Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Which Some Corn Gets Cut. (GCW 27-29)

So we find ourselves back (18 days later) Over East to try the corn again. As you may recall, we had previously needed to wait for the corn to drop below 17% to take it to our preferred elevator (Providence.) This was suddenly no longer the case. A little history: The Providence elevator was started by the "Jarvison's" and others somewhere in the neighborhood of the year 2000. The Jarvison's have a fairly good sized operation in Gray and Haskell counties and were frustrated with the distance to and unloading speed of the elevators they had to choose from. They started as cheap as they could, with all steel bins and with tractor run augers to start with, and managed to expand pretty much every year. And their attitude was basically one of, if someone wants to get their crop out of the field, we will make sure they can. So they did crazy things like accept 24 moisture corn without the benefit of a permanent drier.

So last fall (2008) for whatever reason, the Jarvison's sold out their controlling interest to the Sublette Co-op. The Co-op promptly fired "J.," the only manager that Providence had ever had. So wheat harvest comes and goes and it's really not that different for us the farmer's, other than seeing "J." driving a wheat truck instead of running the elevator. Along comes corn harvest though, and they ruin everyone's mood by saying that there is no way that they are going to put any corn over 17 moisture in a bin with nothing but air to dry it. Question for lobiwan: How often have you waited for your irrigated corn to get below 17 moisture before starting to harvest it? A: NEVER.

So as you can imagine, I was not too happy about the prospects for fall harvest. Especially because I had never intended to let my corn dry in the field below 27%, let alone 17%.

Come the last day we were cutting Rod's corn, and there was a big ol' closed door meeting at Providence. I asked Gail whether they were deciding to take corn above 17%, as I had been pretty vocal (relative to myself, you understand) about my displeasure with the new policy. She was rather vague. So on my next, (and last) load I asked her pretty directly about what was going on and so she took me into her office and told me that as of tomorrow morning the elevator would no longer be part of the Sublette Co-op and that she would (voluntarily) no longer be working there. It was actually pretty sad, as Gail had been working there for something like 6 years.

So anyhoo Dad talked to Frosty (who is on the board) the next day and he said that "J." was back as manager and that they were accepting corn up to 24 moisture again. Keep in mind that all grain you bring to the elevator is "shrunk" to a standard moisture, so that the elevator is paying for grain, not water. There is usually a drying charge on corn as well. So it is not a great deal for me the farmer to bring them corn at 24% moisture, the point is simply that I am able to look at the date and at the weather and how the crop is standing and make a decision about when to harvest, and not to have to wait for any arbitrary moisture to begin harvest.

So we cut a load, and it was in the neighborhood of 18%, so we were in business.

We did have to stop to adjust the header, though.
The next morning I decided to look and see how the wheat on Thompson's was doing. At this early stage, it was quite easy to see where I had stopped for the night on that Saturday and resumed Monday morning, (even without the big red line.)
So I decided to see how emergence was progressing on the later planted stuff.
Sort of hit or miss emergence, which is normal. Keep in mind that the emerged plants had probably done so less than 24 hours ago.

So I looked closer for the stragglers.

And closer yet. Aha!

A perfectly healthy li'l wheat plant.

And then it was back to work.

So on the morning of 7 October, we geared up for another full day.
Dad and I had done pretty good for a 2 man crew the day before, but keep in mind that this hailed-on-corn was not going to break any yield records.

Chris and Silas came out to help, but they decided to bring rain with them.

And so the Great Corn Watch of 2009 was to continue.

And Chris and I had a nice wet trip to what is now known as "Hansen-Mueller at Providence Grain."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Continuous Wheat and Frozen Edamame. (GCW 24-25.)

So, in order to get the Gray Havens to a straight three year rotation, it was necessary to plant some continuous wheat. Not only did we not have a fallow year to build subsoil moisture, but we really had missed the later summer rains over here. So it was dry. And trust me dusting in wheat at the Gray Havens was not something I was looking forward to again... At least we finally have some decent cover.

The coyotes sure like wheat stubble...

Dusty work...

The next morning I had a pretty cold ride over in the seed truck.

And a long day. At least the 'Cats won.

It was so cold because we had had our first freeze. Boyd had planted these double-crop 'beans pretty late, so they really weren't prepared.

And how the looked later in the day:

I keep forgetting to ask how they did, since they represent (almost) the worst case scenario for double crop 'beans.

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Trouble with Wind. (GCW 23-24).

So on the first day of October, having completed Rod's corn, it was necessary to get back to planting wheat. After cleaning out the drill, I had to load it the hard way:
You can see how much more weed growth there is over the season where the irrigation "spills over".

I took this picture because I had been talking to mom and dad earlier in the week about "pokes" (Anna's term). Mom and Dad (who both went shoeless in the summers as children) said that they didn't recall pokes being a problem when they were growing up, whereas now Anna would never want to go out of the house without some protection on her feet. Anyways I thought this image pretty clearly sums up the reason for puncture vine's successful takeover of Western Kansas in the years between Mom and Dad's childhood and Anna's:

And here we can see the dust building on this particularly windy day. This is really the weakest point in the three year no-till rotation I am in on my dryland. It has been 11 months since there was a crop on this field and the residue is starting to break down enough to leave the soil surface pretty exposed. The residue breaks down much faster when it is in contact with the soil, and so the areas which blow first are always the areas where the stubble got run over during harvest or later. If you have been out to help me with harvest, now you know why you got yelled at for not driving between the rows.
(You're welcome, Betsy) The stubble in this photo, however was packed down when I was spraying, as a result of the rows of corn in the circle (planted April 2009) not matching up with the rows of milo (planted May 2008). This problem has bugged my for quite a while which is why this year I started planting the corn at the outer pivot tower, so that the outside row of corn would match much more closely the outside path of the sprinkler i.e. this years outside field "boundary" should be "right." Hopefully I will be better able to match up the rows going forward. This problem on this day in particular prompted me to think for the first time that an RTK guidance (sub-inch steering accuracy, repeatable year to year) system might actually have some value outside of a strip-till cropping system (although it is still awfully hard to make the numbers jive on a farm as small as mine.)

Despite the deplorable conditions on the surface, there is still plenty of moisture for the wheat seeds. So cranking down the depth and up the closing wheel pressure a notch, (to protect against the seed blowing out,) I got back to work.

When I was done with this half of the field , I did find quite a few spots where the seed had blown out of the furrows:
Why did this seed blow out? First of all, any time you disturb the soil with tillage, including the minimal tillage necessary to actually put the seeds in the ground, you are destroying the soils structure. So every where the seed disc has run there is a strip of relatively loose soil which can blow out, particularly where it runs parallel to the wind direction. Secondly, one problem with the 1590 drill is that the gauge wheels, by running on the side of discs, effectively tramp down whatever stubble is left, eliminating what wind protection you had prior to planting from the standing stubble.
I know also that any conventional tillage farmer looking at this will tell you that they don't have this problem when they plant with a hoe drill. This is because the hoe drill makes ridges between the rows, effectively sheltering the seed from the wind. While it sure makes one feel good at the time, I would point out that all of the moisture lost out of those little ridges is worth way more money in terms of future wheat yield than what I might have to spend buying seed to replant with.What I did do was some preventative over seeding, going back over the areas blowing the worst with perpendicular rows to the wind.

The next morning got off to a great start when one of the new augers stopped working in the middle of filling the seed truck and needed some attention. This was actually a good thing, because it inconvenienced me, rather than one of our customers.

This morning I got to load the drill the easy way:

It was also a much nicer day to work.

Finally, we have a before and after shot.