Saturday, August 28, 2021

Latest News from the Farm

 It's been a while since I've posted, mainly as I've been busy. A couple nights I got home around 2am after a long day in the tractor with no lunch or dinner (sad face). 

Before the "real work" could start I was repairing equipment so that we could harvest wheat, followed by... harvesting wheat; after that I decided to have the ground disc-ripped to break up a hardpan layer (responsible for much of my foxtail pressure), that process dug up a lot of big rocks (one shown below) that needed to be removed. We then disced that soil down to break up most of the residue after which I drilled a cover crop of winter peas, turnips, radish, sorghum sudan, wheat, and sunflowers. 

We brought the equipment home and I've been going over it - cleaning (How to Clean a Combine!) then repairing. The drill needs an overhaul; after that corn head needs the snap rolls put on it prior to using it later this fall.... you get the idea.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger.)


One of the many things that I need to fix, and part of the reason there haven't been any recent updates to this site, is my broken phone that I use to take pics and movies for the farm site (the above were taken by my Dad). The battery on it has failed, causing the screen to pop off. I have a replacement battery though still need the specialty screwdrivers ("precision pentalobe") that I need to get inside the case. 

In crop news, the cover crop I drilled is just coming up and the corn planted this past spring looks good -  nice big ears. We're making plans to get a 27 foot diameter 11,000 bushel grain bin built to hold/dry down the wheat, oats, and Kernza, a newly developed perennial grain, that we'll be growing.

Next year we'll add about 25 acres of Kernza, (field day info here), to what we're growing. In the spring there will be peas drilled, harvested in August, with the Kernza drilled into the residue. It will stay in Kernza for the next two years. 

Carmen Fernholz, my mentor, is in the video below talking about their experience growing Kernza.


 

We're joining a Kernza co-op to market the grain. As with any new ventures, there are problems along the way.



Saturday, July 31, 2021

Wild Turkeys Through My Window

Most of them (all?) had "beards". 

A Wild Turkey’s “beard” is the tuft that looks a bit like a miniature horsetail dangling from its breast. Year-old males have beards up to about five inches long, while toms three or more years old can have beards that are 10 inches or longer. Rarely, a tom will have one primary beard and one or two smaller beards just above it. About 5-10 percent of female turkeys may also sport short, thin beards.

The bristles in the cluster of stiff filaments are hair-like, but they are not hair. They are feather-like structures called mesofiloplumes. Their structural proteins are similar to those of feathers, but they lack a follicle and other characteristics of most feathers. Unlike feathers, turkey beards grow continuously. However, they suffer from wear and tear, so beards longer than 12 inches are not common.

Interesting history on turkeys in Wisconsin. 

Wild turkeys are native to parts of Wisconsin, in an area roughly south of a line from Prairie du Chien to Green Bay. They served as an important food source for settlers and Native Americans alike. But, by the year 1881, wild turkeys disappeared from Wisconsin. Settlement and an increase in farming and logging led to the clearing of the state's oak forests. The raising of domestic birds resulted in the spread of diseases to wild turkeys. Unregulated hunting also took its toll. The last turkey sighting in Wisconsin was near Darlington in Lafayette County in 1881.

In 1976, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources made a trade with the state of Missouri in order to bring wild turkeys back to Wisconsin. We gave them ruffed grouse; they gave us wild turkeys. The first 29 wild Missouri turkeys were released in Vernon County. The turkeys thrived in their new home and began to breed and increase their population. As the number of turkeys increased, the DNR began to trap them from areas with lots of turkeys and move them to other good turkey habitat areas. Over 3,000 turkeys were trapped and relocated in 49 counties. Turkeys moved into other counties on their own.

In 2014, the latest figure I could find, there were 7.3 million turkeys sold in the State of WI, most of them raised within 50 miles of our farm. Jennie-O is the big operator.  I buy turkey litter from them and have it spread on our fields as fertilizer.


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Before Wheat Harvest: Repairs to Deere 625F Bean/Grain Header and EZ Trail Header Cart

Many of the problems that we face are analogous to the "Fox, chicken, and a bag of feed" puzzle, in that the practical steps leading to a solution are often "hidden".

A farmer lives on a small plot of land next to a river. One day, he travels across the river in a small boat and purchases a fox, a chicken, and a bag of corn from a feed and supply store. When the farmer returns to his boat to cross the river again and go home, he realizes he has a dilemma.

