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Offline Dotch

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Oh, all I see turns to brown as the sun burns the ground

Another rash of heat from the Weather Eye has the scurs ready to dial up the AMC dealership, again. Are cooler conditions on the way or will our friendly electricity provider be our best friend? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper 80’s and lows in the upper 60’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the low 90’s and lows in the low 70’s. Ish. Sunny on Friday with a fair chance of rain in the evening. Highs in the low 90’s with lows in the mid- 70’s. Double ish. Saturday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 90’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 90’s and lows in the mid-60’s. Monday, sunny with highs in the low 90’s and lows in the upper 60’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. The Full Moon occurs on July 23rd. We start losing daylight at over 2 minutes a day on the 25th. The normal high for July 25th is 81 and the normal low is 61. With Waseca Co. fair in their rearview mirror, the scurs can focus their attention on Freeborn Co. Fair & Auntie Mar Mar’s baked goods next.

The Full Moon for the month of July will be on Friday the 23rd and goes by several names. The primary name is the Full Buck Moon, so named for the antlers that are starting to adorn the buck deer. Indeed, several have been seen locally already in the velvet. It also goes by the Full Thunder Moon for the thunderstorms common this time of year and the Full Hay Moon as hay is harvested for the long winter ahead. The Ojibwe knew this as The Raspberry Moon for the wild delicacy common this time of year. The Sioux were also into fruit, calling this the Moon when Wild Cherries are Ripe. At the ranch, we call it The Full Weeding Moon. Odd how quickly those pesky little weeds suddenly become competition for garden space.

Crops are continuing to move at warp speed after the rain and return of warm temperatures. Most corn is tasseled completely with a large portion having already pollinated. One can tell when husking it if the silks fall off the ears easily, it’s pollinated. Conditions locally for pollination couldn’t have been much more favorable. Soybeans are also smoking right along. Most fields are R4 already with some planted early to early maturing varieties already exhibiting some plants at R5. A few soybean aphids have been found but finding them has been the exception and not the rule. At this point we may be in much the same position we were locally last year. These soybean plants are generally large, and the aphids will have their work cut out for them.
 
Likewise with the corn rootworm infestations. While beetles can be found in significant numbers in some fields, not all fields are infested. In fact, in many of the fields where we installed sticky traps, there were none to be found at that time. Keep in mind these fields were chosen because they had the potential for rootworm issues such as lengthy corn on corn and corn on corn in their histories. Crop health thus far looks excellent with little to no evidence of significant disease pressure. Fungicides have been applied to both corn and soybeans. Not surprising since almost no one bales hay or cultivates anymore.
The “just toss in the insecticide” discussion has moved from the soybean arena to the corn. If corn is less than 50% pollinated and silks are being clipped to less than ½ inch, rootworm beetle control may pay. That may take 10 or more beetles per plant. Again, spraying for an insect that isn’t there is a waste of money, not to mention playing Russian roulette when it comes to rootworms developing resistance down the road. This has already happened in NE to at least three families of insecticides including the organochlorides, organophosphates and synthetic pyrethroids. Know your enemy. Panic, emotionalism and knee jerk reactions are seldom good methods of dealing with crises, real or imagined.

The garden has flourished after the rain and the ensuing heat. I was able to slip through the garden one last time with the tiller. It took some time and effort to move the vines out of the way and carefully put them back again. Luckily this ain’t my first rodeo. The upcoming heat and sun meant a scorched earth policy for the weeds, almost literally. Crispy brown unidentifiable weeds are my favorite kind The vine crops are all blooming and the bees couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve mentioned it before, and it still holds true that the bumblebee population is thriving at the ranch. Their favorites have included plants such as salvia, catnip, hostas, and Solomon’s seal. They’ve also been seen on the tomatoes. While tomatoes don’t necessarily need their help, the bumblebees wiggle and shake the blooms around enough so they pollinate.
 
I may not be attending a lot of car shows the rest of the summer. For starters, the Silver Hawk has been on the temporarily disabled list limiting it to short runs. Earlier in the year I’d noticed the oil was down a quart after one of our longer cruises. On one of the shorter expeditions after that, I could detect the faint smell of burning oil. When we attended the Back to the 50’s show back in June, I made sure the oil was full before leaving. Upon our return home I checked it again and it was down two quarts. There was a leak coming from somewhere as the rear bumper and rear of the trunk were speckled with microdroplets of oil. Got an appointment scheduled and the diagnosis was better than expected. It was leaking from a shaft on the fuel pump. Once installed, we should be back in business. At least I hope so. Nice to look at it but more fun to drive a piece of automotive history.

Speaking of that, the ‘60 Lark project has suddenly been resuscitated. The organ donor ’59 Lark was hauled to Waseca where a kind gentleman removed the glass for me. He’d warned me that sometimes windshields don’t make it out intact, so I was braced for that possibility. As luck would have it, everything came out as planned and I’m sure wanted the coon condo off his property before any new tenants showed up. I enlisted the services of Vista’s noted Swedish astronomer to help me load the glass. I feared if it was wet which was a possibility, the odds of dropping a windshield or rear window might be increased. Besides, with help I’d have someone else to blame! Such was not the case. All the glass was set on some dog pillows and securely wrapped with blankets. It all made it home in the original sized pieces rather than thousands of little ones. Wasn’t taking any chances. A difficult to find windshield going for over 500 bucks a pop might’ve had something to do with 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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And I am amazed at how they stumble homeward through the haze

The scurs were dumbfounded after another trip to the AMC dealership only to find parts were backordered for the Weather Eye. Will the parts arrive soon or are we in for another week of blistering temperatures? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with a fair chance of rain by evening. Highs in the mid-90’s with lows in the upper 60’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the mid-80’s and lows in the low 60’s. More like it. Mostly sunny on Friday with a slight chance of evening rain. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the mid-80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Monday, partly 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 low 60’s. On July 30th, the sun will rise at 6 a.m. CDT. Is it possible that Sunday is August 1st already? Yes indeed. The normal high for August 1st is 81 and the normal low is 61. After this heatwave, the scurs have decided that in some respects, January may not be such a bad thing.
 
More heat and little precipitation this past week has farmers starting to get more nervous about the potential damage this may do to a crop that has largely led a charmed life. From a crop health perspective, it should hang on about as well as one could expect. Both the corn and soybeans have shown little in terms of disease thus far and while those promoting fungicides will be quick to declare it’s a preventative if something comes in later, I’m merely reporting what’s out there now. The odds of a response to fungicide are generally enhanced when certain diseases are present in the canopy.
 
Insect pressure while present, overall hasn’t shown its hand just yet. More soybean fields with aphids detected this past week although they were most easily found in areas where we’d likely expect to see them first, near higher concentrations of buckthorn. The concern comes if this soybean crop is put under sever moisture stress to finish. Our best responses to insecticides locally came during drier seasons such as 2003. Spider mites are also a concern although they follow the same scenario the soybean aphids do: These are presently some big healthy beans. If we come under severe moisture and heat stress, that could change.
 
Corn rootworm beetle numbers have also followed in that they are typically highest in fields with continuous corn. Even those had little silk clipping and as of last week, little in the way of gravid female rootworm beetles as a proportion of the population. Those fields rotated and using rootworm traits properly have exhibited little adult pressure thus far. Beetle bombing as some have proposed and killing primarily male rootworm beetles probably isn’t a prudent course of action. There will likely be plenty of adult males emerging later to keep the females satisfied.

Some on social media have been fretting about the haze from the forest fires cutting down on our solar radiation, possibly affecting the yields of soybeans in particular. While I’m unaware of any data relating to a precise number of Langley’s on crop yields, I do know that the haze this past week kept our temperatures from reaching the forecast highs on several occasions. In the situation we’re in with soil moisture becoming a more precious commodity, these more moderate high temperature days may have bought us some time. One thing for certain, it has slowed the speed of drying hay, as some of us can attest.

It has been interesting to watch this year’s group of lambs develop at the ranch. It’s been fascinating to note their selectivity in forages. Their lot in front of the barn became overgrown with roundleaf mallow. It’s a weed that has been on the increase in recent years, thriving in just about any waste area or other seldom disturbed areas around our yard. Along with it in their lot are several other weed species including Canada thistle, waterhemp, pigweed and a few velvetleaf. Starting a few weeks ago, the lambs tore into the roundleaf mallow and chewed off any waterhemp or pigweed that wasn’t near the electric fence. They declined to eat the Canada thistle, likely for obvious reasons. They also passed on the velvetleaf plants. Oddly enough, roundleaf mallow and velvetleaf are both in the same (mallow) family. However, the velvetleaf’s fuzzy texture and odor, reminiscent of tomcat urine, probably don’t help their palatability.
 
The Studebaker made it through last week’s surgery after a few bumps in the road. The oil leak was stopped, and the electric fuel pump was a nice addition. For some reason though the ammeter was charging at 35 + amps and after a little sleuthing, the ace mechanic determined the voltage regulator had expired. Fortunately, I had one that worked OK but was a little shaky at home. It solved the problem temporarily until a new one could be installed. The next step if it happens again is to switch the charging system over to an alternator. Up until 1960, all automobiles were using generators. The first US production car with an alternator was the 1960 Valiant. Mopar strikes again!
 
Was hoping that the Studebaker would be ready for the cruise to The Little Log House at Hastings last Saturday. With the charging system being a little iffy and the hot day forecast, I wasn’t sure that was a good idea. Luckily someone was looking out for me. The cruise leader told me his wife wouldn’t be going due to the heat and wondered if I wanted to ride along in his air-conditioned Corvette. Didn’t have to ask me twice. Once we got there, we rented a golf cart and saw an incredible amount of tractors, old farm equipment, trucks, old cars, you name it. The worst part of going to these shows is the sudden realization that somewhere along the line, you’ve actually used a lot of this stuff people are calling collectibles and antiques. You don’t suppose someone’s trying to tell us something?

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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Talkin' is cheap people follow like sheep even though there is nowhere to go

The scurs got their parts finally and with the Weather Eye functioning more comfortably, the world was once again safe for democracy. Were these parts cheap imported knockoffs or were these the real made in the USA deal? Starting Wednesday, sunny with a fair chance of rain by evening. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the low 60’s. Thursday, partly sunny with a modest chance of rain by evening. Highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the mid-80’s and lows in the upper 60’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a good chance of a shower or thunderstorm by evening. Highs in the upper 80’s with lows in the low 70’s. Sunny on Sunday with a modest chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 90’s and lows in the low 70’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 90’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with a continued modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. On August 6th the sun will set at 8:30 p.m. CDT. The normal high for August 6th is 80 and the normal low is 60. The scurs will be watering their lawn and washing the ’74 Gremlin X to make it rain.

Rainfall this past week was rather limited but welcome, nonetheless. Accumulations of nearly a half inch were common in places and in others not so much. Crops really haven’t shown much stress yet with pollination several weeks behind us in most cases in the corn. A lot of the corn I was in this past week has shown some milk to dough stage kernels. It is moving at warp speed. Soybeans have set pods and in most cases are full blown R5 and will be roughly two to three weeks until we reach R6. Some slight SDS symptoms noted in places this past week although no white mold yet. The heat may have done us a favor. Soybean aphid numbers are reflecting the R5 growth stage. The soybeans suddenly have B.O. seemingly and the aphids don’t seem all that fond of them. One field exhibited some spider mite movement from an area that had recently been mowed. Again, more of a novelty than a problem but interesting to see them display what they are capable of should things start to go south in terms of heat and moisture. That may take some doing as soybean plants in some fields this last week were armpit high.

If we don’t receive much rainfall, some have speculated that this could be a scenario similar to 2012. It could be, however there are some key differences. Thus far we have been very fortunate in the precipitation department. The temperature department not as fortunate. We also came into the growing season with what was likely better stored soil moisture thanks in large part to an early finish on the crop in late August and early September. Plus, we had a large portion of snow melt that went into the soil rather than running off. That said there also some parallels. Looking back at my 2012 rainfall data, August was a dry month. Not far to our east, the Claremont area received some timely rains then harvested some unbelievable corn and soybeans. The crop here had everyone saying what could’ve been. We probably can hang on a few weeks with moderate temps this time around. Again though, with no rain and excessive heat and high evapotranspiration (think wind) we may see more tip back on the corn and pod abortion than we like to see. If we receive some rains in the meantime, this could still be a tremendous crop locally.

I mentioned the field border having been mowed above. The positive was it lessened my worry about encountering wild parsnip. It’s one of the first things I look for when I get out of a truck to go look at a field. I wear shorts a lot when it’s hot and wild parsnip can leave some nasty blisters on your skin. I also mentioned black nightshade last week in the lot at home. It can easily kill a young, healthy lamb in a matter of a day or two. All you can do is watch it happen. I’ve had a fascination for lack of a better term for poisonous plants since I was a lad. When Dad was an insurance agent, he’d take us along sometimes on insurance claims (probably at Mom’s behest) where livestock was involved. We’d get to see some toxic weed issues firsthand. Milkweed poisoning while not common would occur occasionally, usually when cattle ran out of anything better to eat. Likewise with poison hemlock which resides in the kindly neighbors’ pasture. The sheep have plenty to eat, it’s not very palatable and they don’t touch it. By the time the pasture becomes thin, it’s long gone especially if I nuked it first with some deadly agro-toxins.

