Category Archives: Farming Update

December Farm Update

Sure been a nice week weather-wise. Temps In the 50’s the last few days. Ten-day forecast has the temps in the mid 30’s and no snow. I’m OK with that. My apologies to anyone waiting for snow.

Kelly and I got snowfence up the other day so there’s another thing checked off my list. Glad to have that done. 

There was a little wind to contend with and the cowpies were mostly dry.

Daughter and I did driveway markers. It was colder than I expected that day and she’s not a fan of the wind. Nice that Bailey could keep her company.

They kept me company inside the gator, too.

I was feeding the ducks one morning and that chicken came running from the pole barn, so she’s still back there laying eggs. .Way in the back, down in a corner. I’m still hoping she gets tired of this as the weather gets colder.

Last weekend I redid a few things in the chicken coop. I put the back wall back in place. (I take it off for more ventilation in the summer) and I changed their perches and got the water buckets and heated pad situated for winter.  

It’s odd, they barely use that rear nest box for eggs, often preferring the front unit. One hen must be molting. She looks really rough right now.

I don’t know if her feathers are going to come in a different color than she was? She used to look like the chicken in the front. Boy, hang in there, girl. Egg production is a little down; the old ones are starting to taper off and the new hens are just getting started.

End of the year finances: I’ve paid off our production loans from this years inputs and prepaid some expenses for next year. It’s funny; we have a good year and actually make some money, but it’s tough to save much because taxes will take a big chunk. I know taxes are important and provide a lot of services, but golly. It feels like throwing money in a hole in the ground. I went to the co-op and paid $900 for the grid soil sampling.

Paid $2800 for the lime and applications on half the farm. Prepaid for 4 tons of fertilizer for next year $3400 (again, maybe half of what I’ll need). They don’t have anhydrous nitrogen prices yet and they figure chemicals prices will hold steady so I didn’t pay on them. Easy come, easy go. Sometime before the end of the year I’ll get seed ordered for next year. That also becomes a deduction on this years taxes. Don’t have to pay for it yet, just get it ordered.

Remember getting your first check book? What was the first thing you bought? I bought a Timex Watch and you had to push the button so the time would show up in Red. 

Busy Week

The Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

It was a busy week for the Hain farm. After getting the crops out and the soil testing done, I got all the corn ground chisel plow on Saturday. Bailey rode with me all day.

Sunday morning it was warm enough I could use a hose and jet nozzle and clean off the chisel plow and tractor. (Pressure washer is already put away for winter.) I also finally got the garden fence taken down. The garden had been done for a month of course and I left the gate open so the chickens have been in there scratching around, I just hadn’t time to get the fence down. And it was bugging me so I’m glad that’s done.

I ran out of diesel fuel in the barrel when filling the tractor on Saturday. Off road diesel fuel is dyed red and can only be used in off-road equipment like tractors, combines, or construction machinery. The point of dying it is because I don’t have to pay quite so many taxes on off-road fuel.  As I understand it, a DOT inspector might check the fuel tank of an over the road truck and if there are traces of red dye in it you get a hefty fine. Gasoline I pay taxes, but I also get them refund on my tax returns for the gallons used on the farm. Hence we don’t fill the cars with gas from the barrel. When I was a kid we did, then the tax laws changed. My cost for a gallon of diesel is $2.50, it’s about $3.54 in the stores around here. My big tractor holds 140 gallons of diesel. I know the big 4 wheel drive tractors might hold 350! Crazy. I had the delivery truck fill the tractor, too. There is a long story about summer diesel and winter diesel I’ll skip. I use an additive to make it winter diesel and prevent gelling.

I got 200 gallons of gasoline (a couple of the older tractors, the swather, the lawnmower, the four wheeler, the gator, chainsaws and Weedwhackers’ use gasoline) and 500 gallons of diesel for the two main tractors.   

Also Monday, the quarry and the co-op arrived to spread lime. I was at work but Kelly got some photos for us. A semi would deliver and fill the spreader using an elevator. Then the spreader had the computerized mapping software integrated with the soil tests so they could applied as needed.

I took Wednesday off from “Work” work.  I was able to get my brush mower fixed. Got the blades fixed, and I also realize the timing of the two sets of blades was off. They need to be at 90° to each other. And that was simply a matter of removing one chain, getting them aligned, and reinstalling the chain. Much easier than I had expected. Got the roadsides mowed down, mowed two little parcels that are going to be planted to native grasses next spring, cleaned everything off, and got the mower put away. Hooked on the snowblower and move that into the machine shed.

I hope I don’t need it for several months, but at least it’s in. Got the grain drill all put back together

and tucked that back into place. What a good day. 

