About that drought…

July 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The last time I wrote here, I was complaining about the dry weather that we were looking at. How we had gotten about a half inch of rain for the last four weeks, and we really, really needed moisture to save the corn crop from the sweltering heat.

Well, we got a lot of heat. It was into the high 90s for several days. Rain didn’t materialize when forecasted, and we were getting ready to pack it in as far as corn yield was concerned. And then…it rained. And it rained. And it rained more. In the last six days, I’ve had around 10 inches of rain in my gauge at home. We’ve gone from being bone dry, to worried about flooding. My parents have lost some acres in the low ground they farm to ponding. We’re getting ready to spray fungicide on soybeans, and more of it will have to be done with the helicopter than we had planned. Some fields just aren’t going to dry out, and there’s more rain in the forecast over the coming week.

It’s amazing how fast things can turn in farming, when you’re dependent on the weather for your livelihood. We still lost some of the top end out of the corn yield; it suffered in that heat for about a week while trying to pollinate. But we’ll have a decent crop, now. I have a lot of hope for soybeans, they could really be fantastic with this late season moisture.

How’re things around the country?

Categories: Agriculture, Weather

Corn Status

July 19, 2011 1 comment

We’re somewhere around the midway mark for the 2011 growing season. Every season has challenges, and this one has been no different. Unlike last year, we did not get the crop planted very early in this area. Most of the month of April was lost to excessive rain, and we had a lot of stop and go in May. After a stretch of good weather towards the end of the month, we did finally get everything planted. The month of June was pretty good growing weather, and aside from some concerns about a lack of rainfall in July, I was really pleased with the way the crop was developing. Until about 8am on July 11.

We had a very large derecho blow through the area with straight line winds upwards of 70mph. A lot of corn fields experience some degree of root lodging. In the field above, the rows of the non-Bt refuge corn was severely lodged, while the rows of corn that contained Bt genes for corn rootworm resistance remained mostly upright. I don’t think this issue was as much to do with the lack of rootworm resistance as it was simply due to a difference in hybrids; the hybrid being used for refuge in this field is known for being a little weak in the roots, and susceptible to root lodging.

Root lodging

What was of greater concern to me was the amount of greensnap I found in some fields.

When corn greensnaps like this, it doesn’t grow back. This will be a dead plant. Sometimes, the stalk will bend over and pinch itself off; plants like this will also usually die. If you have 10% greensnap in a field, you have 10% less yield. Some fields in the area had spots of 30% greensnap. Not good; when these same fields looked amazing just before the storm…there was some really high yield potential in this area. Not as much, anymore.

Remember my concern about lack of rainfall? This huge storm that blew through left us a quarter inch of rain or less. An insult. That’s about the sum total of the rainfall I’ve had in July. The corn here is now tasselling, the temperature is 95 degrees, and we haven’t had any significant rainfall in a month. Corn trying to pollinate under severe heat and moisture stress is not a good thing. Overnight temperatures in the 80s are also not good for corn; it needs a chance to breathe at night. Pollination while being blowtorched by this week of 90 degree temperatures will reduce yields further.

There’s still the potential for a decent, if not spectacular crop, but we really need a rain this week. It’s a typical farmer thing: we complain about too much rain in the spring, and then turn right around and bitch about lack of rain in the summer.

Categories: Agriculture, Weather Tags: , ,

Racin’

July 17, 2011 3 comments

When I moved to Iowa in 2005, I landed in Knoxville, a small town about 40 miles south east of Des Moines. What I didn’t know until I arrived is that Knoxville is the Sprint Car Capital of the world. The Knoxville Raceway is home to the Knoxville Nationals, a week-long (more if you count the 360 Nationals the weekend before) racing event that draws fans, cars, and drivers from all over the world. Okay, mostly the U.S. and a strong Australian and New Zealand contingent. I had never seen dirt track racing until moving to Iowa, so this was a new experience. I did not turn into a die hard fan, but I went to a few races a year, often with some of my coworkers who were completely obsessed fans (one had moved to Knoxville because of the track, and looked for a job after he moved). I learned about slidejobs, why the fans always booed Danny Lasoski, and just how important the track was to Knoxville’s economy. When the town population goes from 7,000 to several tens of thousands for a week, that’s a pretty big deal.

