Category Archives: 2023

Made It!

Today’s Farming Update comes from Ben.

Should be warming up by the time you’re reading this. My mom’s mother’s birthday is February 8, 1899. (She died on February 8, 1990.) and mom always said, by her mom’s birthday you could tell spring was coming and the days are getting longer.

But boy, the wind on Thursday. Blowing out of the North and it’s COLD, yet the sunshine is so nice.

15° but there’s mud on the south side of the shed, and that’s what’s so cool about the weather. The sun sure is getting powerful as we move toward spring and April showers and it will be here before you know it.

We were at supper with friends the other night and comfort food came up. I hadn’t thought of an actual food to call comfort food and I was kinda stumped. Popcorn was a big one though. Lately I’ve been making coleslaw at home. Met a friend at the grocery store one day and he had a bag of cabbage mix in his cart, and I thought that sounded good. A little vinegar, sour cream, mayo, pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper, garlic and onion, and Kelly and I are really enjoying it. I can’t figure out why. I think it’s such a good mix of crunchy, creamy, with just a little ‘zing’ too it. Some of you that know your way around the kitchen better than us; should we replace the bay leave that’s been in our flour container since 1997??

Egg production is down a bit with these temps, but everyone is surviving. I’ve got my new hooded jacket, zak-traks for my new insulated boots, and wearing nitrile gloves under my regular gloves and were doing fine.

This cold weather has me thinking of watering calves when I was growing up. Baby calves were kept in the barn with the cows. (Which is frowned upon but now; too many germs spread from cows to the calves that the calves are not old enough to handle yet.) They were warm and I had a simple float on a bucket for their water. When they were about 3 months old, I moved them up to the other barn. They’d be about 300 pounds and boy, that was a rodeo. It’s only 50 feet from here to there, but they didn’t know where they were going, and after burning the horn buds off they were all riled up and it was all I could do to get them up there. It was uphill. Both ways. I just hung on for the ride and tried to head them in that direction. Course once in that barn, I still had to get the rope halter off them. I was younger then thank goodness.

And in this barn was an old metal water tank. 400 gallons or something. One of those galvanized oval metal tanks you’ve all seen. In the summer it was outside with a hose and a float to keep it full of water. In the winter, it was inside. Dad didn’t believe in electric waterers nor was there an outlet in the barn and the calves would have gotten into it and that would be a whole big thing.

Sometimes I would use a hose to fill the tank. And then drain the hose and it hang inside the feed room door, so it was on the warm barn side. But if I didn’t want to use the hose, I used 5 gallon buckets. Carrying those buckets of water built muscle and character. Carrying 2 did it even faster. Remember it was uphill. Depending on the weather, it might take 4 or 6 buckets to fill it. When it was this cold it all froze solid except maybe a depression in the middle so it would only hold 5 gallons. Eventually I’d have to knock out the ice to make more room. The calves, like any outdoor animal, is fine in the cold as long as they can get out of the wind, and they have enough food and water to keep their energy up. When it got to the point they couldn’t drink I could bang on the outside using the backside of an old axe, then chop out a bunch inside, then pound some more on the outside. Mind you, eventually I’d cut a hole in the metal. Sooner if I forgot to turn the axe around. Then it held less water…

As the weather got warmer, eventually Id be able to get the water tank out of the frozen manure, and flipped over all ALL the ice knocked out of it and those ice chunks would last a long time.

So now in winter I haul water in 8 quart buckets to the chickens. It’s downhill all the way to their pen. And a longer walk of 150 feet. (summer we use a hose and multiple buckets) I can carry two buckets in one hand, and corn and water in the other. I have strong fingers. Maybe from all those 5 gallon buckets?

Chickens don’t like bread crust either. But they didn’t eat the cantaloupe, which is weird. We’ve always said we have fussy chickens.

I’ve mentioned we have electric heat. When its below zero, it might cost us $12 / day and I have to think, how much is heat worth to me? Do I want to be cold or do I want to pay the $12.

Good thing this cold spell didn’t last too long.

What Is your favorite cabbage recipe? What is the longest cold spell you remember? What is your ice removal strategy? What do you do with old spices?

Keeping Warm

There have been some pretty cold temperatures this winter. I have a heavy, down coat I only wear if it is colder than -20, and a lighter but warm Columbia jacket with a lining that I wear most of the winter. Sweaters help.

I am the happy owner of three Norwegian wool sweaters, a really warm wool sweater daughter got for me in Iceland, and a thick, cable knit Irish wool sweater I got in Dublin. They all keep me nicely warm.

