d seen enough and were heading south where water would be open for awhile.

Even though it’s been cold, the bird activity at the feeders has been at a fever pitch, especially on either side of the storm. All the regulars were feeding heavily along with some newcomers, the tree sparrows. Thought perhaps the flicker would leave but she’s still here. How can one tell it’s a female? It has no “moustache” same as most of the human female population. The chickadees were distraught when I let the feeder on the south side of the house run out. Was rewarded however when they decided the sunflower seeds in my cupped hand were safe to eat, landing, picking one out quickly and retreating to a nearby branch.

Gus and Lucy have put on some tremendously heavy coats thus far. They needed them too as they struggled to maintain their balance in the wind on the icy slopes as they did their business. They’ve become spoiled with their new winter abode in the heated garage. Their new doggie beds have made it even more comfortable and the leftover Lion’s pancakes hit the spot. Swallowed whole not sure they even tasted them. Reminded me of the little fat buddies inhaling a plate of Christmas cookies.

Moving snow for those who had to get out was a challenge. The ½ - ¾” ice on top coupled with the almost granular like snow underneath was tough to blow and equally as ornery to move with the bucket. Several times chunks that came loose resembling cement blocks or sheets of plywood. With no cab, it was definitely time to break out the long handles Sunday after that experience.

Marianne wanted to hear more possum stories and sure enough, there are more. They’re like fleas this year I swear and others have said the same. Wound up face to face with one at the kindly neighbors before leaving there before Thanksgiving and had to improvise with a fishing spear. Not sure when the possum spearing season starts but I’ll be ready for it. I was concerned the other night that one had wriggled up the downspout and was crawling around in the eave troughs or was on the roof as they can climb like a ring-tailed lemur. Went outside to look and nothing visible anywhere. Audible however was the ice falling off the trees on top of the ice, making an interesting echo off the side of the house. Mr. Cheviot 9, Possums 1.

See you next week…real good then.   
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/15/07, 10:51:40 AM
My apologies for not getting this up sooner. The local "Decorating Nazi" has been keeping me busy.

Separate the wheat from the chaff...

The scurs were embarrassed when Sunday missed the high they predicted last week by only 20 degrees. They’ll be staying out of the holiday eggnog for awhile. After early week snow showers, this one is dry but cool. Wednesday high of 20 and low of 10 followed by a scorcher on Thursday with a high of 25 and low of 5 – 10. Back to reality Friday through Sunday with highs of 15 and lows of 0 to 5 above. Monday and Tuesday: warmer. Highs Monday of 20 and low of 10. Tuesday’s high is a blistering 25 and a balmy low of 15. Normal high for December 14 is 27 and normal low is 9. We’ll have 8 hours and 56 minutes of daylight on the 14th and we’ve lost only 6 minutes of daylight since the 7th. The scurs have rented “It’s a Wonderful Life” to see if George Bailey really can lasso the moon.

Days are getting shorter but that will soon change. Someone came in overjoyed that the sun will begin setting later December 14th. That’s the good news. The bad news is it continues to rise later until December 27th (7:48 a.m.) and continues to rise at that time until January 9th. Daylight hours will begin to get longer on December 26th, something to look forward to in what has started out to be winter as we once knew it. With the ground snow covered as early as it has been and with the days as short as they are, a substantial warm up is unlikely for awhile.

The ice the weekend before last has been treacherous. With the every few days’ worth of snow on top of it, it’s kept the hospital wards busy with their fair share of sprains and broken bones. Had the pleasure a couple times this past week of suddenly winding up on my behind. How I managed to keep from breaking the eggs and several glass jars when falling at the grocery store is beyond me. The yard at the ranch being on a slope, it’s easy to find places to go for a digger. Luckily no one saw me either place and hopefully they didn’t hear me. The air wasn’t just blue from the diesel exhaust.

Decided it’s time to go looking for a Christmas tree, all the while avoiding the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Hopefully as of this writing there are still some left. All is not lost however. If I don’t find a tree, Festivus is back! I’ll get the pole out of the crawl space. Maybe if I eat enough pickled herring in me I’ll be prepared for the feats of strength.

Wasn’t more than a few hours after the last column went to print that we had pheasants roll through the yard. With much of their food froze down and more snow piling on top of it, their survival may be compromised. Had a lone grackle at the feeders this weekend. Seems to like the suet and the ear corn feeder the best. More stragglers this year than we’ve seen in awhile. The flicker is still here and there are a handful of mourning doves that clean up under the feeders. The goldfinch numbers continue to swell and they empty the thistle sock in the crabapple tree every 2 – 3 days.

With the ice and cold, doing “chorse” every morning and night starts to wear on a person this time of year. Nothing like when we were growing up though. It was a few years before we had lights in the barn and we never had lights in the chicken coop. Always a trick to hold the flashlight and protect the egg bucket while attempting to dislodge some old biddy hen from the galvanized nesting boxes. Most frustrating when they’d jump out of the nest suddenly and upset the egg bucket on their way down. On the bright side, at least those eggs would usually be warm and not frozen as some laid earlier in the day.

Looks like field operations have ceased for the year. Tilers have encountered 10” of frost on soybean stubble. On the lakes, there is up to 8” of ice. Might be a good place to contemplate life and what the fertilizer prices will be for the upcoming year. Commodity prices continue to show strength; who would’ve thought old crop wheat would ever reach over $10 per bushel? While the cost of the wheat in a loaf of bread has roughly tripled in the past 3 years, the price per loaf locally for the store brand has remained relatively stable, not much different than 3 years ago. Too bad we can’t say the same about a gallon of gas or diesel.

Lucy’s 11th birthday is the 18th. Doesn’t seem all that long ago that I went to IL and picked up the little red and white smooth coat border collie puppy. She’s been a very special animal to be sure, and if I can communicate properly, one that always tries her best to do what’s asked. Fortunately, she understands more English than some people I know. Wish I’d had a dog like that when I was a kid. Think she really would have eaten my homework! Best of all, as she’s aged, she’s become more cunning. She knows when the going gets tough, it’s time to take a nap.
See you next week…real good then.


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on December 12/15/07, 11:03:36 AM
good read, thanks dotch!

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/17/07, 02:10:07 PM
A winter's day, in a deep and dark December...

The scurs were tracking more than snow last week with a pretty good idea of what the weather was up to. Can they deliver on a decent holiday forecast? All indications point to “yes”. Starting with Wednesday, look for a high of 30 and a low of 15 – 20. Much the same Thursday with a high of 30 and a low of 15. Slight chance of light snow. Slightly cooler Friday and Saturday with highs both days near 25 and lows of 15 – 20. Slight chance of light snow on Friday night into Saturday. Sunday and Monday highs range from 20 – 25 and lows dipping to 10 above. Christmas Day could see a slight thaw with a high of 30 – 35 and a low of 15. Normal high for December 21st is 25 and normal low is 6. Normal high for Christmas Day is 24 and normal low is 5. Starting on the 18th we experience our shortest day lengths at 8 hours and 54 minutes through Christmas Day. On the 21st, we will have only lost 2 minutes from 1 week previously. On the 26th, we get one more minute of daylight back so if you see the scurs out celebrating, you’ll know why.

The 23rd brings us the Full Moon for the month, becoming full at 7:16 p.m. Once again we run into the calendar vs. Universal Time issue. The free calendars most of us get this time of year are designed based on Universal Time and those of us on CST need to subtract 6 hours for the time to be accurate. The moon is actually full the day prior to when the calendar claims it is. This Full Moon is known as the Full Cold Moon or the Long Nights Moon. Indeed the nights are long and the moon stays above the horizon for a long time. On the 23rd for instance, it rises at 4:04 p.m. and sets the following morning at 8:44 a.m. making for 16 hours and 40 minutes of mooning pleasure, if it isn’t cloudy of course.

Birds continue to flock to the feeders although the flicker may have flown the coop. No matter, there are enough new goldfinches to make up the difference for several flickers. Did a little experiment with the goldfinches to see whether they could tell new thistle seed from some that had been in a feeder not being consumed for awhile. Thistle seed is not getting any cheaper. In the feeder they were consistently emptying, I secretly switched that seed with the old stuff they weren’t eating just to see if they could tell the difference. Sounds sorta like one of those old Folger’s coffee crystals commercials, doesn’t it? Nothing visually wrong with the seed, nor could one detect any musty odor. Sure enough, they went to the other feeders and still turned their noses, er, beaks up at the old seed in the feeder they had previously favored. Gotta get up purty early in the morning to fool a goldfinch.

At the Mall for Men the little fat buddies continue hiding and gathering near the Festivus pole. Every day high level discussions are conducted concerning crucial matters such as where the fish are biting, lying about crop yields as well as home economics. Yes, home economics. We’re especially concerned about food safety this time of year, particularly food spoilage. The consensus of the panel of experts was that the best way to avoid food spoilage is to eat it. Judging by the snug fitting “coverhauls” of one of the panel members, the strategy works despite claims of the Mrs. washing the Carhartts in hot water.

Went out and did my level best once again to Christmas shop for the staff at the Star Eagle. Enlisted the scurs help as there are a bunch more people to buy for. For Jim I found a nice pillow containing a tiny hidden speaker that constantly plays “Double Mark’s salary” for those long winter naps.  For Nancy, some of my homegrown 4 O’clock seeds. I know they’re out there under the snow and ice someplace. For Betts, some micro-chips; you know, like those crunched up Doritos at the bottom of the bag that fit so nicely down between the couch cushions. For Al, I figured he needed a new hat as the one in that photo has got to be getting a little gamey. For Jody, I located an autographed copy of “In the Navy” by the Village People. For Kathy, a Chatty Cathy doll with a really long string. For Dick, more of those now 2 year-old dehydrated wax worms. Just add water! Speaking of water, for Ray I procured a bottle of Bugtussle’s finest dihydrogen monoxide from the tap and a flu shot. For Reed I purchased a pack of heaters but he can only have them if he promises to smoke them outside. And for those wondering, yes, I am getting Kugie another athletic supporter but this year, I’m getting him a blonde.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/24/07, 03:50:18 PM
Got the soul of a ragpicker, Got the mind of a slug
I keep sweeping problems, Under my rug

After hitting a little bump in the weather road that was the weekend, the scurs are tanned, rested and ready for another week’s forecast. This week should be moderate temperature-wise but bring with it chances of snow mid-week through Friday. Wednesday’s high of 30 should be easy to take along with the low of 15. Thursday and Friday the highs should be 25 and lows should be 10 – 15. Saturday through New Years Eve Day, highs of 20 – 25 and lows of 10 – 15. New Years Day, high of 30 and low of 10 – 15 with a chance of snow. Normal high for December 28th is 24 and normal low is 4. We have gained 2 minutes of daylight since December 21st. The scurs are readying their snowshoes after watching Sgt. Preston of the Yukon reruns.

In the heavens, we are still seeing Venus as one of the bright features of the morning sky before sunup and after dusk, the red planet Mars is noticed in the western sky. It is the closest to Earth it has been in over 2 years. Look for Jupiter to reappear in the morning sky again next month as you continue to rise earlier than the sun to get to work. The sun pillar on Christmas Eve morning was nothing short of spectacular. Ice crystals suspended in the air made for an awesome view on the heels of the fleeing winter storm.

Was a weekend to entertain as we had the family get-togethers for both sides of the Cheviot family at the ranch. Yours truly spent lots of time cleaning and scrubbing the floors prior to that. My janitorial experience from my college days comes in handy once in awhile. Was great to have everyone together though and it went smoother than could’ve been expected. Everyone brought so much food and a good time seemed to be had by all. Even the dogs enjoyed themselves. Leftover giblets are prime doggie treats and special attention was paid to the canine guests as well as Gus and Lucy. Lots of petting and cooing over them and they loved every minute of it.

The weekend weather was foretold by lots of squirrel activity both in town and out in the country. Around the Mall for Men, lots of gray squirrels were on the move Friday including Stubby. Stubby is a gray squirrel with a 3” – 4” tail. Distinctive looking little bugger and can always tell which rodent it is. Outside Bugtussle, the fox squirrels were busy on Friday and Saturday. Stubby’s country cousin Tubby is the fox squirrel we share with neighbor David. Tubby was busy feasting after running from his home across the pasture to his favorite ear corn feeder. His behind was facing the wind and his tail was up over his back protecting him from the wind as he chowed down on kernel after kernel.  There’s a reason he’s called Tubby and it isn’t because he can coach basketball. With Sunday’s brutal wind and snow, was a safe bet he was busy sleeping off his feast in a nest or tree cavity someplace.

Bird activity was frantic most of the weekend as well. The goldfinches number nearly two dozen now and when they’re hungry, they pull pretty hard on the feeders. Even when the weather was whooping it up, they clung to the leeward side of the feeders for dear life. The mourning doves for being symbols of peace were pretty mean to the other birds. The blue jays were around too, prompting new brother-in-law Joe to proclaim them to be the biggest, fattest blue jays he’d ever seen. We made him aware they were small compared to the 22 lb. model grilled on the Weber as the main course.

Was wondering when I’d find time with the Vikings game changed to Sunday night to get this column done. After reeling off 5 in a row, was beginning to think they might have something going on. After seeing the results of the first half, that problem was solved quickly. Morgan Mundane pointed out on Saturday morning that Joe Gibbs was 5 – 0 at the Metrodome. After Sunday’s debacle, make that 6 – 0. Having watched all the Vikings Super Bowl losses and all the teams that looked promising but just never quite made it, have decided they’re pro football’s answer to the Cubs in baseball. Might as well go about your business and not get too excited about them because you know full well if you get your hopes up, they’re only gonna dash ‘em to bits. To quote a former Vikings head coach, they are who we thought they were. My only solace for the weekend: The Packers were annihilated by none other than “Da Bears”!

Mrs. Cheviot wasted no time recovering from last year’s Christmas tree-less Christmas with a flurry, placing 5 Christmas trees around the abode. There’s even one in the bathroom where I sit and read my toilet book. The “real” Charlie Brown tree purchased at the last minute even turned out pretty well although I sure had my doubts when tossing it in the back of the Silver Bullet. Took me awhile to find all the strategically placed trees. Hopefully when it’s time to take them down, I can be strategically placed so it’ll take Mrs. Cheviot awhile to find me. Will see if some of my training sessions with the little fat buddies have paid off.

See you next week…real good then.   


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on December 12/24/07, 04:22:23 PM
good to see mrs. cheviot is keepin you out of trouble!
have a great xmas!

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/31/07, 02:27:08 PM
The question to everyone's answer...

New Year’s Day wind up a little cooler than expected? Yep, but the snowfall pattern was exactly as the scurs thought. Wednesday starts off cool but the temps should warm as the week goes on. Look for Wednesday’s high around 10 with a low of 5. Thursday and Friday, highs of 25 – 30 and lows of 20 – 25. Warmer Saturday and Sunday with a slight chance of rain beginning what should be an early January thaw. High of 35 through Tuesday with lows staying 25 – 30 for Saturday and Sunday. Lows should taper off to around 20 for Monday and Tuesday. Normal high for January 4th is 22 and the normal low is 2. We’ve gained 5 minutes of daylight since December 28th. We’re now up to a whopping 9 hours and 1 minute. The scurs will be sharpening the blades on their ice skates to take advantage of the warmer than normal temperatures.

Does it look like winter out there? You betcha, although it has been moderate temperature-wise thus far. The 30 day outlook for January looks to continue the above normal pattern we’ll see this week. Oh sure, there will be some seesawing and if winter holds true to form, March could dump a pile of wet heavy snow on us. However, we’ve chewed off a large hunk of winter already and it hopefully won’t seem to drag on forever. The one fly in the ointment is the ice thickness on area lakes remains inconsistent. With no extended cold snap, there are thin spots, especially where there is current or waterfowl worked at keeping areas open for awhile before migrating. Yes people are driving on the lakes but with warm temperatures forthcoming, always a good idea to exercise caution. 

Weren’t the trees gorgeous on Sunday morning? Covered in hoar frost, they looked just like they’d been coated with that white flocking used on Christmas trees. What exactly is hoar frost and how does it form? Hoar frost is defined by the NWS as: “A deposit of interlocking ice crystals formed by direct sublimation on objects, usually those of small diameter freely exposed to the air, such as tree branches, plants, wires, poles, etc. The deposition of hoar frost is similar to the process by which dew is formed, except that the temperature of the frosted object must be below freezing. It forms when air with a dew point below freezing is brought to saturation by cooling”. All I know is the trees just look pretty.

Did Little Jerry the rooster pheasant make reappearance in our yard recently? Could’ve been. A large, beautifully colored rooster was busy taking advantage of the ear corn feeder in the corner of the lawn. He’d managed to pull an ear out of the feeder and was busy rolling it around in the snow, trying to get every last kernel off it he could. After getting his fill, he slunk back in the thicket to hide for a couple days. With the pheasant hunting season closing on January 1st, he was taking no chances. How are the pheasants doing across the area in general? They are certainly visible and so far there sure have been lots of hens spotted on the road picking up grit for their gizzards. While the earlier ice didn’t help their cause, the amount of header loss in both corn and soybeans was substantial. Moderating temperatures and some melting off in the fields should continue to help. A special thank you to my neighbor Mark for leaving such a generous food plot along his CRP. The pheasants spend a fair amount of time in there.

Are the gray partridge making a comeback? There is a small group of Hungarian partridge hanging around between the ranch and neighboring farmsteads. Saw them flying around the Dubya’s yard the other day then heard them calling to each other north of the house here as the group must’ve become separated. Slowly but surely it looks like the Huns are on the increase again. In my travels over the summer, ran across more of these little “round rockets” than I’ve seen in quite some time.

What are Gus and Lucy up to? They’ve been keeping the stray cats, bunnies and squirrels exercised. Lord knows there are enough cottontails around the ranch that if one sewed all their pelts together, you could make a furry hot air balloon. Other than that, the doggies took care of the last morsels from the holiday turkey and Gus is shedding, like all border collies constantly do.

Have I been enjoying my Christmas gifts so far? No doubt, particularly the goodies from the crack management staff at the Star Eagle. It helps me maintain my fighting weight. Especially liked the fruit cake. For those who don’t know, some wiseacre had taken cleverly taken the label off a fruitcake and glued it onto a wooden box. Not wanting to offend anyone or look a gift horse in the mouth, I ate it anyway.  It was a little dry but with a glass of milk and lots of butter, much better tasting than most fruitcakes. I hope they enjoy the possum sausage and jerky I’m sending them for New Year’s.

See you next week…real good then.


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/08/08, 09:26:25 AM
Purple haze all around...

Just as the scurs thought, the speed-bump like cold snap didn’t last long and were treated to lots of fog and haze. It did melt plenty of the ice on area driveways and city streets however. The cause of the recent warm spell? No question it was due to the hot air being blown up from IA during last week’s caucuses. This week we ease our way back into winter with colder temperatures and an increasing promise of more snow. Highs Wednesday and Thursday should be near 30 and lows of 15 – 20. Chances of snow both days. Friday, highs of 25 – 30 with a low of 10 – 15. Saturday and Sunday, highs near 20 and lows around 10. Snow possible Sunday into Monday. Monday and Tuesday, colder with highs of 15 and lows of 5 – 10. Normal high for January 11 is 22 and normal low is 2. We’ve gained nearly 9 minutes of daylight since January 4th even though the sun will continue to rise at 7:48 until January 12th, the same as it has since December 28th. Our gain thus far has come from a later sunset. After taking down their Christmas decorations, the scurs are ready to settle in for a long winters nap.

The sun dogs on New Year’s Day were nothing short of marvelous. With as much blowing snow in the lower atmosphere and ice crystals aloft, the parentheses around the sun were huge. And following weather lore to a “T”, it did become much colder just as we all knew it would. The minus 8 reading on the truck thermometer the morning of January 2nd served as a reminder I didn’t need after chores.

It is amazing to watch the birds respond to the increase day length. In mid to late December, by 4:30 in the afternoon, they had left the feeders for their overnight roost. Now one can see them until 5 pm, still picking that last sunflower seed out of the feeder and flying up into the tree to crack it open. The warmer weather seemed to make a difference too. The goldfinches that were crowding the thistle socks were more erratic. Suspect when the temperatures cool down they’ll be back. Did discover there wasn’t just one Little Jerry the rooster pheasant, there were actually 5. Some armchair wildlife biologists might argue that it’s too many in a group. However, there are 4 to 5 times that many hens right in the same general proximity. Mother Nature takes care of her own fairly well. As predicted last week, now the fields are fairly free from ice and snow, there is plenty of access to grain from this past season’s harvest.

Was good to see my little fat buddy from Ellendale was hired by the crack management staff to cover Ellendale city council events. Would expect he will get plenty of valuable advice and input from his little fat buddy in Geneva while they’re moonlighting together on their daytime jobs.

With Christmas and New Years Day falling in the middle of the week, has been one of those holiday seasons where one is never just exactly sure when it’s really over with. Seems like it depends on who you are. Some won’t leave the decorations up a day past New Years Day and others will keep their lights up and going until well into February. The easy solution to that problem: Just don’t put any up.

Was afraid with the holiday season winding to a close, the little fat buddies would go into mourning as the Christmas goody supply is dwindling. However, hope was restored Monday morning when a huge pan full of apple crisp and whipped topping appeared. There really is a Santa Claus!

Mrs. Cheviot got her dander up and decided it was time to remove the Charlie Brown Christmas tree on Sunday. Yours truly had just awoken from his 2nd nap of the afternoon. Tanned, rested and ready, it was time to do battle. Almost hated to see the tree go but the needles were starting to be an issue. After we stuffed it out the patio doors, we discovered it left a gaping hole in the dining room decor. Of course as usual, my ideas to fill that void met with disapproval. Thought a gun cabinet might’ve added a nice touch or maybe with that much space, one of the old couches from the office would fit to catch those winter afternoon’s sunrays. Or perhaps a basketball hoop. It’s a good thing we’re both short.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Bobby Bass on January 01/10/08, 10:40:35 AM
Nice to only have to travel a short distance on the sled across the bay to find Fencelines. As always a good read.. Bobby
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/10/08, 11:57:19 AM
Always good to see a fellow scribe and someone who shares a sense of humor along with a love of the outdoors.   :toast:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/14/08, 11:14:39 AM
Keep me warm, let me wear your coat

For those wanting snow, the scurs have been having a rough time getting 2 snowflakes to rub together to make a snowball. That’s OK, that’s what they predicted for this past week. This week may generate more of the same light flurries but result in little in the way of accumulation. It will definitely generate a higher heating bill however. Starting Wednesday, we’ll be blessed with highs of 15 – 20 and lows of 0 to 5 above. Slight chance of snow in the afternoon and evening. Thursday, cooler with a high of 10 – 15 and lows of 0 to 5 above. Cold Friday, a slight chance of light snow, with a high of 5 and an overnight low of – 10. Saturday, it will struggle to make 0 for a high and lows will remain at – 10. Sunday, slightly warmer, a high near 5 with lows between 0 and 5 below. Monday and Tuesday, a tad warmer with highs around 10 and lows of 0 to 5 below. Normal high for January 18th is 22 and normal low is 2. We’ve gained approximately 11 minutes of daylight in the past week. The scurs are staying toasty by burning old Fencelines rough drafts in their pot-bellied stove.

The cold we’re experiencing is certainly not unprecedented and in fact, it’s somewhat unusual we haven’t encountered s deep cold snap long before this. The period from January 4th – 20th usually brings with it some of the coldest weather we’ll encounter over the course of a winter. We’ve used up a large portion of January and hopefully the duration of this Arctic air will ease up as we head toward month’s end. It will make ice conditions on area lakes more stable, something that will make anglers smile. Often times though, when we encounter extreme cold, fishing slows down. There is no law however stating that one actually has to fish in a fish house.

Monday morning’s sun dogs and sun pillar brought in the new work week with an indication of what’s in store for us. – 5 temps also were a part of the equation. The Full Moon this month occurs on the 22nd and is known as the Full Wolf Moon as the wolves would be around the Indian settlements at this time of year. It is also known as the Moon after the Yule. The Sioux knew this as the Moon When Frost is in the Tipi. One can only imagine especially given the temperatures experienced in January on the plains.

Saw a lot of squirrel activity this past week along local roadways. Squirrel? Well, we have no deal with THEM! Was asked an intriguing question by Milf the other day regarding the gestation period on squirrels. When asked why, he indicated that he was seeing activity under his bird feeders suggesting they were mating. Indeed the tree dwelling rodents are mating. The 2 primary species of squirrels we see here in SC MN are gray squirrels and fox squirrels. The greatest concentration of gray squirrels tends to be in towns while the fox squirrels tend to be more rural inhabitants.

There are 2 main periods of squirrel mating activity, one occurring from late December to February and another one in June and July. Males are polygyandrous meaning they aren’t tied to any one female. Female fox squirrels normally produce 1 brood per year but do sometimes produce a second. Gray squirrels more commonly produce 2 broods per year. Gestation for both squirrels runs about 44 – 45 days. Both squirrel species average 3 offspring per litter with the young being born naked in tree cavities or those leafy nests one sees in the treetops. Gray squirrels are weaned at about 10 weeks whereas fox squirrels are weaned closer to 8 weeks.   

More leftover goodies continue to surface at the Mall for Men. Yet another pan of apple crisp graced the hallowed halls last week. Along with the goodies, all last week’s cloudy, gloomy weather was fodder for many an afternoon snooze. Given a tummy full of food, a murmuring football or basketball game on TV and a warm blankie, naps broke out across much of the greater Bugtussle area this past weekend.

While getting ready for church the other day, found myself still confused by the definition of “good clothes”. It’s all backwards. Seems like if they were really good clothes, they’d be warm, versatile and comfortable. Instead, they’re usually some thin fabric with little functional qualities to them. If you’ve ever had to change a flat tire in the middle of a snowstorm in a suit and tie or chase some critters around the mud when they’re out you know exactly what I’m talking about. “Good clothes”? Good for what? Never have to worry about getting every day clothes dirty because it’s usually already too late for that. And, they’re warm. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t put them on in the first place. Give me my “cufferhauls” and longhandles any day.

Made a trek to my favorite store outside of Bugtussle, the one where they use the big orange silo as a bathroom. Decided that it was time to stock up on some supplies and I needed to get some razor blades as well. Was dreading going across the street to Target (definitely a women’s store) for those but luckily was able to find acceptable toiletries while perusing the aisles discovering other bargains. Appears camo must be “in”. Found a camo extension cord which I thought would be real nice until I didn’t see it and ran over it with the lawnmower. The other product that really caught my eye was a camo nose hair trimmer. I mean, is someone actually concerned that ducks, geese and deer might see you sticking something on your lanyard up your nose? Apparently so.

See you next week…real good then.     
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/21/08, 01:47:23 PM
Sheltered inside from the cold of the snow...

Despite missing the overnight lows on the weekend by 5 degrees, the scurs forecast definitely made the heating fuel man smile. By Friday however, the below zero weather will be a faded memory as we head into some warmer days. Wednesday will continue the cooler pattern with a slight chance of snow, high of 5 and a low of 10 below. Thursday, high of 10 and low of 0. Friday we’re greeted with 20 degrees for a high and a low of 10. Warmer yet for the weekend with highs Saturday and Sunday of 25 and lows of 15. Monday and Tuesday, slightly cooler with highs around 20 and lows of 10. Possible snow both days. Normal high for January 25th is 23 and the normal low is 3. We’ve gained about 15 minutes of daylight in the past week and since New Years day, a whopping 38 minutes. The scurs will be able to stay out a little later as they take their toboggan down the hill one last time before supper.

The extra daylight is indeed becoming more noticeable. The birds at the feeders are often there past 5 p.m. and are starting their day by around 7:30 a.m. This past weekend’s – 15 degree lows may have put a damper on some activities but for those with chores, they have to be done regardless. Takes a lot of the fun out of it but once they’re done, there’s not much reason to stay outside. Makes it much easier to stay inside and watch basketball or football in the meantime.

As mentioned, the birds stay active later and the snow and colder weather brought more numbers to the feeders. The goldfinches came back and cleaned out the thistle feeders on Saturday. The chickadees, juncos and blue jays are in constant motion it seems. Decided this was good weekend to put the heated birdbath out again. Not many takers right off the bat except for one starling which made my trigger finger begin to itch. We’re down to 1 lone mourning dove now. Apparently the dozen or so that had been hanging around sought a different locale, hopefully a warmer one.

The recliner provided an excellent spot for yours truly to rest his bones on Saturday and catch a few Z’s during halftime. Never fails, something usually disrupts those savored, peaceful moments when the world goes away for awhile. The phone usually rings, the dogs bark or Mrs. Cheviot wakes me up. Always amazes me how women can state the obvious. While about midway through sawing a log I hear this, “You’re snoring!” I’ve solved that: When she asks if I’m sleeping the answer is always “Yes!”

The dogs have made it through the winter so far relatively unscathed. As well they should. Sleeping in a garage with floor heat isn’t exactly a terrible existence and I remind them of that every time I feed them and change their water. They are the quintessential border collies, not unlike those that Jon Katz writes about in “A Dog Year”. Like Orson, when I come home with the truck, Lucy always lets out a big ‘rooooo!’ and Gus comes boiling out from under the garage door when it opens. Both like routine and structure of course, and anything incongruous with that receives their immediate scrutiny. Lately they’ve taken a shine to barking at those C-130 transport planes flying low level routes over the area. Could hire them out to the Air Force for tracking planes although they also bark when a neighbor sneezes. 

We ventured forth Thursday night to the new restaurant in town only to watch Tubby and the Gophers go down to defeat against Indiana. We sat in the non-smoking area as the smoking area looked a little chilly.  So happened that our guest that night was from Indiana and was actually a Hoosier fan. Was nice to treat her to a taste of our home town cuisine although before the Willows opened, I had secretly hoped for a Pakistani restaurant. Maybe with a steaming hot face cloth for your pleasure.

At The Mall for Men, goodies continue to arrive in mass quantities. The last delivery was a 5 gallon bucket of cookies. The crowd was somewhat diminished what with several meetings to attend this past week so the cookies lasted almost 2 days. We’re considering putting up a bulk bin outside. The trick is to auger the cookies into the building without crumbling them all up. Maybe an air delivery system. Fortunately we have the rest of the winter to work on that problem. It’s what we do.

See you next week…real good then.     
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/29/08, 07:31:44 PM
There are pyramids in my head, there's one underneath my bed...

The scurs managed to forecast their way out of another cold snap and not a moment too soon. With a low on the 24th of – 20 and the mercury struggling to get above zero for highs, 40 degrees on the 28th was a welcome respite from the icebox we were stuck in. What’s in store this week? Unlikely to reach 40 anytime soon but we should resume seasonal temperatures after a cold midweek. Highs Wednesday of zero to 5 above and lows of 0 to – 5. Thursday a little warmer with a high of 15 and a low of 0 to 5 above. Friday through Monday, highs of 20 to 25 and lows hovering between 5 to 10 above. Chance of snow Monday into Tuesday, with Tuesday’s high near 15 and the low of 5 to 10 above. Normal high is 25 and normal low is 5, much the same as we’d expect over the Christmas holiday. We’ll have 9 hours and 52 minutes of daylight on February 1st and have gained 16 hours since last Friday. Before you know it, the scurs will be getting their lawn furniture out.

Last week was a good one to stay close to the fire. Luckily no pipes or hydrants froze. Doing chores in the cold really tuckers one out but the sheep with their long fleeces don’t seem to notice. Some of them actually sleep outside on those subzero nights as long as it isn’t windy. After a lively hour of hauling pails, tossing bales and smashing ice out of buckets, one really doesn’t feel like venturing out much. Unless of course it’s to go ice fishing.

Yep, finally got the fish house out last week thanks to the “Cherman”. Yours truly had to affix the license on it first as we planned on leaving it out overnight. The DNR has some work to do on their licenses methinks. Fish house licenses come as a printed-off piece of plastic material without adhesive backing. They do however have some slots or tabs where it’s suggested that one place string or wire through them. As the Cherman noted, attached that way, the licensing wouldn’t stay on past the end of the driveway. Maybe part of their grand plan to generate more tickets, I’m not sure. Anyway, was proud of myself for taking the window out and doing a stellar job of taping the license to it. However, upon putting the window back in, noticed we could read the information inside the house! Quickly remedied that as I tore it loose and reattached it on the outside of the window and inside the screen. Why does one have a window screen on a fish house? To keep the ice flies and snow fleas out, of course!

The Cherman hauled the fish house out to the lake where one of my little fat buddies lives. Very handy if we need to use the bathroom or run out of refreshments and munchies. And, with 500’ of extension cord we can also borrow his big screen TV although it gets a little crowded in the fish house. Reception is pretty good though. As long as we put it back and don’t drop the thing, he’ll never know we borrowed it. Probably a good thing to have some entertainment. too. So far, we haven’t managed to catch much other than a cold. Oh well, someone will probably have a cake for us at the Mall for Men and sing “Get well soon, we wish you to get well…”

Not much new bird activity to report here the past week other than one can see lots of pheasant tracks in the yard after the fluffy snow. They love to hang out under the pines and around the dogwood. When the days were cold, goldfinch activity was high but as temps warmed, they became scarcer. The downies, chickadees and juncos are always faithful though, usually the first one’s there in the morning and amongst the last to leave in the evening. Mom had a pileated woodpecker at her feeder right outside the kitchen window last week, something not all that common even in that area of the country.

This column marks the start of the 6th action packed year of Fencelines and my stint as a regular columnist, as opposed to an irregular columnist. To all my loyal readers: Thank you; your check is in the mail. Some have had some questions about how it’s written. Normally the writing happens on Sunday night although there are literally dozens of little square sheets of paper containing ideas scattered around the house from my notepad. The column’s written on a laptop confuser known as the Latitude with an attitude, not unlike Cannon’s Terrible Tone from the basement studio. We try to write in plain old-fashioned everyday rural southern MN English although from time to time, there are references to our ethnic heritage that apparently give the editor’s spell-check a hissy fit. For example “chorse”. Chores are what non-Scandinavian farmers do and “chorse” (rhymes with horse) are what the Swede and Norwegian farmers do. This week the alien is back so after a nonproductive treatment with couch grass, cramp bark and a  pyramid, the column is being written under the influence of over the counter cold medicines. Can just hear some readers now: “See? I told you he had to be on something!”

See you next week…real good then.     

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/05/08, 02:35:21 PM
I tried so hard to stand as I stumbled and fell to the ground...

The scurs were as on target as an Eli Manning pass last week, pulling off an unbelievable upset. Eli Manning that is. The scurs are thinking we should see more near normal conditions this week. Starting with Wednesday, highs should make 25 with lows of 15. Thursday, highs of 25 – 30 and lows of 10 – 15. Chance of snow Wednesday night into Thursday. Friday and Saturday, high of 20 – 25 with lows ranging from 10 to 15. Sunday and Monday, warmer, with highs of 30 – 35 and lows of 20. Tuesday will cool slightly with a high of 25 and low of 15. Snow possible Monday and/or Tuesday. Normal high is 27 and normal low is 7. We’ve gained about 18 minutes or approximately 2 ½ minutes of daylight per day since February 1. After cashing in on the Super Bowl, the scurs dipped the chip, took a bite and dipped again.

The ground hog did not see his shadow last Saturday which by folklore means spring should be just around the corner. In reality, can only remember one time when it was actually fit to plant anything in the field in late February and that was some small grain back in 1987. It got cold after that, the ground re-froze and it was nip and tuck as to whether the crop would survive. One could pry the frozen inch of crust off the top and peer at the sprouted seedlings just beneath it and wonder how much longer it was going to stay cold. The crop survived, the stand was adequate, and it yielded respectably but was no record breaker. Apparently a bit more to it than just planting early.

The goldfinches are becoming more numerous again, well over two dozen at the feeders at last count. They’ve taken a real liking to the birdbath and use it routinely. For the first time in several years, they outnumber the house sparrows coming to the feeders and not just by a little. Control methods can pay off if one sticks to them.

While the snow we’ve received to this point has contained relatively little moisture, it’s been just enough to make nice patches of ice to trip and fall on around farm yards. Disguised by a skifting of snow, it makes walking around treacherous especially with bales or buckets in tow. Every few days one goes for a digger if you’re not careful making it that much easier to scrape the yard bare the next time it snows to help avoid that situation.

And what would cold weather be without colds? One thing about it, it gives one time to practice up on their farmer nose blowing technique. This was one of the things growing that my Dad did that totally impressed my younger brother and I. Outside, without a hankie, he’d use one finger and voila! Didn’t need one! Took awhile but we mastered it although we did later figure out why he never grew a full beard at least on our watch.

Had the zipper blow out on my “cufferhauls” the other day and really didn’t want to quit wearing them just yet. After all, it was just the zipper that was worn out. What to do? I remembered the pair of coveralls my Mom used to wear to the barn. The buttons on those were shot so she improvised and used diaper pins. Well, if you show sheep, especially breeding stock like we have, you have an abundance of sheep blanket pins that look like a diaper pin on steroids. They’re useful not only for pinning hoods on sheep blankets but have dozens of other uses. Have seen them used in a pinch as safety pins in implement draw pins, as replacement suspender snaps and in hasps in place of padlocks. Work on “cufferhauls” too. Darn near as useful around the farm as duct tape and bale twine.

Some dear friends and Cheviot breeders near Janesville WI experienced the unthinkable during last Wednesday morning’s bitter cold: A fire consumed the Richard and Judy Schambow family’s steel pole building containing their flock of sheep. Of the 75 or so sheep, all their Cheviots were lost and all but 3 Suffolks perished. Check out the story at: http://www.channel3000.com/news/15180342/detail.html

Fortunately, we own a ram jointly with them and he happens to be over-wintering here. Since BernaRRd is a mild-mannered big fellow, loves to be scratched and eat out of your hand, you can bet he’s been receiving special attention. Along with that, the outpouring of help to rebuild the Schambow flock from people across the country has been incredible. People have offered their excavation help to bury the rubble, brought food and even offered to give them sheep to help replace those they lost. There really are some wonderful people out there and their response shows that they, especially the sheep people are some of the most giving, caring individuals you’ll ever want to meet. It truly isn’t about the money.

See you next week…real good then.       


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on February 02/06/08, 11:14:51 PM
thanks dotch for another great read, sorry
to hear about you friends fire and loss....

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/11/08, 11:32:54 AM
They had to count them all...

After laying an egg forecasting last weekend’s bone-chilling conditions, the scurs have set their sights on delivering a sure to warm your heart Valentines Day prognostication. Starting with Wednesday, look for a high of 25 and a low of 10. Snow likely Wednesday night into Thursday. Cooler Valentine’s Day, with highs of 15 – 20 and lows near 5. Cooler yet on Friday. High of 10 and low of 0. Warmer Saturday, high of 25 and low of 10 with a chance of snow. Sunday and Monday, highs of 25 and lows near 15. Warmer Tuesday, high of 30 and low of 20 with a chance for sleet and snow. Normal high for February 15th is 30 and normal low is 9, the same we encounter in early to mid-December. On the 15th, we’ve added another 20 minutes of daylight since last Friday, or approximately 2.8571428 minutes per day, give or take .0000001 minutes. The scurs are getting out the slide rule to calculate next week’s daylight changes.

While the weather took a nasty turn last Saturday, we were definitely fortunate that the snowfall amounts in the last couple “mini-blizzards” were as light as they were. The snow from the last storm really didn’t fill in much around most people’s yards but as usual, plopped drifts in front of doors and gates where they’re unwelcome. With the ice crystals forming snowflakes being so severely beaten and broken up by the wind, the resulting snow banks packed like concrete. Hitting them on the road was like running over a plank. 

If you look at your calendar, you’ll notice we should experience a total lunar eclipse on February 21st. However, do not be fooled by the old Universal Time trick again. In our area of the world, the eclipse will actually take place on February 20th with totality occurring at 9 p.m., the middle of the eclipse coming at 9:26 p.m. then coming back out of the eclipse at 9:51 p.m. If you wait until the 21st, you’ll be waiting until 2010 to see another total lunar eclipse. Might miss it anyway if it’s cloudy; we’ll see next week.

What have the little fat buddies been up to at the Mall for Men? Why, we’ve been busy planning for Valentine’s Day of course. Naturally, we need to keep our strength up and given the brownies, leftover Christmas cookies, chocolate covered cherries and extremely creamy fudge we consumed last week, we might survive this week’s grueling forays to the shopping mall or flower shop. Of course in order to buy Valentine’s gifts, we’ve first focused on making sure our money was legal tender. We counted the ridges on the edges of dimes and quarters and conclusively determined there are 118 on dimes and 119 on quarters. If they have more or less than that, they are likely counterfeit.

We can’t help watching the grain markets either. Last week’s nearby wheat closes were nothing short of astounding, at over $15 per bushel. New crop September bids are over $11. Now if there was actually any wheat seed to be had, there is a chance we’d see more of the amber waves of grain sung about in America the Beautiful. As it is, the competition for acreage is fierce and there are few kernels of wheat to be had in bins and granaries across the land.

Area pheasants appear to be wintering well even with the recent cold snap. Some took shelter in the plum and sumac thicket on the edge of the yard during the storm where they had ear corn to eat. The next morning, a group of hens thundered out of their overnight roost and sailed into the Indiangrass, still erect despite all the wind and snow. The little birds in the yard even favored the feeders on the south side of the house. The goldfinches are beginning to show the faintest hint of a color change. Maybe it will be spring someday after all. After last weekend, you coulda fooled me. They fooled me, Jerry.

The weather even cancelled the local fishing contests but fear not, they are back on for this coming weekend. The Beaver Lake contest is Sunday February 17th from noon until 1:30 p.m. and the St. Olaf Lake contest follows from 2 – 3:30 p.m. Speaking of ice fishing, have the honor of taking a young lady from deep in the heart of Texas ice fishing for the first time in a couple weeks. Since driving on the ice usually freaks newbies out, I’ll be sure to let her know that we typically only fall through 4 or 5 times a season but someone always comes along to fish us out. That should calm her nerves.
See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/19/08, 10:40:54 AM
Long ago it must be, I have a photograph...

Calling the mid-week forecast about right, the scurs are having a rough time recently getting the longer range call correct. Not easy to do this time of year when the jet stream suddenly sags and leaves the back door from Canada open. Starting with Wednesday this week we should see warmer conditions return. Wednesday’s high should be 5 – 10 above with a low of – 5. For those lunar eclipse watchers, partly cloudy skies should allow a glimpse starting around 9 p.m. Warmer Thursday and Friday with a high of 20 - 25 and a low of 10 - 15. Chance of light snow starting Friday night and continuing into early next week. Saturday and Sunday bring highs of 30 and lows of 15. Monday, above freezing with a high near 35 and a low of 15 – 20. Cooler Tuesday, highs of 25 – 30 and low of 15. Normal high for February 22 is 32 and normal low is 12. Days are continuing to get longer; there isn’t nearly as much time for the scurs wet mitties and snow pants to dry before their next go-round.

February 20th marks the occurrence of the Full Moon for the month. This moon is known by the Indian tribes of the Northeast as the Full Snow Moon or the Full Hunger Moon as food stocks were often dwindling. Closer to home the Ojibwe called this the Full Sucker Moon as the suckers were running in rivers and streams. The Sioux called this the Raccoon Moon or the Moon of Dark Red Calves. The raccoons do start becoming active again when we have warmer weather and the prior year’s buffalo calves would turn a reddish color due to the weathering of their outer coat, not unlike that which occurs on a natural colored sheep fleece over the course of a year.

Speaking of fleeces, was time to shear once again this past weekend and just in the nick of time. The sheep barely noticed the difference when the high reached 37 degrees on Saturday. With dry fleeces, wonderful catching help and an expert shearer shearing, it went about as smoothly as could be expected. Ralph and George got to watch the process, something not every kid growing up these days gets to see anymore. Not sure what they thought about the shearing but they sure seemed to like the ice cream we had for dessert after lunch.

The morning after shearing as if on cue, there were new lambs on the ground. A black ewe had a set of twins during chores, one white and one black and a yearling had a big single ewe lamb around noon. It is so nice to have ewes shorn prior to lambing for several reasons. The lambs can get at the food source more easily, the ewes lamb inside out of the elements, they give off more heat to keep the lambs warm and the barn stays drier without those fleeces carrying moisture into the building, just to name a few. By keeping the building dry, getting the ewe stripped out and making sure the lambs get colostrum into their system, little in the way of supplemental heat is necessary.

On the mornings when it’s calm out, the birds greet us when we come out the door for chores. Upon seeing their thistle feeders filled the night before, the goldfinches say “sweeeeeeeeeeet!” and the chickadees always add their “dee-dee-dee-dee!” to the mix. Blue jays have been competing with Tubby the squirrel for corn and the mourning dove numbers have been increasing as of late at the feeders. Was a little surprised Sunday afternoon to see a rough-legged hawk sitting in the elm tree in plain view of the bird feeders, yet the feeding birds seemed to pay little attention to him. Not too surprisingly, the squirrel and the bunnies were nowhere to be seen as this hawk has a preference for rodents.

We lost another icon this past week in New Richland. With Paul Pfeffer’s passing, it left a gaping hole in the town’s color and character as well as in the hearts of those who knew him. Here was a guy who always could make you smile and you just knew by the big grin on his face that he was going to get his squawker out and say something to make you laugh. Personally didn’t get to know Pauly all that well until we moved our office to New Richland back in ‘92. Wouldn’t you know, the telephone number the phone company gave us happened to be the same as Paul’s disconnected towing business number. Wasn’t exactly sure what to do at first when callers would insist they had called the right number, so would look up his home number in the book and give it to them. After awhile, I just called him myself and told him to call so and so back. Without realizing it, I had suddenly become his dispatcher! Only in a small town.

One could always bet if there were practical jokes being played on people around town, Paul and his A & P Corporation partner in crime probably had a hand in it.  Margaret Engesser and Joyce Hansen always seemed to be among their prime targets. Even when they hadn’t done the deed, it was easiest just to assume they had. Others caught onto this and found great amusement in it when an accuser would confront the A & P CEO’s about a prank they hadn’t committed. One knew they were guilty until proven innocent. 

Countless numbers of us had our autos towed over the years by Paul in his tow truck, nicknamed the “hooker-truck” by the gang at the restaurant. Wearing his signature dark blue two-piece uniform, didn’t matter where you were, he’d come and scrape your dead vehicle off the road, then haul it to the repair shop. Somewhere, in one of the drawers in my messy desk at work, there are some Paul’s Towing billing slips. We had talked about sending someone a falsified bill as a joke several years back but we never finalized the project. While he’d probably appreciate the humor in it if I pulled a stunt on someone from beyond the grave, will more likely keep them as a memento along with a receipt from Bruzek’s Hardware and a newspaper clipping with Margaret’s picture on it. Be in pretty good company I’d say.

See you next week…real good then.             



Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Bobby Bass on February 02/19/08, 11:41:00 AM
Well done and a fitting tribute.  :happy1: Bobby
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/25/08, 07:48:06 PM
And the band played on...

Took awhile for the scurs to get untracked last week but by the weekend they were on the money. For the last week in February, they’re thinking we should see conditions closer to normal. For Wednesday, a high of 20 and a low of 10. Thursday and Friday, warmer with highs of 25 – 30 and lows of 15. Chance of snow Thursday into Friday.  Near normal Saturday and Sunday, highs of 35 and lows of 15 – 20. Chance of snow Sunday into Monday. Monday and Tuesday, highs of 20 and lows of 10 – 15. Normal high for February 28th is 34 and normal low is 15. As of February 29th, we will have gained 2 hours and 16 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice. The scurs will be celebrating Leap Year on their toboggan.

Friday marks the additional day to our calendar making it known as Leap Year. Normally, those years evenly divisible by 4 are so designated. There are exceptions to this rule as those years evenly divisible by 100 must also be evenly divisible by 400. There is a long drawn out explanation for this in that the Solar Year contains slightly less than 365.25 days. To adjust for this, the designers of the Gregorian calendar determined an additional day would be added to the calendar to keep the vernal equinox very close to the same date. Thus Easter can remain on the 1st Sunday following the 1st Full Moon on or after March 21st.

Back here on planet Earth, spring is beginning to peer out from under the snirt, in the form of blackened fields. With as little moisture as there has been in much of the snow that has fallen this winter, it doesn’t take long on exposed soil for melting to occur. Was wondering where the horned larks were and on Friday, they appeared along the side of the road. There still isn’t enough bare ground in the pasture for them to show there but given the south facing slope, it won’t take long.

Recently read an article indicating that we receive abundant nitrogen in snowfall, positively impacting farmers producing crops. It’s not the first time I’ve read something like this but guess it depends on what one calls abundant and where one lives. On average, the nitrogen content in the total precipitation for a year amounts to somewhere in the vicinity of 5 – 10 lbs./acre. More recent studies at Waseca showed an average of 10 - 14 lbs./acre total. Since roughly 20% of our precip falls as snow, that amounts to 2 - 3 lbs./acre of N from snow annually. When one considers that nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for a corn crop are in the 110 – 120 lbs./acre range for corn following soybeans, the amount contained in snowfall is essentially a drop in the bucket. And, even if there were more substantial amounts of nitrogen in snow, given that the ground is frozen, nitrate nitrogen moves with water, and much of the water contained in snow runs off, it would have very little impact regardless of the concentration in the snowfall.

Nutrients contained in snow runoff are definitely a factor in surface water however and that’s why places such as wetlands are so important. They serve as filters or buffers to help keep the nutrients on the landscape and provide valuable habitat for many species of wildlife. Visited our CREP wetland on Sunday for the first time this winter and while it appeared pretty lifeless on the surface, one could see the tracks of the wildlife using it including fox, pheasants, cottontail rabbits and deer mice. Checked the wood duck house to see if it might be harboring a winter guest. Nope, just a little snow so it will need a good cleaning out and fresh cedar shavings to start the season.

It may be a slower than what we’ve become accustomed to start to the spring if the depth of the ice and frost in the ground are any indication. Most area lakes are sporting a couple feet of ice and frost depths are at least that deep on bare soils. Permanent ice shelters need to be off the ice as of Friday night but can be put back on for the day after that as long as they’re occupied. Thank goodness the fishing & shelter licenses now follow the fishing seasons so the license you bought last year is good through April 30th. Makes sense.

Had the privilege to take in the Waseca Co. Corn and Soybean Growers banquet last weekend. Lt. Governor Carol Molnau was the guest speaker and being a dairy farmer, she does have man hands. With Tim Pawlenty being touted as one of McCain’s potential running mates, who knows? We may have been looking at the next governor of Minnesota. Because of her arm wrestling credentials (she was a national champion once upon a time) no one should give her much sass.

Will never forget the first banquet I ever went to. Think I was 6 or 7 and it was a Father-Son banquet held at the old Methodist church in Spring Valley. When told about it, it came across as “The Band Quit”. Being the inquisitive young lad I was, was curious to know why the band quit or for that matter why anyone would be celebrating that fact. Imagine my disappointment when I got there to find there was no band, quitting or otherwise. Another of life’s mysteries that remains unsolved to this day.

See you next week…real good then.     
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on February 02/25/08, 07:58:05 PM
thanks dotch! :happy1:

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/03/08, 03:00:19 PM
Will the wind ever remember...

The scurs forecasts continue to be steady by jerks. Following the early week cool down, the weekend and early week promise to bring warmer temperatures. Wednesday, cloudy with highs of 25 and lows near 10. Chance of snow. Thursday and Friday, partly cloudy, colder with a high near 20 and low of 5. Saturday, high of 30 and low of 15 with partly cloudy skies. Warmer Sunday under partly cloudy skies, high of 40 and low of 25 – 30. Warmer Monday and Tuesday, cloudy skies with a rain/snow mix overnight. Highs of 45 and lows of 30. Normal high for March 7th is 37 and normal low is 18. We are gaining daylight at approximately 3 minutes a day. The scurs are scouring the instruction book to reset their aging VCR clock.

Yes, it’s that time again. At 2 a.m. on March 9th, you must get up and set your clock ahead one hour. Of course, you could set it ahead before you go to bed but that just wouldn’t be the politically correct thing to do. I mean, after all we’re all in this together to save that hypothetical 300,000 barrels of oil by running Daylight Saving Time for a good chunk of March. Any bets that the hypothetical price of oil doesn’t come down and that farmers who have livestock would like to perform some hypothetical surgery on the rocket scientists who keep coming up with such nonsense?

Losing that hour is cause for a nap however. I read in Betty’s column that she is not a napper and remember that Al Batt once told me he isn’t either. Sounds like there’s potential for a cottage industry in Nap Therapy. Everyone likes free professional advice so here goes: Given all the cloudy weather we saw in February and wind we’ll likely feel in March, first buy a flock of sheep due to lamb in those months. I can definitely help you out there. After turning off your phones, start off with a big noon meal on Sunday and set the TV on murmur tuned to something like watching paint dry. Usually golf, bowling or car racing will suffice. Sitting in a recliner while reading a newspaper or magazine will normally help set the tone.  Rest your eyes during commercials and when you wake up, it will be time to go back outside and do chores again. Fortunately, they are partially done. You will have already counted the sheep.

At The Mall for Men, well rested napping professionals continue to meet daily to solve the world’s problems. With Valentines leftovers becoming scarce, the Girl Scout cookies arrived last week just in the nick of time. One has to be careful however not to leave your stash lying around where someone else might find it. Always pretty easy to spot the culprits however. Chocolate in the corners of their mouths and the hint of Thin Mints on their breath are both dead giveaways.

The goldfinches continue to pull hard on the thistle socks and the chickadees are singing their spring “fee-bee!” song more frequently. Hairies, downies and the occasional red-bellied woodpeckers keep consuming suet at a near record pace. A few Lapland longspurs were checking out the pasture on Monday morning. At the Willows, the distinct “Whoit! Whoit! Whoit!” song of a male cardinal could be heard from the brush. More subtle signs that spring is coming.

Was sad to see the little ice shelter villages disappear from the frozen surfaces of the area lakes for yet another year. The Cherman and I retrieved our house from St. Olaf late Friday afternoon and there were still a few shelters left. Didn’t see much evidence of the trash that gets left behind on a lot of lakes. Know there was nothing we left behind and no reason to. If you haul it out with you, you haul it off with you. Simple rule but it works. Was hoping our friend from Texas would make it ice fishing but alas, due to some conflicts those plans had to be scrapped. How was the fishing? Who cares? With no real vacation in over 20 years, most importantly it’s time not spent at work with people you enjoy.

Speaking of work, getting to work close on time during lambing season gets tough. Takes awhile to get cleaned up. Started off the other morning feeding a bale of hay when a ewe decided to blow her nose, leaving a nice mess on my spectacles. Part of the job. After feeding, haying and hauling water to the pens, had to check a ewe for milk. Sprayed colostrum all over my “cufferhauls” and chore boots. She hadn’t cleaned yet so while she was whipping around the jug as I was trying to grab her, she was also smearing placenta all over me. By the time I got in the house, I stunk. Showered up, jumped in the truck and headed off to work and thought to myself, it still smells! Got to work, sat down, had a cup of coffee and it was still there. Couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Smelled my shirt, looked at my pants, ran my fingers through my hair, smelled my hand; nothing. Happened to look at my wrist watch and sure enough there was a big hunk of sheep goo stuck on it. Not unlike humans, guess ovines are just full of the juices of life.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/11/08, 10:03:19 AM
Three years on this range since they started the range war...

The scurs are beginning to realize the snow pack in IA has had a nasty impact on area temperatures. After some subzero starts last week, it’s not warming as fast as we’d like to see. There is better news on the horizon however. Under mostly cloudy skies on Wednesday, we should toy with the mid to upper 40’s for highs. We should also see a chance for precipitation with an overnight low of 30. Cooler on Thursday, mostly cloudy with a chance of snow, a high of 40 and a low of 20. Friday, partly cloudy with a high of 35 and a low of 15. Cool sunshine on Saturday, high of 30 and lows of 15 – 20. Partly cloudy and warmer Sunday, high of 35 and lows of 15 – 20. Monday’s high tops out at 40 under partly cloudy skies with a chance of rain changing to snow developing. Lows of 20 – 25. Tuesday, cooler, highs of 30 – 35 and lows of 10 – 15. Normal high for March 14 is 40 and normal low is 21, about what we would experience the week before Thanksgiving. The scurs are hoping they’ve built their last snow fort for the winter.

As of this writing, have seen no robins but with the warmer temperatures, that’s bound to change. Rooster pheasants appear to be setting up territories as they can be heard during morning chores scattered across the landscape. At the feeders, the heated birdbath continues to be a big attraction. The cold weather has made puddles nothing but a fall on the ice waiting to happen. While birds will eat snow, it takes more energy for them to convert it to water than when in liquid form.

March has come in like a chilled lamb and there have been plenty of them this past week. Checking the lambing pens, one needs to make sure the new arrivals are alert and not suffering from the cold. Getting them prompt attention makes the difference between saving them and losing them when the weather has been as cold as it’s been. Usually this involves taking the lamb out of the pen, getting them inside, putting them in a box and warming them up, just as Grandpa and Grandma used to do behind their wood burning kitchen range. Nowadays, tube feeding them with some warm milk warms them from the inside out and having floor heat makes the job easier.

Was one of those weekends where staying busy was no issue. Good thing Mrs. Cheviot had run to get some milk replacer before leaving to visit her folks in Ostrander. Even at $46 a bag, the show must go on. On Saturday after chores, went to get some straw from the cattle feeding Dubya’s. Always entertaining but as Matt pointed out, I’d probably have a bunch of lambs to deal with when I got home. Little did he know….upon arriving home decided it was a good idea to toss off a couple bales by the lambing barn. Peeked in the door and sure enough, a set of twins had been born while I was away. There was another lamb that was groggy and chilled in one of the pens. To make matters worse, another ewe was telegraphing signs that she wasn’t far off in the maternity ward. First things first, so told the ewe with twins to hold that thought as I took the chilled lamb to the house.

After stabilizing that situation, headed back out to the barn. No room at the inn so time to spring into action and move a couple ewes with lambs to the loafing area in the big barn. With Gus and Lucy helping, it didn’t take long and it’s important they feel included. No sooner had I penned up the ewe with twins and checked her for milk, the other ewe suddenly dumped out the first lamb with the next one right on its heels. Not a problem, with pen space available, the ewe followed eagerly as I picked up the soaking wet youngsters and closed the gate behind her. Checking the ewe, all systems were “Go” so time to get on to feeding the bottle lambs. After feeding them, it was time for feeding me, and you guessed it, a quick but well deserved snooze. My excuse: Had to get mentally prepared to unload and stack the straw!

Sunday brought with it the dreaded Daylight Wasting Time and doing chores again at dark thirty in the morning. Was a day brightener though as the wind was down and the temps had moderated. That and we had tickets to the 4-H Pancake Breakfast. Anything to get away from the barn for a few hours and relax. Even had an extra ticket that I tried to scalp outside but all my little fat buddies had already bought theirs. Later in the afternoon we had guests: Our adopted 60-something year old son Roger and the 4-H kids with a guest who helped feed bottle lambs. As they were leaving, another ewe decided to start the birthing process and after a short delivery, a natural colored lamb was born. Aren’t sheep naturally colored white?

Mankind selected for that trait. When sheep were first domesticated some 10,000 years ago, they were assorted in color, ranging from black to brown to gray and some white. As man selected more for wool-type sheep and less for hair-type, spinning wool evolved nearly 3500 years ago. Even today, breeds such as the multi-colored Jacob sheep can be traced back to a well established sheep and wool trade prevalent during Biblical times. A long time prior to the Revolutionary War (partially fought due to sheep and wool trade) and our western range wars, white wool became preferable as it would take dye and the resulting colors would be more vibrant. Even though the white wool color trait has been selected for centuries, one will occasionally see a throwback to natural colors common in early domestication, not unlike that of the little gray Cheviot lamb we nicknamed Ashley.

See you next week…real good then.     

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on March 03/11/08, 10:41:07 AM
sounds like them sheep are keeping you out of trouble!
hope it warms up soon!

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/17/08, 09:58:31 PM
There's a bad moon on the rise...

Some nicer days this past week as the scurs predicted, with sunshine and highs topping out near 50 for many on the 13th. This week appears to be closer to the “slightly below normal” category. Under partly cloudy skies, Wednesday’s high should be near 40 with lows dropping to near 20. Thursday partly cloudy, high of 40 and low of 20 – 25. Friday and Saturday, cloudy to mostly cloudy, chance of rain and/or snow. High of 40 and low of 25. Sunday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy. High of 40 and low of 25. Chance of a snow/sleet mix Sunday night. Monday, high of 35 with a chance for more of the snow/sleet mix. Tuesday, partly cloudy, high if 35 and low of 25. Normal high for the first day of spring, March 20th, is 43. The normal low is 23. On St. Patrick’s Day, the scurs consumed only green clovers from their Lucky Charms to improve their forecasting fortunes.

St. Patrick’s Day this past week was on Monday the 17th but at the urging of church officials and others, the day was celebrated in most places on the 15th so as not to interfere with Holy Week. Oddly enough, St. Patrick’s Day will not occur again during Holy Week until 2160 so mark your calendars and adjust your schedule accordingly.

The Full Moon for the month is on Good Friday and has many very apt names. It is known as the Full Worm Moon as when the ground begins to thaw, earthworm castings will begin to appear. Not too surprisingly so do the robins. The Indian tribes of the northern US knew this as the Full Crow Moon and the Ojibwe called this the Full Crust Moon as the snow would thaw during the day and freeze at night crusting the snow. The Sioux called this the Moon When Buffalo Drop Their Calves.  Maple syrup is being tapped during this moon and so it also known as the Full Sap Moon. To settlers, this also known as the Full Lenten Moon being the last full moon of winter. And not moment too soon I’ll bet. 

The Vernal Equinox officially happens March 20th. To some this means an equal length of day and night. Actually, during the equinox, we already have slightly more daylight than darkness and will have had since the 17th. A loose definition of equinox allows that the center of the sun will spend nearly an equal amount of time above and below the horizon of every location on the planet. A more technical definition involves the refraction of light, arcs, geometric horizons, etc. In other words, more complicated than we have space or attention span for.

There are signs that spring is on the way. Some of the migratory birds have begun to show up. In and around our yard last week, geese were flying around on the 11th, ducks were quacking and male red-winged blackbirds were singing “konk-a-ree!”  from the tree tops on the 13th. A robin was eating leftover crabapples after chores on the morning of the 14th. Little Jerry the rooster pheasant is back crowing and drumming in the plum and sumac thicket on the edge of the yard on the 16th. While more nomadic than migratory, house finches are back at the feeders once again in numbers. The goldfinches continue their subtle color change, with the males looking less olive drab and becoming more sunny yellow. Speaking of sunny yellow, thank you to all those who brought a little sunshine to our lives last week with the American Cancer Society daffodils.

Insects in the house are also coming back to life. After being on hiatus for a month or so, the ladybugs are crawling on the ceiling and getting into the milk replacer again. The boxelder bugs along with some of those big flies are also becoming active too. When one hears something crunch underfoot on the floor, odds are when you look down, it’s another one biting the dust.

Outside, the fruit trees have been pruned and the pesky volunteer ash and boxelder saplings pruned at ground level under the pines. The mud has been much to Gus’s liking. While Lucy tends to trot around puddles, Gus blasts through them with gusto, making his big feather duster tail look more like a wet mop. Will soon be time to get the fence back up and charge it so the lambs can get outside and take advantage of the warm spring days that are surely to come.

At the Mall for Men, the little fat buddies are beginning to dream of getting their planters out to look them over and make repairs to ready them for the upcoming planting season. Fortunately, most of them have wintered well so even if they don’t have a heated shop, they’re prepared to brave the elements and head to town to see what everyone else is up to. Have a hunch it’s more likely to see if Carol S. has made any more of those excellent cinnamon rolls.

See you next week…real good then.


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/25/08, 03:41:31 PM
I wanna live with a cinnamon girl...

Wow! Too bad the scurs have been banned from most local NCAA basketball pools. Last week’s forecast was deadly accurate; just as messy and chilly as advertised. This week promises slightly better although that’s a relative term. Wednesday we should see a high of 40 under partly cloudy skies. Those pesky snow showers return for the evening however with a low of 20 – 25. Thursday, cloudy with a chance of a rain/snow mix. High of 35 and low near 20. Friday, cloudy with a slight chance of snow. High around 35 and low of 20. Saturday, sun breaks out and we stay around 40 for the high. Sunday, more clouds and ugliness with a chance of rain showers. High of 40 and low of 25. Monday, partly cloudy, high of 45 to 50 with a low near 30. April Fool’s Day, partly cloudy, high of 40 to 45, low of 25 to 30 with a chance of overnight flurries. No foolin’. Normal high for March 28th is 47 and normal low is 26. The scurs are eating their chocolate bunnies while checking the tournament brackets for an obscure offshore gambling account.

The cinnamon roll fairy came through again on Good Friday at the Mall for Men. Running behind without breakfast as is my wont, was especially tickled to find the rolls were still warm when I arrived that morning. Sitting around the training table with a pan of rolls on it is almost like watching vultures sitting on a fence to see who’s going to make the next move. We’re a little concerned however that one of the little fat buddies is claiming to be on a diet. Maybe have to put him in the sick pen, give him a shot of vitamin B-12 and feed him some molasses to get him back on feed.

Migratory birds showed up in force last week. There were close to a dozen robins picking at the crabapples on the pruned branches on Tuesday. Lots of grackles (known to most in greater Bugtussle as blackbirds) and killdeers calling in the pasture below the house. Geese are setting up shop and can be seen strolling around the ice on the pond when they’re not flying overhead to the fields, where they glean them for last years crop. Pheasants were mobile too, with Little Jerry the rooster pheasant flappin’ his wings and struttin’ his stuff.

If the “three snows on the robin’s tail and then it’s spring” postulate has any validity to it, this past week and weekend should have qualified. In reality, robins migrate in loose flocks along a 37 degree average daily temperature isotherm, frequently ahead of warm fronts, traveling on average roughly 40 miles per day. While they survive on fruits upon arriving here, their favorite food is earthworms. In order for earthworms to be active and near the surface, the ground of course needs to be thawed and above 36 degrees.  So keep an eye out for robins with stubby tails because this greasy skid stuff has been as wet and heavy as oatmeal. It very well might tear ‘em right off. 

Had one of those strange moments Easter morning when hooking up the hose to the hydrant. Getting mentally prepared to fill water buckets, just happened to be daydreaming about the Easter Bunny. All the sudden out of a chunk of plastic tile that was lying by the hydrant, Peter Cottontail came tearing out like he’d been shot out of a cannon. Checked for Easter eggs but found none. In the house however he left me some Jr. Mints. Those can be very refreshing.

Sunday was also one of those days when lambing seemed to hit a snag. With only a handful left to lamb it shouldn’t be so bad, right? Depends on your perspective I guess. While Auntie Mar-Mar was visiting, an old ewe that somehow escaped the trip on the cull trailer last summer had lambed, producing a large buck lamb and no milk. Having more than enough bottle lambs to keep us occupied, puzzled what to do. Agnes C. seemed like a likely candidate although she already had one bottle lamb. When Mar-Mar left she took the lamb by Agnes’s place in a box, sort of a take off on the old leave the baby on the doorstep and ring the bell routine. Agnes was of course delighted and while she wanted a ewe lamb, she loved the little tyke anyway.

Much to our chagrin later that afternoon, the old ewe decided to sneak another lamb out, this time a flashy ewe lamb. Too nice to destroy, Agnes was contacted once again and bless her heart, was willing to take on one more. May have to organize a pancake benefit to keep her in milk replacer however. The positive in all this in addition to finding a loving home for them, hopefully her grandkids will wind up with a 4-H project out of the deal. One thing is for certain, at least the lamb will be tame.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/31/08, 07:43:26 PM
That wind's howlin' and it seems mighty like a woman's screams...

The scurs were ahead of schedule, predicting the snowfall on Sunday instead of Monday. Oh well, the way things have been going, having a day in the mid-50’s by mistake is worth it. This week, we should see the weather begin to act more spring-like. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy with a chance of rain/snow mix by late afternoon, high of 40 and low of 30. Thursday, cloudy, chance of rain. High 45 and low of 30. Friday through Sunday, partly cloudy, highs of 45 – 50 and lows around 30. As the scurs always say, when in doubt, predict clouds and rain on Monday. Monday’s high should be in the 45 - 50 range with the low dropping to 30. Tuesday, cloudy, high of 45 - 50 and low of 30 - 35. Normal high for April 4th is 51 and normal low is 29. The scurs are eating flapjacks with their recently manufactured maple syrup.

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The sappers, syrupers, or whatever you want to call them are out and about, tapping trees and boiling the sap. Up until recently, reports from most of the purveyors of this sweet natural treat indicated the sap was not running very well this year. Too cold and not enough variation in temperature to make the sap run as one would like.

So where did we wind up in terms of average snowfall and how far behind are we from normal on ice-out dates? At the SROC in Waseca, the average annual snowfall for the 30 year period from 1971 – 2000 is 54.7”. For the 50 year period from 1951 – 2000, the average snowfall is 47.7”. As of this writing, for the present winter season at the SROC, they have tallied 35.2”. Let’s hope we don’t catch up to the averages! Ice out dates approximate the date at which soils become free of frost. Last year, the ice-out date on Clear Lake was March 27th. While we didn’t make that, the average ice-out date through 2001 is April 3rd.

We’re starting to head the right general direction however. Saw a striped gopher running along the side of the road on March 28th, indicating that their long winter’s nap is coming to a close. Haven’t noticed any fresh pocket gopher mounds yet. Not that there couldn’t be some in areas but they are generally a good indicator that the frost is out of the ground where they’re digging. Still plenty of frost in areas and area lakes are still covered with albeit deteriorating ice.

Small, shallow wetlands have thawed however. Began noticing this the middle of last week. The numbers and variety of waterfowl they contain and temporarily attract are always fascinating and their breeding plumage simply beautiful. Saturday morning during chores there was a flock of white-fronted (speckle-bellies) geese up high with the pedal to the metal heading north. No layover apparently. On Sunday though while checking the electric fence, noted over 100 ducks on our 3 acre pond alone, primarily mallards, blue-winged teal, and ring-necked ducks. When they spooked and took off, was like a swarm of bees. Could’ve sworn I was back in North Dakota again. And of course, there is nearly constant Canada goose music to be heard almost any hour of the day as they set up nesting territories.

In the yard, the goldfinches are getting closer to yellow. In another couple weeks, they’ll make the still leafless trees look like those Easter egg trees, complete with all yellow eggs. There has been a large influx of house finches, more than we’ve seen in quite some time. Their song is pretty and so are the males, especially this time of year. They nest here at the ranch someplace and bring their young to the feeders in the summer. And, there are finally some white-breasted nuthatches back again. They nest here too, am guessing in one of several hollow boxelder trees. Aren’t they all hollow?

Mrs. Cheviot and I got all the lambs moved out of the lambing barn on Sunday and opened up their loafing area in the big barn so they could all get outside. No sooner had we done this, we created our own version of a gawker slowdown. Someone stopped on the road to watch the lambs run and play. After we went in the house, heard several other vehicles slow to a crawl as the lambs enjoyed the warm afternoon. Not sure if they were watching the lambs or trying to figure out where all the racket was coming from however. It gets loud. How loud? Imagine youngsters being cooped up for over a month then suddenly turning them loose at a playground with their doting mothers hollering at them. Times 10.

Need to blame someone for Monday’s snow? Look no further than me and one of my little fat buddies. Was decided that seeding lawn just prior to a snowstorm this time of year was just the ticket. Lots of moisture and heavy, wet snow tamps the seed into the ground ever so slightly so it will sprout when the weather warms up. Last week it was supposed to snow a bunch so we kicked it in gear to “git ‘er done” and consequently, it didn’t snow more than enough to make the ground white. Thinking we had screwed up in reverse and discovered a way to straighten out the weather, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Then came Monday’s mess. Not so sure everyone will be happy if our little grass seeding experiments are successful.   

See you nest week…real good then.     
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on April 04/02/08, 04:40:03 PM
hope you had a great b-day dotch! hope to catch
ya in chat some nite!

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: deadeye on April 04/03/08, 08:07:49 AM
Dotch, "So where did we wind up in terms of average snowfall and how far behind are we from normal on ice-out dates?"
Is't it a little early to recap the winter?  I think we will get some more snow before the skeeters come out.  :bonk:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/03/08, 12:11:46 PM
You're right deadeye but bear in mind down here in the banana belt, many crop farmers have been lulled to sleep with many years of above normal temperatures and early springs. Many of the younger operators in particular have begun to believe that once we get into April, winter's over and we ought to be able to conduct fieldwork. Peas and small grains are typically planted in the first and second week in April with corn planting coming right on their heels. Judging by the behavior of some, they're already getting antsy but how soon they forget! I know last year about this time we were assessing alfalfa winter survival as it had broken dormancy. Not the case or even close this year. And there are still guys out ice fishing so we're quite a ways from ice out and completely thawed soils. Add the forecast for liquid precipitation to the equation every few days and it could end up being a later spring than we've seen in recent years. One thing about livestock operations, one knows spring comes when it gets here, not when you'd like it to. Just thankful when the mud dries up and the pastures are green again.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/07/08, 01:36:30 PM
Seasons don't fear the reaper...(I know, more cow bell!)

The scurs were pleased to see the mercury rise into the 60’s on Friday and Saturday but not totally surprised. We were due. For the upcoming forecast cycle however, they’re thinking we may be in the “2 steps back” category. Wednesday, partly cloudy, with a high of 45 and a low near 30. Thursday and Friday, cloudy, precipitation likely, rain during daylight hours and rain/snow mix during the overnight hours. Highs of 45 and lows near 30. Mostly cloudy Saturday with a chance of lingering rain/snow showers, 50 degrees for the high and low around 30. Sunday, partly cloudy, highs reaching 55 - 60 and low of 35. Partly cloudy Monday becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of rain into Tuesday, highs of 55 - 60 and lows of 40. Normal high for April 11th is 55 and normal low is 32. And as of the 11th, we will have gained an hour and 6 minutes of daylight since the vernal equinox. The scurs are leaving their old aluminum snow saucer outside the door to ward off any remaining evil winter spirits.

Last week was a week of contrasts with the wet snowfall on Monday giving way to some beautiful spring weather by week’s end. Checking frost depths with a probe on Saturday, there were places where it was still about a foot down. Other places, such as on the south facing slope of the pasture, it was completely out, with robins able to find earthworms at will and striped gophers out sunning themselves. Like the ice in lakes, frost melts both from above and below this time of year. Speaking of lake ice, the St. Olaf Lake ice as of this writing is fading fast, with a ring of water surrounding it. The ice also turned darker following the weekend’s wind and warm temperatures. It will likely be history this week sometime. Even put 3 rain gauges out but dumping them all together, they wouldn’t have added up to a tenth of an inch on Sunday.

Lots of signs that spring is upon us with lawns, golf courses and pastures showing a hint of green. The first of the spring peepers (frogs) can be heard from area wetlands. Lots of human activity showing up too with motorcycles and golf carts coming out of hibernation. Even some golfers noted on Friday and who can blame them? With all the gloomy, cloudy weather, playing hooky had crossed my mind. Garden seeds arrived at the ranch this past week although I had to make a trip to Edna’s to get some of those special onion sets as well as some radish seed, the latter of which were planted upon arriving home. With a little rain on Sunday and some warmer temperatures, I figure the rabbits should have something in the flower bed to chew off in a week or two other than the red carpet of tiny lambsquarters seedlings.

Bird activity is a barometer of how spring is progressing. About the same number and variety of ducks on the pond from last week but in the sky above, have seen great blue herons in addition to tundra swans, lumbering along like the low altitude B-52 bombers I saw in my younger days in ND. Monday morning, the first meadowlarks were scoping out the pasture, dodging snowflakes while the red-winged blackbirds were feeding on the ear corn, flashing their red epaulets. Grackles are flying around the yard with beaks full of wool and other nest building material and the goldfinches continue to molt, the males’ appearing to be mottled yellow in color. Flickers are back, calling from their bug hunting expeditions in the boxelder trees behind the house. Rooster pheasants continue to crow to woo prospective mates and wild turkeys are on the move. There were turkeys by the golf course and 6 hens passed through our yard Sunday evening. They managed to pick their way through the electric fence and head off to parts unknown.

Was trying to keep my 50th birthday relatively quiet last week but someone must’ve let the cat out the bag. Got lots of cards. Even got a card and a gag gift from the Star/Eagle crack management staff, both of which were very humorous. Got to meet Dick Herfindahl and that was a treat. Always enjoy his column. Felt somewhat relieved when the paper came out to find no one had sent them any old grade school pics where I was doing my hockey player impression and missing a tooth. The little fat buddies celebrated in style at the Mall for Men with birthday cake followed by a brownie chaser. All was not so rosy last week however. Somehow, when you turn 50 that AARP mail finds you like the grim reaper, so promptly threw that away. The crowning touch though was a card from some funeral home. Good grief! I’m just old, not dead. On the other hand, maybe those turkey vultures circling overhead are trying to tell me something.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/15/08, 05:37:50 PM
So get all those blues, must be a thousand hues...

Although Saturday’s high wasn’t close to what the scurs were thinking, the precipitation forecast was spot-on, complete with rain and snow. For this forecast period, we should see conditions turn more seasonal for a change. Partly cloudy Wednesday with a slight chance of rain Wednesday afternoon and a better chance Wednesday evening. High of 60 – 65 and low of 40. Thursday, mostly cloudy, with a decent chance of showers, high of 55 and lows of 40 – 45. Friday, partly cloudy, slight chance of lingering showers in the morning, high of 55 and lows of 45 – 50. Warmer Saturday, partly cloudy, high of 65 and low of 45 – 50. Sunday, partly cloudy with a chance of showers. High of 65 and low between 45 and 50. Monday, warmer, becoming cloudy with rain likely in the evening. High of 65 – 70 and lows of 45 – 50. Lingering isolated showers on Tuesday. Highs of 65 - 70 and lows of 45 - 50. Normal high for April 18th is 59 and normal low is 35. We are still gaining daylight at about 19 minutes per week. The scurs are trading in their snow shovels for garden hoes and rakes.

This month’s Full Moon will occur on April 20th and is commonly known as the Full Pink Moon because of all the wild phlox that begin to show up in the wooded areas. It’s also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Broken Snowshoe Moon and the Sioux knew this as the Moon of the Greening Grass, important as they kept tabs on the buffalo across the plains. With the recent showers and warmer temperatures, the grass in lawns and pastures will be greening up soon enough for gasoline-powered and four-legged lawnmowers to sample those tender shoots.

Last week’s rain varied somewhat across the area but amounts tended to range from 1” – 2”. While there’s no question the rain did help take some of the remaining frost out of the ground, the weather during the first 2 weeks of April has been like thawing the Thanksgiving turkey out in the refrigerator. As of this writing Monday morning, there was still time to ice fish on St. Olaf Lake or to do some shallow trolling in the water encircling around the deceptively white, frost-covered ice sheet. In the fields, the soil is generally saturated and there are areas of the country that are starting to get behind. In a weekend phone call from an acquaintance in IN and a visit with some friends in IA, nary a wheel has turned there yet. The strong winds this week and warmer temperatures should help. We’re still in the running for a relatively normal start here yet but any major rain event will push planting dates back a few more days.

With last weekend’s cold conditions, the ground froze up again and frozen ground yields few earthworms. That sent the robins scrambling back into the crabapple tree, feasting on the fruit. The black-capped chickadees have disappeared again after coming to stay last fall and while the dark-eyed juncos are still around, they’re likely to move on soon. A brown creeper was busy checking out the tree trunks for insects on Sunday morning. Activity on the pond has become a mallard and Canada goose show as of late with the residents feeding in the untilled cornstalks surrounding it. The goldfinches were more yellow again this week and by next week, they should be back at full color. Between them and the house finches, they’re keeping area sunflower and thistle seed merchants in business. Bluebird houses are ready anytime the bluebirds are ready to use them.

Frozen ground in the morning means a fast track for the lambs who were eager to get out and tear around after being cooped up inside for several days. Sounds like some kids I used to know. We’re down to only one more ewe left to lamb at the ranch. The most recent ewe to lamb telegraphed the blessed event for several days including during the nasty gray, windy day that was Thursday. Going home to check on her during lunchtime, my back side got drenched by the horizontal rain on the 20 foot walk from the truck. As I peeked in the door, she looked up at me from the shelter of the lambing barn as if to say “What are you doing here?” and went back to chewing her cud. I shook my head, muttered something unintelligible, turned and got my other side soaking wet on the trip back to the vehicle. Fortunately, she waited until after my Sunday afternoon nap. While they’ve been one black, muddy, stinky mess for much of the spring, Gus and Lucy helped us move them. It’s tough for a farm dog to stay clean and dry this time of year.

Had a little get together at the ranch on Saturday night and it turned out more like a little fat buddy convention. With representation from many of the precincts including Ellendale, Geneva, Waldorf and Bugtussle we could’ve conducted a straw poll. Actually, there was hay to unload so was tempting to make it a hay poll but Mrs. Cheviot nixed that idea. There were many who came bearing gifts, including a marble rye from Schnitzer’s. Can you say Rueben sandwiches boys and girls? I knew you could. Oddly enough the bread was still there in the morning although there was a window open and on one end of the loaf, it looked like it had been impaled on a sharp object, perhaps a fishhook. Strange.

See you next week…real good then.   


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/21/08, 07:22:08 PM
But you did, but you did and I thank you...

After basking in the afterglow of last week’s forecasting accuracy, the scurs are ready for another week of spring prognostications. Wednesday might be our nicest day of the upcoming forecast period. Should be sunny then becoming partly cloudy, high of 65 – 70 and low of 45. Thursday, back in the soup again. Cloudy with a good chance of rain, high near 65 and low of 45. Friday, cloudy and cooler, with possible rain lingering into the morning and afternoon. High of 55- 60 and low near 35. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 60 and low of 40. Monday and Tuesday, cooler and cloudy with rain likely. Highs of 60 - 65 and lows of 50. Normal high for April 25th is 60 and normal low is 38. On the 27th we will have exceeded 14 hours of daylight here in Bugtussle. With all the recent rainfall, the scurs are buying up old reel mowers to get a corner on the market in anticipation of more high gas prices for the summer.

The past week’s rainfall illustrated exactly what we said about a full soil moisture profile slowing down progress in the fields. Apparently there is still frost in the ground in places according to those who have been doing some tiling. However, witnessed my first fresh pocket gopher mound of the season on the 15th. The ice went out on St. Olaf Lake on the 16th. A little field work was done last week as some small grain was put in. Some anhydrous ammonia also went on with varying reports on the success of the applications. According to little fat buddy law, if you were putting it on, it went on great. If you’re not, it couldn’t have gone on too well. Rainfall at the ranch was about .9” for the Thursday/Friday rainfall event. Soil temperatures have not been real conducive to growing much of anything either, save some early cool season weeds such as lambsquarters and giant ragweed, not to mention the wheat that fell out of some straw bales in my pickup box. At the SCROC in Waseca, the average soil temp at 2” was in the mid-40’s much of the week, and slightly cooler than that at the 4” depth. As many are saying, once this thing breaks, it will likely break quickly so one will need to be ready to take advantage of a narrowing window of opportunity.

The last ewe finally lambed Wednesday when it was nice and warm so that process is over for another year. Sunday was a good afternoon to get some of the crushed rock and sod picked up from the lawn, piled from the winter we had. Didn’t realize there was that much rock left on the driveway in the first place. Under those piles, there was still some ice. The lawn is greening up however and the ewes managed to find their way out to the pasture to gobble up those first blades of green grass. Can’t say as I blame them. Being able to traipse around on the firm hillside versus being stuck in a muddy lot sounds much more appealing. The radishes planted two weeks ago have not emerged yet so may have to file a disaster claim. As damp and cloudy as it’s been, probably should’ve planted mushrooms.

Birds are moving at a frantic pace to get their nests constructed. Robins and blackbirds have developed an affinity for using leftover nasturtium vines as nesting material. Saw my first tree swallow of the season on the 16th and heard the first brown thrasher on the 17th in the dogwood. Little Jerry the rooster pheasant has been busy hanging out by the house. His incessant crowing and drumming almost rattles the windows since he’s so close. I tell Mrs. Cheviot that just like me, Little Jerry has the “kavorka”. She’s not convinced.

Waterfowl continues to pass on through. Some bluebills recently and there may be activity in the wood duck house. Not sure how the waterfowl can stand the racket from the little spring peepers and western chorus frogs however.  These are a few of several small frogs and tree frogs that inhabit our area wetlands. When we get warm spring days and nights, the decibel level on ponds such as ours can be almost deafening especially if you’re not used to it. Watching the tiny inch-long creatures is a treat also. Only the males call and they have a large air sac they inflate like a bubble when calling, reputedly to help attract a mate. If you’re quiet, move slowly and watch carefully, you can get quite a show.

At Mrs. Cheviot’s behest, got most of my “Thank-you” cards mailed last week. Don’t know about you, but especially as I’ve gotten older, always appreciate getting them. Sure they could’ve e-mailed me or said so in person or on the phone but there’s something special about getting a card or note of appreciation. Maybe some of it’s the fact that it’s not a bill or a piece of junk mail. Think mostly though it’s that someone took the time and effort to let us know what was done or given was remembered. Every time I open a thank you note, it always makes me think back to Bruzek’s Hardware and hearing Tom say after the transaction was complete, “Thank-you!”. If I haven’t said it enough, “Thank-you!” for reading and hope you’ve enjoyed the column. If you didn’t, thanks anyway for trying to unravel the twisted ramblings of a warped mind.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/28/08, 03:49:10 PM
Still the rain kept pourin'...

After late in the week, the scurs forecasting acclaim was called into question. With cooler than normal highs and some snow on the ground Saturday morning, spring seems to want to add insult to injury. This week doesn’t look like much of an improvement but on the bright side, no snow in the forecast. Wednesday is our token nice day, partly cloudy with a high of 65 and a low of 45. Slight chance of rain Wednesday overnight. Thursday, cloudy with a chance of rain. High of 60 – 65 and low of 45. Friday, cooler and cloudy with a chance of rain. 55 degrees for a high and 40 for a low. Saturday, cloudy, chance of rain, high of 55 and low of 35. Cloudy Sunday, high of 55 – 60 and low of 40 – 45. Cloudy with rain Monday, 50 – 55 for a high and low of 40. Tuesday partly cloudy and high of 60 and low of 40. Normal high for May 2 is 66 and low is 40. The scurs are drawing up plans for an ark complete with solar heating panels.

It has been a cold damp spring so far if you haven’t noticed. Fortunately we were spared the brunt of what is hopefully winter’s last gasp. With up to 15” of sloppy wet snow to the north, we can consider ourselves fortunate. The 1” – 2” of rain was plenty. What was a little disarming was Friday night traveling out to the barn to feed bottle lambs while it was snowing and hearing the frogs down on the pond croaking away. The grass sticking out of the snow the next morning looked like a 3 day beard growth. The radishes planted 3 weeks ago emerged last week just after press time but haven’t grown more than a quarter inch since then. Still, the yearling ewes can get out to pasture and apparently they’re finding plenty to eat, leaving some of their usual ration of hay behind in the bunk.

While the weather has been ugly, there have been a few nice days between rains and one needs to take the time to smell the roses. The junco’s have headed for points north where they’ll spend their summers, only to return again in October. On the 21st, saw my first yellow-rumped warbler of the season. On the 23rd, saw the first mating dragonflies rising up out of the alfalfa fields. The horned larks flying out of those fields reminded me that they actually think this is nice weather. However, when I got home and a pair of mallards was parading around the yard (we live on top of a hill) that was not a good omen.

One thing this weather has been good for is planting and transplanting trees. Got some replacement arborvitae for those the rabbits ruined or the lawnmower amputated at ground level. Was hoping with his excavating prowess that Gus could help me dig the holes but he and Lucy were busy watching the sheep as I toiled. In some holes, there was water 8” down, one reason that area is a windbreak. Also started a new horseradish patch as one of the missing shrubs was smack dab in the old patch. All the planting went well and decided to move a couple spruce where they’d been doubled up and a few spare nanny berries to fill in some gaps left when the septic system was replaced. As I was putting the tools back in the shed, the first raindrops hit my cheek. Once in the house, had a little lunch and upon hearing the pitter patter of rain on the roof, was out like a light on yet another patented power nap. Mission accomplished.

With all the cold, wet weather, the little fat buddies have been putting in overtime at the training table and holding regular therapy sessions. Locally baked rolls and bars are in much shorter supply than smart talk so needless to say, there has been some suffering. This is a resilient bunch however. They know it’s only a matter of time before someone takes pity and whips up a pan of bars or makes a trip to Casey’s for donuts.

Someone was wondering how one goes about achieving little fat buddy status. It’s rather nebulous but there are some indications: You might be a little fat buddy if you hang out at the Mall for Men, drink coffee and/or eat donuts there in the morning. You might be a little fat buddy if your favorite TV programs are on TV Land. You might be a little fat buddy if you know which area Dairy Queens have the cheapest malt prices. You might be a little fat buddy if you used to work or do business at Huntting Elevator. You might be a little fat buddy if you drive a company truck. You might be a little fat buddy if your kids show sheep. You might be a little fat buddy if you know what scurs are. And, you might be a little fat buddy if this is the first column you read when you pick up the NRHEG Star.

See you next week…real good then
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: HD on April 04/28/08, 04:30:49 PM
I only know what a scur is.....do I still qualify?

Another good read Dotch!

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/29/08, 10:03:17 PM
Thanks and absotively hunterdown. BTW, you might be a little fat buddy if you read Fencelines on MNO!  :dancinred:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: tripnchip on April 04/30/08, 12:02:51 AM
I can still see the belt buckle so I better quit reading fenclines  before I become a little fat buddy. lol
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on April 04/30/08, 07:10:35 AM
too late trip! :rotflmao: :rotflmao:

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/30/08, 10:19:32 AM
trip, you wearin' them pants up under your armpits again?   ;)
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: tripnchip on April 04/30/08, 11:09:58 AM
Oh heck just drive another fence post for me to set on.lol
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/05/08, 09:58:09 PM
Running over the same old ground. What have we found?

The scurs calling for late week rain came true once again although the dire predictions of a Monday rainout didn’t come to fruition. This week’s forecast period will likely see us start to turn the corner with more nice days than what we’re accustomed to. Wednesday starts us out with mostly cloudy and a slight chance of a shower in the morning. High of 65 and low of 40 – 45. Thursday, partly cloudy, high of 60 – 65 with a low of 40 – 45. Friday, partly cloudy, high near 60 and low of 40. Chance of rain Friday evening. Saturday, cloudy, chance of rain, high of 60 and low of 40. Cloudy Sunday with a chance of showers, high of 60 – 65, low of 40 – 45. Partly cloudy Monday, 60 – 65 for the high with lows of 45 – 50. Tuesday clouds return with a chance of rain, high of 60 and low of 50. Normal high for May 9 is 69 and normal low is 43. We gained 17 minutes of daylight in the past week, with the sun rising shortly before 6 a.m. and setting shortly before 8:30 p.m. The scurs are readying for their maiden voyage on the lawnmower for the season.

What a difference a few days makes. Coming out of the weekend before last, the ground was frozen solid a couple of mornings. On April 29th was heading towards some farmers fields near Madison Lake and encountered snow banks in the road ditches. Cool days at the beginning of the week made us begin to wonder if it was ever going to warm up and dry out. By Wednesday, things had changed and planters began to roll in places. Thursday’s clouds threatened rain and kept ground conditions sticky after working but the rain fell to the west that evening. That gave us hope that maybe it would hold off Friday morning but it was not to be. The spring’s weather has been trying our patience to be sure. Let’s hope the forecasters are right and this week gets us back into the fields once again.

The flora has been slow coming too. Usually by corn planting time we see the plum thickets spreading their sweet perfume across the landscape, followed close on their heels by the crabapples and apple trees. If the oak leaves are supposed to be the size of squirrels’ ears for corn planting, this year they must be midget squirrels. There are signs however we are making some progress. There are dandelions blooming on the south side of the house and the violas or Johnny Jump Ups are also flowering. My radishes grew almost ½” this past week. I figure by August at this rate we may actually have some ready. 

While the spring has been moving in slow motion, the birds are still coming through very close to what we generally see. This past week, saw bluebirds on Tuesday and was disappointed they hadn’t appeared yet at home. The next night they were here checking out the nesting boxes. May 1st brought the 1st rose-breasted grosbeak, actually a little ahead of when I’ve seen them here in years past.  After talking to my Mom she had also seen a grosbeak and an oriole as well. Put the oriole feeder out here and sure enough on Saturday after the rain, there he was. Sometimes wish I had some photographic talents as by the brush pile, along with the male oriole there was a white-crowned sparrow and a brown thrasher all within 3 feet of each other.

Not a big fan of brush piles because of the bunnies and woodchucks they seem to attract but the birds seem to like them for shelter during certain times of the year. Was going to burn the small pile this spring but seeing the bird activity in and around it over the weekend, decided it could wait. Besides, there will no doubt be another small one out here someplace for them next spring. If you have trees like silver maple, boxelder and ash trees on your property seems like brush piles are perpetual.

