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Fencelines II ... Weekly Column; Minnesota farm life according to Dotch
Topic Started: Mar 8 2011, 11:52 AM (15,962 Views)
Posted Image Dotch
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:tractor:

Move over old dog cause a new dog's movin' in…

As luck would have it, the snowfall the scurs predicted last week was on the scant side. Oddly no complaints from anyone. What’s this week hold for snow chances? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with snow likely. Highs of 30 and lows of 15 – 20. Partly cloudy on Thursday, highs near 30 and lows of 15 – 20. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy on Friday with a chance of a rain/snow/sleet mix during the day, becoming all snow overnight. Highs around 40 and lows of 20 – 25. Partly cloudy on Saturday with a slight chance of snow. Highs of 25 – 30 and lows around 10. Partly cloudy skies on Sunday with a chance of a snow/sleet mix overnight. Highs of 30 – 35 and lows near 30. Mostly cloudy on Monday with a continuing chance of a sleet/snow mix. Highs of 35 – 40 and lows of 25 – 30. Cloudy on Tuesday with a chance of a rain shower or two. Highs of 35 – 40 and lows around 30. The normal high for March 12th is 39 and the normal low is 20. The scurs will be emerging from their lair to set their clocks ahead one hour at precisely 2 a.m. on March 13th as per government mandate.

You knew it had to be coming and not a minute too soon. That lovely pain the rump known as Daylight Saving Time. Even the do-gooders who support the folly go so far as to correct you if you wrongly refer to it as Daylight Savings Time. They need to go lay by their dish. It’s no secret that we are a nation known for sleeping disorders and sleep deprivation. While the debate about whether or not the practice actually saves energy or not rages on, the evidence in studies continues to mount that heart attacks, suicides and traffic accidents increase sharply following the spring time change. There are also plenty of suggestions for dealing with DST to ease the potential problems with the transition. I have a thought: Rather than putting band-aids on a self-inflicted wound caused by allowing the government to play Russian roulette with our health, let’s leave the clock alone once we get it set one of these years. Think of all the lost time at work that would save, not to mention all the emergency room visits that would be averted when people fall of their chairs while changing their clocks. It would be one way to cut health care costs and no one would lose sleep over it.

An interesting week of keeping an eye on the birds. There was a pair of bald eagles circling high above St. Olaf Lake last Thursday and that was also the morning the first robin was appeared at the ranch. Horned larks continue to be noted along the edges of roads and the pheasants are still parading around the yard. It won’t be too long and we’ll see the roosters in their full breeding plumage, something that is a sight to behold in the bright early morning sun.

It was a good weekend to take advantage of some of the weather conditions and get things tidied up a bit at the ranch. One of the first orders of business was to get the gravity box of screenings back into the slot where it belonged in the barn. After leaving it out for a couple days the beeswings had managed to swirl around the yard, giving it a pinkish hue. so it had taken up temporary residence where the tractor usually sits. Luckily the ground was frozen out front so it made it relatively easy to bend the wagon around the corned with the skid steer. Between tasks of course there were bottle lambs to feed and a quick trip to procure supplies at the store where you go to the bathroom in the big orange-roofed silo.

The second task consisted of getting the little old Electric flare box out and heading north to get some avena sativa. It first of course needed the tarp removed, the tires pumped up and to be properly attired with a SMV sign so the nice policeman wouldn’t give me a ticket. Over the years one forgets how slow one has to drive with one of these little pieces of now ancient farm equipment in order to keep them from whipping. Following an uneventful trip and a great visit with the supplier, the trip back home came off without a hitch. Upon backing the wagon back where it belonged, it was time to pen up another ewe that had lambed. Shortly after that it was choretime again and I was shot. The next day it was time to take advantage of the snow piles and prune the apple trees. The snow was so deep there was no need for a ladder and best of all, no need for the pole saw. I could stand on the snow and reach the sapwood needing trimming with the loppers! When not eating sheep afterbirth, Ruby played with the sticks as they fell to the ground. Luckily there were only 4 trees in need of pruning and with the wind howling out of the east, it was good to be done.

Lambing is thundering down the home stretch. We’re a tad over 80% done with only 7 ewes left to lamb. Ruby got her wish to help this past week and help she did. We move ewes and lambs from the lambing barn to the main barn as space for lambing pens or jugs as they’re commonly called is limited. Once off to a good start, both the lambs and ewes do better if they’re allowed more space and are in a more social environment. When we move the ewes with lambs, we take the lamb or lambs and the ewe will generally follow based on their lamb’s scent. It helps however to have someone, human or canine tailing this miniature exodus. That’s where Ruby caught on almost immediately the first night we allowed her to assist. Mrs. Cheviot and I each grabbed one of the two twin lambs and we moved down the hill with the ewe following us. We wondered where Ruby was and looking behind us, there she was on the ewe’s tail in the little walking crouch that Border Collies are noted for. Just as pleasing was the fact she stayed on the ewe all the way up the alleyway to the main pen, keeping the ewe from doubling back. The best part though was that none of this had to be taught, it was pure instinct. Oh sure, there are things this dog needs to learn but one certainly had to be proud of her accomplishment that night. I know she was as she wiggled and whined with delight as we heaped on the praise.

See you next week…real good then.
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Renegade
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The next day it was time to take advantage of the snow piles and prune the apple trees


How many apple trees do you have and what kinds? What are you looking for when pruning? Reason I ask is that I planted some apple trees a few years ago and have never pruned them. Not sure what to target and why.
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Posted Image Dotch
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We have 6 altogether if you count the 2 crabapple trees. I have to prune them all anyway you slice it. For eating apples we have a Haralson, a Fireside, a Honeycrisp and a SnowSweet. All are supposed to be semi-dwarf although I have my doubts about the Fireside knowing the tag changing clown who owned the now defunct nursery. What I do when I prune is to platform the trees. What that amounts to is to encourage horizontal or lateral branches on the tree so they don't get really tall. If there are branches coming off the top or the bottom of the main branches, they have to go. The other thing I try to take off is any vertical growing sapwood twigs & suckers. Those are usually 1st year growth that is slender, smooth and have a reddish color to them. They produce leaves but no fruit so the idea is to eliminate as many as possible. As some of the hort people like to say, you want your tree open so a bird can fly through it. In addition to making the apples easier to pick, it helps apple quality by allowing the tree canopy to dry out more quickly. By taking all the unnecessary tissue out of there, it can influence the set & size of the fruit as well.

Sounds like your trees are still small so what I've described should be easy to do. It's easiest to start on them when they're young and shape them rather than letting them go for 5 or more years before thinking about it. I had a good start on it but I let the now 20 year old Fireside go for a few years w/o pruning. Had to do some major surgery on it as a result. There were some limbs about 3" in diameter that needed to go so I had to be careful not to get too aggressive with it all at once. I staggered the process out over a couple years. It can be tough on them taking too many major limbs in one year especially if the weather puts stress on them. This year it was a piece of cake, only sapwood to trim so it went fairly fast. Something else I like to do is to save some of the main branches when I've cut them for grilling on the Weber. The flavor is outstanding when cooking turkeys, roasts or lamb shish kabob. :D
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Posted Image Dotch
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And spring became the summer…

The scurs were overly pessimistic about last week’s forecast although there was snow most days it was forecast except Monday. Are we headed toward spring this week? The scurs tell all. Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny becoming cloudy overnight with a chance of showers. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows around 40. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Highs once again of 50 – 55 and lows of 25 – 30. Partly cloudy on Friday and cooler. Highs around 45 and lows of 25 – 30. Partly cloudy on Saturday becoming cloudy overnight with a chance of showers. Highs near 50 with lows near 35. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a chance of showers. Highs near 50 and lows around 35. Cloudy on Monday with a chance of rain. Highs 45 – 50 and lows near 25. Partly cloudy for Tuesday and cooler. Highs of 40 – 45 with lows near 20. The normal high for St. Patty’s Day is 41 and the normal low is 22. The scurs will be seeing leprechauns after consuming mass quantities of green malted barley beverages.

The Full Moon is upon us on the 19th. This is known as the Full Worm Moon as the worms come to the soil surface, leaving their castings while enriching Mother Earth. It is also commonly known as the Full Sap Moon and the Full Lenten Moon, the last full moon of the winter. This was also known as the Snow Crust Moon by the Ojibwe as the snow that was thawed during the day became crusted and frozen at night. The Sioux called it the Moon When Buffalo Drop Their Calves, same as many farmers in the area. At the ranch we know it as the moon when Border Collies Are Caked with Mud.

Up to this point Old Man Winter has done his level best to make sure the landscape is white. After giving us a thaw on Friday, the weather was anything but spring-like for much of the weekend. Water buckets in the lambing barn froze and there were times on Saturday one would’ve sworn it was January with the snow was blowing so hard that visibility was greatly reduced in areas. On the way to Owatonna there were times I wondered if it was a wise decision to attempt the journey. By the time I returned however, the snow squalls had subsided and travel was safe once again. Such is March. It may be like a lamb one day but the next day the lamb grows fangs and takes a hunk out of your behind. Even though the weather is supposed to warm up this next week, most of us have lived through enough March snowstorms to know that just about anything goes this month in the precip department.

There are some glimmers of hope though. On the 18th we are back over 12 hours of daylight once again. Spring officially begins on March 20th with the vernal equinox occurring on March 20th. This of course means lots of irate chickens when their eggs all stand on end. In the house at the ranch, the ladybugs are also coming to life although their numbers appear to be diminished over some years. Other signs outside this past Monday that indicate we are about to see some change include a red-winged blackbird as well as more robins. There have also been more hen pheasants showing up and that’s a good sign. The snow piles are shrinking and unless something drastic changes in the forecast, the fields should become bare once again as they basically were during the thaw back in February. The horned larks will appreciate that on their short grass nesting area. Tough to hatch eggs on top of the snow.

The ewes are nearly done lambing. There are only a couple left to lamb now and the crop has been bountiful. The loafing barn is at capacity and we need the weather to melt the snow so the fence can be charged again. Some of the lambs that were born a month ago are about 25 lbs. already so they really can use the exercise. The snowmelt thus far has created a huge lake in front of the barn so that needs to melt a channel through the snow banks. Otherwise Ruby gets extra filthy especially when her first official act each night at choretime creates a rooster tail of water behind her as she zooms into the barn.

The seeds have been ordered for the garden once again before the selection gets picked over. It’s always a great little surprise to find that package in the mailbox partially because it covers up all the bills. In the early garden, we’re trying several varieties of snap peas this year. The prairie winds always seem to raise heck with some of the taller types, defeating the purpose of putting up trellises for them to climb on. In the late garden department, we’re always heavy on the vine crops as some of the varieties we like are tough to find without ordering through a catalog. Thanks to Betsy’s Dad’s cousin, we’re going to give the winter radishes a whirl this year. They were welcome table fare about the time much of the garden produce was done for the season last fall. Kindled thoughts of what to look forward to in the next garden.

See you next week…real good then.



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Posted Image Dotch
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And it makes me wonder

The scurs had it goin’ on again last week although the rain predicted for Monday took a day off until Tuesday. What’s in store for this go round? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a chance of rain and snow. Highs of 35 and lows around 20. Partly cloudy Thursday and Friday with highs of 30 – 35 and lows of 20. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy on Saturday with a chance of rain changing to snow. Highs of 35 and lows around 20. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a slight chance of snow. Highs once again of 35 and lows near 25. Monday, partly cloudy with a high around 40 and lows of 30. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with another possible round of a rain/snow mix. Highs around 35 and lows near 25. The normal high for March 26th is 46 and the normal low is 26. The scurs will be patching their 5-buckle overshoes to prepare for whatever the weather throws at us.

Spring finally showed its face last week and as predicted the fields largely cleared once again. Local rivers and streams are up yet perhaps not as much as they might’ve been had we not experienced the thaw back in February. The snow that’s left is in the fencelines and around building sites. Frost depth was quite variable around the yard at the ranch already on Friday. Had wondered why the birds had taken a shine to the south facing slope south of the house. Took the divining rod out to check and sure enough, the frost was out there! Around the rest of the yard it was more variable, ranging from 2” – 4” down on the north facing slopes yet. After Sunday’s .28” rain, it was down to 4” – 6” deep. It won’t be long now and it will leave. The frost is officially out at the SROC in Waseca as of this past Monday. One thing that is a little curious is the amount of ice yet on some of the small, shallow wetlands such as ours. In the February thaw, some of those same wetlands were full of water yet largely free of ice.

What a week of wondering for seeing signs of spring in the bird department! Killdeers were present on Tuesday the 15th shortly after chores were done. So were flocks of grackles winging their way north to points unknown. Wonder where they all wind up? While the frost is out of the hillside at home, there apparently aren’t many earthworms yet with the cool temperatures. The crabapples were picked clean in a matter of a couple days by the robins and red-winged blackbirds. Wonder why they like the one tree so much better than the other one? Juncos appeared in large numbers, making me wonder if we weren’t seeing them begin moving through to the north. House finches and chipping sparrows were back in force, making me wonder if perhaps they are the summer residents at the ranch. Bald eagles have been common this spring east of Bugtussle with some reporting numbers as high as 18. There were 2 right down the road from the ranch feasting on a road kill deer left over from January. Made me wonder if they’d pick off a small lamb given the opportunity. Good thing perhaps that the snow hasn’t melted off the fence. Over the weekend rooster pheasants were being seen in full breeding plumage, their red wattles making them easy to pick out from a brown background. Wonder if the rooster who has set up shop on the edge of the yard is one of Little Jerry’s grandsons? Sandhill cranes were in the neighborhood too. They were heard on Saturday morning but their dull gray color made seeing them against a drab landscape difficult. Sunday night they were seen on the wing, setting down somewhere near the wetland and continuing their telltale call. Makes me wonder if they were the same two that were seen near the pond last fall. Monday afternoon on the way home to bottle lamb patrol, 2 great blue herons were spotted over the golf course. Made me wonder where they’d go if the weather took the sudden turn for the worse forecast.

Took a nature walk to see how the trees and shrubs around the place had survived the winter. There was surprisingly little rabbit damage this time around and even the black chokeberries escaped relatively unscathed. While the arborvitae had been singed a little, there were only two out of the new planting that needed to be replaced. Everything else survived very well. Time will tell on the peach tree. Some new crabapples are on the slate for this spring and that’s good news after seeing how many birds used them over the course of winter and early spring, including the pheasants.

It is good to look around the yard and see the shrunken snow banks under the apple trees that were pruned a few weeks ago. There’s no way they could be pruned without a ladder and pole saw now. Seeing a little green grass reminds me that it won’t be long or at least not long enough and the lawnmower will have to be dealt with. Gazing at it in the garage the other day it appeared to be listing to one side. Indeed it was. One of the rear tires had decided to go flat as a pancake over the course of the winter. Another project to add to an already overloaded fixit schedule.

Doing it all the other day while muttering epithets under my breath, it amazes me how everyone, including my little fat buddies suddenly desert me when I utter the words “unload hay”. About the only help I got was from Ruby and it’s pretty hard to qualify that as help. Maybe she will be more help with the straw that needs to be hauled to sop up some of the weather in store for us. I doubt it. It’s much more fun to get as wet and muddy as possible before going to the house. She’s pretty easy to clean up though. Let her dry off for a little bit first, tell her to jump in the tub which she does without hesitation and rinse her off with the handheld shower while she stands there. This time of year many Moms would probably like to know my secret for use on their kids. All I can say is speak softly but firmly, reward them with lots of praise when they stand still for you, towel them off well, then give ‘em a hug and a dog biscuit when you’re done. Works for me.

See you next week…real good then.

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Renegade
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Great read Dotch. Wish we were a little further along with our spring melt like you.
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Posted Image Dotch
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That's the way it oughtta be

The scurs called for a cool week and a cool week we received. Will it rebound this week and be spring again? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs of 40 – 45 and lows dropping to 25 - 30. Thursday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Highs of 40 – 45 and lows of 35. Mostly cloudy becoming partly cloudy on Friday with a chance of morning showers. Highs near 45 and lows around 30. Saturday, mostly clear. Highs around 50 and lows of 35. Cloudy on Sunday with a chance of showers. Highs of 45 and lows of 35. Cloudy on Monday with a chance of rain. Highs near 45 and lows around 25. Mostly cloudy Tuesday with a chance of more showers. Highs of 45 – 50 and lows . The normal high for April 1st is 50 and the normal low is 28. The sun will rise before 7 a.m. for the first time since February 24th. At this rate the scurs think it will surely be spring by May or possibly June. No foolin’.

