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Matt Reese

I grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio and spent most of my youth writing, doodling, taking pictures, reading and exploring the surrounding farmland. With a family full of teachers, I also grew up around a culture supportive of education. I was active in athletics in high school before graduating from Ohio State University where I studied agricultural communications. This led to my career in agricultural journalism.

I continue to work on the family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. I live on a small farm in Fairfield County with sheep, rabbits and chickens. I have a daughter, Campbell Miriam, who was born in the fall of 2007 and a son, Parker Matthew, born in August of 2009. We are active in our local church and with numerous other organizations.

I have worked for Ohio’s Country Journal since 1999. I also write a column for numerous newspapers around Ohio, Fresh Country Air and do freelance writing and photography work. I have written and self-published six books to date. To find my books, visit lulu.com and search for “Matt Reese.”


Happy summer solstice!

To take notice of God’s grandeur never fails to give a thrill.

Such is true for summer solstice when the sun stands still.

Then oh the bonfires, fireflies and stars that glow

Lighting  farm fields and cattails and gardens that grow,

The sun sinking low before the shortest summer night,

Is nothing short of magic in the fading June twilight.

Today is the 2016 summer solstice — the longest daylight all year — and a rare pairing with a full moon.

The folks from “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” are definitely taking note of the unique situation that has not happened for nearly 70 years. They are teaming up with Slooh (a space exploration organization) to offer a live Web broadcast this evening of the rare summer solstice full moon.

“Having a full moon land smack on the solstice is a truly rare event,” said Bob Berman, Almanac astronomer. “We probably won’t push people off pyramids like the Mayans did, but Slooh will very much celebrate this extraordinary day of light with fascinating factoids and amazing live telescope feeds.”

For more, check out http://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-summer-2016-summer-solstice.

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Time for a rain dance?

The promise of big rains mid-week has fizzled out for some areas of the state with growing concerns about worsening dry conditions early this growing season.

According to the USDA’s NASS, much of the state has fallen into negative rainfall totals compared to the normal levels. The towns of Ashtabula and Sydney currently have the greatest rainfall deficits with -5.71 and -4.64 inches, respectively. Gallipolis is 2.59 inches above normal, but is the exception. Statewide, the surpluses are vastly outnumbered by the rainfall deficits.

Jim Noel with the NOAA/ National Weather Service Ohio River Forecast Center said that the summer weather pattern is in full swing with temperatures slightly above normal and rainfall below normal this week and warmer weather next week with more hit-or-miss rains.

“All indications are a warmer and somewhat drier July for Ohio. The pattern of June that is warmer than normal and wetter western corn and soybean belt and drier in eastern areas (including Ohio) will last into July,” Noel said.

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How do you pronounce triticale?

Triticale has gained more popularity as a solid cover crop option with some feed and grazing value as well. The story from the Bolender farm in Brown County shows how valuable the crop can be. The hybrid cross of wheat and rye has many merits but is a significant challenge for folks in the ag media (or at least me anyway). I don’t know how to pronounce it.

My initial guess is that you say: “trid-eh-kale.” So, when I do interviews or have professional conversations about the crop that is what I say, though I have been corrected numerous times by others pronouncing it several different ways. Some say “trid-eh-kal-ee” while others use “tri-te-kal,” “tridi-kal,” “tridi-kale-ee,” or “tri-te-kal-ee.”

After several debates about the correct pronunciation I have come to no definitive conclusion on how to say it. As a result, I often end up sort of nervously muffling the word in conversation because of my fear of mispronouncing it and sounding unprofessional.

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Is organic worth it? It depends…

When someone asks me if buying organic is worth the extra cost, I tell them, “It depends.” To simply issue a blanket statement that organic production is better for the environment and better for you is simply inaccurate, though it is a message regularly touted as gospel by many in the organic industry. But, of course, we all know that “it depends” is a poor marketing ploy.

The truth is, though, that “it depends” is a necessity of working with Mother Nature. Every factor of production on every farm (organic or not) has a wide range of complex components that make any claims or consumer-held beliefs that organic food is more nutritious, safer and better for the environment very misleading.

