Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to the start of the Christmas season. This is not your Christmas letter but may contain an occasional reference to Christmas buried within the text because it is so close.
This is the time of the year when I like to end my letters by saying â€œthe cattle are all belly deep in straw.â€ I think this is a phrase that exudes comfort during this very cold season. I cannot say that this year as I have yet to get my straw home. I have been using the top part of my hay stacks to bed for the cattle but that cannot continue as hay is too nice for use as bedding. Hopefully, Granta-Claus and his sleigh full of straw will make an appearance this week-end.
The cold makes me worry about cattle or any animals outside. I think a good cattleman recognizes the discomfort of his animals, it’s the difference between being their captor or their caretaker. I am always amazed by those who seem to believe animals can survive on air- with no shelter, food or a bowl of water that is not in the form of ice. These are the same folks that should receive a ticket to a land where they live under the same care and they themselves offer, it would make them more sympathetic and stimulate a little intelligence.
Dave, I have to recommend one excellent hour of television. Check your listings for the â€œTrue Story of Lonesome Dove.â€ It is the story of Charles Goodnight’s and Oliver Loving’s cattle drive which occurred in the late 1860′s. There are many parallels between the fictionalized account of the drive and the real story, however many of the sub-plots seemed to have been made up to give the story greater depth. â€œLonesome Dove,â€ whether real or fictionalized, is a story I find deeply moving. Maybe it is the friendship between the two men or just the courage it took to begin the crushing adventure of moving cattle in the American South. Anyway Dave, the true story is just as good as the fictionalized one, just a little shorter.
I made chicken casserole last night, Dave; no one can expect much from a paragraph that starts with that sentence. I grilled the chicken, steamed the vegetables in the drippings and threw everything together. Despite all my efforts, it was bland although filling. How come no dish ever made tastes as good as the little burnt pieces left in the bowl? If someone could figure a way to make the whole casserole taste like what is left behind it would change the culinary world, like muffin tops in which all of the muffin is the top.
I cleaned snow off one shed with a roof rake yesterday, Dave. It is an act that should be assigned to bad people who need much punishment. The good news is I will only have to perform this act another 10 times or so this winter. I can accept the cold but the snow is like icing on a cake made of-well you know from what it’s made. I guess we live in the wrong area to complain about the snow. Better to light a candle than curse the dark so I will just keep cleaning snow until I can complain about the mosquitoes. Greet all to whom I’m related with Christmas wishes from Lisa and I.
You’re little bro
I recently borrowed â€œThe Foxfire Bookâ€ from my nephew, Derik. â€œThe
Foxfire Bookâ€ was created in 1972 and based on a magazine of the same
name. The magazine was a collection of instructions about how to;
dress a hog, build a log cabin, make moonshine and â€œother affairs of
plain living.â€ I decided this week I would create my own offering of
instruction on an activity of plain living. I will detail how I cover
our septic tank for winter.
First off, I don’t know that I really need to cover our septic tank
and drain field to protect it from the cold of the final season. I
never covered it the first five years I lived here but one winter
started with little insulating snow and so I covered everything with
straw. I am now addicted to the assurance that I will not have a
frozen septic tank, even though I probably wouldn’t anyway.
If you believe it is too late to cover your septic tank and drain
field, it is not. Cold falls and heat rises, so as you insulate your
septic tank from the falling cold you will also save the heat that
seeks to rise from below. There is still much heat in the ground
(particularly in a septic tank) so it is not too late to conserve the
warmth with straw. I easily stuck a small fence post into the ground
by hand this week so the topsoil has not even frozen.
Trapped air insulates best, the straw is there to basically trap air
so it is best if the straw is fluffy. I typically break the bales up
and fluff them up both for better insulation and as a more economical
use of each bale. A bale left intact covers only a small area but
will cover several times it’s size if broken up. I use a three tine
fork to spread the straw; fewer tines make it easier to manipulate
the fork into the little wedges of straw. There are two edges to a
bale, one is coarse to grip the bale it sits upon in the stack and
the other edge is there to shed water. I always take each wedge of
bale and lay it flat then poke the fork through the side at a 45
degree angle then shake up the straw. If you poke the fork into
either of the edges it will just break the wedge into two pieces and
it will not be fluffy. You want it fluffy.
I cover the septic tank with about one foot of height and overlap the
edge of the tank by about a foot. I can only guess where the drain
field pipe lays based on the outlet inside the tank so I make a wide
path above the pipe so as to guarantee coverage. Please remember that
you will have to pick up this same straw next spring when it will be
soaked with melted snow so use enough but don’t get crazy. One winter
I used a whole round bale of hay (about 1200 pounds) and spent much
of a day cleaning up that unholy mess the following spring.
