Category Archives: Farming Update

Baling and Traffic and Duck

Today’s Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

Mornings are cool enough I wear a jacket going to the college but don’t need it when walking back to the car after work. Starting to get some color on the trees.

Soybeans are mostly pretty yellow and the leaves are starting to fall off them. Beans are drying and they will be ready in a couple weeks. But if there’s too many weeds in the field, they won’t be able to combine until the weeds freeze or die. Combines are not made to handle green material; that just plugs them up. The entire threshing process is based on dry material shelling out easily.

Remember that field of soybeans my neighbors planted on July 8th? It’s looking pretty good; they sure got lucky with the rains. They’re taller than mine and setting pods. They’re not done yet and they still need some time before a freeze, but they’re looking good so far.

The dairy guys are chopping corn silage. That’s one of the things I miss from milking; I enjoyed chopping corn. It smells good, it blows up the silos easy and doesn’t plug up the pipe, and cutting up that entire cornstalk just looks cool.

I baled some small square hay bales for our neighbors. A field next to our property but on the other side of a swamp and creek and power line and you can’t get there from here. But still cool to be on the ‘other side’ of the world from our place. Driving over there with the tractor, baler, and a wagon involved about 4 miles on a busy highway. Some people are terrible about dealing with farm machinery. They pass on corners, they tail gate for a 1 /4 mile then abruptly pass. It’s just ridiculous, not to mention dangerous to all of us.  I can’t print the words I say about them. I always hope I’m bigger than them so that will protect me, but please, harvest season is coming, give farmers and the machinery some space and don’t pass when you shouldn’t. You can bet I’m wearing my seatbelt and I have all the tractor lights on, flashers on, SMV signs… it’s not that they don’t see me, but they figure they can pass me quick enough so it doesn’t matter if it’s a corner. Makes me mad writing about it.

PTO – Power Take Off shafts. It’s the thing that takes power from the tractor and puts it in whatever implement is being powered. For a lot of machinery, that shaft spins at 540 RPM, some things spin at 1000 RPM. In the old days it was just an exposed shaft and safety wasn’t even on the radar. These days, there’s always a cover or shield, but they can still break or wear out and they’re usually in the way at some point. It’s the end that hooks to the tractor that’s the tricky part. In trying to make them safer, manufacturers have tried different styles and ways to protect people from the spinning bits. Some styles are easier than others; buttons to push while sliding them together or collars to pull back while still pushing the implement shaft onto the tractor shaft. There’s one attachment that’s completely covered, but then you can’t see inside to grease it either. Many of those end up cut away enough to get a grease gun in there.

It’s a necessary safety item – a lot of people have been killed or injured from contact with unprotected spinning shafts, but it’s inconvenient. I was thinking about all this while hooking up the baler to the tractor last week and connecting the PTO shaft.  

I know you’re all waiting for the weekly duck report. I took their fence down the other day. I started to roll it up, but I thought I shouldn’t change too much too quick, so I left part of it for reference for them. And one night, 4 brown ducks simply could not figure out how to get back into the pen they’ve been in for the last 2 months. Round and round the barn they went until finally they spent the night in with the chickens. And the next night they figured it out. It’s a mystery. I hate to call them dumb, but gee whiz.

The Mallard ducklings are starting to run and flap their wings. I assume they don’t know they can fly if no one is there to show them they can, and they’ll have to figure it out on their own. I assume instinct will tell them they need to head south. And other years there would be random ducks that would sort of stop in to visit. So, I think they’ll get it figured out I’m just very curious as to how and when.

At our townboard meeting last night the sheriff deputy gave us his report on township activities. Aside from the usual traffic stops, animal calls, or serving papers, a driver was arrested and charged with a DWI. He lived in the area where he was arrested, but prior to his arrest, it looked like it might become a pursuit. Then he turned down a dead-end road, cut into some back yards, and figured he could come back out on the road and get away. Except he came back on the road face to face with four other deputies. Oops.

Bypassed any safety items lately? Why?

What’s overregulated in your life?  

September Farm

The farm report comes to us from Ben.

We had some friends and their kids visit and we had a good time giving tractor rides and gator rides and collecting eggs and seeing cows. It’s always fun giving farm tours.

