Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Vowel Movement (Again)

So Happy Halloween to all of you out in Blogland.  Last year I took a stab at LIQUID pumpkin carving with pretty good results.  Here is a re-run of the picture from exactly one year ago.  So how could I top that for 2012?
I know...instead of one pumpkin (which anyone could do), why not six!  After hours of careful carving and still having all my fingers and thumbs in place, I was finished.  Now to arrange them on the porch.  Hmmm, not as easy as I thought.
A little re-arranging....D'oh....still wrong.  I need a pumpkin spell-check.
Finally. That looks right. 
I suppose now all of the Trick-or-Treaters will be expecting a bag full of Pro-Germinator.  I better stock up.

(HV for title inspire)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pre-Storm Corn Harvest

So now on to the corn harvest saga.  You just learned about the sugarbeet harvest, and how they wanted to keep harvesting corn at the same time due to the storm threat from Hurricane Sandy. But they were a person short.  Desperate times call for desparate measures, so they called me out of my nice warm office to come help.  Fortunately, I keep some coveralls, stocking cap, coat and gloves in my trunk for just this reason.  So it was back up into the grain cart again like the past 20 years.  It was cold too, so glad I was prepared for once.
So round and round we went for the rest of the afternoon and into evening..  As mentioned previously, there was a spectacular sunset, and I snapped this picture of it.  Now I'm not shy about "touching" up a picture after I download it (I love Picasa.)  But I swear that I did nothing to edit this picture.  This is just as it came out of the camera, and no special effects settings either.
And into the night.  Fortunately the scale numbers were lit as you can see in the picture below.  And there was enough light to get my grain samples for quality checks.  But daytime is better for this if I have a vote.

Since it was dark I did have to check every now and then that we were, in fact, still harvesting corn.  We were in this plot anyway.
So after the beet crew finished around 9 pm, they came over to help continue with corn harvest.  Some stayed till well after midnight while others left at 9.  (I was one of the others.)  When it was all over, we had harvested 282 individual plots in a single day.  No doubt an NCRS record.  And the way it looked this morning, it was a worthwhile effort because it was sleeting and raining and certainly no harvest today.  Here I am looking at some of the late night corn plots and the sugarbeet pile. 
So now more data to analyze.  A nice rainy day project.  And while we beat the storm, it appears that many did not.  So we are mindful of those who have been affected as the story continues to unfold.

Beeting the Storm

So yesterday started out normal enough with some corn plot harvest.  Then as the weather was checked in the afternoon, it looked like the effects of the Hurricane Sandy would reach into mid-Michigan.  That's when the field crops crew got ambitious and sought to get as much harvested as possible before the weather turned.  Part of the crew went to harvest sugarbeets and the rest kept going on corn.  The following pics were taken by Beet Crew member Stephanie.  Below we see Doug topping the middle four rows of the plots to be harvested while Tim observes.  Tim is kind of our beet expert as that was his main focus while with USDA all those years.  This is his first harvest here at the NCRS, so at some point I will ask him for his thoughts.  On beets that is.
Here are the clean-shaven beets ready for lifting.  Now unfortunately these were re-planted beets after our big flood here on Farm 7 last May.  Water stood here for days and ruined the plot, so we had to replant in late May, which is over a month later than would be ideal.  (We don't actually say "re-plant" around here because it's such a dirty word.  We use the "r-word" instead.)  So they are kind of small and had lower yield, but we will see if we learned anything.
Doug pilots the beet lifter through the plots.  It's getting dark.
The beets from a plot are dumped into a scale wagon for yield determination.  Samples are collected for quality analysis which is very important for sugarbeets.
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset to enjoy during the harvest work.  Stephanie got pretty artsy here.  (If you look just right below the barn in the background, you can see the lights of the combine and grain cart tractor.  We pick up their story next.)
Another experiment is history.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Harvest Resumes (Yay!)

