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Author Topic: Fencelines  (Read 149716 times)

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Online Dotch

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Stone cold, can't break away from your spell

The scurs and Weather Eye skated by with another better than usual for January forecast. Can they duplicate that feat or are we out of free passes for a while? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with a fair chance of evening snow. Highs in the upper 30’s with lows in the low 30’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of snow developing and continuing through the evening hours. Highs in the upper 30’s with lows in the upper teens. Cloudy Friday with a fair chance of forenoon snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the low teens. Saturday, mostly cloudy with highs in the upper teens and lows in the upper single digits. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with highs in the low 20’s and lows in the upper single digits. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows around 10. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with highs in the upper teens and lows in the mid-single digits. On the 13th we see the sun set at 5 p.m. as our daylight continues to increase. The normal high for January 13th is 21 and the normal low is 4. The scurs are guessing that their woodpile is sufficient to make it until spring has sprung, next month. Optimism is contagious.

We’ve certainly lived a charmed life thus far this winter. Only one major storm and temperatures for the first half of winter we could only dream of. It may not come without a price depending on your point of view. Some of the insects prevalent in area fields last season are held in check at least temporarily by colder than normal temperatures. Not that we shouldn’t be enjoying our good fortune temperature and precipitation-wise, it’s just that there may be unforeseen consequences once the growing season commences. And while traits and pesticides are helpful, relying on them as our sole line of defense has proven to be a mistake many, many times after going to the well once too often.

The mild weather hasn’t stopped the bird population in the yard from taking advantage of our generosity. A very healthy chickadee population is usually present along with nuthatches, blue jays, juncos, hairies, downies, a red-belly, a song sparrow, a pair of cardinals and an increasing number of goldfinches. We offer suet, black oil sunflower, safflower, thistle seed and corn, both mixed in some feeders and ear corn for the squirrels. Their numbers have increased as well. At first it looked as though there were one or two. At last count, there were seven. One other one met its maker on the road, probably on its way up the hill to get a handout.

The local pheasant population has also been evident. Their tracks in the snow are pretty distinctive. I’m pretty sure we don’t have any roving bands of chickens in the area. The pheasants clean up under the bird feeders and make themselves right at home. In the late afternoon however they’ve taken to roosting in the evergreens. I used to wonder why until going outside at night about this time of year to check for lambs. Recently I can hear the distinctive calls of great horned owls, likely their mating call. They can’t be mating all the time however and have to eat. Pheasant tartar is definitely on their menu.
 
Friday marked the arrival of the first lamb of the New Year as well as our first ewe lamb of the season. I was in a hurry after being dogpiled at work much of the day. I normally like to get to the ranch and check on things after lunch but it took until almost 3 p.m. I also needed to get to Krause’s for feed yet. I spied a ewe with a new lamb by the hay feeder. From a distance everything looked good in spite of being 20 degrees. There was no breeze so that was a plus. I observed them up close for a minute as the lamb hooked onto the ewe. Decided they’d be fine and could be penned when I got back. They were fine and upon my return, Mrs. Cheviot was home in a matter of minutes. The lamb wriggled and kicked at Mrs. Cheviot all the way down the hill to the barn. The ewe followed her baby obediently while Ruby and I tailed her to the pen. Yup, that lamb was definitely gonna be just fine.
   
After unloading the pickup last Saturday and distributing the last of the possessions from Mom’s I finally had a day to do with as I wished. Well, sort of. Almost like being caught in some sort of spell. Time to play catchup and finish cleaning the rest of the main barn. Mostly anyway. First the snow needed to be shoveled out of the spreader and then the apron chains pried out of the ice. Not doing so for the better part of an hour would have resulted in certain disaster. Once that was accomplished the tractor was hooked up to the spreader to make sure there would be no nasty surprises once the pto was engaged. Sure enough, frozen manure had built up on the rear sprockets to the point that a possible apron chain derailment might be possible. Cussing as I chipped away at that and greasing some of the critical zerks afterwards took most of another hour.
 
In order to get to the field a management decision was necessary: Take the chains off the tractor, run up the highway with loads unsure if I’ll get stuck in the field and be able to navigate the icy sloping yard if/when I returned or do I leave the chains on and dig a path with the skidsteer through 50’ – 60’ of 2’ – 3’ snowdrifts in the ditch to make it out to the field? I chose the latter as once I put the chains on I really hate taking them off or putting them back on. There’s nothing remotely resembling fun about either process. After another hour I’d blazed what looked to be an acceptable trail to the field. After that, some major limbs were chain sawed off the bur oak so they wouldn’t tear the flashers off the tractor cab. Almost time to start hauling except the bucket needed to be changed over to the forks on the skidsteer. If you’re not in a hurry the forks go on quickly. If you’re in a hurry, it tends to be a royal pain to get the pins lined up with the mounting brackets. Guess which time it was?

