Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Merry Christmas from the O'Neals!

How can it already be Christmas time? Time sure flies when you are having fun!

2015 has been a full year for Royce and me. We've both done some traveling, Royce with Texas Farm Bureau's Ag Lead program and me with my job at Monsanto. Last week I was trying to figure how many weeks I traveled this year, and it turns out I was gone around 17 weeks! No wonder it feels so good to be home when I make here! I've enjoyed almost every second of traveling, too (except those flight delays). Most of my time was spent meeting WestBred seed suppliers and farmers, walking wheat fields and either orchestrating photo shoots or performing shoots myself. Overall, it has been a busy, but fun-filled and wheat-filled year for me!

With Ag Lead, Royce has been able to see and learn about agriculture in multiple places across Texas as well as California. When Royce hasn't been traveling, he's been busy on the farm. 2015 proved to be another challenging year for farming, though in the exact opposite way than the previous few years. We've had record rainfall this year, making it hard for us to get in the field at the ideal times. This spring, planting was delayed, and in the cases when we planted prior to the monsoon of May/June, we ended up replanting those crops. The rain helped our crops, once planted, grow very well, but also gave the weeds a big boost. We spent a lot of time spraying weeds, plowing weeds, and having crews hand-hoe the weeds. Insects also flourished this year, with sugarcane aphids attacking our grain sorghum/milo crops. Rains this fall have delayed harvest. At the time of this writing, we still have late-planted corn in the field as well as some dryland cotton. We might not be able to finish harvest until the new year. From what has been harvested, our crops have yielded well, but commodity prices are making it tough to turn profits. We are definitely thankful for the regular income from my full-time job.

Despite our professional travel schedules, Royce and I both made time for some fun travels too! In March, I got to add Houston to my list of Texas places seen. We saw Ryan Bingham live at the House of Blues in Houston, and let me tell you, it was SO worth the drive! In May, I spent Memorial Day weekend in Michigan with my friend, Sam. I even got to help put in a Channel corn and soybean plot while I was there. In August, Royce and I celebrated our one year anniversary by flying down to Fredericksburg, TX. We determined the duck schnitzel at Otto's is probably the most delicious German food ever! Tomorrow, we are headed to Jamaica for some time in the sun with my dad's side of the family. We're looking forward to the beach, the sunshine and the all-inclusive bar. :)

Another Texas Place checked off my list. Royce and I at the top of Enchanted Rock.
Over the last year, we've been blessed to meet great people and spend time with family and friends. 2015 has been a great one, farming challenges and all. Thanks to everyone who has followed along, given us motivational words, and supported us through all of our adventures! Here's to a prosperous and wonderful 2016!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Much love from Royce and Kaitlyn, Ranger and Rori

Monday, October 26, 2015

Puppy Love

It's no secret I love my red dogs, Ranger and Rori. When our friends come over to cook out or just hang out, the dogs are the main entertainment. They have giant personalities, and I love them for it. Ranger and Rori are half-siblings, out of the same female. Both came from my mom in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. She raises great Australian Shepherds and I'm glad I own two (well, one and a half since Rori is only half Aussie) from her. I visited my mom this weekend, and as it happens, she had the latest litter of Aussies for me to play with.

Take note of me trying to keep my camera from them. I <3 Aussies!

The world would be a better place if we could all play with Aussie puppies every day. Since that isn't possible, here are some photos for everyone to enjoy.

These four boys are all still available for loving homes. For more information, contact Stephanie Nelson at (218) 280-0761 or www.thecedarcreekranch.com.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cotton Closeup

We don't get many dewy mornings here in the Texas Panhandle so when I woke up to a foggy morning, I knew what I had to do: take my camera, my new macro lens and get to a cotton field ASAP.

Let me tell you. I was not disappointed! It was a photographer's dream morning with soft light and a nice amount of dew (at least for the Panhandle). It was also a plant nerd's dream with the cotton blooming and setting bolls. In case you aren't familiar with cotton lingo, the cotton lint (think of a cotton ball you might use for removing nail polish) come from the bolls. Bolls are super important on cotton plants because that's what we harvest so the more bolls, the better.

Without further ado, here are the closeups I managed to shoot on that glorious morning, sprinkled with some cotton reproduction information.

This funny looking growth is called a square. It actually has three little "leaves," which has always made me question why it is called a square when there are three. I digress. Squares hold the buds of cotton flowers.

When cotton flowers first bloom, they are a beautiful creamy white color, which they will remain until they are pollinated. Cotton can either self-pollinate or be cross-pollinated by pollinator insects like bees. As you can see in the above and below photo, the flower will start to change colors once pollination and fertilization occur.