So recall on Monday we were making movies here at Hollywood North.  But none of the action was staged as we were really harvesting plots, like this corn on Farm 3
And over in the potato plots they were digging more Snowden chipping potatoes.  Here Dan and Tim B collect these potatoes dug from a plot as Brian takes this pic from the tractor.  Then later they are taken in and sorted, as has been well documented.
Tuesday it was rainy.  But yesterday, Wednesday, was a beautiful day.  Temperatures approached 80 in the afternoon and there was no wind.  If it's too windy, it affects the reading on the grain cart scale.  Here is some harvesting action of corn on Farm 6.  Soil on Farm 6 is very sandy and we have not ever had very good yields in the three years we have farmed it.  But this year we averaged 150 bu/a which is outstanding here.  I attribute it to the ample rains in July and August during pollination and ear development.  This in spite of below average rain earlier in the growing season.
Here we see Ashley diligently collecting a sample of corn from a plot to determine moisture and test weight back at NCRS HQ.  Take note of the fashionable safety glasses that she, and all of us wear during this type of work.  All it takes is one wayward kernel....
Today it was still pretty muddy on some of our other farms in heavier soil, so Doug ran the combine on some production corn on the lighter soils of Farm 7.  In the meantime, Tim D and Stephanie started marking out field borders on our new Farm 12.  (See post on October 11.)  This is to get the field gps-mapped and for soil sampling.  Those are tracks from our plot border marking tool, not ruts.
Also today, the vegetable crew was now harvesting carrots.  Recall that most of their harvests are by hand, and carrots are no exception.  These look like pretty long rows of plots.  These carrots sure do have large tops.
After weighing, the carrots are put in a bin for later transport to the food bank.  These are great looking carrots.
Tomorrow is Friday and rain is in the forecast, but we are hoping for a forecast error.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NCRS Movie (The Sequal)

So Monday got off to a strange start.  There was this firery orb up above.  And the sky was blue too.  We were unfamiliar with such conditions until we consulted the Chronicles and learned it was the sun and no clouds.  (But it didn't last.)  We got busy and removed the massive 15 foot grain table so that the corn head could be put on.  (We have a special grain table with legs that just walk it right off.)
Remember our movie about the NCRS last year, and I documented the filming of it right here in the blog?  It was called The NCRS Team?  (Just make me feel good and say you do.)  Sadly it went straight to video, but we got some backers and went about making the sequal yesterday.  It was again directed by Mick of Creative Services.  Below they document the harvesting of a corn plot under cloudy skies.  Actually we have been "filming" (they don't use film anymore, but I don't know what the replacement word is) all season from start to finish to document Life at the NCRS.  And today was the grand finale of harvest.
Here is the gripping climax of unloading corn into the scaled grain cart.  Tim D and co-star Ashley are overcome with emotion. 
There were also some speaking roles.  Here I stealthily observe Brian talking about what it is he does.  I was banned from the set for Stephanie and Tim's parts.
And again we have some hi-tech scenes with the potato sorter ruthlessly separating the different sizes of spuds.   
So this is just a tease to make you want to come back to the website at some point in the near future for the debut of the as yet untitled feature.  

And as usual, it started raining again by late afternoon and we got another 0.7 inches overnight.  So no harvesting today.  Again.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Go Green! Go White! (part 2)

So.....regarding the previous post.....

Friday, October 19, 2012

Go Green! Go White!

So here it is again, the day before the Spartans play the Wolverines, and the MSU grads at the NCRS wore green to show their support.  The Spartan's season has not exactly been up to earlier expectations, but that doesn't matter for the MSU-U of M game.  The Spartans have won the last four straight, and would love to make it five tomorrow.  Anyway, we would love to come to work with smiles Monday as, believe it or not, there are some Wolverine fans around.
Broken record report: it rained again today.  (Do very many young people, like my co-workers here, even know what a record is?)

New Office Tour

So Stephanie and I rolled into the main office parking lot just in time to catch the employee tour of the new office building. It was rainy again, so a good day for a building visit.  I had not yet been inside. It is really coming along fast it seems.   
Inside there was a lot of activity.  I'm sure they are trying hard to get it all enclosed before winter and the "s" word stuff starts to fall.
Here we are up on the second floor.  It is big.  Not sure where my desk will be yet.  Surely with my tenure it will be by a spacious window.
Lynette takes a short cut through the pool area.
Dave H walks the plank back from the silo.  You can see the future Ag Tech Center wth the wood frame in the background.
Here we are inside the Ag Tech Center.  Nice ceiling.  This is where a planned history of agriculture and ag technology exhibits will be housed.  Troy wants this to be more than an office, and be a place for the public to learn more about where food comes from.  That is one thing we all have in common: the need for food.  Why not be better informed before you put it in your mouth?
It's come a long way since my blog post of April 11 and the ground breaking where there was a wheat field here.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sorting Potatoes Until Done (anyone?)

