Category Archives: Columns

Storm Alert!

I was sitting by my desk, finishing my next column, when a sharp tone emitted from our weather alert. The radio happens to be within 4 feet of my desk and I almost jumped out of my chair when it went off.

The storm on the horizon.

This alert gave me plenty of time to park my car inside the barn before the thunderstorm arrived.

I have to say that last Saturday’s alert almost didn’t come soon enough for Bob and me. We had been inside, out of the heat, when the alert sounded. Bob went to put the cart in and I quickly parked my car inside the barn as hail was a possibility, just like today.

We weren’t outside long and just got back inside the house when the storm hit. That really surprised us. Usually, we are given at least a half-hour’s warning, like we were today.

It used to be that one alert would come after another as a storm worked its way through the area. On the new weather alert radio we just set our county and only when our county is included in the warning or watch do we hear any piercing alert.

Our weather alert with battery backup.

I recommend everyone have a weather alert radio. You don’t want to be caught up short if it’s time to take cover–it’s great to know that some cell phones send out bad weather alerts, too. On a trip, you may need more time to find shelter.

Copyright © 2019 Susan Manzke, All rights reserved.

Susan’s first column

The beginning of many years writing a weekly column – printed in the Farmer’s Friend and Rural Reporter.

      What’s rotating besides crops?

      January 17, 1980

It’s always silent. Not a word is ever heard. It’s the heart of every man or woman concerned with crops out in the field. It’s the farmer’s prayer.

My heavenly request started in midwinter. I was trapped indoors with three children and a man crazed with the cabin fever. The one who could end our imprisonment was reached only through prayer.

“Oh, God, let the sun warmed the hills and valleys. Let the green spring come. And let my nervous husband sit once more on his tractor to till the soil…. His winter pacing has a 10-foot path worn across the living room rug…. Amen.”

My prayer was answered… finally, spring arrived. A little late, in my opinion, but it arrived. Was it my fault that came as a wet, rainy spring? Did I forget to say I wanted a dry spring?

“P.S. God, thank you for the glorious spring. I appreciated it very much. But I do have to ask you to hold back the rain. My husband’s still in the house. Now that living room path is 15 feet long…. Amen.”

Well, He heard my prayer again in our crops found their way into the ground. And there they sat high and dry…. I must have forgotten something again.

“It’s me again…. I’m sorry to bother you, but remember that rain you so graciously turned off? Well, it would be greatly appreciated if you could turn it back on again…. Please?”

This year my prayers were answered tenfold. The rain came and gave life to failing fields. But again, I didn’t want to stop. So humbly I approached the Almighty once more… after a while, the weather changed. The clouds remained, but they were dry. Only trouble now is the slight shiver threatening an early, killing frost.

“God, I know winter has to come. I’ll even welcome its white beauty and time. But would you mind holding the cold off until we get our crops out of the field…. I promise not to complain… much… about a long, cold winter, if only you let fall continue warm and dry a little longer…. Amen.” I’m not sure what the answer will be to this last prayer, yet. But I know it won’t be my last request.

Susan a budding author

2019–Things have changed over the years, but praying continues for good weather and a lot of other things, especially good health.

A Bob memory from April 2007

Back in 2007, my Bob had trouble with his Allis-Chalmers D-15 tractor. He was using the tractor and loader, moving tree branches he had cut when suddenly the engine made a horrible sound. Somehow Bob was able to limp back up the lane to the machine shed before the poor old tractor went belly-up.

The D-15 took down the old chicken house in the late 1960s.

Bob knew right from the start that he had major problems. He didn’t have a lot of hope for it even when he started to take the engine apart. Deep inside the innards of the tractor, Bob found the starter had disintegrated, sending pieces of metal into the engine, wrecking it.

           “What are we going to do now?” he said to the tractor. He had a couple of choices: try to rebuild that engine (parts would cost more than the tractor was worth), junk it and buy a replacement (if he could find one) or take the engine out of his other D-15 and make one out of two. He decided on the last choice and began dismantling the broken tractor, but first, he had to remove the loader.

