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Friday, October 21, 2011

Autumn and Smoke

Actually the movie was called "Summer and Smoke" but this is October 21 as I was making smoke today. The weather has been nice the past while and I'm catching up on a lot of jobs I didn't think I would get the chance to. Like piling and burning this flax straw. One less job to do next spring. I also got all the hay bales (71) hauled home, putting well over 60 miles on the little Massey in the process. Funny how a 60 mile trip sounds like a lot on a tractor but when you divide it up into 7 separate ten miles journeys it is no big deal.
Watching the smoke and flames and the few remaining autumn leaves it brought to mind one of the few things I remember from school days. An old poem Indian_Summer-by-William_Wilfred_Campbell, "along the line of smokey hills the crimson forest stands, and all the day the blue jay calls throughout the autumn lands". No Blue Jays calling today and precious few crimson leaves left on the trees. And I guess those "hills" are none too impressive. But there sure was smoke.
As I walked the fields with a pitchfork carrying piles of burning straw I also thought of my Uncles who walked these fields before me. They'd have been right out there helping out too I imagine if they were still living. And at quitting time invite me in for a cup of coffee to sit beside the old wood stove and talk a while, maybe watch the news and weather on tv.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Family Herald

The  old Family Herald magazine is a relic from over 50 years ago. One of the few farm publications my parents subscribed to. As a kid I was mostly interested in the cover photo and the comic section. The magazine had some good columnists and commentators, I guess they would be bloggers today .
Farming articles seemed to be a little more concentrated on the eastern style of farming, not the big wheat farms and cattle ranches we had out in the west.
Ads were prolific , annoying at the time but today they are some of the more interesting parts of the magazine.
A friend donated these to me recently, knowing my appreciation for old magazines and papers. No doubt he knew they would be going to a good home and not the incinerator barrel.
I guess it says something about me, the fact that I am more interested in farming magazines from 50+ years ago than today's glossy chemical company inspired offerings.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Baling with the Massey.

Beautiful fall weather continues and I keep finding things that need to be done before winter. Like baling some oat straw with the Massey baler earlier this week. It worked perfectly, which is not always the case with balers. Never missed a knot or broke a shear pin and it produced good solid bales. I wouldn't want to handle as many in a day now as I did 40 years ago when I was just getting into serious farm work but I don't mind a few for a change.
Over an inch of rain last night has given me a chance to catch up on a few "rainy day jobs" that were overdue. I actually made a dent in the huge pile of paperwork that needs to be entered into the farm accounts. Not my favourite job but a necessary one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Harvest 2011 in the bin

Its done, the 2011 crop is in the bin. Except for the bushels I spilled on the ground and wasted through various accidents and my own stupidity. I sometimes think I wasted more grain then my grandfathers grew on this farm.
The final day was a bit of a stress test with a minor breakdown on the combine that involved no expense other than running miles back and forth down rough and dusty gravel roads with the grain truck to weld a hitch extension. Threatening unsettled weather put me a bit on edge too. I really wanted to get finished and get the machinery home under cover before rain hit. Hopes of that happening sunk quickly as the tractor sunk into the mud in mid afternoon. They say a short cut is not always a short cut and its true.
I had cut through this "dry" creek with the swather a few days earlier while cutting the flax. Figured the combine and tractor would make it through with an empty hopper. Not true. The combine started to sink pulling the tractor sideways. Without the rear dual wheels on the tractor, forward motion suddenly changed to downward movement and I quit before things got really mired. Thank goodness for cell phones and my nephew being home to bring a tractor to help. Even with the big new 50 foot nylon tow rope it was all the smaller tractor could handle to get the big guy out of the mud.
That pushed my finish time well into the late night hours. The weather gave me a break as the wind stayed up keeping the flax dry enough to go through the combine without plugging. That John Deere pull type has an insatiable appetite for grain swaths and I sure appreciated it. No regrets there.
The double swath feature on the swather is a mixed blessing. Two swaths laid together to make 40 feet per pass is a real time saver when it works. It takes perfect driving of the combine though to get it into the combine pickup. A few inches too far either way and swath starts pushing ahead  of the outside edge of the pickup creating a "snowball effect" in which flax is pushed and rolled up into an ever increasing pile . When that finally enters the header it is a real shock to the feeder system. I heard a few complaints from the slip clutches but it powered the slug through every time.
I did get out a few times to push swath into the header by hand in the tractor lights. All the time thinking about all the horror stories of farmers caught in combine augers and being permanently injured or worse.
The crop results were mixed. Wheat pretty good but downgraded due to ergot. Canola was great on one field, disaster on another due to combined effects of a missed herbicide application and then hail on the swath.
Oats pretty good, way better than last year.
Flax looked great all season but did not yield well.
Now to tackle the endless list of things needing to be done before winter. I know I won't finish it but will try to figure out the top priority items and get them done.