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Author Topic: Fencelines  (Read 164604 times)

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Offline 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)

Offline 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)

Offline 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)

Offline Dotch

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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)

Offline glenn57

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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!!!!!!!!!!

Offline 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)

Offline 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)

Offline Dotch

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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)

Offline 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)

Offline Dotch

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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)

Offline LPS

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Pinky and Mary sound like two of the best!

Offline Dotch

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You got lucky, babe when I found you

The scurs and their Weather Eye are back on a lot Christmas card lists after being blacklisted in mid-February. Does Old Man Winter have one last gasp or is he just taking a breather? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Thursday, partly sunny with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Sunny Friday with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with increasing clouds and a slight chance of evening snow. Highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Partly sunny on Sunday with an increasing chance of a rain/snow mix by evening. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Monday, partly sunny with a modest chance of a rain snow mix. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with a slight chance of a rain/snow mix. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the mid-20’s. On March 11th the sun will rise at 6:30 a.m. CST. Due to the time change, it will take until April 14th to get back to that point. In other words, at precisely 2 a.m. on the 14th it’s time to move our clocks ahead an hour. More about that later. The normal high for March 14th is 39 and the normal low is 22. The scurs have 911 on speed dial for when they fall off the chair changing their clocks.

Some activity in area dooryards as they begin to dry up. Some field cultivators have been spotted outside and surprisingly, it was warm enough during the early part of the week to work outside. Some of the frost is starting to come out depending somewhat on landscape position and snow cover. Up until the brutal stretch in February we had pretty easy sledding. Incidentally the February temperature average 11 degrees below normal at the SROC in Waseca. Frost depth on March 8th was still at 11” as a result. It should come out quickly though with rain in the Wednesday forecast and temperatures getting above freezing daily. It may take the soil a while to warm up but hey, it’s still the early part of March yet. Plenty of time to prepare and with most of the snow gone, once it warms up, it may come pretty fast.

It was surprising last week how quickly some of the signs of spring revealed themselves. I’d poked around the garden during lunchtime on March 4th and noticed the rhubarb buds were starting to open. I couldn’t believe it so I took my divining rod (electric fencepost) and proceeded to poke around the yard. Much to my surprise on the south facing slope south of the house, the frost was largely gone. It was especially surprising as the area had relatively shallow snow cover most of the winter. As I pulled out of the driveway there were a dozen robins bopping around in the road ditch.
 
After the rhubarb revelation I suddenly remembered  to check the daffodils I’d planted in late October after  digging them up at Mom’s. Sure enough I counted eight of them emerged on Saturday. At last count there were 15. Saturday brought the first grackles to the yard and killdeers were heard. Lots of geese have been flying over and during Monday night chores, some swans were lumbering along as only swans can do. That evening around dusk the first sandhill cranes were heard as well. While we may take our licks yet, we’re heading the right direction thus far. The only disappointment was my quest to locate pussy willows. There was still some snow too deep in parts of the wetland to allow access to some but where they were accessible, they hadn’t opened much yet on Sunday. That will change. With the cooldown coming it should help the catkins maintain their integrity for Mrs. Cheviot’s decorative touch.

We’re thundering down the stretch in the lambing department. As of Monday there were a half dozen head left to go depending on whose figures you use. Mrs. Cheviot insists there are only four left to go; that one of the ewes is still open. I disagree. After all these years it’s almost a guarantee that ewe that appeared open in early March will dump out a pair of ratty twin buck lambs the end of May up until mid-June. Or worse yet, a set of runty, no account triplet buck lambs, equally as useless and annoying, especially when they need bottle feeding.

One ewe we were dreading was acting as though she was about to explode at any moment Monday morning during chores. Listless and wanting to be off by herself, she looked absolutely miserable. Her distended bag was also lopsided, indicating she’d probably only milk on one side. Nothing happened during morning chores so hi ho, hi ho it’s off to work we go. When I checked back at noon I first needed to make a pit stop. I looked out the bathroom window and saw the ewe wandering off towards one of the brush piles in the pasture. Oh goody. I mixed up the bottles for the bottle lambs and fed them then headed off for the pasture to find the ewe.
 
I checked around the two brush piles, thinking she’d probably hole up on the leeward side. Nope. Maybe down along the fence line out of the wind. Not there either. Looked behind the grove. Nada. Where the? As stupid as sheep are, they don’t just disappear into thin air. I kept walking and looked off to the far end of the pasture. Suddenly I spied her head peeking above an area of longer grass. I walked over to where she’d nested. She got up and her swollen bag swayed to and fro as I tailed her all the way back to the lot. Fat chance she’d stay there. Oh well, I’d tried. I washed the bottles and made a quick lunch. Before I drove out of the yard I checked to see where she was, figuring she’d made it back to the far end of the pasture. Oddly enough she was in the lambing barn. I was still betting anything we’d be dragging her and her lambs, dead or alive, back to the yard when I got home.

Wrong on all counts. I got my clothes changed and tramped out to the lambing barn. Amazingly enough, she’d had the lambs inside and they were hooking onto the side of her udder I was sure was no good. Not the case as Mrs. Cheviot checked her after we got them penned up. Not only that the enlarged side of the bag milked like Jersey cow! While they were both buck lambs, they were both healthy and smart, figuring out the ewe’s equipment without issue. Whew! Some days it is truly better to be lucky than good.

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'll do anything I got to do
Cut my hair and shine my shoes

After Old Man Winter’s cruel joke on Monday, the scurs and their Weather Eye are off a lot Christmas card lists, again. Was the snow an early April Fool’s prank or was that just the beginning of Winter 2.0? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the low 30’s. St. Patrick’s Day, partly sunny with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly sunny Friday with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Partly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of an evening shower. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Monday, cloudy with a decent chance of rain. Highs near 60 with lows in the mid-40’s. Cloudy for Tuesday with a slight chance of a rain shower. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the upper 30’s. On St. Patrick’s Day we go over 12 hours of daylight. The first day of spring (astronomical) is March 20th and the sun will set on the 23rd at 7:30 p.m. CDT. The normal high for the 23rd is 43 and the normal low is 26. The scurs will be fielding calls from angry hens when their eggs stand on end on the first day of spring.

More activity around dooryards as the weather last week was downright excellent. More field cultivators and even a few planters emerged from their storage. There were even a few mornings where we didn’t have to drain the garden hose to fill water buckets. This of course was cut short after the Monday morning snowfall event that turned the landscape totally white again. Plenty of moisture in the snow and with the frost out in many places, much of it will end up in the soil profile. While not bone dry, yards and fields firmed up to the point that it should easily absorb it. Not a bad thing to have a little additional moisture to going into the growing season if it happens to be one of those summers where it gets to be a lengthy time span between rains.
 
Fortunately I was able to get a haircut recently. The winter’s growth got to be almost unbearable to the point I was peeling clothes off in order to keep my cool. There’s a reason the Boy Entomologist used to call me a” little furbearer.” The warm weekend was a clue that perhaps it was time to begin molting my winter plumage for spring.  Ruby has  started hers too and Sundays make good days to brush the living bejesus out of her. Wads of Ruby hair blow across the yard like miniature tumbleweeds as she tries her best to avoid any more brushing than absolutely necessary. Fortunately she’s fairly obedient so the process can be completed with a minimum of consternation once you get her attention.

Yes, for many people their least favorite day of the year is the spring time change. It’s been linked consistently to accidents. As a result many states and countries along with the EU are in line to repeal the notion that messing with clocks is somehow a good idea. Some are in favor of staying on daylight saving time year round which is fine. Some, especially those in northern countries favor staying on standard time. Shouldn’t matter. There’s no reason with the abundance of communication methods at our disposal that people couldn’t run on whatever hours they wanted. Likewise in the winter months. Want to close at 4 or 4:30 p.m.? Go ahead. Adjusted hours can be listed on the internet, Facebook, newspapers, etc. And for those who still use phones to actually talk to someone, there’s always that option. It may take more planning ahead but that’s something this society is woefully inept at. Time to change all that.

It was a watershed weekend getting things done in anticipation of spring. It took some doing but the electric fence was put back up and charged, marking one of the earliest dates for that occurrence at the ranch. Along with that some time was taken to gather pussy willows from the wetland area. They are prized for spring decorations or so I am told. Their catkins are unique although they don’t stay that way long before flowering and leafing out. In the case of pussy willows they are dioecious, meaning there are male and female plants. The catkins can be male or female depending on the plant and are borne on one year old branches. Hopefully the cooler early week will allow me harvest another batch or two. I’ve been sure not to harvest them too heavily as they serve as an important species to early season pollinators. That and I’m too old and lazy to climb very high.

I also noticed the hazelnuts I’ve struggled to keep the bunnies from destroying have some catkins of their own. The catkins aren’t fuzzy like pussy willows but closely resemble the catkins on our river birch trees. Their reproductive process is very similar. We had some hazelnuts along a fenceline where I grew up. My memory was that they weren’t consistent producers of nuts or at least we didn’t get there before the wildlife did very often. The evening of the 13th I noticed a small moth flying about on the patio. Earlier I’d noticed a grass spider amongst the feed sacks I was bundling. It was very much alive and mobile, leading me to believe that spring had indeed arrived. Then Monday happened of course. Silly me.

The daffodils transplanted from Mom’s continued their progress up until the snow. There are 16 or 17 of them that emerged as distinct plants. Best of all, many of them are budding already, making me anxious to see their yellow flowers in contrast to the brown grass. Monday morning all that was visible was the tips of their leaves. Mrs. Cheviot was concerned that the snow might hurt them. Like alfalfa after it breaks dormancy, extremely cold temperatures might affect them. Snow by itself given the temperatures we’ve had doesn’t concern me. If the rain won’t hurt the rhubarb then snow surely won’t hurt the daffodils.

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've been out ridin' fences for so long now

The scurs and Weather Eye rebounded last week with more favorable weather for all. Can we start dealing with Mother Nature and ditch Old Man Winter or is this nice stretch just setting us up for disappointment? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of forenoon rain. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the low 30’s. Mostly sunny Friday with a slight chance of evening showers. Highs in the low 50’s with lows in the upper 30’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a slight chance of rain. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Mostly sunny on Palm Sunday with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Monday, sunny with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Cloudy for Tuesday with a slight chance of a rain shower. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the low 30’s. The Full Moon for this month occurs on the 28th. Sunrise will occur just before 7 a.m. CDT on the 30th.The normal high for the 28th is 46 and the normal low is 28. The scurs are rationing their Valentine’s Day goodies as they know Easter won’t arrive until next week.

The Full Moon as mentioned is slated for the 28th and goes primarily by The Full Worm Moon. Other variations include The Crow Moon as crows are noted to begin calling during this moon. The Full Crust Moon was also used by the tribes of the northeast as the snow would thaw during the day and freeze forming a crust overnight. The Full Sap Moon is also noted as it’s during this timeframe that maple trees are tapped and syrup is made. It was also noted as the Lenten Moon as it was the last Full Moon of the winter. The Ojibwe called it the Snow Crust or Wild Goose Moon and the Sioux named it The Moon When Buffalo drop their Calves. At the ranch, as it has been known for many years, The Moon of the Muddy Border Collie. Happens every year about this time. Like clockwork I tell ya.

