Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Back at the Farm!

Back at The Farm, one of my “happy places” with Farmer Bob, Dylan, Chris, Holly and DeAnne. For those of you who have been reading the blog for a few years, it may seem like Groundhogs Day as many of the tasks are ones I have done in previous years. The biggest difference this year is that I am alone. Barb stayed home with both the girls, so it is just me and the camper. Harvest has been under way for over a month. All the wheat, peas and canola fields are already harvested. The only crop left to bring in is the soybeans and they are not quite ready yet, needing another week or so before they are ready to harvest.

There is always something new when I return. New equipment, new fields to work, but this year when I drove into the farmyard the biggest difference was not what was new, but what was missing. The old farmhouse where Farmer Bob grew up, where his dad grew up and where his grandparents lived is gone. Nothing left but bare dirt where the house once stood. One cannot help but get a little melancholy thinking about all the history in that house, but it was time. Something new will take its place at some point and new history will begin. If you want to read about the history of The Farm you can read about it here

The new thing I noticed was a new Quadtrac! A new toy for me to play with! This one is a 550, which I will be using for carting and other field work.  

While we wait for the soybeans, there is plenty of other work to do. My first day here I spent the entire day in the semi, hauling wheat to the elevator. To do this you have to get the grain out of the bin via a conveyer (oh, that is new too) and into the semi. 

These bins are huge with an approximate capacity of 3,000,000 pounds of wheat! I don't mind most everything I do up here but there is one sucky job. Once the bin gets low you have to go into it, turn on the rotating auger and shovel/sweep out the remaining grain. The grain dust in the air is horrible! Even this job is not that sucky if you wear a mask, but I was in a hurry and just jumped in without one. I paid for that the next couple of days! Needless to say, I got a mask the next time I went in. 

At the elevator they are constructing several more concrete silos. The thing I noted about these was the stairs going up the outside as I watched the workers start from the bottom and climb their way up to the top. Those guys must have calves of steel! If you look closely, you can see a couple of guys near the bottom working their way up. 

Once at the elevator you scan in so they know what farm you are from, then they take a test sample of the grain and analyze it before you move on. Then you proceed to the scale (straight ahead of me in the picture above) and get your loaded weight. Then you move ahead and dump your load through a drive-over grate.

Each of my loads contained about 50,000 pounds of wheat so you can imagine it takes a lot of trucking to get it all to market. I took a total of 6 loads in total in over an eight-hour period. 

All was going well until I was at the elevator and noticed this....

Well, that just threw a wrench into my plans (see what I did right there?) I limped the truck back to the farm, Chris took the tire off and a sent it to town for repair. Once it came back, I put it back on and it was as good as new!

It must have been tire day as Chris and I switched out the tires on the sprayer. Man, these things are huge!

The next day was wet and cool so we spent the day indoors working on getting the combines ready for the soybeans. There is a lot of wear and tear on these things in the fall so I spent an afternoon replacing sections on the sickle. I don't know how many sections are on one of these but there is a lot!

Some of the crops are more forgiving and can be harvested with a broken section blade. Soybeans is not one of them. If you ever go down the road and see one row left in a harvested field rest assured that they had a broken section. I replaced close to two dozen sections so now the combines are ready to go!

I had a little extra time so I decided to tackle an issue with the camper that has been plaguing us since this summer. Barb had noticed a slow water leak from under the camper so I slide it partially off the truck to see if I could find out where it was coming from. I traced it back to the area under the toilet. The problem was that there was no way to get to it as everything was riveted tight. I could see the water dripping out and could even hear a hiss of a leak but I could not get to it. Finally I drilled out the rivets holding the outdoor shower valves and discovered the problem. 

The picture on the right shows the issue. The top hose was kinked on the left side and had a pin sized hole. It is a bad design really. I cut out the section of the hose with the hole, put in a 90° and clamped it back together. No more leak! 

My next task was clearing tree rows. Most of the tree rows you see in farm fields were planted years ago to prevent erosion of the soil from the wind. They are a blessing and a burden as they are always in the way and once they mature the branches grow into the fields interfering with the planting and harvesting. So, I set about limbing them up. 

The field I was working on has 4 tree rows totaling about 2 miles long. I thought, no problem I will get one (~1/2 mile) done each day. 6 hours later I was not even ¼ of the way through the first tree row. It is hard, back breaking work as you are operating a chainsaw or pole saw over your head for hours each day. Then you have to drag each limb out in the field and pile it up so you can pick it up with the loader tractor later. As of right now I have about 15 hours into this one d@#m row, and I still have several hundred yards left! 

