Thursday, December 23, 2010

harvest update

Harvest is continuing with all the canola finished and about half the peas. The "snail guts" I mentioned last time just got too much for the machine and the grain elevator kept blocking up. So I decided to go on with something a little more abrasive, such as barley, that will actually clean the machine. The first couple of barley paddocks are done, and now that we are staring a little warmer weather in the face I've started on some wheat.  It is all busy busy out in the paddock with a header, plus a chaser bin and myself driving the Kenworth semi-tipper taking load after load out to deliver to our local port.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Harvest update

The weather is being a little kinder to us now, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining, ideal condition for harvesting. Moisture content in grain is very important. It cant be over a certain percentage. So hence when we have we weather the harvesting cant continue until the grain dries out again. That can take a coupla days, but with the right conditions we're all good to go.
We're slowly getting the peas done. During the wet weather we took the opportunity to do a bit of maintenance on the pea plucker. Alot of the fingers broke off in the first paddock which was riddled with clover vine. Probably about half of them needed replacing. It was a relatively simple process (once we worked it out) of just drilling the broken ends out of the holders, cutting a new nylon finger to length (25cm - and they're 10mm diameter flexible nylon rod), threading the end and screwing them back in the holders.
Another of the quite common joys of pea harvesting is snails. The pea plants do attract snails, so heavy snail control methods are used during the year to try and lower their numbers. But still some remain, and the problem with them is "snail guts"! See what happens is when the peas go through the header the snails that come with them get smashed up and the "snail guts" coats the inside of the grain elevators and bubble auger. It combines with all the dust that is going through as well and forms a solid layer which, left unchecked, sets solid like concrete and blocks the machine. So cleaning out snail guts is part of the process of reaping peas.
Reaping canola is much nicer. It's cleaner, quieter, and far less snails. It is a little slower picking up the canola rows with the windrower pick up, but still it's worth it. Canola is worth alot more and the oil content is good too.
Well it's back to my office now, which is the cab of the Kenworth semi-tipper.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Harvest time

We've had as little cold, and damp weather lately so harvest hasn't progress very quickly at all in the past few days, until today. Yep it's warmed up nicely and so the header is now flat out into it. At the moment we're reaping peas. We have been doing them for a couple of days because they can be reapt when it's cooler. And now that it's really starting to warm up it looks like we will keep going... as long as the thundery clouds steer clear. While the headers going we also have the windrower going as well. I'm cutting down the barley into wind rows because it will be the last thing we actually reap. Having it in rows will protect the heads from blowing off onto the ground before we can get to it with the header. So it's all happening. I've got to go and empty a grain bin ready to take to the paddock now so we'll have enough room to store all these peas before we can deliver them to the port.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Let the fun and games begin

Over the past few weeks we have been slowly edging towards harvest. Well a couple of hot days earlier this week has given it the hurry-up and in fact we have made a start. After pulling the New Holland TR88 header out of the shed and getting it all serviced up ready for work we took it over to the canola paddocks that were windrowed a coupla weeks back. After setting up the pick up front for the header, and installing a new air-foil sieve - ideal for handling canola, we pulled the header in to see how it goes. Well it was a bit "experimental" for a start. I had trouble getting the windrows to feed into the front properly, and the stone trap was tripping open all the time - and we weren't even picking up stones. A header is a complex machine, with many settings and adjustments that have to be set just right so it works at it's optimum. Well it took me a while to get those settings just right. Once I was happy that it was going to reap relatively successfully I left my brother and my old man to it and went of to service and prepare other vehicles for harvest. I'm in the process of getting the Kenworth ready. She got an oil and filter change, plus new mudflaps, and I would have had her all ready to go, but I found a few holes the size of 20c pieces in one of her exhausts - not a good thing to have out in a thick stubble on a blazing hot day. So she got to take a trip into town for a new section of exhaust. This mornings job was to head up country to collect a brand new chaser bin - yes it's even shiny still. Normally the reaping would have continued, but with the rain that we've had yesterday we had to stop, and took the opportunity to get the bin. A chaser in is used to empty the header into while the header is still reaping. It saves time during harvest as the header doesn't have to stop and drive over to a stationary field bin to empty its grain box.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harvest is getting closer and closer

