Saturday, May 31, 2014

Almost Ready to Start Harvesting the Wheat and Growing Crabgrass

It's the time of year when I start pacing back and forth, getting more and more antsy because it's getting closer and closer to harvest.  The trucks and combine are all  ready to go (or at least I hope they are), the wheat has almost dried down all the way, and now it's just a matter of waiting until the moisture level of the grain drops low enough.

There's only a couple of hundred acres to combine, but it always seems to rain sometime during harvest (so you have to wait a few days for the moisture levels to come back down) or something breaks down, so I like to get it cut as fast as I can.

It might just be me, but during harvest it always seems like I run and run and run and run until I'm finally done and then everything comes to a full stop.  Or, it's like going a hundred miles an hour all day long with the engine and wind roaring in your head, and then locking up the brakes and coming to a screeching halt surrounded by a deafening silence.  

In a little bit over a month the wheat has gone from just starting to head out to full maturity and drying down.

Almost, but not quite ready to cut
 The grain has filled as much as it's going to fill and when I do a quick threshing of a head by rubbing it with my hands I get a little pile of grain in the palm of my hand, it's nice and hard when I bite down on it, but it needs to drop in moisture just a little bit more.  Now, I just need a few gazillion more of those little grains hauled to the elevator and I'll get my yearly wheat paycheck.  
Ten thousand more of these and you could bake a loaf of bread
What really has me excited at the moment is a little bit of green grass that's starting to grow in the wheat.  It might be hard to tell from the picture I took, but that little bit of green is some crabgrass that's just germinated because we happened to get a little bit of rain this week and hopefully it's going to turn into enough hay to feed my cattle for a winter or two.  As soon as the wheat is harvested, the crabgrass will get more sunlight and it will really start growing.  If I decide to bale some wheat straw, it might grow even quicker since it won't be shaded by all the chaff and straw (I don't like to bale straw, but with the current drought conditions, some bales of straw are cheap insurance in case I can't bale enough hay this summer).

Last year, we had a late wheat harvest (last week in June) and more moisture, the crabgrass went from germination to 3 feet tall in 5-6 weeks, and I baled somewhere around 3500 lb. of crabgrass hay per acre.  This year, the wheat should be harvested earlier, and the crabgrass has already germinated, so I might get close to the same amount of hay baled if we get a little bit of rain this summer (even if I only get half the yield, I'll be satisfied).
Crabgrass just starting to grow in the wheat
  Crabgrass is an amazing grass, it's a little drought tolerant, it grows fast,  makes great hay (it's related to millet and has relatively high protein levels), and comes up as a volunteer stand if it's managed correctly (so I don't have to buy or plant any seed).   The crabgrass stubble also seems to have some sort of allopathic effect on ryegrass (which is a yield-robbing weed in wheat).

Of course, the same things that make crabgrass so productive and easy to grow are also what makes some people think it's just a weed, so I've only seen a handful of people locally growing it for hay or grazing.  Crabgrass can be a weed problem when I grow sorghum or if I grew soybeans (pre-emergant herbicide will fix that), but the hay can be more profitable than the sorghum and it's usually a heck of a lot easier to grow.

I also tend to look at crabgrass as an easy cover crop, I don't have to do anything (except maybe fertilize it) and I can grow a lot of biomass (almost as many roots as above ground grass), bale some hay, also graze it, while controlling ryegrass a little due to the allopathic effects.

There's a lot of things in the world that I still don't understand, but I can't understand why more people don't grow crabgrass in a continuous wheat growing area.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Frank the Farm Truck Roars Back to Life

I still have the 1983 Chevy pickup that I used to drive back when I was in college (sometimes it seems like it was a hundred years ago).

It's on its second transmission, third transfer case, second set of leaf springs, I had to replace the front drive shaft after I wore it out, it's had three sets of front hubs, four exhaust systems, three carburetors, and unknown numbers of alternators, starters, and fuel pumps. I put a lift kit on it years ago along with a set of mud tires so that it both looked COOL and wouldn't get it stuck in the mud (which was very important when I was younger) .  Because of all the different sources of parts, and a few scars and dents in the sheetmetal, it's nicknamed Frank (short for Frankenstein).

