Letter to Dave



(inspiration for the “feeling accomplished from getting my vehicle washed” came from Beth Kezer-my second cousin. Thanks Beth-royalty check is in the mail)

Dear Dave,


Let’s just cut to the chase; winter is still here. It’s not the sort of scary winter like we see in January but rather its little, mouthy brother who looks a lot like January winter and talks a lot like him but doesn’t have the walk to match the talk. Still…little, mouthy March winter is a thorn in my side.

My perspective is probably colored by the fact I have another cold. Sore throat, my lungs hurt, body aches-all the usual suspects. Every time I cough it feels like the walls of my lungs are made of Velcro and coughing rips them asunder. I’ve spent the last few days mounted on the couch and fighting for space with the cats. I usually allow at least 20 square feet per fed steer when I build a cattle structure so you would think that, based on weight, cats would take considerably less space. The truth is that they need about 4 square feet per animal based upon my observations. They are massive square footage consumers.

Dave, I’m sick but I still want to feel accomplished. When I want to feel accomplished, I usually do something outside. I am restricted to base so my accomplishments are now smaller. I updated my laptops so I can share pictures from my phone with either laptop and I can now upload my radio programs to the Public Radio Exchange from either computer. It’s not like I fought a dragon single-handedly but I had to do something. It’s like when you clean your vehicle at an automatic car wash; the level of accomplishment is disproportionate to the amount of effort expended. Oh well, we shut-ins gotta take our wins where we can get them.

I rented out my pasture for cow/calf grazing, Dave. I don’t see the sense of buying feeders, grazing them all summer and then selling them as finished animals for 60 cents less per pound than the purchase price. Therefore, I will take a few cow/calf pairs under my protective wing/shade structure and see them through the summer of 2015. You know, most of the current cow/calf guys suffered through times when farming was mostly a glorified savings account but they are now squarely in the driver’s seat. It will be fun to be a very small part of this period of time when the people who raise the cows that birth the calves that make this industry tick are actually making good money.

Lisa is home sick today also, Dave. She does not want to watch the History Channel all day which is the channel I prefer when I am home sick. It is an issue. Please send healing thoughts to at least one of us because I can’t watch Doctor Oz or old sitcoms for even one day longer. One of us needs to get well before the “Golden Girls” comes on this afternoon or we will need intervention.

You’re little bro’



Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Building Trees


barnI started writing Rural Reflections in November of 2000 when it first appeared in the Yesteryears section of the Sunday Grand Forks Herald. I moved to the Northern Watch newspaper in 2007. I began my radio program in about 2005 which is still heard on a few local radio stations.

I have had several computers in that time but have always transferred the radio programs and newspaper columns from the current laptop or desktop to the new computer. This winter, I had all columns and programs transferred on to a thumb drive and then started uploading all of them to my Amazon Cloud Drive. It was a big project and took several evenings of uploading one at a time while watching television or petting that cats.

As of this morning, I am finally done-here’s the statistics.  I have produced a total of 447 Rural Reflections radio programs and 668 newspaper columns. It’s a little amazing to me to think of the changes I’ve experienced in the last 14 years and through it all, I wrote a column each week, every year. The radio programs didn’t start until about 2005 so there’s less of them but I did a radio program each week except for a couple of times when there was a death in the family. I was busy writing the obituary for the deceased so no time for a column those weeks.

I now plan to upload the radio programs to the Public Radio Exchange and slowly post all of those old columns on my Areavoices blog. I also plan to keep writing and keep talking so stay tuned.

Building Trees

barnPeople enjoy the way the word “snirt” sounds. Say the word out loud and people will often laugh and ask for a definition of the word. “Snirt” is snow and dirt blowing together and often collects in ditches or along tree rows. It is a winter product of black dirt left without a cover crop or minimal snow cover, then exposed to high winds.


We had a lot of snirt this year. There was little snow cover or cover crop but another element entered this year into the creation of snirt; less trees. A big part of the creation of snirt involves high winds. Trees buffer high winds by blocking them which uses some of the wind’s energy as it fights past the tree. High commodity prices convinced many that paying $150 or more an hour to have a backhoe remove thin lines of shelter-belt trees would improve their bottom line. Prices are now down to break-even and those piles of once-valued dead trees sitting in the field seem a little pointless.


I like to plant trees. It doesn’t take much to plant a tree however to make success more likely than defeat when you plant a tree requires a little knowledge. I have found the best bank of that knowledge at my local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD.) I am a supervisor at the Pennington County SWCD and we are a tree-growing hub for farmers and homeowners who either want to prevent soil loss or just dress-up their yard.


