Category Archives: Weather

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”?

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?

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?

A Perfect Storm

Last Monday around suppertime we had a perfect Northern Plains storm. Usually our storms come after it is dark, and the wind blows things over and you hope it doesn’t hail.

This storm was perfect. There was very little wind. The sky clouded up, the clouds billowing, and you could see the lightening strikes and hear the thunder approach miles away from the west. The thunder became gradually louder as it neared town. It took a good 30 minutes to get to us, and then there were loud booms and lightening all around and over us, but still no wind. Then the rain started, and we got .20.

The storm left town just as it came, traveling east with gradually diminishing flashes and booms. Then it was silent. It was perfect. We appreciated the rain.

When have you been in a perfect storm? Use any meaning of the phrase you would like.

Mystery of the Week

I can’t remember a summer when so much of my psychic energy is spent thinking about rain, or the lack of rain.  Usually my “flowers not grass” protocol does just fine without much H2O intervention on my part but not this summer.  I’m trying to use as little as possible but it’s been an issue. 

So why is it, that the ONLY day of any precipitation in recent memory was also the one out of two days a year that a case of toilet paper is delivered and left on the steps.

Any ways that Murphy’s law is messing with you this week?

Progressing

The weekend Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

I feel like I’ve been busy lately. Nothing important, just… day to day living.

Crops are coming along. I talked with the co-op about spraying fungicide on the soybeans.  I’ve never done it before, but I know some of the neighbors have and they report a good return. It will cost $33/acre to do it. $20 for the actual ground application and $13 for the chemical. Plus, some beans knocked down in the process. If beans are selling at $15 / bushel this fall, I will need the fungicide to increase yield by 2 or 3 bushels / acre to justify the cost. The neighbors have seen 10-15 bushel / acre increase over not treated so we’ll see how that goes. Curiously, aerial application is only $15/ acre! I’ve got too many trees, too many neighboring houses, and too small of fields to use that, but I was really surprised it’s cheaper. I supposed they can cover a greater area faster. It always comes back to efficiency doesn’t it?

My corn will be tasseling any day now. I’ve seen some of the neighbor’s corn already tasseling. Just depends on those GDU. (1559 to date. +110)  Once the tassel is fully emerged, the plant is at full height. Silks will appear in a couple more days and then one or two weeks of pollination begins. There are so many critical things in any plant’s development but getting all that pollen from the tassels to the silks is a big one. The kernel won’t develop if the silk attached to it doesn’t get pollinated. Hard rains, hail, or storms can mess all that up.

And with the heat, some of the corn is curling up to protect it self. This is a rocky area, so the roots are shallow. Notice how the leaves have curled up?

And the oats is turning color, it just needs to keep standing, no wind storms, and hopefully this hot weather doesn’t boil all the milk out of the heads. It should be ready to cut in a couple weeks. Then get it harvested and the straw baled. I only planted 10 acres this year; less than half of normal because I was expecting the knee replacement this summer.

The straw delivery trip to the boonies of Winona last week was a great drive. 119 miles, took a few hours, saw lots of countryside with very little traffic, met a woman named Sunshine, had lunch in a bar in Witoka where my chicken sandwich was actually two chicken strips placed inside the bun. And there was enough lettuce on it to choke a horse and more fries than two of us could possibly eat. We even found the back way into Farmers Park: A minimum maintenance road that was pretty awesome and I’m glad we had the truck. It was washed out and rough with not one, but TWO single lane bridges.

I mentioned taking two hens to a friend. The next day I had a record 22 eggs! We wondered if the other chickens felt threatened and that they better step up production?? But no, couple days later there was only 8 eggs, then back to the usual 15 or 16. Production varies like that.

The little chicks are blending right in.  Here’s some chicken photos including Rooster 3 minus a tail. Not sure what happen there.

That duck in the brush pile ran down to get something to eat one night and that was the opportunity we needed. The pile was burned. The duck was very put out for a couple hours. Sorry. It’s just the way it is.

My brother helped me get the brush mower hooked up and I’ve been mowing weeds in pastures and waterways. Of course I always have my tractor buddy with me. The corn is a tall as the tractor.

If it’s just grass, I’ll leave it standing, no reason to cut it. But there are a lot of thistles, wild parsnip, ragweed, stinging nettles, burdocks, and stuff that needs to be controlled. I’ll spend a few days yet mowing.

