Saturday, December 24, 2011

You can see the top of my desk in places ... but that may just be because the pile fell off in the floor.

"What ya been doing ?"

Some questions you hate to answer.  Because for the last couple weeks it seems like every time I  progress forward a step two steps get added to get to where I need to be.  I'm setting here in the office thinking 2 weeks ago the piles of papers were smaller.  And I admit I haven't been working at this as hard as I could have, but I think I've been pretty diligent.  But like that corollary to Murphy's Law (Stuff expands to fill available space) what needs done expands to fill available time.

Progress on insulating the shop has been minimal this week. Between traveling Monday, catching up with what happened while we were gone Tuesday, running needed errands, going to funerals, going to the FSA office, stopping by a lawyer's office to answer a question (come to think of it, maybe I should have charged him $300 an hour for a consulting fee ...), visiting with my friendly banker, on and on I haven't accomplished near what I wanted. So far my biggest accomplishment was bringing the little semi home from being in the shop.

It had an oil leak on the high pressure pump.  Since it runs around 4500 psi, I decided to let Biernbaum's work on it.

But I've only spent $450,000 this week plus change.  More on that some other time when all the paperwork is done.  For now, Merry Christmas and we'll see you next year.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I really wish Dad had gotten cold ......

Dad was one of those folks who never got cold.  Well, that isn't entirely true.  He just tolerated cold a lot better than I do.  So he didn't bother to insulate or heat his shop.  He had a kerosene torpedo heater he used a little when it got REALLY cold.  But Aman and I aren't as resistant to cold as Dad was.  So we started a winter project. Aman went to Sullivan, IL and got 5 bundles of insulation board.  So we are in the process of insulating the shop.  The problem with that is we have to move everything out from the walls ... some of which I don't think has been moved in 30 years.

We got to the window and decided there was room for improvement.  So we went to Tempco and dug through through the salvage window corner  We found a nice window a little wider than the one there.  Insulated glass, vinyl frame, etc.  So we made a little bit bigger hole
and put in the new window.
When we are done it will make the shop a lot more usable in cold weather.

It wasn't our first choice.  We would like to have had it foamed., but the estimate I got was $13,000.  I'm just a little cheap.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

...always the first thing you buy after getting an STS combine - A Bigger Truck

Aman posted a picture of the Freightliner on the farm's Facebook page, to which a cousin said "always the first thing you buy after getting an STS combine - A Bigger Truck"

The only problem with that truck is by itself it's just a large lawn ornament.  However, when you add this 38 ft Mauer hopper bottom trailer it becomes something usable.
So we've upgraded out fleet from a 37 year old 10 gas engine Ford wheeler
and a 31 year old  gas engine Chevrolet 10 wheeler
to a '99 FL112 Freightliner with an '02 38 foot Mauer trailer.
Plus we have the '97 IH 8100 tractor and '04 22 foot Jet
and of course the Big Blue '90 Kenworth tandem.
 Technically we still have the Chevy, but there is a buyer coming Friday  And if he doesn't buy it the plates are good until June 30.

So we have upgraded from 2 trucks over 30 years old to one 12 years old, the oldest in the fleet being 21, stayed about the same capacity, and lowered our license plates expense about $500.
I think Dad would approve.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Look what followed us home ..

OK, so we were inside.  After a lot of pondering and contemplating we traded the white beast
for a new white beast
The old Ford was a good truck, we just needed something a bit more road worthy.  We're hoping to sell the Chevy as well
and replace both with one.

Now to find a trailer

Monday, November 21, 2011

Been setting here thinking of Lyman

Later today we're going to a friend's funeral.  Friend probably isn't an adequate description. Lyman Shawler was a friend, family member, business associate, pillar of the community for many many years.  His health as been failing, and we knew he was mortal just like the rest of us.  But that doesn't make losing him any less painful. His obituary is online on the Prust-Hosch web site

Lyman's Mom and my Grandfather were brother and sister, so he was one of those folks I can't remember not knowing.  When Sue and I returned from college to the farm the first house we lived in was his Mom's house.  I've been trying to remember ... I think we were the first folks outside the Shawler family to live there.

