The Al Gustafson Memorial rain garden

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

Sometimes paths cross; the point at which they intersect can create
conflict but often the meeting is the start of something great. Paths
crossed when the rain garden was installed at the Ralph Engelstad
Arena in Thief River Falls, Minnesota- and something great started.If you walk the winter sidewalks near the Ralph you know they used to
build up with ice. It was the run-off from the roof as the sun melted
the snow. The ice was a hazard and a source of possible liability.Summer rain events would flood the area around the Ralph Engelstad
Arena and make travel hazardous. Large rains would also flush garbage
from the street and parking lots into the storm sewer and back into
the Red Lake River.
People talk about farm fertilizer run-off as a source of fresh water
contamination. Truth is, a fair amount of the contamination comes
from the run-off that occurs in town. The Ralph had run-off that was
unfiltered as it headed directly for the storm sewers.The needs of many created paths that crossed in an idea which has
seen little use in this area; a rain garden- for the Ralph Engelstad
Arena. The rain garden absorbs the run-off from two separate parking
lots through curb cuts. The run-off is then filtered through wood
chips and sand prior to its underground trip to the storm sewers. The
snow that melts from the roof of the Ralph follows down-spouts to
catch basins which follow underground tiling to the rain garden for
the same filtration process. The run-off from the green space around
the Ralph also eventually runs through the rain garden and is
filtered too. A one inch rain event should be filtered and drained
within 48 hours which will leave the street in front of the Ralph dry
and safe for traffic.

The rain garden at the Ralph is an answer to many problems but has an
even greater story. It is a collection of techniques and practices
used in agriculture today. The rain garden mirrors the filtration
that occurs in grassy buffer strips that run along waterways. The
underground tiling is a practice that is relatively new to this area
but increased greatly with recent higher commodity and land prices.
The concrete which covers the tiling at the Ralph is colored blue to
represent the passage of water. There are also 13 different native
flowers and grasses planted in the rain garden. These plants perform
the same function as they do in the wild in that they hold the soil
in place. They are a nice nod to the history of this area too.

Bailey Devine worked as an intern at the Pennington Soil and Water
Conservation District during the summer of 2014. Bailey’s mother was
a farm girl and that sort of work ethic showed in how Bailey
performed tasks at the rain garden. One of Bailey’s most noticeable
efforts was the metal display signs that will describe the rain garden and
the man for which it is named, Al Gustafson.

Al Gustafson was a devoted conservationist and a hockey enthusiast.
Al worked over four decades for the Natural Resources Conservation
Service and was a hockey icon in Northwest Minnesota. It seems more
than just acknowledgement of his work that this rain garden will soon
be dedicated as the “Al Gustafson Memorial Rain Garden.” It is
acknowledgement of a life that has inspired others and led to this
project in this place.

Official dedication if the Al Gustafson rain garden will be held
later this summer. Until then, I encourage you to stop by and take
the time to understand the form and function of this installation. I
think you will like it.

(Grant is a supervisor with the Pennington Soil and Water Conservation district in Thief River Falls, Mn.)

Al Gustafson obituary is at

A brief description of the Rain Garden is found in paragraph four from the city of Thief River Falls website is found here


Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, The Brutus Blower review

Polaris Brutus HD snow blower review

The is a Bobcat snow blower that was fitted for both the Bobcat 3650 and the Polaris Brutus.

This is the Polaris Brutus HD with front-mounted blower as it sits in my shop.


This is the hydraulic lift that fits attachments to the Polaris Brutus. Their also auxiliary hydraulics (pictured) that allows the operator to direct the blower chute left, right or forward.



I reviewed my Polaris Brutus commercial Utility Task vehicle last year about this time. The Brutus is basically a Polaris ranger with a diesel engine and a front lift to accommodate accessories such as a mower or snow blower. I purchased the unit without doors, or a power
take-off to run accessories; however I added those items during the
summer. I even installed the power take-off (pto) unit myself to
power a few accessories which saved a lot of money. I wrote in my
first review that if I ever purchased the snow blower attachment for
my Brutus that I would review its performance. It finally snowed and
I used the blower so here we go.


First off, the blower is all Bobcat. Polaris and Bobcat worked
together on the Brutus and Bobcat Inc. sells the same unit as the
model 3650. My original concept of the attachments for the Brutus was
that the attachments would be like lawnmower attachments. I have been
pleasantly surprised in that the quality of the attachments is more
like something you’d find for a skid-steer or small tractor. The snow
blower is 62 inches wide and weighs right around 400 pounds so it’s
built pretty hefty.


Before I review the Brutus snow blower I want to tell you about
installing the power take off myself. The PTO kit came with a set of
instructions that included 60 steps; many of these steps were removal
of body parts and their replacement. I saved about $1700 installing
the kit myself as opposed to purchase of the Brutus with
pre-installed PTO. I would say the intellectual difficulty of this
install was similar to assembling a large piece of IKEA furniture.
The physical difficulty was greater as it required a lot of tools,
jack stands and about 9 ½ hours of my time.

