Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Farm to Fork, Harvest Report Late August

You have a beautiful life and family is what one person wrote in their email to me….. this person went on to say he was raised on the East coast where life was filled with jaded people in a hurry to go nowhere and he wanted a better life for his family.   It made me thankful once again, that I found my path in life to be beside my 4th generation farmer where we raised our family in our small farming community.

The grand-angels & Farmer Joe & the Idaho Farm Wife

Yes, we do have a slower way of life in rural America, our lives revolve around the crop cycles, and our interactions with others have a shared respect and trust, but it is far from an idyllic picture. While we love our way of life, farming is not without our own share of pitfalls.  Joys or heartaches in our daily lives are all part of life regardless where we all live, but what sets a farmer apart from the non-farmers is that our livelihood is dependent on the good graces of Mother Nature and the market prices, and it is a gamble every year.  Sometimes that gamble doesn’t pay off and risks taken by the farmer can result in a deep debt that takes years to climb out from under.  As I have said before in my blog (it’s from something I read a long time ago), but hits home to so many of us in this livelihood – “ that many farmers will borrow  more in one year to get their crop in than what most non-farmers will borrow in their lifetime, and a farmer will do this year after year. “    This year’s drought shows us just how vulnerable our food system is and just how many farm lives it has affected. 
Harvest Sunrise

As for what is happening on our farm??.... well it has been a rather low key harvest so far as we are still waiting for the wheat to ripen.  Which means we harvest only the parts of the field that are ripe and leaving parts of the field to finish ripening and will have to go back to in a few days - so we are "field hopping".   This year's harvest pace has been more  like a stroll rather than a sprint.  Sunny skies are forecast and that is a blessing for us as we continue this process.

So while I’m telling our local farm family story, it is always my hope that this blog will reach someone in some way to assure them that the Anderson Farm, as well as the thousands of other farmers throughout the USA work hard to maintain the safe and abundant food sources that we have all have come accustom to. And after this harvest is over, that we all will start the process over again.

Lastly, 2 of the grand-angels were helping me bake up some magic, after all we need to support our efforts by using some of that flour that Papa harvests.  As always, thanks for stopping by, I hope you have a wonderful Labor Day week-end.  We will be harvesting, but maybe will get a day in to play, sort of depends on if the crops are ripe enough to harvest.  All my best, Gayle

A messy kitchen mean lots of cooking memories for these two little bakers

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Farm to Fork, Harvest Report on Combine Technology

The other day, daughter Jen was telling me that the grand-angels really do listen intently to Papa (Farmer Joe) when he tells them about what he is harvesting as they are riding in the combine.  She said as they were heading into town  that Miss N (who is almost 4) and Miss B (who is 6) were "having a discussion about crops" and pointing out that fields of wheat are either winter wheat or spring wheat and that those other fields are "bonzo" fields (i.e. garbanzo bean).  Jen said they knew that the wheat was used for flour when making cookies with grandma (me) and they like those little round bonzo beans that are put in soups..... so out of the mouth of babes.  What can I say?  =)

The different colors of wheat, golden and the red variety

The farmer explains about the monitor in his combine cab....
(click here if unable to view)

The next video Farmer Joe talks about the soft white wheat variety.  Wheat varieties are important to the farmer and we will try to choose the best varieties that we hope will yield well, plus many varieties are bred to respond better to different weather conditions.  So it is all sort of a guessing game and you won't know if you guessed right until the end.  The yields will be the determining factor if that wheat variety was the best one for that particular field.  Whew, sometimes I have a hard time deciding what I'll wear to work, but at least it doesn't affect my financial statement if I make the wrong choice. =) 

And here is today's video of Farmer Joe harvesting the hard red wheat.

There is still a lull around our area as most of the farmers have finished their winter wheat and are waiting on the spring wheat to ripen.  We just got back into the field but we are just on the verge of the spring wheat not being ripe enough, so we are thinking we may have another day or two before we are in full swing of wheat harvest again.  

