It’s been about two weeks since I started farming with my family. It has been an interesting two weeks that is for sure. I feel pretty good about it and I have definitely learned a lot already. I went into this knowing that I would have a lot to learn, I mean I know a lot about dairies and a little about row cropping. I just don’t know all the details to everything that needs to be done on a working farm. Dairy farming is complicated, way more complicated than most people realize. I have a feeling that I will continue to learn stuff from now on. So really quick here are a few of the lessons that I have learned:
- Always open the gates before you try to move cattle. See I have this problem where I want to get this stuff done and I want it done now, well this caused me a lot of trouble. I tried to run a couple cows up into the milk barn from the maternity barn, only I didn’t open any gates first. This made a big mess where I almost lost the cows out of the barn. Soooo from now on I set everything up first before I try to get the job done.
- Slow down and caress the tractors. Laugh it sounds funny, but this is true. I wasted a lot of time, because I was jerking knobs and pushing levers with all my might. Again I need to slow down and take my time to get the job done.
- Start early and work hard. I had to plant 80 acres of corn and pretty much without my usual support(my hubby). I am not going to claim that I know everything and my hubby always sets me up and gets me started. It was scary to try to do it without him, but I started early. I tried to pace myself and just work hard at it. Guess what I got it finished and I feel accomplished.
- Organization goes a long way. I am not the most organized person on the planet, but I do realize organization is really important. My hope is that we can get more organized at the dairy. I know it won’t be perfect and it is going to take some time.
- I’m happy. I can’t tell you guys how happy I am right this minute. There are going to be some rough and hard days. Days that I might go home crying, but I am so happy.
I have been waiting for the right moment to put this out there to the world and today seems like as good as any. I have some big news that I have been excited to share.
I graduated from high school 15 years ago last week. I remember it all pretty well. I remember the trying to decide where to go to college and what my major would be. I chose education, because it just made sense. I knew I wanted a family and something that would always be there, so it just fit.
Over the years, as I have got more and more frustrated with my education career, my roots started calling me. I started reading dairy farming blogs and following farmers on facebook. At some point I started reading the dairy magazines that had always filled my Dad’s coffee tables. My husband was row crop farming at that point. (Believe it or not I begged him not to do it) I helped him when and where I could. I would actually volunteer instead of complaining. Trust me I still complained, but it stopped being the please do this complaints. I day dreamed about a day that we could both farm together. And then some things just started to work out. One was an idea that hit me when I was showing my oldest my wedding album. The book is filled with pictures of all these people who are and were so important to me. All the family and friends that came to support my husband and I are in those pictures. They are forever a part of the history of the two of us. Even though some of them are no longer with us, they are remembered in that album. A thought hit me, there is something else that is etched into the history of me. There is something else that will forever be a part of me. There is a reason why my first sentence to describe me is, “I grew up on a Dairy farm” It is who I am. I love cows just about as much as I love my family. In fact they might as well be family. Around the time I decided that I just couldn’t stand not helping on the farm and that I needed to be around the cows more, some things just sort of fell in place. So I took the plunge and switched careers. It was a big decision, but it’s really just me coming home.
I absolutely can not believe it has been this long since my last blog post. Time has gotten away from me, because we have been so busy. I guess it all got started about the middle of April. My husband started trying to get the corn planted and we have had one problem after another. The planters broke so many times that I have lost count. We were also slowed down by rain. Rain isn’t a bad problem to have, especially when we have had two really dry years. I am excited to see some rain happening, it gives me so much hope. I think that my husband has forgotten what it is like to have to rush to get something finished before the rain. We just haven’t had to deal with wet weather in so long.
It seems like every day since April, we have been so busy that I haven’t been able to catch my breath. Some of that had to do with my boys playing baseball and t-ball. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else, but geez sports are exhausting. I don’t even mean they are exhausting for the kids, they are roughest on the parents. We had weeks were we had 4 games and a practice in one week. That makes for some very busy evenings. But hey we got through it and I already miss it. Well I miss it a little.
And last but not least, potatoes. (I know everyone just lives for my sweet potato updates) Well I like to pretend everyone just lives for them. Believe it or not are entering into our fourth year of potatoes. I mean wow, really? How has it been four years, since we started all this craziness. This year, we weren’t sure if we should even plant the potatoes. So much has changed since last year. My hubby is back at work full time and last year was just tough. We lost so much of our crop and we had to replant. The thing is, I think we both really like doing the potatoes. We have some very reliable customers and we have all this equipment. We are doing a few things differently this year. We are only planting 5 acres, that is about half of what we grew last year. We also decided to not plant our own slips. We just didn’t have the time to try to grow our own. I feel so far behind, but we started getting the field ready. It takes a lot of work, but I will keep you guys updated!
