Wrapping up wheat harvest and rocketing through summer – The Wilcox Family

A field of swathed Canola is about to get wet.

A field of swathed Canola is about to get wet.

Hello again! It feels like forever since I have sat down to write a blog post. Lots of exciting things going on here on the Wilcox Ponderosa, the most exciting of all of these is the fact that it is raining again! We are very thankful for the rain God has blessed us with starting back at the end May.

For many of my fellow farmers the rains came right as their wheat harvest was beginning and made harvesting below average wheat that much more “fun”. We were able to get our wheat and canola out in a mostly timely fashion. This year the combines/tractors/trucks all ran pretty well, whew!

We were lucky to have my Brothers help for most of wheat harvest… And this is why…

We were lucky to have my Brothers help for most of wheat harvest…
And this is why…

The 2014 wheat crop brought a myriad of challenges: early severe cold, drought, late freezes, oh, did I mention drought? We went 168 days here in Fairview this winter and spring without a single rain event that precipitated over a quarter inch. Some of our farms further to the North and West of town received even less, it was a really tough year.

As we put Wheat Harvest 2014 behind us, my thoughts turned to the same thing as everyone else’s – sweetcorn season! Wait, am I the only one that gets excited about sweetcorn? Anyway, my family in Eastern OK has a long standing tradition of bringing great sweetcorn to Eastern Oklahoma and Western Arkansas, and this year was no exception.

Yes- that’s a backhoe in the corn field- all hands on deck!

Yes- that’s a backhoe in the corn field- all hands on deck!

It’s been a busy summer on our farm- Thanks for following along!

It rained, and rained, and rained some more over in East OK this spring.

It rained, and rained, and rained some more over in East OK this spring.

Harvest has arrived! – The Wilcox Family

Swathing our canola into windrows

Swathing our canola into windrows

The end of May and beginning of June is a busy time here on our farm. We have started wheat and canola harvest! Before the combines get to rolling in the fields, there are many hours of shop work that must be done to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible when the wheat and canola are finally ready to go. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be breakdowns by any piece of chalk, though. Harvest and breakdowns are like peas and carrots, they just go together! Besides combines, there is the swather, the grain cart, tractors, headers, trucks and trailers that must be checked out to see if they are in good working order, too. Is it any wonder that our parts guys know us really well by the end of June?

Canola moisture was too high, so we switched to wheat

Canola moisture was too high, so we switched to wheat

The few fields we have harvested so far this year are yielding below half of what we usually grow in the same fields. This is disheartening, but we are thankful to have anything at all to harvest. The drought has really hit us hard up here in Northwest Oklahoma. It is also a testament to the amazing plant that wheat is. Some of our farms had less than 3 inches of moisture during the entire growing season (October to early May). The fact that the plants even grew is amazing!

Thanks for allowing us the opportunity to grow a safe, nutritious grain and oil seed for you and your family. I will have more pictures and I’m sure a good story or two for next month!

You can follow along with many farmers across the country as they bring in harvest by searching/following the #harvest14 hashtag on Twitter.

Photo feature: Wheat harvest in northeast Oklahoma – The Leonard Family

The Leonard family sent us these photos from the wheat field taken during wheat harvest 2013 on their farm.

Time to harvest and time to plant – The Leonard Family

This blog entry was written by Katy Leonard.

Things at the Leonard house became very hectic the week of June 16. I left the morning  of June 17 to go to basketball camp in Cleveland, Oklahoma, and it was raining when I left so we didn’t cut any wheat.

However, Tuesday, June 18, is when they kicked wheat harvest into gear and haven’t really stop since then. Dad is combining, Kody is planting, and mom and I are in charge of loading Kody and trying to keep everyone else happy. Along with trying to keep everyone busy at our house, we are having to run dad’s seed customers their seed when they are in need of it.

When I came home from camp the afternoon of June 19, they put me straight to work helping clean some of the wheat dad had cut that we are going to keep until winter. When Kody came home to load the planter he realized that the inside tire on the tractor had a leak around the value stem, so we aired it up and told him to call us if it went flat again. With our luck he made it home, but the next morning it was completely flat so we had to take the dual off and have the local tire repair shop come fix it so he could get rolling again and keep up with dad.

Along with all of this we had the county fair lamb tag-in the morning of June 22. In the midst of all of this, I work at a vet clinic in Vinita on Mondays and Fridays. On June 22 Dad said wheat harvest should last about 2 more weeks if we don’t get the semi stuck in a hidden mud hole like we did the night of June 19 or break a sickle in half. But here we are on July 6th done with our wheat but helping a neighbor finish his.

Thankfully, this year’s yields were very good. But it’s amazing that three weeks ago we were too wet to plant, and now we are too dry to plant all of our acres to double-crop beans.

Seed treating, pasture mowing and planting milo – The Leonard Family

This is Kody writing. Over the past two weeks or so we have been treating seed, mowing pastures, planting milo, and preparing for wheat harvest and planting double-crop soybeans.

This week started out with my dad and sister treating approximately 1700 units of soybeans, which our customers wanted, treated for planting in the month to come. While they treated, I made a little trip to Stillwater to get my FFA Grain Production Proficiency ready for the national contest next month.

Leonards6-10-13CattleinYardMy dad on Friday finished mowing our rental pasture to keep the cows from getting pink eye from the fescue stems. Though the John Deere 8410 tractor we used to pull the 20-foot bush hog may of been over-kill, it got the job done.

If you were to ask my dad if planting milo before a 4-inch rain was a good idea, I think he would say yes. That pretty well sums up the luck we had planting milo. We will just say we have to replant it.

One of the Leonards' grain trucks clean, polished and ready to roll.

One of the Leonards’ grain trucks clean, polished and ready to roll.

