March 15, 2006 - Long Term Drought in Central Kansas
For the last year we've been in a drought here in central Kansas. Stock ponds have dried up, creeks have stopped running and vegatation is short. These conditions have been the worst that I have seen in my lifetime. We have received no precipitation since the middle of December. Effects to my farm from the drought. My wheat is browning up---may lose considerable yield potential if precipitation doesn't come in the next week or so. Water for the cattle is critical, am pumping water from a well using a power plant with submersible pump in one pasture since the pond is drying up. I've also built a temporary fence to the creek that has water for another group of cattle. In another pasture I do have a spring fed pond so water is not a problem there. I have a problem in one of my summer rentals pastures---the creek is dry and the pond has about a foot of water left. May have to sell off my spring cattle herd because it is too far to haul water---will have to til May 1 for rain to come there. Due to limited moisture last summer the grass in my winter pastures is short---the cattle have grazed them to golf green status so I have to feed more hay to compensate. Luckily, I carried over more hay so I can do this. Feeding areas are very dusty---I can't understand why I haven't had more pneumonia in the cattle. We're currently spring calving, starting Feb. 23 and are half done by March 10. Ideal calving weather 45 degrees and dry, this spring temps up to 70 and dry. I haven't done this much spring tillage---afraid that the fields I work will being blowing (wind erosion). Have used this dry spring to dig out silt from dry ponds and build new ponds. With good weather it takes Jeremy and I 2 hours to get feeding, if its cold or snowy, or muddy it takes all morning.
Pumping Water for Cattle
Cleaning Ponds and the Bulldozer Got Stuck
March 22, 2006 - Drought Relief
The weekend of March 18, we received 1" moisture rain/3" snow!!! Wow! Real snow and mud! We missed the big snow that northwest Kansas got but not complaining too much. My feeding truck frame almose broke in half and a c/v went out at the same time. Had to feed with open tractor while it was repaired in Salina. This precip saved my wheat crop until at least the middle of April when it will need additional moisture. The mud and snow make it harder on baby calves so we spread more wheat straw for them to lay on. Wet cold baby calves get sick easier and start on their mothers' milk slower. Some moisture in the forecast for the week of March 26!!!
Cow with newborn calf in snow
April 2,-Moisture continues to come to central Kansas
We recieved .50" on March 30th and .65"last night April 1. This along with recent warm temps. has really started the wheat and to some extent the pasture grass to growing. Still so dry that hardly any runoff into the ponds that are dry or critically low. Hoping that we will get a "big one" to fill the ponds which would really ease the pressure on the cattle enterprise. We were digging post holes at the cemetary Saturday and have moisture down about 6-8". Well its April now---the grass is really greener on the other side of the fence, the cattle are really reaching through and testing the fences---some do get out trying to get that jackpot mouthfull. I always start counting the days down to May 1, when we can go to summer pasture and stop feeding cattle. April for us means prepairing summer pasture fences, working the cows and calves (vaccinations insect control re-taging animals who lost ear tags) and hauling cattle to summer pasture where we can. We are finishing calving, I have 15 to go, parents trust have 20 to come. We are working on spring tillage prepairing ground for milo, soybeans, sunflowers, and feed. I also found alfalfa weevil larva in the alfalfa today so will have to have it sprayed tomorrow if the wind dies down. Along with the daily feeding all this keeps us very busy during the month of April.
Cattle waiting to be taken to summer pasture
April 15, summer has come to central Kansas!
Summer brought winds and 90 degrees to our farm the week ending on April 15. This has put an explanation point to the drought we've been under the past year or so. I had a crew working 93 pairs of the parent's trust cattle April 15, when the wind came up strongly from the southwest just after we ate dinner. The pen area was located on a sandy hill so we were sand-blasted while we paired 46 pairs and loaded them to be hauled to summer pasture. I've worked cattle in rain, hail,snow,sunny, cold, and now a sand/dust storm! I kind of know how our service folks in Iraq must feel with all the heat and sand and wind we had today. When we finished we had dust in our eyes and even sand in our teeth! Its getting crunch time for the cattle enterprise, 15 more days to get some runoff rain for pond water or we can't go to summer pasture. So, do we go ahead and sell cattle or try to hang on for a while for the "big one" that never comes. There is not a day that I contemplate how I can hang on to the herd and make things work. Otherwise the heat plus the modest moisture of the past has made the wheat explode in growth. I expect to see some heads showing in about a week so harvest may be early this year although rain will be critical in the next two weeks to sustain the crop. April 29 will be the next major cattle "deployment" to pasture, where ever there is water. We will finish up May 1. 93 degrees in the middle of April----what will summer be like!?
