Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Harvest well and truly in the bag


Well I did intend on having a harvest wrap up right after harvest but as the festive season was on us immediately after we finished harvest, this is the first chance I have had.
We finished harvest on  Sunday the 16th December, and considering the minimal amount  of rain we had throughout the latter part of the growing season we did extremely well. Our growing season rainfall this year was only 223.5mm.

The forgotten strip
I'm not sure if this ever happens to anyone other than us, but I was out for a ride on my bike one day and came across this small area of wheat that was forgotten about, luckily we had not changed onto Canola at that point. I also  remember about 6 years ago driving across a paddock in late January and Ben and I discovering about 5 acres of peas unreapt!!

The only disappointing part was the wheat protein, about 30% went ASW, the rest APW and H2. We are not sure what went wrong, as we fertilised for more than the crops yielded so the remainder should have gone into protein.  We will be doing more research into the timing of the fertiliser applications, and also if the nitrogen is being tied up in the ground and not accessible by the plants. The wheat averaged 3.7t per Ha over the whole farm which was the same as the Barley.

Hamish on the left with his brother Davey

We had to say farewell to our beautiful dog Hamish during harvest. Unfortunately he had run away during the day because of thunder and lightning, and we didn't find him until 11pm that night when through a tragic accident Ben reaped over him with the header. He phoned me straight away and I was hardly able to drive out to the paddock for the tears streaming down. I kept him peaceful and was able to lie with him in the paddock until he was put down, it was a sad and surreal evening. It was not easy going back out to the paddock the next day to finish reaping it.  He is greatly missed by us and especially by Davey.

There seems to of been more thunder around this harvest than others, for about a week straight we had thunder everyday. This balmy weather led to the most amazing sunsets, this one evening I was walking at dusk with Davey and checked the weather radar on my phone, luckily for us but not the people at Bute the rain went North of us. Checking the weather by I phone has now become such a valuable tool for us farmers.

Onto the Canola, well this was such a nightmare to reap that I was banished from the header.  The only thing that kept Ben remotely sane was the fact it was still yielding OK and the oil was high. It was reaped at roughly 3kph with a huge percentage of the time going backwards in order to clear blocks in the front and feeder. It took Ben 10 days to reap the Canola, about 20 Ha a day. He stopped doing late nights due to the fatigue caused by concentrating. We still lost a fair bit though because the Canola that was blown around shattered dropping the seeds on the ground. Where the rows were intact the yield on the header monitor went up. We averaged 1.8t per Ha  over 206Ha with the oil being around 45/47%.
We had to laugh when we finished harvest and were really excited and then a few hours later our last load of Canola got rejected from the silos and needed cleaning. Oh the highs and lows of farming.

 We decided to sell all our wheat and Barley at harvest, I am happy with the decision and only time will tell if it was the right one or not. I reckon that when wheat is over $300 a tonne it is a price not to be sniffed at. We also sold swaps for next harvest at $317, again a great starting price and some physical at $302. The only grain we have left to sell is 200t of Canola which wasn't contracted, I'm hoping we haven't missed the boat with that one!!.

 Driving to little athletics in Maitland with the kids and poor Ben still going round and round in the nightmare Canola

After harvest we actually managed to Clean all the machinery and put it away in two days straight  which is so satisfying to get it back in the shed, then you know you have truly finished. Then straight onto spraying weeds that had all ready come up in the pea paddock. We have also done a rove around to get some of the wild radish that is rearing its ugly head on the hills in one of the barley paddocks.
 Since then its been Holidays!!!
My Dad has joined us for Christmas this year, he flew in from Spain on the 20th so we have had a real family Christmas.  We had 18 of us at the farm yesterday for Christmas which was great. We have been so busy we only got the tree up 4 days ago. I am a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas trees, and we have many a spare pine branch on this farm. It  takes around 2 hours to pick it and erect it and then about 5 minutes to decorate it.  We usually have our first post harvest argument about the tree selection!!!It is really special as I have not spent Christmas with my Dad since I was 9 years old, what was even more bizarre was neither has my mum but they seem to be getting on well. It will test them out in the next few days as we are heading up to Carrieton Rodeo at the weekend and taking the caravan with all six of us squashed in. Time for lots of Dust, horses and Bundy!!!

Indy and I in the Kadina Christmas pageant

 Dad showing off his new iconic Aussie shirt that I bought for him, amongst the chaos!!