Lyman was always "progressive", but in a different manner than most people. He didn't seem too interested in farming big, but wanted to do a good job with what he had.  Lyman had one of the firsts irrigators in the country, and one of the first center pivots.  My mistress (as my wife came to think of it) was a water drive single tower pivot.  Every 9 hours you could move it.  After over 30 years of service there were parts on the drive system that are no longer available.  So 4 years ago Lyman had the old dual piston water drive replaced with a new style
He commented he would rather watch that system run rather than watch fireworks.
He had other "funny" ideas. For instance, he didn't want his irigator engine setting out in the weather.  So he built a little building for it
 When t go to the place of needing replacement he bought a small carport and put over it
Lyman had other "funny" ideas.  That is why he was a charter member of the West Union Ruritan Club, a community service organization.  And why he served for 16 years as a member of the Mill Creek Conservancy District, helping to build eight flood control structures.
Lyman helped Clark County form the first county wide park district in the state of Illinois, and was the first president of the park board. The Clark County Park District Board worked with the Soil Conservation Service to build Mill Creek Lake and Park .

In 1966 Lyman received the Illinois Soil Conservation Award from the National Wildlife Federation and the Sears Foundation for “outstanding contribution to the wise use and management of the nation’s natural resources.” In 1971, he received the 14th annual “Raindrop” award from the Wabash Valley Association, where he was a charter member.

Lyman was always  planting something.  Trees, turnips, alfalfa, he was always planting something. It was joked (not without reason) Lyman could plant alfalfa in the middle of a blacktop road and it would grow.   He also planted people.  Lyman did a lot more quietly behind the scenes than many folks knew about.

When my son was going to college I know Lyman did his best to encourage him.  There was a little 2 acre patch north of the pond that floods every year. After several years of losing the crop to flooding I told him I wasn't too interested in planting it any more. The next year it dried up early and he had us plant it to soybeans.  I had some seed left over so I donated it to the project.  He paid to have it sprayed.  When we combined it I put it in the truck and took it to the elevator all in his name.  He looked at the ticket and said "just have them make the check out in Jim Bob's name"

I finished this, but had to come back with one more thought.  You can't talk about Lyman very long with Doris coming up. I though I should maybe include a photo of Doris. This is the typical photo of Doris
Just like Lyman, you can't get her to slow down long enough for a photo

I could go on quite a while, but I have to get around. This setting reminiscing isn't getting the work done, and Lyman wouldn't have liked that.

My friend, we will miss you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"You're doing what?" "Mowing roads" "IN NOVEMBER?"

I admit it. I mowed roads yesterday. And if the rain goes around (which I doubt) I'll probably do it again tomorrow. Which begs the question "Why on earth would you mow roads in November?"  Actually the answer is quite simple.

Drifting snow.

Now, I know that I can't stop all the snow from drifting. But I spent enough years driving a propane truck in the winter to know that a clean road ditch can often make quite a difference in how a road holds snow. Yes, we try and keep things mowed.  Don't always get it done, but we try.  But during harvest season very few people have the free time to mow roads and they get just alittle uneven.  Not bad for the most part, but not even and smooth.

I plan (as in I actually intend to do it!) to if the weather permits mow roads after we finish fall tillage. Just a quick pass to mow off stragglers and provide as little place as we can for snow to catch.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. 

But if my choice is this
 or this,
I'll mow roads

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another one of those work all week and "What did you really do?" weeks

I mean, Yes, we did accomplish something this week.  But I have to think about it to realize it.  We caught up with fall field work ... sort of.  Aman may have some more fall plowing on some ground he rented for next year if everything works out.
We have 80 acres we have run the Soil Savers across we hoped to Tilloll, but the rains mid week pretty much stopped that.  Aman got the new roof built for the pump house we raised this fall.  Dad said repeatedly "I don't know why I made it like that".  Instead of building an above ground structure he put the pump for the shop in an inground concrete box with a removable top.  That was fine at Gramp's, but the river gets too high at Mom's for that to be a good idea.  The top got to the point of needing replaced, so we raised the pump to ground level and built a 4 concrete block high wall around it. Then Aman built the new top.
(imagine this is a photo)
Aman signed the contracts renting the "County Ground" this week.  That includes some ground at Darwin and a field near Marshall.