We have also wrapped up the finishing touches on getting the combine and header ready for wheat harvest. I greased the combine and header, along with making one last glance to make sure we did not miss anything that needed fixed.  We have washed, serviced, polished and fueled the trucks and swept the bins.

Finally, we have fly tagged our heifers and fall-born calves to help keep pink eye and the flies in general away while we are going hard farming for the next month.

P.S. Dad says by next week at this time we will be cutting wheat in northeast Oklahoma, barring any more rain.

Where we left off – The Harris Family

The truck with liquid fertilizer used in top-dressing

The truck with liquid fertilizer used in top-dressing

Well it seems like only yesterday we were planting wheat, hoping for a rain, disastering cotton, experiencing our first semester of homeschool, and navigating our way through the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons while traveling to all the family gatherings.  As we begin this new season of the Harvest Watch Blog, I feel that we need to re-introduce ourselves.  We are the Harris Family.  I’m Zac and am married to Amy.  She was raised where it still rains in Northeast Oklahoma.  We farm with my grandfather and father in the Hobart area in Southwest Oklahoma.  We farm wheat, cotton and alfalfa – and when it rains, we also get to harvest them.  We also run a cow/calf operation with about 300 momma cows, and when we are blessed, we get to sell a few as show calves.  We have three beautiful children.  Kenda, our oldest, is 8 and has her own set of farming goals beginning with a miniature Hereford show steer.  Rylan, our only boy, is 6 but thinks he can OPERATE any piece of machinery on the farm.  He is usually easily spotted, despite his mother’s constant pleas, because he tucks his jeans in his boots similar to his Pappaw, Amy’s dad.  The last of the crew is Trale’ who is almost 3, and she believes she rules the world – often we tell her she can’t boss us around.

The sprayer the Harris family uses to apply fertilizer.

The sprayer the Harris family uses to apply fertilizer.

Well now that we have the introductions out of the way, let’s get to the real reason you are reading this blog: what is going on in agriculture here in our beautiful state!  God seems to be blessing us with rains just at the right time … amazing of His goodness.  We are about 6 years into a major drought; I can get really technical in this, but basically a typical weather cycle lasts around 20 years, give or take, but the last wet cycle lasted closer to 30.  The climatologists are basically preparing us to dig deep because they suggest it could be a long road before we are in another wet cycle.  However, the wheat looks really good for the marginal moisture we have received.  We were blessed early last week with a decent rain and snow to give us around 1 inch of precipitation.  The week before the rain, I had “top dressed” or sprayed fertilizer on our wheat.  Just about makes that timing perfect.  Fertilizing simply is giving added nutrition to the crop at a specific time; if we had put it on too early, it would only grow the plant instead of adding income-producing grain to the crop.  If we would have fertilized too late, we would put protein in the grain versus grain in the bin (money in our pockets).  Protein is a great thing, but there is no income incentive in producing less grain with higher protein.

This past week with cattle I have had to set up more solar pumps on wells.  Almost all the ponds are dry, or if the ponds have water there is little to no forage in the pasture for the cattle, it’s a catch-22.  One of the good things about a drought is we get the opportunity to clean out all of our ponds from the years of silting in.  We will start pregnancy-checking fall calving cows on Thursday and move them off what wheat pasture we grazed and back to small, dry pastures that will require more maintenance; water being the most critical.

We traded sprayers a few weeks ago, so this last fertilization in early February was its last on Harris Farms.  We will hopefully get the new sprayer with 120’ aluminum booms this next week.  That way, if I decide to top-dress a little more when we get more precipitation, it will be with the new rig!  It was delivered without a “buddy seat” in it, and Rylan said that won’t do, dad – “Where will I sit?”  Once it gets to the barn, I will add our radios and few personalized touches.

The Shelbourne Stripper header, waiting for wheat harvest.

The Shelbourne Stripper header, waiting for wheat harvest.

Oh, I almost forgot something.  I just purchased a Shelbourne header.  It will run on the John Deere combine – whichever one is around here at harvest.  I trade combines about as often as the wind changes directions in Oklahoma.  For those of you who don’t know, this header is a stripper header, meaning that it strips just the grain off the plant and leaves the straw and everything else still standing.  This is in an effort to help conserve as much moisture as possible.  I can’t wait to get in the field with it and to post pictures to share!

We have the privilege of sitting on the state Young Farmers and Ranchers board, and with that comes planning, working with some great people, and going to the National YF&R convention.  This year it was hosted in Phoenix, Arizona. Our kids enjoy these trips, too.  We learned some neat things, like cactus can live to be more than 300 years old.  They are very heavy, and when the monsoon season comes, they may fall because the weight of the cactus is too much for the shallow root system to bear.  One day during convention we had the opportunity to go on tours.  We toured an olive oil mill, citrus farm and a 9000-acre vegetable farm that employs around 800 people.  As you can tell, their agriculture is different from Oklahoma, but just as diverse!

Photos from the Young Farmers & Ranchers conference:

 

As a farm owner-operator, you consistently have to be planning for the “what if’s.”  What if it all plays out as you originally planned, or what if it doesn’t.  We have planted cotton on Harris Farms every year that I can recall, and I will be 32 this spring.  On a few fields, thewheat didn’t receive adequate moisture around planting so the seed never germinated.  Typically we would disaster the wheat and plant an early cotton crop.  I grew up a cotton farmer, but this year it looks as though we might temporarily abandon cotton for the first time in 50 years.  I am toying with the idea of having an earlier-planted and -harvested milo crop.  For example, we could plant milo in the middle of March and have the crop harvested around the middle of July, instead of planting cotton May 10 and harvesting in October or November when I also need to be planting wheat.

Seems like we have covered the basics … if you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to ask. We would enjoy hearing them.

Until next time – Zac