Rye Cover Crop, Old Pig Pasture

October 2, 2013

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I moved the remaining farrowing huts and mowed the rape and old hay on one of my pig pastures.  I filled in the wallows and other places the pigs rooted with my loader.  I then scraped up the manure from a hay feeding area for my cattle, and spread three loads of this manure on the pasture.

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I used an old soil cultivator  to work up the soil.  This implement is more for finishing tillage rather than starting it, but I own it and I just wanted to lightly and quickly till to mix in the manure and to ensure good soil-to-seed contact.  I had to raise the implement up a few times when some long stems of rape bunched up.  Otherwise it did fine.

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My plan is to grow organic sweet corn here next year.  I’m concerned about weeds, so I talked to an old organic farmer in my area.  He told me to plant cereal rye the fall before I want to grow organic corn.

Rye has an allelopathic effect on  other plants.  Rye releases compounds which inhibit the germination and growth of other plants.  This effect is greater on smaller-seeded plants like weeds, but less of an effect on a large-seeded plant like corn.

I read an article in Progressive Forage Grower titled, “Monitoring nitrogen dynamics in cover-crop mixtures”.  The study showed how a nitrogen-fixing cover crop such as hairy vetch was able to improve yields when no nitrogen fertilizer was added as compared to a non-nitrogen fixing cover crop like rye.  Since I plan on adding no commercial nitrogen, I thought it may be good to include hairy vetch with the cereal rye.

Unfortunately, I read it a little late to incorporate the results into my planting.  I wanted to get the field planted before a rain to help germination.  I planted it last Friday, September 27th.  It rained that night.

However, my thinking is my plants will have more nitrogen available than in the study because I have manure to spread on the field.  The rye is known for sucking up the available nitrogen in the soil and will release it back into the soil in the spring when it breaks down.  The challenge as I understand it is to kill the rye and have it breaking down, releasing nitrogen to the newly growing crop as the crop needs it.

Rye can be a challenge to kill.  The earlier paper I cited said rye should be incorporated into the soil when it’s 12 to 18 inches high.  A wet spring can make this a challenge because rye is known for its fast growth.  I’m not sure what I will use for spring tillage.  Rotovating is more popular now, and my partners own a rotovator, so maybe I’ll use that.

Back to this year.  The photo below shows how I planted the rye.  I used my 12 ft. John Deere grain drill followed by a 12 ft. Brillion cultipacker.  The cultipacker helps to break down any clumps remaining and ensures good soil-to-seed contact.

I planted about two bushels or 110 lbs. of rye to the acre.  I checked the field today and the rye is shooting out of the soil less than a week after planting.  I’ll probably post some photos in the future to track its progress.

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Hennessey Implement Auction/Winter Storm Draco

December 20, 2012

Hennessey Implement Auction

Despite Winter Storm Draco, I drove to the Hennessey Implement Auction this morning.  I purchased an old generator for $625 which will provide electricity for my farm during a power outage.  It takes its power from the PTO of my tractor.

Farrowing Huts

We knew this storm was coming, so I positioned  my farrowing huts in the hay field where I plan to have sows farrow next March.  I figured it may be one of those winters where the snow is still piled high in March.  I shut the door and window on each of the huts so at least there won’t be snow inside the huts.

Yesterday I took the photo above.  Today is below.

Winter Storm Draco


New Truck, New Haybine

May 6, 2012

I made a couple of new purchases recently.  The truck is a 98 Dodge with 4-wheel drive.  I bought it specifically for hauling my animals to the butcher.  It does have a cassette player though, so I found my old cassette tapes and have been rerocking the 90′s.

The haybine is a New Holland 488, made in the 80′s.  A friend found it for me on Craig’s List.  It’s in great shape.

I paid $8000 for the truck and $2400 for the haybine.  The truck gets terrible mileage, less than ten miles per gallon when pulling the stock trailer.

Sixty miles round-trip to the butcher with about one load per week equals 3,000 miles, and maybe another 1,000 miles picking up supplies, means I may only drive it 4,000 miles per year.  If I get eight miles per gallon, I’ll use 500 gallons of gas.  At $4 per gallon I’ll spend $2000 annually on gas.

As much as I think grazing animals are part of the solution to global-warming, using this much fuel to get my animals to the butcher leads me to believe I’m not part of the solution.  But alas, I’m part of a system.

