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Thursday, March 24, 2011

More rain and the frustrations of planting

Yesterday I got rained out. I did not get stuck.
I was planting wheat. The farmer said he had 200 acres for me to do. The first 70 acres were pretty wet with little ground cover. I'm planting into soybean ground. It doesn't look to me like soybeans will be the next big crop in Oregon.
I also think that no-tilling soybeans into prennial ryegrass sod is not the best way to go. While the large diameter seeds work well for no-till, I think the ground needs to be worked more after a 3-4 year grass seed crop. I should have tried digging up some roots to see how far the they penetrated into the ground but I suspect two trips with a covercrop disk and then the no-till drill would have helped the water infiltration and root growth quite a bit.
We did test plots of no-till vs minimum till and found the only thing that made a real difference was the rate of 10/34 fertilizer in the row. Of course after we planted out beans it rained for two weeks. I dug up a seed and the loose dirt in the no-till row just turned to pudding. I was amazed they even came up.
I finished the first field and we went to check out the second and third fields. Those turned out to be fields I no-tilled for him last fall. The field I'm in now looks like I set the population too low. (I didn't) The farmer said the rows looked good all fall but the mice, geese, and slugs ate it up. Some places there are missing plants, some areas it is mowed 1/2" above the ground, some areas are bare. West facing hillsides are lush and green, east facing are bare. I don't have my book with me but I think we planted at least 140lbs of wheat per acre in the fall. I think 160lbs actually. $50/acre for seed, $40 for fertilizer, $26 for planting, and now we are doing it again.
From a customer service point of view I feel like I should give him a discount. He didn't ask for one and I make it very clear I only do free planting if the screw-up was my fault. I would knock of 20% without a second thought-if I had my drill payment made! I will have to think about this. I know what I am entitled to and that is full rate, but what is the right thing to do? and/or What is the smart consumer oriented business thing to do? I'll probably give him a discount of some sort.

The sun was out and the ground was drying out. I was making pretty good time. I finally decided the ground was not going to be soft and I filled the drill completely full of fertilzer and wheat seed.
I got back to the field and it started raining. I kept going. It rained more. I kept going.
All of a sudden the tractor started pulling down. I was kind of half-asleep. I've got two monitors, a pressure gauge, GPS, A little screen that shows the bin level on the drill, the radio, and the strange imaginary world that inhabits my brain and sometimes I have a hard time concentrating.

Of course I pulled the wrong lever and lifted the drill instead of raising the front coulters. I didn't get stuck. I got it all adjusted right and it was fine for another hundred feet and then it really pulled down. I raised the drill a bit to put the lift wheels down on the ground and got out of there. I think the mud just built up so much on the drill wheels that it started pulling hard and made the wheels sink in.
So, I've got 90 acres out of 150-200 and the drill is completely full. At least I could park it in a barn. I have not decided if I will go back and try it this morning. I may have been going the same direction as an old tile line. I think if I move over a couple of passes and go by my A-B line I set at the beginning of the field I will be ok. If not, I'm screwed. The farmer took off last night on a spring break trip with his family. I'm on my own.


  1. Somehow I thought that you replaced the Calc-an-Acre with the Spraymate II. Do you have both so that you can monitor flow and MPH at the same time?

    I hate making those decisions of whether or not to spray, plant, etc. on my own ground. Doing it on someone else's place is even worse. I once sprayed Roundup on a little custom job for a neighbor, about 3/4 of the way through it began blowing and pouring down rain. Got a good kill though so I charged him full price. He paid me about 3 months later so it all worked out.

  2. Mice, geese, and slugs are beyond your control unless you were paid to protect against "acts of God" after you planted. I would give a 5 or 10% discount for a good customer's repeat business if you can afford to do so and feel you should. If not, then I doubt he will hold it against you as I'm sure he is only too much aware that as farmers, you are all subject to, and all have to live with our own misfortunes, as a result of natural causes.

  3. Orin, the calc an acre is wired to the GPS for mph/acres/hrs and stays with the tractor. The Spray-mate is wired to the drive on the drill so it has 0 mph when the drill is raised and I don't actually have to have a run/hold sensor.
    So, I can acres on the one screen and GPA on the other. Or I can compare GPS MPH with the Loup population monitor (also hooked to the drill) and if the 2 mph readings are different it means that, 1. The Chinese have launched another missile and someone shut off the GPS satellites, 2. The drill came unhooked 3. Excessive wheel slippage, or 4. There is so much mud built up on the drill drive wheel that my population is going to be way off!
    Muddy, Well that is the question...I like to do a good job so I will probably knock 10% off. Thing is that he is already getting a good deal. He should be paying another $4 per acre to be in line with what everyone else says they are charging. I charge $30 if I go by your acres and $26 if I go by mine. That price difference is going to get smaller as fuel hits $4.

  4. Short of hanging out in the field with a shot gun, I'd say you did do a good job & I'm sure he sees and appreciates it.

  5. Your a good man. I'm sure you will make the right decision.

  6. spellchekker, tanks for noticing my speling erors. Somtimes I fogrot to prufread and I am disleyxic...


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