Friday, July 29, 2011

July Is Never Disappointing

 There is a fool inside of me that wants to complain a little about July this year.
July didn't bring what I expected.
Too much rain, too cold, then too hot, wind, more rain, cool, more wind, rain, rain, but who cares?
 July is always too soon over. 
 I would do July over if I could, imperfect though it was this year.
I never checked the wind chill on windy days.  
No snow fell in July.
Nothing was blocked by snowdrifts or slippery with ice. 
 As we travel through the rest of the year, we will happily recall
the joy of July's imperfect Summertime.
August now takes control, ready or not.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pinto Beans In Bloom

The pinto bean field is lush with green growth. 
A closer look reveals that this field is in bloom. 
If flowers promise beans, the field hold a lot of promise. It is not that simple, of course. The leaves above have been torn by hail stones and spattered with mud by heavy rain. 
The tender blossom seem so delicate. I ponder how something so fragile and pretty can produce the practical brown beans full of fiber and protein that will be the crop.
We will need heat and luck to produce a bumper crop this year. We are far away from success and the season has not inspired confidence.
As that thought forms in my mind, I push it aside and smile. Farming takes optimism. We'll walk through our days and hope for a bean at every flower. The sun is shining in GriggsDakota.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Corn is Tasseling

There's a raindrop on the lens of my camera as I get out to check out the cornfield. I am checking a field that is close to the road, because it has been raining regularly. Muddy boots lead to muddy floor mats in the pickup. I decide that we will see enough from the wet, but not too muddy, roadside. The moisture and heat has been corn growing weather.
 The corn is tasseling in GriggsDakota.
The nicks in the leaves are most likely caused by the hail that has fallen with the rain. It has not been very much or very big, but enough to notice on the leaves of the corn. 
 The corn is preparing to form cobs which is encouraging. 
 The cobs are just beginning to form as the corn shows its tassels. Of course, I am not an expert on the stages of growth. I tend to watch and cheer it on. If you would like to know more specific information visit Corn Growth Guide.
The silks, which are at the top of each cob catch the pollen that falls from the flowers in the tassel at the top of the corn plant, fertilizing the plant, and allowing cobs of corn seeds to form. 
The tasseling will continue for another week or so as the corn grows in the Summer heat of GriggsDakota.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Learning a Little about No Till