Thursday we finally got the injection pump back for the little 4WD.  The service manager said there was nothing that wrong with it to keep the tractor from starting.
The Bosch pump uses a non-keyed shaft for the drive gear.  He speculates the gear may have slipped slightly on the shaft, throwing the timing off.  The symptoms sound just like what happened.

No, this isn't my office
My monitor is black, not white.  But it gives an idea of what I need to spend several days doing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Almost done with fall tillage

It's sort of been "one of those" days.  That part started yesterday afternoon, actually.  I'm taking a First Responder class (technically now called Emergency Medical Responder).  The schedule wasn't set by a farmer.  It started in early October with classes Tuesday and Thursday evenings ... at 6 PM ... 25 miles away.  I had committed myself to doing it, so I am trying to follow through.  The T/Th schedule is REALLY inconvenient for me.

So anyway, I tell Aman I HAVE to quit rather early.  Like 4:00 - 4:30 early. Pup gets out of school and comes down to drive Aman's tractor while he takes over what I was doing.
Yes, moldboard plowing.

I am getting cleaned up when I hear Pup holler on the radio the tractor seems to be losing power.  We had trouble with crud in the fuel tank last year, so Aman takes his tractor in, grabs a set of fuel filters and heads for Pup's tractor.

Didn't fix it.

So a little after 7 this morning I call Biernbaum's to come look at it.  Eric looked, said "Yep, it's broke"  He said more, but that is the summary.
We decided to tow it out of the field so if it DOES rain we aren't knee deep in mud.
Aman wants this framed for his Dodge friends.
 Eric removes the injector pump and Aman heads for Terre Haute, where Schied Diesel's shop is.

I'm back to moldboard plowing.  When Aman gets back (We said tractor was down in the middle of the field, service manager said they would rush it ... "should be ready first of the week") he hooks the little Soil Saver onto the little Magnum and keeps going.

But the end of the day, when it is all said and done, we have caught up with all but about a day's worth of the fall tillage.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Harvest is DONE for 2011

Well, unless someone wants some custom work done.  We finished up double crop beans just after 4 PM October 31.
 There was enough volunteer wheat it smelled like cut green wheat.
 The question now is do we fertilize the volunteer wheat or dig it up?  Anyplace the beans were thin (most of the field) we had a pretty good stand of wheat!
 Yes, we'll dig it up.  We thought about spraying it and no-tilling it next Spring, but it is rough enough we need a little leveling.
 Our goal has always been finish harvest by Oct 31, plowing by the start of deer season. Double crop beans have tended to interfere with that plan. But we got all the beans in and the combine in the shed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Seed stirring

I was asked about the auger bit we use to stir talc in the seed boxes.  You see, with our corn planter you are supposed to add talc as a seed lubricant.
Precision Planting has come up with a mix of 80% talc, 20% graphite, that works even better.
The purpose is to keep seed flowing evenly to help the planter provide a better stand.  I know, sounds dumb.  The treatments on some seed corn can be sticky, especially if the humidity is a bit high.  Seed lubricants help fight that problem.

To get full benefit you need to thoroughly mix the powder to cover each seed.  This is different than what you did with the old finger meter planters.  Deere's recommendation was just scatter some graphite over the top and plant.  Vacuum meters, especially eSets, benefit from better mixing.

We were at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville a couple years ago and came across a guy selling augers for cordless drills to mix seed.
It does a very good job, although it does drain batteries quickly.

I was talking with someone who wanted to know where we got it.  I have since found it at Gempler's and other places called a Tanaka bulb auger.

Wish I could remember who asked me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Well --------

I came home from First Responder class ... sorry some bright government official has renamed it Emergency Medical Responder.
Did you ever notice when the government renames something it is never shorter?  They then compensate by using a acronym for it.  I haven't done much serious studying for 35 years.  A 6PM Tuesday/Thursday schedule gets a bit tight.

