Due to all the rain we have experiencing recently, our farm has been in slow gear. Usually we are done planting corn and finishing up planting soybeans at this time of the year but this year we have yet to turn a fleck of soil due to the cold and rain.
Rain is a good thing, and I won’t complain about getting a good shower now and again after experiencing the effects of #drought11 and #drought12, but this week was a little much.
Locally, roads have been closed and or washed out, our local hospital has had to be evacuated due to flood waters and many houses in town have had flooding issues, not to mention our farm fields are flooded as well. Not so locally, Chris Neimann, a farmer friend of mine in Nebraska, has been fighting continued snowfall and cold temps as he cares for his cattle. Indiana has been no different. Farmer, Brian Scott’s (The Farmers Life)) local water levels have been rising as well, giving his newly installed field tile a workout.
This week has been largely marked by flooding, here’s a few pics of our farm fields:
Under this whirlpool is a surface drain for our field tile. It’s clearly working overtime today.
Sadly this weeks post cannot go by without sending prayers out to those affected by the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. The factual details are still pouring in but many people lost their lives and countless others were injured. Watch the video of the explosion here, but I must warn you, it is shocking and breathtaking to say the least.
In the weeks to come, we hope to get going in the fields and begin to get our #farmerstan on but maybe not quite like this guy:
Have a great weekend everyone!
We’ve all been there. Your on a warm weathered road trip, a vacation or just out to see a distant relative. Along the way you see a grain farmer (like myself) out in his fields, working the ground, tending to his crops, or harvesting. Basically doing what farmers do. While you are watching that farmer for that small moment of time, the thought runs through your head, What do they do in the winter?
“What do you do in the winter?” is the number one question I, as a farmer, have ever been asked over the years. It’s usually followed by the joking assumption that we sit in the house and watch Oprah, Springer and Maury all day. However, Nothing can be further from the truth.
Yes, we work hard in the warmer months of the year, but what about the winter? What exactly does a farmer who cant be in his fields and cant tend to crops due to the freezing cold conditions do all winter?
Alright, so you may have saw that general response coming. So let me be more specific. In the winter, a grain farmer usually:
1.Hauls away the previous years crop from his grain bins to be sold at the elevator..
2. Works tirelessly on paperwork, closing out the year before and beginning the new year.
3. Attends meetings offered by Agricultural based companies in efforts to learn to be better at his/her job.
4. Completes all of the maintenance needed on his/her equipment to make sure its ready for the following year.
The list can go on and on.
For the moment, lets talk about #4 Maintenance. Why? Because its something we can all relate to.
If you own a vehicle, there is no doubt that at one time or another you may have had a breakdown or a flat tire. Things happen, but a general maintenance plan can help with that. Every 3000 miles or so, your car will need an Oil Change and maybe a new air filter. Every 50,000 or so miles it may need new tires, brakes or something else. If this maintenance isn’t completed in a timely manner chances are the vehicle wont last too long without having mechanical issues when you need it the most. Farm equipment is no different They need the same type of maintenance that your vehicle does, just on a larger scale. While a late model car may need its 4 quarts of oil changed every 3000 miles (for around $25-$45 at your local dealer). A tractor can run over 100-500 hours (depending on the model) before its 5-15 gallons of oil need to be changed (for $200 or more in the farmers shop). A cars tires may last 50,000 miles and cost $150 each while a tractors tires may last 4000 hours and cost upwards of $1500 each to replace (often having 6-8 tires). As you can imagine, this takes time. Especially if you have to do this type of maintenance when you need the vehicle or tractor the most.
So what do farmers do in the winter? A large part of it is maintenance, especially preventative maintenance. Every winter, at one time or another, virtually every piece of farm equipment we have is brought into our farm shop to be checked over. First we start just outside the shop door, blowing all of the dust and crop debris off of the machine with an air hose. Next, as in the case of this tractor, its brought into the shop for an oil change.
Throughout my tractor maintenance ritual, I treat the tractor much like a mechanic would your car. Like, checking air pressure in the tires, checking the antifreeze and other fluid levels and so on. After the oil is changed, fluids checked, air pressures checked, and more, its time to for a wash, some touch up paint and a wax before it leaves the shop. (Look for a future post explaining more about what we do)
All of this is done to maintain our farm equipment so it can be the best it can be. We hope the machines we use have long and breakdown free lives, just as you do your vehicle. This type of preventative maintenance along with many other responsibilities are what keeps many farmers like me busy throughout the year, especially in the winter months. So if you ever wonder what farmers do in the winter, simply stop by and knock on the farm shop door. Chances are, you’ll find a farmer inside.
