Thursday, July 31, 2014

Famous Visitors: The Clydesdales Arrive

 We would not have been more excited to meet rock stars. These fellows travel in comfort with a cushioned rubber floor and spacious stalls. What is it about horses? They were made to melt hearts.
"Hey, blue eyes, want a Bud?"
I bet you say that to all the girls. 
 His friends were quieter and more businesslike.
 Each of  the Clydesdales has his own locker, which carries individual harness, collar and bridle.
The wagon polishing was nearly finished. 
 My guy was the first horse out of the trailer.
The Clydesdales were brought out in pairs. First were the pullers, the ones in the back. They were noticeably more muscled that the others. 
It was a day of Buds, even rose Buds  braided into each horse's mane.
The Clydesdales don't wear apple baskets, and they don't have long flowing tails. But they were well decorated from every angle. 
The employees in the malting plant had a contest to see who could come closest to guessing the weight of the two horse hitch with the wagon. After hitching the two horses, they were driven into the scale room of the malting plant and weighed.
 Kat Metzger, who we had watched since she jumped out of her truck, needed a stool to help fasten harness and collar. 
Clydesdale is calling "Wait for me!" as no one had told him about the employee contest. The preparations continued, each horse getting full attention as it was added to the hitch.
 The front horse on the driver's left was the leader. It was he who was felt the pull of the reins. 
"I was born to lead," he told me. 
I believe him. The horses were calm, but clearly ready to perform. 
Clyde and his men mounted the wagon. 
The horses began their performance. 
There was a circle drive that they drove around a couple of times. We all oooed and aahed our appreciation. The Clydesdales were giving us a private performance.  
Their staff kept the street free of road apples, stopping to clean as they went. 
Then, the drivers pulled the Clydesdales off the street and parked them on the side lawn. They were headed for the barley field. I will show you that tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Famous Visitors: The Clydesdales are Coming

Barley growers for Anheuser-Busch were invited to see their famous mascots this week. Most people our age are following faded rock stars or chasing golf balls. We don't golf much anymore and we haven't seen a rock star, faded or fresh for a while. We were thrilled to accept the invitation to their Moorhead Malting Plant where the Clydesdales would make an appearance.
 The Malting Plant was available for tours, which Farmer Fred and I had done a couple of years ago, but we hadn't seen this mobile Brewmaster Tour.
Before we could get too far, we were strapped with a wristband to certify that we were of legal drinking age. People with gray hair had a good laugh over that. 
The line for free beer was short. 
 But the free lunch was popular. 
Soon we saw the red trucks driving our way.
The Clydesdales were arriving. 
 The driveway was narrow, so the drivers backed into the parking lot where we were waiting.
After expertly backing the semi into the parking lot, the driver of the lead truck jumped out, petite and wearing a pony tail. Her name, I learned is Kat Metzger. She is pictured above, opening the trailer.
The beer wagons are authentic antique wagons that have been restored and refurbished. 
 The stars we were waiting to see were in the other trailers, waiting patiently and quietly. These guys wait in comfort.
Farmer Fred's father loved draft horses and as a result, Farmer Fred has an affinity as well. Farm work is not too far removed from horse drawn equipment, both of our fathers worked their land with horses. What is the best part about farming with horses? My grandpa would tell you that horses always know when it is time to quit for the day, whereas people don't.
The hitch and wagon were wiped down after the journey, which had actually only been from the local horse park. 
The fire buckets, one on each side of the wagon seem so small that they are comical. But, I suppose, back in an era when everyone smoked, light and heat came from fire, and sidewalks were made of wood, these buckets of water were much better than no water on board.
Suddenly there was a dalmatian nearby. His name is Clyde. Based on the Missouri truck license, I deduced that he is from St.Louis.  If you have any questions about Clyde or the Clydesdales, Answers are Here. 
The wagon is shiny and in tomorrow's post, we will see the horses.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Corn Grows After the Storm

 The corn continues to grow and there are places where it is taller than Farmer Fred. 
 The storm last week provided precious moisture and left minimal destruction in its path.
The rain fell in a sheet of water and flooded last year's field trash onto the trail. 
The water must have rolled down the hill and to the ditch by the road. 
For a few moments, it must have been a couple of inches deep in order to move and deposit the old stalk pieces. 
 It looked like the road had been prepared in some special way for special guests. 
It is just nature taking charge.
 There is slight hail damage on the corn, but it is not enough to affect the plants.
The wind hit the edge of this field with fury, and you can see the stalks are bent near the root. 
The rows, however are standing upright. We are added extra potassium to the fertilizer this year and believe that added to the stalk strength. Considering the season, we have reason for optimism.
The tassels are showing in the corn fields of GriggsDakota.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blooming Flax Field

 The faces of the flax flowers were turned away from me as I stopped by the edge of the only blooming flax field I have seen this season.
 A field of flax brings back memories. Grandpa Sonny raised it regularly when I was a growing up in GriggsDakota.  The fields bloom like a lake of blue and are beautiful all through the season, until they are swathed. The swaths blow around easily and can be a challenge to combine when that happens. Also, because of its oily nature, we were cautioned to never try to stand on top of a load of flax. The flax seed will act like quicksand and swallow intruders.
 Flax is enjoying a resurgence in popularity as a health food for human consumption. It is rich in omega 3 oils and fiber, and is given credit for improving heart health and keeping cancer away. When flax is fed to chickens, the eggs are said to contain less cholesterol and more healthy fat. 
Flax has been raised for over a thousand years, primarily for its stalk. The fiber from the stalk of the flax plant is used to produce linen and fine paper products including Kleenex and cigarette wrappers.
Flax flowers produce seed heads, being held still in the wind by my thumb, which contain the flax seed. The seed contains the oil that has been traditionally used to make linseed oil, used in the paint industry. 

With the modern day perception of health benefit, much of the seed is ground and used as an ingredient in baked goods and cereals. 
The straw will not break down adequately if left on the field after combining. It can be baled and sold in some areas. Farms can stack bales to use as windbreaks for livestock. If flax fiber is applied to river banks or washouts, it adds substance to wet ground and can help slow water flow. Because of its strong fiber, it stands up well.
Flax straw was often burned after harvest to keep its stringy stalks from plugging tillage equipment and blowing around. Modern vertical tillage equipment can adequately chop the flax straw so that burning is unnecessary. 
But a flax field blowing in the wind was a delightful sight near GriggsDakota.