Posts Tagged With: planting

How Spring Planting is (not) Going

I’d like to tell you how spring planting is going, but it pretty much takes just one word.


rainy day1

We were hardly in the field at all in the month of May, and have spent less than 48 hours planting since June began.

It won't stop raining and we can't start planting! {}

Not really our ideal situation.

And sadly, the rain isn’t even all that great for the crops we planted in April.  Several of our corn fields have large patches of yellow-tinged leaves where the plants are water-logged and roots don’t have oxygen.  Even without standing water, the corn is drowning.

rainy day2

Thankfully, most of the corn is likely to pull out of this and be fine (oh please, oh please, oh please be fine), but the irony!

It won't stop raining and we can't start planting! {}

So Daddy is spending his time fixing equipment.  There’s been trouble with trucks, several of the farm pick-ups and also the semis.  Once we get a couple of working pick-ups I should be able to borrow one and leave my mini van in the shop to fix a nasty scratch. 😛  So there are silver linings.

Categories: Farming | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Do Conventional Farmers Use Environmentally Friendly Practices?

Today is Earth Day which seems like the perfect time to answer a question I hear a lot.  Do conventional farmers use environmentally friendly farming practices?

Many people equate “environmentally sustainable” with “organic.”  I’m sure this is largely true, but organic is more about how you grow the plants than how you take care of the land.

But I’d rather not get out the boxing gloves with organic.  Instead I want to answer the question; what do conventional farmers do to take care of the land?

Actually, they do a lot.


Here’s a photo I snapped of Daddy’s tractor planting corn.  You can see the green of our cover crop, which, sadly, was supposed to be wheat.  And while the failure of our second wheat crop is disappointing, the nice thing here is that you can see the fresh marks of the corn planter clearly in the green.

Many people think of organic farmers as being more environmentally friendly.  What about conventionally grown food?  {}

The red arrow shows the marks from where the planter has just put seeds.  The yellow arrow shows the odd shape of untouched wheat grass between the planter rows.

Why in the world would we do that?

Well, it’s environmentally friendly.  Our land is hilly, so to keep soil from washing into streams we use terraces to keep the soil where it belongs.  Terraces are an awkward shape and they cut an otherwise rectangular field into weird shapes as well.  Farmers have to plant and harvest on one side of the terrace at a time.  We start planting by tracing the outline of the field (end rows) and then we trace both sides of the terraces.  Finally we finish planting by filling in those blank spaces the yellow arrow points out.

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor! {}

The use of technology is also a major part of being a good steward.  The GPS monitor shows us exactly where the tractor has planted and what little triangle somewhere as been forgotten.  The planter also uses a pretty impressive system that shuts off each row individually as it drives over ground that has already been planted.  That saves us lots of seed, as well as confusion when it’s time to harvest double planted ground.

Planting with terraces is a pain.  However, protecting streams and our water supply is important to us (we drink water too) and it’s beneficial because soil that washes away is our best top soil.  Those are two big reasons you’ll find conventional farmers practicing soil conservation!

Here are other posts that describe why it’s always Earth Day on a farm.

Farm Ugly! How farmers are taking care of the land. {}

1.) Farming Ugly!  Cover crops help prevent soil erosion, control weeds naturally, and enrich soil.

Farmers taking care of the land {}

2.) Terraces and no-till, best practices on our farm.

Another way farmers are taking care of the land. {}

3.) Another farmer planting hay on terraces and waterways.

If you’re a farmer, what other practices do you use?  If you’re not, what questions do you have?

Categories: Agvocacy, Farming | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hope Springs Eternal

For a farmer, spring is hope.  No matter how poorly last year’s crop grew, despite the prices at the grain elevator, and against the odds of droughts, hail, insects, flood, and other calamities, we put seeds in the ground.

Everyone gets excited about spring planting on the farm!  {}

Last week Daddy showed up in the field that is our front yard (at bedtime, please ignore the pajama-clad kids) to plant the first test rows.

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {}

He drove the tractor a few yards into the field and stopped to see how the planter was working.

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {} Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {} Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {}

Daddy looks in the rows created by the planter to see how deep the seeds are, how close together they fell into the ground, if there are spaces where the planter skipped seeds or dropped a double.

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {}

Daddy has invested equipment from a company called Precision Planting that creates add-ons for your tractor and planter to ensure that every seed is placed as precisely as possible.  For crops like corn, that can make an impact.

