Fall harvest and fall planting – The Wilcox Family

Since we utilize no-till production practices, we burned the last two years wheat stubble on this farm to give our canola stand a better chance at surviving the winter.

Since we utilize no-till production practices, we burned the last two years wheat stubble on this farm to give our canola stand a better chance at surviving the winter.

Fall is a busy time here on our farm. We are running about three different directions at the same time! We have finished up cutting our sorghum (milo) and started planting canola as of late Sunday night. Hopefully we will catch a rain here before too long, we have missed the last two, and while we are not terribly dry at this point, last years drought is still too close for comfort. Bring on the hurricane rain!

September is also full of meetings for us. We host crop insurance meetings, attend our county’s annual Farm Bureau meeting, and this year we have the addition of Farm Bill 2014 meetings. We are proud that our Representative Frank Lucas found a way to overcome a dysfunctional Congress and pass the 2014 Farm Bill into law, but now we farmers have to make lots of decisions that will affect us for the next 5 years (at least). I love fall, but I’ll be ready for winter so we can slow down a little.

Till next time… Clint and Jessica Wilcox

A make or break year – The Harris Family

Rain!

The light tan spots in this field indicate freeze damage to the wheat crop.

The light tan spots in this field indicate freeze damage to the wheat crop.

For wheat farmers in southwest Oklahoma the proverbial rain has hit. Not only was there severe drought damage to the winter crops, but the late freeze on April 20 sealed the deal on failed crops.

Wheat can withstand a late freeze at different stages for different amounts of time.  If wheat is headed it can withstand 30 degrees for up to 2 hours. If wheat is in the boot stage it can withstand 28 degrees for up to 2 hours. If the flag leaf is out it can withstand up to 26 degrees for 2 hours – the process continues.

In Hobart, temperatures were documented as low 22 degrees and we were under 28 degrees for 6 hours. In layman’s terms: a disaster.  Zac was with a crop adjuster all day yesterday and most of the day today.  Let’s just say it was a tough 48 hours in our home realizing that 80% of our main crop was not harvestable. Today Zac is swathing his Ruby Lee seed wheat – because the head is dead inside the stalk.

 

The problem we will be experiencing for the 2015 crop year is the significant loss of seed to plant for future crops.  But this is nature’s way of ensuring the strong will survive.  Our faith will remain strong in Jesus Christ, this isn’t the end but the beginning. He always provides!

On another note, Washington, D.C. legislative action tour was great.  Getting to hear from the Oklahoma delegation makes us feel like we could be a part of the only sane state in the U.S., trying to bring common sense back to Washington.

The summer weather outlook Zac Harris received doesn't look favorable for agriculture

The summer weather outlook Zac Harris received doesn’t look favorable for agriculture

With the prospective light frost, we will see if the fresh milo that is coming up can survive.  This will definitely be a crucial year for many farmers. The wise ones will be here to farm another year and the not so wise might not be. It’s a make or break year in Oklahoma! This will take years for farmers to recover from the continuous drought we have seen.

Til next time –

The Harris crew

April snow showers bring May flowers? – The Wilcox Family

A late snowstorm on April 14 and subsequent freeze raises questions about canola and wheat in 2014.

A late snowstorm on April 14 and subsequent freeze raises questions about canola and wheat in 2014.

This is the scene in one of our canola fields this morning. We had a skiff of snow fall last night and this morning (April 14, 2014). While this is surprising, it’s not too unusual for us to have a little snow in April (last year it snowed a little on the 1st or 3rd of May). What makes this year’s late freeze so brutal is that our wheat has not had significant moisture since September of 2013 and the drought has stressed the wheat so much that it has literally went from a month behind to right on schedule in ONE WEEK! The canola is drought stressed also, but it seems to handle late freezes better than wheat does, generally speaking.

Getting the planter prepared to plant milo (grain sorghum) on failed canola.

Getting the planter prepared to plant milo (grain sorghum) on failed canola.

On a more optimistic note, Clint has been getting our planter geared up and ready to plant milo on the acres of canola that froze out earlier this winter. Hopefully the weather will permit us to grow a good crop of milo. We were planning on planting Milo (also called grain sorghum) early this year, but with no moisture in the soil profile and a not-so-promising weather outlook we are probably going to push our planting itinerary back and pray for the El Nino they keep talking about this fall.

