Arrows and Minnows


The Old Farmer's Almanac 2015 Weather Predictions

Arrows and Minnows

I check the weather at least once a day these days. End of September, early October, in my part of Kansas, I anxiously await the cooler days of fall; cool enough that a person might be able to use the outdoors as nature’s cooler and hang a whitetail deer carcass to age for a day or so. The first frost of the year means we’ll be putting some Inchelium Red Garlic into the ground, the mosquitoes and chiggers will be done for the year, poison ivy will begin to go dormant, and I’ll start spending as much time in the woods as I possibly can, hunting whitetail deer and trying to build up our freezer supply. I love this time of year. But beyond that, this is also a good time to take a look at The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2015 weather predictions, and see what Mother Nature might have in store for us.

For the winter weather predictions in 2014-2015, The Old Farmer’s Almanac points to Solar Cycle 24 – which began in 2008 – and predicts temperatures in the next year to be colder than normal during winter, and warmer than normal during summer.

 

This winter, the central and eastern United States will see colder than normal temperatures, while the western one-third of the country will experience above average temps. As for snow, the central part of the country from the Dakotas down to Texas and then east through Georgia and South Carolina can expect cold and dry, while the Corn Belt region will experience the cold with heavier snowfall. In general, The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts heavy snowfall for the northeast part of the country, although there are also parts of New England – western Massachusetts, southern Vermont, New Hampshire and most of Maine – that will be dryer than normal. Florida will likely get more precipitation than normal this winter.

Out west, folks can expect mild temperatures and below-average snowfall more or less, although the western part of New Mexico down into the western-most parts of Texas could see cold, snowy conditions. Expect above average temperatures and above average precipitation in most of Washington state.

 

During summer, we could be in for a hot, dry one here in the middle of the country. Expect hot throughout the country, the only two exceptions being in the southwest and in the mid-Atlantic states, where in both regions they are predicting normal temperatures. Looking at the map of The Old Farmer’s Almanac weather predictions for summer 2015, it’s hard not to think of our food supply as much of the Corn Belt and Middle America could see below average rainfall – same goes for much of California where we are currently already experiencing drought conditions. Here’s to hoping that our corn, wheat, soybeans and other crops do better than the map might suggest.

Looking at the 2015 Old Farmer’s Almanac in general, I’m struck by what a fun publication this thing is to flip through, and how useful it really is. There are the usual types of things like best days for fishing and a wealth of gardening information, but this year’s book also features a handful of mouthwatering recipes and multiple articles that caught my eye, including “What’s Happened to the Quail?” that I had to pause this writing to read.

And that brings to mind some pheasant I still have in the freezer. Here’s to a safe, fruitful hunting season, and if you or anyone you know has an especially noteworthy tale to tell, drop me a line at cregan@grit.com, and we’ll compare notes.

To check out more from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, or to order your copy, visit www.Almanac.com.

Chainsaw Reviews: Felling in the Woodlot

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganLate last fall – while it was still warm enough to work in light long sleeves – Editor-in-Chief Hank Will and Managing Editor Caleb Regan had the pleasure to spend a day in the woodlot working on some chainsaw reviews. Hank had a stand of old dead pines he wanted to thin out so that several young live oak trees might have a chance to flourish. Here’s Caleb’s account. 

We ran a number of saws that day – Echo, Husqvarna, Oregon and GreenWorks – and it was all about getting a start on the project and ultimately testing some awesome felling and limbing saws in an authentic setting.

Chainsaws in the Woodlot

There were no perfect 12-inch hackberry trees to watch the machines rip through. Instead, we needed to systematically dissect our way through the pine stand and sort out around 25 dead trees from the rest of the woodlot – even a couple of humongous oaks in the mix. Plus we limbed up a portion of the downed trees to maintain order and walkways.

