Friday, October 29, 2010

Farm Equipment Fridays: Fertilizer


Last week we fertilized our hay fields and our pasture.  (As with all the farming posts, I use the term “we” loosely.  Mostly, I just took pictures.)

The best way to know exactly what type of fertilizer your ground needs is to check a soil sample for the nutrient balance.  It has been so unbelievably dry in Indiana this summer that it’s too hard to get a good sample.  Soil sampling is done by taking a “core” of dirt – think giant apple corer.  Because it has been so dry, the ground is harder than normal, and it’s not easy to get a good core. 

Soil testing is actually pretty important.  Different crops have different nutritional needs.  While we do know basically what these are, they can vary from year to year based on the growing conditions.  Soil testing allows a farmer to know exactly what nutrients he needs to add to the soil.  This means he’s not paying for something he doesn’t need.  There’s no “extra” nutrition going into the soil that won’t be used by the plants and will end up as run off.  Also, he’s not missing something which will result in poor crop growth next year.

So, this fall, we fertilized based on what grass hay typically takes out of the soil (the nutrients it needs to grow).  Grass takes nutrients out, we put nutrients back in.  Everyone’s happy, especially the cows! 

The fertilizer is in this big bin.  The bin is pulled by a bigger tractor.

We used half the planned amount of fertilizer this fall.  In the spring, we will test the soil, and adjust the spring fertilizer mix based on the nutrients that are already present. 

(Wondering why we didn’t wait until the spring and do it all then?  We grow a “cool weather” grass, which means that it will grow in the late fall and early spring.  In the spring, the fields will be too wet to drive a tractor on, but the grass will already be growing.  All growing things need the right nutrition!  So we gave it a half-dose, and will finish as soon as we can get in the fields in the spring.)

As the tractor drives through the field, the fertilizer is dropped out of the back of the bin, and onto this propeller-type wheel.

We used lime (calcium carbonate) and a mixture of 9% nitrogen, 23% phosphorous, and 30% potassium.  (The other 38% is a carrier to dissolve the nutrients in.)

The lime is important to maintain the pH balance of the soil.  (Remember high school chemistry?)  As crops of any kind grow, they take basic substances out of the soil, and the soil gets acidic over time.  Lime is a base (opposite of an acid), and replaces the bases that are incorporated into the plants, so the next round have some bases to work with.  (This was done the day before the fertilizer, and I missed my photo op.  Don’t worry.  It looked the same.) 

The wheel spins around and around, and flings the fertilizer out behind the tractor.  See the lines of fertilizer that have been flung into the air?

The nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are also important nutrients for crops, but different crops need different amounts.  For example, corn requires a lot of nitrogen for growth, but soybeans actually produce nitrogen and can replenish nitrogen in the soil.  This is why many farmers will rotate soybeans in a field one year, and corn the next.

The cows don’t mind at all.  They just keep on eating. 

This one was actually more interested in me than in the big tractor rolling around her home.

Seriously.  They were more curious about the tractor LEAVING than about it BEING THERE in the first place.  These are some pretty laid-back cows!

Come back next week!  We’re making sweet sorghum molasses!  And there will be more pictures of Buddy the dog

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Next, please!

For those of you that haven’t heard, I finished my PhD last week!  I passed my defense (presentation and oral exam) on Monday, and passed the format check on my thesis on Wednesday.  Finished filling out all the paperwork and collecting all the signatures I needed, and got all that turned in on Thursday last week!  Yesterday I officially turned in all my keys and cards, and now am no longer a grad student at Purdue!  Yay!

John jokes that I can’t have business cards anymore because my name and degrees won’t fit. 

Marybeth Miskovic Feutz, DVM, MS, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM(LA)

Yep, that’s a mouthful all right!!

I am thrilled to be finished…  it was a big push at the end, and I made it!  Everyone keeps asking what my plans are, now that I am done with school.  Where am I going to get a job, what am I going to do for a living…  Really, I have been looking forward to some time off.  I need to relax a bit. 

