Thursday, October 8, 2015

A New Way to Pull Beans

These first few pictures were taken the very first time we used our new bean puller. If it doesn't look brand spanking new, just keep in mind that when I use the term "new" it mostly means "new-to-us".

The bean puller pulls four rows at a time, laying the two center rows together into one, and laying the outside two rows further outward. When you make another pass going the other direction, those two outside rows merge with other outside rows. So each time you make a pass, you're pulling four rows and ending up with two windrows.

Here's a closeup of the equipment. Yes, there are some weeds. I don't know how that happens.

Here are two rows laying together after being pulled.

And this is another field on another day. The green is mostly weeds, but you can see the dry bean pods laying neatly with the weeds in rows.

The bean pulling must be done early in the morning, while there is still heavy dew. Otherwise the dry bean pods shatter when they are disturbed, and the beans fall out on the ground.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New Bean Equipment

The past few years we've pulled the heirloom dry beans by hand. Last year, when the harvest was thin but the work was still just as hard, we agreed that there had to be a better way. So all year we've been watching for specialized edible bean harvesting equipment. Earlier this year we found an edible bean head that fits on our existing combine. 

The other bits of needed equipment seemed more difficult to find. We'd find a bean puller, but it was designed to mount to a John Deere tractor, and not a Massey Ferguson or Kubota. Or we'd find one that was ridiculously overpriced or completely falling apart. 

Finally, just as we feared we'd be hand-pulling again, we found a puller on the other side of the state. Our friend (and soil consultant) Joe went to look at it and purchase it for us. He then delivered it to us, along with his own bean shaker/windrower, which he is loaning to us. So grateful for his help and experience and generosity.

This is equipment that makes us very, very happy. Note how the skidsteer comes in handy as we unload the equipment. What did we do before we owned this nifty tool?

The Farmer and Joe discuss how to use this new machinery. There has been a bit of a learning curve this year, but we are so grateful for tools that make our jobs a bit less physically demanding.

We're not getting any younger, you know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New Use for an Old Bin

Earlier this summer we got ready to ship out our corn. Corn has been primarily a cash crop for us, and we typically store it in one or more of our large bins. These bins are connected to our grain leg (the vertical system you see in this picture), which makes loading and unloading grain MUCH easier for us. 

Here a couple of the guys are getting the unloading auger ready. Note the makeshift scaffolding.

This is the inside of the bin as the corn is unloaded. There is a door in the bottom of the bin that the grain falls into--you can tell about where the door is in the picture below.

Here is the truck as we are loading it. The corn is sold to a company that will use it for organic feed for animals.

The bins are designed to hold one type of grain at a time. But this summer we changed the inside of one of our bins to allow for storage of many different kinds of beans.

We started with the walls of a much smaller bin to form the center. We screwed metal C-channel on to the center and the outside walls to allow us to put dividers in. The boards that separate the pie wedges are removable, and we can add boards up to the top of the inside circle.

This is a great way to retrofit a large bin for lower-volume use. Of course there is a lot of wasted space above, but perhaps we will find a way to use that, too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sorting Cattle: The Importance of the Right Equipment

When we decided recently to add cattle to the farm, we also decided that we needed to set up sorting area and acquire appropriate equipment. We've got some sorting capabilities in the sheep barn that help us with the sheep, but that system isn't set up for cattle. And sometimes we just set up temporary fences and pens and do it the hard way with the sheep, if we are not near the sheep barn. But temporary fencing and pens certainly don't cut it with cattle. 

When cattle decide to go a different direction than where you want them to go, there is no reasoning with them. And, at more than half a ton each, you certainly can't force them to do anything once they've made up their minds.  So we acquired a squeeze chute and sorting pen and alley. We set up small but sturdy permanent pens next to the sheep barn. 

This particular day it was time to sort off the two steers that were ready for freezer camp. We herded all the cattle into a small pen, and made sure that the chute/alley system was set up so that most of the cattle could go right through it (one at a time) back into a larger pen. The two steers would be let out a side gate back into the smaller holding pen.

Someone always has to go first. And we let whoever it is think about it and go slowly.

Once the first one goes, the others will follow. At this point we have already sorted off the two steers (on the outside of the alley). 

Eventually, the bull gets to make the trip. He is one handsome (and big and strong) dude. We are glad to have this great equipment that helps us with this process and keeps us safe.

There are lapses in the photo series because sometimes you have to set the camera down and help with the sorting. It's usually at the most exciting times, too.

Here the bulk of the herd is moving back out to pasture. You'll notice that the small calves move along with their mothers, but consider the fence to be calf-optional. They are supposed to be on the inside of the fence, moving along behind the cows. But as long as they get to where they are going, I guess the manner they get there is less important.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Don't Mess with Hornets

"The wing structure of the hornet, in relation to its weight, is not suitable for flight, but he does not know this and flies anyway." --Albert Einstein

One day this summer while working the fields, The Farmer encountered a nest. He hit it with the tractor, hidden as it were in the leaves of a tree at the edge of a field.

Good news: The tractor he was driving was the only one that we own that has an enclosed cab.

Bad news: Since the air conditioning on this mid-80s tractor hasn't worked in years, all the windows were open, and the door was taken off entirely.

Good news: Even though he was instantly surrounded by a swarm of flying, stinging insects (we suspect hornets), he was able to drive off without being stung. At all.

Bad news: The next day, when he returned for a picture, he was stung. Just once, fortunately.

The moral is perhaps to leave dangerous situations well enough alone...

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