We did a little prescribed burning on a Bermuda grass field early this month. Burning off the old growth and “thatch” accumulation will help control weeds, allow the new growth to take off sooner, and allow us to harrow the field to make it smoother for us to cut, rake, and bale more efficiently.

When I started talking to Clint about what to write about this month I didn’t think I had much to write about, but looking back we’ve been pretty busy. I think we are just getting ready for the craziness that is May!

Prescribed burning of bermuda grass mimics natural cycles.

Prescribed burning of bermuda grass mimics natural cycles.

Hoping for those “April showers” – The Harris Family

March always seems to fly by!

Zac is busy fabricating equipment to do all the things he has thought about all winter long, and most projects must be finished by April in time to use them. He also has been spraying the failed canola.

Kenda showed her first market steer at the Oklahoma Youth Expo. It was a steer we raised. She won her class and made the sale of champions as the 7th crossbred steer in the sale. In the crossbred division there were 140 steers.  Super proud of all her hard work.

We are hoping for the April showers wives tale to be true. We sure would like it to bring about some May “flowers!”  Wheat and barley need a drink and what canola that hasn’t gotten frozen out needs one too. We will begin planting milo after we return from the Legislative Action Tour in Washington DC.

Have a great one,

Zac and Amy

Harvest, haying, and a summer wrap-up – The Graves Family

A rain gauge with almost 2.5 inches.

A rain gauge with almost 2.5 inches.

Wow! What a summer this has been! The winds have changed for our area. We have received much-needed rain since the last blog I submitted. I don’t know the exact total, but I can comfortably say we’ve received at least 5 inches of rain at our farm, if not more than that. Our neighbors, friends, and family here in the Midwest have received varying amounts from that. Some have been much more than 10 inches this summer! It’s so wonderful to see everything green! Even if it means the thistles, pig weeds, sandburs, and goat-head stickers. It’s been a chore mowing, but watering the yard and gardens has been cut down by two-thirds.

Harvest is a great time for all ages.

Harvest is a great time for all ages.

Harvest began about June 20, and that is the last we’ve started in about eight years. We only had about half the acres of what we cut last year, but thankful for that. One cut we usually have, about 1,000 acres, of our neighbors, went all into wheat hay. We cut another 490 acres for another neighbor, whom we cut about the same last year for him. Our farm had about 1,200 acres that we cut. One field that really surprised us was our big dryland field. It is some ground we rent, and this was the first year it was planted to wheat. The field is 873 acres. That is very large! We spent 3 days with two combines, grain cart, and two semi-trucks staying busy the entire time. The crop adjuster said it was the best dryland he had seen, so we cut it and it made 23.9bu/acre. We had two irrigated fields also, each 120 acres. One made 23.17bu/acre and the other made 30.62bu/acre.

We had extra help the week of harvest from the grandkids this year. They are starting to be old enough to help more and more. Plus, Dalton, my oldest nephew, and Jolena, my mother-in-law, were busy with the second cutting of alfalfa when harvest was going on. I had a neighbor gal come and babysit the kids while I was in the alfalfa field or running after the guys in the wheat field. I don’t think we fed less than ten people for lunch that week.

Cutting alfalfa.

Cutting alfalfa.

At the beginning of June we swathed and baled one circle of wheat hay for our neighbor, and 1-½ circles of wheat hay for ourselves. Our alfalfa has done well this year. We’ve actually been able to swath and bale the corners at all three cuttings. The guys just finished baling the third cutting about a week ago. It took a little longer due to rains, but we were ok with that. Jake and Matt began cutting feed for a neighbor this week. We also have feed we will swath or have a silage crew come and make the feed into silage. The guys will pack the silage into a bunk and we will feed it to our cattle this winter.

A field of milo.

A field of milo.

The rest of this summer has been full of working calves, moving cows with their calves to different pastures, spraying, stacking hay, loading hay, mowing, and working fields. We’ve had some damage from a few storms, but mainly tree limbs breaking. Gary and Jolena were able to take a break and head to Colorado to relax. Jake was able to go with some friends to Lake Texhoma, and even brought back striper bass for us to enjoy. Matt, the kids, and I headed to Oklahoma City the first week of August and had a fun time seeing the zoo and science museum. I was also able to go to the Women in Ag and Small Business Conference, and really enjoyed everything there. The speakers were great and the sessions were very informational.

