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Located on Wisconsin Highway 151, near Beaver Dam

Located on Wisconsin Highway 151, near Beaver Dam

I’m a day late in bringing you the update from Month 9 — harvest! We officially started cutting wheat on June 22. This year’s start was a little later than usual. We generally start cutting by Father’s Day. However, the wheat crop took a little longer to dry down because of the high humidity. We checked fields a couple days earlier, but the kernels were still soft — you could make a dent with your fingernail.

After several days of blistering temperatures and winds, the wheat was ripe. V. says you can hear when it’s ready. It rustles as it waves in the wind.

Ripe Winter Wheat June 2013

 

I enjoyed some time riding in the combine with V. (A combine is the machinery that cuts the wheat in the field and separates the kernel from the rest of the plant.) Mostly, I’m on the “support crew,” helping with meals, supply runs, chores, etc. We’re lucky in that we only have to haul wheat about three miles to the nearest grain elevator (a facility that stores grain in large steel or concrete bins).

The condition of the crop? We saw the toll from the late freezes. The stems in some areas were weakened and that wheat laid over. The combines were able to pick up most of it. Besides that, the yields looked good. We’re surprised and pleased after the rollercoaster growing season.

V. sums it up with this statement: “I love wheat harvest and I hate wheat harvest.” I know he wouldn’t have it any other way. Me either.

Here are a few scenes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPb4QM4JuJ8

Thanks for following our crop this year. The 2014 crop starts now.

Deep Creek Schoolhouse, Manhattan, Kansas

Deep Creek Schoolhouse, Manhattan, Kansas

Kansas Agri-Women: One Kansas farmer feeds 155 people + you.

Kansas Agri-Women: One Kansas farmer feeds 155 people + you.

DeepCreeksign

Deep Creek window

Wheat flourAndy Goodman, an expert in public interest communications, drew me in to his newsletter with this headline: What all good stories have in common. I’m a seeker — and, hopefully, a writer — of good stories, so thought this to be a must-read. It was.

In his recent newsletter, Goodman shares Brian McDonald’s thoughts on “The Golden Theme.” McDonald teaches screenwriting and storytelling. He asserts in his book of the same name that all good stories have this  main message: We are all the same.

McDonald’s theme has been sloshing around in my brain. It’s settled on how I share agriculture’s story. Perhaps I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve been telling stories from a farm family’s point of view. Here’s what we plant, how we plant it, why we plant it. Here’s the livestock we raise, how we raise it, why we raise it. Because I told you that, you should care about agriculture.

Who can relate, except maybe other farm families? Instead, I should focus on what we all have in common. Very few of us are farmers and many could care less if they ever step foot on a farm. However, we do all eat. We do all want safe, healthy and delicious food.

As one eater to another, that’s exactly why I’ll continue sharing stories from the farm,  keeping that golden theme in mind.

There were about 35 people in the Farm Bureau building on auction night — farmers, investors, brokers and others. Most were there out of curiosity about what the quarter section (160 acres) would bring.  At the end, only one person mattered, and he wasn’t even in the room. V. had the winning bidding for his uncle, who listened by phone from Virginia.

The price went higher than was expected, $1,950 an acre — and higher than Uncle wanted to pay. The next day I emailed him to see how he was doing. His response: “Shouldn’t I be OK? LOL.”

He was looking for a good investment and feels he found one. The ground is right across from our home quarter and near other land Uncle owns. (Here’s a glimpse on this frosty December morning:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD5OfAtvjJA.)

We’re very pleased for the opportunity to farm more land. It also feels good to look out over Woolf land. Maybe someday, our son can farm it for Uncle’s daughters and grandchildren.

That’s the other value of farmland — what the land means for farm families. This rang especially true when I talked to the sellers, the granddaughters of the original owner. Their reason for selling: To help care for their father in his remaining years. Comments from Dana: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf8IFvXpx9s.

Season to season, family to family.

Wheat berry salad

November 24, 2010

Kansas hard red winter wheatWheat farmers like us love seeing all the whole wheat products on grocery store shelves these days. It’s good to see food beyond the traditional breads and crackers, including whole wheat pasta, tortillas and pizza crust.

My farmer found a recipe that offers another way to enjoy wheat — this time with the whole berry. Wheat berry salad has become a family favorite and I thought your family might enjoy, too. It’s delicious hot or cold — and tastes great with leftover turkey sandwiches.

You’ll have to explore beyond the grocery store to find wheat berries. Here are two online sources: www.bakerscatalogue.com and www.bobsredmill.com. And, I happen to know a farmer who would be glad to share, too.

Enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wheat berry salad

Ingredients and directions:

  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 cups cooked wheat berries (recipe follows)
  • 1 large apple, unpeeled, diced
  • 1/2 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped or unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Combine orange juice and cranberries in a small bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Combine cooked wheat berries, apple and nuts in a large bowl; stir gently. Drain the cranberries, reserving the juice. Stir the cranberries into the wheat berry mixture.

Whisk the reserved orange juice, vinegar and oil in a small bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and stir gently to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Cooked Wheat Berry recipe

  • 2 cups hard red winter-wheat berries
  • 7 cups cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any chaff. Rinse well under cool running water. Place in a large heavy saucepan. Add water and salt.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse. To serve hot, use immediately. Otherwise, make it ahead for a cold salad. (Both are delicious.)