Anyway I hope you all have had a merry Christmas and all the best for 2013

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Happy harvesting

Reaping Barley with the chaff cart on
Well the title says it all, not to much to complain about so far. We have been harvesting now for just under three weeks, and slowly but surely it is coming away nicely. We have only had two breakdowns so far, which included one new radiator for the truck. Sometimes you can't win, we put new tyres on the truck just before its first load then about load number three the new tyres picked up a rock and threw it onto the radiator. It was frustrating as the radiator was sent up from Adelaide the next morning but went missing in transit and ended up getting delivered to a different town. Meanwhile the truck couldn't move. The second one was yesterday when Ben was reaping, and the next thing he heard a huge bang. It turned out that a feeder bar fell off and was actually caught by the stone trap, so we had to get whole new chains and bars fitted to the header. Luckily everything was in stock at our local town so it was only a couple of hours down time.
Ben tearing his hair out on day two of harvest, with our truck driver Lyndon
The peas were the first thing reaped and surprisingly this is the first year that snails have not been a problem in them. Normally they gum the header up with literally squashed snail bodies. Often they coat sensors on the header so they don't work and you have no idea what they are yielding. This year they yielded about 2.5 tonne which could have been a lot worse considering the dry finish they had. We sold them all straight off the header, and at $315 the price is historically pretty good.
The chaff cart heaps that are spread in rows along the paddock. These collect chaff  rye and some Brome grass seed, and are burnt in autumn
heaps dumped out along the paddock
The darker stubble is last years wheat stubble
We reap low to the ground to pick up as many weeds as possible that have fallen over, and use  lifters also which helps.
Watching the storm rolling in over the farm until it got to close for comfort, and we run for cover
We  moved onto barley at the block we call Tamar. This was a slow process as we had a big thunder and lightning storm just after we started reaping here and we had 6mm of rain with it but because of the cooler days that followed we didn't get a whole lot reaping done for about 5 days afterwards as the moisture of the grain was over the limit. I along with plenty of others never enjoy the storms at this time of year, as we are always on the lookout for lightning strikes starting fires in paddocks. We just hope that wherever the lightning strikes the rain will put out any fires.  Luckily it doesn't look like there has been any damage apart from the Canola which has blown all  over the paddock, so this will have to be reaped with the big front on which doesn't do as good a job of picking the canola up as the pick up front.

The most amazing sunset after a very dramatic thunder and lightning show
We have been pleasantly surprised with the Barley, although our Commander has come in just under the malt classification for protein. The fleet that we have grown this year for the first time has been excellent. It has yielded well and is all being classed F1 which is  good, as you cant ask for more  with a feed variety. The head retention has been great with pretty much no head loss. Interestingly enough there was not a whole lot of difference in yield between the Commander and the Fleet even when they are in the same paddock side by side. Unfortunately it was not a good year to trial the Modus as there was no head loss anyway, where we had sprayed the growth regulator the yield was exactly the same but we were running the header comb low as the Barley was very short.
    Ben trying to lift and tilt the comb so that it fits through the gateway, that yes.... we made to narrow.
We picked my mum up at the airport 10 days ago, so it is great to see her again. I am in and out the house all day during harvest so to have someone look after our kids full time is fantastic. She has been out here now 23 times. I see her much more now than I ever did when I lived in Scotland.

The harvest hours really take their toll after a while, Ben is working from about 8am through to about 11pm some nights. Our truck driver Lyndon has also been working long hours, a few days ago he took the last load up to the silos at 8 pm, which means he will sit the truck in the lineup at the silos and drive back to Arthurton where he lives. Probably not getting back home till 9pm. He starts a lot earlier than us and usually is up at the silos by 7am.
I really feel for farm kids and wives  at this time of year as they miss out a lot on spending time with their dads and husbands. Ben doesn't take any time off, as it is  important to get the crop off quickly.
We are lucky in the timing of our seasons in that we can usually finish in the week leading up to Christmas. The Christmas spirit is usually increased by the relief that harvest is finished.Us wives don't miss out anymore on pressies now we are in the era of on line shopping and hands free steering, so there are no excuses lads!!!!

The kids having a long walk out in their PJs to give Ben his dinner
Ben eager to get off the header for his dinner, and to say goodnight to the kids
The truck is just  keeping the grain away from the header, and we toyed with getting the silo bag machine out when the turnaround at the silos were slow, but we decided to fix up our " if we really need it Bin " and drag it out to the paddock with a new wheel that Ben had just stolen off our caravan.

