The combines

As promised, this is an update to my blogging on our farm equipment. Today I will be talking about our combines. A “combine” is actually a combine harvester machine. It reaps the grain from the field, threshes it to separate the grain from the chaff, and then holds the grain in a tank and leaves the chaff in the field.

We have three combines. Jason’s first one is an ancient John Deere combine. It is relatively small.

John Deere something

After he had been farming for a while, he bought the International combines. The first was to use and the second he bought to use for parts.

Red and white something Red and white something 2

However, the second one turned out to be in better shape than the first, so I think that this is the main one that he uses now. He has made some modifications to the reel on the front.

International brand combine International brand combine 1

I haven’t seen any of these in use yet but hope to see them work this year. Our neighbors either own or hire much larger combines for the conventional crops. The new ones can do in a few hours what one of our old ones would take several days to do, but it’s an expensive proposition to buy one of these machines. State-of-the art combines can cost several hundred-thousand dollars. It seems to me that people who buy these don’t just do their own combining but also hire themselves out to do the combining for other people and make some money on it.

John Deere brand new combine


The Hugels

Jason put in some hugelkulturs last year but decided to add a couple more to this area now. The hugelkultur is a way of “composting in place” and then planting directly into the mound. The mound has a lot of woody pieces which act as a sponge for moisture and also a long-term supply of nutrients. We have lots of branches from the wind or from pruning native trees back on our farm so these can either be composted in the more typical manner or used in the hugelkultur beds. I have seen logs used, but anything that is larger we already have designated to use for firewood.

Hugel rows

Last year we put peanut plants in the hugelkulturs, which did stay moist at the ground but which were difficult to dig up because of the branches in the mound. This year, we are thinking to do vining plants (squash?) and then train them up the cattle panels.

Hugel with cattle panels

Jason dug the new bed with the front-loader on the skid steer. He was really pleased that it turned out so evenly.

New hugel bed

Then we collected branches, which is a little more complex than it might seem, because a lot of the trees here are Osage orange, which doesn’t rot very well, or willow, which will re-sprout if it is not completely dead.

Hugel with wood

We still got a good amount of wood but it does take a lot to make the mounds. I think we will use some of the wood from close to the barn.

Farm tractor implements

In this ongoing saga of farm equipment, the next equipment I’ll show are the tractor implements. I’m not sure if it will be clear from the pictures what these things do, so I’ll try to describe them as well as I can.

Hay rakeThis is a hay rake. It is an antique but does work. It collects cut grass or straw and puts it into windrows. I have not seen it in operation but believe that it would look something like this:

Hay raking picture

We have an old sickle-bar mower that hooks onto the tractor. It lays horizontal and then the blades on it shimmy to help cut down things that are bigger and thicker than grass.

Old sickle bar mower

We have a 2-row lister planter. Jason has used this before. A lister planter creates a furrow to plant seeds in so that they are in a seedbed that is more moist. It plants rows that are fairly far apart (about 30 inches) for plants like corn.

Lister- 2 row planter

We have a more modern 4-row planter that also plants in 30-inch rows. I didn’t get pictures of this planter but it’s really not too different except that it’s not so rusty and it has plastic bins on top.

There are two grain drills. Drills plant in rows but the rows are tighter together–maybe 7 inches apart, although the drill can be set to plant farther apart than this. The older grain drill is hard to use. Jason used it to plant our wheat this year. He pulled it with the 9N and then had to work the ropes to get the wheat to drop out of the bin while he was driving.

Old grain drill

The newer grain drill has adjustable slots so can change the width for different size seeds to sift out. It’s still old, so the slots are more difficult to adjust than they are on newer models, but this one is a step up from the old drill.

New grain drillNew grain drill 2

The disc acts as a giant rototiller. You can also “disc-in” soil amendments like agricultural lime.


Then there are the cultivators. Cultivators are used later in the farming process after discing. You can cultivate either to smooth the ground before planting or once the crops are in to dig up the weeds between the rows. I’ve been told that no one cultivates anymore because they spray weeds instead. You can see the metal panels that protect the row crops from being covered over with soil when this moves between the rows.

cultivator 1

This last implement is a Vibra Shank field cultivator. It is larger than the other green cultivator and it smooths the soil after it has been disced to prepare the planting bed.

Vibra field cultivator

This last picture isn’t ours but you can get an idea of what the Vibra Shank does from this image.

Vibra Shank picture

More to come…I’ll show the combine and harvesting equipment next time.

The tractors

A friend had asked me about the different kinds of machinery we use for farming and this is something that I am still learning about myself. Larger farms than ours that farm solely commodities–which around here means soybeans, corn, wheat, and milo–have access to much newer and more complex equipment than we do. Our equipment has been bought at auction or on Craigslist and tends toward the antique. Today I just wanted to show some of our bigger equipment.

Chase tractor with front loader and backhoe

The Chase tractor has a front-end loader and a back-hoe. Jason primarily uses this to move dirt for building up certain areas, making ponds, or creating areas to drive on. I have been on it before but it’s clunky and a little scary to use.

9N tractor

The 9N tractor is small but seems to be the tractor Jason uses most. It really is an antique but easy to find parts for. Jason did plant the wheat field using this tractor and our old grain drill (which I’ll talk about in an upcoming blog post).

Allis Chalmers tractor

The Allis Chalmers tractor is a bigger tractor than the 9N, but still not huge in the scheme of tractors. This is the one that we use with a firewood splitter. As shown previously, I have run the gears for the splitter but I haven’t actually driven this thing.

White brand tractor

The White brand tractor is the one that we bought at auction recently. It has more horsepower than the other tractors and is in good condition. If we wanted to make it able to pull more we could buy duel tires for it but it currently seems okay for our purposes.

Skid steer

This is the skid steer. It’s handy for getting around quickly and moving lighter stuff like pallets.

Craftsman lawnmower

Finally, the one item that I feel most comfortable driving at this point is a Craftsman lawnmower. You can see it gleam in the sunlight. Crazy scary fun.

Trip to Manhattan

Today we went to Manhattan (the Little Apple). We had lunch with Jason’s brother Mark and then ran some errands. One place that we went to was an Asian market, which was actually called “Asian Market.”


They had a good variety of things and the prices were not bad. I found some items in larger quantities at better prices than what I could get locally. We got turmeric, miso paste, and sesame oil. Although we did get tempted by some items that were not necessities (coconut juice and lychee candies).

Asian market bargains Asian market snacks

Jason also found some items that we might be able to plant as crops. We will have to do a germination test to see if they will grow.

Asian market stuff for planting

After that we got some 2 x 4’s for the Quonset. No images of the interior yet but Jason has been making progress.