Saturday, September 2, 2023

An Update: Kernza, Wheat, and Purple Top Turnips

I've been busy. Harvesting, planting, repairing, etc. Things are moving along, some good, some not so good. 

I haven't had the time or energy to write about this here, preferring instead to make short video clips and put them on our YouTube page.  It's just a lot easier, at least for me, though the fact that I don't edit the videos might make it harder on you!

Below are a few of the latest videos. The first two are about the swather, which is used to put the kernza into windrows, where it dries down for a few days prior to going through the combine. The grain on the head of the kernza is dry before the stems, and the green stems would plug up the combine. But --- we need the mass of material going through the combine to properly thresh the hard to shell kernza. The action of the combine rubs all that material together, in the process filtering out the grain from the chaff. We plan to harvest the kernza with the combine and pick up head on Sept 4th (tomorrow!). 

Before harvesting the wheat, we swathed, then combined it and put it in the bin to cool down and dry a little. The wheat should be ready to market/sell in another week or two. 

The last video/pic is of purple top turnip seeds which I'm drilling into the tilled wheat stubble as a cover crop. It'll grow some this fall, but I'm hopeful that it will come back next spring, before I'll mow it down ahead of next summer's soybeans.

Late summer of 2021 I drilled purple top turnips as part of a cover crop mix. This is what came back in the spring of 2022.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Hail Damage in Corn

I didn't take my camera with me when I visited the fields 14 miles away, so no photos, but 50 of the 90 acres of corn has some pretty significant hail damage from a recent storm. The leaves weren't entirely stripped from the stalks, maybe 50% (?). Ears were just starting to form on the stalks and the plants are almost ready to start tassling, a very vulnerable stage.

We'll see how it turns out.

The beans, 5 miles away, avoided the hailstorms, and look really good. Likewise the kernza and the wheat.


When first assessing a field with hail damage, it can often be depressing and discouraging [ed. No shit ]. However, it is important to be patient when assessing the damage and that the observed damage often looks worse than it actually is.

photo capture from here

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Loose Heifers

 I got a call this morning from a neighbor who asked me for some help. Several of her heifers were spooked into knocking over the electric fence that held them in her pastures, and they were (supposedly) helping themselves to a nearby vegetable garden. I think it was more a case of the next door neighbor freaking out over a loose animal or two, as there is plenty of standing grass/hay for them to eat everywhere.

In any event, it took a couple of hours but we got the four of them back on the right side of the fence using grain as a lure.

It's not what I thought I'd be doing today when I woke up this morning.

Typical Repairs

 Now that things have slowed down a bit I'm starting to repair the equipment that broke or was damaged in the past few months.

The support stand for the tine weeder got bent when I was attaching the implement to the tractor. I didn't take a before picture, which would have showed the tube was bulging and cracked. I got the protrusion hot and used the hydraulic press to get it flush with the surrounding material, then welded short flitch plates on all four sides of the tube.

(Click on picture to make it bigger.)

I normally use 6011 welding rod, as it cuts through rust and paint, which I often can't remove from the metal I'm welding. In this case I suppose I could have used a 7018, as it leaves a nicer weld bead, but once the paint goes on it'll look good.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Wheat and Kernza Comparison plus Crop Updates


Funky shadows. Wheat on the left, kernza on the right. A penny in the center. Click on image to make it bigger.

I picked these two samples about two weeks ago.

Kernza is really tiny, roughly 80,000 seeds/lb, while wheat has around 14,000 seeds/lb. It's going to be a challenge to sucessfully combine the kernza. 

It'll be another 2-3 weeks until both are ready to harvest.

For a lot more info on Kernza you can search, where you find a fairly comprehensive 48 page grower's production guide.   

direct download link here -    []

In other farm news -

The corn is up and, where I got a good stand, looks promising. I replanted about 15 acres, which seems to have been the right move. Some weeds, some poor emergence in about ~15% of the ground ; at this point it's canopied and I'm done with it until harvest.

The beans are from 6-16" tall, with most towards the larger end of that range. It turned out to be a nice stand of healthy plants, though there are weeds in about 15%, which at this point I'm ok with. I've made the 2nd pass with the row cultivator on 1/3 of the acreage and will finish up the rest of them in a couple of days. I'm not sure if I'll make a 3rd pass. It depends if they can canopy before any weeds make it up.

The buckwheat is about 4" tall, looks good, with some weed pressure.