Thanks for stopping by and hope you will stop on back. Thanks and all my best, Gayle.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Farm to Fork Harvest Report Days 20-25

As dusk settles on the farm tonight, it is with a good feeling knowing that we have finished all of the winter wheat on both farms.  We have been harvesting now for a little over 3 weeks and with the adrenalin running on high for that long, the 3-4 day lull until the spring wheat ripens is a welcome respite.    Farmer Joe is taking a couple of "motorcycle therapy days" and for me, I'm taking advantage of the lull to putter around the farmhouse and tend to some outside projects as we have a busy Fall schedule ahead of us. In our commitment to try to connect the consumer to the farmer, we are hosting our 4th annual  "Dinner on the Farm" event on September 8th wherein we invite "city folks" to come out to the farm to see what we do, ask questions and enjoy a hearty meal.  This year is extra special as  Farm Journal magazine will be coming out to do an article on our event and what makes it extra special is that they are sending the reporter, Pam Fretwell to cover the story.  Pam and I have gotten to be good friends after she interviewed me a couple of years ago over the phone, and we always try to get together for a cup of coffee or enjoy a cold beer when we see each other at one of the farm conferences.  On October 3 we are hosting the Japan Trade team for a dinner in our home. The buyers love to get to come out to a farm and again, meet some of the people who grow what they buy.

So let me get you up to speed on what we've been doing out in the fields.... A couple of days ago, I rode around with Farmer Joe and shot this video to give you a view of what the guy in the driver's seat sees for 9 or 10 hours (or more) a day. (if unable to view, click here)

The Genesee farm has rolling hills, so the video narrated by Farmer Joe  explains how we have to handle unloading on a steep hillside.

Then this video below shows the combine unloading its bulk tank into the grain cart.  If the wheat yields are good, it takes 3 combine bulk tanks (which can be done in about 45 mnutes) to fill up one of our semi-trucks (today's combines can harvest at a rate of 1,000 to 1,200 bushels of wheat per hour). I thought that was interesting and wanted to share that with you.

It is an unusually warm evening and I'm taking advantage of the warmth to sit outside and  finish my blog.  Our weather is fickle and in one short day it will go from summer to Fall, basically overnight.  And as much as I don't want to stop, my computer is warning me that it needs some recharging.  As always I am so glad you stopped by.  I'm just a key stroke away at if you have questions. 

P.S. While attending a fun barn yard sale yesterday at a farm down the road, my sweet neighbor graciously offered up 2 monster zucchini as she reads my blog and took pity on me and my lackluster garden. ( Thank you Sheila).    That must have been the turning point as today my little garden is now producing zucchini and spaghetti squash. Yay! I wanted to experiment with the Zucchini Cobbler Bars and try to make a "gluten free" version  for my brother who is gluten intolerant.  Once I get the recipe perfected, I'll post an addendum  to the original recipe on the OMG page.  Till then, hope all is well with you and  yours.  All my best, Gayle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Farm to Fork Harvest Report, Days 18 &19

Wheat harvest is well  underway all around us here in North Idaho, so come take a peek.  On Sunday, the little grand-angels wanted to get their first combine ride of the year with Papa (Farmer Joe) and here is a video (click here if unable to view) that I took while waiting for the combine to get to an area where we could safely stop for the little riders.

Me driving our diesel pickup out in the field, the girls loved the bumpy road and going up the hills

The product coming out to the combine into the grain cart will end up in the grocery stores
as flour or in crackers, cakes/cookies, bread & so much more!

A video to give you  an idea of what  harvesting on a hillside  looks like on the rolling hills of the "Palouse area" in North Idaho.  The grain cart waits in the field until the combines bulk tank is full and ready to unload.

The first ride in the combine is always an exciting event!

