Minnesota Farmer

Dry start?
April 19, 2015, 7:15 am
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, planting, rain | Tags: , , ,

It’s looking as if there will be a dry start to this planting season.  We went through winter with little snow and have had insufficient rain to really make a difference yet this spring.  We do have enough water to get crops started but how long that will last depends on future rain events.  Our area of southwestern Minnesota is on the edge of the driest ground getting just a bit below normal rainfall for this month.

So far ground temperatures have yet to reach optimal planting temperatures.  Tile repair crews and builders are still reporting frozen ground less than two feet down.  Some farmers have started to plant due to the great top soil conditions.  Although there is risk in early planting they are willing to take that risk.  So far I am waiting.  The forecast for two days of frost this week will influence my decision to wait.
So when will I start planting corn?  I’d expect a starting date later this week if all holds as forecast.  I still have plenty of projects to keep me going as I prepare for planting season, so I’m not sitting idle.  Stay tuned for the beginning of my planting season.

50 foot buffer


Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton stirred up a bit of controversy when he proposed a 50 foot buffer strip on Minnesota rivers, lakes and drainage ditches.  If he wanted to get the discussion going on ways to protect our states waters, he definitely succeeded.  In fact the surprise and controversy started on the day of his announcement when DNR officials were blindsided by his intentions.

I attended the meeting on buffer strips held at the Worthington Fire Hall on Thursday.  The room was more than standing room only as attendees spilled out into the hallway.  One bystander counted over 150 standing in the room and could not count those in the hallways or seated.  Mostly it was farmers at the meeting, but a sprinkling of mayors, school officials and agricultural business employees were also there.  All came out in support of buffer strips and water quality, but did not agree that a one size fits all 50 foot buffer would solve the problem.


There was also come confusion on what Dayton’s proposal would not include.  At first blush the proposal seems to be aimed at farm land which would amount to an uncompensated taking of land from farm families that live near these waters.  Pictures posted at the meeting by the governors office did cover only farm land so that intention seem to be supported.  One attendee questioned whether the DNR should not also be held to this standard and had pictures of local DNR land that would become out of compliance with a 50 foot buffer.  Also unstated was if this proposal would include land currently used as beach front gardens, play areas and lawns.


Not every drainage ditch bank slopes down to the water for over 50 feet.  Most drainage ditches in rural areas have banks of soil along them that create a barrier to water running into the ditch.  This soil was placed there when the ditch was dug and is an effective barrier to water entering except in controlled areas.  Do these ditches also need a 50 foot buffer?

The controversy has not been helped by some news organizations making statements like “Big Ag. against clean water.”  Those at the Worthington meeting were not against clean water, they were against a blanket 50 foot buffer strip proposal.  Also, those at the meeting could not in any way be considered “Big Ag.” but they were farmers of all ages, farm types and farm sizes who own and live on the land that will be affected by this proposal.

Governor Dayton further muddied the waters by several times bringing up the recent notice by an area town to have it’s city residents use bottled water.  This problem was not at all related to buffers, but to a malfunction of equipment in the city’s water supply.

At the end of the meeting Dist. 22 Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, gave his response on the governor’s proposal saying that one of the take-aways from the discussion is that there isn’t one answer to the problem.


“We have a variety of programs out there, and they really do work,” Weber said. “The reality of this proposal is it put everybody on defense right away.”

Yet, Weber said there is a willingness for stakeholders to gather, sit down and discuss it further. He encouraged Dayton to gather representatives from farm, drainage and conservation organizations to discuss what is available now and how something more could be implemented.

Weber also asked Dayton to “say these bills are dead for this year” and bring the groups to the table for discussion.

“I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the cooperation and willingness … in advancing the goal that you have,” Weber added.

So the process has started.  The discussion on the 50 foot buffer has now moved out of St. Paul and into the out state area.  From what I have heard the other meetings the Governor has set up were also well attended.  It shows a willingness to talk about the issue, but is also shows that the governor made the proposal without consulting his own department heads.  Perhaps if he had discussed this with them first there would not be so much controversy.

The proposal is still moving on in the state house and senate.  It is still likely that it will not even make it through one or more committees before the end of the session.  If it does move forward it will need much work, much more than has been shown so far.

