Baling Straw

We baled straw today. Straw’s what’s leftover after you harvest wheat. We only baled a little this year. Enough for our cows and for a few neighbors. Wheat straw is rich in potash, and as my dad said to me years ago, “why would you sell straw and buy potash to replace it?”

The Hayliner

The Hayliner

We love our new, well refurbished, baler. It makes wonderfully tight and square bales. And despite its name, it works well in straw too.

Windrows

Windrows

The view out of the tractor front window. Just cruising along the windrows of straw.

Happy Loader

Happy Loader

The view out of the back window of the tractor. Tom may look like he’s doing a happy dance, but actually he saw I was taking pictures and was getting ready to flip me off.

Not What it Looks Like

Not What it Looks Like

It may look like Tom’s mooning me here, but he’s actually carefully placing the bale at the bottom of this tier. If you get that first bale out of position there’s no recovering from it and you’re going to end up with an ugly load.

There’s a Robert Frost poem [1] that contains the lines:

Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Baling is like that. We often hire high school kids to help us with baling. And some of them know how to “handle an ax.” You show them once and they understand how stack bales in the mow, or how to stack the tiers on a wagon so they’ll ride. And others never get it.

You can glance at a mow of hay, or a bale coming out of the baler, or at a wagon load, and know what sort of fellow did that work.

It’s immensely satisfying work. I just wish I was better at it, because I can look at my stacks and know I’m just adequate. Tom, on the other hand, can really stack a bale.


1. The full poem.

Two Tramps in Mud Time

Robert Frost (1934)

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”
I knew pretty well why he dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of beech it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good
That day, giving a loose to my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And fronts the wind to unruffle a plume
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake: and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheel rut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
These two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an axhead poised aloft,
The grip on earth of outspread feet.
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the woods two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps.)
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right — agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.

Religious People

Tom and I went up to Nappanee yesterday to get a part for our auger that self-destructed during wheat harvest. I needed gas, so we swung into the first station in Nappanee.

I was surprised when I went in to get a refreshing fountain pop to hear what seemed to be Indian hip-hop music blaring. Then a young man wearing a turban and a full beard took my money. I was again surprised to see a Sikh in downtown Nappanee, but it explained the music.

We got back into the truck and waited for an Amish guy…

with a hat and a full beard

… to pass by on Highway 6 so we could continue on.

I didn’t think a thing about it, until tonight when I was relating to Debbie the amusing anecdote of a Sikh in Nappanee, and she said, “Don’t you see? The Amish guy and the Sikh are the same. They’re both following their religion.”

Huh.

I wish I was as smart as Debbie.

Wheat Harvest 2014

We had a long slow wet spring, and wheat harvest was the same way. The wheat was barely ripe when we started on July 18th, which is pretty late around here. The weather was cool [1] and every morning we had fog and dew. We couldn’t get started until after lunch, and the minute the sun started going down we were done.

Cruising across the field on day one.

Day One

Day One

Lunch time on day two. I tried to run a pass and plugged it up twice [2]. Time for a leisurely lunch.

Day Two

Day Two

The combine’s still looking pretty clean.

Day Two

Day Two

The new ‘little tractor’ cranking the auger.

Unloading Wheat

Unloading Wheat

The piece of junk John Deere on the wagon. Our grain buggy blew a hydraulic cylinder, so we’re doing it old school, pulling gravity wagons around.

Unloading Wheat

Unloading Wheat

The circled area at the top is wheat pouring into the bin.

Unloading Wheat

Unloading Wheat

Jason Holzinger brought his weigh cart out so we could calibrate our yield monitor. By weighing several loads we can configure the yield monitor so we get an accurate map of the yield [3].

Precision Ag

Precision Ag

And the result of this calibration is that we can produce maps like this that show how the field yielded. Red is bad, green is good.

The Accurate Yield Map

The Accurate Yield Map

By day 3 it’s finally getting dry. We’re raising clouds of dust. No more clean combine.

Getting Dry

Getting Dry

And as the end gets near, we’re pushing it harder and harder.

Pushing it

Pushing it

See the circled area? That’s wheat pouring over the edge of the hopper. We couldn’t quite make a round in this field before filling up. But that didn’t stop us [4] from trying!

And the only thing prettier than a wheat field is …

Harvested Field

Harvested Field

Harvested Field

Harvested Field

… a harvested wheat field.

Wheat 2014 is history. It was our best wheat crop ever by over 10%.

In just 2 and a half months we’ll be planting the 2015 wheat crop. Can’t wait!


1. Which was good, because the air conditioner in the combine was barely working. “Waaah, wah, waaah,” you say? You’ve never sat in a glassed-in box on a July afternoon then.

2. Tom was riding with me, and after I plugged it the second time I said, “Ok, time to stop being stupid.” And Tom said, “I wondered when you were going to admit it.”

