Letter to Dave

Dear Dave,


I’ve heard the term “Novembruary” used to describe our current month. This works for me. This month has adopted the earmarks of February; it is bitterly cold and late afternoon brings about that icky, hopeless feeling as filtered, poorly-angled sun heads for the other side of the world.          

I see you are on Facebook, Dave. I made fun of Facebook users for years and now I am a faithful user. It’s nice to have you there to share pictures of hopelessly stuck tractors and animal pictures. I use Facebook mostly to view pictures of cats however it was a useful tool during our recent “Norwegian Spring” as we were able to keep our good politicians in Pennington County and show the rest the convenient exits located at each end of the room. I suspect it will be some time before folks crow about the “new Labree Avenue Mafia” after the voters showed them they are not made of Teflon.

On to farming, Dave; it’s our favorite subject. The Natural Resources Conservation Service was out here this summer and did a battery of tests on our pasture. The tests determine how much organic matter is in the soil and how fast it absorbs water, along with tests for minerals and fertilizer. We will perform these tests for five consecutive years.  Late this fall, NRCS installed units to log soil temperature throughout the winter. I want to do the best with what I have Dave and if I can’t be the biggest cattle farmer around, I want to be the most efficient and this study should help me.

I have been watching land sales, or their lack, Dave.  When commodity prices went crazy, farmers began putting marginal land under the plow. This was land that needed top commodity prices to be worthwhile. Unfortunately, farmers always believe next year will be better and plan accordingly. Some did not plan for current prices. The same stubbornness that makes a farmer so tough also makes him a little slow to make changes. Farmers will now hold on to their unproductive land and continue to invest seed, time and fertilizer into poor crop returns for even poorer prices.  They might even plan to re-sell this land when prices return to their historical highs. Problem is, at lot of fall is going to occur to land prices before they bounce back and most landowners will see these higher  prices from the rocking chair. I checked on some poorer land for pasture but prices are still high. Of course, each owner always reminds me that there are “mineral rights” that go with the land. Most of the “mineral rights” around my area are small spits of sand with a tiny group of orphaned rocks holding hands and hoping someone will mistake the whole mess for gravel. I think most of these landowners would be served well by a phrase I have often lived by: “your first loss is your best loss.”

Our house has never been warmer, Dave. Lisa and I saw something called “Airkrete” advertised as a sort of foam that could be sprayed in between the studs of standing homes. I hate being first to try something so I researched “Airkrete” the best I could then took the plunge. The stuff sprays in through a small hole on the outside wall and cures into something that resembles hardened cotton candy. Anyway, our house has always been chilly even after remodeling it and this year it has been lovely. I am currently wearing shorts and sweating and it’s nine degrees outside and windy.

Ryan was out here last week and picked up his snow blower. I met his brother in-law and we had a good quick talk. I hope the blower works out well for him and if nothing else, it will make swell scrap metal. Tell everyone hello.

You’re little bro’

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioThis this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.Discussing the Constitution, or its amendments, may seem like something you had to do in high school. If you live in northwest Minnesota, however, you’ve had a chance to watch the importance of the first amendment to the Constitution; Freedom of Speech. It is anything but boring and brings this amendment to its full and breathing self.

The council for the city of Thief River Falls, Minnesota has been turbulent the last decade. Not the kind of turbulence that is a product of democracy in action but the sort of dark undertow that comes from council meetings which are really only theatrical plays written by select members during quiet conversations held previously in undisclosed locations. This turbulence has been played out publicly on cable channel 13.

An entity called “TRF Compiler” has created Youtube videos using video of these meetings and factual text which often contradict what members of the Thief River Falls city council have said publicly. “TRF compiler” also uses music and sound effects to point out bullying and immaturity on certain members of the council. Never does this media resource mock democracy or the city council as an institution; it mocks the silliness of some of its members.

Recently, city councilman Don Sollum, suggested in council chambers that they no longer broadcast their meetings because of “TRF Compiler.”  He suggested that the videos mocked democracy. This is a bit of amateurish double-talk as democracy depends on free, open and transparent government even to include criticism by voters. To close the blinds to council meetings is to add yet another blanket of secrecy to a bed which already includes unusual partners making unsavory policy-such as the “gag order” on city employees and the “no surprises” rule at council meetings.