Weekend projects

I’ve been working on a pair of woodworking projects that have been on my mind for a while.  Both are from materials of opportunity, found things, that will make for unique items. Garden Bench100_3104 The garden benches are made from weathered 2X12’s that once were part of a cattle yard fence.  The wood has incredible weathering patterns and bits of lichen that add to the look.  I had actually made two of these last winter and have now made two more.  I have material to make a few more depending on how the material can be worked in each plank.  Not every part is suitable for legs or seat, some parts are not even usable for the stretchers.  Joints are glued and all screws are hidden.  This bench must stay unfinished, but placed in a secluded, shaded spot, it will look like it has always been there.  I sold one of them for $80.  The three that are left are for sale. Slab Chair 100_3105100_3106 This is my first attempt at making a chair.  The material is from a pair of spruce trees that were cut down by our house.  There is a bit of work needed to finish this piece.  Working with unusually shaped lumber adds some difficulty.  I hope to make more, but production of these will also be limited.  The orange strap is to hold it while the glue dries.  No screws here, wooden dowels hold it together.  I’ll finish it off with a sealant of some kind to preserve the wood.  Not sure what I would sell this for. These have both been interesting projects that took a bit of thinking to figure out how to do.  The bench was much easier, but the chair has been more interesting to build.

Yesterday’s Snowman

Yesterday’s snowman is melting away100_3109

and soon puddles will outnumber snowdrifts.

100_3108The weather has turned warm quite quickly here in southwestern Minnesota.  Just a few days ago low temperatures were in the single digits and the high didn’t make 20.  Today the high is near 40 and the low will barely get below freezing.  Warmer weather is forecast for next week.  Hurray!


The devil we choose
February 21, 2015, 7:56 am
Filed under: food, science | Tags: , , , , ,

Salt is bad for you, salt is good for you.  Eggs are bad for you, eggs are good for you.  Don’t eat red meat, don’t eat fat, don’t, don’t, don’t!  We keep finding all of these things we love are bad for us, but are they?

I came across a NY Times article that says the things we were once told about eggs and cholesterol was wrong.  Current data says that the old devil we chose is not so bad for us after all.  It seems as if another fad boggy man is about to bite the dust.diet-tmagArticle-v3

Why are we choosing all of these fads?  Because we want an easy answer.  Let me cue you in, nothing in life is easy.

It is easy to say that because we eat this or that it is causing all of our problems.  When we cut out eggs, red meat, salt or many other things they do not always do the job.  There are no easy answers.

The problem is we have a choice, and we choose to act badly and eat too much.  It’s just like when you drink too much alcohol, you get a hangover and you have to live with it.  Anything in excess is bad for you.

So buck up and understand, there are no easy answers.  Choosing salt or eggs or red meat as your whipping boy will not solve your problem.  Your self-discipline will make the difference.  More exercise and less sweets, with a modest amount of foods you like will beat that old devil.  Cuting out one thing or another will not.


Finally on the grid

It was a bit over a month ago that I wrote about my Solar Voltaic project, well it’s now official, I’m on the grid.100_3100

Here’s a picture of the screen on one of my inverters.  The numbers tell how much electricity is being produced at different intervals.  The picture was taken at 5 p.m. so the sun was low and power production was declining.  The graph shows the production at different hours of the day.  Today’s production was much better with abundant sun than yesterday’s cloudy which still produced some power.

With only 10 hours of winter sun I do not have much opportunity to produce electricity, but the collectors work better when the days are cold.  We’ll see how electric production changes with longer, warmer days.  Stay tuned.

And they wonder why
February 14, 2015, 1:41 pm
Filed under: history, Politics, trucks | Tags: , , ,

The U.S. Postal Service is changing its policies and raising its rates, they need more money to operate because no one uses the mail any more.  Well is there any wonder why?


Have you used the U.S. Postal Service lately?  Have you actually looked at how long it takes something to arrive at your door?  Letters that I used to get in one day now take a week!  Something mailed from 4 miles away now must make a trip of over 300 miles just to get to my house.  Is this efficiency?  If the U.S. Postal Service goes down, it will be its own fault.


The news says that the U.S.Postal Service is selling its old trucks.  They are not efficient enough in this time of fewer letters and packages to carry.  They need something new.  But they will still be the same old U.S. Postal Service.


The U.S.Postal Service seems to working on a pony express model in the computer age.  The pony express was cutting edge at one time but they were eliminated by the telegraph.  Without some real  changes I see the U.S. Postal Service going the way of the pony express.  Cutting back will not bring new customers.  It’s time to innovate and a government agency is not good at innovation.

The U.S. Postal Service was once the envy of the world, now it is just an unchanging dinosaur.



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