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Author Topic: Fencelines  (Read 194551 times)

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Online mike89

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I enjoy his stories to LPS, almost as much as his maneuvers to escape Mrs Cheviots advances. :sleazy: :rotflmao:

 But he never writes about it here!!🤔 :scratch: :rotflmao:

yuppers!!    :happy1: :happy1:
a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work!!

Offline Dotch

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They choose the path where no-one goes

A wild week of weather has the scurs and their Weather Eye blown away. Will Old Man Winter leave us toys or a switch in our stocking for Christmas? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Festivus Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the low 30’s. Mostly cloudy on Christmas Eve Day with a slight chance of rain and snow. Highs in the upper 30’s with lows in the mid-teens. Christmas Day, mostly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the upper teens. Partly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of evening snow. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the mid-teens. Monday, partly sunny with a slight chance of daytime snow. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the low teens. Partly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the low 20’s and lows in the low teens. On Christmas Day we are already gaining daylight at the rate of 16 seconds per day and the rate increases increasingly. We’ve also gained 41 seconds of daylight since the winter solstice on the 21st. The normal high for Christmas Day is 24 and the normal low is 9. The scurs long awaited Christmas shopping procrastination is over. A donation has been made to the Human Fund in the name of everyone at The Star Eagle. Happy Festivus!

What a bizarre stretch of weather, culminating with last week’s tornado touchdown in Hartland Wednesday evening. That it was preceded only a few days prior by Friday’s snowstorm which was almost completely gone when the thunderstorm arrived makes it even more bizarre. Hartland bore the brunt of it locally with the early evening thunderstorm but later evening the sustained winds in the 40+ mph range gusting to over 60 were enough for everyone. If there was a silver lining to all this, it was most of the snow melt went into the ground when it thawed. The rainfall followed so in most places, between the two, we gained another possibly precious inch of moisture in our topsoil. There was essentially no runoff. Fields remain relatively free from snow making it possible for late season tiling operations to continue. Watching one such operation just down the road from the ranch. It’s been working amazingly well.

No storm damage per se at the ranch. About the only thing that happened was all the dead sticks and branches were pruned from the trees. Given the strength and duration of the wind, I was surprised there weren’t trees down or at least something major to contend with. I’ve become more and more impressed with the protection our windbreak has provided as it matures. Especially when winds are westerly, it really isn’t bad in the yard. The sheep are a good barometer of that. Cheviots, with their erect ear placed on top of their heads are not wind fans and usually find good places to get out of it. During most of the windstorm event, they were hanging out around the bale feeders in their lot, content to lounge around chewing their cuds.

The warmup melting the snow brought the change I’d been hoping for manure hauling. I was suddenly forced into snow removal mode before the snow hit on the 10th and was glad, I was ready for it. Now I had to change everything back to manure hauling mode. That meant unhooking the snow blower, hooking up to the spreader, taking the bucket off the skidsteer and putting the forks back on. I debated about taking the chains off the tractor. I really didn’t need them on without the snow, but I dread taking them off and putting them back on again. Since the hauling could be done close to the yard without going on the road, I punted on that one. Actually there was still some snow on the north side of the grove. I could run in that off the beaten path back to the yard to prevent some wear. Perhaps need to tighten the chains so they run true but driving on bare soil sure made the steel bright and shiny.

Loading and hauling was another story. Some years the manure loads relatively easily and spreads decently as well. I can’t say either was the case this time around. Getting the pack torn loose was a battle as the skidsteer frequently couldn’t lift the hunks it was biting off. Once a hunk was torn loose, pieces fell off on the way to the spreader. Before each load went to the field, the area around the spreader needed to be cleaned up with the pitchfork. Once the load made it to the field, regardless of how much effort I’d made breaking the hunks up, the beaters grabbed them and tossed the wads out the back intact rather than chewing them up some. At least the main barn got cleaned out but looks like I’ll owe the landowner a discing prior to his planting soybeans. At least the ram didn’t give me any grief moving him to a temporary pen. He moved back into his clean, freshly bedded pen just as easily. Not as dumb as he looks.

The backyard birds have been somewhat unpredictable at the ranch. Prior to the snow there was a frenzy out activity by all the regulars including the goldfinches. Once the storm went through and temperatures warmed the next week, only a smattering remained. The suet eaters have been consistent though. The woodpeckers often occupy three out of the four feeders. One of the casualties from the storm was the tray on an old tube feeder. It was one I’d resurrected to be used with a squirrel baffle. I picked it up after the storm and dusted it off. I put seed in it to see if it would still hold seed. It did so I hung it back up. Glad I did. The next morning a male cardinal was on it, picking the safflower out of the mix.

Ruby is in the holiday spirit. She’s eating lots of treats, watching TV and taking long winters naps. Last Friday, the Big Dubya stopped by to deliver our FFA fruit. Just in time as our fruit supply was dwindling with this year’s poor apple crop. Come to think of it, our orange crop wasn’t very good either. For lack of anything better on TV, a John Wayne movie was playing in the background complete with a stagecoach scene. We were busy catching up when suddenly there was growling emanating from the dog hole in the couch. Had someone pulled in the driveway? Nope, it just Ruby letting us know she still doesn’t like horses tearing around on her TV. Pretty sure if those horses were still alive the feeling would be mutual.

Merry Christmas…real good then.   
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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Now you swear and kick and beg us that you’re not a gambling man

When last we left our heroes, the scurs and vaunted Weather Eye were prepping for a reasonably mild dose of Christmas weather. Since then we’ve had a taste of real winter sans snow. Will Old Man Winter up the ante or is he not a gambling man? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with highs in the mid-single digits and lows around 10 below. Thursday, partly sunny with highs around zero and lows in the mid-teens below zero. Partly sunny on Friday with highs around 10 above and lows in the mid-single digits above zero. Saturday, mostly cloudy with highs in the upper 20’s and lows in the mid-single digits above zero. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs around 10 above and lows around 5 below. Monday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper teens and lows in the upper single digits above zero. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the low 20’s. We started gaining daylight at the rate of just over a minute per day as of the 4th. That’s also the first day with over 9 hours of daylight since December 7th.On January 7th we will have gained 10 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice. We’ll also start tacking on daylight noticeably in the morning, with the sun will rising at 7:47 a.m. CST. The normal high for January 7th is 22 and the normal low is 6. The Festivus pole safely stashed once ace again in the crawlspace, the scurs can focus on devouring the remaining trays of Christmas goodies. It’s a long pull until Valentine's Day.

December went out with some typical weather although the snow many were hoping for didn’t materialize until after the blessed holiday. Even then, it was a light dusting but enough to remind you it was in fact winter. We were for the month only slightly off the normal of 11.9” recorded at the SROC in Waseca. At the ranch we saw right at 11” for the month and in Bugtussle, slightly less at 10.6”. The liquid equivalent for December is typically 1.5” with 1.27” recorded at the ranch and 1.17” in Bugtussle proper. Much of that snow is gone, having melted and percolated into the upper few inches of soil. That isn’t always necessarily the case, but we’ll take it for the upcoming cropping year. NOAA’s one month outlook for this are shows better than even odds of below normal temps and even odds of above or below normal precipitation. The 3-month outlook gives us even odds of below normal temps and even odds of above or below normal precip. The area of slightly better than even chances for above normal precip lies just to our east. Will our dry pattern continue, or will we shift into more moisture later winter? Stay tuned.
 
The continual buzz is that soil conditions are dry out in the fields although I might beg to differ somewhat. I got the last five loads of manure hauled out of the lambing barn Christmas Eve Day. It was its usual knockdown, drag out fight, start to finish. Getting in the barn with a borrowed skidsteer without a cage is the first battle and once that’s accomplished the pace of the fighting becomes more rapid. Same issues as in the main barn with big chunks flying over the top of the beaters but at least they’re no longer in the barn. Surprisingly, this year there were no frozen spots in the corners of the building even though the weather had been cold enough. I’d left the chains on the tractor as I really hate putting them back on again, knowing full well they’ll be needed come next snowfall. That’s an automatic once the chains are removed.

Lucky thing I left them on too. The ground thawed Christmas Eve Day down a couple inches on black soil. Without the chains, I would’ve likely sat and spun on top of the slick frozen soil and mud. I could feel the wheels slipping and grabbing while making my way across the headlands to the main part of the field. As it was, the chains became packed full of mud quickly with numerous big hunks deposited in the yard. It froze everything solid again Christmas morning. Some of those hunks were up to 6” thick and became hard as a rock. Odds are running one through the snow blower without wrecking something were not good. I wasn’t about to take any chances. Christmas Day I was freezing my tail off scraping the frozen tundra up with the skidsteer and depositing it back in the field. Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.

More thoughts on gardening again as temperatures plummet and seed catalogs arrive. Time to plot strategy and finish up some of last year’s projects. I moved some of the canna bulbs into safer keeping in the unheated upstairs and crawlspace, right next to the Festivus pole. The yellow canna variety was in one of the boxes that went there as were the tubers from the four o’clocks. They appeared to be maintaining their integrity so far so packing them in cedar shavings inside a small box seemed prudent. I was tickled a few weeks ago when retired Pastor Charles had made a brief visit to inform me, he too was attempting to keep four o’clock tubers alive overwinter. Wasn’t aware that I had that kind of influence. Next thing you know we’ll have him raising sheep.

While I was grateful to Eli for giving us a break from publishing this past week, I knew eventually I’d have to hop back on the bicycle. I also knew this would be the start of the 20th year of writing this column. When LaVonne first asked about writing a column I thought she meant just one. Here we are many moons, three newspaper owners, nearly 1000 columns later and I’m still doing this. As I’ve mentioned before, sitting down to write is sometimes more difficult than others and other times words flow almost effortlessly. Sometimes there are enough goings on that they practically write themselves while others it’s three yards and a cloud of dust. Sometimes the columns I think are Pulitzer Prize material (j/k) go unnoticed and those I felt weren’t my best effort garner the most attention. Some things I’ll promise; I’ll always try my best to to be honest and not pretentious. I’ll call ‘em as I see ‘em. If you agree fine. If you don’t, that’s fine too. What you see is what you get.

See you next week…real good then.
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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People think I'm crazy

Thanks to the Weather Eye, the scurs bought stock in companies manufacturing long winter gatkes before the recent cold snap. Will Old Man Winter keep giving us the cold shoulder or will we experience his warm personality? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the low 30’s with lows in the upper teens. Thursday, partly sunny with a slight chance of snow by evening. Highs around 30 with lows in the upper teens. Mostly cloudy on Friday with a good chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the low teens. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 20’s and lows in the mid-single digits above zero. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with highs in the upper 20’s and lows in the upper single digits. Monday, partly sunny with a modest chance of snow. Highs in the mid-teens with lows in the upper single digits. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the low 20’s with lows in the low single digits. We start gaining daylight at the rate of just over a minute and a half per day as of the12th.  On the 14th the sun will set at 5 p.m. CST. We’re also coming into the coldest days of winter, stretching from the 16th – 23rd of January where the average daily temperature is12.7 degrees. The normal high for January 14th is 22 and the normal low is 6. With a brief thaw upon us, the scurs plan on breaking out the Speedo’s soon.

The Full Moon also comes into play for the month on the 17th. It goes primarily by the Full Wolf Moon, named for the wolves that howled outside the Native American encampments. It is also known as the Old Moon or the Moon after the Yule by some. As mentioned above, since this is our coldest part of the winter, it was a struggle to get through it. Still is. The Ojibwe knew this as the Great Spirit Moon and the Sioux called The Moon of Frost in the Teepee. At the ranch we have several names for it as well, many of which are unprintable. With a month full of frozen buckets, fingers, hydrants, equipment that doesn’t start and animals that are uncooperative, it therefore goes by the Full Vocabulary Moon as it does at many farm operations this time of year.

