Planting season has come to a screeching halt in northern Illinois. >deep sigh<
Planting season has come to a screeching halt in northern Illinois. >deep sigh<
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.
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.
Finally after just a few hours of intense teamwork, the job was accomplished.
To 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.
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.
Earlier 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
We get some of the same questions every year:
“How much does she weigh, eat, poop, etc.”
But this year there were a few that made the kids stop and think about their answer:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
No, that’s our annual trek to Junior National Hereford Expo, one of the largest youth events in the country. Last week more than 700 kids from 40 states converged on Harrisburg, PA. They exhibited nearly 1,200 head of Hereford cattle and participated in 23 leadership and personal development competitions. The event also brought in more than 3,000 spectators.
Cattle walked through the ring for three full days, crowning champion heifers, bulls and cow/calf pairs. We brought home the banner for Champion Bred & Owned Cow/Calf pair! This was even more special because it was our youngest daughter’s favorite heifer that she raised from a little calf.
Though the cattle show is an important aspect of the event, we also focus on the many contests available to improve speaking and critical thinking skills. This year was an exceptional one, with two of the kids winning national speaking events. They also earned one Top Ten in showmanship, two leadership/activities winners in their age group and two Creative Arts winners. We are so proud of them all.
So, when education officials talk about the lower quality of education and the lack of opportunities in rural school districts, I just have to shake my head. We know that rural communities offer some of the best opportunities for kids to excel with life skills learned outside the classroom.
To most people, family vacation means toes in the sand, splashing in the pool or relaxing by a campfire. To us, family vacation means hard work, short nights and a “togetherness” rarely experienced in most families. To us, family vacation is A CATTLE SHOW.
Since most of our friends are involved in the cattle business, it comes as no surprise that we prefer the crazy schedule of a cattle show – and most of them are here with us. But to others, it’s just plain crazy.
This week we will wash each of our seven animals once a day, typically well before sunrise. We will spend all day and into the night in the barn, including eating most of our meals with the cattle. We will try to catch naps in a chair, feed and water the cattle before we feed ourselves and comb their hair more than we comb our own. We will be visiting a spa, but we’re doing the work and the cattle are reaping the benefit.
The kids will participate in speech contests, talent contests, sales contests, judging, showmanship, quiz bowl and herdsmanship. They will walk animals through the ring in front of a judge for four days straight. We will finish our week on Saturday, only to wake before dawn on Sunday to drive 16 hours home.
Many of our non-farming friends ask us why we put ourselves through this, and sometimes we ask the same question.
But then we see the confidence developed by speaking in front of a panel of judges, the entrepreneurial spirit ignited as an invention takes shape during the sales contest and the pride felt as they walk out of the ring, knowing that they’ve done their best. And though they might not always enjoy it, the work ethic developed through showing cattle can’t be topped.
We know this is how we want to raise our kids. This is how we were raised. We just hope someday our kids will thank us for these early mornings, late nights and beach-less vacations.
Only time will tell.
Most people say “Good fences make good neighbors,” but in our area, I think it’s the other way around.
Last fall, our cows decided they really liked the cornfield that borders our pasture. Cows are naturally curious – and always looking for a meal. The old fence was dilapidated, the wooden posts were rotten and the green, lush corn was too enticing to let one electric wire keep them out.
A group of young heifers decided to make a break for it and have a corn buffet. By the time we rounded them up, they had knocked down a few rows of corn and made an even bigger mess of the old fence.
Some neighbors would have been angry. Some would have billed us for any perceived damage to the corn. Some may have even called the police. But in our community, we worked together to move them to a different pasture and make a plan to replace the fence this spring.
The country rule for paying for fencing in our area is to meet at the middle point of that section and both look right. You’re responsible for that section of fence.
Now, it’s time to replace that fence and we’re working together again. Our neighbor owns the heavy equipment so he was in charge of the tear-out. We had to pull out all the old posts, barbed wire and trees that had grown into the fence line over the years.
Next, we’ll be replacing wooden posts, driving in t-posts and stringing the wire. Check back to see the result of this Tough Job. The lush new pasture is calling!