Family reunion

barnLife has been a little funny lately. I have a story I want to tell
you so I’m just going to tell it. I’m not going to edit it. I am
going to write it and send it to the paper.

I love animals. I don’t just appreciate animals for their beauty or
for their practical use; I plainly love animals.

Friday morning I noticed the some of the insulators were missing from
my interior fence. I stopped out to replace the insulators. I was
almost done when I saw the little calf lying in the grass.
I do not believe there is a good time to die. My father was 90 when
he died and he wasn’t ready to die. However, it is a little worse
seeing young things die.

The calf, lying in the grass, was dead. To say I felt sorry for the
calf would be untrue. I am a Christian and believe that calf was with
God as the Bible clearly says God “loves all things.” I just thought
how the calves’ mother now had no little one to nurse from her or for
which to care. I was crushed. I mean I was really crushed; not
crushed like Kim Kardashian is crushed when her favorite make-up is
gone. I felt ashamed and empty.

Life goes on which is nice sometimes but Friday wasn’t a nice day. I
had to move on and get back to my day. I always feel like the whole
day and the whole world should stop when tragedy reaches into my
world but that doesn’t happen.

I really wanted to work-out with my crew of friends that day but I
had spent the morning taking care of business with that little calf.
I called the calf’s owner, called Doctor Johnson for a post-mortem
and went back into town. I really wanted to see my friends from
cycling class but I was going to miss it.

I found a separate work-out machine to exercise by myself. I was
only a little way into the work-out when I heard a loud voice. It was
Chris. Chris is so energetic and full of life that he makes a room
start to vibrate. He came up and talked to me for about five minutes
and really popped me out of the little depression that the calf’s
death created for me. Later, I heard a little sweet, creaky alto
voice say my name. It was Jan. Jan came up beside me and listened to
me breath hard and talk about the calf. Finally, Katie came over from
teaching the class I missed and sat down on the machine closest to
me. We talked just made normal conversation but it made me feel so

I am a closed off person to most unless I trust you like family. A
lot of my family consists of animals and that little calf was
something which made my heart lift but now was dead. I needed
family. In that moment of need, pedaling on the exercise machine, I
needed family- to help me and maybe talk to me.

I needed a brother; Chris came to talk to me.
I needed a sister; Jan came and talked to me.
I needed a niece; Katie came and talked to me.

I felt like I lost family when that little calf died. However in that
moment of time, when I was meek and needed help, I gained a whole new


Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Simply


barnWhen I was in high school, I tried to write like Ernest Hemingway. It is an embarrassing admission but I liked his books and he liked cats, so it made sense. I was way in over my head. I was also young enough and naïve enough to think I could write like someone else. I think I was attracted to his simple sentences and how he took complicated stuff and broke it down into something I understood.

Here’s the thing; Hemingway wrote in a bold, powerful style. I think what drew me to his writing style was how it seemed simple to me. This is a simplicity which has been like an itch in the back of my brain for several years. I have written about my search for simplicity which has not been a straight line but more a circuitous, wandering route.

I have always been a blunt person. I have always simply said what I believe to be the truth and then argue my points with logic if requested. I have always been able to be simply honest with myself and admit things in prayer that I would not share with anyone other my wife.

I think one impediment to simplicity is that I like a challenge. I think this need for competition extended to my drive to take on as many tasks, in cascadingly greater complexity, just to prove myself. The fact is, that to find and embrace simplicity, is really complicated and has to be approached one problem at a time.

Enter Lisa. My wife Lisa has consistently landed on the side of simplicity and gently asked me to do the same. Lisa cooks simply, lives simply and acts simply. She was a good example which I could follow and from which to learn. I watch her to this day and use her example of simplicity.

Here is what I have found so far; simplicity comes from experience. Experience teaches you that so many of life’s actions are not needed and that you should just trust yourself and act upon your own instincts. I also believe that with experience comes age. Age removes some of the excess energy which allows you to make all the extra, complicated dance steps when you should just obey your inner rhythm.

