Water

It has been a rainy morning today. I had about 1 3/4 inches of rain in my rain gauge this morning. I realize that many people might think that statement almost bereft of any important meaning. Those who are not engaged in Agriculture, do not have a garden, and have no yard to mow, may very well find rain nothing but an inconvenience or even a hated problem. We’re going back to the basics for this post.

Farm ponds and creeks are very important water sources for plants and animals. They are also great for fishing and playing! I have spent Many an hour fishing in farm ponds and enjoyed many a meal of bluegill and bass that I caught and cleaned myself. A historic drought in the early 1950’s was the incentive for many ponds being built across Southwest Missouri. Most of the elm trees on my boyhood farm were cut down so the cattle could eat the leaves since there was no grass. Ponds don’t help the pasture that much but they at least are places for livestock to drink.

Livestock drinking brings up another aspect of water availability. Winter cold means that water sources can freeze over unless it is a sufficiently large creek or other moving body of water. Cows and calves can’t break the ice by themselves if it is thick. I remember many times taking an old axe out to the pond and chopping through the ice to create a hole where the cattle could get a drink of water. That is cold, wet, hard work. There has to be Enough water underneath that ice for the cattle to get a drink. That is one place where that 1 3/4 inches of rain I got today becomes VERY important.

Rain this morning!

Rain this morning!

Rain is very important to Agriculture. Water availability may very well be THE MOST IMPORTANT factor across all of Agriculture. Crops need rain, livestock need water. Animals depend on crops to eat that depend on water to grow. Water is the basis for cleaning pretty well everything relating to farm production. The biologic nature of Agriculture means that everything has a time limit. Everything either goes bad after a certain amount of time (think of rot, mold, and decay), or starts off bad as in manure, contaminants like ag chemicals, and waste  animal parts in meat processing.

I grew up on a dairy farm where the equipment had to be carefully cleaned and dis-infected after every milking twice a day every day. Think about how quickly milk goes bad when left out. My brother had a gallon of milk spill in his car once and it stank that car up for the rest of its life! Water is the basis for cleaning in almost every part of life. Guess what? Animals poop! (Poop is such a silly sounding word. It makes 6 year olds out of everybody. I always want to giggle when I hear “poop….. poop, poop, poop”.) Manure is a much more civilized term. Milk cows produce manure and they really don’t care where they let it fly. You haven’t lived until you have had a cow swish a manure filled tail around while you are attaching the milker and it wraps around the back of your head and slaps you in the face and mouth! Take my dad’s word for it! Milk barns have to be cleaned of all that manure during and after every milking. Manure is right there at the production point of milk. The two have to be separated. Water is the key.

Water is used for mechanical advantage in processing a lot of produce. Apples,  cucumbers, and many other types of fruits and vegetables are examples where sluices are used to convey produce from one place to another without bruising it.  The product gets washed and safely moved at the same time. Water is safer, cheaper, easier, and more energy efficient at moving things than belts or rollers.

The next time the weather forecast calls for rain, think about all the benefits that water brings with it. I happen to enjoy water quite a bit. I enjoy drinking it alot. Here is a link to an article discussing the value of water as a vital commodity to be invested in for the 21st century. Just a head’s – up, water availability is going to become very critical to everyone in the next 50 years. That rain may be a nuisance, but you better keep praying for it.

A “Common Perception”

The historic perception of a farmer is someone who lives an insular life segregated from the world at large. I must admit that there are a few ways that this is true. Farmers are separated from the outside world in a sense geographically. A large proportion of their job is spent working on their farm which is, by definition, separate from “not the farm”. A lot of this time is usually spent working alone or with only a few others who also usually spend  a lot of their time on the farm. There is not a lot of outside exposure here.

There is one huge way that rural folks are not insular. Farmers depend on the news and weather. The biological nature of farming in general is very affected by weather. Farmers like to know whether it is going to stay wet or dry, hotter or colder. The weather affects both livestock and crops. They need to adjust feeding, watering, fertilizing, chemical application, planting, harvesting, and innumerable other work according to the forecast.

There are many other types of information that are basic to the everyday operation and the long term operation of farming and ranching. Farmers live in a world of GPS enabled, computer aided, machinery. and depend on satellite imagery for their weather predictions. This is a world that is becoming more and more information dependent and there is no faster or more efficient way to get that information than being on-line. One way to get this vital information is through directed Agricultural publications like Ozarks Farm & Neighbor.

Ozarks Farm & Neighbor is a farming and ranching targeted paper that is direct mailed every three weeks. It is a paper publication but it also has an on-line presence. This was not an easy decision to make. Companies have to make money to stay in business and all businesses have to show some type of return on investment on every aspect of what they do to stay competitive. The Editor of their online aspect had to prove the value of that aspect. Their 1400 Facebook followers are getting more exposure to OF&N’s Advertisers, News Presence, and articles. Their advertisers are getting more out of their on-line presence through the inter-connected and searchable essence of the internet. This is a presence that will only grow over time due to the increasing availability of high speed rural internet and cellular smart phone access.

This also changes the demographics of their audience. Their 58,000 subscribers are generally age 35 -64 living in Southwest Missouri, Northwest Arkansas, and Eastern Oklahoma. Being online allows OF&N to reach anyone on the net anywhere in the world at any time. This is a huge difference from a paper lying folded up on the end table next to the couch underneath  the Bass Pro catalog.

