Monday, December 24, 2012

The Coolest Thing Dad Has Ever Bought

An excavator. I think every man that enjoys heavy machinery wants one of these. We have a landlord that had a big tree job to do, and I've got a bunch of work to do around my place, so Dad took the plunge. We have a lot of farms that need some work, so it will come in handy. We have also talked about potentially turning it into a business, as it's really hard to find farmland to rent and it's almost impossible to buy any at current land prices.

That's a cedar tree in its jaws. You just clamp down on the suckers and they pop right out.

I've only operated it for a few minutes just to figure out how it works, but it's pretty awesome. I can't wait to get it over to my place next summer and start taking out trees and buildings.

Dad also bought a truck to haul it, which will also give us another truck to haul with during harvest. I'll be buying a grain trailer sometime before next fall. Anyway, it's an '87 Kenworth T800 with a 3406 Cat and a 9 speed. It has a re-manufactured engine on it with approximately 150,000 miles, so it should last a long time. It needs paint, but my brother went to school for paint and body, so I think he'll be painting it next summer.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Few Pictures

These are just some pictures I took during harvest. Nothing too exciting here.

Shay learned how to run the auger wagon. She may have spilled some corn. It happens to the best of us.

This was not a fluke. There were a few acres on my place where the yield monitor never went below 90bu/acre going through the field. Typically, I have 50-55bu/acre soybeans. It's still pretty unbelievable. God knows how to raise beans. I just plant and water them and let Him do the rest.

These are a few pictures of the last field of corn that I picked. It was about 35 acres and averaged 194bu/acre. I think it would've done 200+, but the pivot was late in getting completed and this is sandy ground. When the corn was really small, the wind blew 30+ mph for a few days and sandblasted a few spots pretty badly. Those spots produced very little. If the pivot would've been operational, I would've been able to water the soil and keep it wet enough to stop it from blowing. I was still really happy with how it yielded. God was good to us on this farm, too.

This is what happens when the wind blows 40-60mph before you get done picking corn. Grandpa had a bunch of acres go down. It was pretty ugly. The rows in the picture have not been harvested yet. 

Just a picture.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

There's a Song I Really Like

Bicycling In a Border Town by Brian Burns, and it has a line in it that goes through my head a lot anymore: "I love mankind, man, it's people I hate."

I just read a letter to the editor in the Grand Island paper from someone that obviously doesn't have much of a clue. It was about privatizing crop insurance and eliminating direct payments as it would level the playing field for the "next generation." To quote Ed from the Barenaked Ladies: "Lady! You're an idiot!"

I am assuming that I am part of this "next generation." Guess what? I got paid on a crop insurance claim this year, and it was just about enough to cover my tractor payment. That allowed me to actually put some cash in savings. But you think if crop insurance is privatized, which would likely mean more expensive, it will help me "get [my] foot in the door."

I have no problem getting rid of direct payments, but crop insurance? I don't think consumers realize it isn't meant to make farmers rich - it's there to make sure the people that supply your food stay in business. Do you think we want to collect on crop insurance? Do you pay your car insurance premium hoping to total the son of a bitch?

If you want to propose a cap to crop insurance, whether it's based on a bushels per acre cap (instead of using proven yields, have a set number for everyone, maybe 100bu/acre) or guaranteed income per acre based on that year's production costs, I'll listen, as that actually might help the "next generation" out some, but don't tell me that you have a better answer when I seriously doubt that you have any skin in the game.

I can think of a better place to put my foot, but your head is in the way.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Favorite Songs of 2012

I know, I know. The year isn't over yet, but Shay is gone and I'm staying up late listening to and playing music, just like the old college days.

I've come across a lot of good music this year, and I thought I'd share some of my favorites. I think in order to keep it interesting, I'll pare it down to a top 5:

5 - Turnpike Troubadours - Gin, Smoke, Lies

I don't know how you couldn't like this song. Really.

4 - Sons of Bill - Santa Ana Winds

I don't really know what this song is about, and I don't really care. It makes me feel good and that's what matters.

3 - Lucero - When I Was Young

I... uh... well, I feel like this a lot of the time. Am I old enough to remember when I was young? I dunno. When he sings of love, I don't really think about it in the romantic sense. I think a lot about my friends and I wish I would've spent more time with them then. That's how the line "Oh, the days I let slip away, I was fierce and wild in love when I was young," means to me. I know. That's probably not what he means. But it's what I mean.  


2 - Sean McConnell - Old Brown Shoes

I love this guy and could listen to him all day, every day. One of his albums (200 Orange St.) pulled me out of a bad funk a few years back and I've been a huge supporter ever since. If the chorus of this song doesn't do something to you, you have no soul. 

