Category Archives: Family

Baling and Traffic and Duck

Today’s Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Mornings are cool enough I wear a jacket going to the college but don’t need it when walking back to the car after work. Starting to get some color on the trees.

Soybeans are mostly pretty yellow and the leaves are starting to fall off them. Beans are drying and they will be ready in a couple weeks. But if there’s too many weeds in the field, they won’t be able to combine until the weeds freeze or die. Combines are not made to handle green material; that just plugs them up. The entire threshing process is based on dry material shelling out easily.

Remember that field of soybeans my neighbors planted on July 8th? It’s looking pretty good; they sure got lucky with the rains. They’re taller than mine and setting pods. They’re not done yet and they still need some time before a freeze, but they’re looking good so far.

The dairy guys are chopping corn silage. That’s one of the things I miss from milking; I enjoyed chopping corn. It smells good, it blows up the silos easy and doesn’t plug up the pipe, and cutting up that entire cornstalk just looks cool.

I baled some small square hay bales for our neighbors. A field next to our property but on the other side of a swamp and creek and power line and you can’t get there from here. But still cool to be on the ‘other side’ of the world from our place. Driving over there with the tractor, baler, and a wagon involved about 4 miles on a busy highway. Some people are terrible about dealing with farm machinery. They pass on corners, they tail gate for a 1 /4 mile then abruptly pass. It’s just ridiculous, not to mention dangerous to all of us.  I can’t print the words I say about them. I always hope I’m bigger than them so that will protect me, but please, harvest season is coming, give farmers and the machinery some space and don’t pass when you shouldn’t. You can bet I’m wearing my seatbelt and I have all the tractor lights on, flashers on, SMV signs… it’s not that they don’t see me, but they figure they can pass me quick enough so it doesn’t matter if it’s a corner. Makes me mad writing about it.

PTO – Power Take Off shafts. It’s the thing that takes power from the tractor and puts it in whatever implement is being powered. For a lot of machinery, that shaft spins at 540 RPM, some things spin at 1000 RPM. In the old days it was just an exposed shaft and safety wasn’t even on the radar. These days, there’s always a cover or shield, but they can still break or wear out and they’re usually in the way at some point. It’s the end that hooks to the tractor that’s the tricky part. In trying to make them safer, manufacturers have tried different styles and ways to protect people from the spinning bits. Some styles are easier than others; buttons to push while sliding them together or collars to pull back while still pushing the implement shaft onto the tractor shaft. There’s one attachment that’s completely covered, but then you can’t see inside to grease it either. Many of those end up cut away enough to get a grease gun in there.

It’s a necessary safety item – a lot of people have been killed or injured from contact with unprotected spinning shafts, but it’s inconvenient. I was thinking about all this while hooking up the baler to the tractor last week and connecting the PTO shaft.  

I know you’re all waiting for the weekly duck report. I took their fence down the other day. I started to roll it up, but I thought I shouldn’t change too much too quick, so I left part of it for reference for them. And one night, 4 brown ducks simply could not figure out how to get back into the pen they’ve been in for the last 2 months. Round and round the barn they went until finally they spent the night in with the chickens. And the next night they figured it out. It’s a mystery. I hate to call them dumb, but gee whiz.

The Mallard ducklings are starting to run and flap their wings. I assume they don’t know they can fly if no one is there to show them they can, and they’ll have to figure it out on their own. I assume instinct will tell them they need to head south. And other years there would be random ducks that would sort of stop in to visit. So, I think they’ll get it figured out I’m just very curious as to how and when.

At our townboard meeting last night the sheriff deputy gave us his report on township activities. Aside from the usual traffic stops, animal calls, or serving papers, a driver was arrested and charged with a DWI. He lived in the area where he was arrested, but prior to his arrest, it looked like it might become a pursuit. Then he turned down a dead-end road, cut into some back yards, and figured he could come back out on the road and get away. Except he came back on the road face to face with four other deputies. Oops.

Bypassed any safety items lately? Why?

What’s overregulated in your life?  

