Saturday, April 27, 2024


The name of the game this week was planting, planting and more planting. Chris was out in the field every day this week except Friday and Saturday which ended up being rain days. They have 2,180 acres in the ground so far. 42% done! That is amazing considering we did not get in the fields until May 1st last year. This year we were a full 10 days earlier. 

Farmer Bob got in on the action as well, planting a little over 300 acres in a field that the big seeder cannot make it into. 

A typical day starts at 6-6:30 with breakfast and a Mountain Dew. I know, I know, but I have never been a coffee drinker, so I get my caffeine from a can. The main course for breakfast consisted of donuts! Nothing like shocking the system awake with that combination!

Actually, only two days started with donuts as Farmer was nice enough to buy a dozen for us boys. 

Once breakfast is done and my body thoroughly shocked awake it is time to work. Usually getting things ready for Chris to hit the field. Fueling the tractors, loading semis with seed and fertilizer out of a bin which are then loaded into the seeder.  We'll load him 2-3 times in the field throughout the day and then drop off another truck around 10pm which he fills by himself sometime in the middle of the night while we are all sleeping. Chris is a beast seeding for 20 hours most days, he did 33 hours straight with only an hour of sleep just before it started to rain. When the weather cooperates, you need to get the seed in the ground!

Loading Chris
Loading Bob

Prior to season, they develop a crop plan for the year detailing what is going into each of their fields. And when making a crop plan, you cannot just throw whatever into any field. The crop in each field is determined by what was in that field the year before as each crop takes and leaves certain nutrients and bacteria in the soil so the next crop must compliment the previous one. For example, you never put peas in one year and again the next year as they will almost certainly be prone to a disease. In fact, some people will wait 4 years before putting peas back into a field again. 

Each of their fields are outlined in yellow on this map. To give you an idea of size, each of one the squares on the map is a section, which is a square mile, 640 acres. As you can see, their property is not all continuous. Rather it is scattered 14 miles east to west and 9 miles north to south. And not all land is considered equal. A section with a lot of potholes or sloughs is worth a lot less to a farmer than property that consists of all tillable acres. 

So far, we have planted just peas and wheat, as those are the two hardiest varieties when it comes to the cooler, unpredictable spring weather. When it comes to wheat, two other things go into the ground beside the seed; urea and S10 fertilizer. The urea we use is a granular, which provide nitrogen to the plant through the soil and the S10 (or starter) is a phosphate fertilizer that provides sulfur to the plant throughout the growing season. 

S10 in the foreground, urea in the back hopper

Peas get just inoculant. Inoculant is actually a living microorganism which creates an infection in the plant creating nodes on the root that in turn ingests nitrogen from the air and provide it to the plant.  The science that goes into planting is incredible. 

Before each field is planted, they calculate how much seed they will need. There are several ways to do this such as pounds per acre. But you have to take into consideration the size, weight and seed count. There are other variables as well such as if it is drier or wetter than the previous year, as the slough sizes vary. Some years you can seed right through some wet spots, other years you have to go around them. Most of the time they hit is just right. Other times we need to run more seed out to finish the field. Bob was close on his calculations, but did call and say, "Bring me 3 buckets of seed". Here I am loading one of those buckets into his seeder. 

While they were seeding, Ty, Dylan and I spent two days moving peas from one bin to another. We had 8 truckloads of peas to move at about one hour per truck. Why move peas from one bin to another? We needed to get them from a standalone bin to a bin that is attached to the automated treating facility. 

The truck/tractor in the background is loading seed into bin#2
while the truck in the foreground is a customer picking up seed
Same scene, different angle

Chris's dad, Bob, arrived this week, needing hard work and a distraction from losing his brother Russ last week. He rolled for several days this week, spending hours upon hours in the tractor no doubt thinking about his brother and reflecting on life. 

If you recall from previous year's posts, you need to roll the peas to push any rocks in the field down, so they do not get caught up in the combine come harvest season. Most other crops do not need to be rolled as they are not cut as close to the ground. 

The big job of the week was Tuesday when we poured that concrete slab. 12 trucks, 120 yards of concrete. It actually was not that bad. We had 10 guys, and everyone had a job. Mine was edging and running the power screeder which was a new one for me.  Here is a short video of some of the action.

