Category Archives: Business

Is It Fall Already?

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

The days are clearly getting shorter. It’s a little discouraging it’s already dark by 8PM. The barn swallows have moved on and the hummingbirds seem to be gone. Maybe the RedWing Blackbirds too. I do enjoy fall. I really like the change of seasons and fall and spring are my favorites. I enjoy the fieldwork and planting crops in the spring, and then fall and the harvest and doing that fieldwork and completing the cycle for another year. Not everyone in the house appreciates the earlier darkness and cooler temps. It’s all good.

Healthwise I’m improving. After feeling like I plateaued a few weeks ago, I can tell a difference again. Got the kidney stone removed a couple weeks ago. Got the stent they placed after that removed the other day (Lots of new experiences!) I can stand on one foot for a few seconds. Left knee will hurt until I get it replaced, but I’m walking better and driving and even climbed up on a box to reach something the other day. I even went to the car with both hands full one morning! AND I stepped over the dog in the kitchen! Getting there!

The sandhill cranes were out in the pasture this past Thursday. It was really nice to see them. Thanks to Steve for sending them our way…

Header photo is neighbor Dave’s cows. Kelly took a walk one night and was talking to them.

Chickens and big ducks are doing well. I went out to do chores and they came running.

We’re having a tough time with the ducklings. Down to two.

The one with the bad leg didn’t make it. And one day I let three out, and an hour later, one of them was dead. I don’t know. Fingers crossed for these two.

Crops are looking good. Corn stalks are starting to dry out and the kernels are dented. There’s still milk in the kernels, but it is coming along.

Multiply the rows around (16) and kernels in the length (36) = 576 kernels on this ear. Then we count the number of ears in 17.5’ (remember we counted the plants this spring. That’s 1/1000th of an acre) and it will vary, but roughly 30 ears per 17.5’, x 1000 = 30,000 x 576 = 17,280,000 kernels / acre divided by 80,000 kernels / bushel and that gives us 216 bushels / acre. Which is way too high for my farm on average. Factor in the deer damage, corn on the edges that the trees impact, ears that aren’t so good, hope for a late freeze, and well, we’ll see at harvest. But it does look like a decent crop this year.

Who were your neighbors when you were growing up?

Cranes And Stones

Today’s post comes from Ben.

We are thrilled the Sandhill cranes are back. We’ve spotted a pair and heard them flying over a few times and of course I can’t help but think of Steve. His book on sandhill cranes sits on the table and I reference it often. “The Cry of the Sandhill Crane”

I dug up the two oat fields just to keep the weeds down.

Some farmers use oats as a cover crop while another crop is being established; around here generally that’s alfalfa. Since I don’t need alfalfa, (because I don’t have cattle) I just grow straight oats. So I dig the field up a few times after harvest to keep the weeds down. It also adds organic matter to the soil, and I will leave something established before winter to help prevent erosion. Sometimes, after say, sweetcorn or canning crops, something that’s harvested fairly early so there’s plenty of time to grow something else, farmers will plant something to be a cover crop and then when plowed up you get the nitrogen boost from it. I’m sort of doing the same thing with the oat fields. Some of the oats will regrow and I’ll have a nice cover crop before winter.

There was one spot at the edge of a waterway where the giant ragweed was taller than the tractor! Yikes!

Wednesday I was back in the clinic and had a procedure to get that kidney stone removed that I’ve had since May. We called it Petra, Greek for stone. Had a Ureteroscopy. I heard a lot of pretty scary stories, and I’ve got a stent between the bladder and the kidney just to keep everything open. I go back in September to get that removed as an office visit. But really, I’m having no discomfort, I’m glad the stone is gone; one more thing to check off my list.

Soybean are really looking good.

They’re tall and have a lot of pods on them. Notice how low to the ground though the pods are.

At harvest, you have to run the head right down on the ground, not 6 inches up or you miss beans. And that’s why so many guys go over the field with the big rollers after planting, smoothing out and packing down rocks and everything and make a smooth surface so that at harvest, they can cut right down on the ground to get as many pods as possible. I don’t have the roller thingy, but I used a drag to smooth out the lumps.

