Five Handy Harvest Tips – for Jul. 23, 2010

Here’s a few things that help us on the farm at harvest. I hope they can be of some use to you as well.


When your wife isn’t looking borrow one of her small appliances and keep those combine windows clean. Last fall we were combining peas and were blessed with that lovely dust that sticks to everything — including the windows. I got tired of doing the labour and gymnastics required to crawl out and wash the windows every couple of hours so I stole Sheila’s Swiffer she uses to clean the floor and tried it on the windows. It worked like a charm.

The long handle allows you to give the windows a quick wipe without risking life and limb and without having to get out the window cleaner and paper towels. You still should do a good clean once in the morning for best results but a quick Swiffering makes it a lot easier to see what you’re combining.

Oh, and don’t worry about our floors at home though: I gave the boss her Swiffer back and bought one for each combine.


Speaking of combining peas and that lovely dust, lentil dust can be just as bad. Here’s tip No. 2: One warm day I was combining some lentil and I smelled a bit of smoke. I looked under the hood of our faithful MF 750 and sure enough the lentils dust was smouldering on the exhaust manifold. Again. I was going to use the 10-lb. ABC fire extinguisher but then I thought I’d have to get it recharged. What else was handy? All I could find was a Styrofoam coffee cup with a little hole in the lid. It worked OK and I could squirt the water 10 inches or so if I squeezed it just right. That looked after that blaze.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you use styrofoam cups instead of fire extinguishers, but we did buy two of the two-or three-gallon water extinguishers that you charge with compressed air. They’re great for any Type A fires (straw, wood, paper, lentil dust, etc.) where water can put them out. Don’t use them for flammable liquids or electrical fires. The handy thing is you can recharge them yourself with water and compressed air.


This leads to tip No. 3. We were just shutting down for the day and we heard a sound like a radiator overflowing coming from Ben’s combine. Then we saw steam — or was it smoke? We found out that the main battery cable had rubbed through under the engine and was busily shorting out against the floor of the engine compartment. Before I could get the cable undone at the battery it had melted through the lead battery cable end. And of course our engine compartment was spotlessly clean — especially under the engine. Well, if you believe that, I’ve got this beautiful ocean-front property in Arizona I can sell you.

After we got the fire out under the engine in the dust, dirt and grime that lives there we thought we were done. But just as we were leaving I caught a whiff of smoke coming from the back of the combine. Sure enough, the dust in the cylinder and concave (which is under the engine compartment) had caught fire and was smouldering inside. After poking at the sparks and squirting them for an hour or so we could finally go home.

The moral of the story is to check your battery cables and wiring to make sure that the outer covering hasn’t rubbed through at any point. Be especially careful at the metal clamps that hold the cables to the combine body. Often all it takes is a bit of electrical tape to patch them up for the next 10 or 20 years.


Here’s another thing to watch. During seeding this spring our somewhat faithful 4690 Case was overheating. Dan had blown out the rad before we started seeding so I checked the other usual suspects (belt tightness, rad level, etc.). Everything seemed OK until I looked at the water pump pulley.

There isn’t supposed to be a gap between the side of the belt and the pulley. (See photo). Sure enough the water pump pulley was worn out and the belts had been slipping. After ordering a new one from Case we also saw that the alternator pulley was shot as well. Two pulleys later we were back in business until one of the belts broke. The belts were only a couple of years old but I guess the shock of seeing new pulleys on our tractor scared one of them to death. So we put on two new belts and we should be good for a few years now.

Bottom line is, check your pulleys and belts for wear. The belt should not be running too deep in the pulley. If the pulley is shiny in the bottom it’s a sure sign it’s worn out (or possibly it has the wrong size of belt on it). Also check the sides of pulleys for wear.


Here’s one last thing that is really handy in the field. Ben’s semi has air brakes so he hooked up an extra 50-foot air line to run off the truck’s air system for filling tires. We also got one of those four-foot long blow guns from Princess Auto. This works great for blowing off the combine before servicing or repairing. Just make sure you’re up wind.

There you go. A few tips that I hope will make your life a bit easier and safer. Enjoy what remains of the summer and have fun harvesting.

RonSettler,hiswifeSheila,andtheirsons BenandDanfarmandrunarepairandsalvage businessatLuckyLake,Sask.

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