Monday, October 28, 2019

Happy November

It’s officially November, which means the leaves have changed, the Halloween costumes are put away, the temperatures have dropped, and harvest 2019 is still a work in progress. Every farmer is busy in the field with hopes of at least getting the crops out by Christmas. This tends to lead to all hands on deck and means everyone has a specific role to play in order for things to sail smoothly. Whether you are the one in the field or at home on the farm you have a certain role to play.

This past week my brother Luke and I were at home while everyone else was in the field. We got informed that there were three loads of cattle on their way to our house and we were in charge. In other words as my brothers like to call it, we were the monkeys in charge of the bananas. We had to sort the cattle into the right yards along with counting them as they came off the trailer. To some, this might sound like a simple task, counting is a skill learned in preschool. However, this basic skill quickly turns into an Olympic sport, because some groups of calves come off the trailer at rocket speed. Even though it was a little harder than anticipated it was not that bad and we got along just fine.

All in all, everyone has an important job come harvest season. Whether you are the one in the combine or even around the farm helping out. The people in the background are what keeps everything going smoothly. I hope you all have a good November,

~ Kesley Holdgrafer

Wednesday, October 23, 2019


Halloween is near and the smell of pumpkins fill the air. People spend all month getting into the Halloween spirit. Whether it is decorating their lawn, carving pumpkins, or even attending a haunted house or corn maze, people love this time of year. Of course you can’t forget about trick or treating. I remember as a kid I would always get dressed up to go trick or treating in my Cinderella costume. Because it is Iowa, my costume always ended up being covered up with a heavy winter coat or even sometimes snow pants. It never fails to be extremely cold and sometimes even snowy in Iowa on Halloween.

For a lot of people this is their favorite month and the American population who participate will in total spend $9 billion on Halloween. This year roughly, $3.2 billion will be spent on costumes, $2.7 billion on decorations, $2.6 billion on candy, and $400 million on greeting cards. If it were up to me we would take out the greeting card money and add it to the candy pile.

If you are a kid growing up on a farm however, Halloween might seem like a confusing time. Farmer rules and Halloween rules aren’t always the same thing. For example, people will put up huge corn mazes for the holiday and encourage everyone to walk through, but farmers always tell their kids never to play in corn fields. My dad had strict rules to make sure we stayed out of the corn fields for as long as I can remember. We were not allowed to play in the corn as a small child could easily get lost. At pumpkin patches there will often be huge sandboxes full of shelled corn. Again, farmers always inform their children to never play in the corn. Bins filled with grain are always off limits. We are never to go inside without an adult and shovel, and even then it is not for fun. Both of these are huge dangers for young children on a farm looking for somewhere to play.

Farm rules and Halloween pumpkin patch/corn maze rules are completely different. These strict rules need to be stressed to all kids and even some adults reminding them of the dangers of these things on a real farm. Farm safety week was not that long ago and makes me realize that everyone should always be informed of the potential dangers of playing in the corn that is not in a Halloween setting.

Have fun and enjoy the Halloween festivities but be sure to remember any other day it is not safe to play in the corn on the farm. I hope everyone has a great Halloween and don’t eat too much candy! 

 ~ Kesley Holdgrafer

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Harvest 2019 is off to an extremely late start. Frustrating weather conditions have pushed back us back by at least two weeks from the normal for around here. With this late start, our family has only been in the field for three days which is simply unheard of for the middle of October. And of those measly three days in the field so far this harvest, only one day was combining corn.The wet bin is now empty, the dryer is silent and all attention is on cutting beans while we get that small glimmer of sunshine in between the gloomy fall weather we’ve been having lately. I miss my loud corn dryer with that famous flame and roar that usually lulls me to sleep during the fall. Last night I was lulled to sleep by the clothes dryer, which is another odd sound this time of year. Usually mom is soaking up the last of the sunshine days with all of our laundry on the clothesline but it has even been tough to get the clothes dry outside.

Another unheard of thing for this time of year is that we are also still trying to finish up the hay. Todd was home from college for a few days last week and instead of helping in the corn field, he was cuttting hay. Yesterday it was finally ready to rake and bale. With everyone else in the family busy doing beans, Dad called Luke and I out of school at noon. You know Dad has run out of options when we get called out of school to bale! Even though Mom does have a teaching degree that she has never used, I was really missing Dad’s patience and in depth explanations on how the baler operates. Instead, Mom was trying to refresh us in a quick Bailing 101 class before setting us free on our own in the hay field.

