Thursday, July 11, 2019

Oats ready to be Mowed (and Mulched)

On the farm there's about 120 total acres in their first year of transition to certified organic production. The regulations require a 36 month period between the time of the last "prohibited substance" (in this case it was a herbicide that was applied last June) and any USDA certified organic harvest.

Oats and red clover were drilled together earlier this spring on roughly 90 of those 120 acres, with the oats acting as a "nurse crop". Now that they've done their job of helping to establish a relatively weed free stand of clover, I'll mow them and leave the residue in place to act as a "green manure". There is no economic benefit to harvesting "conventional" oats. Also there is a potential boost to future cash crop yields by leaving the chopped oats in place. So I'm not combining the oats.

Next year the clover will return, fixing additional nitrogen for the corn that I'll plant in the spring of 2021 and that in turn will be harvested as USDA organic in the fall of 2021.

Tomorrow morning Nick, from BP Ag Solutions, will come to the farm and install autosteer/gps along with a planter monitor in the 8100 tractor (pictured below, hooked up to the Deere 520 flail mower I'll be using to cut the oats).

I'll be using Ag Leader products. Specifically, the monitor is a InCommand 1200 and the RTK guidance system is a GPS 7500 with OnTrac3 Assisted Steering.

Here's a short video, not mine, showing the technology in use.

I'm going to use the technology for at least two things. One, so I can repeat my passes precisely, within a 1/2", between different activities in the field. When I plant, I want all the 15' wide passes to be exactly 30" apart so that when I go through the field 3-5 times cultivating I can follow the exact same route. This lets me put the metal shovels of the cultivator, which remove weeds, within an inch of the cash crop plant I want to thrive.

Secondly is so when I'm planting I know exactly how many seeds, how far apart, are going (or more important to know, not going) into the soil. After you go over it with a planter, a field looks exactly the same whether or not the right number of seeds have been planted per acre. A good seed monitor is essential.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

My Morning Routine: Letting Out the Birds

I also put down some straw to cover the manure they leave overnight, fill their waterers, and make sure the feed is topped off.

Machine Shed Tour

Plus a few birds at the end. My version of the old silent Super 8mm movies.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Taking Down the Old Farmhouse Chimney

I'm using the Genie Z45/25 Boom Lift to safely take down chimney that's above the roofline. The part that remains, in the house, will be disassembled from a ladder or scaffold.

The chimney consists of a concrete block exterior and a clay tile liner. The total length of the chimney is around 35 feet. A lot of material. We'll take it out and dump it in the old silo, which itself will ultimately be taken down and buried.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Planting/Drilling Sorghum Sudan Grass

Gramps, Max, and I, over the past week on approximately 95 acres planted sorghum sudan grass. Prior to planting, “drilling” is the more accurate term in this case, we first had to combine about 4 acres of last years standing corn, then we could go over the 18” tall weeds and stubble twice with a disc harrow to kill the weeds and to get a rough seed bed that I could drill the seeds into.

Sorghum Sudan is an agronomic choice. I have a lot of foxtail and canadian thistle (weeds) that I’m trying to crowd out, caused in part by compaction/poor drainage and sorghum sudan is supposed to help with that. It is an aggressive grower and can reach 10’ tall in about 8 weeks. If I don’t sell some of it to a local organic dairy, who would in turn have to hire a “custom” hay/baleage/silage cutter to harvest it for him, I’ll mow it down and leave it in place when it gets about 4’ tall. The mowed/mulched sorghum would in turn feed soil microbes, who then "excrete" nutrients for future cash crops.  I’ll have to mow it twice I think, as I don’t want it to go to seed and become a “weed” itself.  Next year all these acres will go into soybeans.

65 of the acres are certified USDA organic, the other 30 are in their first year (of three) of transition to organic. Both fields are about 13 miles south of the farm in Turtle Lake, making it a logistical challenge to move materials and equipment down there.

I’ve put up 3, one minute long videos on youtube that show a bit of this.

I used my new (to me) Deere 8100 tractor and 750 no-till grain drill to cover about 185 acres this spring - 90 in oats/red clover and 95 in sorghum sudan. It’s been a good experience. This week I’m talking to a technology provider about putting gps/autosteer on the tractor to make everything go a little smoother.

p.s.  Big (public) thanks to Dad/Gramps and Max for their help!

Friday, June 7, 2019


To replace a failed idler bearing on the riding lawn mower, I had to remove the mower deck. While I had it apart, I changed the belts and mower blades.

I bypassed the "safety" switch so I can back up and cut at the same time. In place of the temporary clamp I drilled through the switch body as well as the moving switch pin, hold it "closed" with a cotter pin.

Some kind of critter ate through the fuel line this past winter. The grommet/gasket between the fuel tank and fuel line was leaking as well, so I pulled out the old one and put in new parts.

The 6620 had damage to the grain tank. The 1//8"thick top metal rail was bent in about 1" and the wire mesh was split in several places.

I used the hydraulic press and oxy/propane torch to get it reasonably straight.

Also on the 6620 the left rear wheel had a split in the rim. I jacked up the combine, took the wheel off and dropped it off at the tire shop (20 miles away in Barron, WI).
The split is about 8" long and an inch above the edge of the joint between tire and rim, unhelpfully hiding in the glare of the sun in the pic above.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Moving Birds Outside for the Summer

They're about 5 weeks old and have enough feathers to stay outside overnight without the supplemental heat they get in the brooder. I bought two of the "Homesteader's Delight" packages from McMurray Hatchery.

They'll stay in the coop all the time for about a week, enough to establish a sense of place, then I'll let them roam around during the day. I have to lock them back up at night because of raccoons, mink, weasels, foxes, and who knows what else might eat them. My dog does a fairly good job of keeping them "safe" during the day. I think, or want to believe anyway, that they'll eat ticks. In the past years I've raised guinea fowl, but they're hard to get from the hatchery in early spring. By the time they're big enough to eat bugs the summer is almost over.

In the fall I'll slaughter and freeze the birds, giving them to friends and family.