Category Archives: Nature

Say It Ain’t Snow!

Photo credit:  Star Tribune

MnDot announced the finalists yesterday for the Minnesota Name A Snowplow contest.   If you haven’t heard of this before you may not be alone, although the contest has been held annually for a few years now.  Last year’s winners were:

    • Betty Whiteout
    • Ctrl Salt Delete
    • The Big Leplowski
    • Plowasaurus Rex
    • Scoop Dogg
    • Blizzard of Oz
    • No More Mr. Ice Guy
    • Edward Blizzardhands

This is one winner per MnDot district.  I haven’t been able to find out what happens after the winners are announced?  Is there a plaque somewhere?  Little signs on the snowplows?  Patches for the snowplow drivers?  Banquet?

There are 60 finalists so I am not going to name them all but will give you some of my favorites:

    • Bladezilla
    • It’s a Squall World After All
    • Taylor Drift
    • Hippoplowtomus

If you’d like to see all the finalists and vote for your top eight favs, here is the link:

Name a Snowplow contest – MnDOT (state.mn.us)

We can probably come up with some good names of our own.  What do you think?

Another Week, Another Snowstorm

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

We got a good 6 to 8 inches Wednesday night into Thursday. They were predicting that, so I unhooked the rear blade and hooked the snowblower on the tractor on Tuesday. I hadn’t used the blower this year, so I had to put the hydraulic cylinder on it to rotate the spout, check the oil, grease the power takeoff shaft, and I was fairly impressed with myself that I could get in amongst the linkage and frame and get the power takeoff shift connected to the tractor. I would not have been able to do that last summer. BULLY FOR ME!  

It was kind of fun to blow snow again, I do things a little different with the blower than I do with the blade and it’s just been the last few years that I started using a blade for snow, so the skills for this came back pretty quick. I remembered it would be slower, but I forgot how much it makes my neck hurt because I’m looking over my right shoulder to do it. The seat swivels a bit, and I sit as sideways as I can, but it’s still looking over my shoulder. My next tractor will have heated mirrors so they stay clean. Or maybe my next tractor will have a blower on the front!

Kelly took some video of me, and I put my first video on YouTube.

One day I had to stop at Fleet Farm as I was looking for insulated winter boots. I found them over in the ice fishing section. You all know I’m not much of a sportsman so I don’t think I’ve ever walked through that area before. It was a little bit fascinating!

I found some boots; they’re keeping my feet much warmer than the plain rubber boots I had been wearing.

Then I went to Menards and walked around there for a while. After that, I had a meeting on the far end of the college campus, and by the time I got home I was pooped out. Nothing hurt! Just pooped out.

Kelly counted 17 pheasants in the yard one morning. The most we’ve ever had, and I love seeing them. I have one neighbor that always asks if he can pheasant hunt and I always tell him no.

My chickens from last spring are just coming into their peak. It’s not unusual to get 16 or 20 eggs a day lately. If anybody was up for a road trip again for eggs, this would be a good time. Although we should wait for the driveway to get better than glare ice.

After that rain we got on Monday, our yard and driveway became pretty slick. It’s been packed snow all winter, not thick, just a half-inch maybe, but that’s what rain does to it. I went to a meeting Monday night. I was impressed that I was even able to get out. Years of practice I told Kelly. After I got home, I used the loader and tried to scrape the ice on the hills and corners on the driveway. It didn’t do much, but it did rough it up a bit and that helps.

I went out to do chores while it was raining on Monday, I tried Kelly‘s yak traks, but they didn’t fit my boots, and I lost them on about the third step. Again, I’ve been doing this for years, I know how to aim for the gravel or bare ground or walk through the snow. Once I got to the feed room, I threw out a bunch of corn, and that gives some traction. Then I carried a bucket with me and scattered corn in front of me to make a path to walk on. A win for the crows and chickens and ducks, and a win for me.

