Category Archives: Technology

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?

Infernal combustion

Husband has always considered it his job to mow the lawn. Most of the yard is flower beds, vegetable gardens, and strawberry and raspberry patches. There isn’t much to mow.

I usually mowed the lawn when I lived with my parents after about Grade 6. It was easy. The lawnmower was always well maintained by my father, who loved tinkering and was very mechanically minded. I, too, am very mechanically minded and love to tinker, but while he taught me basic car maintenance, like how to change the oil on my car, Dad never taught me the finer points of small engine maintenance.

My husband is a very scholarly fellow who can write and reason with the best of them, but who was never taught how to fix things. His father was very unhandy. So was his uncle, who somehow was an engineer in a nuclear power plant in Ohio. (He had trouble replacing blades in his own razor.)

We have not had good luck with our mowers. I imagine sitting in the garage all winter without any preparation or winterizing, and then being expected to burst into action in the spring with just a little oil added isn’t the best way to deal with these engines. Last weekend, Husband tried to mow, but the thick smoke pouring from the mower was so noxious for us and the neighbors that he stopped in disgust. We had even had it looked at last fall by a small engine repair guy, but it was not helpful.

We made a trip to Menards and Husband bought an old fashion reel mower, what I would call a push mower. Today he assembled it all by himself while I was at work, and mowed our lawn. No more smoke. No more anxiety every spring if the lawnmower will work. We just have to figure out how to sharpen the blades.

How are you at fixing things? How do you maintain your lawnmower? What are your experiences with reel mowers?

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?

NEVER LOOK BACK

This week’s farm update is from our Ben.

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

Into May and corn is all planted and working on beans. Things are going well. Back in blog world I’ve finished oats and working on anhydrous nitrogen for corn.

How good are you at details? Do you pay attention to your surroundings? I think I’m pretty good at that. And yet… I miss the most obvious things sometimes. We still laugh about the truck parked on the driveway with the naked guy asleep inside. And somehow, I missed the naked women sleeping beside him. Huh. I was just so shocked by the man being naked I walked away at that point.

And my previous post about the fertilizer spreader PTO shaft breaking; how did I not notice that? I’m looking right there to be sure the apron is still moving and 12” away is the PTO shaft and I never noticed it break or wobble or whatever it was doing when it broke.

A few years ago, I finished planting oats and was heading back home with the grain drill. Got home, turned to back it into the shed and I have no drill. Huh! Well, it must have come unhooked just up around the corner and…. Nope. Not there. It was ½ mile back up the road. Hitch pin had come out and, thankfully, it’s not a complicated machine so just two hydraulic hoses that pulled out and the hitch dropped and it just rolled to a stop. Thank Goodness it was level there and, on our driveway, and not up on the highway or something. How did I not notice that?? Still can’t believe it. However, I have started using locking hitch pins on everything since then.

My dad made a big point of looking behind and watching the machine to be sure it’s working properly. It was a bit easier on the open tractors and smaller machinery. Nowadays with cabs, monitors, and mirrors, it’s easier to pay attention to all those things and not turn around and look behind me so much. I do watch behind me! Honest! But I still miss something plugging up and suddenly I’ve made a full round and there’s a big trench behind me because I picked up a tree branch or something. Man… how did I miss that?

Sometimes I’m not good at details. Ask Kelly; she could have told you that. Maybe it’s just overload; I’m so busy watching that one thing, I miss the other.

We got a decent rain finally, .4 inches. Definitely too muddy to work in the field. Which is OK because I have straw to deliver to Northfield and made the straw and poo delivery to some of you in the Twin Cities.

Got 45 baby chicks delivered the next week. Was able to use my favorite line at the post office. “I’m here to pick up chicks.” I can hear them ‘cheep cheep cheep’-ing in the back room there. People always look and smile as I carry them out. Sometimes I crack the box open so they can look. 

Applying anhydrous nitrogen isn’t hard, but one has to be extra careful hooking up hoses and dealing with it. It’s nasty stuff so I take a lot of safety precautions and make sure I know what I’m doing. Too add to it, the coop where I get the tanks decided farmers have to pick up and return the tanks ourselves (rather than the coop delivering)  which means my truck has to have a DOT inspection, so that was an extra expense this year, plus the time it takes to go and pick up the tank. However, Kelly and I got a road trip date out of the deal. (Plus the dogs)

I always thought the tanks held 5000 lbs. Turns out it only had 3800 lbs in it, which messed up my math for how far one tank should go at the rate of 150 lbs / acre. Assumptions were made. I should know better.

Saw a pretty cool sunset too.

The sandhill crane pair that had been hanging around for a month finally moved on.

