The Farm Report comes to us from Ben.
It started out so well– no rain in the forecast and, while the swather always makes me nervous because I know I am on borrowed time, we were making good progress.
Me, and the dragonflies, and the barn swallows, and the butterflies, just being out in the fields. It wasn’t that hot Saturday morning and I got three fields, or about 9 1/2 acres cut out of my 25 acres of oats. Back out on Sunday afternoon and a good breeze and cut another field of about 5 acres and moved into the last field, about 10 acres. I made one round, and there was a clunk and forward momentum stopped. It stopped on the right wheel anyway, the left wheel kept going. The machine makes a lot of noises and most of them make me nervous. This machine, a John Deere model 800 swather is from the 70s. They’re built like a tank, have a Chrysler ‘Slant 6’ engine (with a reputation of being bullet-proof), and they run forever except when they don’t.
It’s a machine I use only for cutting oats. It cuts the standing oats and lays it in a row; a ‘Windrow’. It gets used a day or two per year. But there’s no one in the area with a swather, so I had to find my own about 6 years ago.
Took a while to diagnose what was going wrong and it turned out to be just a chain off. Well I’ve fixed that before and it’s kind of a process but it’s not bad. Except this one was jammed in there and it was bad. Kelly came to help when I called her for a ride home. I was hoping to be all done cutting by 8:00PM, it was 8 o’clock when we gave up and went home. A few things to do the next day so it was about 4 o’clock when I went back out to work on it again.
I was down to plan “G” or “H” by this point. And that also revealed a wheel bearing going bad. Well, that would explain why the chain had come off. We did finally get the chain out and installed again and we felt pretty good about ourselves.
I had to decide: can I finish cutting on this bad bearing or do I need to attempt another major repair out in the field and replace the bearing. I decided to take my chances, because that’s what farmers do. Except this time, I only went about 10 feet and the chain was off again. And again, it was 8 o’clock at night. We went home and I was back the next day with some more tools. I don’t know how many trips I made back home to get ‘Yet One More Tool’ for this repair. I even took the Oxy-acetylene torch up there to heat up the wheel hub. I’m a little nervous using a torch in the middle of a dry field of oats, but I wasn’t really cutting anything or making sparks, I was just heating up the wheel hub to try to get that off the axle so that the bearing can come off the axle. Nothing has been apart for 50 years I presume. I worked for a few hours and gave up and called the John Deere dealer. It felt as though a huge weight was lifted off my chest because now this isn’t my problem anymore.
The plan was to start combining that oats that was already cut on Tuesday afternoon, however, the guy with the truck needed his trucks to haul corn so he couldn’t make it. He said he would have a truck out here Wednesday morning. With no rain in the forecast for weeks, it didn’t seem like a problem. And then it sprinkled Monday morning, not enough to hurt anything, and it sprinkle Tuesday morning but not really enough to hurt anything and then we had a thunderstorm warning Tuesday night– where the heck did that come from? And I got about 2/10 of an inch of rain. So now we’re not combining on Wednesday either. Could have been worse, it was a pretty bad storm with some pretty gusty winds and heavy rains, but we just got the edge of it and then it built up south of us and I saw some hail damage and some corn flat on the ground from that.
It’s not ideal for oats to get rained on when it’s cut, but it’s not the end of the world, depending. I leave 4 to 6 inches of stubble for the oats to lay on so that it gets some air underneath. And that works pretty well. Light rains like this followed by some sunny days with a breeze and it will dry out again and can be combined with minimal loss. The heavier the rain, the more grain is shelled out on the ground. There have been a few years I had to go out with the hay rake and tip the windrows over. That knocks off a lot of grain. However, the people who take the straw like it because there’s less grain left in the straw if I have to handle it before they get it. Everyone has their own silver lining, don’t they?
So that’s where we are at the moment, hoping the mechanic will get the swather fixed, hoping it holds together for another 10 acres, well really, I want it to hold together for the next number of years.
I’m just about ready to open the one show in town and I’m just starting to work on another show. Remember the song about home improvement from the LGMS and at the end he says, “Now I can go out and mow the lawn!”? That’s kind of what I feel like.
But the beans are looking really good, they’re almost waist high, lots of flowers, lots of pods. 316 GDU’s above normal. The corn ears have already determined their length and girth and now they just need to fill out. If they’re stressed by weather, the tips won’t fill. Be interesting to see how it does this fall.
Often corn will have two ears on them, but only the one really develops completely.
The baby ducks arrived from California after a 2000 trip. These are some well-travelled ducks! I was worried about them making a trip but there were two little Dixie cups taped inside each box that presumably had some kind of food nutrient in it. Lost two of the 40. They were busy little ducks! The first day pretty much all they did was eat and drink.
What’s your most critical tool that you use the least?