Filed under: cold, Farm, Ice, Minnesota, planting, rain, seasons, weather | Tags: cold, farm, frost, frozen ground, ice, long term weather, Minnesota, Planting, rain, southwestern minnesota, spring, weather
The past months have been a challenge here in southwestern Minnesota. It seems that every bit of rain just skids by leaving us with little or no moisture. We have watched major storms move both north and south of us for almost a year now. The weatherman will say we have a 90% chance of rain, and we stay dry. I really am beginning to wonder if we will have enough water in the soil to do more than get our crops started. The next few days are giving me hope. It has been raining all morning and more is forecast for the next few days, a real spring soaker.
The yuck factor sets in as the temperatures drop and our soaking rain turns to ice again. I do not remember a year with so much ice in all of my 60 years here. We’ve had enough warm weather here to thaw the upper part of our soil, but I’m not sure if the frost is gone yet or not. A cold rain will not help to thaw our frozen ground. At least the forecast is for several days of moisture, then some warm weather, planting time is fast approaching and we need some warm.
Leo, our local weather prognosticator, has put out his long term weather for our area and it is cold and dry. Leo uses the first full days of spring to forecast the years weather. I have been amazed at how often he is right. His forecasts are a bit vague, but anytime you are forecasting for a full year in advance it is hard to be specific. I can only hope he is wrong about the dry part of the forecast.
No matter what the weather, we will do our best here to get a crop in the ground, after all, we have a world to feed.
Filed under: cold, Ice, Minnesota, seasons, snow, spring, weather, Wildlife | Tags: geese, melting snow, Minnesota, nature, pond, snow, spring, waterlilies, weather, weight restrictions
Our part of Minnesota does not have as much snow as the folks further north, but the weather is still cold. Most days are still topping out below freezing and we are approaching the time of year they should be in the 50′s. Despite the cold, spring is coming.Melting snow.Geese looking for open water.New leaves on the waterlilies.Weight restrictions on roads. Yes, spring is coming and the posting of weight restrictions on roads is a sure sign that it is coming.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, GMO, Minnesota, planting, rain, seasons, snow, Soybeans, spring, tillage, time, Trees, weather, winter | Tags: climate, Corn, farm, Minnesota, Planting, rain, snow, Soybeans, spring, summer, weather
Brad Rippey, USDA meteorologist, reports that 55.82% of the country still in drought. “But we’ve knocked out the eastern Corn Belt.” While the country at large had some pretty good rains from November through January, we haven’t had much relief until this week in the Midwest, he says. Weather is personal, you may feel fine that your area is now out of the drought, or very concerned if you are still in a severe to extreme drought area like I am here in Southwestern Minnesota. The next few months are going to be critical for our area crops.
We’ve had very little snow in our area this winter, and what we have had has been a dry type of snow. Snow falling on frozen ground does little to recharge the subsoil moisture, and that is where we need water. Without gentle long term rains, we will have our crops come up and then die.
Last fall we did some digging in the fields. This digging left me concerned for the 2013 crop. There is so little water in the top 4 feet of the soil profile that I wonder how roots will get down to the little bit that is below 4 feet. Compound that with the needed tillage to get our crops started, tillage that will dry out those top few inches, and we could be in real trouble.
Our area of Minnesota usually needs drainage tile to dry it out so that we can actually get tillage done. Depending if your soil is more clay, sand or rock, you will have more or less water in it. Organic matter, sometimes called loam, from old roots and buried plant stalks also plays a part in the water holding ability of soil. Our soil varies from heavy and wet clay loam to almost pure sand. Sandy ground takes near continuous rain since water runs right through it, while clay soils tend to hold water tighter. In our area even the clay soils are dry.
Even deep rooted perennial crops like alfalfa and our younger trees are showing the stress. Our late season alfalfa last year was a disaster, and I have several evergreen trees that are dropping their needles. These are not good signs for an available water source.
The only bright spot in the planting season is the advent of more drought resistant varieties. Choice of drought tolerant varieties of field crops along with genetic modifications that help to control root pruning insects and encourage root growth may just give our corn and soybeans a chance to get down to that deep water. This is going to be a real test. I know that we now plant corn and soybean varieties that are so much better than when I started farming, but I still worry.
So now we wait and see. A third year of dry weather would be very unusual, but the whole climate seems to be changing. We have been moving away from long gentle rains to rapid downpours. Rapid rains do not stay on the land, long gentle ones do. If these dry conditions persist we may have to rethink the crops we grow in this area. Time will tell.