Warmer daytime weather with freezing temperatures at night has meant delivery of seed in the past week. Road postings are on of course so care must being taken to avoid overweight loads. The frost is generally out of the ground as was indicated back on March 12th at the SROC. The majority of the moisture in the snow we had last week went right into the soil as anticipated. No marked increase in tile flow coupled with very little change in area river and stream levels would attest to that. We garnered in excess of an inch of precip in most places as a result of that snow. It may come in handy should the dry summer some are predicting comes to fruition. There was still ice on St. Olaf Lake as of Monday night but there was a growing ring of water around the outside. Odds are with the rain forecast through early Wednesday it should be out this week.

There are plenty of phenological signs too that spring has arrived at least in principle. While harvesting the second batch of pussy willows on Saturday the 20th, I heard my first western chorus frogs of the season. As the temperatures warm into the 70’s and beyond and it stays warm at night, the sound at the ranch can be almost deafening some nights. On Monday as I was poking through the peony residue something was rusting underneath it. A garter snake suddenly appeared and was enjoying the warm sun and mid-50 degree afternoon. Likewise a striped gopher was above ground, checking out the yard, probably for some of the corn the squirrels buried off and on much of the fall and winter. Lord knows there’s plenty of it. The squirrels need to work on their spacing and placement however.

Monday I got an email asking that we install the black cutworm pheromone trap received as part of the Black Cutworm trapping network. It seemed awfully early but I looked back and found that some years we’ve put the traps out before the end of March before so really not out of the ordinary. In other words the climate change alarmists will be disappointed to hear that. Black cutworm moths ride the wind currents north from down south, typically on systems pumping moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into our area. No moths were captured in the trap on the initial evening so at least we know that. Might’ve been eaten by our pet garter snake.
   
The snow finally got off the fence, again, and I checked to see if it was charging, again. It was not, again so after chores Monday night, I grabbed my fencing pail and some extra posts. I took off in the Gator certain that it wasn’t a major issue. Guess again. The roving band of deer in the area apparently roved their way across the road and through the electric fence in three places. They’d also chewed the tops off the hazelnut bushes since the last time I’d been in the windbreak. The first time I saw the deer the week before I thought they were calves the Dubya’s had weaned. Their “calves” were all sort of Jersey colored and there had been no bellering a few days prior to their appearance. Once they took off and ran, their speed convinced me they weren’t calves. I also became convinced the herd needs to be thinned. The deer are taking over. Your tulips may be next.

We opened the barn area up and put the yearlings in a separate pen Sunday so we’d be able to move all the ewes with lambs out of the lambing barn when ready. Giving the lambs that were already down in the main barn more room was just what the doctor ordered. They finally had enough space so they could run laps during chores. Had to wait for the traffic to clear several times while I was watering the yearlings or the little buggers would’ve taken my kneecaps off. When we get through this rainy stretch we’ll open the paddock in front of the barn up and they’ll really be able to rip and tear. This group of lambs is well ahead of schedule so they should really be able to fly for those who do the gawker slowdown past our place. Traffic  moves pretty fast by our place so it’s OK to pull in, park in the driveway and watch. Careful though or we might put you to work feeding bottle lambs.

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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Ride, ride my see-saw

The scurs and Weather Eye took care of business last week and avoided any snow. Will our dealings with Mother Nature stay on track or will Old Man Winter head us into the ditch? Starting Wednesday, sunny with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the low 20’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Sunny Friday with highs in the low 60’s and lows in the mid-40’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the upper 40’s. Mostly sunny on Easter Sunday with highs in the mid-70’s and lows in the mid-50’s. Monday, partly sunny with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows in the low 50’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with a slight chance of a rain shower. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the low 50’s. The normal high for April 4th is 51 and the normal low is 31. The scurs set out a two bushel basket for the Easter Bunny to fill. Go big or go home.

Temperatures continue to see-saw as is their habit this time of year. Some are concerned about soil temperatures although calendar date and crop to be planted also come into play. Small grains can be planted just about any time with the earliest I recall being wheat sown the end of February in ‘87. The wheat sprouted in March but wasn’t close to emerging. The ground re-froze and there were some anxious moments when prying the frozen layer of soil off the seedlings to evaluate their integrity. Luckily the kernels were situated just below the frozen soil and emerged unscathed. It wasn’t a particularly good spring-seeded small grain year but the corn and soybean crops in ‘87 were outstanding. Seldom are years good for both cool season and warm season crops.

Talk of anhydrous going on, fertilizer being applied and small grain going in by week’s end if weather continues to cooperate. Unfortunately fertilizer prices have taken off so while spring anhydrous is advantageous, it may not be as economical as the fall applied material. We are fortunate here too as the rainfall last week demonstrated locally that our soil profile is relatively full. Streams and rivers came up dramatically as water ponded in areas and tile flow increased. This is not a bad place to be as areas around us are not as wet. More talk seems to center around the potential for a hotter drier summer so having some additional moisture in reserve isn’t a bad thing. There are people who would trade with us.

Baby steps in the garden even after Monday’s 71 degree high. The radishes planted March 9th continue to emerge with the one method of planting appearing to be superior given the soil conditions at the time. Again, the up and down temperatures likely have had something to do with it. The daffodils transplanted from Mom’s are just about ready to open. The next warm day should allow that to happen. As it is a jonquil from a past spring bulb planter bloomed Monday. Something I’ve been meaning to try after some reading is to plant some four o’clocks in a container. Turns out they’re actually perennials. In this latitude though we generally plant them in the garden and when it freezes, they’re toast. I’m also on the lookout for a decent rear-tined tiller. So far I’m not quick enough on the draw.

More phenology: My little fat buddy reported ice out on Beaver Lake on the 24th. St. Olaf Lake followed a couple days later. The western chorus frogs cranked it up on the 29th ahead of the cooldown. After going to press last week, I saw a fresh pocket gopher mound. Another garter snake was also discovered, this one in the basement. After debating, I played Wild Kingdom, releasing it outside unharmed. Past experience indicates if they don’t make it out they die and really stink or they’ll crawl upstairs, something no one including the snake likes. When I got the mail Monday there was a stick in the driveway. Strange spot for a stick. Turned out to be a larger model garter snake, a two footer. I attempted to herd it off into the grass. Herding snakes or cats is about a horse apiece. It was more interested in crawling under the running pickup so I backed it up. The snake apparently must’ve sensed it was safer in the lawn. I’m starting to think we’re running the Reptile Gardens here.
 
The last official ewe of the season lambed at the ranch on Saturday. Anything after this one doesn’t count. The ewe telegraphed it pretty good, getting off by herself during morning chores. It was starting to rain however and I would’ve put money on her being off by herself in the far end of the pasture. I had some errands to run and when I returned she was still inside, having started the lambing process. She went into a pen without any protest and aside from being nervous with me around, everything was normal. Odd but we’ll take it. I decided there were putz projects to do along with a Studebaker to play with so did that to give her some privacy. After completing those tasks I looked in on her to gauge her progress. A very fresh, covered in goo set of twin buck lambs on the ground with one hooked on. By the time I rounded up some bedding and fetched the ewe a bucket of warm water, the other lamb was nursing. Gotta love it when a plan comes together.
     
Ruby’s11th birthday is coming up on the 4th. It’s hard to believe how fast the time has flown. It’s also hard to believe her age based on her behavior sometimes. She still plays a lot of the same games she did when she was a puppy. Amusing unless you’re trying to catch a quick nap after late night lambing sessions. Ruby does have her moments and reminds us why we have her other than comic relief. We moved a couple ewes with lambs to the main barn on Sunday. The older ewe and a piece of cake, practically outrunning us to the loafing area. Not her first rodeo. The second ewe, newer to the process had other thoughts and wanted to double back. Luckily as Border Collies will do, Ruby flanked her during the whole process. When the ewe saw her position, she decided against any false moves and followed the lamb Mrs. Cheviot was carrying. Timing is everything.

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 get away

The scurs need to get the Weather Eye back to the Nash Rambler dealership. Seems the fan only blows on high or not at all. Will the breezes be in between this next week or will we continue getting blown away? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows around 50. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a continued good chance of rain. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the mid-40’s. Mostly cloudy Friday with a modest chance of showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a slight chance of showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of showers. Highs in the low 60’s with lows in the low 40’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a modest chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a good chance of a rain shower. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the upper 30’s. The normal high for April 11th is 55 and the normal low is 34. The scurs are certain that their Easter candy stash will tide them over to May basket time. Or they’ll always think it should have.

Spring weather continued to smile on area farmers and as predicted, anhydrous ammonia was in full swing over the weekend. Conditions were ideal for its application with virtually no leakage and very little compaction. Also some rumblings of corn being planted. That’s all well and good but it is well before the replant guarantee date of April 11th. One can rationalize it on a small acreage perhaps but large scale planting prior to mid-April results in no larger potential yields and increases potential risks. There are limits regardless of how great the genetics are nowadays. This debate was underway already over 40 years ago. As a lad, I recall reading about one smarter than the average bear in our area who was convinced he could plant corn in the fall using then “revolutionary” seed coating techniques. Never heard anything more about it after that fall. Things that make you go hmmm….

Sowing small grain should also have been ideal. Soil conditions and the calendar date were both favorable. Equally good conditions for establishing a new seeding of alfalfa. Alfalfa survival in established stands appears to have been favorable in spite of the 15 degree low on April 1st. That’s a good thing because due to high corn and soybean prices, odds are many acres of hay will be converted into row crops. Can’t figure it out. Plant a crop, watch it grow to maturity, harvest it, stick it in a bin, pull it out, haul it and be done with it. This versus worry about winter survival, harvest three times, worry about getting it dry enough to bale each time, sweat your tail off stacking it, then worry if it’s dry enough to keep without burning the barn down. The crowning touch is to have someone complain if you’re selling it that it’s not perfect and want to dicker on price. Some people’s kids...

Need to pick up the pace pruning trees at the ranch. The warm weekend was a signal that time is running out in that department. Pussy willow harvest is over. It appears the last of what was harvested came from male plants. Makes sense. Like people they mature later if at all. I got the production apples pruned as well as the pear trees. After last year, pears were definitely a priority. At least I performed the major surgeries on the crabapple and oak trees. Critical to get the face snappers, eye gougers, headphone grabbers and glasses snatchers first. Will focus on cosmetics next. There are enough tree pruning jobs not to mention some major tree removal projects at the ranch to  keep someone busy for years. In anticipation of that I even went to the People’s Republic of Steele Co. law enforcement center to get a burning permit. After playing “Captain may I” and “Simon says” it may be my golden opportunity to clean up many moon’s worth of storm damage.

Gardening also has had its challenges this spring. The radishes survived the below freezing temperatures but showed signs of injury as did the iris. The crocuses and daffodils were covered. Both rewarded us with beautiful blooms after removing the buckets and other coverings. The rhubarb also was covered and really took off after back to back 80 degree days Sunday and Monday. Monday night I trenched and incorporated manure around the two main plants of red rhubarb. I also applied some additional nitrogen. While those plants were productive last year they’d fallen off the pace of earlier years. Last year’s residue was also removed from the peonies. They’re a little pokey so additional treatment may be called for there as well. Finally I removed the blanket of grass clippings and leaves that covered the lilies of the valley or lilies of the alley as my late friend Gene liked to call them. They’d grow anywhere he claimed. I had lots of Ruby’s supervision so they can’t miss.

