Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Letter to Dave
Click the picture for this week’s Rural Reflections Radio Program. http://grantnelson00.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/theweatherspottersguidetothegalaxy.mp3
I have spent much of the winter in one of my favorite vacation destinations, and I’ve spent it nesting. Although “nesting” and “vacation destination” breath the word “Florida” at slightly louder than a whisper, I’ve spent my free time further north.
The urge to nest is displayed by animals preparing for newborns. My nesting instinct is due to preparation, however not for anything born new but rather the re-birth of summer. I perform much of my summer work based from the garage which was this winter’s nesting destination.
I have remodeled the garage about every third year since I purchased the farm. It started as a single-door shop then progressed from two-stall garage to snowmobile enclave and finally to it’s current state as a hybrid-a mixture of shop, garage and fortress of solitude.
My first act of nestination (nesting plus destination) was to remove the massive shelves I had overbuilt to store my one-time passion for vintage snowmobiles. I used the wood and particle board from this deconstruction to built one massive shelf from floor to ceiling. I ended up with mostly rough-cut two by sixes lightly tasked with holding up such heavy items as a dog pillow, empty cardboard boxes and a very small shop-vac. I had to climb to the top of the shelf, located closely to the ceiling, and fight both my fear of heights and a little light claustrophobia as I affixed the final sheet of osb to the stringers I’d originally recovered from Clifford Lindquists old grainery. (Clifford’s family were the original owners of our farm)
I believe I became a little obsessed during the nestination with peg board. Peg board is quarter inch board with holes evenly placed in which you can place hangers upon which you can store your tools. The sheets are four by eight foot and I found it incredibly challenging to hold them in place while securing them with torx-head screws. I some cases I had to almost spoon the board in a full-body, pg-rated body hug to hold it in place so I could use my hands to operate the drill. In any case, I like the look of the board and lost perspective as I covered much of the garage with it to the point that the empty spaces bare testament to the fact I have no more tools to hang.
I laid out some of that shiny insulation on the front wall of the garage, more because it was easy than necessary. I prefer scissor work to saws and a stapler completed the job. I was amazed but could really feel the difference the next day. It is important to note here that it is much cheaper to use the heat you’ve already purchased more efficiently than to produce the heat more efficiently-in other words, insulate instead of installing solar panels.
The garage looks nice and it is so organized I don’t want to use it. Perhaps I will just stay inside and remember how good it felt to deconstruct, construct, screw, staple, cut, listen to the radio and drink coffee in my favorite nestination-the garage.
Herei is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio
The sun loves cattle pasture and pasture loves the sun. Although, I
am not a part of that relationship, I like basking in its light.
This is the sweetest time of the year on pasture, both emotionally
and dietary. Spring cattle pasture was a little high in protein and
low on sugar, then early summer made the grass grow so fast that some
of it got too mature to be at its best: however now we have hit the sweet
spot. The cattle are grazing grass at about a foot high and leaving
when there’s about four to five inches left. This keeps the grass young and tender
plus takes advantage of a grass plant’s ability to use sunlight to absorb carbon and
make sugar. This makes the grass sweet and very good for adding a little fat to some quite muscular
animals. The fat is what transfers the beneficial elements that make grass-fed cattle healthy
plus provides a little savoriness.
So many people graze their pasture until it looks like a golf course.
The problem with this is that along with rain and nutrients, grass
needs some sunshine to grow. The green blades of grass act like a
solar collector and help make the grass grow through photosynthesis.
When cattle are allowed to graze every part of the solar collector,
the plants can no longer grow at peak efficiency. A bare pasture is also
subject to overheating from sunlight whereas a pasture that is left with some cover
is shaded and cooler-a nicer environment for beneficial worms and microbes.
Worms constantly work their way through the soil leaving small openings which
hold rainwater. We get very little water runoff as the pasture has structure similar to a sponge
because of all those little worm tunnels. Microbes in the soil exist to help break down
leftover grass and manure into fertilizer for new growth.
Okay, if the technical information about pasture grazing has caused a slight glaze to occur
on the surface of your eyes, here comes the glaze remover. Cattle, pasture and sun have way
more meaning to me than just making beef-it’s a combination that makes me happy. When I am
free from the world, under the sun and hanging out with fifty of my closest bovine friends, I am
doing what I was made to do. That porous pasture of ours is soft on my feet and all of that green
grass helps to keep the air temperature a little cooler. I’ve always sought to define myself by
responsibility but have little interest in clubs or other groups. When I am in the pasture, among the cattle
and green grass, I can afford to let my guard down and serve those who serve me. When I am in
the pasture, I know my own identity; I am a lowly shepherd-lowly and happy.
