Category Archives: 2021

September Farm

The farm report comes to us from Ben.

We had some friends and their kids visit and we had a good time giving tractor rides and gator rides and collecting eggs and seeing cows. It’s always fun giving farm tours.

I finally got around to working on the brush mower. I had to order bigger sockets to get the nut off the broken spindle on the big spinny thing. (It’s 45mm by the way) And then trying to get the gear box off the mower deck, I didn’t have the right size sockets for that either. It’s 30mm. I am getting more and more metric tools, but I didn’t have anything that big. I have a 3/8” drive socket set that I use for a lot of things. And a 1/2” drive set for some of the bigger stuff. And then I started buying 3/4” drive stuff for the really big stuff. (I mean the size of the square on the head of the ratchet is 3/8” or 1/2” or 3/4”). Then I put a 3’ long pipe over the handle to get enough leverage to get the nuts loose. Took the gear box up to John Deere for them to fix.

How’s that go: Every job is an opportunity for a new tool. Worked here.

On the way home from John Deere I stopped at a farm stand and bought 4 dozen ears of sweet corn. A couple kids run this stand and it is really good corn. Got that frozen and it will be really good this winter.

My mom has a possible Covid exposure from one of her physical therapy people. I had seen her on Sunday, and she found that out on Monday. But she hasn’t tested positive herself yet and they all wear masks and mom is vaccinated and I’d think the PT person was too. So hopefully she stays good. She needs to isolate in her room, which she isn’t very happy about. And her food comes in a Styrofoam container with plastic cutlery and that’s her biggest complaint. We had a care conference Tuesday and there seems to be exceptions for everything so she’s gotten real plates now. Hope that keeps up.

Monday was Labor Day and I wondered if I should really take the day off or do some work. If I didn’t do anything I’d feel guilty. I took a nap first off. But then decided to clean up the swather and get that put away. I washed it off and oiled the chains, loosened some belts, and filled the gas tank and added some ‘Stabil’ to the fuel, and tucked it into the shed for winter.

Then decided it was a good day to burn a small brush pile behind the shed. Got that burning and cut some grass while keeping an eye on it.

We’re having a little experiment with the ducks. When they go into the pen at night, they can either walk up a ramp or they can hop up onto a block and then into the open door. Most of them seem to hop in. One day I had not put the ramp in the door, it was sitting down on the block. Everyone had gone in except one black duck and two brown ducks. They were very distressed to be outside on their own and I finally went down and put the ramp up and one brown duck went up the ramp and the other two hopped in from the block. Hmm, were the other two moral support for the ramp duck?

This is very curious, so the next night I also left the ramp down and everyone had gotten in except a black duck and a brown duck. I put the ramp back up and both ducks hopped in without using the ramp.
The third night I put the ramp in the door right away. About dusk everyone heads over to the door and the white ducks always go first and hop on the block and up into the door. Might take them two tries, but they make it. Eventually the ones waiting got tired of waiting in line and they all went and got a drink and then came back and some more hopped in, and again, the remaining few got tired of the queue, went and got another drink and then came back and no one used the ramp and everyone hopped in. Evidently the ramp is more emotional support or a guide? It’s very interesting.

FOURTH NIGHT! I had the ramp up and I watched closer; they seem to use the ramp as a guide rail. A few actually use it, some bump against the side while hopping in, and some jump up onto the ramp about 1/2 way up. Very curious. And when they come out in the morning, it’s last in, first out.

When I got home one day, all the ducks were out of their pen. We’d been talking about letting them out; they’re old enough and big enough, but being ‘adolescent’, they don’t always make the best choices and we lose a few to coyotes. That day they found a hole – or maybe ‘made’ a hole and they were all close, just on the wrong side of the fence. It wasn’t too hard to round them up, patch the hole, and get them all back inside. And then I noticed one of the white ones has a wound under one wing. Neither Kelly or I were working from home that day which makes me wonder; maybe a coyote came in the yard and caused a commotion which is what scared them out. Kelly says every day around noon there is some kind of commotion, and the dogs bark and guineas get upset so there’s something going on.

I showed Kelly how to fire the rifle and the next day, when the noon commotion began, she fired a shot. We never see anything, but we’re trying to scare it– whatever “it” is– away. Kelly really wants to shoot a coyote but she’s having trouble making the scope work for her. She is just hoping for plain, dumb luck. And she’s going to work on firing from the hip.