Pastures continue to grow and after a winter of inactivity and getting chubby, the yearling ewes have been relegated to pasture as their main source of roughage. Gus and Lucy keep an eye on them from their side of the fence when they’re in sight. All critters were happy to get leftovers from the most recent Lions Pancake breakfast. Leftover bread crusts are fought over by the sheep. Cold, soggy French toast keeps both of the border collies happy although their favorites were the sausages fished out of the garbage with coffee grounds on them. Just what a Border collie needs I thought; caffeine. Was hoping to find a chocolate éclair with a bite out of it myself.

At the Mall for Men, the cold weather led to several early week decompression (sometimes decomposing) sessions. The little fat buddies had a wonderful start with a large pan of leftover bars. Once we got busy in the field, there was little demand for bars and therapy sessions. However, Friday we were blessed with more rain and lo and behold, an angel from the east showed up with a freshly from the oven, still warm pan of bars. At lunchtime, out of the blue 2 pizzas showed up and were devoured immediately. The slightly dampish but undaunted little fat buddies could not believe their sudden good fortune. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

See you next week…real good then.


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/12/08, 03:19:55 PM
That's how it goes 'cause part of me knows what you're thinkin'...

If being close counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, the scurs were definitely in the ballpark last week. They’re going out on a limb here and predicting this forecast period should give us close to normal temps and keeps us slightly drier than the recent past. Little sunshine however. Wednesday partly cloudy, highs of 60 – 65 and lows of 40 – 45. Thursday starts off cloudy with a small chance of rain by afternoon. High of 60 – 65 and low near 40. Cloudy Friday, highs of 65 and low of 45, a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Saturday, cloudy, slight chance of rain, highs near 65 and lows of 45. Cloudy Sunday, slight chance of showers, high of 60 – 65 and low of 45. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs of 60 – 65 and lows 45. Normal high for May 16 is 71 and normal low is 46. We will have gained 16 more minutes of daylight in the past week and that trend is slowing slightly as we near the summer solstice. The scurs are readying their hammock for future reference.

Monday the 19th ushers in the Full Moon for the month, known by many appropriate names. Most call it the Full Flower Moon for obvious reasons, others call it the Full Corn Planting Moon for equally obvious reasons. The Ojibwe called this the Full Blossom Moon and the Sioux called it The Moon When Ponies Shed. At the ranch, we call it the Moon When Gus and Lucy Need Much Brushing.

Corn planting has been on everyone’s mind, what with the showers we seem to receive every 3 – 4 days. Conditions approach fair to marginal allowing for a day or two of planting at best, only to be followed by more rainfall. Fortunately, the amounts have generally been on the lighter side, avoiding the 3” – 4” gushers. Corn planted on April 30th had a ½” radicle on it as of May 7th. Mrs. Cheviot recently returned from Ohio and saw very few fields where corn was up. Similar tales of woe have been heard from other parts of the Midwest as well. Misery loves company.

The weather has been cool but has been warm enough to get area lawnmowers cranked up including yours truly. Has been the wettest start since 1993 when I registered my riding mower as a watercraft. Mowed up nice where the ground was dry but there were areas where the grass was still pretty short. With the cool weather, the amount of nitrogen mineralized has been slowed as evidenced by the nice green doggie spots. There have been some plum and cherries in bloom, especially in area burgs and other sheltered areas. This week should make for an explosion of flowering trees across the greater Bugtussle viewing area.

Despite the cool conditions, the birds continue their migration north. This past week saw many newcomers. The first house wren of the season at the ranch arrived on May 7th along with a black and white warbler and some barn swallows. As if on cue, when Mrs. Cheviot took off for a sheep show in Ohio on May 8th, Harris’ Sparrows showed up again this year along with their buddies the white-throated sparrow and white-crowned sparrows. They must read the show and sale catalog. After reports of hummingbirds several days earlier at Mom’s, one lone male made his way to one of the oriole feeders on the 10th. While not in the yard, a yellow-headed blackbird flew across the road by a slough a few miles up the road to the north. These striking birds are not as common as they once were but have been seeing more the past few years. Some goslings are already showing up on area ponds. Wetland restorations are having a positive impact on wildlife.

Male goldfinches are now the color of dandelions and it still amuses me when what appear to be dandelions from a distance suddenly take flight and perch in the trees. 2 male orioles were tangling over the nectar feeder so decided to put out another spare one we had lying around on the other side of the house. All went well until we discovered there were 3 orioles not just the 2. Not planning on putting out any more feeders though. Enough chores the way it is. Little Jerry, the rooster pheasant continues to court the ladies in the wild plum thicket in our yard. Picked the corn in the food plot a few weeks back and placed it where it was easily accessible for him in case he needed some extra energy.

The night before Mrs. Cheviot took off for Ohio, saw her writing down chore instructions so it came as news to me that she was going. Apparently my mind reading capabilities have been compromised or the scurs must have failed to apprise me of this event. Another surprise the morning she left was the high pitched squeal being emitted by the elderly living room TV. After spending copious amounts of time looking for resets, punching buttons and turning small knobs on the back, I pronounced it dead. Luckily the TV in the bedroom still sort of works when you pound on it several times until the picture comes on. Unfortunately it’s not hooked up to the satellite so no Twinkies games for me while she was gone.

After Mrs. Cheviot arrived home and we came in from chores the other morning, couldn’t figure out where she’d disappeared to. Needed to get to work so I ran through a shower quickly. Upon heading into the bedroom to grab some clothes, found her napping in a big wad of covers on the end of the bed with the TV blaring away. No doubt about it, we need to get a new TV to once again receive 100 channels with absolutely nothing worth watching and so Mrs. Cheviot can get her beauty sleep.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/19/08, 10:05:49 PM
Summer breeze makes me feel fine...

The scurs were right about the rain but we got far more sunshine and warmer temperatures than what they expected. This week, more of the same seasonal weather. Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 70 and low of 45 – 50. Thursday, partly cloudy and slightly cooler, slight chance of showers in the afternoon and evening. High of 65 – 70 and low of 50. Friday and Saturday, partly cloudy, highs of 70 – 75 and lows near 50. Sunday, partly cloudy, slight chance of afternoon and evening showers. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs of 70 – 75 and lows of 50 – 55. Normal high for May 23rd is 74 and normal low is 48 and as of the 23rd, we experience over 15 hours of daylight. We will only gain about 26 more minutes before the summer solstice. The scurs will be staying up well past their bedtime and enjoying every minute of it.

Warm temperatures and breezes this past week made for some fantastic planting progress in area fields. Corn planting is nearing completion and a large portion of the soybeans are in the ground. Early planted corn has emerged despite coming up through some crusted conditions. Many fields were dragged and rotary hoed as a result. Small grains are progressing nicely and most should be tillering as of this week. Weed pressure in all fields has been generally light due to the cool early season weather. However, with warmer temps, they will be making up for lost time. That’s why they’re weeds!

Bird watching this past week added more newcomers to the already long list of travelers. Saw the first indigo bunting of the season on the 14th and had our first catbird hanging out in the brush pile. There has been a red-headed woodpecker hanging out between the ranch and the neighbors. Can hear him but haven’t made eye contact yet. On the 16th, caught up with my little pals the cliff swallows under a Freeborn Co. bridge where they return every year. Spied a bobolink near Pemberton that day and over the weekend, they were in our CRP as well. At the pond, no wood ducks thus far but there are several mallards and blue-winged teal nesting there. There is also a pair of Canada geese that seem to be regulars so wouldn’t be surprised if some goslings suddenly appeared.

In the bluebird houses, we seem to be collecting lots of tree swallows this season but no bluebirds. That’s okay, can always use more bug eaters. There is still time and in the past, we seem to get a pair of bluebirds showing up relatively late at home. At the kindly neighbors pasture, there seems to be a waiting list so more houses properly placed there would probably be the ticket. The wrens at home have set up shop in their usual places and provide the background soundtrack for summer. Hummingbirds are more numerous but quickly hustle out of the way when the orioles show up. Speaking of orioles, Sunday morning caught a brief glimpse of an orchard oriole at the feeder. He didn’t stay long but the almost chestnut coloration was definitely not that of the northern oriole. Common yellowthroats are common in the fenceline between us and neighbor David. Not so common was the scarlet tanager my keen eyed sheepshearing friend and neighbor spotted on 5/19 in the lot at the Mall for Men. This is only the second one I've ever seen.

A lot of lawns being mowed for the 2nd and 3rd times. With the warmer temps, the dandelions have made several lawns and pastures a blaze of yellow. Flowering crabs have been beautiful but one wonders if the lilacs are going to make it by Memorial Day. Starting to notice a few toads down by the barn again although they’re apparently coming off a long winter. Pretty skinny just yet but given a few weeks of warm weather and catching insects, they’ll fatten up.

Speaking of fattening up, at the Mall for Men, activity has begun to wind down somewhat from the hectic spring and with the rains tailing off, not as many baked goods being consumed at one sitting. However, whenever someone does leave something edible on the table, its days are numbered, or usually hours are numbered. Sometimes we have to go out looking for goodies such as at the recent meatball dinner in the Geneva Lutheran church. Found several little fat buddies there feasting on real mashed potatoes, gravy and of course meatballs. Conspicuously absent from the table fare though were the Jell-O salads but there were lots of other salads to make up for it. Best not complain as experience taught me long ago, not unlike poking at a beehive with a stick, messing with church basement ladies is asking for trouble.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/24/08, 10:43:10 AM
Don't think me unkind, words are hard to find...

A cooler than expected beginning to last week for the scurs but they bounced back on the weekend with some warmer temps. This week promises some warmer weather and believe me we need it. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 65 – 70, low of 50. Warmer Thursday, partly cloudy, high of 75 and low of 55 with a chance of thundershowers Thursday evening. Friday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain. High of 75 – 80 and low of 55. Saturday, partly cloudy, 75 – 80 for the high with a low of 55. Sunday, partly cloudy, 65 – 70 degree high and low near 50. Partly cloudy Monday, becoming cloudy in the afternoon with a chance of showers developing. High of 70 and low of 50. Rain Tuesday with a high of 70 and low of 55. Normal high for May 30 is 76 and normal low is 51. The scurs have their flip-flops out and parrothead T-shirts on in anticipation of the first 80 degree high of the season.

Dry conditions have made many area farmers nervous, partially about some of the corn struggling to emerge through a crusty, cloddy seedbed and partially due to soybeans lying in dry dirt. As one sage observer pointed out, rain is one of those things you curse when you need and also when you don’t. Overall, crops are coming but the season has been drawn out and progress has sometimes seemed to be in slow motion. And with good reason. U of M Extension Climatologist Mark Seeley points out in his Minnesota Weather Talk that this has been the coldest May thus far since 1997 and the coldest March through May period since 1996. Even the mosquitoes are slow coming. Big disappointment there, huh?

Some have asked about the purpose of the big drum-type rollers that some farmers are pulling around their fields. These rollers are used primarily in this area on fields planted to soybeans. They shmush the stalks, rocks and corn root balls back into the soil surface so it makes for a cleaner grain sample in the fall. That’s particularly important for those raising seed beans and growing food grade beans for things such as tofu or soy milk. With the drier soil conditions we’ve suddenly experienced, it makes for better seed to soil contact allowing the soybeans to emerge more quickly. In addition, mashing the residue back into the soil helps keep it from blowing, something we can all appreciate when the wind blows. By the way, when doesn’t the wind blow around here?

It was a banner week for bird watching. . Near Mankato in the fenceline, saw an Eastern kingbird first hovering and finally landing. Watching the maple tree outside the reading room in the morning, it has been crawling with several different warblers, including yellow and yellow-rumped warblers. A phoebe has been hanging around the bur oak tree near the small pasture. Finally figured out why the robins kept flying in and out of the barn; a nest on top of the window frame made a nice spot. Even Border collie Gus does his part to help the birds. Cleaned some big wads of his fur out of the garage the other day and moments later, a chipping sparrow in nest building mode began picking it up. Wonder if the hatchlings will tear around incessantly, panting, with their tongues hanging out?

Maybe it’s just the cold weather but the bird migration also seems to be more spread out than some years. Looking back in the Fenceline archives however, one sees some of the same birds mentioned on close to the same calendar dates. Of course, most of your hardcopy columns have long since been used as bird cage liners but what the heck. Have you noticed your birds getting any smarter while talking to their little fat buddies?

At the Mall for Men, soybean planting must be winding down as the training table was back in use again. At first, there were a handful of participants having morning coffee but when a fresh pan of CS’s caramel rolls showed up, there were little fat buddies coming out of the woodwork. Was almost like someone had blown one of those silent dog whistles. We were messy of course, invoking the “5 second rule” when necessary. Probably could’ve used some of Grandma Memma’s napkins.

If I seem a little out of sorts, it’s been one of those weeks and Friday started out to be “one of those days” after I got out of bed. Got down to the barn to find rams in every pen except where they were supposed to be. Few things tick me off more than critters out of their enclosures. Made a trek to Mankato and points beyond which was an improvement. Even though people were driving like idiots with the holiday weekend, got to see some country I rarely see. After riding the range until 2 p.m., stopped at Mac and Don’s Steakhouse for a little sustenance. While I was there, my phone rang and it was one of the crack management staff wondering with the Memorial Day holiday, if I could get my column in yet that day. Managed to beg off until Saturday but felt a little like a pitcher on a baseball team being asked to pitch on 3 days rest! Not exactly a rubber-armed writer, especially when there are chores to do once I get home from work. Oh well, sometimes you gotta take one for the team I guess.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Mayfly on May 05/24/08, 01:11:15 PM
Good read as usual Dotch,

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/02/08, 09:54:14 PM
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down...

Some very timely and indeed welcome rain as the scurs predicted last week with an additional bonus shower or two over the weekend. Was also time it warmed up. This forecast period, expect very typical June weather, including good chances of rain. Starting with Wednesday, cloudy, high of 75 and low of 60. Good chance of rain starting Wednesday night. Thursday, cloudy, rain continuing, high of 80 and low of 60. Cloudy Friday with a chance of showers. High of 75 and low near 55. Partly cloudy Saturday, high of 80 and low of 60 with a slight chance of an isolated shower or thunderstorm. Clouding up on Sunday with a better chance of showers and thunderstorms, high of 80 and low of 60. Monday, partly cloudy, high of 80 and low around 60. Cooler Tuesday, partly cloudy, high of 85 and low of 60. Normal high for June 6th is 78 and normal low is 53. Our sunrise on June 6th occurs at 5:31 a.m. and will continue to rise at that time until the 21st. The sun will continue to set later until the summer solstice on the 20th. In the meantime, the scurs have invested heavily into umbrella and raincoat stocks.

After last Tuesday’s high of 55, who would’ve thunk it would straighten out and fly right? Was one of those days when one wished they had left their ice fishing clothes in the pickup because if you were out in the wind that day, it was downright piercing. With rainfall amounts generally totaling 1.5” – 2” for the week, we could consider ourselves extremely lucky. Areas to the south are suffering from excess moisture and are running out of time to replant corn. For now, we’re sitting just about where we’d like to be. Warmer temperatures really made the crop jump over the weekend but also really made the weeds pop too. If ground conditions allow, expect to see weed control operations take center stage in area fields. If not, expect to hear some snarling and gnashing of teeth.

Area bird watching had its privileges this past week. On the 23rd, saw the first of the new hatch of baby robins scattered around the yard with the parents frantically trying to locate everyone. While checking the fence at the kindly neighbors, noticed something had been working on a nest in the nesting box on the east side of the pasture. Returning over the weekend to control the weeds in the fence, spotted Mr. Bluebird there. There were more bluebirds looking at the ranch this week but a pair of tree swallows staked a claim to the house they were gravitating to. Moved another unoccupied house into the area and doubled up on the one they were looking at but to no avail thus far. Something has hollowed out a bowl in the wood duck house cedar chips but as of press time haven’t been able to discern exactly who it is. No question about who the 6 mallard ducklings are swimming with their mom though. The hen sees me and it’s everyone out of the pool.

On the 29th, the orchard oriole was seen at the nectar feeder. They’ve been here awhile but this was the first one seen at our feeder. Apparently the Baltimore orioles were napping or busy building a nest somewhere. With the warmer temps, the hummingbirds have become much more numerous. Most of what I’m seeing right now appear to be females. There are still a few goldfinches here but nothing like the horde that stuck around for about a month, blowing through thistle seed like it was water. Robins continue to sing about 4:30 a.m. at the ranch making me pull a pillow over my head to deaden the racket. I don’t care if it is supposed to be the best part of the day, there’s no reason to start singing about it that early.

This week should find us seeing a lot of the fruit and berry trees and bushes the birds love flowering including species such as chokecherry, dogwood, honeysuckle and nannyberry. Even though they don’t have much in the way of food value, the lilacs lent their sweet aroma to the warm Sunday air as lawnmowers did their best to make yards presentable for those going to and from graduations. The lilacs do serve as a home to the wrens and catbirds who scold when getting too near their turf.

Ah, but there is always a fly or bug of some kind in the ointment so it seems. Found a couple wood ticks this past week while doing battle with the weeds on the electric fence. Why is it once you find one, there’s this phantom feeling that there are several crawling on you somewhere? After last weeks rain, the mosquitoes are beginning to be more numerous out here in the country. It has been so windy up until now that if they were around, they had little chance to catch up with you and auger that nasty beak into your skin. You’ve probably noticed the June bugs too, especially if you’ve opened a window in the evening and had the pleasure of hearing them go sprong! as they bumble into the screen. Annoying, yes, but much less painful than one bumbling into your face while riding motorcycle.

And finally, it’s that time of year the little fat buddies always fantasize about: Graduation time. As long as you’re not real busy and you’re not actually hosting one while trying to avoid getting into hot water with the spousal unit, it’s a great excuse to go from place to place and sample the local cuisine. Of course, timing is everything. If you work it right, you can have a main course at one stop, lean more heavily on fruits and vegetables at the next one and then focus your attention on desserts at the last one. If you have more than 3 stops, by then it’s mealtime anyway so the cycle just repeats itself.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/09/08, 05:32:02 PM
Yore daddy runs sheep and mah uncle runs cattle…

After dumping the rainwater out of the laptop and changing the font to 10 point, the scurs are ready for another action packed week of weather forecasting. This one promises to be a repeat of the last one with somewhat warmer temperatures. Starting with Wednesday, cloudy becoming cloudier by afternoon with an increasing chance for showers and thunderstorms. High of 80 and low of 65. Mostly cloudy Thursday with a good chance for rain. High of 80, low of 60. Friday, partly cloudy with a good chance of morning and afternoon thundershowers. High of 80 and low of 60. Saturday and Sunday, cloudy with a moderate chance of showers and thunderstorms, with highs near 80 and lows near 60. Monday and Tuesday, just in time for the work week, partly cloudy with highs of 80 and lows of 60. Normal high for June 13th is 80 and normal low is 55. Essentially from the 15th until the Summer Solstice, we gain little more daylight, with our day length topping out at 15 hours and 28 minutes. Meanwhile, the scurs will be consulting Sorenson’s in Geneva to see if they know how to fix the weather machine suddenly stuck on the rinse cycle.

Since the paper comes out on Wednesday in town and arrives in rural mailboxes generally on Thursday, we’ll discuss the Full Moon on the 18th almost a week early. As well we should. It’s the Full Strawberry Moon, unanimously among the Indian tribes of the northeast as well as the Ojibwe and Sioux, not to mention little fat buddies. The Sioux also knew this is as the Moon of Making Fat and the Moon When the Grass is Green. That certainly is the case. Now if the little fat buddies could just get their lawns mowed between snacks, naps and showers.

Speaking of green grass, the grass seeding experiment prior to one of the spring snowfall events has been a mixed success. Think in my case, roughing the surface up slightly, then seeding and packing the ground with the lawnmower tires or 4 wheeler might’ve improved my success. When in a hurry however, one does what one has time for. It has come better than initially thought with all the recent rains. The radishes planted April 10th weren’t exactly a homerun either. In a new garden bed, am still getting used to the position of the sun. When the radishes were planted, they were in the sun. As the days became longer however, the sun rose farther to the north, the trees leafed out and the area was shaded too much. My bad. The radishes we did get were hotter than a pistol though.

This past week saw the seeds of soft maple and boxelder trees helicoptering their way to the ground. Apparently was a good year for seed production. Areas of some fields near groves and fencelines were nearly covered with their winged seeds, making one wonder what kind of residue had suddenly showed up there. American high bush cranberries (viburnum) are blooming this week and will bring much of the flowering tree season to a close. The red osier dogwood do seem to bloom awhile yet which partially explains their high berry output and the resulting volunteer dogwood bushes due to the birds’ high output of their seeds.

Weeds are on many farmers’ minds right now. Fields have become saturated and while the crop looks pretty good all things considered, weed control operations have been catch as catch can. It’ll get done; it always does. Even pasture spraying has been challenging. Finally got the 4 wheeler sprayer on but needed some Teflon tape to keep the pressure gauge from leaking. I bet I have 3 or 4 rolls of the stuff somewhere but do you think I could find one of them when needed? Why does one need that many rolls of Teflon tape? Well, duh!. Did locate some in a pail of junk we had moved out of the old garage. Of course, by the time I fixed the pressure gauge and read the rain-fastness on the chemical label, stating it needed 6 hours before a rain, the thunder began to roll. This June, getting that much time thus far without rain and conditions fit to spray has been like pulling teeth.

Last week saw the first of the new hatch of pheasants, little fuzz balls zipping across the road after Momma hen had crossed. Little Jerry must’ve done his job. Always a good idea to take it a little easy when seeing a hen this time of year to avoid hitting the chicks that are frequently behind her. No bluebirds here at home although I did see a pair who were looking at the sites. At the kindly neighbors pasture, the bluebirds remain in the same house they occupied last year. Tree swallows took over the one the wrens had last year and the two new houses there were claimed by the wrens. More early morning music for the neighbors.

Music isn’t exactly what I’d call the racket being made by the recently weaned ewes. Took a load to the same kindly neighbors and luckily, the ewes’ bellering lasted about 5 minutes until they were stuffing themselves so full of lush green grass they could barely move. At home, it’s a little different story. The ewes can still see the weaned lambs who don’t seem to care when there’s food to eat. The yearlings sharing the pasture with the brood ewes want no part of it either and head to the far end to escape the noise. In a few days, the din will subside and the sheep go back to their primary function: Eating grass and keeping the weeds down.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on June 06/10/08, 05:56:42 PM
another good read! thanks dotch!

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/16/08, 09:42:29 AM
Myrtle's got a turtle in her girdle...

After a nice weekend, the scurs are ready to dish up another helping of nice June weather. Goodness knows we can all use it. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 80 and low of 60. Essentially, through Tuesday, skies will be partly cloudy; highs will be near 80 and lows around 60, with a slight chance of rain on Thursday, a slightly higher chance on Friday with slight chances again Saturday night into Sunday. Normal high for June 20th, the summer solstice, is 81 and normal low is 57. The scurs have their sights set on lounging on the beach at Beaver Lake for the day, and risking one eye.

The summer solstice occurs at 20:59 UTC or 6:59 p.m. CDT on June 20th as the sun reaches its northernmost extreme. With the sun rising at 5:31 a.m. and setting at 9 p.m., it is the longest day of the year. That’s the good news. The bad news is on the 21st, we already lose one minute of daylight. Of course this depends on your viewpoint. If you can’t wait for ice fishing season, it’s right up your alley.

This past week saw limited progress made across the area for those trying to get corn sprayed for weed control. However, with the weekend turning out as nice as it did, a lot of the hay that has been standing got knocked down. Sure, the quality probably won’t be what we’d like to see for dairy hay but there are a lot of small patches scattered around the countryside primarily designed to feed a few beef cows, horses and other assorted 4-legged hay burners. Even some dumb sheep guys aren’t real fussy when it comes to hay quality. Beggars can’t be choosers. At least it will still give one cause for allowing the aroma of that curing hay to waft inside an open window or two.

In Bugtussle itself, managed to get the planters in front of the Mall for Men planted with an assist from one red-haired small engine mechanic. Noticed the top had been removed from the 5-man dryer at the elevator across the road. As one astute observer pointed out, it suddenly became more like about a 3 ½ man dryer.

Out and about this past week, saw and smelled all kinds of noteworthy items. Wild grapes were in full bloom over the weekend, making me wonder at first what kind of tree the sweet odor was coming from as I was mowing lawn. Appears the birds have been doing a splendid job of spreading wild grape seeds all over the countryside. On still evenings mosquitoes have been out in force when checking on the garden before sunset. Breezy conditions do have their perks. In the garden itself this past week, striped cucumber beetles were voraciously feeding on cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and other vine crops. Timely treatment is necessary when this happens or there will be no vine crops. Rabbits developed at taste for the sugar snap pea vines so the chicken wire fence was resurrected once again. A lot of cottontails all over the countryside in my travels.

Were lots of snapping turtles and painted turtles crossing roads to get to their egg laying grounds. Spied a painted turtle on Friday night just east of St. Olaf Lake trying to lay her eggs in a frost boil in the middle of the road as I made my way to the kindly neighbors pasture. Hmmm…I thought to myself as I drove by trying to avoid hitting her. Eggs won’t survive the road grader and she’s in grave danger of being squashed if two cars meet. What to do...decided if she was still there after checking the ewes, I would put on my leather gloves and release her somewhere else but where?

Where else? At the pond at home. Should be plenty of food and there are sand and gravel pockets on the hillside where she should be able to lay her eggs in peace. She was still there when I came back, unscathed, and I was sure as I picked her up, someone would ask the “turtle soup” question if I told them about what I was doing. Immediately I thought, ‘No soup for you!” and put her in the back of the pickup where she poked her head and legs out of her armor. Walked her down the hill and placed her on the ground beside the water. Instantly she was off and in the water as I smiled as I watched the bubbles that traced her path under the water’s murky surface.

Mrs. Cheviot was less-than-amused at my nap-taking prowess the other night right before the thunderstorm hit. After eating and upon hearing thunder in the distance, it was lights out for this cowboy, er, sheepboy. When I woke up, I could smell something burning. Had lightning struck the house I thought? False alarm. Apparently the power had gone off and Mrs. Cheviot had lit a candle. Of course, when I asked what was going on I got “the look” and she muttered something under her breath. Since there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, thunderstorms, as long as they don’t involve high winds, are not only wonderful opportunities for doing your Rip Van Winkle impression, but also to get out and play with some of those rarely used around the house toys such as wind up flashlights as well as LED headlamps and lanterns. Bonus! A shame to see their use confined only to hunting and fishing seasons. Of course, after being rested up, that’s exactly what I did, amusing Mrs. Cheviot even less. In the case of thunderstorms, to quote Homer Simpson, “You snooze, you win!”

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/23/08, 05:49:47 PM
They give me cat scratch fever...

As anticipated, the scurs were on the money, delivering some of the nicest weather we’ve seen for this growing season. Warm days and cool nights have made it easy to open the windows at night. On tap for this forecasting period: More of the same with slightly above average trend in temperatures. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 85 and low of 65. Slight chance of showers Wednesday evening. Thursday into Friday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy. Moderate chance of showers and thunderstorms with highs of 80 – 85 and lows near 65. Saturday, partly cloudy, warmer with a high near 85 and low of 60. Cooler Sunday, with partly cloudy skies. High of 80 and low of 60. Partly cloudy Monday and warmer, high of 85 and low of 65. The heat is on Tuesday. High near 90 and low of 70. Normal high for June 27 is 82 and normal low is 59. The scurs will be working on their suntans when they’re not napping in the hammock.

The past week was a godsend for all those who were trying to get caught up on their weed control and harvesting hay, sometimes at the same time. Forage yields have been impressive but they should be due to the later than normal harvest. Forage quality as a result may not be what the high octane dairy producer would like. However any hay at this point is better than no hay at all. Corn really took off over the weekend and from those traveling other parts of the corn belt, there aren’t too many places that look better than south central MN at this point. It’s not perfect and has some warts but we have to count our blessings and be thankful we don’t live a few hundred miles to the south this year.

Lots of deer seen out consuming corn and soybeans this past week. Several does with fawns as well. The deer look extremely well nourished and wondered a couple times whose Jersey cows were out. As mentioned last week, there are few things more pleasant than the small of curing hay. Can think of one thing that smells even better though: The smell of freshly baled hay with no rain on it stacked in your barn!

In area gardens am hearing some of the same complaints: Bunnies and lots of them. Had to fence off the string beans this past week as one of them had decided since he couldn’t eat the sugar snap peas anymore he’d adjust his diet. See he’s also been gnawing on the sweet corn and the neighbor’s soybeans. Ever notice how they never seem to eat the weeds off?

Lots of bird activity at the ranch over the prior week. The goldfinches are back with a vengeance and have their little house finch buddies with them. On Saturday, every perch on every feeder was covered with one of the aforementioned birds. The first of the new batch of tree swallows has taken wing and the robins are on brood two. There have been 3 robin nests built inside of our sheds this year, almost like they’ve become domesticated. With all the rain, they were no dummies. Hummingbird activity continues to increase and the orchard oriole was back again. Wonder if JW from the SROC is still seeing theirs?

Out and about on the ranch, the common yellowthroats have taken a shine to the dogwood which apparently has become thick enough to get their stamp of approval. On the pond there were 6 egrets on Saturday morning, parading along the west side in stark contrast to the green background. At the kindly neighbors, Ma and Pa bluebird are rearing brood one yet so will be keeping a close eye on that nesting box. Once the young leave the nest, will clean it out in hopes that they will start on brood number two as they did last year. Apparently the Gus fur used in chipping sparrow nest construction was a success too. The numerous baby chippers floating around the yard are proof of that.

Gus and Lucy are in full shed. Brushed them out on Sunday during the breezy afternoon and the wind was taking big hunks of fur and scattering them all over the lawn, making it look like there had been a gigantic catfight. (Yey eye ca-catfight!) It also lofted some it up over the house, some of it was stuck in the trees and some landed on the road. Passersby probably wondered what in the devil was going on. That’s okay. The neighbors all know we’re nuts anyway, so nothing surprises them anymore.

And finally, once again CS took pity on the poor starving little fat buddies and had their choice of rhubarb and apple dessert delivered to the Mall for Men. We are conferring little fat buddy auxiliary status upon her for baking over and above the call of duty. Even though it was a short crowd, the goodies didn’t see noon. We’ve learned to be prepared to take advantage of opportunities such as this. There are almost always paper plates and plastic silverware on the training table. One can never plan too far in advance for these occasions. Have to strike while the baked goods are warm.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on June 06/25/08, 11:33:11 AM
hey Dotch, hows that horseradish crop doing?

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/25/08, 01:30:50 PM
Looks awesome, bone, er, I mean Randy. The new patch caught very well, should be ready late fall or early spring, and the original patch is about waist high. Of course, with my short stature, that may not mean much but hey, at least I have big feet. And you know what that means: I have big shoes!  :dancinred:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on June 06/25/08, 01:36:55 PM
was at cub last week, they wanted 5 something a pound...  geez!
the silver springs red just doesnt do it for me anymore! i need raw.

randy aka bonehead
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/25/08, 02:10:11 PM
We'll have to link up this fall. Can get you a "fix" then. Some of the old patch should still be good after tearing it up around the edges this spring. Just need to be a little selective about the roots used. The nice thin white ones I dug out of there this spring weren't tough and really packed a whallop. Can give you some tops to start your own patch too and will start another new one here.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on June 06/25/08, 04:04:54 PM
that sounds like a plan for sure! i want to make the young guns
at deer camp something they wont forget! like the first taste of
raw horseradish :rotflmao: light my fire!!!

randy aka bh
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/04/08, 07:17:59 AM
Wooden ships on the water...

Aside from the showers on Saturday, the scurs were near perfect once again. They promise to dish up another seasonal forecast for the Independence Day weekend. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 80 and low of 55. Moderate chance of showers for Wednesday. Thursday and Friday the 4th should be carbon copies. Mostly sunny with highs of 75 and lows of 55 – 60 both days. Slightly warmer Saturday under sunny skies, high of 80 and low of 60. Sunday, partly cloudy, slight chance of rain, warming to 80 – 85 with a low near 65. Monday and Tuesday get a little sticky. Partly cloudy, highs 85 – 90 and lows of 65 – 70 with a slight chance of rain for Tuesday. Normal high for July 4th is 83 and normal low is 60. The scurs will be trying to elude the Fireworks Police while setting off their super secret fireworks display.

Doesn’t seem possible we’re already out to the 4th of July and many folks haven’t run their air conditioning yet. Has been wonderful to open the windows at night, close them during the day and come home to a still cool house. While it has been comfortable sleeping weather, it hasn’t necessarily been great for corn and soybeans. Corn is over knee high but we continue to lag about 10% behind normal in GDU’s at the SROC and there is becoming a common muttering among farmers that we will likely need a warm September to finish this crop out. No doubt, crops have improved dramatically. However, regarding some of the sins committed both last fall and this spring due to wet field conditions, the chickens have come home to roost.

The rainfall this past Friday and Saturday was indeed welcome, with most reporting somewhere in the neighborhood of .7” – 1”+ total for the two days across most of greater Bugtussle. It was especially beneficial to those with late sweet corn plantings and should start the small grain on its way to grain fill after pollinating this past week. Should help the peas too, those that haven’t contracted root rot yet anyway.

Gardens absolutely loved the rain too. Vine crops such as pumpkins, cukes, squash and melons have begun to blossom and “run”. Once they get started, especially the squash and pumpkins, the ground coverage provides effective weed control. In addition, the ground the next year is generally very mellow as those big leaves deflect the large droplets in the pounding rains we seem to receive on an increasingly frequent basis. Even the “learning impaired” clematis we have on the east side of the house seems to be coming around. In years past, it has ignored the trellis and sprawled on the ground. Using a little determination and composted sheep manure, have managed to get the plant erect without the use of Viagra. Nothing a little bale twine and electric fence wire couldn’t cure.

The birds sure seemed to think the rain was a good deal. The little yellow goldfinches were busy bathing in the puddles at the end of the driveway. The robins were happy to see the earthworms close to the soil surface, making for easy pickin’s. As well they should be. Heading down to the barn Sunday, spied several heads, mouths wide open, above the nest on the west wall. Judging by their size, it won’t be long and the 2nd brood will be on the wing. Still doesn’t seem to stop the wrens and robins from starting to sing at 4:30 a.m. and stopping at 9:30 p.m. That’s a full days work in anybody’s book.

The sheep continue to harvest their own forage in the pastures. Generally, sheep are not considered the sharpest tools in the shed but they do have their moments. Was watching them one day placing their front legs on another’s back in order to get at the low hanging tree limbs. All trees in the pasture are trimmed to a height of about 4’ underneath, great if you’re a little person. Decided they also must have a sense of humor. Saw a ewe crowd another one into the electric fence and it zapped her as they all ran off at the snap! the spark made. Thought I might have even heard them snicker a little at the expense of the fence tester.

Once again, Mrs. Cheviot is off on another junket this week leaving Mr. Cheviot to his own devices along with all the chores and other responsibilities. One of these days, it will be Mr. Cheviot’s turn although those days seem to be becoming fewer and farther between. Maybe if I plug the culvert and run the garden hose in the road ditch overnight, I can get my boat back in the water again.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/07/08, 09:00:15 PM
Rescue me...

The scurs hedged their bets and sure enough, we missed the Wednesday rain. Will we have nice weather for Farm and City Days? Ask and ye shall receive. Starting Wednesday, sunny with a high of 80 and low of 60. Sunny Thursday with a high in the low 80’s and low near 65. Friday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of rain that evening. High of 85 and low around 65. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers during the day and a better chance of showers Saturday night. High of 85 – 90 and low of 65 – 70. Ish! Cloudy Sunday with a slight chance of lingering showers in the morning. High of 85 and low in the mid – 60’s. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs in the low to mid 80’s and lows in the low to mid 60’s. Normal high for July 11th is 83 and normal low is 61. Just for Ona, sunrise on the 11th occurs at 5:42 a.m. and sunset is at 8:56 p.m. We have lost 14 minutes of daylight since the summer solstice. However, the scurs are going out on a limb here and forecasting no snow for the Farm and City Days parade.

No question about the corn and soybean progress this past week: Super! While Sunday’s muggy weather wasn’t comfortable for people or livestock but it was ideal for our row crops. While considered vertically challenged, was in corn that was head high in places last week. Soybeans are blooming profusely and the yellowing from iron deficiency chlorosis has been limited in most places to small areas of fields. Soybean aphids were found last week but they’re certainly not widespread or by any means a problem just yet.

The 4th brought a welcome respite from too many days of work but as too often occurs, all it seems to wind up being time spent working on projects at home that got back-burnered. As mentioned last week, had the chores all to myself besides so was fortunate to be invited to one of my little fat buddy’s for supper and to watch evening fireworks. Way too much food but what was one to do? That’s right, relax and savor it along with realizing how lucky we are to live and enjoy the freedoms we have in this country.

Would be hard to top that evening so wasn’t about to try. After getting some food around for that gathering, discovered I was out of a lot of stuff and needed to repair some other things. So, made one of those awful trips to FF. Had charcoal but no lighter fluid so had to use the propane torch to ignite the coals. The torch ran out of LP about the time the coals decided to commence. The grate that holds the charcoal in the bottom of the Weber had just about worn through to the point of collapsing so found a replacement grate on sale even. Could’ve replaced the Weber (same size also on sale) but since I’d had it longer than Mrs. Cheviot, decided to keep it. Charcoal was just about gone so also found that on sale. And the goldfinches had run out of thistle seed so got that rectified. Just watch, they’ll go on hiatus for awhile now.

Made a trip to Mom’s on Sunday and continued feasting. Had a couple sinks to unclog so it wasn’t totally sitting around time. The experience of fishing army men out of plugged toilets in rental property came in handy. Got some gas for her lawnmowers and visited my mother-in-law at the care center in Ostrander. When we got back I washed her car and within 15 minutes, it rained. If only one had that kind of power.

All of the robins made it out of the nest in the barn by Sunday morning, save one. He was still in the nest when I left for Mom’s so didn’t think much of it. When I got home for chores could hear a baby robin but couldn’t see him. Finishing up watering, determined he was stuck behind the inside wall on the barn. Took some doing but finally managed to grab him, much to his vocal displeasure and that of nearly every robin in the yard. Let the little twerp go and within seconds, there was a parent with a hunk of night crawler feeding him.

Just like everyone else, have had to make some adjustments due to the fuel prices. Was discussing this with a guy in a little bar and grill where I’d stopped to take on some nourishment. We’d both made changes in vehicles lately and I mentioned after the crop got too large to ride 4 wheeler, I’d park the dually and start driving the mini van. I already was driving it for the short, non-hauling trips. Only problem with that was I’d started to feel like a soccer mom. His solution was priceless. “Sounds like you should buy a wig”.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: HD on July 07/08/08, 06:16:54 AM
  Sounds like your corn is doing well! Mine is not quite that high yet, but should be soon, had a real good down pour last night. Good for the crops, sucks to work in.......got a tractor out in the field with a bad carb, was working on it when she let loose. (drowning rat syndrome)

As for the wig.....I think.....I would pass!

Another good read!

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/15/08, 01:45:35 PM
He knows I'm gonna stay...

After scraping the last of the road-kill Farm and City Days parade Tootsie Rolls off their shoes, the scurs are ready to predict the week’s weather with continued deadly accuracy. Looks like a shift in weather patterns, towards a wetter cycle again. Chance of showers and thunderstorms every day, with the best chances Thursday night, with moderate chances through Sunday. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy high of 85 and low of 65. Partly cloudy Thursday, high of 80, low of 65. Mostly cloudy Friday, high near 80, low between 60 and 65. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy skies, highs near 80 and lows of 60 – 65. Mostly cloudy Monday and Tuesday. Highs both days of 75 with lows near 55. Normal high for July 18th is 84 and normal low is 61. We shall see if the rain dancing lessons the scurs have been taking are paying off.

The Full Moon for the month falls on Friday the 18th. It is known as the Full Buck Moon as the buck deer are beginning to show antlers in the velvet. It is known as the Full Thunder Moon by some because of the thunderstorms common during the month. Many farmers know this as the Full Hay Moon. Hopefully there are some thunderstorms to make a decent hay crop. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Raspberry Moon and the Sioux as The Moon of the Red Cherries, both of which should be showing up in grocery stores any day now.

Was a nice rain back on Friday the 11th and hopefully it’s the start of more to come. Most were reported .5” or less across the greater Bugtussle viewing area. Area crops continue to progress, with tassels due to arrive on much of the corn during Waseca Co. Fair. Soybeans in 20” rows should be closing the rows this week. Early planted spring wheat is starting to show some signs of turning. The pea crop has been disappointing but not to be unexpected given the cold, damp start to the spring we had, followed by a general dry pattern. Some early sweet corn started to show tassels last week so hopefully in about 3 weeks we’ll have some to eat.

Was thrilled to become an official weather observer for Berlin Twp. in Steele Co. as part of the Minnesota Climatological Network. One of the employees of the SWCD was nice enough to come out after hours and help get me started with the project. After some head scratching about how to mount the gauge, we seemed to have put together a respectable looking mount. Checked it with a level to make sure it was as close to accurate [PoorWordUsage] it could be. Best of all, within a day of putting it in service, actually recorded some precipitation, all .41” of it.

Thank you to GD for leaving a female cecropia moth in egg laying mode on my desk last week. These large moths are members of the giant silk moth family. Not often seen as they fly at night, they are attracted to bright lights. While not totally uncommon, it takes some luck to see one. They live only about 2 weeks as adult moths. They lack a mouth or proboscis with which to feed. Eggs are laid following mating and they are univoltine, meaning they produce only one generation per year. The eggs will hatch in about 1 – 2 weeks and the larvae will feed on several species of trees including apple, pear, cherry, plum, boxelder and maple. After molting 4 times and feeding voraciously, the now 4 inch green larvae with a spiky appearance spins a cocoon in a late summer and overwinters, hatching the next spring or summer, repeating the cycle.

Out and about this past week there were lots of sights to see and smell. While mowing some thistles in ES from Brooklyn’s CRP (the only person who writes to me with any frequency whatsoever), had a hard time not watching a little male kestrel hovering then dropping like a rock to the ground, apparently after some of the voles I was chasing around. Why do I still hear my Dad yelling “Pay attention!” when I do that? There were two male rose-breasted grosbeaks, whistling loudly when their favorite sunflower feeder was not stocked. Hope they stay. A brown thrasher continues to bounce around the back yard, cocking his head and looking at me, then flying off to the thicket where he feels safer I imagine. Milkweed is blooming and it’s no wonder the butterflies like it. It smells heavenly! In the fencelines and road ditches, elderberries are flowering and on a still day, the honey like smell makes your mouth water. Speaking of mouth watering, the Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes continue to ripen in the garden, making for a tasty snack while pulling weeds.

When growing up, we of course had a BB gun. It was an older Daisy single pump model that had been handed down to us and while it could kill sparrows and blackbirds, it wasn’t particularly powerful. When we ran out of BB’s occasionally we’d try alternative shot in it. Green elderberries just happened to be about the right size so why not? Problem was brother Roger and I got a couple of them stuck in the barrel. About the only way to get them out was to pump it and fire it. Of course, I had convinced him that it wouldn’t hurt so I pulled the trigger and shot him in the back. “Ouch!” he yelped. Sure enough, they both came out alright, leaving two little green marks on his white T-shirt. When he lifted up his shirt, there were two little blood blister welts on his back. Just a flesh wound. File this one under “Kids don’t try this at home”.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/23/08, 03:35:27 PM
For it surely looks like rain...

The scurs were on target again but every forecast period is different and this one is no exception. Looks like we’ll have no trouble staying warm. Starting Wednesday, they see partly cloudy skies becoming cloudy, high of 85 and low of 65 with a fair chance of overnight rain. Mostly cloudy Thursday becoming partly cloudy, high of 80 and low of 65 with a slight chance of lingering showers. Partly cloudy Friday, high of 85 and low of 60. Saturday, sunny. High of 80 – 85 and low of 65 with a slight chance of showers overnight. Partly cloudy Sunday with a chance of showers. High of 80 and low 65. The heat is on Monday and Tuesday. Partly cloudy with highs of 85 – 90 and lows of 65. Normal high for July 25th is 84 and normal low is 61. The last 2 weeks of July are traditionally the warmest of the year for us. The scurs will be consuming mass quantities of cotton candy and onion rings at the Waseca Co. Fair.

We were very fortunate around the greater Bugtussle area to receive the timely rains we did last week. Most gauges were reporting somewhere in the 1.2” – 1.8” range but there were reports of higher amounts as one went north or south. On the north side of Waseca, there was a report of over 6’! That’s a little over and above but one can’t send back what you don’t need. Overall, with corn tasseling and soybeans just beginning to set pods, the timing couldn’t have been better. Soybean aphid numbers continue to rise but still haven’t reached threshold levels in most area fields. Spring wheat continues to turn although harvest appears to be about 10 days away yet, given some decent harvest weather.

The bluebirds never nested here at the ranch but did manage to fledge 4 at the kindly neighbors pasture. Am still hoping to see them re-nest but haven’t seen any evidence of it yet. Of course, braving the mosquitoes and deer flies may be part of the problem. Saw the first male indigo bunting we’ve seen in awhile last Thursday and at lest one male oriole was giving me the business about putting some new nectar in the feeders. Wonder if they’ll start taking the bee guards off the hummingbird feeder as is their wont? The house finch crop apparently was a good one. There are lots of them coming to the feeders right now and most appear to be young brought along by their parents. Getting towards the time of year when the goldfinches will begin to nest, feeding their young with regurgitated seed.

In the area lawns and gardens, with the warmer, drier weather of the past few weeks the apple trees have sloughed some of their excess apples. This is the “off” year on the trees in our yard but am surprised to see as many apples on the trees as there are given the sparse amount of blooms there were on them. In the garden, the sugar snap peas should be coming to an end eventually and the string beans are coming on. The cherry tomatoes continue at snacking pace but am starting to think the zucchini plant is a homosexual. Why? Because of a current shortage of male flowers on it, a noticeable lack of bees to carry pollen from elsewhere and small zucchini being sloughed off. Vine crops such as squash and pumpkins produce both male and female flowers, with the male flower producing the pollen. The flowers last about one forenoon before closing. Am trying to trick it however. Taking a Q-tip, I’ve swabbed pollen from some of the male flowers on squash in the other garden and dabbed it on the pistils of the female zucchini plant. It appears to be working although I suddenly feel a little like David Crosby.

The weekend naps were marred by several pop-ins, dogs barking when cars went by too slowly or loudly and Mrs. Cheviot coming home just as I was nodding off when the rain began to pitter-patter on the roof. This is jeopardizing my position on the US Olympic napping team. It’s making me tired to be sure.

The little fat buddies have been in celebration mode as of late. First, one of our ranks was named New Richland Idol last week. To follow up, then we were treated to not one but two Whitman Sampler’s by ES from Brooklyn, the only person who writes to me with any frequency whatsoever. Oddly enough, it only took two days for us to saw through them. Life is definitely like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get even when you try and figure it out by the chart on the box. Gives us something to talk about when we’re critiquing the new “used but not abused” 10 man dryer across the street.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/31/08, 06:33:37 AM
Feeling hot, hot, hot!!!

After calling Sunday’s shower correctly, the scurs set their sights on this forecast period, hoping for continued success. Shouldn’t be too tough as it looks like partly cloudy with highs of 85 - 90 and lows of 65 Wednesday through Friday. Slight chance of showers and thunderstorms Wednesday night into Thursday. The heat stays on Saturday under partly cloudy skies, a high of 90 and low around 65 with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening. Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 85 and low of 65. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy and warmish: Highs of 90 and lows of 65. Normal high for August 1 is 83 and normal low is 61. On the 4th, we will have lost over an hour of daylight since the summer solstice. The scurs know there are plenty of lights at the Freeborn Co. fair so they can see what they’re devouring.

Crop continue to progress and we’ve made up some ground on GDU’s. While this calculation isn’t necessarily a perfect predictor of crop development it does put matters into perspective. As of last week we were about 7% below normal at the SROC in Waseca. Something interesting to note however is that we’ve been getting our moneys worth; temps climb rapidly in the morning and maintain temperatures in the 80’s well into late afternoon and evening. Will be curious to see just where we are in terms of solar radiation at the end of the month. Seems like we’ve had a lot of sunshine which as Gyles Randall points out is very typical for July. We’ve also managed to make the most of our soil moisture as we’re cooling off well overnight, usually into the 60’s. Surprisingly with the .19” of rain at the ranch on Sunday, moisture did actually meet moisture in the garden. We are lucky too we haven’t seen much of the high dewpoints with lows in the mid to upper 70’s that make us uncomfortable and run our air conditioning bills through the roof.

The smell of corn pollen is in the air and that’s not all that unusual during the tail end of the Waseca Co. fair and into the Freeborn Co. fair. The cooler nights with some showers mixed in appear to have allowed pollination to be near perfect thus far. Soybeans are continuing to set pods with most 30” rows closing. Aphid numbers continue to build with a few area fields requiring treatment. Spring wheat remains unharvested, almost as if it’s decided to slow down and take a break. With little for disease pressure there’s lots of green in those fields yet and unless on is going to swath it, it’s still going to be another week. Should be some local fresh market sweet corn available this week so keep your ears open. (bad pun)

In the gardens at the ranch, zucchini woes continue although knowing one can go on the open market and get all the zucchini one wants, it really isn’t a problem. The rest of the garden including the weeds continue to flourish. Did manage to do battle with them however so they shouldn’t be the issue they might’ve been. String beans are coming on strong and just about when I think the sugar snap peas are done, they produce another flurry of blossoms. Bonus! While weeding the melon patch noticed there were some softball sized muskmelon on the vines. There are some cucumbers too just can’t always see them in the mass of vines that are overtaking the east side of the plot. The flowers are kicking it in gear too. The cosmos, 4 o’clocks, petunias, impatiens, bachelor’s buttons, sunflowers and nasturtiums are all dressing up the yard.

In addition to dressing up the yard, the flowers are attracting hummingbirds. There were several at the feeders and checking out the flower bed south of the house. Orioles have started coming back to the nectar feeder an these look and sound like youngsters. The baby barn swallows are no longer babies and fill the sky overhead all the while keeping an eye out for the kestrel that has been hanging around. Chipping sparrows are as numerous as ever and while weeding around an arborvitae in the garden, almost had one take my ear off as it flew off the nest partially manufactured from Gus fur. The last nest of wrens apparently has hatched as one can hear them peeping inside the birdhouse. Seems to be cutting down on the amount of early morning singing as the parents are constantly on the move feeding them from dawn till dusk. The blue jays and nuthatches are telling us that we’re not that fall is not that far off. The great blue herons wading the edges of the pond in the morning remain unfazed.

Field crickets are showing up and one can hear them chirping along with the grasshoppers in the evenings. Heard my first cicada near Mankato last week and noted the multi colored Asian lady beetles are showing up in soybean fields as are painted lady butterfly caterpillars. The lightning bugs are spectacular this year, almost scary some nights to see just how many of them there are. The toad population has shown up in force at the ranch. Every year we have a plethora of the little amphibians and about this time of year, seems like a lot of the tiny ones (~ ½” long) are in the lawn. There are several about the diameter of a golf ball too and just about as round. Their shape reminds one of the little fat buddies.

One of our little fat buddy ranks wound up in a hospital burn unit this past week as he tried to save a skid steer loader from a burning building. We’re all hoping that LC heals quickly and is back around the training table soon. We did manage to somehow get along at the fair without him however as it was determined that you should only eat things that are the same color as your shirt. An even better idea is to wear a multiple colored shirt, allowing one to consume more variety while camouflaging those spills even more discreetly.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: deadeye on July 07/31/08, 10:19:11 AM
Great read, thanks Dotch.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/05/08, 03:33:43 PM
It looks like muskrat love...

After calling the rain correctly for Thursday and being a little shaky on the tail end of the forecast period, the scurs set their sights on this week’s to see if their Ouija board is still functioning properly. Wednesday, partly cloudy with a high of 80 – 85 and low around 60. Cooler Thursday and Friday under sunny skies, highs of 75 – 80 and lows of 60 Thursday night and 55 Friday night. Partly cloudy Saturday, high of 80 and low near 60. Slight chance of rain Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 75 – 80 and low of 60. Cloudy Monday with a better chance of rain. High 75 – 80 and low dropping to 55. Sunny again Tuesday and warmer; high of 80 and low near 60. Normal high for August 8th is 83 and normal low is 60. The scurs are certain that they have one more county fair left in them before heading to the State Fair. It’s just around the corner. So is the start of another school year. Where has the summer gone?

Last Thursday’s rain was a welcome surprise with most garnering somewhere in the .7” – 1.0+” range. Some strong winds gusting to 80 mph in areas downed trees and were involved in the deadly plane crash in Owatonna. We have been extremely lucky at this point to have been spoon-fed rains. In the past 3 week period at the ranch we’ve received just shy of 3” of rain in 5 rainfall events of over a tenth of an inch, with several other smaller amounts. We keep making strides GDU–wise also. As of last week at the SROC in Waseca we were only about 6% behind normal which translates to about only 4 days off the pace, not bad when one considers how far behind we were in June.

Corn continues to pollinate in some later maturing and later planted fields. Earlier planted, earlier maturing corn appears to have pollinated well, with many fields in the blister stage. Following the timely rains, soybeans have reached R4 in many area fields, meaning that the plants have one or more pods 3/4 of an inch long at 1 of the 4 uppermost nodes on the main stem of the plant with a fully developed leaf. Soybean aphid numbers vary on a field by field basis, with some requiring treatment while populations in other fields remaining nearly static. There was also evidence of some parasitic fungal activity on aphids in some fields. Still wise to look at the fields before jumping to any conclusions. Small grains are being swathed and combined across the area. Quality has been decent with yields somewhat variable.

The strong winds Thursday did manage to take down one tree. I use the term “tree” loosely as it was a boxelder and they generally fall under the heading of “large, woody, weed bound to fall on something”. As luck would have it of course it landed on the fence. The sheep had already discovered the tree but were more interested in eating the leaves off of it than they were in testing the fence to see if it was grounded. Got it cut up on Saturday and after they were through with the limbs, looked like it had been denuded by a plague of insects. Much easier to see what you’re doing while piling the brush for yet another bonfire.

Last week it was little toads and this week it’s been smallish salamanders. They’re common in the well pit but rarely see them otherwise. Was clearing the dirt from a mound in the lawn left by a pesky pocket gopher and encountered one as I reached my hand deeper down the hole. Examined the wriggling 4” amphibian then put him back down the hole, where he slipped away quickly down one of the side tunnels. Found another one under the downspout I was preparing to mow under so moved the little feller to an equally moist area the mower would not be traveling. Next week: Garter snakes?

The pond has been active as of late. Determined there was yet another batch of ducklings, this time a group of 8 or 9 blue-winged teal. There were actually a lot of mallards that took wing when venturing down to get a glimpse, leaving the hen teal and babies behind. There were also 3 muskrats swimming about, poking their heads above water to see what was happening then disappearing underwater. Decided to play some games with them, tossing some small stones their direction when they’d surface. They’d dive suddenly as the rock went sploosh! beside them then all three simultaneously poke their heads up to keep tabs on me. The wetland has also become a staging area for several family units of geese as they fly across the road to feed on the succulent re-growth in the neighbor’s alfalfa field.

Still a few birds singing early in the morning but they are limited to one wren nesting in the fenceline and some chipping sparrows (not chirping sparrows) with nests in the windbreak. There are usually some goldfinches nesting in the dogwood too as I find the evidence after the leaves come off in the fall. Always gratifying to see that the seemingly puny bare root trees planted several years ago have attained a size that wildlife, no matter how small, can use as habitat.

More treats appeared on the little fat buddies training table, this time some apple pie made by BR from apples harvested and frozen the year prior. Absolutely delicious! While the wind from last week knocked a lot of apples off the trees, there appear to be plenty to keep us running through autumn anyway when we see if the ten man dryer really works or not. Given the planting date, we’re guessing it’ll get a workout.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/05/08, 06:09:46 PM
Great read, thanks Dotch.

Always nice to be appreciated deadeye.  :happy1:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on August 08/05/08, 06:24:08 PM
we all appreciate ya dotch!  :toast:

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/27/08, 12:17:08 PM
There I go, turn the page

Although surprised by the early Saturday a.m. shower, the scurs are nonetheless undaunted. Rain this time of year is welcome, expected or not. This week continues our gentle slide towards the inevitable. Wednesday, we see partly cloudy skies with a high of 80 and a low of 55 – 60. Thursday through Sunday brings us slight to moderate chances or rain, with the best chances coming Thursday night into Friday. Thursday skies will be partly cloudy with a high of 80 and a low near 60. Cloudy Friday, high of 75 and low in the mid – 50’s. Saturday, partly cloudy, high of 75 – 80 and low around 60. Sunday, mostly sunny becoming partly cloudy, low of 60 high around 80. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs around 80 and lows near 60. Normal high for August 15th is 82 and normal low is 59 and we’ll experience just under 14 hours of daylight, the same as we did on April 26th. The scurs will be ironing their Speedos whilst cheering on US Olympic swimming phenom Michael Phelps.

As luck would have it, the Full Moon this month falls on Saturday the 16th. Known as the Full Sturgeon Moon as this is the month when these large fish were commonly caught by the tribes of the Great Lakes region. It is also known as the Full Green Corn Moon or the Full Grain Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Berry Moon and there are many berries to feast upon, including blueberries. The Sioux knew this as the Moon When Geese Shed Their Feathers, which the geese have already done judging by their flights over the ranch. There is also a partial lunar eclipse on the 16th. However, it will be nothing like the February 21st eclipse and one will have to make a quick trip to Eastern South America, Europe or Africa to get a view of it. It will not be seen here in the Greater Bugtussle viewing area, sorry to say.

While crops continue to progress at a relatively quick pace, they can’t progress quickly enough for some concerned about frost in early September. Corn ranges anywhere from the blister to the milk stage depending primarily on planting date and hybrid maturity. Most soybeans are R4 to R5, with the majority of area soybean fields having been treated for soybean aphids. In some fields treated early as an insurance policy, in some cases with encouragement from those who should know better, levels have once again reached threshold levels. This is unfortunate as placing tremendous selection pressure on a population of aphids in other crops such as potatoes has resulted in resistance to products that were once effective. We don’t learn very fast, do we?

Will be heading out this weekend on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour and heading to Columbus Ohio. This will mark my 5th year serving as Tour Consultant for the Eastern leg of the Tour. Must be getting long of tooth as it seems like it’s been longer than that! Catch our comments from the road next week at http://www.agweb.com/ as we survey the corn and soybean crop in America’s heartland.

Was told some were rather distraught to find our column buried deep within the Greater Bugtussle Gazette last week. Was a little concerned at first perhaps that my e-mail had faltered and the column had not reached its destination on time. That’s alright; it’s Jim’s paper and he can put us wherever he feels like just as long as he keeps forking out the big bucks.

Gus celebrated his 4th birthday in style by digging a big hole beside the steps. He also got brushed out, something he badly needed along with a new batch of dog treats that he willingly shares with Lucy. Now if the shoe’s on the other foot or paw, one can’t say the same. Border collies are simply small furry children in many respects and this is just one of them.

We continue to see signs that the fall bird visitors and residents are making their presence known. Was vegetable deliveryman this weekend to my Mom so was able to get a change in scenery. There were lots of hummingbirds there as well as some cardinals, birds I covet but can’t seem to attract. Also noted: Lots of cedar waxwings whistling their one-note song. Robins were present although their song has been missing, instead replaced by chirps here and there. Just as at the ranch though, wrens were continuing to sing on August 10th. Not as robustly as they were back in June and July, but still there, plain as day. Orioles are still coming to the nectar feeders and the hummers are increasingly interested in the 4 o’clocks nearby. Could also hear chickadees and blue jays in the background, likely celebrating the belief they’d located their winter food stash.

Speaking of winter food supplies, the little fat buddies have worked up an appetite after a summer of watching all the construction across the street. It isn’t nearly as much fun as watching the sweat line on the old water tower during sweet corn season, but hey, at least it’s something.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/27/08, 12:18:29 PM
Cops in cars...

After figuring out the hotel internet service, the scurs have their forecast for the upcoming weekend and early week ready to go. Starting Wednesday and Thursday, partly cloudy with a high of 85 and low of 60 – 65. Slight chance of rain Friday morning under partly cloudy skies, high of 85. Better chance of rain Friday night with a low of 65. Partly cloudy Saturday with a slight chance of rain, high of 80 – 85 and low of 60. Sunday, partly cloudy with a high around 80 and a low of 55. Cooling Monday into Tuesday under mostly sunny skies. Highs Monday of 75 - 80 with lows in the mid to lower 50’s. Cooler Tuesday with a high of 70 – 75 and a low near 50. Normal high for August 22nd is 80 and the normal low is 55. The scurs will be celebrating the Great Minnesota Get Together with a footling from the booth on the northeast corner of the Coliseum.

Crops are continuing to make steady progress but we remain a few days behind normal. Corn and soybeans will both need an extended frost free period in September to realize their full potential. While it is not as dire as it may sound, we have become somewhat spoiled after years like 2007 when we were about 10 days – 2 weeks ahead of this year’s pace. Only one thing is certain: We have very little control over it.

Writing from a remote location where we are sequestered from the public, it’s always interesting to see how the internet service is going to work. Every place is different and one almost needs to have a “Plan B” to maintain contact with the outside world via the internet. The service in the hotel in Ohio pulled the same stunt it did last year where it allowed me to receive e-mail but not send it. So, to the backup e-mail we go. Hopefully you receive the column and if not, blame Al Gore.

The trip from MN to Ohio was largely uneventful except for the aftermath of a load of bananas that had crash landed in the ditch somewhere in IA. If you notice a large number of fruit flies in MN following a southeast wind you’ll know why. Was going to stop to check out IA’s largest frying pan too but needed to keep moving. Probably didn’t miss anything. I’ll bet MN’s largest frying pan is bigger!

There were a fair number of minor traffic mishaps, none of which we were involved in thank goodness. Along with that there were cop cars out in force. There was a free picnic table along the side of the road someone had left for the taking in OH on the interstate. Only slightly damaged (just the one side was smashed where it crashed landed) we thought perhaps we could grab it on our way home.

While there were plenty of things to watch on the road, in the ditch the flora was much more eye-catching. All the way from MN to OH, the native prairie plants as well some not so native kept one occupied. Native grasses such as switchgrass and big bluestem were at full height and in many places in pure stands. Black-eyed Susans, compass plants and purple coneflowers added color as did the blue-flowered chicory as one wound our way closer to our destination.

Few birds to watch from the windshield however. Before leaving, there was still a wren singing in the fenceline at home and one at my brother’s place in Ackley IA before we hit the road. Afraid they’ll be gone or not vocal enough to know they’re around upon my return. That’s okay; the seasons change as do the cast of plants and animals influenced by them. By the time we get back home, the hummingbird migration from the north will be underway in earnest. September at the ranch usually means plenty of action at the nectar feeders across the greater Bugtussle area.

And finally, one has to enjoy being able to watch the Olympics on TV wherever you happen to be. It’s wonderful that the world can out aside its differences for a few weeks in the spirit if athletic competition. The abilities of these human beings is incredible and the sacrifices they have made to get to this level make it difficult to turn the television off until the events are history again for another 4 years.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/27/08, 12:20:14 PM
Turning Japanese, I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so...

After coming off another accurate forecast (easy when it never rains) the scurs will foretell the Labor Day weather picture. Looking like more of the same, complete with some warmer temps next week. Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 80 and low of 60 with a slight chance of a shower. Ditto Thursday, with a high of 80 and low of 55 – 60. Cooler Friday, partly cloudy, with a high of 75 and low of 50. Warming up for the Labor Day weekend under mostly sunny skies, highs Saturday and Sunday of 80 and lows of 60 Warmer Labor Day clear skies, high near 85 and low of 55. Staying warm when you go back to work on Tuesday, partly cloudy, with a high of 85 and a low of 60 with a chance of rain. Normal high for August 29th 78 and the normal low is 55. The sun began setting before 8 p.m. on August 26th, a full hour earlier than it did back on the summer solstice. The scurs will be packing away their State Fair souvenirs and watching for school buses.

Crop progress has been rapid, perhaps a bit too rapid due to the continued dry spell we seem to be under. After coming off the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour on Friday, it felt like rain. And rain it did: A whopping .02”! Barely enough for a mosquito’s bath. The moisture deficit continues to take its toll in the form of tip back on the corn ears and pod abortion in the soybeans. Also noticeable are any areas in fields that have underlying sand and gravel pockets. The soybeans in particular are visibly taking a serious hit in these areas. We need a rain soon to maintain the potential we have. Not that the crop will be a disaster, it could be much better with a timely inch or two of rain in the not too distant future.

The Crop Tour wrapped up last Thursday and was honored once again to be asked to serve as Tour Consultant for the eastern leg of the tour. While it wasn’t a particularly banner year for insect and disease problems there are always things that pop up along the way. In addition, we still have to work with the scouts, sample fields and fill in data sheets complete with comments. Also of interest are the increasing numbers of foreigners who come along on the tour. The last day out we usually start to get a little squirrelly as we know the long week is about to come to a close.

Thursday we happened to have a Japanese guy nicknamed “Jim” riding with us. His English was pretty good however and we had a great time with him. While filling out the data sheets we asked him if he could write some comments in Japanese in that part of the form, which he did with much laughter. When we looked at the sheets, the laughter was even louder as we knew the girls tabulating the data and comments would looks at that and scratch their head. When we got into the hotel that afternoon they looked at it and wondered what it was. When questioned about it, we told them it obviously said “Corn is nitrogen deficient” and the other one said “Lunch was good”. Laughter is the universal language we all understand.

The State Fair will be starting on the downhill side by the time you read this. No different than most years, getting out of the place as a livestock exhibitor is a nightmare. Suspect they want to keep us there as long as they can to wring more money out of us and could really give a rip about whether we exhibit animals or not. Yes, we exhibited again this year and we brought home some hardware, again. That’s not what we’re proudest of however. When we have the opportunity we like to share our experience with the younger generation and watch them develop into spokespersons for animal agriculture.

Such is the case with Emily Meyer. The 4-H ewe she leased from us, Lola, did well at the State Fair but couldn’t overcome some of the high powered sheep she was competing against to win it all there. Didn’t matter. Emily got called back for showmanship and after the dust settled, was named Reserve Champion in the Advanced division. Later that day, Lola did win it all in Open Class where it really matters with Emily showing her. What an honor and proof that hard work and perseverance pay off. Can recall a few times seeing her show up at our place in the morning to work with Lola, sleep in her eyes perhaps, but still ready, willing and able to practice. Was rather interesting after her State Fair performance that suddenly, boys who had sheep to show next week were asking if she could come back and help them. Congratulations, Emmy!

And finally it’s good to be back home. After sleeping in a different bed every night for over a week, one almost forgets the routine of daily living. Lucy and Gus were like a couple springs uncoiling and happy to see we were home, for good. The sheep were glad to get their sweet corn and cucumber leftovers while the birds were celebrating to see their feeders filled to capacity once again. More hummingbirds now and the wrens have ceased their summer song. To put it in perspective, suddenly September looms large on the horizon as the acorns continue to fall.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/01/08, 11:53:30 AM
You are like a hurricane, there's calm in your eye...

The scurs continue to be on target; last Wednesday’s rainfall event panned out and we received some desperately needed rain. Will hurricane Gustav usher in some fall-like weather? Let’s take a look, shall we? Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 75 and low of 50. Partly cloudy Thursday with a slight chance of showers. High of 70 – 75 and low of 50 – 55. Friday, partly cloudy with an increasing chance of rain. High 70 – 75 and low of 50. Chance of rain Saturday under mostly cloudy skies. High of 70 and low of 50. Sunday, partly cloudy. High of 70 – 75 and low of 50. Warmer Monday, skies partly cloudy with increasing clouds and chance of rain Monday evening. High of 80 and low of 50. Big cool down Tuesday under partly cloudy skies, high of 65 and low of 45. Normal high for September 5th is 76 and normal low is 52, the same we see around the end of May. However, on the 5th we’re down to just under 13 hours of daylight, the same we experience on April 5th. The scurs counted their Crayola’s and used the built in sharpener while ciphering the highs and lows.

Hopefully hurricane Gustav will be history by the time this reaches print. Aptly named after Gus the Wonderdog, this storm whirled and twirled, managing to back up weather systems, typical of what we tend to see. By slowing down the passage of fronts, these storms to the south often allow systems to sit on top of us, giving us the slow fall recharge that we need after the long dry spells of late July and August. It’s not uncommon either that we see cooler weather following their movement through as cold air bottled up to the north will be seeking a place to go.

The cooler weather we have already experienced has brought more of the birds down from the north. The hummingbird numbers are reported high from just about everyone who feeds the little tykes. Some have also reported still seeing an occasional oriole. Looking out at the tree the other day, thought I saw what looked like a striped nuthatch. Was another black and white warbler passing through. Male goldfinches are starting to fade a little too, their sunshiny yellow soon to be replaced by their olive drab winter attire. The hummingbirds still mistake them sometimes as flowers however, spending some time checking them out. The Hungarian partridge have made a slight comeback. Almost every afternoon, one can see a covey not far from the ranch exploding out of the road ditch into a nearby corn and soybean field. We can certainly use more rainfall to help replenish seasonal wetlands for those migrating waterfowl. The pond here at the ranch is down to a couple puddles that reconnected after last week’s inch of rain. Former pygmy goat farmers crave this type of information.

Crop progress has been sufficient that unless we get caught with a frost sometime before the 15th, we should suffer a minimal amount of yield loss. Corn has reached full dent in most cases and in some of the early hybrids planted early, the milk line has already begun to make its way down the kernel. Soybeans should primarily be at R6 (one bean in a pod at one of the uppermost 4 nodes filling the seed cavity) so that should get most of them under the wire barring some weather anomaly. Normal first frost date for Waseca is September 30.

Field crickets seem to be everywhere, especially in our homes and businesses now that temperatures are cooling down outside. One was giving some of the crack management staff at the Star/Eagle fits the other day when I stopped and another made the fateful mistake of interfering with my nap last Sunday, suffering dire consequences. So what is it that makes crickets so vocal and what kind of life cycle causes them to be frequent houseguests this time of year?

As you might have guessed by their appearance, crickets are in the same family as grasshoppers. This time of year, adult male crickets produce a chirping sound to attract females as it is mating season. The female cricket has a long ovipositor protruding form her thorax which she uses to deposit her eggs after mating. Field crickets overwinter as eggs laid individually in the soil. Cricket nymphs hatch in the spring and go through 8 – 12 instars (molts) before reaching maturity. The adults begin appearing in July and August and continue to feed during mating and egg laying. Females can lay up to 300 eggs. The chirping sound emitted by the males is caused by their rubbing their rounded wings together. Lacking a thermometer or simply having too much free time on one’s hands, one can guesstimate the air temperature in degrees Fahrenheit by counting the number of chirps in 15 seconds and adding forty.

Normally crickets do little damage, feeding outdoors on plant growth at night. However, when temperatures begin to drop as they have, they begin to look for warmer shelter. At this time they may feed on things such as paper, wool, cotton, linen or fur items. This is generally only a problem if their numbers are extremely high. Crickets generally cannot reproduce indoors and die by late autumn or early winter. Cleaning up weeds and grass outdoors around the house gives them fewer places to hide. Exclusion by sealing up entry points and removal of clutter inside such as boxes, papers and other favorite hiding places are generally helpful methods of control. Some insecticides are cleared for cricket control indoors but read the labels and follow them accordingly. In the meantime, probably best not to mess with my Sunday afternoon naps by chirping under the TV stand.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/10/08, 10:49:29 AM
And gaze out at the auburn sky...

The cool down predicted for Tuesday arrived a day ahead but otherwise the scurs forecast went relatively unscathed. It rained (a vary little) and stayed somewhat seasonal. What’s up this time around? Starting Wednesday, starting out partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a modest chance of rain. High of 70 and low of 55. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a better chance of rain with a high around 70 and low near 50. Partly cloudy Friday with a high of 70 – 75 and a low of 55. Partly cloudy Saturday with another moderate chance of rain. High of 75 and low of 55. Slight chance of showers Sunday morning under mostly cloudy skies. High temp should top out around 75 with a low of 55. Carbon copy days on Monday and Tuesday with partly cloudy skies and highs of 65 and lows of 45. Normal high for September 12th is 74 and normal low is 49. The scurs are keeping a blanket handy to cover their tender vegetation just in case Jack Frost makes a surprise appearance on the night of the Full Moon.

The Full Moon will occur this month during the wee hours of the morning on September 15th. This is known as the Full Harvest Moon as it is the Full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which falls on the 22nd this year. The Full Harvest Moon is in September 2 out of 3 years. It is aptly named as the crops the Indians relied upon such as corn, squash, pumpkins, beans and wild rice. Indeed, the Ojibwe referred to this as the Full Rice Moon and the Sioux named it the Moon of the Drying Grass, undoubtedly for the warm season grasses that had reached maturity.

Those grasses have definitely reached maturity. Part of our pasture is primarily yellow Indiangrass which has taken on its auburn fall color. Farther below the hill in the CREP acres, the big bluestem is more tawny in color but still reminding one that autumn is here although the calendar may say not quite yet. Goldenrod has produced some beautiful golden colors not only in those acres but in area road ditches and along the remaining railroad tracks.

The cool weather and shortening days have definitely put thoughts of mating into the rams’ minds. The ewes, while not standing for them aren’t exactly running in the other direction. Still never a good idea to get between a ram and his harem, and then forget his position. All too often one winds up in a heap shortly after thinking to yourself, “Gee, I wonder where that…” Normally the “…ram went?” portion of the thought is completed upon hitting the ground and writhing in agony.

Pastures and hay fields like area lawns could use a drink. Hopefully this week we’ll start to see some recharge on the nearly moisture depleted soils. Rain at this point probably will do little to help most of the corn and soybeans as what you see is what you’ll get. For those with late plantings of sweet corn or soybeans planted after peas, there is definitely still a benefit. While some took issue with what we wrote last week, most corn and soybeans will get under the wire if we get by a frost on the 15th. Losses will be minimal. Looking at fields this past week, in the vast majority that is true. There are some fungal diseases that have hastened the ripening process in the soybeans, namely pod and stem blight and brown stem rot. There are some isolated cases of sudden death syndrome but the bulk of what’s being seen out there causing premature ripening is due to the aforementioned diseases.

Spent a special day on Saturday with my Mom celebrating her 83rd birthday. Had notions of taking her to Dairy Queen but upon seeing the home raised vegetables I’d tossed in the truck, she opted to thaw some steaks and prepare a feast. We repaired to the other room after cleaning up the table and treating Fudgie a few little pieces of steak fat to chew the fat ourselves. Nothing beats being able to actually sit and visit one on one. Oddly enough, even though our eyelids did flutter once or twice, we didn’t end up nodding off and taking our prospective obligatory naps. As always though, afterwards there was always room for apple pie made from late summer Oriole apples following a little lunch.

The little fat buddy nearly annual fishing trip is in the works. After spending the past several weeks building our stamina on morning training table fare such as pie and last Friday, not one but 2 boxes of donuts, we’re ready to live on the edge and brave the elements. We’ll be roughing it while risking life and limb in pursuit of wily panfish near that outpost on the frontier known as Alexandria. Well, for one weekend anyway. Usually we come back stiff and sore, not because we catch a lot of fish but primarily from laughing. We find it really helps tone our abs. Luckily, what happens in Alexandria stays in Alexandria.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/17/08, 09:29:19 AM
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...

With the scurs on track for last week’s cool, damp forecast, they’re betting on some gorgeous above normal temperatures for the upcoming period. Starting Wednesday and extending through Friday, mostly clear with highs of 75 and lows of 55. Warmer Saturday under partly cloudy skies. High of 75 – 80 and low of 55. Partly cloudy Sunday with a high of 75 and low of 55. Partly cloudy becoming cloudy Monday high in the low 70’s and low of 55. Tuesday, clearing once again. High of 75 with a low of 50. Normal high for September 19th is 72 and normal low is 46. The scurs are thinking about getting out the lawn chairs for another week to enjoy the weather sans mosquitoes.

September 22nd marks the autumnal equinox, which will occur at 10:44 a.m. The equinox to many means the beginning of autumn although we have been experiencing fall-like weather conditions since the first part of the month. In actuality, it is the point in time at which the center of the sun can be observed directly above the earth’s equator. While the length of day and night is close to the same on the 22nd, it is not of equal length here until September 25th. And on the 25th, we will have lost 3 hours and 28 minutes of daylight since the summer solstice. There, aren’t you glad you’re aware of how much closer we’re edging towards winter?

There were some signs last week that summer was still trying to hang on. There was an oriole at out feeders on September 10th and there was a lone firefly blinking on and off in the back yard on the 11th. The sphinx moths shared the 4 o’clocks with the hummingbirds that same evening. The barn swallows continued to hang around and the goldfinches are sampling the ripening sunflowers while they continue to bloom. The garden also produces a few cucumbers as well as bountiful muskmelons and tomatoes. Unfortunately, one had best not be lulled to sleep thinking this will go on forever.

There are far too many signs we’re closing in on the beginning of the inevitable. There was the frost that was in evidence Tuesday morning, of course after the print deadline we follow on Monday. At the ranch our low was 41º and there was some plantain in the mowed road ditch that resembled a salt rimmed margarita glass. However at the SROC in Waseca the mercury reached 35 and at the Waseca Airport, 34º was recorded. What this meant in low lying areas was frost occurred and some crops were injured. Fortunately, the areas were not large and the frost generally did not kill entire plants. The plants were also advanced far enough so that injury will be relatively small percentages of potential yield.

Across much of Minnesota, we’re seeing plants such as hemp dogbane and common milkweed turning bright yellow while the sumac is beginning its red early fall blush. Some of the aspen leaves and walnut leaves are starting to turn while the New England asters are showing their lavender blooms in the CRP. Yes, it’s coming, much as we’d rather it didn’t.

The fall fishing trip came off without a hitch and very few snags. There were also signs there that fall is here. The loons have lost their summer colors and one in particular was very interested in what we were up to, especially after a 6” perch was tossed back in. Had never seen a loon up that close, especially when it decided to swim under and by the pontoon several times in full view as we watched curiously. Streamlined and swimming powerfully, one can see why they are as proficient at fishing as they are, much more so than the little fat buddies.

We accomplished what we had set out to do namely relax, eat and catch some fish. Nearing dark-thirty Saturday evening, we were in our secret fishing spot while taking a few crappies and sunnies. Every now and then we latch onto something larger however and that night was no exception. Readying the landing net and looking into the somewhat murky water, it was hard to see exactly what we were dealing with. Tried to scoop up whatever it was but couldn’t seem to get underneath it. About that time, something suddenly swam to the surface making all of us glad it hadn’t managed to find its way into the net.

The “something” turned out to be about 20 lbs. of ornery in the form of a snapping turtle. Folklore has it that there are 7 kinds of meat on a turtle. Maybe during daylight hours but relatively unarmed we weren’t interested in finding out in the dark. Fortunately, the snapper broke the line and went back to lurk in the depths. Upon arriving at the Mall for Men Monday morning, fresh caramel rolls from our regular supplier greeted the little fat buddies. Much safer than dealing with a snapping turtle and probably a lot tastier too.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/23/08, 10:11:48 AM
I dream of rain...

The scurs batted 1000 last forecast period and while the weather was a “10”, we could use some rain to help the lawns. Some relief should be in sight but temperatures should remain above normal. Starting Wednesday, we’re looking at partly cloudy skies becoming cloudy, chance of showers in the evening, with a high of 75 and a low of 50 – 55. Mostly cloudy Thursday, slight chance of showers, high of 75 and low of 55. Mostly cloudy, clearing by evening Friday, high of 75 and low of 55. More rain possible Saturday with skies becoming mostly cloudy, high of 70 and low of 50. Mostly sunny Sunday, high of 65 - 70 and low of 45 - 50. Monday and Tuesday, mostly sunny, highs near 70 and lows near 50. Normal high for September 26th is 69 and normal low is 44. The scurs will be building corn shocks and gathering pumpkins.

There will be some harvest activity in the area for the upcoming week. One of the little fat buddies always resolves to pick corn on his birthday so don’t be surprised to see a large green combine north of town. Both corn and soybean maturity moved along rapidly with the warm weather of the past week. Much of the corn planted May 15th should be black layered and the soybeans with the exception of the replants and pea beans are R7 – R8. Frost should be of no consequence although a good hard frost prior to soybean harvest wouldn’t hurt. As it is now, the ripening has been rather uneven so farmers may be writing their names in the fields to get started. Still lots of areas of fields with green pods resulting in pods and lima beans in the grain tank. Some early soybeans have been harvested and the results have been somewhat disappointing.

There are still some soybean aphids hanging on in some fields yet. This is about as late as we’ve ever seen them, giving more credence to the concept that we have a lot to learn about them and their habits. Also noted last week by the Boy Entomologist Bruce Potter, the winged adult soybean aphids have begun to make their move to the overwintering site on buckthorn. Checked out this information locally on Saturday, went down to the fenceline between us and neighbor David where there are a few buckthorn trees. Sure enough there were lots of winged adults congregating there as well as some multi-colored Asian lady beetles. Not unexpected either with the leaves coming off the soybeans and the leaves on the corn drying down. The aphids in both crops are thinning down and the ladybugs will be looking for something to snack on before moving into your house for the winter.

Hummingbirds continue to keep the flowers and nectar feeders hopping. There are also some young red-bellied woodpeckers who have been showing up to snack on corn and sunflower seeds. Still waiting and hoping for the chickadees to show up. Maybe when the leaves come off. Geese make their morning flight out to feed about 7 a.m. With many of the small wetlands dried up or drying up, could be a slow waterfowl opener if rain doesn’t begin to fall soon.

If the early colors are any indication and we’re lucky enough for the wind to hold off, this should be a fantastic year for fall color viewing. Wild grapevines are turning vivid yellow and the Virginia creeper or five-leaved ivy is revealing its scarlet color where it climbed up tree trunks. Sumac is more intense than last week and there are hints of color showing in the woods and river bottoms.

Speaking of color, the fall migration of the monarchs is on. They can be seen slowly drifting across the landscape and making their way towards Mexico. They’ve been particularly common recently in the flower beds and CRP this year. Monarchs are fascinating in that they are the only butterflies in the world making such a long distance migration. Early generations of monarchs, those that hatch in early to mid-summer generally only live a couple months. Those that emerge in late August however are those that are migrating and will live up to 7 months. This generation of monarchs fattens up on nectar on the trip south, sometimes actually gaining weight on the way, similar to a little fat buddy fishing trip. The monarchs however will mate and lay eggs in the spring and several generations are produced on their migration back to the north. The butterflies we see by next fall will be their children’s grandchildren. A very good website dedicated to monarch butterflies is hosted by the University of Kansas can be found at: http://www.monarchwatch.org/ 

Lots of good things to eat coming out of local gardens and orchards. Grabbed a Fireside apple off the tree in the yard on my way out to check the sheep at the kindly neighbors pasture. Very sweet and was almost disappointed to throw the core over the fence when I got there. Was amusing however to watch a dozen sheep pounce on it at once, much the same as they do when an apple falls off the tree in the north end of the pasture. Many squash to pick after the vines began to die down, exposing the results of their summer production. A bountiful harvest to be sure.
See you next week…real good then.   
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/29/08, 01:35:14 PM
Keep me searching for a heart of gold...

Was a warm week and almost everyone enjoyed it, save for those wanting some rain. This forecast won’t do much to alleviate that and we’ll see it cool down. Starting Wednesday, we should see partly cloudy skies and a high of 60 and a low of 35. Thursday through Saturday, mostly sunny with highs of 65 and lows of 35 - 40. Warmer Sunday through Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs near 70 and lows of 45. Normal high for October 3rd is 67 and normal low is 41. With the sun rising after 7 a.m., the scurs will be getting used to hitting the snooze bar one more time in the dark. Covering and uncovering their garden produce has them tuckered out.

The evening autumn skies are indeed dark but there are signs of the season in them. The Big Dipper has assumed its position in the northwest sky, letting us know that fall is here. Venus is now low in the western horizon at sunset, easily identified as the brightest object in the sky after the sun is down. Not visible on cloudy nights, we still look up and wonder at the heavens after all these years while waiting for the combine to come to the end of the field.

Progress began to be made in area soybean fields a little more quickly than anticipated. That’ll happen when we see days like Friday. The truck thermometer reached 88 and with the strong southerly breezes, drydown occurred rapidly. Still disappointing yields being reported on the soybeans so far. The disease and dry conditions the last month of the season took their toll, reducing the seed size significantly. Some have nosed into the corn and the results so far have been favorable with moisture on some early planted early maturing hybrids being in the low 20 percent range.

Lost a great actor this past week, one of my favorites in the person of Paul Newman. Who could forget some of his performances in movies such as The Sting, Slap Shot and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? My personal favorite though would have to be Cool Hand Luke. Even though Newman didn’t win an Oscar as Best Actor (he was nominated), it’s still one of those movies I try to watch when I can get the remote away from Mrs. Cheviot. Several lines always stuck in my mind. Strother Martin (Captain) addressed the prisoners and said, “What we have here…is failure to communicate.” Another gem was when Boss Paul addressed Luke after being captured and being broken in front of the other prisoners. “You got your mind right, Luke?” And of course, the ending where George Kennedy says, “Old Luke, he was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. [PoorWordUsage], he’s a natural-born world shaker.” Yes, he was.

Young rooster pheasants have been cackling around the area. Found one pheasant chick with a hen last week over by Pemberton. Unfortunate really because the odds of the little tyke making it are exceedingly small especially after the insects small pheasants need to survive are gone. Looks like the last of the hummingbirds may have pulled the pin at the ranch. Haven’t seen one since early last week when they were hanging onto the perch on the nectar feeder for dear life. In fact, bird activity at all the feeders has been rather quiet as of late. Just a few goldfinches occasionally, the odd blue jay and toss in one or two red-bellied woodpeckers. A sad day when the hummers are gone. Always wish they could stay a little bit longer.

Gave the lawn what will hopefully be one of the last shaves of the season. Since it looks like it might be a cold winter, underwent one of my last shaves of the season a few weeks back. Think some of the goldfinches are hanging out in the CRP and know they’re in the garden gobbling down sunflower seeds. The garden is the place to be this time of year. Hunted down some squash after forgetting where they were planted. The vines are dying down so it was time to harvest some so we could get an idea how they turned out. Sunspot, Heart of Gold, Mooregold and of course, the old standby, Buttercup were scattered about the vine crop area, waiting for those cold autumn evenings. We don’t store them in the oat bin like the good old days. Processing them and freezing them is a better way to go and one doesn’t have to worry about cats using the storage area as a litter box!

Made a journey back to SE MN last Saturday to visit my Mom and drop off a little of the bounty from the garden. With the ripe muskmelons lending their fragrance to the vehicle, was a little like driving a mobile produce aisle from Wagner’s. It’s a great deal; deliver vegetables, gourds and Indian corn and get a home cooked meal in addition to being able to take some of it back home. Mom whipped up a meal in short order, capitalizing on the veggies. While savoring our feast we were bemoaning the fact that the hummingbirds were probably gone for the season. Then, as if on cue, one appeared at her window feeder and all was right with the world once again.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/06/08, 11:40:43 AM
Purple haze all around...

With rainfall messing up the last day of their prior week’s forecast, the scurs set their sights on at least getting close once again. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 70 and low of 45 with a slight chance of rain. Mostly sunny Thursday, high of 65 and low of 40 – 45. Friday, slight chance of showers again under partly cloudy skies. High of 60 and low of 45 – 50. Better chance for showers Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy, highs of 65 and lows near 50. Cloudy Monday and Tuesday with rain likely, highs of 65 – 70 and lows around 50 – 55. Normal high for October 10th is 64 and normal low is 38. On the 15th, we’ll be down to 11 hours of daylight. The scurs will be gathering wood for a bonfire to make Hobo Stew.

The Full Moon for the month will occur on the 14th. Early settlers called this the Hunter Moon as there was game for the larder, with deer fattened up and furbearers with their prime pelts going into winter. Both the Ojibwe and the Sioux knew this as the Falling Leaves Moon. All of the above apply and the leaves are just getting a good start.

Gave up on the hummingbirds and took down all but one of their feeders. They can use the remaining feeder or there are still plenty of petunias and impatiens blooming yet. Cleaned up the nectar feeders and replaced them with suet feeders. Goldfinches are spending time between the sunflower patch, our feeders and the CRP. Some area CRP is absolutely beautiful, with the warm season grasses now mature. Maximilian sunflowers add their blazing yellow and New England asters create the appearance of a purple haze from a distance.

Finished up lawn mowing and the aforementioned leaves were actually a big plus. With grass of unequal length depending upon its position on the landscape, was nice to have them as a guide to see where I’d been sometimes. Also good to grind them up as raking leaves is not in my groundskeeper contract. The sheep have been equally glad to see them fall on their side of the fence. As fast as they hit the ground the ewes are happy to gobble them up. Going into October, their pasture at home is getting sparser and sparser. Translation: There may be some hay fed sooner than we’d like with the shorter day length and lack of rain. Replaced 3 of their burned out light bulbs in the barn that had been that way most of the summer so we can see what we’re doing. Having done that, would put money on the other 5 randomly burning out within the next two weeks.

With dry conditions this past week, tremendous progress was made in the fields particularly on soybean harvest. Yields are still generally disappointing and there are many factors involved, not the least of which was the lack of rainfall in late July, August and September. The crop is dry too with samples testing in the low double digits to upper single digits. Some corn has been harvested and yields look promising relative to the soybeans. That excess moisture we all grumbled about last fall came in mighty handy. Chances of us going into this winter with a full soil moisture profile become less likely with every day that rolls by.

No question it’s dry but just how dry is it? In a communication with Gyles Randall at the SROC, he informed me the available soil moisture in the top 5’ is less than 4.5”, the lowest it has been since 1988 and 1989, two very dry seasons. Gyles also went on to comment that between July 19th and September 30th, at the experiment station only 4.04” of rain was received with much of that coming in small increments. Rainfall was recorded there on 22 days in that time period. Given that the top foot of soil holds about 1.25” of available soil moisture, he figures that a .5” rain will only move 3” – 4” under the drier conditions we experienced. The rain gauge at the ranch mirrors the SROC data, with 4.74” being collected in the same timeframe and rainfall being recorded on 21 days. Of the 21 days, only 4 of the rainfall events were .5” or greater, 3 in August and one in September. Of those four, only one totaled more than an inch at 1.04”. Moisture movement into the soil was also reflected similarly. Over the summer, when gawking at the garden the morning after rainfall, moisture seldom met moisture.

Combining soybeans has sure come a long way from the olden days. Sitting on the Co-Op E-3 pulling the old Ford left-handed combine eating dust going one way and freezing going the other way seems pretty primitive relative to the fancy new rotary machines with their temperature controlled cabs and gee-whiz technology. These new machines take up to 35’ where we could take two 38” rows, three if the guess row happened to get pinched on that round! By the same token, if one had taken that old tractor and combine 50 years back in time to the 1920’s, people would’ve been wowed by it. One has to wonder sometimes though where this is all going. The October issue of Crops, Soils and Agronomy News featured an image of small robots roving the fields, scouting for who knows what. Sometimes seems a lot of the physical parts of farming that once kept us fit and gave us some satisfaction upon completing a task keep going by the wayside. What will they think of next? Maybe as one old timer put it, farming really did start going downhill when they put lights on tractors!

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/13/08, 12:01:26 PM
It's a beautiful day...

The scurs made it look easy last forecast period with rain falling as if on cue. What’s in store for MEA week? Starting Wednesday, slight chance of showers, partly cloudy skies, high of 65 and low of 35 – 40. Mostly sunny Thursday becoming cloudy overnight with a chance of rain. High of 55 and low of 35 – 40. Partly cloudy Friday, high of 55 – 60 and low of 40. Saturday, mostly sunny, high of 60 and low of 45. Sunday may be as warm as we’ll see for awhile with a high of 60 – 65 under partly cloudy skies. Low near 40. Partly cloudy Monday becoming cloudy Monday evening with a good chance of rain. High of 60 and low of 45. Cloudy Tuesday and rainy. High of only 50 and clearing Monday night with a low of 30. Normal high for October 17th is 60 and normal low is 36. With the sun rising after 7:30 and setting before 6:30, the scurs will be curling up next to the fire with their Halloween pumpkin.

After last week’s rain, we were blessed with one of those fall days we all dream about. Gorgeous sunshine and the fall colors beginning to hit their stride. Each passing day they become more intense and even with the weekend winds, they’ve hung on fairly well. Even the white and bur oak have more color this time around than usual and am waiting to see just what shade of red the 2 red oaks in the yard will turn this year. Hard maple trees are flame orange this time around too making this one of the best for viewing Mother Nature’s tapestry in recent memory.