The recent cold snap has some wondering if the weather has had any effect on the insect pest populations. From my friend the Boy Entomologist, given most of what we deal with it is highly unlikely. Soybean aphids for instance can survive well down to about -29 air temperature. This is further complicated when snow covers the buckthorn bud bracts the eggs overwinter on, providing insulation. Western corn rootworm eggs can be affected if the duration of cold soil temperatures and the period preceding winter are such that it puts them at more risk for mortality. Research has shown that the hatch can be reduced up to 50% after one week at 14℉. So far, looking at the 4” soil temperature data from the SROC, we’ve not approached that temperature, yet. Also of note, northern corn rootworm eggs can tolerate lower temperatures than western corn rootworm eggs. As the saying goes, don’t count on the weather to do you any favors.

The cold weather hasn’t been a positive at the ranch. When it gets as cold as it did this past week, one is always questioning whether there is enough cover on the well pit to keep it from freezing up. Usually those fears are unfounded but as discovered when first living here, it can freeze up. That was cause for much snarling and gnashing of teeth. It was also cause for great celebration when the water thawed out and we discovered what super neighbors we had. Lambs that have been on the ground are typically doing well and can hack some cold weather, then kick in the afterburners once the weather warms up again. Survival of newborn lambs though is a major concern. Fortunately we had few ewes come in through the cold snap but those that did this time around had complications. As the saying also goes, don’t count on livestock to do you any favors either!

The backyard bird population was glad to see their feeders kept stocked through the deepest part of the cold. I’d purchased a new feeder, the first one in years for sunflower seed. Only about so much one can do with duct tape and electric fence wire. The store where you go to the bathroom in the orange silo didn’t have their sale black oilseed sunflower in stock so wound up grabbing a blend containing safflower, peanuts, black oil seed and confection (striped) sunflower seed. Not sure what the issue was although the price of sunflower seed is at an all-time high. The birds really don’t care so was happy to see they liked the blend. Those jumping on the bandwagon included woodpeckers, blue jays, chickadees, nuthatches, and goldfinches. The cardinals have liked it, both on the ground and from the tray on the new feeder. Best of all, the sparrows haven’t been all that jazzed about it.

Speaking of not being jazzed about things, I wasn’t particularly impressed to see my usual Gunsmoke episode at bedtime replaced by Wagon Train. I remember watching it as a kid and enjoying it but that was back in the early 60’s. I also enjoyed playing with cap pistols, toy tractors, and riding tricycle back then. I started watching Wagon Train again and discovered it’s a decent program set in the Western genre. Ward Bond starred as Major Seth Adams from 1957 - 1960. After 1960 though he was conspicuously absent from the cast. Come to find out, he died of a heart attack in November of 1960 at age 57. He was also one of John Wayne’s longtime close friends and they were in numerous movies together with Bond performing in a supporting role. I knew I could remember him in a prominent role from another movie but couldn’t quite place it. Through a little sleuthing, I discovered he played Bert the cop from “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Mystery solved. Some think I’m crazy. Now I can sleep at night, after Wagon Train of course.
 
See you next week…real good then.
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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With a slack jaw, and not much to say

The scurs using their hi-tech Weather Eye scored big points once again with the winter thaw crowd. Will Old Man Winter become vocal or not have much to say? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the low single digits above zero with lows in the mid-teens below zero. Thursday, sunny with highs near zero and lows in the mis-teens below zero. Mostly sunny on Friday with a modest chance of evening snow. Highs in the mid-teens above zero with lows in the low teens below zero. Saturday, partly sunny with highs in the low 20’s and lows in the low single digits above zero. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the mid-teens above zero and lows near 0. Monday, partly sunny with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the mid-teens above zero with lows around 0. Sunny for Tuesday with highs around 5 above and lows in the lower single digits below zero. We start gaining daylight at the rate of just over two minutes per day as of the 21st. On the 22nd, we attain 9 hours and 30 minutes of daylight, having gained a half hour since January 3rd and 36 minutes since the winter solstice on December 21st. The normal high for January 22nd is 21 and the normal low is 4. The scurs are debating whether to use those lumps of coal from their stockings for a snowman or burn them to stay warm. Push may come to shove.

Last week’s snowfall was a moving target prior to its arrival. The forecast changed almost constantly in the days leading up to the snow fall event, leaving one to be prepared for the worst. While it wasn’t the worst in terms of total snowfall, it still accumulated from 6” – 7” across the local area. Fortunately it wasn’t a heavy, wet snow so snow removal equipment made rather short work of it. The ground being frozen to a depth of 18” as of last Thursday at the SROC helped keep blowers and loaders from tearing off hunks of sod as sometimes happens. Something that has been increasingly more typical of snowstorms the past several years has been the lack of strong winds from the opposite direction once the storm passes. The wind diminished but stayed out a relatively easterly direction. On many farmsteads, there is ample protection from the north and west. From the south and east in particular, not so much.

The ranch is set up much the same. When we first moved here, there was no well-defined windbreak; more of a patchwork of leftover boxelder trees, some buckthorn, a few spruce in a small planting along with some ash, soft maple, two elm trees and a token willow. The boxelder trees and one silver maple had been topped out, a personal pet peeve of mine. However, if you want to increase the odds that trees prone to rotting and falling over will do so, it’s an excellent practice. That said, there are some areas to be addressed with some new trees after disposing of some of the weed species. Using some proper tree guards, protecting them from the sheep should be doable. People with food plots use them successfully against deer. There are some gaps noticeable at chore time and other areas where a shade tree would be appreciated by most warm-blooded creatures. There are approximately 50 species of trees and shrubs at the ranch with roughly half the species having been added in the past 37 years. I see the deadline for ordering trees for conservation purposes from the Waseca SWCD is Feb. 25th and February 28th in Steele Co. Contact info at Waseca is: www.wasecaswcd.org. For Steele Co. SWCD: www.steeleswcd.org. Better get with it or it’ll pass before I know it.

The ewes decided it was time to kick out another little burst of lambs over the weekend. This after we’d been thinking there were none imminent. Like the group born in December, it got me wondering if their birthdates could be traced back to some cooler summer temps. Looking at the SROC weather data earlier, sure enough the group born in December corresponded perfectly to cooler temps from July 8th – 11th. This January group had a shorter time span but with ewes’ gestation period of 147 – 150 days, the dates again lined up with a few cooler days on August 22nd and 23rd. Sometimes that’s all it takes with the days becoming shorter as long as the ram has remained cool enough. Extreme heat hasn’t been an issue either in recent years. As was pointed out in the weather presentation at SROC’s Winter Crops Day, we are seeing fewer of the extremely hot days than we used to, particularly the 90 - 100-degree days. And some think quality weather data is only important for growing crops.

It has been nice to get as many ewes to lamb as early as they have. The first group proved they can take the cold, with several of them being born outside in temperatures at or below zero. Their mothers with 4” of wool don’t have a clue it’s cold out. Fortunately the lambs are quick studies and wasted little time finding the milk supply. Even though the bitterly cold days slowed them down some, when it warmed up, they took advantage of every minute of it. While I’d prefer not lambing the ewes in full fleece, our present facilities simply aren’t sufficient to shear everything down in December or January. Building costs having gone through the roof and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon. If and when one does decide to add some additional facilities, we have to build with the notion that it’s unlikely someone else will be interested in raising sheep. The buildings must have multi-functional flexibility that adds value rather than something one-dimensional that detracts from it. Not a lot of people chomping at the bit to get into the sheep business.

I mentioned not counting on livestock to do one any favors last week. Sure enough a ewe made me rethink that Saturday & Sunday. I’d gone out at 10 to check the barn before going to bed & found a ewe that had just lambed. I got her and the lamb corralled then checked the ewe for milk. She was uncharacteristically docile and cooperative. Normally stripping a ewe out is like holding a hockey player against the boards while trying to kick a puck loose. Good thing sheep don’t carry sticks. I got her some warm water then saw something white over by the water tank. Another lamb! It had to belong to this ewe, and I reluctantly put it in the pen with her, knowing full well she probably wouldn’t accept it. Wonder of wonders, she did. When we tried to figure out who the ewe was by her ear tag number, there was no mention of her from the prior year. She hadn’t lambed in 2021. In 2020 her lambs had been stillborn although we had grafted a lamb from another ewe onto her. She was slated to be culled which obviously didn’t happen. Even though you never count on them to do you any favors, they sometimes reward kindness with kindness or at minimum, a pleasant surprise.   

See you next week…real good then.
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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And the line of cars drove down real slow

Some hate mail starting to filter in for the scurs and Weather Eye after a week of temperatures trending well below normal. Will Old Man Winter take his foot off our throats this week or will he do a flying drop kick off the top rope? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper teens and lows in the mid-teens above zero. Thursday, mostly cloudy with highs in the mid-20’s and lows around 10 below zero. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs near 10 above zero and lows in the mid-single digits below zero. Saturday, partly sunny with highs in the upper teens and lows in the upper single digits above zero. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs around 20 and lows near 5 above. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s (above zero) with lows in the mid-teens. Cloudy on Tuesday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the low 20’s with lows in the upper teens. Tuesday is February 1st already. The sun will rise at 7:30 a.m. CST and we will see 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight, having gained almost an hour of daylight since the winter solstice on December 21st. The normal high for February 1st is 23 and the normal low is 5. The scurs will be treasuring the fan mail they received from snow removal outfits. It’s a tough job but thank goodness they get the job done.

Cold temperatures once again had some questioning whether or not we’d made any headway on insect pests. Unlikely as in the case of corn rootworms, soil temperatures haven’t begun to get anywhere close to the levels needed to thin the herd significantly. We’ve also got a substantial snow cover insulating the ground so the only thing being made miserable are humans. This January has been a far cry from January of 2021, however. The average temp at the SROC in Waseca for January last year was 19.2, 6 degrees above normal. Through 24 days in January 2022, we’ve averaged 8.9 degrees or 4.3 degrees below normal. While not record breaking, if you’ve been thinking January has been cold, your spidey senses are correct. Let’s just hope the trend from the past three years where February was colder than January doesn’t repeat itself. Frost depth hasn’t been a readily available figure but gauging from ice depth on area lakes reported to be around 18”, it’s likely the frost depth in the soil is slightly deeper than that. The recent blanket of snow will likely have something to say about the speed of the increase in depth.

At the ranch we continue to contend with the temperature yoyo effect. It’s seldom we get a warmup lasting more than a few days before the temperatures tumble back below zero. It means monitoring the water system to make sure it’s behaving. Now it’s decided to snow off and on, it also means keeping the yard cleaned out so there are paths to haul buckets, feed and bedding to the livestock in our care. I also keep a path to LP tank cleaned out so the driver can get at it. I’ve never figured some people’s attitudes about that one. Seems like common sense while you’re cleaning the yard out, you’d make a quick pass that direction. At the ranch it takes roughly three minutes. I really appreciate being able to come inside to a warm house after freezing my backside off. Got a feeling the drivers probably get tired of wading through waist deep snowdrifts while dragging the LP hose some days. I know I’m sure not a fan of dragging anything through snowbanks including me.

The cold January has meant a general uptick in seed consumption at the birdfeeders. With a relatively warm December, thought the winter might be a cakewalk. The sunflower seed I’d purchased in late summer lasted beyond Christmas. The garbage can of ear corn too barely showed signs that it had been touched. When January got rolling so did the seed consumption. There haven’t been too many surprises as far as unusual species although this past Saturday we had a flicker at the suet feeders. It even figured out the horizontal models. Only saw it the one day so guessing it was wisely and rapidly passing through to somewhere warmer. Not a bad idea as many snowbirds can attest. We are blessed though to have as many species as we do. When we first moved to the ranch, the variety and numbers were nowhere near what we see now. Better habitat has been a major factor and it keeps getting better.

