Minnesota Farmer

Grain of truth, the gluten lie
June 17, 2015, 6:32 am
Filed under: food, gluten | Tags: , , , , ,

I often read book reviews but do not often find time to read the books they talk about.  Because of all the fad talk about gluten in diets and my mom’s celiac this one caught more than the usual interest.


Author Alan Levinovitz is a religious studies professor who has been dismayed by the proliferation of gluten free everything.  The book is not really all about gluten, but more about our demonizing of foods.  There have been times when MSG, fat, salt, sugar and eggs have all been held forth as bad for us, today it is gluten and GMO’s.  Basically this book is a exposure of the shame based diet fads we see everyday.  His contention is that we feel better on these diets, not because we are actually eating or not eating something, but because we think we should feel better.  Fad diets become a religion.

The basic contention, and I think it is a valid one, is that the power of belief, not the diet, creates the benefit.  The intersection of faith and food is powerful stuff.  If you are sold the belief with the religious zeal of a true believer, no matter what the truth is, you will get better.  For those of us in science, this is irrational.

I’ve watched the changes in food fads for most of my life.  I’ve lived long enough to see many of them go full circle, from bad for you, to good for you and back to bad for you.  The truth of the matter is that for most people the mantra of “all things in moderation” is the best path.  Getting caught up in the latest fad diet is worse for you than choosing to eat sensibly.

I’ve never been much of one for fads.  Once I got past my teens they have not meant much to me.  I find more than a grain of truth in The Gluten Lie.  I think you will too.

No time for birthdays
June 12, 2015, 5:51 am
Filed under: birthdays, Farm, farm life, weather | Tags: , , ,

A farmers life is dependent on outside forces.  Weather being chief among them.  My long suffering wife, who grew up in the city, knows this.  She has come to accept that you do not schedule things of importance without checking on weather reports.

A key time in a couples life are anniversaries.  Our 36th one was typical.  The weather was great, I had weeds that needed to be killed.  We spent our anniversary apart.  That’s the way things go on the farm.

The weather does allow for some serendipity.  Those rainy days may mean an unexpected day doing things we both enjoy when no one could have predicted them.  You have to be flexible and ready to do the unexpected.  A wet period this spring allowed me to get some projects done for our daughter and family during what should have been planting season.  I got to build, she got to paint, we were both happy.  Planting was going to wait anyway.

So yes, today is my birthday, what is on the agenda for today?  The weather only knows.  That’s life on the farm.

Unpredictable as weather
June 11, 2015, 6:04 pm
Filed under: forecast, rain, weather | Tags: , ,

Well, yesterday’s blog shows just how hard it is to predict the weather.  We were forecast to get inches and got just a few tenths of rain.  All of the heavy stuff moved east and south.  Now it’s not as if we really needed more rain, we’re doing very well on that front, thank you.  It’s just that those folks east and south of us are already under flood conditions.  Oh well.

There has been a steady drip here.  It’s just wet enough that being outside means you get wet.  Try to wear a jacket to keep off the rain and your sweat makes you just as wet as if you had not worn a jacket.  Really soggy out there.

So the moral of the story, If the weatherman says it is going to do something, it will usually do something else.  What a job.

Wet weather coming
June 10, 2015, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Farm, rain, weather | Tags: , ,

It is rare that the National Weather Service is this adamant that we are going to get wet, not only wet, but lots of water.  For several days now they have us as 100% chance of getting rain starting tonight and rain for 24 hours after that.  Then they tell us it could be as much as an inch and a half an hour.  Yep, we are going to get wet.

That forecast means a bit more of hurry in our step.  Things have to be done “now.”  Since we have moved into a wet pattern “now” can be hard to do at times.  Wet fields do not lend themselves to getting things done “now,” they tend to get our equipment stuck.  Still the spraying did get done today, and most of the hay we had cut did get baled, so let the rain come.

There are still things to do, but they will wait.  This weeks “now” is past.  We’ll get going on next weeks items as soon as it dries up a bit.