We have now moved onto the wheat. So far the first two loads have gone APW. It is often a difficult decision to work out which order to reap things, as some crops are more prone to weather damage than others. We only have wheat and Canola left and we have heard that the Canola is quite tricky to reap this year and may take a while so we will leave it to the end. We had two wheat paddocks ready but decided to reap the Gladius first as it is prone to sprouting, if it gets a big rain on it. Getting downgraded to feed wheat is the last thing we need so off it comes.
More grain off to the silos
Well its been great weather for reaping the last few days, here's hoping it continues. We have been filling forward contracts that we took out earlier in the year, a lot of them are $10 - $20 better than what is being offered at the moment, so I am happy with that. I dont think there will be a  whole lot of movement in the prices being offered for a while, so I cant see us holding off on selling anything this year.  
Let the cheques roll in !!!!


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Harvest is under way

Well this definitely has been what we would call a dry finish to the season.
We had 15mm of rain around the  12th of October which came just in time for the wheat crops, I'm not sure how much good it would of done the Barley and Canola as they were more advanced. Since then we have had nothing up until a few spits tonight which stopped the header, that is the header that only started this afternoon typical!!! I cant remember us starting Harvest in October before.
I took this shot of Ben today reaping the peas that were spray topped 9 days ago. We don't tow the chaff cart behind for the peas, as we want to keep as much organic matter left on the ground as possible.
We had a planning session with our agronomist Steve last week for what we are planning on growing next year. This way we know how much seed to keep back and also how much new certified seed to order. At this stage we decided on growing Fleet Barley and Scope Barley next year, and throwing out the commander. Also growing two new wheat varieties, Mace which is an excellent wheat on wheat variety and grown a lot in the district. Also Grenade which has the option of using intervix  ( GroupB). One huge advantage also with growing Grenade and Scope, is you don't have to worry about plant back restrictions after spraying intervix.
We obviously have to be very careful in our chemical choice as we do not want to build up a resistance to these very useful chemicals.
We are putting in a large area again of Canola as it seems to be our break crop of choice for weed clean up.
 Rye grass has always been a problem on this farm, and we have been trying to keep this invasive weed under control for years. Last week we found out the news through skin tests that our daughter Indy is allergic to the grass, and that it makes her skin flare up badly. So now the war is on to get rid of the stuff more than ever!!
Rye grass
The two pieces of machinery below are the oldest on the farm, both about fifty years old. The tractor is surplus to needs at the moment and is up for sale, but I love it and will actually be very sad when it goes. The fire truck  has just had an engine rebuild from Ben last week, as it was bellowing smoke and more likely to start a fire than put one out. We usually reap with two fire units in the paddock, as up until now there has always been a special technique to get the Dodge started, and I prefer having a 1000 litre shuttle on the back of the Ute filled with water as the manoeuvrability in the paddock is slightly better and I can guarantee it will start first time.
Carting in the last of the horses hay for the year, of course we had to do this on a thirty+ degree day.
 The Dodge fire truck, Ben rebuilt the  engine  last week. With help from Hugo who loves dressing in his Santa suit (that's when he is not spiderman)
 The characteristics of JNZ wheat, where it has very uneven stem length and throws up the odd long one
 Our wheat crops are looking good and have really benefited from the mid October rain
 We had 210 Ha of  Canola windrowed at the weekend, this was contracted out to a local farmer who has a self propelled windrower and can cover the ground pretty quickly. It was sprayed also with  roundup at the same time to stop the canola stalks from re greening and also to kill any late germinating weeds. We can usually reap the canola about 16 days after it iswindrowed, but it can also be safely left unreapt until last.
The optimum times for windrowing is when the seeds in the pod are 40 to 60% brown

Windrowed Canola

The Canola pods with some very slight hail damage that was occurred two weeks ago

The Barley on the right is fleet and has looked better  than the commander on the left all year , but as you can see from the image the fleet is turning colour quicker. It will be interesting to see the yield difference.
My mum is arriving next Wednesday from Scotland to help look after the kids, so that I can drive the header and relieve Ben so he can do other harvest jobs. She would of been out earlier but she has just had a knee replacement, and was told not to fly for six weeks afterwards. Who knows how she will go chasing after our little darlings. Her other jobs are chief sandwich maker, and machinery escorter.  We have our friend and truck driver Lyndon probably starting in the next few days full time for the next 5-6 weeks. Our nearest Silos are 30ks away at Wallaroo and he usually on a good day can take 5/6 loads away. Our Canola gets delivered usually to Ardrossan which is about 50 ks away. So its long hours and late finishes but starting this early we will hopefully be well and truly finished before Christmas!!
Anyway here is hoping for a hassle free and successful harvest.
( who am I kidding)


