Blog header design

I recently was given the opportunity to design a blog header for my friend Katie. She had the vision of a watercolor scene that represented landscape and landmarks of the northern Montana prairies where she lives. What a fun challenge!

Katie is a great writer, an accomplished runner, and a valuable farming advocate. It's worth your time to check out her wonderful blog!

Washington, D.C. trip

I know this post is really old news, but this was such an amazing opportunity for Tom and I that I had to take the time to record it here, even if just for our own sake. 

Last fall Tom and I took our final trip with the Farmers Union Young Ag Leadership Couples group. (That's a mouthful). For background information about our involvement in this group, revisit this post about our first trip, this post, and this post

Twice a year, Farmer's Union holds a Fly-in, which is an opportunity for all Farmer's Union states to send representation to D.C. to meet with Congressman and advocate (or lobby) for our positions regarding current Agricultural policies. As part of our Leadership training, we were invited to join the Montana contingency on this trip. 

Since neither of us had ever been to D.C., we couldn't miss the chance to do a bit of sight-seeing, so we flew in a day early. 

I decided to leave my big camera at home in favor of traveling light. My photo quality suffered but my back appreciated the sacrifice. 

Our first stop was the National Air & Space Museum. We also spent time in the Holocaust Museum (my favorite and the most impactful) and the American History Museum. You could spend days just touring the museums, of course.

We met up with some of our group and toured the mall. I like this photo of me with our friend Cassandra—here are two farm moms from Western Montana, playing tourists in D.C. Nothing remarkable about that. But we were looking forward to being inside those government buildings the next day, meeting face to face with the people who run our country. That is an opportunity not everyone gets to experience. 

North Dakota Farmer's Union actually owns two very popular restaurants in D.C. that serve farm to table food. We enjoyed eating at each of them (one of them twice) and they ARE all they are cracked up to be! So if you are ever in the area, be sure to try Farmers, Fishers & Bakers, and Founding Farmers. 

Tom and I noticed there were several Segway tour options in the area, and since we had done this once before in Salt Lake, we talked some of our group into going on a Segway Tour with us. Here we are suited up and a little nervous about navigating Segways through busy D.C. traffic. 

Once we got comfortable (it is very intuitive and fun), we all agreed this was the way to see a lot of sights in a short time. We each wore a headset so we could hear our tour guide, who was very funny and full of information.

Our group in front of the White House:

We saw many of the sights on the Mall and parked our Segways for a tour of the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials.

When we stopped in front of the Capitol, our tour guide told us about the dome scaffolding. The restoration isn't scheduled to be complete until after the new president takes office in 2017, so they actually have a multi-million dollar contract in place to remove the scaffolding for the inauguration, and then put it back up to complete the renovation. Government waste at it's finest.

That night back in our hotel we were watching TV and caught a speech Trump was making to a group of college students. He happened to be mentioning this particular Capitol project. He said "If I were in charge of this project, I would just say 'work faster!' But since I'm not in charge, this is the first money I will save our country if you elect me President. We can have the Inauguration with the scaffolding in place!"  Ha ha. 

On a recommendation from our Segway tour guide, we capped off the tour with lunch at D.C.'s oldest restaurant, the Old Ebbit Grill.  The atmosphere and food was most excellent. I am getting hungry thinking about those crab cakes...

The next day we spent time at the National Farmer's Union offices visiting with staff and preparing our talking points for the visits with the Legislators. We were each assigned to a small group and assigned appointments to visit various congressmen/women. Some appointments were drop-offs only (we left information regarding our position on certain issues), some were meetings with secretaries or Ag Advisors, and others were with the Senators or Reps themselves. 

This is our group (minus one of the ladies who wasn't able to attend):

While most of our group attended a press briefing at the Dept of Ag the next morning, our Montana group was invited to a muffins and coffee social with our Montana delegation.

And here we are, hobnobbing with our Senators and Representative: Senator Steve Daines, Representative Ryan Zinke, and Senator John Tester. (Yes, there are only 3 of them. With just over a million in population, the 4th largest state in our union has only 1 Representative.) 

I should have prepared better for this event by eating breakfast before, but naturally I assumed that breakfast with our delegation meant we would be eating there. Moments before this photo was taken with Senator Daines (left), I was unsuccessfully juggling my coffee and muffin on a plate, and managed to drop my muffin on the floor right at the Senator's feet. Classy. Without missing a beat he bent down and picked up for me and set it aside. Yes.

After that, we joined the others at the USDA in time to catch lunch at their giant cafeteria. I should have a photo of this. If anyone can have an impressive cafeteria the USDA should, yes? I think I wandered around for about 25 minutes completely unable to make a decision about what to eat. I settled on the salad bar, which wasn't a sacrifice. 

In the afternoon we were invited to a Press Briefing at the White House, for which we had to submit our information for clearance several weeks in advance. We were told what time to show up at the gates to go through security, and we spent a warm afternoon standing in line outside the White House gates. The process was not without entertainment.

The security in Washington is eye-opening. They say it has ramped up considerably while Obama has been in office. We had seen a number of motorcades traveling through town already, usually including a police escort or two with sirens blaring. You always wonder who is riding by through the dark glass of the vehicles. This time we didn't wonder. It was obvious it was the president. As we walked toward the White House, we noticed there were suddenly police everywhere. Then as we approached a street corner there were police stopping traffic and yelling at any pedestrians who dared approach the curb. We found a safe place away from the street to stop and watch. After awhile, the President's motorcade drove by, heading toward the White House gates. The video below isn't the best view, but I think I counted at least 15 vehicles including multiple SUVs, an ambulance, police, etc. 

After that little event we needed to cross north of the White House to the gates where we were to check in. Normally you can cross just beyond the White House lawn, but security personnel kept pushing us north away from the area, so we had to take a long detour around as they were preparing for a helicopter to land. 

After some time we saw the helicopter take off again. We were told the President was leaving for a meeting across the river in Virginia. Whenever the President travels by helicopter, three helicopters take off at the same time and immediate scramble in the air so you don't know which one contains the president. 

When we were finally allowed in the gates we went through several stages of security. We were in fact not going into the actual White House—only the Eisenhower Office building next to it. Very few people are actually allowed in the White House anymore, as I understand it.  

This is the room where our briefing was held. Some of our group snuck a photo of themselves behind the official White House podium. I just remember sitting in very comfortable chairs and having a terrible time trying to stay awake while we listened for 2 hours to various members of President and First Lady's staff. 