I went to graduate school Winnipeg, and lived there through six winters. Although I was used to cold Fargo temperatures, the winters in Winnipeg were much colder. The main reason for Winnipeg’s existence was the fur trade, and as an animal lover, it was disconcerting to go to what was known as The Exchange District and see all the stores selling fur coats and fur pelts, retail and wholesale. I could never in good conscience wear a fur coat. Wool and down keep me warm enough.

The only person I knew in Winnipeg who owned a fur coat was Vuyo, a fellow graduate student who was a refugee from South Africa. This was before the end of Apartheid. Her husband was a freedom fighter who had been killed by the South African security forces, and she had fled to Lesotho with her children and somehow ended up in one of the coldest cities in Canada. Her father was an Anglican priest, and she knew Desmond Tutu very well. She had a beautiful leopard coat she got from a friend in London, England. The friend was verbally harassed in the London streets for wearing fur, so she gave Vuyo the coat. Vuyo wore that coat without a shred of guilt, as it kept her very warm in that very cold place. She had a far different attitude about animals and their utility for humans than the rest of us did.

What is your strategy for keeping warm in the winter? What are your favorite kinds of sweaters? Have you ever known anyone who had a fur coat?

Pet Guilt

Husband is an oldest son with younger siblings, and is a real caretaker. This extends to a sense of duty that he has toward our pets. He is currently feeling very guilty because he can’t give our dog the three walks a day that he has become accustomed to. Husband just doesn’t think that vigorous indoor play is sufficient. The problem is that there is so much treacherous ice coating the sidewalks that it isn’t safe for him to walk the dog right now. He cracked his wrist last Friday by falling on the ice while walking the dog.

Kyrill is very spoiled, in terms of the dog treats he gets and the attention that he is paid, by both me and Husband. Husband carefully reads the ingredients of the treats we buy, and we seem to make weekly trips to Runnings and the pet store in search of just the the right chews and toys. I don’t remember Husband spoiling our children like this, although he was always playing with them and keeping them busy.

Husband decided to brave the ice last night and try to walk the dog. He made it half way down to block and came back home as he was afraid of falling. I am afraid that there will be terrible ice for some time, as there is tons of snow, and as the weather warms during the day it is just going to melt and then refreeze into more ice.

I heard from a friend yesterday that the city street department has sixteen vacant positions that no one will take due to a reportedly toxic work environment. I don’t foresee the city stepping up to remove the snow and ice, so Husband is going to have to deal with his pet guilt for many weeks.

How does guilt factor in how you deal with your pets? How well does your municipal government function? What are the best and worst city governments you have dealt with?

Right Or Left

Husband describes himself as a left handed person, so one would think that the small fracture he currently is sporting in his right wrist wouldn’t be as big a problem as if had he fractured his left wrist. Well, that isn’t the case at all. Husband writes and reaches for things with his left hand. Those are things he learned before the age of 5. He does everything else with his right hand, including throwing balls and fine motor tasks like buttoning and tying his shoes. He also has carpal tunnel issues with his right hand, so his fingers don’t work that well.

It has been an exhausting learning experience for him to make his left hand work in ways it is unaccustomed to. I am unusually dexterous, so this is all painful for me to watch. I suppose this is a textbook case of mixed lateral dominance. We are supposed to write and throw and kick with hands and feet on the same side of the body. Husband writes with his left hand, but kicks and throws with his right hand and foot. He is also right eye dominant. Can you imagine how hard it would be to navigate the world not knowing what eye, hand, or foot to use? Husband’s father was a lefty. Both our children and our grandson are righties, so I hope the mixed lateral dominance gene has been evaded for future generations.

Are you a lefty or a righty? Know any lefties who struggle? Any stories of lefties who were forced to change to righties in school? Ever broken a bone?

All The Risotto In Seattle

Our children grew up eating a lot of rice, especially Basmati rice since we made curry pretty often. I made risotto occasionally, but not often since it was such a boring pain to make, standing at the stove and stirring and adding the broth for what seemed like an eternity.

The advent of the Instant Pot has revolutionized risotto making, and you can get a really decent risotto in no time with very little effort. I splurged and got a large bag of Carnaroli rice from a fancy, mail order Italian grocery store. It is heavenly. It is said to be far superior to Arborio rice. I haven’t decided yet.

I was tickled the other day when our daughter told me that she and a friend are determined to sample every risotto in Seattle. Their most recent foray into risotto was at a very fancy Italian restaurant where the risotto was green (presumably from pesto) and had Wagyu beef on the top. Daughter said it was wonderful.

