How Great The Yield From A Fertile Field

Random musings from an old farmer about life, agriculture, and faith

Sunday, November 05, 2017


Harvest progressed slowly this week for a variety of reasons.  The combine spent a day and a half at the dealership to start the week.  We had some rain delays, and one full day of heavy fog during which we felt it would be unsafe to be hauling grain on the roads.  Another half day when the alternator quit on the combine, and an early evening when the feeder house drive belt played shed and shred.  Hopefully this coming week will allow us to finish.  We did finish filling our bins at home. 
So far, our highest yielding corn has been the replant corn planted the third week of May.

We bought about 5 pounds of Halloween candy not knowing if we would get any trick or treaters.  We had two this year, but that leaves a lot of candy for us to finish off.  😉

A LumberJack and a Hobbit stopped by.

But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
Genesis 2:6

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Slow Start

When the temperature dropped to 57 degrees in our bedroom the other night, we decided it was time to start the furnace.

Harvest got off to a slow, late start and has been stretched out since.  By the end of September we only had a little corn out, but did get a good start on soybeans.  We were able to get the wheat sown before the end of September, and it came up quickly and looks to be off to a great start.  We finished all of our soybeans except our double crop beans before we had more than 25% of our corn done.  The replant corn has finally dried down, so we can work on everything now.  That is, when the machinery is running! 
The 10 HP motor on the wet corn auger that feeds our leg quit, so that set us back a half a day.  On our last field of soybeans, the bottom of the platform peeled off so it spent a day and a half in the shop.  Then the semi tractor lost its transmission while hauling a load to the elevator.  It had to be towed to a repair shop and we had to find a replacement to rent.  Penske came through.  Then, a few days later an axle broke off the frame of the grain trailer while loaded.  We were able to chain it in place and limp it to the elevator to dump.  A trailer was borrowed from a farmer that was finished already so that we could keep going.  We had been making good progress on the rest of our corn, when this afternoon we started hearing a screeching, clanking, metal on metal sound in the unloading system on the combine.  We got the tank unloaded, but unwilling to have a breakdown in the field with a full hopper, we chose to take the combine to the dealer's shop for inspection. So we have the evening off and don't know how many days we will be down if they find what we suspect.
Fortunately, the breakdown happened after the landlord drove by to check on us.

I lost three friends this fall.

I knew Denny in the Young Group, but got to know him better when our kids were in High School together.  We were band parents together for a number of years and I enjoyed his upbeat personality.  He had fought a several year battle with colon cancer.

I spent a lot of time with Alan during high school days.  Alan, Doug, and I would get together to play guitars, go to Sunday School activities at each other's churches, go to movies, and even triple date. We didn't see each other regularly since, but always had good visits when we did.  He only lived one month after his cancer diagnosis.

Jim and I met in Ag classes at ICC.  He was a farm kid from Camp Grove, and we ended up living together at the U. of I.  We spent a lot of time together in college, and though we didn't see each other often since, I always enjoyed visiting with him.  He had numerous medical complications that started with a bad car accident many years ago.

The fields are ripe for harvest.

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fieldsfor they are white already to harvest.
John 4:35

Friday, September 15, 2017

Southern Exploration

The last half of August and first part of September were much cooler than normal, which is delaying the maturation of the crops.  Since harvest will be delayed, we decided on the spur of the moment to head down to Southern Illinois to the Shawnee National Forest and do some exploring for a few days.  We had never spent much time in Southern Illinois because it is always so hot and humid down there in the summer, that we avoid it.  If we go south in the summer we want to be on big water. But since the weather was cool it made for a perfect time to hike, picnic and explore.  Once down there we felt like we were in a different state!  Lots of hills, forest, wildlife, and quaint small towns seen from two lane and sometimes gravel roads.  The area we were in is so sparsely populated that many whole counties have less population than our local towns.

Bigfoot welcomed us to Shawnee!

We did a lot of hiking on various types of trails.

And we saw a lot of interesting and beautiful rock formations and cliffs.

Here is the camel often seen on tourism literature.

We stayed in a couple of log cabins, one a historic cabin built by the CCC during the Great Depression at Giant City State Park.

The Lodge.

We squeezed through some tight spots while hiking, but "Fat Man's Squeeze" was closed due to snake migration this time of year.

We enjoyed exploring through the small towns.  We ate fresh caught Ohio River catfish one night for supper on a barge restaurant.  We also enjoyed the small town patriotism.

We also explored numerous caves along our hikes.

The Shawnee Hills.

Illinois Iron Furnace.

A beautiful picnic spot at Pounds Hollow.

