Category Archives: 2023

Officially Summer

Today’s post and farm update comes from Ben.

It’s hardly fair that down here in our valley, it’s colder in the winter AND hotter in the summer. It’s not even noon on Thursday and it’s 89°. Plus, we don’t always get the breeze. What a cruel, cruel world.

I just took the back off the chicken coop and turned on their fan. Supposed to get baby chicks next week. They won’t hardly need a heat lamp. 

The corn is growing, soybeans are just coming out, and the oats is looking a little rough in a few spots, but it’s coming along. We think the cold and rain right after planting affected the oats. Oats doesn’t like wet ground, plus there may have been enough rain to wash out some nutrients. We’ll have to see how it does. The co-op is getting ready to spray for weeds in the corn, and to spray the oats with fungicides and to prevent broadleaf weeds.

I’m officially done working at the college for the summer, but considering I wasn’t there last week when I was supposed to be, I have to go back and at least haul out garbage and put some things away and sit in the dark theater for a few minutes and have my talk with the room and just feel the energy. Yeah. I do that. All the people and activities that have come through the theater in the last 12 months, it’s good to take time and reflect on them.

Our neighbors who rent our pasture have brought cattle out.

The cows were really interested in my cutting grass right next to them the other night. I just didn’t have a camera on me.

The next show I’m lighting, ‘Raisin in the Sun’, has gotten through the first few tech rehearsals and it should be getting easier now. My friend Paul has been working night and day on the set. Three doors, a window, full vintage kitchen with working sink. And what a lot of props in this show! (It was funny to watch the cast try to figure out the record player).

The directors are from the Twin Cities.

You probably all know the plot or have seen the movies and know it’s about a black family. Finding actors of color in Rochester is difficult; in the community theaters, there may be a few. At the college, we might have two or three. So to find eight for this show, plus understudies, took a lot of community engagement before-hand. And there’s a lot of new people! I know one actor, who was at the college 13 years ago. It’s a good group of actors, and they’re doing great, and it should be a good production.

I keep saying my life is slowing down. Next week. I’ve rescheduled a massage for the third time. I’ve rescheduled a fire alarm inspection twice, and the dentist once. 

I had to stop at the Farm Service Agency on Thursday and do my crop certification. I tell them what I planted where and when and how many acres. That information is used to determine cropping history and eligibility for payments in the event of natural disasters or other government payments.

Their map acres don’t match my map acres and they map out all the waterways and I end up with 55 fields on their maps. I only have about 19 fields on my maps. The staff there is always great and I hand them my maps with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one is, and they figure it out. I come back later and sign it.

I started cleaning up machinery. Swept out the cab of the tractor and power washed the outside.

Started to wash the next tractor and the power washer made some terrible grinding sounds, and then it didn’t make any sounds anymore. Hmm.

I spent a few hours one day riding around in a big truck guiding the driver as he applied calcium chloride for dust control on the township gravel roads. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours.

Spotted 5 sandhill cranes a few different days. And we’re still hearing them call.

I got most of the soybean fields dragged to smooth them out. I’ve stopped now because the beans are too close to sprouting. It sure is dusty and dry, (see header photo) and every spring I’m reminded how much I rely on the ‘texture’ to find my path. It’s harder when it’s this dry and the ground didn’t work up well.

I also use a boating app that maps my route. That way I can at least tell if I skipped a spot somewhere. I use a free version, so I don’t get a map, I just get the path.

It is useful especially at night and trying to find where I left off in a field. I saw a drivers ed car: ‘St. Joseph Driving School’ with a Renaissance style image spread across the whole drivers side of St. Joseph. Considering ‘’ says Joseph is the patron saint of dying, maybe that’s not who I want for a driving instructor. But it seems like a great name, and it was a great image for the business!

Hauling my fertilizer wagon and some other small things to the auction in Plainview.

Next week, NEXT WEEK, I’ll start working on the shop!



Message Board

We drove to Brookings, SD yesterday, a 500 mile trip. There was lots of road construction. I also noticed a few electronic message boards that the various Departments of Transportation entities had installed. The SD message boards won the prize for cuteness with “Be a thinker. Use your blinker”. I was greatly amused last winter to hear a rather conservative member of the ND Legislature wonder if the ND DOT was sending subliminal messages to citizens on the boards. He was quickly shut down.

Son found some messages on-line that I liked:

Get your head out of your apps.

OMG are you texting? I can’t even.

100 is the temperature, not the speed limit.

