Saturday, April 30, 2016

When is a Brown Dying Alfalfa Field a Good Thing?

This is one of our alfalfa fields and it is looking great!

This is what it looked like last year.

So why are we happy the alfalfa is dying off?

Crop rotation. Yes, even with all the technology we still rotate crops.

This field has been in alfalfa and has been growing for about five years. We are replacing it because the stand is depleted – which means the number of plants per square foot has reduced. In turn, that acre of alfalfa doesn’t produce as much as first seeding and more and more grass grows.

We spray the field to kill off the alfalfa and grass. We will spread manure on the field to fertilize and then we will plant corn using our no-till planter.

No-till corn saves the farmer time and diesel fuel. It also reduces erosion, and reduces the carbon footprint. Instead of tilling the soil –plowing, disking and dragging, the corn planter cuts into the soil and drops the kernel in the ground.

Personally, a no-till corn field isn’t as pretty to me as a conventional field. I like to see the dirt and the new green stalks coming through. But, farming is rarely about pretty. Also, once the corn is knee high you can’t see the ground and there is no difference in appearance.

Because we turned the alfalfa field into a corn field we need to rotate some corn fields into alfalfa fields.

To prepare the soil for the new alfalfa we take soil samples throughout the field. We use GPS to mark where in the field the samples were pulled. We collect about one sample per acre throughout the field.
After the field has been worked up we need to spread lime to bring the soil PH back to as close to normal as possible. Alfalfa is a finicky seed to grow.

The lime is spread throughout the field using a prescription developed from a map of the GPS samples. Using a variable rate spreader makes the application quite precise. It will spread more in areas where needed and less where the ground doesn’t need so much. All using GPS.    

Best case scenario is to have the lime on the field 6 months before planting. That is why spreading lime is one of the first things we do in our fields other than spread manure which is an on-going process.

You would think with all the technology we have we wouldn’t have to rotate crops but with alfalfa you can’t replant an alfalfa field even if you thoroughly worked up the ground first. The reason being - if there are any remnants of the old alfalfa plant it will kill the new seeding. It’s called auto-toxicity.

While farming has grown leaps and bounds and is so different than when our great grandparents farmed, the rotation of crops is still part of farming today.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Speedy Delivery Mr. McFeely - repost

It was late in the evening and darkness covered the earth.

I was hesitant.

Fear came over me like a shadow of an overhead plane.

My mouth went dry. I swallowed a sandpapered swallow.

As hard as I tried not to, my hand had a slight tremor to it as I tentatively reached out.

Once my fingertips made contact I closed my eyes and held my breath.

Do I or don’t I continue?

The possibilities were endless. This could be horrific or as uneventful as a dog laying in the sunshine.

I decided to risk it all.

I took another deep breath as my fingers tightened against the cold metal. Wait, should I pull slowly or one quick yank?

If I pull slowly, it might give me some time to react.

If I yank it fast, whatever happens will be done without time to consider. Like tearing a band aid off a hairy arm.

I choose the middle of the road and deliberately pulled with conviction. Just short of a careless yank.

The door yawned open and this time only harmless mail greeted me.

Yes, I’m afraid of the mailbox.  Lest you judge me to be weird or foolish, there is history surrounding that metal greeting container.

Take the four sons, farm critters and mischievousness that grows aplenty around here and you can imagine the stories to tell.

Son #3 hid in a truck with a camera trained at the mailbox waiting for Son #2 to get his mail. I think that one ended up with two birds napping in a metal sauna by the time Son #2 opened the door. It was more fun watching Son #4 and #3 catching the birds, stuffing them in the box and quickly slamming the door closed before they flew out.

Did you know that mailboxes are the place mice go to die? Apparently, this is a phenomenon prone to our area, especially our county, specifically our driveway and to be exact our mailbox which seems to be hit pretty hard with this quirk of nature.

A flag has found its resting place there. The metal, gold, eagle that rests atop the flag pole keeps it company
If you consider all the other startling events I’ve lived through that usually involve the use of dead animals, mix in springtime that automatically brings trouble, with the fact we’ve had a few calm days without incidents, then you might understand the fear.

