Minnesota Farmer


Snows on the prairie
December 17, 2016, 1:07 pm
Filed under: cold, Farm, farm life, weather, wind, winter | Tags: , ,

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Snows on the prairie

 

Over the ground lays a mantel of white, for the winds of the prairie are still,

But folk here all know that the long winds will blow, and that snow will move to where winds will.

That lovely, still snow tomorrow will lie, in drifts that are hard near and far,

So look well my friends at this still, shimmering snow, that tomorrow will bury your car.

 

When cold winds do moan and tree branches groan the new fallen snow will take flight,

Snow again takes to the air, to move here and there, to places revealed by morning light.

Then snow sculptures will form, in strange shapes smooth and worn, in places away from winds might.

New wonders will be revealed, and my soul will be healed, by the wonders shown forth at the death of the night.

 

Soon I’ll venture forth, away from fires warmth, to see what’s revealed with morning’s birth,

Small creatures will join me, from tunnel and tall tree, their tracks, they shall add to my mirth,

But I’ll not tarry too long, for the wind it is strong, and I do know what my life is worth,

I’ll come back to my chair, my book it is there, and the fire, it will warm me in the hearth.

 

A poem inspired by a walk in last nights fresh snow.

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We were lucky
June 23, 2015, 12:27 pm
Filed under: storm damage, weather, wind | Tags: , ,

Sunday morning winds approaching a Category 1 hurricane blasted through our area.  We only had 60 mph winds and minimal damage.  Others were not so lucky.  Here’s a few pictures of our damage.

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Leaves everywhere.  The winds came from almost around the compass at some time that morning.  Most leaves and branches seemed to blown east, but most field damage was from the north.

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The corn in the garden and fields was all tilted south.  The potatoes that had spread completely across the rows were now plastered into a compact pile.

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These branches had been blown north.  Not a single tree was without damage, mostly minor.

Around the area there were trees on cars, campers and houses.  Campers and trailers were blown over and building roofs were pealed off,  Yep, we were lucky.



Plant in dust

After two consecutive years of planting in muddy conditions this year was so different, and so easy.  I do not ever remember planting going start to finish so fast.  Soil conditions were perfect, the weather was warm and the wind was even bearable.

The old adage is “Plant in dust, your bins will bust.  Plant in mud, your crops a dud.”  This year was definitely a year for planting in dust.  We had little to no moisture in the top inch or two of soil and precious little under that. Every time you work soil you dry it out so I did as little soil moving as possible.  Still I worry that some of my seed may be in dry ground.

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Now we wait.  When will we be able to see rows of corn popping through?

This springs temperatures stayed cold for a bit too long, but when they broke we went right to hot and windy, but little rain.  I am resisting going right to soybean planting for now, but if it is dry again next week, I’ll plant soybeans also.  In the mean time I watch for rain clouds and read weather reports.  We need some rain.



Who moved my green cheese

A month ago I wrote about my new solar voltaic system that was all ready to start producing electricity for me.  As of today, I have not produced a single watt.  Someone moved the goalposts and we have to wait.

January 1st some new regulations went into effect.  Although the collector was installed before the 1st of January, the electrical system was not hooked up to the grid.  Thus my system was subject to 2015 regulations.  Those regulations require a quick shut off between the collectors and the inverters.  Because the regulation is so new, and the number of solar collectors that are installed are so small, there have been no D/C quick shut off’s manufactured.  So now we wait.

This system needs a quick shut off before it can be turned on.

This system needs a quick shut off before it can be turned on.

Green power is subject to many regulations that are new to industry.  Any industry that is struggling to get going will have problems with technical issues unique to the industry.  Sometimes, in order to protect the consumer, regulations are placed by government agencies that cause problems for that startup industry.  At the moment I am caught in the middle of one of those regulation changes.

Green industry is fighting an uphill battle.  In order to become viable it needs a certain amount of acceptance by the public.  New industries are expensive to start, old industries are inexpensive to keep going.  When energy sources are expensive, green energy makes strides forward, when energy is cheap, green energy slides back.  Consumer acceptance of green energy is too often tied to the price of that energy.

For many years now energy costs have been high.  Energy sources like wind, solar, ethanol and others have been making inroads into the profit centers of established energy producers.  Regulatory changes have not been hard to overcome.  Now oil prices are going down.  When oil is cheap, all other forms of energy struggle to hang on.

