Friday, January 17, 2020

Changes: A Last Kiss Goodbye

My wife of 26 years passed away on December 27,2019. Leaving me to raise three teenage kids, two of which are special needs on the autism spectrum. I wrote this on January 1,2020 the day after the service. At the time it was very therapeutic to write, but too painful to share until now.

A Last Kiss goodbye

Watching the slide show of my sweetheart that the lord called home last week. All I longed to do was give her a last kiss goodbye. 

I had a habit that sometimes drove her crazy, but I couldn’t leave the house without giving kissing her goodbye. If I got distracted or something I always had to kiss her again as I left. I always felt a goodbye kiss didn’t count unless one of us was in the process of leaving the house, the other kiss was just a bonus.

After she had passed when my family was standing at the door of the hospital debating on who was riding home with who I had to go back down the hall to the room where my Sandy’s body was in and give her one last kiss through the sheet covering her face.  Even though I had kissed goodbye a few minutes earlier through the sheet with the delay I was drawn back to her for a final kiss goodbye and to tell her once again that I loved her. I walked out to my brothers pickup and he drove me home where I started my expanded role of a parent and transferred many contacts and calendar from her phone to mine.

Against my wishes, but following her wishes she was cremated. I feel cheated from not being able to kiss her goodbye a final time. Even if it was just a kiss passed from my lips to my fingers to her lips.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Times past

I found this picture on Pinterest last summer while looking for pictures of similar model Frieghtliner semi trucks. Photographer is unknown.

     When I first found the photo and enlarged it to where G&G Trucking on the truck and G&G Hogs on the trailer were visible many memories came rushing back to me. G&G hogs was a local company that bought hogs at their headquarters along with buying them out of area livestock auctions/sale barns for slaughter.  While G&G trucking handled the transportation.
     My family like many other farms raised hogs on there family farm. Before my memory my parents had sows and raised pigs from birth to slaughter weight. When I was older they bought feeder pigs, 50 to 60 pound pigs to feed to market weight. 
     In the mid 70’s to the early 80’s it seemed like there was a pig on every open piece of land that we could find. We had hog lots by the shop, across the road from the shop, and at a couple of old farmsteads down the road.  In addition to dirt lots there was a hog barn across the road from the shop that could house about 300 head of hogs and we rented a another building next to town the would have held just as many. 
     Raising hogs on dirt is a pretty low cost endeavor. Dad and granddad had built shelters for them with a pipe frame that could be dragged around, some wire panels pens, electric fence, recycled lumber was used to build platforms for the water tanks and feeders.  Raising them inside did cost a little more due to the capital investment in the buildings. The building at home was completely open on the south side so it was a summer only feeding use. The building rented next to town was fully enclosed so it could be used year round.
     When the pigs first arrived for the dirt lots they were in pens with the wire panels and as they grew older they were introduced to electric fence and later their pens were expanded with electric fence. Feeding pigs outside usually resulted to slower weight gain, but was offset by the lower costs.  Pigs fed inside were kept in pens they were permanently assigned had a portion of the floor slatted so waste could run into a pit underneath and them applied on farmland, nipple waters, and  small feeders on the concrete floors that were supplied by bulk bins outside the buildings. 
     The local elevator mixed the feed to our specifications and delivered it to the the feeders for the outside pigs and the bulk bins for the inside pigs.  We supplied the grain sorghum for the energy portion of the feed, mineral vitamins  and and most likely soybean meal was added for protein.  We used grain sorghum because the feed value is 90+% of corn, but priced much lower so using it significantly added value to the crop raised on the farm.  The few times wheat prices were low enough justify feeding, feed rations were altered to included wheat. 
     Some pigs were sourced locally while others came from further west such as the Great Bend, Kansas area.  We built a good relationship with pig suppliers and even when markets were down we kept buying pigs from them knowing markets would turn around they would all make money again.  In those times weak livestock market generally were times of strong grain markets so it might be a wash at the end of the year.
     There were so many places that we marketed hogs at. I remember riding with dad to a buying station north of Clay Center, Kansas, a buying station is a place where farmers sold pigs directly to a packing company and they shipped semi loads to the packing plant.  On many Thursday’s  we had either the gooseneck livestock trailer or a grain truck loaded with market hogs to go to JC Livestock in Junction City, in the 80’s the place with hopping on thursday’s with pigs and Saturday’s with cattle, everyone in the area used them even though it was further than other sale barns this was where the most competitive prices were. Many mornings we hauled them to Pork Packers in Downs Kansas, dad commented that if the market prediction were for lower prices that day there was quite a line of trucks and trailers to unload before 9am and if the prices were expected to increase that day then the line might be at the  gas station waiting to go to the packing house after 9am. We used Gehrke’s, G&G hogs, quite a bit also they were 10 miles away and we either didn’t have time to for the longer hauls or it was a money losing time when where they would buy lighter hogs with less discounts.
     We played with feeding pigs a few times in the later 80’s and 90’s doing the Farmland grids through their buying station in Linn Kansas which worked quite well if pigs could be sourced that would meet the premiums offered. The writing was on the wall that high profit margin times were past and large producers comfortable making lower profit margins while maintaining family living were the way to go. This quickly gave way to packer control hogs after the price crash in the late 90’s that has resulted in 7 year financing of new hog buildings with 5 year contracts and all the feed coming off of company feed trucks. Only advantage farmers might have is access to manure and another market to stabilize feed grain prices, but many times the feed mill is located on rail lines that are able to bring low priced grain in from the central corn belt at a reduced costs. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