We were able to go on an impromptu cruise Sunday after getting the Silver Hawk through its annual checkup and oil change. One of my old tractor and car enthusiast friends was in on Friday wondering if we’d be game perhaps on Sunday. Why not? Sure enough I got a call on Saturday and it was a “go” for 2 p.m. Easter Sunday. There were only four cars but sometimes it isn’t the quantity but the quality. We wound our way on the backroads up through Cleveland and back to Waterville where we set down to take on some nourishment and refreshments while unwinding at a local watering hole. The afternoon burned into what is normally choretime but it was totally worth it. We wanted to get away, all of us. So we did.
 
When we got home, we’d decided we were going to move the last two pens of ewes and lambs out of the lambing barn after chores. I’d gone ahead to feed the ram and a small handful of ewes to keep them out of our hair. One ewe came out of the barn after the others and within a few seconds a tiny lamb joined her. What the??? We’d been debating whether or not any more ewes were bred and we had our answer. We corralled the ewe and picked up the small newcomer (oddly enough a ewe lamb) then got the ewe to follow after some coaxing and use of a few descriptive terms. We then got the others moved and decided that the new lamb needed a name. Reckon you can’t have Easter without a Bunny now can you?

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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Tongue wag so much when I send you the bill

The scurs got the Weather Eye back from the Nash Rambler dealership only to discover the heater isn’t functioning very well. Another trip back to the shop. Will our temperature woes be repaired soon or are we air-conditioned gypsies? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Thursday, partly sunny with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Partly sunny Friday with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid 30’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a slight chance of showers. Highs in the low 50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Monday, partly sunny with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Sunrise will occur at 6:30 a.m. CDT on the 15th, we’ll have 13 hours and 30 minutes of daylight on the 16th and the sun will set at 8 p.m. on the 17th. The normal high for April 17th is 58 and the normal low is 36. The scurs last bill from the Nash Rambler dealership was a doozy. Let’s hope they’re not dazed and confused by the next one.

Back to reality this past week after seeing highs in the 80’s and lows in the 50’s devolve into more April-like conditions. Pesky off and on showers over the course of the past week didn’t help although accumulations were generally light. Measurements of half to three-quarters of an inch were common with measurable precip recorded on seven out of eight days starting April 6th. More problematic has been the lack of sunshine and warm breezes to dry the soils and allow tillage to progress. Some will be gung-ho to take to the fields regardless and that’s fine. Just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Corn put into cold chewy soils will have little advantage over that planted when soils are warmer and more fit. It is still mid-April and most like to plant their fields once.

Still no superstition on my part. The tire chains and snow blower remain on the 656. Looking back at pictures on my phone indicated substantial April snowfall for 2018 – 2020. Indeed, at the ranch April snowfall included 28.5”, 5.5” and 7.2” respectively for those years. Convinced me. I was tempted to remove my winter plumage after those warm early April days. Looking at the forecast I decided trimming it back might be wiser. Not a bad move. Outside over the weekend, having some dark colored facial protection proved to be a wise decision. I never trust the weather to purposely do me any favors. Saves time worrying about it.
   
The radishes planted March 9th in our garden demonstrate that ultra-early doesn’t always mean markedly better. Radishes are a cool season crop and being in the brassica family they tolerate cold about as well as any early season vegetable. The area where they are planted is on a south facing slope and has some shelter from the NW wind. Their emergence was somewhat erratic particularly using one establishment technique and they got zinged by the 15-degree lows earlier in April. The plants put out their first set of true leaves following the 80-degree days and have done little since that time. When the weather is favorable, radishes take from 25 – 30 days. These are looking more like all of two months, and they are an early variety. More points to ponder.
 
Around the yard Ruby and I finally got the mess generated by tree pruning picked up. While not a brilliant conversationist she does show great interest as the branches, sticks and twigs are loaded into the Gator to be dumped on the brush pile. She was in luck as I decided on Sunday to tackle the nannyberry underbrush that served to make me dread mowing that part of the lawn. There are enough trees to mow around without that additional aggravation. Lopping off limb after limb, Ruby had to dodge quickly as they fell. The aftermath was another mess to behold but not one that will be difficult to pick up. Luckily, there’s another brush pile in the proximity. For an encore we worked over the flower bed containing perennials we’re planning on moving this upcoming fall. Lots of ash, boxelder, mulberry and bitter nightshade bit the dust and made their way onto the brush pile.
 
Little Bunny, the tiny lamb born on Easter Sunday continues to grow quickly. She has a long way to go as compared to her contemporaries. That’s OK. She’s very active and almost senses that you want to pick her up. Bunny darts the other direction and acts annoyed. The rest of the lambs are also growing like weeds and love to run. This group also is unique as they seem to enjoy jumping straight up in the air from standing in one place. It’s unusual and we don’t recall seeing that many of them do it in years past. The best times to see them run seems to be around lunchtime and at night before dusk especially if it’s cooling down. It’s worth taking a few minutes to watch them go. Oh to be young again.

This column was written on a new confuser so am still getting used to it. It triggers a trip down memory lane as far as computers go. Started out using a Hewlett Packard 125 with a printer back in 1981, hauling it around to farmers’ places to help them figure out their best farm program options and most profitable crops to plant. Went from that to an Apple III that had a hard drive in it. Big stuff back in the day. Used an Apple IIe for a few years when the IBM machines began to dominate the business market. An 80 MB hard drive provided unbelievable capacity, until we filled it up of course. I purchased my first laptop, an Acer, back in the mid-90’s. Since then I’ve had numerous laptops along with printers, scanners and other assorted accessories. These new laptops get better all the time. This one’s light as a feather and I like the touch on the keypad. Went to a smaller screen this time to save a little money. Buying a monitor crossed my mind. Bet I have a magnifying glass somewhere. That’d be a lot cheaper.

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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Round and round and round we spin…

The scurs got a call from the Nash Rambler dealership stating the heater parts for the ’74 Gremlin Weather Eye were backordered, again. Were our warmer temps on that same order or will we get a rush delivery soon? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of showers. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Thursday, sunny with a modest chance of evening showers. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Mostly cloudy Friday with a modest chance of showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the mid 30’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Partly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of evening showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Monday, partly sunny with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a modest chance of rain. Highs in the low 60’s with lows in the mid-40’s. The Full Moon will occur on the 26th. The normal high for April 26th is 62 and the normal low is 40. The scurs will need to start a go fund me page to for repairs on the Weather Eye if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate soon.
 
 This month’s Full Moon is on Monday and generally goes by The Full Pink Moon, so named for the ground phlox that are among the first flowers to bloom in the woodlands of the northeast. It also can go by The Full Hare, Fish, Egg and Paschal Moon. The Ojibwe called this The Broken Snowshoe Moon as well as the Frog Moon. The Sioux knew it as the Moon of Greening Grass, bringing with it optimism that the buffalo they relied upon would soon return to graze. At the ranch it’s The Full Lawnmower Moon. Time to get mentally prepared for another action packed season of driving back and forth and round and round.

Fieldwork progress was slow this past week. Not a lot of rain but colder than normal temps had farmers second guessing the proper course of action. 7 – 10-day forecasts continue to throw colder than normal temps at us while remaining dry. Eventually it will warm up. Several did plant some corn to check out their planters and make sure they were operating properly. Others did nothing while some plunged ahead, planting as though a big rain was coming. What I suspect as we continue to flip pages on the daily calendar, it’s not going to make a lot of difference. Once it’s in the ground it’s out of your hands anyway. Our GDU accumulation has been abysmal since the first week in April. That’s air temperature to say nothing of soil temperatures that have struggled to put together many consecutive days above 50 degrees in the 2” - 4” depth. Aside from seeds imbibing moisture, not a lot has happened in most fields. Then we decide which is right and which is an illusion.

Around our yard spring has certainly been slow. While some are gung-ho and mowing lawn already, there are only a few spots it might be justified on ours. Most of the time would be spent looking for wheel tracks to see where you’ve been. Very few dandelions yet except right south of our house to use as a guide. A warm rain followed by warmer temps would change all that in a hurry. The rhubarb we had high hopes for by Easter is in suspended animation. This past Monday marked the 2nd time we’ve covered it to keep it from freezing along with the peonies. With more frost in the forecast after press time, it probably won’t be the last time this week either. The leaves on the trees are slowly appearing but we’re not going to make any effort to cover them. No one can make me either.

There were still a few positive signs that spring is progressing. A group of tree swallows appeared in the yard on Saturday. Their loud, bubbly call seemed to say, “We’re here! We’re here!” They didn’t stay long though and perhaps with good reason. Their primary food source is flying insects. They might’ve been pretty hungry by now if they’d stuck around. We have had some immature Harris’s sparrows in the backyard that have been with us a week or so. They’re seed eaters there are plenty of those in the yard. This species of sparrow is threatened. When we didn’t see any of them last year so feared they perhaps were bypassing us or their numbers had declined. To see them again is reassuring. The white-throated and white-crowned sparrows can’t be far behind. Then bring on the orioles and hummingbirds!
 
I tempted fate over the weekend in order to keep moving forward. I took the chains and the snowblower off the 656 so I could put a round bale in the lot for the ewes with lambs. With a cruise coming up later in the day, it was nice to have a bale for them to gnaw on rather than having a mostly peaceful protest in progress before we got home. My greatest fear was that Sunday night’s forecast of light snow would turn into major inches. It did not so I was spared the wrath of neighbors looking for a scapegoat. I kept my facial covering just in case. Not superstitious just covering all the bases. That and it’s cold out here where the wind blows constantly.
 
Numerous clandestine operations occurred earlier but our first “official” car club cruise of the season found us heading to Thompson IA. Eight automobiles wound their way there across the IA prairie to The Branding Iron. Not much fieldwork going on there yet either. Nice to use these cruises as reconnaissance missions from time to time. What seemed like a long but uneventful day was over in a flash by the time we pulled into the yard. As expected, the resident ovines were in an uproar, voicing their displeasure over our late arrival back home for chores. They had however chewed their way into their round bale and drank a lot of water. They already looked full! So much so I cut back on the hay fed inside. With justification. After gobbling down their grain, there was a lot of hay left in the mangers come morning. Sort of like restaurant leftovers. Best eaten while it’s still fresh.

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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How can you catch the sparrow?

Good news from the Nash Rambler dealership: Parts to repair the heater in the ’74 Gremlin Weather Eye arrived. And not a moment too soon judging by the hate mail the scurs were generating. Will the warmup prove to be lasting this time or dish up one more nasty surprise? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a decent chance of showers. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 60’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Sunny on Friday with highs in the low 60’s and lows in the mid 40’s. Saturday, partly sunny with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the low 50’s. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a modest chance of showers. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in the low 50’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a fair chance of rain. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with an increasing chance of rain into the evening. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the low 40’s. The scurs will get the luxurious back seat of the burnt orange ’74 Gremlin prepared for Saturday’s May basket extravaganza.

