Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 Air Tour

Every year the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts sponsor an air tour.  For $30 you get a half hour plane ride to look things over.  I try to go every year just for the fun of it.  I didn't see a lot I didn't suspect or expect.  But I did find a few curious things.

Look to the right of the road in the middle of this picture. See the dark green strip? I guess the fertilizer applicator made a double pass about 1 round in?
 If you look just above the pond at the bottom of the picture there are some spots of down corn on a hillside with thin soil (even for us thin!)  it doesn't show up very well this small, but there are streaks of down corn that appear to follow varieties.  I striped my refuge in these fields.  Going to have to do some research and see what is planted where.

Here is a field we spotted on the way here from the airport.  Somebody may get a surprise.
The more you look the more you don't understand. For instance, the 2 strips to the right of center running crossways to the field that appear to be standing.

I had a pretty good idea where it was, so I drove past it on the way home.  Here is what it looks like on the ground in a ways from the bins on the middle left side

Here is Gramp's and Mom's.  Kind of shows what this year has been like for us. The road in the middle of the photo is north and south. We planted about 50 acres on the Northeast corner of the farm early.  Later we planted the rest of the beans.  The early planted behind the house are burning up from lack of moisture.
  To the top right corn is 80 acres that is irrigated and planted to seed production.  Well, sort of.  maybe this shows it better.
 The left side of the circle is Gramp's.  The three different colors are the three plantings.  We planted the north (left in photo) and west sides of the field, then a few days later planted more.  To the east of the middle of the circle on the left side it is darker because that 11 acres or so is soybeans. It got to late for seed corn.  lanting the seed corn I got the planter stuck about that dark spot in the middle of the circle.

Cameras do funny things.  This field is twice as long as it is wide.  Looks square in the photo.  After it was planted and up I put the GPS on the 4WD Mule and tried to run around it and see how much area was in the unplanted low spot in the lower right corner.  I had to pull out because I was afraid of getting it stuck.
 Just for a change, this is a field of seed production that was harvested last week.
 This is Mom's from the north.  A square, reasonably level 160 acres. We planted it 4or 5 times and didn't replant any of it. That isn't planted on the contour.  If you exclude the high spots the house and sheds are on there probably isn't 3 feet difference in height from the southeast corner to the northwest.  It is planted how the soil dried this Spring.  And you may notice a couple spots along the east side that were not planted at all.  The light area running from the center to the upper left is not a glare on the window.  That is a sand streak that will probably not even raise good weeds this year

Friday, August 26, 2011


Yes, harvest has started in southeast Illinois.

Seed corn harvest, that is.  NTR started picking for Syngenta on us Thursday the 25th.   I'm told it is around 35% moisture.  Stalks are really green.  In fact, I irrigated it earlier this week! 
They are running an Oxbo harvester with a 12 row head.

The chase tractors are Challengers.
They tell me they like the tracks tractors better for crossing irrigation tracks. The corn is picked on the ear with shucks intact.  If possible the chase tractor and cart will run beside them and load directly.
If not, the picker will put it in the cart it pulls and then transfer to a dump cart.  It then goes to the waiting semi tractor/trailer.
If you can pick 12 rows at 5 - 6 MPH and rarely stop to unload you can cover a lot of ground quickly.

They started about 8:30 and by dark had finished 166 acres in 3 fields.  That is even more impressive when you consider Syngenta was doing some yield checks on a new seed treatment and had each field divided into blocks that had to be harvested separately

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just playing in the water

I've said before, "the only thing worse than having an irrigator is needing an irrigator." This year may prove that.  I was spraying around the edge of the fields at Gramp's Thursday.  There were a couple little places the beans looked a bit dry, but overall things didn't look too bad all things considered.  A couple days changed things a lot.

I was surprised how quickly things have changed.

By Sunday afternoon the sand streaks were showing up pretty well.  I spent the afternoon messing with irrigators.
 I had to park the Shawler's south system, then move it, then start it.  Then I changed the oil in the Drake Place north system and started it. Then I started up Shawler north. 

If we don't get rain soon things may get ugly in the bean fields.

From the road the corn looks fairly decent.  Out in the field things change.  However, it is too variable to make any predictions as to yield. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I was using a string trimmer today ..

I was using a string trimmer today (OK, I know most people would call it a Weedeater, but I spent too many years with Xerox getting the difference between a trademark name and a common name beat in my head. it was technically an Echo string trimmer).

And like most times using one I thought of Grandpa Neal.

Why are they so associated in my head?  That may take some "'splainin'" (You need to have seen some old "I Love Lucy" shows to get that)

Gramps was a life-long farmer.  In fact, I don't recall anything ever being said about him doing anything else. He retired about age 65 ... but he was still on the farm.  As a farmer he hated weeds in his bean field.

We were at dad's one day working and kept hearing this noise.  We couldn't figure it out until finally we saw Gramps ... I'm guessing he would have been in his 80's ... out in the middle of a bean field with a Weedeater cutting off hemp dogbane.

