Winter wears on with hints of Spring; think about and thank farmers at work


Winter wears on. Is this a test of our soul? Plentiful ice with a light coating of rain tests our fragile bones and old muscles.

I took my test, early. My slick shoe soles were no match for wet ice. My sore hip bone still reminds me to stay inside, off the skating-rink world.

I’ve seen many winters, many worse than this. But, I don’t recall so many days of temperatures hanging at 31F for high of the day. Then, a couple of days when we set a record high of 72F. A tease of Spring arrives before cold returns.

I spend days cooped up at home. As the University closes for snow more than ever. We went for decades without snow days, before.

I work at home writing. It’s done anywhere I can carry a laptop computer. But, that’s not fun, like interviewing scientists or farmers.

As a, result, I spend time reading endless tweets and e-mails on my cellphone. What a bunch of junk. But, I learn about our politics. And see endless appeals for donations.

I learned, long ago, to not use my credit card over the Internet. My ID was stolen and someone had a grand night in New York at my expense.

I give, but to local folks I know and can trust with my check.

The University is under constant attack by hackers trying mischief. All of us are. I now recognize phishing tries. They want me to do a survey and give personal financial information.

If we could harness their creative energy.

I’ll bet there’s plenty of teaching along that line at the MU Extension “Computers on the Farm” meeting, Feb 14-15 at Osage Beach. There farmers share apps they created or modified to do the farm financial chores. Plus, they push Precision Farming. New farm equipment has more computer power than any device I use to corral words.

This year is a good one to give attention to “Thank a Farmer” month. Without them, we don’t eat. Growing up on a farm, I know there are no Snow Day vacations. Work, especially with livestock, goes on every day.

Promoting winter forage stockpiling and grazing, I’m amazed to see cows nosing their way through thick snow to find fresh fescue grass in winter. But, cows can’t do that in ice covered pastures.

I wonder about this weather impact on fall-calving beef herds. That’s popular in South Missouri. With a decade of warming winters, that practice moved north. Tending calves this winter won’t be easy.

Dry cold is one thing. Wet cold with blustery winds is another. Wind creeps through winter garb.

At a heifer meeting here, a farmer said he’d moved his cows to an interior hill pasture before he could come to the meeting. Flash floods were in the forecast and he knew the water gaps in his fences at creeks would wash out. Cows escape through broken gaps.

I laughed to learn that President Trump, not a farm boy, didn’t know about water gaps. Seems his billion-dollar wall breaks at creek crossings. Cows may not get out, but trespassers may sneak in.

Farm boy education would help, even a President who knows everything.

A news tweet about the pilot of a helicopter crash in California reminded me of my long ago encounter with Army helicopters, with twin rotors. What a nifty way to travel.

On my first flight, as a naive 2nd lieutenant, the pilot brought us back to our starting point and turned off the engines. We dropped straight down a thousand feet. This farm boy almost created a mess in his pants.

Just before we crashed, the pilot switched rotor blades to horizontal. We braked softly to a gentle landing. I created fun for pilots; but, lost my sense of humor.

I’ve stuck with fixed-wing aircraft after my Army life. Now, no aircraft, thank you.

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