Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Harvest Time!


Have you ever found yourself driving down a country road and come across a very slow moving pickup truck going well under the posted speed limit? If you have, it was probably a farmer. To you it may seem like they are never in a hurry to get anywhere, going 45 in a 55. To them they are flying! 

Spending most of their days in a tractor going down the field anywhere from 2-10 miles per hour, going 45 to town is like city people going 80 on the interstate during rush hour! Surely, I am kidding. Most farmers don’t drive that slow but if they are, they are probably checking out the neighbors field conditions and comparing it to theirs. You see, farmers are very prideful competitive and want/hope to be doing a little better than the field down the road. Of course weather, and other factors out of their control have a lot to do with it as well.

By now you have probably figured out that we loaded up the camper and pointed it towards North Dakota this week! The drive up was uneventful. Our route takes us through Sturgis. The rally had ended just a couple days before passing through and they were busy tearing stuff down.

After a 9 hour travel day we arrived at the farm a little after 7:00pm and got all set up. DeAnne came out to greet us but "the boys" were out in the field. A short time later Dylan pulled into the yard and said “You ready to get to work?”. We were not even there 15 minutes and I was off to the field. With just over 5,000 acres to harvest there is no time to dilly dally!

They are busy combining wheat at the moment and I was anxious to get into action! There are basically three roles in harvesting. The combine driver, the cart driver and the truck driver.

(l-r) Big Red (The Case) Ole Yeller' (The New Holland) and the 325 and cart

The combine driver has the most meticulous job cruising up and down the field usually at 1.5–4 mph running the head of the combine within inches of the ground trying to get all the wheat and leave as little stubble as possible. Eyes glued to the ground, they are on the lookout for rocks and other obstructions that could get sucked up into the header and ruin your day. Although it is mainly rocks they are looking for there are other things that somehow find their way into the field. Things you have to wonder how they got there like dead coyotes, car parts and this week included a 1.75 bottle of vodka….in the middle of a wheat field. One cannot help but wonder about the story of that bottle!

The hoppers of the combines will hold between 350 and 400 bushels (21,000-24,000 #’s) of wheat. Once the hopper get almost full the sensors will turn on strobe lights on top of the combine. That is when the cart driver jumps into action and races down the field (at 8-12 mph) to catch up to the combine and empty it on the go. The cart driver has to pull up next to the combine, get within 3-5’ of the header, match speeds and line itself up with the auger that swings out of the combine. Seems simple enough and it is until it isn’t. Go too fast and grain will spill out the back of the cart, go too slow, it will spill out the front, too far away, it spills out the far side. Get too close and run into the header….well, we don’t even want to talk about that.

Just the right distance from the header!

The cart will hold about 1,000 bushels of wheat but you rarely let it get that full. Once it is about ½ full or so you go over to the semi trucks and dump in there. The scale on the cart logs how many pounds are loaded into the semi, which grain bin it is going into back at the farm and how many pounds in total have come off that field.

Cart monitor

The most important thing about dumping into the semi is not to over load it. The road limits in this area are 80,000 #’s so we try to get as close to that as possible.

Dumping into the truck at sunset (hard to keep windows clean!)

Once the truck is full, the truck driver is off to the farm where the big auger is set up at the appropriate bin and it is emptied.

 Once that is done it is back to field to pick up the next truck. It takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to turn a truck and get back to the field. By that time the next truck is usually full and waiting. 

When everything is running smoothly, it goes like clockwork and everyone is buzzing along. But this is farm life and not everything always goes smoothly. If one component goes down it affects the entire group. Flat tires on the semi, broken shear bolts on the auger, broken sickles on the header will bring the entire operation to a screeching halt. One time I saw Farmer Bob stop his combine in the middle of the field so I moseyed the cart over there to see what was going on. All I saw was Bob’s feet sticking out from under the combine and bent shards of metal being thrown into the field from some mad creature under it. I did not stop as those feet under the combine did not look too happy. Somehow the fan blades had broken and totally destroyed each other. Luckily the combine is still under warranty and the service truck came right out to the field and fixed it. 5 hours later he was back in business!

These fan blades are supposed to look like the new ones in the box Bob is sitting on!

Another time when Dylan was combining, this "swamp jumped right out in front" of him and he sunk about 3’ into the mud. Luckily the hero cart driver (me) was close by to pull him out and take pictures for prosperity! They just love it when something goes wrong and I am close by with my camera!