 The Conservation Cropping Systems project is an experimental near Forman, North Dakota. Each July they hold an open house with a field tour. Farmer Fred and Robbie decided to attend.
According to their 2010 annual report:  "The Conservation Cropping Systems Project (CCSP) is located on a 130-acre
tract of farm land two miles south of Forman, ND along Highway 32. A 14
member Board of Directors composed of local producers in northeastern South CONSERVATION CROPPING SYSTEMS PROJECT
Dakota and southeastern North Dakota advises the CCSP staff. Diverse crops
ADVISORS are grown in 16 rotations that range from one to six years under no-till, strip till,
shank and disk drill cropping systems. A total of 172 60x220 foot plots and
North Dakota State University South Dakota State University
several irregular shaped “bulk area” plots ranging from 1/10 acre to 8 acres are
Dr. David Franzen, Blaine Schatz, Dr. Dwayne Beck used for planting. Rotations are demonstrated to look at their effect on water and
Greg Endres, Julie Hassebroek wind erosion, soil tilth, soil moisture retention, organic matter changes, and
profitability. Each crop within a rotation is grown every year and replicated three
NRCS Ducks Unlimited
Ted Alme, Hal Weiser, Blake Vander Vorst, Steve Dvorak David Breker
2times. Other practices and demonstrations done include variety trials, livestock waste applications, carbon sequestration studies, weed control experiments, livestock grazing, saline cover crop and saline alfalfa trials, biological strip till, radish rooting depth, and equipment demos to name a few.
The project provides producers data and physical observations that allows them to see advantages and disadvantages of a range of crop rotations in no-till and conservation crop production. The effective use of crop rotations to break weed, disease, and insect cycles is demonstrated. The placement of legumes in rotations reduces dependence on fertilizer N. Recent work by Dr. Dave Franzen of NDSU has shown that long term no-till requires 50 lbs less nitrogen fertilizer to grow the same crop as conventional tillage. Dr. Franzen feels the increased amount of biology and organic matter in no-till effectively grabs the applied nitrogen and holds it much more efficiently than in conventional tillage. In other words, leaching and volatilization losses may be considerably less.
This project is a living classroom to demonstrate that agriculture can produce food, fuel and fiber in an environmentally favorable manner, preserving and enhancing soil, wildlife habitat and water quality, while providing producers with competitive to superior economic returns." 
 The purpose of the project is stated as follows:
"Our goal is to demonstrate profitable farming methods, machinery, and philosophies that promote soil and water conservation." 
To learn more about the farm you can read The 2010 Annual Report or visit NoTill.org by clicking on the links. 
Farmer Fred and Robbie are always interested in the latest methods and results of the work of experts in the field of agriculture. Farming is an ever changing business.  
It is clear that the new methods are interesting to young farmers as this crowd is clearly younger than many groups of farmers that gather in greater Dakota. 
Root pits illustrate what the corn is doing to produce the visible plant. Roots are critical to crop production as they draw in moisture and nutrients. Quick and strong root development is especially important in our climate with a short and often unpredictable growing season. 
Chances are that GriggsDakota will never be a purely no till farm, but we certainly try to be a minimum tillage farm. We do have some tracts of land that have been no till for many years. Minimum passes save fuel and conserve moisture in the soil. Generally, that means better crops in GriggsDakota.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Juneberries are Ripe

 It seems only days ago that Spring finally arrived in GriggsDakota and the Juneberries in the shelter belt were blooming.
Click here to visit a post where I explain our row of June berries. 
This row has been growing and blooming for many years, but we have gathered few berries from the branches. 
Although they bloom beautifully in the Spring, the berries never made it to the kitchen.
 The minute a berry gave a flash of purple ripeness, it was picked off by a bird.
 For picking, we like to wait until the cluster has several ripe berries in it. The robins, cedar wax wings, and many other varieties of birds were always watching and got to each ripe berry ahead of me.
So I found a new ally. Green netting went over the row while the berries were green. 
It protected the berries while they ripened. 
We checked it daily and set a bird or two free. A few birds were able to sneak under the netting and unable to find a way out. Butler was quick to notice where the birds were hiding. Sometimes they were flying around in a panic under the net. It was a simple matter to lift the edge of the net and set the bird to flying freedom.
We will have plenty of juneberries for holiday pie. In fact we will have enough to declare several unofficial holiday occasions where we can eat juneberry pie. 
A simple roll of netting solved the problem and now the birds will get our left overs instead of the other way around.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beauty is Deceiving

I don't usually admit this:
 I like thistles.
Maybe there is just enough Eeyore in me to appreciate their bright boldness. Although I have never eaten one, as Eeyore does in the Winnie the Pooh classics by A. A. Milne, thistles capture my imagination. 
 Their beauty is sharp everywhere, drawing me in, yet keeping me cautious.
Stiff and stickery, a thistle challenges anything to touch it, so I must.
I know what they are:  a noxious weed. Despite the trouble they cause, I can't help but stop and admire them. I photograph them. In small numbers, they add a pop of color to the sea of grass.
As far as I know, we don't have any Eeyores in GriggsDakota. Cattle and deer stay away from thistles. The thistles are spread about the countryside by cute little birds that dine on their seeds, then drop them wherever they happen to be.
I smile when I see the Down of a Thistle because it reminds me of happy days ahead. Click on the link to visit a post on thistle down. 
The down of a thistle is lovely, but not a good plant on a farm or ranch.
After I admire their Summertime beauty, I knock thistles down to keep them from producing the downy seeds. It is what's best for GriggsDakota because their beauty is deceiving.