It was such a blast. The day was all about calculations. When you’re felling that many trees in one lot, you have to go about it in a specific order, so that one 75-foot-tall pine going down in one spot will create a nice hole to lay another tree down, and hopefully it’ll all work out and prevent smashing healthy trees in the same timber stand. Then there were also the necessary calculations of where Sam the boar was rooting through bark and grubs as compared to the lean of yet another pine that needed to come down. And then if we apply some loader bucket pressure about 8 to 10 feet up the base of this tree, can we get that puppy to overcome the wind and fall just perfectly between that cedar and that young oak?

The saw of the day turned out to be the Echo Timberwolf CS-590. This saw, as well as the smaller Echo CS-370 were so easy starting that by then end of the day, it was a relief reaching for a saw and knowing it would take only one tug on the pull cord to get it fired up. The CS-590 was the saw that all sawyers reached for by the end of the day for felling big pines and oaks. It was light enough to hold in place while making the bottom upward-angled cut of the notch – about 20 trees in, we were having better luck with the “Humbolt Notch” – and had plenty of power to eat right through any type of wood you might encounter in Kansas. The dogs on the CS-590 dug right in, and it was easy to let the saw do the rest – one of those saws that make you smile while you’re operating it.

The Echo CS-370 came in handy when it was time for limbing work. One thing becomes clear after six or so hours in the woodlot, no one is reaching for the big saws when it comes time to limb timber up and keep things tidy.

Also along for the fun that day were the Husqvarna 450 Rancher and the Husqvarna 562XP. The 562 is a lot of saw, and I’d put it in the category of being a chainsaw that makes the operator smile. It eats through logs – the thing rips – though it is a heavier saw that can get tiresome if you’re felling as many trees as we were. Make no mistake though, it’s a quality saw for felling larger trees and bucking large logs. The 450 is the quintessential homeowner saw that Husqvarna makes, and being a little lighter, if a sawyer were going to have to only own one saw, it wouldn’t be a poor choice. It was another easy-starting saw that held its own all the way up until its chain was smoked.

The other saw that made an impression in the woodlot that day was Oregon’s electric model, the CS 250 that runs on a 40-volt battery. The self-sharpening feature on this chainsaw worked like a charm – simply lift a lever and run the saw for a 5-second interval and you have a chain restored to only slightly less sharp than you could achieve with a file. And as lightweight as it is, it’s another go-to saw for limbing work.  

Cutting wood is an important part of our heritage, and felling can be the most fun and technical part of the work. Wedges, sledgehammers, bore cuts, even the tractor on multiple occasions – we pulled out all the tricks on that fall day, and it was a blast of a chore, especially with a partner. 

Funny thing, after about a dozen trees were down, just when you might think the novelty was gone and it could become a dogged chore, another well-placed pine came down just according to plan, and if Sam the boar was within earshot and listening, he heard, “That never gets old!” And it doesn’t.

The Old Farmer's Almanac 2014 Weather Predictions

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganAt the time of this writing, mornings in my part of Kansas bring with them a cool, crisp autumn air that most days necessitates a light jacket for a.m. chores, and by the time I get to the office, the temperature is somewhere around 60 degrees. It changes slightly day by day, much more noticeable week to week, and the days no doubt are getting shorter. Won’t be long now until our pellet stove is cranked, heating our main floor and living area and providing a comfortable flickering glow as we sit nearby and admire. With the arrival of the 2014 Old Farmer’s Almanac in the mail the other day, I had to take a closer look at the weather forecast ahead and what their 2014 weather predictions indicate.

Winter 2013-2014 Weather Prediction

Generally speaking, the folks at The Old Farmer’s Almanac are calling for the 2013-2014 winter – November 2013 through March 2014 – to bring with it below average temperatures and above average snowfall. Three exceptions and areas where they’re calling for mild temperatures with above average snowfall are northern New England; northern Minnesota and Wisconsin down through central Indiana (mild and dry in parts of Indiana and Illinois); and northern California and southern Oregon east through most of Utah and west-central Colorado. Central Colorado down through parts of Texas are also predicted to see mild, dry conditions.