All in all we hiked or visited Ferne Cliff State Park, Bell Smith Springs, Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock, Pounds Hollow, Cave-In-Rock State Park, Iron Furnace, Dixon Springs State Park, Heron Pond/Cache River Wetlands, and Giant City State Park.  The hiking sticks and hiking shoes were put to good use!  We traveled some on the Trail of Tears route, and crossed the River to River Trail and the Tunnel Hill State Trail.  There is a lot more to see down south, and I hope we get the opportunity to travel back some day to see what we missed and revisit our favorite spots.

For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wildernessthese forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.
Deuteronomy 2:7

Thursday, August 31, 2017


Last week, along with 33 others representing 16 Illinois and Indiana churches, I attended an ALiCE training class put on by the ALiCE Training Institute.  Our church paid for and sent several of us to this two day class (plus some additional online training and testing) which educates about active shooter events in schools, churches, businesses, and other public places.  This is not something we even want to think about, but unfortunately it is reality.  There was a lot of classroom instruction by a lifelong police trainer and SWAT team leader followed by role playing/scenario training.  Our drills included donning safety glasses and helmets and the shooter coming at us unexpectedly with an air-soft gun.  It was eye opening to see our reactions even when we knew what was going to happen and that it was just role playing.  Your mind shifts to survival mode (every man for himself) and fight or flight!  Learning how to act quickly, calmly, and decisively is important. The big challenge will be how to present what we learned to the church, and how the church should prepare for this possibility.

ALiCE stands for:

A - Alert.  Be alert and aware of people and surroundings.  Alert others (and call 911) immediately if something happens.

L - Lockdown.  If evacuation is not a safe option, lockdown and fortify/barricade entry points. Prepare to evacuate or counter if needed.

I -  Inform.  Communicate real time information to authorities and people present using clear and direct language by any communication means available.

C - Counter.  As a last resort, distract/disrupt shooter by shouting, movement, throwing objects, and swarming/tackling.

E - Evacuate.  Run from danger when it is safe to do so using non-traditional exits if necessary. Rallying points (meeting places) should be predetermined.

These actions will not necessarily be sequential, and always try to have options.  The goal is to save life, including the shooter's life.

We pray that any planning and training we do will never be needed, just like we hope we never need our fire evacuation plan or our tornado response plan.

Trivia:  The first recorded United States school shooting was July 26, 1764 at a schoolhouse near Greencastle, Pennsylvania.  Four native Americans entered the schoolhouse and shot and killed the schoolmaster and nine or ten students.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch . . .

The last week of July was the big extended family vacation at Lake of the Ozarks.  It was about the hottest week of the year with temperatures hovering near 100 for the first half of the week.  A rain shower moved through Wednesday night and lowered the temps a bit for the rest of the week.  We stayed at Holiday Shores Resort.  It had a very nice conference center (with kitchen) that we rented for the whole week for our meals, games, and other activities.  The cabins all had three bedrooms and were architecturally unique.  The negative was the 100 foot rise in altitude from lake level to the top where the meeting room was.  Basically, the resort was built on the side of a very steep hill!  I read, colored, babysat, and did a little fishing.  We had a very relaxing week and most of the family was there for at least part of the week.

Our cabin from the back side.

We spent a lot of time trudging up and down stairs.  This photo is from the dock up to the first level of cabins (there were three levels).

A group photo with most of the crew rounded up.

A week after we were home, we had some really nice weather.  On Sunday evening we decided to head to Glen Oak Park with the kids and grand-kids and take in another band concert.  Here they all are with the exception of Jack, who was exploring, and Jake who was in Iowa.

Here on the farm, we have been hauling manure, walking soybeans, spraying weeds, and taking care of pigs.  I have been going to some summer farm meetings and some field days.  We moved a fresh batch of pigs out of the nurseries and into the hoop buildings last week.

I attended our church's annual Brotherhood Conference in Roanoke, and then Jon, Marshall, and I spent a day driving down to Centralia to visit Phil. We were thankful to find him in good spirits and doing as well as can be expected.
B-I-L Ed was here from California, so while Peggy was visiting her sister in Michigan, we took Ed to the State Fair in Springfield.  It was a very hot, humid day, so it was hard to stay interested in anything for very long.  We watched some livestock and horse judging, watched a harness race, and stopped at the beekeeping booth and had some honey ice cream.  We moved through and saw what we wanted, ate some fair food, and at about 2:00 we left and headed to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.  Their air conditioning was working very well!

The famous butter cow at the fair.  Sculpted fresh each year from butter, the cow has been the unofficial mascot of the State Fair since the 1920's.

