Have you ever seen 10 roosters in one flock?

Last night on my farm I caught sight of some dark objects on the ground ahead of my truck. As I drove down the grass lane toward the creek, I noticed that they were moving around. I got out my phone camera and took some photos. This has got to be unusual. I would guess that my lack of fall tillage, my cover crop rye, vetch, lentils, and rapeseed, and my CRP buffers along the creek all offer good cover for these birds.

Ten RNRoosters_11252018


My photovoltaic arrays explained

I am “farming the sun” to produce most of my own electricity from 24 solar panels. I built my 6-panel array at the end of 2013 and the 18-panel array in 2016.

Photograph One


6–panel array built in 2013

Photograph Two



18-panel array built in 2016


Video One




Video Two


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Image two


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Video Three


Video Four


Five steps to successful conservation work (GRDDA) in Iowa

Since at least 50% (about 12 million acres) of Iowa crop land is farmed by someone other than the owner, landowner buy-in is critical to the success of conservation work.

Note: This concept, (GRDDA) is my own intellectual property. If you cite it or use it in any way, I expect you to give me credit. Thank you.

I suggest that landowners consider these steps on their farms:

  1. Get to know your land personally. Walk it. Look for erosion sites. Find out where the tiles are. Learn the soil types on your farm. Check on the crops. Identify the birds, trees, and plants. Check the fences if there are any. Keep a rain gauge on the farm and track the rainfall. Walk the farm after a snow fall and identify the wildlife tracks.
  2. Research conservation practices for your area. Attend field days. Read research reports. Talk with your operator. Which practices are taking hold in your area?
  3. Decide which practices would make sense on your farm: cover crops with no-till, terraces or waterways (do you have some obvious erosion?), prairie strips, a bio-reactor or a saturated buffer (if you have a creek or drainage ditch).
  4. Determine possible cost share availability (local, state, and federal programs that might help to pay for the installation of these practices). Would EQIP, RCPP, pollinator, or water quality funds help pay for any of these practices? Could you work with the Iowa Soybean Association or Pheasants Forever, for example, to install edge-of-field practices? Can you enroll some of your marginal land in CRP?
  5. Act on your decision. Get estimates from local contractors. Look into renting equipment or hiring local contractors to install practices. If you are considering no-till or cover crops, meet with your farmer to discuss how you can work together to make it happen. Perhaps you can hire your tenant to prepare and seed waterways or filter strips?  Offer to share expenses. Meet with other owners who have already installed these practices. Look into financing for your conservation work.

Feel free to read my op-ed in the May 7, 2018 Des Moines Register.




“We don’t stand together very well…farmers are weak.” Richard Baugh, English hog farmer

Mr Baugh, English hog farmer, says it well. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42353256

But we can change this situation. The National Farmer’s Organization tried, and the National Farmer’s Union is trying to unify farmer voices to improve markets for farm commodities and government policies.

Direct marketing is one proven strategy, but this does not work so well with industrial grain production where the producer is at the mercy of both Big Ag inputs and Big Ag markets. It does work well at the small scale level, but it’s a heck of a lot of work.

A second strategy is to diversify grain farms in the upper Midwest. That is, we all know here in Iowa and southern Minnesota that we produce too much corn and too many soybeans.


New water plant in Ames: What are the protocols for dealing with excess nutrients in the raw water?

via ILF Staff Tours New Ames Water Treatment Plant

Cover crop update

We finally have regular and sufficient moisture to get our cover crop off to a good start. This year we put on cereal rye and tillage radishes with a Hagie rather than a plane. Our local cooperative worked with Hagie/Deere & Co. to provide the seeding. We will pay the cooperative for the seed only. Next year we will mostly likely need to go back to seeding with a plane since the farm will be in soybeans and there would be too much damage to the beans with driving through the field with a Hagie in that situation.


Cereal rye and tillage radish seeded on August 30. Germinated about September 19 at first rain after seeding with a Hagie provided by Heartland Cooperative.

In-field & edge-of-field conservation practices

Here we are a month in to the cover crop growing season and we finally have some decent growth. We put our cereal rye and tillage radishes on with a Hagie this year. It was equipped with seed tubes that dropped the cover crop seed on the ground between the corn rows.


Our cover crop mix this year is 45 lbs of cereal rye and 3 lbs of tillage radish/acre. Radish on the left and the cereal rye on the right.

Due to the dry weather we had the seed did not germinate until about mid-September when we finally got an inch of rain. Then last week we got a very nice storm that dropped another 3.2 inches.


At home, 1/2 mile north, my gauge showed 2.3 inches. As you can see, my farm gauge showed 3.2 inches.


So, what are in-field practices? Cover crops and no-till are two examples. We have also installed edge-of-field practices. One example is the saturated buffer we installed on September 1, 2017. Saturated buffers de-nitrify tile water by running it through a vegetative buffer before it reaches the creek. The plants and grasses in the vegetative buffer take up some of the nutrients in the tile water, thereby leaving the water with less nitrate when it reaches the creek.


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