Our four-year-old grandson does his part to herd the cattle down the road by waving his cap in order to encourage them along. His dad takes a bit more active approach as he runs along behind the critters!

Monday, October 24, 2011

October Beauty

September this year was characterized by shades of yellow with the abundance of sunflowers taking a starring role.  There were  yellowing leaves on many trees from the drought so that even the light took on a yellow-warmed hue as it filtered through all the shades of gold in plants and trees. 

October has brought some welcome touches of red.  With the exception of the photo of the Virgina Creeper, all the photos below were taken today:   
This photo of the five leafed vine called "Virginia creeper" was taken October 3. 


Wild plum saplings
I don't know how people can say that Kansas is not beautiful.  They aren't looking in the right places, I suppose, but I think it is more likely that one's state of mind and preconceived ideas affect the ability to perceive beauty.  These next two photos are very pretty, but the real life scenes exceeded the beauty I was able to capture here by far: 
Indian Head Grass

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Combine Driving Lesson

It is my goal to learn at least the basics of operating each piece of equipment on the farm. I'm not real interested in doing anything heroic like driving our temperamental dump truck to the elevator with a load of grain, but would nevertheless like to have the ability to do this if necessary.  My true motivation is that I consider myself to fill the role of  mother/wife/grammy-in-charge-of-safety-control.   I would like to possess the necessary skill to extract Farmer John from whatever part of a machine that might try to ensnare him when he's not looking.  

And lest you think safety control is not needed on our farm, consider that I once noticed my three-year-old son's eyebrows and eyelashes were missing in a way that looked very similar my dad's appearance after he attempted to light a temperamental furnace years ago.  When I asked Jonathan what happened he said, "Daddy said not to tell you."  


Yesterday I had my first lesson in driving the combine. It looks so easy.  Push the ground speed lever forward to go, pull it back to stop.  Toggle the thumb switch up to raise the header up, down to lower it. Steer. That's pretty much all there is to it.  Of course, there are at least 20 other switches, pedals, and monitors that I have no idea what are for. It looks like the control panel of a lunar module to me. (I know what the inside of a lunar module looks like because I watched Apollo 13.)

My problem was with steering. In fact, while I was combining, a highway patrolman turned on his lights and siren and sped by on the highway that goes past the field where we were working.  I was relieved to see that the officer was after a speeding driver on the highway and wasn't interested in weaving combines.  For a moment I was sure I was about to experience my first sobriety test. 

Nevertheless, Farmer John said it was pretty good for my first time out.  I didn't tell him it was actually my third or fourth time driving the combine because he's obviously blocked those prior occasions from years past from his mind.  One does that with traumatic experiences.  

Here are a couple of the photos we took as I learned to run the combine:

I guess we do need auto steer.  Not sure who was driving as we posed for this photo.  Son-in-law Brian would be glad to sell us a brand new JD combine with GPS auto steer or whatever it is called.  We'd be glad to buy one if I didn't do things like quitting a paying job in order to become a farm hand and writing books that make no money.  Ah, well, the Lord is in control. 

I was too nervous to take my eyes off the header to look at the camera.  Nevertheless I did manage to slug the combine because of failing to slow down when I went over a terrace. The header adjusts automatically but needs a bit slower ground speed going over a steep terrace. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

'Til the Cows Come Home

We rent a pasture that's about three miles from our house.  Pasture season runs from April 15 until October 15, and so today we were a day late as we gathered 90 head of cattle from the half section pasture (that's 320 acres) and headed them down the gravel road toward home.  

Farmer John, son-in-law Brian, and I rode together to the pasture, making numerous stops along the way to close gates so our critters wouldn't be tempted to take the scenic route through the neighbors' pastures.  Son Jonathan and his wife, Nicole, went ahead of us to the pasture and were driving the cattle toward the gate in Jon's old blue pickup when we arrived.  Wonder if Nic had her seatbelt fastened?  If not I'm afraid she spent some time airborne. 

Nephews John Lee and Jacob parked their truck at the corner in order to turn the cattle, then once that mission was accomplished they sped around the section to get in front of us.  Their next job was to keep the cattle from going into a hay meadow that's just before the gate to the pasture we wanted them to enter.  

Grandpa Johnnie, (the original Farmer John) brought up the rear of the procession, herding an old girl who had rheumatism and thus couldn't jog along as fast as her comrades (see photo above). 

The main challenge to this journey was that the cattle had to be coaxed to cross an overpass that goes over an interstate highway.  Farmer John said, "At least the wind is out of the north so they won't be bothered by the highway noise until they are nearly to the overpass."  This wouldn't have occurred to me.  And then he added something else that I'd never have thought, "I hope no truckers honk.  One year one of them honked and got the cattle so upset it was terrible.  I thought they were going to leap over the guard rails and fall onto the highway." 

I was incredulous and said, "But, honking an air horn could cause the cattle to go wild and hurt one another or even one of us."

Farmer John looked grim.  "Exactly," he said. 

Brian hopped out at the overpass and stood ready to keep the cattle on the road in case they decided to run down toward the highway.  I drove the pickup and Farmer John rode in back, coaxing the cattle along.  Lured by his voice and the promise of corn chop as he rattled a feed sack, they followed  willingly.  Many of them had made this trip before.  

When about 30 head of cattle were in the middle of the overpass, sure enough, the driver of an eighteen wheeler pulled his air horn.  But whether the horn wasn't as loud as most or because the wind was blowing so hard, the cattle didn't react.  We made it home without further difficulty.  

I know most truckers are honorable and hard working folks who wouldn't willingly cause trouble for honorable and hard working farmers.  But there are evidently a few who don't mind indulging an impulsive action that could potentially cost us thousands of dollars if any of our cattle are  injured as a result of their prank. What's even worse is that 90 head of upset cattle have great potential to cause harm to their human handlers.  At one point today both my husband and my son-in-law were herding the cattle on foot. 

All's well that ends well, and it took just a little over an hour to bring the cattle home today.  Best of all, no one that I'm gonna love 'til the cows come home got hurt.  
If the phrase "love ya' till the cows come home" isn't familiar to you, have a listen here--and if you don't want to take time to listen I'll just explain; this song includes the lyric, "I'm gonna' love her 'til the cows come home'":   "When I Get Home"  (From The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night Album, 1964). 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shopping, Farmer Style

Farmer John spent an unreasonable amount of time at an implement dealer's yesterday  Yesterday afternoon John had to spend some time at J&W Equipment  in Iola, leaving me to wander around outside looking at a lot of farm equipment that was the wrong color (I said that in case my son Jonathan or son-in-law Brian happen to read this; they both work for John Deere. And for those who might not know: J&W's Case/IH equipment is red, while John Deere is green).

I had my camera slung over my shoulder as usual, and it was an absolutely beautiful day.  I started taking photos of shapes that caught my eye and as I did so I felt more and more impressed with the ingenuity behind the engineering of these forms.  Pretty cool.

Then, when I thought we were finally on the way home, Farmer John swung into New Strawn and spent an unreasonable amount of time and spent some time perusing the old and used equipment that has been prepared for the weekly sale to be held this Saturday morning.  The antique equipment caught my eye and while John enjoyed shopping (just because it isn't a mall doesn't mean it isn't shopping),  I found some more pretty shapes to photograph. 

Despite the fact I didn't accomplish very much on my to-do list It was a very nice day. 

auger from a brand new posthole digger 

antique dump rake
Even the shadow of this rake was pretty. 

Dontcha' love these curly cued shapes?

Rake teeth