We also had a pump truck which made life a lot easier, dumping it through the shoot. Well worth the extra $2,000 in expense. The concrete trucks pulls up to the back of the pump truck and dumps into a hopper. The pump truck operator them moves the boom around as needed.
The guy at the end of the hose really gets a workout and this guy did it the entire time. Oh, to be young again. The pump truck set up right in the middle and was able to reach both ends without moving. 
Once it was starting to set up, we had three guys on the bull floats and two guys on edging while 5 other guys continued pouring. We started at 8am and by 1pm, we were done and having a lunch that Holly prepared and brought up to us in the back of a truck. 

For those of you who know a little bit about concrete, the days of $100/yard concrete are long behind us. It is now double that!
So glad to have that job done! In a couple of months, they will have another row of 10 bins identical to the ones next to them with an automated system that brings the seed into the treater building. 

Now for the animals. Some of you may remember Nellie from last year. She is the one that got hit by a truck and had to have major surgery. This is what she looked like last September. 

Seven months later, she looks like this.....

Living her best life, running and swimming in the sloughs. What a muddy mess!

Speaking of lab lives, this is what Remy was up to this week.....

Someone was a bad dog!

Then there is Me-aui. Named by the kids as she meows all the time and the fact that they went to Maui this year, so she got a combo name. She is usually sitting on my chair outside the camper or actually my camper steps. Then she meows and meows and meows. One night I had to put her outside as she was sooooo annoying. 

On the photography front. I got some more waterfowl shots. The teal moved in this week. It was funny, one day there were none, the next dozens of little teal dotting the ponds. The other birds featured this week is the scaup, canvasback, teal, coot and fluffy little bufflehead. As you can see, it was windier than heck that day. So much so that you had to hang on to the rail on the seeders when you filled it for fear of getting blown off by a gust. 

Scaup and bufflehead
This shot almost went into the recycle bin, as the photo of the flying canvasback (center top) just did not turn out like I had hoped. But it was the background that made me include it. The background really tells a story in itself. Look at all that equipment back there discarded over.... I would say 70-80 years? Their original owners long passed on these relics are just a reminder of yesteryear. Those old cars have to be from the 50's, the thresher directly in from of the canvasback is probably from the 1930's.
The blue and yellow augers are more recent from just a decade or so ago. 50 years from now they will still be sitting there after we are all gone leaving someone else to wonder of their history.  

Drake Can and a female Scaup

Pair of Ruddy Ducks

Coot and Blue-winged teal

It rained pretty much all day yesterday (Friday) which means we will not get back into the field until at least Monday when things dry up.  So, Bob S and I set out to build a couple of new deer blinds for deer season. They will be hunting in comfort this fall!
Back home, Barb is still not 100%, but she is close. She had all these projects planned for while I was gone but the past two weeks just has not had the energy to tackle them. 

Last, but not least, there is little Chase, the middle child. He loves to ride with his dad in the seeder. Here is a picture of them inside one of the wheels while we were loading. 

Sunday, April 21, 2024


We received some horrible news here at the farm this week. Chris's uncle (my friend Bob's brother) passed away last weekend at the age of 59. Russ is the youngest of the 4 Sobieck brothers that I used to hang around with in my high school days.  In fact, I would venture to say that I spent more time at their house then mine back then. My heart goes out to all the Sobieck family. I am still in denial/shock/disbelief. I cannot imagine what Russ's wife, kids, mother and brothers are going through. One of the hardest things to wrap my head around is how life goes on after such a tragic event. The birds still sing, and millions of people go on about their daily business without a care in the world. While for others, the world has stopped completely.

Bob was slated to come up here on Sunday until he received that news. Obviously, that has been delayed.

Workwise, the first few days of my week consisted of finishing the forms for that bin site. We got all the rebar set and tied. 

Setting all that rebar did not help my back at all. Not necessarily hard work, but repetitive and exhausting. Each stick of rebar weighs a little over 20 pounds and I would pick them up from a stack, carry them two at a time from there to where they were to be placed, bend over set one in place, move 18" and set the other one down. Back and forth for hours. Considering there were over 200 sticks of rebar, that is a lot of bending over and picking up.

Ty Cutting rebar                                           All set and ready for concrete!

We finally got in the field this week! Chris started with peas as they can stand the cold and moisture of this time of year better than other crops. By then end of Day 1 he got 280 acres in the ground on Monday and another 115 on Saturday.  Less than 10% of the total, but it is a start!

