Category Archives: Farming Update

Early May

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Mid June. It’s dry, we need some rain. Corn is curling up from the heat. My crops look terrible this year. Corn was planted a little light in the first place, then it didn’t emerge well, and now it’s dry and the deer are eating it… GDU’s: 946 to date, +291 above normal.

Oat’s is just about to head out, in fact it will be by the time you read this, – seems later than some varieties, and this is a new variety for me so… I guess it’s OK; better not to be headed out when it was so hot, the heat just boils the milk out of the heads anyway.

I told Kelly the crops are all in that adolescent stage and they all look terrible. Corn is knee high already, well, some of it.

Soybeans are getting there, look OK when you look down the row, then I look across the field and see all the skips and misses and it looks terrible again.

Back in blogworld, I finished planting soybeans on May 10th. That’s ahead of most years. Some years I’m still working on corn at that point.

When planting any crops, the trick is to have just enough seed to finish, without having too much left over to clean out of the planter. Soybeans are easy because the rows don’t really matter for harvesting, so I can just drive any which way in the field to run out the seed. Remember I had plugged up every two rows? I pulled the tape off and planted at 7” rows just to use up the seed. Once around the outside of one field did it. Oats is the same. I mean I try to figure it so there’s not a lot left in the first place, then just run it empty.

Corn is a little harder as the rows have to line up. I save the left over seed to use next year and the unopened bags can be returned to the dealer.

After planting soybeans, some guys run over them with a large roller, to smooth the field. Soybeans make a pod clear down at the ground, so at harvest, you want to cut as low as possible without picking up rocks or running too much dirt into the combine. Rolling the field pushes down rock and levels out any lumps to make combining easier.

I don’t have a roller. But I have a drag and decided to try that. Haven’t used it in 20 years. And I half expected when I pulled it out of the weeds it would just disintegrate. But no, it held together, and I ran it over all my bean acres. It did help smooth things out.  

Time to clean up machinery.

I feel like I’m making dumb mistakes again. Got the pressure washer out and had a tip plugged up. I’m supposed to remember to check them before I start. But I didn’t. So now it’s all pressurized and I can’t get anything apart. I should have let it sit for a few minutes and the pressure would bleed off and I could get it apart. But I got in a hurry. Using pliers and a hammer I got the ‘quick connector’ apart and the tip shot into the air and it never came down. I put on a different tip (I have three different tips that are different spray widths), I didn’t get this one snapped in right and when I pulled the trigger, it shot it off somewhere over by the feed room and I haven’t found it yet. Sigh.

The third tip was plugged up and I WAS smart enough to let the pressure drain before I took it off and got it to the shop and cleaned out. I’m trying foam wash this year. Also tried ‘Simply Green’ cleaner. Not sure how much they help but it all smells better.

Cleaned out fertilizer wagon, washed the grain drill, and the corn planter. There are lots of nooks and crannies to get into. Made notes of things worn out that will need to be replaced before planting next year. I had a minor leak on a hydraulic hose that was spraying a little oil on the back of the tractor. By the time I finished planting, the back of the tractor was covered with oily dirt.

The next day I had some township stuff in the morning. Paul, one of the other township supervisors, and I picked up garbage someone had dumped in a ditch, and we looked at some culverts. Paul works for crop insurance and we talked about how some guys were using a rotary hoe on their corn. A ‘rotary Hoe’ is one of those tools you only need to use about once every 10 years. This would have been the year to have one. I have a really old one; it doesn’t actually help much. And I was afraid the corn was already too tall.  

Saw Orioles one day; Put the oriole feeder and hummingbird feeder out. Haven’t seen the Orioles again. But we have two Hummingbirds that are often at the feeder. Maybe there’s more than two, but I have seen two at the same time.

At the front door we have a pair of barn swallows. We really enjoy them and their chirps and their flight patterns. They have a nest to the left of the front door. Now they have a nest to the right of the door, too. And both nests are occupied. I wonder if it’s parents and kids??

They do make a poopy mess, but we put cardboard down and they’re pretty tolerant of us coming and going.

Finally got .22 inches of rain on the 19th. And from then until May 29th we had 2.5”. And since then, hot and dry. No wonder the corn looks so rough. It sure looked bad after that frost. And the uneven emergence didn’t help anything.

Finally cleaned out the tractor cab too. By this time, there’s quite a collection of ‘Nutty Bar’ wrappers, and dirty paper towels. And some tools, and golf balls, and whatever else I’ve picked up in the fields.

