Filed under: home addition, house, repairs, safety, time | Tags: machines, repairs, screen porch
Every building project has it’s ups and downs. There are the parts of the project that are enjoyed and those that are not so enjoyable. We are now at the part of our addition that I like the least, shingling the roof.
Some of it may be my age. Bending down all day to place and nail shingles into place is not easy on the older body. Muscling the heavy bundles of shingles up a ladder is easier for me than the bending over. On a hot day the shingles can scuff if you are not careful, so taking care of how and where you step is a requirement. Working near the edge of the roof with that drop to the ground is not such a fun activity either. There is only one thing that is good about shingling, it means the project is getting nearer to the end.
In the case of our screen porch, we have the siding and a lot of the inside and outside detail done. Most posts are clad in cement board to protect them from the weather. Bead-board plywood is on the ceiling and the walls. Karen has been painting the screen doors and some of the siding. The floor is waiting for me to install it.
I know the project would have taken even longer without the investment in power tools. The air powered nailers really speed the project up. They make it possible for me to hold a piece in place with one hand and nail it with the other. They mean that with the squeeze of a trigger I can put a nail into place. I love power tools.
If the weather holds I’ll finish the roof tomorrow. Then I can finish off the details on the walls and start the floor. I will not finish the entire addition by harvest, but it will be usable.
I’ve been in this world now for 57 years and have seen a lot of change. I don’t want to go back.
There are those in this world who would like to turn back the clock to a “simpler” time. I’m not one of those. Yes, it seems that so much has changed in these years that is not for the better, but a lot has changed for the better.
- The cars of 50 years ago were really things of beauty, but they had no air conditioning, no seat belts and no air bags.
- 50 years ago WWII was a recent memory and the Korean conflict was just over. During my life it seems as if there have always been wars and rumors of wars, but our world is safer today than in the early years of the atomic bomb when politicians talked about Mutually Assured Destruction.
- Today you can visit anywhere in the world for a fraction of the cost that it took on the 50′s.
- Farms today produce much more food today than they did when I was born. Farmers are doing it with fewer workers, less land, less water, less pollution and less erosion than only a few years ago. The food available on American grocery shelves is fantastic.
- Computers make work easier and most of the modern life we live possible.
- TV had only a few black and white channels when I was young. The advent of color, and now digital TV has multiplied viewing potential to a point where you can always find what you want and not have to watch what is on.
- Electricity has turned our night to day and allowed people to work and play at any hour of the night or day with no problem.
Nope, I like it here today. The change I’ve seen is just fine.
As life goes on and we grow older there are milestones of our life. We watch as our children grow, leave home, choose a career and become parents themselves.
When you work in the school system there are other milestones. The day children of your former students become students in your school is one of those steps that says you’ve been in school a long time. The day children of your children’s friends and classmates come to school is another day that makes you think of how long you have been in education.
This year I have two students on my bus that are children of my children’s classmates. I’m getting old.
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, Minnesota, seasons, Soybeans, summer | Tags: Corn, farm, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather
Although we are still in August and summer will hold on here in Southern Minnesota for several weeks more, the first signs of fall are appearing. If you are looking, some soybean fields have started to change to yellow, and some ears of corn are sporting dry husks. Sure signs that fall is coming.
Filed under: Ag education, Farm, food, food safety, garden, harvest, Minnesota, organic | Tags: farm, Food, food safety, garden, harvest, tomatoes
Some of the math used by those in support of the local food movement has been very creative. Some are trying to make it a sin to buy food that is not farmed right next door. While I support anyone who has their own garden or loves the food from their farmers market or CSA I do not think that should extend to bashing anyone who eats products grown in other parts of the country. Here in Minnesota we can get some wonderful fruits and veggies in the warm part of the year, but in winter fresh is not possible. It is because you cannot get the taste of a late summer BLT, with its fresh tomatoes, at any other time that make it so wonderful. To understand why food from American farms makes sense no mater where it comes from I invite you to read this article from the NY Times. For a writer from the coast, this one has it all together.
Filed under: food, garden, harvest, Minnesota | Tags: Food, garden, harvest, Minnesota, tomatoes
This wonderful little fellow was waiting to be picked today. All of an inch and a half high, minus the hat, he is a jolly round yellow bit of garden goodness. Here’s hoping your garden gives you some unexpected pleasure this year.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, genetic modification, GMO, science, Soybeans, tillage | Tags: Corn, farm, Genetically Modified, GMO, insect conttrol, Soybeans, sustainable farming, Weed control
The big word in agriculture these days seems to be sustainability. I’ve never been real sure what that is, but I’m trying to understand those who are pushing for a more sustainable world. One thing that I do not understand is how people who do not farm think that biotechnology, with its genetically modified crops, does not fit into this mold.
