Here’s a shot of most of the farm from the air. It looks so much smaller when you are not in the midst of a pasture, near a tree, or facing a row of vegetables and weeds.
Things that jump out at me are all the visible changes since the first farm aerial shot we have. All the white roofs on outbuildings are new. All of the trees less than 60 feet tall or so are new. The garden beds in strips are new. The wind turbine is new. The mowed labyrinth in the pasture is new. There are also a few things missing – old decrepit buildings, many trees that blew down in storms or were cut down. It is fun to look and see a different perspective on progress.
After returning home after an absence of longer than a week, you get an appreciation of all the things that you do, even though you feel like you are never caught up. Seeing what the farm looks like with a week of inattention brings home how much really does get done.
Garlic was ready to pull.
Onions wer ready to pull.
Sunflowers went wild.
And we finally got around to introducing Martin to firearms training – one of the many rural skills that have eluded him to date.
Once again, dramatic skies in the neighborhood.
Looking to the tornado-spawning clouds to the south before sunset.
Same place as the sun set. This is the same tornado-spawning cloud as in the earlier picture.
Clouds and the barn.
Clouds and the hog barn. This cloud made tornadoes by Tama.
A view of the tornado near rock creek park in Jasper county. No wind here, and only a sprinkle of rain.
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.
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.
One of the beauties is this blue flag iris.
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.
It was mainly a soggy Mother’s Day, but we did have some breaks in the clouds.
First, a wide angle shot of the rainbow.
Same rainbow, zoomed in a bit. I think I’m gong to like this camera!
One of the advantages of living in wide open spaces, is, well, wide open spaces.
A bunch of pop-up thunderstorms rumbled around us this evening.
Looking west at sunset – felt like John Hiattt was here with us singing his song Lipstick Sunset.
Time to look forward to spring. Finally, the first garden produce of the year!
The asparagus is particularly vigorous this year, outpacing the white pines!
The plums decided to bloom, even after last year’s prolific harvest.
The tart cherry is ready to go as well.
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.
Finally getting a wrap on last fall’s chores that were left unfinished.
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.
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.
Everybody in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. knows about this winter. Today the temperature is forecast for a high of -1. Then -15 tonight.
Martin against the snowbank on the side of the road.
Just as a flashback, this is a picture from February 20, 2012, getting ready to get a few seeds in the ground! I’d be all for a happy medium between these extremes!
Look what fell from the sky – on a rare above freezing day in the winter of 2013-2014, a boy and his dog, dropped from the heavens.
And a few days later, this nice layer of hail fell down before some snow, just to freeze later and put an inpenetrably thick layer of ice everywhere until the next warmup, not currently scheduled.
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.
Annual turbine production – the boost in 2011 was due to a software upgrade.
Average monthly kWh produced.
This 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.