Category Archives: animals

The Dog Gate Conundrum

Last week I bought a fold up free-standing gate.  The dog behaviorist has finally made me realize that I am not going to “fix” Guinevere so that she doesn’t wake up violently when the kitty jumps down from the windowsill in the middle of the night.  That means I have to solve how to keep the kitty safe.   It’s always a pretty short scenario; Nimue thumps down on the floor, Guinevere startles awake and lunges.  Then Guinevere wakes up and it’s over. 

We tried keeping Nimue in YA’s room but kitty does not like being imprisoned all night.  After all she does her best hunting in the wee hours.  Then we put Guinevere in YA’s room but then the dog whined all night and scratched at the door.

So now we have a pretty white, fairly heavy free-standing gate in my room that separates where the kitty jumps down from my bed, where the dog hangs out all night.  It’s only been a few days so Nimue hasn’t quite figured it all out, but I expect in the next few days, she’ll have it worked out.

That’s not really what I’m here to talk about.  What I’m here to talk about is that it’s been over a week since I ordered this thing and today I have seen at least SIX ads recommending various dog gates.  Oh and an ad for a pet door.  I’ve probably said this before, but if the computers are so smart and connected into my life to know I’m looking at dog gates, then why aren’t they smart enough to know I already bought the darn thing.  Do they think I need lots and lots of dog gates?  I hate to think what would happen if I returned it – what pop-up ads would I get then?

Have you ever worked retail?  Any good stories?

Large House Cats?

Last November there was a post that I clipped part of and have kept on my desktop.  I don’t remember what we were talking about but this string always intrigued me:

Part of the reason it has stuck with me is that it reminds me of two books.  My dad loved everything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially the John Carter/Mars series, so I’ve read quite a few as well.  In the Gods of Mars series, the Therns have bamboozled another species, the Barsoomians, luring them with the promise of a journey to paradise, when in fact, they just get captured and eaten.  My father and I had some long conversations about this; he thought it was the best justification for being a vegetarian he had ever read.

The other book that our conversation reminds me of is The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell.  Also science fiction and a similar scenario in which the traveling Earthman discovers that the dominant species eats the non-dominant, although to his eye, they are both sentient beings.  There is also a VERY disturbing sub-plot in which the Earthman is basically kept as a pet and from his (and the reader’s) perspective, abused and maimed, although his “owner” fairly easily deflects and explains those actions away.  And it was believable.  Way too believable.  It took me a few years to work up the nerve to read the next book in the series.

Even though all these memories got dredged up back in November, I still thought it was a funny exchange. Although I’m pretty sure I’m already the pet of my cat Nimue….

What’s the most exotic animal you’ve ever fantasized about getting as a pet?

My Un-Monty-Don-Esque Woods

Today’s post comes to us from Clyde.

Monty Don, of craggy face and deep rich voice and calm confident demeanor, is the BBC’s in-house gardening expert, worth knowing if you are a gardener. And worth knowing if you are into travel. In addition to his weekly garden show, he has done several series where he helps non-gardeners develop their small yards and, my favorite, when he gives tours of great gardens of different countries, such as France and Italy. Of those I love the French tour most, in part because he travels around in post-WWII era Citroen, one of the more visually memorable cars. The French gardens are the highly structured masterpieces of topiary and shaped hedges and large fountains and looping pathways. The Italian ones are about as structured but do not appear to be so, cultivated randomness.

But it is the old English gardens which impress and irritate me. Garden on the English tour means large expanses of hundreds of acres where every tree, pathway, line of sight and folly has been developed to look ancient and natural, when it is not. The long lines of sight built into the landscape are masterpieces of faux natural. The beauty impresses me, but the bending of will to man irritates me, done by genius such as Capability Brown (1716-1783), original name Lancelot Brown. (Marketing was an art even in the 18th Century.) Brown’s face is shaped much like Monty Don’s, by the way.

Then there are the woods 20 feet off my patio, owned, except for the first 5-6 feet, by the city. Capability would rub his hands in glee on how he could change that abhorrent disarray. Not that I do not have a similar impulse, having been raised on a farm where the woods were managed as graze and woodlot. Our roads through the 85 acres still appear in my dreams.

My woods here is as wild and uncontrolled as woods in a city could be, mostly because of the ravine. Various parts of both Mankato and North Mankato are designated as Upper and Lower, meaning on top of the bluffs or below them where the ancient river Warren carved out a deep and wide valley in a matter of a few days.

