Posts Tagged With: harvest

Not Your Grandpa’s Combine

There is so much more to farming than you’d ever think.  I’ve been here for eleven years and I’m still amazed.  Last week I had a great time visiting a neighbor’s farm to see how they calibrate their combine monitor for accurate harvest data– and believe me, this is not your Grandpa’s combine!

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

A combine’s monitor senses the grain coming in and records how much is being harvested.  This lets you know right then how well the field did.  On Bray Farms, Brad used this field to test two different brands of seed, filling half his planter with each type.  Now as he harvests he can see exactly how well each brand did.

That is, he can see exactly if his monitor is working correctly.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

To calibrate the combine’s monitor Brad first harvests a small sample of corn.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

He gets a reading from the monitor,

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

and then unloads the corn into a weigh wagon equiped with scales.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This wagon belongs to Cory Robinson of CR Seeds & Services.  He’ll be busy this fall taking it to many farm fields to calibrate monitors and checking to see if the seed he sold is working well for his customers.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Now the wagon weighs the corn as well.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

And Cory will check the grain for a few other things while he’s at it.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This tests the percentage of moisture in the corn.  Usually the places you sell corn to want “dry” corn, about 15%.  Brad’s was measuring closer to 19%, which means he’ll need to dry it before it can be sold.  As fall progresses the corn will dry out in the field and less air drying will be necessary.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Cory also uses this little thingamajig (technical term) to find the test weight of the corn– also important when you sell the grain.  Once the tests are done Cory unloads his weigh wagon back onto Brad’s semis, which take the grain back to the dryer.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Then Cory gives Brad the numbers to put into the combine’s monitor.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

Look at the last line.  The second column tells what the combine believes the total weight of the load to be. A simple click to the third column allows Brad to input the weigh wagon’s results.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

And the monitor will calibrate itself in just a moment to give you the most correct results.

There is so much to harvest! Here a farmer calibrates his combine's monitor for accurate data.

This was Brad’s third test (bottom three rows– top two are from 2014) and the total was 3 pounds off– 0.0%.  The monitor will retroactively change the data from whatever has already been harvested and Brad will have accurate maps he can use to submit to his insurance agent (insurance is based on a five year average for a field), use to plan how much grain to sell, and compare to his planting or fertilizer maps to see what seed is working well and what nutrients the crop may need.

This modern world of agriculture is pretty cool.

Categories: Farming | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Own Front Yard

While we wait for the ground to dry out and harvest to kick into high gear I’ve been using my new camera (the old one was dropped one too many times!) to capture the beauty in my own front yard.

My own front yard. The beauty of fall #harvest15. {}

As we drove to church yesterday I noticed the balconies on a set of apartment buildings.  Small platforms, maybe 4 x 6 feet where families store a bicycle or two, maybe a potted plant.

My own front yard. The beauty of fall #harvest15. {}

Making me very grateful.

My own front yard. The beauty of fall #harvest15. {}

Farming is more than a career.

My own front yard. The beauty of fall #harvest15. {}

It’s a lifestyle.

My own front yard. The beauty of fall #harvest15. {}

And a pretty amazing one at that.

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When is An Inch of Rain Welcome in September?

Rain during spring planting can be looked on as a good thing; rain is necessary for crops to grow. But rain during harvest?  All it does is slow you down.

So when is an inch of rain a welcome blessing in September?

When the combine runs a board through the head while driving through the field and you have to tear the whole thing apart to fix it.

Rain 3

When the part you need to fix the combine head has to be shipped from three states away.

When your farmer signs up for professional development programs and must travel to D.C. during prime harvest time.

Rain 2

When you really, really, really need someone to fix the dishwasher.

When you really, really, really need someone to wrangle the kids.

When we’re all tired of family dinners consisting of Subway sandwiches at the edge of a field.

Rain 1

When the average amount of sleep you’re farmer has had per night is less than the number of days since you saw him last.

When God sends the rain and there’s nothing you can do about it anyway!

Categories: Family, Farming | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Harvest Humor

Question.  How do you move corn from one grain bin to another?  Answer.  Not easily.

When we take corn from the field the combine harvests it,

How a harvest crew travels! {}

the combine unloads the corn into the cart,

Harvest photograph

the cart unloads into the semi,


and the semi unloads into the grain bins.

But moving corn from bin to bin isn’t something we’re set up to do easily.  So when we needed to move some grain around Daddy planned for a full day of unloading grain into the semis the way we do when we take it to the elevator to sell it and then putting it back into the new bin we way we would from the field.

