Friday, September 30, 2011

Taking Canola to the Crushing Plant

There are canola crushing plants in Greater Dakota where we sell our canola. Most of the canola crop has been contracted there, so the trucks have been on the road. 
We pull in quickly, as there appears to be no line. 
Sunflower harvest has not yet begun. The harvest timing of the two crops is canola first and then sunflowers which creates a better flow of product to the plant in the Fall.
The plant crushes the oil from canola and sunflower seeds. They ship both oil and the meal  that is used for livestock feed. 
Oil sunflower seed varieties are raised specifically to be crushed for sunflower oil. The oil sunflower seed varieties carry the most oil, but are generally smaller than the confection sunflower seeds in the grocery stores.
There was a familiar driver and truck ahead of us, the semi from GriggsDakota. There is the distinctive aroma of canola in the air from the moment we arrive. 
The rail tracks carry both box cars, used to haul the meal product and tanker cars which haul the oil out for further processing. Notice that the fork lift driver is wearing her hair in braids. 
Everything moves slow and steady on the rail tracks. Cars are moving, but at a pace that feels safe. 
We pull into the probe shack where a woman's voice directs us from the office above. She will probe the canola in the truck box and in the trailer to evaluate its quality.
The day is beautiful. We would feel lucky to have this day in mid-summer, but in late September it is a bonus. 
No ice today, but in our long winter season, ice sliding from metal roofs is a real safety issue.
Number One Canola is the grade from the probe shack office. Number One quality is always the goal.
We pull ahead to the designated spot to wait. During busy canola season this wait can take hours. 
But today there is only one truck ahead and he is nearly ready to roll. There are signs everywhere to warn and direct those of us who are new to the premises and remind those familiar with the site. 
The plant, owned by ADM, has visible bins, tanks, and train, plus huge indoor spaces where the actual crushing takes place. 
The structures, combined with exhaust from the trucks and the aroma of the canola give me the feeling of being in a city. 
Agriculture goes on just beyond their fence. 
Oh my! This is the biggest grain pit and scale that I have ever seen.  
We can pull both truck and trailer aboard. Both will dump at the same time. Very efficient. 
The canola flows out of the truck smoothly.  
The tiny canola seeds have made it to the crushing plant.  
The hoist is raised on the truck box to allow the truck to empty. Farmer Fred jumps up with a shovel to scoop out the corners. Notice that the hitch on our PLG Pup Trailer has enough space to open and maneuver the gate on the truck box as we unload it. 
Gravity powers the PLG trailer as it dumps efficiently from the bottom. A semi pulls onto the scale next to us to be weighed and dumped. The trucks and trailers are weighed when fully loaded and again when empty. The empty truck weight is subtracted to calculate the weight of the load. 
 Farmer Fred has the yellow scale ticket in his third hand as he rolls the tarps onto the truck and trailer before getting behind the wheel.
We leave the little city behind. 
And point the truck toward the farm in GriggsDakota.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Canola 2011 Complete

 We combined the canola.
 It brought particular challenges this year.
We swathed some of the canola. The rest we have been straight combining.
It was lodged which made it impossible to swath and difficult to combine.
The pods were fully ripe and fragile. 
Each plant contains several stems. Each stem produces several pods. 
Every pod encases over a dozen canola seeds. 
And that is the crop we are raising.
Because of the tiny size of the seed, crack must be sealed up on our machines.
And that is one of the many reasons that we appreciate duct tape.
 The challenge of gathering truckloads of canola is the brittle nature of the dry seed pod and the tiny seed.
Remember that Farmer Fred is a big man and the machines make him look small. 
But when you put the machine onto the Great Plains, it looks like a toy. 
The tiny seed is crushed for healthy oil.
It is also made into meal as part of dairy rations, that's food for dairy cows. 
So the combines move back and forth in the canola fields 
Until all that is left is stubble and chaff. 
The combines pull around 
And line up for tomorrow in GriggsDakota.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why the Line Up in the Field?

Have you ever noticed a line up of combines or machinery in a field and wondered why they were parked so neatly in a row?
Wouldn't it be easier to stop where you finish for the night? Instead, farmers tend to carefully park the machines together.
Machinery requires daily service and maintenance.
Lining up the machinery in the field makes things handier. 
Field service tanks are often carried in the box of a pickup.
Machines are thirsty. 
 They require daily checking and greasing. Belts, bolts and settings are checked.
 It's nice to get the windows washed on the cabs. The field is a dusty place with many insects. It's important to clean up some of the dust and chaff as it is combustible in dry conditions.
 We talk things over and plan the day.
Then we pack up the equipment. 
And start the engines.
The harvest goes on in GriggDakota.