Thursday, July 30, 2020

Sorting Bolts - Pump House Rehab #2

On a related note, I have about 100 pounds of 5/16 - 18 x 1.75 inch bolts, with a black oxide finish, for sale. Also about the same amount of M12 - 1.75 x 40mm bolts.

I'm picking up these assorted bolts to get ready to, first, take off the roof, and second, to take down and rebuild the block wall that is next to the pile of bolts. Unfortunately the wall is leaning out about 5" over it's 8' height and needs to be repaired before continuing on with the rehab of the building.

Laundry Day

Pre Covid-19 I'd go to the laundromat in town about once a month to do my laundry, as my "laundry room" has been under "construction" ever since I moved up here. It's on the list of things to do, slowly making it's way toward the top.

Once I have enough dirty clothes to fill an eighteen gallon tote I'll do laundry. I'll fill the tote with warm/hot (colors/whites) water and a generous amount of Oxiclean. That soaks for 4-6 hours, then I drain the tote and hang the clothes on the line. Once hung, I spray them down with my hose. This seems to get rid of the Oxiclean and the dirt.

It's a little bit like camping here on the farm. It suits me.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Pump House Rehab - #1

The roof on the pump house has been ready to fall in for the last five years. It doesn't matter right now, as all we store in there is oil, grease, lube, but I want to be able to make a small welding area out of it. That means keeping the water out. Eventually I'll replace the windows and try to make it a spring, summer, fall space so I can work out there in all but the worst winter weather. Maybe put a wood stove in it.

Right now that's a long way off. Here's the before pictures.

I started moving things from the pump house into the machine shed today. I hope that work on the roof can start this coming week.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Mid July Update: Oats that Were Underseeded with Medium Red Clover

They are Morton Oats, drilled at 2 bushels/acre between May 7th and 9th, on a total of 102 acres. At the same time the grass seed box was putting on 10 lbs/acre of clover.

We will swath the oats in a couple of weeks, then run them through the pick up head on the combine. The clover will continue growing this year and next, getting mowed to keep it from going to seed. In 2022 this ground will be ready for it's first certified organic cash crop, probably soybeans.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Row Cultivating Organic Soybeans, Third Pass

I've owned this field for 5 years and it has always had heavy weed pressure - foxtail, thistle, pigweed, lambsquarters. With my crop rotation I've been able to reduce the weeds by about 75%, but it's still a challenge. I tined weeded this twice, at the "right" times, but still have some weeds in the row. They will go to seed.

I would like to modify my cultivator for next year by adding two more sweeps on each row tool bar,/tube for a total of 5. Even with wider sweeps on the three existing shanks I don't get enough coverage.

Next year this will be in oats, underseeded with alfalfa.

For this pass the cultivator sweeps that are closest to the plant are about 10" apart, as I don't want to get too close to the roots. The 1st 2 passes those sweeps were 5" apart. Going as fast as I am (4.8 mph), autosteer is a must.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Garden Update

Most everything is established, including the weeds. I don't see a lot of pest pressure, though I'm going to put a floating row cover over the squash to hopefully keep away the squash vine borers.

Broccoli, garlic, radishes, mustard greens, collards, onions, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, winter squash, corn, peppers, cilantro, parsley. I think that's everything.

Row Cultivating Organic Beans

This group of fields is a work in progress. There is fairly significant weed pressure - foxtail, canadian thistle, curly dock, white cockle, pigweed, lambsquarter - that I've been slowly removing over the last five years by my rotation and crop selection. Still, I need to produce a cash crop on this ground, so this year it's beans, Viking O.1202NP from Albert Lea Seed.

This is my first row cultivation pass, there will be at least one more, maybe two, before the beans canopy.

