Wednesday, May 19, 2021


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Show and Tell (or Complain, You Decide): Yetter 6200-184 Tailpiece/Closing Wheel


From a relevant thread on the New Ag Talk Forum:

Before buying ANY closing wheel, or even using the OEM wheels, release the spring pressure on your tailpiece and try to move the tail piece from side to side.

As the center to center distance at the tightest point on most closing systems should be just a tad more than your seed depth especially for corn, if you can move your tail piece more than maybe 1/4" side to side THAT should be where you put your money before buying any brand of closing wheels and before planting any $150-$300/bag seed!!!

Lateral movement of the tailpiece means that your closing wheels are not centered over your seed slot much of the time.

The last 7200 was manufactured around 1996 or 18 seasons ago. Most are over 20 years old. The 7200 OEM tailpiece was manufactured out of relatively thin sheet metal.

Most 7200 tail pieces I've seen should be replaced before putting one seed in the ground.

The idea that people will plant hundreds of acres of expensive corn seed but balk at the idea of spending $50-75/row to replace or rebuild the closing wheel tail piece on their 20+ year old JD 7200 or 7300 planter defies logic.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Spices: I'm Glad I Learned How to Cook

 I'm still dragging a bit after getting my J&J/Janssen Covid-19 shot, so staying inside and doing something comforting is what I want to do.

I like to make, and use, spice mixes. I noticed I was low on a few and decided to fix that. I started with Garam Masala.

I buy bulk spices online and store them in Mason jars.

Recipes for almost every mix are online.

I toast the spices on the stovetop. Once cooled I'll grind them into a powder.

Next up is making "Chinese" 5 spice powder and Baharat.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Digging Up a Tree Stump

After I got the new adapter that allows me to attach my skid steer "quick attach" style rock bucket to the Deere model 741 loader, I wanted to test it out on something. 

A couple of summers ago when we had tornado like straight line winds (a derecho), a big pine tree blew over right next to my house. I cut up the trunk soon after but the stump remained.

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Next up for the rock bucket is digging up two big, how big is hard to say as they are mostly buried, rocks, maybe 3 foot diameter?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

A Beautiful Day: Time to Walk Around the Farm and Talk


Working New, Rented, Pasture and Tillable Ground

 The neighbor to the north of us offered us the chance to rent about 28 acres that's been in their family for generations. There's about 15 acres of "tillable" and 13 acres of hilly "hay" ground. I've been working to get them into organic production.

In short: The tillable is going into corn, the hay will be reseeded and rented out to another neighbor,Rodrigo, who will graze organic sheep. 

After having soils tests done, all the acres need fertilizer (turkey litter) and ag lime.

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Dad and I used his old 3 bottom plow to plow up about 15 acres of old pasture, labeled "Corn-Tillable" in the picture above. The field is just north of, and contiguous to, land that we own and we'll plant the new, larger "merged" field with organic corn, probably by the end of May.

After plowing, I disked it twice, the first time at a 45º angle, the second at 90º to the original furrows. We're having turkey litter spread on it tomorrow. Right after that we'll incorporate it by making another pass with the disk, as there are still a lot of clumps of sod in the soil. The goal is to get the pieces small enough that I can use my tine weeder and row cultivator without them plugging up.

Side note: I'm occasionally asked about "no-till" ag. There have been a few attempts at organic no-till, though they are very difficult/risky to make work and have primarily been done at the research level. "No-till", as it's commonly practiced is reliant on herbicides (and if needed, pesticides) to kill weeds as well as the cover crops that are grown before and after the cash crop. For me, right now, no-till is incompatible with staying organic. In the meantime I minimize tillage and do my best to keep a living root in the ground, year round.


The "Hay" ground in the picture at the top of this post was reseeded with oats, medium red clover, and Organic Pasture Mix.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Spring Wheat (and Clover) is In the Ground

I'm happy with how it went, aside from getting stuck twice. I have a few bags of wheat seeds left over, probably 5% of the total - getting the seed drill to meter properly is a challenge. I need to bring the truck as well as the tractor and seed tender home as they are still in the field about 12 miles south of here.

With a bit of luck I'll have some food grade organic wheat to harvest in August. The clover will really take off once the wheat is gone. It will be my nitrogen fixing, soil building cover crop - one that winter kills - ahead of 2022's organic soybean planting.

I still need to finalize where I'm selling the wheat. I hope to have a signed production contract in the next week. 

