Category Archives: 2021

December Farm Update

Sure been a nice week weather-wise. Temps In the 50’s the last few days. Ten-day forecast has the temps in the mid 30’s and no snow. I’m OK with that. My apologies to anyone waiting for snow.

Kelly and I got snowfence up the other day so there’s another thing checked off my list. Glad to have that done. 

There was a little wind to contend with and the cowpies were mostly dry.

Daughter and I did driveway markers. It was colder than I expected that day and she’s not a fan of the wind. Nice that Bailey could keep her company.

They kept me company inside the gator, too.

I was feeding the ducks one morning and that chicken came running from the pole barn, so she’s still back there laying eggs. .Way in the back, down in a corner. I’m still hoping she gets tired of this as the weather gets colder.

Last weekend I redid a few things in the chicken coop. I put the back wall back in place. (I take it off for more ventilation in the summer) and I changed their perches and got the water buckets and heated pad situated for winter.  

It’s odd, they barely use that rear nest box for eggs, often preferring the front unit. One hen must be molting. She looks really rough right now.

I don’t know if her feathers are going to come in a different color than she was? She used to look like the chicken in the front. Boy, hang in there, girl. Egg production is a little down; the old ones are starting to taper off and the new hens are just getting started.

End of the year finances: I’ve paid off our production loans from this years inputs and prepaid some expenses for next year. It’s funny; we have a good year and actually make some money, but it’s tough to save much because taxes will take a big chunk. I know taxes are important and provide a lot of services, but golly. It feels like throwing money in a hole in the ground. I went to the co-op and paid $900 for the grid soil sampling.

Paid $2800 for the lime and applications on half the farm. Prepaid for 4 tons of fertilizer for next year $3400 (again, maybe half of what I’ll need). They don’t have anhydrous nitrogen prices yet and they figure chemicals prices will hold steady so I didn’t pay on them. Easy come, easy go. Sometime before the end of the year I’ll get seed ordered for next year. That also becomes a deduction on this years taxes. Don’t have to pay for it yet, just get it ordered.

Remember getting your first check book? What was the first thing you bought? I bought a Timex Watch and you had to push the button so the time would show up in Red. 

Light My Fire

In searching for something on my laptop last week, I came across a list of books about dragons.  Looks like I made this list six or seven years ago (last time it was saved was six years back) and I’ve read a few of the books on the list since then.  I’d completely forgotten that I had this list.

Dragons, of course, are widely varied in literature.  My least favorite kind are the mindless, evil dragons (think Smaug in The Hobbit).  I prefer intelligent dragons who can communicate if they choose (like Ramoth in Dragonflight or Temeraire in the Novik series).  My current car is named after a dragonrider of Pern (Brekke – one of the rare dragonriders who can communicate with all dragons, not just their own). 

I also like dragons who adore treasure – not sure why, maybe because it’s such a longstanding bit of dragonlore that it feels right when it is included.  It’s interesting that the Greek dragons who were set to guarding treasure have morphed into beings who lust after gold, diamonds and jewels.  Of course I also read somewhere once that gold is a good conductor of magical energy and that dragons NEED it to exist. 

The biggest problem with this list is that I have already reached the limit of books that I can have on hold at the library – with probably be at least a week before that changes.  Hopefully in a week, I’ll remember I have this list of books I want to read! Maybe I’ll start yet another tab on my reading spreadsheet.

Tell me about a mythical animal that you think might improve our world if it existed!  Or just if you have a favorite mythical animal.

Busy Week

The Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

It was a busy week for the Hain farm. After getting the crops out and the soil testing done, I got all the corn ground chisel plow on Saturday. Bailey rode with me all day.

Sunday morning it was warm enough I could use a hose and jet nozzle and clean off the chisel plow and tractor. (Pressure washer is already put away for winter.) I also finally got the garden fence taken down. The garden had been done for a month of course and I left the gate open so the chickens have been in there scratching around, I just hadn’t time to get the fence down. And it was bugging me so I’m glad that’s done.

