OK, friends and family, these are the newest members of our family with their mom and dad.
That’s as close as you are going to get for now. The hospital is discouraging visitors at this time. The girls need to spend time getting to know their mom and dad and growing. After they come home perhaps, but for now, please leave mom and dad in peace.
Oh, in case you are wondering, that’s Allison on the left with the pink bracelet and Katelyn on the right with the purple bracelet. Yes, Katelyn has a big smile, perhaps because she has gotten rid of the tubes and wires faster than her older, by 4 minutes, sister.
Filed under: cold, Farm, Minnesota, Trees, winter, wood heat | Tags: cold, cutting wood, farm, machines, Minnesota, trees, weather, wood heat
Some changes happened at my house today, can you see it?
The two spruce trees that have been in front of our house for at least 75 years are gone. It’s a big change.
We really had enjoyed those trees, it’s just that lately they have been losing more needles than they have been producing. They just had to go.
It was interesting to count the rings and see the record of the good years and the bad years the tree had survived.
I got home from my school bus route and the first tree was already gone, and they were notching the second one in preparation for dropping it. It came down exactly where it was supposed to.
The crew cut off and shredded the branches, cut the trunk up into manageable lengths, and piled the logs for me to process later.
They ground up the stump, leaving only a small hole for me to fill later.
My wood pile which was large before is huge now. I could have enough wood for two years out there now.
I do love a large wood pile with the prospect of a cold winter ahead.
Filed under: Farm, history, Minnesota, planting, tillage, time, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, weather, Weed control, wind
I was recently asked about why we do not use old tractors and plows anymore. In my last post I talked about some of the reasons we do not use that old small machinery anymore. I would like to elaborate on one item here today.
When I was growing up we plowed every field, every year, with a mold board plow. The purpose of a mold board plow is to turn the soil and plant materials that are on top so that it is completely buried. This would take all of the last crops left overs and bury them, leaving the surface soil “black.” It helped in weed control since many small seeded weeds could not germinate when buried so deep. It was a matter of pride for farmers to plow so that the ground was completely “black” and smooth. While this did help to make the ground ready for the next years planting, it also exposed the soil to the effects of wind and water. Any ground with a slope would move down hill when water flowed over it. Any high wind would blow the soil up into the air. The last years plant material rotted quickly and became food for the next years crops, or all too often, ran off with the soil.
As time went on we learned that a smooth black surface between crop years was not in the best interest of the soil. With the advent of new machines and new chemicals we learned to grow our crops with minimal disturbance of the soil. Newer breeds of crops have been developed to grow better than the old ones in the presence of crop residue. There are still times that a plow can work for the best interest of a soil, but many farmers are leaving their plow in favor of other methods of tillage that do not destroy so much of last years crop material.
I took the above photo to show the development of our soybeans last week. If you look around the soybean pods you can see that the soil surface still has some of the previous years crop material on it even after months of weathering and machinery work. The pieces of cornstalk and root can last for several years on the surface helping to protect the soil from the effects of wind and water. The old machines of my youth cannot handle the crop residue left over on the surface. New machines had to be developed to work in these conditions. Some times we will even plant a crop right into the previous crops left overs without any tillage at all. The old crop material can slow or even stop the emergence of a crop, but with the right machinery we can keep that effect to a minimum.
When I was younger, large wind or water events left their mark almost every year somewhere in our fields. The lost yield and extra work this created was extra money we could not put in our pocket. It could at times mean we could not pay our bills if the effects were bad enough. I am proud to say that I have not had any noticeable erosion on the farms I work for many years now. Places that would have gullies in them every year, now stay in place. Erosion that would expose buried rocks, now leaves the rocks safely buried. We manage our crop residue to help hold our soil in place.
The old days, and old ways are not always better. In the case of farm machinery, I would not return to the old ways. They were not healthy for the soil that I farm. Today I know so much more about what it takes to keep my soil in place, and I make every effort to do just that. I’ve learned to hold my ground in the face of wind and water erosion.
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, tillage | Tags: antique, farm, Minnesota, old iron, old tractors, plow, plowing, tillage, tractor, tractors
Jane asked, “They look great, don’t they? And for crying out loud, tell us non-farmers why aren’t they used anymore.” My answer:
Not only have tractors gotten better, but the implements they pull have gotten better.
