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

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Beginning to thaw out – The Crain Family

Teaching a parent how to clip a goat.

Teaching a parent how to clip a goat.

Welcome to March! Well kind of just a little late. Since our last post it has been wild and crazy without a lot of extra time. In mid-February we attended the National YF&R conference in Virginia Beach. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed getting to meet other farmers from across the country as well as Canada.

With Derek being a past agricultural education instructor, we have been helping some former students with spring livestock projects.

The worst part of winter weather coming in meant getting cattle ready and making sure water was available; not to mention most of the calving occurring when temperatures are at their lowest. We think a couple of the calves’ ears may have gotten too cold as they seem to look a little stunted, but they will all be okay and we did not lose anyone to the cold temperatures.

Clearing off the roads so that drivers can make it to their destinations safely

Clearing off the roads so that drivers can make it to their destinations safely

To go along with all of that with snow storms, Derek has had to work strange, long hours clearing roads while working for ODOT.

As pastures begin to green up the cows are beginning to be happier, and we are trying to prevent some mowing of weeds in the farmyard by spraying early in the season. Till next time we make it back, enjoy your spring!

 

 

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

 

Harvest, haying, and a summer wrap-up – The Graves Family

A rain gauge with almost 2.5 inches.

A rain gauge with almost 2.5 inches.

Wow! What a summer this has been! The winds have changed for our area. We have received much-needed rain since the last blog I submitted. I don’t know the exact total, but I can comfortably say we’ve received at least 5 inches of rain at our farm, if not more than that. Our neighbors, friends, and family here in the Midwest have received varying amounts from that. Some have been much more than 10 inches this summer! It’s so wonderful to see everything green! Even if it means the thistles, pig weeds, sandburs, and goat-head stickers. It’s been a chore mowing, but watering the yard and gardens has been cut down by two-thirds.

Harvest is a great time for all ages.

Harvest is a great time for all ages.

Harvest began about June 20, and that is the last we’ve started in about eight years. We only had about half the acres of what we cut last year, but thankful for that. One cut we usually have, about 1,000 acres, of our neighbors, went all into wheat hay. We cut another 490 acres for another neighbor, whom we cut about the same last year for him. Our farm had about 1,200 acres that we cut. One field that really surprised us was our big dryland field. It is some ground we rent, and this was the first year it was planted to wheat. The field is 873 acres. That is very large! We spent 3 days with two combines, grain cart, and two semi-trucks staying busy the entire time. The crop adjuster said it was the best dryland he had seen, so we cut it and it made 23.9bu/acre. We had two irrigated fields also, each 120 acres. One made 23.17bu/acre and the other made 30.62bu/acre.

We had extra help the week of harvest from the grandkids this year. They are starting to be old enough to help more and more. Plus, Dalton, my oldest nephew, and Jolena, my mother-in-law, were busy with the second cutting of alfalfa when harvest was going on. I had a neighbor gal come and babysit the kids while I was in the alfalfa field or running after the guys in the wheat field. I don’t think we fed less than ten people for lunch that week.

Cutting alfalfa.

Cutting alfalfa.

At the beginning of June we swathed and baled one circle of wheat hay for our neighbor, and 1-½ circles of wheat hay for ourselves. Our alfalfa has done well this year. We’ve actually been able to swath and bale the corners at all three cuttings. The guys just finished baling the third cutting about a week ago. It took a little longer due to rains, but we were ok with that. Jake and Matt began cutting feed for a neighbor this week. We also have feed we will swath or have a silage crew come and make the feed into silage. The guys will pack the silage into a bunk and we will feed it to our cattle this winter.

A field of milo.

A field of milo.

The rest of this summer has been full of working calves, moving cows with their calves to different pastures, spraying, stacking hay, loading hay, mowing, and working fields. We’ve had some damage from a few storms, but mainly tree limbs breaking. Gary and Jolena were able to take a break and head to Colorado to relax. Jake was able to go with some friends to Lake Texhoma, and even brought back striper bass for us to enjoy. Matt, the kids, and I headed to Oklahoma City the first week of August and had a fun time seeing the zoo and science museum. I was also able to go to the Women in Ag and Small Business Conference, and really enjoyed everything there. The speakers were great and the sessions were very informational.