My garden is finally producing. I didn’t get it planted until the middle of June. I’ve made pickles and pickled okra. We’ve harvested squash, cucumbers, jalapenos, basil, spearmint, strawberries, and okra. I’ve only picked one tomato, but there are many more on the vines.

Catchin’ Up – The Harris Family

Okay, we have done a poor job throughout the summer updating after wheat harvest, but we’ve taken some great notes so hopefully we can get caught up.

 Late June

Navigating a road in between fields in the sprayer.

Navigating a road in between fields in the sprayer.

June was crazy.  We felt like we were always behind schedule. Although as farmers, we should know by now we don’t make the rain or grow the crops. It’s only by the grace and the perfection of God that we get to keep our jobs year after year. Wheat harvest finished late June, just in time for me to go with the family to Kenda’s state softball tournament. They qualified to go last year and during the regular season had beaten the state runner up. This season didn’t end the way we would have liked – both the state runner up and the state winners in 8U OKKIDS league were on our side of the bracket. They were great teams and we had a blast in Preston, OK, for the last weekend in June. But I had plenty to do when that was finished. Remember, harvest was a month behind my schedule so I hit the road running in July.

July

July seems like a blur. I had planned to take the family on some sort of vacation, but making a living by providing a safe food and fiber supply didn’t allow for that this year. July consisted of much-needed rain, planting only one field to double-crop cotton, spraying, as well as time in the alfalfa field and several doses of working and moving cattle.

A section of sprayer boom.

A section of sprayer boom.

When it rains it gives the weed seed an opportunity to grow – like crazy.  So that means if weeds are growing they are taking nutrients and water from the soil that needs to be used to grow a high-quality consumable product. We had 6 inches of rain in the month of July, so lots of time on the sprayer.  No complaints about the rain because we are thankful for every drop. The cattle had some pond water so we were able to give our solar paneled wells a break.

Also, July was full of planning and preparing; we have decided to jump on the canola band wagon. So that automatically means we had to buy a new planter. Our no-till air seeders aren’t capable of planting canola seed. We are very excited about the new addition to Harris Farms.

August

August has been an interesting month to say the least. The beginning of the month I was spraying, which seemed like it was taking forever because of the small showers of rain and the high temperatures. I can’t spray if the ground is wet because I don’t want to cause the ground to be compacted or risk washing off the chemical I put down. I also can’t spray if the wind is blowing more than about 17 mph or if the temperature is above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. So spraying 6000 acres in late July and August has its own difficulties.

The fire in the pasture.

The fire in the pasture.

One day we are trying to mend the boom on the sprayer. My sprayer has a span of 120 feet, so I have basically 60 feet of boom on each side. I have to be careful of any and all obstacles.  Sprayer booms take a beating even under the most careful eye. My dad and a hired hand are helping fix some areas in how the boom folds up and my 85 year old grandfather calls and says, “Hey, I’ve gotten hung up in a draw trying to spray mesquite trees. I need a tractor to pull the pick up out”. We say we’re kinda busy and it’s gonna be a little bit. He calls back 2 minutes later and says, ” Come now! I’ve got a fire”!  Well it didn’t end pretty as you can see by the pictures. Apparently, he was a little too impatient and got the ground hot with his tires and the grass caught fire.  Around the farm, accidents happen and we need to always be aware of our surroundings.

So now that I’ve told on my grandfather I might as well share about my mishap.

Simply put, because of a mechanical error on a swather, the swather wrecked while I was driving. Luckily, I wasn’t on a bridge or by the creek or meeting a vehicle. The drive chain came loose and I had no way to control the swather.  It safely turned into to the ditch and we stopped hard. The kids had been missing time with me, or that’s the story, so I had Kenda and Rylan with me.  I think it’s because Amy had started the homeschool year back in early August and they wanted a break for the morning. So with homework in hand they came to farm for school work in the tractor that day. They haven’t asked since to ride with me. Although, I’m certain with the couple days of milo harvest coming this weekend that will change. The kids, all three of them, from the infancy stage have all enjoyed harvesting crops.