I drove it all the time up until about 10 years ago, then about six years ago it was retired to the farm to be used as a farm truck.  I had to reluctantly park it about four years ago when I had trouble keeping it running (mainly engine troubles).  For four years, I've been meaning to get it running again because it's perfect for driving around the farm and all over pastures looking for cows, it doesn't have anything like computers or sensors on it, it's almost indestructible, and it's awful fun to drive.

After four years of procrastinating, I finally got around to fixing it and I started out by replacing the spark plugs, spark plug wires, cap and rotor, and battery.  Then, I sprayed a can of carb cleaner all over the outside and inside of the carburetor (no fiddly carb rebuilds except as a last resort for this guy), replaced an oil gauge line (no use getting it running if it's squirting oil all over the place), poured a can of Sea-Foam in the engine oil (not sure if that was worth the effort), and topped off all the fluids.

After a trip to town to get a new air cleaner after a backfire caught the old one on fire (who's the idiot that sprayed all that carb cleaner on the carburetor??), it eventually roared back to life. So much thick smoke from burning oil was pouring out of the tailpipes that I almost chickened out and shut it off so I could do the proper thing and carefully determine why it was burning so much oil.  But I figured that if it was really that bad I was going to need to pull the engine and spend a big pile of money anyway, so I revved her even more, hoping it was just a stuck ring or something from sitting so long.

The next thing on my checklist was checking the brakes, so I did my patented quick and dirty brake test by first trying to do a burnout, then roaring down the driveway and locking up the brakes.  After a handful of burnouts and roaring down the driveway so I could lock up the brakes (don't skip this very important step, you need to make sure your brakes are working), the smoking had slackened off and was a whole lot less worrying (engine rebuilds, smengine rebuilds, just gun the engine and it'll fix itself).  By this time, I figured I'd done enough work for the day, so I parked in a nice open area so I wouldn't burn anything down except for the pickup if something happened to catch fire under the hood. 

The next day,  the truck had survived the night without burning to the ground, so I fired her up, and miracles of miracles, there wasn't as much smoke coming out of the tailpipes (I told you it was just a stuck ring!) and the engine had that nice loping sound it had years ago.

I really had a burning desire to road-test this beast, so I jumped back in the truck, floored it, and flew down the road to check some cows. 

Luckily, I didn't meet any cops on my short drive (no insurance or tag since it's been sitting for four years), I made quick work of checking the cattle, but there was a little hill that was just crying out to be climbed so I could test the suspension by flexing it all up and down and all twisty-like (it's tough work, but someone's gotta do it).

Essential Suspension Flexing Testing
The cows didn't seem to be all that impressed with the suspension flexing capabilities of my old truck, and the picture doesn't do it justice, but I was impressed with the confirmation that my memory of what I used to be able to do with it was indeed sorta close to the truth.

I never would have guessed that driving that old beat-up pickup around again would be so much fun, and I might even wash some of the mud off of it for old-time's sake (but then again it would just get dirty again, so what would be the point of that?)

Now that you know what to look for, if you happen to see a guy flying down a dirt road or out in a pasture checking some cattle in a blue pickup that looks kind of similar, make sure you yell out nice and loud, "Hey, are you that Rich guy?" 

If it's actually me, then I'll give you a thumbs up and shake your hand.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Getting the Combine Ready For Harvest

Even though it's only rained about 4 inches since I planted the wheat, it looks like there's actually going to be something to harvest in a few weeks, (wheat is an amazingly tough crop) so it's time to get the combine ready for harvest.

In the past, I've had epic battles trying to get the combine started after it's been sitting for a year, but I've learned the hard way that if I ever want to get it started again, one of the things I need to do is to fill it up with diesel right after harvest.  It still doesn't make sense to me, but if the tank isn't almost full, it can be a pain to get it started (it has something to do with the fuel pump getting enough fuel up to the engine, or because my combine is a worn-out temperamental cuss of a machine).

I've also learned that it's important to take the battery out after harvest and put it on a battery charger before I re-install it.  It doesn't matter if every meter I have says that the battery is still charged, if I don't put it on a battery charger the combine refuses to start, so I charge the battery to keep that temperamental cuss of a machine happy. 