Sunday, 30 September 2012

Dry spring

Well it has been three weeks since my last blog and in that time we have had no rain up until the last couple of days where we have had 4.5 mm. I can't but help recall a saying that my father in Law told me a few years ago 
" Rain in September is money in the bank!!"
So at 18mm all up for September its less than perfect  
The annual horses hay being cut, this time taken from a particularly bromey part of the paddock. We usually need around 800 small bales, so it is usually a huge guessing game for how much to cut. We usually ask the help of a few friends to bring them all in with payment in Scotch cans!!
 The kids waving to our friend Danny whilst he was spreading snail bait by plane on the Canola.
At the moment our growing season rainfall is way down on last years, and I dont think we have to worry about record yields. The crops are still quite green and the rain over the weekend will definetly freshen them up. The last few weeks have been spent monitoring crops for grubs, aphids and snails. We found some rust in the Commander barley, but at this stage we are still keeping an eye on it as we do not want to spray fungicide again if we dont have to. The Fleet barley in the same paddock has a lot less disease and also looks lusher and denser . Depending on yields we may ditch the Commander in favour of the fleet as I reckon it may be far more suitable for our sandy country.
Obvious visual differences with the growth regulator
 We also in this paddock trialled a growth regulator for the first time called 'Moddus' by Syngenta. We sprayed this on half the paddock over both the Commander and Fleet at a rate of 400ml per Ha at growth stage 39. It is meant to stop the losses we have with head retention, by shortening the stem in between the nodes which in turn thickens the stem making it stronger and less likely to shed its head in the wind. What worries me about it is although there are still as many tillers the lack of height in the plant does not help as far as competing out the weeds.
 If you look half way up this image you can see distinctly in the crop the line where the regulator was sprayed in the foreground. 
We found grubs in the peas on Friday so they will also be getting insecticide (Karate) sprayed on them tomorrow. The hills are starting to go off already and walking out there the other day I noticed the dreaded Namoi vetch is rearing its ugly head in them again. Hopefully spray topping it before harvest will stop most of the vetch setting seed and also help us control any grass weeds that were late germinating.
 Namoi vetch
One weed I don't think we will ever eradicate on our home block.
 I was looking back over my blog posts  today and realised quite how much a family affair this farm really is. Hardly anything happens on this place without the kids being part of it.  We are both lucky that we can share jobs and also see our kids during the day while we are working. Not many kids get to see their dads at lunchtime and wander down the sheds to say hello when they want to, have rides in the machinery and actually realise and understand what their parents do for a living.
This is generally a fairly quiet time on the farm, so the last week we spent in the Adelaide hills staying in a friends gorgeous little cottage/granny flat. We  took the kids for a week long swimming course in Adelaide and caught up with family.
One very happy couple, that know how to party!!
We also went to a wedding on Saturday for friends of ours Francesca and Micheal who had their reception out at Gumview Farm at Paskeville. Which is owned by our great friends Wade and Nicole Harris who operate a free range egg farm from the property. What an amazing wedding and superb location. I had to laugh at all the bridesmaids who ditched their heels right after the speeches and put their polka dot gumboots on for the dancing afterwards.  I just had to add a picture to finish with, of one of the signs around the venue,  absolute classic!!!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Spring is in the air

The crops are looking great, the kids and I have been going for walks with the dogs and checking out their progress nearly everyday. We have organised for our Canola to have snail bait applied by aeroplane, but at this stage we are waiting for another rain, to get them off the stalks and moving around.  In the last 2 weeks we have had 16.5mm of rain over five days which was much needed.  Even more needed was a bit of sunshine, which has come at last. The wheat is starting to run up to head and the peas and canola have been flowering for a while. The barley is starting to come to life again as seemed to be so slow growing throughout our colder than normal winter.
Twilight peas flowering
The kids just love playing in the Canola at this time of year, although I am  starting to be a bit wary of snakes starting to come out of hibernation. The amount of noise they make they should be fine though.