The header photo shows the tangle at its worst or most glorious. They are the end of the woods where they point out into a small field of corn or soybeans, a la Ben. Those trees are not shaped that way by the wind, in fact they are bent right into the prevailing wind. I assume their need for sunlight made them arch out and away from the tall trees. It is a favorite place for deer to bed down. But even they struggle to navigate through my woods. There are several tall trees reaching their full maturity, about which there is a mystery I will not delve into. But when the leaves are gone (I took these pictures in April.) you can see the tangle of fallen and rotting trees down the sides of the raven, which gets deep very quickly, or up among the standing trees. Or you can see my corkscrew trees, as I call them, species unknown to me. They reach up like a middle finger in the face of Capability.

Trees are in all stages of life and decay.

Many visitors live or walk through the woods or the apartment building’s strip of grass.

Just three days ago I realized that at the base of one of the mystery trees a pair of squirrels have raised almost to maturity a litter of, I think, five kits. I caught them venturing out to explore, but only on their tree so far, and took this photo through the window above my computer.

I have sketched several parts of my woods. These two trees now are mush on the ground.

This spring a thick branch on one of the mystery trees broke in the high winds and got caught as a squirrel beltway. The next day the squirrels tested carefully before venturing out on this wonderful shortcut across an open space in the upper trees. Now it is their jousting ground and a trysting place, observation deck, escape route and attack route.

I could show and tell more, but I have overstayed my welcome.

Thoreau said he had traveled much in Concord. In what small area have you traveled much?

Virtual Chicago

YA took a long weekend trip to Chicago the past three days.  I dropped her off early on Friday at the airport.   I was really looking forward to having a long weekend all to myself.  You all know that I adore YA but since I haven’t traveled for work since March of 2020, we haven’t really had a break from each other for quite a while now.

She didn’t ask me for any input on her trip, except for two questions, one about her Real ID and one about security at the airport.  When I asked her if she needed a packing list printed out (I have it on my pc), she said no.  (I did see that she had created and printed out her own packing list when I took a couple of things into her room yesterday!)  As the parent of a young adult, I was not expecting to hear from much if at all until her pick-up (noon today).

It was a nice surprise on Friday afternoon when I got a photo text of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat with a question about whether this was my favorite painting (I had mentioned my favorite painting was hanging in the Chicago Art Institute – this isn’t it). 

Later on Friday I got a quick text about an “ok impossible burger” but no photo to enshrine the meal.

Then on Saturday morning this photo came.

I didn’t realize right away that it was taxidermy – The Natural History Museum.   A bit later, a photo of Sue, the famous tyrannosaurus rex, showed up (header photo).  No texts about dinner.

Yesterday, there was a photo of a breakfast taco and smoothie and then, some real polar bears at the Chicago Zoo

This was followed by a picture of a lovely flower – the Botanical Gardens.  I didn’t even remember that this was on her schedule. 

No photo of the pizza dinner last night.  Her flight arrives at noon today so no more photos will be coming. But I definitely feel like I had a trip to Chicago even though I barely left the house over the weekend!

If you could get a virtual tour of someplace, where would that be?

Making Progress

All things do eventually arrive. Even good weather.

The corn is all planted and we’re working on soybeans. Growing Degree Units for my area are at 317; about 90 above normal, which, I’m finding hard to believe as cool as it was this spring. But I read it on the internet so it must be true.

I’m still struggling with the pinched nerve and I’m lucky my brother has been coming out and helping do fieldwork the last few years. He and Kelly got to work last Saturday with me pointing and giving instructions and they took the loader off the tractor, hooked up the corn planter, got it all greased, filled it with seed and started planting corn. Several times it became clear to us how many things we just do, without thinking about them, and then have to explain to someone *how* to do it, is much more difficult. Communication people, Communication.

Kelly planted the first field of corn. Again, so many things to watch, that I do automatically, but trying to explain it all to her…well, one thing at a time. It wasn’t helpful that sometimes I change my mind in the middle of what’s happening. But she did it! I knew she could! She just hadn’t had too before. Eventually I discovered I was able to get into the tractor and I was able to do the planting. I have more corn this year than normal, partially because the co-op and I had a mix up of maps and they weren’t spreading the fertilizer where I expected them to spread it. A few phone calls and texting photos of maps back and forth solved the issue. I’m still not sure what happen but it’s OK and I’ll verify next year before we start.

Several very fortuitous things have come about this year. We bought a gator two years ago; one of those side by side utility vehicles. I’m able to get in that and drive it. I can park it at the back door, I can drive it through the fields, and into the shed. It’s been very valuable. And the decision last fall to have the co-op spread all the fertilizer, while at the time was more about precision application of nutrients, certainly became valuable this spring as I wasn’t trying to explain how to run the fertilizer wagon to Kelly. Not to mention having to refill the planter so often. With the co-op doing it, all the corn fields are fertilized at once and I just have someone add seed to the planter and I can go many more acres before needing a refill. Ah, those decisions we make without realizing their full implications.