Last Saturday I had to make a trek to get some straw. It has become a rare commodity in these parts so travelling some distance to buy it has become routine. Smaller operations such as ours can utilize straw in small square bales more readily than round bales or even large squares. When lambing season rolls around, it’s much easier to peel off a couple slabs than it is to tear off a hunk of a larger bale. This time we were lucky enough to have a sheep friend of ours refer us to an Amish friend of his in IA. The roads were a little dicey, so I made sure I left early, giving me plenty of time in case the roads were bad. They weren’t perfect and the right lane on I-35 was shiny, making it difficult to determine whether it was wet or if the slight amount of snow from the night before had stuck on it. With no road spray on the windshield when people passed, I was guessing it was slick. Traffic was flying by me like it was mid-July but pulling an empty livestock trailer I wasn’t taking any chances.

I found the place easily and I was running ahead of schedule, so I parked in the road. I checked the weather on my phone and watched to see if there was any activity in the yard. The young gentleman who had the straw came out of the house and waved me in. I got backed around to the barn and we loaded the trailer amidst the swirling chaff. It was different straw than I’d seen in a while. As he pointed out, since it had gone through a threshing machine and not a modern combine, there was probably more chaff in it. It certainly appeared that way, much more like some of the straw I’d baled as a lad after the oats went through our old pull-type Ford Dearborn combine. Once we got loaded up, I paid him and thanked him before getting underway again. I got to just south of Albert Lea and there was a semi jack knifed in the median. Closer to Clarks Grove, a wrecker was pulling a pickup out of the ditch. I wasn’t seeing things earlier; it had been slippery.
 
That evening we went to Owatonna to meet some friends for supper. With lambs hitting the ground, it was the first chance to get out in a while. It was snowing hard, becoming difficult to see the edge of the road on county blacktops. We had a great time once we arrived and afterwards, we opted to head home on the interstate. Before we even got on the freeway, the pickup in front of us lost control making a left turn, ending up crossways in the entrance ramp. We had to wait until they got their act together to proceed. On the freeway, the right lane had blown relatively clear although there were scattered slick spots. The left lane was snow covered. It was still snowing so visibility was compromised. 60 mph was a comfortable speed although I could see I was creeping up on the traffic ahead. A couple clowns in heavy-duty pickups then decided it was safe to do the 70-mph posted speed. When they passed, they created dangerous temporary whiteout conditions for everyone already coping with less-than-ideal winter driving conditions. One couldn’t help but hope they’d suffer the same fate as those in the ditch that morning. As I’ve become older though, I’ve become a firm believer in karma. Life is tough but it’s tougher if you’re stupid.

See you next week…real good then.         
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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You can't go the distance with too much resistance

The scurs and Weather Eye were given a brief respite from reader’s scorn and derision with temps suddenly back closer to normal. Does Old Man Winter give us a reprieve or are we in for more negativity? Starting Ground Hog Day, mostly cloudy with highs in the mid-single digits above zero and lows around 10 below zero. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs around zero and lows near 15 below zero. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the low teens above zero and lows in the mid-single digits below zero. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the low teens above zero. Partly sunny on Sunday with a chance of flurries. Highs in the low 20’s with lows near zero. Monday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the mid-teens. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the low 20’s. On the 4th, we see just over 10 hours of daylight and the sun will set at 5:30 p.m. CST on the 5th. The normal high for February 5th is 24 and the normal low is 5. The scurs will not see their shadow on Wednesday so spring should be just around the corner. In your dreams.

The weather through much of January behaved very January-like. We had plenty of below zero temps and the average temp will wind up well below normal. Snow-wise actually slightly above normal based on the normal January snowfall at the SROC. We logged 12.3” of snow at the ranch and 12.7” in Bugtussle. We were off slightly on liquid equivalent precip when the snow was melted out but as anyone who has tried to measure snow accurately can attest, it’s like horseshoes and hand grenades especially when attempting it in the open country. 1.05” was measured at the ranch and .88” in Bugtussle. Frost depth was 18” on bare ground at Waseca back on the 31st. This sounds about right. Our anecdotal measuring device at the ranch, the walk-in door on the barn is starting to show signs that it’s binding on the door jam. This usually corresponds to frost depth approaching 19” at the SROC. Find the bungee cord and make book on it.

We had a rousing discussion a few weeks ago about what the heavenly bodies, specifically the planets were doing at what time of day. It was relayed that some of the budding astronomers riding the school bus were curious so we looked up what times the planets could be observed. Right now, Venus is back to being a morning star. On February 4th, it rises in the east at 5:07 a.m. and sets in the SW sky at 3:01 p.m. Mars will rise in the SE sky about 5:07 a.m. and set at 2:14 p.m. in the SW. Jupiter rises at 8:29 a.m. in the eastern sky and will set at 7:20 p.m. in the W. Have noticed this one some nights at chore time. Saturn will rise at 7:43 a.m. in the SE sky and set at 5:24 p.m. in the SW. This one has also been noted especially during morning chores, when it’s not cloudy of course.
 
Lambing was at a virtual standstill for a couple weeks. There was a set of twins born the morning of Feb. 1, with a few ewes getting closer. However, it’s not easy to tell exactly what they’re up to when they’re in full fleeces. The first two groups corresponded to cool spells in July and August respectively. Now we’re looking back on weather data that becomes less defined in terms of cool spells although there were some cool nights with lows in the upper 40’s the first week of September. There was also a string of days from September 8th – 10th with highs in the 70’s and lows in the middle to upper 40’s. That would put the arrivals from the few appearing close up to the 3rd or 4th of February. The lambing barn was temporarily empty Monday night with pens still set up from the January lambs moved to the loafing area. They’re doing fantastic. The deep cold slows them somewhat but with access to feed and water, not to mention older lambs to show them the ropes, they’re smokin’. The December group, well, what can you say? One of those will be ready to wean as of the 7th. It’s just nice to have those ewes and lambs in a group. Much easier to feed them cafeteria style rather than it is doing room service.

The cold temps probably take a greater toll on the shepherds than they do the sheep. The unshorn brood ewes barely know it’s cold out, hunkered down outside when it’s well below zero. When it gets windy as had frequently been the case, they seek shelter from the elements indoors, trekking back and forth to pull hay out of the feeders. When we have ewes with lambs in pens, we haul warm water from the house in the bitter cold conditions. We find that the ewes drink more water and consequently the lambs perform better. Good water consumption usually means the ewe is milking well. It’s been a little tougher to gauge that consumption on the main brood ewe group this winter. Since we water using a tank, we sometimes notice an uptick in water consumption that’s related to ewes lambing soon afterwards. This winter has confounded that predictive tool recently as the ewes have been eating snow. This a little odd as the snow is somewhat drier than normal. The snow is quite dense however as the flakes were very fine, allowing it to pack. I’ve observed them eating it. They apparently like it, almost as much as they like the wetter, heavier snow as we get closer to springtime.

Last week our screening supply was nearly exhausted. It was unlikely I could convince the former pygmy goat farmer to dry more corn, so we made arrangements for a load of cracked corn from Matawan Grain. It’s always an adventure pulling a gravity box for 18 or so miles one way, especially one that doesn’t trail well much over 25 mph. There’s also some doubt in the back of your mind about flat tires or bearings going out when travelling that kind of distance. Headwinds and crosswinds that day were causing noticeable resistance especially when traversing the icy patches. I decided to take Hwy 30 to the Matawan corner. It’s a Bernard thing. I was taught at a young age by aunts and uncles that the only way to get anywhere around Stewartville (pronounced “Stertville”) was to take Hwy 30. Turned out the traffic wasn’t too bad although the gravel road I’d run on to get on 30 wasn’t terrible. I debated about my route home as trudged along hoping the semis all saw me in the meantime.
 
I made it to the elevator in one piece and they were ready for me. I pulled around to the load out, parked by the office afterwards, wrote out the check and within a matter of minutes I was underway again. I decided to take the gravel home in order to see the sights of Matawan, making sure I didn’t blink. After leaving the downtown district I marveled at Lawrence of Matawan’s large collection of pet pheasants as they flew across the road back into the CRP. I was making better time than anticipated, and everything was clicking as I got back to the county blacktop. I knew enough not to become complacent though as it was still 8 miles to the ranch. Plenty of opportunity for something to go awry so stay focused on the task at hand. I kept plugging along and before I knew it, I’d arrived at our driveway. I pulled the load safely into the yard, breathing a sigh of relief as I shut the pickup off. Yep, cheated death once again.

See you next week...real good then
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Online LPS

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I used to help friends farm and pulled those wagons.  It is hard to keep under 30 when you have a long ways to go.  It tires a guy out doing that.  Slow speed stress I guess. 

Offline Dotch

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When I was growing up, we had 2 farms ~15 miles apart. Every June, I had to shovel 600 - 700 bu.of oats out of the granary using a 4" auger & haul them to the elevator. Depending on price, sometimes it was to the elevator that was 7 miles away & sometimes it was the 15 mile haul, all done with an open station tractor that had a top end of 10 mph. Didn't faze me. Now? Like you said, I'm gassed after sitting in the pickup & driving.  :confused:
« Last Edit: February 02/02/22, 06:36:13 PM by Dotch »
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Online glenn57

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Looks like even as a youngster you always had all the fun!!! :pouty: :rotflmao:
2015 deer slayer!!!!!!!!!!

Offline Dotch

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You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre contemplating a crime

The scurs and Weather Eye continue to suffer the wrath from those not enthralled by the below zero temps. Will Old Man Winter moderate his icy glare, or will he smile upon us? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a modest chance of snow. Highs in the low 30’s with lows around 5 above. Thursday, mostly sunny with a good chance of a wintry mix by evening. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Partly sunny on Friday with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the mid-single digits below zero. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-teens and lows in the low single digits, above zero. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the mid-20’s and lows around 10 above. Valentine’s Day, mostly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the upper teens. Partly sunny on Tuesday with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. On the 15th, we see just over 10 hours and 30 minutes of daylight. The normal high for February 15th is 26 and the normal low is 8. The scurs have exhausted their supply of Christmas goodies and survived until Valentine’s Day. The chocolate cavalry has arrived.
 
More days with below zero lows to test our mettle and make us question our ancestor’s choice of areas in which to settle in. Still, this hasn’t been a particularly tortuous winter especially if you don’t have livestock to contend with. The seesaw temperatures have been annoying but when it gets the best of you, stay indoors where it’s warm. Best of all, it’s looking more normal to moderate according to several forecast sources. Late February and early March may have some different ideas when it comes to precipitation, however. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a snowy March like the good old days. Even last year, we had significant snowfall although it didn’t last long thanks to warm temperatures. Frost depth continues to creep down apparently as the walk-in door on our barn continues to bind on the doorframe. Still awaiting official measurement from the SROC.

It hasn’t been all peaches and cream lambing ewes although since they’re sputtery about coming in, it helps keep animals flowing through the lambing barn. The logjam created when they all come at once during a cold snap can be exhausting. All the individual feed pans and buckets create a lot of work and slows the feeding process down. Hauling 5-gallon buckets of hot water across the yard down to the main barn gets old in a hurry when it happens for weeks at a time. A sore back and hips definitely make you aware that at some point, this will no longer be sustainable to quote an overused phrase. One hydrant has been a little persnickety. It’s draining back fine, it just seems to freeze up in the packing surrounding the rod when it gets real cold. That’s OK but it takes a mile of garden hose to fill the tank in the lambing barn when that happens. A repair job is in order, once warmer days return for good of course.

The recent drier, warmer forecast made an excellent opportunity to take the 656 to neighbor Jon for him to work his magic. There are the normal things that happen with 51-year-old tractors. Low pressure hydraulic hoses are no longer pliable, become brittle and leak. Steering wheels crack and are no longer like new. Fuel systems on older gas tractors seem to require more attention as rust follows in fuel tanks when there are longer intervals between use than there once was. Today’s gasoline is not what it was 50 years ago. Any fuel man who was around in those days will tell you that. In addition to that, the shutoff solenoids IH used on those carburetors were fickle, sticking shut, and not allowing fuel through. Shutting the gas off on the sediment bowl works if the carb leaks, until the shutoff valve starts to leak and drips gas constantly onto the starter. Doesn’t seem real intelligent placing a source of electricity in the proximity of gasoline. Some engineer thought otherwise.