Next up: Burning CRP ground

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever gotten in the mail?

Duolingo

You all know I love my lists.  Last year when I got furloughed it took me a month to realize that I needed some routine in my days.  It was more challenging than I had expected to fill up approximately 10 hours a day, five times a week, especially since we weren’t supposed to be leaving the house.

I decided to use a daily list and to work on some new habits while I was at it: more fruits/veggies, drink more water, kitchen floor (yes, it REALLY needed serious cleaning), front porch (we’re scrapping old paint off the stucco), creeping Charlie.  The kitchen floor eventually got spectacularly clean, I got better at fruits/veggies and water, creeping Charlie…. well you know how it goes with creeping Charlie.  It was a relaxing part of my day to cross off things that I had accomplished. 

After about a month of furlough, I decide to re-start my work on Italian.  I had started about a year before, using a free app on my phone (Duolingo) but had let it slide after several months.  When I got back online, I started at the beginning even though the app remembered where I had been.  And I decided that I would keep each day’s lesson short; if I set a goal of too many minutes, I knew it might de-rail me. 

Yesterday after the first part of my lesson (I do two lessons a day), I got a blip saying I had hit 365 straight days… an entire year of working on my Italian every day.  I even did my lessons when YA and I went to San Diego in August – the app is on my phone, so easy peasy.   Of all the things on my various lists over the last year, this is the only thing that I have consistently done every single day.  It’s an amazing feat, even to me.  Of course, at ten minutes a day, I’m not blazing any linguistic trails, but if you want to know about elephants drinking water, I’m your gal (Gli elefanti bevono l’acqua)!

Do you have a routine you’re consistent with?  That’s you’d LIKE to be consistent with?

Farming Day 1 Part 2

Todays post comes from Ben.

Things from the farm; Continuing that first day of fieldwork.

I Put the tires back on the drill and the four-wheeler. I put the pallet forks on the tractor loader to unload the pallet of oat seed (54 bags at 1.5 bushels / bag = 81 bushels x 32lbs / bushel = 2592lbs. This is way easier than unloading by hand. Working smarter, not harder!). I checked the tires and greased a few things on the tractor and soil finisher, and then out in the field. First thing I had to do was level out a couple cornfields that were chisel plowed last fall. Oats is the first crop that I plant in the spring and some will be on fields that were soybeans last year and some will be on corn ground. The bean ground doesn’t get worked up in the fall so that only needs to get dug up once before planting. First field, first pass, stop at the end to check things and found my first “field treasure”.

Not sure what this is. Still thinking about it. I also smoothed a field that came out of the conservation reserve program last fall; it had been planted to wildflowers for 10 years, but this particular field just never took off. Never had as many flowers and was getting some shrubs and saplings growing in one part. Trying to plow up a field of grass is tough; too much root structure. Have you heard the story about John Deere and his steel plow and that’s what made him famous? The root structure and grass would never survive a wooden plow. I have an old John Deere 4 bottom moldboard plow just for this purpose and I only use it every few years. 150 years after Mr. Deere himself. It worked out pretty good. It’s nice black soil over there.

Across the fence, in the neighbors pasture, next to the creek, I saw the two sandhill cranes that we’ve been hearing.

I called to order oat fertilizer and they said there was a waiting list on the spreaders so I really didn’t expect it for a few days. I was surprised when they deliver that about 5 o’clock. And that means I better get it spread right away so the next person can get it. Think of a really big version of your plain old lawn spreader.

The pattern with broadcasting fertilizer is about the same width as the headlights. I’ve been putting better lights on the tractors the last few years.

As long as I can keep the tire tracks from the previous pass at the edge of the field of light, I am doing pretty good. I got two fields done and stopped just to walk around for a minute. While standing outside I looked at the power take off shaft that drives the fertilizer spreader and I thought, “that angle doesn’t look right”. And it wasn’t. The shaft is severed and the only thing holding it together is a tiny little bit of the plastic shield. Shoot. Guess I’m done for the night. I still can’t understand though, if it was still running when I finished the field and I turned everything off and drove over to here, when did it break and how did it keep working? I don’t know if I did something wrong: did I turn too sharp, is the hitch the wrong height, did the three point hitch bracket on the back of the tractor get in the way? Or maybe it just broke. I’ll call the co-op in the morning and somebody will come and replace the shaft. Even if I have done something stupid, they won’t give me too much grief about it. Parked it all in the shed and close the doors. If it’s raining in the morning there’s no hurry on calling to get it fixed.

9:00 PM. Supper time.

What do you find digging in your gardens? Ever found a buried treasure?