Rome, Prague, or Sioux Falls

We are planning a Christmas holiday in Brookings, South Dakota this year. Son and Daughter in Law will host in their new home. We will drive from western North Dakota, and daughter will fly to Sioux Falls from Tacoma.

Daughter texted me in exasperation last week to inform me that she could fly much cheaper to Prague or Rome than she can to Sioux Falls. That is the sad state of airfare costs in the Dakotas. where flights cost an arm and a leg if you fly out of the secondary hubs of Sioux Falls, Bismarck, Fargo, or Rapid City.

Well, I would rather be in Prague, too, but family is in Brookings, and that is where we will be. We will help daughter with her airfare so she won’t be out so much money. This made me think of what Christmas in Rome or Prague would be like, and something for us to think about in the next couple of years.

Where was the farthest from home you ever spent the holidays ? Ever been to Prague or Rome? If you planned a trip over the holidays, where would you go? Got any good stories about Sioux Falls?

52 Loaves

Clyde sent me a reading recommendation – 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by Wiliam Alexander.  It’s the year-long journey of a man trying to make the perfect loaf of bread.

I was a bit leery.  I’ve read quite a few of these “set yourself a journey” books in the last few years.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Julie & Julia by Julie Powell, Tolstoy & the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch – to name a few.  While mostly enjoyable, it started to feel like a fad to set yourself a year-long challenge and then write a book about it. And I was a little worried that after about 8 weeks of bread baking, I’d be ready to toss the book in a 550-degree oven.   But I’ve never gotten an unsatisfactory reading recommendation from Clyde (well, except for that Death by Rhubarb), so I picked up Loaves and read it through.

It was quite nice.  Just about the time you never wanted to hear about air holes and crumb texture again, the author would veer off on a related (or not so related) topic such as the history of pellagra, the maker of the Quik Lock – that little plastic bit that hold a bread bag closed, building an oven in his backyard, a trip through the streets of Morocco.  He does eventually make what he considers a perfect loaf; interestingly enough it’s when he ends up teaching some monks in France how to bake.  And then at the end of the year he realizes that his single-minded pursuit of that loaf of bread had really kept him from enjoying his kitchen and lets it go.  

I used to make more bread.  I have several bread cookbooks and even two bread machines (long story) but these days, bread just doesn’t get eaten fast enough around here.  One of my favorites is a thick, moist oatmeal bread but YA doesn’t like it much and I can’t eat it fast enough before it spoils.   Maybe I should just find a neighbor that I can foist a half loaf on every time I bake!

Any bread stories out there?  Make your own or have a favorite bread bakery?  Knead by hand or with a dough hook?

September Farm

The farm report comes to us from Ben.

We had some friends and their kids visit and we had a good time giving tractor rides and gator rides and collecting eggs and seeing cows. It’s always fun giving farm tours.

I finally got around to working on the brush mower. I had to order bigger sockets to get the nut off the broken spindle on the big spinny thing. (It’s 45mm by the way) And then trying to get the gear box off the mower deck, I didn’t have the right size sockets for that either. It’s 30mm. I am getting more and more metric tools, but I didn’t have anything that big. I have a 3/8” drive socket set that I use for a lot of things. And a 1/2” drive set for some of the bigger stuff. And then I started buying 3/4” drive stuff for the really big stuff. (I mean the size of the square on the head of the ratchet is 3/8” or 1/2” or 3/4”). Then I put a 3’ long pipe over the handle to get enough leverage to get the nuts loose. Took the gear box up to John Deere for them to fix.

How’s that go: Every job is an opportunity for a new tool. Worked here.

On the way home from John Deere I stopped at a farm stand and bought 4 dozen ears of sweet corn. A couple kids run this stand and it is really good corn. Got that frozen and it will be really good this winter.

