Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Raido program, Old and simple
I like old stuff. I like honkytonk music and seventies rock, old
pick-ups and decent morals-I guess I like things old and simple.
Okay, first off I do not like all things old. I prefer electronic
fuel injection to carburetors and electronic ignition to points.
I would much rather use the internet than encyclopedias and prefer
pdf files as opposed to traditional mail when I gather information.
When I say old, I mean simple. I like my morals simple, from a time
before some folks created “gray area” as a mythical place in which
their own justifications and excuses create a smoke screen to hide whatever
they did the night before Sunday services. A time before even some
pastors suggested that the Bible doesn’t always mean what is says or
was simply a book of parables and really just written for our
You know, I didn’t even mean for this to be a column about religion;
I probably turned some people off with that last paragraph. That’s
okay, it’s probably best to separate the tourists from the locals
right off the bat.
I have recently considered a new project for winter 2013-2014. I love
large trucks from the thirties. There is something so beautiful about
their styling and simple mechanical operation. These vehicles were
from a time when simplicity was not only accepted but rather a needed
commodity just to struggle through life. You can see it in the
vehicles of the time; they were built for work with only a subtle suggestion
about their owner. It seems today like most vehicles suggest nothing
so much as scream “I just put my owner deeply in debt and he lost
$5000 of equity the second he took me off the lot!” I am always
fascinated when people tell me their new car or motorcycle is an “investment.” It is an
investment all right, an investment in their ego. It is a complicated
way to live.
I have also taken an interest in something else old- me. I have found
that one of the most direct steps I can take to keep things simple is
to take care of my body. I can replace so many machines with a
well-operating mind and body that a little care is a good investment.
It is much easier to stay healthy than to regain health. Also,
regular maintenance of my relationship with Lisa is a way to keep our
good thing working; a little talk is much simpler than any of those
“big talks.” Lisa is a big part of my life and her health is shared
by me-it’s that simple.
It doesn’t get much older or simpler than nature. I think people
sometimes complicate their relationship with nature. I can either
choose to work with nature and let it do the heavy lifting or I can
fight nature, exert my own will and try to make it do what I want. It
is a losing fight and simply not one worth making. I am old enough to
know better. I would rather keep it simple.
Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Bullitt
If I were to look out my window and see spring’s progress and then
look at the calendar and note that it was mid to late march, I would
be satisfied. It is not and I am not.
Honestly let’s not talk about the weather, Dave; we all know that the
clock is ticking. The time we lose towards spring planting is paid
for this fall in the propane farmers use to dry their late maturing
corn. Honestly, our big days of growth seems to come in July so maybe
spring isn’t the greatest factor for row crops however the ground is
a long way from warm and you can’t even plant potential until the
I heard Marv Bossart died this week, Dave. Marv Bossart was the
Anchor for WDAY television news for decades. He was the old-time sort
of announcer who simply gave the facts and trusted the viewer to be
informed enough to decide what those facts meant. It was that trust
that made me want to trust him. I wish newscasters today would
realize that giving the facts and leaving their personal opinions at
home is the only way to build trust with their listener. Bossart was
a true gent and did the news a great favor in how he delivered it.
Dave, do you remember the story of “the Great Chicken Heart” on the
old “Bill Cosby show?” The chicken heart grew larger and larger until
it could eat whole cities. I have a similar situation with my
hydroponic fodder project, the Fodder Monster. The hydroponic fodder
unit will one day sprout barley seed into a lush, green, palatable,
nutritious mat that I can feed to my cattle. Unfortunately, the
completion of this project is inversely effected as I continue to
increase its size. The fodder monster will never grow large enough to
eat a city however it may eat us out of house and home. Anyway, it
has been a fun project and will hopefully pay me back for all of the
loving attention it has received from me during construction.
I think we are all too dependent upon technology, Dave. The world’s
infrastructure was once made of stuff that a country boy could fix
with a stick welder and the large tube of JB Weld. Our infrastructure
has changed in that we are no longer as concerned with moving cars,
electricity and water as we are in moving information. The internet
and accompanying technology has made life more efficient, work less
taxing and the transfer of information less expensive-right up until
it does not work, then technology sucks. I never feel more helpless
than when the computer doesn’t work, as there exist no duct-tape
remedies for this problem. It reminds me of how important it is stay
able to solve math problems in my head and keep an abacus handy.
Hope all is well out in Carrington, Dave. Darrel and I still plan to
eventually travel through on our way to Garrison.
You’re little bro’
As a youngster, I loved the magazines, “Popular Mechanics” and
“Popular Science.” These two magazines were portals into a place
where my own creativity was born complete with pictures and diagrams.
It was awesome.
The first thing I liked about the “Popular” series of magazines was
the men pictured in the articles. They all had khaki-colored slacks
and work shirts and were capable of anything mechanical. They kept
of their worldly possessions in the breast pocket of their shirts and
sported haircuts that were “high and tight.” They reminded me of two
Uncles, Donald Olson and Gil Flaten. They were both fellows who could
complete projects that today would require an engineer, several
workers and a committee.
Easily my favorite subject of any “Popular” article was airplanes. I
an urge to fly and design airplanes when I was young and would quickly
vacuum up any article on this topic. “Popular Mechanics” and
“Popular Science” differed in their coverage of aeronautics in that
“Science” looked more to the heavens whereas “Mechanics” kept it real
with stories of people who had built their own flying machines. I
preferred the grass-level guys in the open-station, home-built planes
which used Volkswagen engines to drag them through the air.
I really liked the classified section of either magazine. My airborne
hunger was satisfied by the advertising for gyro-copters from a
company in Tonawanda, Kansas. Gyro-copters looked like a regular
helicopter however the rotor blades served as only a rotating wing.