1 - Kasey Anderson - Exit Ghost

The album version is more rocked out, but I like this version best. In an interview, he says the title comes from a Shakespeare stage direction. It's about all of the people in your life you used to be close to. I can relate. Been thinking about that a lot, lately. The last minute and a half is my favorite. 

The next 5 (if you choose to check them out):

Chris Knight - Little Victories
Uncle Lucius - Pocket Full of Misery
Lucero - I Can't Stand To Leave You
Lucero - It May Be Too Late
Turnpike Troubadours - Good Lord Lorrie

And as a bonus, my favorite cover song of the year. Saw them play this in concert a month or two ago. I had no idea what it was until the chorus hit. That's when I realized it may have been the greatest cover I've ever heard. The video does it no justice. 

Reckless Kelly - She Drives Me Crazy (Fine Young Cannibals)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Soil Maps

I've recently discovered the NRCS soil survey website ( and have spent a lot of time on it. See, I can tell you what type of soil is where in my fields, but I couldn't tell you names, drainage characteristics, what land class it was, etc. I've been studying, and I wonder more and more if maybe I'm the limiting factor on some of my fields.

See, I get a notion in my head that such-and-such field might have some problems, so I'll cut a little on fertilizer or water too much. Maybe I'll put a corn variety there that is better for a silty loam soil, when I actually need something for a sandy loam. I'm also guilty of managing a 35 acre patch based on the 4 or 5 acre alkali patch in the middle of it.

Interestingly enough, one of the fields that I think of as one of the best we farm is actually not considered prime farmland. I always thought it was, though, so I treated it like it was top shelf soil, and really, it produces right near the top.

Do you see why I'm thinking I'm the limiting factor? Yes, that alkali spot is a pain in the ass, but the rest of the ground around it is capable of 200+ bushel corn, so what the heck am I doing managing 35 acres based on 10-15% of the field?

I took a lot of soils classes in college, but none of it really started making sense until now. I wish I could find those books and go back through them, but apparently they are gone forever.

Going through the soil maps also reassures me quite a bit. When Mom and Dad bought the farm I live on, there were some skeptics. A guy that I like pretty well told me (in the bar after many beers) that he was scared I would go broke. I bought into that hype some, as it's sandy in spots and wet in others. Looking at the soil map, the half of the farm we bought is considered prime farmland. After seeing the beans it raised this fall, I believe it. I had a test plot on some of it, and the winner of the plot went 89bu/acre, with 7 of the 12 varieties going 80+ bushels/acre.

The key to good yields here? Drainage. As long as we can keep excessive water off of our fields, we have a good shot at high yields. This is critical during planting and emergence. Half of the battle, in my mind, is getting it out of the ground in a timely fashion.

So, soils. Check 'em out.

Friday, December 14, 2012


It's been in me a long time to write this post. I've started it about eleventy times only to quit. Something keeps drawing me back to the blank page that is Blogger. My writing peeps can probably understand.

I don't want this blog to die. I don't know what I want out of it. Mostly, I don't know what you want out of it. I was reading a lot of my posts from the first year, and it amazes me how much I wandered and didn't write only about farming.

This year, when I did post, it was mostly about farming, and rather boring, I thought. Then, I quit. I will be honest with you - this year sucked. Flat out. I was pissed off most of the time, and that doesn't always make for good writing. It was a hot, dry, long summer, and the last thing I wanted to do was blog about it. I was convinced that the heat, weeds, drought and earworms could not be defeated.

How little faith...

We were blessed beyond any measure I could think of this year. Yes, I had a field that did pretty poorly, but there God provided what we needed through crop insurance. Everywhere else, I was more than surprised by how well crops did. I had my first 200bu/acre corn and my first 70bu/acre beans. I saw 110bu/acre on the yield monitor in more than one spot on some of my beans field. We had virtually no break downs all harvest and got the crop in earlier than I've ever imagined. Prices were good, and we've made money. God knows a thing or two about growing crops, I've finally decided.

We also closed on the farm this week. Shay and I (and the bank) own 68 acres now, 55 of which are crop ground. I've been doing a lot of planning and dreaming lately about what this place might look like some day. It's alternately scary and exciting, but I feel that God has blessed us with this opportunity, so I'm going to run with it.

Other than that, not much exciting going on here. I've been reading a lot and planning for next crop year. There may be a new sideline business for Dad and I in the near future, but I'll wait to share until I can get some pictures of things. Nothing like a little suspense to bring you back, eh?