Minnesota Farmer


Harvest complete
October 21, 2016, 6:11 pm
Filed under: children, Corn, Fall, family, Farm, farm life, grandchildren, machines, Soybeans | Tags:

img_0013There it sits all quiet.  The machinery that was busy for the last few weeks is silent.

img_0009The dryer that was so busy and noisy is now silent.  The bins are full and the clean up has begun.  Harvest is over.

It was a good harvest.  Corn yields were at least 10% over last years record crop, soybeans yielded 25% over last years record crop.  It was a very good year.

img_0014As usual we had granddaughters and friends over to help with the harvest.  Everyone loves being in the big machines at harvest.

img_0004

We also had their help when we harvest the pumpkins from the garden, What a haul!

Hope your harvest season went well!  Now for cleanup and tillage, then we start getting ready for next year.



Flashing lights
September 11, 2016, 12:18 pm
Filed under: bus, machines, school, School bus | Tags: , , , ,

100_0762

School has started and drivers need to be aware of the flashing lights on school buses that tell you a bus is coming to a halt.  That means noticing the flashing yellow ones that come before the flashing red ones.  Flashing yellow means start slowing down so you can stop when the red starts!

I’m constantly amazed at how many people do not see that big yellow bus with its flashing lights and go flying through a student loading zone.  A bus driver can turn in someone who runs their stop arm, but unless we get the full license plate it does not even pay to do the paper work.  Our bus company has come through with help.

There are now video cameras inside and outside of our school buses to record what is happening in and around a school bus.  If someone runs our stop arm, we now have video evidence of the infraction.  The police will be calling you if you run our bus stop arms now and they will have video evidence to prove your actions.

Oh yes, there are cameras inside also.  If we have student behavior problems we have those recoded also.  Actually, I hope to never use that video, but it does do a good job of enforcing behavior.  I just ask the student what their parents will see when we show it to them.  In most cases that’s all I need to do.

So watch out for those flashing lights when you approach a school bus.  In my district you will be on camera and we will get you if you run that stop arm.



Finally on the grid

It was a bit over a month ago that I wrote about my Solar Voltaic project, well it’s now official, I’m on the grid.100_3100

Here’s a picture of the screen on one of my inverters.  The numbers tell how much electricity is being produced at different intervals.  The picture was taken at 5 p.m. so the sun was low and power production was declining.  The graph shows the production at different hours of the day.  Today’s production was much better with abundant sun than yesterday’s cloudy which still produced some power.

With only 10 hours of winter sun I do not have much opportunity to produce electricity, but the collectors work better when the days are cold.  We’ll see how electric production changes with longer, warmer days.  Stay tuned.



Who moved my green cheese

A month ago I wrote about my new solar voltaic system that was all ready to start producing electricity for me.  As of today, I have not produced a single watt.  Someone moved the goalposts and we have to wait.

January 1st some new regulations went into effect.  Although the collector was installed before the 1st of January, the electrical system was not hooked up to the grid.  Thus my system was subject to 2015 regulations.  Those regulations require a quick shut off between the collectors and the inverters.  Because the regulation is so new, and the number of solar collectors that are installed are so small, there have been no D/C quick shut off’s manufactured.  So now we wait.

This system needs a quick shut off before it can be turned on.

This system needs a quick shut off before it can be turned on.

Green power is subject to many regulations that are new to industry.  Any industry that is struggling to get going will have problems with technical issues unique to the industry.  Sometimes, in order to protect the consumer, regulations are placed by government agencies that cause problems for that startup industry.  At the moment I am caught in the middle of one of those regulation changes.

Green industry is fighting an uphill battle.  In order to become viable it needs a certain amount of acceptance by the public.  New industries are expensive to start, old industries are inexpensive to keep going.  When energy sources are expensive, green energy makes strides forward, when energy is cheap, green energy slides back.  Consumer acceptance of green energy is too often tied to the price of that energy.

For many years now energy costs have been high.  Energy sources like wind, solar, ethanol and others have been making inroads into the profit centers of established energy producers.  Regulatory changes have not been hard to overcome.  Now oil prices are going down.  When oil is cheap, all other forms of energy struggle to hang on.

I’ve seen this happen before.  In the 1980’s gas prices spiked up.  Green energy sources became popular.  Then gas prices went down and few talked about ethanol, solar or wind energy.  Since 2003 energy prices have been going up, and we have ethanol plants, and wind energy farms producing as they never did before.  Those alternative energy sources that were built before this recent energy spike are now set, with debts paid and a chance to continue producing energy despite lower energy prices.

If the world is going to wean itself from the climate changing effects of fossil fuels we are going to have to have the political will to continue to push alternative energy sources despite their higher cost.  Otherwise the fossil fuels industry will continue to win. Big_Oil-598x426



Plain spoken

Farmers are still some of the most trusted people in our country, maybe in part because we know how to speak about our work in terms that everyone can understand.  More and more we on the farm are having to deal with science that is not understandable to those off the farm.  Some of the problems we have communicating modern farms was brought home to me when I read an article in Time Magazine about translating science.  We on the farm need to remember to translate our farms into plain language that all can understand.