Winter conditions in 2013-2014 for the southern part of the heartland are expected to be snowy, and above average precipitation is expected from Boston down to Atlanta and in the southern part of Florida.

Come summer 2014, Florida may need all the precipitation it can get, though, because dryer than average spring conditions across much of the nation could result in drought conditions for southern Florida; New England through the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest region; Texas west into the Desert Southwest; and the northern part of the North Pacific. Most other regions should expect near average precipitation, and spring and summer across the nation will bring above average temperatures nearly everywhere.

Summer 2014 Weather Prediction

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is also predicting an active hurricane season, with a major hurricane hitting the central Gulf Coast in July – here’s hoping that prediction doesn’t come to fruition.

Looking at the summer 2014 weather prediction map, hot and wet conditions are expected for much of the country, from eastern Montana and western Dakotas on down through Kansas and east to the Carolinas and much of the east coast.

In light of the drought conditions a couple years back that put rural Americans in much of the country in a serious bind – though summer 2013 was much better to us than 2012 – I’d welcome “hot and wet” in the Heartland and in my part of Kansas, no problem.

For a month-by-month, region-specific forecast, pick up your copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2014 edition and enjoy not only 2014 weather predictions, but also lots of good gardening advice; fishing tips for seven species of fish; tasty food recipes; and the usual month-by-month breakdown of when to plant, harvest, fish, cut firewood, wean animals and children, and so much more.

And if the accuracy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2013 weather predictions were any indication, it’d likely be wise to take the 2014 weather forecasts seriously, in most cases.

Order your copy at www.Almanac.com.


Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Building a Kansas Homestead

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganWe’ve accomplished much around the homestead this spring and summer, the two most significant tasks for me being building a chicken coop from reclaimed lumber and starting a pretty sizable vegetable garden from scratch. Right now, the hens – seven Buff Orpingtons, seven Rhode Island Reds, one Hamburg and one Dorking – are producing and our kitchen table is overflowing with garden produce. But here’s a look at the progress along the way.

Here's our old farmhouse. The only thing anyone knows about it's age is that it's between 150 and 200 years old, but was recently rebuilt.

Old Farmhouse

First up was the chicken coop.

Chicken Coop Under Construction

Adding Paint to Interior

We were going for barn-door red, and it's not quite done yet, but as it goes, when you have brooding chicks growing by the day, I had to keep it moving.

Coop at Twilight

Moving those rogue teenagers outside to get used to the coop. We're employing the deep-litter method of manure management, which I took from Harvey Ussery's book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock.

Deep Litter

Deep Litter Chooks

Then it was time to build some fence. 

Building Fence

Fence Nearly Built

Gone fishin'.

Largemouth Bass

By midsummer, our garden was coming along. Lots of weeds, but producing well.

Peppers and Tomatoes

Our humble corn patch.

Sweet Corn patch

And beans, looking healthy. More on that coming in the October Grit Country editorial.

Green Bean Patch

But it was all starting to come together.

Free-Range Chickens

Occassionally, you have to throw it all down and cut a little wood.

Load of Firewood

Or go camping, tent by Paha Que – not bad, though we've had some trouble with pole strength in a good Kansas wind. There's no rain fly on the image because this was our preparation setup/cleaning for a 4th of July camping trip to Melvern Lake, just my wife and I. We knew we were going to be setting up in the dark.

Paha Que Tent

Late summer, the produce starting coming through – just when I thought it would never happen.

Small Bean, Cucumber, and Zucchini Harvest

One thing about working in an office: There is nothing like ending the workday sweating in the garden, while watching the harvests pile up. Of course, I say the same thing about deer season and sitting in the woods.

Growing Harvest

First corn of the year.

First Corn Harvest

More corn.

