Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-14(15-20)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

[When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. ]

May the love of our Savior fill your hearts this holiday season!

From our family to yours - Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

An Ode to Fall

With the first day of winter just around the corner here is John Keats' Ode To Autumn with a Northeast Iowa farm twist.

Ode to Autumn
by John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Sny Magill

#1 and friend trying to make it across the pond.
#2 Fall soccer league
#3 dressed up like his favorite book character - Nate The Great.

#1 placed 7th in Intermediate showmanship!  Here he is
with Paisley (the heifer) and his coaches Anna & Amos.

#3 and Rollie posing with the no-till ripper.
My self portrait in the auger cart tractor.
#2 celebrating his birthday with his Grandpa & Baboushka Burrack

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chocolate Fest!

Last Saturday, our Friends of the Elkader Public Library group held our 4th annual chocolate festival.  This year it was at the Elkader Jail House Inn.   From 1870 to 2006 this building was the Clayton County Sheriffs Department and Jail.  Then, in 2007, Tim and Julie started renovating the building and after a lot of hard work the Elkader Jail House opened in 2008.  Their website has lots of before and after pictures as well as some history of the building. 

The Inn is amazing.  Julie has it decorated for holiday season - just stepping into the foyer put me in the Christmas spirit.  My pictures do not do justice to the Jail House but you will get the idea.  I have sprinkled a few of my chocolate recipes in here as well.  Enjoy!

This is the second year for making this recipe.  It is back by popular demand.  It is so easy even Son #1 likes to make it.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Swirl Candy

      2 Bars Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate
      2 Bars Ghirardelli White Chocolate
      1/2 tsp Coarse Sea Salt
      1 cup Pecans chopped

       Preheat oven to 225F.   Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper.  Break the chocolate bars into squares and lay on parchment paper in a checker board pattern.  Put pan into oven just long enough to melt the chocolate.  It takes about 7 minutes.  The white chocolate scorches very easily to watch carefully.  Use a table knife to swirl the chocolate together.  Sprinkle the sea salt across the chocolate.  Then sprinkle with nuts.  Put in refrigerator to cool and harden for at least 1 hour.  Break into pieces and enjoy.  

Dave played piano during the entire Chocolate Fest
 and even as the Friends cleaned up!

We had a great turn out of public support for this event.  This is one of the biggest fund raisers the Friends do during the year.  Many of the Friends went above and beyond the call for chocolate this year. 

Peggy & Diane filling up the trays for the crowd of
This recipe has become an old standby for me at Christmas as well as Valentine's Day.  It's easy and very flexible so you can take some creative license with it.
      12 oz package Chocolate Chips melted
      1 can Sweetened & Condensed Milk
      Dash of Salt
      1 Tblsp Instant Coffee
      2 Tblsp Kahlua

Mix all ingredients together well.  Refrigerate.  Spray hand lightly with Pam.  Shape into balls and roll in a mixture of equal parts baking cocoa and powdered sugar. 
To switch it up sometimes I use dark chocolate chips and cocoa powder.  Rolling the balls in chopped nuts is also yummy.

If those two recipes don't put you in chocolate overload here is one more.

Coffee & Cinnamon Fudge

3 cups Semi -sweet Chocolate Chips
1 can Sweetened & Condensed Milk
Dash of Salt
1 Tblsp Instant Coffee
1 tsp Hot Water
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Tblsp Cinnamon

Line a 9X9 inch square pan with parchment paper.  Melt chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Remove from heat.  Dissolve coffee in hot water.  Add coffee, vanilla and cinnamon to chocolate mixture, stirring til smooth.  Spread evenly into prepared pan.
Chill 2 hours or until firm.  Lift fudge out of pan.  Peel off paper and cut into squares. 

A big Thank You to Tim and Julie for graciously allowing The Friends to use their Inn for our fund raiser.  And, another big thank you to all of the chocolate lovers who made their way to the Chocolate Fest on such a cold, rainy day.  The money raised is going towards the purchase of more resources for the library. 

Have a Great Weekend!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yield Checks

This past week we did our last yield check for the fall harvest season.  Yield checks are a great way for farmers to evaluate their crops and determine if the management practices used during the growing season were successful. 

This is my weigh wagon.

The wagon has an electronic scale to measure the pounds of corn or soybeans unloaded into it.  Once the crop is weighed I auger it into the farmer's wagon or semi.

Another tool I use to do a yield check is a portable moisture tester.  This measures the moisture and test weight of the crop.  The moisture percentage of the grain being harvested determines how it will be handled and dried.  Typically corn is harvested between 18% and 30% moisture.  Some years the corn is wetter and some years the corn is drier.  Towards the end of this fall harvest there was some corn coming out of the field at 16%.  This is great for the farmer as few dollars will be spent on energy to dry the crop.  Our corn goes into our bins at 16%. 

