Southwest Oklahoma Ain’t Lake Wobegon

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View From The Front Porch Last Week

Southwest Oklahoma isn’t Lake Wobegon, but this week I’ll use a Garrison Keillor type format to relate the news from the home place. (And, yes, I have been known to listen to public radio on occasion. I can’t all the time because as a politically conservative woman, my blood pressure tends to rise to an unsafe level.  I have, however, enjoyed A Prairie Home Companion for many years.)

Wheat Harvest

Last week, wheat harvest was in full swing in SW Oklahoma. Gramps and I were very grumpy. We stopped raising wheat for grain a couple of years ago, but it’s hard on us not to be part of the harvest hustle now. Son #2 made the comment that last year was the first harvest he hadn’t operated a combine since he was twelve-years-old.

Farmers are notoriously tight-lipped about poor yields, but I have gathered from a network of spies and informants the wheat yields were pretty putrid–between 5 and 20 bushels per acre with a few better areas. Drought and several late freezes knocked out much of the crop.

IMG_3026The wheat stored in the “elevators” pictured above, with 1,062,000 bushel capacity will make 74,340,000 loaves of white bread, or 100,890,000 loaves of wheat bread .

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 Oklahoma wheat is exported to countries around the globe because of its high quality and protein.

Our usual work went on through harvest. Gramps built fence for neighboring farmers, sold used oilfield pipe to farmers and ranchers for fence building, tended cows, and sprayed pastures for weeds. I am working on a book, so I write a lot, but I also have to do real work sometimes. One of the tasks I did entailed mulching the garden using my sweet new pitchfork. I will hide it from Gramps–who steals my tools–and will only bring it from its super secret location when I have a small job he may tend for me.

Good Neighbors

Gramps and I journeyed to Oklahoma City one day–a two hour drive. One of the May tornado outbreaks sent a twister directly through the Oklahoma City West Stockyards. All their barns and buildings looked like crumpled aluminum foil. Some of the pens were standing, but unusable because of tornado debris.

Other livestock auctions in the state are handling OKC West’s sales until they can get on their feet.

What’s the substitute for nothin’?

Later at the Cracker Barrel restaurant, (a fabulous eatery for the aging,) Gramps ordered a chopped beef steak with mushrooms and swiss cheese, with a side salad and blue cheese dressing.

Waitress brings his salad: Sorry, we’re out of blue cheese. Here’s ranch or honey mustard.

Gramps: Oh, whatever.

Later, waitress hands plate to Gramps: Sorry. We’re out of cheese and mushrooms.

Gramps: (starting to steam) This don’t look nothin’ like the picture.

Waitress: (looking like, hello! dumb farmer guy!) I know. It doesn’t have any cheese or mushrooms.

Dessert at the Senior Citizens’ Eatery

Gramps and I listen to the farm markets on the radio each morning while we eat breakfast. Also, the local news, obituaries, and the menu for the Senior Citizens Center.

Old people rejoice! Dessert today is Orange Fluff.

Speaking of old people

I have misplaced my multi-million-dollar expensive tri-focal glasses. I mostly carry them around on top of my head or on my shirt front, but I know I had them Sunday because I needed to actually put them on my eyes to see if the snake I’d shot was really dead. Gramps helped me look for them yesterday, but as I once heard a frustrated female detective say of her male counterpart: Oh, for pity’s sake, how’s he supposed to find anything? He can’t even find the mustard in the refrigerator.

Speaking of snakes

On Father’s Day I was under the weather, but tottered outside before Gramps got home from church to start the charcoals for grilling his special meal . A twenty-five-feet-long king cobra black bull snake lay stretched beneath the picnic table. I do not like snakes, and with Gramps not home, I had to do something fast–the pit viper snake lay between me and the grill. Without a gas can handy like the lady who inadvertently burned down her house trying to get the snake in this post, I turned back for my .22. By the time the gun was loaded and I returned to the scene, the puff adder snake had advanced to the tree next to the grill. Our five-hundred-gallon propane tank in the background presented a problem, because even though I hate snakes, I hesitated to blow up myself trying to get one.

I reconnoitered to avoid the tank, but by then the diamondback rattlesnake had started up the tree over the grill. That put the bullet’s trajectory toward the road, but I shot anyway. Missed. The cottonmouth snake circled to the other side of the tree. Now, the propane tank was a factor again, but the question was, To Grill, Or Not To Grill?

I dispatched the snake with one more shot, but it dropped to the base of the grill, below.IMG_3059

Which posed another problem: How to keep my feet a very long way from the copperhead snake–lest it twitch–and still reach the grill?

Well, anyway. That’s how I know I had my glasses Sunday. I had to fetch them to make sure the snake had completely shuffled off the mortal coil before commencing the grilling operations. (Gramps carried away the nasty thing body when he returned.)

Chiggers

After some late freezes and cool weather delayed their appearance, chiggers have made themselves felt with a vengeance. In Wal-Marts all across the USA’s southern tier, we see the effects on way more skin than we ever wanted to see. Bite spots range from the light pink, to angry, weeping sores clawed to infection by humans seeking relief from the itch.

Barn Cat (soon to be cats)

Here we have Paisley, the expectant barn cat. She has given up her job at the rodent patrol and most of the time, now, lays in the position shown below. The nieces, grandkids, and I eagerly await her bundles of joy.

