Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Corn Grows After the Storm

 The corn continues to grow and there are places where it is taller than Farmer Fred. 
 The storm last week provided precious moisture and left minimal destruction in its path.
The rain fell in a sheet of water and flooded last year's field trash onto the trail. 
The water must have rolled down the hill and to the ditch by the road. 
For a few moments, it must have been a couple of inches deep in order to move and deposit the old stalk pieces. 
 It looked like the road had been prepared in some special way for special guests. 
It is just nature taking charge.
 There is slight hail damage on the corn, but it is not enough to affect the plants.
The wind hit the edge of this field with fury, and you can see the stalks are bent near the root. 
The rows, however are standing upright. We are added extra potassium to the fertilizer this year and believe that added to the stalk strength. Considering the season, we have reason for optimism.
The tassels are showing in the corn fields of GriggsDakota.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Blooming Flax Field

 The faces of the flax flowers were turned away from me as I stopped by the edge of the only blooming flax field I have seen this season.
 A field of flax brings back memories. Grandpa Sonny raised it regularly when I was a growing up in GriggsDakota.  The fields bloom like a lake of blue and are beautiful all through the season, until they are swathed. The swaths blow around easily and can be a challenge to combine when that happens. Also, because of its oily nature, we were cautioned to never try to stand on top of a load of flax. The flax seed will act like quicksand and swallow intruders.
 Flax is enjoying a resurgence in popularity as a health food for human consumption. It is rich in omega 3 oils and fiber, and is given credit for improving heart health and keeping cancer away. When flax is fed to chickens, the eggs are said to contain less cholesterol and more healthy fat. 
Flax has been raised for over a thousand years, primarily for its stalk. The fiber from the stalk of the flax plant is used to produce linen and fine paper products including Kleenex and cigarette wrappers.
Flax flowers produce seed heads, being held still in the wind by my thumb, which contain the flax seed. The seed contains the oil that has been traditionally used to make linseed oil, used in the paint industry. 

With the modern day perception of health benefit, much of the seed is ground and used as an ingredient in baked goods and cereals. 
The straw will not break down adequately if left on the field after combining. It can be baled and sold in some areas. Farms can stack bales to use as windbreaks for livestock. If flax fiber is applied to river banks or washouts, it adds substance to wet ground and can help slow water flow. Because of its strong fiber, it stands up well.
Flax straw was often burned after harvest to keep its stringy stalks from plugging tillage equipment and blowing around. Modern vertical tillage equipment can adequately chop the flax straw so that burning is unnecessary. 
But a flax field blowing in the wind was a delightful sight near GriggsDakota.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Inspired by Wheat and Wild

 I was driving down a trail on the edge of a Winter Wheat field earlier this week, when I came upon a weed patch containing wild daisies.
 It brought me back to a happy time when I attempted to bring the wheat field to the city for a special occasion. Winter wheat heads are relatively sturdy and its straw is tough. It relatively easy to work with. A spritz of water freshens it. 
No matter what a mere mortal would do, it could not compare to the splendor of a wheat field standing with wild flowers.  
But the wheat that year was lush, the heads were big and perfect. No scab to be found in any of our fields. This winter wheat was among the best wheat we have ever raised. 
 Perfect wheat was a blessing, of course, because the trail of life is seldom a smooth path. 
Most of the month of July was spent gathering beautiful wheat and manipulating it into decorative pieces. 
 Things in nature cannot be duplicated.
But with meticulous work, we tried to contain the beauty of the field. 
The process involved cutting, curing, assembling, preserving, accessorizing, transporting and displaying the wheat creations that reflected our way of life. 
As the wreaths were placed, the excitement of the occasion was building. 
 The fields had been harvested months before, the season had changed.
The wheat stood on the lace
 
and hung against the wood.
and guarded the steps. 
 The wheat was witness to the past mingled with the future.
 The wheat, and the camera, I suppose, brought a smile to many faces. 
It contrasted well with the sparkle of the happy occasion.
Wild flowers along the path bring loveliness for a moment, but raising a wheat crop takes planning and a rock solid commitment.
And so, the wheat was a metaphor for life beyond the splendor of the day. 
And that is what I saw along the trail in GriggsDakota.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Soybeans Flourish After Rain

 The soybeans, late like all of our crops this year, have come to life this week following the rain.
Their blossoms, were they larger, would be prized. 
But the prize of the soybean plant is, of course the soybeans. 
The flowers are just a step in the process of production.  
 We are raising seed soybeans. That means that the seed is certified as to variety, and inspected in the field. We will store the crop on the farm until Spring when they will be transported and prepared as seed for the 2015 growing season.
Many of the soybeans raised in our area are used for animal feed, but more and more food grade soybeans are being raised in the US. The process of turning soybeans into foods like milk and yogurt is one that I know little about.
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled "America's Move to Soy Hobbles Dairy. It reveals that US consumers demand ever expanding nutritional choices. The dairy industry must respond with value added options to please modern consumers.  Follow the link to read the article.
When I was young we milked cows for our own use. We had a cream separator in the small milk house by the barn, and a milk pasteurizer that Mom carefully used in our kitchen. Dairy was very straight forward. Unseparated milk carried a layer of cream on the top of the milk. After we sold the cows and stopped milking, homogenized milk from the store seemed like such a treat. We couldn't imagine anything better with a meal. Whole milk was on the table three times every day.
Soybeans, which are evidently a catalyst for change, are guarding their blossoms in the fields of GriggsDakota.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Checking the Corn Turns into Adventure

I thought that we were simply going to check the corn fields, but then, life turned into an adventure. I like that about life around here, as long as no one gets hurt too badly. Days are seldom predictable.
It had been a hot muggy day and the evening was continuing to swelter. We decided it was a corn growing day and wondered if we could hear the corn growing in the field. We are cheering for the corn to grow as it has had a very slow start. 
Everything looks good for the corn, so far. The rows are clean and it has canopied, which allows less sun to get down to the ground. That preserves moisture and helps keep weed seeds from germinating. 
The corn has not tasseled. Careful pulling back of the leaf in the center of a plant reveals the tassel is nearly ready to emerge from the stalk. We are hoping that the tassel is fully emerged by the end of July. 
It will take about 60 days for the corn to mature after it has tasseled. By October first we can expect the corn to be fully mature.  That is after our average date for the first frost of the season. We will need a little luck in the cornfield this year.
You may have noticed, the day had been cloudy. The wind began to switch and suddenly there was hot and cold air present as we walked. It began to rain and soon was storming, with rain, wind, lightening and thunder. 
 It was dangerously dark and the wind strong. The ducks and geese were standing on the banks of the sloughs as we passed, unable to cope with the waves on the tiny bodies of water beside the road. A couple of times we heard a roaring sound, almost like a train or a jet taking off, which I believe was a tornado-like force in the clouds. We could see small funnels in the clouds overhead, but nothing seemed to be dipping down very far toward earth. It seemed late in the evening, the clouds and rain were blocking the light.
 Suddenly the visibility was zero. The rain was thicker than a snowstorm. We stopped the pickup and were somewhat disoriented as the rain pelted and a few hailstones fell. The worst of the storm did not last more than ten minutes, I suppose, but I wasn't watching the clock. Soon we could see well enough to continue our drive home in the rain.
There are some trees down and lots of branches. The electricity was knocked out, but came back on later in the evening. There has been some minor flooding. 
But, we needed the rain as corn growing weather makes the fields thirsty in GriggsDakota.