Monday, October 31, 2011

Wherever You Are

May no black cats cross your path.  
 May all of the witches be friendly
And all of the goblins wear a smile. 
Wherever you are, near or far
Happy Halloween from GriggsDakota.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How to: Make a Dress of Many Colors

When was it that I realized I enjoyed sewing clothes for children? I learned to sew when I was nine. My Mother has a Home Economics degree from North Dakota State University and taught me by becoming my 4-H leader.  After some reflection, I remembered.
My parents bought a sewing machine as my high school graduation present. While in college I sewed a pile of clothes for my little sister, who is pictured above. I was hooked. When I see this photo, I can't stop wondering,
"Girl, where are your boots?"
She always preferred her "tenner shoes."
The Farm Inspector has been growing so fast and the Ag Analyst does not want to be left out, so I have enjoyed sewing outfits for them and finding the proper accessories to give them a special look.
They never lack for cute outfits and it is fun for me to get in on the fashion parade.
 Last weekend the Farm Inspetotr and the Ag Analyst debuted their new church dresses. I learned quite a bit during this sewing project and thought I would share a little about how to make a
 "dress of many colors."
I began choosing the fabrics by looking at the color code on the selvedge of different fabrics. I have a quilting stash and pulled the fabrics from my collection. Choosing the fabrics took a long time, because I needed to visually process the prints that I eventually included and the many I rejected. A short cut would be choosing fabric from a quilt grouping that has been designed to go together. For me, there has to be an element of matching in order for the garment to be pleasing when complete. Also, I wanted all of the fabrics to be similar in scale so the garment wouldn't  overwhelm the wearer when finished. Another way to do this would be to choose two fabrics with similar colors, then accent the garment with solid colors that both fabrics share.
 Eventually I chose four prints. All four share the same shade of green. Three contain the same shade of pink and three contain aqua. The aqua in the top fabric is subtle, so I placed the package of aqua tape on top to draw it out on the photo. I believe in using odd numbers, so tried to work in a fifth, but couldn't make it work, so four was my magic number for this project.
 There are several current patterns available that use a combination of fabrics. They claim to be easy and I intend to give them a try. I used this pattern: New Look 6745 which I have made before, for inspiration, but didn't follow it exactly. You could, however, follow it and come out with a really cute dress. The pattern buttons up the back which would be pretty. I used zippers for easy, fast dressing. I made the skirt a little fuller and lined the body of the garment with a fine cotton to make it comfortable, warm, and help it hang nicely. Since I had measured the girls pants length from waist to floor, I used that number as my finished skirt length. The high waist on the dress meant the skirt would be long, but not drag on the floor.
I decided to use two shades of pink rick rack to keep the skirt from looking too much like a quilt. Why two shades? Just for fun!
The dresses have a Fall look, because of the brown in the two main fabrics and also a cowgirl feel, which suits the girls fine. 
The fire place bellows make a perfect guitar for the Ag Analyst. 
The Farm Inspector noticed that my fireplace is dirty. It is, after all, part of her job description to inspect and report. If I am going to get a few projects done, the cleaning often gets left for another day. We quickly left for church in GriggsDakota.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Taking Land Out of CRP

The contract is up on some of our land that has been in the Conservation Reserve Program and we have decided to return it to production. Read More about CRP in North Dakota by clicking on the link.
The CRP Program was begun as a way to take marginal land out of crop production and return it to grassland.  Farmers agree to follow the prescribed program.
 It is carefully managed to be sure that the weeds are controlled. The goal is for the land to retain as much organic matter as possible during its time in the program.
 The grass mixtures are specific to meet the needs of wildlife and birds.  Over the years CRP has become less of a farm program and more of a wildlife program by providing habitat for birds and wild animals.
So why take it out of the program? On this piece, which is near our prime farmland, trees have begun to sprout up. 
The scrub trees that volunteer on the land are already tough to knock down. 
 If left alone, they will grow up as these have and it will be very difficult to return the land to crop production.
Protected by the grass, the tree seeds, which blow in on the wind or are dropped by birds, sprout readily.  
 Pocket gophers have moved into the area that we are breaking up making it rough.
This year it was very wet, clipping the weeds was impossible when it should have been done in July. 
Farmer Fred is running the Wishek disc over the field. 
This pass will be followed by the Salford RTS to further chop the surface residue. 
Next year we will harvest a crop here, at least that is the plan in GriggsDakota.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Continue the Challenge: Improve the Soil