As it turned out my decision making process was 100% correct. It would’ve been nearly impossible to operate in the slippery yard without the chains on, speaking from experience. The snow in the field was an intangible. From the road it really didn’t appear that deep. Once out there appearances proved otherwise, especially on the leeward side of rises and down in the swales. There was snow up to 2’ deep, something the 656 probably wasn’t going through without the chains on while pulling a full load. Calling a neighbor to pull a tractor and spreader out is real embarrassing. Once I got going, we thundered right along considering there were also panels, gates and animals needing to be moved. Six major league loads later we called it good for the day. One more set of pens yet to be cleaned and the main barn is done. Not a moment too soon either with more snow on the way.
 
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 Dotch

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Haven't you noticed the rays, the spirit sun is stronger

The scurs and Weather Eye blessed us with yet another warmer than expected effort. Will we continue to bite off hunks of winter or finally begin to choke on it? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the mid-single digits. Mostly sunny Friday with highs in the low teens and lows around zero. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of snow by evening. Highs in the upper teens with lows around 10. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a good chance of snow. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the low teens. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the low 20’s and lows around zero. Partly cloudy for Tuesday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the low teens with lows around zero. We’ll see daylight increasing by just over 2 minutes per day starting on the 21st.  The normal high for January 21st is 22 and the normal low is 4. The scurs have it on good authority that warm sunny days lie just ahead. They’ll be heading off to St. Olaf beach to catch some rays.
 
We managed to get through what is typically the coldest part of the winter. We did however collect another major snowfall event last week that was more typical of a March snowstorm. The storm was given the “blizzard” designation although by most standards, it was pretty tame at least into the early morning. The snow was heavy and wet, so much so that the strong winds had little effect on blowing it around.  Doing lamb check at around 10 p.m. it had only managed and inch or so of accumulation. Looking out the window closer to 4 a.m. one could see everything was white and the wind was howling. Rather than get too interested in the weather, it was more prudent to go back to sleep for a while. Plenty of time to play with the snow later.
 
Was surprised at choretime to find over 7” of wet snow evenly spread across the dooryard. In town it was much the same. Given the wind one might’ve expected to see more drifting. As sticky as the snow was though it made no sense to attempt using the blower. Like most people did I used the bucket to hack trails so we could get from building to building. When the weekend arrived the weather cooled down and it was easier to use the blower to finish what had been started. Very satisfying to see all the frozen Ruby concretions fly out the chute and over the snow piles into the road ditch.

Lambs continue to trickle in slowly at the ranch. The only fly in the ointment has been the lambing barn that hasn’t been cleaned. The recent snow didn’t help matters. Finishing the cleanout of the remaining pens in the main barn was a feather in my cap however. Loading it up was a little like working in a broom closet; tight quarters while trying to avoid tearing equipment off the wall and leaving the pens intact. It made for one monster load by the time I was done. Like any good livestock farmer, I wasn’t about to make two trips. The 656 growled as the beaters on the spreader pulverized the load, leaving a thick layer evenly behind. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cheviot had the pens bedded with straw quickly and moving the ewes with lambs back into them went smoothly. Best of all it was drier and the air quality was vastly improved, at least in the barn. Out in the field? Let’s just say I was glad the wind was out of the west.

The lambs in the main barn are doing splendidly and have responded to it being clean and dry. The first lamb born back in early December looks like a miniature beef steer. The next two took off like a rocket in the past week. Another ewe lamb born Monday and set of twins born Tuesday look good but are in the lambing barn where moving them sooner than later may be in everyone’s best interest. If we can’t get the lambing barn cleaned we’ll have to keep rotating ewes with lambs through the main barn, open up the loafing area and establish a creep feeder. Looking at the longer term forecasts there may be some bumps in the road but indications are the lower temperatures will be of relatively short duration. It just might work, this time. As the decades have taught me, getting by with something once doesn’t constitute it becoming standard operating procedure especially when dealing with the weather.
       
Ruby has long been in charge of entertainment at the ranch and this past weekend was no exception. Between playing ball, making strange dog noises, and sharing her popcorn she doesn’t skip a beat. She also found another enemy on the TV to go along with the Myrbetriq bladder character: The Cologuard fecal specimen box character. Why not? Her sudden growling usually gets noticed especially when it involves watching TV. Not that her attention span is particularly long but she seems to hone in on the more “unusual “ads and their equally “unusual” representatives. Upon hearing Ruby’s growling it was no surprise to look up from my magazine and understand immediately that the little Cologuard specimen box man was not welcome in her house.

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 Dotch

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Go on, stick them needles in your arm

The scurs and Weather Eye delivered a little more of a mixed bag this past week. Will we get our mojo back going into February or will the ground hog see his shadow? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs around 10 and lows in the mid-single digits below zero. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-teens and lows in the upper single digits. Mostly cloudy Friday with highs in the upper 20’s and lows in the low 20’s. Saturday, cloudy with a good chance of snow. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows around 20. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the low teens. Monday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the upper teens. Mostly sunny for Ground Hog Day with highs in the upper 20’s and lows in the mid-20’s. The sun will also rise before 7:30 a.m. that morning so any ground hogs reading this will have to get up early. The normal high for February 2nd is 24 and the normal low is 5. The scurs plan on staying in their nice warm bed so they won’t have to see their shadow.

