Monday, November 9, 2020

Putting Equipment Away - End of Year

After the rush to get everything harvested before the weather changed, there was one final push to get equipment cleaned and put away ahead of the cold and snow.

Dad and I got everything in. I still have to rearrange a few pieces, as well as a day or two of work to get the shed doors working correctly.  Then I'll be busy working outside on the buildings until the poor weather forces me indoors.

This was my fifth year of organic farming. Looking back, it's had a lot of new equipment, new techniques, and new buildings/infrastructure.  Several challenges - leading to frustration - but no real "failures", just enough setbacks to help me learn how to do things better. "Nothing succeeds like failure." I'm looking forward to next year.

It was windy when I shot the following video, so unfortunately the sound quality is occasionally bad.

The following is an exchange I had in the comments section of the above video. I thought it was worth sharing here.

Those chisel points are worn! I seldom run that deep with the chisel. 8" is about the maximum for me. If you can still walk through the barn, there is plenty of space ;)
We got our money's worth out of them. On the clover that we partially terminated this fall we went about 8" deep. On the ground where I have compaction/foxtail we tried to go deeper. We were thinking about renting a ripper - but couldn't find one. So we set the chisel deep. In the 5 yrs that I've owned that ground it hasn't been chisel plowed - there never seems to be enough time to do it. I doubt the previous guy did it either. The pieces that got dug up by the plow were still hard as rocks. Glad we got it done.


I'm not sure if I've said this here before but I really appreciate Dad/Gramp's (btw, that's him driving the tractor at the top of the blog/website) help and advice. He has been invaluable in getting this venture up and running by doing all kinds of work, from chisel plowing (see above video!) to moving equipment around, to offering his professional advice on business/accounting issues. He told me the other day that he's put something like 19,000 miles on his truck this year, almost all of that is from driving back and forth from Bloomington to Turtle Lake (180 mile round trip). Thanks Dad! I love you xxx, ooo.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Cleaning Out the Combine - End of Year

 There's a lot of soybean residue and dust that gets everywhere inside the combine. Mice like to eat that, and will overwinter in the combine, eventually chewing up electrical wires. Also, the dust holds a little moisture, and as it sticks in almost every little corner, will eventually rust the machine out if it isn't removed. I don't want to use the pressure washer because of the potential increase in rust. 

I've heard of other farmers who rent a tow behind air compressor (the kind that powers a jackhammer, shown below) and use that large volume of air to blow the dust away. Maybe I'll do that next year.

I blew it out with a leaf blower, then used a shop vac and screwdriver/scraper to get most of it out. A tedious job.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Tillage, Traction, and Compaction

 Interesting, and helpful, video as we get ready to do a small amount of fall tillage on the soybean ground. As I've said before, all the end rows are compacted due to years (decades?) of heavy equipment turning around on it, and, in the 5 years I've owned it, we've only had a disc on the whole field, never a chisel plow.

About half of the bean ground that we just harvested has heavy foxtail pressure. Foxtail likes wet, compacted, anaerobic soils, so we'll go over that with the chisel plow as well.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Construction Update # ? The Latest on the Farmhouse

 The only work I've done on the farmhouse this year has been to switch the romex electrical wire over to metal pipe (to protect against mice/squirrel damage). That is almost done, I'm so close, just have to run the final 8 pairs of 12 gauge wires from the final distribution box back to the panel. Once done that will give me enough safe power (I've been running everything for the past year off of three 12 gauge extension cords) to use electric space heaters to warm the small part of the first floor you see that I've sectioned off. There is no practical way for me to finish construction enough to seal off the rest of the first floor so that I can use the masonry heater (that I built) this winter. 

I haven't had time to do anything else - the farm, with it's own buildings and equipment, never mind the actual field work, has taken all my time. So I continue to camp out.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

End of Year From the Garden


I still have about 30 feet of potatoes to dig up. They're under about 6" (and rising) of snow right now. I'm guessing I'll have one more chance to dig them up before everything freezes solid for the winter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Harvest is Done

 This was my first year where I did every step involved in organic production on a group of fields, from primary tillage, planting and cultivation, all the way through harvest. In addition I did this with a lot of new (to me) equipment. I'm happy with the outcome and calling it a success.

The last field was the one I had the most reservations about, primarily because, despite all the work I did cultivating, it had a lot of weeds *in* the rows. Because of that I wasn't sure how the harvest would turn out.  After it was over all I can say is - The combine is an amazing machine. Literally finding needles (soybeans) in a haystack (weeds, soybean stems and stubble).

Before - lots of 6' tall foxtail (video here):

After - lots of chopped up residue:

Here's the video that the above screenshot is from:

After combining the last field I put the bean header on the cart and drove the 18 foot wide combine home in snow flurries, about 12 miles on the 2 lane state highway.  I parked the combine in the new machine shed until I can give it a thorough cleaning with the leaf blower and vacuum. Mice love soybean dust and residue, which as you can imagine, gets everywhere. They also chew up control wires inside the combine which are expensive and time consuming to repair.

