Archive for May, 2010

Drive safely during farming season – 5 things you must do.

May 18th, 2010

I read the following article from a fellow ag blogger, Andy Kleinschmidt.  Andy is an extension educator for Ohio State University that writes about various farm and ag issues.

It is common to see tractors and other machinery on both paved and gravel roads during the farming season.  I have memories of driving all shapes and sizes of tractors pulling everything imaginable down the road at a blazing 11 mph.  Those memories also include automobile drivers will a wide range of abilities (or lack thereof) to maneuver around farm equipment.  I can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining a high degree of caution and patience with farm vehicles during the farming season.  With the two or three hills we have in North Dakota, visibility can be an issue.  Please don’t assume that the tractor driver sees you!  Also, the equipment driver’s age might range from 10-90+.  Please exercise caution when approaching or passing.

Without further adieu, here are the driving tips from Mr. Kleinschmidt:

Spring and early summer are extremely busy times of the year for farmers.  Activities are many, and include moving large equipment from farm-to-farm.  Oftentimes moving farm equipment requires travel on roads.  Farm equipment is large, slow moving and does not stop quickly.  As such, it is very important that motorists take caution when approaching farm equipment.  Below are a few tips that should be followed when driving during the busy farming season:

  • Slow down immediately when you first see farm equipment ahead of you on the roadway. Farm equipment usually travels less than 25 miles per hour. It takes less than seven seconds for a car traveling at 55 mph to crash into the back of a tractor 400 feet away.
  • Be patient and wait for a safe opportunity to pass farm equipment. The tractor or combine operator will probably be aware of your presence and will pull over when possible as traffic begins to back-up.
  • Drive defensively when approaching on-coming farm equipment. Impatient motorists may pull out suddenly to pass the farm equipment and enter your lane.
  • Be on the alert when you see amber flashing lights ahead in either lane.
  • Be prepared to stop at railroad crossings when following a vehicle towing an anhydrous ammonia tank. Anhydrous ammonia tanks look like the large propane gas tanks used by rural homeowners.

farm safety

Risky Business

May 9th, 2010

The Economist, a British newsmagazine, recently asked the question: “What does [the Icelandic Volcano’s disruption of global air travel] say about man’s apparent inability to control nature?

Their answer was, in short, not much. Man’s apparent inability to control nature is just that — mostly apparent. The disruption caused by the volcano was largely a result of human over-reaction to an otherwise benign spectacle. The author argues that this submission to “the charms of powerlessness in the face of nature” is merely a way of saying we “don’t want to be bothered with facing up to what humans can do.”

Farming presents a unique vantage point from which to ask the same basic question posed by The Economist, because, in a sense, farmers work out the answers every growing season.

The history of farming over the past 60 years in North America is complex, but in some ways it has given farmers a degree of control over nature (though this may, in the end, turn out to be merely apparent). Just to name a few things: farmers now have control over encroaching weeds through the use of herbicide, they have more control over drought through the use of drought resistant plants, and they have some control over unfertile soil by using synthetic fertilizer. Now some of the companies who produce and sell the products I’ve listed would love for farmers to believe that they can, in fact, have total control over all the variables that combine to make farming such a risky venture. If farmers just apply this herbicide, or buy this seed, or use this method, then all is well and farmers can sit back and swim in their profits.

All that said, no one has yet stopped a hailstorm in its tracks, or rung water out of the hot, dry blue sky in late July, or turned off the flood that prevents their planting. As much control as farmers might appear to have, any farmer would admit that he or she in fact feels quite humbled by the vagaries of life on the plains.

North Dakota boasts some of the most extreme weather in our country. Representing the “geographical center of North America,” North Dakota is far removed from the meteorological calming and moderating effect of large bodies of water. Some of the highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded in the United States came from North Dakota — 121 degrees in Steele, ND, and -60 degrees in Parshall, ND. This extreme weather can, and often does wreak havoc for ND farmers.

From my vantage point, our powerlessness in the face of nature is neither apparent nor charming. Record warmth and hardly a drop of precipitation (rain or snow) this April allowed us to plant wheat earlier than we have in two decades. May is now on course to be one of the coldest on record, and this morning the early-planted wheat, now 3 inches tall is covered in snow!

When planting good seed, applying an adequate amount of fertilizer, and protecting the crops from weeds, farmers indeed may feel the outcome relies on them, but at other times, they sense that the growth and completion of a crop is mostly out of their control. Do farmers have control? Yes. Are farmers powerless at times? Yes. Is this charming? No, but probably healthy, healthy to remain ‘grounded’ in our role in and relationship with nature.

*The article, entitled “Earthly Powers: Disasters are about people and planning, not nature’s pomp,” appeared in the April 27, 2010 edition of the weekly magazine. To read the entire article, go to


Farm Kids Have More Fun!

May 8th, 2010

A common misconception about farms is that farms are boring.  You take a long drive out into the middle of nowhere and there is nobody and nothing to do.  Wrong!  Sure, a person can be bored silly on a farm just as well as they can in a city.  But as my mother always said “only boring people get bored.”  This is really true when it comes to farm kids.  Growing up on a farm you have to know how to make your own fun!  And a couple of perks are that most of that fun doesn’t cost you a cent and you really don’t have to travel anywhere to get to it.

Some things that I have done for fun on the farm, mostly when I was a teenager:

Go for a ride in the tractor or on the four-wheeler

Swim or fish if there is a river or lake nearby

Take your dad’s (or someone’s) pickup truck mudding (mudding is the activity in which one takes a truck down a muddy dirt or gravel road and mud flies everywhere making a huge mess and the vehicle slides around nearly going off the road….really quite exciting)

Horseback riding

Have a huge shop party so that you can invite nearly all the kids in the county

Bonfires out in the middle of nowhere

Taking some machinery out for a drive

Using your incredibly huge lawn as a golf course or a baseball diamond

Also using your incredibly huge lawn for a ice skating rink in the winter

Barn dances

Take a trip in the grain truck to the elevator and have coffee with the guys

Driving really fast down deserted roads (I wouldn’t try this one)

Street dances in small towns nearby

Hunting/or making a shooting range

Go to the implement dealer and check out the new tractors and combines

Check out the county fair or parade in the summertime

There are a lot of things that a person can do on a farm that are really fun.  Also as I have mentioned in my earlier posting is that farm life is also a lot about friends, family and the connections that you have with others.  If you have friends and neighbors then you can always get a group together and have a good time.

Some of these ideas may sound a little out there to some of you who have never experienced them but they really are a lot of fun.  And one does not have to be a “country person” to appreciate these things nor do those who live on farms not appreciate activities in metropolitan areas.

So I encourage you to find a friend who has access to a farm and go and try some of these things if you never have before.  You might find that you have more fun than you thought you would.


The Farmer’s Daughter