Last week could only be characterized as a real weather downer. Just when it looked like we were suddenly playing with the lead, temperatures decided to behave more like the last week in February. High winds and cold rain followed by snow as a coup de grace nearly sent some over the edge. At the ranch, it was cause to put the tank heaters back in the water tanks, to smash ice out of the water buckets and drain the garden hose after each use. The long handled underwear were dug out of mothballs as was the heavy chore coat. It was a bit of a double edged sword in some respects though. It did allow for some seed deliveries on the frozen yards and made spreading a few loads of manure possible until the fields got too greasy. Oh it can still be spread when it’s greasy but the resulting mud on the road raises the ire of motorists and can be a safety hazard when it becomes too thick. The water in the rivers and streams has been metered somewhat by the overnight freezing and thawing. Some of the predictions of record flooding have largely been averted. March precip has also run below last year in this area so that hasn’t hurt.

There were some positives at the ranch however. The frozen ground keeps Ruby much cleaner and for that we can be thankful. She doesn’t like having to stay inside when it’s muddy especially when it’s time to feed the bottle lambs. Speaking of that, they are starting to get into the creep feed as evidenced by their occasional absence at bottle time. The end of that business is coming nearer to a close. Along those same lines, after what seemed an eternity we found the lamb we were looking for: The last one born for the year. Last Friday morning there she was, no more than an hour old with the ewe licking her off. Put mother and daughter in a pen, got the ewe a bucket of warm water then went off to do the chores in the other barn. When returning with feed for the new mom, the lamb was already up nursing. That’s the way it ought to be.

On the bird front, a large contingent of goldfinches has settled in. Only a few are starting to show some yellow color again but all are showing signs of being hungry. It had been a while since the thistle feeders had been filled so that suddenly needed to be done. With the snow largely gone, the pheasants have dispersed across the landscape although there is one large rooster who appears to have staked a claim to the brushy area on the edge of the yard. Sunday afternoon he pecked at the corn and other goodies then sunned himself apparently waiting for Miss Right to show up. Monday morning he was up bright and early, drumming and crowing before sunrise. That close to the house the drumming almost rattles the windows. Some of the sandhill cranes must’ve decided the water was too hard to wade in. 6 of them were heading back south on Friday morning. Swans were spotted Saturday lumbering along after I’d procured some straw from the Dubya’s . There are some areas where there is deeper open water so one can bet they were heading towards it. The swans, not the Dubya’s. While at the Dubya’s however, we determined that the Le Sueur River Lutheran church steeple at 125’ was taller than their silo. The swans were flying higher than that.

At the Mall for Men, after solving the world’s problems the little fat buddies have been busy tackling local issues. Odd that at an establishment known only for the truth would train it’s thoughts on the wind. Generally wind is considered Al Batt’s turf, hence the reason most of those windmills were built in his backyard. The flashing lights on those windmills have been of particular interest to our panel of experts. There have been instances when those of us of who get up in the middle of the night to make sure they’re blinking have noticed they haven’t been. Some nights the white strobe lights were on and that prompted even more discussion and speculation. Apparently there were some problems that arose from an ice storm and that had the lights all out of kilter. Now we’re focusing our attention on the 2 small windmills east of town, trying to determine why the blades are sitting still. Conclusion? It’s because they’re not turning.

See you next week…real good then.



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It's been a long time since I did the stroll

The scurs did well in the near term and not so well in the longer term last week. Can they make amends with their latest prognostications? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs around 55 and lows near 35. Thursday, cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs of 45 and lows of 35. Mostly cloudy on Friday with a chance of rain developing by evening. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows of 35 – 40. Cloudy on Saturday with an increasing chance of showers. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows of 35 – 40. Mostly cloudy with a chance of showers once again for Sunday. Cooler with highs of 45 – 50 and lows near 40. Mostly cloudy for Monday with a chance of thunderstorms. Highs 0f 45 – 50 and lows near 30. Cool with a wintery mix for Tuesday. Highs 40 – 45 and lows around 40. The normal high for April 10th is 55 and the normal low is 32. We will experience 13 hours of daylight on the 6th, the first time since early last September. The scurs will be hoping the forecast April showers will not produce snowmen.

The weather was on everyone’s mind last week. With the ground freezing in the mornings, spring was approaching ever so slowly. With Saturday’s warmth, one could sense the pace picking up as temperatures made it into the 50’s. Just seeing the number of tractors pulling farm implements by the ranch was an indication that people were starting to get anxious. We were fortunate that March precipitation was relatively light. At the ranch we officially measured 1.16” which isn’t all that much. So far in April as of this writing, we’ve only accumulated another .2” so the drier trend is continuing. The only problem has been that until Sunday, we hadn’t hit 60 degrees. Cloudy weather has been a hallmark of the spring thus far further slowing drying. Last year at this time small grain was seeded and field conditions had allowed for fertilizer applications. The ice was off St. Olaf Lake the end of March and is not off as of April 4th. Many snow banks remaining in the fencelines and in the groves as well. Not to worry however. Given some breezy, sunny, warm days and the spring could turn on a dime. The only problem is getting it cooperate.

The weekend made me antsy that’s for sure. I got tired of waiting for the snow banks on top of the electric fence in a couple spots to melt so I dug it out with the scoop shovel. Afterwards it was time to check the fence to see how winter had ravaged it once again. About this time Ruby decided to disobey a key command in her operating system so as we went strolling along fixing the fence, she was in learning mode. By the time we finished we came to an understanding. Charging the fence once confident that all the wires are back on the insulators and the wires are up off the ground is a little like the scene when Clark Griswold plugs in the Christmas lights: It usually doesn’t work the first time you plug it in.

Oddly enough it did work this time so the next step was to let the ewes with lambs out for the first time this spring. Removing the wire holding the overhead door down caused quite a din as they were convinced they were going to be fed. When the door opened up it was mass pandemonium as about 90 head surged out into the afternoon sunshine. Soon the lambs began to run and the ewes kicked up their heels as well. It was definitely a moment we had been anticipating for far too long. Of course with 70 degree temperatures Sunday all the snow melted making me think I should’ve shoveled that fence out back in January.

There have been some positive signs that spring is edging closer. Last Thursday evening while coming in from chores there were over 50 swans in various small groups of a dozen to 20 or so flying in formation to the northwest. A meadowlark was heard Saturday morning after getting the hay unloaded. As we made our way around the fence on Saturday afternoon one could make out the slow, faint croaking of one western chorus frog down near the pond. Over half the pond surface was still occupied by ice so that must’ve been one chilly little frog. 2 days later however and all the ice was gone so the first warm night, the sound from the pond should be deafening. The juncos are everywhere. It seems there’s one in or under just about every brush pile, automobile, grill or any other place they could possibly hide. Some of those brush piles need to see a match before much longer but will wait until the juncos are done with them first. Male robins are fighting for territory. Watched a couple of them tangling in the yard while grilling one evening. Obviously hadn’t heard the “plenty of fish in the sea” line yet.

At the Mall for Men, the little fat buddies were the beneficiaries of a colossal error. When Mrs. Cheviot got a birthday cake to share last week, the bakery where she purchased it misunderstood her order. The little fat buddies wound up eating the better part of a whole sheet cake. It was musing watching a group of a dozen grown men sitting around a table peering at the cake like a flock of vultures. Sure, it was torture and took a couple days but somehow they managed to struggle through it. Quite a feat considering one of the best eating little fat buddies was away on business in Atlanta. Luckily it was pretty good cake and the only complaint was there was no ice cream to go with it. Oh well, sometimes we must sacrifice.

See you next week…real good then.

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Renegade
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Atikokan, Ontario
Great read. I'm anxious for some warm weather as well.
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Ain't no change in the weather, ain't no changes in me

The scurs have had a hard time predicting the warm weekend temperatures as of late. Does this mean from now on we’ll only see warmth on the weekend? Guess again. Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a chance of showers. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows around 35. Cloudy on Thursday with an increasing chance of rain by evening. Highs near 45 and lows of 35. Cloudy and cooler with a good chance of rain and snow on Friday. Highs of only 35 - 40 and lows of 30. Saturday and Sunday, partly cloudy. Highs of 40 - 45 and lows dropping to 25 - 30. Cloudy on Monday with an increasing chance of showers by evening. Highs of 50 and lows around 35. Cloudy on Tuesday with a chance of more rain showers. Highs of 55 and lows around 40. The normal high for April 15th is 57 and the normal low is 34. On April 17th the sun will rise before 6:30 and will set at 8 p.m. The scurs will be double checking their taxes in the slim hope of getting enough money back to buy more fire wood until the weather decides to change.

The Full Moon for the month of April occurs on the 17th, Palm Sunday. This moon has many names including the Full Pink Moon for the commonly occurring ground phlox in the woodlands. It also goes by the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon and the Full Shad Moon for the fish that were running in the streams of what is now the northeastern US. The Ojibwe called this the Broken Snowshoe Moon and the Sioux, the Moon of Greening Grass or the Moon of Red Grass Appearing as particularly the warm season native prairie grasses such as the bluestems would commonly start off the spring slightly reddish in appearance. After the recent rains and warm temperatures, lawns and pastures have begun to green up, something one wouldn’t have bet on a month ago.

Spring made some significant progress this last week as there were signs that perhaps we have turned the corner. Temperatures at the ranch skyrocketed to 78 degrees on Sunday afternoon as we dodged a weather bullet from the strong storms that developed to our east. Rains were generally lighter than forecast so that doesn’t hurt when it does decide to dry up so field work can be accomplished. Buds on trees are swelling and some such as the silver maples are showing signs of pollinating. Removed the protective barrier and tree wrap from the peach tree and it appears to be alive when peeling back some bark, revealing a lime green cambium layer beneath it. While the snow piles in the yard have all melted there are still some vestiges of snow banks on the north sides of fencelines and groves. By next week they should be a memory. The ice went out on St. Olaf Lake sometime on the 9th or 10th. Since it is a relatively deep lake, it takes a little longer than some in the area. The western chorus frogs are out in force now. Near Silver Lake on Thursday, they were already loud and after the weekend warmth, the noise was deafening when conditions were still. On the 5th, I saw my first striped gopher of the season. Pocket gophers had been digging for several weeks prior to this. The initial leaves are unrolling on the rhubarb and given some warm rains, a piece of warm rhubarb pie before a weekend afternoon nap seems all but assured.

The birds are coming back too. On the 6th, the first of the tree swallows was seen checking out the nesting box in the windbreak. Definitely need to get around to all the bird houses to clean them out and make sure they’re ready for occupation by our feathered friends. The goldfinches continue their change to summer plumage. Right now they’re blotchy looking with an occasional male getting closer to full power sunshine yellow. On the 10th, there were 2 brown creepers probing the bark on the ash trees for insects. These little guys make an appearance every year about this time but have never stayed. Too bad as there are lots of insects including those pesky multi-colored Asian ladybeetles that suddenly have sprung to life. There was a male mosquito in the pickup last week and Mrs. Cheviot swatted one in the house as well. On Monday the 11th while soil sampling near the Little Cobb River, I spied a dragonfly. Just what we need to eat up some of those early season mosquitoes. On the same journey, there were white pelicans lazily making their way north, highlighting an all too rare sunny weekday afternoon.

Tree wrap and protective coverings were removed this past weekend. So far so good. Everything came through the winter in good shape. Even the peach tree appears to be very much alive. The pruning mess from the apples was picked up and the grapevine that had become a nuisance was beat into submission for another spring. Sunday we picked up a couple pear trees so the spot still needed to be decided on, along with a spot for the winterberries and dwarf burning bush, yet to be purchased. This decision making process makes me oh so nap-ish. Some things never change.

Ruby has kept things amusing during he wet weather although some of the things she does make one wonder about being man’s best friend. After the most recent rains, when we let her out for potty, rather than use the wet grass, she’s decided the sidewalk looks like a better place to keep her feet dry while doing her business. Oddly enough, when it comes to running around down by the barn at choretime, suddenly it doesn’t matter how wide or deep the puddle is, she’d rather run right through it than go around it. Go figure.

See you next week…real good then.



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Posted Image Dotch
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I take for granted that you’re always there…

Looks like the scurs will be out of the running for Miss Congeniality if they continue to deliver forecasts predicting crummy weather. Such is life. Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a chance of snow in the morning and early afternoon. Highs near 40 and lows of 25 - 30. Thursday, partly cloudy with highs climbing to a balmy 45 and lows dropping to 35. Chance of a rain/snow mix by evening. Cloudy on Friday with highs once again near 45 and lows of 35. A chance of rain and/or snow in the morning, a chance of rain in the afternoon and a slight chance of snow in the evening. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of afternoon showers. Highs of 50 – 55 and lows around 35. Partly cloudy on Easter Sunday with highs of 60 and lows of 45. Monday, mostly cloudy with a chance of rain. Highs of 60 and lows of 45 – 50. Mostly cloudy Tuesday with a slight chance of a rain shower. Highs near 70 and lows around 50. The normal high for April 23rd is 61 and the normal low is 37. We continue to add daylight at just a little under 3 minutes per day and on the 27th, we will have achieved 14 hours of sunshine, except for the fact of course that the sun only shines about 2 out of 5 days! The scurs will be eating the remains of their headless chocolate bunnies left over from Easter Sunday.

The weather continues to be stuck on the March cycle. There is a chance that we may actually register more snow at the ranch in April than we did in March, something that usually doesn’t happen. It has made fieldwork a bit of a challenge as the ground is not quite fit to plant especially as one moves north. The weekend snow/rain has also made life miserable with the sun shining only occasionally and temperatures remaining well below normal. Last Saturday's high was typical for what we’d see the 2nd week in March. Snow always makes for a special problem as it takes time to melt when it’s cool, thus keeping the soil surface wet and slimy for additional time versus the same moisture equivalent of a rainfall event with warmer temperatures following. All in all, this is shaping up to be a later spring than we’ve become accustomed to the past several years. We have been pretty fortunate.

Ruby got to ride along to the kindly neighbor’s pasture as it was getting time to work on the fence there. Winter had not been kind to the fence and as luck would have it, with the cool spring the grass has not grown rapidly enough to stock the sheep just yet. While I mended the fence Ruby was having a blast with the resident standard sable collie Sophie. Last fall when Ruby came along she was intimidated and not real friendly towards her. After playing hard several times since then with Fudgie, this time it was a no brainer. Sophie and Ruby were immediately running at full speed and spent the whole time while there rolling, wrestling and romping. When it came time to go home, Ruby was almost reluctant to get in the truck, not unlike some kids I recall who were playing at someone’s farm while their Dad was in the house conducting business.

There were plenty of bird sightings this past week. Monday night the backyard ash trees were crawling with woodpeckers and the like. They were host to 4 downies, a couple hairies, a white breasted nuthatch, and a male red-bellied woodpecker while a red-headed woodpecker was nearby in an aging silver maple. At the kindly neighbor’s pasture, the calling of male cardinals was present from many points and the chickadees kept a close eye on the dogs as the fence mending proceeded.

The entire town lost a great farmer, friend and public servant this past week. Davey Swenson unexpectedly passed away last Tuesday. He had made his morning breakfast excursion to the café and from there had stopped at the Mall for Men for coffee just as he’d done so many, many times over the years. There was paperwork to do and I didn’t get a chance to go back to the training table to be with the little fat buddies, gleaning the kind of wisdom and knowledge that only comes with experience. About 9:45 as I was on the phone I saw Davey wave at me and smile as he was heading for the door. I waved back and went back to my phone call. About a half hour later the sirens went off and emergency vehicles left town heading north. Not long after that there was a call trying to determine what time he’d left the Mall for Men. It was confusing to try to piece together details of what had happened but it was apparent after a few hours that he’d suffered fatal a heart attack.

I kicked myself that I hadn’t taken the time to go back to have coffee that morning. After all, it went against the grain of one of the most important lessons he taught me. Davey always took the time to take a break and visit and encouraged others to do the same. I can’t recall a time over the years when planting or harvesting plots at his place when we didn’t stop to have something to eat and visit for a bit. Sure, he usually had lots of crop left to harvest but he always said not to worry, it would get done. And he was right. This was always a man who I could count on to pick me up when I was having a bad day too. He’d sense it and before I knew it we were having coffee and conversing. The next thing I knew the problems suddenly didn’t seem so significant. Perhaps his practice of taking time to care drove some area workaholics nuts but I’d contend that the results were reflected in the huge crowds present for the visitation and funeral. And perhaps it was meant to be that I was among the last people to see him alive. It served as a reminder of the lesson he taught me, and like Davey himself, one I won’t soon forget.

See you next week…real good then.

