Thursday, October 31, 2013

The hard working women at our COOP

When I did my post on combining beans, I had several pictures of hauling into our coop. I showed the elevator, the scale, the probe, but failed to show the nimble fingers operating that probe.

It might be Jill......
....or Alice.
These women have a schedule in the spring and especially in the fall, that would leave me in a whining heap. The sign on the door says scale hours for dumping are from 7 AM to 7:30 PM. The problem is when you have a huge line up like this.....
....and it's getting dark like this.....
....there is no shutting off trucks and tractors that are there to dump!!
Not if you want to live to see another day.
So these women do what women everywhere do, suck it up and carry on.
They even provide snacks for the hungry farmers going through their office.
Thanks, gals!!!! You are truly appreciated!!






Sunday, October 27, 2013

View from the combine

Last week Bruce and I started on the corn at the Ehler's farm, so named after Verda who sold us this 80 acres several years ago. It's about 4 miles from home and the last field to do. I rode in the combine with Bruce while waiting to fill the first wagon and it's quite a different sight, you sit so high in the air.

Corn as far as you can see.

The combine mows down the rows effortlessly, taking off the ear and stripping it of the kernels.
"Gobble, gobble, gobble."
Occasionally the corn head chains need oiling, that is when I come in handy because it won't run if no one is in the seat, a safety feature. Lots of farmers were killed or maimed by those corn heads, they are unforgiving.
It was cold that morning!
We never get tired of seeing the flow of golden grain into the waiting wagon.
And they wait patiently for their load.
Late today Bruce sent me over to the Ehlers farm with the tractor with no brakes and a rake to get the stalks ready for him to bale. I drove slowly and arrived safely.
This was the neighbor's field while we were combining, today it was a hub of activity. I think they heard the forecast.
There were two big combines, at least three tractors, a double set of wagons, two huge grain carts, a straight truck and a semi and a pickup, most of them moving.
An SUV drove in, the doors opened and out piled a half dozen people, it was like the invasion of Normandy.
That field never stood a chance.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Laying Brick by the seat of my pants, so to speak....

I have never had 'curb appeal', that is when you drive up to a house and are struck speechless by the beauty facing you. You look in wonder at all the lovely plantings and hardscape and think, "Could I do this at my house?" It's when you lust shamelessly after your neighbor's, friend's, complete strangers front entry.

All my work over the years has been in the backyard, when I have had parties I hustle people to the back, "But, what's over..."

"No, there's nothing to see here, come to the back yard, a veritable oasis on a hot day like this."

Maybe on the way back, they will linger and look at the paltry attempt at landscaping the front entrance. And maybe they won't.

Two years ago I was gifted 5 pallets of landscape block, cobblestone and grey brick, just for the disassembling of it. It took me a week to dig out and load, then I enlisted Bruce's aid to haul it home on a flat rack, which blew a tire a half mile up the road. Guess we shouldn't have tried to haul them all at once. But my sweet hubby took it in stride, we left the rack, drove home for tools and a new tire and was able to make it all the way home without any other trouble.

Our neighbor, Jay, came over with his skid loader and pallet forks and removed them from the flat rack and placed them out by the grove. They were tucked out of the way but in sight to remind me I now had to decide what to do with them.

Did you know that most people plan a landscape first, what a novel idea? I kept looking at what I had to work with and how I could fit it into my plan. I bought this cute little dog house for Mollie last year and made a little patio in front out of some of the cobblestone and wanted to expand from there. This is a before picture in front of our house, actually this is after I built a new planter with some of the block. Before there was an ugly old cement block planter, but you get the idea.

Between the big tree off to the right and the big dogs, nothing would grow, well, except for a few scraggly weeds. There was rock, bare dirt and weeds, YUCK!
So after two years of thinking, I decided to take the plunge and lay brick, it took me most of the summer to get started. The ground slopes both to the west, toward the tree and to the south so it was a challenge. I don't have a fancy level like the big guys do so I flew by the seat of my pants.
I used most of the landscaping block to define the bed of bushes and plants that curved around the front of the house.
I made another small planting bed with more block. My goal was to use everything I had! This also gives me places to plant flowers, if I can keep the dogs out.
 My first job was to till and rake as many rocks out as I could, then laid a bed of builders sand to make leveling the bricks easier. I started at the sidewalk and went toward the tree with the cobblestone layer.
I'm not sure why I don't have a picture of just the cobblestone layer, but you can see part of it just to the left of my brick level. I had to drop down the brick because of the slope, but I'm making great progress. Bruce's skid loader is my best friend, it hauls dirt and sand and doesn't complain.
Mollie is always there to lend a helping hand.