April 26, Winding up cattle work/going to summer pasture.
We are at the last big push to get cattle to summer pasture. Friday Ap. 28 we do my spring calving herd, the next day we do parents trust spring calving herd and May 1, we do my fall calving herd. Still critical on water and soil moisture for summer grazing---got .45" rain April 23, but missed a good rain that fell 2-5 miles to our northeast. Spent yesterday with the tractor and scoop trying to cut a trench to the water left in the ponds so the cattle can drink without being belly deep in mud along the retreating waterline. The main water problem remains where my spring cows go---only have about 3 weeks water supply before either it rains enough or I have to start hauling water, so we'll see. The heat of mid April really cut yield off the wheat crop and we just missed a damageing freeze last night. The Sunday shower freshened the wheat and pasture grass but not for very long. Forecast suddenly is wet Thursday through Saturday--right when we are working and hauling cattle but I don"t care we need this rain!!! Comment next week about how it alll comes along.
May 3, cattle are all to summer pasture. Rain moistens area last week.
We got all our cattle out to pasture by May 1. What a relief! Even though we recieved a short inch of moisture (April 28) ponds are low or dry and creeks are the same. Made some tough calls on what went to pasture this year---trimmed numbers back in each pasture to ease pressure on drought stressed grass and ponds. This ment hauling a number of cows--even young ones, to the sale barn which ment a extended hauling schedule while processing cattle out to pasture. Prices for cows are down from a couple of months ago which hurts since fuel/hauling costs are high this spring with all the extra hauling we did. The rain did ensure a good start to pasture forage and stopped the declining wheat yield as well as storing moisture on my cultivated ground. I have about 3 weeks water supply in one pasture and around 1 month supply in a couple others so have to monitor very closely. It is raining this morning (May 3) while I'm typing this so hoping to get the "big one" that will help the water shortage. As I sit here I try to remember when we had more than 2" in one rain. Its got to be more than 3 years. Yesterday I put out mineral for the cattle as well as checking if the "count" is right in each pasture. Now my emphasis turns to field work--prepairing ground for spring planting but still intently checking water levels in pastures. I like to plant soybeans in the May 12-15 time frame then start in on sunflowers around May 20, then on to milo May 25--June 10. The other unplesant chore is driving the pastures and killing musk thistle/cedar trees. This means finding,spraying,digging, and chopping these noxious pests.
May 10, cool/moist weather comes to central Kansas.
Cool and rainy weather occured through the first week of May here in northeast Ellsworth county. We haven't recieved any "big" rains, just .15--.25" almost daily with .50" falling on May 8, and a short inch falling around May 4-5. Cloudy cool skies has helped extend the moisture we've recieved. The best news is that the creek started running through the pasture where I was critically short of pond water so extends my stay in that pasture. OK!!! Weather pattern has shifted towards a seasonally cool/dry pattern so really concentrating on field work with soybean planting starting Monday May 15.
May 18, dry weather returns.
The past week has brought windy dry but cool weather until the last couple days when it has warmed up considerably. We have really turned dry again---the modest moisture recieved a week and a half ago is a thing of the past. Soybeans are planted---had to go deep to find moisture to place the seed in. Will plant sunflowers this weekend and start on milo seeding probably Monday. Hauled bulls to pasture today and found the creek had quit running through one pasture where I have about a foot of water left in the pond. Early next week I'll have to buy tanks and start hauling water since there is adequate grass there for the time being. This will tie up a wheat hauling truck just before harvest (RATS!). Wheat is pretty well filled but big heat will still reduce yield as kernels dry out. Expecting harvest to start around June 8(some of it is already turning yellow) with full moon on June 11, (harvest moon). Expecting 15-30 bushels/acre due to drought stress and light freeze damage, prices are up from last year and I think they will rise through harvest when the lower yields become apparent. Wheat stand is very irregular in height due to drought stress but mostly very short so probably will scoop up some rocks during harvest. That will add weight to the load----Hah! Putting up alfalfa hay during the hotter dry days now so you see the tempo on the farm has picked up toooo--frantic?
