Category Archives: Technology

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?

VS versus VR

Two days ago I got the following text message from Nonny:

P a little surprised what a sweetheart I couldn’t remember the old Club was asking her about her interest but they seem to only be about the lieutenant who was across the room at the time she told me she thought you was hot start I agreed you could look at it and then she asked if I’d ever fantasize about sleeping with him sorry the TV is is making this I’ll hang up.

Now Nonny struggles with technology so as I began to read, I was trying to guess what she might be trying to say.  It wasn’t until I got to the fantasize part that I was really confused.  Then the last line about the tV made me laugh out loud.  She couldn’t figure out how to make the voice recognition stop recording when she realized it was picking up the tv.  Phew… my mother has never asked me about fantasizing about sleeping with anyone – and I don’t want that to start!

Then the same day I started VR for something and didn’t realize I had my phone set to Italian; normally it switches on by itself for my daily Italian lesson and then turns itself off when I’m done.  But I must have accidentally changed to Italian.  I don’t even remember what I was trying to say, but this is what I got:

Anonymous game ex fan Week and Hugh know Cost Wearing Nice T-shirt il Renzi stasera mangiare cioè stop period and Best me va bene anche a me Kiss Snapchat Giusy shorts T-shirt c’è in CAPS ormai Favorites schiena biologico Birthday Office

It must be a voice recognition foul up kind of week.  Two more on Wednesday that I caught on the blog right before I hit Post.

“And jam is also easier to make” turned into “And Jim is also easier to make”.

“I’ve never had a guy stand at the end of a row with a stick. Turned into “I’ve never had a guy at the end of a roller coaster”

I’m a little worried about what VR is thinking about me… fantasizing, making Jim and having a guy at the end of a roller coaster.  Yikes.

But when you think about the technology involved in these little tiny circuits being able to hear your voice, search the database for a match and then enter it as text in your application – it’s amazing that it works as well as it does.  What I really need is some kind of a cattle prod to zap me right before I hit “Post” to make sure I doublecheck what VR has done for me!

Do you have a technology currently bugging you?

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?

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?

DMV Woes

Photo credit:  Rich Vintage/iStock

My driver’s license expires in three weeks.  I haven’t thought too much about it – I figured I’d do the REAL ID thing at the same time.  I’ve seen all the various documents and I’m well covered.  And even if for some reason I had trouble w/ the REAL ID, I have a valid passport so will still be able to travel, even after the (again) extended deadline.  I had even heard from somewhere that the DMV preferred that you make an appointment to get your license renewed.

So I was a little non-plussed when I went online yesterday to do the “pre-screening” for the REAL ID and make an appointment, only to find that you can’t get an appointment ANYWHERE in the Twin Cities area in the next month.  I would think that if everything were taking 2-3 months, we’d be hearing about it; I’m surely not the only one who didn’t think twice about having to renew so far in advance.

I called the AAA that I normally go to for all DMV things and the guy who answered the phone was very nice and when I told him my license would expire before I could get an appointment, this is what he counseled:

  • Go to the office so that you are there before opening.
  • If you are one of the first 15 people in line, they bring you into the building and you get waited on
  • If you are NOT one of the first 15, they take your phone number and will call you sometime later in the day with an appointment time
  • Apparently you have 15 minutes to get there (I’m hoping I mis-heard this, but probably not)

He then suggested that if you want to be in that golden first 15, you should shoot to arrive by 6:30 a.m. at the latest.  Sigh.

Looks like next week one morning I’ll be sitting in my stadium chair outside the DMV at 6 a.m.  I think the sun will be up by then so I won’t need a flashlight to read.

Any particular bureaucracy getting you down these days?

Late June Farm Report

Last week of June – The crops are looking better. Still need some rain, (all day rain on Saturday only gave us about 1/4 of an inch), so better than nothing, but keep it coming. I say that carefully.

Corn is finally tall enough and filling in enough I can’t see all the bald spots.

Soybeans are looking good and starting to get bushy and fill in.

Oats is all headed out – looks pretty good, looks like there will be a lot of grain out there. Knock on wood.

I changed some field boundaries this spring, so I’ve got one corn field that used to be two separate fields. This particular corn field was corn last year on half of it, and the other half was soybeans last year. (Normally crop rotation: soybeans last year means corn this year. Corn becomes oats, oats becomes soybeans. That helps with weeds, soil pests, and erosion.) But what’s really interesting is the corn on corn looks better and is taller than the corn on soybeans. And the only difference is the corn field was plowed up last fall, and the soybean field wasn’t. Is it soil compaction? Root structure? I will dig some up and investigate the roots. It’s very interesting; I need to ask more questions about why this looks so different.

I dug these up when the corn was about a month old. Notice the seed still down in the roots. And the other seed that just never sprouted. That was our spring. 

Been fixing stuff. Picked up parts. A bunch for the corn planter (new fertilizer disks and bearings) and some belts for the lawn mower, a new mower bearing, and other odds and ends. The lift bracket on the corn planter, the thing that actually raises and lowers the planter, was just wore out.

