Unique Creations by Shari Denise

From Writing to Chickens with lots in-between, Creativity Abounds!

By

Autumn Harvest

Soybeans are ready for the cutting and our days are filled with doing the combine dance and then filling up the grain bins with the results of our labor. Here’s a little video of one of our typical evenings.

By

It’s Not Just For Fun

farmersfield

It’s the planting season. Days when the morning sun is greeted with a bustle of activity focused around tractors, planters, and seed tenders. Then, as the dew dries, the activity moves to the open acres where the rhythmic hum and clicks of planters drop precious seeds into the soil. Here they will soon sprout, shoot forth from the earth and reach for the sky to grow into mature plants. These plants will produce a bountiful harvest in a few short months if given the opportunity.

Sadly, the local farmer has more to be concerned about than just the weather when it comes to his crop once it is planted. With the growing fascination of ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) an open field seems to be an inviting place to ride. Under the careless wheels of ATVs the precious little seeds are packed into the ground so tightly, or crushed by the impact, thus destroying the seeds. Crushed seeds translates to no crop. When there’s no crop, then there’s no harvest, and the farmer looses his income since he has nothing to sell. His livelihood, crushed beneath the weight of a four-wheeler just out for an afternoon of fun.

By

Year of the Farmer

IMG_2174Year of the Farmer. Hmmm…. thoughts race through my mind at that sentence.

IMG_2170

I live on a farm and so the visuals I find in my memory bank are not the same as one unaccustomed to such a lifestyle right? So, what are the snapshots that shoot forth from my perspective? Well, Let me tell you.

The first “Farmer Snapshot” is of beautiful blue skies, green luscious fields, a slight, spring breeze teasing my face tenderly. Yeah, its uncanny how just a day in the fields can cleanse anything that might be amidst. Spring Harvest season was in full swing when this snapshot was taken. Wheat was yielding a wonderful bumper crop. Life was good. 

It is days like this that make it all worth it. To smell the clean country air, to watch the leaves of the crops sway in the breeze, to enjoy the beauty of what God has created. It is enough to take one’s breath away.

IMG_2209

Wheat sprouting in the head= 100% crop loss. Due to excessive rainfall.

Life on a farm is not always like this kind of day however. The day after this photo was actually taken it set in raining. The rain did not stop and fields still full of unharvested grain became soaked, and then soaked again, and again. With elbows in the window sill, we watch the value of a year’s worth of crop go from awesome to awful. When the crop still in the field was inspected, it was found to be sprouting in the head. What that means is, it is 100% loss as a grain crop.

IMG_2166

So, what does a farmer do? He gets back in his pickup, and goes again. There is no time for mourning such a loss. There is only time to devise another plan. Bills must be paid and obligations must be met.

Crop lost is devastating. It is never easy to overcome. A couple of years ago we had a fine crop of Canola. Prettiest fields you could ever grow.

Canola crop, before the hail storm that destroyed it completely.

Canola crop, before the hail storm that destroyed it completely.

The bright yellow blossoms atop fresh green stalks. It was common to drive by the fields and find passersby stopping to take photos of the amazing crop. Then a rare hail storm hit. Not only did it knock out the windows of our home, but it beat the tender canola crop to a pulp. In a matter of minutes it went from luscious to a field of sticks. All of the expense of seed, fertilizer, chemicals, labor, equipment…. down the drain.

There's always hope to be found somewhere on the farm.

There’s always hope to be found somewhere on the farm.

Meanwhile, other things are happening on the farm. A touch of hope. A renewing of faith as we are encouraged by the fact that life does go on. Such encouragement is found in the most amazing events, like baby chicks hatching. One look at these sweet puff balls peaking out from their momma’s downy soft feather skirt and we smile and push forward once again.

IMG_2861

I’ve found that no matter what comes my way, it is most comforting to hang out with my farm critters. From Barn Cats, chickens, and guineas, to pygmy goats, they all have a very important role in my sanity. I can have the worse day, and yet as I watch their stable actions I realize the world doesn’t spin so fast for them. Chickens are still scratching and pecking just as they did when Christ was here on earth. Goats are still chewing and Roosters still crow. I find great comfort in that.