I think she and her friend are on a lovely quest, and I wondered where I would want to go to sample a delicacy. All the minestrone in Tuscany? All the baguettes in Paris?

Where would you like to travel to sample the food? What is your favorite rice dish?

Leaving Off January

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

It was nice to see the Sun on Monday for a while. Feels like that was a month ago. Then Thursday it was sunny for a while. Maybe some sun coming…along with the cold. Man, February, I’m telling ya.
It was nice to see the Sun on Monday for a while. Feels like that was a month ago. Then Thursday it was sunny for a while. Maybe some sun coming…along with the cold. Man, February, I’m telling ya.

I signed a contract for concrete this summer. I’m excited about that and looking forward to it. It’s going to be really nice. I also plan to get new electrical service run to the shed instead of the rube Goldberg way it gets there now. (Thank you Dad) And then next year will be insulation and walls. But it’s gonna be nice.

I meant to start writing this well before I did. I went to get something, and I got distracted vacuuming the entry way and mudroom. That area is always dirty. Between the dogs’ wet feet and me and my boots bringing in bits of straw and chicken manure, plus dirt, and gravel (That’s why it’s the mudroom). Doesn’t help that our 15-year-old dog Allie is suffering incontinence and often pees down there. Good thing it’s tile and in floor heat. We’ve tried the doggy diapers; can anyone make them stay on??  We can’t. Put it on, turn around, it’s off. Maybe it’s the shape of the dog.

Anyway, after vacuuming the entryway, I realized I should vacuum the basement steps. I know I’ve vacuumed them once or twice before, but it’s been a while. Plugged it up with a big chunk of something and pulled out a LOT of dog hair. And that led me to vacuum the bathroom downstairs. I don’t ever recall vacuuming in there although someone must have at some point, and then it was full and I had to dump it out again after I was done. Then I had to mix up the next step of the Amish Friendship bread batter, and in a round-about way I finally got around to writing this.

Wednesday, I needed chicken layer ration and I drove to Stewartville to pick up it up. Stewartville is about 10 miles south of Rochester. Back when I was milking cows, it was almost a weekly thing to pick up bags of something for the cows. Protein supplements, soybean meal, trace minerals, salt, mineral barrels, something; and it was all in 50-pound bags and I loaded and unloaded many many tons of bags by hand over the years. So, when I called Elgin Elevator to order the layer ration and they told me they don’t carry bagged feed anymore, well, I was filled with dysphoria. When I was a kid, I’d go there with Dad to pick up feed. It probably had a few other names, and I recall picking up feed in Viola MN, and Zumbro Falls MN, but usually it was Elgin. There was a merger last year and I can only assume that’s why they’re not carrying bagged feed anymore. Or perhaps it’s so many people moving to bulk products instead of bags. And that’s how I ended up in Stewartville getting a ton of layer ration.

It’s so easy these days- they put it in the truck with a folk lift, and I use the tractor and forks to take it off the truck and put it in the shed. ‘Work smarter not harder’ they say. But it’s hard to build muscles that way, the weaklings.

I did get to drive some nice roads that I don’t often get on. Drove past Fugles Mill, over the Root River, and past the Root River Park. But getting around or through Rochester is such a hassle. (I know, try Minneapolis you say).

It was fun to meet Krista and Pippin and move some eggs. 36 dozen so far in January!

With the cold weather coming in I’ll have the wellhouse heater on for the next week and will be trying to collect eggs before they freeze and crack.

Doing chores the other day and I had a bit of a traffic jam.

Didn’t get a chance to watch any movies this week. Kelly and I are trying to watch an episode or two of ‘Orange is the New Black’ every night.

Music has been a random assortment of my phone playlist, Radio Heartland, the XM 1940’s station, or ModernBigBand on the Jazz channel. Although on the drive to Stewartville my playlist was various songs by the band YES. Roundabout, South Side of the Sky, Yours is No Disgrace, I’ve Seen All Good People. It was nice. Course I had the dogs with me. Humphrey just lays in the back seat. Bailey spent the first half of the trip with her nose in my ear, and the second half in the front seat staring at me.

One thing I forgot when using the snow blower last week; I forgot about how blown snow lands and packs harder than falling snow. Here’s me digging out one door with a garden trowel I had in the gator –

There was another door I was going to leave for Kelly, but I found a shovel and dug that one out and got it open. Yep; forgot that part.

Bundle up for a while now and be careful out there.

Traffic roundabouts. What about them?

