Sunday, January 29, 2023

Hibernation

Last night it was -10º F (-23º C). There's not much to do here in the winter, especially if you don't like the cold weather.  

After it snows I spend several hours on the open station small loader tractor cleaning up the drive after the county snow plow goes through. At this point the snow banks around the drive are 4-8 feet tall.

 
 

I found this story about Yosemite National Park Rangers who overwinter in the Park oddly comforting.


(Click on picture to make it bigger.)


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Harvesting Organic Corn: Recap of 2022

 



 

The corn (Organic Viking Seed variety O.58-85P from Albert Lea Seed) was planted 33,000 seeds/acre, 2.5 inches deep, on 6/1/22.

I have a Deere 9560sts combine with a 693 corn head that has the Calmer stalk chopping rolls in it. 

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The yield looks a little less than average, around 125 bushels/acre, but I won't know total yield/acre until I get the final settlement statements from the buyer.  

  • UPDATED to say that the statements show the corn had a test weight of 52.5 lbs/bushel and was at 20% moisture.  They pay me $11 for a bushel weighing 56 pounds at 15.5% moisture. So there were deductions from the gross amount I got from the buyer, as I was selling him corn that didn't make the spec.

As a point of reference, last year, on a different parcel, we got about 160 bushel/acre. A couple of my conventional/chemical neighbors have told me their yields were down about 25% this year, due mostly, in their opinion, to lack of timely rain. (The average yield reported by conventional/chemical farmers in Polk County, WI for 2021 was 159 bu/acre. I seem to remember that the average organic yield for the county was around 120 bu/acre.)

Another thing that could have affected my yield was the fact that I couldn't get last years red clover cover crop terminated soon enough. Due to heavy spring rains, the lime and turkey litter couldn't be spread into the standing clover in a timely manner, causing the tillage pass that kills the clover to be delayed until right before I planted the corn. I've been told that unless the clover is killed at least 3 weeks prior to planting the corn, the exudates (?) in the dying clover will suppress the emerging corn plants.

Some reference numbers:

  • One bushel of corn weighs 56 lbs. 
  • An acre has 43,560 square feet, the same as the area of a square 208 ft by 208 ft.  
  • There are 2.47 acres per hectare

Using the above, the yield of 125 bushels/acre = 7.9 tonnes/hectare, if I did the math right.

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There are a few foxtail, pigweed, lambsquarters, and velvetleaf in the endrows, but overall, the weeds look under control. 

I was only able to get two semi trucks a day here, as they are in high demand this time of year. Each truck trailer will hold about 1100 bushels (weighing 61,000 lbs/28,000 kg), that comes off of a little less than 8 acres (approximately 3.25 hectares) of corn, so it took a while to get the 90 odd acres harvested.  Ultimately we filled 11 trailers with the corn.

I pay to have the corn delivered to the buyer, Cashton Farm Supply in Cashton, WI, about 175 miles away. They are the best buyer of organic corn (price, currently $11/bushel; distance that I have to truck it; ability to take wet corn, i.e. above 15% moisture) that I've found. 


 

The combine engine de-rating fault codes didn't happen again, so we were able to get the corn all combined without too much trouble from the combine. 

#1  -  AOO 676 05

#2  -  AOO 1569 31

#3   -  AOO 412 00

Basically all three are related to high temperature sensors or actual high temps in either the coolant or the exhaust manifold.

The combine will need to be serviced by the dealer next spring/early summer, when they can hopefully figure out what is going on.

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On the last day of combining the Case 7140 tractor that we were using to pull the grain cart stopped working. We think it's a problem with the fuel system. Fortunately we were able to rent a big enough tractor from a neighbor that we could use to pull the grain cart. The Case is still out in the field and will have to be hauled into the dealership to get fixed. I was thinking about selling that tractor (and replacing it with something like a Deere 8410) prior to this event and I'll pursue that further this winter. 

Prior to starting combining, there were about 5" of snow on the ground that started to melt due to warm temps. By the last day of combining there were some wet spots that I had to avoid with the combine for fear of getting stuck. Because of that I had to leave a small amount of corn unharvested.

Next spring we'll work on making that equipment crossing field entrance ramp, shown in the second video, less steep. A couple loads of gravel should do the trick. Once that's done the semi's can get directly into, and more importantly, out of the field without worrying too much about getting stuck.

This is the last of the major work this season. After we were done I blew everything out with the leaf blower (residual grain in the equipment attracts rodents who chew on wires) and then drove the combine and grain cart home, just ahead of the first major snow storm of the year. I was able to get everything put away in the sheds and the doors shut just in time.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Combining Weedy Beans

A brief summary of how we got to this point: 

Viking Organic O.1202N beans (with a RM 1.2) , planted (a little late) 160k seeds/acre on 6/17/22.

Damping off/fungus left me with a poor stand of bean plants. Then equipment breakdowns and weather made it impossible to blind cultivate in a timely manner. Result = lots of 5 ft tall weeds (mainly pigweed and lambsquarters) in all the rows plus very few beans.  No weeds in between rows because I could row cultivate.

