Filed under: Corn, Farm, GMO, Minnesota, planting, rain, seasons, snow, Soybeans, spring, tillage, time, Trees, weather, winter | Tags: climate, Corn, farm, Minnesota, Planting, rain, snow, Soybeans, spring, summer, weather
Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist, reports that 55.82% of the country still in drought. “But we’ve knocked out the eastern Corn Belt.” While the country at large had some pretty good rains from November through January, we haven’t had much relief until this week in the Midwest, he says. Weather is personal, you may feel fine that your area is now out of the drought, or very concerned if you are still in a severe to extreme drought area like I am here in Southwestern Minnesota. The next few months are going to be critical for our area crops.
We’ve had very little snow in our area this winter, and what we have had has been a dry type of snow. Snow falling on frozen ground does little to recharge the subsoil moisture, and that is where we need water. Without gentle long term rains, we will have our crops come up and then die.
Last fall we did some digging in the fields. This digging left me concerned for the 2013 crop. There is so little water in the top 4 feet of the soil profile that I wonder how roots will get down to the little bit that is below 4 feet. Compound that with the needed tillage to get our crops started, tillage that will dry out those top few inches, and we could be in real trouble.
Our area of Minnesota usually needs drainage tile to dry it out so that we can actually get tillage done. Depending if your soil is more clay, sand or rock, you will have more or less water in it. Organic matter, sometimes called loam, from old roots and buried plant stalks also plays a part in the water holding ability of soil. Our soil varies from heavy and wet clay loam to almost pure sand. Sandy ground takes near continuous rain since water runs right through it, while clay soils tend to hold water tighter. In our area even the clay soils are dry.
Even deep rooted perennial crops like alfalfa and our younger trees are showing the stress. Our late season alfalfa last year was a disaster, and I have several evergreen trees that are dropping their needles. These are not good signs for an available water source.
The only bright spot in the planting season is the advent of more drought resistant varieties. Choice of drought tolerant varieties of field crops along with genetic modifications that help to control root pruning insects and encourage root growth may just give our corn and soybeans a chance to get down to that deep water. This is going to be a real test. I know that we now plant corn and soybean varieties that are so much better than when I started farming, but I still worry.
So now we wait and see. A third year of dry weather would be very unusual, but the whole climate seems to be changing. We have been moving away from long gentle rains to rapid downpours. Rapid rains do not stay on the land, long gentle ones do. If these dry conditions persist we may have to rethink the crops we grow in this area. Time will tell.
Filed under: blizzard, cold, Farm, Minnesota, snow, travel, weather, weather wisdom, wind, winter | Tags: clothing, cold, farm, Minnesota, nature, safety, travel, weather, wind, wind chills, winter, winter clothing
The winds are a howling in our grove and the little bit of snow they can find is making life difficult. With wind speeds of 30 to 40 mph and temperatures near zero, we now have wind chill ratings of 20 below with sunrise wind chills near 30 below. This is not a night to be stranded out in the open.
We live on U.S. highway 71, so usually we can count on some relatively easy driving conditions. The plows gets out and opens these main roads early. Tonight the highway patrol has closed 71 from Windom to Willmar. Local police have even stopped in at high school basketball games to tell folks about the danger of being out tonight. This is serious.
Unfortunately I am prone to thinking I am an exception. After all I’m a Minnesota farm boy, we’ve had to be out doing chores in stuff like this most of my life. Now I’ve seen people who will brave winter in shorts and a tee shirt, I’m here to tell you that I am not one of those people. I know how to dress for the weather. If the wind blows you need protection.As I age the weather seems to affect me more and more. Oh yeah, a quick trip out to the mail box or the wood pile may see me with just shoes and a hooded coat but long pants are always part of the winter gear, when the winter wind blows you need layers! Insulated boots and heavy socks for the feet are mandatory, maybe even two pairs of socks. I have several pair of felt lined jeans that can go under insulated bib coveralls for the lower body. A cotton tee with a heavy flannel shirt goes under a heavy hooded coat to cover the upper body. I usually make do with a baseball cap, but when the wind really blows I have a head band I put over my ears to keep the cap on. If it’s really cold the cap is replaced by a stocking cap to keep the head warm, that’s all under that hood. Don’t forget the heavy gloves or mittens with a pair of cotton gloves underneath for the colder weather. If you want to survive a Minnesota blizzard even this may not be enough, but at least you will stay warm if you can find a place to get out of the wind once in a while.
So when the wind blows like today, I’d advise you not to be out in Minnesota. Some of us have to work here, and we’ll dress for the weather, but even we will not be far from shelter for long.