Check out this fascinating bit of history - How they farmed grain in the pre-modern world

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Weedy Beans

 It snowed a bit right after I took the video, though none stuck around. I need some sun and wind to dry all that material out before I can run it through the combine. Hopefully in a couple of days. Once these 35 acres are combined, I'm done harvesting for the year. 

I feel like I've worked hard on these weeds over the last 5 years by growing different crops and trying different agronomic practices. Here's what I've done/will do to try and reduce the foxtail, which is prevalent in about 1/2 of the field - Grew clover/oats, sorghum sudan, tillage radish; chisel plow end rows, put in a grass waterway to help with drainage, spread lime to raise the pH. I did what I thought was a perfect job of tine weeding this year. Almost all the weeds are in the row, so evidently I didn't. 

I'm guessing that there is at least a 10 bushel/acre hit to my yield, due in large part to weeds. I'll move on. Next year this ground will be in (spring) wheat, underseeded with red clover.

I welcome the advice and support of other organic farmers. Geiger Farm, who I only know through YouTube, is one of them. He left the following comment on the video I put on our YouTube page titled "Weedy Beans".

Run hard! I have had worse to combine. Through time, foxtail will disappear, as you learn to not encourage it. For me, it LOVES compaction, low pH, working ground wet, soil crusting, and planting too early in cool weather! The combine will eat it like candy and next year is a new start🙂!


Monday, October 12, 2020

Combining Beans - First Field is Done

As the combine (a Deere 9560sts w/625F head) is new to me, I'm still working out the settings to try and get the best grain sample. The interaction of the head with the concaves, rotor, fan, chaffer, and seives in the combine is complicated.

We've always known that the end rows were compacted. Seeing how the foxtail, which likes wet, compact soil, thrives there makes the problem easy to see. This is an ongoing issue with at least half of our ground. All the heavy equipment turning around over the decades has had an impact. [punny, no?] With conventional/chemical, the herbicide would knock back the foxtail so that the beans would have a chance to get ahead of the weeds. Even if they grew poorly there, they had a chance. Now that it's organic, I'll have to do something different. It's been suggested that I put it in hay/grass.  I could have it mowed off/hayed by a neighbor, but not all the end rows are accessible without going through the cash crop. 

Once all the beans are off we'll chisel plow the end rows to try and "open them up". Next year the bean ground will be in wheat, underseeded with red clover. I might leave the clover in the end rows for a couple of years, hoping that its roots can break up some more of the compacted ground.

This slick animation shows how the crop flows through the combine. 

It rained last night, so we'll have to wait a couple of days before going back to combine the remaining 60 acres of beans. In the meantime I'm trying to get some turkey litter to spread (at 2 tons/acre or a little less than 200 tons total) on the soybean residue for next years wheat. Time for coffee and phone calls.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Do We Have a Lot of "Bot" Viewers?

 According to the "Stats" page for the site, there are about 250 views per day. Almost all of them are Referred by an "Other" URL and are using an "Other" operating system. 

Hard to tell what's going on, or if it even matters.

On the off chance that a human reads this, Hi!

Almost Ready to Combine Beans

 Hopefully in a few days we'll be combining. It's a 2007 Deere 9560 STS with a 625F head and this will be the first time I've used it . It's the nicest piece of equipment that I have.

 (click on any picture to make it bigger)

There's a problem with calibrating the header, a Deere technician is coming out tomorrow to help fix it, and I still need to get the Crary Air System (the large black duct that runs across the front of the head) hooked up and working.

Dad/Gramps and I have been spending a lot of time getting everything ready.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Moving the First Piece of Equipment into the New Machine Shed

 We started moving equipment into the new 50'x80' machine shed today. Took 18 months to have a usable space, due to design/contractors, etc.

First in was the swather.The computer generated diagram in pic #1 has some pieces 3" apart. We'll find out soon if it's all going to fit as it says. Getting enough room for the tractor to maneuver the equipment into position is a challenge.  We won't be done with the combine and bean head until mid to late October. Until then we can only put in a few more pieces.

It's going to fill up fast. The tractors, as well as the boom lift, trailer, grain cart, and trucks, will fill up the old shed (40'x120').

The swather, pictured below, is noted with tiny print in the lower left hand corner of the above diagram.

 I'm already thinking that I'll have to add a lean-to shed - outside of the one long wall that doesn't have a door on it - so that I can easily fit everything.

Crop Rotations

 In order to plan our crop rotations, I've created three groups, with each having approximately 100 acres, from the 300 acres that we farm. Each of those "groups" are made up of 4-5 parcels that are, in turn, within 1/4 mile of each other. The first of the 100 acre groups surrounds the main farm, the second is about 5 miles away, and the third is 12 miles from the main farm.

I have arranged the three groups to rotate between the three main crops we grown: corn, beans, and either oats or wheat with clover (rotated in the order listed, primarily to avoid disease issues caused by growing small grain the year before corn.) This means that once we're fully transitioned to USDA Organic production in 2022 we will have approximately 100 acres each of corn, beans, and small grain/clover every year. This spreads the field work load out, making things more manageable, as different crops are planted, cultivated, and harvested at different times of the growing season. 

