Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happily Ever After!

There once was a boy who went to the prom alone. He hung out at the punch bowl and kept his eye on the girl of his dreams.

Who had come to the prom with his older brother.
After a long night at the stag table,
And a boring evening at the prom
Little brother turned things around
and lived happily ever after.
Happy Birthday JoAnn, the first love of both Lukens Brothers!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Barley Report and Sunset Fog

The sun was warm and the ground is cold as the sun sets and I think that is what caused this beautiful sunset phenomenon. It is most common this time of year. 
The elevator provides a sheet of specifics about each truckload of barley hauled in. Click on the picture to see what they are looking for.
After months of waiting, the barley passed its malting test with flying colors.
I had to stop by the side of the road and try to capture the beauty of this day on the prairie.
There will be hot days of work in the summer sun when we will happily recall a winter day such as this. Can you see the fog rising from the ground?
The sun will set and the fog will disappear in the cold darkness.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Prairie Castles

Our barley has gone to the castle. A place where only the finest barley is accepted. It is hard to imagine how much malting barley is in this elevator at one time, or how much passes through it in a season.
On a busy day there would be more than 20 trucks, mostly semis, lined up waiting to deliver malting barley.
Some would have traveled by truck over hundreds of miles and some might arrive from near by.
Each truck would stop here to have the load probed and sampled. Standards are stringent and carefully monitored. This is where a load would be rejected, if it did not meet malting standards.
The bin's air intake ducts are about ten feet tall.
You can see the top of it as the bin rises up to the sky.
There are automated features that makes moving the grain and loading it onto the train an efficient operation.
It was quiet here as the sun was ready to set, but easy to imagine the hustle that tomorrow will bring.
There will be trucks lined up all along the road marked TRUCK ROUTE on the left and circling around onto the main road where I stand at the rail crossing to snap the photo. This is where the process starts.
 A freight train will take the barley to a malting plant. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fulfill the Barley Contract.

Last fall when we combined our barley, it was put into bins on our farm to store for later delivery. Some of the barley was contracted to Anheuser-Bucsh . They own elevators in the barley growing region of the great plains and we agreed to deliver the grain during the winter.
As the barley is transferred from bin to truck, it is run through a vacuum cleaner to help remove impurities. Malting barley is the goal, but the elevator is free to reject any grain that does not meet the standards set forth in the contract. It would then be graded as feed barley and sold for a lower price.
The vacuum replaces the auger in this operation and there is a fancy connection on the bottom of the bin that includes an old towel and duct tape.
The barley travels out of the bin, through the hose, into what Farmer Fred calls a vacuvator. These machines are also called vaculators and grain vacs. Whatever the name, the grain is cleaned up before entering another hose where it is dumped into the truck trailer.
The grain vac is powered by the tractor's hydraulics and the power take off. We refer to it as "PTO" and that does not stand for paid time off or Parent Teacher Organization!
From bin through the hose to the vacuvator, then up the pipe and into the truck.
The area is clear of snow and the elevator has given us the opportunity to continue hauling until our contract is fulfilled. Our trucks will be running to the Busch Elevator until the crop is delivered.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More Snow to Move

When our grain bins are along a trail with this sign on it, we clear the road ourselves.
When the bins were built, this road was traveled regularly all winter long. But there are fewer occupied farms now, and the cost of keeping roads open has increased. Farmer Fred has been successful in clearing the road before I arrive with a camera.
Remember last summer when our friends with trucks helped us deliver part of our barley to the elevator? Another part of the barley was contracted for winter delivery. It has been stored in bins on the farm. That spreads out our work load and improves the flow of grain to market.
The air is crisp and there is a bit of heat in the sun today. Highs are predicted to be around 20 degrees fahrenheit. Fred has piled some of the snow into the farmstead.
Back and forth pushing the snow out of the way of the trucks and equipment needed to haul the grain in the bin to the elevator. Each bin site takes hours of patient work.
It is much easier to thoroughly clear the snow away than to deal with getting stuck in it. 
The elevator is ready for us to deliver on our Busch barley contract. More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

White Tail Deer in Winter

I have been told that the Plains Indians referred to February as the time the deer are hungry. I believe that the white tails on the prairie are often hungry this time of year.
We have too many deer in our area. Hunters are unable to harvest as many as game management professionals recommend. The highway ditches are littered with carcasses of deer that have been hit by cars and trucks. Farmer Fred spoke to a truck driver who hit a deer last week while driving down the main street of a nearby town during the day. There are over a hundred deer in that town. Trucks usually have no problems with damage, but cars are often badly damaged and sometimes people are injured. This photo illustrates the tendency for deer to cross from open spaces toward trees in front of oncoming vehicles, especially in the dark.
Our snow is deep and the chance of finding food on the ground is remote. Deer have eaten down grain left in fields earlier in the winter, before the snow piled on. They moved onto hilltops where there is less snow to paw through before finding the last vegetation available there.
Deer often find spilled grain where trucks are loaded for winter crop delivery. In farm yards and small towns they eat tender trees and bark in yards and shelter belts and begin to form herds to protect each other from predators. Herds of deer will eat any form of vegetation when they are starving.
Last spring Robbie saw a white tail doe kill a coyote with her front hooves while protecting her fawn. The successful birth and strength to battle predators depends on good food sources.
Hay left out on the prairie is vulnerable. Once the deer have climbed on top of the bales where they eat, urinate, and defecate, the hay is useless as feed for cattle. Hay in yards is also fodder for herds of deer who move in the darkness. They jump cattle fences with ease.
The deer living in the trees near this field are not going hungry, yet.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In the News

Farmer Fred is one who likes to cooperate with the media. He values agricultural supply companies and believes farmers need to have a voice in product analysis. 
 Fred is generous with his time when it comes to filling out surveys on paper, by phone, or online. 
We invite agricultural professionals from the media and ag-related companies to our farm tour each July. This gives them a first hand look at what we do on our farm. 
If others are going to know what a farmer thinks, there has to be a farmer willing to share opinions and answer questions. Occasionally this cooperative spirit leads to an interview and a mention in a story in a farm magazine. In March of 2009 Lon Tonneson featured him in an article in The Dakota Farmer .  This month TopProducer writer Pam Smith talked to him. 
If we as farmers want citizens, who have no farm background to understand us, we must prepare to explain and justify our practices. 
Though our location is remote, we need to communicate with the world.
American Farmers are nice people doing the best job they can to provide food for as many people as possible. As people get to know the farm community we believe  they will gain an appreciation of it.