Journal for November 2002

Today was preparation for what we hope will be seeding next week.  Clif was harvesting his corn, so Mike spent the afternoon mowing down the stubble in the eastern field, so that we can plant.

I explored and found some nice areas that we’d never seen before, mostly in the woods.  I found lots of Rattlesnake Plantain in the woods above the frog pond – much more than I’d seen before – and I think I can find it again.  It grows in the same areas as the Lycopodium.  There’s also a large patch of Bush Honeysuckle in the same area.  (I think that’s what it is – I’ll have to check in the spring, when it has green leaves.)  And there’s a nice big area of Leathery Grape Fern in the woods just below Volvo Meadow, on the west side of the valley.  It will be interesting to see what kinds of plants those areas have in the spring.

I took down most of the bluebird houses, so we can put them near the house.  As I pulled them out I piled them in the back of the gator.  A startled mouse (white footed) poked its head out of one of them, and looked at me so sadly.  Then it climbed out, and walked around in the gator, trying to find a way out.  Eventually it climbed onto one of the birdhouses, and I lifted it down to the grass, so it could escape.

I saw several Bald Eagles, a Red Tailed Hawk, and lots of chickadees and juncos.  The juncos forage in the corn, and big flocks of them fly out when I go past.  I startled several grouse in the woods, and as we drove out, in the dark, there were at least 8 deer eating in the eastern center valley field – we could see their eyes glowing.

One of the guys working with Clif said that he saw a wild cat on our place a few days ago.  He wasn’t sure what kind.  He said that it had a very short tail and tufts on its ears.  I think it must have been a bobcat – we’ll have to watch out for it.  It would be fun to see one.

It’s very cold these days – around 35 degrees during the day – so we’re concerned that the ground will be frozen before Monday, which is the day we hope to plant.  We’re moving the wood shop down on Saturday, so we can check the fields then.

We moved the woodshop last Saturday.  Steve Lik rode down with us in the truck, and we rushed through the moving, and got everything in just after dark.  Then we stopped at the Mondovi Inn for dinner – very slow, but a nice rest after all that work.

Then, on Monday, we drove down to do our planting.  Duane came (from the DNR) with the brand new seed drill, and we hooked it up to the tractor.

But when we got it into the field, we discovered that it gathered up the mowed corn stubble into big “snowballs” and dragged them along.  Mike was stopping about every 30 feet to clean out underneath the drill.  The pieces of corn got wedged in between the metal parts of the drill, and it took lots of pulling and pushing with screwdrivers to get it all out.  What a pain!  And Duane didn’t have any suggestions about how to make it work.  So, we decided to try using the drill as a broadcast spreader, just driving around and dropping the seeds.  Mike started off doing that, and Duane left.  I walked around throwing out Needlegrass and Prairie Smoke, things that couldn’t go through the drill.

After a few hours, when Mike was almost finished, we discovered that the pipes on the drill had filled up with seeds, and the seeds we dropping out the tops, through the joints and the holes around the turning shafts.  It looked like the drill wouldn’t work as a broadcast spreader.  What a lot of wasted work!  Mike was so furious that he drove fast down the hill, bumping along over the ruts in the road, and by the time he got to the bottom, the tubes were empty.  But by that time it was dark, and we were tired and disgusted with it all.  So we went to Jackie and Dan’s for dinner, and stayed in their heated cabin for the night.

By the next day we were calmer, and it was a beautiful warm sunny day, so we decided to try again.  We tried planting the field around the septic system, actually drilling the seeds, but the tubes still filled up.  Finally we figured out that the phone number for Truax, the maker of the drill, was painted on the side of the drill, and we called Mr. Truax himself.  He told us that we needed to clean out all the tubes, which meant taking the whole drill apart; and raise the front cutter wheels, because they are the things that catch the cornstalks.  So we did.  It took us all morning, but at least we felt we were making progress.  We did it in the entrance to the garage, in the sun, and we swept up the seeds when were finished.

When we went back up to the top and tried drilling again, it worked!  So, Mike set off, again, to plant the field.  We had one more small set back – the small tubes, that the smooth seeds fall through, plugged up, but Jim Truax helped us through that one too.  It turns out that those small, smooth seeds need to be completely clean.  Any sticks or fuzzy things will catch in the tubes and block them up.  So we cleaned them out, and poured the smooth seeds on top of the fuzzy seeds, and finished up the field.  We didn’t finish until after dark, and we replanted the septic system field in the dark.  But it’s done now!  Whew!  And know a lot about how seed drills work!