I finally got around to working on the brush mower. I had to order bigger sockets to get the nut off the broken spindle on the big spinny thing. (It’s 45mm by the way) And then trying to get the gear box off the mower deck, I didn’t have the right size sockets for that either. It’s 30mm. I am getting more and more metric tools, but I didn’t have anything that big. I have a 3/8” drive socket set that I use for a lot of things. And a 1/2” drive set for some of the bigger stuff. And then I started buying 3/4” drive stuff for the really big stuff. (I mean the size of the square on the head of the ratchet is 3/8” or 1/2” or 3/4”). Then I put a 3’ long pipe over the handle to get enough leverage to get the nuts loose. Took the gear box up to John Deere for them to fix.

How’s that go: Every job is an opportunity for a new tool. Worked here.

On the way home from John Deere I stopped at a farm stand and bought 4 dozen ears of sweet corn. A couple kids run this stand and it is really good corn. Got that frozen and it will be really good this winter.

My mom has a possible Covid exposure from one of her physical therapy people. I had seen her on Sunday, and she found that out on Monday. But she hasn’t tested positive herself yet and they all wear masks and mom is vaccinated and I’d think the PT person was too. So hopefully she stays good. She needs to isolate in her room, which she isn’t very happy about. And her food comes in a Styrofoam container with plastic cutlery and that’s her biggest complaint. We had a care conference Tuesday and there seems to be exceptions for everything so she’s gotten real plates now. Hope that keeps up.

Monday was Labor Day and I wondered if I should really take the day off or do some work. If I didn’t do anything I’d feel guilty. I took a nap first off. But then decided to clean up the swather and get that put away. I washed it off and oiled the chains, loosened some belts, and filled the gas tank and added some ‘Stabil’ to the fuel, and tucked it into the shed for winter.

Then decided it was a good day to burn a small brush pile behind the shed. Got that burning and cut some grass while keeping an eye on it.

We’re having a little experiment with the ducks. When they go into the pen at night, they can either walk up a ramp or they can hop up onto a block and then into the open door. Most of them seem to hop in. One day I had not put the ramp in the door, it was sitting down on the block. Everyone had gone in except one black duck and two brown ducks. They were very distressed to be outside on their own and I finally went down and put the ramp up and one brown duck went up the ramp and the other two hopped in from the block. Hmm, were the other two moral support for the ramp duck?

This is very curious, so the next night I also left the ramp down and everyone had gotten in except a black duck and a brown duck. I put the ramp back up and both ducks hopped in without using the ramp.
The third night I put the ramp in the door right away. About dusk everyone heads over to the door and the white ducks always go first and hop on the block and up into the door. Might take them two tries, but they make it. Eventually the ones waiting got tired of waiting in line and they all went and got a drink and then came back and some more hopped in, and again, the remaining few got tired of the queue, went and got another drink and then came back and no one used the ramp and everyone hopped in. Evidently the ramp is more emotional support or a guide? It’s very interesting.

FOURTH NIGHT! I had the ramp up and I watched closer; they seem to use the ramp as a guide rail. A few actually use it, some bump against the side while hopping in, and some jump up onto the ramp about 1/2 way up. Very curious. And when they come out in the morning, it’s last in, first out.

When I got home one day, all the ducks were out of their pen. We’d been talking about letting them out; they’re old enough and big enough, but being ‘adolescent’, they don’t always make the best choices and we lose a few to coyotes. That day they found a hole – or maybe ‘made’ a hole and they were all close, just on the wrong side of the fence. It wasn’t too hard to round them up, patch the hole, and get them all back inside. And then I noticed one of the white ones has a wound under one wing. Neither Kelly or I were working from home that day which makes me wonder; maybe a coyote came in the yard and caused a commotion which is what scared them out. Kelly says every day around noon there is some kind of commotion, and the dogs bark and guineas get upset so there’s something going on.

I showed Kelly how to fire the rifle and the next day, when the noon commotion began, she fired a shot. We never see anything, but we’re trying to scare it– whatever “it” is– away. Kelly really wants to shoot a coyote but she’s having trouble making the scope work for her. She is just hoping for plain, dumb luck. And she’s going to work on firing from the hip.

Chickens; they get into the ducks pen, but they can’t ever figure out how to get back out…

BONUS! Two Sandhill Cranes standing in the field when I left for work the other day.

There has been a pair here all summer, we don’t see them, we only hear them. I’m guessing this is another pair passing through.

Can you fire from the hip? And accomplish what you are trying to accomplish?

Fall is in the Air

This weekend’s farm report comes to us from Ben.

