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November 7, 2015

Farmer Directions

With harvest wrapped up and my share of the hog work somewhat under control I decided to hit the road!  I wanted to see my oldest at Iowa State so I loaded up the boy, left Chris in charge of the homestead and pointed the truck west!
In our road trips I have learned we aren't your normal tourists and what we designate as landmarks during our journey sometimes makes people Google it to figure out exactly where we are. Who knew that not everyone uses Kinze Manufacturing as landmark?
Here's how we find our way to the middle of Iowa:
Jump on 74 West and put the hammer down. Once you see the first billboard for The Beef House you get a craving for a good steak. Now you know you are close to the Illinois-Indiana state line. The fields start to open up, and you better have your radio tuned to 99.1 FM WIXY classic country. This combination lets you know you are on the right track.
Once you hit the Illinois state line you take a deep sigh. At this point, things start out positive with comments like, "isn't it pretty?" or "can you imagine working in fields this big?"
This remark - and being about half way across the state of Illinois - will turn to the realization, "the grass (or corn in this case) is always greener on the other side of the fence (or state line in this case)."
If you hear the ever-popular remark, "If my ancestors' wagon wheels would have just lasted a week longer we might be farming here instead of in Indiana," that signifies that you are almost three-quarters of the way across Illinois.
You know you are really on the right track when every mile or so someone in the truck points out a new piece of John Deere equipment being hauled the opposite direction. As long you are catching glimpses of large John Deere dealerships, Pioneer and Dekalb seed plants, you're good to go!
We take note of the Illinois-Iowa border but our true landmark is the world's largest truck stop. It doesn't matter who you are – it piques your interest. Admit it!
Keep your truck pointed west and when you see the stack of grain carts and the folding planter you will know you have reached the next landmark – Kinze Manufacturing. Watching the planter fold fascinates kids and farmers of all ages!
Just east of Des Moines be sure to look off to your right for the combine graveyard, now on my bucket list to visit! Des Moines and the turn off onto 30N lets you know you are only miles from ISU!
It was a great trip and one of my favorites to drive - I love a good road trip!

PS We attended ISU's Homecoming game against the Texas Longhorns and ISU WON - now trying to convince Chris I need to be at every home game!!

October 16, 2015

Yes, they let me operate equipment........

This morning I had serious trouble operating the blender while making my smoothie!  I jumped in Chris’ truck (a diesel manual) to meet him at the hog barns to load hogs, backed out of the drive and killed it in the middle of the road!  After loading hogs I went to get in my truck hooked to the trailer and completely walked into the gooseneck of the trailer with my head…….it hurt, I cussed.

As I headed down 44 pulling the trailer with 30 head of fat hogs on it I wondered if that was the smartest thing for those on the road with me.  I couldn’t run the blender this morning and I bumped my head after that!

You ever get a prescription filled and read the ‘warnings’?  I do, sometimes - my favorite is “Do not operate heavy machinery while taking this medication” - I always giggle and think when would I ever run heavy machinery!   It honestly didn’t occur to me until today as I sit in the 8220 on grain cart duty…….tractors are probably considered heavy machinery!

I tend to get tired and slap happy about this point in harvest but slap happy sure beats crying on my dirty kitchen floor......cause I've done that too!!

I went from running the 8220 with the grain cart to the 4640 when Chris asked me to disc the ground he was getting ready to plant wheat on!  You can stomp on the differential lock all you want in the 4640, that steering wheel ain’t going no where!!  I can also verify that you can stomp on the steering wheel pedal in the 8220 when your sinking in soft ground and it won’t help……it really will only frustrate you farther because not only are you sinking but the steering wheel has just flown out of your hands and you're briefly baffled!

Chris said “jump in the 9200 and chisel plow the wheat stubble”.  I jump in the tractor take off pause at the end of the drive to check for traffic and as cool as I can give the little orange knob on the arm rest a flick.  And then was seriously curious as to why the tractor wasn’t moving all while I had my foot engaging the clutch……but apparently simply moving the high low knob forward does nothing to make that tractor move! 