We also have to contend with the Full Moon on the 28th. It generally goes by The Full Wolf Moon as hungry wolves were known to set up camp outside Indian villages back in the day. It also goes by The Old Moon or The Moon after Yule. The Ojibwe called this The Great Spirits Moon and the Sioux knew it as The Hard Moon or Moon with Frost in the Teepee. At the ranch it is known as The Moon when Lambing is Least Fun. Aside from getting it out of the way, I’m not sure what other redeeming qualities it has.
 
 The weekend snow arrived right on schedule so a trip to procure feed was in order. Also in order was the red pepper cheese curds that are a treat once back in from the barn. The tractor and blower were readied while the skidsteer was checked over. Best to be prepared for the onslaught although this system lacked the punch again that the December blizzard did. It was as advertised with little snow falling during daylight hours and then most snow not falling until the wee hours of the morning. It was a surprise after seeing what was on the ground at 10 p.m. to awaken to 5” – 6” of the fluffy white stuff.

The good thing about that kind of snow is that it’s relatively easy to move. Indeed, with a 656 rated at 63 pto hp on a 7’ blower, in heavy snow it gives it all it can handle. In light, fluffy snow like this past weekend, it barely noticed it as the snow flew out of the chute. As many also not, once the snow went through the blower it pretty much disintegrated. The temperature was moderate too so with the heat on inside the Year-A-Round, I was bordering on too warm in just a hooded sweatshirt. Another half hour and I would’ve been down to my T-shirt. It’s always a good feeling to be done but it seems like there’s always another little patch or two that could be sent skyward.

Our backyard continues to be host to a lot of wildlife from birds, rabbits and squirrels. Once the snow gets crusted over or turns to ice it’s hard to detect the cottontails. When it snows it becomes fairly obvious there is a large population and they’re hungry. Looking at the suckers on the crabapple trees, they’ve been chewed off cleanly. There was a reason we put cages around the hydrangea and burning bushes. The bunnies would have liked nothing better than to give them the same reverse Mohawk they used to give the spirea. They ruined numerous other specimens over the years as well.
 
 The squirrels are getting fatter as winter goes on as well they should, eating as much ear corn as they have. Our favorites are still the pheasants. We don’t have a lengthy time each day to watch them but we’re quick to point them out when they appear. They’re sleeping in the evergreen trees and seem to switch locations each night, a wise idea when predators such as owls are lurking. The great horned owl calls were still being heard last week around 10 p.m. Comforting to hear unless you’re a pheasant or a skunk.

At times there are two male cardinals. Noticed that the other day when I saw one out the east window then happened by the sliding glass doors on the south only to see him there. Wait a minute, is that the same one or does he really fly that fast? After several trips back and forth I determined there were indeed two of them. Just recently in the morning they’ve begun to sing. I suspect one of them will probably set up shop at neighbor David’s and the other will probably camp here at the ranch. At any rate they certainly brighten an otherwise dreary day with their stark red in contrast to the snow. A little sunshine makes it all the better.

Lambing at the ranch marches on. In early February we will have been at it already for two months even though we’re only about one-quarter of the way done. More are on the way soon but hopefully not too many before the weather decides to warm up later this week. It’s always a challenge to lamb in the cold and especially in the dark. At least we improved the lighting with the addition of some 100W LED bulbs. Perfect for damp locations which can be the case sometimes. The 60 watt incandescents simply weren’t cutting it anymore. Too dim and shadowy to see what you’re doing, kinda important to avoid accidentally sticking a needle in your arm or any other appendage.
 
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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Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend

The scurs and Weather Eye steered us into the weather doldrums this past week. Will our placid conditions continue or will we be tossed like a ship on the ocean? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with a good chance of snow by evening. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of snow. Highs in the mid-20’s falling to near 10 for a low by midnight. Mostly sunny Friday with highs around 10 and lows around 5 below. Saturday, partly sunny with highs in the low single digits and lows around 15 below. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs struggling to make zero and lows around 15 below. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the low single digits above zero and lows around 5 below. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with highs around 5 above and lows near 5 below. The sun will set at 5:30 CST on the 5th as we gain daylight at about two and a half minutes per day. . The normal high for February 5th is 25 and the normal low is 6. The scurs plan to stay in bed was foiled. They saw their shadow but we will have at least 6 more weeks of winter.
 
Not much visual activity out here in the hinterlands other than corn being hauled to market. By the time this reaches print most will be hunkered down looking for inside projects. Plans for the upcoming crop are being cemented and equipment can be worked on in heated shops. The mood is more optimistic (or less pessimistic) than it’s been for several years with markets remaining strong presently, giving farmers an opportunity to lock in some decent prices. Of course for livestock people, particularly those with cattle and sheep there is often little choice but to be outside whether it’s 20 above or 20 below. The animals must be cared for regardless of the price. Sometimes a little sunshine and warmer temps are all it takes to improve moods out in the lot.