The excitement is building as we slowly edge closer and closer to harvest for 2010. In this area we generally say the average starting date for harvest is the 20th of November. Well that is only a day or two away, but at the moment the crops are no where near ready for reaping. It's going to be at least another week before we get started. There is a reason for this of course. Because we've had such a good growing season with plenty of timely rain fall, and also a very mild finish to the season. The past few weeks have been quite cool and at time wet and this help the crops hang on longer, and hence the heads get plenty of time to fill out properly.
It is also another well known fact that on this farm, and plenty of others I'd say, that no matter when the crops are ripe and ready for harvest, we wont be ready for another few days after that. This year is going to be different. I'm determined! I'm doing all I can to have all our equipment up and running ready to start right on time.
Yesterday I actually finished, yes that's right, finished.. all the spraying for 2010, with the last paddock of peas dessicated. And my determination to be organised for harvest meant that I flushed and rinsed out the boom spray right away, and it has now been put away in the shed for storage over summer.
I also sorted out the batteries for the Kenworth and got her out of the shed, along with the semi-tipper, ready to get going for harvest.
I've got engine servicing to do now and fitting all the guards and parts to the header before I'll be ready to start. I should have enough to keep me busy for the next week or so leading up to harvest.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Harvest is just aound the corner now

Now that we are a week or so into the month of November... or MOvember as it is affectionately known now, where thousands of men across Australia, including myself, focus their attention on the cultivation of their perfect "Mo" (mostasche) to raise money and awareness for  mens issues such as prostate cancer and depression in males, farmers in our area are turning their attention to the pending harvest.  within a week or two headers (also known as combine harvesters) will be cranking up all over the place to take this years harvest off. It is an exciting time, with all the signs of being a bumper crop, but also means that preparations for harvest need to be thorough.  Nothing worse than having the perfect conditions to reap a bumper crop but having equipment broken down due to poor maintenance.  So the current jobs include servicing and lubricating the header and truck and any other vehicles that we'll be using.  Also getting fire prepared, setting up fire fighting units on utes and making sure all fire extinguishers are operational.  As far as crops go the final preparations are being made to the canola and pea crops.  As we speak our contractor,Joel, is out windrowing the canola.  Windrowing is cutting down the crop, in this case canola, into rows ready for reaping.  The reason for windrowing is to protect the crop from wind which will blow the seeds out onto the ground.  We are also dessicating the peas.  Dessication is the process of spraying out knockdown herbicide to finish off the peas, and also to eliminate any unwanted weeds, particularly rye grass, to prevent them from setting seed.  I'm also finishing off a few sheep jobs, such as sending the ol' ewes off to market, too before we're completely tied up with harvest.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Every now and then a farmer gets crook

It is generally accepted that farmers work every single day of the week, and only stop to eat, sleep or for church on sunday... and alot of the time we don't even stop for those things. As for getting sick.. well there is no time for sickness on the farm, and a farmer would have to be on their deathbed before they took time off because they were crook. Well that was my day on Tuesday. I must have picked up some kind of stomach wog so, as you can imagine, the day was not pleasant. Another unique character trait of a farmer is their amazing ability to bounce back and get back into it. So the next day it was business as usual.
One of the jobs I got out of the way was to finally get my air seeder bar put away in the shed. Also got myself all organised for MOvember... pictures will be posted later.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Busy down on the farm

Spring is well and truly upon us now and so we starting to look down the barrel towards harvest now, and there's plenty of jobs that go along with getting organised for that.
I'm happy to say that all the spraying is out the way now. All the herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers and insecticides have all been sprayed out, including spraytopping all the pastures so that no weeds are able to set viable seed that will germinate next year.
Shearing is all done and dusted, with the shearing shed all cleaned up and the wool bales sent off to be sold.
While I'm on the topic of sheep, today is a very special day for the sheep on the farm, and particularly the rams. Over the past few days I have been sorting out all the ewes into their breeding mobs (we have 4 different mobs of ewes), and culling out the ewes I want to sell. They've been moved into the paddocks that they will stay on over the summer harvest, and the water troughs have been checked to make sure they will have plenty of water to drink. And today was the day that we sorted the rams, which form a little mob of their own for most of the year, and divided them up to go do what they do best. Yep, today they were put in the paddocks with the ewes for mating... see I told you... spring has really sprung!
For the next few weeks harvest preparation will be the main job on the agenda, and I have already organised a few things including some modifications to the TR88 harvester and pea plucker, and also some new equipment including shiny new field bins (bins to store grain in before we can deliver it to our local port).
2 x 360bag Sharman multi-bins (they have a high cone so they can hold grain or fertilizer)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Images from the Shearing Shed

Here's just a little colliection of pictures taken in our shearing shed. The sheep waiting in the pens ready for shearing
The two shearers working at their stands shearing the sheep
Freshly shorn fleeces on the floor ready to be taken away to be skirted (sorted)
wool that's been sorted into different bins
more wool in bins
the wool table before the fleece is thrown onto it
and after the fleece is thrown onto it ready for skirting
the wool press with skirted fleeces in it ready for pressing into bales
finished wool bales straight out of the press, branded and ready to go on the truck to the wool stores
a well worn shearers hand piece connected to the down tube
this is a comb. a comb attatces to the hand piece and combs through the sheeps wool as the cutter moves from side to side across the teeth of the comb to cut the wool off
This is an old cutter, also attaches to the hand piece and cuts the wool off
and here are the sheep after shearing in the counting out pens
Hello ladies, hope you enjoyed getting your hair done

