Fall on the Farm

Happy October! It’s officially Fall. And in Deep South Texas – in our little corner of the world – it’s finally cooling off to a nice 85 degree average. This is a nice Fall teaser for anyone who lives in the Rio Grande Valley. If you’re not from around here, 85 degrees probably sounds like a nice Summer day. But we play along with everyone else and pull out our pumpkins and faux maple leaves in hopes that we’ll see the temps dip into the 70’s before Thanksgiving. And if it does – you know we’ll crank up our fire places, pull out the sweaters, and start a pot of chili. Because it’s the right thing to do and it’s Fall time at it’s best ’round these parts. And I love it! Where Fall time never fails around here though is on the farm. Fall time on our farm is serene and for the most part tranquil. Harvest time is over. We don’t have any crops in the ground. And our focus is working the fields in preparation for the next crop. Of course there is always work to be done in the barn, equipment to be maintained and office work to be done. But, the heart of the farm is in the field and what happens in the field sets the tone for the farm.

When it comes to agriculture, the Rio Grande Valley is very diverse. There are some irrigated farms in the area that are planting corn, sugar cane, cabbage and other produce. But our farm is a dry land farm, which means we don’t irrigate for water – we rely on rain. So we don’t have a Fall crop on our farm. And if there’s one important thing to know about farming, it’s this – timing is everything. So this is the time of year that farmers work the land meticulously and prepare it to make the most of every rain in the next few months. Making the most of every rain drop is vital to a prosperous crop – especially in the dry land.

A few short years ago I never would’ve imagined that so much thought and process went into “moving” dirt around. I just figured a little rain got the dirt wet. You thank God for the rain. Then you wait around for more rain. But it’s not that innocent. Maneuvers and methods are practiced systematically to make the most of what you get. And it’s not like putting buckets out to collect rain water…well it is – in a conservation sense of things. But in a more practical approach, those maneuvers and methods include cultivating the land and setting rows. It’s a simple process of taking care of the land.

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This is what one of our fields looks like after harvest. As you can see…it’s flat. The weeds have grown up. And weeds actually “steal” moisture from us. Not cool. So this is where we start working the land – across the whole farm.

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Our tractor is cultivating across the field to turn the dirt and destroy the weeds.

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It leaves a pretty path of freshly turned dirt in it’s path ready to be rowed up and ready to collect rain (moisture).

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After the land is cultivated, a tractor (or two) comes through the field to lay up rows. This essentially prepares the seed bed for planting.

As a small kid, I used to “lay up rows” with my fingers in the dirt. You know, drawing “lines” across the dirt. It’s pretty much the same concept in farming – but much more intense. Obviously. No fingers in the dirt here. In fact there’s a whole thought process that goes into the rows. It’s not just a bunch of lines across fields. For example, these rows are exactly 36 inches wide. We set them at a certain width for plant growth and equipment accommodations. It’s fascinating how precise it is.

 

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This is the implement that makes the rows in our fields. We call it a bedder bar. This preparation process of cultivating and laying up rows will take weeks to complete to get the whole farm done. But once it’s done, it’s done. And then we’ll sit back and pray for rain and let the ground do it’s thing to absorb all the moisture it can and “save” it for the growing season. It’s like a savings account for moisture. And this process grooms the dirt for being a good saver…to put it in layman’s terms.

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And because it’s Saturday on the farm – we’re having a little family fun in the field today. It’s how we roll, man.

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And after one field is finished we’ll parade on over to the next field to continue our Fall time work on the farm. This is what traffic is like on our street. And my very technical job on the farm is to pick up this hunky farmer from the side of the road. It’s a rough job.

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I hope you enjoyed a look at some of our “behind-the-scenes” work on The Farm. Planting time and harvest time are big times on the farm that usually get all the attention and glory. But this is another work day on the farm that goes into growing a successful crop.

Cheers to a great weekend of fun, family and farming in the Fall.