Well there it is, my offering of information about plain
living-covering your septic tank. It’s not as much fun as making
moonshine nor as artistic as basket weaving however still a useful
skill. I’m not sure it would make it as an entry into â€œThe Foxfire
Bookâ€ however it will make for dozens of worry-free flushes this
winter when it’s thirty below.
Daylight Saving Time ended recently which meant I needed to fall back
one hour on my watch. I am like my dad in that changing the time on a
digital watch is beyond my talents; a monkey
throwing my watch at a wall would have more success changing the time
than I would. This year I relieved myself of the task of
re-setting the time by throwing the watch at the same wall which I
typically throw my cell phone at when it doesn’t work. The watch is
covered with paint and the band is ready to break anyway so I felt
in aiming for, and actually connecting with(I usually miss to the
right,) the garbage can.
I do have a watch with a traditional movement. It was a gift from
Lisa so I only wear it for special occasions. My everyday watch sits
now in a landfill so I need a replacement. Iâ€™ve considered purchasing
two watches and paying a monkey to throw them at a wall until one is
set to standard and one to daylight saving time.
A young man has several firsts; first knife, first compass, first gun,
first kiss and his first watch. My first watch was a model that my
dad owned which hadnâ€™t work for some time. Dad brought the watch
for repair to Elroy Jensen who was a jeweler watchmaker near Viking
and kept most of that area on time. I wanted to wear that watch so
bad and pestered my dad daily to see if it was ready. The watch was a
with phosphorescent numerals and hands. I developed a relationship
with the watch as it required regular winding to work. I started with
a twist band and then went to a thick leather band with two buckles
then back to a twist band but the watch stayed the same. I loved that
old watch but I think it finally quit although it did not meet the
same fate as my digital did at the bottom of a waste canister. I
think all that winding gave me an emotional investment that doesnâ€™t
develop from the occasional battery swap.
A man without a watch is not much-he’s certainly not on time. I’ve
searched for a watch with a mechanical movement that also includes a
stopwatch but they are not plentiful. It’s too bad I don’t need
something in a watch that is waterproof to 100 meters because those
models abound from security boxes on every shelf. If time is what
which we covet and that which limits our time on earth then maybe I
don’t need to know what time it is, maybe it is not for me to know.
Or maybe I just need a good Timex with phosphorescent numbers, a
twist band and a little time on Elroy Jensen’s repair bench.
I am probably the only guy at my job who will happily work the deer season opener. I like the outdoors but I’ve never fully caught the deer hunting bug. I would love to be part of the tradition however I cannot count hunting among my many hobbies; funny that I chose it for a topic this week.
It’s not that I haven’t tried hunting, I’ve made many attempts to enjoy it. As a young man, I started with a single-shot shotgun and later graduated to a 30-06 rifle. I don’t think I ever actually shot the rifle however I did use the shotgun my first season. I had been posted on the corner of a woods while others walked through it in a effort to chase out some deer. I have gained some patience with time but I was not a patient 12 year-old. I became quite bored with the whole process and decided to walk back to the pick-up. As I had not set aside bread crumbs to mark my trail, I decided instead to mark it with arrows in the snow. I used the butt end of the shotgun to draw the arrows which was the extent of any gun play I saw that week-end. As an adult, I tried posting near the Oak trees on the Kasprick farm where my trailer house was parked. I love Bugs Bunny cartoons and the draw of watching the cartoons shortened my deer season that year to about two hours. I left my spot and headed for my trailer, gas heat, coffee and Bugs. I didn’t make any arrows to mark my path this time as my hunting party never expected me to make it more than two hours into the hunt anyway.
I needed a real hunter to help me make the connection to deer hunting; enter Travis Black. Travis began hunting at age twelve, a passion given to him by his father and one he will pass to his children. Travis is one of those guys who takes joy in passing from civilization into the wild. His face lit up as he spoke to me about the cold, the effort, tradition and anticipation of the hunt. Travis and his father, Allen Black, only hunted black powder up until about six years ago. I think he liked black powder for the solitude and challenge of a season more exposed to cold and snow. He now hunts with a .257 Weatherby, chosen because of superior kinetic energy and because it was a gift from his wife, Angie. Three generations of the family Black (Allen, Travis, Cade)will pass from civilization into the woods of their Grandfather’s homestead this week-end. Allen will tell the same stories he always tells, they will visit the same deer camps they have for years and the past will suddenly become the present. In talking to Travis, I think I found the passion of hunting which was still beyond me. Planting food plots, siting-in rifles or processing venison were activities with one common denominator which was that they involved family members or friends. We all need a way to express our feelings with something better than words so perhaps spending time in the woods, sharing a joint purpose, is what a deer hunter truly loves.
I won’t be in the woods this week-end. It isn’t for me but I’m glad it is for many, like Travis. I will understand why you are there, be safe and make good memories.