My nephew just retired after 25 years in the Air Force. He had the rank of Colonel and was a Base Commander in the St. Louis area. He had a big ceremony last week and some of the family went down. He’s a big nerd and they celebrated that by having several Star Wars characters there in costume. Unfortunately, Covid hit the gathering too.

Read an article about Ukraine; they are big producers of wheat and corn. But with the war, shipping has been an issue so their storage facilities (the ones that haven’t been damaged) are still full of last year’s crops and there’s no room to store this years crop. So they can sell it at a loss just to move it and get the storage facilities empty, but then they don’t have the income to support the families and communities either. Not to mention a shortage of food coming up. And as the war moved on from some of these areas, they needed ‘sappers’ to clear mines and other munitions from the fields, then they had to drag rockets and war detritus from their fields. Not something I have ever imagined doing, thankfully.

Padawan has been trimming weeds, and mowing grass, and he learned the basics on using a chainsaw.

EVER FELT PRESSURE TO STEP UP? WHAT ARE YOU SPIFFING UP LATELY?

They Call The Wind. . . .Annoying

We just can’t get a break with the weather. Our home garden got planted late due to freezing temperatures in May, and then we had a hail storm in June that took out the tomatoes and peppers and shredded the beans and peas.

Our church vegetable garden is planted in six, waist-high raised beds. We planted bush squash, peas, beans, and savoy cabbages there. We planted the squash and cabbages in raised mounds just to give them ample depth for roots. That garden didn’t get the hail we did at our house several blocks away. Last Sunday the bush squash and cabbages at church were looking spectacular. Then, on Tuesday, the wind hit.

I never realized how shallow squash roots are. The wind gusted up to 50 mph, and almost entirely uprooted the squash. Husband frantically placed cedar shakes around the squash and cabbage mounds to block the wind, and piled more dirt over the exposed roots. Many of the squash stems were bent and the leaves broken off and wilted. By yesterday they looked a little better, but, again, this sets back possible harvest.

Our home garden wasn’t affected by the wind since the plants are at ground level, not in waist-high raised beds. I think we will have ample cabbages and squash to take to the food pantry if the church garden doesn’t produce.

Let’s have some weather inspired songs and poems today.

This and That

This weekend’s Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Two weeks plus post-surgery and putting socks on is still kind of a process. Picking black raspberries was harder than I expected, too. But I’m getting there.

Last Monday the two corners of CRP got planted to a ‘pheasant habitat’ blend of wildflowers and grasses. And we got three loads of crushed rock delivered for the farmyard. One dumped in a pile for use as needed and the other two spread on the road.

We have a brush pile of sticks collected from the yard since December, and we’ve been meaning to burn it all spring. Several times Kelly has said “This would be a good night to burn the brush pile” and then we fall asleep on the couch.

But the other night we were out there ready to do it! Aaaand there’s a duck nesting under it. Sigh.

A few years ago, we started a pile of sticks on fire and there was a good blaze going before a chicken came running out from under it. So, we look before we light it now. The duck only has three eggs… not sure they’re even fertilized. But the fire is still on hold.

I’m delivering straw this weekend with my friend Paul, and we’re going out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a Winona Address…and it’s a great drive on lonely gravel roads and hills and valleys and S-turns and I have a printed map because there is no cell phone reception down in there. I love going there.

Crops are looking good. Two weeks ago, I had a photo of Kelly on July 4 and the corn was up to her waist. In 10 days, it’s doubled in height.

Soybeans are up to her knees.

I’ve talked about 15” rows vs. 30” rows and how we like the crops to canopy to help prevent weeds growing. Compare these photos: first is the neighbors 30” rows and second is my 15” rows.

Growing degree units are 1384, 94 above normal for my area. The hot weather coming helps, but the plant actually shuts down above 86 degrees, so we don’t actually gain GDU’s after that.

See this corn plant growing in the middle of the soybeans.

That’s called ‘volunteer corn’ and it can be a problem in soybeans. Because we use crop rotation, usually a bean field this year was corn last year. If a storm or disease knocked down the stalk of corn, depending how much it’s fallen over, it can make picking it up at harvest that much harder. A lot of ears may fall to the ground and grow voluntarily in the field next year. Hence the term, volunteer corn. It doesn’t generally reach maturity with full ears, but depending on the amount, it’s competing with the soybean crop and it can be a problem at harvest.

Kelly let the little chicks out to run at large. Padawan and I took down the fence and they’re enjoying all the room. Of course, a new pecking order will need to be established eventually between the old hens and the new ones.