           The loader on the AC D-15 isn’t like new models that attach and detach with a quick click. There’s a lot more to it. While I was helping Bob take out pins and bolts, he started telling me about his first tractor with a loader.

“It was a John Deere A,” said Bob. “Up until then, we used pitchforks to clean out the barn and fill the manure spreader. This loader on the D-15 is modern compared to that A.

“First off the John Deere A had a narrow front end. It also had a hydraulic pump that worked off the Power-Take-Off (PTO). The only time you had power to the hydraulic pump was when the PTO was running. The thing with this tractor was the PTO stopped every time you disengaged the clutch.

“Let’s see if I can explain it to you,” he said to me. “You had to shift the tractor into neutral and engage the clutch to raise the loader. With that narrow front end every time you hit a hole you’d get stuck, especially when you had the loader full and since the loader only had a hydraulic lift you couldn’t use to get yourself unstuck.” (You should know that Bob is a pro at using the D-15 loader to push down into the ground to get out of trouble.)

            “To dump the bucket, you’d pulled a lever that would trip it. There was no hydraulic on the bucket. If you were lucky, the spring would bring the bucket back into place. Otherwise, you’d have to lower it to the ground, back up, scraping it against the soil so it would latch back in place.

“Here’s how it went,” he said. “Every time you loaded the bucket, you would drive forward into the pile, disengage the clutch, shift into neutral, engage the clutch so the hydraulics would work, raise the loader up, disengage the clutch, shift into reverse, engage clutch to back up, disengage the clutch, put it in forward gear and engage the clutch to drive forward. You could raise the loader while you were moving, so if you planned ahead you would have it at the right height when you got to the manure spreader.

“If you screwed up, which I did a lot at the beginning, and needed the loader up some more to dump the bucket you had to stop, shift into neutral, engage the clutch, raise it up, disengage the clutch, shift into gear, move forward and then dump. But it still saved a lot of work. It was a heck of a lot better than using a pitchfork that’s for sure.

“This orange baby is an environmentally green machine now,” Bob said with a smile as he started it after making one running tractor out of two. “The only thing new on it is the oil filter. Even the tires are off an old combine.” (My husband is big into reusing what he has at hand.)

The D-15 was used when Bob and his father bought it in 1967. As Bob wiped the grease and oil from his hands he said, “I wonder if there are other farmers out there who keep an old tractor around just for old time sake? I kind of think there are.”

This photo from 2013 shows Bob driving his MF 2135 tractor. It replaced the D-15

I too think there are farmers who have a love affair with their old tractors. If you’re one of them, drop Bob a line and tell him about the old machine you love or one you fondly remember. He’d like hearing from you.

An extremely happy husband

Bob started out this year in bad shape because of his cancer. He needed a walker to get around, and sometimes that didn’t seem to be enough.

Today we celebrate a new Bob. After four months of treatments, Bob is getting around with a cane to steady himself and sometimes he even forgets the cane.

Our son, Russ, brought over a gift yesterday. He had built a frame for Bob’s zero-turn mower. Russ and Dave, Rachel’s husband, drilled some holes, did some grinding and attached his metal creation to the mower. When all was set in place, Bob walked over to the machine and climbed aboard, something he couldn’t do without a lot of help.

With the non-skid steps in place, Bob was able to grab hold of the upper bars and mount the mower. In no time, my husband was sitting in a place he had yearned to occupy ever since he got sick.

Bob turned the key (twice) and drove across our yard. There were tears in his eyes, which he tried to hide. The rest of our family who watched had tears too, but they didn’t try hiding those. Everyone had tears of joy, except me. My joy stayed deep in my heart where I cherished it.

Bob and Russ are all smiles.

Bob would be mowing today but he can’t. It’s raining. You can be sure he’ll be on his toy as soon as the lawn dries. My husband is ready for trouble. Thanks to our son, Russell.