Friday, May 30, 2014


       May 19th was a big day on the farm this year. That day we loaded our beef cattle for the year onto 3 semi trucks and sent them off to market. On our farm we feed out only the calves that were born on our farm the year before. This year that was about 100 head. We feed out all the steers and any heifers that we do not want to keep for replacement breading stock. The animals that we shipped off to market were born March/April 2013, so they are just over 1 year old at this time. The average steer weighed a little over 1300 lbs.

    We made the decision to raise this years beef hormone free. The green tag in their ear signifies that they are hormone free. What this means is that they never received a small implant in their ear, about the size of a grain of rice, which increases their weight gain. The implants are not harmful to the animal but help increase their conversion of feed energy into muscle.
     Since hormone free is seen as a specialty classification there is a slightly higher premium for hormone free beef. After looking through the numbers and knowing that we have good breeding in our animals that gain weight well we decided to raise our cattle this way.
     After all the information came back from the market, this years animals were lighter than last years group but with the premium the payout came out about the same. My husbands tells me they are unsure if they will raise next years group hormone free but will have to see what the market does.  Farming is a business and we have to be fiscally responsible, watching what the trends are and how we can best capitalize on the products we have. It is a wonderful thing that there is so much diversity in agriculture, with hormone free, organic, grass feed, and conventional. Different farmers are able to produce products with different resources and it allows for diversity that the public can choose from. I have no problem with consumers wanting their meat a certain way, that is why there are so many choices. I do have a problem when it is thought that all meat needs to be raised a certain way. In order to maintain a reasonably priced product at the grocery store for the population to buy the meat need to be produced in an efficient method and implanted beef is often the most efficient means.
       We are proud of the beef that we raise. We feel that they are healthy animals that will provide high quality food for people all over the world. (We were told that these animals are being shipped over to Europe.) As a farmer our whole purpose is to produce the food, fiber, and fuel that the world needs. As a farmer we also need to listen and be aware of what the consumers are asking for so that we can best serve them. All of this together causes us to ever strive to produce food in the best, most efficient way we can and be conscious stewards of resources in the process.
    Rose saying goodbye to the beef cattle. Even she knows that these animals purpose is to make meat to help feed others.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Planting is Finished!

    Another planting season is finished. It is a wonderful feeling to have the seeds in the ground for another growing season. The weather this spring has been cold and wet so it did take a bit longer than we had hoped  to finish up planting. The weather has now turned around and the warmth is turning the fields green with the little sprouts of corn. With this warm weather the fields can change over night into green as far as you can seen.
   There are three main pieces of equipment use during planting. The first machine into the fields in the spring is a big powerful tractor pulling a very large digger. We use what is called a quad trac tractor since it has 4 tracts. The benefit of using tracs is decreased compaction of the soil and increased traction. With such a large machine it is important to  decrease the compaction of the soil as much as possible. Seeds will not grow well in soil that has been packed. The tracs decrease compaction by increasing the amount of the wheel that is touching the ground at one time and therefor spreading out the weight of the tractor over more area. This increased contact with the ground also increases the traction of the tractor.
    This powerful tractor pulls a very large digger whose job is to loosen up and prepair the seed bed. In the fall we use a deep digger to incorporated the plant matter from the previous growing season into the soil. In the spring only the top layer of the soil need to be loosened up  to add air to the soil and prepare it for the seeds.
     Believe it or not but this huge tractor drives itself down the field with the use of GPS. The driver programs in an angle that they would like the field dug in and the tractor will follow that angle throughout the field. The driver does need to turn the tractor around and raise and lower the digger in the back. I remember the first time I road along and watched my husband take his hands off the wheel and the tractor went straight as an arrow down the field. The main reason GPS is used in field work so jobs and be done with precision. For digging the use of GPS can cut down on the use of fuel by preventing overlapping passes down the field.
        After the digger come the planter. Today's planters are high tech machines with many sensors and regulations. This tractor also uses GPS guidance. This planter is used for both corn and soybeans. The planter can be programed from a monitor in the cab of the tractor. The farmer can tell the planter to plant less seeds on hill tops where the soil might be lighter and the plants need more space to grow well . The planter also has automatic shut offs so that when coming to the end of a row it will not overlap seeds with the headlands. The planter can adjust the depth the seeds are planted according to the soil type. The planter is another machine that is made for precision farming.

       The last piece of equipment that goes through the field during planting is the roller. The roller is something newer that has been implemented in the last few years. The roller is used only on soybean ground to flatten and slightly compact the soil. There are a few reasons for doing this. First reason has to do with harvest time.  Soybeans are plants that grow close to the ground. During harvest the combine head it placed close to the ground as it goes through the field to collect as many beans as possible. By rolling and flattening the ground in the spring you and prevent damage to the combine head and be able to use it closer to the ground. The other reason for rolling is that it provides the soybean seed nice contact with the soil increasing it's ability to get moisture and nutrients needed for growth.
    Planting take lots of time, patients, and knowledge.  The prayer is that the fruits from these seeds placed in the ground with care will be plentiful and feed many throughout the world.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chicken Graduation Day

      It is graduation season and here on the farm we had a graduation ceramony of our own. Our baby chicks have been growing over the last month and have out grown the box we had them in. This is the our first year raising chickens so before they could move out of the celler I had to make a chicken coop for them in one of our out buildings. Using some scrap lumber and chicken wire we constructed the new chicken coop.  We had to make sure there were no holes large enough for an amimal to get in and kill the chickens. Living on the farm there are many wild animals around that would love a chicken dinner. I feel confident that our chickens are safe in their new coop.
     At first the chickens seemed a bit unsure of all the freedom and space the new coop had to offer compaired to the small box they had been living in. The kids and I made sure that every chicken was shown where the feed and water was.

