Friday, April 29, 2011

Do Not Be Afraid!

I repeat - Do Not Be Afraid!  After researching into historical weather records I have discovered that the yellowish white orb in the sky is in fact the sun.

It's my dad's birthday today.  Happy 71st Birthday Dad!  The only thing my dad ever wants for his birthday is to be able to plant corn.  Unfortunately, this will be one of those rare birthdays where he will not be planting.  Two weeks ago the soil temps were running right around 47F - 48F.  Then after one or two snow/slush storms the soil temps fell to 37F.  Today, the 4 inch soil temp is 42F.  To top it all off it rained and sleeted all day yesterday so it will be a while before corn planting gets started in Northeast Iowa. 

Soil thermometer at the 4 inch depth.
The soil temperature is a very important piece of information that crop farmers in the northern part of the midwest follow closely in early spring.  Corn germinates at 50F.  We like to start planting corn when the soil temps are below 50F but are definately rising and the weather is in the warming mode.  If seed sets in cold and/or wet soils for too long, the seed looses it's vigor and may not germinate or emerge healthy due to the onset of diseases.

Since he can't plant today, Dad is driving around the yard rechecking and double rechecking monitors
and electronics to make sure all is ready for when the weather does break.

Seed customers have been calling and stopping in today to pick up seed and discuss the late start to planting.  Everyone is trying to remain calm but I can tell everyone is nervous.   Let's hope the weather straightens out soon.

Joe loading a customer's seed. 
He likes to load seed once in awhile so
his forklift skills don't get rusty. :-)
Our employee "D" helping me in the warehouse since he can't be in the field.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inadequate Parents

Tonight Joe was reading #3 a bedtime story about bunnies and he made a comment about doing the Bunny Hop.  Of course #3 had no idea what that was so Joe and I proceeded to do the Bunny Hop for the boys.  After a couple of times around the bedroom I started to improvise by saying "boing, boing, boing" when we would get to the three hops forward.  I know, pretty crazy of me.  At that point #3 announces, "that is an onomatopoeia!" 

Immediately I thought this can't be good.  I looked at #1 and asked him what his brother was talking about.  Instead of answering me #1 took off for his room obviously not wanting to have one of "those family discussions about good choices".  I asked #3 where he learned this word and he said at school.  Then, I looked at #2 - he just smiled and went back to reading The Three Muskateers.  My #3 then informed us that Ms. M, his Kindergarten teacher, told him what an onomatopoeia is.  This was a great relief knowing that I would not be getting a call or email from the school informing me that my kindergartener was using a bad word in school.   #3 then explained to his college educated parents that an onomatopoeia is a word that is a sound "kinda like achoo or Mom's boing". 

Of course this made no sense to Joe nor I so I bunny hopped down to the computer and Googled onomatopoeia.  I still retain some of my old phonics skills from first grade so Google was able to decipher what I was looking for.  Thank goodness there is Google otherwise I would be looking through my dictionary for the next three days.  Here is the official definition from Webster's Dictionary:
Onomatopoeia - The formation of a word by imitating the natural sound associated with the object or action involved; echoism.

I am so glad #3 learned something today.  I'm sure the Bunny Hop will take him far in life!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Anhydrous Ammonia Application

Today is a cold, damp, yucky day.  So, I'm going to take you back to about 10 days ago when it was warmer, drier and we were applying anhydrous ammonia (NH3). 

Anhydrous ammonia (NH3 for short hand) is the form of nitrogen we use in our farming operation.  There are several different forms of nitrogen fertilizer - liquid 28% and 32%, urea, ammonium sulfate - but in our operation NH3 is the best form to use.  Corn being a grass plant requires nitrogen to grow. The soybean is a legume and manufactures it's own nitrogen.

Tractor, NH3 Tool Bar and NH3 Tank
The NH3 applicator is the first tool we take across our fields in the spring.   Behind the tractor is what is called the NH3 tool bar.  It is 47 feet wide.

A view of a coulter.
View of the front of tool bar.

On the front of the tool bar is a row of large, sharp, round blades called coulters.  The coulters cut through the plant residue. 

Next, there is a row of knives.  There are 17 knives on this bar.  Each knife is curved and has a plastic hose running down the side of it.  This tube carries the nitrogen from the tank into the soil.  The knives go about 8 to 10 inches deep and this is where the nitrogen is placed.  The closing disks then seal the nitrogen  
View of a knife and closing disks.
into the soil right behind the knives.  There are two disks behind each knife that form a V to get the soil over the knife opening.

Behind the tool bar we pull the anhydrous tank.  There is enough nitrogen in this size tank to apply about 17 to 20 acres at the rates we use.  Anhydrous ammonia has an extremely low boiling point so the tanks are pressurized.  The NH3 is a liquid in the tank but when it hits the soil it turns to the gas form.  That is why it is important to have good closing devises behind the knives. 

