Bryce Gaudian shared this photo of an indigo bunting nest.
Bryce Gaudian shared this photo of an indigo bunting nest.
There might be too many people at Minnesota's great get together.

I work at the Steele County Fair each year. In 2011, 306,597 people attended that fair and 2012 showed an increase to 321,926. I'm not sure how a "free" fair is able to arrive at such figures, but fairgoers were in abundance.

The Minnesota State Fair had 234,384 people show up one day. At least one of whom was staggering across the fairgrounds while singing poorly, but loudly, "Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above. Don't fence me in. Let me ride through the wide-open country that I love. Don't fence me in."

I remember when Machinery Hill had machinery. My father went there to kick the tires of farm equipment that he'd never be able to afford to own.

This year, there is a scarecrow at the Horticulture Building named and modeled after me. It's not just the crowds that make the State Fair a scary place.

Walking at the Brown County Fair

I was sweating the small stuff. I was helping herd five grandchildren around the fairgrounds on a hot day.

It had been a good summer - no tornado sirens. On the way to the fair, I had driven by an old truck carrying a bumper sticker reading, "I'm retired. Go around me."

As I watched the kids go on wild rides named things like Call Your Lawyer, I had time to wonder why it is that guys' shorts get longer while girls' shorts become shorter.

We took a break from the rides and competitive eating to stop by the cattle barn. We watched Holsteins at a lactation station. The cows were being milked. The grandkids were momentarily mesmerized.

I remembered the days I've spent milking cows as I watched my grandchildren. I saw the past and the future simultaneously.

Echoes from Loafers' Club

"Where did you get that piece of cherry pie?"

"It was in the refrigerator. Someone had hidden it in the vegetable tray."

"I didn't think you'd look there."

"I looked everywhere."

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: a container covered by a dishcloth holds good food.

I've learned

1. That very few of the prizes found in every box of Cracker Jack are edible.

2. If at first I don't succeed, I need a new battery.

3. You cannot try on another's eyeglasses without thinking them blind.

Customer comments

Leon Schoenrock of New Richland writes, "I enjoyed your discussion of how to eat corn (on-the-cob) in your column. I have a way of doing it that only a farmer could appreciate. That is to go lengthwise down the rows, but only after taking the headlands off each end."

Roger Batt of Algona sends this, "People say a house burned up. Others say the house burned down. Which is it? Does milkweed juice really work on a wart?" Roger, I believe they're equivalent. If the house burned to the ground, it burned down. If it burned to the ground, it burned completely, so it also burned up. Similarly, when you drink down a cup of coffee, you drink it completely, so you drink it up. I'm no herbalist nor do I play an MD in the newspaper, but I've heard from many readers saying that milkweed sap eliminates warts.

Steve Borge of Albert Lea told me that when he bent over to pick up a can of varnish, his cell phone slipped from his pocket and fell into the varnish. It was quite a finish for the cell phone.

A day in the life

I watched as a retailed hawk flew overhead. It was a plastic shopping bag that had been set free and took flight.

I was unhappy to see such a thing. Plastic bags sack the landscape and are far too persistent.

Later, I spotted a dead cardinal on the road near my home. A male that had visited my feeders regularly and had nestlings to feed.

Not a happy sight. Cars hit birds and birds hit windows. Those things are going to happen, but let's keep the retailed hawks from flying.

The blessing of baby buntings

Bryce Gaudian of Hayward found an indigo bunting nest in a giant ragweed plant while he was dispatching weeds from a cornfield. Bryce said that it was as if he'd found a gold mine on his farm because, other than brown thrashers and kingfishers, the indigo bunting is his favorite bird.

Bryce added that helping to make his sighting off-the-charts sweet, is that he has a dear friend, Randy Fossum, and a mother-in-law, Edie Tennis, who rub it in that they see indigo buntings before Bryce does every spring and see more of them than Bryce does.

Up until the discovery in his field on July 31, he'd been hanging his head all spring/summer because he'd not seen even one on the farm.

Nature notes

A hummingbird flew past a turkey. The extreme birds drew me outside to enjoy the day. I danced the Funky Chicken with two left feet to music only I could hear.

"A-well-a, everybody's heard about the bird. Bird, bird, bird, b-bird's the word."

The song, "Surfin' Bird," by the Trashmen included the wise words that guide my life, "Papa-ooma-mow-mow, papa-ooma-mow-mow."

Goldfinches flew from Jerusalem artichokes into a maple like leaves flying back into a tree. The air above the yard filled with feathers. Swallows were in a feeding frenzy, eating flying insects.

My wife and I ate ice cream on the deck. One of the swallows hit me with a dropping. We all have to go some time. I thought about getting a tissue and wiping the poop off, but by that time, the swallow could have been a mile away.

As Eliot Porter wrote, "Sometimes you can tell a large story with a tiny subject."

Q and A

"Could a bald eagle eat too much to fly?"

Young eagles sometimes make the mistake of overeating, which makes them too ill to fly. We've all been there. They recover if allowed to.

Robert Sibilrud of Hartland asked if hawks would kill cats.

No hawk would ever kill a cat kept indoors. With cars, dogs, coyotes, disease and a neighbor who hate cats, a hawk is the least of a cat's worries. The outdoors is not a feline's friend. It would be possible that one would attack a cat, but not probable.

A red-tailed hawk will occasionally feed on road kill and that might include a declined feline. A great horned owl will prey upon cats.

The University of Georgia did a study on house cats. As a cat owner (of two black cats that have never set a paw outdoors), I found the research enlightening. Reptiles and amphibians took the brunt of the feline assault. Lizards, snakes and frogs made up 41 percent of the animals killed by the Athens, Ga.,-area cats equipped with collar cameras. Rodents (chipmunks, voles, etc.) made up 25 percent of the prey, insects and worms 20 percent, and birds 12 percent. Birds can fly or their numbers would be higher.

The study found that 30 percent of roaming house cats kill prey - an average of two animals per week. Cats brought home 21 percent of what they killed, ate 30 percent and left 49 percent at the scene.

The cats exhibited some risky behaviors - 45 percent crossed roadways, 25 percent ate or drank things they found, 20 percent explored storm drains and 20 percent entered crawl spaces.

Whether it becomes predator or prey, the safest thing to do is to keep a cherished cat indoors.

Thanks for stopping by

"This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek." ~ Terry Tempest Williams

"It's not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it's what you whisper to yourself that has the most power." ~ Robert Kiyosaki

Meeting adjourned

A kind word grows larger with time.


©Al Batt 2012