The theater renovation is finally wrapping up. I was waiting on one final approval from the fire department about a sprinkler head, which would then let the city inspector sign off on the final permit. I started this the first part of November, some minor corrections to the work done and some bureaucratic red tape means it’s Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we have an audience that night and I’m still making phone calls and poking people to approve this! I did not sleep good Tuesday night. It’s so nice that everything is online these days, finally about 1 o’clock Wednesday I see online that it has all been approved. I did a happy dance in the tractor.

Man, maybe I can sleep again.

I know some of you get so excited about the seed catalogs coming. Hoovers Hatchery has announced their 2022 catalog and a couple new breeds of chickens they’ll be carrying. Maybe I should get some of the Buff  Chantecler or Black Minorca! The ducks and chickens are still good. I notice Rooster #3 has got some size on him and he’s not shadowing Boss Rooster anymore. I haven’t heard him picking fights, but I think he’s strategizing.

We had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat* and had a nice relaxing day. A few minor odds and ends to do at the theater for opening on Friday. Saturday daughter and I will get driveway markers put in. Kelly and I would prefer a nice day with no wind to get snowfence up. Maybe middle of next week.  

Twisted any arms? Talk about when that’s gone poorly. Or well.

How do you feel about Alice’s Restaurant?

*Anyone catch that reference? I listened to it Thursday morning.

Brrrr…..Wind

The Farm Update comes to us from Ben.

It sure has been windy the last few days. No matter what the temperature is, a wind like this makes it colder. I’m lucky we haven’t had trees down over our road or any of the township roads… knocking on wood.

Ducks and chicken numbers are status quo. But I’ve noticed the black and white ducks are getting a green tint on their heads.

A little research shows they’re “Black Swedish” breed. Back this summer I ordered ‘Mixed Ducklings’ so really didn’t have any idea what I was getting. The cream colored ones are “Saxony” and the ones with the pouf are “White Crested” of course. And the ones that look like mallards but are a little heavier and don’t fly are “Rouen”. It seems odd to me they don’t lay nearly as many eggs as the chickens. Just seems like they should be laying more than they do… usually come spring I might get one or two ducks that lay eggs for a while. Usually out in the middle of the yard. Then it depends if me or Bailey finds them first.

And now that the weather is cooling the turkeys have started grouping up. It won’t be unusual to see a group of 30 or 40. Saw this bunch in the fields yesterday

Dumb turkeys… Once there is snow cover, they’ll be down in the yard eating under the bird feeders in the backyard and trying to get the corn I put out for the ducks and chickens. The dogs love chasing them away, but those stupid turkeys are smart too. They know Humphrey is in the house and Bailey is sleeping out front, so they sneak in the back. And when we do chase them away, they’re back in a few minutes… rotten turkeys. I haven’t even mentioned the herds of deer.

I think most of the redwing black birds have moved on now. Caught a cool picture of them on a trailcam the other day.

I get pretty excited when the birds return in the spring. The Red Wing Blackbirds, the Killdeer, and, of course, our favorite, the barn swallows. Even the turkey vultures returning is another sign of spring.

The Co-op called; they finished the grid sampling and said I could go ahead and chisel plow now. My plan is to spend much of Saturday out doing that. Due to crop rotation, every other year will be more soybean acres than corn acres and soybean ground doesn’t need to be plowed up in the fall. This was a soybean heavy year, which means I don’t have all that many acres to work up. In the old days (the “old days”) it was done with the moldboard plow and it made the ground all black because it turned over ALL the residue and buried it. That black surface is great come spring because it allows the soil to warm up sooner and that’s still important. Then we started doing ‘Conservation tillage’ and leaving more residue on the surface, which is important to prevent wind and water erosion plus it conserves moisture underneath. But too much trash on the surface keeps the soil cooler and wetter come spring. Conservation tillage doesn’t use the moldboard plow, it uses a 4” wide twisted ‘Shovel’ to throw up some dirt, but not necessarily bury it completely. The Chisel plow I use is like that. The last few years the hot new term is ‘Vertical Tillage’. I’m still not sure exactly what it is. But there’s a whole new line of shiny equipment to help me do it!

Photo credit: TractorHouse

It’s more about cutting up the residue and burying it a little bit to help decomposition over winter, but again, not turning the surface black. And again, we do want at least a strip of black soil to warm up and dry out for earlier planting in the spring. So there are ‘strip till’ machines that can make a strip a few inches wide while doing the tillage. And then in the spring the idea is to plant into that same strip. You’ll really want GPS and auto guidance to make that work reliably.

I read an article the other day that The Honeyford grain elevator, North Dakota’s oldest cooperative elevator, is the first elevator south of the U.S.-Canadian border to load an 8,500-foot, 1.6 miles-long train. I only cross one set of railroad tracks between the college and my house. About 9:45 PM there’s a train that occasionally keeps me waiting. Some seem long, but not 1.6 miles I guess. It was interesting to read about the elevator and the train. Imagine the parking lot needed to handle that sheer number of cars let alone getting them filled! It just reminds me there are so many things that I don’t know I don’t know.  It does say Honeyford Elevator is in the middle of the prairie and the nearest town is 3.5 miles away. Here’s the article: https://tinyurl.com/uys4s7rx

What’s the longest straight road you’ve been on or know of? I know one that’s 13.6 miles.