That night we were treated to a nighttime tour of many of the monuments and war memorials. They were almost more impactful at night, especially the Korean War Memorial (the last photo).

Finally, our last two days of the actual Fly-in arrived, and we dressed in our business best and pounded the pavement between the Senate and Representative office buildings. 

This is me doing one of our drop-off visits. 

And this is the group of us that met with Senator Tester in his office. 

I really like each one of our Montana Delegates and found them all to be very personable. I was impressed that they each took the time to visit with us. They even took the time to discuss some very personal issues with some in our Montana group. Farmer's Union definitely played a roll in opening doors for us, and it was clear to me that the National Farmer's Union president, Roger Johnson, has a great rapport with those in power in Washington. They listen to what he has to say.

If you are interested at all in being involved with an organization where you can make an impact and have a voice in the politics affecting Agriculture and small family farms, Farmer's Union is the place to do it. Other organizations might be larger, but this one will give you the platform to have a direct voice. 

Farmer's Union chooses a new couple from Montana each year to participate in this Leadership program, so if you are a young (-ish) couple (or even a young single) in Agriculture and are interested in an amazing experience, I would invite you to let us know. Opportunities abound!

weekend update

This weekend on the farm:

We finished our spring seeding. Now we just pray for rain!

Spring seeding wasn't entirely uneventful. If the seeder looks a little . . . wonky to you in this photo, that's because it had just broken an axle. It is a monster piece of equipment (this photo doesn't do it justice) and it is a little disconcerting to have just it just . . . break. It can be overwhelming sometimes to think about the size of things on the farm. Everyone has problems, but on the farm those problems can be VERY BIG problems. My parents spent a couple of days over Easter weekend running to Canada for the parts needed to fix the axle, and they were up and running again shortly after. Could have been worse.

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago while on a run on the bluffs overlooking Fort Benton. Things are greening up. I love spring!

In other news, basketball (of course).

Abby finished up her season with a 10-0 record. Sarah has one week left. Both girls played in a 3-on-3 tourney this weekend. Abby is an old pro but this was Sarah's first. 

I think the remarkable thing about the photo above is the dramatic difference in height between the two girls. (3 years age difference). Eva might be tall like her sister Abby!

This is Sarah's cute team. They finished strong in second place.

Abby's team took first place. The team they played in the Championship game were girls from their own Flight traveling team (right). They were all great sports and enjoyed playing each other. 

I turned another year older this weekend, too. Just one more reminder how fast time flies. I looked at old photos of the girls as babies. Wah! It just reminds me how important it is to record these moments because in a few short years we will be looking back on these busy days with faded memories and wistful nostalgia. 

Trip to Apostle Islands and FUE

This is bound to be a lengthy post, so feel free to just scan through the photos for a glimpse of a cool part of America you've probably never seen—or even considered as a destination! 

As I mentioned in a post last week, our family recently traveled to Bayfield, Wisconsin to attend a training event sponsored by Farmer's Union Enterprises (FUE).

FUE is a division of Farmer's Union that includes five states: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. What started as a collaboration to start a business to benefit the local farmers eventually grew into several businesses, all in the agricultural industry. You can read more about the businesses they own here. They are also behind a restaurant in the Washington, D.C. area that serves farm-to-table food directly from farms in our 5-state area. How cool is that?

As for how we got involved, this is an excerpt from North Dakota's website about the program.

Farmers Union Enterprises has a program for couples in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota in which each state selects one "Couple of the Year." The participating couple receives hands-on training on issues important to National Farmers Union such as advocacy leadership, becoming good communicators, NFU involvement and how to coordinate a meeting.

Tom and I weren't members of Farmers Union and weren't very familiar with their policies. However, we had fortune of meeting the previous year's couple at a Couple's Ag Conference we attended last year. We somehow made enough of an impression on them that they recommended us for this program as the 2014-2015 couple from Montana. What an amazing opportunity—so we jumped on it. 

Our first event took us to Wisconsin, which crosses a new state off my list. We were invited to bring our families for this event, and we gathered with both the outgoing and incoming couples from each state. We had a day of training (overlooking the beautiful Lake Superior) and then were able to meet and visit with the presidents of Farmer's Union in each state. 

 These are the couples we will be meeting with throughout 2014-2015. They represent a variety of ages and types of farming practices, and we will really enjoy getting to know each of them better!

These are the couples we will be meeting with throughout 2014-2015. They represent a variety of ages and types of farming practices, and we will really enjoy getting to know each of them better!

 In this photo we are joined by the outgoing couples, including the awesome couple from Montana (front left) to whom we owe our thanks for recommending us! 

In this photo we are joined by the outgoing couples, including the awesome couple from Montana (front left) to whom we owe our thanks for recommending us! 

Future events will take us to our Montana State Farmer's Union convention in October, the National Convention in Witchita, KS next March, and another family gathering with the new incoming couples in the Black Hills next summer. And the cherry on top—next year we will fly to D.C. and meet with the Committee leaders who influence our farm legislation. We are beyond excited for this educational opportunity.

But back to our trip.

We flew into Minneapolis, rented a car, and drove the 4-1/2 hours north to Bayfield. Bayfield lies right shores of Lake Superior. Our first glimpse of this massive lake was cresting over the hill into Duluth. 

 Duluth is an interesting place—full of ships, barges, bridges, and docking yards. It lies on the western-most point of all the Great Lakes, so of course it is a huge thoroughfare for goods moving back and forth to the East coast. 

Duluth is an interesting place—full of ships, barges, bridges, and docking yards. It lies on the western-most point of all the Great Lakes, so of course it is a huge thoroughfare for goods moving back and forth to the East coast. 

We stayed in the charming Bayfield Inn right on the waterfront, and immediately stretched our legs wandering along the shore and taking photos.

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 We thought this bench was pretty funny because it makes it look like Abby weighs a ton. Ha ha. 

We thought this bench was pretty funny because it makes it look like Abby weighs a ton. Ha ha. 

 And here is Eva with her classic camera pose.

And here is Eva with her classic camera pose.

 The gardens around Bayfield were amazing. It's obvious they take pride in their little community.

The gardens around Bayfield were amazing. It's obvious they take pride in their little community.

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 We let Eva pick a few flowers. :)

We let Eva pick a few flowers. :)

 The girls made a few new friends amongst the other farm families. The Wisconsin Farmer's Union camp counselors provided activities for the kids while the adults were in training, and they had a great time.

The girls made a few new friends amongst the other farm families. The Wisconsin Farmer's Union camp counselors provided activities for the kids while the adults were in training, and they had a great time.