So we have had a lot of rain lately dating back to last week.  We pretty much sailed through soybean harvest, but haven't been able to get started yet on corn. The last of the production soybeans were harvested yesterday for the only field day this week.  It rained nearly all day today.  Another field activity yesterday was the first digging of potato plots. It is an interesting process.   This is one of those times where a picture would have been better than my words, but alas, no pictures were taken by the crew.  Can you believe it?  That's like not breathing to me, but people are different.  (Thank goodness).  They have lots more to do, and that won't happen again.  But what I want to show today is the new potato sorting table that was used for the first time today.  It was an "experienced" table and needed some work, and is being tried out today.  Below we see Brian and Tim B dumping a potato plot sample on to the "staging area".  Here any misshapen or rotten potato culls are hand sorted out. 
Then the switch is flipped and the belt starts carrying the potatoes up to be sorted.  Note the improvements that were made and held in place with duct tape.  (The handyman's secret weapon, right Red?)   These are Snowden chipping potatoes.  Michigan is a large chipping potato growing state.  They need to be sized as that affects payment to the grower, and we want to see if fertilizer affects size.
They roll across a series of bars and the small ones fall out first followed by bigger and then biggest.  Each size basket will be weighed.  This is great at how quick the operation is.  It used to be done by hand one potato at a time and it would take weeks.  Or so I was told.
And any new equipment brings watchers out of the woodwork.  Me included.
During a break in the rain I stepped out to take this pic of the wheat plots on Farm 3.  It seems to be off to a good start.
More rain is forecast for tomorrow.  So the only fun thing to do will be to go watch the potatos roll some more.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ag Career Fair...Where Past and Future Meet.

So yesterday was the MSU Agriculture Career Fair where employers can talk to students about future employment.  That would be full time or internships.  We were there mainly to seek student interns to work at the NCRS next year.  Now tell the truth.  You would want to stop and talk to these fine people wouldn't you?  Now throw me into the mix, and that's a draw.
There were quite a few ag companies of all types there, as well as a lot of students.  They were from majors as Crop and Soil Science, Agri-Business Management (the most popular I think), Ag Biosystems (or something like that), Horticulture (not enough of these), Animal Science and probably otheres.  It was interesting to see all the young faces so full of hope and promise.  I was like that once (didn't I say that last year too?)  There are some good students here.  I attended an employer job focus group prior to the Career Fair, and there are plenty of good jobs for good students in Ag Business today.  Many jobs go wanting, including some with ACLF.  We have to do a better job of getting the word out to high schools or something.  It was noted that many young kids today want to return to the farm, where before their parents wouldn't let them.  Times are pretty good now with good crop prices. 
And who should stop by but one of our 2011 interns Jeff.  Well Jeff graduated last spring and is now employed as an agronomist for a mint oil farm operation.  In fact his company is looking to employ some students too and had a booth there.  It felt good to see that he got a good ag job.  Hopefully we can work some Liquid into the fields sometime.  We talked about it.
And here is this year's intern Kirk.  We didn't get too nostalgic as he is still helping us.  But it was good to see him.  He won't graduate for another year, so maybe we can get him back....
And it wouldn't have been complete if we didn't see Amanda, another 2011 intern.  She had a different internship this summer, and is planning on going to graduate school in Weed Science when she graduates in December.  Well Brian and I both have graduate degrees in Weed Science and Stephanie worked in Weed Science as an undergraduate.  So what could go wrong with that??? 
So today the students who signed up last night will be interviewed for 2013 internships.  We also have recieved a few applications from ag students at other schools for consideration.  But we sure enjoy the MSU connection.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Now Hear (or Read) This....

