Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ain't Misbehavin'


During the summer of 2006 I had the good fortune to spend a couple of weeks at Orr, (Say it like a pirate!) Minnesota. While at Orr, I usually ate at this very nice local eatery.

In addition to great breakfasts, lunches and suppers, Sandy turns out those most amazing doughnuts. They are as big as a wheelbarrow tire and can feed three people. I was a bad boy, and even with lots of physical activity, I gained five pounds during those two weeks. A cop probably wouldn't survive a year. Since being in Orr, I haven't touched a doughnut...what would be the point after having the best? If you are in Northern Minnesota, be sure to drop by Orr for a treat.

The lovely Sandy and her daughter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Saint Andrew's Day

Saint Andrew's Day is November 30, and even if you are not Scottish, it is a good excuse for a holiday season party. ( The flag of Scotland is the Cross of St. Andrew, and this is widely displayed as a symbol of national identity.) Because Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, a proper celebration should have bagpipes, Scotch Whisky, and haggis. If you are apprehensive about haggis, at least make a meatloaf with both cut and rolled oats instead of bread for the filler.

My favorite poet, Robert Service, gets little or no respect from Professors of English; I think because he was a Scot, and possibly because he actually made a living writing poetry. In his collection of Bar-Room Ballads, published in 1940, Mr. Service uses the term Sassenach twice in one of his poems. This word is a Scottish/Gaelic term derived from an early word for Saxon. It is a somewhat derogatory term for anything English. Use of this word may be one of the reasons this successful and entertaining writer is still being snubbed for all of his works except for a few early poems about the Yukon Gold Rush.

Below is the offending poem; a great story to read with Saint Andrew's Day coming up. Now pour a glass of good Scotch, crank up a CD of bagpipes, and enjoy a good story.

The Ballad of How MacPherson Held the Floor

Said President MacConnachie to Treasurer MacCall:
"We ought to have a piper for our next Saint Andrew's Ball.
Yon squakin' saxophone gives me the syncopated gripes.
I'm sick of jazz, I want to hear the skirling of the pipes."
"Alas! it's true," said Tam MacCall. "The young folk of to-day
Are fox-trot mad and dinna ken a reel from a Strathspey.
Now, what we want's a kiltie lad, primed up wi' mountain dew,
To strut the floor at supper time, and play a lilt or two.
In all the North there's only one; of him I've heard them speak:
His name is Jock MacPherson, and he lives on Boulder Creek;
An old-time hard-rock miner, and a wild and wastrel loon,
Who spends his nights in glory, playing pibrochs to the moon.
I'll seek him out; beyond a doubt on next Saint Andrew's night
We'll proudly hear the pipes to cheer and charm our appetite.

Oh lads were neat and lassies sweet who graced Saint Andrew's Ball;
But there was none so full of fun as Treasurer MacCall.
And as Maloney's rag-time band struck up the newest hit,
He smiled a smile behind his hand, and chuckled: "Wait a bit."
And so with many a Celtic snort, with malice in his eye,
He watched the merry crowd cavort, till supper time drew nigh.
Then gleefully he seemed to steal, and sought the Nugget Bar,
Wherein there sat a tartaned chiel, as lonely as a star;
A huge and hairy Highlandman as hearty as a breeze,
A glass of whisky in his hand, his bag-pipes on his knees.
"Drink down your doch and doris, Jock," cried Treasurer MacCall;
"The time is ripe to up and pipe; they wait you in the hall.
Gird up your loins and grit your teeth, and here's a pint of hooch
To mind you of your native heath - jist pit it in your pooch.
Play on and on for all you're worth; you'll shame us if you stop.
Remember you're of Scottish birth - keep piping till you drop.
Aye, though a bunch of Willie boys should bluster and implore,
For the glory of the Highlands, lad, you've got to hold the floor."
The dancers were at supper, and the tables groaned with cheer,
When President MacConnachie exclaimed: "What do I hear?
Methinks it's like a chanter, and its coming from the hall."
"It's Jock MacPherson tuning up," cried Treasurer MacCall.
So up they jumped with shouts of glee, and gaily hurried forth.
Said they: "We never thought to see a piper in the North."
Aye, all the lads and lassies braw went buzzing out like bees,
And Jock MacPherson there they saw, with red and rugged knees.
Full six foot four he strode the floor, a grizzled son of Skye,
With glory in his whiskers and with whisky in his eye.
With skelping stride and Scottish pride he towered above them all:
"And is he no' a bonny sight?" said Treasurer MacCall.
While President MacConnachie was fairly daft with glee,
And there was jubilation in the Scottish Commy-tee.
But the dancers seemed uncertain, and they signified their doubt,
By dashing back to eat as fast as they had darted out.
And someone raised the question 'twixt the coffee and the cakes:
"Does the Piper walk to get away from all the noise he makes?"
Then reinforced with fancy food they slowly trickled forth,
And watching in patronizing mood the Piper of the North.

