Category Archives: Automotive


Photo credit: Fernhern A/S

I see in the news that they are building what will be the world’s longest immersed tunnel.  Linking Germany and Denmark under the waters of the Baltic, construction actually began in 2020 and is expected to be complete by 2029

I’m sure lots of folks are excited about this but not me.  I don’t even like driving through the I94 tunnel downtown and last month when folks got stuck in The Chunnel for several hours, I almost had a panic attack just reading the news story about it. 

Any phobias you’ll admit to?

Not Much Happening

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Really not much happening this week. I’ve been at ‘work’ work. Young Padawan started school so he hasn’t been out. We haven’t even got the grass cut in the last couple weeks, but it really needs it and one of us will have to get on that.

I haven’t even taken any pictures of anything farm related this week.

The adult ducks are still well and chickens are all fine. Our duckling number is down to 4. Not sure what’s happen to the others. Plus, mom abandoned them last week. She just flew the coop and joined the other older ducks. One of the four ducklings has a bad leg. Not sure what happen too it, but one leg is bent up over its back so it struggles around on one leg and it’s belly. Been doing that for at least the last two weeks and somehow still managing.

It seems to be a tough time for pets lately. I’ve got a friend whose cat is having health issues and another who just had to put their dog down. The dog people accepted what they had to do even while they cried about it. The cat person doesn’t want to let go and is just angry about everything. It’s hard that we love our pets so much that losing them hurts so much.

I got a call last week to be the ‘Certified Lift Operator’ for an install at the college sports center. The public school district had a ‘welcome back’ meeting last Monday (Public Schools in Rochester start Tuesday the 6th) So a local production company that I work with was hanging a video screen and needed someone to drive the college lift so they could hang the video screen. Back when I was working as a stagehand, there was one old guy that just ran the forklift. I felt like him; I can’t do the harder physical work at the moment, but I can drive the lift! Went back the next day to drive the lift as they took it back down. LED Video screens were just becoming a thing when I quit being a stagehand, so it was really interesting to see how it all assembled (24 – 18”x 18” LED panels that all clip together and then they daisy chain cables for power in and out of each one and another cable for data in and out to each one.) And these screens have become so bright they only run it at about 10% intensity. Full intensity could light up an entire stadium and burn out your eyeballs. 

On the farm I think about how thing have changed. My dad went from horses to tractors. In the winter he put a ‘heat houser’ on the tractor. There was a bit of a metal frame around the seat area, and then heavy canvas wrapped around the engine to sort of funnel the heat back to the seat area. Of course, the back was wide open, but still, it warmed you up as it blew by. There was a plastic windshield too. I remember using that and it was certainly better than nothing. 

We added a cab to one of our tractors when I was maybe 15 yrs old. It didn’t have heat or AC but at least you were out of the elements. In the summer we took the doors and back window off so that was the AC. And I guess technically it had a heater and somehow the hoses connected to the engine, but it never worked. It didn’t blow any air, hot or cold.

When I bought my first tractor in 1986 it had a cab with actual working heat and AC. But dad hated AC and he’d drive with the doors and windows open anyway. Which really made the inside of the cab dusty. He said AC gave him a cold. These days there is so much electronics in the cab, you wouldn’t dare drive with the doors open like that.

The header photo is a group of neighborhood men. I got this photo from a neighbor who knows a few of the men. We’re not really sure what year it was taken or who most of them are.

The drill we use for oats. As a kid I remember an old wooden drill that Dad used. It had big wood wheels and cranks on the back and I think he said it used to be a horse drawn implement and he had rebuilt the hitch to pull it with a tractor. Eventually he bought a different drill. Neither one of them held much seed and he would load the truck with seed and park it at the end of the field, walk back home for the tractor and drill, drive to the field and make about 3 rounds and fill up the drill again. Then move to a different field and go get the truck again.  I remember riding in the truck and moving it up the edge of the field as he needed seed. When I took over, I’d put a bicycle in the back of the truck so at least I could ride that back home for the tractor. (See, I didn’t like walking even then! Huh.) Later on, I traded that drill for a bigger one and it held maybe 15 bags of seed, so I could fill it at home and plant enough that I would just run home again to refill. And a few years later I traded that in for the drill I currently have, and it holds about 22 bags of seed. Again, easier to just run home. Plus, now I have the cameras on it so there’s that.

