Corn? Sweet!

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Summer cannot possibly be summer without sweet corn.

This year Son #2 had a wonderful idea and planted sweet corn several places on our properties. He planted in a field near our milking parlor for our employees. He planted several small plots in the fields we rent. He then went door to door to the neighbors of these fields and explained where the fields were and that the corn was for them and their families to enjoy. His idea blessed many people.

He also planted some directly behind our house that our families and friends enjoyed. And this is the story of that.

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He emptied the corn bins of field corn from the 12-row corn planter and then filled it with the sweet corn. He planted the sweet corn at a ratio of 26,115 kernels per acre. In field corn, you plant around 33,000 to 34,000 kernels per acre.

Behind our house, he planted .3 acres which would produce 7,834.5 plants at the sweet corn ratio. He made two passes with the planter so we had 24 rows of corn. The rows are 30” apart. It was a lot of corn. Especially, this year. The weather was perfect and the corn was beautiful. God did an outstanding job of growing it this year.

So, doing a little deciphering – each stalk of corn averages 1 & 1/4 ears. We figured one out of every four had 2 ears. Just by sight, there were a lot of stalks with two good ears.

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Each ear of corn averages 16 rows on the cob. Also, each ear of corn has an even number of rows – God’s rule.

Each ear of corn averages 800 kernels of corn.

So, if each of those 7,835 stalks produced 1 ear that would be 6,268,000 kernels of corn = 800% increase.

If each stalk produced 2 ears that would be an increase of 1600% and 12,536,000 kernels of corn.

As close as we can figure he spent about $130.00 for seed for our .3 acres. Add in his time which did add up a little – moving from field to field with a 12-row corn planter and the planting just a small swath and then moving on to another field was time consuming. So, figure his time, seed cost and fuel and yes, there was an investment on his part.

We had sweet corn coming out of our ears. Way more than we could take care of as a family so we decided to give it away. I daily put it on face book for friends to come and pick. Most wanted to pay but we said no. Many were reluctant to take too much until I battered them down with “take more, please, take more”.

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We’ve had 58 families come and pick corn. At least 2 of those have passed it on to another 8 families. Once I convinced our guests to take more I can confidently say most took at least 100 ears of corn – some more. And we were excited to see it go!

Someone mentioned how much money we could have got if we would have sold it. Personally, our reward from giving it away is far greater. Also, knowing that our good deeds are being store in heaven we have even more reward waiting for us.

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A few fun facts about corn:

            Each ear has an even number of rows
            Each silk hair is associated with a separate kernel of corn – I tell people the silk hair is                           like an umbilical cord.
           The tassels on top of the corn plant pollenates the silk hairs which make the corn.

This is just another example of how cool God is. He created a seed that gets buried in the dirt. You drown it with water and then the seed dies, comes back to life, fights to get through the crusty ground. It grows a few months and then the one seed becomes 800 – 1600. How cool is that. And, to top it off – it’s delicious!!!!

 

 

 

Transparent and Vulnerable

Transparent.

That’s what I set out to be when I started blogging.

Being transparent is risky. It’s hard to be transparent without dragging someone else into the fray with you.

So, having said that, I’m wading into murky waters here.

The last few years have been hard. I’m not one to air dirty laundry, point fingers, call out people – especially family and friends.

Things are rough enough that I look at other people’s lives and wonder if they are really that happy. Do they have any problems? Other’s activities look picture perfect at times. I drive by cars and see people laughing, others outside playing in the yard, shopping together or whatever and I wonder what it would be like to be them.

Is my life horrible – by no means, it’s just been tough the last few years.

Am I more fortunate than others – absolutely. Compared to 99.9% of the rest of the world my life is a cake walk.

Am I writing this to garner sympathy – no way. I don’t want sympathy or words of “praying for you”, “sorry” or anything like that.

I am hoping to put into words something that will help someone else that feels the way I do. That no matter the degree of your sadness, disappointment, lack of joy – it’s not just you. You are not alone on your island of unhappiness.

Maybe it’s the stage of life I’m in. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s just the devil screwing around with my emotions. Whatever the cause it’s real to me.

