Filed under: family, Farm, Fishing, weather, Wildlife | Tags: canoe, farm, fishing, nothing, slow, watch, weather, wilderness
I learned the art of doing nothing before I reached my teens. Long hours in the boat or ice house fishing with my grandfather taught me how to sit for hours lost in thought. To be content when nothing was happening, and not have to be always doing. Besides, fishing with Grandpa was preferable to the jobs my Mom would find for me.
The art of doing nothing was honed by long periods of walking in the fields or woods near our farm. Just being in the outdoors, listening and watching, and doing very little else. A dog as a companion or a bicycle, and later a motorcycle, to take me further afield, helped me continue my solo perambulations. A chance to wander a real wilderness, or better yet canoe one, is the greatest of places to do nothing.
The art of doing nothing was perfected by long hours in the tractor seat. Yes, you need to be aware of the job at hand, you need to see and understand everything that is happening in the job you are doing, but the job is essentially very boring. I mean, you are just sitting there watching the world go by. Your mind can be millions of miles away while still at work in the field.
All of this prepared me for shopping with my wife. I’m not a “shopper,” I’m a buyer. I know what I want, and I go and buy it. To spend long hours searching between stores for a bargain? not going to happen! So I have learned to sit patiently and do nothing. Yes, I see the people who hustle by, the other men waiting for their wives, the children wide eyed in the commercial mecca of our malls, but I essentially do nothing. If possible I prefer to do nothing out doors where I can watch the weather and wild life.
There are times I feel we all need to slow down and watch what is going around about us. Our bodies need slow time, we need to observe, to know, to be. We all need time to “Be still, and know the small voice of God.”
Filed under: blizzard, cars, Christmas, cold, family, Minnesota, snow, travel, weather, wind, winter | Tags: Christmas, cold, Minnesota, snow, weather, wind, winter
The weather services are reminding us of how much snow we had in past years at this time. No snow so far is OK with me. This being Minnesota the snow will come, just as the cold is starting to take hold of the area. Cold does not make it winter for many of us, snow does.
Memories of winter for a Minnesotan always include snow. There are the large snowdrifts that bordered roads and overtopped fences, cars buried beneath snow and slipping down the road in a flurry of blown snow, snowmobiles, skis, and skates, these make winter. Braving raging winds and blowing snow to get to grandma’s house for Christmas are memories that will live forever. When snow does not fall, we talk of how short the winter seems. When driving is not a challenge, we relive the trips that most challenged us, the near accidents and fender-benders because of snow covered roads.
I’ll take these snowless days. I’m hoping for a brown Christmas. The work load is less with no snow. Yes, a white Christmas looks nice, but it sure is a lot of extra work.
Filed under: family, Holidays | Tags: children, grandchildren, Thanksgiving
OK, so I’m biased, I have the cutest grand daughters. None of it my fault. But they really are adorable.
I specialized in putting the girls to sleep, and getting spit up on. I’m getting the hang of this grandparent thing. Love ‘em, hold ‘em, hand them back when they get messy.
We had a really great Thanksgiving. We went to see Allison and Katelyn, and their parents along with other members of the family. The weather was warm enough to take pictures outside. It was a really great day.
Filed under: Biofuels, cars, ethanol, Farm, food, travel | Tags: biofuels, car, cars, diesel, diesel fuel. transportation, farm, Food, machines
To most people the current decline in fuel prices is a relief, but to those who use diesel fuel to move, the news has not been so good. Why should you care?
I admit, I have been relieved to see gasoline prices drop, but I have been perplexed that for quite a few months now the price of diesel fuel has not gone down, indeed it has gone up. When I recently filled my gas tank near Chaska for $3.13 I was quite pleased, since that was down a lot from the $3.27 that I had seen on the pumps when I left home. What did not please me was to realize that diesel prices had again gone up and were now at $4.17. Only a year ago the two fuels were at nearly the same price. That increase in diesel fuel prices verses gasoline prices affects everyone.
There is very little in our life here in the U.S. that is not dependent on the price of diesel fuel. The trucks that bring all of the things we need and want are powered by diesel. Buses and trains, ships and tractors all are dependent on diesel fuel. More than any other fuel source, diesel is the power that moves us. The food you eat, the clothing you wear, the car you drive, the fuel that moves our machinery, all arrive at the store on the power of diesel fuel.
