Sunday, March 10, 2013

Snow Day!

Earlier this week, good ol Grass Creek finally saw its first real snow storm! We only got 8 inches (not anything compared to the two feet my cousin got up in Minnesota) but it was perfect wet packing snow, both perfect for making snowmen and perfect for making the roads a mess! Up here in the sticks, those fancy snow plows don't go down the back roads, you have to do it yourself! Once Seth told me he bottomed out in his truck, it was pretty much decided I wasn't going anywhere! So, with no milk, bananas, or juice (all staples in our house) Eli and I were stuck at home.
We made the most of it however, because I couldn't wait to get Eli out in the snow since we never got a good snow this winter! Eli hates hats and coats and socks and shoes and basically anything more than his diaper! So I was in total shock when he just stood contently as I turned him into a huge walking marshmallow. He must have known all this misery would get him outside in that wonderful white fluffy stuff!
Once outside, Eli just took off! He couldn't take a step without falling since the snow was half way up his body, and with every face plant into the snow he would squeal and giggle. His mittens fell off countless time and he didn't seem to mind, he just kept grabbing fistfuls of snow and throwing it for the dog to "fetch." Finally after an hour of playing, I took him inside only to realize that he was missing a boot! His nose was bright red, his hands were ice cubes, his poor left foot was soaking wet and all he cared about was trying to get outside again! Later, when Seth got home (with milk, bananas, juice, and Oreos, God bless him!) we got to go out again before dark so Seth could see how much of a little polar bear cub Eli is!

Is there anything cuter than this?!

He wasn't too excited about taking a picture with mom!

falling down in the snow didn't really phase him!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Crop Farming ABC's

Spring is just around the corner, which means planting will be in full force! When I first started dating Seth, I couldn't quite follow all the farmer jargon. Now when I talk to my friends and coworkers, I realize that now I speak farmer! Who knew! So, I thought for all of my non-ag audience out there (are there any of you out there? I hope so!) that I would define some of the terms we use out here! (Disclaimer: I am not an expert, this is just my "fun way" of explaining things!)

Acre: I know everyone out there knows this term, but do you REALLY know it?  It's approximately 43,560 square feet. Yeah right, who is gonna remember that? Just think of it as the size of a football field minus the endzones!  So now when you hear someone say something about their 150 acre field, you know what they mean.  During the summer, usually after church when I'm in nice clothes, Seth likes to stop and do field checks. That means we walk out into the field an acre deep and count a certain amount of rows, pick a random ear of corn, count the number of rows of kernels on it, then Seth does some magical calculation and estimates what the bushel per acre for that farm will be. I don't really know how he does it, but what I do know is that I am ticked off that I had to walk a football field length through corn rows (ever run through a cornfield against the rows? not easy!) in the 100 degree humid nasty weather just to count some corn in my sweaty church clothes and shoes.

Auger: These are the big tube structures that carry that transfer the grain from a lower position (a grain bin) to a higher position (the trailer of a semi). They look like a gigantic corkscrew encased in a metal tube.  After Seth and I got engaged, he wanted to come down to Purdue and visit me. I soon learned he had other motives and what he really wanted was to go shopping for a new auger. Being newly in love with this wonderful man, I agreed to go along. Never again. Shopping for an auger is not nearly as fun as shopping for a new dress or furniture.  I ended up wandering off on my own and finding a puddle full of baby frogs that I played in until Seth finally said we could go.

Bushel: the term of weight to measure grain. Corn is usually 56 lbs a bushel, soybeans are 60 lbs a bushel. A semi trailer holds about 1100 bushel roughly if that gives you an idea! An average hopper holds 300 bushel.  To give you an idea of how much grain is worth, a bushel of corn is worth about $6.80 depending on the market.  When one of my friends brought her family up to ride during harvest I was trying to explain this and not doing a good job. She finally asked "How much corn do I need to get a new Coach purse?" Now we're talking!!! If your new Coach bag is $150, then you need about 22 bushels of corn. Now whenever I ride in to take a load, I keep thinking I will see my friend there with 22 bushel baskets of corn so she can go shopping!

Bees Wings:  I would always hear Seth or his dad and brother say something about "bees wings" during harvest and I would be so confused. Why are we talking about bees? Is this a code word? Where are the bees? I don't want to get stung!  Well once I finally asked, it made perfect sense! The bees wings are the peices of red corn chaff that comes off the cob when harvested. Because its so light and irridescent, they look like little wings flying around. They also clog up the lint catcher in your dryer and sometimes 3 months after harvest I STILL find them in the shower drain!

Yield or Bushel/Acre: Since we are talking acres and bushels, its also important to know that when harvesting you want a good yield. The yield is how many bushels of grain per acre you are getting at harvest. For example, with corn, an ideal yield is 170 bushels per acre.  You can do the math...a field of corn is worth a lot of money! Now you know why its so tough when we have a drought like we did this past summer, or when someone goes mudding or fourwheeling through your newly planted corn field. One summer during college, I lived with some family friends that owned a farm and he also did some crop farming. One night, some kids were out tearing up people's fields with their trucks just having a good time. The farmer came and woke me up and put me in my little purple neon with a cattle prod and he took off in his truck. Thankfully, he found them first because I don't think I would have been very intimidating. The damage they had done however took lots of time, work and money to fix.

Crop rotation: You may notice that one year the field next to your house is corn, but last year it was beans. Why? Its called crop rotating, and its done to conserve the soil fertility by planting different crops because corn and soybeans take up and offer different nutrients to the soil that each other.  I remember my drivers ed teacher, Mr. Glass, quizzing us on this one early morning.  I was the only one who knew the answer so I got to choose the radio station. Country all the way! I don't think my car mates were too happy!