Fall is in the air this week. It’s good weather for sleeping; I love it. The soybeans are starting to turn yellow, and they’ll be losing their leaves soon. And with the recent rains the pastures have greened up again. Another inch of nice, slow, steady rain here recently.

Remember a few months ago I left the top lid open on the feed bin and had to spend an afternoon clearing out the rotten corn and gunk. And it was almost empty, thankfully, and there was still a bit of rotten corn stuck to the sides at the bottom. Since I needed to order more feed, now was the time to clean it all out. I wanted to knock loose a little more good corn so I’d have enough to feed the chickens and ducks for a couple days.

First thing I did was drop my long stick into the auger and jam it up. Belt squealing and I’m 15’ feet up the bin so I carefully, hurriedly, scramble down and turn off the breaker. Then I turn the auger backwards, back up the bin to remove the stick, back down to turn on the breaker again, and back up to finish knocking some corn down.

The bin has an 18” opening at the bottom and then a transition angle attached to that which turns it vertical, and then the auger attaches to that. I removed a clamp and the auger attachment, and the auger slid down and out of place. That’s going to be a problem when I get to putting it all back together. The auger is 4” diameter and about 10’ long and goes up through the wall of the feed room with the electric motor attached to the end of the auger in there. I removed the clamp and transition attachment, and then I put a tarp under the opening and climb back up the bin with my stick and start knocking corn off the walls. I’d knock some loose, pull the tarp out and dump it in the loader bucket, then put the tarp back down and knock more corn off. Took 4 cycles.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. But getting it all put back together took two people, a strap, some C-clamps, a stick, some muscle, and some time.  It might be the first time I’ve cleaned the bin out in 20 or 30 years. Good for another 30 years.

Kelly helped me get the seed cup put back on the grain drill and the 44 bolts reinstalled, so that part is ready to go. I still have some other work to do on the drill, but I can manage that on my own. The 44 bolts took two people with one inside holding the wrench on the head, and me outside tightening the nut. Replacing the seed cup means I don’t have an excuse for leaving gaps in the field anymore. Next year if there’s a gap between the rows it’s my fault for not driving straight.

The next thing to repair is the ‘big spinny thing’ under the brush mower. I got the blades and broken shaft off the spinny part. Now I need Kelly’s help again to get the 8 bolts off the gearbox and take that off the mower itself. Maybe this weekend.

The former oat fields are getting a lot of weeds growing in them now. Bailey and I got them dug up. It needs to be done before they get too big (and before they go to seed) or they will plug up the digger. I try not to go the same way across the field every time I work it up. My fields are not square, and while I’m still trying to follow the contours, it helps to start on the opposite end of the field sometimes and just break up those ridges underneath the soil.

I had the co-op come and take soil samples off the oat fields. Normally you need to do that either in the spring or the fall after the crop is off. Can’t test during the growing season of course but since the oats is done, it was a good time to do those fields. I haven’t seen the results yet.

The remodeling work at one of the local theaters continues and there’s been a good crew in helping with that. If we ever get the flooring done (Thanks to Wes for advice), the bathroom stalls will be the next major job. They came in two dozen pieces and multiple bags of bolts.

In class this week the lab was on topographical maps and reading the contours and an online test on seafloor spreading and continental plates. I learned about Earthquakes, Volcanos, and the Earth’s magnetic field being generated in the core of the earth and that the magnetic field has changed polarity multiple times over the years. The last change was about 1 million years ago.

The only thing we are managing to produce out of our garden is cucumbers.  I make a lot of refrigerator pickles. Neither Kelly or I learned how to can things or preserve things and it’s probably not hard, but it is hard to find the time. At least I can grow cucumbers. Something has gotten in the garden and ate all the potatoes and kohlrabi. All summer something has been in there and I can’t find a hole in the fence, but they leave the cucumbers alone.

And the ducks. They’re getting real nice ‘poofs’ on their heads and some are off to the side like a jaunty little chapeau. I spend a lot of time just watching the ducks play in the water. They are good jumpers being able to hop into one of the water containers. I spend a lot of time watching the ducks.

Got any stories about magnets? Our son stuck one on the TV and messed up the picture and we had to buy a new TV.

Have you been in an Earthquake or seen an active Volcano?

