July 31, 2008 – Thingamajig Thursday #126

Here’s this week’s “Thingamajig” entry.  We’ll try something different this week – add your favorite photo caption as a comment about this grand canyon elk that has learned to use the drinking fountain or elk waterer as the case may be!

Also check out the last thingamajig answer. Put your guess in a comment below.

As always, put your guess in a comment below.

Hold mouse over this sentence to pop-up answer.

one year ago…”Blackberries”

July 30, 2008 – New Aerial Applicator No Spray Signs

After the rash of organic and sensitive crops being mistakenly sprayed by aeriel spray planes (not to mention the large crew of field workers as well), IDALS, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, has implemented a sensitive crops directory that aeriel sprayers are asked to consult before spraying.

The department provides the signs at a discount and leaves it up to handymen like myself to figure out how to get the sign 8-10 feet off the ground with the sign at a 30-40 degree angle from the post.  I just bought a heavy piece of 10 ft PVC vent pipe and a 45 degree elbow.  I cut about two feet off the pipe, mounted the sign to the small piece then connected the two pieces with the elbow.  Then I drove a steel fence post into the ground and just slipped the PVC pipe over it.  I’m hoping I can get away with not attaching it to the post so I can slip it off in the winter to spare the sign and PVC some weathering. Â The PVC seems heavy enough and puts enough torque against the post that it doesn’t seem to want to spin around at all.

one year ago…”Claire’s First Road Trip”

July 29, 2008 – Someday!

Ever since we moved in, I’ve been meaning to take this old, heavy pump out of the basement.  That day never came, until today, when in a fit of basement cleaning, I decided it was time to get the sawz-all and cut it loose from its pipes.

I’m happy to report that the removal was uneventful – I drilled a couple small holes in the pipes going through the wall before tearing into it to make sure it wasn’t holding back water – we think it was for an old cistern that is now filled in with dirt in the front yard.  It sure was an ugly thing and really prevented full use of that part of the basement in terms of shelving and storage.

one year ago…”Peaches”

July 28, 2008 – Digging Potatoes and Garlic

It was a day to dig up some of the potatoes and garlic.

Unfortunately, the kids were so efficient at cleaning and putting away the garlic in the hayloft, that I was’t even able to get a picture of this year’s garlic crop!  Linda is sporting a new potato fork – the old wooden fork broke last fall and was replaced with a new fiberglass model.

 One year ago…”A Night on the River”

July 27, 2008 – Apple Pickin’

Martin is using the fruit picker to harvest the last of the apples from the tree that was laid down on the ground during one of the spring storms.

The tree is literally hanging on by a thread and we’re hoping to get it through this year so we can grab a graft next spring to continue the tree – it’s an old variety that ripens in mid-July and is good for pies and sauce.

one year ago…”Another Summer Thundrestorm”

July 26, 2008 – Reiman Gardens

On Martin’s special request, yesterday was a gj and Martin at Rieman Gardens in Ames day.

Reiman Gardens are Iowa’s largest public gardens, with 11 themed gardens.

Along with the gardens is a butterfly conservatory, thus the appropriately-themed chair in the garden.

Martin took some photos, including this texture-rich photo of a tropical leaf in the conservatory.

One of the butterflies in the conservatory.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #81″

July 25, 2008 – Chinese Cabbage

It has been a most excellent year for Chinese Cabbage.

It’s a great vegetable for stir-fry or boiling and has much less insect pressure than regular cabbage.

Today Claire left for Flagstaff, AZ as her Envirothon Team from Marshalltown High School heads to the National Finals. There was a plane delay in Cedar Rapids and they ended up missing the connecting flight to Phoenix in Minneapolis.  We had my brother in Eagan ready to provide lodging in Mpls to prevent them from sleeping (or not) in the airport terminal, but the airline put them up in a hotel, but they ended up missing about a day of their early arrival to explore Arizona.

one year ago…”Turkeys Arrive”

July 22, 2008 – Hosting Costa Ricans at High Hopes

As part of the Costa Rican exchange, after our visit to Costa Rica agricultural sites this past February, the Ticos are now visiting Iowa and it is our turn to reciprocate for the warm welcome we received.

The stage is set for dinner and dancing - it turned out to be a perfect July evening – in the 70′s with a dry north breeze.

Here’s the group that is visting Iowa.  Four of the members of the group we met in Costa Rica, the others are new to us.

Here “Lonna and the Pretty Good Band” start the evening off right after a dinner of iowa sweet corn, watermelon, hot dogs, rice and beans, and strawberry, apple, and cherry crisps and cobblers from fruit from the farm.

Lonna, the caller, started us out easy in a circle dance.  Despite the language barrier for some dancers, they would quickly catch on the the steps and as music and dancing are a universal language, there was much laughter and levity.

Whoo! The circle comes together!

Annie, our neighborhood piano tuner and musician arranged the band for us.