Demand for organic production continues to grow. In recent years, organic food sales have risen by double digits annually and organic food revenue has tripled over the past decade to a record $36 billion in 2014.

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Clover cover crop helping with weed control (so far)

After the trees are planted in the spring, a major source of summer labor on my family’s Christmas tree farm is weed control.

Weeds can rob young trees of exposure to sunlight, moisture and nutrients. The first year of planting trees on the farm (many years ago) we did not emphasize weed control and lost nearly the entire crop.

Since then my dad, brothers and I have spent countless hot, buggy, summer hours mowing between trees. This is most important in the youngest trees, which are also the easiest to mow off while riding on a mower. Imagine looking for an 8-inch tall tree in 8-foot tall weeds. Mowing takes considerable time and fuel and can also cause significant damage to larger trees by breaking branches and scarring the trunks. We do some spraying, which helps, but there are drawbacks and limits with that weed control method as well.

As an experiment, we are trying a Dutch white clover cover crop planted ahead of tree planting.

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Will La Niña send markets soaring?

The 2016 soybean and corn crops in the U.S. could face a serious shortfall if they get the full brunt of a La Niña.

This winter I had the great pleasure of talking with Elwynn Taylor from the Iowa State University. He is watching what the strong El Niño does next. He had this to say over the winter.

“If the El Niño manages to stay with us at least until the first of July, we have a 70% chance of an above average crop yield for the whole Corn Belt. If it switches out of El Niño to a La Niña, it is a 70% chance of a below normal average yield with extremely volatile weather. We hope the El Niño stays with us because it is the friend of the Midwest farmer. Should it disappear, keep track of it. It takes about a month before its effects go away,” Taylor said.

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The Reese garden mud hole barometer: A value analysis

When I was growing up, a neighbor had one of those Mule Barometers to monitor the weather. It said something like: “If tail is dry — Fair; If tail is wet — Rain; If tail is swinging — Windy; If tail is wet and swinging — Stormy; If tail is frozen — Cold.”

In what has become an annual tradition in our garden, my six-year-old son has unknowingly constructed something similar. On days when there is even a hint or suggestion of spring in the air, his greatest desire is to spend endless hours digging a mud hole in the garden. When he completes what he estimates to be a significant milestone in the excavation process, he immediately recruits me to begin hauling buckets of water from the barn to dump into his newly expanded mud hole. With great delight for the both of us — and any area buddies my son recruited to stop by and assist with the endeavor — we watch the resulting water fall flow through the shallower areas of the hole into the deeper trenches of his garden creation.

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Is the EPA funding an anti-ag PR campaign?

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Spring 2016

I killed a wasp in very early March and my daughter got her first mosquito bite the following week. By all accounts it appears that the planting season will be early in Ohio this year.

The four-inch inch soil temperatures will likely be running above normal this spring and forecasters thought they would reach above 50 and stay there one week to two weeks earlier than normal this spring.

“April is shaping up to be warmer and drier than normal,” said Jim Noel with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service in a recent CORN Newsletter from OSU Extension. “Historically in strong El Niño springs, we do not see late freezes but more normal last freeze dates. However, if the warmer weather causes things to start growing earlier, there is a risk a normal last hard freeze could still cause impacts.”

In addition, Noel pointed out that evapotranspiration rates will likely be above normal this spring due to the warmer weather.

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Battle of the Smiths

It was a battle of the Smiths for the highest Ohio yield in the National Corn Growers Association 2015 Corn Yield Contest.

Fresh off his trip to Commodity Classic where he was recognized for his corn yield success, Adam Smith had several tales of what turned out to be a pretty great 2015 for him and his family.

It was late 2015 and Adam just found out that he had the highest yielding Ohio entry of any category in the National Corn Growers Association 2015 National Corn Yield Contest. The final contest results had been released the December day he was driving south from his Huron County farm to pick up parts for his fertilizer spreader.