A few years ago, my youngest son decided to leave the farm to pursue a different job. While I supported and still support his decision 100% it was extremely hard. One of the joys I had was being able to walk across the road and see three of my sons daily. I could jump into a tractor or other vehicle, ride along and chat. At any time of the day they would stop in for leftovers, cookies or a quick “I gotta lay down a minute”. His kids would ride with him and sometimes be part of the drop-in crowd.

Basically, my “dream” life, my personal picture perfect life was starting to unravel.

Myself and my siblings spent close to a year taking care of our father. Three of us live 2 hours away which was a problem for us. Take time off work, travel – bad weather conditions, etc. My other brother who lived nearby had the burden of living close. I felt guilty that he had to handle the things that would come up – while the rest of us took turns helping. It was exhausting yet a privilege to care for him. We wouldn’t do it any different and he is doing great now. Never the less the exhaustion, unknown outcome, never ending frustrations and circumstances all took a toll we felt.

If anyone reads my blog or follows me on face book knows about Charlie. You can read about him in previous blogs. He was more than a special dog. There was something that can’t be described about Charlie and how much I loved that dog. He and I had a special connection – hard to describe. Holding his head in my hands, looking into his eyes for the last time, saying good-bye to him and then looking for him in his usual places for weeks after he was gone was physically painful. Yes, I know he was a dog, and yes, I know people lose other people – I’m not trying to lessen other’s pain or elevate mine – it just is.

In the middle of all this for a few years we’ve been trying to transition the farm to our son(s).  How do you take what you’ve worked the last 45 years (for me, longer for Farmer) and figure out how to divide things in a way that keeps the farm running while blessing other family members? The attorney would suggest this – and the accountants would say “tax consequences) and back and forth we went. It’s tricky business trying to leave an inheritance that still produces a livelihood and isn’t eaten up by the government.

And, will my kid(s) be able to continue in the future? Have we prepared them sufficiently? What more can we do? Can they handle the stress? How do you do all of this without making them feel like you don’t trust them or feel they are inadequate? Is there a better life with less problems for them? Sticky business.

Then, this year another son decided to leave the farm to pursue other interests. One less son to drop in, visit, run down the road to see. Once again, we all supported his decision and know he will do fine, it’s just another piece of my “dream” drifting away.

Oh, and why not add in horrible milk prices so it makes it next to impossible to survive financially. Lack of money causes more disagreements – where to spend the little we have, what do you live with, what can we change to make this work. No money = no cushion for wrong decisions. This could be a whole blog in itself.

Just differences between employees, father and son, son and mother, husband and wife can suck the life right out of you. Being the mother I constantly feel like I'm in the middle and make no one happy.

On the outside looking in I wanted to show the good, the fun, the pleasant part of farm life. I also wrote about the hardships of farming but kept the personal out. Not that I wanted to portray a lie, I just didn’t want to give credence to any of the hard stuff.

But there lies the rub for me. By keeping this hard stuff in the closet, how does that help anyone – other than me or perhaps Farmer who is extremely private about things.

I find I get more help or encouragement by hearing the hard stuff people get through. I want to know of struggles and rough stuff – not that I enjoy other people’s pain, just that it sort of helps me knowing someone else is in the crap too. It helps quiet the condemning voice that says, “you should have, you could have, why didn’t you” that comes straight from hell.

The physicality of farming is life altering. Three sons have ruptures, herniated or bulging disks in their backs. Some days are pretty good and other days can be crippling.

Many hours are taken away from family time in this profession. We fight the weather constantly. When we aren’t fighting it we are in a glorious spot working like crazy to use up every last drop of opportunity.

Then there’s the “fake news”. We farmers have been dealing with fake news way before Mr. Trump came on the scene. It sickens and angers me with the number of lies being spread about our profession. Specialty groups with their own hidden agenda (hidden to most who follow the piped piper), celebrities that want one more soapbox to get attention all spout lies that consumers believe. The picture painted is that farmers slide by using poisonous products that will line their pockets while killing those who eat their product. And for a couple of the groups that’s exactly their agenda – don’t eat animals.