The farmer can only take one item in his small boat at a time, otherwise he risks capsizing. He cannot leave the fox alone with the chicken, because the fox will eat the chicken. He cannot leave the chicken alone with the corn, because the chicken with eat the corn

How does the farmer successfully get all three items across the river?

 

The sickle bar on the bean head had a few broken teeth and knife guards, Dad/Gramps has been replacing them. There are a few other things to fix: The Crary Air input shaft needs to have the clutch repaired. I think there's a faulty hydraulic cylinder on the main reel as well as a leaking hydraulic hose that needs attention. Quite a few of the fingers on the auger need to be replaced. When all that is done we'll go over the sickle bar adjustment procedures in the Operator's Manual to make sure everything is running smoothly.

After repairs are finished the head will be used to harvest the spring wheat, which will be ready in about ten days. Right now I think, because of low weed pressure in the wheat, I can direct cut it with the bean head, rather than swathing it in windrows then using the pickup head to combine it. Assuming we get a little bit of moisture in the next couple of weeks I'm then planning on putting in a cover crop of peas, turnips, and radishes, as the berseem clover I underseeded the wheat with back in May failed to get established, I believe due to lack of moisture later in the month of May.

The original welds holding the tube to the cart were broken and the angled support bracket had been pushed about 1.25 inches toward the rear of the cart. Could have been caused by improperly putting the header on the cart, we're not sure.

I pushed the support bracket back in place using a steel wedge and rewelded the joints. The cart still needs to have two of the tires replaced: one is the wrong size, the other is bald/worn out.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger.)

I welded a piece of scrap 4x4 tubing below the cart's 4x6 beam to act as a brace I could push against with the metal wedge in the next pic. Other pieces of scrap metal were clamped on to either act as spacers or to distribute the point load from the wedge along the length of the cart's vertical brace/leg.


I added some little gussets to help prevent any future cracks. There's a lot of stress on that little clamping plate. I'm not surprised the original welds cracked. Glad to have it taken care of, as having the head slide around while going down the highway would be a problem.



Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Repairs While I Wait for Some Rain

 We've had less than 1" of rain in the last 6 weeks. It's sprinkled a bit today and the forecast calls for a 50% chance an inch or so tomorrow. I hope we get it, as everything is already crispy and the forecast goes on to say the next 10 days will be 80ยบ and sunny.

There's not much for me to do but get equipment ready.

 
My first attempt at welding cast iron. I've brazed it before with some success, this is going to be an experiment on a "low value" part. I'm using the Shark brand 11087 0.125" rod at 80 amps (220v). Any higher and I burned through. I increased it a bit on the following passes.  Looks like I should have used a carbide burr to widen the crack, not a grinding wheel. I went back and cleaned it up a bit before I added more weld.
 
Pics of the finished repair. Pretty happy with how it looks, there's a bit of weld undercut where I was too hot. The spatter/beads are cosmetic. The real test is to see if it holds up.
 
(Click on either picture to make it bigger.)


 



Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Update on Corn and Wheat

 The corn is 3 to 4 feet tall and looks good, especially considering we've had roughly an inch of rain here in the last 5 weeks.

Here's what the corn looked like on June 10th, nine days after planting and six days after the first pass with the tine weeder.

 
 
 

Here's a video taken after the second pass with the row cultivator, June 28th.


 

In this video the corn has canopied, my cultivation is done for the year. Now its mostly out of my hands until the end of October and harvesting.


The spring wheat looks good. I have some issues with canadian thistle that I manage with cutting/chopping. First I tried by hand, with a Stihl FS 130. There's too much to do that way, so I was hoping to hire the landowner to bush hog them. He was unavailable and I ended up driving the 12 miles down there with our little open station tractor in some miserable heat to do it myself. We have a trailer that I could have used to haul it down there - however it needs to have the wiring for the turn signals/flashers redone/repaired. I didn't have the time to do that.

 
 
I expect to harvest the wheat in mid August, with some luck I'll be able to sell it as "food grade". I had underseeded the wheat with berseem clover and was hoping that would act as my cover crop after the wheat came off. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have established itself, possibly because of the very dry conditions we've had in the last 2 months. As a result the preexisting foxtail is coming on strong under the wheat. It looks like I'll have to disc that down and drill in another cover of something like radish/oat/peas after the wheat is harvested.

Next up is getting the combine ready to harvest the wheat. I also have about 20 repair projects to start in on. My new (to me) Deere 693 corn head is waiting to be picked up at the nearby Deere dealer. I've bought the Calmer replacement rolls to put in it.



Thursday, June 10, 2021