Friday Farm Flicks #plant14 style 5/16/14

You may have noticed quite a bit of dust stirring across the country side in the last few weeks.  Planters have been rolling for hours on end, precisely planting the 2014 Corn and Soybean crops across the Midwest.  Overall, the 2014 planting season got off to slow start a few weeks ago but then was quickly stalled out with rains and constant cold throughout most of the Midwest.  Our farm was no exception to this rule. We began planting Corn this “spring” about 3 weeks later than we would normally like to, but that is ok.  Why? you may ask?  Because 5 out of the last 6 growing seasons where we have planted late, have resulted in above trendline yields on Midwestern grain farms!  Most notably for us was 2009 and 2013.  Both years served up difficult and late planting seasons but also offered 2 of the best harvests we have ever had.

To prep for #plant14 we first have to prep the ground using our 4 wheel drive tractor and soil finisher.  The finisher slices up the remaining stubble from the previous year, levels the ground and uproots any weeds that may be present all in a matter of seconds.  With the soil finisher we can travel at around 8.5mph across the field, pulling 3 or so inches deep and 39’9″ wide, averaging around 38 acres per hour.  As you may imagine, doing so requires a good tractor to pull it.  Our tractor is a John Deere 9510,weighing in at 44,000 lb,  touting 510hp with a fuel capacity of 300 (give or take) gallons of Diesel Fuel.  When pulling the soil finisher we burn around 0.7 gallons of fuel per acre, or 26 gallons per hour.  Learn more about our tractor by clicking here.

cropped-20140505_194945000_ios-1.jpgI made a short video of this tractor and finisher in action using my UAS Drone and GoPro Camera.

Click here to watch!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lTNRrxx0pE

As the ground began to slowly dry out, we decided to plant our first field of corn.  Mother nature wasn’t exactly cooperating though, as it was and still is much colder than what we would like it to be for this time of the year.

#plant14 begins!

#plant14 begins!

 

 

This year is my first year as a GoPro Camera owner.  I have one for my UAS and 2 other older GoPros to play around with.  So, I put them to work while planting our first field this spring.

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Click here to see the Spring Planting video!

THE most important thing on our Family Farm is, you guessed it, Family!  While the Spring Season brings the time to plant with it, it also brings things like Tball, Baseball, and Softball for us.  On the day this pic was taken, we could have been out in the field planting corn, however we were right where we needed to be, watching our little mans first ever Pinto Baseball game!

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This Spring I had a great opportunity to talk about what we do to many many people when I was invited to bring our tractor up to our towns “SpringFest” which included a “Touch A Truck” section.  There were Fire Trucks, Police Cars, a Garbage Truck and a Semi truck there as well as our tractor for kids of all ages to explore.  I was more than happy to answer the questions of the (my estimate) of 300-500 people who visited the tractor in the 5 hours I was there.

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While the rain delays of the spring season continued, I was honored to be asked to do a presentation on Agricultural UAS (Drones) for an Agricultural Technology Class at Joliet Jr College.    After a 30 minute presentation indoors, the weather cooperated (just barely enough) to take the class outside and give a live demonstration.  Mr. Johnson in the schools Ag Department even piloted the UAS for a bit.  The schools Ag Department hopes to purchase their own UAS in the coming months so they can better educate their students on the benefits of their use.

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Soon after plant14 began to roll on once again, and things got back to normal.  So I thought.  After running out of seed one night in a nearby field, I drove back to the house, filled with seed, had a quick bite for dinner and drove back to the field.  There I found something I never thought I would find.  4 puppies who had obviously been dropped off.  Naturally I stopped and tried to coax them to come by me.  At first they were a bit shy, but once they realized I was there to help, we quickly became friends.  My wife brought out our portable dog kennel, and we loaded them up to keep them safe.  From there they spent a few nights in our shed, protected from the elements and predators that they would have been up against out there all on their own.  Within a few days time, we had them checked out at the vet, (all are in good health) and have found Furever homes for them.  Well, all except one, which we decided to keep!  Like many Pirates, he has one bad eye that will require surgery to fix, leading us to name him “Captain Jack” (Sparrow) from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series.

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After all was settled with the pups that night, Plant14 rolled into the night.