College, Ducks, and Corn

Today’s post comes from Ben

Typically, there isn’t a lot going on in August once the oats and straw is done. One year it rained a lot and oats was late and straw kept getting delayed and I was still doing straw in September and that just made me grumpy. But usually, August is a pretty quiet month.

College classes started so I’ve got homework again. ‘MN Rocks and Waters’. This first week is plate tectonics and continental drift. It’s interesting but there sure are a lot of terms and I hope I don’t have to memorize all of them.

I’ve been picking some corn ears, looking at plant health, and monitoring progress. The plant looks pretty good; not seeing any fungal diseases (which wouldn’t be expected in a dry year like this) Some ears look better than other ears.

Most have above average girth counting 16 or 18 around (it will always an even number) and length varies. Good ones count 42 kernels long. Shorter ones count 30. There are ways to estimate final yield by doing the math. We’ll see. I won’t bore you with the details. It doesn’t take into account how many deer are out there anyway.

Soybeans are looking OK too. Starting to turn yellow (meaning maturing) and it’s interesting you don’t hear so much about estimating soybean yield. Not a perfect science perhaps.

The ducks have learned to spend the day outside and go back in at night. It’s still wet inside their pen no matter how often I clean it. It’s the end of the pen where the water is, they’re just sloppy drinkers.  Kelly and I were talking that we don’t remember if they’re always this skittish. There is a breed called ‘Indian Runners’ and they’re always totally crazy. But I just don’t remember if these breeds are usually so nervous. Maybe it’s the mallards? Maybe in another month they’ll mellow out a bit. After all, they’re just barely a month old. It’s impressive how fast they grow.

I gathered up all the round bales of straw and put them in a line. Just so they’re not scattered all over the fields and to make it easier for the guys to pick up later.

If there was alfalfa hay growing under the oats it would be important to move them as soon as possible so as not to kill the alfalfa. But in this case, I’ll be digging up the field in another week or two simply to control weeds. And since I don’t know when they’ll pick them up, this may be a snow fence too.

I got parts for the grain drill that I want to get put back on this fall. And some new parts for the corn planter I could be working on.

My mom is adjusting to her room in the Long Term Care area. One day she said the bad was outweighing the good. But she says good things about the staff, and she gets ice cream every day, and yesterday she said she’s almost ready to call it home.

With rain predicted for the next few days I cleaned gutters out this morning. One was more involved than expected; it wasn’t just cleaning the leaves out from the top; it was pulling off an extension under the deck and snaking a hose up in there to flush it out.

Do you wear any rings? What is/was your wedding ring like?

Farming In August

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Actually, hasn’t been much farming the last few weeks…

I’m back at “work” work now, and I lit another show, and we moved my mom to long term care.

Here’s a theater space I was working in and the genie lift that’s my best friend because it means no ladders!

And the view from up there.

With the lights.

And the lighting console in the loft.

And some of the finished product. The colored lights? That’s what I did.   

It’s a show called ‘Head Over Heels’, music of the GoGo’s (which apparently I only know two songs.

Mom is 95 and has just kinda lost her self confidence in the last few months. There’s been a few falls (nothing serious) and I think she kinda likes it when the firemen come to help pick her up. And I’m lucky I have siblings here and everyone is chipping in to pack and deal with things.
Moving to a long-term care apartment was her idea so that makes it a bit easier; we were over there more and more and balancing the cost of more Visiting Angels or Assisted Living or LTC, she decided this was the thing to do. I can’t say enough good things about VA; they’ve been great.

She was already in a Senior place so we’re lucky that she’s just moving into another section and not across town or anything.

There is a large metal bin down by the barn that holds corn which I use for the chickens and ducks. I opened the top lid one day to climb up and check how much was left inside, and then forgot about it and left the top open for two weeks and that’s when we got 3” of rain. Oh fer….

I spent an hour one morning taking an access cover off the bottom and digging out about 30 gallons of wet, stinky, moldy, rotten corn. I’ll try not to forget to close that again. Thank Goodness it’s almost empty. I’ll be ordering 100 bushels of cracked corn to refill in the next few weeks.

They say August is bean month. Beans have pods, but how big they’re going to get depends on the weather in August.

