Thursday, July 29, 2010

The mangement side of things

The hardest part of farming for me is the management side of it.  Tell me "Go there. Do that" and I go and do and life is simple.    I guess my management style is more goal oriented.   I'd rather say "This, this and this needs done." and let you do it.  Doing it the way I would do it isn't as important to me as getting it done.  It seems to be the management style of most of the places I worked off the farm.  Provide the employee with the tools he needs and let him do his job.  This does require just the right employees.

We are currently having an ongoing discussion with our fertilizer company.  Some equipment broke down this Spring.  Some mistakes were made this Spring.  Things were not made ready like they should have been.  But the thing that stings the most is finding out their employee knew they had an equipment problem but did nothing to resolve it.  He just didn't seem to grasp the fact that how the acres  were spread was every bit as important as getting across them.  He had the tools, he just didn't do the job.  Or maybe he never had the job explained properly.  Or maybe he did and he didn't understand.

Which leads back to the management stuff.  I'm setting here right now pondering on what to plant next year.  Right now I can contract new crop wheat for $6.28.  I've never been wrong selling wheat for over $6.  What I'm pondering is this: We could easily put out 400 acres of wheat this fall and irrigate and double crop 280 acres of that. And with $6.28 wheat and $9.53 beans that looks very interesting.  But do I want to roll into mid June with 400 acres of wheat looking me in the face?  This year we had under 100 acres and thought we'd never get it harvested.  The weather finally gave us a break.

But looking at it from my landowner's perspective I have the possibility to gross nearly $900 an acre if we get decent wheat and bean yields  With exceptional yields we are looking at nearly $1000 per acre gross.

I realize 250 bushel corn at $4 is in the same area.  But that really isn't one of the options. The decision here is full season beans or wheat then double crop? Yes, there are some expenses involved.  But I've spread their risk over 2 crops and cash flow over several more months.  Mine as well.

But what if we get hit with poor harvest weather or low test weight or aflatoxin ?  And how do I harvest 400 acres of wheat in a timely manner?

Management decisions.

I'm beginning to understand Ecclesiastes 5:12 "The sleep of a laborer is sweet..."  Just put me behind a steering wheel and point me the right direction. and I don't have to worry about all this management stuff.

I had big plans this week.  Proverbs 16:9 says "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."  Steps like a funeral visitation, forms that need filled out, phone calls that have to be made. So far my biggest accomplishment this week was painting a bolt bin (see )

One other thing I got done was take a few pictures.  I discovered my camera has a "panorama" function.  It stitches together 3 shots for one picture.    I got the bucket truck out and took a few field shots last night
Here's one that made me scratch my head.  You can't see it very well in this small format, but the system in this photos has 4 towers.  Problem is there's only 3 towers.  I messed up stitching the photos together, but it fits so well you can barely see it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

irrigating ?

I mentioned on Wonderings from Walnut Prairie I had been out one evening irrigating.  Some of my friends and family don't understand what that means, so I'll pause here a bit and try and explain a little.  We are blessed and cursed to farm some ground on the edge of the Wabash River floodplain with gravel under it.  The cursed part has to do with flooding (naturally) and the poor water holding capabilities of these soil types. If you don't get an inch of rain a week it is very difficult to get a good corn crop.

The blessing is there is an abundant supply of water close to the surface.   Put a driven point on a pipe and stick it 20-30 feet in the ground and you can't pump it dry

So we can have a well dug less than 100 feet deep and pump hundreds of gallons a minute out of it.
That's great, but what do you do with it?  Various delivery systems have been used, hand stringing pipes and putting up sprinklers, using hose reels and towable guns, in some parts of the country they mechanically level the ground and just flood it.  The best way we have found is a center pivot irrigator

Now lest anyone think this is all great and easy, let me refer you to a statement I made one day that nobody has ever argued with "The only thing worse than having an irrigator is NEEDING an irrigator".  You are placing a machine hundreds of feet long out in the open, in all types of weather, that seems like an ideal nesting spot for mice and other rodents,  and expecting it to work flawlessly at critical times in your growing season. Yeah, right.