When the pioneers came to the plains they brought the plow and used it to turn over the sod so that they could plant food crops that people could eat. But the soil of the plains could not take being without plant cover and much soil washed or blew away,think dust bowl. Although some farmers still plow, they are becoming fewer as we learn ways to keep the plant material from previous crops in place and still plant a crop. Modern chemicals, many of them nature based, keep the weeds at bay while allowing a new crop to grow and help keep the soil in place.
Today, because of the better jobs in the city, there are fewer farmers left to till the soil, and we must farm ever increasing acres as more and more rural young people move to city jobs. The tiny tractors of the past cannot hope to keep up with the acres we must cover to feed the world. We still love to see them in operation, but they are tools of the past as much as the abacus and the slide-rule.
Filed under: Ag education, Farm, Farm Bureau, Minnesota, P & E, safety, school | Tags: Agriculture education, children, farm, Farm Bureau, machines, Minnesota, safety
I spent the last two afternoons at the University of Minnesota’s Southwest Minnesota Experiment Station talking to area fourth graders about safety, especially farm safety. It was an interesting, exhausting two days. First off, fourth graders are very busy, and almost totally self centered. If you want to get their attention, you have to be both persistent, and insistent. You also need a message that will grab their attention. Unluckily there have been enough bad things that have happened to me and to people I know so that I have learned to hold the attention of a fourth grader. We did these presentations 8 times each day to a total of over 700 kids.
I had the help of Dave Van Loh on the first day, and Marilyn Nickel the second day. As members of the Farm Bureau, we were presenting our deadly serious information to try to scare these kids safe. Our stories of mishaps in flowing grain, and with animals, augers, tractors, atvs and combines helped to show some of the bad things that could happen.
We used props like toy tractors, wagons and a magnetic farm yard scene to explain how the accidents had happened, and why. We talked about the injuries we had experienced and those we had seen others suffer.
We also had the use of a combine harvester to show how power moves from place to place on machinery and talk about the accidents that can happen if things do not go right.
The toughest presentation for me was the Power Take Off (PTO) demonstration which we did only once each day. We placed newspaper in disposable coveralls and showed what happens if you get caught in a machine. Since I had lost a friend last winter to a PTO accident this one hit home hard. It was my hope to scare some of those kids safe. If we can prevent one farm accident the whole effort was worth it.
Filed under: Farm, frost, harvest, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather | Tags: early freeze, farm, frost, frost damage, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather
The frost of a week ago seems to have done more damage to the soybeans than I originally thought. If the plants were green the top leaves were killed. Any leaves left on the plants are showing some damage from the frost.
The greenest soybeans took the hardest hit. It will be interesting to see how this impacts yield.
If it had been a hard freeze you would smell the silage like odor from the stems being frozen and starting to rot, so I think the damage should have been only to the leaves. This means that the stem will still work to fill the pods.
Our driest beans still have some green in their pods, but few leaves.
When you pop open the pods you can see that the beans of even our most mature beans are a bit green. It will take some time yet before the fields are ready for harvest.
Looking across the fields you cans see areas of greener beans. The frost should hasten the drying of the whole field. It will still take some time before we can begin soybean harvest, but harvest has been hastened by the frost.
Filed under: church, Minnesota, repairs | Tags: church, repairs, volunteer
When you think of doing work for your church you do not always think of the repairs and building projects that get done by volunteers. This is a volunteer week for me and many others at our church.
Yesterday I took my chainsaws to church to cut a branch that was in the wrong place. When I got part way through the branch it broke off. The middle of the branch was rotten! It was indeed time to cut that branch.
I was just starting to think the evening was going to be slow when Kelly called me to say the fence for the parsonage was ready. Could I come and help him? So I grab the truck and some tools to spend my evening putting up a fence.
It started with just the two of us, but as the evening went on we had six of us working on the fence.
Having Kelly there with his post hole digger really helped speed the job along.
Some of the fence had been installed years ago to create a bit of privacy. Now with a busy preschooler in the parsonage Pastor Jay requested that we enclose some of the yard.
Now with a complete fence we can call this job done.
Church jobs are not done for the week. We have a parking lot to seal the cracks on and a parsonage to shingle. I’m going to have a busy week.
Filed under: cats, cold, fish, garden, pond, water garden | Tags: cats, flowers, frogs, garden, goldfish, Koi, pond, turtles, water garden
Although some areas near by were affected by the early frost this past week, our ponds remain healthy and blooming. The Sedum is in full bloom and a few other flowers continue to bloom near the pond daily. I was surprised to see the Blackie with a pale purple flower hidden in the leaves one day. Sorry, I missed taking a photo of it.
The baby Koi continue to grow.
