Where I Come From, You Do Not Drive On Lakes

This past summer I lived for three months in South Dakota while I interned with Monsanto. It was an enjoyable internship experience. I got to see a lot of beautiful scenery, learn a lot about corn and soybeans and I was thankful I was able to try living in the Dakotas for a three month period and not on a permanent basis. Their summers in the Dakotas are extremely mild compared to hot and muggy Alabama summers, but I wanted to go and see what winter was like. During Christmas break I paid a winter visit to South Dakota, and let me tell you it is an entirely different ballgame than what I am used to.

ImageTemperatures were below zero the majority of the time I was there. The wind chill was anywhere from -13 to -45, until I got off the plane in Aberdeen, I had never felt temperatures below zero. However these low temperatures are very conducive to recreational activities that I have never participated in like snowmobile riding and ice fishing.

Ice fishing was what I was most excited about getting to attempt on my trip. Zack, who preaches at the church I attended this summer agreed to take me. So he got out the fishing rods the night before we went and got them all ready to go. I was surprised at how tiny they were!

ImageThe next morning we woke up early, I put on almost all the clothes I had brought with me (literally, even my pajama pants) and we drove to Pickerel Lake about 60 miles east of Aberdeen. Pickerel is a big fishing lake, a beautiful area I frequented this summer to watch sunsets and walk. Zack brought along his wife Elizabeth and their two year old son Isaac. We pulled up to the lake and Zack instructed us to roll down our windows “just in case the car fell through the ice.”

ImageI did a double take. In Alabama our lakes hardly ever freeze over, much less do they freeze where you can walk on the ice, MUCH LESS DRIVE ON IT! But sure enough there were vehicles scattered all over the lake.

ImageWe started out across the lake in their Honda Accord. The snow was blowing which made it hard to see the tracks made by other vehicles. We made it a few hundred feet and got stuck. I didn’t have on my coveralls yet, but Zack and I jumped out to push the car out of the deep snow we had got stuck in. We drove out to where some of the other vehicles were. We got out and sure enough you could walk around, it was tough to tell you were even on ice because it was covered with snow except for a few patches here and there.

ImageZack and I drilled some holes in the ice with his hand auger.

ImageThe auger makes a nice little 6 inch hole. You have to have some way to drill a hole, the ice is so thick you cannot break it by hitting it with something. The ice was about 3 foot thick.

ImageAfter you drill a hole you can use a fish finder or even just drop your line in and see if you get a bite.

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We finally decided on a spot and set up our ice shack. Ice shacks reminded me of campers, you have some that are super fancy and some were super simple.

ImageThe one we used was a little pop-up deal that fit nicely inside a hard sided case.

ImageIt isn’t made of much, but I was surprised how warm it was inside, especially because we had a space heater since little Isaac was along. Just being out of the wind helped. The wind was so strong we had to made sure someone was in it so that it did not blow away!

ImageThe kind of fish that we were fishing for are pan fish like blue gill and crappie. You can barely feel their bite so the strategy was to watch the tip of the rod for movement. Since we had Isaac along in the shack with Elizabeth and I, it was very hard to do and we had little luck.

Imageeing able to go ice fishing was definitely a new experience, ice of that proportion was new to me. I am now by no means an experience ice fisher. If someone who is a seasoned ice fisherman was to read this, they will probably laugh at my description of the endeavor and terminology, however for an Alabama gal, I was doing good to be out there sitting on a frozen lake.  I would like to try it again sometime, can you ice fish where you live? What has been your experience?

Webster South Dakota ice fishing

South Dakota is a Different Ballgame in the Winter

This summer I spent three months in South Dakota. The weather was SO NICE. After enduring Alabama summers for 21 years to get to spend a summer where there is little humidity was such a treat. I can only think of one day where I actually thought, “whew, it is hot.” I decided a few months I wanted to go back in the winter time and see what it is like. I got a good taste of what it is like, when I landed in Aberdeen, SD last Thursday it was -13, when I left on Sunday the wind chill was -46. It cold, but a different kind of cold.

