Thursday, September 29, 2016

Finding Familiarity in Massachusetts

For some of my readers, this isn't a big deal, but since I have a slightly uncommon surname, it's kind of a big deal when I find my name somewhere I don't expect.

Our trip to Massachusetts last spring took us within a few miles of the street sign pictured above, so I considered it worth the effort to stop for a photo-op. Electronic mapping applications revealed this road that likely would have escaped us if our only navigational aid was a paper map.

I've seen roads named after important historical figures, or prominent personalities in a community, or simply named after one resident that happened to live on that road. I haven't yet discovered why the community of Fall River, Massachusetts chose this name for this road, but I haven't given up the investigation either. If any readers can share any insight, please comment below and I'll be in your debt!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Corn in the backyard, 2016 -- weeks 14, 15, 16, 17, & 18

July 31

The last week in July brought 15% more growing degree days than normal, and more than two inches of rain, so the plants should have had more than enough resources to continue the ear development. That development appeared to be continuing, and stalk drying was not widely evident.

August 7

By August 7, the ears appeared to be full size and what kernels were visible appeared to be fully formed. Growing degree days totaled about 10% more than the historical average, but evidence of stalk drying was practically non-existent. Rainfall was minimal, but humidity remained high.

August 14

In week 16, the ear husks showed more drying, and the bottom leaves of some stalks showed evidence of drying as well, while higher temperatures resulted in 19% more growing degree days than normal. One thunderstorm produced more rain than typical, and humidity remained high most of the week.

August 21

The week ending August 21 brought a few brief thunderstorms, generally high humidity, and about 10% more growing degree days than average. Leaf drying on the stalks was much more evident, and ear husks also continued drying.

August 28

A few days before these pictures were taken on August 28, a portion of the field was harvested for silage (similar to last year), but obviously the corn immediately behind our house was left for grain harvesting later in the year. As you can tell from the photos, stalk and leaf drying continued to accelerate driven by temperatures that were near normal, and light total rainfall.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Corn in the backyard, 2016 -- weeks 11, 12, & 13

July 10

Week 11 brought slightly cooler temperatures (about 10 percent below the historical average), adequate rainfall, and no unusual incidents. As a consequence, the ears continued to develop nicely and the plants were well into the process of pollination. The overall height of the plants climbed a few more inches to 112.

July 17

Since the silks were considerably more brown than the week before, we know the pollination period was finished and that kernels were developing on the ears by July 17. Temperatures were near normal (about 3 percent above the historical average), and rainfall was pleasantly consistent. I'd noticed about this time that it had been several weeks since we had received an extended rain shower, as all of our rain had come in thunderstorms. Nonetheless, it's been sufficient to keep all our plants and aquifers well supplied. The corn height plateaued at 112 inches as the plants concentrate their energy on ear development.

July 24

I don't think it's evident in any of these photos, but I noticed Japanese beetles congregated on several ears where the silk enters the husk. Fortunately, they appeared to be attracted after the silks turned brown, but their presence surprised me since I'd never noticed them attracted to ears of corn before. The week preceding July 24 experienced more growing degree days than average on each of the seven days. In total there were 17% more growing degree days than the historical average, and thunderstorms continued to provide adequate rainfall. We should begin to see stalk drying near the ground soon since we're well over halfway to harvest.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Images from Europe: Aare River Valley, Switzerland

If you could live anywhere you wanted, where would it be? A tropical beach? A metropolitan skyscraper? A snowy mountainside? A Mediterranean cliff? While our visit to Gimmelwald, Switzerland last September introduced us to some breathtaking scenery, the Aare River Valley probably more closely fits my idea of an ideal domicile: more easily navigated than the High Alps; forested, but not too heavily; mountainous without feeling claustrophobic or acrophobic; and as you can tell in the photo, scenic even on a cloudy day. I love my surroundings in Central Illinois, but this region definitely gives my home a run for its money.

Our primary reason for visiting this region was to view Reichenbach Falls, probably best known as the location of Sherlock Holmes' last battle with Professor Moriarty in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Final Problem." The Reichenbachfall funicular carries passengers 800 feet up the mountainside to a viewing station that offers a classic view of the full height of the section that impressed Conan Doyle enough to include it in his story. That's not the only view from that station, however.

If you turn from your view of the falls and look toward the northeast you'll see the pleasant valley pictured above. Rain had fallen just before we arrived, leaving low clouds and the misty atmosphere that gives this photo some of its charm, however, I suspect the valley may be equally charming in full sunlight. I think I could be content living in this quaint valley for the rest of my life.

As a tourist attraction goes, I recommend this area for the trip (train or hike) to the Upper Reichenbach Falls and the delightful views of the valley from the mountainside. Although we didn't see nearby Aare Gorge while we were there, we understand it is very scenic and offers unique hiking opportunities via walkways over the river. Should we return to this part of Switzerland again in the future, I would like to include more time in the itinerary to explore this area more fully. Anyone care to join us?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Corn in the backyard, 2016 -- weeks 9 & 10

June 26

The week leading up to June 26 produced the largest weekly growth this year as the plants leaped to 84 inches in height blessed by 1.6 inches of rain one day that week, and 23% more growing degree days than average. At that point, there was no evidence of tassels or ears on the stalks I observed.

July 3

The long-awaited ears have appeared! Even though cooler weather resulted in 16% fewer growing degree days than is typical, the plants have continued to mature normally and reached 106 inches height to the tips of their tassels. An additional few tenths of an inch of rain helped insure against drought stress. Typically, the ear and its kernels is the primary feature of interest in corn plants, but since a portion of this year's crop will probably be harvested for silage like it was last year, the volume of stalk harvested is probably also important. We will continue to monitor both stalk growth and ear development as the season progresses so all our readers won't miss any exciting details!