Of farm cats and hard decisions
May 16, 2015, 10:16 am
Filed under: cats, Farm | Tags: ,

After over 60 years on the farm you would think some of the decisions would be easier, but they still are not.

Our current herd of farm cats has expanded again.  Our southwest Minnesota farm has always had trouble keeping farm cats.  That is why I really do not do anything to control them.  Nature always will thin them down over time.  There has been many a spring when we have only one or none left.  This spring we have four, “Mama Z” and three of her four kittens from last year.  Two of them are female.

Farm cats are essential.  They keep little rodents on the move and thin out the un-wary or sick.  Only the fittest survive in the wild, semi domesticated world in which they live.

Mama Z had her litter earlier this spring and last I saw, her four were healthy and growing well.  They were born in an old chicken nest and kept there until they could move around well.  Since she moved them under the wood pile I have only seen one kitten, so I have no idea how many are left.  Some day they will emerge and then I will learn how many have survived.

During last nights rain our two young mothers had their kittens, five each.  The problem is they decided to have them in a corner right next to the house.  There are several out buildings they could have had them in, all protected and dry, but no, they were out in the open.

This is a problem.  First off, five kittens for any young mother is too many, even if they are in good health.  If they are born in a protected place it is easier for them all to survive.  By the time I found them, half the kittens were either dead, or barely alive.  One of the young mothers was showing the sense needed to protect her babies.  Her five were cleaned and protected by her body.  The others were not.

It always distresses me to have to make these decisions on life or death, but it had to be done.  The poor little dead bodies were cleaned up and the protective mother and her kittens were placed in a box and moved to the old chicken house.  Our other mother may or may not have another litter this summer.  She will be lonely for a while, but must mature more if she wishes to keep her brood.  Life is never easy when you are small and vulnerable.

A little sun, a little rain
May 14, 2015, 8:07 am
Filed under: Corn, Farm, Minnesota, planting, rain, seasons, Soybeans, spring, weather | Tags: , , , , ,

After a below normal moisture winter and early spring, the rains have begun to come.  We’ve had a little sun, a little rain, and not much for heat.  Still corn is beginning to emerge and soybeans to sprout.  Every time we get a dry period I see more and more fields that have been planted.  We are by no means done with planting here in Southwestern Minnesota, but we are getting closer.

The lack of heat is causing some distress for the corn plants that have emerged.  Long periods of cloudy wet weather leave young corn plants looking a bit yellow.  Then we get a dry, warmer day or two and the corn plants get a chance to green up as they draw nutrients out of the soil.

Topsoil moisture conditions have improved greatly.  Now they are almost a bit too wet when you dig down a few inches.  Still the subsoil areas are dry and that keeps the water on the top moving down.  I’ve even seen some recovery of small ponds and creeks as the rains continue.  That is really good news.

I’m just about done with planting soybeans.  I’ve been waiting for a tile repair crew to come into the last area I have to plant.  That crew showed up yesterday, and today it rains.  So now I wait for a bit more dry and some heat.  Once the soil conditions are right I only need part of a day to finish planting.  We’ll get the planting done when the weather allows.

May 9, 2015, 10:04 am
Filed under: Corn, Farm, new beginnings, rain, Soybeans, weather | Tags: , , , ,

Raising a crop or livestock is a bit like raising children, only it happens more often.

Spring is here and most of the planting is done, now comes the worry.  Will the crop come up?  Did I plant it too deep or too shallow?  Was there enough water, or too much?  When will it come up?  Is the weather too cold or too hot?

We’re not quite done with planting, only about 40 acres of soybeans left to plant, but the worry over the corn has been going since it went into the ground.  Today I saw the first few spikes of corn peaking through.  I’ll not say that ended the worry, but it was a relief to see.  Some of the worry is gone.

Over the last few days we had just over an inch of rain with more forecast for Sunday and the days to follow.  I still consider it early for soybeans, so there is not much worry there, yet.  But having rain on that dry ground does help me sleep at night.  Now a new set of worries comes into play.  Oh well, nothing to do but wait until they happen, then I can do my best to fix them.

For now, I wait, and try not to worry.


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