Upcoming

A new planter on the Harris' farm.

A new planter on the Harris’ farm.

This fall appears to have its own full calendar. We will harvest milo, go to Washington D.C., plant canola and hopefully finish in time to plant our wheat that we use for winter grazing. Then we will plant the rest of the wheat just in time to harvest the cotton before the expected hard winter sets in. Amy likes it if I can be around for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas!

I mentioned I am going to Washington, D.C. It’s going to be a quick trip, September 8-11. We will get to discus with our elected officials how the backbone of providing a safe, consumable product is going and see how they are doing in our nation’s capitol.  Amy and I were privileged to be able to go to D.C. in 2008 with Farm bureau and loved every minute of it. It is a great trip to see how the grassroots organization fights for our right to farm and ranch everyday.

Before I head to D.C., Kenda will show her prospect steer at the county fair. She is very excited. I am too! I can’t believe she is old enough, but very excited about what the future holds. It looks busy!

What a difference a year makes – The Leonard Family

Greetings from the Leonard house. This is Katy writing this week. Who would have thought that a month ago we would be sitting and waiting for it to dry out after approximately 15 inches of rain in the last two weeks? Two weeks ago my dad had surgery on his elbow and wrist. So he has become the one arm bandit and the drill sergeant. We, as in Kody, mom, and I, decided that we were going to take him on vacation to Palm Coast, Florida, for a week.

The Leonard Family visiting the Daytona International Speedway.

The Leonard Family visiting the Daytona International Speedway.

While we were in Florida we visited St. Augustine which just happens to be the oldest town in the U.S. We also visited Daytona Beach and with the NASCAR fanatics that are in my family, we had to go to the Daytona International Speedway and go on an hour and a half tour of the speedway.

Also, while we were in Daytona Beach we visited Bubba Gump’s. While we were there we saw several people fishing on the shore at the beach. We asked one of the guys fishing if they caught very many and he said one day he caught 16 baby sharks. He said if people really knew what was swimming in the water they might think twice before going in the water. Mom and I enjoyed searching for shells each day. We returned early Saturday morning after dad had got lost in Kansas City, Missouri.

Okay, now it’s time for dad’s views.  It’s so amazing how a year can be so different from the one before it.  This year started off very dry then got very wet from March through the first of June and then no rain for 60 days and now it has rained over 20 inches in the last three weeks.  From a crop producing viewpoint, crops don’t grow well in either extreme too wet or too dry.  That being said, here is this year’s crop report so far.

Water standing in a field at the Leonard home.

Water standing in a field at the Leonard farm.

Wheat was very good but about a week later than normal in harvesting.  Corn was a disaster from start to finish. It was too wet which caused us to be working the ground too wet which caused compaction on what ground we were able to get planted. Then it got hot and dry in June and July which made the ground get very hard. The roots of the plants hadn’t gone very deep because of the early wet ground and then when it did try to pollinate we had near 100 degree temperatures and very dry conditions.  Now with the 20 inches of rain in the last three weeks, the corn has suckered out and greened up and is even growing new ears but with no pollen left they are only blank ears.  So corn harvest, when it does ever come about, will be late and short as we only got less than half the acres planted that we wanted to.

Milo that got planted late when the corn didn’t get planted looks good now and is heading out.  I have never seen milo this tall but then again I have never seen this much rainfall in the first of August either.  Soybeans that got a stand in the dry soils of July now are dealing with the third week of water standing on top of the ground and not enough oxygen in the root zone in the soil. So they are very yellow looking but still growing.  The biggest issue with the soybeans now is the Roundup resistant weeds and the fact that we can’t get across the ground to spray the weeds.

To add to this, the local crop duster and his three planes went to Iowa to spray corn fungicides the last two weeks so our weeds have been growing fast with all this rain.  Now the beans are starting to bloom and that greatly reduces our options on what we can use to kill the weeds out of our beans when it does stop raining. (Boy I never thought I would ever say those words in the first week of August about wanting it to stop raining!)

We are all busy getting ready for school and the county fair, going to workshops and preparing for the new year of seed sales.