The view from one of my business offices

Even when I fill up the fuel tank and have the battery charged it can be a lot of work to get it started, so I was surprised when it roared right to life without any trouble at all this year.  

It was purring like a big mean kitten when I idled it down, and roaring like a lion when I went to full throttle, and when I threw the lever to turn on the separator it didn't have any new vibrations, thumps, or rattles (it just had all the same old vibrations, thumps, and rattles).

I had avoided a long drawn out battle through proper preparation and everything was right with the world, then I was walking around the combine checking that everything was still as it should be (like a pilot walking around a clunky airplane with brick-like aerodynamics doing his pre-flight checks) and saw that something wasn't exactly right. 

Isn't that supposed to be level?  #$%@,  !$%#^*, and double #*$&%
The part (with the curved parts) at the top of the picture is supposed to be level across the combine and it wasn't.  So, I went away for awhile, then came back and looked at again to make sure it was still hanging lower on one side, and it still hadn't fixed itself.  One little bolt was missing, causing it to hang down out of place, and I was going to be forced to fix it.  

You would think that it would be relatively simple to replace that one bolt, for a good mechanic, it should take five minutes at the most.  

NOoooOO (is that the correct spelling for the word 'no'?), that bolt is installed in the bowels of that combine and I would need to crawl down in there to put that bolt back in.  But, before I could even think about crawling down in there,  I had to remove the chaffer (that riffled looking part at the bottom), and before I could remove the chaffer, I had to take off the straw chopper (otherwise known as the big heavy awkward strain-your-back-taking-it-off piece on the back of the combine).  

It takes a couple of people to get the straw chopper off, so after we got it off (luckily I only hurt my back a little bit), I then wrestled the chaffer out (only hitting my head three or four times inside the combine), and I was ready to take out the lower sieve (or whatever the heck they call it).  

Now that I had scattered these pieces of the combine along with all the nuts and bolts needed to put it all back together all over the place, it was going to be a piece of cake to get the only bolt that mattered put back in (it shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes or so), since all I had to do was push the hanging-down piece (surprisingly, that's exactly what it's called in the schematic of this combine) back up into place and then put in the bolt.  

I didn't realize until I had crawled/drug myself in there that that hanging-down piece was packed full of old grain and dirt that didn't get augered out because of that broken bolt.  The only thing to do was to crawl back out and figure out a way to jack it back into place, and it turns out that an old 2x12 and a jack is what you need to jack something back into place (who'da thunk that??).

I was crammed upside down inside a combine taking this picture, so give me some slack if you can't tell what the heck you're looking at.
I was able to get that 2x12 and jack into place and carefully jacked the hanging-down piece back up without punching a hole in an impossible to replace part of the combine, then I was able to install that little bolt (only took a minute or so!!) and I made sure to tighten the Hell out of it so that I hopefully never have to crawl down in there again, and I only had to choke down and/or cough up a few pounds of old sorghum chaff, moldy grain, and dirt in the process.

After I had clawed my way up and out of the depths of the combine, had hosed myself off, and got finished coughing up one of my lungs, (sorghum chaff is some nasty stuff that always makes me itch and cough) it was a simple matter to reinstall everything, and I only dropped and lost three bolts in the whole process (a personal record, that probably won't be broken anytime soon).  

Now it looks right, nice and level (even though I didn't hold the camera nice and level)
Now, I'm finally ready to start combining wheat (unless I find something else that's broken or the gremlins that took out that bolt for me come back and start gremlinizing something else).
Wish me luck and give any gremlins you happen to come across a good chewing out for messing with my combine.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Update to the Update: It's Impossible to Kill Ants

Apparently, ants like to play mind games.  

About four days ago, I thought that I had killed some ants with a combination of Borax and sugar, because there wasn't an ant at all on the test anthill I treated. On a different anthill about 100 feet away, the ants were as busy as ants (ants put bees to shame in the business of being busy).

Aha! I thought to myself, I've found a way to control all those ants in that pasture over there.  Eager to share my new found knowledge with the world, but not too eager it appears because it took me two days to slowly make it to the computer, I pounded out a post about how easy it was to kill ants with Borax and sugar.  