I was just reading about how corn develops and how the yields are determined by the weather. It takes roughly 90,000 average kernels to make a bushel (56 pounds for corn, remember?). The guys who are winning the yield contests can get that down to 65,000 kernels (bigger, heavier kernels). Final yield started with how many plants emerged back in April. The girth of the ear was determined at the 5-leaf stage; If the plant was happy and it had all the right nutrients and moisture, it can have 20 kernels around. 12-14 is average so any more than that means everything was going right at that point. Now the kernels are there and it depends on the weather as to how much they fill and what the test weight will ultimately be. If it gets stressed now, it won’t develop fully to the tip as the plant sacrifices them to fill the bottom. A lot had to happen already, but the weather this month can still make or break a crop. It’s pretty fascinating.

The ducks have moved outside and now it’s all muddy out there (I swear; everything is wet when you have ducks).

Here’s some ducks!

Any Questions?

Boil or microwave your sweetcorn? Who’s done mud wrestling?

Hey, Hey Straw

To wrap up the oat harvest, let me explain test weight and pricing.

There isn’t a big market for oats, so they won’t take the oats if the quality is a little low. By ‘Quality’ I mean if it isn’t at least 32 lbs test weight (That’s the ‘standard’ weight of a bushel of the product. 56lbs for corn, 60 lbs for soybeans, 32lbs for oats). The weight can vary depending on a lot of things; moisture content of the crop, the weather as it grew, the variety, ect. The market price is based on that weight though, so if it’s low, we don’t get paid the full amount because while we deal with the crops in volume (the trucks and wagons it takes to get it hauled in), we’re paid by the bushel. If your corn sample only tests 50 lbs, then it takes more corn to get to 52 lbs and we get docked for the low TW.

My oats samples tested 38 and 39 lbs. The truck is heavier, which means it takes less grain to make 32 lbs so I get more bushels on the truck. But no bonus for being Over TW.

Price this year was $3.58 / bushel at the Elgin elevator (which is closest so most of the oats went there) but they were full so the last of the oats went to another elevator and it was $3.71 there. Heck; if I’d known that I’d have taken it all to that second place!

Remember; hay is something animals will eat; it contains nutrients. Straw is just an empty stalk; there’s not much nutritional value in straw.

Baling straw; it went pretty well this year. No problems.

It might take a while to get the baler working right; get the rust off it, so to speak. I like to bale straw; it’s light and the bales are easy to throw around.

I broke a shear bolt just after starting; a ‘shear bolt’ is protection against something bad happening. It might simply be overloaded or it might be a safety feature against something catastrophic. But sometimes they just wear out. That was the case here.

This shear bolt hooks the baler flywheel to the hydraulic pump for the baler kicker and sometimes it just fails. Then the kicker looses it’s oomph.

In the old days, Clyde and my dad had to have someone on the wagon to catch the bales coming off the baler and stack them on the wagon. I was about 10 years old when Dad bought a kicker baler which ‘kicks’ the bales into the wagon. Less manpower needed. Course, getting them back out is a little more trouble.

In 1993, we hosted 2 men from Russia for a few days. They were here as part of an exchange program with the Farm Bureau. They didn’t speak English, but they had a Russian / English dictionary and we had a good time doing hand gestures. I was baling hay and they rode in the wagon and insisted on stacking the bales as they flew in there from the baler. I tried to stop them; warning them this was dangerous and not to get hit by one. They assured me it was fine and kept stacking. And it’s a wonderful thing; so much easier to unload when they’re stacked, plus I get more bales on the wagon. I’ve been stacking a few ever since. Just the bottom row or two, and a ‘wall’ at the front to help keep the bales in the wagon.

The kicker part of the baler rotates left and right. That allows me to throw a bale in the wagon even when making a corner. And there’s a power adjustment to kick the bale just a little bit or kick it real hard! The average is 3 or 4. It goes to 8, I haven’t had to use it that high unless I’m kicking it all the way over the wagon just for fun. Because the power is based on weight, kicking to the back of the 16’ wagon only needs about 4. If the bales are so heavy it needs 6 or more, then they’re too wet to bale and I can’t even pick them up.

Up or down hills changes that a bit… and making a corner when it kicks can still kick it over the side. All in all, it’s kinda fun.

Here’s what it looks like from the tractor cab.

I’m watching my left mirror as that shows the back of the baler and I can tell the bale is good (not missing a string) and I can see most of the wagon. The right mirror shows the row going into the pick up.

Here’s three loads in the shed.

A few weeks ago we talked about backing up wagons. Here’s what it looks like to back up a wagon into the shed:

You need to trust yourself about what’s behind you.