Everyone loves the old style farmyard.  Dogs, cats, baby animals, they all have an attraction for those of all ages.  Yet unless you really live the farm life, it is so hard for people off the farm to understand having thousands of one type of animal.  Anyone who has thousands of chicks just cannot be a farmer some think. 13-boy-watching-chicks

Farm machinery is fascinating to folks of all ages.  The chance to be in and control those huge pieces of machinery is really exciting.  People can understand the small farmer who does all of his own work on a few hundred acres.  What they have trouble understanding is how a family farm could extend to 10,000 acres or more and still be a family farm.  All of those computers and modern science things are hard for the general public to put on a family farm.

341088_213918098672330_1224252039_o

The recent bankruptcy proceedings of Broadacre Farms Inc., a Saskatchewan based Mega-Farm now has many talking of the unsustainability of large farms.  How can these large farms be right?  The truth is usually more difficult to understand than most would like to believe.

In farming as in few other occupations there are so many roads to success.  In the end good management will win out.  Can you make the most of what you have to earn a living for those who depend on your farm.  If you are not the best, do you deserve to continue farming?

We have just come through some of the best years in agriculture I have ever seen.  Yet some types of agriculture have had hard times.  It is a fact of life that nature is a harsh mistress.  Farmers not only deal with local conditions, but world markets that can move market prices in ways we do not understand.  We also deal with government regulators that seem determined to frustrate our every attempt to provide food for our families.  Farms of all sizes will fail, large, medium and small.  There is no one best for the world.

Please, if you have not been on a farm, do not try to tell farmers how they must farm.  Each farm is different, each region of the world is different, yet we all deal with trying to feed our families.

So here I’ve gone again, starting off in one direction and ending up in another.  In the whole though, I am trying to be plain spoken about what we on the farm deal with.  It is my hope that this will help you understand me and my fellow farmers better.  And please, if you have a question about farms, ask a farmer.  We’ll tell you about farm life as we see it and as we are living with it.



Going Solar Voltaic
January 6, 2015, 5:10 pm
Filed under: Farm, machines | Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, January 5 found four electricians scurrying about my machine shed, in temperatures well below freezing, putting final connections to controls for a photo voltaic system.  I am  about to start producing my own electricity.

OK, let’s back up a bit.  Those of you who have been on my farm have noticed several solar collectors that gather heat from the sun to warm my house and shop.  These air-to-air systems have been at work for over 30 years now.  For more than that time I have been watching the solar electric industry grow and become more efficient.  This year I decided to take the plunge.

The system is an investment that, like many farm investments, will take years to pay off.  In the mean time, I’ll be producing about 2/3rds of my farm sites annual electric usage using the sun.  Once the system is paid off, I’ll have many more years of free electricity.100_3073

My roofs were evaluated and measured and a deal was set.  Trenches were dug and equipment was delivered.  With the nasty November we had, we were all glad to see a warmer December as construction progressed.

100_3079

Soon tracks were installed on the roof, panels and wiring soon followed.

100_3083

The last panels were placed just before Christmas.  Wires were left hanging for the electricians to tie into.

100_3094

Monday, as the snow began to fall the electricians made the final connections.

100_3096

Now there is a bank of hi-tech electronics on the side of my machine shed waiting for final inspection.  Once the inspectors are done and final paper work with the electric company are signed I will be producing most of my own electricity using the sun.

Give me a month or so to get the last details worked out and come on over to check it out.

Michael



In opposite directions
November 10, 2014, 10:13 am
Filed under: cars, Farm, machines, School bus, travel, trucks | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

While gasoline and oil prices are dropping, another essential fuel is going up in price, Diesel.

100_3058

Over the weekend, gasoline prices in our area went down 10 cents and diesel went up 50 cents.  Why should this concern you?  Because the price of everything you buy is dependent on diesel-powered trucks, trains and ships to get it to your house.  Farmers depend on diesel-powered equipment to harvest food for your table and grocery store shelves are filled by diesel-powered trucks making deliveries.  School, city and charter buses use diesel to deliver people everyday.  Diesel is the lifeblood of commerce.

There have been some efforts made to change diesel-powered equipment to natural gas or propane, but the change is slow.  Pressurized tanks for propane and natural gas are expensive and fueling stations are rare.  For now we depend on diesel.

The last time diesel prices were this high, transportation companies added fuel surcharges to their deliveries.  I expect that to happen again.  Look for cruise ship vacations and chartered bus trips to cost more also.  There just is no way to avoid paying for higher priced fuel.  So next time you fill up your tank and celebrate the lower gas prices, take a look at the price of diesel.  You are paying for that fuel also with every purchase of every product you use.