Category Archives: Family

Deciliters

Husband is always on the lookout for sourdough rye recipes, and settled on a Danish Rugbrød last week. That is the coarse, very thinly-cut type of rye bread baked in a Pullman pan with added sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and rye chops. It is often used as the base for Smørrebrød, those lovely open faced sandwiches..

The recipe he chose took eight days to make, beginning with the sourdough starter. He meticulously measured things as he fed the rye starter, and by Day 8 he was ready to mix up the bread.

The recipe was poorly translated from the Danish, and the exact steps were very difficult to follow. Husband fussed and fussed over getting all the proportions of everything correct at every step. He measured out everything by weight, and had to covert even the liquids from liters to grams. I served as his calculation assistant, and when he asked me to find out how many grams in a deciliter, I knew we were in uncharted territory.

I remember feeling so lost when the metric system was introduced when I was in elementary school. As I helped Husband with his deciliters, I thought of that and how ridiculously logical the metric system is. Why is this so hard for my American brain to comprehend?

The bread turned out quite well. We froze half and plan to send it to the only two Danes we know for their honest opinion.

What are your experiences with the metric system? Why is it hard for the American mind to grasp? What is your favorite bread to bake? Whose opinion do you value?

Busy Week

The Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

It was a busy week for the Hain farm. After getting the crops out and the soil testing done, I got all the corn ground chisel plow on Saturday. Bailey rode with me all day.

Sunday morning it was warm enough I could use a hose and jet nozzle and clean off the chisel plow and tractor. (Pressure washer is already put away for winter.) I also finally got the garden fence taken down. The garden had been done for a month of course and I left the gate open so the chickens have been in there scratching around, I just hadn’t time to get the fence down. And it was bugging me so I’m glad that’s done.

I ran out of diesel fuel in the barrel when filling the tractor on Saturday. Off road diesel fuel is dyed red and can only be used in off-road equipment like tractors, combines, or construction machinery. The point of dying it is because I don’t have to pay quite so many taxes on off-road fuel.  As I understand it, a DOT inspector might check the fuel tank of an over the road truck and if there are traces of red dye in it you get a hefty fine. Gasoline I pay taxes, but I also get them refund on my tax returns for the gallons used on the farm. Hence we don’t fill the cars with gas from the barrel. When I was a kid we did, then the tax laws changed. My cost for a gallon of diesel is $2.50, it’s about $3.54 in the stores around here. My big tractor holds 140 gallons of diesel. I know the big 4 wheel drive tractors might hold 350! Crazy. I had the delivery truck fill the tractor, too. There is a long story about summer diesel and winter diesel I’ll skip. I use an additive to make it winter diesel and prevent gelling.

I got 200 gallons of gasoline (a couple of the older tractors, the swather, the lawnmower, the four wheeler, the gator, chainsaws and Weedwhackers’ use gasoline) and 500 gallons of diesel for the two main tractors.   

Also Monday, the quarry and the co-op arrived to spread lime. I was at work but Kelly got some photos for us. A semi would deliver and fill the spreader using an elevator. Then the spreader had the computerized mapping software integrated with the soil tests so they could applied as needed.

I took Wednesday off from “Work” work.  I was able to get my brush mower fixed. Got the blades fixed, and I also realize the timing of the two sets of blades was off. They need to be at 90° to each other. And that was simply a matter of removing one chain, getting them aligned, and reinstalling the chain. Much easier than I had expected. Got the roadsides mowed down, mowed two little parcels that are going to be planted to native grasses next spring, cleaned everything off, and got the mower put away. Hooked on the snowblower and move that into the machine shed.

I hope I don’t need it for several months, but at least it’s in. Got the grain drill all put back together

and tucked that back into place. What a good day. 

The theater renovation is finally wrapping up. I was waiting on one final approval from the fire department about a sprinkler head, which would then let the city inspector sign off on the final permit. I started this the first part of November, some minor corrections to the work done and some bureaucratic red tape means it’s Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we have an audience that night and I’m still making phone calls and poking people to approve this! I did not sleep good Tuesday night. It’s so nice that everything is online these days, finally about 1 o’clock Wednesday I see online that it has all been approved. I did a happy dance in the tractor.

Man, maybe I can sleep again.

I know some of you get so excited about the seed catalogs coming. Hoovers Hatchery has announced their 2022 catalog and a couple new breeds of chickens they’ll be carrying. Maybe I should get some of the Buff  Chantecler or Black Minorca! The ducks and chickens are still good. I notice Rooster #3 has got some size on him and he’s not shadowing Boss Rooster anymore. I haven’t heard him picking fights, but I think he’s strategizing.