Then I went and got the loader tractor with grapple arms and moved all the piles to the field edge where they will serve as shelter for the bunnies and pheasants. 

That night I returned to my camper tired and exhausted. I climbed into the camper to find this in my bed....

Two of the cats were all snuggled into my blankets and looked at me like I was interrupting the most peaceful sleep they have ever had! The orange cat made a quick exit but the other one I had to go up grab and drag out as her claws tried as hard as they could to stay right where she was.  

On day 5 of my visit the fields were dry enough to get out and do a little field work. Not harvesting but harrowing. Picture if you will a spiked drag that many of us use to level our gardens, yards or driveways. Now, increase the size of said drag to 72’ with hundreds of spikes. That is what this harrow looks like.

The purpose of harrowing is to lift the residue from the previous crop that has already been harvested. In this case I was doing wheat fields harrowing 600 or so acres over a 2-day period. Back and forth in the field at 8.5mph. It works best with a little wind so it blows much of the residue away when it is lifted making it much easier for planting next year.

Meanwhile back in South Dakota Barb has started yet another project. She got the idea that she wanted to remove the box springs from our king size bed, put 1x4 slats across the frame and put the mattress on the slats. 

I had two questions for her...."Why do you want to do that?" and "Does the mattress weigh more than 8 pounds?". I knew the answer to the second question and no, she is still not supposed to be lifting anything more than 8 pounds. Her answer to the first question did not surprise me when she said "So Zoey can jump up on the bed and so it is not as far when she jumps down". Makes total sense right, I mean who does not change their entire bedroom configuration just so the dog can jump up and down there? At any rate, she is going to try it for a few days to see if she likes it.

Today marks one week since my arrival with 3 weeks left. Am I sore at the end of the day? Yes. Am I having fun? Yes. Do I miss Barb and the girls? Definitely! I am thinking these next few weeks will go by rather quickly and before I know it, I will be headed back home with great memories, a sore body and a smile in my heart. 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Fall Has Arrived!

 Fall, by far our favorite time of the year. The changing of the leaves, the cooler temperatures, crops being harvested and of course, hunting season! This past week brought a significant change in the weather going from highs in the 90's to the 70's in just a matter of two hours when a serious cold front moved in. Over the next several days the highs were in the 60's and lows in the 40's. Absolutely beautiful weather! Although I have not been out hunting yet, I do have my trail cameras out to see what is running around out there. The bucks have lost their velvet and the fawns have lost their spots.

I probably will not get out hunting until late October when the deer get closer to their breeding season (rut). In the meantime, we are continuing to try to get as much done outside before the snow flies. This means more stone. 

Very slow going as I am only doing one wheelbarrow of mortar a day. I start out the day by spending an hour finding the perfect stone to fit each spot I need to fill. Then I mix the mortar and put the stones up. A total of probably two hours each day before I move on to another project and let those stones dry. 

What other projects you ask?  I have been cleaning out the garage getting it somewhat organized for the winter. Our garage has never been this clean and likely never will be again!

Then there is the driveway. The entire driveway is about 1/4 mile long, Graveling the whole thing would be about $10,000 so we have been working on it slowly over the years. Thanks to my neighbor Jim who has an awesome dump trailer, we added 20 more tons of gravel, and I would say we are probably 85% done with it!

Barb is continuing to heal and says she is probably about 80%. She still cannot lift her arms over her head and lift anything over 7lbs. But she can do pretty much everything else. For some reason she is not carrying on with my genius ideas from last week.

She is even sleeping back in the bed! She is starting to get out of the house more and more. On one adventure we went over to Kevin and Cheryl's for a saddle fitting. Kevin is looking for a new saddle for his horse and like shoes for a human, they need to fit perfectly, otherwise it is uncomfortable for and can even injure the horse. It is best to try several saddles before spending $1,000-$2,000 or more on a new one. We tried several different ones before we found the right saddle that fit him the best. 

As I mentioned last week Barb kicked me out of the house for a few days when Kevin and I went up to North Dakota for a couple of days to help another friend of his with a concrete project. Tom, lives in Wisconsin where we used to live but also has a place in North Dakota and wants a garage to store his boat and other things in.

Unlike our other two recent concrete project recently, this pour was from the ground up. Meaning we had set the grade, put up form boards, dig in the plumbing pipes and set the rebar all before the pour. This process took pretty much all day. Then we got out fishing for a couple of hours. Kevin may be a great house builder but when it comes to fishing....well, lets just say it is a work in progress. Tom and I each caught a walleye and Kevin managed to foul hook one perch!