Papa and Miss N

Mama, (daughter Jen) helping Miss N down after her ride and Miss B
will take her ride with Papa

A picture shot while in the pick-up while waiting for Jen and Miss B

Jen and Miss B after her ride. Wheat stalks are scratchy on bare skin as well as
slick, so nice to hitch a ride in Mom's arms

Miss N wanted to eat some of the wheat kernels 
Miss B, our fashion diva, picking up wheat spilled on the ground
Hanging out with grandma while the big sisters rode with papa

Miss M was just more interested in her cookie
The crew was really excited  to see us because it meant I was bringing out cold drinks and peanut butter bars.
Cody, Ryan, Miss M, me and Miss B
We were short a tractor driver, so our new son-in-law took a couple of days off from his job and came out to help on Monday and Tuesday (today). 
Andrew enjoying getting to play with the big  "Tonka" toys

As I was heading through Genesee, the warehouse was starting to get busy with lots of trucks and semi-trucks getting unloaded.

And remember yesterday's blog about the Zucchini Cobbler Bars??? Well, here is a picture of them and the recipe will be posted on the OMG page, along with picture instructions.  After I made the first batch and gave them away, I couldn't help myself and had to make another batch, so this time I took pictures of the process. 
Zucchini Cobbler Bars ( a double yum factor)
 Well again, thanks for stopping by and I'll be posting more, so hope you will make it back. =)  As always, you can reach me at or leave a comment, I love both.  All my best, Gayle.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Farm to Fork Harvest Report Days 13-17

We've had a few relatively minor breakdowns on Farmer Joe's combine, and unless the repair is really bad, the service repairman comes out to the field to do the repairs.  Farmer Jay has also experienced a breakdown or two as well and thankfully nothing catastrophic.

This truck is like a mobile shop on wheels

The repairman must have nerves of steel, as he knows
that the farmer can't harvest until he gets the combine running again 
 Here is a video (click here if unable to view) that Farmer Joe took that shows what  lodged barley looks like in the field.

The wheat at the Genesee farm was ripe enough to begin harvesting, so this meant the the crew would be split up, and Farmer Joe moved his combine along with one tractor, grain cart and 2 semi-trucks up to the main farm.  Farmer Jay along with the other half of the crew will remain down there until they get the rest of the wheat harvested at the Southern Tammany farm.  Below is a video that Farmer Joe took while making the move.  Normal driving time between the farms is one hour, but with slow moving equipment, we usually plan on 2 1/2 hours - so a good chunk of traveling time.

Last week, my blog caught the eye of 2 different people and I was invited  to do a guest blog for  Faces of Agriculture. This site features other farm bloggers like myself who all tell their Ag story in their own way. A great collective spot to see the other faces of those whose job is to feed the world.  The other was a writer, Heather Villa, for Inland Northwest magazine who was doing a story on "highlighting the people behind farms, how food connects people, and seasonal/local eating".   A few of the questions she asked were did we export our crops? And if so, how many people did we think we feed (millions)?  Both myself and Pacific Northwest Farmer's Co-op (PNW) didn't know how to quantify the numbers fed, but we agreed that yes, we do feed millions of people, and PNW advised they anticipate exporting 70 million pounds of legumes and 12 million bushes of wheat to 20 different countries.  Some of the USA's best wheat buyers like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines are loyal customers who demand  and expect high quality products (a good comparison would be like the Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue customer) and then there are customers like Egypt who are more price conscientious rather than quality driven (more like the Walmart customers) and will buy what they need from whomever will sell at the lowest prices. USA's crop quality is consistently excellent, but farmer's do not get to set their price for the crops, the market conditions do that, and for the last 3 or 4 years, they have been good, but that is not always the case.  As one farmer friend put it, "It is like working all year long, tallying your hours that  you put in and then the buyer will tell you what he will pay you for all your year-long work." 

As for my baking addition...  well my impatience with the zucchini in my garden forced me to go ask a neighbor if they had any.... I wanted the really big kind (you know the monsters that you will jokingly put in a friends unlocked car??) =)  So with a monster zucchini in hand, I tried out the Zucchini Cobbler Bar recipe that I swear tastes like apple pie.  I also tried out a White Zucchini Cake that still needs a few tweaks - but both will be shared with my favorite public office (local Sheriff's Office, of whom I've dubbed my "taste testers" ).  The Zucchini Cobbler will show up on my OMG Dessert page in the next day or two and once I get the desired results from the White Zucchinni cake, I will post that one as well.  (Note: it's good to have friends smarter than myself - as my friend Kristi found a way that I can make "printable recipes" so that will help those of you who want to print them out.) So keep checking those pages as I work on that little conversion project.

