Monday, April 29, 2013

Check Out This Milestone

So you know how I like milestones.  But how much bigger of a milestone is there than this:
Artiness aside, that's blog post number 300!  I hope you have read each and every one.  If not, I'll wait until you catch up.   But for everyone else, despite my gloomy forecast this morning, the sun came out and it turned into a nice day.  And warm too, into the low 70's.  It was a good day for Dan and Tim B to attach orange plot number tags to the orchard wire.  This will serve as a guide for treatment applications, which will start very soon.
Behind the orchard on the North side is where we planted some cover crops after wheat harvest last summer.  One of the cover crops was oilseed radish.  This was the first time we planted them, and I really didn't know what to expect in the spring.  But I was surprised to see that they were all dried up, despite the thick and fleshy form of last fall.  And I had heard that there is often a sulfur smell, but I didn't notice that.  Just powdery radish carcasses.
We also planted some Austrian Winter Peas.  They are also all dried up now as you see below.  There are also some strips with no cover crop.  After two years of soybeans and winter wheat last year, we plan to plant corn here this year.  Our aim is to see if the cover crop would have an effect on corn yield.
It was also dry enough by late afternoon on Farm 7 to plant a no-till oat experiment.  Here we see Tim D making some pre-plant nitrogen applications to the plots.
And then sowing the oats.  (Insert own joke here.)
So we were happy to get some planting started while it is still April.  There is a chance of rain tonight, but if not, we will plant sugarbeets tomorrow.  We will all sleep motionless so as not to accidently do a rain dance.

Could be worse...Could be raining.

So hopes for a full day of drying were dashed again this morning.  I think this is Farm 5....couldn't read the sign. The soil looks pretty wet.  That's because it is. 
Not much different over on Farm 7.
Serenity now...serenity now.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Finally Some Outside Work at the NCRS

So Friday was a pretty nice day for some outdoor activities.  It's still pretty wet for real farm stuff.  But it was a good day to do some final checks on the "Blower".  The Blower you say?  This is our homemade air machine for dry fertilizer (ewww!) application to test plots.  It was built a number of years ago by Doug Summer.  But time takes its toll, and some refurbishing was needed.  A new PTO driven fan and reconfiguration of the hoses was done.  So some calibration adjustments were in order.  Below we see Phil putting some of the application tubes into some containers to catch the output.
Jeff is at the wheel as the fertilizer output is collected over a measured distance. 
Then Phil takes the collections to Stephanie who weighs the amounts applied.  There are different application settings, so an array of calibration information will be used for the desired amounts in the field plots.  They got the settings needed for urea, potash and DAP (18-46-0).  We really like the blower as we used to use hand-cranked grass seeders to spread dry fertilizers on plots.  But this is much better and more accurate.  We are research scientists after all.
Well Brian actually did get into the field on Friday.  Here he is applying bands of fertilizer in the asparagas plots.  This is sandy ground and able to be driven upon.  The application is a little later than normal due to the wet weather.  Some of the asparagas shoots are just starting to push out of the soil.  I do love asparagas.  But it has to be still crisp for me to eat it.  If it is all soggy and mushy, no way will I eat that. 
There was some other activity on Friday as well.  We have had nearly 9 inches of rain in the last 3 weeks.  Normally we are in the field with sugarbeets already planted and going on corn.  We are hopeful for next week.  It was sunny and warm yesterday, but was cloudy and rainy today.  What's that word that I struggle with?  Oh yes, patience.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Field Day Luxury!

So I pulled into the office parking lot this afternoon only to see one of our new people-hauling trailers there.  It is one of seven (I think) that will be used for the RFD's at the NCRS.  For the abbreviation challenged, that's the Research Field Days at the North Central Research Station.  It has always been a challenge to get enough good trailers for all of the people who attend the tours. Especially now that word is out on how good they are.  Well that won't be a problem this year with our new trailers.  They will of course be covered, and wired for sound.  The reclining seats is just a rumor. (Or is it?)
Anyway, there are 7 (that's SEVEN!) RFD events scheduled for this growing season.  Details and dates appear at the website on the Research tab.  Apparently Ashley is worried that she won't get a seat this summer, and has already staked out a prime spot.  She's even picking her favorite stops on the program.  I told you they were comfortable seats.  Come to a Research Field Day and keep her company.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Calendar Says Spring, But....