The cold temperatures meant an uptick in most songbird activity at the birdfeeders. Most noticeable was the increase in the goldfinch numbers. When one isn’t constantly observing it’s not always clear what’s consuming the thistle seed. One can be relatively sure when all the perches are full of goldfinches however that they’re largely responsible. The two pet rooster pheasants, by now probably great, great, great grandsons of Little Jerry continue to amuse. They’re extremely wary though, watching for movement through the window. If they detect any, they’re gone in the blink of an eye. Three male cardinals have claimed the new sunflower feeder as their own, sometimes feeding from the built-in tray and sometimes picking up a few seeds underneath on the ground. Sunday there was a group of 10 cedar waxwings that suddenly appeared in the Indian Magic crabapple. It’s right outside the living room window so one could see them gobbling the crabapples down whole. As suddenly as they’d appeared, they were gone. Where did they go? Nobody knows.

I continue to enjoy my nightly Wagon Train episodes at bedtime when I return form the nightly lambing barn checks. I haven’t watched any of them since I was 4 or 5 years old so they’re like brand new yet. Watching them on the black and white Columbia TV wasn’t quite the same either. Wagon Train is still in black and white, but I can flip back and forth with the remote when commercials come on. I was told not to mess with the channels or play with the rotor when I was a kid as it might result in a trip to the TV repair shop in Washington MN. Washington was much like metropolitan Matawan or Zerkel. Mostly peaceful protests there of course but I digress.

Back on Wagon Train: Was watching an episode titled “The Alexander Portlass Story”. The main character looked and sounded awfully familiar, but I couldn’t place the actor at first. After listening to his voice and mannerisms it finally came to me. It was Peter Lorre, acting in a television western series of all things. His character was evil just as he was in many of the movies he acted in. Interesting cat, born a Hungarian, acted in Germany, leaving when Hitler came to power, acted in a Hitchcock flick made in Great Britain and emigrated to the US where in addition to playing bad guys and acting in horror flicks, also was in movie classics with such as The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca.
 
Physically, Peter Lorre was diminutive, only 5’ 3” tall. However, his large, wide-set, round eyes and creepy accent grabbed your attention. The combination often stole the show, just as it did in that Wagon Train episode dated 1960. At that time he appeared somewhat more obese than I recalled. He had gained weight after many years of being treated with morphine for gall bladder issues. The character in this episode was in ill health. Lorre’s health was an issue in real life, and he passed away in 1964 at age 59 from a stroke. Vincent Price read the eulogy at his funeral. As someone who made their mark in horror films, couldn’t ask for any better than that.
 
See you next week…real good then.

Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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And I could easily fall from grace then another would take my place for the chance to behold your face

If this rollercoaster temperature ride continues the scurs may rent the Weather Eye out to the carnival. Will Old Man Winter straighten out and fly right soon or are we stuck in this rut another week? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with highs around 5 above and lows around 0. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of snow. Highs in the low teens with lows near 5 below. Sunny on Friday with highs around 10 above and lows around 5 below. Saturday, sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the mid-single digits above zero. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the upper teens and lows around 5 below. Monday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper teens and lows around 5 above. Mostly sunny on Tuesday with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the upper teens. The sun will rise at 7 a.m. CST on the 23rd. On the 25th we’ll see 11 hours of daylight, the most we’ve seen since October 15th. The sun will set after 6 p.m. just after 6 p.m. CST on the 28th and Tuesday is March 1st already. The normal high for March 1st is 32 and the normal low is 18. The scurs may burn their candy wrappers pretty soon to increase global warming.
 
February continues to confound those in search of warmer temperatures or least stretches of any significance. The pattern of warmups and cool downs has been in place since early January and forecasts indicate little chance of a major change any time soon. Frost depth at the SROC as of Valentine’s Day was at 21”. Tuesday marks the start of meteorological to spring. While that may make some feel better, odds are most years we’re not going to be doing much in the way of fieldwork. Some of the 3 – 4-week forecasts are looking at slightly increased odds we’ll see below normal temps and the same as far as above normal precip. One of the biggest concerns can be the snowpack, particularly that to our south. Presently, MN remains mostly snow covered although southern portions of the state only have a light coating at this point. IA is almost snow free except the northern tier of counties. February has been very dry. If this trend continues into March, it won’t take long when temperatures warm significantly for fields to change dramatically. Could be planting radishes in mid-March like I did last year.
 
Monday, I received a call from neighbor Jon informing me the 656 was ready to go. With weather moving in, his timing couldn’t have been better. Fortunately, the fear that the rear main seal was leaking turned out to be unfounded. Instead the gasket toward the backside of the pushrod cover was leaking, with engine oil leaving puddles where one might expect to see a rear main seal dripping. The low-pressure hydraulic hoses were replaced after 50+ years and several of the loader hydraulic hoses as well. Electronic ignition replaced the original ignition system that needed attention. A new starter solenoid replaced one that had been installed a few years earlier. A new sediment bowl assembly was installed, and the carburetor was rebuilt. A little-known inline screen on the carburetor was discovered to be full of crud and cleaned out. A gas leak around the fuel shutoff solenoid was stopped so hopefully there will be fewer dead patches of grass in the yard.

The proof in the pudding will be how it performs under load. It started without using the choke, something it hasn’t done for many moons, even during the heat of July. When I drove it back up the hill from his shop, I could tell already it was more responsive and didn’t hesitate when I hit the throttle. After putting the chains back on, I’m looking forward to seeing how it deals with the snowblower. Hopefully I don’t have to find out but it’s nice to know it should be up to the task.

Shearing day at the ranch happened last Wednesday and not a moment too soon. The neighborhood sheep shearer with his catcher were right on time. We were fortunate to have picked a warmer than usual day so that was a positive omen. By 1:30, after setting up twice they had 41 head complete. We vaccinated a few in need of boosters (my chance to play Dr. Fauci) and even had everything in the right pens. The ewes that could be outside were outside enjoying the warmer afternoon and rubbing on anything they could to scratch any itches. The lambs that were on the ground took advantage instantly of their newfound easier access to the udder. Over the next several days, ewes about to lamb came inside for the birthing process. Hopefully this puts a stop to the frozen ears we’ve been nursing along on lambs that weren’t so lucky.

Sunday brought a welcome respite from the cold, windy conditions we’ve grown accustomed to and weary of. We docked tails, gave shots and put ear tags in lambs in the forenoon. By afternoon it warmed enough so I could repair a couple mangers outside rather than back a vehicle out so I could work on them in the heated garage. By mid-afternoon it was already muddy in places on the south side of the barn. The ewes shorn on the 16th yet to lamb were lovin’ life, lounging around outside by their round bale feeder. It was so warm by the time I finished the repair job that I’d worked up a sweat. Once the mangers were in place, we moved the lambs and ewes we’d worked on earlier. Since it was so muddy by the barn, we left Ruby inside. There was no doubt she’d be a mudball if we hadn’t. Despite all the racket, the ewes and lambs were just glad to be in a more spacious area. The hopping and jumping were a clue.

What’s in a name? At the ranch it can be most anything. Some ask if the sheep all have names and from time to time, the answer is yes. Some have permanent names based on some distinguishing physical feature. For instance, this year we have a buck lamb named Batman because it looks like he’s wearing a mask. There’s another ewe lamb whose pelt is almost silver in color so that one obviously is named Silver. There’s also an older ewe we call Low Rider because her udder nearly drags on the ground before she lambs. Sometimes the names have to do with something they’ve done. Every flock has them occasionally. We have one show ewe that must’ve honed her craft during her trips to various shows. She can find a way to get out of almost anything so is aptly named Houdini. My favorites though are those one hardly knows are there. They have no names. They raise their lambs with a minimum of fuss and don’t smash or break equipment, nor their shepherd for that matter. One just hopes their progeny are good enough to take their place when they someday head to those verdant pastures in the sky.

See you next week…real good then   
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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Though the circle takes what it may give, each time around it makes it live again

The scurs have it on good authority from the Weather Eye that our wild temperature ride has plateaued. Is Old Man Winter out of the picture or is he just taking five? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with highs in the mid-30’s and lows around 20. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the upper teens. Mostly cloudy on Friday with an increasing chance of snow and freezing rain heading into the evening hours. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain, freezing rain, and snow. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the low 20’s. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a modest chance of forenoon snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the low teens. Monday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the low 30’s with lows in the low teens. Mostly sunny on Tuesday with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the low teens. On March 7th, we start gaining daylight at just over 3 minutes per day. On the 8th we break the 11 hours and 30 minutes of daylight barrier, the longest daylight period since October 5th. The normal high for March 8th is 35 and the normal low is 19. Does March come in like a lamb or a lion? The scurs money is on the lion. The weather has been more like a circus than a petting zoo.

Snowfall amounts for February were generally paltry with only 3.5” measured at the ranch and 3.5” in Bugtussle proper. Liquid equivalent amounted to .35” and .32” respectively. At the SROC in Waseca, normal snowfall for February is 10.8” with 1.20” This February, their snowfall was 4.2” and the liquid equivalent was .69”. Alas, we are back to a more normal frost depth scenario, with frost depth being measures at 23” there. The good news is that with the lighter snow cover so far, we should be able to thaw soil more quickly than some seasons once the weather decides to warm sufficiently. It was amazing how quickly the 3” – 4” of snow blanketing area fields left between Sunday and Monday. Last fall allowed a lot of primary tillage to be completed right on schedule. While some might argue about the soil health and erosion aspects, there is no arguing that black soil warms up more quickly than that covered with crop residue or snow.

The ice shanty villages began to dwindle noticeably as of last week. While not completely gone as of this past Monday, they started disappearing gradually and more rapidly once the weather began to warm. Ice depth was 2’ or more according to most who took the time to drill holes in the ice anyway. According to most it wasn’t a knock ‘em dead winter in that respect. There were several really nice fish caught though if one can believe the reports. One has to also consider that the reports come from fishermen who are known to embellish their tales from time to time.
 
Lambing season continues to roll along at the ranch. We’re about 75% done as of this writing. Despite the rollercoaster temperature ride, the lambs have by and large been pretty healthy. It takes a constant vigil though. One of the most famous sayings about sheep is a sick sheep is a dead sheep. Catch what’s ailing them early though and your odds of saving the animal are greatly increased. Having the animals shorn makes that an easier task. The best medicine is to prevent ailments altogether by bedding generously, avoiding overcrowding and keeping good ventilation. Too many are concerned about temperature. Far more issues with a warm, damp barn and not enough bedding. The straw isn’t up in the haymow for decoration as my Dad used to say.

The warmer weather has definitely been a breath of fresh air. We started lambing in early December and there have been some born in spurts ever since. It’s meant a lot of bucket hauling, feed pan loading and hay feeding. Sometimes it’s great when someone remembers the good old days and drops off some sustenance as Auntie Mar Mar did last week. A blueberry coffee cake was nice to nosh on once in from the barn for a few hours. Warmed up in the microwave and slathered with Hope Creamery butter, it’s the bomb. Add some hot coffee or cocoa to the equation and it warms one up for the next go round. At our age we need all the help we can get.

We’re starting to notice a slow movement towards spring in the bird population at the ranch. When we come out the door in the morning, we hear the cardinals and the chickadees singing their spring song. Goldfinches are starting to show slight hints of yellow while on the feeders and the cardinals are at their splendorous best when the low sun catches them in the evenings. The female flicker continues to enjoy the suet feeders. The suet supply was hit hard during the cold snaps, so the feeders were popular once refilled on Sunday. The horned larks are back as well. I’ve been noticing them along the roadsides and hearing their tinkling little song as we finish up chores just before sundown. They don’t appear at the feeders but they’re definitely a bellwether that spring will be on the way.