A few more lambs in since last week’s edition including one in the house that would’ve been lost if not for timely intervention. Sometimes with lambs as with calves I’m told, you get a dummy, one that won’t nurse. Eventually they catch on but usually not until much fussing and fighting much to the consternation of the shepherd. This buck lamb happened to be huge for a Cheviot so it was worth a shot. Mrs. Cheviot had a couple days off and after struggling with him the first day, the light bulb came on. He came around more quickly than anticipated but he had several nicknames already. Frequently we name dummies after people we don’t like so it pays to be nice to us.
The hay supply continues to bear monitoring although the rate we’re going, we should be in good shape. As the lambs come in we transition into feeding more small square bales. With enough small squares tucked away late summer, we’re just starting to make a small dent in the stack. We located a supply of oat straw locally earlier in the month so we’re set in that department. Getting a little cooperation from the weather and timing from the ewes coming in would be nice as we move closer to shearing around mid-February. Ewes dumping lambs out in snowbanks freezing their ears and tails off is overrated. So is freezing the ears and tails off the shepherds.
 
We needed to put a couple more round bales of hay in the lot Saturday ahead of what could’ve been a potential snowstorm. I debated whether or not it was a good idea. It meant risking getting the sheep all snow when they’d stay out to gnaw on the bales. It also involves taking the blower off the tractor, putting bale spear on, getting the frozen bale wrap off the bales, hopping on and off the tractor about 10 times to open and close the gate as well as yelling at the sheep trying to get out. Decision time: Go for it. Made the necessary changes and in a little under two hours, the bales were in the feeders and everything was back where it belonged. Then it decided not to snow. Best of all, after a meal of Morgan’s bacon and eggs, it triggered a nap even Rip Van Winkle would’ve been proud of.

There has been a lot of discussion as of late about electric cars. It’s a little known fact that Studebaker was one of the pioneers in the production of electric vehicles as early as 1902. They worked well in an urban setting where distances travelled were limited. The costs ranged from $950 - $1800 depending on the size of the automobile. However the vehicles were heavy and sluggish with limited value outside of the cities where rural electrification had not yet taken place.  Air pollution was already a problem in the cities due to the burning of coal and wood but an equally great problem was all the horse manure being generated by the millions of horses used for transportation. By around 1912 Studebaker had realized the future of automobiles was with the internal combustion engine.

Fast forward to the present day. There is a huge push on to re-establish electric automobiles. Some of the same problems still exist with the lack of charging stations and whether or not the electrical gird will be able to handle it. Cold weather reduces the range of presently available electric vehicles substantially. And tractors remain a question mark as well. Some smaller models are available for light work. However when one asks those working for tractor manufacturers about when larger models will become available, there is usually a shrug followed by an “I don’t know”. I have to respect their honesty. Some like to point to the evolution of transportation as being inevitable. Even when changes were dictated solely by the free market, it didn’t happen overnight. Many people including my Dad kept draft horses on the farm up through the 1940’s and into the early 1950’s. They always started in the winter and were great for pulling cars out of the mud.

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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hey dotch...........the other night on the channel 4 news they had a segment on a mill in fairbault that took wool and spun it into yard, made all kinds of blankets.

is this where your wool goes when you give your sheep a haircut???????
2015 deer slayer!!!!!!!!!!

Online Dotch

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hey dotch...........the other night on the channel 4 news they had a segment on a mill in fairbault that took wool and spun it into yard, made all kinds of blankets.

is this where your wool goes when you give your sheep a haircut???????

Nope altho I've never checked to see what kind of services they're offering there these days. Used to be before they reopened, you could take fleeces there, they'd clean them and spin the cleaned wool into yarn for a price of course.

Our wool winds up going to Groenwald Fur & Wool in Forreston IL. The shearer is also a purchasing agent for them. The fleeces get packed in large burlap bags with a hydraulic press then the bag is sewn shut. The shearer collects the wool he shears and buys until Groenwold comes to pick it up a semi load at a time. Unless you're raising fine wool breeds like Merino, wool is pretty worthless right now. Our sheep have a medium grade of wool and while it can be knitted into some kinda cool things, most of what we sell winds up in carpets, overcoats, felt, etc. I have an imported sweater made from Cheviot wool and it is super heavy. I only wear it if it's well below zero and then it gets too hot if I wear it inside.  :huh: 
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Online Dotch

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He's the one they call Dr. Feelgood

After the past week the scurs and Weather Eye only wish they could steer us back into the weather doldrums again. Will Old Man Winter continue his icy grip or will we see some relief? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with highs in the mid-single digits above zero with lows around 10 below. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of snow. Highs around zero with lows around -15. Partly sunny Friday with a slight chance of snow. Highs around 5 below with lows around 15 below. Saturday, partly sunny with highs around 5 below and lows around 15 below. Mostly sunny on Valentine’s Day with highs around 5 below and lows around 15 below. President’s Day, partly sunny with highs in the mid-single digits above zero and lows around 5 below. Cloudy for Tuesday with highs around 10 above and lows near zero. We go over 10 hours and 30 minutes of daylight on the 15th. The normal high for Valentine’s Day is 27 and the normal low is 9. The scurs are rejoicing. Their goody stockpile will be replenished. Hopefully it lasts until Easter. That’ll be a long time coming.

