Category Archives: spring

I Wish I Was A Cow…Or A Cat!

Can you see them?

What about now?

This is how our two calves spend their days. They aren’t real interested in eating their corn or picking at the hay. They don’t even go wild for the lush green grass like I expected. They mostly lounge around the pasture and sleep in the sun. It is a beautiful sight, and I’m jealous.

We don’t have any set plans for the weekend yet. We may head up to the beach tomorrow and get Brian’s Mom’s camper settled in to her lot for the summer. I can hardly wait to get back to the farmer’s market in Port Austin. It is the best one around by far, especially on holiday weekends. Then we have a lot of work to do around home, as usual.

What are your plans for this weekend? Is the weather supposed to be nice? I’d love to hear about it.

P.S. This just in…he’s trying to help me type with his back feet I guess.


Planting the Big Fields

Brian planted 40 acres of corn at the end of last week. Sunday we planted 25 or 30 acres of soybeans. Brian helps our neighbor farm in exchange for use of some his equipment.

The planter he’s using in these pictures is a “no-till drill”. It actually cuts a path and sticks the seeds in the ground without the field being plowed up every year. Last year we had corn in this field, this year we drilled the soybeans right in. The conservation district in our county even owns a drill that can be rented out. No-till farming is easier on the environment. The fields are not as susceptible to erosion. Plus, the practice saves quite a bit of fuel and time, thus reducing our expenses.

Planting can be a one man job most of the time. The picture above shows the bins that hold the seed. Ideally we would have just enough seed to plant the field without too much extra to clean out at the ends. As we near the end of planting I stay on the planter and watch the seed level. One person, or even two, can stay pretty busy shuffling seed from one bin to another.

I didn’t have to work too hard. We had quite a bit of seed left. There wasn’t much planting to do this year since our other fields are already growing wheat and hay. It’ll be nice to see these fields turning green again as well.

Fruit Trees!

My order from the Conservation District came in on Friday. I took advantage of the 70 degree temps (!!!) yesterday and planted them. I put them on our sideyard near the one pear tree I planted last year. Now we have 1 pear, 1 peach, 1 cherry, and 2 apple trees there. I still need to add another pear and another peach.

I also got in touch with a neighbor who graciously came and showed me how to prune our older trees. We take care of the empty house across the road and there are a few apple trees in the yard. I picked a lot of apple from the trees last year and wanted to prune them back nicely. I didn’t do a lot because it is quite late for pruning but at least now I have a better idea on how to do it.

My nice neighbor gave me a recipe for tree spray and recommended I use it repeatedly throughout the season. He insists that he tried organic methods with his and was not happy with the results. What are you thoughts on this? I hate the idea of spraying them but it did make for a lot of extra labor last year trying to cut around the buggy spots.


Planting Onions!

This should by no means be taken as a tutorial since I am planting onions this year for the very first time. I wasn’t even going to post about it until I saw that little paper bag sitting next to the freshly planted row and thought what a cute picture that would make.

We don’t eat many onions, just a few in casseroles and such, so I probably didn’t need to plant any. Our good friend Rob shared some of his last year and is growing plenty again this year. These ones just caught my eye in line at the feed store so I picked up a couple bags. I figure it can’t hurt to learn a new skill.

The paper that came with the onion sets had decent directions: plant 2-3″ apart just deep enough to cover the tops in rows 12″ apart. Thin later to 4″ apart, then harvest in July or August when tops dry and fall over. I pretty much followed the directions except went about 4″ apart right from the start. I’ve never been one to “thin” plants out, I just can’t bring myself to pull up the little buggers just when they get going.

While out in the garden I also cut away the old asparagus stalks from last year and trimmed back some of the old strawberries too. My favorite part of last summer was spending a few hours in the garden each morning before work. It has been so nice to be out there again the last few days.

I was thrilled that today was nice enough to plant without getting hypothermia. I put in one row of lettuce and one row of sugar peas on Monday and thought my fingers were going to fall off. Only in Michigan do you have to hoe through the snow to get your seeds in at a decent time.

Have you ever grown onions? Did you start with sets or seeds? I tried seeds indoors last year but none of the seeds I started then did any good. What are you planting? Are you getting back in to a routine that includes garden “chores”?

Spring has sprung – here!!!

I’ve been watching jealously as one by one my fellow bloggers have posted pictures of their first spring shoots. Now I can finally join in the fun!!

Farm mom inspired me to plant garlic for the first time last fall. I have not yet removed the thick layer of straw that covered the planted cloves all winter. Today I went out to inspect the patch and guess what – the garlic is already growing even through all that mulch! I still didn’t remove it but I pulled back a good section and found several sturdy looking sprouts. How exciting!

Then I wandered over to my strawberries. I planted them last spring in a big metal pot that we found when we tore out the bushes around our house. I neglectfully forgot to mulch them over the winter so was prepared to find them dead this spring. They are more durable than I expected. I found several fresh green plants making their start already. Mmmm, I can’t wait for that first batch of jam.

I planted two pear trees last spring as well. One tree didn’t even live through the summer but the other is doing well. Check out the little tips already growing this spring.

I am so excited now and all fired up for spring. Last year my Mom and I went to our favorite nursery on Mother’s Day. I’m hoping we can make that a tradition and find some great new plants this year. What are looking forward to this spring? How did your plants come through the winter?

My Take On Forward Contracting

This is a little more technical than most of my posts and refers to grain farming. Not sure how many readers raise grain but this is something I learned about that I’d like to share.

So basically, we grow the corn, we take it to the elevator, and then we either sell it right away (if prices are good) or we start to incur storage costs on it and don’t sell it until prices come back up. Supposedly, this is the first year in the last 10 where a farmer didn’t make money by storing grain until after the 1st of the year. Of course that would happen during our first harvest year, why not!?

So since we are beginning field work and need $$$ to buy fertilizer and seed, we really need the money from last year’s corn. Plus, we don’t want to pay to store it much longer. However, prices are still low enough that I’m not convinced they will even cover the cost of growing that corn. So, there is another option available: forward contracting. Basically, we sell the corn today and a check is mailed to us. The check is for the current price ($3.42/bushel) times the # of bushels we have minus any unpaid storage AND minus, in our case, $0.37/bu for this forward contracting option. This storage costs will stop the day we sell. The $0.37 gives us the option to “sell” again in the next 3 months in order to benefit if prices go up.

Say in June prices go up to $4.00. We could “sell” then and get a check for the extra $0.58 x # of bu. We can only do that once and then our “contract” is done. I think. The downside is that if prices don’t go up we would actually lose money. If prices go up $0.37 we would get back what it cost us to have the option but would come out the same as if we had sold outright at today’s current prices.

Is this understandable? I know it is a confusing topic, so I thought I’d share what I know. Maybe someone will Google it and find this post. Do you see what crop farming makes me batty!? I hate gambling, and that is what we do in this line of work.

I Started My Seeds!

I’m not exactly sure if this was the right time to do it, but I did it. The weather will never be exactly right in Michigan anyway. Here’s what I started on Sunday:

Snapdragons – 9 cells
Baby Dolls – 9 cells
Ping Tung eggplant – 9 cells
Long Purple eggplant – 9 cells
Amish Paste tomatoes – 36 cells

I used equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite as a starting mixture. The plastic cells and trays are being reused from last year.

I’ll be starting another batch of tomatoes in a few weeks as well as some other flowers, my herbs, broccoli, and some others I’ve forgotten. Right now I have the tray down by our corn burner to stay warm. This next goal is to get Brian to hang up my new lights so the seedlings can go under there once they sprout. It feels like spring it finally here!