 A look back towards the town. There are a lot of beautiful old houses from the days when the fishing industry flourished. Now it is mostly tourism keeping the town afloat.

A look back towards the town. There are a lot of beautiful old houses from the days when the fishing industry flourished. Now it is mostly tourism keeping the town afloat.

 The vastness of Lake Superior is amazing. It is the largest of the great lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area). If you dumped all the water of the other 4 great lakes into an empty Lake Superior, you still wouldn't fill it up. A big highlight of our trip was taking a 3-hour boat tour around the Apostle Islands, a chain of sandstone island formations that, with the exception of one populated island, are now all part of a National Park reserve.

The vastness of Lake Superior is amazing. It is the largest of the great lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area). If you dumped all the water of the other 4 great lakes into an empty Lake Superior, you still wouldn't fill it up. A big highlight of our trip was taking a 3-hour boat tour around the Apostle Islands, a chain of sandstone island formations that, with the exception of one populated island, are now all part of a National Park reserve.

 Over time the water has weathered deep caves into the sandstone. Apparently you can reach these caves over ice in the winter time and the ice formations within them are amazing. We heard quite a few interesting stories about traveling over ice roads from our boat captain, a native of the area.

Over time the water has weathered deep caves into the sandstone. Apparently you can reach these caves over ice in the winter time and the ice formations within them are amazing. We heard quite a few interesting stories about traveling over ice roads from our boat captain, a native of the area.

 There are several lighthouses on the islands. Even though the islands are unpopulated and the lighthouse technology is no longer necessary, they are still trying to maintain them as part of history. This lighthouse was under construction. 

There are several lighthouses on the islands. Even though the islands are unpopulated and the lighthouse technology is no longer necessary, they are still trying to maintain them as part of history. This lighthouse was under construction. 

 Some of the caves are large enough to take a small boat into, but we were warned that one must keep an eye out for large ships passing by because the resulting waves could cause some pretty bad bumps to the head if you were caught in a cave.

Some of the caves are large enough to take a small boat into, but we were warned that one must keep an eye out for large ships passing by because the resulting waves could cause some pretty bad bumps to the head if you were caught in a cave.

 Eva soaking in our friend's backyard pool, and sporting her signature camera pose again. 

Eva soaking in our friend's backyard pool, and sporting her signature camera pose again. 

We drove through some beautiful Wisconsin farm land on our way back to Minneapolis. I didn't get many photos of our time there, but we had an awesome night with some old friends and enjoyed their new pool. The next morning we met up with more friends and had a quick trip to the Mall of America before we had to head to the airport. 

Harvest was just getting rolling before we left, so we couldn't tarry. We definitely hit the ground running when we landed at home!

Hello, September.

Today I am going to force myself to sit down and try to remember how to blog again. I have so many thoughts—plans—ideas floating around in my head I hardly know where to begin. Dreaming can feel very unproductive and I guess at some point a person has to just buckle down and do something. Anything. Lots to do. I'll try to get into some of these plans/projects in upcoming posts. 

I am honored and amazed how many people have told me that they read this blog. I therefore feel terrible when I've neglected to post for so long and dearly hope all you of you will stick around through my dry spells. My absence here is easy to sum up with just one word—harvest. It might just be that August will always be a month of hiatus on this blog. But don't give up on me!

So, harvest. 

This year will be remembered by the seemingly constant stream of breakdowns we encountered. It left everyone feeling a bit cranky and anxious about being behind. Five or six weeks of harvest drags on long enough, and everyone gets a bit edgy trying to get the crop in the bin before bugs/wind/hail gets to it first.

Imagine having one of these tires go flat. It cost us a day's work and a few grand$$$. Ouch.

This was before harvest but (Tom is going to kill me) imagine getting stuck so bad you have to go fetch the wife and the tractor:

 

Despite all the hiccups, in the end we got the job done!

I spent the last week (plus) of harvest on the combine because our hired help had to go back to school. Truthfully, I enjoyed this reprieve from the long days of playing housewife, house mom, and slave to the kitchen. My mom carried the extra burden of watching my kids and doing all of the cooking. At some point I helped harvest each of the following crops:

 clockwise from top left: mustard, lentils, spring wheat, and canola

Cool, right? Here is Abby posing in front of a mustard field: 

And Eva eating dinner in the field: 

The kids are always happy to see their daddy for a bit during dinner. Heading out for a combine ride:

All in all, we had a good outcome. The worst of the hail storms missed us and we had enough rain to make things fair pretty well. Now we are working to get our hay sold and delivered and will be prepping to do our fall seeding soon. Never a dull moment!

Back with more soon!

mechanics

Today I was feeling like I had nothing interesting to post about. It has just been ordinary daily life around here. But then I remembered that most people have no idea what "ordinary daily life" is on the farm, especially in between seeding and harvesting. And I remembered my pledge to write more about the everyday moments.

Since school started our weekly routine has included soccer practice twice a week and games every weekend. This last Saturday Tom was unable to come to the games with us because he had someone coming to pick up hay. (Speaking of hay, we are sharing a little more about that part of our operation over on His Tales today.) 

I pulled up to the soccer field, parked, and was getting ready to get out of the car when a policeman knocked on my window. 

"Did you know you had a brake light out?"

"Good to know!", I said. Well, I did already know that, actually. We had discovered it a while ago and tried to replace the bulb, but realized it was a wiring issue and not an easy fix. I was operating on 2 other functioning brake lights and didn't think too much about it. 

I thought he was just being courteous and letting me know, but how naive of me. He then said "Can I see your license and registration?" I knew I was going to be there for awhile and became shamefully aware of the fact that he was parked conspicuously behind me in the parking lot while everyone walked by to the fields. Woot.

I sent Sarah off to her game and then waited for an eternity while the cop issued me a warning and told me I had 3 days to get it fixed.  

This morning we prepared to call our local mechanic, but Tom decided first to pull the car into the shop to see if he could figure out the problem on his own. Now this is where those of you who know my husband will perk up and say "that doesn't sound like Tom!"  Tom isn't naturally mechanically inclined. He is usually the type of person who would rather focus on what he knows and pay someone else to take care of the rest. But on the farm, time, money, and convenience factor into the equation and in this case paying $x to fix the car wasn't very enticing.