We had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat* and had a nice relaxing day. A few minor odds and ends to do at the theater for opening on Friday. Saturday daughter and I will get driveway markers put in. Kelly and I would prefer a nice day with no wind to get snowfence up. Maybe middle of next week.  

Twisted any arms? Talk about when that’s gone poorly. Or well.

How do you feel about Alice’s Restaurant?

*Anyone catch that reference? I listened to it Thursday morning.

A Man For All Seasons

Dear friends,

My sweet dad, Steve Grooms, died at home early on Thanksgiving morning. I feel so incredibly lucky that we spent most of Wednesday together as he wasn’t feeling well that day. Two visits from 911 paramedics and multiple calls to advice nurses and his doctors couldn’t shed light on what was happening, and the ERs were/are full due to COVID and couldn’t take him. Despite normal vitals and no pain (just discomfort), he and I both knew something was wrong enough to warrant our needing to be together in what I know now were his final hours. It appeared he passed in his sleep sometime after I left to go home and sleep, and I hope against hope that he didn’t suffer.

Please don’t regret the timing. Dad had so much to be thankful for. A long and rich life full of love and laughter. Beloved family. Wonderful dogs. Adventures and stories; oh so many stories. Stories told with the richness of his appreciation for human nature, for humor, for empathy and compassion, history, and nature. So many stories told to you. And just as much as he loved the telling, he loved the gift of receiving a good story. My greeting, dear friends, isn’t accidental. I feel as if I know so many of you through his recounting of your presence in his life. And I am humbled, grateful, and so deeply appreciative for what this community meant to him.

You sustained him in the dark years following his divorce. You showed up to help when rheumatoid arthritis and congestive heart failure made life alone in his home almost unsustainable. You sawed up fallen trees and eventually helped him pack up and leave Minnesota to join us in Oregon. You were with him in words and spirit through the new lives he created, first in Oregon, then Michigan, then finally back in his beloved Minnesota. He carried you, his community, with him. You were a daily, if not hourly, gift to him. The people he wanted to process his life with, the friends he treasured.

I am beyond heartbroken right now and can’t seem to figure out what happens next. I keep reaching for the phone to call Dad to tell him how awful this all is, until I remember… Know that we will gather sometime in the future, likely in the Spring, to honor his life and you will all be invited. Until then, I invite you to share your memories of him here, in the space he so loved. Renee can forward anything you wish to send to me directly and know that I will respond as soon as I am able. 

Thank you. My family and I are so grateful for the gift of your love and friendship toward Dad in these years. It means everything to us, as it meant everything to him. All my love,

Molly

By Any Other Name

Tofurkey calls it a sausage.  I call it a brat.  But despite the fact that we’ve been eating them for years, when YA went to the store last week, she came home without them because I had written “brats” on the list and the product on the shelf said “sausage”.  Sigh. 

I grew up without sausage or brats.  Bacon and hot dogs were our porks of choice; I don’t know why.  I actually had never even heard of a brat until I was married and moved to Milwaukee.  By that time I was a vegetarian so never delved too deeply but has always seemed to me that a brat is just a fat hot dog.  Go ahead… pile on. 

Tofurkey’s Italian sausage is a brat to me, because if it were sausage, in my world it would be smaller and something I might have for breakfast.  But according to YA she didn’t put it in the basket because it didn’t say brat.  I won’t say we actually argued about this, but it was the first time in a long while that I’ve gotten to roll MY eyes.

Is a hot dog in a bun a sandwich?

We’re Not Bleeding

I have a babysitting gig tonight.

I was doing a quick scroll on Facebook (that’s about all I can handle on FB) and noticed my neighbor two doors up looking for a last-minute sitter since the scheduled sitter has come down sick.  It’s my neighbors anniversary and apparently the reservations have been made for months.  This is a newish neighbor; they moved in last May in the middle of pandemic and I don’t know them terribly well, but I thought “what the heck… I don’t have any plans on Friday night” and volunteered. 

The last time I did any child-minding was two Easters ago.  As part of the most over-engineered-egg-hunt in history, adults go out and hide the eggs for one assigned child (13 kids 13 and under).  Normally I am part of the egg-hiding crowd but that year there was snow on the ground and I was the lone voice of reason that maybe we should do something different.  So I rebelled and stayed with the kids in the house while all the other adults traipsed out.  Big jokes were made about whether I could handle this.  I told all the kids that as long as there was no bleeding, we would be fine.  The kids thought this was very funny and it’s still a running joke; I expect to hear that no one is bleeding on Thanksgiving.,

My neighbor is not a baker so I thought I might take some cookie dough to their house and bake cookies with the girls.  Or maybe we could make caramel popcorn to have if we watch tv.  Other than that no plans; I’m assuming from their ages (5 and 8) that they will be in bed before their folks get home, so a good book is on the docket a well.  YA thinks I’m in for a hard evening despite me reminding her that I was HER babysitter for years and she’s not bleeding.

