Rainin’ and Rollin’

 – The Harris Family

May has sure had a “boat” load of surprises. Hobart has seen the most amount if rain  consecutively since probably 2008. We received 5 inches over 5 days – it couldn’t have more perfectly timed.

Summer crops were in the ground and are shooting upwards with the big drink they received.

Today, the last day of May, the first combines are rolling in the Hobart area. More pics to come. Praying everyone is blessed and has a safe harvest and summer.

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

Photo feature: Pasture management with fire – The Harris Family

In the spring when we come to visit Amy’s parents she gets all juiced up! Because all the big ranches are burning their pastures off as part of their grass management program. So here’s a few pics!

Pasture burning can be an important management tool for ranchers.

Pasture burning can be an important management tool for ranchers. The prescribed burning replicates natural prairie processes of renewal.

 

Flames during a nighttime burn are visible for miles.

Flames during a nighttime burn are visible for miles.

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

Praise the Lord, it’s raining – The Harris Family

Finally - real, actual rain in southwest Oklahoma!

Finally – real, actual rain in southwest Oklahoma!

Yes folks, that is RAIN in southwest Oklahoma. We are so blessed to be seeing true precipitation falling from the sky. Looks like in the 10-day we have some chances for some more. The wheat is starting to come out of dormancy and had plenty of subsoil moisture because of our no-till farming practices, but the crop needs top soil moisture for maximum yield potential.

Like any good meteorologist-stay tuned we’ll keep you posted.

Everything needs water

 – The Harris Family

Zac and the kids chopping ice as cows wait for a drink.

Zac and the kids chopping ice as cows wait for a drink.

All living things must have water. Humans can live up to 10 days without food, but only 3 days without water!  Early in February, we struggled with extreme cold temperatures and as good stewards of God’s creation (farmers and ranchers), we must under any condition care for the animals.

When water troughs and ponds freeze up we must do whatever is necessary to get our animals water.  Most of the time this just includes “chopping ice” with an axe until we reach water.  This is a daily occurrence.

Because of the extreme drought western Oklahoma has faced, we are using solar pumps to pump water from 50-year-old wells into troughs.  The big concern with that is when it gets so cold outside the water in the wells freeze up.  Then our only option is to “haul water” in trailers to cattle.  So far we have been blessed to either move cattle to different pastures that had deeper wells or the ponds on a few places still had some water.  

Hope you enjoy the pictures of our family “chopping ice”.  The kids really enjoy this time with dad!

Same song, different dance – The Harris Family

Spraying a wheat field in southwest Oklahoma.

Spraying a wheat field in southwest Oklahoma.

Well its very cold and dry STILL in Southwest Oklahoma.  We are working on several projects and planning for this year’s crops. Zac has began micromanaging each of the fields to try to maximize production.  We began this last year, instead of putting all the fertilizer on the wheat at one time, but rather applying it in a timely fashion before a rain, etc.  This way we can split the fertilizer over a 2-month span and hopefully gain maximum benefit by the crop having ample nutrition at all stages.  Not only does this add time covering 6000 acres twice, but also our overhead costs of engine hours on equipment, diesel and the opportunity for break downs.  We feel like last year it improved our yields despite the four late freezes that caused significant damage; providing more of a safe product for the world.

Chopping ice is a necessity to ensure livestock have water during cold spells.

Chopping ice is a necessity to ensure livestock have water during cold spells.

With weather all over the place it makes it really hard on all life, including livestock.  One of my chickens died; the kids have had them since last spring and they had just began laying eggs consistently.  Really warm days followed by harsh cold fronts and polar vortices give opportunity for cattle to be sick quickly.

Zac has bought 2 wheat trucks that needed complete overhauling- in fact one of them was a wrecked truck.  Apparently, the driver had gotten too far in the ditch to allow a vehicle to travel along the same road and the wheat in the box shifted and caused the truck to flip on its side.  So he has spent a lot of time straightening and tweaking the bent iron to make this a useable truck for the years to come.  Over a year ago, he also bought a very similar truck that needed a motor overhaul.  So this is the year of the trucks at the Harris Farms.

Kenda's horse and 4-H steer get to know each other across the fence.

Kenda’s horse and 4-H steer get to know each other across the fence.

Kenda has been busy washing and working hair on her Oklahoma Youth Expo steer project.  She has shown mini Herefords before but this is her first official 4-H project.  Her brother and sister have been very helpful! Trale’ feels like she needs a “widdle steer” herself!

Just staying busy. If you come SW give us a shout we’d love to buy your dinner!

Zac and Amy

 

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!

If a picture is worth a thousand words … – The Harris Family

The Harris Family sent several photos to Harvest Watch that illustrate the conditions on their southwest Oklahoma Farm. We compiled them into this photo gallery. Hover over an image for a caption.