And then they came up with this.

On your left you see the yellow stream of corn as it comes out of the bottom of the bin and a grain vac brings it up to dump into the wagon.  The wagon’s bottom is open, allowing the corn to dump right into the next auger, which transports it across the lot into the semi.  The semi’s bottom is also open, dumping corn into another auger, which then lifts the grain up into the proper bin.  The tractors are there to provide power for this little operation.  They have hook ups in the back that allows them to transfer energy from their engines to the augers.

A nicely set up operation might have a grain loop to accomplish this with much less effort.

But where’s the fun in that?!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thankful for the Harvest

I love Thanksgiving!  So many things to be thankful for!  I have a happy, healthy family, warm home, good friends, AND… lots of food on my table!  In a time set aside for being grateful for a bounteous harvest, I think it also makes sense to be thankful for those who grew that harvest!

Thankful for the farmers that grew the harvest!  {}

This is the wheat harvest on our farm.

Everything on your Thanksgiving table, from yams to cranberries to the turkey itself was grown by a farmer.  Actually, most everything on your table everyday was grown by a farmer.  Fruit Loops?  Yep.  Cream cheese?  Yep.  Popcorn, salad dressing, crackers, ice cream, maybe even some of the ingredients in hot dogs. 😉

Thankful for the farmers that grew the harvest!  {}

This is Daddy hauling corn to the elevator. Just one piece in the grand scheme of groceries!

And besides all that, did you know America has the safest food supply on the planet?  Ever.

I might check to see if I’m choosing all beef hot dogs, but I’ve never worried that I’m actually purchasing horse meat instead.  I get annoyed if the milk I buy is too close to its expiration date but I don’t worry that it has been watered down before it lands in my cart.  I don’t wonder what was processed in the plant along with my Cheerios and I trust that the nutrition facts printed on labels are actual facts.

Yes, there are recalls from time to time.  A few people each year may even die from food disease.  This is heartbreaking.  It’s also a big deal.  Why?  Because it’s so rare.

Thankful for the farmers that grew the harvest!  {}

This is a soybean plant, safely growing on Marshall farms!

Guess what else.  America also has one of the most abundant food supplies in the world.  Ever.

Sure, the stores sell out of milk a few hours before a snow storm moves in.  Oh the horror.  I’ve gotten frustrated because the baby food options were sadly lacking at a small Wal-Mart.  My life is so tough.  The point is you’re not likely planning back-up menu options just in case all of the meat has sold out for the day.  Instead you’re more likely to walk up to the produce counter and be overwhelmed at the sheer number of choices!

Thankful for the farmers that grew the harvest!  {}

Harvesting corn which will then be used to make food products like corn starch!

And its affordable.

According to the USDA-ERS, consumers in the US spend about 10% of their disposable income on food.  That means we have 90% to spend on whatever else we like!  In Italy they spend about 14% of their income on food, but the Chinese spend 33% and in Pakistan it’s a whopping 46%!  Maybe the price of beef isn’t as bad as I thought!

So yes, I’m thankful for pumpkin pie and yeast rolls and green bean casserole.  But I’m also thankful for the farmers of this country who grow the safest, most abundant, most affordable food on the planet.  And I’m thankful for it every day of the year.

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Have Combine, Will Travel

You are probably used to seeing pictures of combines looking like this: happily harvesting through fields with the sun setting in the background.

How a harvest crew travels!  {}

I posted this pic to Instagram. For more day to day farm life follow me @daddystractor!

And while this is a good look for a combine, it’s a bit overdressed for traveling.

Traveling with a harvest operation can be a BIG DEAL.  You’ve got to move the cart, the semis, the fuel trailer, the combine, and the head wagon down roads lined with overgrown tree branches, mailboxes and telephone poles.  When this bad boy heads for the highway its tires can touch from one white line to the other.  But that’s just the combine.

The head (on our combine) is much broader than the combine itself.  In fact, it’s actually 35 feet wide!  So before heading off into the sunset the head must be removed and loaded onto a wagon.

How a combine travels down the road!  {}


This is best done with at least two, if not three people.  Here you see Wayne (the newest addition to the farm) helping direct Grandpa to line the grain head up with the wagon.  Cory is on the other side doing the same.

How a combine travels down the road!  {}

When the head is properly lined up Grandpa can set it down and release it from the combine.