Filed under: cold, Farm, Minnesota, rain, seasons, time, Trees, weather | Tags: cold, colorado blue spruce, drought, drought stress, farm, Minnesota, nature, plants, rain, snow, trees, weather, winter
The drought toll talk in farm country has mostly centered on food and feed crops, but another effect of the drought is starting to show up, it’s the trees.
The spruce tree above is showing the stress of last summers drought. Needles are falling and the branches are getting bare. This is not how you expect a blue spruce to look in the winter.
This is more like what spruce branches should look like. This tree went into the winter with a bit more moisture underneath and should survive the winter. The needles are the healthy blue-green you would expect from a Colorado Blue spruce. The snows of a winter in southern Minnesota have slowed it down but not stopped it, and that is the problem, these trees are still trying to take up moisture from the frozen ground. When we get a warm winter day they try to grow a bit more. If they went into the winter under moisture stress they will not survive. These trees were planted together 30 years ago as 6 inch long seedlings. It will be a shame to lose any of them but it is obvious that not all of them went into winter with the same amount of water under them. Other evergreen trees are also showing stress, this is a red cedar that is in decline due to drought stress. Evergreens are the most likely to die when they go into the winter dry. Deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the fall do not suffer so much in the winter, but they also can go into winter looking a bit poor and not survive. Winter is hard on trees, and doubly hard when it is dry.
If you have evergreens you really cherish, I hope you watered them well last fall or you may lose them. You may still be able to save them by getting water into their roots early next spring. It is possible the damage may already have been done, only time will tell.
Filed under: Ag education, Corn, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, science, seasons, Soybeans, spring, weather | Tags: climate, Corn, drought, dry soil, farm, harvest, history, Minnesota, nature, Planting, rain, science, Soybeans, spring, weather
There has been a bit of talk lately of what this last years crop year was and what next years will be like. What is past is always a bit easier to know.
A month ago we started work on a new barn. Part of the process was to dig a rather large hole 4 feet deep. The clay under the top soil was dry. It made for some very easy digging. What does that have to do with next year and what does that say about this years crop.
Back in May a Minnesota Public Radio reporter talked to me about the prospects for the future with an early planting and a future of a very large crop. You can read that story here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/05/24/corn-crop-outlook/> When he asked me what I thought of the USDA prediction of a large crop, I laughed and said they were guessing. A few months later he came back to talk to me and the talk was not about a record crop and depressed prices, but of a short crop and prices at historically high levels for months now. That story is here <http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/11/15/business/2012-minnesota-crop-report/>
So much changed just weeks after the May interview and so much can change now. Historically we have only a 5% chance of a drought this next year, yet the least expected option often happens. So how do we get from dust to a banner crop? Rain.
We will get rain. If it is enough is not in our hands. I was blessed to be raised in a part of the country that has small chance of a drought, but much has changed in my lifetime. Centuries of man’s wanton waste of the energy resources of our earth have tipped us into new territory. I hesitate to try to predict the unpredictable.
In the meantime I will plan and prepare. The soil is here, I will protect it. The rain will fall, I will use what is given to me. The sun will shine and plants will use it. God willing there will be a harvest again next year.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, garden, harvest, Minnesota, rain, seasons, Soybeans, summer, weather | Tags: Corn, farm, garden, harvest, Minnesota, peppers, plants, pumpkins, rain, Soybeans, summer, tomatoes, weather
It’s August 24 and harvest is approaching faster than we would like. I’ve been at several farmer seed dealer meetings lately and all are saying we’ll be harvesting our corn before soybeans this year. So, let’s take a look at what’s happening in the field here in Southwestern Minnesota.
Many corn fields began the turn from green to tan this week. There are still green leaves on most of the corn which is good for the health of the plant, but the husks on the ear are drying and loosening up. This is needed for drying of the kernels of corn and is good to see.
If you take a corn stalk and cut it vertically you can see that the stalk is starting to shut down. There are definite signs that the stalk is taking stored energy from the stalk and putting it in the ear in a last attempt to get the maximum amount of weight in each kernel.
Corn is a plant that needs a certain amount of heat, once it has had that heat, it shuts down. In warm years like we have this year you then get an early harvest. Two years ago we had a cold year, and corn harvest was late.
If you break an ear of corn you will see that the kernels are deep an healthy. Most ears have 18 rows of kernels but there are a few 16 and 20 row cobs out there. Most corn has not yet reached “black layer,” a point where the kernel shuts off the connection to the cob, but is still in the “dough” stage, where the inside of a kernel is moist but not watery. These deep kernels suggest a good test weight which puts more corn in the bin or silo and means more feed value in each kernel.