I got a lot of experience driving on ice and show while in South Dakota. I don’t know how people know where to park in parking lots at Walmart, Target etc. because you cannot see the lines. Image

 

There were huge piles of snow some the size of buildings, in every parking lot from where it had been plowed after snow showers. Image

 

I found it interesting that corn was stored out and uncovered. After asking Mr. Tom from church he said that the corn was actually best stored that way, it was frozen and would not loose its quality. Image

 

Streets if they were paved were pretty  much ice and snow. Image

 

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I was able to visit with my trainer from Monsanto. We ate at our usual cafe in Webster, this was a treat. Image

The snow was very pretty, but there was a lot of it and it was so cold, it is not going anywhere, anytime soon. ImageImageImageImageImageImage

It was interesting seeing the fields so bare and snow covered. ImageImage

 

Frozen lakes was a new concept to me. I had the opportunity to go ice fishing (there will be a separate post on that later). We drove on the lake, which was somewhat terrifying at first, but then after drilling holes in the ice that were 2 1/2 feet deep I was reassured I had little to worry about. Image

While I was out and about in Webster on Saturday the temperature hit a whopping 0 degrees. 

 

 

 

 

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One of my favorite things about South Dakota was getting to see some beautiful sunsets. I was able to sit on a hill and watch the sun go down on the plains on Saturday (from the warmth of my vehicle of course). Sunsets are always a great time for reflection and to be in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. ImageImage

 

After visiting South Dakota during the cold months I have no idea how they deal with the snow and ice for 5 months out of the year. I can see where it would get old. I am glad to have experienced the brutal winters they have and I most enjoyed getting to visit with friends from church and my trainer. Stay tuned for a post on ice fishing, let me tell you it will be something else. 

Cotton: The Only “Snow” Alabama Gets

Growing up in Alabama, I have not seen a tremendous amount of snow in my lifetime except for the “snow” that blooms each fall in our fields.

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Cotton has also been called “White Gold” because of its value. 100 years ago cotton is what kept the Southern economy thriving. After Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin, cotton took its place as the South’s top cash crop. By 1860, the southern states were providing two-thirds of the world’s supply of cotton, and up to 80% of the fiber that was crucial to the British textile market. American cotton production soared from 156,000 bales in 1800 to more than 4,000,000 bales in 1860 (a bale is a compressed bundle of cotton weighing between 400 and 500 pounds). Today from the years 2010 through 2012, average acres harvested was 9.8 million acres, producing an average 17.0 million bales.

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Cotton is not as popular of a crop as it once was. We now use so many other materials for making clothing, so cotton is not as heavily used as it once was. However that does not mean cotton is still not important.

As of last week 88% of Alabama’s cotton crop had been harvested, but yesterday a local farmer was still picking cotton so I was able to grab some pictures.

These large machines called cotton pickers go through the fields and pull the cotton from the stalk. This particular cotton picker can pick 4 rows at a time.

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The cotton picked is pulled through a vacuum process into the basket on the back of the picker.

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When the basket is full the cotton is dumped into a module builder.

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The module builder packs the cotton into a large rectangular block of cotton.

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Cotton is then taken to the gin and after the seed is removed the fiber can be for a variety of products. One 480 bale of cotton can be used to make:

215 Jeans
249 Bed Sheets
409 Men’s Sport Shirts
690 Terry Bath Towels
765 Men’s Dress Shirts
1,217 Men’s T-Shirts
1,256 Pillowcases
2,104 Boxer Shorts
2,419 Men’s Briefs
3,085 Diapers
4,321 Mid-Calf Socks
6,436 Women’s Knit Briefs
21,960 Women’s Handkerchiefs
313,600 $100 Bills

You may have never realized that bills were made out of cotton, but think about it. If you leave a piece of paper in your pockets and wash it, what happens to it? Its a mess, but a dollar bill is not harmed after a trip through the washing machine.

Cotton is still king in my book. It is beautiful when it is blooming and the bolls are opening up. It is a very finicky crop and somewhat difficult to grow, but that makes it all the more satisfying when you are able to harvest it.

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Where is PETA and the Humane Society?

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Homes outside of Ellsworth Air Force Base. (Image source: iWitness Rob Griffith/The Weather Channel)

Last weekend a very early snowstorm hit the parts of Wyoming, North and South Dakota. This is hard to imagine for me because I only  left there from my internship back in August, and it is currently still VERY warm in Alabama. This snowstorm was one of the worst people in that area have ever seen. They received 12 hours of rain then four feet of snow and sustained 60 mph winds during a 48 hour period of time. Through acquaintances like Katie Pinke I was able to see pictures of the snow over the weekend.