The area above is in the same paddock as the shot below. You can really see quite clearly the impact that the weeds have on the wheat early on as far as growth goes. The shot below is a good example of the early vigour the wheat has when it is not competing for moisture and nutrients with the weeds. On this paddock we put a mixture of Crusader, LVE MCPA 570, Lontrel and wetter. As you can see by the weeds dying it did the job on the tares and broad leafs but unfortunately only suppressed the brome grass. There was a mixture of brome grass, bifora, turnip, Tares, bedstraw and volunteer peas in this paddock. Unfortunately though because of the Brome we will not grow our regular barley here next year. Instead we will either grow Canola or look into growing the immi tolerant Scope barley.
This weekend Ben was in his element when 14 local dirt bike riding farmers got together and organised a ride over to the Clare Valley, this photo was taken before they all left, they came by and picked him up. All the partners and kids drove over and we met them all in Clare for lunch at the pub. We had about 26 kids the majority of them ranging from 2-6 years.

We passed the boys on the way to Clare so we stopped and took some shots of them riding through the side of the road track, the kids were so excited as they have never seen what Dad does for fun, as unfortunately it is not a spectator sport.
We may potentially cut some wheaten hay this week, and have masses of yard tidying up to do. We have been tidying up tree's as the Pepper and Pine trees around the yard (of which there are hundreds) look really scrappy unless they are trimmed, so we may have to have a bonfire before the surrounding paddocks get to dry. The Kids and I have been planting more gum trees. We were given 100 last week so it is a slow process when they both want to help plant every one. It will be testament to the hardiness of gums if they survive, as some of them were getting  yanked out their tubes, with half the roots left behind by the kids. 
We have our YP-AG crop field day this Wednesday, so hopefully  I can organise someone to take the kids as it is very beneficial if both Ben and I can get along and see whats new and get a few idea's.
Anyway here's hoping for a few weeks of sunshine and not to many northerlies

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The rural womens gathering Penola

Last weekend myself and eight girlfriends made the seven hour drive down to Penola in the Coonawarra, for the annual  rural women's gathering. Now if Scones quilting and cups of tea come to mind then think again. This is now the third one I have been part of and they are amazing. I have come away still on a high, and inspired by many of the amazing women that I met. This is female bonding at its finest!!!!The event was sponsored by Rymill, Koonara and St Mary's wines so the wine flowed freely. The food was great and the guest speakers were entertaining and inspirational. The  workshops were a chance to learn a new skill or just relax and included a diverse range of about thirty things from cheese making to welding,  sculpting to making a brick pizza oven. I would recommend these gathering to any women out there that just need a break, and to revive themselves. We laughed non stop, and learnt so many things. We went home with lovely gift packages filled with lots of goodies, including clinique toiletries, sparkling wine and a merino wool long sleeved T- shirt. The whole town was involved and most shops and wineries in Penola were giving discounts to all the ladies that attended, as if we needed any encouragement to hit the shops.

Lunch stop at the Henry & Rose Cafe in Keith.

One of my neighbours Tracy Browning in the Limestone carving workshop.This was so messy, big chunks kept falling off my sculpture, making it smaller and smaller all the time.

 Welding a rake workshop, where I was very partial to my suede welding jacket

My good mate Nicole Harris
Trying to tidy up my welds
Friday night with the girls
 Ita Buttrose on stage sharing with us her amazing story
We were so excited, we actually had our photo taken with Ita, but to my dismay the  camera they were taken on was a film camera, so chances are they will be lost forever, I cant believe anyone still uses one.
 Jo Fincham & Ita Buttrose two of Saturdays guest speakers
Jo you might recognise from the farmer wants a wife series, she was talking about her battle with depression and bulimia and how she has overcome both these issues.
 Our group in the wacky wire sculpting workshop
 There were not meant to be any guys allowed but a few sneaked in, who were we to turn them away
Two farming women showing that yes, we can manage some tools

 Shannon and Lisa with Bronwyn Roberts, who was a guest speaker sharing the
clinically proven benefits of laughter

Saturday nights entertainment was singer Elijah Madden who was certainly entertaining enough that a few of my girlfriends thought they would show their appreciation by dancing on the tables. At one point I reckon there would of been at least 200 women dancing with no dance floor, just up and down the isles. It looked like an episode of high school musical, just the average age a tad older.
We always go home from gatherings with lots of new friends. 
 My new buddy, I reckon she was warning me to stay off the scones
 before I developed any more chins.
The next gathering is in October 2013 and is being held in Port Pirie, we have actually booked accommodation already as they usually book out pretty fast.  So if you know anyone whether it be yourself or partners let them know as it is an amazing weekend.