And don’t get me started on ‘here’s the clutch but DON’T use it’……..on this tractor or in that semi but you will need it in that tractor and this semi!  We will save that for another time!

Happy Harvesting and Be Safe

P.S. The little round clicker button on the floor of the 8220 don't make the lights brighter.........no matter how many times you tap it with your foot!

September 25, 2015

Farmers Log Harvest 2015

Farmers Log...........I've been binge watching the original Star Trek, can you tell!

I currently have the desire to say 'Jent Out' instead of 10-4 on the 2 way radios, when I emerge from the tractor after several hours I wonder what the atmosphere outside of my 'ship' is like and when things happen I often say out loud to myself "Grain Cart Operators Log, Harvest 2015, Day 4........."

Yes, people a tractor is a lonely place sometimes, I must find ways to entertain myself!  Because constantly staring at the phone surfing social media causes you to completely miss the combine passing and the operator to have to call and tell you he really needs you right away - or so I have heard.

This is day 5 of harvest for us and this here is a sample of what my log might look like:

Harvest 2015: Day 1, Morning.  The sun is shining bright, equipment lined up, shiny and pointed towards the field.  Sky is blue, the corn and beans are ready, everyone is smiling.  Not sure what to expect in terms of yield but let's bring this crop home.

Harvest 2015: Day 1, Mid-Afternoon.  Down to 2 trucks, but under control.  Sun is still shining, most people still smiling.

Harvest 2015: Day 2, Early Afternoon.  Panic set in when I realized meal planning didn't pan out this week-family would insist on something for supper, had to send my Mom to the grocery store.  Thanks to her my family will live to see another day.

Harvest 2015: Day 3, Morning.  So many raido stations and so much good music.  I really should move to Nashville,  dang I can sing, sounding really good in this tractor cab right now!

Harvest 2015: Day 3, Afternoon.  Switching to beans.  What a beautiful color brown they are, sunset will be beautiful tonight.

Harvest 2015: Day 4, Early Evening, trip to Tractor Supply for wormer for cows and pigs allowed for a quick stop at grocery store for supper supplies.  Hoping that by 9pm supper time I don't accidentally worm the family and feed the chicken alfredo to the cows. Stay posted.

Harvest 2015: Day 5, Early Morning.  No clean jeans, but does it really matter?  Have to feed hogs and cows anyway, if someone notices I will tell them it was from feeding - that's true it just wasn't today!

Harvest 2015: Day 5, Afternoon.  Running beans in a smaller field, don't need the grain cart.  Asked to disc ground in front of manure spreader because knives won't go in the hard ground.  Jumped in the 4640 stomped between the pedals......and nothing happened.  I quickly realized that would not lower the steering wheel, quick glance around to make sure no one noticed and went about my business.

Pretty sure I can guess what the last few days of entries might be:

Harvest 2015: Day 13.  I can still sing like nobody's business but the radio stations must only have access to about 5 songs.  Still think I should move to Nashville!

Harvest 2015: Feels like Day 3792.  Lost in a black hole of time, drank from a measuring cup this morning and fed in my pajamas.  My jeans now stand up in corner by themselves and I fear the children have forgotten how to eat at a decent hour and at the table.......the children - where are the children????

In all reality I love the busy seasons on the farm but it does make for long days!  Be careful!

September 6, 2015

Is it really a promotion?

I consider myself low man on the totem pole around here, I still am there just aren’t as many people above me now!  Our full time guy moved on to greener pastures and by that I mean a better job-not the great beyond!  He had been with us for 15 years, started when he was in high school, I already miss him!

So here we are right before harvest and I’m trying to convince Chris we can do this!  Hogs and crop work - we got this!  And so far I have only burnt up one belt…….it’s been a whole week!

I tend to jump into things feet first ready to go, most of the time without planning or forethought.  Sometimes those unplanned things hit me at the oddest times, like this morning for instance.  