As he drove, Adam passed a farm in Marion County with a tower drier exactly like the one he’d just ordered. Though he’d never been to the farm before, and didn’t even know who lived there, he thought he would stop in to see if anyone was in the shop to ask about the tower drier.

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Thanks to those who make farming look simple, even when its not

A few years ago my uncle got a new farm truck. He searched long and hard for a new model with as few electronic gadgets and gizmos as possible. No power seats, windows or locks, or AC. The truck has standard transmission and certainly no heated seats or heated steering wheels. He even has to turn the knob on the radio for goodness sakes. Why would anyone purposely subject themselves to such personal calamity?

The answer: all that fancy stuff breaks, and it can’t be fixed in the farm shop. Power windows, for example, are very convenient until they happen to go out when you are trying to pay at a drive-through window in a torrential downpour. Then they are frustrating, unpleasant and expensive to fix (speaking from personal experience).

As I get older I continue to gain more appreciation for non-fancy, basic stuff that really works the way it is supposed to.

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Barn cats and drugs are hard to keep out, especially after you let them in

On the colder days during the winter months, we have a group of barn cats that crowd up near the front door of our house, hoping to sneak in to enjoy the warmer temperatures at the next opportunity. In the barn they have proven repeatedly to be valuable assets. In the house and under foot, however, they are irksome beasts.

Despite the fact that they have access to a cozy barn with a well-stocked haymow perfect for snuggling in on a cold winter afternoon, one too many trips into the house as kittens courtesy of our children has provided ample experience and know-how concerning the logistics of infiltrating the front door. The worst two feline culprits are Sister (named by our daughter as a hopeful hint suggesting a possible family expansion a few years back) and Auto-steer (named by our son based upon his love for all things farm). These two female tiger cats prowl the front step and wait for any entrance or exit from the house by a person not paying complete attention to the task of keeping the cats out.

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Manage the weather risk to avoid uncertainty: What to watch for in 2016

I went into this winter with the most firewood ever. I was ready to take on winter’s worst after battling multiple severe winters with a less than adequate firewood arsenal in the past.

But, due to what has been a fairly mild season, it looks that I will have a head start on next year. I can give my chainsaw a bit of a rest in part thanks to the El Niño this winter that been shaping the weather patterns throughout the Midwest.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an El Niño develops when sea surface temperatures are warmer than average in the equatorial Pacific for an extended period of time. In El Niño winters, the polar jet stream is typically farther north than usual, while the Pacific jet stream remains to the south.

With the Midwest positioned between the storm tracks, warmer and drier conditions can develop during El Niño winters and typical extreme cold weather may be milder and less frequent.

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Sunday morning mutton bustin’ makes for unique “elevator speech”

We have a new pastor at church and he was walking through the congregation prior to the service last Sunday morning and he stopped to say, “Hello.” He looked down at my six-year-old son and said, “Pleased to meet you, what is your name?”

Rather than sharing his name, my son said, “I went mutton bustin’ — I rode the ram in the barn today before church.”

“Oh really,” the pastor said.

“Yep, his name is Big Poppa. I wore my snowboarding helmet.”

The pastor stopped and looked up at me with a questioning glance. “Is this real? What he is talking about?”

“Yes it is,” I said. “He was helping his mother with chores this morning and she let him ride on the back of the Horned Dorset ram in the barn. He did wear his snowboarding helmet.”

Even after the countless conversations he had with churchgoers that day I am pretty sure that one will be remembered for a while.

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Power Show Ohio

The 46th edition of Power Show Ohio is welcoming nearly 200 exhibitors displaying products from more that 600 companies.

Power Show Ohio offers the opportunity to learn about products in the fields of agriculture, outdoor power equipment and construction.  It’s a chance for those same customers to get information that will afford them the know-how to become more efficient in their operations. The show features displays of the newest and best in tractors, skid steer loaders, commercial mowing equipment, utility vehicles, grain handling, computer software, fence building, hay equipment, buildings, backhoes, logging equipment, compact tractors, livestock equipment plus a number of lifestyle items.

