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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!

Checking on a Baby Field

10 Feb

I went out today to check on one of our most struggling baby fields.  It’s been a cold and tough winter for these young plants.  Baby fields are fields that we planted last fall and have not been harvested yet.

These little baby grass plants are slowly…painfully…growing up out of the ground.  final-48We planted right into the old stand of grass seed this fall, which is not how we commonly grow grass seed.  However as Mother Nature doesn’t always leave you options, this wet fall closed the window on conventional planting for us.  This is a risk for us, but we are hoping that once spring comes, this dead looking field behind me, look s a lot more green!final-49Come on little guys!  You can do it!final-47

Harvest Excited, Harvest Tired

22 Jul

I finally sat down and took a deep breath today. We are in the heart of harvest here and there’s a part of me that thrives on all that we accomplish in a day.  And there’s a part of me that’s just exhausted and wishes I could sleep for days.  I am harvest excited and I am harvest tired.

Catching a quick lunch in the shade of our seed truck.

There’s a part of me that sees harvest as dragging on forever then there’s a part of me that laughs at that part because we aren’t even close to being done.  There’s a part of me that gets so excited with good yields and very frustrated with fields that aren’t producing.  Because for us, this is it, this is when it all either happens or doesn’t for our whole year.

final-129A very rough, very awful cabbage field….wondering where the crop is? So were we unfortunately.

Harvest has been long, long days, long nights.  Days filled with paperwork that still has to get finished, bills that still need to be paid.  Logistics of who goes where and what needs to get done, what fields to irrigate, what fields to harvest…a constant triage of priorities.  Then evening comes, the boys in tow, and dinners and family time out in the field.  Which moves us straight into nights of infant cries, and the many needs of a toddler at 3am.  We are smiling, because that crazy spirit in us, that now 4 generations of harvest, heat, dust and dirt…we just can’t shake it.

And the truth is, I already know I’ll be sitting in the same pickup, watching the same beautiful sunset next year, looking forward to the harvest on the horizon.  I am continually excited at the potential, and feeling of a years worth of hard work, just hoping it all pays off.  This farming thing, it isn’t easy, it’s tough on levels that you put your heart and soul into.  It’s something that maybe only a farmer understands and only a farmer would sign up for.  It’s our life though, at times it’s beautiful, at times hard…but either way here we go again for another day!

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