Cold and Wet

Weather has taken a definite turn toward fall. We got 1.72” Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Been seeing geese formation flying South. Rochester used to be famous for the thousands of Canada Geese. Then a few years ago goose poop got a bad rap, and the power plant closed so Silver Lake froze over, and they planted the shorelines to weeds, I mean “Native Vegetation” (some call it weeds) and the gathering of geese is discouraged. So there’s a handful that hang around, but not the thousands there used to be.

I had other stuff to do all week (work), but I took time off Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning so I could work on putting the new gearbox on the brush mower.

I got it installed, pounded out a dent and welded a crack in the ‘big round thing’ (the stump jumper) that goes underneath, added oil to the gearbox, pulled it outside, and had it idle for 20 seconds and then there was a CLUNK and the whole thing started to wobble. I was out of time; I parked it back in the shed and walked away.

The next day neighbor Dave needed to use the tractor so before I unhooked the mower, I crawled underneath it once more and I think I just got the washers on the wrong side of the bolts holding the blades, so they aren’t loose enough to swing. Therefore, one blade is stuck ‘in’ and one ‘out’ and it’s out of  balance and it’s all wobbling. At least I hope that’s the issue. It looks like that’s really the only obvious issue.

As luck would have it, neighbors Craig and Darryl got our corn harvested Wednesday afternoon. I was busy all day and never got home to see them doing it. But that doesn’t matter; it’s done! The local co-op, where I have it taken, recently merged with another co-op and their website, which was pretty good, is even better! I can get information on the loads, minutes after they’re delivered! Other years I had to wait until it was all delivered, then call up there and have them look it up and give me all the details. Now I can see each load as it’s delivered and get all the details.

This photo shows the details of one load; Gross weight is the truck and corn, Tare is the weight of the truck, Net weight then is the actual corn. Converted to bushels (based on Test Weight) gives us gross units, then after taking into account moisture, damage, and foreign material gives us Net Units and that’s what we get paid for. Test weight is 60, which is really good because the standard for corn is 56. They need the moisture to be 15% to store long term and I pay drying costs for anything over that. The fact it’s 15.5% is really amazing! Most years it’s anywhere from 18% – 25% coming out of the field. The wetter, the more it costs to dry. This cost me $0.025 / bushel. And one load was even 14% so no drying costs. Plus price is really pretty good this year! Somewhere around $5 / bushel. It’s been $3 / the last several years. And the corn was wet so I was lucky to get $2.50 / bushel to take home.

Considering the low stand population this spring, the hot weather, the dry weather, and I really didn’t expect much of a yield. Turns out it was about average. Which is really surprising all things considered. And raises some interesting questions: was it the lack of competition of plants that allowed me to get an average yield? If that’s the case, shouldn’t I plant at a lower population every year? What if this year had better weather? I should try it next year I suppose, but given the changes in the weather year to year it’s still hard to compare. But it sure is interesting! I even put some corn in storage at the elevator to sell next spring. Maybe price will be better? Course I’ll be paying about $0.30 / bushel / month for the co-op to store it so will the price go up enough to cover that? Either way it’s just some extra money in March.

It was starting to sprinkle Wednesday afternoon about 2:30. I got home about 4:30 and it was raining pretty steady. But that didn’t stop me getting the tractor out and hooking up the chisel plow and I got a couple fields worked up.

Bailey and I had some quality tractor time. You can see the rain in the headlights. There’s a lot of mud on the steps and frame. It’s not really that muddy on the tires because the cornstalks make so much surface trash it gives me traction. But it was getting pretty soft by the time I quit. Actually, I was surprised it went as well as it did. I hope I have time to get things washed up before it really gets cold. Last week I mentioned waiting for the co-op to do soil samples and apply lime. Still waiting on that and they didn’t want me to plow until that was done. Too bad, so sad. I will just wait to lime this ground until next year. I wanted these fields plowed up this fall because it’s low ground, because it could be wet come spring, and because conditions may not be suitable to plow this in the spring, I always like to get this worked up in the fall. The new LED lights I put on the tractor are awesome! I only switched half of them, I should do the other half next spring. When plowing cornstalks with a minimum till implement, we go diagonal to the rows. My Dad and Clyde could just follow the row with the moldboard plow, but with minimum till, we go about 30° across the rows.

Neighbors Dave and Parm hauled out their beef cows Thursday.