So I came home from EMR class, sat down with Sue for a bit, who was watching a TV show, and read the mail.   About 12:30 when I woke up I went to the office to catch a little paperwork.

Included in the mail were a couple grain checks for landowners.  The property is owned 50/50 so I had 2 checks to mail to one address.  I copied the checks, wrote a short note explaining what and why, stuck it in an envelope and sealed it, and stapled a copy of the note to copies of the checks for my files.

That was when I noticed the identical checks were for different amounts

To quote Charlie Brown "ARRRGGGGGGG!!!"

Something else to run down tomorrow.  I love bookwork.  I did just about clear my desk this week.  Don't look at the one beside it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yield checks

I don't have the bean plot results yet, but we have ran a few yield checks. All were Beck's Hybrids. 

The first field was no-tilled May 7.  628A3 yielded 178.9 at 20.1% and 170.5 at 18.5%. The refuge was 6077RR, which went 188.9 at 15.3% and 176.5 at 15.6.  When you include the sand hill, the gravel ridge, and the creek bottom (Yes, one of THOSE kids of fields) the field average was 108.  Actually better than I feared.
The field across the road was conventionally planted a week later to 5716A3 with 6077RR as a refuge.  The leaves on the 5716A3 were still green!  The 5716A3 went 173.2 at 16.2% and 155.1 at 15.3%  The refuge 6077RR was 175.5 at 14.6%.  We were rained out before we finished.

We did a yield check at Mom's last week ... and the paperwork is somewhere on my desk.  5435 HXR/5435RR went 189  at ... I think it was 17%  It was also the first commercial corn we planted.  I hope the late planted does as well but I have reservations

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Columbus Day

We broke in a couple new truck drivers Monday.  Pete and Nick were visiting down at the Prust Farm this weekend.  They shot guns, they fished, they rode 4 wheelers, then they had some real fun.   They rode in the combine with Aman cutting beans
Then they helped me move a couple grain trucks. Oh, and they got a couple really neat hats.
It was a busy day.  We were catching up on patches and small fields.  All told Aman was in 9 fields that day. Later that day we took out the bean test plot.
It was dark by the time we finished.
I don't have the results yet, but I believe 325 was the high yielder.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You know the spreader that USED to be in the TOP of the corn bin?

Text message to Steve and Bob:
"You know the spreader that USED to be in the TOP of the corn bin?"

"Uh oh"

"Now is not?"

"Nope, is not anymore"

Which sort of explains this poor photo
That was taken inside a grain bin full to the bottom of the door with corn. After dark.  Holding a flashlight in one hand and phone in the other. With a Band-Aid on one finger.  In a bad mood.

Maybe I should explain how we got to that point.

Some background:  Dad put this (or one just like it) in the bin when he built it.  I have unkind memories from the mid 70's of being in top of this bin when it was -40F outside and 150F inside with 130% humidity scooping corn from one side of a 27 ft bin to the other because the spreader didn't spread it evenly. You think I am exaggerating?  You obviously weren't there.

We started on corn Tuesday
and I was using a Mayrath auger I had bought at an auction earlier this year.   It's a bit different than our Feterl's, but seems OK.  It was rusty so I wasn't pushing it too hard ... especially after pushing it too hard and spending a half hour with a pipe wrench unplugging the swing-away.  I decided after a couple loads to push a little harder.  At which point the door on top popped open and a half a pickup load of corn ran off the bin onto the ground before I got it shut down.  For those who don't deal with augers much, most augers have a door of some kind that acts as a sort of "relief valve" if the output gets blocked. 

The auger had settled just enough the spout was too close to the motor in the spreader and the corn backed up. Great.  So I climbed up to the top of the bin, shut the door, checked everything out, climbed back down, unhooked the hydraulics and hooked up the raise cylinder and raised the auger just a little.  Hooked everything back, restarted and began unloading.