Our nation’s farmers depend on diesel fuel as a powerful, economical, source of power for their machinery. Without diesel fuel there would be no ground preparation, no planting, no fertilizing, no weeding, no harvesting. Food moves from the farm to the store on diesel powered wheels. It is a large part of the price we pay for everything we eat.
For most of my life I have seen diesel fuel as the lower priced, higher powered, source of energy for transportation. It has become the fuel of choice for many in the rest of the world. But unlike gasoline, the demand for diesel fuel is inelastic. The demand for diesel is always there.
Consumers look at the price of gas as too high and they stop traveling, trips are cancelled or consolidated, more efficient cars are purchased and the big, gas guzzling vehicles are mothballed. Diesel fuel use does not change so easily, the trucks that move everything we need must keep going. The buses and trains we use when gas prices are high are filled to the brim, and new routes are put into use.
Then there is the new competition for gasoline, ethanol. Whenever gas prices get too high, gas wholesalers add more ethanol to the mix. The current price of ethanol to gasoline is such that adding a little more ethanol to the mix can increase profits for gasoline sales, diesel fuel has no such lower priced alternative.
Usually when fuel prices go down the price of many of the goods we buy goes down also, but this time I wouldn’t look for decreasing prices at the grocery store. Because of the rising prices at the pump for diesel fuel, I expect the price of many of our goods to continue to go up. That will take an ever increasing amount of money out of the pockets of all of us. Not at all a comforting thought.
Filed under: Farm, fertilizer, science, tillage | Tags: diesel, farm, no-till, strip till, tillage
For many years now I have been cutting back on tillage. My reasons go back to the things I learned way back in the 1970′s when I was in college. In the years of cheap fuel, the reduce tillage mantra was largely ignored. Fuel was cheep and previous practice was easy to continue. Now as fuel prices, especially for diesel fuel, increase, all farmers need to step back and consider if all of that tillage is needed. Below is an article gleaned from Purdue University.
Consider the Costs before Tilling
By Lisa Schluttenhofer, Purdue University
“Full tillage and subsequent soil loss can quickly lead to negative implications for your land’s long-term productivity,” Vyn said.
In the comments on this article was a comment that seemed to equate less tillage with more use of chemicals. I have found the opposite to be true. We are now using fewer chemicals to control weeds than we did before we reduced tillage. Back when fuel and chemicals were cheep we would spray a field just to keep down the weeds. Now with rising fuel prices, and the cost of chemicals that are derived from or use a lot of energy to produce, we are taking a closer look at if we really do need that extra pass. If you want to make a profit when margins are thin, you have to keep all of your costs down.
Filed under: cold, Farm, frost, Ice, Minnesota, rain, snow, tillage, weather, wind, winter | Tags: cold, Corn, farm, freeze, frozen ground, Minnesota, rain, snow, weather
The weather here in Southwestern Minnesota is turning cold. Not like you folks below the Mason-Dixon line call cold, I mean COLD. This morning the thermometer on my car said 16 degrees when I drove into town for the bus route. The radio station was reporting 12 degrees. We’ve only begun. It will get colder.
The wind has really made matters worse. I’m sitting here listening to the wind trying to make its way into the office door as it whistles and whines with the changing wind speed. The wind is being sucked out of the house. For a person who heats with wood, that means more trips to the wood pile.
So far we’ve avoided the snow that has fallen on other regions of the country, regions less known for cold and snow. I usually don’t expect much for snow until December, but we have had piles of snow earlier than this. When it comes in October or November it usually stays and that makes for a long winter. I prefer the years that we are still looking for snow on Christmas.
With the cold we can expect freeze up of lakes rivers and ponds. There have been skins of ice on the pond several times in the last weeks, but total freeze up is not usual until the first week in December. We do have some warmer days forecast for the coming days, so I don’t expect the ice to stay. Nights however are seeming to stay below freezing more often than not from now on.