FAVORITE GREEK FOOD? FAVORITE GREEK GOD?

Irony

I was quite amused yesterday on my way to work to see our insurance agent presumably driving to his office. He was riding a motorcycle. HE WASN’T WEARING A HELMET!

It seems to me that being an insurance agent means you exemplify caution and careful living. I remember the conversation we had together with our son when he got his driver’s license, and our agent told him to never hesitate to phone him any time, night or day, if he had been drinking and needed a ride home. Well, I wonder what he says to young motorcycle drivers he insures about helmets?

Our agent goes to our church and has a lovely tenor voice and sings with us in the choir. I can hardly wait to tease him about this.

What do you like to tease people about? What irony have you noticed this week? Any stories about insurance agents or companies?

July is Corn Month

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

They say July is corn month and August is Soybean month. Because July is the critical time in corn development, while it’s August for soybeans.

The corn has tasseled so it’s full height now, the silks are out, GDU’s, while down a bit this week with the cooler weather (which I love by the way) are 1714, 104 above normal.

I’m still mowing weeds, but I expect by the time you read this I will have finished. Or, if not exactly “finished”, given up and quit. The one area I’ve got left to mow is really rough and I will get tired of bouncing around in the cab.

All the crops are looking good, and while I was thinking I’d be cutting oats next Monday or Tuesday, looking at it Thursday shows a lot of green kernels yet so I may wait out next week yet.

The storms last Saturday knocked some oats down and in one field I saw some corn lodged on the edge of the field.

 (“lodging” is basically stalk failure) Oats, As the plant is green and growing it has a lot of give. But as it matures, dries up, and turns golden, the stalk loses its flexibility, meaning it will break off in the wind. And it’s odd, how only certain parts of the fields will do that. Wind is very curious, as the songs from last week’s blog showed. 

You can see from the pictures, only one part of the field went down, while the rest didn’t. And the green weeds still stand up. It’s all interesting.

We got nearly 2” of rain Saturday afternoon and then another .6” Saturday night. Kelly and I drove around in the gator checking on things after the afternoon storm. No trees down at least. And then we found a mama duck and 9 ducklings. Once again, Kelly is wrangling ducklings and I’m pointing and offering unsolicited advice.

Using a fishing net, she captured just about all the ducklings and I could get them in a box. But they’re tiny and a few escaped the net. She chased them down and we cleaned up a side pen for them. Now, just to catch mama. I remember one other year we did this; the mama could track the squeaking of the ducklings and we put up a ramp and eventually she got in there with them for a happy reunion. That wasn’t working this year and Kelly eventually captured her with the net too. Kelly and mama duck were in the pen and I was out in the gator. I heard some noises, and honking, and the doors wiggled a few times, and the mama got her head out the door once. But they’re all together now. We’ll keep them in here for a month or so. Until they’re big enough to survive outside… and we’ll see what happens.

A neighbor about ½ mile cross country from us said he saw two bear cubs playing on a log in his pond the other morning. Some neighbors have seen bears before, and we always assumed they were just passing through. But cubs… I don’t know, that seems like mama bear must be settled in here. Just what we need; another predator. I think it would be cool to see a bear. Long as it’s not eating the chickens. Do bears eat chickens??

CoCoRaHS – Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, And Snow network is an organization I heard about a few years ago. Cocorahs.org

Every day I report how much rain we’ve gotten. Some people report snow depth, and some people have full-fledged weather stations. I just report rain with some minor details like last Saturday’s amount in the afternoon and the evening. It is interesting to me to compare rain events in our area. There are about 14 reporting stations in the Rochester area, and three within a few miles of us. It’s interesting how the rain amounts can vary between us. I got a certificate for 250 reporting observations.

I’ve talked about the barn swallows outside our front door and the nest they’ve had for several years. Well, must be new residents this time around and they do not like us coming and going and they dive bomb us. Even at my car, 20’ from the nest they’re buzzing my head. We keep telling them “It’s us! You know us!”

ARE YOU A FALL RISK? ANY ISSUES WITH ANYTHING FALLING DOWN LATELY?

Progressing

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

I feel like I’ve been busy lately. Nothing important, just… day to day living.