I remember an old movie called Angel In My Pocket, Andy Griffith and a host of character actors that you would recognize. It came out in 1969, and a gentleman playing the church caretaker, Parker Fennelly, reminds me of my grandfather Hain. That was the only movie I was able to watch this week. I couldn’t find it online anywhere so I ordered the movie off eBay and it came from Australia. Spent a week in customs in Chicago. It a long way for some entertainment, but I really enjoy this movie and it makes me think of Grandpa.

I was filling the birdfeeders one day, and I love the fact that the chickadees don’t even wait for me to finish, and they don’t appear to be very scared. I was standing right there filling things and they just come and sit on the birdfeeder.

And here’s Humphrey breaking the corn cob into bits.  PHOTOS

Do you, or did your family do home movies?

January Bleary

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Middle of January now, gray days, average temperatures, and we must persevere. A couple more weeks, we’ll start to see some change in the daylight, and hope will return.

I’ve been able to do more chores again. Feeding the chickens and ducks and collecting eggs. One day there was 7 male pheasants came from the East, while the 5 females come from the North to eat the corn we throw out. 

I watched a flock of 12 ducks fly figure 8’s over the yard one day. Four finally landed in the pond. Not sure where the rest went.

Bailey played King Of the Hill all by herself.

I’m back to work half days now for a couple of weeks. Then I’ll go full time. The knee is still doing fantastic. Now it’s just getting all those muscles stretched out again and used to walking and retraining those left leg muscles to walk straight instead of bowlegged.

Movies this week were Judgement at Neurenberg, Glass Onion, and Passing Strange (A little known Rock Musical that I really like.

Other movies during various recoveries this year have included Men Who Stare At Goats Animal House, Kill Bill 1 & 2, Django Unchained. (Boy…those Tarantino movies. Kelly won’t watch them. If you don’t know, there’s a lot of blood, and a lot of language).

Obviously having a job is cutting into my movie viewing time so still on my ‘To View’ list is Citizen Kane (for the 8th time) Bridge on River Kiwi, Blazing Saddles (For the umpth time) The Terminal, and the Original The Producers (For the 3rd time).

I’ve got everything locked in now for spring of 23. Oat seed has been reserved and paid for, soybean Seed ordered and paid for, and corn seed ordered and charged. Oats is $11.70 per bushel and I plant three bushels per acre. Soybeans are planted at 55 pounds per acre and a 50lb bag is either $50 for non-treated or $60 for treated. (Treated for insects and rot if the ground is wet when planted.) Corn prices vary depending on the variety and things, but my average cost is $269 per bag. A bag will do a little over 2 1/2 acres and a bag is 80,000 kernals.  I  order a little extra in case I don’t have rates’ quite right or I over plant on the corners or heck, might even spill half a bag on the ground. And we can always return to the dealer what we don’t use. There’s nothing worse than being almost done and it’s 6 o’clock at night and there’s rain on the horizon and I need one more bag of seed. Been there done that.

I had a cement contractor to the farm the other day, looking at pouring some cement either inside the shed and ideally, I would build a wall and insulate and get my warm shop. But of course, a slab outside would be nice to so that I have a place to work on things without lying on the gravel. We will see what the prices are. Like everything, last year the price of concrete increased at a rate no one had seen before. Until this year when it increased again an unheard-of amount. Ballpark around here is $190 per yard just for the concrete not counting site prep work and labor.

I’ve mentioned a few times in the past about remodeling at a local theater and now some HVAC work. The HVAC work was begun in August, new ductwork was installed, and some old things removed, hopefully the rooftop unit will arrive in March. This past week, they installed a ships ladder, and cut a hole in the roof so we have roof access from inside rather than an extension ladder outside the building. It’s really fun; I’ve been on the roof several times this week. Also, couple of supports and steel beams were placed on the roof to support the rooftop unit whenever it gets here. I had a good time talking with both the sheet-metal workers and the ironworkers. The first day, I wanted to get up on the roof to see what was going on, but I didn’t think I should be climbing the outside extension ladder quite yet. It took me a few, tries to find the person that owned and operated the boom lift, and I played the “new knee card“and he took me on the roof.