I think I also worry that completion of a task means I will have nothing to do which means I need to complicate the task to extend it. It is a fine line between perfecting a project and needlessly frittering away as you descend into complications. Living on our little farm has taught me that there is always something else to do. I don’t have to worry about being without projects and that I should simply finish each task as soon as possible.

I have work to do yet I feel life is simpler with each day. I’ve said what I can about the subject and so will end this week’s column-simply.

Rural Reflections Radio

Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, an emergency message

Stand by for an emergency message

barnPlease stand by for this newspaper column which will begin as soon as the cats get off of me so I can get to the computer.

Okay, they’re gone. All though many complain about it, it is said that no one does anything about the weather. I think this is false as you can modify how the weather affects you through preparation and information.
First off, we are in an era of unprecedented access to weather information. The weather information that sprays out of the television is incredible. The sophistication and storm prediction is such that it near future weather forecasts have little guess work. You can receive immediate code red alerts on your phone, cell phone, email or by text and radio fills in any information gaps. Minnesota is a state of extreme weather and you must stay informed about storm activity-it is your responsibility. There are so many sources of weather information reaching out toward you but it is on you to be able to receive this information. Please don’t say “I don’t do computers” when it comes to consuming weather information only as most sources of weather information use medium other than computers to inform.
I saw lots of pictures of swirling clouds and little spouts from our most recent storm. I have often heard people question why there are no civil defense sirens when there is rotation or spouts. Civil defense sirens are set-off only when a tornado warning is issued from the National Weather Service (NWS.) The NWS watches these swirls and funnels too and determines whether they are real trouble or just cold funnels which typically cause no damage. Anyone can observe weather however it takes a practiced eye to understand what is being observed.
One new wrinkle to weather-spotting this year, in Minnesota, is the Allied Radio Matrix Emergency Response (Armer) radio system. Using this system, Sheriff’s Offices in the area affected by weather warnings were able to report skyward observations directly to the National Weather Service. Weather observers in the field, such as police officers or firemen, could reports to the local dispatch and that information was then reported to the NWS via the Armer system. This is a very immediate system.
Preparation is everything in a tornado. Your first plan should be to shelter in place as driving or walking to a shelter exposes you to possible dangerous weather and typically storms come on quickly and you may not have enough time to get to shelter, particularly if you have not monitored the numerous sources of weather information. Basements and lower level interior rooms are best as a lot of injury from tornadoes comes from flying debris.
This has been an emergency message, I now return you to your day. Which for me, means sitting under the cats.

Rural Reflections Radio

Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, An interest in grazing

An interest in grazing

barnI like to watch the ESPN television series “30 for 30.” It is a series of interesting stories and in-depth reporting on sports and athletes. It is unique as the stories are interesting enough that you don’t have to be a fan to enjoy the series. I mean, I truly enjoyed a “30 for 30” on soccer and I don’t know anything about soccer.

The point of which I am circling around is this; I have a subject that may not interest you but I hope I can present it to you in an interesting way, like on “30 for 30.” I want to talk about cattle, pasture and results.

First off, my small rotational system of cattle pasture is really more suited to feeder cattle as it is very high quality. In past years, I have focused on putting enough weight on feeder cattle that they marble and gain enough subcutaneous fat so that are good eating. I am custom grazing cow/calf pairs this year. The pairs require less high-quality fodder so I am keeping them on each paddock for five days instead of three days as was typical with feeders. The difference is that the longer the cattle stay on each paddock, the closer they eat to the ground. The top part of each plant is the ice cream while the lower part of each plant is the ice cream box. When I raise feeders I let them eat the ice cream and then move them to another paddock when then get even close to the box. With cow/calf pairs, they get a little more box however I don’t want them to eat all of the plant as it will not grow back well. You need the green part of each plant to absorb sunlight and create more energy for the grass to re-grow.