Modifying Deere RM6 Row Cultivator

In order to get the sweeps close enough to the crops in the row, I had to lengthen what Deere calls a "Crosshead Arm". It was 1.25" solid bar stock, with each row needing a different length welded on to it. (Part number 8 in the schematic below)

There is something off about this configuration of row cultivator and tractor. I could never get it to sit "right" on the row. I can only guess that something got bent before I owned them. This meant that I needed to make this last minute repair so that I could do my row cultivating. Fortunately it all worked out.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Going Over the Combine

Mowing Red Clover

In the spring of 2019 I drilled a nurse crop of oats, underseeded with medium red clover on this transitional (to USDA Organic) ground. The oats were mowed off, along with any weeds, last summer. The clover continued to grow and came back this spring. We're mowing it off again, to kill weeds, and to "feed" soil microbes. What those microbes "excrete" will then be the "food" for my future crop. Around the first of August, after mowing it again, I'll have 3 tons/acre of turkey litter spread on the stubble. Then disc that down, killing most of the clover. Into that I'll drill a tillage radish, with possibly some other species (oats,...?). That will winter kill. Next spring I'll disc again and then plant organic corn.

I've found this the best way to transition ground from conventional (aka chemical) to organic. The small amount of money I'd get from harvesting either the conventional oats or clover aren't worth what I'd lose in soil benefits for my future organic cash crop.

My dad is driving the tractor, a Deere 8100, that's pulling a Deere 520 flail mower. I like how it leaves an even layer of "mulch", with no windrowing.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Tine Weeding 2" Tall Soybeans

The main use of this tool is to get rid of any weeds smaller than the beans that are *in* the row of the crop without damaging the tiny cash crop. (more info here - It also does a great job of removing the little weeds in between the rows. 

I planted these organic beans 1.75" deep (Viking O1202-N) on June 1st and 2nd. Before they emerged I did the first pass with the weeder on June 5th - shown here I tine weeded them a second time, as shown in this video, June 17th. 

I set the angle of the tines about mid way on the "aggressiveness" angle. I also could only go about 3.5 mph. Any faster or more aggressive I start burying or tearing out too many beans. This ground has traditionally been very weedy. 

Every year I've done something long termish to try and reduce the weed pressure. I want to think I'm seeing an improvement year to year. It's going to be rainy for a week. Once it dries out I'll row cultivate them.

Row Cultivating Soybeans

Because I had the row cleaners on the planter too low, the beans were planted in a trench, making it impossible for the tine weeder to reach down in around the beans. I'm fixing that mistake by row cultivating very slow and burying any small weeds in the row of beans by covering the lower part of the bean with soil.

The glare from the sun made it impossible to see what I was shooting as I was doing it. I'm surprised the video turned out as well as it did. One thing that didn't come across is that the top of the beans is about an inch or two below the top of the dirt in between the rows. That's what I was trying to show, unsuccessfully, with my hand at the beginning.

Unfortunately my camera lost focus when I zoomed in. I got the cultivator just set right, going the right speed, to get the right amount of dirt to flow up against the sides of the bean plant. The idea is to bury any little weeds that I couldn't get with the tine weeder because I inadvertently planted my beans at the bottom of a shallow trench. (my row cleaners on the planter were too low.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Planting and Pre-Emerge Tine Weeding of Soybeans

In three days we planted about 15 million soybean seeds on a little less than 100 acres. 64 acres are certified USDA Organic, 32 acres are in their first year of transition to Organic.

The first tine weeding pass is done about an inch deep immediately after planting. I planted the beans approximately 1.75" deep, allowing the tine weeder to remove all the weeds that are in the top inch or so of soil. Most importantly those that are in the row of beans. I can't get at those weeds once the beans emerge. There will be one more pass with the tine weeder, when the beans are about 4" tall. Then there will be two passes with a row cultivator.

I'm finding out that the technology is good most of the time, but it can go wrong. For several logical reasons there is a mismatch between the movement of the tractor, where the GPS receiver is located and the planter where the seeds are placed in the row.  As a result, while the tractor is following a line I set to within 1/2 inch, the planted seeds can occasionally vary by 2-3 inches. This will become more of an issue when I row cultivate in the coming weeks.

The medium term low cost solution to this is installing a sliding hydraulic quick hitch that I can control from the cab. I'll need to put a camera on the area where the row cultivator is engaging with the soil/plant and then move the hitch digitally from the cab. New products and uses for them are coming out all the time but a single package that gives me what I need isn't here yet.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Machine Shed Going Up

It should be finished in about a week. It's 50' x 80' with 18' tall walls, which are needed so I can put my 15' tall combine inside.

I'd been taking pictures almost every day but when I uploaded them to my computer something went wrong and they're gone.

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.