Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Canada Day and Happy Independence Day !

Lucky me, I get to celebrate BOTH ! :)

Although I chafe at our ever increasing levels of taxation and at our respective government's relative moves towards creating a never ending set of gimme's more appropriate to a nanny state than a place that's supposed to be free, I can't really imagine calling anywhere else home.

One of the more curious things about living near the international border is how often you see both the Canadian flag and Old Glory flying together in the front yard of private homes. There are A LOT of people and A LOT of families that call both places home; I and my family are but one among many.

At one time or another, I've enjoyed travelling from one end of Canada to the other and from coast to coast across the United States. I have too many favourite places to even make an attempt at doing them justice by naming them; suffice it to say that both countries are endowed with scenery and beauty beyond anything I've ever seen or heard of anywhere else. In the spirit of friendship, I'd encourage everyone at some point in their lives to spend a little time, "getting to know the neighbours", no matter which side of the line your neighbours live on (or, come to that, how they choose to spell neighbour) ! :)

For those of you reading from north of the line, Happy Canada Day on Friday (!) and for those who choose to partake of my blog from anywhere in the USA, Happy Independence Day on Monday !

Oh......and the most popular Can/Am bi-national tourist destination ? Well, that's easy.

But I think my personal favourite is a couple hundred miles to the northeast. I've *always* been a fan of the Thousand Islands. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things I Love About the South

A school friend of mine got married and moved to Northern KY some years ago. In the years since, she's assimilated into the local populace well enough that if I didn't know her history I'd be hard put to pick her out from a Northern KY native. What I've learned from her move (and mine) is that in terms of location, perception is definitely reality. Compared to where I grew up, Northern Kentucky is pretty far south in both climate and attitude. But when I get that far's 250 miles to Lexington or Louisville.....these days, it looks and sounds as much like the midwest to me as it does the midsouth ! As a non-native who several years ago got married to a native and dived pretty deep into Dixie here are a few things I love (and that took more getting used to than you might think) about my new home.

"Winter" flowers.

Frogs chirping on mild January nights.

Getting the lawnmower and air conditioner serviced and ready to go in February. Some years I've used both of them before February turns into March.

Cherries, Forsythia, Redbud and Dogwoods blooming in March. Southern springs are way more colourful than those I grew up with. Azaleas and Camellias of all types.

Huge old evergreen southern Magnolia (magnolia grandiflora) trees in all their mighty glory and splendor.

Taking a nap or shooting the breeze under the huge old hackberry down by the creek at our new farm. I even widened the laneway in that spot to make these things easier to accomplish.

Sun Drop cola and chess pie.

Two (or more) story porches with fans and swings hanging from the rafters.

Squeaky ceiling fans on front porches (or better yet in old hardware stores) moving languid puffs of rank, warm summer air.

Magnificent old courthouses sitting smack in the middle of town on squares filled with benches and huge shade trees.

Frosty big glasses of ice cold sweet tea, ideally sitting on the arm of a rocking chair on a porch under a squeaky ceiling fan ! I'm honestly not a big fan of tea generally but boy do those glasses look good on a 90+ degree summer afternoon.

Kudzu. (Yes, Kristy I know it's a weed but it's kind of neat and since this is my blog you'll just have to humour me ! ;))

(Insert Place Name) Market (gas, bait, basic groceries, beer plus hot breakfast and lunch items all under the same roof) ! How much more convenient can you get than that ?

Fresh boiled peanuts in a sack !

Being able to comfortably wear shorts all the time for six entire months and some of the time for three months more than that. Now that I don't work in corporate America I can and do wear shorts at my convenience. All I have to put up with are stares and comments from local folk, but most of them already think I'm nice but crazy so this just gives them a little additional fuel and I don't mind very much.

Monday, June 27, 2011


It seems to have become a badge of honour in our society to not require very much sleep to be functional the next day. Even way out in the country and way down on the farm people seem to brag about not needing to sleep very much. Coffee shop conversations that feature sleep as the topic of conversation begin with somebody saying that they can get by pretty well on six hours of sleep. Pretty quickly somebody else'll chime in that they only get four hours a night and if they lay down for six they'd feel awful from oversleeping. The "winner" in these discussions manages to get by on catnaps after dinner in his favourite chair with an hour or two spent in the bed once a week.

Well boys and girls, this ain't me. Not by a long shot ! I need at least eight hours in the bed to feel like I've had a night's sleep and I'll take as much more as I can manage or get away with.