First year cover crop experience

Way back in September 2017 we tried some cover crops on fields that were scheduled to be planted to either corn or grain sorghum. On some fields we planted a blend of rye, triticale, winter barley, turnips, radishes and a rapeseed with intentions of grazing cattle on it in the fall. We also had some fields with rye. Normally grain sorghum is planted in early June in fields that had wheat harvested off of them the end of the previous June. We try to rotate sunflowers through between wheat and corn/grain sorghum every 8 years so.

This field was the grazing blend that wasn’t grazed due to dry weather the prevented proper fall growth. I had switched from a yellow variety to a red sorghum variety. The weed control has been very good here. The rain and weather aligned with sorghum needs very well and it’s tough crop that is still suited for poor hill ground compared to corn.

We had the same grazing blend here that was grazed. It was only grazed for about 3 weeks because it was dry and didn’t grow as expected. I also planted the covers about a notch shallower than I normally plant wheat I didn’t want to bury the radishes and turnips. I think I would have been better at the deeper seed depth. We have a little more weed pressure, not bad and the favorable weather we can grow good sorghum and weeds.

For comparison this sorghum was planted into wheat stubble that had double crop sunflowers last year, the sunflowers had done very good last year. We like the sunflowers as a double crop for many reasons. We can plant them as late as July 20th and make a crop, they are harvested high off the ground so our wheat stubble remains in tact on the field. Finally the tap root goes deep in the soil and extracts nutrients other crops can’t reach, the deep roots serve as a pathway for following crops to root deeper. It seems crops following for the next 3 or 4 years just do a little better. We have an irrigated field that has had a corn, soybean, wheat and double crop sunflower rotation for years. I’d love to have a soil pit on it some time, I imagine there is black streaks several feet deep  every few inches.

The corn is already harvested where we we have had cover crops. Very good weed suppression and it still has a nice mat of residue on the ground from both the wheat stubble and rye. The corn yields weren’t great due to hot dry weather at pollination. One field has been seeded back to wheat. The other field some of the corn was chopped for silage in early august and the rest was harvested for grain mid September. It has been seeded back to rye and planning to put soybeans on it next spring.

The cereals were sprayed out when they reached the boot stage so we shouldn’t have a problem with making seed and future plants becoming weeds. The plants were at max growth in regards to size and weren’t using nutrients and soil water to make seed yet.

We were a little leary of planting sorghum on the covers because there are little effective herbicide options for weed control after the crop starts growing and unsure of how well our normal pre plant residual herbicides would be with all the residue. We decided to use the pre plant due to thin places in the cover crops to prevent an explosion of weeds there. Corn is a better option because of better herbicide options even for non GMO varieties.