Farrowing is upon us this week.  Cleaning up afterbirth makes me quesy-there I admitted it.  Quesy as in I need to step outside, throwing up quesy.  It’s stringy!!!!  I have sleeved cows, been up in sows to pull pigs, I don’t know why that doesn’t make me sick but it doesn’t!  But cleaning up afterbirth.........even the thought, excuse me while I step outside!

And working piglets!  I know how, I have told Chris for 23 years if the need arises I can do it………I can’t, I was wrong.  I’m not opposed to it, I know the need and value but once again that feeling in my stomach hits me.

I can vaccinate any size hog, I can move hogs of any size, I can drive the truck and trailer to sell hogs, I will gladly haul manure with a smile and I will pressure wash barns all day but please don't make me clean up afterbirth or work piglets!  Eventually I will get grinding feed down as well, and it won’t involve burning up a belt I swear, but I’m trying to figure out how to get passed that feeling in my stomach for those two particular jobs!

Now if I could just convince him doing laundry and dishes makes my stomach quesy!!!

July 27, 2015

A Bizarre To Do List

This week is an interesting one!  I don't normally make a 'to do' list per say because at the end of the day it's just depressing to look over it and see nothing crossed off.  I seem to spend all my time putting out other peoples fires while mine burn out of control.

But this week it seemed like a fun idea, only because I knew exactly what I had to accomplish and how bizarre it would look written down!

The beginning of the week had me still dragging from our county fair with the desire to not move fast and sit down often but the list looming in my head kept me trudging forward.

I hate school shopping, of course I hate shopping!  Chris has been asking me for weeks to fly some corn fields with the UAV so I knew I needed to get that done!  And vaccinations on hogs are timely, this was a priority!

It's not often, or really ever, I get to write 'pack for China' on a to-do list!  When I was a kid I never dug a deep hole because I once heard someone say 'you could dig a hole to China if it was deep enough' - no thanks, I was happy right where I was!

Going to China and Vietnam were no where near my bucket list but when a once in lifetime opportunity presents itself especially to learn more about agriculture, well China here I come!

I'm not gonna lie, I'm not the checkoff's biggest fan!  Every 5 years when the referendum comes up for vote, you will probably find me at the beginning of the line.  So an opportunity to see how those funds are being utilized seemed like a learning experience I couldn't pass up!

In all honestly I also don't know much about how checkoff funds work other than it is funds taken out of our checks.  I know that with soybean half go to National and half stay in the state, I know that it seems like a small share: half of one percent of the price received per bushel of soybeans.

I know what you are thinking "half of a percent? Come on Jent" but add it up, on any farm its a fair amount of money!  Especially when the program isn't fully understood by those paying in - but then I figure maybe that's my fault and this is an excellent opportunity to learn more!

So half way around the world I will go - scared and excited all at the same time!  Well as soon as I finish my 'to do' list!

July 10, 2015

The Color Of The Ribbon

I wrote this original article last year for Indiana Prairie Farmer but as our county fair approaches the thoughts of blue ribbons and purple banners came racing back - so I am going to leave this right here to remind myself and anyone else who needs it what is truly important!

County fair time brings about numerous Facebook status about Purple ribbons and banners.  But for every kid out there that earns that coveted purple item there is a handful of kids who took just as much pride and put in just as many hours of work-where are the proud parent status updates for those kids?

I speak from the perspective of a blue…….but mostly red, white, yellow and green ribbon family!  The first thing I told each kid before they started 4-H was we aren't in this for the purple banners or ribbons, if that is the only thing you are doing this for than you aren’t in this for the right reason.  Don’t get me wrong, I encourage my kids to do their very best but just because it doesn’t earn the purple doesn’t mean it was a waste of time.

I sat in the cattle barn after the Wednesday evening steer show watching what felt like every other family in the barn hang their purple banners…..we earned none.  I was tired, feeling defeated and hungry.  Chris and Cole took me to Chili’s, it was off the fairgrounds and I ate a salad and drank two huge glasses of milk and adjusted my attitude.

