Imagine the success of your entire year being dependent on just a few short weeks in the spring and fall. And worse yet it being dependent on something you have absolutely no control over. So when the weather is right and it is planting time there is no time for idle chit chat, it is all hands on deck working the fields and getting the crop in the ground as fast as you can as one rain storm could grind the whole operation to a halt for a week or more and when you are talking growing seasons a week is a long time. So the days on the farm start at sunrise and end at sunset, sometimes well after.
Another thing I learned even before we started coming up here is that there is a secret society among farmers. I am not sure of the whole scope and structure but I think they have meetings, a secret handshake and even a newsletter that I will never get to see. You ever walk into a country restaurant and there is a group of old men around a table and as one they all turn and look at you when you walk in? Well, that is probably one of those meetings! Or do you ever see a farm truck going down the road very early in the morning when everyone else has not even gotten out of their pajamas yet? Yup, they are returning from one of their secret meetings.
So what goes on at these meetings? I really don’t know for sure but I am pretty sure the first thing they teach the new farmers is how to wave at other vehicles on the road. From what I can deduce there are two different waves the farmers and ranchers use across the country. I don’t know if it is regional or if they belong to different farmer gangs but there are definitely two waves. The first is the one finger wave. For you city slickers it is not the finger you are thinking of, it is the index finger on your right hand. To do it properly you have to have your right hand at the top of the steering wheel and when a vehicle passes you lift your index finger and arc it from left to right like the 10:00 position to the 2:00 position as the vehicle passes. The other method is similar but has a slight variation and requires two fingers, the index finger and the finger many of you were thinking about in the first place. With your right hand in the same position, you lift both fingers at the same time holding them together like they are fused together. Then you move them ever so slightly from left to right as you pass the oncoming vehicle not 10-2, not like 10-11 or maybe just 10:45. For you lefties out there the same can be done with the left hand but you have to make sure your move your finger from right to left like 2:00 to 10:00. By the way, if a farmer or rancher does not give you one of the above waves, it is the equivalent of getting the middle finger.
The other thing I learned is that things are always breaking at the farm. It is not a matter of “if” it is a matter of “when”. This was hard to get used to. Field work is hard on equipment and sometimes trees, fence lines and other things jump right out in front of you. Which brings me to the second thing they for sure teach them in farmer school. Always blame the new guy for anything that goes wrong. Unfortunately for me, I am the new guy so if anything breaks down, yup, it is my fault. It does not even matter if I am using the piece of equipment when it breaks, heck it does not even matter if I was within 5 miles of it or as I found out in previous years if I am even in the same state. It is still my fault! I wish they had a new, new guy so I had someone to blame!
With roughly 5,000 acres to plant in the next few weeks. Farmer Bob, Chris and Dylan have been ready getting equipment ready prior to our arrival so for the most part the equipment was all set and ready to hit the field!
With the smaller camper we were actually able to park right next to the shop on concrete! No more walking 100 yards to use the bathroom and shower.
|Our camping spot for the next 4 weeks|
The seed comes out of the grain bin through the blue conveyor and dumps into the black hopper on the right side, it then travels up the conveyor to the left, mixes with the treatment and goes into the conveyor over the truck where it comes out blue and treated! The have to do test weights on the peas and calibrate the treater to put just the right amount of treatment on each batch.
In some fields we need to "Salford" the field which uses a series of corrugated discs and rollers to open up the soil and break up the residue remaining from the previous crop. Opening the soil does a couple of things; it will help dry out some wet areas and it will also allow the sun to penetrate the soil better warming it up.
I spent a couple of afternoons Salfording a couple of fields.
Frost and Salfording will bring up some rocks so we will go around the fields and pick up some of the larger rocks that surface. The rock picker they have has teeth on the bottom and a wheel to move the rocks into the basket. So as you are driving through the field and you see a rock you lower the basket so the teeth are just below the rock and then the wheel scoops it into the basket. Not really hard work but your neck gets sore after a few hours as you are always looking back and down to the basket to make sure you get the rock and not scoop up a bucket full of dirt along with it.
Then the planter arrives to do its job. Funny, they never let me run the planter.....probably because if you screw planting up the entire field is shot for the year! The seeds are dumped from the truck up the conveyer and into the seed cart...
Then Chris went around the field with the air seeder planting 72 rows at a time planting roughly 465 acres in two days.
|Air Seeder with Seed Cart behind it|
I took a picture of if before it ever hit the field so we can remember how it looked with all its lights on it with no dents or dings!
That reminds me of another Farmer’s Code Rule. This one I actually taught Farmer a few years ago during my first year here. The rule is “Never tell the new guy not to hit a tree”. I will spare you the details, let’s just say it took two days and a lot of welds but we got everything back together again. Since that day he has never told me to not hit a tree!
The roller packs the rocks down and compresses the ground which covers the seeds. There were no trees on this field so the rolling went without incident.
I made a run to the local elevator and picked up 20 tons of Urea. It has been over a year since I drove the semi and I am happy to report everything went smoothly. I might have ground a gear or two but had no witnesses so it didn’t happen!
|Filling the front of the trailer|
|That's what 11 tons of Urea looks like|
|Dakota, reading Daisy a story|
|Daisy reading her own story|
The rest of the fields are too wet to get into right now but will hopefully dry up in the next few days. In the meantime I will continue to see what I can find out about this secret farmers society and pass on any details in my next post!