Monday, April 30, 2012

For Today, I Wish You

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg?

Tuesday, my employer, Dakota College at Bottineau, celebrated Earth Day.  The theme for this year was Farming, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  The featured speaker was Will Weaver and the book read for this year was his book 'Sweet Land'.  I attended some of the sessions and it got me thinking - especially as I drove home that day and in the few days since. 

You see, the fields surrounding our new farm have been abuzz with activity.  The activity that comes with farming in today's world, which means big green and red machines pulling all types of equipment across the land in an attempt to feed the world, if not their own families.

It has me thinking...has the growth in the size of farms pushed the size of machinery or has the size of machinery pushed the size of the farms?  Way back when the average size farm in North Dakota was just over 200 acres - which was a long time ago because as you know, early settlers were given 160 acres free if they homesteaded, things were done by hand or with horses.  Then, the industrial age came and machines began to show up on our small farms.

Machines like this
 And this..not the ATV but what it is pulling...

So I wonder. There are only so many hours in a day.  So many hours, even in our long spring days as we had towards June, in which to accomplish all the planting and field work.  In older days, you didn't have tractors with auto steer, GPS, not even lights.  You were limited to what you could do in a day by the number of daylight hours in that day.  So why and when did it change?  As the farms got bigger did the equipment dealers decide to add technology to allow farmers to farm longer because they had to in order to get things done...OR...did the equipment dealers new technology get the farmers to thinking that they could get bigger because now they had the technology to do so?  You're no longer limited by the number of daylight hours in a day.  Is that a good thing?

Either way, I'm afraid it will all end up like Mr. Weaver's story 'The Last Farmer' about a farmer who works a whole LOT of land and ends up missing meals and going for days without sleep to get the crop in the ground in the spring because his wife has left him - there's no social life on a rural farm when the farms are so big and far apart - and no one to help him, because the lights and GPS and auto steer will allow him to go 24/7. 

I'm glad to know, as I watch the big green and red machines in the fields that surround our farm that there are still small farmers out there.  Small farmers like us who do things by hand or with small machines.  I'm glad to know that the farmers in my area still have wives and families to go home to and even though they sometimes work late at night, they do go home to them.  I don't think it's easy to feed the world and I'm glad they're doing it - thanks you guys!  But I still wonder, does all the new farming technology really make it easier?

Photo taken by unidentified photographer in Pekin, ND

Monday, April 16, 2012

You Know It's Windy When...

You know it's windy when...
The dog won't leave the steps and she looks like she's ready for take-off,

The wind sock has been parallel to the ground for days...

And I have a hard time getting outside to do things.  You see, even though I grew up in North Dakota, and I'm used to it, I really really hate the wind.  It most likely stems from a bad experience as a child - same goes for my dislike for swimming, but that's another story. 

I distinctly remember it.  I was in second grade and our teacher had us do the COOLEST art project.  We made construction paper frames then put clear plastic wrap down over the frame.  Then we got to go outside and find leaves and green things to put on the plastic wrap.  Lastly we colored and cut out great looking tropical fish and covered it with another sheet of plastic wrap.  I remember carefully choosing clover leaves for my greens and taking a long time to do it as I was looking for 4 leaf clovers.  I used my best coloring skills to make the fish - not easy for someone who didn't get to go to kindergarten.  I used just the right amount of glue so it wouldn't squeeze out when we put the top layer on and when it was done, in my eyes it was a masterpiece of a fish tank.  I was SO proud!  I couldn't wait to take it home and show my Mom and then hang it in my room.

The day we got to take our artwork home, the North Dakota wind was blowing away as usual.  My neighbor and I always walked the couple blocks home.  I carried my paper aquarium close to my chest and hoped it wouldn't rip.  Just then, a sudden gust tore it from my hands and down the block it flew.  It was mortified!  I ran and ran as fast as I could but could not keep up to the flying fish.  Just then, an angel appeared - well, not really...but she seemed like one to me.  A much older girl waiting with her mother in a car on the street, no doubt waiting to pick up a sibling from the elementary school, jumped out of the car and with lightning speed ran after my project and saved it!  She brought it back to me and as I wiped the tears from my eyes I can remember only being able to say 'Thank you, thank you" to her.  I never got her name, but even now, I vaguely remember what she looked liked.  If I could find her now, I'd tell her how much that meant to me and how thankful I was that someone helped me.  She helped me to carefully tuck the paper fish tank inside my jacket and I walked stiff all the way home to keep it safe.

So you see, wind is not my friend.  I can't wait for the North Dakota winds to subside just a little so going outside isn't such a chore. So outside work doesn't make you feel like you've been battling tigers all day, and so that we can get back to dogs that aren't ready for take off and wind socks that flutter instead of straightline.

Here's hoping this week is the week we get a break.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Mystery of the Appearing Mound

Along with the other wonderful signs of spring, the gardner snakes coming out of hibernation in wads (and meeting their demise under our hoes at the rate of 9 or 10 a day), the group of herons peacefully munching in the field to the east (too elusive to get a photo of without spooking) and almost best of all, TD&H (Tall, Dark and Handsome) tilling our new soil in preparation for our first ever seeding in our new location - chives and parsley - yum -

We seem to have this mystery of the weirdly appearing pile of dirt.  That's it in the photo above, just to the right and a little below TD&H on the tiller. This nice black pile of dirt showed up there one morning.  Figuring we had little burrowing critters, or maybe big burrowing critters, I went to inspect.  No visible sign of a hole - seems like the dirt is just getting pushed up from some unseen force below.  TD&H investigated too.  After coming to no conclusion, we raked away the dirt into the surrounding grass and made it look as if nothing was there.  Our perfect lawn was again perfect!

Lo and Behold! Or as my Auntie used to say "oh My Stars" next morning, the dirt pile was back again and once again was inspected.  Nope, no signs of a hole, no signs of scat, no little beady eyes poking up.   Too big to be snakes, too little to be a badger - no worries - just rake away the dirt and pretend we've just been working too hard and now are imagining things.

Next day, same thing...there it is...  yup - same hill, no hole...

This morning, TD&H decided to attack the problem with tools - a pick axe to be exact.  Not sure what the plan was, but I'm thinking he was going to get to the bottom of it in his own style.  No results.  He did manage to use the pick axe to kill a few more snakes that looked like they might find their way toward the house and being TD&H he felt compelled to protect his princess - but no critter.

Not having grown up on a farm, just a city kid who got to spend long days and weekends at her cousin's country estate - a lovely small grains farm near Des Lacs - I don't know what to make of it.  Sure could use some suggestions.  Whatever it is - it's nocturnal.  The pile reappears each morning.  Whatever it is - it burrows from underneath.  It's too big for a snake, at least I'm hoping.  It's too small for a badger, at least I'm hoping.  If it is a skunk in search of food - wouldn't you think there would be more than one pile and why would it come back to the same pike each night? And why no hole?

So, if there's any experienced farm hands, naturalists, biologists, game wardens, Indian guides or boy scouts out there who could help us identify the cause of the mysterious mound - let us know.  I think it's leading me to drink.  I'll check back in later. For now, I'm off to purchase night vision goggles, camoflauge outerwear, a critter blind and a crossbow...