Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cap A Buried Water Line

While grading the ground where the old silos and barn were, the previously plugged underground water line started to leak. I noticed a wet spot and started digging the next day, ultimately renting a small excavator to dig six feet down to expose the water line. One the line was exposed it was a relatively simple job to cut the old line and put a compression fitting on the end of the line to seal it up. I'll make note of the location so if I need to run a water line out that direction I can find it again.

The concrete box is a cache basin for the drain that came from the old dairy barn. It's no longer in use and so will be capped and buried.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Drilling Oats and Medium Red Clover

We just finished drilling oats and medium red clover on about 100 acres of ground that is in its first year of transition to USDA Organic row crop production.  The ground, previously in corn, was disced twice prior to drilling.  A lot of rocks were exposed by the tillage and a crew of nieces and nephews/grandkids were hired to pick the rocks. Thanks to Max, Henry, Natalie, Calvin, and George for their help.

Picking rocks is one of the worst jobs on the farm. I'm looking at buying a mechanical rock picker, like this, to make things go a little easier.

The oats act as a nurse crop for the clover, a legume that fixes nitrogen. The oats will be mowed off in mid June along with any weeds that make it through. The goal is to reduce the weed "seed bank" in the soil making it easier to grow weed free in the future. The clover will continue to grow after the mowing and will overwinter. In the late summer of 2021 we will disc the clover under and drill in a "tillage radish" that will do (at least) two things - the root will go down ~ 2 feet, penetrating any soil hardpan created by compaction and/or shallow tillage. Secondly, it should scavenge/soak up the nitrogen we've grown with the clover. That nitrogen will be released back into the soil when the radish winterkills in the winter of 21/22 and become available for the next spring's cash crop.

The idea is to always have a series of different plants growing, then dying, in the soil. This variety feeds the microbes in the soil. Those microbes are in turn what allows us to grow good cash crops. My understanding is that what the bacteria excrete is what the plants feed on. A kind of bacterial fertilizer/manure. Read more here.

As conventional markets are poor, there is an incentive to prepare for eventual organic production by growing a "green manure" for two years rather than a non-GMO transition crop, which is allowed under the NOP Guidelines.

By adding to the soil instead of taking a cash crop off, we are setting ourselves up for a successful organic cash crop in 2022.

Dad/Gramps in front of the Deere 8100 tractor and 750 grain drill.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Discing Corn Stalks

The first step in breaking down last years crop before a new one can be planted is, in this case, to disc the corn stubble. What remains of last years corn crop is 18-30" tall stalks, cut by the combine last fall when it harvested the ears of corn. They are tough and hollow, a little like bamboo.

The ground we're working on will be seeded with oats and red clover, immediately after a second pass with the disc. It is supposed to rain tomorrow. By the end of the week it should be dry enough to drill the seeds. We (myself, Gramps, and Max) will be using my Deere 750 grain drill, video here.

These 4 parcels, totaling about 102 tillable acres, are being transitioned to USDA Organic production. The first certified harvest will be in the fall of 2022.

The oats will be mowed off as a "green manure", along with any weeds that make it through, by the end of June. The clover will continue growing underneath, fixing Nitrogen and putting down deepish roots, until it is disced under in late summer of 2021. Then a "tillage" radish will be planted in order to scavenge nitrogen and break up any hardpan in the soil. In spring of 2022 it will be planted to organic (feed) corn.

(Click on any picture to make it bigger.)

A lot of residue.

After one pass with the disc.
If I saw big rocks I'd stop and put them in the rack. If they were too big to pick up but near the edge of the field, I'd roll them to the edge. There were several that were too big to move at all and we'll need to take the loader out there to get them moved.

Case 7140 MWFD Tractor and 25 foot wide Krause 8200 Disc Harrow

Sunday was a long day.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A New Tire on the Grain Drill

One of the rear tires, a 11L-15SL 12 ply, on my John Deere 750 Drill was badly worn and needed to be replaced. I jacked up the back of the drill and took out the lug bolts, but unexpectedly it wouldn't come off. I'd hit the rim with a hammer/block of wood - nothing. Finally I warmed the rim up with a propane torch and I was able to knock it off. I'll take it to the tire shop and have them put a new tire on the rim.

I'm glad I took care of it now, where I have all my tools and I'm on smooth flat ground.  Changing this tire on tilled ground out in the middle of the field would have a been a challenge.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Seed Starting For the Garden

Last minute seed starting rack. COVID-19 made my decision to grow a garden this year an easy one.

I might have to till a few more strips so I have space to plant everything. The ryegrass roots are so thick that I need to turn it all over with a shovel before I can use the rototiller on it. Otherwise the rototiller just rides along the surface of the ryegrass.  Running it in reverse/backwards gives me the most bite into the soil.  In order to break up the large chunks of sod I end up going over each strip 3 or 4 times.

I'll also need to repair the deer fence in a few spots.

Things to be direct seeded are:

Onion slips
Turnip Greens
Collard Greens

Things started inside, under lights:

Mustard Greens

There might be a few more varieties that I'm forgetting about.


Friday, April 17, 2020

New Equipment

Here are the new pieces of equipment that I recently bought. I still have a few more to get. A gravity box/seed tender. Three headers for the combine: corn, beans, and pick-up head for grain. Header carts for the corn and bean heads. Maybe a new grain cart.

Most of this will eventually be stored/over wintered in the new 50' x 80' pole barn that should start being built in 6 weeks.

2007 Deere 9560 STS Combine

Deere 9560

John Deere 590 Pull Behind Swather

2011 Krause 8200 Disc Harrow - 25'

Krause 8200 Disc. Case 7140 and Ford F-250 in background

2019 Hatzenbichler Tine Weeder - 30'. M&W 1815 Rotary Hoe in background

I bought a second Deere RM6 row cultivator. It's the one closest to the camera in the pic above and is in better shape than the first one I had. A couple reasons for having two. One is that new replacement parts are expensive and used are hard to find, short of buying the whole thing. With two of the same model I can "borrow" parts from one to get the other to work. More importantly is that I can adjust one cultivator to cut closer to the row and the other one to stay away from the crop I'm cultivating. They are time consuming to adjust.

Thursday, April 16, 2020


Spring is coming, despite it being 18ยบ F last night.  A little over a week ago I took delivery of the all the seeds I'll be planting on the farm this spring: Oats, medium red clover, and soybeans. About 15,000 pounds.