Weather - what's NORMAL?
Normal is what we humans average out from day to day, and year after year.
Once I heard Elwynn Taylor state that "normal" weather are all of the abnormal weather events we live through, and if we live long enough we may see patterns that repeat.
When I'm hauling the soil, I'm using a cab tractor, so I can listen to the radio.
Today, October 17, 2022, I was listening to Elwynn Taylor about the forecast for the rest of the month.
The part I found interesting, but NOT surprising, is when the topic of wind speeds came up. The host asked him about what he thought was unusually high speed winds we had
for a couple of days.
I knew what Elwynn's response was going to be and sure enough he reminded people that during the spring and fall there are natural periods of higher
than average daily winds.
He also explained that we are in a naturally re-occurring period where we'll have higher than average daily winds...he then explained we are in a cycle similar to
80 or 90 years ago which was the last time we were in a stronger wind pattern.
So when I hear people tell me that it is windier than "normal," what they don't realize is the world isn't coming to an end and that unless they are 100 or more years old, they
have NO perspective when it comes to even shorter term climate/weather patterns.
Our weather records are at best 150 years old...what about 300 years ago, 550, 1000, or more
years ago when no one scientifically recorded the weather data.
Why it was only 700 or 800 years ago when the "scientific consensus" was that the Earth was FLAT.
We assume too much and over react and sadly have way too many pseudo scientists and pseudo climatologists today.
If you hear someone say the "Science is Settled" run from them like they have the plague, because they are NOT a true scientist who constantly challenges theories and hypotheses.
They are some political nut, have biases, or are in the pockets of some government program or some activist whacko group.
I'll be busy hauling soil and trenching in some tile lines in a different side hill for the next couple of weeks, so I won't be updating my web pages for now...have to keep going while
the weather is nice and before Old Man Winter sets in.
I'm old enough to have plowed so I have a lot of experience with all kinds of tillage practices.
Fortunately, most farmers no longer plow their fields.
When my dad was young, they even burned off the corn stalks, so it would be easier to plow...we still have our
5-bottom IH plow that I use to turn over the sod in the waterways I work on.
In the background, anywhere from 4 to 6 feet of soil has washed into the bottom starting
at the base of the hill over to this waterway caused by decades of tillage.Hauling soil out of a waterway
October 13, 2022, and putting it back in the hills where it once was decades to a hundred+ years
ago before erosion caused by plowing and tillage and heavy rains washed it to the bottoms and into the creeks.
My dad, who farmed
with horses and put in corn through a process called check row planting, gave up the plow as a major tillage tool in the early 1960s, and
then in the early 1970s we went to what was called Minimum-till which helped hold the soil some but still TOO much erosion.
Since we started No-tilling in the early 1980s and were 100% No-till by the late 1980s, the soil
surface has stabilized - organic matter and carbon sequestration has improved immensely - subsoil structure improved tremendously
from the return of night crawlers and other earthworms - the rain soaks into the
ground rather than run off like the days of tillage - water infiltration improves every year.
We cut our fuel usage in half when we went to No-till.
The extra dark black soil is called Zook soil which is wetland soil that I eventually run into in a waterway in a bottom, if I dig down deep enough to remove the lighter topsoil
that has washed in from the hills.
I'll be hauling more soil from another waterway, but use our straight truck for that haul into a different side hill.
I've been hauling soil from the waterways and bottoms since 1975, when we went together
with my Uncle Melvin Kusel to purchase an Eversman Soil mover, which I also still use.
Most farmers just hire a contractor to push out the waterways with a bulldozer, but I prefer
to put this GOOD topsoil back in the hills.
Sadly most of the topsoil (called Loess soil) has eroded off the steep side hills (C, D, E slopes) of Western Iowa, where you now see the orange
and even grayish-green clay subsoils, and up to 1 foot of topsoil has eroded in general since the Prairie was first plowed.
September 27, 2020, plowing out a section of waterway to haul back into the side hill.
Back in the 1990s, I learned to work on a section at a time in a waterway. When I cleaned out all of the waterway, and then
seeded it down the next spring we got those 3 to 8 inch gulley-washers, so I would have to repair the waterway that fall and following spring.
Most of the time the gulley washers came from the neighbors' fields who were still tilling and had the usual run-off after big rains which would then roar through the
waterways in our bottom fields and into the creek.