You could say I am a man of many hats; either because I’ve had lots
of different jobs or because I have always worn some type of head
apparel. I like to think that I’m not too old to change
and maybe this week change found me under the brow of my hat.
I always wanted to wear a baseball cap as a youngster. I especially
liked anything my brother Dave, brought home. I remember a John Deere
cap I wore almost to a threadbare death. It was green with a green
patch and gold lettering. I think it had a foam front and mesh
backside with an adjustable band. 1976 was our country’s Bicentennial
and my mom made me a hat by cutting squares from empty red laundry
bottles and white Hi-Lex bottles then crocheting them together with
blue yarn. It was the kind of hat that helped me learn to fight at a
young age and never got the chance to become threadbare and exhibit use.
As an adult, I was an auctioneer on the side. I used to buy
used caps which is a little gross but they were always clean and
purchased for a dollar per box. Most of these caps advertised some
sort agricultural product and typically were in new shape. I had a
“Jacques Seed” cap which was really nice looking and hardly used
which I wore with some pride. It was stiff-sided and quite nice looking and was probably intended for
farmers who’d purchased a lot of “Jacques” product but now it was mine. I
tried a cowboy about a decade ago but found it did not fit me. The cowboy hat felt like
wearing a chandelier on my head as it would bump into things when
I tried to do some work.
There are songs about hats but none about going hat-less, probably because hats
supposedly tell something of the character of the wearer. “This Cowboy’s Hat,” and “I Wear my Own Kind of Hat” are just a couple of hat songs that leap to mind. I was riding around on my 4-wheeler this week, wearing a cap when I decided I didn’t like the feel of it on my head anymore. The sun
was beating down nice and the sky was so blue and I felt like the hat separated me
from all the beauty of a summer day. This spring was so gloomy that I’ve really come to appreciate sun and
warmth and wanted nothing between my scalp and all the sweet
air. I wanted to feel the sun on my face so I traded that sweaty old hat for some dirty sunglasses I wear when I use my grinder.
It’s that way in life too; we come to depend on habits that actually separate us from enjoying life. If you want some change in how you live or a little deeper appreciation of life, then try a different hat- or no hat at all.
Had a few minutes so prepare for a note to drop your way. Our cat, Magoo, is seated in between me and the computer screen; he likes to edit as we go along. I allow him to edit for spelling and grammar but never for content. Oh yeah, Magoo says hello too.
This week the first grass-fed steers of the season are set for processing. I usually sort and load them the same day and then haul them into our brother Steve, for processing. This year I put them into the barn several days prior so it makes for less work the day of hauling. I am feeding them some nice alfalfa during their confinement which I purchased from Lyle Swanson. Feeding cattle one forkful at a time reminds me of the fair when we used to bring cattle in for showing. I don’t go to fairs much anymore-too many people in one place. However, when I feed our steers I have close contact with them and it really takes me back to a time when our show cattle had fresh straw each day, got fed individual-sized portions of feed from a pan stored in our carefully packed barn box.
Dave, there’s a huge celebration going on in town for Arctic Cat; they’re celebrating a silver birthday. Arctic Cat has meant an awful lot to the area for many years and it all started with Edgar Hetteen’s dream. I drive an little Arctic Cat 250 ATV which has helped me build fence, check cattle, spray pasture and even relax at the end of the day. I use my tractor maybe once a week, the pick-up two-three times a week however that little ‘wheeler and I spend as much time together as Magoo and I do on the couch. Thanks to Arctic Cat for my little helper and happy birthday, too.
Dave, I have never been more organized however I’ve never been so busy. We have more cattle than ever on pasture but they are what we need to process all that forage into meat and fertilizer. I recently had a sample done on our pasture and found that it has all the nitrogen, phosphorous, etc that it needs. Here’s the kicker-we haven’t fertilized it for three years. The legumes in the pasture create nitrogen which feeds the grasses while the cattle process what they don’t need into manure which goes back into the ground. Photosynthesis from the sun does the rest. Anyway, I will have no fertilizer bill this year and that feels good.
I finally had a moment for a project, Dave-it’s called a Dorothy room. A Dorothy room is a free-standing tornado shelter built to specifications from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) I am using the specifications but am building it under the steps. The finished part which faces the hallway is made from the counter from the old Viking cafe. I am pretty confident when it comes to building fence, cattle feeders or anything rough, however indoor works makes me nervous. I typically build by eye however I am using tools for this project as foreign to me as a shovel to the average teenager. Anyway, I should finish it just as the tornado season ends and it will be the subject of a future column.
I hope the rain stops at your home in Carrington, North Dakota soon, Dave. In case it doesn’t, I have attached a pdf file of specs from FEMA for a floating structure-it’s called a Noah’s ark.
Your little bro’