I ran out of diesel fuel in the barrel when filling the tractor on Saturday. Off road diesel fuel is dyed red and can only be used in off-road equipment like tractors, combines, or construction machinery. The point of dying it is because I don’t have to pay quite so many taxes on off-road fuel.  As I understand it, a DOT inspector might check the fuel tank of an over the road truck and if there are traces of red dye in it you get a hefty fine. Gasoline I pay taxes, but I also get them refund on my tax returns for the gallons used on the farm. Hence we don’t fill the cars with gas from the barrel. When I was a kid we did, then the tax laws changed. My cost for a gallon of diesel is $2.50, it’s about $3.54 in the stores around here. My big tractor holds 140 gallons of diesel. I know the big 4 wheel drive tractors might hold 350! Crazy. I had the delivery truck fill the tractor, too. There is a long story about summer diesel and winter diesel I’ll skip. I use an additive to make it winter diesel and prevent gelling.

I got 200 gallons of gasoline (a couple of the older tractors, the swather, the lawnmower, the four wheeler, the gator, chainsaws and Weedwhackers’ use gasoline) and 500 gallons of diesel for the two main tractors.   

Also Monday, the quarry and the co-op arrived to spread lime. I was at work but Kelly got some photos for us. A semi would deliver and fill the spreader using an elevator. Then the spreader had the computerized mapping software integrated with the soil tests so they could applied as needed.

I took Wednesday off from “Work” work.  I was able to get my brush mower fixed. Got the blades fixed, and I also realize the timing of the two sets of blades was off. They need to be at 90° to each other. And that was simply a matter of removing one chain, getting them aligned, and reinstalling the chain. Much easier than I had expected. Got the roadsides mowed down, mowed two little parcels that are going to be planted to native grasses next spring, cleaned everything off, and got the mower put away. Hooked on the snowblower and move that into the machine shed.

I hope I don’t need it for several months, but at least it’s in. Got the grain drill all put back together

and tucked that back into place. What a good day. 

The theater renovation is finally wrapping up. I was waiting on one final approval from the fire department about a sprinkler head, which would then let the city inspector sign off on the final permit. I started this the first part of November, some minor corrections to the work done and some bureaucratic red tape means it’s Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we have an audience that night and I’m still making phone calls and poking people to approve this! I did not sleep good Tuesday night. It’s so nice that everything is online these days, finally about 1 o’clock Wednesday I see online that it has all been approved. I did a happy dance in the tractor.

Man, maybe I can sleep again.

I know some of you get so excited about the seed catalogs coming. Hoovers Hatchery has announced their 2022 catalog and a couple new breeds of chickens they’ll be carrying. Maybe I should get some of the Buff  Chantecler or Black Minorca! The ducks and chickens are still good. I notice Rooster #3 has got some size on him and he’s not shadowing Boss Rooster anymore. I haven’t heard him picking fights, but I think he’s strategizing.

We had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat* and had a nice relaxing day. A few minor odds and ends to do at the theater for opening on Friday. Saturday daughter and I will get driveway markers put in. Kelly and I would prefer a nice day with no wind to get snowfence up. Maybe middle of next week.  

Twisted any arms? Talk about when that’s gone poorly. Or well.

How do you feel about Alice’s Restaurant?

*Anyone catch that reference? I listened to it Thursday morning.

A Man For All Seasons

Dear friends,

My sweet dad, Steve Grooms, died at home early on Thanksgiving morning. I feel so incredibly lucky that we spent most of Wednesday together as he wasn’t feeling well that day. Two visits from 911 paramedics and multiple calls to advice nurses and his doctors couldn’t shed light on what was happening, and the ERs were/are full due to COVID and couldn’t take him. Despite normal vitals and no pain (just discomfort), he and I both knew something was wrong enough to warrant our needing to be together in what I know now were his final hours. It appeared he passed in his sleep sometime after I left to go home and sleep, and I hope against hope that he didn’t suffer.