So the other day Nick announced that the NCRS has expanded again.  Welcome to Farm 12.  It has 49 tillable acres and sits pretty close to the new apple orchard on Farm 8.  It already is on the map on the Research/NCRS tab of the agroliquid website.  It adds some more soil diversity to the operation.  The ground is kind of heavy in some parts, but also has about 6 acres of muck.  We have been muckless until now, and Brian is looking forward to some vegetable work on it.  Michigan muck grows fine vegetables and that can be futher researched.  I normally don't like to say what we are going to do, in case of unfulfilled promises.  But I will give a partial reveal as we are excited about the possibilities.  This will become our dedicated demonstration and tour farm.  We plan to have it laid out for tours, and even put up a building to host events.  We will get updated tour wagons with better sound and be downright more professional, if that is possible.  We were really encouraged by the recent Research Field Days, and are anxious to take it up a notch.  We plan to leave some ground for equipment demos and have some general agronomy learning situations.  Troy is involved with the Michigan FFA and has suggested to them that this could be a crops and soils judging training facility.  So lots to think about and hopefully some of it will come true.  Stay tuned.
I took the Farm 12 picture yesterday, and on the way back to the office saw these beautiful trees along the road in the morning sunlight.  (Note: this is not a driving picture.  I safely pulled over with signals on and got out and clicked.  So no calls, please.)
I sometimes show creative pictures taken by Stephanie, and here is another one.  It was taken in the morning last week (on October 2) of some emerging winter wheat.  There is good soil moisture with water coming out of the xylem opening at the leaf tip.  Anyone know what this process is called?
Mr. Cook used to say that you needed to put your alfalfa to bed well-fed in the fall.  We are testing some new nutrient applications on the NCRS alfalfa.  Here is Tim D making an application last Friday.

Well that ought to bring you up to date.  All of the plot soybeans are harvested, just have a little production beans to harvest.  We will start on corn next week.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bioenergy Field Day

So yesterday Doug and I went to the Bioenergy, Cover Crops & Corn Residue Management Field Day.  Now that's quite a title, so there should be lot's to see.  There was.  It was put on by MSU Extension and there is a new research farm for this not to far from the NCRS.  It was a beautiful day, and there was a good turnout.  It had rained the night before, so not much soybean harvesting going on at the time.  Below our County Extension Director Marilyn Thelen gives the welcome and introductions.  There were a lot more people there than the picture shows.
They showed some of the grasses being used for energy sources: Switchgrass, Indian grass and Miscanthus, the tall grass in the background.  They also had Big and Little Bluestem. 
I'll bet I was the only one in the crowd that knew that Indian grass is the state grass of Oklahoma.  Or that knew the scientific name of Sorghastrum nutans.  (I knew that would come in handy someday.)
They also showed how to extract seed oil and make some of your own biodiesel.  Now it isn't very economical, but they mentioned the reduction of dependence on foreign oil.  Take that Canada! (By far our leading imported oil source.)
Then they had a demonstration of a grass pellet mill for making pellets as a fuel source. This one was making switchgrass pellets.  But they said they had worked on the recipe where they had the best results with addition of a little grass from another source and some sort of chemical moisture source source to enable the pellet to stick together.
They opened the cover and you can see the pellets being pushed out.  They are very hot here, and they go up a cooling ramp, seen in the picture above, before they are dropped out.  Otherwise they would stick together or something bad.  But they come out in nice pellets suitable for burning, like in those stoves for home use.
They also showed baled switch grass.  These bales were going to be taken to the MSU powerplant that uses coal.  So this would be a coal replacement, or additive.  Now they said it takes about 3 years to get a field up and producing to the max.  For fuel bales like this, you can get around $72 per ton, and a decent yield is 6 T/year.  They said it really only needs about 70 pounds of N per year as the P and K goes back down into the roots before it is cut. (We may want to see if Liquid fertilizers will improve production.  Stay tuned.)  They didn't really talk about switchgrass as an ethanol source though.  Or maybe I was still looking at the Indian grass.
They also had some vertical tillage demonstrations.  The closest one is a manure applicator where you could also mix in covercrop seed.  Due to an unfortunate high-pressure broken hose incident at a field day a few years ago, which I witnessed, they now do these demonstrations with water instead of manure.  They also had equipment from Salford, Krause and Landoll.  Like fertilizer, each manufacturer said theirs was the best.
One thing I found interesting was the harvest demonstrations.  They had a combine that had Calmer BT Choppers on it.  It is for cutting up corn stalks as part of residue management.  I had heard of them, but had never seen one in action.  Here is a view under the corn head.
There were no stalks on the ground.  They were all chopped up.  The field was very clean.
Here is what happened to the stalks.  Just short pieces that should break down quicker.  Interesting.  They also had another attachment with rotary mower blades under the head.  But I liked the Calmer version here.
I guess if you come out having learned some things, then the field day was a success.  It was.