April 30, 2009 – Plum Blossoms

We continue to be in a dark, cold weather pattern.  Hard penance to pay for the 80 degree day last week. Low overcast with continual wetness starts to feel oppressive after a while.  I’m worried that the wetness, cool temps and wind will prevent the pollinators from getting out to the fruit trees.

The plums are first out of the gate and in full bloom.

one year ago…”Wind Turbine Foundation Poured”

April 29, 2009 – Let the Outdoor Work Begin!

There are so many things to get done around the farm, that every few years it seems they catch up and overwhelm me so I hire out some jobs. The shingles on the south side of the detached garage where starting to curl up. Since I had a bunch of shingles left over from re-roofing the main house, it wasn’t that expensive to do.

I’ve always liked this little garage – the color and architecture remind me of an old frame forest service structure. The other little tasks were finishing the soffits on the first floor converted porch, taking and sealing the hole of an old toilet in the basement, and unplugging a basement floor drain. Now I feel much better and can keep moving forward on more projects and spring activities.

one year ago…”More Loader Benefits”

April 28, 2009 – Claire with More Opportunities

Claire was selected and awarded a scholarship to attend this year’s Iowa Youth Leadership program!

Students from around the world will attend and go through a two-week program. The following is from the organization:

The Iowa Youth Leadership International (IYLI) prepares international students to assume active leadership roles in their community and global society. Through IYLI, students embark upon a lifetime of meaningful participation in their local and global communities. Signature academic programs based on the framework of history, culture, geography, environment, economic, education, music, sports, and community provide training and exposure to prepare well-informed leaders and citizens. IYLI emphasizes the connections between local and global conditions, challenges and opportunities.

Some of the activities include a day at the Capital talking with representatives, time in US Senator’s Iowa offices, law firms, banks, outings to natural resource areas, health institutions, utilities, and many more places to get a sense of important community institutions and opportunities.

one year ago…”Hot Chicks and Cold Nights”

April 27, 2009 – Energy Group

I was invited to be part of an amorphous group looking to increase efficiency of small and medium-sized farm energy use and use of renewable energy. The participants included a wide range of parties, including I-Renew, Iowa Environmental Council, Farm Bureau, Alliant Energy, Iowa State Extension and Engineering, Rural Electric Co-ops, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and Practical Farmers of Iowa, among others.

We met at a research area owned and designed by Grinnell College. I love this photo that shows and environmentally and aesthetically conceived building, wind generator, and artisitic monolith in the adjacent prairie.

I hope that the group is able to come up with actionable plans that meet everyone’s needs and can usher in new ideas in farm energy use and creation.

one year ago…”A Constant Battle”

April 26, 2009 – Gully Washers

Today we had downpour after downpour as a line of thunderstorms “trained” over our place.  During the band concert in the high school, water dripped through the lights of the auditorium and the rain did not stop. Water was waist deep on some streets in Marshalltown.  Most of the county received 6 inches of rain.

The debris and runoff from the adjacent field collapsed the fence around the willow nursery in the back pasture.

A wider view of the temporary river where water generally does not flow.  It was a depressing sight, to drive around and see all the topsoil being washed away in nearly every bare field.

one year ago…”Stocking Up on Fuel”

April 25, 2009 – Prom

Today was prom day for Claire. She and a friend had dinner at our place before prom.

We served as much from the farm food, including barbecued chicken, grilled asparagus and grilled mushrooms among other things.

In contrast to the last school dance where Claire debuted in a hand-made duct-tape dress, her nod to non-conformity has softened, this time to wearing green converse low-tops.

Her prom companion was a fellow debater and neighbor.

one year ago…”Egg Season”

April 20, 2009 – Shiitake’s Return

The shiitake’s are back!  The logs that fruited last fall are at it again.  Linda was out looking for some moss and mushrooms for biology lab and was the first to see that the fruiting had already begun this spring.

Soon, we’ll be eating fresh fungus!  It’s always a pleasant surprise to see the logs sprouting these delicacies.

one year ago…”Manure Handling 101″

April 17, 2009 – What’s Wrong with This Envelope?

Here’s an envelope from the City of Duluth that I saw a parking attendant put on my car in Duluth a few weeks ago. (I was in a space after the yellow line stopped on the curve, but the winter salt and grime obscured the white hatches indicating no parking – the ticket was a warning, but I got the envelope as if it had been a real violation.)

So now the City of Duluth has outsourced its parking fine payment to Tarrytown, New York.  It strikes me that the computer systems needed to implement this system and the and unfamiliarity the New Yorkers have with Duluth streets seems like a bad idea.  I wonder if the city bean counters considered the additional loss of the local multipliers of the local people who lost their jobs processing payments, who might not be able to find a new job and go on public assistance!

This reminds me of  an article about McDonald’s in Hawaii outsourcing their drive through order-taking to a call center in Texas.

“It takes a little getting used to on the order-taker’s side, but I think with practice, they become more and more comfortable working with our local clientele,” Okazaki said.

McDonald’s said the new system is delivering more accurate orders and speeding up service, but there is no cost savings. “We haven’t pared back on our labor force at all. In fact, we’ve been able to have our crew members concentrate more on their particular position,” Okazaki said.

Evidently, it is now too complicated to both listen to an order and put the items in a bag.  Now the “put the hamburgers in a bag” people will be able to perfect their “loading burgers in a bag position” without having to learn to coordinate listening and putting food in a bag.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #114″