Please don’t regret the timing. Dad had so much to be thankful for. A long and rich life full of love and laughter. Beloved family. Wonderful dogs. Adventures and stories; oh so many stories. Stories told with the richness of his appreciation for human nature, for humor, for empathy and compassion, history, and nature. So many stories told to you. And just as much as he loved the telling, he loved the gift of receiving a good story. My greeting, dear friends, isn’t accidental. I feel as if I know so many of you through his recounting of your presence in his life. And I am humbled, grateful, and so deeply appreciative for what this community meant to him.

You sustained him in the dark years following his divorce. You showed up to help when rheumatoid arthritis and congestive heart failure made life alone in his home almost unsustainable. You sawed up fallen trees and eventually helped him pack up and leave Minnesota to join us in Oregon. You were with him in words and spirit through the new lives he created, first in Oregon, then Michigan, then finally back in his beloved Minnesota. He carried you, his community, with him. You were a daily, if not hourly, gift to him. The people he wanted to process his life with, the friends he treasured.

I am beyond heartbroken right now and can’t seem to figure out what happens next. I keep reaching for the phone to call Dad to tell him how awful this all is, until I remember… Know that we will gather sometime in the future, likely in the Spring, to honor his life and you will all be invited. Until then, I invite you to share your memories of him here, in the space he so loved. Renee can forward anything you wish to send to me directly and know that I will respond as soon as I am able. 

Thank you. My family and I are so grateful for the gift of your love and friendship toward Dad in these years. It means everything to us, as it meant everything to him. All my love,

Molly

Drive-Up

I have a dear friend whose husband is dealing with a serious, life-shortening illness.  She’s been away from her home for over a month now while he’s been at Mayo and they are looking down the barrel of a long series of treatments.  I visited her on Sunday and she told me that she had woken up the day before with a better attitude.  Apparently another friend of hers had just been to a funeral for an infant who had died of SIDs.  The realization that there were other tragic things going and if others are getting through their horrible stuff, she could too.   It’s not an easy thing to do – try to find some balance in the face of trauma and grief.  And the last two years have certainly given us plenty of that.  a

It seems pathetic to suggest that pandemic has brought us anything good, but as I was thinking about all this, I placed an order at Target for pick-up.  You select your items on the app, pay for it online, tell the app when you’re leaving for Target and when you get there.  Then you sit in your car and they bring it out to you.  Easy peasy.  You can wear your sweatpants, you can have spilled your lunch on your shirt, you don’t have to comb your hair and better yet, you don’t have to search for a parking spot and you don’t have to go in the store!  There is yet one more advantage – no impulse shopping; if all you need is grenadine and diet pop, that’s all you get.  No cookies or chips off an endcap!

While I cannot wait for us to be able to say we’re looking at pandemic in the rear-view mirror, I am hoping that the drive-up option remains.  I am so addicted already.

Any other silver linings you can think of these days?

By Any Other Name

Tofurkey calls it a sausage.  I call it a brat.  But despite the fact that we’ve been eating them for years, when YA went to the store last week, she came home without them because I had written “brats” on the list and the product on the shelf said “sausage”.  Sigh. 

I grew up without sausage or brats.  Bacon and hot dogs were our porks of choice; I don’t know why.  I actually had never even heard of a brat until I was married and moved to Milwaukee.  By that time I was a vegetarian so never delved too deeply but has always seemed to me that a brat is just a fat hot dog.  Go ahead… pile on. 

Tofurkey’s Italian sausage is a brat to me, because if it were sausage, in my world it would be smaller and something I might have for breakfast.  But according to YA she didn’t put it in the basket because it didn’t say brat.  I won’t say we actually argued about this, but it was the first time in a long while that I’ve gotten to roll MY eyes.

Is a hot dog in a bun a sandwich?