Todays modern biotech manipulates organisms at a cellular level getting the plant or animal to do things that would either take nature a long time to produce, or would not happen at all in nature. In the case of the corn and soybeans that I grow, that could be the ability for a crop to be resistant to a herbicide or to produce its own insecticide. Both of those outcomes I see as good things.
Because the biotech industry has produced corn that produces its own insecticide, I do not have to treat my corn for a variety of insect pests. This means considerable savings in time and money, and not having to use some really hazardous chemicals. This also means that the corn plant can focus on growing more roots and grain. More roots means the corn will survive dry periods better. More roots means that the plant can use fertilizer more efficiently, thus more corn from less fertilizer. More grain means more income for the farmer. This also means that farmers have not had to use millions of pounds of insecticides on Americas farms.
The biotech industry has also produced crops that have increased resistance to certain herbicides. Because of that resistance we are able to use more contact herbicides that kill plants quickly from the outside and then disappear, as compared to the older systemic herbicides that enter a plant through its roots and then hang around for months or years. Using a contact herbicide may mean I have to spray the crop more than once to kill all of the weeds, but it is also safer for me and for the environment. It also means that herbicide use in America has dropped by millions of pounds.
How does all of this make me more sustainable? Because I can control insects and weeds easier I can now farm with less tillage. Less tillage means less erosion and more crop material left in the soil. More crop material in the soil means less carbon released to the air.
More and more farmers are looking to do less tillage to cut back on their costs and control erosion. No- till, strip-till and ridge-till are all methods of farming that promote less tillage and produce more sequestered carbon and less erosion. The use of fewer moldboard plows in favor of chisel plows, primary tillage disks and disk-rippers also reduces erosion, but will not hold as much carbon in the soil.
Reduced tillage methods promote weed and insect growth. Without the turning of the soil to bury weeds, more weeds are left to produce seed. More crop residue on the ground allows insect pests to overwinter easier, thus putting more pressure on the next years crop.
The biotech crops available allow farmers to get into the field earlier, use fewer chemicals and insecticides and reduce erosion. They also reduce the amount of labor and machinery needed to farm the land. Biotech crops help make it easier for young farmers to get started in farming and help keep more families on the farm. Biotech makes it easier for me to do my job with less damage to the environment. All of that to me is sustainability.
Filed under: family, Family History, Farm, farm animals, garden, genetic modification, GMO, harvest | Tags: children, farm, garden, harvest
Most Americans are at least three generations from the farm, so many no longer have a family farm to visit, but they still want to get out and live the romance of the farm.
Trips to the farm for people who live in the city are a big deal. Some of those “farms” are even in zoos. Winery tours, fall pumpkin patch and corn maze or any other chance to get to see “real” farms are great experiences for families, but they are not the real thing.
There is a romantic notion of the farm. It is not the commercial family farm of today, it is grandpa’s farm. A farm where there was a lazy dog, an assortment of cats, chickens and maybe a horse or cow. Grandpa’s farm was small, as were his machines. Most of the buildings and machinery had stood the test of time. The hay mow (upper level where hay was stored, pronounced “mou”) needed care to keep from falling through the holes in the floor, and the stalls on the main floor had more spiders in them than the cows, pigs or sheep they were built for.
Grandma always had a garden full of veggies and flowers. There were fruit trees and berry patches to harvest. Food fresh from the garden is one of the most beloved of memories of the farm. Perhaps that is why farm fresh food stands and farmers markets are such a big hit.
The reality of today is seldom the reality of yesterday. Today’s big iron and mile long fields are just not as romantic as a quaint old house in the country. Yet the reality today is that farm families of today are not the same as the farm family of yesteryear. Yes, there are still small farms out there. Many farm folks have a job in town to help support their life on the farm. Those who do not have town jobs, or wives who work in town, must cover large amounts of ground to feed their families and pay the bills.
Today’s farm families may include several generations on the farm who are all hard at work using the technology of tomorrow to produce food for America and the world. The farm they live on is nothing like the farm grandpa grew up on, although grandpa may still be there to help out. They do have one thing in common with grandpa’s farm. They are still using the best technology of the day to feed the family.
