Friday, June 27, 2014

Outstanding in the field #4

   Well the corn has made it to Simon's shoulders and looking strong. Tomorrow we head off for our annual 2 week vacation in the Michigan UP. The men only stay for a short time while my sisters and I stay with our kids for the full time. The cousins have so much fun together. I am sure that when we get back the corn will be well over Simon's head and probably even mine.
   The beans are starting to fill in and the next job on the farm is to spray the fields for weeds before the beans get too big. Most years the spraying may be done by now but with the recent rains the fields have been too wet. We feel blessed that we didn't get as much rain as some of the farmers around us who have lakes instead of fields at this time.
     The soybeans are starting to flower. I don't know if I have ever looked close enough to see a soybean flower. They are purple and kind of cute. Grow little beans grow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Outstanding in the field #3

   The corn keeps growing. Fields are still wet and the rain keeps coming. Another inch the other day. The days are getting hotter and the corn is growing fast. It has already passed the old knee high by the 4th of July gold standard.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Outstanding in the field #2

      It has been raining every evening/night this week with some severe weather in areas surrounding us. The sun came out nice today and the heat was turned on. I wanted to get a picture of the crops because warm weather is in the forecast and they will really start to grow now. Looking back at Mondays picture they been doing some growing since then. Continue checking in to see the progress.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Outstanding in the field #1

     My dad had the idea of taking a weekly picture of one of my kids standing next to the crops to show how fast they grow. Simon is a good sport and said he would help me.

 Going into the planting season we were in a drought and concerned that the crops wouldn't have enough moisture. In the last few days alone we have received over 4 inches of rain and as you can tell in these pictures, taken at about noon, more rain is on the way. This moisture with the right amount of heat should make the crops grow fast.  
    Check back next week to see the progress.  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Standing for what I believe in

      I know that I can be a bit of a broken record when it comes to agriculture promotion. I feel strongly that there is a great need in our society for farmers and others involved in agriculture to tell our story. One commonality we all have as humans is the need to eat for nourishment. The job of farmers is to produce that food.  We need to be open and honest on how we do this. 
      Society is interested, now more than it ever, about where their food comes from. There is a longing to feel a part of the food production and decision making. 
     There are many voices stating the way that they feel food should be produced. Some say that production processes of today are unhealthy or cruel. Most of the time these voices are not the ones of farmers who are working every day to produce the food. We, as farmers, are the ones who know best how to grow the food and the challenges of growing it. We need to speak up and tell our story.  We need to be open with information to assist others in understanding why things are done the way they are. 
        There are two organizations I am involved in which I feel do an excellent job in helping the farmers have a voice. They are the National FFA Organization and the American Farm Bureau. These organizations are dedicated to agricultural education. The FFA focuses on education  and leadership development of youth while FB facilitates education of the public and leadership development of FB members.
        My husband and I are members of other agricultural organizations but I feel these two are the ones that best match my beliefs because they are not limited to supporting only one portion of agriculture. Agriculture is so much broader than beef or corn, it encompasses everything from fruit to animal production, from conventional to organic production. I feel that it is important to be part of an organization where we all stand together with one united voice supporting agriculture as a whole.
      I was never a member of an FFA myself, but after being married to a FFA advisor for the first 8 years of our marriage I feel that I have learned quickly the many benefits of FFA. I have been able to see the passion and excitement in the eyes of youth as they participate in a community project. The pride in my husband when he sees a group of youth in FFA jackets out in the community. I have also noticed the camaraderie and connections that FFA has helped my husband form within the agriculture community.
      Youth have a strong voice in society. They are the ones that will make the decisions of tomorrow and if they are educated and instilled with correct knowledge of agriculture their decisions will reflect this.
I made this quilt for my brother-in-law Brad to showcase his FFA carer
      Farm Bureau is a wonderful organization that my husband and I have joined during our married life.  Farm Bureau has provided me with education and leadership opportunities that are invaluable. It is important to do our best when producing food on our farm but sometimes that is not enough. FB has helped me become aware of the issues facing farming which could affect the way I am able to do my job. They help me stay informed of legislation and have connected me with leaders to help them see the real face of agriculture.
Meeting with Congressmen Peterson in his office at Washington DC

