Minnesota Farmer


Maturing or dying
September 8, 2016, 9:18 am
Filed under: Ag education, agriculture, Corn, Fall, Farm, harvest, Minnesota, rain, weather | Tags: , , ,

It’s been a wet year in our part of Minnesota.  We have never been short of moisture at any time this year, in fact most of the year we have been wet.  The rains come and do not turn off.  Getting field work done has been hard.  Now as the fall harvest is nearing, corn farmers are wondering is my corn maturing,img_0705

or dying?img_0706

Every year as harvest nears a host of rots and diseases move into our corn stalks to start the breakdown of dying corn plants.  Sometime they move in too soon and the corn dies before it matures.  Then you have a mess like in the second picture above.  Modern corn varieties are less susceptible to many of those diseases and rots, but when too much water kills off the corn before it matures, the rot takes over.

In about a month we will be into harvest.  If too much of our corn is down and rotting, we will have reduced yields and difficult harvest conditions.  Then we will know the answer to our question, is that corn crop maturing or dying?

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It’s August
August 7, 2015, 7:55 am
Filed under: agriculture, August, Farm, summer | Tags: , ,

It’s August, and the living is a little easier.

I’m now a corn and soybean farmer, as such August is the time of year when not much is left to be done for field work and prep work for harvest is not really urgent.  I remember the days when hogs were our main source of income, and the chores never really stopped.  I have a beef producer friend who is gearing up for silage harvest.  For me, August is a slower time.

So what to do with myself.  Wife has some ideas, and those are getting done.  Farmfest is over, I spent a day there.  We have a family reunion coming up, I’ll be attending that.  The county fair is coming, as is the Threashing Bee and the State Fair.  Early September will see Labor Day activities and the Delft Furrow Makers plowing day with antique tractors.  All things to help occupy my time in what is the slow part of the year.

School is just around the corner, and I’ll be back driving school bus in just over 2 weeks.  That marks the beginning of the end for summer, but late summer can still be a bit slower.

So enjoy your slow part of the year, whenever that may come.  For me, it’s August, and the living is a little easier.



Mostly knee high
June 20, 2015, 8:41 am
Filed under: Corn, Farm, Minnesota, Soybeans, weather | Tags: , , , , ,

Knee high by the 4th of July used to be a target for corn growth.  If you made that mark you were on your way to a good harvest.  Back when that saying was minted they planted corn much later than we do now.  Twice in my life I’ve seen corn over my head and tassels forming.

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Corn in our area of southwestern Minnesota is now mostly knee high.  I say mostly because there are places where it is not.  It could be the tillage system, weed pressure, poor soil or cool temperatures that have kept if from growing as fast as the rest, but some areas just are not doing as well.

We plant our corn in two different systems.  Corn planted on soybean stubble is strip tilled, a process that leaves plenty of soybeans stubble on the ground to protect from wind and rain erosion.  Some of the fertilizer is placed in the tilled strips in the fall, the rest is applied after the corn comes up.  Corn planted after corn is more of the conventional style where more tillage is done in the fall.  This tillage allows us to mix in hog manure for fertilizer.  About half of our corn ground gets covered with that wonderful, inexpensive, organic fertilizer.

Our spring started out warm and dry, but just as we got done planting the weather changed.  It got cool and wet.  We’ve now worked our way out of the drought conditions we had.  Although we do not have water standing in the fields, and all our soybeans got planted, we have still been a bit wetter than we would like at this time of year.

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The soybeans are off to a good start.  Weed control is our main challenge right now in soybeans.  Because they do not shade the ground as fast as corn we have a longer window of concern for weed control.  Early weeds have been taken care of, but soon we’ll have to knock them back again to be sure they stay only a minor annoyance.

So, here we are, June is half over and things are looking good here on our farm.  We had more rain last night to keep those plants happy, now we need some heat.



No time for birthdays
June 12, 2015, 5:51 am
Filed under: birthdays, Farm, farm life, weather | Tags: , , ,

A farmers life is dependent on outside forces.  Weather being chief among them.  My long suffering wife, who grew up in the city, knows this.  She has come to accept that you do not schedule things of importance without checking on weather reports.