In the 1950’s, Senator Joseph Mccarthy was creating lists of citizens of the United States who he had branded as “communists.” These lists were unsubstantiated and “McCarthyism” has become known as a dark blot on our history. Television anchorman Edward R Murrow used video of public meetings and speeches of McCarthy and then would report the truth which always ran contrary to McCarthy’s paranoid ramblings. I would submit the “TRF Compiler” is doing the very same thing. The compiler uses actual video of councilmen and then overlays  the truth over this video background. People who watch these videos can then decide for themselves. The people did decide for themselves on Election Day and with the passage of time, history will judge these Compiler Youtube videos as one element that removed the “good ole boys” from Thief River Falls city government.

The first amendment is a strong tool given to us by the people who began this country. It makes me feel ashamed when some of our established media outlets fail to use this tool as intended. During this period of mistrust in city government, outside media outlets have focused on Don Solllum getting a “free lesson on free speech” which I feel is dead on. Meanwhile, one of our local newspaper offered a much softer version of the story, the message got lost and no one heard the truth. I am reminded of when we were experiencing the worst problems with the previous city administrator. I’d hoped the newspaper would tackle this story but instead they chose to write of how this administrator was part of the “red hat society.” That’s some real hard news, earthshaking stuff.  The local newspaper is not supposed to be a glossy “chamber of commerce” tour guide; it is supposed to be the truth. Telling the truth will never get you a vote to be on the cheerleader squad but it will make people respect you. The first amendment is there for a lot more than the right to shake your pom-poms.

I am exercising my freedom to speak when I write this column. You voice your opinion when you vote. Elected representatives show their true colors every time they open their mouths. The first amendment gives us this right. We must always protect it, even if we don’t always like it.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, He is back!

He is back

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.Somewhere during 1978, the members of the band “KISS” decided to each
release a solo album. Kiss guitarist, Ace Frehley included one song
on his album titled “Back in the New York Groove” and
it did very well. This song is kind of an anthem and the lyrics to
the chorus sound triumphant as Frehley repeats “I’m Back.” I don’t
have any interest in New York but I sometimes I think of this song
when I or someone triumphs over a situation and gets back or is
restored to where they want to be.
Okay, I needed you to understand the significance of “I’m back in the
New York Groove” but now onto the real story. I recently wrote how
our cat, Magoo, had lost weight and was lethargic. I credited his
state to a case of arthritis in his elbow. We medicated the elbow
but Magoo’s lethargy got no better and he wasn’t gaining much weight.
I took him to Red Lake Veterinary Service and they found Magoo to be
diabetic. There was no damage to his kidneys or liver however left
untreated, diabetes can kill a cat. Magoo received his first shot of
insulin from Lisa and I and was markedly better that same night. The
syringe needles are so fine that he doesn’t even notice when we dose

So, Magoo is my baby. Lisa and I love all of our cats and they each
have a special place in our family however, Magoo is my baby. He is
sitting here watching me as I write this. My nickname for Magoo is
“Bear” which was my brother Steve’s nickname in high school. Magoo’s
rapid weight loss reminded me so much of my brother’s weight loss
which was due to the cancer that killed him. Magoo’s gaunt appearance
combined with the shared nickname made me almost view
Magoo as a stand-in for my brother. I know it sounds a little crazy
but I really came to see him that way. I mean I was already very
protective of Magoo but his similarity to Steve made me even more
protective. It’s funny what loss does to you. The similarities that
grew in my mind between Steve and Magoo
made me feel that I couldn’t lose Steve and then Magoo. I just
couldn’t; I mean the cruelty of it all and the loss was beyond me.

Magoo became more sure-footed after that first shot of insulin.
Diabetic cats get weak rear-ends and Magoo had displayed this symptom
although we thought it was his arthritic elbow. He began eating
better that same night and his eyes got clear and sharp. We thought
the shots would be a chore however he doesn’t even notice. It feels
so good to know that our actions make Magoo feel better. We feed him
a little something and then give his shot. It’s like a little ritual
that brings us closer together.