Shortly thereafter we finished up Corn Planting for the season.

Click here to watch as we close up the #plant14 corn season around midnight.

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As the weather turned more favorable, we switched to planting soybeans.  In this picture, we are filling the planters large seed boxes with approximately 5.8 million soybeans taken from our seed wagon.  These soybeans will  be precisely planted at various populations over roughly 80 acres of land before I will have to fill up again. Check out my recent post about how farmers are using GPS and VRT Technologies to Plant Efficiently by clicking here 

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Last but not least:

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Warmer weather and a nice warm rain have helped bring new life to the farm.

TOP: a soybean planted 2 days ago shows a future root emerging from the soybean seed as it begins to grow.

BOTTOM: Our first planted field of corn is emerging nicely.

Have a great weekend everyone and check out the latest “AgriNews” newspaper. You might just see some familiar faces on the front page!

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Experience #plant14 via a #GoPro!

On a normal spring day your driving down the highway out in the country, enjoying the scenery of farmstead after farmstead and fields that seem to have no end in sight.  Along the way, you see some dust flying just ahead and begin to wonder what it is.  As you drive closer you notice a farmer in his fields with his tractor and planter, planting perfectly straight row after perfectly straight row.  You begin to wonder what it would be like to be in the fields with him/her, planting the seeds of the future, risking so much just to put his/her future in the unpredictable hands of Mother Nature.  Well, now you have the chance to experience just that!

 

Our Plating Tractor with a GoPro Mounted to the Fender

Our Plating Tractor with a GoPro Mounted to the Fender

While planting our first 100 acres, I took out my GoPro and began to make a video showing what its like to be in the fields, planting corn, as well as some close up shots showing how the planter operates.  Check it out by visiting our farms YouTube Channel (BoucherFarmsIL) or by clicking here > Planting Corn 4/25/14.

#plant14 begins!

#plant14 begins!

 

A few weeks ago I posted about how farmers use GPS and VRT technology to plant more efficiently, which can be viewed by clicking here and This past week, we began to use that technology when we began #plant14 on the farm.  So far we have 180 acres of corn planted and are hoping for some nice warm weather to help it get off to a great start.

Close up of the Row Cleaners at work

 

I highly encourage you to follow the #plant14 hashtag on twitter and facebook.  Thousands of farmers from across the nation and beyond are posting their experiences this planting season using that category.  I hope to see you there!

Thank you and God Bless!

 

 

 

Burying the Hatchet on #Harvest12

Yesterday was one of the best days a farmer who experienced the drought and Harvest or 2012 could ask for. It was a beautiful day in the low 60’s with a nice breeze and it was the beginning of the end of Corn Harvest 2012.

Yesterday, we began to spread dry fertilizer on our farm fields using GPS and VRT technologies which allow us to replace the virtually the exact amount of nutrients the crop removed from the ground in virtually the exact spot from which it was used.

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This picture shows a fertilizer spreader using GPS and VRT technology to accurately an efficiently spread dry fert on my farm.

Today, we begin to bury the hatchet for 2012 and begin anew. Today, we turn over a new leaf, well hundreds of thousands of them to be exact, by tilling the ground and prepping it for a great 2013 crop year to come.

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Today is a great day.

Making Farm Safety #1

For generations, Farming and Ranching has been considered one of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in the US. It’s no secret that large animals can be very unpredictable, farm accidents occur both on and around the farm, and now and again there are farmer vs vehicle accidents on our nations roads. While many farm accidents are avoidable many are simply a hazard that goes along with the job. Murphy’s law. without a doubt. exists in Agriculture.

Being a farmer and a father of three, safety is a top priority on my farm. Accidents can, do and have happened over the years. Let’s just say after an accident long ago, we are very lucky to have my Dad here with us today. That being said, its understandable to say that my family is very safety conscious and, from time to time, takes additional measures to help ensure our own day to day safety on our farm.

Our latest example of increasing safety on our farm is a simple one, A right side step for our tractor.