I still  have more pictures to upload/videos on our harvest progress so hope you will make sure and stop on by.  In the next 2 or 3 days Farmer Jay and his crew should probably be finished with the wheat down at the Southern Tammany farm and then will move up here to help Farmer Joe.  Talk to you soon, and I'm just an email away at so drop me a line or leave a comment.  All my best, Gayle

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Farm to Fork, Harvest Report Days 8-12

What we grow (along with the rest of the USA farmers) will end up in some version on your dinner plate.... so come along and read how one farm family is growing some of the food you and your family will eat

Long days mark the harvest season, so as Farmer Joe heads out the door to meet the rest of the farm crew, we, in the Northwest, are aware that we have been extremely blessed with abundant rains and we have crops to harvest.  Our hearts go out to our fellow Ag partners who have been affected by the unfavorable weather.

Here is what has happened in the last few days since we chatted... the mechanic was out last Friday and after a 4 hour service call, a simple fix was done on a few loose bolts that was causing the combine monitor to alert the driver that something was not okay.  Whew, that was a relief and so far the rest of the days have been going along smoothly and unproblematic (no fires, no breakdowns, no crazy weather).  =) 

Here Farmer Joe explains that we did some of our own "test plots" with some different kinds of fertilizer and will compare how they yield to see which one worked the best and we will then use that formula for next year's planting. Click here if problems viewing the videos.

We have finished winter wheat and Farmer Joe took a quick video (below).  If you listen carefully you can hear one of the "Star Wars" sound effects that I was talking about earlier, this is what it sounds like as the combine gets ready to unload the wheat into the grain cart.  This is just one of the sound effects and I'll see if more can be recorded. 

Next we are working on Barley fields. Just the mention of that crop makes me think back to when I drove grain truck and no matter how tightly you closed the windows to the 2 ton trucks- that the chaff would somehow seep in and barley dust is very  itchy. The worst was getting the mornings first load of barley dumped into your truck... so yup, you guessed it, you were itchy then all day. In today's harvest scenario, the tractor drivers don't have that problem as the tractor cabs have much better seals to keep fine chaff and dust out.

Oh, I did try out the Lemon Coconut bars and all I can say is yummm. You can find this easy tempting treat on OMG Dessert page.  It only took about 10 minutes to make if that, not counting the baking part. 
Lemon Coconut bars, good and easy

And on that sweet note of tempting you with an easy dessert, I'll be bringing you more on how the Anderson Farm harvest is going.  As always, drop me an email at or leave a comment.  All my best, Gayle.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Farm to Fork, Harvest Report 2012, Days 6-7

What we grow (along with the rest of the USA farmers) will end up in some version on your dinner plate.... so come along and read how one farm family is growing some of the food you and your family will eat.

Thursday found the Anderson Farm crew not harvesting winter wheat, but doing last minute equipment updates and repairs.  I had made a parts run for Farmer Joe on Wednesday night, so Thursday was spent doing last minute things to the trucks and combines that had not been found earlier during routine maintenance checks.  Also Farmer Joe said some kind of strange code was showing up on his combine monitor - so the mechanic was going to meet him out in the field on Friday morning to take a look.  Hopefully it will be a minor fix.....  The new combines (when sitting in the cab) have sounds that are exactly like something from a Star Wars fighter jet.  My personal thoughts on all the sound effects is that some young kid who grew up watching  the Star Wars movies became a design engineer for Case IH ( the kind or brand of combines we drive) and integrated the "sounds" into the controls when the operator is doing different tasks within the cab.... I swear if you heard the sounds, you would think a Jedi was shooting his laser guns at something.... so have I piqued your interested in this??? Well good, and I'll make that a "honey do task" for Farmer Joe to record the sounds that his combine makes.  =)

