Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!

We pulled it off! A trifecta of beauty at last Saturday’s wedding on the Larson farm: The bride was beautiful, the weather was beautiful, and the grounds were beautiful!

I can only take credit for the latter and even so, I need to share the credit with the friends who helped with the last-minute grading and mowing.

Add in some trimming, edging, weeding, and watering and we created a beautiful backdrop for the bride and groom… and their host, Bob the Dog.

The chicken coop turned alter was particularly befitting for Emily and Tommy’s wedding since Tommy is the one who renovated it from its dilapidated condition several years ago. Add in a whole lot of love and the ceremony came off without a hitch (or, I guess, “with a hitch” in the case of a wedding) and the bride and groom couldn’t have been happier, nor the bride more beautiful!

It is truly an honor to host the “once in a lifetime day” of those you love. We are blessed with a beautiful farm and beautiful friends and family… beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

AKL

Wedding week kicks off!

The final week of preparation for the farm wedding kicked-off on Friday evening with a crew of family and friends packing burlap, tulle fabric, grapevine and twinkle lights galore! Of course, before any of the shed decor could go up, tractors, planters, and rotary cutters had to go out, followed by moving racks of parts, tools, and all the other supplies that make a farm shop efficient and a wedding venue unsightly.

We all agreed that hosting a wedding every two years is a great way to get your shop cleaned!

While most of the crew focused on the building, a few of us took to the grounds and kept the Woods FZ25D zero-turn mower humming and the Oregon trimmer/edger buzzing most of the weekend. And, the grading scraper made quick work of repairing the lane, which had washed from the deluge Thursday night.

I have a reputation for wanting the place to look “just so” and am blessed with friends who not only tolerate my “slightly obsessive attention to detail” but also appreciate a well-kept farmstead. Even better, they know how to use our tractors and tools to get the job done. Of course, sometimes the work is more delicate (like planting petunias), requiring only a willingness to dig in the dirt and an occasional break to pose with Bob the Dog.

Jess and Bob in Petunias

We accomplished more than we had hoped Friday and Saturday and by early Sunday afternoon, we called it quits until the final preparations on Thursday. While getting the shed and grounds ready to welcome 300 guests is an enormous amount of work, it is oh so much easier, with a posse of friends and knowing that at the end of a hard days’ work is a good meal, cold beer, and a lot of laughs.

AKL

Something Bugging You?

Last year, our backyard was filled with mosquitoes and other biting insects.  I often thought that there had to be something we could do to reduce the bug population and bug bites without using some sort of insecticide.  I may have finally found an answer.

Recently, there have been a multitude of articles and blogs about how to deter mosquitoes, either with bug sprays or certain varieties of flowers, herbs and other plantings.  Personally, I would rather go with the more natural method of planting things.  There is a perfect location in our backyard to do just that.

Here are some of the plants that may help with your bug problem:

Ageratum Garlic Pineapple weed
Basil Lavender Pitcher Plant
Cadago Tree Lemon Balm Rosemary
Catmint Lemon Grass Scented Geranium
Catnip Lemon Thyme Snowbrush
Cedars Lemon Verbena Stone Root
Chrysanthemums Marigolds Sweet Fern
Citronella grass Mexican Marigold Tansy
Citrosum Neem Tea Tree
Clove Nodding Onion Vanilla Leaf
Eucalyptus Pennyroyal Wild Bergamot
Floss Flower Peppermint Wormwood

Check out this site for more information on how and where these beauties grow best.  Some of them may do better than others in your area.

We are going to try Marigolds, Catnip, Basil, Chrysanthemums, Rosemary, Peppermint, Lavender and Garlic.  By the end of summer, I’ll have plenty of “research” completed in this war against biting insects!

Morel Heaven!

Here in Northern Illinois, Morel mushrooms are starting to pop. We found these beauties inmorels
the woods just a few miles from home. Enough for a couple of meals and they were delicious!

Everyone likes to share their theories on how to find these elusive delights and the most delicious recipes. During the height of season, talk can be heard every which way you turn.