The third level had to match up with the little patio I'd already made in front of the dog house and I had to think on that awhile.

I ended up laying a quick line of brick from the edge of the patio to the previous level, another step down to give me a line to work with.

I did find when you lay this many bricks, you get pretty good at leveling, across.....

....and length! First time!

The most fun of the whole job is sweeping the builders sand into all the cracks, it's so satisfying and really sets the bricks. Harvest has taken up some of my bricklaying time and the weather is changing. I knew I needed to wrap up this project and put my tools away. My plan was to use all the brick but that didn't happen, it went further than I thought. So there is always next year.
Today I wrapped it up, finished cutting bricks to fit in the odd places and sweeping in the sand. We've had rain and snow and the sand pile got wet so it didn't sweep very well. I have the dirt raked to the edges and next Spring will do more tilling, leveling and then seed the bare dirt and try to get some grass growing. I have several little planting beds for flowers.
TA-DA!! The finished product!!! First level, approved by collies everywhere!!

Second Level...

....and final level. Next summer I envision this patio full of tubs and buckets of bright colored flowers and I will, at last, have curb appeal!!
It's a good thing I'm done, my gloves are plum worn out! (My back is too.)
So if anyone out there reading this is inspired to lay some brick, I will gladly - - - - offer you my worn out gloves, little bitty level, everything I learned during this marathon session and even provide oversight if you give me a chair and a glass of wine.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A volunteer fireman's last call

Today Bruce and I went to the funeral of a neighbor, you could tell Jim was well loved by all by the packed church. He was 87 years old and had a good life up until the last few years so it was a celebration.

Two of his children spoke about their life with Jim as a father and it made me wish I could have known him better. He loved his family and his God and who could ask for more? Jim's son in law also spoke, it was a long service but the time flew by as we laughed together at all the stories.

Jim was a volunteer fireman for several years in our small town, at the end of the service, all current or former firemen were asked to stand and keep standing. The church grew very quiet and then we could hear a pager going off.

"This is Cherokee County emergency services with a final fire call for Jim Hughes. Thank you for a job well done and may you rest in peace."

Oh my, that made the tears flow.

Is bad help better than no help at all, you make the call!

Bruce had corn to deliver to the ethanol plant today, he asked me if I would come and load wagons while he was hauling, I agreed without much enthusiasm.

I am not a multi-tasker, I especially am not a multi-tasker under pressure and I proved it this morning.

Usually loading wagons are pretty straight forward, put the wagon under the grain spout and fill the wagon, moving it as needed.

Today it was a little more complicated when Bruce found out the corn he was going to haul was too dry and needed to blend it with corn from another bin to bring the moisture rate up. That involved running two tractors and two bin switches.

First I had to start this tractor, because it is difficult to start and if I turn the bin switch on first, the hopper may overload before I get the tractor going. Ask me how I know this.

The auger from this tractor is running into the bin you see.

Next I flip the switch on this electrical box at the drying bin.
The corn out of the drying bin run out into the hopper of the auger that is powered by the big Deutz tractor. (The one hard to start.)

Then I start the little Deutz tractor that is attached to the auger that sends corn into the waiting wagon.

The last switch is on the bin that is unloading in the auger loading the wagon.

Then it is just the matter of monitoring the amount of corn flowing into the wagon and make sure it doesn't over flow, I repeat, Make Sure It Doesn't Overflow!
I thought I was doing okay until I moved the wagon a little too much and suddenly I see corn flowing out of the wagon onto the ground, YIKES!!!!
I'm like Chicken Little running around, "What do I do first?? Do I try to back the wagon under the corn??"
No, I panicked, leaped from the tractor and ran to the little Deutz and pulled the PTO lever.
Then I ran to the big Deutz and shut it down. "AACK!! Corn is still running out of the bin, flip the bin lever down!"
But I still hear corn running, I FORGOT to pull the lever on the other bin!! AAUUGGGHHH!!!
I raced over, hurtling the auger and a growing pile of corn and flip the lever down, silence.
But I have a huge pile of corn by this auger. (This is after I sucked most of it up with the shop vac.)

