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.

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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.

A time to sow (after the snow) – The Leonard Family

Preparing a field to plant corn.

Preparing a field to plant corn.

Over this past month we have planted about 500 acres of corn, though it may be a little late, some is better than none. What makes it hard to work around is the weather when it rains ever other day and it even snowed on May 3rd!

The new seed warehouse is still full of corn and soybeans. Dad says he sure hopes all the corn disappears soon, whether it is in the form of farmers planting it or returns. Between rain showers and planting corn, we have been working on the combine and header to get them ready for wheat harvest. We also serviced our trucks getting them ready for wheat harvest. We have hauled off the remaining bit of corn we had leftover from last year’s harvest off as well. We hauled the corn to a local poultry feed mill – Simmons Foods in Fairland.

After finishing planting we moved on to spraying pastures and spreading Bermuda grass seed on a 5-acre piece of ground near a cell phone tower. Last weekend Katy bought three sheep and went 50-50 on another with me to show at the County fair in August. While at the sale we got volunteered to build a bracing stand for the lady who bought the sheep from. So over the weekend Katy and I have been constructing and welding the stand together.

The Leonard family at the 2013 Oklahoma FFA Convention.

The Leonard family at the 2013 Oklahoma FFA Convention.

Last month we attended the state FFA Convention in OKC where Katy was with the Afton FFA chapter and Kody won the state proficiency award in grain production entrepreneurship.  That was a great honor for him and his FFA program, and now along with the scholarship money he won he gets a chance to apply for a National FFA proficiency to represent Oklahoma.

Greg has been busy with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau farm bill task force working to help get as good a farm bill for Oklahoma farmers and ranchers as possible this past couple months. He is glad it has once again passed through both the house and senate ag committees, but really hopes that all this work again this year doesn’t end up with a repeat of last year’s farm bill efforts where nothing ended up getting passed on the house floor and no farm bill passed. Greg and the kids have also finished the new office in the seed warehouse during all this rainy time.  It’s going to be a nice addition to our farm to have a place for the business to be outside of house while providing a break room for all working on the farm.

Mary is now out of school and busy keeping us all going in the right directions, along with feeding and helping Katy with her animals.

What a difference a couple months make – The Leonard Family

Hello all from what is now very wet northeast Oklahoma. As a farmer and rancher, and as a seed dealer, it is very hard to explain the attitude changes that the farm and ranch families go through in dealing with the weather and Mother Nature, but I will try.

Hail from a storm on  March 30.

Hail from a storm on March 30.

Two months ago at every supper table and church across this part of the state, a prayer was being said that went thing like this: “Lord, please let it rain.” Yesterday, I would bet that most were saying something more like this: “Thank you Lord for the rainfall. Please let it warm up so the grass will grow and I can plant some corn before it’s too late.”

On the seed side of our farm two months ago, I was thinking I might not even plant corn this year unless it rains so I can send the corn seed back. Now it has rained too much and it’s going to be past the crop insurance coverage date before it even dries up!  From our side of the seed business it sure makes planning inventories very hard, and now we must move the corn seed north to farmers who are still able to plant corn. Then we will find more soybean and milo seed for our customers to plant later in the year.  It has also hailed and froze the wheat crop at least two or three times in the last month. So far it appears that we haven’t had a lot of freeze damage to our wheat, although we’ve seen some. We once again have freezing temps in the forecast this week. Our wheat is a good three weeks later in development than it was last year at this time, so I guess we won’t see a May wheat harvest this year like we had last year.

Muddy fields have hampered springtime field work.

Muddy fields have hampered springtime field work.

We have been able to get three fields of corn planted so far – 165 acres out of the 1200 acres we had planned to plant. I have been trying to stick to my strip-tillage plans because of the great benefit it provides in managing soil erosion along with precise placement of the fertilizer. However, it has been so wet that we have had to go around standing water in places and work the ground wetter than I like to. I usually try to avoid fieldwork in wet conditions because of the compaction that is caused by rolling across the wet fields with the heavy equipment.  So far it has been a tough year on the no-till and strip-till farmers because we have to wait a little longer for our soils to dry out because of all the residue that we leave on the soil to act as cover, which helps reduce soil erosion when it rains.

With all the wetness, we have been able to get our spring cattle working done earlier this year, and our herd health program is in place.  I hope that we feed our last hay this week and that the cattle are all out on grass by the end of the week.  For some of us it has been the longest feeding season we have ever had, starting with haying last September because of the drought and now haying here into late April because it has just been too cold for the grass to take off and grow.  We were just lucky to have enough carryover and new-crop hay to last this long.

Katy stuck on the forklift trying to put the new doghouse into place.

Katy stuck on the forklift trying to put the new doghouse into place.

We have also been able to get our new office in the seed barn almost done with just the cabinets left to go.  We also have gotten to some of the projects that always take the back burner, like hauling off the scrap iron pile to the recycler, completing the last of the winter maintenance on the harvest equipment, the spring cleaning of our shop (the kids love that project) and even the kids finding time to build the dogs a new house out of the leftover lumber from the new seed barn.  Be sure to ask Katy how wet it is as you see from the picture of her stuck on the forklift trying to place her new doghouse in the back yard!

