Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Springtime in North Dakota!

I absolutely love this time of year. The spring sun is warming up the earth and turning brown to green, the birds are their most colorful, doing their best to impress a mate and the farmers are busy in the fields. Leaving Wisconsin we traveled…..well in separate directions. Yup, she left me again! Daisy, Dakota and I had a 9 hour driving day to the northwest while Barb flew several hours east. When the day ended I found myself in Douglas, North Dakota on the Finken/Sobieck farm and Barb found herself at our daughter’s house in Greencastle, Pennsylvania.
Although we have spent several falls at “the farm” over the past several years, this is the first time we have spent any time here during the spring and I was curious what it was like during planting season. By the time I arrived they had their peas and canola planted but they had plenty of soy beans and durum to get in the ground.  

Having never planted before I was unfamiliar with the steps that needed to be taken to get the seed in the ground. Over the course of the next several days I pitched in and helped them anywhere a rookie like me could do so without getting in the way. Being a "no till" farm there is minimal preparation of the land. They often plants right through the residue from the previous years crop.

Depending on the field they will often spend time picking rocks, digging up boulders and repairiong drainage areas. I spent hours out in the field operating the rock picker slowly but surely removing some of the thousands of rocks that surfaced. The rock picking is kind of interesting. The use a cleverly named implement called the Rock-o-matic. This implement has turning spikes similar to a paddle wheel on a boat that scoops rocks softball sized and larger into a bin. Once the bin is full you use the hydraulics to dump the rocks somewhere off the field.
Rock-o-matic ready for action
Closer shot of the paddles and bin

Once the field is prepped it is ready for planting. One of the first steps is to load the seed into the semi. I operated the forklift as 50 bushel totes of seed were emptied onto the grain belt and into one of the hoppers on the semi.
50 bushel of soy beans being loaded onto the grain belt.....

.......into the semi
From there they load one of the three hoppers on the cart with the seed. (the other two hoppers are filled inoculant that promote plant health and the third hopper is filled with fertilizer).
From there it gets loaded into the seed drill
Then it is planting time! The planter they use is an air disk planter meaning it uses disk to create the furrow in the ground a blower to feed the seeds and the appropriate ratio of inoculant and fertilizer from the hoppers to each of the 65 furrows spaced 7 ½ inches apart followed by a packer to set the seed into the soil.

The planter

Next up is the roller, a 45 foot three sectioned roller that packs and covers the seed.

45' Roller

Last but not least is the sprayer to prevent any plants other than the beans from growing. This thing is 120' wide so you have to be really careful not to hit trees, fences or any other obstacles.
The Sprayer
Each of these steps are critical in order to maximize the yield in each field with the planting and spraying being the most critical. So what did I do? Over the course of the past week I did each of these steps except the actual planting. Screw that up and..... well lets just say they did not want that screwed up. I spent most of my time rolling and picking rocks.

Speaking of screwing up, I also play another key role at the farm. I am the designated “blamee” for anything that goes wrong while I am here be it a breakdown, something lost or just a screw up if I am anywhere near the area, and by near I mean within 10 miles, I am immediately blamed. A key role which I have become very good at!
Over the past week I rolled somewhere between 900 - 1,000 acres of beans and only had one “screw up” when I lost a bolt on one of the wings. I am not sure how that was my fault but I was told it was so it must be……

I have a broken wing!
The other bonus about being here this time of the year are the birds. Songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl are very abundant right now making for plenty of photo opportunities! In between tractoring I was able to get out several times and take some pretty cool shots of the local bird life.

Drake Pintail

Blue-wing Teal

Northern Shoveler


Yellow-headed blackbird


Marbled Godwit

One of their pivots on an oats field
Meanwhile in Pennsylivania........

Barb's visit was focused around baseball and food. Does it get any better than that? In addition to visiting and spending time with the grandkids they managed to get out to an Orioles game and Shane used his ultimate smoker to cook up some ribs and chicken!
Barb, Jessica and Dylan sporting the Orioles gear!

Shane and his giant smoker

Cutie Kendall up to bat!

Dylan ready to hit a homerun.....
She flies back to Minneapolis today then just a short 8 hours drive to Douglas and we will be together again!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

You Know You Are Getting Old When.......

It was inevitable, everybody gets old right? No, not everyone, not us, we are not old….. Well there were signs… arms are almost too short to read a menu, we are offered the senior discount without asking, our mails consists of more AARP material than anything else, our biggest decision of the day is whether to have peanut butter or honey on our English muffins and yes, I have worn socks and sandals. But the sad truth really hit home this week. It occurred to us the other day as we walked hand in hand into our doctor appointments, followed by our joint visits to the dentist office but it really occurred to us as we were walking into Walgreens together to pick up our prescriptions. OMG, we are an old couple!!!! Oh well, getting old beats the alternative…..
We arrived to the Balsam Lake area late on a Tuesday and the first thing we did was order a pizza from our favorite pizza place, in fact we ordered it on our way into Wisconsin and picked it up as we passed by. JJ’s has the best pizza ever!