So whenever I run one of these blasted things I think of Gramps.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

My major accomplishment of the week

It's been one of those spinning your wheels kind of weeks.  I knew starting out it would be a short one, because this is reunion week.  We have a big family reunion every year.  A multi-day travel some distance reunion.  We hold it on the farm my Great-Grandfather's lived on near Mt Vernon, Illinois.

Yes, I know we are unusual.

Getting together for several days with folks you sometimes barely know is sometimes interesting.  And because of it I knew this week we would be pushed to accomplish much.  Monday we caught up with some road mowing.  We've gotten behind on that a bit for several reasons.  The big one has been temperature.  In an air conditioned cab it is really kind of enjoyable. But the blacktop roads have been so hot we felt it was had on the road surface driving tractors around if the need really wasn't urgent.

Monday we got a chance to catch up a little.  Aman mowed the roads on the Prust ground west of Mill Creek.  I mowed the lanes east of Mill Creek and Wilderness road and along the highway and around the Sycamore field with the Allis.   Well, until I broke something. I don't think I have run the Allis and old Bush Hog a full afternoon for years that I didn't break something on it.  Tuesday evening I used the M and the sickle bar to touch up a few places across from the Silver Moon

Tuesday we had some other things to do, changing oil in irrigation engines, things like that.  I had cell phone problems, so I had to go to the phone store.  Since I was going to Casey anyway I decided to look at trading my Mule ...

No, not a floppy eared 4 legged animal. My 2011 Kawasaki Mule XC610
It is a great tool. We really tried it out last Saturday going back to an irrigator pivot after a 4" rain.  I do not think I could have walked to it.  We just turned on the front wheels and drove through the mud and water with no problem. But it is slow.  23 MPH top speed.  Working on irrigators a little more speed would be nice. The John Deere dealer had traded for a 2009 Kawasaki Teryx.  It looks like this only it was blue
Twice the engine mine has, fuel injection instead of a carburetor, bucket seats, fancy wheels, nice ...

When I first started taking to Jerry (the salesman) about it he encouraged me to come drive it.  I said "Aww Jerry, I've got a Mule, I've been around 2, 3, and 4 wheelers for over 40 years.  I don't need to drive it."  He still wanted me to come drive it.  Since I was going to Casey to the phone store, and wanted to take the Ford to a car wash anyway, I loaded my Mule and went to Casey.

I now know why Jerry wanted me to drive it first.  Quoting a magazine review of this thing: "I still cannot believe the ability of these units."  It is just a bit scary. 

I think if it were just Aman and I driving it would have been OK.  But about the first time Sue got in it to do some work in the yard, hit the throttle and it ran off in the pond I'd be in trouble.  And Sunday evening after the Church fishing tournament at our pond
I let a couple of my Jr High kids use the Mule to pick up and transport some things.  I would not have let them behind the wheel of the Teryx

Another potential difficulty was engine access. I know it has one, I just never saw it. One review says: "Hood does not open without using screwdriver. Access to engine is a pain. Lots of push pins and screws."

 So I went and got my phone fixed, washed the truck, and came home.

As for farming, the rest of the week has been pretty much a bust.  That's OK, we needed a break.  But I have a feeling we'll pay for it next week.  My ToDo list is already over a page long.  

So my major accomplishment this week was NOT buying a Mule.

Sounds good to me ....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You're doing WHAT ?

Growing seed corn causes one to do unusual things.  For instance, we planted at nearly 40,000 population (that's at least 1/3 more than normal for most folks around here) and put a 13th row on the planter to do it
To plant the desired pattern of 1 pollinator (male) row and 4 seed producing rows (female) with a 12 row planter you have 2 choices.  You can either plant the male rows separately or add a 13th row.  The 13th row is set up to plant half the desired population because when you turn around and come back through the field it is replanting on the row it just planted. It gives a pattern like this:

That is great .... except they are not going to harvest the seed with a 4 row picker. So after detasseling is done and pollination is finished a contractor comes through and destroys the male rows.  We used to do it ourselves, but the companies we have been growing for the last few years would rather do it themselves.  So we sold our old Hagie Ag Tractor we used to knock down and destroy the male rows.
It had reached the point it wasn't profitable to use.  With current fuel prices it cost $20 an hour just for fuel.  We just let the seed company take care of it.
Yes, there is a lot of grass in the field. I took this from on top of the irrigator pivot.  There is an area around the pivot you can't plant, and an open spot with plenty of water is a great place for fall panicum and foxtail.  Now I can come in and spot spray some Roundup and clean it up.

So, we planted the half the male corn, then came back a few days later and planted the rest of the male and all the female.  We've cultivated
and ran the aerator through it. 
It's been sprayed
Actually, sprayed several times.
and detasseled
 and the male rows knocked down
And will be harvested around 30% moisture, picked on the ear. .
It is an interesting crop