Here is a field planted to rye. It might get grazed later this fall if things work out for us to we used a basic stater fertilizer to help maintain the phosphorus level in the soil. There is another field, the dry land portion of the irrigatated corn, soybean, wheat, double crop sunflower field that has some rye on part of it. It will be interesting to see how and if soybeans respond to the rye cover crop. 

In the future I might experiment with winter legumes such as winter peas and chickling vertch on fields destined for corn or grain sorghum, I don’t think we will have the ground cover we have with cereal crops hindering soil water holding. A mix of them with cereal and turnips might work well. Another consideration is neighboring wheat fields, volunteer wheat can harbor mosaic and cause problems. If we know there is a will be a wheat field next to it, even across the road we plant later after controlling the volunteer wheat. Later planting limits the cover crop choices.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Erosion control

Many of our fields are on hills and have terraces to help prevent soil erosion from water runoff. The terraces are ridges that have been built in the field that to slow and redirect the water. The water moves to grass covered drainage ditches. It’s hard for me to explain but this past fall we had a very heavy rain event and I had the opportunity to take a group of pictures of terraces and waterways in use. This field had two years of wheat and is in currently in a rye cover crop so it was near maximum soil erosion protection. This part of this field might be rotated to corn for silage next year or soybeans due to more choices to control weeds after the crop starts growing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Grazing cover crops

There has been quite a bit of discussion about cover crops and dual purpose cover/forage crops for the past few years. Some of the seed blends can get quite costly, I've seen quotes as high as $60 an acre for some seed mixes, this was the price of seed wheat during the height of the high grain price cycle.

Since I still had sunflower seed in the planter boxes  I added some grain sorghum, corn, soybeans, and some more sunflower seed that was in the left over seed pile in the shop. All of this was seed that had been cleaned out of the planter so the cost of the seed was already paid for by the full season crop. This was planted on wheat stubble that was fallow until grain sorghum is planted next June, the seed was left over, part of the field was fertilized got the fertilizer that was left in the planter, so the only real expense was my time and wear and tear on the planter.

The seed mix I planted. It's a mix of corn, soybeans, sunflowers, and grain sorghum. This is some seed that had been cleaned out of the planter the last couple of years.

I started with a seed population of 30,000 and decided to bump that to 40,000, for two reasons a, to see what it would do and b, I was getting tired of sitting in the tractor. I picked 30,000 because that is high for sunflowers, low for grain sorghum, high for corn, and extremely low for soybeans. I used the sunflower seed meter disk since they were the closest to medium size and played with the vacuum until I was satisfied with the seeding rate. I wasn't overly concerned with seeding accuracy due to the purpose of this crop.

I seeded this on July, 30th in a normal year nothing should have made it to full maturity. With the mild fall and late killing freeze the sunflowers did, but didn't retain seed and some shorter season corn did might of made it to physiological maturity. Both the sorghum and corn should have been high nutrient level in the plant at the time of a killing frost.

Looking down the row, I ended up with more grain sorghum in the mix that I had originally planned. I didn't put any more bags in, but at about 15,000 seeds per pound when compared to the other seeds it makes sense.

I was surprised at the amount of volunteer wheat growing in it between the rows. Having it growing will extend the time that a root is actively growing. I feel root activity adds considerably to to soil health.

Some calves grazing it. Those are sunflowers to the left of the calf in the foreground.

To simplify the fencing I including part of the adjoining wheat field. Typically we don't pasture wheat, but it is an accepted practice for the area. The calves will be of before the wheat gets to the jointing stage this spring so there will be no permanent harm to the wheat.

I don't have access to scales to measure growth so I will track the amount of hay I feed compared to what I would have fed in a drylot. Normally we feed medium quality brome, priced at about $45 a bale.