It’s surprising the things you can do if you just ask. I got above the ceiling of the chapel at the local nuns home, Assisi Heights, because I happen to be there one day, putting up some stage lights for a show and their maintenance crew said they were going to replace some house lights so I asked if I could come along. That was an adventure.  In high school I always heard about the large ventilation pipes under the building and so we asked Milo the head maintenance guy. On the last day of school, he took my best friend Pete and I down to the basement and opened the door and said here you go, I’ll meet you over in the gym.  it was just a big metal tunnel, but it was still kind of cool. You just gotta ask.

Driving one day and the song ‘Open the Door Richard’ by Count Basie was on XM Radio. Remember the Bugs Bunny cartoon with Yosemite Sam chasing Bugs and Sam pounds on the door and yells “OPEN THIS DOOR!” then turns to the camera and says, “Notice I didn’t say Richard?”

Makes me laugh every time.

I returned a box to Acme Tools last week. The clerk asked me if there was an anvil in there.

What have you learned from cartoons?

What have you gained by just asking?

Zoo Buddies

YA and I can’t go anywhere without seeking out the closest zoo or animal park (or both).  We were both actually surprised that there is a zoo in Honolulu.  When we were deciding on a hotel, we had several places marked on a map and while we didn’t choose Waikiki due to its proximity to the zoo, it certainly didn’t hurt that it was walking distance from our hotel.

It was bigger than I was expecting considering its prime location right off the beach and had a bigger variety of animals that I was expecting as well.  It was a quiet day when we were there so no jostling and every docent was all ours. 

There were three giraffes and one zebra together in a large savannah-like enclosure.  I asked the docent whey the two breeds were together; zebras have a reputation for not getting along with anybody else, including members of their own species and troop.  The docent told me that the larger/older giraffe was named Squirt and the zebra was named Mr. Z.  Apparently they had been housed together for many years until just recently when the two younger giraffes were introduced.  Mr. Z has access to his own space and sleeping area at all time but he prefers to hang out with Squirt and even sleeps with him.  The docent also told me that although Squirt seems to enjoy having the two younger giraffes arounds, he still prefers the company of his zebra pal.  The zoo considers them a bonded pair.

I love hearing stories like this so it was great to have the docent all to myself for a bit.  Of course, I got a rare YA photo that morning as well so it turned out to be a fabulous morning.

Do you have any “must dos” when you travel or when you have out of town visitors?

Safe From Marauding Trees

Guinevere is not a guard dog, despite her desire to be one.  When I spend time downstairs, especially if I’m hanging out on the sofa, she feels the needs to watch out the windows and alert me to the existence of dangerous dogs walking by the house, mutant squirrels touching any of our trees or bushes and any other life-threatening happenings out front.

So it wasn’t a surprise when she reacted to some tree work going on across the street.  It was fascinating; they had one of those big cherry pickers that had to anchored on both sides, two other big trucks on the street (which made the snow emergency a little tricky) and six guys that I could count, mostly up in the tree.  For a bit I was thinking they were taking the tree down with all that equipment and all those workers but it wasn’t an elm and otherwise had appeared to be fine.  After a couple of hours it was clear that they were just pruning and trimming.  The project lost a little luster for me at that point. 

But then I looked about a bit later and saw the strangest sight.  They had dragged all the bigger branches away to the chipper and were cleaning up…. using rakes!  Obviously rakes were the correct tool but you just don’t expect to see anyone raking during a snow emergency, the day after 10+ inches to snow.  (I know the picture isn’t great… I wanted to make sure that you could see that it was actually a rake.)

How can you identify a dogwood tree?  (All bad tree jokes and puns welcome!)

Destined to Fail?

I looked out my bathroom window yesterday to see the scene in the photo above of my neighbor’s house to the north.

Based on having been a homeowner myself for 40+ years, I’m guessing Brian tried to knock down some icicles.   

Now YA and I have a pool going to see how long it takes for the balls to return to earth.  I say four days; YA says two.

Any projects that with hindsight just weren’t going to work out well?

January

The first Farm Report of 2023 comes to us from Ben.

I’m happy to report my 1940’s radio station is back on XM radio, thank goodness.