40 years ago in March I was living in Rugby ND in my bomb shelter house. Spring was starting to show signs that it would be there eventually. In the meantime I was busy getting up to speed on crops I’d only had encounters of sorts with including durum wheat, malting barley, sunflowers, flax, edible beans and commercial mustard. Attended many meetings where entomologist Dean McBride, plant pathologist Art Lamey and agronomist Duane Berglund presented the latest information. They were interesting, excellent speakers, and I tried my best to soak up the information they dispensed like a sponge. After arriving the previous September, I’d only seen a glimpse at what their cropping systems were all about.

Sunflowers in particular fascinated me. Their tall stature, showy, large yellow heads and heliotropism made it the beauty queen of north central ND crops. It also turned out to be high maintenance. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, sunflowers had made a sudden push westward out of the Red River Valley. Sunflower midge and other insects had devastated fields there and the best hope was to move the crop west where they weren’t. However, there were still plenty of other insect, weed and disease issues to contend with. There was also a steep learning curve too for the farmers who had little experience with row crops including the equipment for planting, harvesting and drying sunflowers. Labelled herbicides were limited so cultivation provided a good deal of the weed control. My experience with row crops was put to good use.
 
Sunflowers are native to North America but the development as a crop took place in Russia. Ukraine leads the world in sunflower production, followed by Russia, The EU, Argentina and then the US. These countries make up about 86% of the world’s production. Sunflower oil is the preferred oil in most of Europe, Mexico, and several South American countries.  Monday, I had a sunflower production question involving the unfolding Ukrainian situation. As if on cue, about the time I was ready to head home for chores, my former college boss, mentor and now insurance adjuster showed up. Along with the usual agronomy “stuff”, we talked some more about sunflower production issues including how it might pertain to crop insurance. Funny after 40 years how some things come full circle.

See you next week…real good then.     
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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Help me build a mountain from my little pile of clay

The scurs were happy with the Weather Eye’s revelation of more stable temps. Has Old Man Winter thrown in the towel or is he about to drag us into a towel fight? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows around 10. Thursday, mostly cloudy with highs in the low 20’s and lows around 10. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the low 20’s and lows around zero. Ish. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the upper teens. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of evening rain and snow. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Monday, partly sunny with a slight chance of rain and snow. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the low 20’s. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. On March 12th the sun will rise at 6:31 a.m. CST. The next morning it will rise at 7:31 a.m. CDT. Yes, governmental overreach and intervention strikes again. The normal high for March 13th is 37 and the normal low is 21. The scurs will have their ambulance chaser’s number cued up for speedy service when they fall off the chair changing clocks and smoke detector batteries.

Yes, the people all giddy about the time change love to tell us to “spring ahead!”. We who detest the time change would like to remind them that spring is just around the corner. Go look for it and leave us alone. When I was a kid without major concerns about time, the time change didn’t affect me that much. As I got older and placed a higher value on time, particularly the sleeping part of it, the novelty wore off. Oh but you have all the light at the end of the day after work some say. Um, all that does is cause me to work an extra hour once I get home. I’ve had enough of work by then. I don’t need some do-gooder thinking they’ve solved a problem that didn’t exist until they created it. Pretty simple: When it’s light out, I work outside. When it’s dark out, I go inside. Changing the clock ahead an hour didn’t magically make lives better. Quite the contrary. The studies continue to mount that this farce is a medical menace to society. Time to stop sugar coating it and toss it on the ash heap of time where it belongs.

Rainfall this past weekend amounted to 0.48” at the ranch and a whopping 0.66” in Bugtussle. At least it fell as rain and not something requiring moving with shovels, blowers, tractors or other devices. The local rivers and streams showed some increase in flow which is not surprising considering the soil remains frozen save for an inch or so that thaws when the sun comes out. Luckily, we’ve been seeing a freeze-thaw scenario that should keep some of this moisture on the landscape for a longer period of time. So far, no major snowstorms are on the horizon with the potential storm for Thursday having eliminated itself in recent forecasts. There is still time. Indeed there is as Betsy’s dad and I were discussing. Not all that long ago, April turned out to be our snowiest month. Plus, we’ve had years where we received over a foot of snow in May. Yee-ha.
     
Some early signs of spring in the bird department. We noticed geese flying through March 2nd. Robins were heard on the 4th followed by a killdeer on the 5th. A small group of waxwings visited the Indian Magic crabapple tree outside the living room window on the 6th and were followed by a robin on the 7th. It was the first one we had actually been able to see. Between neighbor David’s and our place, the robins have so much to feed on they’re usually heard days before they’re seen. And finally on the 7th, groups of red-winged blackbirds did the flyover during both morning and night chores. With one snow already on the robin’s tail, spring is on the way.

Two weeks ago Saturday gave me a chance to use the recently repaired 656 and move some snow around the yard. Not that the snow was making the driveway impassable, it’s just nice to expedite the melting process while keeping ice and mud to a minimum. First, I had to put the chains back on and once that was done, there was no reason not to put the tractor through its paces. It worked just like new. I could run it at half throttle and the snow didn’t faze it even when pushing it uphill. The power that had been lacking was back and it made short work of the yard. Almost wished there had been enough snow to warrant the use of the snow blower but I quickly perished the thought. Careful what you wish for.

I was looking through some info about the history between International Harvester and industrial designer Raymond Loewy. Loewy was born in France in 1893. He’d fought in WWI for the French and emigrated to the United States in 1919, later becoming a US citizen. Early efforts included illustration for fashion design, working for Hupp Motor Co. (Hupmobile styling) and designing the Coldspot refrigerator for Sears, an award-winning design that established him as a leader in the industrial design field. He went on to design things we take for granted like the Greyhound bus, Air Force One and the Coca Cola bottle.
 
I’d been well aware for years about Loewy’s dealings with Studebaker dating back before WWII. In the late 1930’s, Loewy had also modernized the Studebaker logo which had been the “turning wheel” design since 1912. He modernized the “Lazy S” design further with the introduction of the ‘53 coupes. Combined with Studebaker, he and his design studios were largely responsible for some of the most beautiful automobiles ever produced. From the 1939 Champion, the wrap-around rear window postwar styling, the ’50 & ‘51 bullet nose, the ‘53 Starlight and Starliner “Loewy Coupes” (actually designed by Bob Bourke) and the ’56 Hawk series. After being broomed by Studebaker president James Nance, who claimed “Loewy hadn’t done Studebaker any favors”, new company president Sherwood Egbert hired Loewy back to design the Avanti for 1962. His group produced that one in under six weeks. Amazing what can come from a hunk of clay. Many of his designs and innovations are still evident in todays automobiles.
 
Avid International fans know that Raymond Loewy was also the designer behind the “letter series” tractors, the A, B, C, H and M’s. It actually began with his streamlined styling of the TD-18 crawler starting in 1936. Few realize he also redesigned the company trademark which was released worldwide in 1946. The IH logo common on older equipment castings, consisted of an “IH” inside of a semi-circle formed by a large letter “C”. It stood for International Harvester Corporation. Only a hardcore International aficionado knows that the newer design, consisting of a black capital “H” with a red lower-case “i” superimposed on it represented a square-headed farmer driving a narrow-front red tractor with square black tires. I remember some Deere folks back in the day were convinced you had to be a blockhead to own an International. Not much was said though when Farmall 806’s ate their 4020’s for lunch at tractor pulls. The look of disbelief on their faces said it all.
 
See you next week…real good then.   
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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I want to fly like an eagle till I'm free

The scurs were wondering with the low temps last Friday if they shouldn’t take the Weather Eye into the AMC dealer for servicing. Is Old Man Winter done for the duration or does he still have a few tricks up his sleeve? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with highs in the low 60’s and lows in the low 30’s. Thursday, partly sunny with highs in the low 50’s and lows around 30. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the upper 40’s and lows around 30. Much better. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a modest chance of evening rain. Highs in the low 60’s with lows in the low 40’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs in the low 60’s with lows in the mid-40’s. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a modest chance of rain. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. March 21st is Monday and ushers in the vernal equinox. The normal high for the 1st astrological “real” day of spring is 42 and the normal low is 25. The scurs will be fielding complaints on the equinox from hens distraught when their eggs stand on end.

The Full Moon for March falls on the 18th and is known by many names. The most widely used name is The Full Worm Moon, known as such for the earthworms near the soil surface once soils thaw and robins return to feast on them. It also is known as The Crow Moon as crows calling was believed to announce the end of winter. The Full Sap Moon is also common as maple trees are commonly tapped in this timeframe. It is also known as The Lenten Moon, the last moon of winter. The Ojibwe knew this as The Snow Crust Moon and the Sioux called it The Moon when Buffalo drop their Calves. At the ranch we know it as the Garden Hose Moon, when we can fill water buckets and not drain it. Sometimes also known as The Muddy Border Collie Moon.
 
Someone asked the other day about how far does changing the clock set our sunrise back? Good question. Using March 13th, this year’s spring time change date as a reference point with a sunrise at 7:29 a.m., it was roughly the same sunrise time back on February 2nd. To get back to where we were on March 12th prior to the time change, it will take until approximately April 15th. Luckily, we are gaining daylight at a few seconds over 3 minutes per day. By that time, our sunset will be nearly 8 p.m. CDT and people will forget all about this time change nonsense until next fall. Only white man foolish enough to think cutting off top of blanket and sewing it to the bottom make blanket longer.

Last week made one tired of winter. Temperatures took another nosedive and Friday’s low of around zero was downright deflating. My frozen fingers protested. With any luck, hopefully that will be the last of the zero or below temps for a while. The good news is there is little snow left locally and none to speak of that fell during the week. More good news: The light snowpack to our south in IA has disappeared. This should help southerly breezes boost temperatures by blowing over darkened soil rather than being supercooled by the snow. Frost depth as measured at the SROC in Waseca on March 7th was still 22”. We still have some work to do in that department, but it will come. Some rainfall after we have the expected thawing days would help expedite the process.
 
When I moved a round bale Sunday, the net wrap was still frozen to the ground. It peeled off the bale nicely as I pulled away and saved me the bother. Trying to dislodge the wrap from the soil with a pitchfork was an exercise in futility. It’ll be there until it thaws out, I reckon. Checking the electric fence later that day, snow remains on only a small portion of it meaning if all goes well with the predicted thaw, we should be able to let ewes with lambs outside soon. It should allow a round bale to supplement the small square supply and give the main barn inhabitants more room to exercise. It also trains the lambs to get acquainted with an electric fence. Those yellow insulators draw their attention like a magnet. One nibble and they quickly understand they’re nothing to mess with.

Lambing is nearing completion at the ranch. That means there should be time for projects such as the fence removal around the windbreak and the annual fruit tree pruning. Another similar project is to prune any branch within face snapping distance for lawnmowing. A good procedure might be to get on the lawnmower and anything that gets remotely close gets cut off. Running around to pick up the mess afterwards with the Gator won’t take long and will allow some time for another venture in the wetland area: search for pussy willows. The forecast warmup may bring them along quickly. Marking them with colored tape to make them easier to locate is also on the list of things to do.

Just before chores on Sunday, I spotted what appeared to be a couple large blobs of snow across the field. It was in a draw where water stands occasionally. Odd as I hadn’t noticed it before. Almost all the snow on the fields was gone except in some ditches and fence lines. Then suddenly the snow appeared to be moving closer together then further apart. Strange. I got my birding binoculars out and a closer look confirmed my suspicions: there were two swans playing in the puddle. Through the binoculars one could see their necks doing the “up periscope, down periscope” thing, keeping an eye out for potential danger. Later that evening as I was lighting the grill, I heard swans low honking from the pond area as waves of geese motored overhead at treetop level. Spring had sprung for now anyway.
 
Our first car club meeting of the season is scheduled for Thursday. I need to dust the Silver Hawk off and charge the battery. It’s been parked since November and looks anxious to get out and stretch its wings. Too much sand and salt yet to make me think that’s a good idea though. I was approach by a kind gentleman who claimed he had a Studebaker back in the woods on some property he’d recently purchased. I was flattered he’d thought of me and promised him I’d contact him before looking at it. Not looking for any more projects but am always interested in looking at old relics. Junkyards and farmstead groves have always been a fascination of mine. Plus, I might know someone who’s looking for a parts car or one to restore. One thing about Studebakers, like acres of farmland, they aren’t making any more of them.