The fall garden continues to take shape. It started back on July 5th with three rows of string beans that miraculously escaped the bunnies, deer and wild turkeys. It recently increased with the addition of three double rows of snap peas and seven rows of fall and winter radishes. I started fall gardening back in 2013, the year my Mom passed away. We had 18’ of snow on the ground on May 3rd at the ranch and it never got dry enough after that to put anything in the ground. Frequent trips to the care center also came into play. When Mom passed away mid-summer, I still had all the seed I’d intended to plant in the spring.
 
Much of it come to find out could be planted for fall so I did. I was pleasantly surprised at the results. I continued it until the garden area eventually became too shaded. Moving the garden area to a south facing slope took some doing, starting with a couple kind souls working it down for us last year. It was essentially fallowed a year, accumulating both nitrogen and moisture. As a result, the vine crops have just exploded, growing off into the lawn and under the pasture fence. It took some watering early on but when it got rain, it’s been truly amazing despite all the recent smoke.
 
Auntie Mar Mar’s annual bake off otherwise known as the Freeborn Co. Fair has arrived. I seriously don’t know how she does it. Numerous kinds of nut breads, bars, cookies, you name it. What’s in it for me? I’m an official taste tester, at least of the excess that wasn’t exhibited. It’s a little like the sheep at home. This time of year, when we come out the door and walk towards the fence, they come on a dead run, bellering in anticipation that goodies might be forthcoming. They have nothing better to do and nowhere to go so why not? Could be in the form of weeds, corn husks, cobs, vegetable peelings or even stale bread. That’s one difference: The goodies from Mar Mar never get a chance to get stale. I make darn sure of 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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I'm talkin' 'bout that outlaw X is cuttin' through the air

With the Weather Eye functioning in more routine fashion, the scurs breathed a sigh of relief after washing the Gremlin and squeezing some precious rain from the sky. Will another car washing be required or are we doomed for more dry cleaning? 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 mid-50’s. Sunny on Friday with highs in the upper 70’s and lows in the mid-50’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Monday, sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. On August 15th we slip below 14 hours of daylight for the first time since April 26th. The normal high for August 15th is 79 and the normal low is 59. The scurs have decided that washing their windows and mowing the lawn might be the last resort to bring rain.

Crops continue to thunder along despite the dry conditions. Some cooler days with more moderate highs and lows may have bought us some additional time although eventually time will run out without rain. Some tip back was noticed last week but people are cautioned that some hybrids are prone to this especially when stands are on the higher side. There appears to be moisture yet deeper in the profile particularly as one moves east so we’re not out of the game yet. Soybeans have largely finished flowering and are primarily R5 with many reaching mid-R5 very quickly. R5 is defined as the stage at which one pod contains a seed 1/8” long or longer at one of the uppermost nodes on the main stem with a fully developed trifoliate. R6 may come more quickly this year if warm temperatures persist. Typically, are in R5 stage for approximately 15 days. However, judging by the development over the past week, it may be shorter than that. R6 is defined as a pod containing a green seed that fills the pod cavity at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem with a fully developed leaf. Once R6 is reached, odds of seeing a response to insecticide for soybean aphid control becomes slim and none, especially when there are few to begin with.
 
The week before last reminded me why my disdain for baling hay only increases as I age. I cut the hay at the kindly neighbor’s July 25th thinking it would surely be dry by Wednesday or Thursday. Even though the smoke from the Canadian forest fires was keeping the sun from helping us out much, I raked it on Tuesday the 27th, betting it would be ready given the heat. It rained July 28th, about a quarter inch and soaked all the way through the windrow. Drat! Turned it again the 29th to get the wet stuff on top and guess what? The smoke confounded things again and it rained another tenth on Friday the 30th! It didn’t soak though and was more like a heavy dew on top. I left it on Saturday and after checking it, determined it would probably dry given the breezy conditions. The Dubya’s had mentioned they’d rather not bale on Sunday, and I wasn’t arguing. I got a call on Sunday August 1st asking if I’d go rake it. I did and it was rolled up in round bales late in the afternoon. Never seen less than 5 acres of hay take more work than this last time. It should keep though having been smoked like that.

Bird song in the yard has been diminishing over the past several weeks. There is an occasional wren singing in the front yard but that’s about it. The orioles have started to slow down on jelly consumption finally. Some days there were a half dozen at a time hopping between the two feeders and by evening they’d exhausted the jelly supply in the cup type feeder. Load it up the next day and same thing by nightfall. Hummingbird numbers are beginning to swell as more are feeding at the nectar feeders and flowering plants scattered throughout the yard. The goldfinches are likely nesting and appear to eat sunflower seed. They regurgitate digested seed as food for their young. If cowbirds have laid eggs in a goldfinch nest, the cowbird young will starve on this diet.
 
The four o’clocks experiment has so far been a big success. There are two large pots of them flowering on the patio, every evening opening up and staying that way until late morning. Three out the four plants were red with one pink. Their fragrance is intoxicating on a warm night. The blossoms are frequently visited by the hummingbirds. Also in bloom are the cannas with their red spikey inflorescence. The morning glories shook off a slight hit from some herbicide drift and have wrapped themselves around the light pole like a giant anaconda. So far they’re up the pole about 12’. How high they will go, nobody knows.
I was saddened recently by the loss of ZZ Top founding bandmember and bassist Dusty Hill. Spent a lot of great times listening to the bottom of ZZ Top as Billy Gibbons called him recently. First heard them on the radio in the early 70’s, a few tunes here and there like “LaGrange” and “Heard it on the X”. Some others too that we won’t mention as this is a family program, usually anyway. I remember borrowing the “Degüello” album from Wilson Library when I was at the U of M and recording it on cassette, something many of us did at the time. Awesome album with “Cheap Sunglasses,” plenty of blues, rock and roll, with Dusty rumbling along on bass. Still have the tape though I play it only sparingly.

Pre-MTV, in 1981 “El Loco” was released but shortly afterwards I was living in North Central North Dakota, roughly 6 miles from the Canadian border. Prior to that I’d moved from Rugby to Cando then finally to my bachelor pad, a newer small two-bedroom bungalow farmhouse located northwest of Armourdale Dam. The area was known as the Finnish Reservation due to the predominant Finnlander population that had settled there. There was even a rustic outdoor woodburning sauna as part of the building site. Remote and discreet, but basically, I could walk out the door and go hunting and fishing. I wasn’t about to starve.

There wasn’t a lot on TV at night, so frequently I’d listen to rock and roll on an FM station from Winnipeg. I’d hooked up the tuner on the stereo to the TV antenna so I could turn the rotor to get a better signal. On clear nights, the signal was clean and powerful. I’d heard previously that the station was going to be playing ZZ Top’s new album Eliminator in its entirety. I aimed the antenna at Winnipeg at was amazed at the clarity coming through the Kenwood 5300 tuner as I rolled the tape. Eliminator was a unique album as it incorporated the use of a synthesizer into what was previously pretty straight atcha rock and blues. When the DJ started side 2, I hit pause momentarily as Legs started playing. I was briefly uncertain that it was indeed still ZZ Top. I quickly determined it was and let the tape roll. Still have that tape too, complete with some of the DJ’s commentary. Brought me back to the lyrics from "Heard It on the X". Thanks Dusty for being part of that memory. You will be missed.

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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Double Album set!!!

8/15/21

Well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days

The Weather Eye seems to be wavering again and with no rain in sight, the scurs are weighing their options. Will another trip to the AMC dealer be necessary or are we in for some precious precipitation? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of an evening shower. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with a fair chance of an evening shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the mid-80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Partly sunny on Friday with a fair chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with a modest chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Partly sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Monday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with a slight chance of a shower or a thunderstorm. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the mid-60’s. The Full Moon is on the 22nd. The normal high for the 22nd is 79 and the normal low is 58. The scurs are pulling out all the stops to make it rain. Even though they detest mowing, watering the lawn may be next on their list.

The Full Moon on August 22nd goes by The Full Sturgeon Moon as the fishing tribes were busy catching sturgeon this month. It also goes by The Full Red Moon or the Full Grain Moon as spring seeded small grains were harvested during this month in the northern country. The Ojibwe called this the Berry Moon while the Sioux knew it as The Moon when Cherries are Black. At the ranch we know it as The Full Cucumber Moon for the cucurbits threatening to take over what little remain refrigerator space we have.
Crop progress this last continued its rapid pace. Corn was nearly full dent in many cases, meaning that physiological maturity should be in three weeks to a month. So far so good with little tip back on the ears being noted other than a short nose in many cases. As some have pointed out, that’s a sign that the population was about where it should’ve been. Likewise with the soybeans. Many are mid-R5 presently with little sing of pod abortion or decreased beans per pod yet. With continued warmer weather, they should be mature in three weeks to a month as well. While present observations don’t necessarily guarantee either crop will be out of danger of a frost, the odds certainly appear in our favor. A good rain soon would certainly make many rest a little easier.

This article is being written from the road as I’m participating in my 18th Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour. Time has certainly flown since that first one back in 2004. The crop we’ve seen on our way to Columbus OH where we kick off the event looks about as expected from the road. As we get into the fields, we’ll have a better handle on how good or bad it is as we take yield data and meld it into something more tangible other than looking one way or the other from the road. According to the prognosticators, odds are we’ll be getting wet somewhere along the line with rain in the forecast. We’ll see if we can’t bring some of that rain back with us when we return on Thursday.

Despite the sparse rainfall, the garden at the ranch continues to amaze. Last week we were able to find homes for the string beans that were starting to accumulate, taking away space from the burgeoning cucumber crop referred to above. I had little faith that the string beans would amount to anything as erratic as their emergence was. So little in fact that I blew grass clippings from the lawnmower on them. Pro tip: Do not blow grass clippings on your string beans. It is a royal pain to get it off after harvesting them! Cucumbers are taking over the ranch. We measure their output by the 5-gallon bucket full. Some have become overripe, so they get tossed over the fence. The sheep have figured this out and come running anytime someone is near the garden. They’re not going hungry anytime soon.
 
The hills of buttercup squash are showing signs that they too have been equally prolific. They have expanded beyond the garden and set fruit everywhere including the lawn. Tomatoes are ripening more quickly, and the zucchini have kept production to an acceptable level. The fall gardening effort is also showing promise. The July 5th planted string beans have started flowering so barring catastrophe, we should have a continued supply. The fall seeded spring-type radishes and the winter radishes emerged very evenly and not so thick to require major thinning. The snap peas were a lit more sporadic but being planted in double rows, should fill in. Off to a good start, they have potential to develop if the weather cooperates. The weeds also appear to be off to a good start although putting the hurt on them when small, their days are numbered.

40 years ago, I was sitting in the upstairs of the house I was living in on Raymond Ave. in St. Paul contemplating my future. I’d finished college and had my degree. There was no opportunity to come home and farm. Jobs were few and far between in agronomy right out of college. I’d applied and had been accepted to work at the State Veterans Hospital. The day before I was to report to work, I was scheduled for an interview with a then subsidiary of Cenex known as Centrol. It was a crop consulting company with a new branch opening in Rugby ND. While I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of working for Cenex or in ND, I went to the interview anyway. It went smoothly and I returned home afterwards figuring it would be several days before I’d hear back from them. I started getting my things together to start work at the hospital in the morning when suddenly the phone rang. The individual I’d interviewed with was offering me the job. I didn’t hesitate, figuring their money spent as well as anyone’s.

Little did I know the start of the adventure it was to be. It exposed me to a very different cropping system than what I’d grown up with. What I didn’t realize was my two years working as an undergrad at the U of M would pay handsome dividends. I’d been exposed to small grain production other than the oats we grew on our farm as well as things like sunflowers, sugar beets, potatoes, grass seed, and even adzuki beans. The soil fertility basics I’d experienced in those two years were of tremendous value. The soils in NC ND were typically high pH with most being very high in potassium and low in phosphorus. Soluble salts were also an issue with some areas being so alkaline, the only crop that would grow on them would be barley.
 
Suddenly I was living in Rugby ND, the heart of the Durum Triangle. Hard amber durum wheat is grown primarily for pasta. Malting barley was important as was flax. Commercial mustard, both Oriental (brown) and yellow were also grown in the area. Black oil and confectionery sunflower had made a major impact as there was little insect pressure present at the time as opposed to the Red River Valley where sunflower moths and midges had frequently decimated the crop. There were even a few acres of corn scattered around along with a limited acreage of soybeans, just starting to make its mark on ND agriculture. Ah, glory days!
 
See you next week…real good then.


8/24/21

Then I saw her face, now I'm a believer

After more repairs, the Weather Eye has suddenly been making overtures that our dry spell may be coming to a close with Mother Nature’s help. Will the scurs become believers, or will they continue their role as doubting Thomas’s? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with a modest chance of an evening shower. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the low 60’s. Thursday, partly sunny with a good chance of showers or thunderstorms with possible heavy rain. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the mid-60’s. Partly sunny on Friday with a good chance of continued showers or thunderstorms. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the upper 60’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with a good chance of an evening shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in mid-60’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a fair chance of forenoon rain. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a modest chance of a shower. Highs in the low 87’s with lows in the low 50’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s. On August 26th, the sun will rise at 6:30 CDT and set before 8 p.m. The scurs will have more time after sunset to study plans for building an ark if the Weather Eye is correct.

