We started out our winter shop season with an overhaul of a John Deere CCS air seeder we purchased mid summer. It only has about 5000 acres on it but needed some attention. We dismantled each row unit to install new disk openers, as the old ones were worn down to the point where they would not work as well as we’d like. We also made sure everything else worked on the row units and took grease as well.
Air seeders use a ground drive system to turn the meters. They have a section control system that allows 1/2 of the width to be shut off for narrower areas and to prevent too much seed waste on point rows. We decided to take things up a level and installed the Inetllidrive system. It allows us to control every 30″ section individually thus minimizing overlap with already seeded areas. Electric motors drive each 30″ section and can independently control the feed rate of each section. The company claims that they will save 10-12% on seed costs per acre. That adds up fast when seed beans cost $50/unit plus and we’re using 1.15 units/acre. At a savings of $6/acre this unit will pay for itself in 3 years!
There was no reason to expect the 2019 corn harvest to be easy but, in hindsight, it was the worst year of farming I have ever experienced! Planting corn a month later than usual is never a good thing but coupling it with the fact that the entire summer was cool and wet made the resulting crop yield and quality a costly challenge both monetarily and mentally. Corn yields themselves were okay but, when faced with the reality of dryer gas expenses due to wetter than usual corn along with an LP shortage driving prices higher yet and elevator charges and discounts for wet corn delivered to them, this year was one for the books.
We rely on a platform scale to weigh the grain we bring from the fields to our storage bins. It is not a legal scale but gets us close enough to knowing, load by load, what is dumped at our bin site. Over the past couple of years it has become unreliable and finally failed completely this fall as we tested it while getting our grain handling system ready for harvest. Normally, this would have been discovered too late in the year to do anything about it but, with the late harvest, we had a window of opportunity to order and replace the weigh bars.
After harvest our machinery gets cleaned and inspected with a list of what needs to be done to ready it for the next crop year. This list gets prioritized into winter and summer projects. This winter seemed to be busier than usual. Not only did we spend way too much time moving snow but the pre-spring project list was longer than usual.
Every fall the air conditioner condenser, on our semi tractor that actually has a working AC, fills up with bees wing from all the corn chaff flying around. As you can see in these images, it’s rather nasty and in a very difficult area to see. This means blindly cleaning and using a phone to take these photos to monitor the progress.
This spring we traded off our, quite reliable but aging, Polaris Ranger for a 2018 model. As we were visiting with the dealer about how we could protect the dump bed from getting scuffed up when picking rocks, he mentioned that he has been looking for someone to build a steel bed liner that could easily be inserted for protection. With nothing available locally, and nothing found on the internet, Dennis and I proceeded to draw up plans to manufacture our own version. We acquired some sheet metal from a neighbor that is in the business and proceeded with our plans. We are quite pleased with how the dump box turned out and it worked well for this spring’s rock picking season.
I’m sitting in the office on April 14, 2018 looking at through snow covered windows at a persistent blizzard. Biggest storm of the winter for us! It started yesterday with a wintry mix of rain/ice pellets/snow pellets/snow. Through the night it became all snow. We had a lull this morning to get the steer chores done and now we wait out the storm.
I figure that this is as good of time as any to get caught up on some of our winter happenings. Winter was going so well until we hit March and April. These scenes have been all too common since.
We spent some time, in early March in the shop getting some small projects out of the way. Lawn mowers were gone through and a portable auger was refurbished with all new bearings.
On March 20 we did catch a nice break, where the yard wasn’t too soft, and pulled the planter out of the shed to get it ready for the 2018 planting season. After power washing the dust off of it, we moved it into the comfortable environment of the shop.
We did take some time to attend the 2018 Soybean Symposium at the U of M Landscape Arboretum. There were great topics and plenty of discussion that revolve around soybean quality and trade.
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.
It happens every spring. We open the machine shed door, after clearing any remaining snow and ice from in front of it, move any equipment blocking the planter and extract the sleeping planter from it’s nest. Once the planter is outside, it receives its spring wash down. The dust that has settled on it over the past 8 months is flushed away with the power washer and the planter is ushered into the heated shop for it’s pre-planting work over. Because it worked on the day we completed planting is no reason to assume it will make it through another planting season without some refurbishing and lubrication.
Washing the dust off.
Planting weather is fickle in Minnesota. It can lull you into believing that you have all the time in the world to get the crop in and then the updated forecast puts us under the gun to get as much in before the rains or cold snap hits. We don’t want a half ready planter to come between us and the impending deadline. Continue reading →
It’s always worth the 120′ climb to the top of our grain leg. We needed to inspect and lubricate the grain system to be ready for corn harvest. Test firing the grain dryer is very critical. Without it working properly, the rest of the system sits idle and corn harvest can’t proceed. While at the top, I can’t resist taking some photos with my iPhone.