A "for example" is this connection box at one pivot.  Somehow the fitting on the conduit came off, broke, something that made just enough of a space for a mouse to get in.

All that nest on the ground was inside that box!  And see the nice shiny wire?  The mice chewed all the insulation off those 480 volt wires.  I was really surprised we didn't find fried mice in the box.  Lighting also causes fun times
But these are not the day to day things that cause me to be out at night.  We have one pump that supplies 2 systems

Sounds cost effective and efficient?  It is .. but when you are switching to or from the remote system you're a long walk to and from it.  It's not complicated, just shut one down, open and close some valves to redirect the water, unplug and plug in the 480 volt wire and the safety wire, bring the system up to pressure and voltage, drive 3/4 mile to the other pivot, start it, drive 3/4 mile back to the pump and set the safety switch ... nothing to it.  The real tricky part is because the remote system is a towable.  The field is 1/2 mile long and 1/8 mile wide with an 1/8 mile long pivot on one side of it.  So you water one end, move to the other end and do it again.
This photo was taken from up on the pivot. Yes, it goes WAY down there.  The pivot isn't too hard to move.  Disconnect the 480 volt line, the safety wire, removed the ground wire, take off the water pipes, unhook the tie down chains, and pull it.  It's even on wheels

Oh yeah, forgot something,  The 3 towers need the wheels turns sideways.  You raise each tower off the ground, trip a latch and rotate the wheel assembly 90 degrees.  Then you pin it in place and hang up the drive shafts.  Tow it WAY down there and do it all in reverse.  But you don't do this in the middle of the night.  Because this is supplied from the other system and because it has to be in the right place to move it, there is a timing issue. You have to coordinate running this system with running the big system.

One good thing about this system is it waters the dry corners on the field beside it. However, that means that 11-12 hours after you start it you have to reverse its direction.  and about a hour later you have to park it in just the right place in the alley so it can be moved.   That usually happens about 14 hours after you start it.  So usually we start it late in the evening and let it run all night so we can shut it down first thing in the morning so after lunch we can move it.   That's where I was coming from at 9PM the other night.

Plus you don't just turn them on and forget them.  Every few hours you need to put eyes on them, check out the engine, make sure it is all working properly.  Because stuff happens

That gearbox is supposed to be on the left side of the frame.  The phrase designed obsolescence comes to mind.  And that is why at certain times of the year Jimmy C says "!@# $%^& you go through town a lot".

Sunday, July 11, 2010

So what HAVE we done all week?

I was setting here contemplating what we got accomplished last week and what needs to happen this week.Seems like most of last week was consumed by irrigators. Not hard work, not constant work, but it gets in the way of getting anything else done.  Should be better now that detasselling is finished.  Coordinating water needs and machine movement and fungicide and insecticide applications and reentry times afterward ... sure am glad it rained.

This week I am going to be distracted by personal business all day Tuesday and at least parts of Monday and Wednesday.

Got the new truck out last week.  We had some wheat that had a lot of green stuff in it, so we put it in a wagon and stuck 2 aeration tubes and fans in it for a couple weeks.  Got it out and set up a squirrel cage fan as it came out of the wagon into a weigh wagon then into the truck

Cleaned it up pretty good!
And it worked ... sort of.  Put 16% wheat in the wagon, ran fans for 2 weeks, blew some of the light stuff out,  when we sold it the moisture was 17.2% (that's going the wrong way, Bob)

Just had one little problem.  Aman was pulling up under the auger and hit the brakes and it made this awful noise.  I went to looking and found this  You can see it in the photo above once you realize what you are looking at.

Blew one of the air brake cans apart.  For those uninitiated in air brakes, that means the gray and black thing with the hoses attached is supposed to be around the flat disk with the spring behind it.

The funny thing was we had replaced the ones on the front tandem axle because they were not the spring loaded type.  So ...ROC now has 2 new ones on the floor for us to install this week.  Back to this week ...