And you know what? He fixed it! I don't tell you this to embarrass him or make a big deal out of a (perhaps simple to some of you) brake light wiring issue. The point is, being a mechanic often doesn't mean knowing everything about cars. Or trucks. Or tractors. It's having the courage, patience and tenacity to dig in and figure out what you don't know. The knowledge and experience comes over a long time of doing this very thing. In any case, I was proud of my husband this morning, and proud that over the last 2 years on the farm he has had a number of successes like this.

The next day we were driving home and stopped to pick up and move a truck. I was driving ahead of Tom when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that I had a headlight out too. Its a good thing the cop pulled me over in the daylight or he would have had a hay day with me.

My poor car—the "ranch limo"—we have put over 30,000 miles on it in the last year. I am hopeful that we will have it payed off before we have to trade it, but at this rate we might hit the 200,000 mile mark first! I have had to have 2 flats repaired in the last month, and on my most recent visit to the tire shop they told me my barely-a-year-old tires are looking awfully gravel chewed and will need replaced soon. Country life is just rough on cars. You'll see in the photo above that it is muddy and bug splattered. I do wash my car occasionally, but the shine lasts no longer than one trip back down my gravel driveway. What should I get next? A Mercedes? Ha ha. Luxury cars will not be for me. 

See the shop my car is parked in? We are hoping to spend some time giving it a major organizational overhall. Believe me, it will be no small job. I wouldn't dare show you any before pictures before we have some really nice after photos to redeem ourselves. We also have a new giant shop door to install so the guys will have a second mechanic bay. In the meantime, I'm just trying to get our garage cleaned out and under control. Baby steps, now. Baby steps.

I hope you've enjoyed this installment of everyday life on the farm. Riveting entertainment to be sure! 

My new favorite flowers

Last spring, Sarah's Kindergarten class made Mother's Days cards and included a packet of seeds. I threw those seeds in a pot along with some other class plantings and didn't think much about it.

I was pleasantly surprised when these Zinnea seeds bloomed, and I've dubbed them my new favorite flower.

1. They grow really tall—over a foot—and fill a pot nicely.

2. The blooms are large, artistic, and stunning.

3. The colors are bright and happy.

4. And very best of all (maybe because I planted them from seed in late spring?) they bloomed in August, when the grass and fields and other blooms are turning brown.

I will definitely be looking for Zinnea seeds every year!

Harvest happenings

Before harvest time fades too far from our memory I thought I'd share a few more moments from this year. 

This is what dinner in the field looks like these days:

A simple production. Mom says "Where did everyone go? Doesn't anyone want to relax and enjoy their dinner awhile?" No, everyone is off for one last ride on the combines.


It isn't the easiest thing to drive with a kid on your lap. Especially one that defiantly says "I do it" and takes over the steering. Grandpa is very patient.


And this straight edge on the field wasn't so straight after Eva finished with it.

Beautiful Montana sunsets:

One night we had a storm roll in so we went out around midnight to move vehicles off the field (so they wouldn't get left in the mud.) Tom pulled out ahead of me with a loaded truck and I could see grain pouring out the back. He made it up onto the road a ways before I could get his attention to stop the truck. By then there was a pretty good trail of wheat behind him, and more piling up on the road behind the truck. For some reason the back door (which is is usually never used) had come unlatched. The weight of the load prevented us from closing it, so left the truck in the road, ran back to the house for a crowbar, then back to the truck to pry the door closed. (Good thing it was a remote country road in the middle of the night). By then the rain was pouring hard. The photo below shows Dad and Tom saving the last of what they could after already shoveling a substantial pile back into the truck.


Harvesting canola:

Early that same rainy night we had strong winds that shattered many of the canola pods before we could get them cut. So many weather events that can wreck havoc on our success. First lack of snow, then hail, then wind. Sometimes the odds are hard to beat.

The night of the storm we happened to have some great old friends for company—this sweet Minnesota family stopping on their way through. (Hard to believe we are on the way to anywhere, seems like the end of the earth sometimes, but we are on the way to Canada!) We treated them with a true campout... due to the power outage that resulted from the winds. We told them Montana is still so remote we don't even have electricity up here. Ha.


The blackout didn't prevent us from taking a few combine rides, though, which suited this big boy in front just fine. 

A few days later we had more company, my brothers and their families, including my very new nephew, Brandon. (That is material for another post). With Ash to help dad in the field, we took advantage and headed out Saturday evening to Holter Lake to join Tom's family in celebrating Papa's birthday number 6-0. The girls were able to spend a few extra days camping there, but Tom and I were just lucky to sneak away for one quick overnight stay. 

Nothing like eating cake in the dark around a campfire.

Except maybe getting up the next morning to go fishing.

The fish knew it was Papa's birthday too and bit his line 5 times, completely ignoring everyone else in the boat with a rod. Birthday luck.


The best part was that the kids did the dirty job of cleaning the fish.

Sometimes it feels like we miss out on a good portion of summer when we spend well over a month of it harvesting. But it just makes us appreciate the priviliages we do have all the more. 

 

harvest time

I'm breaking the silence of an intended blog hiatus—unintended but unsurprising. Harvest has been in full swing for the past couple of weeks, which launches us into coping mode. Coping and keeping up with the busy days. If you are one who visits the blog simply for house projects and updates, well, there just isn't much (any) of that happening right now. Come back in a month or two. In the meantime, here is a smattering of goings-on around the farm.

Furrows and Fourwheelers

Last week started out with an event that took the wind out of our sails a bit. My cousin Rob, our main hired hand and harvest help the past several years, was injured badly in a four-wheeler accident and put out of commission for the rest of the season. Not to discount the severity of a broken shoulder and pelvis, but we are thankful it wasn't worse. It happened like this:

We finished up our harvest dinner and the guys headed back out to work. Rob's cousin, visiting from out of state, drove her uncle's four-wheeler over from the neighboring farm where they were having their own harvest dinner. Rob hopped on to show her around the farm before heading back to work. They were riding through a field, not on the usual path. They came over a hill, hit a rock pile, and were launched from the four-wheeler, narrowly missing some very large rocks. I was the first one they reached by cell phone (luckily they had service!) and hopped in the car to get them. We loaded them up and took them into the hospital to inspect the damage. His cousin suffered a concussion and broken thumb. The accident raises lots of concerns about farm liability and the wisdom of having four-wheelers on the farm. Even in this case. Not our four-wheeler, but on our farm. Not our guest, but our employee. Tom and I owned four-wheelers for recreating (always with helmets). Since Eva's arrival we no longer use them that way, but they are quite handy for moving easily around the farm between machinery. The trouble is, the guys quickly get out of the helmet habit. Kids who visit want to ride them for fun. Where do we draw the line? 