Lonna did the calling for the dancers.

Swing your partner.

Heel to toe and ’round again.  Emma kicks off her shoes and enjoys a dance.

Martin was very popular with the ladies and danced every dance in good form.

As the band played into the evening, the shadows fell as the music went on.

For those of you with Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer, you can click the icon above to see 15 seconds of the dancing with Ticos, complete with music!

one year ago…”Dilly Beans”

July 21, 2008 – Red Green Alive and Well at High Hopes!

Today’s creation is inspired by Handyman’s Corner from the Red Green TV show.


To many of you, this might look like an old, tired gas grill that missed trips to the dump over the last two years. But sometimes keeping things around too long pays off. We also have an old cooktop from the kitchen remodeling that is usable, but awkward to carry and safely use. We also like to can outside in the summer – nothing like taking the hour long boil of a batch of tomatoes outside the house on a hot summer day. Sooooo, I’m thinking the two units need to be combined…


First remove the cover and all the old propane connections and tubing.


Hmm, after the cover is gone, it turns out the cooktop won’t slide inside, so I need to get the sawz-all out with the metal blade to make the frame relatively level. Then, slip a couple of boards in where the grates used to be, screw the cooktop into the boards and the unit is almost ready.


Here’s the completed unit! Note that the duct tape concealing the joint between the cooktop and old grill is for aesthetics only – it does not provide structural support in this case.  Now we have a portable unit with wheels, a self-contained and hidden propane tank and a battery of knobs that to the untrained eye, do absolutely nothing – but I’m wondering if I could wire them to the controls of a radio and use the grill knobs for tuning and volume of a hidden radio…

one year ago…”Harry Potter and the Dilly Beans”

July 20, 2008 – Martin’s View of “The Swamp”

I thought a seven-year-old boy would appreciate the life in the wetland, so I made it a point to bring Martin over and wax on enthusiastically about the tadpoles and diversity of life in the small exclosure when we were working on the trees in the back pasture.

A bit later, he was helping mulch some trees and ran out of things to do, so he asked if he could go look at the swamp, as he refers to it.  I watched from a distance as he first climbed part way up the fence, peering in.  I made a bet with myself that it wouldn’t be long before he crawled over the fence and went inside to look.  Sure enough, the pull was too strong and he crawled over the fence. 

A few minutes later he came running at full speed towards me, face red with heat in the 90 degree day “Dad, there’s a turtle in the swamp!”  He shaped his hands about as big as a dinner plate and retold the story of the turtle siting.  As I went back to see if I could spy the turtle he turned to me and said “Dad, the farm is getting a lot bigger now.”  I asked him what he meant and he said “Now we have a swamp, we have a baby forest, and a wind turbine.”  Even though you can’t buy that comment with MasterCard, I still thought it was priceless.

one year ago…”Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge”

July 19, 2008 – Wetland Success

We started an experiment a few years ago.  There was this awful mudhole in the pasture that seemed to get bigger by the day – when the grass was soggy, the cows would keep breaking hunks of sod off, enlarging the mud area.

This is what it looked like in the spring of 2005.  Martin can’t float his boat.  I got the idea for fencing this area off from the summer camp I worked at in northern Minnesota.  Naturalist and nature photographer Les Blacklock suggested that an area near the center of camp be fenced off from regular foot traffic and be called the “exclosure.”  The idea was that a different group of plants might grow up just by leaving it alone.  As no part of the farm is left undisturbed, I thought this small section could be spared.

So this mudhole was fenced off, I ordered some marsh and wet (mesic) prairie seeds from Ion Exchange and waited.  The area is hard to manage as it gets runoff from the surrounding crop fields and a few times a year water rushed through like a small rapid stream, but most of the time it is dry or muddy.  I thought if I could establish a canopy of marsh plants, the water might stick around longer in the shade of the plants.

Here’s a peek at one of the plants to pioneer along the edge of the mudhole – Prairie Cordgrass.  It’s been a wet year (5 more inches of rain this week) and the exclosure has had continuous water since snowmelt.

Butterfly milkweed has also been successful in addition to many other plants.  It is full of tadpoles, different kinds of dragonflies and butterflies, and many other things I’m sure I don’t see.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #70″

July 18, 2008 – Visitors from the East

The last few days we had some visitors from the east. I’m not sure what the blood relationship is called, but my grandfather and his grandmother were brother and sister. He is my Mom’s cousin. At any rate, Bob came along with his wife Philothea and their son Anton.

We had a nice visit – they have a farm in SE Wisconsin where they do many of the same things as us, and many more – including a smoke house, timber land, and an old mobile home converted into a recording studio. I totally forgot to get pictures – everytime I thought of it, one of the group was off somewhere else. We’d like to try to get to return a visit this fall, so we’ll get some photos at their place.

one year ago…”Local Food at high hopes”