This was a big pile on the backside of the wagon, before I scooped it up.
What to do, what to do?
Run home and hide under the bed?
Pack my bag and take an extended vacation?
Or put on my big girl panties and deal with it?
I knew the first place Bruce would look was under the bed and I really don't want to go anywhere so decided to deal with it. I brought the loader tractor in and scooped as much off the ground as I could because Bruce would be coming back with another wagon anytime.
Which he did and he wasn't smiling, he was pretty ticked off, he 'didn't understand how that could happen.' REALLY??
I'm pleased to say I didn't burst into tears, Bruce even told me to go home! How Rude! You'd think he didn't even appreciate my help! I told him I didn't do it on purpose and not to scold me!!
He took off with the loaded wagon, still not very happy and I set to work filling the empty one, just to show him I could do it without all hell breaking loose!
Didn't I do a good job?
When it was full, I went home and got the shop vac and set to work cleaning up the big pile of corn, completely filling the loader bucket. Bruce came back in a better frame of mind, dumped the corn in the empty wagon so I could finish. He even complimented me on the good job I did cleaning it up.
I filled the last load and finished the cleanup, the shop vac takes a lot of work out of it.
And then there is Morris, always ready to lend moral support and remind me his food bowl is empty.

Just so you know, life is never dull on the farm.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Making our cows happy, isn't that what every farmer strives for?

With the bean harvest wrapped up, Bruce took a couple of days switching heads on the combine and whatever else he has to do so we can do corn. Life was relatively peaceful for me as all that was expected of me was to have dinner at noon everyday.

Since beans yield from 50 - 70 bushels per acre on average, it takes awhile to fill a wagon. Then Bruce would call me and I came to unload or haul to town. In between loads I could do what I wanted.

Not so with corn, it yields from 150 - over 200 bushel per acre on average so a wagon fills rather fast and it keeps me hopping. This corn was wet, about 18% moisture so we filled the drying bin, which we can do in a long afternoon, and then Bruce turns on the dryer and it takes a few days to get it down to a moisture that will keep the rest of the winter. From there he transfers it to one of the four other bins we have for storage. That means I have a few days off until it's time to fill the drying bin and that is nice.

From the field into the combine....

...into the wagon that unloads into the corn screener and from there into the hopper of the auger....

....powered by this big old tractor that has no brakes, makes setting things up kind of tricky, especially on a slope. Not for the faint of heart.
The screener is a rotating drum made of, well, screen, as the corn is rolled around and around, the chips of corn are pushed up and out the bottom of the screener so it's mostly whole kernels of corn that go into the drying bin. The fines, pieces of corn, will impede the drying and they make good feed for the cattle, mixed into the silage. 

From the screener, into the auger hopper, into the drying bin where there is a curly rod that goes around and around, into the center of the bin and back to the outside, mixing and stirring the corn so it all dries evenly.

After the corn is dried down to a level that it will keep the rest of the year, it's moved into one of the other bins that you see.
While the corn is drying, Bruce made corn stalk bales that he uses as both feed and bedding through the winter and spring calving season. Last year he put up 200 and because of the extreme Spring weather, we used every one plus a bunch of straw out of our barn before the cows and calves went to the pasture.
He rakes.....(with the tractor with no brakes, EYE - YI - YI!!)
....he bales.....

...he picks up bales and puts them on the trailer to take up to the house.

Our cows are not stupid, they follow the harvesting, they know when the crops are out and they get to go to the field to clean it up.
I heard Bruce in the field by our house on the 4-wheeler and knew he was closing gates to the road and opening the two from the pasture into this field so grabbed my camera and went out to record it.
The most impatient cows heard him clear down the field and raced to be the first through that gate.

Here comes Bruce on his trusty Honda to open the gate closest to our house.

Louie is very excited!!

Bruce calling the rest of the cattle, "Come Boss, Come Boss!"

And they come.
This is #72, a very gentle cow that I dearly love. The gate is open but she is very suspicious because there is usually an electric, hot, wire across that gate.
She just doesn't know.


"Are you SURE there is no fence there that is going to give me a nasty shock?"

"Hey, will someone come over here and go through this gate first??"

And they did, through the gate and out into the field.

Even the horses were excited, Chantilly and Lady tearing around.

And then there is Mollie, so much herding instinct...... little fortitude.
All she can do is stand behind the gate and wish she had the courage to go out and round everyone up.