Chickens; they get into the ducks pen, but they can’t ever figure out how to get back out…

BONUS! Two Sandhill Cranes standing in the field when I left for work the other day.

There has been a pair here all summer, we don’t see them, we only hear them. I’m guessing this is another pair passing through.

Can you fire from the hip? And accomplish what you are trying to accomplish?

On A Roll

Three vignettes from yesterday.

Since I’m still working from home, I had on my “uniform” yesterday of jersey shorts and a tank top.  I threw on a nicer top for a client call and never took it off.  At noon, YA and I drove down to Walgreens to get our drive-thru covid tests (since we’d been to the fair so many times).  When I got into the car, YA looked me over and said “you’re not wearing THAT, are you?”  I replied that since I wasn’t getting out of the car and the Walgreens technician would only see the top 1/3 of me, yes.  YA rolled her eyes.

On the way home (both tests negative, by the way), as I was waiting at an intersection to turn right, a man with his two white/cream golden retrievers was standing on the corner until the “walk” light came on.  The dogs were gorgeous, so I rolled down the window and called to him that his dog were beautiful.  He said thanks; I turned right and drove on.  “MOOOOOMMM” said YA. 

I purchased a thing-a-ma-gig at the fair that makes it easy to put my hair in a bun.  I’ve been playing with it and when I got home I put my hair up, making the bun pretty high on my head.  Then I had a client call.  A bit later YA came into my studio.  “Did you have your hair like that during your call?”  I replied yes and she responded “It was already bad enough that you’re wearing that shirt” and then she proceeded to show me a picture of an anime character (see above) and although she didn’t say it directly, the implication was that I look like Zeniba.

So I’m three for three in embarrassing my child in one day.  Not sure I can best that record without seriously trying.

Tell me what cartoon character you look like?  Or would LIKE to look like?

Eating Our Way Through the Fair

My stomach is just now starting to feel “normal” after four days at the Fair.  I don’t go to the fair just to eat but I will say that a lot of eating gets done anyway.

YA and I always purchase two of the fair coupon books and we go through them carefully.  This year YA put post-it stickers on the things she didn’t want to miss.  And we both spent time on the fair website on the “New Fair Foods” page.  YA takes this much more seriously than I do; on the last day we went together we had a map with all the places she wanted to make sure we got to marked in red!

Here are some of the things we consumed:

  • Hawaiian Shave Ice (they took the competitor’s coupon!)
  • French Toast Bites (with pop rocks – better than you’re thinking)
  • Cheese & Potato Pierogies with horseradish sauce (for breakfast)
  • Waffle with Ice Cream Sandwich center, kettle corn, whipped cream & sprinkles
  • Siracha Cheese Funnel Cake Bites
  • Sweet Martha’s Cookies (of course)
  • Roasted Corn
  • Mac & Cheese Bites (better the first day I had them)
  • Cheese Curds (of course)
  • Tipsy Pies (yummy by not very boozy)
  • Sota Sandwich (almond butter & blueberry jam on toasted sourdough)
  • Pretzel with Cheese Sauce
  • Chocolate Malt
  • Potato Cheese Crepe (this is YA’s hands’ down favorite every year)
  • Mocktails (our favorite new food this year – over 4 days we tried 4 of them)
  • Paneer Pakora (OK but could have been so much better)
  • Cream Cheese Wontons (also could have been better)
  • Mac & Cheese (absolutely could have been better)

I know this seems excessive, but remember it was over four days.  And two of us.  But while I love the fair, I don’t think my digestive system could handle too many more visits!

Any guilty favorites when you’re out and about?

 

Feeling Needed

Our son and daughter-in-law are moving into their first home this Friday. We won’t be able to get to see them until October, over the long weekend for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. As usual, my job when we get there will be to hang the pictures and other decorative things on the walls.

I don’t know why they always want me to do this. They say I know how to center things so they look good. I just make a point of measuring and marking where the hangers should go. It isn’t that hard, but they appreciate it.

Husband is the family go to guy for landscaping advice. Son and his wife have a huge yard at the new house with no plants or trees or flowers. Son has been asking for landscaping advice already, and Husband has some ideas for him. We plan to bring all our flower and seed catalogs. It should be a fun visit.