Our crop timeline here in SE MN is later than farmers to our South of course. Different timelines and different weather. Some farmers are already chopping corn silage or finishing up 3rd or 4th crop hay. Guys are prepping machinery as they could get started on soybeans by the end of the month. Soybeans respond to the length of daylight, so even though they were planted later this spring than last spring, they’ll still ripen about the same time. I’ve seen a few beans starting to turn yellow. Some varieties will ripen sooner than others, but it won’t take long now. Within a couple weeks the leaves will all fall off and the beans will start drying down.  

2427 GDU’s to date. 127 over normal they say. I really have a hard time believing that as cool as it’s been the last month. I’m not sure the online meteorology class I’m taking will cover that. Haven’t read about it yet.

I got a call from the farm co-op saying the price of urea fertilizer is going up and did I want to prepay some now for 2023. Wow. I haven’t thought much about next year’s crop yet. I decided not to prepay yet. If I figure an extra few months of interest against the cost savings, how much would I really save? And it’s possible the price might come down by December. Not likely, but possible.

I learned a new word: “Defenestration” – The action of throwing someone out a window. Seems to be a problem in the USSR.

I did finally get some grass cut. The last few years I’ve been mowing more and more areas out behind the sheds and such. Easier to do that than let it all go to ragweed and wild parsnip. Way off in the boonies I found a garden hose all coiled up and mostly buried in the dirt. Luckily the mower didn’t cut it, just grazed it. Why is there a hose there?? All I can think is, 40 some years ago mom and Dad planted a bunch of trees up there and I remember them watering them the first year or two. Must have coiled the hose up and left it there. It’s a nice rubber hose. The ends still look good and I think it will still hold water! Boy, that’s a good hose!


Out & About

The home health care team was pretty adamant that Nonny not go out while she is “convalescing”.  She got permission for church and for her weekly shampoo and blow out.  (While I was there, she also convinced them that she should be allowed to go to a 90s birthday party with her PEO group, where she is one of the honorees.  She shamelessly used tears to get this dispensation.)

Wednesday morning, we got her out of the condo, down the steps and into the car.  Her walker folds up easily so we were quickly on our way.  The hairdresser is in a neighborhood called Old Orchard, which is located in Webster Groves but actually was around before it was swallowed up by Webster.  When I was in the 5th grade, we moved to Old Orchard – we lived in the house on Sunnyside for five years – the longest of any of the houses I lived in until I was on my own.    Since we were right there, we drove over to see how the house was doing.  It looks just fine, although it’s white now; when we lived there my folks had it painted a deep gray and we had yellow trim.  Then we went a saw my grandparents house which is 2 blocks away (they lived there before we lived on Sunnyside).  Then we went looking for the elementary school I went to in 5th and 6th grade.  We didn’t find it and an internet search shows when it was built and when it changed names but nothing about when it closed.  I’m just curious enough that I might call the school district in the next couple of weeks and ask them.

By this time, we were on a roll.  We found 2 of the schools Nonny went to as a kid, the house she lived in back then and then rounded off our trip down memory lane by driving  by the house on West Cedar where we lived when I was five. 

I learned to ride a bike when we lived here.  Nonny had scarlet fever when we lived her.  I played with Bobby and his matchbox cars and was just about to go into kindergarten at Bristol school when my dad got a job with Missouri State and we moved to Jefferson City. 

When my sister Sally came over later on Wednesday, we regaled her with all the places of our past that we had visited.  She was quite upset as apparently the permission to get Nonny’s hair done did not include joy-riding.  In fact, the home health care team had specifically said Nonny shouldn’t be accompanying anyone on any other trips than her allowable outings.  Oops.

Neither Nonny or I mentioned our gadding about when the physical therapist came the next day.

When was the last time you went joy-riding?

Park It!

It’s been a parking lot few days for me.

There is a strip mall near Nonny’s place that we visited more than once (Panera, post office, UPS store, Walgreens and Starbucks – we had a lot of errands to run).  It is very poorly designed, with parking spaces laid out every which way and with some one-way arrows that everybody ignores.

