Category Archives: work

June Farming

Man, hot enough for you? I keep talking about ‘GDU’s… Growing Degree Units. But they only count for temperatures between 50 and 86 degrees.

The corn, and even the oats, got a little burned by the frost a week ago. Another week it will look better as it grows out of this, but right now, it all looks kinda rough.

Back in blogworld, it’s the first week of May and I’m getting ready to plant soybeans. After farming pretty heavy for a couple weeks I had to get back into the college for a few days. The last two springs, Covid did give me an opportunity to stay home and farm like I did before the college job. And it was pretty nice. I’m lucky that I have this job where I can sort of set my own hours. So, I’d do college work from home in the mornings, then take the afternoons off to farm.

I had the Township Road inspection one morning. Once per year, all five of us township supervisors gather in one vehicle and drive all our township roads making note of any road issues. Our township, Haverhill Township in Olmsted County, has about 32 miles of gravel roads. We put new gravel on 1/3 of the gravel roads each year and patch any area that might need rock. We check culverts, washed out road sides, ditches that have too steep of a shoulder, and generally make a game plan of things we need to have fixed this year. That takes the full morning and I got home about 1:00. Last year we didn’t ride together. It’s a good group of guys and we have a good time driving around and talking. 

The music department had a small concert schedule for Wednesday evening. There is no band program, but there was the choir and the ‘World Drum Ensemble’ so they wanted to have a concert. The choir director is a new guy; I haven’t even met him. There were some last-minute emails, I roughed in some lights, put the choir shells up, pulled the piano out, and added some more lights. Sixteen years ago, when I started at the college, it was really frustrating to have concerts with no rehearsal. Now I’m kinda used to it. Obviously, rehearsals are better and make a better show, but I manage. It went well.

The next farm job is fertilizer for the soybeans. I use a broadcast spreader for that. Just like the one I used for oats. It’s almost the same fertilizer blend as I used for corn, and I have some corn fertilizer left in the wagon. I generally order extra because I know I can use it up on the soybeans. I pulled the corn fertilizer wagon out and get the fertilizer spreader lined up and I auger the corn fertilizer into the spreader. Fertilizer doesn’t slide very well, and it sticks together so eventually I will have to climb into the box with a shovel and move the fertilizer down to the auger. There’s no danger to myself, or of getting into the auger, as the door is only open about 3”.

Well, there is the danger that I can’t get back out of the wagon box or the ladder outside falls over. A few year ago, with a different wagon, I had to call the house and ask my son to come out and lower the wagon so I could get back out… he doesn’t let me forget that. But that doesn’t happen with this wagon because it doesn’t tip up like that one did.

Once it’s all transferred, it looks like rain so I don’t want to go too far from home. I think I’ll start around here and see what happens. I get started but it’s sprinkling a little bit and I go home and put the tractor and spreader in the shed. The rain doesn’t amount to anything and two minutes later I’m back out. I fill the tractor with fuel and decide to go to my rented land a couple miles away. It sprinkles a little bit, but not enough to be a problem.

Driving on the highway with farm machinery can be nerve-racking. People will pass at the most inopportune times. I have signals on the tractor, but you can’t really see them with the fertilizer wagon. If I’m going to make a turn, I kinda move to the middle of the road to prevent people from passing me, but that one person still does…what an idiot. I’m lucky I don’t have to drive on the highway very far or very often. If you’re following farm machinery on the road, please, give us some room, don’t pass in no passing zones, and for goodness sakes, don’t try to squeeze through between us on the shoulder and the oncoming traffic! It’s nuts what some drivers will do.

I saw a pair of geese and a pair of ducks over on the land I rent. Normally I only see golf balls in this field.

I’ve picked up a lot of golf balls over there. I enjoy the stuff rolling around the cab. Bailey doesn’t like it when she rides with me. Finished that and got back home and finish spreading fertilizer on the fields around here. It’s raining pretty good now and, starting to stick to the tires, but other than making a mess on the road, it doesn’t really hurt anything.

FYI, my ‘go-to’ snacks in the tractor are the Little Debbie Nutty Bars and Clif bars. Plus water. The cab is littered with nutty bar wrappers.