Heavy rain was not an issue for most in the area this past week; quite the contrary. With a dab of rain falling last Friday night, while welcome it likely was too little too late at least for the corn. Checking corn upon my return from the Pro Farmer Crop Tour, I was disappointed but not surprised by what had transpired while I was gone. No rainfall and warmer than normal temperatures had taken its toll, with ears starting to droop on the outside of several corn fields. Getting up close and personal in one 98-day relative maturity hybrid, the milk line was already halfway down the kernel this past Saturday! Found more of the same earlier this week. The soybeans fared somewhat better although the gravel pockets and eroded slopes are more prevalent. A field of group zero soybeans was turning and dropping leaves on Monday when I drove by. Translation: Harvest will be here before we know it.

Another Pro Farmer Crop Tour came and went without too much fanfare. I find myself more like the Tin Man every year, having to get motivated prior to its occurrence. For some reason though it’s become more of a force of habit than it once was. You know it’s coming so you just go with it. I meet up with my old boss and mentor Jerome then proceed to Cedar Falls which is always a treat, sharing old stories of our days at the U of M. We hook up with Brian, our Fearless Leader on the eastern leg of the Tour and blast off for Champaign IL. The next day we head to Columbus OH and the adventure back west begins. Due to COVID, there were no foreigners on the tour again this year and we were limited to only a rider and driver per vehicle. While this works, I long for the day when we can have the foreign contingent back as well as those who stayed home due to corporate or government restrictions. It’s time for living in fear to be done.
 
Harvest has been ongoing at the ranch in the garden. We’ve given away several shopping bags worth of string beans. Pretty amazing considering how ratty the first planting looked after it came up. They even got a reprieve on Sunday after picking. I’d planned on tearing them out and planting some fall greens in their place but there appeared to one more decent picking left on them. The cucumbers haven’t let up much either. With me on the road for a week and Mrs. Cheviot too busy to tend them frequently, there were at least two 5-gallon buckets worth that wound up going over the fence in the sheep pasture. They loved that and gobbled them down like candy. There were another two 5-gallon buckets of cukes that made their way into the house. The cucumber vines are so thick and tangled it’s a like playing Twister trying to find an open space to step in order to avoid trampling them. Great stretching exercise but you can feel it the next day.
 
Our summer birds are transitioning. After wondering if the orioles would still be around when I returned from the road, I had my answer Saturday morning. Sure enough, there were still a few. I’d loaded a light batch of jelly into their feeder and that was probably a good thing. The consumption has dropped off and if history is any indication, by Labor Day they’ll be gone. Swallows continue to gather on powerlines on their move south. There are still barn swallows in our buildings and wasn’t sure why until Sunday. I heard what sounded like bats squeaking in the rafters and investigated to locate the source. I traced the sound to a barn swallow nest that was still occupied. It’s later than I remember seeing them nest although I’m usually not paying that much attention to them until they’re gone. There should be plenty of flying insects to get them on their way south yet, house flies in particular. Hummingbird numbers have stayed relatively steady although it’s hard to keep track of them. They move around the yard so abruptly, one is never sure if it’s the same birds. All I know is we’ll only have them for about another month, so we’d best enjoy them while we can.

Ruby’s lived through the dog days of summer in style, spending most of them in air-conditioned comfort. Chore time is still her favorite part of the day, but she’s also been glad to head back inside afterwards. Plopping on the cool floor suits her just fine. She’s claimed the walk-in closet as her favorite sleeping area almost anytime. No surprise as it’s nice and dark, not to mention secluded. It’s a perfect spot for suiting a Border Collie’s privacy needs. It took me a while to determine where she was hiding but being a sound sleeper like myself, it didn’t take me too long to detect the snoring emanating from the closet. As long as she’s happy and answers the bell for chores, that’s OK by me.
 
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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Yet another double album set...


8/31/21

And usually it's too late when you realize what you had

The scurs had the Weather Eye back working at peak performance as rain fell on the days forecast like clockwork. Will that level of continue or will more erratic performance be forthcoming? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-70’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of evening showers or thunderstorms. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the low 60’s. Mostly cloudy on Friday with a fair chance of a forenoon shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of a daytime shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in upper 50’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the low 50’s. Labor Day Monday, mostly sunny with a modest chance of a daytime shower. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the low 50’s. Wednesday is Sept. 1st, and, on the 5th, we slide below 13 hours of daylight like were back on April 5th. The normal high for September 5th is 76 and the normal low is 55. The scurs have a lot of time for Christmas shopping. Never too early to start procrastinating.

Crops continue to signal that harvest will be here sooner than later although the cooler temps forecast may temper any notions that we’ll be far ahead of schedule. This past week saw corn that was half milk line back on the 23rd reach the point where it was ¼ left to go. It should be physiologically mature in 5 – 7 days. That’s the exception and not the rule, however. Most corn this past week was anywhere from half milk line to the milk line just starting to show. It will still take most of September to get the crop to a harvestable finish line. Some of the early soybeans are making headway as well with leaf drop occurring and pods starting to change color as well. Again, so much of their harvest date will depend on what the weather does between now and mid-September. If the cooler upcoming temperatures persist as some models indicate, harvest may be closer to normal for most soybeans as well.
 
This past week’s rainfall brought some welcome relief to the dry conditions but in some cases also brought with it some damaging winds. It appears most of it occurred in the rainfall events from the 26th and 27th. There was even some damage from earlier in the week when we were priming the pump with close to a half inch on the 24th. In the areas that didn’t sustain damage, the rains likely came too late to benefit most of the corn. On the soybean side however, there is some reason for optimism especially on the later maturing varieties that weren’t turning yet. It was amazing though, with most areas garnering anywhere from 3.5” – 5”, most drain tile are not running. Part of that may be due to the spread-out nature between the rainfall events and part of it is likely due to the fact it was just that dry. Without any significant rainfall from mid-July to late August, it becomes easier to understand why.

On the garden front at the ranch, the second planting of string beans has taken shape nicely, already yielding one nice gallon bag’s worth. The cucumbers have started to slow some much to the sheep’s chagrin. They were getting used to seeing buckets full of them tossed over the fence. The sheep also got the first planting string bean vines when I tore them out and planted fall greens in their place. Now they beller anytime we get near their enclosure although the recent rains also benefitted their pasture. They’ll have to be content for a while with that until we get into the pumpkins and squash. There are more of them than first thought as those vines also begin to show signs that fall is on the way. The winter radishes and snap peas are coming along nicely as well but they’ll need some weeding as soon as it’s dry enough. Most of what’s there is purslane. Some advocate eating it. After taste testing some and finding it slimy and mealy, they can keep advocating it but I’m not eating it.

The summer birds continue to show sign of making their way through the backyard at the ranch. The orioles continue to appear but less frequently and fewer in number. However, about the time I think I’ve seen the last one, another one appears. I keep some jelly in the feeder and while it’s not full, it should keep them occupied through Labor Day. That’s usually about their last hurrah. The hummingbirds have shown no sign of slowing down and in fact seem to be more numerous. They have more flowering plants coming online now and a couple nectar feeders for their dining pleasure. Our last nest of barn swallows is still hanging in there. At least this week they actually sound like barn swallows rather than bats. Looking at them from below, it’s evident that it’s becoming increasingly crowded in that nest. One of these morning or evening chore sessions, they will have departed. If it’s like normal, I won’t notice it until it’s freezing cold, well after they’re gone and wishing it was warm again.

Saturday meant a road trip to the State Fair with Auntie Mar Mar. As luck would have it, I was treated to a whole pan of blueberry coffee cake, date bars and a dozen fresh brown eggs from Agnes’s chicken coop. Our sheep did well in the open class show, winning champion ram, reserve champion ram and reserve champion ewe. The show help was outstanding and presented them well. I met up with Bemidji Billy and we plotted strategy for a trip to the Great White North later this fall if the powers that be still allow it. The day went by quickly and after dodging a few raindrops, we were back home. I got the chores done and settled in to savor the events of the day. The next morning, I was savoring the coffee cake and after warming it in the microwave, I placed a rather large piece of Hope creamery butter on it. I sent Auntie Mar Mar a picture of the morning’s table fare and Agnes claimed it was too much butter. I contend that there is no such thing.

See you next week…real good then.     


9/7/21

She'll only come out at night...

The scurs have the Weather Eye dialed in. Rains when they say it will then we get beautiful early September weather to boot. Are we looking at more of the same or are we in for a hiccup soon? Starting Wednesday, sunny with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the upper 40’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the low 50’s. Sunny on Friday with highs in the upper 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the mid-70’s and lows in mid-50’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the mid-70’s and lows in the mid-50’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a modest chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a modest chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the low 50’s. On September 12th the sun will set before 7:30 CDT. The normal high for September 12th is 74 and the normal low is 52. Since the scurs are guessing Jack Frost’s appearance isn’t imminent, they opted not to drain the cement pond just yet. Maybe they’ll have time to determine if Baby Ruth bars really do float.

While crops in the area are certainly not floating, the rain last week was a nice addition to that falling in late August. While it did little to help most of this year’s crop finish, it did go in the tank for next year. It was dry and that tank was running on empty judging by the drain tile which are not running at least not at the ranch. I monitor one that drains into the culvert under the driveway. It was dry as a bone before the recent rains and remains that way. Some corn should be black layered as of this week and the milk line on that which hasn’t will be getting to the point where a frost will do minimal damage should it occur anytime soon. Likewise with soybeans that are starting to turn. Some of the group zero soybeans may be ready to go within a week or so given the forecast. Otherwise, we’re on pace for a relatively normal starting date to harvest.

At the ranch we continue harvesting in the garden daily. Some of the experimentation has worked better than others. Some has worked almost too well. Expecting the local varmint and turkey population to raise havoc with the cucumbers when planted was obviously a miscalculation. Was suspicious of that when even last year’s leftover seed all grew. I’ve lost track of how many buckets I’ve picked and I’m beginning to think the sheep are tiring of eating the overgrown ones. Harvested the first of the radishes Sunday that were planted in late July. Very nice and they’re just getting warmed up. They warm you up, too. Their flavor is sweeter than in the spring, but the radish bite is still there. Some grumble about radishes being hot. If I wanted to eat a radish with no kick to it, I’d eat a turnip or a rutabaga. The July 5th planted string beans are going full bore. They along with the tomatoes are extra sweet. Speaking of sweet, the snap peas are just starting to flower so keeping my fingers crossed they’ll produce.

Something this garden plot continues to reinforce is the importance of due diligence when it comes to weed control. Most of my weed control has been with the tiller, hoeing or hand weeding. While I’m not averse to chemical weed control, I like the idea of not using pesticides unless necessary in the garden. Besides, the sheep have enjoyed the waterhemp, pigweed and even the purslane that makes its way over the fence. In fact, they kinda follow me around these days when I’m weeding. Something else that I’ve noticed over the years in the fields that is readily apparent in the garden is the will to reproduce that some species have. Waterhemp is a prime example. Many of the waterhemp I’ve been pulling out of the snap peas recently are tiny, no larger than 1” – 2”. However, they have an inflorescence on them that will be full of seeds if I don’t yank them out! Not that they’ll produce the thousands of seeds that a full-sized waterhemp plant will, but they’re still capable of adding to the weed seed bank in the soil if not dealt with harshly. As Barney Fife used to say, nip it in the bud.

We continue to enjoy our fall bird migration. We may have seen the last of the orioles although there was still one at the jelly feeder Tuesday a.m. I took the jar-type jelly feeder down and replaced it with a suet feeder. The hummingbird feeders were also thoroughly cleaned over the weekend and filled with fresh nectar. The hummers have it made and it’s almost as though they have a hard time deciding which flowers to feed on, whether it be the cannas, four o’clocks or salvia. As the nannyberries are ripening, there have been numerous cedar waxwings in the yard. They’re very inconspicuous with all the leaves on the trees just yet and not in the large flocks that we see later at the ranch when they descend on the crabapple trees. Their one-note song is about the only thing that gives them away. The young barn swallows in the barn have finally left the nest although they’re still being fed by their parents. They sit on a rafter waiting for them to return with some kind of flying insect and chirp in unison when they approach. There are still plenty of swallows on the powerlines yet so one day they will leave, only to return next April or May.
 
The aforementioned flowers have also attracted plenty of moths and butterflies. Monarchs are floating lazily through the yard at the ranch. They still haven’t clustered up on the trees as they did when we first moved here but we are seeing more of them. Hopefully Mexico gets a handle on the deforestation in the area where they overwinter soon. Without that, it won’t matter how much habitat we continue to create here. The white-lined sphinx moths are nocturnal visitors to our four o’clock plantings. About dusk they can be seen starting to move from flower to flower. Sphinx moths were some of our favorite September visitors growing up on the farm in SE MN too. Every calm September night they’d appear on the petunias. The light shining through the glass blocks in the garage probably helped attract them but they knew what they were after. Their hummingbird-like movements made them unique and fascinating to watch. Along with my brother John’s fantastic 4-H insect collection and eventual introduction to the Boy Entomologist, probably led to my interest in the insect world as we know it.

