Thursday, September 27, 2012


We're planting rye. 
Didn't think fall was a planting season?  It is.  (In North Carolina my friend Courtney replants her entire yard from her spring flowers to her fall flowers.  This reminds me of that.)
After chopping corn, the field is full of corn stalks and leftover weeds.  We used a disc to cut the weeds and uproot the stalks.  We chisel plowed it to help break up soil compaction. 
The headlands are the parts around the outside of the field that get driven on all the time.  It gets compacted - think, like a driveway.  For instance, a neighboring farm planted radishes to break up the soil in their headlands. 
We're having a contractor work our field down with a soil finisher, which makes a smooth bed.  Then he'll plant the rye. 
It'll grow this fall and when it gets cold enough it'll go dormant.  Then in the spring when it warms up it'll start growing again - like grass.  We'll cut it in the spring for cattle feed. 
By doing this, we'll get another crop out of the field before we plant the corn.  It's good for the soil, because the rye itself helps keep the nutrients in it.  It also covers it to help prevent erosion over the winter. 
In the meantime, we're enjoying the fall.  Some years the leaves are nice, and some years they're gorgeous.  This year is spectacular, as well as the weather.  70s and sunny! 
I guess ... at least one good thing came out of the drought. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012


My brother-in-law Rob did the Redman Triathlon yesterday, which was a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.1 mile run.

He texted me afterward and said they got chocolate milk towels at the end of the race.  He also mentioned that he drank five cartons himself.

To races from the farm ... hooray!

Today marks something for me.  I've run every day for six months.  I've been a runner since I was 18, but I started a streak and haven't found a reason to stop it yet.  There's a whole organization devoted to running streaks - some people on it have been running every day for 40 years. 

I also have dairy every day because I haven't found a reason to stop doing that, either.  But that streak is a lot longer.  And really, nearly effortless.  Plus, I'm pretty sure there are no sites devoted to it.

So, enjoy your food and drink.  We went to a football game and baseball game this weekend.  After the corn is harvested and the calves are weaned, leaving home gets a lot easier!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Our many publications

I've talked before about how many farm magazines there are - both free and subscription.  (Don't think I'm complaining.  I read - or at least skim - them all before I throw them on Kris' pile.)  Today our haul was particularly interesting. 

- First of all, Michigan Farm News had an article 'Deer killer confirmed in 17 Michigan counties'.  It's not a poacher ... it states that the deer deaths are indeed caused by epizootic hemorrhagic disease, and that so far 900 dead deer have been reported to their office.  The article also states, "Past observations have revealed that simultaneous infections sometimes occur in deer, cattle, and sheep. Discovery of illness in deer indicates that infected biting midges are present in the vicinity, and thus, both deer and livestock are at risk of infection." 

Our furnace turned on for the first time last night.  I don't usually hope for an early frost, but - any day now would be fine ...

- I opened up Progressive Dairyman and saw my blog under Tech Tools - Featured Blogs.  I always read that section and it was a pleasant surprise! 

- Hoard's Dairyman is an age-old (since 1885!), well-respected,  and usually good magazine.  We pay for this one, even.  I could talk about all the good articles that are in there, but today one sentence really threw me.  The article was called 'Natural-service bulls can't compete with technology.'  We use natural-service bulls, so I was interested in the study.  Instead, I got this sentence, "While space does not allow us to go through details, we can tell you this ... the results of these two studies indicate that TAI, despite long resemination intervals, either did not compromise or may have even enhanced reproductive performance when compared to natural service."         

Ha!  Who needs to know anything about the study when you can just tell me the results?  Maybe give them another page in the magazine, leave that sentence out, or reflect on what my dad always says, "Magazines are written to make money."

Or, talk about the article at length with your husband and sons and realize ... good, bad, featured, not - I'd much rather get any magazine in the mail than another bill.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oh deer

We've seen in the news and heard from neighbors that people have been seeing a lot of dead deer.  It's thought that they're dying of hemorrhagic disease, or bluetongue.

It's a virus transmitted through midge fly bites.  (Didn't know what a midge fly is?  Me neither.  This site says they're known as no-see-ums, or gnats, which is what I call them.)  Scientists think that there are outbreaks during drought years because deer and midge flies hang out in the few available watering spots.  Not all deer die from it, but many do.

Cattle can also get the virus, but it's not as common.

Last week, Kris saw one dead deer in a field he was chopping.  Today I saw one in the creek.  I wonder if we're going to start seeing them all over, now.  The articles say that the first frost will kill off the flies and then they'll quit spreading it around. 

We also saw two live deer today.  We rode in the chopper - yes, all five of us again - and we scared out two young deer from the corn.  Kris was finishing up the chopping, so they had to run across the very open field to the woods.  Stay away from flies!

I know that the deer population is large, I know that they eat our crops, and I know they can spread tuberculosis to cattle.  Despite that, I love seeing deer around.  There just aren't that many large wild animals that you get to see.

