May 23, 2012

Wednesday afternoon.

Ben is out on the suntan machine, helping keep the ditches clear of brush and unneeded woody vegetation.  He has been at this task for several days, and it is showing good results.  As I was evaluating soybean fields this morning, I noticed in particular the ditch between the Steen and Newman farms… looking very nice; Ben’s best results in many years.

John will be meeting with folks from Capstan Ag tomorrow morning to evaluate the set up of the N-Ject NH3 system on the 2510H toolbar.  In consulting with our friends at the Holscher Brothers Farms, we understand they were experiencing the same control issue that John had back in March/April.  The system will accurately control the application rate of NH3 when applying a single rate per field, but whenever you switch over to the ‘prescription rate’ variable system, it applies in an unpredictable manner.  The Capstan rep will closely inspect the cables, and control units to see if the connections are correct and the set up is the way it’s supposed to be.  He can hook up a device to read the electronic signals to see if they are within tolerances.  When Ross, John, and I discuss this Capstan system, we are disappointed that we cannot make it use the prescriptions to more accurately apply the anhydrous ammonia.  Even so, it does the rate- and section-control as intended.  One of the strengths of the Capstan system is that it applies the nitrogen uniformly from row unit to row unit.   Back when we converted the ammonia application bars from a simple one-rate, on-off system to a autotrac, swath control, and variable rate system, we calculated the savings to be 12%.  My best estimate is that the additional savings we lose without variable-rate is 1 or 2%, but I have not been able to quantify that exactly.    I hope the Capstan rep can identify the problem and correct it tomorrow.  The problem is that we have no corn field in which to apply nitrogen… so we really won’t use this expensive machine again until March 2013.   It’s a long time to wait to see if it’s fixed.

Brandon went to school for his last day of high school today.  He will graduate at noon on Saturday.   He says he’s going to miss it, and that this year went by pretty fast.  That’s a pretty normal reaction from a graduating high school senior.   He’ll be at Vincennes University this fall.

Pat is out this afternoon decorating the graves of family members.  She painstakingly washes the monuments, clears away any leaves or grass clippings, and places a new bouquet of flowers.  She is very dedicated to honoring our departed family members; she does not want them to be forgotten.

Next week will likely bring wheat harvest.  It is so unusually warm and dry, the wheat has matured quite early, 10-14 days ahead of typical.  The combines are ready, it will take only minutes to pull them out of storage, connect the headers, and begin to cut.  We will also use the Unverferth grain cart on the new 9360R tractor.  One of our neighbors will bale up the straw.  Rather than spread the cut straw behind the combines, we will simply remove the spreading mechanism, leaving a large windrow of straw– ready for the baler!   Having the straw baled and removed will improve the effectiveness of the soybean drill in getting the soybean seeds down into the soil; there will be no thick mat of cut-off plant material to dig, cut, or mash through.  It may delay the planting by a day or so, but it will be worth the wait to have a clearer soil surface for the planting of double-crop soybeans.  The planting of soybeans after wheat harvest has been standard operating procedure in southern Indiana for many years, but because of the early wheat harvest of 2012, it will likely be done much farther north this year.

In remembering wheat harvest from 2011, we are pretty certain that this one will be different.  Last year, the constant rains made the fields muddy during harvest, and the combines slipped around the fields, and often the tires left deep ruts.  In no way were we able to place a truck in the field; those had to stay on the road, with the grain cart shuttling between the combines and the trucks.  The grain cart holds 1100 bushels (that’s 66,000 pounds of grain); when full, those tires rut up a muddy field, too.  We acknowledge that when we worked in a muddy field, we made a lot of compacted soils.   We surmise that such compaction is likely a factor in the way the corn is developing this year.  No such compaction should occur this year; the fields are the opposite of muddy.   It is amazing how each year brings different and unique challenges!

Philip left for the west last Wednesday, and he remains out  in Oregon and Washington, visiting some of his college friends.  He’ll be “back home again, in Indiana” for the weekend…  he is a fan of the Indy 500 race, and will attend again with his brothers, a long-standing tradition.  They are dedicated to “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.  Philip will be back here for “wheat week”.  Philip has said that when he watched the 500 from his grad student days at Oregon, his eyes got a little misty when he heard the singing of that special Indiana anthem.  Happens to me, too.

In sweeping out our largest (and final) bin of corn this week, we identified another repair job that needs done.  The horizontal auger that brings corn from bins 1B and 10A to the elevator is in need of replacement.  It is the original one that has done the job of emptying those two bins… probably 25+ years.   It showed its wear by not keeping the corn moving fast enough.  This will be another job for Jake at Montgomery Welding.

We found out this week that the electrical service by our local co-op provider will require an upgrade to fully support the new grain dryer.   We had not anticipated that change, but the folks at WIN Energy will be able to make the improvements before fall harvest.   New poles with 4 wires will be installed all the way down our half-mile lane to the grain center.   It will improve our current 3-phase service.  We have a contingency line in our cash flow to be prepared for unforeseen needs like this.

It has been cool and pleasant weather this week so far, but the forecast is for 90+F tomorrow through the weekend.

A good, soaking rain would be welcome.  I have my request in….and we live in faith, not fear.

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