Propulsion was made by a pusher prop mounted aft and powered by a
small gas engine. I would sneak into Viking to use the payphone and
order brochures on gyro-copters or any government surplus that flew.
The classifieds typically featured the “Struck mini-dozer.” The
bulldozers were about the size of a lawn mower. I remember these
classifieds included a picture of a man (in khaki pants and work
shirt with a full
breast pocket) sitting on top of the bull dozer which appeared to
accomplish mighty acts of
earthen work. These were so cool but even I could see that they were
too small to be of practical worth on a farm. I was astounded to find
that the Struck Corporation (www.struckcorp.com) still exists and
hand-makes the “Magnatrac” in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. These are the
ultimate toy for gents as you can kind of rationalize the purchase in
that you can do some work with the machine. Myself, I would probably
just make sure it had a cup holder and allow myself a few hours to
drive it down to the mailbox and back. If I ever locate one of the
originals, it would make a good winter restoration project.
The one thing both “Popular” magazines did was to bridge my mind to
the outside world. I could see what others were doing which fired my
imagination and validated some of my own crazy ideas. It also showed
me the importance wearing proper works clothes, keeping my hair cut
close and storing everything I might need that day in my left, breast
Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Hungry for life
My storage tank of column ideas was empty until last night. I had a
good dream that made me think; which then made me write-which brings
us to the business at hand.
I had a friend die a few years ago. He was a good guy who was also a
good farmer. The dream I had involved a scenario where an older
farmer needed help putting in his crops. My deceased friend and I
took on the task and were working on equipment in a shop next to a
corn field. It was all so real that I can even remember the moist
smell of fresh rain and the location of various puddles in the yard.
At one point, we raced each other on foot to the house for dinner.
I’m always hungry, even in my dreams, I’m always hungry.
Here’s the deal, I felt great when I woke up. I had a little
different perspective on life and that’s the story I want to share.
I have been existing in stasis the last month. My mind is locked into
the work of spring but the weather has prevented my body from joining
my mind. I hate this this feeling and it is almost like I have been
tolerating life until it begins to mirror my expectations.
I thought about my dream and how I was enjoying such simple things;
planning work, executing the plan, being hungry and the motion of
racing to dinner. There will be a time in all of our lives when those
simple things will fade or simply go dark. This is the time to not
wish for the things you want but want the things that already exist.
These are the memories that you must squirrel away for a time when
memories may become tough to make.
I crave the traditional beauty of spring but maybe I can take some
joy in the changing landscape as the piles of snow slowly lose height
if not weight. Maybe I can enjoy the delicious expectation of the
weather I know will soon arrive, like wanting to destroy Christmas
wrapping as you burrow through cardboard to the gift. I like how the
sunshine slowly changes my environment after which the changes are
locked into place by the cold until the next spell of warm weather.
This maybe isn’t as dramatic as blooms or green grass but it is
interesting. This time of year is also great for bird-watching as
word has really spread that we offer a decent sunflower buffet so we
have a lot of birds to see.
My friend passed on some years ago and left a good life for many of
us to model. Last night I needed a kick in the pants to start
enjoying life again and he gave me a good, gentle boot. The dream
made me covet what I see instead wishing for something else and
showed me path to be grateful for the fullness of what has already
been given to me. The shade of want has been pulled from my eyes and
I can see how good it is to live. Now I gotta run, I’m hungry again.
Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, My brain on pasture
Spring makes some think of gardens or open-toed sandals however my
spring thoughts follow a path much less traveled; I think about
cattle on pasture. I think
about other things too, however they are even less interesting than
cattle eating grass (imagine that.) Here is what I am thinking about
this spring. This is my brain on pasture.
I have no-tilled corn and soybeans into standing pasture as a way to
rotate my cattle paddocks. The only reason I rotate my paddocks is
that the alfalfa typically dies off by year six or seven. I plant the
corn and beans, kill off the grass then rotate back to pasture the
year following corn. I graze the corn in tiny strips then put
everything back into pasture the following year. I have begun to
question this practice as it seems a shame to kill off all that nice
grass. I want my pasture to be a mixture of grass and legumes and
when the legume (alfalfa) dies off then I need to take some sort of
action. The problem is, the paddock is perfect except for the lack of
alfalfa. It seems like cutting down an oak tree just because it isn’t
a fruit tree.
I have considered no-till planting alfalfa into standing grass but
the results of this are not that great. Clover is a legume and does
better in a no-till situation but you have to suppress the grass in
order for the legume to get a toe-hold and grow. Suppression means I
allow the cattle to eat the grass down to the ground. I don’t want to
do this because tall grass suppresses weeds and when the grass is
gone then weeds can gain the advantage. In my opinion, clover is
the red-headed step-child to alfalfa’s more stellar performance, both
in fixing nitrogen and producing heavier cattle. Anyway, it is an
issue I have decided to explore more deeply this spring.
Here’s the second issue in my consideration, will my hydroponic fodder
project make as great an impact as I hope? I plan to raise barley
hydroponically and use it to augment pasture during times when the
pasture needs a little help, such as the summer slump or in winter
when the pasture I let grow and stockpile has frozen. I want to use
the hydroponic fodder to raise the cattle more quickly yet still
enjoy the benefits of grass-finished cattle. The way I finish cattle
on grass currently means I need to keep them through the winter which
is something I no longer wish to do. I know some people may question
trying something new when what I’m doing works but I wish to do the
very best with every gift I have been given. I am willing to “try and
fail” in pursuit of long-term and sustainable success.
I know the snow is twenty inches deep now but spring invites my
thoughts to melt through the snow and dig into the dirt and roots
that make up the pasture on our little farm. I guess when it comes to
spring I have a dirty mind. This is my brain on pasture.
Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Die winter, die!