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I can gather all the news I need on the weather report

The scurs should redeem themselves this week: No snow in the forecast! That said, will we see more seasonable temperatures? Starting with Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. Highs near 45 and lows of 35 – 40. Thursday, cloudy becoming partly cloudy. Highs of 55 and lows near 40. Partly cloudy Friday becoming cloudy by evening with a chance of overnight showers and thunderstorms. Highs of 65 and lows of 45 - 50. Cloudy Saturday with a chance of showers. Highs of 55- 60 with lows near 35. Sunday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers. Highs around 50 and lows of 30 - 35. Mostly sunny both Monday and Tuesday with highs of 55 – 60 and lows of 40 – 45. The normal high for April 30th is 65 and the normal low is 40. The scurs are looking to cash in two weekends in a row, sure in the knowledge that May baskets are headed their way on Sunday.

The weather hasn’t been conducive to fieldwork for most of the month but that could be about to change. Rather than being obsessed with the upcoming royal wedding, most farmers are tuned in to weather forecasts. Fortunately those of us in greater Bugtussle and environs have been spared the heavy downpours thus far. As of the 25th at the ranch for the month of April we have only recorded 1.37” of liquid precip. All it would take would be for some dry, warm breezy days and most would be able to get moving. It’s not early any more but the stretch of winter we’ve experienced since last November has been a throwback to the days many of us grew up with. Yes, those days when we walked to school uphill both ways in snowstorms during the month of April. Somehow we always managed to get a crop and sometimes surprisingly good crops when corn was planted in May. The data indicating we lose very little in yield before May 10th still has a great deal of validity. The restraint most have demonstrated to this point has been admirable. Sure, we might burn more dryer gas but we need to keep things in perspective sometimes.

The weather has been affecting more than just crop farmers. It’s also having a negative impact on the movement of garden and nursery stock as well as making it tough to move ewes to pasture at the ranch. No sense to put animals out there if it isn’t sufficiently greened up to carry them. It’s getting time though. One muses how much longer the body can take the greedy, aggressive ewes pounding on knee joints that are designed to move primarily back and forth. What’s worse is some of the lambs are getting big enough so they can potentially inflict the same kind of damage. Snap! Crackle! Pop! It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Gardening has been on hold too. Potato planting on Good Friday didn’t happen nor did the radish, onion, pea, lettuce or carrot planting. There is still time however. Would rather do it once the right way as opposed to mudding it in and having to do it over. It takes time and money to do that too. There has been time for some tree planting. Think I mentioned the Patten and Parker pear trees we planted. We also got our Red Splendor crabapples planted. After the big ash tree landed on the nice one we’d planted about 20 years ago, it was great to plant some wonderful replacement stock in case that one bites the dust due to fire blight or other assorted maladies. Hopefully we get a chance to finish planting the Freeman maple and Nigra green arborvitae this week.

Some time was made for cleaning out the bluebird nesting boxes although they usually are occupied almost immediately by tree swallows. This year was no exception and within minutes of seeing any mouse nests or last years leftover nests removed, the swallows were circling. A quick trip to the pond while on the birdhouse cleaning excursion revealed about a dozen blue-winged teal and a pair of giant Canada geese who took loud exception to my presence. The wood duck house needed to be cleaned too. The kestrels that nested in it last year were not particularly tidy tenants and removed all the cedar chips from the box before they constructed their nest. Due to the horrible mosquito infestation last year, I never did get back down there to see how many babies there were. Judging by the mess there must’ve been several. The goldfinches are slowly but surely changing into their summer outfits. It won’t be too long and the orioles should make an appearance. One can only hope we don’t have to put heaters in their nectar feeders.

Ruby had another big weekend, this time travelling with us to visit my Mom and her Border Collie Fudgie near Spring Valley for Easter. The two red and white dogs picked up right where they left off last fall with lots of running, growling and chasing. They genuinely seem to like each other as evidenced by Fudgie allowing Ruby to drink out of her water dish and eat her food. All dogs have distinct personalities but Border Collies seem to take it to an extreme. One can definitely see that Fudgie and Gus were out of the same litter as some of Fudgie’s head tilts and expressions leave no doubt they were closely related. While Ruby is not as closely related she has the same drive that her great grandmother did along with her same desire to play ball 24/7 if you’d let her. It’s time to get Ruby checked out for heartworm soon and would encourage those who haven’t done so to do the same for their dog friends. Mosquitoes are starting to show up with greater frequency. The last thing anyone wants to see is their favorite pet, companion or in our case little helper suffer and possibly die from that highly preventable affliction.

See you next week…real good then.

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Renegade
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Great read Dotch.

:tractor:
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:goodpost: ... Good stuff!
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It’s better to burn out than it is to rust…

While the scurs were celebrating their newfound popularity after forecasting no snow last week, things turned ugly. Readers looked outside late last week to see snow falling as they were watching another Twins defeat on the tube. Hate mail ensued. Will the scurs redeem themselves? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy skies with a high of 65. Clouding up overnight with a good chance of rain and lows near 45. Cloudy becoming partly cloudy on Thursday with a slight chance of showers during the day. Highs near 60 and lows around 40. Partly cloudy on Friday with a slight chance of a shower during the day and a better chance of showers overnight. Highs Friday of 65 and lows of 45 - 50. Cloudy on Saturday with a slight chance of showers. Highs near 65 and lows of 50. Partly cloudy Sunday with a chance of lingering showers. Highs around 65 and lows near 45. Monday partly cloudy with highs of 65, lows of 50 and a slight chance of showers. Becoming cloudy on Tuesday, warmer, with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs near 70 and lows around 50. The normal high for May 5th is 67 and the normal low is 42, about the same as we experience on October 2nd. The duration of daylight however is the same as that on August 7th. May has continued the April trend of cooler than normal. On May 2nd, the high was 37. This is the normal high for March 6th. The sun will rise before 6 a.m. on May 6th so hopefully the longer days will start to warm us up. The scurs will be celebrating Cinco de Mayo with some cactus juice.

Wow! What an ugly April that was and as we said last week, a throwback to the days of my youth. Seems like those were more the norm in the ’60’s and ‘70’s. I still recall sliding down the hill at home on the 29th of April after a spring snowstorm dumped 6” or so. Some details on this April at the ranch: We measured precipitation of one sort or another on 20 of the 30 days. We recorded a trace on 3 more. Logic tells you if it’s precipitating, it’s generally cloudy. With little sunshine it was also cool. On any given day, it seemed temperatures were off the average mark by about 10 degrees, more March-like than April-like. Cloudy and cool led to little drying in the fields and very little fieldwork was accomplished. On the flip side, while it rained and/or snowed frequently, the amounts were moderate. At the ranch the gauge tallied a total of only 2.54” with slightly over an inch of that falling last week. Given some sun, warmer temperatures, breezy conditions and a little luck, we still have a decent chance to get this crop planted in without resorting to extraordinary measures. Plant in the mud, the crop is a dud. Plant in the dust, bins will bust.

Gardening has followed suit with fieldwork progress. Difficult to make any headway in areas where drainage is lacking and fall tillage was not performed. Wednesday’s rain pretty much put the kibosh on any gardening plans. So when the weather deals you a lemon, you make lemonade. Tree planting needed to be done and the beauty of it was they didn’t need watering. There was already water in the bottom of the hole in places. There are still a few potted shrubs to put in but one needs to ease into these things so as not to burn out on them. I did manage to get all the vine crop transplants seeded into the flats thanks to Bill, Deb and Amy. Mighty nice to have everything ready for me then just show up to plant. It’s even nicer to get a jump on the season when it includes Bill’s favorite and mine, those sweet Mooregold squash.

The little male goldfinches are close to full color now and the rooster pheasant we call Little Jerry II is biding his time courting the young ladies on the edge of the lawn. Some of the travelers are moving through to their summer homes far to the north and some are arriving here for the season. It’s that time of the year. Included in this week’s sightings were the barn swallows on 4/27 and a brown thrasher in the backyard on 4/30. A half dozen white-crowned sparrows and a Harris sparrow were spotted on 5/2, and all were glad I didn’t decide to torch their favorite brush pile over the weekend. It was alive with activity and makes an excellent place for them to conceal themselves when there are no leaves on the trees. Chipping sparrows are picking out potential nesting spots in the evergreen plantings. Some of the trees are measuring 7+ feet tall now. Not sure if it’s the same one but a robin is back in the barn adding to the top of the same nest that has been used for at least the past 3 years. It’s starting to resemble a chimney and if they keep coming back eventually we’ll have to cut a hole in the roof.

With spring planting season here, the little fat buddies are on sabbatical once again or at least until the rainfall that knocks us out of the field. To send us off in the right frame of mind CS recently made a pan of caramel rolls, still almost too warm to eat when they arrived. Lynne S brought in a cake to thank those who had taken Davey to his appointments in addition to those with whom he shared those morning bomb sessions. Without that nourishment for our bodies, it would be difficult for us to nourish our minds. What’s more, it would be nearly impossible to convey all that wisdom and knowledge accumulated over the course of a long winter to the masses.

See you next week…real good then.
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Who was given a pat on the back…

The scurs covered the bases last week which is more than you can say about the Twins recently. What’s on tap this time around? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a good chance of thunderstorms. Highs of 80 and lows near 60. Mostly cloudy on Thursday and cooler with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs near 70 and lows around 50. Friday cloudy and cooler with a chance of rain. Highs of 55 and lows dropping to 45. Slightly warmer but remaining cloudy on Saturday with a moderate chance for showers. Highs of 60 and lows around 45. Partly cloudy Sunday with a slight chance of a shower. Highs of 60 – 65 and lows near 45. Partly sunny on Monday with highs of 65 and lows of 55. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs of 75 – 80 and lows of 55. The normal high for May 15th is 71 and the normal low is 46. Sunset will occur after 8:30 on the 13th, the latest it’s been since last August 7th. The scurs are mailing their property taxes in with an IOU.

May 17th will mark the Full Moon for the month of May. This one goes by several names, the Full Flower Moon, the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Full Milk Moon. It was at this time that many farmers could curtail the feeding of hay and turn their cows out on pasture to graze as the grass had finally become lush and thick enough to support them. This was not a good time to stand directly behind the cows while they were in the stanchions however, for obvious reasons. The Ojibwe called this moon the Full Blossom Moon and the Sioux, after horses had been introduced of course, the Moon When Ponies Shed.

Soil conditions this past week definitely shaped up in the greater Bugtussle area as farmers were planting corn in earnest. Some were fortunate enough to finish planting corn and in some cases, managed to get their soybeans planted as well. The drier April in this area turned out to be in their favor as temperatures allowed little drying in that timeframe. To the north and west, farmers were less fortunate with rains slowing and stopping progress on Friday night then again on Sunday morning. Monday morning brought more general and substantial rain across Waseca and adjacent counties. It’s tough to venture a guess as to what percentage of corn is planted. Around Bugtussle it’s probably close to 75%. Not far to the north it’s probably closer to 15%. Just not enough rain free days and hours of drying weather to allow for much more than that.

The weather has been allowing for a lot of bird migration however. This past week about the time I’d sent the copy to press on 5/3, of course a white-throated sparrow showed up amongst a group of Harris’ and white-crowned sparrows. They usually do and this year was no exception. A brief stop at the kindly neighbors pasture on 5/5 revealed that the bluebirds had returned to their favorite nesting box again for what is probably the 5th year in a row. On 5/6, the song of the first house wren was heard at the ranch and on 5/7, there were several female rose-breasted grosbeaks but as of yet, no males here. On 5/8, the first 2 Baltimore orioles were at the jelly feeder that had been put in place a few days before their arrival.

5/9 brought a mixed bag with a rooster pheasant trying to migrate through the side of the house. The house won of course but the pheasant managed to break a hole in the vinyl siding before breaking his neck. The electric fence was grounded out so it was time to track down the ground and take a peek in the wood duck house while I was at it. Opening the observation door on the side I could see it was occupied. A brown feathered tail with black bands was evident so I calmly slipped my hand over the body of the nesting kestrel and slowly brought her out where I could see how many eggs were in the nest. She looked at me and my leather-gloved hand with total amazement and disbelief as I counted the 3 eggs, then gently replaced her on the nest. She didn’t get excited and fly out as expected. Amazing how small these little falcons are, even smaller than a robin when you actually get your hands on one.

Ruby had another busy weekend of appointments to keep. First she went to the Heartworm Clinic in Little Jerusalem where she received many compliments on how pretty and well behaved she was. I must have a little of my mother in me as I wasn’t particularly amused by some of her antics since she isn’t real used to being on a lead rope. She minded but just barely. After all the attention it was time to get the lawnmower fired up and as most Border Collie owners will attest, that usually fires the dog up. Time for the time honored tradition of biting the lawnmower tires passed down from generation to generation. That was followed of course by herding the lawnmower back and forth across the yard, getting her nice white socks all grass stained. Lawn mowed, the chores were next and after that, playing in the garden dirt. The tiller occupied Ruby’s attention while she wisely kept her distance from the rotating tines. Now her socks were not only grass stained they were muddy too. Sound familiar to you Mom’s out there in the audience? We finished up in the dark and went in the house to scrounge up some food and refreshments. I sat in my chair and Ruby flopped down on the rug a few feet away while I petted and stroked her back. We were both tired and knowing there was another long day ahead, we both needed our beauty sleep.

The next morning she was ready for chores and then, up for planting the potatoes. Since we were heading to Mom’s for Mother’s Day, I made her stay in the house. Planting what turned out to be 40 hills of potatoes (I thought there were only 30 until I added the 10 hills of Norkotah russets) she would’ve started out the trip all mud. As it was she played with Fudgie again and had another long day of seeing the world outside of Bugtussle. She must adapt more rapidly than we do though. When we arrived back home, I was tuckered and she wanted to play ball until almost 11 p.m. There may be a Tommy John surgery in my future if this keeps up.

See you next week…real good then.

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Posted Image LoneWolf
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Great reading there, Dotch.

Thanks for posting your weekly columns!
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The ground is rich from tender care…

The scurs forecast was consistent although the week we’re on should be an improvement over that. Hey, the Twins are consistent too. Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny becoming partly cloudy, highs near 65 and lows of 50 – 55. Partly cloudy Thursday, highs of 65 – 70 and lows of 50 – 55. Friday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs around 70 and lows of 55 – 60. Partly cloudy on Saturday with a chance of rain. Highs of 75 and lows around 60. Sunday, partly cloudy with a chance of rain. Highs near 75 and lows around 55. Monday and Tuesday, cloudy with a chance of rain, with the better chance being on Tuesday. Highs around 80 and lows near 55. The normal high for May 21st is 73 and the normal low is 48. The scurs will finally be putting away the toboggan and looking forward to the warmer temps.

What a topsy-turvy week for temperatures last week was! We topped out with a high last Tuesday of 93 at the ranch. On Saturday the high reached and astonishing 44 with a nasty, wind-driven cold rain to add insult to injury. That’s the high we’d typically see on March 22nd. Field progress was steady by jerks with precip being recorded on 5 out of 7 days at the SROC. Shades of April. If the forecast for this week holds, some steady progress should be made with many farmers able to finish up soybean planting. The pattern continues where we receive precipitation frequently without accumulating large amounts. For now it’s a blessing but we may be hoping it changes once the crop progresses into July and August.

Gardeners have suffered much the same fate. The rich soil has been anything but fit to play in. I did plant some snap peas, lettuce and carrots on the 10th but I wasn’t proud of the way the seedbed worked up. Just as the tried and true area farmers do, sometimes a little patience needs to be exercised. Conditions have improved greatly and this week should allow those of us who want to get at it to do so. One bright note, the vine crop seeds I planted and entrusted to Bill, Debbie’s and Amy’s care look fantastic. Every single pot in the 7 flats grew, even a few planted with leftover seed from last year. I still don’t totally trust the weather yet though. Perhaps another week of warm weather will change my mind.

It has been a banner spring for recording bird sightings at the ranch. Thank you to TP for clueing me in about some of the birds she was already seeing a few weeks ago in town. It gave me the incentive to find some of the feeders and get them put out. We had been getting used to seeing the female rose-breasted grosbeaks but no males. Finally on 5/10 there were 3 of them. This was also marked about the last day of the sparrows migrating through. On 5/11, one of the small colorful warblers, a redstart was flitting around the new leaves on the silver maple, apparently looking for small insects. At first glance because of their coloration they almost appear to be a Baltimore oriole in miniature. This was followed by a goldfinch barrage on the 12th. The feeders and ground underneath were covered with dozens of bright yellow males. Also noted on the 12th was the first ruby-throated hummingbird (a male) and we counted 11 Baltimore orioles. On the 13th they were joined by a lone male orchard oriole.

