Its a common misconception that a grain farmer gets the winter off. Granted the daily chores are not so urgent as planting or harvest, but they need to get done eventually. Unlike farms with livestock, who probably never get a day off, this is a slower time of year.
The late fall resulted in a lot of delays in equipment maintenance. Its now the time to make those repairs and modifications to equipment, without the pressure of having to get it done now. My 5 furrow plow is ready for new points, shin plates..etc but it won't be needed until after wheat harvest. The header on my combine needs just about everything and i have taken it half apart so far. Its far more enjoyable to take time to fix/rebuild it properly than to rush to a "good enough" state and suffer break downs in the rush of harvest.
But its not just a time for maintenance, its time to plan next years crops. Early purchases of seed can save a bit of money, and ensure supply for what you want. My farm divides up well into 5 fields of 50 to 55 acres each. The wet fall prevented me from getting one completely planted in winter wheat, so i only have about 40 acres currently planted, and the rains so far have been taking there toll. I can't be sure i will harvest anything. So i must have the plan of what to do if i must work down the wheat in the spring. Sadly, this weeks rain and subsequent floods from undersized pumps in the local drainage scheme places half my crop under water.
It would be simple to just grow the crop with the best income per acre. Prices today would point to corn. A good yield will give the best returns, but corn is expensive to grow. The fertilizer costs are significant. And it may take too long to get everything planted. Furthermore, you shouldn't grow corn year after year in the same field. Crop rotations are needed to reduce disease, pests and for weed control. My goal, one field into corn. That works well with my available bin space, but those few extra acres that didn't make it into wheat might see corn. I need to consider what will be planted the following year before finalizing that decision.
Next money maker is soybeans. You can't grow soy every year and maintain the high yields. If you grow IP beans or non-GMO. Then weed control can be much more work, with cultivating and hoeing the field. This can provide for a premium though. But last years crop may prevent getting an IP contract. It can't be planted on GMO soy from the previous year. I will try my hand with one field of IP.
So why did i even plant any wheat. For crop rotation. Wheat doesn't bring in the big money, but when the straw is plowed under it adds all that organic mater and makes for great soil conditions for the following crop. Corn loves wheat ground. Just for the yield benefits in the following years crop gives wheat a permanent home in my rotation plans.
After bouncing all these competing priorities, i still need to pick which varieties to grow. There is no shortage of research available to see what traits to have, seed treatments, how many heat units for maturity, genetically modified or not, bin run seed or new. Its a time for reading and learning. I still need to determine what herbicides i should use for weed control. Its starting to get overwhelming just typing about it. The good news is, starting now, time is on my side, at least for a few more weeks. So between wrenches on the equipment and eyes in the books, I almost won't have time to help my wife clean the chicken coop. I am sure she will help me find the time though!