Restaurants cave, food companies cave and advertise in any language the puppet public deems good. I can’t blame the public – they hear the loudest voices. We try but while the liars stand on podiums with mega phones we’re speaking out while our heads are down working the soil growing their food. So, the loudest voice is heard. Loudest isn’t always the best nor truthful.

So, everything smiley, shiny and pretty looking isn’t necessarily so. I have a core group of other farmers (women) who can totally relate to this. Some of their issues are greater than mine.

There’s one of my farm sisters who has suffered extreme family loss through death. Another who has major health issues, another who has hard issues with depression. Many of us are isolated in our profession and even logistically. More than one is over paying a non-farming family member for the farm that the parents wanted (but never put in writing) those who stayed on the farm with them to continue. Funny how after the dust settles siblings will want to invest in the farm – just enough to get a chunk of money, create hard ship for those who are left and then leave.

While we can or at least we could try to leave the farm behind and try another profession, we usually don’t. I really doubt some of us could. It would be like cutting off an arm or leg and expecting to run an obstacle course. This position in life is understood by a very slim number of people.

I’m not sure if any of this has resonated or helped anyone understand where they may be personally, or where a friend may be at this moment in their life or not. Once again, no sympathy comments -  my intent was to show that while there are blessings untold on the farm that everything that looks green and growing may actually be slowly dying inside hoping to be resurrected before it’s too late.

 

 

 

 

 

To Non-Farm Friends, Neighbors and Strangers

Just a few things that I thought I’d go over to make co-habitation easier for all of us. After all we’re in this, together right?

1.      Please don’t drop off your stray pets you no longer want or can keep. Just because we “professionally” have animals doesn’t mean we are a drop off location for unwanted critters. The local critters don’t take kindly to new arrivals and there can be a showdown at the corral that doesn’t end pretty for the newbies.

2.      Just because there is a field on a back road doesn’t mean it’s open for recreational use – whether it be driving, dirt biking, making whoopy, or sleeping off a drunken stupor. And while we’re at it – it isn’t a free garbage dump either. We don’t want your tree trimmings, old furniture, TVs or any other manner of junk.

3.    Those big open fields that you like to look at are food for our animals. Animals eat, then they poop and then the flies come. So, there will probably be more flies out here than in the city. We don’t like them either but it comes with the territory. Also, we have become pretty good at recycling and respecting the earth. We spread that poop as fertilizer so there will be times it smells pretty bad. We don’t like that either but once again, it comes with the territory. 

4.     We really want to get along and enjoy each other’s company so if you’re having a special picnic, birthday party or gathering please let us know ahead of time and if we possible can we will change our course of spreading, planting or harvesting – if we can. There will be times when we just can’t. But, we really want a good relationship and we will definitely try hard to make it work for all of us.

5.     We are not a temporary hiring business. So many will ask if their kid can help during the summer. And, there have been a few who did and stuck with us. At this farm, we don’t shovel out a few pens, ride on a wagon collecting some bales of hay, gather eggs, throw grain out to chickens or any other easily learned jobs. And, we have a few busy times of the year where we need help – but it usually involves heavy machinery or other abilities a 13-year-old can’t handle. At best, we can occasionally offer a random few weeks sporadically depending on the weather. We always feel bad saying no.

6.  No, we are not rich because we have all those silos, tractors, cows (insert your own item) land or whatever. All those things are tools for us to do our job. They are expensive and necessary. Many times, they breakdown causing more expense. And the weather is either our best friend or worst enemy when it comes to our crops. Our purchasing prices of materials is set for us – not by us. And then our selling price is set by others, not by us. So, things can be and right now are pretty dicey.

7.  Farming is not “what’s left” in the occupational bowl you draw from. New technologies and new advancements are helping us feed more people with less. And, we must continue to expand our knowledge and ability to do better. My son plants corn using 4 display screens connected to GPS. And there are many other advancements in the industry. Continuing education is part of farming like any other business.

8.  For the most part, we farmers prefer you would get your information from us instead of celebrities or non-farmers who have no clue. We would rather show and tell than correct and fix false information spread by specialty groups. If you want to know how, why or what for, ask us.