Added to the above is the necessity of transitioning the conventional/chemical ground we farm to organic. This process takes 36 months from the time of the last prohibited substance, in this case Round Up, to the harvest of the organic crop. We do that by putting the ground in clover for the first two years. Year three can be harvested as certified organic because the "prohibited substance" was actually applied the summer before the first year of the transitional clover.

Here's a chart of what we have planted this year as well as the rotation for the next five.

By 2022 all the ground will be in certified organic production. We started this process in 2016.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Putting Up Lights in the New Machine Shed

 Before we start filling it with equipment, I'm putting up eight 10,000 LED lights in the 50'x80' machine shed. I've decided to run the wires in emt metal pipe to keep the squirrels and mice from chewing up the wires.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Planning for New Grain Bins and Dryer

 Given what we produce and when buyers want it delivered, we need to put up grain bins, as there aren't any here. Previously Dad/Gramps had them when he farmed with a partner, however those bins are being used by the former partner.

Dad/Gramps, using a helpful book written by John Gnadke, a grain bin consultant, came up with a basic design that I'll soon talk to John about getting built.

We want, at least at this early stage, two bins: One, used primarily for beans and oats/wheat, will be 10,000 bushels. The second will hold 20,000 bushels and be used for corn. The bins are made the same, but every year we expect to produce, by volume, about twice as much corn as beans plus oats/wheat. We'd also add a continuous flow dryer to be used on very wet corn and augers/legs to move the grain in and out of, as well as between, the bins. 

 The concept is to move large volumes of slightly warmed air over the wet grain to ensure the best quality with the lowest energy usage. Click on and read the text in the third image below for more explanation of this.

If you click on any image it will come into better focus.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Transporting the Deere 520 Flail Mower/Stalk Chopper

 We use it to mow off clover on a monthly basis on our transitional (to organic) ground, forcing regrowth, over two years. The extra growth will give great benefit to the soil; one of them is a 140 lb/acre nitrogen credit for any following crop.

Several of our fields are 5 to 12 miles away from the main farm. The mower is 20 feet wide, making it impossible to pull down the road without switching to transport mode, whereby it's pulled from one end. 

Even with what is call an Easy End Transport kit ($800 from Deere) it still takes me 45 to 60 minutes to make the switch.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Boosting My Brother: Managing Zumwalt Prairie

 My brother Jeff has been working in eastern Oregon for The Nature Conservancy for much of his adult life . This story is about his work in restoring a large native grassland, managing it with local landowners and ranchers. (All pictures are screenshots from the original story.)

"Is the way cattle are grazed the key to saving America's prairies?"

Jeff Fields stands on a ridge overlooking the prairie on a bright June day. The carpet of spring-green grasses and wildflowers looks timeless and wild. But Fields, a biologist who manages the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve, is quick to correct that perception. “It’s been a grazed landscape for a very, very long time,” he rHe points to clumps of bunchgrass interspersed with geraniums, cinquefoils, lichen, and patches of bare soil. These plant communities, he explains, are dependent on “ecological disturbance” to stimulate regrowth year after year.

Throughout history, herbivores – from early antelope to the Nez Perce horse and cattle herds – have browsed the prairie’s bunchgrass, providing that crucial disturbance. “The prairie evolved with herbivory,” Fields says.

Managed grazing is an attempt to replicate that historical relationship using commercial livestock. It has become a central piece of regenerative agriculture, an umbrella term for a range of farming and ranching practices that capture sunlight and carbon dioxide to stimulate plant growth, boost organic matter in soil, and foster greater biodiversity both above ground and below.

 Read more 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Photos of Repair/Construction Projects


A new roll up door in the side of the old machine shed

The electrical supplies I'll use to pipe/wire in the new LED lights in the new machine shed. Squirrels/mice chew through anything not covered in metal.

Machine Shed lights, 10,000 lumens each. ~ $25 per light. I'll swap out the flexible wire leads for greenfield metal cable.

My DIY design/build transport bracket for the PTO shaft on the 520 flail mower. This saves me from having to take the whole 90 lb shaft off every time I covert it to the road transport mode.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The New Pole Barn/Machine Shed is Done

 The part that I've hired out is finished. Next up is some wiring for power and light. Then I can move machines in. It's 50' x 80' x 18' wall height, primarily to fit my combine, which is ~ 15' tall.


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A New Roof - Pump House Rehab #3

 The old one was falling in. I'll eventually replace the windows and doors, rewire it, then (maybe next yr) add some insulation so I can have a 3 season heated shop space. This year I'd like to add a big metal table with a vise so I have something to weld on.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Changing Concaves from Round Bar to Small Wire on Deere 9560sts Combine

 I took out the three large round bar concaves that are used to thresh corn and beans and then started to put in the three small wire concaves that are used for oats and other small grains. 

The manual makes this seem simple. Maybe simple, just not so easy. Especially to get the concave cinched tight to the back of its nominal position. But its in, the other two should be a bit easier to do.

Dad/Gramps helped put it in and came by at the end of the above video to say hello.

Here's a short animated video of how the concaves, which are set just below the front of the spinning rotor, work inside a slightly new version of my combine. The mechanisms are very similar.

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.