How I spent my summer

barnI want to tell you how I spent my summer. I know the first day of summer occurred in the last week. The truth is that summer is already one-third complete. If you are lucky enough not to work on Labor Day, you will most likely awake to a whiff of fall and know that summer lasts only but a blink in Minnesota. For this reason, I am going to avoid the rush and tell you about my summer now.

Like most seasons, I spent summer letting the cats outside and letting them inside. I think there is a special sort of anticipation for cats as to what lies on the other side of a door. Their feline mind must see nothing but possibility with the opening of an entry or an exit. Anyway, I spent much of summer at the door, so did Lisa.

I spent the summer being amazed. I noticed the electric fence was shorting to one of the metal t-posts recently. I tracked the short down and found to my surprise that the fence wire was still mounted to the insulator and would have been fine had it not been for a bird; a very amazing bird. As most birds do, this one had performed its bathroom duties just prior to flight. This bird must have been extremely large as the result was of such size that it was able to bridge the distance in between the wire and the t-post which created the short. I think I may nervously look over my shoulder the next time I notice a large, bird-shaped shadow gracefully moving across the pasture.

I spent the summer being Twitch’s bird dog. Our cat, Twitch, is a good hunter. His prey of choice is red squirrels. He was recently stalking a red squirrel however it was watching him. I immediately moved into a position opposite Twitch and made enough noise so to attract the red squirrel’s attention. Twitch continued a slow stalk until the squirrel noticed his approach. I moved a bit closer to the squirrel and once again gained his focus. Twitch was at this point only feet away and finished the hunt. It was kind of fun to play bird-dog for a cat and Twitch petted me on the head and said I was a good dog afterward.

I spent the summer taking care of cattle. I am custom-grazing cattle for some good young farmers and have spent the summer moving them (the cattle, not the good young farmers) to each paddock all the while trailing shade structures. I recently used my paint-ball applicator to dose them with insecticide. I am pretty good at this now and the cattle have very few flies on them. There are very few flies in the first place as I use predator insects to kill off the deer and horn flies. It’s not always perfect but I give the cattle a pretty nice summer. It is also kind of fun to use the paint-ball insecticide gun. It is actually very fun.

Finally, I spent the summer watching the skies. It’s obvious that unmanned aerial vehicles (uav) will soon be used in agriculture. I don’t really care so much as our lives when viewed from the sky are fairly boring. The one thing I have noticed is how easy it is to see crooked fence from the sky. While most tractor work is done with the help of gps, most fence –building is done by eye. I have always told people that any crooked fence is an optical illusion created by the curvature of the earth. Perspectives sourced from the sky easily prove that thecrooked fence is not an optical illusion, it is simply crooked. Technology is not always our friend.

That’s how I spent my summer. It doesn’t matter that fall does not arrive officially for a few months. You see it will soon be the county fair, then football players will join for captain’s practice and then I will awake on Labor Day to a whiff of fall in the air. It will then be time for me to write of how I spent my autumn.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, The Spotlight

The Spotlight


barnIf you monitor the national media at all then you will know that Law enforcement has been in the spotlight lately. This spotlight says more about the folks who point the spotlight than the subject upon which they focus the light.

We now live in a world where critical thinking is rarely practiced. The only currency which seems to count is who is louder and who gets to talk the most. In the case made against law enforcement, we always see close-ups of groups of protestors to make the crowd seem larger. This makes it seem more impressive and intimidating which is the hope of those who wish to twist societal values using the banner of equal rights as a cloak. To say law enforcement violates a deadly assailant’s rights by shooting him undermines the argument of those who have truly been denied their civil rights.

Our media is supposed to report the news instead of swaying popular opinion. The national media is now really a “national advocate” for whatever belief they see as popular. They then service that belief for increased loyal listenership. The national media confirms misguided beliefs instead of presenting the truth, sometimes in soft and subtle ways. I can give two examples of the media serving popular opinion instead of truth.

I have heard Minnesota Public Radio repeatedly use the phrase “an officer shooting an unarmed man.” An assailant does not need to use a gun against a police officer to kill him. When someone tries to wrestle with a police officer, do you think they are wrestling with him to win a trophy? They are fighting with the police officer to avoid arrest and that can mean taking the police officer’s pistol away from him/her and shooting the officer with it. If an officer reasonably feels this is the case, he may use deadly force against an assailant. This was exactly the case in the Ferguson, Missouri shooting and it was confirmed by witness testimony yet the media still references this event like it is a cornerstone for some great cultural movement.

Another phrase used by the national media is a “killing by a cop.” Killing is an illegal act and can only be proven in a court of law, not the court of public opinion to which the media panders. When an officer pulls his weapon and shoots an assailant, he is using legal deadly force. Deadly force is something that we citizens have formed through laws and given to police officers to use so they can protect us from those who might harm us. Using the phrase “killing by a cop” without a preceding legal verdict against the officer is bush league and an affront to the First Amendment.