It seems to be OK, so I am walking toward the pile on the ground to scoop some corn when I realize it is sprinkling corn.  Not raining, just a sprinkle. I suspect I know the problem, the auger is now just a little too high and corn is bouncing out.  So I climb back up the bin.

Yes, the spout is just a little high and corn is hitting the bracket holding the spreader and bouncing out.  Seems like the spreader is making a funny noise, so I'm looking at the spreader, listening to this noise, and trying to figure a good way to pull the spout about an inch so it is right in the middle of the spreader ... when the spreader starts bouncing up and down.

I am assuming everyone knows what a grain spreader is.  Let me pause and explain.  For the purpose of drying and storing grain it is best if the grain is level in the bin.  Naturally, it falls in a pile.  There are various mechanical devices to spread the grain evenly as it is put in the bin. (It's a good theory)  Most of ours look similar to this
(I got that from a web site with a used one for sale ... and someone bought it!)

You can see how it is mounted.  There are 3 arms bolted to the funnel that hang over the edge of the bracing in the hole in the top of the bin. It is designed to put a bolt in each arm to help keep it in place.  Dad said it didn't need them.  He was right, it just sets there.  Has for 30+ years.  Until now.

It starts bouncing up and down, one arm waving above the brace it is supposed to be setting on. And silly me tries to put the arm back in place.  What I am going to do when I get it there I haven't thought about.  On top of the bin, auger running a pretty good stream of corn, by myself.

These are the things that make a 911 call with a poor outcome.  

I was unsuccessful.  The arm comes back down, misses the brace, and starts to fall inside the bin.  With me holding onto it. For a VERY short time. I realize this is a bad idea and let it go.  While I begin the scramble down the bin to shut the door on the truck and turn off the auger it is falling inside the bin with corn trying to bury it.

So I am setting there catching my breath and send the above mentioned text message. And realize my finger is bleeding.  Note to self:  There WILL be First Aid Kits  in ALL the trucks ASAP.  ( I thought there were but apparently I was mistaken) I go to the shed and look in both the medicine cabinets Dad put in the tool room. Note to everyone:  If a container says Band-Aid on there WILL be Band-Aids in it.
Not tip cleaners or little tools or small parts.

I find a Band-Aid, clean my finger and apply it, take a Band-Aid box full of tip cleaners and a can of paint out in the shop, paint the former Band-Aid box black, then go back to the bin.

Then I go find a flashlight and see what I can do. By the time I figure out what to do and get started, Aman has caught up with the dry corn, brought the combine in, walked back, got a truck and put it in the shed, then comes down to check on me. He gets there about the time I'm taking the poor picture at the top.

The spreader may not go back in this bin.

But we have time Wednesday to ponder on it, because we not only have caught the dry beans, we have caught up with the dry corn as well.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's a hurry up and wait harvest season

I'm beginning to feel like an undertaker.  They set around waiting, then when they are needed everything has to be ready right now.  This Fall is kind of like that.  The most common thing I hear talking to other farmers is "Yep, I'm caught up with the dry___."

We have had some good harvesting days,
cut almost all the early planted beans
including some no-tilled into corn stalks
Planted wheat,
caught up with the harvested ground.
 We have about 35 acres of wheat left to plant. But since it still has corn standing it may be a week or two before we get to it.  I was actually impressed.  We planted 225 acres of wheat in 2 days.  Didn't get started until 9:30 or later because of heavy dew and getting things ready.  First day stopped at Noon to go eat, second day Aman had to quit early for both a funeral visitation and a wedding ... and I was home by 6 PM.

This week we have maybe a day's running then we'll catch up to the dry beans again. I've not pushed a pencil to it, but my top of the head guess is we are about 1/3 done with first crop beans.  We're trying to decide if we should plant a bit more wheat.  I'm not sure if we ordered too much seed wheat or if the company sent us too much, but we have PLENTY of seed on hand.
If you need some seed wheat give Aman a call.

The new seed tender
 (OK, the loaner until ours comes in) worked beautifully.  Takes a bit of getting used to, but does what we hoped.

So we sit and get ready, then hit the ground running until we catch up, then we sit and wait some more.