Monday, January 23, 2012

No More Trees, No More Thneeds...

I started November by cutting all the milo worth cutting.

Which amounted to a grand total of about 20 acres.  I normally cut about 550 acres of dryland fall crops between my neighbor Rod and I. So, yeah, that's pretty bad.

I did manage to get a full combine load out of it...

But just the one.

And that's how the 2011 fieldwork ended.

AND that finishes 10 full years of farming for yours truly. (Cue balloons.)

AND (FINALLY!) some rest for what little is left of my poor L5 S1 vertebral disc.

We were fixing to have our first big freeze, so I went ahead and drained the water Over East the next day.

It rained a little.

And then a good bit more.  So all the wheat should  make it out of the ground at least.

I headed over to the Gray Havens to check the progress.

If you looked real closely you could see some wheat that had sprouted before this last rain.

Looks like this fella got in a little deep...

And this little guy was just gettin' started.

The irrigated still looked good, of course.

I finally got around to taking the smidge' of milo over to the feedlot. The one where they make the milo into ethanol.

  And then I headed up to haul some screenings for Chris.

It is very hard to overload these short trailers, and impossible to do with wheat screenings.

A funny thing happened on the way to Pierceville...

One day the crop adjuster came out to look at all the milo I didn't cut.

It didn't take long to zero everything out.

This is actually the first time I have not harvested a field that I planted. (Well, excepting those soybeans...(ooh, you should click on this link too. (especially you, Jeanette, since God apparently wasn't done answering your stupid question. (The more I look through the posts from 2008, the more I realize just how crappy this blog has gotten. Seriously, just read the archives, they are full of a lot better stuff. Plus it used to rain. (Also, apparently people used to comment. Boo readers! Boo! (Typical Reader's response: 'Maybe if you wouldn't fall so far behind, your posts would be fresher, shorter, and of such a quality that they would earn the respect necessary for me to take two minutes out of my busy day to comment. How about some quality posting, you ever heard of that one, Stan?)))))) 

10 years, with only one (near) complete crop failure. A ten year period drier than any ten year period in or around the dirty thirties, I might add.  Thanks, no-till!

 It was super nice of Steve to circle my farm on his map.

And that was the farm in November.

You know, I really should move all that junk, if I'm going to keep taking pictures of the rain gauge.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Hollow [Milo]

by [M.J.] [Lobiwan]

[Sorghum bicolor]—he dead.

                            A [rain-shower] for the Old [Crop]


We are the hollow [milo]
We are the stuffed [milo]
Leaning together
[Panicle] filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry [field]

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other [Section]
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent [plants], but only
As the hollow [milo]
The stuffed [milo].


[Inflorescence] I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream [Section]
These do not appear:
There, the [inflorescence] are
Sunlight on a broken [rachis]
There, is a [spikelet] swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream [Section]
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight [Section]


This is the dead land
This is [pigweed] land
Here the [dust] images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead [milo]’s [leaf]
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other [Section]
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to [blowing] [dust].


The [inflorescence] are not here
There are no [inflorescence] here
In this [plain] of dying stars
In this hollow [plain]
This broken [glume] of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid [photosynthesis]
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

[Yield]less, unless
The [inflorescence] reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight [Section]
The hope only
Of empty [milo].


Here we go round the [russian] [thistle]
[Russian] [thistle] [russian] [thistle]
Here we go round the [russian] [thistle]
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the [Drought]
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the [Drought]
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the [Drought]
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the [season] ends
This is the way the [season] ends
This is the way the [season] ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

(With sincere apologies to T.S. Eliot and his lovely poem.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dry Corn Harvest 2011.

So with the wheat in the ground it was time to get the corn out of the field.  Before we could do that, however, we had to move whatever leftover seed wheat we had in our "big" aerated bins. I had been dreading this since it involves a lot of cleaning out equipment and moving of augers.

And then (my nephew) Spencer showed up on his fall break!

While sales had been better than I had expected with the terrible combination of $8 August grain-wheat prices (translation: pretty pricey seed wheat) and our driest year to date on record, we still had quite a bit of seed wheat in the bins.

It went WAY faster with Spencers help.

While it is time consuming to have to clean out augers and hoppers and labor consuming to have to move the equipment around every time we change varieties, we like running the augers over a nice single pit elevator system because we feel it reduces the possibilities for cross contamination of seed.  It is a lot harder to mistakenly dump a truckload of Variety A into a bin containing variety B when you are actually unloading in a different physical location for each bin and when (a lot!) more than a few levers or push-buttons separate the two bins' load points.

The girls had a pretty good time with Spencer over lunch.

And so a job that would have probably taken me two or three days got finished in just one.

And Spencer and Anna had some time for more important things.

And so Dad and I started in on the corn on Monday.

On Tuesday I made an attempt at moving the sprinkler.

It didn't go so well.

 And with just the two of us I didn't have much time to deal with it.

On Wednesday we were still at it. 

Chris (my brother) was able to make it out to help that day, which gave me just enough time to be able to give the sprinkler the attention it deserved. The flat tire in September had really carved out a nice deep wheel rut and I just so happened to shut off the sprinkler at exactly the wrong spot.

I  had to muck out a good 40 feet of the sprinkler track to get it back onto solid ground.

 I had a nice view when I climbed up to check the bin level.

And so we were all done by Thursday morning.

There is nothing better than getting the whole mess that is irrigated corn production out of the way for another year.  And we really didn't come out too badly, considering the year (driest water year (October-October) on record and hottest summer on record) Our yields were off by about 15-20%, which was a lot better than a lot of folks around here fared. I didn't even come close to my personal record low yield (a late season grey leaf spot infection in 2006 was responsible for that one) so I was pretty happy.

Katie was thrilled to get her morning Papa time back. (I think Papa was pretty happy about that too.)