It’s going to be beautiful day in late July. The morning is cool and dewey, but we know it’s going to heat up and get humid. So we get up early, get out a bunch of bowls, 1 quart ziplock bags, my Moms newly sharpened paring knives, a few 5 gallon buckets, a turkey fryer filled with water and a pick up truck. It’s Sweet Corn freezing day on the farm.
It’s been a tradition for as far as I can remember. Getting up early, picking a pick-up bed full of sweet corn, cleaning it, cooking it (boiling it in the turkey fryer if you were wondering), cooling it, cutting it off the cob, filling the bags, taste testing (for quality reasons of course ) and finally freezing it for future meals throughout the year. It’s a lot of work but it’s so worth it. The funny thing is, I’ve never had one bite of sweet corn taste like Gas, well Ethanol anyway.
Wait what? There is Ethanol in the Sweet Corn we eat?
No, there is no type of Corn that tastes like any fuel product either, but here’s a fact you may not know.
Ethanol is not made from Sweet Corn
This cartoon came across my FB feed yesterday.
At first sight, I chuckled, but after reading a few comments below it. I felt compelled to address it. The Mom in the cartoon is relating sweet corn consumption and hunger to Ethanol use. The fact is, Ethanol is NOT made from Sweet Corn at all. It is NOT made from the same Corn you buy in your produce isle or farmers market to have at your next meal.
Ethanol is in fact made from #2 yellow dent corn. Never heard of it? Sure you have, if you have ever seen a field of corn while driving down the interstate, more than likely it’s a field of #2 Yellow Dent Corn, more commonly known as field corn. In fact there was about 90million acres of it planted across our nations heartland this past spring. However, you won’t find any of it in your local produce section. Why? Let’s just say that although very few people actually like it, it really does’t taste very good.
While Sweet Corn is largely grown for direct human consumption, Field Corn (#2 yellow dent) is mainly grown for some food production, livestock feed, and to be turned into countless other things, including Ethanol, which gets mixed into our nations gasoline supplies. It can be argued that Ethanol helps reduce our nations dependence on foreign oil and increases the octane level of our gasoline all while making each gallon of gas about 20 cents cheaper than straight gas. But that’s not my point.
What does this all mean? It means that the kid in this cartoon can feel free to eat his ear of Sweet Corn without guilt. It means the price you pay for Sweet Corn at the store and the supply there of are not affected directly by Ethanol because it doesn’t come from Sweet Corn at all. It means that my family and I can go to the gas station, purchase E10, E15, or E85 mixed gasoline and still be able to freeze our pick-up load of Sweet Corn every year.
Why? Because Ethanol Does Not Come From Sweet Corn
Want to learn more about Ethanol? Click here for some Ethanol Facts.
Want to know if your vehicle can run on E85? ( Flex Fuel Vehicle). Click here.
As little as 10 years ago AutoSteer for tractors and combines was considered a luxury. Farmer quotes like
Why in the world do we need that?
Why would anyone spend that much money to have a tractor steer itself? I’ve done it for years!!!
…were pretty commonly said whenever the subject of GPS and AutoSteer were brought up at the coffee shop.
Today however is a different story. Today nearly every farmer has some type of GPS system in at least one of his tractors, complete with AutoSteer. Many farmers have a system in every tractor or combine they have and use for nearly every application you can think of.
So where did this all start? Where did the idea for this AutoSteer come from? Who came up with the idea?
I wish I knew….but maybe I do.
While checking out my bud, Tim Homerding’s Facebook page the other day I saw this pic of him plowing
And then this one:
And it dawned on me.
We’ve had AutoSteer all along!
When plowing, the front tire of a tractor is placed into a furrow which was left by the previous pass of the plow. The furrow is commonly just big enough to fit the tractors right side tires into it. Once the tire is in the furrow and the tractor is driving along, the tires generally stay in the furrow area with little correction from the driver.
There ya go, the first (very basic) AutoSteer was born! Ok, so not really but it kinda worked like one.
