Saturday, November 27, 2021

Last Video on the Cover Crop

 We've had a couple of cold nights, with temps in the low teens (ΒΊF), which has probably killed off most of the growth in the cover crop that I drilled over 3 months ago. This ground had been used to grow an organic food grade hard red spring wheat, which was harvested mid-August. We then disc-ripped the wheat stubble and drilled in a cover crop of radish, turnip, winter pea, sunflower, sorghum sudan and volunteer wheat. The idea is to keep a living root in the ground as long as possible, which ultimately will build up the soil, and at the same time use those roots (and the disc-ripper) to help break up a hard pan/compaction layer that was allowing foxtail to thrive.

I was passing by the group of fields that I filmed for an earlier post and made the following video.

Next spring this ground will have turkey litter spread on it and then planted with organic soybeans.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Update on Cover Crop after the Spring Wheat

 The (food grade, organic) wheat was harvested by Aug 19th. We disc ripped the ground to alleviate compaction/hardpan; picked up the large rocks that were pulled up; ran the disc over the big ruts made by the ripper, and drilled in a cover crop of Austrian winter peas, tillage radish, turnip, sunflower, sorghum sudan, as well as the volunteer wheat that was blown out of the combine.

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This is a nice picture, though not representative of the field(s). The brassicas are thriving here, I'm guessing because of increased fertility. I also had problems getting the cover crop mix, with its various sized seeds, to flow evenly through the grain drill. This led to an uneven stand. The short, yellowing brassicas in the rest of the field make me think I'm missing some nutrients.

Next year this ground will be in organic soybeans.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Chisel Plow Row Unit Repair

One of the shanks on the Ford Model 131 chisel plow hit a big buried rock that the "safety" spring on the row unit couldn't deal with. The result was that the bracket that holds the shank to the toolbar was torn apart. This post shows how I fixed that.

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I do repairs like this in my down time. I take a lot of satisfaction from pulling them off; even better is that I can see the results immediately, not like the time frame of planting and harvesting. Its nice to have a balance of the two.

Below is the first of four very short videos showing the repair done to the chisel plow.

The other three can be found here.

This past summer I pressure washed and then sprayed a coating of primer on the plow. Next year I'll spray it with the Ford "blue" paint. The crowd in the cheap seats says it doesn't make it work any better. My reply to that is that it makes me feel better. If I only do things that "work" life is pretty bleak.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

2021 Corn Harvest is Finished

There were a few bumps along the way, but it ended well.

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The screenshot capture above is taken from one the videos I made.


Here is a link to the YouTube Playlist I created that has four short video clips of the harvesting process.

I ended up loading out 18.5 semi-loads, each of which could hold a maximum of 63,000 lbs, from the 100 acres of organic corn.  I'm still waiting to get the final figures from the buyer, Cashton Farm Supply, as there are still about 500 bushels (at 56 lbs/bushel, that's about 28,000 lbs) to get loaded off of the combine and grain cart. Once that's delivered in a few days I'll have a better handle on the numbers. At this point I'm comfortable saying the yield was very good, a bit higher than our initial, optimistic, estimates.

[Updated to say that we ended up averaging 168 bu/acre, close to the highest yield that's come off of this ground before. As all the previous crops were grown with conventional production methods, this is even more impressive. As a benchmark, the county average (again, for conventionally grown corn) is 150 bu/acre.]

The harvesting routine was as follows. I started by filling two trucks which the truckers would take down to Cashton, WI (175 miles one way) at 3am the next day, so they could unload at the mill when that opened at 7am. They would then turn around and drive back to Turtle Lake, arriving around 11am. That same morning I would be combining, filling the grain cart (450 bushels) and combine (375 bushels) so that when the trucks showed up I could dump into the first truck. I'd then combine for about 3 hours to fill up the remaining space in both trucks. Next I'd call the truckers, who would take them down to Cashton, returning to Turtle Lake between 9 and 10pm. Lastly I'd fill up both trucks as I'd done earlier in the day, finishing between 1 and 2am (of the following day). The truckers would show up at 3am to then take both trucks down to Cashton.

We followed that process for 4 days and nights. There were a couple days at the beginning and end to take care of the loose ends. There were also a couple late night combine problems, one which required us to shut down for a day and half until Ronnie, the Deere field mechanic could come out and repair the combine. Fortunately the weather cooperated.