Needless to say, we are shorthanded now. I'm willing to pitch in if I need to, but as it happens we've had several visitors lately that have provided temporary help. God provides!

cotton ball clouds

Putting our farmhouse table through it's paces. On this night we had 17 to feed. Out came the paper plates on this occasion!Zinnias we planted from seed (a gift for Mother's Day from Sarah) are in full bloom. I love the bright colors!After dinner swing sessionSean cleans the combine windows. The Raineys are becoming annual harvest guests and we wish we could keep them longer. They know that visiting during harvest means work and they are so great about pitching in and helping out. Having friends like this around makes the work fun.

Beautiful Holly. I love this girl.Working into the sunset—and well beyond.

Unplugging a plugged-up header in the dark.We always take Sundays off, even during Harvest. So after church we decided to take the long way home through the mountains. We first hiked down to Lost Lake. (It truly is lost, an unmarked local attraction.)
Sweet Isabel
Its a green a slimy lake. Not very inviting.The rock formations are the main attraction.We were in our Sunday clothes. Odd attire for a hike.


 

Up in the cooler air of the High wood Mountains for a picnic by the creek

 

Hugs goodbye.

 

 

I'll be back in a week or three. Happy Harvest everyone!

Farm in Bloom

About two weeks ago the beauty on the farm was in its full glory, and I knew I needed to get out with my camera and capture it. Good thing I did too, because now the heat wave the rest of the country has been experiencing has caught up with us and the land is ripening quickly toward harvest. The golden wheat brings its own beauty, but I can't help but mourn the loss of the green leaves and gorgeous blooms.

I'll post a smattering of photos for you to see, all of which are straight out of the camera. I resisted the urge to tweak and morph them or I would never get them posted.

From the hill behind our house, the landscape is a checkerboard of yellow. Oil seed crops are the prettiest in bloom.

In the photo above you can see a stripe of green in a feild of summer fallow (resting land). It looks like we missed a spot with the weed spray, but really it is a stip of planted cover crop—corn, soybeans, radishes, and other vegetables mixed together. 

Up close it doesn't look like much, but the plants are young at this point. The intent is not to harvest, but to simply benefit from the nutrients these plants provide the soil. This strip is an experiment for us. We will see if next year's crop (winter wheat) shows greater yield in this spot.

When we piled into the old farm truck to take pictures, all the girls piled in with us:

And we didn't leave behind the mosquito repellent. They are terrible out in the fields. I've been using the little clip-ons for Eva. They help—sort of.

These girls hopped in too. Mia won't usually ride in the back of the truck, but we were dog sitting her friend Miley, and she wasn't to be left behind if Miley was going. Its good for her to have a friend!

Speaking of dogs, here is the hole ours is digging in our front yard. Grrr. 

It's a cavern. And I'm going to have to figure something out because she is starting more holes.

Back to the fields:

This is mustard. And, oh! Look closer!

A cottontail is frozen hoping I won't see him. These little fellas are everywhere in our farmyard.

I mentioned before that this is the first time we have grown mustard. Time will tell if it proves to be a good crop for us. We have yet to get through harvest with it. But so far I'm impressed with its resilience. Hard to believe it looked like this only a short time ago, after our hail storm:

And now it looks like this:

It's hard to say how much that hail will have affected our yield. If anyone is curious, our winter wheat adjusted between 30–60% loss. Our plants were younger and faired better than others.

These are peas.

We found a random pink blossom on one. A different variety mixed in, perhaps?

Spring wheat, before it started heading out:

Our spring wheat is suffering from the hot, dry weather. It also sustained some damage from another later hail storm, but its hard to tell if it will be substantial enough for an adjustment.

 

This is Canola:

This crop goes from barely growing to 2 feet tall overnight, I swear. 

 

Glowing winter wheat:

And a glowing sky. Every night here in the big sky country is a gorgeous display of God's grace.

I turned around and snapped a photo of the house in the glowing light.

Right now I look at our house and see a lot of work—trim that needs painting, a deck needing rebuilt, a hail-damaged roof and rain gutters... But I also see so much we've accomplished: landscaping, a swing set, tomatoes blooming on the deck, and new doors installed. Maybe this fall we will tackle a few more outdoor projects. 

Someone recently made an innocent comment in passing to my mom: "So the seeding is done—now you just sit around and wait for harvest, right?" Though I'm sure it wasn't meant that way, it did make us chuckle and realize that most people have no idea what goes on between the seeding and harvesting. I can tell you the guys have been putting in very long, steady days. I wish I was better at documenting the goings-on from day to day. 

Lately they have been haying. A thankless job, really, when it is hot and dry especially. The hay crop isn't good—too many weeds and not enough moisture, but it has to be cut anyway. It is a multi-stage job. First they cut the hay, then bale it, then pick the bales up and stack them. Then it has to be marketed and sold and reloaded on to trucks. Our hay equipment is old and breaks down way too often, but we don't want to invest a lot of money into it since this isn't our main cash crop. So the guys deal with break-downs and no air conditioning. The thermometer reads 109 degrees at the moment (no doubt radiating off the brick house in the hot afternoon sun). They get up at the crack of dawn to beat the heat, but they don't come in and take a break in the peak of the afternoon sun like they should. They break for dinner and go back out to work the evening away. And this is before harvest. 

Before haying was spraying. (Our land is no-till to keep the organic matter in the soil and keep the dirt from blowing into the next county, which means the weeds are killed by chemical instead of plowing.) Every inch of ground is covered at least once—usually more.

War is declared on gophers—dropping poison in their holes and shooting them. They are prolific, and they damage the crops substantially. To some it seems like a hobby—this shooting gophers—but it is a job that is hard to take time to do when so much else is needing done. 

Rocks are picked out of the fields (a never-ending battle). Every pass over the field surfaces more rocks, and they are hard on equipment. Combines and swathers aren't made to pick up rocks. The biggest ones have to be removed—either by hand or by tractor. Where do they go? Into rock piles like this:

There are piles like this everywhere on the farm. Yep, that's where we get our big landscaping rocks!

Of course there is always equipment maintenance and property maintenance too. But there is one project in particular my dad worked on this spring that I wanted to share with you. 