Experts say they can be found around certain trees, when the temperature outside is getting warmer and when the soil is above 60 degrees. If you’ve been hunting Morels for a while now, you know these tidbits are true, to a point. But, morels can be found in places you wouldn’t normally expect as well. My point: never give up the hunt! They can be right around the corner, just keep looking.

Interested in seeing where Morels have been found so far this year? Check out this map.

For more information on finding your own secret supply of Morels, visit Field & Stream’s website.

The Beginning of the End of Another Illinois Turkey Season

In the turkey blind - that's a decoy!

In the turkey blind – that’s a decoy!

2016-04-23 06.29.19

The ones that got away.

This is the last week of Spring Turkey Hunting Season in Illinois. As a landowner, I have the privilege of hunting all five seasons — an entire five weeks to bundle up in camouflage, sit in the pre-dawn woods, and wait for toms to appear. Actually, in all my years of hunting, I’ve never needed five weeks, I’ve barely needed more than an hour.

 

Since “restocking” wild turkeys throughout Illinois (an initiative that spanned from the 1970’s to 2003), the critters have been abundant on our farms. Because they are so abundant, a successful hunt is simply a matter of scouting in the evening and then the next morning, following a modified version of advice from hockey’s Wayne Gretzky: “skate to where the puck is going to be.” Yep, it’s that easy, “hunt where the bird is going to be.”

Using this advice, again this year, I brought down a 23.4 lb tom and had two beautiful packages of turkey breasts in the freezer in time to make an 8:00am appointment in town. And thus ends another season of spring turkey hunting.

Only Seven Weekends?

Yesterday, I passed a business whose outdoor sign read, “Only seven shopping weekends before Christmas,” and all I could think is, “But I’m not done with summer!” And yet, the leaves are on the ground, the garden is dormant, and we’re approaching the end of harvest.

The lightning speed at which winter is hurling toward us seems compounded by the late spring and a crazily busy summer — on both the home and the work fronts.

On the farm, my summer days were filled with landscaping projects and wedding plans as we prepared to host the celebration of one of “our neighbor kids” (what an honor!). Along with a million other tasks, thanks to a Woods BrushBull and Mow’n Machine, we transformed a pasture into a manicured parking lot with a 200+ car capacity.

As for work, this summer marked the launches of our relationship with Massey Ferguson and our expansion into Brazil. For a marketer, these are monumental projects, wrought with excitement for the opportunities ahead — and achievable only with the talent of a strong team!

It’s no wonder that summer seems to have slipped by and dragged autumn right along with it. Now the farm is fully focused on getting the crops in (hopefully before Thanksgiving) and my work focus has turned toward 2015 planning, first quarter tradeshows, and a myriad of deadlines that all seem to align around 3/31/15.

Somewhere between now and then, I’ll need to take advantage of one of those “seven shopping weekends” to ensure Christmas doesn’t slip by.

“Tough Jobs” Complete … CHECK

The last of our summer “Tough Jobs” is cleaning out the fence rows. It’s amazing how quickly they get out of control. One day the weeds are barely visible, the next they are knee high, then waist high.

Our thistle population is almost unbelievable. They have invaded the side pasture, the back pasture and the cattle runs near the barn. We’ve kept them in check in the big pastures with the Woods 12-foot Batwing and we got into some tight places amongst the trees with the Woods RC6 Rotary Cutter.

This weekend, we needed a combination of the Rotary Cutter, Mow’n Machine and some good old-fashioned shovel work.

BJ fence rows DSC00016DSC00052

Finally after just a few hours of intense teamwork, the job was accomplished.

DSC00036To say “goodbye” to summer, we are hosting our club calf sale. Hopefully we’ll see many of these steer calves at the shows next summer. And, I’m sure we’ll have more tough jobs to tackle again next year. That’s one thing we always can count on, the farm jobs are never done.

steer 2014

Long holiday weekends are perfect for …

FALL PASTURE PREP!