In future years I will add a few turnips or radishes and Austrian winter peas. I think this will be an inexpensive way to add even more diversity. The turnips or radishes will have deep roots along with the sunflowers and will absorb nutrients and the peas will convert atmospheric nitrogen to usable nitrogen in the plant that will go into the soil after it decomposes. The peas might over winter, I haven't found a definitive answer, but even if they do it should be simple to kill out in the spring when I do spring burn down for the volunteer wheat.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tibbits Farms through the years 1912 to 1930s

We moved into my Granddad's house this past summer and among some of the things that came with the house was some of his parents belongings. One night my youngest son was quizzing me about combines and somehow the conversation turned towards combines without cabs. This brought a very curios look to his face. I remembered seeing a box marked photos, expecting to find photos from the 1950's to show him pictures of cabless combines. I was quite surprised to find pictures this old. I'm also very thankful that they took the time to label many of the pictures with the people in them, what they were doing and the year. Some of these pictures have made it on my twitter feed on throwback Thursdays.  As always these photos along with lots that haven't made it on the blog yet are on my Flickr account.

Maude and Nell, 1912. It's not wrote on the photo, but I assume that is my great granddad in the photo.

Maude and Nell again in 1912, new harness.

No year, but the people are labeled. 1 R. T. Tibbits, my great granddad, 2. H.R. Tibbits, my great-great grandfather, 3 Miller, I presume either hired help or neighbor that they traded labor with.

No names or dates were on this picture. It appears that it took quite a crew to harvest.

Stacking bundle grain, no date.

1. Fred Schur, the Schur family are long time neighbors, 2. George Tibbits, I think it is great-great granddads brother, 3. Herbert or H.R. Tibbits, great-great granddad.

No names or dates.

Mabel Tibbits, my great grandma, 1923. It also has August 1923 wrote in pencil on the back of the picture, which is the month and year my granddad was born.

All that is wrote on the picture is 1929. It looks like they were harvesting some really nice wheat that year.

Fred Cline at the combine wheel, Riley T. sitting on the grain tank, Herbert standing on the truck, and Riley D. sitting on the truck bed. Three generations in the field, Herbert is my great-great granddad, Riley T. is my great granddad, and Riley D. is my granddad.

Fred Cline on the tractor, Riley D. on the ground, Riley T. at the combine's wheel, and Herbert standing on the platform.

Cy Austin, 1929. I don't remember how he is related to us, but it is a really good picture of the combine working.

No name or date wrote down,

Cutting Atlas, 1941. Atlas was a predecessor to forage sorghum, I think they would take it back to the farm and chop it as silage and blow it into an upright silo to feed during the winter.

Riley T,, 1936. I think he might be cutting Atlas or corn.

Farmall cultivating, 1936. Either Atlas or corn. Looks like the leaves might be curled some which can be cause by heat or drought stress.

Listing corn, 1934. A lister pushes dirt out of the way and seed is planted in the bottom of the furrow, then the ridges will be knocked down when they cultivated.

1935, It looks like they are listing I would guess corn.

Herbert, drilling wheat 1936. He is using 2 12 hole and a 16 hole drill.

1937 D35 truck. The back of the picture says 1947, but the tag is a 38. The truck is gone, but the tag might be part of a collection.

Pet heifers,1936.

These are all of the pictures I have scanned so far. There are more farm pictures from this time frame in the box.

I was looking through them thinking how neat it was to have them and then it struck me that many of them were from the Great Depression and dust bowl era. With that in mind some of these pictures will resurface along with some of the others in future blogs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Where our corn is going

Normally our corn is sold to a cattle feedlot to be used as an ingredient in cattle feed. This year it is going to an ethanol plant. This is the first time that we have delivered to an ethanol plant, some of the corn and grain sorghum that we have delivered to elevators might have gone to ethanol.

Loading corn bound for an ethanol plant.
I posted this picture to twitter, @ksfarmboy, today while loading our semi for the drive to Russell, Kansas.

Our grain prices have changed greatly in our area the past year. Typically in my area corn is priced twenty cents a bushel, 56 pounds per bushel of both corn and grain sorghum, more than sorghum. China started importing sorghum last year and has been aggressively importing it this year. This has driven the sorghum price locally to a over a dollar a bushel over corn, making corn a natural alternative for sorghum in many Kansas ethanol plants and for other end users of sorghum in the area.
The corn is being delivered to White Energy in Russell Kansas. This ethanol plant is combined with a wheat gluten plant and share many resources. To learn more about it the plant.