Replaced the pin and bracket, added some weld to the hole in the cylinder end so it’s more ‘round’ again. Then I ran into something and broke a big chunk out of the lawn mower hood so had to buy a new hood. I told Kelly I could just take the hood off and we could go ‘red-neck’. (And I did for a day while working on other parts) A friend put it best when he said, ‘You go redneck and pretty soon you’re judging yourself’. Yep. Good point. No trip for parts is complete without a stop at DQ.

Then the electric clutch that starts the mower wore out so replaced that. I’m also trying to get an older mower running again to use for around trees and to mow in the random areas. I’m mowing more area than I used too; behind barns, up in a grove, all in an effort to keep the weeds down.

I mentioned the barn swallows that have two nests by our front door. Here’s the kids’ double nest.

The parents’ condo is on the left side of the door. The kids took flight the day after this was taken.

My chicks are out in the world now. Of the 45 chicks we received on April 14, a few died as chicks and we let 36 out into the open. So far so good out in the world.

I’ve ordered 30 ducklings of mixed breeds. Be here July 27. I really do enjoy having the ducks around, but my goodness are they messy for the first month or so. Water and muck everywhere. I have a bulk bin down by the barn where I store cracked shell corn for the chickens and ducks. I toss some on the ground and I have some in feeders. They prefer it off the ground, I think. Course that also attracts squirrels, rabbits, birds, and, in winter, the deer and turkeys. 

When I was milking cows I had protein supplement stored in this bin. It feeds from an auger into a box inside the feedroom and I fill buckets from that box. It holds maybe a week’s worth of corn in the box. A few weeks ago, when it was so hot, I just got corn from the box and I didn’t run the auger at all. Never really thought about it. And then when I did turn on the auger, no corn came out. Well, sometimes that happens as the bin gets low; cracked corn doesn’t always ‘flow’ very well and sometimes I get a hollow spot. I climb up on top and I have a long stick that I use to knock the corn loose. (I do not get inside).

And what came out was this brown, liquid, sludge! Ewww! I don’t know what that was!! EEEEWWWWW!! It was really gross. There was a fair amount of it, like maybe a couple gallons. Here’s what I think happen: Sometimes when I get corn delivered, the previous load may have had liquid molasses added to the feed. I used to do that when I had calf feed made. And I’m wondering if maybe there was some of that old feed / old molasses down in the bottom, and it go so hot, the molasses all melted and sank to the bottom. Could that be a thing?? Because I’ve never seen it happen before and this stuff didn’t stink like anything rotten… Once that slug was out, it was back to corn and it hasn’t been a problem since. But I run the auger every few days too, now.

Weird.

Wild black raspberries are out; they’re early this year. But just as yummy especially early morning when they’re still cool.

A former college student has been coming out to help on the farm lately. I enjoy the company and It helps me focus and get some jobs done. He’s also applied for a new job and the hours won’t be compatible to here. Such is life.

Got some big summer plans? Making any progress on them?

Annoying Coworkers

I have been fortunate in my work career to have mostly affable and supportive coworkers. True, there have been a couple of real negative doozeys, but I outlasted them. I am currently contending with an annoying coworker who really means well, and that is much of my problem with her.

The person in question doesn’t even work in my building, and works 100 miles away, only sometimes coming to my workplace every other month or so. Her job is to make my job easier, but that isn’t how it always turns out. She is to help make sure my testing computers are working appropriately, that the psychological test scoring programs are up to date, and that my testing forms and supplies are ordered as needed. She usually does a great job. She works really fast. She is friendly, competent, and energetic. We communicate most frequently via email and instant messaging.

I guess my main issue with this coworker is the manner she goes about doing things. Every time I encounter her, I have to bite my tongue and not ask her if she took her Ritalin (an ADHD medication) that day. I don’t even know if she has ADHD, but she is very impulsive, doesn’t listen, and can’t read the room, so to speak, on how she is coming across.

Last week she was very involved replacing our three aging testing computers with new computers, and transferring our scoring programs to the new computers. In the process, she managed to erase forever the testing results of hundreds of people we had tested over the years. There are hard copies of the results in client files, but at least we had them stored in the computer in case something happened to our paper files. She didn’t get the new computers hooked up to the correct printers appropriately , and I couldn’t print any interpretive reports, only dozens of pages of gobbledygook. She had already left to go back to Bismarck, so our tech guy had to fix it the next day. He told me he had warned her that what she did with the printer drivers wouldn’t work, but, as usual, she didn’t listen.

One day, after a particularly frustrating back and forth messaging fest over her insistence that a scoring program was installed on one of the computers when it wasn’t, she asked if I would go in to the testing room and take photos of the serial numbers of the computers so that she cold access them remotely to see the situation for herself. I was somewhat appalled that she would even ask me to do that, given how our messaging conversation was going. I guess she couldn’t tell that I was becoming increasingly agitated in my texting, spelling out words in all capitals and ending sentences with multiple exclamation points. I had enough by that time, and curtly refused. She came out the next day and got it all fixed. She apologized for not believing me and offered to buy me some flowers or chocolates. I told her it wasn’t necessary, and that it was enough that she had come out and fixed everything.

Tell about some of your more interesting coworkers. Have you ever felt like murdering someone at work?

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?