Category Archives: Farming

A little nature

Bob and I haven’t been able to take our 2-wheel drive cart all the way down to the woods yet this year. Too much rain has made part of our farm lane a quagmire. In earlier years, we didn’t let that stop us. If mud got the best of us we got out and pushed, be damned the yuck. Now with Bob’s health issues, we don’t want to risk it. Getting stuck might mean a long walk home.

Usually, I take nature photos. The best I could do today was a snap of six ducks in a ‘lake’ in the middle of one of our crop fields–too much rain this year isn’t good for any farm. (No, the water shouldn’t be there.)

Look hard and you will see the ducks above this caption.

Most of the local birds, like sandhill cranes, are nesting now so they haven’t come out to greet us yet, but we hear them so we have hopes to see our crane family soon.

This photo of ducks was taken a few years back in late September. The crop around the waterhole is soybeans.

These ducks were a little easier to spot.

We’ll have to start bringing our binoculars out when we take our cart rides if the wildlife stays at a distance. Hopefully, the weather will change and dry up the land–for a while–so all farmers can get out on their fields, even retired ones.

A chill in the air

Bob wanted to be outside today, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It’s only 42* and there’s a damp mist, too. My husband went out for a few minutes to talk to another farmer who needed a part, when he came back inside he was shivering.

I knew this would happen to Bob and I had a cup of hot cocoa ready for him to drink. He just can’t cope with cold/cool weather.

Right now Bob has kicked back in his recliner. He’s watching TV and snoring, so a quick afternoon nap for him.

When the weather was in the 70s, I couldn’t keep him in the house. One afternoon Bob helped me plant seed potatoes in our unusual raised beds –we don’t garden on the ground if we don’t have to.

Bob helped plant potatoes in raised bed (an old ez-flow fertilizer spreader)
(photo from Manzke archives)

We are waiting for nice weather again, as all farmers are–Bob will forever be tied to the land, even if he can’t do all the work anymore. Soil is part of his soul.

Little mama

At the moment we have nine chickens. I do like the eggs that our hens have been giving us, but these birds can be a pain, too.

Our barn cats have gotten used to coming to our front porch for their morning and evening meals. Usually, I call “Kitty. Kitty.” to get their attention, if they aren’t already there, but I’ve had to stop calling them. The chickens think I’m calling them to eat and they come to the porch, too.

Chickens will eat about anything, even chicken. They like to peck around on the cat food and scraps I set out for the cats.

Most of the time the cats keep eating and ignore the birds. It’s only when a rooster comes on the porch that cats are annoyed. The rooster likes to boss the cats around.

Good thing the chickens don’t eat too much of the cat food. It’s just that they are a bother.

One of our little hens has decided she wants to set on eggs now. There’s no dissuading her. I marked 4 eggs so I know that these are the ones that she is brooding. Any unmarked eggs are taken out of the nest daily.

Last year’s co-mothers with 4 chicks–these two sat on one nest together.

I really don’t need any more chickens, ESPECIALLY roosters. I debated about even giving the little hen 4 eggs. She would be happy with two.

Oh well, we’ll see in three weeks if this little mama has any little ones. If she does, let’s hope they are hens.

A Bob memory from April 2007

Back in 2007, my Bob had trouble with his Allis-Chalmers D-15 tractor. He was using the tractor and loader, moving tree branches he had cut when suddenly the engine made a horrible sound. Somehow Bob was able to limp back up the lane to the machine shed before the poor old tractor went belly-up.

The D-15 took down the old chicken house in the late 1960s.

Bob knew right from the start that he had major problems. He didn’t have a lot of hope for it even when he started to take the engine apart. Deep inside the innards of the tractor, Bob found the starter had disintegrated, sending pieces of metal into the engine, wrecking it.

           “What are we going to do now?” he said to the tractor. He had a couple of choices: try to rebuild that engine (parts would cost more than the tractor was worth), junk it and buy a replacement (if he could find one) or take the engine out of his other D-15 and make one out of two. He decided on the last choice and began dismantling the broken tractor, but first, he had to remove the loader.

           The loader on the AC D-15 isn’t like new models that attach and detach with a quick click. There’s a lot more to it. While I was helping Bob take out pins and bolts, he started telling me about his first tractor with a loader.

“It was a John Deere A,” said Bob. “Up until then, we used pitchforks to clean out the barn and fill the manure spreader. This loader on the D-15 is modern compared to that A.

“First off the John Deere A had a narrow front end. It also had a hydraulic pump that worked off the Power-Take-Off (PTO). The only time you had power to the hydraulic pump was when the PTO was running. The thing with this tractor was the PTO stopped every time you disengaged the clutch.

“Let’s see if I can explain it to you,” he said to me. “You had to shift the tractor into neutral and engage the clutch to raise the loader. With that narrow front end every time you hit a hole you’d get stuck, especially when you had the loader full and since the loader only had a hydraulic lift you couldn’t use to get yourself unstuck.” (You should know that Bob is a pro at using the D-15 loader to push down into the ground to get out of trouble.)

            “To dump the bucket, you’d pulled a lever that would trip it. There was no hydraulic on the bucket. If you were lucky, the spring would bring the bucket back into place. Otherwise, you’d have to lower it to the ground, back up, scraping it against the soil so it would latch back in place.

“Here’s how it went,” he said. “Every time you loaded the bucket, you would drive forward into the pile, disengage the clutch, shift into neutral, engage the clutch so the hydraulics would work, raise the loader up, disengage the clutch, shift into reverse, engage clutch to back up, disengage the clutch, put it in forward gear and engage the clutch to drive forward. You could raise the loader while you were moving, so if you planned ahead you would have it at the right height when you got to the manure spreader.

“If you screwed up, which I did a lot at the beginning, and needed the loader up some more to dump the bucket you had to stop, shift into neutral, engage the clutch, raise it up, disengage the clutch, shift into gear, move forward and then dump. But it still saved a lot of work. It was a heck of a lot better than using a pitchfork that’s for sure.

“This orange baby is an environmentally green machine now,” Bob said with a smile as he started it after making one running tractor out of two. “The only thing new on it is the oil filter. Even the tires are off an old combine.” (My husband is big into reusing what he has at hand.)

The D-15 was used when Bob and his father bought it in 1967. As Bob wiped the grease and oil from his hands he said, “I wonder if there are other farmers out there who keep an old tractor around just for old time sake? I kind of think there are.”

This photo from 2013 shows Bob driving his MF 2135 tractor. It replaced the D-15

I too think there are farmers who have a love affair with their old tractors. If you’re one of them, drop Bob a line and tell him about the old machine you love or one you fondly remember. He’d like hearing from you.

Going for a walk

If Bob and I go for a walk these days, we don’t go far. We just amble around our yard. This is not an easy trek because the lawn is lumpy and bumpy. As we go I keep an eye on my husband in case he stumbles.

In January, we never thought we’d be outside together this April. Bob’s cancer had come on so hard and fast it looked like it would take him at any minute.

We are thankful for each day we have together. A slow walk around the shed is a good outing for us–Bob wanted to take a look at a plow he intends to sell and had me do some measuring of that machine.

After checking out the JD plow, we headed back to the house where Bob took a nap.

Another good day on Sunnybook Farm.