We will see a bit of a yield reduction here, but how much is hard to tell. Timing of rain showers and hot dry winds, how much water the corn was able to access out of the soil and farming practices of many types will all have an effect on the final outcome.
Some soybean fields have just started to get a bit of yellow in them. Soybeans are photo sensitive plants and will grow until the day length tells them that fall is coming. We rarely see harvest here before the first week in October. When leaves start to turn on a soybean plant you usually have about 4 weeks before harvest, depending on how wet or dry the weather is. You can see that the beans on the right will be ready before the beans on the left. (p.s. this is not my field!)
Our soybeans have a long way to go before the crop is set. Most pods are still a bit flat and some rain may still help fill out the pods on the greenest plants. There is nothing new here, this is where we expect our soybeans to be at this time of year. Soybeans are always hard to guess on yield until you get to harvest. I’d say yield will be down, but not much.
Our tomato plants are just starting to ramp up production. We’ve had a few tomatoes in the past weeks, but the plants are loaded with green fruit. Soon we’ll be looking for volunteers to take some tomatoes off of our hands.
We’ve also dug the first potatoes and carrots and the late radishes are done. Some trees are starting to drop their leaves and plant growth is slowing. Fall is coming and cooler temperatures are here, what a wonderful time of year.
Filed under: Corn, Farm, Minnesota, planting, pond, rain, seasons, Soybeans, weather | Tags: Corn, farm, Minnesota, Planting, pond, rain, southwestern minnesota, Soybeans, weather
Here in Southwestern Minnesota, May 2012 will go down in the books as the wettest May in recorded history. On our farm we had 12 inches during the month with a mostly dry 10 day period in the middle that allowed some field work. Basically the month was a washout.
It truly is amazing how the weather has turned. In early April I was contemplating what we would do if the drought continued. We had gone since the middle of July 2011 with next to no precipitation, now river levels are at near flood stage and fields are filled with ponding water. In mid-April I had been asked if I expected there to be water this year for the crop, my response was that Minnesota always seemed to make up for dry periods with wet ones, man was I right.
I did replant some of my corn where water had killed off the young plants, and those areas are now under water again. Corn that is now standing is getting too tall for me to go in and inter-seed, and the areas are not big enough for me to go in and work them and plant again. I am just going to have to take what is left. I was lucky, I only reseeded 2% of my corn, and expect no more of the crop lost now.
I’ve not had a chance to assess the loss of soybeans. I know we did lose some to erosion, but I had no standing water to kill off large areas. I expect only a thinning of the stand which soybeans can cover up better than corn does. My largest soybean field has yet to be planted since the seed is not yet on my farm. These are beans that are destined for seed production and are still in transit from fields in the southern hemisphere. I’ll need some dry conditions so I can plant those when they come.
I have about an acre of alfalfa that I cut yesterday before the rain. The plants had passed 1/4 bloom and were ready to be harvested. I’m hoping for some dry weather now so the alfalfa can dry and I can bale it up. The ground was wet when I cut it and that will not help it dry any, but a little sun and some wind will do wonders.
Temperatures have switched to the 60′s now with mornings in the upper 40′s. This is too cool for much plant growth, but warmer weather will come, I’m just not sure when. In the mean time we prepare for the rush of work that will come when fields dry out. No man controls the weather, we just live with the hand it deals us.
Filed under: family, Family History, Farm, friends, garden, harvest, history, Minnesota, pond, rain, safety, seasons, snow, South Africa, tillage, time, travel, weather | Tags: children, farm, friends, harvest, Minnesota, politics, rain, safety, snow, South Africa, weather, winter
When I started blogging two and a half years ago I really did not know what I was getting into. As time has gone by my blogs have fallen into a pleasant cycle of comments. I write about farming, politics and family. What is happening in my life shapes everything I write about. So it is again. Here’s some of the highlights from 2011.
January was cold and snowy, and the blog http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/minnesnowta/ told the weather story. On a more personal note I buried a friend after a farm accident. That lead to a farm safety blog.
In February I traveled with others from Southwestern Minnesota to South Africa as we visited with folks from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa. Learning to understand their joys and struggles as we helped them with some gardening projects.
March blogs were about politics and snow.
Snow again was a subject for Aprils blogs, along with how slow the snow was to melt, and the advent of rain which kept us from getting into the fields to plant our crops.
In May we got our planting done just a little bit behind schedule. I also posted stories of the new decorative pond I was installing as part of a long planned for landscaping addition. The plans had to be hurried because we had a wedding coming up in June.
