July 6, 2014 – Mother Nature’s Fireworks and Funnels, Oh My!

Once again, dramatic skies in the neighborhood.

midwest storm

Looking to the tornado-spawning clouds to the south before sunset.

midwest storm

Same place as the sun set. This is the same tornado-spawning cloud as in the earlier picture.

barn and storm cloud

Clouds and the barn.

farm building and storm cloud

Clouds and the hog barn.  This cloud made tornadoes by Tama.

funnel rock creek

A view of the tornado near rock creek park in Jasper county. No wind here, and only a sprinkle of rain.

June 20, 2014 – Seems Like a Rerun

Every few days it seems a storm rolls through.

This is looking east in the late afternoon, with some funky rays streaming up (or down?).

The back pasture is lush (and mostly thistle-free).

More passing clouds over the barn.

This is the first year we’ve had deer problems – here’s one of them we scared out of the back pasture on on her way away somewhere else.

A look across the fields to the west after the storm.

Martin *was* building a tree fort in this grouping of basswoods when one of the three limbs of the just-started fort came down.

June 8, 2014 – A Walk Around the Back Pasture

Today was a good day to get things done on the farm. It was only about 70 degrees, Linda offered to take Martin to Decorah for his music camp, so I was left to catch up on all those things that never seem to get done. But first a break as we check out the back pasture.

This wonderful little pond was just a black dirt mudhole when we moved in. We fenced it off, planted some wet prairie/marsh seeds, and now it does its part to clean water as it runs off the neighboring fields before heading down to the gulf.

blue flag iris

One of the beauties is this blue flag iris.

tadpoles

The pond gives us great evening sounds, among other things – we can fall asleep to the sounds of the frogs and toads in their little home. Today, however, I was in for a surprise when I scared up a snapping turtle about the size of a dinner plate.

The alleyway of trees we planted in the middle of the pasture are close to creating yet another micro-environment on the farm. The walnuts, bur oaks, and black cherry are really starting to take off.

May 1, 2014 – Doesn’t Look like Much…

The picture does not belie the effort needed to arrange the photo.

This wagon is the new home to about forty 16 foot-long cattle panels.  They were protecting small trees from grazing animals and now the trees are larger and there aren’t as many grazing animals, so it was time to take down the fences so the trees wouldn’t grow into them.  It is amazing how much grass and soil accumulated around the bottoms – in all cases the first row was buried and in some places, they were buried up to the second cross row.  Who needs a gym membership when you can instead rip these out of the sod and drag them to the wagon (uphill of course!)  The fenceposts that were pulled are in a different pile.

March 29, 2014 – Last Year’s Chores

Finally getting a wrap on last fall’s chores that were left unfinished.

squaw creek

Here’s what the pruning of a 60 foot of blackberries looks like!

Other mundane spring chores that aren’t really noticeable by anybody but me include picking th remaining deadfall apples, pruning the fruit trees, picking rocks out of the grass moved by plowing snow, finishing the under deck skirting to keep critters out, cleaning up the dead tomatoes and taking the cages out, moving big rocks and cement blocks lying around to a consolidated neat home, cutting out windbreak trees that were not sold as Christmas trees that were planted 5 feet apart and need to be 20 feet apart when mature, cutting down mulberry trees is fencelines, and best of all, getting the first planting of lettuce, radishes, spinach in the ground.

March 9, 2014 – Two, Count ‘Em Two, Signs Spring is Near

Finally!

Tapped a few maple trees today.

The stream in the back pasture willed itself into being today.

Only a couple hours before this, you can see Linda stepped through the snow to get some pussy willows – a few hours later, a couple feet of water appeared, burying her tracks.

But there’s still a lot of snow to melt – in some places the drifts still barely reach over the top of the pasture fence.

And a garden bed is still a long ways from planting.

January 16, 2014 – 2013 Wind Turbine Production

It’s time for the annual Skystream wind turbine update.  The good news is that 2013 was the highest year of wind turbine production and just as importantly was the lowest year of energy use.

In 2013, the Skystream produced 4,684 kWh, an average of 390 kWh per month. The farm and household used 9,346 kWh, an average of 778 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 50.1%  of our energy, a net improvement of about 1.5% over the previous year.

annualprodAnnual turbine production – the boost in 2011 was due to a software upgrade.

avemonthlyAverage monthly kWh produced.

annualuseThis chart shows our average annual kWh use over the last 11 years.  Some of this is due to better appliances, some due to children leaving the house, and increased awareness of energy use.

January 8, 2014 – View from Above

I thought it was time to see what our place looked like in Google Maps, and thought I’d show it on the blog.  It simultaneously doesn’t look as open or tree-filled as it does from the ground.

Now, for a view with some annotations of some features visible from the air.

1) Fruit Trees (3 groups)
2) Annual Gardens (2 groups)
3) Burn Piles (5 groups)
4) House Windbreak
5) Field Windbreak/Christmas Trees
6) Native Hardwoods
7) White Pine Windbreak
8) Native Marsh planting, with willows to the south of the box
9) Tractor ruts from a bad experience!
10) Raspberries and Blackberries
11) Giant Rainwater tanks (2)
12) Animal Composter
13) Chicken Tractor (can see the  daily “tracks”)
14) Old Granary
15) Barn
16) Hog Barn
17) Corn Crib
18) Machine Shed
19) Chicken Coop
20) Old Machine Shed
21) House
22) Garage
23) Wind Turbine
24) Cranberry Hedge