I've got a bunch of equipment to fix, and have been busy working my way through the list of projects.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Spring Wheat is Out of the Ground

It's nice to see everything turning green. Satisfying.

Until the tillers come up, it's easy to imagine that the drill isn't actually putting seeds down evenly in every row, as the Loup monitor only has sensors on 4 of the 24 rows. To make sure I'm on the right path, I dig down in the rows and look for seeds right after I start, but from then on have to assume that everything is going to keep working properly.

It's organic Hard Red Spring Wheat (HRSW), the variety is "Bolles", drilled 150 lbs/acre, 1.5" deep, on 7.5" rows May 4th and 5th. Then spread 2 tons/acre of turkey litter over it and used the tine weeder to work it in, as well as removing most little weeds in the top 1" of soil.


Saturday, May 6, 2023

Drilling Organic Spring Wheat

We have a short growing season this far north, the first of May is usually the earliest I can get into the field as the ground is just too wet and the equipment will bog down.  One way to avoid this is to plant winter wheat, which would be drilled in late summer, overwinter, and then be harvested the following summer.  My two other cash crops, corn and beans, aren't harvested until mid Oct and Nov, respectively, leaving no time to get winter wheat established in the fall, something critical to it's success.  In the meantime I'm looking for other profitable markets that would let me change this rotation.

The wheat will set the heaviest, "best" seed head, if it reaches maturity before it gets really hot in the summer. That means it needs to go in the ground the first part of May; sooner if you're further south than me. Despite the wet spring, I found a small window of three dry days that let me get it drilled May 4 and 5th. Of the 77 acres,  about six had to be "abandoned" as I didn't think I could get the drill through them without getting stuck. 

Before I could drill the wheat I made a pass with the field cultivator to kill the flushes of 1" tall weeds that had already emerged. About 3 days after planting, weather permitting, I'll run the tine weeder over everything, killing any remaining weeds in the top 1" (I drilled - on 7.5" rows - the wheat 1.5" deep). When the wheat is about 6" tall I'll go over it again with the tine weeder to try to get rid of as many weeds, mostly pigweed and lambsquarters, as possible.


The variety is "Bolles" bought from Albert Lea Seed, chosen because it has the best chance of meeting the organic food grade standards that will allow me to sell it for a substantially higher price.  Two years ago I made "food grade", and hope that luck continues this year. If it doesn't make the grade it'll be sold as organic animal feed.

Wheat is a necessary part of my crop rotation for a lot of reasons - soil health, weed suppression, Organic Certification requirements, and work load spread out during the growing season. Of the possible small grains (oats, barley, rye, emmer, spelt,....) it has the best markets for me.

The Loup drill monitor is ok, but it's not super accurate when seeding rates are so high (wheat is 2.1 million seeds or 150 lbs/acre. I think it would be better for something like soybeans - 162,000 seeds/acre -  though I plant my beans in 30" rows, metered by the AgLeader monitor, so I can cultivate for weeds.) I bought it because I was tired of always running short of seed, as well as hoping to avoid the constant calculation/adjustment of ground covered vs. bags used followed by a tweaking of the levers on the drill controlling the amount it puts out. My math turned out ok, of the 234 bags (11,700 lbs), I used all but 3 bags (150 lbs).

Depending on the yield, I expect there will be 2 or 3 semi-trailer loads (100,000 - 150,000 lbs) of wheat to sell this fall.

After the wheat is harvested, around August 1st, we'll drill a cover crop in.

[Why is it called a grain "drill" and "Jethro Tull" was a lot more than a Classic Rock Band.]

Friday, April 28, 2023

Start of Another Growing Season


Things are starting to come together: the seeds (~ 20,000 lbs) are here; the tractors have mostly been repaired; the equipment is in good shape; turkey litter is on the way.

The weather is going to be good next week, so by Thursday or Friday I hope to disc the bean stubble and then drill in the spring wheat.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Spring Melt

 It's been a long, snowy, winter, but spring feels like it's finally here.

Sunday, January 29, 2023


Last night it was -10º F (-23º C). There's not much to do here in the winter, especially if you don't like the cold weather.  

After it snows I spend several hours on the open station small loader tractor cleaning up the drive after the county snow plow goes through. At this point the snow banks around the drive are 4-8 feet tall.


I found this story about Yosemite National Park Rangers who overwinter in the Park oddly comforting.

(Click on picture to make it bigger.)