Monday, August 23, 2010

The Great Corn Watch Days 63-64 and The End.

So, on Thursday, the 12th of November, it was finally time to cut the circle of corn at the home place. I was pretty eager to get going, but the corn was not. Corn headers work by pulling the cornstalks down between two steel plates (deck plates) which pop the ear off of the stalk. The stalks go back to the field, the ears head into the combine. Because of the wet conditions, the ears did not want to pop off of the stalks. Instead, the ears would get pulled down through the deck plates, stripping the corn off of the ears before it made it to the machine.

The only thing to do was to wait and try again later.
It afternoon before we actually got moving, and even then it was very slow going. While the ears were finally snapping off of the stalks, the stalks were still very tough, which meant that if you got to running too quickly through the field, the header would get overwhelmed and stop running.

But we kept at it enough to take a few loads to Providence.

And then the cavalry arrived. So earlier this fall Dan had called me wondering if I would like to try out a new John Deere 9770 during corn harvest. Um, OK! So I promptly called Louie and told him that I was going to test drive a 9770 and it sure would be nice to be able to compare it with a 7120. I then spent the rest of the fall putting both of them off because I wanted to use them at the farm where we would be putting the corn into our own bins. This is because A: I don't have another person to drive the semi truck and I wanted to run the new machines myself, and B: Both machines were coming with 12 row corn heads and I knew there was no way I would be able to keep up with the machines with my single grain cart, small semi-trailer, and tandem truck. 'Most everybody who runs 12 row machines is running 2 grain carts and three Semis, minimum. I still wouldn't be able to keep up with a single grain cart even with no haul, but it wouldn't be quite so bad.

Louie showed up first with the 7120.
So the most obvious difference right away between my 1995 2188 and this 2009 7120 was the power. The 2188 has an 8.3 liter engine putting out 260 hp, while the 7120 has a 9.0 liter putting out 360 hp--with an additional 55 hp power boost. (I think maybe while unloading?) Wow. With the 2188 I feel like I am constantly pushing the engine to the absolute edge of its capability, but with the 7120 I felt like I never even came close to using its full potential. It was especially nice in these tough conditions to run a machine which was designed with more power to the header in mind. The latest thing these days is chopping corn heads-- they chop up the cornstalks as you go-- and so these newer combines have a lot better power transfer to the front end.

The 7120 has a nice big cab with excellent visibility. It has a single color touch screen monitor which gives all machine information. I like the fact that there was just one place to look, but it did block my view of the right side of the header a little more than I would prefer. I thought they did a nice job in presenting all of the information on the single screen in a orderly, easy to read fashion. What little navigation I attempted through the menus was also pretty straight forward.

I didn't love the joystick controls. I felt like the embedded soft keys were a little vague to use. This was especially true of the auger on/off switch. There were a couple of times when I didn't press down quite hard enough to activate the auger. This wouldn't be a big deal, but there was no audible alarm to tell you that the auger had been switched on. Unloading on the go at 4-5 mph, I need to know that the auger has switched on or off without having to watch it constantly.
I thought this was especially odd since everything else I did in this machine was accompanied by cool Star Wars-esque sound effects.
The controls on the joystick were also a little too big in my opinion. There is this trend in the design of these thing to make the switches bigger and bigger, and they always talk about in the literature about how the controls are easy to use with gloves on. While I might run the machine with gloves on for a short period if I am having some sort of trouble which requires me to be hopping in and out of the cab constantly, 99 percent of the time I will run a combine sans gloves. It just seems to me to be a "feature" the salesmen like to talk up which has little value out in the field and is actually a little bit annoying. I have to say I really prefer the joystick on my 2188.

All in all I had a pretty fun day running this machine.

I was very sad to have to give it back the next morning (Friday.)

We went ahead and switched back to hauling to the elevator while we waited for the John Deere demo to arrive. They were wrapping things up down at Providence, as evidenced by the unfurling of the giant tarp.

Then it was time to try out the 9770. I need to be clear before I start talking about this machine that by the time it came I was really feeling quite ill, although if you had asked me at the time I would have said that I felt a little tired. Anyways, when I look back, I realize that I wasn't really thinking straight when I was testing this machine.

