OK. I know it’s now the end of January and I’m still not caught up on posting from last fall. I am finally feeling caught up, to a point, with my most important winter office work. Last year’s data has been pored over, crunched, edited, tweaked, post calibrated and used to make decisions for 2018 and forward. Time has been put into selecting seed, figuring out the best way to keep weeds at bay both chemically and physically, crunching numbers to make the current corn and soybean prices work, developing marketing plans and attending winter meetings put on by the U of M, Coop and other ag related entities. My calendar for February still has more meetings and training sessions on it.
First field of corn.
Opening up the headland.
Fan motor needed bearings.
Now where was I before going off on that tangent. Oh yeah, corn harvest. It really did happen and I have the pictures to prove it. Normally, we don’t start harvesting corn until after soybeans are done but this fall was not normal by any measure. After getting tired of the weather delay we kept having during soybean harvest, we gave in and harvested some corn. The moisture was at 22%, dry enough to get a start. The variety removed all of the headlands on a 300 acre field. Taking these off would make harvesting the remainder of that field much easier when the time came. After meticulously going through the electric motors that need to reliably get us through harvest, we still had a breakdown on day two of corn harvest. We hadn’t done the main motors that cool the large grain bin. The second one went out about 3/4 of the way through harvest as well. Oh, well. Maybe next year will be trouble free. Yes, I’m dreaming again. Continue reading →
I was informed on Monday, January 29, by the National Corn Growers Association, that I was the grand prize winner of the 2017 Fields-of-Corn photo contest. I had entered this contest quite a few years ago and haven’t thought too much about it again until this fall, after capturing a spectacular sunset during corn harvest. One of my greatest joys during the harvest season, is the never ending beauty, displayed by God, during the evening sunset. I never tire of viewing or snapping photos. The backdrops, provided during harvest, add to the canvas something that is only available during a short season of the year.
In the past, cell phone photos seemed to lack something but I have been very impressed with the iPhone 7 camera. It is so much better at picking up differences in lighting to capture the full beauty of what my eye catches.
Soybean harvest weather started out so well. But then the BIG rain hit. Waiting for the soils to dry out allowed us to do some, much needed, tree trimming that we had been trying to get at all summer. For the most part, the soils handled the rain event well. Fields dried out and firmed up in about 10 days. We didn’t have to go around any standing water or mud. The money spent on drainage tile pays off in many ways.
A neighboring field after 5″ + of rain.
Neighboring field with ducks at sunset.
Burning tree branches after a couple days of trimming.
Our grain handling system is a key piece in the harvest process. It needs to run efficiently, with as few break downs as possible, to get through corn harvest in a timely manner. Even a small thing can bring harvest to a halt. Every seven years we change the bearings in all the electric motors of our grain system that put high hours on annually. 2017 was the year to do this again. We take all the the smaller motors off but leave the larger ones in place and remove the internal rotor that the bearings are mounted on. The largest motor, a 20hp 3ph motor on the top our our 120′ grain leg, is always a challenge. This year, we were able to do all the work on top of the grain leg thanks to a powerful 20V DeWalt impact wrench that helped remove the bearings from the shaft.
We also need to test fire the grain dryer to make sure that the flame control system is working properly. One of the burners wouldn’t fire. Upon investigation, a wire wast found to be chewed in half by some critter.
Our seed beans are handled in a gentle manner. This means using a belt conveyor to load them from the truck to the bins. We also unload the combine tank at half throttle to limit damage to the seed from the augers.
Our time, during the end of August and first three weeks in September, is spent getting ready for harvest. This includes making sure the combine, along with the corn and bean heads, is harvest ready. A post-harvest inspection is done every year by our local John Deere dealer. They are quite thorough and always find something that needs attention. We are comfortable in handling most of the combine repairs but let the dealer do the ones that are more involved.
I have two sisters living in the Denver, CO area who grew on the farm. They are striving to keep their kids connected to the farm through visits usually timed around harvest. This year the weather wasn’t very cooperative so the opportunity for a combine ride was nearly non-existent. The did have a chance though to tend to the steers needs by feeding them an endless supply of apples harvested from the nearby trees.
Sunday, October 2 was a day to remember but not in a positive way. We had just started filling our second truck with soybeans when disaster struck. I had unloaded the combine onto the grain cart while heading back to the road. Once I got to the road, I decided to dump off the few bushels I had left in the combine since the auger was passing right over the truck as I turned around. Once unloaded, I headed back into the soybean field. I didn’t get more than 50 feet down the field when the monitor on my armrest had a big red warning about low hydraulic pressure. Thinking I was spewing oil all over the place I shut down the combine and stepped out the door to investigate. As I looked back at the engine compartment from the top platform of the ladder, I saw a large ball of flames in the hydraulic pump area. I turned on the radio and told Dennis, who was in the grain cart, to call 911 immediately. He came over, as I was emptying the cab of important items such as my monitor with all the data on it, and emptied the fire extinguisher on the fire to no avail. We did what we could to secure items from the cab and stood back watching the flames grow as we waited for the fire trucks to arrive. Needless to say, the combine was a total loss but the fire department did manage to save the bean head.
We were able to rent a combine the next day and use that until we made a purchase. We used some down time during rainy days to research and look at combines in the area and settled on a John Deere S660 from Worthington, MN.