Tuesday (and Wednesday) was a rain day. I actually got up into Minot to do some shopping. Besides food, I picked up some clothing to wear to Russ's funeral. That was one set of clothes that I did not expect to need up here. 

What a muddy mess. Especially when the frost is coming out of the ground at the same time. More than once we had to pull trucks here for seed orders out of the mud. 
Here are the cast for characters that will get used this spring. First is the 620. It will do the bulk of the planting with a huge Bourgault seeder. 
Next up is the 550. It is the workhorse of the farm and the one I use most often. This spring it too will be planting, and I will use it to roll the peas. It is in the field right now, so I did not get a good picture of it. It is the tractor in the middle of this picture. 
Then there is the 440, the oldest tractor on the farm. A once proud and powerful tractor, it hardly leaves the yard and is relegated to grain cart, spending its day loading and unloading grain from bin to truck and truck to bin. 

440 and cart
Throughout the day the 440 gets called into duty when Chris or Dylan will say something like "Pull 750 bushel of oats from bin 10 and load it in the cart." I will then say; "How many pounds is that?". I can never keep track of how many pounds are in a bushel are in each variety of grain. Oats for example 32lbs/bushel, flax is 56lbs, most everything else is 60lbs.  
Loading oats from the bin to the cart
Dumping oats from cart into a customer's truck

Unloading fertilizer from elevator truck into one of our trucks

Putting wheat seed into one of the seeder hoppers
Loading inoculant into the Bourgault
Chris, Holly and I left the farm late in the afternoon on Thursday making the 7-hour trek to Rogers Minnesota, arriving about midnight, where we spent the night at his parents' house. The next morning, I was able to have breakfast with a good friend of mine. Tom and I met while working together in 1981 and have been good friends ever since. Although we only talk to each other every other month or so, and see each other even less, he is a great friend and always will be. We spent a little over an hour catching up on each other's lives before I had to head back to meet Bob, Chris and family and head over to Woodbury for Russ's celebration of life. 

Talk about an emotional event. I saw friends and family I have not seen in years. My brother Bob and his wife Greta are also part of the Sobieck extended family. We reminisced about some great Russ stories, lots of laughs, tears and hugs. What is it about emotional events, I can work all day and not get tired, but spend one afternoon laughing and crying and I am totally wiped. After the event, we drove back up to the farm arrive about 1:00am. 

Barb would have like to have come as well, but she stayed in South Dakota, still recovering from the crud. She is better, maybe 85%, but still not ready to get back out in public.

Saturday we were back at it hard. Multiple seed orders had to be filled. Getting the seeders ready for the field and picking up chemical, dropping semis off in various fields and fixing things that are constantly breaking. 

Late in the day I had to go pick up Ty and Farmer Bob in two different fields. I brought my camera and was able to capture a few shots just as the sun was hitting the horizon. My favorite time of day to get out with the camera. Each of these were taken just driving down the road, out the window of the truck. Of the couple of dozen I took, these handful I deemed as blogworthy.....

A roller coaster of a week, experiencing both the highs and lows of what life has to offer. Here's to Russ, gone, but never forgotten. 

Saturday, April 13, 2024

We Didn't See It

 I was driving to North Dakota, Barb was at home in the house. Both our skies were filled with cloud cover. Oh well, we will catch the next one. Leading up to the big event, I was so glad that every news station in the country was warning us not to look directly at the sun because that is exactly what I would have done. Seriously? We need to be told not to look at the sun? Apparently so, as after the eclipse, Google searches of "My eyes hurt" skyrocketed. 

Watching the news afterwards, I again shook my head as they interviewed person after person crying saying that it was a life-changing event. I mean, it was cool, but life-changing?

In other TV news, we did watch parts of the NCAA women's final. Something I would have bet money that I would never do. Not because it is women's basketball, we just do not care for basketball. But the storyline on this game was pretty amazing. 

My Monday morning drive to North Dakota was brutal. The first two hours at least. Saturday and Sunday at home consisted of much needed rain. We were thankful it was rain and not show. What I did not realize was that just a few miles away, it was snow. 

I was not surprised to see snow in the higher hills. 

Leaving Custer, I saw a little more snow, but no big deal. 

