Chirp Chirp

The local Tractor Supply in our hometown sells chicks every spring.  A few weeks ago, we bought a dozen of them.  They were chirping and dancing around in their little box, anxiously awaiting their new home.Chicks

 

Sadly, we lost one chick within the first three days so now we are down to eleven.  The rest of them were looking healthy and growing fast. Food and water are provided for 12 hours and then removed for 12 hours because these creatures will eat themselves to death if you’re not careful. We can’t let that happen!

They spent the first few weeks in an old cart that we covered with chicken wire. We chicksHalfWayadded a heat lamp for those chilly spring nights and put some pine shavings in the bottom of the cart so they were comfortable and warm.

Last weekend, the chicks moved to a larger home.  The idea for this movable outdoor area came from… It’s a great way to allow the fast growing chickens to enjoy fresh grass and all
the bugs they can eat. The yard gets a little extra fertilizer too.

In about three weeks, they will be full grown chickens and it will be time to prep them for the freezer.  That will make 11 meals in the freezer and we’ll start the process all over again in a few weeks.

Until then, we’ll enjoy our farm fresh eggs that we’ve been lucky enough to have for about the past five years.

eggs

And So It Begins…

Back in February, we planted seeds in small containers and placed them on the shelves in our four season porch (thanks to the fireplace).  The seedlings are coming along quite nicely and were recently moved them out to the greenhouse. Before we know it, we’ll be planting these in one of the many raised beds on our one acre homestead.seedlings3

The greenhouse was built a few years ago as an addition to the machine shed and has been a huge part of growing our own food.  This bed was put in last winter so we could have fresh spinach a few months before it could even be planted outside.

spinach

Now that it is time to start planting outdoors, we’ve begun the cleanup process in the raised beds.  Since we leave plants in some of the beds for the birds and butterflies after growing season is over, we have to pull a few dead plants.  We like to use the Square raisedBedFoot Gardening philosophy wherever it works for us, so some of the beds need to be tied off as well.

Here in Northern Illinois, April is the time to start planting cool season crops outside.  We’ve already planted spinach, radishes, a few varieties of lettuce, green onion, garlic, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and some other cool season plants.  Within the next few weeks we will be planting succession crops of most of these plants.

The rhubarb is coming up nicely again this year and the asparagus behind the machine shed is just starting to be visible through the weeds.  This year we hope to expand this patch of asparagus a little.

Follow along all summer for weekly gardening updates and share what you are growing with us. We love to see gardens, regardless of what you are growing! Share your story with @lisakruggles on Twitter.

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.

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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.

“Tough Jobs” Checklist

Where has the summer gone!?!

With all the “Back to School” ads and deals, I know the days of my dedicated labor force are coming to an end. We’ve accomplished most of the tough jobs on the list, but some of the toughest are yet to come.

So far, we have repaired the driveway, rebuilt a fence, planted a neighbor’s food plots and reseeded a pasture area, mowed the grass, fence lines and front pasture and tilled the garden. We also freshened our flower beds, cleaned out and added pea gravel to the playground area and added a fire pit to the back yard.

I guess we’ve done better than I thought.

IMG_1598 IMG_1599 IMG_1607

Next we need to mow the pastures (again), clean out the cattle pens in preparation for our Fall Steer Sale, trim along all the fence lines and cut down the wild grape vines that would trap all the snow on our driveway this winter.

Next week we’ll be doing the State Fair circuit and then it’s the quick slide to fall. Be sure to post your “Tough Jobs” and visit us on Facebook to see more pictures and videos.

 

Mow, Blow, Scrape and Brush: Versatility at its Finest

By the time we returned from our “vacation,” the lawn, driveway and fence edges were out of control. The grass looked like it was a foot tall and the weeds were even taller.

It didn’t take long to tame the grass but what was left behind really should have been baled. We had grass clippings in huge windrows everywhere!

Mow’n Machine to the rescue again!

