Sunday, July 24, 2022

Cooking with Spices + a Quick Video Tour of the House

I remember when I was in my early teens checking a book out from the library on how to make Indian Spice recipes. The ingredients were totally unknown to me, though I found many of them in the tiny McCormick spice jars at the local grocery store. Though, unsurprisingly, I could never make anything that tasted good to me.

I think it's been almost 20 years that I've been using spices like this. My goal was to be able to cook like a country grandma, from any part of the world and I've come close, not needing a recipe for most things. Primarily Indian, North African, Caribbean, Mexican, Middle East. I'd like to learn more, and no doubt a native would take issue with how I make things compared to their grandmothers, but I'm happy with the results.

The house is still a collection of partially finished projects. The farm work is all consuming (a good thing, I think) and I'm not all that interested in working on the house, even if I had time. Living here is like being on a long term camping trip. You have to change your perspective on a lot of things or you'll go nuts.

Hiring someone to do the work was difficult pre covid, now it's next to impossible. A perfect example of this is my grain bin. We are a couple years into it (including planning/procurement) and they finally pulled up with a truck to construct the forms for the concrete pad. They might start putting them up in the next few weeks. Everything takes a lot longer than you'd think, and ends up costing 50% more than the (non-binding) estimate. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Swallows Following Me as I Mow

This field was drilled with forage peas, which offered the possibility of harvesting them around the 1st of August prior to drilling/planting Kernza soon after. Unfortunately the peas couldn't crowd out the weeds, mostly lambsquarters. The resulting mass of green material would be too much to put through the combine. If the weeds were dead/brown too, along with the dried peas, I think it would work.

Alternatively I could have tried swathing it all, hoping that everything would dry out in windrows, and then put it through the combine. A lot of things have to go right for that to work; ultimately I didn't think I could make that happen. So I'm mowing them down as a green manure.

The swallows are so graceful. They are a joy to watch. Too bad my camera didn't really pick them up.


"Geometric Analysis Reveals How Birds Mastered Flight"

Evolution has created a far more complicated flying device than we have ever been able to engineer,” said Samik Bhattacharya, an assistant professor in the experimental fluid mechanics lab at the University of Central Florida…. most birds can morph their wings mid-flight to flip back and forth between flying smoothly like a passenger plane and flying acrobatically like a fighter jet. Their work makes it clear that birds can completely alter both the aerodynamic characteristics that govern how air moves over their wings and the inertial characteristics of their bodies that determine how they tumble through the air to complete fast maneuvers.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Changing the Lift Arm Pins on the Row Cultivator

The old ones were loose and bent, causing the cultivator to sag when it was on the three point hitch behind the tractor.

I had to cut one off with the torch as the nut was seized. The silver bushing on the end of the installed pin is to increase the pin from a (size) CAT 2 to a CAT 3 that is on the tractor's quick hitch.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Soybean Crop - a mid season recap/rant

[deep breath; here we go........]

So what happened? I've gone over these details many times in my head, as there isn't much else to do when you're making multiple passes over the same ground in the tractor while looking at the results of what you've done.  [listening to Español con Juan podcasts is a good diversion]

the short version: the beans have been poor so far and they don't look like they'll get any better. I didn't talk about the corn in this post, but it is in good shape. The peas (ahead of Kernza) were overrun with weeds. The Kernza gets planted in a few weeks.


Delayed application of inputs: lime and turkey litter because spreader was busy. Untimely spring rains didn't help.

My higher HP tillage tractor - a Case 7140 - had a bad hydraulic leak and was at the mechanic's for 3 weeks, forcing me to find/use a "custom" operator who missed some important details re:weed termination, while also beating up my disc

My Deere 520 20' wide flail mower also broke down, leaving me with a 5' wide bush hog to mow my pre-plant weeds on 165 acres. Impossible to do. Six weeks later, the mower hasn't been fixed, only evaluated (the verdict is that one of the two rotors is slightly imbalanced causing the whole implement and tractor to shake when you get up to 1600 rpm; the normal operating/cutting shaft speed of the mower is 2000 rpm and when you take the engine up there the shaking mostly goes away)  by the local Deere mechanic. They are very busy. I still need it to mow escaped weeds; I hope it holds up.