Next time you go to a restaurant and the waitress asks what you have decided to eat, can you make a decision? Now imagine that your decision will either result in another’s death, your own death or lengthy litigation and loss of your profession-even if you’ve done nothing wrong. That is the decision an officer has to make when her/she decides whether or not to use deadly force. We train officers to use reasonable logic in their decision to use deadly force but they cannot read the mind of someone who seeks to do them harm. Peace officers are trained to enter a situation that has no rules and then try to apply the rules of civilization to solve the problem; this includes the use of deadly force. They are not, however, trained to be clairvoyant. And please don’t even try to tell me that police officers are trained so that each snap decision is perfect when, five minutes later, you still can’t even decide on whether to have the chicken or the fish.

I think law enforcement is blamed for the high arrest rates of minorities for one reason; laziness. It is much easier to blame law enforcement for high arrests than to simply do the work of improving your own culture so they are not tempted to involve themselves in criminal activities. They should have other opportunity which they can seize to support themselves through hard work. We should see law enforcement as the canary in the cultural coal mine who is telling everyone something is wrong by high arrest rates; then fix it. We shouldn’t blame law enforcement for alerting our country that something is so wrong in certain corners of America that the arrest rates are inordinately high.

I believe Law Enforcement has been one of the few constants in adherence to a set of morals and standards which made the United States an excellent place to live. If law enforcement is in the spotlight, perhaps we should follow the light to its source. Perhaps it is here we will first find the problem that causes all of those arrests and also an insincere media capitalizing on all of those uninformed, loyal listeners seeking confirmation that their own actions are not their own fault.

Officer killed with his own gun. June 20th, 2015

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, The Grocery Cart

The grocery cart

barnThere really is no mode of transportation as simple as the cart. My dad used an ox cart as a young man to move material on the farm but there are still agricultural carts used today to move grain. The cart is still as simple, useable and relevant today as ever; particularly at the grocery store. Three decades of cart-pushing and the self-reflection that occurs while at the helm of this chrome-covered convenience have combined in my mind to create some opinions on the cart.

I think one small rite of passage is when you graduate to a cart. I began shopping for my own groceries when I moved out of my parent’s home. I would grab a basket and fill it with whatever I felt like eating that day. At some point the basket became grossly overloaded at which point I became a grocery cart operator. I found the hierarchy of the grocery-store driving lanes is similar to a city street. The massive, child-carrying carts are the kings of the grocery lane, like a truck. The regular carts are like family sedans while the basket carriers are the mopeds. A new model showed up recently which is called the two-tiered cart. This cart has two small baskets stacked vertically and is like a basket with training wheels and so is a nice transition to the full-size cart. This cart is basically the smart-car of the grocery lane. There are also a few powered grocery carts and if you know Casey Skjerven, you might have heard a story of his failed encounter with such a cart as he recovered from surgery. It is his story so you will have to ask him to tell it if you see him.

I put my cart away after I’ve used it. There are those who don’t. It seems to me only just that after such reliable service, a grocery cart deserves proper re-stabling at a cart corral. The simplest way to ensure your own, personal compliance with store policy on leaving your cart at the corral is to always park your car near the corral. It just makes sense.

I like to push the envelope when I shop. My theory is that the grocery cart is my transport and I it’s’ mobile foot soldier. I like to park my cart somewhere quiet, reconnoiter the grocery aisle, grab what we need and then return to cart. I also take joy in a nice full cart. Bulky items such as toilet paper belong on the bottom but some heavy items like cat litter should also be placed on the bottom for ballast. This dude does not abide a top-heavy cart.

When I shop at Hugo’s; I finish up at the check-out, pause to remember super-bagger Larry Myhrer then head for the door. Cart envy rears it’s ugly head and I wish I could have used the smaller, two-tiered cart on this particular shopping trip. I eyeball the sporty little units as I leave for the parking lot. I then remind myself how lucky it is that I have the cart and how fortunate I am not following a team of oxen pulling a cart from Roseau to Thief River Falls sometime early in the 20th century.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Letter to Dave

Letter to Dave

barnDear Dave,

I am a bit late this month with my letter as this should have been sent in May. We talked on the phone last week so I will call this a continuation of that conversation in order to call this a May communication. There, now legal is happy.

Dave, I would guess that every tenth agricultural new story deals with Round-up resistant weeds. We heard about how weeds might become resistant to Round-up but always hoped it would not happen. It unfortunately is slowly happening.

For those looking over our shoulders, the herbicide Round-up kills pretty much everything. Round-up ready corn and soybeans were engineered to resist Round-up which meant that you could plant these crops, spray them with Round-up and kill the weeds while leaving your crop healthy.

I wonder what will a Round-up resistant world look like, Dave. You and I are both familiar with sitting on a tractor slowly cultivating row-crops for hours at a time but young farmers have probably not performed this act. I wonder how many lake homes will go uninhabited should farmers have to come back home and cultivate those row crops thrice-yearly instead of just applying a good spray of Round-up. Row-crop cultivation is torture and I am not sure the uninitiated can take it.

