Making Hay
Week of May 16th, 2004 | The weather was a little bit rainy.

Planting my first corn crop.

Planting my first corn crop.

Planting season is finally here! While many other farmers are finishing their planting, we are just starting. We plant our corn and soybeans as timely as possible. Warm soil and good growing weather has arrived. After the weeds start to germinate, we can work the ground with the field cultivator digging these weeds up. It's one of many practices for weed control. Because we are organic, we cannot fall back on chemicals and these timing techniques are the centerpiece of our weed control.

Dad worked off and on for two full days to get a calf to nurse its' mother cow. This calf tried to nurse on the cow's hair instead of the teats. He basically had to cut the hair and used honey to encourage the calf. Usually, it takes Dad from a few minutes to a few hours to train a problem calf to nurse. He had a challenging 48 hours!

We had some rain through out the week. Friday, the sun was shining and the temperatures rose. After the ground dried Saturday morning, Dad started planting corn. Jolene came home from Cedar Falls Saturday morning. While she took my place working ground, I was at an auction in Alta Vista. Our local lumberyard went out of business due to the owners retiring. I purchased a lot of nails and screws. We won't run out of nails and screws for a long time! I also bought some lumber, gates, and other hardware. I purchased a table saw that is only a few months old for a very reasonable price. We really needed a new table saw since our old one is not as safe as it should be. Mom was surprised to see everything I bought. She told me I reminded her of Grandpa at a sale! Many people in the area were upset to see the lumberyard going out of business. Another business gone in our small community. We used this business a lot to supply the farm.

Since I spent the whole day at the sale, Dad planted corn in the afternoon. After I unloaded all of our new supplies from the lumberyard, it got dark. Dad wanted me to finish planting corn and put the tractor and planter in the shed for the night. Even though I made only one round with the planter, it is very handy to have working lights when working in the field at night.

This year, I am renting eight acres from Dad for an FFA SAE (Supervised Agriculture Experience) project. I am learning a lot about corn. When planting, the weather is very important. Seed should be planted to the moisture level in the soil. Next week, the forecast shows rain again. This means we plant a little less deep than if the weather called for dry conditions. The seed needs moisture, but not too much. The rain will moisten the seed and it will germinate. If we have dry weather in the forecast, then we will plant deep. There is more moisture deeper in the soil. Organically, corn and soybeans average depth is up to the second knuckle of the farmer's finger.

The rate of the seeds planted per acre is important. Our corn kernels are planted about 6 inches apart. The rows are 37 inches apart. About 30,000 seeds are planted in one acre. Eighty thousand seeds are in one bag of corn. The amount of seeds per acre can be increased and decreased from the average, depending on how much seed the farmer wishes to plant.

There are charts helping the farmer calculate this. Planters have transmissions. The gears are changed to increase or decrease the seed population. When planting a crop, it is important to drive straight. If the operator over steers, than it can be very hard to accurately cultivate and harvest the crop. When the rows are straight, it can be much easier to cultivate and harvest.

Many years ago, farmers planted seed by hand. Planter machines were first invented around 1800. They were changed in many ways and perfected. Today, planters are very accurate. Planters are built in two-rows, four-rows (we have two four row planters and a twelve foot seed drill), and all the way up to a 36-row planter!

Farm Fact: Farmers usually own appropriate sized planters for their planting job. This means that the farmer's crop should be planted in a few days time. A four-row planter is appropriate for up to 175 acres of a given crop. While our planter is small, it does the job of planting 60 acres quickly. In situations of thousands of acres, then the planter can be as large as a 36-row planter to get the job done on time.

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