9.  Dairy specific – cows are not hooked to milking machines 24 hours a day and they do not die when they give milk. It takes about 2 years to raise a cow to have a calf. Once the calf is born the cow gives milk. The two years prior the cow is being cared for daily – inputting feed, water, nutrients and care. Once the cow has the calf she is milked. She is bred again after about two months and we will stop milking her the last two months of her pregnancy so all her energy goes into her well-being and the calf’s.

10. On a fun note we bathe or shower more often than Saturday night. We can even get the dirt out from under our fingernails – grease stains, not so much. But we know how to “pretty up” and smell good. And, there is no better person to receive help from than a farmer who isn’t afraid of hard things and knows how to stick with it until the job is done.

Dear John, um I Mean Cargill,

I’ve never written a “Dear John” letter before. Never needed to. Until now. To you.

I’m leaving.

You cheated on me.

I’ve found someone better.

I doubt this letter will cause any tears but I do hope it pricks your conscious.

For several years, we’ve purchased feed from your company. I must say the people we have dealt with have been superb. Great and knowledgeable.

Your product has fed many of our cows successfully.

While I could complain of high prices I imagine you’re comparable.

So, why am I leaving?

Many farmers had a working relationship with you. We grow for you, we buy from you and support each other. Until this past spring, you turned your back on us and joined an organization that is not farmer friendly. An anti-GMO organization that I will not give space to in this letter.

I totally understand that you need to accommodate all types of customers. You had a non-GMO process in place that seemed to be doing the job just fine.

Then, you messed up.

I agree with Julie Gunlock in her commentary – The Unholy Alliance Between Big Biz and Big Alarmism when she wrote: Cargill, one of America's biggest food and agriculture companies, recently announced its partnership with the _________, an organization focused on misinforming consumers about GMO safety, and, as the organization's name implies, ridding the American marketplace of GMOs.

First, there are many who have confirmed that GMOs are safe for humans and animals. Such as the National Academy of Sciences, American Medical Association, World Health Organization and many more.

There are groups of people who want you to believe GMOs are unsafe. Why? Business reasons. And a whole lot of band wagon jumpers – “Wow, did you hear GMOs will make you grow an extra leg? –We better jump on the anti-GMO band wagon then.”

The loudest voice is heard and right now the false, fake, fear promoting voice is prospering at our expense.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that on the board of this anti-GMO organization are people connected to Organic, Natural and Environmentalist businesses and groups?

Hmmmmm . . . if there are more and more people who are afraid of the safe GMO foods then there will be more to purchase their “super safe” food products. Funny how that works.

But, I digress – you know all of that. I added that in hopes everyone who reads this will hear the truth.

So, back to you Cargill.

“Helping farmers prosper” is part of founder’s W.W.Cargill’s vision statement. Somehow siding with fear propagating, false teaching businesses that encourage consumers to purchase a selected type of food doesn’t line up with helping farmers prosper.

As I said before, the loudest voice is heard. This anti-GMO organization is a huge voice – like a Goliath.

Farmers need a David to go against Goliath.

You could have been our David. You could have brought truth to the marketplace for consumers.

Now the Goliath has more strength to frighten others to pick the more expensive, yet no difference in food value, item.

So, having written all of that, I’m choosing to hire a David as our feed company. We chose Farmer’s Co-op Elevator Co. in Hudsonville, over you and your weak backbone to stand up for farmers.

My hope is that enough farmers look for a David and we join forces to shine a light on the truth in agriculture.

So, this is farewell and good-bye. I’d wish you luck and success but then that would be a lie. I wish you would stand up straight and partner with those of us who are growing safe, affordable food for our families and the world.

Sadly, Sincerely,

 

Help, My Cow Needs Glucose

Did you know a cow can suffer from low blood sugar?

I never thought about it but was sort of surprised when a couple of ours were being treated.

I asked our amazing herdsman how and why.