Proud, proud was Jock MacPherson, as he made his bag-pipes skirl,
And he set his sporran swinging, and he gave his kilts a whirl.
And President MacConnachie was jumping like a flea,
And there was joy and rapture in the Scottish Commy-tee.
"Jist let them have their saxophones wi' constipated squall;
We're having Heaven's music now," said Treasurer MacCall.
But the dancers waxed impatient, and they rather seemed to fret
For Maloney and the jazz of his Hibernian Quartette.
Yet little recked the Piper, as he swung with head on high,
Lamenting with MacCrimmon on the heather hills of Skye.
With Highland passion in his heart he held the centre floor;
Aye, Jock MacPherson played as he had never played before.

Maloney's Irish melodists were sitting in their place,
And as Maloney waited, there was wonder in his face.
'Twas sure the gorgeous music - Golly! wouldn't it be grand
If he could get MacPherson as a member of his band?
But the dancers moped and mumbled, as around the room they sat:
"We paid to dance," they grumbled; "But we cannot dance to that.
Of course we're not denying that it's really splendid stuff;
But it's mighty satisfying - don't you think we've had enough?"
"You've raised a pretty problem," answered Treasurer MacCall;
"For on Saint Andrew's Night, ye ken, the Piper rules the Ball.
"Said President MacConnachie: "You've said a solemn thing.
Tradition holds him sacred, and he's got to have his fling.
But soon, no doubt, he'll weary out. Have patience; bide a wee."
"That's right. Respect the Piper," said the Scottish Commy-tee.

And so MacPherson stalked the floor, and fast the moments flew,
Till half an hour went past, as irritation grew and grew.
The dancers held a council, and with faces fiercely set,
They hailed Maloney, heading his Hibernian Quartette:
"It's long enough, we've waited. Come on, Mike, play up the Blues.
"And Maloney hesitated, but he didn't dare refuse.
So banjo and piano, and guitar and saxophone
Contended with the shrilling of the chanter and the drone;
And the women's ears were muffled, so infernal was the din,
But MacPherson was unruffled, for he knew that he would win.
Then two bright boys jazzed round him, and they sought to play the clown,
But MacPherson jolted sideways, and the Sassenachs went down.
And as if it was a signal, with a wild and angry roar,
The gates of wrath were riven - yet MacPherson held the floor.

Aye, amid the rising tumult, still he strode with head on high,
With ribbands gaily streaming, yet with battle in his eye.
Amid the storm that gathered, still he stalked with Highland pride,
While President and Treasurer sprang bravely to his side.
And with ire and indignation that was glorious to see,
Around him in a body ringed the Scottish Commy-tee.
Their teeth were clenched with fury; their eyes with anger blazed:
"Ye manna touch the Piper," was the slogan that they raised.
Then blows were struck, and men went down; yet 'mid the rising fray
MacPherson towered in triumph - and he never ceased to play.

Alas! his faithful followers were but a gallant few,
And faced defeat, although they fought with all the skill they knew.
For President MacConnachie was seen to slip and fall,
And o'er his prostrate body stumbled Treasurer MacCall.
And as their foes with triumph roared, and leagured them about,
It looked as if their little band would soon be counted out.
For eyes were black and noses red, yet on that field of gore,
As resolute as Highland rock - MacPherson held the floor.