I would love to keep all my animals in one herd, schedule a kill date at my butcher, then sort all the animals I want to cull and walk them to the butcher once per year.  This isn’t the world I live in, though.


Wood Cutting Season

December 3, 2011

It’s wood cutting season.  I’ve written before about windows on the farm.  The wood cutting window is after harvest is finished, and bedding bales are made, and calves are weaned, and cows are pregnancy checked, and all the livestock is secure in their wintering grounds, but before the snow.

Wood cut in this window is a pleasure.  I’m sure its just mental gymnastics, because cutting wood is hard work anytime, but wood cut at this time almost seems easy, because we know how difficult it will be when the snow is deep.


Mowing Hay

June 28, 2011

Ten acre field of mowed hay.  We mow around the outside edge of the field and work our way in, leaving concentric swaths of cut hay.

This is the front view of the haybine which cuts the hay.  Its power comes from a tractor which is ahead and to the left of the haybine.

This is the rear view of the haybine where the hay is thrown out in a swath.  We can control the width of the swath by moving a sheet of metal up or down.

The sickle goes back and forth quickly, while the tines on the reel pull the hay towards the sickle.  The sickle is made of individual blades which can be changed if they are damaged.  The large metal points in front of the blades are called rock guards.  They can be changed if damaged as well.

This haybine is called a mower/conditioner.  The conditioning is performed by these two rolls.  The hay is crushed as it passes through the rolls, allowing the stems to lose moisture faster.  This helps with alfalfa, but isn’t necessary for grass.


New Manure Spreader

April 8, 2011

We purchased a new manure spreader from Studer Super Service.  It’s a Kuhn/Knight Slinger 8114. It’s basically the newer model of our twenty-year-old spreader we junked this winter.  I want this one to last twenty years.  We paid $14,500 for it.

The auger on the right moves the material backwards as the auger on the left moves the material frontwards and to the side-unloading door.  The beaters, pictured below, sling the manure into the field.

I’m excited to use it.  We have two hoop buildings to clean out, and several hay feeding areas.  I want to cover the corn fields with a light layer of manure before corn planting.  April is going to turn into May, fast.


Breakdown, Relationship, No Fix

August 27, 2010

Breakdowns are common on the farm.  Can you see the broken belt in this picture?  The belt is used to drive the pickup reel for the haybine.  (It pulls hay in, so the sickle can cut it).

Dad ran up to Hennessey’s and picked up a new belt.  Neither one of us is very mechanical, so we got out the owner’s manual and referred to the diagram as we put it on.

I envisioned taking a dramatic before and after picture to show you how we fix breakdowns.  I snapped the picture, and this is what I saw.

Not the dramatic before and after I was hoping for.  At least it was fixed.

I started mowing again and hit a rock and broke a blade in the sickle.  After fixing that, I started thinking about breakdowns and fixing.

We are always fixing this old haybine.  Can it ever really be fixed?  Fixed works better as a negative, taking something away, as in… “We took Rowdy to the vet and had him fixed.”

I guess working or broken would be better words.  Fixing is the act of moving something from broken to working.

My relationship with Citygirlfriend is working.  Like the haybine, some maintenance is required.  However, I’m no longer trying to fix it, and that gives me peace.


Zerks: Getting Grease to Where It’s Needed

May 28, 2010

Greasing the univeral joint on the power take off, (PTO), shaft of the round baler.  A box of grease zerks sits in the upper left corner.

Our early spring continues.  We cut hay in May for the first time ever.  It’s ready; the grass has headed out and the alfalfa has just started blooming.  Now if the weather will cooperate.  An inch of rain every Saturday night is all I ask for.

I counted 27 grease zerks on the baler.  Some need to be greased every ten hours, some every thirty hours.  It takes several minutes to get the baler ready for baling.  I used to hate this chore, until I thought about what a grease zerk does.

A grease zerk gets grease to where it’s needed, a place with moving parts, a place of potentially high friction.  Grease prevents machinery from wearing out, overheating, breaking down.

The friction in my life is about to increase.  I’m going from being a Norwegian Bachelor Farmer to Married With Children.  This weekend is the big move.

I’ve been reading a book by Andrew Bernstein called “The Myth of Stress.”  He contends that there is no such thing as stress, outside of what occurs in your mind.  He leads a process called “ActivInsight ,” in which a stressful thought is negated.  I like it, but we will see how it does in my world.

