March 30, 2011 – Tractor vs Tree

I’ve spent a good part of the last few weeks cutting up firewood and hauling branches from the old maple tree that came down a couple weeks ago.  The day finally arrived to try to move the main trunk sections down to the burn pile in the pasture.  It was a true case of tractor vs tree.  Tree won the first round.  I needed to cut one part of the trunk in two as the tractor could barely budge it.  That was the first time the tractor had been denied.

So, here’s the first section, almost ready to be released to the pile.

More sign that the tree put up a good fight.  I now have an “opportunity” to reseed the area around the tree and the dragging path in the pasture

The big trunks all in their place.  It’ll be a warm December fire when these guys light up!

one year ago…”Winter Damage”

March 29, 2011 – News from Cambodia

A former writer type co-worker of mine is now in Cambodia, volunteering for the American Jewish World Service. Mark lost his job at Wells Fargo and took it as an opportunity to volunteer. He’s keeping a blog at Mark in Cambodia. I’m particularly struck at the people, colors, and stories of the inhumanity of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, during at which as at least 1.7 million people were killed and deaths documented so Pol Pot could be sure his underlings were telling the truth on executions and murders. If you’re so inclined, you can stop by his blog and read more and get more photos like the one below.

I’ll use Mark’s words to describe his work in Kampot: “Among my tasks this week, I created a volunteer plan for the NGO’s youth group who will be helping out with Cambofest, an indie film festival to held here in early March. I also developed an action plan for my work over the next three months. Central to that plan is an internal and external communications strategy, annual and quarterly report editing, development of one grant proposal and future proposal strategy, as well as developing English speaking, critical thinking and research skills of the NGO staff. Those who know me from my work know this puts me smack dab in the middle of my sweet spot.”

one year ago…”It’s Elementary”

March 28, 2011 – Hooking Up

When you hook up, it’s very important to get the connection correct.  Of course, there are a number of ways to hook up, some better than others.  It’s time for another irregular handyman hint.

This shows hooking up the chain one way – with the link  inserted perpendicular to the hook.

Another way to hook up is to insert the hook into a link. One method of hooking up is much better than the other.  Know which one?

The top one is superior as it is easier to unhook after tensioning the chain in the chain, the bottom one can get the hook stuck in the link.

one year ago…”Vote for Eliza”

March 27, 2011 – Frozen Four

This year has brought back memories from the old undergraduate days in Duluth Minnesota, where hockey reigned supreme.  I still remember the crisp, clear walks back from the arena after the game.  I was thankful that there were many blocks of skywalk to break the chill of the two mile walk.

This year’s team has once again made the NCAA Frozen Four.

This year, the tourney is hosted in St. Paul and would be a perfect time to go…if tix weren’t $100 game and you had to buy three games at that price, so a couple of tix sets you back $600.  That’s about 240 dozen eggs!

I found this photo in the archives of the Duluth News-Tribune from the early 80’s showing coach Mike Sertich celebrating after beating Wisconsin to win the conference championship.  The years I had season tickets the Bulldogs went to three NCAA tournaments.  If they can get by Notre Dame in the first game, they’ll play their nemesis North Dakota.

one year ago…”Sheep Bling”

March 26, 2011 – Burn, Baby Burn!

Because of the row of new trees down the center of the back pasture, the area from the trees to the back property line hasn’t been grazed for a bout 5 years.  I was time to reduce some of the biomass to let this year’s plants sprout.

Martin ready with some buckets of water, backpack sprayer, and shovels to snuff out fires.

Here, Linda spreads the backfire, moving the fire against the wind.

Once the backfires were lit, we could let the wind take the fire to the backfires.

Martin and Linda on patrol to make sure the fire doesn’t creep upwind to the pine trees.  The mowed path nest to the trees does the most to stop the flames.

The final result.  It’s great to have an excuse to play with fire.

one year ago…”Landscape Architecture Class Visit”

March 25, 2011 – Spring Put on Hold

After a nice week last week, we have plunged to days 15-20 degrees below normal.  Some days it’s struggled to get above freezing (when it is “supposed” to be in the 50’s).

It looks like the maple flowers might have taken a bit of a hit.

This flower is rather bizarre looking – with all the flowing red tentacles it wouldn’t look out of place in a deep sea documentary.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #201″

March 23, 2011 – “Gracious Professionalism”

Today, Martin and one of his Lego League team members traveled to Ames to exhibit “gracious professionalism” – a core value of the First Lego League organization. They traveled to help the “flying monkeys” get ready for their trip to San Diego to compete in a national tournament.

The team was selected on the strength of their innovative solution project (a prosthetic device) and was needing some pointers on robot programming. Here Martin demonstrates some test programs, in this case, following a black line using a light sensor on a test pad.

Here they look over some programming hints and techniques to help make their robot work more efficiently.

one year ago…”The Sap Keeps a Boilin'”

March 22, 2011 – First Thunderstorm Downpour of the Season

Last night the sirens went off for the first time of the season and some property was lost as a tornado packing 120 mph winds danced across a county south of Des Moines. For our part, all that landed on our farm was heavy rain and pea-sized hail.

This rain arranged a winter’s accumulation of dead pine needles and other debris into nice pine needle dunes as the water lapped off the driveway. It also took all the frost out of the ground and the earthworms did appear!

one year ago…”Paul Simon and Ali Farokhmanesh – Separated at Birth?”

March 21, 2011 – Happy Spring!

The first brave shoots are plunging up out of the ground, the days are now longer than the nights. But the first real sign of spring, at least to me, are earthworm trails or castings that mean the ground is unfrozen – I still haven’t seen those signs yet. Setting fence posts this weekend, we still found some frozen ground.

one year ago…”Moving Ewes”

March 19, 2011 – New Fence

One thing that is under-appreciated by most urban dwellers is the work and importance of fences.  They’re more work than they seem with branches falling on them in storms and mulberries growing up in them. Lately, we’ve been having too many chicken escapes – they are scratching up the garlic beds and going where they are not supposed to go.  We don’t allow them in the gardens during the growing season.

We put up 150 feet of woven wire around part of the chicken yard.  It used to be cattle panels, with old bits of lath jimmied between the wider squares near the ground the chickens could sneak through.  Now any chickens that get over are flying and get a “wing haircut” to keep them in their place!

We dragged the panels to the back pasture where we could extend our back pasture a bit more as well.  It pretty much shot the afternoon.

one year ago…”Last Lambs Hit the Ground”

March 18, 2011 – Ducks and Fish

I’ve been trying to be a bit more deliberate about getting out more.  Truth is, I could work 120 hours a week on the farm and still not get everything done.  The last few days we’ve been watching the migration at a local marsh, Hendrickson Marsh on the Story-Marshall county line.  This was the first day the ice was out.

For this part of the world, it’s a pretty big marsh.  It sets in about a mile square block and water probably takes up 1/4 of the square mile.  It’s a magnet for ducks and geese.

The were thousands of ducks here today.

We thought we’d try to catch some garden fertilizer in the stream below the marsh.  I’m going to try to make a fish emulsion.  We didn’t get any big ones, but plenty of little ones and it was a great way to spend a Friday afternoon.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #200″