Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hot Brakes, Cool Heads

"It's not just a job, it's an adventure."

The slogan was first used for a Navy commercial, but it was an apt response from a fellow farm wife to this post on my Facebook page last Friday afternoon:
It's not a good thing when your trip to the elevator involves a fire extinguisher. However, cool heads prevail over hot brakes.
People will sometimes say they are "putting out fires" at work. I don't think there are supposed to be actual flames. We seem to be the exception to that rule. 
It started as an attempt to document another aspect of corn harvest. Earlier, I'd ridden along as we took a load of high-moisture corn to the Haw Ranch Feedlot near Turon.  We haul the majority of our grain to the Zenith and Stafford branches of the Kanza Co-op, so I wanted to give some equal time to our friends there. 

It started innocently enough. I rode along on the combine as Randy cut corn. When the truck was full, we took off for Zenith. On the way, we heard an unusual squeak, but we couldn't figure out the source of the noise, even after peering into the rearview mirrors.

But, when we turned the corner into the Zenith Co-op's drive, a billow of smoke came up. The smoke and the smell followed us all the way to the office, where we parked to have the grain tested and the truck weighed.
In the excitement of Randy grabbing the fire extinguisher from the cab, I missed getting a photo of the smoke billowing out from the right side of the truck, where were actual flames (though small) or of Randy as firefighter. Thankfully, the fire extinguisher did the job. So much for my play-by-play captions of dumping grain at the elevator!

You can see the orange probe hovering over the truck. The operator inside the office uses the probe to get a sample of the corn. One of the tests is for moisture. While the feedlot wanted the grain between 24 to 35 percent moisture for grinding, the co-op prefers it at 16 or under. The load is docked if it is above 16 because the co-op then has to dry the grain.
The corn is also tested for foreign material and bugs. If the grain has too much of either of those things, there's also a dockage charge.

Since we have a smaller truck, we many times dump inside the elevator. However, when we rolled onto the scales with flames, the executive decision was made for us to dump into the pit outside the elevator. Good idea, guys!
A co-op worker opens the slides on the back of the truck, then signals Randy to begin raising the truck bed. As the driver, you watch in your rearview mirror and watch for hand signals from the co-op worker. Sometimes, they want you to pause so the grain doesn't pile up.
The bed is fully raised in the photo below. Once the truck is empty, Randy put down the truck bed and we went back to weigh onto the scale empty.
This particular load was 14.0 moisture, with a test weight of 60 and a No. 1 grade. We dumped 31,500 pounds or 562.50 bushels with that load. The corn is stored at the co-op until we are ready to sell it. (Usually, the price goes up after we sell. It's the law of grain marketing. Just kidding!)

The farmer or landlord pays a storage fee based on the amount of time the grain was stored before being sold. Then, it belongs to the co-op. They sell it to entities like feedlots or ethanol plants. Most of it is trucked out of the elevator to the buyer. (In the past, rail travel helped move a lot of grain, too, but most of it is trucked these days, at least in this area.)

Now, back to the brake issue: We parked the truck at the co-op and Jake came and rescued us. Naturally, things like this always seem to happen at inconvenient times. It was late Friday afternoon, and we couldn't get ahold of a mechanic until Monday morning.
I followed Randy to town yesterday morning. Best news? We made it to town without using a fire extinguisher, though it definitely smelled hot as he parked it at the mechanic's shop.

We don't know the verdict yet. Thankfully, we are now done cutting corn, but this is the truck we use for holding seed wheat, and we are starting to drill wheat today. We have an auger that attaches to the truck, making it easier to get the wheat from the truck to the drill. 
Wheat drilling - 2011
We have another truck we can use to hold seed wheat, but the auger doesn't fit onto it. Until we get the bigger truck back, the guys will have to go "old-school" when transferring the wheat to the drill. They'll have to use a scoop. They (and their backs!) are hoping there's a quick solution for the other truck.

More on corn harvest and wheat drilling to come!


  1. Sorry to hear of your truck trouble but glad to see photos of Zenith Coop! Great job telling your farm story!

    1. Thanks so much for taking time to comment!

  2. Kim,
    What an adventure! I laughed at your "The smoke and the smell followed us all the way to the office." I can just see J and I looking and thinking "that smoke is following us, I wonder why."

    I hope wheat planting goes good and the damages to the truck are not too bad. J has become somewhat immune to what things cost. It's all so high.

    We have been in the process of chopping corn for 5 days. We thought it would take 3 days. The guys started Friday afternoon and have not got a "good day's work" in yet. Between bearings, chopper blades, rain and plugging up it has been a slow go. We hope to get done tomorrow, maybe if all goes smooth, maybe. My bet is on Thursday.

    1. One of my Facebook friends asked if it was a "hot date." I guess it probably qualifies.

      So far, so good on the first day of wheat planting, though Randy said his shoulders were sore from scooping wheat. It sounds like your corn chopping job is going about how things go around here! We have our silage custom cut, and that's on the calendar soon, too. Jake is loading hay for a buyer this AM, and I'm running Randy back and forth "up north" this morning for a couple different trips to get everything he needs to the wheat field. Never a dull moment!

    2. Also, good luck on finishing up the corn. I hope there are fewer breakdowns and headaches as you approach the finish line! Always good to hear from you!