"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lessons From a Wheat Farmer

The better part of a month has gone by and I haven't posted.  I thought it would be easy to catch up but when I started to look over some of the photos I've taken, it struck me that I have about a dozen posts screaming to get out and there just isn't room for them.  Missed opportunities. 

Spring struck.  After a mild winter with only periodic cold spells, the trees began threatening to bud weeks too soon and I worried that even if the precipitation roared back from last year's drought, that a run-of-the-mill hard freeze would dash in and muck up the works.

Here are the Bradford Pear trees in front of our barn, in full bloom - in February:
But the concern that winter would come back has passed.   We regularly have freezes, even snow, as late as April but I'm not looking for a hard freeze at this point, based on the long range weather forecasts that have us in the 60's, 70's and 80's over the next ten days.  Even if the weather turns cold, the ground is warm enough to shrug off the bite.  Nope, spring is here for 2012.

Spring always comes, robust or no, but what has all of us particularly excited is that La Nina seems to have lost her grip on the southern plains section of the country that includes Oklahoma.  La Nina, as most of us know, is a recurring weather pattern caused by cooler than average Pacific ocean temperatures off the western coast of South America.   A typical result is that our little slice of heaven gets less rain.  Without getting too political, no matter what is going on in terms of climate change, you'd still expect to be seeing the La Nina/El Nino patterns.  They tell us that last year's drought was caused by a strong La Nina and had been predicting that La Nina would keep her stranglehold on us until about March.  Its impact is often strongest in the winter.  Happily, it looks like they missed the forecast, at least around here, because we've been in a typical late winter/early spring weather pattern for months.  We've gotten abundant rain that has turned the prairie lush and filled the farm ponds that were cracked and dry just a few months ago.  And, really, the rains came back last fall so the forecast seems particularly way off.  Our rain is actually up from the average.  It is still quite warm for this early in the year, at least from time to time, but at least the precipitation is behaving properly.
I know nothing about wheat farming but we've rented about half our property to Bobby, a wheat farmer and small time cattle rancher, who laid in a crop of winter wheat late last summer in the midst of the drought.  Not being a farmer, I was a bit skeptical that it would "work," but was impressed at Bobby's optimism/confidence.  He first sprayed an herbicide, in July.  He waited several weeks after the neighbors had planted so his crop got a later start.  One week in August he told me that he wanted to seed the field but had heard we were due a gully washer and had decided to hold off a week so his seed didn't wash away.  Sure enough, we got that gully washer a few days later so I was glad he waited.  I've posted some photos of the crop's progress.

This photo was taken in August, right after Bobby tilled the land in preparation to plant:
Yuck.  I hated the look of a recently plowed, barren field.

By Mid October, the rains were still holding off.  Here is a picture of our run off pond - ugh, the drought was brutal:
This pond actually shrunk even further, to no more more than a puddle about three foot square.

Late November 2011, right after the rains came back:
Do you see the green fields off in the distance?  That is on a neighbor's farm who planted earlier than Bobby did.

Mid December 2011:
At this point, I really wasn't too impressed, especially when I compared the field to some of the neighbors.  Now, if you'd asked me, I'd have told you that I don't know much about farming but that only goes so far to explain my reaction.  The fact is, I am an educated gurl and because of that (not in spite of it), sometimes I don't even know what I don't know.

January 2012:
Okay.  It crosses my mind that Bobby may just end up with no crop.  I worry about that.  I spent some bit of time wondering about it.  I am starting to wonder if there is something wrong with the dirt.   I worry that the field doesn't work or something.  Maybe it is too dry.  Maybe the sporadic rain that came washed away all the seed.  Maybe the birds ate all the seed.  Maybe the dips in the land (it just looks flat) filled with water and drowned the wheat.  Maybe some pesticide someone used was actually an herbicide.  Maybe all the plants are going to die or something.  Maybe Bobby did it wrong.  Maybe someone sabotaged his wheat to drive up demand for their own crop.  I often stood and stared at it.  Seriously, there was something wrong with that crop. 

(Something wrong with the crop?  How about the gurl standing there staring at it???)

I am an educated gurl.  It is part of my training to spot a problem and get to the bottom of it.  It's what  I do. :)

Mid February 2012:
Hmmm.  About this time, I start to hope that at least Bobby will get SOMETHING from the field.  Alternatively, I am glad to see some plant cover because at least it isn't as ugly.  It just seems, to me, that the crop ought to be further along than that. 

February 24, 2012:
Then, March hits and it is at this point that the magic really begins:
 Over the next few days, I stand and gaze on it - not wondering but, rather, in wonder. 
 It's just so beautiful. 
 The trees begin putting out new growth, in earnest:

I stand out in the field (being careful to not stomp the plants) and in places, it is thigh high:

Having now been educated about things common people have known for thousands of years, I will never look at a recently plowed and planted field the same way I once did.  A recently planted field is just Mother Nature's early baby bump but I was too ignorant/arrogant to realize it. 