I carry a little whisk broom (a trick I learned from a youtube farmer) Millennial Farmer, Zach Johnson,

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp0rRUsMDlJ1meYAQ6_37Dw

Next week I’ll do an up to date crop report.

Do you have any cleaning tricks? How bad do you let things go before you clean?

June Farming

Man, hot enough for you? I keep talking about ‘GDU’s… Growing Degree Units. But they only count for temperatures between 50 and 86 degrees.

The corn, and even the oats, got a little burned by the frost a week ago. Another week it will look better as it grows out of this, but right now, it all looks kinda rough.

Back in blogworld, it’s the first week of May and I’m getting ready to plant soybeans. After farming pretty heavy for a couple weeks I had to get back into the college for a few days. The last two springs, Covid did give me an opportunity to stay home and farm like I did before the college job. And it was pretty nice. I’m lucky that I have this job where I can sort of set my own hours. So, I’d do college work from home in the mornings, then take the afternoons off to farm.

I had the Township Road inspection one morning. Once per year, all five of us township supervisors gather in one vehicle and drive all our township roads making note of any road issues. Our township, Haverhill Township in Olmsted County, has about 32 miles of gravel roads. We put new gravel on 1/3 of the gravel roads each year and patch any area that might need rock. We check culverts, washed out road sides, ditches that have too steep of a shoulder, and generally make a game plan of things we need to have fixed this year. That takes the full morning and I got home about 1:00. Last year we didn’t ride together. It’s a good group of guys and we have a good time driving around and talking. 

The music department had a small concert schedule for Wednesday evening. There is no band program, but there was the choir and the ‘World Drum Ensemble’ so they wanted to have a concert. The choir director is a new guy; I haven’t even met him. There were some last-minute emails, I roughed in some lights, put the choir shells up, pulled the piano out, and added some more lights. Sixteen years ago, when I started at the college, it was really frustrating to have concerts with no rehearsal. Now I’m kinda used to it. Obviously, rehearsals are better and make a better show, but I manage. It went well.

The next farm job is fertilizer for the soybeans. I use a broadcast spreader for that. Just like the one I used for oats. It’s almost the same fertilizer blend as I used for corn, and I have some corn fertilizer left in the wagon. I generally order extra because I know I can use it up on the soybeans. I pulled the corn fertilizer wagon out and get the fertilizer spreader lined up and I auger the corn fertilizer into the spreader. Fertilizer doesn’t slide very well, and it sticks together so eventually I will have to climb into the box with a shovel and move the fertilizer down to the auger. There’s no danger to myself, or of getting into the auger, as the door is only open about 3”.

Well, there is the danger that I can’t get back out of the wagon box or the ladder outside falls over. A few year ago, with a different wagon, I had to call the house and ask my son to come out and lower the wagon so I could get back out… he doesn’t let me forget that. But that doesn’t happen with this wagon because it doesn’t tip up like that one did.

Once it’s all transferred, it looks like rain so I don’t want to go too far from home. I think I’ll start around here and see what happens. I get started but it’s sprinkling a little bit and I go home and put the tractor and spreader in the shed. The rain doesn’t amount to anything and two minutes later I’m back out. I fill the tractor with fuel and decide to go to my rented land a couple miles away. It sprinkles a little bit, but not enough to be a problem.

Driving on the highway with farm machinery can be nerve-racking. People will pass at the most inopportune times. I have signals on the tractor, but you can’t really see them with the fertilizer wagon. If I’m going to make a turn, I kinda move to the middle of the road to prevent people from passing me, but that one person still does…what an idiot. I’m lucky I don’t have to drive on the highway very far or very often. If you’re following farm machinery on the road, please, give us some room, don’t pass in no passing zones, and for goodness sakes, don’t try to squeeze through between us on the shoulder and the oncoming traffic! It’s nuts what some drivers will do.

I saw a pair of geese and a pair of ducks over on the land I rent. Normally I only see golf balls in this field.

I’ve picked up a lot of golf balls over there. I enjoy the stuff rolling around the cab. Bailey doesn’t like it when she rides with me. Finished that and got back home and finish spreading fertilizer on the fields around here. It’s raining pretty good now and, starting to stick to the tires, but other than making a mess on the road, it doesn’t really hurt anything.

