Tuesday, July 31, 2012

About Barley: The Elevator and Requirements

We raise Malting Barley on contract for Anheuser Busch. As barley growers, we have hauled our barley to one of their nearby elevators. I took you Inside the Castle when we hauled barley last September. AdFarm raised barley on acres in GriggsDakota and they brought a busload of employees to tour the Busch West Fargo Elevator. I found this elevator to be The Palace. Even bigger and more impressive than the Castle.
We were met by Al and Tony who had the task of explaining the barley business, from elevator to beer, to AdFarm employees on the tour. 
Al began by reminding everyone that barley is critical to beer. Farmers raise barley and without it there is no beer.
 Tony explained the specifications that are used in grading barley. 
Malting barley standards include a long list:  First, it must be an approved variety of barley. Anheuser Busch has a list of barley varieties and the lot or load must be purely one variety. It should be free from disease and mold and cannot contain sprouted seeds. It must be free of insects, free from desiccants, light colored, plump, 13.5% moisture or less, never dried in a grain dryer, low protein, uniformly plump with less than 5% damaged kernels... and the list goes on.
Why are the specifications so numerous? Because Barley must sprout in the malting process. It must be live seed when it arrives from the elevator to the malting plant. 
All barley is not equal, so different varieties and qualities are kept separated in bins.
If it is a poor growing season for barley, there are some cleaning and rinsing processes that can be added to the malting process to improve the quality of the barley and hence, maintain the flavor of the beer. 
Above is a grain cleaner in the elevator. Rinsing would take place in the malting plant.
 That adds to the cost of the malting process and the cost of the beer.
Keeping the elevator clean and organized is a continual process. 
 As we toured the elevator, we were reminded that safety is of the utmost importance.
We went outside to take a look at the railroad tracks that carry boxcars of barley. 
Everything seems gigantic to me. A woman of the Great Plains, anything up in the air makes my palms sweat.
 I noticed the yellow structure above the tracks.
The Fall Protection Systems allow workers to wear a harness attachment when they work on the rail cars. It enhances safety and I feel better. 
 The attached line will not allow a worker to fall to the ground.
Still, elevator work is not for the faint of heart. 
 Al stands on the grate where the Barley is dumped.
There is a whole world beneath the floor. 
Some of today's touring guests had never been inside an elevator. Understanding the process of raising barley from the farm to the elevator and then on to the malting plant, is the goal of the AdFarm 2012 Farmers in GriggsDakota.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Breakdowns? Too Few to Mention

 This is Farmer Fred's combine, broken down by the side of the road. It is not the only trouble we have had this harvest season.
For some reason harvest reminds me of Sinatra and the song "My Way." 
 I suppose it is the drama of the finish: 
"And now the end is here, And so we face the final curtain.
 My friend, let me be clear, I'll state my case of which I'm certain. The long hot days are full, We have a crop along the highway. And so I'll let you know, We did it MY WAY." (Or "Farmer Fred's Way" if he happens to be within earshot.)
 Silly, I know, but a version or two of that song runs through my head every season. 
Freudian, perhaps, but I try not to think about that. 
In this dry year, we are especially happy to have a crop in our fields.
So when there are breakdowns I sing along with Sinatra: 
"Breakdowns, we've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.
We did what we had to do, and saw it through without exemption." 
 Old Blue Eyes sings the lead, of course, but I write the lyrics in GriggsDakota.

Friday, July 27, 2012

We Know the Worth of Water

 We are experiencing a dry Summer.
So we have shored up the waterhole. 
Rocks, never too far away in GriggsDakota, will be added to keep the spillway from washing away in the Spring melt. When the snow melts, the water hole overflows and a creek runs to the river. 
The water hole is the low point on a grassy land. 
The pastures must provide cattle with water. A grassy pasture with no water hole is not useable in a dry year. 
 Sloughs and normally wet streams are drying up. We know that this season may mark the beginning of several dry years. That is not a prediction, but weather tends to run in cycles. We are preparing for the possibility of a dry cycle.
When the spillway is finished, the improved dam will not let precious water drain through cracks that had developed over the years. 
 We are always looking for uses for rocks.
And we're hoping the dam will hold enough water to refresh the cattle in GriggsDakota.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Making Hay (and Straw) Bales

 This guy thinks that the pasture is always green.
 But Cattleman Jim knows better.
 It's hard enough to keep the cows on green grass in the Summertime.
Soon Summer will fade and the green grass will be gone. 
 So we are dropping barley and wheat straw.
And baling hay. 
It's been a dry Summer for cattle. 
 We need two or three crops of alfalfa to bring in sufficient hay. That will be unlikely this year.
 Although we have had some timely rains, the hay land and pastures are dry.
 CRP will be available for haying after the first of August.  
Great news for everyone in GriggsDakota

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Early Harvest Inspected and Analyzed

Although there is still a full week left in July, we are well into small grain harvest.
 The Ag Analyst was glad to get out into the field and look things over.
The Farm Inspector rode in the tractor with Field Hand Joe who is running the grain cart. 
 Hunter is a big help in GriggsDakota. We find his long arms are useful when unplugging a combine. No one appreciates a bag lunch more than a teenage boy on a harvest crew.
 The raspberries are ripe and delicious.
 The farm cats are happy for the extra attention.
Things are fine in GriggsDakota. 
We will happily take a break from the harvest if the clouds bring rain.