Filed under: cold, Ice, Minnesota, rain, School bus, snow, travel, weather, Wildlife, winter | Tags: cold, deer, Minnesota, nature, rain, school bus, snow, travel, weather, wildlife deer, winter
My early morning bus route yielded another close encounter of the deer kind, both deer and bus are OK.
My bus route follows the Des Moines river out of town and crosses the river twice, and several of it’s creek and marsh areas also. As I wend my way from house to house in the early morning darkness I’m always on the lookout for wildlife. Deer can be found anywhere along the route, but are most common in just a few areas. The warming weather has moved deer out of the protecting trees to forage in the fields. During the coldest weather I would see few if any deer, now it is not unusual to see 50 to 75 in a morning. Mostly they are back in the fields and grasslands, but sometimes they choose to cross the road right in front of the bus.
The rain of two weeks ago had left the roads covered in ice. The county and state maintained roads had been cleared after just a few hours, but the gravel township roads have been ice covered for too long. Coming to a stop at a stop sign has been hazardous, and sometimes starting again after stopping is difficult. Any kind of an incline can keep you from moving forward. Yesterdays warm temperatures and south wind finally removed most of the ice from the gravel and I’m hoping the forecast warm temperatures will finish the job this week.
We have more snow forecast for the weekend. It’s not that I want snow, but we are so short of moisture in the fields that I will take anything. The local weather people say we have had 12 inches of snow so far this winter, but that translates into very little water. Several of our snows this year have looked very promising, but when melted down they have yielded little or no water.
Despite several very cold days we’ve had a good Minnesota winter. Travel has mostly been easy and schools have only had a few late starts and no cancellations. Here’s hoping for a bit more moisture before planting, and could it please be in rain, not ice or snow.
Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, Corn, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety, genetic modification, GMO, organic, science, weather | Tags: Agriculture education, consumer fears, Corn, emotional subject, farm, farmers and ranchers, Food, food safety, hormone estrogen, nature, organic producer, safety, science, weather
Everyone wants to believe that their opinion is right. Sometimes we don’t know why, but we are right. Sometimes we jump on an emotional bandwagon and never look back pledging everything we have to the emotional belief.
My kids say that I seem to be able to talk on any subject as if I’m always right. They in their span have also developed the ability to speak as if their opinion is the right one, I got it from my ancestors and so did they. I have yet to see any of us argue a point on emotion only. We are all prone to reading and study. We know our subject, and some of us know a lot of different subjects.
Our food can be a very emotional subject. For some the thought that there could be hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or GMO’s in their food is an emotional no. Since I work in the food industry I see things a bit differently. I see the efforts of farmers and ranchers, haulers, processors and groceries to put the best product out for the consumer to eat. We are all in this together.
Once in a while I will see a grocery put up a sign that I know is indefensible in trying to calm consumer fears that they cannot defend. Sometimes labels are to promote a food as a premium product. Here are a few.
This label is completely indefensible. Without hormones, there is no life. When placed on beef this should be worded “Grown with no added hormones.” Folks get concerned about the possibility of the hormone estrogen in their beef, but never check to see the level of hormones. Your lettuce has many times the level of estrogen in it than beef raise with hormone implants.
I’ve seen this label placed on many different products. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. The true organic producer has to go through a three year certification process. They are subject to random check and a grueling documentation process. Make one mistake and you are out for three years. There is no one that can prove without a doubt that organic is better for you. This is an emotional label. If you want to pay more for organic, great. My organic farmer friends need the money since they spend many extra hours and lots more money to produce organic foods. It is best to buy certified organic in your store, or even better, only buy from a certified organic producer. Any other produce is suspect. There are times that the organic label has been put on foods that are not organic to satisfy demand.
Produce that is grown without the use of pesticides may or may not be better for you. Many fruits and veggies can be grown without pesticides naturally. They are usually thick skinned or naturally pest resistant. Those plants that are grown with the use of pesticides are checked by inspectors to be sure they do not contain more than the allowed limit of pesticides. It is in the best interest of the grower to produce your fruits and veggies without pesticides and they use them only when needed. The extra cost cuts into their already slim profit margin.
No livestock producer wants to see their animals sick. Just as you protect your children they also seek to protect their animals. If an animal needs a shot or a bit of cough medicine they get it. Many farmers try to produce antibiotic free meat since it brings a premium from the consumer. At times whole herds of animals can be removed from an antibiotic free process when a sickness breaks out. This is a financial loss to the producer, but they will do it to get the premium label that some demand.
All medication has a withdrawal period, a time that it cannot be used before slaughter. Farmers and processors are monitored to be sure that they follow withdrawal guidelines. If antibiotics show up in the meat, it cannot be eaten.
Grass fed, free range, cages (So many sub subjects here.)