Crops are coming along. I talked with the co-op about spraying fungicide on the soybeans.  I’ve never done it before, but I know some of the neighbors have and they report a good return. It will cost $33/acre to do it. $20 for the actual ground application and $13 for the chemical. Plus, some beans knocked down in the process. If beans are selling at $15 / bushel this fall, I will need the fungicide to increase yield by 2 or 3 bushels / acre to justify the cost. The neighbors have seen 10-15 bushel / acre increase over not treated so we’ll see how that goes. Curiously, aerial application is only $15/ acre! I’ve got too many trees, too many neighboring houses, and too small of fields to use that, but I was really surprised it’s cheaper. I supposed they can cover a greater area faster. It always comes back to efficiency doesn’t it?

My corn will be tasseling any day now. I’ve seen some of the neighbor’s corn already tasseling. Just depends on those GDU. (1559 to date. +110)  Once the tassel is fully emerged, the plant is at full height. Silks will appear in a couple more days and then one or two weeks of pollination begins. There are so many critical things in any plant’s development but getting all that pollen from the tassels to the silks is a big one. The kernel won’t develop if the silk attached to it doesn’t get pollinated. Hard rains, hail, or storms can mess all that up.

And with the heat, some of the corn is curling up to protect it self. This is a rocky area, so the roots are shallow. Notice how the leaves have curled up?

And the oats is turning color, it just needs to keep standing, no wind storms, and hopefully this hot weather doesn’t boil all the milk out of the heads. It should be ready to cut in a couple weeks. Then get it harvested and the straw baled. I only planted 10 acres this year; less than half of normal because I was expecting the knee replacement this summer.

The straw delivery trip to the boonies of Winona last week was a great drive. 119 miles, took a few hours, saw lots of countryside with very little traffic, met a woman named Sunshine, had lunch in a bar in Witoka where my chicken sandwich was actually two chicken strips placed inside the bun. And there was enough lettuce on it to choke a horse and more fries than two of us could possibly eat. We even found the back way into Farmers Park: A minimum maintenance road that was pretty awesome and I’m glad we had the truck. It was washed out and rough with not one, but TWO single lane bridges.

I mentioned taking two hens to a friend. The next day I had a record 22 eggs! We wondered if the other chickens felt threatened and that they better step up production?? But no, couple days later there was only 8 eggs, then back to the usual 15 or 16. Production varies like that.

The little chicks are blending right in.  Here’s some chicken photos including Rooster 3 minus a tail. Not sure what happen there.

That duck in the brush pile ran down to get something to eat one night and that was the opportunity we needed. The pile was burned. The duck was very put out for a couple hours. Sorry. It’s just the way it is.

My brother helped me get the brush mower hooked up and I’ve been mowing weeds in pastures and waterways. Of course I always have my tractor buddy with me. The corn is a tall as the tractor.

If it’s just grass, I’ll leave it standing, no reason to cut it. But there are a lot of thistles, wild parsnip, ragweed, stinging nettles, burdocks, and stuff that needs to be controlled. I’ll spend a few days yet mowing.

My nephew just retired after 25 years in the Air Force. He had the rank of Colonel and was a Base Commander in the St. Louis area. He had a big ceremony last week and some of the family went down. He’s a big nerd and they celebrated that by having several Star Wars characters there in costume. Unfortunately, Covid hit the gathering too.

Read an article about Ukraine; they are big producers of wheat and corn. But with the war, shipping has been an issue so their storage facilities (the ones that haven’t been damaged) are still full of last year’s crops and there’s no room to store this years crop. So they can sell it at a loss just to move it and get the storage facilities empty, but then they don’t have the income to support the families and communities either. Not to mention a shortage of food coming up. And as the war moved on from some of these areas, they needed ‘sappers’ to clear mines and other munitions from the fields, then they had to drag rockets and war detritus from their fields. Not something I have ever imagined doing, thankfully.

Padawan has been trimming weeds, and mowing grass, and he learned the basics on using a chainsaw.

EVER FELT PRESSURE TO STEP UP? WHAT ARE YOU SPIFFING UP LATELY?

