Saturday, June 28, 2014

farm politics

Democrat Collin Peterson sends out a request for support, saying that he has been able to represent Minnesota's seventh district as a Democrat even though it voted Romney in the last Presidential election.  While the risk of one more know nothing right winger in the Congress is a serious matter, and must be considered, we must also take a close look at what we are buying in the Peterson brand.  Representative Peterson has been more than supportive of farm law as it is, indeed, he is one of its major architects, even in the Republican House.  And it is this law, tilting the table toward the "winners" as it does, that empties out the countryside, cheapens the jobs that are left, that plants corn and soybeans on sidehills too steep for an annual crop, collects our livestock into fewer and fewer large farms, partly by insuring that grain stays cheap and market opportunities for agricultural products slim to none.  To add insult to injury it casually and carelessly cuts food stamps when people increasingly do without decent food.

Someone needs to give Representative Peterson a tour across Minnesota in this extremely wet year and point out to him that those fields that are sending the soil to the river are planted in annual row crops instead of permanent pastures and hayfields.  Where is the value of a farm policy that shuts down small and medium dairies in central and southeast Minnesota so that it can put six thousand cows on a rotating milking platform just six miles north of me?  This election will once again be between bad and worse.  Discouraging for a believer in democracy. 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Mosquitoes are bad now, one of the results of our month of rain.  Now we check the weather forecast not just for evidence of rain or severe weather, but also for sun and wind; certain jobs, anything in the pastures for instance, are difficult to impossible without sun to fry the little critters to death, and wind to blow them off.  Their presence gives religious belief a trial.  Since we say that we believe God considers His creation to be good, we must deal with the idea that God loves the mosquito too, even though we may not think much of it. A real philosophical conundrum.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

clear voice

We in the country do not speak with a clear voice.  Too many of us are willing to fall into line behind the version of reality put forth by the large agribusiness companies and the commodity groups such as corn growers and pork producers that shill for them.  It should, for example, be a no brainer that the politicians claiming to represent us would get for us a goodly share of the money from the "environmental and arts" amendment to the state's constitution that passed a few years ago.  Especially is this so because rural lives, lived at the very source of the problem, have much more to do with improving conditions than urban ones. 

Consider, for example, Arne Carlson's stated goal of making the Minnesota River swimmable and fishable in ten years, a truly magnificent goal with a deadline now long passed.  Urban folks might enjoy a clean river but rural folks have to make it so. While we, or at least some of us, can choose to leave the plow in the shed, and begin to explore what livings might be made with permanent stands of grass and legumes, urban folks can what?  Sort their trash and pick up after their own picnics?  We can do that too, and should.  So why should the urban areas continue to get the lion's share of amendment spending?

The negative role of the University and its lobby shop is perverse.  This is especially so in view of the fact that it is an institution supposedly committed to the education and improvement of the farming and working classes of people.  As an alumnus, I am deeply ashamed.


Monday, June 23, 2014


The sun is coming up clear this early Monday morning.  This after we didn't get the predicted rain yesterday and the clear forecast for tomorrow makes it feel like a bit of breathing room.  Too much water sitting around and again, too much wear and tear on the banks of the drainage system.  We have once again sent too much of our soil to Mississippi.  One small victory is that this session, after considerable wrangling, we were able to get the legislature to put a million dollars of environmental amendment money into University study of perennial plants in agriculture instead of just one more addition to a recreational park in St Paul.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

farming community

One of the wonderful things about a farming community is the commonality of interest.  When excessive and constant rain keeps farmers from their fields as it has this year, we hear all around us expressions of concern for problems with the crops.  But we in the country have this wrong.  Crop insurance provides support for crop failures.  But the gullies running down between even small hills and sometimes also on what the soil survey calls non-highly-erodible land, both planted and not, represent a cost not covered and one borne by our children and grandchildren.  We will never get that soil back.  That is the real concern, not the annual financial statement.  Right now it is possible to take some real satisfaction in thinking about our permanent pastures with their tight water and soil holding sod. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Gauge shows an inch of rain last night again and NOAA predicts one to two additional today.  At the current wind speed of forty or fifty miles per hour, that inch last night must have been in reality more like two.  Gauges are not accurate in the wind. 

Pastures smell moldy now and our field road is eroding badly down to the bottom.  We have been continuously wet at least two weeks with no relief.  I am more than ready to spend a day without wearing chore boots.  Come on sun!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


This, seen on the Alternet website, bears repeating.
"Bertolt Brecht, the 20th century German playwright and poet, wrote, “The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”"
Brecht, who died in 1956, saw Germany lose its democracy and freedom with the rise of the know nothing Nazis.  Why do we want to repeat the process in the United States?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

dinner at noon

A left over half pot roast of grassfed beef was the center of dinner today.  Cut into thin strips and then fried in plentiful olive or coconut oil in a heavy pan until it just starts to char, it goes well with a cucumber garnish, made with diced cucumber, about equal amounts of plain yogurt and sour cream and a few spices.  Accompanied by a cupful of brown rice and a salad of spinach leaves and oregano fresh from the garden topped off by a few of the first strawberries from the patch and you have a slow food meal worth the wait.  

Monday, June 16, 2014


The same imbeciles that got us into Iraq in the first place want us back in there now that the "government" we pasted together there to replace the one we destroyed is falling apart.  This crew of fools has also been yakking and scheming overtime to get another cold war started with Russia over the Ukraine, a country that neighbors Russia and is of no strategic value to us. 

The trouble is that the lack of any kind of thinking and discipline in the electorate gives this type free rein to continue conjuring up one "Armageddon" after another.  If we as a people, for instance, would give up our knee jerk automatic support of everything Israel does and begin to get some restraint into our use of the world's oil supply, sanity would be in a stronger position in our government. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Our farm shares a 100 acre lake bed with the neighboring farm.  It stands full of water, both sides of the property line.  Since it is low on the drainage, the water will not leave for nearly a week, destroying perhaps 30% of his crop and 30% of our pasture.  Crop insurance will make him whole.  There is nothing to make the land whole.  Our pasture, planted in the first place in view of the unsuitability of that land for a cropping enterprise, will not produce much this year.  Our choice of grasses becomes ever more restricted to the water loving, thick cuticle, unpalatable kinds.  We will take the loss.

The old farmer, who was also an ag instructor in a former life many years ago, tells me that formerly he respected all farmers for what they did.  But anymore, he said, not so many.   


High ground is shrinking on our farm.  Nearly four inches of rain now and the paddock we moved the cattle from last night is today completely submerged.  They are bellering forlornly over the fact their current digs are half under water.  The paddock they will be moved to tonight is half under water.  Half of the south pasture is as well, and our knowledge of the farm is that this water will take about a week to drain away/soak in after which another week must pass before the pastures will bear the weight of the cattle.  The two tubes of leftover hay are beginning to look like a blessing.

The small pigs we moved to the wintertime cattle yard to get them away from the overused weaning quarters must be restrawed every day and fed (by hand as the self feeders will not work in the constant rain) five times a day minimum.

No body ever said it would be easy.