I returned to the cattle barn with a different perspective.

The two steers my son showed he watched be born.  For a week every morning and every day the second he got off the bus he would run out to the barn to check and see if they were born.  He put the halter on them for the first time, he broke them to lead.

The steer our middle child took we wanted to leave at home.  We weren't sure she had worked with it enough and he wasn’t all that pretty.  We took him anyway!  He was one of our best behaved animals and the smile on her face when they got 2nd in his class in the market steer show was more than worth it.  She had seen him born, from a cow we have had for 8 years, she had put the halter on him for the first time and broke him herself.

The heifer our oldest showed spent two days living in our kitchen when she was less than a week old.  At two days old she was getting weaker and weaker only to realize she was blind from a vitamin deficiency and wasn't able to find her Momma’s udder to nurse. Our daughter saw the heifer be born, helped nurse her back to health, put the halter on her for the first time and broke her herself.

We had worked hard before and during the fair and I was going to be proud of every single ribbon my kids earned.  We left the Johnson County fair with blue, red, yellow, white and green ribbons and my kids earned every single one.


So if you follow me on any number of social media channels my updates In the next couple of weeks will more than likely include my kids having fun and working hard, hopefully grinning from ear to ear but the color purple most likely won't show up!

July 3, 2015

4-H Paperwork - Keeping It Real

There is so much I love about the 4-H program…….project paperwork is not one of them!  The concept itself sounds great - answer questions about what you learned, keep track of money spent, and turn it in to be responsible.

But we are an ‘oh shit’ don’t forget the paperwork family!  Just ask our 4-H leaders - I stalk them down every year at work or home to sign our paperwork on the way to turn it in.  Normally that is also the day we fill it out!

But a few weeks ago I walked past the office door and witness my son sitting at the computer when he pipes up and says “Filling out 4-H paperwork Mom and don’t worry I’m really kissing butt in here”!  My kids are brutally honest.

Ask me to produce an up-to-date check book register and I will fail - but ask me about 4-H paperwork and I can immediately produce all 10 years worth - we are strong believers in ‘reference’ material.  I was looking for a crops record sheet for corn and got caught up reading the answers from old records my kids have turned in.

A few of my favorites

……these are actual quotes pulled off of their turned in paperwork
2nd year-Livestock: “I learned that it makes Mom really mad when you don’t keep the water trough full.”
8th year-Genealogy: “The only problem I encountered was my Mom has lost my birth certificate.”
10th year-Livestock: “Over 10 years I have learned the banner is not the best part of showing cattle.  Showing cattle should be about wanting to spend time in the barn, talking to cows when real people get annoying and having unconditional love for your cow but still know the reason we raise livestock.”

Emi Lou:
2nd year-Photography: “I helped my Mom learn that she doesn’t need to constantly be standing over my shoulder telling how to take pictures.”
5th year-Photography: “I learned that when taking pictures for this project it is a good idea to start earlier than the day before the project is due and doing paperwork as Mom is yelling she is leaving to turn the project in is dangerous.” 

1st year-Livestock “Three things I learned this year are 1. if you work hard it pays off 2.have fun in the show ring 3. cows are fun”
2nd year-Livestock “It is not always fun to feed but it has to be done.”

A few observations:

Crops is an adult project.  Oh my kids still take it, they love it-it's easy for them!

I think that a child knowing how much their project cost is important and for some the only way is on the record sheet.  My kids each opened a checking account their first year of 4-H for just this reason.  They may not pay every single expense out of their own checkbook but crunching those numbers on paper makes it real.

The boy may have filled the paperwork out early, he may of made 2 copies for security but he put them in the same manilla envelope and put them in a safe place-that safe place is yet to be located again!

4-H is an amazing program and while paperwork is obviously not our favorite part or our forte we are more than willing to do it for the number of pros in this organization far outweigh any of the cons!