My mom has a possible Covid exposure from one of her physical therapy people. I had seen her on Sunday, and she found that out on Monday. But she hasn’t tested positive herself yet and they all wear masks and mom is vaccinated and I’d think the PT person was too. So hopefully she stays good. She needs to isolate in her room, which she isn’t very happy about. And her food comes in a Styrofoam container with plastic cutlery and that’s her biggest complaint. We had a care conference Tuesday and there seems to be exceptions for everything so she’s gotten real plates now. Hope that keeps up.

Monday was Labor Day and I wondered if I should really take the day off or do some work. If I didn’t do anything I’d feel guilty. I took a nap first off. But then decided to clean up the swather and get that put away. I washed it off and oiled the chains, loosened some belts, and filled the gas tank and added some ‘Stabil’ to the fuel, and tucked it into the shed for winter.

Then decided it was a good day to burn a small brush pile behind the shed. Got that burning and cut some grass while keeping an eye on it.

We’re having a little experiment with the ducks. When they go into the pen at night, they can either walk up a ramp or they can hop up onto a block and then into the open door. Most of them seem to hop in. One day I had not put the ramp in the door, it was sitting down on the block. Everyone had gone in except one black duck and two brown ducks. They were very distressed to be outside on their own and I finally went down and put the ramp up and one brown duck went up the ramp and the other two hopped in from the block. Hmm, were the other two moral support for the ramp duck?

This is very curious, so the next night I also left the ramp down and everyone had gotten in except a black duck and a brown duck. I put the ramp back up and both ducks hopped in without using the ramp.
The third night I put the ramp in the door right away. About dusk everyone heads over to the door and the white ducks always go first and hop on the block and up into the door. Might take them two tries, but they make it. Eventually the ones waiting got tired of waiting in line and they all went and got a drink and then came back and some more hopped in, and again, the remaining few got tired of the queue, went and got another drink and then came back and no one used the ramp and everyone hopped in. Evidently the ramp is more emotional support or a guide? It’s very interesting.

FOURTH NIGHT! I had the ramp up and I watched closer; they seem to use the ramp as a guide rail. A few actually use it, some bump against the side while hopping in, and some jump up onto the ramp about 1/2 way up. Very curious. And when they come out in the morning, it’s last in, first out.

When I got home one day, all the ducks were out of their pen. We’d been talking about letting them out; they’re old enough and big enough, but being ‘adolescent’, they don’t always make the best choices and we lose a few to coyotes. That day they found a hole – or maybe ‘made’ a hole and they were all close, just on the wrong side of the fence. It wasn’t too hard to round them up, patch the hole, and get them all back inside. And then I noticed one of the white ones has a wound under one wing. Neither Kelly or I were working from home that day which makes me wonder; maybe a coyote came in the yard and caused a commotion which is what scared them out. Kelly says every day around noon there is some kind of commotion, and the dogs bark and guineas get upset so there’s something going on.

I showed Kelly how to fire the rifle and the next day, when the noon commotion began, she fired a shot. We never see anything, but we’re trying to scare it– whatever “it” is– away. Kelly really wants to shoot a coyote but she’s having trouble making the scope work for her. She is just hoping for plain, dumb luck. And she’s going to work on firing from the hip.

Chickens; they get into the ducks pen, but they can’t ever figure out how to get back out…

BONUS! Two Sandhill Cranes standing in the field when I left for work the other day.

There has been a pair here all summer, we don’t see them, we only hear them. I’m guessing this is another pair passing through.

Can you fire from the hip? And accomplish what you are trying to accomplish?

On A Roll

Three vignettes from yesterday.

Since I’m still working from home, I had on my “uniform” yesterday of jersey shorts and a tank top.  I threw on a nicer top for a client call and never took it off.  At noon, YA and I drove down to Walgreens to get our drive-thru covid tests (since we’d been to the fair so many times).  When I got into the car, YA looked me over and said “you’re not wearing THAT, are you?”  I replied that since I wasn’t getting out of the car and the Walgreens technician would only see the top 1/3 of me, yes.  YA rolled her eyes.

