Minnesota Farmer

Connections to a tragedy

When word first reached me of the death of 16 year old Ross I didn’t think I had any connections with him or the family. Yes, he lived near a neighboring town, but what connections could I have with him.  The connections have begun to pile up.

The first connection was to our church.  He had for a while been coming to Sunday School classes there and still had family who were members.

The second connection was to friends.  His high school choir director was our daughters friend, we know that family well.  She had brought Ross and some friends to our church to sing at the Living Nativity just days before the accident.

Next came connections to Farm Bureau.  His dad is active in their county Farm Bureau and I have seen him at state activities.  He had just won top prize in the foundation raffle.

The last one hit hardest.  Ross had been coming to sing with our barbershop chorus during the summer.  I had talked to him then, but had not seen him for months.  Our chorus has been asked to sing at his funeral today.

Memories now flood back to an earlier funeral of a promising young man we sang for years ago.  Jeff had been my son’s friend.  They sang in a high school quartet and in our chorus.  That death had been a lot closer, but in no way less tragic.  Both deaths involved cars and both deaths involved making lethal mistakes.  Now another young man is gone.

Hold your children today.  Tell them again to be careful and that you love them.

Trust the Bus Driver

It happened to me again today.  I had someone tell me that if they really wanted to know what the local road conditions were they would ask a school bus driver.FarmBuildings00016-300x200

Wow, what trust to put in those of us on the road early in the morning or late at night.  Yeah, we are out in the early hours on roads all over the country.  In fact, I’m usually the first one on many of the county and township roads of my route, all to often I’m there before the snow plow.  I have to know those roads because I’m asked to drive them in fog, rain and snow.  I’ve had many a trip where I have known where the stop signs and corners are by counting the hills.  Those are not the days I prefer to drive.

Winter here in Southwestern Minnesota can be a challenge at times.  Knowing where the road is in hazardous conditions is sometimes a challenge.  The fact is though that I will never take a child out on a road in my bus if I do not feel confident that I can get back to town.  That’s not to say that I have always stayed on the road, but usually if I get into trouble it is not because of a blizzard, it’s ice or fog.

So, thank you for your trust.  We want your kids home safe as much as you do.  Besides, do you really want to spend a cold night in a bus with your child and all of their friends?  Neither do we!

Food Costs to go down?

Not that long ago grocery companies were blaming the ethanol industry for high food prices.  Since ethanol plants buy a large part of corn produced in the U.S. they were sure they had a whipping boy to blame.  Then corn prices dropped nearly in half and still grocery prices stayed up.  Now we are seeing lower energy prices and at last we may see lowering grocery prices, or will we.images

A recent Citigroup report stated that “Falling oil prices will be a boon to consumers who can expect to pay less for food, Citigroup’s Aakash Doshi said in (his) Dec. 3 report. About 45 percent of the operating expenses of growing and harvesting rice comes from inputs such as fuels, lubricants, electricity and fertilizer, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Energy accounts for about 54 percent of costs of corn and wheat.”9cf1e55ffde24ff18103ef8bbc791ad11

With such a decline in oil prices you would expect an immediate reduction in food prices, don’t hold your breath.  The reduction in gasoline prices due to lower oil cost does not always translate directly to lower food prices any more than lower corn prices do.  Yes, some costs will be lowered, but not immediately.

Electricity is only made from oil in small amounts.  Most electricity is produced by coal, natural gas and hydro-electric plants.  These costs are not affected by oil prices.  Fertilizers and oil based herbicides are already in hand for next years crop and will also need some time to reflect the reduction in oil prices.  Most of agriculture and transportation runs not on gas, but on diesel, and those prices are still holding much higher than falling oil prices would suggest.  None of this looks good for an immediate reduction in food costs.100_3058

Then there is the lag time of planting to harvest.  The 2014 crop is already harvested in the northern hemisphere, or already planted and months from harvest in the southern hemisphere.  Costs for those crops are already set, and cost of production has little correlation to the price received for food products.

Whoa, what did I just say?  The cost of production has little correlation to the price received for food products.  That is the problem with producing a commodity, be it corn, cotton, gold or oil, what it cost to produce something has less effect on its sale price than does supply and demand.

A few years ago drought caused a reduction in corn supply and prices went up.  Today we have a large supply of corn and less demand for the crop so prices are down.  That drought also caused a reduction in world beef herds.  With supplies down and demand stable, beef prices are up.  While the U.S. and much of the rest of the world was buying oil from OPEC prices were high.  Now, new oil reserves in the U.S. and lowered demand for oil products due to more efficient autos and lower priced ethanol competing with oil, mean oil prices are going down.  But what about food?