Although we no longer plow like Tim did in these pics, I have to admit I do miss those days. I miss our older tractors which didn’t have GPS, AutoSteer or a computer screen. However, I would miss my AutoSteer that I have now much much more.
Who remembers the Movie “Funny Farm‘? It was released in 1988 (a major drought year for the entire Midwest) and quickly became a huge hit at the theaters bringing in over 25 million dollars. To this day, 24 years later, it can still be seen from time to time on TV. The premise of the movie loosely revolves around the theory that
“The Grass Is Always Greener On the Other Side of the Fence until you have to mow it”
Heres the basic Story line: Andy and Elizabeth are sick of life in the city, and decide to move to the country. Buying a home near a picturesque town, then soon discover (to their horror) that things are done differently in the country. They must deal with all of the local characters, the local animals, as well as any skeletons in the closet. Written by Murray Chapman
Like I said, this movie, starring Chevy Chase, was released 24 years ago. Surely, due to the fast paced world we live in, people would have outgrown the “Grass is Greener” mentality and moved on to something else right? Nope. We all like to have something better than what we have, and when looking at what we want, its human nature to only look at the good parts that come along with it, effectively ignoring the unpleasant parts. That mentality rings true in this movie, today, and certainly will well into the future.
Today, I ran across a link on Facebook containing a news report about flies in the country side. A farmer who had been there long before any suburbanites had spread some manure on his field. (As I’m sure he always has). Yet spreading the manure was not seen as a good thing by those who moved in near the farm.
To quote the article;
People who live on Karner Drive say the spreading of manure on a nearby farm has made life unbearable and created a health hazard.
Disclaimer: The use of manure is highly regulated by various agencies and is not a health hazard. In fact manure is a quality organic fertilizer.
Whats the farmers take on this:
The farmer, John O’Loughlin told us he was there first and if you move next to a farm, you should expect to have flies.
According to the article, the City says:
this problem may lead to a new ordinance.
So who is in the right here? The farmer who has been there forever and has the right to do as he has done for years, or the newbies who moved to the area to “Live in the Country”? Should there be a new ordinance against something that has been going on for years before others moved into the area? You decide. Meanwhile, in my opinion this sign sums it all up.
In closing, I (as well as many others in the country) have no problem with someone moving to the countryside. In fact, I encourage it. However, I hope they take the time to know why the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. If they don’t, they just might be moving into a “Funny Farm”
Yesterday was one of the best days a farmer who experienced the drought and Harvest or 2012 could ask for. It was a beautiful day in the low 60′s with a nice breeze and it was the beginning of the end of Corn Harvest 2012.
Yesterday, we began to spread dry fertilizer on our farm fields using GPS and VRT technologies which allow us to replace the virtually the exact amount of nutrients the crop removed from the ground in virtually the exact spot from which it was used.
Today, we begin to bury the hatchet for 2012 and begin anew. Today, we turn over a new leaf, well hundreds of thousands of them to be exact, by tilling the ground and prepping it for a great 2013 crop year to come.
For generations, Farming and Ranching has been considered one of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in the US. It’s no secret that large animals can be very unpredictable, farm accidents occur both on and around the farm, and now and again there are farmer vs vehicle accidents on our nations roads. While many farm accidents are avoidable many are simply a hazard that goes along with the job. Murphy’s law. without a doubt. exists in Agriculture.
Being a farmer and a father of three, safety is a top priority on my farm. Accidents can, do and have happened over the years. Let’s just say after an accident long ago, we are very lucky to have my Dad here with us today. That being said, its understandable to say that my family is very safety conscious and, from time to time, takes additional measures to help ensure our own day to day safety on our farm.
Our latest example of increasing safety on our farm is a simple one, A right side step for our tractor.
On many front wheel assist (similar to a 4×4 vehicle) tractors, there are steps on the left (drivers side) for the operator to get in and out of the cab. However since there is no cab access on the right side, there are no steps and nothing to stand on to access the right side of the tractor. This presents a problem when a headlight needs to be changed, when washing the tractor or when simply cleaning its windows. In order to complete those tasks, I normally have to climb up the rear of the tractor, then climb onto the rear outer tire in order to reach the lights, or clean the upper parts of the windows.
That’s until these parts came in the other day
The Muffler is on the right, and part of the fuel tank is showing below.
With two of us at work, a few wrenches, and about a half hour, here is what it looks like now.
