Category Archives: Nature

Astonishing

As you all know, one of our family traditions is apple-picking each fall.  It’s just one of many places that YA and I enjoy going and things we enjoy doing together.  Zoos, petting farms, state fair, museums, apple picking, tree selection, shopping, gardening. 

You’d think that I’d be overloaded with photos considering all the things we do but you’d be surprised.  YA is very resistant to posing for photos.  If I’m lucky, I can get one photo per “out and about”, but that’s not a guarantee.  I plead, I wheedle and sometimes I bribe; these attempts don’t always work.  I don’t know why she resists.  

Yesterday we headed out to the orchard and after we’d filled our first bag (Sweet Tangos), she asked me to take her picture with an apple tree behind her.  I was surprised but took a few photos.  Then she wanted photos in front of a different tree.  THEN she wanted photos in front of the corn maze.  Now I was practically in shock.  When I asked why, she said she wanted to have pictures to show she had been on “an outing”.  At first I thought this was some feature of Instagram or Tik Tok or even the activity app she has through work but it turns out it’s nothing official.  She just wants photos in case she decides she wants to post somewhere. 

Lots more photo sessions ensued including the big adirondack chairs they have in the orchard and the most surprising of all, next to the dinosaur sculptures up near the barn.  I would have bet money she would refuse those but she happily posed.  All these photos were taken on my phone and she spent the miles back home looking through them and sending many of them to herself.  I was a little concerned she might delete them off my phone when she was done, but she left them.  I’m still in shock.

Anything extraordinary or atypical in your world lately?

Falling Weather

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Rosie and Guildy are still good. They look like they’re finally growing. They’re still spending most of the day hiding under something, but they do come out and go in by themselves morning and night so that’s progress.

We lost one of the creamy colored adult ducks. Still the two black and white, one creamy, one poufy, and 6 mallards. And two guineas. And roughly 52 chickens. Daily egg count is somewhere between 7 and 12, down from summer peak. Newest hens haven’t started laying yet; late October they’ll be 6 months old and they start laying somewhere in there.

This is Rooster #3 — Kelly calls him ‘Top Gun’ because he thinks he’s hot stuff.

Some of the latest batch of chickens have more black around their eyes than other years. They are ‘Black Australorpe’ breed and they have good longevity, but they can be kind of ornery. I like them. Most chickens in a close up just look ornery.

I’ve been busy at the theaters this week. The HVAC being installed brought in a scissor lift and I use it when they’re not. Replaced a bunch of non-functioning fluorescent lights in the theater with LED retrofit kits. Pulled down all the cables for the stage lights so we could redo them. (It just turns into a rat’s nest after a while. Good to pull down and start fresh.)

Created some new doorways and redid other odds and ends over the summer break between shows. On Saturday all the platforms for the seating are going back in place so I must finish the bulk of the work that I want with the lift before that.

I’ve been saying there’s not much happening on the farm. That’s not true. I’M not doing much on the farm, but there’s a lot happening. The corn and beans are both maturing and drying out. Beans are losing their leaves and drying down, corn is turning brown, maturing, and drying out. Birds are migrating, bees are busy, deciduous trees are turning colors, the world rotates, planets are moving, the moon changes phases… there’s a lot happening. Just not by me.

I watch some youTube farming channels; they’re busy getting things ready for harvest. Soybeans could be going in our area in another week or two.

The pod right in the center of the photo has 4 beans in it. BONUS! Most only have 3. Four isn’t unusual, but it’s not the normal either. See the pods at the very top of the plant? Those are the ‘bonus’ pods. Not only because the deer didn’t eat the buds off the top, but the plant develops from the bottom up, so the better the conditions, the better resources the plant has, the more pods it can create. It’s looking like a pretty good year for my crops. Knock on Wood.

WHO HAVE YOU KNOWN, OR DO YOU KNOW, THAT LOOKS ORNERY BUT WASN’T OR ISN’T? 

OR ARE THEY?

DO YOU HAVE AN “RBF”?

