Sweet Corn Planting Mistake

July 28, 2014

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I made a rookie-type mistake planting my sweet corn.  After planting my Dad’s field corn, I changed the population from 30,000 plants per acre down to 20,000 plants per acre, and I cleaned out each of the four seed hoppers in my John Deere 7200 planter.

I’ve owned this corn planter for over five years, and I’ve cleaned out the hoppers the same way every time, (dumping them upside down several times), but this time one of the hoppers had quite a bit of corn stuck down inside where I couldn’t see it.  Furthermore, when I started planting, that row was plugged and corn was not coming out.  Luckily, the monitor tells me when a row isn’t planting, so I wouldn’t have planted the whole field with a missing row.

I unplugged the row and finished planting the whole field, stopping once to add another variety of sweet corn.  I planted two varieties this year, both supersweet, but with different maturities.  I noticed there was more corn in the second hopper, but figured that must have been because it didn’t plant that one time across the field.

Fast-forward to a couple of months later.  I noticed that the rows of corn were developing differently, but figured that must have been the difference in variety.  Then we had a summer storm with strong winds.  Most of the corn was bent over from the strong wind, but some of the rows were not affected.  I still figured it was due to varietel difference.

Finally, when the corn started tasseling, with the taller rows not tasseling, a light bulb went on and I realized what had happened.  The tall rows were my Dad’s field corn.  The next thought I had was, “Oh no, my sweet corn is ruined.”  You see, supersweet corn needs to be isolated from other types of corn or the sugar in it turns to starch and it tastes terrible.  This happened once with our sweet corn when I was a kid, and it was inedible.

But then I realized that the sweet corn was tasseling, but the field corn was not.  So if the sweet corn could pollinate before the sweet corn tasseled, I would be fine.  I could have detasseled all the field corn to be safe, but you know me, my curiosity comes before my success.  So now we wait and see.

Next year I know exactly what I will do differently.  I’m going to upend each hopper, removing all the visible corn.  Then I will put the planter in the ground somewhere out of the way, and plant any remaining seeds until the monitor tells me each row is empty.

On a side note, you can see the pumpkin and squash is growing gangbusters.  In the foreground you can see a new purchase I made: Racoon Net from Premier fence.  The three-strand electric fence I always made in the past helped, but didn’t completely keep the raccoons out of the sweet corn.  I’m hoping this netting works better, and I’ll try to remember to let you know how it does.


Father’s Day, 2014

June 15, 2014

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Happy Father’s Day!

This is a photo our friend Jeanenne took of my Dad helping me move farrowing huts about a month ago.  Click on the picture to enlarge, and click again for more detail.  She has a nice camera and took the photo without us even knowing it.  Zooming in changed the perception, though.

The bare dirt in the background is my Dad’s corn field about a quarter mile away.  The white water tower with the Redbird on it is about three miles away as the crow flies.  In the foreground you can see how tall the rye bordering the sweet corn has grown.  There are some flags in the sweet corn field where I planted squash and pumpkins.

When Jeanenne gave me this photo she told me how nice it is to see family working together.  And she’s right, that’s one of the benefits of farming.  I’ve spent many hours working with my Dad.

There is also a little time for play.  I remember one Christmas, Dad  put up a basketball hoop in the barn.  My sisters being too little to play against me, I always bugged Dad to play.  He would usually indulge me in a quick game, especially after chores were done.

Thank you, Dad!


Outdoor Wood Burner/Wood Pig

March 3, 2014

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It’s been a long winter.  As I write this on March 3rd, it’s 11 degrees below zero F.  I’m tired.

I’m back to hand-to-mouth wood cutting.  Everyone who burns wood says they’ve burnt way more than normal.  I need a bigger pile next year though, because the crusted snow in the woods makes it nearly impossible to drag in logs.

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In a bit of serendipity, I met an old schoolmate who burns wood also.  I told him I had an outdoor wood burner.

“Oh, you’ve got one of those wood pigs, too!”

“What’s that?” I said.

“It really goes through the wood, doesn’t it?”