I’ve seen this happen before.  In the 1980’s gas prices spiked up.  Green energy sources became popular.  Then gas prices went down and few talked about ethanol, solar or wind energy.  Since 2003 energy prices have been going up, and we have ethanol plants, and wind energy farms producing as they never did before.  Those alternative energy sources that were built before this recent energy spike are now set, with debts paid and a chance to continue producing energy despite lower energy prices.

If the world is going to wean itself from the climate changing effects of fossil fuels we are going to have to have the political will to continue to push alternative energy sources despite their higher cost.  Otherwise the fossil fuels industry will continue to win. Big_Oil-598x426



Dirty snow

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We’ve had a series of days with thawing temperatures and our snow is not white anymore, it’s very dirty.

Every snowflake has a bit of dirt in it, gathered as it forms, our snow here in Southwestern Minnesota has more than it’s share.  The winds of winter have been moving dirt along with the snow.  Now that it is melting, the dirt is left on the top.

We went into winter with dry topsoil.  Then the normal process of freezing soil squeezed more moisture out.  When our prairie winter winds come the soil starts to move.  Most of that soil doesn’t move far.  It falls behind some bit of plant material in the field or a low spot between dirt clumps.  Other bits may blow as far as the road ditch or a grove of trees.  Some little bits will stay airborne and help to start new snowflakes and rain drops.  It’s all part of the process of wind rain and snow.

Farmers in our area have come a long way since the dirty thirties.  Back then when you plowed ground you left it “smooth as a babies bottom.”  Smooth soil moves easier.  Today, farmers take pride in keeping winter soils rough with plenty of plant material sticking up.  Many will not till fields so they can help hold their soil.  We are well aware that soil is hard to replace, we need to keep it in place so our children can earn an income here also.

We’ll have white snow again before winter is over, it’s only January and there is lots of winter left.  Still I enjoy seeing some of that snow melt before spring, I just don’t like dirty snow.



Ground Blizzard

This morning when they called off school the weather didn’t look that bad.  We had a bit of snow blowing around, but most of the snow was still staying put.  When our mail was delivered about 9 a.m. we were surprised, usually mail doesn’t come until after noon.  Now it is a different story.

Winds are holding at over 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.  We have ourselves a ground blizzard.

If you are out of the wind, temperatures are not too bad.  Step out into the wind and you have a different story.  I have trouble seeing across my yard with all of the snow in the air, and yet, when you look up there is the sun in a mostly clear sky.

I can hear a truck out on the highway but he doesn’t seem to be moving that fast.  I would not want to be in a car in these conditions.  This is the time I am glad for a warm house and plenty of food.  I’m hunkered down with a project or two and a book.  It’s great to live in Minnesota on a day like this and have nothing that has to be done.



It’s all about the wind
January 7, 2015, 2:45 pm
Filed under: cold, Farm, food, frost, history, house, Minnesota, snow, weather, wind, winter | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

They say it is time to ‘hunker down,” it’s going to get windy.

To look at the weather today you wouldn’t know the concern I have for the next days.  Today the sun is shining and the wind is light.  It may be below freezing out, we may have several inches of fresh snow on the ground, but it is not that bad being outside.  Folks out here on the prairie of southwestern Minnesota and points north and west understand, this is not bad weather.  Ah, but throw in some wind and things change.  Tomorrow the wind is predicted to start up and then we will be challenged.

A commentator on the radio at noon reminded me of a three day blow from my childhood.  I think back to that old house I lived in then with the inadequate insulation in the walls and wonder how we survived it all.  I remember warming my body by the oil stove before bed to have a head start on the cold.  It was not unusual to have frost on the inside of windows every day back then.

To keep warm doing chores then needed fuel!  Salads need not apply, we had meat, bread  and potatoes, and if we were lucky, some kind of canned or dried fruit with lots of sugar on it.  It takes energy to stay warm for hours working or playing on the farm when the temperatures are low and the wind blows.  That was real hunker down fuel.  Starches and fats kept the body fueled, and hard work kept us lean.

So today, as I think back on those days of cold, I remember with fondness the high in fat, sugar and starch meals of yesteryear.  They kept us fueled for labor.  Today we sit in warm houses and cars and we can afford to eat salad.  Go outside and you will freeze in an instant because the wind drives away all of your warm.  Give me a hearty old fashioned meal any day before I head outside.  I know the wind will not blow me away.