Yesterday Dave hauled in a bunch of fence panels and left a load of silage in the cow yard and got all the cows and calves locked in the yard Wednesday afternoon. Then Thursday it was pretty easy for the guys to get them locked over in one section, back the trailer in, and haul them out. Took four trips to get them all. See the chicken in this photo? She’s been laying eggs out in the pole barn. But this morning she wasn’t sure if she could get there. I went out later and found her spot in the bales in the back corner and collected 2 eggs. As the weather gets colder, one of us will get tired of making the trek out there.

I spent some time looking up custom farm rates. I’ll be settling up with the neighbors at the end of the year so I’m trying to find rates for baling small square bales and the price of round bales of oat straw. And rates for combining corn and soybeans and hauling. Generally those rates come from the Iowa Extension service. Maybe they’ll be helpful for some of you. tim.  

As always, ask if you have questions.What’s your favorite reference website? Have you looked for something that didn’t have a website yet?  

November

Today’s farm update is from Ben.

Here we are in November and my 1940’s station on SiriusXM radio has been replaced by Holiday Music! Bah! Harumph! For two months!! Grrrrr….

It’s been getting cold at night; mid 20’s. I drained all the hoses. Drained the outside faucet on the wellhouse, and moved the chicken’s water inside. Kelly helped me get the pressure washer into the wellhouse so that pump doesn’t freeze and I took some chemicals in the house. There are a few things in the shop I’ll take in the house before it starts getting serious cold. Things like ‘never sieze’, gasket cement, and the tire-ject’ stuff, stump killer, etc.

Last week I used a trailer and delivered straw to the neighbor’s strawberry farm. That night I noticed all the chickens water buckets were tipped over and their self-watering thing was off the base and tipped over and I thought what the heck happen here?? And then I saw the tracks. I pulled the trailer out, drove right over the top of all that stuff. Broke one bucket. Man o man… pay attention Ben.

Still no time for farming in my life. Open house at the theater on the 6th so finishing touches for that. Then opening a show in that space on 11/26 so a few more finishing touches for that. Called for final inspections by the city, electrical, and plumbing… one of those things I’m at their mercy and waiting for their phone call that says “Sometime in the next 30 minutes”, between 8 and 5.  But they’ve all been good people. No serious issues. Will be nice to have it done.

The neighbors have been bringing silage and round bales of hay for their beef cattle for the last month. I suspect they’ll be taking the cattle back home pretty soon here.

The other neighbors with the late planted soybeans are harvesting them this week. The beans were starting to mature and drop their leaves before it froze. It would appear they got a decent crop off them for late planted beans. They sure got lucky with the weather. And it sounds like they’ll be working on my corn next week. I had the co-op pulling some soil samples and I had asked for them to do “grid sampling” on a rented field. That got lost in translation somewhere and they just pulled a single sample from this 10 acre field. (Grid Sampling, is pulling more samples / field to be able to adjust fertilizer rates more precisely. Not something I can do, but something the co-op could do with their equipment) After a few phone calls, we decided to wait until the corn is off, grid sample the entire farm, then apply lime, if needed, to as much as I can afford to do this fall. (All the fertilizer and chemical prices are way up this fall from the spring. Supply Chain issues) They don’t want me to chisel plow the corn stubble until after lime is applied in order to have a smoother surface for the applicators to drive on. I certainly understand that… it just delays me doing fieldwork until they’re done and hopefully the weather still holds.

Fall fieldwork is always better than spring fieldwork. Even when it’s too muddy, as long as there’s enough traction and it doesn’t plug up, it doesn’t have to work up so well because after the freeze / thaw of winter, it will work up OK in the spring. But I don’t have tractors with tracks, or big enough tractors, that a little mud and a little slippery and I’m done. Then there’s the whole soil compaction issue of working wet soil, but again, maybe the freeze thaw prevents that. We have about 11 acres in a conservation reserve program (CRP – not to be confused with CPR) and planted to wildflowers. Been in the program 11 years now. It’s a 10 year program and Iast year I modified it and re-enrolled for another 10 years. It’s flat, rich, black soil, and makes real good crops. IF it’s dry enough to plant and harvest. Often it gets too wet. That’s why it qualified for CRP. And I have a couple corners that are rocky and surrounded by trees and the deer come out and eat it all. So, I’ve been leaving those bits idle the last few years. I am working to enroll that in CRP. That way I get a payment on the idle ground and it’s not just a net loss for me.

Duck update: All the critters are still around this week. Or at least, the ones I keep track of. Twenty brown ducks, 4 black and white, 4 cream colored, 6 Poofy. And I don’t know how many chickens… 40 or 50.  We’ve got these three roosters: The boss,

#2,

and the up and coming #3.

Boss and #2 are almost identical, except the boss doesn’t have any comb on his head. And #2 just has a little one. It’s interesting #3 is never far away from #1 as the photo shows. But if #2 shows up, The Boss chases him away. Evidently #3 is sucking up. Biding his time.