Continued progress in area fields allowed many to finish their corn planting in style. Stocking hats, winter jackets and gloves are a style. Soil conditions continued to hold as scant precipitation was recorded. Corn planted April 16th had a radicle just starting to emerge from the kernel as of Monday afternoon. Emergence generally takes anywhere from 100 – 120 GDU’s depending on soil temperature, soil moisture and assorted other factors. Average soil temperatures at the 2” depth only got above 50 degrees for about two days up until Monday. However, when we can start racking up 15 – 20 GDU per day it goes faster sometimes than one might anticipate. Soybeans are going in the ground as well. Soil conditions again are favorable, and the calendar date says it’s OK despite the weekend snow showers that made some wonder what they were doing out there. At this point it’s all good.

At the ranch, thoughts of gardening and planting are starting to stir. The purchase of a new tiller would help spur that on and one way or the other it will happen. Finding one suitable has proven to be a challenge, especially one with a domestically produced engine. Not that I don’t trust the Chinese, their engines simply haven’t had the test of time some of their U.S. counterparts have. Since the new garden area was worked down once last year, it needs to be sprayed with glyphosate before attempting to whip it into shape. The soil test came back in great shape so once it’s worked up, we should be in business. Since it’s in the vicinity of the electric fence, some electric netting for the bunnies might come in handy. Can never be too careful when bunnies are involved.

We continue to see new birds arrive now that temperatures have warmed. We saw Harris’s sparrows in full adult plumage finally. The blotchy feathers on the immature bids make their ID a little more questionable although pairing the song with their presence helps make it more positive. They’ve been coming through every year for a couple decades. The white-throated sparrows arrived en masse. Monday at lunchtime there were nearly 20 of them wandering the backyard, some with the bright white stripes on their head complete with the yellow supraloral. If we see a white-crowned sparrow we should have the normal trifecta. We can’t go to Canada but that’s where most of these three species wind up. Not fair although the orioles and hummingbirds should be heading our way soon.

Finally, some progress too getting some of the trees desperately needing to be dealt with. A larger model old chokecherry tree that was an eyesore after numerous storms ripped it up along with a boxelder that also had one too many windstorms. The chainsaw was stubborn, but it worked just well enough to knock off the desired limbs on the chokecherry, making it safe to latch onto and drag to where it could be pushed in the pile. The boxelder was more difficult but after the chainsaw biffed it, the handsaw cleaned up the necessary limbs nicely. Once the limbs were all hauled away, I’d discovered a hole in the trunk that very possibly was being used by some chickadees. Judging by the scolding they possibly had a nest in it. Decided to leave the trunk until they’re through with it. The tractor will make short work of it when the time comes. Sort of like the short work I made of the fresh rhubarb pie Mrs. Cheviot had concocted after my day of tree wrassling. Nummy!

The strong SE wind Sunday made the perfect day to burn one of the major brush piles so tried out my new burning permit. After jumping through the hoops and barrels I finally secured permission from the Trash Fire Police. I took a paper bag and some newspapers to start the pile. Within a matter of minutes, we had a roaring blaze. It got so hot that it started the chokecherry stump directly in line with it on fire. There were plenty of other branches and limbs scattered around the pasture so decided to grab those. Otherwise, the sheep tend to flip them onto the electric fence, grounding that out. About the time I was under the boxelder trees I noticed what appeared to be ashes floating down. They weren’t ashes, they were snowflakes! There was no doubt in my mind that I’d picked the right day to burn. The way it came down, everything was getting damp, enough so that it was knocking farmers out of the field while my fire consumed many moons worth of ash, silver maple and boxelder residue.

After that I was winding down and in a quandary about what project to start next. It was supposed to warm up so getting all the solar lights out and in place seemed logical. There were over a dozen of them and starting late in the day, I questioned what kind of shape they might be in. Most had batteries but some were without. In addition, some were refugees from Mom’s when we had cleaned up the place earlier in the year. Some were operable immediately and some perhaps needed the benefit of a partial day’s sunshine & WD-40. By the time nightfall rolled around Monday, most were working. Some additional twiddling and tweaking resulted in a dozen functioning models on the patio. Watching them change colors is almost mesmerizing and means warmer days lie ahead. It’s about time.

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 heat was hot, and the ground was dry but the air was full of sound

Problems are still inherent with the Weather Eye. It warms up briefly then cools back down again. The scurs are wondering if this new American Motors is all it’s cracked up to be. Will we finally get some consistency or are we doomed to continue our rollercoaster ride? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a decent chance of evening showers. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the upper 30’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper 50’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Sunny on Friday with a slight chance of evening rain. Highs in the low 60’s with lows in the low 40’s. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of evening showers. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Mostly cloudy on Mother’s Day with a modest chance of showers. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Monday, partly sunny with a slight chance of rain. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the low 60’s and lows in the low 40’s. The sun will rise just before 6 a.m. CDT on the 5th. The normal high for May 9th is 67 and the normal low is 46. The scurs will be keeping an eye on their May baskets so no one swipes them to regift for Mother’s Day.

The spring has been a rollercoaster ride from a temperature standpoint. We continue to struggle to accumulate much in the GDU department save for a few days each week. Last week was no exception with some quality accumulations on Saturday and Sunday totaling nearly 40 GDU’s on those two days alone. It has taken weeks since Easter to gain that much ground and the crop shows it. Corn and soybeans that were planted around Easter took approximately a month to come up. Some have estimated that the crop planted on April 16th may not be much different if the forecast is correct this week and next. Seed health hasn’t been an issue thanks in large part to the relative dryness of the soil. Therein lies another issue.

Concerns about a drought continue to linger and some indications are it’s becoming more pronounced especially in areas around us. It has been grudgingly giving us rain a thimble full at a time. We were fortunate to receive showers of up to a half inch in the middle of last week. Unfortunately, we largely missed the showers forecast this past weekend. This has been prompting farmers to forego their pre emerge herbicides. We were in much the same situation last year at this time. Those who followed their game plan and applied the herbicides anyway were handsomely rewarded when the products performed above expectations. All it took was timely rains in adequate amounts. Especially when it comes to waterhemp, the more sites of action we can throw at it the more likely we are to slow the development of resistance.

The lamb crop at the ranch continues to enjoy the favorable cooler, drier conditions. They’ve grown at an impressive pace and are consuming feed at an equally impressive rate. The few very warm days we’ve had really make all the animals consume water heavily. No surprise there. Clean fresh water is one of the keys to keeping any mammal thriving. It won’t be too long and we’ll need to start weaning off some of the older animals to get ewes on pasture. It helps keep them from overcrowding, another important key to their well-being. The last lamb, Bunny, was born on Easter Sunday and she is aptly named. She hops more than she runs. She was tiny when born but we’ll be turning her and her mother in with the main group soon. Bunny’s big enough now to hold her own. She’d love to get out to run when the rest of the lambs cut it loose on cooler nights judging by the laps she makes inside her pen.

Gardening has been moving about the same pace as the weather not so unexpectedly. The radishes planted March 9th have started to look like radishes since last weekend’s warm temperatures. The tops are still too small to make me believe there are much for bulbs under them. The nice afternoon Sunday did allow for getting the morning glory residue taken down off the trellises. It wound up being like a large ropy tumbleweed, especially when the wind caught and blew it across the yard. Loosening the soil around the area where the vines had been then tamping it for better seed to soil contact should help the volunteers get going more quickly once it decides to warm up again.
 
Birds continue to return to the backyard although not as quickly as one might think given the calendar date. After talking to TP at Wagner’s, it was unanimous that we needed to get our oriole and hummingbird feeders out in case the weekend warmth would move them our direction. There were some reports of orioles over the weekend in more sheltered areas. At the ranch, the ash trees have been struggling to put out leaves so there really isn’t much cover for them yet. There has been a red-breasted nuthatch regularly feeding at the sunflower feeder and a group of pine siskins that have taken a shine to the thistle feeders. Nice to see them even though there aren’t the hundred or so that appeared daily during the irruption back in 2009. Lots of birdsong in the backyard between cardinals, goldfinches, a brown thrasher, Harris’s and white-throated sparrows.
 
We’d decided Saturday after being dead tired that we’d head to Barney’s in Waseca in the Studebaker for lunch Sunday. Cleaning it up a tad from the last outing was no small task. The whitewalls had become gray walls from all the road gunk that they attract. The sides of the car get some of the same grime so that was wiped down. There were plenty of bugs to be cleaned off the front and windshield as well. I’d left the top and hood thinking they’d still be clean. After backing the Silver Hawk out, I ran my fingertips across the roof and it showed some light dust. Got the duster out quick and ran it over the remainder of the car so it was ready to go. A little overcast but temperature-wise it was comfortable running with the fender vents open. Eating outside once at Barney’s & taking a drive around Clear Lake afterwards was the break we’d been looking for. Was also able to make another reconnaissance mission to assess planting progress. Mission accomplished and can’t wait for the next one.

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 broken cloudy days is when I need the sun's heat

The woes continue for the scurs and their Weather Eye. More parts on backorder at AMC although a call in to George Romney has him personally involved. Will he intervene or will his presidential aspirations get the best of him? Starting Wednesday, sunny with highs in the mid-60’s and lows in the mid-40’s. Thursday, sunny with a slight chance of evening showers. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the mid-40’s. Partly sunny on Friday with an increasing chance of evening rain. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a good chance of evening showers. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the low 40’s. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the upper 40’s. The sun will set at 8:30 p.m. CDT on the 12th. Property taxes will be due on the 17th. The normal high for May 17th is 69 and the normal low is 48. The scurs will be searching under the couch cushions for property tax money. Gotta keep the Politburo happy.

Our struggles continue to get enough warmth and rainfall to make progress in the fields. There has been some slow, subtle progress, however. There are fields of corn that can be rowed from the pickup. However, the early week observations indicate a full stand hasn’t yet emerged in many of them. Gaps exist and while the corn is generally there, it hasn’t filled in yet. In some cases, the seed was/is in dry soil. While those plants may emerge, their contribution may be limited versus what they otherwise might’ve been. Our GDU accumulation for corn planted in mid-April stood at 131 through this past Monday. Enough to get corn out of the ground but not much more than that. There are definitely some differences in hybrid emergence scores evident as well as residue cover. All in all, it has taken its sweet time and understandably so.

Soybeans are also taking their time emerging. One thing to point out in both crops is the integrity of the seed once it’s been planted has never come into question. The standing joke that seed should be stored in a cool, dry place is in play. Soybeans even more so than corn don’t like wet feet so there is that One positive from the light rain we had last week was that moisture met moisture in a rain that took the better part of a day to generate much more than a quarter inch. In addition to helping some of the seeds in dry soil, it should keep the herbicides active. The cool weather alone has done a lot in that department. And if rainfall is short later in the season, the cool temperatures now may be a positive if we must live from rain to rain.
     