Say It Ain’t Snow!

Photo credit:  Star Tribune

MnDot announced the finalists yesterday for the Minnesota Name A Snowplow contest.   If you haven’t heard of this before you may not be alone, although the contest has been held annually for a few years now.  Last year’s winners were:

    • Betty Whiteout
    • Ctrl Salt Delete
    • The Big Leplowski
    • Plowasaurus Rex
    • Scoop Dogg
    • Blizzard of Oz
    • No More Mr. Ice Guy
    • Edward Blizzardhands

This is one winner per MnDot district.  I haven’t been able to find out what happens after the winners are announced?  Is there a plaque somewhere?  Little signs on the snowplows?  Patches for the snowplow drivers?  Banquet?

There are 60 finalists so I am not going to name them all but will give you some of my favorites:

    • Bladezilla
    • It’s a Squall World After All
    • Taylor Drift
    • Hippoplowtomus

If you’d like to see all the finalists and vote for your top eight favs, here is the link:

Name a Snowplow contest – MnDOT (

We can probably come up with some good names of our own.  What do you think?

Cold Calls

With the kitchen project, electricians, plumbers, dishwasher installers, etc. all calling me the last three to four weeks, I’ve been answering unknown numbers more than usual.  Some of the time it’s been someone I want to talk to, some of it’s folks looking for my money. 

Yesterday morning I was still expecting a couple more calls about the dishwasher so I picked up an area code “952” when it rang.  I knew straight away it probably wasn’t the dishwasher but I usually wait to hear what my unknowns want before I give them the brush off.  She jumped right in an identified herself as calling from a colonoscopy center and asking when my last one was.  I was able to truthfully tell her I had done the mail-in a couple of months ago and then we ended the call.  Who would have thought you’d ever get a call like this?

I spent all afternoon thinking about it and imagining what she tells people at parties when they ask what she does.  “I make cold calls to talk people into colonoscopies” aren’t words that I’d be willing to say to strangers.

What is a current trend that you just don’t understand?


I think I’m a fairly upbeat person most of the time.  So when I’m crabby, I really feel it.  It was just one of those days where every little thing built up.

Finally got through to somebody about the dishwasher and got answers – not what I really wanted, but at least answers.  My recent excellent experience with the cabinet installation did not suddenly make me think all projects would go on schedule and be hunky dory but when they showed up with the dishwasher and couldn’t de-install the old one, and couldn’t explain why to me because they didn’t have much English and my Spanish doesn’t include any electrical- or plumbing- detailed vocabulary.  Did get somebody on the phone from the company who would translate, but the end is still the same.  No dishwasher installed today.  Plumber today.  Maybe.  All this has required that I change plans for lunch today.   Meh.

Then I got an email from my ex-boss.  I officially “start” work tomorrow, although until I have a computer and the program is ready to turn over, I won’t actually be doing anything.  Meh.

My favorite tv channel hasn’t been “connecting” today.  You’d think that since I’ve seen every episode of Midsomer Murders, this wouldn’t be that big a deal.  I can watch old episodes on Freetevee but it’s not the best app for reception.   Meh.

My stamps came from the post office today but I only got half of the order.  23 minutes on hold before Customer Service picked up.  She was very nice and apologetic and the rest of the stamps should be here later this week.  Meh.

I took out all my frustration on a non-person, the Xfinity survey system.  After unsuccessfully trying to figure out my tv channel problem, I got an automated survey from Xfinity.  If you were at Blevins on Sunday, you’re probably laughing right now (we did vent a bit about surveys during book club).  I was vicious with a Zero and a No I wouldn’t recommend and No, you didn’t resolve my problem.  Unfortunately I know the information will go nowhere and it didn’t actually make me feel less crabby to savage the Xfinity survey.  Meh.

How to you un-crabby yourself?


Big warehouse stores don’t do it for me.  While I have a huge house, I’ve never found it convenient to buy massive quantities to keep the price a bit down.  (With the exception of toilet paper, of course.)

However there is one thing that I use a lot of: postage stamps.  Most months I send out 10-12 birthday cards and then there are the anniversary cards, get well cards, sympathy cards, thank you cards and then all the other things that I feel the need to note. At least one card a month goes overseas. 

So when I noticed a news story about postage going up (it increased yesterday), I thought maybe stamps was one thing I would load up on.  Apparently I’m not the only one to think this…. a couple of the stamps that I like were out of stock at my local post office.  So I chose some others and then came home and ordered a bunch more online.  I figure I won’t have to buy stamps until August!

What do you never like to run out of?