The next day the concrete arrived at 7:00am and was completely done in about 3 1/2 hours. 

After all the concrete work was done for the day (about 6:30) we went back out fishing. Over the course of the next few hours we boated over 20 walleyes with even Kevin catching 2! 

We made it back home on Wednesday in time for burger night with Dan, Bonnie, Kevin, Cheryl and Kevin's friends, Earl and Sharon who are out from Wisconsin.  

When I got home, laying on the bed was the Sitka hunting jacket I have been looking at but just could not get myself to spend the money on. Barb said she appreciated everything I did while she was laid up and bought it for me!

Friday Earl and I moved the windmill down to its location and we bolted the base to the upper section while it was laying on the ground. That night, our neighbors to the south, Greg and Sandy came over. They are from Southeast North Dakota but are going to be moving down here fulltime in the next year or so. 

Saturday, I spent the majority of the day replacing the cross-bracing wires, filled it with oil and got it ready for the big raising the next day. 

The girls even came down to see what I was doing!

Once that was done, we went out to Hill City to surprise our neighbor Carmen for her birthday. I am told that it is not polite to tell how old someone is so I will not tell you that it was a milestone birthday that has an "0" in it. We went to the Alpine Inn where we were joined by our neighbors Doug and Debbie as well as a neighbor further down the road, Chris.  Good times with good people. 

Sunday was windmill day! Earl and Kevin came over about 1:30 and by 2:30 we had it standing and bolted in place! There was one sketchy moment where it went sideways on 2 legs but other than that it set done perfectly. 

The other sketchy part was when I had to climb up 30 of the 36' to take the strap off. It doesn't seem that high until you are up there and look down!

If you look closely, you will see the hook for the boom hovering there next to the windmill. Well, since the ladder does not go all the way to the ground, that hook was my ride up to and down from the ladder, I don't know what was scarier, that sketchy ladder or being at the mercy of Kevin riding that hook!

Once that was done, we were joined by Dan, Bonnie, Sharon, Cheryl and of course Barb where we watched the Viking beat the Packers. Everyone there was a mix of either Minnesotans or Wisconsinites so there was a lot of ribbing back and forth. In the end, the Vikings were victorious, so Kevin, Earl, Sharon and Barb were left sulking. 

Monday, my last day here for a while, was spent over at one of Kevin's house build jobs installing windows. He can do pretty much everything himself but there are certain parts that he needs another body, and on this day that was me. 

That slider weighed a ton!

In just over 8 hours we got 7 windows, one slider and two doors installed. All that is left to get this building weather tight is a couple more windows that were on backorder.

Last but not least here are a couple of pictures of the pups. I got chastised last week for not including a picture of Dakota (no, it was not Harry) so here are a couple for the dog lovers out there!

Whew, I am tired just writing about everything we did last week and am ready for a break! So, tomorrow I head to North Dakota for 4 weeks for some rest and relaxation. And by that, I mean 8-to-12-hour days in the tractor helping Farmer Bob, Chris and Dylan get the last of their harvest in. And maybe, just maybe, get a little hunting in!

Saturday, September 3, 2022


Strange things are happening around here. Things that I cannot explain but something is definitely amiss. The first thing I noticed is that my sock and underwear drawer was empty. Nothing in it at all. Not even a single lost sock looking for its match. Likewise with my work shirt drawer. Empty, no one home, In all my years, I think this is a first. 

On the bright side, I had made several discoveries and a new invention. The discovery is that hampers are totally unnecessary and are just a marketing ploy. When you are done with an article of clothing just throw it in the washing machine and take out the middleman known as the hamper.  My invention is going to turn the furniture industry on its side. It is called the dryser. Not a dresser, not a dryer but a combination of the two, a like a dresser and dryer together. No more need to put those socks, underwear and shirts back into the dresser. When I need something, I just go to the "dryser" and pull out what I need. Plus, if something is wrinkled, 2 minutes on "more dry" and it is not only wrinkle free it is also comfy to put on. Genius! 

Then there is the dishwasher. Of course all the dirty dishes go into the dishwasher. But getting them out of there is a lot harder than one thinks. So, the key is to put all the dirty dishes on one side of the dishwasher then run the cycle cleaning them. From there, you just take the dishes and utensils out as you need them putting the newly dirty ones on the other side. Kind of like a rotation system. Again, genius!

As you can see, I am taking these housekeeping chores to a whole new level. Barb was just speechless when I explained my approach to each of these chores. I am sure she is just in awe of my creativity.