Apple blossom time at the ranch but they too have been slow with some crabapples being the primary flowers available for pollinators when they appear. The Haralson tree that bore so heavily last year has no detectable blooms on it. Not unusual but probably should’ve thinned the apples some in my nonexistent spare time. The other trees have plenty of flower buds so hopefully they’ll pick up the slack. The pears flowered heavily again so at least there’s that. No danger of frost picking them off just yet either so have to be happy about it. The pears have been a hit and while there’s been a steep learning curve, they’ve become something to look forward to.
 
Speaking of things to look forward to, this past week was certainly one of those in the bird watching department. It saw a white-crowned sparrow on the 5th followed by an orchard oriole the same day. On the 8th a rose-breasted grosbeak appeared along with a Baltimore oriole. It’s the time of year we anxiously await especially after enduring those days in February hauling buckets of warm water to the lambing barn. Still no hummingbirds at the ranch although they have been spotted primarily in municipalities and more wooded areas. The ranch, while becoming more sheltered, is still in the middle of the wide-open spaces where the wind can get a rip at it. When the hummers are here, they’ll be able to feed on the potted red salvia Ruby gave Mrs. Cheviot for Mother’s Day.
 
Ruby has enjoyed being outside on the weekends. She has a full plate. Tire biting, barking at and following a lawnmower are a full-time job. This past weekend meant taking the cages off the hydrangea and burning bushes that were new additions last year. Rather than trying to trim around them afterwards with the weedeater, using a hand clipper to keep from injuring them seemed prudent. The bushes wintered so well it would’ve been a shame to mess them up. Much of this handwork was done on my hands and knees. That’s Ruby’s cue to crawl under your arm and give you some dog kisses. I also decided the dandelions around the air conditioner were too much competition for the violas so took the weed stabber to weed them out. Ruby of course arrived and trampled most of the violas. As always, more dog help than a person should be allowed to have.
 
Watched the white tomcat Sunday as I was moving some things around. He awoke from his slumber atop the round bale and began looking intently below it. Something rustling in the long orchardgrass had his attention. Suddenly he pounced and after disappearing, he emerged with a striped gopher. Wow, maybe he isn’t totally worthless after all! One minor detail: He had the struggling, very much alive gopher by the tail. Hmmm…how’s that gonna work? The cat saw me and ran off into the barn with his prey. A few minutes later I decided to see what had transpired. I saw the white cat scratching at his bloodied ear. Apparently, the gopher tried to take a hunk out of it and won that round. My advice to the cat was to keep trying. You can’t get good at anything without doing it. He promptly went back on the top of the round bale and fell fast asleep. My sage advice worked to perfection.

See you next week.
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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Just hold on loosely but don't let go

George Romney comes through in the clutch! The Weather Eye is repaired and once again the scurs are getting some heat in the forecast. Maybe AMC will overtake The Big Three after all. Still little in the rain dept. however. Will Mother Nature continue to dry clean us or are we due to be showered? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Partly sunny on Friday with a moderate chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the low 60’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a moderate chance of evening showers. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the low 60’s. Partly cloudy on Sunday with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the low 60’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the mid-50’s. We are gaining daylight at a more leisurely pace of just under two minutes a day. On the 23rd we’ll go over 15 hours of daylight. The normal high for May 23rd is 71 and the normal low is 51. Now that the CDC says it’s safe to go outside without a mask, the scurs may stock the cement pond with fish. They’ll still put masks on the fish just in case.

Another week without rain has some starting to worry that we may be in for a dry summer. Indeed, we have been dry although as we’ve maintained, there is generally plenty of moisture to carry this crop a while until the cavalry arrives. Rainfall has been spotty and a thimbleful at a time. After many years with abundant spring rainfall it definitely has our attentions. The Palmer Drought Index is showing the drought increasing in recent weeks although longer range forecasts are tending to see it let up at least in this area. The cool weather coupled with the dryness has compromised stands in corn fields particularly where it was planted too shallow as well as in soybean fields afflicted similarly. Timely rain can cover a lot of sins. Lack of it reminds some how lucky they were when “getting by with it” became “standard operating procedure”. Never count on the weather to do you any favors.

At the ranch we continue to inch closer to having a garden after moving it from its former location in the windbreak. The area broken up last summer was tilled Sunday and worked up well. The only downside like farming is it needs to rain. We have access to water, but we’d rather not go down that road for anything other than transplants at least initially. One thing I noticed was I must’ve picked one of the rockiest pieces on the ranch. It’ll need to rain to wash the rocks off so I can pick them up. Otherwise, they just blend in. Apparently, the March 9th planted radishes in the small garden needed the heat. I harvested a nice bunch Monday night after chores. A lot of firepower along with a sweet aftertaste, not unlike the fall radishes we’ve raised over the years.

I did finally break down to buy a new to me lawnmower. It’s a zero-turn model with a joystick so it takes a little getting used to. I’m used to the T-bar in the skidsteer so I’m not totally unfamiliar with the concept. One difference however is I generally run the T-bar with my left hand, which I consider my finesse hand. The joystick is on the right-hand side of the mower so running it lefthanded would be tough. It has been a steep learning curve so far although there haven’t been any major casualties. The main thing is to keep a loose grip on it and don’t overreact. The Big Dubya saw me operating it while I was giving it a test drive and texted me, wondering if it had autosteer. I told him it did, especially if you let go of the joystick and a branch hits it.

Mrs. Cheviot got a lot of the pots planted over the weekend. Good thing too. The hummingbirds arrived after last week’s print deadline just like normal. They’re small right now but given the heat in the forecast and proper watering, they’ll take off like a house afire. The hummingbirds found the nectar feeder but after a few days I noticed they weren’t hitting it anymore. Upon closer examination, it was empty! That might’ve had something to do with it. Like a naughty child, the catbird was heard but not seen up until recently. Oddly enough the grape jelly feeder started disappearing more quickly. A common yellowthroat could be heard Saturday night as I sat on the patio listening for the various bird songs. It’s not all rocks and cows out here although the Dubya’s brood cows with calves are a thing of beauty against the deep forest green of the cereal rye.

As pretty as those cattle are we have our own livestock to deal with. Monday morning, we made another step towards summer. We let little Bunny and her mom out of their luxury accommodations to comingle with the rest of the flock. She had grown remarkably as a result of all the room service. When we vaccinated, tagged and docked her tail, we couldn’t believe how big she was. When we turned her out, we were amazed how quickly she had caught up to the rest of the lamb crop. This after having been four or five lbs. max at birth. Her mother took great care of her and even after they were turned out, she protected little Bunny from the others whenever they’d take a shot at her. Bunny does have quite a set of wheels on her. When the lambs would run it caused her to run excitedly in circles inside her pen. Can’t wait to get a warm day followed by a cool night. Then we’ll get a chance to see just how good her wheels are.
 
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 wonder, still I wonder who'll stop the rain?

The Weather Eye being fully operational, the scurs have been working on the rainfall deficit. Will we get welcome rain, or will we have trouble shutting the spigot off one we start? Starting Wednesday, sunny becoming cloudy with a good chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows in the low 50’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with showers and thunderstorms likely. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Partly sunny on Friday with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a moderate chance of evening showers. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the low 60’s. Partly cloudy on Sunday with a decent chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the low 50’s. Monday, partly sunny with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the low 50’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a fair chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the mid-50’s. The Full Moon for May arrives on the 26th. The 1st of June is on Tuesday already. The normal high for June 1st is 74 and the normal low is 55. The scurs may need to fetch their blankie if they plan on lounging by the cement pond.

The Full Moon for the month occurs on the 26th and is known primarily as the Full Flower Moon. As the saying goes April showers bring May flowers although in our case, we’ve had to rely primarily on May rainfall. It also goes by the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon as many diary farmers would turn their cows out on the new lush green pastures. They also took great care not to stand directly behind them at milking time! The Ojibwe knew this as the Blossom Moon while the Sioux were more concerned about their transportation, calling it The Moon when Ponies Shed. At the ranch it’s known as the Full Lawn Mowing Moon. It’s a good thing this last purchase has lights. The way it’s going, we'll need ‘em.

Our weather fortunes in the rain dept. have changed, for some more than others. Nothing unusual about that. Some places including the ranch saw our May rainfall total suddenly jump over 5”. Typically, it’s around 4” so after several months of below normal precip, it’s been a switch. It hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Some are still just getting by on rainfall to the west while there was a lot of ponding water after Sunday’s rainfall event. Tuesday marked 7 consecutive days with measurable precip at the ranch. All in all, however crops look good. Corn as of Monday was largely V2 – V3 and soybeans were VE-V1. Some are getting antsy to put herbicide on before Thursday’s forecast cooldown. Weed growth as well as crop growth will both slow as temperatures cool. Being in a hurry may have unintended consequences as herbicides will be metabolized more slowly and more crop response could be the expected result.
 
I’ve grown accustomed to seeing issues with herbicide metabolism issues over the years. For many years, when Bladex was the product of choice for escaped foxtail in corn, the end of May was affectionately known as The Memorial Day Massacre. Temperatures would suddenly plummet causing corn fields to turn varying shades of yellow, purple and brown as the plants struggled to metabolize the cyanazine. Never failed that someone would try to beat the system and use the liquid Bladex 4L rather than the dry flowable formulation and toss some crop oil in while they were at it. This created an absolute blowtorch effect. It did a great job of killing and maiming the corn and if you were lucky, some of the weeds. Good times.

Area lawns quickly responded to the recent rainfall. Grass growth had previously been limited by both rainfall and temperature. Toss a little rain and some heat and within a matter of a few days, ours at the ranch was out of control. Suddenly finding grass that was dry enough to mow became the issue. I’d bemoaned the fact that I wasn’t getting my moneys worth, having to look hard to see where I’d already been. Should be no problem now. The dandelions are at their absolute ugliest. Even Ruby’s pee spots are starting to diminish. At least I wasn’t tempted to fertilize the lawn after noticing the longer dark green grass that resulted. That would be cutting off your nose to spite your face.
 
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Auntie Mar Mar’s blueberry coffee cake. It arrived last week in exchange for some of our rhubarb. Toss a big hunk of coffee cake in the microwave for 20 seconds, slather it in butter and in under a minute, it was to die for. I don’t think I ate any of it with coffee though. It was too handy after lunch or supper, so it was consumed then. With the abundant rain, the rhubarb has really taken off so that should automatically mean more coffee cake. Of course, there should be plenty of fruit and vegetable opportunities over the course of the year so no rush. Can’t count your chickens before they hatch or apples before they’re in the pie though.
 
The summer bird population is in place. It’s gratifying to see them, all flocking to their favorite feeders or concealed in their usual hangouts. The hummingbirds have wasted no time, going from feeders to flowers and back again. Tormenting the orioles is one of my favorite pastimes. When lighting the grill & waiting for the coals to get ready, it’s entertaining to watch them looking coyly at their jelly feeder yet too timid to make the move. This while scolding you for interfering with their feeder. Mimicking their call drives them absolutely bonkers. Passes the time anyway. Perhaps my biggest mistake though was putting a birdbath out. Not that it was really needed but the rain hasn’t stopped since. Might be a sudden uptick in birdbath sales in areas.

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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Blinding me with science - science!