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shearing Again

We've finally had a few good days for spraying. Very little wind, and very little rain, so I have been able to get out there and get stuck into it. So much so that I have actually finished all my broadleaf weed spraying - I'm finally catching up a little bit. I did notice, though, that a few of the late barley crops were a little nitrogen deficient. I did run out of UAN (the nitrogen fertilizer that is in liquid form) a few weeks back, so I haven't been able to keep the fertilizer flowing, and in fact the whole state of South Australia had run out, so we were in a bit of a pickle. It's all good now though, we had a load delivered here on farm yesterday. We have a bulk UAN tank set up and a B-double can just come in and unload into the tank.
Having said that, I haven't been able to start the UAN spraying again because we started our September shearing today. Our shed is a two stand shearing shed - that means it has two shearing plants the drive the shearers hand pieces, so basically we can have two shearers shearing at the same time. The shearers hand piece has a comb and a cutter attached to it. The comb combs through the sheep's wool as the cutter moves across the combs teeth and cuts the wool as it moves backward and forwards. After the fleece has been shorn off, and the sheep is out the door, the wool is thrown up onto the wool table for sorting. From there it goes into a wool press and pressed into bales.
This shearing we have about 700 big sheep to do, that is ewes, wethers and hoggets. Also about 500 lambs and 10 Rams. So I think we'll be looking at about 1 full week of shearing, that's provided the woolly sheep dont get rained on - as sheep cant be shorn if they have wet wool.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another Inch of rain

Things are looking fantastic on the farm now. As the weather starts to warm up a little the crops are really starting to take off now. The canola is basically out in full flower, so we have two bright yellow paddocks out there, and all of the cereals are really thickening up now with flag leaf emergence just around the corner. At this stage we need to keep an eye on them for fungal diseases that can effect them.
Earlier this week we had another 27mm of rain, that's just over the inch in the old scale, bringing the total for September so far up over 80mm - just the kind of rainfall that steers us towards a bumper crop.
It also means more delays to the spraying program. I'm still trying to get broadleaf weeds sprayed out of the cereal crops. I just have the barley to do (which will take a few good days mind you).
Our September shearing is fast approaching. In the last week of September we shear our main mobs of sheep. Although I don't have time to do this and should be pushing on with spraying, I still need to. So yesterday we spent a day with the sheep in the yards sorting them all out. We had to wien the lambs from the ewes, draught the wethers out of the ewes and move them into holding paddocks until it's time to shear them.
Today the weather is fine so it's back to the spraying for me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

and the rain just keeps coming

Well spring has sprung and the months of September and October are really important for the growing crops. They need plenty of rain during this time because now that it will start warming up they will really do a lot of growing. Fortunately we have had a really good start to spring with about two and a half inches of rain coming down in the first few days of the month. So far this season is looking as good as any I can remember as far as rainfall goes, and if it keeps up we'll certainly be heading towards a bumper crop.
I know I've mentioned before that the spraying program has been interrupted by the inclement weather, well, as you could imagine, two and a half inches of rain had also put a bit of a dampener on the spraying. Any chance I get I will be out there on the spray tractor trying to catch up a little. It's a good thing that once I get going and can get a fair bit of spraying done fairly quickly.
The current spray job is to control the broadleaf weeds in cereal crops. A couple of chemicals that I'm using are - metsulphuron and LVE680 (low volatile ester 680g/l). I'm also throwing in a few trace elements, copper zinc and um... magnesium I think - just keeps the crops nice and healthy.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Took out another 60 points today.

Yep that's right 60 points, or 15mm in the new scale. All up August this year has been a very good one with plenty of wet weather. Unfortunately all the wind and rain has limited the amount of spraying, and other farm jobs, that I've been able to do, to the point that I really am along way behind with the rye grass spraying in some cereal crops.

This is the rain gauge (in autumn before we'd had any rain).

