Thursday, May 16, 2019

Farm & Life Update (5/16/19)

originally posted Thursday morning at 6am

Good morning from the parlor where Dad and I have now milked 170 of our 193 cows and the sky’s changing hues herald the sun’s impending arrival. Fans have been circulating cooler fresh air through the barn to keep both us and the cows comfortable, a task that will be increasing difficult as we approach and soon enter the summer.

Despite two flat tires slowing progress yesterday and one of our farmhands needing off at least part of today, I think we are still on track to get our “hill ground” corn planted by the end of the week. If so and we stay relatively dry heading into next week, we could be looking at a run of days that are extremely busy even by dairy farm standards. There are hay fields to clip, bottomland fields to plant, corn to sidedress and spray, calves to vaccinate, and of course the cows still have to be milked twice daily.

On top of the farm work, I have a family to spend time with, Wednesday night Bible study lessons to prepare for June, cross-state meetings to attend, phone calls to make, and I’m sure a number of other responsibilities that aren’t immediately coming to mind. It can be overwhelming if I try to look too far beyond the horizon, so I just try to make the best of today and put myself in a good starting position for tomorrow. There is such a thing as being too busy, but Luke 12:48b says, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be expected." The Lord’s given me opportunities to be useful in different ways to different people and He’ll sustain me as long as I'm faithful to stick to the path He’s laid out for me.

So let’s all work diligently today but remember that our worth isn’t solely defined by our work. Take time to smell the roses, extend kindness to your neighbor, and have a dairy good day.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

There's something about this place

Sometimes I catch myself staring at a particular spot in a field or pasture for no apparent reason. Occasionally I'll park a tractor in the middle of doing field work, climb up onto the hood, and spend a minute surveying the farm around me. I enjoy soaking up the beauty of my surroundings in the the quiet moments I often spend on my front porch after the morning milking or at the end of the day.

There's something about this place.

the view from my front porch this morning
I was told growing up that I was smart enough to go anywhere and do anything I wanted. But there's something about this place that made it impossible for me to believe I could ever be happy being anywhere else or doing anything else.

I've spent the last fifteen-plus years heavily involved in several different farming organizations, and that involvement has often required me to spend significant time off the farm. Perhaps the effort has not always yielded the intended results, but there's something about this place that drives me to use my abilities in a way that helps enable myself and others to farm more freely and successfully.

I've spent countless hours sharing the story of my farm and industry with classrooms, reporters, civic groups, and thousands upon thousands of people I'll never actually meet on the internet. It can be a grind at times, but there's something about this place that's worth telling people about...especially those who have no personal connection to such a place.

I wonder if my ancestors ever reflected on the past and pondered on the future of this little spot of ground like I do. I think about all the decisions that must have been made by my family members over the last century-and-a-half that have led to my opportunity to call this place home, as well as how many times a different decision along the way could have completely re-written my story before it ever started.

Our farm isn't blessed with especially fertile soil, and we fight more than our fair share of kudzu and privet and pigweed. But it's ours, and it's home. It's both where I live and make my living, and I pray that holds true until I draw my final breath. Perhaps our kids will choose to make their lives and rear their families on the farm, perhaps their dreams will carry them elsewhere. Only God knows what the future holds for this place, but we are thankful He's entrusted its stewardship to our family for multiple generations.

There's something about this place that makes it worth conserving.

There's something about this place that makes it worth fighting for.

There's something about this place that makes it the only place I'll ever be able to call "home."




Saturday, March 23, 2019

Springtime brings more milk and more work

Springtime is upon us and life on the farm is about to get much busier than it already is. It's been a few weeks since I've given y'all an update, so I figured I'd try to catch you up to speed before I start tackling some of the projects on this Saturday's "to do" list.

Fewer cows, more milk
Good ol' Ms. Nosey
Our milking herd topped out at 213 a couple of weeks ago, but we've since culled fifteen and are now sitting at 198. And while we have three more in the maternity pen that should calve within the next two weeks, we also have a half-dozen that are nearly ready to be "dried off." So, if we do cross the 200 cow threshold again it won't be for long.

Removing those lower producing cows automatically raised our herd's average daily production on a per cow basis by a couple of pounds right off the bat. Per cow production has continued to climb over the last couple of weeks thanks in part to better weather, and now our total production is exceeding what it was before we sold those fifteen cows. We'll "weigh" milk on Monday or Tuesday morning, and by the end of next week we should have updated production profiles for all of our milkers. That information will help us make decisions about whether or not we have any more cows ready to cull and which pregnant cows might need to be dried off earlier than two months before their due date.

Getting ready for field work
The days are getting a little longer, warmer, and drier, and I'm itching to be in the field. We still have a little ways to go before we'll be ready to break any of our corn silage ground, but with good luck and favorable forecast we may be able to have some bulk fertilizer spread within the next 10-12 days. We've been able to spread enough manure on the fields adjacent to the dairy to get by without needing any commercial P & K, this year, but we'll still need a blend spread over about 2/3 of our "hill ground" acreage. I haven't even pulled soil samples in our bottom land yet, and I figure it will be at least mid-May before it is dry enough to plant. If all goes as planned, though, we'll be looking at planting around 170 acres of silage before all is said and done.