The next day I did some fieldwork, Brother Ernie came out and did some more and I got going on soybeans and had 21 acres planted at 9 PM. Twenty-one acres is nothing for most farmers. It’s a good day for me.

Soybeans can be planted in rows 7” apart, or 15” apart, or 30” apart. The total population is the same for all of them, it’s just more or less plants in the row. Generally, around 150,000 plants / acre. Soybean seed size changes year to year and the bag will tell you how many seeds / lb. I prefer 15” rows because the rows will canopy sooner and stop weeds coming up between the rows. However, there are some soybean diseases that thrive in damp, conditions, so 7” rows will stay damp longer than 30” rows. Six of one, half dozen of another.

I can use the corn planter (If I put special bean meters on the seed boxes) and that does the best job of seed depth and seed spacing (just like corn) except it’s only 30” rows unless I go over it twice, off set 15” to make 15” rows. That works, it just takes twice as long. (There are 15” row planters. It’s just $$,$$$)  Or I can adjust the settings on the drill, plug up every other row, and do 15” rows with that. Seed spacing is “clumpier”, for lack of a better word, just due to how the drill feeds out the seed. But it works. And this year, just for something different, I plugged two rows, left one open, plugged two, open, ect, and I’m trying 21” rows. Yields are pretty much the same for 15” or 30”. So, what the heck, I just figured I’d try. I have some treated soybean seed and some non-treated. Just like I talked about with the corn, soybean seed is treated for insects and pathogens in the soil in case it sits there a long time before emergence. Typically, because soybeans are planted after corn, the weather is warmer, the soil is warmer, and the beans don’t stay underground too long. But you just never know. And since the seed was ordered in December, it’s another way to hedge my bets. You can see it here: non treated seed on the left, treated seed on the right.

A pretty good day, nothing broke, everything worked well.

Any concert or musical event you are looking forward to this year?What was the last concert you saw?

Shiner

We have rather complicated and supposedly ergonomically designed desk chairs at my work with a myriad of levers and adjusters underneath the seats. Yesterday I was trying to adjust one when I pulled the wrong lever, and the back of the chair flipped forward at an astounding velocity, slamming me square on the bridges of my nose and glasses.

I was slightly stunned. It really hurt. I was in the middle of an evaluation, so I just sucked it up and finished with the client. I then went to see our office manager/risk management person, and asked her if the cartilage in my nose should be so wobbly. She wasn’t sure, but she said it looked like I was getting a left black eye, and the bridge of my nose and my forehead just above my eyebrows looked puffy. She then sent the multitude of forms one fills out in these circumstances. She encouraged me to go to the occupational health clinic that assesses Workers Comp claims. I declined, as my self assessment suggested all I was going to have with this was a black eye and some bruising on my forehead.

I am going to a family funeral in Pipestone, MN on Thursday, and I do hope whatever bruising I have has dissipated by then. I am not hopeful. I haven’t seen these family members for a couple of years, and I imagine I will have to explain multiple times what happened. I should add that I own no makeup, and I have no intention of buying any to cover the bruises. I suppose I could make up some fantastical story of how I was injured, as being assaulted by a chair is kind of embarrassing.

What have been some of your prominent injuries? What have been some of your work injuries? Any Workers Comp stories?

Fledged!

Despite still living at home, YA is pretty independent.  One of the characteristics of this independence is that I sometimes find out about things after the fact.  When she changed her employment five years ago, from one gym to another, she told me about it the day after she accepted the new job.  Two years ago I found out she was thinking about an MBA program after she had already applied and been accepted.  I’ve never really challenged her on this; I assume she sometimes doesn’t want to be swayed by any strong opinions that her mother might have.

As the end of her MBA program loomed, I knew she was applying for various internships and jobs and occasionally I would hear about it.  When she was approached by a recruiter and did a few interviews, it came up for discussion.  When she applied to the FBI, we talked briefly about how long she would have to go to Quantico for training (I don’t think either of us thought this would pan out).   The first I heard about the last job application was when she informed me she had an interview.  At my company.  I do see all the job postings for my company but most of them have long lists of requirements that she doesn’t fit, so I hadn’t been actively looking at all of them.  When she got a second interview, I was a little surprised because I know how competitive it is out there and she hadn’t even officially finished her graduate degree.  When the third interview went over an hour, I had a good feeling and I was correct; they called and offered her the job the next morning.