The scurs and the Weather Eye delivered another controversial forecast complete with cold weather and bountiful precipitation. Will they carbon copy it or will Mother Nature quit giving us sloppy wet kisses? Starting Wednesday, sunny highs in the low 80’s and lows in the mid-50’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Sunny on Friday with highs in the upper 80’s and lows in the mid-60’s. Saturday, sunny with a slight chance of an evening thunderstorm. Highs in the low 90’s with lows in the upper 60’s. Sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 80’s with lows in the upper 60’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a fair chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the upper 60’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a fair chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the upper 60’s. On the 7th, we begin to pick up daylight at under a minute per day. The normal high for June 7th is 76 and the normal low is 57. The scurs take no responsibility for the sudden influx of flying biting insects. Call their lawyer.

Crop progress took a back seat and, in some cases, appears to have gone backwards. Over the weekend, yellow corn and lime green soybeans replaced what was a vibrant crop. Add to that the concern about frost in the low areas and fields that had a lot of residue. Suddenly farmers had their worrying caps on. Of course, as everyone knows, we lose the crop at least five time before it hit the bin, so we still have plenty of worrying to do. Something several were concerned about prior to the cold spell was application of post emerge herbicides in corn. Some decided to picture frame their fields rather than smacking the whole works. So far that appears to have been a decent strategy. One can see in several cases the areas that were sprayed and contrast them to the unsprayed portions of the field. While it may not be detrimental to yield, one won’t know that until harvest. In the meantime, looking at ugly corn should get everyone’s attention until it warms up and grows out of it.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, little garden progress was made as a result of the rainfall. In the past week we tallied roughly 6.5” of rain and in Bugtussle it was more like 3.9”. Crabgrass has appeared in the area worked up for new garden so that should serve as a clue for those needing to put a crabgrass killer down on their lawns. Lilacs are blooming. It was Memorial Day. It’s time. It shouldn’t take us long to get our tomatoes in and caged immediately. The forecast of warmer than normal weather should be just what the doctor ordered for them. Squash, beans and cukes should be right behind them once the crabgrass is dead of course. Amazing how quickly our fortunes changed.

This past week marked the end of another year of insect trapping for me. I think it was 9 weeks’ worth of black cutworm and 7 weeks’ worth of armyworm pheromone sticky trap checking every morning after chores. Chores are down to about a half hour, but the trap checking adds about another 10 minutes onto the process due to their placement away from yard lights and other artificial light sources. Add to that the rainfall data collected daily at the ranch and in Bugtussle and it gets to be an undertaking some days. The data collected is important however. Combined with others, it provides valuable information to project possible problems and in the case of rainfall, to understand what some of what’s going on area by area. All in the name of science.

The wetland has responded with more amphibian choruses recently. The newest contestants are the leopard frogs. Not as loud as the toads or as overpowering as the western chorus frogs in early spring, their song is distinctive, nonetheless. Was somewhat concerned that we wouldn’t see many toads in the yard this year due to the dry early spring. There haven’t been the scads of tiny toads yet but given some warmer temps, that may change. There were plenty of smallish toads during the last lawn mowing so there’s that. Other flying bug eaters of note include at least one bat in the kindly neighbors’ barn. Good new because white-nose syndrome has devastated bat populations in areas. Of course, there are numerous barn swallows that must be loving the increase in flies. They’ll never go hungry at the ranch.

The spring birds are shifting gears rapidly. The arrival of female orioles of both species means one thing: nest building taking top priority. I left some short pieces of string from the charcoal bag out for them one night and by morning the string was gone. Jelly consumption too has declined somewhat as they focus their attention elsewhere. I still make a habit out of making the orioles’ lives miserable by sitting on the patio. The hummingbirds don’t mind at all. In fact, the red salvia is only about 4’ from my chair. It sounds almost as though they’re right in my ear when they’re working it over. Their nectar feeders have been pulled down as well. With the upcoming warmer temps, it’ll be time to empty the feeders, clean them out refill them with fresh nectar. Want the birds to leave here as healthy as when they arrived.

I made yet another Memorial Day journey to the cemetery at Chatfield. I go by myself and replace the solar light I left there last year with a new one every year. It amazes me that the ones I replace are generally still in working order, albeit a little weathered after being out there through the winter. As a result, we have quite a collection of solar lights at the ranch, many of which adorned the cemetery plot. It does bring back memories of all those years when Mom and I would go there and drop off containers of fresh flowers not only at Chatfield but at Fillmore as well. It’s not the same of course but it still makes me feel it’s the right thing to do. Why do I suddenly feel like Wilford Brimley?
 
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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Something inside has died and I can't hide and I just can't fake it, oh no no

The scurs and the Weather Eye got it warmed up big time but now the rainfall spigot has been shut off. Will we see a return to rainfall, or will we need to be patient? Starting Wednesday, sunny with a slight chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. Highs in the low 90’s with lows in the low 70’s. Thursday, sunny with a slight chance of a thunderstorm. Highs in the low 90’s with lows in the low 70’s. Mostly sunny on Friday with a good chance of a daytime thunderstorm. Highs in the low 90’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the mid-80’s and lows in the mid-60’s. Sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 90’s and lows in the upper 60’s. Monday, sunny with highs in the mid-80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. On the 14th the sun will rise at 5:30 a.m. The normal high for June 14th is 78 and the normal low is 59. The scurs have their hearts set on sitting around the cement pond while listening for sonic booms. They’ve even ordered their DDT for mosquito control.

What a difference a week makes! After schlepping through May wondering if it would ever warm up, June has had the burners turned on high. It’s been nothing this past week to accumulate over 25 GDU’s a day. Crop growth responded with corn jumping to V6 and soybeans to V3. While that’s generally a good thing the soil moisture supply is finite. Weed growth also responded and in some cases will be competing for moisture and light with the developing crop. No sooner will we have finished postemerge herbicide applications in the corn and we should in some instances be considering them in the soybeans.

Some such as we at the ranch came through May with 6.75” of rain. In Bugtussle, the amount was less but still substantial at 4.15”. The pattern we followed in May appears to be in place once again. Or let’s hope so anyway. Rainfall really wasn’t part of the equation in May until the 19th. So far in June we’ve recorded .06” at the ranch and nothing in Bugtussle other than a trace. There are indications by some forecasters that we may see a turn towards a wetter pattern again once we get to the latter part of the month. In the meantime, a little cooler wouldn’t hurt to conserve the moisture we have. Corn was rolling in some fields already on Monday. Not necessarily a good sign as the plants are determining their ear girth around this stage of growth.

At the ranch we were fortunate to get more garden in place late last week. The tomatoes are adjusting to the transplanting after the blast furnace on Saturday and Sunday. All Mrs. Cheviots planters and pots have been thriving in the heat. Of course, without watering every few days that probably wouldn’t be the case. The four o’clocks made it into the ground along with a couple stretches of cannas. Was even able to transplant a few of the nicest volunteer four o’clocks into large pots to give the hummingbirds something to look forward to earlier this year. Have to keep the little buggers happy while we have them. The bird bath has had frequent use as well now that the puddles have largely dried up. Keeping it filled with fresh water through the heatwave has made for another chore albeit a rewarding one.

The bird population appears to be in full nesting mode. Consumption at the jelly feeder while still being frequented by a few orioles, has slowed to a more manageable pace. I’m curious to see how many orioles and which species are nesting in the Norway maple in the yard. It is so dense that seeing anything once it gets under the canopy is next impossible. The wrens have certainly kept us entertained with their singing as have the common yellowthroats. Have to enjoy them now because in a few months the singing ceases as the days become shorter. Then we need to rely on pheasants and a recent newcomer, a wild turkey for amusement until the winter birds are in place.

The puddles and ponds from the last rain may have dried up but no one told the mosquitoes. It had been rather pleasant in the calm, cool evenings to sit out on the patio to listen to all the birds and other wildlife such as the frog population. No more! Once the wind dies down towards evening, the little bloodsuckers are out with a vengeance. Their presence may be short-lived however if the weather doesn’t cooperate with additional rain. I’m sure the stable flies will be happy to fill in for them until it does.

The cat population at the ranch continues to be steady. We’ve had four up until recently when one went missing. Since cats are as Betsy’s Dad claims a renewable resource, I wasn’t concerned. Until I was putting the tomato cages on that is. I’d gone over by the silver maple tree where I’d stashed a few extra cages. There was a stench coming from inside a plastic doghouse we’d used several dogs ago. It had been setting on an angle with the door side up. Something had crawled in it and died although I wasn’t sure what. The sloshing sound as I picked up the doghouse wasn’t a positive.
 
When I dumped out the contents of the doghouse, I still wasn’t positive what it once was. The puddle of black liquid whatever it used to be was so decomposed and gunky that it was unidentifiable. No fur really, just some occasional bones. I cleaned it up with a scoop shovel and tossed the remains over the fence as it had prime dog rolling material written all over it. I theorized it could’ve been the missing striped cat. Seemed a tad large for that but even being the nerd I am, I wasn’t about to determine mass or volume using a similar sized cat. A few days later my theory was proven wrong as the striped cat suddenly reappeared. One life down, eight to go.

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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It's like a heatwave burning in my heart

The scurs and the Weather Eye found last week’s rainfall totals rather unrewarding. Will Mother Nature turn the rinse cycle on again or are we destined to be dry cleaned for another week? Starting Wednesday, sunny with a modest chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 80’s with lows in the upper 60’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with a good chance of a thunderstorm by evening. Highs in the low 90’s with lows in the low 60’s. Sunny on Friday with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the mid-50’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a good chance of thunderstorms by evening. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the low 60’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a modest chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. The summer solstice arrives on June 20th. We’ll see 15 hours and 28 seconds worth of daylight. On the 21st we begin losing daylight but only less than a second. The normal high for June 20th is 80 and the normal low is 60. The scurs are planning another trip to the AMC dealership. The AC on the Weather Eye appears to need recharging. Maybe they’ll check out those newfangled Pacers.

Crops continued to progress despite the lack of rain. Fortunately, the brutal heat subsided, and overnight temperatures became bearable once again. It’s unusual for us to see this kind of heat for extended periods of time. Coupled with the lack of rainfall it has everyone a little nervous. Help may be on the way at least in the near term however. Breaking the back of the heatwave for the time being should buy us some time. Most of our soils have a tremendous water holding capacity. More and more it’s looking like some significant precip may occur over the next 7 to 10 days. Moderating temperatures in that timeframe also look favorable with real extremes pictured. Corn as of last check was V7-V8 and soybeans were V3-V4. Expected to see some blooms last week already. Am betting if I’d spent enough time, I likely could’ve found some, especially on early planted, early maturing soybeans. Bigger fish to fry.

Something that has been unreal is the drying of first cutting hay. Quality has been outstanding while quantity on the other hand has been somewhat disappointing. Lack of rainfall thus far hasn’t helped push a second cutting along very rapidly either. Probably the most amazing thing has been the speed of the drying. For instance, I cut hay on the kindly neighbors’ starting Sunday about noon. By 6 p.m. that evening, the hay was nearly dry enough to bale. Granted it was orchardgrass hay that tends to dry quickly. However, I’ve also seen years when we’ve had to swap hay with the neighbors and have them blow it in the silo because it wouldn’t get dry enough to bale for several days. With rain on the way it was our best alternative.