Here is a self portrait or yours truly pushing my measuring wheel.
In order to figure out the yield of a crop on a bushel/acre basis I need to know the area that the farm has harvested.  So, I usually walk behind the combine and measure how far the farmer runs the combine.  The width is based on the row width a farmer plants the crop in and how many rows the combine harvests.  In our area, most corn is planted in 30 inch rows.  However, we have neighbors who plant 20", 36", or 38" rows.   Most of the combines in this area harvest 6,8, or 12 rows at a time. 
As farm equipment gets largers our costomers comment that
the hardest part of a yield check is getting the combine auger lined up
to dump corn into the little weighwagon.

Once I have the weight, moisture and area I enter the information into a couple of mathematical equations and come up with the yield in bushesls per acre.  It was a fun fall to run the weigh wagon because the yields in our area were excellent.  The corn yield checks ran from 190 bushels/acre to 275 bushels/acre.  The soybeans were great as well ranging from 62 bushels/acre to 84 bushels/acre. 

I consider the farmer to the original over achiever.  The yield checks we do help farmers determine if management practices worked for them or if they may want to change something next year.  Farmers often put in test plots or experiments in their fields to determine for themselves if something needs to be changed.  Maybe I should say farmers are the original scientist.  We do yields checks or test plots to determine the effects of planting date, planting seed populations, fertilizer applications and rates, various seed treatments such as fungicides, tillage practices even planting depth of the seeds.  The sky is the limit as far as to what a farmer may experiment with!

Once I have the yield data I input this into our Pioneer computer along with the GPS coordinates and field history for the yield check plot locations.  If you go to you can enter a ZIP Code into the yield map locations and bring up yield checks and plot results for most of the US.  It's a great web site to learn about crops in the US if you are interested.  Have Fun!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Proclamation - The Original

First Thanksgiving ProclamationFirst Thanksgiving Proclamation

For those of you who need a little larger print . . .

Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trash or Treasure?

This is a corn field ready for harvest.

This is a corn field after the combine has harvested the corn grain. 

What is left after harvest is called stover or fodder - it's the corn plants leaves, stalks and roots.  Around our farm we affectionately call this stuff trash.  However, the left overs are far from trash!

On our farm like most farms in northeast Iowa, we use the corn stover to help control soil erosion.  The leaves and stalks on top of the ground help protect the soil from wind, heavy washing rains, and snow melt over the next 5 months.  The roots left in the soil also help protect the soil from moving.  In fact, if you look at the first picture of standing corn you can still see remnants of the corn stalks from 2010 still between the rows of corn. 

By leaving trash on top of the soil we are also putting organic matter back into the soil.  This is just like putting leaves onto a garden or mulching a flower bed.  As the leaves, stalks, and roots decompose nutrients are released back into the soil.  It's a very organic process!

Livestock farmers also take advantage of the corn fodder.   It's common to see beef cows grazing the standing corn stalks in the fall. 

Another use for the stover is livestock bedding.  The leaves and stalks are very absorbent and have great insulating value to keep the animals warm and dry through the winter.  Earlier this fall while our neighbors Dan, Ann, and family of Rolling Prairie Guernsey Family Farms were making corn stalk round bales I snapped some pictures.

Gathering the corn stover into the round baler.

Once the baler has tightly rolled the stover together, the
baler wraps with bale with a netting to help hold it together.
 Each bale weighs 1200 to 1400 pounds.  Our neighbors make several hundred corn stalk bales in the fall to keep their cattle comfortable all winter. 

Even after the round bales are made there is still trash left
to protect the top soil.

When livestock farmers clean out animal barns the used bedding is spread back onto the fields where it will decompose and add nutrients and organic matter back into the soil.  This another great way to add value to a corn crop!

These lovely ladies are enjoying a beautiful October day but
in a few weeks they will be lounging in the thick, warm and dry cornstalk bedding.

Unloading a trailer of round bales. 

Someone doesn't look too happy - he should eaten his Wheaties
if he wanted to climb round bales.
Just a Note - I have the Growing Season Picture Diary updated.  Check it out!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sunday Supper

We had about 2 inches of rain and 2 to 3 inches of snow over the past few days so harvesting has stopped until the snow melts off the corn and the ground dries some and firms up.  So, I'm sharing some pictures from a warmer Sunday. 

We have 5 wonderful friends and neighbors who help us in the fall besides our full time help.  Some come in the morning and leave early evening, some come in the late after noon and stay until late in the evening and a couple have been known to come in the morning and stay into the evening.  In the fall we feed everyone lunch and supper - we want everyone to be happy and healthy :-).  I do box lunches at noon so everyone can eat on the go. Now, my mom does hot meals for supper - soup, casseroles, pie, etc.  It's an attempt to get the guys to slow down just a little and take a breather.  On Sundays though we switch things up.

It's become somewhat of a habbit or tradition that Sunday lunch is hamburgers on the grill and Sunday supper is always pizza.  Pizza night gives the head cook a much needed break.  And, for some reason pizza tastes best out in the middle of a corn field!