Farm Report Sept. 2013

First Hay Crop

We went to Iowa recently to work on our farm where it has been very hot and dry. The last couple of weeks the temperatures  have been at or near triple digits and there hadn’t been any rain for over a month. We noticed driving to the farm that things looked pretty dry and brown from lack of rain. These last two years It seems like Iowa has been getting most of their rain in the spring and then it has drought the rest of the summer, instead of it being spread out through most of the year. I hope it is not a pattern that will persist.

Our First Hay Crop

When we first pulled up to the farm it was nice to see big round bales of hay on our property. It just reminds me that this is really going to be a farm even though it’s not much of a farm  compared to Iowa standards. This was our very first grass hay crop on the farm. My friend Tom who raises sheep asked if he could hay our pasture up by the building and we told him yes because we like Tom and it would save us time mowing the upper pasture where the building site is.

You can see how brown the grass looks from lack of rain.

You can see how brown the grass looks from lack of rain.

It seems like when ever we go to the farm it rains and this time was no exception. The first night we were there it rained  1/2 inch. Maybe we should go to the farm more often, then the farmers wouldn’t have all this drought to deal with.

One casualty of the drought, we lost two cherry trees that we planted a year ago this past spring.

Oak tree emerging from a tree tube.

Tree Tube Update

We went to the farm to check on and mow around our trees that we planted in 2010. The contract we have with the Farm Service Agency says we are not to mow around the trees from May 15th to Aug. 15th, so for three months we have to let the weeds grow and boy do they grow. This past spring was a very wet at the farm and most of Iowa. The area where the trees are planted flooded 3 times. This gave the weeds plenty of moisture and they really grew tall this year. In fact you can see from the pictures below how high the weeds grew.

It was hard mowing the rows between the tree tubes because the weeds were so high.

Tractor in high weeds

The weeds had grown so tall it was hard to see how our rows of trees ran. We tried to mow, but after running over several tree tubes I thought it best we wait until spring. The trees we could see all seemed to be doing fine, even the ones that had lost the tree tube that I had marked when we were there in May with a 1/2 inch PVC pipe.

Oak tree in wire gage

We are still having problems with raccoons tearing up our tree tubes to get at wasp nest that are inside the tube. Most of the trees are still alive but we have to put a wire gage around the tree to help protect it from deer. The pictures below show some of the damage they have done to the tree tubes.

Deer damaged tree tubes OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I thought with the weeds being high that the raccoons would have a hard time finding the tubes, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I also have trees that are not in tree tubes and I have marked them with a 4ft tall piece of 1/2 pvc pipe. They are also doing fine but are not as big as the ones in the tree tubes. When we go back to the farm in October we will try to find all of them and put a wire cage over them to protect them this winter from the deer.

Flail Mower

Getting a New Mower

The tall weeds were just too much for our old fail mower. This mower is from the 1960’s and it broke down when we were there, so we are in the process of buying a new rotary mower. We are ordering a Land Pride RCF 2060 weed and brush mower. I still plan on buying the parts to fix the old mower so we will use it to cut our pasture.

Gander Hill Pond going To Be Dug Deeper

Our wet lands pond for which our farm is named after is almost dried up again this year. The FSA contract that we have on it expires at the end of this month so we want to explore the idea of digging it out to at least 8 feet so we can stock it with fish. When we go back in October hopefully we can get the small damn dug out so the pond won’t fill up again this spring and then we can have it dug out during next summers drought when it is dried out good.

That’s it for this farm report, hopefully my next post will be on how to do your own pole barn house plans. Until then enjoy more pictures of our last visit below.


Biggest tree

This is a picture of a wild plum or wild cherry tree, it is the biggest tree coming out of one of tree tubes.


About Gordon Milligan

I am a retired conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I now live in and have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I have built from the ground up. My wife and I are trying to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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14 Responses to Farm Report Sept. 2013

  1. Jewels says:

    I has been really dry here too, bah! I bet that was really cool to see those hay bales there on your property. I like the pretty “weeds.” 😉 Sorry to hear about the raccoon damage to a few of your trees, those pesky little critters! Great post Gordon! 🙂

  2. Langela says:

    We picked wild plums for the first time this year. They are delicious! I wouldn’t count on a drought next summer. If you have the means, I’d dig out your pond this fall. Two years ago we had flooding and our grass stayed lush and green all summer long because of the rain. Just a thought. It’s just hard to tell what each year will bring. Be thankful for the rain you got up there. Just 1/2 hour south of you, where we live, we didn’t get any rain. Crossing our fingers for a good rain on Sunday.

  3. Thanks Langela for your comments. If it dries out enough the rest of this summer and we can do it, and I will take your advise and try and get it done this fall. I really hope I won’t be able to do it this year because the farm got some more rain.You guys really need to get some rain soon.

  4. Zephyr Hill says:

    It’s a great feeling seeing those round bales of hay, isn’t it? Boy, you wouldn’t have wanted to get too far from your tractor in those weeds or you might not have found it again!

    I’m curious. Do you know why the contract specifies for you not to mow around the trees? I’d have thought keeping the weeds down would help the trees grow better.

    • Hi Susan, They don’t want you to mow because it is nesting season for many birds and animals. Everything from pheasant, turkey, deer and a host of other animals give birth at that time and then hide their young in the un cut grass and weeds. I can petition the Farm Service Agency to allow an exception to this planting and they would probably give it if I showed them these pictures. But I don’t know if I need to. The contract states that I only have to mow around the trees the first two years, because the trees are pretty well established after that. Their root system goes deeper then the weeds and that is why they are doing so well despite the tall weeds.

  5. grasspunk says:

    I love the photo with the weeds engulfing the tractor! Man, something is growing well out there.

    • Yes it is Brent, to bad it wasn’t some nice pasture like what you have at your place.

      • grasspunk says:

        All my pasture is brown and asleep right now, although it just rained an inch. That’s the first rain since June 18th, not that I’m counting the days or anything.

        Seriously, that might be very productive land given how green it is in summer. But I’m also liking those fruit trees you have. Silvopasture?

      • Glad to hear you got some rain Brent. This bottom ground I have is very productive. One of the farmers who used to own this land planted corn there one year and he said it was the best corn crop that he had ever had. It is just to risky with the flooding. After each flood I notice we get about a 1/4 of new fine top soil from our neighbors up stream. If this keeps up maybe in a hundred years it will be high ground again.

        I didn’t know what Silvopasture was until I looked it up. Silvopasture (Latin, silva forest) is the practice of combining forestry and grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way. Advantages of a properly managed silvopasture operation are enhanced soil protection and increased long-term income due to the simultaneous production of trees and grazing animals.

        Yea that is what it is, Now if anyone asks… that’s what I am doing, Thanks Brent.

  6. purlygirl2 says:

    Some of the weeds were taller than you even when you stood up on the tractor while mowing!

  7. Sarah says:

    Just stumbled across your blog while I was looking for pole barn information. Will be following you as we to are in the process of wanting to build and become farmers full time. Beautiful place.

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