So we got snow on Friday night.  Saturday morning it completely covered the ground, at least where I live.  I went into town for breakfast and saw these flowers with snow on them.  They were partly protected, but still encountered the white stuff.  What does this picture make you think of?
1. The poor flower, all covered with cold snow.  Oh the humanity!
2. The flower will use it's beauty to defeat the cruel snow, much as good conquers evil.
3. Flower schmower.  Enough with the snow already. It's time to plant! 
Well this isn't such a rare event I guess.  Here is a picture of the NCRS that appeared in this very blog on April 18, 2011.  And to my recollection, every field got planted back then.
So here's where that "patience" word comes in again.  Oh the humanity!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kentucky Trip Aftermath

So aftermath doesn't mean that I've finished my arithmetic homework.  But as I reported last time, I went down to Hopkinsville, KY on Tuesday to help establish some fertilizer research plots on the Security Seed research farm.  Security Seed and Chemical (SSC) is an Area Manager with outlets in Kentucky, Tennesee and Indiana. Last time I indicated that it rained Tuesday night and was hopeful for planting later on Wednesday afternoon.  But alas, it was still wet.  The plot area is in the picture below.  It is to be in no-till, and it was still wet enough that the furrows wouldn't close well and we didn't want to have side-wall compaction, so best to wait.    
Here we see Sales Account Manager Jourdan and SSC Research Director Patrick taking some time to cuss and discuss the situation.  Well there was more cussing as there was heavy rain Thursday.  But I had already headed for Michigan late Wednesday afternoon.  I left the mixing recipes, so it will be in good hands whenever it finally goes in.  Actually, Jourday worked for a time for SSC at this very farm, and lives close by to lend assistance as needed.
But that morning Jourdan and I went and made some farm calls to answer questions about AgroLiquid fertilizers and how to use them.  It was fun.  A little ways East of Hopkinsville by the town of Fairview was this big monument that you could see from the highway.  There was a sign saying it was the Jefferson Davis State Historic site.  So naturally I made Jourdan turn in for a closer look.
Now Jourdan said he had driven by this for years, but had never gone in.  Well that was to change.  My job is to educate. So I found out that this was built in tribute to Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America.  He was born here in 1808.  Prior to the Civil War, he had moved to Mississippi and was involved in politics there, was a US Representative and Senator, and was even the Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce.  And he was selected to be president of the CSA.  After the war he was imprisoned for 2 years and was to be tried for treason, but was let go instead.  He returned to this area on occasion and died in 1889.  Well people thought there should be a monument and started this in 1917, stopping for World War I, and it opened in 1924.  It is 351 feet tall, and is the fourth tallest monument in the US (behind the Gateway Arch, San Jacinto Monument and the Washington Monument).  It is made from poured concrete, not blocks.  There is no steel reinforcement.  As one pour was completed, large chunks of limestone were left projecting up to connect it to the next pour.  So it is still the tallest concrete oblelisk in the world. And probably always will be since it is unlikely that a monument would be built this way now.  So it seems kind of risky to go up to the top of this unreinforced monument.  But there are windows at the top, so the view would be worth the risk.  Jourdan and I wanted to race up the stairs to the top.
Well it was locked up.  We thought maybe it was because it was the lunch hour, but I found out later that it doesn't open until May 1.  And there is an elevator, so no stair race.  I would probably have to be drugged to get into a 1924 elevator, probably really small, and riding to the top of a 351 ft tall unreinforced monument.  But again, the view is probably spectacular.  So I will practice riding elevators until I return.
I drove through rain again from Northern Indiana till I got home late afternoon yesterday.  And it rained most of the night.  Ditches and fields are all flooded around here.  Crazy weather in a lot of places.  But we are advised to be patient.  I should practice that too.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Down to the Bluegrass State

