Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Steel Grain Bins Gain Hopper Bottoms

I am sure you've heard it said, "If these walls could talk..."
On grain farms it's the storage facilities that could tell the story of the farm.
They stand by in every season.
Waiting for the crop.
Watching the years go by.
Protecting the fragile food that they contain.
Every small town of the prairie has one or more grain elevator for the storage of commodities. The first ones were built when the railroad began steaming across the land. 
Granaries and bins could tell stories of good years and bad, of drought and drown out, of changing needs and materials. They know the success and failures on the farm.
Farmers have laughed and cried as the bins stand still and silently watch the saga of the American farm unfold.
Although these bins seem to think that Lindsay is a husky giant. How rude! 
Historically, GriggsDakota has been a farm that raises small grains. In more recent times the crops have expanded to include corn, soybeans and edible beans. Genetic improvements have allowed us to raise these crops despite our short growing season. As this was evolving, we installed a couple of hopper bins on our farm. This year we decided to install a few more. We raise seed soybeans for Pioneer and they had a cost share program in place for seed growers. As I have asserted before, farmers are cheap, so their program makes it a great time to upgrade.
 The hopper bottoms make loading and unloading a faster process. It makes cleaning the bin out simpler. 
It means we can get truckloads of seed, plant the crop and quickly haul in seed for a different crop. We can harvest the barley, air dry it with the fans, then haul it out before harvesting beans or corn.
These bin bottoms are manufactured nearby in GreaterDakota 
The spokes that hold the bottom of the hopper steady remind me of the spokes of the wagon wheels that brought the pioneers across the Great Plains.
If the pioneers could see what their hard work led to, I believe they would be astonished. 
The need to pick up the pace on the farm and push the growing season has been enhanced by technology including fans and vents that can be easily installed on the hopper bins. 
The set up crew arrived recently to convert these three bins. 
 They brought a portable crane  to lift. Steel bins are relatively light weight structures, but unwieldy.
I could hardly believe this was going to work. 
Wasn't something going to tip or break? I felt better realizing that it wasn't very windy.
The first bin was installed and all went well.  
The hopper bottoms were installed on the cement pad that had served as the bottom of the bin. 
Then the bin was reassembled on the hopper bottom
Everything is bolted down and the electrician came to do the wiring and install the fans. 
The old bins are much taller on their hopper bottoms. Their capacity and usefulness has increased. Stoically, they stand by and say nothing. If the bins could talk, what a story they could tell of GriggsDakota.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What a Combine with Tracks Can Do

Farmer Fred has been running the CaseIH 2388 combine with tracks through Winter Wheat and Barley harvest and I thought you would like to see what it can do.
There were water birds on a small slough in the field.
As I approached, some took to the air.
Other birds were determined to stay on the ground and eat their dinner, but eventually were scared away by my presence.
 This area of the field is not a slough in a normal year. In fact the Spring Wheat was planted where the water is standing.
The heavy rains, much of which fell in August, did not  keep the wheat from maturing and producing a crop. The tracks on the combine allowed Farmer Fred to harvest all the wheat in the field. The combine has not been stuck and we hope it never will be. 
 Over hill, over dale he just leaves a muddy trail. 
And the harvest keeps rolling along. 
Farmer Fred is satisfied with the tracks on his combine. He is able to complete the harvest of each field with one pass. This saves time and headaches.
 The recent rains have been sprinkles and some rains have missed us altogether. The ground is  much firmer in most places than it was when combining began, so we continue.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Yes, She is 106!

My great aunt Iris celebrated her 106th birthday yesterday. She is the oldest person I have ever known. This is my favorite picture of her. 
Iris celebrated her birthday with sandwiches, garden tomatoes, rhubarb sauce, plus cake and coffee. We sang, she laughed and enjoyed the fuss, even though she feels she doesn't deserve it. She says that she is an "aberration," and I cannot argue with that. Iris has been deviation from the normal state of a person born in 1905 for several years. The normal state of someone born 106 years ago is not something we generally celebrate. However, I like to remind her that she is not just an aberration. She is much more than that. Although she has never been married or had a child she has, by default, become the matriarch of a family that loves her. Her mind is still sharp and memory sound. Her thirst for life remains unquenched. An aberration such as this is a gift to all.

Friday, August 26, 2011

August's Final Friday

I went out to take photos of empty barley fields last night.
Farmers favorite way to see their fields this time of year is empty. 
An empty field means grain in the bin. 
The combine left a ribbon of barley in the stubble for me to enjoy. 
I'm tired tonight. This week has been a grind as I have prepared and delivered over 100 bag meals to our fields. Twice each day I hauled the cooler and the box of bags to wherever the combine crew was working. It has been a labor of love and I am not any more tired than anyone else on our crew. 
It hit me then that this would be the final Friday of August. Next week Fall will arrive with September in GriggsDakota. 
 The thought made me turn and enjoy the last of the sunlight.
I made Butler promise to go on walks with me every day, even when we are tired.
 Sheyenne knows to enjoy the green grass. Our abundant rain has made her Summer grazing sweet and plentiful.
The wind was blowing, through the evening, probably bringing a rain shower. Instead of studying the clouds I noticed how beautiful the ripples in the water are.  
The straw became too tough to combine before dark. The barley we are now combining was seeded after Memorial Day and is not dry, but going into an air bin. 
Summer is short in GriggsDakota.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Barley Harvest Underway

The barley was ripe and ready to harvest as we were finishing the winter wheat.
We are straight cutting it this year, meaning no swathing. The ground is too wet and swathers would not be able to get around the fields. Straight cutting is preferable whenever possible. It eliminates a pass over the field, reducing fuel and machinery costs and there is less chance of the barley sprouting when it is standing on its straw.
We are using our grain cart and keeping the trucks on the edge of the road or in a dry corner of the field near the trail. 
The barley yield has been inconsistent and we attribute that to rain (too much or way too much) and soil type. Sandy soil is producing well this year because of the rain. Some of our better land got bogged down and was less productive. 
The barley was hurt by our July heat and the test weight is low. Everything else looks good. It will probably be accepted as malting barley which is a point of pride in GriggsDakota. 
The wind has blown tree branches off some of the tired old trees in the shelter belt. I jumped out to pull them back into the row, so that the combines can pass unimpeded.
The field edges are treacherous, but if you don't work the field to the edge it becomes a source of weeds on the land.
This field contains more mud and water than we have ever seen here and we have been glad every day for the duals, rear wheel assist and tracks that we have on our combines.
Working the edge of the field means that sometimes the combine sinks into the mud.
After unloading the hopper, the combine was able to drive out of this sticky mess on its own power saving hours of time and frustration.
There has been water for the combines to drive through on every day of harvest.
The grain is going into an air bin, although it is nearly dry enough to store. 
It we have good weather, barley harvest will continue into next week.
But, of course, there is rain in the forecast, so we will wait and see.