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Winter breaks at Sunrise Acres

Agriculture.com Staff 02/25/2008 @ 8:04am

Where has winter gone? The laid-back, long nights here in southwest Idaho are coming to an end. Soon the farmer's tools will be back in use. The annual ritual of birth and renewal is again taking place on farms and ranches across Idaho.

For many people winter in Idaho means dreary days and long, cold nights. Personally I have always enjoyed the change of pace from the pre-dawn to post-dark routine of summer work. I don't think I could have survived farming in Southern California where farming is done year-round. On one memorable family trip in the '80s, I visited with a grower near El Centro California who was running a cotton "stripper." It was the second of January and his blood shot eyes and haggard appearance reminded me of what Idaho farmers typically look like in the June rush. Thanks to our changing seasons, at least we had a chance to recover in the winter.

Here at Sunrise Acres, we are preparing for the new growing season. Jeff Hansen has taken his herd of cattle off our cornstalks and pasture. When the ground dries out enough to allow tractor work, Carol will use our John Deere 4440 and offset disk to cut up the remaining stalks. Following that they will be plowed under, leaving the ground ready to be worked down for the next crop of corn. With the high cost of diesel fuel, hopefully we can keep ground work to a minimum. Plowing is one of Carol’s favorite farm operations. There's something satisfying about turning up fresh soil. It's sort of like erasing a messy blackboard, the proverbial "clean slate." If any of you have ever been involved in farming you can almost smell the freshly turned soil in your mind right now. It's one of the many blessings of farm life.

The new pasture looks a bit beat up right now with lots of hoof prints from the recently departed herd. After it dries a bit we will run a harrow over it to scatter the piles of "organic materials" left behind. This will also flatten the gopher mounds and let us see the new ones as they appear. Don’t get me started on these pests. For those individuals who think trapping them is cruel, let me give you a young breeding pair for your yard. Soon they can help aerate your sod and decorate your landscape with mounds of dirt. All kidding aside, next to puncture vines gophers top my list of things I could live without. Hopefully before the pasture irrigation season starts I can get another wheel line put together for Carol. She tells me she doesn't mind changing the hand line but hey, what if I have to change it?

The hay ground will soon be sprayed to eliminate some of the grass. I don't where it all came from but it threatens to choke out the alfalfa. With the demand and prices for alfalfa hay, it's worth the extra expense to clean it up. An application of fertilizer will follow to help boost production. Then when the weather warms up, the hay should begin its growth towards first cutting.

Although we no longer own cattle, I still enjoy watching the spring birth of new calves. It really signals the beginning of the renewal of life in farm country. After a day or two of testing their new legs, soon they are butting heads and racing one another across the pastures with their concerned mothers watching them closely. I spoke with one of my customers in Midvale today and asked how things were going up North. He said calving was underway with mornings temps near zero and over two feet of snow on the ground. Not the best environment to begin your new life in. Hopefully things will begin to warm up for them soon.

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