Maloney watched the battle, and his brows were bleakly set,
While with him paused and panted his Hibernian Quartette.
For sure it is an evil spite, and breaking to the heart,
For Irishmen to watch a fight and not be taking part.
Then suddenly on high he soared, and tightened up his belt:
"And shall we see them crush," he roared, "a brother and a Celt?
A fellow artiste needs our aid. Come on, boys, take a hand."
Then down into the mêlée dashed Maloney and his band.

Now though it was Saint Andrew's Ball, yet men of every race,
That bow before the Great God Jazz were gathered in that place.
Yea, there were those who grunt: "Ya! Ya!" and those who squeak: "We! We!"
Likewise Dutch, Dago, Swede and Finn, Polack and Portugee.
Yet like ripe grain before the gale that national hotch-potch
Went down before the fury of the Irish and the Scotch.
Aye, though they closed their gaping ranks and rallied to the fray,
To the Shamrock and the Thistle went the glory of the day.

You should have seen the carnage in the drooling light of dawn,
Yet 'mid the scene of slaughter Jock MacPherson playing on.
Though all lay low about him, yet he held his head on high,
And piped as if he stood upon the caller crags of Skye.
His face was grim as granite, and no favour did he ask,
Though weary were his mighty lungs and empty was his flask.
And when a fallen foe wailed out: "Say! when will you have done?"
MacPherson grinned and answered: "Hoots! She's only haf' begun."
Aye, though his hands were bloody, and his knees were gay with gore,
A Grampian of Highland pride - MacPherson held the floor.

And still in Yukon valleys where the silent peaks look down,
They tell of how the Piper was invited up to town,
And he went in kilted glory, and he piped before them all,
But wouldn't stop his piping till he busted up the Ball.
Of that Homeric scrap they speak, and how the fight went on,
With sally and with rally till the breaking of the dawn.
And how the Piper towered like a rock amid the fray,
And the battle surged about him, but he never ceased to play.
Aye, by the lonely camp-fires, still they tell the story o'er-
How the Sassenach was vanquished and - MacPherson held the floor.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mmmmmm.....Holiday Treats

King Arthur Scone Mix from the Discount Grocery.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Barns vs. Corn Cribs

Gone For Good

Barns have been a popular topic for backroad historians for the last fifty years. Picture books about barns have been around as long as I can remember, and for the last twenty years the authors have been documenting the decay and disappearance of these landmarks. I attended a slide show and lecture about barns last year by a faculty member from the University of Iowa, and was struck by the lack of farming knowledge this historian/author had. Some of the photos displayed at this event were of corn cribs, but the lecturer knew nothing about them. Corn cribs were used for storing and drying ear corn (corn still on the cob). These buildings were used in the midwest for corn that was picked and shucked by hand, and later for corn that was harvested with tractor mounted and pull behind corn pickers. (Check out the article about picking corn at: ) The bin walls on the inside and outside of the building have gaps between the boards which allow air to move through the stored ear corn, accomplishing the drying.

Elevator; Drag broken and turned; One bucket visible

Corn cribs like the one pictured have an elevator to transport the corn into the cupola where it fell into a chute which could be turned to distribute it into the bins on either side of the drive-through. The elevator consisted of a drag which folded down behind the wagons to receive the grain, and buckets on a continuous chain drive to carry the grain upward. There was also a winch mounted on the wall which lifted the front end of wagons to dump them. All of this machinery was run by a gas engine or tractor belted to the drive mechanism at the end of the crib.


There are also two large overhead bins in the center for storing oats or soybeans. When this crib was built, the bins would have only been used for oats, as the owners at that time farmed with horses. Soybeans were not grown on this farm until this family rented out the land after they retired.

Portable Corn Sheller

The corn was shelled after it had dried. Doors along the bottom of the crib were opened in order to pull out the ear corn into drags which fed a portable corn sheller. The corn then could be used as feed on the farm, or transported to an elevator in town and sold.