The garden at the ranch continues to move along as well. The vine crops panted on the 8th began emerging on the 13th. The only fly in the ointment has been the wild turkey who wanders in and out occasionally. I expected we’d face issues from striped gophers and bunnies, neither of which has been an issue so far. After being elated to see hills of pumpkins emerging Sunday, I noticed the turkey was trotting through again. Seeing the havoc they can raise in corn and soybean fields, I wondered if he had found the garden. I got busy with other things and forgot about it. That evening when I ran the garden hose down the hill to water the vine crops, I was despondent to see one of the hills tore up with a big three-toed footprint in the middle of it. Turkey hunting may need to become a pastime.

Birds continue to do the parenting thing. There are numerous robin nests scattered in the trees around the yard. The wrens have made use of the houses in closer to the yard as they normally do. We still see an occasional oriole at the jelly feeder but they’re not cleaning it out almost daily as they were a few weeks ago. The hummingbirds have still been frequenting their nectar feeders with great frequency. I’ve gone to only partially filling their nectar feeders as in the heat, the nectar turns cloudy in a matter of only a few days. That and the flies tend to find a way to crawl into the nectar and crud it up even more rapidly. Gotta support some of my sugar beet buddies too I guess.

Ewes and lambs were weaned this past week right in the middle of the heat. It was brutal. The low was in the low 70’s which wasn’t bad. However, once the barn door was closed and the animals were confined, the temperature went up drastically. Coupled with large ewes that wanted no part of being separated from their precious gigantic babies and it was game on. I was wringing wet when we finished. I even employed a few wrestling moves I thought I’d forgotten. By the time we were done and ewes were delivered to the kindly neighbors’ pasture, it had taken the better part of 4 hours. I was still able to get out in the field and the heat by 11 a.m. It was decided we needed to purchase a sorting system to help avoid this kind of situation in the future. Expensive but a lot cheaper than a trip to the emergency room or a funeral.

Ruby has enjoyed the recent heatwave. Not long after it started, we couldn’t cool the house down enough by opening windows at night and closing them during the day. We turned the air conditioning on. She’s been lounging in air-conditioned comfort ever since. Sure, she still likes to go outside to do chores, help water the plants and follow the lawnmower around the yard. Typically, though, those functions are performed during the cooler parts of the day. After we’re through, Ruby’s more than happy to repair to the house and cool off. Sometimes it’s hard to find her though. She’s particularly good at finding the coolest spots to nap, one of which is behind the recliner where the register blows almost right on her. When you come home and don’t see her, it’s a good chance that’s where Ruby will be. Or just about anywhere else cool and dark. It’s her house and we just live in it.
   
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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Back in the back of a Cadillac

The scurs and the Weather Eye were pleasantly surprised by the Sunday rainfall over much of the area. Have our fortunes changed, or will we need a diaper change if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate? Starting Wednesday, sunny with a slight chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 80’s with lows in the upper 60’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with a good chance of a thunderstorm by evening. Highs in the upper 80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Mostly sunny on Friday with a modest chance of a forenoon thundershower. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of thunderstorms by late afternoon. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Monday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 80’s with lows in the low 60’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the low 60’s. The Full Moon for June falls on the 24th. We will have lost 13 seconds of daylight from the summer solstice. The normal high for the 24th is 80 and the normal low is 61. The scurs are looking forward to fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Their recently purchased Jersey cow should aid in this endeavor.

The Full Moon for the month is on the 24th and as intimated, goes by the Full Strawberry Moon. June is definitely strawberry month here in MN as it is across much of the USA. There are some good berries available prior to June but the best ones are arguably those grown locally during the month. In Europe this was sometimes known as The Rose Moon. I’d rather eat strawberries methinks. Both the Ojibwe and Sioux actually agreed that this was also the Strawberry Moon or The Moon when the June Berries are good. At the ranch we usually know it as the Full Lawnmowing Moon although this summer, mowing has slowed to a more leisurely pace than some years. This June it has become The Full Watering Moon.

Crops were beginning to show the effect of too dry and too warm up until Sunday’s welcome rainfall. Where substantial rains fell, both corn and soybeans responded almost overnight. Corn that had been curled during the heat seemed to exhale with the rainfall and Monday’s cooler temps. Soybeans also seemed to be marking time and while they were flowering, the plants were growing at a slower than normal pace. The rain made the rows suddenly puff out and look like progress was again being made. The cooler temps helped keep the evaporation level down while buying a little more time before the crop needs another drink. Were the corn and soybean crops hurt by the heat? Overall, on the corn side, not much. The maximum daily water use is still a few weeks off and tasseling should be in the July 7th -14th range depending somewhat upon GDU’s. The soybeans were harmed very little. The soybean crop here is made in August.

Gardening this past week, I was amazed how much moisture there still was prior to the rain while planting a couple astilbe and a coral bell. There was good moisture yet at 4” and below. It still didn’t help for germinating some of the vine crop seeds or four o’clocks. Watering was necessary and even that was a guess about the amount needed. Soil in the top couple inches was very dry. It seemed on those hot days the watering done the night before had generally disappeared well before midafternoon. Eventually the seeds came around although they came even more quickly after the rain. Something about rainfall is still hard to beat when it comes to gardening. The wild turkey was placated by my peace offering of shell corn. He left the garden alone for much of the week despite my feeling like I’d just paid ransom to a feathered terrorist.

The feathered friends have increased in scope again. Apparently, the new hatch of orioles has appeared at the feeders. Jelly consumption is up again and the sightings of immature birds and hearing their calls seems more than coincidental. Hummingbirds also are common, but numbers are hard to determine. They enjoy roosting on the tomato cages in between feeding at the nectar feeders. Then off to who knows where afterwards. A few goldfinches show up now and then. A chickadee suffered the same fate Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, the house sparrows have usually emptied the feeders prior to their arrival. Another reason those rats with wings aren’t welcome in our yard or the barn either one.
 
The Back to the 50’s car show was back on again over the weekend. The MSRA honored our registrations from two years ago so there was no excuse. The weather was a factor in our choice of days to attend. Saturday, while usually the busiest day of the event, had the most appealing weather forecast. Prior obligations left another party locked into Sunday, so my copilot and I decided to brave it, opting for Saturday instead. Memories of driving home in a 3” Sunday downpour a few years back still lingered in my mind as did drying out the wet mess inside the car afterwards.

We took off from the ranch about 7 a.m. Saturday morning. Traffic was light and the overdrive in the Silver Hawk kept pace nicely. There were several thumbs up signs from other drivers while making our way north. We were undecided about which way we’d come into the fairgrounds when we spotted another car, a blue and white ’56 Ford ahead of us. “Hey, I know, let’s follow them!” We did and they took 35E, about the same route as I remembered. Up until they pulled off and went to a gas station that is. The guy and gal got out of the vehicle. She was all dolled up in a poodle skirt and needed to use a restroom badly. Unfortunately for her there was none to be found! OK…so much for that idea.

Hopped back in the car and out onto 35E. Exited on Randolph, caught Snelling, went past the backed-up Como exit, whipped a U-ie at the main gate to the State Fair, came down the Como ramp and voila! In like Flynn. My copilot spotted a great place to park on the east side of the Colosseum. Shade in the a.m. by the Miracle of Birth building then afternoon shade from the Colosseum. We then wandered off for some breakfast. Within a few minutes I received a text that Bemidji Bill and his ’38 Plymouth coupe were parked just a few spaces from us. Hadn’t seen him in two years so it was a special treat. The entire day couldn’t have gone much better. The crowd swelled as the afternoon wore on so there was lots of people watching to do. Lots of classic automobiles too, all manufactured from ’64. Everything from Chevies, to Fords, to Mopar’s, to Cadillacs and of course Studebakers. It just felt good to be back.

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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Splish splash I was taking a bath

The scurs and the Weather Eye have been astonished at how our fortunes changed since last week. Will we need a pipe wrench to turn off the spigot or is our sudden weather change just a pipe dream? Starting Wednesday, sunny with highs in the mid-80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Sunny on Friday with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Sunny on Independence Day with highs in the upper 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Monday, sunny with a slight chance of rain. Highs in the upper 80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 80’s with lows in the low 70’s. On July 2nd sunset slides back from 9 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. On the 6th we begin losing daylight again at just over a minute per day. The normal high for July 6th is 82 and the normal low is 62. The scurs will be firing up the lawnmower again soon. Seems the Jersey cow they’ve tethered out will only eat about so much.

Smiles abounded on Monday after a weekend’s worth of abundant rain over much of the readership area. Totals for the weekend in the 2” – 3” range were common with even more topping off the tank on Monday. Corn and soybeans both responded quickly as much of the area corn has reached 4’ -5’ in height. Some early maturing corn should be on a pace to tassel shortly after the 4th. This rain was a godsend for pollination and then some. Soybeans too wasted little time with most being full bloom and some of the earlier planted early maturing varieties beginning to set a few pods already. Second cutting hay was suddenly put on hold as heavy rainfall would’ve likely made a mess of that. It’s back to being the hay making we’ve come to expect with wet soils and high humidity slowing the drying process. Definitely a far cry from the first cutting where it could’ve been cut and baled the same day in some cases.

At the ranch it’s certainly given the lawn a boost once again. The shaded areas were still green, but the open areas exposed to the sun were brown interspersed with green patches where quackgrass and bromegrass are predominant. Since Saturday it’s made a remarkable recovery. Once the rain is out of here it’ll be back to business as usual in the lawnmowing department for a while. The zero-turn mower has sped up the process and does a nice job. Ruby certainly appreciates having the shorter grass to do her business in. She also still enjoys following the mower around the yard some of the cooler evenings. Her green socks attest to that.
 
The rainfall also made the garden at the ranch jump. The vine crops planted on the new garden area like the location rather well. On some of the cooler days with a north wind, the shelter of the building site coupled with the south facing slope kept it downright warm there yet. The cucumbers, squash and pumpkins have responded by expanding rapidly. The wild turkey seems to have lost interest now that they’re putting out the new leaves every few days. Hopefully, he isn’t off terrorizing someone else’s garden. They might not be as tolerant as we have been.

The fruit and berry trees around the yard also responded positively to the abundant moisture. The pears we’ve come to enjoy wasted no time plumping out and starting to look like little pears. The apples while not as abundant as some years did much the same, slowing the Fireside apple drop. One thing about it, the apples we do have should be huge as spaced out on the trees as they are. The sheep might not see as many of them but that really isn’t the point. Sometimes quality beats quantity. There also seems to be a nice crop of chokeberries, nannyberries and American cranberries setting for those migrating birds in the fall or those coming back through next spring. I’ve thought about making chokeberry (aronia) jelly but then it passes.
 
