Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Farm Politics

There are a lot of things that are "broken" that I'd argue are working as designed.  The economics of agriculture are in that category.


The above quote is a screen shot from a pdf titled "Parity and Farm Justice: Recipe for a Resilient Food System"

Parity is the idea of a "fair price" for farm commodities.  The "market" isn't able to pay anything near the cost of production for many commodities.  The large players have destroyed what worked in the early days of the Farm Bill and replaced it with something that preserves their access to a seemingly endless supply of cheap inputs.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can make parity a household word. It’s as simple as believing in a living wage for farm workers, and a just food system.
 Even the "winners", at this moment organic grain/meat producers (though not dairy), are forced to play by these rules and will eventually be incorporated into the larger system.

The subsidies in place now are solely for crop insurance. So a failed crop ensures payment to the providers of inputs without putting anything in the pocket of the farmer.

It's a big subject. I'd encourage the few people who read this blog to continue to ask questions.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Armyworms

I have them in about 1/4 of my corn, almost exclusively in areas that had heavy foxtail pressure earlier in the year. This makes sense as the armyworms like to eat/lay in foxtail and other grasses. Unfortunately corn is a grass.






Armyworms have earned their name for their tendency, at high populations, to ‘march’ across a field, consuming whatever vegetation is in their path. Two species of armyworm, true armyworms and fall armyworms, may affect crops in the Upper Midwest, predominantly in the grass family (corn, wheat, other small grains) and in fall grassy cover crops.
Early summer crop damage is caused by the true armyworm. True armyworm larva can cause damage in the early summer to corn, wheat, barley, oats, and occasionally to soybeans and sunflowers. The adults begin arriving in the upper Midwest in April or early May, with peak moth flights later in May or early June. These dates vary from year to year, based on weather conditions.
The advice I've got says that trying to spray an organic "insecticide" isn't worth it. So I'll take the hit to my yield.

The link from Albert Lea Seeds has plenty of more info on them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Corn is Chest High

It looks good, especially considering all the things I've done for the first time. There's nothing more to be done in the field until harvest time at the end of October.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger.)

There is a lot of compaction at the entrances to the fields, where very few corn plants grew.

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The corn appears to be healthy and growing well. 


In the rows, missed by the rotary hoe and where I couldn't throw enough dirt with the row cultivator, there are some weeds. I expect that the shade from the growing corn will crowd out/kill most of these weeds. At this point there's no way for me to get rid of them.

As I said in the previous post, 10 to 13 acres, out of the 61 I have planted to corn here, have heavy foxtail pressure and will have this kind of weed pressure. The remaining ground is relatively weed free. Aside from not killing weeds so they don't return next year, I might suffer a yield "drag" as the weeds take nutrients from the corn, limiting my yield at harvest time.

Cultivation with Rotary Hoe and Row Cultivator

It's done. I went over the 61 acres twice with the rotary hoe and twice with the row cultivator. I also went over the areas that have heavy foxtail, approximately 15 acres, another two times with the row cultivator. A lot of time on a tractor that doesn't have a cab. I'll also point out that you need keep the tractor tires in between the rows of corn; there's about 4" of clearance on each side of the wider rear tires and the corn.

Here's a pic of me after a day of cultivation.

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The row cultivator behind the Deere 4020, taken about June 23rd. This is after the first pass with the cultivator.

The photos below were taken about a week later, after we'd received 1+" of rain and had temps in the 80's. The foxtail is very thick in about 15 acres. All in areas that are wetter than normal due to the drainage/topography of the land. I've been thinking about how to better control the foxtail. There isn't anything else I could do, mechanically. The corn will be ok, as it can outgrow the foxtail. In following years other crops won't be able to do that.



 Most of the above pic shows how thick the foxtail gets. A little on the left rows shows what it looks like after my first pass through with the row cultivator.

 The first pass with the cultivator really didn't bury much.