So the John Deere 9770 is also powered by a 360 hp engine, although it only has a 33 hp power boost. No matter, I was also very impressed with the power on this machine. The problems for me with this combine are all in the controls and monitors. Yes, monitors plural. It was not to John Deere's benefit that I went from a machine with a single monitor screen to one with five--count 'em--five monitors.
Not only were there five monitors, the monitors seemed sized inversely to their importance. The great big monitor at the top gave me pretty much no useful information. This is actually the optional field computer, used to record information for later analysis. The Case had it's computer integrated with the single display standard. That being said, I was able to quickly and easily see all the information I wanted. The John Deere's best feature, as it has been since the introduction of the 9600 machines '89, is the visibility. These combines have a nice long feeder-house which provides very nice and clear views of the header. (If it does lead to a less than ideal weight distribution.) A major annoyance to me is pictured above and is the "auger extended" warning screen which popped up every time I swung the auger out. Cutting with a 12 row machine in corn means that the auger is extended more often than not. Having to cancel out a warning screen is not something I have the hands to do while unloading on the go. Plus, I would think the rather annoying warning alarm would be sufficient.
I didn't take a picture, but the combine adjustments were a slew of equally size and shaped soft buttons which were a little bit overwhelming. It is already hard enough to explain to someone how to adjust the fan speed over the radio in my current machine. Having all the buttons look exactly the same at first glance is not all that helpful. I did like the joystick better in this machine, although it also suffered from being a tad over sized. Luckily for me, the header auto height was enabled, because the header up-down controls are opposite in John Deeres than in Cases.All in all I had a great time testing these machines. The most interesting thing to me is that I no longer think of the new generation combines as being overpriced ($275000+.) These are incredible machines which take harvesting to a whole new level.

Anyhoo, we filled up all available bin space at the farm, so I grudgingly relinquished control of the 9770 to Chris and climbed back into Swheatie.
Dad drove the tandem down to Providence, but didn't make it home.

So the next morning (Saturday the 14th of November) I backed the grain cart out of the shed to take the last of the corn to the elevator. The Great Corn Watch had come to an end. 64 days later.

Anna shuttled Poppa and I over to the Gray Havens so we could finish milo harvest.

Continuing in my sickness induced malaise, I managed to cut a whole load without testing the moisture.

I knew Mark was done with his harvest, so I called and asked if he wouldn't mind taking a load or two in so I could be sure to finish up.

Reeve's went ahead and took the first load which was over 17, but said no more. Providence said ok, though and we were able to finish up without a hitch.
And that was the end of farmin' 2009.

Monday morning I was diagnosed with strep throat.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In Which Wheat Gets Planted (GCW 56-62.)

So here we are to Wednesday the 4th of November, and it is finally time to plant the circle Over East. But first, we had a very special event. The last tire repair of the year. Which brings us to the grand total of... 16! Congratulations, betsyann! Spot on!

Now let's plant some wheat!

There was a slight snag.
I'd never clogged this drill before, so it took ,me a little bit to figure out exactly how to take the seed tube apart.
And when I got back in the tractor it was overheating. Apparently I forgot. So then I got to take the tractor apart. Unfortunately I didn't quite get it figured out before I had to go to town for the play's last dress rehearsal before the last three performances.

So the next morning I was still looking for the source of my leak. I also had the vague feeling of deja vu.

Turns out it was an itty bitty hose which was leaking. This is after I took the hose off.

And so I was back at it.

I went ahead and planted the TAM 111 on the north side where the volunteer wheat was. I wasn't really sure if the volunteer would make it through the winter since it had already jointed, and I figured that we had a whole quarter planted up by Boots's so we would have plenty even if we had to cancel this field for Certification. It's not like there could be any scenario under which I would suddenly need an incredible amount of TAM 111, right?
So I spent the day planting.
With the time change, I was able to work until after sunset before I had to leave for the musical.
The next morning (the 6th) I took a load of milo in (Chris and Dad were working on the milo while I planted)...
...and went back to planting.

The day ended pretty much, nay, exactly the same.
As I was taking in a truckload the next morning, I noticed that someone had had a very, very bad day yesterday. Nothing says bad day like a hopper-full of milo dribbled out over a half mile on the road.

On the way back I stopped to fix the lights on the trailer, which didn't want to stay on.
Luckily I keep a nice stash of zip ties in the 8100.

Then I went over to help Dad and Chris move to the far side of the field at the Gray Havens.

It was the best milo harvest ever. Really.

And my wheat I had dusted in was coming up nicely.
All done planting wheat (again on NOVEMBER 7th) I got to come back over and run the combine just as the sun was setting. And I promptly slugged the rotor.
While I was checking the belts in the back I found that a hydralic hose was leaking.
I took this picture hoping it would show me where the leak was. It did not.

And then I went and played the last show at the college. The next day was Sunday, but I decided I had better go get the combine operational.
Yeah, I slugged it all right.
I even got to get out the big 'ol de-slug-in' wrench.

On Monday I was looking forward to finishing up milo harvest. Nobody had bothered to shut the shop doors in like a week, and so this owl had decided to move in.

It sure would be nice to get the milo done.

But it wasn't to be.

So the next morning (Tuesday the 10th) we braved the muds of Gray County to retrieve the combine and grain cart, since it was a little drier back home.
It was a long, muddy drive.