On the way home (both tests negative, by the way), as I was waiting at an intersection to turn right, a man with his two white/cream golden retrievers was standing on the corner until the “walk” light came on.  The dogs were gorgeous, so I rolled down the window and called to him that his dog were beautiful.  He said thanks; I turned right and drove on.  “MOOOOOMMM” said YA. 

I purchased a thing-a-ma-gig at the fair that makes it easy to put my hair in a bun.  I’ve been playing with it and when I got home I put my hair up, making the bun pretty high on my head.  Then I had a client call.  A bit later YA came into my studio.  “Did you have your hair like that during your call?”  I replied yes and she responded “It was already bad enough that you’re wearing that shirt” and then she proceeded to show me a picture of an anime character (see above) and although she didn’t say it directly, the implication was that I look like Zeniba.

So I’m three for three in embarrassing my child in one day.  Not sure I can best that record without seriously trying.

Tell me what cartoon character you look like?  Or would LIKE to look like?

Eating Our Way Through the Fair

My stomach is just now starting to feel “normal” after four days at the Fair.  I don’t go to the fair just to eat but I will say that a lot of eating gets done anyway.

YA and I always purchase two of the fair coupon books and we go through them carefully.  This year YA put post-it stickers on the things she didn’t want to miss.  And we both spent time on the fair website on the “New Fair Foods” page.  YA takes this much more seriously than I do; on the last day we went together we had a map with all the places she wanted to make sure we got to marked in red!

Here are some of the things we consumed:

  • Hawaiian Shave Ice (they took the competitor’s coupon!)
  • French Toast Bites (with pop rocks – better than you’re thinking)
  • Cheese & Potato Pierogies with horseradish sauce (for breakfast)
  • Waffle with Ice Cream Sandwich center, kettle corn, whipped cream & sprinkles
  • Siracha Cheese Funnel Cake Bites
  • Sweet Martha’s Cookies (of course)
  • Roasted Corn
  • Mac & Cheese Bites (better the first day I had them)
  • Cheese Curds (of course)
  • Tipsy Pies (yummy by not very boozy)
  • Sota Sandwich (almond butter & blueberry jam on toasted sourdough)
  • Pretzel with Cheese Sauce
  • Chocolate Malt
  • Potato Cheese Crepe (this is YA’s hands’ down favorite every year)
  • Mocktails (our favorite new food this year – over 4 days we tried 4 of them)
  • Paneer Pakora (OK but could have been so much better)
  • Cream Cheese Wontons (also could have been better)
  • Mac & Cheese (absolutely could have been better)

I know this seems excessive, but remember it was over four days.  And two of us.  But while I love the fair, I don’t think my digestive system could handle too many more visits!

Any guilty favorites when you’re out and about?

 

Feeling Needed

Our son and daughter-in-law are moving into their first home this Friday. We won’t be able to get to see them until October, over the long weekend for Indigenous Peoples’ Day. As usual, my job when we get there will be to hang the pictures and other decorative things on the walls.

I don’t know why they always want me to do this. They say I know how to center things so they look good. I just make a point of measuring and marking where the hangers should go. It isn’t that hard, but they appreciate it.

Husband is the family go to guy for landscaping advice. Son and his wife have a huge yard at the new house with no plants or trees or flowers. Son has been asking for landscaping advice already, and Husband has some ideas for him. We plan to bring all our flower and seed catalogs. It should be a fun visit.

What makes you feel needed? What skills do you want to teach others so they aren’t lost? How do you go about hanging things on the walls?

One Trick Pony

Both YA and I love to spend time at the Pet Pavilion and Dog Meet/Greet booths at the Fair.  The other place we always hit is the Stunt Dog Show that features dog dock diving as well as some trick dog demonstrations.  It’s amazing to me what they have taught these dogs to do.

I’ve had dogs my entire life but for most of that time, I didn’t think much about tricks.  All my dogs went to basic obedience but the basics for me have always been sit, down, come and off.  Growing up my folks never even did basic obedience.  YA’s dog, Guinevere (who has issues) has been to a LOT of obedience, mostly just to have her around other dogs and people.  Because of this we’ve managed to teach her some tricks (roll over, double dance, shake, high five, bark) along with the basics.