I have been able to keep going with the UAN (nitrogen spraying) even in the "bad" weather, because I have several different nozzles on my boom spray. I use lilac minidrift nozzles for all the herbicide and insecticide spraying and red quintastream nozzles for the fertilizer spraying. The quintastreams, as the name suggests, spray the liquid out in five streams, rather than in a "mist" like other nozzles do. The beauty of this is that they can be used in pretty much all weather conditions... and like I said, tongue in cheek, to one of the old farmers ".. now that I've got front wheel assist on the tractor, any day is a good day to spray!"
In the last coupla days I've also had the opportunity to finish pressing all the wool left over from shearing that we did back in July. I pressed out a few bales and ended up with 29 in total. The truck rolls in on Friday to take them away.
And in case you're wondering, I had the stitches removed from my finger that I tried to chop off today too.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The weather's been a little up and down

It's the spraying season on the farm right now, and with the crops coming along nicely plenty of time needs to be spent spraying for weed control and crop nutrition.
For spraying to be effective though the weather conditions need to be relatively calm (ie not windy) and not raining (or the chemicals wash off the weeds and don't work). This August so far has been wonderful for the crops moisture needs... but as far as spraying goes... not so good. In fact I'm getting a little behind now with the spraying program and am really looking forward to some nice days where I can really get stuck into it.
Although conditions today are both wet and windy, I am able to get out there and spray out some UAN. UAN is a liquid fertilizer that supplies the plants with plenty of nitrogen.
Other hold ups to the spraying program include:
  • waiting for a B-double load of UAN to come in.. they deliver it here on farm ya know.
  • fixing the fence that the sheep keep knocking down to get onto the lovely green and tasty crop.
  • moving the sheep back off the lovely green and tasty crop into the paddock they are actually supposed to be in.
  • constantly checking that the sheep haven't knocked down the fence and gotten into the paddock with... ... you get the idea.

Well I'd better put the pen down now and get back into the tractor and continue with the spraying.

And a quick word of advice for young farmers... when making your sandwiches for lunch... do not use the sharpest knife you can find in the house to separate frozen slices of bread... the reason being that when the knife slips (with out even separating the bread mind you) a trip to hospital for 6 stitches in your finger will be the result.

see This is the latest addition to farmerpj's farm a New Holland TM155 - she replaces the old Ford 8401

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Second Home

Now that all the crops are up and growing (except where I had slight mis-haps with the air seeder) it's time to really start thinking about crop nutrition and weed control. Each crop we grow requires a certain amount of different types of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Granular fertilizer that is sown in with the seed at seeding time is based on these nutrients, but during the growing season sometimes a "top up" doesn't hurt. Nitrogen is the main nutrient we're concerned about, especially on the higher yielding cereals and high protein crops (such as durham wheat). There's 2 main methods of applying more nitrogen to the crops. 1st involves using a spreader to broadcast Urea. 2nd method is to apply a liquid form using the boom spray. Yes that's right,.. I use the liquid form and boom spray. The last week has been spent spraying out 50litres per hectare of UAN (that's the liquid fertilizer) with 50litres per hectare of water. I can even do this on rainy and/or windy days, unlike general weed spraying. It does, however, get a little difficult if it has been too wet, the paddocks get too boggy, and I'm there to spray fertilizer, not for trench digging in the tractor. Rye grass is a common weed that rears it's ugly head at this time of year in crops as well, so I have a few herbicide plans for some of the paddocks to try to control it. So that will be the next job. So between fertilizer spraying and rye grass spraying I think I'll have enough boom spray work to keep my busy for a few weeks... The old Ford 8401... it's just like My Second Home.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Shearing is over.. let the spraying begin

Earlier this week shearing was completed at farmerpj's shearing shed. Rain had interrupted shearing a few times, but with just half a day to go we were able to get it all out the way on Monday.
I now have quite a lot of white sheep running around and one the jobs I needed to do was to sort out which ewes (female) sheep I was going to hang onto for lambing again next year. Each year we "retire" the old ewes. The correct term is "cast for age", basically it means the old girls are too old and they get to go on a truck ride to... um... the market. We did this on Tuesday and moved the keepers into the paddock where they will spend the rest of the year. Actually they're quite lucky, only a stones throw from the beach.
With rains forecast (and some already been) it's a great chance to spray out some liquid fertilizer. EasyN contains high levels of nitrogen which promoted crop nutrition and growth. A little rain during or after spraying helps to wash the nitrogen into the crops root zone where the plant can easily access it.
So in the rainy breaks during shearing, and since then I've managed to spray a few paddocks of Duram with EasyN, using the Ford 8401 and the Hardi 4228b commander boom spray.
Prioritising is an important part of farm life, and the job that takes top priority today is to catch up with the farm bookwook and do my BAS statement. Yes it should have been lodged yesterday, but jobs that I actually like doing often get done first... and the ones that aren't quite so enthralling seem to get put off til after the last minute.
The rains over night were fantastic and with more forecast over the next few days the young crops will really be coming along nicely.