Once I get the remaining corn unloaded I can clean out the combine and grain cart by using compressed air, a leaf blower, and a shop vac. I want to remove as many of the corn kernels as possible to keep the mice from infesting the combine, where they wreck havoc on wiring harnesses, etc. After a thorough cleaning I'll put all the equipment away and shut the big shed doors for the year. It looks like I'll still have some non-miserable weather for the next 5 days so I can get that done.

Next spring 25 acres of this corn ground will be drilled with forage peas that will be harvested in August. Then we will put Kernza, a newly developed perennial wheatgrass, on those acres, with the remaining 75 acres getting planted with organic soybeans.

I have ideas on what I can do differently in the coming years. That said it was a very good result.






Monday, November 8, 2021

Latest Implement: DMI 730B Disc Ripper

 Harvesting corn has stopped just short of finishing, as the combine isn't working properly. There is a problem with the fuel delivery system. The error codes are showing low pump pressure, high exhaust manifold temperature, and a couple other electrical faults. The Deere field mechanic is going to meet me out in the field this afternoon and I hope he can get things fixed. Other than this, the harvest has gone well. I'll write more about it when its all wrapped up, which I'm hoping will be in a day or two.

In the meantime, I thought I'd put this up on the site. The DMI 730B disc-ripper I just bought is used to break up a hardpan/compaction layer that is present in most of our fields. I expect to use it on about 100 acres per year. The catch is that it takes a bigger tractor (with more horsepower) than the 200 hp CaseIH 7140 that I normally use to do tillage. I've worked out an arrangement with a neighbor where he'll pull the implement with his ~350 hp tractor, using an disc-ripper that I'd buy. In return he'll be able to use it on a certain amount of his own acres.

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Screenshot capture from TractorHouse

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Corn is Still Too Wet

I hand shelled several ears and took representative samples of corn from two different parts of the fields to the local grain elevator to get tested for moisture. In the last post I talked about the first test we'd done; that was 11 days ago and showed 25.4% moisture.  The most recent test is showing an average of 23.8%, still too high. I'd like to see it below 20% before we start combining. The real determining factor is the weather - if it looks like the rain/snow is coming I need to get the corn off no matter the moisture level. I think I'll need 3-4 days of decent weather to get it all combined and trucked to the elevator in Cashton, WI.

I'll then have to pay the grain elevator to dry it down to ~15%. The cost is approximately $0.05/bushel per point of moisture - so to go from 20% down to 15% will cost about $0.25/bushel. I also pay to have the excess moisture in the corn trucked to the mill. I pay trucking by weight, whether its water or corn.

I got everything all lined up to start combining tomorrow, only to find out that I'm going to have to wait another 4-5 days to start, weather depending. It's a little frustrating. I've been lucky with the weather so far this year, the forecast for the next 10 days looks good as well. Fingers crossed.

We're working on being able to dry corn here on the farm. At a minimum we'll have a new bin built, hopefully by next summer. I think it's going to be important to be able to dry corn, given the very small window I have to harvest as well as a shrinking number of buyers who can take "wet" corn.

There's a very interesting new product/design call Dri-Stack by Haber Technologies that looks promising. Dad is talking to them now to see if it would be a good fit for the farm.


They don't have many videos on YouTube, though they've got a Tik Tok page full of short clips, where I found this - 

@dristack #iowa #drycorn #habertechnologies #graindryers #farming #iowacorn #midwest #cornbelt #grainbin #futuretech #startup #newtechnology #amesiowa #fyp ♬ Mr Red White and Blue - Coffey Anderson

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Test Run: Combining Corn

With all the repairs on the header and combine finally finished and the corn drying down, we decided to do a test run. Aside from verifying that all the new parts and repairs were meshing properly, it was a chance to set the combine up to give a clean grain sample as well as making sure it was completely chopping up the stalks and leaves. 


Once I had some shelled corn I took it to the local elevator where they tested it for moisture - its at 25.4%.  While the buyer, a feed mill, will use propane to dry it down to about 15% so they can use it and without spoiling, I end up paying for that drying at least two ways: the mill charges me a fee, per point of moisture removed, to get it down to 15%,  and also as extra trucking to ship all that excess water down to Cashton Farm Specialties (the buyer).  A good explanation of those costs and risks is here.

I'd like to have the moisture be under 20% before we start combining. That will probably take about a week of decent weather so the wind and sun can dry it down; the forecast calls for a few days of rain in the next 10 days so we'll have to wait and see. Hopefully the rain/snow will hold off for a while. 