Any advice for tonight?

Groutfit

On Monday YA ran an errand over lunch.   It was a short errand, so I decided to just go out in my work-from-home clothing.  Gray sweatpants and t-shirt.  At the last minute decided to throw on a sweatshirt; I have a new one that is gray with a blue-tone logo. 

YA didn’t say anything while we were out, however when we got home she said “you’re wearing a groutfit”.  Normally everything about my sartorial choices is met with YA’s disdain.  I assumed she was making the word up, a combination of grungy and outfit.  She said that it was a real word although she did not define it.

I looked it up later to see if she was just messing with me and it turns out it is a combination of gray and outfit.  And surprise surprise, apparently it is considered a chic casual trend.  You can find lots of groufit shopping opportunities online.  One of the funniest things I found was this quote:  “Dress it up with fun shoes and jewelry, or lean into groufit territory hard with some gray legging or dozy socks.”

Of course, as I think about it, I’m sure YA was just suggesting that I was all in gray, not that I was looking particularly chic!

Have you ever been accidentally trendy?

Cold and Wet

Weather has taken a definite turn toward fall. We got 1.72” Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Been seeing geese formation flying South. Rochester used to be famous for the thousands of Canada Geese. Then a few years ago goose poop got a bad rap, and the power plant closed so Silver Lake froze over, and they planted the shorelines to weeds, I mean “Native Vegetation” (some call it weeds) and the gathering of geese is discouraged. So there’s a handful that hang around, but not the thousands there used to be.

I had other stuff to do all week (work), but I took time off Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning so I could work on putting the new gearbox on the brush mower.

I got it installed, pounded out a dent and welded a crack in the ‘big round thing’ (the stump jumper) that goes underneath, added oil to the gearbox, pulled it outside, and had it idle for 20 seconds and then there was a CLUNK and the whole thing started to wobble. I was out of time; I parked it back in the shed and walked away.

The next day neighbor Dave needed to use the tractor so before I unhooked the mower, I crawled underneath it once more and I think I just got the washers on the wrong side of the bolts holding the blades, so they aren’t loose enough to swing. Therefore, one blade is stuck ‘in’ and one ‘out’ and it’s out of  balance and it’s all wobbling. At least I hope that’s the issue. It looks like that’s really the only obvious issue.

As luck would have it, neighbors Craig and Darryl got our corn harvested Wednesday afternoon. I was busy all day and never got home to see them doing it. But that doesn’t matter; it’s done! The local co-op, where I have it taken, recently merged with another co-op and their website, which was pretty good, is even better! I can get information on the loads, minutes after they’re delivered! Other years I had to wait until it was all delivered, then call up there and have them look it up and give me all the details. Now I can see each load as it’s delivered and get all the details.

This photo shows the details of one load; Gross weight is the truck and corn, Tare is the weight of the truck, Net weight then is the actual corn. Converted to bushels (based on Test Weight) gives us gross units, then after taking into account moisture, damage, and foreign material gives us Net Units and that’s what we get paid for. Test weight is 60, which is really good because the standard for corn is 56. They need the moisture to be 15% to store long term and I pay drying costs for anything over that. The fact it’s 15.5% is really amazing! Most years it’s anywhere from 18% – 25% coming out of the field. The wetter, the more it costs to dry. This cost me $0.025 / bushel. And one load was even 14% so no drying costs. Plus price is really pretty good this year! Somewhere around $5 / bushel. It’s been $3 / the last several years. And the corn was wet so I was lucky to get $2.50 / bushel to take home.

Considering the low stand population this spring, the hot weather, the dry weather, and I really didn’t expect much of a yield. Turns out it was about average. Which is really surprising all things considered. And raises some interesting questions: was it the lack of competition of plants that allowed me to get an average yield? If that’s the case, shouldn’t I plant at a lower population every year? What if this year had better weather? I should try it next year I suppose, but given the changes in the weather year to year it’s still hard to compare. But it sure is interesting! I even put some corn in storage at the elevator to sell next spring. Maybe price will be better? Course I’ll be paying about $0.30 / bushel / month for the co-op to store it so will the price go up enough to cover that? Either way it’s just some extra money in March.

It was starting to sprinkle Wednesday afternoon about 2:30. I got home about 4:30 and it was raining pretty steady. But that didn’t stop me getting the tractor out and hooking up the chisel plow and I got a couple fields worked up.