See you next week…real good then.     
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz

After the scurs threatened to take the Weather Eye to the AMC dealer, it straightened out and flew right. Is Old Man Winter a shadow of his former self or is he just rope a doping it? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain changing to snow. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Thursday, partly cloudy with highs in the mid-40’s and lows around 30. Partly sunny on Friday with a slight chance of a shower. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Monday, partly sunny with a modest chance of rain. Highs in the low 50’s with lows in the low 30’s. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a modest chance of rain. Highs in the low 50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. The sun will set on the 23rd at 7:30 p.m. CDT and will rise on the 29th at 7 a.m. The scurs will be drawing the shades, so the early morning sun won’t disturb their early morning beauty sleep.

Tile are running in areas, so the frost depth continues to be a popular question among farmers and gardeners alike. I took my trusty divining steel fencepost to investigate Monday. On the south facing slope, both garden areas where the soil had little cover, the frost appeared to be completely out. Where one probed on the sod, there was still frost 6” – 16” down. On the north facing slope, frost could be detected at 4” – 6” deep. If the rain forecast holds true, it could take the remaining frost out quickly. The other positive is with the thawed soil, much of this possibly precious moisture should soak in as long as it comes gently as is also forecast.

Last week I accidentally dated the vernal equinox as March 21st rather than the 20th. Gazing at the calendar from my perch by the laptop creates a crazy angle from a fair distance, making it easy to make mistakes reading it. I don’t think anyone had a lot of complaints about the Sunday or Monday’s weather any way you slice it. Temperatures were well above normal, something we haven’t said for much of the winter. It definitely made the snow leave except for the last vestiges in road ditches, groves, north sides of buildings, etc. At the ranch the first thing noticeable Saturday afternoon was a host of flies buzzing as they flew out of the grass. Walking around the yard some rhubarb had made the surface. Some daffodils and jonquils were also spotted. By Monday a tinge of green was noted in the pasture and the ewes wasted no time finding it.

I’d recently moved a round bale into the main lot to feed the handful of ewes remaining there. It was only fitting that shortly afterwards, they began searching the pasture looking for something alive to eat. Sunday I also moved a round bale into the lot by the pole barn to hopefully stretch the supply of small square bales. No one likes small square bales except the animals eating them. It seemed to work. I put it in the lot just before chore time with the ewes and lambs attacking it like a school of piranhas. Afterwards I moved the snow blower back to its usual position closer to the barn. It had been in the yard where it was easier to drop. However, the pasture greening up made me envision mowing around it, something I’d really rather avoid. After all, what would the neighbors think? As if I really cared! I just wanted it outta there!

Was able to get the fence up out of the snow and charge it Wednesday. I’d driven the fence that night to make sure the posts were all up and the wires on the insulators. I also checked the wetland to assess the pussy willow progress. Too early yet as few catkins were visible just yet. We let the ewes with lambs out into the lot in front of the pole barn on St. Patrick’s Day and there was much running and jumping, not only from the lambs but from some of the ewes as well. I know some like to watch the lambs from their vehicles and it can be entertaining. They only thing I ask is if you do, please pull in the driveway. The traffic moves at a breakneck speed and the lack of visibility makes it a dangerous place to stop on the road.
 
We’ve seen a fair amount of spring bird activity. The male cardinal is frequently singing his lungs out when we start doing morning chores. Can’t start you day with any better music than that. Grackles have arrived although I let the main bird feeder run empty so as not to encourage them to stay. There was bunny fur scattered around the lawn one morning. Suspected a great horned owl might’ve had something to do with it. Sure enough that evening when I went out to feed the lone bottle lamb, I head a great horned owl in the trees. Hope he has good luck hunting. I’d noticed the rabbits had chewed most of the suckers on the apple trees down to a nub. They also raised hob with the bark on the chokeberries, making me glad I’d put protection around the burning bushes and hydrangea. There would’ve been nothing left of them.

With the increase in farm expenses and income I thought it might be fun to see where some of those prices were back in the day when my Dad was first farming. I found a couple small ledgers that my folks had kept from what is likely to be 1939 and another from 1944. Oddly enough the 1944 ledger ends with the month of September. My oldest brother was born in October which probably tended to shift the focus of their attention. Records of expenses and income may have been recorded elsewhere. I found several mentions of eggs sold at $.30/dozen and one entry with seed corn costing $34.00 and another for 2 bu. Of DeKalb seed corn for $17.64/bu. It’s possible it planted their entire corn acreage. A tractor overhaul listed ran $61.85. However, if one uses the value of a 1944 dollar in today’s money at $16.02, things weren’t that cheap then either all things considered.

These prices of course were interesting but what was perhaps more interesting was trying to piece together a glimpse of the kind of farm Dad and his new wife were operating. There were monthly milk checks, hogs being sold periodically, eggs sold several times per month and occasionally some corn sold for grain. Corn had not yet become king. If they had milk cows, a fair portion of their corn acreage was probably being chopped for silage along with being fed to the hogs and chickens. This was a livestock intensive system without a lot of mechanization. No electricity as evidenced by the $7.88 entry for radio batteries. Electricity arrived in 1950 there. The stubborn neighbor across the road never had electricity when we lived on that farmstead. No appearance of sheep in any of the entries so they may have arrived on the scene later. No mention of fertilizer either although manure was probably the fertilizer of choice. It was obviously plentiful, and the price would’ve been right.
 
The tractors Dad had at the time would’ve included a McCormick Deering 22-36 and a Farmall F-20. I found the serial numbers for both written in another notebook. Neither of them were noted for their comfort or speed. The standard tread 22-36 was a plow tractor. It had a three-speed transmission with a top speed of 3.8 mph. The F-20 was his row-crop cultivator tractor. The remains of the old cultivator were in the scrap iron pile for many years. With a four-speed transmission, the F-20 also topped out at a whopping 3.8 mph. Road gears were obviously not a big thing until the letter series Internationals showed up. Later on, flying down the road at an astounding 12 mph on Dad’s 1950 Co-Op E4 must’ve almost taken one’s breath away.
 
See you next week…real good then.   
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

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Fun info Dotch! 

Offline Dotch

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Cause just when I need you, you won't be there

The scurs were once again dismayed by the Weather Eye’s performance. Perhaps it is time for the mechanic at the AMC dealership to take another look. Is Old Man Winter back in earnest or is he just foolin’ around? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of rain changing to snow. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of forenoon snow. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the low 20’s. Mostly sunny on Friday April Fool’s Day with a modest chance of an evening shower. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a slight chance of rain. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the low 30’s. Monday, partly sunny with a slight chance of rain. Highs in the low 50’s with lows in the upper 30’s. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a good chance of rain. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. The normal high for April 1st is 48 and the normal low is 29. The scurs may take a look at one of those new Pacers at the AMC dealership. When not in use it might come in handy as a greenhouse.

Things went south in the weather department last week. After seeing temperatures rise as high as 70 back on the 21st, we’re back on the same carnival ride we experienced much of the winter. Temperatures struggled to get above freezing on the 26th and 27th. Tough to get any remaining frost out of the ground at that rate. There is a ring of water around the outside of St. Olaf Lake but that hasn’t expanded either with the colder temperatures. The good news is there was enough soil thawed that most of last week’s rainfall went into the ground. It came slowly and over an extended period of time. While the wind blew hard afterwards, it didn’t warm up to dry the soil much. With more rain promised for this week, we may be in better shape from a soil moisture perspective than once thought.
 
The lambs haven’t minded the cool weather and in fact have rather enjoyed it. Their daily evening run and bounce time seems to run anywhere from 4 p.m. until dark. We even managed to finish up the last ewe to lamb (so we think) last Wednesday. That included one unplanned pregnancy. The nightly. Trips to the barn have come to a halt and sleep time has become more regular once again. Considering we started back in early December, that’s no small feat for a couple people nearing retirement age. Only one bottle lamb being fed a couple times a day too. We ought to be able to finish off the dab of milk replacer in the bottom of the bag and call it good. Once we move the last two pens of ewes with lambs we should be in tall cotton.

Some extremely sad news to report from the ranch: Our beloved Border Collie Ruby had to be put to sleep last Thursday. It was not an easy decision to make but one we were positive was the right one. Last fall I was amazed about good she looked going into the winter. Her coat was smooth, and her mobility was excellent for a dog going on 12 years old. Sure, she was sleeping a little more perhaps, but she’d earned that. Following behind lawnmowers all summer long every year will do that. December came and went with her looking like she might live another decade. Her heat cycle encompassed January, and something wasn’t quite right. Along about mid-February, she began to bleed again, and it was time to make a trip to the vet in early March.

When I explained the situation, the vet tech wanted her in their office the first thing the next morning. That had me worried. Ruby was acting normally yet and I wanted to keep it that way if possible. I dropped her off and got word shortly before lunch. Not unexpectedly, it wasn’t good. There was a large tumor in an inoperable position, one that carried a distinct possibility of her bleeding out on the operating table if attempted. We were left with that choice or to take her home and make her final days as comfortable as possible with medication. We chose the latter, knowing our days left with her were numbered.

The meds helped. The symptoms that had triggered the trip to the vet were controlled for the time being. We did all the normal things we’d always done with her including chores, playing ball and making popcorn, Ruby’s favorite treat. As time wore on, we could see her mobility slowly deteriorating. It still didn’t keep her from performing all of her daily Border Collie duties. The evening before we had to take her in, she still did chores and played ball, including the growling game, something she invented while playing ball. Point the TV remote at her and she would growl and sometimes bark with the ball in her mouth. It sounded absolutely ridiculous.
 
Anytime you bring home a new puppy, you know full well the clock is ticking. You also know if you become attached, you will feel absolutely miserable when that fatal day comes. Still, you’re also aware of the comfort and happiness the animal can bring you and jump in with both feet. The years of enjoyment far outweigh that sadness, making it all worth it. Ruby was no exception. I’d been sent pictures from the breeder that were no fair. Ruby was cuter than a bug’s ear in them and we spoke for her quickly. We even named her. She was much smaller than most of their dogs but there was no question, her big heart and antics more than made up for it.

She was a pistol right out of the chute. In early June of 2010 I went to WI to get Ruby. She was brought there by a dog agility trainer who transported her and two other Border Collie puppies from the breeder in southern IL to their trial event. While there, Ruby had been the life of the party. Everyone knew her name and they played with her nonstop. I also picked up another male puppy to deliver on the way back. When I let them out for a potty break at a rest stop, they played, and Ruby pulled him right down. Immediately I was struck by her strength and tenacity given her small size. After dropping the other puppy off, I stopped by Mom’s to introduce Ruby. She of course loved her. What mom doesn’t love an eight-week-old red and white ball of fur?
 
Ruby instantly took to the ranch, the sheep, and her new buddy, our resident black and white Border Collie Gus. He kindly and gently showed her the ropes. He became her new big brother and tolerated her puppy-ness without complaint. When we lost Gus that October, it took Ruby by surprise. She kept searching for him in vain for some time, unaware that she was suddenly top dog. A few years later, when we wound up with Mom’s dog, she returned the favor and welcomed Gus’s sister Fudgie back to the ranch. They would be buddies for four years before Fudgie passed away in early 2017. Ruby was top dog again until her passing March 24th, 2022.

This marks the first time in 37 years we’ve had no dog. When I came back from the vet’s office that day, I was stunned by how quiet the house was. No toenails clicking on the floor, no greeting me, carrying on as though I hadn’t seen her for a month and no automatic treat for her from the bag on the counter. Same thing at chore time. No coiled spring waiting by the door for us to open it along with no twirling, barking and growling on the way to the barn. Anytime I’ve been outside since, it’s as though I’m unsupervised. Indeed I am. She watched every move I made. Sunday night when pruning an apple tree, there was no dog pouncing on the twigs and branches as they fell to the ground. Likewise watching TV that night. For years, whenever a dog would appear on the screen, it was followed by Ruby’s growling or barking. Nothing. Silence. Something missing. That something was Ruby.