Combine: Everybody knows what a combine is! It's of course what harvests the crops and along with the sprayer, its my favorite tractor to ride in! Harvesting corn is definitely more fun than beans because its tall and you get to watch the stalks get sucked down, and you get to sit back and enjoy. When you ride along for bean harvest, you have to watch for rocks!  The combine is where I spend most of my fall weekends in order to spend time with my husband. If it costs more than $200,000, you bet I am going to spend time in it, eating, sleeping, reading, etc.

Drill: The drill is how we plant the soybeans on the farm. I still don't totally understand how the drill works but I know it that it plants the seed in a small furrow, the covers the seed, and then packs the soil over it. All at the same time. I've looked at our drill a million times, Seth's dad has explained it a million times, but I still don't get or ever see how it does all that in one millisecond. The other thing about the drill is that nobody wants to do it. It's rough, its bumpy, there is no buddy seat so you're all alone, and its slow tedious work. If your husband was the one who had to drill that day, better have a nice meal and heat pack ready for his back and a good book to read to avoid his grumpiness!

End Rows: Planting the corn and beans obviously requires large equipment and its a very tricky job. In order to have enough space to get the machinery in and out of the field without trampling over the crops, a large swath running perpendicular to the rows of planted seeds remains unplanted until the very end. End rows are always fun to drive over when you are in the grain cart, because they are REALLY bumpy since the furrows run the opposite way.

Seed corn: Seed corn is what is actually planted in the spring time.  The corn that grows from seed corn is not what is used to grow the corn again the following year.  Seed corn is raised specially by some farmers, and to grow it they must follow certain requirements like having an irrigator and doing cross-pollinating, etc. Seed corn brands you may have heard of: Pioneer, Becks, DuPont, etc.  These companies are also who apparently clothe my husband because we have about 50 farm jackets in the closet with one of their names on it, as well as hats, t shirts, fly swatters, pens, notebooks, and even pot holders!

Dryer: Like your newly washed clothes, newly picked corn must be dried in a dryer so that once it is stored, it doesn't rot.  Your clothes dryer costs about $400-600...a grain dryer can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Now input the gas to run the thing all day and're looking at a pretty hefty gas bill! Also, the same dangers of running your clothes dryer apply to the grain dryer, which is why they have very intense monitoring systems. When I first started dating Seth he would always have to get off the phone saying, "I have to go check on the dryer!" and I thought then, "wow, what a guy doing his own laundry!" No I know better (but he still does laundry too!)

Hopper: A hopper is really any type of vessel that you put the grain into.  It funnels down at the bottom so that the grain goes in the top, and then you can open a gate in the bottom to unload the grain at the elevator or into the auger system.  The combine has its own hopper, the semi's usually have two within the trailer, and even the bean drill has one.

Head: The head is the implement that you put on the combine depending on what you are harvesting. So, there is a corn head (they have the long rows of points on them) or the bean head (usually has a sickle and some kind of auger or conveyor belt to bring the grain into the combine)

Side Dressing: Like I said about crop rotation, the crops take up nutrients from the soil. Corn, especially, needs lots of nitrogen to grow, so that's why in the spring time you will see the farmers "knifing" anhydrous ammonia into the fields where the corn will be planted. I used to ride along with Seth on this job until I learned to do it myself. I learned quickly to remember to get the implement in the ground before turning on the anhydrous or else you would get the nastiness whiff of rotten egg ever! All jokes aside, this is a risky job as the tanks that you pull are very dangerous to work around which is why Seth always wears safety googles and gloves when switching the tanks (and never lets me do it!)

Spraying: The sprayer is one of my favorite tractors to ride in because it sits so high and it goes fast! Sprayers are the bug looking tractors that when you are stuck driving behind you wonder if you could just drive right under them because they sit up so high.  Once in the field, you spread out the arms (or wings as I like to say!) of the sprayer and on the arms are all the nozzles from which the liquid will come.  Spraying is done when the crops are barely sprouting and again a little later if needed to prevent bugs and weeds to hinder the plants.  Spraying goes quickly because you can go pretty fast, but again, can be dangerous from mixing the chemicals.

Grain Bin: Grain bins are the big metal structures that usually sit in a clump on most farms. Obviously, they are what stores the grain and can be all different sizes. Once, the foundation on one of the larger bins cracked and the entire bin had to be moved. I will post pictures of that on here sometime, because it was crazy to see them suspend it in the air to move!  Grain bins are fun to play in when they are full of corn, but can be really dangerous (see a theme I have going here, farming is fun, expensive, and dangerous!)  The grain is stored in the bins until the semi's load it up and take it to the elevators to be sold.  During this time, the men climb up the ladder on the sides of the bins and check to see how full they are and to make sure none of the grain is going bad or rotting.  When the grain bin gets close to empty the auger can no longer pull the grain from the outer edges into the middle.  Then we have to "sweep the bin" which means putting in an auger that runs the length of the diameter of the bin, and it "sweeps" in a circle to collect the grain and direct it towards the main auger in the center. This is my least favorite job because if you don't jump out of the way of the auger, you could easily lose a leg. This is why my kids won't be doing this job until they are much much older! I hate it!

Hope this helps you get an idea of what farming is all about!  Now, next time you're up at 5 am at a hole-in-the-wall breakfast cafe listening to a bunch of farmers talk over their might just be able to know what they're talking about!