How Great The Yield From A Fertile Field

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

Monday, February 05, 2018

Glass Castle

I had to renew my Certified Livestock Manager certification this winter and I will not be able to attend the local training class.  So, I decided to take the course and test online.  I passed, so I am once again legal to raise hogs in the State of Illinois.

A few years ago I read the book The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  It is the story of her upbringing in a poverty stricken family by nomadic, dysfunctional parents.  It is a very good read and a well written book.  And it's almost unbelievable that she survived her childhood.  She managed to escape her unconventional childhood and move to New York, graduate from college, and become a successful journalist and author.  The story has been made into a movie, but I would recommend the book.
I recently ran across a lecture she gave for the IPFW Omnibus Lecture Series.  You can find it here.  I was impressed by the way she was able to overcome here past and not use it as an excuse or act victimized.

I went to another beekeeping class last week, I purchased two hives, and I have bees ordered.  Ready or not I will soon be a beekeeper.

Snow has moved back into our area, with predictions for snow off and on all week.

And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
Luke 14:18

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Hard Water

I finally found a slow day with mild temperatures so that I could get out on the ice and try some ice fishing again.  So far this winter the ice has been solid for most of the winter, but the temperature has been too cold to entice me onto the ice.  I do not own an ice hut or tent.  Son #2 came with me and we headed for Fritz's lake.  We drilled our holes, baited hooks, and set the poles, and waited.  Nothing happened for the first half hour or more.  Then, all of a sudden one hole started producing.  As soon as we took a fish off the hook and dropped the baited hook back in the hole, we had another one.  Fifteen minutes later the other holes (we had four poles out) started producing.  It kept us real busy for the next half hour going from hole to hole pulling up panfish.  Finally we decided we had enough fish and we needed to get back home, so we stopped baiting hooks and started packing up.  It was a productive day on the ice, and we have a mess of fish for a fish fry.

Phil took his old farrowing house and turned it into a warming hut.  It is a pretty impressive conversion!  They also built a hockey rink near it.  I brought my skates in case the fish weren't biting, but never had time to put them on.

Last weekend we headed west across the state line and spent the weekend in Burlington.  There was a couple of wedding showers that involve Son #2.  We stayed in a motel this trip so that the grand-kids ( who came along with their parents) could swim in the pool and have a little vacation.  We had a nice evening meal at the Wagenbach's and a blessed day in church.  It was an enjoyable weekend.

The weather has still been mostly frigid, with an occasional day or two of mild reprieve.  I think that this winter has had more days with subzero temperatures than any year in decades.

  And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
Genesis 9:2

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Happy Frigid New Year

The first seed catalog arrived in the mailbox two days before Christmas.  The Stark Bros. catalog came two days before New Years Day.  I think they are pushing the season a little!
We had a beautiful Christmas eve snow that blanketed the ground and didn't blow.  This came after a relatively mild week.  But, a few days later, the temperature dropped to single digits and subzero, and we received another snow.  It has been real winter since.

The last Saturday in December, I had to call for two service calls.  A feed line quit working in the finishing building and I knew it was a wiring problem.  With a holiday weekend coming, I didn't want to take any chances by wasting time and trying to figure it out myself.  So, I called our electrician and he was on the farm within the hour.  He found a broken wire and another shorted wire in a control panel and we were up and feeding in less than an hour.  Then the feed mill wouldn't start.  I did all the diagnostics that I could, then called the repairman.  He came out in the afternoon, and determined a computer board needed replacing.  Fortunately he brought a spare one with him.  Our feed room is not heated, so it was frigid trying to work bare handed.  I brought in a kerosene heater to help, but I still needed to preheat the tools for him.  It took about two hours, but we were able to get it running just as darkness settled in. 
Sunday morning everything was working.

