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Lakeview Window Thought

October 10, 2009,  46.04N 99.4W   Winds 090 @ 20k, Temp 13 F

Temperatures dropped to 13 F last night and it has been below freezing for 2 days now.  Good bye potatoes and beans.  A lesson learned.  In a place where weather can shorten an already very short growing season, both on the front end waiting to plant and on the back side of harvest season, one had better get the crop out and properly stored as soon as possible and not a day later. 

Despite the loss, we did make a crop and just about everything is in place, finally,  for next season.  Everything is out of CRP now and rotations have begun.  Amazing, a barn swallow just came by the window into the wind slow motion current surfing.

October 24, 2009,  46.04N 99.4W,   Winds Calm,  Temp 29 F

Looked outside, no stars shining, it clouded up last night which explains the warm temperatures this morning.  Yesterday it got down to 18 F in crystal clear skies.  It clouded up in the morning, stayed cloudy all day and another day passed with no drying value.  Rain is in the forecast today thru tomorrow.  Not a single soybean, corn or sunflower field has been combined around here, tens of thousand acres waiting to dry.  Looks like it will be a long wait up here.  Looks like maybe never for the corn and sunflower crops.

We are going to dig a few rows of potatoes today, bag up some spuds and give it up.  Most of the crop froze out, only the deeper potatoes will be good.  Lessons learned: plant early, dig and harvest at first chance, get them to market.

The biggest lesson learned: stick to the original plan.  These Northern Plains, this beautiful prairie is best suited to grassland pasture production. Think beef, pork, lamb and poultry pasture based production systems and retail the finished product.

It has been very hard to get a whole lot done this fall.  It has been too wet, too cold, too windy to work fields, paint or tin outbuildings and there is so much crop standing the pheasant hunting has been very tough too. We have about 30 birds on our property but we are saving the hunt for November when family is in town for Thanksgiving.  Deer season looks to be a mirror of that scenario. Lots of crop standing will give the deer little reason to move around outside of their cover and feed sources.  The rut will make them stupid though and with winter rye up and growing strong and corn on our west side with CRP north and east we will get our deer. 

But, the best and most consistent hunting has beens the waterfowl.  That has been good.

It's about an hour before sunrise. The dogs are waiting.  They know every day brings the hope of a hunt.  Its cloudy out, calm, birds will fly for a just a short time.  As we walk out door, the moment I put their collars on they know we are going hunting.  When I come back out with the shotgun they go automatically to heal and we begin the walk west to the slough where the decoys still float, no ice yet.  I walk though the tall grass, icy, crunchy, still dark and I can hear the coots and teal out on the lake.

It is inky black except to the south east where the wind tower farm is flashing red warning lights in synchronization, on and off.  There is a rhythm to the pulse, as there is to the seasons and to life.   I love the fall, the cold air, the sound and sight of the birds going south, resting here for a while before they continue on south to warmer climes.

In the tall grass, sitting down we wait.  The sun is beginning to rise.  The sky turns pinkish orange this morning.  The clouds are thick cumulus, almost a mammatus type, a sure sign of moisture to come.  They glow in the early morning light and reflect into and out of the smooth as polished granite lake.  Now I can see the wind towers in the lowest light, barely visible a few miles away and not a blade turning.

 This is magical time of day.  Another morning's combination of light, color and a still silence accented by the occasional honking of Canada geese on the southern waters, pheasants crowing in the grass belt east adjacent to the still standing and very moist cornfield.  Great horned owls hooting a last conversation before daylight are on two sides of the lake, south and north. A bunting alights into a ditch weed a few yards away from me and loudly claims this spot as her territory.  I agree, smile, it is.  A few mallards are on the water.

I pull out the calls and practice the Canada and mallard greetings.  Some teal and coots swim closer into the decoys but no birds are flying in.  It is just too calm, too nice outside on the lake and the birds are landing on the open water.  That suits me fine. My effort has been rewarded by the time spent in such a beautiful setting at such a mystical moment.

 I get up, and me and the dogs take a stroll along the south shore, then north ambling between the greening winter rye and the brown cornfield. Walking through a buffer of tame, uncut grasses between the two fields the dogs know we are not hunting waterfowl, but pheasant. We don't flush any but the scent is there.  They are in the corn and in the canary reed I left standing for their protection.  That suits me fine too. 

Thanksgiving we will hunt pheasant.  It has been a great morning.  Now lets see if we can dig some potatoes.