First off, tell Sara Pennington congratulations from Lisa and I; I hope she and Dean have a long and happy life. Although her name recently changed I will always consider her to be â€œpez Kraemer-bear.â€
My life will now be dominated by talk of leaf canopies, root temperature and heat shutdowns; it is the annual sugar beet harvest. It is hard to talk in glowing terms of the romance of joining together in the Nationâ€™s most intense harvest when I consider I have to awake this morning at two. I have already planned about one-half hour of coffee drinking time prior to leaving for Warren so hopefully that will kick me into gear.
We had about 3 Â½ inches of rain last week which made things seem grim however I have already observed combines harvesting soybeans, Dave. Our weather seems very unpredictable; weâ€™ve yet to have a hard frost and next week it will be more than warm enough to shut down the beet harvest. I remember the rules about weather that I learned when I was growing up and they were almost always correct. Today those same rules seem as ancient and irrelevant as caveman drawings on a wall.
A man without projects is, empty. I have been feeding regularly this year and I recently installed a large slider door in our garage. I first talked myself through cutting a hole in the side of the wall which seemed almost sacrilege. Little of the wall fell on my head during the process and I also built a door that slides open and closed quite nicely. I would like to say that accomplishing a project like this makes me more confident, however I think that I would doubt myself if given the same task again. I guess my need for projects is a need to constantly prove myself, to myself.
Lisa and I have been offered a dog, Dave. The dogâ€™s name is Bella and she likes cats-not their taste, but rather their company. We havenâ€™t had a dog since Muffin died so maybe itâ€™s time for another one; Bella Rehder has a real chance of becoming Bella Nelson. Lisa and Bella have yet to meet however she greets me each day that I arrive at R and R Farms to help with the harvest. I love dogs but I know our cat Twitch will be jealous as he likes being the Sun to our Galaxy. Maybe all that adoption/foster care training will come to some use if we decide to enlarge our family.
This is a short letter as I have to finish up a task. Scott Beito is stopping by to vacuum out our septic tank so I have a little shovel work to accomplish prior to his arrival. Nothing gets me excited like outdoor plumbing so I must find my trencher and apply it liberally to that perennially green and warm spot on our lawn.. At least it is a project.
I haven’t written about farming for quite some time, at least my kind of farming so that is this week’s topic. I am a grass farmer.
I think most people who raise cattle are considered cattle farmers. I think that cattle can pretty much farm themselves as long as I create an environment in which they can work. Sturdy fence, subdivided pastures, fresh water and something good to eat are a decent field upon which to play. My primary job is to manage our grass paddocks in such a way that the cattle are always eating fresh, growing, highly-nutritious forage.
Spring is difficult because the cattle have been on hay all winter and both they and I want them on pasture. Eating early spring grass is like enrolling a highly-intelligent ten year-old in high school; both may be qualified both neither have the needed maturity. I do have a paddock along the river that includes grass that has acclimated itself over decades of time. This paddock seems to be able to withstand any amount of abuse and so I will use it for early spring pasture at times. Developing good pasture takes time and money so I try to treat my other paddocks to consistent periods of rest so that they are always in a growing stage.
Grass-fed cattle eat corn; sounds like a contradiction-doesn’t it? Corn is a type of grass but we graze the whole plant instead of just the shelled corn. I let the cattle graze corn while I rest all of my other perennial grass paddocks prior to a killing frost each fall. The perennials plants are now sending nutrients to the roots to become strong and ready for the change in seasons. After a killing frost, the plants will be dead and ready to be grazed without damage to the roots. I am grazing the corn right now and the best metaphor for the practice is that it’s similar to feeding ice cream, only you have to eat some of the box with the ice cream. The cattle eat the leaves and immature cobs (ice cream) like crazy but they must also then clean-up some portion of stalks (ice cream box) to get fiber. I also give a little hay in order to balance the blast of carbohydrates they receive from the corn with some decent alfalfa protein. I have also planted soybeans with the corn in the past to accomplish the same goal.
I like grazing the corn because I see the cattle each day. The paddock is about five acres but the cattle only get a small portion each time. I walk into the corn about 50 feet and trample a path across the paddock then run fence wire from side to side in the area of the path. If I just let the cattle run loose they would eat all of the ice cream leave me the box. This way I can control the process and make the most of the paddock. Grazing the corn occurs at a good time of the year as it provide lots of carbohydrates at the very end of my finishing process. It ensures a nice cut of beef and is one plant in a diverse diet that contributes to great taste.
I really like my cattle and providing a decent way for them to live. I like feeding them a little ice cream (and the box) as a treat at the end of their time. Considering most of them are heading for the plate, it’s seems like the least I can do.
Last week I wrote about our trip to Idaho. This week I will write about our trip home.
When you leave for a vacation is is like a good meal; you eat it slowly and appreciate everything. When you return from a vacation it is like a hitting the drive-through at two in the morning; you just want to get what you need and head home. Our trip home began Wednesday morning in Driggs, Idaho and did not end until we arrived in Dickinson, North Dakota late that night. I really wanted to avoid the gentle hospitality of the the Motel Six in Miles City, Montana and kind of â€œsoldâ€ our carload on the idea of making it to Dickinson. For this reason, and because I was the only man in the car-and driving; anything that happened thereafter became my responsibility.
Lisa suspected that my real ambition was to drive as far and as fast as time and my own consciousness would allow-she knew I wanted to go at least as far as Dickinson. As all vehicle occupants were asleep, I considered blowing right through town and heading for Bismarck, however that seemed deceitful so we stopped to find a room. The Bakken Oil formation has created a desperate need of residence for the hundreds of oil workers needed to tap this resource. Dickinson is about a two hour drive from from Williston but apparently that is a reasonable commute as every hotel had been sold for months. As we bounced from hotel to motel checking for vacancies, I could feel the naked hatred in the car grow for me as three very tired ladies questioned their decision to A. be my friend b. be my mother in-law or C. be my wife. We finally found a cancellation at the Holiday Inn and I was going to run outside to make sure the accommodations met the approval of all when I met another traveler inbound through the front door. Lisa reported that from her vantage point, I planted my foot, pirouetted on the same foot and went right back inside; which is what I did and immediately took the room.
We awoke with a new appreciation of what Joseph and Mary experienced, I also located a computer to check my email. Paul Maloney had agreed to stay at our house and cat-sit while we were gone. We all have a mutual friend in Adam Tongen who had visited Paul on Monday night while he care took Nelson Estates. Adam had sent me an email that told of a labor day with humor and enthusiasm which was comforting in that it made me know all was well at home. He and Paul had had a little cook-out, did some target shooting and cracked a few cold ones. Adam said the cattle watched he and Paul target shoot and actually seemed to enjoy it. He also said our very shy cat, Laine, had sat and watched Paul as he cooked. Laine avoids everyone, so she must have found something trustworthy in Paul, we did too.
We made it home Thursday morning. We unloaded our treasures and memories and collapsed in the house. Teresa had taken us to see some family ground near Felt, Idaho and scared us by driving near a huge gorge that borders that land. She thinks she is so funny when she can make â€œflatlandersâ€ squirm. She and Jeanette dug some potatoes that day which were part of the treasures we unloaded when we arrived home. Later we baked those Russet’s, dug from good Idaho ground, and thought about our adventures abroad. I felt like the character Woodrow Call from â€œLonesone Doveâ€ when he is asked about his life which brings about a stream of memorable images. I have my good memories too. It was a good trip.