The barn swallows returned the first week of May and a pair have built a nest on top of a wind chime outside our front door. This has been a regular occurrence the last few years. We’ve learned to put some cardboard down to collect all the droppings. And a Robin is building a nest on top of a gutter downspout where it angles under the eave, at the back door. I enjoy watching the swallows fly around me when out in the fields. I’ve been seeing pheasants near the CRP, (Conservation Reserve Program) fields. He doesn’t seem to be very afraid of me in the tractor. One day daughter took a walk and said she saw an owl. I thought that was kind of unusual and figured she meant a hawk. Two days later, Kelly and I were going to get the mail, and there was an owl! Daughter was right.

Planting corn was almost without issues. On the second to last field, the planter settled to the ground by itself once and I thought the hydraulic valve on the tractor must be leaking. (It’s hydraulic oil that holds it up). When I got to the last field, I realized there was an oil leak and that’s why the planter had lowered itself. Oh. Heck. I tried to finish planting but it soon became apparent I was losing too much oil. Making a run for home, I almost made it before running completely out of hydraulic oil. The next day we found the leak and my brother got it apart, I found a replacement, he reassembled, and we finished planting corn.

The chicks are growing up; they’re kind of at that awkward teenage phase.

I watched a pair of guineas the other day. I’m not sure if they were fighting or playing or mating.

When have your intentions been misunderstood?

Trust

The breeder from whom we got our dog said that a road trip was one of the best ways to bond with with a puppy. Kyrill was pretty scared, at first, but by the time we got him to our first night at the hotel, he was happy and perfectly content.

Kyrill is very attached to us, so much so that he follows us everywhere and can’t bear to be away from us. Our experience with other terriers is that they are independent souls who want to explore the world on their own terms. Kyrill’s terrier breed, on the other hand, has a pack-mentality and only wants to be with the leaders of the pack. I had to set some limits with him regarding his feeding, as he only wanted to eat if the food bowl was underneath my feet as I sat on the sofa. He trusts us implicitly to provide everything he needs, and that is a little daunting at times.

Kyrill loves to help us in the yard. Here he is helping us plant bare root strawberries.

I admit that I have encouraged much of his dependence on us, as I let him sleep with us, but, in his and my defense, he is a perfect sleeping partner and only stirs once a night after about 5 hours. He then goes right back to sleep for another 4 hours. . He is crated during the day when we are at work.

How do you get animals or people to trust you? How can you tell if you can trust someone? Have you ever known anyone with a trust fund?

TRAVELERS NEVER DID LIE, THOUGH FOOLS AT HOME CONDEMN THEM

At Blevins Book Club on Sunday, tim and I were extolling the high quality of Ben’s eggs, having both gotten some the weekend that the straw bales were delivered.  Even the organic eggs that I get from my milk man pale by comparison.  I commented that I wished Ben lived a bit closer so I could justify driving down for eggs on a regular basis.

I should not have been surprised when I got a text from tim today saying maybe we could do some kind of driving swap/egg coop arrangements.  For the first five minutes after I got the text, I thought “tim is one crazy dude.”   Then the next five minutes I was emailing Ben with a few questions to even determine the feasibility of this. 

The third five minutes I was looking up directions between my house and Ben’s farm and thinking about how every few weeks I could get in almost 3 hours of books on tape when I was driving down and bacl.  And the fourth five minutes I was thinking about the spreadsheet I could design if this turns out to be do-able and more baboons than just tim and I can co-op (a lot of this does depend on Ben’s chickens after all).

I’m not sure what the next few five-minute increments will bring – but please don’t anybody tell my milk man!

How far will you go for your favorite products?

Farming This Week

The weekend farm report comes to us from Ben.

Another Minnesota spring, jumps from rain and cold to 90°. Bailey still has her winter coat, she needs to start shedding soon. 

Remember the three Roosters? The dynamics are changing. Number Three is the boss now. Number Two can hang out with Three, but number One has been outcast. And three is kind of a bully. One and two got into it a while ago, full on neck feathers raised and jumping at each other with their claws. Bailey ran over and broke it up. Later, all three of them got into it. Again, Bailey ran over and broke it up. 

This week was supposed to be all about commencement. Turns out I spent more time at the doctors office than I did at commencement. The backache became a kidney stone, which became legs and feet numb. Lots of tests that are negative so far but I’m having kind of a tough time getting around.

Commencement went well, it was a real team effort and it wouldn’t have gotten done without student worker April, my brother Ernie, my theater partner Jerry, and Kelly, who drives me everywhere and helps out before going to get Amelia and doing all the chores at home. 
The lights were rented from a local guy, and he even offered to deliver them, which was a huge savings especially since I’m not driving. Had all the helpers getting things set up, hung, cabled, and focused. I was there some of the time pointing and giving helpful suggestions. Some phone calls, one video chat, and several text messages later, April is running lights for the nursing graduation and she did good and it looks great! 
Had help to take it all down again and the local guy picked it all back up. I am so lucky to have friends like this. 