I maintain my equipment to a fairly high standard and almost all pieces are "middle aged" in terms of their useful life. Unfortunately this year I had multiple failures. I am a decent mechanic, sort of intermediate level compared to the Deere guys, but I only have 2 hands and so many hours in the day.


A cover crop of red turnip that shockingly overwintered, leaving 4' tall plants that had to be broken down using the above constraints, prior to planting soybeans.

A very large increase in the time I had to spend crossing the fields to do all of the above, leading to missing/mis-timed passes with the tine weeder, causing weeds to appear in the rows.

In order to balance my rotation among corn/beans/wheat/kernza over 300 acres spread out over a 13 mile radius, I planted an extra 65 acres to beans this year. This meant a lot more travel, and time got eaten up.

Most importantly, a very poor stand of beans on about 75% of the acreage. We think this is because of bad seed, for which I'll get a relatively minor (~ 5% of revenue loss) credit from the seed company.

Not having the income from the above is bad enough. However I still had to pay for all the input costs. Plus my time.

I work just as hard whether the beans are growing or not. If anything its a little tougher mentally right now because I have to manage/till/mow weeds in a failing crop to keep them from going to seed.

I'm not sure what I'll get as far as yield. I'll probably end up getting my input costs back.

Organic crop insurance would have paid something this year, if I were to have bought it, which I've done once in seven years. That said, the premium paid versus coverage received is horrible so I probably would have come out slightly better financially this year. It's a very different proposition to conventional crop insurance. Yes, the "experts" are working on it, but that's been happening for a long time with few changes.

Should I "publish" this/make it public? why not, it does me no good sitting in my head..

Saturday, July 9, 2022

In this episode of "What the hell just happened?"

A Poor Soybean Stand.

Maybe caused by pathogens in the soil leading to "damping off"? There's plenty of diseases to chose from.

The seed company rep will be out here eventually to help me understand this a little better. In the meantime I'll keep plugging away at it.

Hard to be too upbeat when I look out the window at these fields everyday. Even so, it's not over yet, and ultimately, there's always next year.

 Still - I'm having a hard time.

[using clichés => es malo]

More Carl

 Part of our daily routine. In the morning he lays there until I come over and show some love. Eventually he gets up, coming into the kitchen to eat the apple core left over from the oatmeal I make.

 [[[ To Carl's anonymous fan from the last post: We see you - love right back at ya!  ]]]

And for those of you out there who are waiting to hear more complaints from me about problems on the farm, not to worry! There are several videos just waiting to be uploaded.

But not right now. It's nice out. After the last two [long] days bouncing around in the tractor while row cultivating, I can take a day off and do maintenance on equipment. Take extended coffee breaks. Act like an "employee". Post videos of my dog online.

 ¡Adios chicos!  Nos vemos la próxima vez.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Kernza Field Day - July 21st in Farmington, MN

We're going to plant Kernza for the first time on 24 acres in about a month. I'm planning on attending this field day to pick up some last minute ideas.

(Click on image to make it bigger.)

We're members of the Perennial Promise Grower's Co-op, who have hired Mad Agriculture to market all of our grain. They have put together a FAQ page on Kernza, here.

Out of the Blue: Dino Pliers

 (Click on any image to make it bigger.)

Made several years ago for a friend who liked dinosaurs. Pics by his mom.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Flat Tire

 (Click on any image to make it bigger.)

I must have run over something sharp, but couldn't see anything obvious. I hope that the mobile tire repair shop can come out soon. In the meantime I was able to get it jacked up enough to take the weight off of the rim and folded tire.


Updated to say fixed on 7/6 @ 5 pm by Noble's Tire Service: 3 gallons of Stop Leak plus some patches. $320. No need for a new tire according to the mechanic. Just a normal failure.