Second chance

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Some would call our recent turn of weather an Indian summer in November. I like to think of our warmer and drier weather as a second chance, kind of like a snooze alarm for winter. Unfortunately, we can’t keep hitting the snooze until we feel we are ready to start the new day or the new season.

We were facing a philosophical dilemma as October came to a sudden close with frigid temperatures and our first inch of snowfall. We weren’t ready for fall to end. We still had cornstalks to chop and bale as well as other fall fieldwork. I had neglected yard projects which had to be done before the ground was frozen solid. We needed a second chance at fall to get everything done, but things weren’t looking very promising.

We were down to our last bales of cornstalk bedding. The looming question was if we should bale right behind the combine as it took out the last acres of corn. The standing stalks would be drier than the ones already combined and covered with snow, but they would still be considered wet. Should we wait and hope the weather in November would give us a second chance?

With over 50 fall harvest seasons under his belt, Mark was hesitant to wait. He knew November weather could be cloudy, damp and fickle. Winter could be here to stay. There didn’t seem to be much wiggle room to hedge our bets of getting up dry bedding. Austin, on the other hand, is in the early years of his fall seasons. With little experience on which to base his decision, he looked at the extended forecast calling for a stretch of above-average temperatures in mid-November. He trusted the science to give us a second chance at baling dry bales despite the current weather conditions. 

I guess the real question is who do you trust — your past experiences or a weather forecaster? We compromised and baled a portion of the stalks we needed and hoped for the forecast to give us a second chance to finish the job of baling dry stalks.

Paul Huttner wrote that Minnesota has recorded a string of six straight warmer than average months starting in May of this year. He thinks we may make seven. Huttner said the upper air patterns strongly favor a run of unseasonably mild days with highs in the 50s and 60s, which is 10-20 degrees warmer than average. Even though we closed out October with an earlier than average first inch of snowfall, a second chance looked possible.

Clouds hung over our area for the first week of November as temperatures kept us chilled. We had put blankets on the new calves because we were only hitting highs in the 30s. Things were not drying out, and patience was wearing thin. Then the clouds blew out of the area, the sun appeared, and the blankets were removed. We were getting our second chance. The forecasters were right. 

We have been scrambling to finish up our projects with the second chance of fall weather. All the fields have been chopped. Stalks are raked and ready for the baler to finish baling dry bedding for the coming year. A young friend has staked out a portion of my garden to create a flower garden with spring bulbs. I’m planting the extra bulbs throughout my flower beds. I just hope the squirrels are satisfied with the dropped ears of corn at the edge of the fields for their winter snacks instead of searching for the buried bulbs. I still need to dig up dahlia bulbs and carrots from the garden as I start to tuck in my plants for the winter.

There are other projects on my list (washing windows, cleaning out storage sheds and garages) which may have to wait until next year, unless we get to hit the snooze button again and have a third chance at a late fall season.

As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.

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