I'll tell you what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to write this post and pretend that I'm Tom. You can probably tell the difference in our writing voices anyway. But I'm over on his section of the website today to share what he has been up to because—let's face it—his last post was in January. Clearly he has not been holding up his end of the bargain here on His Tales and needs a little help. :)
Many of the farmers in our area have started seeding, but the dry soil makes for less-than-ideal conditions. My dad has been working on the tractor and seeder to get them ready to roll, but he is holding off and waiting for some much-needed rain.
The drought that is affecting most of the country has impacted us as well, though not as bad (knock on wood) as it could. We had very little winter moisture, but we had a couple of significant spring storms that dropped unusual amounts of rain in our area. Unfortunately, those storms also brought hail. So what the drought didn't hurt, the hail did. We did have an okay crop this year though, and with the help of crop insurance we will weather this year of drought and hope the upcoming year doesn't bring worse conditions.
We have some low waterways throughout the farm that don't grow crops well because the soil is too alkaline. We have grass and alfalfa in those areas, and we are participating in a test to see if growing alfalfa helps improve the alkali levels. (Test wells in the area are measured periodically to measure results.) It is these grass/alfalfa areas that we cut for hay, along with a few road ditches and grass areas. It isn't a high-profit operation for us by any means. It is at best a little hobby/side business. By the time we pay for expenses, the guys are working for pretty cheap considering the number of hours it takes. But we are gradually learning a little more each year how to make it more efficient.
After harvest Tom ran an ad or two to market the hay. This year he didn't have to put a lot of effort into marketing. Our phone rang off the hook for several days because there is a hay shortage in many parts of the country (due to drought). Tom has been spending his time fielding those phone calls, loading and (sometimes) delivering hay, and handling the billing. Last year we did all our bales in large 1/2 ton round bales. These are easier to deal with as they are stacked by tractor, though more difficult to haul by truck, which limits our customer base to a smaller area. Last year we had nearly 3 times as much hay, so simplifying the process was a necessity. This year we baled our best hay in small squares. They bring a better price, and even though we had less hay this year, the small bales partnered with the hay shortage meant we could sell our hay for more and maintain about the same income. The downside—the small bales are mostly hand stacked and loaded, and many people buy small bales in small quantities. Equipment exists to make the job easier, but we won't invest a lot of money into equipment for a marginally profitable side business.
In any case, Tom is getting some management experience on this portion of the farming business, and now you know how we are spending the lull between harvest and seeding. One more thing:
(This is Tom Clark, and I approved this message.)