Friday, October 21, 2016

Out of Posts

I just noticed, that my uploaded posts that I have written ahead of time have cycled through and posted. I have no more written. Fortunately, I am almost done with harvest. Soybeans are done and corn is down to the last 74 acres. In fact, I was on the computer to answer and email right quick before heading out and just quickly happened to see what was happening over here on my blog. I'll try to get some writing done this weekend and fill you in on what has been happening with my life this last month.

P.S. For those in the know, Mom is having her second to last treatment this morning and is moving home to the farm today. Monday is her last treatment and we are all going up with her to it and then celebrate afterwards. Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes I have received for her. I'll tell you more on that later too.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016


During the last three weeks, I have put in a lot of 14 to 16 hour days by the time you count the one hour of driving each way I do to get down and back from the farm. I don't mind the drive so much because it gives me time to gear up or wind down depending on which side of the day I'm on and I've been traveling those roads my entire life. Half of my journey is down a road between two county seats and gets quite a bit of traffic. The other half of my journey stretches out through a couple rural towns in the corners of their respective counties and gets very little traffic. The driving styles along both roads couldn't be more different.

I'm guessing if I averaged out every incident, I've had at least two to three cars (per day) pull out in front of me to the point where I have to hit my brakes to avoid hitting them on the busier half road of my journey. In the three weeks that I have been making the drive, I've come across about one wreck a week where two cars have recently been involved in a wreck. Almost every single time where I've had to hit my brakes, had the person just waited two more seconds until I had passed, they had a clear stretch behind me to turn onto the road and accelerate at their leisure. Looking back through my driving career, this to me seems like a fairly new phenomenon.

I'm guessing it has a lot to do with our increasingly busy lives where we are always in a hurry to go from one place to another. I also think that when you drive among a lot of traffic daily, you (collectively) tend to absorb everyone else's driving styles and that tends to get more aggressive all the time. The route where all these cars pull out in front of me (and I presume others) is also hilly and only two lanes. However, every couple miles there are passing lanes going up the larger hills to allow faster traffic to overtake slower traffic. Again, I see lots of aggressive driving where people driving slowly do not pull over to allow someone to overtake them or drive slow until the passing lanes begins and accelerates to not allow people to pass them until they make it back to just a single lane where they slow down again. Pretty soon there is a long stream of traffic following them and tailgating occurs in the mild form or full blown road rage occurs in the aggressive form.

I for the most part just follow knowing that getting around someone or letting someone around me is only going to change either of our commute times to the other county seat by a minute at most. Many times I have seen someone tailgating me until the first pullover in which they can get by me only to still have them in site when we reach the other county seat 20 miles down the road.

The last twenty miles of my journey to the farm has almost no traffic and I've yet to have someone pull out in front of me or see any forms of aggressive driving on it. Someday if I live out my dream to build a home somewhere to retire in, I'm storing up this knowledge because I certainly don't want to live along a road where I have to deal with aggressive drivers hurting and sometimes killing each other for the sake of getting to work a minute sooner.

Monday, October 17, 2016

3020 Conversion

Although not a picture of the 3020 my Dad bought for $1000 sight unseen that had been stored in a barn for a couple dozen years, it looks identical, or at least did until I got my hands on it. During the rainy day we had awhile back and another more recently, I have been working to convert the 3020 from a 24V electrical system to the standard 12V electrical system so that we can use the tractor to run augers on the farm. Unfortunately due to the length of time it has been taking, lack of rainy days and a fast progressing harvest, it might be next year before it actually runs an auger.

The 24V 3020 was known for one thing, dash fires caused by electrical malfunctions. It is rare to find one that hasn't been converted especially since the one my Dad bought is just two years shy of turning 50 years old!

When we started on this project, I thought it would be as simple as swapping out the batteries and changing around a few wires but that turned out not to be the case. The starter had to be replaced to have equivalent starting power on a lower voltage. This was accomplished by making the starter bigger which intruded into the fuel filter area which meant a new fuel filter mount and fuel lines. One odd thing about this tractor is the fuel filter is on the opposite side of the fuel pump which meant some delicate work to get the new lines routed. I ended up doing that twice since the first fuel lines my Dad bought were for the wrong model year and they changed them between years.

On the other side of the tractor, I had to replace the generator with a modern alternator to charge up 12V batteries instead of 24V batteries. The bracket that came with the kit looked like it had been built by a high school kid in his first welding class and was crooked at could be. I ended up torching the welds off of everything and rewelding the bracket from scratch. It now looks sturdy and holds the alternator properly so the belts line up.

This tractor has two 12V batteries hooked in series to run it. My Dad initially bought two 6V batteries to hook in series to convert it to a 12V (total) system. However, when I started hooking up wires, I realized that all the gauges and lights were 12V. They ran from one battery before but if I did that the same this time, they would have half the voltage required. It was looking like I was going to have to completely rewire everything to get it to work. He had bought the 6V batteries thinking that keeping them wired in series would be easier and cheaper since most his other tractors also use 6V batteries. However, using two 12V batteries wired in parallel (meaning the total system is still 12V), would allow all the lights, gauges and such to be wired off one battery as it currently is while still allowing us to convert to 12V system wide and eliminate the fire inducing (and very expensive) components in the dash.