In the Travel division (in which I work), we call all the other divisions “the other side of the house”.  I don’t know if those other divisions call Travel “the other side” but I expect I’m about to find out.  And it’s a little weird that in two weeks she’ll be working more hours than I will (since I’m still only at half time).  I’ve noticed in the last few days she’s been slightly more interested in what I’m doing for work although it’s not a “I’m going to have to do that” kind of interest.  Just a “oh, she’s doing work for my company” kind of interest.  At least that what it seems like.  We’ve talked a little about going this weekend to check out the building she’ll be working in and a little bit about timecards.  We discussed carpooling, although I won’t be going into my building until the summer is over so it won’t be an issue until then. 

I’m very proud of her but it’s impossible to know if I’m just a bit extra proud because she’s joining me at a company where I’ve been very happy for 30+ years. 

What was your first job?

Farming Day 2

Today’s post comes from Ben

When last we left the farm, it was dark and the fertilizer spreader PTO (Power take off shaft) was broken.

I felt like I spent all day in the tractor, which is what the big farmers talk about. I didn’t really, I did spend several hours in the tractor, but not continuously. 

I called the co-op about the shaft. They’re busy and don’t have anyone to come replace the shaft, but they have a spare one and they’ll leave it out for me. Another road trip with the dogs. It was tough getting the shaft off. The bolt came right out, but the yoke wouldn’t budge on the shaft. Hammers and punches and even the air hammer didn’t budge it. I had to get the torch and heat up the yoke, and then the air hammer finally started to move it. Heating something is an old trick because when you heat it, it expands and will break a rust connection. 

I go back out in the field I was on last night. Turns out about ½ way through the field is when the shaft actually broke and it quit spreading. How did I not notice that?? I was watching to be sure the apron was still moving; I just don’t know how I missed the shaft right there… I guess technically the outer shield was spinning but not the shaft. What this means is, the fertilizer coming out the back just dropped in a 10” band rather than spreading 40’. Shoot. This summer, the oats in that band will be 5’ tall. Everywhere else it will be 3’ tall. I tried to work up the field going across the bands to help spread them out a bit. I’m not expecting much.

Anyway, no trouble finishing the fertilizer after that.

Then I went out with the tractor and soil finisher and worked up the oat fields getting them ready for planting. I got the drill ready to go, and it was 5:30 when I went out to plant oats.


It’s a new variety of oats that I have not used before, it’s called ‘MN Pearl’. Oats doesn’t get the research dollars and notoriety that corn and soybeans do because it doesn’t have the big market. I had been planting a variety called ‘Deon’ for a lot of years. But Meyers Seed quit growing Deon and went to Pearl two years ago. The kernels look kind of small, so they feed out of the drill different, so I have to figure out the right setting again. I want to apply three bushels per acre, which is about 90 pounds. When planting oats, the biggest thing I watch to be sure the chains are moving and oats is actually coming out; I can see it through the gaps in this photo. If one is working, they’re all working. Unless it goes empty over that hole… I try not to let that happen.

And remember that drill tire I replaced? I’m following that line in the field. No auto steer yet.

Didn’t finish, but got a good chunk done.

I had just parked the tractor in the shed at 9:20 PM and was closing the doors when I heard sprinkles on the shed roof. Always a nice feeling to just beat the rain like that. Although the ‘rain’ turned out to be 15 drops and that was it.

I have to be at the college – “work” work, the next few days. Hopefully it won’t rain as much as predicted so I can finish this last field. Be nice to have all the oats planted within a day or two and not spread out over two weeks. But it is what it is and it will work out in any event.

Planting oats on April 6th? That might be a new record for me.

What details are you watching lately? Anything half finished?

The Little Guys

This Saturday, April 24, is Independent Bookstore Day – which I’ve written about here before – five years ago now (!) https://trailbaboon.com/2016/04/27/indie-bookstore-day/ .

