At The Library

I was at the library today, renewing my PLAC card [1]. While I was waiting for the librarian to punch through the 40 or 50 screens it takes to do that a man with a couple of young, maybe 10-12 year old, girls came up to the terminal next to me.

I tried not listen, really, but the stations at the library are very close together. They returned a book they thought was lost. After doing that the librarian took that book off their record and said they still owed $23 in fines, and said they couldn’t check books out until they’d paid it down to $10.

The girls were standing there holding books, and their dad said, “we can’t check those out now.”

Then they stepped off to the side and he looked in his wallet, figuring (I’d guess) whether he could find $13 so his kids could get a couple of library books.

Oh my God, I thought. I had a wallet full of twenties. I’d never miss one. Could I hand the librarian one and say, “pay their fine down?”

I didn’t. And I’m deeply ashamed.


1. Public Library Access Card. Yeah, I know, it’s like saying ATM machine.

Me and My Apple

I’ve been trying for 3 weeks to get signed up as an Apple Developer so I can publish a mobile app to the App Store for my favorite client.

And I’ve been thwarted at every turn. D-U-N-S numbers that don’t match. Legal entities that are inconsistent. A multi-step enrollment process that you have to go through every step from start to failure every time. 14 day turnarounds to update a record in a database.

Now, my company’s revenue is about 3×10-5% of Apple’s, but it just seems like a bad idea to make it difficult for people to write applications to run on your platform.

Edit 12/12/14: This story has a happy ending. I finally gave up on their email support and called them on the phone. A real person answered the phone. After describing my problem, he put me on hold for a minute. He came back on and said everything looked like it should work. I tried it again and read off the error message I was getting. He went away for another minute and then came back and said, “try it now.”

Lo and behold, it all worked.

That’s the first time I’ve been impressed with anything Apple’s done.

Requiem

Requiem

Robert Louis Stevenson

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the farmer home from the field.

If you’re familiar with Stevenson’s “Requiem” you’ll have noticed I changed the last line. Stevenson’s last line is “And the hunter home from the hill.” Which rhymes much better with “will” than my “field” does.

But if you’re going to talk about my Dad, and that is what I’m doing, if you don’t talk about farming you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

Dad was a farmer, and could he farm. He taught me how to plow. One year you throw the field in, the next out. You step your lands off at both ends of the field and throw this year’s headlands right smack in the middle of last year’s dead furrows, driving a perfectly straight line while looking back over your right shoulder. That makes almost no sense unless you’ve run a moldboard plow, but if you have you know what I’m talking about. The result of that care was fields that were as smooth a pool table, ideal for growing crops.

And he did grow crops. Farmers love to cuss the weather; it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too dry, it’s too wet. But Dad grew a crop every year, and that was the difference between success and failure in the years before subsidies and revenue protection crop insurance. I remember a story Mom told me once: Dad had had a really good year, had earned money farming when nobody was earning money. He went to an accountant, the best around here, to figure out how to minimize his tax bill. The accountant studied his numbers and said, “Bon, what are you doing messing around on that farm? Go into business and you could get rich!” Dad looked at him and said, “What does a businessman, a doctor, a lawyer, do when he gets rich? He goes out and buys some land and plays at being a farmer on the weekends. I’ve already got what that rich fellow wants.”

He was a planner. Every morning we’d get up to WOWO on the radio for the farm news, and Dad at the kitchen table, a piece of paper covered with drawings and plans, rows and columns of numbers. He planned and he studied, and then if he could make the numbers work, he did it.

It’s not easy today, in the day of air-conditioned cabs, electric over hydraulic controls, to understand how hard he worked at farming. I remember Dad telling me he’d been the equivalent of around the world 3 times… on a Farmall M… at 1 1/2 mph… with no cab, no air-ride seat, no air conditioner. Auto-steer? Without even power steering.

He raised livestock like he raised crops, with care, dedication, and hard work. He fed cattle in a bank barn, and farrowed hogs in the woods. Hard, hard work.

Dad and I never talked about religion. We were of a generation and of an inclination to never talk about that sort of thing, but he told me a story once that explained exactly what he felt. On an Easter Sunday once, when I was just an infant, Mom and Dad went to church. There was an old hill farmer at church that day. It seems incredible now, but just a few decades ago there were hillbillies where we live that would come to the big city (Churubusco) only for a special occasion like Easter.

There was a preacher at the time, a good speaker, someone Dad respected. At the end of the service, as we do now, the parishioners shuffled by to shake the preacher’s hand. When the old hillbilly, dressed in his tattered but clean overalls, threadbare cotton shirt, and work boots, got to the head of the line the good preacher didn’t shun him, but didn’t make him welcome either.

Dad was a farmer. He planted seeds in the ground and saw them grow. He understood the mystery, and a church that didn’t respect that mystery, that valued a person on how they dressed or spoke, was not of the God that makes seeds sprout in the good Earth under the care of a good farmer.

When Dad told me that story years later, he didn’t articulate any of that, he just told a story of a preacher who, as we would say today, disrespected a hillbilly. It took me years with my hands in the dirt to understand what he was telling me.