See you next week…real good then.             
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

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damn Dotch, i hope you wrote that with a tear in your eye and a smile on your face!!!!! i know i did. your stories and Ruby's antics all these years in the good morning thread gave me a good chuckle all those years!!! :happy1:

although not a border collie, we have a sheltie thats 15 years old, and i see it coming in the not to distant future also!!!i can see the signs!!!!! when she was younger she would chase my chocolate lab around when i was throwing the training dummy, the sheltie had no clue but was fun to watch.  she hearded the kids also!!!

awe the memories!!!!!!!!!! :happy1:
2015 deer slayer!!!!!!!!!!

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Buddy is about 12 too and I see him really slowing down too.  I hug him more now too. 

Offline Dotch

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Thanks glenn & most definitely, keep those hugs coming Barry. I'm preaching to the choir but they come to a halt all too soon. This was a column I'd been dreading writing for quite some time. Once it was done, I exhaled, hit send, and just hoped it was good enough.

It was tough to lose our Sheltie too, glenn. She was a blast! No matter how you slice it, it's still going to hurt like hell I'm sure but you've done it right. Having another dog will help soften the blow somewhat. We've agreed to get back there someday too. After a week, I'm still lost at choretime. The daily routine with Ruby is ingrained.

I looked online at the Missouri Corgi breeder's website last nite. I wanted to do a little homework to get acquainted with them and their operation. Very informative and learned some things about the breed I wasn't fully aware of.  They have an impressive selection of dogs and they work hard at it. They also have a large flock of Katahdin sheep which makes me more comfortable. We're not necessarily looking for herding ability but if that skill set comes along for the ride, I'm fine with that, especially gate watching. Hips and knees on us old farts don't last forever.  :sad: 
« Last Edit: March 03/30/22, 11:48:10 AM by Dotch »
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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She took me in and gave me breakfast

The scurs have had enough. AMC dealer or not, something needs to be done with the Weather Eye to improve the weather in our forecasts. Can we finally sing “Na Na Hey Hey Good-bye” to Old Man Winter or will he make a curtain call? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain changing to snow. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a forenoon rain/snow mix. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of an evening shower. Highs in the low 60’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Monday, partly sunny with a slight chance of rain. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the low 50’s. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a good chance of rain. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the mid-40’s. The normal high for April 8th is 52 and the normal low is 32. Checking the AMC dealer lot, the scurs spied a ’71 AMX with a 401 and Borg Warner 4-speed. Muscle on a budget.

Not much activity in the area farmyards as weather this past week was pretty skimpy on the warmth for any extended period. Tough to get fired up about rolling around outside in the cold and mud. Not a lot of precipitation either but at least it was windy as we like to say. No, it’s not your imagination. This has been a windy stretch with more days with gusts of 30 – 40 mph than anyone can recall. As one sage observer noted, it’s either blowing 40 mph or it’s dead still. Frost depth continues to be on the lips of a lot of folks. There are places where frost is still a factor. Those places include north facing slopes, north sides of groves and buildings. There are indications that it is making progress. The ice was out on both St. Olaf Lake and Beaver Lake as of Monday the 4th.
 
At the ranch we continue to move towards spring at the same pace the as the temperature. Tree pruning has been a slow process. It’s either cold or windy or both. I have succeeded in getting three of the four main eating and cooking apples pruned with one remaining. The pear trees are on my radar as well. After the wind knocked most of them out of the trees at an inopportune time, hoping they get back into the groove again. Fortunately, they’re more columnar in growth habit so pruning them usually goes quickly. Crabapple trees are at the bottom of the list and get pruned as time allows. One must have their priorities. Now to get the proper amount of rainfall ordered.

Seeing the buds on the apple trees beginning to swell, I decided it might be a good time to check the wetland area for pussy willows. First though, I cleared a flight path through the swamp willows, so the wood duck house was more accessible for incoming ducks. They should be able to hit it easily without any problem. As far as the pussy willows, my timing was nearly perfect. Even though I’m not a biologist, the bush I identified as female last year had catkins galore. I could see where I’d taken cuttings the previous spring and it seemed that the number of quality stems actually increased. I harvested a nice bucketful much to Mrs. Cheviot’s delight.
 
Not ready to garden much just yet. We’ve got some seeds, but the ground is somewhat tacky and cold. That leaves me looking at the perennial spring flower bed I started with a clump of jonquils a few years back, added to it with daffodils from Mom’s then decided last year to plant a couple of the leftover spring planters Mrs. Cheviot had brought home. They were destined for the trash, so I wasn’t out much if they didn’t grow. So far, the jonquils are up and each of the daffodil clumps has some coming. The planters I stuck in the ground have hyacinths and tulips emerging. Give them a little heat, some moisture and they just might amount to something.

We got the last two ewes with lambs moved down to the main barn loafing area Monday night. No more room service consisting of feed pans, slices of hay and water buckets. It doesn’t take that long but taking even 20 minutes per day, which adds up to over two hours of extra monkeying around over the course of a week. When put in that perspective, it makes sense to move them as quickly as possible. The lambs are doing exceptionally well with good reason. It’s been relatively dry and the cooler temperatures this time of year agree with sheep’s metabolism. And having more room and fresh air to exercise makes all the difference.

The birds continue to move on through. The flocks of red-winged blackbirds seem to get larger and louder by the day. The goldfinches are making a decided dent in the thistle seed as their numbers continue to swell. The robin numbers hit a peak on Sunday as a dozen of them were gobbling crabapples as fast as they could off the Indian Magic tree. Obviously, they hadn’t received the memo that another robin was pulling earthworms out of the soil south of the house the day before. The female flicker continues to feed on the suet. Like to see her stick around and raise a brood or two. The discovery of emerald ash borer in Janesville has me hoping she keeps after the tree insect pest population while she’s at it.

I want to thank all who expressed their condolences and sympathies on Ruby’s passing. The photo in the paper was one of several I’d attached when I emailed the copy. It was only fitting that Kathryn Tollefson was last week’s “Meet Your Neighbor”. How so you ask? In a moment you’ll understand. When I first moved here, word got out I had an interest in weeds, insects and diseases. I worked with Kathryn’s husband Bud at the elevator. He took me under his wing, and we quickly discovered we both enjoyed a good laugh. He asked me to come over to look at some of his oak trees that weren’t leafing out. When I got there Kathryn made me come in and fed me a huge breakfast. It was unbelievably good. It had to be. I can still remember it some 37 years later! Afterwards I looked at the oak trees. I don’t recall what kind of caterpillar it was, but it was devouring the leaves as fast as they were coming out. When Kathryn asked what the problem was, I wryly replied, “Bud has worms”.
 
Working on Saturdays at the elevator was an every other weekend affair during the off season. One of us would order fried egg sandwiches with cheese and fried onions from the café. When we caught a break, we’d sit down to eat our breakfast sandwiches and have a little coffee. Life was good. We only worked until noon and when that time rolled around Bud would say “That’s it then!” It was one of those Bud-isms that stuck with me. Ruby picked up on it. When a ballgame would conclude just before chore time, I got in the habit of saying “That’s it then!” I’d get up off the couch and head towards the door. Ruby would already there waiting. If you’d say “chores?” she’d cock her head and look at you, just as she did in the photo printed in last week’s Star Eagle. Now you know the rest of the story.

See you next week…real good then. 
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

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Fried egg with cheese and onions it is for breakfast.   :happy1:

Offline Dotch

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Haven't had one of those since I was working at the elevator come to think of it. Just bought a fresh bag of onions. Have eggs & Swiss or American. Think there's some bacon in the fridge too. I see a fried egg and onion w/cheese sammich in my future. :coffee:
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

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Mine is egg, cheese, sliced homemade dill pickles on rye toast and of course ketchup.  Eating now.   :happy1:

Offline Dotch

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Sounds delish! :happy1: Don't say that "K" word too loud or glenn will be on yer doorstep & bring his cold!  :doah:
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

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But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yeah

The scurs got the Weather Eye to cooperate finally over the weekend. Can the same be said about Old Man Winter or will he continue to overstay his welcome? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with a modest chance of rain changing to snow. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with slight chance of a rain/snow mix. Highs in the upper 30’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a good chance of rain and snow showers. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a modest chance of rain and snow showers. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Mostly sunny on Tuesday with highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. The sunrise on Tax Day April 15th will occur at 6:30 CDT and the sunset on April 17th will be at 8 p.m. The normal high for April 15th is 55 and the normal low is 35. The scurs have decorated in early garage sale should the tax man make an appearance.

The Full Moon for April arrives on Saturday the 16th and goes by many names, the most common of which is The Full Pink Moon, so named for the wild ground phlox that cover the forest floor especially in eastern parts of the country. It is also known as The Sprouting Grass Moon, The Egg Moon and the Fish Moon for the shad running in the rivers and streams of the northeast. The Ojibwe called this the Broken Snowshoe Moon while the Sioux called it The Moon of Greening Grass. At the ranch we’re normally calling it The Moon of Dwindling Hay Supply or The Slow Pasture Moon.

So far, this spring has been about like thawing out a Thanksgiving turkey in the refrigerator. Some anecdotal reports of the odd anhydrous ammonia application but no wholesale activity. With anhydrous prices where they are, activity is likely to be limited anyway. Fields are still a little tacky yet and don’t promise to improve anytime soon with five days in a row struggling to get above 40 for a high, not to mention some cloudy days along with some snow and more rain in the mix for laughs. Soil sampling doesn’t work great either where it needs to be done. There is still evidence of frost in places yet from those digging some holes. Monday night I took the skidsteer to grab a wad of waste hay I’d pushed on top of the south side of the compost pile over winter. I made a run at it, and it was if I’d hit a brick wall. Once I scraped the hay off with the bucket I could see why. There was a solid block of ice underneath it.

Spring has been taking its sweet time. There are lots of signs just not the kind that make a person real excited yet. The jonquils on the south side of the house are just starting to open. The daffodil buds are coming too. They just won’t be flowering right away. Rhubarb is pokey as well. Not even any dandelions blooming in the vicinity of any of these plants so that’s a clue. The crocuses and tulips in the bed by the apple trees aren’t up yet. Being covered by a thick layer of leaves didn’t help matters. Even when I uncovered them Saturday there was no sign of either yet Monday. It has been cold and shows no signs of dramatic improvement anytime soon.

Saturday was a beauty even though it made just over 50. There was no wind, and it gave me an opportunity to harvest the very much in demand pussy willows. The cold temperatures caused the female plants to hold their catkins another week without bursting into bloom so that was fortunate. However, the catkins on the male bushes were just barely starting to open. They’re not as showy as the females but a little consistent heat would help move them along faster. Hopefully they’ll hang around a little longer too if it stays cooler. Just don’t anybody die soon. I can barely keep up with the flower shop demand the way it is.
 
The trip to the wetland area did bring a smile to my face while I was in search of the perfect twigs from the bushes. A few western chorus frogs were just starting to croak their spring thumb on a comb song. When I was out Sunday night and even Monday as I was walking around the yard, I could hear their call. It isn’t anywhere near what they’re capable of yet. When we get those 60-to-70-degree nights and ensuing warm days, the noise can be deafening both at the ranch as well as in town in the slough behind the Corn Palace. When you open the windows at night, their calls serve as one of nature’s sleeping pills.
   
Not surprisingly we continue to see numerous birds at our feeders. The cold temperatures have seen to that. The suet in particular has been popular even though I was convinced that it would soon warm up and I could quit feeding it. Have yet to see a male flicker on the suet even though the female is a daily visitor. Goldfinches have been steadily increasing and their color is getting a little brighter every day. With all the wind, I take one of the feeders down when it’s in the forecast. It’s one of the communal favorites. After it crashed landed recently, it sustained some damage. I take it inside and clean it up until the windy conditions subside. The avian flu hasn’t been cause for restrictions on bird feeding yet, so keeping the feeders clean is always a good idea. The robins picked the crabapples clean at the ranch this spring, something that seldom happen. Another clue.
 