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Farmers Have the Coolest Toys

I would be remiss to not share this super cool farmer-built motorcycle from the area. The frame is welded from used oilfield pipe–2 3/8″–I believe. A Cummins diesel motor out of a pickup powers this baby, too. Oh, yeah. The Munsters would be green–greener–with envy.

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Reading

I read a book called Dreamlander by KM Weiland. I don’t usually read fantasy novels, but I really like Ms. Weiland’s writing blog and I thoroughly enjoyed her book, too. It’s clean reading and hard to put down. Check it out here.

And, finally, a snort of laughter from the John Deere magazine, The Furrow.

A guy shouts frantically into the phone: My wife’s in labor and her contractions are only two minutes apart!

Dispatcher: Is this her first child?

The guy: No! This is her husband!

Well, that’s the news from Southwest Oklahoma, where not all the men are handsome, not all the women are strong, but all the kids are way above average, at least.

God bless all y’all and enjoy Christian comedian Tim Hawkins doing my favorite of his parody songs, Hey There Delilah.

[youtube.com/watch?v=cZ2KYbRVie8]

*And thank you very much Brenda for your info. The farmers’ co-op would be dead without you 🙂

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If It’s Not About Farming In Southwest Oklahoma, Don’t Talk To This Kid

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A Lad With Ambition

Today about daybreak, I caught up with m’ dear and dashing nephew, AJ, to talk to him about his hopes and dreams as a young man with farming ambitions.

AJ will be entering his junior year in the fall. He has been homeschooled all his life and I have actually heard his teacher refer to him as a “genius”. (I don’t know why she rolled her eyes.) But, really, AJ and his teacher are just plumb crazy about each other.

Sixteen-years-old this week, AJ is a regular church go-er, already a certified welder, a good enough mechanic to work on his own equipment, and has been building a stable of farm machinery which includes a combine, two tractors and hay balers, and a windrower. He also owns a Palomino filly, Sis, he’s training. And he’s been learning to rope calves.

He’s worked as a mechanic with his dad most of his life. In addition, AJ has worked for me–his nice aunt–as hired muscle around the home place and for Uncle Gramps as a plow hand. In addition, he’s worked as a farm hand, roofer, and barn builder.

Sorry Girls

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Yes, girls, AJ is dashing and single, but this shirt I bought for his sixteenth birthday this week says it all, I’m afraid. Sorry.

Harvest Crew

Presently, AJ’s working on a harvest crew in the southwest Oklahoma wheat harvest for neighbors, Karen and Lester Burns with their crew of seven persons, four Gleaner combines, and two semis (trucks with grain trailers).

Danni: What’s your job description, AJ?

AJ: I pull the 850 bushel grain cart with an Allis 8070 tractor.**

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Showing a neighbor’s grain cart for an example. Not the one AJ’s been operating.

Danni: Cool. Have you turned the grain cart over, yet? (I asked that because I once overturned our grain cart and dumped the wheat.)

AJ: (grins) Not yet. They did give me a scoop shovel, though, in case I don’t get close enough to the trailer when I dump. I did that last year. Had to scoop a bunch of wheat off the ground. Don’t wanna do that again.

Danni: That’s how all the grain used to be moved. With a scoop.

AJ: Glad we don’t do that, now.

Danni: How’s harvest going? We’ve had good weather for it. (Only farmers at harvest think this is good weather: 102* with 30 mph winds)

AJ: It’s goin’ good. Makin’ some average wheat yields, but a lot of it has been damaged by the late freezes and drought.

IMG_2553AJ and Sis

Hard To Get Started

Danni: Where do you see yourself five years from now in regards to farming?

AJ: Well, I’d like to have at least got started farming with two or three hundred acres and ten or fifteen head of cows.

Danni: What about working with horses?

AJ: I’ll probably have to just do that in my spare time or during the winter.

Danni: How difficult do you think it’ll be to get started farming from scratch? (No inherited land or equipment.)

AJ: Well, finding land and money. I’ll have to have a good job to fund it.

Danni: Yeah. That ain’t right, is it? Stinks. What job would you like to do to fund your farming habit?

AJ: Probably structural welding. Barns…stuff like that.

Danni: What challenges do you think you’ll encounter as a beginning farmer if land, machinery, and fuel prices continue to climb as they have in the past years?

AJ: Well, I’ll have to find other jobs besides farming, plus deal with bad weather. Freezes, drought.

No Joking Matter

Danni: Do you have to be crazy to farm?

AJ: (grins) Lots of people think so, but I really like it.

Danni: What’s your favorite joke?

AJ: I’m still too sleepy for jokes.

Danni: (laughs) Well, thanks for talking to me AJ. Auntie loves you and stay safe out there during harvest.

I hope y’all enjoyed this visit with m’ dear nephew as much as I did. He’s a good boy and as a genius, I expect him to go far–even though for lads trying to start farming these days it’s an uphill battle.

Until next time, God bless all y’all.

**For those unfamiliar with farming, the grain cart man, or woman, drives the cart into the field to fetch the grain from the combine to dump in a truck, which then hauls it to town to the grain elevators, or to farm storage. The carts save time and money in very large fields such as we have in SW Oklahoma. It’s not cost effective for the combine operator to stop cutting and drive to the edge of the field every little bit to discharge the grain tank onto a truck.

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