I was asked if I’d write a short plea for people to subscribe to The Star Eagle. Soitanly. I think Eli has done a pretty good job all things considered. He’s still learning but by the same token, he’s written some pretty darn nice articles about people I know. And I’ve told him as much. Print media according to most is on the way out. Been that way for years but oddly enough, it’s still here. They must not visit small town America often enough to know it’s interwoven into the fabric of life here. Yes, we have internet and slow as it may be, it suffices for the bare necessities OK. However, if you’re one of the generations that doesn’t own and I-Pad or hates trying to read newspapers on your phone (it sucks), have I got a deal for you! There’s nothing that compares to holding a newspaper in your hands and being able to turn the page ahead or back to something you glossed over but wanted a closer look at. And when you’re done with the paper, it can be recycled or in our case at the ranch, repurposed to pack canna bulbs away for the winter or to line the bottom of a bottle lamb box. Let’s see you try that with your I-Pad!
 
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 mike89

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good picture of ya in the Star!!   :happy1: :happy1:
a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work!!

Offline Dotch

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Picture? Must be my evil twin!  :evil:
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline mike89

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Picture? Must be my evil twin!  :evil:

really!!????   ya right!!!    :rotflmao: :rotflmao: :happy1:
a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work!!

Offline Dotch

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I was lying in a burned-out basement with the full moon in my eyes.

The scurs continue to have the Weather Eye operating at warp speed. More gorgeous, seasonal September weather as advertised. Is there more in the picture or will Jack Frost photobomb us soon? Starting Wednesday, sunny with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Thursday, sunny with increasing chances of evening showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s. Partly sunny on Friday with a fair chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the upper 70’s and lows in low 60’s. Sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a fair chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the low 60’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a modest chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the low 50’s. The Full Moon occurs on the 20th with the sunrise on the 21st at 7 a.m. CDT. The normal high for September 21st is 71 and the normal low is 48. The scurs are celebrating as there is more time to keep people in the dark.

September 20th ushers in the Harvest Moon, aptly named as it is the time of year for harvest to commence in earnest, just as it was for Native Americans and the settlers that followed. The light of the moon allowed work to continue long into the night before pioneers put headlights on their horses. The Ojibwe knew this as the Rice Moon for the wild rice being harvested during this timeframe. The Sioux called this The Moon When Plums are Scarlet. At the ranch we typically know this as The Full Apple Moon although this year our crop is somewhat limited. The squirrels have been helping themselves to the few apples we do have. It could rapidly become The Full Barbecued Squirrel Moon if they don’t knock it off.
 
Some harvest has been underway locally and the results have been very favorable. Corn moisture has been in the upper 20% - low 30% range. Yields have been far better than expected and with the warmer temps, drying costs have been offset somewhat. Lucrative early basis contracts make it work. Otherwise, corn continues reach or is approaching physiological maturity in most fields. Likewise with the soybeans, most are turning rapidly or are dropping leaves. Some have nosed into those early soybeans and while some late group zero varieties are dry enough according to the moisture tester, there were reports of a lot of green beans yet in the sample. One might get by with that hauling them to town. However, storing them in a bin along with some green pods for any length of time may make one wish they’d been more patient. Seen the movie, know how it ends.

I don’t think the garden here will ever quit until the ground freezes. As it is the string beans are yielding like their possessed. It’s been nothing to harvest three or four gallons at a crack. The radishes need to be harvested periodically to keep them thinned down and produce as their capable of. The earliest variety of snap peas is in full bloom and the next earliest variety is just starting, increasing the odds we’ll see some of those sweet pods yet this fall. The cucumbers may be, just maybe be about done. While there are a few edible-sized ones to pick yet, the sheep watch me closely as there are still plenty overgrown ones hidden under the foliage.
 
Speaking of that, a quick inventory of the buttercup squash patch showed somewhere in the north of 30 – 40 squash emerging from the vines as they run out of steam. Pumpkins were also numerous with 15 – 20 of them showing themselves while the leaves continue to senesce. Probably the thing I’m most curious about though are the greens with interspersed radishes broadcast seeded after the initial string bean planting. There are all kinds of different seedlings continuing to emerge, many of which I have no clue as to what they are, yet. Betting if the bunnies and deer leave them alone, we’ll have a chance to find out.

Last week meant the end of the haying season thanks to the help of the Dubya’s and The Holeman. Trying to finish up yield estimates and plant health assessments in the corn was taking more time than I liked so hiring someone to cut and rake the hay seemed the prudent thing to do. Like usual, it was difficult to get the hay dry even though it was almost pure orchardgrass. Eventually though, one just has to bale it and hope it keeps. It has so far just fine with no sign of heating. It is some beautiful hay, something any Cheviot would be happy to nosh on a chilly winter morning.

The cooler mornings have apparently coaxed the last of our barn swallows at the ranch to depart. There were still large groups of them massing just to our north this past week. Hopefully those living at the ranch joined up with them. The flying insect numbers are on the downhill slide although someone must’ve forgotten to tell the mosquitoes. They were after one last meal when I was picking string beans Sunday night. Won’t be long before they freeze and we’ll all feel bad for them, not. The last oriole at the ranch was spotted on the 7th. They had another good run though. There’s still one oriole nectar feeder doubling as a hummingbird feeder so if a straggler happens by, they’ll have something to eat. The hummingbirds are still operating but the handwriting is on the wall. Reports from north of the border indicate they’ve been gone for a while.
   
Sunday morning, we loaded up a ram lamb for the fellow from Chatfield who has been leasing rams from us for many fall seasons. Lost track of how many. His ewe flock numbers are down so using a buck lamb is a logical course of action. The lamb’s name was Leo, the same as Gary’s dad. The lamb even bellered when we introduced him, so it was a slam dunk. Running the lambs through the sorting chute made it easy to catch Leo and within minutes he was in Gary’s trailer ready to head to Chatfield and his newly found harem. Gary as usual had gifts for each of us. This year it was a pair of mittens made from natural-colored Cheviot wool he’d hand-knitted. This is the kind of friendship that makes it all worth it.

My college days over, it was 40 years ago in September I made the move from Raymond Ave. in St. Paul to Rugby ND. Rugby was touted as the geographical center of North America although the actual center was south of town a few miles. My brother Roger gave me an assist with Dad’s ’77 Dodge pickup as I recall. I must not have had much stuff. I couldn’t have had if it all fit in a pickup and my ’74 Gremlin. The stucco basement house I rented was owned by the Miltenberger’s. They operated a short-line equipment dealership on the north side of Rugby. It was very hot outside when we arrived, so it was a pleasant discovery that it was nice and cool inside. The basement house was unique, making one wonder what its origins were. It resembled a bomb shelter, decorated in late 60’s garage sale motif. The dark paneling and multi-colored shag carpeting though were what made it the real bomb.

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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Motoring...

The scurs had complete control of the Weather Eye this past week with some above normal September temps to move the crops along. Is there more on tap or is our good fortune tapped out? Starting Wednesday, sunny with highs in the mid-60’s and lows in the low 40’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the upper 60’s and lows in the upper 40’s. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the low 60’s and lows in the low 40’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the mid-60’s and lows in the mid-40’s. Sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the upper 40’s. Monday, sunny with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the upper 40’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with a slight chance of an evening shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the mid-40’s. September 22nd ushers in the 1st day of autumn or the autumnal equinox, whereby we experience equal duration of daylight and darkness. However, the equal light and dark won’t occur locally until about the 25th. The sun will set on the 28th just before 7 p.m. CDT. The normal high for September 28th is 68 and the normal low is 45. Seeing some of the forecast lows, the scurs will be digging through the dresser drawers for their long winter gatkes. One can never be too prepared.

Let’s hope we don’t need our long johns just yet after seeing a crop heading rapidly towards harvest over the weekend. More soybeans came out and the results again were favorable relative to expectations. Monday’s rain will slow some down a tad although many fields remain uneven, with lots of green stems in areas. Those stems aren’t pulverized well by the combine choppers and can be problematic, coming out in bunches and wads. This can impact next year’s seedbed and emergence if the residue isn’t more evenly distributed. Some corn also was harvested although there is a limited acreage of early maturing corn. Many tried to take advantage of the earlier than normal planting season and good soil conditions by planting more full season hybrids, hoping to capitalize on their increased yield potential. Anecdotal reports of moisture contents as low as the mid-20% range are around although most are not tearing into the early corn that is out here. Switching back and forth is no one’s idea of a good time.
 
At the ranch it appears the cucumbers are finally done. The vines are dying back and there are few flowers on the remaining vines. That’s good thing because I’ve grown tired of picking them. The sheep got one last feed out of the overgrown models but there are very few edible sized cukes remaining. Likewise with the string beans. Think I picked the last bucket full this past Sunday. We froze several quarts worth and after freezing what was in the fridge, I should be down to Sunday’s picking left to freeze. I can make sure this was the last picking by yanking them out and tossing the plants over the fence to the sheep. Everyone should be happy then. The radishes keep coming along, thriving on the cooler temps and should appreciate this last rain. The plants are more efficient with the moisture once it cools down and the days gets shorter. The snap peas are coming on as well. Ate a couple Sunday night ahead of the rain. Sweet as honey; left me wanting more.
 
Along with the hint of color in the trees, the birds are telling us it’s fall too. I thought we’d seen the last barn swallows as of last Tuesday but there were a few that hung on until Thursday or Friday. They’re gone now. Probably a good thing as the flying insect population begins wanes and becomes less active with the cooler temperatures. Haven’t seen an oriole since the 7th so we can probably close the book on them for another year. There are/were still hummingbirds Monday night. Their days are numbered as well. The cannas are still providing plenty of flowers, but many including the four o’clocks are starting to slow down. Typically, we see the last hummer at the ranch around September 25th. Even after we see the last one, we’ll leave the nectar feeders out a week or so. The worries that leaving the feeders out will make them stay around too late are unfounded.

We had a great car club fall cruise even though an oil leak caused the Studebaker to stay home. I was able to make plans however with my old pal JJ so we carpooled and took his ’80 AMC Eagle wagon. Friday, we took in the Spomer Classics in Worthington MN with a display of vintage automobiles and neon advertising signs unlike any other. From there it was on to the Wild Rose casino in Emmetsburg IA. With fruit being our biggest gamble, JJ and I opted out of the casino, deciding it was good idea to take in the Clay Co. Fair, only 25 miles away. I’d never been to that fair even though our sheep have been exhibited there many times over the years. Sad when your animals are more well-travelled than you are.
 
Once we got there, we checked out the old cars and tractors we could find then debated about going to take in the grandstand show. Ventriloquist and America’s Got Talent winner Darci Lynne Farmer was to perform. JJ had seen her at the Freeborn Co. Fair back in August and I’d heard good things about that show. Standing by the ticket booth, out of the blue a kind lady dropped a couple free tickets on us, saying she’d won them from a local radio station and was unable to attend. The price was right and made the decision a no brainer. Best of all we were well entertained.

The next day we went to The Grotto at West Bend. The story behind The Grotto and the grounds were impressive. After grabbing a bite to eat it was on to Okoboji Classic Cars LLC. This was another unique collection of classic automobiles set against the backdrop of a mural of Spencer IA inside of a huge building. Time for a nap after that then on to a drive-in movie theater a few miles west of Estherville where the new Clint Eastwood movie was playing. The now 91-year-old Clint was decent although the setting that evening was the real star. The moon was nearly full, and the cool mid-September breeze took me back to my youth at the drive-in theater in Spring Valley. This time though, we didn’t attempt to sneak anyone in in the trunk. We might’ve been able to crawl in the trunk but most of us wouldn’t have been able to climb back out again.

The return trip to South Central MN on Sunday took us across areas of crop in IA that were hurt more than ours was by the hot, dry summer. Harvest was going full bore in many fields. As we approached home, harvest progress slowed and became more sporadic. More cars dropped out as members left the group and returned to their prospective homes. I’d hopped in with Jim & Barb in Blue Earth so JJ could bolt for his place Albert Lea. By the time Jim deposited me at the ranch and I got inside, I was amazed at how tired I was. I shouldn’t have been. We’d covered a lot of miles over the weekend and visited several unique venues, many of which won’t be around forever. And we’d had a lot of fun playing. As my buddy Bemidji Bill is fond of saying, this playing is a lot of work.

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 blew out my flip flop, stepped on a pop top

The scurs decided the Weather Eye was an overachiever this past week with more well above normal September temps and rapid dry down, despite a cameo appearance of Jack Frost. Will he become a regular soon or will he remain backstage a while longer? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of an evening shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 80’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Thursday, partly sunny with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Partly sunny on Friday with a fair chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Saturday, partly sunny with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms decreasing into the evening hours. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the low 50’s. Partly sunny on Sunday with a fair chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Monday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of showers. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows in the mid-40’s. Mostly cloudy and warmer for Tuesday with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the mid-40’s. Friday is October 1st already as we put September in the rearview mirror. The normal high for Oct. 1st is 67 and the normal low is 44. Having located the long winter gatkes, the scurs misplaced their Hawaiian shirts and flip flops. Luckily, there are no pop-tops to tread on anymore.