May 24, drought returns with a vengeance.
Missed two oppertunities for rain in the past week and things are desperately dry now. I hauled the first load of water for the cattle in the Saline co. pasture since the pond is almost dry and no water in the creek. Ponds in Lincoln Co. went dry this week but have wind-mills pumping there. South creek is slowing down, probably got 3 weeks to go there before hauling water there. Starting to plant milo---don't think there's enough moisture to get it up but still dusting it in. Don't think I've ever planted milo where it was so dry to not come up. Dry weather has cut a few more bushels off the ripening wheat---price hit $5.00/bushel a couple days ago, showing the commodity traders alarm over the poor wheat crop in the plains. Been a while since it has reached such high prices but 24 bushels/acre that I'm expecting from my crop X$5,00/bu=$100/ acre. Normally we get 40 bu. / acre at 3.50 /acre grosses $140 per acre so we're still loosing! Pasture grass quit growing so cattle are grazing it down lower each week and that will become the next problem along with no water. This drought is like cancer. It first cut wheat yield, ponds in different places dry up, creeks slow down and quit, moisture drys out of the "spring planted" ground, grass and forage in pastures dry up and wither away, and then there is ----nothing!
Memorial Day weekend.
Where to start here on Tuesday morning. The heat and wind has really ripened the wheat and dried things out. We actually got a stray storm Friday that produced .65" at the farm! It was so dry that I was planting milo the next morning---at least there was enough moisture for germination instead of seed laying in the dust. Have about 30 acres to go before finishing milo planting. Felt stressed about wheat harvest coming so early---trying to wrap up 1st cutting of alfalfa, milo planting, forage sorghum planting, and watering cattle so that we can get combines and trucks ready for harvest. Harvest could begin here as early as June 4/5! Friday (May 26) we recieved the bad news that Liz's Dad was involved in a auto accident with a semi in southeast Kansas. Since Grandma wasn't home, the authorities called us because Liz has poa over medical for her parents. For a while things were uncertain as Grandpa was life watched to KU Med. with a broken neck. Liz spent Sunday/Monday in Kansas city joining her mom and sisters at the hospital. Seems that Grandpa will have to wear a special brace for a while and was really bruised up as well as breaking a vein in his leg that had to be attended to. We're lucky to still have him with us and he should recover fully in time. Saturday evening I recieved a call from my cousin stating we had cattle missing! Friday, we has a contractor trenching a ditch at the pond so cattle could water with out going belly deep in mud. When they left they didn't close the gate and the cattle exited. I told my cousin I was coming and to trail the tracks and try to find where they went. He found them 5 miles away and we drove them back in 90 degree heat very slowly, making it back to the pasture right at dark. Whew! On Monday I lead a service at our local cemetary then went to my mothers house for a Memorial day family dinner. I got to see friends from Wichita as well as family members I haven't seen for almost a year. There are a lot of traditions I follow during Memorial day weekend. Sunday afternoon I go out in the pasture and creeks and pick wild flowers for reletives and friend's graves and place them in "vase" rocks I find in the rocky pastures and use that as my tribute to my friends and relatives. This as well as family gathering/meal as well as leading service at cemetary makes Memorial day weekend special for me. I noticed that the creeks next to our farm have just about quit running. This hurts since I use the irrigation pump to fill the cattle water hauling tank. Much faster than the garden hose---and I'm worried how low our water wells are at the house. It did rain .60" Monday night and I'm hoping some of the 1-3" of rain south of us may have helped the water situation there. Today will be a cattle checking day since I can't do hay or plant milo in the morning. More rain in forcast for today(Tue.) so here's hoping.
