Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Farming 2014 from Dusty's perspective

Every year on the farm is different, not always good or bad, but definitely different. I should have know this having grown up here on the farm, but it is being taught to me afresh on the 5th summer we have been home from school and I have been working full time on the farm. Pretty hard to believe that time goes so fast.  

Morning dew on the winter wheat
This spring the weather was a little cool and wet early on. When we were seeding spring wheat it was hard to wait for the ground to be dry enough, and some of our little seedlings suffered from being planted in ground that was too wet. We are always in a bit of a hurry in the spring because we know that there is a lot to do in the months ahead, and we like to get an early start to get ahead. In this case, we likely would have been a little better off waiting more, but it is hard to tell in the moment. I was also very excited to see the spring wheat stand because we refitted the seed drill with new “paired row” points. These points place two rows of seed about 3 inches apart and a fertilizer bind down the center. I was hoping that this would shorted the time it takes for the seed to “grow” to the fertilizer, and in conditions when the soil was not too wet, it worked pretty well. By late spring we either had stands that were beautiful, or stands that were seeded too wet. I am happy with the results from updating the drill, and am looking forward to see how it changes the winter wheat stand this fall and going into next spring.
One of my homes away from home, but it is better with company

New paired-row points on the drill, seed down each side, fertilizer down the middle

My navigator for a trip to Reardan for seed

It was a little wet seeding

She's getting to be pretty good help around the shop, although
Erin isn't looking forward to the laundry

As spring warmed up into summer we got started with our hay harvest. It became pretty obvious early on into haying that it was going to be a light crop. Historically hay yields are very very consistent, but this year our average yield was down by 40%. That means that we have 500ton less hay to sell this season, which means about $90,000 less income than usual. On the positive side, less hay meant that the hay harvest went relatively smoothly, although I would take the challenges of a big crop over being short on hay any year. I think that the reason the hay crop was so shirt is related to winter moisture. Last winter we had two very early, very cold snaps that froze the ground solid. The frost stayed in the ground all winter, which prevented pretty much all of the snow and rainfall over the winter months from going into the ground. This meant that coming into spring and summer the moisture reserves deep in the soil profile were lacking. Alfalfa is a very deep rooted plant that relies heavily on deep moisture, so when there is not enough water there, the plant just can grow as big.

First field of hay being baled

Every year I feel like I watch the wheat grown all spring, then
haying starts, and by the time it is over, the wheat is all headed
out and almost ready for harvest. This year I caught it headed, but
green, and a nice sunset too.
After hay harvest, we always roll on into wheat harvest. The summer weather was okay on the wheat for us; though it was on the dry side. I think every time it looked like the wheat was starting to get drought stressed, we would get a bit of a shower to keep it going. While this kept us from having a crop failure, it is not way to really grow a bumper crop.  Come time to harvest we did start getting some rain, not exactly perfect timing, but that’s farming. Harvest was stop and go, we would cut till it rained, then wait for it to dry back out. Yields were really all over the board. Winter wheat was as high at 75 bushels per acre (bpa), but average about 42 bpa. Spring wheat was as high as 50 bpa but only averaged 30 bpa. It seems like fields that have been most planted to wheat over the years are not yielding as well as those that have not been farmed recently, or have had a lot of hay crops in their background. These are trends that we are considering when looking to future crop rotations and planting plans.

Jared unloading wheat

My truck buddy, heading out the spend the morning with me

The 2014 Crew
Jared, Jayney, Dusty, Tim, Cameron, and Kyle

Our friend, Chris even came for a combine driving lesson this year.
Throughout Eastern Washington fall planting conditions were exceptionally dry, but we were very fortunate to have excellent moisture in our fallow to plant our winter wheat crop. We had 900acres in and mostly up before Oct 1st, the 188 acres that was on garb ground did not make it up until part way through October, but still looks like it will be a good stand going into winter.
The slightly lower wheat yields, and the very short hay year has combined to make it a tough financial year for us. We have also grown over 500acres in the last three years which has stretched our operating money very thin and we are going to have to change some things in the next year to accommodate for that. As challenging and stressful as the money side of the farm can be for me, I am excited to see what the next years hold.
As every farmer knows, one advantage of working sun-up to sun-down
is getting to see all those sunsets

Cameron captured this one, great perspective

 I love what I do for a living and I am blessed to be able to do it. To quote Paul Harvey,  “And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.” I do not always see how what I do has an impact for God, I’m not often in contact with new people to share my beliefs with, I’m not traveling the world to spread the gospel, but I firmly believe that farming here and now is what god has called me to do, so this is what I’ll do till he tells me otherwise.


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