Thursday, February 11, 2021

Seeds Ordered

Below is the seed invoice for the corn and wheat that we're growing this year. Once I figure out what cover crop mix that we'll plant in mid August into the wheat stubble after harvest - probably a mix of the left over sorghum sudan seed I have, plus turnip, radish and winter peas - I'll add that to the order and Albert Lea Seed will ship everything here by mid April, which I think is the earliest we could plant the wheat.

Hard to believe sitting here in the midst of a three week deep freeze (daily temp range is -20º to 0º F), but spring isn't that far off. 

(Click on image to make it bigger.)

There's approximately 12,850 pounds of seeds (which, if all goes as planned, should yield something like 950,000 lbs of grain) on that invoice.  Occasionally I'm asked why the equipment is so big/expensive. One of the things that's hard to convey is the relative scale of things; even on this "small" farm the numbers get big, fast. To give you an idea of how much we'll produce, there's about 50,000 lbs of grain in a full semi-trailer. So we'll be shipping/trucking almost 20 full semi-loads this year.

In multiyear trials of various wheat varieties, Bolles has shown the highest potential to be sold as "food grade", as opposed to "feed grade". To find out if we've "made the grade", we'll have to harvest it, get it in a bin and then take samples to find out the test weight, protein, falling number, and vomotoxin levels. The price paid for food grade ($14/bushel) is about double that of feed grade. If we don't make the numbers needed, we'll sell the roughly 3600 bushels into the feed grade market. 

To help us make food grade we'll be adding an OMRI/USDA Organic approved treatment, called SabrEx, to the wheat seeds:

SabrEx® for Wheat and Cereals is a formulation of two (2) specific and carefully selected, patented proprietary strains of Trichoderma. The Trichoderma colonizes with the plants’ root system and develops a symbiotic relationship with the plant, feeding off the starches and sugars produced by the plant. In turn, the plant benefits from the Trichoderma as they exude enzymes and proteins for the plants use.

Because the Trichoderma, fungi, found in SabrEx® for Wheat and Cereals work symbiotically with the plant to efficiently utilize moisture and nutrients, the treated crop is able to maintain healthy growth during periods of drought.

Larger Root Systems

The first thing farmers point out when harvesting wheat treated with SabrEx® for Wheat and Cereals is the difference in root mass and fine hairs in comparison to untreated wheat of the same variety. The Trichoderma colonizes in the root system, maximizing the utilization of nutrients. The enzymes and proteins exuded by the Trichoderma result in a larger root system.

Increase Tillering

One of the most important benefits of SabrEx® for Wheat and Cereals is the increased tillering which ultimately leads to increased yields.

Improved Yields

The number one benefit of harvesting winter wheat treated with SabrEx® for Wheat and Cereals is the increased yields. Over the past 4 years, SabrEx® for Wheat and Cereals has averaged 5.3 bu/a over untreated crops.

In addition to the 172 acres that will be planted with the seeds listed on the above invoice, we have about 100 acres that is in it's 2nd year of red clover as part of the transition to organic production. This summer the only thing to do on that ground is mow off the growth a couple times (which increases the amount of nitrogen fixed by the clover as well as cutting down weeds before they go to seed) before terminating it with tillage in the fall. In 2022, in keeping with our crop rotations outlined here, the clover ground will be planted with organic corn.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

New (to me) Tractor: Deere 7220 with 741 Loader

This tractor will be replacing two other tractors that weren't quite up to the jobs that I need to get done. It will also act as a back up tractor for planting and tillage. I bought it through TractorHouse from a farmer in Fulda, MN.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger.)

I'm having it trucked up here today. Getting it unloaded tomorrow morning - in these conditions (snow, 25 mph wind, icy road, 5º temps) - along with the unattached duals, bucket, and pallet forks, is going to be a challenge.  Especially since the trucker won't be able to drive the 1/4 mile down our dead end road, as the snow/ice make it impossible for him to turn around. So I'll need to walk down to the end of the road, unload the "extras" onto the road, then use the loader to take them one at a time back to the shed. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021


During the past two weeks, we've had long periods of freezing fog, also called hoarfrost, that has left the landscape beautifully coated with ice crystals. Everything looks like it's been dusted with powdered sugar.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger.)


Monday, November 9, 2020

Putting Equipment Away - End of Year

After the rush to get everything harvested before the weather changed, there was one final push to get equipment cleaned and put away ahead of the cold and snow.

Dad and I got everything in. I still have to rearrange a few pieces, as well as a day or two of work to get the shed doors working correctly.  Then I'll be busy working outside on the buildings until the poor weather forces me indoors.

This was my fifth year of organic farming. Looking back, it's had a lot of new equipment, new techniques, and new buildings/infrastructure.  Several challenges - leading to frustration - but no real "failures", just enough setbacks to help me learn how to do things better. "Nothing succeeds like failure." I'm looking forward to next year.

It was windy when I shot the following video, so unfortunately the sound quality is occasionally bad.

The following is an exchange I had in the comments section of the above video. I thought it was worth sharing here.

Those chisel points are worn! I seldom run that deep with the chisel. 8" is about the maximum for me. If you can still walk through the barn, there is plenty of space ;)
We got our money's worth out of them. On the clover that we partially terminated this fall we went about 8" deep. On the ground where I have compaction/foxtail we tried to go deeper. We were thinking about renting a ripper - but couldn't find one. So we set the chisel deep. In the 5 yrs that I've owned that ground it hasn't been chisel plowed - there never seems to be enough time to do it. I doubt the previous guy did it either. The pieces that got dug up by the plow were still hard as rocks. Glad we got it done.


I'm not sure if I've said this here before but I really appreciate Dad/Gramp's (btw, that's him driving the tractor at the top of the blog/website) help and advice. He has been invaluable in getting this venture up and running by doing all kinds of work, from chisel plowing (see above video!) to moving equipment around, to offering his professional advice on business/accounting issues. He told me the other day that he's put something like 19,000 miles on his truck this year, almost all of that is from driving back and forth from Bloomington to Turtle Lake (180 mile round trip). Thanks Dad! I love you xxx, ooo.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Cleaning Out the Combine - End of Year

 There's a lot of soybean residue and dust that gets everywhere inside the combine. Mice like to eat that, and will overwinter in the combine, eventually chewing up electrical wires. Also, the dust holds a little moisture, and as it sticks in almost every little corner, will eventually rust the machine out if it isn't removed. I don't want to use the pressure washer because of the potential increase in rust. 

I've heard of other farmers who rent a tow behind air compressor (the kind that powers a jackhammer, shown below) and use that large volume of air to blow the dust away. Maybe I'll do that next year.

I blew it out with a leaf blower, then used a shop vac and screwdriver/scraper to get most of it out. A tedious job.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tillage, Traction, and Compaction

 Interesting, and helpful, video as we get ready to do a small amount of fall tillage on the soybean ground. As I've said before, all the end rows are compacted due to years (decades?) of heavy equipment turning around on it, and, in the 5 years I've owned it, we've only had a disc on the whole field, never a chisel plow.

About half of the bean ground that we just harvested has heavy foxtail pressure. Foxtail likes wet, compacted, anaerobic soils, so we'll go over that with the chisel plow as well.