I think I might need some counseling. Mr. McFeely has invaded my dreams.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Charlie Update

 The power of prayer and God’s grace continues with Charlie. (If you are new to Charlie’s story you can catch up here:

I’ve been asked a few times how Charlie is doing so I thought I’d do a quick update.

A few weeks ago Charlie developed at large lump on his back. We knew it was there but it had grown. It was basically a large blood blister from the accident. But, it had gotten larger.

They took him to the vet and a tube was inserted running through the blister. The purpose of the tube was not to drain through the tube but to leave an opening for the blood to drain out around the incision where the tube protruded.

Charlie was a trooper. He never really seemed to mind having it in there but he did lick at it a few times.

After a week to 10 days they took him back and the tube was removed but did not sew up the incision – thus the shirt on Charlie. They need to keep it covered until it heals.

Charlie is doing amazing. He walks without much of a hitch – you can tell his gait is different but it isn’t wobbling in and out of his socket like it first did.

He even runs now even though we try to keep him slowed down.

The vet said that if Charlie began to show signs of pain the surgery could still be done. We are believing for a total healing and that the surgery will not take place.

We are amazed and so grateful that God chose to heal Charlie. We are so thankful for your involvement in this whole thing.

We are excited that Charlie’s story has been read all over the country and beyond and that the power of God has ignited a new belief in some of our readers.

We give God all the credit for the miracles that has happened throughout this whole ordeal.

Zeus (Charlie's son) and Charlie. Photo credit: Ben Loew

Monday, April 18, 2016

I Faced the Black Snake and Lived to Tell About It.

The dreaded colonoscopy – the black snake. It was time. I pushed it off a couple of years but knew I had to face it.

I had absolutely no fear of the results. None. It was the procedure. And the horror stories I’ve heard of other people waking up to the slithering snake.

This was my second one. I survived my first one over 10 years ago and lived to tell of it. But, 10 years have a way of leaving my memory bank pretty empty when it was time for this one.

I was a nervous wreck the whole week before. I called and asked if there was any medication I could take before I had the procedure to help calm my irrational nerves.  A Xanax was called in. I looked at that little white pill and thought there better be some magic in this thing.

The fun began the day before with the prepping. I think I went through 3 rolls of toilet paper and ½ of A&D Ointment. Best advice – use A&D after each “episode”. Right now some of you are thinking – Diane, you are so gross writing about this.” Well, in my quest to be transparent, there you go.

Finally, time to travel to the torture chambers where they let loose the snake.

I held my magic pill in my hand and prayed for the 1000th time for peace and calmness.
My child birthing breathing came into play – like on steroids.

The nurse was so nice, so young which made me feel even more ridiculous. And, then the doctor was running about 20 minutes late so I got to simmer in the prep room more than normal. Yea!

Finally, I was wheeled back into the snake’s cage. I tried real hard not to look for it.

Two more nice nurses hooked me up to blood pressure and occupied themselves with other snake handling stuff.

My blood pressure is normally 107/70. It was 154/96 after a Xanax!  I thought “oh crap! – no pun intended – they won’t do it because it is too high and I’ve gone through all this for nothing!”
Not to worry a few minutes later it was down to 148/92 so it was all good. They actually said it worked in my favor if it was a little high because the anesthesia lowers the blood pressure and if your pressure gets too low you can’t have as much of the “good” stuff they promised me. Yes, I begged for the most powerful stuff they had. I said I weighed 300 pounds so I could get more than enough!

Then the best thing of the day happened. The doctor came in we were discussing that he did an upper scope on me several years ago – which I had forgotten. He asked if this was my first colonoscopy and I said no, my second one. He asked “How old are you?” When I told him the two nurses and he said in unison “You sure don’t look that old!” OK – I know you’re thinking I had been medicated and only thought they said that, but nope I was fully awake. I told them it’s because I chase cows around on a regular basis.

Then the glorious warm blanket of the drug wrapped around me and filled me with sweet sleep. As I was slinking into the cozy inviting sleep I thought “let the snake loose, I couldn’t care less.”

