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?



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.



Still a chill

It’s April 23, the day the University of Minnesota says those of us who farm in Southwestern Minnesota should start planting corn, but there is still a chill in the earth and I will wait.

The last few mornings have found ice in the cats water dish.  Frost on roofs and grass has been obvious.  Stick a thermometer into the earth and it will show temperatures still in the 30’s.  This is not where I want my seed to be.

I have not as yet seen one dandelion bloom.  Crocus, tulip and other early bloomers are not yet budding.  Only my pear tree shows blooms, the apples do not, and few trees even show the smallest of leaves.  The trees tell me it is cold out there.

4/23/2015 pear tree in bloom

4/23/2015 pear tree in bloom

There were a few days over a week ago when we had some warm weather, then the insects were out, but most days are bug free.  Because there are no bugs there are no barn swallows.  Barn swallows swooping around eating insects are a sure sign that the ground is finally warm enough to plant.  Yep, all signs say it is still cold in that dirt.

So when will I start planting?  I’m not sure yet, but come Monday I’ll check and see how things are going.  Frost is finally out of the forecast, but temperatures are not all that warm yet.  Also rain is in the forecast for the next few days, that will also slow us down.  If we get into May and have not yet started planting then the calendar starts to come into play.  We need to get that corn planted by May 10.



50 foot buffer

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Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton stirred up a bit of controversy when he proposed a 50 foot buffer strip on Minnesota rivers, lakes and drainage ditches.  If he wanted to get the discussion going on ways to protect our states waters, he definitely succeeded.  In fact the surprise and controversy started on the day of his announcement when DNR officials were blindsided by his intentions.

I attended the meeting on buffer strips held at the Worthington Fire Hall on Thursday.  The room was more than standing room only as attendees spilled out into the hallway.  One bystander counted over 150 standing in the room and could not count those in the hallways or seated.  Mostly it was farmers at the meeting, but a sprinkling of mayors, school officials and agricultural business employees were also there.  All came out in support of buffer strips and water quality, but did not agree that a one size fits all 50 foot buffer would solve the problem.

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There was also come confusion on what Dayton’s proposal would not include.  At first blush the proposal seems to be aimed at farm land which would amount to an uncompensated taking of land from farm families that live near these waters.  Pictures posted at the meeting by the governors office did cover only farm land so that intention seem to be supported.  One attendee questioned whether the DNR should not also be held to this standard and had pictures of local DNR land that would become out of compliance with a 50 foot buffer.  Also unstated was if this proposal would include land currently used as beach front gardens, play areas and lawns.

shoreline-garden

Not every drainage ditch bank slopes down to the water for over 50 feet.  Most drainage ditches in rural areas have banks of soil along them that create a barrier to water running into the ditch.  This soil was placed there when the ditch was dug and is an effective barrier to water entering except in controlled areas.  Do these ditches also need a 50 foot buffer?

The controversy has not been helped by some news organizations making statements like “Big Ag. against clean water.”  Those at the Worthington meeting were not against clean water, they were against a blanket 50 foot buffer strip proposal.  Also, those at the meeting could not in any way be considered “Big Ag.” but they were farmers of all ages, farm types and farm sizes who own and live on the land that will be affected by this proposal.

Governor Dayton further muddied the waters by several times bringing up the recent notice by an area town to have it’s city residents use bottled water.  This problem was not at all related to buffers, but to a malfunction of equipment in the city’s water supply.

At the end of the meeting Dist. 22 Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, gave his response on the governor’s proposal saying that one of the take-aways from the discussion is that there isn’t one answer to the problem.

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“We have a variety of programs out there, and they really do work,” Weber said. “The reality of this proposal is it put everybody on defense right away.”

Yet, Weber said there is a willingness for stakeholders to gather, sit down and discuss it further. He encouraged Dayton to gather representatives from farm, drainage and conservation organizations to discuss what is available now and how something more could be implemented.

Weber also asked Dayton to “say these bills are dead for this year” and bring the groups to the table for discussion.

“I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the cooperation and willingness … in advancing the goal that you have,” Weber added.

So the process has started.  The discussion on the 50 foot buffer has now moved out of St. Paul and into the out state area.  From what I have heard the other meetings the Governor has set up were also well attended.  It shows a willingness to talk about the issue, but is also shows that the governor made the proposal without consulting his own department heads.  Perhaps if he had discussed this with them first there would not be so much controversy.

The proposal is still moving on in the state house and senate.  It is still likely that it will not even make it through one or more committees before the end of the session.  If it does move forward it will need much work, much more than has been shown so far.



Yesterday’s Snowman

Yesterday’s snowman is melting away100_3109

and soon puddles will outnumber snowdrifts.

100_3108The weather has turned warm quite quickly here in southwestern Minnesota.  Just a few days ago low temperatures were in the single digits and the high didn’t make 20.  Today the high is near 40 and the low will barely get below freezing.  Warmer weather is forecast for next week.  Hurray!