Tuesday May 30, rain reports.
The prayers of a lot of people in central Kansas were answered Monday night. Rainfall was widespread and in some cases very heavy. I only got .60" here at the farm but my southern pastures and rentals got around 2" judgeing from the empty mineral bucket there. I went over to my Saline Co. rental this evening and found about 1 foot of water standing in the dry pond as well as the creek running again so will not have to haul water there in the shrt run. Relatives around Bavaria had 2--2.3", northeast of Brookville up to 3" and folks in eastern Lincoln Co. had up to 2". My storm chase partner who lives in northern Saline Co. had 4" and his dry pond is 2/3 full! All in all this takes some pressure off of farmers as we prepare for wheat harvest next week or so.
June 4, Wheat is ripe!
We got home from church and fire training late this Sunday afternoon. The tempature was in the mid 90s with a dry breeze. Before turning into the driveway I stopped and picked a wheat head, shucked out kernels ---and they cracked between my teeth. Don't know if all the field was ready or not, we didn't have a combine ready yet. Wrapped up milo planting Saturday as well as almost getting all the forage sorghum in. The showers last Monday will be enough to bring up about all I have planted. Just have 20 acres of forage sorghum to plant in Saline county and 2 fields of hay to bale then can concentrate on harvest. Sunday evening we worked on combines till dark, and after baleing oat hay this morning will run to Salina for some parts for the combines and given sunny weather, may test cut some wheat this afternoon. There are storms in the forecast today and I'll take them since we are very dry right here at the farm. This is the earliest we will attempt to cut wheat ever I think. The drought accelerated maturity big time this year!!
June 6, nice shower.
We recieved .70" rain last night, really needed this even though wheat harvest is here. Forecast is for hot/dry from now into the weekend, so will probably test cut tomorrow pm. I saw on storm total precip that our western pastures that missed all other rain seemed to get an inch pluss!! That will green up grass for a while---I'll get up there today or tomorrow and check since nasty lightning occured with the storms. All in all its nice to wake up to a sunny calm morning after a stormy night.
Thursday June 8, Wheat harvest begins!
Due to clouds that hung around most of the day yesterday the wheat did not dry out as well as expected. We test cut a sample and the moisture was 14.4 percent. With hotter forecast for today we waited. Got the rest of the forage sorghum planted this morning so all spring planting is behind us. Ran to Salina with mom over the noon hour to get supplies/pick up my truck from the shop where it got a new power stearing pump and a rebuilt muffler. Saw a few combines running just west of Salina so called Jeremy by cell and had him resample the field at 2 o-clock. He called back at 2:45 and said the moisture was down to 11.4!! Time to go to work! We cut 30 acres on my place and sampled 2 fields of Jeremy's which was too green yet. Jeremy was having fuel problems with mom's machine so he didn't cut much with it. Yields are very depressing---mainly because the drought-stressed double crop wheat didn't have much chance this year. Hardly got back my seed on two patches with yields from 5 to 25 bushels per acre. Most of the rest of the wheat will go 20 to 35 bushels per acre. Might be hard to find dry wheat tomorrow---just need one more day then all the wheat will be ready it looks like. Sounds like some rain chances in the forecast off and on through the weekend and first part of next week so anxious to get cutting. This will be the first influx of money for this year not counting the farm income I carried over from last year so always like to get harvest done, some grain sold and start paying bills.
June 12, Harvest is on hold.
We recieved 1" of rain this Monday morning effectively shutting down harvest for at least a day. Normally I would grind my teeth at the delay but we need the moisture more!! All our creeks were ending their stream-flow in the last couple of days and pastures were starting to brown up so need this rain! Our harvest was reaching the halfway point here in central Kansas with yields dissapointing. Drought, disease, freeze damage and hail damage cut yields more than expected. Cut my best yielding wheat yesterday---38 bushels/acre but due to a cool front passage and higher humiditys, we didn't cut until late Sunday afternoon and even then moisture in the wheat was 14.8 on the load I took in to the elevator---too high. Well, we'll catch up on other chores around the farm and some sleep also--always seems to find sleep at night hard to come by, the harvest pace keeps more twangy nerves going I guess. Forecast is for warming temps midweek so should be back at it on Wednesday.