We arrived at our friend Kevin’s place and set up next to the horse barn. Since we arrived a day early we had no plans for the next day so we spent the day cleaning the rig. The dust, mud and snow of South Dakota had done a number on the outside, throw in a couple of dogs dragging that dirt inside the rig and you can imagine what the inside of it looked like.
The Filip's Estate

Our home for the week!
We had a full week of visiting planned and first on our list was  my sister Judy and her husband Mike. We met them at our old hangout The Thirsty Otter for all you can eat rib night. The ribs were as good as remembered them yet they too were a sign we are getting old. You know you are getting old when all you can eat ribs consists of one serving…… It was great to see Judy and Mike.
Next up was our friends Joe and Pam who we met at Waterside restaurant just outside of Amery. Since it was Friday of course I had to go with the all you can eat fish fry! (again one serving). We followed that up with a visit to a new taproom in the area. Amery Ale Works is in the bottom of a converted dairy barn and well worth the stop.
Kevin, Pam, Joe, Barb and I
Saturday was a big day as we had planned a family reunion of sorts. Three of my sisters and both my brothers along with some of their spouses all got together at Kevin’s for a get-together. Kevin slow cooked a 14# prime rib on his pellet grill and it was delicious!!!! We also had killer bean bag toss tournament which was won by none other than yours truly with my brother Bob as a partner!

My brother Rod, his wife Beth and my sisters Becky and Carol

Barb showing my sister Judy and sister-in-law Greta our house plans
Greta and Barb watching Dakota swim
My brother Bob and brother-in-law Mike doing a little shooting

Sunday consisted of a trip over to the Somerset area where we had a great lunch with good friends Doug and Connie. We also threw up some “For Sale” signs our property in the area. We are hoping to sell this within the next year to fund our house building project in South Dakota. So if you know anyone looking to buy some property in Wisconsin, send them our way!
We also swung by Hack’s Bar in Milltown to see our favorite bartender. Julie who used to house/dog sit for us when we lived here. Then it was back to the Thirsty Otter for bingo night! Who plays bingo you ask? Old people….old people play bingo, and we play bingo because we are evidently old…. Prizes consisted of free meals, drink tokens, packages of meat and cash. We were within one square several time…close but no bingo. I finally got bingo but so did someone else so we shook dice to break the tie. I lost and took the walk of shame back to my bar stool without my package of meat. Barb finally broke the ice on the very last game of the night where everyone throws in $5 for a cash game. She won $160!!!!!!

Thursday and Friday Barb went to make some money at her old workplace where she still does some contract work. I on the other hand spent money getting the trailer tire fixed and went over to my brother Bob’s house where we spent the day making birdhouses. There a lot of bluebirds on the South Dakota property so I am sure they need some houses!

Check out the hematoma on that tire!

My brother Bob cutting some side panels

3 of the 8 finished houses
Speaking of South Dakota, our friend Kevin is going to be our neighbor! Well 15 minutes away but close enough to be considered a neighbor as he bought a 15 acre horse property adjacent to the National Forest just outside of Pringle. It is a beautiful site with water, power and a spectacular view and bonus…it has elk right on the property!

Friday night we drove an hour over to Hudson Wisconsin to have dinner with our old lake neighbors Brian and Chelle. They took us to Postmark Grille a newer restaurant in the old post office building. We followed that up with drinks at Madison Ave. Wine and Spirits. It could not have been a better night, great food, great drinks with great friends.
The downside of moochdocking at the house of a contractor/horse owner is that there is always so much to do. So while we were there we mucked stalls, mowed the grass, unloaded various construction materials and power washed the deck. There is never a lack of things to do!

Off loading some timbers for an upcoming house
One interesting off load involved some prebuilt walls that were too big to unload with one skid loader so what do you do? Get another one and lift up the pallets, have the truck drive out from under them and slowly move the skid loaders in unison.

Truck pulling forward

Drop this and it will cost a few thousand dollars
Our Wisconsin adventure cumulated with a two day visit to our good friends the Anderson family in Spring Valley. We look forward to seeing them whenever we are in the area. They were nice enough to let us crash their Mother's Day celebration.