YA’s game of choice on her iPad this weekend was Parking Jam – in which you have to get all the cars out of a parking lot without jumping any berms to crashing into other vehicles. 

Then when I ran out to get a few things this morning before work, I drove by the backside of the Hub parking lot.  If you have ever seen the backside of the Hub parking lot, you’ll know that it is just wasted real estate.  All the entrances to the mall are on the other side and no one parks in the back – not even employees.  But this morning I noticed that in the last week they have re-painted all the parking lines back there.  What a complete waste of paint and time!

I mentioned to YA when I got home that clearly parking lot design must be a completely neglected part of architecture school – they can’t teach this and have so many folks be so bad at it?  Or can they?

Were you a good student at school?

Reduced, Reused, Re-Reused

Today’s post comes to us from Clyde.

I am aware, in a way few people are, of an historical change. An age died in America, with some very few small pockets left, in about 1957-1960. This age started thousands of years ago in Europe and came to America with the first immigrants, although I suspect the Native Peoples practiced it.

I call it the Age of Reduced, Reused, Re-Reused

It was an age by necessity of self-sufficiency. Time Team, a British archaeology show I enjoy, often discovered how even the Romans would reuse, as did the stone age and iron age peoples. The age died slowly. In the early and mid 19th Century people recognized it was passing. Thoreau and Emerson commented on its dying. Thoreau’s Walden experiment was to some extent about self-sufficiency. His cabin was built of reused materials. I think the experimental communities of that era that interest Bill were strong on self-sufficiency in reaction to this change.

In much of rural America the age was still very much alive through the depression and the two post-war eras. I lived it as a child beside my parents and our neighbors. We lived reduced lives, reduced in the material sense. Ready cash was rare. Toys were few and often handmade. It is the reuse and re-reuse part that strikes me now.

I showed you awhile back me wearing a hand-me-down coat from my sister. In most of the pictures of me before the age of about 12 I am wearing baggy clothing cut down as best my mother could from my brother’s clothes, who was 7 years older than me. People gave my mother old woolen coats, as all coats were then, which she cut in strips and hooked or braided into rugs. My sister still has a rug or two. Her quilts were made of recycled cloth or from remnants she purchased in bundles from Sears Roebuck. The only things she threw away to be dumped on our rock pile were a few cans and bottles. No foodstuff was tossed.

However, it was in the world of my father where I was more aware of the reusing and re-reusing. In the early 50’s people in town were giving up their backyard sheds and now too-small garages. We would demo them, often with other men from the valley. Once we brought one home whole, but I do not remember how. It was my job to remove the boards as carefully as possible. From an early age another of my jobs was to straighten the not-too-rusted nails to reuse. It is a tricky business which gave me a few purple fingernails. We shared the lumber and nails with others or used it to build our own sheds. We built a large machine shed using only recycled wood for the walls, not the roof.

And there were the vehicles. In my very early youth many jokers could be seen around the valley. Jokers were old trucks cut down and rebuilt to serve as tractors or utility vehicles. The header picture is my rendering of the joker my father and my uncle built out of an old logging truck when we lived in the Superior National Forest. The joker moved us down to our farm. After I drew this as best I could from memory, a clearer picture emerged in my memory of a shorter box and chains hanging on it and lots of grease. But you get the idea. This was our tractor for the first year or two we had the farm. Then my father bought a 1923 Farmall and overhauled it, three times. Compare that with Ben’s picture of his tractor in his most recent blog. I am, of course, envious of that tractor of his. That joker became the frame for our all-purpose heavy-duty trailer, which hauled our hayrack, logs, and things like rocks in a box built for it.

By the way, I long thought joker was a local term. However, my research says it was widely used.

The men of the valley in my childhood had many skills, or they traded them. My father had a buddy Martin, who was a genius with engines, but weak at carpentry, plumbing, and electricity, which my father could do well. Martin was often in our workshop working on our vehicles or rebuilding engines of older cars to sell.

Let me tell you the story of our 1936 Chevrolet four-door sedan, which was our family car until about 1953, with its suicide back doors and with both front and back pneumonia holes.