University studies show that if there is a bias on grass fed beef, it is in favor of conventionally fed. The HDL/LDL levels in beef that are conventionally fed seems be better than grass fed. An animal raised conventionally also grows faster since it does not have to go so far in search of food.
Corn is a grass. Saying that because you feed corn to an animal you are doing something unnatural is bogus.
Living out doors is better. Living out doors exposes food animals to predators and disease as well as some really nasty weather. Being in and enclosed area also allows the farmer or rancher to watch for and treat disease or injury. Just as you would not like to live in a tent or cave, food animals prefer barns.
Injury as animals compete for food is one of the biggest problems faced in raising livestock. Independent studies have found that when pigs are allowed the choice of free range or stall housing they will choose stalls 90% of the time, they feel safer in the stall.
There are diseases and parasites that live in the soil that can infect animals raised outside.
This label is the most troubling for me. There are so many genetic modifications that have been made to our food plants and animals and some people try to lump them all into the same basket. Just because a food product has been modified to grow faster, use less water, use less fertilizer or resist pests does not mean it is dangerous. One of the staunchest critics of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), environmentalist Mark Lynas, recently said he had been mistaken and that the threat of GMOs had been exaggerated by him and others for years. Every piece of evidence I have seen that says GMO’s are bad for you has had hundreds of pieces of evidence brought forth to show how wrong they were.
I know that many feel in their gut that I am wrong, but when the science is so overwhelming, I know I’m right.
Filed under: cold, Fishing, house, Ice, Minnesota, snow, travel, weather | Tags: cold, cold minnesota winter, ice, icicle, icicles, icy roads, Minnesota, nature, rain, snow, transportation, travel, trees, weather, winter
I used to like ice. Going fishing on the ice with my grandfather, running and seeing how far you could slide on the ice, anything that was fun in winter was made more fun by ice. Now I’m older and ice doesn’t hold as much fun in it. I think of falling and getting hurt on the ice, of cars sliding on the ice, or braking through the ice, not fun activities in the cold Minnesota winter.
Some roads have gotten really bad this winter. We had some snow and rain, and now some really cold weather that turned un cleared roads and parking lots to polished ice. I’ve had several times where the rear of my vehicle tried to pass the front on ice in the last week. Especially bad are gravel roads, which are not a high priority for townships and counties to clear, but some city streets are bad also. Just think of coming down hill to a stop sign and putting on the brakes, only to have the vehicle start to slide almost onto the crossing road. Once you stop you now have to get moving, usually up hill, on that ice. Here’s my least favorite road of the week.
I do like icicles. I find it amazing how they can form even in very cold temperatures when a bit of sun comes out.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, Farm Bureau, Minnesota, rain, snow, Soybeans, travel, weather, winter | Tags: Agriculture education, climate, Corn, drought, farm, Farm Bureau, Minnesota, Nashville, rain, snow, Soybeans, travel, weather, winter
The 2013 American Farm Bureau meeting in Nashville allowed me to make a drive across the corn belt from my home in southwestern Minnesota. Of interest to me, as to most farmers were the conditions along the way, specifically water conditions.
In our area we are still in the grips of a drought. We have had very little moisture since June of 2012. Although our surface soil has some moisture, our subsoil is dry. This is really evident in our rivers, creeks and lakes. The Des Moines River, which is only a few miles from my home, is a mere trickle in its bed, creeks are mostly dry and lake levels are low. It was these items that I looked for as I drove to and from Nashville.
When we left home on January 10 the conditions were looking up. We have had several inches of snow, dry snow, but snow, over the last few months, and there was rain in the air. The hoped for rain only amounted to 4 hundredths of an inch, not enough to make a difference and snow has also been absent this month. As we drove south across Iowa, the story was the same. Little snow, low lakes and rivers.
Conditions improved a bit as we crossed the northeastern corner of Missouri. There was evidence of a bit of rain, and the rivers seemed to be running a bit better than further north. As we moved southeast the evidence of rain increased and there were even some places in Kentucky and Tennessee where water was standing in the fields. Rivers in these areas were running bank full, a fact which bodes well for the early part of the cropping season for them. It has also helped out barge traffic on the lower part of the Mississippi.
We arrived in Nashville to some really nice weather, temperatures in the 60′s and 70′s and sunshine. After those first two days the weather changed. Our last days in Nashville were cold and rainy. Mornings were icy, and temperatures rarely got over the mid 30′s, not good sight-seeing weather. During our stay they received about six inches of rain.
The entire Ohio river valley has been getting a good soaking this winter, but folks further north are not quite so fortunate. I would say that unless conditions change soon Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas are in for another dry year. This will not be good news for those who want to buy corn and soybeans in the coming months.