Bailey and I had some quality tractor time. You can see the rain in the headlights. There’s a lot of mud on the steps and frame. It’s not really that muddy on the tires because the cornstalks make so much surface trash it gives me traction. But it was getting pretty soft by the time I quit. Actually, I was surprised it went as well as it did. I hope I have time to get things washed up before it really gets cold. Last week I mentioned waiting for the co-op to do soil samples and apply lime. Still waiting on that and they didn’t want me to plow until that was done. Too bad, so sad. I will just wait to lime this ground until next year. I wanted these fields plowed up this fall because it’s low ground, because it could be wet come spring, and because conditions may not be suitable to plow this in the spring, I always like to get this worked up in the fall. The new LED lights I put on the tractor are awesome! I only switched half of them, I should do the other half next spring. When plowing cornstalks with a minimum till implement, we go diagonal to the rows. My Dad and Clyde could just follow the row with the moldboard plow, but with minimum till, we go about 30° across the rows.

Neighbors Dave and Parm hauled out their beef cows Thursday.

Yesterday Dave hauled in a bunch of fence panels and left a load of silage in the cow yard and got all the cows and calves locked in the yard Wednesday afternoon. Then Thursday it was pretty easy for the guys to get them locked over in one section, back the trailer in, and haul them out. Took four trips to get them all. See the chicken in this photo? She’s been laying eggs out in the pole barn. But this morning she wasn’t sure if she could get there. I went out later and found her spot in the bales in the back corner and collected 2 eggs. As the weather gets colder, one of us will get tired of making the trek out there.

I spent some time looking up custom farm rates. I’ll be settling up with the neighbors at the end of the year so I’m trying to find rates for baling small square bales and the price of round bales of oat straw. And rates for combining corn and soybeans and hauling. Generally those rates come from the Iowa Extension service. Maybe they’ll be helpful for some of you. tim.  

As always, ask if you have questions.What’s your favorite reference website? Have you looked for something that didn’t have a website yet?  

November

Today’s farm update is from Ben.

Here we are in November and my 1940’s station on SiriusXM radio has been replaced by Holiday Music! Bah! Harumph! For two months!! Grrrrr….

It’s been getting cold at night; mid 20’s. I drained all the hoses. Drained the outside faucet on the wellhouse, and moved the chicken’s water inside. Kelly helped me get the pressure washer into the wellhouse so that pump doesn’t freeze and I took some chemicals in the house. There are a few things in the shop I’ll take in the house before it starts getting serious cold. Things like ‘never sieze’, gasket cement, and the tire-ject’ stuff, stump killer, etc.

Last week I used a trailer and delivered straw to the neighbor’s strawberry farm. That night I noticed all the chickens water buckets were tipped over and their self-watering thing was off the base and tipped over and I thought what the heck happen here?? And then I saw the tracks. I pulled the trailer out, drove right over the top of all that stuff. Broke one bucket. Man o man… pay attention Ben.

Still no time for farming in my life. Open house at the theater on the 6th so finishing touches for that. Then opening a show in that space on 11/26 so a few more finishing touches for that. Called for final inspections by the city, electrical, and plumbing… one of those things I’m at their mercy and waiting for their phone call that says “Sometime in the next 30 minutes”, between 8 and 5.  But they’ve all been good people. No serious issues. Will be nice to have it done.

The neighbors have been bringing silage and round bales of hay for their beef cattle for the last month. I suspect they’ll be taking the cattle back home pretty soon here.

The other neighbors with the late planted soybeans are harvesting them this week. The beans were starting to mature and drop their leaves before it froze. It would appear they got a decent crop off them for late planted beans. They sure got lucky with the weather. And it sounds like they’ll be working on my corn next week. I had the co-op pulling some soil samples and I had asked for them to do “grid sampling” on a rented field. That got lost in translation somewhere and they just pulled a single sample from this 10 acre field. (Grid Sampling, is pulling more samples / field to be able to adjust fertilizer rates more precisely. Not something I can do, but something the co-op could do with their equipment) After a few phone calls, we decided to wait until the corn is off, grid sample the entire farm, then apply lime, if needed, to as much as I can afford to do this fall. (All the fertilizer and chemical prices are way up this fall from the spring. Supply Chain issues) They don’t want me to chisel plow the corn stubble until after lime is applied in order to have a smoother surface for the applicators to drive on. I certainly understand that… it just delays me doing fieldwork until they’re done and hopefully the weather still holds.