Where in the World is VS?

It’s been awhile…… here are some clues.

The Botanical Garden, which opened to visitors here in 1859, is the oldest public garden in the US and among the top three public gardens in the world.

The first US kindergarten was started here in 1873 by Susan Blow.  (You can still see her original class room!)

The Eads Bridge, completed here in 1874, was the first arched steel truss bridge in the world. The bridge continues to carry automobiles, pedestrians, cyclists and light rail trains!

Several new foods were popularized here in 1904: the hot dog, the ice cream cone and iced tea.

Famous folks from here:  Maya Angelou, Yogi Berra, Daniel Boone, William Burroughs, Vincent Price, Stan Musial, Marlin Perkins.

What do you think?

The Old Stuff

As I’m counting down my last days at work, I’ve tackled a few projects that have to be put to bed before I’m gone.

One of these projects is, as I refer to it, “the old stuff”.  At my company, we back up our systems every night but GETTING to that information, if you need it, is cumbersome at best and impossible at worst.  You’d be surprised how often you might want to access information from an old program so about 25 years ago, we (or more accurately, I) started downloading our programs onto floppy disk.  You remember those, right?

Then after a few years, as we were changing technology, as I did the annual download, I started downloading to diskette.

You know where this is going… we eventually moved to CDs.  This annual download was accompanied by an updated spreadsheet of what programs were on which CD as well as name of client, location, date, etc.   I was the keeper of the spreadsheet but we had paper copies sorted by either client or location, since those were the two most needed search criteria.

Fast forward through another technology change (which meant you had to use a portable CD reader to use the CDs), a fire in our building (which destroyed the paper files), pandemic (during which nobody was in the building to get to the CDs), data migration to a cloud based system during my furlough (which despite assurances to the contrary, caused the loss of about half my desktop files, including the spreadsheet).   

Bottom line is that for the past 18 months, I’ve had two boxes full of unusable CDs under my desk.  Nobody has asked about them since I got back from furlough.  Even if they did, without the spreadsheet, finding any data would be nie on impossible.  And nobody knows where the portable reader is anyway.   Rather than asking any more about it, I just informed my boss last week that I was dumping them.  Luckily we have CD/DVD recycling at my company AND I personally have a use for the plastic cases that many of them were stored in.  Took me about an hour to separate the CDs from the cases and/or sleeves (header photo).  Broke two fingernails.  And all the while I was thinking about how the technology changed to the point where the data was lost to us.   

And it’s changing fast; YA doesn’t even know what a floppy disk is!

What bit of technology would you not like to do without? 

GROWING AND CUTTING AND STUFF

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?

Mel-O!

Last week YA and I had dinner out with friends of ours.  In the course of the evening I mentioned that my last program was coming up – a warehouse run for which I always buy donuts for the warehouse crew.  This led to our friends sending us a Star Tribune article from a couple of weeks back that listed the top donut shops in the Twin Cities AND a lengthy discussion of their favorite donut place:  Mel-O-Glaze.

Mel-O-Glaze has been around for sixty years and I’ve driven by it numerous times but never in the morning, which is when my donut-desiring genes normally kick in.   Most of my routines are south and southwest of my place, so I have to make a decision to go someplace east and it doesn’t happen on a regular basis.

But after listening to rave reviews for a good ten minute, I determined to make a different decision.  I went east the next morning, timing my trip to about the time they opened.  This turned out not to be the best time to go…. although they were open, they weren’t really up to speed yet.  An hour later would probably have been better.

There were enough to choose from however.  When the owner, Paulette, came out from the back I told her it was my first time.  She quickly ran to the back and when she returned she had a donut hold that she gave me as a sample.  It’s easy to see how people say these are addictive.  In fact, even though I’m not usually a donut-hole fan, I bought six, along with another donut for myself and one for YA.   The donut holes didn’t even make it back home.  So now in addition to Sunrise Donuts, Bogarts Donuts, Sunrise Breads and, of course, Dunkin, I’ll be adding Mel-O-Glaze to my roster of donut place. Guess I’ll be going east a little more often now.

Any embarrassment of riches in your world?