On the rainy, cold 14th, there was a Baltimore oriole explosion. I counted as high as 20 orioles with 8 of those being full colored males. Of the group of 20 there were 2 orchard oriole males. All told they consumed 4 orange halves, 2 bowls of jelly and a nectar feeder worth of sugar water then had the audacity to scold me and ask for more! Fortunately part of that circus left the next day leaving behind 10 or so. It would take a full time person to keep up otherwise. Last but not least on the 15th, a lone male indigo bunting made an appearance and hasn’t been seen since. Last year I don’t think we saw one and this poor guy may have been confused. Several of the big trees that graced the yard last spring were gone, changing the appearance greatly.

Weaning the ewes and lambs was accomplished the first time on Sunday after lawn mowing by moi and a day of work at the greenhouse was put in by Mrs. Cheviot. It was a battle royal the same as it usually is and I have the black and blue badges of courage (or stupidity) to prove it. We hauled a group off to the kindly neighbors and Ruby got to ride along. We were made aware of some sad news while there. Ruby’s playmate and friend Sophie had been struck by a car and killed since our last visit. She almost seemed to sense it as we put the panels back in place, got the fence back up and hooked up the water. Amazingly enough everything worked as we waved bye-bye and pulled for home. There the sound of bellering could be heard as I opened the door. Not good for sleeping I thought and it wasn’t. I think it even triggered a response from the Dubya’s beef cows down the road as I was awakened several times through the night by the racket. This from one routinely capable of sleeping through severe thunderstorms that blow trees through the side of the house.

The next morning from my throne in the oval office overseeing my little wild kingdom, I spied what appeared to be a buck lamb mixed in with the ewes heading out to pasture. To make matters worse there was a second one! What the…??? I put my clothes on and rushed down to the barn. Sure enough, there were 3 ewes that had managed to get back in with the lambs as well! I discovered the spot where they had managed to blow through the fence so with some fence posts, wire and a hog panel, remedied that situation. There was still the matter of getting ewes and lambs back where they belonged, which would have to wait until later when we could lick our wounds and regroup. They may get loose but they never get away.

See you next week…real good then.
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Working from seven to eleven every night…

The scurs woes continue with the farther out forecasting while making good on the nearby once again. What kind of weather are they mustering up for the last week in May? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs around 60 and lows of 45. Partly cloudy Thursday and slightly warmer. Highs of 65 and lows near 45. Friday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening. Highs reaching 60 and lows of 45 - 50. Mostly cloudy on Saturday with a chance of s shower or thunderstorm. Highs of 70 and lows near 50. Sunday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs of 70 and lows around 50. Memorial Day and Tuesday, mostly sunny with highs near 75 and lows around 55. The normal high for May 30th is 76 and the normal low is 51. The scurs are on the record predicting no snowmen such as we saw in 1992 for this year’s Memorial Day.

As predicted progress was made in the fields both in the corn that was already planted and in the soybean fields that hadn’t been. 4 days without precipitation from the 16th through the 19th allowed many who had soybeans left to plant to get the job done. Corn emerged rapidly last week and one could row many fields from the road last Friday. Herbicide applications were made possible during this same timeframe and the ensuing rainfall should be beneficial to the efficacy of those herbicides. Rainfall at the ranch pushed close to 2” from Friday through Sunday and fortunately it came in about 4 different rainfall events so washing was minimized. We are behind on GDU’s however so it’s going to take a warmer trend to get us close to average in that department. Some are comparing this year to 2009 and while it may just be, seldom are any two years exactly alike.

Gardening has been slow as well. More than one farmer has indicated that while the crop is in the ground, on farms where drainage is limited or snow sat for lengthy periods of time this spring it still didn’t work up perfect. Ditto in the garden at the ranch. The garden here is situated in an area that catches a lot of snow. Drainage on most of the plot is decent in the area that is Clarion soil. The Webster soil lobe that extends along one side is a different animal and it’s been difficult to get it to dry out let alone make a decent seedbed. Fortunately many of the transplants will be headed into that area and once they spread out, the ground will get its tilth back. Amazing how vine crops will do that. In spite of all the wet weather we did manage to get some Indian corn planted along with some later sweet corn. Trouble looming on the horizon however judging by the numerous little flies detected, otherwise known as seed corn maggots. The seed is treated with one of the neonicotinoid insecticides but it will have a challenge. Tilling a lot of green material into the soil, in this case annual bluegrass, is a magnet for insects such as these. Will it work? We shall see.

Lawn mowing has taken center stage around the rain showers. It’s been a catch as catch can affair and one can work from 7 until 11 to get it done. It takes a couple hours to dry off sufficiently and when it does the roar of mowers can be heard across the landscape. At the ranch, one has to consider where on that landscape it is safe to mow. After Saturday forenoon’s downpour, I decide it had dried enough to attempt mowing the high ground. Looking down into the road cut, there was water running across the bottom of the ditch. Rather than risking winding up in St. Olaf Lake, I opted to avoid the rushing torrent for the time being. If matters got out of hand down there I figured one could always get out the boat and weedeater.

The birds slowed down a lot from last week and that’s a good thing. There was simply no way to keep up indefinitely with an oriole invasion such as we had. As it is there appears to be at least one pair of Baltimore orioles in nest building mode. It’s also encouraging to see there is a pair of orchard orioles that have both been faithfully enjoying grape jelly and nectar from the feeders. In years past there has been no positive ID of the female. One newcomer to the feeders this week was a lone pine siskin. Not sure exactly why he or she was here but the familiar little striped body was hard to mistake after the irruption of 2 winters ago. One other new arrival that stays in is the common yellowthroat. They take up residence in the plum and sumac thicket and their song compliments that of the house wren this time of year splendidly.

See you next week…real good then.
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Singing in the sunshine, laughing in the rain…

The scurs crystal ball become cloudy once again on Memorial Day but the rest of the week was pretty much as advertised, cold. Will we finally break out of our cooler than normal trend? The scurs are thinking we will. Staring on Wednesday, mostly sunny becoming mostly cloudy by evening with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs near 75 and .lows around 60. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a chance of showers in the morning becoming partly cloudy with a slight chance of showers in the afternoon. Highs around 80 and lows of 70. Warmer on Friday under partly cloudy skies with a slight chance of an overnight thundershower. Highs of 85 and lows near 65. Saturday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of a morning thundershower. Highs around 80 and lows near 60. Partly cloudy and slightly cooler on Sunday with a small chance of a shower or thunderstorm in the overnight. Highs of 75 – 80 and lows near 60. Monday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs around 80 and lows near 65. Partly sunny and warmer on Tuesday becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of afternoon or evening thunderstorms. Highs around 85 and lows near 65. The normal high for June 1st is 77 and the normal low is 52. On June 1stwe will have 15 hours and 15 minutes of daylight, with only 13 more minutes to be gained by the summer solstice. The scurs will be bottling some of this heat for January.

Crop growth was relatively slow last but this week should help to make a dent in the lagging progress. Some 2 collar corn was observed and soybeans that had been planted a week to 10 days prior were emerging. It should come as no surprise that we are somewhat behind what we’ve come to expect in recent years. For starters in May at the ranch, rain was measured on 16 and what will likely be 17 days out of the 31by the time this reaches print. In addition there were 6 days where trace amounts of precipitation were detected. This is getting to sound like a broken record as the same thing happened in April. Lots of cloudy, cool days with precipitation and as a result only a narrow window of time during which the ground was semi-fit for planting. There are some areas of fields this past week that were definitely not fit as witnessed when a local farmer planted soybeans through a wet corner. As I went by the newly planted area, there was water standing in the planter tracks already. Within 20 minutes, it was raining. Not a good sign. We are fortunate however. Most of the crop has been planted so there is plenty to smile about.

There are lots of changes finally in the garden at the ranch. The potatoes are almost entirely emerged now making a solid row to follow from one end to the other. The peas, carrots and lettuce are coming along nicely as well they should. This has been some decent weather for these cooler season crops. The Indian corn is emerging finally as is the sweet corn. It’s a little uneven but with the heat and a little rain it should be fine. One good thing a bout the sweet corn is it can be planted for several weeks yet if it fails to emerge. The pear trees are taking advantage of the warmer recent days and the leaves are really starting to pop. While there are some small pears on the Patten tree it’s doubtful they’ll amount to anything. Still, it’s good to see them. Makes me hopeful that we will someday enjoy fresh pears. The peach tree also seems to be making up some time as the new growth in just the last several days has about doubled in length. It won’t be long and peach farming will become a way of life in greater Bugtussle and environs.

Lawn mowing has become serious business across the landscape, what with Memorial Day and numerous graduations. No one wants to be known as the neighborhood slob so just like clockwork, when the sun comes out the hum of lawnmowers can be heard far and wide out here in the country. Oh yes, I suppose one could plant it all into native prairie or something so it would be low maintenance. It would be except for the fact you still have to control the weeds as well as putting up with the vermin that seem to enjoy having cover as they dig tunnels and dens around the foundations on the buildings. Think I’ll keep mowing, thank you very much.

The birds were active this past week. Not a lot of new arrivals although we did have a male cardinal on 5/28 that graced us with his presence and song while he was at it. He cleaned up under the feeders and helped himself to a little of the orioles’ grape jelly. Speaking of the orioles, the orchard orioles appear to be staying around as both a male and female are coming to the feeders yet. Nest building for the Baltimore orioles was in full swing so I decide to supplement their raw materials with some of the cotton strings we generally discard from the feed sacks. Cut into 8” – 10” lengths and placed on the woodpile, they had the string all picked up by the time we were done with chores the next morning. Found some more string and decided to see who was taking it all. A rather dull colored male oriole appeared and wadded several pieces in his mouth and departed for what was likely neighbor David’s yard. Hopefully he doesn’t end up with lots of 8” long pieces of string stuck in his lawnmower.

It was about a year ago I made a trip to IL to pick up our new red and white Border Collie Ruby. Seems like only yesterday she was a little 8 week old ball of fur. Ruby’s a small Border Collie weighing in at a little over 30 lbs. She makes up for that small size with the same intensity and tenacity she demonstrated even as a puppy. On the ride back from IL she took down an older male puppy almost twice her size that I was delivering to another buyer. It’s been a fun year and her vocabulary is larger than some people I know. Just ask the squirrels. Recently she’s learned how to shake hands, one of the talents a dog must have if they’re going to be a member of our family. Now if I could just teach her how to type.

See you next week…real good then.


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Renegade
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Thanks for the great reading Dotch. The cold wet weather has been a pain in the behind as I try to get seeding done at the farm. Still waiting for theat window of opportunity.

:hick:
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Strawberry Fields forever…

The scurs were steamrolled by the Monday-Tuesday temperatures. Of course so was almost everyone else who was forecasting the weather or heaven forbid trying to work in it. Temperatures soared to the century mark on area bank thermometers, car thermometers and our official Edna thermometer. Will we see a return to more moderate temperatures? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs near 85 and lows of 50 – 55. Partly cloudy Thursday and cooler with highs near 70 and lows of 50 – 55. Partly cloudy Friday with a good chance of a shower or thunderstorm by evening. Highs near 70 and lows of 55. Mostly cloudy Saturday with a good chance of showers. Highs around 70 and lows of 50 – 55. Sunday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of a shower. Highs around 75 and lows near 60. Mostly cloudy on Monday with a slight chance of showers. Highs around 80 and lows of 55 – 60. Mostly cloudy again on Tuesday with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs of 70 and lows of 55 – 60. The normal high for June 12th is 80 and the normal low is 55. The sun rises at 5:31 a.m. on the 10th and will continue doing so until June 22nd, the day after the summer solstice. The scurs will be setting their alarm clocks so they can enjoy the best part of the day the only way they know how: By rolling over and going back to sleep.

Next Wednesday ushers in the Full Moon for the month and since those in the country don’t get their paper until Thursday, we’ll cover it this week. It is nearly unanimous between the Farmer’s Almanac, the Ojibwe and the Sioux: This Full Moon is known as the Full Strawberry Moon and rightfully so. While perhaps slightly behind this year, area strawberries are about to come online in full force. This moon is also known as the Moon When Bread Gets Moldy Fast at the ranch.

What a dynamic week for area crops! Corn fields actually look like they mean business following a week of warm temperatures and some much needed sunshine. Many area fields were starting to sport a fully exposed 4th collar and knee high won’t be long. Soybeans are progressing as well although not as rapidly as the corn. The few pea fields in the area looked good last week although it will be interesting to see how they behave following the extreme heat we saw on Monday and Tuesday. Forage harvest was in full swing with the warm dry weekend and many and area hayfield was baled or chopped. Still tough to beat the smell of curing hay as it wafts in the window at night.

The garden is coming along finally. This past Sunday witnessed the planting of the vine crops. They were watered in well but nothing prepares them for 100 degree heat with strong breezes. There are still some cukes and one zucchini to plant. That one plant is usually enough to supply most of a 5 county area. Oh well the sheep like them. The bigger the better.

As mentioned while the sun is rising at 5:30 a.m. the birds are rising about 4:30 a.m. Starting with the robins, followed closely by the chipping sparrows who seem to wake up the wrens, the common yellowthroats, tree and barn swallows, the mourning doves, the orioles, a few goldfinches and an occasional blue jay. It gets loud for about 45 minutes and then before sunrise they must be feeding their young or going back to sleep. There were some newcomers noted this past week at the ranch including a bobolink, a dickcissel, and a warbling vireo. There continues to be a pine siskin at the feeder making one wonder if it plans on taking up residence or just appreciates the free breakfast included in the price of the lodging. A gray catbird apparently liked the length of the headed out bluegrass I’d munched off with the weedeater and was busily stuffing its mouth. It didn’t take long to figure out it was heading into the thick brush on the edge of the yard where it could build a well concealed nest.

Ruby had a newcomer this past week as well. In addition to her squirrel and the grackles she detests, we were exposed to some of the fiercest growling one morning we had ever heard from her. She stood at her spot in front of the sliding glass door and just trembled as something had her full attention. Once we got there to see what the commotion was about, a small chipmunk was on the porch taunting her as it scampered back and forth. This is the first one we’ve ever seen at the ranch. Once it saw me it took off and where it wound up I wasn’t certain. The next day however there was a hole with some freshly shelled sunflower seeds outside of it not far from where Chippy had been seen. Luckily for the chipmunk, Ruby is more of a chaser and not a catcher. She is however a digger so that situation will need to be monitored carefully.

See you next week…real good then.
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Good stuff Dotch! Bring on those strawberries :thumbsup:
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Tuesday’s gone with the wind…

Not a lot of rain last week but enough to keep things going after the mini-heat wave. In spite of the cool start, the scurs are thinking perhaps it’s looking like we will eventually have a real summer. Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy, highs of 70 and lows near 55. Thursday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of evening showers. Highs near 75 and lows around 60. Partly cloudy on Friday with a chance of showers. Highs again near 75 and lows around 65. Saturday, partly cloudy again with a moderate chance of shower and thunderstorms, Highs of 80 and lows of 65. Partly cloudy and warmer on Sunday with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs around 85 and lows near 65. Monday, partly cloudy and remaining warm. Highs around 85 and lows near 65. A good chance of showers and thunderstorms for Tuesday with mostly cloudy skies. Highs of 85 and lows around 65. The normal high for June 21st is 82 and the normal low is 60. The scurs will be remaining under their beach umbrella in case that rain shows up for the summer solstice.

Yes, the 21st is officially the first day of summer although most will say that meteorological summer actually begins June 1st. Last Tuesday’s heat is gone and with it the nearly desert winds however. There have been a few warm days but it’s been difficult to call it much of a summer so far. There have been many days in June where a jacket is a wonderful thing to have along just in case. Heck, I still have the chains on the tractor yet. Not sure if I’m that far behind or just getting a jump on winter the way the temperatures have been going.

Cooler temperatures have meant slower growth in the crops and the flip-side of that is weed growth hasn’t totally been a runaway either. In between gale force wind events, there has actually been time to apply herbicides. This past week saw some corn exhibiting a 6th full collar although 5 collars on a field-wide basis were more the norm. The 2nd trifoliates on the largest soybeans were nearly fully expanded although there are soybeans all the way from there to just planted. Most hay was put up in good shape and the quality looks to be excellent. Feeding some of the newly baled hay delivered by the Hay Fairy, the lambs would tend to agree.