Growing up my folks never even did basic obedience with any of our dogs so “tricks” is outside of my experience, although one of my dogs as a kid was really smart.  Princess (named by me when I was 5) was a shepherd collie mix who came to us as a small puppy.  My mom and sisters and I started to call her Princess the Wonder Dog after she was gone because my father’s stories about her just got wilder and more inventive.  He used to tell folks that she was so intelligent that when he told her to go get his slippers, she would run upstairs and come down with them.  Of course the only problem with that story was that my dad never wore slippers in his life!

Princess did actually know one trick.  If you had her sit and stay, you could put a treat on her nose; she would sit patiently until you said “OK” and then she would deftly toss the treat up a bit and then catch it.  We didn’t ask her to do this much, but she could do it – no exaggeration from my dad needed.  So when the elementary school that my middle sister and I were attending had a family fair with a pet contest, Sally (said sister) really wanted to enter Princess and have her do her one trick.

Sally, who was in the 3rd grade, practiced with Princess for several days before the fair.  She packed up bologna, a really high value treat; she was convinced that Princess would win hands down.  When the time came for Princess to strut her stuff, there were a lot of people, a lot of other dogs and she was nervous.  Sally dutifully had her sit, stay and then put the bologna on her nose.  Sally stepped back and it didn’t take long for Princess to jump back, drop the bologna on the ground and then promptly scoop it up and chow it down.  Sally was absolutely mortified.  I can still hear her say in her trembling angry voice “bad dog, bad dog”.  Princess hung her head in shame.  Sally never volunteered her to do that trick every again.

Have you ever had a pet with a good trick?

Fall is in the Air

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

Fall is in the air this week. It’s good weather for sleeping; I love it. The soybeans are starting to turn yellow, and they’ll be losing their leaves soon. And with the recent rains the pastures have greened up again. Another inch of nice, slow, steady rain here recently.

Remember a few months ago I left the top lid open on the feed bin and had to spend an afternoon clearing out the rotten corn and gunk. And it was almost empty, thankfully, and there was still a bit of rotten corn stuck to the sides at the bottom. Since I needed to order more feed, now was the time to clean it all out. I wanted to knock loose a little more good corn so I’d have enough to feed the chickens and ducks for a couple days.

First thing I did was drop my long stick into the auger and jam it up. Belt squealing and I’m 15’ feet up the bin so I carefully, hurriedly, scramble down and turn off the breaker. Then I turn the auger backwards, back up the bin to remove the stick, back down to turn on the breaker again, and back up to finish knocking some corn down.

The bin has an 18” opening at the bottom and then a transition angle attached to that which turns it vertical, and then the auger attaches to that. I removed a clamp and the auger attachment, and the auger slid down and out of place. That’s going to be a problem when I get to putting it all back together. The auger is 4” diameter and about 10’ long and goes up through the wall of the feed room with the electric motor attached to the end of the auger in there. I removed the clamp and transition attachment, and then I put a tarp under the opening and climb back up the bin with my stick and start knocking corn off the walls. I’d knock some loose, pull the tarp out and dump it in the loader bucket, then put the tarp back down and knock more corn off. Took 4 cycles.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. But getting it all put back together took two people, a strap, some C-clamps, a stick, some muscle, and some time.  It might be the first time I’ve cleaned the bin out in 20 or 30 years. Good for another 30 years.

Kelly helped me get the seed cup put back on the grain drill and the 44 bolts reinstalled, so that part is ready to go. I still have some other work to do on the drill, but I can manage that on my own. The 44 bolts took two people with one inside holding the wrench on the head, and me outside tightening the nut. Replacing the seed cup means I don’t have an excuse for leaving gaps in the field anymore. Next year if there’s a gap between the rows it’s my fault for not driving straight.

The next thing to repair is the ‘big spinny thing’ under the brush mower. I got the blades and broken shaft off the spinny part. Now I need Kelly’s help again to get the 8 bolts off the gearbox and take that off the mower itself. Maybe this weekend.