I should mention that all the parts in the conversion cost about $300 or $400, while replacing the components in the dash that cause the fires (and did so in the one we bought sometime in the past) cost several thousand dollars to replace.

So the new batteries should arrive today and I'm hoping with another morning, I can finish wiring up everything and give it a try. We also changed out the fuel and oil filters with their corresponding fluids along with new crankcase fluid and new radiator fluid. Although we have a couple nice days starting tomorrow, there is more rain in the forecast for later in the week. I'm kind of anxious to see if all my tinkering will make this thing work.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Harvest: Part Five

We made good progress on corn harvest but decided to put it on hold for awhile. We have just a few acres of corn left on Mom's farm, named for her since she bought the farm without any input from my Dad, because we don't have any place to store the shelled corn if we were to combine it. We are waiting for semi's to haul some out of the stuffed corn bins to make room for the last of it. We also have around 120 acres or so on our farthest north farm that we farm for someone else. We generally harvest it last to save them money by not having to dry the corn down so much and also it is our farthest haul to get it dried and stored into bins. It is much easier to haul it when you aren't having to drive by twenty other farmers also hauling grain down the same roads. When the traffic dies down, there will be plenty of time to haul the last of it home.

So we started on the soybean harvest. We have just as many acres of soybeans as corn but harvest it quite different. While the corn has been averaging anywhere from 220 to 250 bushels per acre, the soybeans are probably around 60 to 80 bushels to acre. Both are bumper crops for this area but with soybeans yielding around three times less than corn, you would think it makes the job easier. Nope. We hire a custom harvesting outfit to help out so we most of the time have three combines (ours plus two others) working in the field at a time, sometimes four. Me being the designated catch wagon has to drive around like crazy unloading all the combines on the go so they never have to stop and transfer the soybeans to waiting wagons. It is pretty intense much of the time and requires a lot of concentration to keep all the combines straight so I will know which one will require unloading next, which direction we can unload in since combines can only unload from one side which must be pointed away from crops, get there in time and put the grain in the correct wagons. With custom harvesters who get paid by the acre, they like to go when the going is good and will work late into the night. This means that I must also carry a visual map of the field (in my head) we are working on so that I can navigate in the darkness and surmise where the empty wagons were dropped so I can find them and remember which wagons are full or have some grain in them in case we need to haul them in before an impending rain.

I find that my brain has to be so focused, that I have a hard time shutting it off at night (or early morning) when the rest of my exhausted body drops into bed for a few hours of sleep before starting over again. My dreams are filled with running the catch cart in the dark and always being confused. Fortunately, we had a light rain that kept us out of the fields for a day and a half which allowed me time to recuperate and type this into the computer for you all. We probably covered 350 acres of soybeans out of the 1000+ we had in two days so with three combines, it moves fast. Hopefully we get another handful of days to get the rest of them in so we can switch back and finish the last of the corn and be done. I can't wait.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Harvest: Part Four

Five o'clock one evening I found myself admiring the shadows growing in the corn field and that is when it hit me. There is the adage about the five o'clock shadow referring to man's beard stubble starting to show up and here I am seeing a field of stubble at five o'clock. When you are alone in a cabin of a tractor all day long (and then some) for weeks on end, your mind starts to grab at straws for things to think about. Fortunately most of our cabbed tractors do have radios so I've done a fair sight of listening to NPR, pledge drive and all, these last few weeks.

We had to quit early one evening to celebrate my Mom's halfway through treatment milestone with some pizza when she got back to the farm one weekend. Thus I helped my Dad unload the last two wagons of grain for the day and nabbed this picture. Our smaller wagons hold about 540 bushels of grain each and we pull them in pairs. Our largest wagons hold 640 bushels of grain and we pull them in one by one. My grain cart in comparison can hold nearly 1200 bushels of grain. Our modern augers have an articulating portion that swings around in an arc which makes unloading the grain fairly straight forward. You just pull the wagon up near the auger and swing the red part underneath the shoot and unload. Back in my youth, the business end was fixed which meant that you had to get the wagon in exactly the right place. Doing paired wagons back then was for the highly skilled people only because you had to back up both wagons after unloading the first in the pair and then get the second wagon just right from the steering wheel of a tractor thirty feet away at that point.

Although I don't have any overall pictures of the 12V conversion on the 3020 tractor my dad bout for $1000 out of a barn site unseen, I did find this picture of the 24V wiring to the starter assembly that I took for future reference. I had to replace the starter with a 12V one and thought perhaps a picture of the old wiring might come in useful. Since I haven't yet had time to wrap up that project and wire the 12V starter that I already installed, I haven't determined if I will need this picture or not. Because the new starter is longer, it interferes with the fuel filter which means I have to install a different fuel filter complete with new lines. I also had to put on a new alternator, new batteries and because we could, a new seat. If we get this conversion done and the tractor starts up, it will serve out life as an auger tractor powering the screws that lift the grain from the wagon into the top of the grain bins.