Seeding- A Frustrating, But Rewarding, Marathon of Challenges

One week has passed in #plant14 on Leguee Farms, and I can honestly say I am exhausted. Last Saturday (well, Friday night) we started seeding – kind of. Our first three days were plagued by problem after frustrating problem, each one seemingly worse than the last. We were already a day later than we wanted to be, and the new drill wasn’t going to be easy to get to the field. I wrote this next bit sitting in the cab of the tractor trying to get seeding:

Sometimes seeding just sucks.

Right now, I am sitting in the cab of our Case tractor, hooked to our new Seed Master drill, where I have spent the past 10 hours. Normally, this would be just fine – but that would be if I were actually accomplishing something. Since 6:00 this morning, we have been fighting with this air drill, trying to get it working. The air drill is new this year, and it has been nothing but trouble so far.

Let me give you a little bit of background. Last fall, we leased a new Seed Master air drill, hooked to a John Deere air cart, and seeded winter wheat. Everything went quite well with that, and we pulled it with one of our old John Deere 9400 tractors. Now, thinking we were being smart, we bought a Case tractor to pull the drill. “Hook a Case to a Deere cart,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said. Well, they were wrong. Connecting two different systems into one has been a serious headache. Complicating things further was the addition of the liquid fertilizer system to the drill, which we have run on our previous drills for quite a long time, but clearly added complication to this new system. 

Why did we buy a Case tractor instead of a John Deere? Well, Case builds a Quadtrac tractor, which has tracks to replace the tires on all four corners. Deere also offers a track tractor, but they are single tracks on each side, much like a big industrial Cat, which is hard to steer and much less versatile than the quad track design. But I’m not sure it was worth it!

To make a long story short, I am sitting here with a $700,000 set of equipment doing nothing. It is supposed to rain tomorrow, and we are already late starting seeding as it is. Delays are not acceptable at this stage. I was expecting some troubles in getting this thing working, but not this much. Not even close. The worst part is, we still don’t know what the problem is! This is a nightmare.

–Saturday, May 10

And it was. It would be another full day of work to get that air drill going. Sunday evening, it finally seemed as though we had worked through the issues, and the new SeedMaster was finally rolling. Two full days of delays had cost us, but it was still early. We could make up the time. Thankfully, it didn’t rain.

The rest of the week was a blur, with only a few other major issues, such as a blown fertilizer pump on the new liquid wagon (still not really sure why, I only know that it cost us a half a day and $1,500 for a new pump) and only a couple of minor stucks. Despite the issues, in that week we seeded the Green Peas, the lentils, 40% of the durum, half the canola and some spring wheat. I’d say we did pretty well!

The nice thing about having two large air drills is that when things go right, you can accomplish a lot in a day. We had a couple of 700+ acre days, and if there hadn’t been such a heavy dew this morning, we could have done that again today.

Keeping up with these drills is a challenge, and the trucks are non-stop busy all day. Hauling fertilizer and seed to the drills is a full-time job for two people, so our drill operators do tend to get stuck out in the field longer than they should. We are trying to address that by getting on a drill in the morning to get it going, but other jobs keep getting in the way!

All the pea and lentil ground needs to be rolled to flatten the fields out (these crops grow very low to the ground, so the combine needs to be able to run its header on the ground without picking dirt), many fields need vertical tillage to clean up last year’s straw, and most important of all, the sprayer needs to stay ahead of the drills to kill weeds before the crop comes up.

All of this can come together with organization and enough people to help. This weekend, my younger sister and her husband came out to help. We need all the people we can get to keep everything moving!

That’s all for now; it’s late and I have to get up very early to get the SeedMaster rolling in the morning. Rain is forecast for Monday, so we need to get all we can done ahead of it. Sleep will be in short supply tonight and tomorrow night! We have had a great week, covering 4,500 acres and 41% of the land, especially considering the challenges we had to fight through. If we can keep up the pace we have been running, in a week there won’t be much left (assuming it doesn’t rain). The marathon continues…

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