The next day Magoo received more insulin and ate better and showed
way more interest in life than he had prior to his diagnosis. I was
so relieved however it wasn’t until he went outside and killed, then
ate, a mouse that I knew he was back. It was then then that I could
hear Ace Frehley in the back of my mind, standing celebratory before
a microphone, pumping his fist and singing for our little cat-my
little baby- “I’m Back, I’m Back, I’m Back, I’m Back!”

Rural Reflections Radio

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

Polaris Brutus HD PTO installation

“this is a typical scoop of snow”

I purchased my Polaris Brutus UTV a little less than one year ago. I purchased the HD version which had the front lift but no cab, heat or power take-off (pto). Over the summer, I dug up enough money for cab and heat but starting price for the pto kit was about $1800 and including installation totaled about $2400 at my dealer. The dealer recently told me the kit itself was now only $720 and came with instruction to install it. We both felt I was up to the task and so I took the plunge.

I got the instructions before I even ordered the kit. The instructions document a 60–step process to installing the PTO kit however many of the steps are removing body parts and then eventually re-attaching the parts to your machine. Most of the pictures that go with the instructions are drawings but there are a few color pictures so a color printer might be nice. If you have only a laser printer it is no big deal.

The plans are very detailed and include torque specs for every bolt and even specs for the self-tapping screws. I torque everything but ended up giving many of the heavier fasteners and extra twist. None of the kit is made from aluminum so I felt confident giving the wrench just a little extra “snuse” in such cases. I also just went by feel on the self-tapping screws although do as the instructions say, not what I say.

Dealer estimate on time to install the PTO kit was 8-10 hours. I did it in about 9 ½. The two greatest time-consumers of the install were installing the belt to the pulley which is mounted inside the bell housing and removal of the hydraulic pump from the end of the bell housing. The instructions for installation of the belt were dead-on but it just takes a fair amount of time and a little determination to get the belt turned and oriented properly. The directions say to use a crows- foot attachment for your socket set to remove the two bolts which hold the hydraulic pump onto the bell housing. These bolts are torqued at 60 pounds and the crows-foot turned itself off of the bolt head. I ended up using an extension of my socket on the rear bolt and a plain old flat wrench for the top bolt. Of course when I put the pump back on I couldn’t properly torque the top bolt but I feel I gave it all of 60 pounds torque.

I would not wanted to perform this install without jack stands to give me room to work under the Brutus. A lift or even a hoist to lift the front end up high would have been really nice but I just wiggled around underneath and that worked fine. You should have a complete set of both SAE and metric wrenches/sockets to perform this install as it is a mish-mash of both. Also there are 3 new electrical connections to make but the connectors are right there and they will only fit one way so that was easy.

I would equate this install as similar to assembling a complex piece of IKEA furniture. The instructions are good enough so that if you have some basic mechanical skill and take your time, you should be fine. Just be patient, sometimes you need to sit down and really look at the drawing and then look at the machine, then repeat.

Finally, when I got done-my PTO didn’t run. Apparently, there is a computer somewhere on this machine and it didn’t recognize the addition of the new PTO. There is something called a “Polaris Smart-Wrench” which appears to me to basically be a code reader. The dealer has the “Smart-Wrench” and will plug it into the port which is under the driver’s seat to program my machine to recognize the new PTO and allow it to work. (as of 11-3-14, my dealer reprogrammed the computer for free and everything works great)

To give you an idea of my skill-level I would say I perform a fair amount of my own carpentry, electric and mechanical work. I have worked on my own tractors and skids steers but usually leave four wheelers and vehicles to a professional. The strength of installation of the PTO kit is in the excellent instructions. Also, I saved myself $1700 over the original price quote for the PTO with dealer installation. It wasn’t a bad project and with the addition of the pot I will be able to use the Polaris front-end snow blower which should arrive this week. I will review the snow blower as soon as we get something to blow.

Smoke and mirrors

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.I have kept this column apolitical for 14 years. What you are about to read is not an endorsement of any candidate; I merely come to the defense of a group of people whose reputation as a whole has been maligned.

A candidate for political office (Sheriff’s Office Challenger, Craig Mattson)  in Pennington County  has consistently alluded to the illusion that there is a problem with teamwork and communication within the Law Enforcement Center in Thief River Falls. If you read no further then read this; this notion is nothing more than political grist for a political mill.