We met the Lincoln family, and then observed some of the current politics.

CaseIH asked if they could use our wheat field to do some demonstrations for a customer group.  They showed up with four tractors and six pieces of machinery.  They usually offer us some free tillage work afterwards for the use of our field.  We had already spread some manure on the field, but it didn't seem to bother them!

And finally, our little old country road has been upgraded.  The township added stripes down the middle of it.  We have finally made the big time!

Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
Isaiah 7:15

Friday, July 14, 2017

More Quick Trips

While harvesting wheat this year, I scared a duck out of the field!  I think that was a first.  We were able to get the wheat out in a timely manner and get some straw baled, so we quickly drilled some double crop soybeans in half of the field.  The wheat yield was good, but not as good as we had hoped for.  Maybe the soybeans will add some value.  They have emerged already and we seem to have a good stand.

Look at all of that beautiful gluten!

The Japanese Beetles are back with a vengeance this year, and they seemed to really like our early apples.  We quickly picked some for the old farmer's wife to make a batch of apple sauce, and then I decided I had better spray all of my fruit trees and some ornamentals.  Usually the beetles just strip the leaves, but this year they helped themselves to the fruit.

On Wednesday after chores, we took off for Chicago to pick up Son #2 at O'Hare Airport.  He had been on a backpacking/hiking trip to Iceland.  We got to Chicago early and then received the message that his flight was delayed a couple of hours, so we did a little shopping to kill some time.  We stopped at three of my favorite outdoors stores (LL Bean, Cabela's, and REI) as well as a used book store.  We got home at 9:00 and I still had to do chores.  It made for a long day.

Thursday was the big day.

My cousin Jay (and wife Holly) lost their son Luke in a tragic car accident.  News article is here, and obituary here.  We wanted to attend the funeral and it seemed like the best way for us was to fly, since Peoria has a nonstop flight into Minneapolis-St. Paul.  We bought our tickets and reserved a rental car.  Our early morning flight was delayed an hour and a half, so we were worried that we wouldn't get to the church on time for the 11:00 funeral.  We landed at MSP at 9:20 and met cousin Virg (who was going to ride with us) in the baggage area.  Virg, a seasoned traveler and familiar with MSP, guided us through the airport and helped us get our rental car.  We were on the road for the hour trip to the church in Elk River by 10:00 and pulled into the church parking lot at 10:56.  We were the last ones to file past the casket, and found our saved seats, and the service began.  That was cutting it close!
Our prayers go out to Jay, Holly, and twin sister Morgan (and all parents who lose children).  He was a nice, fun loving, respectful young man.  And a great outdoors-man.  As the pastor mentioned several times, "Luke caught more fish in his 21 years than most of us will catch in a lifetime"!  He loved to tell, and it was fun listening to, his hunting and fishing stories.  The pastor began the service by saying Luke's faith and life made it easy to preach his funeral sermon.
I hope they can say that about me some day.

Coming home was a little more relaxing.  Despite heavy traffic in the cities, we had plenty of time to drive back to the airport, fill the tank, turn in the car, eat supper, and find our gate.  Enough time to stroll around some of the shops and catch a catnap.  We were back in Peoria by 10:00.  We were worn out, but thankful we were able to be there.

The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish.
Isaiah 19:8

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Quick Trip

We made a quick trip to Lester last week for Aunt Esty's funeral.  I spent a lot of time with Fred and Esty's family growing up (and since) and have a lot of good memories.  None of the surviving Illinois sisters-in-law or brothers-in-law could make the 1150 mile round trip, so we were glad that we could go and represent the family.  We enjoyed our overnight with Art and Kris, but would have liked to have had more time to visit with them and our other relatives.  It was peaceful at the cemetery, and my thoughts went to Grandpa and Grandma, Aunts and Uncles, and cousins as we strolled around looking at the graves.  Our van load headed back after the funeral meal, and we were home before midnight.

At home, the Hollyhocks are having a particularly good year.

Sunday evening, we went out to eat with the oldest farmer and his wife who were celebrating their 67th anniversary. Afterwards, a small group of us met at Glen Oak Park for the Municipal Band concert.  It was a cool and beautiful evening to be outside, and Michelle and Nathan brought ice cream to enjoy with the music.

The band setting up and tuning up as people find spots on the lawn.

Our group getting settled in for the concert.

We have cut some wheat, but ours is not really dry enough yet.  We finished our neighbors first, but every time we get started on ours, a shower moves through and chases us from the field.

The combine header clipped the wheat just above this nest of baby birds.  With less shade, they are now working on their tans.

The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
Song of Solomon 2:12