On April 29th, we started seeding fields of wheat as well as fields of barley and peas. We raise a few varieties of wheat based on the needs of Albert Lea Seed House, who we raise seed for. This means we need to clean out the grain drill and the seed tender between varieties. We like to use a ShopVac® to get as much seed out as possible from the inside. We save the unused seed in case we need to replant a wet spot, or we’ll use it as part of a cover crop mix.
After the insides are vacuumed, we need to drop the trap door at the top of every seed tube. There are 60 seed tubes on our drill. I know that, because I count them every time I drop them.
After the seed is emptied, I make sure each meter trap door is adjusted correctly for the type of seed we are using. Wheat seed is set with the narrowest opening, field peas have the medium opening. If I don’t get the openings set correctly, we’ll either lose a lot of seed, or won’t get the seed planted at the rate we want. In this photo, you can sort of see the little lever I’m grabbing to drop the seed. That same lever is the one that sets the width of the opening.
Once the tubes have been emptied, and the levers are on the correct notch, we are ready to refill. The drill is brought out to the field, switched from transport mode to field mode, then we are ready to load it up with seed.
More farmers are now using a mini-bulk system. Each mini-bulk bag holds the equivalent of 40 bags of seed, which saves on labor and paper bag costs…and for me, this year, chiropractor costs. The bags are hoisted up by the forklift, and dumped into a seed tender wagon. The seed tender has an auger system that is powered by the tractor’s hydraulic system.
After the seed tender has the right amount of seed in it, we pull it to the field with the tractor. Not a job I’m particularly fond of, but sometimes you just have to put on your big girl panties and do it. I hate transporting equipment on the tar roads, mostly due to the impatience of other drivers. If everyone slows down, and gives farm equipment plenty of room, all will be happier.
There are times when we still use small bags, depending on how much of that particular variety we are going to plant. For those situations, we drive the pickup – which has been loaded with the seed – out to the field. The end gate is about the same height as the walking platform on the back of the drill, so carrying bags from pickup to drill isn’t too difficult.
After we get the drill full of seed, Jonathan can start seeding.This brings up a question that I asked when I was still a new farm wife. Why is it called seeding wheat? When we use the grain drill, we use the term ‘seeding’. When we use the corn planter, we use the term ‘planting’. Soybeans can either be seeded with the grain drill (we call it solid seeding the soybeans), or planted with the corn planter. We plant our soybeans with the corn planter, because that is what works best for us. Just like everything else, different farms have different things that work for them.
Some of the photos above were taken at night, and some in the morning. If we were close to finishing a field, Jonathan would push it a little so we could get done with that field. There were a few nights of little sleep, but we got it all in before we received a nice rain. As of Mother’s Day, we can see the first wheat fields starting to show a green haze. One of my favorite things in spring is seeing the seeds pop, and the fields slowly turn green. (The photo below is barley, but the wheat field looks very similar…the barley was across the road from the house, so it was the easiest to photograph.)