The cold weather has everyone’s attention after we were spoiled much of the winter. It takes some getting used to, some adjusting to be sure. The wind this past Friday and Saturday sucked the life out of a person quickly. As one sage observer noted, you can dress for the cold but you can’t dress for the wind. We should be somewhat used to this however. The past two winters, February was colder than January and we are rapidly on our way to this happening again unless late February decides to do an extreme about face. The present cold spell shows signs of staying put until mid-month and then temps promise to remain below normal until late month. Not much good news in that.

The snow last Wednesday night at a little more than 3” was more than expected. With the wind Thursday and Friday, snow plows and blowers were out in full force. It was no exception at the ranch where the tractor was plugged in in anticipation. More of the lighter drier snow that disintegrated when it went through the blower. Trouble was even though it wasn’t real deep, it blew around a lot so after cleaning the driveway once, I got to do it again. The snow plows weren’t helping matters as I saw a neighbor struggle to get out his driveway, making several runs at it. I blew a windrow of concrete-like snow 2’ deep off the end of ours. I’ll have to compliment them on the job they did after I cleaned it though. They’ve made a point of keeping it clean ever since.
 
The weather has made lambing less than enjoyable. More have arrived since the last writing and how they’ve done has been somewhat dependent upon their size and how aggressive they are. We had two sets of twins just ahead of the big chill. One set was a little larger and more aggressive. They were fine throughout the weekend. As a shepherd one has a built in thermometer. If you put your finger in a lamb’s mouth and they’re mouth is cold, it’s time to act immediately or the animal will be lost.
 
That’s exactly what happened with the smaller set of twins. They nursed well initially but due to the wind sucking the heat out of the building, they got chilled quickly. Their mouths were cold so additional food in the form of milk replacer was called for.  More bedding and a heat lamp were added. Heat lamps scare me. More than one barn has burned down resulting from their use. We use them only as a last resort. The one lamb spent about 24 hours in the house and luckily his mother was willing to accept him. That doesn’t always happen. Some days there is a God.

It’s not all gloom and doom in the lambing barn. All bundled up as we are it’s hard to hear. Not that we hear well to begin with. We’d been watching a little natural colored buck lamb that provides live entertainment while we’re bottling feeding the crew in the pen next door. Cute little bugger, unique color pattern, very animated, sleeps on top of his mom’s heavy fleece like a big fluffy couch. No name for him however. While we were feeding the pens one morning I asked Mrs. Cheviot if the any of them needed hay yet. She said the black ewe does. “That’s racist!” I said to which Mrs. Cheviot responded, “You wanna call that lamb Raisin?” A star was born.
 
The dummy lamb that’s been living in the house is in the garage now and likely will be for a while. While still not real bright, he’s big and super aggressive; two reasons he’s still alive. The will to live is critical. When you let him out of his kennel for a bottle, he immediately does as lambs do, starts poking with his head as if he’s looking for the ewe’s udder. The only problem is he’s so aggressive when he takes a poke at your knee, it’s painful. Hopefully it warms up so we can take him back outside before he gets too much bigger. We may well be raising our very first attack lamb.
 
Was talking to a friend the other day and he was saying that there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done anymore. He was wondering if a lot of it was because of cell phones. Makes sense. Too much accessibility just dilutes the time available to focus on the things that are really important, in his case fishing. As I’ve mentioned, I don’t know how many times over the recent years someone has pestered me with calls regarding an expired car warranty, school loans, Google business listing or any other number of time wasters. It adds up. Not only that, some folks decided that if someone else has a cell phone, they’re fair game 24/7/365. To make matters worse some of us have been foolish enough to receive our emails on the phone as well, compounding the privacy problem. If you have free time, someone seems to think they’re entitled to a piece of it.