The stretch between Hill City and Deadwood was brutal!

Luckily, we have a 4WD truck, but there were still a few white-knuckle moments. This stretch has lots of ups, downs and curves. When driving in slippery conditions like this, the key is to go slow and keep your foot off the brake which can cause the vehicle to start sliding. And once a slide starts....good luck, especially if you are going downhill! 

At one point I was going down an incline at 35 mph when by truck downshifted. Next thing I knew the truck is sliding sideways down the hill. Luckily, I was able to correct it fairly quickly and got all the wheels pointed in the right direction and I made it into Deadwood itself which was still snowed in. 

Finally making it to Interstate 90 I thought I was in the clear. Nope, interstate's is where all the idiots drive and there was car after car in the ditch. 

The roads slowly got better until I was out of the snow and into rain. 

8 hours later, I was finally pulling into my destination for the next few weeks!

Upon arrival, Farmer Bob and I jumped into the truck and headed to town for a celebratory supper. It is good to see him and the entire gang up here. In addition to the regular crew, Chris's dad (and my good friend) Bob is up here, and they hired a new employee; Ty, Ty is a nephew of DeAnne and Farmer and used to live just down the road. He is back now and is starting his career in farming.  

The Sunday before I left Barb and I spent the day at home together, packing and getting things ready in the camper. The afternoon, we just spent on the couch watching TV. When happy hours arrived (which is really any time Sunday) Barb made me an Old Fashioned. 

I would think most of you know what is in an Old Fashioned, but if you do not here is the perfect short video to get you on the right track. Credit to my neighbor Jim for showing us the video. The only difference between the guy making one on the video Barb is that Barb made it with whiskey, so she must be from Illi-noise.

Up here at the farm, we have yet to get a seed in the ground. Still a little early. as the soil temps are not quite where they want them. There are a couple of crops they can put in the ground when it is still cold (peas/wheat), but there is plenty to do while waiting for things to warm up. 

Concrete for one. Actually, concrete for 2 and 3 as well, as that took the majority of my time this week. They are putting in a concrete pad for 10 more bins. Two pads; one 18'x10' and the other 18'x178'. That's right, 178'!

First, the dirt work. The first pad was pretty easy and only took an hour or two. The second pad took days and multiple truckloads of gravel to get the base all set.

We've poured the small pad, (left above and below) I did not take any action shots of the pour, but it went well, and we are happy with the results. The bigger pad needs a lot more prep work. We have the grade set and have started the form boards. Here is the thing about pad for grain bins; they are not your standard 4" slab, these slabs are 14"! As a result, you need lot taller form boards and a lot of bracing as you can see the start of on the right side, below. 

While I was busy with that, Chris, Dylan and Farmer Bob were busy doing other things. Chris and Dylan were cleaning seed for both themselves and customers. Cleaning the seed, takes out the impurities (rocks, weed seeds, broken seeds) so, what they are left with is just clean, plantable seeds. 

Although the picture above looks like a convoluted mess, there is definitely a method to their madness. Starting in the upper right, you see the red grain cart. The blue conveyor takes the seed from the cart and dumps it into the first cleaner which takes out the other weed seeds and anything else that might have been scooped up during harvest. The impurities go into the semitruck in the back left side, the good seed then go into another conveyor and dumped into another cleaner which sorts the seed by width, straining out any undesirable seed and dumping them into the smaller truck dead center. The final product goes into the semitruck closest to you and is either planted here on the farm or sold to another farmer. All the rejects either go to the elevator or sold to locals for chicken feed. 

Confused by that picture? Me too!

Meanwhile, Farmer Bob was busy scraping off the topsoil for a new driveway for their next project. (After the grain bins) This scraper is pretty dang cool, it is laser operated so you are scraping of just what you want leaving a perfectly level driveway, or banking it, if so desired. 

Barb and the girls are doing okay. I talked to her multiple times a day to see how her days are going. She has been down a few days with a cold and actually said she was glad I was not there as she is so miserable. I told her that if I was there, I would take care of her. She said, "That is exactly why I am glad you are not here". I am not sure how to take that, but I think what she is saying is that she does not want to spread her miserableness to me. 

That is it for this week! The next few days will more than likely be more of the same. Getting the seeders ready for the field, prepping more concrete and generally going to bed with a aching, sore body.