Some people need to purchase some trees or get a little advice of which Pennington SWCD has plenty. Last year I planted a couple rows of Red Derosier trees for a windbreak and the SWCD let me borrow a Dibble bar. The Dibble bar is fun to say and even more enjoyable to use. It looks like a splitting wedge welded on the end of a steel bar. You plunge the wedge into the ground, open up the ground, place the tree in the opening then plunge the wedge back into the ground a few inches away and wedge the initial opening shut.


Other landowners may need larger projects completed which is where the Pennington SWCD can really help. They have a tree planting machine plus they can lay out weed barrier and install tree tubes. The weed barrier reduces soil nutrient competition down to almost nothing and the tree tubes act like little greenhouses. There may even be some grant money available for tree planting. Pennington SWCD will take a look at what sort of trees will work best in your soil which is the sort of intelligent planning that will make seedlings into something birds like and wind hates.


Planting trees is like building a structure in that you have to be mindful of what forces the trees will face and from which direction. The structure you build will be there for years and unlike buildings which deteriorate-trees will grow stronger with time. If you’ve already picked out the plants you want this season from the Gurney’s catalog then please consider what parts of your homestead you use some trees. Then stop by and talk about trees and planting at the Pennington Soil and Water Conservation District or call them at 218-683-7075.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Jim Croce

Jim Croce

barnIf left for life on a deserted island, what music would you listen
to? I would listen to seventies rock if the question pertained to
genre. If the question of eternal music preference, to include only
one artist, came up in conversation-I would probably choose Jim Croce.

It occurred to me that some people may have no idea who Jim Croce is
as he has been dead since 1973. My answer would be that Jim Croce
performed such great music that he still seems alive to me and that
he wrote such good music that he still seems relevant to me.

Jim Croce was born in Philadelphia in 1943 and died in an airplane
crash in 1973. In that time he spent his life as a radio announcer,
a truck driver, did some construction labor and collected stories.
The people he wrote of in his music included these stories viewed
through a rebellious personality that afforded Croce two trips
through Army basic training. His first album was released in 1966 and
included the song “Hard-hearted Hannah” and “Steel Rail Blues” which
was written by Gordon Lightfoot. His last album was “I got a name”
and was released posthumously. There was also a compilation album and
songbook titled “Photographs and memories” released about a year
later which is where I come into the picture.

My sister introduced me to Jim Croce’s music. I liked the music right
away; it seemed less than pristine to me and as a farm kid I knew
nothing was ever perfect. Deb had the songbook too, and a guitar,
both of which she allowed me full access. The chords were printed
above the music, not bar chords, but the real thing. Jim Croce’s
music was real and truthful and my lack of precision coupled to
youthful exuberance made it all sound even better to me. I found
myself singing “You don’t mess around with Jim” just this week and
that lack of precision and slightly older exuberance still made it
sound good to my one ear that doesn’t constantly ring. Jim Croce’s
music shines better when polished with truth and emotion as opposed
to precision and perfect timing.

My parents would have been about the age I am at their 25th wedding
anniversary. Some of the Nelson kids sang Croce’s “Time in a Bottle”
as part of the ceremony. “Time in a Bottle” is probably the simplest,
most honest, intimate and stark confession of love from one person to
another I’ve ever heard. I mean to say that you have realized that
spending time and saving memories with just one person is what your
life is about is such a deep and simple truth that it should have a
monument erected in its honor. The chorus includes the words “there
never seems to be enough time to do the things, you want to do once
you find them” which is a powerful reminder to love the one you love
right now because no matter how good your genetics or how well you
age, time and life are both short.

I got a little emotional writing this column so I need a little
splash of lyrical cold water. Maybe some “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” or
“Rapid Roy (the Stock Car Boy) will get me back to being me. Whatever
it takes, it’s gonna be Jim Croce.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections radio program, Get Happy

Get Happy

barnIt should be spring; there should be muddy roads and bare spots however it is still cold and white. The dead of winter is like living with a cold-hearted woman who tries to hide the fact. By late February, the sun stays later which creates a portion of winter in which that same cold-hearted woman doesn’t care that she’s cold. It’s hard to be cheerful and happy.