A cab view from inside the Ford 8401 while driving back from the paddock along the road

Shifting the mob of shorn ewes down to their new paddock at the beach

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Shearing time

Now that seeding is all over we've started on our July shearing. It takes a little organisation to get underway with shearing. For instance I have to have the right mobs in close proximity to the shearing shed, and sorted into their correct mobs.. cause, you know sheep... they love to get out and join mobs that they don't really belong to.
Once they're sorted we need to leave them in the sheep yards for about a day to "empty out" and also dry off a little if their wool is wet.
The night before shearing the sheep, which by now really need to be dry, are herded into the shed.. they are "shedded". Our shearing shed can hold about enough dry sheep for one days shearing for 2 shearers. I personally don't shear too many of them, but hire 2 shearers. My job in the shearing shed is to sort the wool and press it into wool bales, and to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Keeping sheep dry has been a problem this time round. The rain is wonderful for growing crops, but not for drying sheep. We've had good rains this July so the shearing has been a little on again off again as showers seem to be rolling through quite frequently. Usually this shearing takes just under a week, but at this stage it looks like we're gonna be at it for over a week now.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Seed Varieties

To keep up to date with the latest crops and varieties on the farm from time to time we need to buy new seed. This year we have actually started 3 new varieties, actually 4 if you include the pasture seed. Generally new seed comes in in 40kg bags and I usually buy a tonne of each new variety.
The four new varieties I have are;
  • Garnet - canola (I started seeding planting the canola)
  • Mace - wheat
  • Commander - malting barley
  • Bladder clover - the pasture seed

All but the canola was sown on the same day, which made for quite a tiring, fiddly day. See it's quite a task loading the bags into the air seeder, then calibrating for that particular seed, sowing roughly 10 hectares with the new seed and then doing a full clean out (which isn't real easy with a shearer airseeder). And repeat those steps for each new seed variety.

I have to admit that I was quite pleased when I had finished with all the fiddling around and could get back onto seeding the barley. Maritime barley is the last variety I have to go this seeding, so I am on the home stretch now, with only the 32mm of rain we had a coupla days ago to hold us up. A few more days now should see us out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When things break down

There is an unfortunate principle in general farm maintenance that nothing ever breaks down when it's in the shed and not being used. So it's unfortunate that when the equipment is in full use that that's when the breakdowns happen, and can be quite time consuming.

Since seeding started a few weeks back I have had a few breakdowns along the way, but thankfully none too serious. Here is a list..

  • broken share (pronounced shear) bolts on the air seeder tynes
  • bent air seeder tynes
  • broken airseeder boots
  • split/broken airseeder hoses
  • broken spring on air seeder tyne
  • air seeder tyne fallen off
  • knife points on air seeder either broken or just gone missing (probably because they broke).
  • cracks in the air seeder box frame (they are still there... haven't been bothered fixing them yet... just hope it doesn't completely fall to bits)
  • bolts on the A-frame (the tow hitch) on the air seeder broken. This could have been more dramatic if it happened driving along the road because these bolts are basically what holds the front to the back, and it could have all come apart.

and that was just the air seeder! The seed and super unit grouper has had a bit of a problem with one of the elevator chains. This has been quite a frustration for me because the chain is.. well quite old and has broken on numerous occasions. Not real easy to fix either, being on the inside of the elevator. It also jumps off the sprockets quite often, and bends the chain up a little - very frustrating because this is also quite annoying to rectify.

Now the boom spray... Well my Dad is the boom spray operator during seeding (do I need to say any more???). Damage is often done to the outside nozzles, triplets, support brackets, boom lines when the outer wing on the boom hits the fence, or tree, or stobie pole. It has been a frequent problem. Yesterday I was operating the boom spray and I had a break in the outer wing. The outside for metres of the wing is hinged in a way that is designed to "break away" when it hits something like a fence for instance. It has, what I call, a break away clutch. It swings back and then returns to the working position. Well yesterday for me it really broke away. Let me stress that I didn't hit anything with it, the clutch just gave way, with the bottom mount completely breaking off while I was going along. It meant that the outer wing was left dragging on the ground. It was a bit like a door would be with only a top hinge. Oh yeah... I also had problems with the fuel gauge in this tractor the other night. It told me there was some in there... but I think there actually wasn't. I discovered that the tractor runs better when there's actually some fuel in the tank.

So there we have the fun part of seeding. Seeding is rolling on, while some farmers in the area are starting to finish their seeding programs I'd say that we'd probably have about a week to go.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