We seem to have picked up some extra ducks; there’s 14 now. And there’s more either female or younger pheasants coming in for chicken corn. I sure wish Steve was here to clarify those things for me. One day I watched our dog Bailey walk right past a pheasant and neither one paid any attention to the other. I understand Bailey ignoring the pheasant, I’m surprised the pheasant ignored Bailey. 

I am finally driving again. I park my car over in the old machine shed and there’s a lot of sparrows in there. A night or two isn’t bad. But I parked for two weeks, I had bought a tarp and some cheap bungee cords back in January when I knew I was having shoulder surgery, but the car actually sat out that whole time. This time, when we got it out, it was evident I should’ve had a bigger tarp. The hood, front windshield, and most of the roof was OK, the back window and sides were pretty disgusting. And they were really cheap bungee cords, there’s no stretch left in them. The tarp will still be good… once it’s cleaned off.

I’m back in the tractor! There was a minor mishap trying to move snow one day. It was wet and heavy, and we were trying to go the other direction and, well, one thing led to another, and pretty soon we were in the fence. I told Kelly, I’ve run into a lot of things, broken some fences, dented some steel siding, and broke some stuff; that’s just how you learn. Didn’t damage anything on the tractor, and the fence can be fixed. A few days later trying to cut down the snowbanks, I snagged the fence a couple more times with the blade. Just loosened the fence a little bit. There’s a bit of a learning curve to this that I’m still getting back. I move a lot of sod before the ground freezes. (For the record, Kelly hardly picked up any sod. Somehow, I’m still picking up sod.) And I may have re-arranged our fire pit a little bit. Oops.  

We have some pretty good banks on the sides of the road.

That’s the issue with using a blade and not a blower. If I’m up to it, one of these days I’ll hook the blower up and use that to cut the banks down. Unless they melt first. On the township level we have the county Highway Department clear our snow. After the first couple snows and the county trucks clearing the roads, we get some complaints about road rock being thrown into people’s yards. Well, that’s pretty hard to avoid on these first snowfalls. The next complaint is about the snow – or the plow- hitting mailboxes. To avoid those mishaps, a few years ago the county replaced all the mailboxes on county roads with swiveling pipe stands. When the plow or heavy snow hits the mailbox, it swivels out of the way. Seems like a good plan. Except when there’s mail in the box. Then it’s like ‘Crack-the-whip’ and the door pops open and the mail sails off into the ditch. I stood on the edge of the road looking at the open mailboxes (both ours and our neighbors) and looked at the mail down there by the pine tree and thought, “maybe, I can get down there.” Nope, one step into the deep snow and I knew my knew knee wasn’t up to it. Kelly had to go rescue it. And it turned out it was all our neighbors mail.

It was 2 1/2 weeks before I put real pants on again, and three weeks to the day before I wore real shoes again. I’m doing stairs, and I can just barely get the left foot up on my right knee to put my socks on! Making progress!

Movies this week have been Monty Python and the Holy Grail, (because it showed up on Netflix so how could I not?) So many quotable lines! The one I use on daughter often is when trying to wake her up in the mornings. I tell her I’ll come back and “…taunt you a second a-time-a!”

And Ferris Buellers Day Off. And The Big Lebowski. I saw part of The English Patient on TV one night. Thumbs up or down for that one? I remember liking the book. 

I got the book ‘Wild Pork and Watercress’ by Barry Crump for Christmas; read that in 2 days. Saw the movie adaptation last summer, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and liked that. Then the book. As usual, the book was better. 

Kelly’s car had more miles last year. Probably from driving me around all summer. My car and truck had less miles of course, and all the tractors had less hours. I didn’t do my own fertilizer last year so that accounted for some less. And I only had half as much straw to bale as usual, so that was less hours. The big tractor, doing the heavy tillage, had 37 hours. My other one, the one I use for planting, baling, blowing snow, and mowing, that one had 113 hours. The gator, being our first full year with it, had 468 hours and 455 miles. Since that was my main mode of transportation for a couple months, it did add up. 

