BLOMKEST, Minn. - With corn and soybean planting completed, Mel and Judy Zuidema decided it was time to take a nice vacation. So they took a non-stop flight from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, where they enjoyed beautiful scenery and the Dutch culture during an eight-day vacation.
"Holland is just a different country," said Mel. "You see cows laying in the pasture, and it's as green as could be."
Mel and Judy visited a cheese factory, had a chance to travel by gondola through the canals of Amsterdam, and saw tradesmen making wooden shoes.
Holland holds a special interest for Melvin as his grandfather, John Zuidema, immigrated to the United States from Holland in the mid-1880s. The family moved to Indiana before settling in Minnesota in 1886.
"We've done some genealogy work in the family, but they got out of Holland in a hurry, most likely because of persecution," said Mel. "I wish I would have asked more questions, but my grandfather wasn't really interested in talking about it."
Mel visited with one dairy farmer while in Holland. He learned that most dairy farmers milk 30-60 cows, and there are strict laws on the proximity of keeping cows near bodies of water and other environmental concerns.
Dutch farmers had put up 50-60 percent of their first cutting alfalfa by mid-May. The area has experienced cool temperatures, similar to temperatures in Minnesota, but the hay crop still turned out very good.
While Mel and Judy were gone, Jan, Lance and Troy caught up on farm work and livestock chores that were on hold during planting.
With better milk prices for May and June, Jan had D & D Ag Supply, from Pennock, Minn., install a new cement hay feeder bunker in the calf shed.
"I needed to make some improvements. We had an old wood bunk that was over 30 years old," said Jan. "The new bunker is going to make it a lot easier to feed hay, and do some vaccination and dehorning work in the calf shed as far as catching cattle."
The area received a much-needed 1.3" of rain on May 15-16.
"That was very welcome - a very nice rain," said Jan. "It came nice and slow and I'm sure we used every drop. We are hoping for more rain. Another inch we could handle without a problem."
The field corn and soybeans had emerged and were growing, albeit slower with the cooler temperatures. Early morning temperatures for two days sunk to 28-29 degrees, but the crops didn't appear to be hurt.
The Zuidemas were waiting to get the word from Lakeside Foods on planting lima beans and sweet corn.
"The cold temperatures delayed planting peas, so there's been a little bit of reservation about planting lima beans and sweet corn," said Jan. "With sweet corn, everything is on a schedule."
Their biggest concerns in late May centered on alfalfa. The family seeded 45 acres of alfalfa early to try to catch any rainfalls. In mid-May, heavy winds apparently blew out 20 acres.
"I'm not sure if it's going to come back - or if it's going to need to be reseeded," said Jan. "One of our neighbors is worried about his alfalfa too. It's like sugarbeets - the wind started whipping that dirt around and it cut the plants off."
This was the Zuidemas' first experience with alfalfa blow out, and they were worried that reseeding would make the field very uneven for the next four to five years. They were waiting word from their crop consultant on any recommendations.
The Zuidemas have 70-80 acres of established alfalfa, and they intended to take their first cutting around May 25-26. Jan's 2003 hay supply would take him through June 1, so he needed new hay to feed the cows.
"It's a nice stand out there. We just were worried it was going to stall out with the dry weather and the wind," said Jan. "With this shot of rain and the heat, the alfalfa is looking better."