Later that day while recuperating at home I saw a commercial for a program on intervention. This woman was describing her elation of shooting up heroin. I listened and realized that’s exactly how I felt. I’m so dang glad I never got mixed up in drugs or I’d for sure be an addict.

In the recovery room I was in and out of knowing what was going on and my ticket out was to pass gas. The nurse had me roll over a few times and she would say you need to pass gas. I thought man; all four of my boys would love this part. When they were younger all I ever said was “Stop farting!” and here she was requesting it.

I’m not sure who dressed me or how they got all the fat tucked into my jeans before zipping them up but I arrived home and spent the rest of the afternoon napping.

I received a text from one son – “I was going to call, butt then thought I’d just text. How’d it go, is it all cracked up to what they said it would be?”

I replied – “As a whole (I couldn’t bring myself to spell it the other way) it was a gas!”

So, once again things are back to normal. The snake is gone. The high blood pressure is gone. The anxiety is gone.

If I live long enough to have another one I’ll have to pull this out of the archives to read and refresh my memory.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

86 Years Ago Today

86 years ago a very special man was born.

My dad.

I have learned so many things from my dad.

Hard work – he built our house from top to bottom. He went to work every day and then came home and continued to work around the house. He toiled in the garden, worked on the car and continued to add to and change our house.  School projects became a father/daughter project at times.

Giving Spirit – we were taught from young age that tithing is the beginning of worshipping God. It all belongs to him but the first tenth before any of our needs are met go back to the One who provides. In doing so we never lacked. We didn’t have lavish vacations, cars etc. but we always had more than we needed. Tithing was non-negotiable and a desire he passed onto me.

Serving – While raising five kids my dad devoted a lot of time to building the church where we worshipped. He was one of the backbones of the church when it came to anything to do with the building. The serving continued on to teaching and board member duties. He built the church physically and spiritually.

He taught me how to ride a bike, till a garden, make straight garden rows to plant seeds. I learned to put a worm on a hook, catch a fish, take the hook out and clean a fish. I learned to shoot an arrow and pull the trigger on a gun. He drove me to Girl Scouts and piano lessons in between everything else he had to do.

I learned to pray from my dad. At meals, at bedtime and Sunday mornings as a family we would kneel around the couch before church. In the evening as I got older he would come and sit on the end of the bed and ask how my day was. He’d pray for me, give me a kiss and I could sleep soundly.

He taught and showed me Jesus. Every chance God could be brought into a conversation he was mentioned. Every blessing was attributed to God because it was the truth.

He would leave notes on the kitchen table that I could find before I went to school. That continued after I married and came for a visit. He would leave for work before I got up and I would always find a note. I still have some of them.

My dad says he used to walk hours with me when I was newborn and colicky.  He walked with me to the altar when I make the decision to get serious about Jesus. Years later he walked me down the aisle to the altar to my husband on our wedding day. We’ve walked every inch of his yard looking at all his flowers, the shores of Lake Michigan, the woods, around our farm. And recently we’ve walked the halls of the hospital while he recovered from a serious illness.

I plan on walking with my dad many, many more years.

And I plan on hearing his words of encouragement.

Never are we together without him telling me “I’m so proud of you and your family. You work so hard to keep your family together. You are so blessed.” And never do I tire in hearing him telling me.

And I tell him I learned it all from him.

Happy Birthday Daddy!

Grampa with Son #4 and Son #3

One of my favorite pictures. All four of my sons learning something from Grampa.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ode to Low Milk Prices

Eenie meenie miney moe
   which nutrition has to go?
The price of milk is so far down
   not noticed at the store in town.

We’ve scrimped, saved and cut way back
   on all items not nailed with a tack.
You can’t quit feeding the cows
    though they like their mixed up chow.

The feed is mixed to make cows healthier
   with no money we must be stealthier.
To help the girls produce more milk
   if only milk could turn to silk.

Then we could pay all of our bills.
   A fantasy filled with whippoorwills.
We could join and sing to the birds
   and dance with the big cross-eyed nerds.

Who are trying their best to help us save
   our farm from falling deep into the grave.
Hard work and no play not only make Farmers dull.
   It empties their pockets and their coffers are null.

We scratch our head and look for savings.
   Some stomp, scream, with rants and with ravings.
For us we follow the course steady as she goes.
   Our outcome for us is that our God only knows.