Ozarks Farm & Neighbor has a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Their goal is to be story driven and informational. Their on-line aspect allows them to update  and react to the news cycle in a much more timely fashion than once every three weeks. Their Facebook page has a “Breaking news” segment, “Links” to other online sites (This is priceless interconnectedness. Now their readers are one click away from being OF&N readers), a “Subscription” link to get the paper, and a link to “Extended Stories” and “National and Regional News”. OF&N becomes a “one-stop-shop” for vital decision making information.

The classic version of the American farmer is someone wearing overalls standing in a field surrounded by cows and/ or corn.1931570-ia2_grantwood_american_gothic_1930

The new version may have that same farmer holding a smart phone or tablet instead of a pitchfork. I urge you to check out Ozarks Farm and Neighbor and see what is going on in rural America.

Chew on this.

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater

I took a trip with my wife and son a few years ago to the Grand Canyon. We went in March when the temperature was very nice and we had a great time. The Grand Canyon is beyond description. We saw some other local attractions like the San Francisco volcanic field and Meteor Crater. I had no idea there were so many actual volcanoes in the Southwest!

I had heard of Meteor Crater. My son was taking a College class on either Solar System Science or Interstellar Material at the University of Missouri at the time and we decided to tour the Crater since it was so topical to the class. Fascinating place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. It was very hot and dry most of the year.

One of the men at Meteor Crater got to talking about the surrounding ranch.The ranch runs cattle in the area and has for many years. The land doesn’t seem to have very much grass

Arizona Grazing land!

Arizona Grazing land!

on it compared to good old Southwest Missouri pasture. If I remember correctly, he told us that the gazing supported about one cow for every thirty acres! That would be 1800 acres of “grassland” for the roughly 60 head of cattle we averaged on the farm where I grew up! This was quite a change in perspective from what I was used to.

 

This article from the University of Arizona gives a great in-depth description of of calculating the number of acres it takes to support a cow. Then you have to multiply the number of cows by that many acres to see how much grazing land you need to support a herd. Compare that to this article from the University of Missouri Extension office that says one beef cow and calf needs three acres per year in Southwest Missouri.

It just goes to show that Agriculture practices in America are extremely widely varied. I mentioned “waist high fescue and clover” in one of my previous posts about my trip to the Middle East. That kind of pasture can support completely different Ag practices than the Middle East or the dry range of Arizona. Cattle are still raised in Arizona: you just have to do it in a different fashion. All farmers face different conditions in different parts of their land. Even neighbors can experience quite different conditions relative e to pasture, water, and shelter. These just exemplify some of the variables every farmer faces.

 

 

09-11-2011

09-11-2011

09-11-2011

Two years ago today my wife and I had the trip of a lifetime. Our trip to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt was amazing! That is me in the blue shirt. My wife took the picture. We saw amazing sites straight out of the Bible and straight out of history. That trip remains one of the highlights of my life and always will be. We landed in Tel Aviv, Israel on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This post is not so much about the trip as it is about how blessed we are to live in America.

I grew up in the green and verdant countryside of Southwest Missouri. Yes, we have dry spells and our land is pretty rocky. You may have to use a pick axe and a pry bar to dig a post hole. There is one spot where my dad had to fill an old tire with cement to hold up a post! Compared to some of the land we saw in the Middle East, this land is literally the land of milk and honey.

The land we drove through in Jordan literally looked like Lunar Landscape.

Near Petra, Jordan

Near Petra, Jordan

I cannot imagine people being able to grow a crop or have a herd of cattle there. I was agog at the sight of such utter desolation compared to the lush pastures at home. I couldn’t help but compare this image to herds of holsteins grazing through waist high fields of fescue and clover.

There are people out there who hate America, this luscious land of plenty. They have their reasons. I am not here to debate politics, religion, or cultures. The farmers of America can do their own part to share the wealth of the land that God has so graciously granted us. He has given us the resources, the technology, and the will to feed the hungry masses. He has given us a beautiful and productive home. America can export more than just our weapons technology. “The Way to a Man’s Heart is through his belly.” I know a man who has been to Eastern Europe several times to share his Agricultural knowledge. We can lead the world in facing the challenges of food production and land management. The Ottoman Empire raped the land of Jordan of trees and fertility. Maybe some day we can all return that land to a state of productivity.

We did see some amazing Agriculture going on in Israel.Holy Land Trip 915 They are pioneering extreme low water usage techniques. This is a picture of a sun shaded commercial vegetable farm. Jordan has a fertile strip of land along the Jordan River where almost all of the food the country produces is grown. It is not all Moonscape. We had ice cream at one of the Israeli kibbutz on the way to Egypt that specializes in dairy production. This was an eye-opening experience in many different ways.Holy Land Trip 920

 

Existential stuff. Who am I?

On the back deck

On the back deck

Hi! I grew up on a small dairy farm in Southwest Missouri back when you could throw a rock and hit a small dairy farm in Southwest Missouri. You would have to have a much better arm now than 40 years ago. That is part of the reason I am blogging.

My parents came from farm families. My wife worked on her grandparent’s farm. My two children spent time on their grandparent’s farm. My grandchildren may not have that opportunity. There are many life enriching lessons that can be learned from contact with the realities of farm living. These are lessons we all can benefit from. I want anyone who is looking for a richer life to, at least vicariously, enjoy some of these experiences.

I don’t live in the country at the moment, but I have in the past. I work in Healthcare and have for over 20 years. I feel a great connection with my patients partly because I have experienced the realities of life and death on a farm. Farm life involves highs and lows and a close connection to the Real World of seasons, natural cycles, and their effects on animal and crop vitality.

I love God, my wife, my family, singing, gardening, fishing, and reading Science Fiction among other things. I love living in Southwest Missouri. I love expressing myself. Hopefully, in ways that can influence others.02-14-09 copies 004