In a typical, no issues day they can get about 250 acres done in 10-12 hours. On the perfect day they would run longer than that but the morning and evening dew on the wheat affect the combines so we cannot start until about 10 or 11am and have to quit about the same time at night.

As much as we enjoy being up here we are already missing our home in South Dakota. The week before we left we had made some great progress at Kevin’s place. He made sure to line up as much heavy work for us to do as possible as he was going to be alone for the next several weeks.

The week before we left we put in the deck on the north side of his house....

 and got the post and timber trusses set for his covered porch.

You need a big saw to cut big timbers!

Just about ready for roof decking!

We also scored on a couple of cattle guards I found on Facebook Marketplace! We had been wanting some for quite a while and will install them when we get back.

But that will have to wait a few weeks as for right now we have more crops to harvest and Farmer Bob has removed all the tires from our truck promising to give them back once all the crops are off the field. But for now, it is down the field and off into the sunset!


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Wildlife on the J-B

Although we are continuing to work on our and Kevin's barndominiums, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the wildlife pictures we have taken on our property. 

Deer are our most common visitors. We have both whitetail and mule deer in the area. The mule deer are very accommodating when it comes to getting their pictures taken while the whitetails are a bit more camera shy. They tend to stop by first thing in the morning and right before sunset when the days are at their coolest.
This bachelor group of bucks comes in about 5:30 every morning

If there is no corn out for them right away, they have no problem staring in the windows letting us know they are there and hungry!

Typically the does show up alone but one day one doe showed up with twin fawns. Now they, along with another single fawn are almost daily visitors. 
Dakota just ignores the deer, while Daisy takes offense to their intrusion and will stand at the screen and "bark" at them. The deer just stare at her and wonder what her problem is. 
While most of the bucks hang around by themselves, we have one that comes in with the does and likes to play "king of the hill" like a king watching over his kingdom.
We also have a tub of water out there for them but this doe loves to drink out of the birdbath. 
Speaking of birds, almost 40 turkeys will show up once in a while to clean up any corn remnants that the deer leave behind. 
Not to be forgotten, we have a couple of bunnies that come around as well....
On the house front, I have been spending most of my days over at Kevin and Cheryl's. We are making some great progress. 

Over the past couple of weeks we have installed facia, shingles, a working toilet (woohoo!), the boiler system for the domestic water and in-floor heat,  the carport and varnishing the boards for the inside have been the major projects.
West side almost all shingled!
Boiler system installed!
Cheryl varnishing while peanut supervises
The two biggest projects were forming and concreting the patio area and building the carport. It started out something like this.
Pre-shingles, carport and concrete.

Before building the carport we had to form up the patio and get concrete poured as we could not longer reach that area once the carport is up. 
Form all set!
Barb came over and helped with the actual pour. We poured 5 yards of concrete in a little over an hour and then spent another hour finishing the edges putting the final touches on it. 

All done!
On the carport, the first thing we had to do was to cutback the roofline where the carport was going. Unfortunately, several hours into the project it started pouring rain. An inch an hour for the next three hours.....What a mess! We had buckets in the kitchen and entryway but we could not contain everything and that area of the house got soaked!

Once the rain stopped we got the house sealed up again and over the next few days we worked on building the trusses out of 8"x8" timbers, installing the cross beams and getting the trusses up. 

Just need to get the roofing on and shingled and we can cross that project off the list!

While I am over at Kevin's, Barb is still busy working on our house. She has gotten a couple of walls done. Hopefully by this time next week we will have all the major walls complete!
That girl knows how to handle a finish nailer!

We have also decided to extend the loft by 1' so it covers the top of the kitchen cabinets (why didn't we think of this earlier!?!?) This meant I had to cut through the kitchen/bathroom wall to install rim boards that would support this flooring. We are also going to run our cooktop vent pipe though this and vent it outside. This project will take a little more dedicated time but in the end I think it is the right move. 
Flooring extension with vent pipe installed

Our neighbors Jim and Brenda are selling their land and their rig and are moving onto bigger and better things. Come to think of it our neighbors on both sides are selling their property.....humm... If you know anyone looking for 40 acres of heaven here in South Dakota or a Grand Design Momentum with a complete solar package, we know just the right people!

That pretty much sums up the last couple of weeks here in South Dakota. Things are moving along great in some areas, a little slower in others but it progress and any progress is a plus!