Planting begins on the farm (and everyone's excited!  {}

He’s also checking to see if the wheels on the back of the planter are doing a good job covering the seeds back up with soil.  If you look carefully at the above photo you’ll notice one round, black wheel paired with one spiky looking one.

The ground was too wet to use the spiky wheels, so Daddy had to take the planter back to the shed and changed each spike wheel to a matching black one.

When he came back the next morning I was able to grab a few pics of him unfolding the planter.  This piece of machinery is 60 feet wide and couldn’t possibly get down the road like that!

Spring planting on the farm.

This planter folds in three places, with the two side sections bending forward to align next to the bar that pulls it behind the tractor.

Spring planting on the farm.

The sections swing out and the bar that pulls behind the tractor actually shortens to give more control while Daddy is driving.

Spring planting on the farm.

When the sections lock into place its ready, planting more hope in the ground as it goes.


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Top 10 Spring Planting

The farm is a busy, bustling place in the springtime!  The kids and I keep busy randomly adding critters introducing productive livestock to the backyard pasture and Daddy, well, we’re always glad when Sunday rolls around and we get to see him!  Some of you may be lucky enough to live on a farm and understand the process of planting, but for those of you who would like a clearer picture of how your food is grown, well, maybe this will help!

Top 10 Posts About Spring Planting

Take a virtual tour of the tractor

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor! {}


Read about the technology the modern farmer uses

a modern farmer


See the planter be prepped for field work

How is your food grown?


How to grow happy plants

A harvested field {}


Preparing the fields

There's more to fall than harvest! {}


Ride in the tractor, a video of planting

Planting wheat


We can even grow sweet corn!

compare and contrast life on a family farm


See how growing wheat is different

growing wheat


Starting from scratch, preparing a new field

Using the bulldozer to ready fields for spring planting


Why we’re so busy in springtime!

planting time on the farm


Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

This Situation is Critical!

It’s literally the most important thing that happens on our farm and it’s happening now!  Just ask the little red hen, if you want to eat the bread, first you have to plant the seeds!

Planting time on the farm

Our Case IH tractor pulls a John Deere planter– proof that it can be done! 🙂

Planting time is the most intense season on the farm.  There are an estimated 10 days that are just right for planting corn in our area.  Even if we had perfect conditions (which we won’t) and no break downs (that won’t happen either!) there is no way we could plant all our corn in 10 days.  But we try.

Planting time on the farm

Daddy has added lots of Precision Planting parts to the planter, making sure every seed counts!

During the first two days of our planting season the tractor ran around the clock.  Grandpa traded off with Daddy in the middle of the night so Daddy could get a few hours of sleep.

planting time on the farm

Anna helps Daddy check that the planter is working by digging up a row and looking at the seeds.

It’s also not just putting seeds in the ground that is so time-sensetive.  Daddy got out of bed a the usual time the next morning so Grandpa could put on fertilizer and crop protection products, which are every bit as critical.

planting time on the farm

Daddy drove away with a piece of pizza in hand– no time to stop for dinner!

Monsoon-like rains put an end to our field work late Saturday night and this morning there is snow on the ground.  Like I said, we won’t be getting ideal weather!  The weather man says we should be in the mid 60s again in two days with lots of wind as well, so the ground will dry out and we’ll be back in the fields.  While not ideal by any means, the snow shouldn’t stop the seeds from growing once the weather warms up.

Just please weather, do warm up!

Categories: Family, Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why We Are Using a Bulldozer for Spring Planting

Tractors, planters, sprayers– all equipment you might think about using when spring rolls around.  But this year we have been putting a lot of hours on Grandpa’s bulldozer in order to get ready for spring planting.

The field just across from our house was pulled from a government program called CRP and the owner wanted to rent it out for the first time in 20 years.  (The CRP program was started years ago as a way for farmers to allow poor production land to rest.)  It was mostly great news for us.  It meant more land that is very close by and a landlord we enjoy working with.  You can imagine the downside if you think of trying to use anything that has been left alone for 20 years!

The field looked like this, all 200 acres of it.


Using the bulldozer to ready a field for spring planting

So much brush everywhere!

It has been no easy task to get it ready for spring planting!

The landowner used a mower to cut down the small trees.  Cory used the skid steer to pull out the larger brush and Grandpa has been handling the largest obstacles with the bulldozer.  Wayne used the custom cultivator to pick up stray sticks and then whoever is free has been using the tractor and disk to cut up the stalks so the planter and later the combine won’t run into anything capable of tearing it up!