At the end of the day, I can honestly say that I am very satisfied with the step, how easily we were able to install it, and the increased safety it offers. The only thing I will change on it is the color of the hand railing. This winter, the green railing will be removed, repainted to match the muffler’s black color and replaced so it wont stand out quite as much.
Yes, this example of increased safety was relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to install, but that is exactly the point. The Majority of the most valuable safety measures are indeed cheap and easy to install, yet seem to be commonly overlooked. Another example of a cheap and easy safety measure is a simple SMV sign which I wrote about on this blog a few days ago.
Check it out by clicking here: “While Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down”
In closing, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to look around their home or at their place of work and identify at least one thing that could be a safety hazard and address it. Weather its big or small, weather someone else notices or not, you will make a difference to someone. The someone who didn’t accidentally get injured thanks to a moment of your kindness.
We’ve all been there. You are in a hurry, your driving down the road, with places to be and things to do and worst of all, your hungry. Then ahead in the distance, there is a string of brake lights….yes another traffic jam. As you get closer you see flashing yellow lights. The thought of “construction again?” crosses your mind. As you pull up on the car in front of you, you then realize it isn’t construction at all, its a piece of farm equipment doing a mere 20 mph taking up nearly the whole road making it seemingly impossible to pass. Frustration overcomes you, then maybe a little anger because you will surely be late for your appointment, or whatever else it may be. But, eventually (after what seemed like an eternity) its your turn to pass. Still frustrated and maybe still angry for being late, you might honk in displeasure and wave at the farmer as you drive by (Ill let you count the amount of fingers used). But then life goes on, you pull into your favorite drive through and order up dinner to go (Ironic huh?) and get Safely on your way.
We’ve all been in those shoes before. Running late, in a hurry, and stuck in traffic. Its common everyday right? Happens all the time and at the end of the day everyone gets home safe. Not always. According to The Michigan Secretary of State:
From 2004 through 2009, more than 1,000 crashes involving farm equipment occurred in Michigan. Of those crashes, 272 involved injuries and 22 fatalities.
In the coming weeks, Harvest will begin to gear up across the Midwest. Drivers will see an increased number of Farm Equipment traveling our nations back roads, County Roads, and State Routes as well. One thing all of these pieces of Farm Equipment have in common is a simple triangular shaped reflective sticker or panel attached to them. Like the one below. Now I have to assume most of you reading this have a valid drivers licence and know your road signs, but lets take a short quiz as a refresher.
What is the name of this Sign?
What Does it Mean?
Where do you usually find it?
I know, its an easy one right? I hope it was. Here’s the answers:
What is the name of the sign?
SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle)
What does it Mean?
The vehicle it is attached to is moving at a reduced rate of speed, usually around or under 25mph.
Where do you usually find it?
How’d you do? It was easy right?
These Slow Moving Vehicles present a challenge to their operators and other drivers alike. I personally, know all too well, that driving a slow, large, often tall and wide, piece of farm equipment from field to field has its challenges. Narrow roads, narrow bridges, low clearance on overhead bridges, construction, etc etc, are huge concerns just to name a few. However my (and other farmers) main concern is safety of the other drivers who are on the road as well as our own.
While all farm equipment legally has to have a SMV attached to it before it can be driven on the road, many late model combines and tractors have numerous flashing (hazard) lights as well as Beacon Lights to warn other drivers of their slower speeds. Still some drivers just don’t seem to notice and or respect the warnings these safety measures put out.
In my personal experience while driving farm equipment on the roads, I have been passed on the right (on the shoulder), been honked at numerous times, seen “the finger” waved my way more times than I can count, have had a few near misses, and have ran partially off the road in order to avoid an accident. I can go on and on. However have been lucky enough to have never been in an actual Tractor or Combine vs Car accident, though many others have, like this
From a farmers point of view, we understand that while driving our equipment on the roads presents a challenge to other drivers. However, moving our equipment from field to field via our nations roads is an important and necessary way for us to plant, care for and harvest our crops which help feed you and your family, as well as the world. Just like every other driver on the road, a farmers top priority is getting to the next location safely.
So next time you are on your way to work, and come up on a SMV, like a Tractor or Combine, please slow down, most farmers will try to give you some room to pass when its safe, then maybe even give a wave. Please remember,
As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down