Soak It In

I am a Neil deGrasse Tyson buff.  I’ve read several of his books, follow his current podcast (Star Talk) and own a t-shirt with a NdGT quote and a bracelet that I saw on his website of the planets in order.  (I actually made my own bracelet based on his design and I added Pluto – he may be smart, but Pluto will always be one of my planets!)

One of the things that I admire most is his ability to take difficult concepts and to distill them down so that most of us can understand them.  I was re-listening to his description of how the tides actually work/exist and wondered what it would be like to take a class from him (an entry-level class of course – I’ve encountered some of his work that is NOT distilled down and it is way over my head).

My favorite classes in college were always lectures.  I don’t need any small discussion groups or multi-student projects – just let me sit in the presence of great professors while I soak up their knowledge.  Between Carleton and Metro State I took five Shakespeare courses from two different professors – fabulous.  There was a spellbinding Chinese Middle Kingdom class and the professor who taught my King Arthur in English and American Literature (yes, a real class for which I got credit) held my attention like no other.

But based on YA’s master’s program experience, the current trend in education is all about self-teaching, small group projects and collaboration (I detest this word).  Her description of every single class she took for her MBA made my skin crawl, so I guess I probably won’t be going back to school in my retirement.  I’ll have to remain self-taught in the areas that appeal to me.  I’m still doing my online Italian class; I’m almost at 900 days straight.  I’m still working my way through biographies of the English monarchs as well as the American presidents.  Banned books are high on my list of interests as well as reading on Black Lives Matter.  Science is also a love of mine although I would say I have a broad science curiosity  as opposed to a deep curiosity. 

If I were to take any classes, my first choice would be anything taught by Tyson; it’s possible he could do wonders from my understanding of physics.  Add a course covering the history plays of Shakespeare.  I’d like an economics class that specializes in the real world and does not discuss guns or butter.  Literature courses of just about any kind.  No math (I got through trigonometry by the skin of my teeth) and no classes where anything has to be cut up!  

What were your favorite and least favorite classes in school?   

September

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Our two ducklings are doing well. Kelly has named them Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Rosie and Guildy for short. They seem to be afraid of everything. Mostly they spend the day hiding. But considering they’ve lost seven of their siblings, and the whole animal ‘fight or flight’ mentality, maybe they’re the smart ones and that’s why they’ve survived this long. And they just learned to walk up the board ramp to go in at night on their own, so that’s pretty smart of them! No more trying to wrangle them in at night. Now we’re trying to see if they’ll come out on their own in the morning so we don’t have to chase them out.

The other morning I watched a hawk swoop right down over the pen and then sit in a nearby tree. R & G weren’t out yet, but that might explain why some of their siblings disappeared. A few minutes later, when I was in the shed letting them out, a brown chicken hopped down out of the rafters right in front of me. Scared the bejezzus out of me. (By the way, when I dictated “bejezzus“ into my phone, it translated as “big Jesus” and I thought well, that works too). It scared the big Jesus out of me.

Still not much happening on the farm, beans are turning yellow, corn is drying up. I’m keeping busy with more summer projects at one theater and working on our fall show at the college. Sure has felt good to put on my toolbelt  again. Man, am I out of practice. Doesn’t take much to wear me out. Course I haven’t really done much this whole calendar year. Building up my endurance. I did haul a 50 lb bag of chicken feed over to the chickens and dump it in the wall feeder. And put two bags of water softener salt in. Progress! 

I’ve spent a lot of time sitting on the garage steps just watching our little corner of the world. It’s nice.

Our apples and pear trees are overloaded this year. In fact they are so overloaded they broke a few branches on the apple tree. Yeah, it needs to be pruned. I think they’re Harrelson‘s. They sure are good anyway.

Who knows anything about Minnesota pears? I think they were called golden? They’re small, and green and only get to be slightly larger than a ping-pong ball, and really hard and they do not taste good. Do they ever get better? What do I need to be doing with them?

