Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Soil Sampling

 One of my favorite fall activities is soil sampling.  Soil sampling is the process of collecting samples of soil from a field. The soil is then sent to a lab where the soil is tested for such things as nutrient levels, soil ph, cation exchange capacities.  The results are sent back to us and we determine if we need to add any soil amendments such as lime or possibly fertilizer. 
My soil probe. 

Pulling soil cores while Joe watches.

Pulling the soil cores is a simple process.  What I like about soil sampling is the fact that I get to do a post harvest survey of the fields.  I look at the corn stalks left after the combine has gone through.  I look to see is the stalks are small and spindly or thick, if the stalks are firm or if the stalks have been cannibalized by the plant during the growing.  It's an agronomy nerds heaven.  We also look to see if  there was a good late season plant stand.  Once corn gets above shoulder high in the summer it's tough to get across a field to do a thorough inspection.  But, in a Mule after harvest we can still check to see what was there and start making plans for next year. 

Self portrait

On our farm we do grid soil sampling.  We grid our farms on 2 acre grids - so that means we take a soil sample every two acres.  An acre is about the size of a football field.  We use GPS equipment to record where we take the samples so we can replicate the sampling process in 4 to 5 years.  My parents started grid soil sampling in 1993 so some of our farms have been grid sampled 4 times.  With the sampling history along with our combine yield monitor maps we can take care of different parts of fields independently of each other.

When I first started out as an agronomist many, many years ago, we did composit soil sampling.  We would take several soil probes from a field and mix it all together for a sample.  We usually divided a field into 20 acre increments but it was tough replicating this sampling process because of the variability of the soils in such a large area.  Today, with grid sampling we take one core from the center of the grid point and then 10 more cores about 10 paces out from the center.  This gives us a representative sample of that point. 

I'm not poohooing composit soil sampling - we still use it in certain situations on our farm.  However, GPS equipment is a great tool to use for gathering information on our land. 

Soil cores taken out of the probe.

Joe playing  plotting sampling points with our
Mesa - GPS equipment.

The soil phosphorus levels on a farm from 2007 and then 2011

On the maps above the yellow areas show where the phosphorus levels were low in 2007.  Our agronomy inputs suppliers have fertilizer spreaders that take the soil prescriptions written for a field and apply the specific fertilizer only where it is needed.   On the map from 2007 you can see that the phos levels have come up in the previous low areas and are stable in the rest of field.  This makes economic as well environmental sense.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday's Favorite Farm Recipe

Iowa had it's 15 minutes of fame in December and January leading up to the Caucus.  Some of the media attention was good while some left a lot to be desired.  I'm here today to set the record straight - Iowans do not eat Jello at every meal.  I will admit that I slip a Jello salad into the lunch boxes every so often in the fall and my boys do know how to slurp jigglers with the best of them.  However, it is not considered another food group!  So, I'm starting what will hopefully be a weekly blog entry of favorite recipes from the farm.  Some of the best cooks I know are farm wives or farmers. 

The first recipe I'm highlighting is from my mom, Judy.  Some of my earliest memories are of riding on the floor of the combine coloring and taking naps while Mom combined.  Mom always said that combining was the easiest job in the fall.  It beat having to hook up and unhook grain wagons and take them to the bin site to unload. 

After Joe and I moved back to Iowa, Mom retired from the combine and Dad moved into the combine.  Now Mom is the chief cook and runner.  Mom knows where most John Deere and Case IH parts depots are from Minneapolis to Moline.  In the spring and the fall Mom is pretty much on call at all hours to get parts and necessities.  One spring she took off to get a part for our Hagie sprayer 9:30 at night and got back home at 2:00 am and the repair man had the sprayer running by 5:30am.  Judy had one very thankful son-in-law.  Another spring she did a 10 hour road trip for me to get more product to keep our soybean seed treater running over a weekend.  I consider Mom of the oil that keeps everything running smoothly in our family farming operation.  It may not be the most glamorous job but it is one of the most important.

Babushka and Grandpa with their grandsons

This recipe is one of Mom's fall comfort foods.  She takes this casserole to the field as it travels well over the corn stalks and the guys like it.

Chicken Rice Casserole
    5 cups cubed cooked chicken
    2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
    2 cans sliced Water Chestnuts
    2 cups cooked rice
    3 cups diced Celery
    1/2 cup Mayonnaise
    Dash of Lemon Juice
    1/4 cup melted Butter
    1 can sliced Mushrooms
    1 4 oz jar Pimento
    Salt & Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and put in a greased 9 X 13 inch pan and sprinkle with crushed buttered corn flakes.  Bake 1 hour at 325F or until heated through.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Wonderings

Our farm year ends January 31st.  January is definately not my favorite month.  I'm an agronomist by training not an accountant so my mind wonders off task quite easily.  So, while I continue to work on year end book work here are some of my passing thoughts.

Last week #1 son brought in this egg from the hen house.

It may not look big in #1's hand but check it out in the carton with other Extra Large eggs.

It was a double yoker.

All of our chickens are laying quite large eggs right now.  Usually in the winter the eggs get a little smaller but not this year.   We aren't sure why this is but the hens have been spending more time outside than they typically do in the winter and the hen house has been warmer that usual as well. 

All I know is that I feel really sorry for one of these hens because laying that egg had to hurt!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Merry Christmas!

To my Russian, Romanian, and Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox readers -
Merry Christmas!

Christmas for the Eastern Orthodox Christians started when the first star appeared last night.  The Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar, with Christmas falling on January 7.  The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.  It was later replaced by the Gregorian calendar in 1582. 

Christmas is preceded by forty days of Lent when people do not eat meat or dairy products.  The Christmas Lent finishes on Christmas Eve as the first star appears in the sky.  The star symbolizes the one seen above Bethlehem when Christ was born. 

The first meal on Christmas Eve is traditionally a 12 course meal filled with symbolism.  Some day I would like to try to do the whole meal but until then we will enjoy the mushroom soup and maybe one other course and talk about the fact that in Russia Christmas is being celebrated today. 

A Table Set for Carpatho-Rusyn / Slovak Vilija

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Years!

     “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way.”  Dr. Seuss