Saturday, August 25, 2012

Silage: Time to Start CHOP CHOP!

Sometimes it's silly to try and reinvent the wheel.  It's harvest time again, or at least the beginning of it for us here, and that means cutting silage.  The post below is an early one from my first year of blogging, so now it's a couple years old, but it's all good. I love the pics, the people are still the same, the machinery is still the same, and the field is still the same.  The only difference is that it's taking 6 rows instead of the usual 4 to fill up the wagons, NOT a great sign for things to come, AND there isn't as much actual corn kernels in the silage.  DRAT!  Tall Guy used the combine to "open up" the field, which means he cut a swath big enough for the chopper and wagon to run through the middle of the field, and I think he took off some of the end rows.  He saw the corn monitor go from 0-145, but the average was 50.  That's a far cry from the 180-200 we are used to seeing.  Something tells me a few "projects" might be on hold until later next year now.  Sigh.... it happens right?  But read on.  This is what we do to make sure we have good food for our cows.  It's called Chopping Silage.

Harvest started here on the farm Wednesday with our first crop.  Silage is chopped when the corn is still a bit green, so that it will help "cure" itself in the the silo.  You all have probably seen a silo before; it is a tall round tower-like structure, but I bet you never knew what was inside of it!  For those of you that do farm, our corn tested about 29-30% moisture.  It needs to be down to around 14-15% before we like to pick it to store in our bins, and we store just the kernels in the bins, no cobs or other parts!

Let me show you how we make our silage that feeds our cattle:

Ok, First we have to get out all the equipment.  The rule on our farm is to put everything away ready to use the next time, so Tall Guy and his dad usually just give everything a once over with the grease gun, and then we are good to go!

Next, we bring out the wagons.  These are special wagons that help move the silage around once it is blown inside.  My friend from Cranberry Morning will like the fact that these wagons hale from Wisconsin.  I think they are the only red pieces of farm machinery we have around here!

 Last comes the actual chopper.  Looks like the great, great, great, great ancestral granddaddy to a lobster doesn't it?  As you can see, it picks two rows of corn at a time, and those teeth start the chopping process up.  Silage uses ALL parts of the corn plant: stalk, husk, corn, and cob.  I will say, though, that the cob parts are the last to go in the feed bunker.  Cows must like them about as much as I like lima beans!  They are always the last veggies left in my bowl of veggie soup!
 From the picture below of the entire chopper, it is easy to see where the corn goes in, and then it comes out of the shoot in the back.  That snout will be pointed right into a wagon.  Let's get the whole thing together so you can see it in action!
 There's Tall Guy bringing out an empty wagon .
 And here is Grandpa chopping silage.  You can see it shooting through the snout and in to the wagon.
 Here is a better look:
 The chopper is powered by the tractor by the yellow top round thing.  That "thing" is actually a PTO shaft, and this is probably one of the most dangerous parts we have on the farm.  The motor of the tractor turns the PTO shaft, and that makes the "wheels go 'round" on the chopper.  It turns VERY FAST!  You never want to be too close to a PTO shaft in action.  You also want to make sure your hair is tied back, if you have long hair, and all clothing is tight and secure.  Loose shoe strings and sweatshirt strings are other no-nos around a PTO shaft.  All of these personal items can get caught in the PTO shaft, and that is how we lose limbs and lives.
 Now we have moved back to the silo, and Tall Guy is going to unload the silage and put it in the silo.  Now if you memory is good, you will know that these big guys, silos, are REALLY TALL!  How do we get the silage in them?  We blow it up another shoot with a very powerful blower, again powered by a tractor and PTO shaft!
 The arms with tines move the silage forward, and (you may have to scroll back up to the first pictures to see this, but there are also conveyors on the bottom of the wagon to help bring the silage forward) and it is dumped in to the blower below.
 Here is my picture from Wednesday!  All that you see are chopped parts of the corn, stalk to kernel!
 This is the blower.  You can see another PTO shaft 2/3 of the way down the picture.
 Here are our giants.  The silage blows up the shoot in the bottom left picture.  The pic on the right is there to help you  judge size.
 So, there you have it. Food fit for cows and home grown!  It will sit in the silo, and from its own weight, all the oxygen will be pushed out of the silage.  The lack of oxygen will stop the fermenting process so the silage will not rot.  Actually, silage is just one of the many food options our cows have to eat.  They can graze on grass, chew on hay and straw, and they also get a ground corn mix that also includes corn gluten, minerals, and other nutrients that are good for cows.  Tall Guy has a recipe to mix all this together, compliments of our feed man.  This recipe changes depending on how big our cattle are and/or how close they are to finishing out.

