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Fall signals change

Agriculture.com Staff 09/15/2006 @ 12:51pm

Cooler weather and a few drops of rain are sure signs that fall is coming. In farm country, this is the time to harvest and begin preparations for next year.

At Sunrise Acres, there is one harvest left in a fourth cutting of alfalfa hay. After seeing what weather this weekend brings, our hay will be swathed in preparation for baling. With shorter days, drying will take longer and there is more potential for rain damage in September.

While the quantity of hay will be less than other cuttings, fourth typically has more leaves and is "hotter." Animals love these later cuttings and it is usually mixed with other hay to lower the potential of bloating. Our second and third cuttings have been popular with local horsemen as it received no rain and is very clean.

The first cutting will probably have to be fed to stock cows as it was discolored by our bountiful rains while it was in the windrow. After this cutting comes off, Carol will water the hay one last time before winter. Johnny finished his first irrigation with sprinkler lines on our pasture. I don't think he was too impressed. Nothing motivates an alternative career like moving sprinklers!

Now that it has been watered, we will till and plant the open ground to a mixture of grasses. The wheat fields were burned off after harvest to help with a weed problem and will be sprayed after a frost to control Canadian thistle. Carol is still spraying ditch banks, another task soon to end with the impending fall season. The summer has passed much too quickly.

A drive around our area shows the wide variety of crops we produce in the Treasure Valley. Onions, beans, lettuce seed and hybrid sweet corn seed are just a few that are being harvested this month.

The seed corn harvest is probably what we miss most about our former life as full time farmers. My father, Orville Butler, raised hybrid sweet corn seed as far back as I can remember. After Carol and I were married we began raising corn on our own.

For 30 years with a few gaps in between, we raised seed for Crookham Company of Caldwell. This family-owned company is a tremendous asset to the Treasure Valley and has supported the local economy for generations. In 1981, we formed a partnership with Dick Carson of the Huston area and purchased a self-propelled corn picker and cart. Both of us grew corn for Crookham Company and sharing in the purchase helped us lower our costs.

The two-row Ford picker was mounted on an old Oliver 770 tractor. Towed behind this was a two-wheeled hydraulic dump cart. The picked ears of corn were elevated into the cart which when full was dumped into a truck. After three or four dumps, the then-full truck was driven to Crookhams. The driver would back the truck up a ramp to the dump pit. The rear doors were opened and the truck hoist raised, emptying the corn onto a conveyor belt.

It sounds simple enough but anyone who has experienced this knows there was an art to a successful "dump." Usually if there was a lot of stalks or other trash in the load, all of the corn would come out at once and draw a scowl from one of the unloading crew standing behind.

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