There has been considerable speculation on if the ground will freeze solid this year. With the Lamberton Experiment station reporting the lowest soil moisture levels since the 1930′s we are dry here. They are finding no significant moisture in the first 20 inches of the soil profile. So the question remains, will the ground freeze.
My bet is, that with no water, the ground cannot freeze. Yes, the soil will get cold, but with no water it cannot freeze solid as it usually does around here. In fact, I’m expecting the loose soil to act like a blanket and protect the sol from freezing for a while. This will have great implications for any moisture that falls this winter.
In years that the snow falls before freeze up the snow will actually slowly melt under the snow all winter long. This allows for snow water to be removed to lower levels of the soil profile and decreases flood chances. In years where wet soil freezes solid before the snow comes, snow melt will actually run off over the surface of the soil. This runoff can come all at once in the spring and increase flood chances in the spring. I have never seen a year like this where we have dry soil at freeze up.
This year farm fields in our area were worked dry. We have large chunks of soil sticking up in the fields. I am expecting the wind and snow to work on these exposed chunks and break them down this winter. The soil will still be rough in the spring, but winter does seem to knock the tops off of any higher areas in the fields.
I am also expecting any snow melt to flow into those broken areas of the field and stay on the field. Even iff the lower areas of the soil profile do freeze, the dry upper areas will act like a sponge and soak up the first snow melt that we get. That, of coarse, is if we get snow.
We are still in a drought here. A very uncommon event for Minnesota. In my lifetime I do not remember such a long dry period. If the drought continues, we could go through this winter with little if any snow.
In our area it is not uncommon to have only a little precipitation for most of the winter. Most of our snow tends to fall at the beginning and the end of winter. Yes, some years it does seem to snow every day, but I’m remembering those many years where area snowmobilers had to trailer their sleds to find snow. Years of low snowfall amounts are more prevalent in my mind than those with heavy snow all winter.
So, winter is coming. We know we’ll have cold, but how much snow and how much water will we get this winter. Only time will tell.
Filed under: Farm, fertilizer, harvest, Minnesota, planting, science, tillage, weather | Tags: farm, harvest, machines, Minnesota, Planting, rain, tillage, weather, Weed control
In my opinion some farmers spend too much time working their soil, and it shows.
With this early harvest and dry weather I’ve been seeing many of my neighbors out doing extra tillage. My word to them is DON”T DO IT. Autumn in Minnesota can be chancy,we can get late harvests with minimal time to till the ground after harvest, and we can have plenty of extra days like this year. When there is extra time some farm folks seem to think they need to work their fields again, and again, and again. Over working is not good for your soil, even when it is dry.
The hard chunks in the field will go away. All we need is some rain and the normal freeze thaw cycle we get so much of here. Why spend the extra time, fuel and machinery wear when you can let nature do the work for you. Every trip across the field buries and breaks up more of the plant material that is left on the surface. Plant material that is needed to protect our soil from wind and rain. Plant material that both helps to hold moisture in the ground during dry years and aids in water infiltration in wet years.
Although I have not abandoned tillage completely, I have cut back on how much tillage I do compared to what I used to do. Tillage is cut back to the minimum needed to get fertilizer and manure into the soil in the fall, and the seed bed smoothed out in the spring. Costs in machinery and fuel use have been reduced to minimal levels needed to grow the crop and keep the weeds down. The payoff has been in better soil condition and less erosion. Crop yields have not suffered, weed control is easier, it’s a win, win condition.
A few years ago I talked to a neighbor who installs field drainage. He commented that he could see we had switched to less tillage. He could see by the way our ground looked down below the normal tillage area that our soil was doing better. There was less compaction and more and deeper root growth than in fields that were still being tilled “conventionally.” In other words, our soil was healthier.
Even back in the 70′s when I was in college, we were talking about the need for less tillage to reduce erosion and improve soil health. The problem is that it is hard to change your ways when what you are doing seems to be working. Those that switch to the lower impact methods rarely switch back if they give it a real try. It can take many years to see the impact of less tillage. This is not a change your tillage today and see the results tomorrow kind of thing.
It has taken me a while to get to where I am today, but I would not go back. The reduction in wear and tear on the machinery, the reduction of fuel needs and the better soil health have made me a believer. No more recreational tillage for me.