Visiting in-laws? Slow down, get there late.

Texting and driving? Say it: I am the problem. It’s me!

What would you like to see on electronic highway message boards?

Higham Ferrers

When I was a junior in college, I went on a month long seminar to England, France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland sponsored by the Religion and Philosophy Departments at Concordia College in Moorhead. We studied the transition from medieval to modern in thought, literature, art, and architecture. One of our stops was Higham Ferrers, a small town in Northamptonshire noted for its memorial brasses in the church.

The most famous brass is that of Laurence St. Maur, (pronounced Seymour), a parish priest who died in 1337. The brass dates from that time, and was originally on the floor. In 1633 it was placed on a tomb about four feet off the ground. . We were able to do rubbings of the brass on black paper and gold crayons. It is six feet long and two feet wide. I managed to get mine home rolled up in my backpack, had it framed, and managed to haul it to Winnipeg, Indiana, and North Dakota in one piece. He hangs on our hallway with framed Jim Brandenburg photos. You can see the top part of the rubbing below. It was hard to get a good photo without glare.

He doesn’t look too happy. There is an inscription farther down around his chest, ornately decorated robes, and two active dogs at his feet. He doesn’t have a head dress, but I gather that many brasses did, and the brasses were often used to show the decedent’s sense of style. Animals at the feet were often symbolic of how the person died. Flowers were also popular and symbolic. I read about a brass on someone named St. Margaret of Antioch who had a dragon at her feet. I gather that she was swallowed by the Devil in the form of a dragon, and emerged from his side unscathed.

What inscriptions or symbols would you want on your memorial brass?

Grilling Season!

We took the grill out on Monday and fired it up!  For many years, when YA was younger, we had an old kinda-grill that we inherited when I bought the house.  It looked like it had been cobbled together from parts found in the garage and was so rickety that I wasn’t sure I could get it to the boulevard to give away before it collapsed.  I felt a little guilty that somebody stopped and took it before I’d even had a chance to go in the house and make a “FREE” sign.

Our second grill was a little hibachi-type thing, but we didn’t use it much.  Let’s face it, spending 30-40 minutes coaxing charcoal to just the right stage so you can heat up a veggie burger for a minute. 

I finally caved and got a gas grill when YA was about 12 – got it using award credits at work.  Then I splurged to get a little wheeled cart that it sits on; it was a little too big to lug around.  Last year we switched from the little canisters to a big one.  It works much better and saves a lot of gas.  

So to celebrate Memorial Day we did grilled corn on the cob and veggie brats with all the fixins.  It was a perfect day for grilling and eating at our outdoor table!  And so much nicer to just turn on the gas for 10 minutes and then turn it off!

What do you like to grill?


We have finally identified the bird living in the birdhouse – it’s a house wren!   It took a while because she (I have no clue but I like to think of her as a her) hangs around near the birdhouse but is a little skittish about going in and out while we’re in the yard. I’m also not a whizz where bird identification is concerned.

She sings like crazy.  I’m not sure how birds do it; I’d need throat lozenges every night if I gave out as much as they do.  On Saturday, I was lounging about in the backyard and I thought I’d doublecheck my identification, just to make sure.  She was hanging about, singing her little heart out so I figured comparing her birdsong to bird calls on the internet would be interesting.  I opened the first website I found and hit play.

Her reaction was immediate.  She lit off her branch and came straight at me.  She didn’t get too close for comfort, but it was definitely a warning.  No other house wrens allowed in her yard.   I did it again on Sunday to see if it had just been a fluke.  No fluke.  She definitely did not want any competition and came at me again.  No more bird calls off the internet for me!

Any loud persistent folks in your life?

Cheese Poll

Photo credit: The Cricket Gallery

I do most of my “library-ing” at the Washburn Library.  It’s just 2 blocks away and it would be a lie if I said it was on the list of considerations when I bought this house.  I’m probably there twice a week.

Last week I needed a copy of something right away (for my other book club) and the closest copy was at the Southdale location.  At Southdale, all the library action begins on the second floor and as I came up the steps and rounded the corner, I encountered this table:

Apparently May is National Cheese month.  Who knew?  Anyway, it looks like they do a tally like this every month.  You choose a little paper slip and put it in the cylinder of your choice.  Not sure why they do this, but seemed like a bit of harmless fun.

I voted for Paneer because I love the underdog.

Did you have a favorite childhood cartoon? Or we can discuss cheese!