Daddy made a custom cultivator to pick up brush

Daddy and the guys made this custom cultivator last year to pick up brush. The prongs are close together and all along the back bar instead of spaced throughout. You can see how it catches sticks!

Using the skid steer to ready the fields for spring planting

The skid steer can pull small brush and pick up the piles. Because the attachment on the front is shaped like claws the skid steer can shake the dirt from the piles, leaving more soil on the field.

Using the bulldozer to ready fields for spring planting

The dozer knocks down the larger brush and then pushes it into piles

Using the bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

When the disk comes through it chops up the ground into big chunks, hopefully getting rid of pointy stalks!

Using the bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

Last the harrow smooths up the dirt, leaving a happy field ready for bean seeds!

The field looks quite different from those first brush pictures, wouldn’t you agree!

You may remember from previous posts that, while this field looks picture perfect its not how we usually farm.  The loose soil can easily wash away leaving our fields without the necessary top soil to grow good crops, plus polluting nearby streams.

Grandpa also added to the farm this year, buying the field across from his house.

Using a bulldozer to ready the field for spring planting

This field connects all four farms, Grandpa’s home, this new farm, our new rental, and the field our house sits on. What a difference in how it looks!

This farm will not be worked at all.  It’s been cow ground for years but we won’t be tearing up the grass or anything.  Instead we’ll simply plant beans directly into the sod.  The first year won’t likely be a great one, but taking care of the soil will have more benefits in the long run.

Because really, we’d rather not be using a bulldozer to get ready for spring planting!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Its Planting Time!

Yes, I can see that it is fall.  There are pumpkins on my counter top and apple cider in my fridge.  But I promise, it really is planting time.  For wheat anyway.

Planting wheat

This is the field behind our house.  Cory is using the drill to put the wheat seeds into the ground.  It was so windy and the dirt is so dry I couldn’t get a great photo of the equipment, but here’s one of the drill planting beans in the spring.

drilling beans

It may look a lot like our planter, but a drill is quite a bit different.  To a farmer anyway.  A planter precisely places seeds in the ground.  A drill is for crops that are much less picky about their conditions, but no matter how you put them in the ground, these wheat seeds need to be planted in the fall.

Planting wheat

The weather man says its going to rain next week, which would be great for our wheat crop.  Ideally it needs to be planted in cool temps, but with enough time to grow a little before freezing weather hits.  The field will hopefully sprout green in a few more days and then be ready to go dormant when the snow flies.  Some wheat needs cooler temps than others, which is why you’ll hear of wheat being grown in states like Montana.  Other types are fine here in the Midwest– mostly in Kansas. 😉

Wheat is one of my favorite crops and I love having it grow in the fields around our house.  It will be among the first signs of spring and long before our yard looks lush the wheat will be several inches high.

growing wheat

I snapped this shot on March 27, 2012.

So harvest continues.  Hand in hand with planting.

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Spring Field Work = Happy Plants

We have been busy the last week trying to get lots of spring field work done before the storm.  Not the thunderstorm or rain storm or even hail storm, but a snow storm!


Observe: Tuesday– Thursday

Besides putting seeds in the ground there is a lot of field work to do in the spring.

Spring time on the farm! {}

Admittedly, driving chickens around on a toy tractor isn’t one of them…  But it made me laugh!

Actually this week Daddy hired a local cooperative to come spread plant food on several of our fields.

Spring time on the farm! {}

This three-wheeled contraption spreads phosphorous, potassium and a little bit of nitrogen on fields that will grow soybeans.  Soybeans, like all plants, need nutrients from the soil.  We try to help them out as best we can by leaving corn stalks and other dead plant matter in the soil to break down into food, but they also like the extra snack the fertilizer provides them!

Spring time on the farm! {}

From this view you can see small bits flying through the air.  (Look close!)  There is a wheel at the base of the truck’s bed that spins.  As a chain pulls the N,P, &K (those are the chemical expressions for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) down, the wheel spins and sends the plant food all across the field! In this photo you also see what looks like tall grass.  That’s rye and Daddy planted it last fall so it could be more food for this year’s plants, as well as keep the weeds to a minimum.  He’s so innovative ;-).

Spring time on the farm! {}

The cooperative (know by farmers as the co-op, which gets confusing if you’re a homeschool family also participating in a co-op!!) also sends out a guy in a semi truck full of more N,P, & K.  When the spreader is empty it drives over, the guys swing the auger out over the spreader and fills the tank again.