The Rush Is Over

Today’s post comes from Ben.

The spring rush is over, at least on our farm. If you’ve got dairy cattle, it’s right into cutting hay and getting that first crop off. But here, we’re just cutting grass over and over again.

All the crops are out of the ground, they just need some heat to grow. Soybeans don’t grow quite as fast as corn, so even though I could see them coming, it takes a while to see the rows. That first field which had crusted and I finally dragged? It helped; they’re looking OK.

The last thing to plant was 2 acres of corn for a neighbor that he uses as a food plot so the deer are closer to his hunting stands. The next day my brother Ernie was out and we got extra seed cleaned out of the corn planter and got the power washer out and he washed the planter off and hosed off the back of my tractor and his tractor. The backs get very dirty; like your car back window, all the dust collects there. (Maybe that’s only us on gravel roads?) And the back is where the hydraulic hoses plug in, so it’s oily and attracts dust. I parked the planter back in the corner of the shed for next spring.

Next day we pulled the drill out, cleaned out the left-over seed, (We save extra seed for next year) and got the drill washed up and put away. I removed the cameras and cables and will work on getting them installed on the baler next.

We discovered that one tractor STILL has an oil leak. He fixed it last week; cost $1058. I’m hoping the repair guy just didn’t get something tight and it’s not a totally new issue.

And then I was cutting grass and the mower died. Just quit. No dash light, no hour meter, nothing. Well, that’s weird. I tried a few things (including the battery connections) and got nothing. Called John Deere and asked them to come and get the mower AND to come back for the tractor. The mower guy showed up; he changed a fuse and got it running, but it made noises. It made bad, expensive sounding noises. Sixteen years ago, when I was up for the college job, I had three goals if I got the job: New lawn mower, trade in grain drill, and there was a third thing I’ve forgotten, but I got them all.

We have a smaller, older mower and we got that out and running and I went back to cutting grass. Then I drove into a hole and got stuck. Harrumph. I was kinda fed up with the day by that point and I just went to the house and pouted.

Next day, I got a call my knee surgery has been postponed to August 1; need to get over all this other stuff first. (And I’m getting better. Kidney stone is gone, I’m almost walking unassisted again, cellulitis on my foot is cleared up, and PT is going well.) but we don’t want to risk any infections. I get that, but I’m still discouraged. Then I discovered one of the older tractors, a 2 cylinder John Deere 630, the crankcase is full of gas. Man ‘0 man; is there a black cloud over the house??

Sounds like just a shut off valve on the tank leaks, and the fuel leaks into the crankcase. Not the end of the tractor, just needs a fix.

I was pouty again. Went back to bed and figured I needed to just start this day over. Felt better after the nap.

Got the mower out of the hole and cut more grass. Next day made a deal on a different lawn mower.

The neighbors, Dave and Parm, have brought out some cattle.

The bulk oil truck came and refilled the oil containers. Still haven’t seen the price on that.

100 gallons engine oil on the left. 120 gallons trans / hydraulic oil on the right. Will last a couple years.

Kelly has been doing many of the chores while I deal with…. “all this”. 
I do chores because they need to be done; and I need to get through them in order to get on with something else. For Kelly, it’s a nice diversion from work and she enjoys being out there and spending time with the critters. My suggestions for more efficiency, “like I do it” are not always welcome. It’s nice we’ve figured out this difference and I wonder why it took 32 years of marriage to realize it.

Sadly, we’re out of the duckling business. It was quick. Friday morning there was 9 when we got them penned up. Saturday morning there was 8. Sunday morning there was 3 and we noticed them going outside the fence and wandering several feet from momma, who stayed inside the fence. We didn’t expect them to leave her so soon. And maybe she’s a first time Mom and didn’t have the hang of it all yet. Kelly created a smaller pen made of wire with smaller holes the duckling couldn’t get through. And Monday morning, they were all gone and the mom was out too. So, we’re thinking maybe owl? Never seen a hawk come down and the dogs wouldn’t have gone into the pen to get them. I’ve said, the real world is a cruel place. This was sure a learning opportunity.

HOW EFFICIENT ARE YOU? TALK ABOUT CLOUDS.