Con’s Pyre C

The dawn begins to break
The birds call up their choir
A symbol of the snake
Adorned by every squire
The worms are on the take
The dwindling dew is dyer
In the sun they’ll bake
If they don’t find a buyer

The Lady of the Lake
Turns out to be a liar
Her siren calls forsake
The ones who would conspire
The people are awake
The smoke turns back to fire
Another day at stake
The ante dances higher


Jyou Lie Morning (If Jyour A Calender)

I had to bring up growing degrees. Then I went and dove into the data. There doesn’t seem to be a huge correlation. Not only that I may be off a year according to the data. Never Summer may have come in ’93 instead of what I said, ’94. There was a lower national average growing degree  accumulation in ’93 than normal and ’94 looks normal. Either way I’ve been cold more than hot the whole month of July. Which seems odd since if I read the chart right Omaha @ Epply Airport was running ahead of normal as of July 22, 2014 in it’s accumulation of growing degrees for the year. It sure hasn’t felt that way. We have shut off the air on a lot of days this year. I was warming myself on a small lawn rubbish fire outside this very morning because the temp was only 60 degrees. The grass was so cold on my bare feet in the yard that they were getting numb. And not comfortably numb either.

That little fire I made out of sticks and bark and general lawn rubbish like dead weeds and tree leaves was hot enough long enough to not only warm me but cook my pancakes as well. I used the all metal wheel barrow to hold up the griddle. I set the wheel barrow so that one of the metal handles hung out over the heat column. I then teetered the griddle on the three points that were the handle over the flame and the bulkhead of the barrow that ran along side. I kept the cooking paraphernalia inside the metal barrow away from the side near the fire. Alongside the side near the fire I kept the plate the flapjacks ended up on along with an upside down plate lid as both were warmed by the barrow transferring it’s heat. The pancakes themselves weren’t free but the fuel for the fire basically was. All I’d invested in the fuel was the energy to gather and pyramid it up to burn.

Somehow it was quite a satisfying meal.




Never Summer. It’s the name the indigenous peoples gave to the mountain range in Colorado that the snow never melts on in the summer. We visited the mountains four or five years ago during the first week of June (Nearly Summer) and the Rocky Mountain National Park was closed due to many feet of fresh snow.  I asked them when didn’t it snow up there and the locals simply said August. One month of spring / autumn and eleven months of winter. It’s never summer up there. Every year. You have to admire the native Americans, they didn’t waste words. There reaction to the European plow, ” Grass no good upside down.” The same can be said of commodity markets. We’ve under paid producers of raw materials over the years to the tune of sixteen trillion US dollars and counting.

When the cost to produce and or extract raw materials is not recovered in the market the difference has to be loaned into the economy to make up the difference.  If raw materials aren’t paid for they won’t exist. A bankrupt producer can’t produce raw materials. If raw materials don’t exist the jobs created to process raw materials no longer exist. As with the jobs that use raw materials to manufacture products. You have to pay the first dollar first. The term to express this fair price is called it’s parity price. That parity price is enshrined in the 1948 permanent law for agriculture. That’s why the farm bill always has to be renewed or the program will divert back to permanent law if not kept updated. The parity (fair) prices as of November 2112 according to the government’s own data are

Corn parity price   ………..  $12.00 per bushel ……. current (unfair) price ……. $3.63 per bushel

Soybeans parity price …….  $28.90 per bushel …….  current (unfair) price ……. $10.83 per bushel

Wheat parity price  ………..   $18.30 per bushel …….  current (unfair) price ……. $5.38 per bushel

Beef Cattle parity price  ……. $292.00 per cwt. …….  current (unfair) price ……. $159.80 per cwt

Hogs parity price  ………..  $160.00 per cwt.  …….  current (unfair) price ……. $123.62 per cwt

Milk  parity price   ……….. $52.10 per cwt.   …….  current (unfair) price …….  $23.30 per cwt

Now you know why America is at least sixteen plus trillion dollars in debt. Don’t blame social programs, blame Chicago. That’s why Congress shut them down during WWII. It takes honest prices to win a world war. Producers need paid the fair price. When Chicago says they’re taking profits that’s exactly what they’re doing. These commodities are never paid for with debt free money. The nations accounts will be never balanced. The USA will be never prosperous.

Never summer. The July that wasn’t. Cool, some would say cold nights. Cool days if your not working too hard. The forecast for August is more of the same. Never Summer. The grain traders are calling for record grain production due to the perfect pollination weather.  I wonder if they have ever heard of growing degree days. Gdd’s are the accumulated number of days at a certain temperature or above. A plant needs so many days at such and such temperatures to accumulate enough energy in itself  to produce it’s seeds. Those seeds are our crop to sell into the marketplace. I’ve heard a lot of weather references comparing this year with 1994. 1994 was the first never summer I lived through. And farmed through. I never saw it coming.

Neither did the boys in Chi Town. They didn’t know we were short on corn that year until January 1995.  They were surprised that rain didn’t make grain like their little saying says. They had no idea that you needed the sun too. Test weights were way off. A ten pound change in the test weight of a bushel of corn spread over 14,000,000,000 bushels can really add up.  It can amount to between 16% and 20% of the total amount depending on which direction you’re figuring from. I don’t think there’s too many of the ol boys left in the trading pits to remember 1994. So it might be January 2015 before the realization that never summer means never bumper crops. But we’ll have fun watching the entertainment that is Chicago until then. I’ll admit that I got burned on a couple of bins of corn this never summer. In my defense I thought everyone remembered ’94. But when rumors of corn going bad in the bins came around I emptied them all. Barely in time. Racing the market down. No dock but with prices as depressed as they are, what’s the difference.




