Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Springtime in North Dakota!


I absolutely love this time of year. The spring sun is warming up the earth and turning brown to green, the birds are their most colorful, doing their best to impress a mate and the farmers are busy in the fields. Leaving Wisconsin we traveled…..well in separate directions. Yup, she left me again! Daisy, Dakota and I had a 9 hour driving day to the northwest while Barb flew several hours east. When the day ended I found myself in Douglas, North Dakota on the Finken/Sobieck farm and Barb found herself at our daughter’s house in Greencastle, Pennsylvania.
Although we have spent several falls at “the farm” over the past several years, this is the first time we have spent any time here during the spring and I was curious what it was like during planting season. By the time I arrived they had their peas and canola planted but they had plenty of soy beans and durum to get in the ground.  



Having never planted before I was unfamiliar with the steps that needed to be taken to get the seed in the ground. Over the course of the next several days I pitched in and helped them anywhere a rookie like me could do so without getting in the way. Being a "no till" farm there is minimal preparation of the land. They often plants right through the residue from the previous years crop.

Depending on the field they will often spend time picking rocks, digging up boulders and repairiong drainage areas. I spent hours out in the field operating the rock picker slowly but surely removing some of the thousands of rocks that surfaced. The rock picking is kind of interesting. The use a cleverly named implement called the Rock-o-matic. This implement has turning spikes similar to a paddle wheel on a boat that scoops rocks softball sized and larger into a bin. Once the bin is full you use the hydraulics to dump the rocks somewhere off the field.
Rock-o-matic ready for action
Closer shot of the paddles and bin

Once the field is prepped it is ready for planting. One of the first steps is to load the seed into the semi. I operated the forklift as 50 bushel totes of seed were emptied onto the grain belt and into one of the hoppers on the semi.
50 bushel of soy beans being loaded onto the grain belt.....

.......into the semi
From there they load one of the three hoppers on the cart with the seed. (the other two hoppers are filled inoculant that promote plant health and the third hopper is filled with fertilizer).
From there it gets loaded into the seed drill
Then it is planting time! The planter they use is an air disk planter meaning it uses disk to create the furrow in the ground a blower to feed the seeds and the appropriate ratio of inoculant and fertilizer from the hoppers to each of the 65 furrows spaced 7 ½ inches apart followed by a packer to set the seed into the soil.

The planter


Next up is the roller, a 45 foot three sectioned roller that packs and covers the seed.

45' Roller

Last but not least is the sprayer to prevent any plants other than the beans from growing. This thing is 120' wide so you have to be really careful not to hit trees, fences or any other obstacles.
The Sprayer
Each of these steps are critical in order to maximize the yield in each field with the planting and spraying being the most critical. So what did I do? Over the course of the past week I did each of these steps except the actual planting. Screw that up and..... well lets just say they did not want that screwed up. I spent most of my time rolling and picking rocks.

Speaking of screwing up, I also play another key role at the farm. I am the designated “blamee” for anything that goes wrong while I am here be it a breakdown, something lost or just a screw up if I am anywhere near the area, and by near I mean within 10 miles, I am immediately blamed. A key role which I have become very good at!
Over the past week I rolled somewhere between 900 - 1,000 acres of beans and only had one “screw up” when I lost a bolt on one of the wings. I am not sure how that was my fault but I was told it was so it must be……

I have a broken wing!
The other bonus about being here this time of the year are the birds. Songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl are very abundant right now making for plenty of photo opportunities! In between tractoring I was able to get out several times and take some pretty cool shots of the local bird life.
Snipe

Drake Pintail

Blue-wing Teal

Northern Shoveler




Canvasbacks

Yellow-headed blackbird

Avocets

Marbled Godwit

One of their pivots on an oats field
Meanwhile in Pennsylivania........

Barb's visit was focused around baseball and food. Does it get any better than that? In addition to visiting and spending time with the grandkids they managed to get out to an Orioles game and Shane used his ultimate smoker to cook up some ribs and chicken!
Barb, Jessica and Dylan sporting the Orioles gear!

Shane and his giant smoker

Cutie Kendall up to bat!

Dylan ready to hit a homerun.....
She flies back to Minneapolis today then just a short 8 hours drive to Douglas and we will be together again!

24 comments:

  1. Sounds like both of you are having a blast, although separately. You are lucky to be able to learn about farming from the "bottom up" with friends that allow you your oops :)

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    1. They are great people who have a lot of patience teaching this old dog some new tricks!

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  2. Wow. Sounds like a lot of work for you and a lot of fun for Barb!!! Cool bird pics...especially like the snipes. No Daisy or Dakota pics!!

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    1. I will have to make sure to get some Daisy and Dakota pics for the next post. I think I am going to post a video of the progress that Dakota is making.

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  3. I'm sure your friend is glad to have you back so someone else can take the blame for things that go wrong!! You're such a good sport:) Try not to get into too much trouble while helping out! A farming questions...why do farmers chose to till? I know you explained the reason for not tilling for us, but why till then?

    Glad Barb finally made it to Greencastle! I'm sure your daughter and the grandkids were pleased to see her:)

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    1. Good question that I had to ask the answer for. If the soil is wet, tilling it will help it dry out and warm up faster. Tilling many times helps the seeds grow as it does not have to fight through the residue to get to the surface. I guess a lot of it has to do with the type of soil you are farming. They have a dryer soil in this area and the residue also help retain some of the moisture.

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  4. I really like that you guys split up once in awhile. A little "solo time" is never a bad thing. Thanks for the bird pics!!

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    1. It seems like between hunting and visiting the kids we get solo time once to twice a year. You are right, sometimes that is not a bad thing.

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  5. Nothing like a little tractor time.(or a lot) Mine starts tomorrow. Love the bird shots.

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    1. Looking forward to reading about your adventures!

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  6. It's cool to see the farming pics with descriptions. I lost count of the tractors they have...they may have too. Glad you're having fun.

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    1. I think I only showed three in this post but they have several more in addition to combines, swathers and other equipment.

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  7. Sounds like you've both had a good time. Well, if moving rocks was fun... Back in the S&B's it always felt like we grew rocks in our garden over the winter. Thanks for sharing the birds pictures.

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    1. It will take years to get all the rocks out of that field. You are right each winter as the frost enters and leaves the ground it forces up more and more rocks.

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  8. Funny, Steve's usually the "blamee" here too! Love all the tractor work, looks fun! The ducks/birds are cool too. Any hunting coming up?

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    1. The next hunting adventure is not until mid-August when we will be in Ontario during the bear season.

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  9. Great bird pics! Absence makes the heart grow fonder - as they say - Bill and I have some separate time planned this summer too! Only a few days, but I'm sure we will survive!

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    1. Being apart can be good but in this instance where I have the rig and have been working so much it has been hard to keep it clean to Barb's standards!

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  10. I love agriculture. Growing up in a suburb of Detroit, that's really odd...I know. Just love reading about your farm adventures, Jim.

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    1. I grew up in a suburb of St.Paul but we spent our summers in the Wisconsin countryside. I think that is where I got my love for the remoteness of the country.

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  11. Boy farm machinery has come a long way since my John Deere B days LOL!!

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  12. I love reading about how you just "dig in" and get your hands dirty wherever you go. If you happen to land somewhere near the Grand Tetons this summer, stop by and say Hi!
    Cindi and Roger HappilyRVafter.com

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    1. This is definitely one of my "happy places" we love here and helping out wherever we can.

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