XO – Laura

 

 

 

 

Harvest

Oh! Harvest time. I don’t know about you, but in my previous life the word “harvest” always made me think of cool Fall weather. It made me think of pumpkins, scarecrows, and big family meals outside (Hobby Lobby may or may not have influenced my ideas on harvest). Well on our farm – and in our little corner of the world – harvest time is not in the Fall. It is not cool outside. And pumpkins do not grace us with their presence. Harvest time on our farm is in the dead heat of Summer. And Summers in the Rio Grande Valley average oh…a pretty steady 100 degrees. It’s brutal man. I seriously don’t know how these guys do it – or anyone else working in the outdoor elements (I get frazzled by the heat walking through the Target parking lot). Now for the most part, these guys ARE either in a truck or a machine. So they’re not necessarily burning up in the direct sun all day long. And keep in mind that these machines have come a loooong way and they are pretty darn fancy today.

Combines like this are long gone. This is a John Deere Vintage Combine.

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This is the combine we use on our farm today (2016). 

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We farm grain sorghum, cotton and sesame. So when harvest rolls around we use the combine to CUT grain and sesame. And a cotton picker to PICK cotton. We actually hire a custom harvester to pick our cotton. We don’t own a cotton picker on our farm and our custom harvesting friend comes in and gets the job done in a jiffy with his fleet of cotton pickers.

Our custom harvester and his fleet of cotton pickers (2012)2012 - Personal 146

Grain sorghum is usually the dominant crop on our farm (in terms of acres planted). So grain harvest, which we do on our own, always takes the longest – at least a couple weeks. But grain harvest is the heart and soul of harvesting season on our farm. We kick off the harvest season by cutting grain, and kicking off harvest season is like kicking off football season around here. It’s exciting. Everyone is talking about it. We’re ready to get out there. It’s pay day. And we really pull together as a family to get it all done. For me and the kiddo, it’s our favorite time of year to go out to the field and ride in the combine (afterall, the combine only comes out for a spin once a year around here).

Our harvest parade heading out to the field for grain harvest. 

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Grain harvest near our house and farm headquarters.

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The technology is really amazing. Every time I ride in the combine I just can’t get over the precise science that this giant computer of a machine is able to do.

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Once the combine is full, it unloads all the grain into the grain cart. Once the grain cart is full, it unloads into a semi truck trailer. That truck then goes to the grain elevator to get weighed and it unloads our grain for good. From there, the grain elevator sells the grain to grain buyers all over – most of our grain ends up in Mexico.

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Cotton may not be the dominant crop on our farm, but it is the prettiest crop. There’s nothing like a freshly defoliated field of cotton. We call it South Texas Snow. And like most farming families – we always take advantage of the natural beauty sitting in our field and use it for a photo op. This year we got fancy and got local photographer and friend, Claudia Farr, to come out and capture one of the prettiest cotton crops we’ve ever had (we usually get one of the farm hands to snap a quick shot). 

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After planting the cotton seed, meticulously growing and defoliating our cotton crop, we sit back and let the custom harvester do his job. We do however, get to tag our own modules for the Cotton Gin to pick up. Tagging modules is one of the many fun things we get to do as a family at harvest time. It’s like legal graffiti man.

Tagging modules on our farm (perks of giving your kid a four letter name)

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We wrapped up our 2016 harvest in the first week of August. And any farmer will tell you that it’s a huge relief to see your crops out of the ground and sitting somewhere else safe and sound as they make their way into the supply and demand cycle of the world. Now that harvest is over – we get to sit back and breathe a little bit (work normal hours again) and believe it or not – we start preparing for the following year. Working the ground, praying for rain, working and maintaining equipment. It’s also a great time to make any sort of improvements or changes to the farm.

Stay tuned for updates and improvements on our farm!