Trying to get a picture of them in the water is a challenge. Most of them are just darker spots against the sand bottom. A few have already become colorful, but most are a dark grey to black in color.
It is obvious that we had two hatches since they are of two different sizes. Even the large adults are hard to see in these pictures, so finding the young ones is really a challenge.
Most of the time the baby Koi hang out under the plants, but when I feed them they will come to the surface to grab a chunk. They have a tough time getting the big pieces of food in their mouth, but they try. Mostly they work the bits of algae off of the rocks and floor of the pond for food.
There are still a few frogs around the pond but the weather has been cool and they don’t come out much. I think the cats have been lunching on them.
The Hyacinth are not growing so well in the cooler water of the big Koi pond, but are still thriving in the smaller Goldfish pond. Most of the water plants are slowing down and could use some warmer days.
We only got a few blooms on the water lilly in the Koi pond this year, but rarely missed a day in the Goldfish pond. There is one there yet today. The water lilies seem to prefer to be open when the sun hits them and close up when they are in shade.
I’ve not seen a sign of the turtles since the hatch. I don’t even know if any survived. The old nest was cleaned out by some creature just last week.
There’s the pond news for the week, come by and see them for yourself some time.
Filed under: cold, house, Minnesota, weather, winter, wood heat | Tags: cutting wood, trees, weather, winter, wood fired boiler, wood heat, wood pile
Summer heat is not the time to think about winters cold winds. Those of us who use wood for winter heat must get out and cut wood anyway. My summer had not added enough wood to the stack to get me through winter. Now that the days have gotten colder I have found the energy to really get cutting. With several dead trees still standing at my dads place, we got the saws busy and cut wood.
In fact my woodpile has never been so big. I have been adding new places to stack wood wherever it is handy. Yep, that’s another trees worth of wood on the trailer looking for a place to spend the winter.
The tree I cut today had been bothering me for some time. It had to fall north, and the way the branches hung it wanted to go either south or east. With a building only a few feet to the south, and some trees to get hung up in both east and west, it would be an interesting cut. Besides that, the old elm had been dead several years and I could just see the winters winds blowing it into that building that was south of it. Today the wind was gusting out of the south, so I cut it. We had a bit of a scare when it tried to go south, but a gust of wind, and it fell just right.
With the outside wood fired boiler I put in two years ago I need a lot of wood. This year I have outdone myself in preparing for winter. I should have all of the wood I need to heat my house and shop already. The trouble is there are more trees that have to be cut and I’m gong to have to find a place to put the wood. There is always the next winter after all.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, Farm, Farm Bureau, food, Minnesota, P & E | Tags: Agriculture education, eating healthy, farm, Farm Bureau, Food, food safety, Minnesota, nutrition
I worked the Minnesota State Fair booth for the Farm Bureau on the Friday before labor day and mostly had a good time. There was one fellow who came into the building, looked at the displays and said “That’s a Lie.”
Now I was proud of the displays that we had there. I thought they did a good job of explaining that food comes from farms and that farmers are proud of the job we are doing. There was also a disconnect there. The part of the display this fellow was pointing to told about all of the healthy food produced for us, but the display also contained some of the most processed of foods that are available. Yes, those foods start out on the farm, but the farmer has nothing to do with the product consumers eat but except for a little raw product.
Our consumers have been demanding, and paying a premium for, easy to eat products. Foods that are quickly moved from package to mouth are flying off of shelves. Many of those products contain only a small amount of food value. They are fried or baked, some further processing is done, and a mere 9 ounces, only a few pennies worth, of that farm product sells for between $1.49 and $3.99 on the shelf. What you have on the shelf is processed to the point that it in no way resembles the farm product it contains, and it will have doubtful amounts of the nutrition it started with. I would have to agree that those foods are not really healthy for us.
The same cannot be said for the only slightly processed foods that are not so quick to make it from package to mouth. Raw meats, fruits, veggies, nuts and grains are not always easy to eat. Some make the trip from farm to mouth with only the smallest of changes, others need a good cooks attention. Surprise, those foods you buy raw or only slightly processed are better for you, and most times cheaper to buy. These are the foods that farmers can be most proud of.
As more and more people come to value the healthy value of food products straight from the farm, we are seeing more and more people buying those fresh, or only slightly processed products. I’m still proud to be a farmer who is producing healthy food for the world, but I am increasingly watching what I eat. I want the real stuff as much as possible. The foods that come with very few detours from the farms, forests and waters that produced them.