I've probably slept four or five hours a night the past couple of nights which for me is an awful night's sleep. Given how tired I feel combined with my "fragile" mental state, I'm led to wonder, and not for the first time either, how much inexplicable antisocial and otherwise wierd behaviour is directly related to lack of sleep ?

For instance, I wonder how long it's been since the dude who went the wrong way up a clearly marked freeway exit ramp earlier today has had a good sleep, or is he so brain dead that it wouldn't matter ? Or the one who started yelling at the checkout girl at the market ahead of me over a supposedly shortchanged nickel ? He didn't seem real appreciative when I loudly offered to pay him his {insert word of your choice} nickel if he'd shut up and move the {see previous instruction} away but after getting a look at my face he did pipe down and leave pretty quickly.

Ahem. Haven't slept much lately ! What's your excuse ?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts on Firearms

As most of you know I'm not much of a hunter and I don't enjoy killing anything, for sport or otherwise. That said, I've had a long fascination with firearms, and thanks mostly to a generous father-in-law I own several types of small and medium calibre rifles in both lever and bolt action, some with stock sights and some with scopes, and some with magazines as well as a couple that are single shot. But although I have a more than adequate number of serviceable arms for the light use (mostly target shooting) they get around here, I don't yet have what I really want.

Below is a picture of a Benelli M4 Semi-Automatic shotgun that I found in various places on the internet. I'd definitely say yes to one of these ! I expect when Melissa saw the price tag on the civilian version of this she would be very tempted to use it on me if I was dumb enough to actually purchase it and bring it home ! All by itself this is an excellent reason not to teach your wife how to shoot !!!! :)

At this point in my life I need all the help I can get on the rare occasion that I have need and what I've got for firearms isn't getting the job done very well. The problem with lever or bolt action least for me.... is that they have to be lowered from the firing position and one's eyes and focus have to leave the target (even if only briefly) in order to chamber another round. That's fine if the target is a piece of paper (and that is my favourite kind of shooting) but if the target is moving, and especially if it's moving quickly, it's not so good. So what I want to do over time is move away from the bolt and lever actions and move toward one good semi-automatic 2o gauge shotgun and one good semi-automatic small calibre, reasonably accurate, scoped (.22 mag, .223 or .243) varmint rifle. I hear people talking about being able to place a group of shots inside a one inch radius at 100 or more yards and that's nice but it's not where I'm at at this point in my life. If it's a hundred yards away from me it's pretty safe unless maybe it's the size of an elephant and if it's that big I promise I'm gonna be more concerned with running the other way than with shooting.

Why 20 gauge instead of the more "manly" 12, or, on the rifle side, a .270 or 30.06 you ask ? It's got everything to do with recoil. The bigger the gun, the bigger the kick and that hurts accuracy, but more importantly, as I begin to feel the effects of my misspent youth, it hurts my shoulder, especially if one is taking several shots ! And if that makes me a gun loving wimp, well, that's okay too ! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Melissa (!) and PSA

The first item on the agenda is that today is Melissa's birthday ! We've got the cake and candles and dinner is taken care of so please join me in wishing her a very happy birthday ! :)

The second item on today's agenda is a farm safety PSA.

Earlier today one of the horses had a minor spook while Melissa was attempting to put his feed bag on. This happens every day, and we know to pay attention and keep a watch out for this particular horse. But in spite of all our knowledge and training, and in spite of doing everything correctly this horse chose to spook and Melissa got hurt. While she's not exactly sure exactly what happened, she's pretty sure that he caught her under the chin with his head and he hit her hard enough to lift her off the ground and knock her out cold for several minutes and when she woke up she had a mouth full of blood though thankfully she still had all her teeth.

Of course all this happened in Lynnville and while this was going on I was out of touch on the bush hog here at home in College Grove.

I understand that horses are basically pets and that (especially) women have a special relationship with them and in many cases they are treated more like kids than animals, etc., etc., etc.. But at the end of the day they are going to act like horses and horses are large, flighty animals that sometimes behave in very unpredictable ways.

Please be safe, please don't turn your back to a horse, especially if he or she is loose, and please do whatever you reasonably need to in order to make the horse respect your space.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How's Your Moisture

I grew up in a place where during the growing season it was commonplace to announce yourself to friends (especially at the coffee shop) not with "Hello!" but with how much moisture you may or may not have gotten during the last rain storm. One memorable time the morning after a particularly potent thunderstorm I entered Timmies by bellowing "Inch and a half !" which got nods of approval from all my farmer buddies but quizzical looks from the counter girls, one of whom hollered back at me, " Don't believe I'd BRAG about that !"