Kelly and I (and the dogs) took a 4 wheeler ride down in the woods one afternoon. It was a nice drive. Header photo is from there.

What kind of medical training do you have? Are you trained in CPR? How do you handle blood? What wakes you up in the morning?

End of October

We got 0.4” rain Thursday night. Made a puddle where I throw out corn and the ducks appreciate having their drinking water 5 steps from the food.

It’s gonna get cold next week. I better take the outside faucet out of the wellhouse and move the pressure washer someplace heated. I supply straw to a neighborhood strawberry farm to cover their berries in the winter. They took 150 bales right off a wagon this summer and now they’re ready to cover the berries and will need another “15-50” bales. And another person near them wants 15 bales so I will take 60 over on a trailer tomorrow.

I saw Lowes the other day, selling regular size small bales of straw (not the mini- decoration bales) for $13 / bale. Wowzer! I need to raise my prices.

I haven’t had time to do any farming the last few weeks. The neighbors are all crazy busy combining corn and doing fieldwork and doing all that stuff they need to do. I’ve got a show to open (Will be open when you read this) plus the finishing touches on the theater remodeling project (Open house on the 6th) and a Lab quiz Monday in Geology class (identifying rocks and minerals) so studying for that plus regular class homework. So, I don’t have time to farm anyway for a couple weeks yet… what I have to do when I get time is get the new gear box put on the brush mower and finish working on the grain drill and other things on my home “To do” list.

Duck update – Missing the old, balding, poofy one… down to 6 poofs. And it’s hard to say if the old one died or got snatched. The five black and white ones are still there, the 4 cream colored ones are still there, and I have a hard time getting a good count on the brown ones; 20 or 21 but they’re still there.

We have 3 guinea fowl on the farm. They’re terrible mothers; lay a nest of 20 eggs and get up and walk away after the first 6 or 8 hatch. Usually a cold rainy day in October. Last week one day, first cold night with freezing temps, there she is with 6 babies.

The three seem to be cooperative parenting. And the 6 babies have made it a week now.  But don’t hold your breath.  We could catch them and move them inside… but that takes a while and it’s more chores and I just can’t take it on right now. We had been taking about getting more guineas next summer anyway.

I was at the doctor this week; nothing serious, just ‘old man skin’ and had a couple spots frozen off. Lost my only wisdom spot… guess I wasn’t using it enough.

I mentioned the other day I’ve had music of ‘Pink Floyd in my head all week. Still there. I’ve been listening to a lot of that. Loud. It’s better that way.

Here’s some of the neighbor’s cows at our place.

Did you ever think you were going to get old? How does it compare to what you imagined as a kid?

A Frosty Morning

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Guess the heating degree days are over… This is kinda late for the first real frost or freeze. I had to break some ice out of the chickens water buckets this morning. These first few temporary cold mornings I don’t get too concerned about. I unhooked some hoses and pulled the pressure washer into the garage and wrapped a towel around the pump. But I haven’t turned on the house heat yet. How come it’s frequently a full moon when we get the coldest temperatures? I think there’s an Indian summer coming yet. Or did we already have that?

First things first: Duck update. It makes me smile when I walk outside in the morning and call “Come on Ducks. Chickens! Chickens! Ducks!” and they all quack and waddle over to the barn for their morning corn.  The dogs are running around and having fun and that interrupts the duck’s processional and they backtrack once or twice before the dogs get in the feed room to catch sparrows and the ducks can finally get up to the corn. I spread out two buckets of corn: one in the grass and one on the gravel. Ducks need water while they eat you know. They eat a bunch, go get a drink, then back to eat more. Chickens don’t gobble so much up at once…they just peck at it. Ducks gobble. I am down two of the poofy headed ones… used to be 8 new ones and the older, balding poofy headed duck. Now there’s only 7 including the older poof. Coyotes I suspect. The white ones are easier to spot in the dark I guess.

Soybeans are out! Yay! Started last Saturday afternoon about 3:00 on my rented ground. I stopped in about 5:00 and they were done over there and had moved to our home farm. Moving fields is a pretty big deal. There’s the combine, the head on the cart, the semi, and the tractor and grain cart. Plus, whatever pick-up is left at whichever field as they move stuff.

Grain carts have become invaluable these days. As with most things, it was in the interest of production and time that these came in. The cart can run in the field and the combine can unload while it’s still harvesting. Then the cart can run back to the truck and unload. That keeps the truck on the road – or at least out of a muddy field where it would get stuck. The carts keep getting bigger, just like everything. It all keeps getting bigger.

