Minnesota Farmer


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?

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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.

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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.

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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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Member of the Jury
February 14, 2015, 11:24 am
Filed under: make a difference, time | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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The law and jury trials fascinate me, but until yesterday I had not had an opportunity to see it from the inside.  Yesterday I was a member of the jury.

Back in December I got the letter saying I was on jury duty for the first part of 2015.  Getting the letter does not mean I will be called, it means I am in the pool of potential jurors.  This is the second time in my life I have been called to jury duty, last time I was called in but never selected.

When I got the letter to appear for duty I immediately reported to the bus company of my call.  An 8:30 appearance time meant I could do my morning route, but nothing after.  They had to know to make plans to replace me.  Even then there was a chance I would not have to appear.  Many a case is settled before the jury is called.

The night before the trial I called the jury line number.  The phone message told me the trial was on and I should be prepared for a one day trial that could go on into the evening.

Reporting to our county courthouse, I signed in and waited for the rest of the potential jury to arrive.  Waiting seems to be a big part of taking part in the Judicial system.  There are many things that have to be done in a very precise manner to insure that they will not have to be done again.

There were about 28 people in the room, several of whom I knew, not surprising in a rural area.  Some had already been called for a January trial, but most had never even been in a courtroom before.  After viewing an introductory video, 14 were chosen to go forward as potential jurors.  Questions were asked to be sure there would be an impartial jury.  One of our members was 1st cousin to the defendant, he was dismissed and replaced.

Once the questions were answered the list of potential jurors was passed back and forth between the lawyers as each cut the list by one with each viewing, to get to a jury of six, five men, one woman.  I was now on the jury.  All other potential jurors were dismissed.

I would love to know what the reasons were for the elimination of certain people.  I noted that those with ties to law enforcement (family members or friends) were out.  A lady who had been involved in a bad car accident was also removed.  Why did the rest of us stay?  Some of the questions we were asked would mean something to the lawyers who were trying the case I was sure.

After receiving instructions we recessed for half an hour.  I texted my supervisor that I would definitely not make the evening route.

The case turned out to be a fairly simple one.  There were two counts of breaking the law before us.  There were opening remarks from the lawyers, a witness for the state (a police officer) and the defendant was the only witness for the defense.

Were were instructed not to talk about the trial to anyone, and were released to get some lunch.  It was not surprising to me that many in our community already knew details of the pretrial actions, I had to reply that I could not talk about it now.  The opportunity to listen in as others talked about their courtroom experiences was interesting.  Some of those folks had been in on some nasty trials, mine was going to be really unexciting.

We reported back to the jury room at 1:30, but some issue that had to be discussed kept us out of the courtroom until two.  After closing arguments and final instructions we went to the jury room at 2:30.  There we had to stay until we reached a verdict.

We elected a chairperson, who had been on the jury for a January trial, and got to work.  Before us we had the two counts of the trial, the photos provided by the prosecution, documents provided by the defense and a written copy of the judges instructions.  We had to make a decision that would affect the defendant’s life, not an easy thing to contemplate.

A jury must decide, without a shadow of a doubt, that law had been broken.  We all agreed that on the first count there was no doubt.  The law had been broken.  On the second count, there was doubt.  We needed more information than we were given.  It is possible that such information does not exist, we could not be sure.  We had to say not guilty on the second count.

The rest is formality.  We were ushered back to the jury box and the written decision was handed to the judge and then the court reporter.  After the decision was read we were asked it we all agreed and the trial was over.  We were thanked for our service and dismissed.

I may or may not get called for a trial in the coming months, that will be the luck of the draw to be determined by how busy the trial calendar is.  After this call period I cannot be called back for 4 years.  Once I reach the age of 70 I do not have to report if I do not choose to, so this may be my last shot at a being a member of the jury.

Was it interesting?  Yes!  Would I do it again?  Sure.  As a citizen of this country it is my duty to take part in the process.  My chances are small to be called back again, I know of several who have never been called, you think their chance would come up eventually.  I am proud to be allowed to serve.



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.



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.




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