Minnesota Farmer


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.



Plain spoken

Farmers are still some of the most trusted people in our country, maybe in part because we know how to speak about our work in terms that everyone can understand.  More and more we on the farm are having to deal with science that is not understandable to those off the farm.  Some of the problems we have communicating modern farms was brought home to me when I read an article in Time Magazine about translating science.  We on the farm need to remember to translate our farms into plain language that all can understand.

Everyone loves the old style farmyard.  Dogs, cats, baby animals, they all have an attraction for those of all ages.  Yet unless you really live the farm life, it is so hard for people off the farm to understand having thousands of one type of animal.  Anyone who has thousands of chicks just cannot be a farmer some think. 13-boy-watching-chicks

Farm machinery is fascinating to folks of all ages.  The chance to be in and control those huge pieces of machinery is really exciting.  People can understand the small farmer who does all of his own work on a few hundred acres.  What they have trouble understanding is how a family farm could extend to 10,000 acres or more and still be a family farm.  All of those computers and modern science things are hard for the general public to put on a family farm.

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The recent bankruptcy proceedings of Broadacre Farms Inc., a Saskatchewan based Mega-Farm now has many talking of the unsustainability of large farms.  How can these large farms be right?  The truth is usually more difficult to understand than most would like to believe.

In farming as in few other occupations there are so many roads to success.  In the end good management will win out.  Can you make the most of what you have to earn a living for those who depend on your farm.  If you are not the best, do you deserve to continue farming?

We have just come through some of the best years in agriculture I have ever seen.  Yet some types of agriculture have had hard times.  It is a fact of life that nature is a harsh mistress.  Farmers not only deal with local conditions, but world markets that can move market prices in ways we do not understand.  We also deal with government regulators that seem determined to frustrate our every attempt to provide food for our families.  Farms of all sizes will fail, large, medium and small.  There is no one best for the world.

Please, if you have not been on a farm, do not try to tell farmers how they must farm.  Each farm is different, each region of the world is different, yet we all deal with trying to feed our families.

So here I’ve gone again, starting off in one direction and ending up in another.  In the whole though, I am trying to be plain spoken about what we on the farm deal with.  It is my hope that this will help you understand me and my fellow farmers better.  And please, if you have a question about farms, ask a farmer.  We’ll tell you about farm life as we see it and as we are living with it.



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.

 



Going Solar Voltaic
January 6, 2015, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Farm, machines | Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, January 5 found four electricians scurrying about my machine shed, in temperatures well below freezing, putting final connections to controls for a photo voltaic system.  I am  about to start producing my own electricity.

OK, let’s back up a bit.  Those of you who have been on my farm have noticed several solar collectors that gather heat from the sun to warm my house and shop.  These air-to-air systems have been at work for over 30 years now.  For more than that time I have been watching the solar electric industry grow and become more efficient.  This year I decided to take the plunge.

The system is an investment that, like many farm investments, will take years to pay off.  In the mean time, I’ll be producing about 2/3rds of my farm sites annual electric usage using the sun.  Once the system is paid off, I’ll have many more years of free electricity.100_3073

My roofs were evaluated and measured and a deal was set.  Trenches were dug and equipment was delivered.  With the nasty November we had, we were all glad to see a warmer December as construction progressed.

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Soon tracks were installed on the roof, panels and wiring soon followed.

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The last panels were placed just before Christmas.  Wires were left hanging for the electricians to tie into.

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Monday, as the snow began to fall the electricians made the final connections.

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Now there is a bank of hi-tech electronics on the side of my machine shed waiting for final inspection.  Once the inspectors are done and final paper work with the electric company are signed I will be producing most of my own electricity using the sun.

Give me a month or so to get the last details worked out and come on over to check it out.

Michael



Never have
December 31, 2014, 10:55 pm
Filed under: happiness, love, new beginnings, new year | Tags: , , , , ,

Happy new year.  But it really is not that new.

I know, I know, it’s the cynic in me being all Bah Humbug again, but I never did understand this thing about new year celebrations.  So few people take the time to use the next year and make something new of it.  They just keep on doing the same old thing.  New years celebrations just seem to be the opportunity for folks to go out and do stupid things.  The start of a new year is just not important enough to celebrate.  There are some things I do find worth celebrating though.

New life.  I’m a grandfather again this past year.  Watching Gwendolyn grow, now that is worth celebrating!  I do so love watching my grand daughters make discoveries.  As a farmer I’ve seen the start of lots of new lives, they are all worth celebrating.

New beginnings, like weddings, or new jobs, or retirement, those are worth celebrating.  Wow, there is so much worth celbrating there.

New industries.  While many of you were not watching there was the introduction of the first celulosic ethanol plant here in the U.S.  A brand new industry that many people thought was not possible, and some even worked to prevent.  Think of all the new opportunities a new industry can provide.

Peace.  Although the news services trumpet the rage and destruction of life in sense less murders and wars there really has been an advancement towards peace this year as fewer people were killing each other than at any time in the modern age.  Now if only we could all see that peace, if all would walk away from doing harm to our fellow human beings.

New friends.  Yeah, I’ve made a few this year, and I’ve seen the enriching of several of my old friendships.  So to all of you in this new year, I wish you all sorts of happyness.  May their be peace, love and friendship all around you.  May you be witness to new life and may you experience a real new beginning, not just a new year.



Little Gwen
December 31, 2014, 2:11 pm
Filed under: children, family, grandchildren | Tags: , ,

We’ve been spending some time with our grand-daughter Gwen. She’s in the time of life of great changes.

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She’s starting to crawl.  That means she is getting into new things.  There is not much on the floor that is safe.

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If there is anything that allows her to pull herself up, she is standing by it.  Gwen has decided that standing is much to be prefered to sitting on the floor.

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Put Gwen in a walker and she is all over the place.  Her favorite new trick is to pull open drawers and doors. Soon she will be into them.  That means that Grampy has been busy installing child latches on kitchen doors.

The girl needs constant attention.  Anything hanging over the edge of a table will find her tugging at it.  Lamps and books look out!

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Now that she has the hand to mouth routine down, there is nothing going to stop her!  Isn’t life with a toddler fun!




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