Barb chatting with Rachel and Ronda

Gloria making banana splits!
We were not able to see everyone we wanted to see but it was a great week of visiting and there is more that I could write about but it is 4:30 and if we are going to catch the early bird special at the buffet and be home in time to be in bed by 7:30 we need to get moving!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Final Days in South Dakota

I have two excuses for not updating the blog for the past couple of weeks…… first, we have had very inconsistent internet. We have to drive up the road to the top of a hill to get connected and even then it is spotty. The second excuse is that we lost Barb’s camera and we were hoping it would turn up. It didn’t……thus very few pictures this post.
We closed on our property in the Black Hills last week so now it is official! It was a long and arduous search and it feels good to have someplace that we will someday call home. When is that someday? We will probably start building very slowly over the next several years but for right now we are content traveling and exploring this great continent. First up will probably be leveling the site and running power so we have a place to park when we are in the area.

We have been out to the property several times in the past 10 days, walking it, checking out every nook and cranny, envisioning ourselves living there someday. Besides being home to several hundred prairie dogs, the property has been used to pasture 3 horses the past several years. Funny thing about that…… When we asked if the owners knew whose horses they were they had no idea. A check with the neighbors resulted in some speculations but no concrete answers. Finally a son-in-law of the former owners said he thought he knew who they belonged to and would see about getting them moved.
The property is fenced on 2 sides but the horses shared our 45 acres with the adjoining 40 acres so the horses had free roam of 85 acres. One thing we learned about South Dakota is that if you don’t want livestock on your property it is your responsibility to keep them off, otherwise if there is no fence they range wherever they want to. Very different than Wisconsin where it is the farmers responsibility to keep their livestock within their pasture area.

We also ran across something else really cool on the property. It seems to be home to several Burrowing Owls that have taken over abandoned prairie dog holes. Stayed tuned as we try to get pictures of them.
We need to do something to get the prairie dog population under control. A few are okay but 100’s are ruining the pasture. Prairie dogs feed primarily on grasses and their roots which in turn kills all the grasses just leaving the noxious weeds or open land void of plant life. Of the 45 acres the prairie dogs cover about 1/3 of the property. When Barb was researching how to handle them she ran across an article about what great pets prairie dogs make! If fact they sell for up to $700 in Japan in $450 in New York. So to all the readers out there, when you stop by and visit us in South Dakota you will receive one prairie dog for free!!!!!
Walking the dog town.....
Several readers asked if there is water or power on the property. The short answer is yes to both. They recently brought rural water to this road so there is water at the road. All we would have to do is pay a $2,500 hook up fee and pay to have a pipe trenched the 1,700 feet to the building site. After that it is $80/month whether you use it or not. The other option is to install a cistern and haul your own water. Since we are a year or more away from getting serious about building, we are going to wait and see which direction we are going with the water.
There is also power in the area so that is definitely a bonus compared to a few other pieces we were looking at! I also met one of the neighbors who seemed very nice but then again they were from Wisconsin as well so of course they were nice!

We had hoped to move the rig out to the property but a late April snow storm changed those plans so we stayed our final week here at Country Charm.  Well actually 2 nights for me and 9 nights for Barb and the dogs as I took a 4 day “vacation” and went to central South Dakota to go turkey hunting with some friends. We had a great hunt and I was able to get one with my bow.
We did have one traumatic event over the past two weeks…... The day started like any other. We thought we were moving onto the property and were taking care of any chores that required power since we would not have hookups for the remainder of our stay here. One of those chores included getting my hair cut. Something Barb has been doing every 3-4 weeks for the past 3 years. But with the first swipe of the electric clippers I knew this experience would be like no other I had before. Barb gasped as she took the first swipe and said “I am so sorry” I knew immediately what happened and said “You forgot the guard didn’t you?” She just kept repeating “I am so sorry…..” Yup, she forgot the guard and I had a 5” strip shaved to 1/8th inch on the back of my head! She kept saying that she could fix it but somethings just aren’t fixable but she tried to blend it as best she could. Needless to say we got a good laugh out of it once the initial shock was over.  
The short strip really brings out the gray!
My friend Kevin returned to Pringle with me after turkey hunting and we spent a few days exploring our property and the surrounding area. Kevin is a general contractor and if everything works out he will be the one to build our place. We played with house designs, picked out a building site, met with the Highway Dept. to talk about putting in a driveway, talked to the electric company and several lumber yards. It was a busy few days but we now have a good idea on several key items.
We left the Black Hills this past Tuesday and since Kevin had to work the following day we drove the 13 hours in one straight shot! Have not driven that long in a while and it was very tiring. After being on the road for the past few years anything over 5 hours seems like a long time so 13 hours was really brutal. Barb and I drove the truck while Kevin drove the jeep. Everything went well until the 12 hour mark of the trip when Kevin noticed that one of the tires on the 4 wheeler trail was bouncing. He stopped to check it out and found that it had blown a ply resulting in a large bulge in the tire. He limped it home the last hour very thankful that he did not have a blowout.

It is good to be back in Wisconsin, it has been almost a year and a half since we have seen our family and friends in the area. We are only here a week and I think we have things planned everyday so I am sure it is going to go a lot quicker than we want!