It’s a little different for those of us who didn’t grow up with today’s techno gadgets including PC’s. As kids we were just happy to have a bicycle, a BB gun, a transistor radio, a party line phone and a TV. It’s been a steep learning curve to catch up which has taken a lot of time. You can imagine how some of us react after we get these updates on our cell phones. Icons change, their locations change and the formats to operate some of the apps and programs have changed. I think we’ve figured out the time loss situation. My plan when I can finally say I’ve retired is to take my 3 lb. hammer and smash one of these little hand held time wasters to bits. Symbolism over substance but it’ll make me feel better. Works for politicians. They get reelected all the time for doing just 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)

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Oh things ain't what they used to be

After the past week the scurs and Weather Eye are thinking the warm winter we had going is a faded memory. Will Old Man Winter tighten his choke hold or will Mother Nature throw him into the turnbuckle? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with highs around 10 above with lows around zero. Thursday, partly sunny with highs around 10 above and lows around -5. Mostly sunny Friday with highs around 10 above and lows around 5 below. Saturday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of evening snow. Highs around 20 with lows around 10 above. Partly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows around 15 above. Monday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. We’ll see the sun rise at 7 a.m. CST on the 23rd. The normal high for February 23rd is 30 and the normal low is 13. The scurs scored lots of Valentine’s Day goodies just in the nick of time. The good news: It blunted the effects of this past week’s cold. The bad news: It burned up a lot of it. April 4th can’t happen soon enough.
 
The major topic of interest this past week was the weather, whether you were dealing with it personally or trying to avoid dealing with it altogether. It was a lengthy stretch, one that would’ve made most Januaries proud. In ag related issues it’s just a hassle when dealing with livestock whether it’s frozen pipes, augers, tractors, you name it. On the crop side there’s more curiosity about what this cold snap may do to insect pest populations. Unfortunately on the local level, probably not much.
 
Western corn rootworm eggs need to be exposed to soil temperatures in the 14 degree range in order to blunt their numbers much. At the SROC as of this writing anyway the lowest soil temperature at the 2” depth has been 26 and 28 at 4”. Northern corn rootworm eggs just laugh at temperatures such as that. Snow cover is a factor as well. The 8” – 10” blanket of snow should help keep those soil temperatures from getting too much colder. The cold has had an effect on the frost depth, measured at 14” on the 15th, down from 9” on the 8th. Let’s hope this is as deep as it goes so we can start thinking about something other than staying warm.
 
Soybean aphid mortality is also being talked about. It is unlikely in the local area that the cold snap will have much impact on overwintering eggs on buckthorn. Air temperatures need to reach -29 before it really takes a toll. Even then, some of the buckthorn branches will likely buried in the snow and insulated from the cold. Coupled with their being deposited as pregnant females bearing live young during the growing season, one learns quickly not to rely totally on Mother Nature for help. The fact they produce winged adults that are carried by the wind helps them infest areas where they may have seen some temporary population reductions. Local overwintering success becomes a moot point. Fortunately it appears the beneficial insect population has responded positively over the past several years, making soybean aphids less formidable than they were when first introduced.

Still battling our way through the cold snap in the lambing barn. Over halfway done but it has been a struggle. There are three bottle lambs in the house as of Monday. Chores have become a major workout morning and night. A lot of bales, pails and feed pans going to individual pens. What was taking about a half hour now takes over an hour per session, if nothing goes wrong. A logjam has been created as it’s been too cold to move very many down to the loafing area just yet. The ewes are not shorn yet either which has created more headaches with promises of more to come if we don’t get it done soon. Right now the ewes are content to lounge around outside in the sub-zero temperatures as long as there’s little wind. They also decide to lamb outside sometimes which in -20 degree weather creates even more issues.

Getting the shearer lined up isn’t as easy as it was when we were growing up. It was a set date, Lincoln’s Birthday and usually there were plenty of shearers available should one cancel. The temperature didn’t matter much. Can even recall shearing with a Knipco heater running in the barn. Today there are far fewer shearers and even fewer of them that do the kind of professional job we’ve become accustomed to over the years. This year with the cold weather, a lot of producers cancelled their scheduled appointments so there’s a huge backlog to overcome. Oh it’ll get done eventually but we’ll likely have only a handful of ewes that haven’t lambed already to shear. We’ve often said when Bob decides to quit shearing that’s when we’ll be done with the sheep. I wonder how much of a bribe it would take?

There was a little time Saturday to refill the birdfeeders after being preoccupied in the barns. The nearly 10 lbs. of suet I’d bought was nearly gone as I put the last of it in the feeders. The woodpeckers especially appreciate it in the cold. The rest of the feeders were also replenished including the ear corn for the squirrels and jays. I’d brought a partial bag of old birdseed from Mom’s that was no telling how old. I scattered it on the ground between the feeders, fairly sure the juncos would find it. They did along with the jays and chickadees that helped themselves in particular to the sunflower seed it contained.
 
The next morning a rooster pheasant was scratching around in it under the feeders outside the living room window. He was very wary and likely the same one we’ve seen from time to time. Beautiful big rooster with a long tail. He evidently can see in the window fairly well as in earlier sessions, one quick move towards the window to get a photo and he was gone. This time I was able to shuffle slowly enough so as not to spook him and got some nice pics of him doing pheasant things. It won’t be long and they’ll be setting up breeding territories. He seems to be comfortable hinging around the yard so hopefully he’ll stick around. Few gamebirds are pettier than a rooster pheasant in full breeding plumage. The way they strut around the yard for their harems pretty sure they’d agree.

