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Crimson Clover Field That Just Can’t Win

20 Feb

I feel like every year we have “that field”.  The one that just can’t get a break.  It might be the weather, the timing of planting, or any number of factors…but no matter what it just can’t win.

This year it’s one of our crimson clover fields.  This darn field has been through it all and while I’m over here praying it actually really does make it through it all, here’s what happened.

Fall Challenge:
Matt heads down to go look at the crimson field down by the river and my phone rings, “Holy…(um, we will use the word cow here) cow, the field is disappearing and fast!”  It’s early fall and it’s been warm, and the slugs have been feasting.  In very short order slugs from a neighboring field moved in with such vigor that they literally ate a 50′ strip down the entire length of the field!  This area completely disappeared within just a few days time!

Early Winter Challenge:
Matt heads down to go look at the crimson field down by the river and my phone rings, “Holy cow, you should see the ruts in our field, someone went mudding all over and it did a number!”  Crop damage is hard to tell at this point, ruts will be the largest factor come harvest when we are trying to drive through and over them.  This all makes me want to scream and put someone in that darn tractor for the hours, and hours, and hours it took to get that field perfectly flat and planted.  So frustrating!

Late Winter Challenge:
Matt heads down to go look at the crimson field down by the river and my phone rings, “Holy cow, our field is gone.  No really except for about 30 feet along the road, the field has disappeared in just four days.”  This picture captures the whole story.  In just a matter of a few short days a flock, or more correctly flocks of geese moved onto our field and had a feeding frenzy!  50 acres of beautiful crimson clover eaten down to nubs on the ground.

This is a photo of where they didn’t eat…isn’t is so pretty?!

This poor field, I’m telling you it just can’t win this year!  The good news is that we got most of the slug damaged areas replanted and it sprouted just in time for the geese to eat.  But the good news there is that it should grow out of it and just be a later harvest than the rest of the crimson we have (fingers crossed).  As for the jerks that drove all over our field…that one I’m still upset about!  This field still has until early July to try to survive before we harvest, here’s to hoping it gives it a good try and gets left alone for awhile.

But it all just goes to show, sometimes you can’t anticipate challenges that are going to hit your farm, your crops, or your land.  Sometimes you can go look at fields every day, and somehow miss one or two and just like that lose a crop.  Sometimes you decide that you and the boys are going to go look at the field down by the river instead of Matt.

And sometimes (maybe the most important lesson here) you learn that you just don’t answer the phone anymore when…

Matt heads down to go look at the crimson field down by the river and your phone rings, “Holy cow…”

Life Beyond the Farm & Having it All

12 Dec

I have found it a very common theme that farmers or those involved in agriculture have a reach that goes much beyond their own acres of land.  Maybe it’s because we are traditionally from smaller communities that have been built with volunteers, or maybe it’s because we have needed help at some point too and have always had a network to reach out to just over the fence row.  Or maybe it’s because we are bored…oh wait…nope…scratch that…it’s definitely not the reason. I have yet to meet a bored farmer!

I don’t often talk about my life outside of farming and family on here.  And probably a lot of it has to do with the fact that I never think of it as interesting or worth blogging about, because it’s just what I have always done and what has always been the norm for my life.  I grew up in a family that volunteered and gave their time where it was needed, and it’s something that runs as deep in my blood as the soil that I farm.  I, like many other farmers, volunteer as a firefighter and EMT in our community.  I also sit on many boards, mostly agriculturally involved.  I give a lot of time to these efforts of making things better for my fellow farmers, making things safer for my neighbors and overall helping where needed in the community.

This is a photo from the Woodburn High School Fire back in 2012, when I was still “Kirsch”

So all that being said, as many of you know I am expecting our third little baby this coming spring.  I actually headed up to the fire department just last night to have department photos taken and looked like this in my uniform shirt.  Which was hilarious but also made me a little sad.

A few months back I had to make a number of phone calls that I truly didn’t want to make, conversations about me stepping down, stepping back, and in some cases leaving all together.  Off boards with friends who have become family, folks who I have sat next to over years, in some cases over 10 years, at the local fire station, farm bureau board room or even coffee shop.  These meetings were more than just meetings, it’s where I learned some of the most valuable lessons of not only about how to be a good fireman, EMT or farmer; but a friend, a good colleague, and a solid person.

At a Marion County Farm Bureau Meeting, showing that “I Farm I Vote”

So last night when I tried (and really I did try) to button up that uniform shirt for what might be the last time in a long time, it was very bittersweet.  It was a blatant sign that I had made a choice, it was a sign that having it all doesn’t always mean you have it “all” and that decisions no matter how tough, have to be made.  I know I have made the right choice in moving back from my involvement, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say “see you later” to the folks who have made life here in this small town, and within the farming industry, so amazing.  I have no doubt that I’ll be back, remember it’s in my blood…and for now farming and having three kids under 4 (which yes I realize is still a lot) will take my time and focus.

I often have people ask me how I do it “all” and I often don’t really know what to say.  But I think now I’ll say that having it “all” doesn’t mean that you get to have everything you want right now.  It means to me that I have to be realistic and make choices that make what I can handle in the “now” all the more worth it.  Moving forward with life is not a choice, time will keep passing, but it does mean we get to make choices in the direction we head.  So for now, I’m heading back to the boys who are calling “mommy” (all the time!) and back to the fields to look for slugs.  For now that’s where my “all” is, and for now that’s all I need.

Cropping Decisions and the Weather

19 Jun

The cropping rotation on our farm, which includes around 11 different crops every year, is planned about 5 years out.  We plan that far out because there are a lot of things to consider.  Examples such as, which crops can follow others, keeping the mix of crops at the right acreage amounts, assessing our risk with each crop, what we can get contracts for, overall economics, level of labor intensity, etc.

But also the weather…oh that darn weather.  When we get a year like this past one, it doesn’t just mean that we wear our muck boots and rain gear more, it means that we have cropping decisions that are made for us by Mother Nature.

This field of green beans is the perfect example.

  • Plan A: Plant to Tall Fescue.
    Didn’t get the ground worked in time due to many circumstances.  On to plan B…
  • Plan B: Plant Perennial Ryegrass.
    It started to rain in early October….it never really stopped until that planting window was well closed.  So plan C it is…
  • Plan C: Plant peas.
    This would have worked, but then we got a contract for another crop that could potentially be better economically.  And finally Plan D…
  • Plan D: Green beans were planted….phew!

This is a bit oversimplified in many respects, but I thought it was a good way to show how much we are the mercy of the weather.  Other factors absolutely come into play, but the weather is one that we just can’t control and is tough to protect yourself against because it can be so unpredictable.  So the weather, economics, cropping decisions…they all play a part in the answer to what seems like the very simple question, “How do you decide what to plant in what field?”

So now this field when I drive by, just sort of exhausts me…it’s been a long road, and one that I will see happy to be harvested.  Of course it’s so we can go ahead and try again next year, Mother Nature willing of course!

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