Behind the Speakers podium at the capital

In front of the capital building in Washington DC
   I also commend Farm Bureau for their support of family. They truly see that family is the center of farming. 97% of America's farms are family owned. Farming is a lifestyle that the whole family is a part of. One membership in FB includes both the husband and wife. Recently my husband and I served on the Young Farmer and Rancher FB state board as a couple. All trips through FB are offered for the couple to attend. I have to admit that Paul, my husband, was the one who first found FB.  It wasn't until after I accompanied him on a trip, thinking I was just going along for the sights, I found out that FB was something for me too. I love that we can share this passion together and feel this strengthens our marriage. 
     I believe that everyone should be involved in groups that support their values. In the world of agriculture I see these as outstanding organizations. If anyone is needing a resource for agriculture information I would direct them to these groups. If you are a farmer I would highly encourage you to join your local chapter of FFA or Farm bureau. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

DIY How to Build you own Playhouse

     On the farm I keep busy doing all sorts of things but over the last few years I have discovered that I enjoy construction and building things with wood. I have to admit that building a playhouse is not the first project that I have undertaken, but it is my most recent and I am very excited to share it with you.
      During the winter I get terrible spring fever and dream of all kinds of things I want to do when the weather gets warm. Last winter this was my dream. With 5 kids I know it will get lots of use and every mom enjoys things that gets the kids out of the "big house" and outside to play.
      I started out looking online for playhouse ideas and liked the ones that had a front porch the best. As you will see in later pictures our house has a wrap around porch and so I thought it would be cute if the playhouse matched.
       The first step was to decide how big the playhouse should be. I decided on an 8ft x 8ft base. This made for a nice size with little waste of lumber. I made the base out of treated 2x4. I layed them out like in the top picture above and left the top and bottom board the 8ft length. The boards that go up and down I had to trim 3inches off of because I needed to subtract for the 1.5inch depth of the top and bottom boards. (Note: a 2x4 actually measures 3.5inches x 1.5inches.)
       The floor of the playhouse is made out of decking boards. These are also treated and I like that when laying them there is a gap between each board. This way in the future when kids bring sand, water, or anything else into the playhousex (which we know they will do) it will fall through the cracks in the floor and be easier to clean up. The boards come in 8ft lengths so there was almost no waste.
        As you can see I am building all this on nice level concrete. I didn't have the luxury of a large workbench so much of my building is done on the ground.
        The next step is fraiming the walls. The walls are made with construction grade 2x4 lumber.The playhouse floor plan is 6ft deep and 8ft wide. The height is 5ft 3inches because I decided to use 5ft boards (10ft board cut in half)for the studs. Each wall is built independently on the ground. First I lay out the top and bottom board. Then I lay out the vertical boards, studs, measuring making sure they are spaced evenly. I then use smaller boards to frame out where the windows and doors will be. It is important to know ahead of time what the dimension of the door and widows will be so you can place the studs the correct distance apart. You can see the door I am going to use in the background of the picture above. It is also important to make the door opening about an inch larger than the door to allow for movement of the door and the hardware.
     In my plan the two side walls are identical to each other.  These side walls I had to make a 5ft 5inches long because once again the front and back wall will add 3.5inches each to the length when it is assembled. You can place your windows at any height you feel is right. I used my 2yr old, knowing that she will continue to grow over the years, to find my height.
         Now it is time for the walls to go up. I had the kids help me hold them in place and screwed then to the base and each other. This is a fun step because all of the sudden the kids start to see what is being built and understand that it is going to be a house. You want to make sure that your walls are level up and down.
         You can see in the above picture that I am adding the pillars for the front porch. I used old fencing posts that we had around the farm. You can see the portion that was buried in the ground and the chew marks from the lawn mover. I love reusing things from around the farm and I think it adds character.
         Ok, up to this point this project has been 100% mine. I have put in every screw and cut every board. When it came time for figuring out the pitch of the rafters I was a little lost. Luck for me my husband had the know how. I have to say it involves a lot of math and I'm still not sure I understand how to figure it all out. My best advice is to ask someone who knows and life will be good.
       I recently found this site which is very helpful on figuring out rafter pitch and the angle you would need to cut boards to get a certain pitch to your rafters. See it here.
      As you can see  we cut out notches in the rafter where it rested on the front and back wall and the porch pillars. We securely attached them at these places and on to the next step.
       Next I put on the siding. I used a primed hardboard siding which comes in 4x8 sheets. I hung it so that the lines went horizontal making it look more like house siding. I cut out the window openings by holding the siding up to the house where it wanted it then traced the window opening. I took the board down and cut out the opening with a jigsaw. Then I replaced the siding and nailed it into place.
      Paul was a dream and helped me with all the roof work. He placed plywood over the rafters and shingled it with leftover shingles from the house. As you can see I also hung the door. The door is one that I repurposed from our house. It is a old solid wood door that we had removed a few years ago while remodeling. I brought it out of the barn and cut the top section off of it. I had to remove the door knob because it was now to high on the door and added a simple pull handle with a hook instead. Things are really starting to take shape.
     The next job was painting. We used leftover paint from the main house. The kids had a good time painting "their house". We painted the front door the same color red as the houses. The front window is the only one that has glass in it. I got it at the local lumber store and it is called a barn sash window. Single paned and simple. The rest of the windows I decided to use a cabinet door from my local reuse store for a shutter. I put a simple eye and hook on them so they can be latched closed. If you follow my other DIY projects you will see cabinet doors from my reuse store are a common theme.
          Finally on went the finishing touches. I built the railings for the porch using extra pieces from our railings on the house. The railings are made out of 2x4 for the top and bottom plate and 2x2 for the rungs. Using 1x4's we put trim around the front door, front window, and the sides of the house to once again help it look more finished and like the main house.
         I am very happy with how it turned out. It did take some time to complete but I enjoyed working outside and helping the kids learn some life skills. This is not the finialv v  place for the playhouse. I plan on preparing a place for it close to the garden but for now it is neat seeing it next to the house.  So cute. 
          Now on to decorating the inside of the house and do I have some fun ideas. Come back soon and see what new things we have done here on the farm.
         Here is my post about the DIY Playhouse Kitchen I made.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Rock Crop