Happy Friday everyone!  I hope today and the weekend bring you opportunities for fun and time with your families.  The girls and I are headed back out to the soccer field tomorrow for morning games.  Woo!  At least I am pretty sure it will not rain on us tomorrow.  Be safe and happy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Semi-" Wordless Wednesday: Cleaning Out a Grain Bin

So this is what I helped my hubby and FIL do yesterday:  Fill 2 1/2 semis with corn.  It comes out nice and easy with augers UNTIL you get down to the last couple of loads.  Then someone has to start in on the sweet-talkin' because "Somebody" has to go in and start scooping, and sweeping and blowing corn into the sweep auger to get every last gosh darn kernel out.  They are worth about a penny each these days!  (ok , not quite, but the price is still going up because there just isn't a whole heck of a lot out there in the fields!)

This is me going in for my second shift.  It isn't a very pretty sight when I come out, so I spared you those pictures.  Let's just say I run to the air compressor, and we have ourselves a bit of personal time getting corn dust out of about any place you might imagine it being.

This is a sweep auger.  Thanks to that little motor at the bottom of the picture, it toodles itself around the bin auguring out the corn.  I imagine it's kind of like one of those little robot sweepers you let roam in your house all night.  (Do those really work?)

The corn goes down one of two places in the bin, but the main hole is right underneath the motor.  There is another auger under it that takes it on out to the big auger that dumps into the truck.

 As you might be able to tell from the picture above, there is some spilling and running over as the corn hill comes down, so at least one person needs to be inside, helping get this corn back on the right side of the auger!  Here are your tools:

 Here, you can see a better picture of the auger that takes the corn to the middle of the bin and sends it on its way out to the truck.

Once everything is turned on, it gets VERY LOUD AND DUSTY IN THE BIN!

Hey TLHS peeps, like the shirt?  Sorry BCHC peeps, but I honestly don't have any green and gold yet????

Ok, so why the heck am I in there doing something that belongs on "Dirty Jobs?"  Well...... Tall Guy has had three back operations, and Gpa is up at least one heart operation on me, so I would rather pitch in and help than find myself having to do it all.  You MUST wear a mask, and my allergies are going to cranky that I didn't have goggles on, but you seriously could not see after a while if you wore them.

And that was how I spent my Tuesday morning.  After that, I made lunch and ran to Illinois for parts! All in a day's work for a Real Farmwife of America.  ;-)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hunk of Meat Monday: Freezer Beef Made to Order!

It's that time of year out here on our farm.  The cows are getting fat, and I am on Facebook asking my friends if they would like some grain-fed beef in their freezer.  When I do that, I get a lot of interesting questions, so I thought I would address some of those.

1.  How much does it cost?  This is actually a tricky question.  The simple answer is $1.25 a pound from us right now.  The tricky part is that the price is subject to change based on market prices.

2.  What did you buy?  The WHOLE cow., meat, hoof, hide, horns if they have them, and all.  There is another way to buy it called "rail weight," which is based on the weight of the cow once all the uneatable parts are removed, but we just weigh ours as they come off the farm and go with that price.  The rail weight is a higher price, not sure, though, what the current rail weight is for cattle.

3.  What part of the cow do I get?  We usually sell our cattle by the whole, half, or quarter.  Some people have bought an 1/8 of a cow, but the cutting and the sharing gets a bit complicated, so I always hope and pray that the two parties involved are easy going. When you work with 1/2 and 1/4s, everyone gets a share of ALL CUTS OF MEAT.  No one gets the left hind end of a cow if you are getting a 1/4.  The steaks, roasts, hamburgers, and other cuts are all equally divided.

4.  How should I get my meat cut?  This is a very personal question.  We supply the cow and deliver it to usually one of two processing plants.  I let these businesses take it from there, BUT I will say that 3/4 inch steaks work pretty well.  Here is a sample of a Cut sheet:

Cuts of Beef in a Half

Swiss Roast: 4 Yes or No

Chuck Roast: 5 or 6 Yes or No

Soup Bones: 6 Yes or No

Boiling Beef: 4 or 5 Yes or NO

Short Ribs: 4 or 5 Yes or No

Stew Meat: 4 or 5 Yes or NO

Rib-Eye Steak or Rib Steak: 8 10 Yes or NO How thick?