The only fly in the ointment so to speak has been those pesky multi-colored Asian ladybird beetles. Some were asking where they had been keeping themselves and the answer to a large degree has been in the corn. When picking Indian corn at the ranch, one notices them and also notices the remaining corn leaf aphids particularly on the husks where plants remain green. With cooler weather on the way, they will become increasingly occupied with finding a place to hole up for the winter, along with the boxelder bugs. Their numbers are down but particularly on south facing exposures, they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Also on the guest list in many homes and businesses this fall have been millipedes. We have them at the Mall for Men and also in the house at the ranch. Amazing how something with up to 400 legs can move so slowly.  They really don’t hurt anything, coil up when touched and generally don’t survive the winter in the house as it becomes too dry for them. They do give off an odor when crushed however. About the best thing to do is to remove any leaves or other decaying vegetation from around the outside of the house and keep sweeping them up if they persist.

Found out the kindly neighbor had started picking corn this past weekend and was once again screening his corn. Not many people still screening corn anymore with all the rotary combines but am glad he does. The sheep are glad too as they gobble down screenings like candy. With the price of feed where it is every little bit helps so am trying to squeeze every beeswing out of it I can. Probably a movie title in there somewhere: A Scoopful of Screenings or For a Few Screenings More.

Harvest underway as it is, it’s been difficult for the little fat buddies to get their training sessions in. The rain brought some relief however and the world’s problems were solved for at least one more week anyway. Seems like it’s always a good idea to get together, figure out where people live or used to live and keep one’s Obie’s  and Orly’s straight. Did you know a farm can’t be named after you until after you no longer live there? There’s been construction going on at the Mall too. Rumor has it it involves some kind of confessional. We’ve got some church pews, now all we need are kneeling pads.

Exciting news too from the little fat buddy who was named New Richland Idol this past summer. His fame and fortune has spread, so much so in fact that he’s recorded a video. It can be viewed at: http://cornandsoybeandigest.com/firstharverstreports/coey_two/
I think the guy who introduces him is his manager. Apparently the Colonel was too busy with Crazy Boyd’s Karaoke to take on any more clients.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/20/08, 01:17:41 PM
Among the fields of gold...

With rain holding off until Tuesday evening, the scurs were a day ahead on their rain forecast. That’s not too bad; could’ve been a day behind! What’s on tap for this forecast period? Glad you asked. Starting Wednesday, highs of 45 – 50 under cloudy skies and rain. Low of 35. Still cloudy Thursday with a slight chance of lingering showers, the high reaching 45 – 50 and low dropping to 35. Friday, partly cloudy, high of 50 and a low of 40. Slightly warmer Friday under partly cloudy skies. High of 50 and overnight low of 35. Cooler Sunday through Tuesday, skies remaining partly cloudy, highs of 45 and lows falling to 30 – 35. Normal high for October 24th is 56 and normal low is 33 so our weather will be trending cooler than normal. The scurs will be putting another log on the fire and nodding off in front of the World Serious while avoiding as many political ads as possible.

Rainfall has fallen on 10 out of 19 days as of this writing in October. Fortunately for those trying to harvest the soils and subsoils are generally dry and it hasn’t accumulated much. At the ranch in that time frame, only 1.45” has fallen and the pattern of a dab at a time continues. Some cool mornings as of late, with 28º recorded at the ranch on the morning of the 16th and 30 on the 18th. We’ve had our killing frost as the temperature on both nights was below freezing for several hours. That’s good news as Swedes from the reservation will tell you, Indian Summer does not occur before a killing frost. The gossamer strands on the morning of the 18th were particularly striking. Where do those webs come from? Thousands of recently hatched tiny spiders using the breezes to scatter them to the 4 winds across the landscape.

Cooler temperatures triggered some to apply anhydrous ammonia last week and it was plenty early. BMP’s for Nitrogen Application in South Central MN allow for fall application but it is at greater risk than applying in the spring due to increased chances for nitrogen loss. Soil temperatures should be at 50º at the 6” depth and remain there. In this area, historically this does not occur until the last week in October. With nitrogen prices being what they are (outrageous), the soils having the lowest available soil moisture in the top 5’ coming out of September since 1989, it might be prudent to wait until November. With high moistures, corn harvest is also taking some time. Coupled with the forecast of a significantly warmer than normal November by some climatologists, fall application of nitrogen at this time is probably not high on most folk’s priority list. It’ll get done; it always does.

Dark-eyed juncos were back under the feeders again this past week on the 14th, a sure sign that fall has firmly cemented its grip. Robins are moving through and have been spending quality time devouring crabapples. Saw one of those seemingly perpetual strings of blackbirds forming not far from home as I wound my way back towards home Saturday afternoon. Also saw neighbor JL north of Beaver Lake out grinding ear corn out of the crib for his cattle, something we don’t see all that often anymore. Brought back memories of all those now long gone corn cribs and the mounted ear corn pickers with flare boxes towed behind working well into the month of November to finish the harvest.

Made another journey to Spring Valley on Saturday, this time to help put Mom’s lawn and garden to bed for another year. The trip was much the same as many others this time of year, the leaves accented by the bright sunshine as the harvest activity surrounded me in those fields of gold. Some things have changed over the years though. A windmill farm by Dexter seems to have sprung up around the Pine Cone restaurant that everyone still calls the Windmill. The railroad trestle on US 16 & 63 where one comes into Spring Valley is long gone now and it’s getting harder to remember exactly where it went over the highway. Where the old drive-in movie theater once stood complete with “birth control lights” now stands the new grocery store. The A & W is still where it’s always been however, one of the few remaining that actually still has car hop service. They’re adding indoor dining however so that must mean they’re planning to stay open year-round. Good to know if you’re a little fat buddy headed that direction.

Arriving at Mom’s was welcomed by Fudgie and upon seeing the lawn, was glad I’d loaded up my mower before heading over. Mom had a big kettle of homemade soup on, perfect to take the chill off before heading out to do battle with the lawn for the afternoon. Mom got her riding mower fired up after I’d opened things up and thank goodness she did. Within a few hours we had things wrapped up for another year. The tomato plant “borrowed” from the local shop this spring after being branded a tomato thief was done for the season and along with its companions wound up in the compost heap down by the field. After finishing, we had a little lunch and as usual in return for my labor, I get the better end of the bargain. Some of that soup made its way into my cooler along with some crackers, a fresh baked loaf of banana bread and her specialty, ginger snaps.

When picking the last of our Roma tomatoes at home on Sunday forenoon, could feel the fall chill in the air. That soup along with all the other goodies sounded pretty good about then as I disturbed some of the little native pink spotted ladybird beetles while sifting through the ash leaves, trying to find that special tomato, the last one. Upon finding it, another garden season was in the books and it was dinner time, just like it was across greater Bugtussle and environs.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/27/08, 05:28:57 PM
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes...

Aside from the minor detail of snow on Sunday, the scurs were tracking nearly on target. Good thing that will be a distant memory come midweek. Starting Wednesday, under clear skies, we’ll see a high of 55 and a low of 35. An even better Thursday will bring a high of 60 and a low of 40 under clear skies. Partly cloudy on Halloween, high of 55 – 60 and low of 40. Cooler Saturday and Sunday, high of 50 and low of 35 – 40. Warming up again for Monday and Tuesday, high of 55 – 60 and low of 40. Normal high for Halloween is 51 and normal low is 30. The scurs will be snacking on Halloween candy while basking in the afternoon sunshine. They’ll need to save their strength to get up at 2 a.m. and set their clocks back on Sunday.

This past Sunday’s snow was the warning shot we all knew was coming. More fell than was expected making the lawn at the ranch white. Prior to that, the woolly sheep were busy gobbling down the silver maple leaves the wind was ripping loose. Upon arriving home and hitting the garage door opener, equally woolly Gus and Lucy ventured forth, quickly decided it was much nicer in the garage, then turned around and went back inside.

Harvest progress has been slowed by wet corn and in some cases wet fields. The rainfall has accumulated to the point where the surface soil is greasy, making it difficult to get traction to get trucks in and out of fields. Corn moisture has been all over the board and as farmers are getting into the later maturing hybrids, it’s not unusual to see them in the mid to upper 20’s. Sunday’s high winds and snow caused down corn in areas so there will be a mad scramble to get those fields harvested before damage gets any worse. Corn dryers and bin fans pay little heed, playing a resonant tune when one pokes his head out the door.

Soil temperatures are trending downwards. Typically starting ammonia application the last week in October when average fall soil temperatures reach 50 degrees or less at 6” with a nitrification inhibitor is considered acceptable risk. Something to keep in mind however is that when 50 degrees is reached, it does not mean that conversion of ammonium to nitrate stops, merely that the rate is slowed to the point that the amount lost is acceptable, the thinking being that with ground freezing within a few weeks, the microbial conversion largely comes to a screeching halt. However, when we have some longer stretches of nice fall weather, there can be significant conversion and this is what we need to be careful of. Too many times over the past decade or so we’ve seen strange things like people baling hay around Thanksgiving.

There were many comments from farmers who found their combines, tractors, trucks, wagons, etc., covered with spider webbing so an update on all the spider activity we saw a week or so back: I wrote a paragraph or two on the process a few years ago and it’s known as ballooning. Little spider hatchlings climb up on plants, trees, leaves, etc., point their little behinds skywards and release a strand of silk. The breezes catch the strand and the little spiders become airborne, the breezes redistributing them across the countryside. Queried some of my entomologist buddies about what types they might be and it appears there may be one of several or combinations of types. Next time we see this phenomenon, will have to get the sweep net out, capture some of the spiders and send them off for identification. Nice to catch the culprits responsible for TP’ing the landscape in miniature.   

On the bird front, the fall birds continue to replace their summer counterparts. The nuthatch has been faithfully picking at the sunflower seeds one at a time while the goldfinches are more interested only when the weather is threatening on days like Sunday. The huge blue jays we had last winter are back again, gulping corn and sunflower seeds like so much Halloween candy. A few mourning doves are usually around cleaning up under the feeders and with the snow, the juncos will likely become more regular visitors. There are still plenty of robins apparently migrating through. Interesting to see if the old “3 snows on the robins tail” postulate works in the fall too.

Went home once again and spent the day at Mom’s as she recovered from surgery. She’s doing very well and whipped together another great meal after we made a quick trip to the grocery store. She’s really into this election too. Mom discovered a good use for those stiff paper political ad slicks that keep clogging our mailboxes and killing our trees: They’re excellent for scraping up those pesky ladybugs and escorting them to the bathroom for a swim. Tempting to do the same with some of the politicians!

And finally, attended a confirmation on Sunday at the Lutheran church in the city on the east bank of Little Jerusalem. Always fun to go there, rub elbows with my little fat buddies and catch up on the latest goings as well as catch an afternoon nap upon returning home after consuming way too much food. Speaking of food as is a little fat buddies wont, discovered there is reputedly a bakery going in in the aforementioned metropolis. May need to explore establishing a donut drop point at the Mall for Men.

See you next week…real good then.       
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/03/08, 11:39:37 AM
I have only come here seeking knowledge...

Ah, the scurs are waiting for the hate mail to start pouring in after saying it would cool down over the weekend. But wait, it’s early November not early September. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. Starting with Wednesday’s forecast, we’ll see cloudy skies, highs near 60 and lows around 45. We’ll also see a good chance of rain. Cloudy Thursday, high of 45 and low near 30 with continued chances of rain. Friday, cloudy and colder, high of 40 and low of 30 with a chance of a rain and snow mix. We see some sun finally on Saturday with a high of 40 and a low of 25. More sunshine for Sunday with highs of 40 – 45 and lows of 25. 40 – 45 for highs with 20 – 25 for lows on Monday under partly cloudy skies. Colder and mostly cloudy Tuesday, highs of 35 – 40, lows of 20 – 25 with a chance of snow. Normal high for November 7th is 46 and normal low is 27. On the 7th we’ll also be under 10 hours of daylight causing the scurs to burn more of those leftover political ads and candles from the Halloween pumpkins as they glean the NRHEG Star for the latest in wisdom and knowledge.

What a week this past one was though from a temperature standpoint. With several days in the 60’s and some registering in the 70’s following a chilly start to the week, it was Indian Summer in Swedish textbook fashion. Most long-term outlooks agree too that we’re looking at an increased chance of above normal temperatures for the months of November, December and January. That would be nice although unfortunately chances we’ll see more 70 degree weather are becoming slimmer every day.

Harvest activity this past week made great strides with corn harvest getting past the halfway point. By the time this reaches print, it’ll probably be over 80% complete. Drydown was evident as the crop went from the low 20’s to the upper teens in many places. A lot of clear nights and when the dryers and holding bins can keep up, a lot of work going on into the evening. On those clear nights, it’s fun to gaze at the autumn sky at dusk where Jupiter takes its place in the S – SW sky and Venus is in the SW sky. These are the first two heavenly bodies to appear in the evening, very distinctive after shutting off the lights and heading into the house after chores.

On those nice days, one tries to think up excuses to get outside and enjoy it. Such was the case on Thursday when I decided to go down by Lake Geneva to do some soil sampling for FJ, one of the noted area farmers. While there I got to meet a couple real area jackasses, complete with 4 legs and long ears. They were most interested in my activities while enjoying the warm sunshine. Kept expecting to see Festus saddle up one of them. Then on to Harmony Park where I was greeted by the welcoming committee, two dogs, one black with a white bib and one chocolate that were apparently very friendly and very well fed. Wondered if the friendly part would change when I started the 4 wheeler to unload it but had little to worry about. The chocolate Lab was so portly that there was no way he would’ve even considered chasing me as he laid down to watch as the machine rolled down the ramp.

The last weekend in October pretty well took care of the leaves on most trees. It also revealed where all the bird nests were as well as where the fat squirrels built their winter hangouts. Birds are coming to the feeders in spite of the temperature, especially the goldfinches, house finches, downies and hairies. The blue jays and red-bellied woodpeckers have continued their corn feeding, splitting time with the fat squirrels. Had a new visitor we’ve not seen at our feeders before. Mixed in a group of house finches there was a slightly larger yet similarly colored bird with distinctive white wing bars. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a male white-winged crossbill. When startled, he flew to the nearest pine trees, perhaps closer to the habitat he was used to in the boreal forests.

Houseguests at the ranch over the weekend. My 6 year-old pal Zip from Texas was in town so Friday night we watched Gopher hockey. His eyes glazed over as I tried to explain the terms “offside” and “icing” to him. Shortly afterwards, he fell fast asleep on the couch. After cleaning up the screenings at home Saturday morning, we went for a ride to return the wagon and see the sights of greater Bugtussle, including the infamous Mall for Men and the 10 Man Dryer. Warm day and had to turn the AC on in the truck for our riding comfort. Played in the leaves in the yard when we returned as he helped me pick up some of the sticks that had blown down in the wind. After that, we went inside and I gave him a fresh bowl of water as I really didn’t want him drinking out of the toilet. Did I mention he’s a Border collie?

Monday morning started off with a bang with the barber shop operating in full swing. Somehow, it doesn’t take as long to cut hair nowadays as there’s less on top of a lot of these melons than there used to be. As Leo pointed out, there’s no extra charge for polishing. Still takes awhile though for coffee and all the conversation to take place prior to the haircut as waiting customers discuss such heady topics as genealogy and geography. Eventually we will know who everyone is related to and where they used to live. All takes time.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/10/08, 03:42:49 PM
And I ran - I ran so far away...

The scurs thermostat got stuck on the weekend temperatures but the high of 76 at the ranch back on November 3rd met with everyone’s approval. The 17 degree low on the 10th did not. This forecast period promises more of the typical November weather we’re accustomed to. Wednesday’s cloudy sky brings with it the chance for freezing rain. Highs should reach 40 with a low of 30. Thursday looks to be the warmest day of the bunch with partly cloudy skies becoming cloudy. High of 45 and low of 35 with a chance of rain changing to snow. Friday, cloudy becoming partly cloudy as the day wears on, high of 40 and low of 25 with a slight chance of snow. Mostly sunny Saturday, highs of 35 and lows of 20 – 25. Sunny again Sunday, high of 40, low 20. Slightly warmer Monday under cloudy skies with a chance of rain changing to snow. High 45 and low of 25. Cooler Tuesday with cloudy skies and a chance of snow. High of 35 and low bottoming out near 25. Normal high for November 14th is 42 and normal low is 23. We’re losing daylight at the rate of approximately 3 minutes per day. The scurs are pondering why as we were supposed to get the hour back we lost last spring, weren’t we?

November 13th marks the date of the Full Moon for the month and it is known as the Full Beaver Moon, as beaver traps were set this time of year before freeze up to ensure a good supply of warm fur for the long winter ahead. The Ojibwe knew this as the Freezing Moon and the Sioux as the Moon of Falling Leaves. The last of the leaves did fall this past week from trees such as elms and a few hard maples that were stubbornly clinging to their clothing, until the midweek wind and rain stripped them bare.

Progress in the fields largely came to a screeching halt last week as about 1.5” of rain fell across most of the greater Bugtussle area. That probably wasn’t as much of an issue as the snow that coated the cornstalks, daring farmers to see how far they could get before their sieves would plug. Most avoided that temptation due to past experience. Corn harvest is somewhere in the 80 – 85% complete. As we move east, there is still more left to harvest. Some tillage was still able to be accomplished over the weekend as the ground surface was beginning to freeze, allowing for improved traction. With the subsoils being so dry, following a few days of moisture moving downward into the soil profile, conditions should become suitable for more field operations.

The rain was welcome however even though tile are not running and wetlands remain as low we’ve seen in decades. Our own wetland has a trough the little muskrats dug connected to their burrows into the bank of the basin but there is no water for them to even get a drink. Likewise for the deer and other wildlife. It could shape up to be a long winter for them, especially if the above normal snowfall predictions turn out to be true.

Around the yard there is still plenty of work to be done yet although it appears the lawn may have to forego its final shave for the season. That’s alright, the leaves I was concerned about grinding up largely blew into the thickets and the garden atop the septic tank. The petunias still haven’t thrown in the towel yet which is amazing. About time to get the manure spreader limbered up and clean the barns out for the season again. Lucy gives Gus an assist making sure neighbor David’s big white kitty doesn’t set up a permanent residence in the granary while Gus with his superior speed keeps the squirrels well exercised. Observing them this weekend, between the squirrels and blue jays, there seems to be a lot of corn being buried in the lawn. Was wondering who the culprits were. The weather that set in on Thursday and Friday caused a feeding frenzy, bringing out even larger numbers of goldfinches and house finches. No chickadees but more nuthatches, downies and hairies hitting the sunflower and suet feeders. The heated birdbath needs to go out too. Never enough time seems like.       

Speaking of never enough time, once again Mrs. Cheviot dropped the “is there any way you could” line on me when some folks needed some ewes hauled back to LaCrosse so they could get them ready for Louisville. Of course, being the gullible, dumb schmuck I am, I arranged midweek to do just that on Saturday, knowing I’d reap great rewards at home.(as if) In the meantime, I was offered a chance by one of my little fat buddies to go to the Gophers/Michigan football game. It’s only been 3 years since I’ve been able to go to one of my alma mater’s football game and I’ve never seen them play Michigan at home. I even had season tickets back in ’77, the last time the Gophers defeated them at home in old Memorial Stadium. And people wonder why I avoid weddings like the plague to this day, but I digress.

Of course there was no way sheep hauling plans could be changed on the other end, short of me getting up before 3 a.m. Still would’ve cut it too close to make an 11 o’clock game. 3 a.m. for goose hunting maybe, but hauling sheep , bucking the wind on the ice and snow in the dark, it ain’t gonna happen. A word to the wise for all you young bucks out there: When you hear the words “is there any way you could” come out of your spousal unit’s mouth, that’s a clue. Run as fast as you can the other direction.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/17/08, 01:11:03 PM
You're making me dizzy...

The scurs weather forecasting prowess showed once again as we experienced seasonal weather along with the expected precipitation. What’s in store this time? Let’s consult the oracles and see. Starting Wednesday, look for partly sunny skies, with a high around 40 and a low of 20. Slightly cooler under mostly sunny skies Thursday, high of 25 – 30 and low of 15. Mostly sunny Friday, high of 30 and low of 25. Warmer Saturday, high of 40 – 45 and low of 25. A tad cooler Sunday, mostly sunny, high of 35 – 40 and low near 20. Partly cloudy Monday, high of 35 and low of 25 – 30 with a slight chance of snow. Better chance for snow Tuesday under mostly cloudy skies, high of 30 – 35 and low of 15 – 20. Normal high for November 21st is 38 and normal low is 20. While November is typically our cloudiest month the scurs will be enjoying the sunshine this week as they shop for their Thanksgiving turkey at Wagner’s, then hitch a ride to Lerberg’s for the trimmings.

Rainfall and snow hampered progress for those with corn yet to pick. So far in November, we’ve tallied somewhere around 2.11” of precip at the ranch. At the Mall for Men where we have a 5-man rain gauge (no one knows who dumped it last or when) we suspect we’ve had 2.5” as that’s what it contained last week. With little major snow or rain expected, this week should help some to get closer to the finish line. Some have had problems maneuvering equipment and school buses around the fields but there is very little in the way of field tile running.

With the precipitation though, some of the wetlands have made a slight comeback. The pond by the North Plant has some water in it again as does our CREP wetland at home. No sign of any waterfowl coming through at home that I’ve noticed but with the Orange Army out in force over the weekend, that probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Think the deer slug season is over now so can go back to wearing my Carhartts with the white hanky sticking out of the back pocket.

Lots of bird activity at the feeders especially when the weather looks like it’s going to get snowy or colder. Sunday afternoon there were 17 mourning doves under the feeders only to be outdone by the goldfinches that numbered 24. A couple rooster pheasants were in the trees Saturday morning after chores, then proceeded to glide from the treetops to heavier cover below the hill. Am thinking our blue jays must’ve gotten into some NFL players stash of steroids as we continue to see some of the largest jays we’ve ever seen. Tubby the fox squirrel looks like he’s been eating some too while his buddy Scratchy continues to remain more slender.

And speaking of slender, one would be a lot skinnier if they had to deal with a group of wild sheep at the kindly neighbors like Lucy, Gus and I did on Sunday. Lucy has slowed to the point where this will probably be her last roundup. The will is there but the speed is gone. I can relate. While Gus is a great pet he has no concept other than he’s outside tearing around. He’s still a valuable asset however if you need Bubba’s in their monster truck wannabes or airplanes barked at. To be sure, that group of ewes had their track shoes on with no intention of leaving that pasture any sooner than they had to. Was beginning to think about calling my little fat buddy over by Beaver Lake to see if he could spell us for a minute so we could catch our breath. That and the thought also crossed my mind to look around for some hunters as it might’ve expedited the process by loading the sheep with a gun. After numerous trips over hill and over dale and around in circles they finally got tired out. They must’ve been dizzy because one by one, they slowly peeled off and went in the barn.

Upon unloading the sheep and dollying the trailer down, decided to take a break, have a little lunch and watch the Vikings for a bit. As bad as the Vikings have been, I can really appreciate their head coach. I mean, who else could design an offense that’s so boring to watch in the second half that I can count on getting my naps in? Although, as Jack Handey once said, before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/25/08, 11:31:34 AM
I can't get no satisfaction...

The scurs got their temperatures flip-flopped over the weekend but all in all, some decent November weather, including some sun. This week? More sun starting with Wednesday, mostly clear skies, high of 40 and low near 20. Thanksgiving Day, partly cloudy, high once again near 40 and low of 20. Slightly cooler Friday through Sunday, highs around 35 and lows of 20. Monday December 1, skies will be cloudy with a chance of snow. High of 25 – 30 and low of 5 – 10. Cloudy Tuesday, high of 20 – 25 and low of 5 – 10. Normal high for November 28th is 34 and normal low is 17. After a good Thanksgiving Day snooze, the scurs will be ready to head to Edna’s Friday at the crack of dawn for those early bird bargains.

Most have managed to get their corn harvested as the weather has generally been cooperative. Soils froze pretty solid after a low of 2 recorded at the ranch shortly before sunrise on Friday morning. Suspect the petunias finally succumbed. Contrast this with the high back on the 3rd of 76 or even the 44 degrees on Sunday and one realizes just how changeable November weather can be. Frozen soils have not lent themselves anhydrous application according to those who attempted it and wound up picking up pieces of equipment as a result.

Was a great weekend to get the barn cleaned however. Worst part of it is getting prepared, greasing everything, (I know, it came greased) putting the heat houser on, taking panels down, bedding pens, moving animals around, etc. Seems like there’s a lot more time spent on those mundane things than actually loading and spreading manure. Sheep don’t appear to mind as long as they’re not the ones in the crosshairs to be moved. And they really do enjoy having new cornstalks to paw through and play in. Always a sense of satisfaction to have the manure hauled out of the main barn. Also feels good though after a weekend of climbing on and off of machines designed to jostle these aging bones to sit down on something stationary. Ground stayed frozen and I’m stiff and sore enough to prove it.

This used to be the time of year when we put things away around home for the winter. There were always some things to put away so Dad didn’t hit them when it came time to move snow. Bales were banked around houses and pump houses and snow fence was erected to stop the snow from going where it wasn’t wanted. Plowing was usually done by Thanksgiving although there were some exceptions. As most did in those days, we always greased the bottoms to keep the plow scoured for next season, then parked it out in the pasture. Only problem was over the course of the year the sheep would generally find it and lick all the grease off the moldboards. Cattle people have told me their cows would do the same thing. What ever possessed them to eat the stuff is beyond me. Must’ve had a grease deficiency back in those days, much the same as the little fat buddies on a donut run.

With Kugie gone, I feel compelled to comment on sporting matters again. This past weekend, the Gopher football team embarrassed itself losing to the archrival Iowa Hogeyes 55 – 0. Thought perhaps Saturday night, the Gopher men’s hockey team would be able to put a little salve on the wound but alas the previously undefeated maroon and gold pucksters lost too. Who should come through on Sunday? None other than the Vikings! Only managed to catch a few minutes of the game when I took a little lunch break and they were up 30 – 10 at that point. Figured even they couldn’t botch that up with less than 10 minutes to play in the game and for once, I was right. For once, no nap.

Speaking of naps, did you happen to catch the recent report about the link between heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure and lack of sleep? My ears pricked up when I heard the news and no question, it made sense. We won’t go into the government perpetrated sleep deprivation plan known as Daylight Saving Time but it appears the only bad nap is probably the one you didn’t take. Something to be thankful for about the time your eyelids start fluttering following all that tryptophan ingestion on Thanksgiving Day.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on November 11/25/08, 12:57:37 PM
Dotch getting old?  good read as always!

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/25/08, 09:49:09 PM
Thanks randy. Yep, I'm a geezer and proud of it! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! :coffee:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/01/08, 12:20:47 PM
Starry, starry night...

The scurs had a pretty good idea what would happen after a nice Thanksgiving; it would snow! Just a day ahead of schedule, again. What’s up for the first week in December? The scurs will divulge the answer. Starting Wednesday, cloudy skies with a chance of snow. High of 30 and low of 10. Colder Thursday under partly cloudy skies. High of 20 and low of 5 – 10. Mostly sunny Friday becoming partly cloudy with a chance of snow in the evening. High near 25 and low of 10 – 15. Saturday, partly cloudy, chance of snow. High of 25 low of 10. Sunday, partly cloudy. High around 25, low near 10. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy. Highs near 20 and lows of 10 – 15. Normal high for December 5th is 31 and the normal low is 13. On Monday the 8th, we’ll be down to 9 hours of daylight. The scurs will be eating their candlelight dinner of leftover turkey sandwiches a little earlier every evening.

November gave us some tremendous variability, from a high of 76 back on the 3rd to a low of 2 on the 21st. At the ranch, we registered 2.29” of liquid equivalent precipitation with about 5.5” of snow for the month. The most recent snow, measuring about 1”, contained .12” of water. Unfortunately, with soils frozen it won’t help recharge much. Took a walk Sunday to check out the wetland and aside from the snow, it was dry once again. The muskrats dug some tremendous trenches and bored holes into the banks. No sign of them however.

At the bird feeders, some newcomers in the form of pine siskins. While we’ve seen them a few times over the years, don’t recall seeing the numbers we’ve had so far. We tend to see them when there have been seed crop failures in the boreal forests to the north. Could hear some different bird songs in the morning after chores so they’ve probably been here for a week or so. What do they look like? They’re little brown, striped finches with some yellow at the base of their flight feathers (more on males), slightly smaller than the goldfinches with sharp little beaks designed for picking seeds out of tight places. They seem to have taken a shine to our leftover bachelor button and cosmos seeds. This weekend was the first chance to get a glimpse of the siskins during daylight hours. It may have been the last look we’ll get at the migrating geese. On Saturday afternoon, they were enjoying flying from the fields to the water they were keeping open. By late Sunday afternoon, they were booking south, not unlike the UP freighters highballing through Ellendale.

Thanksgiving was wonderful, with a good bird, good wine, good company and an all too rare day to just relax outside of chores twice a day. Lucy and Gus got to share in the festivities, gobbling down some giblets after they’d cooled. The sheep were uncooperative though after tossing them some frozen pumpkins over the pasture fence, where the large cucurbits resembled orange billiard balls scattered on the hillside. Hoping for a pastoral scene of sheep gnawing on pumpkins on the sidehill during our feast, the Cheviots largely ignored their good fortune. Maybe it was because they didn’t like the wind blowing in their pointy little ears or perhaps they just weren’t into frozen food.

On a starry night, Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer Roger Johnson reminds us to look to the SW sky where Jupiter and Venus will be in close conjunction with each other during the early part of the month and then with Mercury at the end of the month. The Big Dipper is sliding lower in the northern sky as winter approaches. You may have to get outside of the light pollution from Bugtussle to see all this action.

Parked the dually for the winter and have been driving the minivan lately. Even though the price of diesel is down, am taking advantage of the van’s mileage and lower priced gasoline. When I get in, I pull my blonde wig down over my ears, grab the red-headed mannequin out of the back and toss her in the passenger seat so people just think it’s a couple women out Christmas shopping. Suspect some maybe onto me however. Was asked the other day who the ugly blonde soccer mom with a beard was driving a white minivan that looked suspiciously like ours. They said that red-head sure looked hot though.

Which reminds me, after reading Betts story about those free samples we no longer receive in the mail, it brought back memories of one of my favorites, a Gillette Mach 3 razor. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I tried it and proceeded to slice the living bejeezus out of my face. Following that incident, I stashed the deadly weapon in a drawer, much safer than keeping a tourniquet handy every time I shaved. Wouldn’t you know, I ran out of the 10 for a dollar disposable razors I normally used a few months later and given no quick alternative, was forced to try it again.

Nervous at first, I found that with a light touch it worked exquisitely. My mug was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Still used the disposables as everyday razors to scrape my face but for special occasions when I wanted to look pretty, kept a fresh supply of blades for my free sample model. I did that is until I discovered Mrs. Cheviot had gone on a cleaning rampage and thrown my prized possession away. After registering my displeasure decided I’d just go buy another one. How expensive could they be if they were sending them out as free samples, right? Try about $8 - $10 just for the handle, way too expensive for a tightwad like me. Asked why I quit shaving: I’m saving up to buy a new razor!

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on December 12/01/08, 01:00:02 PM
quote: I pull my blonde wig down over my ears, grab the red-headed mannequin out of the back and toss her in the passenger seat so people just think it’s a couple women out Christmas shopping.

well...   :rotflmao:

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/09/08, 02:08:28 PM
Rockin' in the USA...

Rockin' in the USA...

The scurs were all over the board last week temperature-wise but had a good grip on the snowfall, although after shoveling 5” – 8” of Monday and Tuesday’s partly cloudy, you may not agree. This week looks like more of the same with more Alberta Clipper action and below normal temperatures. Wednesday, look for cloudy skies, with a high of 15 and a low near 5. Possible evening snow. Cloudy Thursday, same temps with a chance of snow. Friday, cloudy again, high of 20 – 25 and low around 10. Chance of snow. Saturday, partly cloudy, high near 20 and low of 5. Chance of snow in the evening. Partly cloudy once again on Sunday, chance of snow with a high near 20 and low of 5. Mostly cloudy Monday with a chance of snow. High of 15 and lows near 0. Partly cloudy Tuesday with 15 for a high and 0 for a low. The normal high for December 12th is 28 and the normal low is 10. Believe it or not, after this week, there’s only one more week of the days getting shorter. The scurs will celebrate the snow by playing White Christmas and watching It’s a Wonderful Life nonstop until after holidays.

Snow continues to accumulate, with roughly 3” being recorded this past week at the official ranch gauge. Dry snow, amounting to only .05” of liquid equivalent. While it looks nice snow also causes some concern on area lakes. Looking from the road, they’re frozen over alright, but one can’t tell where there may have been waterfowl keeping a stretch open, where the lake froze last due to the wind or where there may be current from springs, etc. Most are reporting 6” – 8” in most spots but there are almost nightly reports of people going through so proceed with caution.

The snow also will help keep our winter weather on the cool side. The white cover on the landscape is reflective and doesn’t absorb heat. A late corn harvest with many fields still un-worked may also have an impact, particularly as we look to the south in Iowa. Good for erosion control and snow catch but not so good for an early spring warm up as the breezes that warm us will have to blow across a cooler soil surface.

The Full Moon this month will occur on the 12th. It is known as the Full Cold Moon (well, duh!) or the Long Night’s Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Small Spirits Moon and the Sioux call this the Moon of the Popping Trees or the Moon When Deer Shed Antlers. We cut down the ash tree that popped in our front yard a few years ago but did notice what appeared to be a buck recently sans antlers. Must’ve loaned them to the Grinch’s dog Max.

At the Mall for Men, lots of time to start Christmas shopping yet so we continue to discuss our television viewing habits. Surprisingly there were several who watched Dancing With the Stars. The reason? Most were watching intently for wardrobe malfunctions, and sure enough, someone’s boot (or was it their shoe?) fell off. With all the goodies gracing our training table, one of the little fat buddies has been talking about starting a series of our own. Instead of the Biggest Loser, with all the holiday goodies to eat, he figured The Biggest Gainer might be more appropriate.

The economy has also been a hot topic and we’re doing our part to keep the economy going. We’re consummate supply side economists, consuming plenty of bars and cookies, helping to decrease the sugar and wheat supply, thus keeping those farmers in business. They in turn eat lots of the turkey, ham and bacon produced here, which amounts to free trade. While solving our economic woes, we somehow got on the subject of the bail out for the Big 3 automakers. No biggy. I get a bale out for the sheep every morning!

Goldfinch numbers at the feeders continue to swell, over 40 at, around or under the feeders on Saturday afternoon. Trouble is they keep bringing more of their little fat buddies with them. There were more house finches this week, somewhere around 10, about the same number of pine siskins, a dozen American tree sparrows and in the late afternoon, 13 mourning doves. Add juncos, blue jays, white-breasted nuthatches, red-bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers to the mix over the course of the day and there is always action. If anyone has a chickadee to spare would gladly trade a goldfinch or two.

Can always tell when there’s been a Lion’s pancake feed in town and who was in attendance. Just like at the ranch, open their closets and take a whiff; they’ll smell like a pancake. After slaving over the grill at the most recent benefit, fed Lucy and Gus their obligatory leftover pancakes and French toast when I returned home. I then repaired to the living room couch, announcing I was shot and not in the mood to do much of anything other than perhaps take a nap.

Was about this time Mrs. Cheviot decided to spring into action and decorate for Christmas. Shouldn’t be too loud I thought to myself, as I closed my eyes, while visions of almond bark pretzels danced in my head. Suddenly things proceeded to crack! boom! bam!! all around me in the living room. This was more than I could stand and after a half hour of the racket, escaped to the solitude of my confuser and started writing copy for next week. If this looks like it was written in someone’s sleep now you know why.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Bobby Bass on December 12/09/08, 03:37:31 PM
Always a good read and good to know the Mall for men is hard at work..
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/15/08, 03:09:50 PM
It's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it... :banghead:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/15/08, 03:10:51 PM
Takin' care of business...

After a warm weekend, the scurs are thinking last week was downright balmy compared to what’s in store for this week. Starting on Wednesday, skies will be partly cloudy with a high near 15 and a low from 0 to 5 above. Cloudy Thursday with snow expected. High of 20 and low of 5 above. Partly cloudy Friday, with highs of 10 to 15 and a low near 0. Saturday, partly cloudy with flurries, high of 10 and low of – 10. Mostly sunny on Sunday, high around 0 and low of – 10. Monday brings in another chance of snow under partly cloudy skies. High of 20 and low of 15. Cloudy Tuesday, scattered flurries with a high of 20 and a low of 5. Normal high for December 19th is 26 and normal low is 7. Starting the 18th, we will see our shortest days of the year at 8 hours and 54 minutes of daylight. The scurs will be unfazed, staying warm by burning old Fencelines columns.

What an up and down week for weather! Recorded 41º for a high on Saturday and was sweating profusely Sunday morning trying to get all the sheep pens bedded before the forecasted temperature slide. By the time evening chores rolled around it was already – 2º. Would’ve been much warmer to stay inside under a blanket and let Mrs. Cheviot do the chores when she got home. As one of my little fat buddies always says, she’s just darn lucky to have me.

Was a model patient this week too after contracting the alien. Was enough sneezing, snuffling, hacking and coughing to last for the rest of the winter. No amount of vitamin C, cough drops or cold meds seem to make it go away any faster but they might have shortened the duration. As icky as those cough drops taste, my body is telling me it will get better as long as I don’t feed it any more of that stuff. Most of us at the Mall for Men have had the crud and after two weeks, one starts to feel like a “human bean” again.

Gus and Lucy have been very good this year so have bought them each a new pillow and some treats. Haven’t given them the beds just yet because was afraid they’d get them all mud. Was right too. With the thaw over the weekend, Gus was muddy and happier than a lark as he ran back and forth in the trench he’s created along the fence. Don’t tell the dogs about their new beds. Would rather it be a surprise.

The birds settled in and hung around all week, the numbers remaining about the same judging by the amount of feed consumed when filling the feeders. Having some brushy cover along the edge of the yard for them to duck into doesn’t seem to hurt. Many of them seem to hole up for the night in the numerous pine, fir and spruce trees planted in and around the yard. Even the pheasants have been taking off from there in the morning before sunrise. Can see them glide after hearing the thunder of their wings in the cold morning air while graining the lambs.

December 9th made for the first snow emergency around the yard. Luckily the feedlot stayed clear but the rest of the yard was a mess. Had to move the grill out of the way so the snow could be moved away from the front of the garage. Pulled one of those “should know better than that” moves where I parked the grill in front of the middle garage door as I really had no plan on moving the truck anytime soon. I’d be able to drive the van instead.

Of course, Saturday morning Mrs. Cheviot was ready to take off for work and her car was completely dead. Being the extremely swell guy I am I told her to take the van and I’d see what was wrong with the car. In addition to going Christmas shopping, I needed to get feed and a Christmas tree, not all of which would fit in the car. The car fix turned out to be an easy one; a loose battery cable. However, I needed to press the truck into service again.

About that time my little fat buddy (aka “Crankshaft”) called and decided it was a good idea to head to Owatonna for some Christmas shopping so it was agreed upon we’d carpool from the ranch. In the meantime, needed to unload a 4 wheeler to so pushed the garage door opener and proceeded to back the truck out the garage. All the sudden I heard a major unusual crashing noise behind me. What the…?!?! That stupid gas grill was back there! Turned out I’d only knocked it over but of course all the innards under the cover were scrambled. OK, not so bad but after backing out the door wouldn’t go down. Now what? One of the border collies had bumped the sensor on one side and after looking at it a minute, it was another easy fix. Low tire on the truck, needed to pump that up. Uncharacteristically, everything worked.

About that time my little fat buddy appeared and we were off to the races. After the rocky start, there was no screwing around. Four stores, a fuel stop, and two hours later, we were done Christmas shopping. Mission accomplished. Was time for a little lunch and a libation or two. After returning home and sending Crankshaft on his way, you guessed it, time for a nap and not a minute too soon. Will need to summon all my strength and have my faculties honed to a razor’s edge to shop for the Star-Eagle employees next week. Am sure they’re waiting with bated breath.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/22/08, 02:23:33 PM
Well the weather outside is frightful...

The scurs were a little off on the 4 to 5 inches of “flurries” we had on Saturday but all things considered, pretty close. With any luck Christmas week will bring us a respite from the extreme cold. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 10 and low of – 5 Christmas Eve. Clear on Christmas Day, high of 20 and low of 10. Friday, cloudy with a chance of snow by evening. High of 25 and low of 10. More snow for Saturday under cloudy skies, high of 20 and low of 5 – 10. A little cooler Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 20 and low of 15. Warmer Monday under partly cloudy skies, high of 25 – 30, low of 15 with a chance of evening snow. Tuesday, cloudy with a chance of snow, high of 25 – 30 and low of zero to minus 5. Normal high for Christmas Day is 24 and the normal low is 5, with the days beginning to get longer at 8 hours and 55 minutes of daylight. The scurs recently erected their Festivus pole after extracting it from storage under the crawl space.

Snow removal was on most people’s agendas last week with the Thursday and Saturday storms dumping somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 – 10 inches total. While there was little wind with the Thursday snow, it was fluffy and hung around for Saturday’s additional accumulation as well as the 30 mph winds. Looks like one of those old fashioned winters alright. Have to admit we’ve been pretty spoiled for a number of years so we were probably about due.

Moving snow at the ranch is not any easy task. There essentially is no flat spot in the yard and few nice long straight shots to push the white stuff around. Using tractor and bucket, it takes an hour or better to get it all pushed back as far as possible so it doesn’t completely fill in again. About the time yours truly was finishing up on Thursday, the snow plow went by in a cloud of powder. When it settled I looked out to see the mailbox was no longer attached to its perch. Decided since it was already gone, it’d be a good time to clean the snow away from the as yet intact post. Finishing that project, managed to find a spare chunk of 2 x 6 to reattach the mailbox to its original mount although the way things are going, suspect this may not be the last time I have to retrieve it from the road ditch. That should bring out the Grinch in me.

Fortunately, I’m not alone. Crabbiness abounds among the legions of designated driveway cleaners. It’s not even the end of December yet and there are already horror stories of things being run over or through snow blowers, the ensuing wreckage, and people getting antsy when the snow removal fairy doesn’t show up exactly when they think they ought to. The solution: Slow down and take your time or stay home. This notion that we can somehow make the weather do what we want and pretty much do whatever we want on our schedule needs to change. Last I checked this is still MN and the weather pretty much dictates what happens, not the other way around. Putting someone else at risk to come and rescue your silly rear after ignoring this fact isn’t too brilliant either. The sooner this sinks into some of the thicker melons the better off we’ll all be.

The birds always follow the weather closely. Watching them, one can get an accurate picture of what’s in store if you do venture out. When we were in the middle of Sunday’s ordeal they were primarily staying on the leeward side of the house and feeders. Didn’t have to tell them twice that wind chill values were – 40 and it’s best to stay out of it.

Ah, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. After shopping efficiently as is my wont, (anything over 2 hours is wasting time), the gifts for all those richly deserving NRHEG Star-Eagle employees. Let’s start off with the easy one’s first and work our way up or down depending upon your viewpoint I guess. For Jim, a new blankie and pillow for those much sought after naps after lunch. I know, my jelly of the month certificate is probably in the mail. For Kathy Purdie, a copy of “The Godfather”. With a little practice, when you call for an ad and do your best Marlon Brando the results should be nothing short of amazing. For Ray, a little known book, “Conspiracy Theories and the Conspiracy Theorists Who Love Them”. Who knew? For Cathy Paulsen, #2 font to make it easier to cram all those birthdays, anniversaries in the allotted space. For Dick, some gummi worms soaked in lutefisk juice. I’m too cheap to buy Gulp but look on the bright side, if they don’t catch any fish, they’re sure to attract some Norwegians. For Al, some of the lutefisk I squeezed the juice out of for Dick’s gift. Think of it as “lutefisk-lite”. No re-gifting by the way. For Jody, just what you’ve always wanted: One of those coveted little fat buddy secret decoder rings. Nice to show off your bling-bling when eating bars at morning coffee in your casual attire. For Reed, a haircut at the Mall for Men. Let me know when you’re coming though so Leo can sharpen his hedge trimmer. For Betts, my blonde mini-van driving wig. Since you’re the closest thing to a First Lady Bugtussle has, you could use it when you and the mayor are role playing. Just pretend you’re Hillary Clinton

After all that shopping, I’m shot and need a nap. Spying Jim’s blankie, I see it’s still unwrapped. Hmmm…sure is nice and soft. Wonder of it works? Just saunter over to the recliner for a spell and …oh, baby…Zzzzzzzzz….Zzzzzzzzz…

Merry Christmas and Happy Festivus! See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/30/08, 08:31:01 PM
Oh, back on the chain gang.

The scurs made the best out of a bad forecast with some downright warm temps for this time of year. What’s on tap for the New Year? Starting New Year’s Eve day, mostly sunny, high of 15 and low of 5 with a chance of snow in the evening hours. Cloudy New Year’s Day, chance of snow, high of 20 and low of 10. Friday, partly cloudy, chance of snow during the daylight hours, high of 15 and low of 5 – 10. Cloudy Saturday, chance of snow during the day, high of 20 and low of 5. Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 20 and low of 5. Monday, cloudy with a chance of snow. High near 30 and low around 15. Cloudy Tuesday, high of 20 and low of 5 with a chance of snow in the overnight hours. Normal high for New Year’s Day is 23 and the normal low is 3. At 8 hours and 58 minutes, we will have gained 4 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice and we’ll reach 9 hours of daylight on the 3rd. The scurs are contemplating what to do with all this new found daylight.

Some rough driving conditions last week especially the evening of the 25th. Many who had ventured forth during the daylight hours found themselves in the middle of some hazardous travelling after dusk. Not unusual for this time of year and this winter seems to have being able to turn on a dime patented thus far. It can be 40 above one day and well below zero the next. It was a white Christmas until the 26th when we saw temperatures turn much of the snow to ice. The good news is the snow has not contained much water so the ice isn’t very thick. Another thaw and much of that will leave too.

Was time to repower the indoor/outdoor thermometer as the batteries had given up outside, about a year from when the remote sensor was placed outdoors. All this new fangled stuff is nice but it always takes a mad scramble to find the instruction book to make sure you’re doing everything according to Hoyle. For some reason waiting for 10 minutes to put the batteries in is one of those things that usually falls under the “nice if you’d do this but not absolutely necessary” category. Nope, they mean it. Patience is a virtue.

Warmer temperatures recorded by said thermometer are reflected in the bird numbers at the feeders. They also seem to take turns showing up. For instance, on Saturday morning at the thistle feeders it was primarily siskins sans goldfinches. Sunday, it was all goldfinches. Given that many of their natural food sources were back above the snow banks, their reliance on the handouts was less.

With all the ice that has suddenly formed, it was time to put the chains on the tractor over the weekend. This used to be an annual ritual growing up. We had two sets of chains, one for the E-3, which made it easier to haul manure out to the field and one set on the snow moving tractor, the E-4. When Dad would be moving snow at night, those chains used to sound almost like Santa’s sleigh bells. With the advent of radial tires, have managed to get by the last several years without putting the chains on the 656. Figure if by putting them on we don’t have any more snow storms this winter, it was worth it. It’s still a hassle though and has to be done properly. There is a right way and a wrong way to put them on. Fortunately, was tutored by one of Ellendale’s finest chain putter on-ers, DG, when he lived across the way from us before moving to Thompson Oaks. I still have the set of chains he sold me all those years ago.

Getting the chains out of the back of the shed and dragging all the junk in the way along with them is a given. Getting them on the tire straight and not twisted of course is crucial. It’s a slow process and a lot of off and on if you’re doing it by yourself. It’s also important to get them on right side out and not backwards. They’ll go on the other way but the hooks where the chains attach to the outer ring should face away from the tire so as not to dig into the sidewall. If they’re on backwards, the latch on some types would catch and the chains would come off. Also, after the chains have been on the tires awhile, it’s not a bad idea to check to see if they’ve loosened up. If they have, one can always pick up a link or two so they don’t come flying off in the dark. Of course, nowadays people don’t mess with chains much anymore what with bigger tractors and front wheel assist but they sure come in handy when icy conditions make it impossible to move snow without them.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on December 12/30/08, 08:43:52 PM
good read as aways Dotch!


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/05/09, 11:24:25 AM
Nothing changes on New Year's Day

Playing close to the vest on the snowfall, the scurs forgot to omit the first digit off of some of last weekend’s temperatures. This week finds us cold but seasonal with chances of light snow. Starting Wednesday, skies should be partly cloudy with the high reaching 20 and lows of 0 to 5 above. Partly cloudy Thursday with a slight chance of snow in the evening, high of 15 - 20 and low of 10. Friday, partly cloudy, chance of snow, with a high of 20 and a low of 0 - 5. Saturday, partly cloudy, high of 10 and low of 5. Clear on Sunday, slightly warmer, high of 20 and low of 5 – 10. Monday and Tuesday, cloudy, chance of snow, high of 25 and low of 5. Normal high for January 9th is 22 and the normal low is 2. On the 9th, we begin to see the sun rising earlier in addition to setting later. Hoping to stimulate the local economy, the scurs are divesting in their used Vikings memorabilia.

The Full Moon for the month will occur for us on January 10th in spite of what the calendars say. If you read the fine print, the calendars say 3:27 UTC and since we’re on Central Daylight Time, we subtract 6 hours from that to arrive at 9:27 p.m. This is known as the Full Wolf Moon as the wolves would move in closer to the overwintering tribes hunkered down for the winter. The Ojibwe knew this as the Great Spirit Moon and the Sioux called it the Moon of Frost in the Teepee. After coming home late a few times, suspect several of the little fat buddies can relate.

Rainfall on Saturday made our slippery conditions even more slippery. Stopped over at my favorite feed store in Hope and the proprietor claimed he’d sold over 3 tons of grit in 50 lb. bags this past week. Thinking that it probably isn’t because people are suddenly feeding more chickens, there are lots of people out there who would rather remain upright as opposed to falling on their own private hockey rinks or in our case, a bobsled run. One can only imagine that emergency rooms are doing a land office business as a result of all this ice. I know it doesn’t pay to be in a hurry as I was very careful during chores Sunday night until filling the bird feeders when I decided it was a good idea to hustle to see the last quarter of the Vikings game. In the dark, down I went. Somehow the bucket of sunflower seed escaped unscathed. My wrist is another story.

It’s always fun to see some of the projects one started several years ago starting to bear fruit. The windbreak we started nearly a decade ago has begun to take shape. While out gawking on New Year’s Day, was amazing to see how much snow the dogwood was stopping and how the same was true of some of the larger spruce and arborvitae. There has been a noticeable reduction in the amount of snow in the feed lot, even though the way the wind howls out here on the prairie, one would’ve expected more.

The birds have provided some enjoyment on these cold winter afternoons. There are still hordes of goldfinches that descend seemingly out of nowhere. Sunday afternoon, noticed the first common redpoll at the feeders seen in many moons. They may be named “common” but along with the pine siskins and a white-winged crossbill back in November, they’ve been anything but common in our yard. This redpoll was a male; however with feeding stations on 3 sides of the house, it’s hard to tell who might be where at any given moment. Didn’t see the mourning doves this past weekend so suspect they headed for warmer climes. Mrs. Cheviot saw a large group of pheasants in the sumac and plum thicket when she came home from work the other day. Now that the hunting season is closed, they apparently know where the feeder is judging by the tracks around it. They also know where the foodplot is. Checking that while looking at the windbreak, the snow is about ear-level on the corn. Lots of pheasant tracks there also and the rows of red cobs indicate they’ll probably be looking for additional food if the winter continues pulling some of the stunts it has.

Can’t believe that doing “chorse” in the winter has ever been anyone’s favorite. Fighting the ice and feeding hay outside on these blustery days makes one question why. If you have animals though, they must be cared for regardless. It’s your duty. Getting to the shed to feed hay out of the wind is always a goal. Growing up on the farm too, there were always locations where the tasks were more pleasant than others.

The chicken coop was also one of those “nicer” places. Tucked between the granary and barn, the wind wasn’t a factor. Inside there were enough laying hens to keep the henhouse from freezing although, Dad kept an electric heater plugged in under the 2-part galvanized waterer. Every few days we’d haul a 5 gallon bucket of hot water out to dump in it. When it got bitterly cold sometimes a few eggs in the nests would freeze even though they were gathered twice a day. Was amusing after throwing to watch them bounce rather than splat! Under icy conditions, the biggest challenge about gathering the eggs (aside from the tossing the old biddy off the nest who’d tweak the skin on your wrist between your coat and the cuff on your glove) was making it back to the house intact. While our chickens laid brown eggs with slightly tougher shells than their white counterparts, more than once the pails wound up a gooey mess after taking a spill. Nothing to do other than pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and resume the shuffle towards warmer quarters and the hot breakfast Mom had prepared.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/12/09, 11:23:28 AM
It's winter in my consciousness...

The scurs were on track last week, calling for cold and snow and by golly, it snowed and got cold. This week? We get treated to some major cold. Fortunately the duration of the deepest part of the cold will be short. Starting Wednesday, cloudy, chance of snow with a high of zero to 5 above. Low of – 15 to – 20. Thursday, clear, high of – 5 and low of – 15 to – 20. Partly cloudy Friday and slightly warmer with a chance of flurries in the evening. High of 5 above and low of 5 below. Warmer Saturday, partly cloudy with a chance of more flurries. High of 10 – 15 and low of 5. Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 25 and low of 15. Monday and Tuesday, cloudy, highs of 25 – 30 and lows of 15. More ice showers expected on Monday evening with the ice changing to snow on Tuesday. Normal high for January 16th is 22 and the normal low is 2. In the past week, we’ve gained approximately 11 minutes of daylight. The scurs should be breaking out the suntan lotion and lawn chairs in celebration anytime now.

So far this has been the winter of nuisance snowfall. Doesn’t snow a lot but it seems to do it at inopportune times. Since it’s nice fluffy snow, it manages to blow it into inopportune places. About all that can be done is to move it around and get ready for the next few inches. The grit is still selling like hotcakes at my favorite feed store in Hope. Even my kindly neighbor was there stocking up on it so it isn’t just at the ranch. Putting hay into the feeders the other morning, the snowplow went by sending plumes of snow into the air with every finger drift he hit. Could even smell the odor of metal from the sparks being created as the blade scraped the pavement. Darned ice is still glued on!

The birds are still responding to the weather also. The days before major weather events there’s a feeding frenzy and the amount of seed consumed is higher. The male redpoll was still here over the weekend and did locate a female so there are two of them. They took a shine to the finch mix in the small metal screened feeder, generally the only two on it Saturday. No siskins that day however. No redpolls on Sunday but the siskins were back. Goldfinch hordes both days. Stocked up on more suet for the woodpeckers with the colder weather forecast. They’ve fastidiously been working over the dead limbs on the silver maples. Could take them down but since they’re not hurting anything and the downies and hairies enjoy them, no reason to move that task ahead on the “to do” list.

The dogs await choretime morning and night with great anticipation. There really isn’t that much for them to do although they like to believe they have a purpose, not unlike most people I know. Lucy likes to check the yard and granary for kitties while Gus is initially interested in chasing the rabbits and treeing the squirrels. Being 12 years old, Lucy gets cold after a half hour or so. When Mrs. Cheviot finishes her portion of the chores, they repair to the warmth of the garage once again. Gus usually remains behind, “helping” me finish watering. Once the water is turned on to fill each bucket, he lives for putting his front paws on the gate and snuggling up next to me, all the while his tail wagging furiously as I tell him how silly he looks. Not exactly certain how Gus learned how to do this. As long as he enjoys it, that’s OK with me.

Getting a look at the ewes in the daylight, it appears they will be due to start lambing in about another month to 6 weeks. Always difficult to tell exactly when although once they’re shorn, one can see changes occur more readily. That’s coming up too. Normally we shoot for Lincoln’s birthday, sometimes not a moment too soon. Lambs occasionally hit the ground a day or two afterwards.

Last week I wrote about places growing up where one could get in out of the elements during chores. The main barn under the haymow where the sheep overwintered was another one of those areas. Kept well-bedded, it was dry and warm, especially after shearing. The haymow was drafty but out of the direct wind. Watching our Lab, Chico, climb the ladder to the haymow was always entertaining, even if it was cold. It always felt good though after tossing the hay down out of the mow to get back in to the warmer part of the barn. After snapping the twine strings (knot side up), and plopping the bales into the mangers, one moved on to the next task, watering, bedding or whatever the case might be. Standing around wasn’t an option.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/19/09, 12:11:43 PM
And I'm hungry like the wolf...

If the scurs get any more accurate, they will be banned from betting on the Super Bowl! Cold and snow abounded last week and the warm up on its heels were just as predicted. This week? More below normal but minus the abysmal drop in temperatures. Wednesday, partly cloudy with a high of 30 – 35 and a low of 15. Thursday slightly cooler, partly cloudy, a high of 25 and low of 5. Cooler Friday under partly cloudy skies. High of 15 and low of 0 to – 5. Still cooler on Friday and Saturday, highs of 5 to 10 and lows of 0 to – 5. Slight chance of light snow Saturday. Partly cloudy Sunday, high of 10 and low of 0 to – 5. Monday and Tuesday, cloudy becoming partly cloudy. Highs of 10 – 15 and lows near 0. Normal high for January 23 is 23 and normal low is 2. In the last week, we’ve gained 13 minutes of daylight. Some of the weather gurus are saying this week is traditionally the coldest of the year. The data however would say last week was colder. Let’s hope so. With a -28.9 for the overnight low on the 15th, the scurs have been catching a lot more ice while ice fishing.

This installment completes 6 years of Fencelines columns. No, I’m not stopping although some probably wish I would. It’s been a fun ride and hopefully it continues to be so. Sure, there are weeks when the words flow more easily and the columns practically themselves. Other times, it’s more of a struggle although, sometimes, not always, those are the weeks someone finds something they really enjoyed and lets me know about it. Just goes to show, not everyone enjoys everything about the column every week including the writer. The biggest problem continues to be where to spend all the extra cash being generated by this venture.

Despite the Gopher men’s basketball team stubbing their toe against Northwestern on Sunday, it was a great week to watch Gopher sports. The men’s hockey team swept St. Cloud St. over the weekend and one had to be impressed at the overtime men’s basketball win against Bucky Badger at the Kohl Center, the first time ever. The women’s basketball team upset The Ohio St. University at Columbus too so that warmed us all last Thursday even though it was a tad chilly outside. The best thing about basketball is the halftime when on those chilly Saturday afternoons; a nap can easily break out as the snow blows by the window.

The birds have been busy catching up at the feeders after Saturday’s blustery weather. Was so glad RH from Little Jerusalem came to pick the load of lambs when he did. The bird feeders were relatively quiet during the inclement weather that followed. There was a rooster pheasant hunkered down by the ear corn feeder all afternoon however. Sunday to the west of Mom’s a group of 4 Huns flew off from the edge of the road where they’d been picking up a little grit just before sundown. Good to see they’ve made it this far.

Had some sad news in the food department last week: After the cold spell last week, I checked the squash I’d so dutifully hauled upstairs in the house last fall and they were frozen! Had hoped there were still a few survivors but alas, ‘twas not to be. Oh well, the sheep will enjoy still enjoy them, after they thaw out again of course. A little extra vitamin A at this point won’t hurt them.

The little fat buddies enjoyed more warm, fresh cinnamon rolls last week courtesy of CS. Those are tough to beat, especially after a cold start to the day. Makes it worth coming in to work just to see if might happen to be a pan of those delectable coils of caramel, walnuts and cinnamon. Mom made her signature bars of caramel, cocoa, chocolate and walnuts and slipped them into a pan she was returning. Am hoarding those. Betsy and her Dad were in bright and early Monday morning at the Mall for Men with the Girl Scout cookie order blank. No sign of an economic downturn anytime soon at the cookie factories. Makes your mouth water just thinking about it, doesn’t it?

Have to confess, the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street was patterned after me. Few things more enjoyable than a warm, fresh out of the oven pan of cookies and a glass of milk, especially after working outside in the cold. At the ranch, the cupboards and drawers have been scoured for the last of the Christmas goodies. They are scarce but when discovered they become a short-lived endangered species. As a lad, Mom used to uncover our goodie-seeking operations. There was typically something in the baking ingredient department worth snacking on when those hunger pangs would strike, which was frequently. When Mom would ask who’d eaten all the chocolate chips, we’d usually leave a few rattling around in the bottom of the bag so we could honestly say we didn’t eat them all.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on January 01/19/09, 12:28:35 PM
Congrats on the 6 years anniversary!

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: HD on January 01/19/09, 01:26:56 PM

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Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Bobby Bass on January 01/19/09, 01:38:17 PM
Did I hear cookies!!!!  congrats Dotch! always a good read..
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/21/09, 10:20:30 AM
Thanks guys! After a morning of office cleaning, some cookies (and not the internet kind) sound pretty good right about now. There's no bakery in town anymore so those Girl Scout cookies can't get here fast enough! :chef:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: kingfisher1 on January 01/21/09, 10:21:50 AM
Thanks guys! After a morning of office cleaning, some cookies (and not the internet kind) sound pretty good right about now. There's no bakery in town anymore so those Girl Scout cookies can't get here fast enough! :chef:

hope you stocked up!!!!!!
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/21/09, 02:40:23 PM
Oh yeah. A dozen boxes will only last me about a week though. My little fat buddies expect me to share unfortunately. :cry:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Bobby Bass on January 01/21/09, 02:47:13 PM
My son in law buys the thin mints by the case and freezes them. I figure pretty soon he will find out I have been helping myself and putting the empty boxes on the bottom.. :rotflmao: Hey I go t to get paid for my work at his house someway!  :coffee:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/21/09, 10:29:43 PM
 :rotflmao: Good 'un, Bobby! We did something like that to a guy who ordered cookies last year. While he was on vacation, they dropped his GS cookies off at our office. Big mistake. We put his cookies in safekeeping, ate all our own boxes, saved the empty packages, then put them in the bag with his name on it. The look on his face was priceless when he picked up that bag of "lite" cookies... :whistling:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/26/09, 03:08:50 PM
Or if I ever need a reason to smile...

The scurs were close but not right on target with the weekend winding up a little colder than expected. Oh well, still not as wicked as the week before. What’s on tap this week? Improvement. Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 25 with a low of 10 and a slight chance of snow Wednesday night. Partly cloudy Thursday, slight chance of snow, high of 20 and low around 10. Becoming partly cloudy Friday, high of 20 and low of 10. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy, highs of 25 – 30 and lows of 5 – 10. Monday starting out partly cloudy, becoming cloudy with a chance of snow by evening. High of 25 – 30. Mostly cloudy Tuesday with a chance of a rain snow mix, becoming all snow by evening. High of 30 – 35 and low of 5 – 10. Normal high for January 30th is 24 and the normal low is 4. For the period January 23rd – 30th we will have gained about 16 minutes of daylight, so it’s getting better. The scurs have their shades open to let in all the extra daylight.

It is nice in the evening to actually see what you’re doing when starting chores. By the time we’re finished though, one has to be glad there are lights and we’re not stumbling around out there with kerosene lanterns like the old days. Seeing the artists’ renditions from folks like my late uncle Harvey and Bob Artley, one can these days only imagine what that was like. Once in awhile we get a little taste of the nostalgia when the power goes off for a few days. The novelty wears off pretty fast however.

The common redpoll numbers at the bird feeders over the weekend just exploded. There were several of the feeders absolutely covered with them as was the ground under the feeders. There were a couple that were lighter in color that may have been hoary redpolls but as quickly as they move and as inexperienced as I am at identifying them, I wouldn’t bet my life on it. Regardless, it’s still fun to see all these little visitors from the boreal forest in northern Canada. They do this every few years as I understand it in a migration known as an irruption, in search of food. Well, they found it alright. There are still lots of goldfinches they hang with and after watching the woodpecker numbers over the weekend, there’s a reason the suet feeders need filling as frequently as they do. Some years the starlings are a problem. So far, they’ve been present but not in large numbers. Appears to be squirrel mating season at the ranch judging by the behavior of the three in our yard. Oh it’s a scene, man.

Getting some daylight hours to do the chores one can definitely see there are some ewes bagging under the heavy quilt of wool. With the drier late summer we had and good control of parasites, their wool is especially nice looking this winter. In a few weeks it’ll be shearing time and we’ll get a close up of where we’re at. Did toss the remaining squash over the fence as they had definitely expired, starting to smell faintly like someone's old sneakers in the garage. The ewes were absolutely overjoyed to get the squash and started a scrum to get at their favorite types, not unlike the little fat buddies going after an assortment of bars after an anniversary. By evening chores there were only a few remnants they’d pushed through the fence. Tossing them back over the fence, the scrum was on again. One downside to getting light at choretime, one can actually see how much hay is left in the granary. In a few weeks, the hay fairy will have to make another visit.

The weekend wasn’t good for much outdoors so once again was forced to watch Gopher basketball on the tube. Tubby got the boys back on track again. Nice win at Bloomington Sunday followed by a nap. Always brings a smile to my face when I wake up.

With all the cold weather, it’s been time to clean out the office at the Mall for Men. It’s actually more like an archeological dig. Papers from 2006, receipts from ’04, a couple 37 cent postage stamps, and an ’07 calendar. A remarkable discovery though after removing the protective layer of dust and papers: There is indeed fake wood beneath all the rubble. Should’ve filmed the event and sent it in to the Discovery Channel.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/03/09, 07:46:16 AM
The winds of Thor are blowing cold...

Improved as the scurs predicted was right for last week but anything was better than the bitter cold we experienced for mid-January. How do we fare this week? Starting Wednesday under clear skies, high of 25 and low of 15 – 20. Warmer both Thursday and Friday, clear Thursday becoming partly cloudy Friday with a chance of snow in the evening. Highs of 30 – 35 and lows of 20 – 25. Partly cloudy Saturday with a chance of snow and/or rain, high of 35 and low of 20 – 25. Partly cloudy Sunday and Monday, highs of 30 – 35 and lows of 20 – 25. Clouding up on Tuesday with a chance of freezing rain. High of 20 – 25 and low of 20. Normal high for February 6th is 27 and the normal low is 6. We officially have over 10 hours of daylight as of February 4th and we gained about 18 minutes of daylight in the last week. The scurs saw their shadow on Groundhogs Day so there will be six more weeks of winter just like there always is.

February 9th ushers in the Full Moon for the month. This was known as the Full Snow Moon as the snow was usually deep during this month. The Indian tribes also knew this as the Full Hunger Moon as the snow had become so deep that hunting became difficult. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Sucker Moon as the suckers began to run in the streams in the month of February. The Sioux called this the Raccoon Moon as the raccoons frequently would come out of their deep sleep during a February thaw. Without the road system in those days, the raccoons had to feel much safer.

At the Mall for Men one will need to note the change in the barbershop days and hours. Leo will be in on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 – 5. One will just have to wait until Tuesday to look like Brad Pitt. At the training table there have been plenty of offerings as long as one stops at an out of town bakery or the grocery store. Oh to have a local bakery again…

The bird feeders weren’t quite as busy this week as the seed consumed bore that out. Warmer temperatures and melting snow seem to impact that activity. However, there were 6 rooster pheasants and 2 hens that warily made their way across the pasture to the CRP, using the plum and sumac as a staging area. Lots of pheasant tracks around the ear corn feeder there. With the warm up, a few mourning doves have returned. The number of redpolls dwindled although there are a few pair hanging with the goldfinches. The pine siskins were a no-show while a white breasted nuthatch appeared again over the weekend, silhouetted against the tree trunk as if it were a broken off branch. The high winds that seem to frequent the area blew one of the squirrel nests out of the tree. Not sure if it was Tubby’s or Scratchy’s. Maybe they’re cohabitating.

Wasn’t last Saturday a breath of fresh air after all that cold junk we’ve experienced? It was so nice in fact that I went on a garden seed buying mission. Found the cucumbers we’ve enjoyed so much the past several seasons as well as string beans, beets, radishes, sugar snap peas and one packet of old fashioned blue Hubbard squash. That below zero weather has given many of us cabin fever and the chance to get outside and enjoy some warmer temps and sunshine was just what the doctor ordered. Lots of snowmobilers out and about apparently trying to take advantage of what could be the last of the decent snow conditions for awhile judging by the frozen muddy track that was the trail on Monday morning.

Saturday was a good day to get some chores done around the house too. The water softener needed a couple bags to top it off. Amazing how little salt these on-demand type softeners use compared to the old soften-every- so many-days types. A couple bags last about 4 months with just the 2 of us. The sheep buildings needed some bedding so maneuvered a couple big square bales of corn stalks around to make the task easier. No sooner had I set the bale down by the lambing barn and the sound of a couple new arrivals could be heard from within. Not what we wanted to hear for a couple weeks yet but there’s no stopping them.

Everyone was fine and cooperative so got some panels around after bedding the building. Next morning, same song, different verse only with the strong winds, one lamb was chilled so that one has taken up residence in the house. Hope this is the last of the surprises although starting out with all ewe lambs is never a bad thing. Gee, I should be happy the lambs are coming early, the sooner they start the sooner it’ll be over, right? No, the sooner it starts the longer and more drawn out it generally is. The ewes are not shorn, the barn essentially is not ready yet, there will need to be more hay and bedding procured and the trips to the barn before bedtime will go on for an eternity. I just start being crabby earlier is all.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/09/09, 11:47:42 AM
Oh Sweet Pea, won't you be my girl...

The scurs on target once again, their longer-range forecasting frequently prompting phone calls from people wondering what to wear a week in advance, most likely those wanting to avoid laundering cold weather clothing. This week? Starting Wednesday out with partly cloudy skies and a slight chance of snow, high of 30 – 35 and low around 20. Partly cloudy Thursday, high of 30 and low near 15. Friday through Sunday, the weather machine is stuck on partly cloudy, with highs near 25 and lows near 10. Warmer Monday, partly cloudy, high of 30 and low of 15 – 20. Partly cloudy Tuesday becoming cloudy with a chance of snow in the evening. High of 30 – 35 and low of 20. Normal high for February 14th is 29 and the normal low is 9. We’ve gained about 19 minutes of daylight in the past week and since the winter solstice, we’ve gained an hour and 35 minutes as of Valentines Day. The scurs will be full of energy after consuming all their Valentines chocolates.

Longer days are making their mark with the yard light coming on during night chores and going off during morning chores. The weekend sunshine was certainly a welcome sight, making one want to get outside and enjoy it. It was nice as long as one could be out of the strong westerly breezes. With lambs hitting the ground it was great that our sheep shearing neighbor took pity on us and changed his schedule so we could get the brood ewes shorn Saturday. Not like the days of old when it was an all day affair with a big home cooked meal at noon but we threw together what we could for the wonderful crew who showed up to help.

Still amazing to watch a good shearer peel the wool off a ewe in a matter of minutes, then grab the next one the catcher has ready and start the whole process over as the wool bagger grabs the fleece and plops it in the packer. We add an extra step to the process as we treat for parasites when the ewe comes off the shearing board. We had a newbie helping who caught onto the process quickly so it didn’t skip a beat. The wool we produce probably winds up in (where else?) China. The fleeces are taken out of the burlap bags and sorted. Since ours is a fairly consistent medium wool, it probably goes for carpet and overcoats as explained by the wool buyer who also happens to be the shearer. The main thing was I was able to get my power nap in late that afternoon as the bottle lamb quietly read the NRHEG Star lining her cage in the garage. Her favorite columnists? Let’s just say she’s not fussy.

Sunday was a good day for pruning the apple and crabapple trees that I’d made a pretty good start on last year. Not wanting to take off too much growth in one season, these trees were on the 2 year plan. Didn’t plan on being as aggressive as I was but when Mrs. Cheviot gave the finished, platformed product her stamp of approval, I knew I’d done well. It’s always nice to have some of the apple wood on hand too for barbecuing as it imparts a wonderful flavor to the food being cooked. It’s even nicer to be able to mow under the trees without getting snapped in the face or losing your glasses to those insipid lower limbs.

What can I say about the birds at the feeders this week? There were over 50 common redpolls at, under and around the feeders this past weekend at the same time. They outnumbered everything else and when tree pruning they were not amused that their feeder tree was being worked on, vocally letting me know about it. The pheasant numbers are increasing too with more hens showing up. There are still 6 roosters and about an equal number of hens. They change their routine up from day to day too, sometimes coming through the pasture south of the house and other days going around to the west and moving from one clump of yellow Indiangrass to the next. Placed an order for more shrubs from my local SWCD. The deadline in Steele Co. for tree orders is February 27th and for Waseca Co. it’s March 15th. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

Guys, don’t forget to get your sweet pea something nice for Valentines Day. Yes, I know times are tough but you know how the old story goes: If you agreed ahead of time to not get each other anything, you know she’s going to get you something so you’d better reciprocate or you’ll suffer the consequences. Think on the bright side though, if you have to sleep outside in the car at least it’s warmer out.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/16/09, 11:24:05 AM
Everybody I know seems to know me well...

Wow! The scurs fire another week of nearly precise forecasting. Obama will be calling them to fill some of his advisory posts. Fortunately they’ve paid their taxes. What about this week’s forecast period? It starts out a little taxing. Midweek highs will be below normal starting Wednesday under cloudy skies with a chance of snow for good measure. High of 25 and low of 0. Cold sunshine Thursday, high of 15 - 20 and low of 5. Partly cloudy becoming cloudy Friday with a chance of snow showers late. High of 20 - 25 and low of 5. Partly cloudy Saturday, high of 20 and low of 10. Warmer Sunday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy with a high of 25 – 30 and a low of 20 – 25. Chance of sleet and freezing drizzle in the overnight hours. Cloudy Monday with a chance of freezing rain and sleet. High of 30 and low of 25. More of the same for Tuesday, turning to snow by evening. High of 35 and low of 15 – 20. Normal high for February 20th is 31 and the normal low is 11, the same as we normally see in early December. On the 24th, the sun will begin to rise before 7 a.m. Early to bed and early to rise, makes the scurs healthy wealthy and wise.

Last week’s snow sure left in a hurry, didn’t it? There are still some large snow banks left in the fencelines but generally speaking, the amount of liquid water equivalent in the snow hasn’t been terribly high hence part of the reason for the snow’s quick exit. Speaking of quick exits, the mass exodus of fish houses from area lakes early last week was nothing short of astounding. One after another of the shanties trailing behind a wide assortment of moaning, groaning vehicles gave Gus and Lucy cause to put up a fuss. Of course airplanes, tractors, large trucks and neighbors sneezing are capable of setting off the dog alarm as well.

The rapid snow melt did manage to fill the basin on the CREP wildlife wetland below the hill. On Wednesday morning, there a couple dark figures one could see in it from the house. Thought perhaps the muskrats were playing around. However upon closer examination with the binoculars, two Canada geese had already decided to ply the waters. While it was short-lived as the water froze solid the next day, it almost made one feel that eventually it would be spring. The little horned larks are showing up along area roads in pairs so they’re getting towards nesting already. Having short grass pasture, there are likely some taking up residence although to see them one would have to go looking for them with a flashlight after chores. Still plenty of little Canadian visitors as well in the form of common redpolls. Down to about 30 this past weekend but still eating as if there’s no tomorrow. Good thistle seed, aye?

Lambs continued to arrive through last Tuesday then the ewes took several days off. Moved some ewes with lambs at side out of the jugs to the loafing area over the weekend. The youngsters were glad to be out of their pens and celebrated by hopping and bounding around their new environment, while the mothers bellered frantically trying to reel them in. Oh to be young again.

Saturday’s Valentines Day shopping made for yet another minivan adventure. Stopped at the Man’s Store where you go to the bathroom in the big orange-topped silo. Was able to hide the vehicle between several large trucks. Wearing my wavy blonde soccer mom minivan driving wig, I managed to slip in and out nearly undetected. The only thing I could figure was that with the beard, people must’ve mistaken me for Robert Plant. Only ran into one person I knew and he didn’t see what I was driving. On to the French female’s store where driving a minivan could be considered a plus. The whole parking lot is full of them as well as a lot of small SUV’s so one blends right in. And, the cramped parking spaces there simply don’t lend themselves to parking an extended cab one-ton dually. It generally takes up a couple spots and sticks out like a sore thumb. Once inside the store, the population was 95% female, all gazing at me as if I’d escaped from a leper colony. There were a handful of metrosexuals and a smattering of older males looking as though they’d received a death sentence while their wives dug through the racks for bargains. No pickup drivers in here I thought to myself.

This store is laid out in a fashion such that only a female could understand it. One can go from DVD’s and bumble into the feminine hygiene products aisle in the blink of an eye. Experiencing this caused me to resurrect a tactic developed and perfected by the Boy Entomologist whilst battling the dreaded Blue Plague: Scrinch your hooded sweatshirt down over your face and run with reckless abandon while seeking out your prey, in this case Valentines cards and a bottle of shampoo. People give you funny looks but by golly you sure get in and out of there fast. Plus no one figures out who you are if you pay cash. I did discover a couple things worth noting: Oreos were on sale and Betsy’s Dad is right; he probably does have more fishing tackle than they do in the whole store!

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/23/09, 11:22:20 AM
And the young birds eyes do always glow…

While the scurs were a little premature on their precipitation forecast for the week, they managed to catch the cool down right on the money. This week? Starting Wednesday, cloudy becoming partly cloudy with a chance of freezing drizzle rain in the morning. High of 35 – 40 and low of 15 – 20. Thursday, cloudy, with a good chance of snow. High of 25 and low of 5. Clearing on Friday and colder, high of 20 and low of 0. Partly cloudy Saturday, high of 20 and low of 10. March 1st arrives Sunday with partly cloudy skies. High of 30 and low of 25. Cloudy Monday with a chance of wintery mix of precipitation. High of 30 - 35 and low of 20. Cloudy Tuesday, high of 35 - 40 and low of 25 - 30. The normal high for February 27th is 34 and the normal low is 14. On the 25th we will experience over 11 hours of daylight for the first time since mid-October and have gained 2 hours and 7 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice. The scurs will be enjoying their last week of freedom before the Time Bandits steal back an hour of our time.

Temperatures continue to lag along below normal giving us an occasional taste of warmth before deciding we really don’t deserve it. Snowfall for the month while sparse has contained a fair amount of liquid thus far. We’ve only received roughly 3” – 4” of snow but it contained .2” of liquid equivalent. This is typical of course as we get closer to spring. The more recent trend however has been for precipitation falling more often as rainfall in March than what we were used to back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Less shoveling!

It has certainly been a great winter to watch the birds with the irruption of birds coming down from Canada including pine siskins, common redpolls and white-winged crossbills. Some have asked what irruption means and in layman’s terms, it’s basically a migration of birds from their normal winter range to another area where they are not commonly seen, frequently due to a lack of food in their typical overwintering area. This year has brought more variety at the ranch than I ever recall seeing. It probably doesn’t hurt that we offer more variety of foodstuffs than we once did and the habitat is growing. While not perfect it allows our guests to feel more at home. Seeing a cloud of redpolls emerge in the morning from the spruce and pines in the yard is evidence of that.

Some have wondered about Little Jerry too. I think he’s still around but am not exactly sure anymore which one of the rooster pheasants he might be. There are up to half dozen of them in the yard on any given day. There is one with a set of tail feathers nearly 2’ in length, the likes of which we rarely see. He’s usually at the feeder right before sunrise and slinks back into the brush after the sun is up. Apparently there’s a reason those feathers are so long. Won’t be long and he’ll be courting the ladies so am guessing that’s probably our guy. Hopefully he picks up after himself a little better than he did last year. Colors are beginning to brighten on the rooster pheasants and there is an ever so subtle hint of yellow starting to show on the goldfinches around their throat and on their nape. Spring is coming whether we like it or not.

Gopher fans were almost suicidal after last week’s dismal performances. The men’s hockey team dropped two over the weekend, the Gopher women’s basketball team lost to Ohio St. and the men’s basketball team punted against Michigan. On Sunday however, Tubby and the boys got their act together and avenged their earlier season loss against Northwestern. Will be interesting to see how they fare against Bob Willerton’s Illini on Thursday. Who’s Bob Willerton you ask? A renowned Illinois sheep guy and Illini fan who’s shared some humorous tidbits concerning the Blagojevich debacle with me from time to time. As he points out, the Coleman and Franken matter is small potatoes compared to the media circus there. I agree. Every time Blago’s on the tube, you just know it’s gonna be good. Coleman-Franken lawsuit? Snoozers!

After taking about 10 days off the ewes were back at it again late last week, with this week promising to get us closer to half done in the lambing barn. The first lambs born are growing like weeds and have been taking to their creep feeder like fish to water. For those non-farm types wondering what a creep feeder is, it’s an area set aside designed to exclude the ewes, where the lambs can get started on solid feed. The quicker they’re started on solid feed, the sooner they can be weaned, the ewes can be put out on pasture and the happier Mr. Cheviot is. Ideally, we’d like to wean the lambs at about 8 weeks of age.

There are probably as many designs for creep feeders as there are operations out there. Ours involves use of a panel with rollers in it placed in the opening of a gated -off area initially about 6’ x 20’ long. The rollers in the panel are spaced narrowly enough so the shoulders of the ewes can’t get through it. The spacing’s are adjustable as the lambs get larger to keep their wool intact and allow them to slip in and out without getting bruised or stuck. Come to think of it, this is probably not a bad idea at the Mall for Men where the little fat buddies are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their Girl Scout cookies, another sure sign of spring. The cookies, not the little fat buddies stuck in the creep panel.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/02/09, 10:49:57 PM
It's got me under pressure...

The scurs were a little overly optimistic in their temperature predictions for this past cold weekend but are more confident we’ll see some warmth return to mark the first week in March. Starting Wednesday, look for partly cloudy skies with a high of 40 and a low of 30. Slight chance of freezing rain in the overnight hours. Thursday starts out cloudy becoming partly cloudy, high of 45 – 50 and low of 25 -30 with a slight chance of rain during daylight hours and light snow in the evening. Cooler Friday, partly cloudy, high of 40 and low of 20, slight chance of snow after dark. Saturday, cloudy, high of 35 – 40 and low of 20 – 25 and again, a slight chance of evening snow. Partly cloudy Sunday and Monday, chance of snow/rain/sleet starting Sunday evening. Highs of 35 and lows of 25. Partly cloudy becoming cloudy on Tuesday, high of 35 and low of 25 with you guessed it, chance of snow flurries. Normal high for March 6th is 37 and the normal low is 17. The scurs will be getting up at 2 a.m. on March 8th as is their wont to set their clocks ahead an hour.

There have been plenty of articles recently about how this time change is nonsensical. It makes perfect sense: If you want everyone to be irritated and crabby for a week, this is the obvious way to do it and while you’re at it, increase their health risks at the same time. From Reader’s Digest, a recent Swedish study showed that the number of heart attacks increases 6 – 10% for the 3 days after the clock is moved forward. In the fall when the clock is turned back, the number of heart attacks falls by 5%. The likely culprit for the increased risk? Sleep deprivation. In the same magazine, there was a portion of an article dedicated to mistake proofing your life. One of the suggestions was to get more sleep. To quote the passage, “Sleepy people make more mistakes and there are staggering numbers of sleep-deprived people out there”. If big government was really concerned about our health, wouldn’t they would be wise to get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The moon could really give a rip about what time some politicians think it should rise and set. It does what it’s been doing for millions of years in spite of their decrees. This month the Full Moon occurs on the March 10th at 9:38 CDT. It is known as the Full Worm Moon as once the ground thaws we begin seeing worm castings. It is also know as the Full Sap Moon as the sap in the maple trees begins to run during this month. The Indian tribes of the northeast also knew this as the Full Crow Moon as the calling of crows signaled the end of winter. The Sioux knew this as the Moon When Buffalo Drop Their Calves, while the Ojibwe knew this as the Snow Crust Moon as the snow develops a crust from the thawing days and freezing nights. After a long winter, would imagine everything was probably a little crusty. For those who missed it, the moon was in conjunction with Venus in the western sky last Friday. Consulted with RJ, Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer, and he indicated this was indeed true.

Are you ready for it to be spring? I know I am. This has been a long one, starting the latter part of November and not showing much sign of letting up since then. Reckon one can do things to get ready like order garden seeds (already got ‘em), take naps (did that too) and work on getting the lawn mower ready (are you nuts?). Thought about shaving the beard off but would rather wait until it warms up for good. The way it’s going, I’ll look like one of those ZZ Top guys by July.

Last week’s thundersnow was an eye opener as it looked like maybe we were turning the corner and heading towards spring. Spotted a Canada goose flying north just before the well publicized storm started which seemed a little odd. The thundersnow that followed seemed equally as odd. The sudden drop in pressure, the energy the storm contained and the velocity at which it was moving made it a prime candidate for thundersnow. From an e-mail response concerning the relative frequency of thundersnow here in MN, Dr. Mark Seeley, U of M Professor and Extension Climatologist/Meteorologist indicated it doesn’t occur all that often. We experience a lower frequency of thunder and lightning during the months of December through February relative to the rest of the year. As Mark points out, according to NOAA statistics lightning and thunder has a variable frequency in February of once every 8-11 years in Minnesota. As he also points out, the sample size they’re working with is pretty small so it’s hard to be much more precise than that. I remember the first time hearing thundersnow one January night back in 1971 during a blizzard. I would’ve bet anything the Russians were bombing us.

March came in like a chilled lamb and speaking of the chilly temperatures, we still have a bottle lamb living in the garage. Oh it’s no big deal, she’s in a shavings lined dog kennel and we let her out to get some exercise after feeding, allowing her free run of the garage while we’re outside doing chores. Was puzzled though one day last week why the lamb suddenly became a little “loose” in the caboose and was emitting a strange, foul odor. She was healthy as a horse though and drank her bottle greedily just like always. Come to find out during recess one day, Mrs. Cheviot determined the lamb was getting into a pail of onions, some of which had sprouted. While we were working outside the little woolly was delighting in nibbling the nice green tops off the bulbs. We put the onions up out of reach and things have returned to normal once again. We did however change the lamb’s name to Vidalia.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/09/09, 03:02:54 PM
Oh, throw down your plow and hoe…

The scurs should be playing horseshoes as they’ve been getting close. Adjust the timing of some of the precipitation events by a few hours and they’re on the money. After some early week precip and cold midweek, this one promises to be drier and warmer. Starting Wednesday, the scurs see partly cloudy skies with a chilly high of 15 – 20 and a chillier low near 0. Clear and we see the start of a warming trend Thursday, high of 25 and low of 10. Clear Friday, high of 35 and low around 15 – 20. Saturday clear again with a high near 40 and a low of 20. Mostly sunny Sunday with a chance of rain showers. High of 45 and low of 30. Cloudy Monday with a chance of rain, high of 45 – 50 and low of 30 – 35. St. Patrick’s Day Tuesday, partly cloudy with a high around 50 with a low of 30 – 35. Normal high for March 13th is 40 and the normal low is 20. On St. Patrick’s Day we will see our day length increase to over 12 hours for the first time since last September 25th. The scurs will be consuming copious amounts of green malted barley beverages which should serve to make them even smarter.

Spring has been showing us some glimpses of what’s to come although it seems to be doing it in the old “one step forward-two steps back” fashion. Lots of folks saw robins this past week and there were plenty of other bird signs as well. Friday morning during chores there was a small flock of red-winged blackbirds in the yard. A killdeer could be heard and the rooster pheasants have started crowing and drumming on the edge of the yard again. Canada geese have been on the move since the middle of last week, with one group apparently deciding the pond might be open, due to the reflection of the moon off the water on its icy surface. In the wee hours of the morning they were sure to let everyone know about it too. Redpoll numbers at the feeders have tailed off a tad but they’re still around, especially noticeable when the temperature takes a dive or the weather turns nasty. Looks like they’re not quite ready to head back north just yet.

The ewes have taken a break from lambing just as was suspected earlier in the season. We’re stuck at about two-thirds done. Would imagine with the cooler weather forecast, that should trigger another barrage. Am guessing the rams promised to call somewhere along the line last fall but like most guys, must’ve been afraid of commitment.

Getting ready for a late Saturday afternoon nap as is my wont, got a call from a vertically challenged Swede asking me if there were any crows around the ranch. “Well, yes there are, especially in the morning. They get pretty loud.” I said. “Mind if I come over and hunt them? I’ll be there in 5 minutes.” he said. “Yeah, that’s fine.” I mumbled. Scrambled to find some appropriate shotgun shells and by the time I did he was in the driveway. He explained how it worked and set his calling mechanism up in a tree and we repaired to a spot under the spruce trees in the pasture.

There were no birds anywhere in sight but within about two minutes of his activating the call, the sky filled with cawing crows curious to see what the commotion was about. We blasted away at them but only managed to hit one as they flew off. “Well, that’ll probably do it for today.” He said. “They won’t be back as they get pretty smart pretty fast after being shot at.” He was right. We visited for a little after he put the call back in his truck and took off presumably for another site. I went in the house, ready for that nap to ward off the evil spirits resulting from Daylight Saving time. One could get used to this crow hunting I thought as I drifted off.

We’ve been working feverishly in the mornings at the Mall for Men. Our latest endeavor is reviewing restaurants, particularly those serving pie. Of course, in addition to discussing their location, we also hash over how to get to these places. We figure between coming up with a restaurant guide and an area road atlas, there should be some money to be made, at least enough to keep us in cookies and donuts for awhile.

Like a lot of local people, was taken by surprise upon hearing of Orlin Lewer’s passing last week. I could see he’d been having a rough winter a few weeks ago when he’d been in for a haircut but had no idea the end would come so quickly for him. During coffee Monday morning, it was unanimous: He was about as good as human beings get. He’d been a customer of some and served on boards with several of the members at the training table and to a man, we all agreed.

Orlin was one of the generation of farmers I’d watched retire and hand the reins over to his son and daughter-in-law. He was truly one of the nicest people I’ve ever known, always interested in what was going on in the fields and after he moved to town, what was going on in his yard and garden. Wasn’t unusual for him to call and ask about things or leave a bug or a weed with a note on them if I was out when he’d stopped by. Gotta admit, I’ll miss those wilted weeds and containers of bugs on my desk as well as the conversations that followed. Never got to say it in person so thank you Orlin.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/16/09, 03:28:07 PM
It increases my paranoia...

The scurs keep on getting close and that’s all anyone can ask. The upcoming forecast promises to bring us back to near normal temperature-wise. Starting with Wednesday, look for partly cloudy skies and a slight chance of morning drizzle. High of 50 and low of 25. Clearing Thursday and slightly cooler, high of 45 and low near 25. Partly cloudy for the first day of spring on Friday on through Saturday, highs of 45 - 50 and lows of 30 both days. Warmer Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 55 and low of 35 – 40 with a chance of showers Sunday afternoon or evening. Rain possible Monday under cloudy skies. High of 55 and low around 35. Cloudy with a chance of rain changing to freezing rain Tuesday, high of 45 and low of 30. Normal high for the first day of spring is 43 and the normal low is 23. The scurs will on the lookout for cranky chickens due to all those eggs standing on end as a result of the vernal equinox.

During the vernal equinox of course, you’re supposed to be able to balance an egg on its end with no support. This myth has long since been debunked but you still see people monkeying around with it. Hey, this sounds like a perfect project for Betts and Jody! Actually, it took me awhile to figure out as a lad how they came up with the “vernal” name for spring. Just assumed at the time it was named after the alfalfa variety “Vernal” that everyone used to sow in the spring. Did seem a little odd to name an astronomical event after a forage legume

Was a great weekend to observe the birds starting to move on through. There were waves of Canada geese, more robins, red-winged blackbirds and grackles of course. Monday morning there was even a small group of snow geese passing by the ranch to the north. There were also bluebirds Sunday just before dusk checking out the nesting box situation. Luckily most are cleaned out and ready for occupation, booting the deer mice out in a couple cases back in December. There were 4 very flashy-looking hen pheasants scooting across the yard on Thursday and on Friday, Little Jerry the rooster pheasant was gobbling down corn. Good thing because he’ll need a full tank of gas to keep up with those girls. We had a bald eagle fly over Sunday morning. There have been some in the area over the years but this one was certainly majestic, as it flew with the sunshine accentuating the brilliant white head and tail.

Cranky seems to be the buzz word when it comes to working people responding to the dreaded Daylight Saving Time. When you go out the door in the cold (it was -2 March 12th) and dark, then wake up the birds and livestock, that generally is not a positive sign, especially when you just got done doing it a month ago. The adjustment is getting a little easier due to some quality naps readers have informed me they’ve taken. Of course, if you can’t take one yourself, some of the little fat buddies will volunteer to take one for you. Just the kind of guys they are.

The longer day length is helping to ease some of the stress now we’re receiving over 12 hours of daylight, increasing daily by about 3 minutes per day. The 54 degree high on Sunday didn’t hurt either. The number of people out for walks and crotch rockets humming around greater Bugtussle and environs were signs that folks were more than ready to shed their winter garb to enjoy the weather. However, the leaves continue to cling stubbornly to the red oak in the yard. Known for his propensity for practical jokes, am convinced Al Batt may be sneaking over and super-gluing the leaves back on the tree.