First off, the topic of happiness came up on Facebook recently and inspired this column. I would like to plagiarize from myself to the tune of a few sentences. First off, I think this time of the year is a particularly gloomy period. Self-reflection is always a good thing but at a time when people naturally swing towards a little depression perhaps self-reflection can take a hiatus. Judging our level of happiness should be done on a sliding scale. We should take into account the limited amount of daylight, lack of exercise and the inability for some to be outdoors and productive. In others words, winter is the shallow end of the happiness pool so don’t try diving off the high board.


I have found projects to be a good way to hack through the season of cabin fever. I used to latch hook as a youth and now I build stuff out in the shop. Work is another good way to recruit good endorphins; whether that means working with the cattle or walking to nowhere on a treadmill. I didn’t keep cattle through the winter and felt a little lost without their need for attention. I think I will get back in the game when prices go down in a few years. Busy hands easily crush gloom and boredom.


My faith helps me get through the winter. When my dad and brother died, I lost two good sets of ears who had common experiences and could knowledgeably talk cattle, balers and frozen cattle waterers. I often times now talk to God about my problems and even some of the stuff I used to tell Steve and dad. As a youth, I remember Hannah Halvorson raising the roof from the south side section of the Zion Lutheran Church in Viking when she would hit the high notes on “Take it to the Lord in Prayer.” She must have known hard times in a life that included several wars and the Depression yet she never seemed depressed. I guess when she sang “take it to the lord in prayer” she must have been trying to not only praise God but push that message into my young ears and the hearts of those around me.


Finally, like most things, happiness is a decision. We enjoy free will yet we don’t always have the courage to take responsibility for our own will and look to others to make us happy. Worse yet, we sometimes blame others for our unhappiness. I try to please three people in my life; my God, my wife and my boss-all others need not apply-however, no one effects my happiness. I make that decision and I think people sometimes forget that happiness, or more accurately-joy, is within their own control.


The sun is getting stronger and we will soon be cutting grass. If you have been sad lately I hope that you find some happiness in your life. Happiness is a patient beast and typically has been there all along waiting for you to find it.

Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Little Gray Gym

Letter to Dave

barnDear Dave,

It was a good talk the other night. You are one of the few people in
the world who is willing to talk to me about crazy inventions. It
makes me happy to know that if I ever need technical
advice/counseling about building a no-till air-seeder, sized small
enough to pull behind an all-terrain vehicle, that advice is just a
phone call to North Dakota away.

You probably heard that the Prowler girl’s hockey team is a pretty
big deal. Thief River Falls skated their way to the State tournament
and won last Saturday over the private school, Blake. It was an
exciting game and was a nice birthday gift for Lisa; always nice to
feel proud of your home team.

Speaking of winners, Lacey Voecks did a call-back audition for “The
Voice.” Lacey is Brian and Colette’s daughter from town. Although she
didn’t move forward, she had the guts and determination to try and
that sort of effort is something I admire. I suspect Lacey learned
much from taking a swing at “the Voice” and I hope she will try again.

I wrote about Larry Myhrer some time ago, Dave. Larry told me a lot
about the history of the grocery business in Thief River Falls and is
just a
warm and wonderful gent. Larry will retire Friday and Hugo’s grocery
plans a retirement party for him from 2-6 that afternoon. Larry will
gracefully walk off into retirement with his health-both physical and
spiritual. Congratulations, Larry-I will miss seeing you.

Farm life has been sort of slow motion this year. There has been
little snow to move so I’ve kept myself busy with meetings and a
little woodworking in the shop. I am building a cupola for the shop
right now. Like most of my projects, I build and rebuild a lot as I
discover mistakes and make improvements. It’s typically worth the
although rebuilds usually add some weight. I suspect the cupola will
need a crane to hoist it into place.

I remember you once races snowmobiles back in the seventies, Dave.
You raced at a time when suspensions gave about the same cushion as a
yoga mat and a tool bag full of spark plugs was a must. The old I-500
cross-country race is back this week-end. Snow conditions will only
allow about a 300 mile route however plans are for a full five
hundred in the future. Brian Nelson won the race on one of our
beloved John Deere snowmobiles in 1976 then later on an Arctic Cat.
Nelson is the founder of USXC racing and I hope he can make some good
memories for the kids, like me, who once kept a radio in their front
pocket with an ear-bud carefully hidden in their school clothes so
they can keep tabs on the race.
I hope all is going well in Carrington, Dave. I understand most of
your snow is already gone so I imagine a little sun will bring out
the tractors and seeders. I hope you get a little quiet before the
storm. Tell everyone hello.

You’re little bro’