Harvest conditions remain on the dry side. There are plenty of grumbles about soybeans being too dry. As mentioned last week however, there are still struggles to get green stemmed soybeans to go through combines smoothly. While there was some patchy frost on the round bales by our barn Saturday a.m., it may take some patience and the 80 degree forecast highs this week to solve that. In the meantime, some have switched to corn to get something done. Not a bad idea considering the moisture on the corn many were after had fallen into the lower 20% moisture range. Yields were still impressive as well. Some manure applications are being made. Not ideal conditions for this if people are planning on fully utilizing the nitrogen component. It’s simply too warm yet. Ideally, we like to see average soil temperatures at the incorporation depth average below 50 degrees on a consistent basis. That typically doesn’t happen until the latter part of October. Supplementing with additional N will be likely for these early season applications.

At the ranch, the garden continues its march towards fall. The pumpkins and squash could be harvested anytime. Some of the fall vegetables such as the radishes, salad greens and snap peas have required some watering. With only a meager 1.63” of rain falling in September, they wouldn’t amount to much given the recent warm temps without it. Where the garden has bordered trees and shrubs, it’s made it doubly important to water it. One understands very quickly especially in a drier season like this one just how much woody vegetation competes for moisture no matter what type of crop you’re growing. The tomatoes at the ranch suffered the brunt of this with trees and shrubs on four sides. If what we pulled off the new garden area is any indication, they’ll like that spot next season.

The birds continue to pass through although as of Monday we still had at least one hummingbird. It was a tiny model even by hummingbird standards, making me wonder if it was from a late hatch. There are still plenty of cannas although the four o’clocks are about to wrap it up. They’re setting seed heavily and won’t provide blooms much longer. Likewise with the morning glories. I put the batch of nectar that was mixed up out on Sunday morning, thinking it might be the last time before taking the feeders down for the season. Hopefully, this warm snap proves me wrong, and they stay on into October. Not betting on it. Previous years at the ranch indicate that we stop seeing them sometime during the last week of September. We’re there already.

Several weeks ago when feeding the cats in the barn, I noticed the white tomcat seemed to be stuck in a hog panel as I dumped the food in their dish. Odd, but I went about my business doing chores, thinking he’d figure it out. He didn’t and was yowling louder and louder as the other cats were eating; I went over to investigate. Something was wrapped around the hog panel and stuck on the cat’s front foot. It was a small leghold trap, the size used for catching striped gophers. Lucky for the cat, only the tips of his toes were stuck in it. He didn’t even limp after I got it off him. I wasn’t trapping gophers so where had the trap come from? It had some markings in white paint on it, but they weren’t legible enough to read. I checked with the Dubya’s and neighbor Jon. Nope, neither was missing a trap. I called another neighbor who’d recently moved. He told me the same thing had happened with one of their cats and to whom the trap might belong.
 
On Friday after the rain, I stopped to see neighbor RB and ask him if he was missing a trap. Sure enough, his eyes lit up and he asked where I’d found it. Neither of us could believe the cat had dragged the trap half a mile back to the barn without getting it stuck on something. We had a good laugh about it although he was very apologetic and concerned if the cat had been injured. He didn’t have to be. This tomcat has been on my short list several times and if something happened to it, it wouldn’t break my heart. As it was, he was up in the rafters of the pole barn shortly after I removed the trap. RB had indeed been trapping striped gophers, something this white tomcat enjoys hunting. He’s cleaned most of them out of our backyard, keeping them from wreaking havoc on the garden. He just needs to ask permission before hunting at the neighbor’s next time.
 
A few weeks ago, I mentioned my first job out of college in Rugby ND the fall of 1981. Suddenly, I had a company vehicle, a white 1980 Jeep CJ-7. It looked decent but looks can be deceiving. It was powered by a 4-cylinder Pontiac “Iron Duke” engine, deemed the successor to the ill-fated Chevy Vega engine. Expectations were low and it lived up to those expectations. Doing a little homework, adjectives such as “anemic”, “lacking”, and “wheezy” were used to describe its performance. GM also placed it in some ’82 Camaro’s. Can you imagine the sick feeling of a muscle car enthusiast being dusted at a stoplight by a Chrysler K-car station wagon? The engine in this Jeep developed a mysterious miss that no mechanic was ever able to diagnose or solve. The vehicle also caught fire in a durum stubble field when long stems of straw were jammed alongside the catalytic converter. I put the fire out with the fire extinguisher, something my boss chided me for. Taking the insurance money would’ve been a far better option.
 
Apparently, AMC was under the gun to produce vehicles with better mileage and lower emissions to meet stricter government standards. AMC’s own 258 straight six was a far superior engine choice in terms of power and low-end torque. And it was bulletproof. Millions of miles in Jeeps, Gremlins and Hornets were the proof in the pudding. Undoubtedly these Jeeps were because some genius from corporate headquarters was convinced they’d made a brilliant purchase. The company bought a slug of them. As a result of their shortsightedness, several serious accidents occurred. For starters, the vehicles had a short wheelbase and were top heavy. Add posi-traction to the mix and particularly with inexperienced or overconfident drivers, the vehicles were an accident looking for a place to happen. And all too often they found it. Where was Ralph Nader when you needed him?

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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One more day (no word)

The scurs had the Weather Eye dialed in to early July several days this past week. Is this the week they tune in the real fall weather, or do we continue to exceed expectations? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 70’s and lows in the mid-50’s. Thursday, partly sunny with a modest chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the low 70’s with lows in the mid-50’s. Sunny on Friday with a slight chance of evening showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in the upper 50’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the mid-70’s with lows in the low 50’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Columbus Day, partly sunny with a modest chance of showers. Highs in the mid-60’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Mostly cloudy and warmer for Tuesday with a modest chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs in the upper 60’s with lows in the low 50’s. The normal high for October 7th is 64 and the normal low is 41. The scurs have it on good authority that Jack Frost was seen partying last weekend with Urban Meyer. That’s not so cool.

Harvest continues to thunder along sans thunder for the most part. Not too far to our west rainfall was abundant however. Locally we’ve managed only a few hundredths to start October. As a result, corn moistures continue to plummet with reports of early hybrids in the upper teens. This is dump it in the bin and turn on the fans territory if your bin has a full floor anyway. Even the later hybrids are reportedly in the lower 20% range so the amount of gas to dry it will have the LP drivers looking for work as a Maytag repairman. Even though the 10-man dryer is running in town, anticipate its run to be a short one. Soybeans are also very dry with many below 10% in moisture. The exceptions have been some later planted, later maturing varieties that to no one’s surprise are still giving combine operators fits with green stems. The results of trouble with some of the early harvested soybeans are showing up with lots of volunteer soybeans greening up. Roughly 4 soybeans per square foot equals a bushel per acre. It may be a rather expensive cover crop in some instances.

Strange things are also afoot in the garden as a result of the warm temperatures. Some of the buttercup squash are exhibiting what appears to be sunscald with a few splitting open. This is not a problem for the sheep who welcome anything vegetative coming their way over the fence. There were plenty of overgrown cucumbers for them to go along with their squash as well as a few large string beans. Plenty of good squash left though so will have to get them harvested soon. The fall snap peas have outdone themselves. The first picking was a nice quart bag full and upon recent inspection, it appears the next one will be closer to a gallon bag worth. The spring radishes planted in early August are getting near the end although some of those will keep coming until freeze-up. The winter radishes are enlarging with some at baseball size. The fall greens are ready as well with some spring radishes interspersed in that planting attaining a 2 ½” diameter. Can’t wait to get a load of those!

Appears the hummingbirds snuck off at the ranch without saying goodbye on October 2nd. That was the last day one was spotted although we’re not around constantly to watch for them. There are still plenty of cannas and four o’clocks continuing to flower as well as two nectar feeders with clean nectar should a straggler happen by. Last year the hummers arrived at the ranch May 14th and were absent after September 24th. With their arrival on May 11th and departure October 2nd this year, that’s nearly two weeks more we were able to enjoy them. Will still be looking for them a while yet. Like any other good hummingbird feeder, one constantly wonders if the leaf stuck on the feeder or shadows resulting from filtered sunlight aren’t a hummer still here just one more day.

The Stude emerged from surgery at the shop late last week in excellent health. A rear main seal and front seal were replaced as well as numerous other gaskets and parts where deemed necessary. Probably the most astonishing revelation was a broken off pipe inside the exhaust pipe just down from the crossover pipe. Someone had unsuccessfully tried to remove it and instead by crimping it, wound up partially blocking the flow of exhaust. While making the little 259 Stude V8 quieter, it was also likely causing backpressure on the engine. Before the ace mechanic put it back together, he suspected it would give the car more zip. He also suspected it wouldn’t be as stealthy. He was right on both counts. Definitely more power and not that it’s loud, but it has more of a throaty growl to it.

Sunday morning after retrieving a couple ewes that had been out on the show circuit, we decided we’d take the Silver Hawk on a shakedown run in the afternoon. I wanted to put it through its paces and make sure all the fluids remained in it rather than under it or on it. I had to be careful as 65+ mph came suddenly in overdrive with more power and an engine barely noticing. We made a trip to the orchard at Lemond then proceeded on through Meriden and back over to Waseca. We hoped to see some fall color around Clear Lake and then make a stop at Barney’s. Disappointed on both counts. Color was probably a week out yet and Barney’s was closed for the season. We opted for DQ and despite having to sit outside, it worked. I thought I’d left my cell phone in the car so went to retrieve it. When I noticed a small puddle under the Stude, my heart sank. It was antifreeze and after a more thorough inspection, it appeared to be mine. The frame around the bottom of the radiator was also wet. Sigh.

After downing our Blizzards, we headed for home, paying particular attention to the temperature gauge. It ran steady right where it always has once warmed up, right around 165. We got home and I pulled the car into its stall. I opened the hood to check it out and everything seemed visually in order. A few hours later I came back to check the fluid levels and for puddles on the floor. I rolled underneath on the creeper for a closer look. In addition to no puddles of oil, the areas under the front and rear main seal were dry. So was the back end of the car, where tiny oil droplets tipped me off that we had potential major problems. The oil level on the dipstick was right where it was when we left. There was no antifreeze puddle like we’d seen at DQ either. I noted the position of the overflow tube, seeing that it emptied in line with the puddle in the parking lot. I removed the radiator cap slowly and peering inside, I could see the antifreeze level was almost up to the bottom of the radiator filler neck. Just a tad overfull I thought, breathing a heavy sigh of relief. It just passed the shakedown run. Certified cruise ready.

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 ain’t askin’ for much

The scurs had the Weather Eye dish up another helping of above normal temps. Is Augtober at an end or will there be one more week before Jack Frost takes center stage? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with rain. Highs in the mid-60’s and lows in the mid-40’s. Thursday, partly sunny with a slight chance of evening rain. Highs in the upper 50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Partly sunny on Friday with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Saturday, patchy frost, sunny with highs in the upper 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Sunny on Sunday, patchy frost, with highs in the upper 50’s and lows in the low 40’s. Monday, sunny with highs in the mid-60’s and lows in the upper 40’s. Partly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the low 60’s and lows in the low 40’s. On the 15th, we’ll see the sun set before 6:30 p.m. CDT. On the 16th, the sun will rise at 7:30 a.m. CDT and we slide below 11 hours of daylight, just as we were back on March 24th. The normal high for October 16th is 59 and the normal low is 37. The scurs will continue their vigil for another 80-degree day. That could be a long wait.
 
Another week of phenomenal fall weather has many getting towards the halfway point on their harvest. Reports of corn dry enough to not only be dumped in the bin without drying but also to be hauled to the ethanol plants at 16% moisture. Funny what 75 – 80-degree temps will do especially with a little breeze. Drying is still necessary as we get into some of the later maturing hybrids although even that is going through the dryers quickly. As some have pointed out, the biggest challenge has been keeping the corn from getting too dry especially with older drying setups. There are still a few fields of soybeans left to be harvested. Some were later planted following a previous crop, have some replants in them or were later varieties nearing mid-group 2 maturity. The drizzly rain from the 7th was just enough to keep them from being dry enough to go yet until later Saturday. Yields of both crops are still impressive. There have been few complaints in that department.

Fall color at the ranch continues to be consistently inconsistent. Around the yard, most of the ash trees have dropped their leaves already, making me debate whether to leave the regular blades on the mower or just switch it over to the mulching setup. The longer I procrastinate the more attractive the latter alternative becomes. The rest of the trees seem to be biding their time, with only the slightest clue that fall is here. The Autumn Blaze maple by the barn hasn’t shown much, unusual as it’s been the first tree to color up in years past. The two burning bushes we planted last year that were gorgeous in October have yet to show more than couple dinky red leaves. I’m not going to complain though. It’s hard not to love this time of year and most of the weather we’ve had. As I told the kindly neighbor one night during one of our deep discussions, I’d love it even more if it would stay like this a couple more months and then it could be spring. I ain’t askin’ for much…

We did a leaf cruise this past weekend with the car club, heading to Wabasha to the National Eagle Center, crossing the river to Nelson WI for lunch then cruising down the WI side and crossing back over to MN at Winona. Our Fearless Leader then took us down through our some of our old stomping grounds, starting at La Crescent, across to Houston, Rushford, Lanesboro, Preston and of course Spring Valley. This was where the autosteer on the vehicles suddenly kicked in at the A&W for root beer floats and other assorted ice cream delights. The leaves were disappointing yet with no real pockets of color in the Bluff Country on either side of the Mississippi yet. At best there were only subtle hints. All told we tallied roughly 350 miles. The Studebaker had only one minor hiccup with the charging system that corrected itself at least for the time being. Everything was ship shape otherwise upon our return.
         