T-Bone Steaks: 10 12 Yes or No How thick?:

Sirloin Steak: 9 Yes or No How thick?

Round Steak: Yes or No Tenderized or Regular? 10 12

Rump Roast: 2 Yes or No

Flank Steak: 1 Yes or No

Hamburger: Patties or Bulk How much in each bulk?

Heart: Yes or No

Tongue: Yes or No

Liver: Yes or No

Special Wishes:

    Processing: .52 @ lb.
    Patties:       .42 @ lb
    Tenderize:  .42 @ lb
    Rolling:      .57 @ lb
    1 lb pkgs:  .25 @
    Seasoning: .20 @ lb

Now, on your T-bone Steaks, we get ours cut in half so that you have two steaks: the fillet and a  New York Strip.

Whatever cuts you do not want, usually go into hamburger, unless it is the heart, liver, or tongue.  Please send your tongues to Steve and the girls!  ;-)  Boiling Beef and Shortribs have lots of fat and very little meat.  If you like beef and noodles, and do not mind separating the meat from the fat, these cuts are good for you.  Some just use roast meat for the noodles.

You don't have to get all of your roasts.  You can opt for 2-3, and put the rest into hamburger. 

The other big question is how to package your hamburger.  Think about how you would use it at home.  I can get 5 patties out of a pound and a half of hamburger, but we are happier if I just make four.  How much do you use for taco meat or spaghetti?  Can you be patient and make your own patties, or do you need some quick patties for emergency meals?  

Tenderized Round Steak is also called cubed steak.  I pulled a package out of that out of the freezer this   weekend.  You can do a lot with this versatile cut.  The most popular choice is a baked or Swiss steak in the crock pot covered with mushroom soup.  I like to make fajita meat out of it because it comes apart so easily.  I also use round steak, but that can sometimes result in you looking like a dog with a chew toy trying to bite your piece of meat from the fajita without pulling the whole mess out of the tortilla!

So, if you are close to the Benton County/Tippecanoe County/Newton County area (in Indiana) and would like some incredible freezer beef, now is the time to let us know.  We have had people come up from Indy, and we have had people run it out to North Carolina.  When it's that good, it's worth the effort!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

On the Lighter Side.....

It's important to take a stand, but it's also important to have balance in your life, so to lighten this blog up a bit, I thought I would share a few sillies that made me smile this week on Facebook.  Hope you all are having as beautiful a weekend as we are here in Benton County, IN!  It's sunny with temps in the 70's!  WaHoo!  Where has this weather been all summer??

#1.  I am an "over" girl; Tall Guy is an "under" guy.  The girls are still trying to figure out how to get the tube off the holder without launching it across the bathroom they are in.  Which are you?

#2.  I have to admit, I have been joyous to get a pair of pants zipped, only to be totally dismayed when I ran to the mirror to see how they actually looked on. Guess that's why the Good Lord made mirrors!

#3.  If you have parents or grandparents brave enough to take the plunge and learn about computers, you can relate all too well to this one.

Have a great weekend.  Leave the TV off and go enjoy the great outdoors!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dear CBS Evening News

It's taken almost a full 24 hours for me to be able to write this post because I was that infuriated with you.  For the first time in several weeks, my family and I gathered around the television to eat supper and catch the national news. Imagine my horror to watch, without any warning whatsoever, South African police open fire on striking miners, killing 18 and wounding many more.  These men brought clubs and sticks to a gun fight, and you just showed them being massacred.

EIGHTEEN MEN KILLED RIGHT BEFORE THE EYES OF MY TWO DAUGHTERS!  Where were you when those two sets of beautiful blue eyes looked at their father and me in disbelief and asked, "Did those men just die?"

They are almost ten and eight years old.  It was the 6:30 evening news.  Whose choice was it to run this piece without any warning? CNN had one.

I was born in 1962.  I grew up with Vietnam on the television, and my parents had the warning to shield my brother and I from what they didn't want us to see.  This news bite came without any warning.

Just how far do you go to show news?  Where is the line in the sand?  What happened to "Family TV?"  Where are your ethics?  Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Indiana State Fair 2012 Mostly in Pictures!