      I'm sure that the chicken will soon be right at home in their new coop. The next step is constructing an outside chicken run so they can scratch in the dirt and get some fresh air. We are enjoying our chicken adventure. Happy Graduation Day Chickens.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pasture Pleasure

After supper tonight we decided to walk out to the pasture behind our house to see the cows. We only have 8 cows and 10 calves (2 sets of twins making up the extra ones) in this pasture at this time. More will be joining them soon as we bring more of the herd out to pasture. I love seeing the cows in the lush green fresh grass. They were so calm tonight enjoying the mild weather. 
Cow and her calf. You can see the smaller number on the calfs ear tag matches his mothers number.

A group of calves all looking healthy and growing well.

One of the sets of twins.
     Paul and the the kids check on the calf creep feeder. It is designed with gates that are only big enough for the calves to get in. The creep feed provides the growing calves with extra nutrition to supplement their diet of milk and grass.
Creep Feed

Come and get some cows

Luke was most interested in sampling the creep feed.
Rose pointed out for us some cow poop.
David in the cool water of the creek
     There is a running creek that winds through the pasture providing the cows with fresh water to drink. The creek is also a great source of entertainment for the kids. I myself have many childhood memories of playing in pasture creeks with my siblings. Our creek is quite shallow reaching only knee to waist deep at it's deepest. By the end of a dry summer the water will no longer be running in it and often we have to start supplying water to the animals from the farm yard.
Cow paths in the grass where the cows have walked through the pasture year after year.

We stopped at the apple tree in the pasture and took a climb

        We had a wonderful visit to the pasture and I hope you enjoyed seeing the cows and the freshness of spring.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cute Alert

        My mother has instituted the Cute Alert on our farm. Whether it is twin calves or kids and kittens there are many times the alert needs to be sent out. Enjoy these Cute moments on our farm.

Luke is all smiles in a "bubble sink".
     I am known for putting my babies  in the sink filled with soapy water while I clean up the supper dishes. It keeps them happy and gets them clean at the same time. Cute Alert
Rose with a beautiful Mother's Day Rose

    As you can see it has been raining recently and quite cold out so planting has been put on hold. We hope that we can get back to planting this afternoon and get the rest of the crop in before the next rain storm. We do need the moisture here, but sunshine and warmer weather is also needed for the plants to grow. Please Lord send us timely rains with plenty of sunshine and warm weather between. Please keep all farmers safe in the fields as they tenderly put the seeds in the ground that will grow into food for all of us to eat.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Seeds for the future

     After a long winter it is finally time to put some seeds in the ground. I get so excited when it is time to plant the garden. I start imagining fresh tomatoes, young yellow summer squash, and crisp sweet cucumbers as I go to purchase the seeds at the local greenhouse. I usually end up getting a few too many things to fit in my garden plot and have to squeeze some things together to get them all in. I know I will be glad when the produce starts coming in that I made room for those extra seeds.

Mary and Rose help with the planting
     For the last couple years I have been using a plastic tarp on my garden to aide in weed control. My in-laws have been doing this for many years and sold me on the idea when I saw how easy the maintenance was of their garden and the great produce they were getting. Any gardener will tell you that weeds can suck the fun out of the experience in a hurry. With the tarp the only weeding I need to do during the summer is within the rows about twice during the growing year. Another benefit of using the tarp for a number of years is that the weed load in my garden has decreased so there are not as many weeds to start with. I does take a bit more prep to lay down the tarp, place the blocks and boards to keep it from blowing off, and cutting the holes for the rows, but the time saved later in weed control is well worth it. I don't think I have had to use a hoe in my garden for years.
David checks to see if the onions have started growing yet
      My children have grown up having a garden and know that it is a family project. They have learned that plants need the proper amount of water, nutrients, and sun to grow. Growing a garden is also a good lesson in patience.

Simon shows Rose how plant the onions
       One pearl of advice that I found works well for me is mixing the carrot and lettuce seeds together when planting.Carrots are difficult because they grow slowly and are so small. By the time they are big enough to differentiate from the grass in the row a person ends up pulling most of them out because the grass had gotten so thick. By planting them together, the lettuce will space out the carrots and keep some of the weeds our of the carrot row. The lettuce matures and is finished about the time the carrots start to need more room. Another positive is that it saves space in the garden. Try it and see what you think.
Rose tries her hand at planting, and picking some of the onions that others had planted

   It was a fun time putting the garden in and the kids are becoming bigger helpers all the time. It is good to have the seeds in the ground and now what we need is some rain and sunshine. We will keep praying that the Lord will provide us with a productive growing season and a plentiful harvest.
Luke looks cute in the tires meant for the tomatoes. Everyone is enjoying time in the garden