He’s right.  I’ve finally realized that an outdoor wood burner is not a very efficient way to heat a house.  However, it is a safe way to heat a house and I’m stuck with it for now.

He told me about a lumber yard that sells scrap lumber for twenty bucks a bundle.  They’re good-sized, eight to ten feet long, dry wood.  He burns it in his burner.

Not being a fast thinker, I had to let the idea germinate for a few days.  I think I gave myself permission to buy wood when I nearly got the tractor stuck for the umpteenth time.

I called him up and asked him to bring me a load and he delivered eight bundles.  If I’m not reading the calendar wrong, that should be enough wood to get me to the point where it’s hot enough I’m forgetting how cold it’s been!

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Skin Cancer, Sunscreen Controversy

February 19, 2014

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My better half thought I had some spots a dermatologist should check out.  The Dr. found what he called a pre-cancerous spot on my cheek and froze it with liquid nitrogen.  I’m not sure it was necessary, but he’s the expert.  He also scooped out a spot on my scalp.  I feel like I’m going to pieces.

I did learn something important.  I used to wear SPF 8 suntan lotion, figuring that would be 8 times better than nothing.  However, the Dr. told me that low SPF suntan lotion only protects us from the UVA rays, letting the UVB rays through.  It’s the UVB rays which cause skin cancer, so by putting on lotion which kept me from burning, I actually may have spent more time in the sun letting the UVB rays do their damage.

Update:  I went online and am now thoroughly confused.  It appears my understanding of UVA and UVB is reversed.  It’s unlikely the Dr. gave me incorrect information.  What’s more likely is I had a difficult time listening while being scalped and froze.  I’ve always heard someone besides the patient needs to be there to listen.  It is very difficult for the patient to listen.

There seems to be some debate about all sunscreen.  Some of the ingredients may be carcinogenic and in this sunscreen photo it appears that more ultraviolet light is absorbed by the skin when sunscreen is used.  I don’t know what to think.  Readers, weigh in with your comments.

Looking at the photo above, I see my skin has aged.  I don’t feel terribly old, approaching 45 years, but I realize I’ve probably spent many more hours in the summer sun than almost anyone reading this.  I plan on continuing to wear long-sleeves and pants and a broad-brimmed hat which I’ve been doing for the past fifteen years.  I’ll probably put SPF 30 sunscreen on my face when I’m doing tractor-work, sitting in the summer sun.


King of the Hill

February 11, 2014

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I noticed my boys playing on the pile of snow I made from scraping up the driveway.  So it became a game for me to see how awesome of a hill I could make.

This latest hill is 9 feet tall with super-steep sides.  After struggling to climb to the top, Shepherd actually requested a not-so-awesome hill next time.


Dickies Insulated Bib Overall, Review

February 1, 2014

Dickies Insulated Bib Overalls

Restrictive, but warm!  I normally wear something like the ensemble pictured below.  But when the temps drop below zero F, I throw on these insulated bibs and am able to get my chores done without discomfort.

My Dad is a big fan of insulated coveralls.  He usually puts them on in October and doesn’t take them off until May.  But I’ve found them too restrictive.  I like to move when I’m outside.

That being said, I was too cold when the weather turned brutal.  So when Country Outfitters offered me clothes for free, I jumped at the chance to try these insulated bibs.

And I learned something.  I used to think when my toes and fingers got cold I had a cold toes and fingers problem.  So I would put on a second pair of socks and gloves to combat the problem with limited success.

Now I see when I put on these insulated bibs, it ties everything together and warms up my core.  This warmth radiates to my toes and fingers and I don’t need more socks or gloves.  Amazing!

Winter Farm Clothing


Evergreen Windbreak

January 22, 2014

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I’ve never liked evergreens.  I think it’s because I distrust their green when the rest of the world is white and brown.  Something about their green is off, even in August when this photo was taken.

That being said, I planted this small windbreak late last summer when they were purchased for the corner of our yard.  I read the tags before planting and realized they need more space.  So I recommisoned them for a small windbreak in the pasture.

