The scurs and the Weather Eye continue to make weekend weather lovers happy. Temps over the weekend and early week were well above normal as advertised. Will satisfaction continue or will March be March again? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with a moderate chance of changing to a rain-snow mix by evening. Highs in the upper 40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a moderate chance of a rain-snow mix. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Partly sunny Friday with a slight chance of a rain-snow mix. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the low 30’s. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a modest chance of rain and snow showers. Highs in the low 40’s with lows in the upper 20’s. Mostly cloudy Sunday with highs in the low 40’s and lows in the upper 20’s. Monday, partly sunny and warmer with a slight chance of a morning shower. Highs in the mid-40’s with lows in the mid-30’s. Mostly sunny skies for Tuesday with highs in the upper 40’s and lows in the mid-30’s. We will see over 12 hours of daylight on St. Patrick’s Day, the first time since September 25th. The vernal equinox will occur on Saturday March 19th. The normal high for March 19th is 41 and the normal low is 24. The scurs still will be wearing the green from St. Patty’s Day while fielding the calls from chicken farmers due to their chickens being angry about their eggs standing on end.
Spring will officially arrive on the 19th, although as most of us are aware, it’s been here for a while. The ice went out on St. Olaf Lake on Sunday and on Beaver Lake on Monday. It’s getting tougher to find those last remaining patches on snow on the north sides of fencelines and groves. Yards and lawns have firmed up nicely and it appears the frost is out in most area fields. The rainfall Saturday night and early Sunday didn’t amount to much, so those who were counting on it to even out any remaining frost were probably disappointed. Overall our March precipitation has been lagging. Normal for the month at the SROC in Waseca is 2.49”. As of Monday night at the ranch, we had recorded only .24”. This is not a bad thing as the soils remain wet underneath in many areas. Wetter conditions are forecast in the near term, so we’ll likely make some headway towards the averages soon.
At the ranch the ewes continue to deliver more lambs in a gradual pattern. We’re nearing the three-quarter done mark, so it won’t be long and they should all be on the ground. The creep feeder was set up in the main barn and the area expanded so all the ewes with lambs should eventually fit. Managed to get the electric fence up and charged on Saturday the 12th, marking another early date for that. Of course the lambs enjoy having more freedom to run and move about without their mothers on their case, not unlike most humans I suspect. They certainly put on a show for anyone happening by or watching on Saturday. We were able to dock tails and move more ewes with lambs on Sunday so not a moment too soon. Sure makes chores go more smoothly.
The wildlife has also been responding to the early spring-like conditions. Grilling on Sunday night, I was entertained by the sounds of Canada geese on the pond and Hungarian partridge creeping around in the plum and sumac thicket about dark. Also heard from the pond area was the faint sound of the western chorus frogs. It apparently hasn’t been quite warm enough for them to crank it up full volume just yet. Give them time and am sure they’ll be shrieking once it warms up for good.
Have been picking at the tree pruning as the month continues to roll on. Got the pear trees done and did some surgery on some of the wild plums that seemed to be in attack mode much of the lawn mowing season. Of course mowing as frequently as we did last year didn’t help matters. The Fireside tree is all that remains. Oddly enough, looking back at last year’s column about the same time, it was the last tree then too. With good reason: It has enough out-of-control sapwood growing on it so it almost looks like hair. After pruning the Haralson as I did, it should make it easier to get at the Fireside this time. More wood for grilling.
March 16th, 1966 marks a watershed date in the history of US transportation: Studebaker officially ceased manufacture of automobiles. As mentioned a few weeks ago, the announcement had come on March 5th, although the last car rolled off the line on the 16th. What brought this very old transportation company to its knees? After all, Studebaker had been a major wagon and carriage builder in the 1800s. Many of the wagons used by the Union Army in the Civil War were manufactured by Studebaker, not to mention countless wagons associated with the westward expansion by the settlers. Studebaker had also been a pioneer in electric cars at one time and a styling leader; with many of the trends it started being copied and implemented by the Big Three. In “More Than They Promised: The Studebaker Story” Thomas E. Bonsall devotes a chapter on his thoughts of what caused Studebaker to cease auto production. While they are opinion, they tend to be backed up with facts and data.
Coming out of WWII, Studebaker was a hot brand. After building thousands of military trucks, amphibious vehicles and B-17 aircraft engines for the war effort, they were the first company to come with new automobile styling postwar. Tired of the war, people were ready for something fresh and new. They bought them like hotcakes. Studebaker’s low level of productivity relative to the Big Three was to become their Achilles heel. While avoiding strikes, the company had been lax on labor, allowing low productivity in favor of high volume. This would later cost them dearly. The redesign of the ’53 product line also came into play. The coupes were beautiful and exciting, selling well. The overall market for coupes was limited, however. The Baby Boom was on and the demand for larger family cars was part of it. Studebaker’s sedans and wagons were dumpy looking and unpopular. In some cases they were on a shorter wheelbase than the coupes.
Overall sales and profits plummeted. The Ford-General Motors sales war in the ‘50’s caused companies like Nash-Rambler and Studebaker to become caught in the crossfire. This robbed Studebaker of the high volume they’d relied upon. Their dealer network was also weak, making matters worse. From 1953–1955, Studebaker lost two-thirds of its market share. Low volume and high cost of production are not an equation for success. Aside from the blip on the radar with the introduction of the Lark in 1959, it was mostly downhill after that. While Studebaker manufactured some classic automobiles in the ‘50s and ‘60s such as the Starlight Coupe, the Hawk series and the Avanti, the public was convinced that if they purchased one, they’d be left with an orphan automobile. When the lights finally went out in Hamilton, Ontario, the end had been coming for some time.
See you next week…real good then.