We have a little bookstore here in Winona called Paperbacks and Pieces. It’s mostly a paperback exchange except for one corner of new books, and a shelf of popular new titles that you can rent. They will do special orders for individuals and book clubs. Pre-pandemic, they hosted author signings (including our Chris from Owatanna!), local speakers, and occasional local group meetings. Spring and Fall would bring a huge Sidewalk Sale – actually in the side street which was closed off for the occasion.  They’ve been everything I want in a local, independent shop. P & P recently changed owners, but I have no doubt they’ll continue in this same vein.  The other local bookstore (not counting Target & Walmart) is downtown, Chapter 2 Books – used and vintage books, CDs, DVDs – which I also try to support; different vibe, and they have a wonderful cat.

The Big Box retailers did awfully well in the past year, according to this August 2020 article from the New York Times .  As we come out of isolation, I know some of our favorite places – restaurants, coffee shops, small independent businesses like hardware stores – have already gone under. A lot of the remaining ones are struggling to survive, hungry for customers as we start to open up again. I occasionally notice on Facebook posting for one of these places, and share them when I can – like this one for Swede Hollow Café in St. Paul, where I loved to go when I lived in the Cities.

Do you have any favorite small businesses in your vicinity that you will support, as we “open up” from isolation?

Have any of your favorites disappeared with the pandemic (or before)?

Navigating complexity

Husband has always been a pretty deep thinker, and lately has been talking to me quite about about how he strives to teach his clients to navigate complexity in effective and healthy ways. He defines this as paying loving attention and using carefuly planned, organized strategies to solve problems.

Husband says that to do therapy well is to navigate complexity with loving attention. He says that we do this while cooking. He says that this also draws us to musical performance. Other would do the same by canoeing the Boundary Waters, flying an airplane, and leading a rock climbing expedition. The ways we have to navigate complexity in our every day lives are more subtle but equally as important.

What complex situations have you had to navigate? What have you seen others navigate? What are your hopes for how we and others shall navigate complexity in the future? How good are you at asking for directions?

Signs of stress

I can always tell my level of work stress. All I have to do is look at my fingernails and cuticles. The more stress, the more chewed up are my nails and nail beds.

I have been an inveterate nail chewer since early childhood. I decided when I was very young that I hated my mother clipping my nails, and I started chewing them off. It is sort of like our cats, who hate nail trims (Don’t squeeze my paws!) I think it might have been a sensory issue for me, too, because I am only comfortable with the shortest of fingernails and toe nails.

I was appaled last week to read about the woman with the world’s longest nails. She finally got them cut when their collective length was something like 28 feet. I can’t imagine how a person could even function.

I haven’t bought nail polish for decades. I have no interest in stopping my nail chewing, but I am interested in stress reduction. I have three more years to get through for my job, and I need to be a good role model for positive coping.

How can you tell you are under stress. What is stressing you these days? What do you do to de-stress and relax?

Contain Yourself!

Photo Credit:  Bored Panda

After a request for photos yesterday, I thought I’d expand a bit on the wild dog story.

My first trip to South Africa was with a client who wasn’t crazy about working with my company.  Her previous company had just gone through a merger and she inherited the job of overseeing the travel programs.  We were already contracted for two programs when she came onboard so even though she had contacts in another incentive house, she couldn’t change suppliers at that point.  She was professional about this but she never seemed happy or excited.  Now it’s completely plausible that she just wasn’t a person who like to emote but we’ll never know.

We had a large group, bigger than any one safari camp could hold, so we needed to check out three different camps and decide which winners would go in each.  That meant that we had to stay in each of the three camps, one camp each night.  Boo hoo. These were luxury camps with incredibly nice rooms (all three camps had gorgeous indoor bathrooms and great outdoor showers), amazing food and, of course, the safari runs.  You got up very early for the first safari run of the day (think 4 a.m. early) – heavy “snacks” before you left then a massive breakfast when you got back 3 hours later.  Then a late afternoon safari, getting back in the dark for a huge “boma” dinner.  And you’re in Africa all this time.  Amazing.