You know the EPA (yes that one—the Environmental Protection Agency that got a bunch of new funding from the Obama stimulus plan and hired about 5000 new people)? Well those people like to cause trouble for farmers. I know they mean well, but sometimes it feels like they don't consider how their regulations can complicate lives of small businesses like us. Recently they implemented a new regulation that all tanks, chemicals, etc. had to have secondary containment. This way, if one tank leaked, the secondary containment would prevent the substance from seeping into the ground water. The secondary containment must be able to hold the same volume of liquid. So, for example, you can store containers of chemical in a plastic tub on a shelf. No big deal. But how exactly do you contain an entire 1000+ gallon fuel tank? Or two of them?

You can't drive a tractor to town every time you need to fill it up, so we store fuel on the farm—both unleaded and diesel. The tanks used to be buried under ground, but regulations a few years ago required they be above ground (in case of leaks). Now those tanks must have secondary containment. There are costly options you can purchase, but my dad decided to build one out of steel.

This is what it looks like, welded, painted, and installed: 

I believe it only had to be big enough to hold the contents of one tank (since both wouldn't likely leak at the same time).  But it is huge. I think our Yukon XL might even fit inside. We joked that we should fill it up with water and use it as a swimming pool for the summer before we installed the tanks. Now in this heat wave it doesn't sound like a joke.

Soon I will be posting about harvest. Is there anything else you would like to see? 

 

a hail storm

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you would have seen a smattering of photos about a storm we had on Monday evening. There was quite a bit of buzz about it because it wasn't just any storm.

We were eating dinner at my parent's house when it started to get really dark outside and eerily quiet. We knew a storm was coming—we were watching it on radar from our phones—and it looked like the red center of the storm was heading straight for our area.

After we ate we gathered on the porch to watch the storm approach. There was thunder and lightning and looming clouds, and they seemed to be oddly rotating. Our vantage point was towards the south, and the storm was coming more from the southwest.

Then it started hailing. At that point we all wondered if we should go move our vehicles inside, but it was a bit late for that. We would have been pelted by hail stones. 

Most of the hail was larger than marble size, with the occasional golf-ball size stone mixed in. In the end, the worst part was how steady, thick, and sideways the hail was. It rained hard for quite awhile after, then hailed some more, as if the storm was circling back. We went to the back of the house where it was hitting the hardest and the noise was deafening. There was a broken window pane on that side of the house.

Back at home we inspected the damage:

A couple of windows were broken out in the shop, and the flower beds were flattened. The rain gauge held over 2-1/2 inches of rain.

 

Holes in the swimming pool... and a gnome casualty. But mostly minor stuff.

The next day we had another similar storm*, but this time the main swath went east of us. We still ended up with another nearly 3 inches of rain. That is more than 5 inches in 2 days, which is pretty much unheard of this area. *Links to an interesting Weather Channel video, while it lasts.

As we inspected the damage the following day we found a few more things. All of the skylights were busted in our camper trailer, one of them breaking the latch and opening up so the mattress and a slew of blankets and sleeping bags below it were completely soaked. 

The basement guest room has water in one corner, so the carpet is now pulled back to dry it out. The downspout on the rain gutter had been disconnected and didn't drain far enough away from the house.

Speaking of rain gutters, our new gutters are now dented long the front side of our house.

We will need to have an adjuster look at our roof as well. It is less than two years old and doesn't look too terrible, considering.

Surprisingly, our cars didn't fair too badly. There are a few dents in my hood and along one side, but it is hardly noticeable. I thought Tom's mirror had a nice-sized hole from hail—until he informed me that he accidentally shot it while aiming for a gopher. Ha! 

It was my plants that showed the most damage. The seedum (left) looks like it was chewed on and the tomato plant (right) was stripped of most of its leaves, even semi-protected under the eaves of the house.

 

The yard is covered with bits of the trees. But hello—could be so much worse, right?

 

The thing is, if my yard plants look like this, you know it can't look good for the crops. I'm afraid the farmers in our area suffered significant damage. This once beautiful winter wheat field now looks very scraggly. (Wish I had a before picture to show you.) If you look along the horizon, that stand of wheat should look very even and thick. Instead you see scattered wheat heads sticking up.

Up close, you can see the heads bent sideways and stems snapped. This field will probably be considered 90% damaged, and others totaled.

If a winter wheat crop is totalled or adjusted as mostly damaged, it won't be harvested at all. It will likely be sprayed out so it won't continue to sap nutrients from the soil. If the field can be sprayed out before June 15th it can be considered summer fallow for the year, meaning it can be planted with winter wheat again next year. Two years without income on a field is hard to endure. The thing is, the field must be adjusted first, and the insurance adjusters (as you can imagine) are quite busy at the moment. 

Some of our own winter wheat was planted later than our neighbor's, and some if hasn't "headed out" yet. It may fair better than those further along, however, a bruised stem can produce a head that just curls up on itself and doesn't form good kernels. Time will tell.

Spring crops (those planted in the spring) should fair better because they are younger, smaller plants. We planted a lot of spring crops this year. In fact, we have 8 different crops in the ground: winter wheat, spring wheat, peas, lentils, mustard, canola, barley, and alfalfa. The farmers around here, who mostly only grow only wheat, may think we are crazy. But when you are hit with a disaster like this, diversification can be a very good thing. 

One of our spring crops is mustard, and it is the first year we have grown it. Unfortunately, we won't know its full potential:

It looks pretty hammered and there are many broken stems. We aren't sure if it will recover, but most certainly it will decrease yields. 

Driving around the farm can make you a bit sick to your stomach, and you might imagine the farmers wallowing in a bit of self pity right now. But really, they shrug their shoulders and move on. They just pull up their boot straps and figure it is just their turn this time. They are thankful it doesn't happen every year. Thankful it wasn't worse. Thankful they stomached the painful insurance premiums yet again because it has saved their hide before. 

Most farmers carry multi-peril insurance on all their crops. Some also carry additonal hail insurance. My dad fortuitously purchased hail insurance on our winter wheat the day of the storm. Hopefully the insurance payments will be enough to cover the expensive spray and fertilizer bills. And hopefully the unheard of 5 inches of rain will help make up for it in other places. 

But did I already mention we were thankful it wasn't worse? That is because photos like this were circulating around Facebook after the storm:

Photo credits go to Roger Hill, a professional storm chaser. Not sure how he managed to be in the right place at the right time. He calls the storm a "super-cell" (definition here).

This photo was taken around Loma, which is a few miles northeast of us. Probably right after it went right over our heads. We didn't see the storm from afar, but we certainly could see the rotating clouds. If we'd seen this before it hit we might have been hiding in the basement. If you watch the links in the previous paragraph you'll understand why.