Now onto the blower; I couldn’t be happier. If you’ve ever spent an
hour with your head turned backwards blowing snow with a tractor, you
can appreciate how nice it is to drive forward as you blow snow. The
Yanmar diesel had plenty of power to run the blower through even hard
snow. I don’t believe the engine bogged down at all during the
process. The blower threw the snow about 35 feet with no problem. The
spout is controlled by on-board hydraulics which was nice to remotely
direct the snow based on wind direction. I can control the front lift
with the in-cab joystick so maintaining a consistent height in uneven
patches was no problem. The heater worked in conjunction with a wiper
blade to keep my windows clear although I still needed a jacket and
hat to stay warm.


The Polaris Brutus UTV is a specialty item not made for the same
massive amount of people who purchase similar machines for pure
recreation. Landscapers, small farmers and anyone with some land or
parking lots to manage would find this unit a perfect fit. Top speed
is about 28 miles per hour but my personal recreation involves cows,
black dirt or snow removal so I don’t really need a lot of speed. The
Brutus is a compromise, a darn fine compromise.

Here is my original review of the Polaris Brutus HD UTV.


Rural Reflections Radio

Rural Reflections Radio Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, The Year

Gray Winter

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.This is the gray time after Christmas and prior to spring. This is when the non-hackers, unable to weather winter’s worst, call and ask you to watch their house as they evacuate the area. It is survival time, anything is acceptable.


I actually like winter mornings on the couch. It stays dark so I never feel like I’m burning daylight. I record several agriculture/outdoor shows and awake at about four to watch them over a little coffee with the cats. I record “Machinery Pete.” “Successful Farming,” “Ag Today.” “Minnesota Bound,” “Farmweek,” “Out on the Land,” “This Week in Agribusiness,” “Farmweek” and “Ag Phd..” There’s so much agriculture programming on RFD-Tv that you probably live in town and still have a good idea of how to properly complain about commodity prices or the weather with your farmer buddies over a cup of coffee at the local cafe.


Winter is a good time to stray on your feet. I have few demands on my time so I like to work-out frequently. I look at Winter as the off-season to farming and I want to be in good shape to pound fence posts and move cattle. A good work-out leaves your body warm for hours, which feels so good when it’s so cold.


I like to work in the shop, too. Man is much better off on his feet than his rear-end and and a little shop work is a good means to that end. I have two current projects  in my cue. The first is installing a beam and rail to support a ceiling hoist. I plan to use the hoist for moving projects around my small shop. My second time-user is a cupola for my shop. A cupola is a little shack that sits on top of a building. They were used years ago to help ventilate moisture and heat through barn roofs. I have created a base and roof for my cupola but still need to mount the two which will require a hoist. I will then be able to wire the cupola for lights and cover it in steel and j channel.


Those who can take the worst element of winter and enjoy it are the real geniuses. The worst element of winter is frozen water; restrictive, obstructive snow and ice. Snowmobilers, ice-fishermen, snow-shoers and skaters are descendants of people who found themselves bored, or hungry and burdened by frozen precipitation. I have found my own niche to enjoy winter in the way I managed our snow removal. I use my Polaris Brutus with a snow blower mounted up front. I remember watching YouTube videos of the Brutus blower combination and thought how that would probably never be me. I actually look forward to a little snow now and take my place among the other crazy folks who turn snow into challenge and challenge into fun.


There is a blizzard warning today. It is snowing now. There is no sunshine.  Today is one in which I could understand a gray demeanor. Please remember, we gain a bit more sun each day and baseball’s spring training is not too far off. Take heart, now is the time to develop character that will make summer challenges seem laughable. Blue Oyster Cult sang “seasons don’t fear the reaper,” by the same token, we shouldn’t fear the seasons-particularly winter and its grayest period.

Rural Reflections Radio

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

The Year

Click here or on the web link for this week's program.John Lennon famously sung “and so this is Christmas, and what have
you done?” I always thought he should have replaced “Christmas” with
“New Years” as this is the holiday I reserve for personal reflection.
These reflections would include both accomplishments, failures and
events that mark passage of time.

I don’t make New Years resolutions as their definitions are too
broad. I make daily, specific resolutions and sometimes even hourly
resolutions as steps to a goal. It’s almost like a business plan for
life. No bank will spend money to help you start a business without a
plan and you shouldn’t spend your time on a goal unless you have some
sort of plan. Resolutions are the emotion behind a plan but without
specific steps the positive emotion behind a resolution will
eventually turn to disappointment. Plan the first few steps, then
make the steps. Then plan a few more.

I carry my goals on a little piece of paper inside my checkbook. That
piece of paper is fairly old now and I have not reached these goals.
However, I get a little closer to reaching one or more of these goals
every year even though a goal will sometimes plateau for a year or
two. I don’t care about the plateaus as long as I am making a
disciplined march forward on at least one front. I always think of
General George Patton’s insistence to always take new ground and
insist on the same in my life.