I originally thought the bin would be done in time so that I could screen the weed seeds out after combining them, but it's being delayed for lack of a few critical parts. So the weed seeds will come back. About 3/4 of my beans are like this. The last 1/4 are fine, as they didn't have disease issues and I was able to cultivate them on time. 

On the first few passes, the feederhouse of the combine, a Deere 9560sts with a 625F head, was plugging up. I ended up, on the advice of a New Ag Talk forum farmer "Mr. Red/Green", taking out the upper stripper plates (Deere # H203049, part # 14 in this schematic - https://partscatalog.deere.com/jdrc/s... While not completely perfect, with those two plates removed I could go about 40 acres before having to clean out the partially plugged up sprockets. 



 

Monday, October 17, 2022

DMC 54 Grain Cleaner Rebuild

I bought this about six weeks ago, used, from another organic farmer after seeing several pictures and being told it was "field ready". I thought I'd have to do some work on it to get it usable, but I've basically had to rebuild the whole thing - pulleys, belts, electrical, screens, bearings, auger, motors(??, not sure about them yet). I'm still waiting on a few parts to make it operable. 

I plan on using this to clean out weed seeds from my soybeans. Rather than blowing them out the back of the combine, I'd set the combine to collect everything the size of the soybeans and smaller; this double rotating cleaner would then let me sort out the beans from the other small weed seeds, preventing them from going back on the field where they would germinate next spring. This involves quite a bit more work post combining but is a result of a series of events earlier in the year that led to me having so many weeds in my beans.

Unfortunately, the cleaner won't be ready. Neither, at least in time for the beans, will the grain bin - I'm still waiting on the electrician to run his underground lines over to the bin motors. 

Is it worth it? Well, I need one. They sell for $7500, used, at dealers. I paid $2500 for this and will have another $2000 in it when all is said and done. Plus a lot of my time.  I need it to be reliable and in good working order, as I'll be putting $100,000+ of beans through it every year.

 Before:

 

After - almost done:


 

 I've had to get clever to get some of these tensioning springs installed:

before - 




After -


plus a new Lundell Plastics poly cup loading auger. It was hard to get the two 6 foot sections to line up so I could bolt them together. Eventually I got it done.




Monday, October 3, 2022

Drilling Kernza - A perennial grain

This was my first time drilling Kernza and it was a challenge. 

Getting the field worked down from the previous crop (forage peas overrun with weeds) was the first hurdle.  I mowed and then disced the ground in August. The day before drilling my dad ran the field cultivator over everything to knock back any weeds that had germinated. 


 

I drilled it over two days, Sept 7 and 8th. The seed is very small, approximately 63,000 seeds/lb and I was applying it at a rate of 15 lbs/acre. My 750 grain drill has a hard time metering out seeds at that low rate, even with the half speed gears installed. I calibrated the drill by hand several times prior to planting and started drilling a conservative amount/acre, not wanting to run out of seed on the 25 acre field. This meant I had to go over the field 2.5 times to use up the available seed. It was very tedious.

 


Fast forward to today, when I went out to check on the growth. We've had a bit of rain, enough to germinate the kernza. To my eye, it looks like a poor stand, but I have no idea what a good stand of kernza should look like. We'll see how it comes back next spring. The plan is to harvest the first crop next August. 


 

I underestimated how much work it would take to put this seed into the ground. I've been a part of several conferences and presentations about the possibilities for this crop. All of them seem to gloss over the actual amount of hard work, with so many uncertainties, that is needed to produce this. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Grain Bin is (Almost) Done.

It's been a while since I've posted anything here; primarily I've been putting up short videos on the farm youtube page.

The bin is up and site is graded. We're waiting on an electrical inspection and then the electrician will bury his lines from the panel over to each of the motors.  I'm not sure if everything will be done in time so I can use it for the soybeans. Several things have to go right for that to happen, and there have been a lot of scheduling delays already, so it's difficult to make plans.

Here is the latest of six short videos. 

 



I made a YouTube playlist where you can see the previous five.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Pouring Concrete Pad for the New Grain Bin

It's good to see some movement on this project. My dad was out there as well and we chatted a bit while I filmed.

The concrete will cure for a short time and then another crew should be here to put up the bin. It will be a 36 ft. diameter, 34 ft. tall Sukup bin with a full air floor. There will be an elevated unloading auger, a power sweep inside, stairs on the outside leading to the top of the roof, an electric grain spinner, sensors to control moisture hooked up to the fan. A 20 hp motor on the fan. The new 600 amp electric service is hooked up, and is visible in the background of the screenshot of the video shown below. 

I decided to wait until prices were at all time highs before getting this thing built.   

: ) 

To date it's been almost 3 years since we first started talking about putting up the bin.

You can see what I've written about it so far, here.

I've run about 300 feet of water hose out there and will be watering it a couple times a day to help the concrete cure properly; basically as slow as possible.