Not to be paranoid but I also suspect the neighbors have been going to the sale barn and dropping off additional sheep at the ranch when we’re not looking. Every time it seems we might be making progress in the lambing barn, it appears there are more ewes left to lamb than we recall. Maybe it’s just a sign of getting old but the process is starting to be pertpetual. My best guess would be the neighbors who are selling us hay. Makes me wonder though how they’re finding all these bred Cheviot ewes and sticking our flock tags in their ears. Something fishy going on around here…

The confuser was acting up and no amount of “magic words” or idle threats seemed to be making any difference so we called in professional help. Seems it could use more memory the computer guru said, increasing the present memory from 1 GB to 4 GB. Ordered last week, it should be in and ready to be installed this week sometime. If only it were that easy on a human level. Making mistakes and cursing Bill Gates at an even faster pace than before should now be possible.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/23/09, 12:18:51 PM
Need a little work and there's fences to mend...

The scurs started out hot and heavy, ushering in spring with some very spring-like temperatures. They’re indicating some cooler temperatures and you guessed it, some chances of snow for this forecasting period however. Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a chance of rain and/or snow in the morning. High of 40 – 45 and low of 30. Partly cloudy Thursday and a chance of rain in the morning and a chance of snow in the evening. High of 40 -45 and low of 30. Partly cloudy Friday, same scenario for precip, high of 40 and low of 25. Mostly cloudy Saturday, high of 40 and a low of 25 with a chance of snow for the day. Sunday and Monday, partly cloudy, highs of 40 – 45 and lows of 25 – 30. Chance of snow Monday evening. Tuesday, cloudy, chance of rain and/or snow, high of 40 and low of 30. Normal high for March 27th is 47 and the normal low is 26. The sun will rise once again before 7 a.m., just like it did back on February 24th. The scurs will be readying the lawnmower for the onslaught of upcoming green grass.

Last Saturday was absolutely fabulous and after the winter we’ve had, one had to say we were due. With a high near 65 at the ranch, one couldn’t get out the door fast enough to enjoy it. Too bad so much of the time winds up spent working rather than taking a little time to stop and smell the roses. Between all the sticks and gravel showing up under the snow pile remnants, there will be plenty of messes to keep Mr. Cheviot busy well into April.

Did manage to get the electric fence mended then up and running again early last week. Moving more lambs out of the nursery building and into the loafing area allows them to exercise while their mothers stuff their faces. The younger lambs also follow the lead of their older playmates and head into the creep feeder. They catch on fast as the first bag of solid feed bit the dust already last Sunday. When the weather is nice, the lambs tend to come out and play. So do the spectators causing a gawker slowdown outside the ranch. It’s fine if you want to watch them but please pull in the driveway for safety’s sake.

Gus and Lucy have helped move lambs by guiding the ewes to barn. They’ve enjoyed the warm temps too although they are about like the Odd Couple. Gus does his best Oscar impression by running through the puddles at full throttle while Lucy tends to be like Felix and skirt the edges. Gus turns into a mud ball and Lucy remains relatively clean. Just the same they’re both tired out after the animals are moved and glad to take a load off after receiving their treats for a job well done.

Saturday’s warmth caused a noticeable tinge of green to show up in the pasture below the hill on the south facing slope. There was a striped gopher who had apparently decided it was time to come up and have a look around. Haven’t seen any sign yet of pocket gopher activity although am sure someone probably has if the ground had been covered by a snow bank for most of the winter. While I was sitting on the throne overlooking my kingdom Friday morning, caught a glimpse of 3 deer moving along the south fenceline before dawn. The leftover brown grass and alfalfa across the fence made them difficult to pick out save for the flick of a white tail giving away their movement.

The redpolls appear to be officially gone. Last Sunday there were nearly 100 and by Tuesday, one lone straggler was all that was left. It’s been fun to see all the visitors from the north we usually don’t see in this neck of the prairie. The goldfinches don’t seem to mind though that they’ve got the thistle and sunflower feeders all to themselves. More Canada geese arrived like waves of bombers over the early part of last week and plenty of ducks, primarily mallards and ring-necks in small flotillas gracing the pond. A great blue heron made a low altitude flyby after probing the murky shallows for morsels. The frogs haven’t been heard yet so the wetland may not have had much to offer. Pheasants can be heard crowing and drumming every morning at choretime although they’ve been kind enough to stay in the CRP thus far.

One special note for me anyway, last Saturday marked the first male cardinal we’ve ever seen at the ranch. Sure, we’ve seen a few females here and seen males other places but never at our home. Apparently some of the plantings are beginning to attract their attention, especially the red osier dogwood where we noted the redbird becomes almost impossible to pick out this time of year. He was seen picking away under the feeder late Saturday as well. Not sure if he’ll stay but it was definitely a thrill to finally see and hear one. Hopefully many more to come.

My bachelor uncle Basil passed away at the ripe-old age of 96 this past week. While his picture can be seen in the dictionary under the definition of “curmudgeon”, he lived for hunting and fishing, sharing that with the many of us nieces and nephews who he took along on his many excursions. He usually shared his grumpiness too but we got used to it. The last fishing trip my brother and I took to Cox Lake, we were busy making some last minute adjustments before putting the boat in the water. Cousin Eugene and company with then 92 year old Basil in tow happened to roll up about that time so naturally we had to visit and decide how to maneuver the vehicles in what was already a cramped access area. Basil being his usual “diplomatic” self had had about enough of our chit-chatting and bellered from the back seat of Gene’s truck, “What’s the holdup?” As we were conditioned to his grumbling we laughed it off and went about our business. After last week, no more holdups; Basil ought to be able to fish whenever he wants now.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/30/09, 11:46:55 AM
I ain’t gonna take none of your foolin’ around…

The scurs taught those blow combs a thing or two last week. No TV weather hype here in an attempt to get ratings, just an honest assessment what potentially lies ahead. This forecast period starting with Wednesday April Fools Day, partly cloudy with a slight chance of snow in the morning. High of 35 and low around 25. Thursday, partly cloudy with a chance of snow showers in the morning. High of 40 and low near 25. Partly cloudy Friday with a chance of snow in the evening. High near 40 and low around 30. Partly cloudy Saturday in the morning becoming cloudy by afternoon with an increasing chance of rain/snow. High of 40 and low of 30. Cloudy with a chance of snow Sunday forenoon, becoming partly cloudy. High 40 and low of (what else?) 30. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy, high of 40 and low of 30 with a chance of precip sneaking back into the picture by Tuesday evening. Normal high for April 3 is 51 and the normal low is 29. We continue to see Jupiter as a major feature of our morning pre-dawn sky on the eastern horizon. On the 6th of April we will experience a day length of just over 13 hours, about the same as we noted back on September 4th. The scurs will be closely watching their caller ID on Wednesday to avoid prank phone calls.

What a letdown this past week was after seeing 65 the weekend before last and then dealing with lows in the teens on Friday morning. We’ve also had to settle for days struggling to get above freezing although there has been bright sunshine and highs in the 40’s. The strong winds of the prior week coupled with the warmer temperatures did take the ice out of most of the local lakes with St. Olaf becoming ice free on March 24th and Clear Lake in Waseca following suit the following day according to Waseca SROC golfing legend TH. Suspect the T stands for “Tiger”. The cooler weather also caused some of the shallow wetlands to re-freeze. Sunday morning was watching the ducks swimming in the portion of the pond that was thawed and resting on the ice shelf after their swim.

There are some encouraging signs too. Saw a robin working along the outside of the lambing barn and went over to examine what he’d been up to. Sure enough, there was an earthworm where the snow had set so the frost must be out there. Have spotted several meadowlarks in my travels locally although none have stopped at the ranch yet. The goldfinches are making their color change. Some of them are pretty blotchy, with the yellow feathers beginning to replace the drab olive overwintering plumage. A few of the little males in our yard are nearly all yellow and their colors will only get brighter as we move into April. They’ve wasted no time establishing the yard as their territory after the redpolls left. If all of them stay, they give our leafless ashes the appearance of yellow flowering trees. The striped gopher was back out again on Saturday afternoon too. Imagine he’ll be stuffing his cheeks with the sunflower seeds the goldfinches toss under the bird feeders, judging by the clumps of sunflowers appearing in the lawn and garden.

Thursday at the Mall for Men looked like a little fat buddy convention, what with all the pickup trucks and commotion. Just our annual meeting complete with guest speakers and the first free grilled brats of the season, an annual rite of spring at the Mall. No self-respecting little fat buddy pays for meals this time of year. Some even go so far as to exchange notes at morning training sessions and write down the times in their date books so as not to miss any free food. All part of their personal economic stimulus package.

Saturday I had to get a load of hay so accomplished that in the forenoon after chores. Had warmed up enough by noon so it was time to go for a tractor ride to get a load of screenings from a very kind neighbor who graciously saves and stores them for me in his shed until needed. In order to make the trip though, the chains needed to come off the tractor first. Managed to stay just warm enough with the heat houser on with as the chilly breeze blew in my face. Was great however to see the “da ‘hood” at a blazing 14 mph. Moved several more pens of lambs out of the lambing barn Saturday early evening so chores would be more consolidated. Border collies Gus and Lucy got their workout in for the week as a result. Transferred screenings out of my wagon, cleaned it out, put it in the pasture, then backed the neighbor's wagon in after moving a bunch of junk out of the way and unloaded the hay Sunday afternoon before evening chores. Likely only one more ewe left to lamb after Sunday night. Gee, sounds like farming!

Gus and Lucy enjoyed the Lions Pancake Feed once again. When I open the car door upon my arriving home, they always put their feet on the floorboards and give me a good going over with their olfactory senses. If their tails are any indication, they love that pancake smell and their eyes get big when they see the bread wrapper full of FFE’s (Flapjack Flipping Errors) and out of code French toast. Funny thing, they never gripe or complain if the French toast is a little too dry, the pancakes are on the medium-rare side or that there’s not enough butter or syrup. Know any humans like that? These are two pretty lucky dogs and some days, they know it.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on April 04/01/09, 08:37:00 AM
Happy Birthday Dotch!!

Hope you have a good one!

 :happybday: :happybday: :happybday:

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/06/09, 11:38:54 AM
Games people play, you take it or you leave it...

Once again the scurs avoided making any rash storm predictions for the past weekend as opposed to the wild prognostications of some weather professionals. This week’s weather promises to get us back closer to normal. Starting with Wednesday and Thursday, clear to partly cloudy skies, highs of 50 and lows of 30. Clear Friday and Saturday, highs of 50 – 55 and lows around 30. Sunny on Sunday becoming partly cloudy with a chance of rain by evening, high of 55 and low around 35. Cloudy Monday and Tuesday with a chance of a rain and freezing rain changing to sleet. Highs of 40 – 45 and lows of 25 – 30. Normal high for April 10th is 55 and the normal low is 32. The scurs will be getting anxious to plant their early garden. The cottontails are beginning to look gaunt after all the cool weather.

The Full Moon for the month falls on the 9th and occurs officially at 9:56 a.m. CDT. This moon is known as the Full Pink Moon because of the wild pinks that show up in the woods this time of year. It is also known as the Full Grass Moon or the Full Egg Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Broken Snowshoe Moon and the Sioux the Moon of the Greening Grass. At the Ranch we know it as the Moon When Sticks Fall Out of the Trees, keeping Mr. Cheviot occupied when weather allows.

Seems like the old one step forward two steps back approach to spring thus far. After a gorgeous weekend two weeks ago, we sunk back into a pattern of messing with snow/rain combinations. Luckily for us, the amount of precipitation hasn’t been excessive. At the ranch we only garnered a tad over and inch of liquid equivalent for the month of March. Most of that went in the ground as there has been very little runoff in evidence. Even though the weekend snow was the consistency of frozen mashed potatoes, it didn’t amount to enough to significantly slow progress. There has been some pack manure spread in the mornings when the ground has been frozen and rumor of some anhydrous ammonia being applied here and there. Farther south prior to the snow, tool bars and anhydrous tanks were common around Ames. Given several days of 70 degree temperatures and some breezy conditions, it wouldn’t take long for field conditions to become fit for most folks.

We’re still making progress towards spring albeit slow. After moving some manure and piling it up, 4 or 5 days later one noticed the south side of the small pile was covered with weed seedlings. Pocket gophers began digging in many spots last week although one could still see signs of snow here and there on north facing slopes in areas. The western chorus frogs that Al Batt mentioned recently began their spring song on the 2nd in the pond. At bottle feeding time, one could make out the faint sound of one lone frog barely croaking but it was there. The following evening was warmer and the tiny frogs began to make themselves noticed in the yard.

Lots of juncos under the feeders this past week, apparently on their way back north to their boreal forest summer homes. Goldfinches are getting more yellow and usually by mid-April we see some of the males complete their color change from a pastel to a more vibrant yellow. Male house sparrows completed some nests in the shed a few weeks ago. Little do they know I have an extension ladder and I’m not afraid to use it. It would be fun to go back in time, find those knuckleheads who decided it was a great idea to bring them into this country, give them a pressure washer and a rag, then tell them to clean all the bird droppings off the tractors in our machine sheds.

After seeing the sleight of hand on display in the recent Star/Eagle, I feel compelled to defend myself. There were several as of yet unconfirmed UFO sightings last week although I suspect to determine why all those eggs were standing on end, one need look no further than the conspicuously placed “easy button” pictured beside the perpendicular hen fruit. Heed my advice; never play cards with the crack management staff.

The little fat buddies had some grueling sessions at the training table, grinding through an assortment of birthday cake, cake, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls and donuts this past week. Best bulk up now while they can as spring work is looming on the horizon. One of the local Bandwagon stars pictured on the front page of the Star-Eagle last week had a hand in this too, supplying the black walnuts on the cake as well as in some oatmeal raisin cookies that mysteriously appeared in my mailbox. We are fortunate as this individual also supplies fishing wisdom and knowledge. A man of few words, when asked where the fish were biting he replied coyly by pulling on his lip.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/13/09, 11:31:39 AM
And the redbird sings, I'll be blue...

The scurs dire predictions of a sleet and freezing rain event failed to materialize at ground level for Monday and Tuesday. Due to virga however, it was raining several thousand feet up. They set their sights on the upcoming forecast period, predicting improving fortunes for the greater Bugtussle and environs. Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny becoming partly cloudy by evening. High of 60 – 65 and low near 40. Thursday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy in the afternoon with a slight to moderate chance of showers. High of 60 and low of 40 – 45. Partly cloudy Friday with a slight chance of showers. High of 60 – 65 and low of 40 – 45. Saturday and Sunday, cloudy with a slight to moderate chance of rain, the best chance being Saturday evening. Highs 55- 60 and lows of 35 – 40. Monday and Tuesday, mostly cloudy with a moderate chance of rain both days. Highs 50 – 55 and lows around 35. The normal high for April 17th is 58 and the normal low is 35. Sunrise will occur at 6:30 a.m. on the 15th and will set at 8 p.m. on the 17th. We’re adding day length at roughly 3 minutes per day. The scurs will be buying a Jersey cow so they can make creamed peas, onions and potatoes.

Was a dry week and allowed field work to commence for another spring season. Am impressed with the amount of restraint most have shown however when it comes to planting corn. Perhaps the Federal Crop Insurance date of the 11th had something to do with it although would suspect average soil temperatures in the mid-30’s at the 2” depth and the calendar date were determining factors. All bets are off this week however. There has been a nice window for anhydrous ammonia application as well as application of pre-emergent herbicides. Small grain seeding was accomplished and along with an accompanying forage crop in some cases. Great timing for this as the fields are firm and worked up beautifully. There is apparently some frost in areas however as evidenced by local tiling lore. Even with the warmer temperatures, the soils are generally still cold and slow growth from weeds such early emergers as lambsquarters and giant ragweed bears that out.

In the garden things are starting to come to life. Checking the patch on the south slope, the rhubarb planted last spring is rubbing the sleep from its eyes and should pop some leaves out this week. There are some volunteer bachelor’s buttons so the pine siskins must not have eaten all the leftover seeds. Didn’t get the potatoes in the ground on Good Friday but unless this week is a total washout, there appears to be ample time. That and I failed to make the trip to Edna’s for the onions last week. The tiller needs an oil change yet and a giving the plot a dosage with a few skid loader buckets of composted sheep manure first probably wouldn’t hurt.

Bird-wise some notables include the return of the tree swallows to the ranch on April 11th along with some Eastern phoebes. The phoebes found something to their liking in the grass as they’d perch and pounce, devour whatever it was and repeat, their tail flicking the entire time. A brown creeper has been surveying the ash and maples closely each morning. Auntie Mar Mar and Mrs. Cheviot spied the male cardinal again on Easter Sunday as he made a brief appearance in the crabapple tree. Always love to see the redbird.

Was a sad day last week when I received a voice mail Tuesday morning saying my favorite radio personality has passed away the night before. I’m referring of course to Steve Cannon, whose booming voice and radio program graced the airwaves, emanating from ‘CCO’s basement studio for several decades. His program, talent and verbiage has influenced many including myself lo these many years. Reminiscing with several other Cannon fans this past week, there was a common denominator among us: We all tried to make a special effort to be by a radio, whether it was in a combine, tractor, truck or the office no later than 3:07 p.m. to tune in those barking dogs. Steve-O’s theme song (What do you mean you lost your dog?) was just the beginning before introducing the engineer, saying that he would not be adequate.

The Little Cannon’s of course were the hallmark of every show, whether it was Morgan Mundane talking sports along with his prognostications, Ma Linger talking about her little black dress and girlish figure or socialite Backlash LaRue keeping Cannon abreast of the local happenings. It took me several years as a lad to figure out that he was doing these voices himself. Wasn’t alone apparently as Cannon fooled lots of people including the likes of Calvin Griffith. The schtick was the same every day but we all listened and learned all kinds of things about being Minnesotans.

There was Point of Pancake (Point of Law) with Charlie Boone, interviews with Bill Dull (Diehl) as well as with the ink stained wretch, the oracle Sid Hartman, with lots of “Hi gang!”, “Oh yah!” and “Yethir!” mixed in along the way as Cannon moved through his Cannon Mess and all the commercials. There was always the weather with Mike Lunch (Lynch) talking about the “blow combs” on TV weather, the Crack Management Staff, the computer system Cannon apparently was not fond of he nicknamed “Terrible Tone” as well as his reference to ‘CCO as “The Evil Neighbor”, a takeoff on the “Good Neighbor” they fancied themselves to be. Cannon always called his wife “Nanook” making one wonder if he was really married to an Eskimo.

He must’ve loved to play games with people’s minds as we were convinced that he was going to use the ‘CCO cough button so no one had to listen to him coughing up phlegm. This was normally when Cannon claimed to have contracted “The Alien” and of course he’d hack and cough loudly so everyone would hear it. He frequently referred to Hurley’s Hanging Garden’s up Nordeast way. Always figured it was in Northeast Minneapolis somewhere but never did find it. (it didn’t really exist but lots of us thought it did). Every day, after the music to end the show was done, his signature sin-off was always, “I got the money”.

As Cannon used to say after playing his favorite college fight song “Fight on for Ol’”, as performed by the Eveleth City Band with genial Emil Stern wielding the baton, he always got a crick in the knee, a frog in the throat and a tear in the eye. That’s the way I felt when hearing of Cannon’s passing. Steve Cannon truly was the King of the Kilohertz, the Prince of the Airwaves.


See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/20/09, 02:06:17 PM
And go get yourself some cheap sunglasses...

The scurs were close and that’s all that counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and weather forecasting. Will we get rolling in the field once again? Very likely after last weekends showers. Starting Wednesday and Thursday, a couple carbon copies under mostly clear skies. Highs of 70 – 75 and lows of 45 – 50. Partly cloudy Friday, a high of 70 and a low of 45 – 50 with a slight chance of some overnight showers. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy with an increasing chance of showers, highs of 65 – 70 and lows of 45 – 50. Monday and Tuesday, mostly cloudy with a chance rain late Monday lasting into Tuesday afternoon. Highs both day around 60 and lows of 40 – 45. Normal high for April 24th is 62 and the normal low is 37. The scurs are trying to decide if they should sharpen their lawnmower blades or rustle some sheep for the onslaught that is the lawn mowing season.

Speaking of the lawn mowing season, wasn’t it incredible to see the green-up in area lawns and pastures overnight following last Saturday’s rain? The rain was welcomed by most although some were disappointed they couldn’t finish their corn planting. Perhaps the calendar should be consulted before bringing corn back and swapping it for beans just yet. Nice to see it rain as it has done so grudgingly to this point. Hard to blame people for planting as much as they did though. Soil conditions have been nearly ideal and soil temperatures at the 2” depth were above the magical 50 degree mark most of last week. Just a guesstimate in the area, probably 20 – 25% of the corn has been planted around Bugtussle. As one gets towards Mayberry, the town directly east on Hwy. 30, progress is not as rapid.

Lots of early gardening progress reported as well although it’s simply too early for most things like tomatoes, cucumbers and squash unless you really enjoy covering them when the forecast pulls the usual surprises typical of late April and early May weather. It was a good weekend at the ranch to get things whipped into shape for another action packed season of lawn mowing and gardening. All the limbs from the apple tree pruning were cleaned up, the tree wrap taken off, the crushed rock put back on the driveway where it came from and the skeletons of last year’s garden were removed, awakening the little native pink spotted ladybugs from their slumber. Could’ve burned the debris but would rather keep the little six-legged aphid eaters around awhile. Just stockpiled the residue until it warms up sufficiently to allow them to stroll around the grounds until they feel at home. On the north side of the house under one clump of sod, a large chunk of ice was discovered. Was suddenly glad I hadn’t decided to rush into the garden just for the sake of getting something planted. Still lots of time.

The latest arrival in the yard is one of the sweetest singers. The chipping sparrows have set up shop for the season and were only too glad to see Mrs. Cheviot brushing the loose hair out of Gus. His fur is prized by many of the area birds as nest construction material. There was a male bluebird through the yard again on Saturday but it didn’t stick around. Still need to reposition a couple of the nesting boxes the tree swallows haven’t staked a claim to just yet. There is still time although the sooner the better. There was a thrush, either a gray-cheeked or Swainson’s judging by the size under the spruce trees while I was moving some brush to the pile. Wasn’t there long enough to get a good ID but it was not one of the usual suspects.

Area ponds including ours have erupted with chorus frogs. Last Friday night when it was warm, decided it would be a great idea to open the bedroom window to let in some fresh air and allow the frogs to lull me to sleep. That they did; the thousands of amphibians in the basin are truly Mother Nature’s little white-noise machines. However, along about 3:30 a.m., my deep slumber was disturbed by something. In my half-awakened state, I couldn’t figure out what the racket was. Once the cobwebs cleared, the honking of a giant Canada goose from the pond was all I needed to close the window and drift off to sleep once again.

Was with great trepidation and reluctance I finally scraped the underbrush off my face. Truth be known, it actually got to the point last week where it was too warm. Of course, the weather naturally became much cooler following that making me long to be a furbearer once again. However, one doesn’t want to be known as heap big paleface either by waiting too much longer. One thing about it, it’ll grow back and if the scurs call the winter like they did last fall, it will likely reappear albeit in more grizzled form. Now what to do about my blonde minivan driving wig? Maybe accessorize with a pair of cheap sunglasses and one of those big, clunky purses.

Oh and Mar-Mar, lest you think you’ve been spared, will be down some rainy weekend for a Clint Eastwood film festival and to do my best icemaker impression. The mystery guy with no teeth? Put this question to the panel of experts here at the Mall for Men. The consensus: It was Jim Morrison. He faked his death you know. Bet his hair was long and gray and he was wearing the same leather pants he wore in 1970. See? The little fat buddies will stoop to just about any level to get raisin bars.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/27/09, 12:20:49 PM
Rainy day people always seem to know when you’re feeling blue…

The scurs scored another bull’s-eye with their last forecast and we received some much needed rain. What’s in store for this edition? Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy by evening with an increasing chance of showers over the course of the day. High of 65 and low of 45. Cloudy Thursday with showers likely. High of 65 and low of 45. Cooler Friday May 1 with a chance of lingering showers. High of 55 and low dropping to 35. Saturday, clear. High of 60 and low around 40. Partly cloudy Sunday becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. High near 60 and low around 45. Cloudy Monday with a chance of showers. High of 60 and low of 45. Tuesday, Cinco de Mayo, cloudy with another chance of showers by evening. High of 60 and low of 45. The sun will rise at 6 a.m. on that day in Bugtussle. The scurs will be scouring the neighborhood, looking to cash in on unattended May Baskets. Chocolate Easter bunnies are long gone.

Wild week weather-wise, seeing highs climb well into the 80’s and lows down near freezing. This is why we live here however. Give the weather time and there will be something to complain about and someone to complain about it. Showers overnight on the 25th knocked planters out of the field once again. Weekend showers probably sealed the deal for much of the week with little in the way of drying weather in the forecast. Still, roughly 80 – 85% of the corn in greater Bugtussle has been planted. So far so good. Sprouts appear normal and emergence should be occurring even on fields planted by some heathens on Easter Sunday. We may be glad we have the moisture come the end of July or early August when we’ve tended to be a little short. And with the size of the equipment, one can make up lost ground pretty rapidly. It is amazing how planting equipment has expanded since my arrival some 25 years ago. 8 row planters were the norm and if someone had a 12 row they were big stuff. Now, if you aren’t going back and forth with at least 16 rows, some might consider you a hobby farmer.

Tree swallows continue their indecision in picking a nesting box. Am thinking these must all be female as they can’t make up their minds. A pair of Canada geese have had no such difficulty in making the pond their nesting territory. A barn swallow was the latest new arrival on the 24th. No evidence it stayed but at the ranch as with most other small farm operations, one just takes the little bug eaters for granted until suddenly they’re gone in the fall. Did hang up feeders for the orioles and hummingbirds on the odd chance that one or both species might show up. The only thing that showed up though was a lot of wind that proceeded to empty to hummingbird feeder within a matter of a few hours.

Last week I said there was plenty of time to get the early garden crops in. Well, there was until Thursday when warm temperatures caused my farming hormones to kick into overdrive. The rain in the forecast might’ve had something to do with it also. Composted manure was applied, ground was worked and potatoes, radishes, onions, snap peas as well as a new crimson red rhubarb plant all went in the ground in a matter of a few hours. To go along with that, a Mt. Royal plum and a Honeycrisp apple tree were added to the fruit tree arsenal here at the ranch.

Speaking of apples, there may be no honor among thieves but there obviously is among little fat buddies. Recently loaned the pride of my farm equipment fleet, namely the manure spreader to one of our senior members to clean up several loads of road apples. Upon bringing it back he looked a little sheepish and explained that on the way back to the ranch, the jack stand hadn’t latched completely. The foot on the bottom had been ground down pretty well on the asphalt and he vowed to get it repaired at MacGyver’s. A couple days later, the jack stand had been repaired and reinstalled. Just watch, will probably tear it completely off the next time I use it.

Letters, we get letters. A. P. from Owatonna writes that I was mistaken about not being able to stand eggs on end during the precise time of the vernal equinox. Ah, but if one reads closely, notice I never said they couldn’t be stood on end, only that the myth had been debunked. The plot thickens. I have it on good authority that the eggs used in the recent NHREG Star-Eagle photo were fertile. Would be mighty curious to see just what hatches out of them. This may explain why Betts and Jody have been taking turns after hours exercising a rooster and a setting hen on a leash in the alley behind the office. With Reed making amazing progress developing nuclear cold-fusion in the basement, there is no telling what is going on around there at any given moment. I must apologize for being unavailable when numerous attempts have been made to contact me at the Star-Eagle office. The dimly lit tool shed out back from hence this column emanates has only telegraph service. It’s slow too. Guess what? The Civil War is over! A.P.: Appreciate your reading and thanks for the nice handwritten letter that arrived by Pony Express the other day.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/04/09, 10:34:54 AM
Upon us all a little rain must fall...It's just a little rain...

The scurs were in the proximity last time around and that’s all anyone can ask when forecasting a week at a time. How close will they be predicting no washouts but chances of rain most days. We shall see. Starting Wednesday, cloudy skies with a fair chance of rain. High of 70 and low of 50. Partly cloudy becoming cloudy Thursday with a moderate chance of rain. High of 70 and low around 50. Mostly cloudy Friday and Saturday and a tad cooler with a slight chance of showers. High of 65 and low near 45. Sunday, partly cloudy, fair chance of showers. High around 65 and low of 45. Partly cloudy Monday, high near 65 and low around 50. Mostly cloudy Tuesday, with a good chance of rain. High of 65 and low of 45. Normal high for May 8th is 68 and the normal low is 43. The scurs are relaxing in the hammock following a long weekend of lawn mowing.

The Full Moon for the month of May falls on the 8th at 11:01 p.m. This is known as the Full Flower Moon or the Corn Planting Moon. The Ojibwe called this the Blossom Moon and the Sioux knew it as the Moon When the Ponies Shed. This is known at the ranch as the Moon When Border Collies Shed although that seems to be perpetual. The nest building birds don’t seem to mind or Gus and Lucy for that matter as wads of hair the size of tumbleweeds roll out of the garage when the door is opened.

Field activity in and around Greater Bugtussle was slowed as the cooler temperatures last week were stubborn about allowing the fields dry enough so planting could commence once again. By Friday afternoon though, breezes blew and by late Friday and early Saturday, planters were rolling. Corn is virtually all in the ground and soybean planting is probably around the halfway mark as of this writing. As fast as soybeans go in, given some good weather between now and press time, that amount could be higher. There are some fields with corn starting to spike through and seedling health thus far looks good. Small grain fields look fantastic as this has been an ideal spring thus far for cool season crops.

Speaking of cool season crops, the early garden stuff is coming along nicely. The radishes started to emerge April 30th, exactly one week after they were planted. The onion sets are also poking through although the peas have yet to make an appearance. The rhubarb that was a little ping-pong ball sized mass of wrapped up leaves just a few weeks ago is now about 18” in diameter. Mrs. Cheviot assures me that it is just about ready to eat. May have to tap into the oriole and hummingbird sugar stocks to make some pie or sauce soon.

Lots of bird activity as the migrants continue to move on through and some of the residents are returning and setting up shop for the summer. Notable among the migrants have been a male rose-breasted grosbeak and a white-throated sparrow. The barn swallows are here to stay as are the brown thrashers who still impress me with their Jimmy Page-like musical skills. On the pond, 3 egrets were wading the shallows in the bright morning sunshine. There are several nesting pairs of ducks too. Counted 3 pair of blue-winged teal, 1 pair of mallards and a pair of Canada geese. There has been something working in the wood duck house too but haven’t been able to determine what so far. Almost all the cedar chips have been tossed out of the nesting box and it’s down to the cedar shavings in the bottom. Curious to know who’s been responsible for all the housecleaning. Still no oriole’s yet the same as one other loyal observer but saw one of the house finches was drinking out of the nectar feeder the other day. As active as they are, they probably don’t need a sugar high.

Grilling burgers Sunday night just before sundown, was amusing to hear the rooster pheasants scattered across the still landscape crowing before their bedtime. Little Jerry has made his presence known during the day too, checking out the corn feeder stationed in what’s left of the sumac and plum thicket after the highway dept. go done with it. He wasn’t impressed and neither was I. Fortunately for him, he was the recipient of all the ears from the food plot. No sense in attracting large numbers of striped gophers to the garden when Jerry needs to keep his strength up. Much handier to shoot the gophers out the window that way too.

Around the yard, buds are popping and this week should display a lot of spring flowering across the countryside. The flowering crabs are ready to burst into bloom as soon as the wild plums are done. Our apples survived the severe pruning they received and are leafing out. This is their “on” year at the ranch so will be interesting to see how the apples are affected. The nannyberries in the yard and fencelines are loaded with buds as are the serviceberries. Thanks to Eric at the Steele Co. SWCD was able to get my chokeberries planted the same day they came in. They only received a little over a quarter-inch of rain though so watered them thoroughly over the weekend by hooking every available garden hose we had together. Hopefully Edna will have a sale soon. Another 5 or 6 hundred feet of hose and we could probably fill the pond when it gets low in July and August.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/11/09, 11:01:02 AM
I have a bird that whistles, and I have birds that sing.

The scurs have been on fire as of late and not because they’ve been playing with matches. With that degree of accuracy, one would think they’d be on their own private island somewhere in the Caribbean. Alas, they must forecast another week’s worth of potentially wet weather first. Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy becoming partly cloudy with a good chance of rain in the forenoon hours. High of 70 and low near 50. Thursday, partly cloudy, no rain expected. High around 65 and low of 45. Partly cloudy Friday with rain potential increasing by evening. High of 75 and low around 55. Mostly cloudy Saturday with a good chance of rain in the overnight. Expected high of 70 and low of 50. Slight chance of rain under mostly cloudy skies Sunday. High of 70 and low of 50. Partly cloudy Monday and Tuesday with a slight chance of rain Monday a.m. and a better chance Tuesday evening. Highs around 70 and lows near 50. Normal high for May 15th is 71 and the normal low is 46. After Monday morning’s frost, the scurs are keeping their tender vegetation inside a tad longer.

Some progress in the fields although it has been slow going over much of Greater Bugtussle, particularly in areas receiving sudden downpours. Some areas east of Otisco received over 2” in a matter of 45 minutes or less. Corn is slowly emerging and is showing the effects from the lack of sunshine and cool temperatures. Pale color is the norm thus far. Some soybeans have emerged and as of this writing, it remains to be seen how some of them have handled the cool Sunday overnight lows. Small grain continues to look beautiful as do the pea fields at this point. Weeds are beginning to show in the small grain and it will soon be time for control measures where applicable.

In the garden, lots of things starting to show up finally and like the corn and soybeans, it’s been slow coming. Snap peas are emerging as are the potatoes and Indian corn. Some spotty areas in the rows of peas and corn however and upon further investigation, appears the culprits are seed corn maggots. There were lots of small flies buzzing around the freshly turned earth the day they were planted so it should come as no surprise. Also shouldn’t be surprising that there are a few wireworms in the mix. Having torn up some sod a few years back where the garden is makes it suspect for that pest as well. Since the wireworm can live in the soil up to 7 years as larva, it could be awhile before they’re out of the system. The adult wireworm of course is none other than the click beetle. As a lad, would place the beetles on their backs, watch them click their head capsule and do a flip to right themselves again. You see, we were poor and didn’t have many toys.

The Dubya’s weaned calves last week and it was a little noisy for a couple days. Not too long and all is forgotten however. The same program is coming at the ranch with the ewes and lambs soon. Some of the lambs are big enough so they almost lift the ewes off the ground when they nurse. The ewes are getting fatter and more aggressive every day, attempting to make my knees bend in directions they were not intended to while trying to get at the feed. Feed isn’t cheap while grass is plentiful and lush. Doesn’t bother me in the least to torment the ewes by weaning the youngsters after putting up with that nonsense.

Great week to observe the birds as they return for the summer and migrate on northward to their summer homes. Spotted the first oriole on Tuesday and he was later joined by a couple other males. Was curious if they’d stay and Wednesday morning after wondering if someone had lobbed an orange up in the tree it turned out to be the oriole singing away. Have seen at least 3 different males so far. The grosbeak is still around, whistling shyly before bellying up to the sunflower feeder. The white-throated sparrow is still here too and was joined on Sunday by a couple Harris sparrows. No white-crowned sparrow yet but there’s still time. There was even a lone pine siskin one Friday. Not sure where the rest of his pals were but most likely a long way north of here. The first house wren was singing on Friday and the first ruby-throated hummingbird was at the nectar feeder on Saturday morning. Summer can officially start now that they’re all back.

The pond area is still noisy at night, especially on the warmer evenings. In addition to the chorus frogs, the toads are extremely vocal, with their near constant trilling in contrast to the frogs thumb on a comb-like chirping. There were numerous toads spotted in the yard during the first lawn mowing. It wouldn’t be surprising if some of them were heading to the pond to do what toads and frogs do this time of year: Sing!

The little fat buddies had cause for celebration last week upon reading news in the Star-Eagle of the bakery being slated to reopen this fall. The possibility of light rail from the Mall for Men to the bakery has been discussed. So far it’s been slow going especially since there have been lots of treats (pie, cookies, chocolate donuts) amongst the several rain delays. Since tax dollars are short, car pooling may have to suffice for now.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/18/09, 11:56:01 AM
You gotta roll, roll, roll, You gotta thrill my soul, all right

The scurs hit a snag last week with temps cooler and lesser rainfall than was anticipated. This forecast period includes some warmth and not a moment too soon. Starting Wednesday, high of 80 – 85 and lows around 55 under partly cloudy skies. Moderate chance for rain in the overnight hours. Partly cloudy and cooler Thursday, with a moderate chance of showers. High near 70 and low of 55. Partly cloudy Friday through Sunday with highs of 70 and lows of 45 – 50. Warming up on Monday, partly cloudy, high of 75 and low of 60. Warmer still Tuesday, partly cloudy with a high around 80 and a low near 60. Normal high for May 22nd is 74 and the normal low is 48. On the 23rd, we will see just over 15 hours of daylight, the first time since late July last year. The scurs will be spending Memorial Day at their secret hideaway, not far from my hovel only minutes away from beautiful downtown Zerkel.

Area farmers are putting the final touches on soybean planting. Most was completed this past week and weekend as the promised showers turned out to be less than expected. The frost early in the week singed some corn here and there while the early planted soybeans weren’t generally emerged enough to have taken much of a hit. Crop progress was slow however as temperatures were cool and few GDU’s were accumulated. Small grains and peas continue to look fabulous as this has been their kind of weather, namely cool and on the drier side. In places like IL, corn planting progress has been an ongoing battle with each weather system seemingly targeting that state’s corn growing areas. At this point we have been very fortunate. As the old saying goes, it doesn’t grow in the bag.

Lots of questions about the big rollers seen going across area fields. They are used to smooth the field surface and smoosh the rocks and corn root balls into it so the combine doesn’t pick them up. It’s also very helpful in the fluffy peat soils to take some of that fluff out of it so one doesn’t sink to China when planting. Cost effective? Hard to put a dollar figure on it. There are lots of opinions on the operation but it’s hard to argue with the clean sample of soybeans that results, not to mention the reduction in wear and tear on the combine.

It’ll soon be time to put the rest of the garden in. Can’t wait for the first cucumbers and tomatoes but after seeing the frost this past week, will have to pay attention so there actually are vegetables to be harvested. As in the fields, the garden has been slow too. Lack of heat equals slow growth. Sheltered areas make a difference of course and gardening in town is a whole different ballgame as opposed to coaxing seed out of the ground on the wide open spaces of the prairie. Wind never stops blowing seems like.

Birds continue to move on through or assume their position in the overall scheme of things. Finally saw the white-crowned sparrow although it wasn’t in our yard, it was down near Lonergan Lake. The little cliff swallows are back under the area bridges. Chimney swifts are commonplace in town now and the bobolinks have shown up in the CRP, another sure sign that summer will be here to stay soon. There has been a male red-bellied woodpecker at the corn and sunflower feeders. Odd because for the past many years all we have seen is females. 4 male orioles were disputing the ownership of the nectar feeder one afternoon and by the weekend, there was one who seems to have signed on as our resident songster. The common yellowthroats are busy with their little witchity, witchity, witchity, call. Eastern bluebirds have not stayed here at the ranch, yet, although it appears there is at least one nesting pair at the kindly neighbors pasture thus far. Does a soul wonders just to see and hear them.

Speaking of the kindly neighbors pasture, following the appearance of the Hay Fairy, it was time for the annual ritual of getting the fence back in order. Always a treat to go for a stroll along the fence and put the insulators back on the posts where winter’s ravages pulled them down. While I’m at it, there are bluebird houses to tend along the way or take down and repair. All this so after hauling the freshly weaned ewes over to capitalize on the high quality grass to be consumed there, they stay in where they belong. And as one might expect, the din from the bellering ewes and lambs can be almost deafening. Hauling some of them to the neighbors certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to cutting down on the noise factor. In the immortal words of Mr. Rogers, it’s nice to share.

Luckily for me there were ample opportunities to regain my strength after all the weekend toils. The Lutheran church in Geneva had their annual meatball feed. Always very good but I missed the Jell-O salad again this year. Wonder what they did with it? I mean a Lutheran church without Jell-O of some kind? Always thought there was something in the bylaws of the church concerning Jell-O. Lest I incur the wrath of the church basement ladies, there were plenty of good things to eat; the meatballs and pie were exceptional. Then, following an afternoon of hauling sheep then mowing and choring for the day, celebrated one of our 4-H kids graduating from vet tech school at her folks place. Lots of great vittles once again and was encouraged to eat more. Most importantly, great to see Alyssa going on to a successful career doing something she appears to love.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/23/09, 12:14:58 PM
Walked out this morning, Don’t believe what I saw…

Egads! The scurs performance was almost as dismal as last week’s Twins losing streak. Something tells me they’ll come out swinging though and hit for the cycle. For those readers who absolutely need to know Wednesday’s weather, look for partly cloudy skies with a high of 70 and a low of 55. Warming up on Thursday and Friday, clear, highs of 75 – 80 and overnight lows of 55. Cloudy on Saturday with a good chance of much needed rain. High of 75 and low of 50. Partly cloudy Sunday, high near 70 and low of 50. Monday June 1st, partly cloudy, 75 for a high with a low of 55. Tuesday, partly cloudy, high around 80 and low of 60. Normal high for June 1st is 77 and the normal low is 52. We’re still gaining a little more than a minute of day length each day, the rate of gain slowing each day as we approach the summer solstice. The scurs will be picking up their lawn chairs at the neighbors a mile up the road after last week’s winds.

What a week in weather contrasts! We start off with a low of 33 on the 17th in Waseca and end up with a high of 97 there and 99 in Owatonna on the 19th. By now most residents of Bugtussle should have all the corn stalks picked up that were blown into town due to the strong winds on Wednesday. Sustained winds were running in the 30 – 40 m.p.h. range, with gusts clocked at over 50 at the Waseca airport. While not a pleasant task to clean up, better than the soil that would have been blowing had that residue not been on the surface of area fields. One has only to look in the road ditch near fields that were in peas last year. The amount of topsoil in them conjures up images of the Dust Bowl. Kudos to farmers who did their best to try to stop some of that wind erosion by rotary hoeing or dragging. Your successful efforts were duly noted.

It’s that time of year once again where I take one for the team. My esteemed colleague and one time philatelist told me it would be nice if I got my column done a little early with the Memorial Day holiday and all. So, armed with a strong cup of hot coffee from our re-gifted one at a time coffee maker, lots of balm in case I spill, and some Dylan and Neil Young on the record player, set course for another adventure in literary magnificence. Man, that’s some strong coffee!

Actually, it’s a gray, drippy Saturday forenoon and with tunes calming the nerves, it’s relaxing to reflect on the week. My mind wanders while watching the house wrens drinking big water droplets off the maple leaves outside the window as the fox squirrel (looks like Tubby) leaps from branch to branch, being dive bombed by the robins and grackles. Saw the first baby robins of the season on the morning of the 20th. Almost flew right into my head while making my way to the barn and Dad was right there to defend him/her. I must have a big head. At least I was a good “breaker-upper” I thought to myself, as I gazed at the map to the barn my pal Jonny had drawn for Mrs. Cheviot, and kept moving as there were “chorse” to do.

Later that day while grilling brats, was scolded severely by an olive-colored oriole appearing bird at the jelly feeder. Looking at the Sibley’s guide, determined it was a first summer orchard oriole. A feisty young lad too, chasing the Baltimore race Northern oriole off so he could have the grape jelly all to himself. Finally broke down and purchased a jelly feeder as the constant wind empties the nectar feeders on a regular basis. Took all of about 10 seconds after putting it out for the orioles to find the feeder and begin dining. Just like opening a box of donuts at the Mall for Men and watching the little fat buddies come out of the woodwork.

With any luck the remainder of the garden should’ve gone in over the weekend. If it didn’t, not to worry with Memorial Day being as early as it was this year. Memories linger though of the Memorial Day snowfall in ’92 followed by the Father’s Day frost that year. Freshly cultivated corn got torched. Then of course there was ’93 where our summer temperatures were about the same as those experienced normally in central Canada. Our tomatoes never did get ripe that year. Oh well, that was a long time ago, and there have certainly been lots of great growing seasons since then. Thanks to my squash loving buddy, the vine transplants are ready to go. Now if it stops dripping, gardening should commence. Maybe after finishing my coffee and a little lunch…

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/01/09, 05:16:53 PM
Strawberry fields forever...

The scurs have been faltering as of late, with rain falling on days it isn’t supposed to and none falling when it should. Sounds like Murphy’s Law is in full force. This week’s attempted forecast is as follows: Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy, high of 70 and low of 45 - 50. Clear on Thursday, high of 75 and low of 50 with a slight chance of an evening shower. Cooler Friday, high of 65 and low of 50 with slight chance of a daytime shower. Partly cloudy Saturday with a slight chance of showers. High near 70 and low of 50. Slight chance of showers continuing into Sunday, high of 70 and low of 45 – 50. Partly sunny on Monday with a high of 70 and a low of 50 – 55. Slightly warmer under partly cloudy skies on Tuesday, high near 75 and low around 60 with a slight chance of a passing shower. Normal June 5th high is 78 and the normal low is 53. We will only gain roughly 8 more minutes of daylight before the Summer Solstice. The scurs will be savoring these long days napping in the hammock, knowing that by the 26th, they will become one minute shorter.

The Full Moon for the month will occur on the 7th. It is commonly known as the Full Strawberry Moon and is generally agreed upon, even by the Ojibwe and the Sioux who didn’t agree on a lot of things. The name truly fits as the strawberry is primarily in season locally for the month of June. Many of the delectable berries are consumed during the month, making them hard to resist. June is also known as Dairy Month. Strawberries and whipped cream made from fresh Jersey cream were a favorite treat growing up. Few things better!

We’re into the month of June although the temperatures have been somewhat reluctant to give us much in the above normal category. This may be a blessing in disguise however. We seem to be stuck in a pattern lacking an abundance of convective type storms. Oh sure, we’ve been getting a few tenths here and there but haven’t had much in the form of soaking thunderstorms. Since we are just getting by on moisture, probably better to have it a little on the cooler side at this point as opposed to consistently warm temps with high winds. We seem to have plenty of wind regardless.

The crop continues to progress although with the cooler temps, it’s not moving as fast as it might. That’s OK too. There’s no law that says we need to be done harvest by October 1st. After being yellow to start, corn has made that transformation to the nice dark green we’ve all come to expect. Soybeans have emerged, some of them without the benefit of rain so some fields are a little uneven. Small grains and peas are loving this weather. Cool and dry suits them just fine. Some 1st cutting alfalfa has been harvested along with the dandelions in some cases.

Still, it is June. How do we know? The June bugs began showing up in the water tank shortly after seeing them in the soil when working the soil for the garden. They’ve also made their way into the garage and bounce off the screens on the windows, especially when the lights are on in the evening hours. The lilacs are on their way out although their fragrance was powerful the last week in May, wasn’t it? A warbling vireo has added its song to the tunes being sung in the yard at the ranch. The garden neared completion as the transplants all made it into the ground, as well as the beans, beets, sunflowers and early planting of sweet corn. The ground certainly worked up beautifully, just like a garden!

Even with the dry weather the lawns continue to grow. Gus and Lucy went into sensory overload when unloading the 4 wheeler and loading the lawnmower Memorial Day morning to head to Spring Valley to give Mom an assist. Upon returning later that day they got all wound up when the swap was made again. Can always tell when Gus is around. When the lawnmower is started, you suddenly feel something pulling on it, not unlike a sunfish tugging on an angleworm. In this case it’s just Gus, the black and white tire biter.

Made several graduations over the weekend. Got the opportunity to drive my favorite white mini-van once again. Needed to go to Owatonna to Sunday morning to get some supplies and gazed at the non-functional fuel gauge then at the mileage on the trip meter I use to measure miles between fill-ups, noting that there were over 500 miles on it. Normally the little low fuel icon shows up on the dash before needing to hit the panic button anyway so not to worry. With that many miles on the meter, Mrs. Cheviot must’ve put some fuel on while she was driving it this week I thought to myself, pulling up to the store where you go to the bathroom in the silo with the orange roof on it.

After making some purchases, made my way home and hammered on the garden, mowed the windbreak, then did chores. Got cleaned up to go to the graduation, put my driving wig on and hopped in the van, pleased with my day’s accomplishments. About half a mile south of town, the van suddenly began to lose speed and along with it came the sinking feeling of knowing you’re going in. Did manage to make it to the gravel road and pulled off to the side.

Through the miracle of technology, made a cell phone call to Mrs. Cheviot who happened to be working at the graduation just up the road. She needed a break and came to get me. Given my inquisitive nature, I asked if she had put any gas in the van after driving it this past week. The reply was “no” and “the gas gauge doesn’t work but the little orange light should come on if it’s low on gas”. Three things went through my mind as we headed home to retrieve a gas can: (1) The little orange light must not work anymore, (2) No wonder GM went broke and (3) They must not sell gas in Albert Lea.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/08/09, 11:51:59 AM
His brain is squirmin' like a toad...(again)

The scurs tracked the rain over the weekend and not a moment too soon. What’s in store for this forecast period? The scurs are saying “seasonal”. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy skies, high of 65 – 70 and low around 50. Slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy Thursday and Friday, highs of 75 with lows around 50 – 55. Starting out partly cloudy Saturday becoming mostly cloudy. High of 75 and low of 55 with a moderate chance of rain Saturday night. Sunday, mostly cloudy with a chance of lingering showers. Highs of 75 – 80 and low near 60. Look for a humid Monday under partly cloudy skies. High of 75, low of 55 – 60. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy Tuesday with a good chance of rain. High of 75 – 80 and a low near 55. Normal high for June 12th is 80 and the normal low is 55. The scurs will be sharpening their mower blades in anticipation of massive lawn growth.

If one listens to the Twin Cities TV weather blow combs, one would swear we were in the middle of a Great Depression era drought. Perhaps they were; only time will tell. This is part of the reason I generally ignore what they have to say about the weather. MN cuts off at about Lakeville to the south and extends from there to the Canadian border. For the time being in SC MN however, while we have been dry, we are a long way from any record dry conditions. In fact, looking at the past week’s release from the SROC in Waseca, this past May ranked only the 16th driest on record and as recently as 2002 May was actually drier. If one looks at the weather data recorded at the ranch, we received slightly more rain than they did at Waseca, 2.32” vs. 1.9”. Anyone who knows the weather here in MN knows that it can change rapidly and without notice so fretting about it is wasted time. As for our crop development, yes we’re a little behind what we might expect based on date of planting. However, we’re far ahead of areas to our south and east where they struggled to just complete planting. The rains from the weekend were just what the doctor ordered with nearly as much rainfall being recorded as we accumulated for the whole month of May depending on location.

Out and about this past week in the fields one ran across in several locations newly hatched baby killdeers. These are some comical looking little birds, looking like striped, fuzzy ping pong balls on stilts. They can run too, not as fast as the parents trying to lure you away by dragging a wing, but definitely quick enough to get out of trouble in a hurry. The baby robins finally left the nest in the garden, leaving me with more solitude and less scolding when getting close to their arborvitae. They’re around the yard yet, trying to adjust to their vocal chords like junior high school boys. Little Jerry the rooster pheasant was in the corner of the lawn looking forlorn on Saturday during the drizzly rain. Sunday he was back at it again, trying to drum up business for one last fling.

In the garden, the radish crop this year has been phenomenal. Have made several harvests and they just get better and better. Eventually they’ll be done and their space occupied by either vine crops or some annuals like bachelors buttons that were planted in the interim. Given the recent rains, this should work out about right. The snap peas have fastened their tendrils onto the pieces of hog panel being used as their trellis. The rabbits continue to annoy. The most recent casualties were the peppers so another piece of chicken wire fencing was put in place to thwart their efforts. This is a nasty bunch. One of them has been eating the tops off the onions. Think I know which one it is too as there’s one the others all seem to avoid.

Saturdays’ rain brought with it the rumble of thunder. What? There was no thunder on Saturday you say. There was if you were a little fat buddy taking advantage of the drippy weather to take a nap. Let’s see, it was gray (check), it was cold (check) and it was rainy (check). That usually enough to do it after a long spring of toiling in the fields, lawns and gardens. The Saturday afternoon rain pattering softly against the east window was about as gentle as one could imagine been and you could hear that pleasant sound until drifting off. The effort was one of my personal bests: A 2 ½ hour powernap. Think there could be some new TV shows in the offing here. How about “Napping with the Stars” or “So You Think You Can Nap”? Guaranteed to be at least as exciting as some of the junk that’s on now.

Managed to finish up planting the last of the planters at work on Friday morning. Tossed the partial flat of petunias in the truck and headed off to work on a mission. After arriving at the Mall for Men, set the flat along the side of the building then proceeded to pull the weeds out of the remaining pots and replace the top 4” – 5” with new soil. After that it was time to plant and it went off without a hitch until I got to one pot that looked a little peculiar. Something was stuffed down into the soil, jamming the petunia off to one side, almost the same size as the 3” pot it was occupying. Upon closer scrutiny, it turned out to be a toad about as wide as it was long that had hitched a ride to town and was hunkered down in the cool, damp petunia container.

Decided he might get along fine in the shade on the west side of the building so placed him there as I finished up the planting. Having given marching orders for the day, thought to myself there must’ve been a reason this fat toad was hanging out on the north side of our house. There are after all lots of insects flying around especially when the outdoor lights are turned on and it was my fault he’d been moved from his favorite spot. Went around to the side of the building to see if he was still there. He was and not more than a foot or so from where I’d left him. Picked him up, placed him in a bucket and quickly gave him a ride back to the ranch where he was released to his old stomping, er, hopping grounds. May sound kinda dumb but since the rain, reckon we’ll need all the little non-chemical bug controllers we can get.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/15/09, 11:41:54 AM
They carry news that must get through...

While the scurs had predicted some rain for last Saturday, it snuck in ahead of schedule and caught us Friday. The seasonal weather was slow arriving but it too made its way here. This go around starting with Wednesday, skies will be partly cloudy with a moderate chance of rain. High of 80 and low near 60. Thursday, mostly cloudy, increasing chance of rain with a good chance by evening. High of 80 and low around 60. Moderate chances of rain on Friday decreasing as the day goes on under mostly cloudy skies. 80 for the high and 60 for the low. Saturday through Monday, partly cloudy. Highs in the low to mid-80’s and lows in the low to mid-60’s. More rain likely by Tuesday. Partly cloudy, high of 80 and low of 65. Normal high for June 21st, the Summer Solstice is 82 and the normal low is 57. The scurs will be enjoying piña coladas poolside at 12:46 a.m. in celebration.

Yes, we’ve reached the point where the days will be starting to get shorter soon. Is the 21st the longest day of the year? Technically “sort of”. It is in some locations and not in others. For instance, for us in Bugtussle, actually the day before, June 20th this time around the sun happens to rise slightly earlier at 5:31a.m. than it does on June 21st at 5:32 a.m. It also begins to set at approximately 9 p.m. on the 19th and will continue to do so until July 4th. Through fractions of minutes in the calculated day lengths, the day length actually becomes detectably shorter on June 26th by one minute. We may as well enjoy it as it’s all downhill from here.

Crop growth really got a shot in the arm with the weekend warm up. Corn seemed to increase by about a third in size and has begun to get that deep green color that says nitrogen needs are being met at least for the time being. Soybeans also are beginning to look like they’ve made progress. From one week to the next it was tough to see they were making much progress. Spring wheat has nearly headed out and some of the oats are doing the same. The earliest planted peas have completed their flowering and barring some untimely weather, this looks like it could be one of those years when peas are a decent crop to have. Stay tuned.

While our bluebirds have been no-shows at the ranch, apparently we had some cardinals nesting in the area. Late last week the female was under the feeders cleaning up some sunflower seed and the next day, a couple juveniles were spotted briefly. Let’s hope it’s the start of something to look forward to. Their habitat is coming along nicely. All but one of the chokeberries planted this spring have leafed out and the other bushes and shrubs in the yard have had a decent spring despite the earlier dry conditions. There are still a couple male orioles coming to the feeders yet. One is a first summer male and the other is a splendidly colored male who controls the feeders when he’s around. It’s always a treat to hear their song break up the silence in the yard. The pond still appears to have at least one nesting pair of blue-winged teal. Hopefully there will be some youngsters on the scene soon. Sunday afternoon was special as an egret paraded around the basin as a doe and her fawn drank at the waters edge. That’s the way it ought to be.

As a lad I went to swimming lessons during the early part of the summer. Really would’ve rather played Tee Ball but that wasn’t in line with what my Dad was thinking. Instead we were hauled to the swimming lessons by Mom who waited in line with us until the doors opened and we could get in. It was customary to wear your trunks under your clothes then roll your undies up in your towel so you could get in the pool faster. Of course one morning, while standing there all the sudden, kids started laughing and I seemed to be the focus of that laughter. Looking around, there were my Anthony’s “tidy-whities” lying on the sidewalk. Not sure who wanted to crawl under that sidewalk worse, me or my mother. I did learn how to swim but at that point, playing Tee Ball looked much more attractive.

Ah, but no one is laughing at the little fat buddies newsgathering and networking skills. On Saturday, it was time to make one of those trips to the store where you go to the bathroom in the silo with the orange roof on it. Driving along in the Silver Bullet, my “Man Truck”, I received a message: A couple more little fat buddies were in the pickup behind the car that was following me. All I could think as the 5.9 Cummins chortled its way through the curves was mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy!

We put the hammer down, made our purchases, put on fuel, had lunch and were back home in about 2 hours. Upon arriving home and doing it all some more, received a call from yet another little fat buddy who was on his way to investigate a rumored area Dairy Queen closing. He later phoned to inform us the rumor was false and large malts were going for $3.89. After having some of the leftover ice cream birthday cake the Swedes didn’t eat on Monday morning, may just have summoned enough strength to make that journey to the east to see for myself.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/22/09, 11:57:30 AM
Hummingbird don't fly away, fly away...

After putting up with last week’s unstable weather and quick hitting little pop-up storms, hail, tornadoes and rain, the scurs are planning on seeing if this one will be any different. Starting Wednesday, cloudy skies becoming partly cloudy with a moderate chance of rain. High of 85 and low of 65. Warmer on Thursday under partly cloudy skies. High of 85 – 90 and low around 65. Partly cloudy Friday with an increasing chance of rain. High 85 – 90 and low near 65. Slightly cooler Saturday, partly cloudy, slight chance of afternoon showers, high of 85 and low of 60. Sunday, partly cloudy, high near 80 with a low of 55 and a chance of afternoon showers. Showers Monday possibly lingering into Tuesday, partly cloudy with highs of 80 - 85 and lows around 60. Normal high for June 26th is 83 and the normal low is 59. The scurs have laid in their first transport load of mosquito repellent.

The recent unsettled weather and resulting rainfall has definitely kicked the mosquitoes into high gear. No more going out around dusk without long sleeves or repellent on. The crops have definitely responded well to the heat and moisture, making up for some lost time. There is already corn well over knee high in many fields and we should start to see some flowering beginning in the soybeans soon. Hay fields greened up quickly too so hopefully the second cutting will be better than the first in areas where the cutting was a little short. Some of the first cutting that was knocked down a couple weeks ago is becoming nice, clean hay.

Still lots of bird activity around the yard but am sad to report that Little Jerry was likely hit by a car and killed. Can’t say it was due to a speeding or inattentive driver but I do wish people would slow down and pay attention a little better. The bluebirds are still in the kindly neighbors pasture although now the mosquitoes are out in force, am not sure which house they chose to build in. In our yard, the goldfinches and orioles still get top billing. The first of the tree swallows are getting close to leaving their nest and the second hatch of robins can’t be far behind. The hummingbird numbers have increased too with the addition of a “hummingbird only” nectar feeder the orioles can’t monopolize.

There are lots of June bugs around yet too. White grubs, the larvae of the June bug must be fairly active in area lawns, judging by the mole complaints one hears. Grubs are a favorite food of moles. Did you know there are probably 2 main beetles we’re commonly calling June bugs in SC MN? There are the larger models from the genus Phyllophaga that range from about one-half to 1 inch in length and are chestnut in color then there is a smaller type, Cyclocephala borealis only about one-half inch in length. The smaller beetles are lighter brown in color and have a dark spot on each side of the thorax. They really like our garage for some reason. These smaller beetles are actually called Northern masked chafer beetles. The larva from the masked chafer beetles only last one year in the soil where the larger beetles are in the larval stage for 3 years. They’re all June bugs to most area folks when they’re buzzing around lights and bouncing off window screens.

Growing up as a lad, this was always about the time of year Dad decided it was time to get the oats sold from our farm to the north in Stewartville. Much of the crop at home was fed but the crop that was our share at the other farm was stored in a granary. So we were sent on a mission to get the oats hauled either to Spring Valley about 12 miles which sometimes had a better bid or to Stewartville which was of course much closer. We were armed with the E-3, a “barge box” type wagon that held about 250 bu. of oats, a 4” electric auger, some wood to make a tripod setup and of course a shovel.

The first couple loads weren’t so bad but of course by today’s standards, the loading was still pretty slow with a 4” auger. By the time the last 2 loads came around and the bin was swept out, one could guarantee it was going to be at least 90 degrees and muggy. Dust masks were something no one wore especially when it was hot and one was wearing glasses. Did I mention oats were dusty? The amount of black gunk coughed up for several days after the completion of the task was not for the faint of heart.

There were several ways to get to and from our Pleasant Grove farm including one containing a huge hill known as Hardscrabble Hill. For some reason as a kid, I always thought it was Hart’s Gravel Hill. After all it was a big gravel hill but never did determine who this Hart person was it was named after. It was extremely steep and I only went that way when I was going to our other farm as it was downhill. There was no way the E-3 would pull the wagon full in road gear up that slope. As it was, the tractor would sound like it was cranking out about 8000 rpm when you descended it with the empty wagon.

Going through metropolitan Washington where we used to get our black and white TV fixed and on to Masonic Park was the main route to get back and forth. The slopes were more gradual but the road was winding and it still made the tractor grunt pretty hard, especially if the wagon was full and the oats were heavy. Plus, one always wanted to make it through there before dark. The lights on the tractor didn’t work and the park was where the fictitious “Claw-Man” resided. Sure, we made him up as part of a story to scare people but we did such a good job, we weren’t about to take any chances on running into him ourselves.

Next week, we say farewell to Lucy…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/29/09, 10:32:29 PM
Well, it's been ten years and maybe more since I first set eyes on you…

The scurs called the cool down over the weekend right but the potential precip fizzled. That’s OK as long as it remembers to rain sometime in the months of July and August this year rather than forgetting as it did in ’08. What’s on tap this forecast period? Gorgeous seasonal summer weather sayeth the scurs. Starting Wednesday, look for clear skies, a high of 75 – 80 and a low of 60. For Thursday and Friday, partly cloudy, highs around 80 and lows near 60 with a slight chance of a shower creeping in Friday overnight. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy skies, highs of 80 and lows around 60 with a slight chance of showers both days. Partly cloudy Monday, high of 80 and a low of 60 with chances of rain increasing by evening. Chance of rain Tuesday under cloudy skies. High of 75 – 80 and low of 55 – 60. Normal high for July 4th is 83 and the normal low is 60. The scurs will once again be hiding their cap pistols from the fireworks police in the state where absolutely nothing is allowed.

The Full Moon for the month will occur on Tuesday at 4:21 a.m. for all those wishing to rise from their slumber so as to be astronomically correct. This moon goes by several names including the Full Buck Moon as white-tailed deer bucks are pushing antlers in the velvet, the Full Thunder Moon as we experience thunderstorms frequently in the month of July some years anyway, and the Full Hay Moon as July was a month in which much hay was once made. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Raspberry Moon and the Sioux called this one the Moon When Wild Cherries are Ripe. They must’ve had better bird netting than we have at the ranch. In our cherry tree’s existence, think I managed to eat a whole handful over its brief 5 year lifespan. They were good and could understand why the birds liked them so well.

Crop progress was rapid this past week which should come as no surprise. While we were still behind normal by about 3 days on GDU’s, we were actually ahead of where we were in ’08 at the same time. Rainfall amounts have been variable. With just over 5” of rain recorded for the month of June at the ranch it seems every few days we get a few tenths of an inch of rain, almost like someone has been watering us with a water-wand. There are areas that have received the short end of the stick and there are places where moisture has been excessive particularly when trying to harvest peas and plant soybeans behind them. So far pea yields have been excellent. A lot of area corn is waist to chest high so making the knee high by the 4th benchmark in most cases has been exceeded. Some flowering was noticed on area soybeans already last week, right on schedule with the Summer Solstice.

After being in suspended animation much of the first half of June, the vine crops in the garden have taken off. Unfortunately so have the weeds. Ditto in the sweet corn and much of the rest of the garden so much weeding has been required. The lawn grew at a frantic pace also so mowing has been moving at breakneck speed. As busy as things have been in the lawn and garden department, still manage to catch a Twins game occasionally. The ads are frequently as entertaining as the games, especially when the Twins are losing. The most recent ad to grab my attention was the AFLAC ad featuring a Herford cow with a milking machine attached to it. Now, my folks used to have milking Shorthorns but I don’t recall them ever mentioning anything about milking Herefords. Must’ve missed that one in ag class too. Would be interesting to see what happens to the guy trying to attach it to the cow’s udder, that’s for sure.

Would like to thank all those who caught the mention of Lucy’s passing in last week’s column and passed along their condolences in person or with a card. While Lucy was over 12 years old it came as somewhat of a surprise when she suddenly became ill. For her age she had been the picture of health. This was more than a dog to us, it was a companion and a coworker. Not more than a couple weeks before she passed away, she had neglected to come in one night after I’d finished working the garden and walked to the house. Wondering where she’d gone when I came to let Gus out for potty time, she had stayed in the barn because there was a lamb that had gotten out in the alley way. I was overjoyed to find her and even happier that she’d stayed on the job until I came and got her.

That was probably the thing that sticks in my mind most about Lucy. She was consistent, all business even when she played and always tried her best to please us. Not that she didn’t have her little quirks but they were also consistent and part of what made her so unique.

She had a unique appearance. When people think of Border Collies they generally think of animals that look like those from the movie “Babe”, those doing the obstacle courses or those in the dog shows on TV. Lucy was a red and white Border Collie with a short, smooth coat. She had a little swirl of hair on top of her head that was like a miniature Mohawk. The white racing stripe across her hips was distinctive and those ears sticking straight up were like radar especially if there were trucks or airplanes to bark at. We were taken by the red and whites that were being used by Kim Kuykendall and Joyce Burnham back in the days when we were showing sheep around the country. In early March of ’97, I went to Steeleville IL to get the puppy they had picked out for us.

The bond was immediate as was the fact this dog wanted to learn. Learn she did. The best thing about her herding was the great “stop” command she mastered keeping her in the game even though our Cheviots were being total knotheads. Dogs that ignore a stop command keep chasing and scattering the sheep only making matters worse. Bringing sheep up out of the pasture and putting them in the shed was her forte. She saved us many steps over they years, especially in the off site pasture at the kindly neighbors where in her prime it normally took longer to load up the sheep equipment than it did to trailer the sheep. Moving ewes with lambs at side from the lambing barn to make room was a battle when by yourself. With Lucy, the ewes seemed to key on her and through some eye contact, would follow her down to the loafing barn rather than galloping around the yard.

Coming home at night, we were frequently greeted with a loud welcoming “Roooooo-ooooo!” not unlike Devon in Jon Katz first book. Several people heard her do this when we were on the phone pulling into the garage and laughed when we’d explain it. She could shake hands, give “high-fives” and would thump her tail when asked. She loved to fetch and retrieve tennis balls and was a constant companion on our many excursions around the country. She was a good mother too, taking great care of the litter of pups she had. She loved to ride in the front seat of her truck and was disappointed if she didn’t get to ride along. Her final ride was a tough one. She was in pain and whimpered uncharacteristically on the ride to the vet’s office. Oddly enough, she always enjoyed going to the vet’s office as they were very good to her. It was not an easy decision to have her put to sleep but at the time we felt it was for the best. She’d lived a long productive life and watching the quality of that life deteriorate was more than we could bear. We plan to scatter Lucy’s ashes in the pastures and around the barnyard so that she may rest in peace in the land she was an integral part of.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/06/09, 05:53:43 PM
Ooo, baby baby...

The scurs played it close to the vest last time around and it was right on the money. This forecast period? Some chances of showers early on and drying out for the weekend. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy skies with a moderate chance of showers and thunderstorms. High of 75 – 80 and low of 65. Partly cloudy and warmer Thursday and Friday with a moderate chance of showers on Thursday, lessening as we move into Friday. Highs of 85 and lows around 65. Absolutely gorgeous weather Saturday and Sunday for Farm and City Days. Partly cloudy, highs around 80 and overnight lows near 60. Monday, partly cloudy, warmer, high of 80 – 85 and low of 65. Partly cloudy Tuesday with a moderate chance of showers by evening. High of 80 and low of 60 – 65. Normal high for July 10th is 83 and the normal low is 61. As of the 10th, we will have lost 13 minutes of daylight since the summer solstice. The scurs don’t care and will be waiting to collect all that candy from the fleet of Minneapolis Moline’s and the Swede’s car in the Farm and City Days parade.

Summer is flying by at warp speed. With Farm and City Days upon us and the 4-H kids working at a breakneck pace with their show lambs almost daily at the ranch, it serves as a reminder that it won’t be long and school will be back in session. Crop growth is on track too even though we are officially behind normal on GDU’s. One needs to bear in mind that the “normal” is calculated from May 1 and most of the corn was in the ground well in advance of that date. Corn does appear to be shorter from the road but once one is in it, it gets over your head pretty fast. Corn will likely be slightly shorter as a result of the cooler early season temperatures and that’s a good thing when it comes to the windstorms that can frequent the area in late summer. Tasseling should begin in earnest in about another week although around groves and sheltered areas, tassels will likely be seen sooner. Soybeans are in full bloom and are starting to look like soybeans. It helped that the weather dried out and they’ve shaken off the effects of iron deficiency chlorosis.

Rains have become hit and miss but more miss than hit. We in greater Bugtussle and surrounds could use some rain and while not desperately yet, it would help by pollination time in the corn. Area gardens are probably more in need at this point than the field crops. Fortunately in many instances, watering is a possibility. At the ranch, without rain in another week or so it will be time to decide whether to string the hose back to the garden to give it a drink. The flowers have already benefitted from the recent re-plumbing operation making hauling water a thing of the past. It is nice to see all the flowers in the planters downtown too. It adds a touch of class and shows that people care.

This has been a week to watch the new crop of feathered friends in and around the ranch. Was particularly amused by a mommy downy cracking sunflower seeds open and feeding them to her youngster. The house wrens haven’t emerged from their birdhouse gourd yet but judging by the amount of noise and the frequent trips by the parents, they’ve got to be close. An immature oriole has been hanging out in the backyard, presumably waiting for someone to come with food. It appears though it may be on it’s own. Lots of little chipping sparrows around having left their small woven nests in the windbreak evergreens. Young nuthatches are starting to come to the sunflower feeders and are smaller, even cuter versions of the adults. The house finch fledglings are numerous there also. One wonders where all these things have been nesting because it isn’t real obvious where they were hidden. The young tree swallows have taken flight from all but one of the nesting boxes. Can tell because there are still some dive bombing me when dorking around the garden. A male rose-breasted grosbeak has suddenly appeared and seems to be staying around. Most gratifying was my recent trip to the kindly neighbor’s pasture. Not one as in the past but two nesting boxes with bluebirds in them. Can hardly wait to see the newbies on the wing.

Thanks again to all readers who have expressed their sympathy concerning Lucy. I was really impressed Friday that one reader took the time to stop by the house and express that sympathy in person. Al Batt is right. We do have the best people here and they are kind. Some have asked how Gus is dealing with the loss of his mother and constant companion of almost 6 years. He’s adjusting but it’s taking some time. After all, there were very few times where Gus was allowed in or out a door first and if he didn’t follow protocol, Lucy let him know about it. He still looks before going outside, just in case there are some flashing eyes forbidding it. He does like to ride so have taken him along on some errands and to the kindly neighbors pasture. While I doubt that Gus will ever make it as a herding dog, he’ll always be one very friendly and silly, great companion.

Mrs. Cheviot travelled to Ohio to the All American Jr. Sheep Show, something she’s been doing for quite some time in July. However, I don’t recall her specifically saying when she was coming back. If she did it may have been contained in one those mutterings under the blaring TV while I was foraging in the kitchen in search of food. Fortunately some took pity on me while she was gone and I did not starve. For some reason, I was under the impression she’d be back on Sunday and when I flipped the July calendar over sure enough, the event was over on Sunday. Hmmm…does that mean she’s back on Sunday or do Gus and I have to do it all for another day I thought to myself? After a cell phone call to check it out, sure enough Gus and I did have to do it all for another day! Note to self: Pay particular attention to the murmuring and muttering of your spouse. It may contain clues of their whereabouts.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/14/09, 06:40:53 AM
With the help of some fireflies...

After scraping the last of the road kill Farm and City Days Tootsie Roll off their shoes, the scurs will be ready for just about anything this week. Starting Wednesday, look for partly cloudy skies with a high of 75 – 80 and a low of 55 – 60. Mostly clear Thursday. High of 80 and low of 55. Partly cloudy Friday through Sunday. Highs in the low 80’s and lows of 55 – 60. Partly sunny Monday, high of 80 and low of 60. Clouding up on Tuesday, slightly cooler. High of 75 and low of 60 with an increasing chance of showers as the day wears on. Normal high for July 17th is 84 and the normal low is 61. By the 21st, we’ll be back down below 15 hours of daylight, roughly the same as we were back on May 21st. Come Monday the scurs are turning their attention towards Wednesday’s Waseca Co. Fair and their favorite greasy onion rings.

More crop progress being made albeit a tad slower perhaps than some would like. With corn pollination looming on the horizon, a widespread rain of 1 – 2 inches would be welcome as opposed to the spotty performance of last week’s systems. Even what looked like a surprise “can’t miss” on Thursday turned out to be little more than a dust settler at most for most greater Bugtussle residents. It is fortunate we have the subsoils here we have or we’d be in a lot worse trouble than we are. The moderate temperatures have been keeping us in the game in the moisture department so far but we are starting to get behind, even on those corn fields planted from the 13th through the 20th. Small grains are beginning to turn however and the pea harvest continues. Some many fields have been passed recently it’s been difficult to put any kind of an exact figure on those yields.

Were lots of cool critters and birds out and about last week. At the end of the driveway I spied what appeared to be a small brown dog sitting on it haunches at the end of the driveway. Upon closer inspection, it had some mighty long ears. Turned out to be a jackrabbit, the first one I’d seen in 4 or 5 years. In a field south of Waseca, there were a couple of strange creatures about a quarter mile from the field approach where I’d parked. Didn’t have a set of binoculars along so hoofed it out far enough to see that there were 2 sandhill cranes poking around. Not sure what they were up to but they made quite a ruckus when they took off and flew into a marshy area to the west. On the weekend visit to Mom’s near Spring Valley, there was an orchard oriole ruling the roost or at least the jelly feeder when he was present. There were several Baltimore orioles waiting as he helped himself. A pair of cardinals landed in the lilac bush and the late evening sun on the male made him appear even more stunning than normal. Mom has also had a rose-breasted grosbeak show up this past week. This week at the ranch a second male grosbeak appeared at the feeders.

Lots of insect activity lately too aside from mosquitoes and biting flies. Fireflies can be seen flashing on and off in an attempt to attract their prospective mates. This same procedure does not seem to work well in humans. Green lacewings can be seen in soybean fields where they lay their eggs. The small eggs are oval shaped and attached to the plant on a hairlike stalk. Upon hatching the larva, also know as “aphid lions”, are voracious feeders on soybean aphids, not unlike the little fat buddies when descending on a pan of warm baked goods.

That sure was a nice photo of an old horse out cultivating beans on the front page of last week’s Star-Eagle. The 1206 looked pretty good too! Seriously, the days of the 1206’s bring back a lot of memories, particularly watching tractor pulls at the Fillmore Co. Fair as a lad. Oh sure, there were always a lot of John Deere’s but the souped-up 806’s and 1206’s almost always ate their lunch, belching thick, black smoke into the evening sky and shaking the old rattle-trap grandstand as their drivers sought to keep their tractor under control to the finish line. Tractors of today don’t seem to have quite the same personality, what with all the gadgets, electronic wizardry and creature comforts. Oh to be sure, working all day in the field there’s no comparison but for their time, the 1206’s and 5020’s of the world represented the sheer raw power that farmers were looking for, and that handsome rugged exterior didn’t betray that expectation.

Say, are you getting as tired of this “going green” business as I am? People on TV ads act as though they’d discovered cold fusion or something. Heck, I’ve been going green for years, especially after eating too many sugar snap peas! And what about all this “carbon footprint” stuff? I can just about imagine what would’ve happened growing up on the farm if we’d tried to tell Dad about this phenomenon as a basis to get out of a task. I think his answer would’ve likely been pretty plain, something along the lines of “If you don’t stop your yapping and get to work you’ll have a carbon footprint on your backside!” One thing about Dad, his advice was usually right on the money.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/20/09, 08:27:46 PM
I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye...

After a cool, dry forecast, the scurs are serving up another helping of cooler than normal without large amounts of rain. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a high of 80 and a low of 60. Slight chances of rain every day for the period Thursday through Monday. Partly cloudy with highs Thursday and Friday near 80 and lows near 60. Cooling off slightly Saturday through Monday, highs around 75 and lows of 55 – 60. Partly cloudy again on Tuesday with a high of 75 – 80 and a low around 55. Normal high for July 24th is 84 and the normal low is 61. The scurs will be licking their chops, looking for another local mid-summer celebration at which to sample the cuisine.

Tassels showed up slightly delayed, which shouldn’t be surprising given weather that threw a couple of days with highs in the 60’s last week. Soybeans are starting to set pods and like the corn would benefit from some timely rainfall. The cool temps did help forestall some stress but it puts us further in the hole on GDU’s for the season. Last week at the SROC we were about 11% behind normal and back on the 18th, a new record low high temperature of 64 was set. By press time, we will likely be farther behind than that. Forecast rainfall amounts have certainly left us high and dry. Frequently the tenth and quarter inch forecasts have yielded squat. Rainfall at the ranch for the month has totaled a whopping .4” for the month through the 20th. And some have had the nerve to call me a “rain hog”!

It has been tempting to start to water the garden in earnest. We did some to get transplants going but hate to get into the habit of watering just yet. Plants are generally not exhibiting much stress yet due to the cool conditions but there will come a point pretty soon if it doesn’t rain that the sprinkler will need to be cranked up. The hose is already in place, just need to couple it up and let it rip. Sugar snap peas are still bearing like crazy while the cukes and string beans are flowering like crazy and are about ready to get cranked up. Trees and shrubs in area yards including those at the ranch are showing some signs of moisture stress. There are some places where trees like soft maples are exhibiting signs of what could possibly be verticillium wilt. Symptoms include a yellowing of the leaves and sudden dying off of parts or all of the tree. We’ve had a ratty soft maple in the yard here it took part of the one side off of a year ago and with the moisture stress things are under, wouldn’t be surprised to see it finish the job. Looking around the countryside, it might have a lot of company.

A bit of a bittersweet week with the birds. First at the kindly neighbors pasture, one of the nesting boxes originally claimed by a bluebird was overtaken by a wren, something that is not all that unusual. While they sing ever so sweetly, wrens are very aggressive and will peck holes in the bluebird eggs and build their little stick and twig nests right over the top of the bluebird nest. However, in the other bluebird house, there were 4 very rapidly growing youngsters that not very long ago were 4 blue-green eggs. Meanwhile back at the ranch out of the corner of my eye I spotted a bluebird beating a hasty retreat from the mealworm feeder on my way back in from the barn. The orioles had also been picking at them as had one of those insipid starlings I like to blast every opportunity I get.

The two male rose-breasted grosbeaks have been joined by at least one female so they’ve been fun to watch. The hummingbirds are either very sneaky or are no-shows. Since they seem to prefer eating out of the oriole feeder, it’s hard to say if they’ve been here or not. The orioles must have invited every oriole in the county, judging by the amount of grape jelly and sugar water they’re blowing through. Not unusual to see 4 or 5 stacked up waiting for a turn at the feeders and the jelly feeder is licked clean after a couple days.

The pond with the dry weather has nearly dried up, leaving any remaining waterfowl high and dry.
Thankfully the neighbor to the north dug his pond deep enough so it contains water year round. Even though I’m told our pond is important as a seasonal wetland, it’s frustrating. Would still rather see some waterfowl on it rather than watching it dry up and wishing there was. It has raised a dandy crop of mosquitoes to be sure. Speaking of that, one would think they would’ve just about run their course. All one need do however is go out in a wooded area near sundown on a still night and they’ll still nearly carry you off.

The little fat buddies started the week off in style. A fresh pan of cinnamon rolls from CS and coffee on the training table always makes Monday a lot more tolerable. Wide ranging discussions including bird talk, county fair happenings, WWII spotlights, motorcycling, corn head repair, the weather, etc., were covered so once again the world is safe until the next morning when we reconvene to solve the problems that have arisen overnight.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/27/09, 10:29:38 PM
Maybe get a blister on your thumb...

The scurs palate was satisfied as were the weather gods last week. Some rain fell finally but with seemingly more chances than actual rain falling, the scurs are thinking we’re due. Starting Wednesday, look for sunny skies with a high around 75 and a low of 55. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. High of 75 and low of 55 – 60. Slight chance of showers Friday, partly cloudy, high of 75 – 80 and low of 55 – 60. Saturday and Sunday, mostly cloudy with a better chance of showers. Highs of 75 – 80 and lows of 55 – 60. Partly sunny on Monday. High of near 75 and low around 55. Slightly cooler on Tuesday, partly cloudy skies, high around 70 and low near 55. Normal high for July 31st is 83 and the normal low is 61. The scurs will be resorting to a tanning booth soon given all the cloudy weather.

Boy, did things ever pop after the rain last week! Some areas received as much as 2.6” while most of greater Bugtussle received somewhere in the .7” - .9”. At the ranch we recorded .68”, putting us at just over an inch for the month. While the rain was welcome, we’re hearing some concern about the accumulation of GDU’s and rightfully so. In the report from the SROC last week, their calculations showed us 20% behind normal for a May 1 planting date. Along with more rain as many are thinking, it’s going to take a long fall to for this corn and soybean crop to realize its potential if this trend continues. It has been a marvelous pea year, one we probably won’t see the likes of again anytime soon. Small grain harvest is upon us with several fields of oats swathed (swatted) and one field of winter wheat known to be harvested. Given the cooler conditions, one might expect we’ll hear some good reports about yields. We shall see.

In the yard at the ranch, still lots of oriole activity. They seem to enjoy the grape jelly and sugar water with about equal zest. The greatest number of them are young orioles but there is still a brightly colored male or two dropping by for a snack. Also saw a hairy woodpecker male feeding a youngster last week, repeating what the downies had been doing a few weeks ago: The adult cracking open a sunflower seed and feeding the kernel to Jr. One new addition this week was a gray squirrel. Typically we have lots of fox squirrels but can’t recall seeing a gray at the ranch before. Think we’ll call him Dobie.

Had an interesting question about a plant in the ditch with white flowers that is fairly common in the area this year. What was it? Sweetclover. As long as 2000 years ago in the Mediterranean region, sweetclover was used as a green manure crop and as a honey plant, as bees are attracted readily to it. The origins of the plant are likely in Asia Minor. There are two types of sweetclover commonly growing wild in our area, yellow and white. While no longer used much for the purpose, sweetclover was once grown primarily as a green manure crop on idle acres or fallow ground. Under the proper conditions, one can pick up between 100 and 140 lbs./acre of nitrogen for the following years corn crop.

I recall Dad growing sweetclover on the Spring Valley farm one year, chopping it, then plowing it down, only to have it reappear in a few years later in the alfalfa that had been seeded. There are annual types but sweetclover is usually a biennial, meaning that it grows vegetatively the first year, then flowers and produces seed the second year. One nasty habit of sweetclover is that it produces a high amount of hard seed, that is seed that will not germinate the first year, rather remains in the soil until the seed is scarified. This is most likely what happened in our situation and is part of the reason we still find some sweetclover occasionally growing in area fields where it hasn’t been seeded for many moons.

While ruminants can bloat on sweetclover, the likelihood is lower than for alfalfa, red clover or alsike. Another drawback to sweetclover: The common types frequently contain coumarin, making it bitter tasting and less palatable to livestock than alfalfa. The amounts with the age of the plant and are the highest in the second year at late-bud or early flower. The stems are tough and get woody at that point too so it’s also difficult to get sweetclover dry enough to bale although it does ensile well generally. However, if sweetclover is baled wet or improperly ensiled and it molds, it can convert the coumarin to dicoumarol, the synthetic form of which is used as an anticoagulant in humans and in warfarin rat poison. If livestock are fed the moldy sweetclover and if they get enough of it, they can bleed to death internally. This is why Dad opted that year to sell the first cutting to someone who chopped it and blew it in their silo.

Would’ve been a little difficult for Mr. Cheviot to bale hay last week, that’s for sure. After accidentally grabbing a thistle by the pointy end and sticking it in my left thumb last Sunday, I thought little of it. Been poked by thistles hundreds of times. Along about Tuesday, the digit began to get sore so I opened up the entry wound and could find no sign of the thorn so doused it with some iodine and called it good. Got to the Mall for Men and it began to swell, get red and it was hot. Picked at it some more, squeezed some liquid out of it, put some merthiolate on it and it only got worse. Was advised to soak it in Epsom salts that night and seeing the swelling and redness moving into the hand, went to the clinic the next day. One tetanus shot, an antibiotic shot, a bottle of pills and a sore behind later, was glad I’d decided to go in. Bumping the thumb a few times, it smarted worse than hitting it with a hammer so the little guard thingy they gave me came in handy. Feels better now but it’s still pretty tender. One doesn’t realize how tough it is to do things without functioning opposable thumbs until something happens to one of them. Would’ve been a good way to beg out of doing chores I suppose but being able to eat along with sneaking in a nap or two on the weekend, I’m still a gamer. One good thing: Since I’ve been making even more than the usual number of typing errors, at least I have something to blame it on.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/03/09, 09:47:12 PM
Watch this train roll down the track...

Thos wily scurs managed to be close with their last forecast and that’s not necessarily a good thing. With chances of showers every day and warmer temps, let’s hope their close again. Starting Wednesday, look for partly cloudy skies with a slight chance of showers. High of 75 and low of 55 – 60. Partly sunny Thursday, high of 80 and low around 60 with a slight chance of showers. Partly cloudy Friday with an increasing chance of showers. High of 80 and low near 65. Time to blow the cobwebs out of the AC on Saturday. Partly cloudy skies with a moderate chance of showers. High of 85 – 90 and low of 70.Cooling down slightly on Sunday. Partly sunny with a high near 85 and a low of 65. Mostly cloudy Monday. High around 85 and low near 65. Partly cloudy Tuesday with a good chance of afternoon thunderstorms. High near 90 and low around 65. The normal high for August 7th is 83 and the normal low is 60. The scurs will be sniffing the southerly breezes for the smell of kabobs and Cajun food. Always good when washed down with a fresh squeezed lemonade at the Freeborn Co. Fair.

The Full Moon for the month will occur on August 5th. This is known as the Full Sturgeon Moon as the fishing tribes were able to catch sturgeon most easily in this month. It is also known as the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon. The Sioux called this the Moon When Geese Shed their Feathers. Indeed, one can see Canada geese on the move once again, having completed their molt and flying to some of those harvested small grain fields. The Ojibwe called this the Full Berry Moon. Can you imagine Homer Simpson as an Ojibwe? “Mmmmm…blueberries.”

Area gardens are yielding a bountiful harvest of vegetables such as beets, string beans, cucumbers and sweet corn. At the ranch it appears the last of the sugar snap peas are about done. Looking back, we’ve been picking them for a month already. The first ripe tomato was also claimed by a bird although I managed to get the damaged portion trimmed off fairly easily. Speaking of birds helping themselves, was at Mom’s over the weekend and she had been trying to get enough gooseberries to make my favorite pie. The birds got there before she was able to complete the task so I had to settle for gooseberry-cherry pie. It’s tart but absolutely delicious and with some ice cream, it doesn’t get any better than that.

There are plenty of fruit pickers here too. The serviceberries are long gone as are most of the wild plumbs. Something is pecking at the apples although there are so many they may be doing the poor trees a favor given the dry conditions. One of the all-time fruit pickers, a catbird was finally seen on Sunday morning. The orioles are still eating jelly and drinking sugar water like it’s going out of style. Hummingbirds are more numerous again this week as they may be starting to move out of some areas to the north. The last of the tree swallows has fledged here. One late nesting pair set up shop in the bluebird house near the garden. They put up quite a fuss sometimes when we’d be out there picking peas or weeding. The bluebirds at the kindly neighbors at last check were still in the nesting box but all feathered out as they were, it can’t be long and they’ll be on the wing.

In some of the CRP acres and area road ditches this past week, ran across a plant known as wild bergamot. This mint family plant has a lavender flower and the plant itself has a spicy aroma, smelling like something you could make a men’s cologne from or be used in an air freshener for a pickup, which I did by the way. It was used by the Indians for many remedies as well as by the early settlers. Cup plants are blooming in places also. The yellow flowered plant ranges from 4’ – 10’ in height and is so named because the leaves attach directly to the stem and collect water. This can be an important source of water to small birds and animals. On MN Hwy 13 north of Bugtussle, compass plants can be seen flowering near the Commercial Club sign. These tall, yellow flowered native prairie plants got their name because the lower leaves on the plant more often than not point north and south. They were used by early settlers for directions before there were gas stations or convenience stores. Wives did nag their husbands however to get off the wagon and look at the compass plants.

Border Collie Gus celebrates his birthday on Thursday the 6th along with his brother Jet and sister Fudgie. In honor of the special occasion have been brushing Gus profusely so he’ll look pretty. With all the hair scattered about, it looks like a dog exploded in the yard after we’re done. He’s been getting special treatment, going along to town and to visit his cousin Sophie at the kindly neighbors. Gus has his routine every day too and that’s all he really cares about. Getting outside in the morning, doing his business, then going down to the barn and trotting around in a well-worn circle by the sheep pens, making sure they don’t get too close to the edge of the pen. It’s a little like watching a little black and white train chugging around a track. Being fed afterwards, hearing some praise, and getting a little treat. That’s all any guy can ask for, no matter how hairy he is.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/11/09, 03:44:25 PM
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry...

The scurs managed to be “on” again last week, forecasting a little rain and a return of summer. Will it stay? At least through this upcoming forecast period, say the scurs. Starting Wednesday, mostly clear. High of 85 – 90 and low of 65. Staying clear Thursday and Friday, highs of 85 and lows of 60 – 65. Partly cloudy Saturday, with an increasing chance of showers and thunderstorms. High of 85 and low of 65. Chance of showers Sunday with skies mostly cloudy. Highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 60 – 65. Partly cloudy Monday and Tuesday, cooler, with highs of 80 and lows of 60. Normal August 14th high is 82 and the normal low is 59. On the 15th, we will be back down below 14 hours of daylight, roughly the same as we were on April 26th. The scurs will be dozing off to the sounds of field crickets chirping outside their open window.

Lack of heat and rainfall continue to be the main concerns on the minds of area farmers as we keep plodding towards harvest. Last week we were cumulatively behind on GDU’s at the SROC in Waseca 14% since May 1st. Rainfall reports through the month of July show a similar pattern. Rainfall for the May through July period there totaled 6.19”, the 4th lowest on record. At the ranch, we fared better with 9.06” for that time period. April through July rainfall at the SROC was the 3rd lowest on record with 8.58” reported. At the ranch, we showed 11.56”, nearly 3” more than they did. However, there is no great abundance of moisture in greater Bugtussle as shallow area wetlands are dry and lakes and streams are down dramatically. While the heat and rainfall of this past week were welcome, we will still need more of the same if this crop is to realize the potential there as of this writing.

The dry conditions seem to bring with them their own unique set of problems, particularly insects. Aphids are plentiful on many types of plants. Soybean aphids are relative newcomers and are fairly specific to soybeans, whereas aphids such as the bird cherry – oat aphids seem to like small grains and corn. There are aphids as well as two-spotted spider mites on the petunias at the Mall for Men. While it’s tempting to spray them, have opted more for cultural control methods, namely keeping the plants well watered and wetting the foliage to keep the humidity under the canopy. With the help of beneficial insects such as lady beetles, minute pirate bugs, lacewings and syrphid flies, hopefully conditions will allow the development of beneficial fungi to keep the aphids and mites in check. Sure, the petunias could be treated chemically, but that would also control insects such as the white-lined sphinx moth I found taking a nap in one of the planters. Between them and the hummingbirds, that’s the reason the petunias were planted in the first place.