XO – Laura

Welcome to The Farm

Our farm is very much a family farm. The hubs and I run it together (I do the farm office work / he does everything else) and we have a few farm hands that are like family to us. On our farm we grow grain sorghum, cotton and sesame. Around our neck of the woods Summer time is harvest time. We plant all our crops in February/March. Grain harvest typically starts in June. Sesame and cotton harvest come right after the grain – typically in July/August.

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Planting grain sorghum in February. It’s South Texas y’all – it’s already 85 degrees. And yes…my child is barefoot. Don’t judge. He’s happy. 

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Our combine harvesting grain sorghum

If there’s anything that I’ve learned by living on a farm – it’s that no two years are ever the same. Weather is a huge component to anything that happens on the farm – it determines when we plant, when we spray (no, we’re not an organic farm), when we harvest, when we cultivate, fertilize, and so on and so forth. Now, I still have a hard time knowing exactly when I’m supposed to be praying for rain and when I’m supposed to be praying for dry weather. Sometimes those prayer requests change from one day to the next. It’s hard to always keep up. Typically we like to have a lot of rain in the Fall (while there are no crops in the ground – on our farm) so that the moisture gets absorbed and kinda gets tucked away for the rest of the growing year. And we need the rain to clear out by planting season so we can get in the field and get those seeds in the ground. Then….we’d like a little rain. But not too much. But maybe a little more. Whoa whoa…not that much. But just a bit more. (You see? It’s hard to keep up!) And then of course we need hot and dry weather for harvest. And here in Deep South Texas we live and farm on the Gulf Coast, so hurricane season officially starts on June 1. And it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that harvest and hurricanes don’t get along. So as you can imagine – farmers (and everyone else in the agriculture industry) watch the weather quite a bit. Considering all the factors and forces of nature involved – it really is a blessing any time that we have a good crop and are able to harvest it.

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The boys getting on the combine to harvest grain. 

Planting season and harvest season are by far the most demanding times on the farm. And harvest definitely takes the cake of the two. The guys put in long hours and get it done. This little guy loves to visit Dad in the field – especially when he works long hours (and we miss him at home). I enjoy taking him out to the field so we can visit or ride in the tractor with the hubs. It’s definitely a family affair around here.

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Grain harvest. Family style. (Selfies aren’t my gig)

Now I’m going to be real honest with y’all here and tell you my real struggle with going out to the field. I know where a good handful of our fields are. But some of them…are in.the.middle of.nowhere. And they have names like “Big Red Barn Block” – and guess what – the “Big Red Barn Block” doesn’t have a big red barn on it. It used to have a big red barn years and years ago. Well how is a girl supposed to navigate field after field without any street signs or landmark descriptions? My directions tend to sound like “a cotton field on your left” and “a cotton field on your right” and “a grain field just to the North” (First of all, it took me a couple years just to get each crop identified correctly. Secondly, I’m not a natural compass. This field navigation business takes some serious skills). In my 8 years of marriage and living on the farm – I’ve made a lot of progress. But I’m here to tell ya…the struggle is real.

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By some miracle I managed to find my way to this field and deliver lunch to my hunk of burning love while he was spraying cotton

Over the summer, our two year old really got interested in the farm and going to work with Dad (freeee time for meeeee). I loved packing their breakfast in the mornings so they could go off to work together and have their boy time.

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These guys are like two peas in a pod.

And when we’re not busy working in the fields around here – the farm keeps moving because there’s always work to be done. Maintaining equipment, servicing tractors, barn work, and of course these cute cows that we have fun with.

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Our Star 5 Gert X Hereford Cross Cows grazing in the pasture (oh, if these girls could talk…)

Life on the farm is a fun and good life to live. We are thankful for all the rain and sunshiny days we get and try to use them to make the most of our crop every year.

Welcome to The Farm and stay tuned for a look back on our 2016 harvest, farm updates for 2017 and soon – we’ll be prepping and planting for 2017.

XO – Laura

*The fancy family cotton pictures are courtesy of Claudia Farr Photography.