Miraculously all the vine crops planted in the garden survived the blast furnace of a week ago. Apparently having good stock and watering heavily as we went when transplanting paid off. The ground became so hard that tilling the remaining ground was like tilling concrete. After the roughly half-inch Thursday night rain however that changed and the soil worked up better than it has all spring. This allowed for the onions to go in, the cucumbers to be planted and for another planting of sweet corn. There are still tomatoes, peppers and string beans to plant but these fortunately won’t take long after work some evening. Then, maybe, kind of, perhaps we can put all the seeds away and focus on weed control. There are some snap peas blooming and with any luck in another 3 weeks we should be able to sample some of those delicacies. The Haralson and Fireside apple trees are loaded in the yard at the ranch and there are even a few on the Snow Sweet tree that was planted only a year ago. Am curious if any of them make it to harvest so we can see what they taste like. The crabapples we planted were roughed up a little by the heat but after a little extra TLC, it appears they’ve escaped the heat relatively unscathed.

The birds have become more sporadic in their appearances at the feeders, particularly the orioles. They now go through about a jar of jelly a week as opposed to their earlier antics of nearly a jar a day. One faithful customer has been the male orchard oriole and even the female makes an occasional visit. She seems to enjoy the orange slices as well as the jelly. When they leave they always seem to head for the same group of trees so something tells me their nest is in the yard someplace. Hummingbirds have become more numerous as Mrs. Cheviot has planted the pots and baskets again. Time to get some of those fly and ant guards for the nectar feeders as the insects are wasting no time making a mess of them.

Ruby had another big weekend where we travelled to my Mom’s to see my oldest brother. This was the first time she’d met him as I don’t recall bringing her along at Christmastime. She was very glad to meet someone who would scratch her tummy and she played that for all it was worth. Ruby played outside with Fudgie too, blowing off steam just as they’ve become accustomed to. Looking out the window was a little like watching one of those comedy skits where the parties take turns chasing each other. These 2 are a little like the monkey see- monkey do routine as well. Mom has some hard plastic decorative birds, chipmunks and bunnies she likes to place in the flower beds around the house as well as on the porch. Oddly enough, every one of them was scattered around the yard not much differently than children’s toys left for the parents to clean up. Fortunately nothing was chewed on so no harm, no foul. Just have to be thankful there are no diapers to change.

See you next week…real good then.

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So, get all those blues, must be a thousand hues...

The scurs took a chance that it wasn’t going to rain last Wednesday and lost. Will they have better luck this week? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance of showers. Highs near 65 and lows around 55. Partly cloudy on Thursday with a chance of a shower. Highs once again 65 with lows of 55. Partly cloudy and slightly warmer Friday with a slight chance of rain. Highs around 70 and lows of 55. Warmer again on Saturday with a moderate chance of evening showers. Partly cloudy with highs of 75 and lows of 60. Partly cloudy Sunday with an increasing chance of showers. Highs 75 – 80 and lows of 60. Partly sunny Monday and Tuesday with slight chances of showers and thunderstorms both days. Highs of 80 and lows around 60. The normal high for June 25th is 82 and the normal low is 58. The sun will rise on June 25th at 5:33 a.m. a minute later than it did on the summer solstice and on June 27th we will experience 15 hours and 27 minutes of daylight, one minute less than we did on the summer solstice. Hint: The days will be getting shorter already. That can be good news or bad news depending on your point of view. The scurs aren’t fretting about laying in their firewood supply just yet. Lots of time.

Crops made tremendous progress this past week despite the heavy rains of the 15th and 16th. Some corn has reached 8 collars and is about knee high on everyone with the exception of vertically challenged individuals. It may have been knee high 2 weeks ago in some cases. Most soybeans had 3 fully expanded trifoliates with some of the very earliest planted fields in the area showing a 4th and in some cases 5th trifoliate. Spring wheat has headed out and some have made their last pass with a fungicide. Peas have shown good color to this point although with some of the excess moisture received and forecast to come, that tune may change before too long. All in all to this point, we have been very fortunate compared to some.

The garden is getting closer to planted. There are some flower transplants for the hummingbirds to go in yet and some of the plants like the morning glory and bachelor’s buttons reseeded themselves. At some point one just gives up though. There were a few gourds that probably won’t get stuck in the ground. Given the number of gourds that get tossed over the fence after the fall decorating season, that’s probably not a bad thing. The muskmelons are flowering so hopefully we get enough heat to actually produce the number we’re capable of. The onions and sweet corn that were planted last week are wasting no time getting going. The string beans, tomatoes and peppers are in the ground and so are the zucchini. There weren’t enough transplants to be had so we had to resort to direct seeding, running the risk of hills being dug up by the striped gophers living in the yard. After laying down withering fire, one of the culprits was mortally wounded and hasn’t been seen since. There are hills in a couple different locations as well so the odds of them finding all of them are in our favor.

The gray catbird has decided that this grape jelly thing is a pretty good gig. “It” (the sexes are tough to tell apart) has been frequenting the feeder more often than the orioles as of late. Spotted a male and female bluebird at the kindly neighbors pasture on Monday while admiring the annihilation of the musk thistle population there. The royal blue of the male contrasted against the dark green backdrop of bur oak leaves in the evening sun was almost stunning.

Not so surprisingly, mosquitoes have sprung to life with all the rain. Spraying the pasture fence was done in record time. When the project was started the wind was working to my favor. Once down behind the windbreak however, I was at their mercy and they showed none. It was walk all the way back to the house and douse myself with repellent or tough it out. I chose the latter and lived to regret it. Every step through the long grass sent forth wave after wave of the pesky little bloodsuckers. Luckily as fast as I was moving there were few welts and very little itching resulted. Tough old hide I guess.

Ruby went along on the excursion and proceeded to find something dead in the pasture to roll in. I paid little attention to here rolling as escaping with my life was my primary focus. It wasn’t noticeable until we got back in the house and there was this awful dead animal stench emanating from someplace nearby. Ruby of course wagged her tail once I determined the source of the problem. Judging by the look on her face, she wasn’t impressed when bedtime came as the kennel door closed behind her.

With Mrs. Cheviot on the road for a week, I’ve been left to my own devices. Translation: I have to do it all. It does however mean I can shoot gophers out the window without worrying about repercussions although Ruby hides behind the couch when this happens. Was placed in charge of making sure things all came back home after the 150th anniversary celebration of the Le Sueur River Lutheran church which in turn was also very important to the little fat buddies. There was the better part of a pan of bars that made the training table. A faithful reader from Oregon introduced himself at the celebration and was wondering who these little fat buddies were. Well, there’s Otisco’s noted Swedish astronomer, PH’s husband, a German who the Norwegians have so far unsuccessfully tried to convert, a tractor salesman (a.k.a. “ Mr. Haney”), a real live fertilizer salesman, a full-blooded Swede, Betsy’s dad, a guy who farms from the Mall for Men and other occasional mystery guests. That should pretty well narrow it down I reckon.

See you next week…real good then.

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Great read. I was laying down some withering fire on a gopher myself this week as he decided my septic field was a good place to find refuge. Poor choice on his part. :readytorock:
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Mr. Mojo Risin…

The scurs got untracked again last week; when they said it was going to rain it did. What are they saying this time around? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs around 80 and lows near 70. The heat is on for Thursday and while the Twin Cities blow combs are calling for highs near 100 the scurs are hedging their bets, forecasting highs near 95 and lows of 70 – 75. Friday, partly cloudy and cooler. Highs near 85 and lows of 65. Cooler on Saturday starting out with clear skies then becoming partly cloudy with a slight chance of evening showers. Highs of 80 and lows of 65. Partly cloudy on Sunday with highs of 80 and lows of 65. Mostly sunny on Independence Day and slightly warmer. Highs around 85 and lows near 65. Clouding up overnight with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms for Tuesday. Highs of 85 and lows near 55. The normal high for July 4th is 83 and the normal low is 55. The scurs will be celebrating with Jim Morrison who most think died 40 years ago on July 3rd. Rock on Jim!

Lucky for us the rainfall that fell last week was as spread out as it was. At the ranch we recorded measurable precipitation 7 days in a row but only totaling about 1.6”. Sure there are some tough looking areas in some fields but when one looks at the big picture, things look pretty good. The corn has been getting into the nitrogen and the color in general remains a deep dark green. Given the heat and sunshine forecast for this week, the height of the corn should skyrocket. By the time the 4th rolls around most corn will be far past knee high and more like waist high. While soybean development has been less dramatic, there are subtle signs when looking closely that they too are progressing. Blossoms were noticed in some fields on Monday the 27th right on schedule.

The garden at the ranch is playing catch up but is making progress. So are the weeds. This has been a good summer thus far for waterhemp, a prolific pigweed family species. It’s estimated that one large plant is capable of producing nearly a million tiny black seeds. That can keep yours truly busy for many hours and keep the repellent manufacturers in business. Some other noteworthy items include the first firefly of the season seen while mowing the windbreak in the dark on the evening of June 23rd. This also corresponds roughly with the hatch of corn rootworm larvae, a longtime nemesis of those growing corn. No cucumber beetles yet but they can’t be too far off. 4-legged “bugs” have been a far greater problem thus far. A hastily improvised fence however seemed to do the trick. One has to protect that high dollar zucchini crop from the long-eared rodents.

Some of the plants needing protection included the salvia that had been transplanted. The tag on the packets said the plants would attract hummingbirds. They weren’t kidding as 5 minutes later when gazing out the patio door, there was a little male working the red blooms over in a businesslike manner. Another bird discovery that made me happy was the sighting of the male orchard oriole once again. With all the stray cats and other predators around one always fears the worst.

The soccer mom van has been up to its old tricks again. Decided it was easier to drive that to get feed than unhook the trailer from the pickup. I grabbed Ruby to go along for a ride, popped the blonde soccer mom wig on my head then put the van in reverse. As it came down the slant I heard the distinct sound of running water. Indeed it was as water cascaded under the dash and drenched my left foot. Obviously the van was expressing an opinion concerning my decision to use it as an implement of husbandry. Oddly enough, as it rained all the way to the store, it actually behaved in almost eerily normal fashion. We got to Hope, ditched the wig, tossed the feed in the back and headed for home. About the time we got to the intersection the door locks began to pop up and down intermittently. At first I blamed Ruby but she was as far from any of the doors and sleeping on the floor. Fortunately the van was running fine so turning the music up louder seemed to cover the annoyance of the door locks. Pulling into the driveway I made sure when I got out to get the mail that I left the door open. With no spare key there was no telling what might happen if I shut the door with the thing playing games like it was.

No problem there so we unloaded the feed and parked the van back in its favorite spot. Mowed some lawn and after Mrs. Cheviot returned home from a sheep junket, we went outside to do chores. We could hear music coming from what sounded like the neighbors to the north. Thought nothing of it as there are occasionally some gatherings in the area. Odd that there wasn’t more traffic I thought. On the way in from doing chores, I decided to investigate the source of the music more closely. Sure enough, it was coming from the van! The key was off yet the radio was blaring away. I turned the ignition off, then on then off again, pulled the key and shut the door. No difference so I turned the radio off and crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t run the battery down and would still start Sunday morning when I went to church. Next morning it popped right off and away I went. I made the turn towards church and sure enough the door locks started jumping up and down again. Good thing I was going to church I muttered to myself. This van doesn’t need a mechanic, it needs an exorcism!

See you next week…real good then.


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Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do...

The scurs got a little surprise as did much of the area with the Friday night thunderstorms that rolled through the area. Are there any more such occurrences on tap for this Farm & City Days? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 60 – 65. Thursday and Friday, clear skies with highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 65 – 70. Becoming partly cloudy overnight into Saturday with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm increasing into the evening hours. Highs 80 – 85 and lows around 70. Partly cloudy on Sunday with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs near 85 and lows around 65. Partly cloudy on Monday with highs of 80 and lows near 60. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a good chance of thunderstorms. Highs close to 80 and lows around 65. The normal high for July 10th is 83 and the normal low is 61. We have already lost some daylight, having lost approximately 12 minutes since the summer solstice. The scurs don’t care. They are focused on cornering the market for putty knives to scrape all the road kill Tootsie Rolls off people’s soles following the Farm and City Days Parade.

This past week saw more of what the doctor ordered for the corn crop in this area. Warm temperatures and some timely rain this time of year never hurts, especially for a crop that has been slightly behind thus far. It is apparent in many areas that the nitrogen properly applied last fall and this spring is still there judging by the reaction of the corn in areas of the field that had been pale in color. Some areas where water stood or there have been compaction issues there is no fix to it although some have tired. It’s a little like feeding a runt pig or a bottle lamb. You know that the outcome will likely be unrewarding yet it’s difficult to do nothing sometimes. Soybeans have for much of the area started flowering in earnest and second cutting hay has already been harvested in areas. Small grain and pea crops look good in most cases with the drier weather being to their liking as well.

The flying biting insect crop has been doing remarkably well too. Mosquitoes are making life miserable especially near dusk although on days when it has been relatively calm, they make life miserable during the daytime too. Deer flies have been a nuisance especially when one gets near a body of water and their bigger cousins, the horse flies are starting to appear as well. And of course the smaller biting stable flies have added their touch also, making chores with long pants a necessity most times. The toads have been doing their best to take a bite out of the fly population. I watched one parked by a feed sack the other night, curious as to what it might be up to. As luck would have it, the feed contains liquid molasses and that attracts flies, well, like liquid molasses. They love it. The toad patiently waited until the flies would crawl down within range then would flick its tongue at lightning speed to get the insect and position itself again for the next potential victim. I saw it take at least a half dozen of them out of the picture in about 10 minutes and given the number of toads we have around the yard, that gets to be a lot of flies and other insects taken out of commission. Cucumber beetles showed up this past week in the garden so if you haven’t looked at your vine crops in awhile, it might not be a bad idea to check them and treat appropriately. More benign insects, the fireflies or lightning bugs have been putting on a spectacular shows every evening since late last week. Difficult to recall a summer where they have been more numerous than what we’ve seen so far this July.

Around the yard at the ranch the fledgling birds are all over the place. There are some young orioles starting to come to the jelly feeder now and by the mournful cry they make when lost in the trees without the parents, one would swear they’d lost their last friend. Young wrens are noisily strewn about in the bushes and brush piles and this is just the start. There are several more nests so they are having a banner season. Young tree swallows have left some of the nesting boxes although there are some that didn’t get nesting right away or had to contend with house sparrows before yours truly stepped in and leveled the playing field a tad. The robin in the barn is on her second brood now with little heads popping up above the rim of the nest whenever there is commotion. And what would a farmyard be without lots of young barn swallows perched here and there as the adults feed them then teach them how to catch insects themselves so they can get back to raising a 2nd brood.

The 4th of July weekend came and went. With Mrs. Cheviot at yet another sheep show for the week, Ruby and I had to do it all once again. I tilled the garden, picked peas, sprayed weeds and insects, fixed fence, repaired a water line, mowed the lawn, got a load of oats, picked up feed, treated some sick lambs, did an hour of chores morning and night, all this while working some long, hot hours at work. And that’s just the stuff I remember doing. I’m sure I was starting to look a little gaunt so my little fat buddy and his wife who live on Beaver Lake took pity on me. Never turn down a free meal as another little fat buddy once told me. It was a wonderful opportunity to graze on a wonderful spread of food, visit, then relax in their boat and gaze at the tremendous fireworks display. Sure beat the heck out of getting in the house every night well after dark, wondering what could be tossed together and still qualify as food.

See you next week…real good then.

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But first, are you experienced?

The scurs were on the money for Farm and City Days so a good time was had by all. What’s in store for the Waseca Co. Fair you ask? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of showers by evening. Highs near 75 and lows around 65. Mostly cloudy on Thursday with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs 75 – 80 and lows near 70. Partly cloudy Friday with a slight chance of an overnight shower. Highs near 85 and lows of 70. Mostly sunny and warmer for Saturday with another slight chance of an overnight shower. Highs of 90 and lows around 75. Sunday and Monday, mostly sunny and hot with highs of 90 – 95 and lows near 70. Slightly cooler and mostly sunny on Tuesday with highs of 90 and lows near 60. The normal high for July 15th is 84 and the normal low is 61. The scurs will be working at the fair in the mosquito repellent concession stand.

The Full Moon for the month occurs on the 15th and is known by many different names. It goes by the Full Buck Moon as white tail deer bucks antlers are growing and as seen in my recent travels are in the velvet already. Another common name for this moon is the Full Thunder Moon, named for the many thunderstorms that happen during the month. Many of the pioneers also called this the Full Hay Moon as many put up hay for their livestock and the long winter ahead. The Sioux knew this as the Moon When Wild Cherries are Ripe. The Ojibwe commonly called this the Full Raspberry Moon, aptly named as the wild raspberries now are ripe for the picking, if you can outlast the mosquitoes in the process that is.

