Sunday, October 25, 2015


I had hoped that one good result of Lyndon Johnson's losing the south for the Democrats for at least a generation, to put it in his own terms, would be that the stranglehold the south held over farm policy would let up.  The disappearance of the "Dixiecrats" and the lessening political influence of the huge rice and cotton farming empires (think plantations) they represented should have allowed enough room for the building of a farm policy that would benefit ordinary rural citizens more by bolstering rural communities and keeping farm ownership as spread across the population as feasible.  It hasn't happened.

Instead, the southernization of our American politics seems to have beaten electoral change to the punch and we now have northern "Democrats" such as my congressman, who see to it that most of the dollars flow to the hugest few farms by means of crop insurance payments and that even the smaller stream that comes directly from the government is restricted only by declared income.  One must have one million dollars in declared income before any restriction is placed upon receipt of government help.  It is difficult for me to imagine, given our Swiss cheese of a tax structure, anyone crafty enough to amass a huge farming empire being stupid enough to declare one million dollars in income to the IRS. 

There have always been alternatives.  A very simple one would have been to support the first few bushels or bales of whatever the dominant crop is and nothing after that.  That simple approach would have gotten the government out of the business of building huge crop empires, it would have kept the wealth somewhat spread out, and it would result in land priced reasonably enough that a young person who is not a member of a farming empire family could think about buying or renting enough land to give farming a try.  That is manifestly not what we did and we ought to ask ourselves and our political representatives why we did not.  That question is the beginning of a political education.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


The Willmar airport reports 28 degrees this morning at six again.  Yesterday the same.  I am hopeful that will be enough to take the danger out of the alfalfa and simplify the job of grazing.  We have them on the hay fields now, taking the last crop directly and have needed to be pretty restrictive to keep them from bloat.  Between that and the regrowth of the rape/turnip in the cover crop experiment, plus soon the cornstalks we hope to keep from having to feed much hay until December 1.  Winter hay is an expensive proposition and success with cattle like the rest of farming, has much to do with what you don't spend. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015


We got a Facebook notice several days ago from a woman we occasionally work with on soil projects.  She was thanking all of us who do whatever we can to keep living plants on our land, and keep the soil covered by means of farming practices we have had the nerve to try.   This was in view of the high winds stirring up the tilled soil and making the air dirty and hard to breathe. 

This is the first time ever that I can recall being thanked for our farming practices as regards the soil.  We do occasionally hear, usually from a customer, their appreciation of our livestock practices.  Thank you Robin, and thanks for noticing.  We are, after all, all in this together.


It is getting late for our first hard freeze of the season and I guess that is a good thing for our late planted corn.  However, it makes late season grazing more difficult.  We graze our hay fields in lieu of a final machine cutting.  Because the sward is something over fifty percent alfalfa and clovers, and because those two plants get quite dangerous for bloat whenever there is a nip frost in the fall, we are reduced to cutting the grazing ahead and letting it lay and cure for most of a day before turning the cattle in.  We don't cut too far ahead of course, for fear of heavy rain on the swath making it unpalatable.  It is a nuisance to get the machinery out there every fourth or fifth  day.  But then so is hay feeding, or dead cattle, if it comes to that. 

Next month we will go back to the complex cover crop to graze the rape/turnip and ryegrass one final time.  The sorghum sudan in that planting will be standing straw by then, as it is an African crop and will not tolerate even a light frost.  We hope to be able to set the fences to take advantage of the corn stalks and thus extend the grazing season well into December.  We will evidently need more acres in a grazing practice to go much later than that.

Meanwhile, of course, we mainly work getting the place ready to winter livestock.  I look forward to the first snow covering and the peaceful restful time it implies.  That feeling will hold for a few hours until we have to get out there and push the stuff around.