Kelly and I froze some sweetcorn last weekend. Only four dozen; daughter helped me husk it, and then I cut it off the cobs and Kelly bagged. I remember doing that with my parents, and for a few years my sister would come out to help me and Kelly. It’s a fond memory I have with mom and dad.

WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO FEEL GOOD?

A Woman And A Racoon Walk Into A Bar. . .

Yesterday the Fargo Forum reported that bar patrons in Maddock, ND, who were in the Maddock Bar the night of September 6 needed to be aware that they may have been exposed to rabies. It seems a rather intoxicated woman came into the bar holding a racoon she had rescued days earlier from the side of the road. She was asked to leave the bar, but not before she walked all around the bar showing people her racoon. The racoon was reportedly injured when she found it, and she had nursed it back to health and was keeping it as a pet. It is illegal to keep racoons or skunks as pets here due to the threat of rabies. They are still looking for the woman and her racoon. The bar employees say they are going to dress up as racoons for Halloween,

When I was about 6 years old, I tried lifting a friend’s rather fat beagle into my father’s fishing boat that was stored along side the garage. The beagle was not amused, and bit me on my face. It was just a nip, but my mother was panicked about it. The beagle’s owners refused to lock the dog up the required number of days to see if it was rabid, so I had to have a series of rabies shots. I got the shots under my shoulder blades. It was painful. I wouldn’t want to go through that again. The beagle wasn’t rabid, by the way, and he and I remained friends.

Know any good bar jokes? What animals would you like to see in bars? What are your experiences with rabies or rabies shots?

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?

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!

WHAT DO YOU SEE OUT YOUR WINDOW? TALK ABOUT A RONCO PRODUCT.

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?

A Lack Of Busyness

Today’s post comes from Ben

Pretty quiet around the farm this week. With me back at work, I need to schedule farm work around ‘work’ work. Oh, there’s a whole list of things I haven’t gotten done yet this summer, but if I got them all done it would mean I hadn’t scheduled enough, wouldn’t it.

Cooler temps and I like that, but the crops need those GDU’s to reach maturity. We are still 117 GDU above normal for our area. And crops are looking real good so far. Except the dang deer eating the tops off my soybeans.

Nice juicy tender leaves on the top. Man. I am not fond of deer. They like this field back in a corner. No one to bother them… and they must spend hours out there grazing.

Padawan was out one day and we burned a brush pile

we cleaned up and put away some machinery, he cut grass, and I mowed the newly planted CRP to keep the weeds down

(I cut it about 6” high) Plus he learned how to replace a toilet flapper. That may have been the highlight of his day. One thing I think he has learned is that a lot of things take more muscle than he thinks. My answer to most of his issues is “Yank/hit/pull/push it harder”. I had never thought of that before; some things just take a lot of effort. Life Lesson there.

The chickens were waiting not so patiently for Kelly to feed them the other day.

HOW DO YOU OPEN STUCK JAR LIDS?

TALK ABOUT USING FORCE.

Puppy Physics

Our Cesky Terrier clearly has never heard of the Pauli exclusion principle, which states that two objects cannot occupy the same space simultaneously.

Try as he might, Kyrill can’t fit two of his favorite small tennis balls in his mouth at the same time. He loves his balls and runs all over the house with them. Much of the time he looks like a soccer player, one ball in his mouth, the other getting pushed down the hall and around the room with his front paws. He seems to experiment at times with both on the floor in front of him, picking up one and trying to pick up the other, as though he thinks the rules might have changed and he can have both in mouth.

Cesky Terriers are some what different in temperament from other terriers, in that they prefer (in fact, they insist) on being with their people instead of running off and exploring. Kyrill is very conflicted when we are both outside with him, as he wants to be with both of us simultaneously, even when we are in different corners of the yard. He has, apparently, heard of the superposition principle of quantum mechanics, which essentially states that one object can exist in two places at the same time. I have no idea how that possibly could be true, but it appears to be an actual proven principle. Kyrill hasn’t figured out how to make it work for him when husband and I aren’t together in the same room.

What natural laws do you wish you could suspend? What is your experience with animal devotion or loathing?