I’d written a few weeks ago about the Jeep that was my first company vehicle in Rugby ND when I was fresh out of college. The first order of business was getting the fall soil sampling done so farmers could apply nitrogen for the next year’s crop. One of the few good things about this Jeep was it had a hydraulic cylinder mounted inside the cab that allowed one to take a two-foot soil core, necessary for the nitrate soil samples we were taking. Many times we were collecting samples from fields as far as 40+ miles away then hauling them back to the office in Rugby every night. The samples were then placed on racks in a dryer so they could be ground the next morning and sent on to the lab. It made for some long days. Fortunately, people were extremely nice and were quick to invite me in to eat. Usually wasn’t enough time for that, only enough time to make something quick then go to bed so I could wake up and do it all over again.

October 9th was a Friday afternoon, and I was soil sampling for a customer between Rolla and Rolette. After receiving the sampling maps from the co-op late in the day I was determined to get the fields done regardless. It was about dusk as I finished up. The weather had cooled down dramatically and I’d noticed a few flurries on the last field. I had about an hour’s drive, so I pointed the Jeep towards Rugby and took off. This was well before the days of cell phones. Way out in the rhubarb, the weather forecast from someplace hours away, especially at night. It started snowing harder and the road was getting wet. By the time I got to Hwy 3, it was snowing like mad, the roadway was white, and visibility was worsening. I’d slowed to a crawl and heard the prelude to Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” on the radio. The rhythm of the music matched the cadence of the snowfall. As much as I disliked the Jeep, at least the radio and the heater worked, making me feel safe and warm. It was my ticket home.

From the time I left the field, it took me almost two hours before I pulled into the yard. I turned on the lights in my basement house, stumbled down the stairs and made something warm for supper. I figured the snow would melt and by Monday we’d be back at it. Wrong on both counts. It got cold enough to freeze the ground so deep that the soil probe wouldn’t penetrate it. It would lift the Jeep off the ground in places sometimes bending & ruining the probes. Where it did penetrate, the snow melted on and, in the probe, making a muddy mess inside the warm cab. Anhydrous tanks sat in the fields. Farmers couldn’t apply nitrogen either. What kind of an Arctic hellhole had I been dumped into I thought to myself? Within a week though, the weather moderated, the snow melted, the soil thawed and allowed sampling to commence. Not long afterwards, the snow geese began to appear. I’d been invited to hunt with a college friend who lived in Devils Lake. The weather stayed nice until Thanksgiving. As long as the Russians didn’t fire any missiles at us, we were 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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Many miles away something crawls to the surface of a dark Scottish loch

The weather hits keep on coming from the scurs and their vaunted Weather Eye, even though Jack Frost made an appearance Saturday and Sunday. Is he here to stay or was that just a cameo appearance? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with rain. Highs in the mid-60’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Thursday, frosty and mostly sunny. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Mostly sunny and frosty on Friday a.m. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Saturday, patchy frost, with a slight chance of a rain snow mix.  Mostly sunny with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the low 30’s. Sunny on Sunday, patchy frost, with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the upper 40’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a modest chance of showers. Highs in the low 60’s with lows in the mid-40’s. On October 26th we slide below 10 hours and 30 minutes of daylight. The normal high for October 26th is 53 and the normal low is 33. The scurs may be forced to locate the snow shovel to go along with their long winter gatkes.

The Full Moon for the month arrives on the 20th. This year it goes by the name of The Full Hunter Moon. It was during this moon that settlers and Native Americans were filling their larders with food for the long winter ahead. The light of the moon would allow them to harvest and see their quarry back in the days before night hunting was outlawed. This moon also goes by The Full Blood Moon and The Sanguine Moon. The Ojibwe knew this as the Falling Leaves Moon while the Sioux called it the Moon of Falling Leaves. At the ranch, we’re apt to call it the Moon of Grinding Leaves. The resulting mat from them falling must be dealt with before the snow flies.

Harvest continues at a near record pace locally although it has slowed in some cases. Breakdowns happen, bins get full, and corn is hauled off-site for storage or sale. Yields continue to impress as the later maturing hybrids are hitting the scales now. Corn is very dry with many of the sub-105-day maturity hybrids able to be deposited directly in the bin. Even those later maturing hybrids of 110+ day maturity are in the low 20’s and upper teens for moisture, unheard of for the third week in October. Nearly all the soybeans have been harvested including some mid-June plantings. Yields were respectable for that planting date with many well over 50 bu./acre. Anhydrous tanks are appearing some fields. It’s still plenty early for that. Given the price, one might want to be sure they can capitalize on as much as possible coming out of fall. The earlier you put it out there, there greater the odds of nitrogen loss, whether using a nitrification inhibitor or not. Typically soil temps cool sufficiently by the last week in October that potential losses are minimized.

The garden at the ranch continues to supply us with plenty of fresh vegetables. Having some time to harvest more than a dab at a time would be nice. Mrs. Cheviot did pick the small decorative Jack be Little pumpkins while piling up the pumpkins and squash. About a week ago, I found three cukes that were edible yet hiding under some squash leaves. I also found several larger models for the sheep which they promptly gobbled down. The radish tops also continue to be among their favorites garden refuse. We did sample one of the buttercup squash that had sunscald on it. Didn’t affect the flavor one iota. The flesh was very dry as well, allowing it to soak up more Hope creamery butter. The snap peas continue to flower and produce. They’ll survive a few moderate frosts before they succumb. The salad greens planted after yanking the first crop of string beans have been delicious, especially on BLT’s. The varying red’s and green’s along with the spicy zing of the arugula adds a different twist to the sandwich. Of course, one can never go wrong with bacon on a sandwich in the first place.

The winter birds continue to take their place in the backyard at the ranch although there was a surprise last Friday the 16th. When I pulled out of the yard midafternoon, I spied a hummingbird working on the cannas by the well. I figured that was the last I’d see of it. Not so. The next morning Mrs. Cheviot left for work and the garage door apparently hadn’t closed. The temperature sensor for the indoor/outdoor thermometer is mounted on the garage door frame. I noticed the temperature outside seemed to be warming awfully quickly so took a closer look. Sure enough, the door was open letting the heat out. When I hit the button to close it, a hummingbird was hovering in the opening just as it started coming down. A little later, I spied it on the blue salvia in the planters outside the garage. By mid-morning it was on the cannas in the backyard. I whipped up a fresh batch of sugar water for the nectar feeders and after cleaning the feeders out, partially filled them just in case. Haven’t seen anything using them but I’ve learned to never say never.

Saw something else I hadn’t seen while filling the brood ewes’ water tank the other night. It was getting almost full when I noticed something slowly crawling out of the water, to the surface and up the inside of the tank. At first glance I thought it was a toad. A closer look revealed it was a gray tree frog judging by the suction cup toes it was using to climb vertically. The frog made it to the lip of the tank and sat there. I had to get a closer look and when I touched the frog, it jumped back in the water tank and swam back under the lip obscuring it from view. Was hoping it wouldn’t decide to make the tank its home for the winter. I’m sure once we put the heater in it, there probably wouldn’t be and issue. In the meantime however, there will likely be some days where ice will form on top of the tank. Might’ve seemed like a good idea at the time.

We did take off with Auntie Mar Mar and Unkie Gregory on Sunday for one more ride in the Studebaker for the season. First of course we were treated to another ample supply of Mar Mar’s goodies. We went to Johnson’s Oakside Apple Orchard and had caramel apple sundaes, ran reconnaissance on area farmers for harvest progress and to check for any fall colors. We also had to visit Meriden, a place Auntie Mar Mar had never been. We stayed on the outskirts and avoided the high crime area, however. About the only fall color we saw was a patch of quaking aspen on Steele Co. 7. Otherwise it was about the same all over. Drab colored leaves or they’d fallen off already. Falling was the method used to extricate ourselves from the car when we returned too. One needs to be a contortionist to get in and out of these older cars at our age. Reminds one that automobile design has come a long way in the past 60 years. And we’re getting old.
 
See you next week…real good then 
 
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

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About 14 years ago I bought an old GEO Metro for a few hundred bucks for a go to work clunker.  I pulled a muscle in by back a few times getting in and out of it.  It did get great mileage though and that is why I bought it.  That was the year gas really got expensive.  It finally dawned on me that the wife's full size Buick got better mileage than the POS Geo.  I sold the Geo asap!  LOL

Offline Dotch

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The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older

The scurs and Weather Eye are slightly less popular now that Jack Frost has set up residency. Will he be taking an early vacation or are we stuck with him until Old Man Winter takes his place? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with rain. Highs in the low-50’s with lows in the low 40’s. Thursday, continued cloudy with rain likely. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the low 40’s. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Saturday, sunny with highs in the mid-50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Sunny on Sunday with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the low 30’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain and snow showers. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a good chance of rain and snow showers. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. November 1st is Monday already. The normal high for November 1st is 49 and the normal low is 30. The scurs will be ready to treat the ghosts and goblins, and of course themselves with a private stash of Halloween candy.

Harvest is on the downward side. Many are finishing up corn after rainfall Wednesday night and Friday put a temporary halt on progress. Anhydrous ammonia will be the order of the day after the rainfall has some nervous that now it may not stop. It will have to rain a substantial amount more generally to stop progress in that regard. Actually, it may help reduce wear on ripper points and other parts that are in tight supply. High fertilizer prices are also weighing heavily on the decision-making process for next year. Some had plans to grow corn on corn. However planting a corn crop that requires higher input costs and yields less when following corn suddenly makes the decision easier until prices/costs dictate it more feasible.

This is the first column written in Canada in over two years. Finally arranged time to get away. Following all the rules and regulations, got my negative COVID test completed within the 72-hour interval. When we arrived at the border, everything was in place. Out of nowhere, I got drawn for a random COVID test. We went from satisfied we’d be allowed across to struggling with a strange app while trying to follow instructions and headings in the darkness, some of which were in French. Autofill was not my friend. Once over that hurdle, we had to find the Purolater courier drop box partway across town to ship the sample, then schedule the pickup on yet another app. The whole nerve-wracking process took over an hour from start to finish. After that, the Canadian govt. kept sending numerous emails and texts to make sure all that was done. That experience put a damper on what is usually time to relax. If it weren’t for the good friends in Canada, tranquility and gorgeous lakeside sunsets, it would tend to make one less anxious to return.

It has still been relaxing however between all govt. interference. The remote location at the cabin is quiet and relatively primitive, particularly this time of year. Rather than hook up the water, we carry water from the lake in pails up the hill for washing dishes. Drinking water is dispensed from a bottled water system. The electricity is still on, so the heat runs enough to keep the chill off. The wood stove gets fired up a night to make the cabin toasty. The indoor plumbing so with no water so the outhouse was employed. The milk house heater that usually keeps that warm decided to cash it in, so it made for quick trips in that department. The overall experience was fitting, however. It reminded me how fortunate we are to have what we take for granted and how much more time consuming it is when you don’t.

It’s reminiscent of what we experienced 30 years ago during the 1991 Halloween Blizzard. Our weather that fall had been seemingly mundane up until that point. Harvest was nearing completion in most cases but plenty of crop remained in the field yet. When Halloween night rolled around it was cold and raining hard. We had one set of damp, trick or treaters from the neighbors but that was it. Sometime in the overnight the rain turned to ice and the power went off. Stepping outside to look at the surrounding area, there were no yard lights on nearby. Luckily, we had some emergency supplies and a gas stove. We had enough drinking water for ourselves but nothing for the sheep. What to do?

The rain had changed over to snow, so we had our answer. We melted snow and heated the water on the stove, helping keep us warm. It took a lot of trips outside, but we managed to melt enough snow to fill a five-gallon bucket for the sheep and to flush the toilet. Our entertainment consisted of reading by the Coleman lantern, listening to ‘CCO on a 9-volt transistor radio and playing with our new tri-color Sheltie puppy Murphy. She was only a few months old and full of energy. We had a plush, stuffed ladybug hand puppet she loved to pounce on, growling and biting it mercilessly with her needle-sharp teeth. By the time the storm was over, our hands looked as if we’d been pruning roses without leather gloves. Murphy would go non-stop for over an hour, then would suddenly crash for about an hour so we could exhale and doze off ourselves. When she’d wake up, the whole process would start all over again. Along with Mike Lynch on the radio keeping us to date on the storm, it helped pass the time much more quickly.

