SHELBY, Mont. – Springtime across Montana’s Hi-Line is most often quite unpredictable. That is probably why it came as absolutely no surprise to dryland durum farmer, Klayton Lohr, that the weather report for the middle days of May predicted some snow.
“It is supposed to snow here tomorrow, but they say it will be 35 degrees, so hopefully it won’t stick,” Klayton said during a phone interview on May 11.
Coming from a dryland farming family, Klayton long ago learned to never complain about moisture as it can be a sparse commodity at times. It may come at inconvenient times, like in the middle of planting, but even so, moisture is coveted, so he’ll will just roll with the punches.
Klayton reports he is about three-quarters of the way done seeding his durum wheat with only his self-proclaimed “million dollar field” left to plant. One may think, with a name like “million dollar field” that the piece of ground is high yielding, producing a wonderful crop year-after-year, but that is not the case. Remember, Klayton survives on his sense of humor, so the field garnered its name because, well, it has become a quite the expensive piece of ground.
A lightning strike started a fire last year, which burned through a bunch of CRP land. The wind picked up and pushed the fire in a direction no one had predicted, so before it was put out some 3,000 acres had burned, including about 150 acres of Klayton’s fallow land.
In typical north central Montana fashion, the wind picked up and blew about a month after the fire. With no more stubble in the field, and the soil being quite sandy as is, it didn’t take much for the wind to move most of the top soil off of the land. Klayton reports he literally has drifts of dirt in this particular field. In an effort to mitigate Mother Nature’s ravishes, he is trucking in loads and loads of manure in the hopes of adding fertilizer and restoring the soil, hence earning its name of “million dollar field.”
In the midst of planting and working on the “million dollar field,” Klayton decided to go get his barley seed on Saturday, May 9, but naturally, it couldn’t be that easy. The adventure ended with a flat tire on Klayton’s truck, which just so happened to be completely loaded with barley seed.
“I could hear air hissing from a tire, but then it would quit so I didn’t think much of it. I pulled off the scales at the elevator and my tire was completely flat, it had lost basically 100 percent of its air,” he said.
Klayton was able to limp the truck off of the scale and call his brother for an emergency ride back to the farm. He was optimistic that the tire would be fixed and the truck would be up and running soon.
Amidst the stress of day-to-day farming, Klayton is very much looking forward to the fact his men’s golf league will be starting. He admits his team of four is compiled of three farmers/ranchers, so socialization tends to be a bit more important than the actual score.
“It’s mostly just a good excuse to shut off our equipment once a week and enjoy ourselves,” he said.
Golf may be thought of as a leisurely sport, but make no mistake, the farm work always comes first for Klayton. Looking ahead, he of course needs to get his truck full of barley seed back to the farm and then there is the rest of the durum to plant. He still has about 20,000 bushels of wheat that needs to be hauled to Pasta Montana in Great Falls by July, so there is still plenty to do on the Lohr farm.