I had about 200 straw bales left in the barn. I baled 612 (there’s a mechanical counter on the baler; each time it ties a knot, it trips the counter). 166 bales (one stacked load) went to the neighbors for their strawberry patch. He’ll use it for cover this fall. The other 446 went in the pole barn. I unloaded one load by myself; back the wagon into the barn, toss a bunch out, get out and stack them, toss a bunch more out. It’s not too hard when the stack is low. It’s too much work once up about two rows.

My brother came out; he helped me get the elevator set up and then he and I unloaded the last two loads. The cows came to watch me.

Here my brother is trying to figure out how to start the load

Here comes a bale destined for VS’s garden next spring.

A clean field and the last bale are welcome sights.

I didn’t need anymore small square bales this year so I hired a neighbor to make round bales from the rest of the straw.

 I’ll sell them to the neighbor with the cows.

I’ve left off the tractor that inexplicable died. (turned out to be the coil wire). And the dead battery in the other tractor. And the post that has somehow twisted a bit so now the gate doesn’t swing in AND out anymore, so I have to take it off to get the elevator put up.

I did get the hitch welded back on the elevator so that’s one thing.

And I got the second show open.

And time to cut grass again.

Hey! “Straw is cheaper, Grass is free. Buy a farm and you get all three.”

So? “Sew Buttons on a balloon, you’ll get a bang out of it.”

What’s your favorite sarcastic reply phrase?

Doesy Doates

Today’s post comes from Ben.

When last we left the farm the swather was standing on one tire and a jack.

Mechanic Nick came out from John Deere and fixed it up in no time. Now that was a good decision to call them. And $637 later I’m moving through the field again. I was estimating $500. “Labor” was $500… bearing, flanges, locking collar, service call, misc and …. Just put it on my tab. But it’s fixed and I finished cutting oats and the swather is back home in the shed.

I spend a lot of time thinking of ‘what if’s’. What if the machine breaks down? What will I do if I can’t fix it? Who can I call that would know people to come and cut oats? And then, as I near the end it becomes ‘I would just leave this part’, or ‘who has a sickle mower I could use’, or ‘I wonder if the bean head could do this’? This year I learned something. I learned I call John Deere and they can fix some of it. Course it depends what, exactly, has broken. 

And what do I think about all day just going round and round? I have music in my head. Last week I had the ‘Mairsey Dotes’ song in there for a while… that annoyed me. Had to work real hard to get something else in there. The first day it was a Pink Floyd song. Got some Led Zepplin going, there was probably a show tune in there somewhere… I can’t remember what finally settled in.

No cab or radio, and I’m wearing hearing protection, long sleeves, and a dust mask.

I observe the direction the oats was planted versus the direction I’m cutting it and I wonder if it matters because of how it sits on the stubble; is sitting sideways better than sitting in line? When going the same direction, in line, does it fall down between the stubble more? Hmmm. (It depends how heavy the windrow is). And I leave some stubble so it sits on top of that in case it does get rained on it’s not flat on the ground.  

I observe how whenever I stop with the planter, I leaves a gap of a few feet and weeds grow wherever there isn’t grain growing.

Which is kind of amazing when you think about it.

I look at the damage the deer cause and I curse them out a little more.

When the combine (we should clarify the pronunciation of this if you’re not familiar. It’s not com-BINE, like adding things, it’s COM-bine. I don’t know where that came from. Subject for another day). The combine has to pick up the oat windrow the same direction it was cut. And that means from the head end. As the swather cuts it, all the heads fall to the back and it’s usually pretty easy to tell. Trying to go the wrong way, it just doesn’t feed into the combine as well.

When cutting, it’s best to make about 4 or 5 rounds all around the field, so there’s room on the ends for the combine to turn around, (and that goes for any crop; corn or beans or anything); we call those the ‘headlands’.  And then it can just be cut going back and forth. Corners are tough so we avoid those when we can. Tough in that the machinery doesn’t make 90 degree corners very well, it doesn’t plant well in corners, hard to stay on the row in a corners.

OK, so now it’s Saturday and the combine is here and harvesting and I don’t have any trucks yet. I can’t get the truck guy on the phone. I call another guy from the farm, but he’s over in Wisconsin and he can’t get anyone on the phone either. Finally, we just go to the farm and get a semi and drive it back here ourselves. And, of course, there’s a summer shower and the harvesting is done for the day. Next day he’s back and finishes that field. And a few days later gets the last of it.