I work for the Sheriff’s Office in communications. Some of you probably know this however I have never made this fact a part of my column. I feel it is important for you to know this part of my life in this one instant.

Most people think of law enforcement as cop cars, guns, uniforms and handcuffs. These are elements of law enforcement but the real tools of this job are trust, communication and teamwork. You have to be able to accept your partner’s word as the truth so you can make decisions which are accurate and truthful. You have to communicate the truth well and quickly as the result of any incident may depend upon your communication.  Finally, in a work shift there may be two police officers and one deputy for a county that, for northwest Minnesota, is quite densely populated and so we must work well together as we will fail without teamwork. Trust, communication and teamwork are elements so entwined with the job of law enforcement that without them you can’t work in this building.

It has been rumored by this one political candidate that we can’t work together or communicate well. To say this is to make claim that we cannot perform our jobs in a professional manner. It is unfair and untrue; unfair to the officers, dispatcher and corrections officers and more importantly, misleading to the people who pay our wages.

We attend each other’s weddings and funerals, we help each other when someone gets sick and we all pull together when there is trouble on the street. We share information in order to work as one. You can mandate communication through policies but that doesn’t work near as well as the communication and teamwork between people who truly care about each and respect each other. We all get along and the Dispatchers, Deputies, Corrections Officers, Police Officers, State Troopers and BCA investigators I know are not only welcome at the Law Enforcement Center, our success is based upon their presence

I have agonized over whether to write this column. I have friends throughout city, county and state agencies and took their feelings into account. However, I won’t stand by and watch as my co-workers, my friends, and I are maligned with claims that we are unable to work together and unable to communicate. All claims used as a means to political gain.

In the end, I have heard people say that where there is smoke, there is fire. This is an old chestnut used by gossips for centuries in order to make themselves feel better about their own half-truths. In this case, if you follow the smoke you will find no fire. In this case, if you follow the smoke to its origination, you will find an entity-manufacturing smoke.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Smoke and Mirrors

Letter to Dave

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.Dear Dave,

I would never trade this fall for the fall of 2013. Last year at this
time, I was still nursing my way through the beet harvest unlike this
year where the harvest is now two weeks gone. I was prancing around
from one task to the other in shirtsleeves and a ball cap yesterday
and hope for more of the same.

I think the pressure is mostly off harvest, Dave. It seems people are
finishing off their beans and doing a little fall fertilizing. I’m
not sure if all of the beans made it to maturity before frost but I’m
not sure that absolutely every field has seen hard frost, either.
Anyway, farmers with corn to harvest can afford to wait for harvest
so the crop dries. Drying is expensive but it seems really expensive
when commodity prices get low.

On the home front, we are fattening up Magoo. Magoo is one of our
thundering herd of cats and was diagnosed with arthritis in his
elbow. Cats are pretty emotional and the pain made him not eat and
lose weight. Magoo is now receiving “Metacam” orally every three days
and is on a regimen that includes a few extras like turkey, canned
cat food, eggs, chicken and I know I have to quit spoiling him soon.
I hope we are not creating a monster however we do want Magoo back to
his icky, demanding, big cat self.

Dave, I was watching some national news recently and this came to
mind. When I was young, the media was like a stern, fact-based
librarian. It adhered to the truth and based itself on facts. Today’s
national media seems more to me like a cheerleader who doesn’t bother
herself with right or wrong but merely picks a side and cheers. Even
worse, this cheerleader media seems to stick a finger in the wind to
see what direction blows public opinion and then interviews the
talking heads needed to
support the public’s view of world events. It’s like they find out
in what areas the public is uninformed and then mirror our ignorance
so we feel smart.

Dave, it has been two months since our brother, Steve, passed away. I
typically move along through life just fine until something little
trips me up
and I think about Steve. It is like my light is turned down about 20
percent all of the time. Some of the things I assigned importance in
life prior to Steve’s death have even more value while some of those
things I held in such high regard now seem like a waste of time. I
suspect the truth is that everyone deals with this kind of loss in
different ways. I believe my reaction is evolving as time passes.
Sorry to leave you on such a low note.
You’re little bro