After a long afternoon in the baler, I was feeling pretty good on my way home. The fields all got baled before they got tough. We got along even better than I expected and we were home before dark. I only had one bale I kicked out without any wrap. It was operator error. I opened the gate to kick the big bale out before the wrapping was done. Lucky for me it was in the very back of the field, not along the road, and in one of our own fields, not a customers! I was pretty excited to be putting balers in the shed as third crop hay was finally finished. But then I remembered, cornstalk season is just beginning!?! What have I done? I might be in a baler until Christmas! I shouldn’t have done so well, now dad will be calling all the time. I seriously need to look into changing my cell number! On the bright side, at least I might get to miss more school!

~ Kesley Holdgrafer

Monday, October 14, 2019

Pork Month

October is famous for Pork Month in Iowa. It is a great time to honor all of our hardworking pork producers. Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the United States and also the top state for pork exports. Pork is the leading animal protein for consumers across the globe. Nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs are raised in Iowa and in 2018, producers marketed almost 48 million hogs. Generations of Iowans have passed down the passion, knowledge, and experience of raising pigs and producing pork efficiently.

When I think of a pork producer I immediately think of my late Uncle Greg. He passed away unexpectedly last spring but will long be remembered as a loyal pork producer. He was the last of a dying breed. He was not scared to work and labor-intensive pasture farrowing was his passion, he excelled at it. He had a large newer finishing building at my great grandma’s farm that was always filled with only his stout and hardy outside born and bred pigs. He went through more little straw bales in a month of farrowing than most people do in a lifetime. He always had wire from the bales in his pocket and hanging on every gate. My memories with my uncle and his kids include their 16-acre sandpit behind their house raising some of the toughest, hardiest hogs I’ve ever seen in rows and rows of steel port-a-huts year-round with huge 700-pound sows. These memories are something I will never forget and the work ethic to raise hogs this way is what made my uncle so special.

October is the perfect month to remember him and his love for hogs as his sons have gradually gotten out of farrowing. The finishing building is now full of custom fed hogs that my cousins tend to. Yes, things have changed, but the passion for pork production remains. The work ethic my Uncle Greg taught us will be remembered for years to come. I celebrate pork month in October but I cannot eat a big juicy brat, pork chop, or ham without thinking of and fondly remembering my favorite pork producer.

~ Kesley Holdgrafer

Friday, October 4, 2019

National 4-H Week

It’s officially October and when most people think of October they think of Halloween. One of the many things people do at Halloween is carving pumpkins. If you are out of ideas on what to carve on your pumpkin this year, maybe think of carving the 4-H symbol. National 4-H Week takes place in October each year. This year it is celebrated from October 6th to October 12th. In 1902, nearly 117 years ago, 4-H started with small community clubs to help solve agricultural challenges and teach the youth more about the industries within their community. Today, 4-H is one of the largest youth development organizations around with over six million members worldwide. This organization helps people in rural, urban, and suburban communities in every state across the nation gain the skills needed to influence and improve the world around them. National 4-H week showcases and celebrates everything 4-H members have done throughout the year; along with showing the incredible experiences 4-H offers young people.

Everyone who has been in 4-H has a favorite 4-H memory, whether it was in the show ring at fair with that special animal that was a part of their heart and soul that year; or simply attending fun county 4-H activities, or possibly even the craziness that happens behind the scenes at home in preparation with their projects. The entire 4-H year can be pretty hectic and there can be a lot of memorable experiences that make it hard to choose a favorite. To start the 4-H year off each fall, you have a new members activity, which can consist of a club bonfire or something to get new members involved and excited to join. Next comes a Christmas party and a winter activity that is usually bowling. Then comes some people's favorite, county 4-H basketball tournaments, where a bunch of farm kids trade their jeans and boots in for basketball shoes and shorts. It has always been one of my favorite activities to watch and participate in. Once this is over in the spring, you start to get into the fair mode. This is when patience starts to wear thin, deadlines draw near, animals have to be broke to lead, projects need to be finished, and reports have to be typed. Eventually all that hard work, time, sweat and maybe even a few little tears will turn into a job well done and hopefully a big purple ribbon, or at least a lot of learning and growing.

All in all, 4-H is an amazing organization that I am proud to be a part of. I have made countless memories that I will never forget and tons of friends that I will have for a lifetime. As you each reminisce about your favorite 4-H memory, I wish you all a happy National 4-H Week and the best of luck on your pumpkin carving this fall.

~ Kesley Holdgrafer