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.

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

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

 

Calving and catching up in wintertime – The Crain Family

Derek and Mary at the 2013 Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers conference in Arizona.

Derek and Mary at the 2013 Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers conference in Arizona.

We, Derek and Mary Crain, are a young family getting started in agriculture.  Currently, we are running a small herd of cows in the Woodward, Oklahoma area, working on making a larger operation.  We both have off-farm jobs to make ends meet and to and aid in providing some of the needed funds to expand our farming operation. We are currently serving the final year of our term as the District 1 representatives on the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers State Committee. Derek also volunteers for both the Taloga Fire Department and Taloga EMS.

For us, January is a time when we are making preparations for calving. This consists of moving our cattle to pastures that have good shelter for both cows and calves in preparation for cold winds and severe winter weather that likes to make an appearance around this time in Oklahoma.  This is typically the time we also get to catch up on maintenance and work on projects that were started but never finished in the past year.

In our spare time we enjoy spending time with family and friends and also being involved in our community. We are looking forward to a great year and letting you get to know about us and our operation.

Winter workland: Machinery maintenance (and a little fun) – The Williams Family

Williams1-25-14DiscChanging

Changing discs on an air seeder, part of farm equipment maintenance.

After being gone to San Antonio, we had a busy week ahead of us. The guys have been working diligently on the planter. As you can see in the picture, safety comes first…right after necessity.

There are many seed opener discs to be changed on this drill. The new black disc is 18 inches across. The worn out one is 15.5 inches across. If not replaced, soil will not be opened properly for proper seed placement. New discs cost $30 and it takes approximately 15 minutes to change one. There are 68 discs total on this particular 42 foot drill. Also, many other wear parts are changed while the seed disc is off. Patience and persistence are two qualities farmers have engrained in them…with the occasional hat throw, wrench chunk, or pickup peel out for whatever mechanical mishap. Just keepin’ it real.

A single disc from the drill.

A single disc from the drill.

Along with equipment maintenance, came the need to clean the seed barn for a double birthday party. Our hired hands are amazing sports and always willing to “clean” a barn for whatever reason, which they have done many times. I always say having a barn party is a good excuse to get the place clean. Now if they would only apply those skills to the house…

Harvesting Good Memories On and Off the Field

Every once in a great while (once, maybe twice, a year if we are lucky) we get to go hunting together. Most people would think, “Gosh I bet you get to hunt ALL the time.” Well, no… We don’t. Our operation is year-round. There’s always something to do.

Marty and Crystal enjoy hunting together.

Marty and Crystal enjoy hunting together.

Number one, for us hunting isn’t to have bragging rights. We 100 percent enjoy being out and appreciating the wildlife. It’s not to harvest a lot of birds or a huge buck that seems to elude our stealth-like hunting techniques every year (that’s a joke by the way)…because we don’t! We enjoy the outside, walking together in native prairie grass, joking about our slip of youth, and reminiscing stories of childhood adventures.

Number two, we are both pretty lazy when it comes to cleaning game so we only want enough to eat or share with someone else. Or in other words, our aim isn’t so great. And number three, Marty doesn’t have “vacation” or time off. When we are able to take a rare vacation, he’s on the phone taking care of business most of the time. He could make time, but for a farmer trying to make a living and provide, not only for his family but two hired hands’ families, it’s a responsibility and priority to use time wisely for the business…hunting is not one of them. But it sure is fun when we get to go! These are my favorite “dates” and the only time I complain of Marty walking too fast.

Cousin Paul a flight instructor at OSU, Marty the farmer, and Bro-in-law Kelly an elementary school principal in TN hunting a few hours on Christmas Break. (Photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

Cousin Paul a flight instructor at OSU, Marty the farmer, and Bro-in-law Kelly an elementary school principal in TN hunting a few hours on Christmas Break. (Photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

He’s a good sport to take me hunting because we both know the experience is just a little different in terms of bonding, humor, and tradition when it comes to hunting with the guys in the family. Usually the only time they all get to go together is Thanksgiving or Christmas.

It has something to do with tradition, relationships, and resourcefulness. Or that’s a woman’s explanation anyways. Marty always reminisces about the older generations taking him on his first hunts, and even the old guys taking him when he was 12 and 13 years old…I’m talking 60-80 year olds that shot from the hip. Great experiences, great memories, great people in our community. Time in the woods is worth more than counseling and sometimes even church. I said sometimes, not always!

A family that hunts together, stays together. (photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

A family that hunts together, stays together. (photo credit Arlie Mornhinweg, Marty’s cousin)

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!