So my fertilizer mission this week took me down to Kentucky for some corn plots.  On Tuesday as I was driving on the Western Kentucky Parkway (I've always wondered why you Drive on a Parkway and Park on a Driveway.  Hmmm.) I saw a sign for the exit to the birthplace of legendary bluegrass musician Bill Monroe.  Well of course I had to stop and see it.  After winding through the country for a few miles, you come to this sign on Hwy 62 near Rosine.  It was around 5:15 in the afternoon.  So I turned in....and it was closed.  But wait, the tourguide who had just closed and locked the gate was still there.  She asked about my being there and I said I was a fan and had hoped to see the place, but would try to come back another time.  Well, bless her heart, she said she would open it back up and take me up to the home place.  So I did.
Here is a sign outside the house with descriptions.  Bill was born here, in a cabin prior to the house, in 1911.  He was the youngest of a family of 8 children.
Here is the outside of the house.  It had fallen into disrepair, but was renovated and re-opened to the public in 2001.  Sadly, Bill passed away in 1996.
Here is a picture of Bill.  He played the mandolin, which as I was told, because his older brothers already played the guitar and fiddle.  The mandolin was less desirable at the time, but I believe it worked out well for him.  I actually saw Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys at a bluegrass festival in Hugo, Oklahoma back in 1970 (I think).  But I still remember that show.  Everyone my age and older should know of the Father of Bluegrass.  Merlene, my tourguide said that bluegrass is taught in area schools to preserve the legacy.  And there is a weekly show on RFD TV called The Cumberland Highlanders that is filmed in the area and often from right here. 
Here is the dining room.  Every other room had beds in it for the large family.
 And me sitting on the porch swing.  On a google search of images, there are lots of pictures of musicians sitting on this swing.  And it is said that the Monroe family would have played here as well.  Probably not on this swing though.
Here is my gracious tourguide Miss Merlene, who said she lived close and didn't mind a bit showing me around.  Now that is true Southern Hospitality.  Thank you very much and I hope you don't mind me using the picture afterall.
So I got back on the Parkway, and wouldn't you know that practically the next exit said there was an Everly Brothers monument in Central City, KY.  So again, I exited.  It was getting to be dusk, and there it was downtown.  Evidently the Everly family once lived in the area, and Don Everly was born near here.  They moved away and Phil was born 2 years later in Chicago, before they moved to Iowa where they were "discovered".  Who doesn't like the Everly Brothers?  So I said Bye-Bye Love, and back to the Parkway I went, finally getting to Hopkinsville that night.
I thought I would show the front page of our newspaper on Monday.  It was cool that they put an article about corn on the front page, but I imagine that most everyone who reads it is excited that there will be lots of sweet corn grown for us to eat this summer.  Or so says the picture. 
Look at the weather forecast for the upcoming week in Mid-Michigan.  Rain every day, and it was the same last week getting nearly 5 inches at the NCRS.  We sure would like to be planting sugarbeets and oats now.
And the rain followed me to Kentucky.  There was a thunderstorm last night that put us off until this afternoon, I hope.  But it did give me time to update the blog to this point anyway.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pre-Season Prep Work

So working at the NCRS isn't all fun and games.  As it gets close to full time field work, safety to ourselves and equipment is important.  If you make safety training a regular activity, you should keep it on your brain better than if you only do it once, or never.  The NCRS has brief weekly Friday afternoon safety presentations and discussion all through the winter.  Everyone gets a subject to take their turn to lead the discussion.  When I have ventured out to the farm for these sessions, they appear to be quite effective and taken seriously.  Below Stephanie covers Spring Reminders.  Safety seems to make Dan hungry as he eats his lupper during the meeting.
Everyone here operates tractors and other equipment on a regular basis. Robb addresses the group on routine tractor maintenance. You know, the things you should check, but may not always do it.  That way we won't have to be calling him when something does break from neglect.
Just about everyone here uses the Apex software on the Greenstar GPS guidance and operation recording system.  Tim gives a review of procedures and updates on the monitor there.  There are always updates.  I really don't do much of this anymore, being from the pen and paper recording days. 
Well surprise, surprise.  I get to go on another fertilizer mission tomorrow.  Make sure you check back for the exciting details.  Right here at your reliable research blog.  And remember, as Sgt. Esterhaus used to say: "Hey, let's be careful out there!"

Friday, April 12, 2013

Famous Potato-Land

So on Monday my fertilizer mission took me to Spokane, WA to meet with a contract researcher on some plotwork in that area.  Cal from Area Manager Ag Enterprise and Sales Account Mgr (SAM) Jeff were there too.  Unfortunately there was no action other than sitting around a table, so sadly, no pictures.  But there should be when I return this summer.  Tuesday I went to Twin Falls, ID and was met by AgroLiquid Field Agronomist Alan and SAM Bruce.  We went to visit with a contract researcher in near-by Rupert to go over our proposed plotwork.  There will be some potato and sugarbeet plots somewhere around here.
Then we went up the road to the Northeast near Rexburg to see a spring wheat grower trial with AgroLiquid. This field was planted several days ago, and there is a flag divider out there that is hard to see.  But you should be able to see the Liquid advantage from here.  Pretty cool to see mountains from your field.
On Wednesday morning we were going to go visit some actual spring wheat planting going on with Liquid, but it was so cold that the ground was partially frozen and didn't work up well.  So we put that off until the afternoon.  But it gave Alan and Bruce a chance to show me around the area where they both live.  Right close to Alan's house outside of Rexburg is a big stretch of sand dunes.  It's nearly 30 miles long and has some pretty tall hills that are popular for running sand vehicles of all types.  There are also volcanic rock outcrops and cinder hills like this one.  Pretty cool place.
To the East towards the Wyoming line is where most of the state's seed potatoes are grown.  These are fertile fields with deep soil, but a short growing season.  Here is a view of the Teton Mountains from such a field.
A little more to the East.  These fields won't be planted anytime soon.
We stopped by a seed farm where they were unloading stored seed potatoes for distribution to growers.  Probably not everyone knows that you don't just plant left over potatoes for the crop, but specially grown seed stock.  I was amazed at how tall and deep the pile was in this potato cellar, as they are called.  They had a mobile conveyor.  Bruce and Alan observe, keeping hands in pockets to avoid contamination.  Of the potatoes.
Here is the conveyor bringing the potatoes out for sorting. 
The conveyor takes them up to a sorter.  Some of the smaller ones fall through some rollers and are loaded onto the truck at the right.  These are the valuable ones that are of a size that can be planted as they are.  Larger ones that don't fall through the rollers will have to be cut to size for planting.  And the real small ones fall out the bottom and are put into a cull truck, along with ones that that are bad that are picked out by workers on that sorter ahead.  They were plenty busy and trucks were coming in and out to get loaded up.  Potato planting will be very soon.