Seems there are always dead plants of some kind floating around my office or in my truck lately. No wonder both places smell like silage some days. Most recently, someone brought in some oak leaves with some pretty, maroon and cream colored fuzzy “balls” on the underside of the leaf. These are “hedgehog galls” and are the result of tiny female cynipid wasps poking their ovipositor into the leaf and laying their eggs. Inside those fuzzy galls are the developing wasps. Also in the “unique” category seen this past week in the office are the “balls” or berries being found on potatoes. These are most likely the result of bees having pollinated the potato flowers although some varieties can be self fertile. The berry formation is also favored by long days and cool temperatures. The berries are toxic, containing the chemical solanin, the same toxin found in many other nightshade family plants. Inside the berries are seeds and properly propagated, they will grow. Through selection, this is one way new potato varieties are developed. Potato yields using seeds are generally much lower however so your best bet unless you have a lot of free time on your hands is to plant the potato sets like you’ve always done.

Despite the lack of early summer heat, the ranch has taken on the look of late summer anyway. Sunflowers are blooming and the eveningprimrose have taken the place of some of the plum sumac the county tractor cowboys tried to destroy in the spring. The barn swallows are weaving their way between the ewes grazing and kicking up insects on the sidehill in the morning as I watch from my throne, master of my domain. The tiger lilies have been spectacular, their bright orange in stark contrast to the dull greenish-brown tinge of the lawn. Oriole activity is slowing while robins and wrens have discontinued their morning song. The bluebirds at the kindly neighbors have fledged as have many of the chipping sparrows at the ranch. Goldfinches are nesting now and it’s not uncommon to find nests in the dogwood behind the dooryard.

As a result of a series of reconnaissance missions, was invited by a group of Swedes on one of their top secret excursions Saturday morning. They enlisted the assistance of a Dane to drive the getaway car and under the cover of darkness, we were off to parts unknown. Arriving at our destination and confirming our reservation, we dined on Swedish pancakes, a delicacy reserved until recently only for Swedes. With good coffee and company to go along with it, was well worth the wee hour morning journey. After arriving back at the office, watered the petunias and made my way home where of course, a nap ensued. As I was drifting off, was wondering if eating Swedish pancakes somehow conferred honorary Swede status upon me. Just so long as it wasn’t ornery Swede status.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/22/09, 08:47:29 AM
Sing loud for the sunshine, pray hard for the rain...

The scurs forecasting has been as hot as Joe Mauer’s bat as of late. What’s on tap for the current forecast period? The scurs will tell all. Starting with Wednesday through Friday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy late Wednesday into Thursday and partly cloudy again by Friday. Increasing chance of showers Wednesday into Thursday with lingering showers possible Friday a.m. Highs of 75 and lows in the lower 60’s. Saturday and Sunday, warmer, highs around 80 and lows near 60. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs near 85 and lows around 65. The normal high for August 21st is 81 and the normal low is 57. The scurs will be sampling the fare at the Steele Co. Fair to expand their stomachs for the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Crop progress moved forward last week as the corn and soybeans responded to the recent rains and warmer temperatures. Both crops have hung on surprisingly well as a result of the moderate temperatures and spoon feeding of rain. While it remains to be seen exactly what kind of yields we’ll see, one has to like what we have seen to this point. We still need a good soaking rain over much of the Greater Bugtussle viewing area and we definitely need the warm temperatures to continue well into September for a decent finish. The most recent release from the SROC in Waseca showed us about 12% behind on GDU’s. While we have probably made up for some lost time recently due to those warm temps and generally good solar radiation, we are still a good week to 10 days behind where we’d like to be for August. Most fields of soybeans have been treated for soybean aphids although some who were trying to get ahead of the curve by treating early long before thresholds were reached may have to spray them again.

The shorter days are starting to make some subtle changes already in the area. The walnut and some poplar trees are starting to show some telltale yellowing of leaves, an early warning that in a month, we may see the real deal. Vine crops in the garden have rolled their thick emerald blanket over their turf in the garden and are climbing into the areas beyond it. Sweet corn has been plentiful and extremely good eating, as evidenced by the road kill raccoons. A trip through the CREP acres with SWCD specialist EG found many of the prairie wildflowers in bloom including several types of coneflower, some mints, asters, cup plants as well as a compass plant. The aromatic nature of some of the mints was evident when we’d brush them with the 4-wheeler and was a preview of what’s in store for fall. There are some chickadees who have staked out the yard and the blue jays raucous call can be heard in place of the singing robins breaking up that last hour of blissful sleep.

For whatever reason, got to thinking about the year 1969 and what a year that was. As Americans, we successfully landed men on the moon and returned them safely home. It was also the year of Woodstock at Max Yaasgur’s farm in upstate NewYork, where a rock and roll get together that was expected to draw some 250,000 fans suddenly grew to double that. It came to be a defining moment for a generation. While I was 11 at the time, too young and far away, the event and some of those who performed there went on to influence my musical tastes for years to come. Conspicuously absent from Woodstock were groups like the Beatles who had stopped touring long before that and Led Zeppelin who was performing in the US at the same time on the east coast. 1969 was also the year that saw the release of Zeppelin’s first two albums, setting some standards from that point on by which rock and roll bands would be measured by. Times had changed and being used to Lawrence Welk, one could understand why some of the older population couldn’t understand what the racket was.

Sadly, last week we lost a legend in the person of Les Paul. For those not aware of this musical giant, Les Paul was one of the pioneers of the electric guitar as well as recording techniques that made it possible for bands such as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin to make more complex recordings than before possible. Some of the musicians who have played Les Paul guitars include Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons, Pete Townshend and Jimmy Page.

Am touring the country at least the Corn Belt even as I write this on the Midwest Pro Farmer Crop Tour. Am serving as Tour Consultant for the 6th season on the eastern leg of the Tour. Odd, it seems like it’s been longer than that. It’s always interesting and fun to go snooping into other areas to see what their crops look like as well as seeing how their crop production practices differ from out own. There are also international folk on the tour so not only is the exchange of information rewarding, the communication can be challenging. How to do you say “don’t pee on the electric fence” in Japanese? Being back in MN on Thursday is always a good feeling as Dorothy said to Auntie Em, “There’s no place like home.”

See you next weeek...real good then
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/24/09, 03:34:32 PM
Sometimes this old farm feels like a long-lost friend,
Yes ’n’ hey, it’s good to be back home again

The scurs made good on their rain forecast and now if they can deliver on some more sunshine, they’d be golden. What’s in store you ask? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny, high of 75 and low of 50 – 55. Thursday through Saturday, partly cloudy, highs 70 – 75 and lows 50 – 55. Sunday, partly cloudy with a chance of showers. High of 70 – 75 and low of 50 – 55. Monday, rain likely. High of 70 and low of 50. Cloudy Tuesday, high of 70 and low of 50. Normal high for August 28th is 79 and the normal low is 55. On the 27th, the sun will begin to set before 8 p.m. meaning September can’t be far off. The scurs have bought new PF Flyers in preparation.

Rain makes grain if it doesn’t freeze before it’s ripe anyway. Last week’s report from the SROC in Waseca had us 11% behind on GDU’s as of the 19th, roughly 10 days based on a starting date of May 1. Small grain harvest is nearing completion although there are scattered fields that farmers have been attempting to take straight still standing. Wheat and oat yields have been good as has quality. The only major problem has been grain moisture, with samples running well over 14%. A quick run through the dryer may be in order in those cases if the acreage is large enough. Corn and soybean progress was good last week but it needs to be. A September 15th frost could raise havoc as most of the corn is still denting and many of the beans are a long way from being out of danger.

Ah, those back to school days aren’t far off. Still remember the days when we’d go school shopping and get a few pairs of jeans, a couple shirts, a new pair of tennis shoes and some socks. Clothing wasn’t real exciting but it was always a treat to see what kind of supplies were needed. Remember getting those big boxes of Crayola’s with the sharpeners? Was a great mess maker that had to make the janitors just shudder when they saw them. Compasses were fun too. Could poke holes in things and draw circles all over the place. Probably my favorite though was the fountain pen which came into play about 4th grade. Talk about the ultimate mess maker. The ink came in those little plastic dealies that were punctured by the little tube that allowed the ink to flow into the quill. It was great fun to shake the pen hard enough so the ink would fly out, making big drops and staining floors, clothing, desks, or whatever surface they happened to contact. For some reason, ball point pens were frowned upon for much of my early grade school career. Given the weapons of mass destruction fountain pens were, can’t imagine why.

It’s great to be back home from the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. Dread this time of year because no sooner do I return, I usually wind up turning around and heading to the State Fair. That and I’m out of clean underwear. This year there’s a little time due to the late start to the Fair so Saturday morning was a good one to relax and gawk out the window at all the weeds and long grass as well as the birds helping themselves to the bounty in the yard. The hummingbirds are on their way through apparently. Most appear to be either female or young. At any rate they were making a circle around the house, tapping the nectar feeders, hitting the 4 o’clocks, then the impatiens, then back to the large planters containing a mix of flowers the names of which probably rhyme with female body parts. The chickadee stayed on too. Was afraid with the feeders going empty he’d leave but instead it appears he’s brought along some of his little friends. There are still signs of the orioles as well. Only partially filled the jelly feeder Friday night thinking they’d probably headed south but Saturday morning there was one of the faithful gobbling it down.

Speaking of gobbling things down, this has to be a Cheviot sheep’s favorite time of the year at the ranch. Not because some of them get to go to the State Fair but because of all the goodies for them to eat in late summer. The native prairie pasture helps sustain them through August but they live for the stuff that get tossed over the fence. Garden produce abounds and they’re the beneficiaries of our eating and all the overgrown misfits that result when no one is around to harvest for awhile. Big cucumbers, melon rinds, overripe string beans, ground fall apples, sweet corn cobs and husks and of course, some of the larger weeds that never seem to go away in spite of all the mowing, pulling and tilling. Can usually tell when the sheep are nearby just by listening for the munching sound. Best of all, there’ll be a lot more to come.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/31/09, 08:33:48 PM
Now I've reached that age, I've tried to do all those things the best I can.

The scurs missed on the rain and Sunday’s cold overnight low. Other than that, the forecast was another horseshoe/hand grenade combo. For this forecast period, Wednesday starts off with partly cloudy skies and a slight chance of showers. High of 75 and low of 55. Increasing clouds and shower chances on Thursday with a high of 75 and a low of 55. Clear Friday, high near 75 and low around 55. Partly cloudy Saturday, high around 75 and low of 55 with a chance of showers overnight. Mostly cloudy Sunday with a chance of showers, high of 75 and low of 55. Monday, partly cloudy, high of 65 – 70 and low of 50. Warmer Tuesday under partly cloudy skies. High of 75 and low of 55. Normal high for September 4th is 77 and the normal low is 52. After the State Fair, the scurs will be offering discounts on forecasts on a stick.

Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer recently pointed out that Jupiter has been very visible in the early evening eastern sky. It is in fact other than perhaps the moon, the first heavenly body visible even before the sun has completely set. The Full Moon will occur this month on the 4th and is known as the Full Corn Moon as corn harvest generally begins in parts of the country about this time. Normally September’s Full Moon is the Full Harvest Moon but that Full Moon name is reserved for the Full Moon closest to the Autumnal equinox. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Rice Moon and the Sioux called it the Moon of the Drying Grass. Surely the native prairie grasses covering the landscape they roamed would’ve been just that.

Crop progress has been slow with the cool temperatures experienced over the weekend. A 44 degree Monday morning low at the ranch makes for a long climb before we begin to accumulate much for GDU’s on a daily basis. Last week’s GDU report from the SROC in Waseca had us about 14% behind normal. Some soybean aphids have been noticed here and there although in general the numbers are not enough to cause much concern in R6 stage soybeans, especially with the moisture we received in August, nearly about 4.68” at the ranch. Disease pressure is showing up more commonly from the road. The main problems are SDS (sudden death syndrome) white mold, and BSR (brown stem rot). Corn is starting to dent finally but has about a month to go before we’re completely safe from frost.

Some have asked what all these little “sweat bees” are hovering and annoying the bejeepers out of them. Most likely they are syrphid flies, something we wrote about a few years back but it’s OK to refresh people’s memories once in awhile. They may look like bees but these insects are actually flies as opposed to bees, they have only two wings, compound eyes and stubby antennae. Bees have 4 wings, simple eyes, and long antennae. The alternating yellow and black bands on their abdomens are no doubt Mother Nature’s method of tricking predators into thinking they’re bees.

Syrphids also are commonly called “hover flies” or “flower flies” as they commonly hover in one spot, dart two and fro, and can be found feeding on nectar and pollen from flowering plants. They also serve as pollinators by doing so. More importantly, their larvae which are generally small, green maggots, are voracious aphid consumers. It’s estimated that they are capable of devouring up to an aphid a minute, which is even faster than a little fat buddy can scarf down a dozen warm cookies. Their annoying habit of landing on you is actually to collect moisture or sweat. While they can be a nuisance, syrphid flies are one of the “good guys” when it comes to pollinating flowers and keeping us from being elbow deep in aphids.

Garden produce continues to abound. Managed to get rid of several 5-gallon buckets of cucumbers the past week and am almost afraid to go out into the garden to see how many more there are. Hopefully the cool weather has slowed down the cucurbit prolificacy somewhat. Sweet corn has been good but the tomatoes have been beset with blossom end rot much of the summer. While some tend to believe this is a calcium issue, the alternating wet-dry in our case is a more likely culprit. We have ample calcium, just haven’t had very consistent rainfall until recently.

After another short stint away from home was glad to see the hummingbirds still pulling on their nectar feeders. The orioles appear to have flown the coop as their jelly dishes remain largely unchanged from early last week when I spied what was likely one of the last customers for the season. The goldfinches have wasted no time in bringing their young to the sunflower and thistle feeders. The young goldfinches are all over the yard right now and the rapid increase in the rate of seed consumption reflects that.

Another State Fair is in the books for us at the ranch. Well, for Mr. Cheviot anyway. Mrs. Cheviot will still be there until Thursday riding herd on the exhibitors as interim superintendent in the open class sheep department. We managed to get through another Cheviot show and were successful even though our yearling ram spent more time airborne in the ring than he did on the ground. As usual, was more excited that Emily Meyer won a grand championship in her final State Fair 4-H appearance than I was about our own performance. Always great to see someone who has worked hard go out on a high note. Also great to have professional show help the day of our show, have chores done and Gus looked after while we were gone and nice to have help unloading the trailer upon arriving home. Task completed, mission accomplished and a job well done by all.

See you next week...real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/09/09, 03:31:22 PM
Oh, it's nobody's fault but mine…

Warmer and drier than the scurs expected but that’s OK. The crops needed every GDU they could grab. They’ll be lucky they had it too if this forecast period holds true. Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy, good chance of showers with a high of 75 and a low of 55. Thursday, chance of lingering showers in the morning, otherwise partly cloudy with a high of 75 and a low of 55 – 60. Partly cloudy Friday with a chance of showers. High of 70 – 75 and a low around 50. Chance of showers Saturday and Sunday with a cool down. Partly cloudy, high of 65 and low of 45 – 50. Partly cloudy Monday and Tuesday, highs of 65 – 70 and lows of 45 – 50. Septemberrrrrrr! After this summer, you’d think it was mid-July again or something! Normal low for September 11th is 74 and the normal low is 49, about the same as we normally experience May 24th. The scurs will be on the lookout for those large yellow livestock carriers, otherwise known as school buses.

Great stretch of weather this past week and it moved the crops closer to being safe from a frost. On some of the earlier maturing corn hybrids planted early we should be starting to see the milk line move down the kernel. Once the corn reaches about ½ milkline, it will still realize about 92% of its potential yield even if it does freeze. Soybeans are maturing although some of the 2.3 and above maturity level soybeans are still pretty green from the road. Diseases have in some cases hastened maturity but all in all, it looks like there will probably be some soybean combining in late September. Plenty of time for farmers to find something to fret about.

There are subtle signs that fall is on the way. The big and little bluestem as well as the yellow Indiangrass have assumed their fall colors in the pasture. The sumac around the yard is beginning to turn and the nannyberries are blushing, in some cases with ripe fruit already showing up in a few clusters. The apple trees are loaded and while the birds seem to be helping themselves to some here and there, both the Fireside and the Haralson should make for some great eating this September. After devouring a bucket of ground falls, the sheep don’t seem to mind. And there is plenty of road kill sweet corn on Hwy. 13. As rough as parts of it are, amazing there isn’t more.

Was premature on my pronouncement that the orioles had left the ranch. They were just being sneaky is all. After last week’s deadline almost like clockwork, two males showed up, one a first year male and the other in full color. They were scolding poor Gus as I made my way across the yard from shores one morning. As of Sunday, they were still there but as everyone knows, one of these days they’ll be gone. The migrating hummingbirds have been active again with a lot of activity around the feeders. They usually settle down and stake their claim on one of the 3 nectar feeders. As Stan Tekiela wrote in last week’s Outdoor News, hummingbirds migrate at night using the stars and landforms to navigate by. They feed during the day and while the sugar in nectar is a good source of quick energy, it’s not very nutrient dense. Hummingbirds pick up most of their nutritional needs from small insects they pick up on the wing or when they’re in and around flowers. As of a couple weeks ago, we still had some barn swallows that hadn’t left the nest. The last check had them flying the yard while Mr. Cheviot was lawn mowing. Migrating swallows of several types continue to line the wires across the road from the ranch. After putting all the wires underground at the ranch was wondering where they’d gather. Now I know.

Saw an interesting butterfly on Saturday, unlike any I’d ever seen before. It was a large swallowtail that was feasting on the flowers in the various planters surrounding the house. The upper wing surfaces were dark brown with and almost horizontal appearing yellow stripe on the forewings due to the angle the wings were being held while the butterfly was feeding. The wing surface underneath was yellow as was the body of the butterfly. Looked it up online and corroborated the I.D. with some books and discovered it was a giant swallowtail. At roughly 5” across it was large but no larger than some of the tiger swallowtails we’ve had in the yard but they are the largest swallowtail species in the US. Definitely larger than some of the smaller black swallowtails we use to raise in fruit jars on dill and carrot tops when we were kids. What do the caterpillars of the giant swallowtail eat? In this area probably prickly ash while in the south, they commonly feed on citrus and can occasionally be an economic problem. It was certainly fun to watch it leisurely flutter around the yard, light and sample a bloom then float lazily off to another one.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Cheviot and I celebrated 25 years of wedded bliss. Odd, it seems like it’s been longer than that. Oh sure, there’s been some rough sledding from time to time like when we first married and her car got left out, winding up under a snow bank the next morning. Or the time when I came home from work to see a huge pile of oats under the feed bin because someone hadn’t figured out how to close the slide. My secret to staying married? Three things: Guys, whether they are or they aren’t your fault, you’re going to get blamed anyway so you may as well keep your mouth shut, clean up the mess and laugh about it with your little fat buddies over a libation. Real or imagined hearing loss from activities such as driving tractor, shooting shotguns or listening to loud rock and roll also doesn’t hurt. Number one though as one of my little fat buddies aptly claims: Just keep reminding yourself (and her), she’s just darn lucky to have you! Know that going in and your life will be simple.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/14/09, 03:16:06 PM
Mornin' glory is on the vine,

The scurs were like Denard Span last week; out in left field! It never cooled off but they were right about the typical July-like conditions. This time around they’re taking no chances. On the bright side if they keep predicting cool weather eventually they’re bound to be right. Starting with Wednesday and Thursday, mostly sunny skies, highs of 80 and lows of 55 both days. Friday through Sunday, mostly sunny, highs around 75 and lows near 50. Sunny on Monday with a high of 75 with cooler temperatures being ushered in overnight. Low around 45. Tuesday on the autumnal equinox, cooler with partly cloudy skies. High of 60 and low of ready for this? 35 – 40. Normal high for September 22nd is 71 and the normal low is 45. The sun will rise at 7 a.m. on the 22nd and we are losing daylight at the rate of about 3 minutes per day. With another equinox upon us, the scurs expect more fan mail and cranky chickens with eggs standing on end in their nests once again.

A warm dry finish to the growing season was just what the doctor ordered and it appears that’s indeed what we’re getting. No rain, zero, zip, nada, has been recorded at the ranch thus far in the month of September. We’ve watched it go around us just like we did most of the summer so why should fall be any different? It seems to rain every other month whether we need it or not. Reports from those plowing sweet corn ground are that they’re burning lays off rapidly with the dry soil conditions. Soybeans continue to ripen at a breakneck pace although some fields are getting some help from the plethora of soybean diseases present in them. The milkline on the corn is moving down rapidly also and there are some fields that should be harvested for silage this next week. Speaking of silage, my office and pickup continue to smell like a silage wagon, given all the dead or dying vegetation in them. There are always the aforementioned soybean diseases and there have been a half dozen or so oak leaves with those pretty hedgehog galls on them left on my desk.

Are the orioles finally gone? Not sure just yet. The jelly is still disappearing but I did notice earlier in the summer that the house finches had been consuming some of it from time to time. Mom still had an oriole at her oriole feeder as of 9/12. The humming birds are certainly keeping things lively here. They continue to be all over the planters, the flower beds and into the nectar feeders. Their favorite seems to be the 4 o’clocks but they’ve also been after the morning-glories as the vines continue to wind their way up the trellis’s and light pole in the yard.

There are days when the consumption of seed by the goldfinches makes a major slowdown. Sunday when watering the pots and planters I discovered one reason why. A sharp-shinned hawk made an appearance and the goldfinches were hanging pretty tight in the brushy cover around the yard. Saw the juvenile hawk make an unsuccessful attempt at catching one of the goldfinches but their roller-coaster flight made the hawk miss several times before he probably decided the house sparrows at the neighbors might be easier pickin’s. The hawks would be more than welcome to stick around and hammer the large flocks of starlings that have been ruining many of our apples and consuming most of the crabapples, leaving few for the migrating birds who could really use them.

The garden is continuing to be plentiful. Some of the vine crops are beginning to lose their canopy and reveal the squash, pumpkins and gourds below. The melons have been somewhat disappointing although there are some of the earlier varieties that should be ready soon. The blossom end rot on the tomatoes appears to be subsiding with regular watering through the soaker hose. Even the zucchini in the vicinity has taken advantage of the water and has been setting more zukes. The Pontiac potatoes have been a pleasant surprise. Seems like they were just planted not all that long ago but now the vines are dying down, it’s time to dig them. Dug a hill last week just to see what was under them and it was a nice assortment of sizes. 4 or 5 softball sized tubers, 4 or 5 fist sized spuds and several baby red size, perfect for putting in with a roast. Took them to Mom over Labor Day and she fried up one of the large ones. Still tough to beat the flavor of freshly dug new red potatoes fried in a cast iron skillet. As Mom called them, “comfort food”.

Mrs. Cheviot and I got the opportunity thanks to one of my little fat buddies to attend the grand opening game at the new TCF Stadium at my alma mater. My days at the U included several fall afternoon football games at old Memorial Stadium. This game was unique as it was a 6 o’clock start and finished under the lights. I must say, they did it up right including a flyover from Air Force F-16’s, the marching band in prime form, fireworks and the whole shooting match. The atmosphere was almost electric when the game started and continued throughout the duration. The new stadium is beautiful and with the archways, has some of the same architectural charm that Memorial Stadium once had. Lots of selection for food and beverages, some of it almost healthy and the bathrooms were relatively adequate.

About 11 rows up from the field and behind the Gophers bench on the 35 yard line, the seats were fantastic. The student section was full and loud too, something that some liked to complain about when football was being played in the sterile, off-campus environment of the Dome. Will it continue to be a popular destination for Gopher fans on a Saturday afternoon or evening? My guess is for real fans it will as long as they put a competitive product on the field and promote it properly. Oh sure, one can already hear the naysayers complaining about the open-air stadium and the cold temperatures sure to come in November. Hey, this is MN and while it isn’t always warm, figure it’d be a lot more fun sitting in the stadium on a Saturday afternoon watching football than sitting on an open-air tractor while spreading manure, as is my wont come November.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/22/09, 09:28:06 PM
You are only coming through in waves...

The scurs tale of foreboding weather woe turned out to be premature once again but as usual, no one is going to complain about the temperatures we’ve been experiencing. Is the other shoe about to drop? Unlikely say the scurs. Starting with Wednesday and Thursday, look for partly cloudy skies with highs both days in the 75 – 80 range with lows of 50 – 55. Partly cloudy Friday and Saturday with slight chances of rain. Highs of 70 – 75 and lows near 50. Cooer Sunday under mostly sunny skies, high of 65 and low of 50. Mostly sunny and warmer Monday, high of 70 – 75 and low of 50 – 55. Mostly cloudy Tuesday with a good chance of a shower or thunderstorm. High of 75 and low of 45. The normal high for September 25th is 70 and the normal low is 44, the same as it is around May 10th. One huge difference however, we experience over 2 ½ fewer hours of daylight on September 25th. On September 25th, our hours of daylight and darkness here in greater Bugtussle will be of equal length. On the 28th, the sun sets at 7 p.m. Knowing that by November 10th, the normal high will be 44, the scurs have split their wood and laid in a supply of kerosene as yet another stretch of long winter nights approaches.

What doncha like about the weather we’ve had in September so far? It has moved us along in crop maturity to the point where most likely we will be out of the woods for the most part on both corn and soybeans before a killing frost. Given a favorable weather scenario this week we should see some soybeans harvested as well. The rain gauge at the ranch still as of this writing has yet to record any measurable precipitation yet this month. These things do tend to even out however so wouldn’t be surprised if its stint as the Maytag repairman come October. The pattern seems to be that we get rain every other month and temperatures that belong to either the month prior or following. Given a continuation of that trend, a cold, wet October followed by a dry November with October-like temperatures would surprise no one.

Ah, but aside from the pastures being dry, it has been a fun September to watch and listen to some of the insects and birds. The white-lined sphinx moths have been after many of the flowers at the ranch in the early evening hours and the mosquitoes have been after many of the warm-blooded inhabitants at the ranch. During daylight hours there have been an amazing number of bumblebees working feverishly to lay in a supply of nectar and pollen to overwinter. The cicadas are still providing their buzzing electricity imitation to the countryside, making up for the lack of noise they provided for much of July. The orioles appear to officially be done and unfortunately, the hummingbirds probably won’t be here too much longer. It’s hard to say if those seen now are the same ones we saw a week ago or if they’re only coming through in waves.

Completed the potato harvest before chores on Sunday and then dug the onions afterwards. Did manage to poke a few potatoes with the fork so we can taste test the stabbing victims right away. Always a good feeling to have them out of the ground though ahead of a potential rain event. It’s not that much fun digging them when it’s dry and even less fun when it’s muddy. While one can go to the store or a farmer’s market and buy them, hard to beat the taste of something you’ve raised by the sweat of your own brow with the dirt under your fingernails to prove it. The W’s were Johnny on the spot and got enough hay laid in here too so the Cheviots should have plenty to gnaw on for awhile. The smell of that freshly baled forage in the barn is enough to make one want to stay there and inhale that intoxicating aroma.

Last week was a rough one for us at the ranch given some of the events that unfolded back in the area we grew up in. Mrs. Cheviot lost both of her parents within two days and it has left me in disbelief. While she was busy tending to matters there, I likened myself to Al Haig after Reagan was shot, in control here at the White House but in word only. Sure, I got the chores done, kept some of the necessary issues handled at work, and passed along word of what was transpiring to our east but really, my mind was somewhere else and it was all beyond my control. I was just reacting and trying to maintain my sanity. I want to write about my father in law and mother in law but I can’t; just not ready yet. Will save that for next week after we get some closure following Monday and Tuesday’s services. In the meantime, thanks to all who have kept us in their thoughts and prayers.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/28/09, 12:27:21 PM
The winter's comin' on, Summer's almost gone.

The scurs get the nearby right but can’t seem to get untracked as the systems are marching to the beat of their own drummer. This time around, starting with Wednesday, look for mostly sunny skies with a high of 65 – 70, a low of 50 and a good chance of evening rain. Thursday, cloudy with showers likely. High of 65 – 70 and a low near 50. A chance of lingering showers Friday and Saturday. Cloudy Friday becoming partly cloudy on Saturday with highs both days around 60 and lows near 40. Sunday through Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs near 60 and lows around 40. Normal high for October 2nd is 67 and the normal low is 42. The scurs will be watching out for the first signs of Jack Frost on the Harvest Moon.

The Full Moon for this month will occur on the 4th and is know as the Full Harvest Moon as it is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. 2 out of 3 years the Harvest Moon occurs in September. It is aptly named as the harvest is beginning and many vegetable crops we grow that were developed by the Indians, namely things like squash, pumpkins, and beans are now ready to harvest. Both the Ojibwe and the Sioux knew this as the Moon of falling leaves. Fortunately the Indians did not worry about raking leaves and spent the time they saved on surviving.

Despite last week’s rain, soybean harvest is underway and so far it is about what was expected, yields running generally in the upper 40’s and low to mid 50’s. Some strips and plots are yielding more than that but when loads are tallied up, that’s about where they’re averaging. Corn appears to be past the frost danger by and large with areas of stalk rot having expressed itself when one gazes from the road. Upon further investigation, doing the “lean test” and seeing the stalks kink over easily, it’ll be a good idea to see how the areas reacted to all the windy weather early in the week.

Black walnut harvest is also underway with the 4-legged harvesters jockeying for position with the 2-legged harvesters for the best spots. The only difference noticed between the two is the two-legged type normally don’t bury the transported nuts and the 4-legged type generally don’t dance on Bandwagon or go fishing with Elmer. Will have to keep an eye out to make sure neither type gets in the habit of storing walnuts in my pickup as has been their habit.

This week may be the last hurrah from the hummingbirds. Saturday, there were lots of them yet having a blast zipping around the yard. Mixed up a partial batch of nectar but am questioning whether or not it will get used up. Still, there was one lone hummer on Monday morning. After the frenetic pace they were moving and pulling down on the feeders on Saturday am afraid this could be the last one until spring. Several flickers moving through right now along with large groups of robins. Both have worked the nannyberries over so it’s a good thing I taste tested them when I did. The white-breasted nuthatches have become regular customers and the goldfinches sans their bright summer plumage, have been spending more time consuming composite seeds down in the CRP acreage. That’s alright as their numbers and seed consumption were starting to remind me of the irruption of siskins and redpolls last winter.

Now the two weeks from hell over with, perhaps I can look back and share a little about two wonderful people that were taken from us recently. My mother-in-law Judy was a full-blooded Norwegian, which I’m convinced helped prepare me some for the Scandinavians in the area where we live now. She had all kinds of little “Norwegian-isms” including the time my nose itched and she said someone was talking about me. She was also an expert lefse maker as well as some of the other Norwegian pastry items she’d have during the holidays at their house. She also made lutefisk that was actually edible even without the butter and of course with the butter, it was pretty good. The oyster stew we had for every Christmas was a treat too, with the oysters having been nicknamed “bugs” by the family somewhere along the line. The first time she asked how many bugs I wanted in my soup I wondered what kind of outfit I’d married into?

And as all good little Norwegian ladies would do, within an hour of cleaning everything up, it was always time for “a little lunch”. More stuff to eat to make after your nap to make you even more miserable than you already were. She was always one to please. One of my favorite memories occurred when my niece was very young and she had come over to Barney and Judy’s at Christmas time to see the cows. My brother and his wife brought Becky in the house to warm up afterwards and she announced to Judy that she would like some bologna and snacks! My sister-in-law wanted to crawl under the carpet I think but Judy just laughed. I can’t remember what she rustled up for Becky to eat but she always chuckled about that unusual request.

I was very fortunate to have achieved favored son-in-law status with Barney early on. We had a lot in common as we were both weather nuts, enjoyed feeding the birds, worked with crops and/or animals and were professional nappers. I can still envision him in the barn, ear lappers on his cap folded up, barn lime on his overshoes and Red Man trickling out of the corner of his mouth. That was where he appeared to be the most at home, especially when that time of day rolled around. He made it over to our place just a few times over the years and every time he did, by about 2 in the afternoon, he’d start to get antsy because chore time was looming on the horizon. Can’t say as I blamed him. He was taught that since they’re your animals, they’re your responsibility. You’re supposed to be there to take care of them, not stick someone else with their care or as one sees all too frequently on the news, neglect them. That was never an issue. Barney’s cows were always well cared for, perhaps a little too well cared for but they were never lacking for care.

Christmas was always one of his favorite times. He’d grin from ear to ear as all the sons and daughters, their spouses and children would gather at their house for the festivities. When their driveway became icy as was often the case, he’d remind Jo not to fall and crack his ice. Barney loved to crank up the thermostat for that occasion using the excuse that the little kids would get cold. More likely it was because Barney was cold after chores and who could blame him? We’d always check to see how close to “broil” he’d set it though. Learning the hard way after the sweat was pouring off of us, by dressing in layers, it was much more bearable.

When the winter weather arrived, he loved to call and ask how cold it was. Was so glad he and Judy had been able to make it over to our place for a Christmas gathering after we’d remodeled. It was a bitterly cold day and the weather was deteriorating as they arrived. They were able to be driven right inside the heated garage and unloaded with ease. And even though the weather caused them to leave prematurely, the vehicle was warm. Sad that their shortened stay was to be the last time Barney and Judy would visit but as in life, we were all fortunate to have them for the time we did.

See you next week…real good then
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/05/09, 01:27:45 PM
Been dazed and confused for so long, it's not true...

The scurs were tracking right until Monday’s rain arrived. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. Starting with Wednesday, we see partly cloudy skies with a high of 60 and a low of 40. Thursday, partly cloudy, high of 55 and low between 35 and 40. Partly cloudy Friday, high of 55 and low of 35 with a chance of showers overnight. Saturday, partly cloudy with a chance of that naughty word no one wants to hear, snow in the morning. High of 50 and low of 30. Mostly sunny on Sunday, high of 50 and low between 25 and 30. This will likely mean a killing frost so the according to Swede lore, we can then officially have Indian Summer. Monday and Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs of 50 both days with lows of 30 – 35.Normal high for October 9th is 64 and the normal low is 39. Temperatures are more like late October and early November. The scurs remain dazed and confused as the calendar says it’s closer to Columbus Day than Halloween.

Not much progress in the fields given the moisture that fell the first 4 days of the month. While temperatures have been cool, the moisture has been beneficial for the pastures and hay crops. It’s also starting to build some of our much depleted reserves back although it still has a long way to go before we get back to a full soil profile in the top 5’. Prior to the last several rains, we were below the levels experienced following the summer of ’88 according to the SROC in Waseca. Never hurts to have some fuel in the tank going into spring in this country.

Around the yards and gardens, the wind beat a lot of the vegetation pretty severely. It went so far on some plants to make them appear as though they’d been frozen. A lot of ground fall apples of course that the sheep were only too glad to see tossed over the fence. Looks official, the hummingbirds have left the area, leaving behind the monster flocks of grackles (blackbirds) that appear out of nowhere and occupy the yard. Plenty of other feathered friends too including nuthatches, goldfinches, red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, and the ever present mourning doves. Lots of robins moving through and any ripe berries are fair game for them. Suspect if it snows, we’ll start to see some juncos. Does 3 snows on the robin’s tail count in October?

Gus was tuckered after chasing the 4 wheeler much of Sunday as the vine crops were harvested. Tried to get him to ride in the garden cart but as is a Border Collie’s habit, it’s more fun to herd small implements than it is to ride on them. Pickups are a different story of course. The harvest was bountiful with lots of our favorite squash, gourds and pumpkins. Lined up along the sidewalk in front of the house, they make a wonderful display of fall color. Next up: Indian corn. With the husks drying down, it’s time.

The kindly neighbors requested I let their Collie Sophie out as they were on a brief getaway. She was glad to see me, bounding and playing after the door was opened. Checked the pasture, the waterer, counted the ears on the sheep and divided by two, then went back toward the house where Sophie was. I played with her, petted her and told her I had to go. Was a little concerned that she might try to follow me but my concerns were quickly overcome. She was busily chasing her favorite Siamese cat into a hunk of plastic tile. Nope, not gonna follow me home when there’s a cat to be tormented.

Ever have one of those days when things haven’t gone exactly as wanted then someone happens by and things change after that? Happened on Sunday. After picking up the gourds went in the house for a bite to eat. All the sudden I heard a car rumble in and Gus was barking like mad. The doorbell rang and as I went answer it I saw a familiar face. I’m horrible with names at first; I knew the guy and couldn’t remember his name. An avid reader of this column, he’d stopped before and we’d had a great conversation on wide ranging topics from nicknames on the school bus (mine was “Barnyard”) to some of the experiences we had in common growing up back in the “good old days.”

What he wanted to show me though was the ’67 Plymouth Fury VIP, which of course caught my eye immediately when I’d peered out the kitchen window. Equipped with the 383 and dual exhaust, it was no wonder it rattled the windows in the house! I came out, looked it over and gave it my seal of approval. They don’t make cars like that anymore and it’s always great to see a classic Arizona car with no rust, most of it still original, including the paint. Just as neat to hear the signature whine of the step-down starter on an older Mopar before it commences. Enough to warm the cockles of the heart for any gear head wannabe who grew up in that era! Thanks for stopping RD and for being a faithful reader. Your check is in the mail.

See you next week…real good then
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/13/09, 11:52:10 AM
It said, that everything you grow in your garden would taste pretty fine

The scurs and the Twins appear to have a common affliction: Can’t get past those late inning blues. Maybe they need to borrow some of A Rod’s performance enhancing drugs! Starting with Wednesday, cloudy, high of 45 and low of 35 with a chance of rain turning to snow in the overnight hours. Same song, 2nd verse for Thursday and on Friday, temps remain the same under partly cloudy skies with a slight chance of showers during daylight hours. Saturday, we get to see the sun again. Clear with a balmy 50 degree high and a low of 35. Warmer Sunday under sunny skies, high of 55 – 60 with a low of 45. Cloudy Monday with the possibility of rain showers once again. High of 60 – 65 and low of 35. Rain again Tuesday afternoon, high of 50 - 55 and a low of 30 - 35, with a possibility of freezing rain late. The normal high for October 16th is 61 and the normal low is 36. The normal high for November 16th is 41 and the normal low is 23. Sound familiar? We also slip below 11 hours of daylight on the 16th and to make matters worse, the sun rises after 7:30 a.m. on the 18th. With all that good news, the scurs are ready to brush up on their long winter napping skills.

Field progress was slow until late week, waiting for the sun to shine so combines could once again roll. Precip has been detected on 10 of the first 12 days in October at the ranch so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out we’ve been spoiled the past several years. Soybean moistures following the rains (and snow) were generally running in the upper 14 to 15%. Some dockage if hauling to town but perhaps better than being buried under a foot of snow. Some corn is being harvested and here again, moisture is high. With the cool temperatures, very little field drying is occurring. Tillage on the other hand where harvest has taken place has gone well. Dry subsoils below have lead to moisture percolating down in the profile easily, keeping the tillage zone in good working condition. It is still too early to put anhydrous ammonia on yet unless you’re living a long way north of here.

Ahead of the Monday snow event, one could detect a sense of urgency among the bird population in the yard. Goldfinches in particular were clinging to the feeders in large numbers again. They beat it for the trees briefly when a red-tailed hawk appeared on top of the light pole in the middle of the yard. His stay was short-lived however and it didn’t take long for them to reappear once he left, almost like the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz once they realized the wicked witch was gone. The nectar feeders were taken down full of sugar water slush on Saturday morning and replaced with the suet feeders in anticipation of colder temperatures. Not much activity yet as it usually takes the downies, hairies, red-bellies and other assorted suet eaters awhile to find the high energy food.

Mother Nature was busy firing warning shots and it was a good weekend to get things ready for the inevitable. One can almost sense it in their bones. Got the apples picked on Saturday and moved all the vine crops inside where Jack Frost couldn’t kiss them again. Managed to pick the remaining tomatoes that were blushing ahead of the frost and must’ve forgotten one as I fished it out of my sweatshirt pocket at work Monday morning. Am dreading the day that the last one is consumed though. Afraid it’s back to draining garden hoses and covering tender vegetation on the slim hope that the weather could turn.

Could the weather still turn? Of course it could and it usually does. Can still recall the fall of ’81, my first year out of college living in a little basement house in Rugby ND. Was pulling 2’ nitrate tests on October 9th, a Friday afternoon near Rolla and finished near dark. Drove the Jeep CJ-7 home after sundown and it snowed so hard the last 20 miles on highway 3 it was difficult to see. It ended up snowing about 8” there but it got so cold the ground froze solid where it didn’t. We were fairly certain the season was over and there would be no more soil sampling, tillage or ammonia application after that. Were we wrong! The weather straightened out, the fieldwork got done, and it was nice until just before Thanksgiving.

That was a Thanksgiving to remember too. My folks made the trip to the Geographical Center of North America where we dined on snow geese that I had shot and Mom added a special touch to her much sought after dressing recipe with the pleurotus (oyster) mushrooms found growing in a clump on the cottonwood stump in my yard. Outside it was gray and cold but inside, the little house was warm and smelled heavenly!

Mom and I reminisced about that on the phone this past Sunday afternoon while getting some pointers from her on cooking the pot roast I’d started. After misplacing the crock pot instructions needed to consult my sources for advice. With all the stuff outside that needed to be put away yet ahead of the snow, was lamenting that I was running out of time to make an apple pie. She suggested maybe making apple crisp from a few of the just picked Haralson apples as it would be quicker than making a pie. Just happened to have her recipe so she didn’t have to tell me twice. Anything made with a whole stick of butter has to taste good. The aroma of the apples and cinnamon combined with the beef roast simmering in the crock pot filled the house, making it warm and inviting, distant from the near freezing temperatures outside. Not so different from that special Thanksgiving all those years ago.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Bobby Bass on October 10/13/09, 02:47:04 PM
Butter is good... :happy1: and of course pie!
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/19/09, 02:16:41 PM
(Doing best Homer Simpson impression...) "Mmmmmmmmm...pie. Is there anything they can't do?"
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/19/09, 02:17:47 PM
Waiting for the sun...

After the scurs watched the Vikings escape with a victory, the scurs are setting out to do exactly the same thing. Starting with Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain. High of 55 and low of 40 – 45. Thursday, cloudy with more rain likely, high of 50 and a low of 35 – 40. Cloudy and cooler with a chance of lingering rain and snow showers on Friday. High near 45 and low around 30. Saturday we should see the sun again after a long wait. Partly cloudy, high of 45 – 50 and low near 30. Slight chance of showers Sunday, partly cloudy with a high close to 50 and low of 35. Partly cloudy Monday and Tuesday with highs of 50 – 55 and lows of 35. A chance of showers creeping in again Tuesday evening. The normal high for October 23rd is 57 and the normal low is 33. We continue to lose about 3 minutes of daylight per day. The scurs are wondering if Indian Summer is lurking just around the corner or if it’s a bus we’re about to be thrown under?

One would’ve had to set stakes to measure harvest progress last week. Rainy, cold, cloudy and dreary made soybean combining impossible and did little to help dry corn down in the fields. Even though it warmed up this past Sunday, soybeans remained too wet and some have resorted to drying them in order to at least make some headway. Dockage has been pretty nasty especially for those over 15%. There are simply very few dry beans with which the wet beans can be blended off. This month has been tough with precipitation of one sort or another being recorded at the ranch on 15 of the first 17 days in October. Not sure if that’s any kind of a record but it is at the ranch since we’ve only been recording data for a little over a year. The dry summer has bought us some time once again however as of this writing, we really haven’t had enough rain to completely recharge the subsoils in most areas. We just need the sun to shine and the breezes to dry the soybeans out sufficiently.

Some corn has been picked and while the yields have generally been extremely good, the test weight has not always been great, to the point that some are considering screening once again. As wet as the corn is, it’s tending to break up more, resulting in more fines making it more difficult to force air through the grain. This of course brought back memories for the little fat buddies around the training table of picking corn on the ear and musings about how long the cribs would need to be for the kind of yields we get nowadays. It was unanimous: Very long.

The cold temperatures earlier in the month sure have taken a toll on our leaf watching, haven’t they? Colors have been extremely subdued and some of the trees such as the ash in our yard have been completely denuded already due to the hard freeze. There are still scattered pockets of color here and there especially in the river valleys and lake areas. Am hopeful the red oaks in the yard will add some pizzazz to what has become a ho-hum autumn after expecting a colorful finish to the cool growing season.

Even though the summer was cool, one still has to marvel at the bounty of this land. Auntie Mar Mar dropped off her niece’s ewe to meet up with a date then laughed when she gazed at our garage full of squash. We’ve given away a lot already and it doesn’t look like we’ve made a dent in it. We’ve taste tested several kinds and so far the Mooregold has been my favorite, even though it takes a chainsaw to open them. The rind this year seems to be extra thick so it’s no wonder this variety seems to keep so well. Maybe have to look into a log splitter.

The weekend did bring lots of migrating birds through the area including a plethora of warblers and more hawks. A large group of cedar waxwings enjoyed the crabapples then disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. Bluebirds with their rather demure calls were at the kindly neighbors on Saturday then on Sunday morning they were at the ranch itself, first eating some of the remaining nannyberries. They then inspected the nearby nesting boxes while flitting about playfully. One can only hope they remember and return next spring to set up shop. The houses will be clean and ready for them when they get back.

Several young fox squirrels around the ranch, one or two of which have taken a shine to chewing on the bird feeders. Haven’t had a problem for years but it’s annoying to look out the window only to see the rodents literally hanging by their toenails with their heads buried in the feeder. Dusted off the plexiglass squirrel guard, put it back out on the feeder, so let the games begin. Their next move was to take down the thistle seed tube and gnaw on that, judging by the half-moon munch taken out of the tube under the cap. They’d best be careful though. I have a hunting license and my trigger finger is getting itchy. It’s been awhile since I’ve had nice, fresh young squirrel barbecued on the grill. A well placed shot from the grassy knoll can never be ruled out.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: HD on October 10/19/09, 06:36:21 PM
Good read Dotch!

Corn is still a little wet here too.......maybe a couple more weeks.....maybe

(are there any Kennedys left?)

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/26/09, 12:21:50 PM
Leaves are falling all around...

Between A Rod’s performance enhancing drugs and the old Brett Favre doll they used to stick pins in, the scurs were on the money for the last forecast period. Double or nothing this week? We shall see. Starting with Wednesday, high of 50 – 55 and low of 40 – 45 with a slight chance of rain. Continued cloudy on Thursday, warmer, high of 55 – 60 and low of 40 – 45. Slight chance of rain with a better chance of a showers and thunderstorms overnight. Cloudy Friday, high of 60 and low of 35 with a good chance of continuing thunderstorms. Saturday, the sun returns just in time for the ghosts and goblins. High of 45 and low of 30 with a slight chance of showers during daylight hours. Partly cloudy again on Sunday, a little cooler with a high of 45 and lows near 20. Cloudy Monday, cooler, high of 35 and low of 20. Partly cloudy Tuesday, high of 35 - 40 and low of 25 - 30 with a slight chance of evening snow showers. Normal Halloween high is 51 and the normal low is 30. The scurs will be enjoying their hard fought extra hour of sleep after a tough night of trick or treating.

Yes, that time has come once again. Set your clocks back an hour on Saturday night. The nightmare is over for another year or at least until the dummies tell us to set our clocks ahead again in March. The good news for now is the sun will rise before 7 a.m. once again. The bad news: The sun will set shortly after 5 p.m. in the afternoon. Can’t win for losing.

November 2nd ushers in the Full Moon for the month, typically known as the Full Beaver Moon. It was named as such as this was the time of year that trapping of beaver was done to supply warm pelts. It is also sometimes referred to as the Full Frosty Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Freezing Moon and the Sioux as The Moon of the Falling Leaves. After observing the trees at the ranch this past weekend, that one is right on the money. At least the sheep are doing their part on the other side of the fence, gobbling down the silver maple leaves as fast as they can.

We had very little weather appropriate for fieldwork this past week and it appears that at least half or more of the soybean crop in the area is still in the field. Luckily we had part of Sunday, Monday and part of Tuesday last week to get some soybeans harvested. Combining soybeans this week doesn’t look real promising and some have opted to pick corn instead. Corn is wet of course but as we mentioned here a few weeks back, stalk integrity is decreasing and each windy day could make matters worse. Corn did come down a couple points in the few drying days we had. However, the hours of daylight and average daily temps are heading the wrong direction this time of year.

The rain for the month has made the tile lines run again and some of the shallow area wetlands such as ours are again holding water. We’ve tallied just a shade over 5” of precip at the ranch as of this writing with more likely before the end of the week. The first juncos we’ve seen arrived at the ranch on Saturday. Always hate to see them come but they’re pretty good little guests, cleaning up under the feeders after having spent most of their summers far to the north. The downies, hairies and red-bellies have found the suet and the female red-bellied woodpecker likes to take one kernel of corn at a time back to wherever, and return in a few minutes for another one. The blue jays take 5 or 6 at time in their “gular pouch” likely stashing them somewhere for safe keeping.

After some temps in the lower 20’s earlier in the month, was hoping perhaps the ladybug invasion may have been averted. The warm days last week brought them out with a vengeance. Driving by many farmsteads, the sound of dozens of bugs hitting the windshield was common. Still some glimpses of fall color here and there but this is one of those leaf watching years that wasn’t. The red oak trees in the yard have turned more of an orange color this year rather than the deep red we’ve become accustomed to. Variety is the spice of life.

At the Mall for Men, we’ve been feasting on the bountiful harvest thus far at the training table. Pie and donuts last week quickly became endangered species though. One of my little fat buddies claims I’ve got this gardening thing figured out. Give people apples and cucumbers and I get pies and pickles in return. After freezing squash on Saturday am scheming to somehow make the squash “value added” too. Oh well, it was still more entertaining than observing another ignominious defeat as the Gophers were squashed once again by The Ohio State University.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/02/09, 11:50:40 AM
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees…

The scurs got last Monday and Tuesday’s highs mixed up with the points scored by the Gophers and Vikings over the weekend. They promise to do better, the scurs that is. Starting Wednesday and Thursday, cooling down from Monday and Tuesday with highs both days of 45 and lows of 30. Thursday should mark the start of another warming trend however, this one lasting until mid-month hopefully. Mostly clear Thursday and Friday, turning partly sunny on Sunday. Highs around 50 – 55 and lows of 30 – 35. Partly cloudy Monday, warmer temps continuing but with a chance of rain later in the day. High of 50 – 55 and low of 35 – 40. Rain continuing Tuesday, high near 50 and low of 30 – 35. Normal high for November 7th is 46 and the normal low is 27. On November 5th, the sun begins to set before 5 p.m. and on November 7th, we slip below 10 hours of daylight, and won’t see that many hours again until early February. The scurs will be enjoying the sun while we have it after the gloomy month that was October.

October set many records for precipitation across the state and was in the running locally to be one of the wettest depending on where you live. At the SROC in Waseca where no one lives, they set a new 95 year precipitation record. They were also looking at the 3rd coldest October as of the 26th with record low highs being established for October 13th and 16th. Using their data for precipitation and temperatures to calculate a “misery index”, October 2009 was the clear “winner”. Here at the ranch for October, we tallied 5.81” of precip between melted snow and rain. There was precipitation of one form or another noted on 24 of the 31 days. Precipitation means clouds and clouds mean grumpy attitudes. Ugly!

On the bright side, weather tends to average out and in the past few days both the sun and moon have reappeared as have better attitudes. Along with that, one can actually see the heavens again at night. Some of the planets of note include Jupiter which is still shining brightly over the southern horizon. Venus is continuing to trek eastward across the sky and has been the “morning star”. By the end of the month however it will be too close to the sun for viewing. Saturn rises about 2 hours after midnight and is visible in the SE sky at sunrise. According to Mike Lynch (Lunch! As Cannon used to say) on November 9th in the pre-twilight hours of Monday morning, Mars and the moon will be in conjunction high in the Southern sky. The Big Dipper continues to sink in the NW sky, barely above the horizon to the north, a reminder that colder days lie ahead.

Some limited progress was made over the weekend as the soybeans continue to be stubborn about drying out. Corn was harvested in areas instead and the moisture is stubborn there as well. At least one can get something accomplished. Test weights and moisture are variable and there are indications that primary tillage and sulfur applications may have had some impact on both. Across the landscape one can hear the collective howl of the fans as the dryers slowly work their way through the wet corn. The steam clouds rising on the still mornings from the bin sites appear almost like smoke wafting through the trees. One can only hope it’s not smoke anyway.

Around the area road ditches, the vibrant yellow of switchgrass and cordgrass are fading to a more subdued spaghetti color. Most leaves out here in the country waved bye-bye with Friday’s wind although places like Bugtussle and Mayberry still have some scattered bright yellow hard maples. The one here at the ranch might’ve been pretty for about 5 minutes one night in the dark, I think. The leaves on the ground were pretty anyway. The red oaks that showed promise in the color department suddenly went from a dull orange to brown and the wind stripped most of the leaves off the smaller model. Now the trees are bare, there are ample squirrels’ nests both at the ranch and across the entire greater Bugtussle area. The squirrels in the yard have apparently declared a truce, leaving the bird feeders alone. They’re satisfied to eat the germ out the corn kernels and leave the rest under the tree for the pheasants.

With all the leaves on the ground, Sunday offered a great opportunity to process them with the lawnmower. Ash and soft maple leaves once they fall get crispy pretty fast so the mower readily ground them up into confetti. Gus followed the mower around most of the day, something he normally isn’t in the habit of. Apparently he was convinced this stretch of sunshine was something to take advantage of while we have it. Perhaps he was thinking it may be many moons before he gets to bite the lawnmower tires again, one of his favorite pastimes. Sometimes Gus is smarter than he lets on.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/09/09, 12:47:14 PM
Running over the same old ground. What have we found?

Playing a little close to the vest on the weekend highs, the scurs heard no complaints on their ineptitude after the gorgeous days we had. Will it continue? After the upcoming weekend all bets are off, on the weather that is. Starting with Wednesday and Thursday, partly cloudy, highs around 55 and lows of 35 – 40. Friday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers developing. High of 55 and low of 35. Cloudy Saturday, with a moderate chance of showers. High of 50 and low near 30. Cooler Sunday, partly cloudy, high around 45 and low of 25 with a slight chance of overnight showers. Cloudy on Monday, chance of rain/snow mix, high of 40 and low around 25. Partly cloudy and back to reality on Tuesday, high of 35 – 40 and low of 30. Normal high for November 15th is 41 and the normal low is 23. Warm November temps have the scurs pricing new lawn furniture.

We were due and the sun finally shone its face upon us. The Friday through Sunday period marked one of the first stretches of more than a couple days where fieldwork could be accomplished. Soybeans finally got dried down below 13% on a consistent basis and detectable drops in moisture in the corn was apparent. Fall tillage has been moving as fast as crop is coming off and anhydrous started to seal well on most fields. One knows they live in rural America when the sound of machinery can be heard outside the church on Sunday morning and everyone just smiles knowingly. Given the awful October we had, no one can blame them for harvesting on a Sunday. It’s time to get this crop put to bed.

At church, H.A. noted when he’d gone by the ranch and looked at the sheep grazing on the sidehill, the sheep appeared to have grown quite a fleece already. Had made the same observation that morning from the sliding glass window. The dry late summer weather probably has something to do with that as it makes the wool fluffier. It doesn’t seem to correlate to a cold winter or anything. They’ve been eating well which certainly makes them look larger. The sheep have been the beneficiaries of all the squash freezing and pie baking taking place as of late. All one needs do is approach the fence from the house and they come on a dead run to see what might land on their side from that little white bucket.

While getting ready for church, had an unexpected sight on the tree Sunday morning when I was looking out. The first pileated woodpecker we’ve ever seen here at the ranch appeared and was checking the ash trees over for insects. At first, I was in disbelief. Even though we’ve planted a lot of trees since the ’96 storm hit our place, it’s not exactly a national forest. Was almost giddy as I called my Mom and informed her of the sighting. When the bird decided to eat some suet at one of the suet cake feeders and a large blue jay showed up, was amazed at how huge the woodpecker was, dwarfing the fat jay. The woodpecker looked absolutely ridiculous hanging upside down from the suet cake feeder but managed to knock some pretty big chunks loose before going to the tree trunk to clean his beak.

Other surprising creatures around the ranch this past week included a green frog found hopping around by the barn last Thursday night. This particular type of frog usually spends its time around water and while there’s water in the road ditch and culvert again, there’s not much by the barn. Of course, not so surprising like everywhere else, there have been lots of boxelder bugs and ladybugs sunning themselves on south facing exposures. Fortunately they haven’t been numerous in the house, yet.

The Orange Army was out in force over the weekend but the deer were likely hanging pretty tight with all the unharvested crop to hide in. There are lots of deer around these parts if the number hit on the road this past summer was any indication. Still, there was deer hanging in the kindly neighbors yard when we stopped to do chores on Sunday so some apparently had success.

Speaking of the kindly neighbor’s was at the pasture on Friday night and noticed the fencer was grounded out. Could hear the feeble tick! tick! tick! of the charger when it’s not charging full bore and the gauge on the older model Parmak fencer confirmed that. Too dark to check it Friday night so back over there on Saturday afternoon after shoveling up the screenings to see where it was grounded. Of course, when one goes looking for those things, it’s an unwritten rule that you’ll always start on the wrong end of the fence. Not that I didn’t need the exercise but it was getting towards dark. The thought of being on the road with an older tractor and wagon after dark wasn’t something I relished. Wish I had a dollar for every time some clown has passed me in an intersection as I’ve been slowing down to make a left turn but I digress…

I located the spot after walking about halfway around the pasture which wasn’t all bad. Judging by the hair caught in one of the barbs, a deer had crawled between the barbed wire and the electric wire and popped one of the insulators off a T-post. Figured it had to be the spot so walked back and plugged in the fencer and sure enough, the feeble tick! tick! tick! again. Now what? Went back around the other way and found nothing wrong. Of course checking back where I’d been before closer to the barn, the electric wire had become tangled with the barbed wire. After unsnarling it and plugging the fencer back in, breathed a sigh of relief to hear the loud, almost mechanical clack! clack! clack! of the unit performing properly. Better yet, after saddling up, no one ran over me on the journey home.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/16/09, 03:07:59 PM
I was a willow last night in my dream...

Temperatures continued to hold through early week, making the scurs forecast less accurate than usual. What in store for the week before Thanksgiving? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy, with a slight chance of showers. High of 40 - 45 and a low around 35. Thursday, more clouds with a slight chance of showers, High of 45 and low of 30 – 35. The sun comes back on Friday and Saturday under partly cloudy skies. Highs of 45 – 50 and lows of 30 – 35 with a slight chance of showers on Saturday. Sunday, cloudy, slight chance of rain and/or snow showers. High of 40 – 45 and low of 20. Partly cloudy on Monday, high of 45 and low of 20. Mostly cloudy Tuesday, high of 35 and low of 15 - 20. The normal high for November 20th is 38 and the normal low is 21. Having rationed the last of their Halloween candy, the scurs will need to restock the larder for the feasting season ahead.

Tremendous progress was made in the fields in the last week. Corn moistures have dropped with the warm, dry conditions, something we wouldn’t have guessed coming off of the cold wet month that was October. Some have reported corn moisture as low as the mid-teens and no, that’s not a yield monitor moisture reading. Soybean harvest is all but completed and we’re well past the halfway point on corn. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Fields are working up fairly well although it’s not a good idea to see how deep one can till with the ample moisture we have. Anhydrous ammonia and manure applications are working well and the soil temperatures have remained cool enough to allow very little conversion of ammonium to the nitrate form. And, one can always tell it’s really fall when the ten-man dryer across the street from the Mall for Men is running 24/7.

Bird activity has settled into the typical fall pattern at the feeders. Lots of olive drab-colored goldfinches with a few house finches happening by. Big blue jays, the occasional red-bellied woodpecker, several downies and hairies, a few mourning doves and of course, those gravity defying white-breasted nuthatches. Was hoping for a reappearance of the chickadees but that hasn’t materialized. Neither has the male cardinal who visited last spring. Oh well, it’ll likely be a long winter and there usually are some welcome surprise guests.

Speaking of surprises, sure enough there are still a few signs of fall color. Those who are fortunate enough to have weeping willows this time of year are seeing their bright yellow in stark contrast to the gray and brown most of us are looking at. The apple trees lost their leaves in the wind last week and the last of the leaves that were tempting me to make one more pass with the lawnmower vanished without a trace. Suspect some of them wound up in the pasture where they were devoured by the sheep. The corn bundles that were stockpiled made it over the fence as did several squash and apples that were going out of condition. The Cheviots rarely lack for variety in their diet at the ranch.

Outdoors, it’s been a good month to clean up things around the yard and if the weather holds, will be a good time to torch some brush piles that have been accumulating. The bunny habitat they provide is a little too enticing and it’s time to thin the herd a little, with perhaps a little help from the hawks and owls. The recent tree plantings need all the help they can get. That and putting all those tree guards on each year is really starting to get old.

Indoors while Mrs. Cheviot was away on business, Gus and I decided it was a good time for an old fashioned refrigerator clean out. For some reason, something always gets shoved back behind everything else only to be found later with fur growing on it. Gus sometimes gets the benefit of out of code items that haven’t yet become science projects or begun to reek. Took awhile this past weekend to discover the source of the odor but after trial and error, delving deep into the bowels of the icebox the offender was determined and banished to the garage. The odor problem in the fridge immediately ceased. Was satisfied we’d properly identified the suspect after going out in the garage and realizing it suddenly smelled just like the refrigerator did. Few things worse than having stink-flavored ice cream on fresh baked, warm apple crisp.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/23/09, 09:17:11 PM
Can't stop this feeling...

The Twin Cities weather forecasters, or as Cannon fondly called them “blow combs”, did their best to warn us of a return to the Ice Age for Thanksgiving. The scurs thought otherwise, keeping their powder dry, knowing the dire predictions of saber tooth tigers and woolly mammoths once again roaming the land were perhaps a tad premature. It’s late November; it’s supposed to be cold! Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a chance of rain and snow. High of 40 and a low of 25 – 30. Thanksgiving Day, cloudy, slight chance of flurries, then becoming partly cloudy by late forenoon. High of 35 and low of 20 – 25. Clear and warmer on Friday, high of 40 and low of 25. The crown jewel of the week should be Saturday, partly cloudy with a high of 45 and a low of 25 – 30. Chance of overnight drizzle however. Partly cloudy on Sunday, high around 40 and low of 20 - 25 with a chance of overnight snow. Monday, mostly cloudy, high of 35 and low of 15 – 20. Partly cloudy Tuesday December 1st with November clouds. High of 30 – 35 and low 15 - 20. Normal high for November 27th is 35 and the normal low is 17. The scurs will be sleeping in on Black Friday, sure in the knowledge that there’s lots of shopping time on December 24th.

What a week in terms of weather! November turned out as well as could be expected. Warmer than normal, with the mercury topping out this past Sunday at 60 degrees on the official ranch thermometer, the warmest since November 8th when the temp reached 65. It has allowed a lot of fieldwork to be completed in a short time and corn moisture has come down far below what anyone would’ve guessed back in October. Corn harvest progress varies by area but across most of Greater Bugtussle, it’s 75% complete or better. Evidence of some of the corn quality issues can be seen on area bin roofs that are covered in dust. The amount of beeswings around area drying setups seems to be at record levels. Anhydrous ammonia continues to go on well with soil conditions nearly ideal with the dry month we’ve had. Thus far at the ranch rain gauge, we’ve managed only .17” of precip for the month. As Mark Seeley is fond of saying, this is a good time of year for a drought when it comes to farm related operations.

Bird watching this past week included an unfortunate sighting. The fencer was grounded out at the kindly neighbors place again so walked the fence to see where the problem was. Got an assist from Sophie, the collie as she walked the outside. All the sudden a hen pheasant shot out of the grass and flew on a rising trajectory away from us. Didn’t think much of it until I happened to glance up only to see the bird drop like a rock from the sky. There was no report from a firearm which puzzled me briefly until I noticed the power line dancing above where the pheasant had fallen. Sad to see and since it was a hen, it wasn’t worth the risk of picking it up to salvage the meat. On a happier note, talked to the better half of the kindly neighbors and she claimed to have seen the pileated woodpecker on the same day I had a few weeks ago. There simply aren’t that many of them flying around so chances are good it might’ve been the same one.

Had made a trip to the women’s store across the road from the store where you go to the bathroom in the orange roofed silo. Being a house wares type thought perhaps they would have an apple corer, one of the serrated kind that takes just the core so you can make baked apples. Took the minivan so made sure my blonde soccer mom wig was handy. Made Gus wear the redhead one too although his ear always sticks up through it on one side. Got in the store and no apple corers to be found. Asked the department person and she scanned her handheld confuser. Wouldn’t ya know, they were out and unless I wanted to travel to Northfield, Rochester or the Cities, given the late date, they weren’t getting any more in. Down on my luck I went home, cleaned up and epoxyed the head back on the sledge hammer handle purchased earlier. Last week, since I was in town, thought I’d check on apple corers at Edna’s. Sure enough, exactly what I was looking for as well as another type. As she said when she rang it up “Should’ve shopped here first.” As usual, Edna was right.

With deer season over and the weather cooperating, it was time for barn cleaning once again. Could even wear my Carhartts with the white hanky sticking out of the back pocket. Turns out, one didn’t need them. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and everything held together. Despite the little fat buddy claim that the equipment came from the factory greased, maintenance apparently pays off. The heat houser was still on the tractor yet as there were times even in July this past summer it felt kinda good. It was almost too warm especially on Sunday however. It was one of the few times hauling loads without a jacket in late November. The aroma from the fresh spread manure should’ve been kept to a minimum too as the warm breezes were dried it rapidly. Am getting old though because it tuckers me out bouncing across ripped ground and my joints remind me the next day. Gus did his part, waking from his between load naps and trotting out to greet me when we’d pull into the driveway. Few better feelings as the fall winds down to know the barns are cleaned and the animals can snuggle down into the clean fresh bedding. Almost as good as the long sought after Thanksgiving nap.

See you nest week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/30/09, 03:50:00 PM
Then I'm laying out my winter clothes...

The scurs survived Turkey Day and the warmer than predicted weekend, setting their sights on seeing if we’ll have more of the same. Highly unlikely sayeth the scurs. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy with a high around 30 and a low of 15 with a slight chance of some flurries. Thursday, partly cloudy, slightly cooler with a high of 25 – 30 and a low near 10. Partly cloudy Friday and Saturday, highs of 25 – 30 and lows of 15 – 20. Clear skies on Sunday becoming partly cloudy, high of 30 and low of 10 – 15. Cloudy Monday and Tuesday with a chance of light snow developing Monday evening extending into Tuesday. High of 25 - 30 and low of 10 - 15. Normal December 4th high is 31 and the normal low is 14. On December 2nd the sun will rise at 7:30 a.m. and on the 8th, we’ll be down to 9 hours of daylight. After laying out their winter clothes, the scurs will begin dipping into their kerosene lantern reserves.

December 2nd marks the first of two Full Moons for the month. Yes indeed, December will also have a Blue Moon occurring on December 31st. More on that at a later date. The Full Moon on December 2nd is known as the Full Cold Moon and sometimes as the Moon Before Yule. The Ojibwe knew this as the Small Spirits Moon and the Sioux called this the Moon of the Popping Trees and also the Moon When Deer Shed Their Horns. So far so good on the popping trees.

Harvest continues to roll towards the finish line. Hopefully this week will allow most to get done. Corn has continued to dry some, test weight is better and it’s picking a lot cleaner than it did a month ago. Not as many screenings either. Of course after saying we’d garnered only .17” of precip as of Monday last week, area fields received anywhere from .5” – 1.0” after that, making it a little greasy on top, particularly where they’d been worked.

Birds around the yard last week included a robin on Wednesday morning, something we hadn’t seen or heard from for a few weeks now. On Saturday, there were 7 hen pheasants that flew out of the brushy area that the People’s Republic of Steele Co. had tried to destroy. Must’ve been picking up after the squirrels and made their way back to the shelter on the road cut. And last but not least, the pileated woodpecker was back on Monday morning as I was about to leave for the office. Wondered if he might’ve still been around as there’s bark missing on some of the trees. Can that thing ever take hunks out of a tree in a hurry.

Actually spent a little time on Thanksgiving in the garden. There are still some bunny fences to take down yet as well as pea trellises but was mainly after the remaining beets. They popped right out of the slightly frozen ground and were none the worse for wear. Cooked some of them up on Friday and were they ever sweet. Hadn’t grown beets for many years and will make sure they’re included for next year’s planting.

This time of year I guard my Saturdays and Sundays fairly jealously. Saturday was a good day to bring the sheep home from the kindly neighbors pasture. The night before I had used some trickery to lure them inside (a white bucket full of screenings works wonders) and slide a panel in place before they had a chance to escape. The next morning the ground was froze so as not to track up the yards pulling the trailer around. They loaded easily but this time was bittersweet.

I spread Lucy’s ashes along the path of what was her usual course bringing the ewes up from the other end of the pasture. Along the east side then up over the hill, down by the apple tree and back around to the west, the Cheviots would come on a dead run trying to get away, seeking cover in the barn where Lucy would hold them until I could slide the door shut. The good news is we’ve made contact with Lucy’s breeder and there will be another puppy, hopefully sometime this spring. While it won’t be another Lucy, it’s not supposed to be. It will still be a red and white smooth coat, bringing with it the personality and little quirks that Border Collies possess.

Manure hauling is finished for the season too. The lambing barn is always a tougher job, tight to get into and not the easiest to get the pack broken loose. This year was no exception, giving credence to the aptly named “sheep-foot packer” implement used in road building. The surface of the pack was just like a road. It takes some manual pitching at first so one can maneuver the skid loader around making it more time consuming per load than moving a few gates and panels like we do in the main barn. 4 loads later however, the task was completed in time for the Vikings tilt with Da Bears so was glad for that. The pack wasn’t frozen solid either, something that isn’t always the case. If the weather holds, may have time to wax the spreader yet before putting it away for winter.

After tossing the pumpkins over the fence to the sheep, we celebrated Saturday in style with the obligatory turkey on the Weber complete with all the trimmings. The apple wood saved from the spring’s pruning gave the bird a wonderful wood-smoked flavor. Auntie Mar Mar came up to join in the festivities. It was good thing she brought along a lot of good food because after she told us she’d been voting for Donny Osmond to win Dancing With the Stars, I almost sent her home. The scantily clad Edyta, Joanna and Mya were more my speed. Can foresee many useful yet appropriate gifts coming Mar Mar’s direction for Christmas. If anyone knows where I can get my hands on a Donny Osmond lunchbox, let me know.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on December 12/01/09, 08:05:57 PM
Fencelines made the top 10 for most views.
Congrats Dotch! I look forward to the next one.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/07/09, 12:37:28 PM
Kewl! We'll keep writing them, there then... :happybounce:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/07/09, 12:38:32 PM
'Cause I've got you in the sights of my .........gun!

The scurs were wise to get those winter clothes out after the 6 degree low recorded at the ranch on Friday morning. They’re reminding themselves that November is over and along with it the unbridled weather optimism. Given the colder than normal forecast, you’ll see why. Starting with Wednesday mostly cloudy, snow likely, blustery winds with blowing and drifting snow. High of 10 - 15 and low of 0. Thursday, partly cloudy, high of 10 and low of 0. Slightly warmer for Friday and Saturday, high of 15 and low of 5 above. Clouding up on Sunday with highs remaining near 20 and lows of 0 – 5 above. Partly to mostly cloudy Monday, warmer high of 25 - 30 and low of 5 – 10. Mostly cloudy Tuesday with a chance of passing flurries. High of 30 and low of 20. The normal high for December 11 is 28 and the normal low is 10. The scurs are burning Christmas ads in their stove, knowing that real bargain hunters don’t shop until December 24th.

Harvest is still winding down in areas and everyone will be glad to put this cropping season to bed. As nice as November was, December has reverted to the every other month formula that has typified the weather much of this year. After a near 50 degree day on the 1st, things have tanked pretty fast. As of this writing the ground hasn’t completely frozen where there’s residue on the surface but given the forecast, it won’t be long and the possibility of any more fall tillage will be over for the season. Just glad that the dawdling bug didn’t bite me the past couple weeks for barn cleaning. It would’ve been much chillier. As it is now the ground is frozen on the surface reducing the likelihood of re-landscaping the yard when it comes time to move snow.

Was a good weekend to get things buttoned up and put my toys away ahead of Old Man Winter. Not much fun to smack something with the loader or worse if the weather dictates it, have someone else run that same something through their snow blower. Getting that time of year that anything can and usually does happen on the weather front so best be ready and take it in stride. Well, as much as possible anyway. It still bites to smash ice out of frozen buckets and drain hoses every time one does chores but it just makes you appreciate the times it warms up and doesn’t freeze that much more.

Unloaded more squash on the sheep too in order to get the last bay cleaned out of the garage so it would hold the soccer mom van, affectionately known as the “Gus Bus”. As Mrs. Cheviot pointed out, the sheep were like kids pouncing on candy under a piñata. In the meantime, Gus survived another Lions pancake feed. That pancake feed smell permeates everything it seems and when the truck pulled into the garage, he had his front feet on the running boards, knowing there were pancakes on board as the truck door opened. I pulled one out of the bag and he clamped onto it, then went back to his pillow in the corner to gulp it down. RL knows the craft of pancake flipping well and Gus was impressed by his expertise.

Took a walk around the fence at home as it was grounded out. Of course the rabbits had already been busy gnawing on some of the little trees along the way so made a note to wrap the vulnerable vegetation. If I get them in the sights of my .22, some cottontail on the grill will need to happen. Plodding along, there were several spots where something had blasted through the fence, knocking posts down and grounding it out. Managed to get it back in place then upon arrival back in the yard, there was a white pickup with a couple former sheep farmers in it wanting to hunt deer with black powder in the CREP acreage. They’ve asked before and I’ve always granted them permission, hoping that they would be successful. Felt badly that I’d just made a swing by the wetland, probably reducing their chances given the wind direction, but told them they were most welcome to hunt there in spite of that. They decided there might not be much point in it and backed slowly out of the driveway. Seconds later they were back, having changed their minds. Win, lose or draw, was happy they’d decided to walk it anyway. That was one of the reasons we put it in the program in the first place, so those we know can enjoy it.

It’s official: The new bakery in Bugtussle has earned the little fat buddy seal of approval. Several days last week there were treats on the training table and oddly enough, they didn’t make it through the day. The quantity of choices has been great as has the quality. The help is friendly and the renovations have made the place as warm and inviting as when Elmer and Marilyn owned it. And it always smells great when you walk in as small town bakeries do. The product lineup appears to be expanding too so it’s going to keep the little fat buddies hopping keeping tabs on the changes.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/14/09, 05:04:37 PM
The snow drives back the foot that's slow…

Last week’s weather was everything the scurs advertised it to be and more. This week promises to be a little more seasonal without a major storm. Starting Wednesday, look for partly cloudy skies with a high of 15 and a low of 10 Warmer on Thursday, partly cloudy again with a high around 25 and a low of 10. Partly cloudy both Friday and Saturday with a slight chance of snow. Highs of 25 and lows of 10 – 15. Cooler on Sunday, high of 15 and low of 0 – 5 above. Cloudy on Monday and Tuesday, chance of snow. Highs around 20 and lows of 0 – 5 above. The first day of winter and the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight is generally considered the 21st at 8 hours and 54 minutes even though the sun already began setting a little later on the 14th. The normal high for December 21st is 25 and the normal low is 6. The scurs will be settling in for a long winters nap after last weeks snow shoveling.

It was a storm that actually turned out as was forecast early last week. Temperatures plummeted with a low dropping to nearly 10 below at the ranch on Thursday morning. Schools were closed and the wind whipped the snow into drifts nearly filling many road ditches so the next storm could make life interesting. With the gulf moisture that fed the storm there was a surprising amount of water in it. It moved pretty well with a blower or a bucket though primarily because it was so cold. At the ranch where measuring snowfall is more of an art than a science, we accumulated what was probably around 10”. Melting down the contents of the gauge, the liquid equivalent was about .36” of precipitation.

It is always interesting to see how the local fauna adapt to this winter weather. The squirrels (we have 3 or 4 depending on the day) usually hole up in their nests until the weather breaks, then they’re back to business again cleaning up under the bird feeders and chowing down on ear corn. A vole skittered along on top of the snow banks making its way to the cover of the plum and sumac thicket. Cottontails seem to be unfazed but do wait until after the major blow is by before coming out to chew things off. The pheasants were in the yard a few days after things settled down and it looks like Little Jerry may be alive after all. One beautiful big rooster was eyeing the ear corn feeder. There was a misplaced grackle under the feeders on Sunday morning. The pileated woodpecker has become a regular at the suet. Will need to start buying suet cakes by the pallet the way things are going. The large woodpecker usually pokes a big hole through the middle of the cake making it look like a large suet donut. Mmmmmm…donuts.

Luckily, I managed to escape the wrath of this storm, hunkered down at some meetings while staying at a shelter in Minneapolis. Ate at some soup kitchens to maintain my strength. While I was struggling to survive in the Twin Cities, had left everything pretty well set up so the chores could be done with a minimum of consternation. Surprisingly enough, heard little complaining from Mrs. Cheviot upon my return. Might have to leave more often before snowstorms!

Of particular note at the meetings: Many of us guys in the 50+ age bracket must all be going to barbers who went to the same school. Seem to be taking a little too much off the top when gazing across the crowd and noticing the light from the power point presentations reflecting off the pates. My barber has resorted to trickery methinks. When he’s finished he uses the back side of the black hand-held mirror to convince me there’s still hair on top of my melon. I think it’s really to cover his mistakes.

While Matt Dubya was kind enough to clear a path so Mrs. Cheviot could go to work, there was quite a mess in the yard upon my return. With a guy coming on Friday from WI to buy a ram, it was necessary to clean things out before he got there. It was a good thing too. His small Ford Ranger with 2 wheel drive would’ve never made it within 40 yards of the barn. Saturday was a good day to clean out the lots despite the breezy conditions. The sheep could get back outside to wander more freely although the windbreak is stops a little more snow each year on the west. Walking through it over the weekend and noting the wildlife tracks and seeing what a mess it could’ve otherwise been sold me. By the time we’re ready to get out of the sheep business, there probably won’t be much snow for me to move. Bummer!

At the Mall for Men, morning training sessions have become routine once again now that field work has come to a screeching halt. The commerce of news, exchange of crucial information, and a veritable daily Vulcan mind meld continues. It’s a little known fact that lefse is actually the Norwegian version of a tortilla, one can be bribed to eat lutefisk if the price is right and there was a local adult film star by the name of Bubbles Lafayette. Who knew? With versatile wisdom and knowledge such as this, will need to consult their expertise before shopping for the gang at the Star Eagle next week.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/21/09, 01:26:15 PM
So, I looked 'round for a hitch from a reindeer

The scurs were close although depending on what part of great Bugtussle one hails from, the Sunday snowfall totals were somewhat unexpected. The scurs will go out on a limb here and predict a white Christmas. Starting Wednesday, cloudy, with an increasing chance of snow as the day wears on. High of 25 and low of 20. Thursday, cloudy with snow likely. High of 25 and low of 10 – 15. Christmas Day, cloudy and breezy with lingering snow likely. High of 20 and low of 5. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy. Highs around 15 and lows near 5. Partly cloudy Monday, colder with a high of 5 - 10 and a low of 0 to -5. Partly cloudy on Tuesday, continued cold, high of 10 and low of 0 to -5. Normal high for Christmas Day is 24 and the normal low is 5. After finishing up shopping at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday night, the scurs will soon be snug in their beds, listening for Santa’s reindeer while drifting off.

It looks as though we’ll see a major snowfall event heading our way over Christmas once again and after looking back at last year, we had one close to Christmas as well. Not too many tales of woe yet on the snow blower front. Crankshaft might’ve run a 220 cord or two through his blower but looking on the bright side, one sharp eyed observer told him it just makes for lots of new electric motor leads for those augers.

We celebrated and survived the Bernard family Christmas last weekend already. A trip through North Central Iowa revealed that they indeed received more snow than we did in the last major storm. There were several areas where it appeared blowers were used to beat back the snow as the ditches were over full. West of Ackley we spotted an unpicked corn field and it didn’t appear there was any effort being made to harvest it. Probably with good reason if the field was as full of snow as some of the road ditches.

When the weather threw the switch from fall to winter this year it sure didn’t waste any time, did it? Back on December 2nd, we recorded a high near 50 at the ranch. It’s been all downhill since that time, remaining below freezing. It came as close as it’s been since the 13th at 29 this past Sunday but no cigar. Still, this is pretty mild compared to December of 1983 when temperatures stayed below zero for a record setting period in many areas of the country. Where I was living at that time in the Little House on the Prairie about 6 miles from the Canadian border in north central ND, it dipped to -40 every night for about a week. Actually it was pretty cool (pun intended) as the northern lights were running wild, providing some of the most spectacular viewing in scope and color I’ve ever seen. Why I went outside and look at them is beyond me. Some have wondered why most rural houses in that area have electric stoves and heat with fuel oil. The cold temperature is one of the primary reasons. As many a hardcore ice fisherman can attest, LP doesn’t flow out of the tank very well at -40.

At the ranch, everything has settled in as has the winter. The sheep are content to eat hay and grain while wandering as far as the cleared lot and snow banks will allow. Gus is keeping the rabbits and squirrels well exercised. The birds are consuming seed at a somewhat more leisurely pace than last year when we saw the irruption of pine siskins and redpolls. This past week there were lots of goldfinches, blue jays, juncos, hairies, downies, a female red belly, an occasional house finch, the lone grackle and the pileated woodpecker continues to come faithfully. We don’t always see it but with the consumption of suet and noting new hunks of bark knocked off the trees, the calling card is clear. The sound of pheasants taking wing in the early morning hours is a regular occurrence during choretime as they glide from their overnight cover to that of the restored wetland area. The same sequence in repeated as we near dusk.

The little fat buddies continue to saw through the vast Christmas trove of baked goodies with gusto. The supply of assorted homemade bars, cookies and other confections seems endless but we all know once the holidays are over, someone will have to begin making those daunting, treacherous, daily trips to the bakery.

Well, it’s time once again for that time honored tradition of gift giving for the crack management staff at the Star Eagle. It’s been a rougher time this year as I’ve already given such a splendid array of gifts in the past. For Jim, I’m giving him one of my new super duper pens with the new and improved larger ink supply so he can add more zeros on to my rapidly burgeoning Star Eagle paycheck. For Jody, nothing else would suffice except a gooseberry pie. If you promise to share, I’ll bring some Schwan’s ice cream. For Betts, I’m loaning her the soccer Mom van (aka the “Gus Bus”) free for a weekend shopping trip. Betts needs a little more excitement in her life. Can guarantee her one thing, it won’t be boring as one can never be exactly sure what the van will do next. It does hold a lot of stuff though, including copious amounts of Gus hair. For Dick, pickled herring. It’s the gift that keeps on giving when one has a few carbonated beverages while consuming it especially during an ice fishing excursion. Everyone else in the house can enjoy it that way too. For Cathy, a Blackberry so she can save time by typing some of that column as she’s driving down the road. Scratch that, always pull over to the side. For Al, my Mom’s Fli-Back paddle. The ball and rubber band will need to be reattached as she used it primarily for attitude adjustment on our behinds. As a result, we went so far as to put a couple red crayon marks on it to convince her she’d paddled us so hard, she’d broken the skin. After reading his columns and hearing stories about some of the stunts he pulled lo these many years years, somehow I think Al might be able to relate.

Happy Festivus! See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/30/09, 03:00:47 PM
Blue moon, you saw me standing alone…

The scurs had it pegged pretty close as there was snow and a pretty messy end to last week with a storm system that seemed to make up the rules as it went along. For the upcoming week? No great chances for snow or rain for that matter, more sunshine but at least it will be cold. Starting Wednesday, cloudy, a slight chance of snow, look a high of 20 – 25 and a low in the neighborhood of 5 – 10. Colder New Year’s Eve, partly cloudy, high of 15 and a low of – 5 to zero. New Year’s Day, more fresh air. Partly cloudy Saturday, clear skies, a high of 5 – 10 and a low of – 5. Warmer Sunday, high of 15 and low of 5 under partly cloudy skies. Clouding up Monday, warmer and with warmer temps comes the increased chance of snow. High of 25 and 15 for a low. Cloudy and warmer on Tuesday, high of 30 and low of 15 with more snow. Normal high for New Year’s Day is 23 and the normal low is 3. Days are getting longer though and we’ll be back to 9 hours of daylight on January 2nd. In the meantime, the scurs will be celebrating in style New Year’s Eve with reckless abandon under the Blue Moon.

While some astronomers poo-poo the notion that this really doesn’t qualify as a Blue Moon by modern definition it does, being the second full moon in a month. The rules changed due to a mistake back in 1946 in Sky and Telescope magazine. The previous definition of Blue Moon was the third full moon in an astronomical season having four full moons. Not sure why they get all bent out of shape about it. Perhaps it’s a fear that people will grow hair on their palms. Wait a minute, some people do that whether there’s a full moon or not on New Year’s Eve. At any rate, go out and enjoy yourself and if you drink, don’t drive. We need all the readers we can get.

Let’s review some data last week’s storm recorded at the ranch: This was a huge comma shaped storm, pulling massive amounts of Gulf moisture northward resulting in record snowfall in many areas of the Midwest. We saw roughly 8” – 10” of wet snow total combined with periods of rain and sleet which melted down resulted in .84” of liquid equivalent. Probably worse from a snow removal standpoint was the snow recorded on the 21st and 22nd filling in the yard ahead of the storm. Temperatures were above freezing on the 24th for the first time since December 2nd. Clouds and precip were so intense that our viewing of Christmas Vacation was disrupted on the satellite was disrupted for nearly an hour on Christmas Day morning. Fortunately the show was repeated all day so we didn’t miss a minute. The barometer dropped as low as I remember seeing it since the Halloween blizzard of 1991, registering at 28.58 in of mercury.

After the snow was over and temperatures dropped, the snow was crusted 1” – 2” on top as a result of the rain. That it made it easy to break through and get stuck in with a vehicle, even though it wasn’t deep in places. 6” was deep enough if you had to stop or needed to turn around. There were numerous cars stuck in driveways. While this storm had a tough time deciding what it wanted to, the sun shining off the hoar frost on the trees Sunday morning was a welcome sight. The single digit temps responsible for the beautiful display? Well, we’re used to that.

The birds were glad to see their feeders were kept full during and following the major weather event. All the regulars were present including the pileated woodpecker. The squirrels kept themselves busy too chowing down 2 ears of corn ahead of the storm. A trip to Mom’s on Saturday found the squirrel population eating the Indian corn left out on the deck for them. They wasted no time finding the regular dent corn that happened to come along for the ride. At home the pheasants had paraded by the sliding glass window earlier in the day after picking at their ear corn feeder. On Sunday, they entertained our guests, trooping back and forth across the fields for all to see. All the pheasants appear to be in great shape at this point. Their size and condition were particularly impressive to the visitors.

In order to get family gathering people in and out of the driveway Sunday, it was a necessary evil to put the chains on the tractor. A hard crust on top and ice underneath made moving snow an unworkable situation without them. After clearing the yard, I was cold and famished. Luckily the house was nice and warm and there was a great plenty to eat. Wouldn’t you know within an hour of eating, a short nap had set in. Monday morning at the Mall for Men, am pretty sure there were enough cookies, bars, cake, and cinnamon rolls to trigger another round of napping although one can seldom get the little fat buddies to admit to a morning nap. Have to take ‘em when you can get ‘em.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/04/10, 03:23:11 PM
Me and my good partners, we were riding back to our camp…

Brrrr! The scurs needed some of those extra lumps of coal from their Christmas stockings in order to stay warm this past week. Will we climb out of the temperature cellar? The scurs tell all regarding our recent winter weather woes. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy with an increasing chance of snow. High of 10 and low of 0 to – 5. Mostly cloudy Thursday, possible lingering flurries in the morning. High of 5 and low of – 10. Clear and clod Friday, high of zero and low of – 5 to zero. Mostly sunny and warmer on Saturday with highs reaching 10 – 15 and lows of 0 to 5 above. Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 20 – 25 and low of 10 – 15 with a chance of snow overnight. Mostly cloudy Monday with a chance of snow. High of 10 – 15 and low of 0 to 5 above. Tuesday, mostly cloudy and warmer, high of 15 – 20 and low of 0 to 5 above. Normal high for January 8th is 22 and the normal low is 2. We will start to see the sun a little earlier in the morning starting on the 9th, while we have already been picking up about a minute per day of daylight in the afternoon.  The scurs will be readying their beach umbrella to celebrate more global warming.

Biting cold over the weekend and not much for outdoor activity other than doing the chores and filling the bird feeders. Fortunately it was holiday season anyway so catching up on naps is always in order. It’s hard to remember a stretch where the cold has set in on us more quickly or as consistently as this, probably because we’d just as soon forget. On Christmas Day we went from a high of 36 to a low of  – 26 on January 2nd. Was a little perturbed that my expensive high tech digital indoor outdoor thermometer decided to quit working properly when we started to get into the big chill. Followed the instructions to replace the batteries that read like someone made them up to cover their behind when the thermometer doesn’t work. Funny, it reads about 5 – 10 degrees too high now. See? They were right. Another sign of the automation addiction running rampant in our society but I digress. Oddly enough, looking out the window at the large ten dollar dial thermometer I got from Edna, it seems to be working just fine. Whether it’s right or wrong at least I know it’s damn cold out.

The local fauna seems to be doing just fine despite all the cold and snow although there is some concern about the crusted snow making it difficult for pheasants to dig down to their food supply. We are seeing increased activity at our ear corn feeder in the brush by the yard and the 4 roosters keep us entertained. There are other areas where they may not be so fortunate. In addition to the pheasants we’ve added a male cardinal to our bird resume. He’s content to hang with the juncos and pick up around the feeders as well as eating the leftover corn pieces after the squirrels have eaten the germ out of the kernels. It’s been fun to see him amongst the numerous birds we have though, adding that bright red color to the mix. Hopefully some safflower added to our seed offerings will help keep him around.

Something that that probably will keep the cardinal and other bird species around and increasing in number and species both is the growth of the tree and shrub plantings in the yard. Recently looked at a photo from about 5 years ago and was amazed to see how much the woody vegetation in the yard has grown. It appeared most have grown about 5 feet in that time. And, that was just in the direction that the pictures were taken. Some of the shrubby trees hadn’t even been planted at that time. For those of you who live in the country, your local SWCD should be gearing up for another year of tree ordering for conservation plantings. Look for notices in your mailbox soon. The best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The next best time is now.

On Tuesday, Crankshaft and I went to pick up my new car. Well sort of. The 1960 Studebaker Lark that had been stored at our other farm needed to be moved so we met up with brother Stu to pick it up. After sitting for 26 years, it of course wasn’t in running condition so we were lucky enough to use Stu’s tilt bed trailer and winch to load it up. It made it up to almost 10 above that day which was cold enough but we managed to get it loaded in record time and on our way back home. Of course we had to stop in Hayfield to check the load binders as well as to catch a bite to eat at the A&W. Not like stopping at the Spring Valley A&W when I was in high school actually driving the Studebaker and checking out the carhops. Likely the carhops would’ve been all bundled up and that A&W would’ve been closed by December anyway.
The root beer and food hit the spot though and after Crankshaft had tightened one binder one more link, we were underway again. We managed to park the trailer out of the way and once it warms up a little we have some preliminary work to see where we’re at. Some of the neighbors have taken note of my prize possession. They could be jealous although I doubt it because they weren’t real sure exactly what kind of car it even was. Not surprising as Studebaker stopped making cars back in 1966 long before these neighbors were born. Suddenly I’m starting to feel very old. I’m not going to tell them that Studebaker manufactured a lot of the wagons that the pioneers used to head west. They’ll start to think I was in some cowboy movie, maybe knew Ben Cartwright.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/12/10, 03:12:49 PM
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…

Slowly but surely the scurs have seen the mercury begin to rise after another cold week. This week should offer a welcome respite from the temperature crevasse we’ve been stuck in. Starting with Wednesday, we should see a bit of a January thaw. Mostly clear. High of 30 – 35 and low of 15. Mostly sunny on Thursday, high of 30 and low of 15. Slightly cooler on Friday, partly cloudy with a high of 25 and a low of 10. Mostly clear on Saturday, high of 25 and low of 10. Mostly sunny again on Sunday, high reaching 30 and low of 15. Partly sunny both Monday and Tuesday, high of 30 – 35 and low of 15 with a slight chance of some freezing rain on Tuesday evening. Normal high for January 15th is 22 and the normal low is 2. The scurs will be watching Jupiter low in the southwestern sky an hour and a half after sundown while enjoying the warm up with margaritas on their front porch swing. (thanks for the calendar RD!)

