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.

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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!

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.

Ready for spring – The Fisher Family

Things are busy around the farm as we prepare for spring to come. We recruited all the kids to help with working cattle recently. It was a big day. We did sorting, weaning and ear tagging. We also gave pink-eye vaccinations; hopefully, it won’t be as troublesome this year as it was last spring.

After working the cows we needed to move some to a different pasture. In order to that, we had to clear out the fence row so the electric fence would work. We were happy to have a less-windy day to get that job done. Most of the tasks around the farm are related. In order to complete one, you have to start another!

Beautiful spring weather – The Fisher family

Today was such an enjoyable day to be outside. It started with catching the cows and sorting them for market. After loading the 630 weight calves into the trailer, I hauled them to the Holdenville cattle auction – windows down to take in the warm spring day. Since I already had the trailer with me, I stopped by the neighbor’s on the way home and picked up two bulls I had recently purchased. After bringing the new bulls home, it was on to one

Our family working cattle on a nice spring day.

of my favorite jobs- checking the fence. With winter feeding and calving time past, we moved the cattle to summer pasture. Between storms, deer, and high water there are always places along the fence that need attention.

What makes it so enjoyable is where the job takes you – to the back woods and hidden corners and creek beds. There are wildflowers, dogwood trees and wild plums in bloom – so much beauty all around. There are many birds to see also, nesting meadowlarks and the recently returned barn swallows. As I traveled the fence-line on the 4-wheeler I kept an eye out for my favorite mushroom, wild morels. The day ended with a delicious dinner of another spring favorite, roasted asparagus from the garden. Days like these make me thankful to be living off the land.