How a combine travels down the road!  {}

Then the truck can pull the head wagon down the road.

have combine, will travel

Looks a bit different, don’t you agree!

How a combine travels down the road!  {}

It’ll still be a task to maneuver this massive piece of equipment down the road, but at least we won’t take out every mailbox between here and the next farm!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

The View from Here

A harvested field {}

Yesterday the harvest crew descended on the field around our house.

This is now my front yard.

Could be a whole lot worse. 🙂

Categories: Family | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

More to Fall than Harvest

Fall is, of course, one of the busiest seasons on the farm.  But harvesting crops isn’t the only thing that keeps us busy as the temperatures drop.  Fall is also the time to prepare the fields for spring planting; tillage work, repairing terraces, and especially building up the nutrients in the fields.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {}

Plants naturally soak up the nutrients in the soil to help them grow, leaving fewer nutrients for next year’s crops.  Throughout history farmers have dealt with this in various ways.  The Egyptians had the Nile, which over flowed its banks, leaving new silt to plant in each season.  In the Bible farmers were given instruction to let the field sit empty once every seven years.  Today’s farmers have the resources and knowledge to replace nutrients like you see in the pictures here.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {}

This is Daddy, unloading lime with his dump truck.  Lime changes the pH of the soil, helping the plants maximize the fertilizer.  Not only does this create good crops, it also important for sustainability.  That’s a buzz word we hear a lot, but around here it means we improve the land so someday it will provide for our son’s family, and his son’s too.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {}

After Daddy made his lime pile the local Co-op came out with a team to spread the lime across the fields.  First they brought out this small loader which was used to pick up the lime from the pile and dump it into the compartment on this conveyor belt.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {}

Then the belt picks up the lime and dumps it into the bed of the spreader truck.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {}

When the truck is full it heads to the field to spread the lime from a spinner at the back.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {}

The lime is soft, like powder, and floats behind the truck.

There's more to fall than harvest!  {}

Just one of the jobs keeping us busy this fall!

Categories: Science | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Did You Know? Fueling a Combine

There are several reason you won’t see this at your local Casey’s.  Um, very often.

Fueling the combine {}

Obviously, most gas stations have a shelter over the pumps that would seriously get in the way of a piece of equipment this size.  And gas stations tend to be either in towns or along highways and not convenient to slow moving vehicles in fields in remote locations.

So how do you fuel all that harvest equipment?

With your own fuel tank.

Fueling the combine {}

Our farm has those giant fuel barrels filed with dyed fuel (for farm vehicles only), but they stay at the farm’s home base.  This trailer is a newly-traded addition to Daddy’s collection which allows him to haul fuel right to the combine.

So much easier than pulling up to the pump at Quick Trip!!

This trailer has two pumps, just like the ones you’d use to fuel your car– except at little bigger. 😉  They wind up on a hose reel, which is what you see in the photo above.

Fueling the combine {}

The tanks are in the rear of the combine and you have to pull the hoses up the ladder to reach them.  And while some pieces of farm equipment (semis) actually have two diesel tanks, that’s not why you see two hoses in these pictures.

The second, smaller, hose actually fills the combine with something called DEF.  This fluid is the secret to making our red equipment environmentally green. 

(If you’re interested in learning how this combine is reducing emissions into the air, try this previous post.) 


So now you know.  This is why you won’t see tractors or combines in line at the local Conoco.  Very often…

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Preparing for Harvest

Can you feel it?  Smell it?  I’m even beginning to see it.  That unquantifiable element that is fall.  Everyone is pinning pumpkin recipes and buying apple butter at farm stands.  I’m putting off my fall cleaning until, well, maybe spring…  I love living where the seasons change and in one of those inexplicable phenomenons, the upcoming season is usually my favorite.  But who doesn’t love fall?!

Unlike me, the farmers in my family love fall best all year long.  Because fall means harvest.

Preparing for harvest  {}

Brett especially looks forward to harvest all year.  It means long days in the combine –and snacks from Daddy’s magical lunchbox!  He’s so excited about it, in fact, that he begged to help wash the combine like our hired hand, Cory, was doing.  Daddy said he was actually a big help and really did a good job getting the dirt and grime off of the equipment.

Today Daddy will run the combine on the field next to the shed to get the engine hot enough to change oil and hydraulic oil and maybe calibrate the combine to correctly calculate yield.  He’ll set up the monitors, resupply the tool boxes, check the air conditioner, and any other of a thousand odd jobs that are involved in preparing for harvest.

Then tomorrow we begin!

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