It was another plentiful year for the rock crop. We pick the rocks in the corn fields every year, and every year there is always wagon loads of rocks that are harvested.  I have to admit that picking rocks is one of my least favorite things to do on the farm. Over the years I have put in time walking up and down the field hunting for rocks, but in recent years I been staying home with the younger kids and sending the older kids out to pick rocks with dad. Some may say that it is unkind to send the kids out to do manual labor. I see that the children learn from this experience how to work at something and see progress and accomplishment in a job well done.
   Picking rocks is one of few jobs on the farm that is still very labor intensive and has changed very little over the years. Some farmers utilize migrant workers to help collect the rocks in their fields. We choose to pick the rocks ourselves and it takes us about 5-7 good days of walking the fields to get all the rocks. 
    You might wonder why we put so much time and energy into ridding our fields of rocks and why there are so many year after year. The reason we pick rocks is prevent damage to the combine in the fall by having a rock go through it. A combine is a very expensive piece of machinery and during harvest the combine head rides low to the ground and could pick up a rock. Another reason is to remove any rocks that could be hindering a corn plant from growing. The rocks each year are push up to the surface by the freezing and thawing of the soil.  The fall and spring tillage bring the rocks to the top. 
    While out picking rocks I have imagined machines or contraptions that could pick the rocks for us or dissolve the rocks on the field. The truth is that rock picking is going to be done the same way it has been done for many years to come. Picking rocks may not be fun but it is part of caring for the land we are using to grow food on. We need to take care of the land the best we can to enable it to be its most productive.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Family Picutres

We decided to take an updated family picture today. Our last nice family picture was at Luke's baptism when he was a newborn. He has done a lot of growing since then and is now 7 months old. As you can see it is a trick to get everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time. My mom is our photographer and she is persistent and patient with taking the pictures. I do think we got some keepers. Enjoy.