FYI, my ‘go-to’ snacks in the tractor are the Little Debbie Nutty Bars and Clif bars. Plus water. The cab is littered with nutty bar wrappers.

The next day I did some fieldwork, Brother Ernie came out and did some more and I got going on soybeans and had 21 acres planted at 9 PM. Twenty-one acres is nothing for most farmers. It’s a good day for me.

Soybeans can be planted in rows 7” apart, or 15” apart, or 30” apart. The total population is the same for all of them, it’s just more or less plants in the row. Generally, around 150,000 plants / acre. Soybean seed size changes year to year and the bag will tell you how many seeds / lb. I prefer 15” rows because the rows will canopy sooner and stop weeds coming up between the rows. However, there are some soybean diseases that thrive in damp, conditions, so 7” rows will stay damp longer than 30” rows. Six of one, half dozen of another.

I can use the corn planter (If I put special bean meters on the seed boxes) and that does the best job of seed depth and seed spacing (just like corn) except it’s only 30” rows unless I go over it twice, off set 15” to make 15” rows. That works, it just takes twice as long. (There are 15” row planters. It’s just $$,$$$)  Or I can adjust the settings on the drill, plug up every other row, and do 15” rows with that. Seed spacing is “clumpier”, for lack of a better word, just due to how the drill feeds out the seed. But it works. And this year, just for something different, I plugged two rows, left one open, plugged two, open, ect, and I’m trying 21” rows. Yields are pretty much the same for 15” or 30”. So, what the heck, I just figured I’d try. I have some treated soybean seed and some non-treated. Just like I talked about with the corn, soybean seed is treated for insects and pathogens in the soil in case it sits there a long time before emergence. Typically, because soybeans are planted after corn, the weather is warmer, the soil is warmer, and the beans don’t stay underground too long. But you just never know. And since the seed was ordered in December, it’s another way to hedge my bets. You can see it here: non treated seed on the left, treated seed on the right.

A pretty good day, nothing broke, everything worked well.

Any concert or musical event you are looking forward to this year?What was the last concert you saw?

April Showers

First part of June. Everything is growing, been a wet week, a little over 1.5” for us and a nice gentle rain. Just had a real cool spell; we had 31 degrees down in our valley… will have to wait a few days to see if there was enough frost to kill the soybeans that are 2” tall or was the dirt warm enough and releasing enough heat to keep it OK.

Back in blogworld, still planting corn.

My brother, Ernie came out again. I appreciate Ernie‘s help; he’s not a natural, but it gets done and it sure saves me time. It’s interesting what he remembers and how things have changed. The fields roads he remembers that I haven’t used in 30 years. Kinda fun to hear his memories.

It’s very dry;

The weather channel keeps predicting rain, but the arrival time gets pushed back and chances diminish until now there’s only a 30% chance and yet I’m watching a big red storm cell out the window as I try to finish planting this one field. Finally, when this dark cloud is almost on me, I lock everything up and make a run for home. The fertilizer wagon does not have a cover and it’s sitting outside so it needs to get in the shed before it gets rained on. I get everything under the roof with seconds to spare as it starts to rain. And then rain hard. And then it starts to hail. Five minutes of pea size hail. I put the pick-up truck in the shed because I’m right there and I know the key is in it. I put the gator in the shed because that’s close and the key is in it. My car key is in the house. Priorities you know: truck then gator and then the car. 

7/10 of an inch of rain in about 10 minutes. The worst time of year for heavy rains like this, all this freshly worked soil. Could be worse. I can see water standing in the fields already, I can see where it’s run through the fields. Some small, shallow gully’s, but it hasn’t really hurt much. It will soak in quick. Ended up with 1.1 inches of rain total. Looking at weather maps, there was a narrow band of us that got over an inch. Most people only had half an inch.

The next morning I did Computer stuff in the morning, made maps for the co-op for spraying, made a Menards and Fleet Farm run, refilled LP tanks for the BBQ grill, took the maps to the Co-op in Plainview, made a few phone calls, picked up three more bags of corn seed just in case I run out, and check township roads for new rock.

Unloaded the truck, set up straw bales for garden, and spend some time watching the chicks.

We moved them into the bigger pen yesterday.

I spent Friday morning at my moms, delivered Straw Friday afternoon and saw baby goats there. All the neighbors are out in the field and I still think my fields are too wet.

Saturday morning had someone pick up straw, then delivered Straw to Winona and had our first meal out in over a year at a little bar in Wikota MN. Our first meal out should have been better than this…

Finished planting corn, did some fieldwork, and had friends out for pizza on the deck. First time for pizza with friends in over a year. 

