Amber Waves of Grain

Amber Waves of Grain

Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Penny for Your Thoughts: A Horse Tale

Lisa on Penny and me on the ground - where I belong!
A Penny for your thoughts. Really, Penny was in my thoughts Tuesday evening as a couple of cowboys came to help us round up a bull.

I've never been a horse person. I didn't go through the preteen fascination that seems to afflict a bevy of girls, including my sister, Lisa, who had a horse named Penny. I left the fancy fringed shirt and cowboy boots to Lisa and her 4-H project. I was much more inclined to have both feet planted firmly on the ground. Give me a foods project or the reading project - both decidedly indoor activities - and I was much happier. I even liked working on 4-H books. (I know I am an anomaly, but I've always liked the art of telling a story.)
We typically use what Randy calls "Japanese horses" for our cattle roundups. But we've attempted on more than one occasion this summer to round up a bull who decided the neighboring pasture looked better than the one he was supposed to occupy. The Kawasakis just weren't doing the job this time. Every time we'd get there, Mr. Bull would hide in plum thickets.

A neighbor recommended a freelance cowboy who had helped him with a similar predicament. Cory's business card reads, "I don't turn wrenches and I don't build fences!"
He and his friend, Tyler, didn't have time until evening, so we were dodging raindrops and nervously watching lightning streak across the sky as the cowboys unloaded their horses - Darlin' and Marly - and took off across the pasture in search of Mr. Bull.
 
We parked the pickup and trailer on top of a hill so we could watch the cowboy's progress and bring in cattle panels if the job required it.
Have you ever heard the song, "The Cowboys Lament?" I had my own lament going as I regretted not grabbing my real camera as we dashed out the door to go load up panels.
My cell phone camera's telephoto lens didn't do the scene justice. The bull who had dashed swiftly into the plum thickets on Monday during our attempts at a round-up ambled up the hill toward the portable corrals.
I could see one of the cowboy's lariats swirling on occasion to provide a subconscious nudge when the bull had other ideas. I could hear a subtle "yip, yip" as the cowboys completed their mission.
With little fanfare, the guys helped us load the bull into the trailer and rode off in the sunset.
Well, they rode off to the north, where there pickups and trailers were parked, but you get the idea.
Kinley and Brooke are now in that little girl horse fascination phase. I have to say I'm understanding that attraction at the moment ... not enough to get on a horse, of course. Just enough to appreciate them a little more.

And the bull? He got a chauffeured ride to the Pratt sale barn.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

It Is What It Is: Corn Harvest 2019



It is what it is.

It's a philosophy of life I suppose I learned at my parents' dinner table. Both my brother and I seem to use it with some regularity. I believe the phrase has been transcribed on a homemade plaque at the family farmstead.
 
That sums up corn harvest, which we completed last week. It wasn't the worst corn harvest we've ever had. It wasn't the best.

It is what it is.
 
In this case, the overall average was 66.6 bushels per acre. The high was 97 bu/acre and the low was 61 bu/acre. (If 66.6 was the average, you can deduce that there was more in the 60-bushel range than the 90s.) We don't have irrigation, so these are dryland crop totals. From what we hear from neighbors and family, our average is fairly consistent with others in our area for dryland fields.

In all honesty, Randy was a little disappointed with the yield. We had a lot of subsoil moisture at the beginning of the growing season. But I guess we just didn't get the rain and cooler temperatures we needed during grain filling. There were fairly large mudholes where no crop grew. As Randy says, "I guess it's Kansas."

How does Corn Harvest 2019 stack up with previous years' averages?
2019 - 66.6 bu/acre
2018 - 82 bu/acre
2017 - 43.6 bu/acre
2016 - 71 bu/acre
2015 43.88 bu/acre
2014 - 108 bu/acre
2013 - 57 bu/acre (This was the first year we added corn into the crop rotation).

When you reach the end of a season, it's always good to look back to where you've been. To read more about each stage, click on the links:
We started planting corn on April 15, 2019, and finished April 25 or so. Wheat has always been our primary crop. However, the prevented planting of wheat acres due to excessive moisture last fall meant an increase to those we devoted to corn on the County Line. The cost of planting corn is appreciably higher than the cost of planting wheat due to seed costs, fertilizer and herbicide. Because we are a totally dryland farm, wheat typically performs better than corn on our acreage. 

We planted 600 acres of corn. To compare: In 2018, we planted 280 acres of corn.
The corn was emerging in early May.
June 21, 2019
By mid-June and the beginning of summer, it was knee high.
As advertised in a song from a musical, the corn was "as high as an elephant's eye" in July
July 8, 2019
At least it was high as a farmer's eye.
 