I don’t have the final numbers yet, but it looks like a real good crop.

As I write this, I’ve got some straw baled, got another show ready to open, ducklings moved to a bigger pen,

and I’m going to cut the grass!

Talk about when you had to do something yourself. Why is good help so hard to find?

Marizy Doats

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?

Always Three Eggs in a Nest

Mid-July Farm Report from Ben

Dare I say it’s a quiet time around the farm. The Co-op is done spraying, I don’t have hay to put up, oats is coming but not quite there yet, and I’ve got weeds and brush mowed.

We almost had another hot air balloon landing in the fields. I was out doing my chicken chores and heard it and could see it through the trees and it looked pretty low. Kelly and I headed up there and met the chase vehicle coming down. The balloon was pretty high again at that point and still moving East. The driver said he had considered landing here and I guess they were coming to ask permission. I don’t know if they just didn’t get here in time or what, but the balloon moved on. It was a different balloon company so it wouldn’t have counted in my 3 landings = free ride anyway.

One of our favorite nieces, her husband, and 9 month old baby came to visit from South Carolina. Her mom and dad are still here, and the baby got to see Great Grandma Hain and we had a real nice visit with them.

Four generations here. As luck would have it, our son and his wife were able to come down too, so the cousins had a good visit. The Niece always talks about the wild black raspberries that grow out here and she remembers picking them when she was a kid visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. There was a lot of berries this year and they lasted a long time. Just not quite long enough for their visit. I did get a few fresh berries for her. They sure are good.

I did get the waterways and pastures mowed with the rear mounted brush hog. I was down in one of the pastures cutting brush and clearing that darn buckthorn when one of the big spinny things underneath fell off. Oh. That’s a problem. I just unhooked it and walked away for the moment. The main shaft out of the gear box sheared off. I looked up parts online; $600 for the shaft. Plus, whatever bearings, seals or other bits might be needed… I was rather discouraged. I’ll fix it. Later.

I did get the new and improved loader bucket back from my nephew the welder. I don’t have the loader on the tractor right now; I took it off for mowing, and will leave it off for baling straw, then I’ll put it back on. I should give it a new coat of John Deere Green.

There were a few comments on the driveway in the last blog. From the main highway to our house is 1.3 miles. The first .4 miles though is technically a township road, and the snowplow will come in our road about a 100 yards to turn around in a cell phone tower driveway. It’s easier for them than trying to turn around where our driveway starts. The road forks right there and our lovely neighbors are on the right fork, we’re on the left fork. There’s a hill their driveway that’s given a lot of people trouble over the years. You think our driveway is bad, you should see theirs! Our road is longer, theirs is steeper. Both are beautiful drives, just scary in the winter. We both joke, you can always get home, and if you can get out, you can probably get wherever you’re goingI do have a 7’ blower that mounts on the back of the tractor, so I have to go backwards when blowing. The last few years I’ve been using a rear blade if it’s just a few inches of snow. Quicker, faster, and my neck doesn’t hurt when done. But that also makes a pile of snow on the edge of the road that will drift in sooner. So eventually I have to put the blower on and cut those down again.

It’s interesting when I collect eggs, the chickens seem to like the number 3. Often the nest boxes will have 3 eggs in them. There might be more or less, but more often than not, multiple boxes will have three eggs in them. It’s curious.

After 18 months of very little theater, I’m back in full force. I have two shows to open in three weeks. Afternoons this week is working at the Rochester Civic Theatre for a Rochester Repertory Theatre production of ‘Turn of the Screw’.

Then next week is tech for ‘The Addams Family’ down in Chatfield for Wit’s End Theater. Somewhere in here I’ll be cutting oats and baling straw too.

I talked about the helicopter spraying a couple weeks ago? A helicopter crashed about 20 miles East of here while spraying crops. They think he flew under an electric line and snagged one of the wires. The pilot was killed. A newspaper article says “accidents are not uncommon”. Don’t know if it was the same company or anything. It’s terribly sad.

Hot weather or Cold Weather? How many eggs did you eat today?

July on the Farm

As I write this, the oats is looking good, quickly turning color, and I’m getting my hauler, Craig, (a neighbor with a semi) and Parm, the neighbor with the combine, lined up. We’re thinking it will be ready in 10 days or so. There are some pretty severe thunderstorms predicted this week, with high winds and heavy rain. And another round in the evening is possible with more high winds, large hail, tornadoes, and heavy rain again.