The flower above is advancing well into pollination as you can see by the pink hue of the flower.

Once fertilization is complete, the cotton flower becomes a vibrant pink to purple color and closes up. Now it is working to produce a boll, where the seed and cotton lint will be housed.

Above and below are cotton bolls. Above you can see the flower still attached to the top of the boll. This eventually falls off to reveal a pretty round boll, like below. When we are closer to harvest, these bolls will pop open to reveal pretty white cotton lint, which will be made into lots of blue jeans!

I'm often fascinated by the intricacies of life, but few things are as amazing to me as the leaf. This cotton leaf edge shows the detail of one simple leaf. This leaf will turn sunlight into food and produce flowers that eventually produce lint that I wear around daily. How awesome is that?!

Cotton is a pretty drought-tolerant crop. It definitely knows how to hold on to the water it gets. Just look at the pools in its leaves!

Above is unhealthy cotton leaf with a grasshopper on it. It is hard to say exactly what happened to this leaf, but some kind of stress occurred. As farmers, we try to keep our plants from getting stressed, but sometimes, nature has other ideas.

Does anyone have any questions concerning cotton reproduction or production in general? I'd be happy to answer!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I love farmers and I work for Monsanto.

I love farmers and I work for Monsanto

(Disclaimer: As with every other post on this blog, these are my personal opinions and do not reflect those of my company. I wrote this of my own free will. This post was not sponsored by Monsanto. I received no financial compensation for writing this post.)

I love farmers, always have and always will. I was raised in a farming family in farming communities. I now am married into another farming family and live in another farming community. If anyone ever asks me who the best people in the world are, my response is simple: farmers. Sure, doctors heal sick people, pastors offer spiritual guidance, and philanthropists help people who are oppressed. Those are all wonderful, worthwhile causes, but farmers feed people, which is the most important calling of all. Without food, people can't be healed, guided to higher powers, or helped out of oppression. Food is the foundation of all things, and that's why farmers are the best people in the world.

Farmers have a lot on their plates though (pun intended). The farmers I know aren't just "farmers." They are mechanics, grain merchandisers, agronomists, truck drivers, marketers, meteorologists, welders, veterinarians, community leaders, plumbers, electricians, engineers, researchers, soil scientists and much more. So many skills fall under one "farmer" umbrella, and that's a lot for one guy or gal to handle. That's why I work for Monsanto.

At Monsanto, we are committed to finding solutions that help farmers produce bigger and better harvests. Farmers are busier than ever, discovering ways to grow more with less, but that's a big challenge. That's a challenge I like helping farmers tackle. Actually, I don't just like it. I am passionate about helping farmers because I understand all of the risks and hardships that go along with the job title of "farmer."

That's right. I said I understand the risks of a farmer, and that's because I am a farmer too. My father is a farmer. My mother is a farmer. My grandfather was a farmer. My father-in-law and mother-in-law are farmers. My husband and I are both farmers. That's one of the best things about working at Monsanto. Many of the people I have met in my two and a half years with the company understood farming before they ever came to work at Monsanto. Some worked on farms of all shapes and sizes. Others grew up on farms. And even those who didn't know what farming was all about when they started at Monsanto have learned to understand it since - by interacting with real farmers.

Since I was a high school freshman dreaming about my future career, I've always had the goal of working for Monsanto. Back then, I had no idea what particular job title I'd have, but the company has always remained a constant.

Why? Because I love farmers, and I have always wanted to help farmers grow more food.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Sisterhood Tag

When you blog about life as a farm woman, you become part of a community of other farm and ranch women - a sisterhood if you will. Once I finally discovered (a month later) that Jenny from Prairie Californian had tagged me in the Sisterhood of the World of Bloggers Award, I was pretty excited to answer her questions.

1. Why did you start your blog? 

I have always had a passion for writing, especially during times of change. When I learned that I would be moving to Texas, I knew it was going to be a long process before I really "became Texan" so I thought I'd share my stories along the way. Since then, this blog has been a great place to share the good times, the hardships, and even some uncertainties with a larger audience. Plus, I knew I'd be learning a lot about Texas and farming in Texas so what better way to learn than to share? 

2. What is one thing you can’t live without? 

Horses. I sincerely believe horses are my key to sanity in a crazy world. When I ride in the evenings, I recharge. They are so beautiful and powerful, and yet they are so willing to listen if you ask the right questions. Thank you, Mom, for giving me one of the greatest gifts of all - a love for horses.