Barb is getting better. Still sleeping on the couch in the recliner but she is able to get off the couch by herself now. Still in pain and discomfort but hopefully this pain is temporary and will replace the constant pain she had before the surgery. But now that she is mobile even more strange things are happening. For example, I walked in the house the other day and found her in the dog wash. She looks at me like "What, you never seen anyone shower in a dog wash before?". Had she actually asked, my reply would have been "No, I have never seen anyone shower in the dog wash before". But her logic is sound, she cannot shower in the human shower so she thought she could at least take a mini shower and shave her legs in the dog wash. 

Zoey is none too happy about Barb sleeping on the couch. She looks sad and pathetic snuggled up on Barb's side of the bed next to her pillow.  Dakota on the other hand gets to sleep on the bed so I don't think she minds quite as much. 

The other strange thing I noticed is that the kitchen towels magically appeared in the towel drawer. When I asked Barb how those got in there all I got was an "I don't know". I go into the bedroom and sure enough my dresser drawers are full again too. I guess she was not on board with my dyser idea. It was then that I noticed that the floors had been swept. Seriously? I was only outside for like 30 minutes! 

I am happy she is feeling better, but she over did it and paid for it later. 

We did get a visit from our neighbors to the north; Doug and Debbie. They brought over a get-well card and two delicious, sweet rolls from the bakery in town. Thank you, guys, you can come over anytime! 

 And neighbor Jim showed up with this little gem of a water bottle for Barb. He does leather work that he sells in local shops. 
Monday was concrete day. The truck was scheduled for 1:00. Kevin arrived at noon with a pot full of Buffalo Chili. Thanks Cheryl! With just two of us pouring this 6.5 yards it was nonstop action for the 3 1/2 hours. The first 45 minutes are pretty chaotic as we pour, screed, and smooth the edges. I was not prepared as 20 minutes in I had sweat pouring down my face and did not think I was going to make it. I had forgotten to hydrate and was paying for it. 

But we eventually got it all laid out, paid the truck driver. Concrete in our area is a little over $200/yard so this pour was right around $1,400. Once the driver left, we set out to finish it. Kevin bull-floated while I worked the edges. Then Kevin hand troweled the entire pad. Finally, at 5:00 we were on the porch having a well-deserved beverage. I asked Kevin what it would have cost us if we had a crew lay the concrete instead of doing it ourselves. $6.50-$7.00/square foot. Roughly $3,000 saved in 3 1/2 hours. Definitely worth it.  

There are two side effects from having your hands in concrete all day. One good, one just an annoyance. The annoyance is that my hands are so rough that the fingerprint reader on my computer does not recognize me, and I have to enter my password. I know, first world problem right? The good side effect is that my rough hands give killer back rubs. Barb has to wear this compression wrap that makes her back itch like crazy and she said that my back rubs are noticeably better with concrete hands. 

Well, she is in luck, as the other project I am working on involves working with mortar putting the rock up on the house. This project has been staring at us for months and it is finally time to get it done. It has been slow going as I have not been super motivated, but it is getting done, one stone at a time. 

Also this week I spent several hours over at Kevin's setting and tying rebar for his new bunkhouse which will be a VRBO when finished. The next day we poured concrete there. This 12-yard pour was a bit less taxing than our garage as we had a crew of 6. It still took 5 hours but before we knew it we were done.  

On the critter front we have a couple of new arrivals now that we are back. The deer have been making regular appearances to see what we are up to.

This mule deer stops by to drain our bird bath. She thinks it is her personal water dish. 

Then there is this red squirrel who likes to hang out on a branch near the birdfeeder and watch the world go by.

In turkey news, they still visit almost every day. We discovered something new this week when we saw two turkeys fighting over something out front playing tug of war with it. Curious I went out to see what it was thinking as I approached them, they would drop it and I could see what it was. They would not let go of this thing! Finally, one of the turkeys let go and the other one ran off with the mystery object. I gave chase and the turkey dropped it but then another turkey ran over grabbed it and started running off with it. But I was able to get close enough to see what it was. A mouse. Who knew that turkeys ate mice?!?  Makes sense if you think about it. They eat grasshoppers and other bugs, why would they now eat a mouse?

On Wednesday, we headed into Rapid for Barb's follow up appointment. All went well. She went back yesterday (Friday) and got some of her dressings off. A big relief to her as these were causing her a lot of discomfort.  She is feeling so much better in fact that she is kicking me out of the house for a few days. Kevin and I are having so much fun pouring concrete, we are going to take the show on the road. Tomorrow, we head up to southern North Dakota for a couple of days to help a friend up there with his pour. Honestly, I think she just wants some alone time and to make sure my hands stay rough!