What makes you feel needed? What skills do you want to teach others so they aren’t lost? How do you go about hanging things on the walls?

Fall is in the Air

This weekend’s farm report comes to us from Ben.

Fall is in the air this week. It’s good weather for sleeping; I love it. The soybeans are starting to turn yellow, and they’ll be losing their leaves soon. And with the recent rains the pastures have greened up again. Another inch of nice, slow, steady rain here recently.

Remember a few months ago I left the top lid open on the feed bin and had to spend an afternoon clearing out the rotten corn and gunk. And it was almost empty, thankfully, and there was still a bit of rotten corn stuck to the sides at the bottom. Since I needed to order more feed, now was the time to clean it all out. I wanted to knock loose a little more good corn so I’d have enough to feed the chickens and ducks for a couple days.

First thing I did was drop my long stick into the auger and jam it up. Belt squealing and I’m 15’ feet up the bin so I carefully, hurriedly, scramble down and turn off the breaker. Then I turn the auger backwards, back up the bin to remove the stick, back down to turn on the breaker again, and back up to finish knocking some corn down.

The bin has an 18” opening at the bottom and then a transition angle attached to that which turns it vertical, and then the auger attaches to that. I removed a clamp and the auger attachment, and the auger slid down and out of place. That’s going to be a problem when I get to putting it all back together. The auger is 4” diameter and about 10’ long and goes up through the wall of the feed room with the electric motor attached to the end of the auger in there. I removed the clamp and transition attachment, and then I put a tarp under the opening and climb back up the bin with my stick and start knocking corn off the walls. I’d knock some loose, pull the tarp out and dump it in the loader bucket, then put the tarp back down and knock more corn off. Took 4 cycles.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. But getting it all put back together took two people, a strap, some C-clamps, a stick, some muscle, and some time.  It might be the first time I’ve cleaned the bin out in 20 or 30 years. Good for another 30 years.

Kelly helped me get the seed cup put back on the grain drill and the 44 bolts reinstalled, so that part is ready to go. I still have some other work to do on the drill, but I can manage that on my own. The 44 bolts took two people with one inside holding the wrench on the head, and me outside tightening the nut. Replacing the seed cup means I don’t have an excuse for leaving gaps in the field anymore. Next year if there’s a gap between the rows it’s my fault for not driving straight.

The next thing to repair is the ‘big spinny thing’ under the brush mower. I got the blades and broken shaft off the spinny part. Now I need Kelly’s help again to get the 8 bolts off the gearbox and take that off the mower itself. Maybe this weekend.

The former oat fields are getting a lot of weeds growing in them now. Bailey and I got them dug up. It needs to be done before they get too big (and before they go to seed) or they will plug up the digger. I try not to go the same way across the field every time I work it up. My fields are not square, and while I’m still trying to follow the contours, it helps to start on the opposite end of the field sometimes and just break up those ridges underneath the soil.

I had the co-op come and take soil samples off the oat fields. Normally you need to do that either in the spring or the fall after the crop is off. Can’t test during the growing season of course but since the oats is done, it was a good time to do those fields. I haven’t seen the results yet.

The remodeling work at one of the local theaters continues and there’s been a good crew in helping with that. If we ever get the flooring done (Thanks to Wes for advice), the bathroom stalls will be the next major job. They came in two dozen pieces and multiple bags of bolts.

In class this week the lab was on topographical maps and reading the contours and an online test on seafloor spreading and continental plates. I learned about Earthquakes, Volcanos, and the Earth’s magnetic field being generated in the core of the earth and that the magnetic field has changed polarity multiple times over the years. The last change was about 1 million years ago.

The only thing we are managing to produce out of our garden is cucumbers.  I make a lot of refrigerator pickles. Neither Kelly or I learned how to can things or preserve things and it’s probably not hard, but it is hard to find the time. At least I can grow cucumbers. Something has gotten in the garden and ate all the potatoes and kohlrabi. All summer something has been in there and I can’t find a hole in the fence, but they leave the cucumbers alone.

And the ducks. They’re getting real nice ‘poofs’ on their heads and some are off to the side like a jaunty little chapeau. I spend a lot of time just watching the ducks play in the water. They are good jumpers being able to hop into one of the water containers. I spend a lot of time watching the ducks.

Got any stories about magnets? Our son stuck one on the TV and messed up the picture and we had to buy a new TV.