First signs of life

The most nerve racking time in the farmers year is right about now. It's the time between when the crop has been planted and when it can actually be seen coming up out of the ground. (The other time is in lightening storms in December during harvest, but that's another story). Well I'm happy to report that yes our first crops are now starting to emerge, and they seem to be looking ok. The reason it's so nerve racking for me, is that I'm never absolutely sure that it's gonna come up at all, or if there were problems during planting and there will be big blank gaps in the crops where no seeds were planted (yes embarrassing I know, but yes it does happen - 2 years in a row for me in one paddock once. Believe me, I made sure that same spot wasn't missed the 3rd year running). Planting a crop each year is like taking a huge gamble that it is going to be successful, the crops actually coming up out of the ground is the first part of the journey. Whilst it is a nerve racking stage it is also a good thing that this stage happens while seeding is still going on so I generally don't have that much time to think about it. So the cropping program is still continuing and I'd say that I'm about 2/3rds the way through our 3200acres. All the canola and wheat has been planted, I'm just about finished the peas leaving only barley after that and a little pasture seed. The weather had been quite good for us in the last week or so. The wind is the main thing that holds me up as I cant get out there and spray the paddocks if it's too windy, which it has been today, so the seeding operation grinds to a halt. The rain also slows us down... but you wont hear a farmer complaining about any rain in the growing season

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Well seeding has been going at full steam ahead of late, with very little time off for anything else, including eating or sleeping. Yep that all happens on the go - well the eating part does, maybe not the sleeping part, even though at times it's quite difficult staying awake after hours on end in the tractor. The John Deere 8200 (eighty two hundred) is the main seeding tractor, pulling the mk III shearer air seeder box, and the John Deere 2200 cultivator bar. So far the good old Johny hasn't missed a beat. I'm over 1/3rd the way through the cropping program now, having clocked up over 1000 acres and all the canola and durham is planted, and within a couple of days I will be finishing off the wheat (that's what I'm working on now). That will leave peas, which of course are field peas, not the green peas you can buy in the shops for eating, and barley.
Farmers always have their eye on the weather, and so far the weather has been pretty kind to us too. We've had good follow up rains and I think I have only lost one day seeding due to inclement weather. Yes we love the rain so we don't complain, but it can get too wet to continue seeding. The wind also has to be taken into consideration as it effects the spraying, which is also a big part of seeding. If it's too windy most of the spray that is supposed to be killing my weeds would end up on the neighbours paddock... possibly killing their new crop that has just come up - not the best way to keep up friendly neighbour relations.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

All Systems Go for Seeding

Well today was finally the big day, I finally got the air seeder out into the paddock and started seeding. I've burnt.. well.. just about everything that needs burning, I've serviced everything that needs servicing, repaired everything that needs repairing, so it's all systems go.
Having a quite handy 15mm (that's 60 point in the old scale) of rain sure has helped too. All the paddocks are nice and damp now, and the weeds are all germinating so they can be sprayed out.
The process to actually get the seeding operation up and running is quite complex. The paddock has to be sprayed first with the boom spray, being pulled by the Ford 8401 tractor. And the mix of chemicals that goes in that tank is rather... exhaustive! Besides the water (which I'm surprised that there's any room for) we put in;
  1. ammonium sulphate (which is in "salt" form and is dissolved by the water)
  2. adjuvant oil (helps the plants absorb the chemical better - well least I think thats right)
  3. two different insecticides (not sure why there's two)
  4. oxyflurafen (helps the other chemical do a better job)
  5. trifluralin (stops new weeds from germinating)
  6. glysophate (is the main "knock down" chemical that kills the weeds, common name is Round-up)

So quite a complex operation just loading up the boom spray. I also have to load the seed and super grouper which is on the back of the Atkinson truck. That's how I get the seed and fertilizer to the paddock. Then the air seeder has to be loaded out of the grouper. And calibration of the air seeder. That's where I hand turn the delivery system on the air seeder and collect either the seed or super and weigh it so I can calculate the correct rate per hectare. I started on canola today which needs to run at quite a slow rate of 5kg/ha. This is really slow for the poor old Shearer air seeder so to get it down to that took some doing. After all this is done, and the paddock is sprayed it's time to pull her in and start sewing the seeds.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I need to burn more stuff

Looks like it's been a while since my last post... must mean I haven't done much work lately!
Nah not really, just lots of little jobs. The couple of major jobs that I have done is lamb marking. That is where I bring the ewes and lambs in and draught the lambs off so they can be counted, given and ear tag, immunised and tails removed. I spent about 3 days on the lamb marking.
The other job was finishing off the alterations to the airseeder bar. I widened out the row spacings to 12inch to allow for more trash flow. After hearing from the neighbours that they had done a test run in some of their stubbles... and ended up blocking up their machine, I thought I'd better do a test run myself. The same thing happened for me... the straw blocked up the bar. I still had the option of moving a few tynes around to see if that opened it up a bit more. I did that and then took her our for another couple of test runs. The result was still the same. I couldn't get all the long straw to clear the bar, and in one test I managed to completely block up one side of the bar... that was alot of straw stuck in one place. So hence, I need to burn more stuff!
I've pulled out the old hay rake (of which I should have included a photo, but haven't - maybe next time) and started running it over the stubbles to put all the straw into large rows ready for burning. I'll need to do all the wheat stubbles that I used the prickle chain on earlier in the year.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stone Rolling

