The scurs were proud of the Weather Eye’s prowess once again with snowfall arriving on Sunday right on cue. Too bad Tuesday’s high didn’t make 50 as was advertised. Oh well, what’s 14 or 15 degrees? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with a good chance for sleet and/or snow. Highs in the upper 30’s with lows in the mid 20’s. Mostly cloudy Thursday and cooler. Highs in the mid-30’s with lows in the mid-teens. Friday, mostly sunny but cooler. Highs around the freezing mark with lows in the mid-teens. Mostly sunny on Saturday and warmer (finally) with a slight chance of rain or snow in the evening hours. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Sunday, warmer under mostly sunny skies. Highs near 50 with lows around freezing. Warmer again for both Monday and Tuesday. Mostly sunny with highs in the mid-50’s and lows around the freezing mark. The normal high for the last day of March is 48 and the normal low is 29. Through the magic of government meddling and interference, the sun will rise again before 7 a.m., the same as it did back on February 24th. The scurs are trying to figure out how to bottle some of that magic.
We had some nice days last week although the snow on Sunday night into Monday certainly brought us back to reality. It is March after all and while it didn’t land precisely on a state basketball tournament it was only off by a day. Still, it was good to see some moisture show up. At the ranch as of Monday night, we have only recorded .6” of precip for the month. At the SROC in Waseca, .97” has been tallied for the month through the 23rd. Normal for March there is 2.49” so we have continued the dry trend in place for much of the winter. Some small grain was rumored to be sown as the timing was favorable. There has been some concern expressed about alfalfa winterkill although it’s difficult to say how much has actually broken dormancy yet. The snow is beneficial at this point, protecting the plants from subfreezing temperatures and wind, as well as providing some much needed moisture for the first cutting.
While it’s a nuisance, the snow as mentioned does supply moisture. Snow is somewhat unique in that evaporation is slow when temperatures remain cool as they have been. The frost is also out of the soil in many spots allowing it to very gradually infiltrate the soil. The snow at the ranch contained .57” of liquid equivalent precip and it was .81” the SROC. The frost was officially out there on March 18th under bare soil. As is usually the case, ice-out dates on area lakes are pretty close to that. For instance, the ice left St. Olaf Lake early Friday the 20th and Beaver Lake followed suit the next morning.
More signs that spring has sprung come in the form of male cardinals singing each morning. We can hear one singing at neighbor David’s although on Sunday morning after battening down the hatches minutes before the snow began to fall, one was under the feeder at the ranch. A striped gopher was seen in the yard on St. Patrick’s Day, one of the earliest we’ve observed in recent memory. A mole has begun to move across the yard making me wonder where I put the traps. Moles are only periodic problems so the traps seem to be easily forgotten until they’re needed. Larger groups of grackles, cowbirds and red-winged blackbirds continue to appear, noisily announcing their arrival then vanishing as quickly as they appeared. Robin numbers are also increasing even though the snow may delay some of them. It’s a little tough to pull worms up through the snow and even when the ground wasn’t covered, frozen soil in the morning is not real conducive to earthworms moving above ground. There are still lots of crabapples and American cranberries at the ranch. We’ve seen plenty of robins helping themselves so not to worry.
The last of the major pruning was accomplished over the weekend. Getting all the obnoxious branches out of the way so that mowing would be easier was nice. Pruning the apples up so that harvest is easier and the apple trees are more productive is truly a feather in one’s cap. The Fireside tree was a major workout with lots of sapwood needing to be hacked off of it. Fudgie and Ruby can’t get enough of that. In true Border Collie fashion, when the straight branches fall out of the tree after being cut, they stare at each branch, daring it to make a move. Must work because the branches don’t so much as flinch. Hauling branches to the brush pile, the sheep decided it might be a good idea to test the gate watching patrol since neither dog was in sight. A quick yell and the dogs showed up on a dead run, convincing the ewes it was in their best interest to go back to gnawing on the hay in their manger. Much safer that way.
As mentioned above, it’s getting towards time to sow small grains. As was the case on many farms in the day in the area where I grew up, it was an annual event to take the oats out of the bin to the elevator to be cleaned and in many cases bagged to be ready when conditions became fit. This frequently meant a trip in the ’58 International A120 truck and ride on the hydraulic hoist when the pickup was dumped. If we kids were real good, we might get to share a bottle of orange pop. That probably didn’t happen too frequently when we were honking the horn or playing with the knobs inside the pickup as Dad was talking to the someone in the elevator office prior to the truck being unloaded.
The varieties were generally on the earlier side to help get around the heat and crown rust problem. We used shorter statured multiline blends such as the E70’s and E73’s out of IA that offered a heterogeneous reaction to rust. Later when I got to choose we grew varieties such as Noble. The Case drill we borrowed from the neighbor had a grass seed attachment that allowed alfalfa to be underseeded as the oats were being sowed. In those days, a light dragging usually followed. Like most small grain, oats were a rather fickle crop to grow. Too much nitrogen and they’d go flat. Too much heat during pollination and/or grain fill and they’d be light. One old farmer trick to help boost test weight was to mix a small amount of wheat in with the seed oats. Could never figure out how they got the two crops separated once the oats were hauled back to the elevator though. Thanks Dale G. for helping to jog my memory!
See you next week…real good then.