On and On It Goes

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Another week of life being relentless… I’m tired and I can’t keep two coherent thoughts together so this week’s blog will be basic highlights and a bunch of photos.

*I did finish planting corn. Except for about 2 acres that are wet. But I’ll get to them soon.

*Working on planting soybeans. Hoping to finish on Saturday.

*The college show opened on Wednesday and the paint was dry and it’s a good show. The set isn’t my best, but it works.

*We’ve had 4 sandhill cranes hanging around.

*The lilacs are looking – and smelling – so good!

*Every morning, I let Humphry out, and Bailey comes in to get a morning greeting and some attention for a minute. Then she’s happy to go back out.

*For the first time ever, I kinda got tired of music in the tractors. I listened to podcasts: Moth Radio hour, The New Yorker Radio Hour, Radiolab, and my frequent standby: Light Talk. (Imagine the Car Talk guys, doing a show about lighting).

*Kelly and I picked up some very large limestone rocks using an old thing called a ‘Slip Scraper’ or ‘Buck Scraper’. Clyde, you ever use one of these? This has been behind the shed for years. It’s missing some handles, but we made it work carrying rocks.

*The coop applied fertilizer for soybeans.

*Next week is all about lighting the next show in my schedule.

*My last day at the college for this academic year is May 31. I probably won’t have all my work done; I may have to stop in the next week just to finish what I don’t get done this week.

But then, THEN, the pace will slow down and I can start working on my new shed space.

Have a safe and peaceful Memorial Day weekend!

Here are photos:

Planting corn, the tracks in the dirt, my tractor buddies one day, my view from the tractor front and back, a rock shaped like Minnesota (that was really heavy!), Kelly and her second load of rocks, the “buck scraper”, A goofball, the coop’s fertilizer spreader, loading soybean seed from the trailer, Another tractor buddy, and the camera’s showing the seed in the drill.

Where and what was the best burger you ever had?

(The first time I had a ‘blue Burger’ ((blue cheese on a burger)) was at a bowling alley and it was FANTASTIC and none have compared to that one.)


Now that the weather is nicer, YA’s inner-pyromaniac has emerged for the summer. 

Years ago I inherited a backyard fire pit from a friend.  At this point I think the rust is the only thing holding it together but it has provided many years of enjoyable backyard conflagrations.  YA is good at sweeping the yard for twigs and branches that she piles up in the very back of the yard; she is always on the lookout for kindling.  She is the initiator of 98% of our backyard infernos and is generally in charge of any arranging and poking that is needed.

It doesn’t take long after the first couple of the seasons blazes that she asks about graham crackers and chocolates.  We always have marshmallows (Trader Joe’s – vegetarian).  I knew this was coming so I had already stocked up; we were able to have our first s’mores of the season that day!  We even used the s’mores trays that I bought at the state fair a few years ago.  These are clearly unnecessary toys but I love them anyway. 

We have a gas stove; we could easily have s’mores all year long, but we never make them except over the fire in the back yard.  I suspect that the sunshine, the smoke from the fire, the joy of finally being outside after a long winter contribute to why having summer s’mores is just the best way to go.

Do you have any seasonal rituals?


I have live in western North Dakota since 1987, and I still can’t get over how dusty it is here.

I like to dust using an attachment on the vacuum hose, but sometimes just use a Swiffer duster thingy. It is so dusty here that a week after dusting, I can write my name in the thick dust on the furniture surfaces. We have new windows and siding on the house. I change the furnace filters frequently, but there is no stopping the dust. It seems to be worse in our bedroom, for some reason. I am beginning to wonder if I need to vacuum all the walls and ceilings, too.

My mother had high standards for cleaning and really hated dust. One of her rules for cleaning was to always make the beds before you dusted, because shaking out the bed clothes would “raise the dust”. Next you vacuumed and then you dust. She would be very frustrated with the dust situation in our home. It just seems like a losing battle. Not dusting really isn’t an option, though.

What are some family maxims that you remember? How do you keep down the dust? What are your least favorite cleaning tasks.?

Is a Puzzlement

Doing some errands last week – had been raining all day.  Waiting for the left-turn arrow at an intersection, I noticed that on the berm between the street and the parking lot, the automatic sprinklers had turned on.

Thinking of all the technology we have these days (people on the moon, 3-d printing, chatbots, apps that can track your heartrate – the list goes on and one), why can’t they program automatic sprinklers to know when it’s raining?

Any absurdity bothering you this week?