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!

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On the road again – The Harris Family

A hay field in August – not much out there

The heat of the summer is about like the dead cold of winter.  You wake up earlier than normal, work as hard as you can, and when it’s unbearable you find an excuse to head to the house.  I spend that time playing on Tractorhouse or a comparable website or magazine and think about all the payments I NEED to have.  In fact, Friday morning a college buddy of mine, Landon Hunt from Grandfield, and I are heading to Kansas to look at a couple of no-till air seeders.

In past blog entries, we were still ripping, I am happy to say that project is finished.   We have been moving more cattle around to better pastures and losing water sources.  We have had to install two more solar pumps in the 50’s model wells like we did last year.  We have also changed oil in most all the tractors that belong to Harris Farms.

Amy likes to plan “events” so that it forces 2 things to happen: 1 – I will be home 2 – I will be forced to do some things on my honey do list!  So last night, Thursday, we hosted an area YF&R swim/cookout.  We had a blast.

We invited other young farmers and and ranchers for a YF&R pool party.

Seems like I have been way busier than what this blog entails because I work 7 days a week and Marshall, my dad, is quick to let me know how much is still not getting done.  We did however have the promise of rainbows and the smell of rain in the air.  Hobart didn’t actually get to see as much of it as neighboring communities like Granite.  I think Granite received close to an inch.  Either way, God delivered us from the drought last year with a bumper wheat crop and know He will deliver us again from this drought.

Deja Vu – The Harris Family

Seems like we have lived through high temperatures and drought conditions with high fire dangers before!  Almost seems like last summer never ended.  It is easy to forget the blessing God gave us here in Southwest Oklahoma for the rain and conditions through the winter that promoted our blessing of a wheat crop.  So easily we can forget what He has done for us; instead, we just complain about what we need from Him.  I am confident He will continue to grow us and change us through this season as well…

The seed cleaner at work at one of our wheat bins.

With that being said, life on the farm is never ending – come rain, shine or drought!  We have cleaned seed wheat recently.  We have enough on-farm storage to almost plant our wheat acres twice.  It takes about 3 days to clean the wheat in 2 locations and in several different bins.   Jarrett Orrell is a college graduate who is trying to find his fit back in the ag sector.  He does a great job and has cleaned our wheat the last 3 years.

We have been running the no-till ripper like crazy.  We try to rip about 1/3 of our acres every year.  It takes about 2 weeks about 14 hours a day to get over about 2000 acres.  Ripping takes a lot of time at just 19 feet per pass.

The whole 19′ of ripper!  The ground is getting awfully tough and tight, but so far we have been able to continue to stick it in the ground

We still have water at all the pastures, but we are having to shift some cattle around for grass.  I take that back –  I put out the first solar pump this morning.   The grass seems to be going backwards quickly.  The pastures that were sprayed for weeds and received some “rest” seem to still be holding well.  The pastures that have been grazed hard or didn’t get sprayed are just plain weedy!  I know feed prices are getting high and several of our friends especially in the eastern side of the state are scrambling for hay and reasonable feed sources for the winter.  A farmer/rancher’s job is almost half predictions of the future.  It seems like if you plan right you can hit a home run on prices and be protected for several years, but if you don’t, it seems like you struggle for a couple just to make up what you lost that one year.

The hay barn was full enough that the equipment had to be parked outside. We are blessed – especially after all the hay we had to buy last year because of the extent of the drought

Speaking of prices – with the global drought conditions, crop prices are climbing higher and higher.  I am not really complaining of that.  I have only sold minimal wheat so far and looking like I will be holding the wheat for a while longer.  With corn and wheat climbing and the world surplus stocks getting smaller, it should also increase our grocery bills.  What happens in the agriculture sector affects all aspects of life across the world!

Our church is in vacation Bible school this week.  Amy and I are teaching the soon-to-be 5th graders. Every day we watch a video about a missionary somewhere in the world.  Last night we watched a video about the missionaries in Madagascar and about some of the remote villages that have NOTHING.  We watched as some planted by hand and some were fortunate enough with some sponsorship to have 2 cows to pull a plow behind.  Showing that most kids start working in the fields with heavy labor at around age five!  Although my kids are farm kids and have their own responsibilities to pull their weight on the farm, they are blessed enough to also have time to be carefree kids.  It’s just amazing watching the families and villages trying to farm with 1920’s technology when I am running large tractors that drive themselves thanks to current agriculture technology.  God has blessed us on where we live.  I could have easily have been born in much poorer country without the knowledge or means to farm like we do.