Talking rain Sunday. 

I go to mom’s in the morning again, rain isn’t predicted until 4 o’clock Sunday. I rent 10 acres down the road; I got that dug up and a couple fields at home dug up, so the spring flush of weeds has been dug up at least once in every field.

I’m racing a rainstorm again even though no rain is predicted until 11 o’clock PM. It’s 2:00 PM. Darn weathermen…

Daughter is home alone when I see some big lightning strikes. I head for home. Power is out; fuse on pole blown meaning lightning hit a line fairly close. Rain amounts to 15 drops. Didn’t I just tell daughter that storms don’t usually cause power outages? How rare that really is? Thanks Lightning.

Soybean fertilizer next. 

What’s the biggest hail storm you’ve been in?

Planting Corn

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

Been having some nice rain the last few days. Over an inch now, plus the heat and humidity and we’re almost 200 Growing Degree Units (GDU’s) above normal. I figured we were behind, but we got that warm weather back in April. Crops have almost all emerged, and things are off to a good start.

Back in Blogworld, It’s the end of April and I’m just about to start planting corn. The wild leeks are up so I’ve been nibbling on them. Oats is just coming up, anhydrous fertilizer (nitrogen) is done, planting is next. My brother, Ernie comes out and drives the 8200 tractor and the soil finisher to get fields prepped. He says it’s the first time he’s driven a tractor since he was 18. He joked it was still just as boring going around and around. Plus, it’s hard to get run over by the tractor when you’re in a cab. (Hold that thought.)

I’ve been clearing edges of the fields with the 6410 tractor and loader. We have so many box elder trees and brush and weeds that come in from the edges, it’s a constant effort to keep the edges open or we lose them back to nature. Every year I go around and knock down the big branches, but sometimes I spend time literally pushing back everything, 7’ at a time, (the width of the loader bucket) back and forth, back and forth. Ernie thinks fieldwork is boring? But it’s good to get it done.

Back in the fall of 1968, Ernie was using a John Deere 720 tractor and a 3 bottom plow and his long jacket got caught by the tractor tire and pulled him off the tractor. The 720 is an open tractor and we’d often stand up when driving them. He got pulled off the tractor into the freshly plowed ground, right in front of the rear wheel. The rear tire went right over his chest, and he rolled out of the way before the plow got to him. My parents had just built the new house that summer and they were working on that and painting the roof trim when someone commented that the tractor was going in circles and Ernie was chasing it. Dad ran over there and somehow, they caught the tractor. Took Ernie to the clinic and he was fine; doctors couldn’t believe he was really run over, but he had the dirt on his shirt to prove it. They figure the soft dirt is what saved him. Plus, the tractor wasn’t that big or heavy. Another instance of luck or miracles to grace our family.

I took the loader off the tractor, order the corn starter fertilizer, get corn planter out and greased, get the fertilizer wagon ready, and make a trip to Plainview with Amelia and the dogs for the headlight bezel on the 6410. Pushing the trees off is hard on the tractor; I’ve broken a lot of little things doing that. And sometimes some pretty major things. But this year it was just the plastic bezel around the lights on the cab.

About 4:30PM I get out to plant. I have made some dumb mistakes in my life. Here’s another. The middle fertilizer tank auger is backwards. (My dad taught me to only put a little fertilizer in to start to be sure everything is working.) The tanks hold about 750 lbs each, so I fill it maybe half full or so. When planting corn, there’s a monitor to tell me seeds are coming out each row, and when I lift the planter on the ends, I look to be sure fertilizer is coming out the tubes. There’s a shaft I watch to make sure it’s turning because that’s what makes the fertilizer come out.

But if I put the auger in backwards fertilizer will not ever come out. At the end of planting season, I pull the shafts and augers out, clean and oil everything, and put them back. I try to keep everything lined up so it goes back the right way. And normally, I look in there and make sure they’re all going the same way. Clearly, I forgot that step this time. So, I made 2 rounds to use up some fertilizer, then use 5 gallon buckets to shift some fertilizer from the middle tank to the right, and put the left fertilizer in buckets, because I have to slide the left auger out, and then the middle one out through the left tank to reverse it. Remember back on oats and the shaft broke and I dropped too much fertilizer in a row? Well, now these two middle rows won’t have any fertilizer and I’ll be able to see that too; the corn will miss a boost this starter fertilizer gives it.