I was preparing to buy a truckload of Borax and sugar to go to battle with all the ants in my domain, and then this morning I walked out and saw that the ants were right back to their usual antics in the treated anthill.  

So my conclusion is that either ants get a case of the sniffles and stay in bed for a few days after being bombarded with Borax and sugar, or they like to mess with the heads of whoever (or is that whomever??) thinks they can control them with Borax and sugar and they run and hide whenever whoever tries to control them comes by for a look.

I'm beginning to think that ants don't like to be controlled and they like to play mind games.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Update on Spraying Sugar on Pasture

For some reason it looks like my previous post about Spraying Sugar on Pastures, etc. has had almost twice as many views as anything else I've posted (at this point in time it has reached an astronomical number of views that is somewhere in the mid-twenties). 

So, I think it's about time for an update on whether or not spraying a sugar solution on a pasture will indeed grow more grass while also killing the ants in that pasture.  My conclusion so far is that it won't control ants at all (I'm not convinced on the growing more grass part either).  When I looked at the anthills in the area I sprayed, I didn't notice any reduction at all in the number of ants.  Not one to give up unless the going gets too hard, I decided to see if a higher concentration of sugar might work, so I poured about 1 cup of sugar on a single anthill. 

Checking back a couple of days later, I still saw a lot of ants going about their ant business (as active as they looked, ant business must be good, and the rat race is a cakewalk compared to the ant race). 

So I went back to the ether of the online world and found something that suggested using Borax on ants in the house.  I just happened to have a box of Borax (not sure what I had it for, I'll remember what it was for as soon as I pour the last of it on some ants) so I sprinkled it liberally on top of the sugar that I'd poured out on the anthill. 

Just throw some out there and mix it up a little with your foot

My ant killing pessimism was pretty high at this point, but a day later it looked like only two lethargic ants had managed to drag themselves to work and the ant business that had been booming the previous day had busted overnight.  

So my entirely unscientific conclusion is that "maybe" it is possible to kill ants with Borax, or a combination of sugar and Borax.  Of course, now I have to figure out if Borax is any better or worse for cattle than if I just used ordinary ant-killer products in a pasture.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Deerscaping and Putting Out Minerals for the Deer Herd

I've always thought of the wildlife on the farm as being almost as important as the cattle or any of the other crops I raise.  In fact, I was a deer hunter before I was ever a farmer or had cattle of my own, and I learned how to garden by trying to grow garden-sized deer food plots as a teenager.

I don't plant any food plots on the farm because there's always a field of winter wheat growing for the deer to eat, but I have done some "deerscaping" for the deer by brush hogging areas to create edges where the grass meets the brush, etc.  Sometimes, brush hogging in early fall can also make the grass start growing a little sooner in the spring, which in the long run I'm hoping will start to attract more wild turkeys so that my flock can start growing to huntable levels.

Last fall, I mowed this area up above a creek bed and you might be able to see the different edges it created, with the taller trees on both sides of the mowed area, the shorter brush along one side, and some nice green grass. To my eye, it looks like a good combination of deer and turkey habitat, and a productive area of the pasture for my cattle to graze.

Next fall, (unless I forget), I'm planning on spreading some fertilizer and/or some food plot seed in these spots to make it just a little bit more lush than the surrounding areas.

A good mineral program is essential to a healthy cattle herd, so the deer should also benefit from having access to mineral.  So last winter, I started putting out minerals for the deer, eventually I'd like to have mineral feeding spots spread out on about a 40 acre spacing, but I haven't reached that point yet.

In OK, it's legal to put out feed and minerals for deer, but every state has it's own regulations so check first before you try this at home.

There are all kinds of specialized deer minerals sold, but after looking at and comparing the actual minerals in most of these deer minerals, it looked to me like the only thing that was "special" about them was that a 25 lb. bag of deer minerals cost about twice as much as a 50 lb. bag of ordinary cattle minerals. 