Brrrr…..Wind

The Farm Update comes to us from Ben.

It sure has been windy the last few days. No matter what the temperature is, a wind like this makes it colder. I’m lucky we haven’t had trees down over our road or any of the township roads… knocking on wood.

Ducks and chicken numbers are status quo. But I’ve noticed the black and white ducks are getting a green tint on their heads.

A little research shows they’re “Black Swedish” breed. Back this summer I ordered ‘Mixed Ducklings’ so really didn’t have any idea what I was getting. The cream colored ones are “Saxony” and the ones with the pouf are “White Crested” of course. And the ones that look like mallards but are a little heavier and don’t fly are “Rouen”. It seems odd to me they don’t lay nearly as many eggs as the chickens. Just seems like they should be laying more than they do… usually come spring I might get one or two ducks that lay eggs for a while. Usually out in the middle of the yard. Then it depends if me or Bailey finds them first.

And now that the weather is cooling the turkeys have started grouping up. It won’t be unusual to see a group of 30 or 40. Saw this bunch in the fields yesterday

Dumb turkeys… Once there is snow cover, they’ll be down in the yard eating under the bird feeders in the backyard and trying to get the corn I put out for the ducks and chickens. The dogs love chasing them away, but those stupid turkeys are smart too. They know Humphrey is in the house and Bailey is sleeping out front, so they sneak in the back. And when we do chase them away, they’re back in a few minutes… rotten turkeys. I haven’t even mentioned the herds of deer.

I think most of the redwing black birds have moved on now. Caught a cool picture of them on a trailcam the other day.

I get pretty excited when the birds return in the spring. The Red Wing Blackbirds, the Killdeer, and, of course, our favorite, the barn swallows. Even the turkey vultures returning is another sign of spring.

The Co-op called; they finished the grid sampling and said I could go ahead and chisel plow now. My plan is to spend much of Saturday out doing that. Due to crop rotation, every other year will be more soybean acres than corn acres and soybean ground doesn’t need to be plowed up in the fall. This was a soybean heavy year, which means I don’t have all that many acres to work up. In the old days (the “old days”) it was done with the moldboard plow and it made the ground all black because it turned over ALL the residue and buried it. That black surface is great come spring because it allows the soil to warm up sooner and that’s still important. Then we started doing ‘Conservation tillage’ and leaving more residue on the surface, which is important to prevent wind and water erosion plus it conserves moisture underneath. But too much trash on the surface keeps the soil cooler and wetter come spring. Conservation tillage doesn’t use the moldboard plow, it uses a 4” wide twisted ‘Shovel’ to throw up some dirt, but not necessarily bury it completely. The Chisel plow I use is like that. The last few years the hot new term is ‘Vertical Tillage’. I’m still not sure exactly what it is. But there’s a whole new line of shiny equipment to help me do it!

Photo credit: TractorHouse

It’s more about cutting up the residue and burying it a little bit to help decomposition over winter, but again, not turning the surface black. And again, we do want at least a strip of black soil to warm up and dry out for earlier planting in the spring. So there are ‘strip till’ machines that can make a strip a few inches wide while doing the tillage. And then in the spring the idea is to plant into that same strip. You’ll really want GPS and auto guidance to make that work reliably.

I read an article the other day that The Honeyford grain elevator, North Dakota’s oldest cooperative elevator, is the first elevator south of the U.S.-Canadian border to load an 8,500-foot, 1.6 miles-long train. I only cross one set of railroad tracks between the college and my house. About 9:45 PM there’s a train that occasionally keeps me waiting. Some seem long, but not 1.6 miles I guess. It was interesting to read about the elevator and the train. Imagine the parking lot needed to handle that sheer number of cars let alone getting them filled! It just reminds me there are so many things that I don’t know I don’t know.  It does say Honeyford Elevator is in the middle of the prairie and the nearest town is 3.5 miles away. Here’s the article: https://tinyurl.com/uys4s7rx

What’s the longest straight road you’ve been on or know of? I know one that’s 13.6 miles.

