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December Farm Update

Sure been a nice week weather-wise. Temps In the 50’s the last few days. Ten-day forecast has the temps in the mid 30’s and no snow. I’m OK with that. My apologies to anyone waiting for snow.

Kelly and I got snowfence up the other day so there’s another thing checked off my list. Glad to have that done. 

There was a little wind to contend with and the cowpies were mostly dry.

Daughter and I did driveway markers. It was colder than I expected that day and she’s not a fan of the wind. Nice that Bailey could keep her company.

They kept me company inside the gator, too.

I was feeding the ducks one morning and that chicken came running from the pole barn, so she’s still back there laying eggs. .Way in the back, down in a corner. I’m still hoping she gets tired of this as the weather gets colder.

Last weekend I redid a few things in the chicken coop. I put the back wall back in place. (I take it off for more ventilation in the summer) and I changed their perches and got the water buckets and heated pad situated for winter.  

It’s odd, they barely use that rear nest box for eggs, often preferring the front unit. One hen must be molting. She looks really rough right now.

I don’t know if her feathers are going to come in a different color than she was? She used to look like the chicken in the front. Boy, hang in there, girl. Egg production is a little down; the old ones are starting to taper off and the new hens are just getting started.

End of the year finances: I’ve paid off our production loans from this years inputs and prepaid some expenses for next year. It’s funny; we have a good year and actually make some money, but it’s tough to save much because taxes will take a big chunk. I know taxes are important and provide a lot of services, but golly. It feels like throwing money in a hole in the ground. I went to the co-op and paid $900 for the grid soil sampling.

Paid $2800 for the lime and applications on half the farm. Prepaid for 4 tons of fertilizer for next year $3400 (again, maybe half of what I’ll need). They don’t have anhydrous nitrogen prices yet and they figure chemicals prices will hold steady so I didn’t pay on them. Easy come, easy go. Sometime before the end of the year I’ll get seed ordered for next year. That also becomes a deduction on this years taxes. Don’t have to pay for it yet, just get it ordered.

Remember getting your first check book? What was the first thing you bought? I bought a Timex Watch and you had to push the button so the time would show up in Red. 

Happy Birds

The warm weather the last several weeks has given us a glimpse of some fun bird behavior.

We have a bird feeder in our backyard that Husband fills with black oil sunflower seeds. We are the only people on the block who feed birds, so our yard is pretty popular, especially given the tall lilac bushes where multitudes can perch. They also like weaving in and out of the twisty grapevines on our deck. There is a very large flock of about seventy sparrows, with several Red Polls, House Finches, Chickadees, Rose and White Breasted Nuthatches, and Junkos who frequent our yard. There are often seven Eurasian Collared Doves on the ground under the feeder, eating what the other birds knock down. A Downy Woodpecker also makes an appearance now and then. They are all really greedy, and feast and gobble as fast as they can. The Chickadees alert the others after Husband refills the empty feeder to let them know that dinner is served.

I cleared out the rhubarb bed the other day, leaving a large area of smooth dirt that the rhubarb leaves had formerly covered. Last Saturday I noticed about twenty Sparrows rolling around in the exposed dirt, digging into the earth, making little indentations in the soil. I guess they were having dust baths, a luxury in North Dakota in late November.

Even more luxurious was the shower they and a migrating flock of Cedar Waxwings had a month ago on the last really warm day of autumn. I set up a sprinkler to water our rhododendrons, bleeding hearts, fern bed, and hydrangeas before freeze up, and we saw the birds flying repeatedly through the spray and huddling on the ground, letting the water cascade over them. The Waxwings made a point of drinking copious amounts of the water that collected on the walkway. The next day, they were gone.

What are your favorite birds to watch? Tell your bird stories. What is your favorite bird-inspired music and visual art?

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?

Royal Mail

Husband and I ordered some classical audio cd’s from Amazon recently. I usually like to order from Archiv, but everything there was on backorder.

Our selections were fairly eclectic, ranging from choral music by Arvo Part and Henrik Goreki, to a cd by Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet, playing with an Irish fiddler.