Friday June 16, Harvest is over.
We finished cutting wheat this afternoon so harvest is officially over! Have a couple of truck loads to take to the elevator tomorrow then I will know totals for sure. This was certinally a dissapointing harvest yield wise. Normally we haul around 8000 to 9000 bushels to the elevator. This year we cut around 4300 bushels so the drought really hurt. It rained in the area tonight and hope this continues. Now that harvest is over I will concentrate on cattle water, 2nd cutting of alfalfa, and working the wheat ground prepairing it for fall seeding.
View of harvesting from the command post
Jeremy unloading a load off the combine.
June 21, finally, THE BIG ONE!!!
We recieved 3.50" of rain Wednesday evening! Whow! I checked things briefly this morning,(Thurs. June 22)and found most ponds right around the house, FULL. I think I can put away the cattle water hauling tank for the rest of the summer---especially if the Saline county pasture got the run-off we did. This rain is not a drought buster, we need lots more moisture to saturate the subsoil since this rain came so fast it ran off instead of soaking in. This rain did make a good start of nixing the drought---if more rains come in the near future. This drought took months yes even years to fester and it won't go away in one week, but we got a good start!
August 20, A good rain!
Friday and Saturday we recieved 4" of desperately needed rain here in central Kansas. The rains came slower than the deluge of June 21 so soaked in better. The rains came too late to help my milo much but will really help the pastures grow some before frost in October. Its really cool how fast brown/dry pasture grass can green up after a substantial rain. My alfalfa will now have another cutting and my beans what are left will fill pods. The heat of the last month has taken its toll . We had 111 degrees temps twice this last month which really enhanced the drought. So this rain and cooler air helped immensely. August is the month we sell our fall born calves . I sold my calves in early August and parent's trust the middle of August. Both sales went well and the calves sold good at auction at Salina. A lot of anxious prep. goes into these sales since 60% of our yearly income comes in one day once a year. Activities in Sept. are haying and prepairing weat ground for planting in October.
Dumping water for cattle in Saline county in the evening.
September 7, Labor Day trip.
Liz and I went down to Temple Texas to visit our friend Charles over the Labor Day weekend. What was interesting was the visual effects of the drought, especially northern Texas. The grass suddenly turned brown south of Oklahoma City and more or less stayed brown/dry all the way to Temple in central Texas. The area looked like central Kansas did at the end of July and I thank the Lord for coming home to green pastures and fields as the result of 5" of rain we got the end of August. We saw where numerous fires had burned along the interstate highway especially one large one at the top of the Arbuckle mountains/hills that jumped I-35 about 2 weeks ago. The weird thing was that there was water in most of the ponds in Oklahoma and Texas just no/dry grass. Here at home we are putting up the 4th cutting of alfalfa, shaping up wheat ground, and making cattle moves prior to fall calving which begins at the end of September. I just love to drive through the pastures and see the grass growing now since it was so short most of the growing season---at least we'll have some winter grazing! The drought is dented here but not over yet!
Sept. 13, Cool, damp weather continues on the farm.
The weather here in central Kansas has turned fall like leaving the heat of the past months a distant memory. We got .79" rain last weekend and with the cool temps the soil is staying moist. Sunday I noticed alfalfa butterfly larva feeding on the alfalfa so have been swathing it early before the worms do. Thursday and Friday are forecast to be very windy and warm so hope to bale most of the 4th cutting these two days. Yesterday (Tues. 12,) we got our first fall born calf from a heifer so checking cattle daily will be part of the daily routine untill late November. All total we will calve around 200 + during this time. Still looking for an extended dry spell to bale our forage sorghum and harvest the first of the drought injured milo and soybeans and sunflowers. We'll start planting wheat around Oct. 1st and have the ground pretty well ready. So you see, the tempo is picking up on the farm!
Sept. 26, fall harvest begins.