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When we got our FZ22K we opted to also get the broom and blade attachments. We thought about the snow blower too, and may go back for that later. We wanted the broom to brush gravel back onto the driveway and clean up the concrete in front of the garage and shed. We also plan to use the blade to scrape manure in the pens and cattle runs.

One thing we didn’t expect was brushing grass clippings from the lawn. I’m not sure this is an “intended use,” but it sure worked and was certainly better than raking it by hand. The best part is the cows got to eat the grass when we brushed the clippings right into the pasture.

Maybe one of my entrepreneurial kids will design a mini round baler attachment for the Mow’n Machine next. Sign me up for that, too!

Just one tip: Don’t try this if the wind is blowing!

IMG_1528

Farewell, Mervel

This week we will say a final “good-bye” to Mervel Wood, the last surviving founder of Wood Brothers Manufacturing Co. Mervel passed away on Wednesday, June 16, signaling the end of an era at Woods Equipment. What remains is a lasting legacy of hard work, ingenuity, and a commitment to people — an approach to business that Mervel and his brothers instilled when they founded the company in 1946.

I had a chance to visit with Mervel on several occasions. The first was in 2005 when we invited him and his wife Ruth to Oregon, Illinois, to celebrate the manufacturing of our one millionth product. To honor Mervel for his role in this accomplishment — and because he was 85 at the time and I had no idea of his driving ability — I arranged to have a limousine pick them up at their house in Rockford and drive them to Oregon.

Mervel Wood and his wife Ruth shared their first ride in a limousine when visiting Woods Equipment to celebrate the manufacturing of the company's one millionth product in 2005.

Mervel Wood and his wife Ruth shared their first ride in a limousine when visiting Woods Equipment to celebrate the manufacturing of the company’s one millionth product in 2005.

When I called to share the details with Mervel, he was quite tickled, “I’ve never ridden in a limo before!” he told me. I too was tickled to be part of that small “first” in his life.

The next time Mervel visited the plant was for a family gathering, which we hosted for them, June 7, 2013. I was off to New York to enjoy a weekend of theatre with my mother (which turned out to be our last trip together), so I missed the joy of seeing the Wood family experience first-hand the legacy started by Mervel, Keith and Leonard.

Mervel and Sons in Plant 2013

Mervel (seated) and his sons Doug and Jim during the family visit to Woods in 2013.

I did, however, get to meet many members of the brothers’ families when the three were inducted into the AEM Hall of Fame in November 2012. A dozen members of the family joined Jerry Johnson, our president, and me in Los Angeles, California, for the Association’s gala induction celebration. It was a thrill for Jerry and I to hear stories of their first jobs in the manufacturing plant  (who knew a grease gun could shoot all the way to the ceiling) and their memories of Keith and Leonard whom we had never met.

My most memorable time with Mervel was the afternoon I shared with Chad Elmore and Michael Ellis in Mervel and Ruth’s living room. Michael and Chad were both with Lessiter Publishing at the time and had happily agreed to conduct a video interview with Mervel. We spent hours listening to him talk about the start-up of the company, its growth through the 1960’s and 70’s, and the eventual acquisition by Hesston Corporation in 1969.

My favorite story from Mervel was about the transition from belt to gearbox driven spindles on the rotary cutters. Their father, also an inventor, had sent them the idea to use gearboxes instead of belts, along with a drawing for a gearbox design. Being independent-minded (or perhaps stubborn, as admitted by Mervel), the brothers decided to design their own gearbox. The project was a success and sales picked up. In fact, they started receiving orders for just gearboxes, 25 at a time, from a company “down south.” After filling a few of these orders, they decided to learn more about where they were coming from and discovered that their new customer was the manufacturer of a competitive brand of red rotary cutters — proof that the agricultural equipment industry has always been a tight-knit group.

While I am saddened by Mervel’s passing, I am ever grateful for having spent time with him and his family. It is an honor to have known him and to be a part of his enduring legacy as an employee of Woods Equipment.

AKL