When you order from Amazon, you never quite know where the products are coming from. Three of the cd’s we ordered came from overseas. A London /Decca recording of Chopin nocturnes played by Vladimir Ashkenazy came from Japan. It arrived speedily, several days before even the US cd’s arrived. It is a lovely recording, but all the liner notes are in Japanese!

Two of the cd’s are coming from England. One is from Banbury, Oxfordshire. The other is from Stockport, in Cheshire. That particular cd is being shipped by Royal Mail. I have no idea what that means in terms of speed of delivery, but it sounds so impressive! I imagine it being delivered by someone in a Beefeater uniform.

Any interesting shipping or delivery stories? What music have you discovered lately? What would you like to receive via Royal Mail?

Light My Fire

In searching for something on my laptop last week, I came across a list of books about dragons.  Looks like I made this list six or seven years ago (last time it was saved was six years back) and I’ve read a few of the books on the list since then.  I’d completely forgotten that I had this list.

Dragons, of course, are widely varied in literature.  My least favorite kind are the mindless, evil dragons (think Smaug in The Hobbit).  I prefer intelligent dragons who can communicate if they choose (like Ramoth in Dragonflight or Temeraire in the Novik series).  My current car is named after a dragonrider of Pern (Brekke – one of the rare dragonriders who can communicate with all dragons, not just their own). 

I also like dragons who adore treasure – not sure why, maybe because it’s such a longstanding bit of dragonlore that it feels right when it is included.  It’s interesting that the Greek dragons who were set to guarding treasure have morphed into beings who lust after gold, diamonds and jewels.  Of course I also read somewhere once that gold is a good conductor of magical energy and that dragons NEED it to exist. 

The biggest problem with this list is that I have already reached the limit of books that I can have on hold at the library – with probably be at least a week before that changes.  Hopefully in a week, I’ll remember I have this list of books I want to read! Maybe I’ll start yet another tab on my reading spreadsheet.

Tell me about a mythical animal that you think might improve our world if it existed!  Or just if you have a favorite mythical animal.

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

Drive-Up

I have a dear friend whose husband is dealing with a serious, life-shortening illness.  She’s been away from her home for over a month now while he’s been at Mayo and they are looking down the barrel of a long series of treatments.  I visited her on Sunday and she told me that she had woken up the day before with a better attitude.  Apparently another friend of hers had just been to a funeral for an infant who had died of SIDs.  The realization that there were other tragic things going and if others are getting through their horrible stuff, she could too.   It’s not an easy thing to do – try to find some balance in the face of trauma and grief.  And the last two years have certainly given us plenty of that.  a

It seems pathetic to suggest that pandemic has brought us anything good, but as I was thinking about all this, I placed an order at Target for pick-up.  You select your items on the app, pay for it online, tell the app when you’re leaving for Target and when you get there.  Then you sit in your car and they bring it out to you.  Easy peasy.  You can wear your sweatpants, you can have spilled your lunch on your shirt, you don’t have to comb your hair and better yet, you don’t have to search for a parking spot and you don’t have to go in the store!  There is yet one more advantage – no impulse shopping; if all you need is grenadine and diet pop, that’s all you get.  No cookies or chips off an endcap!

While I cannot wait for us to be able to say we’re looking at pandemic in the rear-view mirror, I am hoping that the drive-up option remains.  I am so addicted already.

Any other silver linings you can think of these days?

Great Ideas, Lost

Husband and I have 4×6 inch note pads lying around all over our house. Husband is an inveterate list maker. I want to have pencil and paper handy whenever a potential blog topic comes to me.

I decided to straighten up a bit last weekend, and I found a bunch of blog topics listed on the note pads that I can’t, for the life of me, remember what I was thinking when I wrote them down. Here are a few examples:

Hydrologic Engineer

Dentures

The Ludicrous Life

What Would Ian Altman Think

Naps

Wondrous Vs Wonderful Life

Boccherini at work

I think I need to put a few more details about what I am thinking instead of just writing the topic or title.

How is your memory these days? Come up with some esoteric blog topics. Looking at the above listed ideas I forgot about, what questions would you pair with them?

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?