Moisture was much on my mind when I farmed in Ontario but I think it's actually a bigger deal in Tennessee than it ever was up home. In this part of the world I've learned over time that we average somewhere around 50 inches of rainfall a year divided fairly evenly among each of the twelve months with a slight maximum in late winter and early spring. Given this, and given that our yearly average rainfall is nearly twenty inches more per annum that it was where I grew up in Ontario, it might surprise you to know that the biggest stressor for farmers, their crops and their pastures in this part of the world is drought !

Droughts are seldom a problem in the cooler months down here partly due to relatively low evapotranspiration rates but mostly due to the type, freqency and intensity of our cool season rainfalls. In every season but summer (and early fall) it tends to rain in dollops....a little bit every few days which helps keep the soil moist.

Summer around here is a different ball game. With 24 hour four inch soil temperatures at or above 90 degrees evapotranspiration rates are incredibly high. Cold fronts cease to arrive sometime around the first of June and between that date and the fall solstice, most of our moisture comes in the form very random afternoon thundershowers which can drop a month's worth of rain in a few minutes and then disappear for weeks at a time. Even on the days when it rains and in years when we get normal levels of precipitation it's hot and sunny most of the time. High soil temperatures and sporadic summer precipitation are pretty hard on C3 grasses, so as I mentioned in greater detail in another blog post, this is where C3 grasses give way to C4 tropical species.

And coffee shop conversations ? Well, in my dotage you'll be proud to know I've become more circumspect. I usually wait to get seated these days before I beller out to my farmer friends how much moisture the latest rain has provided.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Random Thoughts from a Random Farmer

Here is a short collection of thoughts that have been flitting around in my head the past few days as I've been running around on the tractor makin' hay and fixin' equipment ! As you'll see, none of these are particularly earth shattering. Well, it's been HOT you see.... :)

Livestock get sick. The more livestock and horses you have, the more likely one or more of them is going to be in ill thrift. If you have enough of either livestock or horses to make a living, some of them are going to require some sort of special/time consuming treatment more or less every day. And YOU are going to be the one treating them ! On the plus side, unlike my tenure in corporate America, mostly they don't talk back, they aren't trying to sell me something, they don't have lawyers on retainer and they aren't unionized (yet).

Equipment, no matter how well serviced or how new, has a habit of breaking down at extremely inopportune times and/or in extremely inopportune places. Sometimes the fixes are easy and relatively cheap. More often they are difficult and expensive. Like my grandad always said, it doesn't break down when it's sitting in the SHED ! Over time, I've modified this for my own doesn't break down when it's sitting on the dealers lot either !

Even farmers without very much equipment have a lot of equipment. I started counting tires around here the other day and when I got to sixty I stopped. I wasn't even close to done but I was very sick of counting tires ! If you have enough equipment to make a living farming, some of it is going to require special/time consuming treatment more or less every day. Even if it's all new, it's NEVER all going to work correctly and it's never going to all be fixed at the same time. Does this thought sound disturbingly similar to # 1 ??

No matter how salubrious the climate is where you live, people who work out of doors quickly realize that the weather is inclement in various ways a lot more of the time than it's clement. It's also been my experience that most people who are passionate about [hot/cold/dry/wet/snowing/etc.] don't spend much of their time actually out in it whenever it's [hot/cold/wet/dry/snowing/etc]. Most people who DO spend a lot of time working outside generally prefer equable weather. If we had a gentle rain each night followed by partly sunny and 75 every day of the year, it'd suit me just fine.

A gorgeous spring or fall day when animals and equipment are mostly healthy, the grass is green and the temperature is superb cancels three months of whinin' about bad weather, sick animals or broken equipment. Yes, really.

A happy spouse on a gorgeous spring or fall day when animals and equipment are mostly healthy, the grass is green and the temperature is superb cancels SIX months of whinin' about bad weather, sick animals or broken equipment. Yes, really.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back soon !

For those who haven't been following on our horse blog, our new hay barn is full !

I'm spending my spare time and evenings fixing all the stuff that tore up and/or didn't get done during the past couple of weeks of hard running. Mix a string of long days with the ongoing mid summer heat we're experiencing...normal though it may be.... and what I mostly do when I come in the house is fall asleep sitting in my chair !

I've got several blog posts started...some of them are even pretty good I think.....but it's hard to finish a blog post when I'm sitting here snoring and drooling on myself before 8 pm. Now that the mental picture is complete dear reader, I wish you a good evening ! :)