While there were no 50-degree highs, the scurs and their trusty Weather Eye still kept things above zero and largely above freezing. Will it continue? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the low 20’s with lows in the low teens. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a slight chance of snow in the forenoon. Highs in the low 20’s with lows around 10. Mostly sunny Friday with increasing clouds with a modest chance of snow in the evening. Highs in the upper teens with lows in the mid-teens. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a moderate chance of snow. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the upper teens. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a slight chance of forenoon snow. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the upper teens. Monday, mostly cloudy with a chance of flurries. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the lower double digits. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with a continued chance for snow showers. Highs in the low 20’s with lows in the mid-single digits, still above zero. The normal high for December 13th is 27 and the normal low is 10. We’ll be down to 8 hours and 56 minutes of daylight on the 13th. The scurs procrastination is paying off once again. With the short days and all the cloudy weather it’s better for napping than shopping anyway.
The Full Moon for the month also will occur on the 13th and is known as the Full Cold Moon, The Moon before the Yule or the Long Nights Moon, aptly named with the short days we are experiencing. The Ojibwe called this the Small Spirits Moon and the Sioux named it the Moon of Popping Trees. At the ranch we know it as the Moon of Frozen Water Buckets.
Measurable snow fell in Bugtussle and at the ranch for the first time this winter season on Saturday night into Sunday a.m. An inch of snow which melted down to .09” of liquid equivalent precipitation. It was all but melted by early afternoon accumulating into the soil which remained unfrozen. The soil profile down to the 5’ depth had a little over 10” of available moisture in it back on November 2nd. There’s little reason to believe it’s a lot drier than that even though we were slightly below the normal 2.16” of precip at the SROC for last month.
Speaking of the SROC, hats off (and swim fins on) for their recent setting of the annual precipitation record for MN. The record of 53.73” was set back on November 28th; they’ve received more since then and have the rest of December to add to it. Records in Bugtussle are incomplete as the gauge was not functional until April 7th. At the ranch we garnered 43.25” by the end of November. Let’s hope we don’t play catch up.
Some isolated areas of remaining corn were rumored to have been picked, but aside from that, very little fieldwork was accomplished this past week. Some are still hoping to get one more crack at some tillage or anhydrous ammonia application although that window will likely close quickly given the forecast. It also remains questionable how well the ground will seal and whether the knives on the applicators will ball up. It really hasn’t dried up to speak of.
At the Lions pancake feed Sunday it was great to see Buddy Shurson in attendance. For those of you who didn’t read the wonderful article that included Buddy a few weeks ago, he was a gunner on a B-17 during WWII. Until after I saw him I’d almost forgotten that Wednesday the 7th marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. I still remember my parents telling me what dark days in history those were after that. On the farm war time rationing made everyone feel the pinch and there was some jealousy when someone got something they didn’t think you should have. I recall Dad telling about neighbors questioning how he wound up with a small, 12” rubber tire on the mounted International sickle mower he’d purchased. Yes, things were that tight.
Back to the B-17. It was a marvel of modern aviation at the time. When first being developed in the mid-1930’s, it was equipped with Pratt and Whitney engines. However, more power was needed so the engines were switched exclusively to the Wright R-1820-97 turbo-supercharged “Cyclone” that developed 1200 hp apiece. There were four wing mounted engines on this aircraft. While not extraordinary by today’s standards, they were beefy enough to allow the aircraft to limp home even if a couple engines had been knocked out. No small feat for a plane weighing over 36,000 lbs. when empty and 54,000 lbs. when loaded.
Who manufactured the engines? During WWII, one of the manufacturers licensed by Wright to produce them was Studebaker. By the time Pearl Harbor was bombed, the company had already converted much of their assembly line capacity in anticipation of our entry into the war, suspending much of its 1942 model year production. A new plant was added for production of the Cyclone. They built over 63,000 of these radial aircraft engines for the B-17’s in the war effort. From January 1944 through the summer of 1945, all B-17 engines were supplied by Studebaker. The company also built nearly 200,000 trucks, most of which went to the Soviet Union, and over 15,000 Weasels, an all-terrain tracked vehicle. When I look at the Studebakers in our garage, it gives me an appreciation of their place in American history. When I see Buddy, it also makes me happy to know that somewhere along the line the company probably had an impact on bringing our own local piece of American history back home safely. Thanks Buddy and to all who served!
See you next week…real good then.