I am back to trying to blog. I am ready to do this thing as regularly as I can, because boy do I like writing. Here are some random thoughts on this Tuesday. We are three weeks into Jody working his new job and things are going fairly smoothly. We have adjusted to the changes it brings on the farm. I haven’t been able to see my husband nearly as much as I like, but I know he likes staying busy. A typical day has now gotten even busier, even busier than before. I now have to get my youngest up and drop him off, before I can head to work. It adds a few minutes onto my day, but I enjoy the time with him. I am trying to savor every minute, because this Fall he will be in preschool. That will be a hard day for this Mama.
One thing my husband and I have been doing, is checking our fields. I added this picture of us checking the fields in the Fall, since I haven’t taken any pictures this year. We have to see what kind of stand we have and what kind of weeds are growing. How many husband and wives do you know pull up weeds, then sit around talking about and staring at the weed? And I do mean the kind of weeds that grow in a crop that is not the crop. This is an important step in crop management, because then my hubby knows how much and what to spray. This is also based on the crop that is growing, we have barley and wheat this year. My hubby has been spraying over the last few weeks and will probably have to spray again before harvest. It keeps him busy. He will also be working on some of our equipment so that it will be ready to go.
I have an unhealthy obsession with sweet potatoes that are clean and in a box. I like to take pictures of them. I find it so beautiful to look at something that we grew and how much hard work went into them. We still have a lot of potatoes left from last year. Most of them look really rough, so they will end up being pig food. Hopefully this year, we get more rain and the heat isn’t as bad. We have had some good weather the last couple of weeks and it has me itching to plant something. I can’t wait to get back out there and smell some dirt. (Another thing that makes me weird)
As crazy and as busy as 2016 was, 2017 will be even more. This year will be a year of change for us and it is a change that I am very happy about. I just can´t tell you guys about everything all at once. Let me tell you about what has been happening the beginning of this year, on Circle C Farms. Cooper has been playing basketball and is loving every minute of it. The other two boys wish that they were doing basketball. I have been working non stop and working on organizing paper work. There has also been a lot of spraying going on. We have to get put out herbicide and fertilizer on all our spring crops. Probably the biggest thing was that, Jody went to the Sweet Potato conference and met the governor, Roy Cooper. I find it really awesome that Roy Cooper came out to the national sweet potato conference to talk with NC farmers. Even better that my husband bumped in to him and shook his hand. They even got to talk for a few minutes. But that isn’t even the biggest news that we have for the month. Our big news is……. Jody went back to full time work. Yeah it isn’t very exciting, but for us this is a huge deal. It just felt like this was the right time to make some transitions. We just both felt like God was opening this door up for us for a reason. When Jody originally quit full time work, we needed someone to watch our kids. We had three little ones at home and we couldn’t afford day care. It just fit. We couldn’t live on his salary alone, but we could live on mine with some farm income. So it has worked and it has worked well. Jody has been able to watch our boys, take them to doctor visits, ride them on tractors, and be at the school any time they needed him. Only now with two of them in school, he has been freed up some to be able to go back to work. If all things work out our youngest will be in school this fall and there won’t be any little ones at home anymore. This just opens up a lot of possibilities. Now for the future of Circle C Farms, well it is definitely going to go on. Honestly I don´t think much is going to change with our farm. We have decided to only grow 5 acres of sweet potatoes. We know that we can plant 5 acres in 2 days and hopefully will be able to harvest in just a few days. We plan on row cropping about the same amount as last year. So really the biggest difference is now my husband gets an earlier start every day and is starting to get in the bed earlier. I am already looking ahead to March and how busy it will be. It still amazes me that some people think farmers can take time off. Somehow we stay incredibly busy no matter what time of the year it is.
Working on our third storage trailer.
Jody in our new trailer with lights, heat, and air. We are high tech now!