Dad’s Tree

He’d said that when he died he wanted to be buried under it. The reason being he had already ‘died’ under it one hot afternoon back in ’56. He had just finished cultivating the field and had parked under it to look out over the valley. The whole farm actually. And a good part of a few more. There’s a reason the hawks and eagles like to perch up there. It was an exceptionally hot windy day and I can conjure up my own memories of how nice the breeze feels up on that hill in the shade of that pine. I have done it too many times to count. It’s one of the main reasons I keep the headlands sown down to grass so it’s always easily accessible. It stops erosion dead in it’s tracks too. If that five acres is the difference between making it and not I’m cutting the deck far too thin to win.

I call it Dad’s tree. When I’m talking to those brothers and sisters that know the tale they know which tree I’m talking about. The summer of 1956 western Iowa suffered a severe drouth. That afternoon after Dad had stopped to cool himself under the shade of the pine tree up on the hill north of the building site by close to a quarter mile he said the corn below him on the bottom by the creek pasture turned white before his very eyes. He said he saw his own life as a farmer slipping away with it. As corn dies from lack of moisture it tries to save itself by rolling it’s leaves up tight to preserve the moisture in the corn plant. The waxy hairy underside of the leaves is a shade or two lighter in appearance than the shiny deep green leaf top. As it further withers away and dies the plant will lose all of it’s green tint gradually turning white. Once it’s white even a rain can’t bring it all the way back to where it would have been.

He dug the hill out between the upper barn and the house to form one wall of a pit silo and he hung a few strands of snow fence on poles to form the other wall. Then he neighbored with everybody on the road to cut the shriveled crop into corn silage. He bought some drouthy cattle and put them in the cattle yard to feed them the silage. After a couple weeks they seemed to be doing worse and becoming lethargic so he asked his father to come out to the farm and have a look at the cattle and give him some advice. Grandpa took one look at the silage and told Dad he was starving the cattle, there was no corn grain in the corn silage. Fortunately Dad had some of the season before’s corn crop still in ear corn form in the crib. Once Dad had added some of that to the ration the cattle turned around at the same time the cattle market turned around and Dad said he made more money than if he’d had a good corn crop.

Dad didn’t get his wish as to where he was buried. No one but me thought much of the idea and I’ve never followed through with my threat to move his body there secretly some night. But he did get to die with the old tree. The pine trees all gradually died and when Dad’s tree was dead Dad didn’t make it much further. It was like the Pines were acknowledging the old man’s passing by jumping on the band wagon as it went by. Or was that the dead wagon. As he withered they withered. They still stand almost as grand as the years before they died. His memory still stands as grand as ever as long as I’m here to recall it. I was able to sneak a small dead branch from Dad’s tree about six to twelve inches long into Dad’s coffin on top of his chest so in essence he was buried beneath it if only a part. If he never knows it will never matter. I have a gut feeling someday he will know and I hope he appreciates the gesture for what it was.

Sleep easy Old Man. I will man the trees.



Pining On

Third base died from being girdled by all those clothes lines. We sawed it off right above the wires. That was when I was in high school. Sometime when I was gone the stump rotted off and was replaced with a post. One summer night in 1989 or 1990 during a thunderstorm the old walnut was hit by a bolt of lightning. I remember the storm because it hit in the middle of the night. While the lightning struck I swear I was elevated a foot above the bed I was laying in from the shear fear it instilled in me. The longest, loudest lightning strike I had ever experienced I thought it wasn’t going to end. I remember commenting on it to the stay at gone mom who only grumbled and went back to sleep. I only wished I’d looked out the window directly above my head and had seen the scene. It must have been one hell of a show.

In the morning the trees told the tale. According to the missing bark, lightning had traveled down the side of the old walnut in three streaks. When it had arrived at the number nine wire only one steak finished on into the ground. The other two streaks followed the wire around the triangle to the second base pine and the third base post then on down into the ground. The passing current had exploded the post, splitting it lengthwise into three or four sticks with the wire the only thing holding the upper end together. The longest wire to the east pine was no longer attached for lack of use when the lightning made it’s rounds, saving the eastern pine and possibly saving me from levitating completely away that night. I have often wondered if that is what ultimately led to second base’s demise. Or was it my nails?

I know pine trees were not indigenous to the area so their demise may have been predetermined upon planting them here. That aside they certainly flourished here for what had to be a long time given the girth and height of the trunks they’ve left behind. I’ve personally known them for over fifty years. Not counting the third base pine that we’d determined was killed by being wire girdled years earlier the second base pine was the first to show the symptoms of whatever killed the pine trees on this farm. The needles on the lower branches started to turn brown during the course of the year. At first I thought the culprit was a swing rope girdling the one branch so I sawed it off beyond where the swing was attached. Then the next one up showed the same symptoms.

Within a couple years the whole tree had succumbed to the browning needles. About that time the pine east of the house was starting to show brown needles on it’s lower branches. As was Dad’s tree up north on the hill by the headlands. Within a couple more years they were all dead. Today not a needle is left on any of the pine trees’ branches. Most of the trunks are missing bark. Owls and red tailed hawks still love to perch on the trees’ upper bows  even without the needles and maybe because the needles are missing. Occasionally I’ll see a turkey vulture or two on the one up north on the hill in the field, aka Dad’s tree. Last winter a couple of bald eagles were spotted more than once using that often utilized perch. One snow white on it’s head the other not so white.