Combines with corn picking heads allowed farmers to pick and shell corn in one operation, and this innovation quickly made the corn crib obsolete. It also created a new industry for building grain drying bins to be used on the farm. One of the benefits of the modern harvesting methods is that farmers are no longer losing their arms in tractor mounted corn pickers. Fifty years ago, it was common to see farmers with a metal prosthesis in place of a hand. Corn pickers had fast spinning rollers on either side of the tractor driver. These rollers separated the ears from the corn stalks. If the rollers clogged up with stalks, it was only natural for the farmer to grab the jam and pull. The trouble with that was the farmer could not let go fast enough when the jam broke loose and pulled back into the roller. These old corn pickers are an antique that needed to be phased out. I am not sorry to see them disappear into the mists. The new technology is not without its problems. One of the greatest safety hazards on the farm today is the danger of being caught and suffocated in flowing grain while emptying grain bins. You don't see suffocation victims walking around like we did with amputation victims, so a lot of families learn this lesson the hard way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pre-PC Thanksgiving

Copied from:

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

G. Washington

Before Sparkplugs

One of the fascinating inventions from the early days of the internal combustion engine is hot tube ignition. It consists of a hollow tube opening into the combustion chamber and a torch to heat the tube red hot. Ignition timing can be adjusted by moving the torch up or down on the tube. It was a reliable system for stationary oilfield engines which had to run for days on end. It has no moving parts, no electrical problems, and the gas to run it was easily available in the oilfield. I saw a Bessemer engine in a powerhouse near Salyersville KY with this type of ignition in 1980. It was putting right along, pumping oil from several wells. I doubt there are any of these early Twentieth Century engines still pumping oil, but they are a common collectible you can see at gas engine shows. Roll down to the Boonville show pics in the October 24 post and you can see this Reid two stroke engine running. Click on the Antiques label to find the video easily.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Today Is...

Take a youngster or a non-shooter to the range and pop some caps this week.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Well Fed Forester

Once upon a time, I thought that a pack of saltine crackers and a can of Beanie Wienies was OK for lunch out in the field. I finally wised up and realized I could have a hot lunch every day just by taking along some of my camping gear. I started out doing many variations of beans and noodles, and I still do that once in a while, but beans and rice has become my tailgate specialty. I boil a small batch of black rice (sweet and high fiber) at home every night, and it is plumped up nice in the morning. I add a bean selection from the Dented Can Store and season it with a combination of habanero and other pepper sauces. Lunch for under 50 cents! Cheap and healthful! I usually top it off with some high power coffee to keep me alert after such a great feast.

Hot and Strong!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Keep Your Head Down, Friend

Friday morning will be a dangerous time for my friendly ten pointer. I have watched this deer grow up, and as long as I don't stray out of the yard, he will tolerate me when I talk to him. He has been hanging around the house and barn the last few days, and if he survives the first few hours of gun season tomorrow, I am sure he will hunker down in our woods for the duration of the weekend. I hope he reappears next week.

Blaze of Glory

White Oak
Red Maple

All summer long while the midwest baked the news people were moaning about the drab fall we would have. The fall colors have not been as intense as some years, but the trees have made up for intensity by putting on an extended show this year. Fall colors started early with the sumacs; and sour gum, which usually turns red and drops in one week, has lasted for a month. Quite a few sugar maples colored up late, and silver maples were a brilliant yellow last week. They dropped very quickly this week. The red maples put on a good show and are now nearly all done. Even the oaks have done a good job of showing colors this year. Sycamore was a real surprise, producing nice combinations of yellow, bronze and light greens on most trees.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mixing Metaphors

What's a metaphor? Why for growing hay, of course. Some of the old technolgy on display at threshing shows illustrates past methods of handling hay and straw. Square bales are now the old way of handling forage crops for most of the people who display equipment at these shows. If you check out the age of the show participants you can deduce that most of them grew up with the big round bales you see in fields around the midwest. Before baling twine, before baling wire, there was loose hay. The technology of handling loose hay is a chapter in history that today's farmers don't know at all. This first picture was taken in northwestern Missouri in 1906. The horses in this photo are pushing gathering rakes, commonly called go-devils to bring hay to the stacker. In later years this method was updated by replacing the horses with an automobile or tractor.
My great grandfather Henry is the man on the right on top of the hay stack. His wife Ida is the lady standing on the right. She is carrying my grandmother Helen and twin Homer, who were born in 1907.

