I’ve been a bum. Oh, I put the fencer on the hot wire I’d erected around the buildings over on the west farm. I placed feed and water in front of the lame cow. I’m even cutting and splitting wood for the heat in the house. A few truck loads so far. But that’s about all I’ve done. Catch up on sleep, does that count? I don’t seem to be able to stay awake after dark anymore. I seem to wake up with the dawn even if I’ve promised myself to sleep in once in a while. Which helps with keeping the home fires burning. I know gas, oil, and LP are all cheaper this year but they don’t grow on trees. Not immediately at least. Wood doesn’t grow on trees either, trees grow on wood. It’s not wood until it’s swallowed by tree. Besides, I’m a creature of habit. I love the feeling of wood heat radiating into my tired old bones. So even when I’m lazy I don’t seem to get any time off. Such it is when we’re convinced there’s things we need. I’ve been a bum but it’s been a full time job. That’s life.

What I haven’t been doing is writing. Not just here on the blog I haven’t scribbled anything down anywhere. It’s not that things haven’t popped into my head it’s just that they’ve left before I’ve felt compelled to jot them down. They maybe weren’t ready for prime time. They must need more time in the caldron, stirring and swirling around until they reach escape velocity. Waiting for the born on date. So in the mean time I’m just living. Eating, drinking, and breathing. Sleeping deep dreamless sleep and waking up rested. Glad just to wake up in a warm house on a cold day. Posting this here on the blog only because I feel guilty for not posting in a week. You’d think with only one day to go in the year I’d have something to say about it. I don’t.  ’14, ’15, ’16 I really couldn’t care less. Good economy, bad economy; good weather, bad weather; talking points I’m not interested in talking about. Maybe I’ll find some winter music. Maybe I’ll take a nap.




Two Putts Back

What a deal!

The cattle are moved. All but one. She was limping so we left her here at home. The rest were run over to the west farm. I had one daughter come home from school early and two daughters stop by home to help watch the driveways and building sites along the way without fences. The great cattle drive west went off without a hitch. It was close a couple times but we got em moved. Then I spent the rest of that day building the hot wire fence surrounding the three buildings and the hay off of that farm’s headlands and waterways. I still need to add the fencer. As long as there’s no snow and plenty to eat the cows won’t bother the not yet hot fence. That’s the theory anyway.

The warm foggy weather has been replaced with cold and windy weather. Winter is back. Just in time for winter too. Sunday is the first official day of winter. The actual first day was well over a month ago. I’ve picked over half my corn since then. The second half. I was half done when it struck. I’ve never used so much treated fuel to harvest in my life. I have picked with snow on the ground before but never with as long of a cold snap as this year. Nor as early. This past week or so of warm weather was much needed for our mental health. Cabin fever in December is not a good thing. Running the furnace eight months a year isn’t a good thing either. I don’t care how cheap fuel is getting. I really don’t since I burn wood. But I have to let the forest catch up.

I fixed the drain on the upstairs shower/tub but I broke the water main doing it. I had to reach around the main to get to the drain pipe and I must have leaned into it and broke a sweat copper fitting. One of my favorite jobs to do, sweat copper fitting soldering. Getting that solder to flow correctly into the seam is tricky work when it works. I’ve seen enough certified plumbers get leaks to know I’m very fortunate when I get one to stick right the first try. But necessity is a tough taskmaster so behind the eight ball usually works better out of necessity. Sooner or later. Having all the water out of the pipe and having your surfaces properly prepared including flux is the best tip I could give. Other than that make the solder flow back to the heat from the opposite side of the fitting is all I know. Maybe that’s all you need to know.

One putt forward. Two putts back.






Good F F F Friday. Got heat? Got a ride to California? Anywhere warm. I’ll come back and finish planting when the ground’s warm. I’m done with my corn. The first time. The nation’s 60% planted they say. The rest will get planted they say. How much will get replanted? Will the surplus shrink? (Will there even be one?) That’s been the story since January. Shrinkage. Do women know about shrinkage? The corn crop carryover could shrivel up and hide like a scared turtle. Go from it’s projected mountain to it’s realized molehill. We wouldn’t want the natives to know we’re barely growing enough to get by. With no reserves Pharaoh.

Even the sidewalks are cold. I went back into the warm house and put on thongs to keep my feet warm as I went out to get something in the van this daybreak. Thick frost on the windshield. That’s when I noticed it on the pasture across the creek bottom a half mile away. The thermometer my not have said it was freezing but the frost doesn’t lie. It’s cold. Channel 7 says record cold. Broken record lows all over the weather map. Warm and dry out west, cold and wet out east. We’re in the middle cold and dry just like the winter we can’t seem to get rid of. Damn CO2 !!! Warmal Colding at it’s best.

I would like to be reporting something coy like being done planting beans. Instead I’m going to report that I haven’t even started. It’s a good thing they are not up with the frost on the grass this morning.  Yesterday as he was finishing up tiling the backhoe operator asked if winter was ever going to be over. A much repeated question as I get out and about. It doesn’t get any better as you move north. So I’m not complaining, it can always be worse. I’m just reporting. That’s the way it is, Concrete.




