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Just What Do Farmers Do in the Winter Anyhow?

February 4, 2013 5 comments

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?

 A lot!

  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.

Hoods up, lets get to work!

Hoods up, lets get to work!  (When you see it…comment as to what it is)

Under our John Deere 6310.  Getting ready to drain the oil into a bucket for it to be recycled.

Under our John Deere 6310. Getting ready to drain the oil into a bucket for it to be recycled.

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.

Making Farm Safety #1

September 10, 2012 2 comments

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.

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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
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Here is a picture of what the right side of the tractor looks like as if it were New from the John Deere Factory in Waterloo IA.

(See how a new John Deere MFWD Tractor is made by clicking here)

The Muffler is on the right, and part of the fuel tank is showing below.

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With two of us at work, a few wrenches, and about a half hour, here is what it looks like now.

Side view of new side step and railing.

Front Right of Cab with new step and railing

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.

God Bless

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