Filed under: cold, Corn Stove, Trees, weather, winter, wood heat | Tags: burning wood, farm, fireplace, heating with wood, wood, wood burning stove, wood heat, wood stove
“Every man looks at his wood pile with a kind of affection.” Henry David Thoreau
I’ve been heating with wood now for over 30 years. Every fall I look at the wood pile and hope it is enough to get me though the winter. This year there is no doubt. I’ve got enough wood to get through this winter and into the next.
When I first moved to this house we had a cast iron stove sitting in the living room, and a sheet metal stove in the basement. Although I had a gas furnace, I planned on it only running when I was not home. Through the years the basement stove has been replaced with a corn stove, and the living room wood stove with a gas one, but I still heat with wood.
Three years ago I bought a Central Boiler wood furnace. This wood burner sits outside so it keeps all the mess of wood burning outside. The Central Boiler heats water and then pumps the heated water into the house. This hot water first goes to the water heater where it leaves some nice hot water for us, then it goes to a radiator in the furnace plenum. When the furnace fan kicks in we get hot air right away, no waiting for the furnace fire to kick in. Before the hot water goes back to the boiler it makes a trip to my shop where it helps keep that building warm.
Over the years I’ve learned a few things that may help you with your burning questions as you contemplate heating with wood.
- A fireplace is nice, but to get the most heat you need an enclosed stove.
- Burn dry wood, it is less of a fire hazard for your chimney.
- Clean your chimney. No matter how hard you try you cannot avoid a chimney fire, cleaning it properly keeps chimney fires from happening so often.
- Burn your fire hot, then let it go out. A slow smokey fire adds creosote to your chimney, a hot fast fire helps keep that chimney clean.
- Air dry your wood for at least 6 months before burning, longer if possible.
- Wood stored inside molds, wood stored outside dries even in rainy weather. Having a roof over your wood is nice, but walls are bad for drying wood.
- Keep you wood off of the ground. I like to store my wood on old pallets. This allows air to get under the wood. It also discourages rot where wood touches earth.
- Rotate your wood pile. Burn the oldest wood first. It helps keep insect populations at bay, and keeps rodent nests cleaned out.
- All woods do not produce the same amount of heat. Ash, oak, hard maple, beech, birch, hickory, pecan and dogwood produce the most heat.
- Some woods are not good for your chimney. Pine and fir cause more creosote build up and chimney fries than other woods.
- Some fires smell better. There is nothing like the smell of a hickory or apple fire, most fruit and nut woods smell nice when burned outside in your fire pit.
- Some wood stinks when burned. A cottonwood fire is truly vile.
- If you cut wood, you need to plant trees.
Wood heats a man twice. Once when he cuts it and again when it is burned. Enjoy your wood fires.
Filed under: cold, Fall, Farm, frost, Minnesota, pond, seasons, Trees | Tags: autumn, falling leaves, farm, frost, leaves, Minnesota, pond, trees, wind
With all of the cold we’ve had lately most trees have been shedding their leaves quite quickly. The lack of rain has meant that the leaves have remained dry and light in weight. Some trees, like the catalpa shed their leaves mostly in one day, its large leaves dropping like rain as the frost went out one morning. Many leaves in our area blew off in the wind and made piles in sheltered areas, or blew into the water. A few leaves are still hanging in there. Here’s a few pictures for you.
Only a few leaves remain on this maple. The leaves have been turning from red and gold to brown as they wave goodbye to fall.
While most of the leaves are gone from our trees, this maple has hung on to its leaves. Oak also are waiting to shed their summer glory as their now brown leaves cling to the branches. Locust have compound leaves, and so may shed a leaflet or two before the whole leaf drops.
The pond has been a leaf magnet. Leaves hit the water and stop. I have scooped wheel barrows of leaves out and still the water is brown with leaves. It’s a wonder that the fish can swim in it sometimes. The leaves dam up our little creek and cause the water to run places I do not want it to go.
As the temperatures cool we will lose more of the leaves, a little at a time, as each leaf lets go of its summer hang out and drifts to the ground. It has really been a colorful autumn here in Southwestern Minnesota. Perhaps one of the most colorful I have ever seen. Just 44 more days to winter.