Yesterday’s rain snowballed overnight to bring a white scenery this morning. We are back in winter. Until four o’clock this afternoon. That’s when the north door on the house finally thawed out enough to open. That grass really looks a pretty green emerging from the snow. We have moisture for liftoff, liftoff of the 2014 growing season.  It’s five month mission to grow enough food and fiber to survive another year. With a little help from the growth currently being harvested down south of the equator. Manifesting our destiny. One plant at a time. Just add sunlight. Viola!

I expected the markets would go down. I figured that the rain would  mean western Iowa could now at least get a crop off to a good start. They went up. Which shows you what I know. But my little corner of the world is simply that, a little corner of the very large world. What happens here isn’t all there is. The explanation I read on the Farm Futures web site said that this rain will cause delays to planting all through America’s corn belt when the country is already behind the average planting pace. I can attest to that. My neighbors have usually been planting for a week by now. They apparently haven’t turned a wheel on their planters yet. Also, the new weather forecast is for cooler and wetter going out the next couple of weeks. That could slow us up planting a little further. The markets could get hung up on that. Pick up the Pace or get a rope like the ad says.

Today I was out riding fences. Well I guess the accurate word would be walking fences. It was way too muddy to ride. I don’t have a horse. I do have mud boots. The last time I worked on the hot wire that holds the cows in to their field I forgot to turn the electricity back on when I was done. They were starting to take advantage of that fact. I had quite a few re-bar posts missing the plastic insulators that hold the hot wire up off the ground. I also wanted to lock them off of one of the corn fields they were “gleaning”. I put gleaning in quotations because there hasn’t been much to glean out there since spring started.

I was mainly giving them room to roam. Cattle are a migrant species and they like to walk long distances each day. The exercise is good for them even if it makes them eat more. As long as it’s stalks I’m not out any money. They don’t really walk. It’s more like take a few paces and stoop down to bite something edible. Since they run on the fermentation process it’s amazing what a wide variety of foodstuffs they will eat willingly. I’ve read that down in Arkansas where they grow a lot of chickens the cows are fed feathers and chicken manure. It must be mixed with something a little more palatable  since I’ve never seen them eat it up here. Even back when we had chickens.

I can’t say that I would like to eat a cow that had been fed that but I’m not down there so who knows. I do remember when they were adding anhydrous ammonia to big round bales of questionable (old) hay to give the hay more protein. Back when we had chickens and it was my brother and I’s job to haul out the chicken manure it was very high in ammonia. High enough to burn your eyes when you were in the chicken coop. Almost as much as it burns sticking your head into a bag of ammonia based fertilizer. Maybe the Arkansas boys know what they are doing. If not they may have beef that tastes like chicken ……. poop.

Bon appetite  !!


PS, here’s a little site I found very interesting. Check it out.

Here’s a song you might like ……. It kind of goes with the last one. Not to mention the post.



Winter Thaws

I had mentioned earlier how it’s been a long hard winter. By hard I mean cold. Then warm. Then colder. We’ve had our normal run of thaws, and maybe an extra one. The December thaw saw a lot of folks around here get finished up picking corn before Christmas. The snow melted off the fields nicely and I’m sure everybody was finished by the new year. The January thaw rid us of snow again and even melted down the blown snow in the road ditches.

Everywhere the soybeans were grown last year had the snow blow off into the surrounding areas. The fact that we lay a cutter bar directly on the ground to harvest the beans means there’s no upright stalks left in those fields to catch the snow like there is in the cornfields. At least the cornfields that weren’t tilled. Those tilled fields and the bean fields where anhydrous ammonia was applied had dirt, not just snow blowing off them. Brown looking snow. Until the sun shines and rapidly melts the snow portion.

The February Thaw (and any thaws snuck in between) meant that a lot of the winter we went snow free. We had cold though. Enough cold to drive the frost really deep. Maybe even deeper than the soil moisture. During one thaw I saw water running down a hill to a cow path, then along the path to a drouth crack in the ground. Then down into the crack it disappeared not to be seen again anywhere. I guess that beats having any water run clean off into a stream bed unused. Waste not , want not they say.

The March thaw is over and we’re back down in the cooler again. That is we are below normal. Which in reality only means we are below what is the average high temperature for the given day of the year. I’m in the middle of chopping wood. Not chopping really since I saw the logs with my Husky chain saw. What I’m in the middle of doing is splitting wood with a set of splitting wedges that are driven into the logs by a sledgehammer to size them down to what fits into the wood stove. I came into the house to cool down and let the sweat dry off. Wood heat, it heats you twice. Not bad exercise either.

This winter for the first time ever we have had a couple Bald Eagles hanging out here on the farm. I think it’s because the streams are all froze up and I have an old dead cow carcase lying on the side-hill I never got buried nor composted before winter set in. Add to that a couple old hags that never made it through winter and we’ve fed the eagles pretty well. Not to mention the ‘yotes, coons, and Red Tail Hawks that have been hovering around all winter. An honest to God old fashioned sky burial. And land burial. Skyland burial. I hope they return the favor if the day ever comes. The food part not the burial part. (Not that it matters all that much at that point) Friends like that could come in handy if they ever feel compelled to even the score.