Planting 2016

Been a rain soaked Spring here.  Not good for any kind of farming activity.

Got the field turned over a bit over a week ago…….finally.  And now starting on trying to put a crop in.

First step is to bring some fertilizer in, and some seed.  Done deal.

Update the progess, as it progresses 🙂  About a month and 1/2 late, but in progress.

Update 6/16/16

The ground was initially tilled with an offset disc.  One of the nicest pieces of equipment I own………..a 12′ Miller Offset Disc.  These are commonly used in this part of the country for primary tillage.planting 2016-26These take a bit of power to pull in the heavy clay soil we have here.  I’m using an old Case 1370 dedicated to primary tillage.  It sits idle about 11 1/2 months per year, but it’s sorely needed when it’s time to plant.planting 2016-25The ground looks like this after it’s been tilled with an offset disc.  The disc doesn’t do a good job of burying trash (any stuff that was growing on the field when it was first tilled)planting 2016-5


When I use an offset disc, instead of a plow, I can spread fertilizer immediately following the primary pass.  The ground is relatively smooth when it’s been offset.planting 2016-6Rate of flow is adjustable according to the amount of fertilizer needed for a particular crop.  I’m planting Haygrazer, and usually I’d have planted it in April.  I’m late planting, so I can only expect one cutting from the crop.  Because of this, I’m only using Urea.  A 46-0-0 mixture (46lbs/100lbs Nitrogen) is applied.  This is spread at the rate of 100lbs/acre.

Finishing the Seed Bed

The ground needs to be worked down to a seed bed.  Make small dirt clods outta big dirt clods 🙂

For this, I like to use a harrow disc (also called a finishing disc).  It’s a special implement made to break up loose material that results from plowing, discing, etc.planting 2016-8This is an almost antique International 10′ disc.  It runs on cast iron bearings, something you don’t see anymore.planting 2016-9No roller bearings, just machined cast iron surfaces running on machined cast iron surfaces.  I have to grease these every hour of field time.  They are surprisingly durable.

The disc can be set to run at any depth you desire.  The hydraulic cylinder lifts the disc out of the ground, and can be limited in down travel with “donuts”.  These are added/subtracted as needed.  Less it goes down, the shallower the disc runs.  They’re the silver looking collar things on the cylinder shaft.planting 2016-10Because the initial tillage pass was 8″ deep, I’m setting the disc to run at 6″ deep.  This is enough to incorporate the fertilizer, and shallow enough to begin packing the soil for a good seedbed.

Any implement that’s run over soft ground will compact it at the depth it’s run.  So setting a disc at 6″ will compact everything below 6″, while stirring the soil above 6″.  While this is desireable to sift the soil, it has to be done with care.  Any time you sift the soil, you’re drying it out.  Losing soil moisture.

It’s a rough ride during the first pass.

After the first finishing pass, you do it again at an angle to the direction of travel during the first pass.  You’re crosshatching.  The main reason for this is to have something to follow when making the drill pass.  It’s hard to see where you’ve been, and tool marks from the previous pass offer a guide for the present pass.planting 2016-12If you look closely to the right of the tractor, you see the final finish pass.  To the left of the front tractor tire is the unworked ground.  Where the angles meet, is where you want to run.  This is your only guide, and depending on where the sun is, can be very difficult to see from the tractor seat, what with all the dust, and eye strain.  In this case, my final finish pass was at about 3″ depth (enough that the disc was actually up on its tires), and tire marks were present to give some clue as to where to go.  The marks you’re making with this pass will be your guide for running the seed drill.

Dealing With Varying Soil Conditions

Because I’m planting so late, the field had a lot of growth on it prior to tillage.  As mentioned…….an offset disc doesn’t do a good job of burying trash.  So……..where I’d normally make a final finish pass with a Springtooth Harrow…..I’m making the final finish pass with the disc.  Not an ideal situation……the Springtooth would have done a better job of leveling the seedbed (a disc will not level ground).  BUT A SPRINGTOOTH WOULD IMMEDIATELY FOUL UP WITH ALL THE TRASH ON THE FIELD.

So…………I’m forced to use a finishing disc.  To further compact the ground for planting, I’m set at 3″.  This will harden the ground under a 3″ layer of soft ground.  Good enough for planting, but not ideal.  One of the worst results of doing this, is the fact that I won’t have good clear marks to follow when I’m drilling seed.  A springtooth leaves very strong marks on a field, a disc doesn’t.


Planting is usually the icing on the cake.  All the work has been done, and just one quick pass over the field left.  Not this time 🙂

This old girl let me down.  (older picture from a past season)hoe drillUsually a wonderful, trouble free machine.  This year was different.

So………..I run the drill up to the field without seed in it.  Wanted to keep weight to a minimum.  The road is washed out from heavy rains all Spring.planting 2016-29planting 2016-31planting 2016-30Can’t run a piece of machinery over this mess.  An alternate route had to be used.  So the seed was carried down separately.  This kept 1000lbs off of the machine while in transit.

Take it off the truck, and toss it on the carryall.planting 2016-13Run the drill up to the field, and load it from the carryall.planting 2016-14planting 2016-16All was looking good, until I actually started using the drill.  The main drive chain kept jumping off the ground drive sprocket.  SO IT’S BACK TO THE SHOP.

Chain tensioner wouldn’t maintain tension to keep the chain on, so after a few tries at making it work, I tossed it on the trailer 🙂planting 2016-32The real problem was the drive sprocket.  It had worn to the point of no longer holding the chain.

Time to do something drastic, and MAKE it work.  I cut some 1/8″ diamond plate, and fabricated a sheave to force the chain to run true.chain guide2chain guide3The halves were welded to each side of the hub to form the sheave.chain guide4A piece of PVC pipe was slotted, and slid over the crossmember to keep the chain from rubbing.chain guide5And it was back out to the field to plant some seed.

The field was full of trash, and drilling through it was a nightmare.  The hoes grab the trash, and it all mounts up to a big wad of dead plant material.  This is what I’m attempting to drill through.planting 2016-20Which results in this.planting 2016-18planting 2016-19Lotta fun climbing down, and unclogging this mess every 40 feet.  Tis what it tis I guess.  Anything to keep the damn cows fed.

Finally get into some clean ground, and the job gets easier.  I have marks to follow, so I at least know where I’ve been, and where I’m going.planting 2016-22As the day progresses, and the sun gets to the directly overhead position…..visibility decreases.  The furrows no longer throw a shadow, and you’re hard pressed to follow the previous pass.planting 2016-23planting 2016-24And these are pictures taken a few feet from the ground.  Imagine what it must be like sitting up there in the tractor.  We’re talking some serious eye strain.

So I’m cruising along, thinking once again…….all’s right with the world.

Oooooomph!!!!!!  I noticed one of the seed box drive chains wasn’t turning.  THIS AIN’T GOOD.

Two chains drive the box, they’re driven by the main drive chain.planting 2016-33If one side quits working, only half of the drill is functioning, and dropping seed.  So……for an unknown amount of time I had been half planting the field.  Stupid stupid stupid.  I’d forgotten that these chains have to be monitored constantly.  It’s been about 2 yrs since I’ve had good enough weather/circumstances to put a crop in.  I’d gotten out of practice.  Lost my MOJO 🙂

So, Whadya Do Now

We’ll find out this Saturday.  By then, probably actually today (Thursday, 2 days since planting), the seeds will have sprouted.  The plan is to re-drill the skipped areas, and hope for the best.  Have to hope there’s still enough soil moisture close to the surface to allow the seed to germinate.  Otherwise I’m gonna have a striped field 🙂

to be updated