A friend of mine in town had given me some chickens a few years ago and was ready for more, so I took two of the laying hens and one of the younger chicks to her. At her place, the two laying hens went to her outdoor run and settled right in. The younger one made a break for it. Out the coop door, through the garden (The entire backyard is garden) into her garage, out the big door, across the street, and under the neighbor’s car. Two adults and my young Padawan in pursuit. Padawan really does not have much interest in the chickens, so the last thing he wanted to do was chase this one up the street. Eventually, the young chick reversed its course: back into the garage, back into the garden, in and around all the plants, and eventually, got stuck in a narrow spot between a retaining wall and a fence.  Was captured, and returned to its new home. I really wanted a photo of all this, but I had left my phone in the truck. Use your imagination. Remember, the backyard is all garden so they’re dodging all that too. It was as funny as you imagine.

USE YOUR IMAGINATION AND GO OFF THE BEATEN TRACK. SAY WHAT YOU WANT HERE.

It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature

Mother Nature is just messing with me. 

With my front and back yards full of flowers, I do need to think about water during the summer months, especially if there are going to be so many 90+ degree days.  I watch the weather forecasts like a hawk to try to determine if Mother Nature is going to gift me with any free precipitation.  If it’s going to rain, I really don’t to pay the City of Minneapolis for extra water.

It seems that almost every forecast of rain the past month has been a chimera – it shows as 50% or 60% and the radar shows the dark green riding right over my location – then nothing!   Or else it does a very insulting sprinkle for 3 minutes.  Last night I had the sprinkler on in front and when I went to water my baskets in the back, YA gave me grief.  She said “it’s going to rain… it’s 80%”.  I continued along, watering all the baskets and the bales while she made fun of me.  As I finished up, it started to lightly sprinkle.  She smirked as I came in the back.  Then 5 minutes later I smirked when it hadn’t even rained long enough to wet a tissue. 

I know weather is capricious but I would have thought that by now, forecasters could get a better grasp on this.  I’ve said many times that if I were to look for another job, it would be as a weather forecaster.  Then I could get a big salary to be on tv and the fact that I was wrong half of the time wouldn’t count against me on my annual review!

I guess for the rest of the summer, I’ll just assume there will be no rain, unless I wake up to it in the morning!

How much do YOU believe in weather forecasting?

In Memoriam – Our Little Jail Bird

It was this week three years ago that we lost our Little Jail Bird, Edith.  In her memory, I’m running her most iconic posting on the Trail.

Until last fall, I had never been to Banning State Park. I had driven by it dozens of time, because when I head up to my sister’s house, I always turn off 35W and take Highway 23 into town. I didn’t know much about Banning, but when I was looking for a day trip, it seemed to fit my needs perfectly.

First, I wanted a park where I could drive there and back in one day without getting too tired. Second, I wanted a park that didn’t involve driving several back roads, because I knew that I would be driving in the dark due to the shorter fall days and my night vision and sense of direction is bad enough that I would get lost unless I kind of knew where I was going. And third, I wanted a state park because I had a state park sticker and wanted to use it as much as possible to get my money’s worth out of it. Banning fit all of those qualifications. Plus it has a waterfall, which is a big plus in my book.

So, off I went, one sunny morning in October. When I arrived, I stopped at the visitor center to get maps and ask where the best spots were. I was so excited. It seems that often when I go north, I am early for the fall colors and often find myself driving home just a few days before “peak”  and this time I was not too early! I said something about that to the woman at the desk (while trying to not jump and down in excitement) and she shook her head woefully and told me in a discouraging tone, “You’re going to see LOTS of brown out there.” Gee thanks, way to burst my bubble.

Of course, since I drove all the way up there, I figured I better go on the hike anyway even if I would see mostly brown. I drove to the parking area and when I stepped out of the car and looked up, I knew it was going to be a good day (see header photo).

I hiked all the way to the falls and back and shot lots of photos. It was an incredibly beautiful day: that clear, deep blue sky that you only seem to see on autumn days and – surprise! – lots of colorful leaves on the trees. It can be a challenge shooting in bright sunlight, but I was so overcome by the beauty of it all that I just took that in my stride. There was that wonderful northwoods smell in the air – pine trees and dead leaves. Nothing like it! and nothing else invigorates me like that does.

It was getting pretty cool and the sun was going down quickly by the time I was heading back on the trail but the golden evening light only made things more beautiful and the colors more intense. I went home pleasantly tired and very happy and glad that the woman’s prediction of “lots of brown” wasn’t true.

Any comments / reflections welcome!