So, my deer get an inexpensive bag of multi-purpose minerals that I picked up at the feed store for about $10/50lb. bag.
Ordinary Minerals, Not the Over-Priced, Specialized Deer Minerals
I located one mineral feeding spot down along a creek in a funnel spot where multiple deer trails come together where there also happens to be a stump in just the right spot for my mineral feeding area.  Years ago, I rattled in a buck and shot him with a bow while I was sitting up in that tree, but now even though there is just a rotten stump left, I hoping that some of my past success here might mean future success with my mineral feeding. 

The Mineral Spot is Down in the Woods Where That Big Tree Used To Be
So far, I've put out about 30 lb. of mineral in this spot (10-15 lb. at a time) and the deer and other animals have eaten most of it so that now it just looks like a bare spot of dirt in the woods.

What's Left of the Stump
Today, I just spread out about 15 lb. of mineral in the spot, but when I first started putting out minerals, I would also spread out some corn to help attract the deer to the spot so they could find the minerals a little faster. 
About 15 lb. of Mineral
Will any of this give me bigger bucks, healthier deer, or more deer?  I can't give you a solid answer on that, but I do know that when I started feeding higher-quality minerals to my cattle I saw improvements, so I'm assuming that I might also see some improvements in my deer herd.  In the future, I might even splurge on my deer and buy them some of the higher-quality minerals I feed to my cattle.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pecan Trees and Rebuilding a Pond

About three years ago, I bought some pecan tree seedlings from the Oklahoma Forestry Department and planted about 10 or so of them in a line in the weaning pen hoping that someday I'd have a miniature pecan tree orchard.  When I planted them I went to the extra steps of digging nice holes for all of them, adding some compost to the holes (the good stuff made from cattle manure instead of the citified "compost" they peddle in the stores), and I protected each one of them with some tree tubes. I swear that as soon as I planted the last tree, the temperature almost immediately rose to HOT, and the last cloud in the sky left for parts unknown.

We had two straight years of drought and heat with me hauling water once in awhile (but not too often, I don't want to deal with a bunch of spoiled trees in the future) trying to keep them alive, while I wondered if they were actually still alive down there in those tree tubes.  Last year, I had a glimmer of hope when it actually rained once in awhile, and I was able to see a little bit of green when I looked down the tubes.  

This year, they look like real honest-to-goodness trees, bursting out above the tubes and leafing out.  So, maybe there's still a chance that I'll be able to make a pecan pie sometime in the future.

I've been working off and on for about the same amount of time on rebuilding a small pond.  It all started out simple enough, there was a small pond in a pasture that had silted up and washed part of the dam out a long, long time ago.  It looked like an easy job to dig it out and fix the dam since it was such a small pond to begin with.  But, once I started it seemed like a shame to not put a little extra work into it and make it just a little bit bigger, so I started making the dam just a little bit taller. 

Then, it occurred to me that it would be foolish to just make the dam bigger and not make the pond deeper, so I started digging it just a little deeper.  So, with that sort of logical thinking, I've been digging down and building the dam up off and on for three years.

Since I didn't have much of anything else to do today, I went over and started moving dirt with the bulldozer. It's almost meditative to drive down into the pond, then push the dirt up the dam making sure to stop at the top, back down the dam, drive up out of the pond, turn around,  and drive back down into the pond again. 

Maybe, I'll finally finish this pond this year.
Down Into the Pond

Driving up the Dam

Cresting over the Top of the Dam

Sunday, May 4, 2014

First Rattlesnake of the Year

I was walking around about a week ago looking for a bull that decided he wanted to hide out in the brush and happened to look down and saw a rattlesnake curled up near some rocks. 

By coincidence, about a year ago, this same bull found a gap in the fence where a tree fell on it and while I was tracking him down the railroad tracks trying to find his worthless hide and hoping that a train hadn't slammed into him and turned him into a big pile of hamburger, I almost stepped on a rattlesnake.  If I hadn't been looking at the ground trying to pick up the tracks of that bull, I never would have seen that snake.  Because of that, I've gotten in the habit of always checking the ground for rattlesnakes whenever I'm walking around piles of rocks or brush. 

