Fall harvest and fall planting – The Wilcox Family

Since we utilize no-till production practices, we burned the last two years wheat stubble on this farm to give our canola stand a better chance at surviving the winter.

Since we utilize no-till production practices, we burned the last two years wheat stubble on this farm to give our canola stand a better chance at surviving the winter.

Fall is a busy time here on our farm. We are running about three different directions at the same time! We have finished up cutting our sorghum (milo) and started planting canola as of late Sunday night. Hopefully we will catch a rain here before too long, we have missed the last two, and while we are not terribly dry at this point, last years drought is still too close for comfort. Bring on the hurricane rain!

September is also full of meetings for us. We host crop insurance meetings, attend our county’s annual Farm Bureau meeting, and this year we have the addition of Farm Bill 2014 meetings. We are proud that our Representative Frank Lucas found a way to overcome a dysfunctional Congress and pass the 2014 Farm Bill into law, but now we farmers have to make lots of decisions that will affect us for the next 5 years (at least). I love fall, but I’ll be ready for winter so we can slow down a little.

Till next time… Clint and Jessica Wilcox

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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.

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!

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

Preparing for the next growing season – The Leonard Family

Editor’s Note: Today we are kicking off our Harvest Watch blog for 2013. Watch for more updates from last year’s families as well as posts from some new faces. We hope you’ll join us as we follow Oklahoma farmers and ranchers through another growing season.

This past month we have been doing our winter maintenance on the tractors and the combine to get them ready for strip tilling, planting, and combining wheat.

Leonards'

The new caddy cart that allows the Leonards to move nitrogen tanks from the tractor to the strip-till bar.

Since our last blog, we bought a caddie cart to put our strip-till bar on to keep the liquid nitrogen tanks off the tractor and to help reduce the wear and tear on the tractor. On the combine, we are in the process of putting a new feeder house chain and getting the auger in the grain tank reflighted.

On the cattle side of things, we have been feeding and haying every day to keep the cattle healthy. We have also been fixing fence at a rent pasture so that dad’s cows will stay in. For some reason, he says it is always my cows’ fault that his get out.

The Leonards working cattle.

The Leonards working cattle.

On Saturday, we worked a group of heifers while he had them up, since my little sister was getting her former show heifers preg checked. We also ground feed for the cows and calves so that Katy and I did not have to this week while mom and dad were gone to Cancun on a Channel seed achievement series trip.

We are also in the process of building a seed warehouse where we will store the seed we sell for Channel throughout the year.

Wheat, hay, fairs and an international visitor – The Leonard Family

Cleaning up fields with a bulldozer.

Fall is here as we have now had a killing frost and survived the Tulsa State Fair!!!

After a month of fixing washes and drain problems with the scraper and bulldozer, we are now into planting wheat here in northeast Oklahoma.  We also baled the last of a very short hay crop, rolling up about 50 bales of Bermuda grass and weeds.

We have cleaned up an old house site at one farm and fixed several terraces and waterways around the farm trying to prepare for wheat planting.  We started planting wheat on October 4th and are now down to 115 acres of our wheat left to plant before soybean harvest starts in a couple weeks.  We do have 300 acres of custom planting to do for a neighbor to help him out as well as ourselves since we have the new drill to pay for.  I also planted about 350 acres of rye grass and cover or vetch into pastures for me and other neighbors this fall after getting the new drill.

What a year this has been with record heat and dryness, then record-early killing frost, and now 4.5 inches of rain over a two-day period this weekend after just planting 600 acres of wheat.  I’m guessing that at least we will be out replanting spots if not whole fields because of the hard, quick 3.5 inches last night.  Don’t take me wrong; we needed the rain very badly – just not that much that fast right after planting.

Greg and Danish visitor Jens Peter Hansen discuss Greg’s equipment.

Last week we had a very interesting visitor that found his way to us from Denmark from reading this blog and contacting Oklahoma Farm Bureau and arranging a visit to our farm while he was in Oklahoma speaking at a conference in OKC.  Jens is an extension specialist in Denmark and was very interested in the precision farm tools that we use on our farm.  After looking over some historical data, we looked at the machinery we farmed with. Then we went out and rode in the tractor planting wheat with our new 40-foot grain drill using RTK auto steer with saved guidance lines.  He had a great time and I very much enjoyed the exchange of ideas and learning much about the extension service and farming in Denmark.

Tulsa State Fair livestock show preparations.

I attended our local county extension PAC committee meeting this week to help out county ag extension agent plan what programs we need in our county.

Katy showed her heifer at the Tulsa State Fair, and we all got to find our coveralls that weekend as the high temperature on Saturday was in the low 50s and then dipped to around 27 the Sunday morning she showed.  She loved washing the calf at 5:30 a.m. when it was 27 degrees.  We all had a good time, and at least for Katy her calf placed in the middle of her class

Kody is still doing well at NEO A&M College and is excited that the first tractor he bought is going to be delivered on Monday. He bought a John Deere 7800 MFD with a 740 loader to replace the tractor we had stolen last year while we were at state Farm Bureau convention.

Ready for Fall – The Fisher Family

We did get two good rains the last month.  One week we got over a inch and the next week it did the same. After the second rain, we finally had some green grass. We had nothing green for most of the summer, but it is looking better out.

I still am feeding cattle hay every day. I do not have water everywhere i have grass.  Next Monday I am going to sell calves and move the stock to new pasture. I was hoping for some more rain today, but we will see.

Two weeks ago, the day of our last rain, I planted oats, wheat and clover for fall pasture. I have a good stand, but the 100-plus-degree temperatures every day since I planted have not helped.

We have our ground ready for wheat planting as soon as we have the moisture.

The big news for our life is the upcoming wedding of our oldest son Luke and his  fiancee Chantée. I am so happy for them both.