Just got an email from someone interested in the red truck.  To plan B before we get plan A written out.  I was going to decide what to do with red.  Mow roads, spray around fields and buildings, clean out the white crib, work on Neal's crib and barn, cut trees, cut more trees, cut trees in the ditch on Murphy and between the 80's ...

Oh, and while we are in Terre Haute on personal business Tuesday I need to run my battery charge last Harbor Freight and see how good the warranty is.  Let's see, I of course filed that receipt in the right place ... I think it was that stack ...

And the 15th is this week so I have NFIRS reports and withholding payments.  And I realized this afternoon I never completed my FOIA training for the Fire Dept and the Cemetery (I was going to have to do it for the FD anyway, so why not do it for the cemetery as well?  Pays the same either way)  And I just learned about SPCC.  See  Another blasted government form to go in a file someplace so if there is ever a problem they can point their finger at me and go "You did it wrong!"

Which reminds me, since the blue truck is now in service I need to fix up a DOT file for it. And then I have to  .... ARGHH !  I just LOVE paperwork.

David and Adam helped Pap-Paw Friday afternoon.  We put together the marble raceway which diagrams government paperwork pretty well.

You put it in and nobody knows WHERE it will come out.

Oh, and seems like there is something important about the 12th.  Something about 35 years ago ...

Monday, July 5, 2010

It's Finished

I was thinking of an old Gather Vocal band song this afternoon. 
We have the Blue Truck home!

It's been a long wait from where we started last fall
I've got too much money in it, it's too heavy, it's worn out, it'll never work (this is just a brief selection of comments that have been made by others)

We'll see...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer's here!

Down on the farm we have a different definition for the seasons.  Spring is planting, Fall is harvesting, Winter is between harvesting and planting, and Summer is between planting and harvesting. Well ... except for wheat.  Wheat harvest is a Spring/Summer event and wheat planting is a Fall event. What that means is it isn't Summer until the wheat is harvested and the planting is done.

Summer's here!

Well .. maybe.  We still have that one wet spot to plant we may try this week. If we get it done, great.  If not, so what?  As Dad would say, if that is all that's between us and being broke we're broke already.

So now summer work begins.  One thing we have to do is get some lime spread.  The field east of Milo and Lenore's hasn't been "right" for a couple years. The wheat looked terrible this winter.  Yield was OK considering the season we have had. Actually better then  expected.  This Spring we had Pro-Ag come in and pull some soil samples. The results really surprised us.

The ph is averaging about 5.0.  Should be 6.0-6.5  It was such a surprise to us because any soil sample I've ever pulled has been 7.0 to as high as 7.7! So we need to get some lime applied.

A bright spot was the phosphate level.  It was actually high!

Now for today's fun.  I started Lyman's south irrigator up last week to find the middle tower would not move.  That ended up taking a whole day to diagnose, remove the motor, take it to the motor shop, fix it and reinstall it.  Then it rained.  They pulled tassels so I started it up yesterday just to get a bit ahead watering.  It made it's half circle, watered the dry corner, and I reversed it and sped it up to park it. I of course mis-judged the time necessary and it went to far.  So about 9:30 last night I reversed it again and sat back in the truck to wait.  After about 5 minutes I thought "That doesn't seem to be moving"

Further investigation proved I was unfortunately correct.  And since I was in my "church clothes" from helping with the kids on Wednesday night church I just shut it down and came home.  So my morning priority is getting that moving.  Because the pullers will be back this morning to go through the field again.  They're going to enjoy where that system sat for at least 20 minutes not moving.
I just hope I don't find something like this we found last year on the same system.  That motor and gear box are supposed to be n the same side of the frame as the wheels.  The motor in this photo is also the one I had to repair last week.
There is a definite design  flaw in that gearbox mount.

Oh! How do I know it was less than 20 minutes?  Actually that is assuming something else was working.  Tower 2 has a timer on.  It resets every time the tower moves.  If it doesn't move for 20 minutes the timer shuts the system down because something is not working right.  Or that is not working as well which means something else to fix.

I am beginning to understand what Scot said when he told me one time "I wake up, I work on irrigators, I go to sleep."  He never mentioned a bed.