I tried to take a picture of him (or her) with my phone, but it's a little difficult to take a clear picture of a camouflaged rattlesnake with a phone with the sun shining bright and turning the screen so dark that you can't really tell what you're aiming the camera at (how do all those young whipper-snappers take all those pictures of everything in sight with their phones??).

Where the heck is that rattlesnake? It's centered and about 2/3 up from the bottom

The first person that can spot the rattlesnake in the picture will get an enthusiastic "ATTABOY" and a fabulous no-money award from the officials at the Watch Out for the Bull blog. 

Zoomed in, the snake is towards the top of the picture (look for the horizontal lines)

Up until about four or five years ago, I'd never even seen a rattlesnake anywhere close to the farm, but now I seem to see them all the time.  It might be a case of once you finally see one, you'll see all of them, and they have always been here, but I just couldn't see them (there might be some sort of deep philosophizing possible with that sort of thinking).

Or, I might be seeing more rattlesnakes because I'm growing more of the stuff they eat, and creating more of the habitat they like to live in.  I like having rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, quail, and songbirds running around, so I can put up with more rattlesnakes if it means I also have more quail, rabbits, and squirrels, although I'm not enlightened enough yet to tolerate an overabundance of rats and mice.

Typically, I just leave any rattlesnakes that I happen to find out in the pastures alone, so on this day there was no going "all caveman" on him and trying to smash him with a big rock.  Any rattlesnakes that I find close to the barn or near any gates don't get off that lucky, so if any rattlesnakes are reading this, don't get any ideas about moving in with a kind-hearted  rattlesnake-tolerant live-and-let-live sort of guy.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Thinking about a Cover Crop Trial in the Garden

I've been interested in cover crops for a while, first planting them in my garden at least fifteen years ago.  I originally started out with a 'deer food plot mix' that I planted in the fall which was a mixture of winter wheat, winter rye, oats, crimson clover, ladino clover (white clover), alfalfa, and Austrian winter peas.  Planting that cover crop mixture improved my garden almost overnight, based on how the garden and cover crops grew and looked afterwards.

Because of my garden experiences with those 'deer food plot mixes', I've always had it in the back of my head that if cover crops worked in a garden, then they would also work in a field, but I've never really tried to scale up the idea for a number of reasons, mainly drought and the cost.   

While I've been pondering cover crops over the years, I've read and re-read everything I could find online from people like Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, David Brandt, and Gail Fuller, who all speak a lot about the benefits of cover-cropping (it's easier for you to search for more info about them than it would be for me to list a bunch of links, so start google-izing them if you're interested, but I'll dig up some links if anyone asks).

At the same time, I also happened to find the Sweet Bay Farm blog, which is a blog written about planting cover crops to improve the soils on a farm in Maryland.  I tend to be skeptical whenever I'm listening to an 'expert' talk about anything, but reading this blog and about her results made me start thinking even more seriously about cover cropping some of my cropland.  Experts might tend to stretch the truth at times, but 'ordinary people' usually don't, so I tend to be more likely to believe the results from people that aren't self-proclaimed experts.  

Over the years, I've planted both pearl millet and sorghum-sudangrass (or haygrazer) as hay crops on the farm, which would have been technically sort of, but not really a cover crop experiment. But, last summer I planted a simple mixture of pearl millet, sorghum-sudangrass, and grain sorghum as a hay crop.  This mixture was about as simple as one could be since it was only three different warm-season grasses, but it grew slightly better than the sorghum-sudangrass that I planted at the same time (which was sort of surprising).  That got me to thinking that if I had added in something like cowpeas, buckwheat, or sunflowers and grazed it instead of baling it, I'd have really seen some soil building results.

Since most agriculture is regional (what works in Iowa might not work in Texas), I re-read everything I could find and decided that Gail Fuller in KS was farming in an area pretty similar to mine and I read about a cocktail he has been planting after wheat harvest that looked like it might work for me.

Basically, it's a combination of different warm season grasses (millet, sorghum, etc), warm season broadleaves (soybeans, alfalfa, etc), cool season grasses (winter wheat, oats, etc.), and cool season broadleaves (winter peas, canola, etc.) with about 3-5 lb. of sunflowers (the black oilseed kind, not the eating kind) thrown into the mix, and it's all planted at the same time right after the wheat is harvested.   The idea is that the warm season plants will frost-kill in the fall, allowing the cool season plants to start growing, then cattle can graze the field over the winter.  In a good year, there is also the possibility of harvesting the sunflowers in early fall as a cash crop.  So, you can get the benefits of a cover crop, grazing, and a possible grain harvest.