More cold last week that seemed it would never end. It made going outside for anything unnecessary tougher to do. The 3” – 4” snowfall on Wednesday wasn’t a major event but it was enough to close schools and make one wonder what it was going to do next. That snow was however relatively dry allowing it to blow around easily, clogging driveways and keeping plow operators busy. So far this winter, Steele Co. has taken top honors in the CRC (Crummy Road Condition) category. After waiting until the day following Christmas to blade them off, the county roads in the southern end of the county have been icy and rutted ever since. Go across the line into Waseca Co. and the roads are bare and dry. Not a good sign to go on a road trip to come back home and find the only place the roads are bad is right in your own back yard.

Snow removal has continued to be a challenge at the ranch. The last go round wasn’t hard to move it was just cold doing it. One can push things back just enough to get by with for awhile but without a blower, the job needs to be finished or the next time it’ll mean calling a neighbor with a blower. One good thing about the positioning of the snow piles: It should make pruning the apple trees much easier. No ladder needed!

Even with the cold conditions, bird and animal activity continues at a fever pitch. The pileated woodpecker appeared to take a nap on the south side of a tree on Saturday, that dark body soaking up the bright sun. The male cardinal has enjoyed the safflower addition to the sunflower feeder and a mourning dove suddenly reappeared on one of the coldest days last week. We finally got to see some chickadees although they haven’t been interested in the feeders. Watching them in the trees, it initially appeared they were picking at the rime frost on the buds on the maple tree. A little closer examination of the tree showed there was some kind of insect or spider enclosure they were picking at. After seeing primarily rooster pheasants since Christmas at the ear corn feeder, Sunday brought out a group of 3 hens that rotated between roosting in the plum trees and feeding on the corn. So far no redpolls or siskins among the goldfinches here but have been on the lookout for them. The fox squirrels have been exhibiting some mating behavior but generally are exhibiting a lot of eating behavior. The one big pig thwarted the most recent baffle purchase leaving me baffled.

Was awakened from my Vikings game slumber weekend before last by a couple loud snowmobiles barking down the road from the house. Thinking little of it I nodded off again until I heard Mrs. Cheviot muttering something about seeing only one come back out. “Back out of where?” I asked to which she replied “The pasture.” Sure enough, someone had made a run across the bottom of the pasture, something we’ve never had any trouble with in the 25 years we’ve lived here. I donned my snowshoes and shuffled off towards the CRP on the west side of the pasture where the tracks led. She was right, one of them had turned around and come back out while the other had blasted ahead and made it to the quarter line connecting to the road on the west. No problem, right? Yes problem, and no, it’s not right.

In the areas where they crossed the 3-strand electric fence, their skis caught the top wires, snapping, snarling and strewing them all over. Insulators popped in the cold, spring-loaded gate handles shattered and fiberglass posts were splintered, making a mess to repair before we can run animals back out there in the spring. The property damage was not large from a dollar standpoint but it’s the principle of the thing. What took a few seconds for a couple bad eggs to destroy will take a few hours to fix.

In the past I have been supportive of snowmobilers and their sport. They’ve generally done a very good job of policing themselves in this area. However, this incident left a really bad taste in my mouth. I felt my trust had been betrayed. Seems putting up NO TRESPASSING signs only serves to keep the honest people out. That takes time too, time that could be better spent napping on a cold winter afternoon.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/18/10, 02:42:55 PM
She’s so cold, as pure as the driven slush…

The scurs were on top of their game this past week, calling the warm up about as close as it could be called. What’s on tap for the upcoming week? Starting Wednesday, look for partly cloudy skies, a high of 30 and a low of 15 – 20 with a slight chance of rain and/or snow in the evening. Mostly cloudy and cooler Thursday, high of 25 and low of 15 – 20. Partly cloudy Friday, high of 25 and low around 20 with a slight chance of rain or snow overnight. .Increasing clouds with a chance of rain and/or snow on Saturday and Sunday. A tad warmer though, high near 30 and a low close to 25. More clouds and snow flurries on Monday and Tuesday. Highs of 20 – 25 and lows of 10 – 15. Normal high for January 22nd is 23 and the normal low is 2. The scurs will be cleaning the root beer colored slush off of the end of the driveway before the potential weekend onslaught.

By the time this reaches print, we will have chewed off the first 3 weeks of the month already. Was good to finally have the weather break in a positive direction for a change. The warmer temps seemed to meet with everyone’s approval after the – 20 and – 30 that some experienced. The roads in Steele Co. that were slated to be the next site of the “Ice Road Trucker” series even started to come around although there are still places where the ice remains. The ewes certainly seemed to appreciate the warmer nights we’ve had as they’re back to sleeping outside again. And why not? With 4” of wool it’s like they’re wearing a heavy quilt or at least the batting. Hate to break it to them but the mid-February shearing day is creeping up on them.

Even the birds that were spending a lot of time at the feeders appear to have taken a break. They were really pulling hard on the seed and suet when it was cold but their consumption has slowed immensely in the last week. The pheasants are still coming in force and it’s funny to watch them flying around the yard when out and about. The chickadees have shown up in numbers though after a long absence. They waste no time giving you their opinion when filling the feeders. Sparrow numbers have reached annoying levels in the barn again too, their droppings making a big mess on the equipment parked inside. They seem to have figured out the trap and they certainly know what a BB gun looks like.

Was a bit of a mixed bag sports weekend. The Gopher men’s hockey team appears to be coming around, battling North Dakota to a tie on Saturday then crushing them on Saturday night in a resounding 5 – 1 victory. Tubby and his basketball charges weren’t so fortunate, losing to lowly Indiana on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately Favre and the Vikings, whom many had written off after losing 3 in a row, thumped the Cowboys just before that 34 – 3. Something especially satisfying about beating the team that still haunts us Vikings fans who are old enough to remember the Drew Pearson infamous pass interference non-call in that 1975 playoff game.

The little fat buddies have been kept in mid-season form lately by some taking pity on us and keeping the training table well stocked. Sometimes difficult to tell where exactly the treats are originating from. We never look a gift horse in the mouth though. We realize it’s the only way one can maintain the strength to keep all that wisdom and knowledge flowing freely. Yes the information is free and you definitely get what you pay for.

Have to admit there was an albeit short nap tucked into Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Cheviot had taken off on a shopping junket in the morning so doing it all as is my wont, I managed to get the barns bedded, got some hay moved around and cleaned out the lot allowing the yearlings to get back outside again. Following that I was hungrier than a bear so it was time for some sustenance. The Christmas leftovers are getting pretty sparse and one has to dig pretty deep to find the remnants. After checking the icebox for some of my favorites, I noted the egg rolls appeared pretty freezer-burned so opted instead for frozen waffles with a generous helping of pickled herring. Nothing beats home cooking I thought as I snuggled into my recliner under the blankie, my eyes glazing over during a meaningless basketball tilt.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/25/10, 06:58:32 PM
I am a traveler of both time and space…

The scurs erred on the side of caution last week and we wound up with some warmer than expected temperatures. What say the scurs for this week? Good news and bad news. We’ll see the sun but if it gets as cold as they think, we may wish we hadn’t. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 15 and low of zero to 5 below. Partly cloudy and colder on Thursday, high temperature around 5 with lows dropping to anywhere from 5 to 10 below. Same for Friday and Saturday under clear skies. Not as cold on Sunday, highs reaching 20 – 25 and lows of 0 – 5 above. Cloudy Monday. High of 15 and low of 0 – 5 above. Partly cloudy Tuesday, high of 15 and low of 0 – 5 below. Normal high for January 30th is 24 and the normal low is 4. The scurs will be eating leftover Vikings turnovers from Nancy’s Bakery in hopes that they will cast a nice dark shadow on Ground Hogs Day.

January 30th marks the first Full Moon of the New Year know as the Full Wolf Moon, after the wolves that would pack up and be in close proximity to the Indian winter encampments. This was also known as the Old Moon or The Moon after the Yule. The Ojibwe knew this as the Great Spirit Moon. The Sioux called this the Moon of Strong Cold or The Moon of Frost in the Teepee. Given the forecast for the upcoming week, looks like they knew exactly what they were talking about.

The recent thaw and rain over the weekend woke up some of the raccoons and opossums. It also made for a mess in the area yards. Many tales of people getting stuck in the slush in their driveways. There were also numerous reports people scraping their driveways down at a frantic pace so the ruts left by the wheel tracks would be kept to a minimum. Only thing is having scraped down to the ice again, once it re-freezes it usually means emergency rooms do land office business repairing broken and sprained appendages. Sounds like the fun had already started as of Monday morning. Time to find the bag of grit and do the Minnesota Shuffle while proceeding cautiously on the ice.

What a disastrous sports weekend for Gopher and Viking fans. The Gopher men’s basketball team lost by 1 at home to Michigan St., the Gopher men’s hockey team was swept by St. Cloud St., the Gopher women’s basketball team lost at home to Michigan St. and last but not least, the Vikings handed the NFC Championship to the Saints on a platter. Too bad because they were one mistake from going on themselves. About the only good thing about it was it was finally over on Sunday night and if you ran into grumpy people on Monday morning, you knew why. About all we can do is say wait till next year and start talking about the upcoming Twins season.

In the meantime though, it will be fun to continue watching the birds from inside the house. The pheasants continue to flock to their feeder and at this rate, it will soon be time to source more ear corn. They are extremely wary when they’re not hunkered down in the plums and always on the lookout for even the tiniest movement, including that from inside the house. The pileated woodpecker is still here only on a more erratic basis than it was earlier. The telltale new bark knocked off the trees and the hole punched through the suet is a dead giveaway. The male cardinal is still hanging around too as are the little busybodies, the chickadees. Goldfinches are a given although they tend to be more numerous when the weather begins to turn for the worse.

It’s time at the ranch to start getting garden seed ordered. The last of the squash went to a good home after keeping remarkably well in the garage and anything that didn’t keep has since been chowed down by the sheep. Have had several requests for more of the vegetables that people really liked such as the Mooregold squash and goblin eggs gourds. There will probably be some consolidation as some of the newer things we tried were so-so, such as the Honeybear squash and the Sun Spot squash. That’s OK, it’s always fun to try some new things and every once in awhile it’s something that most will enjoy.

This column marks the start of the 8th year of writing for the NRHEG Star-Eagle. It’s had its ups and downs. Travelling through time and space, it’s not always easy to sit down every Sunday night and come up with something people will find interesting. Oh sure there are columns that practically write themselves but there are those too that are more like pulling teeth. One of the things that still puzzles me is the columns I’ve thought were my poorest efforts are often the ones that people mention. Another is how many people I run across when making my rounds who actually read the thing. Go figure. I wonder sometimes too why I continue this project. Am convinced like running a small farming operation, must be the big money in it.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/01/10, 10:21:47 PM
Winds that blow as cold as ice
Sounds that come in the night…

The scurs were on task last week and why not? It’s generally a pretty safe bet it’ll be cold the last week in January. This week? Warmer and cloudy but closer to normal for early February. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 20 – 25 and a low around 15. Thursday, clouds move in as does the chance for snow. Mostly cloudy Thursday, Friday and Saturday with highs near 25 and low of 15 – 20, the greatest chance and accumulation of snow likely to be Friday. The sun comes back out on Sunday with partly cloudy skies, a high of 25 and a low of 15 – 20. Cloudy again on Monday, high of 20 and a low of 5 – 10 with a chance of snow as we progress into the overnight hours. Partly cloudy Tuesday, high of 15 – 20 and a low of 10. The normal high for February 5th is 26 and the normal low is 6. On the 4th we experience over 10 hours of daylight again for the first time since November 6th. We are gaining daylight at roughly 3 minutes per day and will have garnered an hour and ten minutes since the winter solstice. The scurs will be celebrating this fact knowing it will be less than 6 weeks and the government will steal it back.

Wasn’t that full moon over the weekend spectacular? It lit up the fields, the glazed snow pack appearing at times like a huge body of water with the moon reflecting off of it. Other than the quick hitting blizzard last Monday, things didn’t change much from the prior week. The month on the whole was much different than December however. At the ranch, only .43” of liquid equivalent precip fell in January, with over half of that actually falling as rain on the 23rd and 24th. If the every other month pattern continues as it has for awhile, February should be a warmer, wetter month. There is also much talk among the weather crowd that El Niño may finally be starting to have some impact on our temperatures. Let’s hope so or the return of the Ice Age may be upon us. Despite the respite we got mid-month, the extreme cold more than offset the warm up, if not on paper at least in people’s minds and extremities.

As mentioned last week, it was time to get the grit out and strategically spread it in the high traffic areas where one would be most likely to fall and crack the ice. Many driveways are exactly as advertised, rutted and slick making it an adventure just to walk out and get the mail. The driveway here at the ranch is so treacherous the US Olympic bobsled team has been looking at it as a possible practice site.

Another bummer of a sports weekend, well, any sports one could watch on regular channels anyway. Ohio State avenged their earlier loss at the Barn, blowing the Gopher men off the court early and never looking back. The Gophers were never in it which had me putzing with stuff around the house, checking on the score between putzes. Looks like Tubby’s chances of a 20 win regular season are fading fast and along with it the chance of getting to the Big Dance. One recent glimmer of hope on the MN sports scene, the Twins signed Jim Thome, always a Twins killer. Even though he’s aged, this guy could provide even more left handed punch to an already lefty heavy batting lineup. Might be enough to give opposing right handed starters sleepless nights.

The birds have been more routine this week. Didn’t see the cardinal or the pileated woodpecker either one. Didn’t see the owl that showed up about 3 a.m. both Friday and Saturday nights but could sure hear him, er, it. Was hard to tell exactly what kind it might’ve been too as at that time of day, just trying to figure out what you’re hearing let alone what type it is isn’t a priority. Going back to sleep is. The pheasants continue to hit the corn feeder hard. Interestingly enough, there have been numerous Hungarian partridge sightings on the way into work the past couple weeks and several others have mentioned they’re seeing them too. The drier seasons back to back we’ve had may very well have helped their numbers.

Hopefully that owl has been thinning the bunny numbers somewhat. Many are complaining about their shrubbery being pruned and girdled by the cottontail population and judging by the number being squashed on area roads, that population continues to be at a high level. Border Collie Gus keeps the bunnies and squirrels well exercised at the ranch. Say the words “bunny” or “squirrel”, open the walk-in door on the garage and he explodes after them, a loud “grrrrrrrrrrr!” warning the rodents he’s coming at full throttle. Trouble is all that exercise just seems to increase their appetites.

Speaking of appetite, the little fat buddies had a pretty good workout last week around the training table. The cold weather meant the goodies were plentiful. Wide ranging topics from the usual gang of television critics as we dined on ginger cookies and muffin stumps. We kept up on Tiger Woods demise (Betsy’s Dad remains convinced the problem stems from all that bland Swedish cooking) and registered our thoughts on network programming such as The Bachelor. Not so surprisingly, we concluded it’s shows like these that have led to increased sales of satellite dishes and cable TV amongst the male population. It figures. One can only come up with about so much original color commentary before being banished to the other room.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/08/10, 12:41:11 PM
Think of a boy with the stars in his eye,
Longing to reach them but frightened to try

While the weather hasn’t been too hot the scurs have been blistering, predicting the early week snow over a week in advance. How do we fare this time around? Starting Wednesday, we start off with clear skies and cold for this time of year. High of 15 and low of 5 below. Thursday, partly cloudy, high of 15 and low of 5. Partly cloudy Friday, high of 20 - 25 and low of 5 to 10 with a chance of snow. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy, highs of 20 and lows of 5 to 10. Cloudy Monday and guess what? A chance of snow developing. High around 20 and low near 10. Cloudy with snow on Tuesday, high of 25 and low of 10 – 15. Normal high for Valentines Day is 29 and the normal low is 9. After seeing their shadow on Ground Hogs Day, the scurs are going out on a limb and predicting at least 6 more weeks of winter.

Yes on Sunday Valentines Day is upon us once again. Time to get your sweetie something nice or at least something you think is nice. A new snow shovel or if you’re in a really generous mood, a new snow blower comes to mind. Listening to a mention by Mark Seeley back in December, predictions from meteorologist Larry Cosgrove have turned out to be on the money. With the sunspot cycle being at an all time low, the prognostication of a cold January was dead on and so far the prediction for February to be not quite as cold and messy for us has been on the money too. It’s supposed to get nicer by March. One would certainly hope so. By then your wife should be over the snow blower.

Planets are easy to spot right now with the red planet Mars appearing as an early evening “star” in the eastern sky. A pretty conjunction between Jupiter and Venus will take place if it isn’t cloudy of course near the W-SW horizon the evening of February 16th under the new crescent moon. Jupiter will soon be leaving us although it’s had good long run in the twilight sky at chore time.

The little fat buddies had to make it into town Monday morning so they could tell everyone how bad the roads were. Luckily someone had made a donut run that was in turn followed by a major block of leftover birthday cake for dessert. Carrying a little extra ballast when the roads are rough is never a bad thing.

The bird sightings and sounds in the yard were dominated by birds of prey this past week. We did chores on Tuesday night, only to hear the swishing of wings above us in the barn. A sharp-shinned hawk must’ve decided the house sparrow population was to its liking and was moving with ease between the rafter braces. With the lights on, the sparrows were somewhat dismayed about their sudden houseguest, flying to a new hiding spot when the hawk would get too close. It stayed overnight and in the morning, after opening the overhead door wide open, with a little coaxing flew out to freedom. Looking out the window after chores, the little hawk was feasting on something near the corn screenings. After it finished, I discovered it had eaten a junco for breakfast. While a house sparrow would’ve been preferable, it was interesting to see the food chain in action and functioning as intended.

On Saturday morning I noticed there were many feathers blowing about the yard. Given the northeast wind, it was easy to trace the source to a pheasant that must’ve been struck by a vehicle while flying across the road. The carcass was in the deep snow in the road ditch so thought after moving some snow, getting some hay, and a couple other assorted odd jobs, would fish it out of there so it didn’t attract stray dogs or coyotes. With lambing season looming ever closer, that’s one thing we’d just as soon not contend with. The snow was too deep to retrieve it without snowshoes so decided to have some lunch before making an attempt. After cleaning up the dishes, I looked out the window to see a huge bird taking off from the yard. Sure enough, a bald eagle happened by and you guessed it, had devoured the pheasant almost entirely. There was part of one wing left but that was about it. While I felt bad about the demise of the pheasant, the sighting of the eagle in our own yard was nothing short of spectacular.

And last but not least, it seems it must be owl mating season. Although I’m not 100% positive we have a great horned owl, am leaning towards a male and female of breeding age, given some of the strange sounds following all the hooting. They were around on at least 4 consecutive nights last week and carried on into the hours just prior to sunlight. The sounds match more closely than anything those of a mating pair of great horned owls. Just wish they’d get a motel room if they’re going to behave like that.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/15/10, 04:49:11 PM
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you...

The snow forecast for the Monday-Tuesday time slot arrived a little early but in the scurs eyes, snow is better earlier than later. Let’s hope that continues to be true when we get into March or we’ll be planting potatoes on Good Friday with a pickaxe! This forecast period looks relatively dry fortunately. Starting with Wednesday, mostly sunny skies, turning partly cloudy on Thursday. Highs both days around 25 and lows near 5 above. Friday through Sunday, partly cloudy, highs between 20 and 25 with lows of 5 – 10. Clouding up Monday with a chance of snow into Tuesday. High temps both days of 20 and lows of 10 – 15. Normal high for Washington’s real birthday is 32 and the normal low is 12. The scurs cannot tell a lie: This winter is becoming a long, drawn out affair.

Indeed it is getting old. One can see it in people’s attitudes and it’s no wonder. Snow has really piled up and after last Monday’s 7” – 10” dumping, ditches are almost all over full and intersections especially in town are becoming obstructed view. Some are driving like they have a death wish, winding up in the ditch after driving too fast for conditions. In the yard at the ranch, even though we live on a hill, it’s like driving out of a canyon or mountain pass between the snow piles. Everything is white and it’s tough to see driveways and other entrances as many have discovered once it’s too late including yours truly.

Taking a trip out on Beaver Lake, I followed a trail off the access I thought had been plowed. It had but all the sudden the snow plowing suddenly quit and I was in too far to turn around and go back. Luckily one of my little fat buddies came to the recue and got his pickup stuck. We managed to get that one dislodged and by then another vehicle that had come to help us become stuck. We had the good fortune at that point to have 2 good eggs show up with chains on their pickups who pulled all the stuck vehicles back to safety. After that episode, I went back to the office to lick my wounds and heard what sounded like a skid loader stuck in a hole trying to get out head first behind the building. Been there, done that. Sure enough, before going home, I wound up pulling him up out of a hole where he could get traction again. Isn’t there a Barney song that goes like that? “I pull you, you pull me,…”

It’s gotten to the point too where I have to wear snowshoes to fill the birdfeeders. Am out of ear corn so the pheasants have to put up with screenings. Skittish at first, it’s taken them awhile but they appear to be catching on to the trough containing the feed. The little sharp-shinned hawk was back again on Sunday afternoon when I checked that feeder, twisting and turning mid-flight while aggressively chasing the house sparrows through the brush and pine trees. A few minutes later, I found it terrorizing them in the pole barn again. Judging by the bars on the breast, apparently this is a young hawk in the process of changing from juvenile to adult plumage. It’s a quick study though. It figured out the sparrows like to hide in there and once they get flushed out in the open, the odds of being picked off increase. The hawk has also learned to go in and out of the building on its own so there’s a chance it will continue tormenting the sparrows. It’s certainly been fascinating to watch this extremely agile small raptor to be sure.

The Gopher men’s basketball team has continued their dismal performance. One might’ve thought early in the season they has a pretty good shot at making the NCAA tournament. If they don’t start playing better real soon, they won’t make the NIT. You say you follow the Timberwolves? You might want to contact some New Orleans Saints fans and get some of those bags they used to wear over their heads when they went to the games. Thank goodness the Winter Olympics are in full swing once again. At least it gives Vikings and Gophers fans something to cheer about. If you’ve noticed a sudden shortage of cowbells and those obnoxious, noisy plastic horns, now you know why.

And finally, the brood ewes got shorn this last weekend without any major hurdles other than an electrical snafu that developed. Was rectified by running about 3 miles of electric cord to the main barn so we didn’t have to get out the old fashioned hand shears. We even had a visit from half of the local Bandwagon stars, who also happens to be a semi-retired shearer. It’s always a treat to visit about sheep people although there are fewer and fewer of us to gossip about. Apparently we’re irreplaceable and folks can’t stand all the extra income because few newcomers are stepping up to the plate. When asked if he wanted to see whether he could still shear for old time’s sake he said there was little point in it as the shearer appeared to be doing just fine to him. Was hoping he would say “Yes!” He was right though. After we were done the ewes looked as smooth as ever as they rubbed on the gates and hay mangers, picking at any stray sprigs of hay they could find. Another good job done ahead of the lambing season that’s about to commence.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/22/10, 07:14:58 PM
Rocky Raccoon checked into his room…

The scurs were watching the radar with great interest as we received the glancing blow rather than a full blown storm on Monday and Tuesday. This week? Looks like March comes in like a lamb, in more ways than one. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a chilly high of 10 and a brisk – 5 for a low. Warmer Thursday through Saturday, clear to partly cloudy, highs of 20 – 25 and lows of 5 – 10. Warmer on Sunday, partly cloudy, a high near 30 and low of 15 with a chance of developing snow overnight. Mostly cloudy Monday and Tuesday, chance of snow, highs of 25 – 30 and lows of 10 – 15. Normal high for March 1st is 35 and the normal low is 15. We celebrate 11 hours of daylight on the 25th and sunset will occur at 6 p.m. on the 27th. The snowman the scurs built back in December may soon become an endangered species.

As we depart from the month of February, we won’t see Jupiter as it is low in the western horizon and is lost in the glow of the sun. Venus however will become more visible low in the western horizon. Our full moon for the month will occur on the 28th and goes by several names including the Full Snow Moon for obvious reasons and the Full Hunger Moon as supplies in Indian encampments would begin to dwindle. The Ojibwe knew this as the Snow Crust Moon as the freeze-thaw cycle tended to have that effect on the snow surface. The Sioux called this the Full Raccoon Moon as the masked bandits would generally awaken from their long winter nap and wander about the countryside, not unlike little fat buddies in quest of donuts.

While it was warmer this past week, temperatures still had a difficult time reaching the forecast highs out here in the hinterlands. Low to mid-20’s for highs were about all we could muster. A major reason for that discrepancy is the deep snow pack that remains across the landscape. The reflective nature of the surface here coupled with a heavy snow pack to our south will slow our temperature increases for awhile. The sun is gaining strength however and it’s especially noticeable where one has deposited a hunk of sod grass side down in a snow pile. Amazing how much more quickly the snow melts surrounding my re-landscaping projects.

The pheasants continued to be the most noticeable birds in the yard over the past week. They’ve definitely overcome their fears of the sheep feeders holding their food source. The roosters are starting to show some of their spring plumage and it won’t be long and some of the Little Jerry offspring will be struttin’ their stuff in the yard. Spent some time this past week working with Eric at the Steele Co. SWCS to line up another tree planting not only for pheasants but for other wildlife. It should provide a corridor to allow movement from the CREP acreage to the windbreak and other cover in the yard. The sharp-shinned hawk has kept an eye on the sparrows and the numbers around the yard and in the shed have dwindled. Not that it has eaten that many but they probably have decided there are other less dangerous places to hang out. The chickadees repeat their spring song with greater frequency, a “fee-bee” is usually the first thing one hears when heading out the door.

Lambing commenced about as expected with 4 ewes coming in over the course of the week. Sure it’s a nice, leisurely pace but now the ewes are shorn, that’s likely to be short-lived. So far they’re healthy despite being born on the coldest mornings last week. Imagine that.

Was a good sports weekend in Gopher land and in the US in general. Both men's and women's basketball teams won, the men’s hockey team swept 7th ranked Colorado College and the US Olympic team bested Canada on Sunday with a 5 – 3 win in Vancouver. One needs to savor weekends like these as all too often, this is not the case. Especially in the case of the Winter Olympics, it wasn’t all that long ago the US was not considered a major power in winter sports. Must be all that global warming.

And finally, both Mrs. Cheviot and I have contracted the alien once again. Not sure where this lovely bug came from but it’s sure had its share of chills and thrills, aches and pains not to mention producing copious amounts of phlegm. Luckily there’s always the magic ‘CCO cough button to fall back on when talking on the phone. It’s also been one of those colds that causes hearing to be about half volume and the taste buds to cease functioning. The temporary hearing loss can be rather convenient but as for the food matter, temperature and texture are about all one can determine. If he’d share, I could even eat some of Gus’s treats. Those chewy bacon flavored ones look rather intriguing. Everything tastes the same anyway.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/01/10, 02:59:35 PM
The snow drives back the foot that's slow…

The scurs were on the money last week with a cool midweek followed by warmer weekend temps. For the first full week in March? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny, high of 30 – 35 and low of 0 to 5 above. Mostly sunny again for Thursday and Friday with a warming trend. High Thursday of 30 - 35 and a low around 5 – 10. High Friday of 35 – 40 with a low of 15 – 20. Cloudy on Saturday with a chance of rain and/or snow. High of 35 – 40 and low of 20 – 25. Partly sunny on Sunday, high of 35 – 40 and low of 20 – 25. Becoming cloudy on Monday into Tuesday with a chance of rain and/or snow. Monday’s high should be around 35 – 40 with an overnight low of 15 – 20. Tuesday we should top out at 30 – 35 with the low in the 15 – 20 range. Normal high for March 5th is 36 and the normal low is 17. The scurs will be readying the big screen TV for March Madness now the Winter Olympics are over.

The ice house villages on area lakes have disappeared as the sun is demonstrating more power each day. The gradual shrinkage of our snow cover is starting to be noticeable although we’ve been lagging behind in temperature compared to points north. In those areas either the heat island effect, lack of snowfall or both has frequently shown highs to be 10 degrees above those we’ve been recording. Last week’s double digit below zero lows weren’t exactly amusing either but the hoar frost observed still gave the landscape a picture postcard appearance. Our snow cover has slowed our warm up and as mentioned last week the fact the snow pack to our south remains there can bring southerly breezes that feel as though they’re coming off a glacier.

The heavens have provided some prime viewing although the brightness of the most recent full moon has made it the main event. The conjunction between Mars and the moon made for interesting conversation. It almost seemed that Mars has been farther north than usual. When mentioning that to Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer, he claimed if it got any farther north that can mean only one thing: A Martian invasion.

As of this writing, there are very few black clods of soil showing yet above the snow and this means feeding the pheasants will go on for awhile yet at the ranch. It has been interesting to watch them and not unusual to see them flying around the yard during the day. There was a group of Huns spotted again not far from home on February 24th making me hope their numbers are on the rise again. Hunt-able populations are rare but hunt-able or not, it’s great to see them.

Garden seeds arrived last week and taking inventory of them is always a treat. The anticipation of gardening season is almost as much fun as the end product itself. There still needs to be a trip to various local stores to pick up some of the staples including onions from Edna, 4 o’clocks from Pete, Pontiac potatoes from Condon’s and of course to the store where you go to the bathroom in the silo with the orange roof. It’s usually a good idea to do this on days when the weather is crummy in order to at least try to psyche yourself into believing eventually it will be spring.

The dreaded alien continues to persist and appears to be making the rounds. It’s on week 2 here at the ranch and if single finger farmer nose blowing was an Olympic event, I’d be the gold medalist. The dread disease has allowed me to catch up on my sleep although it just seems to tire everyone out who has contracted it. All in all though, am closer to feeling like a “human bean” this week than last week.

Fortunately between chores and the staggered lambing there have been plenty of sporting events to watch. Even though it was an ugly win, the Gophers men’s basketball team somehow managed to beat the Fighting Illini in Champaign for the first time in 14 years. And of course there was little more exciting to a hockey fan than watching the US and Canada play for Olympic gold. Back in 1980 was able to watch the original Miracle on Ice on TV and had been to some games at the U when Herb Brooks was still coach there. When living in North Dakota, it was amusing to watch some of the prairie province TV stations abruptly cut their regularly scheduled programming short and go to Hockey Night in Canada. With no satellite TV in those days, there were few other options.

All in all this year’s gold medal hockey game was thoroughly entertaining and even though the US didn’t win, it was still some of the best hockey to watch in a long time. Kudos to the Canadian team for battling their way back through the bracket after losing to the US team initially to win in the gold medal game. Hockey is their national sport and they’re great champions.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/08/10, 08:58:53 PM
Up upon the tower
Time reads daylight savings.

The scurs were deadly accurate again, calling the Tuesday precipitation event over a week in advance. How will we fare this forecast period? The scurs tell all. Starting Wednesday, we continue with the wet, sloppy kiss Mother Nature planted on us on Tuesday. Cloudy with rain likely, a high of 40 and a low of 30 – 35. Cloudy Thursday with lingering showers. High of 40 with a low around 30. Cloudy Friday morning becoming partly cloudy, slight chance of showers with a high of 45 and a low of 30. Partly cloudy Saturday then clearing on Sunday. Highs both days of 45 – 50 and lows of 30. Partly cloudy Monday with a high of 40 – 45 and a low of 25 – 30. Clouding up again on Tuesday with a chance of showers developing. High of 40 – 45 and low of 20 – 25. Normal high for March 12th is 39 and the normal low is 20. The scurs will be blindly getting up at 2 a.m., the precise moment prescribed by our illustrious government to set their clocks ahead one hour on Saturday night. Daylight Saving (Wasting) Time is upon us once again.

Yes, the annual farce has arrived once again. Time for people who work a regular schedule to be crabby for a week or two, late or later to work and for those of us with livestock, time to go back to doing chores in the dark for a few more weeks after finally crawling out from under winter’s morning shroud of darkness. With logic like that it’s no wonder I like my naps. Oh but look on the bright side, the sun stays up an extra hour because it was decreed that plants should have another hour each day to grow.

Our recent precipitation last Saturday marked the first for the month of March and by the sound of things in the near term it won’t be the last. At the ranch we tallied .35”, enough to make the snow shrink rapidly and along with the warmer temps, cause the slush to increase in the area driveways where the last few teaser snows were driven on. Some have been quick to point out that March is our snowiest month. It can be but that trend has changed over the past decade or so. The tendency has been for more of our precipitation to fall as rain in March and so far the forecast is true to that trend.

There are subtle signs of spring across greater Bugtussle and environs. The raccoons are out and about. Apparently they didn’t get any smarter over the winter judging by the number that haven’t made it across the roads. Horned larks are common along roadsides although as of this writing their nesting grounds remain largely covered with snow. Two geese were spotted high over Bugtussle proper on Friday as I was talking to someone on the phone. On the way to church on Sunday by the lakeside neighbors to the north there was a large flock of robins. Hopefully the robins can survive on crabapples and other fruit for awhile waiting for earthworms. The amount of frost in the ground is not great overall however. At the SROC in Waseca the frost depth was 6” on March 8th. There are reports from those who have been moving snow piles that there is virtually no frost where the snow has been deep. They left the ruts to prove it.

At the Mall for Men the little fat buddies continue their quest for wisdom and knowledge along with some sustenance. Luckily the Girl Scout cookies arrived just in the nick of time. Last week we discussed the meaning of “hoar” and “hoary” as it relates to the pretty hoar frost we’ve experienced some mornings. Hoary means gray or white or having white or gray hair from old age. There is a weed known as hoary alyssum and it has a rough grayish-green pubescence on the leaves and stems. We also delved into the world of animal care, particularly as it pertains to canines. We discussed bathing the animals and how they smell bad when they get wet as well as how the rain and snow tends to soften their coats. Last but not least we covered the importance of keeping their toenails trimmed. And some of you thought all we did was sit around, drink coffee, eat goodies and tell off-colored jokes.

Lambing season continues to drag along. For some reason the first 8 head came in and since that time there’s been a lull. Looking back on the September weather records there was a stretch of warm weather where highs were in the low 80’s from about the 10th through the 20th that may have impacted the virility of the rams and/or the willingness of the ewes to cycle. Doesn’t matter but it would be nice to get it over with for another season. They’ll come in when they come in I guess.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/16/10, 10:47:54 AM
But you know
The darkest hour
Is always, always just before the dawn

The scurs were tracking well again last week. Rain was forecast and rain we received. What’s up for this week? You may not want to know. Starting Wednesday otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Day, look for a nice day, partly cloudy skies, high around 50 and a low near 35. Partly cloudy Thursday becoming cloudy on Thursday night with a chance of showers. High of 55 and low of 35. Cloudy Friday, high of 45 and low of 25 with a chance of rain. Cloudy Saturday with a chance of rain changing to snow on the 1st day of spring. High 35 – 40 and low around 25. We see the sun again on Sunday and Monday under partly cloudy skies. High of 40 and low of 25. Clouding up Tuesday with a chance of rain. High near 40 and low around 25. The normal high for March 20th is 43 and the normal low is 23. The scurs will consume some leftover St. Patty’s Day green beer during the Xavier – Minnesota Golden Gopher tilt if the weather starts deteriorating as predicted.

March 20th is officially the first day of spring and 12:32 p.m. CDT denotes the vernal equinox, the point at which the sun is directly over the equator. The sun begins to move north as the earth tilts marking spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. As if chickens weren’t crabby enough being awakened an hour early with the time change, now they must contend with eggs standing on end as a result of the equinox. Am sure Betts will want to borrow the soccer mom van to go get some farm fresh eggs so she can check it out once again. On evenings where one can actually see the stars, the big dipper can be noted in the northeastern sky standing on its handle. Mars continues to still be visible in the east although it will be waning in brightness as the month goes on. Venus may be seen low in the western sky on March 17th about a half hour after sunset below and to the left of the crescent moon.

In recent days weather events have dominated much of the conversation at the Mall for Men as well as on the streets of Bugtussle. Measurable precip fell on 4 out of 7 days last week, tallying 1.13” in the official ranch rain gauge. Water in the Le Sueur River was backed up over the gravel road east of the golf course and inching towards the Lake Road surface. As of this writing it wasn’t receding as fast as some of the little fat buddies’ hairlines. We lost much of our snow cover in the past week and apparently the ground isn’t completely thawed judging by the amount of runoff. Area wetlands are full once again after suffering through a late season drought the latter part of last summer. This weekend was the first time in a couple seasons the spillway on the CREP pond has been flowing. We saw the first lightning and heard the first thunder of the season on March 11th. If we were really supposed to experience our first killing frost in 6 month that would be September 7th, we’d better be planting early corn or growing all small grains. Fortunately, it makes better conversation than a rule of thumb.

Fog continues to be commonplace in the mornings and with everyone up bopping around an hour earlier it makes it that much more dangerous. One of the problems noted even after the sun is up, people are driving around in the heavy fog without their headlights on. Some of this may be due to the automation addiction everyone seems to have. It’s possible their automatic headlights are not coming on. Would probably be best for all concerned if lights were turned on manually anyway so you’d know for sure they were on. The tough part is remembering to turn them off. It’s too easy to miss people coming out if the fog or worse yet, come up from behind a slower moving vehicle and not see them or be seen until it’s too late.

Some of the birds including recent arrivals from the south are already starting to set up shop in the yard. There’s a male robin hanging around the small garden site and a pair of chickadees seems to be thinking this isn’t a bad place to be. Lots of food, bird houses and holes in trees. Red-winged blackbirds started arriving last week and usually they find the slough at neighbor David’s or the wetland by the pond to their liking. At least one of rooster pheasant Little Jerry’s progeny staked a claim to the yard over the weekend. Loud cackling and crowing can be heard during morning and evening chores. Luckily the fields have largely cleared so pheasant access to food should be markedly improved.

Inside the house, the multi-colored Asian ladybeetles have suddenly roared back to life. Many are experiencing the same thing after noticing few last fall or over the course of the winter. Warmer weather has awakened them from their overwintering haunts and they’re looking for something to eat. As has been pointed out before here, proximity to soybean fields probably has little to do with the number of beetles one has to contend with. Those ladybird beetles not following the soybean aphids back to the buckthorn could be found feeding on plentiful bird cherry-oat aphids in the corn until the killing frost forced them to move.

Outside our yard like most in the area is a sloppy mess in spots and Gus (a.k.a. “Mr. Mudball”) can usually be found running back and forth on a muddy track along the fence. He’s in his glory, helping or at least he thinks he is as we move ewes and lambs from the lambing barn to the loafing area. There is some kind of non-audible communication between a Border Collie and sheep that’s interesting to watch yet difficult to pinpoint. As usual, it hasn’t taken long for the lambs once they’re moved to get acquainted with the creep feeder. That’s a good thing because it sure makes morning chores go faster. The darkest hours are always just before the dawn.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/22/10, 12:03:47 PM
We're just ordinary average guys…

The scurs stubbed their toe last week about like the Gophers did against Xavier. A little snow on Friday but otherwise the weekend was a pleasant surprise. This week? We start off with a couple gems. Wednesday and Thursday, partly cloudy skies with highs of 45 – 50 and lows around 25. Friday, about the same but clouding up towards evening with a chance of freezing rain. High of 45 – 50 and low of 30. Saturday, cloudy with snow turning to rain in the morning then a good chance of snow overnight. High of 40 – 45 with a low near 30. Partly cloudy and cooler Sunday, slight chance of snow in the morning and afternoon. High of 40 and low of 25 – 30. Cloudy on Monday, a chance of a shower in the forenoon. High of 40 – 45 and low of 20. Partly cloudy Tuesday, becoming cloudy towards evening with a slight chance of a shower overnight. High of 45 and low of 25 – 30 . The normal high for March 26th is 46 and the normal low is 26. We get back to sunrise before 7 a.m. on March 30th , the same as it was back on February 24th. We continue gaining approximately 3 minutes of daylight per day. The scurs can get their NCAA tournament brackets in order before the twilight hours.

March 29th ushers in the next Full Moon, known commonly as the Full Worm Moon. When temperatures warm and the ground thaws, earthworms make their way to the soil surface leaving their castings behind. It is also known as the Full Crow Moon and the Full Sap Moon as according to the local sappers, the maple sap is running. The Full Lenten Moon is another name as this moon signaled the last Full Moon of winter. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Crust Moon because the snow became crusted on the surface due to the freezing and thawing. The Sioux called this moon The Moon When Buffalo Drop Their Calves. Sounds like there will be several area beef operations calving as well so it still fits.

Lambing is winding down at the ranch but as the saying goes, it ain’t over till it’s over. Still a few stragglers. The lambs are doing well in spite of the damp weather we had mid-month. The ewes without lambs are getting a little antsy now they can get out to the pasture. Several of them made the trip down the hillside to see if there were any green shoots of grass to devour yet. One of these days. So far they’re content to return and munch on their hay. Gus got his shots over the weekend. He’s always been well behaved at the vet’s office and seems to know it’s a necessary evil. They’re always really nice to him and since he thrives on attention, for Gus it’s just another adventure riding in “his” truck.

It was incredible how fast the snow left us. Sure there are still some vestigial drifts here and there in fencelines and road ditches but by and large, the fields are bare. 3 weeks ago one wouldn’t have believed we’d be looking at bare ground and be able to walk around firm yards. Still have yet to see a robin pull a worm out of the ground but thanks to one of the two guys who always have gas at the Mall for Men, it was pointed out that pocket gophers were digging here and there. There was still a large pond on the east side of the river at the golf course although on Monday a.m. they were pumping it back into the river. Last Thursday the temporary water hazard was occupied by a couple mallards and on Sunday there were buffleheads swimming in it. At the ranch, the pond has seen a few Canada geese and following Thursday the 18th’s 60º warmth, there were the distinct sounds of the western chorus frogs croaking away. We were due after hearing the Twin City blow combs crowing about the warm sun and 60’s when we had to put up with 40-something, dank and cloudy.

Meadow voles apparently are near the peak of one of their 2 – 5 year cycles as we’ve had lots of discussion around the training table about them. These are small rodents, dark brownish-gray above with a lighter colored belly. Their bodies are usually about 4” – 5” long with a short tail, roughly 1” – 1.5” in length. Typically the damage we see is tunneling and surface runways under the snow in the lawns, hayfields and road ditches. Sometimes they also girdle small trees and shrubs beneath the snow surface. Their nests are usually spherical in a clump of grass containing dry stems and leaves with a lining of shredded plant material. These rodents, also commonly referred to as field mice, commonly feed on green vegetation and tubers. They are capable of consuming their own weight in food daily and the females are promiscuous breeders, mating with any male attracted to them. They reproduce year round and can produce up to a dozen litters per year, at 4 – 7 young per litter. Fortunately, they don’t live long and the typical female only survives long enough to reproduce a couple times. This is probably partially due to the fact that these mice are a favorite prey of animals such as snakes, fox, cats, coyotes, owls and hawks. It wasn’t uncommon when I was a lad baling hay to see a red-tailed hawk circling high above the field on a hot summer afternoon. They were waiting to pounce on any voles as they scurried out from under the windrows before the #46 International baler gobbled them up. That happened sometimes too. A little extra protein in the ration we always maintained.

Speaking of rations, at the Mall we continue to worry about our figures, but not very much. We’re just ordinary average guys. We’ve been trying to get one of the little fat buddies on the scale to see if he’s as svelte as he claims he is but it’s proving to be a challenge. We’ve considered bringing in a cattle prod, some panels and borrowing a headgate. The yellow lab puppy named Turk that graces our presence is now officially a little fat buddy, able to eat cookies just like everyone else, without chocolate in them of course. We have determined that cookies, bars and cake can be part of a successful diet plan. As Betsy’s dad points out, they won’t make you any skinnier but if you plan on feeding them to everyone else, they get fatter so you don’t feel so bad.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/29/10, 11:09:03 AM
I ain’t gonna take none of your foolin’ around…

The scurs got thrown under the bus on the highs and lows for Monday & Tuesday. Didn’t see that one coming. This week? More warm to start with on Wednesday, partly cloudy, a high of 70 – 75 and a low of 45 – 50. Mostly sunny Thursday April 1, becoming cloudy by evening. High of 70 and low of 45 – 50. Cloudy on Friday with a chance of thundershowers. High 65 – 70 with a low around 50. Cloudy with a chance of showers on Saturday, high of 65- 70 and low of 40 – 45. Cloudy and cooler on Easter Sunday with a slight chance of showers. High near 55 and low of 40. Cloudy on Monday with a chance of rain. Remaining cooler, high of 55 and low of 40. Partly cloudy Tuesday, high of 60 with a chance of an afternoon thundershower. Low of 40. Normal high on April Fool’s Day is 50 and the normal low is 28. On April 6th we’re back to 13 hours of daylight, about the same as we see on September 5th. Just so you know, on April 1st the scurs will be calling One Stop to ask them if they have Prince Albert in the can.

What a nice week we had with an even nicer week forecast. After the depth this winter stooped to, we’ll take it. Still some ice on area lakes as of this writing but there is open water on both Beaver and St. Olaf. This week might take care of the ice if the forecast comes to fruition. The breezy conditions over the past week have dried area fields to the point where we should see some field operations commence, namely anhydrous ammonia application and broadcast P & K fertilizer. We did finally see some precip on Saturday night into early Sunday morning but it only tallied .13” in the official ranch rain gauge. That marked the first measurable rainfall since St. Patty’s Day and the first amount over a tenth since March 12th. The robins are having a tough time getting snowed on 3 times with the last snow noted back on the 19th and those were just some morning flurries. This pattern follows most of the rest of the state with no measureable snowfall being recorded locally in the month of March here. It has happened but the records going back far enough here are tough to find. As Mark Seeley points out, in the Metro area it’s only happened twice before, in 1860 and 1878. Even though he was extremely busy doing it all, the retired fertilizer mixing man from Huntting elevator might recall that.

At the ranch we’ve been busier than one armed paper hangers. The ewes are nearly done lambing with only a couple more to go. We moved the last of the processed lambs (tails docked, shots given, ear tags in) and their mothers down to the loafing area. After moving them of course you have to watch them tear around a while. There are a couple ewes that have decided to jump some of the panels inside the barn. Like my Dad, I have a special place for those animals. It’s called the packing plant. Not going to take their fooling around. The branches and twigs accumulated from the late winter and early spring tree pruning were all picked up so it doesn’t look quite as brushy as it did. I even tempted fate and removed the chains from the 656 as the yard really didn’t need any more tearing up from that. Wasn’t taking any chances on removing the heat houser just yet however. Potatoes were procured so Good Friday planting could become a reality. Sowing some radishes is probably in order as well. If they’re as hot as the ones we grew last year, they’ll make your hair stand on end.

The geese and mallards are keeping the pond hopping, there is frequent honking and quacking at any given time of the day. The water in the pond has receded to a more normal level but it’s good to see it holding water again. The robins are singing already when we head out to morning chores and it is becoming light earlier. There are earthworms they can find easily, especially in some of the more saturated areas of the yard. Stomp your foot on the ground in those areas and you can hear the “sklooooosh” of the worms and night crawlers retreating down their holes. The goldfinches have more of a yellow cast to them although when it’s cloudy, it’s not as readily apparent. They are becoming more abundant though, going through more thistle seed than they were just a few weeks ago. Striped gophers are back out on the hillside south of the house, making my trigger finger itch.

Reminisced recently it was 25 years ago this spring we landed here in Bugtussle. Odd, it seems longer than that. It was shortly after that I got to know Harold Amley. He was a farmer who would retire about 3 years later and then worked for a fellow SWCE board member until health problems cut short enjoying that retirement. He would stop in for some information on his lawn or the huge rhubarb plants in his and Jeannie’s yard. He never liked it he told me but there were many folks who harvested some from his patch over the years, myself included. Harold was a regular reader of this column and when we’d see him at church, he always loved to ask about the sheep especially Vidalia, the onion eating lamb. Sadly, Harold lost his battle with cancer recently. Seems like about once a year we lose another retired farmer who loved to come in and visit about the weather, put bugs on the desk or figure out how to deal with a weed problem. Harold was one of those guys and he will be sadly missed. As I always told him, thanks for stopping in.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/05/10, 12:09:47 PM
They serenade the weekend squire who just came out to mow his lawn…

The scurs got fooled on April Fool’s Day when the high reached 83 at the ranch and 85 on the truck thermometer. They’re thinking more seasonal this time around with no danger of reaching the 80 mark. We shall see. Starting Wednesday, cloudy becoming partly cloudy with a chance of showers. High of 55 and a low of 30 - 35. Same thing minus the rain chance on Thursday, becoming mostly sunny in the afternoon. High near 55 and low of 30 – 35. Cookie cutter days on Friday and Saturday, mostly clear, highs of 55- 60 and lows of 35 – 40. Sunday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy with a chance of an evening shower. High of 60 and low of 35 – 40. Mostly cloudy Monday and Tuesday, chance of an evening shower, highs of 50 – 55 and low around 40. The normal high for April 9th is 54 and the normal low is 31. The scurs will be holding off putting their tomatoes out just yet.

Many phenology related items to report this week as spring continues to exert itself across the landscape. To close out March first though we saw less than normal precip and no measurable snowfall for the first time most can recall. Rainfall at the ranch tallied 1.3”, what one would suspect is less than normal. Last year March was dry however, with only 1.08” of liquid equivalent precip and very little snow recorded. At the SROC this past March, rainfall measured 1.45” and the liquid equivalent was 1.04” below normal for the month. Typically they measure 10.1” of snow during the month.

More small grain went in the ground this past week in what were generally excellent seedbed conditions. Much spring fertilizer for corn has been applied although so far most actual corn planting remains coffee shop talk. Alfalfa has broken dormancy which can be a double edged sword this time of year. While it’s nice to get the hay crop off to an early start, one has to hope is that we don’t get a strong cold front sinking down out of Canada with high winds as well as temps in the lower teens and single digits. This happened in the early 1990’s when alfalfa greened up early, resulting in many area alfalfa fields being lost, particularly those lacking re-growth for overwintering cover from the prior year.

The ice left sometime overnight March 31st on St. Olaf Lake. It was still there on the way home on the 30th Warm, windy conditions have put the ice fishermen out of business once again until next winter. April 1st was a watershed day as well. Not only was it very warm it brought out many birds and other fauna. Tree swallows greeted us during morning chores following their return from their winter homes along the Gulf coast, Mexico and Central America. They’ve spent the last several days checking out nesting boxes. Flickers were also noted that day. That same evening on the way back into the house from feeding the lone bottle lamb was wondering where the piece of 3” diameter rock in the lawn came from. After it hopped, discovered it was an American toad out for the first time. Looking at the window on the garage door, a non-descript brown moth or “miller” as we used to call them was fluttering it’s wings. The sound of the western chorus frogs from the pond was almost deafening. 

The .14” of rain and strong breezes on the 2nd finished off the last of the leaves on the red oak tree in the yard. Those on the lower half of the tree clung stubbornly to the branches much of the winter. Even though the precip was scant, coupled with warm temps it caused lawns and pastures to continue their green-up. Some have even started mowing their lawns. There was frost on the roof of the garage on the morning of the 3rd. In the clear morning sky bluebirds could be seen and heard flying overhead. There are robins everywhere singing loudly in the morning. Male mourning doves are cooing as well, adding to the din. The leaves on the rhubarb have unfolded from the little green clenched fists that were the buds. There should be a plentiful supply this year. And last but not least, the crocuses were starting to flower beating the quackgrass to the punch once again.

Lambing season at the ranch is officially over as of Easter Sunday. In between church services at Le Sueur and Vista, Mrs. Cheviot penned up the last contestant and promptly named the new lamb Bunny. We’ve had some relatively dry weather since mid-March so the group as a whole is very healthy. The yearling ewes have been able to find plenty of grass already in the pasture. That doesn’t stop them from bellering anyway. Given a little more rain, the amount of hay being fed will rapidly decline as will the bellering.

At the Mall for Men, nice weather means attendance at training sessions is flagging. Corn planting has been the topic of the day but one “Cherman” expert suggested there would likely be shrinkage once the seed sprouts and is followed by a cold rain. Some have apparently taken the wisdom and knowledge gleaned herein and will be applying it to their farming operations.  Gives one pause to wonder: What do cookie and donut fields look like?

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Fawkinnae on April 04/05/10, 06:02:42 PM
Hey Dotch. I like your little tag by Neil Young at the bottom of your stories. Where is that from? What song? What album?

Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: thunderpout on April 04/05/10, 07:25:32 PM
Dotch.... I imagine they look reeaal doughy! ;)  Yeah, Im a huge Neil fan, & for the life of me I havent been able to figure out which tune thats from either....  :scratch:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/08/10, 02:48:00 PM
Ah, missed your posts guys. Always good to know there are some other Neil Young fans around. The line is from a tune on Neil's first solo album after he left Buffalo Springfield. It was released I believe in late 1968 or early 1969, the titile was just "Neil Young" and received mixed reviews by the critics at the time. It was always one of my favorites. The tune is called "Here We are in the Years" and the lyrics were somewhat of an indictment of our society, the urban sprawl and the greed that tended to be at the heart of too many of our problems. Still is. At least that's my interpretation.

Now that the holidays have come
They can relax and watch the sun
Rise above all
of the beautiful things
They've done.

Go to the country take the dog
Look at the sky without the smog
See the world laugh
at the farmers feeding hogs
Eat hot dogs.

What a pity
That the people from the city
Can't relate to the slower things
That the country brings.

Time itself is bought and sold.
The spreading fear of growing old
Contains a thousand foolish games
That we play.

While people
planning trips to stars
Allow another boulevard to claim
A quiet country lane
It's insane.

So the subtle face is a loser
This time around.
Here we are in the years
Where the showman
shifts the gears
Lives become careers
Children cry in fear
Let us out of here!
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Fawkinnae on April 04/08/10, 03:06:06 PM
Ah yes I agree. One of my favorites too. Thanks for reminding me.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/12/10, 05:41:24 PM
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat

It continues to look more like spring all the time as the scurs continue to track the atypical sparse chances of April rain. This week, more of the same temperature-wise. Starting Wednesday, we see our warmest day and probably best chance of rainfall in the evening. High of 75 – 80 and low around 50. Thursday, partly cloudy, slight chance of showers with a high of 65 and low around 50. Friday, more partly cloudy, high of 65 and low of 40 – 45 with a slight chance of an overnight shower into Saturday morning. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy, slight chance of showers, highs both days 60 – 65 and lows of 40 – 45. Monday, partly cloudy, high of 60 and low of 45. Tuesday, partly cloudy with a chance of a shower or thunderstorm. High of 65 and low of 45. Normal high for April 15th, otherwise known as Tax Deadline Day is 58 and the normal low is 34. The sun will set at 8 p.m. on the 17th the same time as it will on August 26th. The scurs will be putting the patio furniture out sans the umbrella.

The dry cycle continues as we are not seeing much precipitation. Not that this is a totally bad thing but the typical precipitation amount for April at the SROC in Waseca is about 3.24”. They’ve tallied .32” thus far in April and at the ranch .33” and nearing the halfway point in April, chances of catching up become slimmer with each passing day. Even though they’re greening up, pastures, lawns and hayfields could all benefit from a drink. The dryness has been a boon to corn planting though with this week marking the starting point for many area farmers. Most report soil conditions are as nice as they’ve ever been for this calendar date and it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to put some corn in the ground.

There have been years when we’ve seen nice spring weather fall apart but it hasn’t happened very often. April 1984 was one such year where I was living at the time in north central North Dakota. The spring had broken early and small grain planting had started in earnest about the middle of April. Things were going great guns until about the 26th and 27th when a blizzard set in and stopped everything in its tracks for about a week. Temperatures fell from a high of 70º earlier in the week to below zero. Winds gusted over 45 mph with near zero visibility and there were snowdrifts stretching from the street up to the storefront windows in Rolla. I could barely see to make it home from my office around noon on the 26th and spent a couple days holed up in my little house on the prairie. There was plenty of food and the power stayed on. It had been dry to that point and the garden benefitted from the precipitation as did the small grain. Given the low temperatures the blanket of snow protected the recently planted crop. Although I couldn’t find anything in the records, reputedly that same storm hit here a day or so later with perhaps not quite the fury but wet sloppy snow nonetheless. I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…

It has been nice enough here to put some garden in although the potatoes remain in the bag just yet. Did manage to put some radishes, shallots and a few onions in working the mellow ground first with the weed eater tiller attachment. It’s simply not big enough to do what needs to be done on the rest of the garden though. The main tiller needs to have the handlebars welded back on before we get too carried away. Apparently the slaloming around the hills of vine crops over the years have not been kind to it.

In the yard the goldfinches continue to get yellower and brighter with each passing day. Hungrier too. They seem to be increasing in number as the male cardinal has been singing the past several days. A brown creeper was spotted on the 9th. The rose colored rays of the rising sun made it easier to pick it out as it made its way up the trunk and the nearly vertical limbs. A pair of geese has claimed the pond for now and typically there are at least a couple pair of mallards.

Gus had a big weekend. On Saturday he got to go for a ride in his truck to Owatonna with Mrs. Cheviot and I to pick up supplies for the onslaught known as spring planting season. After that he accompanied me to the CREP acreage to repair a wood duck house. Gus tried to ride on the 4 wheeler but after several unsuccessful attempts to stay on it he opted to walk. On Sunday, he was the beneficiary of leftover pancakes and French toast from the Lion’s pancake feed again. Gus was true to form, hiding one pancake for future reference and eating the next one. He got to go for another ride when the red headed former 4-Her called and said the lawnmower was repaired and ready to be picked up. After sticking his fingers in it, even he was impressed with the thick winter coat Gus is still carrying around. Upon arriving home, it was time to unload the lawnmower sending him into tire biting mode. The 4 wheeler was loaded up next, causing him to circle the machine furiously before it hit the ramp. And the coup de grace was starting the weed eater, all of this within 20 minutes. Small engine sensory overload for any Border Collie.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/19/10, 12:09:47 PM
Really love your peaches wanna shake your tree…

The scurs continued to believe we’re stuck in dry cleaning mode and they were right. Any relief in sight this week? The scurs tell all. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 65 – 70 and low of 35 – 40. Partly cloudy again on Thursday with a high of 65 and a low around 50. Cloudy Friday bringing us the best possibility of some rain. High of 60 - 65 and low of 50. Cloudy Saturday, slight chance of lingering shower with a high near 60 and low of 40. Partly cloudy Sunday, high of 60 and low of 40. Cloudy and slightly cooler on Monday with a chance of showers, high of 55 - 60 and low of 35 - 40. Cloudy on Tuesday and with it another chance of showers. High of 50 - 55 and low of 35. The normal high for April 23rd is 61 and the normal low is 37, roughly the same temps we see in mid-October. On April 27th we’ll reach 14 hours of daylight once again, the first time since mid-August. The scurs may need to find that umbrella for the patio furniture after all.

Corn planting continues to thunder along way ahead of schedule with some corn planted April 11th sporting a radicle root 1” long and a coleoptile about ½” in length. Spotty rains did cause some delays in areas but they were generally short lived. This has been an extremely unusual spring as some are finished with corn planting before we would typically start in this latitude. Some are content to take it in stride, not getting too excited and planting according to their normal schedule. It seems strange for us to have the luxury of this much time so some have opted to plant soybeans. Whether or not that is a wise management decision at this point is debatable. There is some buzz about the potential for the volcano in Iceland (Mt. Eyjafjallajökull) to affect the climate as Mt. Pinatubo did in the 1991 eruption. Speculation is the amount of sulfur dioxide pumped into the atmosphere thus far shouldn’t be a problem but those in the know are also quick to point out the eruption and potential related events aren’t over yet. Late March and early April planted small grains have emerged and are growing like a house afire. Tough to get much nicer early season growing conditions for small grains than what we’ve experienced with the exception perhaps of a little more rain. Ah but there are those weather experts, the scurs included, who remain convinced that the end of the month and the first part of May will usher in a departure from the above normal temperature and below normal precipitation pattern we’ve been stuck on. Stay tuned.

For most area lawns and gardens some precipitation would be welcome. At the ranch, the lower areas where the soils are heavier and there has been moisture from tile flow, the grass is lush and green. It could use a mowing. On the higher elevations, the grass is green but certainly not in any danger of getting ahead of Mr. Cheviot before he gets to it. The dandelions are making a statement on the south facing slope however. The trees were fortunate we received generous precip last October. With buds popping and leafing out occurring they’re ahead of schedule too. In Bugtussle proper, an apple tree was in bloom last week right on Hwy. 30. At the ranch it’ll be at least another week with the wild plums likely to flower sometime this week. The serviceberries have flowered and the robins will be keeping an eye on them, ready to gobble the first ripe offerings. It’s gratifying to see the small trees one painstakingly wrapped last fall to protect them from rodents spring to life so quickly.

There is much fauna to be seen as well. A dragonfly was spotted on the wing last Friday near Madison Lake. In the yard at the ranch, both painted lady and red admiral butterflies were seen on Sunday. Bees were working over the aforementioned serviceberries and the chipping sparrows were picking up Gus fur for their nests following a Sunday morning brushing. No wrens or orioles seen or heard yet but with the early spring, they can’t be too far behind. The fence at the kindly neighbors needed several hours of mending after the snow ravaged much of the span, snapping wires and snapping insulators off of the posts. It wasn’t all bad as there was a red-headed woodpecker calling and a cardinal singing his heart out as I toiled with the barbed wire. The striped gophers have made for good target practice although thinning the herd last year appears to have had the desired effect. They’re not as plentiful as they were a year ago. The western chorus frogs in the pond are sharing center stage with the American toads who have taken over singing melody. It’s the amphibian melody of love to be sure.

After fencing, got all the potatoes and onions planted Sunday evening. The radishes planted last week are beginning to emerge despite the dry conditions. Amazingly enough, weed pressure prior to working the ground up was very light except for the dandelions that got going in the gardens last fall. Soil conditions last fall simply did not allow much time for tillage to take them out but one low humidity afternoon after tilling and they were hurting units. With the early garden area worked and ready, you can rest assured Mr. Cheviot will be ready to tear into it, after a nap of course.

And finally, Betsy’s Dad has decided to embark in a potentially monumental experiment and has been kind enough to include me as a part of it. Picture if you will Waseca Co. covered not in corn and soybeans but with miles and miles of peach groves. Yes, he ordered some zone 4 peach trees and as part of the deal if he ordered several he got something else for free. Free is good, right? Since he had an extra, it was mighty nice of him to share it with me. There was a sheltered spot here next to the plum tree so quickly got the tree planted with plenty of composted manure and some magic wow-juice the guy sold me last year for planting fruit trees. The combination seemed to work. How do we know for sure they were peach trees? Believe it or not, there were peach pits still attached to the root systems. It sure would be great with global warming and all if they survive here. After all as he’s fond of saying, fruit is a gamble,

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/26/10, 02:08:13 PM
She shakes just like a willow tree...

Dealing in a world of maybe’s, possibly’s and perhaps, the scurs were close which counts in horse shoes, hand grenades and weather forecasting. They make no promises though. This week starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 65 and low of 45 with a slight chance of an overnight shower. Partly cloudy Thursday with a better chance of showers and thunderstorms. High of 75 and low of 50 – 55. There is a chance of rainfall every day from Friday through Tuesday. Cloudy skies Friday through Sunday with highs of 65 – 70 and lows of 45 – 50. Cooler Monday under cloudy skies with a continued chance of showers. High of 60 and low of 40 – 45. We should see the sun on Tuesday with partly cloudy conditions but there still exists a chance of a shower. High of 60 and low of 35. Is this the change in the weather pattern we’ve been expecting? We shall see. The normal high for May Day is 65 and the normal low is 40. The scurs will be anxiously awaiting their May basket as the last of the chocolate Easter eggs is long gone.

The Full Moon for April will occur on the 28th. It is known as the Full Pink Moon, named for the ground phlox that bloom this time of year. It also goes by the Full Egg Moon and the Full Fish Moon as the tribes of the northeastern US were commonly stocking up on the fish that were running about this time. The Ojibwe knew this as The Broken Snowshoe Moon and the Sioux as the Moon of Greening Grass, important to feeding the buffalo which in turn fed them.

More progress in the fields once again this past week and we saw corn planted on April 11th emerged well enough so it could be rowed in spots already on the 24th. Some soybeans went in the ground and some completed their spring planting operations for the season. Rainfall has been spotty once again with most gauges in the greater Bugtussle area struggling to show much more than a few tenths over the weekend. Other areas were more fortunate and while there’s nothing to worry about just yet it is concerning. The last time we received over an inch of rain at the ranch was in October of 2009. The last time we received over an inch during the growing season was in August of 2010. Thus far in April, we’ve tallied just .8”. In 2009 we garnered 2.5”. As we’ve said we were very fortunate to have received the rains we did in October and to have had some of the snowfall percolate into the soil this spring. If this pattern of metering rainfall out with an eyedropper continues we will need it.

In spite of the drier than normal conditions there are plenty of signs that spring is still being spring. Many lawns have been mowed and after the warm temps and a little rain, can probably use another mowing. Right on cue the wild plums are blooming and they’ll provide a source of pollen for the domestic Mt. Royal plum planted last year. Some of the earlier apple varieties around the countryside are blooming too although in town where it’s sheltered, some were flowering a couple weeks ago. The crabapples in our yard are ready to burst into bloom with the first sunny warm day. Willow and soft maple trees are leafing out rapidly although the ash trees seem slow. Everyone including yours truly is hoping we don’t see the emerald ash borer show up. Why is it there’s no emerald box elder borer? Asparagus is common table fare for those who have a patch to dine on. Sunday’s drizzle made it just wet enough that working outside was miserable. Napping was out of the question as it might clear out so when he can’t nap, Mr. Cheviot did what he could to make the best of a bad situation: He made a rhubarb pie.

Things are moving along in the garden too. Radishes continue to fill in where the recent showers allowed them to germinate. No spuds up yet but the onions and shallots have taken off. Finished the early garden up last week putting in snap peas, carrots beets and a few more potatoes. Will wait for a little better soil moisture and warm temps before planting the rest. The vine crops need to be started in their greenhouse nursery before too much longer. Planted a SnowSweet apple tree ahead of what was hopefully some rain. Looks like the odds of having to water it regularly are good at this point. Oh well, the Honeycrisp planted last year needed watering too.

Lots of bird activity with new arrivals including a brown thrasher on the 21st and a wren scoping out the sticks in the brush pile. A red – breasted nuthatch has been hanging out too but he’s likely only passing through. The male cardinal has reappeared, cleaning up the safflower discarded by the squirrel who likes to shake the feeder violently after navigating around the baffle. The rooster pheasant who must be Little Jerry’s progeny continues to set up shop in the plum and sumac thicket on the edge of the yard. When he slinks across the lawn in the sunshine his colors are simply dazzling. Saw something brown the size of a small dog sauntering along in the pasture the other day. Upon second glance, it turned out to be a giant Canada goose out for a stroll.

The recent prolonged rainfall was cause for another training session as the little fat buddies checked in with their wisdom and knowledge as well as their rapier wits. We were immersed in laboriously dubbing people who received more than .2” of rain “rain hogs”, vigorously handing out relationship/shoe shopping advice as well as rapid-fire exchanging pointers to keep the masses safe from fire hazards. Luckily there were 50th wedding anniversary cake and Swede cookies to devour so that after all this exertion, we could maintain our stamina until lunch.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/03/10, 02:40:24 PM
And the wicked wind whispers and moans...

The rain chances looked promising last week but chances are not guarantees. More rain chances this week but no gully washers likely say the scurs. For one thing it simply won’t be warm enough. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy with a high of 65 and a low of 40. Partly cloudy becoming cloudy on Thursday with an increasing chance of showers. High of 55- 60 and low of 40 – 45. Continued cloudy and cooler on Friday with a chance of showers. High of 55 and low of 40. Possibility of some lingering showers on Saturday under partly cloudy skies. High 55 and low of 35 – 40. Partly cloudy Sunday and warmer. High around 60 and low of 40. Monday, cloudy, high of 60 and low of 45. Cooler Tuesday, cloudy with a chance of showers. High of 50 – 55 and low of 45. Normal high for May 9th is 69 and the normal low is 43. While gazing at Venus in the western sky after sunset, the scurs are readying their Mother’s Day card to make sure it gets in the mailbox on time.

With corn planting nearly complete in the area, farmers set their sights on getting the soybeans in the ground. Rain delays were slight as once again rainfall forecast for the area was far below the initial amounts predicted. Soybean planting progress surpassed the 50% mark late last week and with no surprise rain delays, it should finish up easily this week. Corn emergence has been uneven in some fields where corn was not planted into moisture. Alfalfa could still use a good drink but should still be ready to cut ahead of what we typically see. Small grains sowed in late March were starting to tiller late last week and are looking spectacular with the moderate temperatures and dry weather. Windy conditions did deposit cornstalks in area road ditches but nothing like it did last year when soil needed to be cleaned out of some as well. Total precipitation for April wound up finally crawling above an inch (1.17” at the ranch) although my rain gauge reporting and syrup boiling counterpart to the north and west of Bugtussle only garnered about .7”. Still we have made the most of what we’ve had and despite the windy conditions, fortunately the temperatures haven’t burned the moisture up.

Speaking of burning up, Gus has managed to burn some holes in the lawn where he does his #1 business. Some have asked what causes this and the answer is urea form nitrogen in the dog urine. It is not, I repeat, not a pH issue. Without much rainfall to dilute the urine and the nitrogen it contains, the burn is identical to what you’d see if you over applied urea fertilizer in those spots, hence the dark green circle around the outside. The cure? While some may advocate gypsum or lime, try watering the spots down good first a few days before working it up to reseed if you intend to do that. Gypsum/lime proponents will tell you to water it in so while it may appear magical, in reality watering and diluting the nitrogen more than likely did the trick.

Flowering crab trees were beautiful across greater Bugtussle and environs with most flowering late enough so the strong winds didn’t completely destroy their beauty prematurely. The plum blossoms are fading as is their heavenly scent. It was a good week to plant the pheasant corridor at the ranch and luckily for me, the fine folks from the SWCD & NRCS came out with the tree planter to get the job done. Was also assisted by Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer as we put in 275 shrubby type plants including Liberty honeysuckle, arborvitae and American cranberry bushes. It’s going to take a lot of garden hose to keep them watered if it doesn’t start raining with greater frequency and amounts soon.

The resident barn swallows returned on April 29th as one almost took my nose off when heading into the lambing barn to unplug the electric fence for the tree planting operation. On the pond as we planted there were teal, mallards and the Canada geese keeping an eye on us. A small owl was rousted from his nap shortly after chores that night. Judging by the shape and size I’d guess barred owl but I’d be guessing. It sure got the immediate attention of all the blackbirds and blue jays in the vicinity. In and around the yard, the house wren made its presence known singing its lungs out on Sunday morning May 2nd. Still no oriole activity yet and I need to find the hummingbird feeders or go buy one. That way the other 2 will be sure to appear. At the kindly neighbors pasture, just one of several bluebird nesting boxes is occupied. The female flitted out of the birdhouse as I made my way around the fence checking for grounded out spots.

And finally 10 ewes were weaned off on Sunday and along with a ram were trailered to the kindly neighbors pasture. It’s hard to remember how many years it’s been since the first group was pastured there. All I know is it’s been a long time and this is one of the earliest seasons that they’ve been occupants. The rolling bur oak enclosure has changed little over the years except that there is less brush. The old apple tree the Cheviots enjoy laying under on the north end was in bloom. While they bellered a lot at first, they quickly became preoccupied with gobbling as much of the lush green grass as they could after being unloaded. Always reminds me of the little fat buddies swooping down on a fresh plate of cookies on a rain day.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/10/10, 09:16:11 AM
Well there's a rose in a fisted glove...

The scurs were tracking true once again as we received rain about when they said we would. This time around? More of the same. Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of showers in the evening. High of 55 and low of 40 – 45. Thursday, moderate chance of showers in the daylight hours under cloudy skies. High of 60 and low of 40. Things look up after that with partly cloudy skies and highs of 60 – 65 and lows of 40 – 45 both Friday and Saturday. Warmer and seasonal Sunday through Tuesday. Highs of 70 – 75 and lows of 55 with partly cloudy skies. Normal high for May 15th is 71 and the normal low is 46. The scurs will be sending their property taxes in to avoid seeing their names in the paper.

Wonderful rainfall last week with many reporting totals in the .8” - .9” range. This was the most rainfall in a week’s timeframe since the mid-March thaw that took the snow away. The rains fell gently and over parts of Thursday and Friday soaking in and allowing moisture to finally meet moisture. Gardeners rejoiced as did those who recently planted trees and were wondering how much watering would it was going to take to get them started. This was also a blessing for lawns that were making some of us to wonder where we’d mowed in spots prior to the rain. Night shift lawn mowers are particularly susceptible to this syndrome. This is where a satellite guidance system could some in handy.

In the fields, corn that was in dry soil should now have enough moisture to allow it to germinate. Likewise with soybeans. The only fly in the ointment was the frost that occurred on Sunday morning. Our average last frost date in the spring is somewhere in the May 4th to the 6th range across the area so this is not all that unusual. As of this writing, no widespread major problems are apparent. Alfalfa looked a little odd Sunday morning but looking at some closely in the evening, the impact was barely perceptible. Corn took a visible hit but since the growing point is still well below the soil surface there should be little if any stand loss. Understandably, it is a little unnerving to see corn rows appear to disappear from the road as the leaves turn brown and close to the same color as the soil. It reminds one a little of the Treflan carryover we used to see as well as the propensity of some hybrids to turn purple, producing the same effect for those “road scouting” their fields. The most noticeable frost injury tends to be in low lying areas, along road ditches, areas with lighter colored soils and fields that have higher amounts of residue on the soil surface. The frost may slow the corn crop up some but given the early planting dates on most fields, chances of major yield losses should be minimized. Also, since few soybeans were up, stand losses and yield losses in general from this frost should be minimal to nonexistent.

Have contracted one of those wonderful spring colds, the kind that just seems to sap the ambition right out of a person. It’s bad enough to have lots of things to get done and procrastinate but it’s another to feel lousy to boot. One can only live on past laurels so long and fortunately the weather recently seems to be giving us some time to catch up on odds and ends there never seems to be enough time to get to. In the meantime, buy stock in Kleenex as there’s something making the rounds again.

More of the red and rose colored birds on the feeders and in the trees at the ranch and surrounds. A red-headed woodpecker was spotted on the tree May 4th. That’s the first one we’ve seen in many years here. A male red-bellied woodpecker has been frequenting the suet as was a male rose-breasted grosbeak. Apparently there was some kind of seed in it he was interested in although he finally decided the sunflower feeders were more his speed. A male house finch was surveying the light fixtures on the patio area and must’ve thought better of it, going somewhere else to look for a suitable nesting spot. A former pygmy goat farmer and his squeeze had one build a nest on the grapevine wreath right outside their door. The robins start in singing about 5:30 or so followed soon after by the wrens at the ranch. Taking a trip to my sister and brother-in-law’s property along Trout Run, I got to see some phoebes and my first oriole for the season. They’re getting closer.

See you next week…real good then.  
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/17/10, 10:37:10 AM
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need

The scurs called for rain and rain we received. The temps left a little to be desired for the middle of the week but hey, you can’t always get what you want. This week? Drier with some very nice weather starting with Wednesday and Thursday. Look for clear skies, highs of 75 and lows of 50 – 55 both days. Friday, partly cloudy, high of 75 and low of 55. Clear Saturday, high of 75 – 80 and low around 60. Cloudy Sunday, chance of rain. High of 80 and low of 60. Some lingering showers for Monday under partly cloudy skies. High of 75 - 80 and low of 55 - 60. Mostly sunny again on Tuesday, highs back up around 80 with lows of 60. The normal high for May 21st is 73 and the normal low is 48. On the 23rd we reach 15+ hours of daylight for the first time since late last July. The scurs will be looking for excuses to stay home and enjoy the fabulous weather.

As of this writing the frost is still the main topic of discussion in some area corn fields. Most however have turned the corner and appear to be making progress. Corn that was planted a little later appears to have fared more favorably. The earlier planted corn has shown some evidence of tie-up but at this point most are optimistic that effective stands will remain adequate and replanting will not be necessary. Soybeans are emerging with some of the earlier planted fields up so they can begin to be rowed from windshield surveys. Small grains are taking off with the recent rains and weed control measures will need to be performed this week if they haven’t already been done. Alfalfa is ahead of schedule and a cutting ready before Memorial Day is almost a given for most area fields. The rains this past week were an absolute blessing and while the temperatures were cool (5.5 GDU’s were accumulated from May 9th – May 13th at the SROC), amounts of 1.5” – 2” total during the week were enough to make everyone smile once the sun came out on Friday.

Like everywhere else, the lawn at the ranch took off like a rocket with the recent moisture. One could actually see where you’d been without the assistance of the dandelions this time around. In the garden, the early planting was smiling. All but one hill of spuds is up and everything else is making dramatic progress. Like some of the corn, the carrots and beets were in dry dirt but since the rains have begun filling in the gaps. The lettuce and snap peas are the stars of the show thus far however and the bunny fence went up last week once one of the little varmints was spotted in the vicinity. The weeds are coming too but will savor the moisture a few more days and let the soil dry a tad more before tilling them under. The smell of the blooming lilacs with fresh mown grass makes a great combination. Funny someone hasn’t come up with a fragrance based on that. Berry bearing shrubs such as the chokeberries, dogwood, honeysuckle and nannyberries both in the planting and fencelines are all flowering like mad. Given the warm temps and insect activity, they should pollinate well providing our feathered friends with lots to eat.

It was a banner week at the ranch for noting birds migrating through. It started off on the 11th with white-throated and white-crowned sparrows being spotted. On the 12th and oriole could be heard and he finally appeared on the 13th. That same day a catbird was hanging out in a small brush pile and a Harris’s sparrow had joined the other sparrows cleaning up under the feeders. The first hummingbird of the season checked out the feeder on the 14th and must’ve brought friends the following day. On the 15th, there was an indigo bunting under the feeders on the north side of the house. The silver maple tree provided the warblers with good cover as they made their presence known. A redstart, a yellow-rumped warbler and a common yellowthroat all peeked out of the leaf clusters and for while that morning it was just interesting for a spell to see what showed up next. The orioles namely the females have wasted no time looking for nesting material so have donated some of the cotton string from the feed sacks to their cause. Cut in 8” – 12” lengths, they seem to take it away from the top of the wood pile almost as fast as it’s put out for them. After the leaves fell last fall, there was an oriole nest that became visible in the back yard. Someone asked the other day if robins ever re-use their nests and apparently they will if the nest hangs together. We have one nesting in the barn in a nest built last year.

Speaking of the barn, it was time to wean off the last of the ewes and lambs. As usual, whether they’re ewes or lambs, the one’s that bawl the loudest are the biggest and greediest. Oh sure, it’ll be noisy for a few days but after the dust settles, things return to normal pretty quickly. The lambs were running already Sunday night and they’ll grow better without having to compete with the aggressive, fat ewes. The ewes do what they’re designed to do and that’s harvest their own forage rather than consuming hay. It’s not that hay is that horribly expensive it’s just the principle of the thing.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on May 05/17/10, 05:12:33 PM
I finally got gold finches to my yard! Hey Dotch! will that weed killer you got take care of saw grass
or what I call swamp grass

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/20/10, 10:08:44 PM

What you're talking about sounds like prairie cordgrass and short of glyphosate, not sure what you could use to control it. Stuff will slice your hands wide open if you try to pull it out!
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on May 05/21/10, 09:50:22 AM
Its like 3 feet high and very tough to walk through. Maybe 3 acres of that garbage, The rest of the land is small saplings I would like to get rid of. Maybe I need to borrow a D8 cat!


PS when I get back up there, I will take some pics
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/24/10, 10:10:12 AM
You need coolin', baby, I'm not foolin'...

The scurs wasted no time in delivering on the good weather although the little dribble of rain came on Saturday rather than Sunday. What’s in store this forecast period? The scurs tell all. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. High of 85 and low of 60. Thursday through Saturday, partly cloudy to mostly sunny. High of 80 – 85 and low of 60. Slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm on Saturday night. Sunday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of rain developing. High of 80 and low of 55 – 60. Monday, partly sunny and slightly cooler. High of 75 – 80 and lows of 50 – 55. Partly cloudy Tuesday and cooler with a high near 75 and a low around 50. Normal high for the traditional Memorial Day on May 30th is 76 and the normal low is 51. The scurs will not be forecasting a repeat of the snow we experienced in 1992. They are still undecided about a Father’s Day frost however.

The Full Moon this month occurs on May 27th and goes by several names including The Full Flower Moon, the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Full Milk Moon. No question, there are lots of flowers in bloom some of which have been pushed ahead of schedule by the recent warm temperatures. Corn planting was done about a month ago and the lush pastures that were responsible for the Full Milk designation are largely a thing of the past. The Ojibwe called this the Full Blossom Moon and the Sioux knew this as the Moon When Ponies Shed. It is the Moon When Gus Sheds at the ranch, although that could be just about any full moon.

Wow! Did the crops ever pop over the past weekend! So did the weeds unfortunately. The temps lately are more like the 3rd week in July than the last week in May. Corn that was left for dead after the frost made a remarkable recovery as it almost always does when it’s small. The strong winds and heat should have helped many of the plants that were wrapped up to untangle themselves. For most the frost will be distant memory by Memorial Day. Soybeans have emerged nicely thanks to the rains that fell the second week in the month. Small grains have really been pushed hard and there has been hay baled or chopped in several area fields already.

Was nice to see the squirrels give up on the squirrel proof feeder at least for now. One did manage to unhook the spring on one side as well as the one on the lid. Apparently it’s more work than it’s worth when the temperatures get warm and they were busy eating some of the soft maple seeds before they helicopter their way to the ground. They’ve also been digging up some of the walnuts they must’ve buried last fall as I spied one chewing through that tough shell.

Sunday was Vine Crop Day at the ranch as the transplants started back in the early part of the month were ready to roll. The garden was in rough shape and took some work to get it prepared. The good news was by waiting, there was plenty of moisture there. The bad news was that by leaving last year’s vegetable crop residue and allowing some weed growth, it made it more attractive to insects such as the black cutworm. There were some indications from light trap captures in southern MN that black cutworm moths were around so just a heads up if you haven’t checked. Black cutworm is an interesting insect in that it makes its way to MN courtesy of low pressure systems that pull Gulf air northwards. The black cutworm moths fall out of the systems and look for places to mate and lay eggs. As the Boy Entomologist points out, this is likely the moth that Kirby the Kestrel was dining on at Target Field. After finding several larvae while planting, this will likely necessitate a trip to Edna’s to purchase some chemical control products if there are none in the shed. While some might be aghast at the suggestion of using chemical control, after planting 140 hills between squash, pumpkins, gourds and melons, I’ll be darned if I’m gonna let them mess it up.

The birds are still coming through and those that are here are making themselves at home. An orchard oriole was singing from high atop the ash tree. The song was similar to the Baltimore oriole but enough different so it made me look to see who it was. A little smaller than the Baltimore but marked similarly except that where the male Baltimore is orange, the orchard oriole is chestnut brown. Checking the fence at the kindly neighbors found the bluebirds still hanging around their chosen nesting box. Will need to check it soon to see what’s in it. The common yellowthroat has been busy doing the little “witchity- witchity” call from the same thicket frequented by the wrens when they’re not busy stuffing bird houses full of twigs. A warbling vireo has shown up or not shown up as the case may be. One can sure hear it but seeing it through all these leaves takes some doing. The catbird and brown thrasher tribe is the same way. The entire time garden planting was going on, they were having a contest to see who could make the most noises in the dogwood bushes. Equally as entertaining as listening to Clapton and Jimmy Page having a jam session.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on May 05/31/10, 10:03:46 PM
Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.

The scurs were on target once again, delivering some midweek rain as well as the Sunday night shower. Is there more rain in the forecast? Only the scurs know for sure. Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a moderate chance of showers in the daylight hours and a better chance after dark. High of 70 and low of 55. Partly cloudy on Thursday, chance of lingering showers in the daytime, high of 75 and low of 50. Mostly cloudy on Friday, high of 75 and low of 55 with a slight chance of showers. Slightly warmer on Saturday with a slight chance of showers again. High of 80 and low of 60. Cloudy Sunday, high of 80 and low of 60 with a chance of showers. Monday and Tuesday, cloudy Monday becoming partly cloudy on Tuesday. A chance of showers both days. Highs of 70 – 75 and lows of 50 – 55. The normal high for June 5th is 78 and the normal low is 53 so we should see a fairly typical week temperature-wise. In anticipation that we’ve primed the pump, the scurs will be getting their lawnmower blades sharpened in preparation.

Definitely a good idea to get those blades sharpened as the grass in area lawns became tough after the highs in the 90’s last week pushed it to heading out seemingly in a matter of a day. It also pushed area crops along at a breakneck pace. There was some corn that yours truly was in as well as reports from some who had knee high corn already in some sheltered areas. This is almost unheard of for this time of year. Soybeans loved the heat as well with some early planted fields showing the first trifoliate. No soybean aphids yet but don’t worry, they’ll be here soon enough. The weeds are definitely there too with the rains that brought the beans out of the ground bringing the weeds along with. Small grain reached the boot stage in many fields, some peas were starting to flower and first cutting hay progress is well ahead of schedule. The rains that fell have been welcome not only for the row crops but for hayfields and pastures as well. We’ve been getting by on rain but haven’t had an overabundance. At the ranch we’ve tallied 2.34" for the month, only .02” more than May one year ago. Fortunately we’ve had more subsoil moisture to go on thus far.

Area gardens were also been blessed with the recent rains. At the ranch, sweet corn, Indian corn and cucumbers planted on the 24th were emerging on the 30th. The cutworms mentioned last week did manage to cut off one hill of muskmelons before action was taken but the rabbits were able to gnaw off another couple hills before an additional hunk of fence was erected. How do you know it wasn’t cutworms but rather 4-legged pests? Simple actually. Typically cutworms will cut the plant stem off leaving the above ground portion whereas rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, deer, etc., will consume the entire thing leaving the stump. Pestilence aside, the transplants withstood the heat relatively well but with one more day in the 90’s the garden hose would’ve been required.

In the road ditches the yellow goatsbeard or western salsify is blooming. These are the plants that later have the seed heads resembling those of a dandelion on steroids. Lots of cottonwood fuzz causing ones nose to itch when it came in contact with it. It also was noticeable on area lakes where the wind hadn’t worked the water into a froth. Usually for Memorial Day we have lilacs to put on gravesites but this time around they’re all done. However there are lots of beautiful iris such as those seen at E.N.’s southeast of Waseca last week.

Not much new in the bid department this week although the robins were kept busy feeding their offspring. Young robins appear to be bottomless pits when it comes to eating. Climbing the ladder in the barn to remove a sparrow nest could look down to see the tiny pink baby robins in the mud and grass bowl leftover from a year ago. There was a good reason the parents were coming back there with mouthfuls of food. Hummingbirds keep the nectar feeders hopping as do the orioles. Luckily the male oriole has given up on flying into the window for now. He occasionally still lands on the screen but is soon off to wherever. The female must have completed the nest as the string left out for her has stopped disappearing.

Do you become as frustrated with all these techno gadgets as I do? My cell phone has a mind of its own, changing from ring tone to vibrate all by itself without warning. It also has selective memory. When someone is called or has called, sometimes it decides it really didn’t need to store that number. The confuser plays even more games sometimes behaving like a citizen, other times deciding it doesn’t really care what you want it to do or doing it whenever it gets around to it. It also has selective memory and will delete people from lists only to get a panicked call from someone wondering why they haven’t been receiving e-mails. And finally there’s the wonderful indoor-outdoor thermometer. It too decides that it wants to change of its own volition. Looking at it on one of those hot days, it said it was 31.4 degrees outside. Now, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but after being out in the heat all day I knew better than that. Upon closer inspection, it had changed everything over to Celsius. Rather than try to recall how to do the conversion I found the frequently referred to instruction manual and after rubbing my head while jumping up and down 10 times, then clicking my ruby slippers, I got it back to Fahrenheit mode. Sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t be better off without all this junk? We’d save a lot of time looking for instruction manuals that’s for sure. Oh yeah, to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the temp in Celsius by 9, divide by 5 and add 32 to the result. See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/07/10, 10:23:20 PM
Oh Ruby, don't take your love to town...

The scurs determined we’ve definitely primed the pump last week and this week? Looks like more of the same. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 80 and low around 60. Thursday, mostly cloudy with an increasing chance of rain by the evening hours. High of 75 – 80 and low of 65. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy by evening with an increasing chance for showers and thunderstorms for both Friday and Saturday. Warmer with highs near 85 and lows of 65. Sunday, partly cloudy and cooler. High of 75 and low of 60. Monday and Tuesday, cloudy, highs of 70 – 75 and lows of 50 – 55. Chance of showers both days. The normal high for June 12th is 80 and the normal low is 55. We will only gain about 2 more minutes of daylight from June 12th until the summer solstice. The scurs are sure to be soaking up every minute of sunshine they can while sipping Piña colada’s poolside.

The rains we were hoping for in April and May have finally arrived in June. The situation was similar last year and we garnered a tad over 5” of rain at the ranch in June of ’09. Crop development is still looking good even though we slipped some on GDU’s compared to the prior week. Corn last week had 5 collars showing in most fields and soybeans were showing their first fully expanded trifoliate. Small grains headed out and this week we should see pollination taking place. Alfalfa has benefitted from the recent rains and it appears the 2nd cutting should be decent if the rains continue. The only fly in the ointment from the rain has been the delay in completing field operations like spraying and baling. One can see some weed pressure from the road in places and there were plenty of brown windrows noted across the area last week. All things considered though, the crops look about as good as one can expect for the calendar date. Toss in a little heat as is forecast and with the moisture we’ve received, things will really take off.

At the ranch, the new SnowSweet apple tree is doing well although it just about got watered before the rains came. The peach tree continues to amaze. After planting it, was thinking I might be wasting my time. It was just a twig with a peach pit on the roots and the leaves were drying up. Planted it anyway just to see what would happen, With the spring rush had forgotten to look at it for awhile and even though it had been watered early on a couple times, was not expecting to find it alive. Much to my surprise, when I did look at it, it was thriving. The twig was covered with new leaves and there were some new lateral branches forming. Having never seen a peach tree in person, about the closest description of the leaves is they resemble that of a willow. Looks like maybe we’d better start selling peach contracts.

In the garden, everything is moving along but perhaps a little more slowly than first thought with some cooler weather this past weekend. Potatoes are starting to flower and the sugar snap peas are loving the rain and cooler conditions. The weeds are doing splendidly so it will take some drier days to get them under control once again.

There apparently is a pair of orioles nesting someplace close by. Haven’t discovered a nest in the yard but both male and female can be seen at the jelly feeder. The hummers have been active although would doubt they’re nesting here. No matter, they should have plenty of flowers to keep them occupied for the summer in addition to the nectar feeders. The tree swallows are largely taken for granted until one sees them and the barn swallows sweeping the pasture as the sheep graze their way around it. Insect control the way nature intended it.

It was a weekend we’d been waiting for. We had spoken for another red and white Border Collie puppy from the same breeder Lucy was from so we were wondering when the sun, the moon and the stars would align to make a pick up possible. Turned out an agility dog trainer had also purchased a pup and would be in Wadsworth IL at an agility trial on her way home near Green Bay. The breeder had asked her if she might be interested in bringing our puppy to the trial and she graciously said yes. As luck would have it, another agility dog puppy needed to be delivered to a couple in Zumbro Falls. Wadsworth IL is north of Chicago but this offered an opportunity to get our puppy at 8 weeks of age, when she would be at her cutest and probably most impressionable. We made the trip and by Saturday night little Ruby had landed at the ranch.

These are some incredibly intelligent dogs. Within the first 24 hours, Ruby knew her name although I think some of the crew at the agility trial had already been playing with her and calling her by name. Difficult to leave something that cute alone for very long without holding or playing with it. She came when called and already would go to the door and whine when she needed to go out for potty time. It hasn’t been all business though. There’s been plenty of exploration time, play time and after play time, nap time as even those puppy batteries need to be recharged after a workout. She got acquainted with Gus who tolerated her except if he felt she was getting into his space a little too much for his comfort. Changing the mower blades on Sunday was a hoot as both dogs were right on top of me, licking me and sticking their wet noses in my face. The more I giggled the goofier their antics became. It was more dog help than a person should be allowed to have.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/14/10, 10:55:41 AM
Measuring a summer's day
I only finds it slips away to grey

After a rainy week, the scurs are readying themselves for another go round. Will we see more rain or will we dry out? Yes, say the scurs. Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny, high of 80 and low 65 with a chance of an overnight shower or thunderstorm. Thursday, partly cloudy and warmer, high of 85 and low of 65 with an increasing chance of a thundershower as the day progresses. Partly cloudy Friday with a slight chance of a shower in the morning. High of 80 – 85 and low of 55 – 60. Partly cloudy Saturday and Sunday, high of 80 and low of 60 with a slight chance of shower creeping in on Sunday. Partly cloudy Monday and Tuesday, highs both days 75 – 80 and lows of 55 – 60. Chance of afternoon thunderstorms both days. Normal high for the Summer Solstice is 82 and the normal low is 57. We will experience 15 hours and 28 minutes of daylight, making this the longest day of the year. With summer officially here the scurs will be officially lounging in their hammock.