End users of the crops raised in the corn belt need rain to reduce the price of corn and soybeans. We are bleeding demand with each month that the prices stay high. The coming months are going to be very interesting for all of us in the midwest and plains states.
Filed under: cold, Farm, house, Minnesota, weather, winter, wood heat | Tags: below zero, cold, cold north wind, daytime temperatures, Minnesota, minnesota cold, weather, wind chill, winter, wood burner, wood heat
I’ve made a couple of trips out into the Minnesota cold this morning to feed the critters and the wood stove, and believe me I’m looking for an excuse to stay inside all day. This is the kind of cold I remember from my younger days. With daytime temperatures forecast to stay below zero for the first time since January of 2009, we just do not remember this kind of cold so well. Then there is that cold north wind blowing down from the arctic to bite through our clothing, it feels like about 30 below. Yep, I think I’ll do some book work. There must be a few other jobs I’ve been putting off for a cold day, time to do them.
OK, so this is a picture of my wood burner from a warmer day, but the woodpile is still looking good. We’re keeping the house warm on the dead trees and broken branches of years past. Still, I must go outside to warm up the inside of our house, and that is a chilly trip today.
Filed under: cold, Minnesota, snow, weather | Tags: children, cold, Minnesota, snow, snowman, winter
My daughter has been home for the past few weeks during a break in her college classes. One of the things she wanted to do while she was home was to make a snow man so the children she used to teach in Hawaii could see how it was done. The snow unfortunately was not cooperating. We did not have any snowman type snow.
For those not from Minnesota or other northern climates would assume that if you have snow, you can make a snowman, nothing could be further from the truth. Our snow here has been too cold to make a snowman.
All of our snow this year has fallen on very cold days. The snowflakes have been large and dry. They do not stick together. You need wet sticky snow to make that snowman. Luckily there have been a few warmer days and she did mange to find a bit of warmer snow. Mission accomplished, we have a snowman!
We have about six inches of snow on the ground yet and until we get some melting days it will remain the dry type of snow. Where the sun can find a spot out of the wind we are getting a bit of melting, but most of our snow is still likely to move if the wind blows. The forecast is for some of that wet snow this weekend, and then we’ll get cold again. We’ll see how long our snowman lasts.
Filed under: cold, Farm, Minnesota, rain, seasons, time, Trees, weather | Tags: cold, colorado blue spruce, drought, drought stress, farm, Minnesota, nature, plants, rain, snow, trees, weather, winter
The drought toll talk in farm country has mostly centered on food and feed crops, but another effect of the drought is starting to show up, it’s the trees.
The spruce tree above is showing the stress of last summers drought. Needles are falling and the branches are getting bare. This is not how you expect a blue spruce to look in the winter.
This is more like what spruce branches should look like. This tree went into the winter with a bit more moisture underneath and should survive the winter. The needles are the healthy blue-green you would expect from a Colorado Blue spruce. The snows of a winter in southern Minnesota have slowed it down but not stopped it, and that is the problem, these trees are still trying to take up moisture from the frozen ground. When we get a warm winter day they try to grow a bit more. If they went into the winter under moisture stress they will not survive. These trees were planted together 30 years ago as 6 inch long seedlings. It will be a shame to lose any of them but it is obvious that not all of them went into winter with the same amount of water under them. Other evergreen trees are also showing stress, this is a red cedar that is in decline due to drought stress. Evergreens are the most likely to die when they go into the winter dry. Deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the fall do not suffer so much in the winter, but they also can go into winter looking a bit poor and not survive. Winter is hard on trees, and doubly hard when it is dry.
If you have evergreens you really cherish, I hope you watered them well last fall or you may lose them. You may still be able to save them by getting water into their roots early next spring. It is possible the damage may already have been done, only time will tell.
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, rain, weather, weather wisdom | Tags: climate, farm, Minnesota, nature, New Years, onion forecast, onions, rain, rain forecast, weather
Four local folks placed their six halved and hollowed out onions in the basement New Years Eve to forecast the next years rainfall. After a teaspoon of salt is placed in each half, the onions are placed in two rows in either a cooler or in the basement. You need to have them in a cool place. The amount of water in each tells how much water each month will have. Although this is not an exact science, it has proven to be a good long-term look at our rainfall events.
So what is the forecast for 2013? Each onion half is labeled as having no water, a small amount, a medium amount, a lot of water, or running over.
April, very small to dry
August, very small
September, very small
October, small to dry
November, very small
Onions may forecast a different amount of water where you live, but for these four folks in my area, if looks as if we will be on the short side of the years rain showers. It’s not exact, but it is an idea.