We hope all is going well for everyone, and at least for this week, farmers around here won’t be saying that they need rain. After the last two years, I almost find myself feeling guilty about that!

An introduction – The Graves Family

Hello, I’m very excited about sharing with you about me and my family’s life on our farm. My name is Lisa Graves and I will be blogging once a week here on the Harvest Watch blog.

My husband, Matt, and I live and work at Graves Farms, LLC. We have two children, Xander, age 5 and Keira, age 2. Matt and I work with his parents, Gary and Jolena Graves. They have owned the farm for 35 years and prior to that, Gary’s parents, Doris and Gerald, lived here and owned the farm. Matt has grown up working alongside his dad. Jolena works as a Health Educator for Harper County Health Department, but still plays a vital role in the operation.

A wheat field on the Graves family's farm in the Oklahoma panhandle.

A wheat field on the Graves family’s farm in the Oklahoma panhandle.

The farm has evolved over the years, and I still get more history about it on a regular basis. Currently, we have Angus cows, run steers and heifers on pasture, dry-land farm, and have center-pivot irrigation. Our main crop is wheat, dry-land and irrigated. We also have irrigated alfalfa, irrigated corn, dry-land milo, and grow Sudan feed, both dry-land and irrigated; and we custom harvest wheat, corn, and milo.

The day-to-day operations are done by Gary, Matt, and Jake Harris. Jake has been a full-time hired man for 3 years; prior to that he worked for the farm during the summers. I cook lunch on weekdays for the guys, do the bookwork, and during harvest find myself running the swather or a tractor when needed. Jolena also helps a lot during harvest and haying. We also have neighbors and extra guys we call when the work gets extra heavy.

GravesFirstCalf2-21-13

The first calf of the season the Graves’ ranch is growing quickly.

Ours kids keep us busy on and off the farm. Xander is a kindergarten student at Laverne Elementary. He could write his own blog on everything farm. He keeps his teacher and classmates informed on the correct name of every implement you can imagine. He’s dad and granddad’s shadow and will probably be able to tear down an engine by the time he’s ten. He loves riding his 4-wheeler and hanging out on the combine during harvest.

Keira is momma and grandma’s shadow. She is a spunky, yet loving, two year old. She loves animals. I took her to “school” (daycare) during fall harvest and she gets to play with her friends. She likes to get in there with kids her own age.

GravesBabyCalf2-21-13

A newborn calf soaks up the Oklahoma Panhandle sun.

Lately, the guys have been doing the yearly maintenance on machinery, feeding cattle, checking cows, and hauling hay. They also have been working on the alfalfa fields. They have fertilized and harrowed the fields and filled in the wheel tracks made by the center-pivot irrigation system. On Tuesday, Feb 12, we received much-needed moisture in the form of snow. It came down so pretty, too.

The wheat fields have perked up a little since then, but we need more moisture, like everyone else. The cows are starting to calve. Our first calf came last week, and another was born this weekend. For the next month that will keep the guys busy, checking and tagging the calves.

Transition time – The Leonard Family

The Leonards can see corn harvest winding down and will be complete by the end of the week. This year’s harvest was not as poor as last year’s; but the lack of rain and high temperatures made it a very low yielding harvest. The week brought the completion of one of the tractors. Its front end was overhauled. This is a welcome completion for now; since harvest is almost over, corn stocks will need to be cut up and prepared for the next crop of wheat to be planted.

Greg and Kody attended a seed dealer meeting in Kansas City and Katy and Mary held down the fort at home.

Last Saturday brought some much-needed rain – about half an inch; but it also brought some storm damage. We lost the some trees, the kids’ trampoline and an auger on one of the feed bins.

Kody and Katy are preparing for the county fair with their animals. They both show sheep, and Katy will also show a heifer.

On the 15th of the month, Katy will start her sophomore year at Afton High School. Kody will begin his freshman year at North Eastern A&M College and Mary will start back to school on the 23rd.

Even the grasshoppers look for shade – The Fisher Family

Corn harvest started in July for us. The rain last spring was just enough to make a little corn. So far we are getting almost 40 bushel to the acre.  The kernels look like pointed popcorn. It is so hot and dry we are blessed to get any corn at all.

Dried-down corn awaiting harvest.

For the most part the old 6600 is holding up good. Don’t get me wrong, we get to tinker on it often enough. The a/c is needing most of the attention. August has started, so maybe four more weeks ’til cooler temps or less, but we are getting good dry down weather for the corn.

Andrew has been running the combine, today his little twin sisters took turns combining corn with him. I checked on them every once in a while, but mostly I filled my day moving round hay, which I hope to not feed too soon.

I moved cattle to a different pasture and am supplementing the pasture with protein tubs. Most of my stock ponds are the driest since they were dug.

Do grasshoppers like round bales? As I picked the up hay, hundreds of  grasshoppers moved away. We have had no new growth since the hay was cut earlier this summer, so maybe they are eating the hay. Or maybe they just like the shade.