Fall fieldwork is always better than spring fieldwork. Even when it’s too muddy, as long as there’s enough traction and it doesn’t plug up, it doesn’t have to work up so well because after the freeze / thaw of winter, it will work up OK in the spring. But I don’t have tractors with tracks, or big enough tractors, that a little mud and a little slippery and I’m done. Then there’s the whole soil compaction issue of working wet soil, but again, maybe the freeze thaw prevents that. We have about 11 acres in a conservation reserve program (CRP – not to be confused with CPR) and planted to wildflowers. Been in the program 11 years now. It’s a 10 year program and Iast year I modified it and re-enrolled for another 10 years. It’s flat, rich, black soil, and makes real good crops. IF it’s dry enough to plant and harvest. Often it gets too wet. That’s why it qualified for CRP. And I have a couple corners that are rocky and surrounded by trees and the deer come out and eat it all. So, I’ve been leaving those bits idle the last few years. I am working to enroll that in CRP. That way I get a payment on the idle ground and it’s not just a net loss for me.

Duck update: All the critters are still around this week. Or at least, the ones I keep track of. Twenty brown ducks, 4 black and white, 4 cream colored, 6 Poofy. And I don’t know how many chickens… 40 or 50.  We’ve got these three roosters: The boss,

#2,

and the up and coming #3.

Boss and #2 are almost identical, except the boss doesn’t have any comb on his head. And #2 just has a little one. It’s interesting #3 is never far away from #1 as the photo shows. But if #2 shows up, The Boss chases him away. Evidently #3 is sucking up. Biding his time.

Kelly and I (and the dogs) took a 4 wheeler ride down in the woods one afternoon. It was a nice drive. Header photo is from there.

What kind of medical training do you have? Are you trained in CPR? How do you handle blood? What wakes you up in the morning?

CPU

I learned frugality at my mother’s knee so sometimes it’s hard for me to part with my hard-earned cash.  I have a good friend who sometimes gives me grief about this.  Her view of life is all about CPU… cost per use.  If she purchases something and then uses it a lot, the CPU gets smaller and smaller.  She taught this life view to YA early on, so I am exposed to the theory on a fairly regular basis.

The one place I have been good at applying CPU is with the Minnesota Zoo.  I have an annual membership so when YA and I go to the zoo, we don’t have to pay anything.  It’s obviously not free but it feels free at the time.  We go enough that the annual membership is less than the full price and parking we would have to pay.

I have another friend who has been a supporter of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum for many years and have always urged me to get a membership.  But at $60 I knew I’d have to go at least 4 times a year to justify the CPU.  This past spring, this friend called me to tell me that the Arb was having a membership sale.  Just $30 for the annual membership.  Right up my alley.

Now that I don’t have to pay every time I go, I’ve been to the Arb a few times.  Twice this summer I even parked myself in one or another garden with a good book.  In October they had their annual Scarecrow exhibit so last weekend, I made some space in my Saturday and headed out.  I strolled about, checking out how things are changing now that the big blooms of spring and summer are over.  (I even got a gardening tip; I noticed that in the Peony garden, they have chopped the peonies back.  This is not something I have ever done but the afternoon after my visit, I chopped all my own back!) 

The scarecrows were a lot of fun.  Most of them were up on the hill and it was almost like a fall festival – lots of kids and lovely autumn displays – not to mention a gorgeous sunny day.  I normally take the tram ride but since it’s done for the season, I drove slowly along the Three Mile Drive myself with Enya playing on my phone.  I’m sure it’s the lowest my blood pressure has been for years!  They were starting to put up the lights for the Winter Lights Walk so as soon as I got home, I ordered tickets for that.   The CPU will be seriously low this year.

I was thinking as I enjoyed my day that even if they raise the price of membership on me next year, I’ll probably renew anyway.

How do you decide if something is “worth it”?

Disaster!

Today is the anniversary of the Wall Street Crash in 1929 that started the Great Depression. My great grandmother had invested in some Texas oil company stock and lost a good bit of money. My parents would often talk about the closing of the banks. It was a huge disaster for them and really influenced the trajectory of their lives.

I have never been a great fan of disaster movies. I just don’t like the suspense. I think the worst one I ever saw was a fairly modern one in which the magnetic poles changed position, and the North Pole was somewhere around Minneapolis, and all the oceans flooded dry land, exposing new dry land, and anyone who survived was on this one ship which contained survivors and all that remained of Western Civilization. I have no idea how or why I came to be watching it. I was most tolerant of disaster movies when I was in high school. The Poseidon Adventure comes to mind.

What are your favorite or least favorite disaster movies? Which movies to do think are real disasters? How did your family fare in the Great Depression? Why do you think that disasters are such popular fodder for entertainment?