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Seeding lessons

My dad told me not to seed double. He told me doing so would cause lodging in the wheat. It’s the section of the field closest to the road everyone on our lane takes to town, and there is a lot of lodging to be seen. It is a mistake I’m reminded of every time I make the drive, and it’s one of many lessons I learned over the seeding season.

Here’s a breakdown: I seeded the bulk of our acres this year. I made calls I had never made before. Nothing that would make or break us, but things that would test my prowess as a famer.

It was a cold, wet spring in our area. In some areas, where the soil is lighter, we planted too deep. It’s noticeable now. And in the heavier soil, the soil that can often give us problems, our inch and a half-deep soybeans thrived.

All of you know this already, but I had to learn: Never back up with a hoe drill in the ground.

I did this. Heinous, I know. But I didn’t think it was as bad as it was.

It happened quickly, I realized what I had done, and thought the machine didn’t move enough for any real damage to occur. Well, about 500 metres later, I noticed a plugged run. No big deal. This happened a lot this spring, given how mucky some parts were. I was quick at this by now. One minute later, another run plugged, then another, then another.

I had to unplug them all. Then I had to figure out where on the field did the entire drill quit seeding and go re-seed. As the beans peeked out of the ground, I expected to see a 30-foot by 500-metre area of missed revenue. But I re-seeded the right area. Lesson learned.

Missed rows and spraying

Perhaps the more seasoned among you are fine with seeing where the GPS was a little off, and the spaces between rows were a little too large to be tram lines, or intentional sprayer guides.

Or, perhaps the more seasoned among you don’t make such mistakes.

Next year, I will not rely as much on my GPS as I did this year. Magnetic storms seem to throw them off, and every once in a while they misbehave with no obvious explanation. These errors plague me, but thankfully the rows are closing up and the beans and wheat are doing their part to hide my blind allegiance to technology.

Spraying is tricky and requires confidence. We spray our beans twice, ourselves, and use a system we refer to as tram lines to do so.

They are not really tramlines. We increased the distance between the hoes on either side of centre hoe. Our drill is 30-feet wide; our sprayer 90. This works, but it requires a keen eye. If I felt any doubt by the time I reached the end of the row and needed to find the next run, it wouldn’t happen.

A farmer needs to be confident on these decisions. Casually turn, let instinct be your guide, and you’ll find yourself near enough to where you want to be that you’ll see the line. Don’t do this, and you’ll have to stop the tractor, get out, and walk around nervously until your mind relaxes and your eyes start to see what they’re supposed to.

I think an earlier generation of farmers had a more accurate sense of the relationship between implements and fence posts. I didn’t hit any, but I had to stop and back up a few times.

How does my father get so close and not hit them? Time will tell if this is a skill that will get passed down to me. I blame technology again. I love it, but it’s weak compared to a strong gut or instinct.

The flat tire

This goes back to seeding. The wind was reported to have toppled highway tractors on Highway 3 between Carman and Winkler, Manitoba. It was difficult to stand on the drill, never mind fill it with a conveyor-belt drill fill. The wind was loud, but I heard a sound that was either the onset of tinnitus or a flat tire.

Sure enough, it was a flat tire. No big deal, right? Well, funny thing: We’re in the throes of seeding. So we take off the tire in the field, propping up the drill frame with cribbing, take the tire to town to discover they’re closed for lunch. The shop’s entire staff go on lunch break at the same time. This is small town life.

But it’s a small town life we enjoy a lot. Now that spraying is done and the weather is great, it’s rewarding to watch the plants I seeded grow. Harvest is going to be blast, and will come with its own lessons, I’m sure. †

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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