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From the Farm

Learning in the portable office

October 30, 2009
By Kerry Hoffman

Being married to a farmer has taught me quite a few lessons.

First, and foremost, even if you have a fairly significant event in 20 minutes and your husband's favorite cow is calving, the cow takes priority. Another lesson I have learned is that you cannot expect your husband to stop what he's doing just to visit with you.

I have learned that I need to go where my husband is, if I need a little husband fixation.

Article Photos

Kerry Hoffman

Steve and I have only been able to see each other in passing for the past few weeks. Every morning he does come in for a bit before Joey, Russell and I all depart for our responsibilities, but that only lasts for a mere 15 or 20 minutes.

Tuesday, I was really starting to miss having my partner around the house. Since I knew it would be darn near impossible to get him to come home early - there was rain in the forecast - I figured I would go visit him in the in his portable office - the tractor.

He was more than five miles from home baling corn stalks to be used for bedding during the winter months. By the time I arrived at the field, more than 200 bales were peppering the area.

Secretly, at that point, I was quite happy to have a full-time job. I knew I wouldn't have to pick up all those bales. I was again secretly happy to have a job when I asked Steve how many he and his brother would need all together - 500!

I did learn quite a bit about the rented baler Steve was using. Things sure have improved when it comes to making large-round bales. The machine practically makes the bales on its own. Steve could literally work on his laptop and not miss his destination by 150 miles!

A little electronic device pretty much keeps the driver informed of what's going on in the baler. I little graph keeps track of the shape of the bale being rolled in the baler. If one side of the bale is getting larger than the other, it beeps and beeps and beeps until the driver manages to get more straw, or whatever he or she is baling, into the area that needs it.

Several times Steve was scolded by the beep.

The electronic device keeps track of the moisture content of the cornstalks. When I first hopped into the cab with Steve, the moisture was approximately 8 percent.

"That's just perfect for cornstalk bedding," Steve said.

By the time we were finished, because of the fading wind and sun, the moisture was settling back on the cornstalk windrows and had increased to a whopping 20 percent.

According to Steve, he could make one, huge bale every two minutes. It was easy to figure out that number because the machine beeped when the baler was full, which also told the driver to stop the tractor. It again beeped when it was time to wrap the bale with net wrap. And again it beeped when it was time to pull the lever to open the baler to let bale roll out.

It was an efficient operation. I explained how I thought they should be able to create a baler that allows the tractor driver to continue driving while the baler does its job of wrapping and pushing out the bale.

They do it with small and large square-bale machines.

"I guess getting the round bales tied has been an issue," Steve said.

Steve and I also discussed field boundaries that evening. Apparently, the line between the field we were working on and the adjoining field, owned by another party, wasn't very well defined. We managed to gather the cornstalks on the end rows of the neighbor's field, so we also decided to bale them as well.

We know the neighbor whose cornstalks we pilfered, and we will have to pay him something, but we are quite positive he will be fine with it. We also know the owner of the land to the north of ours doesn't particularly care to have us driving on his field for anything - not even to turn around.

We respect his wishes and keep our equipment on our side of the property line.

Never get between a farmer and his crop land. It's a bond that nobody wants to mess with. Farmers are very protective of their soil. That's a good thing. It shows that he or she respects his or her land and will do what has to be done to make sure the next generation has the opportunity to farm the land.

Anyway, after two hours of sitting on an armrest, I was quite glad to hear Steve was going to, "call it quits." I enjoyed riding along with him in the tractor and learning about the new baler, but after several hours, my hind-end was screaming for a soft seat in my car.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman



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