A lot of guys are using liquid fertilizer these days. I still use dry; it’s just what I’m set up for. I have a 6 row planter. Small these days of 12, 18, 24 row, or bigger planters. So, I have three fertilizer tanks, each doing two rows

Kelly and Amelia and the dogs take a walk, when they come back Bailey comes across the field to find me so she can ride in the tractor. She’s such a sweetheart. 

Kelly comes out in the field with the gator and gets in the tractor and makes a couple rounds with me. There’s not an extra seat in the 6410 so riding along isn’t that comfortable. The 8200 has an “instructor seat” and it’s more comfortable riding along. Humphrey goes back home. I spend some time checking seed planting depth and spacing; all critical things to a good final yield. You want it about 2½” deep and about 6” apart.

(It’s not 6” deep, that’s just the way the ruler is laying).

The seed is treated, that’s why it’s blue / green to prevent bugs like corn root worm, soilborne and seedborne pathogens, and to keep it healthy if it sits in cold ground for a few weeks before it gets enough GDU’s to emerge. (It takes 100 -120 GDU’s to emerge) and this year it took a few weeks before it finally came out of the ground. The random red color seeds are the ‘refuge’ seeds to prevent corn borer resistance.  

I finish planting at 9:30 PM. Out of both seed and fertilizer. I had added six bags of seed, each bag holds 80,000 kernals. So, 6 times 80,000 kernels equals 480,000 divided by the 14 acres I planted means 33,500 seeds per acre which is a good planting rate.

After they start to emerge, if you measure out 17’6”, that will be 1 / 1000th of an acre and you count how many plants are in that length and that’s your final stand population.

Ever had a seed of an idea that blossomed into something?

CRP & Seed

Our Farm Report is from Ben.

Mid May and the corn is struggling to emerge through the crust that was created on the soil from the quick heavy rain we got back in late April. Beans haven’t emerged yet. Oats is looking good. Haven’t gotten our garden going either yet.

Back in blogworld…

I have 11 acres of CRP, Conservation Reserve Program, ground planted to wildflowers. I have it burned about every 5 or 6 years. I hire a local prairie restoration company to do that. I was in town when they started. Kelly said it was pretty interesting to watch them get going; A lot of prep work and back burning first. There was one guy with small tractor and water tank, then 5 or 6 other guys with shovels and backpack sprayers.   I could see the smoke from a few miles away.

Last fall I mowed around the edges so that makes a good buffer for this and it went well. I had 3 fiberglass markers in the middle of one piece to designate a line. I wasn’t sure if I had to move them or not. I knew the fire really wouldn’t get that hot. The boss, Jon, came to tell me I lost one flag because he wasn’t willing to throw his body on it. He said it’s not the flames, but the residual heat that gets it. I expected to find an orange puddle of plastic, but nope, just 6” of the fiberglass pole melted, which, in fiberglass, just leaves “strings” and the rest of the pole laying there. I cut that part off and put it back in the ground. Good as new, just 3’ shorter. (The part underground and the melted part.)

I picked up soybean seed from my dealer, Meyers Seed. They were busy unloading a semi of seed. A pallet had tipped over inside and was leaning against the wall. Plus, it had punched a hole in the bottom of a bag. So, they had to strap the leaning tower of beans to the forklift, and carefully drag it out. The hole making a trail of soybeans… they said it’s not the first time that’s happen and it’s always a pain to deal with.

I get 60 bags of seed on two pallets. It’s 30 bags of ‘treated’ seed and 30 untreated. (more on treated seed in a later blog) The guys are a little concerned with how tall my stack is, I should have used a trailer; which comes with its own issues because my trailer has short railings on the sides, so they have to push them in from the back. And with the pickup, even a full bed, two pallets won’t fit end to end so they’re stacked. I didn’t really think of all this at the time. I got home with no issues and used the forks on my tractor loader to take the pallets off and stack on my seed wagon.

Meyers have not started planting yet, ground is too cold. I have seen a few people planting. Really, it’s early yet.

I have found 3 deer antlers this year. ‘Sheds’ they’re called when the male deer shed their antlers. These are three separate deer, not any matched. They can poke a hole in a tractor tire, so you don’t want to run over one. Many years I don’t find any so kind of unusual to find three this year.

Next up; we start planting corn.

What have you seen leaning? What mess have you cleaned up lately?