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 Dotch

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I take for granted that you just don't care

After finally seeing the temperatures warm, the scurs have set the Weather Eye on the spring setting. Is Old Man Winter finally on the way out or will he stay just a little bit longer? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the upper teens. Thursday, sunny with highs in the low 30’s above and lows in the upper teens. Partly sunny Friday with a modest chance of evening snow. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the low 20’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the low teens. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows around 10 above. Monday March 1st, sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the low 20’s. Cloudy for Tuesday with highs in the upper 20’s and lows in the low 20’s. We’ll surpass 11 hours of daylight on February 25th. The Full Moon for the month occurs on the 27th and the sun will set at 6 p.m. CST. The normal high for March 1st is 33 and the normal low is 16. The scurs may need to take the Weather Eye in to the Nash Rambler dealership for servicing. We don’t need another spate of record cold anytime soon.

The Full Moon on the 27th goes by The Full Snow Moon as this is the moon in the northeastern US when snowfall is usually the heaviest. It made it difficult for the tribes as well as the settlers of the day to hunt for game. Hence it was also known as The Full Hunger Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Sucker Moon for the suckers that were running in area rivers and streams. It was also in this timeframe that the Sioux named this The Raccoon Moon as the trash pandas began awakening from their winter slumber and moving about the landscape. At the ranch we know it as The Moon When Buckets Stay Thawed. Smashing ice out of frozen water buckets is overrated.
 
What a relief to finally get back to some semblance of normal temperatures on Monday. You knew it was getting serious prior to that when just getting above zero for the high made your day. Although it still didn’t get as warm as was forecast beggars couldn’t be choosers. Temperature records were set at the SROC on consecutive days from February 12th through the 15th for record low high temperatures. Low temperatures while well below normal weren’t record setting. However no one seemed to remind automobiles that wouldn’t start or water systems that froze up of that. Sunday’s snowfall was a bit of a surprise but with temps in the low 20’s Monday morning, one could move snow in relative comfort. Frost depth at the SROC also reached 17” as of the 22nd. Starting to feel a little resistance when closing the walk in door on the pole barn. As if on cue, when the frost depth reaches 19” at the SROC, the door begins to bind. That’s what they make bungee straps for.
 
At the ranch the warm up meant a welcome respite from the warm water bucket hauling and panel climbing that had become standard choretime operating procedure. Saturday, after a load of cracked corn was tarped and backed in the shed, nine ewes with lambs were moved just ahead of the snow into the loafing area. It was finally warm enough that there was no concern of chilling the smaller lambs. A good job done as chores become much more streamlined when feeding larger groups. Individual pens are time killers and not good for sheep or shepherds either one. With warmer weather, the sore backs and hips of the latter are finally on the mend. Now if we can get the bottle lambs under control it would free up additional time for more important things. A good nap comes to mind.

The cold weather necessitated lambs be brought in the house and when the weather pattern became entrenched, they stayed put. The three inside are as active a group as I’ve ever seen. Once out of their wire dog kennel they’re on the move, aggressively searching for a bottle. Since a person has only two hands, it works best to feed one and then the other two. Trouble is they are so wound up it’s still like a three ring circus. Usually after feeding I’ll just let them run in the garage while cleaning out their bottles. It’s literally like babysitting a bunch of kids. They crash and bang into things along with pulling down anything they can get ahold of. They’re extremely fond of jumping into the hay and straw brought in for them, not unlike kids jumping into a pile of leaves. As long as there’s some racket, I don’t get too concerned. As Mom used to say about us kids, it’s when it gets quiet that it’s time to worry.

Our building site has a new owner:  A rooster pheasant that apparently is setting up shop to attract hens into his new found bachelor pad. He spends major chunks of time scratching around the birdfeeders and picking up the seeds dropped by other birds under the spruce trees. This one also seems to have an obsession with peeking in the dirty windows, apparently able to see inside quite well. If you look out the window and he detects even the slightest movement he’s off like a rocket. In the past we’ve had rooster pheasants we’ve suspected were descendants of one we nicknamed Little Jerry. They’d strut their stuff around the yard much to the delight of the lady pheasants, paying little attention to what was going on in the house. Given the tendencies of this one, he might more aptly be named Tom.
   
Ruby has had another relatively easy winter. Nothing new about that for the WMSBC (World’s Most Spoiled Border Collie) who spends large portions of her days snoring on couches and beds. Ruby has no scruples however. She tends to do her business in unique places. The other night during lamb check she was growling and barking on the trail to the barn so I told her to go poop or something while I fed the bottle lambs. Sure enough on the way back to the house there was a big pile in the middle of the trail. Likewise when filling bird feeders. Have to be wary or you’re liable to step in a fresh offering. I don’t mind her using the front yard as a latrine. Running the snow blower over it in the winter and the lawnmower in the summer takes care of the issue. Then she decides to use the sidewalk. No scruples whatsoever.
 