They’re Coming to Take Me Away

I’ve been aware for some time that nothing I do online is really private.  If I look at some clothing website on Tuesday, by Wednesday, I’m getting sidebar ads for that same clothing company.  If I watch a Paws for Hope video on YouTube, suddenly lots of their videos pop to the top of my feed.  Same with Facebook.  Not too irritating although it makes me wonder if cyberspace is smart enough to know what I’m looking at, why isn’t it smart enough to know when I’ve made a purchase so they can stop showing me the ads for what I’ve bought?

I have a “color-by-number” app on my phone – it’s a mindless game that I often play if I have the tv on or am listening to a book on tape.  It only takes up about ¼ of my brain (if that).  It has a function that offers me “hints” if I watch the occasional ad.  Most of the time I ignore that function, but occasionally the puzzles have little bits that are almost impossible to see, so I like to have a couple of hints available.  About a month ago I noticed that the ads on this game were aligning with stuff that I was searching for online using my phone.  Not 100% but close enough.  So now my game is paying attention to what I’m up to when I’m not playing.   I wasn’t sure if I should worry about this or not.

Then yesterday I had the tv on while I was working in my studio.  One of the interminably long Cindy Crawford ads came on – the ones in which they talk about the special melons in the south of France.  I flipped on mute and waited it out.  While I was watching out of the corner of my eye for the commercial to end, I thought to myself “Well, at least they don’t run those Crepe Erase ads anymore.”  I’m not sure why I don’t like these ads, but I don’t even like to say the words “crepe” and “erase” together.  I have nothing against Jane Seymour, their spokeswoman, but I just don’t like the ads.  So imagine my shock when about 20 minutes later, there was Jane Seymour hawking Crepe Erase!  Honestly, I haven’t seen one of these ads for a couple of years at least.  It’s clear they’re reading my mind – this crosses the line!

Do you have a favorite hat?

Frozen Food Day

I think I’ve mentioned that I got a fun “every day a celebration” calendar by Sandra Boynton for Solstice?  According to the calendar (verified on other sources), today is National Frozen Food Day.  Apparently Ronald Reagan decided in 1984 that we needed a day to celebrate frozen foods – there is actually a proclamation (#5157) to this effect.

Frozen Food Day caught my attention because I just watched a documentary last week about some of the great “inventions” of the 20th century.  It began with the Kellogg brothers and CW Post, battling it out for cereal sales.  When CW Post passed away, he left his company for his daughter, Marjorie, who turned out to be one smart cookie.  In 1929 she bought out the entire Clarence Birdseye company (one of the other great inventors in the documentary).  With the General Foods backing, the frozen food industry was able to grow by leaps and bounds. 

In our freezer there are lots of things that we have frozen: berries that we’ve picked, pineapple puree cubes (YA makes these), my sun-dried tomatoes, my jams.  I also keep my coffee and my Ralston in the freezer and we have lots of assorted fruits.  Waffles and cookie dough. Ice cream (Moose Tracks right now) .  Assorted things we find (mostly at Trader Joe’s).

This is too much for just our freezer upstairs so we have a small freezer in the basement as well.  It’s nice to have a spot for extras or the occasional bulk purchase.  I’m very glad that Clarence Birdseye developed the flash freezing process and even more glad that Marjorie Post put her considerable company and funding behind it.  Even enough to celebrate today!

Anything interesting in your freezer?  Any guilty freezer pleasures?

Snollygoster

Dictionary.com still sends me an email every day.  Some days I already know the word and most days I think “I’ve never seen this word before and I doubt I’ll ever see it again.”  But it’s still fun.  Last week, the word snollygoster hit my Inbox.  It means a clever, unscrupulous person.  This definitely falls into the category of “I’ll probably never run into this again” but it seems like such a fun word that maybe I should play with it for a bit.

If you are clever

But a bit unscrupulous –

A snollygoster!

Can you use it in a sentence?  Extra points if you can do a better haiku than I did!

Eavesdropping

The other day I went into the kitchen when Husband was there cooking something,  and I opened a drawer to get out a spoon to eat some yogurt.  I had my phone in my sweater pocket.  I exclaimed upon grabbing the spoon “The silverware drawer is disgusting”!  It had lots of crumbs and crud in it, as happens with such drawers.  I made a mental note to clean it later.

I sat down and pulled out my phone.  There in the Google search bar were the words “The silverware drawer is disgusting” and below were many references to cleaning tips and strategies.  I was both shocked and amused. I never use the Google  function on my phone in which I could ask the phone to look things up for me or search for something. I must have tapped the button unbeknownst when I put it in my pocket.  It really felt as though the phone was eavesdropping on me. I plan to be far more careful in the future to make sure I haven’t engaged that function .

Where and when would you have wanted to be a fly on the wall?