Wow 2016 really flew by. I had all these good intentions of keeping my blog up and then it didn’t happen. I can tell you that we had an extremely busy year. It was filled with lots of farming and family time. My kids grew so much and so did our crops. All in all the year was a pretty good one. The weather could have definitely been better, we are still in the middle of a drought. Many farmers in our area struggled to make much of a crop and we were in the same boat. We had one field of corn that only grew as tall as our knees. It is so hard to watch something that you have worked so hard on, only grow as tall as your kids. Luckily the majority of our corn did just slightly below average. It wasn’t enough to brag about, but we had a good solid corn harvest. Our soy beans were about the same, we had a few fields that just didn’t do anything and some others that were good solid yields. It wasn’t the harvest that I had hoped for, but it was so much better than last year. The biggest disappointment was the sweet potatoes. We worked a lot during the spring growing our slips and then we spent a few days preparing and planting the field. Only once they were planted, they did not get any rain for an entire month. We lost about 90% of our crop at that point and we had to decide what to do. Most people would have plowed them up and just started over. We would have too if it hadn’t been for the fact that we had no way to get the slips that we needed to replant the entire field. After a lot of debate, we decided to plant over about half of the field. Plus we had to hope that we would start getting some rain. The whole process was very frustrating and a learning experience. We did end up harvesting some sweet potatoes and we had enough to supply our local customers. We didn’t send any potatoes to Asheville this year since the timing wasn’t right. The biggest thing that happened last year was the grant that we got that helped us to improve our operation. We added some more crates, another trailer, and a heat/air conditioning unit. It has helped us out so much to have more room and better heating and air. In the past we have ran drop cords from the house to the trailers and it just wasn’t efficient. We now have power out at the trailers so no more drop cords to the house. My awesome husband also put power and lights in two of the trailers, so we can do so much in the trailers. In the cold months we like to pack the boxes inside the trailers. The additional trailer has been helpful, because we have needed the extra storage. Once we sold all the potatoes out of the third trailer, we can use it to keep our boxes, scales, and tables out of the cold. I hate that I totally stopped blogging the last part of this year, but I honestly feel like this is the first moment I have had to sit down. Happy New Year to all!
We have been trying to prepare for the fall crop on top of everything else that has to be done around here. We didn’t get as much of a break as we normally do in the summer, because of the way everything worked out this time around. We had to replant sweet potatoes, so that wasn’t finished until early July. We also waited on rain to plant our soybeans so they were about two weeks later than normal. We got to sneak away for a couple of days to go on a camping trip and then it was right back to business. Because of the lack of rain some of the Dairy’s corn has ripened earlier than expected. That means everyone is working on cutting silage. This past Saturday, we did get to start on our improvement project. My husband worked on smoothing out the pad that the trailers sit on and making room for the third trailer. We also will be pushing them back some, so that we have more room to park and unpack trailers. It will also be graveled so that it will be easier to maintain. I am all for anything that makes my yard look better. The next step is to put the trailers back and bring home the third trailer. Each year we have been trying to improve the sweet potato operation. Last year we added a HVAC unit to our insulated trailer, power/ water to the trailers, and a packing shed. This year, we have a lot of plans, so hopefully we can accomplish them all. We are adding a third storage trailer and lights to two trailers. We actually pack potatoes in the trailers, so lights are going to be a great addition. The third trailer is going to help us be able to store more potatoes. Last year, we struggled with storage and we actually had less potatoes than we should have had. If we have an awesome crop this year then two trailers are just not going to hold them all. We have to have a place to cure our potatoes so that they will last much longer. The hope is that this year is going to go even more smoothly than last year. Our first year was a huge learning experience and our second year just went so much better. The goal would be for this year to get even better. Sweet potatoes are still a few weeks off, but the time will be here before we know it. The first thing that will be ready will be our corn. We always bag some corn in bags for deer hunters. We have started getting calls for corn, so we will be harvesting it as early as we possibly can. I do plan to update soon, because we have tons of things happening right now.