This organic corn is going to be used as animal feed. In the future we might grow for the "food grade" market, like we did with the wheat, however selling into the food market is a bit more complicated. It would require me to be able to dry the grain myself, and then store it in a dedicated grain bin after drying. The costs of building that infrastructure are fairly high, especially considering that I can sell "wet" feed corn with a minimal cost/loss of revenue.

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What I've grown can be eaten by people, it just takes some work.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Cover Crop After the Wheat: How Does it Look?

After combining the hard red spring wheat in mid-August we drilled in a cover crop of daikon radish, purple top turnips, winter peas, sorghum sudan, wheat, and sunflowers. In addition there were a lot of viable seeds blown out the back of the combine.

When I drilled the wheat in the spring I also underseeded it with "Frosty" berseem clover, with the idea that the clover would grow under the wheat and then take off once the wheat was harvested. The clover would be my cover crop, smothering weeds, fixing nitrogen, and be winter killed, saving tillage ahead of next years soybeans. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate. We got a little bit of moisture right after the wheat and clover were drilled, enough to germinate the clover which was essentially dropped onto and then pressed into the soil. We didn't get any rain for about 3 weeks and so most of the clover died out, allowing the preexisting foxtail to take over. The wheat was drilled about 1.5" deep, into moisture, so it grew well without any more rain.

That led me to drill in a cover crop as detailed above. 

We have a lot of compaction on these particular fields. The turnip and radish in the cover crop will put down a large tap root which should help to break the hard pan up.  With the same goal in mind we hired a neighbor to disc-rip the ground about 24" deep. We're hoping that both of these things will help break up the hard pan, a problem that leads to a lot of foxtail, which likes "wet" compacted soils.

 It looks ok; while it's growing nicely, and should continue to do so well beyond the first hard frost, the stand is really uneven. I have some ideas on why that is -

The grain drill isn't meant to put in a low seeding rate through the main box without putting in half speed gears. With these gears the drive shaft turns at half its regular speed, this lets you double the width of the seed cups, allowing for better seed flow through the drill. I bought a set, used, but turns out they were for a slightly different serial number. By the time I got the right part there wasn't enough time to spend on making a tool that would let me install the gears. 

Short version - tough to put a small amount of differently sized seeds through a small slit. End result - ok. Next time will be better.

Taking out the smaller of these two gears is difficult because there is a roll pin that is driven through the gear and shaft. Trying to get a punch perpendicular to the shaft while leaving enough room to swing a hammer is a challenge. I'm going to try to use an air hammer with a 1/4" punch, that might be the way to get it done.

The more I think about it I'm pretty sure the air hammer will do the trick. It won't get worked on until next spring, something to look forward to I guess.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Ready for Harvest: Calmer Stalk Rolls are Installed on Deere 693 Corn Head

I've spent a fair amount of time rebuilding the corn head. I bought it, used, about 4 months ago. One of the first things we did was decide to replace the worn out stalk rolls with Calmer rolls, a fairly expensive upgrade. One of the main benefits of the new rolls is that they'll chop up the old corn stalks so that the following year there won't be so much residue that will plug up my row cultivating.

Before putting in the new rolls we stripped the head down and identified, then repaired/replaced, worn parts. We decided that the Calmer sprockets and gathering chains weren't worth the extra $1000/row. Time will tell; in the meantime we'll use what you see below.

In addition to the things I mentioned in the above video, I did (for the first time) an aluminum stick weld repair on a broken bracket. I believe that bracket, which holds the poly snouts in place where they join the tool bar, was broken as the same time when the last row unit was bent, when the previous owner ran into something (a rock?).

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I was happy with how the aluminum stick weld repair turned out. We'll see if it holds up after I run the combine for a while. It's not a key structural part of the head.

In front of my finger, on the left, is a nut I welded onto the broken off stub of the hex head flat drive screw that used to be in the spot where the newly installed, and silver, screw is now in place. It's just behind the new nut and slightly under the gathering chain. Prior to welding, the nut was exactly the same as the untouched nut on the right. I stick welded through the nut into the top of the broken off screw. The heat introduced by the weld helped to loosen the threads and I was able to put a wrench on the welded nut and back out the broken off screw.