The deer have been noticed out in the open during the daylight hours. It’s quite possible the bugs are responsible for driving them out into open areas where the breeze helps make it more difficult to land on them. Coyotes are on the move and have been heard during the evening hours. One has to wonder if the insects aren’t partially to blame. That is the one bright side about the onset of winter: Knowing there are 5 or 6 months where the bugs won’t bite.

We just thought the crops grew last week. Wow! Corn is over 6’ tall in areas and about 7 – 10 days from tasseling in most area fields. Soybeans have gotten through the ugly stage and are starting to look like a crop rather than an afterthought. Most soybeans are in full bloom and wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the earliest planted fields start to set a few pods. You just knew we couldn’t get by another year without the mention of soybean aphids. Yes, they were found last week in several area fields and while the numbers were extremely low, they have made their presence known.

There appears to be a bountiful supply of berries on tap for the birds this season. Here at the ranch one doesn’t have to look very far to see plentiful nannyberries, dogwood, crabapples, chokeberries, American cranberry and honeysuckle. In addition the elderberries have been in full bloom this past week. It was comical a year ago while up on the roof talking to an insurance adjustor. He commented that we must have a lot of berry bushes nearby. “How do you know that?” I asked. He laughed and pointed out all the purple stains on the shingles, courtesy of our feathered friends.

Speaking of our feathered friends, the young continue to show up at the feeders. It was mentioned last week marked the start of the young Baltimore orioles coming to the feeders and now this week the young orchard orioles are showing up. Apparently they were nesting all along in our hard maple tree where the leaves are so dense there was no way to tell what was nesting in there. The young look a lot like the female at this point, greenish in color but one can tell by their shorter beaks and bumbling nature around the feeders they’re not experienced, yet. Hummingbird numbers have been steady all summer and they clean out their nectar feeder about once a week. They also dip into the oriole feeder of course so it’s hard to say exactly how much they’re consuming. One of the most gratifying sights this past week came from the kindly neighbors pasture. Driving up to check the sheep pastured there, one could see there were several birds perched on the barbed wire fence. Getting closer it was easy to determine these were bluebirds, 7 to be exact and quite possibly some of them the fledglings from their favorite nesting box. They scattered to the shelter of the oak trees, their understated song following them as they went.

Decided to go to the Farm and City Days parade for a few hours after another grueling weekend of fun and games. It was just as good as it ever was. There was the grand marshal, the local marching band, the antique autos, various floats and displays by several civic organizations as well as numerous princesses from many a local contest. Fire trucks and every type of farm implement imaginable were all tossing candy to the young and young at heart. The thing I still look for every year though is the old tractors, many of which I had the pleasure of driving at one time or another. In particular, I was hoping that the local Minneapolis Moline collector would make yet one more parade. I was not to be disappointed. Looking over the top of some of the displays, I could see LW leading his entourage on the old gray Twin City Minnie Mo he’s so faithfully driven every year. Not that I was ever a big Minneapolis fan but they were unique and played an important role in the development of the farm tractor here in the U.S. There’s still something about seeing and hearing a well restored old tractor. It brings back memories to this old farm boy, as I’m sure it does to many who grew up driving what some may call “junk”. Just remember, one man’s junk is another man’s toy. And best of all in the case of an old tractor, you don’t have to clean up after it in the parade.

See you next week…real good then.



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Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home…

The scurs were on target with the heat wave predictions, unfortunately. What are their predictions for this week? Starting Wednesday, clear skies with highs near 95 and lows around 75. Thursday, partly cloudy with a chance of an overnight shower. Highs around 85 and lows of 70. Partly cloudy on Friday and Saturday with a chance of an overnight shower both days. Highs of 85 - 90 and low of 70. Partly cloudy on Sunday with highs of 85 and lows dropping to 65. Mostly sunny on Monday with highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 60 – 65. Mostly sunny on Tuesday and are you ready for this? Highs near 75 and lows around 60. The normal high for July 23rd is 84 and the normal low is 62. On Wednesday the 20th we experience 15 hours of daylight the same as we did back on May 23rd. The scurs will celebrate the cooler temps with a short lemonade. Moderation in all things.

The past week saw more tremendous progress made in the crop although it was not without its share of issues for farmers to worry about. Heavy storms moved through the area last Friday not once but twice. The morning thunderstorm came as somewhat of a surprise as rain was originally predicted for later in the day with only small chances in the morning. The matinee was predicted and came through with a vengeance at the ranch. Decided it was a good idea to check the sheep at the kindly neighbors pasture before the storm broke and while there the sky turned pitch black. The sheep were fine and the yard lights were on as I left. It was so dark there the fireflies came out at 3:30 in the afternoon. Had never seen that one before as we hightailed it for home. Had intended to get the mail but by the time I got in the driveway it was raining sideways. It rained so hard by the time I made it in the garage that the barn was nearly imperceptible aside from the yard light on the south side. Total rainfall amounts on the day varied anywhere from 1.5” to near 6”. This meant some potential nitrogen loss in the corn and the winds that were part of both storms in areas caused corn to lodge as well as snapping some off. Soybeans fared better with only some minor leaf tattering from the wind. Some of them have now reached R3. Small grains went flat in places although most fields took it well. Pea yields have ranged anywhere from poor to slightly above average. The heavy rainfall made harvest efforts muddy and challenging. Rainfall so far for the month at the ranch has totaled 4.7” compared with about 5.3” for the month of June.

The heat and humidity have certainly made life miserable and some of that misery will be reflected in next months electric bill. The sheep have been extremely uncomfortable even though we’ve kept fans on them and cool clean water in front of them 24/7. Sheep don’t sweat so have to rely on panting to cool themselves, something they’ve been doing much of the last several weeks. Working with them when it’s been this hot is out of the question. The last thing we want to do given the circumstances is to stress them any more than is absolutely necessary. Ditto for the human component after spending many days working in the heat.

It’s become obvious one robin has it in for me because on many of the days this summer we’ve recorded precip, it has decided to take a dump in the rain gauge. Fortunately the garden hose is nearby to clean it out. It’s just the principle of the thing. The orioles stopped coming to the jelly feeder suddenly which seemed a little odd since it had recently been filled. Closer examination of the situation revealed the windblown rain had pretty well cleaned it out. It didn’t take long upon refilling it and orioles young and old were back feasting again. After Friday’s storms it was surprising to see a wild turkey hen being harassed by a red-winged blackbird as she and her two poults strolled around the grounds, grazing for bugs. Speaking of bugs, the first cicada at the ranch was heard buzzing on Monday the 18th.

Once again the local varmint population has reared its ugly head. A huge woodchuck has been spotted near the granary and it appears to have done some digging there. My double barrel is on the blink so I grabbed a pump shotgun instead and inserted a couple shells into the magazine. Trouble was after getting used to popping a couple shells into the old blunderbuss all these years, I neglected to chamber a shell. Imagine my disbelief after having the critter dead to rights only to hear a “click” when I pulled the trigger. The woodchuck apparently couldn’t believe it either as it lumbered merrily off to do some more digging.

Inside the house, a bat decided to show up about bedtime. It maneuvered around the living space quite nimbly and the only way it was detected was by the swishing sound of its wings. Bats are fine with me as long as they stay outside eating insects where they belong. Once they get in the house, it’s all out war. I grabbed the nearest broom and proceeded to do my best Michael Cuddyer impression. When the bat did his down and away slider impression I swung and missed. However I did manage to make contact with the pantry door. No biggy I thought as I hunted the little beast down and finally subdued it. After disposing of the bat I happened to look at the pantry door and to my horror discovered I’d made more than just contact; I’d punched a hole in it. The next day I called my little fat vertically challenged Swedish carpenter buddy and explained the situation. Add this latest tragedy to the hole I poked in the siding when clearing the snow off the roof and the one made by the rooster pheasant that flew into the side of the house this spring. I’m sure he’s thinking the way keep making holes in things he’ll be able to cash in and make a full day of it soon.

See you next week…real good then.


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The more things change the more they stay the same

The scurs called the end of the heat wave and not a moment too soon. Sales of deodorant were topping all-time records. Will it return again soon? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of rain. Highs around 85 and lows near 70. Partly cloudy Thursday with a continuing chance of rain. Highs of 80 – 85 and lows around 65. Mostly clear skies both Friday and Saturday with highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 65 – 70. Clear becoming partly cloudy on Sunday with a slight chance of rain. Highs 85 and lows of 65 – 70. Mostly sunny and warmer on Monday. Highs of 85 – 90 and lows around 70. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a good chance of a thunderstorm. Highs around 90 and lows near 60 when the system moves through. The normal high for August 1st is 83 and the normal low is 61. The sun will rise at 6 a.m., roughly the same time as it did back on the 6th of May. The scurs will be sawing logs with their newfound extra minutes of morning darkness.

Last week was brutal weather for humans. It is considered the warmest week of the year and it lived up to its billing. With air conditioners keeping it comfortable inside, the decision to stay indoors was easy especially after opening the door and feeling the blast of sauna like heat and high humidity. When your glasses steamed up that was a clue. In general though the corn and soybeans didn’t seem to mind. Much of the corn was starting to pollinate although there was probably more this week judging by the smell of corn pollen in the air. Soybeans largely pushed into the R3 stage, by definition largely making glyphosate applications off-label. Soybean aphids are more easily found but nowhere near any kind of threshold levels. Small grains are turning rapidly and the heat has done it no favors. With the wet summer, wheat has suffered from a bacterial leaf streak from which there is no known treatment other than selecting for more tolerant varieties. Same scenario with the peas as yields turning sour on the remaining fields from the root rot and heat.

Peas in the garden have followed suit. The snap peas that showed so much promise earlier failed to set pods after flowering profusely. The vine crops loved it and are staying ahead of the weeds for the time being. There are plenty of weeds however with warm season weeds such as waterhemp and crabgrass having an absolute fiesta. Sweet corn in the fields has tasseled on the short side and can’t see anything different in the garden either. String beans have appreciated the heat too and it shouldn’t be too much longer before seeing the first flowers on our later than normal planting. Tomatoes are looking good but again since they were put out relatively late, not much for fruit set just yet. The direct seeded zucchini has come through and it won’t be too much longer before the 5 county area is overrun with this wonderful source of livestock feed.

The lawn has been nearly impossible to stay ahead of this summer. It’s either raining, too wet or the mosquitoes will carry you off if attempting to mow in the evenings. Trying to find daylight hours when the wind is blowing seems to be the best idea although that isn’t necessarily foolproof either especially if one happens to be mowing in a windbreak or around the bushes. And just like in the garden the crabgrass has come through. Given the high moisture of the crabgrass, the mower deck becomes a portable cow pie carrier.

We continue to feed what appear to be several families of orioles. It looks like at least 2 groups of Baltimore orioles and one family of orchard orioles. They can really gobble down the jelly with consumption approaching that of the spring migration. They’re going through a couple of the 32 oz. jars a week so one may as well just buy 2 at a time and get it over with. The hummers are sticking around this year so not sure if there was a nest in the area or not. There seems to be some smaller ones now and they spend much of their time dive bombing each other while circling the wagons around the feeders. They may be the young from this years hatch, perhaps not from here but from somewhere.

During my Mom’s brief hospital stay this past week, we had the pleasure of keeping Fudgie. She seemed to fit right in after a good old fashioned brushing to help keep the hair shedding to a minimum. Doesn’t seem like nearly 8 years have passed since she was just a little wriggling puppy playing in the wading pool filled with cedar shavings. It didn’t take her and her playmates long to get out of it either as I recall. Border Collies start out active and stay that way, at least until they decide it’s nap time. Ruby was being Ruby and bouncing off the walls during much of Fudgie’s visit here. Someone to play with and to attempt to herd. Once she got tired of Ruby’s antics she’d repair to the solitude of the utility room to take a snooze. Funny thing, there are people who make me feel the same way.

See you next week…real good then.

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You been out ridin' fences for so long now…

The scurs were tracking the return of the heat wave although the duration was nowhere near the last one. It is that time of year. This week starting with Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs reaching 80 and lows around 65. Partly cloudy on Thursday with a slight chance of rain or a thunderstorm. Highs around 80 and lows near 65. Partly cloudy and gorgeous on Friday with highs once again around 80 and lows of 65. Slight chance of rain during the day on Saturday increasing in potential by evening. Highs of 80 and lows around 65. Sunday, partly cloudy with a modest chance of rain during the day decreasing in scope by evening. Highs of 80 and lows of 60 – 65. Monday partly cloudy with a moderate chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs of 80 and lows of 60 – 65. Cloudy and slightly cooler for Tuesday with a good chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs 75 – 80 and lows dropping to 60. The normal high for August 7th is 83 and the normal low is 60. The sun will set at 8:30 p.m. on the 7th, roughly the same time as it did on May 12th. The scurs will be enjoying a Cajun wrap at the Freeborn Co. Fair. One wonders who will be enjoying them the next day?

Crop progress this past week was nothing short of phenomenal. Corn pollinated and while it wasn’t perfect with the abundant soil moisture supply it is in good shape at the present time. Some will fret and worry but changing anything at this point is next to impossible. Soybeans keep making their move and August is generally considered when the soybean crop is made. While there are some R4 soybeans here and there as of this writing, there are few entire fields that would qualify just yet. Soybean aphid numbers are increasing although they have shown an affinity for younger, later planted fields in areas. On the weed control front as expected, waterhemp has had a banner year, popping through those soybeans not yet sprayed with the second application of glyphosate. Small grain yield reports thus far have been disappointing, with test weight on oats and wheat suffering as a result of the hot weather to finish the crop. The main thing now some old timers say is to get some rain on the straw so it’s not so slippery and is more absorbent. I’m not so sure about that one. It was always nice just to get it baled, period.

The garden has been on the emergency rescue list at the ranch so it was time to sharpen up some of the garden tools. Now I got me a sharp hoe, yeah! The tiger lilies have been about at their peak this past week and oddly enough they are what started my weed control career. After seeing Dad chop off a bunch of “kingheads” or giant ragweeds, I got out my garden set and proceeded to chop off Mom’s tiger lilies. Needless to say she was not amused as I recall. Luckily tiger lilies are pretty tough and those she still enjoys today are descendents of my victims. Obviously my weed ID still needed a little work. It has vastly improved however and I seldom hack off tiger lilies anymore. It does make me wonder sometimes how old the tiger lilies are at the ranch. Were they planted by Teamon Ruth, one of the original settlers whose name is scrawled on the wall of our granary? More on Teamon in another episode. Oh yeah, the garden. The first zucchinis appeared late last week and the first cuke showed up Monday night. In my zeal to remove the lambsquarters from their moorings in the potato patch, it revealed a couple golf ball sized baby red potatoes. Mmmmmm!

There are beginning to be signs our summer is starting to wind down. There are places where there are some acorns starting to fall already. Leaves on the walnut tree are starting to show hints of yellow. The lavender colored wild bergamot is blooming and its sage like fragrance just smells like autumn for some reason. Toads are getting big and fat on all the insects they’ve consumed and scads of their offspring are all over the lawn when mowing it. The fall birds have started to make their presence known too. There are some young nuthatches trying out the sunflower feeders now and the blue jays are becoming more numerous and more raucous with their calling. Chickadees, who have been absent for much of the time since early last winter are suddenly setting up camp in the windbreak. And last but not least, could it be that the male goldfinches are beginning to lose a little of that ray of summer sunshine glow? Say it ain’t so!

The little fat buddies have been on hiatus much of the summer although they found some time the other day to squeeze in a rare late summer session to eat cake and donuts as well as to discuss the Great Depression. Speaking of the Depression, I had the privilege to receive a 1938 Depression era copy of Successful Farming from my brother who had found it in one of his travels. It is in pristine condition so I make sure to keep it in its plastic sleeve when not perusing the pages. All kinds of fascinating info and much of it giving one a feel for the agriculture of the day. Producing fat hogs was a source of pride and by gum there’s an article that could help you accomplish that goal. Oddly enough, there was an ad for Parmak electric fencers. The electric fencer we have at the kindly neighbors pasture is a Parmak and they’re still being manufactured to this day. A little different perhaps than the 6 volt battery powered model offered in that old magazine but still keeping livestock on their side of the fence none the less. Now if they’d just invent an electric lid to keep the little fat buddies on their side of the cake pan.