My soybeans did OK for quality. They were dry enough and test weight (the weight of a bushel) was good. Yield wasn’t the best, only averaging about 37 bushels / acre. I was hoping 40’s. Last year I got 51 bu / acre. But this rented field really doesn’t grow good soybeans and it really pulls my average down. I’m having that field ‘Grid Sampled’ for soil testing, meaning the Co-op will pull a handful of samples every 2 acres rather than just 1 or 2 samples on the 10-acre field. I’m guessing it will need lime applied to get the soil pH in line. And since they apply lime with an air spreader, they can adjust the rate as needed which, theoretically, will pay for the cost of grid sampling. Remember I planted these beans in 20” rows just for fun? Hard to say if that made a difference or not. If I take out the lousy production of the rented field my average goes up into the 40’s. And with the dry hot weather this year, I’m grateful we got any crop.

Price for the soybeans was good; $11.71 / bushel was my price. Course two days later it was $11.83 at the local elevator. Hauling it to the river gets a better price, but also costs more for hauling. And this late in the soybean season, the river doesn’t always have room for them. And since this was a Sunday, I’m not sure the river elevator even would have taken it. And since I’m not driving the truck, it’s kinda the neighbors call whether they have time to run them to the river.

So 37 bushels (one acre) x $11.71 = $433 / acre gross. Seed cost $55/acre, fertilizer $45/acre, spraying pre-emergence grass and post emerge broadleaves is $75/acre,  combining is $39/acre, grain cart $5/acre, hauling is 0.13/bushel, plus some rent on the one field (I won’t mention the rent cost; that can be pretty competitive in some markets. It might be $200 – $350/acre) I’m lucky I only pay rent on the one field. Diesel fuel, tractor use, my time added in (somewhat variable)… we’re somewhere north of $250/acre for expenses not counting rent. Net, then, is $183/ acre. Losing money on the rented ground.  So you can see why we want the best production we can get and I get so grumpy about how much crops the deer and turkeys are eating. Remember, this is just my farm. Your mileage may vary.

I’m guesstimating corn yields and production as I estimate paying off year end bills. Corn is a little more expensive to grow but yields more / acre too. And this year, with the poor stand, it’s anyone’s guess what production will be. Costs for next years crops is way up over this year. Fertilizer and chemicals have practically doubled.

There’s a lot of corn standing yet in the neighborhood. I can hear a neighbor’s corn dryer fans running when I stand outside at night. Sounds of the season. In a few more weeks it will be surprisingly quiet some night. Just another reminder of the cycle of the seasons.

Photos:

  1. Notice the broken kernels. That’s considered ‘Foreign material’ and we get docked for that. Soybeans are kinda delicate. They don’t like rough handling or they crack.
  • The neighbors like their equipment red. Long as it gets the job done. Here’s the combine, Humphrey, and the bean head on the cart. (The head is 35’ wide; they take it off to travel on the highway).  
  • The grain cart in this picture is holding 805 bushels.  At 57 lbs / bushel that’s 45,885 lbs.  That’s why they don’t often drive into the field with a loaded truck.  

Does this all make sense? Any questions? What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever driven? Or ridden in? Anyone been in a blimp?

Fall Has Fallen

Today’s post comes from Ben

Rainy and cool today… talking lows in the upper 30’s this week… might get a frost yet. Or a freeze in the valley’s.

Ducks are good.

As of Wednesday, I’m still waiting to get my soybeans out. There’re not too many soybeans out in the fields yet. People are surprised when I tell them mine aren’t done. The neighbors who will harvest mine are working in the neighborhood; they’ve got a field right across from one of my fields so with the nice weather predicted for this week I would expect by the time you read this, soybeans might be done. Fingers crossed and the creek don’t rise. It’s out of my control; they’ll get them when they get them.

Things are busy in my real job world and I’m almost stressing out over them. Got the college show to open on the 28th. Got an open house for the remodeling at another theater scheduled for the 6th of November and I need to get those bathroom stalls installed. Plus class. Plus “life”. It’s enough to push a man to drink.

Doing a local field trip come Monday in geology class. It’s hard to do field trips during Covid. Everyone drives themselves… Trying to fit 3 or 4 stops into 2 hours. I predict it will be like herding cats, but we’ll see. Just a 1/4 mile up the road from campus is an exposed hillside of St. Peter Sandstone. And a little bit further is some other rocks and then there’s a spot I specifically keep asking the teacher about because of the layers and colors in this exposed hillside. Isn’t it amazing to realize these rocks are a BILLION years old and that the layer of darker rock on the top was put there 60 MILLION YEARS AGO?? MAN!! That just blows me away. I know just enough from class now to be dangerous. I’m just beginning to understand that rocks can change and become other rocks. Pressure or erosion and now it’s a different rock. Huh! I just thought they were rocks. I’m far to old to remember all the terms, but it’s interesting.

Last week and we talked about finding things and that reminded me of some other stuff we’ve found in the woods or in the fields.