We drove by the Spud Drive-In movie theater in Driggs, Idaho.  It has been there since 1953.  Notice on the insert picture that they are trying to Save The Spud, as they now need a digital projector since most movies are no longer on film.  So go to the website and buy a T-shirt or something.  I hate to imagine a world with no Spud!
By this time we were close to the Wyoming border and Jackson.  So we went up and over the Teton Pass.  It's 8432 feet elevation at the top.  The area ski resorts are closed by now.  But at the top of the pass there were people carrying skis and snowboards. It was pretty cold, in the 30's. Evidently if you are young and in great shape you can climb to the top of this mountain and ski down the side and through a narrow chute to the road.  Those very tiny dots at the top are people on skis.  Climbing through snow and carrying skis at that elevation?  I'll wait for the movie.
If you have ever been to Jackson, Wyoming, you have no doubt seen the four elk antler arches at the corners of the town square.  Pretty impressive.  There is a winter refuge area for elk nearby.
After lunch on the way back we stopped at the site of the Teton Dam collapse just East of Rexburg.  I had vague recollection of such an event, but anyone who was here when it happened on June 5, 1976 can remember it well, including Alan and Bruce.  The project was started in 1972 to create a reservoir on the Teton River for flood control, irrigation, power generationa and recreation.  It was an earthen dam, that in retrospect, should never have been built.  There were lots of problems with the site and buiilding material.  It was finished in fall of 1975 and was 305 feet high and 3200 feet across.  Just prior to the collapse, there were wet spots that turned into leaks and finally disaster.  It released 300,000 acre-feet of water and took 5 hours to drain.  It flooded a number of small towns and also Rexburg, killing 11 people.  It was never re-built.  And as an article said: "Nature Bats Last."
When we got to where they were using Liquid on spring wheat, there was a flag at the split.  Again, even though just planted, the difference is so obvious. 
Here they are still planting, and have quite a ways yet to go.  I liked their sytem of working the ground and seed-bed preparaton in front of the drill.  It is with a Parma Rollaharrow.  It has front and rear packer rollers with 4 rows of S-Tines in between.  It's made in Parma, ID.  I had not see one before, but I like it.
Well my time in Idaho was drawing to a close.  Bruce and Alan are either being really friendly, or are glad to see me go.
When I was coming home Thursday morning, the pilot of my connecting flight in Salt Lake City said that we had to sit for a little while to allow the blizzard to move through Minneapolis.  What???  Blizzard???  On April 11???  When I changed planes at MSP, there was at least 6 inchees of snow on the ground.  The snow pushers were working like crazy to get it all cleared away.  This runway was closed while they were working.
Crazy weather.  I say that every year.  Completely the opposite of last year.  It rained every day at the NCRS while I was gone, and there are flooded fields everywhere.  Wish we could spread it around to those that need it.  Anyway, if you have made it this far, thanks for your attention, and I look forward to my return later this growing season to provide a progress report.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Time Goes Too Fast For Me. Part Deux

So again, my impeccable record keeping tells me that exactly one year ago today was the official groundbreaking for the new office for Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers.  And how fast that year has passed.  (After the groundbreaking, it was decided to locate the building somewhere other than the front lawn of the current office.)
Here is a picture taken looking to the South where the building would go.  This was taken last April 11.
And here is that same view now.  OK, it will probably look much better when the building is done. 
As far as my fertilizer mission report, that will be out tomorrow.  And it will be really exciting.