A major improvement was the hay stacker which was pulled by horses. This machine loaded loose hay onto a wagon, which then would be off loaded into a barn. The loose hay could be baled by a stationary baler in the barnyard, or packed in the barn as loose hay. Square balers pulled behind a tractor for baling in the field rendered these old methods obsolete very quickly. There is so much history in the brief time span of the Twentieth Century that we must not be too critical when folks don't get it right, but I think it is OK to chuckle.

There is no way this hay stacker could have loaded BALES! (Photo shamelessly stolen from Engineering Johnson)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

billion meticulations of the roots* or Don't Call it Dirt

*the lives & times of archy and mehitabel

Foresters do a lot of looking up while they work. This causes us to trip a lot, which is good for laughs if anyone is with us. Some criticize us for not looking down enough, but that really is not a true assessment. Soil scientists spend a lot of time looking down, and nobody gives them a hard time for not looking up; go figure. Once a year, soil scientists and foresters get together for the Central States Forest Soils Workshop, a field seminar where participants look both ways. Attendees from both disciplines range in age from college students to retirees, and everyone goes home richer in understanding of the resources we treasure. This fall it was in Southern Illinois, and there were over 160 participants. Next year it will be in Ohio. The location has not been announced, but you can probably Google it next August and find it.

Trivia: Foresters have to take soils courses, but soil scientists do not have to take forestry courses.

Retired Soil Scientist Dana G expounding on a hillside soil pit.

SIU Professor Charles Ruffner describing the effects of thinning and burning to foster oak regneration.

A pit in alluvial soil at Union State Tree Nursery. This pit had two soil types; a rare treat!

We look at landscapes, too. Here is Camel Rock at Garden of the Gods.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Get Out Your Gun and Whistle Up the Dog

Most hunters are preoccupied with the upcoming fall deer season when November rolls around. Deer hunting means getting out of bed early, finding your way into the woods in the dark, freezing your feet off, and being alert for other hunters so you don't get shot. Hunting groundhogs in the fall is a much more relaxing exercise in woodsmanship. These shy little creatures like to come out on warm, sunny afternoons in the fall when you are likely to fall asleep sitting in the woods. They are more easily alarmed than the average deer, so you must be quiet and concealed. You must have your rifle sighted in precisely so you can make an instant kill with one shot. If you can't do that, the hog will get away down its hole. Don't use a .22 long rifle.
Put one in the freezer before winter weather arrives or you will be caught short on Groundhog Day. 85 days and counting down!

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Here is a very old (100 years), rare and unusual engine. It was manufactured by the August Mietz Company in New York, New York. This is a two stroke engine with a hot head for ignition, and a fuel injector, which you can see in operation on top of the cylinder as the engine runs. This company ended production in 1915 after the death of the owner. I would guess that most of these engines were used in industrial situations in the eastern US. Seeing one at the Boonville IN show was a rare treat.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Enjoy Long Walks?

Here is a handy item you can’t afford to be without if you go off the hard road: the Hi-Lift Jack. I don’t use mine for lifting very often. Usually I am using it as winch. It is very handy for stretching fence, or straightening timbers in a slouching barn, but it really shines when it pulls me out of a hole, ditch or other off-road jam. If you stow one of these in your vehicle along with some chains and tow straps you can perform self-rescues and return home on four wheels.

Winches are expensive, and you can't have one on every vehicle you drive, but this bad boy can go with you in any vehicle. I dropped a wheel into a hole the other day and my truck was down on the frame. The first time this happened to me (29 years ago), I had a nice long walk and had plenty of time to contemplate my folly in unpreparedness. Walking is great when I am looking at timber, but walking for help is bad for the spirit. This time I winched out with my jack, and was back on the road in short order.

You can order one of these from: