Minnesota Farmer

Good-Bye Old Friend
September 30, 2014, 8:45 am
Filed under: machines, School bus | Tags: , , ,


Today I will say good-bye to an old friend.  Bus 11, now bus 1, will be leaving the fleet today.

The bus is a 1996 AMTRAN Genesis 66 passenger, short of wheel base and quick to turn, a bit under powered and COLD in the winter, but still a good old bus.

We’ve been through a lot together.  There have been repairs both major and minor.  Lots of children have ridden lots of miles on that bus, over 300,000 miles of country roads.

I had been assigned a newer bus for the start of the season, but the computer went out on that bus during route friday morning.  The replacement bus I was to drive had a wheel alignment problem and was unsafe to drive since the front end bounced so much.  So they dug into the “ready to head down the road” list, and I got my old 11 back.

My foot still knows just where to go to hold the speed at 50 mph.  The seat belt still wants to hold me a little too tight so I cannot reach some of the controls.  The interior lights still turn off by themselves after about 5 minutes. I knew just how much to press the foot feed to keep from sliding around snow-covered corners, since I had over done it so many times.  I know everything that she can do.  I have joked many a time about fixing this bus with a stick of dynamite, but I never meant it.  So despite her problems, I’ll miss the old girl.

Bus 11, like several other buses in the fleet, was not inspected this past week and thus cannot legally haul school children after the end of the month.  The safety inspection makes sure that at least once a year school buses are fit to drive.

I’ve had several other buses through out my years of driving, ‘The Duce,”  bus 20, and a host of replacement and out-of-town trip buses, but old 11 was special.  I got to know her better than any other bus I ever drove.

So good-bye old friend.  I have no idea where you will go from here, but you left me lots of memories.  Now it’s off to make new memories with another of your kin.


Farm safety

For several years now I have been teaching farm safety at the Southwest Outreach Center of the University of Minnesota in Lamberton’s fourth grade field day.  This activity is part of the work I do as a volunteer for the Farm Bureau.

682 fourth graders from 15 area elementary schools attended the Elementary Field Day that these safety messages were presented at on Wednesday, September 17 and Thursday, September 18, 2014. Students also participated in activities on healthy soils, composting, electrical safety, plants, and climate change.  

10676386_635581586557654_8744859319046042390_nIn this demonstration I got to talk to the kids about the importance of shields to keep you from getting drug into spinning shafts, pulley, gears, chains and belts.  I tell the story of how I had my fingers go between a belt and pulley.


We also talked about safety around augers.  I tell the story of a man who lost his arm in an auger accident.


 The most dramatic demo has to be the power take-off (PTO) demonstration.  In this demo we get a tyvek suit filled with paper wrapped in the PTO shaft between a tractor and a baler.  I tell the story of a friend I lost to a PTO accident, and if I do it right the crowd is quiet before and after the demo.

Late on Thursday I had a young lady ask me why I told such horrible stories.  To me the answer is obvious.  I want to keep these kids safe.  If I can keep just one of this group alive, all of my time was well spent.

Area schools participating included: Windom, Red Rock Central, Westbrook-Walnut Grove, St. Mary’s (Tracy), Reed Gray (Redwood Falls), Mt. Lake, St. Paul’s (New Ulm), Washington Elementary (New Ulm), Lakeview, Samuel Lutheran (Marshall), Wabasso, St. Anne’s (Wabasso), Tracy, Southwest Star Concept, and Springfield.

If you would like to see more pictures of the field day check out the facebook page for the Southwest Research & Outreach Center.

Summer’s end
September 22, 2014, 11:58 am
Filed under: Corn, Fall, Farm, frost, harvest, seasons, Soybeans, weather | Tags: , , , , ,

Today is the first day of autumn, and area fields and trees are starting to look like it.  A bit over a week ago we had some frost, hard in some places and light in others.  Since then every plant seems to be preparing for winter.100_3040Most area corn fields are showing their preparation.  Those corn fields that got little or no frost have green stalks with the husks of the ear turning brown.  We’ll be watching for the ears to tip down soon as they dry further.  Harvest is still some time off for corn unless you are cutting it for silage.  Silage choppers have already started looking for corn that is ready, and some are in full harvest mode.

100_3041Those soybean fields that avoided the frost are rapidly maturing.  This field is at least two weeks from harvest, but I have seen some in the area that I expect to see harvested later this week.  It looks as if harvest will be a bit later this year than the last few, but not that late.  Only about 10 weeks until freeze up, so there is a lot to do and little time to get it done.

Frosted and then some
September 14, 2014, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Ag education, cold, Corn, Fall, Farm, frost, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather | Tags: , , , , , , ,

So Saturday morning I awoke to frost on the grass and roof, not a big deal, the thermometer said 33.5 degrees.  All of our crops should be alright.100_3031But as I drove in the early morning light I could smell that all was not right.  It seems that some fields got temperatures down well below freezing in our area for several hours.  It was not a pretty sight this afternoon in some area fields.100_3032

Low areas of fields were at least nipped if not frozen.  It takes more than a bit of frost to do the damage you see in this bean field.  The leaves are all gone.  I’m not sure how much of a crop will be gotten out of this.


Even some area corn fields are showing frozen leaves.  Thankfully this is only in low spots, but it is significant damage none the less.  Neither of these crops were ready for a frost.  We can expect a yield reduction.  Only time will tell how much and who will bear the brunt of this early frost.

September chill
September 12, 2014, 8:08 am
Filed under: cold, Corn, Farm, frost, Minnesota, rain, Soybeans, weather | Tags: , , , , , ,

So, yesterday I saw something that shows the weather change we are going through.  Within a mile of each other I saw one person mowing lawn in a tank top and shorts (female, push mower) and another wearing a hooded coat and gloves (male, riding mower).

The weather has turned brisk here in south-western Minnesota.  Morning temps have been in the 40’s and daytime highs in the 50’s.  Tomorrow morning’s low is forecast as 34 degrees.  That is quite a change both from summers temperatures, and normal mid September weather.  Yesterday brought snow to Montana, Colorado and the western Dakota’s.  This is early for this cold.  We need more warm!

Our corn is just about ready for a frost, and most of our soybeans need another week or two of frost-free weather.  Still, a nip of frost is not out of the question.  We are at a historical time to get our first frost, but this year it would not be the best thing for our farm crops.

Weather has remained wet, but we missed the last thunder storms that went through the area.  We can do without any more rain for now.  Our current alfalfa hay cutting may be a loss.  There is no drying weather in the forecast, and it is rotting there waiting for sunshine.  No sunshine today.  Oh well, we’ll just have to live with what we get.

Monarchs gather
September 4, 2014, 9:59 am
Filed under: Farm, Wildlife | Tags: , , , ,

It’s a rare event to see a gathering of Monarch Butterflies.  Even more rare out here on the prairie where life is so precarious for them.


The weather conditions must be just right, and you need to be in the right place to see them.  It’s so rare that I have only seen it once before in my 60 plus years.  In other areas you may see millions of butterflies, I’m content to see just a few dozen.  These butterflies were hiding out on the north side of the grove with a stiff south wind knocking them down.  There must have been other insects there because the barn swallows were also swarming the area picking up a meal.


Getting them to sit still for a photo is also difficult.  Still, there they were, flitting around the north side of the grove, gathering for their trip south.  I wish them good luck on their long trip south.

Rain makes grass

Here it is the first week in September and my lawn looks like spring.  Our weather for most of August has been cool and wet and the grass has been growing fast.  I’ve mown my lawn three times in the past week!  This is not what is expected of an August lawn in southwestern Minnesota, it should be brown and dry!


Our crops are also looking wonderful!  With the cool weather, the maturity of the corn has been delayed so there is no sign that fall is on the way.  The soybeans have also been taking advantage of the extra moisture and the bean size is growing.  Only a scattered few soybean fields are showing a few yellow leaves.  It is going to be a bit before harvest here.

The wet weather has made harvesting hay a real challenge.  There have been very few alfalfa cuttings that have been harvested in prime condition.  Most of it has been rained on or put up a bit wet to avoid getting rained on.  Grass hay has also been harvested at less than optimal times.  The cows are going to be eating a lot of moldy hay this winter.

Grasshoppers are also in abundance.  Usually a wet, cool year is not the best time for large grasshopper numbers, but this year has them all over the place.  Birds that depend on insects for the growth of their young are having an easy time this year.  We have a wild turkey hen who is keeping her brood in the area.  They all look fat as they work the field edges that are preferred by the hoppers.


This has also been a bumper year for weeds!  Weed escapes are showing up in a lot of fields.  The wet weather made weed control difficult.  Since I am allergic to ragweed pollen, I am not happy about healthy weeds.



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