Our daughter, Elizabeth married Michael Feltes on June 10, our anniversary. Postings of crop conditions, wedding planning and pond creatures are the main topics for the month. My favorite is the copy of the wedding toast I gave http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/father-of-the-bride/. I hope you enjoyed it.
July’s weather brought rapid crop development and hot humid weather. Our garden was starting to give its produce and most of the field work was drawing to a close.
August brought us http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/flash-drought/ and more postings of the happenings in our pond.
September found our crops rapidly reaching maturity, wood cutting and a farm safety program for area fourth grade children. I got to tell the stories of farm accidents I and others have survived, plus the death of my friend Doug back in January in http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/scared-safe/. The birth of twin granddaughters at the end of the month also highlighted my month.
October was harvest. I do not recall a fall where harvest went so fast, nor so easy. The lack of moisture after such a wet spring was a big part of that speed. Oh yes, I did post about those cute little girls that joined our family.
November was a bit slower month, but I was surprised by the popularity of a “how to” post I made called http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/santas-peeking-in/. It caused a big jump in readership of my blog.
December has been a winding down month. The lack of snow and warm weather has been most of what I have written about. I did have to put in a post or two about the new girls in my life with http://minnesotafarm.wordpress.com/2011/12/25/christmas-with-granddaughters/.
It has been an interesting year for me. There have been joys and hardships and a lot of learning. So here’s the best to you as you look forward to the new year. There is one thing for sure, It will hold a lot of new opportunities for me to write about life. I hope you join me in 2012.
Filed under: cold, Fishing, Ice, Minnesota, rain, seasons, snow, weather, winter | Tags: cold, ice, Minnesota, rain, snow, weather, winter
It snowed last night, but look quick, it will not last. Already the snow is dripping off of tree branches and the sun is barely up.
It’s December 30th and we’ve had very little snow here in southwestern Minnesota. This is not normal. We have temperatures in the 40′s and rain forecast for the upcoming New Years weekend. Ice on Minnesota lakes is unpredictable and area anglers are losing vehicles and fish houses to thinning ice. How did we get such un Minnesota weather this year?
The weather prognosticators are talking about North Atlantic and Mid-Pacific temperature changes, and how they affect the jet stream, it’s all just greek to me. I do know that we have had some weather changes around here, and this winter weather is a whole new animal to me.
Looking back at this year’s weather, we started with some really nasty snow storms. We had gone into 2011 with lots of water on the ground and snow continuing to fall. Winter was long cold and snowy. Spring brought more rain and trouble getting the crops in. Then the rain stopped, and we have only had a few drops since then. We are in the grips of a drought, and the lack of moisture is keeping the snow and the cold at bay.
Without moisture, we have no snow on the ground to reflect the sun’s rays. This means that the earth is actually absorbing the sun’s heat and giving us weather more like the dryer high plains areas east of the Rocky Mountains. There it will snow and then melt in a day or two. Cold does not last when there is no snow to reflect the sun.
This weather will not last, after all we live in Minnesota the land reputed to have 6 months of winter and 6 months of tough sledding. It will snow again, and we shall have winter. Just when it will come, no one knows.
Filed under: cold, Fall, Farm, frost, Minnesota, pond, seasons, Trees | Tags: autumn, falling leaves, farm, frost, leaves, Minnesota, pond, trees, wind
With all of the cold we’ve had lately most trees have been shedding their leaves quite quickly. The lack of rain has meant that the leaves have remained dry and light in weight. Some trees, like the catalpa shed their leaves mostly in one day, its large leaves dropping like rain as the frost went out one morning. Many leaves in our area blew off in the wind and made piles in sheltered areas, or blew into the water. A few leaves are still hanging in there. Here’s a few pictures for you.
Only a few leaves remain on this maple. The leaves have been turning from red and gold to brown as they wave goodbye to fall.
While most of the leaves are gone from our trees, this maple has hung on to its leaves. Oak also are waiting to shed their summer glory as their now brown leaves cling to the branches. Locust have compound leaves, and so may shed a leaflet or two before the whole leaf drops.
The pond has been a leaf magnet. Leaves hit the water and stop. I have scooped wheel barrows of leaves out and still the water is brown with leaves. It’s a wonder that the fish can swim in it sometimes. The leaves dam up our little creek and cause the water to run places I do not want it to go.
As the temperatures cool we will lose more of the leaves, a little at a time, as each leaf lets go of its summer hang out and drifts to the ground. It has really been a colorful autumn here in Southwestern Minnesota. Perhaps one of the most colorful I have ever seen. Just 44 more days to winter.