Perspective skews perception. Seeing things in a new way is always a challenge. It is, perhaps especially true in farming where many practices are steeped in tradition dating back to the settlement of the land.
When you realize the vastness of the Great Plains, it is difficult to believe that traffic could have compacted the soil we farm. The artist in me wants to believe it is too open and free to have been affected by surface traffic. However, scientists warn that if you drive horses, cattle and machines over even a vast area for more than a hundred years, you might have impacted the soil tension underground.
Science indicates that there are layers of compaction in our fields. Click Here to read more from last season.
Although our farm is small in the big picture of agriculture, we want to diligently work to keep our soil in its most productive state. As science in agriculture advances, producers must try new ideas that may improve productivity of the land on the farm. Traditional practices include crop rotation, fertilizers, and tillage. Current ideas include less tillage and new methods.
Seeding cover crops of various kinds is a long standing practice in GriggsDakota. Historically we were most interested in catching snow and protecting top soil from drifting during our long frozen Winters. Although it was difficult to keep in mind this season, we are more likely to be dry and windy than too wet or snowy. Catching Winter snow on fields has long been key to successful crop production in this area.
More recently we have begun planting vegetables:  peas, turnips and radishes. The plant species have been specifically chosen or developed for root systems that pierce hard ground and allow the soil to mellow out while holding it in place through the windy cold and snow. We have become more aware of leaving organic matter in and on the soil by using no till and minimum tillage methods. 
Several years ago, we began to spend some time each Fall checking for compaction layers beneath the surface of our harvested fields. 
 We invested in a Brillion Zone Commander which we refer to as the deep ripper. It cuts slots through the compaction layers with little disturbance to the surface. The cuts will allow the roots of next year's crops to travel deeper into the soil as they seek water and nutrition to produce a crop.
Cheryl likes the tractor windows clean and I just invested in a case of Windex. No excuses anymore! We all should keep our windows this clean! 
But some of us, like Cheryl's husband Todd, are busy making sure things operate smoothly. 
Cheryl has covered many acres of ground with the Brillion this Fall in our effort to keep our soil productive. Once these slots are cut, they will be available to our crop roots for many seasons. The art and science of agriculture work together in GriggsDakota. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Corn in the Bin-Harvest is Done

 Have we ever been able to say this in October before? Perhaps, but rarely does it happen in GriggsDakota.
 Corn Harvest is Complete.
Every acre is combined and out of the field, but that is not the only good news.
It all came off dry enough to go directly into air bins. It did not have to go through the grain dryer.
Field Man Joe came home to help us out on the weekends and proved a good grain cart driver.
I've told you how farmers like to make each year a little better than the last.
It didn't happen this year, but the corn was better than we hoped it would be after our mid-September frost. 
Farmer Fred will be keeping a close watch on the bins. The corn must be around 20% moisture to go into an air bin. The fans will blow air through the corn to dry it down to a safe storage moisture of about 14%.
This a beautiful sight for late October in GriggsDakota.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Planting Tulip Bulbs

Tulip bulbs arrived in our mailbox recently. Of course, they arrived because I had ordered tulip bulbs. 
I am inspired by weeds. They grow wherever they please and have no trouble surviving. I have watched this milk weed through the Summer and had to stop to photograph it as it was nearly ready to set its seeds free.
 You can plant tulips however you wish as long as they are about six inches under ground and the bulbs are not touching one another. 
The weather will provide the refrigeration that the bulb needs. 
The snow cover will hold in the warmth of the ground. 
 That should keep the bulbs cool without freezing.
The mother milk weed looks tired and old, but the seeds look anxious to fly. I can relate to that.
Tulips tend to grow well in GriggsDakota and, once planted, often last for years bringing flowers each year with little further effort from the gardener. 
Farmers and fools are dreaming that flowers will bloom again next season in GriggsDakota.