After about three days without power, we received word that the electricity would be coming back on shortly. Once it came back on, the first order of business was showering. Auntie Mar Mar had called, saying it would be several more days until their power would be back on. She drove up to shower as well.   I’d managed to get the sliding garage door pried open so made a trip to Waseca for more supplies in our Chevy Luv 4x4. Roads were icy and snow packed but passable. There were reports of 12”-16” of snow measured in the area but it made huge drifts into the corn that was still standing. Much of that corn would remain in the field until spring. By the time it was over, the storm had raised major havoc across much of MN farm country and left many stories to tell for those of us who lived through it.

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/journal/9110_31_Halloween_Blizzard.html

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

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Chevy Luv's 4x4 were awesome looking trucks!

Offline Dotch

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Thinking the Luv I had at the time was an '81 or '82 model, the 2nd generation, just ahead of when they started selling a lot of S-10's. Simple & easy to work on. Not overpowered, decent mileage, & 4x4 w/lockout hubs was a huge plus out in the hinterlands. :happy1: Had a 1st generation '79 Luv 4x4 prior to that. Came with a header & an Offenhauser intake manifold someone stuck on it. Sounded like a 16 hp Briggs Vanguard with a glass pack muffler.  :rotflmao: The heater/defroster in the 2nd generation was a major improvement. In the 1st generations, if it got below 20 degrees you were lucky if it cleared enough frost off the window to see the sideview mirror!  :shocked: Ah, the good old days... :rolleyes:   
« Last Edit: October 10/29/21, 03:19:09 PM by Dotch »
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Offline Dotch

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One more mile, one more road, one last bridge, one less load

The scurs and Weather Eye received more hate mail after the cold spell that beset us. Will Mother Nature give Jack Frost and Old Man Winter the boot for now or are they here to stay? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Sunny on Friday with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper 50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the mid-50’s and lows in the mid-30’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain and snow showers. Highs in the mid-50’s with lows in the upper 30’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the upper 50’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Sunday marks the end of Daylight-Saving Time. The normal high for November 7th is 46 and the normal low is 28. The scurs will have their favorite ambulance chaser attorney on speed dial as they attempt to change all the clocks and smoke alarm batteries. There oughta be a lawsuit in there someplace.

We take one more for the team as we change our clocks back an hour. It’s the least annoying component of the time change for most as it means an extra hour of badly needed sleep. Yes, but it gets dark so early is the complaint I often hear. Good. When it gets dark, that means more sleep. Not tired? Come on out to the ranch and I’ll find something that’ll make you tired. I have an endless list of stuff to do. Never mind that we have plenty of health issues to contend with the way it is. Getting rid of this turkey of a law is long overdue. Leave it one way or the other; I don’t’ care, just get it done. As John Wayne used to say, we’re burnin’ daylight.

Not much burning the midnight oil necessary around the countryside anymore. Most crops are harvested with fieldwork shifting into primary tillage and anhydrous ammonia application mode. The rain last week slowed intentions some although by Sunday many were able to get back at it. Anhydrous is going on about as good as I’ve ever seen it go on. It’s sealing well and doesn’t appear to be balling up the knives. Likewise with primary tillage. Looks good from the road and reports from the operators are that it’s working about as well as it ever has. Given the roughly 2” of rain that fell in October, another couple inches in September and substantial late August rains that fell when the crop was heading down the home stretch, we should already be set up with adequate moisture to get the crop started next spring.

Things are winding down at the ranch gardens now that temperatures have reached the low 20’s at night. The squash that were piled by the garden have been moved closer to the house where they’re easier to cover at night. I miscalculated slightly thinking that there were likely 40-45 of them. Try more like 70-75. We’ve been finding homes for them and will be freezing plenty for our own use. The snap peas decided the first 26 degree low was more than they could handle so the vines can become Cheviot food. Even though the peas on the vine taste yucky now, the sheep don’t complain. The winter radishes are still in the ground yet but withstand cold temps fairly well as long as the ground thaws during the day. Should be able to dig them and get them in the fridge for winter. Have had them keep until March so will look forward to getting that task done.
 
By the time I get all that done, most of the leaves should be down. It’ll be time to see how good the mulching attachment works on the mower. There are areas to trim up, so snow is less of an issue. It’ll also be time for seasonal oil changes and getting mentally prepared for barn cleaning. Something about going into winter with clean, dry barns makes both animals and owners happier. Of course, having weather that’s conducive to animals being able to stay outside is preferable. Fresh, clean air does a body good. Unfortunately in this part of the world that’s wishful thinking too much of the time. When the weather isn’t cooperative, it’s comforting to know the odds of dealing with pneumonia are greatly reduced.
 
The fall color display this year has been about as strange as I can recall. Typically we see things like sumac turning early. However, both locally and on my recent excursion to Canada, sumac was just coming on with many other trees already dropping leaves or getting near full color to them. Even the walnuts weren’t necessarily the first to lose their leaves as is often the case. There has been some localized color as the Autumn Blaze maples turn red. Also some red oaks showing here and there in local woods as well as in our own yard. The American cranberry, aronia and nannyberries have added red to our property. The burning bushes too have caught fire, reminding me not to forget about them as the bunnies are already licking their chops. The enclosures I used last year worked well and it won’t take long to put them in place.
 
Along with that, hopefully there is time to take the fence down and open the windbreak up for the sheep. Keeping it mowed after hours and cleaned up since the garden was moved was more than time allowed. Once the hazelnut bushes are protected, there’s plenty of grass for them to eat yet. No reason the woollies couldn’t keep the weeds and unwanted woody vegetation down too. Have yet to find the boxelder, willow or silver maple I liked. The best place for them is on the burn pile.
 
The near-term forecast looks promising for getting a bunch of projects like that done. There also may be a chance that we can knock out one more fall cruise in the Studebaker. We got shortchanged when it was laid up in July and August. We made up for lost time and still managed over 1300 miles for the season. Odds are we’ll find somewhere to go exploring if only for a brief run. Systems seem to be functioning fine so would be a pity not to at least make an attempt. There are always those little bar and grills, or restaurants tucked away along with smooth roads on which to travel. That’s part of the charm of driving old automobiles. Half the fun is getting there although it’s guaranteed to be an adventure whether you make it there or not.

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 hear you knockin’, go back where you been

The scurs and Weather Eye are heroes once more after the recent warm spell gave us one more glimpse of an extended fall. Will Jack Frost and Old Man Winter keep knocking or will they go away? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with rain likely. Highs in the low 50’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Veteran’s Day, mostly sunny with a slight chance of rain and snow. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly cloudy on Friday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of evening snow. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the mid-20’s. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the low 20’s. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Partly cloudy for Tuesday with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the mid-30’s.After slipping below 10 hours of daylight as we were busy changing our clocks last week, the sun will be rising after 7 a.m. CST on the 11th. The normal high for Veteran’s Day is 44 and the normal low is 26. The scurs will be flying Old Glory proudly in honor of all those who served.

More tillage and anhydrous ammonia being finished up across the area as temperatures cool and the forecast is calling for significant rainfall by press time. We have been fortunate to have received some welcome precip this fall, enough so we should be in good shape to get a crop out of the ground next spring. As several have noted, it takes a while for it to dry up this time of the year. Everything is heading the wrong direction from a daylength and temperature perspective. We’ve been lucky all the way around this year with an early planting date, a warmer than normal growing season and a fall that allowed operators to harvest, fertilize and perform tillage seemingly at will. That doesn’t happen often so when it does, it is to be savored.
 
At the ranch we’re busily working toward having the dooryard put to bed for winter. Rabbit guards continue being put in place as signs of their chewing on vegetation are visible. The first batches of leaves were pulverized with the mower making raking them unnecessary. Crispy, crackly dry, they were reduced to confetti sized pieces in a matter of a few minutes. I do enjoy the smell of burning leaves that wafts through the air every once in a while, while out and about. The burning part is great. The raking part not so much. We did actually get some decent color out of the red oak trees and the Norway maple as well. Was convinced the 21-degree lows would cause it to drop ugly, olive drab leaves. Instead, they turned a beautiful sunny yellow, making for a wonderful contrast against the green grass as they reach the ground. And I’m really not a John Deere fan.
 
The garden is almost ready to be put to bed. The cannas were dug a few weeks back and the bulbs are residing in the garage drying for winter storage. Can still utilize some of the late planted salad greens yet. Surprisingly the cold temps barely fazed them. There are still some edible tomatoes so using them to manufacture BLT’s isn’t out of the question. Also some winter radishes yet to be harvested too but they’ll keep until I’m good and ready to dig them. Tossed the remainder of the snap pea vines into the sheep pasture. I’ve become popular with the sheep anytime I get near the fence it seems. We continue to enjoy the buttercup squash frequently. We’ve never raised any better. If I keep eating them, I’ll turn orange. Orange man bad.

Saturday I’d promised to deliver a buck lamb to a customer/friend after he’d informed me his old ram had expired. I didn’t realize it at first, but the the lamb we selected for him was the one we called Raisin as a joke. Raisin was no joke. He turned out to be a spectacularly well put together breeding animal. Very long, level topped, smooth through the front end, a high tail set and well-endowed in the male body parts department. His breed type was also excellent except for one thing: he was the wrong color. Natural-colored Cheviots can’t be registered as Border Cheviots, only as natural-colored sheep in their registry. As such, they must be named so he qualified in that department. If he had been white, he might’ve made the trip to the NAILE and competed in Louisville. After we turned him loose in the pasture with the customer’s ewes, I’d be willing to bet he was happy staying here. Just an observation.

Ruby experienced the same thing many dogs have this fall: allergies. Something about the conditions made allergens more prevalent. Perhaps the black spores from the saprophytic fungi covering the combines this fall along with the rust covering the bluegrass in parts of the yard were clues. Regardless, Ruby had been biting at her front paws and licked the left one until it became raw. A trip to the veterinarian determined the allergy diagnosis and a steroid shot, along with 10 days-worth of antibiotics. The pills were good sized. Being capsules, they stuck to Ruby’s tongue and didn’t go down easily. She spit the first attempt out, so I had to come up with Plan B. Half a slice of bread, buttered on both sides with the pill rolled up inside of it and we were in business. Seemed like no time and we were done with the prescription. Best of all, it worked. Ruby stopped biting and licking her feet and began growing hair back where her foot was so sore. Did nothing for her goofiness however. Maybe even made it worse.
 
Sunday was one of those days when it was too nice to be spent on work. It’s unlikely we’ll see another day like that for a while. After tarping and backing the screening wagon into its winter spot along with other odds and ends, we took advantage of the opportunity. It was so gorgeous that one last cruise in the Studebaker was in order. Mrs. Cheviot needed something at the DG so after that we charted a course west on Hwy 30 to Mapleton. Hadn’t cruised that stretch yet and despite no DQ that direction, off we went. The road was smooth as glass and the Silver Hawk rode like a dream, humming its approval at low rpm’s in overdrive. The temperature inside was perfect. No need to turn the heat on or to open the vents to cool off, just enjoy the ride. The radio doesn’t work so we weren’t tempted to hear the Vikings getting beat. I pointed out as we went by where Raisin now lived. We saw him and his harem as we motored onwards. We made Mapleton then thought about going to Amboy. Alas, the clock was ticking towards dark and chore time; we headed back. All things considered it just felt good to make it out one last time. Could be a while.

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 mike89

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excellent!!  and happy for Ruby!!   we also used peanut butter on the bread with dog pills...   :happy1:
a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work!!

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Interesting about Ruby's allergies.  We have had dogs do that too.

Offline Dotch

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You're afraid it's all been wasted time

The scurs and Weather Eye were heels again as Jack Frost and Old Man Winter made it clear they intend to set up shop. Will they be gentle, or will we get backhanded? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the low 20’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the low 20’s. Partly sunny on Friday with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Partly sunny on Sunday with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the low 20’s. Monday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of snow showers. Highs in the low 30’s with lows in the mid-teens. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the upper teens. A sneak peek at Thanksgiving Day: Partly sunny with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Thursday the 19th ushers in the Full Moon for the month. We also slide just below 9 hours and 30 minutes of daylight on the 19th. The normal high for November 19th is 39 and the normal low is 23. The scurs will be shopping at Wagner’s and Lerberg’s to get the best bargains for their Thanksgiving Day festivities.

The Full Moon is indeed on the 19th and generally goes by The Beaver Moon as Native Americans, trappers and traders alike were busy trapping these large rodents, prized for their warm fur. There were many other species also trapped and hunted for their warm pelts as well. It has also been named The Full Frosty Moon by some for obvious reasons. The Ojibwe called this The Freezing Moon while the Sioux knew it as The Moon when Winter Begins. At the ranch we would concur and add that it is The Full Chores in the Dark Moon as lights become necessary during both the morning and evening process.

Field operations are mostly complete across most of the area. There is an odd field of corn here and there, but they have become the exception and not the rule. They also tend to disappear suddenly. Anhydrous ammonia applications came to a screeching halt with the rainfall and subsequent snowfall. The soil surface in most fields has become tacky and it will take either some drying conditions or freezing conditions before it works well again. The hallmark of the fall overall though has been the excellent soil conditions for performing primary tillage and anhydrous ammonia applications. Most would tend to agree that it has never worked any better. Typically that bodes well for the following year’s crop.

