Wall of Squares

August 5, 2012

Recently, after wheat harvest, farmers in this area have hired baling operations to come in and bale the wheat straw into large square bales. (The straw is left after the combines harvest the grain.)

These large squares are much easier to stack and transport on a semi trailer than the traditional round bales. Until they’re loaded on a trailer, the bales are stacked at the edge of the field. The balers are fun to watch and I love the wall of squares along the country roads.

Large square baler

Large square wheat straw bales

Pretty Vetch

July 6, 2012

Prairie hay bales

Prairie hay bales

Checked out the bales on our river pasture this afternoon. More bales than during last year’s drought, so we’re happy about that.

Vetch is growing in the ditches. The color is just so pretty.


Martha’s Gate

June 30, 2012

Martha’s Gate is on highway 77 in Dickson County, Kansas. I often drive by, but stopped this time to admire Martha’s pasture and cows.

I hope Martha is around the next time I drive by. I’d like to meet her — and compliment her on her beautiful piece of country.

Harvest skies

May 31, 2012

Two skies of harvest.

One tiny cloud over ripe wheat, ready to be harvested.

Storm clouds roll in over a wheat field that was just harvested.

2012 wheat harvest is off to a record start.

Wheat harvest is off to a record start this year . We started cutting on Saturday, May 26. That’s 15 days earlier than our previous record start date, according to my farmer-in-law, who has kept a daily journal for years and years.

We had high hopes for our crop this year (and every year). We had good planting conditions last fall and good moisture during the growing season. However, by mid-April and early May, temperatures turned hot and the rains stopped. The plants were tall, but we get paid on the weight of the kernels, not the vegetation. We worried about the wheat kernels drying too fast. Small, hard kernels weigh less than plump, hard kernels. Wheat is priced per bushel, with each bushel of wheat weighing 60 pounds.

We do quick calculations throughout harvest. We’re still early, but yields look OK. We won’t know for sure until the last scale ticket from the co-op.

Each harvest has memorable moments. The best of the year so far: Grandpa let D. steer the combine. I was riding with V. and we could see both of them smiling from ear to ear. (We were, too.)

D.’s take afterward: “Grandpa says I’m a natural.”

Looking forward to another day of harvest memories.

Willie the orphan lamb

April 22, 2012

Willie the orphan lamb

I’ve been a farm wife for more than 20 years. Not once has a farm animal made its way into the house.  That is, until a couple of weeks ago when a ewe (female sheep) died after giving birth. What to do but start bottle feeding her lamb? Since the little male, who came to be known as Willie, needed to eat about every four hours, he came inside.

My farmer-in-law brought out a baby bottle and diapers from the grocery store and we were set. Since Willie had only sucked on his mother for a short time — and because he was hungry — he quickly took to the bottle. We started him on canned goat milk until we were able to buy powdered milk replacer for sheep.

He was just so darn cute — always eager to eat, snuggle and play. The kids took turns falling asleep with him each night. I would gather him up before I went to bed, so he could have his last bottle of the day and then settled him in to his blanket in our mud room. I didn’t even mind those 2 a.m. feedings.

But, lambs grow up and need to be sheep. So, today Willie is back outside in his pen. We brought home a three-week-old Alpine dairy goat buck yesterday, so he has a pen mate. We just finished feeding both for the night. When we left, they were busy practicing butting heads. Their pen is full of fresh straw, so I’m sure they’ll tuck themselves in soon. Or, not. Who knows what happens in the farmyard when the farmer goes in the house?

Early wheat

April 17, 2012

This spring’s warm temperatures have ripened our wheat crop way ahead of schedule. Kansas Ag Statistics officially shows that the crop is two to three weeks ahead of average. For us, that means harvest could be as early as late May. That would be a record-setting start.

My farmer is always anxious to harvest wheat as soon as possible, but losing three weeks of prep time is a big deal. We held our breath this past weekend when tornadoes pummelled Kansas. Some reports showed as many as 100 tornadoes passed through in just a few hours. As we watched the news, we couldn’t help but think about those whose crops were destroyed. My 10-year-old farmer spoke from experience when he said, “I hope they have insurance.”

Here’s what our fields looked like today. All the fields are “headed out” (grain emerged) and the seeds are pollinating. After that, the seeds will start “filling” or reaching maturity. The wheat will be golden and the heads will droop when the crop is dry enough to harvest.

Kansas ripening wheat field, April 2012

For now, we’ll enjoy these lush green fields with so much promise.

Twin lambs born on National Ag Day 2012.

These twin lambs were born this morning, on National Ag Day. One is male and one female and they’re doing great. This is the first lambing for this ewe and she’s keeping them warm and full. See them in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrHOHVriP9c&feature=g-upl&context=G27b7a95AUAAAAAAAAAA.

Last year, we also had an Ag Day birthday.  My 4Her took “Sparkles” to the Sedgwick County Fair last July and she’s now part of our herd. Here she was a year ago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbOLxpLdBbU&feature=channel.

Happy Ag Day everyone. Thanks farmers and ranchers for all you do.

Grill personalities

February 24, 2012

This Saturday, local auctioneer John Hillman is holding his annual farm equipment consignment auction. We love John’s auctions — whether he’s selling farm equipment, estate furniture or 4-H animals.  He and his team always run a good sale — fair, fast and fun. My favorite line of his: “I’ll let you know when the price is too high.”

We headed to the auction site in Cheney yesterday to check out trailers ahead of the sale. While V. was comparing, I was wandering. I love seeing vehicle grills from different decades. Some look menacing, some serious, others just plain goofy. Take a look:

2002 IHC 4300 Truck

1964 GMC Wheat Truck

1962 GMC Wheat Truck

1975 Chevy Wheat Truck

Case 830 (1960s)

I’m supposed to be blogging about TEDxICT or my new logo, designed by my artist friend, Barb.

Instead, I’m back to a familiar topic — Kansas weather.  I was just talking with V. that we were almost put back together after the August, 2010 storm. We had replaced our cattle shed, built new seed bins and added a new machine/hay shed. Next up, rebuilding (for the second time) our red barn.

Not yet. A storm two days ago — with winds reaching 70 mph — destroyed our cattle shed, again. It was one of those times when we’re reminded that farm life — even though it’s amazing and fulfilling — is also really tough.

So, what are the lessons learned? One thing’s, for sure, we won’t build in the same spot. V.’s grandpa’s shed, which we rebuilt two years ago, lasted for more than 50 years. We had two destroyed in 18 months. Maybe it’s bad luck, but we’re not interested in proving the theory. Instead, we’ll shift the shelter and handling facilities to the other side of the cattle and horse pen, to an area that has some wind break. As long as we’re reconfiguring, we’re rethinking fencing so we can link this pen with our sheep and goat pens.

In the meantime, the cattle are out on tasty wheat pasture and will take shelter in the tree row. Brandy (our horse) and Raji (D.’s 4H steer) will have a makeshift sun shade for a while.

And, V. and I are headed to the co-op this afternoon to look at new building options. At least the sun is shining — and the wind is back down to about 20 mph.


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