 

 

Friday randomness

I've been neglecting this here blog because I've had kids, a house, company, etc. that have needed me more. Therefore, I'm stuck doing random update posts to catch you up. So here goes... here are the happenings since we last talked:

1. Today is a very wet day.

The rain is delaying the already long seeding process so today the guys are in the shop working on a spray truck that broke down earlier this week. Most of the farmers in the area were done with their spring seeding in a snap because they mostly just do wheat. Not us. So far we have planted peas, mustard (new for us this year), canola, and barley. We will finish up with spring wheat when we can get back in the field. Nevertheless, we will take the rain when we can get it! And when it dries up, oh boy does that lawn of mine need mowed.

2. Things break on the farm. All the time. The afore-mentioned spray truck, for one. My mom's lawn mower broke down so they have ours at their house. And then ours broke down. Lawn mowing is not as high a priority as field spraying, so I will be getting my push mower out. Also this week our cistern emptied and we ran out of water. Too many farmers are spraying and using a ton of water right now, and our cistern is the last on the line to be filled. Small inconvenience. When things break, usually it is faster and cheaper to fix them ourselves, but Tom (and I) aren't nearly as mechanically inclined as my dad. I'm not whining here, just pointing out how different it is from living in the city. There are so many moving peices and parts and no shop right down the road to take them too. Broken equipment can definitely add stress to an already busy time.

3. House projects. Now we get to add the outdoor projects to the already long indoor list. I am really trying to find the joy in the process and not get overwhelmed by how much there is to do.

 

I'm starting to see the rewards of the planting I did last fall. I was worried that I got things started too late, but it seems like most of it is springing up. In the planter I have tulips and daffodils beginning to bloom and 2 out of 3 rose bushes showing some life. I have been weeding and plan to spread some mulch. Now if I can just keep the dog from digging and trampling, I'll be good. (See the big hole in the lower bed? Grrr.) Next to it the rock garden/staircase needs some new plants before the weeds completely take over. 

Some of you have asked about the front door. You may remember we ordered one and then rejected what they delivered because they got the order wrong. Well, we regrouped and decided to order just the door without the sidelights—then we will replace the glass in the current window frames. This option was actually much cheaper too. But now the new door sits in our garage and will wait for the guys to have time to install it, along with several windows. The lock set we purchased fits the new door as planned, and once the door is painted it should look fabulous!

4. I adore spring. The warm days, and even the rainy days. The girls are loving it too, and yesterday they romped in the puddles when the sun came out after a storm. And I finally remembered to get my camera out.



5. Speaking of spring, it is the season of cleaning, isn't it? I cleaned my house from floor to ceiling for company last weekend. Big news, I know. But sometimes it just feels good to get it all done at once and feel caught up for a change! That feeling lasts for about 2 seconds.

Case in point: I scrubbed the ranch limo, inside and out.

And I had to "take a picture to make it last longer" since a half hour later I had to drive right back down the dusty gravel roads to pick up the girls from the bus. 

Another job like that is mopping my kitchen floors. It looks great for 10 minutes until someone walks through the door. I already kicked the dog out and might have to kick the kids out too. Kidding, of course. Sort of. But I am thinking I should implement a no-shoes policy. I mopped my floor twice within two hours yesterday. Can anyone relate? Of course you can. We Moms all know that controlling the chaos is a never-ending job and its why being a SAHM is much more work than I ever expected. 

6. My photo book came in the mail today! It turned out great and I will show you Monday after I can get a post together

7. I had a birthday last week. These days they come and go without a lot of fanfare but this year Mom made me a cake. I love cake.

This one was Pink Lemonade (from the cover of the May BHG issue) and it was delish. In the background is the print for a skirt she sewed for me also. I'm so spoiled!

I have had a favorite coffee mug (coffee tastes better in the right mug!) since I graduated from college. It was an MSU pottery mug and a graduation gift from the potters themselves. Well, a couple of weeks ago I was setting it out of Eva's reach and it fell over onto our new tile floor and broke. (Frowny face.) Little did I know, my sweet husband called that very day to custom order a replacement for my birthday and I am now the proud owner of a new beautiful MSU mug. 

Mountain Arts Pottery here.

8. A few other random acquisitions:


I bought these print blocks in the letters of each of our names at a tiny local flea market. 

I bought this cheery pot from Ross Dress for Less of all places. I've had a couple of plants that were left here after my Grandpa's funeral, and I thought I'd better finally get them potted for them to have any real chance at survival. 

The cheery succulents came from a recent home show, and this sweet bowl needed a purpose so they found their match in my kitchen. The soap dispenser is one of several things I've been shopping for to outfit our new kitchen. 

9. And one last thing...

 

Shirley Temple paid us a visit this week. She was here for a Good Ship Lollipop performance for a Senior Citizen's lunch at school. Parents weren't invited. Pshaw.

spring on the farm

A lot of random thoughts to share with you today. I've been rather inconsistent with my posts lately and I'm starting to feel like have lots to catch up on, so random is what you get. 

So we are approaching Easter weekend around here. Actually, we are approaching it everywhere—ha. But here in our small school we don't get a spring break, just 3 days off for Easter to make it a 5 day weekend. We finish earlier than the bigger schools at the end of the year then, but for now we just get this one short break. I was really hoping to make a trip to Utah this weekend. It's been a year since we visited. I have a VERY LONG shopping list, not to mention all the friends we'd love to catch up with. 

Mother nature had other ideas. When spring comes, so does the farm work. It doesn't wait on petty vacations. The seeder is parked out front ready to go and we are out spraying the eager weeds. Once we get rolling, we have at least 2 solid weeks of very long days to finish the seeding. So for now, IKEA can wait.

We are using this contraption to clean lentils and peas for planting:

Last Sunday we had a sneak preview of Easter dinner—I had an old ham in the freezer and some new ovens to try out. The leftover ham bone was the perfect base for pea soup, so while we were out cleaning peas for planting, we were inside cooking last year's bounty for dinner. Farm to table at its best.

I should have trekked out to the shop for some freshly cleaned peas. I had to pick some straw out of mine since they were collected straight in off the field. (Extra fiber, right?) Aside from that, a quick rinse was all that was needed to ready these for cooking into a yummy pea soup.

The girls want to be outside all. the. time. I caught this picture of them on one of our first warm days:

Their cowgirl boots and ball caps made me smile. That's how they roll. Now Sarah is already sporting her flip flops and tank tops. It will be quite a shocker when it snows this week. The snow likely won't stick around for long, however. Spring is in the air. Bring on the moisture! And if it snows, maybe I'll have a little luck getting some help with a few more indoor projects, hey?

