Irvin Zenk's squirrel-proof bird feeder.
Irvin Zenk's squirrel-proof bird feeder.
The plains pocket gopher is a Minnesota gopher that isn't the Minnesota Gopher. It eats mostly plant roots but also some aboveground parts, including alfalfa crown buds. They often burrow in the most productive field areas that have the most available food supplies. They destroy vegetation directly over their burrows, creating thin plant stands or bare spots.

Surveys have found that lambsquarters, bull thistle, ragweed, foxtail and cockle are in greater numbers when gopher mounds were present. Gopher mounds on slopes create bare patches that are vulnerable to erosion.

Gophers reduce alfalfa yields and can damage mowing and baling equipment. Holes near the surface can injure grazing animals.

Gopher excavation does have some benefits. It increases water infiltration and reduces soil compaction.

When I was a boy and most farms kept cattle, most farm boys trapped pocket gophers.

Minnesota was tabbed the "Gopher State" in 1857 after a cartoon, depicting gophers with the heads of local politicians pulling a locomotive, was published, referencing proposed legislation for a railroad in western Minnesota.

The 13-lined ground squirrel is the animal that is the mascot for the University of Minnesota.


I walked along the edge of the lake. I saw a hooded merganser, a tiny duck looking heavy-headed.

There were a number of common loons on the water. Several sang bits of their haunting songs, tuning up. It was practice for when they arrived on their nesting lakes.

Five red-breasted merganser drakes chased one hen around the lake. A sixth drake, maintaining a respectful distance, floated along hoping for an opening on the female's dance card.

In my yard, fox sparrows fed on the ground, scratching through leaf litter by hopping with both feet.

The male cardinal, dressed in a red tuxedo, flew in and offered the female a sunflower seed. She accepted his kind offer as if it were his high school letter jacket. They are going steady. This action is called mate-feeding.

The sun shone brightly on what had been a cool, snowy day. Winter had threatened to become the new spring. The blacktop steamed in response and my welcome mat took the opportunity to let off a little steam of its own.

Echoes from Loafers Club

"I complained to the assessor's office about my real estate taxes. The guy there had only two words for me about my taxes."

"What were the two words?"

"Pay them."

Driving by the Bruces

I have two wonderful neighbors - both named Bruce - who live across the road from each other. Whenever I pass their driveways, thoughts occur to me, such as: how is it that I'm able to sleep better on the sofa, with the lights on and the TV blaring, than in bed?

I've learned

One bad job can give you all the experience you'll need.

If they couldn't fly, flies would be called "walks."

You're lucky if you're lucky.

The news from Hartland

Man tries to lose weight by riding an exercise bike to work. He lost 40 pounds and his job.

Man breaks tooth while eating Body Chex cereal.

Diner claims that the soup of the day suffered from irritable bowl syndrome.

The cafe chronicles

The coffee was considered ready to drink when the spoon floated to the top.

Lies fell like rain. "The fish were biting so well on Lake Inferior that I had to hide behind a tree to bait the hook" and "Bacon bits come from guinea pigs."

Someone brought up the time when the girls chanted, "Boys are rotten, made of cotton. Girls are handy, made of candy. Boys go to Jupiter, to get even stupider. Girls go to Mars, to get candy bars."

Spring is always somewhere

The day had been rain and snow. Winter is the new spring. Not long before sunset, the sun fell below the clouds and brightened my world with sunlight. It's as if the sun were saying, "This is what it would be like if you lived in Yuma, Ariz., (the sunniest city in the United States, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which ranked cities based on the percentage of annual possible sunshine).

This year, spring fever is double pneumonia. Not many flowers to be seen, but red noses are blooming in the cold.

I want to encourage spring.

There is an actor, who appears in most of Adam Sandler's movies, by the name of Rob Schneider. Schneider's job in many of the films is to say, "You can do it!"

I want to be that guy for spring. "Hey, spring! You can do it!"

An odyssey

I rose shortly after going to bed. I needed to catch a plane. I showered, but the cobwebs clung to the corners of my brain. As I put on my clothes, I couldn't remember if I was outside trying to get in or inside trying to get out.

I spoke in Alberta. Banff and the Rockies tickled me to a color far beyond pink. A good share of the province's population resides in Calgary and Edmonton. Edmonton is the smaller of the two cities, but I couldn't help but have "The Wreck of the Edmonton Fitzgerald" find a roost in my brain.

Customer comments

Phil Barton of Rochester told me that he'd taken a part-time job at Dollar Tree. He enjoys the work even if he is just a Phil-in.

Stan Fitz of Rockford wrote "Rumor has it that summer will be on a Saturday this year."

Did you know?

The Sheldon (Iowa) High School teams are nicknamed the Orabs. An Orab is a blend of the school's colors, orange and black.

Squirrel-proofing a feeder

Irvin Zenk of Albert Lea gave me information on a squirrel-proof feeder he has built. The feeder is about 18 inches long and 8 inches wide. Flashing (about 8 inches wide) is stapled to the base and this flashing collapses to the pole when squirrels attempt to climb onto it. Irvin added, "This does work."

Wisdom from the second grade

Scott Moeller, naturalist at the Linnaeus Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College, took a second grade class on a visit to the Borgeson Family Cabin. The cabin was built in 1866 by Swedish pioneers and moved from Norseland to the Arboretum.

The original chinking (the material stuffed between the logs to keep out the wind, rain, and snow) was made from manure, straw, grass, sticks, corncobs and newspapers.

Carl Borgeson served with the Union Army during the Civil War and lived with his wife, Clara, eight children, and a hired man in that tiny cabin. It was approximately 12-feet by 20 with two rooms and a sleeping loft.

Scott asked the second graders what they had learned from their visit to the spare cabin.

One girl replied, "We don't need as much stuff as we think we do."

Thanks for stopping by

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see." ~ John Burroughs

"Having more joy does not necessarily require a life overhaul - you may just need to create more space in your life for moments of joy." ~ Debrena Jackson Gandy

Meeting adjourned

"The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being." ~ The Dalai Lama


©Al Batt 2013