But what better place in all the world to be
   Than on our farm and trusting God Almighty.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

My View Compared to Yours

When I turn onto our dirt road and our farm comes into view I am overwhelmed with many emotions.Yesterday I realized I am seeing the farm much differently than you, the general public, may be viewing.

Let's compare notes.

Consumers may see big blue tubes that according to them hold poop, water, and even missiles. Those are a few of the items I've heard from visitors.

What I see is my father-in-law. He was a short, stern looking man with a huge vision that has provided two more generations with life on the farm. This is the first Harvestore he put up in 1960. Back then some of the community viewed  him as being aggressive in his land purchasing. He was a good business man that had great insight into the future. When I see the silos I see a man in coveralls, weathered and worn. Working so hard he would fall asleep standing up. And I'm grateful for his vision and work to provide.

Some people see this as wide open spaces, something they long to own. They envision tearing around on 4 wheelers, dirt bikes and snowmobiles in the winter. And, to our dismay there are some people who actually think that they have the right to just that - without permission. And, since we have so much land there is no reason why they can't back up to a field and dump their garbage also. After all, the farmer has so much what is this going to hurt?

What I see is food for our BEBs - Brown Eyed Bossies. This is an huge investment for our business. I also see a glorious green carpet that has grown from tilling the dirt, sowing the seed and watching God grown the alfalfa. The smell of fresh mown hay is aroma therapy at its best.  

What many see is cruelty to animals. After all look at that horrible contraction and four people mistreating that cow.

In reality what you are viewing is four people working to save a calf. This cow had been trying to give birth. Normally this is a natural occurrence. This time she had some trouble. The calf was large and was just not cooperating and needed assistance. The metal object - calf puller is used. It gives positive control over pulling. We pull, release, pull and release following the mother's natural actions. This has been a life saver more than once. Thankfully we don't have to use this often. What you don't see is the hours, efforts and prayers spent on this animal before the calf puller came into use.

What some see is a big ol tube of poop that draws flies and smells bad. Just a note of information for anyone thinking of moving out to the country side where there are farms. There will be poop. There will be smelly breezes blowing at times. And there may be flies. That's just the way it is and those things were here before you chose to live here. If they might be a problem to you, consider another dwelling area.

Yes, this is a manure tank with manure. Farmers were recyclers before recycling became cool. Cows are living creatures that eat and poop. We have a lot of poop that needs to be recycled. There is a precise process when spreading poop. Our land is plotted out and the soil is tested as to what it needs. We are monitored and log where the manure is spread. 

For most, including myself at times, this looks like a pain in the neck to follow on the road. This is "can't wait til I can pass" on the road. Everyone is in a hurry to get where they need to go and then this big piece of machinery or other tractors ruin your plans.

For us, this is home for Farmer and the boys for many hours in the spring. This is where kids sleep on the floor, family rides on the buddy seat and dogs catch a ride. This is where I go at midnight to ride along to keep someone awake while trying to finish the fields before the rain comes. This is the beginning of the cycle of sowing and reaping.

This looks like a crock pot of Bar-B-Q.

This looks like a fridge full of drinks for a hot summer night party. While it could be for that, the food and drink are for our employees. I try to periodically make crock pots full of chili, soup, bar-b-q and other goodies for our guys. I want to show them how much we appreciate the work they put into our operation. I bring drinks out to the fields and leave them in tractors to keep everyone replenished. During the busy times I become "meals on wheels farm style". We could never do this without the great team we have.

When visitors find out we send one or more of these a day to the processing plant they think that's a whole lot of milk. 

For us, that's our paycheck. Everything we do comes down to that load of milk. It pays all the bills.

"Look at all those cows . . . 

"Look at all those green machines . . .

"Look at all those silos . . .

"Look at all that corn . . .

. . . you must be rich."

Not according to your measuring stick but for me . . . beyond measure.

Photo credit: BenLoew

Photo credit: Ben Loew

This sums it up for me.

Celebrate the ordinary

Today is the only day you have. Don't wish it away, worry it away or plan it away. Your ordinary days add up to life.

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