3. If you could travel one place, all expenses paid, where would you go? 

The Scottish Highlands. My mom took my sister and I to Scotland, England and Northern Ireland when I was nine years old. Scotland was by far my favorite, although I loved the entire trip. I've been dreaming of going back ever since. Royce and I honeymooned in Ireland last September, which was fantastic, but part of me still belongs in Scotland. Also, I'm slightly obsessed with Scottish myths, history, culture and the Outlander books, and by slightly, I mean, very much obsessed. 

4. What’s one of the scariest things you’ve ever done? 

You know that giant bungee slingshot that shoots you and another person into the air at 80 mph? The one they have at fairs and such? Yeah. That was terrifying. Royce convinced me to do it. I almost cried when they were strapping me in, but I did it. And it was awesome!!

5. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

No surprise here: a farmer, writer and a graphic designer. I call myself pretty lucky that I get to do most of that every day. 

6. Who in your life has influenced you the most? 

I've been extremely blessed to have many great mentors in my life, but my mom and dad have had a tremendous impact on me. My mom taught me to be an independent woman, to persevere through the tough times, and to trust my gut. My dad coached me to always be thinking ahead for different ways a situation could work out. He also taught me how to talk "farmer talk," which has served me very well. They both always let me know they'll be there when I need to sound ideas off of them or when I just need someone to listen. 

7. How do you like your steak cooked? 

Medium rare. A good steak won't need anything else besides being cooked to medium rare, although I do like raw horseradish with my steaks on occasion. 

8. What are some of the first things you do in the morning? 

Hit snooze. Cuddle with Rori, my red dog. Check my phone for the texts, emails, news, and Facebook messages I missed while sleeping. Then I get up and put on my slippers. Slippers are seriously amazing. If you don't have a pair, you are missing out!

9. What is one of your favorite quotes? 

"Talk less. Listen more." It sounds so incredibly simple, and yet it is so very challenging to listen, really listen

10. What is your favorite season of the year?  

Harvest - whether that is wheat harvest in June or corn and cotton harvest in October and November. I absolutely love harvest!


This sisterhood tag isn't just about me. It is about building relationships amongst others. Because of that, I get to write a new set of questions and ask some more wonderful ladies to participate. Also, my apologies if you've already done this. I'm pretty slow to the game. :)

Danielle | High Heels and Shotgun Shells
Jamie | This Uncharted Rhoade
Katie | The Pinke Post
Amanda | The Farmer's Daughter
Jennifer | HeimDairy

Here are your questions:

1. Why do you blog? 

2. What's your favorite color? Why?
3. If you were an animal, what would you be?
4. What are the titles of the last three books you read?
5. You can have dinner with anyone, living or dead. Who would you invite?
6. What is your favorite day of the week?
7. If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you bought? 
8. What website do you spend the most time on?
9. You are building your dream house. What's the one thing you must have?
10. Vacation: beach, mountains, or other? 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Farm Wife Advice: Learn Your Way Around

After nearly a month of glorious rain, the fields have dried out enough to get back to planting. That means Royce is spending all day every day in a tractor cab until he finishes planting, and it also means I get tasked for lunch delivery to said tractor cab.

Before I leave the house with lunch in hand, I always have to ask where he is planting. Yesterday, it was "Dennis's." Today, as I received his response of "The Sargent" and I automatically knew where to go, I realized I've come along way since this time last year. How is that, you ask? Well, I actually knew which field he meant and how to get there.

If you are new to a farm or ranch, whether as a new girlfriend, wife, hired hand or husband, my advice to you is to learn your way around the farm and the ridiculous name of each field. The quicker you do this seemingly simple task, the easier the rest of your life will be. Oh, by the way, it probably isn't that simple.

How do you go about learning these names? There's plenty of methods. You could:

  • Get a tour of the farm and take excellent notes.
  • Find a county plot book and highlight each field, adding a note for common referenced names.
  • Draw your own map.
  • Google maps every field. 
  • Or, you could just do like me and ask repeatedly which field/pasture they mean. You'll get it eventually.
Let me share some advice with you.
  • Field names most likely won't make any sense to you. Some farmers name fields by number, but most farms I've been on haven't been that easy. On my dad's farm, he uses a combination of random identifiers, like "The Mile-Long," "The Curves," and "Egypt" (because it was *ahem* out of the way), and last names of the people from which he rents or bought the ground. This was really great if you are around when the land comes into the farm. Not so great if you are new and have no idea who the people were. Here on the O'Neal Farm, we are very similar to my dad's farm. We have lots of family names, "Kuykendall," "Sargent," "Sheridan," "The Doss Place," "Johnny May's Home," "Johnny May's" (not to be confused with Johnny May's Home), "Aunt Ruth's," ... You get the idea. We also have some random identifiers, like "The New Well" (which is somewhere between 15 to 20 years old), as well as "The West Pasture," "The Middle Pasture," "The East West Pasture," and "The East East Pasture." Yikes. 
  • If you ask why a field is named something, you better be prepared for a good story or at least, a lesson in farm history. I once asked Granddad why "The East West Pasture" and "The East East Pasture" were named that way. He proceeded to tell me about when his grandfather acquired the ground, how and why he settled in the Texas Panhandle, and how all of his grandfather's land was divided up after he passed away. Eventually, he got to where he and my father-in-law had just decided to split the East Pasture into two pastures. It was really an awesome story and I thoroughly enjoyed the history lesson, but if you are in a hurry, just don't ask the question.
  • Some fields are named after objects that are no longer there, so if you are looking for the "one tree" on "One Tree Field," you may never find it. Or, my favorite, there used to only be one tree on "One Tree Field," but now there are 10. 
  • Most importantly, if you don't know where you are going or how to get there, don't be afraid to ask, especially if you are delivering a part for a broken piece of equipment. While they might be slightly upset that you don't know your way around yet and they had to take a quick second from being broke-down to answer your call or text, they'll be very upset if you take the part needed to get the combine running to "The Curves" instead of "The Mile-Long," delaying the harvest by another 30 minutes. I speak from experience. Please, just ask!
I want to hear from you! How do you name the fields on your farm? Have you ever had trouble remembering all the field names? Has it ever gotten you an upset farmer? 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

You think farming is easy.

Tonight, I cried about wheat. Tonight was not easy nor will it be easily forgotten. But that's part of farming. We watch a crop fail right before our eyes. It might happen fast, like tonight, or it might slowly wither and die, like it did last year from drought.

Farming isn't easy.

I flew home from St. Louis today, landing in Amarillo around 2 p.m. I was quickly inundated with thunderstorm warnings and tornado watches. On my drive to Pampa to fetch my dogs from the boarding kennel, I drove through heavy rain and small hail. That isn't unheard of this time of the year, although this is my first "normal spring" in the Texas Panhandle since it didn't rain at all last spring when I moved here. I retrieved the dogs without delay and hurried home, arriving minutes before hearing of a tornado on the ground about 15 miles away. Since our 1940s tiny house does not have a basement, I determined a trip to Granny and Granddad's was in order. Four short minutes later, Ranger, Rori and I had arrived safely at Granny's to wait out the impending storm.

Soon, the front of the storm hit, bringing pea-sized hail, heavy winds and rain. Granny and I drank our wine and watched the proceedings outside, both praying for that to be the end of it.

It wasn't the end of it.

The hail quit for a few short minutes, only to return with a vengeance. Pea-sized turned to quarter-sized. Quarter-sized turned to golf-ball-sized. Before long, Granny's yard is covered in hail stones, making it look like it had snowed. Eventually, the hail died away, but the damage had been done. That's farming. We rely on Mother Nature to bring us rain. We know Mother Nature can also bring us much worse. Tonight we got both, the rain and much worse.

After eating supper with Granny and Granddad, I drove the two miles home, right passed the field of wheat I had admired a couple hours before. I probably shouldn't have stopped. I knew I wouldn't like what I saw, but I stopped anyway. As I trudged out through the mud, I saw what was left of my beautiful wheat. A crop Royce and I had nurtured, applying extra nitrogen when it needed nutrients and extra irrigation water when it was thirsty. Now half of it is broken over or shredded from hail. The other half will have had severe bruising of the soon-to-emerge grain heads, damaging yields greatly. It isn't so beautiful anymore. All of our hard work ruined in 30 minutes by a force greater than all of us and that none of us can control.

Farming isn't easy, but it is what I love and what my husband loves. We are both passionate about farming and feeding our neighbors. This was the first great-looking wheat crop we've had since Royce started farming in 2011. Thanks to tonight, I'm not sure we will make any money back on this crop, despite all of our efforts. I'll give wheat credit. It is a very resilient crop so it might recover more than I'm giving it credit for tonight. But no matter what, it won't be the same as it was before this storm.

Farming might look easy from where you're sitting, but from where I'm at tonight, farming is the farthest thing from easy I've ever seen.

This would have developed into the grain. Now, not so much.