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Katie Pinke a farmer’s wife and mom in North Dakota. She was speaking to a women’s conference in the Black Hills during the storm. On Saturday she posted this picutture saying “Still no power. The hotel has a gas stove and a flash light in the kitchen. We get hot pork sandwiches to eat but it’s getting pretty chilly now and all roads from here are closed! But I spoke to an amazing group of women. We laughed, wiped a few tears and all better together in this experience. Next up? Extra blankets and a fireplace. One big sleepover in the lobby.” Read more about Katie’s Life on the Prairie at http://thepinkepost.com/

As the snow started to melt some the news of its destruction started coming through. throughout the week my heart has ached for people in that area. 4 people lost their lives and so many cattle died. It is estimated that 75,000 head of cattle were lost in this one storm. Some producers have lost anywhere from 20-50% of their heard.

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Cattle who tried to take shelter in this area were buried underneath the snow. More pictures can be seen here: http://bigballsincowtown.com/storm2013.htm

Since this was an early storm cattle were still in the pastures at this point in the year. During the winter months since the winters are so harsh in that area of the country the cattle are moved closer so they can be kept under close watch and cannot be too far away when bad weather comes. This storm wiped out calves that would have been sold this fall as well as their mothers that would produce future calves.

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This poor cow walked until it could not walk any more and was found as the snow began to melt away earlier this week. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Kristina Barker)

Cattle are actually pretty smart. I asked numerous farmers this summer how their cattle made it in the winter. They know to keep the wind at their back and walk with it. They walk to find places of shelter which in bad storms like this could even mean going through a fence. This time even if they found a creed bed, or man made shelter in the pasture to stand against many were sinking in the mud from the 12 hours of rain and were then buried under the snow suffocating them.

This event did not even break national news sources until yesterday because of the flack they received for their lack of coverage. The government is still shut down, therefore there are no disaster assistance programs to offer these people. Fund have been set up by individuals to help people in this region out. But here is my question.

Where is PETA and the Humane Society? 

They claim that they help during national disasters. They post pictures of their “help” and will run television commercials when hurricanes are on their way or wildfires are raging. HSUS has a webpage where you can give specifically for animal disasters.

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They claim to help animals during natural disasters, why aren’t they helping?

But where are they? I can tell you they will not come.

Why?

Because their goal is not to “help” animals. The have two major goals

1) They do not like animal agriculture which means they want you to become a vegetarian

2) Take your money

“My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.” –HSUS Director of Animal Cruelty Policy John “JP” Goodwin Their goal is not to help animals, but push their vegetarian agenda. To push that agenda they need funds and that is why they run commercials showing puppy dogs and kitty cats that have been neglected and abused. They pull at your heartstrings which in turn pulls out your wallet. At the end of 2009 their revenue for the year was $148 million dollars, yet they only spent one half of 1% actually helping animals.

This has happened before: According to Humane Watch

HSUS raised $34 million in The wake of hurricane Katrina, Supposedly To help
reunite lost pets with their owners. But comparatively little of that money was
spent for that purpose. Louisiana’s Attorney General shuttered his 18-month-long investigation
into where most of these millions went, shortly after HSUS announced its plan to contribute
$600,000 toward the construction of an animal shelter on the grounds of a state prison. In 2009,
Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV reported that public disclosures of the disposition of the $34 million in
Katrina-related donations added up to less than $7 million.

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Groups like Humane Watch keep an eye on the Humane Society’s activities and works to inform the public through advertising campaigns, especially in places like DC and NYC. http://www.humanewatch.org/humanewatch-ads-hit-capitol-hill/

However the main reason they are not going to come is because they are an anti-agriculture group. Because they are against agriculture, they are not going to assist these animals and their owners. They will not help. They give millions of dollars to fight agriculture in all 50 states each year. They pay their lobbyist well and have put 17 million dollars in their own pinion plans.

This is just one example of a flaw in HSUS and PETA, they have many. Before you give your money because of a sad commercial you see, research the group. Most likely if they are advertising on national television they have too much money. Do you see your local pet shelter on television? Most likely not, they have to use every cent they have effectively, donate to them.  Most local humane shelters do great work, they are not at all affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States.

Since the government is not around to help if you are interested in donating to the disaster relief  a Rancher Relief Fund has been set up by the AgChat Foundation. You can donate here: http://www.razoo.com/story/Rancher-Relief-Fund?fb_ref=2eYjT2ox1