In this area we have quite a considerable amount of limestone in the soil. Both loose stones and solid sheet rock. One way to deal with these stones is to run over them with a stone roller (pictured below behind the John Deere 4440).
I only rolled one paddock that was particularly bad for stones. I has a few really rocky reefs and had a lot of larger loose stones on the surface. The stone roller actually smashes up the rocks as it rolls over them leaving just gravel really. It did a nice job of the whole paddock.
KI-KI Engineering stone roller
The stone rolling was done yesterday and the day before. Today more seeding preparations took place, including a test run of the air seeder bar in a heavy wheat stubble to see if it would actually be able to get through it without blocking up with straw. The test was unsuccessful, I have to move a few tynes around to allow more trash flow through the implament.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tractor Servicing

Just like we have to get our cars serviced regularly, I also have to service the tractors regularly to ensure they keep running throughout the important seeding season. The John Deere 8200 has just ticked over 4000hrs so there was a bit more involved in her service. I changed all the filters:
  • engine oil filter
  • hydraulic (transmission) oil filter
  • primary air filter
  • secondary air filter
  • fuel filter
  • fuel water separator

I even bought a primary fuel filter for her, and spent quite some time looking for where it goes... only to find out that this tractor actually didn't have one, so now I have a spare that I can't use.

The service also includes changing the engine oil and coolant, and checking the transmission (hydraulic) oil level, grease the king pins on the front axle and the steering linkage, checking the tyre pressures and the oil level in the hubs on the front wheel assist.

Three of the filters that were changed. From left to right; fuel filter, fuel water separator, engine oil filter.

Where the filters are on the 8200 with the guard lowered down for servicing

The Ford 8401 was also due for a service, and is used extensively during seeding as the spray tractor pulling the boom spray. The 8401 is quite a bit older than the 8200 and has done over 9000hrs, but not due for a "special" service this time. The service on the 8401 included changing the engine oil and filter, checking the coolant level and the transmission oil level, and greasing the front axle and steering linkage. I should really wash the windows sometime too.. it's much easier to drive the tractors when you can see out the windows.

and this is a quick snap shot looking over our play ground at dusk.

Monday, May 3, 2010

You know you live on a farm when...

... a lamb starts sucking on your toes while you're having tea at the kitchen table. At lambing time it is not uncommon to find young lambs abandoned by their mothers.. or worse, the mother dies during or just after giving birth.
Here are a couple of examples I prepared earlier. The older lamb is 10yrs old (actually getting quite old for a sheep). His name is Parsnip and he's definitely part of the family. You also know you live on a farm when you are woken from your Sunday afternoon nap by the hot breath of a sheep, because someone left the back door open and he's wandered right through the house to the bedroom. This is little Pauly. He is a teeny tiny little lamb that, sadly, we found huddling next to his mother who died shortly after giving birth.
It's sad that his mum died, but it's happy that we found him because otherwise he would not have survived for very long at all before crow or maybe a fox would have killed him.
So we are hand raising him now, feeding him bottles of special lamb milk formula several times a day. He often wanders around inside and even at meal times, under the table sniffing and sucking on any ones toes.
Today's jobs on the farm included sheep feeding, and continuing to work on the air seeder to prepare it for the seeding season. It is now all but ready to go.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I now have fertilizer

As the seeding preparations continue a few of the important jobs have now been done. I had to pick up my new seed and super grouper, seen below. I bought it second hand from my cousin and still have to get it set up properly on the back of the Atkinson truck.
Just about all of the chemicals I'm going to require for seeding is now of the farm too. This is a picture of some of it.
I also removed a fenceline across the front paddock, but that also included moving a water pipeline. You can see in this picture two utes tied up to the poly pipe about to drag it across to the other side of the paddock.
Tied on ready to go. So with a little re-plumbing of the water line, plus moving a water trough and pulling out all the posts, what was two paddocks is now one.
A quick trip up to Ardrossan the other day in the Kenworth and now I have 25tonne of DAP fertilizer. I've backed the Kenworth into the shed (mainly because the cab is too tall to fit under) to keep the tipper out of the rain so the fertilizer doesn't absorb too much moisture. I backed the Atkinson in there as well.. not only does it make for a nice picture, but I've also got seed grain the the shed behind it which I will just put up on the back behind the seed and super grouper.
Work also still continues on the airseeder making sure the tynes are all set at the right spacings and ready to roll.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Slowly getting all the jobs done before seeding starts