I test cut some milo in a field north of the house and it tested 12.9 moisture! I cut about 1/3 of the best (dryest) part of the field and got 4 combine bin full dumps. Spent time fine tuning the threshing mechanisms on the combine while cutting. The rest of this field is like most others I have---areas of dry milo interspaced with green "sucker" heads that will yield little. I will take this load to the elevator in Salina (around 650 bushels)and see what moisture the whole load tests and from that I will know how much more I will cut here ie (cutting some green areas and mixing it with the dry if the dry is dry enough)! The weather has dried out some since the storms of last Thursday (Sept. 21) and the forecast is dry after tomorrow through the upcoming weekend into next week. With that in mind, we swathed down all the forage sorghum the last two days since it will take a week to dry it out for baleing. I will start spreading fertilizer on the wheat ground Friday and start planting wheat over the weekend inbetween baleing forage sorghum and cutting milo. Soybeans will be ready to cut in a little over a week from now. Our 1st calf heifers are about half way done calving and the older cows will start calving theend of the first week of October. Tempatures are nice---cool in the mornings and warm afternoons. With dry weather, hope to get fall harvest and wheat planting done the first half of October, then switch to spring born calf sales the second half of the month. October is like May---a busy time!
October 3, We've had very warm to record temperatures the last 3 days along with gusty winds which is drying things out again! In one respect, the heat has helped cure the fields of forage sorghum swathed and I finished baleing all of it today. Jeremy planted wheat this pm and has about finished his acres. The forecast is for cooler weather and maybe some rain next weekend. I would like to get more wheat put in and some soybeans cut before it rains but current weather has dried the top soil out reminding me of the dry summer we just endured. I hauled the second load of milo to the elevator---871 bushels at 11.7 moisture, the take from 3 different drought damaged fields. The rest of my milo has lots of green heads so will wait till after the killing frost to harvest the rest. I will concentrate on planting wheat and cutting soybeans the next few days so thats the emphasis for now.
Fall weather returns.
October 17. Weather here in central Kansas has cooled down since the hot days at the beginning of the month. We had a light frost last Friday (13), but not a really killing freeze yet. I finished planting wheat Saturday (14) and Jeremy and I almost completed soybean harvest----down to just one 7 acre field. We're now hitting the peak of fall calving, I got 6 calves Sunday, Jeremy said he had 5 or 6 for mom with a set of twins! We discovered a cow with a head first front legs back calf so had a big struggle working the front legs up and then pullng a 115 pound calf out of the cow. During the process I tweaked my back (I've had a ruptured disc before), and have to take it real easy now so I don't get laid up. We sell mom's spring born calves day after tomorrow, (Thurs.) and I need to be able to move around to sort and load calves after catching them in the coirrals. I plan to sell my calves the following week then the management calves the first week of Nov. as well as helping the neighbors haul their cattle to auction. Also we have to move our cattle off leased pasture Oct 31. NOT a good time to be laid up with back problems! The rest of the milo crop waits for a hard freeze so the green kernels will dry out. This is highlighted this year because the grain markets have gone crazy the last 4 weeks moving MUCH higher. Milo price Monday was over $3.00 / bushel----I haven't seen this price for MANY years!! Wish we had 90 bushel per acre yield instead of 40-50. The drought of 06 again! Really need to sell some 07 wheat---guarenteed $4.50/bushel, really good price for next year--just remember the 06 drought and potential freeze and hail damage and there may be no wheat to deliver at that $4.50!! Sure don't have to go to a casino to gamble!! Well life on the farm is never dull.
Drought damage to soybeans, area of no production next to good live plants.
Close shot of where drought damage ends suddenly. One yard dead plants, next yard productive plants. What changed in such a short space.
October 24, house arrest!