Larger Sweet Corn Harvest

Here's today's haul, August 30.

Cucurbit Harvest

And overall, a ton of blessings.

Bountiful Harvest Table


Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Spring Projects for an Old Farmhouse

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganSitting at the kitchen table recently, watching the flicker of an old-fashioned oil lantern, the winter conditions outside reminded me of how wonderful it is to live out in the sticks.

Wintertime out in the country, unlike any other time of the year, brings to mind how far from the comforts of city life we really are – it feels freeing, in a sense, to sit at the table playing dominoes, no television in the picture, not dependent on any outside forces. Looking out the window, I can actually see the moonlight on the timber set 100 yards away. Man, does it look cold. I can say with some confidence that I will never live within city limits again.

Douglas County Farmhouse
 

The only frustrating thing thus far – we moved in at the beginning of October – has been too many projects for the amount of daylight with which we’ve had to work. Winter can be a difficult time for me, since Monday through Friday during the shorter days of winter I leave for work in the dark and return home in the dark. No daylight hours except for the weekends.

This old farmhouse (somewhere around 175 years old) calls to me, and I rush home at the end of every day, don a headlamp, and head out to walk the dog down through the woods, or to turn sod for next year’s garden. I’ve also worn that headlamp while making some chicken coop repairs and even dispatching an opossum that managed entry into our hen house.

Predator pressure aside, my first project is expanding our poultry-raising efforts. I’ve managed to barter lumber from a neighbor in exchange for a couple weekends worth of drywall help, so building a permanent coop with a rotational grazing model chicken yard (for our laying hens), then building a larger movable chicken tractor for 10 or so meat birds in the spring are at the top of my list. I’ve already budgeted supplies for the NathanWinters' Movable Birdcage, so once deer season ends, I’ll have my work cut out. The project is already sketched out, and war has been declared on the resident coon, opossum and coyote populations. Along those lines, be sure to check out “CopingWith Critters” on Page 13.

Recently, a reader called into question why we have so many bloggers on our site, since many of them enjoy writing about the same things. The answer, quite simply, is that there are multiple ways to skin a cat (or slaughter a pig), and to think we already know the best management practice, the wisest design for a chicken coop, the best way of doing anything, would just be foolish. The many voices in our community are constantly coming up with cool ways of doing things, and if you’d like to contribute, please don’t hesitate to email me (cregan@grit.com). Hearing from our constituents, our readers, really does make our community an incredibly effective way of sharing and gathering information. Hopefully, you’ll find something you can use in this issue of GRIT Country, whether that’s the DIY drip irrigation system for your garden or crucial advice for building a kitchen garden.

Until our paths cross again,
- CDR 


Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

The Old Farmer's Almanac 2013 Weather Predictions: Mild But Varied

 

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganHere we are in late November, and it sure seems like it should be cooler. We experienced temperatures higher than I can ever remember last winter. In fact, records were broken across the country! Yet at this time last year, temperatures were lower than they are today. With so much uncertainty in my mind, I was excited and curious to flip through the pages of The 2013 Old Farmer’s Almanac and find out what we are in for in terms of 2013 weather predictions, particularly winter weather forecast 2013 predictions.

Despite what the current conditions in Kansas suggest, The Old Farmer’s Almanac tells me it will indeed be a little cooler this winter than last. The 2013 Almanac indicates that throughout rural America, folks can expect lower-than-normal temperatures this winter from the East Coast westward to a line from the Dakotas to Texas. West of that line, except for portions of the Desert Southwest, temperatures will actually be warmer than those of the 2011-2012 winter.

2013 Winter Weather Prediction From The Old Farmer's Almanac
 

2013 Weather Predictions From The Old Farmer's AlmanacIn terms of winter snowfall, the Almanac’s forecast is a split decision: “Snowfall will be above normal in a swathe from the Carolinas to West Texas and within a hundred miles or so of the Great Salt Lake; it will be near or below normal elsewhere.” Snow in the South and in much of Oklahoma and central Texas! The good news is that the Almanac believes that there will be enough precipitation (rain and snow) that the areas hit hard by drought conditions last year may see some relief.