At that point Martin overhauled the engine and transmission while my father cut it down into a pseudo-pickup, always called the puddlejumper.

When I was 12 my father took me down in the mowed hayfield and showed me the basics of how it drove differently than the Farmall. I then spent an hour or more driving around practicing the techniques of using a stick shift.

A few years later the engine died for sure. Now my father turned the box on the back into a dumping trailer, with a hand crank to elevate the front of the box to dump it. I have a story about that, but I will let it pass.

Such men and women still exist in very small numbers, often in the most rural places. Otherwise the only reuse and re-reuse commodity I can think of are children’s clothing passed from family to family.

In 1960 we started to talk about planned obsolescence. The last two years have shown how weak we are at self-sufficiency. I doubt very many people think about it in those terms.

I suspect this community is stronger than most on recycling, retaining, reusing and maybe even re-reusing. Are your roots strong on self-sufficiency?

Pas de Parade

Photo credit: Raymond Hillegas

YA and I are parade people.  We’ve always liked parades.  Blueberry Festival in Maine was a great parade and during the Cheesehead Parade in Little Chute, Wisconsin during the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival, YA came away with more candy and loot than any parade before or since.  We go to the State Fair parade every day we are on the fairgrounds.  For me this means four or five times in 10 days. 

When YA was younger, she was actually part of the Richfield Fourth of July Parade with her gymnastics team.  I was part of this parade as well, as one of the accompanying adults.  The only other parade I’ve taken part in was the year the Thespian Society had a float at our high school homecoming parade.  (We had a stuffed horse (the opposing team’s mascot) in a football uniform with a cast on its leg.  Break a leg?  We thought it was clever but we didn’t win any prizes.)

Normally YA and I do two parades on the Fourth of July – the local Tangletown parade which is kids on their bikes and people walking their dogs, all following a big fire truck.   Low key but charming.  Then we head off to Richfield parade – a more typical Independence Day parade with floats, military displays, politicians and candy.  Makes for a nice holiday for us.

So it was a little sad when we found out last week that Richfield isn’t having their parade this year; I was looking for the parade route (which isn’t always the same) online and found out that due to inflation, they can’t afford to do the parade this year.  A bunch of other Fourth of July activities has likewise been cancelled.  YA and I talked about it and decided that maybe we’d go to Edina; we’ve been to that one a few times in the past. 

YA came home from an errand on Saturday to say that people were already claiming their spots for the parade; the parade route is actually pretty short.  It seemed remarkable to me that folks would be putting chairs and towels out on the boulevard; what an invitation to vandalism.  But then I drove by yesterday morning and it did my heart good to see that everybody’s stadium chairs and tarps and blankets all seemed too be in place.  And there were A LOT of them in place.  We talked about whether we should join the fray but since that parade conflicts with our local parade, we opted not to. 

Of course if it is raining when you read this, no parades for us.  Although we do like parades, not enough to sit in the rain for them.

Have you ever been in a parade?  Do you have a favorite parade?


The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll have gotten my gold spec implanted, and had back surgery to remove a cyst. Give me a couple more days and I’ll be up and around like I was back in April! Although the left knee still hurts; the one I was supposed to get replaced in June before I started down this other path. Got the knee on the schedule for December now. The Pessimist in me says, “By August I’ll be back to where I was in April!” The optimist says, “Look what you’ve learned and the people you’ve met and the time you’ve had and the new perspective on things!” Yeah, well. Stuff a sock in it Mr. Optimist. …some days I’m more pessimistic than others…

The agronomy news lately is about side dressing the corn with extra nitrogen. Recently saw this chart showing nitrogen uptake by the plants based on what stage of growth it’s in. Honestly, the more I learn about this stuff, the more fascinated I am. Many farmers have started doing split applications of nitrogen. Anhydrous or liquid nitrogen as starter to get the plant going, and then coming in about now and applying more when it needs the growth spurt and has higher nitrogen needs. I’d like to try it next year when, hopefully, fertilizer prices won’t be so ridiculously high.

We’re over 1000 GDU’s, about 80 about normal.