On doctor's orders I'm confined to staying off my feet as much as possible due to my back problem that began a week ago and aggrivated Sunday pm where circumstances could have ended up much more serious. Due to the nagging pain in my lower back, (I had a ruptured disc a few years ago) I planned a light Sunday pm work load----move two bulls out of the home pasture to a new place across the road with the 4-wheeler. After driving the bulls a mile across the pasture to the gate, waiting for 10 minutes while they tested their strenght against each other, I got them out on the road but they would not drive down the road to the other gate. I called Jeremy by cell and he came and was able to drive one bull with the pickup to where we wanted him and returned to help me drive the second younger bull who was standing in the ditch. I drove the 4-wheeler down the fence line to move him onto the road for Jeremy to drive with the truck but he wouldn't move. I got off to shoo him out of the ditch when he just charged! I took 3 sprinting steps through the ditch to avoid the charge when I stepped into a hole which jammed my back so that I couldn't walk and pitched headlong in front of the charging bull! For some reason (lucky for me) he went straight on and didn't stop to work me over. I hurt so bad the rest of the day I could only walk by hanging on to something (vertabre hard against the nerve I suppose). Saw doctor Monday and am under house arrest. Not good timing! I was going to sell my calves Thursday but that is out and we usually move cattle off leased ground next Monday/Tuesday and that may be in jeprady. I'll just have to call audibles on farm work till I get on my feet again. As for other things, we had a killing frost so growing season is ended. Now the milo will dry out so we can cut the rest of it. The price is still sky high and a lot of farmers are anxious to cut. I sold this years soybean crop at $5.97/bu. Monday and sold a few bushels of the newly emerging 07 wheat for $4.60s on a foreward contract due next July. Will add to this if price continues to go up. The newly planted wheat seems to be slow in emerging this fall, would like to see some rain to settle the soil around the seed instead of the mist/drizzel we recieved the last two storm systems. Forecast is for chance of rain tomorrow--Thursday, then dry so may help both wheat growing and milo harvesting. We'll see. We've passed the halfway point with fall calving---Jeremy has 60+ for mom and I have 40+ on the ground and we should wrap it up pretty well by Thanksgiving. By the first of December calves will be sold, cows bunched, harvesting done, and things will settle down to winter feeding and repair projects.
November 17, cattle moves about done.
We're planning our last cattle move today--hauling 32 cows from near Salina to just west of our farm-stead. That will finish the major moves for this fall, only have some bull moves and adjoining pasture moves to make in December so things are slowing down somewhat. Last week was a very bad week---cattle were "not" cooperating with my moves, and had a potential serious accident with the four-wheeler driving reluctant cattle to the pens. My back problem was a boldging disc not ruptured and I have been getting around with just some occasional pain. Had our annual family pheasant/quail hunt last weekend and found pheasant populations almost non-existant, a result of drought/high summer temps. More encouraging was the number of quail we saw, numbers are up, although we took only one bird this hunt. Always fun to walk the land with friends and relatives and forget the rat-race for a while. November 29 is firearms deer season, where the family/friends will gather once again for a hunt. Rut is now on with deer moving everywhere especially at night which makes night driving "very" dangerous--I've seen close deer every drive to Salina at night the last week. Weather has turned dry, but thats normal although temps have been warmer than usual. Have some fence rebuilding projects to do while ground is not frozen and need to move some hay bales as well as normal cattle feeding are the focus for the next month.
Every year the family gathers here for opening of firearms deer season. This has gone on for more than 10 years. Recently we've not had many/any large racked buck deer on our farm seen or taken by our hunters. Some of this is the "eagerness" of our hunters in the past hunts---they are taking the intermediate sized bucks, not letting them grow to their genetic potential. But, we've also had deer poached out of season, always large racked, always finding them headless or rackless, usually taken at night. Again, last Thursday night (Nov. 16) a deer was shot less than one mile from our house around 9:30 pm. Liz heard the shot and saw the buck laying on the wheat field the next day from her school bus. It still had it's rack and she called me via cell phone and I arrived 1 hour later to find the head cut off already. We got good tire track pics.(we're good at identifying tire tracks)and neighbors saw a jeep wagon driving around at the time. This was all reported to law enforcement. After contemplating a while,(I had already issued an order to the family that no bucks were to be taken this year except small/deformed racked deer) I decided to sit on a hill in my pasture, at night, to see what I could see. PLENTY! At this time Jeremy and I have had 3 high speed chases with vehichles that have run at our approach,(speeds of 70-85 mph) 1 drunk that ditched his car, and several "suspicious" acting folks driving slowley at night on the back roads. On one chase on I-70 we caught up with one car(a jeep) and it was from Marion county! Why would someone from northeast of Wichita be driving around in Ellsworth county back roads after dark!? This all culmulated to last night when my family went to Thanksgiving eve church and I had 3 neighbors "stake out" the area while I was gone. (I told them that nothing would happen since I'd scared all the s-birds the previous nights'----NOT!~) They watched 5 "suspicious" vehicles, one shining a spotlight around, and they sneaked up on this truck and when detected the truck tried to escape past them, taking the ditch once to avoid a block and covering his head when passing my neighbors to avoid ID. Then the chase was on to get his tag number---one evade and two chasers speeding up to 95 mph into and through Lincoln county. My neighbors never got close again, and lost him. This was reported to me via cell at church and on the way home I had a long strident discussion with Ellsworth co. law enforcement/game protecter. So we'll see. More later.