Heavens!  I have like 61 pictures to share with you!  I will try to whittle them down and observe Wordless Wednesday as best I can, but you all know I won't be too successful!

First, we went down Sunday VERY EARLY to see one of our favorite Benton County families show in the Dairy Show.  It started at 8:00 a.m., so it was church on Saturday night, and a 5:30 wake up call for the girls.  We got there just in time to see Tink's classmate show!  Whew~! Here are the three guys showing their Milking Shorthorns.

Miss Annie, Miss Indiana Dairy Princess, showing her Brown Swiss

and Miss Roxanne, the reigning National Queen for Milking Shorthorns in the USA~! with, of course, her Milking Shorthorn.

Christy, I am so sorry.  I swear I took your picture while you were showing, but I can't find it now!  I did, however, snap this cute pic of Miss Bear's classmate sharing some great dairy food with his mom.  Miss Cindy is one AWESOME mom!

Here is MOST of the family posing for a fun picture after a long day Sunday.

 Are you counting?  There are eight kids in the picture, with three more older and out in the world!!  Dad was back home supervising the silage coming in 24/7.  There is NEVER a day off at the dairy farm!

Not sure what the cow did, but it caught the youngest by surprise.!  Too cute!

Ok, now that the Dairy Show is over for the day, it's off to see the rest of the fair!  That would include antique tractors!

Can anyone explain to me why this Farmall Cultivator has two seats, two steering wheels, and only one set of breaks? (Thought it might have been a driver's ed model???)  just kidding.

 This Oliver brought a smile to Tall Guy's face!  Ah the memories......

Teased the neighbor and sent a text message with this pic saying TG was gonna drive this one home! Since it was advertised, I will tell you that the price tag on this little tractor was $264,000.  When I say there goes my house down the road, I am NOT kidding!

Next stop, the Indiana Farm Bureau building where we saw many friends and caught up on crop status around the state.  There are some great, kid/family friendly tours and activities to check out while you are there!

Then we followed our noses to Pioneer Village where all the smoke and yummy smells lured us in.  Ok, It was actually the Indiana Beef tent close by, but there was much to see here.  Miss Bear walked right in this pen and petted the oxen to show a city girl twice her age it was no big deal.  Don't think she totally convinced her though.

Loved watching the blackmith !

We spent the night downtown because we had to be back to the fair the next day to help guide some bloggy pals around thanks to an event put on by Indiana Family of Farmers!  Some of us from Real Farmwives of America met up with moms from the Indy blog groups and showed them around the barns.It was sooo much fun to see all the little kids discover the fair and all the animals!  The first animal we met was Buttercup herself!

Look at Miss Ott, A.'s very own little buttercup, all grown up at three months!

And of course we ate!  Thanks so much to Indiana Family of Farmers for our meal tickets.  They didn't include everything you are about to see, just the healthy parts! Can't believe I do NOT have a picture of all the milk shakes we consumed!  YOU ROCKED DAIRY BAR!

Signs like this one kept calling my name, so I finally gave in, but I didn't have any fried bubble gum!  Did you?

I went with the fried cookie dough, that was happily dipped in chocolate before the batter.  MOST EXCELLENT!

 Then, I just couldn't stand it!  I had to have one.  I had to have a fried Twinkie!  TO.DIE.FOR!

 Next stop was in the Dupont building to see what yummy, NUTRITIOUS food they had for us.

Before we left, we had to make the trek back across the infield to BEANGO land to see our friends Hannah and Megan.  They had been teasing me with their Holstein fingernail polish, and I thought maybe the girls could get theirs done.  It was soooo humid though, and with school starting we would have had to clean them off for the first day (no polish rule) so we just had fun answering soybean questions, and I promised them both a pedi when we got home!

While we were over by BEANGO, we saw the Indiana State Fair Queen!  She looked fantastic!  The night before she rode in to the Pepsi Colosseum on top of a stagecoach pulled by 6-8 horses, and unfortunately on one of the turns the stagecoach tipped over.  No one was hurt seriously inside the coach or out, but she was thrown from it and took an hard tumble.  Bless her heart; she was all smiles the next day!

So ends my rather long lengthy but very fun and exciting two days at the Indiana State Fair.  I hope you were able to enjoy some time out there too!  If not, see you there next year!