If a cow has an injured foot, mastitis, pneumonia or any other ailment that would slow her down and prevent her from eating – that would be a good set up for low blood sugar. If she isn’t eating enough of a proper diet it could cause low blood sugar.

In a herd of 700 how do you find these cows? Well, our cows are all monitored when they come in the parlor and their milk output drastically dropped so the computer sorted them out. When that happened they were brought into the hospital pen area to examine and determine why.

The cows that have low sugar are wobbly, ears down and not looking good.

The urine was tested to determine the diagnosis.

We administered an IV of glucose and drenched them with sugar water. The sugar water is slowly absorbed to help wake up the liver – “say there liver get with it!”

They were treated for two days and were fine – these were considered as clinical low blood sugar.

There is such a thing as chronic - where cows don’t respond to the treatment because their brain just can’t communicate with the liver and get things back in sync. When the liver shuts down, the cow is done.

 

 

Domino's Pizza - Farmer's "David" in a Goliath World

Domino’s Pizza – a favorite that is even more favorite!

Finally, finally a food related business stepped up and stood beside farmers!

There is so much false, fear laden voices and outright lies about farming practices. And those voices have been the loudest with the biggest punch – but without any truth.

As a farmer, it gets harder and harder to do the good job we can do through technology and advances in our practices when ignorance shuts us down. Repeatedly companies are caving to the voices of unreason.

In fact, our feed company Cargill is one of the latest. I guess I should say our future, former feed company as we are in the process of pulling $300,000.00 + account from them. My Dear John, er I mean Dear Cargill blog will be soon coming.

Culver’s is another company that stands proudly with farmers but today, let’s concentrate on Dominos.

I had a conversation with our feed guy and told him the false, fake organizations that continue to lie and push their agenda around is like a Goliath. A giant to be slain. And, our farm is like a David trying to slay the giant. We are small and our account will do little to the company’s bottom line, but I want to be a David and fight and win the unexpected.

So, Dominos – thanks for being our David!

Thanks for acknowledging that farmers know how to farm better than activists. Farmers are giving their lives for their profession. Long hours, stressed relationships, exhaustion and joy – even in it all, yes joy is all part of the profession of farming.

Find a Domino’s. Order pizza. Lots and lots!

http://brownfieldagnews.com/news/dominos-stands-ground-animal-rights-extremists/

Who Will Stand with Farmers?

So, another company has caved to the Non-GMO hysteria. A large feed company that we happen to purchase product from has partnered with the Non-GMO Project. Disappointing for us farmers to say the least.

There is a candy company that won’t use GMO sugar beets any longer.

A milk company contemplating using milk from cows fed only non-GMO feed.

Why?

Because the squeaky wheel has stomped their foot, thrown a temper tantrum and companies are giving in instead of standing their ground on scientific information. I guess it is easier to give in and more profitable for them.

Us farmers? Not so much.

I won’t take the time to educate about GMOs. There’s plenty of great information out there that too many people are overlooking.

Here are three sites that explain it better than I could.

https://ag.purdue.edu/GMOs/pages/scienceofgmos.aspx#.WNU5rW_yupo

https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2017/02/14/without-glyphosate-farming-look-like/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2016/05/17/gmos-safe-academies-of-science-report-genetically-modified-food/84458872/

The reason for my blog is to ask – How and when will companies stand up, speak up, hold up and support agriculture that chooses to use modern, safe technology?

Many, me included have sung the song, “We need to share our story, let our voices be heard, tell the truth. We are our best advertisement.” And I still agree with that.

But –

It’s time for those who are supposed to be working with us farmers to stand with us. Defend us – speak the truth about GMOs and not submit to the pressures of specialty groups, so called food experts and the hysteria that follows them.

If this nonsense of surrendering to ignorance and fear keeps up, we are quickly heading in the direction of unaffordable food. Right now we have the most affordable and safe food source around.

So what do you say – Seed companies, Feed companies, Co-ops, Mills, Processors, Producers, Implement Dealers – any and all companies that are part of the agriculture world.

Can and will we farmers hear your voices with us?

For the general public reading this – please take the time to read the links about the GMOs. Having your voices added to ours will make a more powerful chorus to be sung.