Power of Kansas ag

October 11, 2010

Kansas Farmers Tony & Anita HorinekThe second Kansas Farm Bureau Masters class proved how powerful ag is in Kansas — and the impact our producers have worldwide. Tour stops included:

This was my first trip to northwest Kansas. I often wondered why people lived here, a question based on solely on television weather reports. It always seemed desolate and prone to severe weather. Both are true. However, I now understand the pull of an area that is so true to its Kansas beginnings — pioneers committed to making a living from the soil.

These Kansans are continuing to pioneer the way, now with the intersection of agriculture and technology. Here, Tony Horinek explain how and why he farms 8,000 acres using no-tillage methods and precision ag technology: http://www.youtube.com/user/lynnwoolf?feature=mhum#p/u/0/yPNJOQSt1kA

Listen also to KSU research engineer Freddie Lamm detail his work in underground drip irrigation. The approach may offer a solution to shrinking water supplies: http://www.youtube.com/user/lynnwoolf?feature=mhum#p/u/1/SJoG2YULj3I

Overall, I was amazed at how much these professionals shared about their work. They truly seemed to love their jobs. Maybe it’s because they’re in the middle of it all, despite being tucked away in Kansas.

Learning in the field

September 13, 2010

Kansas ranch“Can you think of anything that doesn’t come from agriculture?” That was the opening question of the Kansas Farm Bureau Masters Class XII. And, it was a good one to kick off this six-session adult education program. 

The program’s official focus: Leadership development through increased understanding of the agricultural industry. This year’s group includes 18 people from 13 different counties. Many of us have deep experience in agriculture. However, agriculture is a complex and changing industry, so we’re seeking more knowledge and more connections to those who share our passion.

After that brief discussion, we headed from the Kansas Farm Bureau boardroom to the field. Farm Bureau member, Extension Educator, farmer and rancher Glenn Brunkow led us on a tour of his beautiful Flint Hills pasture ground. The topics ranged from feed to RFID (radio frequency identification) tagging to farm safety to herd and pasture management.  Hear his interesting thoughts on grazing and burning: http://bit.ly/coxTn5

It was an invigorating day, despite the near-100-degree temperatures. We had three more stops — a corn field, soybean field and equipment dealership. I love hearing experts explain agriculture. I also greatly enjoyed the camaraderie of the class, as we each shared bits and pieces of our own ag world.

Next session: Colby, Kan., nicknamed “The Oasis on the Plains.” The topic: Managing resources for an efficient, productive agriculture.

When bins fly

August 22, 2010

You know the moment — that micro-millisecond — when you see  something terribly wrong, but before your brain has  processed it? We experienced just such a moment a week ago. We were driving home about 9:30 p.m. when we saw our small 1,000-bushel grain bin in the neighbor’s field. It was dark and rainy, so we could only see as far as the headlights.

The devastation was frightening as we made our way through our farmyard. Power lines were down. Our 7000-bushel bin was caved in from the impact of the small bin, which had been blown from its foundation. Our mini-van, which we owned just six weeks, was smashed in on one side – another victim of the flying grain bin. Our cattle shed, which V., his dad and D. rebuilt just two years ago, was obliterated from the straight-line winds that reached 70 mph. V.’s pickup was buried in the rubble. Thankfully, the house  had just minor shingle damage. In fact, the power had only been out a short time. If we hadn’t stopped at the grocery store, we would have been smack dab in the middle of it.

We had a restless, restless night as we calmed D. and E. and fretted about what was ahead. The morning light revealed more damage — our 70-year-old red barn was shifted eight inches off its foundation, augers and windows were smashed, and our seed wheat was trapped in the crushed bin.

I shed many tears. We will never replace the large bin. It was put up when V.’s family stored a lot of wheat and milo. The cattle shed’s block foundation, each block poured and laid  by V.’s Grandpa, could not be saved. Both our van and the pickup were sure to be total losses. 

The next morning and all this week, V. and his dad, Stanley, showed me yet again what it means to be a farm family. It’s OK to look back on your farm’s legacy, as long as it doesn’t keep you from looking forward. You get up, clean up and rebuild. Along the way, you share meals and care for kids, animals and crops. In fact, thanks to our rural electric cooperative and a caring neighbor, we had power restored by 11:30 a.m. — and came in as usual for a large noon meal.

V. says our farm will be better than ever when all is said and done. I know he’s absolutely right. Plus, our kids will have a great story to tell their own kids as they sit in our yet-to-be-built cattle shed.

A conversation

July 15, 2010

A big deal happened for me this week — I was featured in the “A Conversation With…” feature in the Wichita Eagle’s Sunday business section: http://bit.ly/9750Gz. I was flattered, flabbergasted and flushed. What would we talk about?

The business reporter, Karen Shideler, was interested in my roles as a writer and PR counselor — and that of a farm wife.  Karen is a pro and very easy to talk with, so it was a fun conversation. I greatly appreciated her take on my life here on Woolf Farms.

The conversations after the Conversation have been just as fun. Two families are planning visits to our farm. I’m meeting with one soon-to-be ag journalist and connected with a colleague, who is also doing ag advocacy, on the ethanol front. Others sent notes detailing  fond memories of their grandparents’ farms. This note from retired schoolteacher and farm wife Kay Wulf made my day.

Today’s Americans may be generations removed, but the family farm is still very much embedded in our culture. Let’s keep it that way.

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