A large hose runs from the NH3 tank to the cooling tower on the tool bar.  From the cooling tower smaller hoses take the NH3 to each knife.  Joe will probably cringe when he reads this since I have skipped a lot of the details but that is the gist of this implement. 

It takes us about seven days of running to get our nitrogen applied.  Joe usually starts in the morning about 5:00 am.  My dad replaces him about 7:30 am.  Joe then replaces Dad again about 8:00 pm and runs until midnight.  We have a retired gentleman who hauls NH3 tanks all day long back and forth from our supplier's facility and our fields.  
 I should make one comment about these pictures.  When we were putting on NH3 it was very dry.  We had not had any precipitation for a few weeks so it was very dusty out in the field.  So that is dust not NH3 behind the tractor.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Dawn Caldwell, a fellow CommonGround volunteer from Nebraska, did an interview with Consumer Ag Connection Radio.  Below is a link to a part of this interview.  Dawn does a great job explaining why we are involved with the CommonGround initiative.

Great job Dawn!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weekend on The Farm

This is what we woke up to Saturday morning.  It's a far cry from the 70F weather we had last weekend.

It's not the April 15th Blizzard of '72, '73, '74 or whatever year it was but it was definately Mother Nature's way of saying that it's a little early to be planting corn.

Last weekend we had
temperatures in the 70's with sunny conditions which was great for NH3, seeding alfalfa, and pulling fence lines.  It definately spoiled us.

Today, the sun came out and finished melting the snow but it definately is not warm out.  But, it is warm enough to clean out the calf pens.  Once planting breaks loose there will not be a lot of time get the corners of the pens clean so today it is serious, deep cleaning get all the nitty-gritty cleaned up.

 This is one of the chores that the boys hate to do.  I remember hating it when I was growing up but it is one of those character building jobs on the farm. 
It's also a great way to work off some of that extra energy that boys always seem to accumulate in the spring.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Miss America

I'm not a big fan of beauty pagents or the likes of but I need to give Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan, from Nebraska, credit.  Please take time to read her brief but well written essay about US agriculture.  I found it on Fox

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

One of My Hats

Like all women, I wear many hats through my life and days.  This last week I put my Pioneer Hi-Bred seed hat back on for the planting season.

I spend most of my days in the seed warehouse loading out seed to customers, unloading semis, reloading semis, treating soybean seed, and filling planters.

There are a few farmers who planted corn yesterday.  The soil temps are running right around 47/48 F.  You want to plant corn when the soil conditions are right and soil temps are heading towards 50F.  Corn germinates at 50F.  The only problem is that wet and cold conditions are predicted for the next few days in fact snow is predicted for our part of Iowa.

Here is a tour of my seed warehouse for the next 30 days or however long it takes to get the crop in the ground I will be here.

This is my forklift.  It's a Cat.  I like telling people that I drive a Caterpillar.  

This is my view while driving my forklift most of the day.

Here are some pictures of my scenery.  When I get tired of it I just rearrange the pallets and ProBoxes.  :-)  That makes Joe mad as he says there is a reason he has varieties and hybrids where he does.  I just tell him it's makes life more interesting and it's like an Easter egg hunt.

I unloaded this semi this morning. 

My feet.  I bumped the camera and got a really good picture of my feet.

This is our college intern.  He helps out on the weekends getting seed delivered and organized.  Once he is done with the semester he will be full time for the summer.  He is a hard worker and knows how to think ahead.  Those are two great assets to any employee.

If Joe lets me out of the warehouse today I will get some pictures of some field work going on in the area.   I hope you enjoyed the tour.  When I start treating soybeans I'll put up some pictures of the process.  Stop back again when you have time!  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bald Eagles

The Raptor Resource Project installed a web cam in an eagle's nest last fall near Decorah, Iowa.  My boys have been telling me about the web cam for a couple of weeks and I finally took time to take a look.  It is definately worth you time to hop on and take a look.  Son #3 said that two eggs have hatched and hopefully the third egg will hatch this week.  When I went on the site one of the adults was setting on the nest and I could not see the babies.

Here's the site:

The resettlement of eagles in northeast Iowa is a real testament to the environment improvements made by farmers and industry over the years.  I saw my first bald eagle fly over our home in 1985.  Now, it is so common place that we hardly even notice unless the eagles actually land in our front yard which has happened more than once.  Twentyfive - 30 years ago pesticides were applied at the rate of pounds per acre or quarts per acre.  In the last 20 years crop protection product rates have greatly decreased.  Today, a lot of crop protection products are applied at ounces per acre and even tenths of ounces per acre.  Plus, the products also breakdown quickly so there isn't residue carrying over year to year.

We have been busy delivering seed to customers the past few weeks.  I'm sure we will be seeing anhydrous amonia applicators rolling today or tomorrow.  Last week we calibrated our applicator.  We calibrate our equipment so we do not over apply our nitrogen.  We also recheck the tractor GPS auto-steer to make sure we avoid overlaps.  By avoiding overlaps we save fuel, nitrogen, time, money, AND it's good for the environment.