Crimson Clover Harvest is starting….and is over!

We didn’t have much crimson clover this year, 42 acres. So this two day harvesting job was going to be a breeze. And the way that you can tell you’re a farmer right now is if you read that and started to giggle, because there is little about harvest of any crop that ever turns out to be a “breeze”. This year our crimson crop was no different.

It started out great. Round 1 around the field was was dull at best. But then came round 2 and some surprise “slugs” that were left behind from the swather. When you cut (or swath) it’s usually at night when there is more moisture. Great to keep the seed on the stem of the crop before you harvest it, but if the cutter gets plugged it causes a huge dense wet area that will rarely dry out on its own.

Grabbing those last few piles at the end. Even after performing them out and three days later the combine was growling!

So as we started in round two of the field the growling and terrible noises coming from inside the harvester were hard to ignore. After a few plugs that caused us all want to itch our skin off (unplugging a clover harvester is dusty and dirty and super itchy), we decided to skip those areas and come back to pitchfork them out to help get the drying process started.

But then the wind started to blow the exact direction we were headed on one side. And for 1500 feet we could see nothing, nada, zilch. The best (worst) part was that it was also the side of the field that had all those surprise slugs. I’ve never paid so much attention to combining in my life! It was unnerving.

This should be a picture of a header feeding the crop into the combine. Instead we were completely blind!

So move to day two and all is looking good. Until I jumped out to check the sieves (cleaning area) at the back of the combine and smelled smoke! A bearing had gotten packed with dust and caused so much friction that it actually ignited. Crimson dust is especially flammable. Then when we had made the corner, the smoldering dust on the back of the harvester had shifted onto the ground and started the stumble on fire.

We caught it early. Had a water tank all ready to go, got the fire out and all was fine. Just a few new bearings later and we were back at it. So while it only added a day or so to our harvest, I think we are all a little glad to be saying goodbye to the extremely dusty, itchy and challenging year of harvesting crimson clover! Next up, grass seed harvest!!

Doing What We’ve Always Done – NOPE

This time of year I am always reminded of the times when folks, most of who don’t understand farming and agriculture and are challenging me on something, look at me and say, “Well you’re just doing things the way they have always been done. That’s how farmers are.” It’s hard to not feel deflated when I hear those comments. Whether it’s during a hearing at the capital where I am defending and explaining why we do what we do; or discussing important tools and why they are necessary for us to farm in Oregon, it hits me in my gut.

This time of year I think of this often because quite frankly these comments and thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth. Right now, we are currently in “meeting season” here in Oregon. I was attending one in particular a few weeks ago put on my Oregon State University Extension, and it was great! I got a ton of information which I brought back to to the farm to discuss and noodle over. So much so that I actually wrote down in my notebook while I was taking notes, “Doing what we’ve always done – nope.” as a reminder to write this blog post.

Here are just a few of the conversations on our farm from just this one meeting…

  • Fertilizer rates, timing, number of applications
  • What are ways we can control or help with nitrogen volatility
  • New ways to look at soil tests and question what we have been told the past few years.

Farming is not easy with all the forces outside our control, just the weather alone, presenting challenges that force you to look outside the box every single year and every single season. If I wanted to just sit back and do things the way that we’ve always done them, I don’t know that my farm would still be here. We would be growing crops that don’t profit any longer, we would be using tractors that barely run and have to be wrenched on constantly, technology that allows us to do more with less would force us to be inefficient and wasteful, our soil wouldn’t be able to grow the crops that we need to keep our farm viable, thriving, and moving on to the next generation. To us, “sustainable” isn’t just a buzz word; it’s what we’ve lived since we started farming generations ago.

Saying that we are “Doing what we have always done” is a cop out for someone who doesn’t want to take the time to actually look at the innovation in farming practices that continuously occur on farms all over the world. In fact, we have been a part of a number of trials on our own farm to get on the ground data for Oregon farmers. This is not easy to be a part of, it takes time and participation, it takes effort to not fertilize, drive, or disturb areas of your own fields. Sometimes it’s just frankly a pain in the butt.

So why do we continue to say yes when someone comes with a need for a field trial? Simply put, we can’t afford to do what folks think we are doing as they look in from the outside on the supposed simplicity of our work. We can’t stand to be left in the dust, and just let come what comes! We are farmers, who are never doing “what we’ve always done”; instead we are looking to the future to do what quite possibly hasn’t been done ever at all, and see if it works. So next time you hear that old adage, brush it off, because someone who says those words has no idea what can be accomplished by farmers with some sweat equity and soil.

The Business of Agriculture Podcast

Back in December two of my good friends and fellow farmers, Macey Wessels and Shelly Boshart Davis and I were given the opportunity to join Damian Mason on his podcast; The Business of Agriculture.

We covered a multitude of topics including Oregon agriculture in general, what it’s like to farm in a heavy regulated state, being a woman in ag, grass seed, filberts (or hazelnuts), trucking and straw. So if you’re interested in a glimpse into what it’s like to be a farmer in Oregon, I take a listen and let me know what you think!

You can find us where you regularly listen in to podcasts, look under “The Business of Agriculture; Episode 222 entitled Grass Seed, Hazelnuts, Trucking & More”. Or you can also follow this YouTube link to listen.

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