In his old age Dad was hammered by strokes. Towards the end all he would respond to were stories about the farm. A day or two before he died I went in and told him about what we doing on the farm. I don’t remember now what it was I talked about, just everyday stuff; the truck getting stuck, doggone elevator cheating us on corn drying costs, looking at buying a new grain drill, that sort of thing. He didn’t say anything, but he’d look at me and chuckle or snort depending on the story I was relating.

Dad was a farmer to the very end.

He was a farmer.

There’s nothing else, and nothing better, to say.

Busy As

Tom and I went and seeded wild rice in some lake channels on one of our farms. While we were there we noticed the beavers had been very active. There were fresh shavings and trees they’d gnawed down and trees they were still working on.

This first one was a fair sized tree, maybe a foot in diameter that they had just felled.

Newly Felled

Newly Felled

Newly Felled

Newly Felled

But on the other side of the channel they are working on some huge trees. I can’t imagine what they’re going to do with these when they do get them chewed down.

Big Tree

Big Tree

Bigger Tree

Bigger Tree

Huge Tree

Huge Tree

Beavers are notoriously shy and difficult to photograph. But I was lucky and got a picture of one working on a tree.

Beaver?

Beaver?

They always look so different in real life.

O, Huntertown!

If you’re from around here [1] you’ve at least heard about Huntertown and their quixotic battle to create their very own sewage plant [2].

To honor the Huntertown Town Council in perhaps one of the most bizarre wastes of the taxpayer money entrusted to public officials ever, I’ve created the following:

Sung to the tune of O Canada

O Huntertown!
Our home and crazy land!
True sewage love in all thy sons demand.

With churning bowels we see it rise,
The Sewage Plant strong and free

To spite the Fort
O Huntertown, we flood the Eel for thee.

IDEM keep our town glorious and free!

O Huntertown, we flood the Eel for thee.

O Huntertown, we flood the Eel for thee.


1. 41.210688,-85.3754639

2. For a less musical but more factual take on this, see The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Hard Cider

With harvest done I have time to catch up on important tasks, like racking my hard cider.

Racking

Racking

Tom and I crushed apples on October 14th, and the cider has been fermenting away ever since. The solids settle out of the cider over time, and you siphon it off into clean containers, a process called racking. Do this a few times and the cider gets nice and clear.

Of course, you have to taste it as you rack it, to make sure it’s ok.

A Taste

A Taste

Nice color, and it’s starting to clear. It smelled great and tasted even better. It tastes fresh and apple-y.

And of course, you have confirm the taste from every carboy.

Another Taste

Another Taste

It was as good as the first. Down the hatch!

Done!

Lana, Tom, and I finished harvest today.

Idle Combine

Nothing More To Do

It was an amazing harvest season, almost entirely free of mechanical troubles. We had a few breakdowns of the combine, tractors, and corn dryer, but none of stopped us for more than a couple of hours. The combine, which has a lot of moving parts, is 10 years old, and can be troublesome, ran from October 26 through November 12 without a single glitch. Amazing.

An entire year’s work comes down to a harvest season. And when you’re done, and the barn is full, and the family and farm are safe for another year, it’s a feeling that defies expression.

Safety is Job One

At Zumbrun Farms we take safety seriously as evidenced by the photo below.

Safety First!

Safety First!

In case you can’t tell what that is, it’s a board I cut to hold the clutch down on the tractor we use to run the auger to unload corn. You have to press the clutch down to start the tractor, so you don’t start it in gear and run somebody over.

So when we start the tractor to unload corn, as we’ll do about 100 times this fall, you have to climb up into the tractor, stomp on the clutch and start it.

If my arms were about an inch longer I’d be able to stand on the ground and hold the clutch with one hand and turn the key with the other. But they’re not, so doing that involves a painful stretch.

After a week of this, I finally just cut a board tonight to wedge the clutch down so I can start the tractor from the ground without having to climb up in it.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, the tractor could accidentally get put in gear. Then as I start it the board could kick out, and the tractor would lurch forward, running me over while dragging the auger behind it and then careening across the road where it would hit a schoolbus full of children.

That’s why I carefully wrote “Safety First!” on the board.

Picking Corn

Picking corn today.

Combining

Combining

These rows are a half mile long. Around here that’s a long row!

Long Rows

Long Rows

Unloading back at home into the corn dryer.

Unloading

Unloading

We want the corn to be 15% to 15.5% moisture coming out of the dryer.

Moisture Tester

Moisture Tester

This is a little wet at 16.5%, I increased the dryer cycle time to take out a little more moisture.

The dryer will work most of the night, drying the corn we picked today. And tomorrow we’ll do it all again.

If it doesn’t rain.

The Whopper

I found this radish today while wandering around in the corn field.

The Whopper

The Whopper

It weighs in at 9 pounds, and it broke off at the ground (Lana drove the combine over it) so there’s even more of it still in the ground.

We had radishes in this field last year for a cover crop, and this one is a volunteer that came up from last year’s crop.

Tom took this picture, I’m not sure how he managed it. I haven’t applied any special effects to it, this is how it came off the camera.

Twirling

Twirling

Usually when these radishes get this big they’re not good to eat, they get woody and bitter and hot. But this one is tender and mild and quite tasty.