It was grandpa’s use of his generations technology that kept the farm going and the family fed. When his children took over the farm, they also used the best technology available to them to keep going. Today the grandkids are using computers and GPS technology to become ever more efficient and productive. Many have embraced genetically modified crops for the same reason they use computers, it works.
Today’s family farmer has the same challenges as generations before them did. They need the best seed, the best animals and the best equipment if they are going to feed their family. Today’s family farmers manage large amounts of information and money. They must know the places they can cut costs, and where they must spend to get the best.
This is not the world that grandpa and grandma grew up in. Grandpa did know that if he was to keep up with demands of the world, he had to keep up with the times. If grandpa’s grandkids are still farming, it’s because he did his best to keep up. The romantic family farm so many remember is not a modern farm, it is a museum piece. Grandpa lives on a much nicer farm, or has moved to town so his grandkids can live there.
My children all now make their living in town. The farm my grandkids remember is not going to be the farm of your romantic dreams. It is, however, a farm of the past not of today. I do know that my grandkids,when thy look back, will still love grandpa’s farm.
When you write a blog you sometimes wonder if your words are really getting read. Most blogs have a way you can check up on readership. As you check on your readership you will see that it settles down to a steady few until you write something special, then you will get a spike in readership. Tracking down the reason for that spike can be interesting.
A spike usually occurs because someone thought your words were interesting and either reposted them or responded to them and a conversation started that draws in readers from other areas. Once in a while you are lucky enough to get picked up and highlighted by another source. This happened to me with a post that appeared on #agchat Daily.
#agchat Daily is a twitter based online newspaper that speaks specifically about issues in the agricultural industry. I’ve seen other blogs that I follow reprinted there, but this was my first time on #agchat Daily. I invite you to check out the other writers on #agchat Daily, I think it will be worth your while, and may even give you a few ideas of things to write about on your blog.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Farm, food | Tags: farm, farmers, Food, history
I hear many city people complaining that farming has gotten too big, that mega farms abound and we have no small farms left. In some ways that is true. In the 1930s, about 25% of the country’s population resided on the nation’s 6,000,000 farms. By 1997, 157,000 farms accounted for 72% of farm sales, with only 2% of the U.S. population residing on farms. Yet when you dig into the facts, the average farm in the U.S. is still under 500 acres, a size that is not mega.
At one time every square mile section of the prairie grain belt states had 3 or 4 farm families, now it is hard to find more than 1 family per section, and they may not even farm the land near them. Where have all the farmers gone.
The answer goes back to WWII. Before the war, we had some machinery on farms but it was mostly small and was sized to match the horses they replaced. As America mechanized for war the capability of our country to make large machinery grew as did the wages paid in the city. When the boys came home they found that the hard life on the farm was being made easier by farm machinery, and they took hold of the new life with gusto. However, many returning farm boys found that life on the farm was tame and quiet compared to the excitement they had found overseas. They also found that city life paid better.
As America geared up to provide food and machinery for a war ravaged world, wages at factories increased. It was possible to make many times more money in town than it was on the farm. Our farms were producing much more food than we could eat, and prices for farm products were decreasing. To make a living on the farm you had to take advantage of the economies of scale. You had to get big, or get out.
Getting out was easy. Manufacturing jobs were paying as much as $30 per hour while on the farm prices for grains barely covered expenses. In town you had a no risk, life was easy and afforded you cars, boats and large houses. In the country it was hard work and a reliance on government hand outs to keep the farm from going under. The increase in farm size and farm equipment costs meant most farmers were highly leveraged, the bank owned nearly everything. When the farm crisis of the 1980′s came, along with interest rates that topped 20% at one time, many farmers just walked away from it all.
Those left on the farm took advantage of the availability of farm land and increased their production, most often by renting land from widows or heirs of farmers. In the prairies, where large tracts of flat land made large machinery possible, farm size increased as farm families took advantage of the terrain and technology.
Today in America we spend less than 10% of our income on food. Less than 17 cents of that food dollar actually makes it to the farm. For every $1 earned in the U.S. only about 1.7 cents actually goes to pay the farmer for the food we eat. It’s no wonder that we have no farmers left. We expect them to provide us with the bread and wine for our table and yet value them so little that we are not willing to pay them in the proportion to their importance.
The next time you wonder why food costs you so much, stop and think about how little you really pay the farmer for that food. What do you value more than the stuff of life that comes from the farm?