I just have a few small things to adjust, and grease, and then the combine is all ready to go. The corn, approximately 100 acres that will fill about 15 semi trailers (each holding ~60,000 lbs of grain), is just about dry enough to harvest. 

The weather is favorable for the next 10 days, so starting in a week we hope to be able to get it all combined and trucked down to Cashton Farm Supply over 3-4 days, where it will be ground and blended to be ultimately sold by CFS as organic chicken feed.


When I had birds up here I would buy CFS feed in 40 lb bags at the local co-op. It costs about 10% more than the standard, Purina, chicken feed. But.... when you open a bag of each the first thing you notice is the smell - The CFS smells like freshly ground corn/polenta. I've said before that it smells good enough to eat. The Purina smells about the same as dog food, vaguely chemical.  Another point on the economics is while corn makes up a substantial portion of the feed, I as an organic producer get twice the price for each bushel I sell, compared to a conventional/chemical corn grower. As I said before, the retail price is only 10% higher for organic chicken feed. Something to think about for any of you out there who aren't organic.


I use my Huawei Mate SE phone to take all the videos and pics seen on the site. Several months ago the battery swelled up causing the screen to crack. I bought replacement parts on eBay and got the phone working again. Couldn't have done it without YouTube. 

Unfortunately it looks like I can't embed the video on the site. If you're interested go directly to the video, linked here. I'd never had a phone apart before - they're amazing pieces of equipment.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Rebuilding Equipment Crossings

We've upgraded almost all of our equipment crossings in the past few years. Usually this means widening the entrance from the road to the field to make it possible to get larger equipment safely through the ditch, by adding a mix of stone and sand, and if needed, a culvert (or two) to allow water to continue to flow alongside the road.  We're trying to make them all 40' wide to allow for the wide turning radii of both farm equipment and semi-trailers, which we use to haul grain out of the field. 

Recently we had two done, the first was a simple matter of dumping the correct fill in the ditch and smoothing it out with the little loader bucket. Dad did a nice job.

The next one was more complicated, as it crossed Beaver Brook, which is normally 3 feet wide, but can swell up to 40 feet wide after a big rain storm.  Doing anything involving this kind of waterway involves NRCS. They have a design team that works on these kinds of projects; they also pay a majority of the cost. Dad had been talking to them for over a year on building an improved creek crossing, as the one that had been put in less than 10 years ago had washed out.

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Beaver Brook passes just south of the main farm buildings on 13th Street and bisects one of our fields. Without a crossing we can't get equipment across the Brook. Even if the water is down, the creek bed is muddy and we'll get stuck.
The design of the new crossing allows for the water to flow over the new precast concrete panels, which are much cheaper than installing culverts. I was told there would need to be two 50" diameter culverts to handle the peak water flow of this stream and I believe we were quoted about $50,000 to build that design. What is drawn below, and what we had installed, was about $22,000. I think that NRCS paid 70% of that.

Once everything was approved the crossing was installed in two days by Nick's Excavating. I was the first one to drive on it with the combine. It held up just fine.

Dad posing with his new crossing. It looks really good, a huge benefit to the farm.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Report on First Year of Growing Hard Red Spring Wheat

 With all of the organic wheat delivered to Ardent Mills, in Mankato, MN, I have enough information to recap our first year growing food grade organic wheat.

One of the questions we had in early spring is where, assuming we could meet the buyer's specifications, we could sell the wheat. After making some phone calls I found several interested buyers. They all said that as a first step I needed to get the wheat harvested and in a grain bin with a fan blowing on it. Once it had dried down I sent out three pound samples to prospective buyers. I also sent a sample to Illinois Crop Improvement, who I paid to conduct "independent" tests: test weight, moisture, vomitoxin levels, protein, and falling number.

Falling Number is a basic test for wheat and flour. The falling number instrument analyzes viscosity by measuring the resistance of a flour and water paste to a falling stirrer. Falling number results are recorded as an index of enzyme activity in a wheat or flour sample and the results are expressed in time as seconds. 

A high falling number (for example, above 300 seconds) indicates minimal enzyme activity and sound quality wheat or flour. A low falling number (for example, below 250 seconds) indicates substantial enzyme activity and sprout-damaged wheat or flour.

The level of enzyme activity in wheat and flour measured by the Falling Number Test affects product quality. Yeast in bread dough, for example, requires sugars to develop properly and therefore needs some level of enzyme activity in the dough. 