I left Iowa for Illinois in late 2008, so it’s been nearly three years since I’ve been to a race. I finally fixed that last Saturday night, meeting my friend Beth at Wilmot Raceway for a night of mostly midget racing. Now, my dirt track racing experience has all been at Knoxville, which, as far as dirt tracks go, is a Big Deal. The local county fair race track up in Wilmot? Maybe not so much. So, for the first hour I was there, I got to watch this thing go round and round and round, trying to work the track into shape.

Eventually, they got the dirt under control, and cars came onto the track for warmup laps.

No, the tractor wasn't racing.

And we finally started racing.

There's a racing explanation for that visor tag, I'm sure.

Emergency response to a flipped car, no injuries.

I had my camera with me, obviously, with the 45-200 zoom lens. But the Panasonic G2 I have isn’t known for having great low-light performance or very fast autofocusing. And I was trying to shoot fast-moving race cars at night, under artificial light. So, the pictures are what they are. I had to get some shots of the pace car, though. Beth swears it’s an old Subaru BRAT, and when she was at the track a month ago watching sprint cars (bigger, faster cousins of the midgets we saw last night, and the type of cars I’m most familiar with), it nearly caused a pileup as it couldn’t stay ahead of the sprints.

We finished up sometime after 12:30, and I was tired enough by that point to skip a post-race bar visit, and just come home and crash. Well, maybe talking about crashing isn’t the best thing to do in a post about racing…In any case, I had a good time, and am looking forward to seeing sprints on this track at some point in the future, perhaps in August during the Kenosha County Fair.

View more photos at my Flickr account over here.

Sunday Scenes

June 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Quiet for months, I know, I know. Blogging < crazy planting season. Bear with me. Until then, some scenes from my Sunday.

Good Morning!

Mixing Loads

Valve

My interesting choice of reading material for the day

At the end of the day, this robin in the tree above my house.

Send Bureaucrats, Bicycles, and Beer

April 20, 2011 1 comment

I took a half day off of work, yesterday, as I didn’t feel like sitting in the office staring at the rain all day. I had things to do that I had been putting off for a couple of weeks. Jenne was up in Milwaukee, attending her mother’s retirement luncheon (I remain shocked that she’s actually, finally retiring), so it was just me for the afternoon.

After a leisurely lunch at home, first stop for the afternoon was the McHenry County Clerk’s office. After three years, I’m still used to Marion County, Iowa, where all the government offices you needed were in the small courthouse in the center of Knoxville. In McHenry County, the Clerk’s office is NOT in the County Government Building, with the imposing security guards and metal detectors, but rather in the County Administration Building, which is down the street and around the corner. Once I found the office, the Clerk herself signed my business license paperwork, I handed over the $5 fee, and was given more paperwork in return. One of those pieces of paper was a public notice which has to be run in a local newspaper for three weeks. This led me to the Woodstock Independant, where I put down an $85 (urrk) fee for the three week run. At least they mail the Clerk’s office confirmation for me. Sometime next month, I’ll get an official business license from the county for Maple Avenue Preserves.

Speaking of the jam business, we’re still taking tiny steps forward with it. We’ve looked at two kitchens, both of which turned out to be unsuitable for different reasons, despite willingness by the owners to rent to us. We have a couple more possibilities I need to follow up on this week. This remains our largest hurdle right now. Second largest hurdle will be county and state Health Department permits, but I can’t do those until I have a space to permit. I have some domain names purchased and I’m squatting on a Twitter name, but there’s nothing there, so no point in linking them, yet. Jenne’s working on some logo and label designs, and still playing with recipes. Not sure if we’ll be operating by strawberry season, but there’s still time.

After the newspaper, I hit Outdoor Recreation to pick up a bike helmet. Yes, I’ve been riding without a helmet. Now I’ll ride with a helmet, despite my grumblings. The owner of the bike shop apparently has one of those memories for faces, he remembered me and what bike I bought as soon as I walked in. I like him, and his store. I walked out with a reasonably-priced bike helmet ten minutes later.