IMG_2986IMG_2368

As if soft, playful farm critters weren’t enough to inspire one recover from a tragic farm loss, Children innocently contribute as well. Their silly joy bubbles up with giggles and once again we push forward. IMG_1508

Our farm provides Straw. Even though the wheat crop suffered, baling the stalks were still yet to be done.

Three generations work together to get crops out of the field.

Three generations work together to get crops out of the field.

When it’s time to bale straw, three generations work together to get the crop out of the field. It doesn’t take long to realize that working on a farm is a character building task. The hard work, sweat, and determination teaches the next generation things that will benefit them throughout their adult lives.

Grandsons 16 and barely 12 throw bales into the truck working harder than some men.

When I think of these snapshots the pride that fills me nearly makes my chest burst it is so full. THIS is what a farmer thrives for.

 

IMG_4457 The crops that were harvested before all the rain hit is stored in grain bins for sale at a later date. This is of course depending on what the market does. See, a farmer doesn’t get to choose a price for his product like the average business man. He takes all the risk yet someone else sets the market price. His only option is to store his product until he feels the market is at a favorable high and then he sells his harvest. Keeping that harvest in good condition is sometimes a challenge. If the moisture in the grain is too high, he is docked (sale price reduced). So, to reduce moisture hugh fans are used to blow air through the grain in the bins to dry it out, thus lowering the moisture %. While the fans are blowing, the top lid of the grain bin must be open for air flow. When a rain storm is approaching, it is a common site to see my sweetie shinny up the grain bins to close the lids. This is also done in the middle of the night when one wakes up to hear rain pelting from a surprise storm. Yes, wet, slick metal ladder, height, rain… Prayers for safety are a large part of farm life also.

Fast response from local fire fighters saved a straw field fire before much was lost.

Fast response from local fire fighters saved a straw field fire before much was lost.

Meanwhile, as the straw harvest continues and planting soybeans where wheat previously stood, it gets a little crazy around the farm. Alternating labor locations, equipment locations and getting everyone and everything where they need to be, it’s as challenging as a Broadway Play. Then there comes the moment when you top over the hill of the farthest field you farm, and as your eyes cast across the acres…. your view is filled with fire trucks, water tanks and pickups. a spark from baling machinery is all it takes and with the help of a breeze puff, fire can destroy much in a few moments.

Getting to the field has its own challenges.

Getting to the field has its own challenges.

And Planting continues as my farmer takes it all in stride. As our area becomes more and more populated, getting to the field becomes a challenge within itself. Escorting farm equipment to the fields while traveling highways as well as country roads with hairpin curves keeps one on their toes.

IMG_2274

Once in the field, a Farmer enjoys the solitude and feels as one with God and earth.

Once in the field, a farmer enjoys the solitude and feels as one with God and earth. Some might call it a lonely time, but most call it the best of time. THIS is what it’s like for a farmer. He knows what he does is important. Not only does he feed his family with the proceeds from his effort, he also feeds the world. Some silly unlearned people might scoff and say he doesn’t feed the world, he isn’t growing potatoes or apples. Ah, but he does grow wheat that yields bread and he grows soybeans from which all soy products are derived from. Each farmer does his part with whatever crop he elects to produce. It takes thousands of acres of corn (field corn) to feed the livestock that is raised for beef, pork, chicken, etc. Dairy cows that produce the nation’s milk supply must eat as well. Yes, the American Farmer has a most important job to fill.

Farm life oozes out of us through our interests.

Farm life oozes out of us through our interests.

Farming is a life style. We eat, drink and sleep farming. It oozes out of us in most all avenues of our interests. While quilting, I find myself making a wall appliqué of a farm scene. It’s what that farm scene represents more than the technique of my stitches.

Since we live in the farm house that has protected five generations on this farm, we find ourselves decorating it with details of farming from previous decades. Old rusty pulleys and boards now turned into decor that makes us smile as we enjoy fond memories of times long gone. A respect for those who stuck to farming through bad times as well as good.

Now, is this all that farming contributes to my life? Actually, no, it isn’t. You see, I have another viewpoint concerning agriculture that even more do not understand.

Along with the farm life  that I enjoy, and my side interest of a creative blog (Unique Creations by Shari Denise) my day job is working for USDA Farm Service Agency. And, Currently, I am on furlough.