November 1st one year, I was going in to do some plowing and down one of the field roads was a car. Tires were gone, stereo ripped out, one of those “key Keeper” things the car dealers used to have on the rear window was in the back seat. I called the deputies. Seems like if you find a car before it’s reported stolen, they don’t know what to do with it. They contacted the owner. He had consigned it to a dealership to sell and it had been stolen off the lot. But it was still his problem at this point. So now it was considered ‘abandoned’ and the owner had to hire a tow truck to come and pick it up.

One time a friend was leaving and a few minutes later was back to say there was a car tipped over in the woods but there was no one around. I drove up there to see it and it appeared from the tire tracks they had been fishtailing up the road, lost control, hit a bank and tipped the car over. There was just a little bit of blood on the door frame from pulling themselves out, but no one around. This was way before airbags or cell phones. I waited, Kelly went back and called deputies. I saw a car come in, see me, and back away again. I don’t recall what all became of that. There’s been several situations of me chasing people out of the fields. Twenty years ago, before we put the gates on the end of our driveway, it was worse. With the gates, they didn’t have a place to hide and trouble moved on.

Just yesterday I noticed someone over at a rented field, vehicle tracks off the road, made a loop through the soybean field, and back on to the road. Sigh. Could be worse; could have made a lot more tracks through the field. This will only amount to a few bushels. Dad always told the story of kids driving through the hayfield. Except they lost the license plate in the field. Deputies were able to track them down. Somehow dad arranged that their punishment was for them to come out one Saturday morning and help clean calf barns using a pitch fork. He said they were good kids, and they were just screwing around. But stay out of the fields next time.

We got to know some of the sheriff deputies pretty well. One night Kelly saw several cars come down in the yard, turn around and go back out. Well, that pretty much means ‘Party’ so she called deputies. I was coming home and from the highway I was seeing this line of car headlights coming out of our driveway. What the heck?? Eventually I could get in and there were 3 deputies. There was a party down a field road, out of sight, and the kids had just tapped the keg when the deputies showed up. Officer Kirby was pretty excited about breaking up the party. Of course, the kids took off running and the officers told them, ‘We got your cars, you may as well come back.’ I think everyone got a warning that night. And I found plastic cups all over the corn field that fall.

TALK ABOUT BEING PUNISHED. As a kid, As an employee? Or punishment given as a parent or employer.

Nice October Weather

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Sure has been a beautiful fall so far.

GDU’s, Growing Degree Unit’s are 529 above average for the Rochester area. Average is 2702 GDU to date giving us 3231 this year. In 2020 we had 2914 GDU and 2019 was 2800 GDU’s to date.

A little unusual we haven’t had that killing frost yet. Lilacs are blooming again. Weird.

Neighborhood reports are that soybean stems are still green and making it hard to combine, but the beans themselves are almost too dry at 9% or 11% which leads to them shelling out of the pods too easily and that means ‘header loss’, meaning they pop out before they even go into the head of the combine. Can’t cash them in if they’re on the ground. A lot of time is spent adjusting the combine settings to capture as much of the crop, as cleanly as possible. (Mind you, I only partially know what I’m talking about here; I don’t have a combine) The rotor and separator are where the crop is separated from the cob or pod. It’s adjustable of course; bigger for corn, smaller for oats or beans. Large fans blow the chaff and debris out the back of the combine. It’s *quite* the deal. There are all sorts of YouTube videos out there. Google it if you’re interested. Most guys are done with beans and working on corn. Corn has reached ‘physical maturity’ or ‘black layer’. Meaning all the milk has dried out in the kernel and there’s actually a black line that moves down the kernel and now there’s a black spot down at the tip. That doesn’t mean it’s dry enough to store without drying, just that it’s done growing. Again, no freeze and this warm weather is helping it dry further. All good things. My beans are still out there. They’ll get to them when they get to them.

I don’t see many fields between our house and the college unless I take the long way around. A trip to Plainview for parts gives me a chance to see what the neighbors are doing. And that works all year round.

A while ago I removed that broken gearbox off the brush mower and took it to John Deere. I was up there for other parts last week and the shop foreman showed me a bad spot in the gear box meaning it wasn’t worth repairing and I should probably order a new one. Sigh. I had ordered the shaft already for $750. Labor on replacing it was going to be at least that same amount. And now I’ve got a 10 yr old rebuilt gearbox. So, for another $800 I could get a new one. It’s only money… I ordered a new one. Haven’t gotten it yet… any day now.

I spent some time working on the grain drill one day. Got several things put back together and a few more things apart. “One day” I hope to have time to work on it again.

The ducks are expanding their area and this morning were up around the house. They are getting calmer when I throw corn out to them. They don’t panic and run away so much; they’re figuring out I provide food I guess. There’s a hose that I leave out to fill buckets and a large puddle for the ducks. Over near the water hydrant, the hose has a pin hole in it, and I get a little cold water shower as I take corn out. Some mornings that thrill is a little more exciting than other days. I could walk around it, I could patch it, I could just turn the hose over… but sometimes that little thrill is a good way to start the day, you know?

