Filed under: Ice, Trees, winter, wood heat | Tags: Bobcat, Bobcat 3400, chain saws, chainsaw, farm, ice, Stihl, Stihl chainsaw, trees, winter, wood, wood heat, wood pile
My wood pile had gotten kind of small with all of the cold weather we had this year so a strong wood cutting season is in order. To do this you need tools. Chain saws, wood splitting equipment and some way to get the wood from point A to point B.
I have three chain saws. This Stihl professional duty is my biggest, I also have a smaller one for cutting smaller limbs and a pole saw to reach up and get some of those branches that broke off but have not yet let go of the tree. Then I have the Bobcat 3400 to either carry or drag branches to where they need to go.
I really have only gotten a start on the job of clearing broken branches, the weather has not been very good for outdoor work. So I work on the ones that are in the way now and go back to the others later.
When the log is too big, I need a variety of splitting malls, hammers and wedges to break those logs down. Yes, I do have a motor powered hydraulic wood splitter, but that means I have to have a large pile of big logs to split. If there are only a few, I start swinging. It’s good exercise.
Since my main source of heat is fallen branches and dead trees, I always have a bit of work to do each year. The wood needs to dry in the pile at least six months before I use it, so what I am cutting now is for later in the winter. It sure is better than just piling them and burning them for no purpose.
Filed under: blizzard, cold, house, Ice, Minnesota, rain, snow, travel, weather, wind, winter | Tags: cold, Minnesota, rain, rivers and lakes, school bus, snow, south windows, southwestern minnesota, travel, weather, wind, winter
The weatherman was predicting blizzard-like conditions for Southwestern Minnesota this morning, but again the predicted moisture did not come. Our “snow” came mostly as rain, and fell not in the middle of the night, but just as the sun was starting to rise. Overnight winds waited until after the rain to change from south to north and we have ice all over again, including quite a bit of ice on our south windows. Morning temperatures were near freezing, but dropped quickly when the winds switched.
Last week we had an unusual occurrence for us, it rained over an inch in one day! It has indeed been a long time since that much rain fell in a 24 hour period. Since the rains fell on frozen ground, we will not get much good out of it. The rain melted a lot of the snow we had left and quickly ran down into the low spots. This meant a quick rise to our rivers and lakes. Most bodies of water now have open water on the edges, or in the case of rivers, could be ice free. Now we are going to have a few days of cold and wind.
This mornings driving was also tricky with ice on most roads. I had to follow a snow plow/sander as I left town on my bus route which made me late for a few of my stops, but I was able to make it up on the gravel roads. Paved roads were ice covered despite the attempts of county and state to remove the ice.
Now as the wind howls, the sun has come out. If you can find a place out of the wind it isn’t too bad out. I however have a few inside chores to do and will stay in the warm until I have to go.
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: Minnesota, pond, snow, Trees, winter | Tags: fluffy snow, leaden skies, Minnesota, nature, pond, snow, trees, weather, winter
Our area of Minnesota is not exactly know for light and fluffy snow. Usually when we get snow it comes with wind. The snow we had on the ground was looking a bit old and dirty, and was mostly ice. Then, overnight, we had 4 inches fall in near perfect calm. Before it could blow away I took these pictures. Enjoy! Leaden skies and snow so white it looks blue were what I saw on my morning walk around the yard. Pine and cedar are both holding loads of snow. This birch trunk even caught some snow. A confluence of hackberry branches is covered in this picture Any horizontal surface holds snow until the wind blows it away. A few leaves on this lilac bush still hang on and hold snow. The pond has only a small hole open in the ice, the rest is covered with snow. Even the smallest of branches can catch snow.
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, 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, Farm, Minnesota, rain, snow, tillage, weather, winter | Tags: cold, drought, fall tillage, farm, Minnesota, rain, snow, soil moisture levels, weather, winter
The winter of 2011/2012 went down in history as one of the driest we have experienced. The school calendar was not interrupted once by a snow storm. A year ago we had no snow on the ground and much above normal temperatures. Even two weeks ago we were experiencing some unusually warm temperatures.
As of today we have had several inches of snow fall with more on the way. I bought a new walk behind snow blower and have used it twice. We’ve had a school day that was delayed two hours because of snow and a Sunday afternoon/evening when we were glad we had nowhere to go because of the blowing snow outside. There have been several mornings where the thermometer has read below zero in the morning, and days where the high was in single digits. This is looking a bit more like the Minnesota winters I remember. Yet can we say that the drought has ended in our area.
I remember the 2011 crop year as being dry. The 2012 crop year started out wet, and yet we were really hurting for soil moisture when the 2012 crop year ended. Soil moisture levels are really low now. It is going to take a lot of moisture to get the soil water levels back up. Perhaps we can start that with some snow.
The problem with snow for soil recharge is that there really is not a lot of moisture in snow. An inch of snow yields a tenth of an inch or less of moisture. Also, snow falls on frozen ground. Winter snow fall is more likely to run off than to stay put in the soil it falls on. Leaving the ground rough after fall tillage can help to hold some of the moisture in small pockets, but still very little snow water stays where it falls. We are going to need some spring rains and timely summer showers to break the drought.
So a few snow flakes do not signal the end of the drought, but it is a hopeful sign.
Filed under: fish, pond, water garden, winter | Tags: cold, ice, Koi, Minnesota, pond, snow, water plants, weather, winter
It’s December in Minnesota, my pond has had several days where it has iced over, but I have pushed my luck far enough, It’s time to winterize the pond. My floating plants died out with the first freezing day and they have long ago made their way to the compost pile. Now it’s time to turn off the water circulation pump and take it out.
The air pump has two long hoses to get air down into the pond, a pair of metal nuts are needed to keep the hose down in the water. I have a cover for the pump made from an old plastic juice bottle so that snow and rain is kept off of it.
Now I can be sure that fresh oxygen is getting to the fish when the pond is iced over. The koi hang out around the heater appreciating the extra warmth.Here’s where I hang the pump. I have a screw to hold it all on the board beside the electrical outlet. The pond is now ready for winter.I’ll set some of the flower pots in deeper water so the ice will not damage them and the pond is ready for winter. There are no flowers in bloom, but the koi keep a bit of color as the ponds settles in for winter.