UPDATED 5/13/21: Ardent Mills will buy the wheat for $13/bushel. I'll harvest the wheat in August, put it in a grain bin and run air over it for a week or so and then send them a sample. If I meet their specs, one of which is a protein level of 13%, I'll have the roughly 3,600 bushels (or 210,000 lbs) of organic food grade wheat trucked to their mill in Mankato, MN.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Fertility: How Much Turkey Litter to Put On

 A friend, Rodrigo, asked me some basic questions about fertility for organic corn. I emailed a response to him and then thought it was worth putting it on the site as well.

Copy and Paste =>

Hi Rodrigo,

It turned out that I had more to say on the subject... You might already know all this. But if nothing else I find that it clarifies my thoughts when I explain what I do to other people.


This is what I do to figure out how much fertilizer I need. A rough estimate is 1 pound of N for every bushel/acre of corn you want to grow. In my case I estimate 140-150 bushels/acre. So I need 150 lbs/acre of N for that year.

First I subtract any nitrogen credit that I get from growing clover the previous year (See this on our rotations).  I conservatively estimate that I’m getting 60 lbs/acre of nitrogen from the clover that I underseed my wheat with in the growing season before I plant the corn. A good chart on legume nitrogen credits is this one, from U of Wisconsin. It's in a pdf called "Nutrient Management Fast Facts", linked here

I found out from Jennie-O what the nutrient content of the litter they provide is. Every year it’s slightly different, but it’s usually about the same.
Last year they told me this - 

The average for 2017 was:

  • Nitrogen    51 lbs per ton
  • P2O5        41 lbs per ton
  • K2O        30 lbs per ton
  • Turkey litter runs about 3 pounds S per ton, and averages ~0.11 pounds Boron per ton

The other final piece is that only a certain percentage of the N is available to the plant the first year.  It’s somewhere between 45-70%, depending on how soon you incorporate it into the soil after it’s been spread.

(Chart below is from Calculating Manure Application Rates | UMN Extension)


To summarize:

I want 150 lbs/acre N to grow 150 bushel/acre corn.
I reduce that by 60 lbs/acre N, the credit from the clover.

So I still need 90 lbs/acre of N from turkey litter/other sources of fertilizer that aren't "synthetic".

I decide to put on 3 tons of turkey litter/acre, and this (from the info provided by Jennie-O) has:

3 tons x 51 lbs/ton = 153 lbs of N
I take the middle value of how much is available the 1st year, 60%.

60% of 153 = 91.8 lbs

So I’m getting 91.8 lbs from the turkey litter plus a 60 lb credit from the legume, giving me roughly 150 lbs of N.

If you didn’t have the clover you’d have to add more turkey litter. BUT, many places already have too much phosphorus in their soils and turkey litter has plenty of phosphorus in it. Jennie-O is legally required to have soils tests done, that the farmer pays for, that shows that the soils that are going to take the turkey litter don’t have too much phosphorus, which is a pollutant, running into the water.

I’ve been told that for organic rotations the best thing to do is continue to grow legumes in a rotation to build up N naturally as well as increasing the ability of the soil to “mineralize”, or create, more organic matter that feeds the microbes that in turn excrete more plant available N.  A kind of manure from bacteria that the plants then eat.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Putting the Seed in the Ground is the Easy Part

 We just finished the third day of drilling spring wheat and clover; Dad makes a pass with the disk to kill any weeds as well as smoothing out the chisel plow furrows from last fall and I follow right behind him with the seed drill.

For the most part it's gone well: 55 acres done and I still have about 35 acres to drill. Dad disked that today and its still a little wet so I'll wait until tomorrow to drill the final bit.  The only real question at this point is if I've calibrated the drill correctly: am I going to run out of or have extra wheat seed? The drill settings shown in the charts of the operators manual are only a "suggested starting point".

The not so good things - from the perspective of the guy doing it - getting the drill stuck (twice) and having to dig/yank a giant rock out of the ground with a shovel, chain, and truck. (The adapter plate that will allow me to use the rock bucket on the big loader to dig out some tough rocks is sitting in Eau Claire, WI, waiting for me to pick it up.)

I'm learning how to improvise.

When I got stuck the 2nd time (shown in the video below) it was at the end of a long day. It happened at the end of a 1/2 mile field and from there it was another 2 miles back to the truck. It was starting to rain and getting colder; I only had a t-shirt. If I couldn't get the unhitched tractor unstuck from the muddy ruts it was in, I had long walk to my truck.

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In order to hitch the tractor back up you need to support the heavy tongue so you can back the drawbar on to it. I was pretty proud of my 2 board, 2 rock prop.

The exposed part of this rock was the size of a football. Tip of the figurative iceberg. It probably weighed 150 lbs.  I ended up getting a chain around it, pulling it out of the hole I'd dug and over to the edge of the field.

p.s. The next morning I pulled the stuck drill out.