Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Full Pantry

I grew up 15 minutes from a grocery store, so my Mom kept a well-stocked pantry. These days, a forgotten ingredient would also require a 30-minute round trip investment of time, energy and gas. So, my pantry is usually filled to overflowing.

I understood perfectly when Randy looked at the piled-high silo and said, "It's good to see it full."
From upper left: Our trench silo; our neighbor's silo (his doesn't have sides, so you can see it better); looking from the bottom up; a handful of the freshly-cut silage.
While we won't dine on these provisions set aside for winter, our cattle will.
Photos from Winter 2011 - (from upper left) Scooping out silage from the trench silo with the loader tractor; dumping it in the feed truck; the truck putting it in the feed troughs; the cattle enjoying their breakfast!
We hired Sallabedra Harvesting to bring their silage cutter, a tractor and three trucks to cut 25 acres of silage. They started cutting late Sunday afternoon after finishing our neighbor's silage crop. For years, Randy's family and that neighbor's family did the job themselves. When Randy was young, they had a one-row, pull-type silage cutter. Then they upgraded to a two-row, pull-type silage cutter. They each provided a tractor, one to pull the cutter and the other to use to pack the trench silo.

They each provided a truck to haul the cut silage from the field to the silo. And the wives provided a harvest meal for the four- to six-man crew. Randy says it took two days to get everything ready. It took a week to get both family's silage cut and in the silos. And then it took another two days to get everything cleaned up.

It took about 4 hours from start to finish for the Salladedra Harvest crew to get 'er done. This year, though, since they got a late start, they didn't get done by dark, so they had to come and finish up on Monday morning. Still, that's my kind of harvest ... FAST!
Randy's 6-foot, 1-inch frame was dwarfed by this year's tall silage crop. We grow the silage (also known as forage sorghum) for cattle feed. This particular variety is dual purpose: It has both grain and forage (or roughage), both of which are important to the cattle's diets as TDN - total digestible nutrients.

Silage cutting is another one of those choreographed farm "dances." The silage feeds into the cutter and is chopped. An auger carries the chopped silage into the truck.
All this happens "on the go," with the truck and the cutter continuing in sync through the field until they get to the end of the rows. They then move into position for the next swath down the field.
As they cut, another truck follows behind, ready to move into position when the first truck is full.
Once it's full, the trucker takes it to the silo. By design, Randy plants the silage in fields fairly close to the silo so that it doesn't have to be trucked so far.
My silo photos from Sunday night aren't the best because I was looking into the sun. I would imagine visibility for the tractor driver was a little questionable, too, as he pushed the silage into our own version of Green Mountain.
The photos below are from 2011, when the silage cutting was in the morning, rather than the late afternoon, so you can see how the silage truck backs into the trench silo, dumps his load and takes off for another load-on-the-go.
Here's a better photo of the tractor driver packing the silage down, also from 2011.

There are two goals for packing the silage. It allows more to be put into the "pantry," so to speak, and it helps the fermenting process. Once in the silo, the silage goes through an "ensiling" process. It goes through chemical changes, and the heat builds up. It raises the pH of the silage so that it doesn't spoil or ferment any longer. The top 6 inches of it will rot, then it forms an airtight seal, protecting the silage underneath.

After we bring the cows and calves off the summer pastures, the guys will start feeding the silage to the cattle. The mama cows will get the silage as is. For the feeder calves, Randy & Jake will add about 3 to 4 pounds of vitamin- and mineral-enriched grain per head, since they need the additional energy to grow to get ready for market.

It's good to get another harvest crossed off the books ... and to see the cattle's "pantry" full and ready for Old Man Winter.


  1. Thanks for the photos. I've never seen sorghum chopped for silage--we're in corn and soybean country.

    I understand your need for a deep pantry--I have one, too. There aren't many recipe ingredients that are worth a half hour round trip to the grocery store.

    1. I just might take the pantry thing a bit too seriously. It may sometimes spill over into the laundry room. On the other hand, I rarely run out of a staple. :-)