Have you been in an Earthquake or seen an active Volcano?

Fair Joy

I know we talked about joy the other day, but… I want to talk about it again.

At the State Fair yesterday, a woman with two kids sat down next to me on the curb, waiting for the parade to begin.  The son was about 8 or so, the daughter was maybe 3.  She was adorable with bright blonde hair that curled around her face and the back of her neck.  She also had quite a dirty face – a combination of what looked like chocolate and something berry-ish. The berry stain had found a home on the front of her shirt as well.

The most interesting thing about this little girl was the fact that she was completely suffused with joy.  Everything about the parade was fascinating to her.  She couldn’t sit down, swaying and dancing as each band went by.  She ooh’ed and aaah’ed over the stilt walkers, the art cars, the waving princesses and especially the big bovines.  As each attraction reached us, she would turn to her mother, her face alight with pleasure, pointing out this newest discovery.

No matter how you measure it, nobody enjoyed the fair more yesterday than this toddler. 

When was the last time you got dirty (and enjoyed the process)?

Fill of Berries

I made my annual pilgrimage out to the farm for raspberries last week.  Beautiful day for picking – sunny and not too warm.  A little muggy from the big rain the two days before but after our dry summer, I am NOT complaining about rain.

Since I was the first one out in the field, they stationed me at the far southeast corner of the biggest patch of canes.  Pretty shortly after, they started to put someone opposite me (on the other side of the line of cane I was working on) and she protested that she didn’t want “to be near anybody else”.  I told her I didn’t take it personally and that I had a mask in pocket if needed.  She moved on to another line.

An older couple were then placed opposite of me.  They didn’t even look toward me and so I knew there wasn’t going to be any chatting.  (This turned out to be OK because pretty soon a VERY chatty woman started picking two lines away and even thought she was speaking to the folks near her, I could hear her clearly!) 

I expected that the couple across from me would move ahead of me fairly quickly.  Two people picking together are always faster than just one.  Except this time!   The gentleman stayed pretty even with me and the woman lagged behind.  This was so different from what I usually experience that I started to pay a little more attention to them.  The woman was digging thoroughly through the canes, clearly searching for every single viable berry she could find.  The gentleman was not as thorough.  I soon realized that another reason they were slow was the amount of time spent moving their hands from the canes to their mouths.  The farm does encourage folks to taste while they pick, but this couple was taking it to new heights.  They quit picking before I did with less than a flat of picked berries and I’m sure it’s because they were full! 

So far I’ve made my freezer jam, added raspberries to pancake batter and, of course, enjoyed fresh raspberry shortcake!

How do you like your raspberries?

Out Of The Doldrums

Ever since April, 2020, Husband has stayed at home, seeing only a few psychotherapy clients a week and filling his time with volunteer work and gardening. He was relieved to be done working on the Reservation. He had his pension and Social Security.

I noticed over the last year, though, that he just didn’t seem to be getting much done at home, and his typically solemn demeanor became even more lugubrious.

Since he was hired at his new, part-time job last week, everything has changed, the world is full of new and exciting possibilities, and I can hardly keep up with him. It is really good to see. He really was deep in the doldrums, and I didn’t realize just how deep. He feels he has a purpose again. A ten hours a week job made a huge difference! His new found exuberance has partly taken the form of cooking, however, and I worry we may need to get a new freezer.

What helps you to feel really happy? What helps to get you out of a funk? What gives you purpose?

Havin’ a Blast

Last week I was the recipient of the fabulous Baboon support that others in our little community have experienced over the years.  After hearing me talk (whine?) about my front porch project, tim sent me a message.  If I rented the sandblaster that he linked me to, would I like it if he came over to help?  I didn’t have to think about that very hard.  After two+ years of scraping layers of paint off by hand, making some real headway seemed like a good choice.

The first hiccup was when I went to pick up the equipment.  While the sandblaster and the hoses fit into my little car, the air compressor that makes the sandblaster go did not.  I called tim from the rental lot and he volunteered to pick it up before coming to my house that day.  And, of course, this meant that at the end of the project, he got to return all the equipment as well.

The second hiccup was finding out that we couldn’t just scrape up the sand on the floor and re-use it.  Paint chips clogged the nozzle.  We ended up straining the sand through my metal sieve into a big bucket, then re-using it.  I’m sure the manufacturer didn’t want to hear that. 