As for me, it was off to do some custom wheat drilling for a neighbor.

Which is the end of October, which means that we are only eleven (11) weeks behind.  Keep in mind that a hundred and fifty years ago eleven weeks for a letter would be--(40 miles per day x 77 days....) oh wow. Yes, eleven weeks is bad even by 1800s standards.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 begins. (October, 2011)

So with the wet corn all taken care of, we headed up to the airport to get cousin George's corn cut.

Luckily we had a nice stiff northerly breeze, so we got to see all the planes come in over our heads.

Which was definitely needed to take our mind of the corn we were cutting. It was pretty poor.  George was in the same boat as a lot of people this year, who just didn't have the water available to keep up with the corn through two months of 100+ degree temps.

I played a gig with RPM that Friday evening.  I don't remember who we opened for-- I packed up my drums and headed right back out to the field after our set. It was the last day of September, after all, and I needed to get this corn finished so I could get some wheat planted.

Anyways I got just about finished that night, and I despite running over an alfalfa valve just as I was finishing up the one field, I thought it was worth it.
It meant I wasn't quite so rushed Saturday morning, so I got to see Anna for a little bit.  Family time gets pretty scarce in the fall.

I took the last load in to the elevator that morning and we got all moved back home.

I spent the first couple of days the next week trying to fix the sprinkler tracks at home.  The sprinkler runs in a windshield wiper pattern and because of this the ruts get absolutely atrocious over the course of a summer.
Then I got the fertilizer put down.

And it was time to get some wheat in the ground. I started with some foundation Hatcher, which is a wheat out of the Colorado State system.

They didn't have treated seed available in bulk bags, and I wasn't about to mess with bushel bags after my two back surgeries this spring.  So I brought it over to the local Pioneer dealer to get it treated. 

And I was off. At my farm 2012 officially began on October 7th.

Anna joined me after school, which was awesome.

 I got the Hatcher planted that night, and then we got some rain. And by "we" I mean everyone in the state of Kansas except for us (the red star (click on the pics for a bigger view)):

But don't worry, we had gotten pretty used to it over the past 30 days.
And pretty much all of 2011.

And so I got some Everest planted on Saturday...
And  I kept on at it into the next week switching to Greer.

You can see my spot tillage around the wheel tracks.

Herb was nice enough to deliver my registered PostRock, SY Gold and Foundation Denali(!!) on Wednesday.

About two hours of cleaning equipment in preparation for taking delivery of true bulk seed, but if it isn't 100% pure going into the field, there is really no point in raising Certified seed.

Then there was more drilling.

Drilling wheat no-till into irrigated wheat stubble is a new frontier for me. Normally we put our wheat on "clean" ground every year to allow for maximum flexibility in selecting which varieties we are planting.  On this circle I had to plant the exact same varieties on the exact same acres as last year to maintain the varietal purity necessary for seed production. In this case it means TAM 111, SY Gold, and Dumas.

Another late Saturday night. 

But I got all my irrigated wheat in the ground by October 15th, which isn't too shabby, and actually quite an improvement over the last two years. In 2010 I got done on the 21st, and in the rain soaked fall of 2009, I didn't get my wheat in the ground until November 7th! My goal is usually to finish wheat planting around October 10th, but I will take late over early every time.

Finishing the TAM 111 on the monitor...

And the same view in the field.

Side note: I had passed my 30-lb-of-weight-lost-before-I-can-get-a-smart-phone trigger the previous week, so I was able to (after panicking) download the K-State Sports app onto my new Droid 3 after the radio station carrying the K-State/Tech game inexplicably went of the air 10 minutes before kickoff. Phew!

The next morning I had a peek at the baby Hatcher.

Monday morning I headed over to check the other circle of corn.  The south half was a touch wet yet.

And the north half was better, but still not dry enough to put in the bin.

So I reluctantly went ahead with planting the dryland wheat.  Now, normally, I would have been all over planting the dryland, if not a little worried about getting it in later than I would like. But this year was anything but normal.
Normally, after a field has been fallow for 11 months, there is quite a bit of subsoil moisture, even if there is no moisture on top to get it up. So the idea is to "dust it in" when you normally would, and hope for a nice shower to get the wheat sprouted and ready for winter.  But this year, there was absolutely no moisture to be found anywhere, (one grave digger said it was the first time ever that the soil was dry all the way down) which meant, at least in my mind, that I did NOT want the wheat to sprout this fall.  Wheat that has not sprouted will not die over the winter, no matter how dry it might be. Wheat that has sprouted in marginal moisture and with no help from the soil below will need regular help from above all winter long in order to make it through.
As this crop is going to be entirely dependent on winter snow and spring rainfall, I honestly think having it sprouted in the fall will be of no value to the success of the crop (despite the 2011 crop, where the fall sprouted wheat made about 20 bushels more than the spring sprouted wheat. While the fall of 2010 had just as dry topsoil conditions, we had a full moisture profile below 6", so early root growth was critical to success. Root growth is pointless (and impossible) when there is no moisture to grow in.)   Spring sprouted winter wheat may have a 25% yield disadvantage, but winter-killed wheat has a 100% yield disadvantage.  Honestly, if I didn't have an insurance plant date deadline to deal with, I would have waited and planted all my dryland wheat in February.

Rainbows are always pretty, but they are a lot prettier with some mud in the foreground :/

I found out that all those little bolts are actually important. Weird.

So I got it all dusted in by Friday morning.

Meanwhile Tom had planted the PostRock and Denali seed for us.  (in case you've lost count that makes Eight (8) different varieties. Madness! Wheat harvest lobiwan is going to be SO ticked-off at wheat planting lobiwan.)

Billions of baby wheat plants, entering a cruel and unforgiving world.

Godspeed, baby wheat.