Cold air invasion for opening of deer season.
November 30: an artic cold front plunged through central Kansas Tuesday evening, affecting lot's of activities on the farm. First, to deer poaching, game protector caught a couple of men poaching deer about 5 miles northeast of our farm. I actually followed their truck the evening they got caught---thought they were farmers driving through. Turns out one of them was a individule we had some trouble before, around a year ago. Have had no suspicious activity since Thanksgiving eve so our "patrolling" seems to have discouraged the "scum-bags" from deer-jacking in our area. Family gathered yesterday for opening of deer season but the 25 mph winds and 24 degree temp caused the deer to change their routine so had trouble to find decent deer to take for meat. One kind of wants to bag a large deer since processing costs are the same no matter what the size of the deer is. No deer was taken on the first day, and only one of us even shot---a clean miss. Today (Thursday 30th), a few will return to try with revised hunting tactics---its colder and just as windy today as yesterday. As for farm work cold temps mean feeding cattle more protein and energy but thankfully no snow fell or we would need to feed even more. I will hunt while I feed while Jeremy hunts with the "group".
December 11, deer season is over, Christmas is near.
Yesterday was the last day of firearms deer season. Sometimes it's a relief for it to end---time to get back into a farming routine. The hunt was fairly sucessful. I got a "fork" buck, Jeremy got the "weird racked" injured buck we saw and videoed back in August and September, Danny got a decent buck, Martin and Janice got a doe, and last, Jeremy's girlfriend got a large doe, her first deer taken, she as well as Jeremy was really excited! The weather turned mild and sometimes windy making nervous times with hunters driving around dry grass while rangeland fire danger was in the high category. We did take time out to brand and work replacement heifers last week ,a half of days job but necessary since we will now rebuild the cattle pens to steel this winter to be ready for spring cattle "working"(the corrals we have now are wood, 30 years old and rotting). A tradition I do during this season is to cut a cedar tree for a Christmas tree the last day of firearms deer season. I keep my eyes open for a well shaped tree out in the pastures earlier in the year, then go cut usually two trees so Liz can pick which one will fit the best in the house and look the best. I got this year's prospects out of our neighbor's CRP field north of Brookville----gov regulations require that all cedar trees be removed from CRP acres so I helped our neighbor by two trees. The weather is turning very dry again and ponds are dropping. Of course, this is dry time for us but already is bringing images of what happened last spring/summer (extreme drought). I DON'T want to do that again! Fall calving is done, and other than putting bulls in pastures for the breeding season, normal feeding is the activity while we tackle the corral rebuilding project.
Dec. 20, a pre-Christmas rain!
A early-winter storm system finally pulled enough moisture into the plains to produce some desperately needed rain here in central Kansas. This morning our rain gauge has at least 1 inch in it and still raining some. We're expected to be in the way of the "dry slot" this afternoon so precip will taper off but due to slow storm movement we may get "wrap-a-round" precip again tonight/tormrrow am. This is going to really help our wheat crop and settle the dust in the pastures where health problems was a concern. The rain will make slippery driving while feeding cattle---the cold rain will require much more energy to be fed to the cattle--wet haircoats are harder on the cattle than cold and snow.