Since it's difficult to double-crop grain sorghum after wheat and get a harvest for a number of reasons, if it's feasible I would much rather plant a cocktail like this, graze it over the winter, and then plant grain sorghum the following spring.  It would be less risky, there would be no need to bale hay or feed it, and if it goes right, a sunflower harvest would be a bonus (it might be a trick finding somewhere to sell them though).

With this all in mind, I'm going to plant a mixture of grain sorghum, sorghum-sudangrass, soybeans, black-eye peas, winter wheat, maybe some oats, crimson clover, turnips, and sunflowers in a test plot.   Since this is a test, and I'm using what I have on hand  (okra would be a substitute for something like sunn hemp, etc.), I'm also going to throw in some okra seed, flax seed, dill seed, and whatever other seeds I can come up with.

I'm thinking that I'll plant at a rate of about 8 lb. of grain sorghum, 8 lb. of sorghum-sudangrass, 10 lb. of soybeans, 10 lb. of black-eye peas, 60 lb. wheat, 3 lb. crimson clover, 1 lb. turnips, and 5 lb. of sunflowers per acre.   That sounds like a lot of seed, but since I'm only planting a small garden spot (2000 sq.ft.), I'll only need about a twentieth of those amounts to plant the entire area.

For a true trial of the whole idea, I'll have to wait to plant my mixture until a time that's closer to wheat harvest, but I thought if I posted this now it might help me remember to actually do it, while giving other people some ideas of their own.

I'm also thinking about and/or planning to plant a simple cover crop mixture of grain sorghum and sunflowers in an area of a wheat field that has poor drainage as a combination dove food plot, 'wet spot' dryer-upper, and cover crop, but that's a topic for another day.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Planting Grain Sorghum (or Milo Depending on Where You're From)

I was able to fertilize a few days ago, so I spent today planting grain sorghum, and there seemed to be just enough moisture in the ground from that 0.600" of rain we got a few days ago that the planter operated just about perfect (which is unusual). 

I'd be surprised if anyone that actually planted grain sorghum ever read this blog, but just so I have a slim chance of remembering, I planted about 2.5 lb. of seed per acre (35500 seeds/acre) around 1.25" deep.   The recommended window to plant grain sorghum in my area is between April 20 and May 10, (or between June 5 and June 30 for double cropping after wheat) so I should be just about right if everything goes sort of right.  If we get a little rain this summer, it should be dried down and ready to harvest sometime in late August or early September. 

This year, I made an effort to really slow down when I was planting so I could get a better stand because whenever I'm pulling a drill I tend to go hell-bent-for-leather and that's not exactly the best way to pull  a planter.  So I spent almost 5 hours planting 40 acres with the radio blasting so I could still hear it through the hearing protection, with the windows open because the A/C still doesn't work right, looking back at the planter once in a while, and always trying to find the the mark made by the row marker out in front of the tractor.
Yep, the Planter is Still Back There
Planting is as "simple" as dropping the planter in the ground and lining up the hood ornament with the mark while trying to drive the tractor relatively straight (I'm surprised how straight those rows look in the picture).  

You'll notice that the tractor could really use a paint job, but shiny paint doesn't make me any money.

Don't Take Your Eyes Off That Mark or You'll Lose It
When I was finally finished, I took a picture of the hay meadow over on the hill (it's that tan spot just under the neighbor's green hay meadow).  The neighbor's hay meadow is green because he baled a second cutting of hay back in October, which means that his grass is shorter than short, but for now it does look greener than the grass in my hay meadow.
Finally Finished, Looking East Towards the Hay Meadow
After finishing, I just had to maneuver a planter that's about 24' wide through three gate openings that are just over 24.5' wide, then drive down a short road that's about 24' wide to get back to the barn while hoping I didn't meet an oil field truck barreling down the road.  

A day in the life of Rich.