I’m thinking of “ActivInsight” as a zerk.  Other zerks in my life are faith, family, friends, farming.  Zerks, help me get grease to where it’s needed.


Building a New Fence

May 11, 2010

I’m finally getting around to posting the photos and writing about making our new fence.  We made the fence the week after my post, “Tearing Out Fence.”

This is a quarter mile of fence.  Pictured above is the post pounder on the front of our tractor.  It is a machine that pounds posts into the soft ground without the need for digging a hole.  It saves a lot of time.  We purchased it new for $2,000 a couple of years ago.  It replaced the one we had used the previous thirty years.

Most of the materials needed to build the fence are pictured below.  We used 100 steel posts, 15 5×7 wooden posts, 12 6×8 wooden posts, 6 ten’ steel braces, 1 roll of brace wire, 5 rolls of barb-wire, staples, and clips.

The costs for the materials are as follows.

100 steel posts @ $3.95 each, equals $395.

15 5×7 wooden posts @$12 each, equals $180.

12 6×8 wooden posts @$18 each, equals $216.

6 ten’ steel braces @$14.99 each, equals $90.

1 roll of brace wire @$10.99 each, equals $11.

5 rolls of barb-wire @$64.95 each, equals $325.

Clips are included with the purchase of the steel posts and staples are relatively cheap. 

So the grand total is $1217.  Multiplied times four equals the cost per mile, $4868.  Not a cheap fence, but we expect it to last thirty years. 

Will I be around to build its replacement?  Who will I be working with?

Following posts will go into more fence-building detail with pictures and explanations.

After and before pictures.


Buying Oil from Hennessey Implement, Inc.

March 7, 2010

Dad was waiting in line.  We were at Hennessey Implement, Inc. customer appreciation week.  Milk, coffee, donuts, cheese & crackers served daily.

The line was ten to fifteen deep in farmers, eating, holding food in their hands, not talking.

“Look at this.  The five gallon pails are actually cheaper than the fifty-five gallon drum.”  I did the math quickly on Uncle Carl’s calculator.

“Ok,” Dad said.  I’ll get the hydraulic oil in pails.  But it’s easier to use a fifty-five gallon drum for the motor oil.”

I walked back to where Carl was talking to the oil salesman.  The silver-haired salesman was sitting at a card table filled with literature.  He was kind of in the way and farmers towered above him as they made their way around him.

Carl picked up a spec. sheet on the motor oil.

“Has it always been this busy?” I asked the salesman.

“I’m only here this week.  But yeah, it just never stops.  It’s steady.”

Two women navigated through the farmers and brought out boxes of donuts and a tray of cheese.

I walked back to where Dad was standing in line.  The farmers behind him were agitated.

“This guy overheard us talking,” Dad said.

The farmer held a price card in his hand.

“Ok,” the farmer said.  You take ten times $35.95, equals about $360.  Add $36 more equals $396.  The drum is priced at $375.95.  So the drum is cheaper.”

I did the math on the calculator.  “Oh, you’re right.  Thanks,” I said.

I walked back to Carl.  “Look at this.  The drum is cheaper.”

“Which one?” Carl said.

“The 10W30.”

“Ok, but look at the 15W40 and the hydraulic oil.”

I did the math.  I walked back to Dad.

“Ok.  Look at this. 10W30 is priced normally.  But 15W40 and the hydraulic oil are cheaper in pails.”

At this point, the other farmers were growing wolf ears, wondering what kind of special deal we had found.

When Dad placed his order he asked why the pails were cheaper.  Turns out it was a mistake, but they were honoring it.

We purchased six, five gallon pails of hydraulic oil for $29.95 each, and two, fifty-five gallon drums of 15W40 for $365.95 each.  A fifty-five gallon drum of 15W40 costs $599 where we used to buy it from.

We loaded the oil in the back of our truck and headed for home.

“What did the salesman have to say?” Dad said.

“He said it has the same ingredients as Rotella.

“It’s the same as Rotella?”

“No, he said it has the same ingredients as Rotella.”

“Did you pick up a spec. sheet?” Dad said.

“No.  Would you have been able to understand it?” I said.

“No.”

“Me neither.”

We  laughed.


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