I planted clover in the spring of 2014 through a method called frost-seeding, Dave. Frost seeding is simply spreading seed onto sod or tilled ground and then allowing the process of freezing night-time temperatures and warmer daytime temperatures open the ground enough to create good seed to soil contact. I had a great crop last summer but I hadn’t seen any this year and was sure the shallow snow and cold temperatures had killed my clover. Mark Hayek from NRCS was out here this week and wanted to see the frost-seeded clover. I didn’t want to look because I was sure the clover was dead. We looked at the first paddock and found clover-lots of it. It feels good to snatch a win from the gaping maw of defeat, Dave.

We now have two cats with diabetes, Dave. They are brothers and getting older so I guess it is not such a surprise. Trying to catch one cat for transport to the veterinarian is similar to catching a chicken. Capturing two of them is worse. They are experts at using cover and very quick. Anyway, Red Lake Vet Service takes such good care of our little kitties and Twitch and Magoo are doing fine. Actually, it is no more bother to give two cats a shot of insulin than it is one. I always had to fight-off Twitch when I gave Magoo his shot as Twitch wanted Magoo’s soft, diabetic food. Now we just put out two plates and give each a shot. I told Lisa we should get them a nurse.

I finally finished opening up Lisa’s greenhouse for the summer. We grow everything hydroponically and so fertilizer is delivered to the plant in the water. Unfortunately, last year’s fertilizer residue plugged up most of the lines on one side of the greenhouse. I spent a fair amount of time sucking out the solidified fertilizer which is about the size of a pencil lead. It is like sucking snake venom out of a wound and it is gross. We will run clear water through the system after the planting season to keep things clean.

Dave, I sometimes see messages on boards in front of churches. I have one I would like to add to the mix. “If God is my world-wide web; then faith is my app.” Tell everyone hello, Dave.

Your little bro’

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, The Minnie, Minnie Mo’

The Minnie, Minnie Mo’

minnie moIt seems that what we love as adult is the same as what we loved as children. After all of the compromises, lack of time or fatigue; the passions that still rise to the top are the same passions we had as children.

Bob Rock of Pewano, Michigan has such a passion. Rock was given his first Wheel Horse garden tractor when he was only ten. The little tractor was a gift from his uncle which started a passion which remains constant after nearly four decades.

Bob Rock followed his passion for garden tractors around the country to shows which featured Wheel Horse tractors along with other models. Rock imagined what a four wheel drive version of a Wheel Horse garden tractor look like. Bob Rock has a history of fabrication, automotive painting and all things mechanical so this Wheel Horse daydream was soon married to an action.

The first Wheel Horse four wheel drive tractor left Rock’s shop in 2001, He took it to shows for several year and then left it outside the shop with a “for sale” sign in 2008. It was sold one hour after initial display.wheel horse and jd

A light went on in Bob Rock’s mind the day his first creation sold so quickly. He began to build more. Rock’s creations were carefully made with real professional standards and nice fit and finish. The four wheel drive Wheel Horse four wheel drives looked as if they designed by an engineer when the truth was it that Bob Rock and his eye for design. Rock expresses himself pretty well in steel.

Many of Rock’s creations have been sold and made their owners happy. Recently, Bob Rock wanted to try something a little bit different. He wanted more challenge and more freedom to create. Along came Josh Deavon from Pennsylvania who wanted a scale-built, from-scratch tractor. He pushed Rock into making this finely-detailed build. This is the point at which Rock began building “scratch-built” scale tractors.

These tractors take time to build so Rock has ushered only one of his creations onto the world’s stage; however the first model has made a huge impact. Rock’s Facebook site has constant visits and when I interviewed Rock he had just finished several phone conversations. He has other projects in motion and although they are all different, they all have similarities. Rock uses Case/IH transaxles so his tractors are hydrostatic drive. He uses a variety of engines including the new “Predator” engine along with some diesels. He offers two types of power steering to direct these articulated tractors, one a bit more sophisticated but also more expensive.

The first scratch-made, totally-articulated tractor from Rock and son fabrication is a Minneapolis Moline which, even in full-size, is a pretty rare chunk of American steel. Rock’s scale version of the Minnie-Mo is draw-dropping in detail and attention to fabrication. I first saw a picture of it on the internet and I could hear my heartbeat in my eardrum as its tempo increased. It is just that nice. The paint is done by Rob Rock while the lettering is created by Terry Dennis from Illinois. Bob has a young test pilot for his creations, his son Robert. The tractors are scaled for an adult however young Robert drives the tractors so Rob can record the test on video.

test driver

After you’ve seen the pictures of Rock’s tractors, you will want one-or at least you will want to kick a tire. For tire kickers, you should check out Rock’s Facebook page which is “totally articulated garden tractors. Rob’s Facebook site . If you want to dig a little deeper into ownership, please email Bob Rock at These tractors are made one at a time and each one is different so lead-time and price all vary. The garden-tractor based four wheel drives cost less while the scratch-built tractors are substantially more. They are also substantially heavier however they still travel well on a small trailer.

I always like to congratulate my fellow tinkerers who build amazing things in their shops. In this case, the passion born in Bob Rock’s young mind has amplified itself over time to something that is actually a small business and also quite cool. Good job, Bob.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, The May project