Weather looks to be nice now for a week. Get my brother going in the tractor and I’ve talked with the neighbors about planting my corn.

Ducks and Chickens are still good and hanging in there. With the nicer weather, we could open the screen door so the chicks get some sunshine and fresh air.

When was the last time you stirred up trouble? Was it worth it?

Finally – Farming!

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

Well, as I write this, we’ve had one nice sunny day. Finally got some ground worked up. It does dry faster once you open it up, but it’s pretty sticky yet. It is always interesting to me how different soil conditions can be in the same field. I took the ‘First Day of Spring Work’ selfie, packed my tractor snacks, and had my tractor buddy.

I did plant one field of oats; it wasn’t perfect but at least it’s in the ground. Hopefully the weather stays sunny and nice as predicted, and I will finish oats. The co-op called me and we’re coordinating corn fertilizer. Things are moving! Doing some tweaks on the new camera system inside the drill, but I think it’s going to be pretty neat. The photos show the empty tank, and then with seed getting low.

I have one neighbor whose fields are adjacent to mine. Met them along the fence line so we talked for a few minutes. Not any drier on his side of the fence.

 Baby chicks are looking good. They’re about Robin sized. We moved them to a bigger pen and I got them a bigger feeder. All they do is eat and drink.

I found a nest behind a building. It’s a mix of duck eggs and chicken eggs. I’m not quite sure what I’m gonna do about that yet. If I want them to have the best chance at hatching and surviving, I need to collect them all and put them in an incubator. I’ve already got a pen of baby chicks, so I’d have to find another pen for this batch. I can try to let the mama hatch them, and then moving them somewhere safe, but that means keeping an eye on her and the nest and trying to catch them some morning when they’re all on the loose (before the dogs catch them). 

Happy Birthday on the 6th to my wife. Happy Mothers day, too!

Any snacks you need for the road?

Grading on a Curve

Today’s post comes from Ben

After last week’s blog title, “April, Not Farming Yet”, I got to thinking, I really am “farming” every day. I could say I’m not “planting” yet or not “doing field work” yet, but it’s a bit of a misnomer to say I’m not “farming”.
And this week, I’m still not out in the field and I still haven’t planted anything. The co-op spread oat fertilizer Thursday afternoon and while the fields weren’t very dry, I was going to try Friday morning to get them worked up and then plant Friday afternoon. Then we got an inch of rain Thursday night. Again. I don’t wanna complain about it raining, but I would like to get something planted. 

I have been getting things greased up and ready to go: checked tires, pulled the drill from the shed to the barn and back again to be sure all the chains were moving and it appears to be working.

I pulled a muscle in my lower back while clambering under the soil finisher checking tires. Every year that job gets harder. Kneeling on the gravel is no fun either. And trying not to use the one shoulder too much. And the one knee hurts anyway. It was kinda funny all the noises I made under there.

Got the camera’s working in the drill box, just need to finish securing cables. It sure is something to think it takes a week for a letter to go across town, but I can order rubber grommets from Amazon and get them from Louisiana the next day. Or the extension cable from Ohio the next day.

I took the new rear blade out to grade our driveway. There is a real skill and art involved in maintaining gravel roads and my hats off to the grader operators who can do it well. I can’t. I know how you’re supposed to do it and I understand the principle of the thing…but I sure can make a mess of it.

OK, the first grading of the spring is never good anyway. Some of that is my fault, some is just the way it is. This first grading, even on our township roads, one of the things is to cut down the edge, so rain water will run off the sides and not down the road. Plus, that pulls back in some of the gravel that got moved off the road by the snow plow. However this also brings a lot of dirt and grass onto the road. Typically, the good grader guys will leave this mess off to one side, and in a couple weeks it will have broken down and it can all be graded back into the road.

I got this new rear blade that can offset, angle, and tilt up and down. All by hydraulics. Three functions! I only have two hydraulics. (I’m hoping to add a third hydraulic to this tractor.) Plus it’s much heavier and cuts much better than my old blade. It sure did cut the edges down! And drag it into the middle of the road. And raising the right edge angled this way, is backwards when angled the other way and watching the left edge. I had my hands full. And it’s all behind me. And I sure made a mess of the road.

It will be better when I grade it again in a couple weeks. Fingers crossed. Kudos to Parm, our township grader operator.

New chicks are doing well. Growing and eating a lot. Duck numbers are holding. Had a concert at the college and prepping for commencement in two weeks.

This photo is the ‘patch’ for the lighting we’ll be using for commencement.

This right here is about the most important information I will use all week. It tells me everything about the lights and how to hook them up and make them work.

Made a mess of anything lately? What’s the most important thing in your life this week?