Our swing set is being put to good use. Best investment!

The big girls aren't the only ones enjoying the great outdoors. Whenever the door opens, Eva makes a run for it. "'side?" she says. She doesn't want to stay in the yard, either. She just wants to take off down the road and never stop. Reigning her in is going to be a challenge and we are just praying she doesn't learn how to open the door any time soon.

A few other Eva-isms: (See, I told you this would be random.) She is talking a blue streak. One of my favorites is when she says what she wants—for example "juice"—and you repeat it back to her to make sure you understand, "Juice?". She says "ohay" (okay) to confirm. Like its your idea and she is just agreeing to it. So cute.

At night when it is story time, she has to have her own book (always an Archie comic) and reads aloud along side us. She is getting quite vocal when she isn't understood, or when she doesn't get what she wants. Typical almost-2 behavior. Love her.

We are done with the skiing season. Sarah got a slow start this year, despite having a lesson and lots of encouragement from Dad. Finally I had an opportunity a few weeks ago to join them on the slopes, and with a lot of patience was able to get Sarah started, one inch at a time. With every inch came an ounce of confidence, and now she is beating us down the slopes. The photo above was taken on the little bunny slope conveyer lift, but I promise she has graduated to much bigger adventures.

So that is what is going on at the farm—outside. Do you like hearing about the farm work? Would you like to hear more? Inside, projects have stalled indefinitely. Though I'm not completely out of things to catch up on and share with you. More to come!

 

finding our groove

Whoosh. It's been a week. 

This is the arsenal that sits on my kitchen counter right now:

Yes, two of my girls have been sick. (Fortunately not the baby.) They came down with a scary case of strep last Wednesday. Scary because even a cycle of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen couldn't keep their fevers down for long. We were at the doctor's office 3 times in 4 days and on the phone several times in between, mostly because of some odd reactions from Abby. She has been getting hives from her medication (presumably?). We changed the medication, but the hives continued, even though both drugs were ones she had taken before with no problems. Nevertheless, the outlook is improving and the girls are back to tearing the house down.

I like to keep a positive attitude about things, but even I have to admit it has been difficult to get into the groove of things this harvest season. Having sick kids has made it hard to focus on anything else, of course. But then there was Dad's 10 stitches in his knee (from slipping in a grain tank onto an auger), Mom's broken dishwasher (never a good thing during harvest), Mom's broken toes, and a long string of broken down farm equipment (more than usual it seems). All this leaves me wondering if we are going to find our groove before harvest is over. 

But we must, because we need lots of stamina to get through the harvest season. The guys start early and don't come home to bed until the wee hours. Dinners have been at home thus far, but now that kids are feeling better I expect we will start taking dinner out the field to keep down time to a minimum. And maybe I'll even get to put in a few hours on the combine. Nothing like cutting wheat to put you in the harvest mood!

More updates to come...

 

summer storms

The skies after a storm on the prairie can be magnificent. On fire. 

This beauty followed a fantastic wind storm that knocked out our power for a few hours. Right at dinner time. Dinner was mostly done, except I had misjudged the chicken and it needed another 20 minutes or so in the oven. We ended up firing up the oven in our camper while we ate the rest of our meal. And we had chicken for dessert.

And then my lovely Aunt Marilyn (they stayed with us for a few days while loading a trailer of things from their old place to take back to Oregon) did dishes by lantern light.

Power outages are an adventure. An adventure we prefer not to experience for too long. Especially at dinner time. It is also an adventure to wake up in the middle of the night to a brightly lit house when the power finally decides to come back on!

wet spring

Around here we are used to measuring rain fall in tenths, not in inches.

It has been a very wet spring, and since we (barely) finished seeding a week ago we have accumulated over 2 inches of rain. This is great for the crops, as long as it is followed by lots of warm sunshine and continued even moisture (as in, no long dry spells and no hail!)

The not-so-great impacts of all this rain were apparent on our drive through Eastern Montana last weekend. In particular along the Musselshell River, which followed our preferred road to Wyoming. We had to constantly check the road reports and make some adjustments to our route. On the way home we were able to take a shorter route, and found out that the road we took was again closed the next day. Not surprising since it rained. all. the. way. home.

This is a stretch of the Musselshell river. I'm not really familiar with the area, but I'm pretty sure this river is usually not much more than a meandering stream.

The water crossed the road in several places along our trip, but we were still able to go through it.

This poor old picturesque farm (that has probably been there for nearly 100 years) in Harlowtown, MT is quite a ways away from where the the river normally flows. There was also tall railroad bed between it and the river that should have been a great barrier. Nevertheless, it had water up to the red line when we traveled through on our way down. (I wish I had taken a picture of it then!) By the time we came back through the water had receded to this point.

This is another home that had water above their front door. There were many homes like this impacted by the flood, and it barely scratches the surface when you think about the floods along the Mississippi this year. And then you start thinking about the tornado and earthquake damage this year . . . and we have so so so many reasons to count our blessings.

Let the farming begin

Spring farm work has begun with a frenzy, and our guys have started to spend long days outside to prep for spring seeding. There is anxiety and excitement in the air—almost like harvest time. This year we purchased a new (used) seeder that arrived in our yard yesterday:

This piece of machinery is a monstrosity and staring up at it gives me great respect for guys that have to figure out how to use this vitally important tool. If you thought buying a new car or a new computer was overwhelming . . .

Here is the old seeder that we traded in for the new one:

(The bit behind the tractor. The new one will be pulled by this tractor also.) I could not begin to tell you what is special about the new one, although I do know that it is bigger and they can cover more ground with fewer passes. I can also tell you that the guys were a bit giddy when it arrived!

It will be exciting to see a new season unfold. (We arrived on the farm last year in June, so we missed spring seeding.) Already the winter wheat (planted last fall) is starting to grow and carpet the ground with green. A sure sign of spring!

So let the spring farming begin!

 

the big melt

This week the warm winds have blown in and have melted all our snow into big lakes. Lakes are an unusual sight for this dry landscape, as is the wildlife that has come with it.

If these lakes don't dry up within a month or so they will kill the seeds that are planted beneath them. But mostly the moisture is very welcome.

The water has also made for extremely muddy vehicles and nearly-washed-out roads. It had been running over the road in several places the past few days, but had receeded by the time I snapped this photo.

Such is life on the gravel roads! I have been enjoying the scenery, regardless.  And even though most certainly the Montana weather will bring us more snow again, I can feel spring in the air and I'm excited for the landscape to turn green.