By the end of August, the corn was starting to dry down. It was too dry to take to the feedlot for high-moisture corn and not quite dry enough to haul to the elevator.
Our corn wasn't a bumper crop. But neither was our wheat this year. This is the first time we have more corn bushels to sell than wheat bushels. (We planted 1,080 acres of wheat vs. the 600 of corn. Part of that is the difference in the size of the kernel. Corn kernels are bigger and heavier than wheat kernels. Corn typically produces more bushels per acre than wheat, and that was definitely true this year when we had the poorest wheat harvest we'd had in the 10 years I've been blogging.)
And so we finish up another task on the County Line. 

It is what it is. 

And, as one of my dad's other signs - and sayings - goes, we'll keep on hoeing.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

God's Handwriting

Sunrise, September 17, 2019 - Happy Birthday, Jill!

A Time to Think

Never lose an opportunity for seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting, a wayside sacrament.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Time to Act

Open your arms to beautiful moments and they will come to you.

A Time to Pray

Today God, let me shine for You.
From a Guideposts email devotional

I like to bracket my days with beauty on both ends.
From sunrise skies in the east ...
to sunset skies in the west.
Most of the time, I witness these spectacles by myself with cicadas' buzz as a white-noise undertone. But one evening this week, I had some company. When I saw the pretty clouds and setting sun, I drove to a neighbor's windmill, a vantage point I've used before when featuring the western sky.

When I arrived, the cattle were congregated at the windmill, the bovine equivalent to an evening cocktail hour, I suppose.
I was the party crasher. And they were curious. They kept creeping closer ...
... and closer ...
... and closer ...
 
 ... until I had several standing at the gate. I don't know whether they thought I had grain or hay. But I arrived at the party empty-handed (other than my camera, of course), so we just had some polite conversation before I departed.
I made a couple of other stops before going home ...
... watching the day's light dwindle away like a cowboy riding into the distant sunset.
And I was again reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson's words:

Never lose an opportunity
 for seeing anything that is beautiful; 
for beauty is God's handwriting,
 a wayside sacrament.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Pickin' and Grinnin': 2019 Corn Harvest

This sign shows the scale operator at the co-op which field this truckload is from.
Noun
pickin' and grinnin'
1. (chiefly US, music, idiomatic) Vigorous playing of folk or country music on a stringed musical instrument, especially the guitar or banjo, while smiling broadly.

***

Are we picking corn or cutting corn? That is the question.

I fall back on my wheat harvest terminology and say we are "cutting corn." My Farmer says that there just might be an old fella or two at Joan's Cafe who would correct me. They are of the "corn picking" vernacular.

No matter how you say it, we are in the midst of corn harvest. (I think my "corn harvest" semantics will please all "cutting" and "picking" camps.)

The jury is still out as to whether we are really grinnin' about the 2019 corn harvest yields. 
For one thing, we have large mudholes where we were unable to plant corn this spring. (If you're a regular reader, you will know that we planted more corn because we were unable to plant wheat last fall due to overwhelming rainfall. It remained wet through the spring.)

However, as is the farmer's lament, temperatures soared about the time the corn was filling, and we didn't get rain in time on some of the fields. So, as I said, the jury is still out on yields.

Our combine has an eight-row header. (In the photo below, you can't see all eight rows.)
I think they look a little like missiles as they move down between the rows. The corn ears are pulled off the corn stalk and are dragged into the combine with rollers. Inside the combine, the corn kernels are separated from the husks and cobs. Then the cobs and debris are dispersed out the back of the combine.
 Once the combine bin gets full ...
... it's time to dump it into the truck. Many farmers have a grain cart pulled by a tractor to do this step, but we unload from the combine directly into the truck.
You can see the entire combine header in the photo above.
One day last week, I went along with Randy to Zenith to deliver a load of corn.

Back when I was a teenage wheat truck driver, I used to carefully apply my blue eye shadow before I made my trips from the field to the Iuka Co-op.
 
Who knew what cute teenage boy truck drivers I might see as I was untarping the truck?
I guess I did find my cute truck driver. It just took me a few years.
It's definitely a different perspective to be rolling down the Zenith road in a semi, rather than my low-slung car.  
Photo taken another day
Once we arrived at Zenith, Randy untarped the semi.
Once we weighed on at the scale house, we went to dump the grain, this time, at the outside pit.
Photo from 2015 - headed to the outside dump location
 And I took more photos from a different perspective than I normally get. (Big surprise, right?)
 
 After we were empty, we weighed back on at the scale house ...
... where we picked up the ticket, before driving back to the field to do it all over again.
 
Yes, I was the truck driver for many years - both growing up and after I married Randy. And yes, I could learn to drive the semi if needed. So far, my services have not been required.
I know a lot of farm wives love driving the combine. But at this point in my life, I will leave that job to the guy who's been doing it since high school. Even though we bought the combine at a farm auction used, we are still paying for it. I'll leave it to my cute driver to operate the high-dollar equipment. I'm good going along for the ride.
Photo through the dirty windshield!