Speaking of airplanes and deserts, (The English Patient), Anyone seen ‘The Little Prince’ at the Guthrie? How is it?

Did you play Dodge Ball in School? What was the most terrifying playground equipments?

It Snuck Up On Me

The cabinet guys come on Monday so I’ve been slowly but surely emptying the kitchen and breakfast room so they can do their work.  In the breakfast room, along the windowsill, I found one of those temporary hooks filled with face masks.  Various designs, although a preponderance of black.  This kind of “put up a hook and hang stuff of it” is right up YA’s alley so the only surprise was that I hadn’t noticed it earlier.  This is in addition to various other places we have masks, including a little pocket of them in my car.

Then later the same day, an Amazon package got delivered and YA came up stairs with two boxes of covid tests (I almost typed COVID-19 because that was the protocol at my job but now I don’t have to, do I?)   When I asked YA why she got them she said “we’re running out”.  There was a lot of testing around here when YA had covid in July and then we were seriously exposed the end of August, and then the first weeks of December to make sure my cold was really a cold. 

In the last two weeks I’ve been to the theatre and to a concert.  The concert required a mask and the theatre recommended (and I complied).  YA and I mask on planes. 

The new normal feels like it has snuck up on us, although considering we’re 3 years in, it’s kind of a silly way to think.  But if you stop to think about it, most new normal do sneak up on you.  I could never have imagined today’s technology and medical advances when I was a kid.

Anything you never thought you would ever get used but eventually did?

The Weather Outside….

Yesterday while it was still snowing, my neighbor to the north got his snowblower out and worked on his driveway.   A couple of hours later YA headed out with a shovel to do the steps and back sidewalk.  Across the street my neighbors were struggling to get their snowblower going.  One neighbor to the south was out doing her steps as well.

Me?  I’m sitting inside in sweatpants and fat socks, watching tv and sipping my beverage.  For some reason I have always been and “wait until it’s over” kind of person.  I would rather do 8” once than 4” twice. 

And this works out rather well for me most of the time.  For example, as I type this, my other neighbor to the south is currently doing OUR driveway (for which he will be rewarded generously with homemade cookies).  My neighbor to the north did our front sidewalk when he was out (cookies for him as well).  So by the time this ends and I finally venture out, I’ll have less to deal with!

How do you like to deal with winter’s excess?

Fat Bombs

I’m not hugely adventuresome when it comes to food.  Once I find something I like, I tend to stick to it.  Almond Butter Granola Waffle at Black Coffee & Waffle.  Vegetarian Reuben at Pub 42.  Blueberry Pancake at Lowbrow.  Quattro Formaggio at Punch.  It’s not that I’m afraid to try something new, it’s just that I can’t imagine not having my favorite in that moment.  There are a few things I’ll always try: tiramisu, sticky toffee pudding, anything made with macadamia nuts.

Although Hawaii is not the actual birthplace of the macadamia nut (and isn’t even the world’s largest producer of the nut), the 50th state has certainly taken the macadamia to heart.  I will say that every time I’ve traveled to Hawaii – I work hard to make it worth their while.  And the restaurants on Oahu and Maui did not disappoint this trip.

I learned to love macadamia nuts for breakfast years ago.  I was breakfasting with clients and the hotel sales person when I discovered coconut syrup on the waffle bar, along with chopped macadamia nuts.  Can we say “heavenly”?  I know in this global economy I can easily get nuts and syrup but I never get around to it so I was really looking forward to loading up on fat bombs (what a friend dubbed macadamia nuts long ago).

Our very first morning in Oahu, we hiked about 15 blocks to Eggs `n Things:

We had a great table out on the balcony, looking over a pretty park and they served me the Fresh Fruit Rainbow Pancake.  With macadamia nuts.  The photo is in the header above.  It was delicious and outrageous – how can anybody eat that much in one sitting?  Well, I showed them how it was done.  It was a good things we had a lot of walking to do that day.

We went to a different breakfast spot every day of our trip and I found pancakes with macadamia nuts every time – but only found coconut syrup once.  Aaaah well, the vicissitudes of travel!

Anything you can eat meal after meal?