Large tame animals, sure.  We see the cows all the time.  Stay away from the flies!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sidewalls sideways

This is the way the silage pad looked when it was being poured in early August:
This was it today, with 107 loads of chopped corn on it:
After three straight days of chopping, we're done until Monday.  The rest of the fields need to dry a little more.  So the guys covered the pile.  (It rained a little later to make everyone feel like it was worth it!)
It was such a jovial atmosphere.  Even though it's hard work, the guys were all laughing and talking and joking.  It was nice, plus my kids enjoyed it.
Kris purchased some sidewalls.  The benefits are: they weigh less.  They're easier to stack and get out of the way when they're not on the piles.  They don't fill with rainwater that gets really gross.  Cole calls it "tire juice" and later told me, "All the guys started calling it that too."

The cons: they cost money, unlike tires that people are always trying to get rid of.  But when you're moving them around a lot, sidewalls are at least a nice alternative. 

While I was there, Mike joked that covering the pile is a lot like Sisyphus, the king who had to forever roll a boulder up a hill.  But he was smiling when he said it ... so maybe throwing some sidewalls in the mix does help.

Not everyone there was working hard.  Some of them got downright comfortable.  Mired in tire juice and all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fantastic contraption

Choppers are amazing machines.
This chopper takes the entire, juicy, huge, green corn plant - cobs, stalk and all - and chops it finely into tiny digestible bits.  So small of bits that they can be blown into a wagon.  And it does it all really fast.
Just think about mowing a lawn - when the grass is wet it takes the mower a little bit of time to cut up the grass.  Sometimes it even stalls the mower if you're doing it too fast.  (That happens to other people, too, right?)
We started the corn harvest yesterday.  We're chopping all of the corn to feed to the cattle all year.  That means we don't just use the corn kernels - we use the entire plant. 
The boys and I went to ride with Kris in the field.  Here he is with the chopper and the wagon in back.  The chopper blows the chopped corn through that yellow tube into the wagon. 
Here's Kris.  Chopping takes a lot of concentration.  It's not like hitting cruise control and going on the highway.  You have to chop the hard-to-get-to parts first, then you have to coordinate with the people driving the wagons ... sometimes Kris chops with the wagon on the back, and sometimes he has guys drive a tractor alongside it with a wagon.  It goes faster that way, because as soon as one wagon is filled, another is ready - instead of unhooking a full wagon and hooking up an empty one.

When we were doing this yesterday, Kris strained to make a turn and said, "That new ditch sometimes catches me off guard.  Also ... I can't move my arms."  Yes, it was a tight fit for five people in a chopper! 

That was the end of our ride.  I guess 'arm mobility' is the reason there's only an extra seat for one.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Today we ran a race called Trail for the Troops. The race was to honor the armed forces and benefit the Wounded Warrior project.
One of the runners honored was Eddie Moinet, who lost his leg last year in Afghanistan. Here he is beating his sister to the finish line:

My brother, who's also in the military and was in Iraq last year, emailed me a Got Chocolate Milk ad last week. 
I'd looked at it on my phone, but today after the race I opened it up on my computer.  So when I did I was surprised to see: 
Sarah Reinertsen is a triathlete and professional speaker.  She was born with a bone growth disorder and had her leg amputated at age seven.  
It's a great ad and it was a great race.  Hooray for the military, brothers, and milk!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


When you have your feed in big piles on the ground, you have to get it off in an efficient way.  Until last month, that way for us was to knock it off with the skid steer bucket.
But!  There's a piece of equipment called a defacer that's designed to get the feed off the pile.  It helps in keeping the feed fresher, because you don't expose as much of it to the air.  It makes it easier for when we feed small quantities, like we do in the summer.  Overall, it helps in creating less spoilage. 
It's also ... cool.  We already had one James Bond torture device we used last year.  Now we use another one daily.  Rotating points grinding away?  Check.  On a piece of heavy equipment?  Coming right toward you?  IT'S THE DEFACER. 
And it's not even Halloween yet. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Candy corn


Kris picked a few ears of corn out of the field today to check them out.  He plans on starting to chop corn tomorrow.

After my youngest gnawed on them despite me telling him field corn is different than sweet corn, we took the ears down to feed to the cattle. 

We were picking kernels off the cobs.  My son Cole held one in his hand and said, "This looks just like candy corn!"

It did - three colors and all.  It was easy to see where candy makers got the idea. 

I did just google 'candy corn' and see that in the candy, the orange and white have switched places.  But I wouldn't have known that without looking.  Instead I told Cole he was exactly right, took a picture, and told other people about it.  I'm going to chalk it up to the 1880s confectioner not being able to exactly recall the color scheme back on the farm.

Kris told me that the white line was called the milk line - that when he picked it there was more white in the kernel, but after it dried out more of the white turned to yellow.

So, of course, we all tried a little.  Field corn doesn't taste like candy corn, either.