Finished up the last of the edible apple tree pruning on Monday night. Actually I’d done most of it the prior weekend and Sunday once the wind subsided. There were some touch up spots and one large limb that had died off, so the chainsaw came in handy. The Fireside has been on my list for quite some time. I pruned the ever-living snot out of it in hopes that it will produce again. It’s the same kill it or sure it philosophy used when treating sick sheep sometimes. If it croaks, I’m not out anything. If it survives and lives to be productive everyone’s a winner. I’ve wanted to look at a few other apple trees anyway. A Honeygold has been on my wish list for a long time. Maybe this is the year.

See you next week…real good then.
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I'm sixty four?

The scurs continue to battle the Weather Eye as it spits out more cold forecasts. Will we finally rid ourselves of Old Man Winter or are we stuck with him? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Thursday, sunny with modest chance of evening rain. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Mostly cloudy on Friday with a good chance of rain. Highs in the low 60’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Saturday, cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the low 40’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of forenoon rain showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. The normal high for Earth Day April 22nd is 58 and the normal low is 37. The scurs should have enough Easter candy stashed to survive until the May Baskets show up.

Another mostly nothing week for fieldwork. Soil temperatures remain cold and soils tacky as the March and April rainfall begin to sneak up on us. Most of the area has received from 2.7” – 3+” of rainfall since March 1st. Most of that moisture is in the ground as it didn’t come in large quantities, and it wasn’t dried quickly by any warm sunny weather. Quite the contrary. Oh we’ve had breezes to be sure but when the temperature matches the windspeed, drying tends to be minimal. There is anecdotal evidence the frost is largely out as we’re seeing pocket gopher mounds appearing across the area. After last week’s midweek rain however there were still some signs where water stood that might be suspect. Still reports of those digging with backhoes etc., that might tend to indicate that frost may still exist in places. Gee, can’t imagine why with 2” soil temps only in the mid-30’s. At least we don’t have 3’ of snow. It shouldn’t take long once the weather breaks.
 
Of course last week after it was deemed safe to leave the birdfeeders out, the Raptor Center decided to announce that people should probably pull them in for a while. Their advisory was qualified however and subject to interpretation. The USDA has said that if you’re raising poultry in the proximity, it’s probably a good idea to take feeders down. The species you’re trying to feed and attract makes a difference too. Anyone who has raised livestock knows that sparrows and starlings are potential disease carriers as they’re fond of staying in the proximity of livestock. They’re noted for carrying organisms like coccidiosis and salmonella amongst others.
 
I’ve gone out of my way to creatively exclude sparrow and starling access to our feeders for many years after discovering what the so called “experts” said didn’t work. Some desirable birds like juncos and goldfinches are going to flock as well. That’s part of their survival mechanism, the difference being they’re not apt to get close to livestock. Even if we were to take our feeders down, large numbers of birds are drawn to many of the berry shrubs and crabapple trees we’ve planted over the years. I’ll be dipped if I’m gonna pick and discard all the American cranberries off 300’ of row or the remaining fruit off a dozen crabapple trees. Some common sense needs to prevail.
 
Not much to write home about in the garden just yet. The jonquil blossoms from last week are still there but no new blooms. I took a look at the main garden to decide where planting some of the spring seeded vegetables would work. Anyplace they weren’t last year which means where the vine crops were. Sounds good in theory although it might help if the soil was thawed first. Probably not a bad idea to let it thaw and dry out a little first. I got a nice selection of early season vegetables from Mrs. Cheviot for my 64th birthday. I’ll need to purchase a few radishes, onion sets, beets for Agnes, carrots and more snap peas but otherwise we should be set for an early garden. I haven’t decided if messing with potatoes is worth it. It’s hard to beat home raised red Pontiacs or Norlands fried with garden onions. Likewise Norkotah or similar russets baked and slathered with Hope Creamery butter. Doesn’t need to be a lot and it’s another rotational consideration. See? I talked myself into it.

Auntie Mar Mar came through over the Easter weekend with a pan of icebox cookies and peanut clusters. The icebox cookies were especially good with coffee as they contained black walnuts cracked by one of her neighbor friends. She’d mentioned that the icebox cookies seemed like something my Mom might’ve made. I don’t recall her ever making those, but Grandma did, mostly likely with rancid bacon grease. She was sweet soul but conservative to a “T”. Nothing went to waste. She cooked for my curmudgeonly Uncle Basil and Grandpa who were largely unappreciative of her efforts no matter what. When she’d bring food to the table it wasn’t uncommon to hear them grumble and say something like “God, what’s this stuff?” As my Mom used to say, if that had been her, they would’ve been wearing it.
 
The Studebaker emerged from its winter slumber Saturday none the worse for wear. Luckily the rain washed the salt off the roads well enough so that there was no worry that it would get on the car. There were still some bugs stuck on it from last fall that needed to be wiped off while the duster would remove the thin layer of dust that had accumulated. Everything under the hood checked out as the battery charged and I applied the necessary elbow grease on the body. It wasn’t too dirty, and I skipped over the whitewalls as I was almost out of Bleche Wite. That’s a project for the next cruise. Scrubbing whitewalls with a brush or scouring pad is highly overrated.
 
After getting that all done, I closed the door and opened the garage door to fire up the Studebaker 259 V8. Once I heard the electric fuel pump ticking get quieter, I proceeded to crank the engine over. Had to repeat to process a few times to get the carburetor primed up again. Once it got fuel, it fired right up and ran smoothly. After chores we took the Silver Hawk on its maiden voyage for the season. It purred nicely and all systems were “go”. The ammeter was showing a healthy 5 to 7-amp charge, the water temp steady around 165° and the oil pressure hovered right around 50 lbs. psi. The fuel gauge also read almost half a tank, plenty to get us to a nearby watering hole for libations and some nourishment. The heater core under the front seat gave off just enough heat to remind us it was working. I’ll have to remember to shut the valve off once it warms up though or we’ll be stopping more frequently for libations.

See you next week…real good then. 
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

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The scurs are beginning to think the ’74 Gremlin the Weather Eye came from is an orphan car. If the Weather Eye doesn’t straighten these forecasts out, it’ll be an orphan too. Has Mother Nature replaced Old Man Winter finally or does she have Jack Frost as a sidekick? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a modest chance of an evening shower. Highs in the low 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with modest chance of forenoon rain. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Mostly cloudy on Friday with a good chance of rain. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the mid-40’s. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of forenoon rain. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Partly sunny on Sunday with a fair chance of forenoon rain showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the upper 30’s. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Partly sunny on Tuesday with highs in the mid-50’s and lows in the low 40’s. On April 27th we’ve reached 14 hours of daylight, the same as we saw back on August 15th. Sunday is May 1st already. The normal high for May 1st is 62 and the normal low is 41. The scurs will be drooling over their May baskets, knowing it’s a long dry spell until the Farm and City Days parade.

More very limited activity in the fields this past week. Some anhydrous ammonia was applied as was dry fertilizer and some pre-plant herbicides. No one was bragging about how much got done so one can safely bet conditions weren’t ideal. I’m aware of one area small grain field that was seeded. As mentioned in previous columns, rainfall has managed to sneak up on us with the cool temperatures and lack of sunshine. This last week added to the rainfall total and gave us very little to cheer about in the temperature dept. The flip side to that is although we like to plant corn in April when possible, we seldom accumulate a lot of GDU’s in the month anyway. Even the very full season hybrids should be safely planted until mid-May. They may need the added benefit of a longer than normal fall to avoid higher drying costs but most are aware of the risk going in. That’s why planting a range of maturities still makes sense.

Not much stirring in the gardens or flower beds at the ranch either. Most appear to be in suspended animation. Even with the warm rain on Saturday night, progress is measured at best. The rhubarb probably made the most impressive jump, becoming very evident from the sliding glass doors. All the jonquils are in bloom but the daffodils and hyacinths have yet to bloom. The crocuses that were uncovered several weeks ago have barely started to poke through. I was fretting the apple tree buds would pop open before I got them pruned. Worries were all for naught. I’ll likely even get after the last of the nasty Siberian crabapples yet the rate things are going. Like most crop farmers, a gardener isn’t happy unless there’s something to worry about.
 
A few indications spring is still coming. Saturday night we saw our first barn swallow of the season in the main barn. With the cold forecast though, I questioned the wisdom of its return. Flying insect activity when highs are in the 30’s and 40’s tends to be somewhat limited. I harvested the last batch of pussy willows on the 22nd. That’s almost a month behind last year when early April heat caused them to pollinate. I could see some signs that the catkins on the female plants were getting about to the end as there were some showing a greenish cast. The catkins on the male bushes were about in their prime so they comprised the bulk of what was harvested. They were still nice but nowhere near as puffy and showy as the females on the first two cuttings. While by the wetland, the western chorus frogs were starting to get loud. By Saturday, they’d reached the upper decibel level. One could hear them in the afternoon above the wind blowing when up in the yard. Looks like they’ll be somewhat muted for a while.
     
When feeding the birds, using exclusion & limitation for certain species helps. By not allowing large groups of house sparrows to congregate on any given feeder helps. It also helps to control them in the outbuildings. One the control methods we’ve employed for house sparrow control in the barn involves barn cats. I’m not a huge cat fan. I have repressed memories from my childhood of putting the heathouser on the Co-Op E3 only to find once it warmed up, it reeked of eau de tomcat. I can tolerate that smell to a point and the piles they tend to leave behind in some of the least desirable places. There’s also the potential of collateral damage when they eat songbirds. Cats are also well-known carriers of toxoplasmosis which is of concern not only to pregnant human beings but to pregnant ewes as well. Keeping cats from using feed as a litterbox is imperative. Our cat numbers have been gradually dwindling. The traffic moves at warp speed past the ranch so there is some natural selection at play. Unfortunately one of the three cats we have left is a female. It recently hatched out a new batch of kittens after looking like a furry black nerf football with legs and a tail. This may be one of the last litters of kittens at the ranch. It’s time, before I end up like my Mom who after having a stroke, decided she needed to feed the cats before the ambulance got there to pick her up.

Back in April of ’82, I was still living in Rugby ND although I was becoming restless. Driving an hour or more just to get to the fields I was responsible for was weighing heavily on my mind. I’d run across another guy about my age who was working as the fertilizer plant manager at the Cenex in Cando. As it turns out he was a recent NDSU grad from St. Clair MN, a place I’d never heard of. He was renting a trailer house in the trailer park on the east side of town and wondered if I’d be interested in helping defray some of the expenses. Cando was closer to the acreages I was responsible for and there was no telling what kind of mischief we’d get into. The Durum House on US 281 was a decent place to eat after hours. Cando was also the home of Dave Osborne, former Vikings running back. I spent Easter in the Rugby basement bomb shelter house but had given Miltenberger’s, the owners, notice that I’d be leaving the end of the month. By May 1st, my two cats, a color TV, my stereo, my Gremlin and I landed in the trailer park.
 
The trailer was about what one could expect for an early 1980’s boar’s nest. It was a late 50’s – early 60’s model Marshfield that appeared to have been refurbished. Like this spring, the spring of ’82 was a long, drawn-out affair in ND. Placing wireworm traps in the middle of the huge windswept fields to be planted into wheat brought new meaning to being cold. Trying to warm up once back home to the boar’s nest was no cakewalk either. Neither of us wanted to spend the money on fuel oil for the furnace since we might have to carry it over until fall. That would cut into our entertainment budget. Instead, we survived using a Kerosun heater, hoping that it would warm up. By June it did and amazingly we hadn’t burned the place down or asphyxiated ourselves in the meantime. The motto for Cando was “You can do better in Cando”. We might’ve been trailer trash, but we were livin’ the dream.
 
See you next week…real good then.   
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

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sure do remember that song!!!  good one too!!!    :happy1:
a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work!!