My garden is finally producing. I didn’t get it planted until the middle of June. I’ve made pickles and pickled okra. We’ve harvested squash, cucumbers, jalapenos, basil, spearmint, strawberries, and okra. I’ve only picked one tomato, but there are many more on the vines.

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 little rain and a sudden corn harvest – The Leonard Family

This is Katy writing this week.

The Leonard clan spent last week on a well-deserved family vacation. Before we left, we received approximately .2″ of rain, and while we were gone another .2″ was received. The small amount of rain gave the soybeans a little growth, but they still have a long ways to go to make very much of a harvest.

When we arrived home, field scouting was done through the soybeans only to discover blister beetles have moved into some of the fields. Therefore, spraying was begun to rid these pest from the fields.

We quickly also discovered a very early corn harvest is upon us. So, we quickly started working on the combine and corn header to get them ready. On friday, we began corn harvest. With the temperature in the 100s, it is been hard to cut very much during the day due to the risk of over-heating the engiens of the machinery.

Fly over states – The Harris Family

The Harris kids waiting for Luigi's flying tires at Disneyland

The Harris kids waiting for Luigi’s flying tires at Disneyland

It’s been too long since we last got acquainted, but here is the run down.  We had such a blessed wheat harvest and with the right recipe seemed as though we were “running” behind.  Wheat harvest took about 5 days longer than expected because of a tight harvest crew and some breakdown issues; that threw our hay cutting and baling behind schedule.  Remember I mentioned how purple the creek bottom looked? Then with the few sprinkles and cooler mornings in early June, hay baling took twice as long as expected.  To top it all off, the wind blew like crazy, I guess blowing in all this dry, hot weather.  I say all that to say this is why I NEVER book a vacation and the one time I do this is the circumstances we are stuck with.  But my request for what Amy calls the farming fairy was answered and Brent Straub spent some sleepless nights spraying for us.  You can always count on a good farming neighbor.  It was sure nice to go on vacation and not have the stress of leaving something undone at home.

The Harris kid had a chance to enjoy Disneyland, including the fireworks headboard in the hotel!

We left for vacation on Saturday, June 23.  I was busy trying to do everything humanly possible to get as much done on the farm as I could – I didn’t have time to sleep.  Quite frankly, that’s all I cared about for the first few days of vacation was what time we had to get up and when nap time would be!  We arrived in Los Angeles, CA, the next morning after a short flight and made our way on the shuttle to the “magic” of Disneyland.  The kids had a great time!  We were there Sunday through Thursday and had a late night flight to Dallas.  We pulled in our driveway about 4:00 am.  Amy stayed up doing a few loads of laundry because our daughter, Kenda’s, Softball team won their league in 8 and under softball and qualified for the state tournament, which started Friday morning in Preston, OK.  They ended up fifth in the tournament.

So back home to Hobart we go ready to take on the list at hand!  Alfalfa was ready to be laid down and baled again.  It is amazing what hot, dry weather does for your hay baling week.  Last month, it was a two-week-plus affair, and this trip, it lasted about 6 days start to finish. We put a lot of little squares up this time – about 2000 – plus 200 mid-size squares.   The cotton crop looks good considering there are rows going several directions, several sizes. I just got done spraying it for weeds and bugs.  Finally, the cattle do not need attention for pink eye every other day.  We have a decent chance of some much-needed rain tonight that would be a huge blessing in many ways.  It would get the alfalfa, cotton, and grass a lot further down the road towards making a crop.

Since I have been making paths on all this machinery I have plenty of radio time, this allows me time to ponder important things in life.  For instance, Jason Aldean is someone I would like to meet and shake his hand.  He is a huge advocate for agriculture through his music that hopefully the non-agriculture population can at least know something about production ag.  Rylan’s favorite singer since he was two has been Jason Aldean, and I am so glad of that.  I think it’s so true about the general population and how they perceive the  “Fly Over States” and I’m grateful for a celebrity to acknowledge the importance of who we are.