Monday, December 2, 2013

Corn Harvest

Never got around to writing about corn harvest until now, a couple of weeks after we finished. I love harvest season since it is when we can see the results of our hard work and the gifts from God, but the days do get long.
This is a view from the combine seat in corn. Corn is planted in rows and the corn head has snouts that direct each and every plant into a set of rollers that pull the stalk down and leave the ear of corn in the head. Lots is happening fast in the head and is a dangerous place to be when running. That is one reason they now install a kill switch on the operator seat. If you get off the seat the corn head will stop in 5 seconds.
Unfortunately not all our corn was standing ice and pretty. Some blew over with the high winds in September. Believe it or not this is looking down rows of corn. Makes it tough to steer the snouts between the corn rows when you can't see the snouts or the rows. If you are wandering why this photo has the silver pipes and yellow fingers and the other doesn't, well that is another part of harvesting, breakdowns.

It seemed like we had lots of breakdowns on the combine this year. Some were mechanical (bearing and broken stripper bar), some were electronic (sensors, switches and wiring harnesses) and some were operator error, me. 

One evening I was starting a new field of my harvest partner and was heading west into the setting sun, combining right down his 12 end rows. All of a sudden I came to a stop. It took me a while to figure out what I hit. The outside row hit a pipe that was buried 4 feet deep. It was part of a stop installed to stop a center pivot irrigation system. It will also stop a combine.
It doesn't look that bad on the pipe, but the head does not look so good. It is hard to show on a photo, but I twisted the main frame of the corn head, back and down. The company engineers decided they would have to replace the frame and not straighten it.

Thankfully Fairbanks International, our dealer, found us a new 8-row head to lease while our 12-row head was down. We ended up using the 8-row for the rest of harvest as the new frame has to come from Germany.

This is dumping corn into a grain cart. This was on a Sunday and we don't ask the hired help to run then, so just Don & I combine and truck by ourselves. Oh yes, the neighbor I harvest with is also a Don so we tend to confuse a lot of people.

We have scales on each grain cart to know how much we harvest from each field and how much we put on each truck. We try to load each truck up to the maximum allowed on the roads by Nebraska, but not go over. We have lots of DOT trucks around here and could always get stopped and checked.

We have wireless remote cameras mounted on the combine auger and also on the grain cart tractor so the grain cart operator can see what is going on. This is looking into a truck I just filled with the grain cart. It is much nicer to actually see what you are doing rather than guessing.

This was one of the mechanical breakdowns we had. The drive shaft that powers the corn head broke at a U-jooint. This was a weakness in design, we broke 4 of these driveshafts until they finally put a heavier driveshaft on. This killed a couple hours each time it broke.

This is a pictire of my office for the fall. The new combines are quite comfortable with leather heated seats and foot pegs to rest your feet on. Of course it is pressurized to keep the dust out and air-conditioned and heated. 
This was my snack cupboard. These are really nice shelves that I filled with all sorts of candy, snacks etc. It made the loooong days bearable. 
And this is a refrigerator. The combine tech worked a couple days trying to figure out what went wrond with the wiring in the combine since the refrigerator wouldn't work. It isn't quite as petty as it might sound since I also used the same outlet to power a monitor I needed. We ended up running a tag wire from another outlet over to the refrigerator.

This is a picture of the combine monitor. I have six different run screens to choose from to view and all of them are programmable. This is the screen I watch 90% of the time. There are no other gauges or idiot lights, so this monitor serves as the engine monitor, the combine monitor, the guidance system and the yield monitor. It took awhile to figure out what to place on which screen.

This busy handle is the multi-function handle that controls much of the combine functions that change frequently. There 21 different things I can do with these buttons and one button on the back that acts like a shift button. All of these are run by the thumb of the right hand. The handle is also the hydrostat control, which adjust how fast I am driving through the field and which direction I am going.

And that is it, the final rows of corn combined this fall. I was holding my breath the last couple of rounds hoping I would finish before something else went wrong.

And now that harvest is finished, what else do I do the rest of the winter? More blogs to follow.

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