Repairs are made directly  out in the field if possible

Farmer Joe posing just before moving the combine to another field to continue
harvesting the winter wheat
Another harvest video from the first day of harvest, but it is what we are encountering each day and it is narrated by Farmer Joe, so it gives you an up close and personal view from the seat of the combine. (click here if unable to view)

As added interest, this is what test plots in a farmer's field looks like when companies (or universities) are testing out new crop varieties  in real life conditions.  Each little cute square is a different variety.  Wheat research is an on-going effort to be able to find the best grain varieties for our area.  I guess I would compare it to always searching for that perfect purse or pair of shoes, some are good, others are great - but the search for the best one is always an on-going effort.  Farmer Joe will probably roll his eyes over my comparison - but as I think most of my readers are women (right?) you can appreciate what I am talking about. =)

Test field plots
As always, thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to check in on how the progress of our wheat harvest is going. As always, I'm just an email away, so drop me a line at or leave a comment. All my best, Gayle

P.S. I'm experimenting with a new dessert and if it's blog worthy, then I'll tempt you to mess up your kitchen with this newest recipe that has lemon and coconut.....yummmm. Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Farm to Fork Harvest Report 2012, Days 3-5

What we grow will end up in some version on your dinner plate.... so come along read how one farm family is growing some of the food you and your family will eat.

Breakdowns and illness are not welcome events during harvest and while you can't plan for these kinds of things, you try your best to deal with them if they do happen. 

On Monday our crew got started in the field after having the week-end off to allow the hot sunny weather to help ripen the winter wheat.  The guys are still having to harvest only parts of each field due to the uneven ripening of the grain, so it means they are having to move from field to field to only harvest the ripe wheat.  On Monday afternoon, while doing some grocery shopping, I got an emergency text and call from Farmer Joe asking if I could pick up a part for him, as he was broken down.... eeeeh, I was in another town so farm-wife Lisa was able to run to the parts dealer and meet Farmer Joe to get the needed item to him.  Whew!  Teamwork is a great thing.  =)

Later Monday night Farmer Joe told me Farmer Jay had come down with bronchitis, but was able to get into the medical quick-care office and the doctor had prescribed  a good dose of antibiotics to get him well.  On a farm and especially during harvest you just don't call in sick (unless it is really bad and/or you get admitted to the hospital). Many a time we all have felt under the weather during harvest and the crops don't have a "pause button" and the wheat has to get harvested, so you "suck it up" and out the door you go and do what you need to do. Luckily  those things have  been far and few - and most of the time we are running on Adrenalin and it's a high energy state of mind.   
This is what wheat kernels look like from the wheat head and as I said
before, this is our paycheck
From yesterday's blog, I mentioned the great improvements  that  science and biotechnology have done in helping farmers feed more people.   And here is an excellent video about that and I hope you will take a moment to view it as there are many misconceptions about the use of technology in the production of our food supply - if anything I hope it will ease your mind on the safety as well as benefits in utilizing the innovations that will help the 2% of us whose job is to feed our world.

At the end of the day, keeping the equipment free of chaff and dust are critical as chaff/dust on the hot equipment can lead to an equipment fire, so throughout the day the excess debris will be monitored, blown off and  a thorough blowing off of the equipment will be done. 

Cody blowing the chaff and dust off one of  the combines at the end of the day.
I love this bumper sticker from the I love Farmers. org    It says it all, I wish it was available on a T-shirt. =)

As Farmer Joe left this morning, he said they would know by about 2pm today if we would be able to harvest any more wheat - and may have to be out of the field a few more days to let the sun do its job and finish the ripening process of the wheat.  So for now, you have the scoop on our wheat harvest.
Many thanks for stopping by and come on back to see how our harvest is progressing.  If you have questions, email me at or leave a comment.  Talk to you soon!  All my best, Gayle