See you next week …real good then.
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Maybe the Beach Boys have got you now…

The scurs wasted no time predicting the moderating temperatures and now they’re working on getting some rain back in the forecast. Will we get it? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs near 75 and lows around 55. Thursday, mostly sunny becoming mostly cloudy with a chance of an evening shower. Highs 75 – 80 and lows 60 – 65. Mostly cloudy Friday with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs 75 – 80 and lows around 60. Partly cloudy on Saturday with highs near 75 and lows dipping to 55. Clear skies on Sunday with highs of 80 and lows of 60. Partly cloudy Monday with a chance of an evening shower. Highs once again near 80 and lows of 60. Warmer and a chance of showers under partly cloudy skies for Tuesday. Highs of 85 and lows near 60. The normal high for August 15th is 82 and the normal low is 59. We slip to under 14 hours of daylight for the first time since April 26th. The scurs think this may be the catalyst we need to spur on the chances for some of those April showers.

The Full Moon for the month will occur on August 13th and is known by several names. The fishing tribes of the Great Lakes called this the Full Sturgeon Moon as this was the time of year these large fish were most easily caught. It was also known as the Full Red Moon as the moon tended to be red from all the haze in the air when it rose. It also goes by The Green Corn Moon and The Full Grain Moon. The Ojibwe called this the Full Berry Moon as blueberries were ripe for the picking. The Sioux called this The Moon When Geese Shed Their Feathers. Judging by the number seen roaming area lawns, my guess is they’re shedding more than feathers.

Crop progress continues at a breakneck pace with some corn already in the milk stage. More pollination issues are evident although there are probably more issues due to tip back related to lack of precipitation locally. Soybeans are huge with numerous fields containing plants 4’ tall. They look nice but with the heavy canopy and cooler weather comes increased risk for white mold. There are some bona fide R5 soybeans out there so that should help. Soybean aphids continue to play mind games: Will they reach treatable levels or won’t they? Those levels are all over the board with areas where soybeans were planted later getting hit hard and others slowly increasing where planting dates were earlier and maturity of the plants is advanced. Some made prophylactic insecticide applications a few weeks ago and it will be interesting to see if the aphids make an encore appearance in these fields. Reported small grain harvest woes continue the trend set last week. Poor spring wheat yields in the 30 – 40 bu./acre range and oats yields of 65 – 70 bu./acre, about half of what they were last year. Factor in lower quality on both crops and without a pretty lucrative price, it will make it easier to forget about them next year. Sweet corn harvest is underway and so far there is some optimism. If we continue this dry trend that optimism may fade quickly.

After making some initial discoveries in the garden at the ranch, decided it might be a good time over the weekend to see what other vegetables might be ready. More zucchini of course in addition to the cukes and new potatoes. One variety of snap peas rallied to produce one more picking in spite of all the heat they’d been through. They were small but still very sweet none the less. Somewhat surprisingly, the sweet corn appeared ready. It had tasseled and silked less than two weeks ago. Checked a couple ears and sure enough, nice long ears filled to the tips with plump kernels begging to be gnawed on. The sheep always like this time of year. They get the husks and silks as well as the cobs once we’re done with them. The green and yellow string beans have started to set some pods so it won’t be long and they’ll be ready. The tomatoes are coming but if this year is like most, late August and September is tomato time. Lots of fruit set and the plants are healthy as a horse.

The garden flowers are also getting geared up for the hummingbird migration. The four o’clocks are just starting to flower and the red salvia has really come on after a little watering as have the impatiens. The morning glories are climbing the pole and the hummers were seen checking out the tiger lilies one last time before they lose all their petals. The hummers like their nectar feeders to be sure however they like the real McCoy once in awhile too. We continue to host the oriole families and it is gratifying to still see the male orchard oriole occasionally. Seeing him makes me feel that all is right with the world even though events in the news may sometimes attempt to make one believe otherwise.

Made some time after chores last week to go see the Beach Boys concert in Albert Lea. Somehow over the years I managed to miss them at State Fair and other venues. Decided I’d probably better go see what’s left of them anyway or they’d all be dead. Oh sure, I’ve seen all kinds of “geezer bands” at the Freeborn Co. Fair such as America, BTO, and Three Dog Night but few where one knew the words to most of the songs. In my younger days as part of a band we actually performed some of their tunes. My appreciation of their intertwined flowing harmonies is great so my attendance was a given. They performed all their wonderful oldies but they had me right away when they stopped to joke about taking an intermission along with a nap. My kind of band.

See you next week…real good then.


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You love the thunder, you love the rain

The scurs got the rain forecast and even though it was parceled out it was still a welcome sight. Will we see more this week? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm. Highs near 80 and lows around 60. Thursday, mostly clear with highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 60 – 65. Mostly sunny becoming partly cloudy on Friday with a slight chance of a shower during the day and a slightly better chance of showers overnight. Highs 80 – 85 with lows near 65. Partly cloudy Saturday with a modest chance of showers increasing by evening. Highs 80 – 85 and lows around 60. Slightly cooler for Sunday under mostly sunny skies. Highs 75 – 80 and lows of 55 – 60. Partly sunny for Monday with highs around 80 and lows near 60. Slightly warmer and mostly sunny on Tuesday with highs of 80 – 85 and lows around 60. The normal high for August 20 is 81 and the normal low is 58. The scurs will be hitting the food stands hard at the Steele Co. Fair as a warm up for the Great MN Get Together the following week.

After going o-fer the first third of the month, some nice rains fell over the weekend. While they were metered they were still welcome. Oh sure, the gloom and doom crowd has already weighed in that it wasn’t enough to maintain the crop that’s developing out here in the field. While that may be true in some respects, maybe they’d be happier if we didn’t get any rain at all. We may not have the crop we could’ve had but then we never do. We have a better crop here than many places so we’d better be thankful for that at the very least. Personally, I love to hear some thunder and some rain on the roof this time of year. Some early planted, early maturing soybeans are pushing R6 so the heat we had during July and the first part of August really moved things along quickly. Some early planted early maturing corn showing some denting already too so the corn is on the same page. Sweet corn yields have been respectable but no record setting yields are being talked about.

The area bird watching has included the sandhill cranes once again. Almost scared the bejeezus out of me one night while I was weeding the garden. It looked like 3 small airplanes were circling over my shoulder. At night they have been holed up by the pond letting out that almost creepy hollow call. This of course upsets Ruby to no end causing her to woof loudly. With me it just causes me to tell Ruby to be quiet then roll over to go back to sleep, glad to hear them once again. Speaking of hearing birds again, the chickadees that were setting up shop in the windbreak figured out that the goldfinches were hanging at the feeders for a reason. Now the chickadees flit back and forth when they find an opening, knowing the sunflower seeds are ripe for the taking. They’re a good guide too as when the feeder gets empty, they’ll hang upside down from one of the perches, trying to get an angle on one last seed stuck in the opening. The final nest of wrens appears to be on the wing as are the last of the tree swallows in the nesting box at the kindly neighbors. It is quiet now in the morning with no wrens or robins singing, only the sound of goldfinches and hummingbirds. Fall is edging ever closer.

In the garden the string beans are about ready for the first picking. The mosquitoes that were the bane of all lawn and garden enthusiasts have slowed immensely with the drier weather. This makes it more pleasant to find those zucchini that suddenly grew from 12” to 24” overnight. The first planting of sweet corn is coming to a close. It lasted longer than I would’ve guessed given the heat. The second planting is coming on although it may have some colored kernels due to the close proximity to the Indian corn that took its sweet time to tassel and silk. Oh well, it might look more like eating a bowl of fruit loops than an ear of corn.

Was in the mob movie watching mode with such notables as Scarface and The Godfather the other day. Oddly enough, I never get the chance to watch any of these in their entirety. Someone usually calls and interrupts or I fall asleep. So with that in mind while drowsily channel surfing one night, decided to watch what I thought was a show about a mafia hit man. The show is called Billy the Exterminator and if any of you have ever seen it, you know that it has nothing to do with the mafia. As the name implies, it has everything to do with a guy looking like a biker dude from Louisiana who goes around killing cockroaches, wasps and rats as well as catching snakes, javelinas, raccoons and squirrels, etc. The show kept my interest and I couldn’t look away; must’ve watched 3 episodes in a row. Just something fascinating about watching someone getting stung or bit and coming out on top without resorting to excessive swearing and nuclear weapons.

See you next week…real good then.



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Oh won’t you stay just a little bit longer?

The scurs managed to scare up some light showers last week, darn light showers that is. What’s on tap this go round? Starting Wednesday, mostly clear with highs near 85 and lows around 60. Thursday and Friday partly cloudy skies, highs in the low 80’s and lows near 60 with a slight chance of rain Friday. Slightly warmer on Saturday with highs of 80 – 85 and lows again near 60. Sunday, partly cloudy, with a slight chance of a shower. Highs near 75 and lows of 55. Mostly sunny for Monday and Tuesday with highs of 75 and lows of 55. The normal high for August 28th is 79 and the normal low is 55. The scurs will be making a beeline to their favorite foot long hot dog stand on the NE corner of the Coliseum at the MN State Fair.

Crops continue to march towards harvest with much of the corn denting or starting to this past week. Moderate temperatures have helped this crop hang on but time is starting to run out. Each passing day without rain takes the potential yield down a fraction. The soybeans are in a similar predicament, having largely finished flowering. There are clusters of pods on top hanging in the balance. Given some timely rain soon, they may keep a large percentage of those pods. Without it, the opposite is likely to be true. There were still some fields where soybean aphid numbers were continuing to build after early spraying in July. It may be beneficial to check these fields just to see what the infestation levels are. Third cutting hay appears to be a short commodity as little rain falling within the last month will limit tonnage substantially.

The garden at the ranch is kicking out zucchini at such a rapid pace, I’m wondering if we should sneak them into the neighbors Harvestore. Cucumbers are showing up at a rapid pace too. Between them and the zucchini that get too large, the sheep are waiting at the fence when it looks like there may be some goodies that land on their side. The 2nd planting of sweet corn appears almost ready to begin harvesting. If temperatures remain moderate and it stays good as long as the first planting did we should have corn well into September. The string beans kicked out several gallons of beans this past week and there are more developing. The tomatoes are loaded as are the muskmelons, leading one to believe if Jack Frost stays away for much of September, there should be an ample supply of both. Apples are beginning to blush and the chokeberries are black, meaning we’d better hurry or the birds will have consumed them all.

Would appear the hummingbird migration is underway. Lots of them darting around the yard, sampling flowers such as the salvia, petunias and 4 o’clocks now in full bloom. They’re also pulling harder on the nectar feeders. The orioles have started to say their goodbyes I’m afraid. The male orchard oriole was a no-show this past week for the first time in months. Likewise with some of the more brightly colored male Baltimore orioles. There is still a gang of young of both species but the amount of jelly they’re consuming makes me wonder how much longer it’ll be before they’re gone. Makes one sad that they can’t stay longer.

Through the marvels of technology this slightly abridged column is being written while I’m on the road as part of the Midwest Pro Farmer Crop Tour. The trip out to Columbus OH was largely uneventful and there was little in the way of rainfall for much of the distance. It had just rained in Columbus prior to our arriving there however. The corn crop looked about as advertised from the road: Variable and suffering from diseases such as Goss’s wilt in addition to obviously being nitrogen deficient across much of IL and IN. The soybeans at least from the road appear to have fared better at least from a plant health standpoint although some may be behind maturity-wise if the field we plant a sample plant from is any indication. We’ll know the scoop better by the evening of August 25th after sampling fields across the Midwest.

Packing for the Pro Farmer Crop Tour it became apparent that I lack clothes folding talent. Women apparently are naturally born with this gene. When I pack the clothes usually look like they rode around wadded up under the seat in my pickup for a week. When Mrs. Cheviot packs them for me, the clothes always look like they did hanging in the hanger. Word to the wise: Always have your wife pack your suitcase. That way you can get on to bigger and better things like taking a nap to rest up for your trip, wherever it may be.

See you next week…real good then.
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All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.

The scurs have made themselves scarce after failing to scrape up much for rainfall this past week. Will they be able to come out of hiding soon? Starting Wednesday, partly cloudy becoming mostly sunny. Highs of 80 – 85 and lows of 65- 70. Thursday, mostly clear with a good chance of an evening shower or thunderstorm. Highs near 90 and lows around 70. Partly cloudy on Friday with a slightly better chance of showers. Highs 80 – 85 and lows 55 – 60. Saturday, partly cloudy with a slight chance of shower. Highs 75 – 80 and lows near 55. Mostly sunny and cooler on Sunday. Highs 70 – 75 and lows of 45 – 50. Monday, partly sunny with highs around 70 and lows of 50 – 55. Mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a good chance of rain showers. Highs near 70 with lows around 50. The normal high for September 5th is 76 and the normal low is 52. As of the 26th, the sun is rising after 6:30 a.m. and is setting before 8 p.m. The scurs will be celebrating Labor Day by napping while dreams of MN State Fair pronto pups dance in their heads.

After being on the road with the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour for a week it’s good to get back home and see what’s transpired with the local crops. Unfortunately very little of it has been for the better. Our patented August “mini-drought” the past week coupled with a 90 degree day, followed by an 85 degree days with strong southerly winds put major stress on the crop. It hastened maturity as well. When I left, much of the corn was dented but not showing much of a milk line yet. Now in many fields the milk line is already half-way down. Silage harvest is underway and the promise of more heat this week will push corn maturity even more rapidly. A rain at this point will only help maintain the yield that is there, it won’t increase it. The soybeans on the other hand still have some upside potential, if it rains. Without it, the last pods set are likely to abort leaving the intangibles of bean size and weight to influence final yield.

Yes, another Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour is in the books. This was my 8th tour of duty and all in all it went pretty smoothly. Oh sure there were a few bumps in the road like the thunderstorm that hit about the time we were heading across the IN/IL border near Kankakee. As luck would have it, my rain suit and overshoes were riding around with the people who were hauling our luggage from point A to point B. After waiting out the storm awhile, we quick ducked into Wally World, grabbed some boots and another rain suit then kept on truckin’. The crop was about as advertised. The late, wet start in states like OH, IN, and IL was evident. Corn in OH was very green yet primarily because it had been put in the ground late. Much of it was still milk to dough stage so it had a long way to go. Luckily the protection afforded them by the Great Lakes helps keep the odds of a frost there to a minimum as we saw in 2009. Wet conditions following planting caused large amounts of nitrogen loss particularly in IN and IL. Planted in wet conditions, shallow root systems, along with lack of rain then being exposed to extreme heat raised havoc with yield potential. Add in a corn crop in the Western Corn Belt that had been exposed to disease, lack of moisture in addition to excessive heat and a record corn crop it doth not make.

On the soybean side, a less than perfect crop although perhaps not quite as mortally wounded as the corn crop. The soybean pods we saw across most of the eastern Corn Belt were still pretty flat and soil moisture with the exception of parts of OH and parts of IL where the aforementioned thunderstorm travelled was lacking. Insect and disease pressure were at low levels so at least it had that going for it. The area of IA we travelled through had a nice looking bean crop with plenty of pods and were true R6 soybeans.

Arriving back home and with Mrs. Cheviot at the State Fair, it was time to get back to work on some of the projects that were left dangling. The lawn was a mishmash of weeds, crabgrass, barnyardgrass and dormant bluegrass and the trimming hadn’t been done. The ranch was approaching that abandoned farmstead look. The flowerbeds and garden looked like weed control plots and there were vegetables to be harvested. Along with that, the orioles are still here as are the migrating hummingbirds so their feeders needed filling and cleaning too. It would’ve been nice to sleep after a week of driving, meetings, a time change, getting up early and staying up late as well as having microphones, digital recorders and TV cameras in your face. However it’s just not that easy after being “on” all week to flick a switch and turn it off like that, at least not for me. Must be some of that Border Collie rubbing off on me so I put my nervous energy to work. Mower blades were sharpened, the weed eater gassed up, and bags and buckets were prepared. Ruby and I were ready to rock.

The real Border Collie Ruby was again on sensory overload with all the lawnmower tire biting and hiding from the weed eater to be done. She heads to the barn whenever the chainsaw or weed eater come out of hibernation where she entertains herself by staring down the sheep. No doubt she had even more fun staying with our dog sitting friends at Beaver Lake while we were gone. Ruby made new friends with their neighbor’s golden retriever Josie. Took a little while I was told but before long, there were 2 dogs having a great time running and playing with each other. As it should be.

See you next week…real good then.

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But there’s a full moon risin’, let’s go dancin’ in the light…

The scurs breathed a sigh of relief after coming through with some much needed rain on Friday and Saturday. They went into hiding once again after predicting rain on Tuesday. What are the odds we’ll see more rainfall this time around? Starting Wednesday, mostly clear with highs of 70 – 75 and lows around 50. Thursday through Saturday, mostly clear with highs of 75 – 80 and lows near 55. Partly cloudy on Sunday with highs of 75 – 80 and lows of 55 -60. Mostly sunny again on Monday with highs around 80 and lows near 60. Partly cloudy becoming mostly cloudy on Tuesday with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs near 75 with lows of 50 – 55. The normal high for September 10th is 75 and the normal low is 50. The sun begins setting before 7:30 p.m. on the 13th. The scurs will be glad as it is safer for them to operate wit the windows open under the cover of darkness.