Daily educational seminars will take place all three days.  Products from Ohio Proud partners will be available to sample and purchase and the National Kiddie Tractor Pull Association will be holding pedal tractor pulls on Saturday to determine the National Champion. All youngsters 3 to 8 years old are able to take part in the competition.

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Follow up on our yield guess based on planting by the moon in 2015

If you’ll recall from last spring, we formulated a yield estimate based on the state’s planting progress according to the best phase of the moon to plant. According to two different almanacs, for planting corn in Ohio, the best days in 2015 were April 19, 20 and 23 through 25 and May 21, 22, and 28 through 31.

Here is how the USDA crop progress numbers went for corn planting this spring:

Week ending April 12: 1%

Week ending April 19: 1%

Week ending April 26: 2%

Week ending May 3: 15%

Week ending May 10: 55%

Week ending May 17: 77%

Week ending May 24: 87%

Week ending May 31: 93%

In April 1% of the corn crop was planted in the ideal time frame. In May 16% of the corn crop was planted at the best time. That is a total of 17% in the best conditions according to the moon.

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Approaching 2016 with a grateful heart

Earlier in the day a bag of dried beans for soup had broken open and a significant portion of its contents tumbled across the counter and down the kitchen sink drain. At the time, I hoped that they went all the way down. They didn’t. Instead, the dried beans soaked up water and swelled, completely filling the drain and causing a fairly colossal mess.

It had been a long day and I was tired. After dinner that evening my wife had a meeting. Our young children were playing nearby in the living room while I faced the dinner cleanup and the revolting contents of the sink, burbling up occasional blobs of gunk. I was on the border of falling back upon an old staple for handling these types of less-than-desirable situations — frustration and anger. After all, this situation was truly unpleasant and I had every right, I felt, to be frustrated.

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Top Stories of 2015

Our web site keeps track of the stories that generate the most interest and at the end of the year we like to review the top stories to gain insight into how to better serve readers of our web and print content and our radio listeners. Plus, it is always fun to see which story comes out on top. To revisit all of these favorite web stories and videos in the last year, visit ocj.com and look for “2015 top stories of the year” on the right side of the page. In addition to these top posts, other noteworthy drivers of web traffic in 2015 included the Ohio and Pro Farmer crop tours, the Ohio State Fair livestock show results, and Between the Rows. Weather challenges, unusual Ohio wildlife, all things draft horse, and farm technology also garnered major web traffic in the last 12 months. Here are the 10 most popular stories of 2015.

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A perfect fit

Dylan was sitting in the tractor seat scrolling through photos of beautiful Courtney on his phone and reviewing her text messages.

He had gotten this job at the Christmas tree farm as a favor from the farm owner to his father. At 17-years-old, Dylan didn’t listen to his parents. He didn’t care about his schoolwork. He was sort of interested in football and track, but mostly he didn’t care for much of anything — except for Courtney, and he was supposed to meet her after work that day.

His dad thought Dylan would learn a thing or two about hard work and respect for others with some time spent employed at the Christmas tree farm. So far, though, Dylan’s lackluster work ethic and self-centered nature clearly demonstrated that he was not really interested in this job either.

His thoughts of Courtney were interrupted when the farm owner yelled out from the barn, “Dylan, can you please get off your phone and help Mr.

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THANK FUL 4 U

Michael had ruined Thanksgiving.

As nine-year-old boys have been known to do, he had thrown a terrible fit after being woken from a nap. By the time his mother walked into the room, she could tell the pleasant Thanksgiving get-together was about to end (at least for her). She calmly picked Michael up as he kicked and screamed and said everything horrible thing he could think up, wrestling his mother all the way to the car seat and making quite a scene in front of the whole family.

With a few more snarls from Michael and another fit about putting on pajamas after getting home, he was tucked into bed in the tiny, tired-looking apartment. His exhausted mother impatiently left the room and said tersely, “Goodnight Michael.”

Michael awoke the next morning feeling incredibly remorseful for his behavior. He was getting too old for that sort of thing, after all.

He could see the dim glow of the morning’s first sun creeping in through the window when suddenly it dawned on him — sheer genius!

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