I just noticed that my last blog was on Monday... it's Thursday now... it looks like I haven't done any work for a few days... but don't worry I sure have been.
The snail bait spreading is the big one, or the urgent one that I finally got out the way yesterday and this morning. I guess a farm is like a giant garden and the snails on the farm need controlling too.
I've also been organising the Atkinson truck so I can go pick up a seed and super unit to go on it. That should happen tomorrow, but before I could put anything on it I had to get the old grain bins off it. So over the past few days I've been working on it. A push off with a fork lift seemed to be the easiest way.
There were 2 bins on the truck, this is the back one coming off
and the front bin
and now outside the workshop with no bins.
Had another small problem I had to fix up before the Atkinson was going to go any further too. The water hose coming off the bottom of the header tank down to the radiator had a rusted out fitting which actually broke off completely. So I had to take the header tank off and take the old fitting out, head to town and pick up a new one (which I was surprised to be able to get) and then put it all back together and top it up with coolant again. She should be right to roll in the morning.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A few odd jobs done today

The day started with sheep feeding again. Most of the ewe mobs seem to be doing quite well now. One of the mobs wasn't doing so well before I started feeding them and a few of the ewes died in the lambing process. But now they seem to be ok.
A few sheep from a different mob managed to get out onto the road this morning so that was another early job putting them back in their paddock... and fixing up the fence they knocked down.
Later on I moved another mob, a mob of wethers this time, back up to my place to "greener pastures".
This is Andy and Elly working the sheep along the road heading south.
I had a couple of my vehicles in town for the past week or so for repairs and today they were both finished and ready to come home. This morning I picked up the supalux (toyota hilux), and then this afternoon brought home the Kenworth and trailer.
This year during seeding I am going to be using a seed and super grouper and will need to have that on the back of the Atkinson truck. I haven't used, or even moved, the Atkinson for quite some time now... 2 or 3 years in fact. I had a few minutes to spare this afternoon so I decided to get her going again and take her for a bit of a run out in the paddock.

Here she is where she's been for the past probably 3 years

After checking oil and water the next step was to put 2 batteries back in her.

I'd like to say that she just fired up and was good as gold first pop, but I did have a little bit of a problem with the electrical connection to the starter motor for a start. I'm hoping the problem was just because it hadn't turned for so long. When it did eventually turn over (which was the result of a few quick words to God) then she fired up first pop. I drove her round and took her for a run out in the paddock, tested the air horn and then parked her in front of the shed rather than behind. Next step is to re-register her and take the bins off, then go collect my new seed and super grouper.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Little Weekend Maintenance

Fencing to be exact, and my type of fencing is to pull out the posts and get rid of the fences all together. My brother was kind enough to come out today and help me remove a fence that was in disrepair. He removed the wires last weekend (what wires were still there that is) and today we got rid of the rest. Using a chain on the bucket of the Belarus front end loader we pulled out all the posts. The chain was tied to the arm of the loader and then tied around the post. I lift the bucket and the post pulls out of the ground. Some come easily, some not so easy, but in the end they all come out. The picture is as I am pulling up on the post.

Once the post was pulled out we loaded it on the back of the ute to take back to the yard. Here on the farm the boys start learning essential farming tasks from a young age. Here my 10 year old son is driving the ute and his brother is watching as we move along the fenceline.

From the tractor seat looking down the fenceline.. I guess you could say this is the before shot, with wires removed but posts still in the ground. I just drove along the fenceline pulling out each post as I was going.

The end result was the view I had out the back window of the tractor. You can see where the fence was.. but no more fence. Now the two paddocks can be worked as one, and that paddock will be about 140 acres or 60 hectares.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Prickle Chain Repairs

Actually there were a few other jobs I got stuck into before the prickle chain repairs, come to think of it the prickle chain repairs where more of an after thought.
First up I fed our four mobs of ewes. Then spent a few minutes cleaning up a few stones from and old wall that collapsed a few months back. Next up refuel the John Deere 4440 and a quick trip to town with it to unload a boom spray for the rural shop. It was supposed to be quick, but the truck was a few hours later that it was supposed to be, so not such a quick trip after all.
It was after all that that I thought I'd shorten the chains on the prickle chain.. they were a bit loose ya see. So there it is in the yard behind the 4440. The chains can be seen (this is in the folded position - usually they sit flat on the ground) and it easy to see why it's called a prickle chain. The chain does wear over time so it gets looser and looser. The solution is to cut out a few links, join it up and you're all set to go.
Disconnecting the chain was the hardest bit. Those bolts hadn't been undone for a while, and they get pretty rough treatment running so close to the ground. The whole chain rolls as it is dragged over the ground, and the "prickles" do their job. So the bolts were quite tough to get undone, but once I undid it (there is one for each section of chain) I could just unhook the chain and cut out a couple of links with the angle grinder.
I'm still trying to undo the front section (the left side - the right side is visible too. Cutting the links. I took two off each section of chain.
John Deere 4440 and Cunningham prickle chain (in folded position)