We here in the U.S. enjoy the distinction of paying less of our paycheck for food than anyone else in the world.  Less than 10% of our average paycheck goes to food.  If you put a few more dollars into our pockets at the gas pump, we will spend it on something else, and a better cut of beef may just be the way we celebrate.  We can afford lattes and premium foods from around the world.  I would expect the cost of the better types of foods to stay high.  We may however, see a reduction in the cost of lower value foods, and that is good for the rest of the world.

Then there is the farmers share which currently stands at 15.8 cents of every food dollar.  When all of those production costs are lowered, they mean very little in the overall cost of food here in the U.S.

So don’t expect a large drop in your cost of groceries because of a drop in fuel prices or corn prices here in the U.S.  There are too many things that move food prices.  As long as we demand the best from the world and  pay so little of our paycheck for it, food in the U.S. will always be a bargain.

One more snow fence
December 6, 2014, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Farm, snow, weather, winter | Tags: , , , , , ,

Even though we have already had two snow storms I just did not feel ready for winter.  Today I got to do some things that made me feel more ready for winter.100_3072

After the last two storms I decided that we needed one more snow fence.  Hopefully it will plug a gap that has allowed snow to pile up just west of the house on the pond electrical box.  I also tightened the end of one snow fence that was flapping in the wind.  That should get my snow defenses all in order.

I also finally got to put the snow blower on my tractor.  Up until now that tractor has been hooked onto a manure pump.  The early snow and cold had made cleaning the hog barn pits a problem.  Now after a few warm days that job is done.

The weather forecast is most un December like for the next few days.  No snow in the near future and some days that get above freezing.  This is my kind of winter weather.  I may just have to go out and do some more tree trimming.  Need to take advantage of the nice weather while I can.



Winter, or not?
December 3, 2014, 9:36 am
Filed under: cold, family, Farm, Minnesota, snow, weather, winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The calendar says that winter starts on December 21.  Meteorologists claim winter starts on December 1.  For me winter’s start is more flexible, it depends on snow and cold.

This year, winter started in November when a major snow storm-swept through central Minnesota depositing large amounts of snow north of us and a dusting of snow here in southwestern Minnesota.  That kicked off the cold as arctic air pushed south and held on with temperatures well below normal.  We had a storm deposit 6 inches of snow, and then warm weather melted most of it.  Then came 3 inches of snow and cold, cold weather for Thanksgiving day.  Out came the sleds and skis as the kids and grandkids enjoyed our blanket of white.IMG_4353

Today, after a few really warm days it is hard to find any snow.  It looks as if the warm is going to continue.  Our forecast is filled with days near or above freezing, and there is not even a lot of wind to cool us off.  I love this weather.

Oh yeah, I know you cold-blooded folks are thinking I am raving mad, but when you compare this to what we have had, this is great!  Without cold winds and snow I expect to see lots of kids forgetting their hats and gloves on the bus, maybe even a coat or two.  It’s all in the perspective you put on it, and this is better than we have had, and I am loving it.

Roller coaster weather
November 29, 2014, 3:16 pm
Filed under: cold, family, Farm, Minnesota, snow, weather | Tags: , , , , , , ,

The weather has sure been on a roller coaster here in Southwestern Minnesota lately.  Two days ago (Thanksgiving day) our kids and grand kids were bundled up to their noses to stay warm as they played in the snow, IMG_4353 Today the thermometer is just about to 50 degrees and the snow is rapidly melting.


Weather has been a bit crazy lately.  This is the second time this fall/winter that we have had several inches of snow on the ground only to have it melt away.  100_3070 Even the drift behind the snow fence is rapidly shrinking.  Temperatures at times seem like January, and then they go back to early November.  The cold and snow I can do without, today’s temperature is great!

On average we are still having colder than normal weather.  Getting the last outdoor chores done has been a bit complicated.  Either we have ice or mud, no in between.  Oh well, what else do you expect from Minnesota.

Going viral
November 23, 2014, 11:15 pm
Filed under: snow, weather, winter | Tags: , , , , ,

When you blog, you always hope there will be that one day you write the viral blog, the one that is so over the top that your readership doubles.  Little did I realize that I wrote that one almost a year ago, and it had humble origins.  It was all about a snow fence. 100_2532

The art of the snow fence seems to be getting a lot of attention lately.  My readership has more than doubled in the last two months all over a blog I wrote a year ago.  So thanks to all of you out there building a snow fence for the first time who are reading about my humble efforts.  I’m glad I could be of help.


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