Spring calves are weaned from their mothers. Fall-calving cows are brought up and starting to calve. It’s time to squeeze the last bit of grass out of the pasture and prepare for winter.

IMG_2935Earlier this summer we used the Woods Precision Super Seeder on several dead spots in the pasture. Those areas were damaged during the winter so no grass grew. We used a standard grass mixture and today the grass is lush and green.

To prepare for fall and winter, we need to tackle some brush that has invaded the hard-to-reach places in the back pasture. The worst areas are infested with multiflora rose and prickly ash. If you’ve never seen these weeds, they’re terrible.

Nasty brush in our pasture

Nasty brush in our pasture

As with any rose bush, they are full of thorns. The prickly ash is even worse with hard spines that poke through your clothes and stay embedded in your skin. And though the cows have created paths through the brush, we never fail to get all cut up when trying to bring the cows up to the barn.

IMG_2083

NEW Woods Single Spindle cutter tore through the bushes and weeds.

 

The NEW 12-foot Woods Batwing did a great job on the big pasture and could get into some tight spaces, but for the cow paths and wooded area we pulled out the NEW Woods Single Spindle cutter.

It was able to take out the thorny brush, bring down the large thistles and quickly tame all the other weeds. To keep the pasture in good shape for next year, we’ll now go in and treat what’s left of the brush so it doesn’t come back. IMG_2091

Only one more tough job for the summer – cleaning out the fence lines in preparation for our fall steer sale. Watch for the before and after pictures next week and happy mowing!

Educating on Agriculture – The State Fair Experiment

No matter where we go, we always feel it’s important to tell the agriculture story and share our love for what we do. Last week we attended both the Wisconsin and Iowa State Fairs.

Sharing our love for cattle and agriculture is our main goal at the State Fair.

Sharing our love for cattle and agriculture is our main goal at the State Fair.

Both shows are held in the heart of urban areas and offer a great opportunity to reach out to people that don’t have any farm background. Most of the visitors have never seen a farm animal, or have only seen them at the fair. The barns in Wisconsin were packed with a constant flow of strollers and curious onlookers.

Now that our kids are getting older we want them to learn to be spokesmen for agriculture and help educate the 98% of the population that no longer has any association with farming or agriculture. So we arm them with a few facts and open up the stalls to kids and adults.

Here are the facts they shared and some of the more interesting questions we heard during our 10-day State Fair tour:

  • 97% of U.S. farms are operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.
  • Farm and ranch families make up just 2% of the U.S. population.
  • More than 21 million American workers (15% of the total U.S. workforce) are part of the US food chain.
  • Each farmer must produce enough to feed 155 people.

We get some of the same questions every year:

“How much does she weigh, eat, poop, etc.”

"Why does she sit like that?"

“Why does she sit like that?”

"Is that one dead?"

“Is that one dead?”

"Can I pet/touch/kiss one?"

“Can I pet/touch/kiss one?”

But this year there were a few that made the kids stop and think about their answer:

  • Could your cows survive in the wild?
  • If you love them how can you keep them tied up?
  • How can you eat something with such a pretty face?
  • Are they organic (or grass fed) because that is better?

The kids handled these questions like pros, highlighting the benefits of eating beef and the importance of treating animals well so they are comfortable and most productive.

We are so proud of how the kids can advocate for agriculture and educate the public. They are truly becoming skilled spokesmen for the industry we love. Though it can be exhausting,  the State Fair is a great place to help consumers get closer to agriculture!

"Being an advocate for agriculture is exhausting work."

“Being an advocate for agriculture is exhausting work.”

 

End of Summer Jobs

As the summer is winding down and the kids are going back to school, we are all trying to cram in those last few projects. Tell us about the “Tough Jobs” you still need to tackle.

Tough jobs are easier with the right tools.

Mowing with the Woods Mow’n Machine is even fun.

Just submit the form below and we’ll try to feature them over the next few weeks. What a great way to help others learn from your experiences or gather suggestions on the best way to get those projects checked off your list.