More rain making grain this past week with the June rainfall total at the ranch reaching 2.84” as of Monday morning. There has also been measurable precipitation recorded on 10 of the first 14 days of the month thus far. June is typically our rainiest month and it was last year until October rolled around. Let’s hope the precipitation pattern last of year also doesn’t persist where July meant sparse precipitation. Corn continues to look more impressive from the windshield surveys and doesn’t disappoint once one tramps through the mud to take a closer look. One good thing about our precipitation so far: We’ve made maximum use of most of it as it as come in measured doses and the skies have remained cloudy much of the time following the rainfall events. This coupled with the wind has however slowed progress in herbicide applications to soybean fields. The delay will probably mean some higher application rates to control some of the larger weeds that have resulted.

Area lawns and gardens not surprisingly have really taken off following the rains. It was tough to squeeze my weekend lawn mowing in with the wet conditions this past weekend. Probably more after dark mowing in my future I reckon. Not much can be done in the garden either with the resulting muddy conditions. Running a garden tiller through there would simply transplant the weeds. Things look really good other than that however. The vine crops are starting to stretch out and with some warmer temps promised, it doesn’t take long and they completely cover the ground. When it gets wet like this though, it’s a good time to get ready for when the conditions are fit. It was also a good time to mow some bull thistles in the pasture that were starting to resemble small Christmas trees. Once they bolt, the mowing is just as effective as spraying them. And, it gives one great satisfaction seeing them being ground to a pulp.

The baby robins in the barn have left the nest and it will be interesting to see if they try to use that nest again next year. Some have noticed a slowdown in their oriole activity and while that’s the case here too, there are still at least one male and a female coming to the jelly feeder. The hummingbirds have been more loyal this year than normal at the ranch. After Mrs. Cheviot planted the big pots around the house, they’ve been actively working them over. One caught Ruby’s eye the other morning when we let her out for potty time. She watched it for a bit then decided it might be fun to get a closer look. The hummer was unfazed and just flew around her to some of the planters down the line.

Ruby has been a social butterfly, coming in to work most days and entertaining the little fat buddies at coffee time. She’s been a good little rider too when she has to go along for the day in the truck. Once the vehicle starts moving it’s lights out. At home, she’s become known as the little red and white terrorist. She has been tiring Mrs. Cheviot and me out with her antics. Ruby’s also growing like a weed. Hardly seems it’s been only a week that’s past since we picked her up and it almost appears like she’s doubled in size. Potty training is going about as expected and we’ve started her on retrieving a tennis ball. Not bad for 9 weeks. She likes Gus a lot more than he likes her but one can see he’s become more tolerant of this ‘intruder” on his turf. After brushing the better part of a 5 gallon bucket of fur out of him, you’d be hard pressed to tell by looking at him. Just a big, happy fluffy bale of fur.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/21/10, 02:12:45 PM
Still the rain kept pourin', Fallin' on my ears

While the scurs aren’t real good at forecasting severe weather, they have been hitting things pretty close lately. Of course it increases their odds of being right when it rains almost every day. Is this weeks forecast drier or just less wetter? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. High of 80 and low of 60. Thursday, mostly sunny and warmer, high of 85 and low of 65. Partly cloudy and muggy on Friday, with and increasing chance of showers or thunderstorms as the day wears on. High of 85 and low of 65. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy high of 85 and low of 65 with a slight chance of an evening shower or thunderstorm on Saturday and likewise for Sunday morning. Mostly cloudy on Monday, hot, with a relatively good chance of a shower or thunderstorm. High of 90 and low 65 – 70. Partly sunny and continued very warm Tuesday. High of 90 and low of 65- 70 with an outside chance of an evening shower or thunderstorm. The normal high for June 26th is 82 and the normal low is 58. The scurs will be putting their air conditioning through its paces for the upcoming warm weather ahead.

The Full Moon for the month of June lands on the 26th. It is commonly known as the Full Strawberry Moon. Oddly enough the Ojibwe and the Sioux were big strawberry fans and they also referred to this as the Strawberry Moon. With the late Full Moon, strawberry production is beginning to wane for the season but it doesn’t make the berries any less popular. Out and about in the fields of mud, one can get a glimpse of the wild raspberries starting to blush in the adjacent fencelines and thickets. Always make for great snacking when trying to determine when it will be dry enough to get back out to control weeds.

In the fields, the abundant precipitation and warm temperatures continue to move the crop (and weeds) along at a rapid pace. Torrential rains and high winds have thwarted the plans of many sprayer operators. Corn has reached 9 – 10 fully exposed collars and the soybeans are starting to flower. There has been a lot of noise made about soybean aphids but in this area where we have traditionally seen a later build up of populations, the pattern of past years continues. There have been few soybean aphids found anywhere including on volunteer soybean plants in the corn. These plants usually serve as an excellent indicator of when to start scouting production fields in earnest. 2nd cutting hay is progressing nicely and if the weather cooperates, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some knocked down this week. Storm damage from the last week tended to be rather localized in this area. One can definitely see where the tornado east of town cut a swath across the fields where it had touched down, not more than 2 miles from the ranch as the crow flies.

Thoughts and prayers have been with those who lost so much this past week in the severe storms. Having gone through the experience when straight line winds hit the ranch back in ’96, I think I can understand some of what people are going through. The same sorts of things that happened then happened this time around. Neighbors pitching in to help neighbors clean up and get back on their feet as well as a lot of people driving around gawking. I can’t speak for those who suffered losses but feeling like a sideshow at a circus wasn’t my idea of a good time.

On a more pleasant note, at the kindly neighbors pasture, the bluebirds have fledged from their nesting box. It was pretty neat to see the bluebird family occupying the ranks of shanks and shovels on the folded up field cultivator by their shed. The robin in our shed has decided to start nesting again in the same nest from a few years ago. They’re definitely getting their money’s worth out of that one. The male rose-breasted grosbeak has returned to the sunflower feeder and we continue to see not only the male oriole but also the female at he jelly feeder. They’re a little sloppy though as one of them left a gob of grape jelly on the living room window Sunday. Checked out the wood duck nesting box in the CREP acreage last week on the outside chance that one was actually using it. As I opened the hinged door on the side I saw a rusty brown feathered body with black bars suddenly hunker down making it more difficult to see. Recognized the pattern immediately. It was a female kestrel and rather than have her fly in my face, I closed the door slowly and latched it securely. Some seem to have little good to say about birds of prey but they were here first. And last I checked, no rodents or insects have developed resistance to kestrels.

Was fortunate to be invited to the MSRA car show at the Sate Fair grounds on Sunday. Riding shotgun with Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer in his ’57 T-Bird provided lots of entertainment. Some people just have it figured out and that’s just part of why they’re fun to hang out with. The car show was huge with the fairgrounds full of cars up to the 1964 model year. It made for a lot of nostalgia gazing through the windows at the interiors on the ‘57 Buicks, remembering monkeying with all the knobs, buttons and cigarette lighters when our parents were shopping or running errands. Saw Bemidji Bill there. He had his ’38 Plymouth coupe all gussied up and Bill as always was gussied up. Saw lots of Studebakers too and with Round 1 of weed control coming to a close, it’s time to focus on that restoration project once again. My guess is my brother would like his trailer back one of these days although speaking of controlling weeds, it’s doing a really nice job of that.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on June 06/29/10, 08:43:38 AM
Said I've been crying, my tears they fell like rain…

For the last forecast period the scurs were tracking pretty well but got a little overzealous with the temperature and rainfall for Monday and Tuesday. We’ll take it after the beating some have taken recently. Drier this time around? Starting Wednesday, clear skies with a high of 80 and a low of 60. Ditto for the first day of July. Continued sunny on Friday and warmer becoming partly cloudy by evening with a chance of showers or thunderstorms. High of 85 and low around 65. Partly cloudy Saturday, high of 85 and low of 65 with a moderate chance of showers and thunderstorms for the evening hours. About the same story for Independence Day and Monday with warm temps continuing under partly cloudy skies. Highs should top out in the mid-80’s and lows in the mid-60’s. Cooler Tuesday, highs reaching 75 and lows near 55 with a chance of a thunderstorm. Normal high for July 4th is 83 and the normal low is 60. The scurs will be laying in a transport of mosquito repellent and keeping a wary eye out for the Fireworks Police.

Speaking of mosquitoes, they’ve been about enough to carry one off when it hasn’t been storming. However, those who haven’t suffered crop damage from hail and excess rain should be witnessing some of the most tremendous growing conditions we’ve experienced in quite some time. Corn and soybeans look about as good in most areas as we’ve seen since some of the banner years such as 2004. Small grains appear to be maturing about on schedule with the potential for harvest likely about 3 weeks to a month away. Delays in spraying soybeans due to wet conditions have dampened spirits somewhat but fortunately, soybeans can take more weed pressure than corn for a longer period of time before it impacts yield, especially with the soil moisture we’ve got. A few soybean aphids were found locally last week. However infestations continue to be extremely light and jumping the gun by treating at this point demonstrates a lack of respect concerning this pest. 2nd cutting hay has been dampened too especially if it’s been cut.

Thistles are probably my least favorite weed as they are a constant battle thanks to people who don’t attempt to control them. With the products available nowadays, it’s really not that difficult. Cultural methods can still be used especially with biennial species such as bull thistles and musk thistles. As written a few weeks ago, mowing works well and if they decide to come back, a second mowing finishes them off. Something else that’s kind of handy to get at thistles in those nooks and crannies is one of those old bean hooks, one of those like we used to use to take volunteer corn and other weeds out of the soybeans with. It’s also a device that is capable of taking your finger off as I discovered. No wonder my typing is so slow! Can’t find bean hooks in hardware stores anymore so you almost have to go online to order one. Mine has provided hours of entertainment since it arrived.

Is Ruby a budding entomologist? It just could be. Letting her out at night, the fireflies keep her occupied as do the moths that fly out of the grass when she goes outside to do her business at night. She also knows the word “bug” and will look to see if there are any flies buzzing around nearby inside the house. Gus on the other hand is more apt to pursue four-legged prey. On Sunday afternoon, 4 squirrels happened to be under the ash tree in front of the house so uttering the word “squirrel” was all he needed once the door was opened to roar off after them.

Some have noted a decline in the oriole numbers at their feeders and while ours haven’t increased, they’re still eating jelly and pulling the nectar feeder down on a regular basis. Last week there were 2 brightly colored males and a female that seem to be regulars. We seem to have a corner on the finch market right now too. There are typically a couple dozen at a time, about half of them female and half the bright yellow males, catching the attention of several guests over the past week. There is also a good report on the bluebird status at the kindly neighbors pasture. Was going to clean out the house that had fledged one batch of bluebirds already and get it ready for round 2. Too late. They had re-nested and there were 2 hatchlings, with 3 blue eggs yet to hatch. Mrs. Bluebird was letting me know about it too. Another bonus was an additional house that was added in case the wrens had moved into the other house as they had last year. The post the house was attached to was in a logical spot and within a day, there appeared to be a pair of bluebirds checking on it, going in and out. Sure enough, upon opening the house, there was a bluebird nest being constructed inside.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/05/10, 10:57:35 AM
Well now they call me the breeze…

The scurs are thinking the July dry-out is underway although with the Waseca Co. Fair looming on the horizon, they aren’t counting their chicks before they hatch. Starting Wednesday, slight chance of showers with a high around 80 and low of 65.Thursday through Sunday, partly cloudy, highs of 80 and lows near 60. Next Monday, cloudy, high of 75 - 80 with a low of 60. A little warmer Tuesday under partly cloudy skies, high of 80 and low of 65. The normal high for July 9th is 83 and the normal low is 61. The scurs are working on a line of tiny shotguns for controlling the burgeoning mosquito population.

The seasons are rolling along. The Big Dipper is descending towards its autumn position in the NW evening sky after being nearly straight overhead in the month of June. Some Native American lore has it that the autumn leaves were poured out of the upside down bowl. Some weather folks also comment about the dipper being full of water when it’s upright or empty when upside down. Venus continues to dazzle in the western sky, appearing yellow almost like a mini-moon as it approaches the horizon. As of the 9th, we will have already lost about 10 minutes of daylight since the summer solstice with the sun beginning to set again before 9 p.m. on the 4th.

Well, we made knee high by the 4th of July in both crops this year, something we don’t always achieve. It helps that there hasn’t been any more ponded water in fields, hail or tornadoes for awhile. We should notice some tassels appearing in the corn soon, particularly in the sheltered fields and areas of fields that are protected. Soybeans have really come on and with weed control operations complete for the first go round, some really look impressive. Fields with soybean aphid detects are increasing but the aphid numbers are still very low and finding them has been a challenge to this point. Small grains are turning and it won’t be too many more weeks and they’ll be off. Some good haying weather this past week for a change with many fields of 2nd cutting being harvested.

Can’t recall a period of time where the mosquitoes have been any more vicious than the past week or so. The back of my neck is pebbled about like a basketball. It should come as no surprise I guess with the amount of rain we received in June and the standing water that followed. 8+ inches of rain at the ranch for the month will do that. Still, it is nearly impossible to go outside without being attacked by swarms of the little dip(terans). It has made lawn mowing, gardening and almost every other outdoor chore just that, a real chore. No doubt, repellents work but getting yourself covered well enough so they don’t find a chink in your armor is a challenge. Luckily the wind on Friday and Saturday made life a little easier. The lawn got mowed and the garden was salvaged. It avoided the fate of being sprayed with Round Up and having been declared a total loss. Both operations went OK at least until you got in behind something or around the trees and shrubs. No doubt about it, the wind definitely didn’t blow them all away.

Gus has been shedding his coat more rapidly as of late with much of it blowing away in the breezy Saturday night brushing episode. Have to wonder if that heavy coat wasn’t part of his plan to thwart the biting insect population. Knowing Gus and his propensity for planning, it’s highly doubtful. Ruby’s bare tummy affords her little protection so when she comes inside, the first order of business is to squash as many bugs as possible before they escape into the house. At 3 months, she’s honing her ball retrieving skills and the next move is to get a soft Frisbee to start on. She likes the sheep, especially the little “berries” they leave behind.

Baby birds are scattered everywhere around the yard. It certainly doesn’t take long for the allied birdie warning system to go off when a cat or small hawk happens by. There are young downies coming to the feeders and young orioles are appearing at the jelly feeder. Young house wrens are strewn about the bushes and young blue jays can be seen but mostly heard. Most of the nesting boxes here are empty and quiet now, the young tree swallows having fledged. They seem to congregate over by the lake, leaving the barn swallows in charge of the lawn and pasture. And one can see little heads already poking above the used but not abused robin’s nest in the barn. That sure didn’t take long.

The little fat buddies had a good month of June in which to have training sessions. Rain makes grain and goodies seem to appear as a result on the training table. P.H. (otherwise known as S.H) took pity on us this past week. Easy to do as we are a rather pitiful looking lot. The homemade sweet rolls not only were a welcome sight, they were delicious. In our hunger for wisdom and knowledge, we must maintain our stamina. Man cannot live on coffee alone.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: deadeye on July 07/05/10, 11:05:34 AM
Jeeze dotch, it's only the 4th of July and your starting in on FALL stuff.  We gotta hang on to summer for while longer.   :rotflmao:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/05/10, 09:26:49 PM
lol! Now tell me with a straight face that fall isn't your favorite time of year, you deer hunting machine you!  :rotflmao:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/12/10, 09:17:16 AM
How many more times...

With the rainfall pattern starting to take on that July feel, the scurs are confident that it will continue, at least to the end of July. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy skies with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. High of 85 and low around 65. Clearing on Thursday but continued warm with highs once again near 85 and lows of 65. Mostly sunny becoming partly cloudy on Friday, warmer and humid with a chance of showers. High of 85 – 90 and lows of 65- 70. Slight chance of a shower on Saturday under partly cloudy skies. High of 85 and low near 65. Sunday, partly cloudy with highs once again near 85 and a low of 65. Monday mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain. High of 85 and low of 65. Partly cloudy again on Tuesday with a high of 85 and low temps of 65. Normal high for July 17th is 84 and the normal low is 61. The scurs will have money left over following Farm and City Days. Luckily they bought stock in a putty knife company beforehand. Edna has been doing land office business selling putty knives to scrape all those road kill Tootsie Rolls off the bottoms of people’s shoes. The scurs next stop: The Waseca Co. Fair.

Gotta love our little local celebration. It causes kids young and old to complain the next day they have a bellyache from eating too much candy. I must’ve been looking a little gaunt. People kept feeding me things. First, there was plenty of candy thrown my direction during the parade. Then someone fed me some deep fried green beans followed by some other folks feeding me fresh mini donuts. That scale at home has to be wrong.

Corn should be nearly tasseled out by week’s end and soybeans should be starting to show some initial pod set, all the while blooming profusely. Third cutting hay has benefitted from all this moisture although the southerly winds have brought enough potato leafhoppers into the area that alfalfa should be watched for this pest. And potatoes of course. Pastures have never looked so lush. Our own pasture has an abundance of white clover flowering in it, giving the appearance of a light snowfall at times. Did happen to see a painted turtle when the pasture was mowed last, probably from the wetland down below on an egg laying mission. Even turtles need to get out of the water once in a while. Rainfall patterns while giving us plenty of rainfall in general have been more erratic. For instance, rain that fell on the 7th amounted to.25” at the ranch, .4” - .6” in Bugtussle proper and a couple miles to the north, 3 inches. The problem is that those who get doused once seem to keep getting doused.

There have never been more orioles at our place than this summer. Usually this time of year we have a few but this year, we counted a half dozen in the tree with the nectar feeder. It looks like Mom, Dad, Uncle Charlie and the kids. It’s possible there are more than that as they are excellent at concealing themselves in the dense foliage. The way they’re going through grape jelly and sugar water, one can only ponder how much of either product sold at Wagner’s actually is consumed by humans.

In the garden we should see some ripe tomatoes this week, Champion is the variety I believe. The squirrels already ate one last week so it probably doesn’t count. Appears our zucchini have been tormented as well by the rodents. I see squirrel fricassee come about the weekend of the season opener. The snap peas have been a little disappointing but it should come as no surprise with all the warm wet weather and harvest delayed by the mosquito invasion. The lettuce is about ready to be worked under and replaced with a planting of early maturing string beans. Had green beans through September last year doing that so it ought to be worth another try. The larger vine crops are like an emerald carpet right now, unrolled across the garden. In the mornings the yellow flowers add a beautiful accent much to the delight of the bees pollinating them.

On the insect front, we heard something strange and thought for a minute there was an electrical problem down by the barn. Nope, just a cicada getting cranked up for the season. We’ve written about the next insect many times and probably will write about them many more times. There have been some comments and questions about all the red and brown butterflies this season and whether they should be sprayed with something. The answer to the first question is they are red admiral butterflies and the answer to the second question is absolutely not. The varying colored, spiky covered caterpillars that develop into these butterflies consume nettles and plants in the nettle family as their primary source of nutrition. The butterflies themselves are rather omnivorous, dining on tree sap, decaying fruit and bird droppings. Yum! When they can’t find these treats, they will dine on nectar from sources such as alfalfa, clover and milkweed. There are generally two generations produced in the northern U.S. and they migrate south in the fall. They can’t survive the coldest winters here so it is generally believed that they are repopulated by migration from the south each spring. In addition to being pretty to look at and fun to watch their sputtery yet rapid flight, they’re actually one of the good guys.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/19/10, 11:09:45 AM
Will your tongue wag so much when I send you the bill?

The scurs were tight about the rainfall being spotty. Like most things though rainfall tends to average out. Sometimes it just takes longer than others. Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with an increasing chance of showers and thunderstorms as the day wears on. Highs 80 – 85 and lows of 65- 70. Mostly cloudy with a chance of rain Thursday and Friday. Highs 80 – 85 and lows 65 – 70. Partly cloudy to mostly sunny for Saturday, Sunday and Monday with highs again running 80 – 85 and lows around 65. Clouding up Tuesday with a chance of rain. Highs near 80, cooling down with the passage of the front with lows of 55 – 60. Normal high for July 23rd is 84 and the normal low is 62. As of the 21st we will officially be below 15 hours of daylight for the first time since May 22nd. More twilight hours for the scurs to sleep in the hammock now their mosquitoes have been sprayed.

The Full Moon for July will occur on the 25th. Yes, I know most calendars say the 26th but it’s the old UTC trick where we get a chance to be ahead of the game. This Full Moon goes by the Full Buck Moon as velvet covered antlers are beginning to protrude from white-tailed deer noggins. It is also known as the Full Thunder Moon for the numerous thunderstorms that commonly occur during the month. Some also know this as the Full Hay Moon for obvious reasons. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Raspberry Moon and they were absolutely on target as there are many wild raspberries for the snacking across the countryside. The Sioux were more into stone fruit calling this the Moon When Wild Cherries are Ripe.

Crops are thundering along with corn fully tasseled and pollinating for the most part and most soybeans reaching R3, that is one pod 3/16” long at any of the uppermost 4 nodes on the main stem with a fully expanded trifoliate. Some are even R4 which is one pod ¾” long at one of the uppermost 4 nodes with a fully expanded trifoliate on the main stem. In other words, development is progressing well. Second pass glyphosate applications are nearing completion and soybean aphid detects continue to rise. Numbers however remain well below thresholds at this point so waiting to combine the last pass of glyphosate with an insecticide application at this point is probably not going to be an option. Small grain harvest should start soon with lowered expectations than what we had last year. Pea harvest is winding down and yields dropped off substantially once we ran into all the heat and rain. Peas don’t like wet feet or hot weather.

The garden at the ranch mirrors some of what we’re seeing in the fields. For instance, the cooler season crops such as the snap peas and onions have been OK but haven’t reached the level of production we saw last year. However, things like carrots, beets, string beans and tomatoes appear to be having a banner season. The cucumbers are right there too with a few reaching pickling size last weekend. Can’t wait for those slicers however. Most of the vine crops are loving life as are the waterhemp and redroot pigweed. Lambsquarters have taken a hiatus and not a moment too soon. The vine crops look promising at this point with a lot of squash, pumpkins, gourds, etc., being set already. The old fashioned tiger lilies have burst into bloom adding some bright orange color to the yard. They attract some attention from the hummingbirds although they much prefer the impatiens and petunias.

The orioles continue their feeding frenzy although they are somewhat fussy about their table fare. Ran short on grape jelly the other day though and only had enough for a dab in one of their dishes. Decided to put some apple butter in the other one to see what they’d do with it. They weren’t buying it, licking the jelly side clean and scolding me to put the real McCoy back on the menu.

Ruby continues to grow rapidly and get into more things she shouldn’t. She become familiar with the term “no” pretty well and usually doesn’t continue the offending activity once she’s told to stop. She’s a popcorn and crumb lover, keeping the floor clean when she’s inside. Multi-tasking seems to be a strong suit as playing with 2 toys at once is to her liking. That Border Collie crouch and stare have suddenly become part of the little dog’s repertoire when attempting to herd Gus. Gus has become the wise older brother whom Ruby idolizes and sticks to like glue. Gus doesn’t mind until he gets about fed up with being herded.

Another Waseca Co. Fair is in the books so Moms and Dads across the county can breathe a sigh of relief as their summer running can let up a little. Fair time was always fun for us as kids, finding all kinds of activities and new kids to have fun with at the fairgrounds in Preston. Water fights and dropping the rubber spider suspended from the rafters with a piece of fishing line on people were standard operating procedure. A stuffed pair of pants stuck in a pair of boots tucked under a cow’s paunch was always a crowd pleaser. It was that is until someone panicked one time thinking someone had been squashed by the cow and ran off to get the sheriff. Oh yes, our parents had many of the same issues to deal with although as we got older, we matured somewhat and became more self sufficient. We were always amazed however to see the parents of kids our own age feeding their animals for them, bedding the critters and jumping into the pens to get the animals ready for show while the kids stood and watched while talking smart. Wonder if their parents ever got their records done for them so they could collect their premium check?

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on July 07/27/10, 04:19:40 PM
…but I ended up alone at the microphone.

The scurs hit the first rain right but somehow forgot the Friday night event. Oh well, given the generous rains that fell this past week, no harm no foul. This week? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a chance of morning showers. Highs near 85 and lows around 60. Thursday, partly cloudy with a high of 85 and a low of 60. Partly cloudy Friday and Saturday, highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 60 – 65. A slight chance of an evening shower both days. Sunday starts off partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy by afternoon with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs of 80 – 85 and lows near 60. Cloudy Monday with a chance of rain. High of 80 and low of 55 – 60. Becoming partly cloudy Tuesday, high of 80 and low of 55 – 60. Normal high for August 1 is 83 and the normal low is 61. The ads are out so the scurs have to start their back to school shopping soon to avoid the rush.

Crops moved along once again with warm temperatures and abundant rainfall falling across most of Greater Bugtussle and environs. At the ranch between the Thursday and Saturday rainfall events the gauge tallied 3.2”. Prior to that only about 1.2” had been recorded for the month of July. Some locations received more than that but since the crop is consuming water rapidly, there was room in the soil profile for most fields. Corn has pollinated well and grain fill will be commencing rapidly. Soybeans continue to set pods and are ahead of schedule in most fields. Small grains have been a mixed bag with spring wheat disappointing from a yield standpoint but the quality has been good. Oats have yielded well but the test weight is not heavy, not to be unexpected with the kind of heat we received on the tail end of the fill period.

The garden has really started to kick it in gear. String beans, both green and yellow made it worth my time to don the mosquito repellent and pick a couple 6 qt. buckets full. The cukes fired up too, with the first half dozen being consumed quickly, followed on their heels by another dozen with dozens more set that should be ready within a few days. More tomatoes are ripening too so BLT’s can’t be too far behind. Being slathered with repellent also made me feel brave enough to take on the weeds that had overgrown the onion patch. Since some of the weeds were so large, it made for an early harvest for some of the onions. Oh well, nothing wrong with cucumber and onions in vinegar or with sour cream is there? Sweet corn is available at the local sheep shearers. All these things make me a regular columnist.

Warm season grasses are heading and flowering as are many warm season plants. Just at the ranch alone, we have big bluestem, little bluestem, yellow Indiangrass and switchgrass all heading out. In lawns including ours at the ranch, crabgrass has made its lighter green presence known, especially after it gums the mower deck up. Wild bergamot and cup plants can be seen flowering in many CRP acreages across the countryside.

On the bird front, someone has taken the bullhorn away from the robins at the ranch. At least that’s the way it sounded some mornings. The wrens end up alone at the microphone as they start in shortly before 6 a.m. It’s still better than the robins and their 4:30 solos. Sadly the bluebirds that had taken a shine to the nesting box at the kindly neighbors had their box taken over by an over ambitious wren. I removed the twigs in disgust and now there’s a male house sparrow eyeing it. Nothing a BB gun won’t cure. The brightly colored male orioles at the ranch seem to have disappeared. However the youngsters are still hanging around, keeping the sugar water and jelly feeder hopping most of the day.

One can tell it’s moving towards late summer as the sounds of the katydids can be heard through the open windows after the sun disappears. Katydids are a strange looking grasshopper and cricket relative generally lime green with long back legs and antenna. They are more frequently heard however than they are seen and they are loud. Males produce the distinctive “katy-did, kat- didn’t” sound by rubbing their wings together to attract females. Katydids primarily feed on trees and shrubs and the damage their feeding causes is typically noneconomic. Some would argue the racket they make causes economic damage. It usually just makes a nice white noise backdrop to drift off to sleep for this ink stained wretch.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/02/10, 08:45:44 AM
There in my truck the dog and I…

The scurs were once again on their game with last week’s forecast. What sayeth the scurs for this week? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 85 and low of 60 – 65. Thursday and Friday, mostly clear with highs of 85 and lows of 60 – 65 both days. A slight chance of showers late Friday evening. Saturday, partly cloudy with an increasing chance of rain as the day wears on. High near 85 and low near 65. Sunday, partly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. High of 85 and low of 65. Monday and Tuesday, warmer under mostly sunny skies. Highs near 90 and lows of 65 – 70. All in all a very seasonal weather pattern for early August. The normal high for August 7th is 83 and the normal low is 60. The scurs will be getting a cold fresh squeezed lemonade before seeing George Jones at the Freeborn Co. Fair.

The July weather we experienced was certainly a departure from what we’ve experienced the past couple years. Last year there were some days it didn’t get above 60 for a high and both of the previous 2 years were disappointing from a precipitation standpoint. Last year at the ranch we recorded a paltry 1.73” of precip for July. This year the tally was 6.07” and there were several reports of higher amounts than that. For the months of June and July, the total was 14.16”. Commercial canning company sweet corn harvest began in July and while yields weren’t fantastic, it’s not often we see it start this early. Much of the field corn last week was already milk stage and the soybeans were primarily R5 with pods beginning to fill. Last year we were starting to wonder whether or not the crop would make it to the finish line. What a difference a year makes.

Garden produce is abundant too and by the looks of things will only become more so. At the ranch the string beans continue to pump out buckets full with the cukes just starting to hit full stride. The melon crop took awhile to get its act together but there are plenty of melons being set along with loads of blossoms. There appear to be a lot of squash set and they’re almost full size. They’re also running out into the windbreak area to get away from each other. There are also some orange pumpkins although we cheat a little as Autumn Gold starts out yellowish-orange.

Elsewhere around the yard, the chokeberries were bountiful, making a surprising tasty snack while mowing the aforementioned windbreak. Apparently someone must’ve told the birds because they’re rapidly disappearing. The serviceberries suffered the same fate while the nannyberries while plentiful are still green yet. There was one plum on the little tree planted last year so was waiting with great anticipation to pluck it before the birds got to it. Too late. Took a look at one side of it and it looked perfect and the other had been taste tested likely by someone with feathers. The apples are not as abundant as last year and there is evidence of tampering there as well. Finding some half eaten apples scattered around the yard tends to make think something with 4 legs is one of the responsible parties.

Looks like we may be seeing the start of the hummingbird migration from the north. There was a male at the oriole feeder on Sunday. Up until then most of what we’ve seen has been female or young birds. Regardless, all of them love the pots containing coral nymph salvia, followed by petunias and impatiens for dessert. There are a few 4 o’clocks blooming now as well so that ought to keep them happy for awhile. The young orioles are continuing to eat their fill of jelly and sugar water daily. One wonders how much longer that will continue with the seasons being pushed along as fast as they are. The goldfinches must be nesting or close to it. The sunflower and thistle feeders are occupied primarily by males along with some rose-breasted grosbeaks and house finches. There is one late nesting wren that occupied an unused bluebird house. There were 7 eggs in the clutch when I checked last week. As prolific as they are, it’s no wonder it gets so loud around here come June.

Almost every farmer has one and I’m no exception: That rusty old pickup truck that still runs, smells like an old pickup, looks like heck and is a good candidate for a shedding dog to ride in. I was dirty and unkempt (this happens when you do it all) so I fired up the old ‘90 Dodge Saturday morning as it was easier than unloading the other truck to make a feed run. It was licensed, insured, tires were all up and it hadn’t been run for awhile so what the heck? As a puppy Ruby gets most of the attention so it’s only fair to take Gus along on these excursions. He loves to ride so we roared off, leaving a trail of black diesel exhaust behind us. Of course since the air conditioning wasn’t functioning and the temperature was climbing rapidly we had both windows rolled down.

This precipitated a dog hair tornado of major proportions inside the cab as we rolled along towards our destination. Sitting in the seat beside me with one ear up and one ear down, Gus panted happily as the people we met along the way waved at us and smiled. Upon arrival, after spitting out the Gus fur and scraping it off my unshaven face, I went inside to visit the proprietor of my favorite feed store. I always get a charge out of Jim, nothing pretentious or sugar-coated, what you see is what you get and he doesn’t judge, even if you’re covered with dog hair. Feed loaded and the world’s problems solved, we set out for home as the “hair-storm” commenced once again. Had some business to discuss so stopped at neighbor David’s on the way by. He kinda gave us the hairy eyeball when we first drove up, probably wondering what kind of circus freak show had just landed in his driveway. After an initial look of bewilderment, it didn’t take him long to figure out it was just his goofy neighbor and a shedding black and white Border Collie named Gus.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/09/10, 11:54:16 AM
And once you're gone, you can't come back

The scurs forecast of the heat wave was a little late but it came none the less. Will it last into this week? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a decent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs of 85 – 90 and lows dropping to 65. Clear on Thursday becoming partly cloudy with a slight chance of evening showers. High reaching 85 again and low of 65. Partly cloudy Friday with increasing chances of showers and thunderstorms as the day wears on. 85 for a high with a low of 65. Saturday marks what could be a cooling trend with a slight chance of a shower and partly cloudy skies. High of 85 and low of 60. Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 80 and low of 50. Sunny skies both Monday and Tuesday with highs around 75 and lows of 50 – 55. The normal high for August 15th is 82 and the normal low is 59. On the 15th we will be down to 14 hours of daylight, about the same as we experience on April 27th. The scurs are taking a break from the fair circuit this week and sleeping in, taking advantage of a tardy sun rising now after 6 a.m.

In the fields more rapid progress as this crop is racing to the finish line, already. Was in a field of corn late last week that was denting. Granted it was 100 day corn planted early. However compared to where we were last year at this time, there’s no comparison. Soybeans too are far ahead of schedule across Greater Bugtussle, with some fields starting to reach past R5 and some early varieties planted early pushing R6. There should be ample time for one more cutting of alfalfa yet although the rainfall may have something to say about the tonnage that will be harvested. Rainfall accumulations in August have slowed somewhat as compared to July but there should be ample soil moisture for us to finish without needing a lot more rain. It’s a sign too that there is still a fair amount of corn left across the countryside as one can hear the bin fans running in the evenings in an attempt to cool down some of the corn that’s not keeping well. Most would agree, it would be nice to finally get the 2009 crop behind us, especially the corn that was a bear to store.

Used to be at the Mall for Men we knew it was sweet corn season by watching the sweat line on the water tower in the morning hours. Since the old water tower was torn down a few years back the little fat buddies have been scrambling to come up with another method. The discussion was that maybe we could tell by checking the sales of high end toilet paper at Wagner’s. Wouldn’t you know, recently we received a $1 off coupon for high end bathroom tissue in the mail. We may have a mole in our midst.

Hummingbird numbers continue to increase around the ranch. There is usually one sitting on the wire feeder hanger to protect his/her turf. The young orioles continue to gobble down nectar and grape jelly at a breakneck pace although there was a brightly colored male there recently. Peeked in the wren’s nesting box to see if they’d hatched and they were almost big enough to leave the nest. About all one could see was long beaks, feathers and eyes as I slowly closed the door on the nesting box.

There have been lots of questions about the abundant yellow butterflies, primarily where did they all come from. The obvious answer of course is from other yellow butterflies. Actually most are alfalfa butterflies also known as the Orange Sulphur. They are among the first butterflies to appear in the spring, with larvae feeding on alfalfa and other legumes like clover as well as soybeans. Orange Sulphurs will typically produce at least 2 generations per year at this latitude. Numbers are rarely high enough to cause economic damage in the midwest while they tend to be more of a concern in the southwestern US. The butterflies over winter as pupae and given the ample snowfall and depth last winter, chances are their overwintering survival was much better than usual.

The Pro Farmer Crop Tour is coming up so decided with the rain last Saturday it was time to enhance my tattered work wardrobe. Headed the soccer mom van down the road to the store where you go the bathroom in the silo with the orange roof on it. While going commando had crossed my mind, wearing underwear is unfortunately one of those necessary evils. There are some in the sock drawer that are probably illegal to wear in several states. At least they come in colors now which is a good thing. It’s a lot tougher to mess up if you have to do a few loads of laundry yourself as opposed to the days of the “tidy whities” and the dreaded pink underwear when something red snuck in there. Jeans were next on the agenda so shopped and found bargains even though my size is rarely available in all the different styles. I can see I definitely have to spend more time at the training table so I can fit into everything they have.

On to the shirts. There were so many to choose from but since I’m just going to beat the tar out of them anyway, it doesn’t pay to buy anything fancy. I do have to draw the line somewhere though. Found some shirts on the bargain racks where the colors were definitely not found in nature. I’m beginning to understand where some of the people on “What not to Wear” or those featured in those People of Wal Mart emails get their fashion sense. I mean who wouldn’t want a red and green striped shirt that makes you resemble a giant watermelon? Of course unlike women shopping at a ladies store, when a guy shops in a man’s store, it is never a wise idea to try any of this stuff on until after you get home. Why you ask? Because if it doesn’t fit it gives you a legitimate excuse to go back there. Since your primary mission won’t be to buy more clothes anyway, you’ll have more time to look at necessities like tools and weapons of mass destruction.

See you next week from the road…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/15/10, 11:14:44 PM
Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their park bench like bookends

The scurs were hitting on all cylinders once again with heat and rainfall coming as advertised. This forecast period? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a chance of overnight showers. High of 85 and low of 65. Thursday, partly cloudy with a chance of showers increasing throughout the day. Highs 80 – 85 and lows of 60 – 65. Friday, partly cloudy with a chance of rain. Highs 80 – 85 and a low around 60. Partly cloudy Saturday, Sunday and Monday with highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 60 – 65. Tuesday mostly clear and humid. High of 85 and low dropping to 65. Normal high for August 20th is 81 and the normal low is 58. The scurs will be salivating over the wide array of edibles at the Steele Co. Fair.

The 24th marks the date of the Full Moon for the month of August. It is known by several names including the Full Sturgeon Moon, the Full Red Moon and the Full Green Corn Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Berry Moon, probably for the abundant blueberry crop they shared with the bears. The Sioux called this the Moon When Geese Shed Their Feathers and the Moon When Cherries Turn Black.
Crops continue to progress towards harvest at a rapid pace. Last year at the same time we were wondering if we were going to make it with corn still in the milk stage and soybeans exhibiting a lot of flat pods. Taking to the air this past week there is more nitrogen deficiency in the corn than we would’ve imagined. What kind of impact it will have on the yields won’t be known for certain however until the combines roll. The soybeans may be the Cinderella crop this season. They’ve had a rough couple seasons and are about due to let us know that we can still raise them in a profitable manner.

The soybeans have been loaded with all kinds of insects this year and there have been questions about yet another butterfly. The painted lady is medium sized butterfly that belongs to the same family of butterflies as the red admiral we’ve written about previously, the true brush footed butterfly family. These butterflies migrate in from the southern US and Mexico each season. The larvae feed primarily on thistles, mallow family plants but can also feed on legumes including soybeans. Rarely are they a problem unless an unusually large spring migration occurs. The larvae feed on soybean leaves and fasten them together with silk. The body is dark with yellow spots and has numerous spines covering the body. The butterfly itself has an upperside that is orange-brown with a darker wing base. The forewing has a black apex patch and white bar on leading edge. The hindwing has a row of 5 small black spots sometimes has blue scales. The underside has a black, brown, and gray pattern with 4 small eyespots.

Sadly we said goodbye to a couple of old friends in the wee hours of the morning this past Friday. The strong straight line winds that blew through the area snapped the large ash in the front yard at ground level and also uprooted the old spruce that was 60+ feet high on the side of the house facing the road. Both were a part of the landscape for many years. The ash was planted sometime back around 1964 as we have some black and white photos of the then freshly remodeled house. In front of it were two small whips, the one on the east being the female ash that was a fixture since that time. The orioles were extremely upset after sunrise Friday morning that the tree that had held their jelly feeder was horizontal and they spent much of the morning diving into it trying to locate their breakfast.

Difficult to tell exactly how old the spruce was but pictures from the 1950’s show the 2 spruce trees on that side of the house, looking almost as large as they did when the wind destroyed the first one in 1996 and now its mate in 2010. The tree was still very healthy and was a landmark when driving up the hill by the ranch. Like the ash it had been home and shelter to many of our feathered friends over the years. Sure, our house was damaged by another smaller tree that was snapped off and the house can be repaired. We’ve also planted a new windbreak and many other trees to supplement and replace some of the trees as they age. However in our lifetime there will be no replacing the loss of these two large trees that stood sentinel over the yard we call home.
See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/23/10, 02:30:05 PM
Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream…

The scurs were in the ballpark but didn’t quite grasp the heat we experienced over the past weekend. Let’s hope this forecast is closer to real time. Starting Wednesday and Thursday, mostly clear with highs of 75 – 80 and lows of 45 – 50. Friday, clear with a high around 80 and low of 60 – 65. Warmer Saturday and Sunday, highs of 85 and lows of 60 – 65. A slight chance of showers creeping on Sunday evening. Partly sunny Monday, high of 85 and low of 60 with a return of the humidity. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a good chance of thundershowers. Highs of 85 and lows dropping to a comfy 55 overnight. The normal high for August 26th is 79 and the normal low is 56. Speaking of August 26th, the scurs will be readying themselves for another foot long culinary delight at the Great Minnesota Get Together.

August 26th is one of those watershed days in terms of our late summer season. The sun will rise at 6:30 a.m. and will set at 8 p.m., making for 13 hours and 30 minutes of daylight. And that’s O.K. because on the 27th it will be over a full 2 hours less than at the summer solstice. The State Fair will be underway and that signals that the end of summer is nearing and autumn cannot be far behind. The largest planet Jupiter has made a showy appearance in the eastern sky if you go outside about 9 p.m. and look almost due east. About that same time if you look high in the northwestern sky, the Big Dipper continues to sink slowly closer to the horizon. If you’re lucky you may see a falling star from the tail end of the Perseid meteor shower as you sit on a blanket and put your arm around your sweetheart. Or in my case Gus and Ruby.

Crops continue to move along. The milk line is coming down rapidly on the corn which means we’re heading for a potentially much earlier harvest than what we had last year. Soybeans are almost entirely R6 with the exception of replants and soybeans planted after peas. SDS (Sudden Death Syndrome) continues to show up in more soybean fields and in a broader scope in those fields that were detected several years ago. This disease is caused by a soil borne fusarium fungus that infects the roots earlier in the plants development. It is expressed when the plants become stressed at a later date and the fungus gives off a toxin that basically shuts the plant down, suddenly. At present, there is no commercially available genetic resistance. There are differences in tolerance however so that will need to be part of the criteria when selecting a variety to plant on the field the next time.

Our garden woes at the ranch continue. The mosquitoes started it on the downhill slide and the recent hailstorm pretty well cooked the goose of the sweet corn with a little assistance from the raccoons. The squash and pumpkin vines took a major hit too although most of them were far enough along to assure we’d still have a decent crop. Same thing with the tomatoes. The produce may be marred with some pock marks but hopefully the insects and pathogens leave them alone until harvest. Fortunately the muskmelons and cukes were protected by the trees so they escaped relatively unscathed. Much of the rest of large plot has become infested with weeds to the point that I’m considering using a lawnmower or the brush blade on the weedeater to reel it back in. The orioles may have flown the coop after being without nectar or jelly for several days. The hummingbirds remain in their stead though, busily working over the flower pots and planters.

Another Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour is in the books once again. Seems like we just got over the 2009 version not all that long ago. We covered a lot of territory on the eastern leg, sampling corn and soybeans in fields through the best parts of OH, IN, IL and IA east of I-35. Essentially, when one adds up the numbers it amounts to a crop not all that different than what we had last year in terms of bushels nationwide. However, corn grain quality should be improved over 2009. As some of you can attest, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Thank goodness for little fat buddies. On Saturday 2 of us did battle with the chainsaw on the ash tree the Friday the 13th storm knocked down and won. We were soaked with sweat because of the sun and suspect we would’ve both been on the verge of heat exhaustion had we not taken some breaks for water allowing our ageless bodies catch up. This gave us an opportunity to expand our minds as well. The little hackberry that was planted to the SE of the ash has already proven itself as shade tree as we sat in the lawn chairs underneath and admired the hackberry nipple galls on the undersides of the leaves. Doing my best Cliff Clavin impression, I explained to my little fat buddy, these galls are caused by psyllids or jumping plant lice, small native insects that resemble miniature cicadas. Adults are about 1/8” – 3/16th” long and emerge from the leaf litter in the spring. They deposit eggs as new leaves are opening. The eggs hatch and the nymphs feed on the leaves, with the gall measuring about 4mm wide by 6mm tall. Adults emerge from the galls in September then hibernate in crevices in the bark overwinter. Normally these insects aren’t economic but can cause premature leaf drop if they’re heavy enough. And here I bet he thought I was making this stuff up.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on August 08/30/10, 10:19:06 AM
Don't sit down it's time to dig another one.

The scurs forecasting prowess was put to the test last week and they responded masterfully. A little more typical early September weather? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, high near 80 and low of 60 with an increasing chance of showers and thunderstorms by the evening hours. Partly cloudy Thursday, slightly cooler with a chance of some lingering showers. Highs around 75 and lows near 55. Clear to partly cloudy both Friday and Saturday with highs of 75 – 80 and lows of 55 – 60. A slight chance of an overnight shower Saturday or a morning shower on Sunday. Monday and Tuesday put us back into summer again. Highs 80 – 85 both days with lows of 55 – 60. A good chance of thunderstorms both days. Normal high for September 6th is 76 and the normal low is 51. The scurs will have had about enough State Fair and will be sipping coffee while watching those large yellow livestock carriers deliver the kids back to school.

It looks like we should be safe from the September 7th frost that would’ve been calculated from the date of the first thunder for the season. Seldom are such dire predictions right but when they are you can bet everyone will hear about it. As it is, as a result of last weekend’s blast furnace-like conditions, the crops have moved extremely rapidly toward maturity. As of last week already there were reports of early planted, early relative maturity corn that had reached maturity. The soybeans are turning in most fields too. There are areas in fields where that maturity has been hastened beyond what would be considered normal and there may be some pod and stem blight or another of the diaporthe fungal disease complex speeding things up prematurely. This is not the easiest of pathogens to diagnose as it doesn’t necessarily behave or look like the descriptions or pictures in the books. It does however lower yields in those spots. Fortunately thus far anyway, they are just localized spots. Rainfall for this past month of August up through the 30th has been of the pace of June and July, totaling just 1.83” at the ranch so far. We have dried out substantially.

We finally got some decent haying weather. After seeing hay most of the summer any color but green, this looks and smells just as good as I remembered. It was also just as much fun to stack as I also remembered. Say the words “baling hay” these days and youngsters look at you like you’ve suddenly come down with the plague and can find more reasons why “that just isn’t going to work out for them” than imaginable. In the old days growing up, we were always looking for ways to make some money and if baling hay was what it took, that’s what we’d do. Times have certainly changed. Maybe if they had a Wi-Fi version…

On a more positive note, the orioles have been back at the ranch this past week after their feeders ran dry for a spell. I put a dollop of jelly in each bowl one evening and the next morning they were back. Filled their nectar feeder too and that brought even more out of the woodwork. There were still some mature males as of this writing and their colors had to make me believe we’d be seeing leaves that color sooner than we’d like. Hummingbirds continue to work the planters and pots over during daylight hours as do the white-lined sphinx moths after dark.

Cantaloupe explosion in the garden upon my return from the State Fair. Picked and gave away as many as I could find takers for then butchered the rest, placing them in containers in the fridge. The size is amazing with some of them being larger than dodge balls. They taste a lot better than dodge balls however.

I’ve read some articles decrying the lack of toads and frogs around the countryside as downright criminal. Apparently they haven’t been to the ranch. Earlier in the summer there were scads of little toads, each small enough to sit on a dime. With all the rubble and refuse to hide under after the storm a couple weeks back, I probably fished a dozen small toads out from underneath and placed them in shady flower beds or other cool, damp places where they could escape the noon day sun. They’re about an inch long and an inch wide now. Mowing lawn later that day to keep the place from looking like an abandoned farm site, an equal number of frogs and toads were seen hopping out of the way from the unkempt grass. No deformities when examined, just normal frogs and toads. When not digging holes, Ruby is frequently scolded for playing with the bigger toads by the steps when we let her out for evening potty time. There are also large toads down by the barn where they can be spotted catching flies with a flick of their tongues.

Of course stories like these don’t sell papers or galvanize people into action to carry out someone else’s agenda, now do they? One thing we don’t see as many of at the ranch as when we first moved here is garter snakes. Others have said the same thing. I’m sure someone is convinced it’s something we’ve done that’s to blame so we should all have a rally at the capitol to support a ban on whatever someone is convinced is causing it. Not me. Bills to pay. Got a column to write, even if it doesn’t sell papers.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/07/10, 02:03:15 PM
Here comes the rain again, falling on my head like a memory…

The scurs thermometer for the Labor Day holiday went a bit awry however the rain did threaten to make it a washout. Do we have a rainmaker this week? Starting with Wednesday, mostly sunny with a chance of evening showers. High of 70 and low of 55 - 60. Mostly cloudy Thursday with a good chance of rain. Highs of 70 and lows near 60. A chance of showers Friday with cloudy skies becoming partly cloudy by late afternoon with a better chance of an overnight shower or thunderstorm. High of 75 and lows around 55 – 60. Saturday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers in the morning then clearing by afternoon. High of 70 – 75 and low of 55. Mostly sunny on Sunday and Monday, highs of 75 and lows of 50 – 55. Partly cloudy on Tuesday with a good chance of developing showers and thunderstorms. High of 80 and low of 55 – 60. The normal high for Sept. 12th is 74 and the normal low is 49, about the same as we see on May 22nd. We slipped below 13 hours of daylight on the 6th and the autumnal equinox looms closer. Now another State Fair is in the books, the scurs will be tuning in to watch the Vikes attempt to avenge their NFC championship loss to New Orleans, who will be sans Darren Sharper.

With that upcoming equinox, farmers will be getting anxious to get their harvest underway. It’s coming but with a little slower pace since temperatures have moderated. That’s OK, there should be plenty of time barring unforeseen circumstances. We should be past the danger of a frost doing much to harm either the corn or soybean crop. As mentioned, symptoms of pod and stem blight can be identified in the soybeans. Fortunately the areas affected appear to be relatively minor in size. In the meantime, patience is a virtue.

Was finally able to saw up the storm casualty spruce tree despite its large size. Counting the rings on the tree, it appears to have been roughly 85 years old. Calvin Coolidge was President and we were in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. My Mom was born in 1925 so that was around the same timeframe as whoever planted the tree. Maybe someday someone will wonder who planted all the trees 85 years ago on the place here. I hope so. They’re growing well and are starting to have the desired impact. Odd the things one thinks about after running a chainsaw.

It appears the orioles may finally be gone for good this time. At both the ranch and my Mom’s place, neither of us had seen one since last Saturday. Although, one never knows. The last one seen at the ranch was wearing a little Brett Favre jersey. Oh well, we had them here from early May and the first part of September is about when we’ve generally seen them leave. Means more grape jelly for us. The swallow numbers continued to build last week and it will come as no great shock to go out for chores one September morning to find them gone too. Don’t even want to talk about the hummingbirds leaving yet. Am afraid a couple swans flying up off of the pond area may be a harbinger of things to come however.

Insects have been on the minds of many lately and judging by the bites apparently on many bodies. Yes, those late season mosquitoes are back with a vengeance, not messing around, just biting aggressively. Dragonflies at a recent plot tour just ahead of the thunderstorm on August 31st were absolutely amazing. There must’ve been over a thousand of them buzzing around eating whatever they could find. Their aerial display made it difficult to concentrate on what the speaker was presenting. A few minutes before the downpour they were gone, leaving us to fend for ourselves against the mosquitoes. Saw more lacewings in one place than I ever recall seeing. The sliding glass patio door was just covered one evening before a rain shower. And yes, those pesky ladybugs, namely the multicolored Asian ladybeetles are starting to appear in area houses. Hope you put out the welcome mat.

Despite the weedy mess it became later in the season, the garden continues to crank out produce. The cantaloupe crop has been nothing short of phenomenal and couldn’t believe my eyes when digging carrots. It had been many years since growing the last carrots so it was a pleasant surprise to see the long orange roots appear when lifting the soil with the potato fork. Not to knock store bought carrots but these were mighty tasty. There was even another picking of yellow wax beans, well after one would’ve guessed they were done. Before digging some onions and potatoes, decided it was a good idea to run the mower over those areas after raising the deck up as high as it would go. Made me smile to once again know where the rows actually were. Can save a lot of time digging that way.

At the Mall for Men the little fat buddies have been sequestered in the back corner of the newly established cubicle maze. Apparently the intent is to keep all that wisdom and knowledge from falling into the wrong hands. We were recently discussing the windmill project to the south and decided it wasn’t windy enough around Bugtussle proper to make windmills feasible. Others would argue that fueled by coffee, there’s plenty of wind at the Mall for Men especially in the morning on a rainy day.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/13/10, 10:30:57 PM
Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long...

The scurs weren’t kidding about rain and as they predicted we saw some rain last week. Fortunately accumulations in and around Bugtussle weren’t excessive so few weekend plans were spoiled. This week? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of showers with a possible thunderstorm. High of 65 and low of 50. Thursday, cloudy again, high of 65 – 70 and lows of 45. Partly sunny Friday, high of 65 and low of 45 with a slight chance of an overnight shower. Cloudy on Saturday with a chance of showers, highs near 65 and lows again in the 45 – 50 range. Still cloudy on Sunday with highs of 65 and lows near 50. Clearing on Monday and cooler. Highs near 70 and lows of 50. Cloudy and cooler on Tuesday with another chance for showers. Highs of 60 and lows around 40. Normal high for September 17th is 73 and the normal low is 47. These are roughly the same highs and lows we see on May 18th – 19th, the difference being that we have almost 2 ½ hours more daylight that time of year. Look for our sunrise to be back to 7 a.m. on September 21st. Jupiter is spectacular and is the first object seen in the early evening eastern sky. The scurs are predicting the Gophers vs. USC football game Saturday will be like watching Custer’s Last Stand.

Crops continue to mature although the cooler weather has certainly slowed progress, making some of the optimistic predictions that we’d see some soybeans harvested by Labor Day just that. Most corn has black layered and soybeans for the most part will be out of the woods concerning frost danger in about another week. Some of the 1.8 maturity beans will probably go next week or before. Soil moisture varies in areas. As one gets closer to Mankato, rainfall accumulations have nearly doubled what we’ve received at the ranch, making soils there saturated. With little crop uptake, days becoming shorter and average temperatures becoming cooler we start adding to the stored soil moisture for next year.

After cleaning up as many sticks, leaves and spruce needles, gave the lawn another shave. It’s face had grown fairly long, not an all bad thing after the warm summer. The crabgrass has begun to retreat and the cooler days have allowed the bluegrass to regain control once more. That’s the way farm yards work. Sure, you can make work out of it if you want but when you drive over it with a tractor, truck, skid loader, hay rack or a manure spreader you’re just thankful it’s green. Shouldn’t be too many more trips across the yard this season before the inevitable anyway. Pasture thistle mowing should be about history for another year at the ranch too. Most of the time mowing off biennial thistles such as bull thistles and musk thistles once they bolt and put on flower buds is enough to keep them at bay. This year variable time of emergence required repeat mowings to keep them at bay. Not just at the ranch but all over, yellow foxtail found something in the season that met with its favor too, crowding out some of the dormant cool season grasses when the weather was hot in August. The sheep aren’t fond of it so mowed that off also.

At the ranch the hummingbird numbers continue to swell. There are more now than at any time up to this point and it shows in the amount of sugar water being consumed. No jelly consumption so am assuming that unless the squirrels decide to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the oriole feeder can come down for the season. Speaking of squirrels, they seem to be leaving the bird feeders alone at least temporarily. There’s suddenly plenty of ear corn to feed on and evidence of them feeding on the acorns from the red oak tree is fairly plain. Goldfinches continue to lose color although one of the still bright yellow males was investigated closely by a hummingbird apparently to see if he was a yellow 4 o’clock. He got all huffy and took exception to the intrusion which caused the hummingbird to zip away quickly to the safety of the nearest nectar feeder. There are still swallows gathering on the wires across the road from the ranch. Wonder if they can see the lid to the Weber grill that has been absent since the August 13th thunderstorm. A few robins have been passing through and the occasional bluebird here and at the kindly neighbors pasture too, their rather demure call to be heard on still mornings and evenings.

There are sign that fall is knocking on the door. The sumac has begun to blush on the road cut and the walnut trees have started to lose their leaves already. Hemp dogbane is yellowing up as are some of the grasses namely switchgrass and cordgrass. Nannyberry clusters continue to turn from a yellowish color dark blue, making for a tasty treat when performing one of those fall mowing expeditions. While the berries from the chokeberries were eaten long ago, their leaves are turning a flaming red. If these previews are any indication, we may experience some of the best fall colors in several years, that is if the autumn winds don’t blow them all away first.

Ruby is growing up. She’s a small dog, not just a puppy anymore. The focus when playing with a tennis ball has become an obsession. It does no good to try to distract her. Staring at a tennis ball for long spans of time until the ball is thrown is more than sufficient to her being. The holes she digs now versus what she could muster just a few months ago would make even J K Routh Construction proud. Gus even joins in for old times sake. The resulting craters in front of the house will be filled shortly before freeze up with the hope that neither Border Collie will be able to dig through the permafrost. At least not until spring anyway.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/20/10, 06:00:22 PM
No time for a gentle rain…

The scurs were on task last week, calling the cloudy, damp, cool weather about as expected. Do they see a repeat performance for this forecast period? We shall see. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming cloudy in the afternoon with a slight chance of rain during the day and a good chance of showers for the overnight hours. Highs 65 – 70 and lows of 55 – 60. Thursday, cloudy with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms during the day with showers decreasing by evening. High of 70 – 75 and low of 50 – 55. A welcome return to some sunshine under partly cloudy skies on Friday. Highs 65 – 70 and lows around 50. Partly cloudy Saturday with a slight chance of showers. High near 70 and low of 50. 3 nice cookie cutter days in a row for Sunday through Tuesday. Highs of 70 - 75 and lows of 50 – 55. The normal high for September 24th is 70 and the normal low is 45 so we should be seeing some seasonal weather with lows slightly above normal. While the autumnal equinox falls on the 22nd here, we actually don’t see our daylight slip below 12 hours until the 26th here. This will give the scurs plenty of twilight hours to find their old Brett Favre doll. Rather than stick pins in it like they did when he played for the cheeseheads, they’ll use a match instead to see if they can light a fire under him.

The Full Moon for September falls on the 23rd while the equinox actually falls on the 22nd here due to the Universal Time differential. The Full Moon for this September is the Harvest Moon as it is the Full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox. Some years it is known as the Full Corn Moon as this is the time the Indian tribes of the northeast harvested corn, beans, pumpkins and other staples for the long winter. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Rice Moon as they would harvest wild rice in their birch bark canoes. On the prairies the Sioux called this the Moon of the Drying Grass as the native prairie grasses such as Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem and Yellow Indiangrass were mature. In the Bugtussle area this is known as the Moon of the Growling Combine as farmers curse the remaining green stems and pods on the soybeans.

Aside from the soybeans planted following peas, the vast majority of soybeans are close to combining. Notice I said close. The weather has been uncooperative and some of the stems and pods without a good hard frost have been stubborn about getting ready. This is probably a blessing in disguise for those who are tempted to harvest them anyway, throw some air on them and put them in a bin. Horror stories of later discovering those green pods have rotted out bin walls are all too common. There has been some hail damage to soybeans in the area that will cause people’s anxiety level to rise even higher if the season becomes more drawn out. With the first warm sunny day such as Monday afternoon, pods pop open on their own and shatter when the sickle or the bats on the reel come in contact with them. Where evident earlier the SDS spots are noticeable now as more weathered areas with pods and stems being a lighter color. Some early corn has been harvested. Yields have generally been very good with quality and moisture vastly improved over last year.

As of 9/20/10 the hummingbirds remain at the ranch. Monday morning was wondering if they were still around until noticing one foraging in the patch of blooming 4 o’clocks. Shortly after that another one appeared and the aerial acrobatics were on. Maybe one more partial batch of sugar water for them as October looms closer on the horizon. A few swallows still drifting through yet as one drives the area, however the large groups appear to have vanished. Some nuthatches, red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays and flickers are commonly seen in the backyard now that the leaves are beginning to turn. Speaking of turning, the goldfinches have all but lost their yellow plumage now, coming in droves and nearly covering the ground beneath the sunflower feeder. It won’t be long and the leaves will join them.

Ruby continues to learn new and useful tricks like how to take naps on a drizzly weekend afternoon. After eating a little lunch, tune the TV to a lopsided or boring football contest (the Gophers or Vikings have qualified recently), turn the sound down to a murmur then climb into the recliner. Trouble is the rate Ruby’s growing it won’t take long and the two of us won’t fit anymore. She’s also getting fussy about which teams she watches, requesting a Twins dog collar after we purchased her a nice new purple one for her. Somehow Bert Blyleven and Richard Bremer seem to put her right out.

A friend of ours from Chatfield was by on Saturday to pick up a ram for fall again. He got another natural (black) colored Cheviot from us and like those we’ve raised in the past, this one was equipped with overdrive. After beating on us to the point we were gasping and wheezing to catch our breath, Gary and I wrestled him to a standoff, setting the ram on his behind to trim his feet. A freshly trimmed set of wheels for trooping up and down the hilly limestone outcroppings while following his harem should be just what the doctor ordered. We were just thankful the ram went in the trailer and neither of us wound up needing to see a doctor. In the hillside pasture at the ranch the ewes have been enjoying their melon rinds and the last of the leaves from the storm damaged boxelder trees sawed up over the weekend. See? Boxelder trees are good for something..

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/28/10, 11:03:18 AM
This is the mystery of the quotient - Upon us all a little rain must fall.

The scurs were successful in getting Brett Favre fired up after lighting a match to his backside. They also predicted the rains as forecast and am quite sure most had wished they’d missed. The upcoming forecast period should help. Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs around 75 and lows of 45 – 50. Thursday and Friday, clear, highs of 65 – 70 and lows of 45 – 50. Mostly sunny Saturday through Monday. Highs of 65 and lows around 40 – 45 with frost possible on Saturday night.  Warmer on Tuesday with highs reaching 70 and lows of 50. The normal high for October 1st is 68 and the normal low is 42, much the same as we see the latter part of the first week in May. Sunset will occur at 7 p.m. CDT on the 28th, 2 hours later than what we experienced during the summer solstice. This week the scurs expect to lounge on the porch swing while watching the trees turn and take in all the sunshine, if the ladybugs leave them alone that is.

After barely getting a start in areas, farming came to a screeching halt last Wednesday with the onset of a record breaking storm that deposited over 11” in parts of the area and 8.13” at the ranch. In town it’s hard to say because there is every kind of rain gauge known to man, each differing in their degree of accuracy. Incidentally, those Pioneer rain gauges will hold about 7.8” of rain total even though the markings stop at 5.5”. Here again just how accurately the gauge is calibrated may be in question. Trust me on this one; it wasn’t a rainfall amount contest you wanted to win for bragging rights. Coming to town and seeing the streets lined with refuse and people’s ruined belongings piled up was about enough to make one wonder how something like this could happen. Crops are still submerged in places and it’s anyone’s guess exactly how much and  what kind of damage we’ll see once we get back into the fields in earnest. Scuba gear is still at the cleaners.

Looks like the last of the hummingbirds may have left the ranch. Saw what was likely the last one on Saturday the 25th. None on Sunday or Monday so unless they make a curtain call, it was probably the last we’ll see until spring. Lots of robins moving through right now, gobbling down earthworms and picking at the nannyberries in the yard. The pheasants have shown up in the yard again and are using the shrubby plantings as anticipated as a corridor between heavier cover. Some of the stubby tailed young roosters are getting cocky (no pun intended), strutting out a bit too far where the red-tailed hawks could potentially draw a bead on them. Adjacent to the pond in neighbor David’s field, Sunday night a pair of sandhill cranes was making their presence known about dusk with their almost prehistoric sounding call echoing off his buildings in the hollow. On the pond itself 4 blue-winged teal took flight, rapidly disappearing into the dimming evening sky.

The garden is waning as fall progresses. Still, it’s fun to go out to see what one can scavenge from its remains. Found several cucumbers that looked like they might be OK yet. Sure enough, there were no seeds, they were crisp and sweeter tasting than many of those picked in August. Tomatoes are getter harder to find and when I do find them, they seem to spoil more rapidly than their predecessors. Somehow it doesn’t stop me from looking. Took a gamble (fruit is a gamble) on some of the remaining muskmelon and was handsomely rewarded. Some of the ugly duckling cantaloupe left in the patch have been extremely tasty, much too good to throw over the fence to the sheep. Once it dries up a bit it’ll be time to finish digging the spuds, carrots and beets as well as gathering the remaining vine crops. By next weekend the fall colors should be more intense making the task a little more enjoyable.
Moles have been on my mind lately. Actually they’ve been on the newly landscaped slope on the south side of the house. They’ve managed to make a mess of things to a certain extent so want to get them out of there before winter sets in before they really screw it up. Have weighed all the options and even watched Caddyshack for some pointers. Unfortunately, moles are a little more difficult to deal with than the occasional pocket or striped gopher that shows up in the yard. Moles feed primarily on grubs and earthworms so am sure given the high organic matter content of the composted manure in the area of concern that’s likely what they’re after.

Doing a little research the best approach may be to trap them. One needs to understand the little beasts before engaging them in combat. First, every once in awhile moles will make a mound or a “molehill”. These mounds are typically connected to deeper tunnels and nesting cavities. Second, moles consume somewhere between 70 – 100% of their body weight on a daily basis. This is why the series of surface tunnels is so extensive. They are also capable of digging about 1 foot per minute. When trapping, it’s important to identify the surface runs that are being actively used by poking some holes in them with a stick to see if they are filled back in with soil. If so, for a harpoon trap such as the one I have, one needs to smash down a small area on top of the ridge on an active tunnel and set the trap accordingly. A fairly comprehensive reference on controlling moles from the University of Nebraska can be found at: http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/pages/publicationD.jsp?publicationId=1234

Still not 100% convinced this is going to work. If you hear a loud series of explosions somewhere east of Bugtussle you’ll know it didn’t.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: deadeye on September 09/28/10, 11:18:06 AM
I had moles at a previous residence.  After a couple years of battling, I gave up and moved.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on September 09/29/10, 09:12:34 PM
lol! They've hit the pause button this week and haven't made any new runs or filled in the holes I made to try to locate them. After I read your post I had visions of packing my belongings in the Studebaker and heading for Zerkel. :mysterymachine:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/04/10, 10:41:38 PM
Seasons change and so did I...

The scurs got the sun and the Saturday night frost right making the growing season all but complete for another year. What does the next forecast period hold? Wednesday brings sunny skies with a high of 70 and a low of 45. Clear on Thursday with highs again around 70 and lows of 45 – 50. Clear to partly cloudy Friday through Sunday with highs reaching 75 and lows bottoming out in the 50 – 55 range. Columbus Day mostly sunny with a high near 70 and a low of 45 – 50. Clouding up on Tuesday with a chance of an afternoon shower or thunderstorm. Highs of 65 and lows around 45. The normal high for October 8th is 65 and the normal low is 39. The scurs will have the umbrella at the ready. After September they’re not taking any chances.

We’re coming off what was a record for precip in many locations across the state. At the ranch we garnered 12.51” for the month, 15” less than the 12.66” recorded at the SROC in Waseca. Still, harvest progress was made in area fields with soybeans coming off where field conditions allowed. Yields have been somewhat of a mixed bag. Remember that pod and stem blight we wrote about a few weeks back? That along with several other diseases including anthracnose have shown some negative impact. Other places especially those where soybeans have been planted after several years of corn yields have been fantastic with some plots topping out over 70 bu./acre. Not a lot of corn harvest activity yet as of this writing but there are fields that farmers will go after as soon as they’re done harvesting soybeans.

In the heavens, we’re still getting a great show from Jupiter, rising in the east, visible and shining brightly in the E-SE sky an hour or later after sundown. The Big Dipper has assumed the position in the NW sky associated with autumn. Here in Bugtussle on the planet earth, this week we’re seeing fall colors changing rapidly and it will probably mark our peak color. Bluebirds continue to move through as do small groups of robins, grackles and red-winged blackbirds. Goldfinches have mysteriously disappeared from our feeders at the ranch, replaced with a smattering of house finches. The nuthatches don’t mind not waiting for a perch from which to pluck a sunflower seed. A male red-bellied woodpecker helps himself to the ear corn when the squirrels aren’t monopolizing the cobs.

In the insect world boxelder bugs are making their presence known at the Mall for Men. If harvest wasn’t messing things up the little fat buddies would probably be hosting legalized gambling for boxelder bug racing. And of course who can forget the lovely multi-colored Asian ladybird beetles? Given the warm weather forecast, it would probably be wise to stay away from white houses with south facing exposures the rest of the week. There are still some fun insects to watch though, namely the white-lined sphinx moths that continue to work over the petunias, morning glories, 4 o’clocks and salvia both at the Mall for Men as well as at the ranch. One was spotted the evening of October 4th even after Sunday morning’s frost.

Mushrooms seem to be showing up all over this year and September was good for some of the edible types. Recently found several hen of the woods and there have been plenty of giant puffballs in our pasture at home. Both of these are edible although usually by the time I find the puffballs, they’re past their prime and full of spores making them potentially dangerous to eat. Finding some pleurotus or oyster mushrooms would be the icing on the cake. Some types tend to like cottonwood stumps and there are several still living candidates for cottonwood stumps around the ranch.

Some have brought mushrooms they’ve found growing their yards into the office and about all I can say is if you don’t know what they are or if someone who may or may not know tells you better to be safe than sorry, it’s probably good advice. I have eaten several types of wild mushrooms, all legal of course, but I always make sure I’m absolutely positive before eating them. One of the most common mushrooms that is edible is the inky cap. These come up all over the place after a rain, in yards, manure piles, in the woods, pasture etc. One small problem though: By themselves, eaten early in their lifecycle they are not poisonous. However, if consuming alcohol within a few hours of consuming the inky caps, the interaction probably won’t kill you but may make you wish you were dead.

Ruby and Gus have been reveling in the recent nice fall weather. Cool mornings make them uncoil like a couple springs and sunny, dry days are ideal for them to be outside exercising. They’re become great playmates with Ruby’s youth having rejuvenated Gus. They take turns digging the same holes and seem to really enjoy bluffing and pretending to herd each other around the yard. Ruby is showing signs of being one intense little red and white Border Collie. Watching those eyes fixate on a tennis ball, you’d swear she could burn holes through plate steel or at very least bend spoons. Let’s just hope someday she can convince the sheep she’s capable of that.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/12/10, 09:53:22 AM
Let’s change the mood from glad to sadness…

The scurs were apparently unaware that the thermometer went over 80 degrees in October. Does this mean that they don’t know it goes below – 30 in January? Let’s not go there just yet and instead focus on the weather at hand. Starting Wednesday, mostly clear. Highs of 60 – 65 and lows around 40. Thursday, mostly clear, high near 60 and overnight lows of 40 – 45. Friday and Saturday, clear. Highs around 70 and lows of 40 – 45. Becoming partly cloudy on Sunday, daytime high of 65 and low again of 40 – 45. Mostly cloudy on Monday with a chance of showers. High near 60 with lows of 35. Cloudy on Tuesday with a chance of rain. High of 50 and low of 35. The normal high for October 15th is 61 and the normal low is 37. The scurs are looking at donating some glasses to Major League Baseball for the umpires.

What a difference a year makes. Thanks to the phenomenal dry, warm weather since the flooding, harvest progress continues to rock on. Some corn is now coming out of the fields the 13 – 14% range, dry enough so it can just be dumped straight in the bin in many cases. Unheard of for the 2nd week in October in MN. Corn yields are coming in above expectations for many and with the markets doing what they did last week, that’s a bonus for area farmers. Soybean harvest has all but been wrapped up and the results were good although perhaps not as spectacular as initially hoped. Seed size turned out to be smaller than expected and that kept many from realizing those expectations. Fall phosphorus and potassium fertilizer is being applied however it is still too early and soil temperatures are still well above the 50 degree mark.

Still plenty of insect activity to go around as well as some tick activity if one wants to go looking for them. The insects we seem to like to call “no-see-ems” are essentially minute pirate bugs. The warm weather has made them very active and the lack of sources of food such as aphids has made them more than willing to taste test your flesh. Fruit flies are present in many houses including the one at the ranch. They generally like to reproduce inside of beverage containers that haven’t been rinsed out or on some decaying vegetable matter stuck deep in the bowels of a wastebasket someplace or in some instances, down behind it. Pretty simple solution for controlling them: Remove their food source and they eventually die off. Of course in the winter, it’s more entertaining to go out side when it’s below zero and open the garbage can and rap on the side just to see them attempt to fly off. They generally don’t get too far. Deer ticks were noted on a recent grouse hunting trip to suburban Zerkel with the Boy Entomologist. We probably picked 60 – 70 off his dog Curly and treated them to a dip in some Coleman lantern fluid. Better than wasting perfectly good alcohol on them.

Bird activity has been somewhat slower than anticipated so have been able to stretch the remaining black oil sunflower seed supply a while longer. Goldfinches are still absent although the slate colored juncos have reappeared. One interesting development was the hummingbird that showed up back on October 5th and 6th. Saw it first on the 5th so cleaned up the feeders and restocked them with fresh nectar. There were still some salvia blooming yet so it took advantage of them as well. After the 6th, they haven’t been spotted again so while anything is possible, it’s likely this may have been their curtain call referred to a few weeks ago.

It seems impossible after writing last week’s column to be writing what I’m about to write: We lost our Border Collie Gus last Friday after he’d had what was to be the last of the seizures that had plagued him portions of the last 4+ years of his life. Perhaps he was living on borrowed time, it’s hard to say. When he was a puppy he was diagnosed with a disorder of the soft palate, which didn’t allow him to swallow properly. We were asked at that time if we wanted to put him down or if we were willing to take the chance on what could be a rough road ahead should food be aspirated into his lungs. He had such personality already at that time we had no choice. We took the chance and while the problem was still evident, it never caused him to be ill. The seizures started when he was about 3 and while at first they were more frequent, they seemed to be becoming less violent and less frequent, completely gone for almost a year at one point so we opted not to put him on medication. Those events aren’t what we’ll remember this very special dog by however.

Gus always loved people and we often wondered if he could’ve been one of those therapy dogs to be taken anywhere someone needed to be cheered up because that’s what he always did for us. With that one-ear-up, one-ear-down and tongue hanging out appearance, he always looked just like something out of a Gary Larson cartoon. When one of us was sick, he’d come and lay beside us to keep us company. Gus loved to go for rides and was a frequent passenger on trips to the feed store, the office, or virtually any shopping trip. His coat was beautiful and he liked to share it, leaving lots of hair behind him wherever he went. That heavy coat was always nice when he’d “help” water the sheep, putting his front feet up on the panel and sidling up beside you while you filled buckets with the hose. If your hands were cold it was a treat to dig your fingers into that thick fur to warm them up. He loved it too, wagging his tail and panting his approval.

Like most Border Collies, Gus was very much a creature of habit. It’s difficult not to see him come trotting out from under the garage door anymore when it’s opened, waving his big feather duster tail back and forth. Once the vehicle was inside, Gus would put his paws on the running boards or rocker panels and wait to be petted while looking at you with those big, soulful eyes. It didn’t matter how rotten your day might’ve been, you couldn’t resist petting him and talking to him. Thing of it was, he probably understood more of what was said than some humans I know. Ruby of course is missing him too. This was the “big brother” figure whom she followed and worshipped from the very start. And he tolerated her “puppy-ness” to a point, putting her in her place with a minimum amount of force rather than tearing her apart. As I wrote last week they’d become great playmates and Ruby still waits for him to come out at choretime. The morning Gus fell ill, toenails clicking on the floor, he made his way to wake up Jo the way he’d done for years. Oh sure, we’ll all get over it and move on without Gus but we’ll never forget the wonderful 7 years he gave us.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Randy Kaar on October 10/12/10, 10:38:52 AM
Sorry to hear of your loss...

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/19/10, 09:26:01 AM
You can’t conceive of the pleasure in my smile…

The scurs came survived another week of severe clear and are trying to figure out how to bottle some of this nice weather for sometime in January, so far unsuccessfully. Meanwhile, the Wednesday weather looks like mostly clear skies with a high around 65 and a low of 35 - 40. More clear skies on Thursday, highs 55 - 60 and lows of 30 - 35. Clear and 55 - 60 again on Friday with a low around 40. Cloudy and slightly cooler on Saturday, high of 55 and low of 40 with a slight chance of rain overnight. Sunday, cloudy once again with a chance of rain. Highs around 55 and lows near 40. Partly cloudy Monday, highs of 55 and lows of 40 with a chance of showers. Tuesday, mostly cloudy with showers possible. Highs of 60 and lows of 35. The Full Moon this October occurs on the 22nd with the normal high being 57 and the normal low 34. These are the same temperatures we experience in mid-April, the difference being we are losing 3 minutes of daylight per day whereas in mid-April we are gaining about that same amount. As of the 16th we are below 11 hours of daylight and the sun is now rising after 7:30 a.m. CDT. With all that cheery news, the scurs may hibernate until the days become longer or at least until the Halloween candy shows up.

The Full Moon for the month will occur on the 22nd and is very aptly named the Full Hunters Moon. This was the time the pioneers and Indians alike used to build their meat supplies for the winter. With bison, deer, grouse, squirrels, etc., they had plenty of high protein, low fat food to pack away. That hunting tradition in October continues today. The Ojibwe knew this as the Falling Leaves Moon and the Sioux called it the Moon of Falling Leaves or the Changing Season Moon. Fortunately for them leaf blowers had not been invented yet or it may have cut into their hunting.

More excellent conditions for fieldwork this past week. Hard to believe the contrast between the months of September and October. As of this writing, we have not recorded any measureable precipitation at the ranch for the month and there have only been a couple days where a trace fell. Most corn is very dry and much of it is being dumped straight into the bin. The grain quality has been far better than anticipated and coupled with the low moisture, it’s been putting a smile on everyone’s face with the exception perhaps of the LP man. Lines at the elevator have been long at times however the speed at which the 10 man dryer is running appears to be keeping the wait to a minimum. With the weather continuing to hold, fall tillage has been running at a breakneck pace. It’s possible that many operations will be completely done with harvest, fertilization and tillage by Halloween, unheard of in MN.

At the ranch we continue to thunder along towards winter. Screenings need to be fetched from the kindly neighbors but first a trip to Crazy Boyd was necessary to get the wagon back in running order. Funny the damage the wind can do when tossing a wagon end over end. Found several tomatoes yet on the container plants by the barn so harvested them. For some odd reason they appear to be keeping instead of rotting this time. Some of the potatoes are not so fortunate. All the squash, pumpkins and gourds are piled outside yet it won’t long and they’ll need to be hauled in. The carrots and beets are about all that remain. Mice are moving in as an inspection of the bait boxes indicated. A sphinx moth was still flying around the lights in the barn the evening of the 18th and there are a few mosquitoes looking for one last meal before they cash it in. Bluebirds continue their migration and Sunday afternoon a host of cedar waxwings were in the yard sampling the crabapples. Leaf rust on bluegrass has been prevalent not only in our lawn but in many area lawns across the country, thanks in part to the heavy rains we had in September followed by the dry weather since that time.

Haven’t written much for awhile about the wetland as the mosquitoes were nearly impossible to deal with down there much of the summer. However, now that fall has arrived, they’ve mellowed out and it’s made it a fun place to visit once again. Was fortunate enough to be asked to host another waterfowl hunt for Outdoors on the Farm by Chip Flory only this time, he brought his daughter Emily and black Lab Remington along. We filmed a hunt on Saturday morning and the weather made it one of those typical bluebird fall days we’ve experienced much of October, complete with real bluebirds. A single young drake mallard Chip nicknamed Daffy showed up early on and was the only duck I’ve ever seen land in the grass behind the decoys down there. We kept an eye out for him and in the meantime visited as the time flew by.

As we got closer to the time to tape some interview material, Chip and Emily decided it was time to jump shoot the duck as he hadn’t reappeared. While they were on their way over to roust Daffy where he’d been seen last, a great blue heron glided in suddenly and landed in the shallows off to the side of the decoys. He must’ve been there nearly 10 minutes without seeing us which is odd as they generally are very wary. This is one reason sometimes waterfowlers will set a heron decoy in a small wetland as it can give ducks and geese a false sense of security. Who needs a decoy though when one can have the real thing? The heron finally decided this wasn’t his cup of tea and departed. Shortly afterwards the drake got up and Chip got a good shot off knocking him down. Remington sprang into action and after Daffy dove while performing evasive maneuvers, he managed to finally corner him in the reeds and brought him to Chip. Not bad for his first ever water retrieve. We were all pumped after that including the cameraman. It sure brought a smile to my face. Not only had it been a near perfect, relaxing morning in terms of enjoying the outdoors, seeing someone get a nice young duck was just icing on the cake.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on October 10/26/10, 08:52:11 AM
Looks like we're in for nasty weather…

The scurs oversaw another week of great weather as well as the showers that occurred over the weekend and early week. What’s on tap for this go round? The scurs will tell all. Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a chance of showers during the daylight hours and a slight chance of snow overnight. High of 45 and low of 30. Partly cloudy Thursday with highs once again of 45 and lows around 30. Friday, partly cloudy and warmer. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows of 35. Warmer still on Saturday, partly cloudy, highs of 60 and lows around 40. For Halloween, partly cloudy, high of 55 cooling dropping down to 40 overnight. Monday, partly cloudy skies, a slight chance of a rain, highs of 50 - 55 and lows of 30. Cloudy with a chance of rain on Tuesday. Highs of 50 - 55 and lows of 30. The normal Halloween high is 51 and the normal low is 25 – 30. The scurs are taking no chances. They’ll be washing the Halloween chocolate off their fingers on Nov. 2nd before marking their ballots.

Who’d a thunk it? After the September 22nd – 24th rainfall event that caused major flooding across much of the area, harvest is winding to a close. There are still a few fields of corn standing and small areas where soybeans were in standing water when the rest of the field was harvested. With no measureable precip being recorded until the 23rd at the ranch, it has been one for the record books. Some anhydrous ammonia has already been applied but this was probably not an informed management decision. Remember those September rains mentioned at the top of the paragraph? Yes, the soil surface has dried remarkably but we’ve had little plant uptake since that time so the soil profile is still at or near capacity below the top 6”. Data from the SROC in Waseca indicated that soil temps have been running about 5 degrees above average until recently and the date at which our soil temps get to the magical 50 degree mark and stay there is October 29th. Plus, there is growing evidence that spring applied nitrogen out-yielded fall applications this past growing season. Not advocating putting all one’s N on in the spring, however waiting until the end of October or later would probably be in the best interest of individuals if they want to maximize profit and markedly reduce the risk of nitrogen loss.

On the bird watching front, the winter contingent continues to settle in. More cedar waxwings made their way through sampling more of the crabapples and remaining nannyberries. A large group of juncos has set up shop, taking a shine to the leftover plants in the small garden. This must be the overwintering hangout for the huge blue jays as they’re back in force once again. Some loyal house finches have been around for a week or so and the ever faithful nuthatches are defying gravity up and down the limbs of the ash trees. Even the goldfinches are starting to reappear again with one lone customer Sunday morning, followed by several more guests at the thistle feeders in the afternoon. The fox squirrels have been busy stuffing their faces too, no to mention burying kernels of corn around the yard they too like the crabapples, reminding me of the gray squirrels we used to watch out the window at college when we were supposed to be paying attention to a boring lecture. By this time of year the crabapples had fermented to the point that the alcohol content apparently was pretty high. The squirrels took a shine to them, managing to get a pretty good shine on, then fell out of the trees. This source of amusement made the time in class go much faster although it probably didn’t improve our test scores.

The warm temperatures have also brought about some rather unusual observations at the ranch. 4 o’clocks are still blooming, somehow having escaped the wrath of Jack Frost. Typically by this time they look like deflated partly balloons. Saturday’s showers held off long enough for me to dig the beet and carrot crop. After starting out cloudy, the sun burst through and warmed things up so clothing had to be peeled off. As an added bonus, another dozen or so tomatoes were discovered in the main garden that had been hidden under some of the dense foliage (and weeds). Coupled with the container tomatoes, there were enough to last us well into November. Usually when we give up on the tomatoes as we did this year the frost gets them long before late October. Earlier in the day, had spotted a small toad still out hopping around by the barn. As the day warmed, noted several more not only by the barn but in the garden areas as well. Something tells me that they’ll probably be burrowed into the moist soil soon so chances of seeing them in another month will be slim.

Growing up on the farm, waiting until the garden had frozen was one of the things we looked forward to. No more weeding or picking, just allowing those cucumbers, melons and tomatoes to reach the absolute peak of their mushiness for throwing at each other. Still recall staying at a friends place and “helping” him clean off the garden. We were maybe 11 or 12 at the time at the time and he happened to have a couple little shavers for neighbors, 6 or 7 years younger, who made excellent targets. They were also easily provoked, chasing us and firing decaying vegetables with reckless abandon. Parked in the neighbor’s garage was a then brand new, huge white 1970 Buick Electra 225 convertible with a black top. It was an absolute beast! The walk-in garage door was open, making an excellent place to duck into and escape their not so friendly fire. While racing through said garage, one of the rotten tomatoes found its mark, directly on the passenger side door of the big Buick. Kenny and I thought it was hilarious until we determined the stain wouldn’t come off. We quickly called a truce, slipped away next door and nothing more was said. Later the next summer during the Dairy Days parade, the Electra happened to be carrying one of the area’s young lovelies in the procession. You guessed it, the tomato stain was still there as the convertible made its way by us. Imagine that, I thought to myself. Jeff’s errant throw would not be soon forgotten, at least until the car was traded off.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/02/10, 12:11:45 PM
When all the leaves are brown
And the wind blows (so chill)

After surviving the wind and cool temperatures, the scurs settled in to enjoy the nice fall weather again. What’s in store this forecast period? The scurs will divulge the answer. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs of 50 - 55 and lows in the mid - 30’s. Thursday, partly cloudy. Highs around 40 and lows near 25. Clearing on Friday and cooler. Highs struggling to reach 40 and lows dropping to 25. Mostly sunny on Saturday and warmer, highs around 50 and lows of 30 - 35. Sunday and Monday, warmer, partly cloudy, highs 50 - 55 and lows of 35 - 40. Partly cloudy Tuesday with highs around 50 and lows near 35. Normal high for November 7th is 46 and the normal low is 27, much the same as we experience in late March. On the 4th, the sun will set at 5 p.m. CDT and on the 7th the sun will rise at 7:01 a.m. CST with our daylight hours shrinking back to below 10 hours. The scurs will be relishing that extra hour of sleep on Sunday after getting up at 2 a.m. to change their clocks back and hour, as dictated by the government.

What a difference a month makes! September brought with it record rainfall and up until the gale force winds and rain of last week, we saw no measurable precip until the 23rd. From the 23rd – 28th we tallied 1.38” of rain, with less than that falling in Bugtussle proper. The storm that ran from the 26th – 28th turned out to be quite the system however, breaking the previous low barometer reading at the ranch that had been set during the Halloween blizzard of ’91. Not that our barometer is on a par with the more precise instruments used by the National Weather Service but it read an incredibly low 28.10 this past October 26th. When first looking at it, suspected it was broken until those television blow combs began touting the low readings being tabulated across the state. Sustained winds of 30 – 40 mph were common, making leaf raking and removal of those political candidate signs unnecessary. It was already done for you! The scary thing: Afterwards, there was a little snow in the valley between rooflines on the north side of the house. Not a good sign.

It has been one of those autumns for the record books. If the weather holds, it give one time to get caught up on some of those jobs that were put off this summer simply because the weather or the mosquitoes were so awful you couldn’t get them done. That and harvest was hot on the heels of a warm summer. With harvest being completed so quickly it has allowed some time at the ranch to take care of more of the storm damage and think about working seriously on the Studebaker once again. Not that there haven’t been some baby steps made most of the summer off and on, parts ordered and the like, but hopefully we can have that little Stude flathead 6 up and running before year’s end. The nice weather also has made for a little time to work with Ruby on some rope training. Hopefully no one will attempt to persuade me that since I have a little free time on my hands and I’m not at work, I should be spending it on their pet project. I have added a new word to my vocabulary and that word is “No”.

On the bird watching front, it appears the northern ducks have started to make their way down. Big mallards have been spotted on the pond and elsewhere. Killdeers were still in the Little Jerusalem area as of November 1st. Took down the nectar feeders just in the nick of time ahead of last weeks storm. More goldfinches are appearing and the junco numbers are at an all time high. More of the little cedar waxwings too and with the nannyberry supply depleted, they’ve focused their full attention on the crabapples. There are still insects out and about even after the hard freezes last week. A Carolina grasshopper flew out of one of the planters at the Mall for Men Nov. 1st to go along with all the boxelder bugs sunning themselves on the south side of the building. Over the weekend the little pink native ladybugs, (Coleomegilla maculata) were busy swarming around the clumps of grass left at the base of the trees as I was mowing the lawn and grinding up the leaves. One more good reason not to get the weed eater out to finish the trimming.

Since it’s impossible to send a personal thank you to all those expressing their condolences on Gus’s passing, I’d like to thank you all here. It was a tough loss and as we said before, he will not soon be forgotten. Ruby has carried on well in his stead, having to grow up in a hurry. Oh sure there’s still a lot of puppy left in her as witnessed by seeing her carry her favorite tennis ball wherever she goes around the house. The other day while washing my hands, she happened by and after hearing a splash discovered she had deposited her ball in the toilet. Some people have toilet books and now Ruby has a toilet ball! Still there are days we see glimpses of the dog she may turn out to be, especially while rope training her. Some of that focus so evident when playing ball with her shows up when the light suddenly comes on and you can see she “gets it”. This is important not only for my own selfish reasons (the other end of the pasture gets farther away every year) but also for her own benefit. If one of these sessions keeps her from getting out in the road or to avoid other such catastrophes it will have been time well spent.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/09/10, 09:35:45 PM
How soft your fields so green, can whisper tales of gore…

With the scurs missing the highs by nearly 10 degrees for the early week, they’ll take that kind of error this time of year. Well rested after the time change, nothing but more deadly accuracy should be expected with this next forecast. Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy in the morning becoming partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. Highs of 55 – 60 and lows around 35. Thursday, partly cloudy, a high near 50, a low around 30 with a good chance of overnight rain and snow showers. Cloudy on Friday with a good chance of showers during the day with a slight chance of overnight snow showers. Highs of 45 and lows of 25. A slight chance of showers on Saturday with highs around 40 and lows near 25. Sunday and Monday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers on Monday. Highs both days around 40 and lows of 20 – 25. Tuesday, partly cloudy, with a high of 40 and a low around 20. The normal high for Veterans Day is 44 and the normal low is 25. In other words, unlike the drama queens and blow combs of Twin Cities weather forecasting fame, the scurs are taking the cooler weather in stride.

Looking around the countryside it is amazing how quickly the fields have turned black. Given the opportunity we’ve had, this shouldn’t come as a great surprise. In contrast to last year, the Orange Army should have had easier going for last Saturday’s deer opener. They were out in force although most of the shooting near the ranch came early Saturday morning. Anhydrous ammonia continues to go on area fields as the season winds down. Some of these fields are very hard after some of the conditions encountered following the heavy rains toward the end of September. This too is no surprise. Rain falling as fast as that did can pack the once lush fields in a hurry and getting back out there when it’s still marginal doesn’t help matters. Interesting weather pattern we’ve been stuck in when looking at the rainfall data. When we look back on the months of July, August and October we see long periods without precipitation of an inch or more. In July at the ranch we went 3 weeks, in August 2 weeks and in October a little over 3 weeks.

At the feeders the regulars have set in for winter. A few more goldfinches each passing week, big fat blue jays, nuthatches, lots of juncos, downies, hairies and an occasional red-bellied woodpecker. The fox squirrels continue to gobble down corn which makes Ruby quiver and scratch at the sliding glass door. It really gets her excited when a rooster pheasant slinks across the backyard after cleaning up after the squirrels. North of the ranch, a large covey of Huns was spotted, a welcome sign that some of the corn stalks left un-worked for no-till soybeans may be having a positive effect locally.

The little fat buddies morning training sessions have reconvened once again and more of the world’s problems are solved each and every morning. Luckily, to maintain our stamina, there have been some bake sales such as the one as part of the benefit for RC last weekend at the Mayberry Community Center. With 6 or 7 tables covered with baked goods, Aunt Bee would’ve been proud.

Speaking of good things to eat was given some winter radishes courtesy of Shannon Schonrock’s uncle. Had never tried them although had seen them advertised in some of the seed catalogs over the years. These bulbs were the size of a large chicken or duck egg and light greenish-white on the outside. Slicing into them revealed a rose colored interior. Decided it was a good idea to slice them up like a kohlrabi and at first the flavor was somewhat reminiscent of that only perhaps a little sweeter. However a few seconds later, one knew they were indeed radishes with plenty of heat forcing me to look for that glass of milk, in a hurry. Most excellent!

Around the yard at the ranch, the cleanup continues thanks to the warm weather. An alfalfa butterfly was spotted on Nov. 7th and my guess is he won’t be flitting around the pasture on Dec. 7th. Hopefully I won’t be either. There are still copious amounts of brush to be piled although one can see light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately the warm October has dried some of the piles to the point where they should burn fairly well even though the wood was only cut up in August and September. The sheep waste no time after the branches are removed to gobble up the long grass revealed underneath. Some wondered if I might be in the firewood business although the market is pretty well saturated following the tornadoes of this past June. And, people tend to wrinkle their noses if you tell them you have boxelder, pine and spruce when they can find plenty of nice oak instead.