The 12th ushers in the Full Moon and since it is the Full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox it is known as the Harvest Moon. Even though relatively little will be harvested by that day the period between this and the next will likely see harvest activity. This moon is called such as it allowed those early settlers to work into the evening under the moonlight. The Ojibwe called this the Rice Moon for the wild rice they were harvesting and the Sioux, concerned with the buffalo called this the Moon When Calves Grow Hair and the Moon When Plums are Scarlett. Not much different than today; it was all about food.

The benefit to the crops from this last rain were somewhat minimal depending on how much you received and what stage of growth they were in. Much of the corn was half milk line or more so the benefit was likely nonexistent in those cases. Some of the latest planted corn if one happened to receive and inch or so probably got some mileage out of it. Likewise with some of the soybeans. Some of the flat pods may have the potential to fill yet and there may be some seed size and/or weight gain as a result of the rain as well. Following the showers, there are finally some soybeans turning so we may well harvest some of them in September yet. The rain definitely showed promise in some of the pastures and hay fields.

The pasture at home greened up almost overnight following the rain as did the lawn. All told at the ranch we received a shade over ˝”. The lawn will need attention again before the weekend. At Mom’s near Spring Valley, nearly 1.5” fell over the same period so the lawn there should be ready to bale by the weekend. The home pasture at the ranch has been getting shorter as the summer has progressed. However the sheep have been doing well on the native prairie portion, grazing on the warm season grasses such as yellow Indiangrass and big bluestem. With any luck we will see some fall recharge before too much longer and the cool season grasses will be more to their liking.

There are still some indications it’s not quite autumn just yet. On September 1st, there was a lone firefly still flashing us and after one of the rain showers, there was a little green tree frog glued on the outside of the living room window. Neither will likely be the case in another couple months. The barn swallows are still hanging on at the ranch although given the large flocks of swallows congregating on the wires, one of these days our little bug eating friends will fly the coop for warmer climes. The orioles have remained another week as well. There have been several mature Baltimore males this past week, some juveniles and a few female orchard orioles. They’re relatively quiet though and it’s beginning to sound more like fall with chickadee, nuthatch and blue jay calls dominating the crisp, cool air.

Ruby is in training camp for fall. The only way to get good at anything is to practice and that’s what we’ve been trying to do every night we can. At the kindly neighbors pasture we’ve been working at putting the ewes in the barn, something that needs to happen before they can be trailered back home for another season. The first night she did well after I walked with her to the north end of the pasture where the sheep like squabbling over the apples that fall out of the old tree there. Upon spotting Ruby they took off on a dead run and the chase was on. She cut them off and after a few “stop” commands, they decided she was too quick and went in the barn. The second night, she was excited when I let her out of the truck and wanted to get out on the pasture. I opened the gate for her and she took off on her own to the north end of the pasture. Within seconds the sheep were coming at me and went in the barn with minimal effort. I love it when a plan comes together.

The garden has definitely come together as there are string beans coming out of our ears right now and the carrots are as sweet as sugar. The horseradish is tempting me to dig it this fall and rightfully so. It’s great with most red meat and is a major contributor to other condiments like cocktail sauce. One of my little fat buddies and I had lunch one noon at the local eatery and the waitress there was extolling the virtues of horseradish with the special that day. “It’ll put hair on your chest!” she proudly proclaimed. Hmmm, I though to myself, this might explain a few things about some of the girls I used to go out with.

See you next week…real good then.
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…gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting…

The scurs have been on easy street as it’s real been real easy to predict rain: There isn’t any. Will there be any chances of precip any time soon? Starting with Wednesday, partly cloudy with highs of 55- 60 and lows falling to 35 giving us a chance of scattered frost, especially in low lying areas. Clear on Thursday with highs around 60 and lows again of 35 – 40 with yet again another chance of scattered frost in low lying areas. Mostly clear on Friday and slightly warmer with highs of 60 – 65 and lows of 50 – 55. Partly cloudy Saturday and Sunday with highs of 70 – 75 and lows of 50 – 55 both days. A slight chance of rain for Sunday night. Mostly cloudy on Monday with a chance of showers and highs around 70, lows of 50 – 55. Cloudy again on Tuesday with a chance of showers. Highs 60 – 65 and lows of 50 – 55. The normal high for September 15th is 72 and the normal low is 48. The scurs will keep predicting precipitation on the premise that one of these days they’ll be right.

Precipitation or lack thereof has been on the mind of everyone as this crop closes in on maturity. Fortunately moderate daytime and cool evening temps the past 2 weeks have helped us to make the most of the stored soil moisture and precipitation we have had. We have gone a long time without a substantial rainfall event. To put things in perspective the last time we measured an inch or more of rain on a widespread basis was back on July 16th. Since that time we have measured only 2.23” and at the Mall for Men the amount is a tad less than that. It doesn’t help matters that the rainfall we have had has come in measured amounts, needing several cracks at it to add up to a half inch. Much of the corn is approaching maturity and the frost predicted for Wednesday night should have little impact on most fields. The soybeans however are a different ballgame. Fields have been slow to turn which is a good thing from a potential yield standpoint. When it comes to a frost though, damage could be devastating if it’s cold enough and of long enough duration.

About a week after the last rain fell and greened up the pasture it turned back to brown again. Many livestock producers are in the same boat. If this drought persists and pastures don’t re-grow soon, there will need to be a lot of hay fed that’s already in short supply. The easy way out would be to liquidate the livestock enterprise which somehow doesn’t sound too bad come about January. Everyone knows that won’t happen however. There wouldn’t be anything left to complain about once a person managed to dig out of the snow banks and got to town.

The birds and insects don’t seem to mind and go about their business the same as ever. Cicadas were buzzing like mid-summer with the recent heat and there were still some fireflies yet on the 10th. There are still a few orioles yet, a male Baltimore was eating at the nectar feeder on the 11th and there was a female orchard oriole eating jelly yet on the evening of the 12th. Goldfinches are numerous and can empty the feeder that holds just over a gallon of sunflower seed in about a day. With the price that sunflower seed commands these days, I make them clean it up before more is offered at least in that feeder anyway. Hummingbirds are busy during the daytime at the nectar feeders as well as on some of the flowers in the pots, the names of which sound more like diseases than a posies. The night shift is occupied by the white-lined sphinx moths. Around dusk when the hummingbirds hang it up for the day, typically we’ll see 4 or 5 of these relatively large moths working over the 4 o’clocks.

Insects in the corn fields right now are just about enough to make your skin crawl. There are still a few bird cherry oat aphids that make a mess on your shirt and the goo they contain makes you itch. That and all the black stuff from the molds on the corn plants sticks to your skin better. There are some insects will taste test you as well. The main things that bite are the ladybug and lacewing larvae. They’re shaped almost like little alligators and the bite sometimes burns a little or stings until one wipes them off. No biggy, you just keep on truckin’. Doesn’t even leave a welt anymore.

The hot summer has necessitated that I keep a pair of shorts in the truck for days when the heat gets to be unbearable. Usually I start out with a pair of jeans on and after looking at a few fields, it’s time to change. The recent hot spell was a prime example. By 11 a.m., it was getting too warm. I’ve perfected changing to an art where step one after pulling into a field approach is to take off one boot, stand on one leg, quick slide out of one leg of the pants and put on one leg of the shorts, then slip my foot back into the boot so as not to get my sock all full of crud. Repeat step one with the other side and voila! All changed. Some have asked if I’m afraid someone is going to see me in my underwear. Nah, I find one can fool ‘em every once in awhile by going commando.

See you next week…real good then.
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All I see turns to brown…

While the scurs were a little off on their predicted frost temperature, the event occurred anyway. Any chance of an encore performance any time soon? Starting Wednesday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of a shower. Highs near 55 and lows 40 – 45. Thursday, partly cloudy with highs of 55 – 60 and lows of 35 – 40. Mostly clear both Friday and Saturday with highs near 70 and lows of 45 – 50. Sunday and Monday, clear to partly cloudy with highs of 75 with lows near 50. Tuesday, cooler under mostly sunny skies. Highs 65 – 70 and lows once again near 50. The normal high for this year’s autumnal equinox on September 23rd is 70 and the normal low is 45.On the 21st, the sun will rise at approximately 7 a.m. and on the 26th, we will officially be under 12 hours of daylight, something which last occurred on March 17th. The scurs will be enjoying a closely supervised recreational fire to make Some-mores.

Dry is about all one can say about the last 2 months. A killing frost managed to bring an end to the growing season rather abruptly last Wednesday night and Thursday morning. The damage was evident around the yards and gardens and by 8 a.m. one could smell the aroma of silage from area corn and soybean fields. Not to say there weren’t areas that were hit harder than others and no question low lying areas took the hardest hit. With soils as dry as they’re been crops and gardens became easy targets. How much injury the crops sustained remains to be seen and it depends on who one talks to. Some are convinced their green as grass soybeans are still going to produce better than everyone thinks. While that could be, one thing is certain: Past experience with such events has caused a delay in maturity on the soybean crop. Those who had anticipated being all done with soybean harvest by October 1 may want to adjust their harvest schedule.

Rainfall continues to be an issue as well. Despite the welcome rainfall on Sunday and Tuesday morning, we still are running behind normal for the month. At the ranch and in the gauge at the Mall for Men, we have garnered a measly .8” for the month. There are positives in that lawn mowing is largely unnecessary and wiping mud off your boots hasn’t been an issue. The negatives are overwhelming including corn fields that are a tinder dry potential fire hazard and the pasture that has turned to brown. With the exception of the native prairie area, grass is becoming scarce and it may mean visiting with the Dubya’s about some of those year old round bales they’ve been trying to sell me for oh, say about a year.

At the ranch, we set pots and planters in the garage as well as covering the tender vegetation we wanted to save such as the tomatoes. They were just too nice and starting to bear. Luckily we had several long hospital curtains someone gave us way back when that turned out to be just the ticket. Much heavier than bed sheets, they protected the ‘maters and peppers extremely well. And we wondered what on earth we’d ever do with those old things! Mrs. Cheviot even covered the hummingbirds’ beloved 4 o’clocks and while they were covered with bed sheets, the soil there had been watered so it retained the heat better than other areas on the grounds where we hadn’t.

At first we thought the frost had pushed all the hummers south. There was no sign of them through Monday morning, convincing me they had flown the coop. Then suddenly Monday evening, I noticed the nectar feeders were down from the Ľ full mark where they’d been in the morning. Sure enough, before chores there a couple feeding on the salvia and pulling on the nectar feeders once again. They won’t stay too much longer although every day they’re here now is one day more than we thought we had. The sphinx moths on the other hand have not returned although with some warmer nights, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them working over the flowers in the bed again.

A heads up to all those who may have some squash or pumpkins remaining in the garden. You may want to check them for cucumber beetle and rootworm feeding. Seeing the petals on the sunflowers that had been so pretty in the morning all chewed to pieces before nightfall, I decided to go check the squash and pumpkins as they are frequently victims of neglect. Sure enough there were plenty of striped cucumber beetles, spotted cucumber beetles (also known as Southern corn rootworm beetles), Western corn rootworm beetles and northern corn rootworm beetles chewing the outer skin on them. Luckily they were primarily focused on the immature squash and pumpkins so a quick treatment with an insecticide quickly subdued them in a very localized manner. Harvesting some that were ripe also helped the cause.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent raisin bars that Auntie Mar Mar sent my way. Like my Mom’s pie and bars, I hoard them because I don’t want anyone to know I have them until after they’re all gone. With a tall glass of milk, they’re absolutely wonderful as a snack after a long writing session. Along with the garden vegetables, raisin bars make me a regular columnist. There, that ought to get me back in her good graces or at least get me more raisin bars.

See you next week…real good then.

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I tried so hard to stand as I stumbled and fell to the ground…

The scurs have been leading a charmed life. In spite of some of the early week drizzle, not too many complaints about the past week’s weather. If you liked that, you should love this week. Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs near 75 and lows around 55. Thursday, mostly sunny with highs of 70 and lows dropping to 45. Clear on Friday and slightly cooler. Highs 60 – 65 and lows around 40. Saturday, clear with highs of 65 – 70 and lows of 50. Clear once again on Sunday with highs of 70 and lows of 40 – 45. Monday, clear with highs of 60 – 65 and lows of 45 – 50. Tuesday we see partly cloudy skies and highs of 65 – 70 with lows around 50. Our normal high for October 1 is 68 and the normal low is 42. The sun will set prior to 7 p.m. on the 29th reminding us that summer is gone for real. The scurs will be burning a little more kerosene in the lantern while reading their Star-Eagle each evening.

Some harvest activity has taken place in the area and results have been surprisingly good, especially when one takes into account the amount of stalk rot present in some fields. Corn has been running in the 180 – 200 bu./acre range with moistures from the upper teens to the mid- 20% range. Test weights have been decent as well, something we wouldn’t have guessed coming off the hot weather in August. Apparently our cool finish has paid some dividends. With the exception of some earlier maturing varieties planted early, soybeans are lagging behind as expected after the frost/freeze. Yields on those that were mature have been a pleasant surprise although the impact from the frost on full season varieties remains a major factor in what will likely be an overall disappointing soybean crop. With some fields already harvested, fall tillage has begun. Most are saying it’s pulling hard, something that should come as no surprise as dry as it’s been. Wasn’t unusual as a lad when plowing in dry conditions to jump off the tractor at the end of the field to feel the moldboards and they’d be warm.

Activity at the birdfeeders has been slower than in past weeks, something that’s not altogether a bad thing. The hungry goldfinches’ appearances have been more sporadic perhaps due to the increased number of small hawks in the area as others have noted. The orioles are a faded memory and now it appears the hummingbirds have may have joined their ranks. The last one spotted at the ranch was Friday morning the 23rd and while the flowers are still bountiful, it doesn’t appear they’ll make an encore performance. Still, with the leaves so green yet, one almost expects to see one. The ash leaves being about hummingbird size and color serve as the perfect camouflage if they are still around. The fall birds are becoming more entrenched including nuthatches, chickadees, and a male red-bellied woodpecker. The giant blue jays, about the size of leghorns are back again too for what could be a long winter.

We continue to pick away at the garden bounty. The tomatoes are finally starting to ripen and it’s not surprising they’re taking this long after seeing how green the sweet corn stayed right beside them. No manure or commercial fertilizer was used and the sweet corn was green as grass until the freeze ended the growing season. Muskmelons have been less than expected. With a later than desired planting date they never seemed to get out of the blocks. Time to dig carrots and potatoes before the weather changes its mind. Indian corn is once again the star of the show. The ears are long, filled to the tips and relatively free of insect and disease such as common smut. It’s like unwrapping a gift each time an ear is husked to reveal the wide variety of colors and unique patterns formed by the kernels. The apples have been a hit as well. The Firesides have been excellent eating and the Haralsons are blushing red so it won’t be long before trying them out in a pie or two. It’s hard to make a house smell much better than that.

Fall colors around the ranch are coming slowly. The sumac brush on the road cut is starting to turn brilliant red and the wild plums are developing a soft flame-orange tinge. Other trees are slower to change and any leaves falling on the pasture side of the fence are quickly devoured by the ewes. In the fenceline, some Virginia creeper vines are providing a sharp contrast to the still green leaves of the trees they’re climbing. Nannyberry fruit is starting to turn bluish-black and the leaves are showing the slightest hint of a scarlet turn.

With the MN sports weekend being a bust, it was time to put some rams in with the ewes at both pastures. Shadow, the older ram we had been using decided his time had come so we needed to use another ram in his stead. Shadow was aptly named as anytime you turned your back he was right there. He usually wouldn’t hit you but he’d sure make you think he could. If he did hit you, he inflicted major pain, knocking you down making it tough to get back up. The ram we put in to replace him proved to be rather obstinate about moving from his pen into the pasture with his new harem. What a fool! Ruby came to the rescue however, getting around behind him and at least convincing him she might take a hunk out of his backside. He moved the direction we wanted, allowing us to get him back inside the fence where we could regroup with another panel and force him through the gate. Dealing with an ornery critter that outweighs you by 50 – 75 lbs., is faster than greased lightning and equipped with 4 wheel drive, you need all the help you can get.

See you next week…real good then.


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