It appears we’ve had a bumper crop of orioles. I don’t recall ever seeing the numbers we’ve seen at the jelly feeder this summer. They started nesting shortly after their arrival and before we knew it, the youngsters are here. They’ve also taken a shine to the birdbath. Took them a while to figure it out but it’s not uncommon to see them splashing about, not unlike kids playing in the pool. The first of the barn swallows have fledged and the robins are working on their second broods. The wrens scold me every time I get close to the house they chose. They must be getting close to leaving the nesting box as this has been going on for several weeks. Soon enough their song is gone, and we face the reality of another cold winter approaching. Have to enjoy them while we have them.

The recent rains have meant a relief for everyone although not everyone will be relieved about the mosquitoes that will ensue. Still, the sound of rainfall on a roof is soothing. Sunday afternoon’s shower precipitated a nap while waiting for someone to pick up lambs they were purchasing. Monday afternoon offered another napping opportunity. After going through the gymnastics of spreading five acres of fertilizer on two small parcels and returning the spreader, it was pouring when I pulled in the yard at the ranch. The prior several days had been hectic, some of them spent getting rained on. Not wanting that to happen again, I turned the pickup off, closed my eyes and listened to the rain falling on the roof. In no time flat I was out. Ten minutes later it stopped, and I woke up. Never took a nap I didn’t like.
 
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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It’s a circus game with you and me

The scurs were a little nervous after the temperature coming out of the Weather Eye was back on heat again. Will it cool down or are will the Weather Eye require another trip to the AMC dealer for repairs? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with highs in the upper 60’s and lows in the mid-50’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with a good chance of rain by evening. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in the low 60’s. Partly sunny on Friday with a good chance of rain. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in the low 60’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a good chance of forenoon showers. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of a shower. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the low 60’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of showers or a thunderstorm. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the upper 60’s. A week ago our normal high was 82 and the normal low was 62. Guess what? On the 13th, the normal high is 82 and the normal low is 62. The scurs will be searching for their 5-buckle galoshes before Farm and City Days. At least they shouldn’t need their long winter gatkes, yet.

Crop progress continued to be nothing short of astonishing. While I personally haven’t seen any, others have seen some tassels starting to emerge in places. The neighbor’s early sweet corn was tasseled out already last week so the regular dent can’t be far behind. The end of June rains that fell were an absolute godsend. Areas that didn’t get it and were dry before are hurting. With more rain in the forecast, one has to feel somewhat better about our chances of getting an above average corn crop. Many soybeans are setting pods as of last week. More rain is certainly welcome on that front as well although not as critical as it is for the corn at this point. Too much rain in fact could set us up for more disease pressure, in particular white mold if we develop a heavy canopy early on and temperatures cool down. See? This heat has been good for something.

The new 30-year weather averages are out and show a few changes of interest. These data include the years 1991 – 2020. Surprisingly, at the SROC in Waseca, the average annual temperature was actually down a fraction at 44.6 ℉ from 45 ℉. Global warming? Most months showed slight reductions in temperature. The exceptions were September and November showing slightly higher temps, along with December recording a surprising 2 degree jump in overall average daily temperature. The most impressive feature though was the increase in the precipitation over the previous 30-year average. The average for 1981 – 2010 was 35.72” as compared to the new 30-year average at 37.9”. The trend of increased overall precipitation continues.
 
Snowfall average amounts were comparable but down a hair. Annual snowfall in the prior 30-year normal was 52.8” and the new 30-year normal is 52.3”. Some reshuffling of the months with the heaviest snowfall have occurred. December is still our snowiest month and February is now the second snowiest, replacing March in that spot. Former #2 March has fallen to 4th in the average monthly snowfall tally. While more March precip is falling as rain, March precip as a whole showed a .25” decrease. Along with November, those were the only two months showing slight decreases in liquid equivalent precipitation. May through September growing season precip has increased substantially. You weren’t imagining things.
   
https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/us-climate-normals/?s=03

On to more pressing matters. Gardening continues at the ranch. More like weeding continues at the ranch. While Mrs. Cheviot was away, I sprang into action. I warmed up on the smaller beds and gardens, hoeing and pulling the weeds where necessary. It requires less brute force when they’re small. The new garden had become a green carpet of crabgrass, waterhemp and some purslane thrown in for laughs. Nothing funny about it after hoeing a circular patch around each hill then running back through the garden with the tiller. To top it off, a third weeding pass was necessary to remove the weeds in the hills themselves. The string beans were also tended to. No, I do not hire out so don’t ask.

Plans are also being formulated for fall gardening. There’s plenty of space so three more rows of string beans were planted. A July 4th planting of earlier maturing string beans has been a hit in previous attempts. Something about the shortening daylength in the fall tends to make them almost sweet flavored. Also, in the works for late July-early August planting are winter radishes. First introduced to us by Shannon Shonrock’s uncle, the red meat or watermelon radishes are favorites, keeping through fall and far into the winter. The radishes typically planted in the spring work as well, also developing a sweeter than normal flavor. Some snap peas have been ordered. These have tended to be a little more hit and miss but when they hit, they’re worth the effort. Some salad greens were added to the mix so the fall garden should be complete. At least on paper anyway.
   
Oriole numbers continue to amaze. After seeing them empty the cup-type jelly feeder daily I commissioned their jar feeder again. They’ve even decided the oriole nectar feeder is fair game, competing with the hummingbirds and an occasional downy there. It’s like a three-ring circus sometimes when you look out the window. Following the blur of orange bodies can be mesmerizing for long periods of time. Speaking of circuses, we have one trapeze artist fox squirrel that has figured out how to access the roller feeder. First one that has mastered it at the ranch. He climbs down the hanger and somehow grabs ahold of the feeder body, so it doesn’t roll and dump him off. Then he hangs upside down by three legs, reaches in and scoops out a few seeds at a time. Unless I grease the hanger up with Vaseline first that is. I wave at him and laugh when he gets dumped then dusts himself off. He looks up and gives me the tiny middle finger. The show must go on.
   
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 you don’t stop, you keep on eating cars

Temperatures moderated so the scurs avoided another costly trip to the AMC dealership for repairs to the Weather Eye. Oil changes are up to five bucks! That’s insane! Are cooler conditions here to stay or are we likely to keep our AC at the ready? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with rain likely. Highs in the upper 70’s and lows in the mid-60’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of forenoon rain. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the low 60’s. Sunny on Friday with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Monday, sunny with highs in the mid-80’s and lows in the mid-60’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. On July 20th we dip below 15 hours of daylight. The normal high for July 20th is 81 and the normal low is 61. The scurs were finally able to pry open the drawer containing their putty knives. Just in time to scrape those Farm and City Days parade Tootsie Rolls off their tennis shoes.
 
Crop progress continues to impress, and timely rains have been a large part of the equation. Last week’s rainfall totals amounted to well over 2” in many locations. Tassels and silks are present or will be shortly. The only fly in the ointment was the wind that came with some of it west of Bugtussle. It exposed some of what’s been going on below ground in terms of rootworm infestations. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we could be set up for it. Numbers of particularly western corn rootworms were higher locally in 2020 than they’d been since 2012. A warmer than normal winter allowed for better than normal survival of the eggs and the drier than normal spring with subsequent early planting dates didn’t hurt their cause either. Where the hybrids have traits for resistance, it’s unlikely that there will be problems. Where only above ground traits were used, with or without insecticide, those fields may face an uphill battle. And last year there was some indication that where continuous corn is part of the mix, there may be populations developing resistance to the traits. Fun and games.

Soybeans are the sleeper crop at present. Aside from the cupped bean fiasco that some just can’t seem to get enough of, they’re doing fine thank you very much. Most fields are R3-R4, setting pods nicely. The drier spring agreed with them as disease so far has been very limited in scope. The recent rains, heavy dews and cooler temps did as we mentioned last week set the crop up for the potential of white mold, particularly on fields with a history. Some fungicides were applied last week as a result. While not a magic bullet and not cheap, with the soybean price where it is, it becomes easier to justify particularly on seed beans. Insect pressure remains low and the temptation to “just toss the insecticide in” has reared its ugly head once again. Just remember, those promoting that practice are largely responsible for soybean aphids developing resistance to the synthetic pyrethroids. Our product selection has become more limited as a result. Burning out additional insecticide families is the risk we take if this practice isn’t stopped.

No risk of resistance in the garden at the ranch. Insects haven’t been a problem and eating vegetables treated with prophylactic insecticides isn’t our thing. So far there have been no herbicides used either. Just old-fashioned cultural methods when the timing is right. That’s one of the beauties about gardening on into the fall. Weed control becomes less of an issue. Speaking of fall gardening, more seeds arrived in the mail Monday: Snap peas, greens and radishes, spring and winter types. The three string bean varieties planted July 5th were emerging on the 12th. On the spring planted garden, the Tendergreen string beans are starting to flower. The squash and pumpkins continue their march across the garden plot. Their huge solar collector leaves not only collect a lot of sunlight, but they also shield the soil from pounding rains. There’s a reason the ground they occupied the year before is some of the mellowest when planting the following spring.
 
We were able to employ our sheep sorting system again last Sunday as we needed to pick out some that were destined for the show circuit. The sorting gate at the end of the chute allows us to divert them into separate pens without having to touch them. That saves wear and tear on tired older bodies and cuts down on additional vocabulary, critical when catching uncooperative Cheviot contestants. We didn’t use the system on the yearling ewes but thanks to their stupidity, they sorted themselves. The four we didn’t want to send out on the road jumped in the trailer, so we grabbed a few panels and dumped them off in the pasture. The two we were looking for hopped in shortly afterwards, making for one of the quickest loading sessions ever. While equipment like panels and the sorting system aren’t cheap, neither are funerals. No scalloped potatoes required.

Participated in Bugtussle’s car show last Saturday despite the rainy forecast. Am generally not a big fan of competitive car shows but this car show is about as low key as they get. Was glad I went. I got to park right in front of the registration table. After attaching the participant info to the windshield and wiping the Silver Hawk down, there was a wonderful pancake breakfast. I sat with Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer and his squeeze. I got to see the local male Bandwagon star. He said “Yes!”. I also purchased the last pan of Rice Krispie bars from the local female Bandwagon star. I walked around perusing & scoring the beautiful classic automobiles. There were even two Gremlins including a ’74, the same model year I once owned. Then I sat for a spell with friends, something I do all too infrequently these days. The Silver Hawk is a distinctive automobile, drawing lots of questions and comments. There simply aren’t many around nor were there back in the day. Amazingly enough though, almost everyone has a story about the Studebaker their parents or grandparents once owned. I enjoy the questions and comments.
 
Towards the end of the car show a fellow came up to me, called me by name and introduced himself. I didn’t recognize him but once he explained, it all made sense. Back in June my copilot and I were flying low in overdrive down I-35 coming home from the Back to the 50’s show. We came upon someone in a ’57 Chevy ahead of us. Frequently drivers of old cars attending such events flock together. If someone has trouble you can help each other out. Plus, those following the leader can identify the parts that fall off. We passed his Chevy and he then followed us all the way to Owatonna. Then he passed us, smiled and waved by the Bridge St. exit. We smiled and waved back. He happened to have his ‘57 Chevy at Saturday’s car show and must’ve read the owner information on the Silver Hawk windshield. When he replayed the preceding scenario from his perspective it all made sense. Super nice guy who also had a Studebaker story. Best of all, he wasn’t driving a Ford!
 
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)