Spring will bring welcome rain, too, according to the Almanac.

“Rainfall will be above normal from the Carolinas southward through Florida, from the Ohio Valley southwestward through Texas, and from the Upper Midwest westward into the Dakotas; it will be near or below normal elsewhere.”

Florida stands to benefit particularly. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says the Sunshine State will experience a much rainier season than normal – easing its drought conditions – while Georgia will continue to experience dryer-than-normal conditions.

Moving into the summer, we can expect summer temperatures to be higher than normal along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the Ohio Valley, but cooler than normal elsewhere.

2013 Summer Weather Prediction From The Old Farmer's Almanac
 

For a Kansas guy like me, the prediction of cooler summer temperatures is music to the ears; however, taking a look at these two maps and flipping through the Almanac pages, it occurred to me that my part of the country might experience below-average rainfall, which is not.

Our grandpas and uncles were always worried about getting enough rain, and very little has changed on that front. No matter what slice of the countryside you call home, hopefully Mother Earth will be kind and you can make the most of whatever weather you experience in 2013.


Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

Polaris Ranger XP 900 Impressive in Montana Mountains

A photo of the author, Caleb ReganOnce in a while at a media event, you run up against a machine that wows the small acreage nut. Call me easily amazed, call me enthralled with UTVs that perform backbreaking work while allowing you to get after it in the trail-riding realm, call me even more impressed with an engineering group who can answer every question you have enthusiastically while getting some sincere joy out of watching their creation be truly put to the test: the Polaris Ranger XP 900 impressed bigtime at the 2012 Model Year 2013 press launch near Great Falls, Montana, last week.

Ranger XP 900, Ranger 800, and the Sportsman XP 850
 

Our folks, the GRIT community, have time and time again indicated you like machines that are capable of real work, be it drilling a 36-inch hole by tractor-mounted PTO auger, splitting Osage Orange (hedge) wood into cords of wonderful heat, a tiller meant to cover your acreage - be it a Mantis 2-stroke or a beefy TroyBilt - or the old Alice Chalmers you inherited and drives like a beast but gets it done wherever you live.

Engine-of-Polaris-Ranger-XP-900At the 2012 Polaris event, I hammered on multiple units with you in mind: Polaris Sportsman 850 ATV, Polaris Ranger 800 mid-size that is still available and is a best-selling make and model, Polaris RZR XP 900 that now boasts 12 ½ inches ground clearance (guys at dinner tell me competitive riders are buying these turn-key on the way to dunes events, and winning), and most of all the Ranger XP 900. 

The Ranger XP 900 is much quieter (in large part because the engine is now located under the box), the chassis is two times (100 percent improvement) more rigid than its predecessor, it has 10 percent more suspension travel, and it delivers - at 60 hp - 75 percent power to the ground. In the world of small-scale agriculture, this thing stole the show. In my mind, it outperformed the popular but older mid-size Ranger (800s retail for around $12,300 base, while the new 900 is about $1600 more for the base rig) hands-down, even under the humble load of square bales I could track down and take to the trails all afternoon. At 1,500-pounds total payload, and one-ton towing capacity, I wasn’t even scratching the surface with those square bales, but I wanted to at least simulate some real work.

Ranger XP 900 With Load of Square Bales
 

At one point, I was straight gettin’ it, sliding sideways around a corner on gravel at around 45-50 mph, wondering a little apprehensively – I admit it – how the top-speed would feel at 60 mph. I wouldn’t feel the need to go that fast on pavement, that’s for sure, but that’s where the Speedkey accessory adds real value; especially if you have kids.

And that American-made Polaris Sportsman 850 gets after it, too. Man, was that fun. 


Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .







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