The former oat fields are getting a lot of weeds growing in them now. Bailey and I got them dug up. It needs to be done before they get too big (and before they go to seed) or they will plug up the digger. I try not to go the same way across the field every time I work it up. My fields are not square, and while I’m still trying to follow the contours, it helps to start on the opposite end of the field sometimes and just break up those ridges underneath the soil.

I had the co-op come and take soil samples off the oat fields. Normally you need to do that either in the spring or the fall after the crop is off. Can’t test during the growing season of course but since the oats is done, it was a good time to do those fields. I haven’t seen the results yet.

The remodeling work at one of the local theaters continues and there’s been a good crew in helping with that. If we ever get the flooring done (Thanks to Wes for advice), the bathroom stalls will be the next major job. They came in two dozen pieces and multiple bags of bolts.

In class this week the lab was on topographical maps and reading the contours and an online test on seafloor spreading and continental plates. I learned about Earthquakes, Volcanos, and the Earth’s magnetic field being generated in the core of the earth and that the magnetic field has changed polarity multiple times over the years. The last change was about 1 million years ago.

The only thing we are managing to produce out of our garden is cucumbers.  I make a lot of refrigerator pickles. Neither Kelly or I learned how to can things or preserve things and it’s probably not hard, but it is hard to find the time. At least I can grow cucumbers. Something has gotten in the garden and ate all the potatoes and kohlrabi. All summer something has been in there and I can’t find a hole in the fence, but they leave the cucumbers alone.

And the ducks. They’re getting real nice ‘poofs’ on their heads and some are off to the side like a jaunty little chapeau. I spend a lot of time just watching the ducks play in the water. They are good jumpers being able to hop into one of the water containers. I spend a lot of time watching the ducks.

Got any stories about magnets? Our son stuck one on the TV and messed up the picture and we had to buy a new TV.

Have you been in an Earthquake or seen an active Volcano?

VS versus VR

Two days ago I got the following text message from Nonny:

P a little surprised what a sweetheart I couldn’t remember the old Club was asking her about her interest but they seem to only be about the lieutenant who was across the room at the time she told me she thought you was hot start I agreed you could look at it and then she asked if I’d ever fantasize about sleeping with him sorry the TV is is making this I’ll hang up.

Now Nonny struggles with technology so as I began to read, I was trying to guess what she might be trying to say.  It wasn’t until I got to the fantasize part that I was really confused.  Then the last line about the tV made me laugh out loud.  She couldn’t figure out how to make the voice recognition stop recording when she realized it was picking up the tv.  Phew… my mother has never asked me about fantasizing about sleeping with anyone – and I don’t want that to start!

Then the same day I started VR for something and didn’t realize I had my phone set to Italian; normally it switches on by itself for my daily Italian lesson and then turns itself off when I’m done.  But I must have accidentally changed to Italian.  I don’t even remember what I was trying to say, but this is what I got:

Anonymous game ex fan Week and Hugh know Cost Wearing Nice T-shirt il Renzi stasera mangiare cioè stop period and Best me va bene anche a me Kiss Snapchat Giusy shorts T-shirt c’è in CAPS ormai Favorites schiena biologico Birthday Office

It must be a voice recognition foul up kind of week.  Two more on Wednesday that I caught on the blog right before I hit Post.

“And jam is also easier to make” turned into “And Jim is also easier to make”.

“I’ve never had a guy stand at the end of a row with a stick. Turned into “I’ve never had a guy at the end of a roller coaster”

I’m a little worried about what VR is thinking about me… fantasizing, making Jim and having a guy at the end of a roller coaster.  Yikes.

But when you think about the technology involved in these little tiny circuits being able to hear your voice, search the database for a match and then enter it as text in your application – it’s amazing that it works as well as it does.  What I really need is some kind of a cattle prod to zap me right before I hit “Post” to make sure I doublecheck what VR has done for me!

Do you have a technology currently bugging you?