Finally, more progress on the Studebaker front and a game plan has suddenly developed. More parts ordered and on the way. With the master of car restoration now looking at a potential spring timeline, it will soon be time to move the car inside at the ranch so some of the nit-picky, nickel & dime portions of the project can be worked on in what will be transformed into a man cave. There’s certainly plenty of piddly stuff to do. Fortunately, with a heated floor, a sectional couch from overstock at the Mall for Men and refrigerator nearby, it should help take some of the stress out of the undertaking. I love it when a plan comes together.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/16/10, 03:55:07 PM
That don't impress me much…

The scurs slight chance of snow last Friday turned out to be slightly higher. What’s on tap for the upcoming week? Read on. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, highs of 35 and lows near 15. Partly cloudy Thursday with highs struggling to get above freezing at 30 degrees and lows around 25. Warmer on Friday, partly cloudy with highs of 40 and lows around 25. Cloudy on Saturday, highs of 35 to 40 and lows of 25 – 30 with a slight chance of snow overnight. Sunday, mostly cloudy with a decent chance of rain and/or snow. Highs around 40 and lows about 25. Partly cloudy Monday and Tuesday with highs both days of 40 and lows of 20 – 25. The normal high for November 20th is 38 and the normal low is 21. We also slip below 9 hours and 30 minutes of daylight on the 20th. The scurs will be picking out their Thanksgiving turkey at Wagner’s and the trimmings at Lerbergs.

The Full Moon for the month of November occurs on the 21st. It is commonly known as the Full Beaver Moon as this was the time when animal pelts of all kinds, particularly the beaver were at their prime to keep them warm. This has also been known as the Full Frosty Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Freezing Moon and the Sioux as The Moon of the Falling leaves. Here at the ranch we know it as The Moon When Ice is Smashed out of Buckets.

After the cold snap, not much in the way of insect activity to report other than a few ladybugs in the house. On Saturday however there was a night crawler crawling on top of the snow by the garage, slowly I might add. The snowfall wasn’t completely unexpected although it took until the last minute to determine just exactly where it was going to fall. Power went off and on much of Saturday forenoon and feeling confident that it was back on for good, reset the various clocks. Less than 5 minutes after doing this, the power went off once more. Points west and north seemed to take the brunt of it while at the ranch it couldn’t decide if it was going to snow or rain so it did both. The resulting liquid equivalent precip amounted to 1.65” with roughly 5” – 6” of snow that fell with about 2.5” staying on the ground. And stay it has thus far. Hoping that it would melt off and allow us to live a little longer without it, was less than impressed to see the ground still white in the yard after some forecasts had predicted it would all melt.

Letting her out for potty time, Ruby was a little hesitant at first with the snow as it was likely her first experience. Being born in southern IL in April and not getting your eyes open until May, odds are she hadn’t seen snow before. After awhile she began to get the hang of it. Bounding across the yard, her feet kicking up mini-snowballs, you couldn’t help but laugh when she’d turn in midair and try to catch them.

One thing the storm was good for was bird activity. The goldfinch numbers continue to climb and at last count were in the teens. With 3 main feeder sites they don’t sit still very long so it’s hard to tell the exact number. The rooster pheasant has assumed the duties of cleaning up after the squirrels who are content to eat the germ out of the corn kernel and drop the leftovers on the ground. Ruby got her dander up when a large bird skipped by the window. At first glance out of the corner of my eye, just assumed it was one of the many oversized blue jays we’re feeding. Upon closer inspection though it turned out to be a pileated woodpecker. Not sure if it’s the same one as last year but this one is also female and seemed to be looking for the large ash tree that the August storm had demolished. Lots of other birds too including house finches, downies, hairies, nuthatches, and juncos although it’s still a thrill to see that pileated woodpecker looking for the suet feeder.

Hopefully this weather will begin to cooperate again soon as there are still barns to clean and things to winterize at the ranch. Need to put the heat houser on and put the winter weight oil in the skid loader and tractor. The sheep at the kindly neighbors pasture need to come home yet although they still go out and paw through the snow to get at the remaining grass. Still, it’s a lot easier to feed them all at one site as well as giving the kindly neighbor total control of his shed for the winter once again. Managed to get the peach tree partially under wraps after dreaming of sending the last bushel of mortgage lifting peaches down the road. The tree grew to an amazing 3’ after starting out as a 1 ½’ whip. Patched up some hay mangers although there are still a couple that became airborne in the storm in need of repair. And it would be nice if the weather would dry up for a bit. The numerous large brush piles are in need of torching. They’re a magnet for cottontails and while the bunnies might be fun to hunt, replacing all the trees and shrubs they’re apt to chew up isn’t my idea of a good time.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/22/10, 07:33:08 PM
Takin’ care of business (every day)

While the scurs struggled a bit with their longer range forecast, they were dead on with the rest of it. How will they do this time around? We shall see. Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of snow. Highs of 30 – 35 and lows dipping down to 10. Thanksgiving Day, partly cloudy and cold with a slight chance of snow in the morning. High around 20 with a low of 5 - 10. Friday slightly warmer under clear skies. High of 20 – 25 and low of 15. Clear once again on Saturday with temperatures climbing above freezing once again. Highs of 35 and lows around 20. Sunday, partly cloudy with a high of 35 – 40 and lows of 25 – 30. Mostly sunny on Monday, highs of 35 and lows of 25. Cloudy Tuesday, highs 25 and lows around 10. The normal high for November 25th is 36 and the normal low is 18. The scurs will be munching on a leftover drumstick as they shop for bargains on Black Friday.

Winter appears to have set in for the duration or it sure feels like it. We dodged a bullet last weekend with the weather just being ugly to look at but not as nasty as what’s likely to come. Time to get the last of those things done on the checklist at the ranch. We’re getting about ready for barn cleaning after getting oil changes done, putting the heat houser on, and retrieving the ewes that have been guests at the kindly neighbors pasture since early May.

Plucked the duck decoys off the pond before it froze up last week and in doing so kicked up a half dozen rooster pheasants. The pond itself has more water in it than it has in many moons so hopefully this is the start of seeing it hold water year round for awhile. Also picked up several hundred feet of garden hose used to water the new tree planting that appears to have come through its first season with generally good results. Figured it’s better that the cottontails have only the trees to chew on without eating garden hose for dessert. There may be a few arborvitae in need of replacement but that’s not difficult to do. The pheasants have already been using the area to slink their way across to the backside of the established windbreak and into the yard where there’s good cover and an emergency food supply if they need it.

The birds have been restless at the feeders as of late, nervously chowing down ahead of inclement weather. Seed consumption can double the day or two ahead of a storm it seems. That’s OK. When we think about how much of their habitat we as humans have probably destroyed and not replaced in the name of progress, it doesn’t bother me to supplement their food supply and replace some of that habitat. To see new visitors to the yard occasionally as well as the regulars, it makes it all worth it.

At the Mall for Men, knowledge and wisdom is dispensed by the little fat buddies daily, with weekends off of course. The sound of those brain muscles flexing can be deafening or almost as loud as the nuclear powered pop machine. It is from such sessions as these we learn more about the world in which we live. For instance, do you know where those seagulls come from every fall when the fields are tilled? One of our sage observers noted they come from eggs. And along those lines, the same observer noted that when people die it’s because they quit breathing. Who can argue with logic like that?

Occasionally there are questions that baffle even the panel of experts. Sometimes we must consult outside sources for material. For instance, a panel member asked the group the other day if bats hibernate or migrate. Oddly enough in MN we have some bats that hibernate and some that may do a little of both. For instance in the karst region from which I hail, some of the little brown bats and big brown bats that commonly overwinter in an attic or other area of a house, may actually move from the house to a cave where they hang in clusters in the cool damp climate controlled environment for the winter months. On the flip side, we also have bats that are forest or tree dwellers such as the eastern red bat, the silver-haired bat and the hoary bat. These species all migrate south for the winter so the answer to the question is yes.

It was a fun weekend of Gopher hoops once again, harkening back to the days when the Gophers really didn’t win the Big Ten and really didn’t get to the Final Four. It was all a figment of our imagination. In part because of their rapid start and wins over quality opponents and partially because of the recent soap opera with the Vikings at Winter Park, Tubby Smith and the Gopher men's basketball team own the MN sporting scene. Oh sure, Tubby will have detractors and fans in Kentucky will attest to that. But after the Twins fell quickly to the hated Yankees, the Gopher football fortunes tanked early resulting in Breswter’s dismissal, and the Vikings following suit, this is what we as MN sports fans have been waiting for. And thus far, Tubby’s done it right. He apparently doesn’t take any guff and it’s paying off. It sure makes it worth hustling in from the cold after chores to watch my alma mater play competitively and so far to win.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on November 11/29/10, 10:27:44 PM
Money it's a hit…

Having finished the rest of the Thanksgiving leftovers, the scurs are focusing their attention on the matters at hand, namely trying to stay warm and forecasting the weather. Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy, high of 20 and low around 15. Partly cloudy Thursday, highs near 25 and lows of 15 – 20. Things become more interesting with clouds moving in on Friday. Highs around 30 and lows near 20 with an increasing chance of snow into the evening and overnight hours. Cloudy becoming partly cloudy on Saturday with a slight chance of snow in the morning. Colder Sunday and Monday under partly cloudy skies. Highs of 15 – 20 and lows dropping to 5 – 10 above. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a chance of freezing rain. Highs near 20 and lows around 10. The normal high for December 3rd is 32 and the normal low is 14. The scurs are waxing up their toboggan and readying it for winter’s onslaught.

The Friday morning after Thanksgiving saw a wedge of about 80 Canada geese up high and flying south at full throttle. Apparently they’d seen enough and decided to get out while the getting was good. Can’t say as I blame them. Suspect the pheasants would do the same if they could. As it is they’re content to move from area to area as the rooster I glimpsed out of the corner of my eye Sunday about dusk. He was slinking along the trees on the north side of the buildings as they’ve done for years to get to the cover of my neighbors Mark’s CRP. In the yard, there appears to be a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers now as well as a pair of white-breasted nuthatches. Plenty of goldfinches, a few house finches and of course the blue jays on steroids.

A good time was had by all here at the ranch on Thanksgiving. Went and picked up Mom on Thanksgiving morning as the roads were atrocious Wednesday evening. The side roads were still pretty hairy but the interstates were in prime condition. Loaded up Fudgie and Mom and away we went. We were concerned about how Fudgie and Ruby would hit it off but it soon became apparent our fears were unfounded. Fudgie is Gus’s sister and for some reason, the two dogs were almost instant companions, playing and frolicking in the yard like they’d been doing it all along. With two red and white Border Collies tearing around, it was a little like having Thing 1 and Thing 2 on the loose.

The turkey on the grill was a hit but only a small part of the total feast that appeared on the table thanks to Mom and Mrs. Cheviot’s hard work. While the turkey cooked, yours truly performed an annual ritual at the ranch, tossing part of the frozen pumpkins over the fence to see if we could coax the sheep out on the hillside to sample them for our viewing pleasure. They did come out briefly to check them out but the since the pumpkins were hard as a rock, the ewes decided there would be better days. And they were right. Within a couple days it warmed substantially and at last check, they had devoured 20 or more of the large orange cucurbits.

Another annual ritual is underway at the ranch and that is one of barn cleaning. All the equipment readied for the assault, a large dent was made in the natural fertilizer supply. Sheep pack manure is unique in that it comes out in large sheet-like hunks especially when loaded with a skid loader. These newer spreaders seem to handle it much better than the spreaders of my youth. This one even handled the 4’ long frozen chunks that came from on the outside edge of the pack. Speaking from personal experience, it’s advisable when dumping large “poopsicles” in the spreader to do it during daylight hours. Otherwise, if something breaks it can be a struggle to pitch them off in the dark and can result in an expanded vocabulary. Without a heated shop, it has to be unloaded too because if you don’t, frozen down apron chains the next morning can spell disaster, and additional vocabulary.

As it was, the warm day on Sunday provided plenty of entertainment. As the temperatures rose, the field became greasier making the strategy of staying off the road and spreading on the flat high ground look like a good one. Spreading down the hill might’ve been OK but climbing back up the slope would have been tricky. That and keeping the mud to myself and off the road seemed appropriate. Some frozen ground now to finish the job would be welcome.

Another fall ritual came to pass over the weekend when the natural-colored Cheviot ram we’d loaned to our friend in Chatfield returned. Gary brought him back in the little homemade trailer pulled by the little Suzuki 4 x 4. This ram had made quite an impression right off the bat with his ability to jump as well as deal out punishment once caught. It was his ability to jump though that caught Gary’s attention when he let him out of the trailer. Once free, the ram bolted and jumped up on the chicken coop roof. Worst of all, Gary couldn’t get him to come down! The ram eventually came down when he was hungry but not until several photographs were taken. I might not have believed it myself except for the fact he showed me the photos. Before he left, Gary gave us a beautiful scarf he’d spun and knitted from their own Cheviot wool. It contained both natural colored (dark) and white wool in alternating strips. When he was fishing around the vehicle for a pen to write out a check for use of the ram, I told him to forget it. He’s made several items for us over the years and this one in particular was priceless. Along with the story about the ram turned ‘Chicken Hawk”, it seemed only fair.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: deadeye on November 11/30/10, 07:25:06 AM
I rember well the ground driven spreaders.  You are correct, you do NOT want to break down in the dark and risk freezing the load.  Trying to keep the beaters clean so the wouldn't become a solid roller was quite a task.  But then again, that was better than the alternative.  When the snow became too deep, we had to haul it out behind the barn in a wheel barrel.  Now that was not fun. 
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Bobby Bass on December 12/06/10, 12:11:28 PM
Always good to read about "Down South"  :happy1:
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/06/10, 02:58:40 PM
Ah yes, we are always trying to get our poop in a group down here it seems, pun intended. I remember those days B.S., (before skidsteer) deadeye. Dad always figured it was a good idea to have us clean the pack out of the barn with the wheelbarrow over Christmas vacation. When the top of the pack got frozen, we had to break it open with the pick axe before we could use the pitchfork to tear it loose. We ran the wheelbarrow up a plank and dumped it into the spreader, repeating the process until full. Took about a week but Dad thought it was great for us, much better than pitching it out one forkfull at a time. We of course thought otherwise. The area in our main barn I just cleaned after Thanksgiving is roughly the same size or a little bigger and takes about a day with the skidsteer. Guess what? It still sucks!
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/06/10, 10:50:57 PM
A winter's day in a deep and dark December…

The scurs got the storm right last week but fumbled the predicted Tuesday sunshine. They maintain no one minds shoveling sunshine. Starting Wednesday of this week, partly cloudy with highs of 15 – 20 and lows of 10 – 15. More snow possible for Thursday under cloudy skies with highs reaching a balmy 30 and lows hovering around 15. Mostly cloudy Friday with highs of 15 - 20 and lows dropping to 10 above. Saturday, partly cloudy with another chance of snow, highs near 25 and lows of zero to 5 above. Partly cloudy Sunday, highs of 5 - 10 and lows falling to – 5 to – 10. Monday, partly cloudy with highs struggling to make the zero mark and lows dropping to – 10. Slightly warmer Tuesday, cloudy with a chance of snow flurries. Highs 5 – 10 and lows of zero to 5 below. The normal high for December 10th is 29 and the normal low is 11. The scurs are taking a breather from the frenzied pace of their Christmas shopping. After all, there’s still lots of time before the 24th.

This month contains lots of astrological, day length related highlights so will give it its due. In the early hours before sunrise, Venus can be seen in the SE sky achieving its “mini- moon” status once more. It was very evident Sunday morning on the way into town just prior to 6 a.m. In the early evening, Jupiter still dominates and is visible until about midnight, first appearing about 5:30 p.m. on the S-SE horizon. On the 9th, we slip below 9 hours of daylight however the good news is we only have about 5 minutes more to lose by the 17th before the days become noticeably longer by a minute on the 25th. Interestingly enough, the earliest sunsets will occur from December 5th – 12th at 4:36 p.m. CDT.

Temperatures were cold this past week with Sunday morning’s low dropping to – 6 by the golf course and registering a low near – 3 at the ranch, actually – 2.8 if you must know. Quite a contrast to the 68 degree high on November 10th. The snowfall for last Friday afternoon and evening amounted to about 6” at the ranch with the gauge measuring somewhere over 4”. Melted down the liquid equivalent in the gauge was .21”. November closed out with 2.36” of total precip, only .1” behind the total recorded at the SROC in Waseca, putting us pretty close to what would be considered normal for us for the month of November.

In the yard, the birds are responding to the cold weather by coming in larger numbers to the feeders. Ruby’s buddies the squirrels however seem to be more into a sleeping in mode, consuming much less ear corn than they were just a few weeks ago. It wasn’t unusual for them to go through a couple ears a day. The incoming snowstorm also brought with it the first of hopefully many more chickadees to come. With two of the larger trees missing was a little surprised to see this one as chickadees have been only occasional visitors over the past several years. In the cold weather, chickadees must eat the equivalent of their own weight each day. The little fat buddies eat like birds compared to this.

Barn cleaning season is finally over at the ranch! As one astute observer is fond of saying, it was real, it was fun, but it wasn’t real fun. With a predicted storm coming in Friday, got the main barn finished just as the flurries were starting. After getting just about cold enough, went in the house to snack on the last of the Thanksgiving turkey and nodded off, glad that barn was done just ahead of the heavy snow. Just beginning to think there was a powernap in my future, the cell phone rang. It was Al of Al’s TV fame and he came over minutes later to run some cable and get the TV in the bedroom up and running. The crawlspace where the cable needed to go had been haunting me, not only from the standpoint of the dead animal carcasses it might contain but also from the live animals that could be lurking there. Fortunately there were neither although I did manage to locate the Festivus pole. Al was wise to the ways of old houses that have been added on to multiple times. It didn’t take him long to figure out some shortcuts around what was most certainly to be a wiring nightmare. He finished just in time for me to do the chores and watch Ruby try to catch snowflakes.

About 8 o’clock Saturday morning, decided that with the cold Sunday forecast, there needed to be an all out assault on cleaning the lambing barn. There was a chance I might make it to the field but might not make it back so opted to put the chains on the tractor as a precaution. The yard was full of snow that had to be moved anyway. After a day Friday when everything clicked, Saturday was just the opposite. Everything was an uphill battle although as an aside, did see an earthworm under the 4” of frozen soil I chipped away to get the double doors off. That was probably the highlight of the day. With the temperature falling off rapidly, stuff was starting to freeze on to the metal sides of the 520 NH spreader so time was of the essence. Finishing the last load up, I needed to quickly put the water tank back in the barn. Worst of all I’d filled it the night before and had removed it with the skid loader. Got it out fine as I’d done many times before, but as I went back up the little ramp into the barn, the tank suddenly lurched forward, dumping 60 gallons of water onto the freshly cleaned, now rapidly freezing floor.

Hustling out to the field to get the spreader unloaded, it hesitated at first but began grinding its way through the load. Keeping my fingers crossed, it didn’t shear any pins and chopped everything up well until the tail end. Coming back with the wind it began whipping frozen missiles of doo-doo at me to the point that I stopped and reattached the rope connected to the speed control mechanism. Several yanks on the rope and just the apron chain ran, allowing the remnants to fall harmlessly out the back rather than hitting me in the melon. After bailing as much of the water out of the building as possible, refilled the water tank, bedded the barn, put the doors back on, unhooked from the spreader, then put the tractor and skid steer away. It was 5 o’clock, it was cold and dark, the day was shot and so was I. The task was complete however and that was all that mattered as I trudged inside for a cup of warmth. Finally something had gone right.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/14/10, 11:51:09 AM
I see the bad moon arising.

The scurs stayed on task predicting snowfall for last weekend. The blizzard was just a little icing on the cake so to speak. What are we in for this forecast period? The all seeing all knowing scurs will divulge all. Starting with Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of snow. Highs of 20 and lows around 15. Mostly cloudy on Thursday with a slight chance of snow. Highs 20 – 25 and lows of 10 – 15. Cloudy Friday with no foreseeable chance of snow. Highs near 15 and lows of 0 – 5 above. Saturday, partly cloudy, highs of 10 – 15 and lows near 0. Cloudy again on Sunday, highs around 10 and lows of 0 – 5 above. Monday and Tuesday, mostly cloudy with a chance of snow creeping in overnight Monday into Tuesday. Highs of 15 – 20 and lows of 5 above. The normal high for December 21st, the first official day of winter is 25 and the normal low is 6. The scurs are nearly rested up enough to think about starting their shopping in earnest.

The 21st this December will mark several coincidences worth noting. First, it marks the Full Moon which is known as the Full Cold Moon, The Long Nights Moon or by some as the Moon Before the Yule, all for obvious reasons. The Ojibwe called this the Small Spirits Moon and the Sioux knew it as the Moon of Popping Trees or the Moon When Deer Shed Their Horns. At the ranch we’ve had several names for it over the years, including the Winter Sucks Moon or the Why Do We Live Here Moon.

The 21st also marks the winter solstice as stated above although by all appearances, winter’s been going for the most part since the middle of November. Our chances of seeing more Indian Summer are waning as are the opportunities for mosquito bites. The daylight period on the 21st is the shortest of the year by seconds at 8 hours and 54 minutes. It remains in that range until the 25th when we gain a minute. The sun will continue rising later until early January while it began setting later on the 14th.

Probably the most unique coincidence occurring on the 21st will be that of the total lunar eclipse. You’ll have to get out of bed to see it however as the eclipse will be ongoing from roughly 12:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., with the total eclipse being approximately 2:13 a.m. All bets are off of course if it’s cloudy unless of course one takes an airplane somewhere or hijacks Santa’s sleigh for a joy ride. If it’s clear however it may be something to take a look at as the next time another total lunar eclipse will occur on the winter solstice will be 2401. Most of us probably won’t live that long. Coincidence? I think not.

The birds were extremely active with the cold settling in over the ranch. The pheasants are using our yard as a staging area to go between the various CRP parcels. They’ve taken to sleeping in the Austrian pines on the north side of the building site at night as their ground cover has in many instances blown full of snow. They apparently clean up under the feeders too as evidenced by their tracks. The rest of the crew appears to be as usual and includes a large (and hungry) group of goldfinches, a smattering of house finches, blue jays, juncos, nuthatches, downies, hairies and red – bellied woodpeckers and a solitary chickadee. The suet is definitely being worked over, much moreso than earlier. The trip in to work usually yields a couple male cardinals feeding on the bike trail across from the golf course. Seeing them sure makes the trip into town more enjoyable. The squirrels at the ranch seem to have the right idea though. On the really nasty days they appear briefly, stuff themselves quickly then go back to bed for a nap. You have to admire their thinking.

The storm was one of record at the ranch. I t was difficult to say exactly how much there was although 10” - 15” would probably catch it. There probably has been more snow in the yard although it’s hard to remember when. A NE wind tends to hit many door yards in the country hard and ours is no exception. At least the power stayed on so we could watch Gophers basketball on Saturday and the replay of the snow being dumped in the Metrodome Sunday. Moving snow was tough sledding and after a couple hours, it was opened up so we could get in and out but not much more. I had to defer to Mr. Dubya down the road to blow out the rest of it. I must be getting wimpy in my old age as somehow sitting out in the open on a tractor with only a heat houser and slow hydraulics isn’t nearly as much fun as it used to be. The snow was hard and packed, making several trips on and off to bang on the bucket necessary. Coming inside to warm my tootsies on the heated floor offered a welcome respite from the brutal wind chill outdoors. On the road into work Monday morning, a - 17 low and road ditches filled past the brim served as a reminder that the fun is only getting started.

Dealing with cold weather should come easily one would think after dealing with it all these years. Unfortunately I think it just makes most of us dread it all the more. A good day is one where everything starts, no water is frozen, the furnace works and no livestock is sick or ailing. Normally though, there’s something that presents a challenge. Just the other day for instance, I made it into town after the snow removal festivities. I’d forgotten how much of what kind of fuel I put in the diesel pickup. Since a gelled up diesel is not my idea of a good time, decided it would behoove me to put some blended fuel in the tank as errands were in store for the afternoon.

Come to find out the fuel blend was only good down to about – 10. Splash blending some #1 on top seemed the logical course of action so put the nozzle in the tank and began dispensing the fuel. After about 6 gallons I heard the telltale sound of a tank getting close to full so grabbed the nozzle just in case. Sure enough the shutoff valve stuck and I wound up splash blending about a half gallon of #1 diesel all over my feet. Great. Another joy of winter. Getting my feet wet and smelling that for the rest of the day. Oh well at least I could stay inside and #1 doesn’t stink quite as much as #2.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/20/10, 05:12:36 PM
Lived and learned from fools and from sages…

Those wily scurs were tracking on target once again, calling the Tuesday snow a week in advance. The Christmas week forecast? Ask and ye shall receive. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, highs 20 – 25 and lows of 15. Thursday, you guessed it, cloudy, and another chance for snow. Highs 20 – 25 and lows of 15. Mostly cloudy and a slight chance of snow continuing into Friday. Highs once again in the 20 – 25 range and lows dropping to 5 – 10 on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day, partly cloudy, high of 15 and low plummeting to – 5. Sunday, partly cloudy, high of 15 and low around 0. Mostly clear and warmer on Monday, high of 15 and low of 5. Cloudy on Tuesday, highs of 20 – 25 and lows of 15. The normal high for Christmas Day is 24 and the normal low is 5. The scurs need to finish watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Christmas Vacation” a couple more times before venturing forth to shop. Lotsa time yet.

Snow continues to pile up after last Thursday’s initially predicted 4” snowfall that wound up being more like 8” in many places. It just never seemed to stop when they said it would when the system slowed down and kept dumping. Worst of all the snow that fell out of that system was fairly dry, making the snow very fluffy and easily blown by the wind. Walking through that accumulation, it almost seemed like plastic snow, almost rattled when it moved. Now that snow has been covered up by another 8” or so of wetter, denser snow that soaks one’s clothing if moving it around while it’s still snowing.

A drive around the neighborhood the other day revealed a large number of pheasants along roads and in people’s yards. The accumulating snow pushed them into open areas in search of food. The snow isn’t as deep there but the lack of cover as well as the snow depth, not to mention the layer of ice in spots is making their lives tougher right now. At the ranch on Monday morning we counted over 20 pheasants in the yard and adjacent pasture. They had located the trough filled with screenings that had been placed there on Saturday. By nightfall, the trough was nearly empty so they were busy throughout much of the snowstorm.

Ruby continues to find ways to amuse herself as she develops from a puppy into a small dog. She launches herself at the snowflakes and to anyone driving by, they’d have to think she was nuts. Sometimes I think they’re right. We took her on a trip back to Spring Valley over the weekend and it was entertaining to watch her reaction to the windmills by Dexter. In typical Border Collie fashion, she appeared terrified yet mesmerized by their movement. Ruby knows something’s up in the house too with all the decorations. Not that she really cares about them mind you unless of course they move like some of the battery operated snowmen.

More Studebaker parts arrived the other day. Replacement radiator hoses, a specially formed heater hose and a new gas cap were part of the small parts order. The reconditioned gas tank was picked up a while back and the refurbished radiator was procured as part of a whirlwind tour ahead of the storm that included selecting a Christmas tree. Remanufactured rocker panels were part of a large parts order as were new floor pans. I’m sure there’ll be more parts needed as we get into the Lark deeper and discover more surprises. However, there should be enough toys now to keep us occupied for awhile. After the snow removal fun and games, this week should allow the car to be moved into the heated garage so we can commence tinkering. Did I mention I had a fire extinguisher on my Christmas list?

Ah, the moment the crack management staff at the Star-Eagle has been waiting for: Their annual Christmas gift from yours truly. After searching high and low and consulting the expertise of those sages, the scurs, this should suffice. For the newest member of the Bugtussle Bugle, a cabbage patch doll for Rachel. This one was a slam dunk after reading about her exploits in the good ol’ cabbage patches of home. One has to wonder what else went on that she declined to write about. For Reed, one of those cards with the nice selections of scrunchies. I offered him a free haircut last year and this is only fitting as I am always concerned about his coiffure. For Jody, a book, “Farming for Dummies”. This should be instrumental in helping him to write articles about agricultural related topics. For Richard, some of those earthworms I dug up a couple weeks ago while prying the doors off the lambing barn. They always worked for my buddy and me when we used to ice fish on the mighty Deer Creek as young lads. We caught tons of chubs. For Cathy, to help you on those extra long, information packed columns, a subscription to Reader’s Digest. For Al, some ear muffs to wear under his hat. I think he’d look rather dashing in his newspaper photo, don’t you? Although, the Bruce’s might not recognize him then. And finally for Jim, one of my special soccer mom wigs. It’ll help keep his melon warm. He’ll have to settle for the red one though as I think Betts kept the blonde one. One word of advice to Jim: Make sure you grow plenty of facial hair before wearing it. If you go into the wrong bars, you may get hit on.

Happy Festivus!

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on December 12/27/10, 10:04:55 PM
A world in white gets underway…

After a week of more snow and cold, the scurs burned the switches that were left in their stockings to stay warm. Can the lumps of coal be far behind? We shall see. Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of freezing rain Wednesday night. Temperatures rising to 30 and remaining steady throughout the day. Thursday, mostly cloudy, highs near 35 and lows around 30. Chance of freezing rain in the morning, followed by rain for the afternoon and freezing drizzle for the evening. Cloudy again on Friday, highs near 35 with overnight lows dropping to near 5 above. Chance of rain in the morning turning into snow by afternoon, tapering to flurries for the overnight. Much colder for New Years Day, highs of 10 – 15 and lows near zero. Partly cloudy Sunday, highs once again 10 – 15 and lows of 5 – 10. Partly cloudy Monday and warmer with a chance of snow. Highs of 20 and lows around 15. Mostly sunny and warmer on Tuesday, highs near 30 and lows of 20. The normal high for January 1st is 23 and the normal low is 3 above. After singing along with tapes of Auld Lang Syne played by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadiens, the scurs will be keeping the ice bag at the ready for Saturday.

More snow this past week pushed many areas to a record December snowfall. At the ranch, all told there have been roughly 38” of the white stuff since the month started. It has made ice fishing treacherous for those who dare venture out on ice that is marginal at best with accesses choked with snow. One good thing: We really haven’t had the extremely windy conditions to go along with most of the snowstorms. Sure, there is a lot on the ground but in open country, the drifts aren’t nearly as bad as we’ve seen compared to winters such as ’96 – ’97 or farther back, ’68 – ’69. Oddly enough on Monday when the wind came up shortly after noon by the public access on St. Olaf Lake, the southerly breeze was able to blow the morning’s beautiful hoar frost out of the trees, causing a visibility problem on the Lake Road. This is pretty good snow to snowshoe on however, very soft and uniform in depth. It’s easy to learn and there are plenty of area retailers carrying adequate snowshoeing equipment. After all those holiday goodies, burning up to 500 calories an hour suddenly doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

In many cases however, one probably gets plenty of exercise just shoveling. All one has to do is look around and listen after a snowfall event and the sound of shovels scraping and tractors roaring is evident as people dig out once more. Just a reminder if you haven’t done it: It’s always a good idea to clean the snow away from in front of the mailbox. Otherwise the mail carrier is constantly working uphill due to the wedge of snow that builds up in front of the post. The other thing noticed at the ranch was with the frequent snowplowing, snow had become jammed in the hinge and lid so tight that the box wouldn’t stay closed. Now, that’s not a totally bad thing if you’re trying to avoid some of those after Christmas bills. However, eventually the snow melts and the bills find you anyway. They’ll send more, with interest.

The pheasants continue to mass in the yard with 20 or more showing up on days when they apparently are hungrier. Typically there are at least 10 milling around the plum and sumac thicket. Sometimes the yard resembles an airport with the Chinese chickens sailing across the yard from all directions. They’ve taken to picking at the ear corn from the feeder mounted on the ash tree trunk as well as eating the crabapples. They look absolutely ridiculous doing either. The chickadee population has now doubled; there are two feeding on black oil sunflower and pecking at the suet when the woodpeckers aren’t using it.

Deer are seen adjacent to the ranch in the Dubya’s hayfield. There are up to 8 in the mornings when we head out down to the barn to do chores. In the deep snow, cottontails have been pruning some of the unprotected lateral branches on the apple trees, the sharp cuts making punji sticks out of them for next summer’s unsuspecting lawnmower operator, namely moi. Squirrels are occasional visitors but continue only eating for long periods of time on nice days. Ruby likes to keep them exercised more regularly than any dog we’ve owned to date so that might have something to do with it.

And finally, the little fat buddies are still sequestered deep within the bowels of the Mall for Men. Christmas baking and other fare have graced the training table over the holidays. Intelligence has indicated someone from WikiLeaks may have tried to infiltrate the group. Upon witnessing the most recent spate of morning pickled northern pike consumption however, they apparently fled without collecting any secret data. Good thing too. Much of the secret information gleaned could endanger lives, particularly those of the little fat buddies!

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/04/11, 09:31:09 AM
Sheltered inside from the cold of the snow…

While the scurs got all but the Tuesday forecast right, they’re hoping their fortunes are better as the New Year progresses. Here goes: Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy, becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of snow. Highs of 20 and lows near 5. Thursday, cloudy and cooler with a slight chance of snow. Highs of 15 and lows of 0. Cloudy with a slight chance of snow again for Friday, highs near 10 and lows of zero. Carbon copy days on Saturday and Sunday with highs of 10 above and lows of 0. Cloudy for Monday with a chance of snow. Highs of 15 – 20 with lows hovering near 0. Tuesday, partly cloudy, highs of 10 - 15 and lows of zero. Normal January 8th high is 22 and the normal low is 2. Having removed the lampshades from their heads, the scurs are ready to focus on their New Years resolutions, which is to keep no resolutions.

We really did dodge a bullet on New Years Day. We were very fortunate there wasn’t a large amount of fresh snow prior to the winds that day and that the temperatures had melted a substantial amount of snow prior to that. It was nasty enough out here in the open country the way it was. Many of us worked feverishly to get the existing snow pushed back as far as we could before the cold hit once again, knowing if we didn’t it would turn to concrete. Of course now we have ice to trip and fall on so sales of grit will be on the rise once again. It appears we’re in for one of those patented January cold snaps although so far if it goes as predicted, this one won’t be as cold as some we’ve experienced over the years. It’s that time of year too. Until we get out into the last week in January, typically we can expect highs in the low 20’s and lows in the lower single digits. If it doesn’t get too much worse than that, we should consider ourselves lucky. As it is, the days are already getting longer with days having crept back over 9 hours of daylight as of the 4th. The sun continues to set a little later each day while the sunrise continues to be stuck at 7:48 a.m. until about the 10th.

The nasty day did allow us to stay indoors with the exception of choretime and observe the pheasants feeding in the yard. We continue to supply feed in the form of some good corn screenings as well as some inexpensive mixed bird seed. The trough we’re using seems to work well and being the scratchers they are, very little of the feed goes to waste. When evening draws near, they vacate the feeding area and head into the evergreens for overnight. It’s not unusual when getting the mail at night to spook them out of the trees which in turn about spooks you out of your shorts, er, long johns.

All this darkness does allow one to marvel at the moon and the planets as they are spectacular on clear nights and early mornings. Venus continues its role as morning star, rising about 2 hours before the sun in the southeastern sky. Jupiter continues its status as the brightest object in the southern twilight sky, setting in the southwest now by about 11 p.m. With the remaining snowpack, the moon allows one to see well without lights across the landscape, revealing deer and other nocturnal creatures as they make their way about the open fields and fencelines.

Ruby provided lots of entertainment for us while the weather was inclement on New Years Day. Seems an indestructible orange rubber ball is her favorite toy, one she can’t get along without. Tennis balls last about a half hour and squeaky toys only about 10 minutes before she destroys them. Playing with her until I poohed out, it became time for a long winter’s nap in the middle of the afternoon. Could hear her playing with the ball as I drifted off then was awakened some time later to a cold wet nose and the facial expression we’ve come to associate with “I’ve lost my ball. Can you help me find it?” Generally, it gets underneath the furniture or stuck in a slipper someplace so she can’t get it out. This time though, she seemed bound and determined it was under the chair. So we looked and looked, moving the chair, tipping it over, gazing under the couch with a flashlight as well as anywhere else we could think of where Ruby might have been. Nothing. We finally gave up, resigning ourselves to the realization it would probably show up again someday when we’d least expect it.

We had another ball of the same type so we got that one out and she was happy again. However, it drove both of us nuts that we couldn’t find the original model so after chores we resumed our search. Finally, upon moving the recliner one more time, I noticed a slight bulge in the fabric on the back of the chair. Squeezing the bump with thumb and forefinger sure enough it had to be the ball we were looking for. Apparently Ruby had dropped the ball on the arm of the chair trying to get me to throw it while I was sound asleep. It had fallen down behind the cushion and into the void covered by the upholstery on the back. My first thought was we may have to dismantle the chair to get the ball out but given some experience with pulling small animals out of tight places, decided to see if we could reach it. One nearly had to be a contortionist to extract it but after some prying and a few twists, it was removed with the chair remaining unscathed. No OB sleeve or lube needed! Ruby of course was ecstatic. Now she had 2 play balls or so she thought. Mrs. Cheviot put the newer model away again for safekeeping, just in case the ball eating chair ever decided to gobble up another one.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/10/11, 10:29:20 PM
but this voice keeps whispering in my other ear…

The scurs have found some glitches in the confuser as of late so are hoping this reaches its destination without unintended consequences. Otherwise there may be a full page of weather forecast in this week’s paper. Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy, high of 10 and low of – 5. Thursday, partly cloudy, high of 10 and low of 5 with a slight chance of overnight snow. Friday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of snow. Highs of 20 and lows of 0 to 5 above. Saturday, mostly cloudy becoming partly cloudy and colder. Highs of zero to 5 above and lows falling to – 10. Partly cloudy Sunday, high of zero and lows of – 10 with some possible flurries. Monday, warmer under cloudy skies. Highs of 10 – 15 and lows near 0. Clear skies on Tuesday with highs around 10 and lows of 0 to 5 above. The normal high for January 15th is 22 and the normal low is 2. The scurs have their sights set on a January thaw but the rate the month is already flying by, they’re going to have to hustle.

The Full Moon for the month of January will occur on the 19th. Since the paper doesn’t come out until the 19th in town and the 20th out in the country, we’ll run through the routine this week so no one misses out. This moon was known as the Full Wolf Moon by the tribes of the northeast as it was about this time the wolves began to pack up around the tribal villages and announce themselves in the evening hours. It may also go by the Old Moon or The Moon after the Yule. The Ojibwe called this the Great Spirit Moon and the Sioux had several designations for it, including The Moon of Strong Cold, The Moon of Frost in the Teepee as well as The Moon When Wolves Run Together. At the ranch it’s become the Geez I’m Sick of Moving Snow Moon.

We continue making some progress however on the daylight front. The sun will set after 5 p.m. on the 14th, the first time since before the time change back on November 6th. As of the 1st of the year, on January 15th we will have garnered about 18 minutes of additional daylight. We’re picking up steam now too, accumulating about 2 minutes per day. Won’t be too long and we’ll be back to the 3 minute per day pace. One can notice it in the evenings when it’s clear but it has been slower coming in the morning hours, having to use the lights yet to find our way to the barn. The tracks left in the snow from the previous days treks make it easy to find the way. Some mornings the light dusting of snow has covered the icy spots though making that journey treacherous.

Speaking of lighting, spent some time last week replacing a light bulb on the garage that had burned out. Had one bulb left from a name brand 4-pack I’d bought a while ago decided to use it up. As had happened several times with this particular brand of bulb now made in China, I noticed the top of the burned out bulb had shattered leaving shards of sharp broken glass where one could easily get sliced up if not wearing leather gloves to replace it. It was cold and dark out so hustled through the change, hoping all the time the step ladder wouldn’t collapse on the ice. After returning the tools and ladder to the garage I went to fill the birdfeeders. When I came around the corner of the house, I noticed the bulb I’d just replaced was out again! I looked at it and sure enough, it had blown the top out of that bulb too. It just so happened I’d made a trip to Edna’s earlier in the week and bought some new bulbs of the same wattage that were made in the good ol’ USA. Went back out, took the ladder and tools, climbed up, replaced the bulb with the leather gloves on and put the fixture back together. Flipped the switch and voila! The light came on and stayed on. That’s enough of those cheap, exploding Chinese light bulbs for this hombre.

There was one new bird sighting for me this week. Several Eurasian collared doves were inhabiting the trees and feeding from the feeders nearby. At first they looked like some of the pigeons that frequent the area from the elevator but upon closer inspection, they were in the trees, something pigeons seldom do. They were close in size to a pigeon and just a little lighter colored than a mourning dove. The distinctive field mark is the dark bar or collar on the back of the neck at the base. This invasive species has been in the US since they moved across from the Bahamas to Florida in the early 1980’s. Since that time they have spread as far north as Alaska.

This past weekend was time for the wildlife to take center stage. We had Mrs. Cheviot’s family Christmas at the ranch and especially for those interested in seeing some pheasants and white-tailed deer, was hoping the critters would make an appearance. We were not to be disappointed. Within minutes of the guests arrival, as if on cue, several big beautiful rooster pheasants appeared at the feeder in the yard, wowing those who rarely get to see them anymore. Had mentioned to the guests we also frequently see 6 - 8 deer feeding in the field across the road usually in the morning and around dusk but sometimes earlier. The deer must’ve heard me because shortly after midday, they started leisurely traipsing their way across the field in full view for all to see. With several deer hunters in the crowd as well as those who just enjoy seeing them, everyone seemed to be in approval of my newly acquired skills as the deer and pheasant whisperer.

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/18/11, 10:27:06 AM
We found things to do in stormy weather…

The scurs missed the snow on MLK Day but other than that, were tracking dead on. How will they fare this time around? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a high of 5 and low of – 5. Partly cloudy Thursday with highs of 5 above and lows of 15 below. Partly cloudy Friday becoming cloudy with a chance of snow. Highs of 5 and lows near zero. Mostly cloudy Saturday with highs around 10 and lows of zero to 5 below. Partly cloudy and warmer Sunday with high temperatures near 20. Lows near zero. Cloudy on Monday with a chance of snow. Highs around 25 and lows near 15. Clearing on Tuesday with highs near 30 and lows around 15. The normal low for January 21st is 23 and the normal low is 2. The scurs are wagering we may have seen the worst of the cold for the season especially if they stay inside close to the pot belly stove.

Fish house villages sprang up seemingly overnight on area lakes as of a couple weeks ago. No one appears to be knocking them dead but there’s almost always someone out there trying to catch fish. Ice has become relatively safe for driving with the thickness being approximately 20” where we were fishing on Saturday. Since the snow melted down a few weeks ago its insulating capacity became greatly reduced. That’s a good thing because there are people who have been known to get stuck in the deep snow on lakes. Not naming any names here.

The ewes are beginning to show some signs that there will be another lamb crop. Prices are good but they’d better be considering the amount of work it entails. Thus far shoveling the bunks and moving them out of the snow has been a near daily occurrence as is smashing ice out of the buckets in the small group pens. Looking at the calendar, shearing is already less than a month away. There needs to be additional feed rounded up and snow cleared away in order to get it put away where it belongs. This is getting to be like banging my head against the wall. It’s gonna feel good when I quit.

Snow continues to fall frequently. While the amounts are nowhere near that which fell in December the windy conditions we’ve experienced in January have compounded the situation. It fills in where you least like to see it along with requiring time and effort to remove it. There is usually a collective groan at the Mall for Men when anyone mentions the possibility of more snow. Without another thaw in sight, the piles are becoming larger at the ranch after each snowfall event. Sometimes it would be nice to have a snow blower mounted on the tractor but first it would be nice to have a cab to avoid looking like a powdered donut upon completion of the task.

Seed catalogs continue to arrive almost daily which helps to keep the mind off of the constant battle this winter has become. There are some of the commercial variety where you have to buy in bulk but there are always the old standbys like Jungs, Burgess, Shumways, Gurneys and Farmer Seed and Nursery. Found several sources of those winter radishes so will have to give them a whirl this next season. Ate the last of my supply just the other day. Noted there were some different muskmelon varieties that would be nice to try. Dwarf pears also caught my eye as locating anything other than full sized pear trees locally has been difficult. They get pretty tall for the spot I’d like to put them, not far from the peach tree that so far appears to be wintering nicely, thanks to a little extra T.L.C. We’ll see how it comes through the winter this spring before we order more peach crates for the upcoming crop. There was also a source of winterberry nearby, both male and female shrubs that we’ll likely tap into. Always need to plant something new for the birds.

The birds have been relatively steady at the feeders over the past week or so. Some days bring large groups of nomadic goldfinches that seem to stay for short durations then suddenly vanish. There are almost always blue jays, downies and hairies as well as one loyal chickadee. The pheasants continue to appear daily. Sometimes there are nearly all roosters and other days there are nearly equal numbers of hens and roosters. On a typical day this past week there were at least a half dozen and on the busy days up to 20. Not surprisingly, when filling the feeder after dark, the pheasant tracks in the latest snow are directly related to the amount of feed that has been consumed.

Ruby had another big adventure over the weekend, riding in the pickup and travelling to Mom’s with me to visit Fudgie. When those two get together one can bet there will be lots of tearing back and forth. And there was. The track from the deck to the old burn pile was kept hot and there was a red and white blur as the two dogs raced until they were nearly exhausted. It did them a lot of good to get out and burn off some steam. Reminded me of the days growing up when we were told to get outside while driving Mom about crazy. While there we feasted on several delicacies not the least of which were Mom’s homemade oatmeal raisin cookies made with black walnuts cracked by one of Bugtussle’s own Bandwagon stars. Ruby and I made it back home just in time to help finish up the chores. We then went inside to cheer on Tubby and the Gophers, where Ruby fell fast asleep on Mrs. Cheviot’s lap following her big day.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/24/11, 09:54:49 PM
I said you shook me baby…

The scurs were definitely on the right track last week. Too bad there was an overactive freezer truck on it. How will they fare on this week’s prognostications? Here we go! Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs of 15 - 20 and lows near 10. Thursday, partly cloudy with highs of 25 and lows of 15 – 20. Get ready for this one: Partly cloudy on Friday, highs near 30 and lows around 15. Mostly cloudy and blustery on Saturday. Highs near 15 and overnight lows dropping to – 5. Partly cloudy, continued cold and breezy on Sunday with highs of zero to 5 above and lows around – 10. Cloudy and warmer on Monday with a chance of snow. Highs of 10 and lows near 0. Mostly cloudy on Ground Hog Day with scattered flurries. Highs of 10 – 15 and lows near 5. The normal high for Ground Hog Day is 25 and the normal low is 5. The scurs will not see their shadow so spring will be just around the corner, somewhere in Arkansas or Louisiana.

The weather for the past week was a cold one with the coldest temperatures of the winter being recorded thus far. On Friday morning the 21st at the Waseca airport we saw lows drop to – 24 and on the 23rd we got an encore performance with the low coming in at – 20. At the ranch it was not quite that brutal with the low on Friday coming in at – 20 and on the 23rd about 15 below. Both temperatures were verified by the official Edna thermometer on the granary. Can’t trust those new fangled, battery powered digital contraptions.

On the evening of the 20th we also witnessed something rather not frequently seen in most areas: Moon dogs and a moon pillar. Conditions were right with the ice crystals in the air that evening when the still nearly full moon was rising on the horizon to give one a spectacular view for a short time. Typically we see sun dogs and sun pillars during early morning or late day. In weather lore most agree that it is an indication that the weather will be getting colder and it usually does. As was the case Thursday night, we had a trace of snow that day and the system that had produced it was high tailing it on out of here bringing in high pressure and clear, cold skies behind it.

Lots of tree talk as of late as the lists from your local SWCD’s are out. These are always good for ideas and by the looks of the landscape out here this winter and the pheasants struggling on it, we could use some. Haven’t decided which way to go just yet. There are some places here at the ranch where we could add some small plantings, but probably not something like we did last year. Some crabapples are a possibility as well as some updating in the planting where some of the arborvitae may not have made it. If you are a rural landowner, don’t hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity. Remember the best time to plant trees was 10 years ago. The next best time is now.

Speaking of the pheasants, they continue to visit our yard as well as several others, including that of Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer. His patience paid off and they finally found the feeder. Lately at the ranch there have been a group of 7 – 10, more roosters than hens. They share the yard with “the usuals”, including the two chickadees who are in constant motion back and forth to the feeders on the colder days

As of late at the Mall for Men there has been a veritable bonanza of goodies. Last week we had banana bread baked by my Mom, followed by bakery cookies and then Christmas cookies donated by one of Bugtussle’s best kept secret bakers. This morning brought rolls from Mayberry to the north as well as home baked cookies from somewhere. Apparently some have noticed the effort being put forth every morning and are willing to contribute some sustenance to our think tank. Some would argue that supplying the little fat buddies with treats is more like dumping them down a hole.

Last week during the cold weather at the Mall for Men wouldn’t you know one of the furnaces went out so a couple of us little fat buddies took it upon ourselves to try to light it. We tried several times but couldn’t seem to get the pilot to light. The last time it sounded like gas coming into the pilot so put the lighter close to it and bang! It blew one of us onto the floor and threw yours truly into the wall. Despite being a little shook, we weren’t seriously injured save for our pride and some hair. I mean, try to get a wax job that quickly anywhere else. Of course after that the entire building stunk like we had been singeing chickens so everyone was curious about what we’d been up to. I did discover a little later that there was a pretty good chunk of hair on one side that had been singed. The bad news was it didn’t burn off any of the errant hairs from my ears. The good news was later that day when Leo gave me a haircut, he was able to use the propane torch to even it up on the other side.

Hey, by the way, this marks the start of the 9th year of Fencelines. I’m sure to many of you it probably seems like it’s been a lot longer than that. Thanks for reading!

See you next week…real good then.
Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on January 01/31/11, 09:39:27 PM
Well, I hear it's fine if you got the time…

The scurs called the early week snow on the money but were a little overzealous in their low temperature forecasts. Odd. No one complained that it was warmer than predicted. Wimps. This go round, starting with Wednesday, mostly sunny with a high of zero to 5 above and overnight lows falling to – 10. Partly cloudy on Thursday, warmer with highs of 15 and lows near 10. Partly cloudy Friday and Saturday, highs both days near 25 and lows of 15 – 20 with a slight chance of snow Friday. Mostly cloudy Sunday, highs around 25 and lows near 15 with a chance of snow. Mostly cloudy Monday, highs near 10 and lows around 0. Partly cloudy on Tuesday, with highs around 15 and lows near 0. The normal high for February 5th is 26 and the normal low is 6. The scurs figure they should be able to keep warm for the rest of the winter by incinerating old Fencelines columns in their high efficiency pot belly stove. Going green!

Daylight hours are becoming measurably longer it seems. As of February 4th we’ll be back to over 10 hours of daylight once again for the first time since November 6th of last year. As of February 3rd, the sun will also rise before 7:30 a.m. for the first time since December 3rd. All I know is it’s nice to actually be able to see what’s going on during chores as opposed to wondering where that patch of ice is and falling like a ton of bricks. Snowfall for January has been rather sparse relative to what we endured in December. At least it was cold however with much of the month trending below normal in the temperature department.

Frost in the ground is not deep but has been measured at about 10” at the SROC. There has been a lot of speculation about area flooding for this spring. Tough call at this point. If we see a slow gradual thaw or even one more rapid like last spring, chances are the problem may be minimal as we probably won’t see the frost depth become much deeper than it is. Over the winter, drainage systems have taken away much of the excess moisture from area fields. Many tile outlets and ditches have had water running in them since freeze up. The drier than usual January doesn’t hurt but the temperature and precip for the time prior to spring remains an intangible. We can only hope at some point it will be spring after what has suddenly become a long winter.

The alien has struck once again at the Mall for Men. No one is claiming responsibility for turning it loose although there are always plenty of suspects. This one apparently was particularly virulent, a quick hitter knocking yours truly out of action last Friday. The chills, aches, sneezing and coughing preoccupied much of my time. It did allow me to catch up on mind expanding programs like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bonanza” however. Oh, I learn all kinds of useful knowledge and information when I watch these “good old” shows. For instance, did you remember that Ben Cartwright’s 2nd wife was named Inger, and was Hoss’s mother? She was killed by the Indians at Ash Hollow. Of greatest interest to me was the fact she was a Swede. She did seem stubborn and one can easily surmise that those barrels strapped to the sides of the covered wagons were full of bland white food. No wonder the Indians were upset!

The edition of Outdoors on the Farm filmed at the ranch aired this last week on RFD TV. Apparently not many people saw it as I didn’t get a ration of guff about it. If some wish to see the program, it can be viewed at this address: http://www.agweb.com/outdoors_on_the_farm.aspx

Look for Episode 13 and be prepared for it to take awhile to download depending on your internet connection and computer speed. It didn’t make it off the editing room floor but we did manage to scratch out one drake mallard that day or I should say Chip did. His dog Remmy fished the duck out of the long grass making our lives much simpler. One thing I’d forgotten about was how breezy it had been. It’s always windy here seems like. Not a surprise that the windmill companies have set up some test sites in the area. And no, the skies are not always clear here at the ranch but it sure does seem that way when someone wants to shoot a duck hunting episode.

I’m convinced my cell phone and my confuser epitomize part of a larger conspiracy designed to waste people’s free time. The two of them recently decided it was time to update my Blackberry and while they were at it, monopolize the computer with warning boxes, tones, checklists, error messages, update boxes and download prompts asking me for more information all the while informing me it would take until the 12th of never to download. All of this while I’m busy trying to do something elsewhere on the confuser. Sounds great but it seems like every time after jumping through their hoops and barrels, nothing has improved as promised or makes my life any simpler. Usually quite the contrary. I have a sneaking suspicion someone is laughing their behind off, knowing full well they’ve annoyed and consumed lots of poor saps’ time. What’s even worse they got paid for it. I have an idea: Give me back my bag phone. It worked. I could get a signal even if I was on the moon. They could understand me and vice versa. Since the device was rather bulky, there was no temptation to drag the thing into the bathroom in a veiled attempt to multi-task. The pickup was a good place for it. Don’t you think too it was more fulfilling when social networking meant sitting down to converse with your little fat buddies over coffee and cookies? Well I sure do.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/08/11, 11:18:49 AM
Gimme all your lovin', all your hugs and kisses too…

The scurs had another passable forecasting week with snow remaining on the light side over the weekend. What about this forecast period? Starting Wednesday, mostly clear with a high near 5 and lows of – 10. Partly cloudy Thursday with highs of 10 and lows near 5 above. The start of a warming trend begins on Friday, partly cloudy with highs of 25 and lows of 15. Partly cloudy and warmer Saturday with highs of 30 - 35 and lows of 20 - 25. Sunday, partly cloudy and again warmer, highs of 35 - 40 and lows of 20 - 25. Partly to mostly sunny Monday and Tuesday, highs around 35 and lows of 20. The normal high for Lincoln’s Birthday is 28 and the normal low is 8. The scurs will be getting their sweeties something that surely will elicit hugs and kisses.

The sky at choretime still provides fascination in the early twilight. In the mornings Venus continues its role in the SE sky as a “Morning Star” and will continue in that capacity until mid-July. Of most interest on the evening of the 7th was the near conjunction of the planet Jupiter just below the crescent moon in the western sky. The only downside was that Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer was recently hospitalized and probably didn’t get to see it. All of us little fat buddies are wishing him a speedy recovery and holding a spot at the training table for him.

The small bird activity at the bird feeders has slowed to a snail’s pace. The goldfinches were rare visitors last week, leaving the feeders clear and open for the 2 chickadees to consume sunflower seeds at will. Sure there are a few blue jays and plenty of downies and hairies on the suet but it’s rare for us to see a lull in overall activity such as we have. The pheasants on the other hand continue to be regular customers. There have been more hens too the past week so that’s encouraging to see. They all appear healthy too. Their feathers are smooth and they are showing no signs of obvious stress. The forecast thaw will still offer a welcome respite from all the snow and cold we’ve become so used to though. Even us humans will probably enjoy it, if we have to, I guess.

The Packers pulled off a big Super Bowl win much to the chagrin of many MN sports fans. There are probably worse teams to have win it all if only they didn’t have to live right next door to us. For awhile they’ll probably be busy in their basements dismantling their old Brett Favre shrines and replacing them with new Aaron Rogers components so we may get a brief reprieve from all their boasting and bragging. Few things are more obnoxious to a Minnesotan than a Green Bay Packer or Iowa Hawkeye fan, especially when they win something.

Fortunately we have Ruby to entertain us. On Saturday the roof needed cleaning off once again so the Roof Razor was assembled to do battle. This device has been a lifesaver because it doesn’t require climbing on the roof and rather than pull the snow off, it slides off on a chunk of plastic tarp. Ruby of course thought the chunks of snow zipping down the slide were great fun to attempt to chase as were the shovelfuls of snow scooped in front of the entry. After we were finished she was doing her best imitation of a powdered donut.

Ruby does need to learn to slow down some however. For the 2nd time she’s run into the bottom of the ladder on the bulk bin at full throttle. It’s sharp and I managed to slice myself open on it when pulling some weeds. Ruby bounced off the thing about 3 weeks ago and we could feel a scab had formed. The wound was healing nicely until one day last week she must’ve decided it itched so she tore it open again. A trip to the vet revealed it wasn’t infected and shouldn’t require stitches but would require some antibiotic ointment as well as capsules twice a day. Right away she was on the defensive as they were difficult for her to swallow. Some skinless wieners we had on hand worked nicely when hollowed out with the pill tucked inside. The procedure wasn’t entirely foolproof however. With only a few capsules left in the prescription, one managed to squirt loose and land on the floor. This caused Ruby to look at it quizzically first then she daintily picked it up and swallowed it. Can’t ask for better

Shearing day is rapidly approaching with Lincoln’s Birthday having become a traditional date at the ranch over the years. The main focus ahead of shearing is to keep the animals dry. I’ve never understood how some producers seem to ignore this major point. You know the shearer is coming, you know it’s likely to snow so it’s always a good idea to keep the animals bedded and able to get dried off as much as possible before that time. For what ever reason, some seem to think the shearer won’t mind shearing wet sheep. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shearing is tough enough without adding more frustration to the experience and wet wool is a no-no when it’s being sold to the mills. Wool is finally worth some money too so one would think putting the best product into the system would be a producer's top priority. Some people’s kids…

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/14/11, 05:28:13 PM
I just got paid today, got me a pocket full of change

The scurs were popular once again as the weather finally broke after some brutal cold in the middle of last week. What’s on tap for this session? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny becoming cloudy with a chance of fog and drizzle. High of 40 - 45 and a low of 35 – 40 . Mostly cloudy becoming partly cloudy on Thursday with a chance of drizzle and light rain. Highs around 45 - 50 with lows near 25. Mostly cloudy becoming partly cloudy on Friday with a chance of snow. Highs of 25 and lows of 5 - 10. Partly cloudy on Saturday with a chance of snow. Highs 20 – 25 and lows of 15 – 20. Mostly cloudy Sunday with a chance of snow. Highs near 30 and lows around 25. Mostly cloudy Monday with a chance of snow. Highs around 30 and lows near 20. Mostly sunny Tuesday with highs near 30 and lows around 20. The normal high for February 18th is 31 and the normal low is 11. The scurs cannot tell a lie; it’s still too early for it to be spring just yet.

February 18th ushers in another Full Moon, this one know as the Full Snow Moon and by some of the Indian tribes of the northeast the Full Hunger Moon as the deep snow often made hunting difficult. This doesn’t seem to be a problem at the Mall for Men since the Girl Scout cookies arrived and not a moment too soon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Full Sucker Moon for the suckers that were running in the rivers and streams. The Sioux called this The Raccoon Moon for the raccoons that often woke up for a stroll around during thaws such as the one we experienced. They also knew this as the Moon of Dark Red Calves as the buffalo calf coats became almost reddish in color late in their first year from the weathering.

Quite a contrast in weather this past week. On Tuesday February 8th at the ranch, we recorded a morning low of – 15 on both the digital and official Edna thermometers. On Sunday the 13th, we recorded a high temp of 45. Water began to pond here and there already and some of the hilltops were becoming bare. The drone of snowmobiles was heard over the weekend as the days of decent snow for them may be numbered. Fret not however. It’s still February, this warm spell will not last and who knows what March will hold. Chances are it won’t be as dry as what we experienced in 2010 when we recorded only a trace of snow at the ranch.

Last weeks cold weather did have its benefits. The fruit fly population at the Mall for Men was getting out of hand, especially in the garbage cans holding the pop cans and coffee grounds. When it didn’t get above zero on Wednesday, it presented a perfect opportunity to take the waste containers outside and pop the lids off. Oddly enough at those temperatures the fruit flies just nicely make it up above the rim then suddenly plummet back to earth. Leaving the crushed aluminum cans outside overnight seems to reduce their numbers significantly without the use of pesticides. Unfortunately it’s a little tough to do that in July unless of course we experience slightly more extreme climate change.

Friday morning while shaving I spied something running across the yard in the reflection of the window in the mirror. Without my spectacles on it wasn’t east to tell just what it was but given the numbers, pheasants were a good guess. Once I could put them on it confirmed the pheasants were on their way across the backyard to their feeder. Hopefully the thaw will allow more of the fields to open up so they’ll be able to get at whatever food is available. There were a few goldfinches back again last week and our resident chickadees continue their loyal patronage at the feeders. The woodpeckers stay busy on the suet although those icky starlings are back once again. In between ewes lambing or any other time my trigger finger itches, their population needs a good thinning.

Shearing is in the books for another year. Wool’s a better price than it’s been for a long time, about $.40/lb., but still no big money maker. It was about the perfect weekend to do it from a weather standpoint though with highs in the low 30’s on Saturday. We were fortunate the neighborhood shearer had enlisted the help of a good sheep catcher. Even though he’d had no prior introduction to Cheviots, he was a gamer, admitting they were tough for their size and kept him on guard with their quickness. All I know is with him there, it allowed us to haul the wool away, give injections and delouse the ewes while the shearer kept on shearing. Of course it isn’t all pure drudgery. There is always an exchange of information concerning those inside as well as some outside of the sheep raising clan. While the shearing equipment and shearers may have changed over the years, that part remains the same.

The process went about as well as could’ve been expected. We hammered through the first group by 11:15 and found the one we’d been looking for shortly after 1 p.m. Not bad considering we had to set up and start over again in the other barn. The ewes spent much of their time outside after being peeled down. They looked nice and appeared to be in about the right condition so hopefully there are few problems lambing. Just like in the good old days, when we were finished we shed our outdoor clothes and went inside to wash up. The aroma of the hot food Mrs. Cheviot had prepared was the first thing to hit us when we opened the door. It smelled absolutely heavenly. Everyone had worked up an appetite and eating was definitely the next item on the agenda. After our company departed, it was time to enjoy a break, some basketball and take a well deserved nap. Mission accomplished, once again.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on February 02/22/11, 01:27:38 PM
Out on the prairie where the winds blow long and hard

The scurs were correct when saying it was too early for spring just yet, at least in MN. What’s their take on the upcoming week? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of snow. Highs of 35 and lows of 15 - 20. Thursday, partly cloudy and colder with a chance of snow again in the evening. Highs of 20 - 25 and lows of 10 - 15. Mostly cloudy Friday with a chance of snow. Highs near 20 with lows of 5 - 10. Cloudy on Saturday with a continued chance of snow. Highs of 15 - 20 and lows around 5 above. Sunday, cloudy and slightly warmer with a chance of snow in the evening. Highs of 20 and lows of 5 – 10. Mostly cloudy on Monday with a chance of snow. Highs near 20 with lows of 10 - 15. Cloudy on Tuesday March 1st with a continued chance of snow. Highs near 25 and lows dropping to 15. The normal high for March 1st is 35 and the normal low is 15. The scurs will be selling sticks, coal and carrots as part of their new money making venture: Snowman kits. Just add snow, something that doesn’t appear to be difficult to find in the near term.

At least we’re making some progress in the daylight department. One can actually see during chores now and with good reason. February 24th, the sun will rise before 7 a.m. On the 27th, we will see the sun set after 6 p.m. On the 26th, we will experience over 11 hours of daylight for the first time since mid-October. Now if we could work on this snow and cold thing a little more we just might have something.

Last week’s thaw was certainly a welcome break after all the miserable cold we’ve experienced. Small trees around the yard that had been buried in the snow all winter suddenly reappeared. Fields opened up again and a good portion of the snow melted, helping to reduce the chances that it would be a factor in spring flooding. Ponds such as the one at the ranch were once again covered with water. What a shock when we were suddenly dumped on again Sunday morning during the “thundersnow”. Accumulations were rapid and at the ranch between about 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. we received somewhere in the neighborhood of 6” of wet, heavy snow. For the day the accumulation was about 8” and with roughly 3 more inches the next day for laughs, right around 11”. And to make matters worse, the prairie wind continued to blow, negating most of my snow removal efforts. Coincidentally back in 2009, I wrote about a thundersnow event that occurred locally in late February and even more coincidentally, mentioned seeing geese the day prior to the snowfall event. The night prior to the most recent thundersnow, we heard Canada geese flying over in the dark as we made our way from the barn back to the house after chores. Probably the same geese.

The wildlife has been more evident since the weather turned ugly again. The pheasants became orbiting entities around the farmyard during the thaw and left the feeder largely untouched for several days. Monday they were back at the feeder in numbers again. There were around 30 counted when I was moving snow on Monday morning. More hens again so there is some positive to what we’re seeing. The ice from Sunday’s weather appeared to have affected some of the rooster tails but otherwise they were in good shape. During the thaw, there were a number of horned larks spotted along the edges of the road. Always nice to see them even though they normally seem to show up this time of year and the weather turns lousy again. Some nuthatches are back again after missing in action for a month or so. The fox squirrels at the ranch have been less active but are staying out later in the day now. One was still at the ear corn feeder at 5 p.m. before calling it a day. At the Mall for Men a loud, familiar “boom!” was heard out back shortly before 5, something that generally means a transformer has blown, again. Instead, Red found a gray squirrel that had tried to imitate a fuse, complete with the burned fur down one side of its body to prove it.

Now that the weather has decided to be winter once again, the lambs have been coming in fast and furious. In a matter of 5 days, we lambed out nearly 1/3 of the ewes. The biggest issue has been keeping them dry, what with the bred ewes going outside to get their hay and grain, then coming back inside to shake off the heavy, wet snow. Fortunately we got a load of straw on Saturday so that part of the equation has been solved. During the straw loading process, several cars drove up at the Dubya’s containing female occupants. Those of us who were loading said straw decided it was a good time to hide in the barn a while longer as surely nothing good could come from such an event.

Ruby enjoyed the thaw especially all the mud. True to form like her predecessor Gus, it is never a good idea to go around a puddle when you go straight through them at full speed. As luck would have it, the puddles are all frozen again so at least we know what we’re up against. Inside, Ruby has been adding that special touch Border Collies are capable of. The Westminster Dog Show in HD set her off when it appeared one of the dogs was going to jump right out of the screen. Barking and growling she nearly launched herself at the tube until we simmered her down and convinced her that it wasn’t real. Somehow, she remained unconvinced. We were watching Bonanza a few days later and when the intro started playing with, Ben, Hoss, Adam and Little Joe all riding across the range towards the camera, Ruby was sure there were people on horses riding straight at her through a window. Guess Ruby must be more of a Gunsmoke fan.

See you next week…real good then.


Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/01/11, 10:32:00 AM
They're wearing steel that's bright and true…

Looks like the scurs were thinking snow and aside from the Monday and Tuesday being nicer than they forecast, they were pretty much on task. This week’s fare? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs of 15 - 20 and lows of 10 - 15. Cloudy on Thursday, warmer with a good chance of snow. Highs of 35 and lows of 25 - 30. Mostly cloudy Friday with a chance of some lingering snow in the morning. Highs around 35 and lows of 15 – 20. Cooler on Saturday, with highs near 25 and lows near 10. Cloudy on Sunday with highs near 30 and lows near 15. Monday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of snow. Highs of 25 - 30 and lows around 15. Mostly cloudy Tuesday with a chance of snow. Highs of 25 and lows around 10. The normal high for March 5th is 36 and the normal low is 17. The scurs are readying their kites for the windy month that is March.

March always comes in like a lamb at the ranch but what does the weather sound like for the month? Some are calling for up to 80” of snow, something that while possible, is still a stretch considering we haven’t seen 80” of snow yet for the season in most locations. Looking at the NOAA forecasts for the month there is no indication as of the February 28th that above normal precip is predicted. There is an even chance of above or below normal precip and better than normal odds of below normal temps for March. Not exactly what we want to hear after getting a taste of spring back in February. For those facing the possibility of flooding however, a slower, gradual release of the water contained in the snowpack would be in their favor. Chances are though that we will see some snow this March. Looking back at the records at the ranch for last March, only 1 day saw snowfall recorded and that was only a trace. Odds of that happening 2 years in a row would seem to be extremely remote.

I must like moving snow because I sure seem to do it a lot. Not that it’s horrible work it’s just the principle of the thing. The steel chains the tractor wears in the winter are bright and shiny from all the use after starting out in their typical rusty condition. The snow that fell last week at the ranch amounted to about 14” although that’s a little deceiving. The 8” during the thundersnow was wet and sticky while Monday’s contribution was light and fluffy. The snow that fell all day on Saturday and part of the night was like cotton candy and contained very little moisture. Very fortunate that there was no wind following that or there would’ve been snow in every nook and cranny imaginable. As it was, much of the snow melted off the main roadways so plowing was averted on many county roads until Monday morning. It still managed to whiten and brighten the landscape after seeing some black soil starting to poke through. Keep telling yourself it will be spring, someday.

Lambing blew by the halfway point at the ranch this past Saturday and is nearing two-thirds done. It’s been nearly a full time job trying to keep up with them as the lambing barn will only hold about 10 pens before we have to climb over panels in order to feed. That bites so moving ewes and lambs to the loafing area in the main barn has been necessitated every few days. This is one of the areas where Gus seemed to help. Ruby hasn’t been allowed to show what she can do in that department yet but her day will come. Right now she’s more obsessed with playing with and staring at the water coming out of the end of the hose. Not sure what value that talent might have other than entertainment.

The goldfinches return! After missing in action much of the last month they suddenly appeared in numbers once again. They’re not as faithful as the chickadees who appear to be staying overnight in one of the bluebird houses near the yard. Speaking of overnight, the pheasants are hanging around now until about 5:45 p.m. and then decide it’s time to find their roosting perch for the evening. Some will sail the less than quarter mile distance to neighbor David’s thick spruce and some go on a dead run to the same spot. Others choose to stay in the Austrian pines here about the time we’re heading out to do evening chores.

At the Mall for Men we continue in our quest of wisdom and knowledge. Actually it probably bears a closer resemblance to a rural version of TMZ with cookies than anything. No discussion of the Oscars or Charlie Sheen’s problems unlike the constant prattle of the mainstream media though. We actually discuss the issues of the day. Take healthcare for example. We were curious about the costs of some medical procedures and what impact they might have on one’s future well being. Only bad thing being male, none of us could ever have the procedure! Just the way we are, always showing concern and looking out for others.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/08/11, 10:52:51 AM
Move over old dog cause a new dog's movin' in…

As luck would have it, the snowfall the scurs predicted last week was on the scant side. Oddly no complaints from anyone. What’s this week hold for snow chances? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with snow likely. Highs of 30 and lows of 15 – 20. Partly cloudy on Thursday, highs near 30 and lows of 15 – 20. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy on Friday with a chance of a rain/snow/sleet mix during the day, becoming all snow overnight. Highs around 40 and lows of 20 – 25. Partly cloudy on Saturday with a slight chance of snow. Highs of 25 – 30 and lows around 10. Partly cloudy skies on Sunday with a chance of a snow/sleet mix overnight. Highs of 30 – 35 and lows near 30. Mostly cloudy on Monday with a continuing chance of a sleet/snow mix. Highs of 35 – 40 and lows of 25 – 30. Cloudy on Tuesday with a chance of a rain shower or two. Highs of 35 – 40 and lows around 30. The normal high for March 12th is 39 and the normal low is 20. The scurs will be emerging from their lair to set their clocks ahead one hour at precisely 2 a.m. on March 13th as per government mandate.

You knew it had to be coming and not a minute too soon. That lovely pain the rump known as Daylight Saving Time. Even the do-gooders who support the folly go so far as to correct you if you wrongly refer to it as Daylight Savings Time. They need to go lay by their dish. It’s no secret that we are a nation known for sleeping disorders and sleep deprivation. While the debate about whether or not the practice actually saves energy or not rages on, the evidence in studies continues to mount that heart attacks, suicides and traffic accidents increase sharply following the spring time change. There are also plenty of suggestions for dealing with DST to ease the potential problems with the transition. I have a thought: Rather than putting band-aids on a self-inflicted wound caused by allowing the government to play Russian roulette with our health, let’s leave the clock alone once we get it set one of these years. Think of all the lost time at work that would save, not to mention all the emergency room visits that would be averted when people fall of their chairs while changing their clocks. It would be one way to cut health care costs and no one would lose sleep over it.

An interesting week of keeping an eye on the birds. There was a pair of bald eagles circling high above St. Olaf Lake last Thursday and that was also the morning the first robin was appeared at the ranch. Horned larks continue to be noted along the edges of roads and the pheasants are still parading around the yard. It won’t be too long and we’ll see the roosters in their full breeding plumage, something that is a sight to behold in the bright early morning sun.

It was a good weekend to take advantage of some of the weather conditions and get things tidied up a bit at the ranch. One of the first orders of business was to get the gravity box of screenings back into the slot where it belonged in the barn. After leaving it out for a couple days the beeswings had managed to swirl around the yard, giving it a pinkish hue. so it had taken up temporary residence where the tractor usually sits. Luckily the ground was frozen out front so it made it relatively easy to bend the wagon around the corned with the skid steer. Between tasks of course there were bottle lambs to feed and a quick trip to procure supplies at the store where you go to the bathroom in the big orange-roofed silo.

The second task consisted of getting the little old Electric flare box out and heading north to get some avena sativa. It first of course needed the tarp removed, the tires pumped up and to be properly attired with a SMV sign so the nice policeman wouldn’t give me a ticket. Over the years one forgets how slow one has to drive with one of these little pieces of now ancient farm equipment in order to keep them from whipping. Following an uneventful trip and a great visit with the supplier, the trip back home came off without a hitch. Upon backing the wagon back where it belonged, it was time to pen up another ewe that had lambed. Shortly after that it was choretime again and I was shot. The next day it was time to take advantage of the snow piles and prune the apple trees. The snow was so deep there was no need for a ladder and best of all, no need for the pole saw. I could stand on the snow and reach the sapwood needing trimming with the loppers! When not eating sheep afterbirth, Ruby played with the sticks as they fell to the ground. Luckily there were only 4 trees in need of pruning and with the wind howling out of the east, it was good to be done.

Lambing is thundering down the home stretch. We’re a tad over 80% done with only 7 ewes left to lamb. Ruby got her wish to help this past week and help she did. We move ewes and lambs from the lambing barn to the main barn as space for lambing pens or jugs as they’re commonly called is limited. Once off to a good start, both the lambs and ewes do better if they’re allowed more space and are in a more social environment. When we move the ewes with lambs, we take the lamb or lambs and the ewe will generally follow based on their lamb’s scent. It helps however to have someone, human or canine tailing this miniature exodus. That’s where Ruby caught on almost immediately the first night we allowed her to assist. Mrs. Cheviot and I each grabbed one of the two twin lambs and we moved down the hill with the ewe following us. We wondered where Ruby was and looking behind us, there she was on the ewe’s tail in the little walking crouch that Border Collies are noted for. Just as pleasing was the fact she stayed on the ewe all the way up the alleyway to the main pen, keeping the ewe from doubling back. The best part though was that none of this had to be taught, it was pure instinct. Oh sure, there are things this dog needs to learn but one certainly had to be proud of her accomplishment that night. I know she was as she wiggled and whined with delight as we heaped on the praise.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/16/11, 08:56:39 AM
And spring became the summer…

The scurs were overly pessimistic about last week’s forecast although there was snow most days it was forecast except Monday. Are we headed toward spring this week? The scurs tell all. Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny becoming cloudy overnight with a chance of showers. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows around 40. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Highs once again of 50 – 55 and lows of 25 – 30. Partly cloudy on Friday and cooler. Highs around 45 and lows of 25 – 30. Partly cloudy on Saturday becoming cloudy overnight with a chance of showers. Highs near 50 with lows near 35. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a chance of showers. Highs near 50 and lows around 35. Cloudy on Monday with a chance of rain. Highs 45 – 50 and lows near 25. Partly cloudy for Tuesday and cooler. Highs of 40 – 45 with lows near 20. The normal high for St. Patty’s Day is 41 and the normal low is 22. The scurs will be seeing leprechauns after consuming mass quantities of green malted barley beverages.

The Full Moon is upon us on the 19th. This is known as the Full Worm Moon as the worms come to the soil surface, leaving their castings while enriching Mother Earth. It is also commonly known as the Full Sap Moon and the Full Lenten Moon, the last full moon of the winter. This was also known as the Snow Crust Moon by the Ojibwe as the snow that was thawed during the day became crusted and frozen at night. The Sioux called it the Moon When Buffalo Drop Their Calves, same as many farmers in the area. At the ranch we know it as the moon when Border Collies Are Caked with Mud.

Up to this point Old Man Winter has done his level best to make sure the landscape is white. After giving us a thaw on Friday, the weather was anything but spring-like for much of the weekend. Water buckets in the lambing barn froze and there were times on Saturday one would’ve sworn it was January with the snow was blowing so hard that visibility was greatly reduced in areas. On the way to Owatonna there were times I wondered if it was a wise decision to attempt the journey. By the time I returned however, the snow squalls had subsided and travel was safe once again. Such is March. It may be like a lamb one day but the next day the lamb grows fangs and takes a hunk out of your behind. Even though the weather is supposed to warm up this next week, most of us have lived through enough March snowstorms to know that just about anything goes this month in the precip department.

There are some glimmers of hope though. On the 18th we are back over 12 hours of daylight once again. Spring officially begins on March 20th with the vernal equinox occurring on March 20th. This of course means lots of irate chickens when their eggs all stand on end. In the house at the ranch, the ladybugs are also coming to life although their numbers appear to be diminished over some years. Other signs outside this past Monday that indicate we are about to see some change include a red-winged blackbird as well as more robins. There have also been more hen pheasants showing up and that’s a good sign. The snow piles are shrinking and unless something drastic changes in the forecast, the fields should become bare once again as they basically were during the thaw back in February. The horned larks will appreciate that on their short grass nesting area. Tough to hatch eggs on top of the snow.

The ewes are nearly done lambing. There are only a couple left to lamb now and the crop has been bountiful. The loafing barn is at capacity and we need the weather to melt the snow so the fence can be charged again. Some of the lambs that were born a month ago are about 25 lbs. already so they really can use the exercise. The snowmelt thus far has created a huge lake in front of the barn so that needs to melt a channel through the snow banks. Otherwise Ruby gets extra filthy especially when her first official act each night at choretime creates a rooster tail of water behind her as she zooms into the barn.

The seeds have been ordered for the garden once again before the selection gets picked over. It’s always a great little surprise to find that package in the mailbox partially because it covers up all the bills. In the early garden, we’re trying several varieties of snap peas this year. The prairie winds always seem to raise heck with some of the taller types, defeating the purpose of putting up trellises for them to climb on. In the late garden department, we’re always heavy on the vine crops as some of the varieties we like are tough to find without ordering through a catalog. Thanks to Betsy’s Dad’s cousin, we’re going to give the winter radishes a whirl this year. They were welcome table fare about the time much of the garden produce was done for the season last fall. Kindled thoughts of what to look forward to in the next garden.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/22/11, 09:57:18 AM
And it makes me wonder

The scurs had it goin’ on again last week although the rain predicted for Monday took a day off until Tuesday. What’s in store for this go round? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a chance of rain and snow. Highs of 35 and lows around 20. Partly cloudy Thursday and Friday with highs of 30 – 35 and lows of 20. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy on Saturday with a chance of rain changing to snow. Highs of 35 and lows around 20. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a slight chance of snow. Highs once again of 35 and lows near 25. Monday, partly cloudy with a high around 40 and lows of 30. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with another possible round of a rain/snow mix. Highs around 35 and lows near 25. The normal high for March 26th is 46 and the normal low is 26. The scurs will be patching their 5-buckle overshoes to prepare for whatever the weather throws at us.

Spring finally showed its face last week and as predicted the fields largely cleared once again. Local rivers and streams are up yet perhaps not as much as they might’ve been had we not experienced the thaw back in February. The snow that’s left is in the fencelines and around building sites. Frost depth was quite variable around the yard at the ranch already on Friday. Had wondered why the birds had taken a shine to the south facing slope south of the house. Took the divining rod out to check and sure enough, the frost was out there! Around the rest of the yard it was more variable, ranging from 2” – 4” down on the north facing slopes yet. After Sunday’s .28” rain, it was down to 4” – 6” deep. It won’t be long now and it will leave. The frost is officially out at the SROC in Waseca as of this past Monday. One thing that is a little curious is the amount of ice yet on some of the small, shallow wetlands such as ours. In the February thaw, some of those same wetlands were full of water yet largely free of ice.

What a week of wondering for seeing signs of spring in the bird department! Killdeers were present on Tuesday the 15th shortly after chores were done. So were flocks of grackles winging their way north to points unknown. Wonder where they all wind up? While the frost is out of the hillside at home, there apparently aren’t many earthworms yet with the cool temperatures. The crabapples were picked clean in a matter of a couple days by the robins and red-winged blackbirds. Wonder why they like the one tree so much better than the other one? Juncos appeared in large numbers, making me wonder if we weren’t seeing them begin moving through to the north. House finches and chipping sparrows were back in force, making me wonder if perhaps they are the summer residents at the ranch. Bald eagles have been common this spring east of Bugtussle with some reporting numbers as high as 18. There were 2 right down the road from the ranch feasting on a road kill deer left over from January. Made me wonder if they’d pick off a small lamb given the opportunity. Good thing perhaps that the snow hasn’t melted off the fence. Over the weekend rooster pheasants were being seen in full breeding plumage, their red wattles making them easy to pick out from a brown background. Wonder if the rooster who has set up shop on the edge of the yard is one of Little Jerry’s grandsons? Sandhill cranes were in the neighborhood too. They were heard on Saturday morning but their dull gray color made seeing them against a drab landscape difficult. Sunday night they were seen on the wing, setting down somewhere near the wetland and continuing their telltale call. Makes me wonder if they were the same two that were seen near the pond last fall. Monday afternoon on the way home to bottle lamb patrol, 2 great blue herons were spotted over the golf course. Made me wonder where they’d go if the weather took the sudden turn for the worse forecast.

Took a nature walk to see how the trees and shrubs around the place had survived the winter. There was surprisingly little rabbit damage this time around and even the black chokeberries escaped relatively unscathed. While the arborvitae had been singed a little, there were only two out of the new planting that needed to be replaced. Everything else survived very well. Time will tell on the peach tree. Some new crabapples are on the slate for this spring and that’s good news after seeing how many birds used them over the course of winter and early spring, including the pheasants.

It is good to look around the yard and see the shrunken snow banks under the apple trees that were pruned a few weeks ago. There’s no way they could be pruned without a ladder and pole saw now. Seeing a little green grass reminds me that it won’t be long or at least not long enough and the lawnmower will have to be dealt with. Gazing at it in the garage the other day it appeared to be listing to one side. Indeed it was. One of the rear tires had decided to go flat as a pancake over the course of the winter. Another project to add to an already overloaded fixit schedule.

Doing it all the other day while muttering epithets under my breath, it amazes me how everyone, including my little fat buddies suddenly desert me when I utter the words “unload hay”. About the only help I got was from Ruby and it’s pretty hard to qualify that as help. Maybe she will be more help with the straw that needs to be hauled to sop up some of the weather in store for us. I doubt it. It’s much more fun to get as wet and muddy as possible before going to the house. She’s pretty easy to clean up though. Let her dry off for a little bit first, tell her to jump in the tub which she does without hesitation and rinse her off with the handheld shower while she stands there. This time of year many Moms would probably like to know my secret for use on their kids. All I can say is speak softly but firmly, reward them with lots of praise when they stand still for you, towel them off well, then give ‘em a hug and a dog biscuit when you’re done. Works for me.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on March 03/28/11, 05:00:49 PM
That's the way it oughtta be

The scurs called for a cool week and a cool week we received. Will it rebound this week and be spring again? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs of 40 – 45 and lows dropping to 25 - 30. Thursday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Highs of 40 – 45 and lows of 35. Mostly cloudy becoming partly cloudy on Friday with a chance of morning showers. Highs near 45 and lows around 30. Saturday, mostly clear. Highs around 50 and lows of 35. Cloudy on Sunday with a chance of showers. Highs of 45 and lows of 35. Cloudy on Monday with a chance of rain. Highs near 45 and lows around 25. Mostly cloudy Tuesday with a chance of more showers. Highs of 45 – 50 and lows . The normal high for April 1st is 50 and the normal low is 28. The sun will rise before 7 a.m. for the first time since February 24th. At this rate the scurs think it will surely be spring by May or possibly June. No foolin’.

Last week could only be characterized as a real weather downer. Just when it looked like we were suddenly playing with the lead, temperatures decided to behave more like the last week in February. High winds and cold rain followed by snow as a coup de grace nearly sent some over the edge. At the ranch, it was cause to put the tank heaters back in the water tanks, to smash ice out of the water buckets and drain the garden hose after each use. The long handled underwear were dug out of mothballs as was the heavy chore coat. It was a bit of a double edged sword in some respects though. It did allow for some seed deliveries on the frozen yards and made spreading a few loads of manure possible until the fields got too greasy. Oh it can still be spread when it’s greasy but the resulting mud on the road raises the ire of motorists and can be a safety hazard when it becomes too thick. The water in the rivers and streams has been metered somewhat by the overnight freezing and thawing. Some of the predictions of record flooding have largely been averted. March precip has also run below last year in this area so that hasn’t hurt.

There were some positives at the ranch however. The frozen ground keeps Ruby much cleaner and for that we can be thankful. She doesn’t like having to stay inside when it’s muddy especially when it’s time to feed the bottle lambs. Speaking of that, they are starting to get into the creep feed as evidenced by their occasional absence at bottle time. The end of that business is coming nearer to a close. Along those same lines, after what seemed an eternity we found the lamb we were looking for: The last one born for the year. Last Friday morning there she was, no more than an hour old with the ewe licking her off. Put mother and daughter in a pen, got the ewe a bucket of warm water then went off to do the chores in the other barn. When returning with feed for the new mom, the lamb was already up nursing. That’s the way it ought to be.

On the bird front, a large contingent of goldfinches has settled in. Only a few are starting to show some yellow color again but all are showing signs of being hungry. It had been a while since the thistle feeders had been filled so that suddenly needed to be done. With the snow largely gone, the pheasants have dispersed across the landscape although there is one large rooster who appears to have staked a claim to the brushy area on the edge of the yard. Sunday afternoon he pecked at the corn and other goodies then sunned himself apparently waiting for Miss Right to show up. Monday morning he was up bright and early, drumming and crowing before sunrise. That close to the house the drumming almost rattles the windows. Some of the sandhill cranes must’ve decided the water was too hard to wade in. 6 of them were heading back south on Friday morning. Swans were spotted Saturday lumbering along after I’d procured some straw from the Dubya’s . There are some areas where there is deeper open water so one can bet they were heading towards it. The swans, not the Dubya’s. While at the Dubya’s however, we determined that the Le Sueur River Lutheran church steeple at 125’ was taller than their silo. The swans were flying higher than that.

At the Mall for Men, after solving the world’s problems the little fat buddies have been busy tackling local issues. Odd that at an establishment known only for the truth would train it’s thoughts on the wind. Generally wind is considered Al Batt’s turf, hence the reason most of those windmills were built in his backyard. The flashing lights on those windmills have been of particular interest to our panel of experts. There have been instances when those of us of who get up in the middle of the night to make sure they’re blinking have noticed they haven’t been. Some nights the white strobe lights were on and that prompted even more discussion and speculation. Apparently there were some problems that arose from an ice storm and that had the lights all out of kilter. Now we’re focusing our attention on the 2 small windmills east of town, trying to determine why the blades are sitting still. Conclusion? It’s because they’re not turning.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/05/11, 02:17:05 PM
It's been a long time since I did the stroll

The scurs did well in the near term and not so well in the longer term last week. Can they make amends with their latest prognostications? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs around 55 and lows near 35. Thursday, cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs of 45 and lows of 35. Mostly cloudy on Friday with a chance of rain developing by evening. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows of 35 – 40. Cloudy on Saturday with an increasing chance of showers. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows of 35 – 40. Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers once again for Sunday. Cooler with highs of 45 – 50 and lows near 40. Mostly cloudy for Monday with a chance of thunderstorms. Highs 0f 45 – 50 and lows near 30. Cool with a wintery mix for Tuesday. Highs 40 – 45 and lows around 40. The normal high for April 10th is 55 and the normal low is 32. We will experience 13 hours of daylight on the 6th, the first time since early last September. The scurs will be hoping the forecast April showers will not produce snowmen.

The weather was on everyone’s mind last week. With the ground freezing in the mornings, spring was approaching ever so slowly. With Saturday’s warmth, one could sense the pace picking up as temperatures made it into the 50’s. Just seeing the number of tractors pulling farm implements by the ranch was an indication that people were starting to get anxious. We were fortunate that March precipitation was relatively light. At the ranch we officially measured 1.16” which isn’t all that much. So far in April as of this writing, we’ve only accumulated another .2” so the drier trend is continuing. The only problem has been that until Sunday, we hadn’t hit 60 degrees. Cloudy weather has been a hallmark of the spring thus far further slowing drying. Last year at this time small grain was seeded and field conditions had allowed for fertilizer applications. The ice was off St. Olaf Lake the end of March and is not off as of April 4th. Many snow banks remaining in the fencelines and in the groves as well. Not to worry however. Given some breezy, sunny, warm days and the spring could turn on a dime. The only problem is getting it cooperate.

The weekend made me antsy that’s for sure. I got tired of waiting for the snow banks on top of the electric fence in a couple spots to melt so I dug it out with the scoop shovel. Afterwards it was time to check the fence to see how winter had ravaged it once again. About this time Ruby decided to disobey a key command in her operating system so as we went strolling along fixing the fence, she was in learning mode. By the time we finished we came to an understanding. Charging the fence once confident that all the wires are back on the insulators and the wires are up off the ground is a little like the scene when Clark Griswold plugs in the Christmas lights: It usually doesn’t work the first time you plug it in.

Oddly enough it did work this time so the next step was to let the ewes with lambs out for the first time this spring. Removing the wire holding the overhead door down caused quite a din as they were convinced they were going to be fed. When the door opened up it was mass pandemonium as about 90 head surged out into the afternoon sunshine. Soon the lambs began to run and the ewes kicked up their heels as well. It was definitely a moment we had been anticipating for far too long. Of course with 70 degree temperatures Sunday all the snow melted making me think I should’ve shoveled that fence out back in January.

There have been some positive signs that spring is edging closer. Last Thursday evening while coming in from chores there were over 50 swans in various small groups of a dozen to 20 or so flying in formation to the northwest. A meadowlark was heard Saturday morning after getting the hay unloaded. As we made our way around the fence on Saturday afternoon one could make out the slow, faint croaking of one western chorus frog down near the pond. Over half the pond surface was still occupied by ice so that must’ve been one chilly little frog. 2 days later however and all the ice was gone so the first warm night, the sound from the pond should be deafening. The juncos are everywhere. It seems there’s one in or under just about every brush pile, automobile, grill or any other place they could possibly hide. Some of those brush piles need to see a match before much longer but will wait until the juncos are done with them first. Male robins are fighting for territory. Watched a couple of them tangling in the yard while grilling one evening. Obviously hadn’t heard the “plenty of fish in the sea” line yet.

At the Mall for Men, the little fat buddies were the beneficiaries of a colossal error. When Mrs. Cheviot got a birthday cake to share last week, the bakery where she purchased it misunderstood her order. The little fat buddies wound up eating the better part of a whole sheet cake. It was musing watching a group of a dozen grown men sitting around a table peering at the cake like a flock of vultures. Sure, it was torture and took a couple days but somehow they managed to struggle through it. Quite a feat considering one of the best eating little fat buddies was away on business in Atlanta. Luckily it was pretty good cake and the only complaint was there was no ice cream to go with it. Oh well, sometimes we must sacrifice.

See you next week…real good then.

Title: Re: Fencelines
Post by: Dotch on April 04/12/11, 10:16:34 AM
Ain't no change in the weather, ain't no changes in me

The scurs have had a hard time predicting the warm weekend temperature