The last two weeks I have been busy with theater. I’ve lit ‘Evil Dead – the Musical’. It’s a total spoof on the horror movie genre. “Five College kids at an abandoned cabin for the weekend. What could go wrong?” It’s pretty fun. I don’t like horror movies and I’ve never seen this one. But the spoof is fun. And it’s a musical! Between that and the remodeling at another theater, it’s taking up my time. Plus, construction at the college for our show here. “Women” by Chiara Atik– a spoof on ‘Little Women’. Keeping me busy.

Kelly and I had a ditch date the other day. That’s what we call it when she helps me pick up garbage from the township ditches. Took the dogs along too. This was a couch and at least it wasn’t a sleeper. I stopped at the townhall to pick up some stuff in the building to take to the recycling center and there was one of those 55 gallon cardboard barrels we wanted to get rid off. Empty other than some newspapers from 1977. It seemed too good to throw out so I left it on the side of the road by the townhall. You people in town have it so easy with the boulevard exchange thing. This morning the barrel was still there. I think I need to put a $5 sign on it. Or maybe people are afraid to see if there might be something inside it.

I’ve gotten some good stuff off the boulevard. Or out of the ditch. Like my winter ‘ditch jacket’ and an air compressor, and a large wicker chair down in the theater furniture storage area.

They say to scare yourself every day. What are your daily thrills? Talk about things you’ve found on the roadside.

October Already?

Today’s post is from Ben.

Kinda quiet around our farm. The neighbors are all busy and working like crazy, but it’s quiet at our place.

The stuff I write about our farm, it is exactly that, just ‘Our’ farm, it’s certainly not how everyone is doing things or the way anyone else does things. I had someone at the theater comment that they figured I’d be busy farming. No, since I have the neighbors combine my crops, I just wait for them to get here. I try not to get impatient about it. That works best when we have these nice fall days. If the weather starts to crash I have to work harder to stay patient and remind myself it’s out of my control. The neighbors have been doing this for years; they’ll get to it when they get to it. Might be a couple weeks yet if the weather stays nice. Might be November if it’s not.

Corn can stand out there for months without too much damage. Oh, the deer and raccoons get more, but some guys leave it stand until Spring (if they don’t have the animal pressure). But soybeans aren’t so tough. They need to be harvested before we get too much snow. The stalks will break and, depending on the weather, they may not dry out again. The big farmers are going hard on soybeans now, and I know some have already finished and moved into corn. Because you never know when this nice weather will end.

Soybeans go fast; yields are generally 40 – 80 bushels / acre. They don’t need to be dried, so two combines in a field, one dump cart, a couple trucks, haul, dump it in the bin, back to the field. Nothing too it. (Fingers crossed and it all goes well).

Corn takes longer; yields might be over 250 bu / acre. More trucks, more hauling, usually drying time and expense, and it’s just more involved. And if it’s raining or the fields are muddy or something breaks down, it takes longer yet. You just never know. And that’s why the big guys are rushing now even though it seems early.

I have so few acres, they’ll finish my beans one day and corn another. Sometimes my guys fill all their stuff at home, then come over to my place late in the day, fill all the trucks and carts, and finish the next morning.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have my own combine. I saw one at an auction once that sold for $2000. But I’d still need a bean head and a corn head and trucks or wagons. And time. That’s the biggest thing, time. So, I’m really OK waiting for the neighbors to get it. They’ve never missed a crop. One year it was so wet and muddy they had to wait for a freezing cold day to come back and get into one field which was too muddy otherwise. But they always get it. Good neighbors’ matter. (I saw three combines sell at an online auction this past week; a 2005 model sold for $36,500, a 2000 for $34,000, and an older, well used one for $7,600. No heads included. Those sold for $15,000 for the corn head and $12,500 for the bean head. Add another zero at the end for brand new stuff. Roughly.)

As we were talking about enjoy fall on the blog, lately Kelly and I spend some time in the evening sitting on the steps outside the garage. We play with the dogs, watch the chickens settling in, watch the ducks, and just generally enjoy the quiet and the smells and the time.

Kelly tries to get a walk in after work. It’s getting harder as the daylight shortens. The dogs though, they love the walks more than Kelly does. Just once she’d like a walk by herself. The three dogs go nuts when she starts off. Barking, fighting (playing), knocking over the little old Granny dog, Allie. It’s a little bit crazy they’re so excited. And if Kelly lets them out the front door, then she sneaks out the back door, it’s only a matter of time before they sniff her out. She could be up around the corner and out of sight, but they’ll find her. Last night they were circling the house making sure they didn’t miss her. She said it was like being stalked by wolves.

Anything you’re anticipating?

Do you like to walk? What’s the farthest you’ve walked? Got the app showing your steps?