Sigh. I really don’t want the winds… or hail. Fingers crossed we just get some rain out of this.

I have crop insurance on the corn and soybeans, including hail coverage, but crop insurance isn’t available on oats.

Beans are setting flowers which equals pods. They’re only knee high, but they’re filling in and getting bushy, just not too tall yet.

The neighbor’s field of peas was harvested. Kelly collected a shirt full of left-over peas during her evening walk. And the next day, neighbor was planting soybeans in that field. He’s pushing it planting a crop this late. I talked to him about it and he said, “I’ll tell you this fall whether this was a good idea or not.”

July 1 is usually about the latest you should plant beans and expect a reduced crop. To plant on July 13… well, it just depends how the fall weather goes. An early frost and they won’t get anything. A normal year will give them a reduced yield. Planting this late automatically means a reduced yield, but if they get enough to cover their input costs then they win.

The coop comes out a few times during the year to scout crops. They have more knowledge and a better eye than me. Usually it’s the interns. I can’t imagine how far they walk in a day, just on my farm, the first time they’re here they start on one end and, not knowing the field roads or shortcuts, they may end up on the other end of the farm and the truck is a few miles over that way. Kelly gave one a ride back to the truck one day. Since then they’ve driven to this end of the farm.

Kelly is on jury duty for two weeks. She hasn’t had to report in yet.

Daughter started day camp. Her first group activity since March of 2020. She was nervous of course, but she knew some of the staff and some of the other clients and she gets to go swimming every day, which she loves. We’ve had to try and shift her schedule a bit to make this work. She knows everything so that hasn’t worked the way we’d like. Have I mentioned she’s a teenager? Stays up too late, sleeps too late, knows everything, thinks mom and dad are ruining her life. We hear about it every day when she goes to her room and talks out loud. Kelly and I challenge each other to see who gets talked about more. She did tell Kelly she’s enjoying camp and she’s glad she’s there. I’ve noticed I have to do more household chores myself since she’s at camp.

Last week I woke up to 3 dead chickens. Bailey had one at the front door, found another in the garage, and another outside. I’m not sure what happened. I don’t think Bailey killed them; she does get excited sometimes and will run through a group of chickens. And one day she kinda harassed one hen, but I’m not convinced she killed them.

Yet, if it was a coyote, and we’ve been hearing a lot of them lately, they wouldn’t just kill it; they’d grab it and run. And racoons kill it and eat the head off. So, it’s not that either. The chickens go into a building at night and I don’t always lock them up. It’s an unfortunate mystery. My chickens are all free range. But that comes with risks. I keep a puddle down by the barn so they always have water (besides the fresh water in buckets) The puddle gets kinda gross in the hot summer months so I make a fountain with the hose. The ducks swim in there too.

I fixed not one, but TWO lawnmowers! I finally figured out where the transmission oil was coming from on the big mower. Had to pull off the seating platform, and gas tank, and there was a seal leaking under the drive pulley. As long as I was in that far, I changed the drive belt too.

And then the lawnmower that came from Kelly’s farm, and has been sitting in the shop for 4 years because it quit moving, well, I discovered I had done something kinda stupid (that I’m not going to even tell you about) and it was an easy fix. I put the mower back on that and it runs too now. Whew!

It did require another trip to Plainview for parts. Kelly (and the dogs) and I had a parts date complete with Dairy Queen again.

The storms predicted didn’t amount to anything serious for us. There sure was a dark red cell that went over, and there was a little wind that blew a large cardboard box away from the shed and a tree broke off, but no oats down. Got .82” which is real nice.

I’m spending a few days mowing weeds along the edge of fields, waterways, and pastures. In the oat fields, it’s nice to have the waterways mowed because that makes it easier to cut the oats, and also I don’t have a pile of grass or weeds when baling the straw. ‘Waterways’ are a path through the field where water is intended to run. The low spots, or valleys in a field. Since we have hilly, rolling ground, I may have 4 waterways in one field. They’re kind of a pain; I feel like I spend more time lifting and lowering implements than I do actually in the ground. And 95% of the time they don’t seem to be doing anything. Then we get a hard, ‘gully washing’ kind of rain and without the waterway, the dirt runs. And that’s why they’re there.

What’s your favorite DQ or ice cream treat?

Ever dipped a toe in an Ocean?