Fast-forward to now and we’ve been experiencing one of the worst winters in memory, with arctic blasts of wind dropping the windchill well below zero for days.  I feel more exposed on top of this hill and am thinking I need more windbreaks.  So I ordered 25 Colorada Blue Spruce from our county agency and may double or triple the order before this winter is through.


Farm Nightmares

January 1, 2014

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Scientists think dreaming is a way for our brain to process fears and move on to make room for new threats.  This theory makes sense to me because of the way my nightmares have evolved over time.

School nightmares started early in life and lasted until I was in my thirties.  Having two stepsons has resulted in some nightmares concerned with their safety.  I also have farm nightmares, but these have changed as my style of farming has changed.

I used to have nightmares about animals in confinement.  A pen of pigs or chickens was forgotten for weeks, only to be remembered with panic, hoping they still had feed and water.

But now as more of my animals are on pasture more of the year, my dreams usually involve them escaping.  This is not unfounded as I once had cattle that ended up on the highway more than a mile away.  Hence, the gates you see in the photo above are closed every night, helping me sleep better.

The latest nightmare I had was interesting because it combined animals escaping and my stepsons.  I was checking the cattle in the rented pasture with my stepsons.  Much to my surprise, my breeding hogs had escaped into this pasture.  I started looking closer and found a couple of wild boars in with my sows.  This was not good, but then an elephant squealed and walked into view.  To my credit I didn’t panic, but calmly told the boys to check out the elephant.


Summer Litters, Link-Love Sept. 2013

September 19, 2013

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Duroc gilt in the woods with her litter of eleven piglets.  Fourteen gilts farrowed this summer.  It’s amazing how well they do in the warm months compared to the struggles I had last March.

Most farrowed in a shelter, or I put a shelter over them after farrowing, as I let each choose her own spot to farrow.  Two gilts were in a spot in the woods inaccessible to a shelter so I left them alone.  They raised ten and eleven piglets each.

I wouldn’t have had the courage to farm this way without reading other bloggers, specifically the granddaddy of farm bloggers, Walter Jeffries.  Recently, he posted a photo showing a 300 lb, eight-month-old boar, raised on nothing but pasture and dairy products.  Walter is a paradigm shifter for me.

I’ve been without a computer for the past couple of months, hence my lack of posts, but I’ve kept up on the farm blogs I read and enjoy and wanted to share some more with you.

Bruce King wrangles with government agents and speaks at government meetings.  I love hearing about his civic adventures.  He also purchased a confinement dairy farm recently and is transforming it to his vision.

Andrew at Green Machine Farm writes about his new life as a farmer.  He educated us on bat houses recently.  Would you believe he made a bat house out of plywood, painted it black, and placed it on the south side of a shed?  How anything could survive a midwestern summer in that box and not cook to death is beyond me, but Andrew informs us he already has bats living in it.

Gordon Milligan is a train conductor in Chicago.  He has a dream to farm and raise his own food when he retires.  He and his wife recently purchased a farm in Iowa and are anxiously awaiting the day they will call it home.

Lastly, I read a blog from a farmer in France.  I like to see what Brent is doing with his farm because the soils and underlying limestone are extremely similar to my farm.  He grass-finishes Salers cattle, grazing alfalfa/orchard grass hay fields.  Check out his blog and see if the photos of his land seem similar to mine, like in the photo below of my steers grazing a fresh hay field.

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2013 Corn Height, 4th of July

July 5, 2013

2013 Corn Height

Shepherd decided not to show and butcher hogs at the fair this year.  We decided sweet corn would be his project.  Here he is checking for ears, (not there yet).  The corn is just starting to tassel which you can see on the left.  Also check out the cloud face above his head.

We are trying a supersweet variety this year from Harris seeds.  There are three main types of sweet corn: su or normal, se or sugary enhanced, and sh2 or supersweet, along with many different hybrids among the types.  Supersweet needs to be isolated from other types of corn or the sugar turns to starch.  This happened to my family when I was a kid and we couldn’t eat the corn.


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