Too much enzyme activity, however, means that too much sugar and too little starch are present. Since starch provides the supporting structure of bread, too much activity results in sticky dough during processing and poor texture in the finished product. 

If the falling number is too high, enzymes can be added to the flour in various ways to compensate. If the falling number is too low, enzymes cannot be removed from the flour or wheat, which results in a serious problem that makes the flour unusable.

 The numbers on the tests looked good, exceeding the minimum of 14% protein, a test weight of more than 59 lbs/bushel, less than 1 ppm (part per million) of vomitoxin, and a falling number higher than 250 seconds. Had any of the numbers been below the standard, the wheat would have been sold as animal feed, which brings a much lower price.

(Click on image to make it bigger.)

I agreed on a price with Ardent Mills based on the the sample I sent to them. We harvested the wheat on August 14-16th. After it was trucked to a bin, I ran the fan in the grain bin for about 4 weeks, drying the wheat down to 12.5%. I hired a trucker to take the three loads, a total of 160,000 lbs, or 2600 bushels, to the mill in Mankato, MN. 

After the wheat was harvested we disc-ripped the ground to break up a foxtail inducing hard pan layer, pulling up a lot of big rocks.


 Following that I drilled in a cover crop of radish, turnip, and winter peas. Next year the wheat ground will be in soybeans.

It was a successful first year growing wheat. I've only skimmed the surface in this recap - lots of invaluable experience that stays with me for now, as I'm unwilling to put the effort into writing it all down.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Latest News from the Farm: Rocks, Cover Crops, and Kernza

 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.

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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 80ΒΊ 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.
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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

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Corn is Out of the Ground: Time to Focus on Repairs

 Three days after planting I did the first blind cultivation with the tine weeder. That went well, after some glitches, and the corn is about 3" tall. It's been a very dry year; hardly any rain in the spring, no rain the last 10 days and the forecast shows a 50% chance of getting a total of 0.25" of rain in the next 10 days.

We could use some rain.

It's been very hot, with highs in the mid 90s. I work early in the morning out in the shop to avoid as much heat as possible.

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I pressure washed the disc, planter, and 7140 tractor.

The original support stand was too short. It holds up the back of the tine weeder when it's off the tractor. Attaching the weeder "leaning back" causes three point hitch to bind up when taking the weeder off the tractor as well as putting a lot of pressure on the bottom tines. I welded a length of tube on the existing stand and still need to drill some holes in it. Ultimately I think I'll get a Gnuse hydraulic top link to make this all work better. In the meantime...

I think this will work. The stand is meant to slide into the vertical sleeve - the roughly 10" long red square tube just above the stand that has a hole through it.

I bought Calmer rolls to replace the ones on the new 693 Deere corn head (not here yet) I bought. Once the head gets here I'll install them.

The old shed is getting a little crowded. (The modified tine weeder stand is in the foreground on the little welding table.)

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Finished Planting Corn

It took me three days to plant the corn, Albert Lea Seeds "Viking" O45-88-P, on 100 acres. 

I planted 33,000 seeds/acre at a depth of 2.25 inches. There was moisture at this depth, and this will give me a few days to get the first tine weeding pass done. The soil above the seed, in the row of corn, will have a lot of tiny ungerminated weed seeds in it. In the next 3 days I'll go over the fields with the tine weeder set to about 1.25 inches deep and hopefully get rid of most of those potential weeds.

The planting went well. Dad did the final tillage pass with the disc the day before I planted. The weather and machinery cooperated and things look good.

A couple short video clips from the tractor.

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A view of the split computer screen in the tractor. On the left side is the path taken by the GPS to guide the tractor (I'll save the map so I can return to the same lines to row cultivate); on the right is a seed monitor for the planter. It shows the real time data of each row of seed as well as how close I am to my goal of 33,000 seeds/acre. "Doubles" means 2 seeds getting planted at once. "Singulation" is what you want - 1 seed placed.

Our Deere 7200 Planter. It lets me plant into the rough seedbed made by the last tillage pass of the disc. In doing so, I'm making its "No-till" design work in our production system.

The 7140 Case, our "workhorse" tractor, is attached to the disc. In the background, to the right, I've hooked up the tine weeder to the same tractor (Deere 8100) I used to pull the planter. As I mentioned above I'll use the GPS map/paths I created when planting to guide my (probably four) weeding passes.

I have some minor repairs to do to the planter and disk. They'll get pressure washed and put away for the year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021