We pretty quickly settled into a routine.  I swept and sieved while tim blasted.  We had to improvise a few times; we used the kitty tower to get the sandblaster high enough to reach to top parts of the walls and we used my Mickey Mouse cake tester to unclog the nozzle a few times.  The cake tester and the sieve survived the ordeal, the kitty tower did not.  (The new one arrives next week).

Let me tell you that sandblasting in a small, enclosed porch (even with the windows and front door open) is like working in h-e-double hockey sticks.  We didn’t get finished the first afternoon and on the second afternoon, we both had upgraded our headgear and eyewear.  In fact, we both had shiny goggles the second day and I’m sure we looked like large bugs.  Both days, we hosed off in the backyard.  I can’t speak for tim, but the showers after each day for me were epic.  The first day I wasn’t sure I would ever get the sand and grit out of my scalp.

We also re-visited our personality differences.  While working, tim, being a big picture person, could not stop thinking of the next steps after the sandblasting was done.  Some new plaster/mud, plywood on the floor.  I could see his point but I, being a non-big picture person, didn’t want to think about it right then.  I just wanted the h-e-double hockey sticks to be finished.  And, of course, tim is correct – there is plenty more to do.  In fact YA has added to the chore list by doing some wood fill on the window panes.  And I broke two windows doing some clean up so now there will be some new glass and glazing.  And most of the other windows need re-glazing as well. 

But even with all the work left, I feel completely renewed by how much we got done in two afternoons with a sandblaster.  And even if you don’t think I need to tell you, I will anyway.  There is no way on the planet that I could have accomplished this by myself.

So my hat is off to tim.  He is a miracle-worker and a life-saver.

Has anybody worked a miracle for you lately?

College, Ducks, and Corn

Today’s post comes from Ben

Typically, there isn’t a lot going on in August once the oats and straw is done. One year it rained a lot and oats was late and straw kept getting delayed and I was still doing straw in September and that just made me grumpy. But usually, August is a pretty quiet month.

College classes started so I’ve got homework again. ‘MN Rocks and Waters’. This first week is plate tectonics and continental drift. It’s interesting but there sure are a lot of terms and I hope I don’t have to memorize all of them.

I’ve been picking some corn ears, looking at plant health, and monitoring progress. The plant looks pretty good; not seeing any fungal diseases (which wouldn’t be expected in a dry year like this) Some ears look better than other ears.

Most have above average girth counting 16 or 18 around (it will always an even number) and length varies. Good ones count 42 kernels long. Shorter ones count 30. There are ways to estimate final yield by doing the math. We’ll see. I won’t bore you with the details. It doesn’t take into account how many deer are out there anyway.

Soybeans are looking OK too. Starting to turn yellow (meaning maturing) and it’s interesting you don’t hear so much about estimating soybean yield. Not a perfect science perhaps.

The ducks have learned to spend the day outside and go back in at night. It’s still wet inside their pen no matter how often I clean it. It’s the end of the pen where the water is, they’re just sloppy drinkers.  Kelly and I were talking that we don’t remember if they’re always this skittish. There is a breed called ‘Indian Runners’ and they’re always totally crazy. But I just don’t remember if these breeds are usually so nervous. Maybe it’s the mallards? Maybe in another month they’ll mellow out a bit. After all, they’re just barely a month old. It’s impressive how fast they grow.

I gathered up all the round bales of straw and put them in a line. Just so they’re not scattered all over the fields and to make it easier for the guys to pick up later.

If there was alfalfa hay growing under the oats it would be important to move them as soon as possible so as not to kill the alfalfa. But in this case, I’ll be digging up the field in another week or two simply to control weeds. And since I don’t know when they’ll pick them up, this may be a snow fence too.

I got parts for the grain drill that I want to get put back on this fall. And some new parts for the corn planter I could be working on.

My mom is adjusting to her room in the Long Term Care area. One day she said the bad was outweighing the good. But she says good things about the staff, and she gets ice cream every day, and yesterday she said she’s almost ready to call it home.

With rain predicted for the next few days I cleaned gutters out this morning. One was more involved than expected; it wasn’t just cleaning the leaves out from the top; it was pulling off an extension under the deck and snaking a hose up in there to flush it out.

Do you wear any rings? What is/was your wedding ring like?