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On many front wheel assist (similar to a 4×4 vehicle) tractors, there are steps on the left (drivers side) for the operator to get in and out of the cab. However since there is no cab access on the right side, there are no steps and nothing to stand on to access the right side of the tractor. This presents a problem when a headlight needs to be changed, when washing the tractor or when simply cleaning its windows. In order to complete those tasks, I normally have to climb up the rear of the tractor, then climb onto the rear outer tire in order to reach the lights, or clean the upper parts of the windows.

That’s until these parts came in the other day
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Here is a picture of what the right side of the tractor looks like as if it were New from the John Deere Factory in Waterloo IA.

(See how a new John Deere MFWD Tractor is made by clicking here)

The Muffler is on the right, and part of the fuel tank is showing below.

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With two of us at work, a few wrenches, and about a half hour, here is what it looks like now.

Side view of new side step and railing.

Front Right of Cab with new step and railing

At the end of the day, I can honestly say that I am very satisfied with the step, how easily we were able to install it, and the increased safety it offers. The only thing I will change on it is the color of the hand railing. This winter, the green railing will be removed, repainted to match the muffler’s black color and replaced so it wont stand out quite as much.

Yes, this example of increased safety was relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to install, but that is exactly the point. The Majority of the most valuable safety measures are indeed cheap and easy to install, yet seem to be commonly overlooked. Another example of a cheap and easy safety measure is a simple SMV sign which I wrote about on this blog a few days ago.

Check it out by clicking here: “While Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down”

In closing, I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to look around their home or at their place of work and identify at least one thing that could be a safety hazard and address it. Weather its big or small, weather someone else notices or not, you will make a difference to someone. The someone who didn’t accidentally get injured thanks to a moment of your kindness.

God Bless

As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down

We’ve all been there.  You are in a hurry, your driving down the road, with places to be and things to do and worst of all, your hungry.  Then ahead in the distance, there is a string of brake lights….yes another traffic jam.  As you get closer you see flashing yellow lights.  The thought of “construction again?” crosses your mind.  As you pull up on the car in front of you, you then realize it isn’t construction at all, its a piece of farm equipment doing a mere 20 mph  taking up nearly the whole road making it seemingly impossible to pass.  Frustration overcomes you, then maybe a little anger because you will surely be late for your appointment, or whatever else it may be.  But, eventually (after what seemed like an eternity) its your turn to pass.  Still frustrated and maybe still angry for being late, you might honk in displeasure and wave at the farmer as you drive by (Ill let you count the amount of fingers used).  But then life goes on, you pull into your favorite drive through and order up dinner to go (Ironic huh?) and get Safely on your way.

We’ve all been in those shoes before.  Running late, in a hurry, and stuck in traffic.  Its common everyday right?  Happens all the time and at the end of the day everyone gets home safe.  Not always.  According to The Michigan Secretary of State:

From 2004 through 2009, more than 1,000 crashes involving farm equipment occurred in Michigan. Of those crashes, 272 involved injuries and 22 fatalities.

In the coming weeks, Harvest will begin to gear up across the Midwest.  Drivers will see an increased number of Farm Equipment traveling our nations back roads, County Roads, and State Routes as well.  One thing all of these pieces of Farm Equipment have in common is a simple triangular shaped reflective sticker or panel attached to them.  Like the one below.  Now I have to assume most of you reading this have a valid drivers licence and know your road signs, but lets take a short quiz as a refresher.

What is the name of this Sign?

What Does it Mean?

Where do you usually find it?

I know, its an easy one right?  I hope it was.  Here’s the answers:

What is the name of the sign?

 SMV (Slow Moving Vehicle)

What does it Mean?

 The vehicle it is attached to is moving at a reduced rate of speed, usually around or under 25mph.

Where do you usually find it?

Rear of a John Deere Combine with SMV

How’d you do?  It was easy right?

These Slow Moving Vehicles present a challenge to their operators and other drivers alike.  I personally,  know all too well, that driving a slow, large, often tall and wide, piece of farm equipment from field to field has its challenges.  Narrow roads, narrow bridges, low clearance on overhead bridges, construction, etc etc, are huge concerns just to name a few.  However my (and other farmers) main concern is safety of  the other drivers who are on the road as well as our own.