At the ranch the gardening has probably reached its conclusion at least as far as harvesting the vegetables. The last of the winter radishes were dug Sunday late afternoon. The soil was sticky so odds of being able to till it up are growing slim. That’s OK. The majority of the garden was planted to cucurbits of one sort or another. The ground following in particular pumpkins and squash tends to be very mellow the following spring. The vines shield the ground with those large leaves, helping to dissipate the energy from hard pounding rains. At any rate its better to leave the soil alone if it’s tacky in the fall rather than making mudballs out of it. On a south facing slope, it’ll come around quickly anyway. Already looking at what we’ll be planting for next season. It’s like finding car parts for collector automobiles. Half the fun is in the pursuit.

It's drawing closer to the time where the sheep will be returning from the kindly neighbors’ pasture. It’s never a good sign when the tank heater needs to be put in the water tank at home. Of course, the hose for the automatic waterer was disconnected at the offsite pasture a few weeks ago already so that means filling and hauling a 5-gallon bucket daily. Pastures at both sites are getting more depleted with the cooler temps and shorter days. It’s inevitable and eventually it’s a relief to have all of them in one place rather than worrying about the off-site group getting snowed in. There have been some close calls but fortunately in the over 25 years we’ve pastured sheep there, that hasn’t happened. We’d like to keep it that way.

Barn cleaning is looming nearer although the same tacky ground slowing anhydrous operations has somewhat the same effect on manure hauling. The main issue will be tracking mud on the road and driveway. Scraping mud off the road isn’t my idea of a good time especially seeing the speed and attentiveness of a lot of the drivers. Likely opt to wait until the ground freezes so that isn’t an issue. Takes a while by yourself to get everything operational anyway. Plenty of other “fun” things can be done in the meantime. The manure won’t be going anywhere.
   
The winter birds have slowly taken their place in the backyard. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the hummingbirds were still here. Actually it wasn’t. The last one was seen at the ranch on Oct. 17th. The weather changed of course; it surprised me how much suet the woodpeckers had already blown through by last weekend. Only crumbs left in a couple feeders and none in the other one. We’ve had the usual visitors so far. Plenty of chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays downies, hairies, red-bellies, juncos and cardinals. Been trying to attract the goldfinches again. Can hear them around the yard some mornings, just don’t see them on the feeders. Thought maybe the thistle seed had become stale so cleaned out the feeders and purchased a small batch of new seed to see if that might help. So far nothing although it’s still early. There are likely good sources of seed yet in places like the CRP. About the time our first major snowfall appears though, it won’t surprise me to see them back.
 
One bird also making a return visit to our backyard was a rooster pheasant. Saw him last week and apparently, he was partially responsible for cleaning up the corn leftover from the squirrels selective feeding. He made a beeline for the pile they left under the tree when I peeked out the window after chores. The pile was gone that night when I returned from the kindly neighbors. Sunday when I decided to use the Gator to harvest the radishes, I had to empty some ear corn out of the box gleaned while soil sampling. Concluded dumping it in the edge of the plum & sumac thicket was the ticket. Wondered how long it would take the wildlife to find it. The next morning the rooster pheasant was already slinking out of the thicket as I looked out before heading to town. He hadn’t wasted any 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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Something happens and I'm head over heels

After last week, the scurs and Weather Eye were head over heels, from being blown around by the wind of course. Will they continue to be blown away or do calmer days lie ahead? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the mid-teens. Thanksgiving Day, sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows in the mid-teens. Partly sunny on Friday with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the low 20’s. Saturday, partly sunny with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Mostly sunny on Sunday with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Monday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly sunny for Tuesday with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Thursday the 25th is Thanksgiving and our loss of daylight slows to about a minute and a half per day by months end. The normal high for November 25th is 36 and the normal low is 20. The scurs will be giving thanks for not having to get out of bed for Black Friday sales. Nothing they want on the shelves anyway.

Many of the few existing corn fields disappeared this last week as operators still finished picking ahead of Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful for this fall with a good crop and good crop prices. Fertilizer prices not so much although many were wise enough to heed their supplier’s advice and purchase early. Doing fall fertilizer recs in May seemed a little odd but it saved time in the fall for other things. The majority of fertilizer has been applied so focus now is on locking in seed and chemical inputs. Glyphosate supplies will be tight so alternative programs less reliant on it are on the minds of most producers. It can still be done. There are several who have been raising non-GMO crops for a long time. Their weed control appears no different than those using Round Up Ready systems. And dare I say it, the C-word (cultivator) has even been uttered. Muttered perhaps, but still intelligible.

There was still some gardening to be done over the weekend. I’d experimented with potting some four o’clocks to learn a little more about their growth habits. Domestic four o’clocks are typically planted in these latitudes as annuals although in their native South America, they exist as perennials. Indeed, there is also a wild four o’clock that is a perennial native in MN. While the seeds look very similar, it lacks the showy flowers of its South American cousin. I’d decided that since four o’clocks are among the favorites for hummingbirds and sphinx moths, it might be interesting to see if there are tubers produced and if they could be overwintered. Indeed tubers were produced, and they can be stored in much the same manner as canna bulbs once properly dried. Hopefully the four o’clock tubers weren’t subjected to too much cold although the one I sacrificed appeared sound when sliced open. We’ll know more come spring.

Last Saturday at the ranch it was time to prepare to prepare to get ready for winter. The landscape seemed eerily silent with no harvest or fieldwork activity. It was also dead still, something that has become an unusual feature. With no good place inside to work, oil was changed on the tractor and skidsteer. Being it was such a nice day, they were also greased along with the manure spreader. No telling what kind of weather might appear when there’s an opportunity to clean barns. Hook up to the spreader, open the drive cover, squirt some JB Chain Lube on the speed control chains and we’re good to go. The calm day also gave me one more shot at grinding up the leaves that accumulated. I suspect the way the wind direction keeps alternating, it might’ve just worn them out. I wasn’t taking any chances though. Seeing them pulverized was preferable.

When I finished, I made the trip to the kindly neighbors for chores. It was about dark as the pickup headlights shone in the lot as I pulled up. I was greeted by the sight of sheep gnawing on pumpkins and squash. Thanksgiving had come early for the ovines there. The kindly neighbors apparently had the same thought process I did. The wind wasn’t blowing 90 mph so performing outdoor tasks like putting Christmas lights were high on their agenda. I’ve felt bad in the past the sheep there didn’t get in on the Thanksgiving Day pumpkin feast the others usually have at the ranch. The past several years however, they’ve been ahead of the game thanks to the kindly neighbors. They even got some of their monster pumpkins, so they definitely have something to be thankful for.

Thew wind made a return engagement Sunday although in the sheltered areas around the yard, it was tolerable. After dumping some pots and planters I consolidated the backyard wildlife ear corn in a metal trash can by the garage. There had been some corn in the pickup box and some in buckets inside the garage. No sense in giving rodents an engraved invitation. First though I cleaned out a few partial ears from the trash can and placed them in the thicket where I’d dumped some last weekend. It was out of the wind and very quiet. I heard rustling in the long grass and suddenly a large rooster pheasant flew through the plum underbrush. Probably a good reason he’s still alive. Nothing could crawl or fly through that prickly mess quickly or quietly enough to fool with our pet pheasant.

I’d debated earlier about moving a couple hay feeders and bales into the main lot for the brood ewes. The wind was howling yet at 3:30 but I made the move anyway. It wasn’t going to do itself. Fueled the tractor up and got after it. The feeders are heavy. They need to be so the sheep don’t bust them up. They’re also in awkward to handle sections although after doing it enough times, using the tractor and loader expedites the process. It also keeps aches and pains to a minimum. Putting the bale spear on the three-point made short work of placing the bales in the feeders. The sheep were even semi-cooperative about staying away from the gate. I did miss Mom’s former gate watcher Fudgie though. The snapping of her jaws on the heels of a foolish brood ewe always brought a smile to my face. I could feel the effects of climbing on and off the tractor a dozen or so times the next day. The sheep ground on the bales a while Sunday night and by Monday morning, they were right back out in the pasture. Figures.

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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First rain of winter, first fall from grace

Praise continues to be heaped on the scurs and Weather Eye after the warm days this past week. Will their popularity continue, or will they fall from grace? Following Tuesday night’s rainfall, Wednesday, partly sunny with highs in the upper 50’s and lows in the upper 30’s. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs in the low 50’s and lows in the low 30’s. Mostly sunny on Friday with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Saturday, mostly sunny with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the low 20’s. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the upper teens. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the upper teens. Wednesday is December 1st already. On December 3rd the sun will rise at 7:30 a.m. CST and begin a stretch where the sun will be setting at 4:36 p.m. until December 16th, when it will set at 4:37 p.m. The normal high for December 3rd is 33 and the normal low is 17. Now that Thanksgiving is history, the scurs can resume their Christmas shopping procrastination. Never too late to start.

The landscape continues to remain relatively silent although not necessarily odor-free. The smell of manure applications near greater Bugtussle linger in the air some mornings. The 10-man dryer also continues to run sporadically although that should be coming to a halt soon as well. Soils have been frozen at times and with the warm temps, have thawed once again. Much of the tiling folks wanted to do has already been done. Some question the notion that trees are in the way until they see the bill for one tearing an auger off a combine. Then trimming trees out of fence lines and anywhere else undesirable seems to be a good idea. Much of the seed is ordered and herbicide is being booked as mentioned last week. Still a few organic corn fields on the backroad to Owatonna over the weekend but the combine was parked in the field.

The warm weather has helped aid in the completion of some putter projects at the ranch. A light fixture on the garage has been out of commission for a while so that was replaced. Panels that were mired in the manure pack were hiked up so they could be more easily removed come barn cleaning time. The slats were put back in the livestock trailer to keep the snow out. The tractor was hooked up to the spreader and the speed control chains for the apron lubed so that operation can commence soon. Upon seeing how dirty the windows were and how difficult it was to see when driving against the sun, the tractor cab windows were cleaned. When the weather cooled down it was a good time to freeze more squash, then watch as the sheep descend like vultures to consume the seeds and skins.

The sheep enjoyed their Thanksgiving weekend as much as we did. For us, once the turkey and all the trimmings were devoured a nap was in order. This was largely due to the awful brand of football played by the Detroit Lions followed closely by Da Bears. After awakening, it was time to load up all the pumpkins and drop them in the pasture. The sheep didn’t find them that afternoon, opting instead to work on their round bales and lounge around the lot. The next morning however they were out in full force. Unfortunately the pumpkins were still frozen solid, making eating them more difficult. As the weekend progressed, the pumpkins thawed and were devoured gradually as the ewes grazed the area. They’re in luck too. I missed a few pumpkins in the garage and there are some in Mrs. Cheviot’s fall decorations to be dealt with for dessert.

Ruby also had a good holiday weekend. She’s normally outside when we are and that was the case much of the time. She likes it best when there’s action of some kind though. She’s in her element when there are tires to bite combined with much barking and growling. Ruby gave me a scare on Saturday though. I’d been changing the light fixture, so I was going in and out of the house to get tools. I was about finished and didn’t see Ruby. Usually one heads to the barn to find her napping or whatever. No Ruby there. Checked the back porch, another hangout. Not there either. Came back in the house and called for her. No response. Went back outside and looked around some more but to no avail. Came back in and looked in the hollowed out spot she’s made in the couch. Sure enough, Ruby was curled up in her little dog hole, wagging her tail. Border collies know a good spot to nap when they see one.
 
We brought the sheep home from the kindly neighbors’ on Sunday. I’d been moving things home for a few weeks as feed containers were emptied. I’d also grabbed other equipment ahead of time. Makes less to deal with when it’s D-Day. I’d grabbed the mineral feeder mid-afternoon Sunday as it’s awkward to handle. It requires stuffing all the sheep in the front trailer compartment when trying to pick everything up in one fell swoop. I spied the sheep up near the barn there and they were not surprisingly thinking I ought to feed them. I went home and latched onto the trailer; confident they’d go in the barn to eat when I came back. That’s exactly what they did while I slid the barn doors shut as they noshed on screenings. I got the trailer positioned almost perfectly so they had no other option than to go in it. Loading should be a piece of cake, right?

Wrong. They’d almost finished their partial batch of screenings by the time I did that and slid the barn doors open just enough for trailer access. I put the tubs I’d fed the screenings in inside the trailer for good measure. Some of the greedy ones hopped in right away to finish the feed. Several others knew something was up and balked. Of course about that time those in the trailer decided the feed was gone so no reason to stay in there. I positioned a hog panel so I could restrict the size of the pen when one of the ewes submarined me! Suddenly I was facing south on the back of a ewe heading north! Luckily, I was able to grab a panel and slide off before she smeared me off on a post. That would’ve left a mark.
 
It took several more attempts while cinching down their enclosure before they stubbornly all went in the trailer. Great, right? Sort of. Somewhat the same scenario when we got home to unload. The ram needed to be caught so he could be penned separately while turning the ewes out into the lot. Fine, except while the ram took me into boards, one black ewe decided she’d rather rub her butt on the spare tire inside the trailer. Wasn’t leaving until she was darn good and ready. Enough of that nonsense. Time to go, sweetheart! Once that was over and a few ewes decided they needed to run through the open gate, we got matters under control. It was nearly dark. The group that had been at the pasture for 5 ½ months was home; all that really mattered. That and no one was killed or maimed.

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)