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?