After publishing my last blog post, I decided I wanted to say something more positive than before. Only I can’t really do that without still discussing some negative, so I decided I would talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. To start with the good, wow have I had a lot of good even awesome things happen in the last month. First of all I am out for the summer. Oh how I love being out, I get to spend time with my wild boys, I don’t have to set an alarm, and I can help my hubby. It can’t get much better. I’ve spent a lot of time just being lazy and doing nothing. We have caught a couple of movies and explored. We got away for a couple of days by going camping at the beach. So for the bad, the weather has been rocky this summer. Now it has rained and it has rained more than last year, it just hasn’t rained when and how we needed it. It stopped raining in the first of May and it didn’t start back until the first of July. So that means our corn just isn’t as great as we wanted it to be. That is why I can say bad, because it really isn’t terrible. Our crop will be way better than it was last year. It is not what we wanted, but it also will be so much better this time around. Now for the ugly, we lost about 80% of the sweet potatoes we planted at the first of June. They just burnt up in the 95 degree weather. It was pretty devastating, but even with the loss, it is going to be alright. Somehow God just keeps looking out for us. We had planted a ton of extra slips with the plans of selling them. With everything that was going on, we just never got them cut and dropped off at the stores. I never got anything posted on any websites, so luckily we had the slips to replant our crop. And at the beginning of July it started raining, so we replanted. Somehow we came up with the money to pay the labor and boom we were back in business. Like everything in farming, we are still going to have some issues. For one thing, we had to just plant whatever we had where ever it needed to go. What that means is we were trying to keep our different generations of plants separated. We had some that were replants from ours and some that we had bought to be first generation plants. The plan was to keep new plants rotating through so that our potatoes don’t get diseased. That part is frustrating, but it is nothing we can’t fix next year. The other downside to how we replanted is that we are going to have potatoes with all different sizes. The 20% of plants that were there first are almost ready and the replants will not be ready for another month. So we are going to have lots of different sized potatoes. The crazy part is now we are getting lots of rain, so I am excited to see what kind of crop we end up with. Overall I feel so much better than I did last year. I added in a picture from the beach and another one of our little helpers.
This post was really meant to just be another boring update of my not so boring life, but things have been depressing as of late. Ask anyone who is trying to farm or even garden here in our part of the state. It is just plain depressing. I have found out over the last few years, that I am very connected to my environment. It has a lot to do with me being raised by a farmer, but it has a lot to do with my personality. I love the outdoors and nature. It goes beyond the occasional hike and sitting outside at night listening to crickets. I just feel so connected to the land that I often dream of a day I can just go live in a secluded cabin. As a kid I used to sneak out and go find a field of clover and just lay in it. I loved the feeling of the grass cradling my body and even now I hate wearing shoes, when I stick my toes in grass. I sound crazy, I know, but I think its important to explain why I am so melancholy right now. See we are again experiencing another drought, just like last year. The media isn’t saying it yet, but I feel it. I look out at the fields of corn around my house and I feel it. The thousands of corn plants that stand tall next to me are a part of me and they are in pain. I can feel them trying to breathe and survive, but they are struggling. Worse I know the cure, I know what will help them, but I am powerless. I can’t make it rain. Even writing this I feel so silly. Most people just drive by and say “oh there is a field” I can say things aren’t as bad as they were last year, yet. I went out walking this morning, before it got so hot, and things looked pretty hopeful. So we shall see, if it rains I think things will feel fresher. So if you are the type of person to pray, pray for us. If you do rain dances, do a rain dance. We need it.
We have been very busy the past couple of months with planting season. Sometimes it feels like we have too much to do in too little a time to do it in. All our corn is planted and the sweet potato slips are in the ground. They should be ready in about two weeks. This next week my husband will be getting the ground ready for sweet potatoes. We will start making the beds ready, because sweet potatoes should be planted in about two weeks. This year we have added more acres than ever before. We will also be adding another storage trailer and more bins. It is amazing how far we have come in only a couple of years. After looking back at last year and how we did I was pretty proud of it. We were able to clear some profit, even with an intense drought throughout our state. We were able to grow our operation and hope for the best this coming year. We are hoping to save even more money by growing all of our own slips this year. We will also be able to sell some slips to the public. We do not know how many we will be able to sell until we get started with planting our own acres and then we can see how many will be left. It is pretty exciting and scary all at the same time. After planting, we will be on to harvesting our winter crops. This year my husband grew both barley and wheat. On top of all the farming, my two oldest are wrapping up their first year in school. It is hard to believe that my kids are growing up this fast. I have one finishing up with Kindergarten and another with Pre-K. I am really trying to enjoy every minute that I can, because I feel like they are growing up in front of my eyes.
Two rows of sweet potato slips down and we were working on a third.
So I have included some pictures of our sweet potato slips. I didn’t take enough pictures to really show the process that we had to go through. It isn’t an easy one. We took our smallest potatoes, the ones that we call seed potatoes and planted them in rows. They were then covered in dirt and then plastic. Think about it like a small green house. We planted these in early March, before the weather was warm, so they needed a little extra warmth.
Everyone is put to work around here. The boys jumped right in and tried their best to help. They really enjoy being outdoors and getting something done.
This is our almost finished product at the end of May. They look really good compared to last years. The hubby was mowing over them taking some of the tops off of them. The goal is to have a more uniform looking slip so that it goes through our machine easier. This actually a ton of slips. Each individual stalk is a sweet potato plant with the potential to grow 5-10 sweet potatoes.