It was all I could do to contain myself during the trip.  (Actually I can hardly contain myself on any of my trips.  I can’t think of a single time I’ve gone on a site inspection that hasn’t been wonderful.) My client was the opposite; she was doing her job by being there but she couldn’t muster any enthusiasm.  It wasn’t surprising when she bailed on the last safari run of the trip.  When the driver and guide came to pick up the Account Exec and me, they told us that they’d heard from other guides on the radio that there might be wild dogs up near “the cut line” (this is the edge of each camp’s territory.  Guides are not allowed to take their charges into another camp’s territory).  They said if we wanted to try to find the wild dogs, it would take a bit and we’d have to head straight there.  The Account Exec and I immediately agreed.  As we were driving up, we both acknowledged that if the client had been with us, she would not have wanted to do this.

Well thank goodness she didn’t come.  The wild dog pack was indeed on our side of the cut line and it was amazing.  They weren’t too worried about us so we were able to observe them for almost 2 hours.  There were a lot of puppies and they were very cute.  It was a defining moment during the trip, a trip with many unbelievable moments.  The photo above is not mine (long story about where those photos are currently stored) but it is very similar to some of the photos I took that day, especially when the dogs and pups came a little closer to the jeep. The puppies are much cuter than you would think, with huge ears and puppy faces.

Even now, after almost 20 years, I feel sorry for that client.  I hope she enjoyed South Africa, even if she didn’t show it.

What makes it hard for you to contain YOUR enthusiasm?

Being in the Right place

Last week as I was struggling with my usual insomnia, I started to do a room  by room inventory in my mind, visualizing each part of the house and deciding what furniture we would take with us when we moved, and what we would discard. I haven’t done that before, and I have no idea why I did it last week.  We have no firm moving date.  It could be as long as  five years  before we  leave here.   Doing that inventory sure didn’t help my sleep, since I got increasingly anxious about all the stuff we have, and how we could possibly move it.  The next day we got a New Yorker and wouldn’t you know, there was an article about a woman who decided that  her possessions were too burdensome and  her actions to get rid of the unnecessary.  I believe that both these incidents were signs from the Cosmos to sit up and pay attention and prepare for action. 

Husband and I had a discussion the other day about our tenure out here, and how we seem have been in the right place at the right time for us and for the communities we have worked with/for.  We both felt, though, that it was time for us to seriously think about that time ending.  Husband had just returned from doing some expert witness testimony for the Tribal Court in New Town,  his first time on the Reservation since March, 2020.  He felt good about his testimony, but decided that he really didn’t want to make that 100 mile journey any more.   I talked about how useful and needed I still felt at my agency, but how exhausting it was getting for me. Both of us are sick to death of the constant attention in the state to extraction industries like oil and coal.  The isolation from family is feeling keener.  

We have lived here for 34 years.  Given our family health history, we could both live another 30 years, and I really don’t want to spend all those years here.  I think I am going to start getting rid of the unnecessary stuff in the basement.   We may not move for several years, but I want to be ready.

When have you been in the right place at the right time?  How did you know? When did you know it was time to go somewhere else?  

Hometown Fame

I was never so proud to be from Luverne, MN when it was chosen to be featured in The War documentary.  Luverne wasn’t famous for much of anything before that, except for being where Fred Manfred lived, and for its marching band festival.  It really boosted the town and seemed to make the residents more cohesive somehow

Recently,  two North Dakota towns have been highlighted in the media-Minot in a Feb. 15-22 New Yorker article by Atul Gawande , and Williston in the book The Good Hand (2021) by Michael Patrick F. Smith. Gawande is a surgeon and public health researcher who was part of  the Biden Transition Advisory Board for COVID 19.  He wrote about the struggle in Minot city council over a mask mandate, and all the the antimask rhetoric and hysteria that swept through the community, a community that was severely impacted by the virus.

Smith’s book highlights what it was like to work in Williston during the oil boom, and what he writes about is pretty awful.  He is a a folksinger, actor, and playwright who left Brooklyn  to experience life on the rigs. Much of the book is about his own self discovery, but I don’t think many people would want to move to Williston after reading the book. I wonder what folks in Williston and Minot are thinking about all the publicity.

What is your hometown famous for? What would you write about in a book or article about your hometown or places you have called home?