John Lennon also wrote “you may say, I’m a dreamer.” I am a dreamer
too, that the creative part of making goals. I don’t always have a
full-blown love affair with all of my dreams but I often flirt with
them and occasionally consummate the deal. Without dreams, you are a
cog in the machine. There are great people whose dreams were cut
short by disease or accident. These people would gladly have the time
that non-dreamers kill off as they drudge through life. I even ask my
wife if her dreams are coming true for her; lest my fire for life
overshadow hers. Dreams are to life what they are to sleep:
invigorating, symptomatic and kind of fun. I used to share my dreams
with my dad. He would listen and then typically say “oh, but are you
sure that will work, Grant?” I was not sure but living some part of
your dreams is not for those content to sit on the sidelines. You
might have to get a little roughed up on the field of play in pursuit
of your dreams. I trailed after my dreams this year even though life
was not always dreamy.

I guess a lot of this column has dealt with accomplishment and the
risk of failure. Perhaps now would be a good time to mention events
that personally mark the passage of time. My number one event would
be the death of my brother, Steve. He and I were very similar people
and I miss him. My second event for the year would be this past
election. I saw the local election as a rebuke of city officials who
saw their position as one of authority instead of responsibility; a
reminder to the elected to fear the electorate. Number three would be the recovery, and continued treatment, of our cat Magoo. He is our little diabetic. Number four
would be the intense and rapid harvest of sugar beets with the R and
R crew from Warren. Number five would be time, I have now written
this column for over fourteen years and have been in my current
profession for 26 years.

We have a new year to form, starting today. I see change coming in
the fields of agriculture, energy and politics-maybe even changes
coming to my own list of personal goals. I’m not sure there’s a
Lennon song the specifically describes yearly change however I hope
2015 is good for you.

Rural Reflections Christmas radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Christmas radio program, Christmas letter to Dave

Christmas Letter to Dave

Dear  Dave,


The streets of Thief River were quiet the morning of Christmas Eve. I was wasting a little time before my morning work-out and considering that most people kind of “hunker-down” for Christmas. I like to be out because even rudimentary things seem special at Christmas. I got my coffee at Pennington Main, wished a Merry Christmas to the clerk with the Santa hat and went to my work-out.


We work-out at the old hospital, Dave. Katie is our instructor and we chatted about Christmas plans while we waited for Chris to arrive. Chris brought both of us a card and a bag of cinnamon pecans. Chris is very generous and knows how to delay our work-out with good conversation-a prized talent. Chris and I both love coffee but Katie hasn’t discovered the joy of the bean. Anyway, the first toast of Christmas Eve in Pennington County occurred post-work-out, Wednesday morning at 0730 between three work-out buds over a light breakfast of cinnamon pecans, some Douwe Egbert coffee and a work-out bottle filled with hotdog water.


I am home now, Dave. Lisa never knows what to get me for Christmas as I regularly and vigorously gift myself through-out the year. Our cat, Magoo, has pretty severe diabetes and has been slowly recovering with insulin and special food. I thought about what I really wanted for Christmas and decided I would prize nothing more than a healthy Magoo. Lisa paid a veterinarian bill for me and Magoo has steadily improved, I couldn’t be happier with my gift.


This will be our first Christmas without our brother, Steve. I don’t know that daily life is so different without Steve but certain moments are way more intense now as the loss of a family member always floats just below the surface of your emotions. I always think that he can now celebrate Christmas dinner with mom and dad and maybe Robin Williams will stop by their table.


I tried a gingerbread house a few years ago. It went fine but I thought maybe I would make something more themed to agriculture this year. I’ve seen gingerbread formed to create farm machinery however I decided to make a gingerbread Ritchie cattle waterer. I built it but commissioned Lisa to decorate it. She included a hay bale with cats sitting on it. I wanted to pipe some blue frosting to represent the water that pools around a waterer after the heater goes bad and the water pipe freezes and cracks but that might strike too close to home for a lot of cattle folks. Anyway, I included a picture complete with a plastic horse to increase the realism. I would have made it a cow but the store was out of cows; ‘must be a big demand for plastic replacement cows this year as the real ones are too expensive.


Finally Dave, if Christmas is to include some reflection, then here is mine. Law Enforcement is like the Sheep dog that watches over God’s flock and protects them from the wolf. The sheep do not trust the Sheepdog as he may gently correct them when they break their barriers. The wolf hates the Sheepdog as he wishes to prey on the sheep. The Sheepdog leads a lonely life but takes comfort in the fact he is the ultimate protector and is the reason the flock thrives. As we remember Jesus who came to save us from our sins everlasting let us also remember and support the men and women who keep us safe in our earthly lives.


Tell everyone Merry Christmas


you’re little bro’

Rural Reflections Christmas Radio

Rural Reflections RadioHere is this week’s Rural Reflections Christmas Radio program,  Christmas on my mind