Friday, 25 May 2012

May 25 Ridgetown Farm Report

Hi everyone! so, a few of you have been bugging me for a post (ahem, taryn, dave, and erik haha) so in typical lazy summer fashion, I thought I would throw up some pictures for you of things around the farm!

Soybeans are up and looking good!

My home farm from the top of the "leg", an 105 foot elevator leg that connects all of the bins. 

The house my dad and all the uncles grew up in, just down the road from my farm! In fact, many of the Vyn's live within a five mile radius of each other.  

Is that the Taj Mahal? Nope, just the bins ;) 

Corn's growing fast and at a 5 leaf stage, got a ways to go to get "knee high by the 4th of July"

These are anhydrous tanks, rented from the local co-op. Anhydrous is injected into the soil providing nitrogen to the growing corn crop. 

Sometimes it's hard to believe how much farming has changed over the years. When I look at our base farm I am overwhelmed with the technology, the new machinery, the GPS systems, the sprays, and computer screens. But when it comes down to it, we're still simply growing plants and depending on the Lord's blessing for a harvest. 

Dad watching the sun go down on another day in paradise :) 

"Stop" in at "Vyn Farms" !!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Life on a Monday Night in a Water Tower Town...

First and foremost, my uncles would like to inform my readers that I gave them far too much credit in my first posting. They are a little worried about any of you showing up to the Vyn Farm and expecting to see brains and brawn and an efficient and synchronized approach to farming. They tell me mostly they just try things out and hope and pray they work. (Needless to say, I still think they do a pretty darn good job)

A few new things to report from the Ridge, we’ve got about a third of the soybeans planted and the earlier planted corn is just coming out of the ground! Exciting stuff!

As a salesman, my dad always taught me to start off any talk with a joke. I guess that counts for blogs too right? So here goes, “A city slicker wanted to buy land in the country so a real estate agent took him out to show him a property down a back dirt road. The city slicker saw the land and was concerned that there was quite a lot of rocks in the field. “Oh that’s ok,” said the real estate agent, “rocks are actually quite beneficial.” He went on to explain that the rocks absorbed sunlight and heated up the soil more quickly. Also, if it rained and got muddy the cows could step on the rocks and not twist their ankles. And lastly if there was a big wind the rocks would help the top soil to not blow away. The city slicker still looked pretty puzzled and wasn’t quite convinced as he pointed the neighbours field. “How come all his rocks are piled up on his fence line?” he asked. The real estate waved his hands and said, “Oh, he’s just been so busy he just hasn’t had time to spread the rocks out in the field yet.” (If you're a true city slicker, you’ll probably still be waiting for the punch line...let me know if you need further explanation haha) 

Last week and this week, most of our nights are focused on picking rocks because the planting is slowing down. Throughout much of my life, telling people I spent my Saturday or night after school “picking rocks” was the source of much amusement. I told my co worker a few days ago that I went out to pick rocks and he said something along the lines of...”Oh. Is that what you people do for fun in Ridgetown?” 

We don’t pick rocks for fun, that’s for sure, but it isn’t the worst thing either. We pick the big rocks out of the fields so they don’t get in and wreck the machinery. My dad says picking rocks is like shoveling snow in a snowstorm, you just keep picking even though you know there every year there will always be more. And that is true. Every year more have been worked up to the surface because of frost. Even when you’re in the fields you think you’re done and then you hit a rocky patch. Stew explained that the rocks are distributed according to how the glaciers rolled through back long ago. It all sounded a little too “Ice Age” to me, but remember Stew’s got the brains, so I just listen and agree with what he says. 

When you’re young and helping pick rocks, you get to the drive the tractor that pulls the flat bed we put the rocks on. This was how I first learned to drive a tractor. At first, this seems like the best possible situation. You don’t have to walk and keep up with the guys, you can sit in the air conditioned cab and rock out to the tunes. Considering this is how I felt about walking when I was younger...

...I was quite pleased to get to drive the tractor. Little did I know just how hard this job is. It’s a blow to any kids confidence. You’re constantly being motioned forward by the person who is walking ahead and wants you to hurry up, while trying to not get too far ahead of grandpa Dick who usually would trail in the back. And heaven forbid if you don’t keep your tractor tires straight and start crushing the plants in the opposite row. Thankfully, I’ve moved on from that job and enjoy far less stress actually picking rocks. Stew’s girls, Michelle and Brenna, have taken over driving the tractor and they do an awesome job, though they tell me it’s just as stressful as I remember it to be. 

Richard tells me how we rock pick is special because we use pitchforks. I highly doubt we are the only farming family who does this but Rich has a special connection with his tools. When I was in high school he helped out with my school on a volunteer weeding project at a seniors home. In typical Richard style, he took a few of his finest hoes that he had bought for hoeing the fields. He was proudly explaining on the bus on the way to the site  just how properly contoured the Dutch hoes are compared to the useless Canadian hoes. Considering I went to a primarily Dutch Christian Reformed school, I don’t think he realized why all the prepubescent boys and girls on the bus were laughing at his fascination with Dutch hoes. 

In case you’re interested, we pick rocks with a 6 pronged pitch fork with about an inch and a half between each prong. The rule of thumb is that any rock that can fall between the prongs is too small and not worth picking up. That rules works well unless you’re rock picking in your own field where you care just a little bit more. We were picking rocks in Greg’s field tonight, and he was pretty much picking up gravel. 