On the first two mornings of the New Year, the temperature was -18 degrees when I left the house to start chores.  It is like living in the North country!  Tractors don't start unless you plug them in, hook up the battery charger, and then use starting fluid.  Hydraulic oil is rather lethargic and takes minutes to operate cylinders.  The pigs in the deep bedded hoop buildings pile on each other and the weak ones on the bottom can suffocate.  Today the cattle water was frozen.  A half hour with the heat gun and it was thawed out and working. 
The bad thing about repair work in the winter is it often means the gloves have to come off.  That's when you really understand how cold it is!  It takes a lot of lotion to keep fingertips from cracking open.  And lotion on your heals to keep them from cracking open.  Those kind of skin cracks are very painful.

The rest of the week is supposed to continue the frigid weather.  Next week is supposed to be more typical temperatures.  It will feel like spring has arrived if it reaches 30 degrees during the days!

Out of the south cometh the whirlwind: and cold out of the north.
Job 37:9

Saturday, December 23, 2017


We drove to Omaha again this year for the Farmer2Farmer conference.  We bucked 40 to 50 mile per hour wind gusts all the way out.  I was pretty weary from driving by the time we got there.  But, we enjoyed our time there, especially the speakers.  The first evening, Rob O'Neill, former Seal Team 6 leader, was the featured speaker.  He was the Seal who shot Osama bin Laden in the raid of his compound in Pakistan.  He talked about preparation, leadership, decision making, and operating in uncertain environments.
The next day Kevin O'Leary was the keynote speaker.  He is a millionaire entrepreneur and investor, and is the mean "shark" on the Shark Tank TV program.  He talked about investments, attitudes, diversification, and building businesses.
It was exciting to see the growth of FBN and hear the new products coming out and the direction the company is taking in the Ag industry.  I got to speak personally with the co-founder and CEO of the company.  They have a lot of ideas to help level the playing field for farmers in an industry dominated by multinational companies.  There were farmer members in attendance from 40 states plus Canada.

As we were leaving Omaha, we made a quick stop at the Pioneer Courage Park in the downtown area.  They have some neat, life size sculptures depicting a wagon train of pioneers heading west.  It reminded me of the "Cattle Drive" in downtown Dallas.

We've already had our big family Christmas, so the actual day should be laid back.  Our kids won't be all together with us until later in the week.  Daughter #1 did present me with a plate of her spingerle cookies already!

Finally, here is a grainy black and white photo of the corn pile at our elevator this fall.  It contained approximately 2 million bushels of corn.  Most of it has already been picked up, loaded on rail cars, and shipped out. 

And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes.
Numbers 13:20

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Winter has arrived on the farm.  I put my long johns on for the first time last week  The temperature in our bedroom has been running in the 65 degree range at night, so the old farmer's wife put the flannel sheets on the bed.  We had our first snow on Nov. 18.  It was just big, wet, flakes that didn't stick, but we have been warned.

We finished our tillage after another breakdown, a weeks wait for parts, and welding shop repair. Now we are starting to put equipment away for the winter.  The double crop soybeans were finally harvested after a three week wait.  The almost 50 bushel per acre yield was our highest ever.  It made the wait worthwhile.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we made a quick trip to Burlington and Mediapolis as Son#2 announced his engagement.  We are thankful, excited, and feeling blessed.  We are looking forward to a wedding in March.  Rachel is from Oakville/Mediapolis but is working at the U. of I. Vet Clinic in C-U.  That is where we met her while some of our kids (including Son#2) were at U. of I.  We've been friends with her parents much longer than that.

Three of us drove down to Centralia to get a visit in with Phil before Christmas.  It was a nice sunny day and we enjoyed a nice visit with him.  Going through pat-down, the officer pulled the insoles out of my shoes when he searched them.  That was a first!  I was wearing one of my oldest pairs (and most comfortable) and his eyes widened at first look.  He told me the steel shank was showing through, and I wonder if he thought at first that I was hiding a knife under the insole.  He let me through!

The farm meeting circuit has started, and I had my first Wiegand steak (Trails End Catering) last week.  Today was the Earlybird Fertilizer Christmas Open House and 50th anniversary celebration.  More good food.
The oldest farmer was one of Ralph's early customers back in '67 or '68. We have been trusting them with our business ever since. They provide excellent service, high quality products, a large fleet of application equipment, cutting edge knowledge, integrity, and two generations of personal relationships.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
Revelation 19:7

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