Sunday, December 17, 2017

WHAT A YEAR!

Our 2017 has been quite a year. We more than doubled the amount of tillable acres we operate through two new rental contracts and brought in an additional 150 feeder calves to graze cover crop this fall. The additional workload this spring and fall has pushed my sanity to the limit. This year, like all the others, has provided me with a sharp learning curve regarding cover crop selection and termination procedures, and low crop prices continue to make farming a formidable challenge. However, the most important event this year was the birth of our little girl Eden which I will fawn over at the end of the post.

No-tilling corn into a grazed cover crop.
Corn follows the wheat/cover crops in our rotation. Some of the cover crop was grazed last fall and some didn't have any cattle grazing it and was allowed to grow uninhibited. The number one problem with no-till corn is getting a good stand established into the previous years crop residue. So needless to say, stand establishment was a much greater challenge in the cover crop that wasn't grazed. Even though the residue managers on our corn planter were set rather aggressively and the down pressure was maxed out, the residue in some areas was just too thick to establish a proper stand of corn. If the cover crop is not grazed down to eliminate some of the residue prior to planting corn, I believe it needs to be strip-tilled. Perhaps some of the newer model planters with pneumatic down pressure and residue managers would be up to the task of planting into that much residue but our older planter was not up to the job. Thinking on the positive side though, with all that residue covering the soil surface we pretty much eliminated any erosion potential.

This spring was very wet, making planting and spraying windows very slim and hard to come by. Terminating winter hardy cover crops on time became very difficult. One field being planted to corn had red clover and rye grass coming back from the previous year. Yes rye grass. I was happy for the good stand of red clover and the supplemental nitrogen it would supply. I no-tilled corn directly into this field but was unable to come back and terminate the cover crop for almost two weeks. Red clover can be a very impressive weed smothering plant. Unfortunately, this made it very good at choking out corn as well. Even after terminating the cover crop it was very difficult for the corn plant to push up through the mass of dead red clover and rye grass.  We did strip-till a few passes in the middle of the field for a comparison. It became very evident on the yield map exactly where those passes were because the stand of corn, and thus the yield, was much better.


"Lucky" doesn't even begin to describe it.
I'm the type of person who likes to save the best for last. The most important and life changing event this year was the arrival of our little girl Eden on June 15th. She came six and a half weeks early and spent three weeks at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis before she got to come home on the 4th of July. Sara spent the majority of May at the Mother-Baby Center in Minneapolis (right across from Children's) because she developed preeclampsia while in the twin cities for work. Her blood pressure could no longer be controlled so doctors performed an emergency c-section at 10:45 PM on June 15th for Sara and Eden's safety. I have never witnessed such compassion and professionalism as I did from the staff at Children's and the Mother-Baby Center. Words can not do justice to how incredible the nursing staff and doctors were at these two hospitals. Eden just turned six months old earlier this week and I find the time going by much too fast. She loves to be held and can melt her daddy's heart with a smile or a giggle. Truth be told, I wouldn't mind if she stayed this age. She has made this our best year yet and we are extremely grateful. We wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thanks for reading.





Tuesday, February 21, 2017

IT'S A TROPICAL HEAT WAVE

In the words Max Goldman; "We're having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave!" For those of you that haven't seen the movie Grumpy Old Men, this is one of my favorite lines of the entire movie, and I highly recommend watching it. Only a true Northerner would call a 20 degree day in Minnesota a tropical heat wave. However, we've been experiencing 50-60 degree days over the past week in southwest Minnesota and it definitely feels like a tropical heatwave. Break out the shorts and tank tops!

Replacing closing wheel bearings on the drill is a never ending task. 
It's a great drill but a really bad closing wheel design.
For someone without an enormous shop equipped with heated floors and ample space to accommodate even the largest machinery, its a blessing to have warm weather to prep equipment outside for spring planting. The yearly scramble to get planting equipment ready to go right before it's time to hit the field is my absolute least favorite time of year. It never fails that something, however small or seemingly insignificant, will bring planting operations to a screeching halt if spring prep and maintenance are done hastily. It's at those moments, when patience and time are in short supply, that I would give almost anything to have a place to get everything field ready for spring. With the possibility of another high stress spring around the corner (still haven't built that fancy shop) we're taking full advantage of the spectacular February weather to do routine maintenance and repairs, outside. Who wouldn't want to be outside when it's 60 degrees in February anyhow? The list of things that need to be done before planting starts is always long and can be extremely time consuming. One of my main goals over the winter has been to make sure our drill is ready to go as soon as it is fit to start seeding small grain. There are always closing wheel bearings to replace on a John Deere 750 drill but it's a rather simple task. We're also adding an in-furrow liquid fertilizer setup and replacing the after-market bean meters with the factory seed cups. The factory units meter cover crop mixes and small grain seed better than bean meters.

Whether it's fixing equipment or just soaking up the sun; it would seem crazy not to be outside when the weather is this nice in February. The warm weather has allowed us to finish some important equipment prep before the spring rush hits and it feels great to cross a few things off the spring to-do list.  If you have something you've been putting off during the winter now is a great time to get it wrapped up so there is one less thing to worry about come spring. Make Max Goldman proud and take advantage of this tropical heat wave in February. Thanks for reading.