Actually, I have a few projects that I do want to work on.  Some minor(ish) kitchen redecorating, cleaning (that may or may not have been slightly neglected over the last busy busy six weeks), papers to write from my research to publish, some work on an online project I want to get off the ground in the next few months… 

You know, little things like that.

So, while I would not turn down “gainful employment” if it fell in my lap tomorrow, I am perfectly happy doing some part-time consulting for my family’s veterinary practice and working on my own projects next few months.  Maybe I’ll even start my Alarm Clock War again this week…

Ask me again next year…

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Getting back in the saddle


Have you ever noticed that after you take a break from a routine, it’s hard to get it established again? 

For me, it has been dramatically noticeable with my stinking alarm clock.  Let’s just say that the sneaky snooze button has been overpowering me in the morning.  And getting up early to exercise?  NO WAY.  Absolutely not. 

Blogging is another area I’ve been having a bit of trouble getting back up and running.  I took a break while I was pushing against the deadline to finish my thesis.  The document has been turned into my committee, so that’s a relief, but now I’m working on my presentation for my defense on Monday.  Still busy, but not quite the same level of pressure.  However, I’m still having a hard time getting back into blogging!

Part of it is that I am working on my defense presentation, and trying to catch up on everything that got left behind during the Big Thesis Push of 2010.  Part of it is that I feel like I haven’t left this computer in weeks!  Who wants to hear about the latest research on a couple of proteins?  Who wants to hear about horse lungs?  (Frankly, even I don’t want to hear about it right now.)

Well, have no fear.  Defense on Monday.  Frantic thesis revisions and signature chasing Tuesday and Wednesday morning.  Electronically submit document Wednesday lunch time.  Sleep all Wednesday afternoon.  Back to Purdue on Thursday for deposit appointment and another round of paperwork.

Sleep all day Friday.

Football game Saturday.

Sleep all day Sunday.

And Monday?  Who knows what comes next!

(Of course, this is all assuming that things on Monday go well…  Send me your smart thoughts!)

What things are you having trouble picking back up?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Farm Equipment Friday: Bale spear


Last we left Farm Equipment Friday, the hay was cut, tedded, raked, and baled.  And we learned about some seed signs.  But we had left the hay bales out in the field!  That’s one of my husband’s pet peeves, and we do not do that around this farm.  We pick them all up and carry them inside.  (And by “we,” I mean he does it and I take pictures.)

Lana @ Walking the Off-Beaten Path posted about this a while ago, so check her out too.  She drives the truck and trailer.  I just take pictures.

The fields that I showed you in the previous posts were around our home, so all we needed to do was pick the bales up with the tractor and haul them up the driveway.  This summer, we also baled a hay field that was a few miles away from our home, so we needed to load these on a truck to go the distance.

First, we use the bale spear on the front of the tractor to pick up the round bale. See that really long prong?  That’s the bale spear.
bale spear

And there’s two smaller prongs mounted above the big prong.  These help with stability.
moving round bales 1

Once the bale spear is stuck in the bale, you pick up the arm, and tilt it backwards.  This helps the bale stay in place during transport.
moving round bales 2

This tractor has sort of a fork on the back.
moving round bales 3

We use this to pick up a second bale from the bottom, so we can carry two bales out of the field to the truck at the same time.
moving round bales 4

This cracks me up.  Every time.
moving two round bales

So the bales get gently loaded onto a trailer, and slowly driven down the road back to our barn.  This particular trailer can haul 8 bales at once.
loading round bales on a trailer

Once the hay is back at the house, it gets unloaded.  Basically the same process as picking it up off the ground, just starting at a slightly higher elevation.
unloading round bales from a trailer

Then into the barn…

storing round bales in the barn 1

storing round bales in the barn 2

And onto the stack!
storing round bales in the barn 3

From here, as the cows need it, John takes a bale at a time out to the pasture for the cows.  It’s getting to that time of year when our pasture is not so good anymore, so they are starting to go through hay more quickly now!

Step 1 - Mower/conditioner
Step 2 - Tedder
Step 3 - Rake
Step 4 - Baler
Step 5 - Bale Spear
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