We’re Not Bleeding

I have a babysitting gig tonight.

I was doing a quick scroll on Facebook (that’s about all I can handle on FB) and noticed my neighbor two doors up looking for a last-minute sitter since the scheduled sitter has come down sick.  It’s my neighbors anniversary and apparently the reservations have been made for months.  This is a newish neighbor; they moved in last May in the middle of pandemic and I don’t know them terribly well, but I thought “what the heck… I don’t have any plans on Friday night” and volunteered. 

The last time I did any child-minding was two Easters ago.  As part of the most over-engineered-egg-hunt in history, adults go out and hide the eggs for one assigned child (13 kids 13 and under).  Normally I am part of the egg-hiding crowd but that year there was snow on the ground and I was the lone voice of reason that maybe we should do something different.  So I rebelled and stayed with the kids in the house while all the other adults traipsed out.  Big jokes were made about whether I could handle this.  I told all the kids that as long as there was no bleeding, we would be fine.  The kids thought this was very funny and it’s still a running joke; I expect to hear that no one is bleeding on Thanksgiving.,

My neighbor is not a baker so I thought I might take some cookie dough to their house and bake cookies with the girls.  Or maybe we could make caramel popcorn to have if we watch tv.  Other than that no plans; I’m assuming from their ages (5 and 8) that they will be in bed before their folks get home, so a good book is on the docket a well.  YA thinks I’m in for a hard evening despite me reminding her that I was HER babysitter for years and she’s not bleeding.

Any advice for tonight?

Groutfit

On Monday YA ran an errand over lunch.   It was a short errand, so I decided to just go out in my work-from-home clothing.  Gray sweatpants and t-shirt.  At the last minute decided to throw on a sweatshirt; I have a new one that is gray with a blue-tone logo. 

YA didn’t say anything while we were out, however when we got home she said “you’re wearing a groutfit”.  Normally everything about my sartorial choices is met with YA’s disdain.  I assumed she was making the word up, a combination of grungy and outfit.  She said that it was a real word although she did not define it.

I looked it up later to see if she was just messing with me and it turns out it is a combination of gray and outfit.  And surprise surprise, apparently it is considered a chic casual trend.  You can find lots of groufit shopping opportunities online.  One of the funniest things I found was this quote:  “Dress it up with fun shoes and jewelry, or lean into groufit territory hard with some gray legging or dozy socks.”

Of course, as I think about it, I’m sure YA was just suggesting that I was all in gray, not that I was looking particularly chic!

Have you ever been accidentally trendy?

Sold Out!

One of the types of programs that I have are called Warehouse Runs.  Winners come here to Minneapolis and run through our extensive merchandise warehouse.  There is a lot of energy around these programs and I love the participants who are all very excited and appreciative.

I always like to get donuts for the warehouse crew the morning of a run.  Having their work schedule and plans disrupted by all the festivities can’t be fun for the warehouse workers so I like to reward them a little bit for their hard work. Yesterday morning was the first in two years that I’ve been down to the donut bakery I like in Bloomington; it’s an old-fashioned kind of shop with all the old favorites and nothing pretentious.  After I picked up the donut order and was leaving the little shop, I noticed that the back of the “Open” sign didn’t say “Closed” – it now says “Sold Out – See You Tomorrow!”

It was a nice change to see that a little local business is not only surviving but apparently thriving.  It must be quite satisfying to be selling out so often that they can rely on a sold out sign.  I’m having to find a new lunch caterer for my warehouse programs since the previous caterer (who was excellent) wasn’t able to hold on through pandemic.  Along with too many others.  So while I was happy to be supporting them again and that they are doing well, it was tinged with a little sadness for the other businesses that have suffered.

You can have your favorite donut or pastry this morning.  No cost, no travel and no calories.  What will you have?