Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Planting Oats and Clover

We were late getting this crop in, caused mainly by problems getting our State permit to spread turkey litter followed by untimely rains which made it impossible to do field work. The delay, while not ideal,  is not a fatal problem. Oats do best when they can set full heads of grain before the hottest part of the summer - meaning that they need to be planted early for optimum results. That said, all 145 acres (60 ha) that we are transitioning to organic production (a 36 month process) are now planted.

One of the three fields, seen below on the right hand side of a photo I took of the monitor screen in the cab, has a lot of wet spots.

(click on any picture to make it bigger) 

We would like to have drain tile installed to help dry up some of the wet (showing up as white places) spots. A topographical map shows that the most likely route is south, crossing the neighbors property a short distance, before ending up in a drainage ditch that passes through a small cluster of trees on the neighbors land. 

The piece we own is the western most parcel, colored in blue.

 

In the meantime, the oats will be harvested then the red clover will continue growing, overwintering and then returning next year. The clover will be mowed with the residue remaining on top of the soil, feeding microbes. There is the chance that I will try to harvest some of the clover seed in the fall of 2025. The following year, 2026, will be organic corn.


To give you some idea about the scale of this, we planted about 14,000 lbs (6300 kg) of oats and 1400  lbs (630 kg) of medium red clover on 145 acres (60 ha) over 3 days.  The average historical yield for this variety of oats is 100 bushels, or 3200 lbs, per acre (3600 kg/ha).  If all goes well, by the end of July we'll harvest about 460,000 lbs (210,000 kg) of food grade conventional oats.  I'm still trying to find a buyer for food grade oats. I can always sell them as animal feed, but the price is about half.

While these numbers are big, the reality is that we are a smallish farm, at least by the standards in the midwestern US.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Construction Project - Prep an I Beam

The deflection my 2nd floor joists meant that I needed to provide them some kind of support. The building codes and span tables only tell you the maximum span allowable for a given set of joist sizes and spacings. They don't say anything about how a floor should feel while walking on it.

I really didn't want to have to put a beam in - I've sistered joists, put in extra lvl beams, and put in longitudinal metal straping (like a suspender) along both sides of the doubled/tripled joists - but the sensation while walking on the second floor still wasn't right. 

I bought a 23 foot long W8x18; its 8" tall and weighs 18 pounds/ft.  I welded plates on the bottom of each end to facilitate bolting the columns to the beam, as well as welding short pieces of threaded rod so I can bolt a 2x4 wood nailing strip to the top of the beam. That lets me nail the joists to the top of the beam.

To raise it up, I will build 2 short walls on either side, and at each end, of the beam. Those walls can support a come along. I'll raise it slowly and block it off as I go up. Ultimately I can use two bottle jacks to finish putting it in position, then install the columns at each end.

Things, and attitudes, I learned more than 30(!) years ago make this possible.


 


At each end there is a continuous bead of weld on the underside of the plate.

Got it in with a little guidance from my neighbor

One of the columns will bear on the built up 2x12 beam at the top left of the above photo.  There is a window in the basement just below the position of that column requiring a much more substantial header, and there was no room to fit it above the window in the basement.  For the other end I'll have to put a small footing in the basement and bring a column up to the first floor level. A column on top of that will hold up that end of the beam.


Thursday, January 11, 2024

Saturday, September 2, 2023

An Update: Kernza, Wheat, and Purple Top Turnips

I've been busy. Harvesting, planting, repairing, etc. Things are moving along, some good, some not so good. 

I haven't had the time or energy to write about this here, preferring instead to make short video clips and put them on our YouTube page.  It's just a lot easier, at least for me, though the fact that I don't edit the videos might make it harder on you!

Below are a few of the latest videos. The first two are about the swather, which is used to put the kernza into windrows, where it dries down for a few days prior to going through the combine. The grain on the head of the kernza is dry before the stems, and the green stems would plug up the combine. But --- we need the mass of material going through the combine to properly thresh the hard to shell kernza. The action of the combine rubs all that material together, in the process filtering out the grain from the chaff. We plan to harvest the kernza with the combine and pick up head on Sept 4th (tomorrow!). 

Before harvesting the wheat, we swathed, then combined it and put it in the bin to cool down and dry a little. The wheat should be ready to market/sell in another week or two. 

The last video/pic is of purple top turnip seeds which I'm drilling into the tilled wheat stubble as a cover crop. It'll grow some this fall, but I'm hopeful that it will come back next spring, before I'll mow it down ahead of next summer's soybeans.






Late summer of 2021 I drilled purple top turnips as part of a cover crop mix. This is what came back in the spring of 2022.



Monday, July 24, 2023

Hail Damage in Corn

I didn't take my camera with me when I visited the fields 14 miles away, so no photos, but 50 of the 90 acres of corn has some pretty significant hail damage from a recent storm. The leaves weren't entirely stripped from the stalks, maybe 50% (?). Ears were just starting to form on the stalks and the plants are almost ready to start tassling, a very vulnerable stage.

We'll see how it turns out.

The beans, 5 miles away, avoided the hailstorms, and look really good. Likewise the kernza and the wheat.

 

When first assessing a field with hail damage, it can often be depressing and discouraging [ed. No shit ]. However, it is important to be patient when assessing the damage and that the observed damage often looks worse than it actually is.

photo capture from here


Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Loose Heifers

 I got a call this morning from a neighbor who asked me for some help. Several of her heifers were spooked into knocking over the electric fence that held them in her pastures, and they were (supposedly) helping themselves to a nearby vegetable garden. I think it was more a case of the next door neighbor freaking out over a loose animal or two, as there is plenty of standing grass/hay for them to eat everywhere.

In any event, it took a couple of hours but we got the four of them back on the right side of the fence using grain as a lure.

It's not what I thought I'd be doing today when I woke up this morning.

Typical Repairs

 Now that things have slowed down a bit I'm starting to repair the equipment that broke or was damaged in the past few months.

The support stand for the tine weeder got bent when I was attaching the implement to the tractor. I didn't take a before picture, which would have showed the tube was bulging and cracked. I got the protrusion hot and used the hydraulic press to get it flush with the surrounding material, then welded short flitch plates on all four sides of the tube.

(Click on picture to make it bigger.)

I normally use 6011 welding rod, as it cuts through rust and paint, which I often can't remove from the metal I'm welding. In this case I suppose I could have used a 7018, as it leaves a nicer weld bead, but once the paint goes on it'll look good.