Furlough means more than a Government employee missing a few days pay.

Furlough means more than a Government employee missing a few days pay.

What, might you ask, is the big deal? So, I miss a few days of pay. well, actually, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Our Agency is the end-spout of the pipeline where government regulations, as well as assistance meet the American Ag producer (Farmers, Ranchers, Farm owners, etc). So few outside the “agricultural involved” comprehend the vast differences between a Farm business and other businesses. Ag Markets are set up quite differently than any other type of Market and Producers (aka farmers, ranchers, etc.) don’t get to choose the price they sell their harvest for. Toss in Federal regulations as well as Federal incentive programs and it becomes quite complicated. That said, American producers take it in stride and try to jump through the Marketing and Federal hoops in order to provide a service that each human depends on; food.

Throughout the previous decades, things like conservation crisis, unstable grain marketing, weather related disasters, (just to name a few) have inspired the Government to provide assistance programs. Why? well, for one thing, if the American farm producers go under we ALL go under. Stores will not have food on their shelves because American farms is where our food chain BEGINS. To ignore this fact is a major error.

  • Conservation practices and incentives became a large concern a while back. Erosion is often irreversible and natural resources must be pampered if we want them around for future generations. Taking some highly errodible acres out of production and allowing it to “rest” is a practice that is so important that the Government created an incentive program to allow accepted acres to “rest” for an average of ten years.
  • As assistance to producers with Grain production, Programs were created to kick in when grain markets dropped to a devastating low. Offering low-interest, short-term loans for better marketing management.
  • Assistance programs were created in the form of low-interest loans for farm expenses when circumstances out of the producer’s control forces him to face total failure.
  • When a drought hits (or other natural disasters), programs were created to provide assistance for recovery.

All of the above mentioned programs were created with one goal in mind; preserving the American Farm and the important role it plays in the lives of all Americans as well as providing food assistance to other countries. All of the above mentioned programs are processed through the Farm Service Agency. We are the face of the government to the American Farm Producers.

October 1 is the beginning of the fiscal year for USDA and Farm Service Agency and the busiest of the year. As we wrap everything up for one year and rollover to the next, much is required to make the rollover seamless. Reports, and working through any outstanding actions that are required before ending the year increases the workload. Then as we begin the rollover process in the computer systems, it’s an “all hands on deck” atmosphere within FSA. October 1 is also the beginning of a new year’s budget (yeah, THAT budget).

As soon as we are up and running in the new fiscal year, then it’s time to make annual payments for a multitude of different longterm programs like Conservation Reserve Programs (CRP), Grassland Reserve Programs (GRP) and Grain Market programs like Direct & Counter-Cyclical and Acre Programs (DCP & ACRE). Since these are annual payments many of the producers plan their financial obligations to coincide with the dates these payments are made.

And if that were not enough workload, October is in the midst of harvest. Combines humming down field rows, Grain trucks running,  Cotton Ginning… tis the season for Marketing Loans.   Image

And in the midst of our busiest of busy times……

We are all sent home.

On Furlough.

To wait….

For the powers that be….

Tell us to return.

Now,  anyone that knows me knows I try to remove myself from political opinions. Everyone has an opinion and most are not going to change that opinion by me sharing mine. I prefer to just state facts and try to express the “rest of the story” when it comes to the effects and impact of this furlough. It is extremely frustrating to have a “government shutdown” when so many depend on the services that UDSA Farm Service Agency provides. Yes, I depend on my paycheck, but not only that, those we serve, depend on us to be there. Not for free hand outs, but for assistance that over the past several decades have been the only channels of survival for the foundational root of our food source. The word “nonessential” has been labeled on us. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Denise with her granddaughter, Ryleigh

Denise with her granddaughter, Ryleigh

Praying this Furlough ends soon and the Farm Service Agency can once again power up our systems and go forth and provide some of the most important services the United States Government ever created.

Meanwhile, I’ll return to hanging out with my Critters, Blue skies and fields of growing green and harvest gold. My critters lovingly ignore the frustrations life causes me. I enjoy, no, need their calmness on frustrating days.

THIS is what a year of the Farmer is to me.

Denise