3. Tom is helping keep Jason’s truck steady so our measurements aren’t compromised.

4. I’m not naming names, but ‘us’ was not ‘me.’ I was busy taking pictures as opposed to actually working.

I’ve Got Trials

We seeded a cover crop trial plot today.

Seeds

Seeds

From left to right there’s triticale, hairy vetch, buckwheat, rapeseed, phacelia, cowpeas, and a radish and Austrian winter pea mix.

Cover Crop Seeder

Cover Crop Seeder

Tom’s seeding the plots using a hand seeder that belonged to his Grandpa Hively. We use that seeder all the time; for seeding filter strips, grass waterways, and test plots.

Our plots are small, about 1000 square feet. We’re just trying to find out which of these will grow seeded this way. We really like what cover crops do for our soil, and we’re trying to figure out how we can get them seeded in a way that doesn’t take too much labor or cost. This is about the time we’ll spray the soybeans for the last time, so if we can find something that will grow when seeded now, we can strap a seeder onto the sprayer and essentially seed our cover crops at no extra cost.

Or maybe we’ll just have Tom hike over 1000 acres with his Granddaddy’s seeder!

Haying

There’s nothing prettier than a hay field. If we treated haying as profit center, just counting dollars out and dollars in, it probably wouldn’t make sense to do it. But to smell the hay, to see the green fields,

Hay Field

Hay Field

to hoist each and every bale with your hands, to see it stacked in the barn and to know you did that – it enriches your soul in a way a dollar can never do.

From Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

Doctor Gibbs: “What do you want to do after school’s over?”

George: “Why you know, Pa. I want to be a farmer on Uncle Luke’s farm.”

Doctor Gibbs: “You’ll be willing, will you, to get up early and milk and feed the stock … and you’ll be able to hoe and hay all day?”

George: “Sure I will.”

I don’t know about me, but I’m sure Tom is able to.

Prickly Pears

Standing around Dad’s bed at the hospital today, and discussing T.S. Eliot.

The Hollow Man, by T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Please Lord, mercy. Is that too much to ask?

3 Sisters

I planted my 3 Sisters garden today. The 3 Sisters are the technique of planting corn, beans, and squash all together and they all grow together without competing.

The 3 Sisters Patch

The 3 Sisters Patch

I planted rows of sweet corn, the white open-pollinated corn I got from Sam Taulbee, and sunflowers. Then I seeded squash, pumpkins, and pole beans in the rows with the corn and sunflowers.

This will all be without herbicides since I don’t know what I could spray that wouldn’t kill one of those things I planted. I hope our tiller keeps running all season!

Spenser helped me plant the garden. Mainly by digging a huge hole in the ground.

Hard Working Dog

Hard Working Dog

And when he got tired of digging, he followed me up and down the rows. He’s a hard working dog.

Ladybug, Ladybug

This is why we don’t routinely spray insecticides.

See the Ladybug?

See the Ladybug?

See the Ladybug?

See the Ladybug?

See the Ladybug?

See the Ladybug?

See the Ladybug

See the Ladybug?

I walked out in the wheat fields today to see how they were doing. As I stood in a spot and looked around, everywhere I looked I saw a ladybug. I snapped the pictures above standing in one spot and just turning around.

Ladybugs are ‘beneficials.’ They eat aphids and other ‘bad’ insects. If we’d gone and doused the fields with insecticides we would’ve wiped out the bad bugs, but we also would’ve wiped out the ladybugs.

We’re often encouraged to apply insecticides as ‘insurance,’ to wipe out any bugs before they become a problem.

I prefer to let the ladybugs handle that problem for me

Playing in the Mud

The spring started out wet, then as it was barely getting fit to work, we got nearly 4 inches of rain in mid-May, and it just won’t dry out since then.

Our latest getting stuck adventure.

Stuck

Stuck

That’s a Terragator. The tires as you can see are enormously wide and the machine will float across almost anything. But the driver hit a wet pocket and the back wheel is nearly completely buried.

Our good neighbor Todd Gross just happened to have his bulldozer in the adjoining field. He came over and looked at it and said he could try to pull it with the dozer, but he recommended calling in the big guns.

The Big Gun

The Big Gun

The big gun is Campbell’s 6 wheel drive wrecker. The thing is a monster that will go anywhere and has a winch that will generate 150 tons of pulling force. We parked the dozer next to the wrecker, passed the cable from the winch through 3 pulleys (Remember high school science? Each pulley doubles the amount you can pull.) and hooked the cable end to the dozer for an anchor.

Campbell fired up the winch and it pulled the dozer ahead about 3 feet until the blade bit deep enough to anchor it. And slowly the Terragator came out.

Almost Free!

Almost Free!

We spread the rest of the field without incident, after carefully scouting for any other hidden wet holes. Campbell stayed around until we were done, to avoid getting 30 minutes down the road and getting a call back.

It is amazing to watch a pro handle the kinds of forces it took to get that Terragator back on top of the ground.