We’re all about happy plants :-).

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Take a Tour of the Tractor

We’d love to have you come out to the farm sometime and take a ride in the tractor.  Especially now that spring planting is finally underway!  You could watch the monitors, observe the planter action, and bump over the terraces with us, if only you could make it out our way.  But if you can’t, don’t worry, because today I’m inviting you to take a tour of the tractor without ever leaving your computer!

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

As you climb up the stairs one of the first things you’ll notice is the handle on the bottom of the door.  It may seem odd, but you couldn’t reach it if it were placed in the middle like a car door!

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

The next thing you’ll notice is the pedals.  Why?  Because they will be eye level as you climb!

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

The one on the left is the clutch, the one on the right is the brake.  The little one in the middle adjusts the steering wheel.  The yellow is a decelerator pedal.  You may notice there is no gas pedal.  Instead the tractor moves forward by using the clutch, throttle and the orange forward/reverse lever here behind the steering wheel.  Kinda crazy, huh?

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

And since we’re now sitting here in the driver’s seat, take a look to the right.

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

Here you see screens, monitors, control panels, ipad, and smart phone all working together to gather data about what’s happening in the field.  Pretty cool!  Find out more about our modern tractor technology in this previous post.

Actually, this side of the tractor has so many buttons and knobs they even store some under the arm rest!

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

Above you are the climate controls and stereo.

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

To the left you can enjoy the convenience of cup holders, or…. the buddy seat!  Loved by farm families world-wide, this fold down table pops up to hold a child.  Or two.  Or three!

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

And behind you is the back window, complete with a pull-down sun shade.

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

And if you’d care to climb back down, I’ll show you the outside!

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

Behind the tractor lots of cables and wires attach from the planter.

This pic show how the planter hooks up to the tractor with a three-point hitch.

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

Take a look under the hood, but first you’ll have to climb up the steps, maybe even climb up a tire!

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

Case used the space under the step to store a toolbox.  Having all the tools you need to fix break downs right in the field is critical since timing is so important to spring planting.

Take a virtual tour of a modern tractor!  {}

Just a peek under the hood– there is so much stuff under there it would take a whole other post to tell you about it!  Hmmm, actually that sounds like an idea!  Would you like to stop by again soon?

Categories: Technology | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Getting Ready for Spring Planting

This shows farmers getting equipment ready for spring planting—so cool!  {}

The sun seems a bit shy this year, but despite the cold, Daddy is getting ready for spring planting! Today’s task is getting the planter ready. The planter is one of the most important pieces of equipment on our farm because it puts the seeds into the soil.  Without that, there is nothing to farm!  Getting each seed at the right depth with soil pushed in on all sides is a big goal, but Daddy keeps working to make that happen.  After purchasing the planter we have now, Daddy took off many of the parts it came with and replaced them with parts from a company called Precision Planting.  And each spring he checks each part, replaces broken pieces, oils, cleans and otherwise repairs the planter.

This shows farmers getting equipment ready for spring planting—so cool!  {}

Here you see Daddy using a tourch to remove a bolt that was stripped.

This shows farmers getting equipment ready for spring planting—so cool!  {}

This is the part he was working on.  These are 16 of these on the planter and each one must be in perfect working order!

This shows farmers getting equipment ready for spring planting—so cool!  {}

To adjust the row openers Daddy crawls in under the planter.  All is well and good until he needs a tool and has to crawl back out to get it!

This shows farmers getting equipment ready for spring planting—so cool!  {}

Brett, Anna, and the farm dog Ben are great help to our hired man, Cory.

This shows farmers getting equipment ready for spring planting—so cool!  {}

But Cory gets the job done anyhow!

This shows farmers getting equipment ready for spring planting—so cool!  {}

The planter isn’t the only piece of equipment that must be prepared for spring.  In this photo you see a line-up of the tractors and the equipment they run that are ready for the sun to start shining!

This shows farmers getting equipment ready for spring planting—so cool!  {}

The green and yellow thing on the end may look like the planter, but actually its a drill.  A drill does the same job as a planter- it puts seeds into the ground- but it does it a different way.  We use the drill to plant seeds that aren’t as picky about perfection, like wheat.  Some of our soybeans are planted with the drill too.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to plant everything with the planter.

What about you?  Are you as ready for spring as I am?!

Categories: Technology | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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