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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We'd been living together for a million years

Taking the Weather Eye in for servicing at the Nash Rambler dealership paid huge dividends. It cost the scurs a few shekels but what the hay? Have we seen the last of Old Man Winter or will he return to haunt? Starting Wednesday, sunny with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the low20’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Sunny Friday with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs near 50 with lows in the mid-30’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a modest chance of showers. Highs in the mid-50’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a slight chance of rain showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the upper 30’s. On March 7th we start gaining daylight at just over 3 minutes per day. The normal high is 35 and the normal low is 19. The scurs are taking no credit for our upcoming nice stretch of weather. Donations can be sent to The Star Eagle however.

How things will change this upcoming week. We deserve it after the -20 degree lows two weeks ago. Not surprisingly no one has spoken up desiring another round of that. We finished up February dryer than normal with 7” of snow and only .48” of liquid equivalent recorded at the ranch. Bugtussle fared slightly better with 8.5” of snow and .71” of liquid equivalent precip. Normal snowfall at the SROC in Waseca for February is 9” with about 1” of liquid precip melting out of it. Some are concerned that this may be a harbinger of things to come. The Drought Monitor is showing some extreme to exceptional drought in the southwest. Murmurings of 2012 are being tossed about. So far we have plenty of soil moisture to get a crop going and given timely precip, the potential for decent crops. Dry starts are generally better than wet for us so the next couple months will be critical to set the table.

At the ranch we managed to catch up with the sheep shearer and the flock was shorn last Wednesday. Considering we were nearly two-thirds done lambing already it went pretty well. We had enough help so getting the ewes out of the pens was accomplished with minimal effort other than consuming some extra time. The fleeces while not real heavy, they were nice and clean. Don’t want anyone wearing itchy wool socks. By early afternoon we were done and back in the house for lunch. I don’t recall shearing on a nicer day. The shorn ewes without lambs were able to go outside and stay out of the way as we finished up the ewes with lambs from the pens. They stayed out there until evening chores, something they wouldn’t have done the week before.

The ewes that hadn’t lambed wasted little time starting in afterwards. One of our favorites, Pinky, was the first contestant shorn and the first to lamb afterwards. Pinky is one of the matriarchs in the ewe flock at seven years old. She’s very mellow and moves at a moderate pace for a Cheviot. Mellow and moderate are two words not generally associated with Cheviots. A few mornings prior to shearing she’d walked through the open gate when we were doing chores. She helped herself to the hay in the feed cart, even though there were two big round bales in the lot to feed on. When we scolded her she slowly turned around and ambled back through the gate as though nothing had happened.
 
Pinky’s lambs born the night she was shorn were a different story. When I found them at 10 o’clock, they were already capable of running faster than I could when trying to corral them. Pinky was somewhat concerned and didn’t dislike the lambs, but was more interested in eating the hay left in the pen I put her in. She had wonderful milk when I stripped her out and the lambs with a little assistance to work around the low slung udder, did the rest. Since then she’s been focused on eating as much hay as she can from the neighboring ewes’ pens, then concentrating on what we gave her. There’s only one Pinky and she’ll never be shipped. She’s free to live out her days at the ranch.

There are signs that spring is indeed just around the corner. A lone Canada goose did a flyby on February 27th and on Sunday morning we heard our first robin. There is so much cover we couldn’t see exactly where he was but it was definitely a robin. The chickadees are doing their spring “fee-bee” call and the male cardinals are singing their lungs out every morning at choretime. A few more goldfinches are appearing and there is that ever so subtle beginning of yellow coloration starting to appear. They become flying dandelions once the dandelions start to flower anyway.
 
It was 40 years ago in March that the group of us who had lived in the Brewster St. apartments in St. Paul graduated and went our separate ways. We’d left the dorm and decided to live on our own off campus some three years earlier. It seemed like those days would never end. They suddenly came to a close though after some occasional drama and broken hearts but mostly a lot of good times. I had one quarter left to graduate so moved in with some friends and fellow employees from the Soils Dept. It was nearby in the upstairs of an old house on Raymond just north of the trestle. One of the previous occupants had hooked up a 55 gallon barrel stove to the chimney. It was pretty cold upstairs otherwise even in March. Amazing we didn’t burn the place down though as the chimney was unlined and the stove was capable of heating the space up so wearing a lot of clothing wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t unusual for the stovepipe to be fire engine red once the fire got rolling.
 
The owner of the house lived downstairs, an elderly retired lady named Mary with her chocolate Lab Max. We got along great as Mary rarely asked for anything but when she did we were right there to help her. We’d occasionally have loud parties and that was OK. Mary was used to college students and fairly hard of hearing. How hard of hearing we weren’t exactly sure but sure never said anything. I still remember the aftermath from one such occasion when we were picking up debris out in the yard. Mary was walking Max so we went over and apologized for the mess and all the racket from the night before. Her response was priceless. “Oh that’s alright. The neighbors called and complained but I didn’t hear a thing!” Mary achieved sainthood in our book after 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)

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Pinky and Mary sound like two of the best!