Kelly and I were driving around the other day, just checking out the neighborhood and seeing how the neighbor’s crops were doing, and we drove through the small town of Viola; home to the Viola Gopher Count. We saw Shea Stadium and the local chapter of this motorcycle club.

There was some discussion among the locals when the club moved in, but you know the old adage, ‘Don’t mess where you sleep’ and this place hasn’t caused any issues. Viola is a town of maybe 25 people. Three streets, two avenues, some gravel, some blacktop. A church (next to the club) and a park with a beer hall (available for rent! But mostly used for Gopher Count) and a townhall.

My brother and I have both played 4H softball at Shea Stadium.

Made the final payment on one of my tractors this week. That’s a good feeling.

Got the roadsides cut last week. Then it rained.

Got it raked and baled on Monday. Thank goodness it was mostly grass and that dries thin and quick. Got 70 bales total.

Oats started heading out on Sunday, June 26th.

Every year, I report what I plant for crops to the local FSA (Farm Service Agency). Any government payments I get come from there. FSA is the agency responsible for keeping track of all that stuff. I’ve written before about government payments, and how that works. In typical government fashion, it’s not always easy. They provide maps and they have measured the fields (by satellite imagery) so they tell me the acres. I may or may not completely agree with there acres, but it’s hard to get them to change their minds. Again, I’m a small farm. I have about 20 fields, and some they have measured individually so I can just say, for example, field 4 is 4.5 acres. But sometimes they lump 5 fields together and give me one total acreage and then I have to break it out by field. Again, not a problem. The fields are measured to the 100th of an acre. But the report they want back only goes to tenths. Just round up or down. Yet it still has to all match. And generally, the fields stay the same from year to year, but some change a bit. (For example, the two corners I put into CRP this year have to be deducted from the rest of the field). And corn ground is ‘worth’ more on the reports than oats. So, round up on the corn, and down on the oats. Play the game.

Way back mid 1980’s I worked for this office when it was called the ASCS office. (Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service). Everyone I worked with there has retired.

When we got the gator in the fall of 2020, it came with a yellow flashing beacon on the top. We didn’t order that, but this one happen to come with it. Last week I broke it off. By accident. I was backing into the garage to pick up garbage and just as I’m about to go through the door I thought to myself, “There’s no reason this won’t fit, right?” And that’s when the beacon hit the garage frame. Crap. Broke off the amber globe. There is a bolt, and if it was loose enough, it would have bent out of the way rather than breaking. Well, a year and a half it lasted. Longer than I expected. We have too many trees and low branches and something sticking up or out doesn’t usually last long around here.  

How do you find the silver lining?  

Any stories about gangs?


I drove home yesterday from Howard Lake, MN in seven hours. Google tells me it is 496 miles. The speed limit varied between 55-60 MPH on Highway 12 between Howard Lake and I-94 at Sauk Center, to 75 MPH once I got out of Fargo.

I tend to drive 5 MPH higher than the speed limit if I can. It isn’t so high that a Highway Patrol would care about me, but fast enough that I can make good time. I admit my MPH got up to 90 as I passed some slow coaches here and there, I haven’t had a speeding ticket in 30 years.

I was probably too tired to drive safely once I made it to Bismarck, but my, was I ready to get home. The temperature dropped to 62° as I entered western ND in early afternoon. I understand it is a little warmer in MN!

How many speeding tickets have you had? What is the fastest you have driven? How do you keep cool in heat waves?

Automotive Aeronautics

Saw a news story yesterday about a Tesla flying into a building.  Watch until the end, because the last camera’s viewpoint is fascinating.

Of course, I assumed it was a Tesla that was driving itself.  Imagine sitting back in your Tesla, kind of paying attention and suddenly you are crashing into a building.  Turns out that it was a guy driving; he said he lost control.  Witnesses suggested he had sped up to make a light before the car took wing.  So the story isn’t as fun as a Tesla auto-piloting it’s way into a building – not sure what that says about me.

I’m thinking the driver was incredibly lucky – his entry point into the building was the glass window and door entry way; if he had sailed into some other part of the building at that speed, I wouldn’t be writing this story because the poor guy would likely be pushing up daisies. 

When was the last time you flew anywhere?  Any flights coming up?

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?