I noticed this year that two of my paddocks have less grass on them than last year. I try to keep about 70 percent grass and 30 percent legumes on each paddock. You probably know what grass it but legumes are: clover, alfalfa, trefoil, etc. The legumes create nitrogen in the root zone which helps feed the roots of the grass plants. The legumes also are more productive even as July temperatures slow the cool season grasses to a halt. I think next year I will try to frost-seed a little rye grass into the paddocks that need more grass to restore the balance. I also believe the ryegrass will give me some more carbohydrates.

I have briefly mentioned that I want to build a seed drill for my Brutus ATV. I thought perhaps I would make it a no tillage machine however I did not want to re-invent the wheel. Through conversations with my brother Dave, and some couch/internet research I have decided to mine recent history for an answer. Some of the first no-tillage planting efforts were done right on the farm. In one case, a disc would till the land and then be trailed by a cultipacker which prepared the tilled ground. A small Case Pony drill would be pulled behind the packer and place the seed in the rows created by the packer. Press wheels on the drill or a harrow would complete the job. It was basically a little parade of most of the equipment that was owned by the farmer but it worked. I have slowly collected an old John Deere disc, a cultipacker and this week, a Case Pony drill. After I do some cutting and welding this winter, I do believe I will have my own no-till drill. For sure, I will have my own little parade of every bit of equipment I own. I may even use the drill to plant one paddock to plant corn or sorghum for fall grazing.

Finally, my soil tests showed some need for fertilizer but not a lot considering it has been four to five years since I spread even a little commercial fertilizer. Cows only use about ten percent of the food that they eat so the rest of the grass passes through them after having been broken down in their four stomachs. Even if I have not been spreading fertilizer, the cows sure have been spreading it. Anyway, my pasture is nice and thick and the cattle look good; rotational grazing has worked well for me.

I wanted to share what I have learned on the farm. It’s good information but probably not everyone’s cup of tea. This probably wasn’t as good as ESPN’s “30 for 30” however it couldn’t have been too bad. I mean, you’re still here-aren’t you?


Rural Reflections Radio

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

Letter to Dave

barnDear Dave,

Jared was just here, Dave. You don’t know him but he is one of the owners of the cattle I am custom grazing this summer. We had a good chat and went for a cruise to check the cattle. I forget how nice it is to simply watch cattle and this little visit reminded me of how lucky I am to be a small part of their world. The cattle stare at me and I stare at them and I think we both are waiting for the other to do something interesting. I think the cattle fulfill my expectation more than I do theirs.

We missed most of the bad weather on Saturday, Dave. Those west of us saw some hail which is what concerned me most that day. I got the cattle out of the pasture so they could hide out in the barn but we never got any hail. I think the little town of Dorothy takes most of the bad weather on its shoulders for our area. I used to worry at storm announcements that included Dorothy, Minnesota as we live nearby. As it turns own, Dorothy is almost like flypaper for bad weather and seems to lure bad weather away from us.

I thought I should give you a heads-up on some Viking News, Dave. Good Ole Days is planned for the week-end of August 14th-16th. A program is planned for the evening of the 16th and I was asked to emcee that particular ceremony. It should be fun. A trip to Viking always gets me a little excited.

Lisa and I watched a retrospective on Glen Campbell last night, Dave. Campbell has Alzheimer’s and the show followed his last concert tour. He was so vulnerable that it kind of made me uneasy. He was on stage, in front of all of those people and he could have really embarrassed himself. His ability to perform was always a question but he was successful in both his vulnerability and his ability to perform. Campbell is such a talent and performed as a studio musician on many great musical works prior to stepping into the spotlight as a soloist. Watching someone take such chances and be themselves, even wounded as Campbell is, was really touching.

I may belabor the point that summer is so fleeting in Minnesota, Dave. I always watch the traffic fly by on the St Hilaire cut-across during the summer and think ho summer speeds by just like the cars. This year is different; road construction has arrived to save our summer. Instead of the cars speeding by they now have to stop and take turns weaving through construction. The speeding cars reminded me of a fleeting summer, the parked cars just seem to slow my summer down. There’s a metaphor buried in their somewhere but I am sure the frustrated vehicle occupants take less comfort in it than I. Have a nice Independence Day, your little bro’

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, How I spent my summer