 After the second pass through with the row cultivator most of the foxtail is gone, excepting in the row. There was so much residue from the foxtail I took out with the cultivator, the dirt wouldn't "flow" as it should and the cultivator would plug up fairly often. I'd get off the tractor and pull the big piles apart by hand, and then continue.

I'd say about 80% of the land is free of weeds. Foxtail, as well as canadian thistle, are the main culprits.

Today the corn is about chest high and is looking good. More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Repairs to the Case 475 Disc Harrow

Five scraper arms were missing. The used parts place didn't carry them and the local Case dealer wanted to charge me $112 (!) each.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger.)

 The scraper arm is the red piece on the welding table. It's stamped from 1/4" plate and has a few angles and holes in it. My replacement parts are made from 1/4" steel strap and plate pieces that are welded together.


The discs cut through old plants and bury them in the dirt. While doing this dirt is often stuck to the concave side of the disc itself, and if there isn't a scraper, causing it to plug.


As well as the scrapers there are a couple of new hydraulic hoses, four new tires, and assorted other things to fix on the disc.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Planting is Done. Time for a Few Repairs

I'm pretty proud of my repair on the 4020 lift link (the arm that lifts the 3 pt hitch).It was bent many years ago,which made it very hard to remove from the tractor. I had to lengthen it in place by turning a threaded casting, but it was frozen. A combination of hardened grease and dirt. Plus 50 years. I soaked it with brake/parts cleaner then made an improvised vise to hold the shaft while I put a big wrench with cheater bar/pipe on the casting. It slowly turned. Now I can set both lift arms to the same height, ensuring that future passes with the rotary hoe and row cultivator will be done with the implement level (and the implement will dig down to an even depth across its entire width.)

(Click on an picture to make it bigger)


I also had to fix the rotary hoe stand, which slipped through its mount on the hoe while I was using it a few days ago. (When not attached to a tractor the stand has the flat plate on the ground. When using it behind a tractor, I invert it and put it in the same sleeve.) I didn't hear a thing, and am lucky that it didn't wipe out entire rows of corn. Fortunately it bent in such a way that it didn't hit the implement either. The culprit was a faulty cotter pin, which came off allowing the hitch pin to work itself out. Then the stand hit the ground.






I took the bent stand off the rotary hoe and made, then installed, a new one.


Dad and I got all the grass waterways and buffer zones, around 8 acres in total, planted on June 1st. A handful different types of grass, either alfalfa or clover, with oats to act as a nurse crop.

My 61 acres of organic corn is up, it looks like I've got good germination. The rows are pretty, the little plants are 1-3 inches tall, and the weeds are almost non-existent.  I'll rotary hoe it 2 more times in the coming weeks, timing my field work as the rain and weed pressure dictate.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Brillion "Sure Stand" Seeder

We need to seed grass waterways, about five acres of alfalfa/hay, and some grass border strips. Our friend and neighbor, Jeff, said we could use his Brillion Seeder. I hadn't seen it until I picked it up, but it was in pretty rough shape. As Jeff said, it works, but I guess I like fixing stuff.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger)

 I think they'd backed over the tongue with a tractor. It made it almost impossible to get attached to my tractor/truck and more importantly changed the angle that it rode on the ground. The back cultipacker wasn't really doing much.



Tonge and wheels off. 


I made a new tongue out of 4" steel channel. Drilled holes in the right places and painted it. 



The axle bearings were bad in both wheels. Two bearings, two races and one seal. To transport the seeder you jack it up off the ground and put the axle stubs in each end. Because the bearings were bad, when we got it the wheels were stuck (at a slight angle) in the seeder hubs. Took some pounding to get them out. 



The pin through the axle, nothing more than a 3/8" bolt, holds the axle in the seeder.


