A small, family farm in Wisconsin

Posts tagged ‘farmer’

Farm News October 2013

We had a fun and busy summer here on the Zills Farm.  We did some traveling, and had a wonderful time at the wedding of our granddaughter in Oklahoma City.  Most of our family was there and it was a renewal of our family bonds.  I’m so proud of my family and what good people they are.
We’ve been fortunate to be able to spend lots of time with various family members this summer.
Lee has been busy and even managed to get a new roof put on the old farm house.  His next project is replacing a couple of windows in the farm house, and most of the windows in our house.


Corn is not dry yet.

Corn is not dry yet.

Actual farming has been delayed due to the weather.  The soybeans and corn have been slow to dry so are still waiting to be harvested.  We had a very wet spring so the fields were planted later than normal.  Consequently the late harvest.
Here’s something new.  Lee found an enormous Giant Puffball mushroom.  I’ve never cooked or eaten them, but he really wanted to try it.  I sautéed some for him to put on the pizza we were having for dinner and he liked it.  I did not.  I thought it tasted like soggy bread.  I’m going to try cooking it differently by slicing it into “steaks” to fry in butter. See the picture below.
The hummingbirds are gone.  Most of the sandhill cranes are gone.  We have a robin and a couple of kildeer still hanging around and I’m not sure why.  I hope they get moving soon.

I’ve been trying some new recipes, so stay tuned!
Have a happy fall!


Giant Puffball.  This one was as big as a soccer ball.

Giant Puffball. This one was as big as a soccer ball.

Mid Winter

It’s the end of January and the farm is quiet.  Brutal cold keeps us indoors a lot.  We had a January thaw, and much of the snow has melted.  Because of that, Lee can’t indulge in his favorite winter pastime, snowmobiling.  It feels like we’re just killing time, waiting for Spring and the warmth and promise that it brings. 

This morning it was below zero again, but the sun is shining and the winds are calm, so it feels, and looks warmer than it is.  I took this picture at noon, and the temperature was a balmy 8 degrees. 

Lee has been passing his time helping our neighbor.  The neighbor owns a U-Pick strawberry farm, and he and Lee are finding things to do there.  Lee enjoys getting off the farm.  It breaks the monotony of the day-to-day chores here.

One of my winter activities is feeding the birds.  I enjoy watching them eating and fussing at each other.  You truly understand what “pecking order” means when you observe wild birds at the feeders.  We have woodpeckers at our feeders.  Downy and Hairy, and I can never remember which is which, no matter how many times I look them up in my books.  One is larger than the other.  We also have Red Bellied Woodpeckers.  They’re large and feisty.  They aren’t shy and will call and scold if they feel neglected.

When we turn the calendar to February  I always feel like we’ve turned  a big corner.  We can see that spring is closer and the temps will start inching toward warmer.  Here in the north, we don’t realistically see spring until April, and even then we are likely going to see some dandy snowstorms, but the snow will melt quickly. 

 When our world turns to  boot sucking, tractor swallowing mud, we know spring is here.

Farming and Gambling are the Same

Those who know us, or know farming, are aware of the kind of year we had in 2009.  It really was an awful year.  The weather killed us.  Yields were down.  Prices were down.  It was just a bad year to be a farmer. 

The other day our neighbor was in his unharvested cornfields, with his combine, making a pretty good stab at getting some of his corn harvested.  He really was able to make progress and get some of it hauled to town in his grain truck.  If you’re from a northern area, you understand how bizarre this seems.  Here in Wisconsin we have lots of snow on the ground.  To see a big combine in a corn field that is completely snow-covered is just crazy.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

We know what a bad year it was because we lived it and we’re still living with the consequences.  We just had our taxes done by the accountant and it’s not pretty.  Here’s a graph I found that shows how much net  farming income  fell in the US.  Here in Wisconsin, it was down 56% from 2008.

The good news is that 2010 is starting off on the right foot.  Our hogs are getting good prices this month and we really appreciate that.  It’s good to start the year with a positive.

So there you have it.  Every day is a gamble here, and on all farms.  Lee is way more addicted to farming than I am 🙂

A Little Bit of Harvest

combine beans2This year hasn’t been the best as far as farming is concerned.  Weather and growing conditions have been uncooperative for farmers attempting to grow crops all around the country.  My cousin in Kentucky is having similar problems to ours here in Wisconsin.   Happy news for us, Lee was able to work on harvesting soybeans yesterday.  He worked from  late morning after the dew had dried, until 10 last night, when the evening dew began adding too much moisture to the beans.

combinebeansToday is a different story.  It’s cloudy and drizzling a bit, with serious rain in the forecast for later.  That puts an end to the soybean harvest for now.  It looks like there’s a lot of rain in the forecast for the next few days  We really just need a break. 

beans in wagonWhenever my family comes to visit, they take lots of pictures of life on the farm, and they keep me well supplied with photos.  The pictures in this post were taken by my cousin Ron.  Thanks Ron!

Making Do and Getting By

It’s time to harvest wheat here, and I was going to write an informative little post about the ins and outs of getting wheat off the field and to the grain market.  While writing it in my head, it morphed in a slightly different direction.  I’m going to write about Lee and the other farmers who are trying to make a living on a very small farm, and how they do it. 

combineThis is Lee’s combine.  It’s  used to take grain off the fields.  Wheat, soybeans, corn, oats and many other crops are harvested using a combine.  A new, 2009 combine starts at $250,000.00.  Lee bought this very used combine by bidding on it on eBay.  Yep!  They sell farm equipment on eBay.  I don’t remember exactly how much Lee paid for his eBay combine but I think it was around $2500.00, plus the cost to have it transported here from Iowa.  Here’s where the “making do” part comes in.  People who are farming on small acreage buy used equipment and implements, and keep it running by using their own mechanical expertise and ingenuity.  I think every farmer must be a Rube Goldberg cousin.   Lee has boxes, cans, and containers full of nuts, bolts, belts, parts, wires, washers and gaskets.  He throws away nothing, just in case he might need it someday.  If he needs parts for machinery he can go to one (or all) of the used implement dealers to look for a junked machine like his.  If he finds one, he takes his tools out of the truck and removes the part/s  he needs.  The implement dealer then gives him a price for the part.  Machinery parts are incredibly expensive so it’s a good thing to find them used whenever possible.

Tractor RepairOne of our tractors needed some major work done, so Lee did as much of the work as he could, and a free lance mechanic came to the farm to do the technical stuff.  He saved a lot of money doing it this way versus taking the tractor to a dealer for repair.

In this time when frugal living is an experiment for lots of folks, for farmers it’s a way of life and always has been.  We waste nothing, and we get by with what we have.  I’ve always had tremendous respect for my husband’s work ethic and his determination to make a life off of the land.

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