Saturday, June 17

Kentucky 31

Yesterday evening we went down to the Blakemore's place to visit. Coy Dan had recently purchased two new large combines and one was down for repairs. Having nothing to offer in the way of advice I stood back and learned. Coy Dan, his son Bruce, and our mutual neighbor Bob were "debugging" (my IT lingo, not their farm lingo) the variable speed control on the massive Allis-Chalmer machine. It didn't take long for them to identify the source of the problem. A hydraulic piston needing a little "convincing." (For the curious, the piston controlled the fluid that caused two wheels to expand away from each other or move closer to each other, effectively changing the diameter of wheel that had a belt attached. This had the effect of changing the speed that the wheel spun and that ultimately changed the speed of the entire vehicle.)

As soon as the machine was operational Bruce jumped in to finish the job. I was interested in not just the mechanics of the combine, but the entire operation. Coy Dan gladly answered all of my questions and offered up a wealth of knowledge. Since the machines were new to him they were working out all the issues while close to the shop by cutting one of his fescue fields for seed. The seed, I learned, is also know as Kentucky 31 and is popular on the east coast for lawns.

I've become much more sensitive to the weather living the farm life. The farmer's life and daily schedule is dictated by mother nature. Combining the unpredictability of the weather with the intentions of profit-making takes a special breed.

If you've got a field of Fescue you can cut it for hay, but before it begins seeding, as the nutritional value of the hay is diminished once it's seeded out. Once that has occured all the resources of the plant are used in the creation of the seed or stored in the seed itself. Once you've let the crop seed out you're in a race with the weather. If the crop is rained on, the seed can potentially expand past it's shell. Allow it to dry out and the slightest wind can blow the seed and the profit away. This is of course what mother nature would intend.

Once Bruce had cut the field he off-loaded the seed into Coy Dan's old Dodge dump-truck. It was beginning to get dark at this point and no one had even had dinner. Thoughtfully, my wife borrowed Glenda's kitchen and prepared an excellent enchilada for us all to share.

There was a rush about everything, dinner was eaten quickly while still being polite. Bruce and Coy Dan needed to get their loads of seed off to the seed company, where they would sell it. They covered their loads with tarps so it wouldn't blow away. Leave the tarp on too long, I learned, and seed would begin to draw moisture, in which case it might not pass the requirements for the seed company.

I rode with Coy Dan in the old Dodge to the seed mill. When we arrived there was a line for the scales. We got out and rolled back the tarps. Coy Dan said they've waited into the early morning hours to sell their seed. Luckily for us, things were going much more smoothly tonight. We weighed both loads, and samples of each were taken. The we went to dump the seed. The dump truck was easy to unload of course, simply dump it on the concrete floor of a warehouse and let a font-end loader take it from there.

Bruce's load of seed was in a trailer that Coy Dan built long ago for the purpose of hauling seed. The metal floor was free from bumps and seams that would make unloading difficult. It did, however, require a little manual labor to offload. A group of local teenage boys dirty from an already long day of unloading were armed with a tractor, a rope, a sturdy sheet of wood, and little bit of gusto, went to dragging the seed out of the trailer. The seed was swept into grates below which was a fast moving conveyor belt that took the seed off for storage.

The owner showed us around the operation. I felt like I was watching a Sesame Street special on "Where grass seed comes from." In my head I could here the factory music playing as millions of seeds rushed by, up, away, and out into huge piles. Local boys were directing spreaders, pushing piles around, and directing new loads of seed into place.

By this time it was nearly midnight and Bruce's trailer was empty, so we loaded up for home. A quick re-weighing of the empty vehicles and settling up in the office and we were on our way.

I'm going to ride along again sometime, with camera in hand. Coy Dan looked at me on the way home and said "you're getting in a lot of new experiences in aren't you?" I nodded and smiled in agreement.

4 comments:

Ole Olson said...

http://strobist.blogspot.com/

Duane - I thought you and Zach might be interested in this photo blog I've added to my list recently

Duane Keys said...

Ole, thanks for the link. I've been a fan of that blog for a few weeks now!

pablo said...

Excellent account. I enjoyed going along with you.

Rev.Vapor said...

Great story Duane. That's pretty damn cool.