While all farm equipment legally has to have a SMV attached to it before it can be driven on the road, many late model combines and tractors have numerous flashing (hazard) lights as well as Beacon Lights to warn other drivers of their slower speeds.  Still some drivers just don’t seem to notice and or respect the warnings these safety measures put out.

In my personal experience while driving farm equipment on the roads,  I have been passed on the right (on the shoulder), been honked at numerous times, seen “the finger” waved my way more times than I can count, have had a few near misses, and have ran partially off the road in order to avoid an accident.  I can go on and on.  However have been lucky enough to have never been in an actual Tractor or Combine vs Car accident, though many others have, like this

or this

From a farmers point of view, we understand that while driving our equipment on the roads presents a challenge to other drivers. However, moving our equipment from field to field via our nations roads is an important and necessary way for us to plant, care for and harvest our crops which help feed you and your family, as well as the world.  Just like every other driver on the road, a farmers top priority is getting to the next location safely.

So next time you are on your way to work, and come up on a SMV, like a Tractor or Combine, please slow down, most farmers will try to give you some room to pass when its safe, then maybe even give a wave.   Please remember,

 As Harvest Speeds Up, Please Slow Down

 

Goodbye Old Friend

Today I parted ways with and old friend of many years.  I’ve known and have spent countless hours with this friend since I was a little one myself and know every thing about er.

 I basically grew up with this friend but after realizing this friends time has come and gone, I as well as my Dad and Uncle knew it was time to cut er free, and let er go.

Now this may sound a bit silly at first but hear me out, this friend isn’t a family pet, or a family member, or anything to get too terribly attached to, it’s a piece of Iron.

Yeah, I just might have made you say WTH? in your head, or maybe you get where I’m headed here.  Either way, let me explain:

This Old Friend is a 1980s model 4600 Cultivator:

Ever since I was barely big enough to sit on my Dads or Uncles lap in the tractor cab in the spring, this cultivator was behind me, tilling the dirt, prepping the fields for planting, etc etc.  Through out the years, I can fondly remember a few memories made here and there while pulling it through the field.  I learned (as a kid) that even though you have 4 tires on the main frame, if one goes flat, the others will not be of any help getting you to the other end of the field, they work together as a team.  I also learned how to change a tire on that day.  I can remember leveling off plowed ground with it one spring and coming up on a wet spot in the field, but it didn’t look too bad.  While the tractor made it through it just fine, when this old friend hit the spot, it went down..hard, and almost stopped the tractor as well.  I also remember learning a very important lesson about changing the sweeps (the part that actually moves the soil around when in the field).

NEVER, and I mean NEVER, attempt to hold the sweep bolt down with your finger if you are using an Air Wrench to take the nut off on the other side!

 I’m sure just about every farmer knows what I’m talking about there, but incase you don’t, here’s a short explanation on what happens when you spin that nut off the back side:  Since the front of the bolt is constantly  rubbed by soil, it wears flat, and gets very sharp edges.  Now picture, your finger holding it in place then all of a sudden that bolt spins around at an RPM high enough to slice your finger open in a flash.  The usual result is something like

Son of a *#&$^#&^&@#&@*&&^$,

followed by a lot of blood, water to clean the cut, and electrical tape…farmers dont need band aids 😉

The point is, I learned a lot from this old Red Friend, and will miss it.  Well, I suppose I wont really miss it, but I will miss the memories, life lessons learned  and much more that running this rig in the field taught me.

To loosely quote a conversation between my Uncle and I this past week,  I stated that it is just a piece of Iron, which is true, but he replied (in not so many words)

 Its more than that.  Its your heritage, your memories, it’s where you came from, it’s what got you to where you are today, it’s a part of who you are.

Today, Im finding those words to be very true.

To me this picture says it all.  Years ago, when I was a kid, this tractor and cultivator were perfect in every way.  Today, the tractor and soil finisher in the background are the widely considered to be the preferred tools to use.  I’m not saying either is good or bad, just that everything has its time.  And for this old Friend, its time has come on our farm.  So maybe, someday, my kids will look back on the tractor and soil finisher in the background with memories of their own, just as I am doing now.  Maybe, they will have their own stories to tell their kids (and you), as I do.  But one thing is for sure, they too will eventually have to say:

Goodbye Old Friend, and thanks for the Memories