One thing I’ve learned from picking rocks is that a farmer’s job is never done. It’s no 9 - 5 job at a bank, they have things to do 24-7. You really need to love the land in order to appreciate the kind of hours you need to work. When you’re working and able to have good conversations with family or watch a beauty sunset, that’s just a few perks of the job :) 

When I was picking rocks this past week, I saw a huge rock up ahead and was so focused on grabbing that one, I realized I was missing a lot of other rocks as I was walking. Maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but it reminded me to be excited for the future but never to loose sight of the here and now. At that moment, I was picking rocks with people I love, watching the sun go down on another day in Ridgetown. I know there will be days this Summer where all I will want to be is back in BC, but focusing on what I have in front of me right now is so important. In the old words of the country artist Alabama, “I'm in a hurry to get things done...Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun...All I really gotta do is live and die...But I'm in a hurry and don't know why.” That’s what I’m gonna do this Summer, enjoy it one day at a time. 

When I told my coworker my thoughts on using the big rock as an analogy for focusing on the present instead of worrying about the future, he laughed a lot. After I wrote it out, I see how lame it sounds. Trust me, I’m not one to work through a poem and discover it’s deep and philosophical meaning (I remember spending 45 minutes in High School English focusing on the meaning of the colour blue in a poem...ridiculous), but as for this analogy, I’m stickin’ to it :) 

That's all Ridgetown has to offer for now, check back in a bit for another post...and while you're waiting check out the Alabama song (unless you're in a big hurry to get things done...)

Alabama: I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why) 

Monday, 30 April 2012

Putting "dumb farmers" to rest.

Hello all! (and by "all" I mean probably all two of you reading this blog. Erik and Dave, my loyal followers, know I miss you both!)
Let me tell you about life on the Ridge this past week...
This week, I've been farming. Let me tell you, farming has been fun. I like farming. I got so excited when I hopped on the ol' John Deere that first night. Picture this; the fresh smell of worked up land, the sun is setting, and good chats with my brother...paradise.
Planting in 2011. Note the Ridgetown water tower in the background!

In order to understand my week, you've got to understand how the Vyns do farming. My dad farms with two of his brothers, my brother, and some of my cousins. There's a whole hierarchal system too.
My uncle Stew, (he's a stud ps.) he is the chief.  He calls the shots. If I had to choose one person to do the Amazing Race with, I would pick him. Funny thing is, he's the youngest of all the brothers by 5 years. He's my only uncle who is a full timer. So what Stew says goes. He's got the brains and the brawn of the operation. It's a joke in our family that if you have a problem just call Stew cause you "can't stump Stew."

Told you he was a stud haha

My dad, though a farmer, is more of a talker. He is a born salesman. He helps out where he can, but Stew gets to run the big jobs like planting and combining. My dad, he's more like the glorified water boy. He works hard, but he isn't exactly handy. He likes to say that famous quote from the Red Green Show, "If the women don't find you handy, at least they find you handsome." Sad part is, he's neither.
Richard, taking a little (or a big?) break. He calls it "supervising"

My uncle Harold, he's the brains of the operation. He works for Union Gas during the day, then helps out at nights. He isn't as much of a talker like my dad, but he's extremely smart. He can always rig up some contraption or another to get the job done. His son is Greg (my cousin) who just started full time farming. Greg is a character. He's always singing at the top of his lungs or making some funny comment or another.
Greg, Grandpa, and Me!

My grandpa Dick is probably the cutest grandpa you will ever meet. He's 85 and isn't allowed to drive anymore (which is a very good thing) but that doesn't stop him from taking the tractor up town when he needs to get stuff done. He helps feed the "old people" at the nursing home every other day. He says it keeps him feeling young. His heavy Dutch accent and years of not wearing a dust mask makes him impossible to understand, so everyone knows to just smile and nod. I've heard his stories 500 times, but they don't get old. He wants to help on the farm so bad. This week, he kept trying to help me and Stew. He was in the way and almost hurt himself falling on the ground off the transport truck which had all the corn seed on it. Rich sometimes gets frustrated trying to make sure Dick doesn't get driven over by a tractor. When I was driving grandpa home, he said to me; "Brianna, I miss farming. I wish I could plant." I almost cried, that is how cute my grandpa is.
So, a little recap:
Uncle Stew: the stud chief man
Papa Richard: the glorified water boy
Uncle Harold: the brains of the operation
Cousin Greg: the character
Brother Jevin: the new kid on the block (just bought his first farm a few months ago)
Grandpa Dick: nicknamed "quick dick" cause he's always breaking things (like his trucks)
And me? Well, I just do what Stew tells me to do. I run up town ten times a day to Tim's for coffee, run to Chatham for parts, open seed bags, test the depth of the planted seeds, burn old seed bags, etc. One very important thing I've learned on the farm is that the "dumb farmer" stereotype is wack. Do you know the different between an rts and a cultivator and a disc? Do you know that you have to plant corn about an inch and a half in the ground depending on the moisture and soil type? Did you know corn likes sandier soil but soybeans can handle a more heavy clay soil? Do you know how to fix a sensor on the GPS auto steer function on the tractor? Do you know you have to put talc powder into your planter so your corn seeds will more easily be put into the ground at the correct multiple? No. You didn't know those things, but Stew, Rich, Harold and all of them know that. They know that and a heck of a lot more.
You gotta be pretty dang smart and strong to be a farmer. Being a farmer is not as easy at it looks. One of my city slicker friends thought a combine was called a concubine. We need people like that. People to sue our doctors, people to be our doctors, and people to work in those fancy high rise buildings. But if you wanna eat, you need our farmers. Farmers feed cities, they put food on your plates three times a day. So tip your hat and wave your hand to the man up on the tractor :)
My brother tells me that because he's the oldest child and boy, he gets the farm when my dad retires. After this week, which reminded me again of how much I love farming, I think I'll give him a run for his money!
Planting 2012.

All done planting corn! Next stop: soybeans.