We've seeded about an acre and it works great. I had to make some adjustments to the seed meter, but I think the rest of the grass seeding will go smoothly. As a side note, I love using those fiberglass lunch trays to hold parts and tools while I do repairs. Most of the time its done in dirt or grass and its very easy to lose vital bits. Thanks to Art and H2 for giving them to me!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Test Runs With Rotary Hoe and 6 Row Cultivator

Just a quick note to say that I got all the various linkages to work and took both for a test run in an untilled field. They seemed to be running smoothly, with the fine tuning to be done when I'm closer to using these two pieces. That'll be after planting, in about two weeks.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Repairing the M&W Model 1815 Rotary Hoe

It was in need of work - the spoons on the wheels were worn away; 7 of the torsion springs that provide downpressure on the wheels were broken off; one arm/row was missing.  I bought 18 new wheels (at $42 each), new springs, and made a spacer for the missing arm after I couldn't find another one (new or used).

To put the new parts on I had to take off a section, which is held in place by the springs pushing the cast arms up against the bottom of the 4"x4" steel toolbar.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger)





The spring cups around the back of the curved arm, while the top of the curved arm presses against the bottom of the red steel toolbar. The other end of the spring is vertical against the face of the toolbar, effectively pinning the arm, under tension, in place. The effect is to allow the wheel/arm to bounce up and down while maintaining downward pressure on the soil.


I still need to bolt on the new wheels, as well as replace bearings on a few of the old wheels. That is relatively easy now that I got the hoe back together.  Once all the parts are in place I'll take it out for a test spin.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Two Day Old Chicks, Poults, Goslings, and Ducklings + Machine Shed Tour

At 6am this morning I got a call from the Post Office asking me to come pick them up. They're from McMurray Hatchery, what they call a Homesteader's Delight. They mix and match their leftovers; I get to watch them run around for the next 6 months.

I ordered 30 guinea fowl to help eat the deer ticks (Lyme!) but they won't get here until the first week in June.




Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Spring Tillage and Equipment Repair

It was a long cold winter, followed by a very short spring. We're about a month behind, weather/temp wise.  As soon as the ground was dry enough I disked the ground that had the heaviest remaining clover residue as well as the area around the old homestead that was previously fallow.  I used the Case 7140.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger)


The blower on the fan/vent was squealing badly, so I needed to open the windows to get some fresh air, as it was about 80º outside. The dust got everywhere.




Next up is getting the field cultivator ready. The old sweeps, the part that actually turns the dirt, were badly worn and needed replacing. Forty one of them.  Dad/Gramps and I did that yesterday. It still needs work, a few of the shanks need to be stabilized by welding them to the cultivator frame.  I'll use the field cultivator to bury the turkey manure (applied at 3 tons/acre, for $30 per ton) about 5" below the surface of the soil. That manure should be spread in the next week. Then I'll cultivate, then pick rocks that are pulled up by the field cultivator.

The first thing to plant will be about 8 acres of hay/alfalfa/oats/grasses in various buffers and grass waterways that are needed for conservation/management of water. We'll plant Dad/Gramps' soybeans soon, followed by corn by the end of May. I need the soil temp to be around 60º for the corn to germinate; that's still a ways off.




  I bought the rotary hoe (above on the back of the Deere 4020 tractor) used from a dealer near Dubuque, IA, after seeing a picture and hearing from the farmer that it "was in perfect condition".  Not true. It needs 18 new wheels (at $43 each) as well as a bunch of torsion springs and bearings. So I've been working on that as well. The rotary hoe is used after planting corn and beans to dig up weeds that are in the row of the planted crop.  It's used before the corn/beans emerge and until the plants are 4" tall. Then a row cultivator takes over.



Old wheels taken off. The tips, or spoons, had worn away and as a result wouldn't do the job. There were plenty with bad bearings as well.

New wheels 

Rotary Hoe parts ready to be reinstalled. The hoe was missing one of the cast iron arms, three are shown on the right, and I couldn't find a replacement so I made a little metal spacer from steel plate and tubing to take its place before reassembly. The missing wheel will be in the center of the row, the weeding it was responsible for will be done with later passes of the row cultivator.


Carl hanging out on the bed.