According to my DailyMile profile, I’ve ridden 116 miles on the bike already. I can do a 12 mile ride without feeling too wiped out; my longest so far is about 14 miles. On a good day without nasty headwinds, I could probably do over 20 with some effort. I’m no speed demon; a 14mph average speed is pretty good for me, and I stop three or four times over the 12 miles to catch my breath.  But it’s fun, I feel good (if a bit wobbly-kneed) after rides, and between the biking and the elliptical workouts over the past few months, I’m actually losing weight. I started the year somewhere around 190 (didn’t actually have a scale until late February, when I weighed in at 185), and I’m down to 180, now. My pants are fitting looser, and I’m down to the last notch on my belt.

So I can say I’m pretty pleased with my bike purchase. Now if I can just keep up some semblance of weekly riding when I’m working my busy spring schedule…I may actually start biking to and from work a few days a week. That’ll amuse my coworkers. If the weather clears up this weekend, I will probably try for a 20 mile ride to prove to myself that I can do it.

After the bicycle store, it was a quick set of three more stops. Armanetti Liquors’ new store to get a couple packs  of beer (yeah, I still buy some despite homebrewing)–Great Lakes Brewing’s Doppelrock, and Tyranena’s Headless Man Amber Alt. Starbucks in downtown for a latte; I had intended to sit down and read the copy of the Independent I had picked up, but it was pretty busy, and had even worse seating arrangements than the location in McHenry I usually end up at. Finally, Jewel for a couple grocery items. I got home a little after 5pm, just in time to meet Jenne as she got back from Milwaukee.

A fun and productive afternoon off, despite 33 degree temperatures and rain. The day was capped off by a surprising Blackhawks victory over the Canucks. I’ll take it!

Categories: Personal Tags: ,

Progress Report

April 19, 2011 Leave a comment

There really is no progress to report, as far as planting is concerned. We had a good run on fertilizer last week; we’re about halfway through anhydrous ammonia applications, and I’m down to less than 1,000 acres of dry fertilizer to spread. That came to a halt on Friday; it was too windy to spread fertilizer, and by 3pm it was raining. It hasn’t really stopped raining for very long since then, and yesterday morning I woke up to a scary site for April 18th:

A little over 2 inches of wet, heavy, sloppy snow. It was all melted by afternoon. As I write this morning, it is just above freezing, and it is once again raining. Not very nice late April weather, and certainly not conducive to corn planting. The state of Illinois is apparently 9% planted, but in the two or three counties I deal with in northern Illinois, I’d estimate 0-1%. Last year we were probably 30%. Big difference. April is usually my busiest month, but  it looks like May is going to take the prize this year as we continue to push planting further back.

Quick Update

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

We mostly missed the weekend rain that was forecasted for the northern Illinois region, and as a result, we’ve been busy since Monday. There has been a tremendous amount of field work going on in the area, as well as a lot of fertilizer going out the door. We’ve spread a thousand acres or so since Monday, and have perhaps 1400 to go, a very doable number. Anhydrous ammonia has been flying out the door so fast that it has been hard to get transport semis in here on a timely basis to keep the storage tanks full. At the moment, the storage is completely empty, there are eight tank wagons waiting to be filled, and we have just five full ones on the property for customers. It’s going to be an interesting morning tomorrow; but I’m hoping at least a couple of the five loads I’m currently waiting on show up overnight.

Rain is in the forecast again for the end of this week, but right now it looks like we’ll get another full day of work tomorrow, and possibly part of Friday, as well. We’re at the point now where I would actually welcome a (short) rain delay; the first week of hard running at a fertilizer plant always identifies things broken that we missed during March prep, and we’re waiting for two critical pieces of machinery to show up that have been repeatedly delayed (a new RoGator 1194 sprayer, and a rebuilt trailer to tend the sprayer). Rain Friday night would give us Saturday to make some critical fixes, and a Sunday to recuperate from the long days we’ve been pulling this week.

With that, I’m going to finish making tomorrow’s Plan for the application crews, and get set to watch some Blackhawks playoff action. Go Hawks!

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