So now I just work on a section of waterway, leaving a grassed part above and
below it...so if we do get a big rain, at least the whole waterway won't gully out.
I knew the plow lays were badly worn, so 2 years ago I replaced them - now the 4030 won't pull it since the plow depth is back to where it should be so I use the 4630.
Now let's go back to August 2001 on this same farm.
I hauled this soil from way down on the south end of the big
We purchased this 1946 mechanical-control (no hydraulics) Caterpillar grader from the City of Manning.
It was originally owned by
Alfred "Jack" Boeck and his son, Frank - I still use it.Frank is my third cousin - Jack's mother was Amanda (Grau) Boeck -
my dad's mother was Ida (Grau) Kusel.If you look closely at this picture and compare to the one just above it, you can see
the soil is a much lighter clay-colored soil, and the picture with the grader is more black soil. The clay soil is what has been washing off the side hills during more recent year erosion events, after
the good top Loess soils had eroded away decades ago, so what is washing down from the hills today and settles out
on top of the black bottom ground soil would be clay subsoil. Once I haul away several layers in the bottoms,
I finally get to the much darker soil, which is what I really want to haul on the side hills.
If you look at the first 2001 picture, you can see the piles below the area leveled off
are much darker soil, which was hauled out of the waterway after the top layer or two had been removed.
You MAY or MAY NOT have noticed that I don't call the soil "dirt..." dirt is
something that is considered bad - unwanted and needs to be discarded or buried - OR the proverbial "swept under the rug."
1961 Al Kusel on the Farmall 560, Amos Kusel on the John Deere 60, Mel Kusel on the Farmall 400
On the "Parker" land, that Mel Kusel started farming in 1947 - located just north of Railroad Street.
Plowing Bee from the Frank Handlos photo collection - farmers helping out when another farmer was hurt.
Alfred Nissen on a riding plow, with is team of horses.
I could go on and on with this feature, but will stop with Nightcrawlers.In 2003, I got lucky and caught these 2 nightcrawlers mating...while you may think they are slow, if they feel the ground tremor, they
quickly retreat down into their holes, so I had to sneak up on them.
earthworms that people use as bait to fish with actually were brought over to the "New World" by our Pioneer ancestors from the "Old World." - they wanted to make sure they had good fishing worms
They do NOT eat their way down into the soil but push through and expand the hole.
Here you see a night crawler grabbing plant residue on the surface to build his midden, which basically is his compost pile.
It also is used to shed rain water from pouring directly into the hole.
Here is a nightcrawler midden.If you look closely, there are other much smaller holes...ants and all
kinds of ground burrowing insects live in the soil.
The midden consists of Nighcrawler castings, and dead plant material.
Here you see several holes the nightcrawler makes in the midden.
This picture was taken in 1999. If you look closely, the bottom part of the field looks darker...this is where the nightcrawlers are and eventually
moved into the side hill over the next 5+ years, where you can see the soybean stubble residue is still spread out evenly on the surface.
Here you can see the soybean stubble has been pulled into the nightcrawler middens (piles).
Once the nightcrawlers re-populate a field, think of it as a BIG SPONGE, with all kinds of porous veins and air pockets in the subsoil to soak up rain water.
I remember as a kid in the 1960s when my grandfather, Louie Ehrichs, made the inside tank of a water heater into a packer he would fill with water and could roll over his
lawn in Aspinwall to pack down the nightcrawler middens that made it rough to mow.
I would tease him that his lawn
was extra healthy and the worms would eat up the dead grass and leaves.
Never did I ever dream of back then that someday a No-tiller would "seed" night crawlers in their fields, which we did during the early years of No-tilling.
I had just now remembered this experience with my grandfather, while working on this feature story.
Some people thought that it was the anhydrous amonia or the herbicides/insecticides that killed off the nightcrawlers/earthworms - it was NOT. Since the worms eat the decaying residue
that is on the surface, when the plow was used, it buried that residue and the other tillage equipment would also bury it and break it down much faster than in nature...the tillage also kept
destroying the middens and closing the holes made by the worms.
So basically the worms were starved to death and some killed by the tillage equipment.
Since we started No-tilling the worms have come back, either through crawling into the
fields from road ditches or permanent waterways, and also by "seeding" them in the fields by hand.
We still use anhydrous, and apply the various chemicals but the worms, ants, etc. populations keep increasing and most fields are fully populated now, but it took 20 or more years in
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