A key time in a couples life are anniversaries.  Our 36th one was typical.  The weather was great, I had weeds that needed to be killed.  We spent our anniversary apart.  That’s the way things go on the farm.

The weather does allow for some serendipity.  Those rainy days may mean an unexpected day doing things we both enjoy when no one could have predicted them.  You have to be flexible and ready to do the unexpected.  A wet period this spring allowed me to get some projects done for our daughter and family during what should have been planting season.  I got to build, she got to paint, we were both happy.  Planting was going to wait anyway.

So yes, today is my birthday, what is on the agenda for today?  The weather only knows.  That’s life on the farm.



Wet weather coming
June 10, 2015, 8:21 pm
Filed under: Farm, rain, weather | Tags: , ,

It is rare that the National Weather Service is this adamant that we are going to get wet, not only wet, but lots of water.  For several days now they have us as 100% chance of getting rain starting tonight and rain for 24 hours after that.  Then they tell us it could be as much as an inch and a half an hour.  Yep, we are going to get wet.

That forecast means a bit more of hurry in our step.  Things have to be done “now.”  Since we have moved into a wet pattern “now” can be hard to do at times.  Wet fields do not lend themselves to getting things done “now,” they tend to get our equipment stuck.  Still the spraying did get done today, and most of the hay we had cut did get baled, so let the rain come.

There are still things to do, but they will wait.  This weeks “now” is past.  We’ll get going on next weeks items as soon as it dries up a bit.



Of farm cats and hard decisions
May 16, 2015, 10:16 am
Filed under: cats, Farm | Tags: ,

After over 60 years on the farm you would think some of the decisions would be easier, but they still are not.

Our current herd of farm cats has expanded again.  Our southwest Minnesota farm has always had trouble keeping farm cats.  That is why I really do not do anything to control them.  Nature always will thin them down over time.  There has been many a spring when we have only one or none left.  This spring we have four, “Mama Z” and three of her four kittens from last year.  Two of them are female.

Farm cats are essential.  They keep little rodents on the move and thin out the un-wary or sick.  Only the fittest survive in the wild, semi domesticated world in which they live.

Mama Z had her litter earlier this spring and last I saw, her four were healthy and growing well.  They were born in an old chicken nest and kept there until they could move around well.  Since she moved them under the wood pile I have only seen one kitten, so I have no idea how many are left.  Some day they will emerge and then I will learn how many have survived.

During last nights rain our two young mothers had their kittens, five each.  The problem is they decided to have them in a corner right next to the house.  There are several out buildings they could have had them in, all protected and dry, but no, they were out in the open.

This is a problem.  First off, five kittens for any young mother is too many, even if they are in good health.  If they are born in a protected place it is easier for them all to survive.  By the time I found them, half the kittens were either dead, or barely alive.  One of the young mothers was showing the sense needed to protect her babies.  Her five were cleaned and protected by her body.  The others were not.

It always distresses me to have to make these decisions on life or death, but it had to be done.  The poor little dead bodies were cleaned up and the protective mother and her kittens were placed in a box and moved to the old chicken house.  Our other mother may or may not have another litter this summer.  She will be lonely for a while, but must mature more if she wishes to keep her brood.  Life is never easy when you are small and vulnerable.



Tree line trim
April 26, 2015, 2:36 pm
Filed under: Farm, harvest, Trees, wood heat | Tags: , , ,

We have several places on our farms where we have lines of trees to slow wind movement across the fields.  As those trees get older, branches will lean or fall into the field.  Usually I just go out and take out the branches that reach the farthest into a field.  This year I decided to do something a bit more drastic on our oldest tree line.

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Branches can reach out into the field a long ways.  This means they are sometimes brushing onto harvesting and planting equipment.  The plantable area gets pushed away from the trees and the area between becomes a weed nursery.

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I’ve been cutting the branches that lean into the field and harvesting the largest parts for winter’s fuel.  The smaller branches are pushed into a pile and burned.

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When it’s done you have a clean area right up to the trees that can be cared for more easily.  The trees are also less likely to break in a wind or ice storm.

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There is also more wood for the wood pile.