Evelyn turned seven on March 14th:
Pearly is continuing to heal:
She seems to have all her vision back and goes back to the eye specialist, next week.  We hope he will decide she is ready to decrease her oral prednisone dosage, further.  She'll feel better.
I've actually been pretty busy working on quilting projects and finished the quilt top on my 9-11 quilt:
I also started on a new art quilt but haven't gotten too far on it.  Here is the inspiration:
Here is a shot, in progress:
But the big news:
Yup, I spent last weekend in NYC visiting my kids.  As a long distance Grandma, it's so hard to not be there to see Charlie change from day to day.  I consider it to be a clear gift from the gods and a reminder that they love me that he started walking within hours of my arrival and I was there to see it!

One of my girls just got a new apartment in Brooklyn and the girls and I spent the day at her place and in the neighborhood:

Here's my boy:
Here's the cityscape from my son's apartment:
Quite a difference from what I'm used to but it's Charlie's home town and has its own charms.  During his naps, I took a few walks and found myself desperately seeking out green.  I am always charmed by the bits of nature set out by the residents of the City who have a little earth witch in them:
The person who set out the following had good intentions but I'm not sure about that plant on the right:

Seriously, your typical earth witch has as much business spending sustained lengths of time in a large city as a water witch in the desert.  :)

I loved the following photo:
 I relate to that dog.  And with my expanding girth, I also could pass for a not-so-distant relative. 

NYC is filled with people who love their dogs:
Right before I visited, I attended a seminar on urban forestry.  That made it doubly hard to see some of the older trees in NYC stunted and struggling to escape their concrete and metal cages:

Overall, however, I am always so impressed at how high a priority New Yorkers have placed on trying to incorporate parks and trees in their city.
 They continue to add green places throughout the city. 

I was already missing Charlie and the kids before I ever left Newark, Monday night. 

While I was gone, we got over 3.75 inches of rain.  I promptly headed out to the property to recharge my earth batteries and here are a few photos:
The previous photo is one of our ponds.  It is so foggy it is hard to see but no question, the rains have replenished it. 

 Life is everywhere. 

I'd set up the trail cam while I was gone so that it looked at what I thought might be a coyote burrow.  Sure enough:
Anyway, good to be home and feeling blessed to have been able to see my family. 

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


Terri said...

wow what a great post. From beautiful green wheat fields to the NYC skyline. Truly from one end of the rainbow to another. Happy Birthday Evelyn and so good to see Pearl getting better! And what a precious grandbaby!!! I'm hopefully taking a celebration trip to NYC this fall after DD takes the Bar! She's just not sure if she wants NYC or a beach and little umbrella drinks. Loved the pictures.

Penny said...

Congrats on your DD and good luck to her on the bar!! NYC is lovely in the fall but your daughter may have a touch of water witch and prefer the beach. :)

swooze said...

Beautiful. Happy for Pearlie's continued healing.

lindaschiffer said...

I"m so glad to see that you are doing ok! Glad Pearl is doing better, too. :)

I enjoy visiting the city but I could not be so separated from greenery, either.

:) Linda

Florida Farm Girl said...

Girl, I'm so glad you got your earth witch batteries recharged!!! Isn't new growth just wonderful?? Nothing better on this earth.

Glad Pearly is getting better. Can't believe Charlie is getting so big!

And that 9-11 quilt!!!! Oh, my goodness, it is gorgeous!!!! Was that a pattern or just one of your creations? Bet it was a creation.

Penny said...

FFG, those are Carol Doak paper piece patterms from her Stars, book, but the layout is mine.

Miriam said...

A great post! :) Your Bradford Pears' blossom is beautiful!!
A belated Happy Birthday to Evelyn and I'm very pleased to hear Pearly is recovering well.
Love your new quilt! Congratulations on the finish.
The contrast between the photos of the wheat field and NYC is amazing. This girl needs lots of green in her life. :)
Beautiful photo of the foggy pond.

Cassandra said...

Beautiful pictures. You have a great eye for photography. I especially loved that picture of the spider web at the bottom. :)

Hello from very sunny Arizona! My husband and I are in Phoenix right now but are moving to Seattle this summer. I can't wait to spend more time in the green and wet weather!

Stephanie D. said...

What beautiful wheat field pictures! I know nothing, either, so I'd believe anything you told me!

Can't believe that grandson is so big now! And walking! Such a cutie-pie!

Glad the canine girls are doing as well as the biped girls. I know that makes your heart sing.